Conflict & Justice

Five coup scenarios for post-Osama Pakistan

Activists of Jamaat-e-Islami Pakistan hold placards during a rally in Islamabad on May 8, 2011 against the US raid that killed Osama bin Laden. Analysts say the fallout from the raid could help the civilian government wrest control from the military or drive the army to grab even more control. (FAROOQ NAEEM - AFP/Getty Images).

Indian policy wonk C. Raja Mohan of the Center for Policy Research lays out some intriguing post-Osama scenarios in an Indian Express editorial titled "Pakistan's next coup."  Here are the five possible outcomes that he predicts:

1. “Zardari’s coup”: With the Pakistani army and the Inter-services Intelligence Directorate (ISI) left with egg on their face, Pakistan's heretofore powerless democratically elected President Asif Ali Zardari has "a fleeting moment" to put army chief General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani and ISI head Ahmad Shuja Pasha "in their place."  

Mohan notes that "the last three times Zardari sought to assert his authority — reaching out to India, bringing the ISI under elected rulers, and mobilising political support in the US Congress for promoting civilian primacy — Kayani slapped him down."  And even though reports say that the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) is gunning for Pasha's forced resignation, it's not clear whether they're ready to dump Kayani, or if China would step up to back him.

2. “Kayani’s coup”: Blaming American adventurism, "Kayani could dismiss the civilian government and take direct charge of the nation. He could bet that Washington still needs the Pakistan army in the Afghan endgame and that will give him sufficient space to ride through the current crisis," Mohan says.

Kayani's decision send Pasha off to a friendly capital (Riyadh or Beijing, we don’t know) suggests Kayani is mobilising much needed external support, he says, though others suggest Pasha may be headed for a dressing down from the CIA in neutral territory.

3. “Beijing’s coup”: "China’s defence of Kayani last week when the rest of the world was pointing fingers at him was indeed extraordinary," Mohan says, adding that "It points to Beijing’s growing partnership with the Pakistan army in securing China’s expanding interests in Afghanistan and the Persian Gulf."

This is really just another way of saying Kayani's coup, as Beijing would back him through a fresh package of financial and military assistance and thus present itself as a strategic alternative to the traditional US primacy in the Persian Gulf and Southwest Asia.

4. “Obama’s coup”: Mohan says US President Barack Obama has "already won big" by proving he wouldn't let Pakistan deal off the bottom of the deck forever. But for him to double-down and force Kayani to come clean on just who was helping Osama and to turn over the other terrorists hunkered down in mansions near military installations, he'd have to go against the grain in Washington. "There are many in Washington who want Obama to treat Kayani with kid gloves even after Abbottabad," Mohan argues. "They point to the dangers of pushing Rawalpindi into the hands of jihadis or China. They highlight the dangers of a nuclear-armed failed state in Pakistan."

5. “Anarchist coup”: Uh oh.  "Pakistan’s jihadi groups may not be well-organised or coherent enough to capture power," says Mohan. "But they have the capacity to stage spectacular terror acts, including major political assassinations that could produce new facts on the ground."

Looks like a long, interesting summer ahead...