Rumours abound as to who’s going to make the first move – the civilian government, or the military establishment? In the possible scenario that the government sacks Chief of Army Staff Ashfaq Parvez Kayani or Director-General Inter-Services Intelligence (DG ISI) Shuja Pasha over Memogate, the army may approach the Supreme Court (SC).
In recent days, General Kayani has had a series of consultations with his top commanders to discuss the current tensions with the government, and possible options to deal with the situation if things go from bad to worse, a source in the military told The Express Tribune.
No coup on the cards
A consensus has been reached that no direct intervention will take place as it had in October 1999 if the government decides to send the army and intelligence chiefs packing, the source said. Instead, they have decided to challenge such a move before the country’s highest court, the source disclosed.
Kayani and Pasha are both working under extensions to their tenure, but under the constitution the prime minister does have the power to remove them anytime. The ISI chief’s extension expires in March next year while Kayani remains at the helm till November 2013.
However, legal experts are of the view that such a move on the part of the government is likely to be set aside by the SC, which is currently examining a petition seeking a judicial probe into the memo scandal.
“They (Army and ISI chiefs) can challenge the government decision in the SC based on the grounds that it is mala fide (in bad faith) to preempt investigations into the memo case,” said barrister Zafarullah Khan, who is one of the petitioners in
He said there were instances in the past where the apex court overruled such decisions by the government. “And my feeling is if the government goes to that extent, the Supreme Court may not accept it,” he argued.
When approached, the military’s public relations wing refused to comment.
Both Kayani and Pasha have taken an entirely different position to that of the government before the nine-member bench of the court on Memogate.
The generals insist that the memo is authentic and needs to be thoroughly investigated while the government has termed it a conspiracy and urged the SC to dismiss petitions outright.
The differences have recently prompted Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani to claim that ‘conspirators’ were out to bring down his government in an unusual tirade against the army.
However, the army chief himself brushed aside rumours of a takeover, describing such allegations as an attempt to divert focus from the ‘real issues.’
What PPP members want
In the face of strained civil-military relations, at a recent gathering of the ruling Pakistan Peoples Party, some members demanded of the government to let the heads of the army and ISI chiefs roll, immediately.
PPP’s chief spokesman Qamar Zaman Kaira reportedly said certain members did raise this issue in the ruling party’s parliamentary committee meeting but insisted those views did not represent the government’s stance.
It is believed that the government has so far resisted taking such an extreme step due to several reasons that include likely resistance from the military and the role of the SC in this entire controversy.
Other factors such as public opposition from the PML-N, which would likely resist such a move, may also force the government to play safe.