Will Colonels rule Pakistan?

FPJ BureauUpdated: Sunday, June 02, 2019, 08:30 AM IST
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BY NK PANT

If Egypt can have colonel Abdul Gamal Nasser and Libya, colonel Gaddafi, as military dictators, would Islamic Republic of Pakistan lag behind? The middle ranking officers especially the radicalized ones of the countrys defence forces who have so far showed restraint, are now reportedly displaying signs of restiveness. It is the coterie of generals who have so far enjoyed the sole privilege of presiding over the various military governments that have seized political power in Pakistan from time to time. The country has witnessed military rule for nearly thirty- five years of its existence as an independent nation since 1947. Experts do not entirely rule out the possibility of a military coup once again, and it will not be surprising if it is staged by a well- knit squad of disenchanted middle level officers, who seem to be angered by the poor performance of their top commanders.

At the same time these generals have enjoyed the ripened fruit of the militarys lucrative business empire worth billions of dollars.

General Ayub Khan who subsequently elevated himself to the highest uniformed rank of field marshal was the first army chief overthrowing the civilian government in 1958. He thus paved the way for an iron- fisted military rule in the murky decades that followed. Soon after losing the 1965 war with India over Kashmir, Ayub Khan too met with his Waterloo and was forced to resign as the president. He handed over the control of the country to the then commander- inchief of Pakistan army, general Yahya Khan in 1967. Ironically, in 1971, Pakistan again fought a humiliating war against India that resulted in East Pakistan seceding and declaring independence as a new nation of Bangladesh. Obviously, Yahya Khan had to face consequences and had no alternative but to resign giving way to a brief civilian political intermission under mercurial Zulfikar Ali Bhutto.

History repeated itself in 1977 when general Zia ul- Haq, the then army chief staged a military coup overthrowing prime minister Zulfikar Ali Bhuttos elected government. Bhutto was later hanged by a farcical court on trumped up charges of murder. A decade and plus later in the aftermath of Kargil war of 1999, general Pervez Musharraf the conflicts architect, seized political power once again dethroning democratically elected prime minister Nawaz Sharif and thereafter formed military dictatorship wherein the political power was restored to the armed forces.

Though a civilian government under president Asif Ali Zardari and prime minister Yusuf Raza Gilani, is presently in the saddle in Islamabad, the reigns of power are actually controlled by general Ashfaq Parvez Kayani and his team of powerful corps commanders. The New Yorker magazine in its May 16 issue quotes, Military Inc.by Ayesha Siddiqa that Pakistani military has never won a war but it has done very well in its investments: hotels, real estates, shopping malls.

Incidentally, countries such as Saudi Arabia, which have been liberally providing financial support to Pakistan, would like the military to grab the political power once again. Saudi King Abdullah reportedly told the US national security advisor in 2009 that Zardari was incapable of countering terrorism and Saudis appeared to be looking for alt145 another Musharraf : a strong, forceful leader they know they can trust. However, at this juncture of history, another Musharraf may not be welcome in Islamabad thereby creating &le maneuvering space to a disillusioned college of colonels to stage an unexpected coup.

On the foreign policy front, the young officers of the army have regarded Mr Zardaris as well as Kayanis proximity to Washington with scarcely disguised concern.

General Kayanis soft pedaling of America wherein he would like to keep the US, Pakistani militarys main benefactor engaged, is resented. The American unilateral action in killing Osama bin Laden in the recent Abbottabad raid has not gone down well with the subordinate officers and increased anti- American feeling

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