Sharif overthrown in army coup
Kargil revenge fear in Delhi
United colours of caste, religion
Sonia accepts crown of thorns
Calcutta weather

Islamabad, Oct. 12 
Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif was overthrown in a coup today after the surprise dismissal of army chief Parvez Musharraf.

Soldiers closed all major airports and took over state-run television and radio stations all over the country. A message scrolled across television screens said Sharif?s government has been ousted by the army, which has ruled Pakistan for 25 of its 52-year history. It said Musharraf, sacked hours before by Sharif, would address the nation.

Dismissed while on a visit to Sri Lanka, Musharraf flew back home and was met at the airport by a large contingent of soldiers at Karachi airport. Late tonight, he was in Karachi?s seized television building preparing for his speech.

Police around Sharif?s house have been disarmed. Troops under the Rawalpindi Corps commander cordoned off the Prime Minister?s official residence soon after radio and television announced that Musharraf had been replaced by Lt. Gen. Khwaja Ziauddin, head of Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI).

Army commanders outside Sharif?s residence told a PTI correspondent that the Prime Minister was inside the building.

About 20 people left the Prime Minister?s house, all staff members who refused to speak except one. ?I was just told to hand over the keys,? he said.

Soldiers have taken over the houses of several top ministers, including foreign minister Sartaj Aziz and information minister Mushahid Hussein, and seized other government buildings.

BBC said tonight there have been reports of gunfire in Islamabad. After the main television building in the capital was seized as soldiers leapt over the fence around it and went inside, hundreds of Pakistanis gathered outside, singing: ?Long live the army.? Witnesses said that in Sharif?s hometown of Lahore, too, people were on the streets, cheering the army.

Former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto said the country has been plunged into a civil war, but maintained the crisis had nothing to do with the Kargil fiasco.

She said she had reports of a civil war-like situation after the army took over Sharif?s house. ?It looks like a civil war, as there are reports that some sections of the army had turned pro-Nawaz Sharif and were resisting the coup,? Bhutto told the BBC.

There are fears that instability in Pakistan will heighten tension with India. The Indian army has been put on a state of high alert along the border.

Before the army announcement of dismissal of Sharif, US state department spokesman James Rubin had said: ?If there has been a coup, we would obviously seek the earliest possible restoration of democracy.?

There was no immediate explanation for the army chief?s dismissal, but in recent weeks there have been reports of a rift between the army and the civilian government.

The divisions developed after the Prime Minister ordered militants to withdraw this summer from Kargil after a bitter two-month border dispute.

Musharraf had reportedly orchestrated the incursion into Kargil and the withdrawal of militants and Pakistani soldiers was seen as a humiliation of the military.

Within one hour of the announcement that Musharraf had been dismissed, the army began to deploy throughout Islamabad as well as in the Punjab provincial capital of Lahore, Sharif?s hometown.

Pakistan Television abruptly went off the air shortly after 7 pm local time after soldiers were seen leaping over the fence and going inside the building. Soldiers were also posted at the gates. No one was being allowed inside the television station.

It was originally believed that Sharif was inside the television station, but later a government official said he was in his house. Before it went off the air, Pakistan Television showed Sharif and the new army chief clasping hands.

Soldiers have taken over the houses of government officials in Islamabad, according to witnesses. They saw troops lock the gate of information minister Mushahid Hussein?s house and enter the homes of foreign minister Sartaj Aziz and accountability minister Saif-ur Rehman.

In Lahore, soldiers in jeeps and trucks have taken up positions on the main road and at government buildings, including outside the chief minister?s home. The chief minister of Punjab is Sharif?s brother, Shahbaz.

A soldier on sentry duty outside the chief minister?s residence told AP that the army action was under ?martial law?.

In southern Karachi and in the Northwest Frontier Province, the army has taken over television stations and the governors? residences, according to witnesses who saw the soldiers entering the buildings and surrounding them with armed guards.    

New Delhi, Oct. 12 
The swift army strike in Pakistan has set off alarm bells in the Indian establishment as it believes that a military takeover by Gen. Parvez Musharraf in the teeth of opposition from the US will force him to consolidate his position with the help of Islamic fundamentalist support, including Taliban militia.

Combined with Gen. Musharraf?s desire to avenge the humiliation in Kargil, this bodes ill for India. This was the consensus at a meeting late tonight in the Prime Minister?s House as the core of the incoming government, including foreign minister Jaswant Singh and home minister L.K. Advani, analysed the fast-moving developments.

The Indian army has been put on high alert along the LoC and the border. Chief of staff Gen. V.P. Malik spoke to commanders of the 15 and 16 Corps stationed in Kashmir. Defence minister George Fernandes is in touch with the three service chiefs.

The Centre was reluctant to come out with a detailed statement as it is still unsure about the protagonists of the latest Asian drama. The other, perhaps more important, factor is how the international community reacts.

??It?s a matter of grave concern,?? said a spokesman for the Prime Minister?s Office. He said Indian authorities were in touch with the high commission in Islamabad. All staff members and their families are safe.

For the record, the Centre said tonight that the Cabinet Committee on Security will meet after the swearing-in ceremony tomorrow morning.

However, in practice it was business as usual at 7, Race Course Road. Key players on Pakistan chipped in with their inputs on evolving a swift Indian response to the coup d?etat.

They agreed that India must make it clear to Pakistan that Delhi?s response to any move against it would meet with a decisive and crippling response.

While officials are unwilling to be quoted on these developments behind the scenes, those involved in Track II diplomacy with Pakistan said as much.

J.N. Dixit, former foreign secretary and former high commissioner to Pakistan, said ??the military coup and any suggestions of military adventurism in Pakistan must evoke a firm response from India??. He said this message should be conveyed to Pakistan without mincing words.

Nawaz Sharif?s ouster could not only lead derail the talks with India, but it also signals the end of the personal chemistry that had been developing between the two prime ministers.

Though officially no dates were announced, the two leaders were expected to meet on the sidelines of the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meet in Durban next month. The meeting, according to speculation in diplomatic circles, could have led to the resumption of talks between foreign secretaries.

Gen. Musharraf?s strike did not come as a surprise to those who met at the Prime Minister?s house tonight. But the timing of the events did. Vajpayee?s aides have been saying ever since the Kargil conflict that there is no way both Sharif and Gen. Musharraf can continue in office.    

New Delhi, Oct. 12 
Prime Minister A.B. Vajpayee today completed the exercise of consultations with party colleagues and allies and gave the final touches to his Cabinet, which will be sworn in tomorrow morning.

The list of the council of ministers is expected to be sent to Rashtrapati Bhavan tomorrow morning. BJP sources said the Cabinet would be a large one, with around 55 to 58 ministers representing every region of the country.

They said a broad formula had been worked out by the BJP and its allies to make the Cabinet ?representative? in every sense and to ensure it reflects the ?aspirations? of the major caste and religious groupings.

However, moves were afoot to ensure that the key ministries of home, finance, defence and external affairs were retained by the incumbents ? L.K. Advani, Yashwant Sinha, George Fernandes and Jaswant Singh respectively. BJP leader M.M. Joshi is also expected to get a Cabinet berth.

Party sources said a section of the leadership was unhappy at the prospect of Fernandes becoming defence minister again. They recalled his various gaffes during the Kargil conflict. But the sources added the Prime Minister was not keen on rocking the boat and antagonising Fernandes by denying him the portfolio.

Among the National Democratic Alliance constituents which formally staked claim for ministerial berths was the Janata Dal (United). Dal (U) chief Sharad Yadav met Advani and is understood to have discussed its representation in the Cabinet. He also held separate talks with BJP general secretary K.N. Govindacharya and Kailashpati Mishra, who looks after Bihar on behalf of the party.

Yadav had been assured that Bihar would be ?duly represented? in the Cabinet to keep every section ?happy? in view of next year?s Assembly polls.

The newly elected Dal (U) MPs attended a luncheon meeting hosted by Ram Vilas Paswan and resolved to leave the matter of constituting the Cabinet to the Prime Minister. A similar decision was taken yesterday when they met at Fernandes? residence.

?Our priority is the formation of a performance-oriented, stable government and strengthening of the coalition culture,? Dal (U) spokesman Mohan Prakash said.

Tamil Nadu chief minister and DMK leader M. Karunanidhi today said his party never bargained for the finance portfolio in the Vajpayee government.

Trying to scotch speculation that the DMK was keen on cornering the plum portfolio for senior leader and his nephew Murasoli Maran, Karunanidhi said he never demanded the berth.

?There was already a finance minister who has also won the elections and the DMK would not like to embarrass anyone,? the chief minister added.

Karunanidhi said the DMK Parliamentary Party, which met at Tamil Nadu Bhavan here today, had adopted a ?unanimous? resolution to join the NDA government.

The resolution said the party had decided to join the government headed by Vajpayee ?who has pledged to work for a prosperous and strong India in which unity, equality and brotherhood among all sections would be upheld?.

On whether his party has demanded any package for Tamil Nadu like Jayalalitha, Karunanidhi said he would not follow the ADMK but would ask for what was needed for the state?s development.

There is still a question mark over whether the Indian National Lok Dal (INLD) will join the government immediately. BJP sources said INLD chief Om Prakash Chautala is insisting that the BJP, which supports his government in Haryana from outside, should become a part of it.

But Haryana BJP legislators are reportedly not keen on the idea as they fear Chautala may dissolve the Assembly and go in for a mid-term poll to cash in on the BJP-INLD combine?s spectacular performance in the Lok Sabha elections.

?Unless he gives us a firm assurance, we cannot join his government,? a BJP general secretary said.    

New Delhi, Oct. 12 
Sonia Gandhi, ?re-elected? the parliamentary leader of the Congress today, owned full responsibilty for the poll debacle and braced herself for larger public scrutiny.

?As a newly elected MP, I will spend more time in the House, consistent with my other responsibilities and goals,? she said, feulling hope among Congressmen that she would also become the Opposition leader in the Lok Sabha.    

Today: The sky will remain generally cloudy, says the weatherman He predicts light rain in some parts. . Temperature: Maximum: 32.5?C (+1) Minimum: 24.5?C (0) Rainfall: Nil Relative humidity: Maximum: 89%, Minimum: 53% Sunset: 5.11 pm Sunrise: 5.36 am    

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