Is there a soft coup at parliament’s door?

Findings of the Joint Investigation Team (JIT), constituted to probe offshore companies of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s children on the order of Supreme Court of Pakistan, has reverberated through Pakistan’s political system. The Supreme Court of Pakistan will review the report and come up with a final verdict in the Panama Papers Case.

The JIT’s findings levels serious allegations of corruption against PM Sharif and his children. Political observers believe that the report is a turning-point for Sharif’s political career. The court may disqualify him or exonerate him in the case.

According to them, the PM has two options right now. First, resign from his office and name his replacement from his own party. Second, advise dissolution of the parliament and go for the fresh elections under the 2013 voters’ list. Under the constitution, the vote must take place within 90 days after parliament is dissolved, and that isn’t enough time for the new electoral constituencies to be delineated based on this year’s census.

Otherwise, he may find his political career ending under a bitter third option – the court disqualifies him or the army deposes him from his office.

This is a crucial time for Pakistan’s democracy. Civilian and military sources say that the establishment is of the opinion the PM should have resigned after Supreme Court started hearing the case against him and two of five judges of the court had remarked that the PM is not honest with the nation.

Mainstream political parties like Pakistan Peoples’ Party, Pakistan Tehrik e Insaf and Jamaat e Islami, sensing the gravity of the situation, have also demanded Sharif’s resignation.

The civil military establishment, according to the sources, has considered several plans:

  • Pressure the prime minister for his resignation and continue with the existing parliament
  • Push the prime minister to advise dissolution of the parliament
  • Wait till he is disqualified by the court and proceed with new prime minister
  • Oust him with a people’s movement
  • Depose him through a soft coup and install a national caretaker government for an uncertain period.

The Prime Minister’s camp is engaged in hectic meetings to save the government. Most of the PM’s aides have advised him not to resign and instead to fight his case strongly. Some of his party’s stalwarts like Interior Minister Nisar Ali Khan, according to the party’s insiders, have told Sharif that the situation for him is not good and he should resign. But, Sharif is not willing to budge.

Highly informed sources from the power corridors say that the civil and military forces are working on their scheme while Sharif and his advisers are planning to foil these attempts through the masses’ support.

Political leaders who come to power through back doors seem quite happy over this tussle between the elected government and the establishment, with a belief that it might be the end of Sharif’s dynasty.

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