The three important pillars of Pakistan, namely the Army, the incumbent Government and the Judiciary (the judiciary being the latest addition in recent years to the power equation) all spoke on the latest developments in Pakistan and sparks flew.
First, it was COAS Gen. Kayani who said mistakes of individual officers should not be blamed on the institution of the armed forces as a whole and any effort to drive a wedge between the armed forces and the people of Pakistan would lead to serious consequences. To any layman person who follows developments in Pakistan, it was apparent that Gen. Kayani was referring to the judiciary which in a recent spate of judgements, had severely criticized the army including asking for an end to its political interference. Just to ensure that Kayani's message was not misinterpreted, an Army officer was detailed to inform the press that the General was indeed referring to the judiciary. The immediate provocation was the about-to-be-delivered detailed verdict (finally given on November 8, 2012) in the 1990 poll rigging case in which the Supreme Court held the then COAS, Gen. Aslam Beg and the ISI Chief Lt. Gen. Asad Durrani guilty of violating the Constitution.
Incidentally, the Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP), Iftikhar Choudhry, asserted in a bar council meeting on the same day ( it would be interesting to see if chronologically he spoke after Kayani's speech to his army units) that the security paradigm which necessitated Pakistan to acquire tanks and missiles was outdated and real security came from empowerment of people. He minced no words in declaring that the Judiciary had sky-high limits that cannot be questioned. He also said that nobody should be mistaken about the 'ultimate authority' of the judiciary.
Not to be outdone, the Pakistani President, Asif Ali Zardari, also spoke about the latest state of affairs in Pakistan at a conference of SAARC Speakers of Parliaments. He said that democracy was now firmly established in Pakistan because an elected government was likely to complete its term ! He also said that the 'old order' was still active but its kicks were convulsions of a person in death bed. One can easily conclude that the reference to the 'old order' was indeed a reference to the Army. As a sop, the Pakistani prime Minister, Raja Pervez Ashraf, said that there was no collision among the institutions of the state and such impressions must be dispelled.
The seemingly conflictual statements could have been completely coincidental, but, one makes such an assumption only with great peril when it comes to Pakistan. So, what prompted these three gentlemen to speak their mind out in that fashion ?
The Pakistani Army (PA) has been under pressure from different quarters, both from external and internal sources, in recent times. There is no doubt that some sheen (in the eyes of the common folk Pakistanis) has gone off the PA. To be fair to the PA, I must say that the loss of sheen is not a recent development but is a culmination of a series of defeats and failures since October 1947 (though the PA covered itself with fabricated glory as dictated by the security paradigm that the CJP has now shredded). J&K (Gilgit was a treachery by a British Army Officer and cannot be attributed to the PA), 1965, 1999, operations in Balochistan or FATA et al have all been unmitigated disasters. Adding insult to these deep injuries have been Salala, Abbottabad, Raymond Davis etc. The 'bad Taliban', for their part, almost captured the GHQ at Rawalpindi along with top Generals as hostages. They have been successfully harassing and tormenting the armed forces by attacking their nuclear weapon complexes, bases, buses carrying their personnel, top individual officers (including their creator and mentor Col. Imam), recruitment and training centres, offices of the various intelligence agencies , convoys etc. The series of 'Peace Agreements' with the 'bad Taliban' all collapsed within a matter of a few months each and the 'bad Taliban' considerably gained in the process.
Externally too, the PA-US relationship had at several times reached breaking-point in recent times only to recover just in the nick of time. Various American interlocutors have spoken openly and harshly of Pakistan's duplicity, an unusual occurrence. These have weakened the bond between the US and the PA, a relationship that has been purely transactional since the 1960s, after the initial American euphoria about 'ramrod straight Pakistani soldiers' being surrealistically 'out of a Hollywood movie' etc. However, the frequent downs in the US-PA relationship had not substantially affected the PA's projects against India because the 'ups' had stocked the PA sufficiently to coast through the bouts of 'downs'. However, this time it looks very different because the American anger had cut across the political divide and the lay Americans have understood the Pakistani perfidy. The US also has a deep strategic relationship with India now while it was at the best indifferent and at the worst hostile to India's concerns in the three decade period between the 70s and the 90s. The PA-USA dream has gone sour, at least for now though there is no guarantee that it would not recover. All it needs is another event like 26/11 or December 24, 1979 or clever manipulation by Pakistan that would make the US dependent on Pakistan for 'services'.
In recent times, a series of high-profile events has dented the image of the PA. There was a setback in the Hussain Haqqani case for the PA as the main prosecution witness setup by the ISI was found to be unreliable. An angry Prime Minister, Gilani, dismissed the hand-picked PA General who was holding the post of Defence Secretary and replaced him with a woman. The Generals were forced to discuss military matters with a civilian and that too a woman, a shame in a country that prides itself on its martial misogyny. Abbottabad and Salala exposed the helplessness of the Pakistani armed forces in spite of brave words of shooting down intruding flying machines. At both these places, things happened even before PA could realize what was happening. The Supreme Court, led by the CJP who was reinstated by the Army Chief himself, revived the long-running Air Marshal Asghar Khan case. The Supreme Court (SC) confirmed that money indeed had been disbursed by the PA to influence politicians in the 1990 general elections and passed severe strictures against no less a person than the then army Chief, Gen. Aslam Beg, and his ISI Chief Lt. Gen. Asad Durrani (who is normally spoken of in Indian TV channels as a moderate voice of Pakistani military). It asked the ISI (and by extension the PA) to ensure that it dismantled its 'political intelligence wing' and did not interfere in politics henceforth. Then, there have been other cases as well like the corruption in the pilferage and disappearance of thousands of NATO containers sent through National Logistics Cell (NLC), a transportation unit owned and operated by the military. More than 29000 containers simply disappeared and an equal number were pilfered with. Of course, this behaviour of the NLC does not come as a surprise to regular Pakistani watchers because it has been the main conduit for heroin and smuggled goods from Afghanistan into Pakistan.
The warning shot fired by Gen. Kayani across the bow is understandable because the PA is entering a crucial period as denouement nears in Afghanistan. The PA is quite firm in its India-revenge project and Afghanistan plays the most crucial role in its scheme of things against India. The pivotal Doctrine of Strategic Depth, conceived and developed by the likes of Gen. Zia-ul-Haq, Gen. Mirza Aslam Beg, Lt. Gen Akhtar Abdur Rehman, and Lt. Gen. Hamid Gul continues to define the approach of the PA towards war mongering with India. The fact that the Quetta and Haqqani shura are being protected within Pakistan is a proof that Pakistan is as vigorously pursing today its Afghan strategy as of the late 1990s. Both the US and the Afghan governments have been frustrated by the stonewalling of the Taliban interlocutors under a PA advice. We must expect a very bloody war of attrition in c. 2013 when the Americans and the Taliban try to degrade and demoralize the other party before crucial talks and the withdrawal of the ISAF in c. 2014. With a not-so-friendly US around and a number of neighbouring countries not wanting a return of the Taliban to power, the PA does not want any derailment of its Afghanistan strategy either through an internal issue or through a war with India at this stage. This would also explain the relative easing up of terror attacks on India this year (except for the fizzled out Pune bombs). It is therefore working overtime to install a PA-compliant jihadi Prime Minister in the form of Imran Khan in Islamabad. The CJP, through his various actions and utterances, seem to be undermining this noble PA project and the PA is incensed. Could the CJP be, wittingly or unwittingly, following an American agenda ? We should see, in coming months, a slew of PA-sponsored planted stories about the CJP to tarnish his reputation.
All along, the judiciary has either been a vociferous supporter of the PA (invoking the 'doctrine of necessity' to support the Army's frequent usurpation of power) or a cowering mute spectator. Judicial activism started when an arrogant Gen. Musharraf upbraided the CJP, Iftikhar Chaudhry and put him under house arrest. After PPP regained power in c. 2008, Asif Ali Zardari was unwilling to reinstate the dismissed Iftikhar Chaudhry leading to nation-wide protest. The COAS, Gen. Kayani, threw his weight behind the CJP and he was quickly reinstated. How could Zardari go aginst the wishes of an Army Gneral, much less a COAS ? Gen. Kayani must be ruing his decision now. Who knows ? The CJP, Iftikhar Chaudhry, might very well be nurturing political ambitions. The undue haste with which he initiated suo motu proceedings in the case involving his own son (Malik Riaz Vs. Arsalan Iftikhar) and in which he himself participated as the judge, thereby throwing to the winds tradition and propriety, show that the CJP is not 'lily white' as he has carefully portrayed himself so far. His intention could be to discredit both the PA and the politicians (which they both surely deserve) so that he comes out as the Knight in the Shining Armour.
Zardari and his PPP would be watching the developments and adding to the war of words appropriately for their own advantage.
Thus the French proverb, Plus ca change, plus c'est la meme chose, fits Pakistan exceedingly well. Every party in this triangular equation hates the other two at this point of time.