Indian Decade

Crazy Times in Pakistan

As fears of a military coup appear to grow, Pakistan’s president takes a defiant trip outside the country.

These are the crazy times for Pakistan, where political developments are changing almost by the hour as the country lurches from one political crisis to another. New Delhi is keeping a careful eye on its nuclear-armed neighbor, as any upheaval in Pakistan’s domestic politics could turn ugly for India. After all, history has shown that certain interests in the political and military establishments in Pakistan often open a front with India to deflect attention from a messy domestic situation.

Why are things “crazy” in Pakistan right now?  Well, for a start the Supreme Court has called the sitting prime minister “dishonest and dishonorable.” The court made the damning remarks about Yousaf Raza Gilani last week over his alleged failure to properly investigate corruption cases against President Asif Ali Zardari.

Monday is therefore set to be the most important day of  the Pakistan People’s Party-led coalition government as it could face a confidence vote (which it would likely to win, thus bolstering its position vis-a-vis the Army), while the Supreme Court will also hear two cases of far-reaching importance: on the government’s failure to move ahead on graft cases against top politicians, including Zardari, and a second one on the so-called memogate scandal, which has pitted the government against the military establishment.

Zardari returned home Friday from a one-day private visit to Dubai, helping to convey the idea that he’s in the driver’s seat and can move in and out of the country without fear of a military coup are baseless. Gilani, meanwhile, addressed a special session of parliament Friday and sought to play down his government’s confrontation with the Army. Still, he bluntly told lawmakers that: “Now we have to decide whether we should have democracy or dictatorship in this country. If we have committed any mistakes, it does not mean that democracy or parliament should be punished.”

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Reports also surfaced Friday that Gilani had made a “panicky” telephone call to British High Commissioner in Pakistan Adam Thomson earlier this week, seeking London’s support for his besieged government and the “genuine” threat it faced of a military coup.

The Zardari-Gilani duo has played its cards against the military establishment rather skillfully, and has made it more difficult, though not impossible, for powerful Army Chief Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani to seize power. The Pakistani media for its part has come out solidly against any potential coup, while the Supreme Court has already warned the military against any such misadventure.

In any case, Kayani doesn’t seem to be entertaining plans for a coup, as is evident by the public remarks of his Man Friday Imran Khan, the cricketer-turned-politician who is effectively being propped up by the Army. Khan has reportedly advised the Army to stay put in its barracks.