By Najam Sethi
November 18, 2011
An article in a British paper last month by Mansoor Ijaz, a Pakistani-American businessman with political connections in Washington, has taken a toll of the civilian government of President Asif Zardari in Islamabad. The irony is that it was written to strengthen Mr. Zardari against encroachments by General Ashfaq Kayani.
Mr. Ijaz claims that shortly after the US Navy Seal raid to extract OBL from Abbottabad on May 2, the Zardari government felt threatened by General Kayani and sought out Mr. Ijaz to convey its insecurity to Admiral Mike Mullen, the then Chairman of US Joint Chiefs of Staff and avowed "friend" of General Kayani, to fend off a possible coup. Accordingly, with the help of a top Pakistani diplomat close to President Zardari, Mr. Ijaz drafted and dispatched a secret "memo" portraying the Pakistani military as being part of the problem rather than the solution to America's dilemma in Afghanistan. Interestingly, the "article" also paints the Pakistani military in negative light and exhorts the Obama administration to start wielding the stick instead of offering carrots to it.
One might have expected the Pakistani media to focus on several critical questions raised by the memo. First, what was the nature of the threat faced by President Zardari from his army chief that compelled his diplomatic envoy to seek American help in warding it off? Second, what was the Pakistani government's need to specifically seek out Mr Ijaz to do the needful when direct and confidential contact already exists between the two governments? Third, why is the Pakistani military such a "problem" for the strategic interests of both governments?
But these issues have largely gone begging. Instead, such is the poverty of philosophy, the Pakistani media has trained its gun sights on the Pakistani diplomat and elected government who are both charged with "conspiring against the state". This is an extraordinary statement that reverses the established order of the Pakistani constitution. The civilian government is duly elected and all organs of the state are constitutionally subservient to it. But in this formulation "one" organ of the state, the military, has been substituted for the "whole" of the state and an elected and legitimate civilian government has been made subservient to it! Instead of the military conspiring against the elected government, it is the government that is charged with conspiring against its own military.
In the event, it isn't surprising that the military has turned the tables on the civilians once again. Mr. Ijaz has been compelled to reveal all in order to prove his credibility but the irony is that he will never again be taken as a credible and confidential interlocutor by anyone. The finger is pointed at Hussain Haqqani, Pakistan's ambassador to Washington, as the diplomat in question and the military has demanded his head. But the irony is that President Zardari will only weaken himself further by cutting his most articulate and friendly link with Washington.
The military has been gunning for Hussain Haqqani for over a decade. He ran afoul of General Musharraf in 2002 for his critical newspaper columns in Urdu and English. So he decamped to the US where he wrote his seminal book on the unholy historical nexus between the Mosque and Military in Pakistan. After he was appointed Ambassador to Washington in 2008, the military embarked upon a campaign to defame him. He was accused of acting against the "national interest" by manipulating the insertion of "pro-democracy" clauses in the Kerry-Lugar-Berman legislation that committed $7.5 billion to Pakistan over five years as a "strategic ally." He was blasted for enabling CIA operatives to get visas despite the fact that authorization for over 90 per cent duly came from the Pakistan Foreign Office/ISI or the Prime Minister's secretariat. He was criticized for pledging an impartial and public investigation into how OBL came to be lodged in Abbottabad when the military was insisting there would be no more than an internal secret inquiry at best. And he was painted as an "American agent" for recommending a pragmatic and responsible Af-Pak and US-Pak foreign policy.
The writing on the wall was clear when Imran Khan thundered against Mr. Haqqani in Lahore last month and Shah Mahmood Qureshi demanded an inquiry against him for "conspiring against the state". Both are inclined to do the military's bidding.
The core questions remain. Was the military complicit or incompetent in "A'affaire OBL"? What was the nature of its disagreement with, and threat to, the Zardari government following "Operation Geronimo"? How was Mansoor Ijaz manipulated by various Pakistani protagonists? A third series of questions has risen for the umpteenth time. Is the constitution subservient to the military? Is an elected government answerable to the "state"? Should an unaccountable military or elected civilians define the "national interest"?
The fate of Asif Zardari's PPP and also that of Nawaz Sharif's PMLN, the two mainstream parties that majorly represent the Pakistani voter, hinges on answers to these questions.
Source: The Friday Times, Lahore