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31 Dec, 2011 - 06 Jan, 2012
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Story Behind Gilani's Charge
Of Conspiracy Against Govt

by TARIQ BUTT

When Prime Minister Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani sounded the bugle that conspiracies have been hatched to pack up his government, he directly and scathingly accused the military establishment of hatching plots and intrigues against the democratic dispensation. This is not something new; every Pakistan People's Party (PPP) regime has done it. The PPP always raises such bogeys to become "political martyr" especially when it fails to deliver and wants to cover up its incompetence, corruption and bad governance. Indeed, the regime has nothing substantial and concrete to show to the people even after its four-year rule. This performance is more worrisome for the PPP with the new general elections approaching fast. People are groaning under curses like power and gas outages, price hike and corruption they have never experienced before. Adding to all this is the eruption of the grave national President asif ali zardarisecurity issue of the memo scandal. The military establishment is determined to seek a thorough investigation into it while the government is adamantly opposed to it. This gross disagreement is the real bone of contention between the two sides and the tension is mounting with the passage of time.
However, there is no doubt that a docile prime minister like Gilani declared war on the establishment on the directions of his benefactor and boss, President Asif Ali Zardari. The strategy was apparently firmed up on the President's return from Dubai where he got treatment for different serious diseases. Its primary purpose is to put the security establishment on the defensive so that it backs off from its forceful demand and insistence on having the memo controversy investigated completely.
The Prime Minister raised the bogey of imposition of martial law when in reality no such possibility exists, according to all power players including even the armed forces. Circumstances do not warrant imposition of the military rule. No major political party specifically the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), is in favour of any such adventurism; it is in no mood to extend a helping hand to any unconstitutional means. Rather, it has not only wanted but made practical efforts to see that the present government completes its term. However, of late the PML-N has started calling for early parliamentary polls and these too after the Senate election so that the PPP doesn't feel that the campaign for early polls is meant to deprive it from its forthcoming majority in the upper house. In addition, Nawaz Sharif knows it very well that if martial law is imposed, he would be the biggest loser because he expects that he would win the next elections and prime minister syed yousuf raza gilanibecome prime minister, which would not be possible if military rule is clamped.
Not only Nawaz Sharif but almost all leading politicians and major political parties are opposed to another bout of martial law. Besides, the Pakistan Army does not apparently have any such plan for a variety of reasons, the principal one being peculiar, rather dangerous situation, of Pakistan in different spheres particularly its relations with the United States. Pakistan has never been so deep in internal and external problems. In such a grim milieu, raising false alarm of sending the government packing by the Pakistan army is nothing but a ruse to distract people's attention from the real issues that the government has failed to grapple with or provide relief to the people at large. And this is what Chief of Army Staff, General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, also aptly said, responding to Gilani's remarks in an equally aggressive tone, quelling rumours about the imposition of military rule: speculations of any military takeover are misleading and are being used as a bogey to divert the focus from the real issues; Pakistan Army has and will continue to support the democratic process; the army is fully cognizant of its constitutional obligations and responsibilities; the issues of national security need to be considered on merit alone; and irrespective of all other considerations, there can be no compromise on national security. Besides, the Supreme Court, which is a major player in the present arrangement especially after the reinstatement of the deposed judges including Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry in March 209, declared a day after Gilani's ominous announcement that the days when unconstitutional government prime minister syed yousuf raza gilaniused to get extensions from the Supreme Court are gone. No military takeover will be acceptable; there would be no military takeover and it would not be allowed; the current situation is favourable for democracy. In fact, the landmark 31 July, 2009 judgment of the apex court against the Nov 3, 2007 state of emergency of Pervez Musharraf, which the chief justice has often referred to, blocks the way of martial law. It bounds superior court judges not to offer any support in whatever manner to any unconstitutional functionary who acquires power otherwise than through the modes envisaged by the Constitution and that any violation of it would be deemed to be misconduct, meaning such judges would attract removal from their positions.
When everybody is unprecedentedly against another martial law, it is only the prime minister, who seems to have put blinders on his eyes to read coming of fresh military rule. In fact, the ruling Zardari-Gilani duo felt cornered as the army chief and Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) Director General Lt-Gen (retd) Ahmed Shuja Pasha filed in the Supreme Court in the memo case their own statements without routing them through the federal government, in which they took a totally different stand from that of the prime minister. Later, Gilani made efforts to get them change their stands but in vain. Not only Kayani and Pasha submitted independent statements on the court's direction but subsequently reinforced them through their affidavits, when they were asked again by the court to corroborate them. This was highly embarrassing for the government.
During the famous Gilani-Kayani meeting in the wake of filing of statements in the court, the army chief stood by his assertions while the Prime Minister struggled to prevail upon him to change them. This turned out to be the proverbial last straw that broke the camel's back. And then came Gilani's outburst about hatching plots to dispose of the government. Never since 2008 when the ruling duo clinched the driving seat, did their relations with the military establishment nosedive as chillingly as they are now. Perhaps, gravest thing like the outrageous memo happened before. Now, direct high-pitched confrontation exists between them, which are no longer confined to the close doors. It has the potential of further intensification because the real dispute is unlikely to be resolved anytime soon as the two continue to hold divergent views on the memo.
The Prime Minister and official mouthpieces describe the memo as a non-issue and want it to be consigned to the dustbin. When the matter came in the hands of the Supreme Court after nine identical petitions, including the most significant one filed by Nawaz Sharif, were filed with it, the government lost nerves, and concluded that the apex court has also been made part of the plot against it. But the question arises: will the government be able to get rid of the investigation that the Supreme Court is going to carry out in the memo controversy by openly attacking the security establishment and using other mechanizations. The answer is a big no because not only the army chief and the ISI Director General, but the whole battalion of petitioners, who independently filed their pleas with the court, want comprehensive probe into the memogate. Only the government opposes it. But why when it has no skeletons in its cupboard? The Supreme Court can't ignore the prayers of the petitioners while deciding the case.

 
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