Pakistanis support military takeover

by Sascha Matuszak

The military takeover of Pakistan last Wednesday elicited cautious responses from Western media and governments.
But even as CNN and most other news agencies reacted with concern, many Indians and Pakistanis took the coup in stride as if nothing had happened.
The conflict between the two countries has little to do with democracy and more to do with nationalism, said Anitha Gongalore, former president of the University’s Indo-American Student Association. An escalation of violence, she said, isn’t necessarily a consequence of the coup.
“It would be the same situation with any government in Pakistan,” Gongalore added.
India and Pakistan have repeatedly clashed over control of the Kashmir region.
“Pakistan’s democracy is not the main issue,” said Mupiddi Himadeep, associate professor at the University’s Institute for Global Studies.
According to 75 percent of Pakistanis visiting Chowk, an online Pakistani news service, martial law was the only solution for Pakistan.
“Pakistanis have accepted the takeover with a sigh of relief,” Syed Imtiaz Gilani wrote in one entry. “The West’s media blitz against the coup appears incongruous here. To them, a sham democracy is more acceptable than a government that has the wholehearted welcome of the people.”
The U.S. opinion of the coup seemed to soften after Pakistani Gen. Pervaiz Musharraf began rolling his troops back from the border, widely seen as a placating gesture for the world and India.
The Clinton administration welcomed Musharraf’s commitment to withdraw some troops, although State Department spokesman James Rubin pressed for more complete withdrawal, including that from the border separating Indian and Pakistani areas of Kashmir.
Musharraf’s remarks condemning religious extremism and intolerance also pleased the Clinton administration.
But the European Union set a Nov. 15 deadline to install a civilian government, and the Commonwealth suspended Pakistan from the organization.
The United States’ initial reaction to the coup might result from the Islamic influence on the Pakistani army. Washington might also be concerned that Musharraf is an unknown quantity, said Himadeep.
“The United States has always been extremely comfortable dealing with military regimes in Pakistan,” he added.
But this military regime has a stronger Islamic influence, a more independent leader and nuclear weapons.
“There are possibilities of danger, of course,” said Vijay Agarwal, current president of the Indo-American Student Association. “But nobody is dumb enough to drop a nuclear bomb.”
The military has ruled Pakistan on four occasions in the past 52 years and many Pakistanis believe the military is as corrupt as previous civilian governments.
Musharraf said the state of the Pakistani administrative and economic affairs was part of the reason the coup was needed. But this was criticized on the Chowk site.
“The public seems to have forgotten that it was the military that laid the foundation for this destruction,” wrote another commentator, who called himself Nilesh. “For 25 years, they ruled this country. Corruption, nepotism and mismanagement were all hallmarks of their rule.”

Sascha Matuszak covers international affairs and welcomes comments at [email protected]