Rumors of an Internal Coup Cause Frenzy in Pakistan

Posted on September 25, 2006
Filed Under >Adil Najam, Politics
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Adil Najam

Further to our earlier post, an interesting – and rather bizarre – twist to the frenzy around Gen. Musharraf’s current US tour took place this Sunday when rumours of a potential coup in Pakistan began doing the round all over Pakistan.

According to the Daily Times (25 September, 2006):

President Gen Pervez Musharraf’s medical check up in a Texas hospital and a countrywide power breakdown combined to spark rumours of a military coup in the country on Sunday. Gen Musharraf underwent routine testing during an unannounced visit to the rural east Texas town of Paris, and was “found to be in excellent health” according to a statement from Paris Regional Medical Centre. Information Minister Muhammad Ali Durrani said Gen Musharraf visited a friend who is a cardiologist at the hospital and he suggested the president be examined. “He is as fit as a horse” Mr Durrani said.

However, in Pakistan, various rumours went around stating that the president had been poisoned, had had major heart surgery, or had been “detained” by the US for revealing the Bush administration’s threat to bomb Pakistan after the 9/11 attacks. A nationwide power breakdown in the afternoon then led to further confusion and anxiety, with speculation rampant that someone called General Saleem had staged a military coup and the assemblies had been dissolved. The breakdown also meant television stations went off air and the Internet was inaccessible. Previous coups in Pakistan have been accompanied by an information clampdown for several hours. Daily Times and other media offices were inundated with phone calls from across the country from people wanting to know if the coup rumours were true.

General Musharraf’s reaction to all of this: “Pakistan is not a banana republic. Everything is normal. There is no coup.” A similar report in Dawn (25 September, 2006):

Newspaper offices were deluged with calls by concerned people who said they had heard on the grapevine that there had been a putsch in Islamabad following reports that the president had suffered a heart attack during his visit to the United States. Callers from Quetta said jubilant crowds poured on to the streets and fired into the air to celebrate the government’s removal.

Paying a visit to a local Sunday bazaar, a visibly chagrined Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz told a reporter that his question about a change of government did not warrant an answer. “Why do you ask about something that hasn’t occurred at all” said the prime minister in an effort to lay the rumour at rest. The prime minister said that he was actually concerned about the countrywide power breakdown.

… Minister of State for Information Tariq Azeem told a hurriedly-called press conference that a technical fault had sent Wapda’s electricity network reeling. While there were few takers for the government’s explanation about the reason of the power outage, some believed that an act of sabotage was responsible for the electricity breakdown throughout the country. Unconvinced cynics also feared that an unreported deterioration in President Musharraf’s health allowed a rumour about the change of government to fast gain ground. Instead of issuing a direct denial, the government released the latest footage of the president’s visit to the United States, showing Gen Musharraf in fine fettle.

Government officials said people heaved a sigh of relief when they saw that the president was not unwell. But opposition leaders said that they were certain that reports of the change of government were greeted not by alarm but a sense of relief by the masses.

the rumor, of course, was false and the product of overly fertile minds. However, the way the rumour spread says much about our national penchant for rumours, and also about the state of ‘edge’ on which we are forever perched, and the precariousness of Pakistan politics today.

14 responses to “Rumors of an Internal Coup Cause Frenzy in Pakistan”

  1. Watan Aziz says:

    Naturally, this did not happen.

    I know rumors are titillating and fun, but rumors and idle gossip never serves any good nor does any good comes out of it.

  2. […] Well that could change pretty soon – there are rumors of a coup sharraf/ Don’t get your hopes too high though. The players in the political arena of our western neighbor are as good at the “more of the same” game as our homegrown netas. The information minister Muhammad Ali Durrani was quick to deny the rumors saying Mush is “fit as a horse” though .. […]

  3. A.F.Khan says:

    What is that strage fascination that some of our Indian friends have with Pakistan and Pakistani politics? Why this obsession? Get over it, please. We went our way, you go yours. I am sure there is plenty of interesting things happening in your own politics to keep you busy. Dont get me wrong please. I want you to be our friend, but this obsession is not healthy. And what is the point in trying to pick silly fights? I am sorry, we are not interested. Have a good day.

  4. Ramesh Balakrishnan says:

    I have been closely watching every step that Musharaf has been taking over the past 10 days.. I’m quite curious and may be someone has some answers:

    1. Why is Musharraf on a 18 day (almost 3 week) foreign trip? How many Heads of State stay away from running a country for so long? I understand that more than 90 people from Pakistan Govt are part of this entourage.

    2. Why is he going after Armitage (whom he claims to be a close friend) and embarrasing the CIA (Pakistan got blood money running into the millions for the 368 AQ people who were turned over to the US) by revealing what many deem to be state secrets? Was all of this just to promote his book?

    3. Why is he going after India by claiming that India was ready to attack Pakistan during the Kargil war and that India’s Scientists used the same AQ Khan centrifuge design for their nuke program?

    According to this article, Indian establishment is not too happy with these claims and have rejected all of it as a ‘pack of lies’,20867  ,20482985-2703,00.html

    4. Why does he willingly reveal the most ’embarassing’ decisions that Pakistan had to make in the wake of the 9/11 attacks? Does he not realize the devastating impact these revelations could have on the psyche of everyday Pakistanis who are already riled up by America’s actions in the middle east and have voiced repeated doubts about America’s real intentions towards Pakistan? Who pour fuel over fire?

    The answers to these questions are not easy or straight forward. But, nevertheless, they need to be asked.

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