LAHORE: Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani’s wavering statements over the army chief and DG ISI’s replies to the Supreme Court is a clear hint of the end of acrimony between the ruling coalition and the powerful security establishment to the extent at least of the Memogate scandal, hence the virtual burial of the case despite the last chance to notorious Mansoor Ijaz to depose before the Judicial Commission on Feb 9.
This pacification of the ties between the two has largely been credited to the role played by certain political individuals on behalf of the government which refuses to succumb to the pressure during the days of high drama on memo case probe in front of a highly charged duo –the security establishment and pro-active ‘independent’ judiciary.The no-show of Mansoor Ijaz before the Judicial Commission on January 24 is said to have been the result of steadfastness on the part of the ruling coalition and the support of friends of democracy in Pakistan as well as the realization on the part of the security establishment that it can extract nothing more on this front any more.
The brokered backtracking of the ruling coalition as well as the security establishment over the memo issue leave behind a denigrated judiciary by its erstwhile staunch supporters and called in question the many ‘concessions’ it is alleged to have granted to the security establishment at the cost of compromising its original jurisdiction of protecting the fundamental rights under Article 186 of the constitution.
None other than Asma Jahangir, a renowned human rights activist and one of the leading lights of the lawyers’ movement for restoration of judges was on record as criticizing the Supreme Court judgment on the maintainability of the memo case petitions. Unfazed by a possible contempt of court notice, she was first to criticize the formation of the unprecedented Judicial Commission comprising Chief Justices of three High Courts besides upholding of the security establishment’s point of view in the case sans tenable evidence, putting on Exit Control List and on media trial her client, the country’s former envoy to US Husain Haqqani.
The dying down of the overly hyped memo case has sent a wave of confined euphoria through the camp of the beleaguered PPP government. At the same time the major opposition party, the PML-N, which petitioned the memo in the Supreme Court reportedly in a quest to mend strained ties with the security establishment, can be seen licking its self-inflicted political wounds. The hawks in the party, who are said to have been behind this ill-advised move aimed at appeasement of the establishment, are now feeling ditched by the same establishment. However, at the same time, they appeared quite satisfied with the kind of overwhelming response they got this time too from the institution they credited themselves to have helped restore and milking it to further their politics.
However, the announced resumption of the Asghar Khan case pertaining to distribution of taxpayers’ money among political individuals and parties by the ISI in 1990 for the creation of the Islami Jahoori Ittehad (IJI) to defeat the PPP is likely to expose the nature of the trust the PML-N has been reposing in the institution for the last three years.
The demand by the leader of the opposition in the National Assembly Ch Nisar Ali Khan that the apex court should also look into the most recent political adventures of the ISI was a pre-emptive measure on the part of the party. The party has yet to petition the court on the matter as it did in the memo case while letting pass events of far more intensity like the Abbottabad strike by US marines to trace and kill Osama bin Laden hiding in the garrison city for over five years.
The PML-N also let pass the GHQ, PNS Mehran and numerous other attacks at the hands of terrorists yet avoided to petition the matter in the court knowing fully that the security and foreign policy are in control of the establishment and the elected government had little or no say in the domain the military has been religiously guarding for decades. Knowledgeable political observers are of the view that the renewed efforts on the part of the PPP-led coalition government to enter into a working relationship with the security establishment in the wake of the memo case would grant it a fresh lease of life for the time it needed to successfully hold Senate elections due after a month now. The PPP is likely to become a majority party in the upper house of parliament if nothing unusual happens from now till March 2.
Observers see the next general elections in the month of September or October given the election diplomacy unleashed by crafty politician Maulana Fazlur Rehman and the preparedness for the same by the Election Commission of Pakistan.These observers believe that the PML-N would be the net loser as a result of the hearing of ISI funds case, which also involves a former chief of army staff, former DG ISI and a host of politicians belonging to one version of the PML or the other.
The forthright demand of the PML-N to the apex court is to encompass in the hearing of the same case the role that ISI had played during the previous Musharraf-led military regime and in the subsequent PPP period. However, the observers said, unless a petition in the regard was filed and the apex court merited it deserving of being clubbed with Asghar Khan’s petition, nothing would benefit the PML-N since the PTI would gain massively not just from the likely final verdict based on the affidavit of former DG ISI Lt Gen (retd) Asad Durrani but also from the kind of observations and remarks the superior judges made during the course of hearings that subsequently become screaming headlines of newspapers and fast-track 24/7 news channels.
The observers see the possible hullabaloo during the course of hearing of the ISI case would give a new impetus to the PTI, which is likely to be the focus of attention of all institutions in the days to come at the cost of the PML-N and the PPP. Though the PPP is likely to come out as a victim party in the case, the incumbency factor would come into play against it. Likewise the PML-N in its support bastion Punjab province to give a clear edge to the PTI, which is already stealing every show it is staging despite being castigated as old wine in the establishment’s new political bottle.
Will the PML-N be able to muddy the political situation likely to emerge as a result of the hearing in the ISI case by petitioning the court to also look into the nexus between the PTI and ISI? Appears to be highly likely, the observers said, as the only possible way out for it an embarrassing political situation and help the issue of civil-military imbalance become an election issue as it has been vying prior to entering into a brief marriage of convenience with the establishment on the memo case. – Dailytimes