More than he can chew?
Despite having being blackballed by the apex court a little less than a year ago; Nawaz Sharif continues to dominate the agenda. Disqualified for life to hold any public office and staring certain conviction in NAB cases against him, he simply refuses to throw in the towel.
Continuing his carefully crafted narrative Sharif at the wrong end of the powerful military’s stick has thrown another bombshell. According to him he was singled out to be punished for having the temerity to put former dictator General (retd) Pervez Musharraf on trial for treason under Article 6 of the Constitution.
That is why on the watch of former COAS (Chief of Army Staff) General Raheel Sharif a dharna (sit-in) orchestrated by the PTI head honcho Imran Khan was allowed to take place right in the heart of Islamabad in August 2014. Sharif alleges that the sit in that the controversial cleric Tahir-ul-Qadri also joined later had the full support of the intelligence agencies.
No doubt that the then prime minister certainly bit more than he could chew when one fine morning in November 2013 his interior ministry Nisar Ali Khan had announced in an impromptu press conference that the government had decided to try Musharraf for treason. It had never happened before in the checkered history of civ-mil relations in Pakistan that a former military chief be tried for his perceived sins of omission or commission.
Sharif perhaps in his penchant to punish Musharraf for staging a coup against him in October 1999 simply forgot that forces supporting the retired general would prove to be more powerful than his civilian government. And whether he was strong enough to withstand the fallout or not?
No former military chief had to pay for his ostensible crimes. In Pakistan’s long history of military coups why would the fourth coupster be an exception to the rule?
The mother of all coupsters, Field Marshal Ayub Khan after being ousted as a result of a popular movement against him led by his former protégé Zulfikar Ali Bhutto died as retired General in his own bed. Ayub Khan’s bigger sin than his disastrous so-called “decade of reforms” was that when the chips were down instead of following his own handwritten constitution, he handed over power to another General, Yahya Khan.
Yahya an effete drunkard presided over the break-up of Pakistan. The country literally split into two in 1971 and the dictator who was the principal architect of this herculean debacle simply went home.
Zulfikar Ali Bhutto who took over the reins of a truncated and demoralized Pakistan chose to keep the Justice Hamoodur Rehman Commission report on causes of the East Pakistan debacle decided to keep it under wraps. Yahya was never tried for his sins either.
Perhaps Bhutto an astute politician and avid student of history knew very well that implementing the Hamoodur Rehman Commission report will be tantamount to stirring up a hornet’s nest. But Sharif in his wisdom thought otherwise in trying to bring Musharraf to book.
He perhaps forgot the age-old French maxim that, ‘no matter how much things change they remain the same’. Having article 6 as part of the constitution does not axiomatically entitle a civilian government to implement it on former military chiefs. Sharif perhaps overlooked the stark reality of Pakistani politics that the military as an institution would do anything to protect its own.
So far as Musharraf is concerned, he was the mentor of the then COAS General Raheel Sharif. Why would he have allowed his benefactor to be thrown to the gallows?
That is why Musharraf was literally hijacked on his way to the courts and ensconced in a military hospital in Rawalpindi. A chastened post dharna Sharif relented and ultimately allowed his former nemesis to leave the country.
However it is a bit of a stretch when the former prime minister claims that he is still being penalized for attempting to prosecute Musharraf. The present COAS General Qamar Javed Bajwa does not owe his job to the former strongman.
Sharif handpicked him over other generals. And if on one side the military is to be blamed for following its ‘heads I win tail you lose’ ethos then Sharif cannot be entirely absolved for queering the pitch due to his own malfeasance.
After all who advised him to make a perfect hash of the Dawn Leaks report? The Dawn Leaks did not happen during general Bajwa’s term. The prime minister could have easily implemented the report and moved on.
But thanks to his ham handedness and ego driven approach he reneged on an informal agreement made with the military chief on how to implement the Report’s recommendations. Although the DG ISPR Asif Ghafoor was made to withdraw by his boss the offending tweet he had made earlier, Sharif now wanted his head.
Perhaps this episode proved to be the proverbial last straw after which Sharif lost all credibility with the military.
Emissaries from Sharif made concerted efforts to somehow persuade the military leadership to intercede on his behalf with the apex courts in the Panama leaks case. But the army leadership refused to interfere in a matter that it considered to be purely legal and constitutional.
The PML-N leadership alleges that the two premier institutions – the military and the judiciary – are in cahoots to get rid of Sharif. Might be so, but who advised the former prime minister to approach the courts rather than taking his case to the parliament – as counseled by some of his senior advisors and even the opposition.
Nonetheless the former prime minister by invoking the curious case of Musharraf wittingly or unwittingly has opened some old wounds and some new ones as well. True, that the days of overt military takeovers seem to be over but an interventionist mindset persists.
The ethos that most politicians are corrupt and incompetent buffoons is pervasive in the ubiquitous establishment. But in this context – as is being widely alleged – the manner in which sleuths are being used for political engineering is indeed unfortunate.
But even more shameful is the manner in which politicians squabbling amongst themselves are readily willing to welcome a little tailwind from the same military they claim to loath.
Sharif has demanded an NSC (National Security Committee) meeting to discuss the fallout from the recently published book jointly penned by former ISI (Inter-Services Intelligence) chief Lt. Gen. Asad Durrani and former head of the Indian spy agency RAW (Research and Analysis Wing) A. S. Dulat.
The book, “Spy Chronicles: RAW, ISI and the Illusion of Peace” is the first of its kind. Pakistan and India are historical adversaries. How can former chiefs of antagonistic national intelligence agencies do a book together?
Going against the norm Gen (Retd) Durrani did not take prior permission from the military before embarking on the project for which he has been summoned by the GHQ for violating the military’s code of ethics. Surely he should have also gotten the manuscript whetted and cleared before publication.
Durrani was the ISI chief privy to sensitive information. He was also the central figure in the so-called Mehrnagate scandal. Under him a huge sum of money was spent to create an anti PPP alliance in the form of IJI (Islami Jamhoori Ittehad).
But Sharif is right in complaining about these double standards. Imagine Sharif and Atal Bihari Vajpayee collaborating on such an endeavor throwing light on matters such as the Lahore Declaration and the disastrous Kargil war.