Friday, September 4, 2009

The return of the Daylight Jackals : Part - 1

WASHINGTON/ISLAMABAD: The main characters of the famous ‘Midnight Jackals’ operation of the late 1989 Benazir era have now returned to the TV screens and front pages of newspapers to speak about their adventures, blaming everybody else but themselves, and portraying themselves in their new role as great promoters of truth and honesty. Exactly 20 years later, again in a PPP-Zardari era, why and what these characters are doing have turned out to be the greatest political mystery with major political parties and leaders sucked into the storm blaming each other for unleashing these hounds. The multi-million dollar question ‘who is behind this latest sky dive into the past’ remains unanswered. An investigation by The News revealing scattered links and connecting the dots may lead to formation of a composite picture of the people behind this great diversion from the burning issues of the day.A few weeks ago, a top diplomat flew into Dubai and then Islamabad for intensive consultations with the PPP leadership on how to divert the national media and political focus from the so-called Minus-one and Minus-Zardari formulas based on the NRO cases pending in the Supreme Court, the demand for a trial of General Musharraf and the pressure to scrap the 17th Amendment. These issues had dominated Islamabad drawing rooms and were popping up in TV shows and columns every now and then. Several options were discussed, insiders in Islamabad and Washington revealed to The News. The sources of these anti-Zardari campaigns was determined to be some parts of the Rawalpindi establishment, a major part of the media groups backed by the PML-N which was said to be using this campaign to build pressure on Zardari for conceding the changes in the 17th Amendment. It was repeatedly argued that Washington was getting unusually jittery and unsure about political stability in Pakistan and the flow of generous aid, directly from Washington and through the Friends of Pakistan forum, may be delayed or massively cut if this critical issue was not addressed immediately. The US diplomats and even spokespersons of Friends of Pakistan had in so many ways and so many times conveyed the decision that no direct cash aid would be available as long as the credibility of the process reached some acceptable comfort level. The past of the PPP leadership was hounding its present, in a way.Thus the strategists reached the conclusion that it would be a good idea if the past of the alternate leadership, which meant the PML-N and in a roundabout way the military establishment, was exposed so that the aid-givers get the message that whoever ruled Pakistan, the issue of credibility would remain a burning question and thus it would be pointless to deprive the PPP leadership of the much-needed aid on this pretext.It was also agreed that the judges of the restored Supreme Court be entangled in cases challenging their own legitimacy and credibility and thus forcing some of the known radical judges from opting out of hearing the NRO cases. Sacked Chief Justice Abdul Hameed Dogar was also to be activated to stand up and challenge his removal. General Musharraf will also become active and use his millions and his Peerzadas, Malik Qayyums and Saifs to bombard the courts and the media. The deep wound being felt by the presidency was, however, the so-called “positive intervention” of the Pakistan Army chief on the night of March 15 and 16 when President Zardari was forced to restore Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry. Zardari was on record, on national TV channels and internationally, claiming that Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry had become political and would never be restored but he had to eat the humble pie. He would never forget the insult.Another sticking point was that aid for military operations, especially in Swat, Malakand and Fata, was continuing and since it was coming directly to the Army in shape of reimbursements, the political leadership was feeling isolated, somewhat humiliated and not in total control. They were being denied dollars because of the trust deficit but Pindi was enjoying the full trust. This situation was not tenable for some.Thus the strategy evolved had to have several components. One was to deflect the Minus-one formula from Zardari. Officially the term ‘Minus-one’ was recognised by ministers on the media and attacks were launched claiming that no one could remove Zardari because it would invoke the Sindh card.On a subtle note presidential aides and cronies, and even some diplomats, started calling their friends and media supporters bad-mouthing the intelligence agencies and some top echelons of the Army establishment. The anti-Pindi whispering campaign was so vicious that even some foreign journalists in Islamabad were surprised at the madness of such a campaign which could ultimately end up in another Oct 12, 1999-like situation when the sitting Army chief was sacked.The ultimate component of the counter-Minus-one plan was to launch the Daylight Jackals. This would serve several purposes. Source : The News International

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