Crises putting strain on Pakistan
by Times of India
Pakistan's army has stood solidly behind Pervez Musharraf since the general took power eight years ago, but the crisis engulfing the nation has triggered disquiet in the ranks, experts and former officers say.
No one is seriously suggesting the military ruler is in danger of a coup - the army has a long history of intervening in Pakistan politics but has never yet toppled one of its own.
Nevertheless, analysts point to two crunch issues. One is the political turmoil caused by Musharraf's state of emergency. The other is an Islamic insurgency spilling out of the northwest bringing suicide bombings into Pakistan's heartland. The question is whether, and where, a tipping point might come.
"It's a very prickly situation at the moment," said retired general Talat Masood, now a military analyst. "The rank and file reacts as much as anybody else in this country. Nobody wants to be in this crisis," agreed Ikram Sehgal, a former major and editor of 'Defence Journal', a monthly magazine on the armed forces.
"It's a very disciplined force and there have been no cracks visible up to now, even though there's disquiet and apprehension at the turn of events," he said. Musharraf, a former commando who combines the roles of president and army chief of staff, is utterly confident.
"The army is fully and completely behind me," he has declared. "I command from the front. I do not command from the riding stables." Rumours swept Islamabad two days after the emergency began that he had been put under house arrest by his army deputy. It was quickly laughed off, but the speculation said something about the atmosphere gripping the country.