The curse of interesting times
The prime minister is a mild-mannered man. Even his worst detractors – and there are many – admit to the effortless diplomacy and cool he employs, especially in public interaction. When it came to dealing with wayward coalition members or even the opposition (the PML(N) in particular) he is said to have been the ‘good cop’. No feathers ruffled, visibly, at what could be called this government’s worst hour before the memo crisis: the PML-N’s long march and the subsequent restoration of the apex judiciary.
That very same prime minister isn’t his collected self anymore. As his address at a public function in Islamabad and his speech in parliament yesterday served to show, there is definitely a storm brewing. “Let me make clear to you today that there are intrigues, conspiracies afoot to pack up the elected government,” he said. The Abbottabad commission was set up, he pointed out, to look into the security lapse that led to Osama Bin Laden hiding in the country. It is asking, instead, about the visas that Hussain Haqqani issued as ambassador; a clear obfuscation of the issue. No points for guessing the direction the premier’s guns are pointing at here.
Are the odds stacked up against the government? Of its allies, neither the MQM nor the PML(Q) are all too dependable, specially when it comes to the military. Counter-intuitively, its only bulwark was the opposition’s PML(N), whose leadership has continually reiterated its strict adherence to the democratic process. That has fallen into question after the same leadership filed the memo petition in the Supreme Court.
All eyes are on the apex court. A loaded line of the premier’s in the national assembly today: the parliament is supreme and all institutions of the executive, according to the constitution, come under the elected government. The context: his defence ministry submitted to the Supreme Court during the memo case hearings that it has no control over the operations of the army or the ISI. What possible interpretation of the constitution can have a state of affairs like that is for the court to decide. What exactly is the mood of the court on the constitutionally stipulated principle of civil supremacy over the military?