It’s been ten years since Pervez Musharraf ousted Nawaz Sharif in one of Pakistan’s numerous military coups, and about seven months since Musharraf was forced to resign. But the multilayered crisis of political confidence that tossed Musharraf remains ongoing, and now his successor, Asif Ali Zardari, is arresting hundreds of Sharif supporters who are leading big and high-profile demonstrations against Zardari. As The Wall Street Journal writes, “the demonstrations appear increasingly aimed at toppling Mr. Zardari’s deeply unpopular government.”
But here’s the more troubling aspect of The Journal story:
Without some kind of resolution, there was growing speculation that the military — which has ruled Pakistan for more than half its 61-year history – could step in and attempt to restore stability. Senior officers have repeatedly insisted that the current army chief, Gen. Ashfaq Kayani, is committed to letting civilian rule take its course. But “we can’t have chaos. Someone is going to have to bring control,” warned a military officer who serves in Pakistan’s premier spy agency, Inter-Services Intelligence. He, however, insisted the military was not contemplating an immediate takeover.
It is unknown how much “chaos” the military is willing to tolerate. And given that Musharraf’s military rule brought about a middle-class revolt for a return to civilian democracy starting in 2007, what makes the military think it could end the crisis by taking over?
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