Omar Waraich: 'Stout support' to the military shows where true power lies

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The Independent Online

If any Pakistanis had hoped their civilian leaders were going to seize this moment to recalibrate their relationship with their overweening military, they were to be sorely disappointed.

In the lead up to Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani's speech to parliament, many Pakistanis had been calling for "heads to roll".

Suggestions of complicity aside, this was universally acknowledged as an embarrassing intelligence failure.

But far from asking probing questions of Pakistan's powerful Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), Mr Gilani offered the agency stout support.

It is "disingenuous" for anyone to cast blame on either the army or the ISI, Mr Gilani said. There was no way that they could be "in cahoots with al-Qa'ida," he said.

Suggestions of official complicity, at least at the top levels of the military leadership, have relaxed after United States National Security Adviser Tom Donilon said at the weekend that there was no evidence to support that claim.

But Mr Gilani was in no mood to ask why Pakistan's powerful security establishment had failed to locate Osama bin Laden in Abbottabad over the past five years, a source of deepening shame. Instead, he stood up to the military establishment's critics, purveying a fiction in the process.

The media were responsible for creating an impression of a divide between the civilian government and the military, Mr Gilani said.

For that moment, he was able to dispel memories of having to cave in to pressure from his generals on dispatching the ISI chief to Mumbai after the attacks there or reinstating the chief justice on the advice of the army chief.

The focus instead was on addressing the army's injured pride. Beyond the embarrassment of the discovery of Bin Laden is the galling feeling that Pakistan became the first nuclear-armed ally to be invaded by the US.

There would be an inquiry into the matter, the Prime Minister insisted. Yet it would be handled by the military internally, he said. The army chief would also be asked questions at a special session on Sunday, he added. But – proving again where power truly lies in Pakistan – the army chief, General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, issued a press release making clear that it was his idea.

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