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Talking Point On Air Sunday, 24 October, 1999, 14:42 GMT 15:42 UK
Pakistan: What next?
This week Talking Point On Air discussed recent events in Pakistan. Can a military coup ever be justified over democracy? What do other countries have to learn from this experience?

Pakistan in crisis
Bridget Kendall and John Egan presented the programme and the Head of the BBC's Urdu Service, Abbas Nasir was in the studio to answer your questions.

Select the link below to watch Talking Point On Air's debate on Pakistan

Click here to join our debate online by sending your view of the situation in Pakistan.

Your comments since the programme

The Commonwealth of Nations is no more British than it is Nigerian. Every member country holds equal rights and votes.If Pakistan is suspended or expelled from the Commonwealth for its antidemocratic military regime, the decision is done by a commonwealth of nations and not British.
Ed Edet, NIgerian in USA

Talking Point - On Air
Pakistan has been ousted from the Commonwealth. Why is the EU putting such sanctions? Did they not dismiss their entire team of EU Commissioners because they were corrupt? No one questioned their actions. It is time for Pakistanis to decide about their own fate and not the western world. Democracy has never been the concern of a common man in Pakistan. All he is interested in are his basic needs and rights as a human being.
The international community should give The General some time, maybe he will bring the economy back on track. I think that if he is able to get the looted money of the loan defaulters back, that alone would be a BIG favour to our nation.
Sarwat Aftab, Pakistan

Could anyone tell the rest of the world that having elections does not mean democracy. One needs a government for people not for Prime Minister's friends and family only. Therefore, in my humble opinion, this coup was the only way to go, the last resort (especially when politicions have brought country to the brink of destruction in last 10 years). I think people should do their homework before making any comments and open their minds and should not base their opinions on heresay.
The sanctions and suspension of aid from countries like U.K. and U.S. seems to suggest that they do not understand the situation or is it that they are just pretending not to and in reality do not want Pakistan to stay intact.
Gen. Musharaf has overwhelming support in Pakistan. He should make use of it. I think he will. Judging from what happened in last few days, it seems to me that he has the courage to stand against the "rest of the world" opposition.
I would like to make one more comment: Constitution of Pakistan needs complete overhaul. Especially the rights of minorities are to be restored. I'd hope and pray that Gen. Musharaf will work towards that. May God be with him.
W. Mir, Canada

Corruption is so rampant in Pakistan, I do not see any solution. Whether you pick your corrupt leader or whether he is imposed upon you, it seems all the same to me. I fault the fabric of accepted practice in society and the process to stamp our corruption on the scale that Pakistan is experiencing will take a very long time.
Jacques du Plessis, South Africa

Pakistan is a failed country! The army is not the solution to it's woes. The country is financially bankrupt and needs to get it's priorities right. Democracy has been destroyed in Pakistan. They should stop abetting international terrorists like Bin Laden and concentrate on at least reducing their debts to respectable levels and improve Pakistan economically.
S Yadavalli, Italy

In special circumstances, I believe, such action would be justified in any part of the world. When we have corrupt politicians - when they are NO LONGER the people's choice, then we are no longer a democratic country under the same previously democratically elected government. What could be the reason, that a vast majority of Pakistanis are happy over this action? The population wanted the change, therefore this change is 'Democratic'. My hope is that the army finishes with its agenda ASAP and then try for new elections under it's supervision.
Tariq Dilawar, Pakistan

I ardently hope that this new govt. (military) will renew the public's confidence in its own rulers/people by tackling real issues of Education, Local Development, Maintenance of basic services. The West must stop "harping" on about issues of type of Government - which will only develop into a unique form of democracy unique to Pakistan - if the basics are in place for the people first.
ManojK, UK

Yesterday, you had somebody from Singapore, commenting on Pakistan's democracy. You know the state 'Democracy' in Singapore. There is no personal freedom, whatsoever. Your caller from India was also typical, I do not why there is Pakistan phobia there. It is them who started the current escalation by nuclear detonation. They have a Hindu fundamentalist government to handle. Please for once , let us Pakistanis handle our beloved country our way. Long Live Pakistan (+Kashmir)
Muhammed Irfan, UK/Pakistan

I strongly condemn the military action recently taken by the corruption ridden army of Pakistan. I agree with Gen. Musharraf's view that up until now there was only a label of democracy in Pakistan and there was no true democracy because all the fifty two years of Pakistan's existence Pakistan army has ruled Pakistan directly or behind the curtains of democracy and it is solely responsible for the state of affairs in Pakistan.
In all its history every single Pak army dictator including Ayub and Yahya Khan and Zia-ul-Haq have been corrupt and despotic rulers and Musharraf will be no different. Those who are welcoming this unconstitutional and illegal action of army are living in a fool's paradise. If IMF sanctions are not immediately not applied to Pakistan this illegal regime will remain for a long time to come. This will also encourage future military take-overs, not only in Pakistan but across the globe.
Sheikh Abdul Wahhab Siddiqui, Pakistan/New Zealand

Though the coup by army on 12th October can not be justified by any reasonable argument. The worries of the international community however about the fallout of the development are all but rhetoric. Be it IMF, WB or USA they are not concerned whether it's a democratic govt. in a country or an Armed forces establishment. If the group of Generals is willing to toe the Washington's line as they most probably are, We will get the IMF funds released and USA be at normal terms with the new Government.
Ahsen, Pakistan

Hi! My name is Dr Asim Ghafur and I live in Multan, Pakistan. I don't know why the western world is so much interested in restoring democracy as early as possible, in Pakistan. Why don't they think that if there is election in a few weeks time, we'll have to choose from the same set of people who are dethroned. We have already seen their way of governance and we don't approve of it. In fact Pakistan has never been a democratic country in its true sense. All the governments have RULED us instead of serving us. We don't want elections till the accountability of the rulers is done.
General Musharrif has started on a positive note by withdrawing forces from Indian border. What more do you want? But I am sure that India will find some other excuse for not starting a meaningful dialogue. I think the international community should give him time.
Dr Asim Ghafoor, Pakistan

The recent coup in Pakistan was a great setback for the future of democracy in the region. What is more depressing, however, is that educated Pakistanis still pin their hopes on an army that is obviously power hungry, cynical and corrupt.
Irshad Kamal Khan, Bangladesh

Pakistani citizens are between hell and high water. Since 1991 we have had four elected governments. all of them were corrupt, inefficient, and thoroughly undemocratic. The choice is between pseudo democracy and unelected, unaccountable military regime. The latter may be relatively less corrupt in the short run. The dismissal of an elected government by the armed forces is highly detrimental to the development of democratic institutions in Pakistan. it is very disappointing that the Pakistani elite have proved to be incapable of providing any semblance of good governance to the country. Perhaps in the short run, a military government may be able to establish peace, order and accountability.
Nasir Islam, Canada/ Pakistan

As far as I am concerned politicians are bunch of crooks, they are the legalised version of the organised crime. I would rather have a non-politician as the head of the country.
Masood, USA

Why is the West so strongly opposed to the military coup when ordinary Pakistanis clearly support it and seam to want to give the army a chance. By forcing Pakistan (through economic pressure) the West is not only hurting the people of Pakistan but in effect forcing onto them an option they don't want. Isn't that dictator ship in itself.
Naveed Ghori, Australia

I find the British government's eagerness to suspend Pakistan from the Commonwealth over the recent coup hypocritical. Let's not forget that until about fifty years or so ago, the people of Pakistan and India had been governed by an unelected, racist, colonial England, without representation of the people. Why is the coup now so reprehensible. My only point is that Pakistan is a poor country, and the only people who suffer from sanctions and expulsions are the common people.
Asad Rizvi, USA

I think Gen Musharraf's speech was very positive and productive. He has focused most of the issued people have in mind. He tried to satisfy the foreign power as well particularly USA, Europe and IMF. Let's see how he establishes his team of advisors and how soon he starts implementing his promises. The most urgent and crucial thing at this stage is to take out the country from economic crises. He should recover all the stolen wealth from the corrupt politicians, bureaucrats and the other leaders.
Syed Atiq ul Hassan, Australia

65% of the public in Pakistan are robbing their own country day and night. Then they complain. This country has been going round and round in circles for the past 50 years. They should never have been given independence, for the simple fact, because they are not capable and never will be of ruling. This is the most insulted and idiotic nation in the world. Corruption, greed, no self-respect, no education, no willingness to learn.......NOTHING. I am ashamed of being Pakistani, (that's why I live so far.)
X, Brazil

What an inspiring speech by General Musharraf. I hope his actions speak louder than words. Not all revolutions are bad. Remember the American Revolution led by a General George Washington.
Muzzammil Hassan, USA

The military coup in Pakistan can be justified if General Musharraff takes measures to ensure that a structured democratic process can be initiated without further delay. I wish India too goes through such a military coup especially in states such as Bihar.
Vinod Vardharajan, Canada

I do not think that Gen Musharraf intends to give up power very quickly from our experience in the past. He sounds too much like Gen Zia.
Hafiz, England

The intrusion of the Pakistan Army has been a decisive one. It was inevitable and now one can only hope that it can direct the country towards a more realistic and optimistic path. I think it is pivotal that western politics and theorems be kept to themselves, for even they have a bitter history that lingers in their promise of prosperity. Or maybe the European States in particular, have too much time in their hands and need to take up a new sport.
Reza Ali Shah, USA

Cleaning corrupt system is neither easy nor quick. If Pakistanis want their Army General to do what he proposes to do, they should expect him to be there for a long time...and pray that a military leader knows how to clean corruption in business environment and politics.
Also pray that international financial institutions will continue to provide loans to a country where there is no democratic accountability. The longer the General stays in the position of power, Pakistan will become further isolated from the world community. Also unlimited power, with no checks and balances, will breed corruption (assuming the General is not already corrupt). If the General fails to deliver and if Pakistani people want to throw him out of power they will have to resort to civil war... not very bright prospects entering 21st century.
Arshad Ali, India

Gen. Musharaf should make peace with India. The whole anti-India agenda of our Pakistan does not hold good for our nation's well being. Perhaps we should give up our claim on Kashmir. The Kashmiris are not true Muslims and aligning with them will surely hurt Pakistan's pure Islamic identity.
Muneer Ahmad, USA

I am greatly grieved to hear about the biased news of the Pakistani matters. May I ask why? From the Kargil crisis onwards, you people are totally reporting a biased interview. So much for the European Commission. How can it Support a non-corrupt government when it itself is one of the most corrupt. My advice to the BBC is open your eyes and see it from a local prospective not from their own.
Obaid, Pakistan

I being a Pakistani and keeping close contact with my country, can say that this is the best thing can happen to my country, during the last 11 years. If Corrupt politicians like Benazir and Shareef are the product of democracy then we don't need democracy.
Western people don't understand and don't know much, how these politicians are being elected and remain in power. Western powers only see their own interest and blindly support these corrupt politicians, who in return favour them and sacrifice their own country.
Saifullah, Pakistan/USA

People of Pakistan are happy with the operation against the corrupt politicians, why the western world does not respect the opinion of the people of Pakistan. After all is that not what democracy is all about.
Anwar/Meraj, CANADA

Definitely Pakistan is still not fit for Democracy. A Military leader, however good may be may ruling for a few years only, and not for good. What after that? The same Benazir, Sharief will again rule and the saga will continue. It is the illness of the society at the grassroots level which is reflected in the overall character of a nation. Pakistan's society is basically feudal and education is something which is given the last priority.
The present condition of Pakistan is the result of excessive dependence of Pakistan on funding from US and West. All hell break will loose when these fundings stopped coming after sanctions. So Education and Economy is the key for all ills which should get the prime importance for Pakistan. You need not go far enough, just see your immediate neighbour, India. Try to learn something from her at least and improve upon.
Srinath, Indian

The generals have come to stay. This has all happened due to the incompetence of the politicians who were elected by the people of Pakistan for redresses of their problem and to run the country according to the constitutional and human rights norms. But instead of performing their task they get themselves involved in the looting of national ex-chequer with the assistance of their cronies and corrupt bureaucracy.

The 'Plane Landing' drama is being cooked up only to pressurize Constitutional Prime Minister of Pakistan Nawaz Sharif. There seems to be no truth in it at all. On one side it is being claimed that the airplane carrying constitutionally retired Chief of Army Staff Pervez Musharraf was diverted to Nawab Shah to arrest him over there and on the other side they say that it was not allowed to land on both Karachi and Nawab Shah airports.

People of Pakistan had been smelling this conspiracy for a few weeks. If you go through the newspapers of previous two months you'll find clear indications of it. Silent Washington visits of many Pakistani dignitaries was of course due to unrest among the civilian government which wanted to save democratic setup in the country.
Fayyaz Hussain Awan, Pakistan

Why not hold a referendum/election in which one of the options is a military government. A perfect solution-a government ratified and demanded by the people. Don't forget the 3 million Bangladeshis massacred by the Pakistan army in 1971 during the short period of 10 months, a feat (sic) that neither Hitler or Stalin could match! Wath if the military decides to unleash the same repression to quell separatist sentiments today? It is a possibility. And, like in 1971, the West would let it happen. Pakistan, think deeply about the future and what may be in store under a military regime.
Vijay Gupta, USA

I fail to understand how democracy can work in a country without education. The same corrupt people get re-elected because of the Biradari system and because the people are illiterate. One Indian commented that the educated elite has lost faith in democracy. We have not lost faith in democracy, we have lost faith in the politicians. Only the army has the power to ban all such people from participating in politics in the future.
Anonymous Student, Pakistan

It's been eons since I last heard a spectacularly inspiring and mighty powerful speech that has been given today by Mr.Musharaff. This is the right and just step he has taken and probably the launching pad for more reforms to take place in the country. I'm sure Mr.Musharaff is the right man for taking care of the menacing predicaments in Pakistan today.
Sana Pirzada, England

Whether the military coup in Pakistan is justified is something that has to be left to historians. Whether it can ever be justified can only be determined by those who enjoy the benefit of hindsight. With hindsight, who of those who had to fight in WWII would not have wished that the german army had staged a coup in before 1939?
Marcar Valentine, Switzerland

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Your comments during the programme

Expectations are running very high within the country and the international community has condemned the coup. General Musharaf is unlikely to come up with an election timetable
Abbas Nasir comments

Democracy in Pakistan has existed only in name for the last 15 years, but it has been an authoritarian country with feudal landlords ruling the country like it's their own property. This is an emergency situation needing an emergency solution. Elections don't provide a solution.
Asim Ahmed, Karachi, Pakistan

A revolution is always against the constitution. General Musharaf has not declared martial law, so the freedom of press and fundamental rights are intact. This situation now is totally different from the past, in the past the army forced out the civilian government. This time Nawaz Sharif was violating the constitution of the country. Never in the history of this country was the Supreme Court was stormed. The evidence was there but nobody was brought to justice.
Mohammad Shezad, Islamabad, Pakistan

Even if the civilian government hadn't been efficient that's no excuse for a takeover by the military. There is no legality in it. The military ought to stay in the barracks and leave the administration to the professional politicians.
Derek Yeo, Singapore

The majority of Pakistanis have supported the military takeover, and that is a referendum. That is democracy as I see it. Election is no measure to see sentiment of general public. Pakistan has had civilian dictatorships with Sharif, Benazir Bhutto and her father. Civilian dictatorship is worse than military takeover. West and other democracy loving countries have no right to tell us what form of government Pakistan should have. Pakistani people and politicians are not ready for democracy. We need strong government to get us out of the economic shambles we're in. People were demanding military takeover since last many weeks. The military has rarely had a chance to run the country. Recently it undertook the task of collecting utility bills because the civilian government couldn't even manage to do that.
Major Timatius Nasir, near Lahore, Pakistan

There is no debate that democratic government is preferable to a military one as a matter of principle. The state of affairs in the Pakistani government was such that four or five people ran the country bypassing the cabinet and parliament. Decisions were taken in an arbitrary manner. A clause in the constitution allowing other means to get rid of the government was taken out by Nawaz Sharif.
Abbas Nasir comments

Not all democratically elected leaders have followed the constitution, but you can always throw them out at the next election if they don't perform. Dictators can be enlightened or bad, but democracy provides checks and balances, albeit limited. What surprises me about Pakistan is that the educated elite seem to have lost their faith in democracy, unlike the elite in India.
Dr B.B. Bhattacharya, Delhi, India

Pakistanis deserve better - they are smart enough to vote a failed prime minister out of power and hardly needed a coup. Government corruption wasn't the reason for the coup. Nawaz Sharif is paying the price for a military and political misadventure of Kargil and is now paying the price. Democracy is certainly not perfect in India.
Dr Naliny Vittal, London, UK

A powerful institution outside politics has to take things under control. There's virtually no civil administration to speak of in several areas such as Baluchistan and North West Frontier. The military are showing the right signs by not suspending the constitution and want to do good things for the country rather than simply stay in power.
Subramani Narayanan, Madras, India

My friends and teachers were on the plane with the General because they were on a swimming competition trip to Sri Lanka. The plane was diverted from Karachi and told to go to Dubai. But they didn't have enough fuel. The General contacted all of his staff and when the plane landed at Karachi airport we saw that it was surrounded by military personnel. It's really good what happened because Nawaz Sharif had destroyed everything except the army. We would like democracy back and the new government needs to do something about the literacy rate. I am hopeful about the future. We can't go on like this, the country hasn't got enough money.
Rahil Rawji, Karachi, Pakistan

We have an obscure General with his finger on the atomic trigger. The country is being robbed economically but the nuclear weapons programme continues. I'm very worried about the coup because of nuclear stability rather than democracy. I believe it's going to come down to a nuclear war between India and Pakistan. Can the world afford to wait for this situation?
Abdul Fez, Tokyo, Japan/ USA

Generals have always had their hands on the nuclear button. As far as fundamentalists getting weapons is concerned we couldn't have them in safer pair of hands. General Musharaf's western-educated, Western in his outlook, he has family living in the US, and he's not at all known as a religious man.
Abbas Nasir comments

I lived in India and Pakistan for about a year as a UN observer. A coup d'etat is always a bad thing but has different significance from the perspective of a developing country. I find it remarkable that Benazir Bhutto, supposedly a democrat, supports the coup from exile. Surely she has committed political suicide by this. The military are proud and want good for their country. But I hope they hand power back.
Staffan Nordstrom, Copenhagen, Denmark

The international community's reaction to Burma's coup d'etat compares interestingly with their reaction to this one. The US recognised the Revolutionary Council responsible for the coup in Burma within days. Now the UK and US, and the UN don't recognise these military governments. I don't think we'll see a Security Council resolution on this because the country is not close enough to the US.
Myint Zan, Melbourne, Australia/Burma

We have to condemn these coups because they easily spread. The evil of dictatorship can only be cured by democracy. In the long run military governments don't serve the interests of the people. Even if people are illiterate, the people should get used to the democratic system. Military governments leave countries scarred.
Obadiah Alegbe, Argentina/Nigeria

The goal of democracy is to serve the interests of the people. If it doesn't do that then it has failed. But democracy hasn't worked in Pakistan, and justice and accountability are more important. The military needs to bring politicians to court and make them accountable for what they've done.
Ahsen Khan, Boston, USA

There is a difference between African and Pakistani coups. Pakistani coups have been bloodless. Most Pakistanis around the world have expressed their support for the coup, and hope for the future after the corrupt old system. People overseas have expressed fears which don't exist in Pakistan. I think Sharif and Bhutto are more interested in what the West think than what their own people think. The West are to blame for openly backing these corrupt politicians. The sanctions are pushing Pakistan to the brink, but Pakistanis have become hardened as a result of sanctions. The impetus to develop nuclear weapons was accelerated by sanctions.
Dr Muhammad Abdullah, Malaysia/Pakistan

IMF funds go to politicians and their western bank accounts. Everybody takes a bite of the cake, leaving hardly anything behind.
Hameed Uddin, Essex, UK

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Your comments before we went ON AIR

The people of Pakistan look happy and relieved by the ouster of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. They may be justified for their joy over his ouster but they are dead wrong in rejoicing the absolute power in the hands of a military dictator. No dictatorship, however good the dictator may be, can ever match a democracy. Pakistan has had its own worse dictotors like Zia and Ayub Khan. Let me remind Pakistanis, that they have the power to elect a leader democratically ... they should not relinquish it in the hands of a dictator!
Abhijit Thatte, USA

Having read the comment on the talking point poser, I am left bewildered at how the bulk of the Pakistanis seem to be in favour of the coup. Being Nigerian and after what we've just gone through I wonder how people can think that soldiers as they always do and as in this case, seize power without any agenda can improve on the worst of civilian regimes. What further confuses me is that Gen Zia's rule was at best repressive and retrogressive. If it were in Nigeria, I would have honestly thought they were sponsored by the coupists.
Beatus Inikori, Nigeria

The Army of Pakistan is like the mother of Pakistan. After God, It will do anything to defend its beloved country. The people of Pakistan should know and I think they are very sure that they are in very capable hands. The world should not underestimate the power of this huge force and no other party outside Pakistan even think about interfering with what is happening inside Pakistan. As the General said, Our Country's future is more important than a few sanctions that the West can apply. As you have seen all International concerns/demands have just been flying through the air without any notice taken. UK/US - You are just wasting your time.
Imran Ali, UK

It is a sad day for Pakistan. once again the inefficient politicians provided the opportunity and the army steps in. Lets, hope that the politicians will come to their senses and do their job sincerely in the future, if and when they get a second chance. again.
Syed Shah, U.K

It seems that the army was left with no other options except this one. If the present military regime comes up with judicial as well as electoral reforms and brings back the money allegedly stashed by the country's politicians in the form of never-to-be-paid back bank loans then, I think, it would be the greatest possible service of the army towards the nation.
Anis Fuad, U.S.A

Pakistan is really making a mess of itself. India and Pakistan, both got independence simultaneously, but look at both of them now! India is now far more developed than Pakistan only because it is going democratic ways. Now when Pakistan was beginning to look good, there is a military coup and all the things came back to their original point.
Sumit Kaul, India

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11 Nov 99 | South Asia
14 Oct 99 | South Asia

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