Recent infighting within the establishment has exposed a set up which had our country in her grip for decades. What is surprising is how the so-called “independent media” is desperate to protect their favorite members of the establishment (read Nawaz Sharif). Anchors, columnists, spin doctors of PML-N and media, in their attempts to cover this mess, are fabricating stories at par with Alif Laila and Kissa Sote Jagte Ka. This Kissa Sote Jagte Ka has signs of both desperation and changing times.
It all started with the decision of the Supreme Court to hear a petition against the Nov. 3, 2007 actions of General Musharraf. The Supreme Court, partly riding on vendetta and partly on a quest for limelight, in one of its observations on July 29th proclaimed that if Cromwell’s skeleton can be hanged after his death, it is time to punish the violators of the constitution in Pakistan.
The very next day, the Supreme Court had a change of heart and stated that the court does not have the authority to initiate a treason trial against Musharraf. Such a statement from an undeniably proactive Supreme Court who has issued suo moto notices and even extended her domain into issues like taxation (which is a prerogative of parliament under the principle of “taxation with representation,” the cornerstone of parliamentary democracy) was a surprise to say the least. An explanation for this change of heart may lie in a meeting held between the Principled Ch. Aitzaz Ahsan and COAS Kayani which was reported in July 30th edition of The News (News Link). Subsequently the Supreme Court conveniently passed the ball to Parliament.
Ch. Aitzaz Ahsan then claimed that Parliament can try Musharraf, and either the government can move the case or even an ordinary citizen can go to Supreme Court for Musharraf’s trial. One wonders why the Principled Aitzaz Ahsan, as an ordinary citizen of Pakistan, did not offer to take up the case himself. A point to note here is that a petition by Zafar Ali Shah, an ordinary citizen, was thrown out of Supreme Court on grounds that Supreme Court is not the forum to undertake Musharraf’s trial.
On August 6, fiery Ch. Nisar Ali Khan continuing the assault on the PPP-led Govt. (in N’s trademark spirit of cooperation and stability) on the floor of National Assembly announced that PML-N will table a resolution demanding Musharraf’s trial for high treason under Article 6 of the Constitution. However, almost immediately ‘invisible hands’ came into play and the ‘upright and uncompromising’ PML-N had to back down from their commitment. PML-N needed a scapegoat and so firebrand Ch. Nisar Ali Khan blasted MQM in NA for protecting Musharraf. In his rhetoric Ch. Nisar even acknowledged that the operation against MQM was done on the behest of PML-N (a confession which the PML-N has been trying to dispel ever since).
This drew a sharp reaction from MQM led by Haider Abbas Rizvi. The reaction caught PML-N off-guard and opened a Pandora’s box. Things became worse for PML-N when former Brigadier Imtiaz acknowledged that the allegations of Jinnah Pur on MQM were fabricated and the operation had the consent of the then Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. This drew a sharp response from Altaf Hussain and N was on the defensive once again. However ‘N being N,’ they with the help of their media anchors tried to avert the issue in many different ways.
On the one hand, PML-N stated that the MQM should also focus on PPP’s operation forgetting that both MQM and PPP have apologized for past mistakes including the operation of 1995-96. On the other hand, PML-N claimed that Nawaz Sharif was kept in dark about the operation against MQM (on this a friend of mine who supports PML-N jokingly said, Nawaz didn’t know of the operation against MQM in his first term, of Kargil in his second term, and we punks will make sure that this ‘ignoramus’ gets a third term).
Another line of attack chosen by PML-N was that our Army and Agencies ‘work in mysterious ways’ and so the spin was designed to blame everything on Army/ Intelligence officials. This line of defense suits the aim of the fundamentalist elements’ in society who would like to malign the Army at a time when the Army is taking the Islamist Militants to task. To bolster this view instances were cited including Operation Midnight Jackal.
This plan started with “pseudo Liberal” Nusrat Javed’s assertion on Live With Talat that this ‘whole fuss’ is created by the Army and the Intelligence Agencies in order to corner Nawaz Sharif. Nusrat allegedly quoted ‘Agency sources’ referring to two other stories of wrong-doings and stated further that these sources believe that Asif Ali Zardari can be controlled but not Nawaz Sharif due to his mass popularity.
In his desperation to absolve Nawaz Sharif of the allegations regarding Midnight Jackal, Nusrat brought in many people in his program to discuss Midnight Jackal and pass the blame solely to Army and Agencies. However, truth is difficult to hide for long.
In the first episode of the program itself, fingers were openly pointed at Nawaz Sharif as being at the center of the Midnight Jackal conspiracy. In desperation, in the second episode, Zahid Sarfaraz was brought in to deny Brig. Imtiaz’s claims. He claimed that Brig. Imtiaz was not involved in the no-confidence motion. In the same interview, Mr. Zahid Sarfaraz also narrated a story which rather than absolving Mr. Nawaz Sharif of his role in the dark chapter of Pakistan’s political history dragged him further into the quicksand. Mr. Sarfaraz claims that Arif Awan (A PPP MNA approached by Brig. Imtiaz to switch loyalties) asked for a meeting with Nawaz Sharif. This statement of Zahid Sarfaraz proves that both sides (Imtiaz and Arif Awan) agreed that Nawaz Sharif was the key figure in the saga. In addition the fact that Nawaz Sharif agreed to meet Arif Awan at the request of Brig. Imtiaz proves a link between Brig. Imtiaz and Nawaz Sharif in Operation Midnight Jackal.
If this was not enough next came the statement by Lt. Gen. Asad Durrani that on the behest of Gen. Aslam Beg, Lt Gen Durrani distributed PKR 140 million to leading politicians including Mian Nawaz Sharif. Despite repeated questioning by Express News, Pervaiz Rasheed, Nawaz Sharif’s spokesman, refused to categorically deny the allegation.
Bearing all this in mind we see that the attempt by a number of these players to remain ‘Principled’ has been shattered and assertions by the likes of Talat Husain that PML-N ‘wouldn’t come down easy’ are desperate attempts to do damage control. The question to ask is not whether Brig. Imtiaz did what he did on the behest of someone. The question is whether what has been said is true or not? These spin doctors are trying to divert attention from the real issue. If the Agencies are to be blamed for controlling the polity, the politicians who collaborated with them must not be absolved either.
So in the spin of media and N, following are the real issues – without any spin – give them a thought my fellow countrymen:
Try Musharraf for breaking the Constitution and try him and his aides and those who abetted him, but not for Nov. 3, 2007 but for October 12, 1999. Not only Musharraf but try Zia Ul Haq for his act of July 5, 1977. Try Aslam Beg, Hamid Gul, and Brig Imtiaz for their role in Midnight Jackal, creation of IJI and rigging of 1990 General Elections. Also, try those who collaborated with them.
- Nawaz Sharif should live up to the standards he preaches or should preach what he has practiced.
- Alleged involvement of Prince Naif, Saudi Arabia and Osama Bin Laden must be probed and made public.
- Saudi Arabia must be warned never to interfere in political affairs of Pakistan again and a public apology must be demanded for all past deeds.
- And in the spirit of national reconciliation, the aim of the trials must not be vendetta and sentencing the culprits but setting the record straight.
- As for Nawaz Sharif’s popularity let us analyze it properly – of Pakistan’s 107 districts, N has a presence in only 28 (a mere 26%). In Punjab, of 34 districts, N has parliamentary presence in 24 districts (71%). Also in Punjab, there are only 11 districts where N has more than 50% of seats (a mere 33%). N has neither a nation-wide spread nor a dominant penetration in Punjab as we are made to believe by the media and opinion polls.
- And last but certainly not the least the Armed Forces of Pakistan must let the political process take its due course without any intervention in future. What I fear is that with Nawaz Sharif’s image being tarnished, knowing their history, some in the Defense Establishment of Pakistan might be thinking of creating an alliance comprising Aitzaz Ahsan, PPP-SB, PTI, elements from PML-N and Hamkhayal’s to raise a counter force to PPP. This has not succeeded in past and is not likely to succeed in the future. The Army must learn their lessons from the debacle of Creation and Glorification of Nawaz Sharif. In the continuation of political process, ultimately a counter force to PPP will organically emerge. We must wait for that rather than engineering things and creating more mess.