“Do you mean there may be a revolt in the army?”
“No, violent overthrow is not in our army’s tradition. However, October 1999 saw something close. Nawaz Sharif dismissed Pervez Musharraf illegally and improperly because he could not get a notification from the Defense Secretary, nor did he meet the condition in the Army Act that there can’t be any action against an officer while he is away, even if he is a lieutenant. Still, there was a possibility of action in support of Lt Gen. Ziauddin Butt. For details, read Musharraf’s book, ‘In the line of fire.’
“What do you see then coming?”
“Suppose the protest against load-shedding crosses the breaking point. There are also widespread disturbances on other issues, violent attacks, strikes in many sectors, and damage to public and private property, even killings. Top generals do hear harrowing stories when they meet their own people. Don’t forget that most of them are from lower middle class. Their hearts and minds are with the suffering people. How long can they tolerate the worst government in our history?
“Late last year, there were newspaper reports that some generals did voice concern in the meetings of corps commanders. They wanted immediate takeover but the chief asked for patience and more time. According to well-informed col-umnist, Nazir Naji, just one or two top generals, besides the chief, want the corrupt and inept civilian setup to continue. How long can the others go along?
“Suppose some general says in a meeting of corps commanders that this government must go. Another general supports him. Yet another general speaks out. It becomes obvious that a majority is in favor of takeover. Then a general looks the chief in the eye, “Sir, are you with us or against us?” The chief looks around at grim and tense faces. He takes a paper, writes his resignation and walks out, without uttering a word.
“Other generals had already decided who would be the next chief. The pa-pers are rushed to the Prime Minister. With guns drawn around him, he signs im-mediately the appointment letter of the next chief, without even reading his name. He is asked to sign some more papers. Letter to the Swiss authorities about Zardari case, as ordered by the Supreme Court. Order to WAPDA to start construction of Kalabagh Dam immediately. Order to withdraw forces deployed along Afghan border. Imposition of martial law and appointment of the army chief as the Chief Martial Law Administrator and Chief Executive. Dissolve Parliament. His own resignation. ‘Is there anything else?’ he asks nervously. ‘Sir, the new army chief is coming over to see you.’
“The new army chief appears on television and announces some immediate measures, including:
a) full utilization of generation capacity and clearance of circular debt to end load-shedding of electricity immediately,
b) full supply of gas to domestic consumers and CNG vehicles,
c) waiving of all taxes and levies on petrol, diesel, kerosene oil and other oil products to reduce their prices drastically,
d) waiving of all taxes and levies on electricity to reduce cost.
e) orders drastic review of budget allocations and priorities
f) starts accountability across the board, based on the lists of crimes in highest places, being prepared since October 2002
g) asks all Pakistan nationals to declare all assets held abroad, and transfer all cash to their foreign currency accounts here, if not required for any lawful purpose
h) asks all Government employees having green card or dual nationality of any country to renounce it or resign from their jobs
“In the coming days, the general announces many other measures. (See re-cent article “What if martial law does come?”) There will be euphoria all over the country, people dancing in the streets and distributing sweets (as the always do on such occasions).
“A big industrialist of Faisalabad invites some like-minded businessmen to lunch at his residence to discuss “an important matter.” He also asks some top labor leaders and some big transporters to join. They huddle over lunch and work out the details of a drastic step that will be taken during the coming night. The transporters are to place a large number of busies, with their tanks full, at strategic points, where workers may board them. A false plan is leaked out to keep the real one a close secret.
“The labor leaders spread the word about a protest march towards Lahore and ask everybody to get into buses before midnight. Some are given arms and in-cendiary material to hide in luggage compartments of buses. The businessmen offer to pay bus hire charges but transporters decline politely. “It is our cause too. Let it be our humble contribution.” News hounds, especially of television, are told to hold their tongue until morning.
“Only when the buses reach the Motorway interchange and turn to the left do the laborers in buses realize that their destination is Islamabad, not Lahore. Moreover, to reassure any suspicious people on the way, two large PPP flags fly on top of every bus.” Only military intelligence finds out what is coming and alerts GHQ.
The morning after
“Before the rulers in Islamabad wake up leisurely on Sunday morning, they are already under siege. Finding thousands and thousands of protesters every-where, Islamabad police evaporates, along with their boss, Rehman Malik. Getting the word, thousands of people descend on the city from Rawalpindi and other nearby places.
“In the early morning light, the TV news channels show huge angry crowds in front of the President House and the Prime Minister House, threatening to ran-sack and burn down everything unless both rulers announce their resignations im-mediately, live through resident PTV teams. Fearing for their life, they do what the people demand. Fires are seen in the Ministers Colony, with occasional gunfire and explosions during clashes with bodyguards. So much is happening all over the city that individual news channels are unable to cover everything, forcing all of them to pool their resources.
“Fearing that some units may join the uprising, without bothering about court martial, the army chief holds emergency meetings. Orders go out to 111 Bri-gade to move according to SOP (standard operating procedure. Other units all over the country take over major installations and arrest everybody who is anybody. All entry and exit points are closed. Martial law is declared. The rest will be history.”
“So, it will be a very hot summer.”
“Very hot indeed, hottest this side of hell.”