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Pakistan: The New Coup

Ayesha Siddiqa

By Aqil Shah
Harvard University Press, Harvard, 2014, pp. 416, $35.00


A year ago no one could have imagined that Pakistan would change its course from a rickety democracy to a hybrid-military rule within less then two years after general elections in May 2013. A lot of us had clapped then and congratulated each other for the first ever peaceful transition to democracy—a new government by the Pakistan Muslim League—Nawaz Sharif group (PML-N) replaced the Pakistan People’s Party through a process of elections, rather being booted out by the military. Little did we know that it would all get overturned. Moreover, that the civilians themselves will volunteer to surrender power. On January 6, 2015 Pakistan’s Parliament passed the 21st amendment to the 1973 Constitution. Although most Right Wing parties abstained from voting, the Bill was passed unopposed. The law allows for setting up of military courts in the country for a period of two years. In any case, the picture gets clear by the day. It is the Army Chief who appears to be more of the real ruler than the elected Prime Minister, Nawaz Sharif. It is an open secret that the Pakistan military runs most important policies: foreign policy, internal security and a few others. While many would argue that this indicates a collapse of civilian leadership for writer Aqil Shah this is military’s habit to distrust civilians, considering themselves superior and wanting to grab power that has come to life all over again. In his book The Army and Democracy, Shah argues that Pakistan’s politically powerful army is programmed to intervene directly and indirectly. Its habit to rule must have made the institution very uncomfortable to see itself being unable to dispose off the PPP Government and face a new PML-N Government that seemed poised to challenge its authority. Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif seemed determined to at least achieve two things during his third tenure as the country’s premier—improve relations with India and conduct trial of his arch rival and former military dictator, Pervez Musharraf. Sharif looked pretty comfortable after elections because at the end of 2013 he oversaw the departure of an ambitious Army Chief, General Ashfaq Pervez Kiyani who had served two tenures as Army Chief and before that practically ran the military as chief of the military intelligence agency, the ISI, while Musharraf ran the country. Between Kiyani and the former ISI chief, General Ahmed Shuja Pasha they had made life quite ...

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