Friday, December 23, 2011

Government, Army on collision course

Amidst growing tension between the government and other state institutions including Army and the Judiciary, the Pakistani Prime Minister Syed Yousuf Raza Gillani on Thursday (Dec 22) made a strong assertion of parliamentary supremacy in the National Assembly, declaring that all state organs, including the military, were answerable to parliament and none could claim to be “a state within the state”.
His sharp comments in the lower house (National Assembly) — as well as in a speech earlier in connection with the birthday of Quaid-i-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah — followed some dire speculations relating to a defence ministry reply to a Supreme Court query and some challenging remarks by opposition leader Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan about the state of the government’s control over the military.
“All institutions of the country are answerable to parliament and nobody is above law,” the prime minister said at the fag-end of his second intervention in the house during the day that was greeted by a standing ovation from the treasury benches and supportive statements from allied parties.

A leading Pakistani English newspaper Dawn reported that the Government and Army are on a collision course. The paper reported that a showdown between the civilian arm of the government and the army-led security establishment looked imminent, with the Supreme Court also making it abundantly clear that instead of backing off from the so-called `memogate` scandal, it would like to take it to its logical conclusion.
Although the federal capital had been on edge since the eruption of the memo controversy, some candid and caustic remarks by the prime minister hinting at a conspiracy to remove the government, and criticism of the Army and the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) led to rumours that the conflict may result in direct military intervention.
Although most Islamabad-watchers and seasoned analysts immediately brushed aside reports of an immediate coup, some were of the view that an endgame of sorts might have begun.
This was evident from Army Chief Gen Ashfaq Kayani’s sworn statement before the Supreme Court insisting on the existence of a `memo` sent to a top American military official that undermined Pakistan`s national security, the defence ministry’s shocking statement submitted before the apex court declaring that the government does not have operational control of the army and ISI, and Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani’s defiant remarks that he and his party were willing to sit in the opposition but will not accept a “state within the state” — a clear reference to the army and ISI’s interference in the government`s affairs.

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