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Pakistan's political future questioned after the flood

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Others argue that international disapproval and domestic wariness of the Army after Gen. Pervez Musharraf's military rule, which ended in 2008, will keep a coup at bay. Debate over the political future looks set to continue as the daunting dimensions of recovery from the flood become apparent.

A more functional 'political dispensation' ?

Najam Sethi, editor of the respected Friday Times, recently jumped into the debate, writing that Army chief Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani may wish to initiate a "more functional and stable political dispensation." The way Kayani could go about doing that would be either via a coup, he argued, or by replacing the present administration "with a more honest, efficient, and neutral lot," creating a "national unity" government of retired bureaucrats and experts.

Altaf Hussain, a powerful political leader from Karachi, in late August called upon patriotic generals to take "martial law type action" against corrupt and feudal politicians. Mr. Hussain's Muttahida Quami Movement party is a key ally in the present ruling coalition.

"The drumbeat is a familiar one; you see the same calls from the middle classes for accountability and less corruption," says Badar Alam, editor of Pakistan's Herald magazine, who likens the atmosphere to that of 1999, when Musharraf ousted then-Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.

This time, President Asif Ali Zardari's decision to continue his diplomatic trip to Europe as the flooding began enraged ordinary Pakistanis.

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