If not now then when?

The government has subverted to the very army and ISI which it had valiantly tried to bring under parliament in 2008.


Nadir Hassan May 11, 2011

A civilian government has been handed a great opportunity by US Navy SEALs to shift the balance of power away from the military and to itself, but instead its public face chooses to deliver a speech that sounds like a regurgitated ISPR press release. In his address to parliament, Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani insisted that Pakistan’s intelligence agencies were guilty neither of criminal negligence nor malignant complicity in Osama bin Laden’s presence in the country. Gilani’s affirmation of faith in the military was dispiriting; the response by the opposition was even more disappointing.

Leader of the opposition Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan of the PML-N at least had the gumption to criticise the army in his response to Gilani’s speech. It is a shame then that this attack, on both the military and the elected leadership, consisted only of nebulous concepts of sovereignty. The leader of the opposition, was interested in exploring how Osama managed to securely find refuge in Pakistan as the army is holding itself accountable for this debacle. The issue of incompetence or collusion was raised only with regards to the US capturing the most wanted terrorist in the world, not on how the said terrorist was lounging in Abbottabad. Helping the US out, or being unable to stop its raid, the PML-N feels, is grounds for the president and prime minister to resign. No need, however, to find out if the chief of army staff or ISI chief ignored Osama’s presence in the country.

What makes the PML-N’s response so galling is that the party had tried to remodel itself as an anti-military force in the country. Since being removed from power by Musharraf, the former puppet of the military establishment had turned into a tiger. So fearful was the military of the PML-N coming into power in the next elections, it was reportedly trying to cobble together a ragtag coalition of right-wing parties to negate the influence of the PML-N, much as the establishment had in the past recruited the party into the IJI to neutralise the PPP. The military can sleep safely in its barracks knowing that the PML-N will stay in line even if it comes into power.

The one bone the prime minister threw to critics of the military was to proclaim that an enquiry would be held into any possible intelligence failure — to be conducted by the military itself. Sir Humphrey Appleby in “Yes Minister” had two things to say about internal enquiries. He warned the minister never to set up an enquiry if he didn’t know in advance what its findings would be and that the job of a professionally-conducted internal enquiry is to unearth a great mass of no evidence. In mouthing the words fed to him by the military leadership, Gilani has ensured that both definitions of an enquiry apply.

The tepid PPP response is even more infuriating when recalling that the party had shown an appetite for crossing the army. Less than a year after coming into power, the PPP both tried to put the ISI under the control of the interior ministry and volunteered to send the ISI chief to India after the Mumbai attacks. Sure, in both cases it took about 24 hours to remind the government what its station life is and get it to back down, but that was a time when the PPP had come into power after a deal with an army ruler and was in no position to dictate terms. Now jokes about the military have replaced Mr 10 per cent jokes in forwarded SMSs. Still the PPP is not willing to conduct any serious accountability. If not now, then when?

Published in The Express Tribune, May 12th, 2011.

COMMENTS (19)

Mirza | 10 years ago | Reply Very true, which is a novel idea in Pakistan especially its "brave and alert" army. Unless public comes out on the roads against the army, no political party or leader can do anything. Remember what happened to ZAB? Zardari is no ZAB, he would be easily eliminated by the army. Being from Punjab NS has better links, relationship and understanding of the army. This army would not kill leaders of Punjab as easily as ZAB or BB.
unbiased observer | 10 years ago | Reply @Noor: After 9/11 there was an independent inquiry in US. Several significant laws and policies were changed as a result of that inquiry. Even in India after 26/11 the Chief Minister of Maharashtra and Home Minster of India were forced to resign. Plus significant changeshave been made to fix the gaps i nsecurity. This is what has never happened in PAkistan. After 1965 which was initiated by Pakistan and where Pakistan was losing at the time ceasefire was called, no inquiry in Pakistan. India who was winning had an inquiry and addressed gaps as a result they won unequivocally in 1971. Same thing with Siachen in 1984. Same thing with Kargill. Though Pakistan lost - no inquiry, though India won that war , it conducted an independent inquiry and addressed root causes. This is the reason that in every encounter that Pakistan has had with India, they have come out ahead because they are willing to learn from their mistakes and move forward. This is the author's point. If not now, when will the country hold army responsible for repeated poor judgments for which common people have paid a price (1965, 1971, 1984, 1999, 2001 : when sovereignty was handed over to US by the army).
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