ISLAMABAD: A phone call that changed everything

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By Ansar Abbasi

Though President Asif Zardari still claims that there was no role of the Pakistan Army chief in the restoration of the deposed judges, it has been confirmed that Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kayani personally spoke to Chaudhry Aitzaz Ahsan hours before the judges were restored by the prime minister.

A top lawyers’ leader said Chaudhry Aitzaz Ahsan was informed of the government’s decision at around 12:30 am while he was part of the historic long march and was travelling with PML-N chief Nawaz Sharif. Besides Mian Nawaz Sharif, two MNAs of the PML-N, Hamza Sharif, who was on the wheels, and Khwaja Sa’ad Rafique were also witness to this extremely important phone call.

The ISPR director-general when contacted to seek confirmation of the important call gave the following brief comment to The News on Thursday: “I don’t know about this.” At a time when the long march was heading for Islamabad to create history amid genuine concerns of many about the possibility of a terrorist act, the Army chief simply conveyed it to Aitzaz Ahsan that the prime minister was all set to make an important announcement in the morning.

The Army chief did not suggest to Aitzaz whether to call off the long march or go ahead with it but Gen Kayani knew it very well that Aitzaz was accompanying Nawaz Sharif. It was after this important phone call that both Aitzaz and Nawaz Sharif consulted all concerned and decided to stop at Gujranwala and wait for the announcement, which finally came at 6:15 am. Following the announcement, they called off the long march.

Although the Army, the prime minister and even some influential foreign capitals were trying to persuade President Zardari days before March 16 to restore the judges to avert the long march, things changed dramatically when the march began, raising concerns of the key players in the establishment. This then led to behind-the-scene consultations between the president, the prime minister and the Army chief.

As a consequence, there was no option left for the president but to swallow the bitter pill and restore all the judges, including Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry. But President Zardari, while talking to TV anchorpersons recently said Gen Kayani had no role in the restoration of Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry. The president was also quoted by the media to have said his meeting with the Army chief focused on security issues.

Information Minister Qamar Zaman Kaira had also rejected the assertion that the judges were restored on the pressure of any third party and said the judges had been restored after consulting all the concerned quarters.


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