Tackling crises

PM Yousuf Raza GilaniPrime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani and COAS Ashfaq Parvez Kayani met on the sidelines of the latter’s address to the officers attending the National Defence University in Islamabad on Tuesday; their first meeting since the two sent differing replies to the Supreme Court in the memogate case.

It is a small mercy that the two met at all, but the meeting does not mean that the suspicions between the two are laid to rest, which is not a healthy situation. The meeting is said, by official sources, to have covered the war on terror and defence preparedness, subjects which must not be limited to sidelines of events, or other such occasions for casual conversation, but must form the substance of full-fledged meetings between the two at the offices of one.

The Prime Minister and the COAS should be interacting more often, on a one-to-one basis, or with the other service chiefs and the Joint Chiefs Chairman attending, as at the NDU on Tuesday, even in periods of calm, because of the threat posed by the much larger and expansionist neighbour Pakistan has to the east, to which has been added the increasing insecurity from the western border. That has become a more immediate threat, because it has resulted in the killing of 24 Pakistani soldiers by Nato gunship helicopters in the Salalah check post incident. On top of that, the memogate affair has revealed differences between the civilian government and the military.

Whereas the government believes that the Supreme Court did not have jurisdiction in the case, the military has indicated that it felt an investigation was necessary. That this subject came up between the two men was a good thing, certainly better late than never. Not only have the comments already been filed, but the case had already been decided by the Supreme Court, when this discussion took place. It should have been held before the filing of the comments.

However, that should be thought of as just water under the bridge, now that a judicial commission has been constituted to investigate the matter. In view of the dangers afflicting the country, it is essential that the government present a united face before the commission of Chief Justices, which the Supreme Court has set up to investigate the matter, and which it has invested with wide-ranging powers.

For such a meeting of minds, it is necessary that the PM and the COAS hold a discussion on the subject, with the approach that at this juncture, the two should be communicating much more frequently than at present, and should be doing so on their own initiative, not waiting for fortuitous opportunities like the NDU lecture. The government must display willingness to submit to the orders of the court, and accept the Supreme Court’s commission as the proper forum to investigate the matter.