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A Smart Legal Coup D'état Is Underway in Pakistan?

By Abdus Sattar Ghazali

Al-Jazeerah, CCUN, January 9, 2012


It is said that power in Pakistan rests on three ‘A’s: America, Allah and the Army. While America was mollified by obedience and Allah by giving in to key demands of religious forces, the army was mollified by following its policies. But for the two years a rift between the Army and the US-client government of President Zardari was widening and the latest Memogate scandal has brought it to an open confrontation.

Perhaps the first major rift between army and the US-client Zardari regime came on July 27, 2009, when the government issued a notification to place the entire financial, administrative and operational control of Pakistan’s master spy agency, the Inter Services Intelligence (ISI), with the Interior Ministry. The notification was withdrawn in less than 24 hours amid sharp reaction by the Army.

Apparently, Zardari government tried to put the ISI under civilian control on behest of Washington as after the Mombai attacks of December 2008, Senator Kerry called for putting the ISI under civilian control.

The second open rift came in September 2009, when apparently Pakistan’s ambassador to US Husain Haqqani helped in inserting anti-Army clauses in the Kerry-Lugar Act which demanded an effective "civilian control" of the promotion of senior military leaders, military budgets, the chain of command and strategic guidance and planning.

Sub-clause (15) of Section 302A of the Act calls for an assessment of the extent to which the Government of Pakistan exercises effective civilian control of the military, including a description of the extent to which civilian executive leaders and parliament exercise oversight and approval of military budgets, the chain of command, the process of promotion for senior military leaders, civilian involvement in strategic guidance and planning, and military involvement in civil administration.

The more direct language against military intervention in political and judicial processes was apparently been added by the US legislators on the insistence of the present government of President Zardari through Husain Haqqani who has been critical of the army and ISI while staying in US since 2002.

Army chief General Ashfaq Kayani and his top commanders met on October 7, 2009 and expressed "serious concern" about clauses in the bill "impacting on national security."

Another issue of conflict between army and the pro-US government was the matter of visa issuance to hundreds of Americans without prior-scrutiny of the Pakistani security agencies. Despite the army reservations the Zardari regime following US pressure authorized the Haqqani-led Washington embassy to issue visas on its own without referring their cases even to the Foreign Office and the ISI and other security agencies.

Advocate of the Supreme Court Tariq Asad, who is a petitioner in the memo case, told the Supreme Court that the Pakistani Embassy in the U.S., headed by Haqqani, had issued a total of 7,000 visas to U.S. citizens without security clearance from 2008 to date, out of which, 450 visas were stamped in a single night. He said that from July 14 to Aug. 30, 2010, the Pakistani ambassador in Washington issued as many as 1,445 visas to the U.S. citizens -- mostly in the garb of diplomats without security clearance.


Memogate Scandal


However, the Army and the government came on a head on collision on the so-called Memogate Scandal. The memo was sent on May 10, 2011 to the US Joint Chiefs Chairman Admiral Mike Mullen through the former National Security Advisor Jim Jones. In the memo the Pakistani government sought Washington`s help as it feared a military coup, following the alleged killing of Osama bin Laden in a US forces raid in Abbottabad. “Civilians cannot withstand much more of the hard pressure being delivered from the Army to succumb to wholesale changes.” The memo promised to hand over Ayman Al-Zawahiri, Mullah Omar, Pakistan’s defense and foreign policies, as well as its nuclear deterrent to the USA, so long as it prevented a military takeover. The memo was written by an American citizen of Pakistani origin, Mansoor Ijaz, who claimed that he wrote it at behest of Pakistan’s ambassador to US Husain Haqqani (now sacked). 


In a major setback to the regime of President Asif Ali Zardari, Pakistan’s Supreme Court on December 30, 2011 ordered a judicial probe into the Memogate scandal. The Supreme Court investigating commission will probe two crucial questions in the Memogate scandal: (1) whether Husain Haqqani had a role in the conception, preparation and writing of the memo and (2) whether there was also someone else behind him, prompting him to produce the memo.


The inquire commission is headed by Chief Justice Balochistan High Court Justice Qazi Faiz Isa and will comprise of Chief Justice Sindh High Court Justice Masheer Alam and Chief Justice Islamabad High Court Justice Iqbal Hameedur Rehman. The court has ruled that the Commission is required to complete this task within a period of four weeks. The inquiry commission held its first meeting on January 2, 2012.


Memogate is really just a byword for a much bigger and complex game of power politics. That is why the government did its best to avoid an investigation by anybody not under its control. It wants an investigation by the Parliamentary Committee on National Security, which is bound to have a government majority built in. The Parliamentary Committee has said that it will continue its own proceedings on the memogate affair while the Supreme Court carries out its own.

Pakistan army wants Zardari out but not a coup

Interestingly, on December 22, Reuters news agency quoted military sources in Islamabad as saying that  Pakistan's army - the arbiter of power - is fed up with unpopular President Asif Ali Zardari and wants him out of office, but through legal means and without a repeat of the coups that are a hallmark of the country's 64 years of independence.

To oust Zardari two-thirds of the combined strength of the National Assembly and the Senate (295 from 442) are required which is not possible because of numerical strength of his Peoples Party and allies. Hence it will be easy to ease Zardari out if a link is established between him and the memo.

Haqqani's forced resignation has already weakened the Zardari government, which is beset by allegations of corruption and incompetence in the face of many challenges, including a weak economy. 

All major opposition parties are already demanding early elections which are not due until 2013. The Memo Scandal has added fuel to the opposition demands with huge political rallies in major Pakistani towns. Why people are joining huge anti-government rallies? Statistics about the increasing number of people living under poverty line will suffice to show the public discontent. The number of Pakistanis living under poverty line was 47.1 million in March 2008 when the Zardari led People’s Party came into power. In December 2011, the number of poor people is 72.9 million or 41% of the total population.

Not surprisingly, one such massive rally – attended by around 300,000 people - was held on December 25 in Karachi by the emerging third big political party, Tehrik-e-Insaf Pakistan (TIP) led by Imran Khan. Many prominent political leaders – who enjoy safe seats in any election – have recently joined the TIP which gave rise to speculations that the government may be forced to call early election if the judicial inquiry finds a link between Haqqani/Zardari and the memo.

Abdus Sattar Ghazali is the Chief Editor of the Journal of America  and Executive Editor of the online magazine American Muslim Perspective: email: asghazali2011 (@)





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