After 19 months in power, Pakistani Prime Minister Zafarullah Khan Jamali resigned Saturday evening at the request of Gen. Pervez Musharraf, Pakistan's president, in a shakeup that underscored the army's continuing dominance of Pakistani politics.
Jamali gave no reason for his resignation, which he announced at a meeting of the governing political party, the Pakistan Muslim League. He nominated party president Chaudry Shujaat Hussain as his successor. Pakistani officials said Hussain would hold the seat until the installation of Musharraf's favored candidate, Shaukat Aziz, a former Citibank executive who currently serves as finance minister.
Over the last several months, there have been persistent reports of strained relations between Musharraf and Jamali, an unassuming career politician from the turbulent border province of Baluchistan. Musharraf, who seized power in a 1999 coup, backed Jamali for prime minister after the October 2002 elections that were supposed to mark the restoration of democratic civilian rule.
In practice, Jamali wielded little power, as Musharraf continued to call the shots. Musharraf, who remains army chief of staff, has hinted in recent weeks that he will renege on a pledge he made -- as part of a deal with opposition parties -- to give up his army post by year's end.
Analysts expressed little surprised at Jamali's resignation, noting the army has repeatedly stepped in to topple civilian governments and leaders in the name of protecting the national interest. "As long as he's in uniform you will see these antics," Mohammed Ziauddin, Islamabad editor of the English-language newspaper Dawn, said of Musharraf in a telephone interview from the capital. "Now that an election has been held, and the party is in power, he should have let that work."
Musharraf did not comment on Jamali's resignation, but the president's political allies defended the decision to force Jamali out. "He was working at the pleasure of the president," said Ejaz ul-Haq, the minister for religious affairs and the senior vice chairman of the Pakistan Muslim League. "The president must have had a solid reason to ask him to go. We will stand by the president in all his decisions."
A close aide to Musharraf, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said that in forcing Jamali out, the president sought to redress the grievances of politicians from Punjab, one of Pakistan's four provinces, who felt that Punjabis were underrepresented in the upper reaches of civilian government. Hussain, the interim choice for prime minister, is from Punjab, as is Aziz, the finance minister, although he has spent much of his life in Karachi and abroad. "Punjab was left out of" the civilian government hierarchy, the aide said. "There is a simmering sense of deprivation in Punjab."
The aide also noted that, if Musharraf reneged on his pledge to give up his army post, he would need the support of the Punjabi-dominated officer corps.
Although he had no experience in politics before he became finance minister, Aziz has been widely credited with Pakistan's strong economic performance in the past two years. Before joining the government, he held senior positions with Citibank in London and New York, where he still owns an apartment.
Khan reported from Karachi, Pakistan.