Rumblings in Pakistan : Coup, Civil War and Disintegration?
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Issue Net Edition | Date : 08 Jun , 2023

There is nothing right in Pakistan as of now and that is a matter of concern across the world. Pakistan being a nuclear state surely has serious implications in case of administrative failure. The strategic community is rife with buzz words like an army coup, civil war and balkanization of Pakistan etc in their analytical synthesis. No doubt there are signs of politically tense situation with one popular politician asserting to rebound back by demonstrating his massive support base. It is not an abnormal feature in a purported democratic setup as seen in Pakistan earlier, and elsewhere too. So, what is new in the current situation that such high decibel speculations are in the air.

It was Imran’s move to reassess the CPEC scheme from Pakistani economic perspective that probably became reason for parting ways with the army.

To start with Pakistan is a sham of democracy wherein it is the army that makes or breaks the political façade for them. Whenever the chosen ruling polity is seen to overstep the red line, they are either toppled, or army assumes power till a pliable alternative is found. Imran Khan is known to have been selected by the army, being a candidate with non dynastic mould in 2018. When he started asserting his constitutional authority beyond comfort of the army, he fell from grace.

The invisible hand of external powers to influence the army that in turn directed the political mosaic of Pakistan is a well known reality. The CPEC agreement was signed by Nawaz Sharif more for enhancing military deterrence against India than its economic prudence. It was Imran’s move to reassess the CPEC scheme from Pakistani economic perspective that probably became reason for parting ways with the army.

It was certainly not of liking by the Chinese, wherein Imran was seen to be pushing US agenda to sabotage CPEC project. He was removed summarily and a coalition government headed by brother of Nawaz Sharif was installed. In response, Imran’s PTI party has been on the streets ever since his ouster to press for early elections to cash in his popularity as of now. Imran has been criticizing army leadership and reasons unknown, the US also for his removal.

 It is beyond imagination in Pakistan that anyone can show such a defiance to all powerful and much dreaded army establishment. It is in a way a turning movement in Pakistan, wherein the public is seen to be militating against interference of army in the matter of state. It is indeed a clarion call for shift of power to the civil society where it actually belongs to in a democracy.

There is a high probability of reprisals in case the PTI is back in power sans incumbency of army shadow hereafter. Accordingly, the army and present ruling polity have a common interest to remove Imran from the political system. An attempt to kill Imran in a rally recently is reflective of degree of desperation amongst his opponents. In order to corner Imran, more than 100 cases including terror and sedition charges have been filed against him in the courts. The objective appears to disqualify him from holding constitutional posts in future, or even eliminate him.

The factual position is that there are signs of disturbed public order of socio-political variant with electoral posturing and not an armed revolt.

He was abducted from the court premises by the Rangers on 09 May, seen as an act of high handedness of the army. It provoked the public passions to indulge in rioting and arson that included assault on the selected army establishments across the country. The consequences of such a violent direct confrontation with the army alongside current economic crisis has a potential of a possible political failure. Hence, speculations of all kinds that warrant a reality check.

Is there is going to be a military coup looking at the army being challenged openly? The factual position is that there are signs of disturbed public order of socio-political variant with electoral posturing and not an armed revolt. The situation has certainly not gone beyond capability of civil authorities and security agencies to manage. Besides this, it is not the civil government that has become a threat to army establishment like in earlier episodes of military takeover in Pakistan.

The violence levels have come down after clamp down by the government on the rioters. Moreover, the tone and tenor of PTI leadership is also seen to be on mend in face of strict state response. Iman Khan has even condemned the violent incidences apparently a PR exercise to project his clean image and denial of his involvement in anti army acts. He is also playing victim card by highlighting non veracity of charges against him and sinister designs of army and political opponents. The situation seems to be under control, though passions continue to be high enough for fresh eruption if public sensitivities are ignored.

 Moreover, looking at the state of economy, army may prefer to keep a distance lest they are held accountable and lose out on their image as saviors and guardians. Another factor of concern is the unconfirmed reports of brewing dissent amongst a section of army against the top leadership. If true then, a coup may prompt a revolt within ranks of the army that is best avoided. Hence, a coup by army is assessed to be unlikely as of now.

The question arises that whether the current situation in Pakistan heading towards a civil war? That is another major concern of the international community. The civil war per se is associated with armed rebellion for wresting power between the rival groups like what is happening in Sudan. While PTI has deep political differences with the present ruling elite, their outburst has been restricted to violent street agitation sans any killing spree of opponents. There are early sighs of course correction of hybrid variant of democracy in Pakistan through rebalancing of pillars of governance by the civil society. It happens to be in realms of electoral calculus and does not have a potential of armed rebellion’.

The biggest fault line of Pakistan as on date is her economy that is on the verge of default to service foreign debts.

There are also talks of political disintegration of Pakistan due to ever brewing regional ethnic aspirations for separation. Whereas, there are no tell tale signs of such a mass revolt, nor do the separatist organizations have capabilities beyond acts of terror. Moreover, none of these regions have politico-economic buoyancy to sustain itself on their own. Some kind of foreign intervention would be required to facilitate such an eventuality. While, political fragmentation remains a possibility in certain contingencies, the situation does not seem to be beyond control of central authority as of now.

The biggest fault line of Pakistan as on date is her economy that is on the verge of default to service foreign debts. The US as well as China have high stakes in Pakistan for their strategic reasons.US looks at Pakistan as a frontline state for her regional dominance, besides countering Chinese political expansion. Accordingly, US possibly cannot see Pakistan slipping out of their influence, hence expected to bail them out, albeit with certain conditions.

On other hand, looking at strategic value of CPEC, China would not let Pakistan fail for their own geo political designs. Pakistan has a net work of co religious rich nations that may chip in to bail out Pakistan from present economic crisis – this seems evident from the recent G20 Meet on Tourism in Srinagar where China, Saudi Arabia, Turkiye and Egypt stayed away expressing their support for Pakistan’s stand on Kashmir. Besides these, Pakistan being an agriculture predominant economy, it would always have optimal resources for basic subsistence. Therefore, Pakistan is likely to survive once again with help of her partners and friends.

The presence of foreign powers in Pakistani political space seem to have created pro US and pro China lobbies that seems to have manifested in ongoing power play in Pakistan. In consequence, Pakistan is going through a churning moment that is the cause of divisive political flux and its side effects.

If Pakistan army do not see the writing on the wall in their hubris, then implosion of Pakistan may well become a reality.

The message from situation created by Imran led political move is that it will not be business as usual for army any more. In that, the army hereafter may have to restrict their activities within realms of their mandate in a true democracy in making.

Feasibility of a coup, civil war or disintegration of Pakistan do not seem to be on the table as of now. However, if army carries out some out of way spectacular surgical action against Imran Khan, it would be a recipe for an all out violent civic revolt which would be difficult to manage. It may also trigger armed infighting amongst politically compromised army and police rank and file leading to complete breakdown of public order. The terror outfits like TTP and regional separatists would have a free run to rake up regional passions beyond control of central authorities.

If Pakistan army do not see the writing on the wall in their hubris, then implosion of Pakistan may well become a reality.

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The views expressed are of the author and do not necessarily represent the opinions or policies of the Indian Defence Review.

About the Author

Lt Gen Rameshwar Yadav

Former Director General Infantry, Indian Army.

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5 thoughts on “Rumblings in Pakistan : Coup, Civil War and Disintegration?

  1. Pathetic situation for Pakistan. Saying says, what you sow, so shall you reap. Pakistan sow terrorism, corruption and today people of Pakistan paying price for that. Its leaders are more clown than Zelensky.

  2. Just 72 hoors bluff is busting in Pakistan, but Indian Muslims are not understanding this bluff. Pakistan’s Rupee is even less than Bangladesh Taka (for which the idom used is ‘Take-Take pe bikta hai). Very grim situation. Hope Pak Army or its political masters understand this. But they will not understand. See Gen Bajwa’s viral video.

  3. Till America and China needs integrated Pakistan, it cannot be implode. Yes internal unrest, coup, civil war etc. can happen, but at the end of the day, China which already invested heavily in the country, cannot allow it to implode. CPEC is at stake.

  4. Pakistan is a failed state, even its so-called Islamic glue can’t save it. This glue’s power was seen in 1971. Just wait and watch fragmented Pakistan (Sindh, Balochistan, Punjab, NWFP and merger of POJK in India).

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