1st of November, 1989, was a historic day for Pakistan. 1st no-confidence motion against a Pakistani PM was ready for voting. She was the first female Prime Minister of the Muslim world. Benazir Bhutto. Benazir Bhutto’s chances to win were slim. Her allies were leaving her. Her own members were resigning or joining the opposition. Even the military establishment was working to overthrow her. They were not neutral.
President Ghulam Ishaq Khan was also their supporter. He had the power to dissolve the assembly. 36-year-old PM Bhutto and her husband Asif Ali Zardari were in big trouble. Her government was just 11 months old. There was little chance of the failure of the no-confidence motion. But all her opponents failed to make the no-confidence motion successful. Benazir Bhutto defeated the no-confidence motion. But how did she do that? Did Osama bin Laden send dollars in mango boxes? Why did he send dollars?
Benazir Bhutto was the most popular leader in the elections of 1988. The 1st election after the execution of Bhutto and Zia’s long dictatorship. Benazir Bhutto was likely to win because of the huge public support. But the Army Chief, ISI Chief and the President were against her. These people formed an opposition alliance, IJI, to counter Benazir Bhutto. They provided full political, journalistic and financial support to this alliance The alliance made slogans against Benazir. 9 political parties were part of IJI.
Aslam Baig and Hamid Gul have acknowledged forming the alliance. The Islamic Democratic Alliance (IJI) included 9 right-wing political parties. Jatoi was its head but Nawaz Sharif was the most popular leader. Jatoi ran for the PM office while Nawaz Sharif contested for CM Punjab. Other leaders of the IJI included Qazi Hussain Ahmed and Junejo, But Benazir’s real rival was Nawaz Sharif. The Establishment liked him and his supporters expected change from him. The Establishment supported him to counter Benazir’s popularity.
Nawaz was hopeful to break Benazir’s popularity among the people. Even the American media considered him a serious political threat to Bhutto. The US press later blamed Sharif of misusing authority in the elections. There were no caretaker governments at that time. Nawaz Sharif was the CM of Punjab before the elections. So he could misuse his authority if he liked. And he allegedly did that. The Establishment considered Sharif the rightful successor of General Zia-ul-Haq. Even Nawaz Sharif didn’t deny this in his early political career. Sharif launched an advertisement campaign before elections. In these advertisements Bhutto was portrayed as an anti-Punjab leader. Sharif’s supporters raised the slogan of Jag Punjabi Jag (wake up Punjabi).
However, IJI’s major candidates lost in the elections. Even Jatoi and Junejo couldn’t win. Ghulam Mustafa Jatoi’s defeat was the biggest blow to the 9-party alliance Jatoi was the candidate for the PM office. But the people had rejected him. However, Sharif was re-elected as the CM Punjab with Establishment’s help. Benazir Bhutto had defeated the IJI by a huge margin. Bhutto-led-PPP won 92 seats in the assembly out of 207 general seats. The IJI was badly defeated.
It (IJI) only got 54 seats despite Establishment’s help. Benazir needed 119 votes to become the Prime Minister. Bhutto and her husband Zardari contacted ANP, MQM and others to form a government. Nawaz Sharif and IJI were opposing and threatening Bhutto. Nawaz vowed that he wouldn’t allow Bhutto’s government to function. He claimed that Bhutto would run away and and ideological government would be formed. But Bhutto had more seats. Fazal-ur-Rehman’s party JUI (F) had 7 seats. However, he didn’t want to join the government. He said that he had not enough votes to implement his ideology.
That’s why he decided to join opposition benches in the assembly. So Fazal-ur-Rehman didn’t support the PPP. But the MQM and ANP showed willingness to support Bhutto. The MQM won 13 seats in early results. Later, in the final results, it got 14 seats. So the PPP invited the MQM to join the new government. MQM Chief Altaf Hussain was in Pakistan those days, he even voted in the elections. He also met Benazir Bhutto to discuss the new government. The 2 parties signed an agreement. PPP’s CM Sind Qaim Ali Shah and MQM’s Azeem Tariq signed the agreement.
It was called the Karachi Agreement or Karachi Declaration. The ANP too, soon joined the PPP. Now Bhutto could easily form a government. In those days, a PM wasn’t elected through voting in the national assembly. President had the authority to nominate the majority leader as PM. PM’s nomination depended on majority support. The nominated PM had to get a vote of confidence within 60 days. But President Ghulam Ishaq Khan didn’t invite Bhutto to form government. This led to speculations in the Pakistani and Western media.
Some thought the President wanted to give Sharif enough time to form the government. A week passed. Benazir Bhutto was also disappointed. The Los Angeles Times reported that Bhutto had contacted the President and the Army Chief. She had asked them to nominate her as PM immediately. The Washington Times commented that Bhutto didn’t want to wait even 1 more day. Meanwhile, the Establishment indicated that could accept Bhutto as PM. Even the international media said that the military was ready to accept Benazir’s government. Benazir Bhutto had also promised not to reduce the defense budget She had also assured not to take action against general involved in her father’s hanging.
General Baig had already said that it was the majority party’s right to form the government. US Assistant Secretary of Defense and Assistant Secretary of State visited Pakistan. They met President Ghulam Ishaq Khan, Benazir Bhutto and others. A few days later, on December 1, the President nominated Benazir Bhutto as the PM. Some speculate that the President did this under the US pressure. The US officials had probably visited Pakistan to pressurize him. But US officials didn’t only meet with Bhutto, they also had meeting with the IJI leaders.
US Ambassador Robert Oakley also had an hour-long meeting with Nawaz Sharif. However, Bhutto was nominated as the PM. She took oath the next day. Jatoi, Fazal-ur-Rehman and Qazi Hussain Ahmed didn’t attend the ceremony.Though seats were reserved for them. This showed that they never fully recognized the PPP government. So Bhutto took the oath as the PM and soon got a vote of confidence. She received 148 votes, 29 votes more than the required 119 votes.
Only 53 members opposed her. Interestingly, IJI member Abida Hussain also voted for her. Abida Hussain explained that Bhutto was a courageous leader, so she voted for her. A member Raja Zaheer told a Hadith against the women rule at the point of order. The point of order was rejected, Hafiz Hussain Ahmed and Amna Bibi walked out in protest. So the opposition lost 2 more votes against Benazir Bhutto. So, in this way, Benazir Bhutto became Prime Minister. But her government was weak. She had accepted government with some compromises. Her allies could easily leave her. The Establishment was also against her government.
So while Benazir was allowed to become PM, work began on a plan to remove her. The plan was later called Operation Midnight Jackal. The Establishment didn’t want to remove her by any unconstitutional method. A no-confidence motion was the best way to do that. The opposition didn’t have enough members for the motion. The Establishment decided to turn some PPP members against her. With support from some PPP members the Establishment could overthrow the government.
2 ISI officers, Major Amir and Brigadier Imtiaz were given the task to do so. They contacted PPP members and persuaded them to support the opposition. This happened in 1989. But the plan failed. Former DG Intelligence Bureau Masood Sharif Khattak was the reason. He recorded a conversation between Brigadier Imtiaz and Major Amir. In this conversation they were talking about overthrowing the government.
He also recorded secret meeting of these officers with PPP members. Khattak sent the recordings to Bhutto and dubbed the conspiracy Operation Midnight Jackal. The name was given because the conspirators operated at night. Those recordings made Benazir Bhutto angry. She demanded General Aslam Baig to court-martial both officers. But General Baig refused to court-martial them. However both officers were dismissed. Both officers faced trials later on. Yet they were never punished.
Operation Midnight Jackal failed. Yet the work on the no-confidence motion continued in secret. General Aslam Baig continued to show that he was neutral. In September 1989, he told the reporters that he didn’t want to overthrow the government. He said, ” we have neither courage nor daring, we will not give orders, we will obey orders.” He admitted that he was under pressure to take over but refused to so. So General Aslam Baig was saying that he didn’t want to take over.
He didn’t want to become a hurdle in the way of the government. However, the issue of the no-confidence motion had gone too far. A month after General Baig’s news briefing, a key ally left the government. And the no-confidence motion was moved. General Aslam Baig allegedly played a role in all this. Who was this key ally? and what wass its role? In October 1989, Benazir Bhutto’s removal process had begun. The MQM party broke away from the government alliance.
And so the war began. Maleeha Lodhi quotes Chaudhry Nisar as saying that General Baig delivered the MQM to the IJI. An IGI insider also told that General Baig arranged a meeting at his home. Jatoi and MQM’s Dr. Imran Farooq attended the meeting. The two sides also signed a secret written agreement. The agreement was signed few days after General Baig’s press conference. In that briefing, General Baig had tried to portray him as neutral. No-confidence motion was filed on 23rd October, 86 members had signed the motion.
On the same day, the MQM left the government and vowed to support the motion. Dr. Imran Farooq also disclosed the secret agreement in a press briefing. He declared that the secret agreement was signed on 18th September. He claimed that the PPP had violated the Karachi Declaration. Dr. Imran Farooq was later killed in London in 2010. The MQM not only left the federal government but also the Sind government. MQM leader Azeem Tariq said that the people should prepare themselves for difficult times. 5 FATA members announced to leave the government in a press conference in Lahore.
They blamed the government for failing in development projects and destroying Afghan Jihad. The opposition claimed to have support of 129 members. Opposition members were even praying for the success of the motion. Sheikh Rashid claimed that the opposition had already won. The PPP also claimed to enjoy the support of 111 members. It said that with the support of 9 independent members, it would get to 119. In other words, the PPP was confident of its victory in the no-confidence motion. Presenting a no-confidence motion wasn’t enough.
The real challenge for the opposition was to show the numbers. Both the government and the opposition had only a week to show the numbers. 1st November was the voting day. So the both sides worked hard to complete the numbers. This struggle created extraordinary circumstances. The opposition’s first challenge was to convince PPP members to join the opposition. The opposition got some initial success. PPP Minister of State for Labor Tariq Magsi resigned from his post. He announced his support for the Opposition. The government claimed that Tariq Magsi didn’t resign, he was fired.
It said that Magsi wanted federal ministry, 20 million rupees, a Pajero and a bank license. Therefore, he has been removed from the ministry. But Magsi’s resignation boosted opposition’s morale. The opposition claimed that another minister would resign soon. Ghulam Mustafa Jatoi vowed that he wouldn’t let Benazir Bhutto flee abroad. Fazal-ur-Rehman claimed that there wasn’t even 1% chance of motion’s failure. CM Punjab Nawaz Sharif made a unique announcement. He asked Bhutto to show 119 numbers within 24 hours, he would withdraw the motion. Benazir Bhutto was also confident of her victory.
She declared that there was no traitor in her party, her opponents would be ashamed. No member would betray the party. She also criticized her former ally the MQM. She vowed to win without MQM’s support. She also vowed to complete her 5-year term as PM. She even declared that the opposition wouldn’t get 90 votes on the voting day. The opposition started public rallies to pressurize the government. Zia was called a ‘martyr’ and Nawaz ‘the pride of Pakistan’ in newspaper ads. Such posters were widely published. These posters invited public to join rallies to get rid of Benazir Bhutto.
The opposition also used religious card to topple the government. Protests were held in Lahore against woman’s rule and slogans like ‘good bye Benazir’ were raised. Scholar Tahir-ul-Qadri issued a press statement on 1st November, 1989. He declared that woman’s rule was against Islam. People prayed for success of the no-confidence motion during Friday sermons. You can see these words clearly on the screen. ‘As a Muslin join the Muslim League.
‘Religion was linked to politics. The ad stated allegations against Bhutto and appealed to the people to join protests. The PPP launched its own rallies. Police also baton charged a PPP rally in Lahore. The PPP alleged that the workers of Muslim League and Jamaat-e-Islami had weapons. They said that CM Punjab Nawaz Sharif wanted a 3rd party to intervene. PPP leaders warned their rebel members that they wouldn’t return from Islamabad. Both sides also did another thing apart from the rallies and statements. This thing really made the difference. Both the PPP and the opposition shifted their members to safe places.
The opposition did it first. Punjab Chief Minister Nawaz Sharif used his official powers to help the IJI. 100 MNAs were taken to a hotel in Rawalpindi and then to the Punjab House Murree. The arrival was kept secret. Police was deployed outside the Punjab House. Meanwhile, a PTV media team tried to make a video of the Punjab House. Police tortured the PTV team and kept them in custody for 2 hours.
In response, The PPP government adopted the same strategy. Dozens of MNAs were called to the Rawalpindi sports complex during a sports event. The Intelligence Bureau then transferred them to Peshawar on C-130 planes. Aftab Sherpao was the PPP CM of NWFP province (KPK), he took them under his protection. A concert was also organized to entertain the members at Peshawar’s 5-star hotel. It was announced that the members would spend 2 days in Swat. They were shifted from Peshawar to the rest houses in Swat. These members were shifted in PAF planes.
So the PAF issued an explanatory statement. Air Chief Hakimullah Khan Durrani said that the PAF only obeyed orders from the PM. So, both the government and the opposition blamed each other for kidnapping members. The Punjab Houses in Rawalpindi and Murree, Rest Houses in Swat were the center of political activities. Political cartoonists had a lot of satire to share. Cartoons showed that the public was trapped between Murree and Swat. In this regard, Siraj Munir, a member of Nawaz Sharif’s media team, made a joke.
He said the political situation was like a market where people were selling and buying. The opposition demanded the army to protect its members from the government. The PPP called the opposition’s demand an attempt to impose martial law. Punjab Chief Minister Nawaz Sharif also planned a commando action. What was this commando action? Nawaz Sharif had planned this. He planned to rescue kidnapped opposition members. The plan was to rescue the members upon their return from Swat. Punjab police commandos were to take action before the actual voting.
It was the rescue mission for the allegedly kidnapped members. The government was aware of the plan. It banned the entry of the Punjab police in Islamabad. The government also accused the IJI of plotting to create security problems. The government said that the opposition was deploying armed groups in Punjab. There were also allegations of foreign intervention. Benazir Bhutto has mentioned Osama bin Laden’s involvement in this matter.
She says that Osama provided dollars to buy members. A plane landed in Pakistan loaded with mango boxes. It was suspicious since Saudi Arabia didn’t grow mangoes. Civilian intelligence found out that the mango boxes contained money. Benazir Bhutto says that the then Saudi ruler Shah Fahd calls her his daughter. She sent her law minister to Saudi Arabia to ask the king why did he fund her opponents? Shah Fahd replied that his government didn’t send the money. He said some people, infected by the Afghan Jihad, were sending money.
An adviser to the Shah disclosed that Osama bin Laden h ad sent the money. So after a lot of political activity, 1st November arrived. The government and the opposition settled the rules of the procedure. The army assumed security of the parliament. The army secured a one-mile cordon around the parliament. Public access to the area and banners or posters were banned. The opposition was also confident because of the Establishment’s support. Benazir Bhutto also understood that she could lose. But one person was still hopeful. This was Benazir’s husband Asif Ali Zardari.
He told the media that everything would go against the opposition. Why did he say so? On the 1st of November, the army had deployed outside the parliament. 10,000 police and Constabulary were also stationed in Rawalpindi. But the opposition changed its body language on the 31st of October. It issued statements showing lack of confidence among its ranks. Nawaz said if all opposition members reached the House, the opposition would succeed. Ghulam Mustafa Jatoi wrote a letter to President Ghulam Ishaq Khan. He demanded action if any member was barred from entering the assembly.
There was discussions, what would happen if the majority was absent? Some said the President could allow the voting again. The opposition was even preparing a second no-confidence motion. 103 members had signed the second no-confidence motion. It was clear that they were not sure of their victory any more. Benazir, on the other hand, seemed more confident. She indicated changes in cabinet after victory, she also acknowledged her mistakes. So under army’s protection, the assembly session began. Benazir Bhutto arrived at the Assembly building with her official protocol.
She asked her members not to enter the assembly until the opposition had shown its members. When the votes were counted, the opposition only had 107 members. The opposition had failed to win the no-confidence motion. Then Benazir Bhutto called her members. 124 members entered the h hall. Once again Benazir Bhutto had the required votes to carry on as the PM. The No-confidence Motion had failed. Benazir Bhutto wrote that she had the numbers. She says that the president, army chief, ISI and Osama were shocked and disappointed. The PML’s no-confidence motion was defeated in the parliament.
But Benazir Bhutto made some astonishing comments on that occasion. The opposition said the voting was rigged. Ghulam Mustafa Jatoi, Fazl-ur-Rehman and Nawaz Sharif held a press conference. Jatoi made a new claim. He said that 22 members were locked up in the PM’s Chamber. The opposition lost because of that. He vowed to keep on shaking the foundations of the ‘incompetent government.’ Altaf Hussain claimed that the government stopped 26 members form voting. Nawaz Sharif also gave an important statement. He said the opposition wouldn’t compromise on principles.
He said the shortage of 12 members would be met soon. He said the absent 22 members could have changed the result. Addressing Altaf Hussain, he said, “Brother Altaf, our spirits are high.” To this Altaf Hussain replied, “we have burnt our boats, our spirits are also high.” Fazl-ur-Rehman said that the government had become controversial. He said that the PPP wasn’t still politically mature even after 10 years. He claimed that the next shock would be unbearable for the government. The same day a news about today’s PM Imran Khan also made headlines.
According to the news, some Indians had given a special advice to Benazir. They had asked her to get help from Imran Khan against evils. Though the no-confidence motion had failed but the government was still helpless. The PPP government didn’t survive. President Ghulam Ishaq Khan dismissed the government in August 1990. He had the power to dissolve assemblies.
The 18th amendment abolished this power. This was the full story of the 1st no-confidence motion in Pakistan. We have shown you all the references on screen. Pakistan’s history is full of such conspiracies and political games. You may watch this true story in the History of Pakistan series. Here is the detail story of the Operation Midnight Jackal? And this is the story of the time when Bhutto’s sons hijacked a plane.
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