Pakistan’s Zia Dissolves Assembly, Fires Prime Minister
President Mohammed Zia ul-Haq on Sunday dissolved the National Assembly, fired his prime minister and accused the lawmakers of failing to maintain law and order in Pakistan.
Zia made the announcement at a news conference shortly after the ousted prime minister, Mohammed Khan Junejo, returned home from a tour of China, South Korea and the Philippines.
Zia also disbanded Junejo’s 33-member Cabinet. Junejo, who was appointed to the post in March, 1985, was not immediately available for comment.
The action could plunge the country into a new political crisis. Junejo, 56, was heading the first civilian Cabinet after eight years of martial law imposed by Zia in July, 1977.
The members of the National Assembly, elected in December, 1984, were scheduled to remain in office until 1990, as was Junejo’s Cabinet.
Zia, an army general who took power in a bloodless coup in 1977, told reporters that legislators’ inability to maintain law and order and failure to bring about an Islamic society led him to disband the Assembly and Cabinet. He said the country’s constitution and the Senate--the upper house of the Parliament--would stay intact.
According to the constitution, Zia told reporters, elections should be held within 90 days. He said a caretaker government will be announced today.
In a major policy change, Zia said political parties will be permitted to propose their own candidates to contest the assembly seats. In the 1984 elections, political parties were not permitted to field candidates, which led to a boycott by opposition parties.
“The National Assembly has failed to realize the objective for which it was elected,” Zia said. “The prime minister has ceased to be the prime minister from today, because the National Assembly has been dissolved.”
Zia and Junejo generally had got on well, but political observers had started sensing a divergence of views on domestic policy issues, particularly the role that political parties should play in the country.
Zia is opposed to giving political parties any immediate role, but Junejo formed his own Pakistan Muslim League party two years ago, which prompted opposition political parties to become active.
These parties include Benazir Bhutto’s Pakistan Peoples Party, a particular source of annoyance to Zia. Bhutto is the daughter of the late Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, whose civilian government Zia toppled.
Zia said he had watched with concern that “law and order had broken down to an alarming extent.”
“There was enormous damage to life and property. . . . The country’s Islamic ideology and integrity were unsafe,” he said, adding that public morality has deteriorated to an “unprecedented level.”
Zia noted that he had repeatedly reminded Junejo to improve the law-and-order situation and to speed up the process of Islamization. But he said that Junejo took the view that he had to go along with the wishes of the Assembly, which favored a gradual move to Islamism.
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