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Archive for September 30th, 2010

The Takeover Rumor Mill

NYT: "Ooh, Pretty Vesty..."

The rumor mill is churning again.

For weeks, media outlets have hinted that Pakistan’s military, which historically views itself as the “savior” of the country (I prefer “meddling mother-in-law”), has been “weighing options” for an indirect intervention in Pakistan’s political sphere, as reported by last week’s Friday Times. According to Reuters Now or Never,

Rumors of change in the government were set into motion last month after a coalition partner of Zardari and self-exiled head of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM), Altaf Hussain, called on “patriotic generals” to take revolutionary steps against corrupt politicians. Nawaz Sharif, former prime minister and main opposition leader [PML-N], strongly opposed Hussain’s suggestion but recently said a “change” could be brought out through constitutional means if the present government did not rectify its wrongdoings.

On Tuesday, the NY Times’ Jane Perlez reported that the Pakistani military is “pushing for a shake-up” of the current government and, “in the longer term, even the removal of President Asif Ali Zardari and his top lieutenants.” The army cannot feasibly take direct control of the country, what with operations against militants and ongoing flood relief efforts, but that doesn’t mean they still wouldn’t be in support of an indirect “reshuffling” of the current regime.

Zardari, PM Gilani and COAS Kayani reportedly met to discuss this issue on Monday. Following the meeting, the president’s office released a statement that the government will complete it’s full five-year term. The Express Tribune quoted the statement as saying, “We will continue our forward march and complete the term no matter what the machinations against us.” According to the NYT,

Having secured an exceptional three-year extension in his post from Mr. Zardari in July, General Kayani appears determined to see to it that the government prevents the economy from entering a tailspin, which would further weaken the health of the nation and also the value of the military’s own vast landholdings and other business enterprises.

If this is true, and it’s in Kayani’s interest to not see the economy spiral increasingly downwards, then keeping the stability of the government in check is also key in this scenario, particularly since economic and political stability are intrinsically linked. But a statement from the president’s office rejoicing the sanctity of the “democratic process” will not be enough in achieving said stability, particularly since people are justifiably angry and dissatisfied with the current regime. This anger is further exacerbated by corruption allegations and a perceived mishandling of the flood disaster, all further propelled by rumors and conspiracy theories.

Former President Musharraf is also leveraging this anger to push for his own return to politics. [A political opportunist! Maybe he was a better politician than we thought.] On Wednesday, in a public interview with a former British ambassador to the U.S., Christopher Meyer, Musharraf stated, “The situation in Pakistan can only be resolved when the military has some role. Pakistan’s army chief ought to be involved in some form, to ensure checks and balances, to ensure good governance. [Just like you did?] We must involve the military men. They should have a place to voice their concerns. [Maybe they can try your Facebook discussion thread! OMGZ.]

I didn’t start this post as a rant. But, I’m tired, and frankly, I’m pissed off – with the corruption, with the fact that the rich doesn’t pay their bloody taxes, with the fact that we’re left to beg for scraps from the rest of the world, with leaders who previously plundered the country coming back to have another go again. And while I’m as critical and caustic about the current civilian regime as anyone else, I also don’t think the answer is a military takeover/reshuffle/sudoku that will create more instability and put us back at square one in the political process. I think we need to stop discussing military takeovers as casually as we would talk about the weather. I think we need to stop thinking about the military as the blanket “good guy” every time they’re not in power. I think we need to think through all our options before jumping to conclusions. I think we need to stop feeding the rumor mill. And I think we need to stop being so self-destructive. Because at this rate, we will not survive.

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