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The worst seems to be over

January 13, 2012

ISLAMABAD, Jan 13: After days of heightened civil-military tensions, conciliation was in the air in the federal capital on Friday evening as vibes from both sides suggested that they were prepared to get past the incident.

“No one is seeking confrontation. It is important to lower temperatures and every one realises that,” a senior politician aware of back-channel discussions between the civilian leaders and the military commanders told Dawn late Friday night suggesting a thaw was in the offing.

The indications come ahead of a meeting between Prime Minister Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani and services chiefs at the Defence Committee of the Cabinet on Saturday afternoon – the first direct interaction since the tensions soared.

Political mediation, it is said, was also complemented by efforts by some “foreign friends”, who too counselled against pursuing collision course.

That the reconciliation efforts were going well was also apparent from Prime Minister Gilani’s speech in the parliament and the resolution tabled by ANP Chief Asfandyar Wali supporting the democratic process in the country – none of which attacked the army even though it had publicly rebuked Mr Gilani.

But, more significant were the signals coming from the army which, according to the sources, was convinced that hardened positions were not to benefit anyone.

“Army understands that divisiveness is not appropriate, it increases the vulnerability of the country,” one of the sources said.

The army instead wants the government to take steps for creating “right atmosphere and better space” for ending the tiff because it believes that irrational statements by some of the leaders had led to raising of the temperatures.

The army has reportedly told some of the mediators that it did not want to push with the memogate issue, which is at the centre of the civil-military spat, after former Ambassador Hussain Haqqani’s resignation. However, it was PML-N chief Mian Nawaz Sharif, who took the matter to Supreme Court and rekindled the controversy because of his “vested political interests”.The government, those aware of army’s thinking say, is obsessed with a self-created fear that memo-gate petitions were being supported by the army.

Army Chief Gen Kayani, they claim, insists that he and his spymaster Lt Gen Shuja Pasha filed their replies to the petitions on the orders of the court and that their action was not meant to undermine the civilian government.

Military sources, when contacted, also pointed towards Attorney General Maulvi Anwarul Haq’s statement that both Gen Kayani and Gen Pasha “submitted their replies to SC by following the prescribed rule of law”.

PML-Q President Shujaat Hussain told media that people seeking collision would be disappointed.“There is no clash between the government and the army,” he added.

But the only worrying sign was that sacked defence secretary Lt Gen (retd) Naeem Khalid Lodhi was preparing to go to the court against the government move, ostensibly on the army’s prodding.