To Coup or not to Coup

Published: August 28, 2014
The writer is an independent social scientist and author of Military Inc.

The writer is an independent social scientist and author of Military Inc.

It’s often that one comes across people these days who are either concerned about the long march or if there will eventually be a coup in the country. There are those who get genuinely uncomfortable at the idea of a coup. Then there are others who want the information regarding which way the winds will blow to re-position themselves in time. This kind of a status quo, in which predicting day to day, become difficult and is extremely unnerving. People may actually surrender because clarity of a position brings relief of some kind.

In any case, this is being fought as a one-sided war. Notwithstanding the general public’s discomfort with the present state of governance, the volume of naya Pakistan seems to have been kept deliberately high so that other voices drown out completely. The additional problem with the din of the new narrative is that it has almost linked Pakistan’s survival with the power of a single man — Imran Khan. He alone has the right to get elected and all those who don’t vote for him have probably blasphemed. Interestingly, the bulk of the media is covering the political show without commercial breaks which raises questions about their source of money.

The stalemate has brought about a soft coup. The government may be physically surviving but its credibility has taken a hit. Even if the marchers would go home tomorrow, it would probably take the rest of the remaining term for the government to convince the world that it is still in control. The fact is that the prime minister seems to have been confined to the administration of a small area rather than a medium-sized nuclear weapon state. Domestically, it will have to operate with zero margin of error as far as governance is concerned. Perhaps, the threat will dissipate after some ‘other’ people retire and go home.

But it is equally possible that some of the men on horseback may not be entirely satisfied with the idea of going the whole hog. Thus, the possibility of a hard coup remains equally high. What keeps it away is possibly that there is still a lot of thought being put into what will replace the present set-up. According to the grapevine, there is a lack of consensus within the armed forces regarding fate of the government. Notwithstanding claims that the army would keep away from direct involvement because of its involvement in North Waziristan and now the eastern border, there are those who seem sceptical about the idea of trusting a civilian leadership that could threaten them at their own base. It’s the melting away of power which may unnerve some of those who have lots of it. The civilian regime may make a lot of unnecessary concessions to keep the boys either happy or divided but it is ultimately the longevity and probability of challenging some of the core institutional interests that make some amongst the deep state resentful.

The situation may change when some of the old brass goes home in a couple of months. The newer officers may not share the same instinct. But the question is that even another 15 days or a month in these conditions would make things even more painful. The virtual collapse of the government (spiritually if not physically) is imminent.

Someone watching Pakistan from afar would really wonder if the state has not begun to resemble some of the countries in Africa. There is a deep power struggle amongst the ruling elite that totally ignores the fact that the country and its people cannot afford this kind of life style. Anarchy, in fact, has become Pakistan’s trademark. The battle for and obsession with power is to a degree that while challenging opponents leaders do not consider longer interest of the state and its people. Asking people not to pay taxes or sending money through official channels is not just about starving the government. It is about establishing a very bad habit that the country can ill-afford. What if Imran Khan makes the government tomorrow which does not meet an ideal standard that he seems to have set for his followers? This is not protest but a criminalisation of politics which is as bad as some of what he seems to object to.

We hear little about the negative impact of the current state of politics. People are actually losing opportunities and the economy is bleeding money faster than usual. The small and medium entrepreneurs that I talked to recently in various cities of Punjab complained about how business has almost dried up since the marches were announced. The reason people are not crying out loud and surviving is probably due to a parallel economy. The pro-government rallies are not likely to help improve conditions but increase the threat of a real conflict. Many believe that the clash between mobs is what might open doors for a hard coup.

Perhaps, the powers that be should take a plunge. It will be interesting to see what they then feel about a world they created themselves. The establishment and its many intellectual clients often refer to the Bangladesh model. What they often forget is that Dhaka’s political system or people’s choices did not change even with intervention. The challenges are far bigger than what some of the foreign qualified Chicago trained economists, commercial bankers or development gurus could manage to even understand. The US has some of the best universities but it has also produced experts that have often messed up with developing states rather than put things right. The question is can Pakistan afford such experimentation?

This is a not a moment for personal egos but for compromises which aim at benefiting the country and not just the individual. Instead of aiming at resignation of the prime minister it would help if Imran and Qadri could extract commitment for transparent institutional changes which will take this country a long way. If not then we have terribly lost our way into an endless abyss.

Published in The Express Tribune, August 28th, 2014.

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Reader Comments (27)

  • Sharjeel Ashraf
    Aug 28, 2014 - 12:51AM

    ‘not to aim for resignation’? You mistook the Qadri agenda. He wants them to resign so that they can be prosecuted for the 14 murders. The other points are later reformations.


  • Ranjha
    Aug 28, 2014 - 1:47AM

    If not then we have terribly lost our way into an endless abyss.

    In a land of desensitized, lost souls, the best way forward is discovered wandering through the abyss.

    Full speed ahead Imran!


  • sabi
    Aug 28, 2014 - 1:53AM

    As per latest up dates MQM has hinted joining the marchers.It looks to me as if divine force is assembling all vested interests in one line so as to end the game once and for all.Pakistan Tera Huda hafiz.


  • Shahbaz Asif Tahir
    Aug 28, 2014 - 3:30AM

    This woman, can be matched to individuals like Nayyar, and Hoodbhoy,
    in terms of her bias and hatred towards Islam, and Pakistan.
    She perhaps fails to comprehend that the people of Pakistan, are far more
    intelligent, than her timid imagination, and they adore Islam, the army, and in
    politicians, only Imran Khan. Therefore no matter what, the count has In sha Allah
    begun, and Imran will emerge victorious.


  • Tell us more
    Aug 28, 2014 - 4:41AM

    Tell us more about which group in the Army is pro-coup and which is anti-coup and why? Tell us about their reasoning for their view in greater detail.


  • Tariq
    Aug 28, 2014 - 5:17AM

    Excellent analysis of the sad state of affairs in this country, where an institution or few individuals believe that thus country is there to serve them, instead of them serving this country. How much more damage can Pakistan sustain. I shudder at the thought of seeing this getting worse, where adventurers and greed of few seems insatiable and survival of the state assuming a secondary priority. My generation has witnessed the dismemberment of Pakistan, Operation Gibraltar, Siachin and Kargil, and we can only pray that Almighty protect my motherland from these men blinded by greed. As for Nawaz S his style of governance is very poor and his capability not to take decisions damaged this country. Pakistan cannot endure another 5 years of Zardari style plunder or abuse, nor adventurism of the Boots. Imran Khan has shown how immature he is and therefore is no longer an option. The system must be allowed to proceed as per constitution and public pressure mounted to force this government to change for the better, levy direct taxes on the rich and for a change the state looks after welfare of the deprived, the elderly and the young, instead of the paid or elected elite.


  • Asim
    Aug 28, 2014 - 6:10AM

    The whole drama has been sponsored by Mush to make good his escape. His party has claimed there is only one agenda and that is to drop treason charges against Mush. So far neither Qadri, nor Imran Khan have contested the APML (Mush League) claim.


  • Changed situation
    Aug 28, 2014 - 7:43AM

    The possibility of the coup seems to be reversing now, as is evidenced by:
    1) COAS’s leaving Islamabad to galvanize the military in Karachi in view of a possible blow back there of Qadri’s supporter and that of a major political party of Karachi that has lately supported him. This blow back could likely develop as a result of the impending failure of Qadri’s sit-in.
    2) The highest point of the possibility of a coup passed a couple of days back and since then, since:
    a) After a long dharna, no clashes took place.
    b) Since the Army finally reckoned that NS would not resign and would not let the situation get violent and that after showing his political clout in massive rallies in Faisalabad and Lahore, stepped back and forbade further rallies, thus showing his massive soft power.
    c) Finally, NS acknowledged the unanimous or near unanimous support of the Parliament and all most of the political parties and announced not to buckle under pressure.
    Upshot: The coup might not occur. At the very least it has been put on the back burner.


  • Mirza
    Aug 28, 2014 - 7:49AM

    A balanced and eye opening analysis of the current situation in Pakistan. Some people think that only UK educated and raised crown prince who’s family lives permanently in UK has the right to rule Pakistan. Anybody who wins elections is depriving him of his divine right.
    IK is master of U turns and going back on his own words. Apologizing to SC CJ is the most recent example. All his life he never liked a desi woman but now for power he would even go to the extent of “honoring” one while in his mid 60’s. Common citizens may like him and his glamorous lifestyle but they cannot relate to him when it comes to vote.


  • Xman
    Aug 28, 2014 - 8:55AM

    To coup or not to coup, OR to coup and get counter-couped? After all Mushi came to power in a so called counter coup, and in a Texan duel, the last man to draw is the last man standing.


  • Usman Aziz
    Aug 28, 2014 - 8:58AM

    To Save Pakistan or Not…………?


  • Sheraz
    Aug 28, 2014 - 9:06AM

    Oh i agree with her.
    Wow, what a philosophy.
    Instead of zappi g cancer cells, lets think how we cooperate with them so they can be nicer to us.
    Very good!!!


  • Junaid
    Aug 28, 2014 - 9:08AM

    Nothing changes even when the new officers take their seats in line up of Generals sitting around COAS. They are brought up by the institution to think the same way.


  • Sheraz
    Aug 28, 2014 - 9:09AM

    How can an army and his king and his courts can improve a non existing democracy?
    I must send this subject to graduates from NYU- maybe they can help me cause i admit. I must be penh du cause i cannot comprehend it


  • nadeem
    Aug 28, 2014 - 10:05AM

    All sides carry blame in the present imapasse. The goverment should have conceded the FIR demand, it was murder fair and square and someone should pay. The protesters should not have asked for the scalp of the PM, but for reforms and redress, as the author says.


  • Arshad
    Aug 28, 2014 - 11:09AM

    If we looked down upon the political history of this Country then the thesis presented by Ayesha…seems to be quite appealing….Vested interests of Certain men in Uniforms are quite obvious from the very fact that…they made their loonies come out to protest…even in this hot and humid..August…why they are in so haste……i think we should proud of that Ayesha as she is second to none…while comparing her with Dr. A.H. Nayyar and Professor Hoodbhoy is a compliment….rather then….


  • Agnostic
    Aug 28, 2014 - 12:19PM

    Three hours to the revolution. Wow!


  • Tariq Hakim
    Aug 28, 2014 - 1:49PM

    Its apparent where she is coming from. This analysis would be valid in the past but the current Pakistan Army is a transformed institution that may watch but, barring a total collapse of the civilian government, will not intervene.


  • Junaid
    Aug 28, 2014 - 2:58PM

    @Tariq Hakim:
    Really. That is what is always said. But they stay the same.


  • Bilal Siddiqui
    Aug 28, 2014 - 3:53PM

    “The US has some of the best universities but it has also produced experts that have often messed up with developing states rather than put things right. The question is can Pakistan afford such experimentation?”

    This was the point that stood out. All the Moin Qureshis and Shaukat Azizs we have had, were responsible for the mess of the economies more than sanctions. Capitalism is failing in the west; many of their economies are lurching towards a semblance of socialism. It certainly will destroy already stumbling economies like Pakistan. A parallel tax-free, bank-free economy will probably emerge for the vast majority of us, where government becomes irrelevant.


  • Asif Iqbal
    Aug 28, 2014 - 7:19PM

    If anyone thinks for a second that a fair and just inquiry could occur with the Sharif brothers still glued to their positions of power has got rocks in their heads!

    The author of this article just does not understand, she seems to blame IK and Dr TQ for all of Pakistan’s problem.

    As said on one sign, ‘DEMOCRACY DOES NOT MEAN HYPOCRACY’


  • Azmat
    Aug 28, 2014 - 8:11PM

    @Bilal Siddiqui:
    I am not a Mush fan but Shoukat Aziz was by far a better finance minister then Ishaq dar.Recommend

  • AShah
    Aug 28, 2014 - 10:10PM

    I am just sick & tired of Punjabi Politics they hold the whole nation as hostage unfortunately atleast Sindh and Baluchistan have some rights right now but with the army taking over all that will once again go away , just look at how well Bengla Desh has done without the Punjabi politics and as an independent country !


  • It is all over
    Aug 28, 2014 - 10:27PM

    The latest news is that the establishment has agreed to call off its bluff. Now, the nation is about to see the end of the dharnas that made the nation hostage for an extended and inordinate period of time.


  • Protection
    Aug 29, 2014 - 12:06AM

    The establishment is still protecting its pawns and is likely to save them for another time.


  • DontknowwhatsgoingoninPakistan
    Aug 29, 2014 - 4:18AM

    Let us for a second shed light on the state of affairs in Pakistan. They say’ do cheson say bacho,Kacheri say aur Govt Hospital Say’. Not confirming that you might have visited the afore said institutions in Pakistan, but when you do, please do not cry for a different Pakistan. I am not a Ik fanatic or a Qadri Supporter, but can one really not raise voice for justice for the dead? Is it wrong to say that the election were rigged. Being a normal citizen, living in rawalpindi, various stories of rigging were heard, from all over the country, as did almost everyone in the country. But again, can out institutions improve when those running these institutions are the ones who are the cause of their inefficiencies? What promise can this government make of fixing everything, when it didnt in their previous, so called, terms? One might argue that they were not allowed to complete their terms. Well obviously they wernt if they handled matters as they are doing right now.

    You can really blame the army to step in. All one can do is to blame to politicians to create circumstances where the army is left with no choice.


  • kakar
    Aug 29, 2014 - 9:54AM

    the current stage performance held by Khan Sab & Qaddri will do nothing to the State apparatus ‘ all stalement issue be settled if at once security establishment come forward as mediator therefore there is no place for hard coup .Recommend

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