LAHORE - A well-informed Islamabad journalist with good connections with both the rulers and the establishment wrote about a week ago that the prime minister is facing problems with the establishment. To emphasise that such a development is not taking place for the first time, he added the word ‘again’ in the headline.
According to him, the premier and the establishment were not on the same page on issues of missing persons, treatment of former president-COAS Gen Pervez Musharraf and operation in North Waziristan. Missing persons are not being produced before the apex court despite clear orders; Gen Musharraf is being kept at the Armed Forces Institute of Cardiology without any serious ailment; and talks with the Taliban are being opposed by the establishment despite the fact that the government is not inclined to go for a military operation in North Waziristan.
This was the gist of the issues on which the government and the establishment have divergent views.
It was also claimed in the write-up that two members of the government’s committee appointed for talks with the Taliban are being persuaded by their friends and well-wishers in the establishment to quit the body.
The government, the columnist said, wants to avoid a military operation in North Waziristan as it would provide the militants with an opportunity to start suicide attacks in big cities, as a result of which foreign investors would run away.
The government did not come up with any clarification.
On Saturday, another columnist from the same media group, who is also well-connected and well- informed, wrote: The rulers’ claim that political leadership and the army are on the same page is nothing more than a ‘white lie’.
If the relations between the army and the government are not worse than they were in the 90s, they are also not any better. There’s a serious unrest in the army.
The columnist gave some reasons for it.
He says the army is unhappy because of the way the government is trying to improve ties with India through officials and family members, bypassing the normal diplomatic and military channels. It is only ‘reluctantly’ carrying out the orders of the government.
The army, says the columnist, also feels that Gen Musharraf has been singled out for humiliation, and the government has enticed the political allies of the former president. Gen Musharraf’s prosecution under Article 6 of the Constitution, he says, is violation of the commitment given to the former COAS (Gen Kayani) through foreign mediators. “The purpose is to humble the military institutions”.
The military leadership, the columnist says, also feels that in talks with the US and Afghan leadership, the government supported the other sides’ point of view, instead of defending the Pak Army.
The military leadership was also taken aback when, contrary to the earlier decision of going for operation in Waziristan, the prime minister set up a committee for talks with the Taliban.
Both the reports are very disturbing and can’t be dismissed as propaganda by adversaries. Both the columnists have a soft corner for the present government.
(Awami Muslim League chief Sheikh Rashid and Pakistan Awami Tehrik chief Dr Tahirul Qadri insist that the government will not be there on the scene by the advent of the new year).
It was being expected that learning from the bitter experience of the past two terms, the prime minister will work very carefully this time and take all important institutions along. But, it appears, this is not going to happen. He will do something to make his third term also ‘memorable’.
For starters, when Mian Nawaz Sharif was the Punjab chief minister during 1988-90, he had set new records of confrontation with then prime minister Benazir Bhutto. He did not have the time to receive her whenever she came to Lahore. And in case he ever did, it was the most important story of the day.
Then when he became the prime minister after the 1990 elections, he did not have good relations with the then army chiefs Gen Aslam Beg and Gen Asif Nawaz. He also had serious differences with the then president Ghulam Ishaq Khan.
During his second term (1997-99) as prime minister, Mr Sharif took on the then president Farooq Leghari and then chief justice Syed Sajjad Ali Shah. It was during that period that the Supreme Court was attacked. Justice Shah was removed as chief justice with the cooperation provided by ‘Brother judges’.
(Mr Leghari had alleged that Mr Sharif had ‘worked’ on some judges to get rid of Justice Shah).
It was also during his second tenure that Mr Sharif forced Gen Jehangir Karamat to resign as COAS.
A year later, when he removed another COAS Gen Musharraf, the army toppled his government.
The army thinks, and rightly so, that Mr Sharif had been catapulted to centre stage politics by them and was not supposed to use his powers to undermine them. They quote a saying: “Do not use the sharpness of your speech on the mother who taught you how to speak”.