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1999 Pakistani coup d'état

1999 Military Coup d'état
Date 12 October 1999
Location Islamic Republic of Pakistan

Pakistan Armed Forces

Government of Pakistan

Commanders and leaders
Pervez Musharraf Nawaz Sharif
Shahbaz Sharif
DG ISI Ziauddin Butt
617,000 170,000
Casualties and losses
0 0

The 1999 Pakistani coup d'état was a bloodless coup d'état in which the Pakistan Army and then Chief of Army Staff and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee, General Pervez Musharraf, overthrew elected Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and his existing elected government, on 12 October 1999. Two days later, on 14 October 1999, Musharraf declared a state of emergency and issued a Provisional Constitutional Order.[2]

The coup occurred due to simmering tensions between Nawaz Sharif and General Musharraf, Sharif attempted to sack Musharraf, who was in Sri Lanka, the entire military high command refused to follow the orders of newly appointed Ziauddin Butt, who himself was the chief of the powerful ISI, while Musharraf was flying back from Sri Lanka, the Corps commander had decided to defend Musharraf, and launched a coup to pre-empt Pakistani spymaster Ziauddin Butt taking control of the army. The pace of the coup, startled observers, within 17 hours, from the attempt to sack Pervez Musharraf by Nawaz Sharif, the Corps commanders took over all key state buildings throughout the country, placed the entire cabinet including the Prime Minister and his powerful brother under house arrest, took over the state broadcaster and the entire critical infrastructure, including communications, suspended the constitution, arrested Nawaz Sharif and Ziauddin Butt, and announced that Nawaz Sharif had been dismissed.[3]

The Supreme Court of Pakistan declared the coup to be legal, but ordered that the army rule be limited to three years. Consequently, Musharraf held a national referendum on allowing himself to continue his rule, on 30 April 2002. The referendum, which Musharraf won with almost 98% of the votes in his favour, was alleged by many, including the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, to be fraudulent.[4][5]


  • The coup 1
    • Text of Proclamation of Emergency 1.1
    • Text of Provisional Constitutional Order 1999 1.2
  • Provisional Constitutional Order judges oath 2
  • Legal challenge to coup 3
  • Aftermath 4
    • 2002 Referendum 4.1
      • Allegations of illegitimacy 4.1.1
  • See also 5
  • References 6
  • External links 7

The coup

After the Kargil War, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif was already on bad terms with Chief of Army Staff General Pervez Musharraf. Sharif assigned blame for the political and military disaster on Musharraf, and Musharraf placed the blame on Sharif.[6] On 12 October 1999, Sharif dismissed Musharraf and nominated the ISI Director-General, Lt Gen Ziauddin Butt, in his place.[7] Musharraf, who was, at that time, on an official visit to Sri Lanka, immediately boarded a commercial airliner back to Pakistan. Also on board were Major-General Tariq Majid and Brigadier-General Nadeem Taj. In an attempt to thwart Musharraf's return to Karachi, Pakistan, Sharif first ordered the plane to be diverted to India and then Nawabshah.[8] When this failed, Sharif ordered the Karachi airport to refuse to allow the plane to land; the airport used civil aviation planes to block the runway. The Pakistan Army, under directions from Lieutenant General Muzaffar Usmani, seized the control tower and allowed the plane to land. After this, troops took control of the state-run television station in Islamabad, encircled the Prime Minister House, gained control of international airports, and cut international phone lines.[9][10]

On 14 October 1999, Musharraf declared a state of emergency and issued a Provisional Constitutional Order. These designated Musharraf as Chief Executive, suspended the Parliament and the provincial assemblies of the four provinces, and suspended the Constitution, although they left Muhammad Rafiq Tarar in office as President.[11]

Text of Proclamation of Emergency

Soon after taking over the country, emergency was declared in the country. Following is the text of the Proclamation of Emergency declared by Musharraf:[12]

Text of Provisional Constitutional Order 1999

Following is the text of Provisional Constitutional Order (PCO) promulgated by Musharraf. After its proclamation, the order was modified on multiple occasions:[13]

Provisional Constitutional Order judges oath

On 26 January 2000, all the members of the superior judiciary was asked to take oath under the Provisional Constitutional Order. Six of the thirteen Supreme Court justices refused to take oath, an issue identified as the "biggest challenge" to the new government. Other High Court justices also refused to take the oath. Those who refused were removed from office. The Provisional Constitutional Order disallowed challenging any actions made by the military, and many judges who refused to take the oath cited infringements upon the judiciary system such as this as their reasoning for refusing. Asma Jahangir, a Pakistani lawyer and human rights advocate, said, "The military rulers are doing their best to erode the independence of the judiciary. I salute those judges who have refused to take the oath."[2]

Legal challenge to coup

On 15 November 1999, the first legal challenge to the coup was filed in the Supreme Court of Pakistan by Syed Zafar Ali Shah, a member of the suspended National Assembly. He requested the court declare the military takeover "illegal and unconstitutional", and order the restoration of Sharif's government and of the National Parliament and four provincial assemblies that were suspended.[14] Later, similar appeals were filed by the Pakistan Muslim League (N), Iqbal Haider of Muslim Welfare Movement, and then by Wahabul Khairi, an advocate.[15]

On 1 December 1999, a five-member bench of Supreme Court was constituted to hear these appeals. The bench headed by Chief Justice Saeeduzzaman Siddiqui and had Justice Mohammad Bashir Jahangiri, Justice Nasir Aslam Zahid, Justice Abdur Rehman Khan and Justice Wajeeh-ud-Din Ahmed as other members.[15]


2002 Referendum

On 12 May 2000, the Supreme Court of Pakistan declared the coup to be legal and justified, but also ordered that the army rule in Pakistan be limited to three years.[16] This led Musharraf to hold a national referendum on 30 April 2002. 98% of the voters favored Musharraf, and this extended his presidential term for another five years.

Allegations of illegitimacy

Many groups denounced the referendum as extremely fraudulent. Reuters journalists claimed to see ballot stuffing and pressure to vote being placed on governmental employees. Ibn Abdur Rehman, director of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, dismissed the referendum as "farcical", also claiming that votes were stuffed. The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan stated that the voting irregularities "exceeded its worst fears".[5]

The United States offered no opinion about the legitimacy of the election. Don McKinnon, Secretary-General of the Commonwealth of Nations, expressed their wish that Pakistan return to a democratic government.

Although the referendum was challenged, the Supreme Court rejected the challenge and upheld the result. Information Minister Nisar Memon dismissed allegations of fraud as propaganda created by the opposition. He stated that "Those who opposed the referendum preferred to stay at home and didn't create any problem." [4]

See also


  1. ^ Harding, Luke (11 December 2000). "Pakistan frees Sharif to exile in Saudi Arabia". The Guardian (London). 
  2. ^ a b "Pakistan Judges Refuse Oath Demanded by Pakistan's Rulers". Waycross Journal-Herald. 31 January 2000. Retrieved 7 May 2011. 
  3. ^
  4. ^ a b de Vries, Lloyd (1 May 2002). "Musharraf Claims Victory In Pakistan". CBS News. Retrieved 7 May 2011. 
  5. ^ a b "Musharraf wins huge backing".  
  6. ^ Rashid, Ahmed (13 October 1999). "Seeds of conflict lie in summer's Kashmir crisis". Retrieved 29 March 2011. 
  7. ^ Dugger, Celia W. (14 October 1999). "Pakistan Calm After Coup; Leading General Gives No Clue About How He Will Rule". New York Times. Retrieved 6 May 2011. 
  8. ^ Plot to kill' coup leader"'". BBC News. 14 October 1999. Retrieved 6 May 2011. 
  9. ^ Weiner, Tim (17 October 1999). "Countdown to Pakistan's Coup: A Duel of Nerves in the Air". New York Times. Retrieved 6 May 2011. 
  10. ^ Aqil Shah, The Army and Democracy: Military Politics in Pakistan |(Harvard University Press, 2014), p. 181-182 [2] ISBN 9780674728936
  11. ^ "Pakistan". Background Notes. U.S. Department of State. Archived from the original on 4 May 2011. Retrieved 7 May 2011. 
  12. ^ "Text of Musharraf's declaration". BBC News. 14 October 1999. Retrieved 6 May 2011. 
  13. ^ "Provisional Constitution Order No. 1 of 1999". Archived from the original on 15 June 2011. Retrieved 7 May 2011. 
  14. ^ "Court moved on Pak take-over". The Tribune India. 15 November 1999. Retrieved 7 May 2011. 
  15. ^ a b "Supreme Court bench to hear petitions against coup". Dawn Wire Service. 2 December 1999. Archived from the original on 13 June 2011. Retrieved 7 May 2011. 
  16. ^ "Pakistan court limits army rule". BBC News. 12 May 2000. Retrieved 7 May 2011. 

External links

  • Pakistan after the coup: Special report, BBC report
  • Strategic Affairs Analysis
  • SAAG
  • 1999 Kargil Conflict
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