"Imran must remember that his popularity is more based on anti PPP and PML-N sentiment, the induction of PML-Q has triggered a series of doubts. He must move with more care, the popularity attained can backfire in retaliation proving a much bigger disaster." Raja Mujtaba

By Brig Asif Haroon Raja

In pursuance of its policy of disregarding rule of law and defying the Supreme Court (SC), the PPP leadership has decided to ignore the apex court verdict directing it to write a letter to Swiss authorities to reopen money laundering trial case pending against Zardari & Co that was held in abeyance as a consequence to 5 October NRO issued by Gen Musharraf to share power with Benazir Bhutto. The blackest of the black ordinance NRO was nullified by SC under reinstated chief justice Iftikhar thereby reopening all the corruption and criminal cases of accused mostly belonging to PPP, MQM and bureaucrats affiliated with PPP. Instead of complying with orders of SC, the Government went into review to gain time. The review petition was rejected by the SC in November 2011. However, PPP’s core committee has decided not to write a letter to Swiss authorities on the plea that the President enjoys immunity.

The PPP top leadership also decided not to submit President’s reply to 11-member Bench of SC in connection with memo scandal in which the President has been nominated as one of the respondents in response to Nawaz Sharif and others petitions seeking investigation of memogate. Immunity was again brandished as the reason not to comply with court’s directive. Another argument put forward is that the federal government has already submitted its reply and the same should be taken as President’s reply. Zardari has now categorically stated that the decision of Parliamentary Committee investigating the memogate parallel to SC’s three-member judicial commission will be accepted, asserting that the Parliament is supreme. The government’s reply is at variance with replies submitted by Gens Kayani and Pasha who as respondents and guardians of Pakistan’s defence and strategic assets maintained that memo is a reality and must be probed to determine the whole truth since it has devastating ramifications on security and independence of Pakistan. The government has taken an altogether different stance asserting that memo is a non-issue and its originator Mansoor Ijaz is of dubious character who in its view is working on an agenda to spoil military-civil relations.

The US lackey Husain Haqqani (HH), allegedly involved in a treasonous scheme to weaken Pakistan has taken a similar stand in his reply to SC despite the fact that he enjoyed best of relations with Ijaz since 2005. The US and western world are concerned about the safety and well-being of their darling who had served them deferentially from April 2008 till his dishonorable sacking in November 2011. The US in particular is highly disturbed and several of its Senators have expressed their anguish saying that he is being mistreated and harassed. HH after his comfortable stay in President’s House after his dismissal from his post of Ambassador in Washington has now made PM’s House as his safe haven. He refuses to come out of the comfortable confines and appear before Abbottabad Commission investigating 2 May incident in which he seems to have a deep connection. He has taken the plea that after having been projected as a traitor, he may be murdered by Islamic extremists or agencies. He and his wife are busy gaining the sympathies of US-Western media and officials pretending that he is innocent and in duress. One wishes the dual-faced US leadership had taken an equally tough stance on HH network as it has taken on Haqqani network and its safe haven in North Waziristan.

Gen ® Jim Jones affiliated with HH since 2005, who had taken the memo from Ijaz on 9 May 2011 and delivered it to Admiral Mike Mullen on the following day has made a sudden u-turn on his earlier stance in his affidavit which he voluntarily submitted to SC. He has asserted that he had no reason to believe that HH was the initiator of memo or that he had anything to do with it. In other words, he gave a clean chit to his friend and put the whole burden on Ijaz, thus gladdening the hearts of HH’s lawyer Asma Jahangir and PPP leaders. There is every reason to believe that Jones was tutored by vested interests to put a spanner in the case. Ijaz has rubbished his statement saying that he will prove that Jones knew that he gave the memo on behalf of HH. Sensing that his lie would get exposed, he wisely made another somersault and said he would not appear in the SC to corroborate what he stated in his affidavit.

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Asma Jahangir, American and Indian stooge and a disciple of Hindu extremist religious leader Bal Thackeray spewed venom against the SC, Army and ISI. She cunningly tried to create bad blood between officers and soldiers. Finding the wind blowing against HH, in disgust she announced that she would not fight his client’s case since she didn’t expect justice. On the prompting of her foreign patrons, she ate her words and rejoined the team of lawyers engaged by HH to give them moral support and also to lambaste the judiciary and military.

Clownish Babar Awan in his bid to become more loyal than the king and to become a hero overstepped his limits and put his legal and political career in jeopardy. The SC has taken a serious view of his offensive and mocking invectives against the superior judiciary and asked him as to why he should not be punished on charges of contempt of court and why his legal license should not be canceled. He has landed himself in thick bouillabaisse but he asked for it. He is taking such huge risks under the delusion that punishment meted out to him will be pardoned by his godfather sitting in presidency, not realizing that Zardari himself is in thick soup.

American run Human Rights Watch (HRW) in Pakistan uninvitingly poked its nose in memo affair giving its unwarranted opinion that SC was trying to subvert civilian setup by taking up the case which was not within its purview. Jones affidavit and HRW’s salvo were premeditated acts to put SC on the defensive and to fortify Asma. It amounts to intervention in Pakistan’s domestic affairs and must be condemned.

Taking into account the policy of confrontation and non-cooperation of PPP’s leading lights, the SC is in a quandary how to get its verdicts implemented. Its reputation is at stake since the people have pinned high hopes in this institution under chief justice Iftikhar. Although the SC has demonstrated exceptional restraint in the face of extreme provocation so as to avoid clash of institutions and to derail democracy, its patience is now wearing thin. In case it decides to deliver the hammer on the heads of the ones bent upon ridiculing the judiciary, which it must before the masses start taunting the judiciary, it will have to willy-nilly seek the assistance of Army to ensure implementation of its directives. Will Gen Kayani oblige is anyone’s guess.  

The government has come under pressure from all opposition parties, civil society, media and masses. Its relations with the military are still under some strains as a result of turbulence created by memo and unwarranted offensive snipes fired by the PM against Gens Kayani and Pasha and terming the Army as a state within state.  Although Gilani has sobered down and has gone out of the way to defuse the highly volatile situation, the damage has been done. The PML-N, Tehrik-e-Insaf, Jamat-e-Islami and JUI-F are demanding early elections, but the coalition government of PPP-MQM-ANP wants to complete its five-year tenure irrespective of its dismal performance.

PPP is more focused on Senate elections and has expressed its intention of holding it one month earlier than the scheduled date in March 2012 since it is sure to gain wholesome majority in the Upper House. Once it achieves majority in both the Houses, the PPP will be in a stronger position to remain in power till February 2013 or even holding it by end 2012 as hinted by the President. It will also help in scuttling opposition’s plan to impeach Zardari. The PPP assisted by MQM has now started agitating the issue of additional provinces of Hazara and Saraiki. Besides political point scoring, the main purpose is to distract the attention from memo and early elections and also to whittle power base of Nawaz in Punjab. The US has still not given up Zardari since he can be of some use in the wake of Pak Army-US standoff.

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While the PPP is not in a position to win next election because of its exceptionally poor performance, it will be quite satisfied if it succeeds in forming a government in Sindh with MQM, in Gilgit-Baltistan and secure sizeable seats in the Centre and other provinces to keep the next government under pressure. As regards the Third Force, it is yet unclear which party (ies) Imran Khan would like to collude with. Even if he manages to perform well in next elections, his party will not be able to form governments in the Centre and provinces at its own. The emerging possibilities are MQM, JI and APML under Gen Musharraf. The latter is getting overly impatient to return and hold a public meeting at Karachi on 31 January as big as that of 25 December Jalsa of Imran. His arrival is subject to Saudi Arabia, Zardari and Gen Kayani giving him security guarantees that he will not be arrested on arrival and put on trial for his several lapses he made during his nine-year rule. The MQM whom he had patronized is all set to accord him warm welcome and make his first public meeting a grand success. Musharraf is considering aping Altaf to address the Karachi gathering on phone in case he is unable to come.

The religious parties are also gearing up to take part in next elections which they foresee this year. They strongly feel that this government’s days are numbered. MMA’s revival is also being actively considered. The major planks on which they are banking upon to exploit are anti-Americanism, end to war on terror and imposition of Islamic system.

These fast developments and undercurrents are not to the liking of PML-N which had remained complacent that next 5-year tenure was theirs and none else. It had never contemplated any challenge to their established political power from a third force and that too on its home turf in Punjab. Phenomenal rise of Imran and now the possible arrival of its arch rival Musharraf have dampened its prospects of easy victory. Public meeting in Gujranwala was aimed at bolstering the spirits of party workers and leaders since Javed Hashmi’s departure has been a serious loss to its credibility. Nawaz is well-meaning and sincere to the cause and well-being of Pakistan, but he is a poor judge of time and space. He doesn’t strike when the iron is hot but hits out when the iron has gone cold. He had several golden chances to unseat the present government, but he became its protector and bailed it out when its fortunes had plunged. After having missed the bus, his belated calls for early elections are misfiring. Zardari proved to be too slippery a fish for him.

Nawaz has genuine grievance against Musharraf, but he must know that he made him the COAS at the cost of several deserving ones, the foremost being Lt Gen Ali Kuli Khan. He didn’t take any action against Musharraf when he learnt that he had secretly sent irregular forces across the Line of Control in Dras-Kargil sectors which triggered the Kargil conflict. Instead he flew to Washington to seek Bill Clinton’s support in July 1999 to end the conflict which had started becoming unfavorable for Pak Army. His amateurish way of sacking Musharraf and preventing his aircraft to land in Pakistan cost him his premiership.

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Rather than aiming his guns on Musharraf and his team of generals who masterminded Kargil operation and subsequently launched the coup in October 1999, for unknown reasons he considers the Army under Kayani equally responsible for his woes and misses no opportunity to pass degrading comments against the Army. He had an excellent chance to get closer to Kayani when he was leading the long march from Lahore to Gujranwala. If he had maintained workable relations with Kayani, the latter would certainly have contacted him instead of Aitzaz Ahsan, asking him to call off the march since Zardari had agreed to restore the judges. He remains too fearful of Army takeover despite the fact that Kayani has not exhibited any ambitious tendencies. The latest target in his firing line is Imran Khan. He suspects that the third force is the creation of the military establishment. He refuses to excuse Chaudhri brothers and his undying animosity has been cashed in by Zardari which is to the advantage of PPP in Punjab.   

Fortuitously or unwittingly, memo affair is tending to bring the SC, Army and PML-N on one page. In my view PML-N, TI and JI would be a better combination with better chances of confronting the challenge posed by PPP-PML(Q)-MQM-ANP combine. The only snag in this grouping is the distinct possibility of clash of personalities between Nawaz and Imran when it comes to election of PM. Since Nawaz has been tested twice and couldn’t deliver as expected because of negative role of feudal lords in his party, it is Imran’s turn to be tested. In terms of clean record, leadership qualities, ability to inspire and deliver, and firmness to eradicate the menaces of injustice and corruption, Imran has an edge. The way the bigwigs of established political parties and smaller parties are homing towards TI is amazing. It is a cause of embarrassment and demoralization for the leadership of mainstream parties and a matter of pride for Imran who was a non-entity till his mammoth jalsa (rally) at Lahore on 30 October. He reconfirmed his position as the main challenger to the status quo lovers at Karachi. The urban youth and women in particular have come under his spell and they are convinced that he is the only one who is morally upright and has the determination to bring a healthy change.

Imran owes his success to duo Zardari-Gilani who has left no stone unturned to darken the lives of the poor and making them detest sham democracy and opportunist politicians. He should also be grateful to indecisive Nawaz who provided him space by playing friendly opposition and missing series of opportunities coming his way to down the ruling corrupt gang. His principled stand against senseless war on terror and slavish behavior of rulers towards overbearing US leaders have ultimately gone in his favor since the US for all practical purposes has lost the war in Afghanistan and is desperately trying to woo the Taliban so that its forces could carryout an orderly withdrawal.

Pakistan’s afflictions are attributed to its parasitic rulers who have made their lives luxurious but have deprived the have-nots even of basic amenities of life. Their lackadaisical attitude, utter mismanagement and corrupt practices have ruined the economy of Pakistan. Fed up of inflation, price spiral, unemployment, gas and power load shedding, lawlessness, insecurity and lack of justice, the people are yearning to get rid of greedy and selfish rulers and to change the decayed system which protects the rich only. They are vying for an Islamic welfare state. Given the down flow of tumbling economy and inability of this regime to stem the rot, early elections has become an utmost necessity.

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