The War of Nerves in Pakistan: Q & A
Star Rating Loader Please wait...
By B Raman
Issue Net Edition | Date : 02 Jan , 2012

Q: What is the likelihood of Gen.Ashfaq Pervez Kayani, Pakistan’s Chief of the Army Staff (COAS), staging a coup, seizing political power and imposing the rule of the Army till fresh elections are held?

A: Little likely. The present tussle of the Pakistan Army over the so-called Memogate scandal is against Asif Ali Zardari, who is the elected Head of State and Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces. The Army has no grievance against Yousef Raza Gilani, the elected Head of Government. If Gen.Kayani wants to seize power, he has to overthrow the Head of State who is the Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces. Acting against the Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces would be an act of treason.In the history of Pakistan, there has been only one coup against the Head of State—- by  Gen.Ayub Khan, the then COAS, against the  then President Iskander Mirza. On October 7, 1958, Mirza suspended the Constitution on the ground it was proving to be unworkable, imposed a martial law and appointed Ayub Khan as the Martial Law Administrator. On October 27,1958, Ayub Khan, who did not get along well with Mirza, forced him to go into exile in London and declared himself the President of Pakistan and Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces. The coups of Zia ul-Haq in 1977 and of Gen.Pervez Musharraf in 1999 were against the elected Head of Government who was not the Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces. Zia and Musharraf had no difficulty in getting  their  coup validated ex-post facto either by a compliant President or judiciary or both under the so-called doctrine of necessity.

Gen.Kayani would not like to place himself in a position where he has to overthrow the elected Head of State of Pakistan and the constitutionally designated Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces. Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhury, the Chief Justice of the Pakistan Supreme Court, has made it clear on many occasions that there is no question of the judiciary validating a coup ex post facto under the doctrine of necessity.

If Kayani stages a coup against Zardari and fails to get it validated by the judiciary he would have committed an act of treason on two counts—for overthrowing his Head of State and for acting against his Supreme Commander. All the other senior officers, who go along with a possible coup plot by Kayani, would be liable to be tried for conspiring and acting against their Supreme Commander. Many of them may not want to find themselves in such a situation.

Q. Does that totally rule out the possibility of an anti-Zardari coup?

A. Not necessarily. If there is a serious law and order situation in Pakistan, the Army under Kayani may still stage a coup unmindful of the post facto legal consequences. One does not presently see the possibility of such a situation arising.

Q. If an outright coup is ruled out, what is the fall-back position available to Kayani to save his face?

A.The fall-back option available to the Army is to manipulate the situation in such a manner so as to make it untenable for Zardari to continue as the Head of State and the Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces.The Army could achieve this by driving a wedge between Zardari and Gilani or by undermining Zardari’s political base in the Pakistan People’s Party. Such a contingency is unlikely. Both Gilani and the PPP have remained steadfast in their loyalty to Zardari so far.

1 2
Rate this Article
Star Rating Loader Please wait...
The views expressed are of the author and do not necessarily represent the opinions or policies of the Indian Defence Review.

About the Author

B Raman

Former, Director, Institute for Topical Studies, Chennai & Additional Secretary, Cabinet Secretariat. He is the author of The Kaoboys of R&AW, A Terrorist State as a Frontline Ally,  INTELLIGENCE, PAST, PRESENT & FUTUREMumbai 26/11: A Day of Infamy and Terrorism: Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow.

More by the same author

Post your Comment

2000characters left