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October 13, 1999
Martial law clamped in Pakistan
General Pervez Musharraf, chief of the Pakistan Army staff and chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee, has imposed martial law in Pakistan.
General Musharraf appeared on the state-run Pakistan Television well past last midnight to declare that the armed forces had taken over the government to save a deteriorating situation.
The announcement, which had been awaited for the better part of the night by anxious Pakistanis, came almost 10 hours after PTV had announced that General Musharraf had been sacked as the army chief.
In his brief address, the general accused the government of deposed Prime Minister Nawaz Sharief of "systematically destroying" state institutions and causing the collapse of the economy.
"You are all well aware of the kind of turmoil and uncertainty that our country has gone through in recent times," he said. "Not only have all the institutions been played around with and systematically destroyed, the economy too is in a state of collapse."
General Musharraf said the armed forces had been facing "incessant public clamour" from "all sides of the political divide" to remedy the "fast-declining" situation. These concerns, he said, were communicated to the prime minister "in all sincerity", keeping the interests of the country foremost.
"My singular concern has been the well-being of our country alone. This has been the sole reason that the army willingly offered its services for nation-building tasks, the results of which have already been judged by all of you," he said.
But "all my efforts and counsel" were to no avail, the general lamented. "Instead, they now turned their attention on the army itself. Despite all my advice they tried to interfere with the armed forces, the last remaining viable institution in which all of you take so much pride and look up to at all times for the stability, unity and integrity of our beloved country."
He went on to accuse the Sharief government of trying "to politicise the army, destabilise it and create dissensions within its ranks", and said the forces had moved in "as a last resort".
Meanwhile, an army spokesman said Sharief, his brother and Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharief, Information Minister Mushahid Hussain, Foreign Minister Sartaj Aziz, and the Inter-Services Intelligence chief General Khwaja Ziauddin, the man named to succeed General Musharraf, had been taken into custody.
Hundreds of Pakistanis gathered in the street outside the PTV building in Islamabad after the takeover, chanting, "Long live the army."
Former premier Benazir Bhutto, a long-time rival of Sharif, also blamed him for provoking the crisis. "It's a very sad day in Pakistan's history," she told CNN. "I feared this moment would arrive and I asked Nawaz to resign to save civilian society in Pakistan. However, he clung onto power even though the people had risen against him and today's rash action of sacking Musharraf ... precipitated this martial law," she said.
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