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21 - 27 Jan , 2012
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THE ORCHARD ON FIRE
 
VIEWPOINT
Can The Government Survive This Crisis?
by TARIQ BUTT

A flurry of feverish activities on political, military and judicial fronts triggered by the government's follies, its non-implementation of Supreme Court judgments and the memogate scandal indicate that the days of the regime are numbered and it can survive only if a miracle happens. Its prime consideration is to become a political martyr but those who want to throw it out are keen not to let this take place to preclude the possibility of evoking sympathy vote once again for the Pakistan People's Party (PPP).
However, the PPP's top priority is to hold election to half of the Senate by mid-March come what may. After gaining a comfortable majority in the Upper House of Parliament with its old dream coming true, it would not be averse to going for fresh general elections. But its detractors' effort is to stop it from securing Prime Ministerthe simple majority in the Senate and force immediate parliamentary polls. The most serious threat to Zardari-Gilani duo has come from the Pakistan Army, which, however, doesn't seem in a mood to directly intervene for various reasons. But it is a stupid thinking of the government that it will go scot free by constantly provoking the military. No person less than Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani took the charge of inciting the army when he declared that the statements filed by Chief of Army Staff General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani and Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) chief Lt-Gen Ahmed Shuja Pasha with the Supreme Court on the controversial memo were "unconstitutional and illegal".
It was impossible that Gilani would get away with by leveling such a grave charge against Kayani and Pasha. So, they responded in a harsher manner by saying that Kayani's allegiance to the state and the Constitution has always been, and would remain, a prime consideration and Gilani's accusation could have "potentially grievous consequences for Pakistan" and any expectation that the army chief will not state the facts is neither constitutional nor legal; there can be no allegation more serious than what the Prime Minister has leveled against the army and intelligence chiefs and has unfortunately charged them for violation of the Constitution.
Kayani and Pasha did not stop there. In his meeting with President Zardari, the army chief urged him to ask Gilani to clarify or retract his statement. Obviously, Kayani was displeased, and conveyed his unhappiness to the President. The army chief complained to the President about the Prime Minister's statements, and said they needed to be either clarified or withdrawn. He also held the view that such statements were divisive and made Pakistan more vulnerable. Kayani appeared to be quite tense when he attended a meeting of the Defence Committee of the Cabinet (DCC) chaired by Gilani.
Coinciding with Gilani's contentious statement was the dismissal of Defence Secretary Lt-Gen (retd) Naeem Khalid Lodhi by him on "gross misconduct charges". It was widely believed that the next step that the Prime Minister would take would be issuance of notifications through his handpicked defence secretary, relieving Kayani and Pasha from their present positions. On that day everyone in Pakistan and elsewhere expected the final head-on collision. Before that, a five-member Supreme Court bench found the Prime Minister prima facie not an honest person and not an "ameen" under the Constitution. A highly dangerous scenario emerged. However, neither Gilani further moved nor did the army. But the tension and Chief Justice of Pakistan, Mr. Justiceconfrontation shot up to an unimaginable proportion, which persists. The matter is in the hands of the apex court and a stringent action against the head of the chief executive seems to be on the cards as its patience has apparently run out due to relentless defiance of its verdicts by the government.
Finding itself in a blind alley, the government rushed to the National Assembly and its allies for succour, but that was not forthcoming as it expected. The resolution through which it wanted to laud the leadership of Zardari and Gilani, take on the judiciary and the army and pitch the parliament against these two state institution had to be watered down to take out disputed points. The PPP was forced to do this by its own allies – Pakistan Muslim League-Q (PML-Q), Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) and Awami National Party (ANP) – on which it banked, without realizing that they all will jump to the other side when they would be winked by the powers that be. They are known pro-establishment parties, which were unexpected to go against the commands.
Finally, the "pro-democracy" resolution was moulded into a toothless, meek and innocuous motion. Zardari-Gilani duo was thoroughly disappointed as it failed to secure the intended support from the parliament and their plan to pitch the state institutions against each other stood frustrated. Interestingly, the Supreme Court has always lauded the present parliament for not approving the notorious NRO and not according sanction to Pervez Musharraf's emergency rule. It has also stood for constitutional rule, continuation of democratic system and against any extra constitutional step, the points which were included in the resolution.
Gilani's fervent appeals to MPs to close their ranks did not attract them into changing their mind. "Even crows get together when they are in trouble and all the 17 judges (of the Supreme Court) gathered in the night on the basis of rumour and disinformation," he remarked asking why the MP could not do the same. He wanted the MPs to speak with one voice against the actions of the apex court and the Pakistan army. But such an expectation was a tall order. Conversely, the government had to realize that its allies on whom it is sustaining were not as dependable as it wanted them to be. In reality, they blocked its move to take on its adversaries.
While the government is yet to come out of the troubles brought by the memogate scandal, another story released by an international wire service made the Prime Minister topsy-turvy. It said Gilani phoned British High Commissioner to Islamabad Adam Thomson expressing fears that the Pakistan army might be about to stage a coup. "The call, which one official said was panicky, suggests there was — or perhaps still is — a genuine fear at the highest level of the Pakistani government that army might carry out a coup or support possible moves by the Supreme Court to topple the civilian leadership," the report, which was promptly denied by Gilani's office said. At the same time, a British newspaper said quoting a Pakistani military official that the generals would "only step in if asked by the senior most judge in Pakistan" (Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry). "There is no chance of a coup in Pakistan right now. The military is not going to allow the PPP to become political martyrs. Gilani may be considering to resign as part of a move to deflect the pressure on the President and regain the moral high ground for the government."
As the government became unprecedentedly beleaguered and harassed, PML-N President Nawaz Sharif gathered some senior politicians to deliberate upon the prevailing political situation. This was the first time over the past four years that he hosted such a grand assembly although the attendees did not have any great representation in the present National Assembly to help his move to get rid of the government through a no-confidence motion. However, his was a good move to make future alliance for the next general elections. This allayed the impression about his political isolation. However, Zardari's allies including the MQM, PML-Q and ANP are yet to change their mind about Nawaz Sharif. The no-trust motion against Gilani is the last of the three options (the other two being protest movement and en bloc resignations from assemblies) on which the PML-N chief is working to force early elections. It was positive to hear a call from this gathering that its participants are opposed to any extra constitutional step.

 
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