Blowing hot and cold

Blowing hot and cold

President Zardari met army chief General KayaniPresident Zardari met army chief General Kayani on Saturday and all sorts of rumours started pouring in.

There were reports that the army chief was furious over Prime Minister Gilani’s remarks pertaining to General Kayani and DG ISI over the memo petition in the Supreme Court.According to Reuters, “The army chief complained to the president about the prime minister’s statements, and said they needed to be either clarified or withdrawn.”

Presidential spokesman Farhatullah Babar denied the contents of the meeting that were being circulated in the media. Whether true or not, there is no denying the military high command’s ire at the prime minister’s remarks, including the Corps Commanders’ reported umbrage. While all this was going on, the prime minister adopted a reconciliatory tone at the Defence Committee of the Cabinet (DCC) meeting.

“It has been our consistent endeavour to safeguard Pakistan’s supreme national interests in a most effective and inclusive manner…Together in complete harmony with each other and other vital institutions we can change the country’s destiny and accord it its rightful place in the comity of nations,” said Prime Minister Gilani. There can be no disagreement with the premier that all institutions of the state should work in harmony because a clash is not in anyone’s interest. It is equally important for all institutions to understand that parliament is supreme and civilian supremacy, an anathema to some institutions, is actually something this country should be aiming at.

On the one hand the prime minister adopted a soft tone and tried to get the military command on board by praising the army while on the other he gave a statement on Sunday that many would interpret as another hard-hitting one as far as the military is concerned. “I will not answer to a person. I am answerable to parliament,” said Mr Gilani. He seemed adamant that his statement would not be retracted.Blowing hot and cold is something the prime minister has been doing in recent weeks without realising that it only leads to further confusion. That parliament is supreme as per our constitution and the question of civil-military imbalance needs to be addressed is something no democracy-loving citizen would deny.

At the same time, it is no secret that the military is the most powerful institution in the country. This government has tried its best to appease the military in many ways, especially post-Abbottabad raid when even the opposition was railing against the military. Democracy returned to Pakistan after nine years of military rule in 2008. Ever since that day, moves have been afoot to destabilise the democratically elected government by hook or by crook. From spreading negative information in the media about the government to judicial activism, no stone remained unturned in ousting this government.

So far, the government is sitting tight. Taking on two of the most powerful institutions — the army and the judiciary — takes some guts, which is what the government is trying to do these days. It is good to see the government taking parliament on board in favour of democracy through a resolution to this effect. What remains to be seen is whether this pledge will translate into anything meaningful given that the knives are out against the government, be it in the opposition circles or within the state institutions. Whatever the outcome, the most affected would be the people of Pakistan.