Coup in Pakistan? Nawaz Sharif and Raheel Sharif battle it out in a tussle for power


21 Jun 2013
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The surgical strike conducted by the Indian Army in Pakistan seems to have generated a drastic effect. We are not talking about the war like situation that is prevailing between India and Pakistan but rather of the real battleground which is Pakistan itself. Latest developments from within the country indicate a serious problem or power struggle that Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif is constantly battling.

The surgical strike post the dastardly Uri attack was a markedly different move by India. Though stories of surgical strikes in the past have kept surfacing, this time, the difference was that the government fessed up to it. this has caused a huge embarrassment to the Pakistani Army. The sad part, however, is that every time the Pakistani Army is embarrassed, it is Pakistan’s civilian government that bears the brunt, The entire sequence of events comes with a feeling of deja vu from 17 years ago. In the year 1999, the Pakistan Army planned, plotted , executed and was defeated in the Kargil war. However, soon enough those very people who were mired in defeat rose to the ranks of power while, packing Nawaz Sharif, who was Prime Minister then too, into exile in Saudi Arabia.

The signs of a repeat episode are highly evident in the present scenario. After the surgical strike, Pakistan has been desperately trying to rein in the public narrative doing rounds in Pakistan. The military establishment in that country fears that if it admits to the Indian strikes then it will be forced to launch a retaliatory attack to maintain its credibility. However, the release of further details by the Indian Army could call out Pakistan’s embarrassed bluff. This is where the question of how far Pakistan will extend its narrative comes in.

If the establishment is quiet about Pakistan then the military will be able to establish plausible deniability of its actions. This would further play a major role in extending the hugely popular military leader, Raheel Sharif’s tenure which is close to its end. However, if the army fesses up to its faux pas, then the civilian establishment could possibly gain an upper hand if it plays its card right. Still, the chances of a civilian upper hand are slim as it must be remembered that it was the defeat in the Kargil war of 1999 which resulted in the last coup in Pakistan. It seems that the Pakistani civilian leadership is being squeezed on either side of the narrative. If that wasn’t enough, the fact is that the democratic polity in Pakistan is highly fractured.

According to sources in Nawaz Sharif’s PMLN, the tussle between the civilians and the military has increased exponentially . After the surgical strike, it was the Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s office which first contacted Raheel Sharif asking if COAS could come to Islamabad and brief the Prime Minister about the events. However, the other sharif dismissed the call saying he would call Nawaz via telephone. Though the two Sharifs did meet after that conversation after some persuasion by Pakistan’s National Security Advisor Janjua, the damage has been done.

Similarly, another bone of contention between the civilians and the military is the appointment of the next Army Chief. The tenure of the incumbent Army Chief Raheel Sharif is set to end by November this year. The question that hangs in the air is who will succeed the sole popular leader of Pakistan. Nawaz Sharif who knows only too well the powers that the true leader of Pakistan enjoys, wants to ensure that the man to take up the post would be hand picked by him. However, it must be noted that General Parvez Musharraf who kicked Nawaz Sharif into exile and took over the administration of Pakistan, was the also cherry picked by Nawaz Sharif.

In order to assuage his fears of a possible coup, Nawaz Sharif wants a confidante to be the next army supremo. The person of Nawaz Sharif’s choice is Lt General Javed Iqbal Ramday. According to Indian intelligence reports, Gen Ramday’s family has been closely associated with Prime Minister Sharif’s PMLN party for many years. However, Raheel Sharif has Lt General Zubair Mahmood Hayat in mind. General Hayat is currently the chief of general staff at the army headquarters in Rawalpindi. Hayat is a hardliner more so than the incumbent Sharif.

Pakistan is in a fray as to how to deal with India and the surgical strike.The way the surgical strikes are played out can establish who rules Pakistan. It would seem for now, that India could truly decide the course of events set to take place in its neighbouring country. India needs to analyse for itself on the better option for its own objectives while following Pakistan’strajectory and keep two options ready. One would be to follow the Pakistani Army and the coup d’etat whose plotting is bound to be underway and the other is to follow the civilians and encourage the mess that is already in place.
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