LONDON: Britain’s Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO) on Monday admitted that it does have “a contingency plans for British staff and the UK nationals in Pakistan in case of an emergency or a military coup”.
The FCO reacted after a tabloid in Britain claimed that amid fears of a military coup in Pakistan, Britain has put its elite Special Air Service (SAS) on a stand-by mode for an emergency evacuation of Britons from the country.
Speaking to The News, an FCO spokesperson said: “All of our overseas Posts have contingency plans in place for staff and UK nationals. We do not comment on the nature of these contingency plans.”
The spokesperson refused to answer further questions about the fears Britain has and its assessment of the Pakistan’s political instability. The Ministry of Defence also refused to answer questions and referred all queries to the FCO but the brisk reply confirms that the original report published in a paper, considered close to Britain’s armed forces, was not baseless and may have been published on the basis of a briefing from a senior military official.
The displacement of more than 10 per cent of Pakistan’s population after the worst floods in modern Pakistan’s history has prompted multiple concerns over the stability of the country, including the fear that the nuclear-armed country could be taken over again by the powerful military. The military has been seen on the frontline of delivering aid and rehabilitation to the flood-affected population while the civilian government has been exposed as inefficient, rudderless and corrupt.
Recently, some democratic politicians have openly called on the military to intervene and steer the people’s revolution in Pakistan by ousting the current democratically elected set-up. The Sunday Express newspaper reported that special forces regiment of the British Army in Afghanistan are drawing up plans to remove staff from the Islamabad embassy within four hours, if required. Britons working in the country have been put on a register and will be told to gather at an assembly point at a time of crisis. The plan, said the report, is a sign of Pakistan’s political fragility.
The civilian government is having to field off questions of an imminent military coup. Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani recently told journalists that Pakistan’s elected government would complete its tenure as there is no threat to democracy and the Army has no intention of coming to power. “The Army neither intends to come to power nor will it come to power. The judiciary is independent and pro-democratic,” he said.