Political atmosphere of Pakistan is abuzz with the stories of a coup, of a different type this time. A coup d’état is typically defined as a strike against the state. Also known as a coup, putsch, and overthrow—is the sudden, extrajudicial deposition of a government, usually by a small group of the existing state establishment—typically the military—to replace the deposed government with another body; either civil or military. A coup d’état succeeds if the usurpers establish their dominance when the incumbent government fails to prevent or successfully resist their consolidation of power. If the coup neither fully fails nor achieves overall success, the attempted coup d’état is likely to lead to a civil war.
Pakistan’s history is replete with successive attempts of the powerful military overthrowing corrupt and weak civilian governments. All these attempts were made successfully without bloodshed and, ironically with the tacit approval of the masses who would subsequently endorse such attempts through celebrations.
However, here is a unique attempt to overthrow the powerful military by the weak and corrupt civilian government. The most striking feature of this abortive coup is the attempt to seek the support of a foreign military to defeat country’s own security establishment. This is interesting, unprecedented and downright shameful, if not treasonous. Typically, a coup d’état uses the extant government’s power to assume political control of the country. In Coup d’État: A Practical Handbook, military historian Edward Luttwak says, “A coup consists of the infiltration of a small, but critical, segment of the state apparatus, which is then used to displace the government from its control of the remainder”, thus, armed force (either military or paramilitary) is not a defining feature of a coup d’état.
In the attempted coup, the pawns in the dirty game were an own ambassador known for his deep sympathies for everyone except his own country, who wrote infamous memo, an American businessman who carried the memo and an American admiral, the chief of the defense forces of the US, the ultimate recipient of the memo. Admiral Mullen considered a friend of Pakistan’s army switched sides immediately after receiving the memo started performing his part of the script and fired the first accusatory salvo at Pakistan’s security establishment.
The memo offers a six-point plan for how Pakistan’s national security leadership would be altered in favor of U.S. interests:
- Initiation of a formal “independent” inquiry to investigate the harboring of bin Laden and take suggestions from Washington on who would conduct that inquiry. The memo promised this inquiry would identify and punish the Pakistani officials responsible for harboring bin Laden.
- handing over by Pakistan top al Qaeda and Taliban officials residing in Pakistan, including Ayman Al Zawahiri, Mullah Omar, and Sirajuddin Haqqani, or give U.S. military forces a “green light” to conduct the necessary operations to capture or kill them on Pakistani soil, with the support of Islamabad. “This commitment has the backing of the top echelon on the civilian side of our house,” the memo states.
- Installation of a new Pakistani national security leadership, acceptable to the US, that would bring transparency and “discipline” to Pakistan’s nuclear program, cut ties with Section S of the ISI, which is “charged with maintaining relations to the Taliban, Haqqani network” and other rogue elements, and work with the Indian government to punish the perpetrators of the 2008 terrorist attack in Mumbai.
The courier of the memo alleged that Pakistan’s U.S. ambassador was not only the author of the memo, but the “architect” of the entire plan to overthrow Pakistan’s military and intelligence leadership, and was seeking U.S. help. He believed he and his boss could redraft the architectural blueprint of how Pakistan should be governed in the future — with civilians in command of the armed forces and intelligence services and the memorandum’s content was geared in that direction.
Over the past month, the rumors of the memo and its contents have ballooned into a huge political crisis in Pakistan. Text of the memo proves Pakistani officials’ involvement because it is full of detailed Pakistani government information that a mere businessman would never have had access to.
The abortive coup against Pakistan’s security interests will have huge ramifications both for political and security leadership of the country. Will this failed attempt against the state of Pakistan force the fragile and corrupt political leadership to walk away in shame? Not very likely but the repercussions of staying in power in spite of this embarrassing episode will be very dear, for all concerned.
- Pakistan ambassador in memo row (bbc.co.uk)
- Pakistani ambassador caught in controversy over request for help (seattletimes.nwsource.com)