Trying to Knock out Zardari and Army Simultaneously?

Nov 12th, 2009 | By | Category: Jang

shaheen-sehbaiMaking Sense of Shaheen Sehbai’s Recent Diatribes

By Shaista Sindhu

The Chief of the Anti-Zardari campaign in the Jang Group (Jang, The News, Geo), Mr Shaheen Sehbai at one time ran a similar campaign against the Pakistan army and General Musharraf. These days he is working over time to give the impression that the Pakistani “establishment” are out to knock out Mr Zardari. Could it be that Sehbai is trying to knock out both objects of his hate – the army and Zardari – at the same time?

On September 2, 2008 Shaheen Sehbai wrote an article titled ‘How to clean up the bloody mess’ in which he said that the election of Asif Ali Zardari to the post of President of Pakistan had “shaken everybody” and created a feeling of “uncertainty” within the civilian and military establishment. Mr Sehbai’s solution for cleaning up “this mess” was to “let the power of the guns and barrels be used, for a change, in the interest of the nation and the people. It is obvious that the politicians cannot clean the dirt as they are neither visionaries, nor that tall, nor experienced, nor prepared nor motivated to look beyond their noses.” This was attempt number one to try to instigate the civilian and military leaders against one another.

When he failed to cause any problems Shaheen Sehbai picked up the key achievement of the Pakistani government, massive economic aid for Pakistan, to once again sow dissensions. In a recent piece Sehbai attacked an appointee of the civilian leadership and blamed the gentleman concerned for “writing” the Berman-Kerry-Lugar bill. Sehbai asserted that the bill was written by the Pakistani embassy based in Washington DC with the help of its lobbyists. Apart from the fact that he offered no evidence for his claim, Sehbai ignored the fact that no US Congressman or Senator worth his salt would let a foreigner write US legislation.

This pure disinformation about the Kerry-Lugar-Berman Bill was Sehbai’s latest attempt at fomenting civil-military disagreement. In between he has written several times about the “establishment” getting ready to oust Zardari with the help of Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani.

The army very wisely tried to defuse the Kerry-Lugar-Berman Bill controversy by issuing a public statement released through ISPR, making it clear that it considered parliament the right forum for a decision on the matter. The Foreign Minister wound up the debate on the adjournment motion on the subject, the Cabinet acknowledged the Kerry-Lugar-Berman bill with its explanatory statement and since the opposition did not move a resolution to the contrary in parliament, the matter should have ended.

But Sehbai and his associates are still trying to light the fire of their anti-Zardari campaign by continuing to claim that the army wants Zardari out. If the Kerry-Lugar-Berman card doesn’t work, the NRO or corruption cards are brought forth. The themes are constant: Zardari is no good and the army should throw him out even if it is under some sort of constitutional garb. Of course, if that happens the Pakistan army and the establishment would have to bear some consequences internationally and possibly even at home. The army has just earned back respect by becoming non-political. By getting involved in politics again they will be dragged into the mud again.

So, clearly Sehbai wants to harm not just Zardari but also the army and the establishment.

Let us look at his track record. Today Shaheen Sehbai’s articles try to build him up as someone in whom the army confides its secret plans for Zardari’s ouster. But between 2002 and 2005 Sehbai ran a website called ‘South Asia Tribune’ which had anti-Pakistan army headlines like:

  • “The Charge-sheet Against the Army”
  • “Army pushing a CIA road map in Baluchistan”
  • “The Pitiless Plight of a General and His Clueless Army”
  • “Army Snubbed as Zardari is Acquitted by LHC”
  • “Data on Army’s Golf courses, Released in Senate”
  • “ISI was involved in Sadiq Ganji’s death”
  • “Pakistan army pays Al Qaeda Half Million Dollars”
  • “Rogue Army General Bloodies the Law”
  • “The PAF Kickbacks Scandal, confirmed”
  • “Musharraf Has Signed the ‘Dismiss and Dismantle’ Order for the Army.”

Sehbai closed his website and took down all the material when he shut it down to go back to Pakistan (he was then living in the US under asylum) and join the Jang Group. But some of the articles from South Asia Tribune are cached online. When we read articles on this website it is very clear that unlike some critics of military rule or army’s political role like Hasan Askari-Rizvi, Husain Haqqani, Najam Sethi and Ejaz Haider who criticized military rule but not the army as an institution, Shaheen Sehbai criticized the Pakistan army as an institution. The venom he displays today for Zardari, he once reserved for the army.

Now that with the departure of General Musharraf, Pakistan’s army has moved out of politics and civilian-military ties have a chance of working under the constitution, people like Shaheen Sehbai want to pit the elected government and the army against each other once again.

That is the only explanation for the hate-filled articles, some predicting President Zardari’s assassination, which have been published under Sehbai’s name since the moment President Zardari became a presidential candidate.

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