As Pakistan Chief Looks Ahead, Army Holds the Cards
Speculation has been rife in political circles recently that Pakistan’s president, Gen. Pervez Musharraf, may not survive his wrangle with the chief justice and hold on to power, but a great silence emanates from the one place that may count the most: the barracks and the mess halls of the armed forces, the other great part of Pakistan’s ruling equation....
Historians and columnists have been outlining the precedents, recalling how Pakistan’s three previous military rulers exited from power. None of the departures came in happy circumstances, and none bode well for General Musharraf, who took power in a bloodless coup in 1999.
The longest ruling general, Mohammad Zia ul-Haq, who seized power in 1977, died in 1988 in a plane crash, the cause of which still remains a mystery.
The strongest possibility is that the plane was brought down using a bomb. But according to one theory, the plane crashed after the crew was disabled by knockout gas hidden inside crates of mangoes — a gift that was put on board the presidential plane at the last minute. This being the mango season, the old story has gained a lot of currency lately. “He either goes the mango-crate way or he goes gracefully,” one military officer said.
Pakistan’s other two military dictators in its turbulent 60 years since independence were forced out by fellow officers. Gen. Mohammad Ayub Khan, who ruled from 1958 to 1969, was isolated, unpopular and sick by the end, and after months of popular unrest was replaced by another military man, Gen. Yahya Khan.
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