As we enter the second half of this year, the plot continues to thicken and the present elected government finds itself stuck in the doldrums. The current debate surrounding the elected government began with the June 17 police operation against Minhajul Quran workers in Model Town. Actually, as the judicial tribunal too seems to have placed its finger on it, it was June 15, when without warning, the Police IGP, Lahore DCO and the Elite Police Head were transferred on the same day within hours of each other. At that time, the questions raised were about security. “Was there an imminent security threat that these top most officers in the province had overlooked and were now being punished for?” The answer to that came a few days later when over 80 Minhaj workers were charted off to the hospital while 14 died. This is was police brutality, it was unmerited and it put the government on a ride on one of the slipperiest rides it has ever taken.
Obviously there were questions. Who ordered the operation? The city government said it was a routine anti-encroachment operation gone wrong. Current Law Minister Rana Mashhood went on record to say there was absolutely nothing political about the event. The chief minister came on TV and said he would eat his hat if he was found involved in the affair in any way. But Rana Sanaullah, then law minister, poured water over all the government’s explanations by stating that it was a targeted police operation against anti-state elements.
The varied statements bombarded back and forth by the government made one thing very clear – they were treading rotten ice and did not know how to swim. The drama reached an exciting crescendo when the shady man in the white hat made the passengers on an Emirates flight miserable out of their minds. Tahirul Qadri arrived in Pakistan and those who were following the sequence of events sat glued to their TV screens watching how a revolution takes place.
Qadri launched into a diatribe against the government comparing Nawaz Sharif and Shahbaz Sharif to Hitler and Mussolini, in that order. He denounced the judicial tribunal probing the incident and instead filed a separate case against the PM, CM and several other political and police high-ups.
What with the hunger pangs during Ramazan, hours of never-ending load shedding and humid hot weather, no one could really be bothered with a revolution. They tried really hard to block out the rambling man out of their minds, but that would be an exercise in futility. For lo and behold, other institutions clambered over each other to freshen up the wound.
It began with former prime minister Yousaf Raza Gillani’s statement that the Establishment had brokered a deal with former president Pervaiz Musharraf, a deal the present government was part of, promising him an honourable exit once he resigned. This raised a lot of furor among political circles with the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz up in arms to protect its honour. Other has-beens like Jamshed Dasti jumped up and down saying they were party to the deal as well, had witnessed it or heard about it. A deal? With a dictator? Blasphemous the detractors cried.
Till Sindh Deputy Speaker Syeda Shehla Raza went on live television and confirmed everything and more than what Gillani had divulged. During an interview on Geo, Raza released sensitive information regarding the National Reconciliation Order, with 858 stakeholders, foreign guarantors and a power sharing deal with the Army that undermined the very basis of democracy. While the Pakistan Peoples Party distanced itself from Raza’s statement, she put her foot down and tried to explain why the impugned NRO was in fact the best thing that had ever happened to the country.
“Musharraf would have never resigned if we hadn’t signed the deal,” she said. “The present rulers would have never been allowed to return.” She said that former president Asif Zardari’s recent trip to the US was in connection with the fact that America needed to be reminded that it had been the guarantor for the deal. And that the army cannot be allowed to swoop down and take over the country (via Canada). The PPP believes that Tahirul Qadri is dancing to the tune of 21 guns and needs to be stopped before the 111 brigade magics itself in Islamabad. If the talk of NRO hadn’t choked a lot of nerves already, the inter-institutional brawl took on various shades of ugly.
Former chief justice Iftikhar Chaudhry, after a much publicised television battle featuring Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf chief Imran Khan and his (Iftikhar Chaudhry’s) son Arsalan Iftikhar, served Khan a libel notice of Rs20 billion. Allegations went back and forth like a ping pong revealing the dark side of Pakistan’s premier institutions.
But the plot continued to thicken as a former senior Army officer went on BBC Urdu to “spill the beans”. Call it a gaffe or an indication of a split among pro-Raheel Sharif and pro-Kayani cadres within the military, former ISPR DG Major Athar Abbas placed the blame of a delayed military operation on former chief of army staff Ashfaq Pervaiz Kayani. A decision, he said, led to untold losses. Fact of the matter is, such statements only undermine the credibility of the military as an institution. The Army, as Major Abbas is aware of, acts as an institution, not on personal agenda or whims. The onus for decision taken by the former chief of army staff is placed on the entire institution. Now whether the former ISPR director general agrees or disagrees with the decision is immaterial because it has no repercussions for the present military operation whatsoever.
These ‘revelations’ by retired and serving leaders of the land of pure years after their occurrence only serve to provide a never-ending stream of drama the public craves for. There is no merit or profit in these sweet slips of tongue. What they do allow for is the exploitation of fault lines in institutions yet to be weaned even after 65 years into their inception. Better to stay mum than blow the whistle and be conspiratorial. This is the last thing Pakistan needs at this point in history. What with a military operation on one side, a brewing pot of volatile organised crime in Karachi and an unstable teetering Punjab, the political government, the Army or the judiciary cannot afford to indulge their selves in intrigue and showbiz nonsense. Not years after they happened – that just points towards recent falling out and conspiratorial stratagems.