Pakistan is facing its most serious political crisis in years, only matched by the PNA ‘Pakistan National Alliance’ movement of 1977 that set the premises for the martial law by dictator Gen Zia Ul Haq on the pretext of what was described as the massive rigging by the PPP government.
Rumors have been rife in Islamabad that the sound of the boots is getting louder, pushing us only further into a state of uncertainty. But here are the four reasons why the military takeover is highly unlikely not only this time around but also in the foreseeable future.
1) An Independent Judiciary
In the past, all military takeovers have relied on the validation from superior judiciary. At some instance, they successfully managed to wrestle judiciary in supporting army take overs; such as validation of Zia ul Haq’s martial law when the courts failed to assert the primacy of civil over the military power, while at others, military rule was declared unconstitutional, as in Asma Jilani Case.
However, over the past years, since judges’ struggle against Musharraf’s rule, the judiciary has earned an unprecedented independence and a stature. This emergence of historical judicial power within the political setup draws its legitimacy from the support of civil society, media, political parties and global legal community – all stand vehemently anti-dictatorship.
Any attempt to validate military takeover will weaken the strength of judiciary, as in military rule, judges and courts are subordinates and military supreme. Therefore, the Constitutional cover-up is no longer available for the army rule.
2) A vibrant Media
One of the less acknowledged features of Pakistan is the rise of vibrant Media that acts as agenda-setter, gate-keeper and watchdog of this fragile democracy. Over the years, it has played a dynamic role in shaping the narrative and public discourse vis-a-vis democratic culture in Pakistan.
Today, whether it is Pakistan’s relations towards India or the treason charge against former military dictator, the popular media channels support the stance of civilians which maintains supremacy of the constitution and define national interests of Pakistan which may not necessarily fall in line with the military’s defined national interests. This is unprecedented in our history, especially keeping in view, that most of the media houses, in past have acted as mole of the deep state.
In such a situation, where military has already received strong criticism within media, any attempt to initiate coup will subject it to further questioning.
3) A crony parliament will be hard to achieve
One of the tragedies of Pakistan is that apart from military, the civilians have also done equal damage to the growth of a democratic tradition in country. Especially, since 1970’s, with the rise of Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto; when politicians for the first time became truly ascendant over the institutional framework, democracy had constantly fallen PREY to confrontation between different political parties.
Some of these parties in pursuit of their myopic interests have flowered dictators and served in their crony parliaments. But today, all the major political parties stand united against the undemocratic forces.
The memories of the last military dictator and the way he treated politicians and judges is still fresh in the minds of many. They may not look too kindly on a coup this time.
The future events in Pakistan are always hard to predict, but looking at the trajectory of events and circumstances, there is little likelihood of a direct military takeover for the time being. However, let’s also not forget that the ‘soft coup’ through some political forces, had already been staged.