LAHORE - Former prime minister Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani’s claim that his government had an understanding with the establishment to give former president Pervez Musharraf a safe exit if he resigned and that Mr Asif Ali Zardari and Mian Nawaz Sharif were also on board has started a new controversy at a time when the situation is getting tense by the day because of the long marches on Islamabad announced by the PTI and the Pakistan Awami Tehrik.

Not only the PML-N but also important PPP leaders have denied the claim, raising questions about the truthfulness and trustworthiness of our leaders and the motive behind the ill-timed disclosure made by the leader from Multan.

Former information minister Qamar Zaman Kaira has supported Mr Gilani’s point of view, claiming that not only Mian Nawaz Sharif but also the Awami National Party and the Muttahida Qaumi Movement were in the loop. However, former president Zardari’s spokesman Farhatullah Babar and PPP Senator Jehangir Badr have denied the claim.

PML-N ministers Pervaiz Rashid and Saad Rafiq say that their party had nothing to do with the understanding the former prime minister was talking of. Substantiating his assertion, Pervaiz Rashid said his party had refused to give indemnity to Gen Musharraf’s acts despite Mr Zardari’s request, which amply proved that the PML-N could not even think of giving the former president a safe exit.

Leaders of Gen Mushrraf’s party have also come up with conflicting views with one leader denying the deal and the other saying it could have been reached.

A media report says that Mr Zardari had given assurance to the United States, Britain and the then COAS Gen Kayani that Gen Musharraf would be given a safe exit.

The deal, if it was struck, should have been made public by the leadership during the PPP tenure. The Supreme Court judgment which has been made the basis of Gen Musharraf’s ongoing trial under Article 6 was in the field when the PPP was in power. But the party neither took any action against Musharraf nor said why it was not implementing the court order.

The PPP leadership could also have reminded the PML-N leadership of its obligations under the said deal when preparations were being made to put the former president on trial. At the time the PPP leaders said the trial should be started from October 12, 1999 as the overthrow of a political government was more serious an offence than the imposition of emergency in 2007.

The PML-N government, however, went ahead according to its own plans. And now that the high treason trial is fairly at an advance stage, the former prime minister has reminded the PML-N of the deal over Musharraf’s safe exit.

If Mr Gilani is right in his claim about the understanding he is talking of, then he should have let the establishment remind the PML-N government what it should do to honour its commitment. The PPP has never been the spokesman of the establishment, nor would the establishment ever like it to be.

And if the government fails to honour its word, it would face the consequences.

But since the establishment is keeping silent, it ostensibly means that it has no objection over the way the former president-COAS has been humiliated and singled out. All PML-N leaders claim that the government has the best ever relations with the military leadership.

Now, let’s try to understand how the contradictory statements about the alleged understanding on Musharraf’s safe exit reflect on the integrity of the parliamentarians and the working of the governments.

If Mr Gilani, as prime minister, had held talks with the establishment he must know what assurances he had given to whom. Anybody who was not part of the dialogue process is not supposed to be as knowledgeable.

This means Senators Farhatullah Babar and Jehangir Badar are not in a position to contradict what the former prime minister said. Farhatullah, as spokesman to then president Asif Ali Zardari was certainly privy to many things not known to general public, but he can’t refute Mr Gilani.

It is very strange that the former prime minister and the former president have divergent views on Gen Musharraf’s trial.

People still remember when Mr Zardari had instigated Mr Sharif “not to let the Billa (Musharraf) go scot-free” and that the dictator must be punished.

Either those talking of an understanding with the establishment are saying the truth or others who are denying it. Anyone telling a lie is not eligible to stay as a member of parliament. Even Arsalan Iftikhar will bear it out.