Tensions between Pakistani Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani and the military have risen over the Supreme Court investigation into a purported government memo seeking help to prevent a possible military coup.
Pakistan's military neither has the will nor the ability to stage a coup, says Dr. Happymon Jacob, Assistant Professor of Diplomacy and Disarmament at the Centre for International Politics, Organization and Disarmament at the Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi, India.
In an exclusive interview with the International Business Times, Jacob says the military doesn't enjoy the support for a coup from the opposition, the media and the public at large.
Here are some excerpts.
Pakistani Prime Minister Gilani has won key backing in parliament. Will this put an end to the concerns in Pakistan about a military coup?
Indeed, the likelihood of a military coup in Pakistan is lessened by this action of the Pakistani parliament. But let me hasten to add that the likelihood of a military coup has not been high right from the beginning. By not staging a coup, the Pakistan army is not doing a favour to Pakistan's fledgling democracy: it is not doing so because it is simply not in a position to do so. Had the same confluence of circumstances existed a decade ago, Pakistan would have already been under military rule.
Things have changed so drastically in contemporary Pakistan that the army realizes that it would be doing great disservice to itself by forcefully taking over the reins of the country. Moreover, the popular mood in today's Pakistan is against any sort of military takeover and in the event of a military coup, the people are unlikely to react positively let alone welcome it. This is clearly unlike the previous occasions when the military staged coups in Pakistan as large amounts of people used to welcome the coup or used to openly invite the military to dethrone the corrupt civilian leaders.
What is happening in Pakistan should be seen as positive and good for the democratic institutions of that country. It is important to note that the ongoing confrontation is not between the Pakistan army and the civilian government but between two civilian institutions: judiciary and the civilian government. That is nothing but the politics of a normal democracy and it should be seen as such.
What will be the role of judiciary in the situation? Does it favor the military over the civilian government?
I don't think that the judiciary is favoring Pakistan military over the civilian government. The judiciary is merely trying to strengthen the law of the land and to assert its rightful role in Pakistan's polity.
In that sense, even if Prime Minister Gilani would have to resign from his post because of the pressure from the Supreme Court, I would see that as good for Pakistan's democracy.
After all, let us fact it, Gilani is trying to cover up the wrongs committed by the Pakistani President, Zardari. While Gilani should be complimented for his courageous stance against the army, no credit can be given to him for challenging the judiciary in the name of safeguarding democratic institutions.
Is Pakistan moving in a dangerous direction with military once again showing its strength to control the country? Does it show the ineffectiveness of democracy in Pakistan?
In fact, I would think that the opposite is perhaps true. The military neither has the will nor the ability to stage a coup. And there is no support for a coup from the opposition, the media and the public at large as pointed out above.
What do you think of the possibility of Gilani completing his term? Is there possibility of an early election?
The jury is still out on that. If Gilani's government writes to the Swiss government for information relating to the graft charges against Zardari, there is a possibility that the court will let him go. But that is unlikely to be acceptable to Zardari and Pakistan People's Party (PPP).
It is possible that Zardari is contemplating his next steps in this game. He may replace Gilani, get close to the army and persuade them to reduce the heat on his government, take the credit for challenging the judiciary and cash on it in the upcoming elections.
If at all there is an election, will it be good or bad for Pakistan? Also which leader could emerge as the winner in such an early election?
One cannot say for sure whether an early election is going to benefit Pakistan, but it is certainly likely, under the circumstances, to benefit the PPP and Zardari. In any case, if the elections take place in the near future, it is possible that the PPP will get more seats than the Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz) as Imran Khan has suddenly hit a political roadblock. The more the election gets postponed, the more the gains of the PML (N) and Imran Khan will be.
Is it better for Pakistan in the present situation to come under military rule?
Not at all. I think Pakistan has started off on a new political journey and its results are only going to be positive for the country. Consider this: everything that we hear about Pakistan for the past month has been about politics, not jihad or Islamic extremism. That is surely good news.
What repercussion the present events could have on the relation with India? Does India prefer Pakistan to be an unstable democracy or an established military nation?
Not even once during the present crisis has there been an attempt from the Pakistani side to engage in diversionary war tactics against India. I think that a strong democracy in Pakistan is going to be good for India. The problem with military regimes is that if India signs peace deals with them, one can't be sure whether they will be given legitimacy by political parties. This is precisely what is happening with regard to the Musharraf formula on the Kashmir conflict. India-Pakistan back-channel negotiations during Musharraf's period had finalized a mutually acceptable solution for Kashmir, but the civilian government and political parties in Pakistan are unwilling to abide by that today.