ISLAMABAD, Dec 24: The Pakistan Muslim League-N warned the government on Saturday against any move to sack the military and intelligence leadership, saying such an action would be “resisted strongly”.
The warning came from Leader of Opposition in the National Assembly, Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan, on a day the media reported that Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani was expected to take some important decisions soon in the wake of the memo controversy.
The PML-N leader asked the prime minister to “retract” his statements about the armed forces and reach out to army chief Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kayani to remove apprehensions, if he had any.
Nawaz Sharif, the PML-N chief, had had differences with three services chiefs — Gen Asif Nawaz Janjua, Gen Jahangir Karamat and Gen Pervez Musharraf — during his two stints as prime minister in the 1990s. He managed to get resignation from Gen Karamat when the army chief issued a controversial political statement, but his government was toppled when he ousted the then army chief Gen Pervez Musharraf. His party still justifies sacking of Gen Musharraf as legal and constitutional.
“Whatever reservations we have about the ISI are there. However, if the government takes any step in this regard, the opposition and people will be against it,” Chaudhry Nisar said at a press conference.
In reply to a categorical question whether the PML-N would oppose sacking of the army chief or the ISI head, the PML-N leader said: “Yes, you are very close.”
Then he explained and justified his statement by saying that since the memo case was being heard by the Supreme Court, the government could not take any action to “pre-empt” a court decision.
Chaudhry Nisar advised the prime minister to “reach out” to the army chief and remove his apprehensions as, according to him, the situation could still be brought under control.
He praised Army chief Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kayani and said: “I will not say anything about the ISI, but as far as the army chief is concerned, he keeps himself away from politics. We have a good feedback about Gen Kayani.”
The PML-N leader lashed out at Mr Gilani for his hard talk against the army and the ISI on the floor of the National Assembly on Thursday. “In fact, he (the PM) has charge-sheeted his own army by raising a question which is being put to Pakistan by foreign forces,” he said, adding the prime minister should keep in mind that “failure of subservient institutions means his own failure”.
He recalled that more than once, the prime minister had stated inside and outside the assembly that all institutions were functioning under his control.
The opposition leader alleged that the prime minister had used the same language that had been used in the controversial memo. Mr Gilani’s statements, he said, had further weakened the government’s position on the memo issue. These statements have exposed the prime minister’s feelings about his own army and secret agencies, he said.
He regretted that the prime minister had created a situation that forced the army chief to make a public statement that the military had no plan to take over.
In an allusion to President Asif Ali Zardari, he said it seemed the prime minister had made such remarks after receiving “instructions from somewhere else”.The PML-N leader said the government had unnecessarily provided such an opportunity to Gen Kayani, adding the democratic system should not be dependent on the army chief’s assurances. He alleged that after “destroying parliament and judiciary”, the government was now hell-bent on damaging the armed forces.
He also criticised the prime minister for claiming the credit of instituting an inquiry into the Abbottabad incident and reminded that the government had agreed to constitute the judicial commission during the in camera joint sitting of parliament in May only on the opposition’s demand. He further alleged that the prime minister was not even in the picture and some of the federal ministers who were trying to develop a consensus on the resolution were mediating between the opposition and the military leadership.
Chaudhry Nisar said the whole nation wanted democracy and was ready to defend it. “In the presence of an independent judiciary, a vibrant media, civil society and democratic forces, he said, there should be no doubt in the mind of rulers about the future of democracy.”