A Smart Coup: Why One Last Military Intervention In Pakistan Remains A Possibility

February 16, 2010

Ahmed Quraishi

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan—If it comes to a military-led intervention, both military officers and politicians will have to stay out of actual power. The army chief may not become a chief executive. The military might have to look into a new concept called the ‘Smart Coup’, where the military can bring capable Pakistanis to power with a firm executable plan of reform over five years, or more, fully backed by the military.  There may not be time to put the plan to vote. It will have to be implemented. This would be the absolute last option. But we are nowhere near that right now. Gen. Kayani certainly has no such thing in mind according to people who have met him.

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan—”This was my first interaction with the soldier who commands the seventh largest military force on the face of the planet.”

With this catchy line, Dr. Farrukh Saleem began his brief and fascinating account of a meeting with General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani.

On Feb. 10, 2010, Gen. Kayani met a group of Pakistani commentators and security analysts. The briefing was the third since the military began asserting Pakistan’s legitimate security and strategic interests in Afghanistan and the region.

On January 28 and 29, Gen. Kayani told NATO commanders in Brussels that Pakistan’s legitimate security interests will have to be respected.

Earlier, he told Adm. Mike Mullen, Gen. David Petraeus, and Gen. Stanley McChrystal that instead of worrying about appeasing India, Washington better start paying attention to Pakistan.

This is a major development in the eight-year US-led war in Afghanistan.

At one point, Mr. Saleem makes an interesting observation about Gen. Kayani’s cool demeanor.

“Yes, he has the capacity for abstract thought, cold rationality and coarse creativity – all in one,” he says. “And yet he inhales reconstituted tobacco. Yes, he uses a filter and a cigarette holder. Yes, he never takes deep puffs and, yes, he only consumes half a cigarette at a time.”

At another point, Mr. Saleem makes an interesting use of pun. Talking about the general’s smoking habits, he says the following: ‘He knows that some of the things that he is doing are wrong, but still won’t give them up.’

Probably it’s a polite reference to the conspiracy theories that fill the US and British media, or the Am-Brit media, about Pakistan, its military and its intelligence agencies. So some skepticism is natural.

But the best part of his column in The News International was this concluding paragraph:

“I can tell you that I came back both proud but with a painful realisation; proud knowing that our legions are being led by strategic minds and sad to have discovered the much too visible an intellectual gap between our top political brains in Islamabad and our strategic minds at work in Rawalpindi. And what does he think about our politicians? When it’s breezy, hit it easy.

Could it be that the army rules not through the barrel of a gun but because of their intellectual superiority? Could it be that the army rules because our politicians have failed to institutionalize politics? Could it be that the army rules because our political parties do not transcend individual human intentions? Could it be that the army rules because it has structures, mechanisms of social order along with strategic thinking?”

In essence, Mr. Saleem hit at the core reason why the Pakistani military intervenes every time politicians lead the nation to a dead end.

Most importantly, the above reasoning answers even a more important question: Why the military mounts successful interventions and why the politicians can’t muster the moral authority to resist them.

Pakistani politicians remain a chaotic, undisciplined and shortsighted bunch. Their parties are messy and loose groupings of special interests in their crudest form. Almost all of them have lifetime leaders who never give way to fresh blood. And they are not public institutions but private, family-owned affairs.

Since the return to democracy in Pakistan in February 2008, hardly any of the parties in government or opposition devoted any high-level party meetings to education, health, culture and sports. None of them has plans in place for running the country. Worse, none has any vision.

The best place in Islamabad these days to see this mess in action is the National Defense University. Since 2002, the NDU has been holding the annual National Security Workshop. This is a unique 6-week course. It brings together politicians, military officers, businessmen, lawyers, social activists and journalists. The group is taken through a virtual tour into the corridors of strategic decision making in Pakistan. The course ends with a weeklong exercise that sees the class divided into a Pakistani government and a shadow government, complete with their own secretariat and staff. On the last day, the two governments frame and deliver a policy plan to deal with a hypothetical strategic crisis confronting Pakistan. The plan has domestic, military and foreign policy components. Often, senior commanders from Pakistani military’s General Headquarters attend the last day’s presentations.

NDU officials, both civilian and military, have one observation that has been constant during the past eight years of national security workshops: Military officers, businessmen, social activists and journalists often show the best performance. Politicians come last. Most can’t even draft a single-page policy brief, or work with a PowerPoint presentation.

In essence, middle class Pakistanis – military officers, businessmen, social activists and journalists – fair better than the politicians, mostly a feudal landowning elite.

This gets blurry sometimes, but you get the general idea.

And middle class Pakistanis can’t make it to political parties, let alone to the federal and regional parliaments and governments.

Elections might change this, but certainly not in the foreseeable future. And Pakistan may not have the luxury of time.

If the national deadlock continues with mounting domestic instability due to massive corruption and mismanagement by our politicians, the military may have to contend with one last intervention. It would be the last because if the military failed this time to help set Pakistan on the right track, it could be a free fall after that because Pakistanis are getting increasingly restless with the existing decay. Social turmoil simmers just beneath the surface.

If it comes to a military-led intervention, both military officers and politicians will have to stay out of actual power. The army chief may not become a chief executive. The military might have to look into a new concept called the ‘Smart Coup’, where the military can bring capable Pakistanis to power with a firm executable plan of reform over five years, or more, fully backed by the military.  There may not be time to put the plan to vote. It will have to be implemented.

This would be the absolute last option. But we are nowhere near that right now. Gen. Kayani certainly has no such thing in mind according to people who have met him. He wants democracy to work for the time being and he has proven this by resisting several opportunities to intervene over the past two years.

Pakistan is full of resources and opportunities, but it lacks good leadership and clean management. Even the bare minimum of these two commodities is not available in today’s Pakistan.

Books on political science and theory in Washington and London can’t help with this. Pakistanis will have to do what’s best for their homeland.



  1. I am ready to be a part of such team who will reform the whole system in Pakistan and will bring back our beloved country to glory.


    • This is similar to what happened in Chile, the Military Government took adivice from Chilians studying at the Uni of Chigaco in America

  2. A smart coup,how distant it may be,carries many risks.And if Ma’azallah,it fails,there will be nothing left of Pakistan.

    First,we should try to remove the prevailing prejudices in our society,most dangerous of them,is provincial dis-harmony.Because of varying levels of literacy,certain provinces will be under represented,which will again create dissentions.

    One possible alternative,it seems,is changing of election rules.On every seat,it must be made compulsory that the winning candidate obtains more than 50% of the votes cast.It will,to a great extent,eliminate the BRATHERY and ZAAT,TRIBAL,ETHENIC divide.

    It will,though,make the electioneering process longer,for which it may not be necessary to hold the elections on one day,but will increase the involvement of masses in country’s politics.It should be aimed that 65%-70% of the electorate cast their votes.

    In two or three elections,things might improve.

  3. only military can rule our country pakistan. i personally don’t trust the politicians in our country and no one would let deserving political figures up the ladder. i hope this happens and it happens soon. inshallah

  4. The drone guy will be here any moment now.

    • lol

    • I think he is stuck at the last post ; )

      • HAHA I think so. Yaar, is ka koi ilaaj naheen ho sakta????

  5. Assalam-a-alaikum : –

    What we can do for the betterment of pakistan, we must do.
    This is our very first responsibility to start something which can play a better role in developement of our social public society infrastructure.

    For example if anybody can start running a school which provides a needed decent type of Basic education to the needy people, Must do it now.

    If anybody can teacher in well decent manner in a university or school or college he must raise his courage and start teaching for the betterment of pakistani people definately on Salary 🙂 but please discover your internal talent for Allah sake.
    A little good people can can change every bad into Good Inshallah

    I am sure inshallah these little favour and help by you for your countries people, will help us in many ways to get out of this turmoil and law and order situation Inshallah.

    Every pakistani has a role to play for his country and it’s time to take an initiative, rest will follow you inshallah…….

    praise be to Allah the most Beneficial, the most mercifull, and Mohammad P.B.U.H Last Blessed Prophet of Allah.

    Pakistan Zinda Bad, Allah-O-Akber.

  6. “Damned if we do, damned if we dont”.

    What ever happens the majority of Pakistanis are against a military dictator after the 10 lost years fromthe man who now lives happily ever after in Europe while our children are being killed by terrorists and drones.

    As for El-Presidente Zardari: he and his PPP NRO washed cabinet should be held responsible for all the curroption charges and stand trial. The Sharif brothers should move back home to
    Arabia and the Chaudharys of Gujrat should be killed on the spot without any trial for their share badmashi.

    A good idea would be to hand Islamabad over to the people of Pakistan who has a stake in the country and not people who has his entire family living and their assets stashed away in US, EU or the Gulf.

  7. what is suggested had been tried in past in a different manifestations of back door hide and seek make break parties…..the two test cases are nawaz sharif abd altaf hussain…both prepared and raised to a politically visible stature by establishment. Results intially Nawaz sharif successsful , altaf hussain backfired and after 20 years today both a sloth of uslessness and shame……my point is lets say imran khan is brought in and installed , in current political perview he would meet no different fate. I believe masses of youth under soft revolution of not accepting status quo must take a start with radical reform of
    1.elimination of party system
    2.elimination of electioneering and compaigning as currently invoge
    3.Bring out of the norm solution for appointment of candiadetes on an iranian or Chinese model which must focus on finding leadership in middle class and disallow the business and jagirdari elite.
    This must come forward in form of mass processions and long march ABSOLUTELY APOLITICAL with no flags accept of National flag, like judiciary procession for CJ (in power and procedure) but not allowed to be politically hijacked like lawyer movement had more politicians than lawyers themselves
    All said and done in place by people of pakistan surrounding Islamabad not leaving the constitutional avenue and parliment lodges until they are listened to ! And mind you the most peaceful of revolution will require blood at this point…let a group of well read suited LUMS , GIK qualified students die here on huger strike and revive the spirit of ASHABE_E_KAHAF so that th skies see them, let a few be hanged by the poles of street light, let security open fire on violent crowd for once where few innocent HANDSOMES take bulllets in their chests……
    Only now can something ripe be ready for the “smart quo” by ARMY which u are talking about be possible and fruitful. We sitting in our couches and expecting poor military to change the way we think and keep buying or becoming politicians doesn’t sound like a plan. If nation is not ready on this format with very little blood shed, nature will still purify you with blood of innocents in earth quakes or suicide bombs…blood will spill ,its our choice give it gracefully to trace a cause worth dying or keep building pre-fabricated houses against earth quakes and enhancing “fool proof security” against bomb blasts by suicides and idiots OR country shall remain with blood and power thirsty hounds ..Pakistan Will prevail ,whatever we choose, we have a choice to perish status quo or be perished !

  8. there is never a last coup, wat a retard!!!

  9. I would beg to differ with this idea of smart coup. But let me first say some thing of crucial importance. I really hate when some one says that we have the last chance that will make or break us Pakistani as a nation. That, I think, is plain bullshit talked by self-defeatists minds (well, if you take them as minds). This pin-head doley shah ka choha, Farrukh Saleem, has no right to tell us a doomsday for this brave Pakistani nation. I really regret that such a silly shallow person was able to meet the chief and subsequently spreading such a non-sense on the media. We Pakistanis, like any other nation on the face of earth, have made many mistakes in the past and would certainly make more in future. That does not mean that we’ll collapse as a nation. It is very offending to me when some shit-head says that we will have only the last chance. First, the maleechh Hindus planned and predicted the collapse of this nation soon after its birth as a free country. They proved miserably wrong. Indian leaders have just recently admitted and told to their people that they had failed in finishing Pakistan. Even many Pakistanis have been telling us that Pakistanis, as a nation, had only one more chance to make before vanishing. These shit-heads have all proved wrong. For example, many silly Pakistani politicians claimed during Zia-ul-Haq’s martial-law that it was the last one. Another martial-law and Pakistan will be destroyed. We had another one (and that too by a really pig-headed stupid Musharraf); we are still suffering from the wounds that Musharraf inflicted onto this nation but does that mean we have vanished as a nation. I think, we are bouncing back even stronger after going through all these challenges. That is how the nations become stronger after passing through challenges. But, that, by the way, does not really mean that we keep making mistakes and learn nothing from our previous ones. But these shallow thinkers and silly persons, who are the product of drawing room discussions, did not really see the big heart of this nation.

    Pakistanis need true democracy in the current situation as we never needed it before in our history. We know the political leadership is incompetent and corrupt but that does not mean that we wind the political process up and replace it with a coup, soft and smart or otherwise. We need national mobilization to face the current and future challenges that is only possible through a political process. All those previous non-democratic governments in Pakistan consisted of babus, technocrats, and military men. All these segments of our society have no roots in people, do not understand people’s problems, and can not really come in grips with pulse of the nation. All our non-democratic governments in the past have lost one thing or the other to the enemy. Even the most successful military government of Zia that turned the course of global history by defeating Soviets in Afghanistan lost Siachen to our mean enemy who silently sent its troops there and occupied it. Remember one plain truth; all our dictators acted as tigers for us but as a puppy in front of external powers. Those powers, once in full control of a dictator, ruled Pakistan through their proxy puppy without a problem. A dictator can not tell the foreign powers (unfortunately, including India during Musharraf time) that he will be able to deliver. A dictator is supposed to be in complete control of the nation and thus deliver to external blackmailers. Clinton went to India on a full official visit while came to Pakistan for a few hours while ensuring that his every single move or meeting in Islamabad humiliated Musharraf but that that nerd accepted all that disgrace. Did any one challenged or questioned Musharraf why did the heck he bring so much humiliation to this nation? No. Because he was a dictator. Can we allow a similar disgrace caused to us by Zardari? No, not at all. Democratic government has its own inherent capacity to absorb foreign pressure. It can not simply act as a proxy to any foreign power. Not even if the foreign power actually brought Zardari to power. That is due to the fact that people in a democratic can speak out, stage rallies, pressurize their leaders, and move courts. A non-representative government can not really standup to foreign pressure and blackmail.

    We need to let the current political process going on. We need to cleanse the mess and rot that was created by previous dictatorial rule. It is indeed sad that this stupid jerk, Musharraf, brought the criminals from all over the world and made them our rulers. But we do not really need another coup to clean this mess up. The chances are we’ll get deeper in the trouble if that sort-sighted step is taken. I am sure Americans must be missing the old good days of Musharraf’s time and feeling sorrow to order him hold elections and bring a political government in Pakistan. Our enemies must be praying now that we fall once more and have a non-democratic government in Pakistan. It will be much easier for them to twist our arm and blackmail us in doing their dirty work.

    True, the current political situation in Pakistan is not ideal. But with well-aware nation, investigative media, and active judiciary, we’ll almost surely rise. The beauty of democratic process is that every one has a role to play in it and it is my Imaan that our nation’s collective wisdom is much higher among all third world countries. Let us allow our collective wisdom take its natural course rather than trying to have a shortcut and fall astray for long once more.

    • democracy in Pakistan? are you serious you nutter?
      it will take ages to evolve. i agree a ‘soft’ coup is not necessary but one thing is DAMN necessary: do what India did. take out Feudalism from the equation and Pakistan will prosper. MOST politicians are feudals and thats why they keep coming to power, its the power of the $ and dimes they carry in their pocket mate. yes, i hate it too when Pakistan’s detractors paint a doomsday scenario for Pakistan but at the moment we have reached the ‘nadir’ – know what that means? never has our nation been in bigger trouble but rise we will and not because YOU say so, but because we are Pakistani’s and thats our destiny. you really grilled Farrukh Saleem. there was no need to do that and i’ll tell you why. do you know him at all? the guy is intelligent and it is no mean feat to be granted an audience with none other than our Army Chief, General Kayani. the guy gives no interviews and may well be camera shy. so for this guy to go in is a big deal. him gauging an opinion of the Army Chief is fine, nothing wrong with that. just try and respect his opinion mate. if you can make positive suggestions then do so, no need to get personal. i have read your pieces here before. sometimes you say some credible and intelligent stuff but at other times you talk plain crap – i could probably understand the French language better than i understand your gibberish sometimes. sorry man, hate to burst your balloon there, but thats MY opinion only. that makes 3 of us now: Farrukh had one, you had one and now i have one too.

      why may i ask is a soft coup such a bad idea, after all its just an idea right? because you say so? if you can get the intelligentsia, businessmen and middle class people involved in government what would be wrong with that? its a suggestion. you go on about democracy like its a small khilona you play with in your backyard. come on man, democracy will only succeed and flourish in this country when we get rid of the tried and tested buffoons that have been in the corridors of power before and we bring in new,true, honest and sincere like minded patriots. why not install an economically driven government? a government that will ensure that our economy is THE number one priority and is strengthened so we can develop this mighty nation. you talk about Musharraf with so much disdain. what the hell? yes he made blunders but who hasnt? we put a guy like you in the Prime Ministers chair and you’ll probably make a 1000 and i’m being generous when i say that. Musharraf did alot of good things for this country too and as true Pakistani’s we MUST NOT forget them. he tried very hard to curb extremism and he did make mistakes. whatever he was, he ALWAYS had Pakistan’s best interests at heart and he was NOT corrupt. those are his good points and the negative stuff we already know about. sometimes people have different perceptions of what THEY think is right, many will agree and many wont. many people who know Musharraf KNOW that he loved Pakistan and wanted it to be a true Muslim model for other countries to emulate. right from day one he wanted democracy but he stated time and time again that it would take many years to evolve but that he would take the first steps and try to put it back on that path. is your memory short? can you remember that he never allowed such free American access into Pakistan as is the case now. look whats happening man, thanks to YOUR so called democracy – this kind of democracy is worst than a dictatorship! you say he was a dictator. ok then man, now your narrow mindedness and naivety has really got me going! you tell me which dictator allows freedom of the press? during that era there was alot of foreign investment in Pakistan, our foreign exchange reserves were rising and you can speak to any economic mind and he will tell you. also there were no drone strikes. we didnt have electricity and gas shortages and our economy was the 3rd fastest growing economy in the world. what the f do you know and you sit there and criticise so easily? in the west we call people like that ‘arm chair critics’ cus you dont know what you’re waffling on about. i’m not sticking up for Mr Musharraf cuz i can sit here and criticise him all day long too but the fact of the matter is that he’s gone, he’s history and lets move on. you remind me alot of the general chit chat going round and the blame game that goes with it, he did this, he did that and so forth. for gods sake man, get out of the past before you grow old thinking about it!

      its also about time that we start concentrating on Muslim values cuz this is the reason behind the inception of Pakistan. look around you cuz i certainly do and i see that many people are not really bothered about Islam anymore. people are losing all the values that Iqbal, Jinnah, Liaqat Ali etc. gave us. as a nation we need to get ‘back to basics’ cuz thats the dun of time. ideally we must have just rulers who fear Allah and want to eradicate poverty completely from our land and boy i tell you its not a hard job – it just needs dedication and willing and able minds to get the ball rolling. lets provide safe and clean drinking water for everyone. lets provide the best and free edcuation for everyone, no matter what your status. lets make sure gas electricity reach EVERYONE in Pakistan. lets make sure the rich man does not eat off the poor mans table. lets build more roads and rail networks. and my friend you go on about ‘democracy’? lets make sure the poor guy next door gets to eat 2 basic square meals a day and doesnt starve to death or constantly worry every second where his next morsel is gona come from. and still you go on about democracy?
      people say democracy strengthens institutions, i say bull**** cuz if your institutions are empowered and strengthened with the right people in the right jobs then democracy will automatically be strengthened. institutions cant be strengthened with democracy but it sure can happen the other way round and its very much possible.

      this is food for thought for you and others. have a think about it. all we care about is so called democracy, lets get rid of our social ills and our spiritual poverty before we EVEN think about democracy in Pakistan.

      peace to you man & keep going. dont stop ’til you drop dude.. keep writing cuz many fools will also believe in your delirious remarks. i will be awaiting your next post.


  10. Pakistan is in such a worse situation due to our army generals who for their own intersts have always damaged the interests of pakistan.

    I love Pak army but these top military commanders have never safeguarded the soverignty and intersts of Pakistan. I am not an advocate of the Politicians of Pakistan but to me these politicians are just mere puppets in the hands of the army. Politicians are also to blame for army interventions in the country. It is the army which is actually ruling Pakistan for the last 62 years.

    People like Ahmed Qureshi and Zaid Hamid who are on the payroll of the ISI and army are trying to build and image and atmosphere conducive for the army takeover. Ahmed Qureshi firstly was a fan of Mushrraf and now of Kayani and he will tow the agenda of CIA and ISI in Pakistan.I hope this wil never ever happen again.People of Pakistan will standup and not only protect Pakistan but also rejectand thrash all generals bureaucrats politicians and journalists who are towing foreign intersts in Pakistan.

    Army has failed miserably in ruling the country. Army’s responsiblity is to stay at the borders and stop these drones killing our innocent people .

    Instead of Islamic republic it seems that this is the army republic of Pakistan

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