The American interference in Pakistani politics is at an all time high, with Washington contacting different authorities in Islamabad, ignoring recognised diplomatic channels and bypassing the prime minister and his government to ensure smooth sailing for Benazir Bhutto.
A reliable source in the Presidency told this correspondent that during some recent discussions amongst senior authorities, it was revealed that influential American government leaders were directly contacting different Pakistani leaders and officials, ignoring the Foreign Office and even the prime minister, who is the chief executive of the country.
Although, this mounting American interference was not the issue being discussed in such high-level interactions, the source privy to such deliberations found it extremely upsetting. He revealed that the extent of American interference could be judged from the worrying fact that Washington had lately written a letter directly to a Pakistani spymaster to discuss the progress on Benazir-Musharraf dialogue issue.
How could the Americans do that? There is no explanation to this. Is it proper for intelligence agencies’ chiefs to be welcoming such direct correspondence from Washington? The source also disclosed that one of the two top aides of the president – Lt General (Retd) Hamid Javaid and Tariq Aziz – these days maintains a direct one-to-one contact with the American authorities. Mostly, it is said, the presidential aide talks to Richard Boucher, who is monitoring the events unfolding in Pakistan vis-à-vis Benazir Bhutto’s return and her participation in active politics at home.
The aide was even quoted as telling recently that the contact was now so frequent that he and Boucher now exchanged views with each other and passed on information through mobile messages (short messaging service- SMS).
During his last visit to Pakistan, Boucher had also visited a presidential aide but nothing was officially said about this meeting. When The News contacted concerned government quarters to have their reaction about the American interference they said there was no truth in the substance of such reports. However, they added, for follow-up action, concerned departments of each government interact as required.
A report published in a local English daily revealed that Benazir during her recent visit to Washington spoke with Musharraf from the office of Congressman Tom Lantos, the powerful chairman of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs.
The report also disclosed that the US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice telephoned both Musharraf and Benazir on Thursday last to ensure that they had reached the agreement. The next day, Musharraf promulgated the controversial National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO).
“The two telephone calls show the extent of Washington’s involvement in Pakistani politics and contradict the State Department’s repeated assurance that while the US backs the formation of a moderate political centre in Pakistan, it does not favour any particular candidate or party,” the report said.
Interestingly, the government – the prime minister and his cabinet – is generally ignored and bypassed in all such interactions between Washington and the Presidency or the spymasters. Most leaders of the ruling coalition parties are also allergic to the kind of concessions being offered to Benazir by the president but they could not dare cross their limits.
Till a few months back, the Presidency was not really pushed to go for such a deal with Benazir but it was the US pressure that compelled it to swallow the bitter pill and hug the alleged plunderer of the national wealth.
While the NRO would successfully take care of the corruption cases that Benazir is facing within Pakistan, Washington has indicated, as already reported, that it would take care of her cases in Madrid, London and Geneva. Will it be possible or not? There is no clear answer to this but the Pakistani authorities could not do much beyond disassociating themselves from these cases or withdrawing the documents submitted to the courts of these three European capitals.
In the Madrid case, the NAB has already clarified that the case regarding culpability of Benazir and her conduits (Rehman Malik and Hassan Ali Jafferi) in the Oil for Food Programme is pending before a Spanish Examining Magistrate in the province of Valencia in Spain on charges of money laundering.
According to the NAB, this case was started in 2004 by the Spanish authorities on basic information and evidence gathered by their Financial Intelligence Unit called SEPBLAC. The Government of Pakistan was also informed about this persecution and was asked for any help in the Spanish prosecution. Later in 2006, the NAB was informed by the United Nation’s Independent Inquiry Committee (UN IIC) about the involvement of Benazir Bhutto’s company Petroline FZC in the infamous Iraqi Oil for Food Programme.
The UN IIC also provided the NAB with certain documentary evidence. To help the Spanish prosecution in Valencia and also adhering to their earlier request of 2004, the NAB became civil party to the proceedings and provided the examining magistrate with the UN IIC evidence and also the details of other cases of the accused in various jurisdictions including Pakistan.
On the last date of hearing in May 2007, the NAB informed the Valencia court that the bureau had done its job by providing the UN IIC evidence and by rendering all other relevant evidence. “Since the case is primarily a Spanish prosecution, therefore, the NAB could be allowed to quit as civil party as the Government of Pakistan exchequer is not going to benefit from the outcome of the case, and further the NAB shall be available for any help for the Spanish prosecution in future, which could be attained on a simple request of International Mutual Legal Assistance,” the NAB said in one of its recent press releases. It added that the prosecution in Valencia was to continue.
Courtesy: The News – Report by – By Ansar Abbasi