A military coup was never likely, and is still not, despite the wishful thinking of a few probable beneficiaries. At least not for the moment. Gen Kayani knew and knows this, despite the sabre-rattling by some insiders.
Yousuf Raza Gilani, knows this too, despite alleged telephone calls, and President Zardari is also aware of the unlikelihood of a coup. Nawaz Sharif most certainly knew that a military coup was not in the making and nor is one on the cards.
Despite strong language from the Supreme Court, and probably becauseof this, the chief justice also knows that a coup is not being prepared. Of course everyone has been talking about a likely and inevitable coup, but that still does not mean that itwas about to happen, or is anywhere near happening.There are a number of reasons why a military coup is unlikely at the moment, and all possible reasons suggest the maturing of a democratic, albeit weak and still evolving, political order. However, this does not mean that Pakistan will never have a military coup one never says never in Pakistan but that at the moment, this is improbable.
The first reason is, of course, the inability of the military to take over direct political control at the moment. The military is no longer the most popular institution in Pakistan and has not recovered from its battered image on account of the actions of its previous chief of army staff.
The military has also had to deal with numerous of its own issues and problems over the last three years, ranging from fighting a few wars against militants in Swat and Malakand and on the borders of Afghanistan to the Abbottabad and Mehran base humiliations to memogateto the fact that there has been evidence of discontent in sections of the military.
All suggest a military having to consolidate and regroup rather than be expansionist in its Bonapartist ambitions.
The government too has no desire to pre-empt a coup, and seems to have rallied support for democracy along with its allies. It would be the biggest loser if there was a coup, but it has taken a strong position to defend this political order, and so it should.
The government is not willing to lie down to the slaughter. It may have failed badly at providing governance, but what it is standing up for and defending is not simply the government in power itself, but the democratic political order. Theconstitutional changes which were made over the last few years against a military coup strengthen the claim that the nature of democracy in Pakistan has matured and improved greatly.The third key player in ensuring that a military coup does not take place is the opposition. Whatever failings Nawaz Sharif may have, he has upheld the need for a democratic political order in Pakistan, come what may. He has also been the only politician who has used his democratic civilian position to make statements about limiting the role of the military in Pakistan`s politics. In 1977 and in 1999 it was opposition political parties and those leaders who hoped to benefit, who implored the military to intervene. This is a key difference this time around.
Who would have thought just a few years ago that Pakistan`s judiciary would play a stellar role in defending the civilian government and in acting as the keeper of national political morality? While some have questioned the judicia-ry`s newfound activism and feel that this, in fact, hampers and constrains democracy, the judiciary is a new player in the field regarding Pakistan`s political map.
It is playing an active role, but one cannot call this anti-democratic. Adventurous, bigger than life certainly, but it would be difficult, in fact highly improbable, for the judiciary to endorse a military coup. This is also a major difference from the past, and all relevant actors, particularly the military, are well aware of this fact.
The fifth player in all this is, of course, the overactive, often sensationalist, electronic media. While some observers feel that the proactive media is doing more damage than good, what is clear is thatthe presence of the media has never been felt as it is at the moment. In 1977, there was only one government-controlled channel, in 1999 perhaps two channels, but todaythere are countless television channels in the private sector all falling on top of each other trying to bring some breaking news before it even happens.
One cannot say that the media is anywhere pro-democratic or anti-military for `the media` is not a monolithic entity but every potential government, civilian or military, will have to deal with its intrusive and largely accountable presence. There is no hiding from the prying eyes of the media. Even if a coup were to take place, it would probably be shortlived, with active resistance against military interference. In so many other important ways, Pakistan is not what (or where) it was in 1977 or 1999, and there has been a great transformation in social structures, political awareness, political maturity and a host of other factors.
What also needs to change is our understanding of political events and the way we frame our analysis.
(The writer is a political economist. This article was first published in dawn.com)