Double standards and the infallible military hierarchy

Published: December 19, 2011
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A female parliamentarian demanded that IISI chief, Lt General Ahmed Shuja Pasha, should resign and face an inquiry.

US President Harry Truman famously placed a sign on his desk in the Oval Office that said “The buck stops here”.

Thousands of miles away and some 60 years later, the only message on anyone’s desk appears to be “The buck stops anywhere but here”.

Memogate has been an embarrassment for the sitting government, even though the credibility of the memo seems to be shrinking day by day. Meanwhile, the ever-reliable Mansoor Ijaz has become a media darling for his incessant, single-source (at best) allegations that have essentially revealed that everyone in power, elected, selected or promoted, just wants to rubbish the country’s best interest to secure a greater share of power and work to achieve their own economic objectives.

More importantly though, events that have occurred parallel to this episode have revealed the duplicity of certain parties in the upper echelon of government (although legally speaking, they really shouldn’t have that much power in the first place).

Yes, on one hand we have seen a democratically elected, unpopular president sitting in hospital and a now former ambassador who at various times in his career has been called a Sharif sympathiser, a Mush/ army sympathiser and obviously a PPP sympathiser. Both have faced trials for alleged criminal actions, but by hook or by crook, neither was convicted, although the latter did have to quit his job due to the then, and as yet, unsubstantiated allegations of Mr Ijaz.

On the other, there are two men who have overseen two of the most embarrassing episodes in Pakistan’s recent military history. Not since being caught out on the Kargil operation has the sitting government had to accept that the armed forces, which are all subservient to the elected government, are running of their own accord. Not since the Qadeer Khan/nukes for sale episode has the army claimed to have no knowledge of a major intelligence failure. Not since General Aslam Beg’s strong-arming of Chief Justice Afzal Zullah has the Supreme Court been placed under such one sided pressure from the army. Not since General Hamid Gul setting up the IJI has the ISI indulged in the kind of double-game it is claimed to be in now.

Now there is a common thread here. Each of these incidents were, at least in the short-term, successfully played as failures of the civilian government. The army came out looking heroic and increased the public standing of the men committing these crimes. Not in a single case was the thought of a general resigning ever taken seriously. Air Marshal Asghar Khan filed a petition in the Supreme Court over a decade back challenging the ISI’s interference in politics, but that petition still curiously remains untouched.

That is what makes Bushra Gohar’s comments in Thursday’s National Assembly session so significant.

Her call for Pasha to pack up his bags the same way Haqqani had to makes perfect sense. If we are to believe one allegation by a man of dubious credibility, why not another? For the conspiracy theorist, the haste with which Mr Ijaz withdrew his allegation rings alarm bells. For the rationalist, it seems his contacts in the establishment got to him. The same establishment that paid Ghulam Nabi Fai millions of dollars for his brilliant work at ending the Kashmir conflict and once and for all making the princely state of Jammu and Kashmir a part of Pakistan. Wait, that never happened.

Now with the exaggerated, one-sided story being churned out to make the army look like victims of a ‘saazish’, and with all the chatter about Haqqani and Article 6, why not quickly examine how it would apply to the other set of players. Finding Haqqani guilty of high treason would need him to be proven guilty of attempting to “abrogate or subvert or suspend or hold in abeyance, or attempt or conspire to abrogate or subvert or suspend or hold in abeyance, the Constitution by use of force or show of force or by any other unconstitutional means”.

In short, he would have to be found guilty of attempting to take an unconstitutional action to achieve a political end, most likely consolidation of power for himself and elements in the government that were in the loop. Yes it’s illegal, and if the evidence is there, Haqqani is in deep waters, but is memogate really high treason?

Pasha, on the other hand, is accused of planning a coup d’état, which loosely translates into an attack on the state, or, for a man who swore to “bear true faith and allegiance to Pakistan and uphold the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan which embodies the will of the people, (and to) not engage (him) self in any political activities whatsoever”, an act of treason.

At least if Mansoor Ijaz is saying the truth.

Vaqas Asghar

Vaqas Asghar

The author is a senior sub-editor on the Islamabad Desk and also reports on diplomatic events. He tweets as @vasghar (twitter.com/vasghar)

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.