ISLAMABAD: A lack of progress on the National Action Plan (NAP) to counter terrorism in the wake of the Army Public School massacre was just one of many reasons behind the civil-military tensions that boiled over last week.

In background conversations with Dawn, military officials and civilian leaders offered their own interpretations for the reasons behind a public spat between the government and the army.

Also read: Military’s complaint

Sources say that there have been a number of recent developments that have strained the ever-sensitive balance of power between the two institutions.

After the corps commanders’ meeting on Nov 10, the military leadership expressed its dissatisfaction with the government’s performance on NAP. This prompted an uncharacteristic response from the PM Office the following day, which emphasised that effective implementation of NAP was the shared responsibility of all national institutions working within the ambit of the constitution.

A senior government functionary close to the PML-N leadership told Dawn that the prime minister had never been very comfortable with the army chief’s trips to international capitals. He was particularly unhappy, the functionary said, with Gen Raheel Sharif’s visits to Saudi Arabia in the first week of November, and now the US.


Selective accountability drive, protection of MQM, PPP leaderships said to be behind spat


As far as Saudi Arabia is concerned, the thinking within government circles is that the army chief must focus on other countries because the Sharif brothers already have a direct relationship with the Saudi royal family. In the case of the US, the PM had just completed his own sojourn to Washington, where he had held detailed deliberations with the White House, the official said.

“In any another country, a visit abroad by the army chief doesn’t attract much attention, but things are different in Pakistan. With the GHQ’s omnipresence in the formulation of foreign and defence policies, one may well wonder what is the background of the army chief’s current visit to the US if both sides (military and civilian) are on the same page,” remarked a ruling party lawmaker.

However, Information Minister Pervaiz Rashid insisted there was nothing unusual about the army chief’s trips, nor were there any tensions between civilian and military leaders.

“Pakistan is playing an important role in the war on terror and with America’s direct involvement in Afghanistan, heads of security institutions are required to have regular meetings,” he said.

Mr Rashid said the government was doing its best to meet various challenges and that all national institutions were playing their due role in this regard.

This was a marked change in tone from the language of the official press release issued on Nov 11 — ostensibly on the minister’s orders — which made it a point to remind all concerned that NAP implementation was a shared national responsibility.

But a senior security official told Dawn that there was more to the tensions between the two institutions than just NAP and the slow progress on that front.

The military leadership, he said, was unhappy with the way the government had handled the MQM issue. Following the Rangers-led operation in Karachi, during which a number of MQM leaders were arrested, the party had publicly denounced GHQ. However, the federal government chose to sit on the fence, something that did not go down well with the army.

“In response to the MQM outcry, the government constituted a grievance redressal committee. As a result, the party is back in parliament despite making a big fuss and resigning from both federal and provincial legislatures over alleged excesses against its workers by law-enforcement agencies,” he said.

The federal government, explained the security official, was seen as taking the MQM’s side in this case, which did not go unnoticed among the relevant quarters.

In addition, the government’s selective anti-corruption campaign has also ruffled feathers. For example, the official said, the much-publicised matter of supermodel Ayan Ali was a case in point. Despite over two dozen hearings, nothing concrete has happened so far. “The ludicrously slow pace clearly suggests that the government is protecting someone behind the scenes,” he said.

This is but one example and there are many joint investigation teams (JIT), which the ISPR referred to in its Nov 10 statement, that have yet to complete their tasks. These include JITs on very high-profile cases, such as the Karachi airport attack, the Lahore church attack in Youhannabad and the assassination of former Punjab home minister retired Col Shuja Khanzada.

The military official also said that there was a perception within the security establishment that the federal government had gone soft on the PPP leadership in corruption cases and failed to take action against corrupt elements in Punjab. “The military leadership is particularly unhappy over Punjab government’s lacklustre campaign against banned militant organisations operating inside the province.”

When asked, a senior PML-N office-bearer told Dawn that the government was in tight corner. “Imran Khan continues to challenge the government, making it difficult for the PML-N to open fronts against the MQM or the PPP at this time,” he concluded.

Published in Dawn, November 16th, 2015

Opinion

Digital finance
17 Jan 2021

Digital finance

Raast offers opportunities for inclusion, but is not without risk.
Broadsheetgate
Updated 17 Jan 2021

Broadsheetgate

The competence that has underlined NAB and its actions has cost us dearly now and even in 2008.
Debate on ordinances
17 Jan 2021

Debate on ordinances

The government’s line of thinking indicates a belief in the principle of brute majority.
America in decline?
Updated 16 Jan 2021

America in decline?

In spite of the ‘gates’ that rocked the US, democracy stood firm.

Editorial

Updated 17 Jan 2021

Foreign funding case

THE Election Commission of Pakistan has summoned both the PML-N and PPP on Monday in connection with the foreign...
17 Jan 2021

Vaccine procurement

ALL eyes are on the government as it pledges to roll out the Covid-19 vaccination programme to about 80m citizens by...
17 Jan 2021

Makli ‘renovation’

THERE are fears that the recently conducted ‘renovation’ work carried out at the Makli necropolis may rob the...
16 Jan 2021

Gas liberalisation

AFTER drawing much criticism from both consumers and the opposition over its mismanagement of the energy sector that...
16 Jan 2021

Osama Satti inquiry

THE findings of the judicial inquiry into the Jan 2 killing of 21-year-old Osama Satti in Islamabad merely confirms...
Updated 16 Jan 2021

British MP on IHK

DESPITE sustained efforts by New Delhi’s rulers to remove India-held Kashmir from the global discourse, people of...