Civil military relations are an important barometer of stability in a Westphalian state that these remain in a permanent state of mistrust in Pakistan is tragic. Circumstances that have contributed to recent strain in relations between the Zardari government and GHQ in Rawalpindi resemble a comic tragedy. This to recount media reports bearing the curious headline of, “Memogate,” involve Pakistani ambassador to the United States Hussain Haqqani, an American citizen of Pakistani origin, Mansoor Ijaz and reportedly the President of Pakistan Mr Asif Ali Zardari.
The report briefly stated is a Memo purportedly made by Mr Ijaz on behalf of civil government in Pakistan conveyed through Mr Haqqani to the Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff of the United States who has since retired, Admiral Mike Mullen to save the country from a possible coup after assassination of Osama Bin Laden in Abbottabad, Pakistan. Made public by Mr Ijaz the Memo to Mullen and hence the name Memogate has raised the storm of treason by Mr Haqqani at the behest of Mr Zardari.
The diabolical events surrounding the memo thus are another trigger for deteriorating relations between the Army and civilian leadership in the country and particularly the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) which is in power. This has the potential to turn the politics once again with the most virulent opposition to the PPP the Pakistan Muslim League Naas (PML N) already having spurned the Army particularly during the Osama crisis wherein party leader and former Prime Minister Mr Nawaz Sharif had questioned the army’s failure of sorts. In case the Army feels that both Nawaz Sharif and the PPP are unreliable, it may go in for the third option by supporting Mr Imran Khan who has had a successful rally in Lahore recently and his Party is gathering momentum.
That the Army and the PPP supported each other immediately after the Osama raid is well known that there were undercurrents of coercion on the PPP to support the army line in the parliament was however only a conjecture by many. This may have been the background for the communication to Admiral Mullen if at all there is any truth to the story. Given that the Army was very unpopular immediately after the Osama incident whether it would have dared to go for a coup is questionable, thus the intricacies of the plot seem to be getting deeper.
In case the crisis worsens this may see Mr Zardari losing his prime position as the President though he is known to be a great survivor who has ensured not just the survival of his party the PPP when his wife Benazir was killed in a terror attack but also propelled it to power using the sympathy factor to advantage. Thereafter he has survived many an attempt to dethrone him and he is not likely to give up the fight easily though this time the charges seem to be very serious including possibly treason against the state. Mr Ijaz who has reportedly written the Memo has been vehement in his stand. Now it would take all the political skills of Mr Zardari to survive in the minefield of Pakistani politics though his own party the PPP is likely to provide him strong support and unless the battle goes to the streets, Mr Zardari will not go early.
But portends of the case are of great concern for civil military relations in the country in the long term. The incident whatever is the final outcome will go down in history as another point of inflection where the civilian leadership felt threatened by the military to have taken up the issue with Admiral Mullen who was known to have good rapport with General Kiyani. While Admiral Mullen reportedly trashed the report as coming from an unreliable source lacking credibility he would have surely put his men on alert lest the same come true.
More over why should the PPP approach Mullen who was about to retire rather than the US Secretary of State or even President Obama and attempt what can be best called as a reverse coup would remain a mystery. Thus Memogate will add to the massive trust deficit that has seen many coups in the country so far.
The circumstances may represent a convoluted comedy for the people of Pakistan this is a tragedy depriving them of a stable political order in the near future; sadly there is no hope of civil military relations improving for a long time to come, given another shock that these have undergone. Whatever be the intent of the person who initiated the Memo he has done more harm than good to the cause of the nation and the people of the country who will have to wait for normal political comedies rife in other democracies as neighbouring India or even the United States rather than the tragic ones of tiffs between the uniformed and the civil order.