Islamabad: `Not another coup, please`, was the advice given by the Pakistani media on Thursday to the powerful military, which is engaged in a major stand off with the weak civilian government over the memo scandal.
The standoff - which reached a head yesterday after the Army warned that Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani`s recent remarks could have "grievous consequences" and Gilani sacked the defence secretary - dominated the front pages of newspapers.
The media suggested both the military and the government to address their differences in an atmosphere of sanity to end the standoff bedevilling the country.
Noting that Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani`s criticism of the Army and ISI chiefs` actions as "unconstitutional and illegal" would have resulted in a coup 10 or 15 years ago, the influential Dawn newspaper said: "But with a raucous media and a fierce Supreme Court now in the mix, the space for a direct and unconstitutional intervention by the army appears to have been eroded."
"One week the country pulls back from the brink; the next week it is back on the brink none of it adds up to a prediction that can be made with any degree of certainty. We can only hope that better sense prevails all around," it said in its editorial titled `Dangerous times`.
Given Pakistan`s "painful history" of Army interventions, "there is at least something positive in the present state of affairs," the daily noted.
The Express Tribune, in its editorial titled `Not another coup, please` reflected on the Pakistani military`s long history of flouting the Constitution and acting against the civilian administration.
Noting that a former Army chief had described the Constitution as a mere piece of paper and that Pakistan had been ruled for over half of its existence by military dictators, the daily said only the people should have the power to decide the fate of a government.
"Yes, the executive organ may not be performing well on its own front, ie of delivering good governance to the electorate, but as per the Constitution, the call is not for any other institution to make, and that the only constitutional recourse to getting rid of a government that does not do well is to conduct an election. The electorate can then decide that government’s future and vote it out," the
The military`s "practice of playing to the gallery by issuing seemingly self-righteous press statements, to assert its independence from the executive, is unfortunate", the editorial noted.
The military should not "appropriate - or should one use the term usurp" to itself the role of the prime minister by claiming to act in the national interest, it added.
`Army, government on the warpath`, read the banner headline in The Nation, while the headline in Pakistan Today said: `Not on the same page`.
The News daily, a strong critic of the Pakistan People`s Party-led government, however, contended that the ruling party had adopted a "deliberate policy of defiance" and was indulging in "politics of confrontation".
"The gridlock has gone grave and major institutions are locked in what appears to be the final round, almost in a hand-to-hand combat. The government, the army, the Supreme Court, parliament and the political parties are making last-minute moves...," The News said in its editorial titled `Wrong turn`. The civilian government`s moves may be "a clever strategy - as otherwise its performance in the last four years has been so dismal that it cannot face the people and its political opponents on the basis of its track record," The News said.
"The Army is facing a critical situation; it does not want a takeover - and it should not - but it is facing insults from the highest political level. PPP politicians are abusing the Supreme Court judges in public," it noted.
The News said the time had come for Pakistan`s political parties to "play their role in defence of the Supreme Court, and democracy" so that "no military takeover will be possible".
"A clear line of action followed by the political parties could force the government to take a few steps back. We hope sanity will prevail. No trigger-happy hawks should be allowed to take control of the situation that is already spinning out of control," it concluded.
The weak civilian government is locked in a standoff with the Army over the Memogate scandal and the judiciary over its refusal to revive high-profile graft cases against leaders like President Asif Ali Zardari.