Posters requesting General Raheel Sharif, the Army Chief of Pakistan, to take control of the nation through a military coup surfaced all over Pakistan in the first week of August. The posters had his photograph, with a printed request of taking control of Pakistan in God’s name. The posters were pasted on a number of thoroughfares in major cities. They were ostensibly printed by Move on Pakistan, an obscure political party that distrusts the governing ability of civilian leaders.
Naturally the big question doing the rounds in Pakistan at this time is whether the army is planning a coup. This is more relevant as the Turkish government crushed a budding military putsch only a few days before.
Pakistan is not new to coups. The last military takeover occurred in October 1999. However, the context was much different than that of today. In 1999, Pakistan was nearly buckled economically due to US sanctions over the 1998 nuclear tests. The Kargil War with India in Kashmir has led to a new nadir on military-civil relations. Moreover, there was a real threat of an all out nuclear war between both nuclear technology enabled neighbors.
Analysts doubt whether the present situation has anything to do with the army prodding it on for its own benefit. Ejaz Haider, talk show host and a political analyst, said that there exists no direct evidence of any army involvement or even its intelligence agencies. He reminded, however, past experience also tells that any Pakistani intelligence agency could quietly push a few dissatisfied elements to begin such campaigns both in the physical world and online.
Role of military
In Pakistan, military coups are a part of the political landscape. It suffered military rule four times since its independence from Britain in 1947. Civilian rulers have lost the confidence of the public many times, with the latter regarding the former as an inefficient bunch and corrupt. The Pakistani military controls the many gears of power and steps in, portraying itself as a saviour.
It does not help the situation that Nawaz Sharif, the present Pakistani Prime Minister, has seen his popularity ratings dipped as he was mired in allegations of corruption. His family is frequently seen as the beneficiary of many underhanded deals. General Shareef, in contrast, is extremely popular due to his image as a man who achieves his objectives. Many Pakistanis believe that only the General could bring about the much required economic stability.