Government is heading for a clash with judiciary-military
By Brig Asif Haroon Raja
President Zardari and PM Gilani assisted by hawkish leaders of PPP seem to have lost their sense of balance as a consequence to explosive NRO and memo cases pursued by the Supreme Court (SC). They are making frenzied efforts to sabotage memo enquiry and to scuttle directive of SC to write a letter to Swiss Court to reopen money laundering case pending against Zardari. Soft spoken Gilani has become a hawk and is lashing out at the judiciary as well as the Army and ISI. In deference to the wishes of his master sitting in presidency, he has decided to confront the higher judiciary and not to implement its directives come what may. Unlike the weird and paranoiac stance of the government the judiciary and Army have behaved coolly and maturely.
When Gen Kayani and Lt Gen Pasha stated in their replies to the SC that memo was real and had serious implications on national security, it irked Gilani and prompted him to fire highly offensive snipes against the two institutions. He termed the Army as a state within state. When Gen Kayani assured him that he had no plans to harm democracy, it sobered down Gilani. Realizing that his diatribe had evoked widespread criticism, he went to the other extreme to control the damage by showering copious praises on Army, Kayani and Pasha and dispelled the rumor that he had any intention to sack them.
After a brief pause, he once again went bonkers. On 9 January, he shocked all and sundry by giving an uncalled for interview to the People’s Daily Online saying that submission of affidavits to SC by Army Chief and DG ISI were illegal and unconstitutional. He gave this interview to Chinese newspaper at a time when Kayani was on his way back from Peking after an all-important official visit. His objection was on the routing of the affidavits through Secretary Defence and Attorney General (AG) to the Registrar of SC. He wanted those to be routed through Law Ministry so that the same could be blocked. Earlier on, his objection was that their replies were different to that of government.
He went a step further to vitiate the atmosphere by sacking recently appointed Secretary Defence retired Lt Gen Naeem Lodhi on the charges of misconduct and violating rules of business. His only fault was that he had not played the game of the government by either blocking the affidavits, or sending them to Law Ministry or giving his dissenting note that he didn’t agree with the positions taken by the two respondents and agreed with the stand taken by the government that memo was unreal and a piece of paper. Legal wizards are unanimous in their view that that there was nothing wrong with the procedure adopted by Gens Kayani and Pasha. The real problem was that Gilani wanted them to hide the truth and be in line with the wrongful stance taken by the government. This became evident when the AG negated Gilani’s assertion by stating that the two generals had been made respondents by the SC which had asked them directly to submit their replies and that the procedure adopted by them to submit their rejoinders was legal.
Since Gilani leveled very serious and insulting allegation against the persons of COAS and DG ISI, the ISPR issued a rejoinder on 11 January on behalf of Gen Kayani stating that in response to directive of SC the respondents stated facts as known to them. Gilani was reminded that on 16 December he had publicly stated that replies submitted were in accordance with the rules of business. He was also reminded that the AG had been notified and he didn’t raise any objection. He was asked as to why this belated hue and cry is being made after three weeks. Besides clarifying the factual position, it was added that this kind of indecorous attitude will have serious ramifications with potentially grievous consequences for the country.
A day earlier, the five-member bench dealing with NRO case in continuation of its policy of judicial restraint instead of delivering the hammer gave six options to the delinquents, all pointing towards indictment and ruled that the next session on 16 January will be heard by a larger bench of seven judges. It seems rulers game of hide and seek is over.
The government has come under pressure from judiciary, Army, all opposition parties, civil society, media and masses. Opposition parties are demanding early elections, but the government wants to either complete its five-year tenure or become political martyr. Coalition partners are favoring reconciliation over confrontation against judiciary and military. PPP is more focused on Senate elections and has expressed its intention of holding it in February instead of 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 fix the date of elections suiting it. It will also help in scuttling opposition’s plan to impeach Zardari.
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.
Gen Musharraf 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. The religious parties are also gearing up to take part in next elections which they foresee this year. MMA’s revival is also being actively considered. Anti-Americanism, end to war on terror and imposition of Islamic system will be their major themes to attract the voters.
These fast developments and undercurrents are not to the liking of PML-N leaders who had remained complacent that next 5-year tenure was theirs and none else. They had never contemplated any challenge to their established political power from a third force and that too on their home turf in Punjab. Phenomenal rise of Imran and now the possible arrival of their arch rival Musharraf have dampened their prospects of easy victory. Nawaz’s public meeting in Gujranwala was aimed at bolstering the spirits of party workers and leaders since Javed Hashmi’s departure is a serious loss to party’s 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 missing the bus, his belated calls for early elections are misfiring. Zardari has proved to be too slippery a fish for him but it seems he will soon be netted since he has antagonized both Judiciary and Army.