Hell hath no fury like the establishment scorned
The battle lines have been drawn. All the usual suspects of the ultra right are in the corner that they were supposed to be: none missing from the lineup, with the motley crowd rather curiously named as Defence of Pakistan Conference in the forefront. The vultures are circling. The ganging up seems almost complete. The dog has been given its bad name (in this particular case it’s treason through the ‘Memogate’) and preparations for its hanging are afoot. Another political government is being made to pack up – by hook or by crook, mostly by the latter.
There are no constitutional means to chuck the government or President Zardari out, but when has the letter or spirit of that cursed document ever been a concern for the powers-that-be.
From its bewildered status after the multiple cataclysmic shocks in May, in all of seven months, Pakistan Army stands resurrected and back to where it has always belonged in this country – the master of all it surveys. And for the source of its ire, its wrath knows no bounds.
For its part, the PPP too has made it manifest. It will not go without a whimper. The PM’s ominous statement illustrates this amply: “the conspiracies were being hatched…” but that he and his party will “fight for the rights of the people”. His assertion, “there cannot be a state within a state” also implied the overpowering presence of one, which was again plainly enunciated in the federal defence ministry’s written statement to the Supreme Court: “No control over the Army or the ISI”.
If the foreign office were asked who directs policy, we know what the answer would be. And this does not quite begin to describe the power of the ‘real’ powers.
It may not be intentional (though that is something the PPP thinks and Babar Awan makes it a point to rub in that it’s a stab in the back of democracy) but by taking his petition to the SC, Nawaz Sharif has lent it the credibility of his status to force a commission to probe Memogate. And that is exactly what the establishment desired, and may not have found such a beyond-reproach option to carry it with such aplomb.
In doing so he may get Zardari or he may still not, but even if he does, it would only be a pyrrhic victory. For one he is not likely to reap a huge political dividend out of it. Even with Zardari gone, Imran Khan would remain a threat for he is the new flavour, the new preference of the same entities that once launched him. And, to Nawaz Sharif’s chagrin, the PTI herd would continue to prosper in the Punjab and KP.
And perhaps the most precious attribute that endeared Nawaz Sharif even to those who did not back his politics was his sustained and staunch anti-establishment stance. The perception emanating from his petition, that he has provided a shoulder to the establishment has dented that aura. (This though must be said that the anti-establishment stand was only his and not his party’s, with the so-called talented younger sibling having as much empathy for the men in uniform as any toady of Rawalpindi. Abbaji may have passed away years ago, but his inculcation, of course, still influences the Khadim-i-Aala and others in the PML-N).
There are legitimate questions on the memo, but before that there are many unanswered ones on the capture and killing of OBL. It now seems that the Commission investigating the latter is focussing on the visas issued to the US spooks by our man in Washington. That is all good, and apparently Hussain Haqqani has provided an adequate reply to that. Amid all this hoopla, nobody is asking the critical question: “who gave the Pakistan visa to OBL?” Other than the US sally in Abbottabad and how it eluded our armed forces that is the critical question, and one is positive the Commission will not wilt in finding a credible answer to that.
In his rejoinder to the SC, Nawaz Sharif asserts: “If the allegations levelled by Mansoor Ijaz are even half true, the very foundations of the country were under a serious threat”. In a similar rejoinder, the army chief says: “The memo episode has an impact on national security and lowers the morale of the Pakistan army, whose young officers and soldiers are laying down their lives for the security and defence of territorial integrity and political independence and sovereignty of Pakistan”.
So while the words of both honourable men, Nawaz Sharif and the army chief, may be different, the essence is the same. May one ask, how a memo that was consigned to the bin by its recipient could be a threat to our national security? If our national security is that fragile, then, memo or no memo, our goose is cooked. What did more damage to the morale of our beloved jawans, the Memogate and Hussain Haqqani’s shenanigans or the OBL capture and killing?
The gut feeling is that Asif Zardari and the PPP are in a spot, this time for real. Even if they survived by the skin of their teeth, the hold on the scruff of their necks will remain relentless, to borrow a most succinct expression from a celebrated analyst’s narration on his late night show.
The writer is Sports and Magazines Editor, Pakistan Today.