Merely sound and fury


The times we are enduring

If ever a doubt lingered with regard to us having regressed beyond redemption, it should go away with the ongoing Mansoor Ijaz saga and the manner in which the government has handled it.

Any government professing innocence in the face of serious allegations about its culpability in an effort to weaken the security institutions of the country by conspiring with a foreign power would have gone the distance to clear itself. But, in reality, it has done just about everything to thwart the accuser’s plans of coming to Pakistan to appear before the investigating commission including a threat to arrest him for treason and putting his name on the ECL. No less a person than the prime minister has used sarcastic language to ridicule Mansoor’s intentions stating that he is no viceroy and billions cannot be spent on providing him the security he desires. What is it that the government and its numerous functionaries are so mortally afraid of that they are using every trick to stop Mansoor Ijaz from coming to Pakistan?

Let’s go chronologically to re-enact a real-life prognosis. Mansoor Ijaz wrote in a US paper implicating Hussain Haqqani. He stated that a contentious memo was dictated by Haqqani that, subsequently, was delivered to Mike Mullen for onward transmittal to the US leadership. The commitments contained in the alleged memo would have paved the way for unbridled cooperation with the US regarding operations against the militants including the use of Pakistani soil by the US troops. This would have come in exchange for support to the government to contain the influence of the security and intelligence institutions of the country through making structural and operational changes in their manner of working as well as by installing people who would be more inclined to supporting the civilian government in its bid fulfil US objectives. Pregnant with treasonous intentions, these allegations needed to be investigated. After meeting Mansoor Ijaz in London, the DG ISI reported the findings to the military brass which were subsequently communicated to the political leadership. Thereafter, Pakistan’s ambassador to the US was summoned and made to appear before a panel comprising the president, the prime minister, the COAS and the DG ISI where his resignation was secured by the prime minister.

The government believed that the matter would rest there, but it did not. With speculation linking the memo to the May 2 US operation near Abbottabad, a petition was moved before the Supreme Court which, after the initial hearing encompassing the submission of conflicting affidavits by the government on the one hand and the COAS and the DG ISI on the other hand, constituted a judicial commission to investigate the memo further. To bury the matter, the government constituted an innocuous parliamentary committee of its own. The submission of separate affidavits by the military leadership prompted the prime minister to engage the People’s Daily for an interview when the COAS was on an official visit to China terming them “unconstitutional”. Upon the COAS’s return, the ISPR issued a terse one-liner stating there was nothing unconstitutional about the affidavits. The tension kept mounting and, at one stage, the environment was ripe with speculation of a military intervention. The sacking of the defence secretary for creating “misunderstanding” between the state institutions further aggravated the civil-military tensions. The sacked general has, since, taken the matter to the court.

The judicial commission served notices to various respondents including Mansoor Ijaz to appear before it who agreed to do so demanding provision of adequate security. The commission instructed that the same should be ensured using civil and military resources. It was as if all hell had broken loose and the entire government sprang into action trying to block his entry into Pakistan. There were demands by senior functionaries of the PPP to institute a treason case against him and place his name on the ECL. Obviously, he didn’t come. Meanwhile, Hussain Haqqani has remained confined to the PM House and his wife, after fleeing Pakistan, has reportedly given a statement that she had to do so because of fear of arrest by the ISI.

The judicial commission has now asked Mansoor Ijaz to appear before it on February 9. In case he does not, as the government and its errant functionaries would desire, there is a prospect that the case is quashed. The head of the commission has also showed apparent disinclination to travel abroad for recording his statement or using the facility of teleconferencing for the purpose. One thought that the quest for truth which was the principal purpose for constituting this commission would demand a more pro-active approach that would transcend trivial formalities and petty ego-trips.

It is becoming increasingly clear that the judicial independence is all about a lot of sound and fury signifying nothing. The NRO review petition was kept pending for almost two years. The Asghar Khan petition has been dug out after two decades. The countless contempt of court instances have either been overlooked, or allowed to die out. Political leaders, government officials and a host of errant personnel – all have escaped punishment for multiple serious transgressions. For this continuing surge in trampling the constitutional parameters and a blatant disregard for the observance of law, the judiciary would be held equally if not more accountable than the rest.

The pursuit of truth is the sole motive why the judicial commission has been constituted and, irrespective of the consequences, that’s what it should do transparently, relentlessly and comprehensively to discover the perpetrators, if any, and the motives thereof. On the face of it, and without the judicial probe having been completed, the government has started looking like the arch-criminal leaving little prospect for it to wash away the blood stains.

The writer is a political analyst and a member of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf. He can be reached at [email protected]