New Delhi, Jan.12 (ANI): Until the last weekend there was surreal theatre in Pakistan with shadows boxing each other. The main players in the developing political confrontation were Nawaz Sharif and Imran Khan with Pervez Musharraf an incongruous joker in the pack as they all expected to be sworn in as Prime Minister. Imran used the bad metaphor of Tsunami and as it now turns out there is indeed a tsunami sweeping the body politic of Pakistan.
The fog has now lifted and the spotlight has moved away from politics and it now on in on President Zardari, PM Gilani, the Army and the Supreme Court. Both the main alleged conspirators of Memogate - Husain Haqqani was in hiding in the Prime Minister's House as he feared his life was threatened and later Ejaz Mansoor declined to come to Pakistan as he feared for his own security. Today the fog has lifted and it is clear that the confrontation is now head-to-head between the civilian government led by Prime Minister Yousef Raza Gilani and the PPP led by Asif Zardari against the almighty Army, the ISI and joined by the Supreme Court led by Chief Justice Iftikhar Choudhry.
While the Supreme Court investigates the Memogate it is rather strange that the memo was allegedly written in May it surfaces only in October when Mansoor Ijaz wrote about it. The point is why was this talked of months after writing and why was it referred to at all. Since then relations between the Pak Army and the PPP government have nose dived.
Gilani's midweek statement that the Army chief General Kayani and DG ISI Shuja Pasha had violated the Constitution by sending their reply direct to the Supreme Court instead of routing it through 'competent authorities'. Interestingly, Gilani had said this to the Peoples' Daily Online at a time when Gen Kayani was visiting China. Gilani had obviously used remarks by Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry that an act by a government functionary without approval from the government was unconstitutional. Gilani specifically named General Kayani and Lt Gen Pasha.
The Army responded after Kayani's return, through a statement by its public relations outfit, the ISPR, saying that the allegations by Gilani against the Kayani and Pasha had "very serious ramifications with potentially grievous consequences for the country."
It has also been pointed out that the reply was routed through the Defence Secretary and the Attorney General. The PM retaliated by sacking the Defence Secretary Gen Khaled Naeem Lodhi - the man who had earlier said that the Army was not under civilian control. A civilian, Nargis Sethi who is also Cabinet Secretary and Gilani's confidante will hold additional charge.
The Army has also appointed Brigadier Sarfaraz Ali as the Brigade Commander of 111 Brigade, Rawalpindi - commonly known as the 'Coup Brigade'. The Army has called a meeting of its Principal Staff Officers - all Lt Generals - tomorrow to assess the situation.
This public spat is the one absorbing Pakistan now. Some TV channels have been portraying the Army's case saying that they had sacrificed lives for the nation, fought in FATA and so on and that t was an insult to the sipaah salaar to treat him in this manner. The battle lines have been drawn.
The question uppermost in everybody's mind is: will there be a coup. In the past received wisdom has been that in any confrontation between the Army and the civilians the Army has won. The Supreme Court had earlier declared both PM Gilani and President Zardari as dishonest as it criticised the government's refusal to write to Swiss authorities in the alleged multi-million dollar money laundering case against Zardari.
The Supreme Court may not approve of or acquiesce to a military coup although some say that the Court's pursuit of the Zardari case and its enquiry into Memogate could lead to a judicial coup.
Gilani has been talking to other political parties about early elections; the PPP hopes to gain majority in the Senate and then agree to call for elections. This will happen after March but the crisis is here and now.
In an effort to undercut support to Imran Khan through persons like Shah Mahmood Qureshi who jumped off the PPP bandwagon after he was sacked as Foreign Minister, from Multan, Gilani has been talking about a new province, Seraiki in southern Punjab and also to assist his son who plans to contest from the seat vacated by Qureshi.
In a recent interview with GeoTV President Zardari also asserted that he was not going anywhere but then that is what all politicians say. There was a touch of defiance when asked about Kayani's absence at a Presidential dinner, Zardari said he did not care.
The props for a coup are in place but will it happen? In the past Pakistan has had to face US anger and sanctions following a coup, but circumstances have evolved in the past that converted Pakistan into a stalwart ally. The crisis this time has come at an awkward time for the US as President Obama gets into fighting re-election, needs to keep Afghanistan quiet as he pulls out.
Therefore events in Pakistan are unnecessary distraction for President Obama because a coup will bring in Congressional sanctions at a time when Pakistan is financially and economically broke and the US needs Pak Army's cooperation. Even Pakistan's chosen friends in the Arab world have declined to extend loans to help Pakistan tide over its financial problems.
In this case the US would secretly back the Army despite all the ill feeling in recent weeks while publicly supporting the civilian government. Probably the US would prefer that the PPP government be sacrificed in an early election, something the Army would appreciate and all is well with the world. There would have to be a backroom deal and one would watch out for visits to Qatar.
Attn: News Editors/News Desks: The views expressed in the above article are that of Mr.Vikram Sood, former Secretary R and AW. (ANI)