Contradictions galore


While Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani on Monday tried to brush aside the impression that Chief of Army Staff (COAS) General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani and Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) Director General (DG) Lt General Ahmad Shuja Pasha were being removed, the intrinsic contradictions in what the government publicly says and what it practically believes continue to confuse the situation, giving credence to the speculations that the civil and military leaderships are not on the same page. Though the prime minister, in his interaction with the representatives of electronic media on Monday, made a calculated attempt to diffuse the situation by contradicting what he had himself been saying throughout and what position the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP)’s leaders had been taking without directly attacking the army and the ISI, the government’s response filed with the Supreme Court in the memo case also suggested that its words and actions did not match. To start with, the affidavit submitted by the Interior Ministry on behalf of the federation said that former ambassador to the United States Husain Haqqani was not asked to resign while a statement issued by a spokesman of PM’s House on November 22, had said: “The prime minister has directed to conduct a detailed investigation at an appropriate level and in the meanwhile he asked Pakistan Ambassador to the USA Husain Haqqani to submit his resignation so that the investigation can be carried out properly.” On Monday, the prime minister said Haqqani was not asked to resign as the ambassador had already tendered his resignation. He also admitted that it was he who had convinced General Kayani and General Pasha that their tenures should be extended and that they were pro-democracy, besides there were no differences between the civil and military leaderships. This statement of the prime minister again appears to be a bid to normalise the situation as his unusual outburst at a Christmas ceremony and then in the National Assembly last week was in absolute contrast to what he said on Monday. Though he tried to explain that his remarks were not against the army or the ISI as it was about the Defence Ministry, his reference to “a state within a state” was understandably in a larger context and it did imply that he had implicitly targeted the army and the ISI as his allusion to Osama bin Laden’s six-year presence in Abbottabad was not without purpose. Similarly, the underlined and unmistakable message in a series of statements issued from PM’s House during this period was that the government and the party (the PPP) would thwart all attempts against the democratic process. This also reflected the government’s fear that there was a threat to the democratic process. And, this must also not have been imaginary.
Most importantly, if there are no differences, why does the government not budge from its position on the memo issue and continue to take a stance opposite to that of General Kayani and General Pasha, who, in their affidavits, have unambiguously said that the memo did exist and someone, somewhere did it and it needed to be investigated? The government, however, termed it ‘a pack of lies’ while responding to General Kayani and General Pasha’s replies submitted to the Supreme Court.
But the prime minister termed as “absurd” the impression and rumours that the government had any intention to remove General Kayani and General Pasha. “I am happy with him (General Kayani),” Gilani said, “How can we run a government if there is any tension?”
Genral Kayani’s conspicuous absence at two separate receptions hosted by President Asif Ali Zardari and Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani for the Chinese State Councilor Dai Bingguo last week clearly suggested that relations between the executive and the army were strained. The government’s actions and words will, however, speak for its intentions. President Zardari’s address at the fourth death anniversary of Benazir Bhutto today would be significant in this perspective.