Situationer: Coups are not easy anymore

Published: January 12, 2012
Pakistan has perhaps moved on from 1990s when military takeovers were easier. PHOTO: REUTERS/ FILE

Pakistan has perhaps moved on from 1990s when military takeovers were easier. PHOTO: REUTERS/ FILE

If there is one phrase that would summarise the events of Wednesday it would be ‘media frenzy’ caused by the new players in Pakistani politics: The ubiquitous news channels, hyper-imaginative TV anchors and the social media. By early evening, rumours of an impending coup had gripped Pakistani imagination; and many people were led to believe that the end of the government was nigh. The source of this storm was an ISPR press release that expressed military’s objection to the contents of Prime Minister Gilani’s interview with a Chinese news agency. The PM had implied that the army and intelligence chiefs had acted unconstitutionally in the memo affair by submitting affidavits directly to the Court. “There can be no allegation more serious than what the honorable prime minister has leveled,” stated the ISPR with reference to Gilani’s remarks. Further, the ISPR announced that this “has very serious ramifications with potentially grievous consequences for the country.”

Shortly thereafter the PM dismissed the Defence Secretary, reportedly close to military leadership, for “gross misconduct and illegal action”. The Secretary apparently had bypassed government channels. Most media discussions based on a wild guessing game suggested that the PM might dismiss the ISI and military chiefs. Concurrently, the posting of a new head for the infamous 111 brigade – the coup instrument – by the military was interpreted as a signal that military establishment would react in case of such an eventuality. Thus the stand off between Islamabad and Rawalpindi was detectable. Sections of local media fuelled the tensions and by the evening most international news sources were ‘breaking’ stories on the heightened civil-military rift in Pakistan. Even the diplomatic missions issued statements making the usual noises about supporting Pakistan’s democracy yet vowing not to interfere in its internal affairs.

The widening rift between Zardari led coalition and the Army is not new. It has intensified with the hearing of a petition filed against the memo (asking for US help to prevent a coup) allegedly authored by Pakistan’s former Ambassador to the US. The recent verdicts of the Supreme Court on forming a judicial commission to probe the memo affair and more importantly the 6-options laid out for the government to implement its 2010 NRO judgment have made the government jittery.

By the late evening, tensions were somewhat defused as PPP’s senior Ministers assured that Gen Kayani would complete his tenure; and the PM talking to media remarked that Kayani had spoken to him before the ISPR press release was issued! Such convenient shifts in positions would seem surreal in any other country but Pakistan’s governance patterns are neither rule based nor predictable.

Observers have noted that President Zardari and the government have been playing a game of chess with the Court. That may now be coming to a closure as the hearing on January 16 will be critical given that one of the options is to initiate judicial proceedingss with implied disqualification of senior officials for not complying with court orders. It seems that the government with regard to the military has adopted a similar strategy.

Also on Wednesday, the Chief Justice reiterated his support for democratic system while talking to a delegation. The Judiciary, media and international opinion are aligned against a coup and the government knows it. After dismissing the Defence Secretary it backtracked from the brink. PM Gilani has done it before as well. After his strong remarks against the military in late December he retreated. Both sides have shown the cards they have: the military has the traditional authority, which it has enjoyed since 1950s; and the civilian government is ready to be ‘martyred’. The judicature has emerged as an arbiter of sorts.

The government would need to make concessions before the Court for its survival. Wednesday’s events suggest that Pakistan has perhaps moved on from 1990s when military takeovers were easier. At the same time, the civil-military faultline has been compounded by the addition of two new power-brokers – the courts and the media.  Politicians and the khakis are becoming cognizant of this new reality.

Published in The Express Tribune, January 12th, 2012. 

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Reader Comments (16)

  • rex
    Jan 12, 2012 - 6:48AM

    Almost every newspaper and tv channels here in India reported of an impending coup with headlines like ‘rift widens’,’coup fear resurfaces’..I knew there was something fishy because they didnt have anything to back it up..It just shows,I think,the gross recklessness of the media these days and more importantly,their constant urge to ‘give something big’ even when nothing of that sort is happening..


  • Sajid
    Jan 12, 2012 - 6:55AM

    Don’t write such pieces, the Army may feel challenged!


  • Cautious
    Jan 12, 2012 - 7:10AM

    Coups are easy — living with the rest of the World after the coup is what’s hard. Pakistan can’t even feed itself let alone provide sufficient energy to keep it’s factories running and it’s people employed. Like it or not the World is increasing a small place and if no one likes you or is willing to do business with you then your chances of success are nil.


  • tariq
    Jan 12, 2012 - 7:52AM

    Gilanis wish to be a matyr is just a dream, the court will find him in contempt and others as well,


  • Hafiz Shah Ali
    Jan 12, 2012 - 8:27AM

    The current rulers are ruining the country and it’s institutions. They need to go ASAP


  • Noor
    Jan 12, 2012 - 9:57AM


    Coup is difficult for those who want to keep the constitution intact.

    If God forbid, a situation worsens to the extent that the Coup-er dissolves even the constitution and bring their own version of law;

    No doubt the Mother party of constitution has just been playing with it & just negative development.

    Just an example, we have stopped so many trains, whereas even a country like Afghanistan has started, needless to mention that modern trends in transportation are easing the lives of common citizens, BUT at placesRecommend

  • Mirza
    Jan 12, 2012 - 11:20AM

    This is 21st century. Pakistanis have to decide whether they want to become Burma and North Korea. The world would not allow the protectors of OBL and other terrorists to continue with their duplicity and back stabbing. The only reason army is not openly taking over is there is not much left in the country after more than three decades of army rule. We are a tiny economy of a third world country with over hundred nuclear weapons and over half a million army which consumes most resources. Even in civilian rule the real power remain with the deep state. Why should the generals take responsibility for the poor masses when they can keep getting extensions with all the perks?


  • Saqib
    Jan 12, 2012 - 12:35PM

    Much as I hate the PPP-leadership, I take this opportunity to say that military rule should be a big “NO-NO” for us Pakistanis……. We raise the army by parting a large fraction of our income only to be our protectors……. NOT THE RULERS!!!! Ever since Yahya Khan, Military rule only brought devastation upon us…. this time, atleast one pakistani (and that is me) is not their supporter…………….


  • Jp
    Jan 12, 2012 - 12:41PM

    Why are u afraid of the army? The govt should show the army what is its role in a democratic set up


  • Jan 12, 2012 - 4:27PM

    Constitution provide a frame work to all stakeholders.
    All should remained in the ring not inter interfere each others jurisdiction.

    no doubt,
    incumbent president has constitutional immunity but formality require its written statement ,it should submit why he is avoiding from it and creating complications in the rule of business.


  • Jan 12, 2012 - 4:36PM

    It is an admitted fact that
    prime minister has constitutional power to transfer,suspend or dismiss any subordinate who commit violation of role of business.
    But this time dismissal of secretary defense has created some complications between institutions and the minds of high profiles,that is not a good omen for the government.
    It must be pending for any other time making the consultation with attributed high ups.


  • Jan 12, 2012 - 5:36PM

    War of words has begun.
    common man including all parliamentarian are embarrassed .
    Executive meeting of Muslim League (n) is going on.
    PPP has also called urgent party session,consisting on important members .
    Army is also in consultation.
    On the other hand,
    poor people of Pakistan are looking on the sky,
    prices of commodities of daily use has been beyond the control.
    People are compelled to commit suicide,
    Large number of helpless are also compelled to sleep under the stars in such tremendous winter.
    leaders are busy,people are dying.
    God Almighty bless all of us.


  • Jan 12, 2012 - 5:48PM

    It is true,
    Islamabad is a rumor making city.
    now a day,rumors are in circulating into all the streets,notwithstanding the fact that relevant quarters saying time and again that there is no chances of martial law,there is not chances of interference of armed forces in the civilian set but no one looks ready to believe in.

    According to Indian media prediction,there is expectation of appearance the general on the TV screen for saying something which is contrary to all predictions made by our leaders.


  • Jan 12, 2012 - 6:39PM

    I admit reality that
    at the time of Bhutto,circumstances were not favorable,movement was on its peak,military interfered and toppled the democratically elected government but assurance was make till the last moment that they would not interfere.

    Government of Mian Nawaz Shahrif was going on well,there was no unrest,smoothly running the affairs of the state,but a doubt created in the mind of a general,he toppled the government ,arrested the leader,put in jail and made a case consisting on baseless allegations.

    The court convicted and sentenced him without any reason or legal justification,thereafter exiled.
    In the meanwhile a popular leader was assassinated.

    Now consider the circumstances and similarity finding therein.It is being said there are no chances of finish the government but will see,rumors are coming and they are expected to come.

    It would be the result of the parties who are not ready to sit together and resolving the national issues by negotiations.


  • Jan 12, 2012 - 7:16PM

    Requesting the head of Pakistan Muslim League(n)
    occupy the seat across the table,and start negotiation with parties
    why are you providing golden chance to a person who is responsible toppling your peaceful regime.
    In case ,
    military occupy the power,many problems may be created for you.
    because he will become the part of military government.

    It is not impossible.please think.


  • SafeNation
    Jan 13, 2012 - 10:27PM

    Supreme Court has the authority limited to only the interpretation of the law. Meddling with the constitutional duties of a duly elected government is a gross violation of their sacred oath. If a coup materializes, it would be the first time that culpability will rest with the Judiciary, not with the Military.


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