Posters in Pakistan's cities call for coup by army chief

ISLAMABAD • Posters begging Pa- kistan's powerful army chief to launch a coup appeared in major cities including the capital Islamabad on Tuesday night, raising eyebrows in a country that has been ruled by the military for more than half of its history.

The posters, which also appeared in Lahore, Karachi and the garrison city of Rawalpindi as well as several army-run cantonment areas, were put up by Move on Pakistan, a largely unknown political party founded in 2013.

"Talk of leaving has become old, for God's sake, come now," say the posters, referring to General Raheel Sharif's decision to step down at the end of his tenure later this year. They feature a large photograph of the mustachioed general.

"Dictatorship is much better than this corrupt government," said Mr Ali Hashmi, the chief organiser behind Move on Pakistan. "The way General Raheel Sharif has dealt with terrorism and corruption, there is no guarantee that the next man would be as effective as him."

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif is said to be preparing to name a successor to the popular general, who is not related to him and whose three-year term ends in November.

Widely credited with the improved security situation in Pakistan, the general is the frequent subject of hashtags such as #ThankYouRaheelSharif and #PakLovesGen Raheel.

The Prime Minister and his government, in contrast, have been plagued by accusations of corruption and inefficiency.

But despite his popularity, the army chief's announcement in January that he would step down at the end of his tenure won him praise for respecting democratic institutions - unlike three of his predecessors.

There was no immediate reaction to the posters from the government. The military denied it had anything to do with them.

Whoever succeeds Gen Sharif will face an array of daunting challenges, including keeping homegrown militants in check, vexed relations with India and the role that Pakistan wants to play in promoting peace in Afghanistan.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 14, 2016, with the headline 'Posters in Pakistan's cities call for coup by army chief'. Print Edition | Subscribe