Then and now: a change of heart


The change of hearts and minds of the PPP and the PML-N leadership vis-à-vis the army in the last three years is evident from the revelations of WikiLeaks, which suggested that President Asif Ali Zardari, who is now frontline defender of the military establishment, feared assassination by hidden hands in 2009, while the PML-N chief Nawaz Sharif, who now misses no opportunity to hit the generals hard, had called the appointment of General Ashfaq Kayani as army chief “the best thing the United States had done”.
President Asif Ali Zardari’s recent appreciation and support for the military does not match his previous thoughts which he expressed to foreign delegates, particularly Americans in 2008-9, when he used to see the same force with skepticism and also felt no hesitation in maligning the image of the country’s spy agency before them. Immediately after February 2008 general election, when Zardari faced internal rifts and pressure from the PPP over the nomination of party’s candidate for the prime minister, the president feared ISI could pit Amin Fahim against him.
“Zardari said he was afraid government forces (ISI, etc) would try and split the PPP and make Amin Fahim the prime minister,” said then US ambassador to Pakistan Ann W Patterson in a diplomatic memo sent to Washington on February 20, 2008. In the same memo Patterson said Zardari “said he was trying to convince Musharraf he would work with him. He knew the army would never see Musharraf humiliated, that Musharraf still had power within the army, and he (Zardari) recognised that his own reputation within the army was not good”.
Another diplomatic cable released by WikiLeaks and published by the Guardian newspaper said President Zardari had informed the US ambassador to Pakistan in 2009 that “he had instructed his son Bilawal to name his (Zardari’s) sister, Faryal Talpur, as president” in the eventuality of his assassination. The cables further reveal that President Zardari had also expressed such concerns before US Vice President Joe Biden, saying he was concerned that Kayani might “take me out”. Biden reported this to former British prime minister Gordon Brown during a meeting in Chile in 2009, revealed another diplomatic cable.
The cables further said that in 2008, particularly before securing the office of the president, Zardari had strange concepts about top military commanders as indicated by a cable sent by Patterson on January 28, 2008 which says: “Zardari admitted that he was scared that the closer he gets to General Kayani, the weaker Kayani will become.” On February 9, 2009, President Zardari reiterated that “he and Chief of Army Staff General Kayani get along well”, although he (Zardari) said he was very realistic about the power of the army “given our history”.
On the other hand, PML-N chief Nawaz Sharif in a meeting with then US ambassador Anne W Patterson on February 1, 2008, had said that the best thing America had done recently was the arrangement to have General Kayani named the army chief.
“This appointment is helping army morale and raising the level of public respect for the army,” the cable quoted Nawaz as saying. The same cable further said: “Nawaz and Nisar Ali Khan both repeatedly said that the PML-N was pro-American. Nawaz recounted his decision to override his chief of army staff and deploy Pakistani troops to Saudi Arabia in support of US coalition in the first Gulf War. Meanwhile, Nisar Ali Khan noted the PPP and its leaders were organising street demonstrations against Pakistan joining the US coalition. Now, Nawaz said, he was hurt that the US did not remember.”


Comments are closed.