Pakistani President Zardari’s brazen miscalculations have once again plunged the country into political turmoil. The president, hoping to stack one of his own on to the Pakistani Supreme Court, circumvented the chief justice, Iftikhar Chaudhry, and attempted to promote Khawaja Sharif, Chief Justice of the Lahore High Court, to the highest judicial body in the land. While the president’s office contends that it had consulted the chief justice–a requirement of the Pakistani Constitution–Chaudhry himself denies it. The irate judge and the president are once again at each others’ throats, and Pakistan is in a political and constitutional crisis.

It may well be that the president did in fact consult the chief justice, but there’s little evidence of that. The bigger story here is the political ineptitude of Asif Ali Zardari and his motley crew of (ill)advisors. As the bloggers at Cafe Pyala remarked, you’d expect Zardari to be a little more circumspect, considering his terrible polling numbers and already precarious standing vis-a-vis the military and the other political parties.

Pakistanis, watching yet another democratically-elected government collapse, are left wondering: why can’t politicians get it right? More and more now recall the good ol’ Musharraf years, and many in the media and in countless “drawing rooms” hope for a military coup to oust Zardari.

Ahmad Quraishi, a Pakistani journalist, is among those clamouring for the benevolent rule of the Pakistani Army. He rightly argues that Pakistani’s political leadership is inept, stupid, moronic, (insert epithet here.) There’s no question that a class of feudal lords and wealthy businessmen has run–to the ground–the country since Independence. The military, on the other hand, represents competence, rationality, the middle class. Quraishi offers an anecdote: The National Defence University (NDU) in Islamabad has offered a national security workshop every year since 2002, inviting military leaders, journalists, businessmen, and politicians to learn about government and participate in simulated crises (i.e Model UN for grown-ups.) Then Quraishi presents this apocryphal conclusion: “NDU officials, both civilian and military, have one observation that has been constant during the past eight years of national security workshops: Military officers, businessmen, social activists and journalists often show the best performance. Politicians come last. Most can’t even draft a single-page policy brief, or work with a PowerPoint presentation.” Haha, the stupid pols can’t even draft a policy brief. So funny. If my sarcasm isn’t apparent yet, it should now be.

It’s no laughing matter that politicians in Pakistan are ill-equipped to make policy and run organizations. Isn’t that partially because they’ve been repeatedly undermined? No elected Pakistani government has ever completed its term without military intervention. I’m not arguing that incompetence and corruption don’t explain the sad state of Pakistan’s political class, but a significant part of the blame lies with a system and a military class that refuses to let democracy run its course. Politicians in Pakistan have to be more concerned with watching their backs lest some marauding Chief of the Army Staff usurp. Naturally, that takes their attention away from governance and turns politicians into the short-term focused, rent-seeking twerps we witness today.

Quraishi also has no sense of irony or history. He argues that a new military coup would allow the professional class into politics–that they’d bring rational government and save Pakistan. “If it comes to a military-led intervention, both military officers and politicians will have to stay out of actual power. The army chief may not become a chief executive. The military might have to look into a new concept called the ‘Smart Coup’, where the military can bring capable Pakistanis to power with a firm executable plan of reform over five years, or more, fully backed by the military. There may not be time to put the plan to vote. It will have to be implemented.” When General Musharraf grabbed power in 1999, Pakistanis too foolishly believed that another military coup would save the country. He brought banker Shaukat Aziz from New York and appointed a slew of technocrats to his administration. Rumours about how he held weekly teleconferences with prominent Pakistani-Americans became common. His was a “Smart Coup” too. Alas, as the Roman Republic under Caesar and Augustus would soon realize, so too would Pakistanis realize, that power, when rested in the hands of one man, entails disaster.

The sycophantic pleas for General Ashfaq Kayani, the current chief of the Army Staff, to stage a coup resemble the ones for Musharraf in his heyday. I hear Quraishi and his lot screaming, “just one more coup, baby, one more, and we’re good”–like crackwhores pleading for one more hit of that sweet, hard dictatorship.

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