ISLAMABAD: For very different reasons, the unlikely duo of Nawaz Sharif and General James Jones might have saved Pakistan from a civil-military stand-off.
It seems two factors played a decisive role in defusing a possible confrontation between the government and army, senior government officials told The Express Tribune. The new details have emerged following Friday’s three-hour meeting between Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani and army chief General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani.
The first factor was a fear that conflict over the Memogate scandal would only have benefited the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz. The second was the affidavit filed by former US national security adviser James Jones, who has questioned the credibility of the memo.
A telephone conversation between President Asif Zardari and General Kayani added further proof that tensions were reduced, officials added.
It is believed that the civilian and military leaderships felt that more harm than good would be done to both sides as the Supreme Court probed Memogate, leaving Nawaz Sharif with the most to gain.
Sources also indicated that Gilani and Kayani discussed in detail plans to evolve a joint strategy before the nine-member bench headed by Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, which is set to resume the Memogate case on Monday (today).
A source close to the president claimed that General Jones’ statement was also a defining moment. Indeed, the joint strategy source said, it was the affidavit which prompted Kayani to meet the PM and speak at such length. Jones’ submission before the court had weakened the army’s stance and reinforced the government’s uncompromising position on the memo controversy, the source insisted. “The storm in the teacup has subsided,” he added.
When approached, however, the army was tight-lipped over the meeting. Director General Inter-Services Public Relations Major General Athar Abbas refused to comment.
Separately, PM Gilani on Sunday ruled out a military intervention over the memo controversy. “There is no room for martial law in Pakistan,” Gilani told reporters in Lahore, two days after he met the army chief. Gilani described the memo as a “non-issue” which was being blown up unnecessarily.
The PM added that all rumours about a threat to the democratic process must come to a rest after his “positive” meeting with General Kayani.
Published in The Express Tribune, December 19th, 2011.