On Wednesday morning, the protesters have won one of their tactical demands – entry to the well-protected “red zone”, the area of Islamabad housing the parliament building, a number of government agencies and many foreign embassies. However, while giving permission to the demonstrators, the government has also taken proactive measures, entrusting the army with the maintenance of order in the area.
Thus, in the confrontation between the opposition and the authorities, a third and perhaps the most important player – the military, has clearly been marked out, said Boris Volkhonsky, expert of the Russian Institute for Strategic Studies. The fact that the position of the army will determine the outcome of the confrontation has been reiterated for a long time. The army itself has not declared its position so far. General Asim Bajwa, spokesman of the armed forces, just wrote in his twitter that the solution of the crisis required “patience, wisdom and sagacity”.
One can only guess the various possibilities of future development of events. It is possible that the “hotheads” among the demonstrators will try to build on the tactical success and occupy either the parliament or some other government building. I think, in this case, the army will show the “wisdom and sagacity”, but not “patience”, and everything will end tragically for the demonstrators, says Boris Volkhonsky:
“If the action will continue to be peaceful, a lot depends on the backstage developments and tacit agreements reached between the government and the military leadership. In the media there was much talk that the leaders of the protest movement – Imran Khan and Tahir-ul-Qadri have powerful supporters among the military leadership. It is hardly necessary to take such statements at face value, but it is clear that the raising of this theme plays into the hands of the military in the talks with the government, allowing them to wrest serious concessions. And among the main complaints of the army to the civil authorities are the ongoing trial of Pervez Musharraf, who is not being given permission to travel out of the country, as well as the government’s attempts to establish an excessive, according to many of the generals and senior officers, civilian control over the army.”
A number of other forces are trying to show their importance against the background of the trinomial configuration of the participants of the current crisis. The judiciary has again reminded of itself- last weekend, a court in Lahore admitted a case against Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and his brother Shahbaz Sharif, Chief Minister of Punjab province, for the murder of 14 supporters of Tahir-ul-Qadri in June of this year. Recall that it was the judiciary that played a crucial role in the dismissal of the government of Pervez Musharraf.
In this situation, the attitude of the authorities in the Balochistan province appears to be quite unexpected. It would seem that in a crisis situation for the central government, they could try to achieve empowerment for the province, that is, the opposition march seems to play into their hands. But on Monday, the Legislative Assembly of Balochistan strongly opposed the march in the capital, condemning it as an attempt to seize power by unconstitutional means.
The role of external forces is also not entirely clear – continues Boris Volkhonski – It would seem that the situation is evolving according to the scenario of “color revolutions” and the “Arab Spring,” which has already been proved repeatedly by the United States and its allies in Eastern Europe and in the Middle East. However, whatever the true aspirations of the foreign sponsors and masterminds of the current actions, it is too risky to bring the matter to the Syrian-Ukrainian scenario in a country with nuclear weapons. Therefore, we can assume that the decisive actions of the army to restore order (whatever side the army eventually takes) will be received in Washington calmly.
So, we are back to square one. Even if we are not talking about a military coup (and at present there are no premises for this), the stalemate situation will remain until the army clearly defines its position. And they will not even have to use force to stop the riots – it will be enough just to make a firm and unambiguous statement.
However, judging by the latest reports, military intervention may not be necessary – Premier Nawaz Sharif has agreed to a private meeting with Imran Khan. Given that Imran was able to collect a lot fewer protesters than he originally expected, and a number of his supporters in the party were opposed to civil disobedience, he is unlikely to insist on the most radical of his demands.