Saturday, January 14, 2012

Pakistan: Moving towards another Military Regime?

Pakistan is simply in a mess. She is faced with insurgency in North West Frontier Provinces and Baluchistan. The relations with the U.S. have come to a very low point. The economy is failing. The year 2011 was extremely bad for agriculture. On top of that, the government is entangled in disputes with the Supreme Court and the military.

The government of President Asif Ali Zardari and Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani still has a parliamentary majority. The Prime Minister is expected to win a ‘show of confidence’ resolution on Monday, January 16, 2012. It is a step taken to counter a possible ouster of the government by the Supreme Court over fraud allegations against Zardari. Also it will be a minor hindrance to the Army if it really decides to move in. The Supreme Court is also to meet on Monday for a crucial session and all eyes will be on that session.

Although an immediate military takeover may not occur, the government fears that the military might support a move by the Supreme Court to remove it from office. If this happens, there will be little chance of opposing a military coup based on its illegality. The Army can easily declare that they are just enforcing the recommendation of the judiciary. The opposition parties also do not support a military takeover-not that the opposition would matter if the military do launch a coup. However, the opposition wants to go for an early election to exploit the popular frustration on the government. Meanwhile, the government wants to remain in power at least until the Senate elections in March. As the Senate is elected by the current lawmakers, the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) of Zardari will receive a majority in it.

Pakistan saw three successful military coups and four military leaders in its 64 year history. Pervez Musharraf, the last military ruler to govern the country was ousted by popular protests, partly due to his removal of the Chief Justice from office. Zardari cannot afford to confront the judiciary knowing this. Also, he might not have the support of the military in such an event. The best option would have been to go for an early election but then the PPP might lose the vote. If they can stay in power a few more months, even if they lose the next general election, they will at least have the majority in the Senate. This is the dilemma faced by the Pakistani government today.

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