How Morsi should have pre-empted a military take-over?

4 Jul

MorsiA coup or military rule may be the most detestable option in the eyes of the beneficiaries of a sham democracy, but in certain cases it is the last choice to save a country and its institutions from falling into chaos. President Mohamed Morsi of Egypt, a representative of Islamists in his country, has hardly completed one year in office, but the people, in millions, are rallying against his government and asking for his resignation. He is increasingly being isolated, with his close aides and cabinet colleagues resigning after having read the writing on the wall. The military, which was subdued after former President Hosni Mubarak was removed from power, has given an ultimatum to the civilian government to put its house in order or be ready to face the eventuality of implementing military’s roadmap, which means takeover by the Egyptian military. The opposition is not in a mood to talk and, unless some miracle happens, Morsi is all set to pack, lock, stock and barrel.

The question is, when do military coups happen? The answer is simple: When the civilians fail miserably to govern and as a consequence, put the country at risk. No military can dare to take over when the public stands behind the politicians. The case in point is Pakistan, where the military has ruled during half of the country’s 66-year history.

The first military takeover was staged in 1958, nearly 11 years after the country’s establishment. The politicians were busy in the game of musical chairs with a government hardly staying in office for a year on average. The governance was not in the list of priorities of the politicians, whose attention was focused on getting into power and then surviving. The common man was sick and tired of the games being played by politicians at his cost. The army chief was invited by the president to impose martial law. When the constitution was abrogated and the civilian government sacked, the military commanders finally took over in October 1958. The military was in the saddle for more than 10 years and the country witnessed prosperity and development.

When Zulfikar Ali Bhutto took over in 1972 and promulgated a constitution in 1973, it was hoped that the country would see a stable democracy, but unfortunately democracy is not only about elections and powers and perks, it is also about delivery of service. Bhutto proved to be the worst dictator, in whose tenure basic rights remained suspended, the economy nosedived, and poll rigging was at its worst.

The agitation of 1977 turned violent due to police atrocities, and the country was at the brink of civil war. The people had a sigh of relief when the military commander walked in and dismissed Bhutto. The circumstances for the next coup by Musharraf in 1999 were no different; the civilian government dismissed the army chief when he was in the air and the pilot was asked not to land till the change of command effectively took place. The military commanders thwarted the civilian attempts to divert the military chief’s flight to archrival India and took over the airport, TV station and prime minister’s house. Musharraf landed safely and consolidated the coup. According to a survey, 70 percent of Pakistanis were jubilant about the military takeover.

Then there were demands for a military takeover when a wave of Hazara genocide gripped the province of Balochistan nearly six months ago because people had lost faith in the capacity of the politicians to deliver law and order.

In countries where there is true democracy, the people are treated fairly, their basic rights are ensured, their lives are comfortable and prosperous as much as those of their leaders, no military can dare attempt to take over. The situation in Egypt has many lessons for countries where the only trace of democracy is the system of elections which throws up scoundrels only. If the people are unhappy and their lives are miserable due to increasing poverty and violence, they would welcome military rule.

Pakistani leaders can learn a lesson or two from the developing situation in Egypt. If the country’s survival is at stake and people have no recourse to undo the elections, no amount of deterrence in the form of Article 6 of the Constitution can stop a coup. This country that witnessed its first smooth civilian transition after the 2013 elections can also learn lessons, not only from Egypt but also from its own history. Its present government has to focus its energies to steer the country out of financial bankruptcy, a power crisis and an unjust taxation system. Remember: A happy and prosperous majority never looks toward the military for deliverance.




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