While its leader has gone out of his way to openly reject any military intervention, the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) has been approached by elements within the security establishment, which is seeking help in dislodging the government, The Express Tribune has learnt.
The PML-N remains non-committal, however.
According to well-placed sources, the PML-N leadership is willing to get onboard only after concrete guarantees and on certain terms of conditions.
In the aftermath of the Memogate issue, officials of the country’s premier intelligence agency have been shuttling back and forth to take the PML-N on board, sources say.
A brigadier of the intelligence agency held detailed sessions with three key leaders of the PML-N’s second-tier leadership, days before hearing on Memogate scandal started in the Supreme Court on December 1st. Later meetings were held with the party’s top leadership, sources add.
These meetings took place on the nights between November 27 and 28, and November 28 and 29; the first one in Islamabad, the second one in Murree.
Sources say the opposition party was given blueprints of a possible scenario sans President Zardari – a 2007-like, ‘emergency plus’ situation, with a pledge of holding fresh polls within three months.
The same official, according to some sources – other sources say it was a different official of the same rank – held a meeting with a top judicial officer during the same period.
No guarantees, no decision
Of the limited choices available to oust an adamant president, a ‘quasi-judicial-military coup’ appeared to be the top option.
For the PML-N though, making unconditional, solemn commitments was not viable, especially when there were no guarantees that the promise of new polls within the given time frame will be met.
The indecisiveness was later evident from the mixed signals coming through different quarters in the party.
A party MNA from Potohar, on National Assembly floor, termed the alleged memo a ‘mere piece of paper’. A senator, and a relative of Sharifs, who had been one of the three interlocutors at the late November meetings, rebutted the MNA’s claim, and called it his ‘personal point of view’.
Denial by spokesperson
The reports of his party leadership’s secret contacts with the security establishment were denied by the PML-N spokesperson Mushahidullah Khan. He said the reports are wrong, and based on misconception.
“At the moment, the so-called security establishment is weak and not able to maneuver in politics as they used to in the past,” he said.“The establishment has been ‘pampering’ our party’s rivals,” he said, referring to the alleged backing of the establishment to the Imran Khan. “The position has changed now,” he asserted. “If [Nawaz Sharif] sends a signal, the establishment would run towards him. It is they who might need us, not the other way round.”
Military ‘fed up’
Later on Thursday, Reuters, quoting military sources, reported that Pakistan’s army is ‘fed up with unpopular President Zardari and wants him out of office, but through ‘legal’ means and without a coup.
“Who isn’t fed up with Zardari? It’s not just the opposition and the man on the street but people within the government too,” the agency quoted an anonymous military source.
“But there has to be a proper way. No action is being planned by the army. Even if we tried, it would be very unpopular.”
The military spokesperson declined comment.
One of the military sources was quoted as suggesting that no direct action would be needed since the government had already made so many mistakes. The agents of change, military sources hint, would not be them – it would be the Supreme Court. “If the army moves to do anything it would have national as well as international repercussions,” said another military source.
This was echoed by a senior PPP leader. “I am not bothered about the army. I think they are acting very sensibly at the moment,” the PPP leader told Reuters. “The worry probably would be what the Supreme Court does.” (With additional input from Reuters)
Published in The Express Tribune, December 23rd, 2011.