The alarming prospect of a coup in nuclear-armed Pakistan appears to be receding. But the country has been wounded by the military's handling of the crisis that threatened to topple Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.
For more than two weeks, the generals allowed opposition politician Imran Khan and maverick cleric Tahir-ul-Qadri to whip up unruly protests in the center of Islamabad on suspiciously flimsy pretenses. Khan alleged massive rigging in last year's elections, for which there is little to no evidence. Qadri demanded that Sharif's government be removed for incompetence and corruption and replaced by unelected technocrats. Repeated assertions that the military was not taking sides -- "Army is apolitical," read one vaguely Orwellian text message earlier this week -- were barely credible. Protest leaders would hardly have remained so intransigent had they not sensed some sympathy from the brass.