ISLAMABAD: The prime minister’s remarks during a recent interview seem to have hit a sore spot with the military establishment – remarks that the army on Wednesday explicitly stated could have “serious ramifications.”
In a hard-worded clarification, the army not only rubbished Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani’s accusation that the military and intelligence chiefs had violated the Constitution by submitting replies directly to the court in the Memogate case but also warned of a fallout, which, the statement said, would have “serious ramifications with potential grievous consequences for the country.”
The Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) statement triggered alarm in the country, which was accentuated by the fact that Chief of Army Staff General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani had held meetings with top commanders before it was released.
It is learnt that Gen Kayani had made an attempt to persuade the prime minister to retract his remarks before the ISPR issued a statement.
Gilani himself confirmed that Kayani telephoned him about the army’s reaction.
Sources said the prime minister refused to budge from his position, stating that he stood by his statement.
However, the army chose to differ with the country’s chief executive by saying that there can be no allegations more serious than “what the Honourable Prime Minister has leveled against COAS and DG ISI and has unfortunately charged the officers for violation of the Constitution of the Country.”
A military official, who asked to remain anonymous due to the sensitivity of the issue, said that Gen Kayani will further consult close military aides in the next 24 hours to discuss the current situation.
The official added that the army chief was confident that the government will not make any move to sack him. If the government does take such a step, however, the army can explore the option of moving the Supreme Court on the issue, the official maintained.
Interestingly, a petition has already been moved in the Islamabad High Court seeking the judiciary’s order to restrain the government from dismissing military and intelligence chiefs.
Earlier, in a dramatic turn of events, the replacement of the head of 111 Brigade triggered widespread speculations that army was on the move.
However, the ISPR described the appointment of Brigadier Sarfraz as ‘routine affair’ and had nothing to do with the deepening tensions between the military and civil leadership.
The 111 Brigade was instrumental in taking control of key installations in the capital during past military coups.
Another senior official told The Express Tribune that the army will not seek direct intervention to oust the civilian government despite their strong reaction to recent remarks by Prime Minister Gilani.
The official added that if General Kayani had other plans the army would not have issued a rejoinder.
The official disclosed that there was a considered view among the hierarchy of the military that the government was making deliberate attempts to provoke the army to resort to ‘unconstitutional steps’.
“The army is not going to fall in the government’s trap. We are not going to make them political martyrs,” he added.
It further stated the prime minister’s statement did not take into account important facts, including the fact that the COAS and DG ISI were cited as respondents in the petitions in the memo case and the Supreme Court served notices directly to them.
“This was not objected to by the learned Attorney General of Pakistan,” it added.
It said the army and ISI chiefs sent their replies to the defense ministry and onward submission to the Supreme Court through the attorney general.
The ISPR statement also referred to a meeting between the prime minister and the COAS, where Prime Minister Gilani had publicly stated through a press release on December 16, 2011 that the replies submitted were through a ‘proper channel and in accordance with the rules of business’. No objections were raised before and thereafter, on the legality and constitutional status of the replies, at any time, during the last more than three weeks of hearing of the case by the Supreme Court.
It is also categorically stated that the COAS and DG ISI in their response to the Supreme Court were obliged to state facts as known to them, on the Memo issue.
“The issue of jurisdiction and maintainability of the petitions was between the Honourable Supreme Court and the Federation.”
“Any expectation that COAS will not state the facts is neither Constitutional nor legal. Allegiance to State and the Constitution is and will always remain prime consideration for the Respondent, who in this case has followed the book,” the statement concluded.
Published in The Express Tribune, January 12th, 2012.