(This was published on May 12th. Due to some problem with the blog, it has been re-posted.)
By Aijaz Ahmed
By Aijaz Ahmed
Islamabad: The May 2 Abbottabad operation, which resulted in the discovery and murder of world’s most wanted terrorist, Osama Bin Laden at the hands of US Navy SEALs has brought the civil-military relationship in Pakistan to a new low. The mistrust between the two has increased manifold. It is feared that the imbroglio may end up in the pack up of another democratic dispensation.
Observers are unanimous that the country’s civilian leadership was stunned at the news and couldn’t respond quickly to it but they are really surprised at the response or the lack of it by the military leadership. They feel that the military hierarchy’s behavior was quite perplexing. They were remarkably silent and seemed quite oblivious in the first few days after the US operation as if nothing had happened. Later they mishandled the issue in the media and attempted to undermine the political leadership. That raises concerns of the people about junta’s intentions towards the democratic government.
Sources in the power corridors have confided to this scribe that the civilian leadership is taking many questions into account so as to regroup and formulate a counter strategy. Every single move by the army chief and other military top men is being minutely watched and analyzed. The civilian leadership is quite unhappy over the recent statement of top ranking military leadership regarding the government in its post Osama briefing to media and anchorpersons. The address of Army Chief General Kayani to Garrison Officers at three top cantonments has also caused concern amongst the civilian leadership through which an impression was given that the civilians are ineffective and it is they who are making damage control efforts despite a huge understanding on the issue between the President, Prime Minister and the Army Chief, sources maintained.
The civilian leadership sincerely intends to control the damage but for many reasons it is clueless and directionless, sources observed adding that every effort of independent inquiry was thwarted and blocked by the military, thus an inquiry under Adjutant General has been constituted. How come a serving subordinate will be able to conduct an independent inquiry against his immediate bosses, asked a sitting minister however adding that everybody will have to wait for the outcome of the inquiry being conducted by army itself.
On the other hand civilians are trying to get answers of many questions including the one that whether or not they have been ditched by the intelligence networks. The people also want an answer to the question if OBL’s presence in Abbottabad was in the knowledge of the relevant agencies and military leadership.
Meanwhile, sources observed that a sizeable number of the civilians seriously believed that they have been ditched. A serious question is being raised in view of the recent statements by some neighbors pointing out that when they heard the blast after the helicopter crash, they tried to approach OBL’s compound but they were stopped by some guards speaking Urdu.
These statements, in view of some sources, clearly indicate that an earlier report carried by Indus Herald that some soldiers were provided for outer cordon was correct. This also indicates that a section of Pakistani establishment knew about a US strike, but they might not be privy to the details of the proceedings.
A section of media and politicians are also looking for an answer to the question that if the operation was done in total dark and without a prior information of Pakistan, then how come the people who have been arrested after the operation from the compound did not escape although they got at least 15 minutes before the arrival of any Pakistani security personnel? Hamza bin Laden is believed to have taken the advantage of the time gap and ran away from the scene as reported by the British media is quite a good evidence in support of the above argument.
The president and the other PPP leaders wanted an independent inquiry to be held, but they had to accept the decision by military leadership as desired by Army Chief sources said adding that the powers that be asked civilians to stay away from the damage control efforts and they will be the ones who will be responsible to take on the situation and control the damage, but the situation deteriorated with every passing day. However, the military leadership was not happy with the way some TV channels sparked debate and took them to task with strong words and allegations of incompetence and negligence.
It is also said that the president has been advised that besides the inquiry announced by the military leadership, an independent parliamentary inquiry commission with presence of opposition leader Ch. Nisar, and some of the top retired judges must be set up. However, the sources observed that the government would be packed up if such an inquiry were established. It is also believed that the president is willing to set up such an inquiry with Army Chief and other military leadership on board.
Meanwhile, a section of media is probing an allegation that the officers in KPK were asked not to leave their station and stay in before the operation and all mobile phones of the uniformed officers were blocked on May 01. However this story has not been confirmed by any reliable source.
On the other hand, sources in the PML-N have confided to this scribe that Mian Nawaz Sharif responded to a May-Day call by the government through unconventional means and rushed to Pakistan. The government wanted to block Ch. Nisar’s cynical criticism. Mian Nawaz Sharif on the first day of his top leadership meeting strongly supported the idea of a demand of resignation of both Army Chief and the ISI Chief, a demand that didn’t get much response earlier. He according to the sources has assured the PPP that any attempt to subvert the Constitution and dislodge the civilian rule will be resisted with full force. At a press conference after the two-day PML-N meeting Mian Nawaz Sharif rejected the inquiry set up by military and demanded a Judicial Commission to look in the matter. He severely criticized the military establishment.
An interesting information has also come from the sources at the presidency that an internal inquiry is being conducted to identify the person who asked PPP’s lobbyist Mark Siegel to publish an article in the name of President Zardari, praising Osama’s death just few hours after the killing. The sources claim that the president didn’t write that good English. The sources say the president did not write the article in the Washington Post but he is in a fix and could not remove Mr. Siegel because of his previous support.
President, according to sources is also not happy with the statement of COAS regarding his advice to the government for calling a joint in-camera sitting of both the houses of the parliament, but he is waiting for the outcome and briefing points to the legislators before moving further, sources maintain.