Friday, March 13, 2009

A Most Curious Coup

Pakistan is on the verge of yet another coup, one that seems a lot different than Islamabad's normal fare. For one thing, it's being done almost openly. For another, it's being pushed by Washington and London. Another difference is that it's being presented as an ultimatum - change or we'll change you. A real big difference is that, although it appears the coup would be effected by Pakistan's military, the generals themselves wouldn't take over (as in Zia or Musharraf) but would install a civilian right off the bat.

The Hindu reports that Zardari has been put on a very short "or else" timeline by the West:

A volatile situation existed in Pakistan where authorities on Friday continued their crackdown on agitating lawyers staging a 'long march' amidst reports that President Asif Ali Zardari had been set an internationally-backed, 24-hour deadline by the army to end the stir.

Pakistan Army chief Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani was reported to have got into the act on Friday, meeting Mr. Zardari for the first time since the president returned home Wednesday from a regional meeting in Tehran.

The 24-hour deadline was set under a new deal "backed by Washington, London and the army establishment", A Pakistan News, an independent website run by media professionals, said. There was no official confirmation of the report.

As part of the deal, the website quoted sources as saying, Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani has been asked to "immediately convince" Mr. Zardari to "demonstrate the flexibility required" to break the deadlock before the thousands-strong lawyers' march reaches Islamabad.

According to the news website, Zardari was also "asked to go" by the army and Gilani "if he does not accept a new deal hatched by them in consultation with foreign powers".

Admiral Mike Mullen, Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, says that the Pakistan military doesn't want a military coup.

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