Mirror, mirror on the wall…

Ever since WikiLeaks started releasing US diplomatic cables on Sunday, we continue to discover one thing or another every day. Some new revelations about the power equation in Pakistan are not just interesting but quite revealing. In one of the cables, it is said that President Asif Zardari was fearful for his life and had made arrangements in case he met the same fate as that of his late wife, Benazir Bhutto. “Zardari revealed that, if he was assassinated, he had instructed his son Bilawal to name his sister, Faryal Talpur, as president” and he once told US Vice President Joe Biden that he feared the military “might take me out”. These may be the personal views of President Zardari and cannot be substantiated without proof if plans to assassinate him are indeed afoot but when the president of a country fears for his life, it is time to get worried. Another interesting revelation made in the cables is that during the lawyers’ movement, General Kayani hinted that he might have to “persuade President Zardari to resign if the situation sharply deteriorates….This would not be a formal coup but would leave in place the PPP government led by PM Gilani, thus avoiding elections that likely would bring Nawaz Sharif to power.”It is an open secret that Pakistan’s military establishment wields great power even when a civilian government is in place.Jasmine Zerinini, the head of France’s interagency Afghanistan-Pakistan cell, was of the view that though General Kayani has “learned the lesson of Musharraf” and was not interested in a direct military coup, he was manipulating the government and parliament. Ms Zerinini alleged that General Kayani stirred up the “controversy regarding the Kerry-Lugar bill that ties continued US aid to increased civilian control of the military”. As per the cable, “Zerinini said that bilateral measures alone to strengthen civilian government were unlikely to be effective, and that more coordination was needed among donors” and the Friends of Democratic Pakistan “was designed to transform Pakistan’s political elite and give them more leverage over the military”. This shows that the west is now interested in strengthening our democratic dispensation. It may be due to the fact that our security establishment continues to support the Afghan Taliban and other terrorist networks despite Pakistan being a frontline ally of the US in the war on terror. Thus, the US has adopted a carrot and stick policy. In one of the cables, former US ambassador to Pakistan, Anne Patterson, wrote that “there is no chance that Pakistan will view enhanced assistance…as sufficient compensation for abandoning support to these [terrorist and extremist] groups”.

We have received more than $ 10 billion in aid from the Americans since 2001 but we follow a dual policy vis-à-vis the terror networks, hence the US wants Pakistan to ‘do more’. In another cable, Ms Patterson had praised President Zardari and called him the US’s “best ally in the government” because he is “pro-American and anti-extremist”.The Musharraf regime kept mollycoddling the terror networks and turned a blind eye to their activities in FATA and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa but the PPP government has tried its best to reverse those policies. Military operations in Swat, South Waziristan and other areas took place only after this government came into power. It is imperative that the government is allowed to complete its tenure even if it is not performing well. Right now, General Kayani is the most powerful man in the country and has positioned himself as the sole person to negotiate with as far as our foreign interlocutors are concerned but it is time that democracy is allowed to take root in the country so that the civil-military relations are put in a proper perspective – Dailytimes