Claims and counter-claims

The balloon floated through Memogate has now been pinpricked by its very own author, Mansoor Ijaz. The whole edifice built around the controversial memo is unravelling under the weight of Mr Ijaz’s own contradictions. General James Jones, the intermediary between Ijaz and Admiral Mike Mullen, has declared the memo as unreliable. General Jones said, “At no time during the call do I remember Mr Ijaz mentioning Ambassador Haqqani, and he gave me no reason to believe that he was acting at the direction of Ambassador Haqqani, with his participation, or that Ambassador Haqqani had knowledge of the call or the contents of the message.” Mr Ijaz is not known for his credibility in the first place and with General James’ claim that he thought Ijaz himself wrote the memo, it further makes it clear how one man tried to manipulate many parties and tried to disrupt the system in Pakistan.

Prime Minister Gilani met army chief General Kayani for three hours to discuss the situation. Mr Gilani feels that there is no standoff between the army and the government. It seems that the tensions between the military establishment and the civilian government have defused to a certain extent. That in itself is a positive indicator. The National Assembly also debated the memo issue. PML-N MNA Ayaz Amir voiced his fear that it seems like there is another conspiracy afoot to dislodge a civilian government as happened back in 1977. Even though this is not the PML-N’s official line and is also an alarmist prognosis, all political parties should still pay heed to such warnings and tread with caution. If the PPP-led coalition government is ousted by undemocratic means, it would be a blow to the future of all political parties. Thus, it was not surprising that the PPP’s coalition partners, the ANP and the MQM, have vowed to stand behind the government. Another aspect that has now reared its head is Article 47, which says: “(1) Notwithstanding anything contained in the constitution, the president may, in accordance with the provisions of this Article, be removed from office on the ground of physical or mental incapacity or impeached on a charge of violating the constitution or gross misconduct…” President Zardari has ruled out this option as he is recovering from his illness and will soon be back in the country. The flurry of speculation and the scandalisation of his illness was further fed by media frenzy, especially the electronic media. This is not a good development. Any human being can fall ill and President Zardari is no different. Just because he was incapacitated for a few days does not mean he is not fit to run the country. Making a mountain out of a molehill should be avoided at all costs.

Even though the sense of crisis that had been created in recent days seems to have abated, there are lessons to be learnt from this whole fiasco. One, a clash between the executive and the judiciary and/or government and the military could have been caused due to an unreliable person’s claims. Two, if – God forbid – the democratic system is disrupted due to Ijaz’s claims, it means that anybody can get away with a conspiracy in this land of the pure without credible proof. All state institutions should be on their guard and not let someone with dubious credentials undo a system that has been mandated by the people of Pakistan.

(my editorial in Daily Times)

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