Was a fourth military coup averted in Pakistan?

Published: September 29, 2010

The day the Pakistani military turns against this government would be the day Pakistan would opt out of America’s failed war effort in the region.

Hardly. Better still, there wasn’t a coup to start with.

Monday’s well-timed meeting between the so-called ‘troika’ – the President, Prime Minister, and the Army chief – is being widely interpreted as having averted a possible collapse of the elected Zardari-Gilani government. There is no word from the military’s media people on the meeting but the president’s media office took the liberty of releasing a statement renewing the commitment of Gen. Kayani, and that of the President and Prime Minister, to defending democracy.

If there’s anyone who created a frenzy about an extra-constitutional [read: military-engineered] change, it is the elected government when it opened indiscriminate fire at shadowy and unseen enemies, warning it will defend democracy, pleading its American friends to issue pro-democracy statements, prodding ministries and NGOs to place newspaper advertisements extolling the virtues of democracy, and unleashing a frontman like Abdul Qayum Jatoi to whip up anti-military sentiment.

By choosing Balochistan and Akbar Bugti’s house as a venue for Jatoi’s provocative lines, it can be seen as a message to the military that, if toppled, the government may use Balochistan against the federation. This came on top of the waving of the so-called Sindh card, Zulfiqar Mirza’s statement about breaking away from Pakistan after Benazir Bhutto’s death, and coalition partner ANP’s recent bold statement linking respect for the military to respect for the elected government.

This paranoia by the elected government seems to have worsened after the ruling politicians saw the military winning hearts and minds in interior Sindh and Balochistan, where people saw soldiers saving them when politicians in power diverted flood water to save their lands. Another thing that sent shivers down the government’s spine was to see the military gaining ground once again in America’s war on terror, forcing Washington to become dependent on the military’s goodwill.

So, did Gen. Kayani deliberately become part of the ‘defend-democracy’ meeting on Monday?

No doubt about that. He must have been told about the statement that would be issued after the meeting and he accepted it. Or President Zardari might have wanted to test the waters with the general on the post-meeting statement and Gen. Kayani simply said yes [what else could he do? Say no?]. Or maybe it was Gen. Kayani’s initiative to suggest such a meeting in order to calm the frayed nerves of the government. It could be any one of the three scenarios, we don’t know for sure.

There are also rumors that either Gilani or Gen. Kayani brought up the question of expelling some figures who occupy key positions in the Zardari government. Again, no confirmation from any quarter about this, but it’s important to recall that a similar understanding was reached between the troika last year after the Kerry-Lugar bill fiasco and it seems the government reneged later, benefiting from the military’s distraction after a terror attack on the GHQ building in Rawalpindi. All of these reports are important and cannot be ignored (including the appointment of Lt Gen KS Wyne as CJSC).

What is confirmed, however, is that the military wasn’t planning any coup.

Here is a key point that analysts forget when debating this point: whether it likes it or not, the Pakistani military is one of the main guarantors for the Mush-BB-US-UK deal of 2006-7 that created the piece of law called NRO and the incumbent coalition government in Islamabad. For the Pakistani military to remove this government would amount to staging a coup against the whole set of ‘sovereign guarantees’ that Gen. Musharraf left Pakistan and the military saddled with. It seems these guarantees include a lot of secret clauses about US activities in Pakistan, in addition to committing the Pakistani military to avoid destabilizing this government. [Yes, despite US criticism about the corruption of the current Pakistani government, Washington won’t ditch it so easily. Just ask the US ambassador in Islamabad how much busy time she spent earlier this year quietly convincing opposition politicians ‘not to rock the boat’!]

The day the Pakistani military turns against this government would be the day Pakistan would opt out of America’s failed war effort in the region.

So, has a fourth coup been averted?

Hardly. Conditions for a military intervention in Pakistan continue to exist. After all, this nation can’t spend the next nine decades of this century with this kind of a messy and porous political system. But for the time being, whatever problems the government faces are with the Supreme Court. And only a fool would advise the military to stage a coup and stop the politicians from doing such a wonderful job of proving they are not fit to rule now or in the future, without inducting new faces and, more importantly, a new mindset.


Ahmed Quraishi

The author is a journalist and a public policy professional, with government & private sector experience across Pakistan and the Middle East. He tweets @Office_AQPk (twitter.com/Office_AQPk)

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • http://syedaabidabokhari.wordpress.com The Only Normal Person Here.

    What has gone wrong with Tribune? I thought it was a paper which presents the picture “AS IT happens” and now we see a bombardment of conspiracy theories occupying the space? What exactly this piece of Ahmed Qureshi has to offer? Except some sensational juicy and spicy theories? Recommend

  • KhanSaab

    Awesome article!!
    Ahmed Quraishi is among the best and most active commentators in our media at his time.Recommend

  • http://www.thetrueperspective.com Hamza Malik

    Yes, I agree with The Only Normal Person Here. Has Tribune lost it’s marbles that it’s letting such pieces of thinly veiled support for army coups publish on its website?

    We don’t need such weird commentary from people who cannot distinguish left from right. It’s high time Tribune stopped publishing such conspiracy theories material.Recommend

  • unknown jiyala in presidency

    I can quote a senior staffer in the presidency with info that confirms what Quraishi is saying here specially info on PM proposing several political appointees in Govt & foreign service be removed as a measure of showing world that Pak govt is serious about removing tainted personalities, also this will win confidence of the military.

    congratulations to tribune for breaking this news in this report.Recommend

  • unknown jiyala in presidency

    … also please a request to PPP’s Media Cell activists here: Please stop group attacks n comments here, present ur idea or comment n don’t spam the comments section.Recommend

  • faraz

    “The day the Pakistani military turns against this government would be the day Pakistan would opt out of America’s failed war effort in the region”

    So you area suggesting that the political government directs our foreign policy! Are you really a serious analyst? Wasnt the military ruling the country when we entered the War on Terror; or before that when we opted for the Anti communist alliance in 60s or the Afghan Jihad? Do you think Mr Gilani will decide whether the army goes into North Waziristan?Recommend

  • parvez

    Lightweight stuff.Recommend

  • razamarx

    I am supersized on our drawing room, writer still large number of people made responsible army for creating chaos in Sindh and Balochistan and looting resources. Qureshi forget that still large number of prime land in the Sindh under the army. Still people of rural areas have dark memories of military dictators. Qureshi sahib Sindh and Baloch are more political aware be realistic and you should visit the relief camps and after analyses, who rescued poor Sindhi masses.Recommend

  • Mehr

    @ Faraz
    Tossing words into ones mouth
    Since that statement is too much for your brain i’ll try to make you understand what that implies.

    Army has to take a decision on this abusive war which has gone out of proportions annihilating our sovereignty and for that it needs to make face-lift through a new fresh face govt. It has always been Army making the defense policies with contribution from bureaucracy.So Ahmed says its high time Army might make a shift.Recommend

  • Mehr

    Like always great stuff from Ahmed..
    AQ has much more fans than Paracha or Fasi altogether.Recommend

  • faraz


    So you seriously think that the we will stop milking the yanks? 911 was a god sent opportunity for Musharraf. Billions of dollors of military aid and equipment poured in. Economy grew at a healthy 7 percent and retired officers got huge contracts for establishing US supply line through pakistan. The backlash by our “strategic assets” has mainly hurt the civilians. And come out this delusion of granduer; we have never won a war in our history including that of 1965. All operations conducted in Balochistan, interior Sindh and Karachi failed to achieve their objectives. Our defence policy consists of indoctrinating teenaged civilians to wage proxy wars. When our citizens get killed in foreign lands, we simply deny any connection to their activities. Grow up, you are not living in the 80s.Recommend

  • Mehr

    All that rant you just gave us. Has it got anything to do with what i said in my previous post. How much Army has accomplished in its past 50 years is an altogether different question. My reply to you was precisely in context to that statement. I was born in the 80s and it was definitely the best time. We Pakistanis dont care what you and your minority-likes think on this and dont even want to go argue taking into stance the stubborn nature and talk you reflect.Recommend

  • http://deleted vikas ranjan

    The day the Pakistani military turns against this government would be the day Pakistan would opt out of America’s failed war effort in the region.

    Given the fact that Pakistan is living on dole, who will butter your and the military’s bread then. China has already shown its inability by contributing a paltry 9 million USD as flood aid, and Saudi Arabia and Iran both have deep misgivings about Pak army’s Taliban fixation.

    My take is, even if there is a coup, Pak army will continue to follow the US line. Remember
    Kerry-Lugar, the GHQ fumed and fretted, hemmed and hawed, but the ‘insulting conditions’ remained as they were.Pak army will not be foolish enough to bite the US hand that is feeding it.Recommend

  • http://deleted vikas ranjan

    Ahmed Quraishi is among the best and most active commentators in our media at his time.

    AQ has much more fans than Paracha or Fasi altogether

    Have we abandoned Zaid Hamid altogether or what.Recommend

  • ali

    Who is the new Commander in Chief of your Conspiracy Brigade? Before being chased down by fellow comrades of Afghan Jihad, Zaid Hamid was in command. What happened to your DG entertainment, Ali Azmat and Quartermaster Maria B who was to supply clothes for the revolution? Commander AQ lacks the charisma needed to really shake the foundations of Internet. And AQ is diverting from the core principle of the revolution that was defined by Zaid Hamid: the theory of American-Hindu-Zionist (A Hindu who believes in greater Israel and holds American citizenship)Recommend

  • Mehr


    For all the tremors Zaid Hamid and his team has bestowed upon you guys up til now and still you have no interest to respond back with a rebuttal instead but to show escapism and happy-go-lucky attitude terming everything you disagree to as a theory which actually makes your position look very weak and definitely you cant cover that up with your lame humour.
    I understand its heart-reckoning to see ZH Facebook fanpage the third most popular page among Pak youth, definitely a disturbing fact for a bunch of netizens expressing distress
    through their unknown little blogs.
    ZH didnt start any revolution he is just a small part of it.You’ll prolly see bigger things than ZH in near future something that will make your life hell.No one wants him for President and no one needs to agree with him 100% to join his bandwagon. AQ might disagree with him on several things but rest assured they are united against the ‘Kondemn the Kommunity Klan’ and your likes.Recommend

  • ali

    I still havent recovered from Zaid Hamid’s Takmeel-e-Pakistan Show of 23rd March; but the tremors are due to some other reason, they are generated by laughter. Recommend

  • Kazim Raza

    A very well written article
    And a very keen observation on the analysis of Jatoi’s new statement and his collaboration with the Baloch Nationalists.Recommend

  • Kazim Raza


    The NOC for that event was cancelled by the authorities a few hours before it had to start and all the roads to that place were blocked by police .As a result people on vehicles were unable to reach the spot.
    Im not making this up from myself because i know people who were actually stuck there.
    It has never been an issue for him to gather youth , for that you might care to see his show in the convention center Islamabad
    Im not his die-hard fan but nevertheless i do support his cause and i think he is still well known even after all the news against him.


  • Mehr

    Is that the best you can bring ?
    Please read Kazim’s reply.Recommend