Jan 1, 2012
Dr Farrukh Saleem Over the past four years, the balance of power has moved in favour of a civilian government. In the past, a civilian prime minister or a president could not survive without the army’s support – Gilani and Zardari have. The mere postulation that the generals are now relying on the courts to undermine a civilian government is indicative of the army’s strategic diminution. Over the past six decades, the army had a near monopoly over Pakistan’s political-economy; no more. Over the sixty-two year period since Independence, the army has been the major stakeholder sometimes allowing the PPP and PML to take turns. Operation Fair Play, the coup d’état that brought down the elected civilian government of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, could not have been successful without two things: the PML’s support and Justice Anwarul Haq’s ex post facto validation. General Mirza Aslam Baig brought down Benazir Bhutto’s elected government with Nawaz Sharif’s political support and Justice Afzal Zullah’s upholding the dissolution. In 1993, General Waheed Kakar forced Nawaz Sharif to resign. General Musharraf’s coup d’état was validated by Justice Irshad Hasan Khan while Benazir Bhutto had issued a statement in support of the coup (the PPP workers had distributed sweets). Almost all Pakistani coup d’état were supported – either immediately or within a few months – by the US. In essence, all of Pakistan’s coup d’état had an internal and an external dimension. The internal half had two components: support of a major political entity and a reasonable assurance of an ex post facto validation by the superior judiciary. This time around, both Nawaz Sharif and Iftikhar Chaudhry seem to have learned lessons from history. As far as the external dimension is concerned America will – and always has – only focus on its own immediate strategic interests. In the past, the Pakistan Army has always been of strategic value to the US – and thus American support for coup d’états. On the face of it, Pak-US military-to-military relations have soured but Pak Army could still be instrumental in achieving US strategic objectives in the region. The PPP government, having failed to deliver domestically, now looks up for US support to survive. The really good news out of Pakistan is that the Supreme Court – even for the generals – is taking centre-stage. To be certain, PPP’s worst enemy right now is neither the Supreme Court nor the GHQ. The PPP’s worst enemy is neither corruption nor America. Its worst enemy is its sheer incompetence and the failure to manage the economy in the interest of Pakistani voters. And that is why a large segment of the population is craving for a change – military induced or otherwise. If the civilians don’t change Pakistan’s direction the military would have to. A classic coup d’état is sudden, illegal and sometimes violent. A ‘smart coup d’état’ is slow, legal and nonviolent. To be sure, moving from overwhelming domination of the military to complete civilian supremacy is a generational issue provided the political leadership develops wisdom as well as vision. President Asif Ali Zardari celebrated his 56th birthday on the 26th of July but I feel that the ‘older I grow the more I distrust the familiar doctrine that age brings wisdom’.