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Manipulations and deals

December 26, 2011 - New Delhi

It was in 1988 that a Pakistani dictator had to die before the country could have another chance at democracy.

Nearly twenty years later, another dictator had to be thrown out before the people of Pakistan could hope for another shot at democracy. Then, as now, these hopes seem to have been belied. Then, as now, the Army rules supreme, by remote control most of the time, by manipulation at other times or by revealing its hand when necessary. The doctrine of necessity has been a wonderfully useful and abiding doctrine for the Pak Army. Today we have the President of Pakistan pitted against his Army Chief.

What is happening today in Pakistan borders on the bizarre? It hovers between a Greek tragedy and a march of folly where the protagonists know they are moving towards an abyss but are unable to stop themselves. A letter which is believed to be the handiwork of a maverick and a loose cannon and which any responsible leadership would have scoffed at has become the cause celebre.

The Pak Army, paranoid about most issues, has taken upon itself to convert this letter episode into a national security issue and challenge the civilian government for trying to keep the Army under control. The civilian government of Prime Minister Reza Shah Gilani has taken upon itself rather bravely to challenge the Army's supremacy.

PPP and Pak Army relations were strained ever since the time Z A Bhutto walked out on Field Marshall Ayub Khan in 1966 and formed the PPP. Bhutto's hanging by Zia set the seal on a frosty, mutually suspicious and hostile relationship between the Army and the PPP.

This hostility saw the Army's unsuccessful endeavour to prevent BB from attaining power in 1988. Nawaz Sharif was the Army's candidate then and this is the game the Army has played consistently since then. Having failed in preventing her election, it succeeded in overthrowing BB twice. This is being re- enacted again today.

'They' assassinated Benazir on December 27 and four years down the line the world still does not know who 'they' were and it seems, never will. Asif Ali Zardari who had inherited the PPP throne on behalf of his son Bilawal, installed Hussain Haqqani, an Army-hater and a Benazir acolyte as Pakistan's Ambassador in Washington DC. This was a bit in your face kind of thing although he did try to assuage the Army's feelings by giving both Gen Kayani and Gen Pasha three year extensions.

The political opportunism of Nawaz Sharif got the better of him when he failed to see the signals that the Army was playing one major party against the other. Instead of closing ranks with the PPP and with only the March Senate elections in mind, Nawaz Sharif thought he would go for the PPP jugular and filed a petition in the Supreme court on the Memogate scandal. Maybe this was the result of some secret talks that PML(N)'s leadership believed to have had with a brigadier of the Intelligence. It is well known that the Supreme Court led by the Chief Justice Ifthikar Choudhry is not well disposed towards Asif Zardari.

Imran Khan is the new hope of many and who see him as the man who will save Pakistan. Other political fortune hunters have also begun to jump ship and members of the PPP and the PML(N) as well as die hard right wingers have sworn allegiance to Imran's Pakistan Tehrik e Insaf. If his latest rally in Karachi on December 25 is anything to go by, then the PPP and the PML(N) have something to worry about and the Army would begin to feel smug.

Earlier on December 18, the so-called Difa e Pakistan (Defence of Pakistan Council) rally in Lahore must have sent shivers down the spine of Pakistan's major political parties and the democratic forces. About 40-odd Islamist and jihadist parties had got together under the banner of Difa e Pakistan which was actually a show of force by the Jamaat ut Dawa (the cradle to which the Lashkar e Tayyaba belongs) threatened the US and NATO and India with jihad (with special reference to violent jihad in Kashmir) as that was an obligation upon all Muslims, that that there was no question of MFN status for India. This combination is presented both as a terrible alternative to Tehrik Insaf and a reworked version of either the IJI of Nawaz Sharif time or the MMA of Musharraf's time.

Everyone knows that the JuD is only a proxy for the military in Pakistan. And we still hear comments that the Pakistan military is on board for a more normal relationship with India. Or we take solace in the fact that the US is Pakistan's enemy number one, almost as if we are grateful to be let off the hook.

The Pakistan military has been having problems in 2010 mostly connected with the war on Terror. The US raid that killed Osama bin Laden in Abbottabad in May, the terrorist attack on PNS Mehran in Karachi a few days later and the Mohmand attack in November by NATO forces that killed 24 Pakistani soldiers only heightened the image that the Army was incapable of performing its primary role - the defence of the nation. The image of the Army has to be refurbished once again. The PPP has to be finished forever through what is now called a soft quasi judicial coup that would bring in the likes of Imran Khan centre stage with the Army controlling events backstage.

And Islamabad must have a more amenable person leading the civilian government who is also acceptable in the West.

This may be part of a typical sand model exercise of the Army but there is nothing in politics that works according to sand models.

Attn: News Editors/News Desks: The views expressed in the above article are that of Mr. Vikram Sood, former Secretary, R and AW.


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