Gathering storm

Gathering storm

Civil-military relations in Pakistan, already severely strained, have come under renewed pressure in the wake of the ‘memogate crisis.’ It appears that following the US military operation in Abbottabad in which Osama bin Laden was killed, Pakistan’s ambassador to the US, Hussain Haqqani, sent a memo to the then US Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman seeking help in the event of a military coup in Pakistan.

This request for foreign help against its own military has been denounced as an act of treason among some sections in Pakistan. The crisis has already claimed one head –  Haqqani’s, who has resigned – and more can be expected to follow. Haqqani’s resignation has come under pressure from the military. He was seen to be close to the US and that he is a close confidante of Asif Ali Zardari does not bode well for the Pakistani president. It is not clear yet whether the memo is genuine but either way, the revelations are aimed at decimating or at least weakening Zardari’s already fragile control. This round in the civilian-military battle in Pakistan has gone to the military.

The military is not on the verge of staging a coup. Rather, it is working towards putting in place a government that will take orders from the military. It is said to be facilitating the rise of Imran Khan. Support for the former cricketer is growing among a section of the public, the religious conservatives and the military. Given his known anti-US positions, who better than the Khan at the helm, with the military calling the shots? There is some speculation that the military favours a ‘technocrat dispensation.’

Those targeting the Zardari government for ‘selling out’ Pakistan’s interests to the US should bear in mind that the military was a part of the decision making on controversial issues like drone attacks and other security matters. To blame politicians for all of Pakistan’s woes is disingenuous. This is a critical time for democracy in Pakistan.

One can only hope that its politicians will stand together against the military. However, there are signs already of politicians and parties looking to use the ‘memogate crisis’ to propel themselves to power. Ultimately, as always in the past, it will have to be the people of Pakistan that stand up and demand that their right to democratic government be respected.