`Pak Army tried to topple Zardari in 2009’

Pakistan`s military had reportedly tried to force out President Asif Ali Zardari in 2009.

Islamabad: Pakistan`s powerful military tried to destabilise the elected government, and force out President Asif Ali Zardari in 2009, according to a Human Rights Watch (HRW) report.
In a damning critique of the Pakistani military establishment, the HRW said the armed forces had opposed efforts to end its intervention in the political and judicial process. It had also resisted attempts to locate some of the scores of people who were "disappeared" in the restive province of Balochistan during the years of General Pervez Musharraf`s rule.

"The Pakistani military continues to subvert the political and judicial systems in Pakistan," The Independent quoted Ali Dayan Hasan of HRW, as saying.

"After eight years of disastrous military rule and in spite of the election of a civilian government, the Army appears determined to continue calling the shots in order to ensure that it can continue to perpetrate abuses with impunity," he added.

Following the election of a civilian government in February 2008, the authorities vowed to end the violence, withdraw troops and release political prisoners. Yet that has not happened.

Hasan says the military continues to hold sway over most parts of Pakistan, muzzles local media and is undermining reconciliation.

"The military needs to recognise that it no longer runs the show," he added.

The report also highlighted how the military worked against Zardari last autumn over a US aid bill, "in an apparent attempt to... force the resignation" of President Zardari.

The Kerry-Lugar bill offered USD 7.5 billion, but was opposed by the Pakistani military because of conditions the US attached, in particular that it was satisfied that the armed forces were fighting terrorism and not "subverting the political or judicial processes of Pakistan".

Lahore-based analyst Rasul Bakhsh Rais claimed the Pakistan military has become more subtle in the way it intervened. For instance, it had been building a relationship with the Prime Minister Yousaf Gilani as a way of trying to isolate the President.

"I think now they are working to counter Mr Zardari, to create checks and balances," he said.

The publication of the report came as the US Defence Secretary Robert Gates made his first visit to Pakistan since 2007, amid pressure from Washington for Pakistan to attack militants based in North Waziristan.