Tension between the Pakistani military and the civilian government is nothing new, but they seem to be coming to a head once again with a pair of reports that suggest both sides may have plotted to orchestrate a coup against the other.
Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) chief Lt. Gen. Ahmad Pasha is reported in one plot to have visited a number of Arab countries to discuss their potential support for a military coup against President Asif Ali Zardari, accusing Zardari of undermining the nation’s sovereignty.
Meanwhile, Zardari’s own plot against the military, the “coup memo” sent to US military commander Admiral Michael Mullen seeking his support in removing the Pakistani military leadership by force, has taken on a more serious tone with Army Chief of Staff General Parvez Kayani reporting that the military has found the memo to be authentic.
Kayani says the military came to this conclusion during a meeting with President Zardari, himself, Lt. Gen. Pasha, and former Pakistani Ambassador to the United States Husain Haqqani, saying that the evidence was strong that the memo was authentic. Lt. Gen. Pasha offered a four page statement as well saying he was convinced that the memo, delivered by Pakistani-American businessman Mansour Ijaz was real.
The ruling Pakistani Peoples Party (PPP) has repeatedly denied that the memo was real, but now seems to be taking an alternate tack, claiming the Supreme Court lacks jurisdiction in inquiry into a possible coup by the civilian government.
Opposition politicians who had already called for Zardari’s ouster over the coup memo now find themselves adding to that a call for Lt. Gen. Pasha to resign over his possible exploration of a coup on his own. Pakistan has a long history of coups, but with popular support for both he military and the Zardari government at relative lows, it may be difficult for either to consolidate power even if they decide to push their rival out of the way.