Something is rotten...

The Memogate issue, a political scandal at best, seems to have developed into a matter of great import because the Supreme Court (SC) has decided to hear a petition related to the controversial memo. It is quite embarrassing that two supreme institutions — parliament and the SC — are investigating the same issue. When the prime minister had already ordered an inquiry into the matter through the parliamentary committee on national security, there was no need for the matter to be taken to the highest court. According to Article 184 (3.1) of the Constitution: “Exercise of jurisdiction. Court has to see that discretion is exercised in such a way that mischief and chaos is prevented. It should be exercised only when necessary, for injudicious exercise of such power, might result in grave and serious consequences.” Is it appropriate that the court and parliament are seized of the same matter? Should the petition be heard when it involves a spurious unsigned memo? It is important that the maintainability of the petition should first be addressed before the honourable justices exercise their jurisdiction so that mischief and chaos is prevented.

Judging by the responses submitted by the top military brass to the SC, it looks like they are jumping to conclusions when the very fact that has been ‘stated’ as a fact is still under investigation. What was also interesting to see was the Ministry of Defence’s (MoD’s) reply to the SC on the memo issue. It admitted that the MoD had no control over the army and the ISI. An admission to this effect has sent everyone in a tizzy. Prime Minister Gilani also came down hard on the military, in a subtle yet aggressive manner, yesterday, while speaking in parliament. He said: “If they [military/ISI] say that they are not under the Ministry of Defence, then we should get out of this slavery, then this parliament has no importance, this system has no importance, then you are not sovereign...They are being paid from the state exchequer, from your revenue and from your taxes. If somebody thinks that they are not under the government, they are mistaken. They are under the government and they remain under the government, because we are the elected representatives of the people of Pakistan.”

That the prime minister made such a statement comes as no surprise given that a Reuters report quoting unnamed military sources claims that the military wants to get rid of President Zardari but through ‘legal means’. In order to oust the president, a two-thirds majority is needed in parliament. It is highly unlikely that the military is looking for that route. On the other hand, the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) looks like it is not ready to go down without a fight. Prime Minister Gilani raised the issue of Osama bin Laden and asked who gave the most wanted terrorist the visa to enter and reside in Pakistan for six years. This was a direct dig at the military and its intelligence agencies. Mr Gilani made it clear that the military is accountable to parliament and that no institution can be a state within a state. In principle he is right, but has this parliament functioned in a way that commands respect from all state institutions and the people is a question to ponder. No one can disagree with the principle of civilian supremacy but Pakistan’s history is witness to how the military holds it in utter contempt and considers itself not to be subservient to the elected representatives. This is something that needs to be changed. The PPP might have asserted itself a bit late but it is good to finally see the government taking the high moral ground. Something is definitely rotten in the state...

(my editorial in Daily Times)

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