16. Second Dismissal
In spite of her tough rhetoric to subdue her political rivals and neighbouring India and Afghanistan, the Bhutto government’s corruption heightened and exceeded its limits during her second regime; the most notable figures among those suspect were Asif Ali Zardari and Admiral Menstrual Haq. Soon after the death of her younger brother, Bhutto widely became unpopular and public opinion turned against her government.
On 20 July 1996, Qazi Hussain Ahmed of Jamaat e Islami announced to start protests against government alleging corruption. Qazi Hussain resigned from senate on 27 September and announced to start long march against Benazir government. Protest started on 27 October 1996 by Jamaat e Islami and opposition parties. On 4 November 1996, Bhutto’s government was dismissed by President Leghari primarily because of corruption, who used the Eighth Amendment discretionary powers to dissolve the government. Benazir was surprised when she discovered that it was not the military who had dismissed her but her own hand-picked puppet President who had used the power to dismiss her. She turned to the Supreme Court hoping for gaining Leghari’s actions unconstitutional. But the Supreme Court justified and affirmed President Leghari’s dismissal in a 6–1 ruling. Many military leaders who were close to Prime minister rather than the President, did not wanted Benazir Bhutto’s government to fall, as they resisted the Nawaz Sharif’s conservatism. When President Leghari, through public media, discovered that General Kakar (Chief of Army Staff), General Khattak (Chief of Air Staff), and Admiral Haq (Chief of Naval Staff) had been backing Benazir to come back in the government; President Leghari aggressively responded by dismissing the entire military leadership by bringing the pro-western democracy views but neutral military leadership that would supervise the upcoming elections. This was the move that Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif (elected in 1997) did repeat in 1999, when Nawaz Sharif had deposed General Jehangir Karamat after developing serious disagreements on the issues of national security.
Criticism against Benazir Bhutto came from the powerful political spectrum of the Punjab Province and the Kashmir who opposed Benazir Bhutto, particularly the nationalisation issue that led the lost of Punjab’s privatised industries under the hands of her government. Bhutto blamed this opposition for the destabilisation of Pakistan. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee General Jehangir Karamat at one point intervened in the conflict between President and the Prime Minister, and urged Benazir Bhutto to focus on good governance and her ambitious programme of making the country into a welfare state, but the misconduct of her cabinet ministers continued and the corruption which she was unable to struck it down with a full force. Her younger brother’s death had devastating effect on Benazir’s party and policies. At one point, Chairman of Joint Chiefs General Jehangir Karamat noted that:
In my opinion, if we have to repeat of past events then we must understand that Military leaders can pressure only up to a point. Beyond that their own position starts getting undermined because the military is after all is a mirror image of the society from which it is drawn.
— General Jehangir Karamat commenting on Benazir’s dismissal
Soon after her government was ended, the Naval intelligence led the arrest of Chief of Naval Staff and acquitted him with a running court-martial sat up at the Naval Judge Advocate General Corps led by active duty 4-star admiral. Many of her government members and cabinet ministers including her spouse were thrown in jails and the trials were sat up at the civilian Supreme Court. Faced with serious charges by the Nawaz Sharif’s government, Bhutto flew to Dubai with her three young children while her spouse was thrown in jail. Shortly after rising to power in a 1999 military coup, General Pervez Musharraf characterized Bhutto’s terms as an “era of democracy”.