The Countdown?


Having been caught red-handed in the Memogate case both Zardari and Gilani are trying desperately to become martyrs of democracy. By playing politics with national security to save his skin, Gilani is not only putting the system and democracy at risk but Pakistan as well.
While his incompetence in the exercise of his authority as prime minister is well-documented, his attempt to try to achieve political goals has threatened to demolish the entire system. Despite the deliberate provocation the army, let the Supreme Court implement the rule of law.
The Supreme Court has done well by heading off the possibility of martial law or, even worse, a mutiny. 
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THE RULE OF LAW MUST TAKE ITS COURSE :: THERE’S NO OTHER OPTION

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by Ikram Sehgal

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Finally, the Supreme Court simply ran out of patience with the government’s successful filibustering for over two years to prevent the implementation of the NRO judgement taking effect. The indictment of the government by a five-member bench of the Supreme Court on Tuesday initiated the process of sending the corrupt Gilani regime packing. Even then, the Supreme Court bench must be commended for exercising judicial restraint in declaring the Zardari-Gilani duo unfit for office. The bench gave the government six days to ponder over six options before a final hearing tomorrow Jan 16, by a full bench.

The Musharraf-enacted NRO that gave Asif Ali Zardari immunity as president and he and cronies to run riot in Pakistan with impunity has come a full circle more than two years after the Supreme Court judgment declaring it null and void. “Dr” Babar Awan (of “Monticello Univesity” fame) is all fire and brimstone, but let’s see how long his bravado lasts.

Many things have come to a head, all at once. Whether on national security or on economics, the political games being played by Zardari and Gilani had only one motive, how to escape accountability and buy their way back into power in order to loot the public some more. Watching the parody Hum Sab Umeed Se Hain the day Hamid Mir’s interview with Zardari was to be aired on Geo TV, a short clip of the interview was shown in-between as a “promo.” When Hamid Mir brought his attention to the virtual meltdown of PIA, the Railways, Wapda and other organisations, Zardari dismissed each with a shrug: “It is your assessment, it has only become weak.” For one surreal moment one thought it to be part of the comedy show, and then I realised the mocking tone was vintage Zardari, and for real. Either the man had completely lost common sense, or the brazenness was reflective of the deep scorn with which with he treats Pakistanis for having elected a tainted man like him as head of state?

With both the judiciary and the Pakistani army serious about uncovering the truth about Mansoor Ijaz-Husain Haqqani memo, the Memogate Commission is more than likely to come up with the facts in the near future. When Mansoor Ijaz arrives in Pakistan he will probably reveal much more. By dragging their feet on issuing Ijaz a visa and intimidating him to prevent his coming to Pakistan and appearing before the commission, the government was clearly following the strategy of sabotaging the process. Not getting a straight reply about Ijaz’s visa and his personal safety from the interior secretary, Justice Isa warned him that he would be charged with contempt of court: “Don’t make a mockery of the commission.”

Unlike Mansoor Ijaz, who promised to hand over his Blackberry and all related data, Husain Haqqani flatly declined to hand over his own Blackberry for investigation. Claiming initially that he was unaware of where the device was, he then volunteered it was somewhere in his home in Washington DC. Even without having anything to hide, as he insists, he categorically rejected the commission’s request to waive his privacy rights with the Canada-based manufacturer of Blackberry phones, “Research in Motion” (RIM). He said tongue-in-cheek: “I may require approval of the government as I am bound to observe the Official Secrets Act.” Refusing to submit the Blackberry data to the commission, he also declined to share the PIN of his old set with the commission. When Justice Isa politely asked Haqqani’s lawyer if the waiver would harm his client, he received an evasive answer. The chief justice of the Balochistan High Court rightly observed that if obstacles continued to be created “an adverse inference can be drawn.” That is quite damning. Could it be that Haqqani is desperately hiding something even worse than what was in the memo?

Three weeks after the army chief and the director general of the ISI had submitted their responses to the Supreme Court, Gilani chose a Chinese newspaper to make the “revelation” (meant to embarrass the army chief during his visit to China) that no official action can be taken by a government functionary without the prior approval of the government, and therefore their depositions in the Memogate case were unconstitutional and illegal.

Justice (Retd) Wajihuddin Ahmed said dozens of government servants submit their replies with the courts of law daily as a routine practice in various legal cases, and they do not get their replies vetted. The prime minister simply wanted to confuse and complicate things in order to sabotage the memo enquiry. The PPP government wanted “Shahadat” (martyrdom) to win people’s sympathies by choosing a confrontational path with the institutions.”

Neither the people of Pakistan nor the rank and file of the army want martial law, but they would also not tolerate any attack on the institutions of the army and the ISI. Any attempt by the government to sack Kayani and Pasha could well incite a mutiny. What prompted Gilani to ignite the fire by fuelling a controversy by virtually charge-sheeting the army chief while he was abroad but a deliberate attempt to incite reaction that would plunge the country into complete anarchy and chaos?

Having been caught red-handed in the Memogate case both Zardari and Gilani are trying desperately to become martyrs of democracy. By playing politics with national security to save his skin, Gilani is not only putting the system and democracy at risk but Pakistan as well. While his incompetence in the exercise of his authority as prime minister is well-documented, his attempt to try to achieve political goals threatened to demolish the entire system. Despite the deliberate provocation the army, let the Supreme Court implement the rule of law. The Supreme Court has done well by heading off the possibility of martial law or, even worse, a mutiny.

The army should exercise patience and remember Sun Tzu’s saying: “If you wait by the river long enough, you will see the corpse of your enemy go floating by.” Gilani and President Zardari mock at state institutions, including the judiciary and the military establishment, to further their regime’s misrule and corruption. They use their version of democracy selectively to camouflage and gloss over their wrongdoings.

Despite vehement and vociferous protests from my good friend of 48 years, 34th PMA course-mate and in-house lawyer Commander Kaifi, one has always liked and respected Adm Fasih Bokhari. However, failure to prosecute the outright crooks indicted by the Supreme Court was shocking and disappointing. Before his reputation suffers further damage, he would do his friends and admirers (and the uniform) a great favour by resigning as chairman of the National Accountability Bureau before facing the Supreme Court on Jan 16.

Notwithstanding the good faith behind the Supreme Court’s giving the government various options, the “Doctrine of Necessity” can never be really eradicated. It is like a chameleon, it will surface in both political and military forms. It made its appearance in its judicial image when the Supreme Court gave an option to the government to face disqualification or to go to the electorate. Zardari and Gilani either violated their oath of office, or they did not. The rule of law in either case has to take its course, there is no third option.

The writer is a defence and political analyst. Email: isehgal@pathfinder9.com
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