Commissions and ommissions (Daily Times)

Commissions making omissions are commissioned

Babar Ayaz

Political
analysts and politicians of the opposition are criticizing the government for
the omissions in the making of powerful inquiry commissions to investigate the
Abbottabad, PNS Mehran events and Saleem Shahzad’s murder.

Sympathisers of the government claim that the government did appoint the commissions as per the laid law. But the critics say that the omissions in appointing the Supreme Court judges as head of the commission were deliberate delaying tactics. Under the written laws perhaps the government is not obliged to ask the Chief Justice
of Pakistan, but as per the tradition as Asma Jehangir explained it is obligatory. The idea is to maintain the principle of separation of the executive and the judicature.

In any case even other members were also not sounded before announcing their name
for the commissions, which shows the government’s casual attitude if not a
hidden agenda to protect the people who may be indicted by these commissions.

Middle class intelligentsia finds it hard to fathom the political sagacity of
dilly-dallying on the issue of setting up the commissions which is the public
demand.

There is no doubt that the omissions in setting up these commissions by the
government are to protect the military establishment and its premier
intelligence agency. President Asif Zardari is not only the Supreme Commander
but also the co-chairman of the PPP. In both positions it is in his political
interest not to subject the military establishment to an inquiry, which the
latter may find humiliating.

There has been only one example of in-depth inquiry which gave a scathing report
rather posthumously and that he Hamood-ur-Rehman Commission’s report. First the
commission inquiry was against the generals who were not in power and that’s
way I call it ‘posthumously.’ Second the report was kept under wraps for almost
three decades when the concerned persons were gone and buried.

So any hope that we can have of independent and powerful commissions which will
bring out the facts is just a flicker. These commissions are suppose to find
out that how much we knew about Osama living in a cantonment city; who helped
him live there — I cannot say “hide” here because he lived with three wives
and a number of children in a huge house; that whether we knew about the
unilateral US operation and were helpless to stop them, or we were blinded by
the comfort  that our western borders are safe; that insiders help was available to the PNS Mehran attackers; and whether media allegation that ISI was involved in Saleem Shahzad murder case is true or false.

These are all sensitive questions and difficult for the sitting government to expose
its security establishment to an independent scrutiny. The demand of the people
is right that there should be no sacred cows. Mian Nawaz Sharif a strong leader
of Punjab says it all the time. But for President Zardari this is a God sent
opportunity to win over the support of the military establishment by showing
that he is reluctant to allow an independent inquiry. This creates a distance
between his main political rival the Sharifs and the army and brings him closer
to the GHQ.

The question one hears every day is: what about the public opinion, doesn’t Zardari
care about it?  And what about using this opportunity to cut the military establishment to its constitutional role and regain the power to make the foreign policy?

Well answer to the first question is that when did Zardari care about the public
opinion we talk about. He didn’t give two hoots when BB was in power twice and
his corruption stories were all over the press. He disregarded the public
opinion when he came to power and played hardball on the restoration of
judiciary; he double-crossed Musharraf and became the president. In his 11
years incarceration without any corruption charge against him proved by the
governments hostile to him, I think he has become cynical about people’s
politics where public opinion matters.

Right now he knows that public opinion is more against the establishment which hates
him in the heart and has tried every trick to defame and dethrone him. For him
so be it. He knows that the threat from the usual quarters, that is the
establishment, has reduced significantly. He now wants to first focus to use this
opportunity to get a majority in the Senate in early 2012 and then win the 2013
general elections. The establishment may not oppose him because he will keep
protecting them.

The chances of PPP forming the next government have brightened up undermining all
the criticism of the urban middle class and the media. His alliance with PML
(Q) if it remains intact is likely to play an important role in this regard. In
the last elections where the PML (N) won the seats in Punjab, at the height of
its popularity, the first and second runner-ups were either from PML (Q) or
PPP. Now the seat adjustment between the two could be straight-forward that the
runner-up will get the ticket of the coalition.

Add this success cocktail the benefit of BISP scheme and Rs500 billion inflows in
the rural areas where PPP’s vote bank has been traditionally stronger.

Coming down to the second question that why the PPP does not use this opportunity to regain the real political power from the establishment, when their stocks are
down in the political market. This is not the first time when the PPP is
willing to trade its soul with the military establishment. Mr. Bhutto did it
first when he sided with the military junta and did not agree to transfer power
to Mujeeb. It was wrong to say that Mujeeb was representing the feelings of the
Bengalis only. NWFP and Balochistan had voted in National Awami Party, who had
almost similar agenda as Mujeeb’s Awami League, on the autonomy issue. Second,
when Bhutto resurrected the defeated army he paid the heavy price with his
life.

BB’s and Sharif’s two governments were ousted by the same military establishment.
Zardari’s lesson from this recent history is that villages vote bring the
government and Rawalpindi disposes them. So when starry-eyed democrats like us
want to buck him up to take on the wounded establishment he is no taker. To
Mian Nawaz Sharif reportedly he says you can correct the civil-military
relations imbalance when you come to power.

He has learnt his realpolitik lesson hard in the prison and from assassination of
Benazir Bhutto. His objective is to remain in power using all the tricks in the
bag — the Indian call ‘Rajneeti.’  (ayazbabar@gmail.com)

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