Though much attention is still focused on succession and stability questions in North Korea, more trouble is brewing in Asia’s other problematic nuclear power: Pakistan’s ruling elite is in turmoil. Rumblings of military coup follow reports that the civilian government petitioned the US for help against the generals.“President Asif Ali Zardari has returned to the country to lead fight for survival of the party government against numerous odds” reads the Daily Times, a Pakistani newspaper.“Chief of his own faction Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz) Muhammad Nawaz Sharif said that any military coup would further deteriorate the situation in country” reports The Nation. Sharif also told journalists in Karachi that his party should hold elections to “save democracy”.Meanwhile, former Ambassador to the US Hussain Haqqani appeared before a tribunal investigating the Obbattabad raid and denied being “complicit” in the operation.The “memo-gate” scandal isn’t dying down. Mansoor Ijaz, a Pakistani-American who describes himself as a “citizen diplomat”, continuously adds fuel to the fire:
On Saturday, Mr. Ijaz wrote in Newsweek: “In my opinion … Zardari and [Husain] Haqqani [Pakistan’s former ambassador to the US], both knew the US was going to launch a stealth mission to eliminate bin Laden that would violate Pakistan’s sovereignty,” adding that the civilian government planned to use the resulting outrage to force out the country’s top general and spy chief.
Mysterious figures who say destructive things are very much a part of Pakistan’s murky political landscape. People linked to the military speak openly of their disdain and hatred (largely justified) for the incompetent and corrupt civilians currently staffing the government and will discuss the various options. A coup is seen as unlikely, partly because of the international reaction (will the Americans cut off aid?) and partly because the military knows it has no solutions for Pakistan and likes a weak civilian government to take the blame for inevitable failures. Other solutions include a kind of legal coup in which the Supreme Court (on paper, more active and independent than our own) declares the government incompetent and it is replaced by a board of technocrats pending elections.Pakistan’s historic problem has been that its civilian politicians are typically corrupt and, with a few exceptions, have lacked a vision for the country, and the military has a profoundly warped strategic view that has led the country from one disaster to the next for decades. None of this appears to be changing.