Don’t blame the PM


It’s not what he said, it’s why he did…

Critics blame Prime Minister Gilani for opening a new front unnecessarily and subject him to scathing criticism for adopting a ‘humiliating tone’ against the military establishment by referring to the conspiracies being hatched to pack up the elected government. The media hacks believe that it was part of the well thought-out strategy devised by the PPP leadership to resist an independent enquiry being conducted into Memogate.

There’s no doubt that tensions between the civilian leadership and the generals started rising over the memo that accused the army of plotting a coup after the killing of Osama bin Laden in the US Navy SEALs’ raids. The situation forced Pakistan’s Ambassador to the US Hussain Haqqani to return home and resign on the charges of drafting an unsigned memo seeking Washington’s support for preventing a possible military takeover in the country.

No matter Haqqani is known for his aversion to the Inter Services Intelligence Agency because of its covert backing of the militants operating in the restive tribal region. But the military establishment did not object to his posting as ambassador to the United States because it understood the fact that his pro-American leanings would not only strengthen ties between the two countries but also ensure uninterrupted flow of military aid to Pakistan.

The situation changed dramatically shortly after Pakistani-American businessman Mansoor Ijaz kicked up a controversy by writing about the memo in The Financial Times on October 10, wherein he had detailed his role in President Zardari’s purported effort to reach out to the US administration to prevent the army from dismantling the democratic process. Even though the Army Chief and the DG ISI have lent credence to the memo’s veracity, the more details that emerge about the scandal, the more it exposes a deep-rooted malaise.

It was against this backdrop that Haqqani was recalled and asked to resign. Not just that, he was forbidden to leave the country without having been heard. And if this action was taken only on the basis of Mansoor Ijaz’s write-up then one would keep wondering why another report by the same unsavoury character about Lt Gen Ahmad Shuja Pasha’s alleged trip to Arab countries for soliciting their support for Zardari’s ouster went unnoticed? And why Messrs Nawaz Sharif and Imran Khan are keeping mum on this issue?

The government’s anxiety over Memogate was highlighted by the PM’s hard-hitting speech in the National Assembly. The otherwise mild-mannered Gilani, who has been advising the opposition hawks against driving a wedge between the state institutions or joining the move launched by some quarters to deliberately run down the armed forces particularly the army, trained his guns at those conspiring to destabilise the system. Asserting his authority as the chief executive, he sounded a warning: There can’t be state within the state. This was a clear reference to army and ISI’s interference in government affairs.

The PM was well within his right to know about those responsible for allowing Osama bin Laden to live in Pakistan for the last six years, especially when the Abbottabad Commission set up by the government to probe the US Navy SEALs raids suddenly shifted its focus to enquire about the details of visas issued by the Pakistan Embassy in Washington. The question certainly perturbs the security establishment as it will be required to do a lot of explaining about its being caught off guard during May 2 air strikes at the OBL’s hideout and subsequently in the event of Mohmand Agency’s Salala checkpost.

There’s no doubt that Mr Gilani indirectly targeted the Inter Services Intelligence while making a strong assertion of parliamentary sovereignty. But his political rivals described his address as a declaration of war against the army. Punjab Chief Minister Mian Shahbaz Sharif, who hardly leaves an opportunity to appease the sacred saviours, went to the extent of accusing the PM of violating oath of his office by maligning the military establishment.

Maybe Mian Shahbaz would not like to be reminded of his abrupt dash to Washington in 1999 to warn of what the then Muslim League government feared was a brewing military coup. Bruce Riedel, a former CIA and White House official who chaired President Barack Obama’s 2009 review of US policy on the region, recalled in his recent interview with Reuters: “It was an entire day spent at the Willard Hotel listening to Shahbaz talk about their fears that a military coup was coming and asking for American help to prevent it,”

Now that General Kayani has ruled out the possibility of a military takeover, those expecting a showdown between the army and the elected government must have been hugely disappointed. It is time the military apologists stopped fanning the so-called memo issue.

The writer is Executive Editor, Pakistan Today


  1. Can you issue a sworn affidavit that it was OBL who was caught, killed and disposed off at sea that night and that OBL had been living in Pakistan for 6 years. You cant do that can you. Irrespective of how much you churn water in the bucket, you will not get butter. Lets move on and support the SC to get to the bottom of this matter and punish those responsible. PMs shot across GHQ bow was just a frantic Mayday call to incite a take over so that this gang of rascals can escape. No Sir, not this time, they will pay for their deeds, Inshallah.

    • I think Humanyun Gohar needs to read Sarmad Bashir article.
      Yours & Humanyun gohars's ' Tabiat saaf ho jaye ghi'

  2. PM's concern about the efforts to 'destabilise the system' are appreciated and easy to understand. It is legitimate to hold the military brass accountable.But is our current civilian setup neat and clean enough to be entitled to this exercise? What the nation needs to know is ,both about the military and civilian setup,what are the games being played at the cost of ultimate destiny of this unlucky nation?

  3. Perhaps PML N stalwarts have forgotten their own experience with the establishment: Karachi action against MQM; Kargil imbroglio; and, 12th October 1999.

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