ISLAMABAD — Posters calling on Pakistan’s powerful army chief to impose martial law are mysteriously popping up across the country, raising eyebrows in the notoriously coup-prone and nuclear-armed nation.
"Talking about leaving is outdated, for God's sake just come [take over] now!" declared the posters reported to be appearing in major cities including Lahore, Islamabad, Rawalpindi, Sargodha, Faisalabad, Quetta and Karachi.
The banners were first seen on on Monday. They feature the mustachioed face of popular Gen. Raheel Sharif, who is set to step down in November after three years as army chief.
According to the posters, the campaign is sponsored by Move On Pakistan, a political party.
Move On caught the media's attention in February when a similar but smaller campaign urged Sharif stay put after the army chief announced that he would not try to extend his tenure.
The posters emerged within a day of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif returning from a controversial 48-day visit to London, where he underwent heart surgery. He drew criticism after his family was mentioned in the so-called Panama Papers leak, which detailed a shadowy network of banks and law firms that help many of the world’s most powerful hide money in offshore accounts.
The prime minister's office did not respond to the posters.
Pakistan's military spokesperson Lt. Gen. Asim Bajwadenied the armed forces were behind the campaign.
Riddled with corruption and nepotism, Pakistan’s fragile democracy has always struggled with a strong military.
The military has directly ruled the country for three out of six decades since it gained independence from Britain. Prime minister Sharif was himself ousted in a coup in 1999 led by then army chief Gen. Pervez Musharraf, who ruled Pakistan till 2008.
Journalists across the country also received mysterious text messages urging a military takeover during the holy month of Ramadan, which ended July 6.