ISLAMABAD: A flurry of activities during the past week has apparently defused immediate threats to the beleaguered government with the powerful troika in the country’s politics – the president, the prime minister and the military chief – pledging to protect democracy. A significant meeting took place on Monday, the day the Supreme Court heard cases involving graft charges against President Asif Ali Zardari in Swiss courts. Immediately after the meeting, there were signs of change in the government’s posture regarding the judiciary’s powers. Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani issued strict instructions to all members of the federal cabinet and Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) parliamentarians not to issue any statement about the National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO). Though only sketchy details of the meeting between President Zardari, Prime Minister Gilani and Chief of the Army Staff General Ashfaq Pervez Kayani emerged, insiders said that it was a culmination of what had been happening during the week.
An American newspaper reported that the three leaders had also met late Saturday night, lending credence to speculation that something was happening behind closed doors.
According to an official handout issued by the president’s spokesperson, in the 90-minute meeting the leaders “resolved to defend and protect the democratic process and to resolve all issues in accordance with the Constitution”.
Intriguingly, Presidential spokesperson Farhatullah Babar opted to use the mailing account of the PPP chairperson’s media office instead of that of the president’s. There was, however, no word either from the prime minister’s media office or from the military’s public relations wing.
The statement could not be verified but subsequent activities by the government suggested that it might have received some assurance from the military.
Meanwhile, a Supreme Court official denied that the prime minister and the chief justice had met. Gilani had told a group of television anchors on Sunday that he had met Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry some days ago and intended to meet him again.
The national political scene remained calmer than expected on Monday as the government did not submit a defiant summary, nor did the court push the administration as hard as was being speculated.
There were reports throughout the past week that the government had decided to hit back if the Supreme Court continued to pressurise it to write to the Swiss government for reopening cases of graft against President Zardari. In March 2009, the military had intervened to defuse a possible government-opposition clash when a protest march was heading towards Islamabad for the restoration of the higher judiciary’s judges ousted by former president General (retd) Pervez Musharraf. Immediately after the meeting on Monday, there were signs that the same had been repeated.
Published in The Express Tribune, September 28th, 2010.