Pakistani Prime Minister Ousted in Bloodless Coup

Pakistan's democratically elected government fell October 12 as Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif was ousted by Army Chief General Pervaiz Musharraf in a bloodless coup. Sharif and most of his government ministers were placed under house arrest as the Pakistani military took control of airports and state-run television stations, which broadcast the news of the coup to the public. Musharraf declared a state of emergency October 15 and subsequently named himself chief executive.

While refusing to set a timetable for Pakistan's return to democracy, Musharraf did announce the creation of a seven-member National Security Council on October 25. The council includes military leaders and bureaucrats, who will have power over the newly appointed governors of Pakistan's four provinces. Musharraf has also created an army-appointed body to investigate corruption in the Sharif government and has promised a return to democracy as soon as Pakistan's economy is under control.

The United States at first condemned the coup but then adopted a more conciliatory tone and proceeded with a planned waiver of nuclear testing-related sanctions for both Pakistan and India. However, the United States did say it would deny Pakistan various forms of assistance until Musharraf returns Pakistan to a civilian-ruled democracy. The IMF said it would cut off all aid to Pakistan until democracy was re-established, and the Commonwealth of Britain and its ex-colonies suspended Pakistan's membership on October 18. NATO, the European Union and the UN also appealed to Musharraf to reinstate democratic rule.

India's army went on alert after the coup, and the newly elected government immediately held a Cabinet Security meeting to discuss the situation. Musharraf is known to be a hard-liner on India policy, although he did move troops back from the Indian border on October 18 in a gesture of goodwill. But tensions continued to rise between the two nuclear powers as four Pakistani soldiers were killed October 27 when they tried to seize two posts along the India-Pakistan border in Kashmir.