Random header image... Refresh for more!

Posts from — April 2012

Right, left or what: op-ed by Dr Syed Mansoor Hussain in The Daily Times, April 30

The writer has practised and taught medicine in the US and in Pakistan

Last week I made the statement in these pages that as far as I can see there is no longer any ‘major’ ideological difference between the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) and its two major political opponents at this time, the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PM-N) and the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI). (“The friendly opposition?”, Daily Times, April 23, 2012.) For all practical purposes, these three parties essentially support the same sort of things with minor variations, mostly of emphasis.

The PPP was born at a time when the political left still mattered and the cold war was a reality. The PPP came into being as an ‘Islamic-Socialist’ party. In the tricolour of the PPP, black represented democracy, red represented socialism and green represented Islam. Under Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto (ZAB), when the PPP came to power, it did embark on nationalisation of many industrial, financial and educational institutions, but it also declared the Ahmedis to be non-Muslims, a long-standing Islamist demand. And yes, ZAB also outlawed Freemasonry! Here in the interest of full disclosure I must state that I supported the PPP and voted for it in the 1970 elections but did not stay in Pakistan long enough to see the ZAB government at work.

By the time the PPP came back into power in December 1988, the world as well as the PPP had changed. Socialism was fast losing its appeal, the Soviet Union was collapsing and even in China, classical socialist doctrines were being put aside. I first saw and heard Ms Benazir Bhutto speak at an Asia Society dinner in New York City on June 10, 1989. What was to be a triumphal visit by the first democratically elected female prime minister of a Muslim country to the US was overshadowed by the Tiananmen Square ‘massacre’ in China that occurred a few days earlier. However, for me at least the most striking part of her speech at the dinner was an outright abandonment of all ‘socialist’ economic principles that the PPP was founded on and full support for ‘free markets’.

Most of the ‘left’ was withering away at that time and in a few years, Francis Fukuyama would famously declare that ‘liberal democracy’ had finally emerged victorious over all other forms of government (End of History and the Last Man). This idea was challenged by Professor Samuel Huntington in his essay, later a book, called The Clash of Civilisations and the Coming World Order. Much has been written about these two since then but it is appropriate to state that ‘socialism’ as an accepted form of government became dormant and about the same time ‘laissez faire’ economics took over the driver’s seat from what were called ‘mixed or controlled economies’. Socialist or ‘liberal’ parties all over the world moved to the centre. The Democrats in the US under Bill Clinton and Labour in the UK under Tony Blair are two obvious examples. So I suppose the PPP was no exception.

The other centre-left party that is in coalition with the PPP is the Awami National Party (ANP). The ANP is the successor to the National Awami Party (NAP) of Wali Khan that was openly socialist but pro-Moscow compared to the NAP-Bhashani that was pro-China. After being banned and reincarnated as the ANP, it still has some of its centre-left flavour but is obviously not out there advocating socialism. The third component of the ruling coalition is the Muttahida Qaumi Mahaz (MQM). This is a non-ideological party that represents a particular ethno-linguistic group made up mostly of middle and lower income immigrants and now their children that came to Pakistan from India. However, the PPP, the ANP as well as the MQM are all pro-minority, pro-women and of course emphasise the rights of the impoverished majority of this country. And even though they all support ‘Islam’, none of them advocates the imposition of an Islamic system of governance.

Of the opposition parties, the PML-N is a distant and perhaps unrecognisable descendant of the original Pakistan Muslim League (PML) that helped create Pakistan and was once led by M A Jinnah. The PML was essentially a movement that supported the creation of Pakistan. After having achieved its goal of the creation of Pakistan, the PML became a party in search of an ideology. It was only after the PPP emerged as a major ‘leftist’ political force that the PML in reaction evolved as a centre-right political party that today finds its support primarily among medium-sized farm owners and businessmen. Of the other political parties on the right, there are the Islamist parties, which except for their brief ascendancy in the former Frontier Province as the Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal (MMA) under army tutelage, have rarely played an important role in government.

Finally, we come to Imran Khan’s PTI. The PTI at this time is more of a ‘protest movement’ against the established political parties and at best can be described as a ‘work-in-progress’. From an ideological point of view, the PTI is literally all over the place. It is Islamist, it is populist, it is supported by the educated middle class as well as the conservative religious sorts and perhaps by the ‘infamous’ establishment. The future of the PTI will depend on its ability to find a coherent ideological platform. Whether that happens remains to be seen.

So what then is an ‘unreconstructed’ 1960s liberal like me supposed to do? Nawaz Sharif who tried to pass the ‘Sharia Bill’ (Tenth Amendment) and whose party openly consorts with and supports religious extremists is not going to get my vote. Imran Khan who wants to implement an ‘Islamic welfare system’ also seems a bit dicey. Therefore, I will most likely vote for the ‘arrow’ as I did for the ‘sword’ forty odd years ago, albeit with a lot less enthusiasm, Mr Gilani, his present troubles and those of his cohorts notwithstanding.  www.dailytimes.com.pk/default.asp?page=2012\04\30\story_30-4-2012_pg3_3

April 30, 2012   No Comments

The verdict in perspective; op-ed by Dr Akmal Hussain in The Express Tribune, april 30

The writer is Distinguished Professor of Economics, Forman Christian College University and Beaconhouse National University

The prime minister stood respectfully before the bench of the Supreme Court, with the judges resplendent in their judicial robes behind the high table. A hushed silence prevailed in the court room as a nation waited with bated breath. These symbols of the majesty of law were given substance and the newly-won institutional strength of the Constitution was affirmed when the verdict was announced: the prime minister, whatever his compulsions in his earlier refusal to implement the order of the Supreme Court to write a letter reopening a corruption case against the president in a Swiss court, was held guilty of contempt of court. The prime minister by his defiance had challenged the authority of the Supreme Court. In convicting him and then restricting the punishment to 37 seconds, the Supreme Court not only dispensed justice but maintained the balance essential to it, by taking account of  “mitigating circumstances”. At the same time, the authority of the Supreme Court and its jurisdiction within the institutional framework of the Constitution was established without destabilising the governance structure that a prison sentence and immediate disqualification of the prime minister would have entailed. Let us briefly outline a perspective of political economy to understand the significance of the Supreme Court verdict.

Over the last five years, there has been intensified institutional instability as different organs of the state have been vying for enhanced space within the power structure. In Pakistan’s case, underlying the formal institutional structure of the Constitution is a continual contention between different factions of the ruling elite for power and resources. This contention between the military, bureaucracy, the judiciary and various political organisations and their relative strength, has conditioned the dialectic between authoritarianism and democracy in Pakistan’s history. Thus, the relative weakness of the political parties, the judiciary and civil society organisations in the face of a relatively strong military organisation led to repeated military coup d’etats: the Constitution was abrogated, mauled and modified to suit the requirements of authoritarian rule. The judiciary, for many years, used the fig leaf of the ‘law of necessity’ to give a dubious legal justification for dictatorship. So the verdicts of the Supreme Court have historically been determined by its institutional weakness rather than the robustness of legal argument. This propensity resulted in a tragic miscarriage of justice when former prime minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto was hanged following a Supreme Court verdict in April 1979. The military regimes of Generals Ayub Khan, Yahya Khan, Ziaul Haq and Pervez Musharraf all found legal sustenance in a kept judiciary.

The changing configuration of the power structure has also shaped the nature of and changes in economic and foreign policy. The national security paradigm as formulated by the military critically influenced foreign and security policy that involved the nurturing of extremist militant groups that were later to become a threat to the very survival of the state and the way of life of the people of Pakistan. The same security paradigm led to policies that reinforced an extractive institutional structure in the economy, whereby growing rents were generated for the elite while the provision of health, education and economic well-being of the people was ignored in resource allocation decisions.

Over the last five years, the judiciary, earlier removed by General Musharraf, was restored by a historic citizens’ movement. During the same period, there has been a dramatic contention for power between the elected government and the military and the assertion of judicial independence vis-a-vis the elected government on the one hand and the military on the other. This turbulence within the power structure is moving towards a new institutional balance as envisaged in the Constitution. If the political parties now use the April 26 Supreme Court verdict as an instrument of political conflict, it could place dangerous stresses on an emerging democracy and a fragile state. Strengthening the polity requires restraining political conflicts within the consensus for democracy and its institutional stability.http://tribune.com.pk/story/371739/the-verdict-in-perspective/

April 30, 2012   No Comments

A fake democracy: op-ed by Ikramullah in The Nation, April 30

The writer is President of the Pakistan National Forum.

The PML-N Quaid, Mian Nawaz Sharif, while briefing the media on April 27 in Lahore, declared that the office of Prime Minister has become vacant after the Supreme Court verdict in the contempt case. He said: “If we allow and accept the convicted PM and ineligible Cabinet to continue, we have no right to be in politics”, and demanded that Mr Gilani should resign. Otherwise, he will have to face the people’s wrath. In the same vein, the Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly of Pakistan, Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan, said: “A convicted Prime Minister will not be allowed to enter the assembly hall.”

Mr Gilani, however, addressed the NA session on Friday in the absence of opposition members belonging to the PML-N, and challenged them to bring a no-confidence motion against him. He said: “I am an elected Prime Minister, representing 180 million people. How can anybody order an elected Prime Minister to go home? Only the Speaker, who is the custodian of this house, has the authority to decide…….I have not committed a crime, I have done nothing wrong, but I have protected the Constitution.”

Perhaps, the premier’s aggression and overconfidence is not without reason. One, he has complete support of the PPP coalition partners, namely MQM, PML-Q and ANP; and second, he is backed by foreign governments, especially the US. State Department Spokesperson Victoria Nuland has stated: “The US will continue to work with Prime Minister Gilani and believes that he remains leader of the Pakistani democratic government…….There was a court decision; he was given a 30-second conviction, I believe, and he remains the Prime Minister of Pakistan…….And, as such, we continue to work with him and Ambassador Grossman did meet with him in Pakistan.”

Nevertheless, the legal, constitutional and political implications of the verdict are grave. The initial response is clearly reflected in Nawaz and Imran’s statements to uphold the rule of law come what may! Major political parties have decided to work out a joint strategy to establish law and order in the country, which is rapidly sliding into anarchy and lawlessness.

Over the past four years, the opposition has been blindly, in fact foolishly, following the ruling elite to save democratic setup, and contain any move made by the undemocratic forces to upset the applecart. This has enabled the PPP to survive since the 2008 elections, despite several corruption cases against its members. Hence, the internal and external challenges facing Pakistan, coupled with a serious threat to national security, has brought Imran Khan in the limelight. He is emerging as the voice of the masses, since no other leader is willing to listen and understand their problems

For the first time in the history of Pakistan, the Supreme Court has come out of the spell of doctrine of necessity. Also, there are many new things happening in the country: a sitting Prime Minister has been ‘convicted and jailed’ for 30 seconds; Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry is rightly taking suo motu notices of corruption scams involving ministers; and after the four-year tenure of the PPP-led coalition government, Nawaz Sharif has finally decided to play the role of a genuine opposition. The month of May, perhaps, will be crucial for the future of the so-called democratically-elected government. http://www.nation.com.pk/pakistan-news-newspaper-daily-english-online/columns/30-Apr-2012/a-fake-democracy

April 30, 2012   No Comments

How to make a mockery of the law: op-ed Ameer Bhutto in The News, April 30

The writer is vice-chairman of the Sindh National Front

Common decency and democratic custom required that the prime minister tender his resignation after the Supreme Court convicted him of contempt of court. World leaders have resigned on far lesser grounds as a matter of principle, even on the basis of unsubstantiated allegations, let alone convictions. But not our lot. They would rather drag the whole country through muck and sleaze than relinquish the reins of power, which accidentally fell into their hands for fear that they may never wield them again.

Therefore, the prime minister was seen leaving the court premises, forcing the best smile he could muster under the circumstances, waving to a band of sycophants who showered him with rose petals, as if he had achieved some great feat rather than being convicted by the highest court in the land. Shortly thereafter, the cabinet declared him to be pristinely blameless as they deemed his conviction to be of a political rather than criminal or moral nature and, as such, he was deemed to be under no compulsion to resign.

But the national humiliation of being governed by an obstinate convict was not enough. We have come to accept that the worse imaginable scenario is rarely enough for this government. They find it necessary to plummet deeper still and take the nation down with them. So now we have a state of affairs whereby the convicted prime minister and his party are treating his conviction as a political victory. This is what they wanted all along; an opportunity to claim victimisation and political martyrdom.

But the prerequisite to milking the benefits of political martyrdom is having the weight and substance of righteousness on your side to attract genuine support and sympathy of the people. This government is woefully lacking on this count. Apart from a few people sporadically chanting slogans in a few villages and towns, there has been absolutely no noteworthy display of public support for the prime minister. Even Larkana remained quiet, apart from a dozen or so students who burned a few tyres but then got bored and went home, and a few jiyalas in Naudero tried to shut down the bazaar but failed. So much for the Sindh card. So much for political martyrdom.

The prime minister has publicly stated that if you get into the coal business, you are likely to get your hands blackened. Gilani has missed the mark entirely on the essence of the princely art of politics by likening it to shovelling coal. If politics were like shovelling coal, then why did Zulfikar Ali Bhutto not get his hands soiled? He stands triumphant in history and even now elections are won in his name. How did Winston Churchill, Charles de Gaulle, John F Kennedy, Sukarno, Mohammad Ali Jinnah, Jawaharlal Nehru and Nelson Mandela manage to keep their hands clean? No Mr Gilani, politics is also about serving mankind and championing just causes that entail struggle and sacrifice. If you find your hands blackened today, it is so because you and your cohorts wilfully chose to wallow in coal, not because your profession called upon you to do so.

It is an established practice by this administration to procrastinate and draw out every mess and crisis its incompetence, corruption and disregard of law generates, so that it can complete its term. It became unavoidable for the Supreme Court to initiate contempt of court proceedings against the prime minister because the government was dragging its feet in implementing the NRO verdict.

True to form, it now appears that the government is set to impede the constitutional consequences that are bound to flow from the prime minister’s conviction. The prime minister commented that the office of the speaker of the National Assembly was not a post office, implying that the speaker was not bound to automatically send a reference to the chief election commissioner under Article 63(2) of the Constitution to declare the prime minister disqualified from continuing as a member of the National Assembly under Article 63(1)g.

Gilani’s lawyer, Aitzaz Ahsan, clarified this stance in a press conference: He argued that the speaker would examine the Supreme Court verdict to see if any question arises with regard to the disqualification of the prime minister. He said it would be argued before the speaker that no such question arises, because the Supreme Court’s short order goes beyond the ambit of the charges on which he was arraigned. According to him, whereas Gilani was accused of disregarding the court verdict, he has been convicted of wilfully flouting and ridiculing court directions to the extent of being ‘substantially detrimental to the administration of justice’ and bringing ‘this court and the judiciary of this country into ridicule.’ He has, therefore been wrongfully convicted so the question of his disqualification does not arise.

This line of reasoning is fundamentally flawed. Firstly, all we have to go by so far is a short order from the court. The detailed judgment is yet to come. Typically, a short order announces the guilt or innocence of the accused without going into the reasoning, which is revealed in the detailed judgment that follows. It is inconceivable that the learned judges of the apex court could possibly make such a fundamental error in their judgment. If they appear to have transgressed the perimeters of the charges against the prime minister, they could only have done so with situational justification and sound legal authority which is bound to be laid out in their detailed judgment.

In any case, the leap from disregarding court rulings to flouting and ridiculing court directions is not a particularly spectacular one. One is merely an extreme form of the other. Secondly, regardless of whether the prime minister was rightly or wrongly convicted, there is no law, statute, constitutional provision or court ruling that allows the speaker of the National Assembly to assume the authority to place a Supreme Court ruling under a microscope.

The speaker can adjudicate neither on the validity of the ruling nor the soundness of their lordships’ reasoning. To do so would amount to assuming judicial powers above the Supreme Court and, in effect, over ruling the Supreme Court order. According to Article 63(2), the speaker shall send a reference to the chief election commissioner for a member’s disqualification from the National Assembly “If a question arises whether a member of the Majlis-e-Shoora (parliament) has become disqualified from being a member…”

But the Supreme Court short order leaves no unanswered questions suspended in the ether. It clearly finds the prime minister guilty of flouting and ridiculing the Supreme Court. Not only that, but the short order elucidates that ‘As regards the sentence to be passed against the convict, we note that the findings and the conviction for contempt of court recorded above are likely to entail some serious consequences in terms of Article 63(1)g of the Constitution which may be treated as mitigating factors towards the sentence to be passed against him.’

Article 63(1)g stipulates that a person shall be disqualified from being a member of parliament if ‘… he is propagating any opinion, or acting in any manner, prejudicial to … the integrity or independence of the judiciary of Pakistan, or which defames or brings into ridicule the judiciary…’ Since the Supreme Court’s short order unambiguously states that the prime minister’s conduct has ridiculed the judiciary, the speaker of the National Assembly, therefore, has no option but to refer the matter to the chief election commissioner. No ambiguity exists in this. The more the speaker leans on dubious crutches to procrastinate, the greater the stink this brewing constitutional crisis will throw up. www.thenews.com.pk/Todays-News-9-105760-How-to-make-a-mockery-of-the-law

April 30, 2012   No Comments

Condemned unheard: op-ed by Khwaja Ahmad Hosain in The News, April 30

The author is a barrister practicing in Lahore.

It is a basic principle of criminal law that you cannot be convicted of something with which you have not been charged. If I am charged with theft and tried for theft, I cannot be convicted of murder. The reasons underlying this principle are obvious. A defendant is entitled to know the precise scope of the charges against him. He is entitled to defend himself in the light of these charges. His right to a fair trial would be compromised if he is convicted of an offence without having had a chance to present his case.

Prime Minister Gilani has been convicted of contempt of court under Article 204(2) of the Constitution read with Section 3 of the Contempt of Court Ordinance of 2003. What had he been charged with? With wilfully flouting, disregarding and disobeying the directions given by the SC in the NRO case. The charge sheet stipulated that he was legally bound to obey these directions and his failure to do so constitutes contempt of court within the meaning of Article 204(2) of the Constitution read with Section 3 of the Contempt Ordinance. This was the charge.

What has the prime minister been convicted of in the SC short order? He has been found guilty of contempt of court for wilful flouting, disregard and disobedience of the NRO judgement. To this extent, the conviction is clearly based on the charge. However, the short order goes on to state that this conviction has been recorded after the court’s satisfaction that the contempt committed by him is substantially detrimental to the administration of justice and tends to bring the court and the judiciary of this country into ridicule. This finding flows from Section 18 of the Contempt Ordinance. Under that section there can be no conviction for contempt unless the court is satisfied that that the contempt is one which is substantially detrimental to the administration of justice or scandalises the court or otherwise tends to bring the court or a judge of the court into hatred or ridicule.

Failing to obey court orders is clearly substantially detrimental to the administration of justice. However, does such failure ipso facto bring the court and judiciary into ridicule? Let us ignore for the moment the fact that the prime minister made several speeches which may be construed as bringing the court and judiciary into ridicule. He was not charged in respect of this conduct. These speeches were not part of the case against him. The only charge was failing to implement the NRO judgement. One can certainly envisage instances where a failure to obey a court order would not constitute bringing the judiciary into ridicule. That is why Article 204(2) of the Constitution deals in separate sub-clauses with disobedience of court orders and scandalising the court. If mere disobedience constituted a scandalising of the court, there would be no need for such segregation. Similarly, the Contempt Ordinance also distinguishes between civil contempt (disobeying court orders) and judicial contempt (scandalising the court).

In this case, the court was well aware of the implications of a finding of bringing the judiciary into ridicule. Such a finding entails disqualification for a parliamentarian under Article 63(1)(g) of the Constitution. The court notes in its short order that the prime minister’s conviction for contempt is “likely” to entail serious consequences under this Article. In the circumstances, if the court was considering such finding as the basis of its ruling on contempt, should it not have formulated the charge in such manner that the prime minister appreciated the nature of the allegation and the consequences of conviction?

The court could have charged the prime minister specifically under Article 204(2)(b) of the Constitution, or with judicial contempt. Article 204(2)(b) authorises the court to punish any person who scandalises the court or otherwise does anything which tends to bring the court or a judge of the court into ridicule. As it is, the charge sheet only mentions Article 204(2), without specifying which specific sub-clause of Article 204(2) was being referenced. Since the overall charge related to wilful flouting of a court order, it was reasonable to assume that the reference to Article 204(2) was a reference to Article 204(2)(a), which gives the court the power to punish a person who disobeys a court order. Perhaps the charge sheet should have particularised which sub-clause of Article 204(2) the prime minister was being charged with to enable the prime minister to appreciate the case he had to answer.

As it is, an adverse finding of bringing the judiciary into ridicule has been made without hearing the prime minister on this point. It may be that failing to implement clear court orders by a prime minister does constitute bringing the judiciary into ridicule. But if the court was considering such a finding, it should have indicated to this effect in the charge sheet. It should have stated that the allegation and charge of wilful disobedience is one which, if proved, may be held to bring the court into ridicule.

The formulation of the charge in this manner would have enabled the prime minister to present his case on this allegation. Alternatively, during the course of the hearing the court could have indicated to the prime minister’s counsel that it wanted to hear arguments on the issue of whether the failure to implement court orders in this case is tantamount to ridiculing the court.

The fundamental principle is that no man, regardless of your views of that man, should be condemned unheard. The prime minister was not heard on the question of whether his conduct constituted a ridiculing of the court. Some may feel that this is an excessively technical analysis. The rules of natural justice are procedural rules. They often appear pedantic since they are not concerned with the substance of the matter. They exist because absence of procedural fairness leads to unjust decisions. All citizens of this country are entitled to due process and a fair hearing. The prime minister should be treated in exactly the same way as any other citizen. http://www.thenews.com.pk/Todays-News-9-105761-Condemned-unheard

April 30, 2012   No Comments

The conviction and its consequences: op-ed by Asif Ezdi in The News, April 30

The writer is a former member of the Pakistan Foreign Service.

The seven-man bench of the Supreme Court which put Gilani on trial three months ago on charge of contempt of court had an unenviable task. Much as it wanted to insulate itself from the highly charged political atmosphere surrounding the proceedings, it knew also that its verdict would eventually be judged by each side in the light of their political loyalties.

The court had three issues before it: first, whether to convict Gilani; second, the sentence to be passed in case he was found guilty; and third, the question of disqualification. On conviction, there was never any doubt. Aitzaz had a weak case but he made it look even worse with some outlandish arguments, perhaps none more so than the demand that the court give special consideration to his client because of his “saintly” antecedents. Only slightly less risible was Aitzaz’s belated discovery that the 18th Amendment’s guarantee of due process now bars the courts from punishing contempt committed before them and therefore invalidates the Contempt of Court Ordinance of 2003.

In another stroke of genius, Aitzaz produced before the court a report of the International Law Commission on immunity under international law of state officials from foreign criminal jurisdiction. The contempt of court proceedings in Pakistan, Aitzaz seemed to forget, are governed by Pakistani law, not international law. Aitzaz has now mercifully stopped invoking the Vienna Conventions of 1961 and 1963 but young Bilawal still ordered Gilani earlier this month “not to violate the Vienna Convention” by writing to the Swiss authorities.

While convicting Gilani for having committed contempt of court was simple enough, the court evidently had a more difficult decision to make in determining the appropriate punishment to be handed down. Considering that Gilani has shown no regret for his failure to implement the court’s orders and that he continues to flout them, he would have merited a much harsher punishment than that meted out to him. The court found a mitigating factor in the likelihood that the conviction would “entail serious consequences in terms of Article 63(1) (g) of the Constitution” – i.e., disqualification from continuing as a member of the National Assembly.

But there is a major difficulty with this reasoning. It could create a precedent that those persons guilty of contempt of court – or other, graver offences – who faced the “likelihood” of being disqualified from continuing as members of our legislatures, such as Babar Awan, would face less severe punishments than other citizens of the country. This would be a clear breach of the principle of equality of citizens guaranteed by the Constitution.

It has been speculated that in giving an exceptionally mild sentence to Gilani, the court might have been seeking to avoid making him a political martyr, or stepping up confrontation between the executive and the judiciary. An equally plausible explanation is that the court wanted to give a sentence that could be executed quickly, without its having to seek the help or cooperation of any officials of the government.

The most talked-about part of the Supreme Court’s order in the contempt case is that concerning disqualification. The court has done well to disappoint those who had been hoping that besides convicting Gilani, it would also disqualify him from continuing to sit in the National Assembly and to hold the office of prime minister.

By reaching the finding that Gilani’s refusal to implement the orders of the Supreme Court “tends to bring … the judiciary of this country into ridicule,” the court has ruled that one of the grounds for disqualification exists. But Gilani still has the option of appealing against this decision in 30 days. He has declared that he intends to make use of this right. If his conviction on these grounds is upheld on appeal, he would then become liable to disqualification for five years. But disqualification is not automatic. It has to take place in accordance with the procedure laid down in Article 63 (2).

This procedure is initiated with a reference by the speaker of the National Assembly to the Election Commission. The speaker is required to make this reference within 30 days after the question of disqualification is “raised,” unless she decides that “no such question has arisen.” The government is no doubt pressing the speaker, as a loyal member of the PPP, to make this “finding” and refuse to make a reference to the Election Commission. The law minister has declared in the National Assembly that the speaker is the “final arbiter” and does not perform the function of a “post office” by mechanically passing on the matter to the Election Commission. Gilani has also declared in the National Assembly that nobody can remove him from the office of prime minister except the speaker.

This is clearly not what the Constitution envisages. As Article 63 (3) states, it is the Election Commission which “decides the question.” We do not know yet whether the speaker would rise above her party loyalties and do what the Constitution requires her to do. If she does, she will set a noble precedent and make a name for herself. If she does not, her ruling would be challenged in the courts and a first-class constitutional crisis setting the judiciary and the parliament against each other would have been added to the many others that Zardari and this government have gifted to the nation.

In all the heat and verbiage generated by the prolonged wrangling over Gilani’s contempt trial, it is easy to forget that the nation is being put to all this agony only to enable Zardari to protect the wealth he has stashed in foreign countries. In his speech in the Senate last week, Farooq Naek, Zardari’s former defence lawyer in corruption cases and one of the authors of the infamous NRO, again claimed that the “Swiss case” against Zardari was dropped “on merits.” That is not quite right. The truth is that the Swiss authorities abandoned the case only when requested by the Pakistan government.

This seems to be indirectly confirmed by a New York Times story last week. The newspaper reported, on the basis of interviews with Swiss lawyers and Daniel Zappelli, the former prosecutor of Geneva who drew up charges against Zardari in the 1990s, that it would be “virtually impossible” to revive the cases at this point. There were three obstacles, the daily said: Zardari’s immunity as head of state; Switzerland’s 15-year statute of limitations which expires this year; and the exasperation of the Swiss authorities at repeated shifts in Pakistan’s position on pursuing the investigation. There was no suggestion that the case was dropped “on merits,” as claimed by Naek.

Despite these obstacles, Zardari clearly does not want to take any chances. His immunity in Switzerland could end next year if he cannot win re-election as president. As for the statute of limitations, Jacques Python, the Geneva lawyer who worked for the Pakistani government on the corruption case, said in an interview last February that if Zardari had lifted the frozen money after the shelving of the case, that would constitute a new offence and the 15-year limitation period would start running afresh. Even the third obstacle, the irritation of the Swiss authorities at Pakistan’s to-ing and fro-ing, might be overcome, once Zardari is no longer in the Presidency.

Staying in power at all costs is important for Zardari not just to realise his political plans for himself and the dynasty he hopes to found. It is also absolutely necessary to enable him to keep the vast wealth he has assiduously put together in Switzerland and in about half-a-dozen other countries over a period of more than two decades. As far as he is concerned, it is just too bad for the people of Pakistan if they are suffering as a result. http://www.thenews.com.pk/Todays-News-9-105758-The-conviction-and-its-consequences

April 30, 2012   No Comments

MQM expedites efforts to get Sindh home ministry

ISLAMABAD – JAVAID-UR-RAHMAN – As Manzoor Wasan, Home Minister, Sindh, has left on one-month official leave, Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) has once again geared up efforts to clinch the slot, which it is likely to get soon after the end of ongoing Liyari operation in Karachi.

Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) is most likely to get the slot of Home Minister Sindh but after the ongoing operation in Lyari as the ruling party (PPP) has almost been convinced to give this important position it member of its allied party (MQM), sources in MQM told TheNation. The portfolio of Home Ministry after the official leave of Wasan is now currently under the control of Chief Minister Sindh Qaim Ali Shah.

Muttahida has already conveyed its demand to the PPP’s leadership to replace incumbent Home Minister Manzoor Wasan with the nominee of Muttahida ‘to better control law and order situation and nab extortionists in Karachi’, they said.

If the portfolio is not given to Muttahida, sources said, the party might adopt some serious steps to detach itself from coalition of the ruling party. The party is interested to get Home Ministry but after this Lyari operation as it don’t want to indulge in any controversy about the operation, they added.

It is pertinent to mention here that Muttahida has time and again expressed dissatisfaction over worsening law and order situation in Karachi for last over two months. MQM had built pressure on PPP for the appointment of their nominee, as they are not happy with the performance of Manzoor Wasan.

Earlier the party had once announced to boycott President Zardari’s address to record its protest over Sindh’s government’s inaction over the rising incidence of extortion in Karachi, but taken back its decision when Zardari telephoned Altaf Hussain late into the night before his address.

After the PPP succeeded in wooing Muttahida on the eleventh hour, the MQM members showed no sign of estrangement. They said that Muttahida would devise any future strategy before the upcoming budget 2012-13, if their demand to replace Sindh home minister was unmet. http://www.nation.com.pk/pakistan-news-newspaper-daily-english-online/islamabad/30-Apr-2012/mqm-expedites-efforts-to-get-sindh-home-ministry

April 30, 2012   No Comments

‘Disappointed Mahsuds joining PTI’

TANK: Disappointed with the mainstream religious and political parties, the militancy-stricken Mahsud tribes people have started joining the Pakistan Tehik-Insaf (PTI) in the hope that Imran Khan and his team would work sincerely for welfare and development of the under-developed tribal areas after coming into power.

The PTI South Waziristan chapter has started membership drive in Tank and Dera Ismail Khan districts where the Mahsud tribal families are residing in large numbers. Many became internally displaced persons (IDPs) in recent years while others had settled there long ago. The party officials said around 16,000 Mahsud tribesmen had so far registered as the PTI members in South Waziristan.

Addressing a function here on Sunday, Dost Mohammad Mahsud, a former bureaucrat and president Pakistan of PTI South Waziristan, said Imran Khan and his team would utilise all available resources to bring the tribal areas at par with the rest of the country. http://www.thenews.com.pk/Todays-News-2-105738-Disappointed-Mahsuds-joining-PTI

April 30, 2012   No Comments

Defender of Musa Gilani made PM’s special assistant

By Usman Manzoor in the News, April 30

ISLAMABAD: Surrounded by a huge grey area around his legitimacy, convicted Prime Minister, Yusuf Raza Gilani has appointed General (R) Pervez Musharraf’s former spokesman, Fawad Chaudhry as his Special Assistant on Political Affairs, raising a new controversy about the appointment.

Not surprisingly, the newly appointed special assistant to PM, out of jubilation, has compared the convicted PM with Nelson Mandela, Gandhi and Aung San Suu Kyi saying whosoever will show loyalty, will be equated with Mandela, Gandhi and Suu Kyi.

Fawad Chaudhry, a scion of famous political party from Jhelum, was spokesman for Pervez Musharraf until a few months ago and was negotiating with Imran Khan to join Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf, but all of a sudden joined PPP and within no time secured the slot of special assistant to the convicted prime minister for himself.

Within two months of joining the PPP, Fawad Chaudhry has achieved what many others could never do in their political careers spanning over decades and he has done it by defending the alleged corruption of PM’s son in ephedrine scandal.

Fawad Chaudhry, while talking to The News confirmed his appointment as special assistant to the convicted prime minister on political affairs. When asked how he was feeling after being appointed by a convicted PM, Fawad Chaudhry replied, “Nelson Mandela was also convicted, Gandhi was also convicted, Aung San Suu Kyi is also convicted so what happened if Yusuf Raza Gilani is also convicted.”

When told that the persons he named were men of character, Fawad said, “Everyone who shows loyalty is placed at high pedestal so is Yusuf Raza Gilani.”

When asked what advice he would give to the PPP prime minister who has been convicted by Supreme Court, Fawad said, “I will advise him on political affairs. We are here and the PM is also here and he is going nowhere.” Fawad spinned the question over writing letter to Swiss court against reopening of $60 million graft cases. However, he mentioned that the situation, after his arrival in the government ranks, will improve.

It is worth mentioning here that just a few months ago, journalists in Islamabad and Lahore would receive calls from Fawad Chaudhry who would tell them about latest activities of General (R) Pervez Musharraf.

Then he managed to establish links with Imran Khan and according to media reports in a meeting Imran Khan praised Fawad Chaudhry as one of the few members of the Musharraf’s All Pakistan Muslim League and asked the participants whether he should be included in the PTI. Though Imran was snubbed by many top PTI leaders on this, but other leaders were shocked over the bent of Imran’s mind.

Meanwhile, on the morning of March 9, 2012 Fawad met Prime Minister Gilani and announced to join the PPP, shocking not only Musharraf and company but also his close friends. Since then, he is the mouthpiece of PM Gilani especially in the Rs7 billion corruption case allegedly involving Musa Gilani. http://www.thenews.com.pk/Todays-News-2-105737-Defender-of-Musa-Gilani-made-PMs-special-assistant

April 30, 2012   No Comments

PML-N Pindi ranks creaking: by Aamir Yasin in Dawn, April 30

RAWALPINDI, April 29: PML-N leadership has taken to the warpath against the PPP but maybe it should be worrying more about the strength of its own ranks in a battle. Dawn has learnt that the findings of a secret survey conducted to gauge the popularity and performance of PML-N lawmakers in the urban areas of this garrison city has sounded alarmbells in the party.

Carried out by the intelligence wing of Punjab police, on the directive of the party stalwart and leader of the opposition in the National Assembly, Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan, the survey found that the popularity graph of PML-N in Rawalpindi city had fallen sharply.

Rawalpindi’s urban areas are known to be the stronghold of the PML-N and in the general elections of February 2008 the party had clinched five of the National Assembly and 11 of the provincial assembly seats. The PPP could managed to grab only one NA seat from Gujar Khan and two provincial assembly seats from the rural areas while the PML-Q was left with one provincial assembly seat in Taxila.

A PML-N leader requesting not to be named said the opposition leader in the National Assembly was in-charge of the party’s Rawalpindi division and in order to check its popularity graph he had directed the police special branch last month to conduct the survey.

According to the findings of the survey received two weeks back, the PML-N workers and supporters came down hard on their party leaders and provincial ministers for not resolving their problems. It said the residents of these urban constituencies had held the provincial government equally responsible for the federal government’s failure to provide basic facilities to them.  It also pointed out that the elimination of dual votes in the new electoral lists would create problems in the urban areas as most of the PML-N voters belonging to Murree were settled in Sadiqabad, Muslim Town, Shamsabad, Raja Bazaar, Nayya Mohallah and College Road.

The likely seat adjustment between Awami Muslim League of Sheikh Rashid Ahmed and Pakistan Tehrik-i-Insaf would create further problems for the PML-N by clinching the votes of those who were angry with it.

“After receiving the report, Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan called a meeting of the local lawmakers in the Punjab House last week and discussed the issue with them,” said the PML-N leader, adding Mr Khan directed the participants of the meeting to launch a cleanliness drive in the city areas consisting of NA-55 and NA-56 under the supervision of MPAs so that people-to-leaders contact could be promoted.

He said Mr Khan also sought weekly performance report from the MNAs and MPAs and directed them to contact party workers in their respective areas on a daily basis.

Aqib Khan, a PML-N worker in Union Council-2 Dhoke Ratta, told Dawn that party supporters were unhappy over the performance of the area MNA and MPAs. “Mostly they remain busy in Lahore and Islamabad and pay less attention to resolve the problems of the masses,” he said.

Malik Yasir, a resident of Nayya Mohallah and also a PML-N worker, said the residents staged a protest demonstration against the federal government in the winter against low gas pressure but the MNAs were not there.

He said when the residents contacted the MNAs and MPAs for resolution of their problems; they were told that they had no say in the affairs of the federal government.

When contacted by Dawn, MNA Malik Shakeel Awan said: “I am not aware of the survey. Rawalpindi is the fort of PML-N and the people here love Nawaz Sharif and they will also vote him in the next general elections.” He said the popularity graph of the PML-N was increasing due to Nawaz Sharif’s firm stands on different issues. He said the PML-N paid first priority to the well-being of its workers.

MPA Shaharyar Riaz added: “The survey was conducted during the last two weeks but I don’t know about its findings.” The MPA said he was not in the meeting held at the Punjab House. “But my colleagues had informed me about the details.”

The general secretary of the PML-N’s Rawalpindi chapter and former MNA from NA-55, Haji Pervaiz Khan, admitted that the secret survey was conducted. “In the survey, the PML-N workers and supporters expressed their resentments over the performance of the sitting MNAs,” he observed.

He, however, said the popularity of the party would improve if the elected representatives worked to resolve the public issues.http://dawn.com/2012/04/30/pml-n-pindi-ranks-creaking/

April 30, 2012   No Comments