They wanted foreign policy. Zardari gave it to them. They wanted extensions. Zardari gave them extensions. They wanted Haqqani’s scalp. Zardari presented that in a platter. What more do the generals want?
This month’s circus has three major players – the PPP, the GHQ and the Supreme Court (SC). Whenever I don’t fully understand what the players are doing I fall back to my favourite ‘Game Theory’. This is what the theory says: the PPP, the GHQ and the SC are all ‘interested parties’ facing a ‘competitive situation’ whereby each and every one of them determines its own ‘optimal course of action’. Each and every one of the three entities acts to maximise its own individual gains by anticipating the responses to its actions by one or other players in the game.
What does the PPP want? Zardari is up against the judges as well as the generals. In that sense, the circus has a legal side and a political side. The PPP is a status quo player. The PPP is fighting for the right to continue doing what they have been doing for the past forty-six months. It is not clear whether the generals are serious in putting an end to what the PPP is – or has been – doing but the judges are clearly becoming an impediment. There is some evidence now – that didn’t exist before – that the generals may back up what the judges finally decide to do.
What can the PPP do? The PPP can begin implementing the NRO judgment. Or, dismiss the COAS. Or, wait and see if the SC can walk into unchartered waters of disqualifying an elected PM.
What can the SC do? Act now meaning disqualification of the PM and/or the president. Or, delay by appointing a commission etc. To be sure, the SC’s support in the ‘court of public opinion’ is at or close to its peak and definitely higher than any other state institution (because of infighting between other institutions). In case of a ‘delay’ by the SC, some of that support is bound to evaporate into thin air.
What can the generals do? They can let the executive-judiciary confrontation play out. Or, they can directly intervene. There’s evidence that the generals are opting not to intervene – let the executive-judiciary confrontation play out – unless the PPP exercises its option of dismissal.
The PPP will prefer a takeover by the generals as oppose to being dismissed by the SC (claiming “martyrdom” will be easier if the generals takeover). The generals will prefer a disqualification by the SC as oppose to a direct intervention.
What do the generals want? To be certain, the Pak Army has a serious interest in Pakistan’s economy and that is for two reasons: First; if the size of the economic pie does not grow then the size of the defence budget cannot grow either. Second; an economic meltdown will damage – or whatever is left of it – the domestic social fabric and that in return will open up vulnerabilities on the external front. The generals know full well that the economy ensures internal security and economic growth is the prerequisite to jacking up the defence budget.
And therein lies the answer to the riddle. Zardari is prepared to give whatever the generals demand but perhaps what they now demand is beyond Zardari to deliver – economic management.
Next question: Do the generals want to conquer? They tell me that the highest form of generalship is to conquer by strategy – without resorting to war.