Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Blasphemous Memo Threatens Pak Democracy

That media is not asking WHY Mansoor Ijaz, the steno and bearer of the ‘blasphemous’ memo, took a u--turn at a critical juncture of military-civilian and US-Pakistan relations is raising questions in Pakistan’s logical minds. That the chief of ISI general Shuja Pasha personally visits Mr Ijaz in London in the last week of October 2011to collect the evidence regarding the memo--shows the urgency of the matter. That the chief of the powerful military General Ashfaq Pervez Kayani holds two meetings in two consecutive days with the President Asif Ali Zardari on the issue--speaks of the rage and revenge in the GHQ.
The guy is gone and Islamabad lost an elegant lobbyist for Pakistan’s democracy in the world powerful capital Washington DC. Hussain Haqqani, the vocal ambassador Pakistan ever had in DC, was forced to resign for his smartness after his interrogation session with the military chief General Kayani, ISI chief General Pasha, and attended by President Zardari and Premier Gilani on November 23, 2011.
The memo saga, the killing of al-Qededa chief Osama bin Laden (OBL) in Pakistan’s garrison city Abbottabad and finding out the terribly tortured dead body of journalist Saleem Shehzad one day in a small river near Islamabad are the latest eye-openers to ‘non-believers’ in military might of Pakistan. It showed how powerful the few civilian leaders are when it comes to confront the interests of the GHQ.
The four star generals’ agility and their personal brisk movements in dealing with the blasphemous memo are unique in its nature. The military urgency in question was not visible in other high profile international level nasty surprises. 
Pakistanis have unfortunately didn’t read a ticker nor viewed a footage on their TV screens showing the ISI chief visiting OBL compound in Abbottabad to collect the evidence how the top terrorist managed a mansion at a stone throw distance from the state of the art military academy despite international pressure. The four star generals didn’t feel the need responding to questions on the brutal killing of late Shehzad, author of the book “Inside al-Qaeda and the Taliban: Beyond Bin Laden and 9/11”.
On the assassination of the Punjab Governor Salman Taseer, the army chief General Kayani declined to publicly condemn Taseer’s death or even to issue a public condolence to his family. He was quoted telling the Western ambassadors in January 2011 in Islamabad that there were too many soldiers in the ranks who sympathize with the killer, and showed them a scrapbook of photographs of Taseer’s killer being hailed as a hero by fellow police officers. He thought a public statement could endanger the army’s unity. (The then governor of Punjab was for amending the controversial blasphemy law and was gunned down by his bodyguard in Islamabad).
With this mindset in the GHQ, supported by mainstream right-wing media and political leaders of the likes of Imran Khan and Shah Mehmood Qurish (no need to mention all factions of the Muslim League, Jama’t-e-Islami and scores of Jehadi organizations), the content of the memo can hardly be questioned. While the intentions of Mansoor Ijaz, who accuses the ambassador Haqqani for dictating him the script, are not yet clear, the whole narrative proves in practice what the memo tries to explain in words.
Probing the ambassador for his alleged involvement in the ‘memogate’ is perhaps not the right course, as said by the federal minister Ghulam Ahmad Bilour. The powerful military, rather, needs to satisfy the nation that it has no intention of derailing the current democratic system. In Pakistan, it is always the civilian governments and leaders that face the military coups and kangaroo courts. The fears of democratic forces are, therefore, real and expression of those qualms should not be treated as sacrilegious nor as an excuse for showing exit to the civilian leaders.  

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Is Memo another Kargal for Civilian Government?

Pakistan’s ‘memo’ scandal puts the civilian leadership on the defense. The military and media, through their direct and indirect interlocutors, are presenting it a case for treason. The ambitious generals may even go further, exploiting it to the extent of Kargal scandal. The whole issue is told and retold in Pakistan without doubting the intentions of the possible beneficiaries of the scandal.
At first, it should never be used as an excuse for dislodging or discrediting a civilian fa├žade of the powerful military. Second, the military must surrender its power in handling War on Terror, relations with the US, Afghanistan, India and nuclear security issues to the elected governments to avoid room for possible counter-manuring  against the highly unpopular political agenda of the GHQ. Third, if the memo is a case for treason, the Wikileaks revelation of General Ashfaq Pervez Kayani’s plot of dismissing the elected president Asif Ali Zardari should also be treated as a treason case. 
Selling former cricket star Imran Khan as recipe to Pakistan’s solution and his emergence on the political scene, out of the blue, speak volumes of the GHQ-made plots in Pakistan. Silencing voices on what Osama bin Laden, the founder of the terrorist al-Qaeda, was doing in Abbottabad and how he managed a safe haven over there for more than five years are questions that need to be answered by the sitting generals led by General Kayani. Under what circumstances they got the extensions? And can anyone in Pakistan dare to fight a treason case against the sitting or retired generals who aborted the constitution, dislodged the elected governments, imprisoned the political leaders, showed them to the world and public as corrupt, incompetent and anti-state elements and if possible executed them (Gen Zia got death sentence for Pakistan’s popular leader Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto) or killed them in dubious circumstances (Benazir Bhutto and Nawab Akbar Bugti are the latest examples).
Washington is a place for lobbying for good causes. Thousands of lobbyists on the K street are there to win the US government support in fight against hunger, AIDS, pollution, illiteracy, dictatorship, autocracy, unconstitutional moves and corruption. Pakistan’s military and civil governments are no exceptions. The military leadership has always discredited Pakistan’s political leaders in talks with the US officials. The last military dictator (retd) General Pervez Musharraf has on more than one occasion presented Pakistan’s civilian leaders as corrupt and incompetent at all western capitals, including Washington DC throughout his more than nine years military rule. The civilian government too has the right to expose the enemies of democracy and friends of chaos to its allies and peace loving nations of the world.
The post-May 2nd Pakistan was full of rumors. It exposed the vulnerability of the country’s most powerful military—US forces gunned down the world’s most wanted man Osama bin Laden at his spacious mansion just close to a military base in garrison city Abbottabad. The legend in Pakistan is that military generals have always attacked democracy whenever it has tried to hide its moments of fall and embarrassment.
As the memo was delivered to one of the high ranking US military officials soon after the killing of Osama bin Laden, it basically conveyed the threats to democracy in Pakistan’s political circles. It was in the hindsight of everyone that probably the civilian leaders would be ‘national interested’ to cover up the huge embarrassment at the international arena. Those fears were well-placed in weeks after the May 2nd raid. That a Pakistani diplomat conveyed those fears via an interlocutor, Mansoor Ijaz, are unconvincing claims. The disclosure of the memo, one thing is sure, is not serving the already weak democratic set-up. Its beneficiaries are, rather, men in uniform.  It becomes more convincing as the ISI chief general Shuja Pasha called on the Pakistani American news breaker Mansoor Ijaz in London to collect the evidences from him (as claimed by Mr Ijaz). Isn’t a plot hatched against the civilian elected government irrespective of the fact that the Pakistani diplomat was involved in it or not?