July issue 2004

By | News & Politics | Published 18 years ago

Mir Zafrullah Khan Jamali’s long predicted exit reinforces the perception that the establishment simply could not tolerate this seemingly humble and low-key person, who always showed deference to President General Pervez Musharraf, called him his “boss” and was consequently taunted for being the President’s PRO.

The insults Jamali stomached as prime minister were unprecedented. He would visit his party president, Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain’s house to placate him and even made phone calls to mollify a low-level party operator, Mr Kabir Ali Wasti, who had publicly charged Jamali with serious allegations.

Insiders, however, maintain that the unassuming Jamali asserted himself at critical decision-making moments, which annoyed both General Musharraf and Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain, who had brought and kept him in the office of the prime minister, but did not want him to assume any independent source of authority.

Jamali’s differences with Shujaat Hussain were of a petty nature: shuffling a few civil servants, appointments of certain friends on key positions and Jamali’s refusal to induct Hussain’s nominees as ministers in his cabinet. In fact, realising that Jamali was not as obedient as they wanted him to be, Shujaat, though instrumental in bringing him to power, began talking about Jamali being inadequate for the top job.

Despite being the Chief Executive of the country, Jamali could not even transfer a few federal secretaries without incurring the wrath of Shujaat Hussain.

Chaudhry Shujaat described “the party’s internal crisis” as the factor behind Jamali’s exit. But, truly speaking, it was the Chaudhrys’ personal differences with Jamali that created all the problems. What irked Chaudhry most, was Jamali’s refusal to appoint the former’s nominees as ministers. Shujaat’s brother and MNA, Chaudhry Wajahat Hussain, was a candidate for the interior ministry. A couple of months ago, the ruling PML’s vice president, Kabir Ali Wasti, had written a letter to President Musharraf presenting a long list of ‘allegations’ against Jamali, ranging from corruption to his manoeuvering to become independent. In this letter, Wasti said that Jamali had kept the expansion of the cabinet pending to avoid inducting Shujaat Hussain’s nominees.

Since Jamali had no standing in the PML, and came to power with the support of the Chaudhrys, every small effort he made to find his feet in the party was viewed with suspicion. Last year, when Shujaat Hussain was in Germany for medical treatment, Jamali summoned a parliamentary party meeting for Shujaat where party loyalists publicly snubbed him. This year, when the party was reorganised with the merger of smaller factions and parties, Chaudhry publicly opposed Jamali’s efforts to become secretary- general of the united Pakistan Muslim League.

General Musharraf was not a Jamali supporter even though he accepted him as prime minister. He wanted to bring in Makhdoom Amin Faheem or Shaukat Aziz as prime minister soon after the 2002 general elections, but appointed Jamali instead on the advice of the Chaudhrys who had given him crucial support in the Punjab.

Though Jamali’s differences with Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain were relatively less serious, the divide between President Musharraf and Jamali was of a more critical nature. It started with the issue of General Musharraf’s military uniform and concluded on the same theme.

The conflict began last year when talks on the Legal Framework Order (LFO) were being held between the MMA and the ruling party, with PML(Q) acting as a front man for President Musharraf. Jamali could not persuade the MMA to agree to a constitutional package without a deadline for President Musharraf to doff his khakis. When the talks prolonged and reached a deadlock early this year, Jamali, in a high-level meeting, pointed to Musharraf as being responsible for this by not agreeing to give a deadline to shed his uniform.

In February, Jamali pricked the President yet again at a meeting of the National Defence College (NDC), where he expressed views which were at variance with those of President Musharraf. In his address, Jamali spoke of the state crisis and the corruption of army officers. He also expressed his dissatisfaction with the pace of accountability in the country. Later, Jamali attacked the system crafted by General Musharraf in a three-day seminar organised by the National Accountability Bureau (NAB), where he termed NAB’s system of plea-bargaining, as institutional corruption.

In April came the crunch. After the passage of the 17th constitutional amendment, Jamali delayed the passage of the bill to institute the National Security Council (NSC). As the MMA had not agreed to incorporate the NSC into the 17th constitutional amendment, it was to be passed by a simple majority as an act of parliament. Jamali took the issue to the federal cabinet and said the bill should be passed in line with the dignity of parliament and suggested amendments to the original draft prepared by the President’s aide. In the amended draft of the NSC, the subjects of democracy, good governance and inter-provincial issues were taken out from scope of the council and replaced with the words, “crisis management.” Obviously, the President was not happy.

As these irritants had widened the distance between Musharraf and Jamali, the uniform issue once again proved the decisive factor in Jamali’s resignation. Jamali’s ministers, the Pakistan People’s Party(P) and office-bearers of the ruling party PML had publicly started a campaign in support of Musharraf retaining his uniform while serving as President. Jamali, meanwhile, could not muster support for Musharraf to retain his uniform. Instead, whenever the question of the President shedding his uniform came up, he reinforced the perception that he opposed Musharraf retaining his uniform by saying that Musharraf was an honourable man and would keep his commitment.

Jamali’s exit and Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain’s take-over for an interim two-month period before Shaukat Aziz gets elected as a member of the National Assembly and becomes the next prime minister is part of General’s Musharraf’s master plan. His ultimate goal, it is being rumoured, seems to be to dissolve the parliament. However, Mr Jamali appears to have done his erstwhile “Boss” a disservice by not advising the dissolution of the assemblies. By quitting, Jamali has left the dirty work for his successors to handle.