Islamabad diary: ‘Neto, Zadari’ rhetoric and nothing else to say
The first thing you notice at a rally organised by religious parties is that they are not very good at spellings. Placards at the Jamaatud Dawa protest at Aabpara on Friday were long on enthusiasm but short on literacy. They demanded that “Neto” must go, vociferously “condomed” its attack and called on “Zadari” to resign.
Their synchronised singing wasn’t much better. Chants against the US would have been easier to make out had the participants started and ended their sloganeering at roughly the same time. For such a party, the JuD at least managed a good turn out and an impressive roster of speakers, including PML-N leader and former chairman of the House Building Finance Corporation Siddiqul-Farooq.
The jarring cacophony of voices that seemed to be saying nothing but said it loudly summed up a week where there was a lot of fury but very little clarity.
Advisers in Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani’s camp were delighted that US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called up their man on Saturday to request that Pakistan rethink their decision on staying away from the Bonn conference. That decision, which the PM’s camp would obviously not admit to, is for the military, not Gilani to make. But that Clinton chose to speak to Gilani is for them a further sign that the Obama administration finds dealing with the military distasteful.
When Clinton visited Pakistan, she made it obvious that she would publicly deal only with the civilian leadership. While she met with military leaders, including Chief of Army Staff Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, Clinton insisted on doing so only in the presence of members of the civilian government.
Clinton’s phone call was not the first sign that the US finally seemed to realise the gravity of the situation. On Thursday, US officials were adamantly denying that they would vacate Shamsi airbase, as ordered to do so by the Pakistan government, any time soon. Two days later they changed their tune and said that of course they would comply with the wishes of the Pakistani government.
The military, meanwhile, put its own unique spin on the situation. A former army man, who now moonlights as a newspaper columnist, said that he had heard from his sources in the military that the Pakistani troops had surrounded militants working for Maulana Fazlullah and that it was these militants who signalled to the US that they were in danger. That is when the attack commenced and the militants were taken to safety by the Americans.
While this scenario may seem outlandish, the military remains convinced that they were attacked intentionally. That is pretty much what Military Operations Director General Major General Ishfaq Nadeem told journalists at a briefing in Rawlpindi.
But the furore may soon die down, at least if the JuD’s enthusiasm is any indication. On Saturday they tried a repeat rally in Aabpara. This time only a dozen people, still unable to spell or chant, showed up.
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