1995 Pakistani coup d'état attempt

1995 Pakistani coup d'état attempt

The Pakistan coup attempt of 1995 was a secretive plot hatched by renegade military officers and Islamist groups against the government of Benazir Bhutto, the Prime Minister of Pakistan. The plotters aimed to overthrow the constitutional government and establish an Islamic State in Pakistan. The plot was foiled after intelligence agencies tipped off the Pakistan Army.


With rampant and growing corruption in the country and particularly in the government circles, a level of discontent grew in various circles. This also affected some of the army officers who wanted a corruption free environment in line with the principles of Islam.

Gen. Zia-ul-Haq's Islamisation policies launched in the 1980s substantially increased the role of Islam in public life and the activities and involvement of Islamic organisations in political circles. General Zia encouraged Islamic law and religious education in all segments of Pakistani society to bring about better harmony in line with ethical and religious norms. Resistance to the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan was hailed as a religious duty and Pakistani intelligence and military services recruited, trained and armed Afghan mujahideen to fight the Soviet Army. Pakistani patronage would also give rise to the Taliban militia, which would take over Afghanistan in 1995.

Such religious awareness programs brought about a greater sense of bringing social and economic justice in the country. It also led to a greater feeling to bring about change in the country.


The main accused in this failed coup attempt were Major General Zahirul Islam Abbasi, Brigadier Mustansir Billa and Qari Saifullah.. [http://www.criminology.edu.pk/crimenews.html.] While Brigadier Billa was assumed to be the ideologue of the group, the main executor was supposed to be Qari Saifullah. [http://www.dawn.com/2008/03/04/top18.htm] Major General Abbasi was serving at the time as director-general of infantry corps at the Pakistani army high command in Rawalpindi. With the help of sympathetic military officers, the group allegedly began plotting against the civilian government of Benazir Bhutto and the army chief Gen. Wahid Kakar. It was claimed that they planned to assassinate Bhutto, Kakar, senior cabinet ministers and the military chiefs in order to bring about a corruption free government in Pakistan. Acting on a tip-off from the then Maj. Gen. Ali Kuli Khan, who was then the director-general of military intelligence (DGMI), chief of general staff (CGS) Lt. Gen. Jehangir Karamat suppressed the coup by arresting 36 army officers and 20 civilians in Rawalpindi and the capital Islamabad.

Qari Saifullah saved his neck by becoming an "approver" (government witness) on behalf of the prosecution during the trial. Based on this deal, Qari Saifullah was given freedom in 1996 and he did not face a trial. Without his testimony, it would not have been possible to convict the other officers. While Qari Saifullah gained his freedom, the other alleged co-conspirators were convicted. [http://www.rantburg.com/poparticle.php?D=2008-09-24&ID=250849]

Subsequent inquiries and major newspaper reports suggested that some of the arrested army officers were affiliated with the Tableeghi Jamaat, an organization that tries to engender piety amongst the people. Some of the arrested officers were inspired by Mufti Sufi Iqbal, the head of the group who was also arrested for his involvement in the plot. Col. Amjad, one of the arrested officers, was related to the Mufti. Some reports indicate that the planning of the group came from Lt. Gen. Ghulam Muhammad Malik, who was a powerful corps commander and who had frequently invited Mufti Iqbal to deliver religious sermons at the corps headquarters. His views had been a source of inspiration for many officers and other ranks with religious inclinations. However, this allegation was dismissed since Lt. Gen. Ghulam Muhammad Malik was a member of the targeted Corps Commanders's Conference, and would therefore have been a victim too. Therefore, suspicion against him was withdrawn. He retired from the army the following month as per his retirement schedule and has since led a life of devotion to social welfare causes.

"The Nation" published a report on December 25, 1995 claiming that the investigation into the plot had identified the following religious leaders of Pakistan as being the spiritual guides for some of the plotters: Maulana Qadir Dervi of Dera Ghazi Khan; Maulana Sheikhullah Khan of Jamia Farooqia, Karachi; Maulana Mufti Mohammad Abdus Sattar, Khairul Madrassa, Multan; Mufti Manzoor Ahmad, Madrassa Qasimul Uloom, Multan; Maulana Abdul Hameed, Sheikhul Hadith; Mufti Mohammad Yahya, Nusratul Uloom, Gujranwala; Mufti Mohammad Rafi Usmani, Darul Uloom, Karachi; Maulana Muhammad Musa, Jamia Ashrafia, Maulana Muhammad Yaqub, Jamia Rashidia, Quetta; Maulana Muhammad Yousuf Ludhianvi, Karachi; Maulana Rashid Ahmad Ludhianvi, Maulana Qazi Abdul Karim from Karachi and Maulana Abdul Baqi, Darul Aloom, Quetta.

Other views

Professor Lawrence Ziring, former president of the American Institute of Pakistani studies offered a different view of events. In his 2003 book, "Pakistan at the cross currents of history", Ziring said said there was "little evidence to implicate the accused" (p. 239). He also suggested that the alleged coup was little more than an attempt by Bhutto to bring the military establishment closer under her control. (p. 239) He also describes Bhutto as lashing out against her critics in November 1995 and accusing (without proof) those involved as having planned to kill her, most of the army command and the president of Pakistan.

According to one of the earliest reports, "Diplomats and politicians in Islamabad tell a different story. They say the arrested officers were not planning a coup, but were supplying arms to separatists fighting in Indian Kashmir. Bhutto, these sources say, was responding to pressure from Washington to crack down on military support to the rebels in violation of official policy. The U.S. has been seeking a solution to the Kashmir dispute and is eager to see an end to tensions between Islamabad and New Delhi." [http://www-cgi.cnn.com/ASIANOW/asiaweek/95/1103/nat3.html]

This theory of U.S. pressure may have some credibility because the coup plotters were said to be close to Lt. Gen. (retd) Javed Nasir, a former director-general of Inter-Services Intelligence, who was removed from his post in 1993 under U.S. pressure because of his alleged non-cooperation in the US efforts to re-purchase unused FIM-92 Stinger missiles from the Afghan mujahideen.


Benazir Bhutto was succeeded in 1997 by Nawaz Sharif, who would dismiss army chief Gen. Karamat and Lt. Gen. Khattak. Sharif maintained links with the Tableeghi Jamaat and provided financial support for the group. He also helped Muhammad Rafiq Tarar — an unknown person in the public domain who was very humble and a supporter of Tableeghi Jamaat — become the President of Pakistan.

The alleged plotters were convicted by a military court and awarded different sentences ranging from 2 to 14 years. The highest sentence was given to Brigadier Billa (14 years). Major Gen. Abbasi was given a 7 year term in jail. His imprisonment started in 1995 and he was to remain in prison until 2002 (7 years). During his period of imprisonment, Abbasi lodged an appeal to Supreme Court of Pakistan in 1997 for a review of his case. This was refused since he had been convicted by a military court, and it was outside the purview of civilian courts. He was not granted release. However based on good conduct during his prison term, Abbasi was given early release from prison by General Pervez Musharraf in October, 1999, i.e. within four years. With his military career over, Abbasi moved to organise a political party with the aim of creating awareness and establishing the rule of Islamic law through constitutional change. Later Abbasi formed another political party called the Azmat-e-Islam party with the same objectives. He leads a quiet life in Rawalpindi, and delivers lectures to audiences on the values of religious life and on political analysis.

Azmat-e-Islam and Bedar Pakistan are in fact two separate parties headed by Maj Gen(R) Zaheer ul Islam Abbasi and Mr Abdul Razaq Mian, respectively.

All of the other alleged plotters have also been released from prison and are now settled in Pakistan leading normal lives as citizens.


ee also

*Zahirul Islam Abbasi
*Zia-ul-Haq's Islamization
*Benazir Bhutto
*Siachen conflict
*History of the Kashmir conflict
*History of Pakistan
*Inter-Services Intelligence
*Military of Pakistan


* Lawrence Ziring, "Pakistan at the cross currents of history", 2003
* [http://www.saag.org/papers/paper80.html Tabhligi Jamaat]
* [http://www.saag.org/papers3/paper232.html Abbasi coup attempt]
* [http://cns.miis.edu/research/wtc01/spna.htm Abbasi coup attempt]
* [http://www.nation.com.pk/daily/june-2005/19/localnews4.php The Nation]
* [http://www.pathfinder.com/asiaweek/95/1103/nat3.html AsiaWeek]
* [http://www.saag.org/%5Cpapers18%5CPaper1762.html Terror links]
* [http://www.stratmag.com/issue2Oct-1/page06.htm Strategic Affairs Analysis]

External links

* [http://www.kashmirtelegraph.com/0604/three.htm Kashmir Telegraph]
* [http://www.defencejournal.com/jul99/history-pak-army.htm Defence Journal]

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