Random header image... Refresh for more!

Posts from — May 2012

Contradictions in all that we do…: op-ed by Tallat Azim in the Nation, May 26

The writer is a public relations and event management professional based in Islamabad.

I thought that all these last 10 years we were, along with the rest of the world, looking for Osama bin Laden and were on the side of those who were fighting a war against terrorism. When he did get caught, albeit without our knowledge, found embarrassingly almost in the lap of Pakistan Military Academy (PMA), our PM declared what a good thing that was – his being caught I mean (and not the neighbourly PMA connection).

The lead up to the most wanted man in the world was made possible by one Dr Shakil Afridi, who, at the CIA’s behest, ran a fake blood-testing campaign to get close to the inmates of the compound where Osama was living. Being recruited by the CIA is bad, but the punishment announced for him and the charge of treason slapped on him by the court of the Assistant Political Agent (APA), Bara, is too much for his crime. Dr Shakil was not found undermining Pakistan’s security interests or stealing state secrets and giving them away to foreign agencies. The Defence Minister of Pakistan, in an interview to BBC on May 2 earlier this month, claimed that “the Government of Pakistan and its armed forces played a vital role in the killing of former Al-Qaeda Chief, Osama bin Laden.” Furthermore, the Defence Minister said that our armed forces were responsible for the weakening Al-Qaeda’s terrorist network and had provided details about the search for Osama, who was eventually tracked down through a mobile phone SIM found ‘by chance’ by the Pakistani forces.

The Defence Minister went on to say that Dr Shakil should have given the information that he had to the Pakistan government, rather than the USA and one can agree with that statement. In his mind, Dr Shakil was, probably, not committing a treasonable act by providing information to an ally of Pakistan and in the interest of the committed position Pakistan has persistently taken for the last so many years. Providing it in exchange for dollars is definitely unsavoury, but cannot be compared to waging a war against Pakistan and is not treasonable. The verdict announced against Dr Shakil, at a secret place, by an APA does not fulfil the requirements of justice.

Justice is the current key word in our national ‘lingo’. It appears that the Speaker of Parliament has chosen to interpret the ruling of the Supreme Court in the contempt case and found that it did not warrant a disqualification or removal of the PM. This is quite like some of our non-scholarly clergy, who chooses to interpret Quranic verses according to their personal vision and limited knowledge. Although our Speaker cannot be called non-knowledgeable, the fact remains that she and her family cannot be expected to take a position against the political party to which they owe everything. Thus, anybody who expected any other ruling from her needs to go back to the school of Pakistani politics. The nation remains confused in the middle of all the legalese and most of us have become half-baked lawyers ourselves after reading all the arguments given on both sides. However, the perception remains that there has been a contempt of court, which has not been adhered to.

The PPP, in view of the Speaker’s ruling, may not even file a review petition in the Supreme Court. The parties in opposition have begun to plan their responses and actions in the light of this development. We can only hope that protests will remain peaceful and no loss to life and property is caused as witnessed in Karachi a few days ago.

The nitty-gritty about what Pakistan is to gain for reopening the Nato supply routes continues. It has finally dawned that we need the money with the new budget being announced in a week. One is reminded of the words of Mirza Asadullah Khan Ghalib:

“Karz ki peetay thai mai, laiken samajtey thay kai haan, Rung lai gi hamaari faaqa-musti aik din!”

Postscript: In Islamabad, the writing on the wall as to which way the winds are blowing becomes evident at diplomatic receptions. The flavours of the month are always those who are in power and popular for the authority that they possess, surrounded perpetually by gushing admirers. This phenomenon is more evident in the beginning or middle of a government’s tenure.

I witnessed the exact opposite at a reception two days ago, which had all the well-heeled and who’s who of the city in attendance from all walks of life, including the non-official ones. The only people, who were being studiously avoided for chatter and bonhomie by the majority of the guests, were the four who were up with the Ambassador on the stage for the singing of the national anthems. You could so tell that their tenures have almost run their course and that we are almost at the end of an election term. Not so much for a collective rejection of the government’s performance as much as for their individual acts and statements. The four on the stage were Senator Aitzaz Ahsan, Minister for Railways Bilour, Chief Secretary Balochistan Raisani and Dr Asim – the doctor in charge of the oil sector.

Tell me in all honesty, would you fault the guests if they did not want to get up close and personal with any of them? The only one about whom I felt bad was Aitzaz – a hero to many, including myself, until only a few months ago.http://www.nation.com.pk/pakistan-news-newspaper-daily-english-online/columns/26-May-2012/contradictions-in-all-that-we-do

May 27, 2012   No Comments

.The leadership crisis: op-ed by Khurshid Akhtar Khan in the Nation, May 27, 2012

The writer is an engineer and an entrepreneur.

Politics is hardly ever free from shades of grey. In Pakistan, it is downright dirty. The verbal assaults, character assassinations, mutual disrespect, loot and plunder and violence have come to be considered by the public as norm rather than exception. The competition is who can shout louder and who can steal more without leaving a trace.

For a short while, Imran Khan appeared as a knight in shining armour for the public desperately looking for a real change. A mainly voluntary gathering of an enthusiastic and charged mammoth crowd in Lahore had instantaneously raised him to the mantle of a serious contender in the national politics. He seemed single-minded and determined to replace the tried, old, corrupt and dynastic politicians and revolutionalise our politics by introducing educated and competent youth with fresh faces and carrying no baggage.

That hope faded away as fast as his ‘tsunami’ of public rallies was matched by a sea of similar rallies by other political parties. The meteoric rise attracted opportunists and advocates of pragmatism like a magnet offering their own recipes of how to win the elections that now seemed distinctly possible. He was talked into coming to terms with the beaten track of ‘sure seats and ground realities’, synonyms for the status quo – precisely what Imran Khan was supposed to be up against.

Following the traditional route of electoral compromises, he commenced wooing and inducting old faces with less than illustrious past disregarding their history of changing sides at the throw of a coin. Most of them had fallen out or were discarded by their previous comrades and were waiting in the wings for an appropriate time, seeking to grab another opportunity with the best odds to back a winning horse. His demonstrated policies that had brought him to the zenith of his 17-year career as a politician were put in the reverse gear. His party is now no different to the other squabbling colleagues who identify the problems, but offer no solutions nor inspire much confidence. Meanwhile, the untapped and unclaimed talent that drew inspiration from his straight talk and past glamour has been elbowed out from the front rows. The glimmer of hope that promised a new identity to the mutilated face of our nation is dwindling. Back to square one!

Our nation today is faced with unprecedented economic, political and social challenges. Successive rulers have experimented with various half-baked systems of governance during the last six decades. Each one of them had some merit and could be made to work, but each failed to steer our destiny in the right direction as the people at the helm and their political philosophies remained stagnant. Our politicians may possess abundant political skills and personal charisma to manipulate emotional crowds, but have lacked the administrative and technical capabilities that are needed to run the country. The present dispensation that is a galaxy of the star politicians have run the country to the ground, as they have refused to change with times. They cherish igniting meaningless controversies and entangling into legislation that has no impact on the well being of the people or the progress of the nation.

Extraordinary situations need to be addressed by extraordinary measures. The political class must change course from the daily dramas of political manipulation and jugglery to focus single-mindedly on building the nation and developing the economy. That would require transforming the political parties into professional organisations. The politicians should restrict themselves to act on the advice of their think tanks and to prepare public opinion to sell those ideas and policies. Each ministry must develop teams of technocrats, engineers and management experts for the planning and implementation of the schemes.

Only those people that have problem-solving, entrepreneurial and production skills can put this nation back to the path of progress. There should be zero tolerance for rhetoric without substance, empty promises and impractical ideologies that should be left for public meetings. How can scores of ministers sitting around a table in Cabinet meetings, many of whom have never done an honest day’s work in their life and have no other expertise, except oratory and pedigree to their credit, possibly contribute anything in nation building? China has maintained a consistent growth over decades following this policy that should not hurt us to replicate.

The symbolic half-a-minute detention sentence and conviction awarded to the Prime Minister by a seven-member bench of the Supreme Court cut no ice with the ruling bunch that rallied around the Prime Minister. Since they command the majority in Parliament, a vote of confidence was a piece of cake just as the latest ruling of the Speaker that has further reinforced the principle of rule by the mob, setting aside the rule of law or decency. Democracy will be victorious only when the will of the majority is exercised with responsibility, the court verdicts are respected and sensibilities are not offended. This form of democracy has protected and promoted the rulers, but has failed to serve the people, the nation and the country.

Whether the Prime Minister should resign or not has triggered a debate on morality that may prove as inconclusive as most other such debates. Our nation stands divided today more than ever before. Morality can be applied where the people share beliefs, principles or ideologies that regulate their lives leading to a universally accepted behaviour within the community – not where we place personal loyalty and self-interest above fairness, care and sacrifice for national causes. Nor where we apply the principle of an action to be right or wrong for others and not the same upon ourselves and where our intentions, decisions and actions are all at variance with each other. How does the Prime Minister plan to address these issues? http://www.nation.com.pk/pakistan-news-newspaper-daily-english-online/columns/27-May-2012/the-leadership-crisis

May 27, 2012   No Comments

The mirage of democracy: op-ed by Jalees Hazir in the Nation, May 27, 2012

The writer is a freelance columnist

In Quetta, heading a three-member bench hearing cases regarding human rights violations and the worrisome law and order situation in Balochistan last week, the Chief Justice urged the government to implement the Constitution before the army imposes another martial law. Many champions of democracy took an exception to the Chief Justice’s unambiguous remark, reading things in it that he did not say and insinuating that it was an invitation to the army to intervene. It seems that the government is in no mood to listen to this sane advice and it is determined to continue on its unconstitutional course. Later in the week, the Speaker of the National Assembly decided that she did not need to send the reference for Yousuf Raza Gilani’s disqualification to the Election Commission of Pakistan despite his conviction for contempt of court. The convicted Prime Minister whose skin she’d saved, for the moment at least, declared her decision as a victory for democracy. Meanwhile, for more and more people each day, the patience for Zardari’s version of democracy is fast wearing out.

The reason for this increasing lack of faith in the present democratic dispensation, and in the virtues of democracy by extension, is the total abdication of responsibility by the government and its insistence on treating power as a privilege to be abused for petty partisan and personal gains by everyone associated with it, from the President and Prime Minister to ministers and legislators to office bearers and workers of the parties in power. The daylight orgy of loot and plunder, the nepotistic and illegal appointments to important public offices that have brought ruin to state institutions, the undemocratic and corrupt manipulation of the political process, the complete failure to formulate policies in the interest of the people, the breakdown of public services and the government’s lack of interest in working towards their restoration, the disregard for the Constitution and the courts, unleashed and protected by the Zardari-led dispensation, have all brought a bad name to democracy and this dismal performance has obviously eroded the legitimacy of our so-called democratic government.

The politically correct one-eyed champions of democracy have an excuse for every shortcoming of the government, and a scapegoat to carry the burden for each one of its crimes and failures. The favourite scapegoats for these friends, who would like to give a carte blanche to the Zardari-led government to do as it pleases until the next elections, are the judiciary, the army and the media. They go into such fine detail to argue how these other pillars of the state are not living up to their constitutional obligations and professional duties and whenever there is a discussion regarding the alarming state of affairs in the country, they are quick to shift the blame on one of them. It is interesting how they don’t consider these high standards of democratic and constitutional behaviour as applicable to the political governments, whether in the centre or in the provinces. Try to measure the politicians and the governments they form with the same yardstick, and they lament about the interruptions in the political process and how time will correct all the deviations from the democratic norm in their case.

There are serious problems with this approach towards democracy that seems to boil down to keeping the army in the barracks, and lately, to frustrating the constitutional intervention of the independent judiciary as well. Some of them go even further and would like the media to mute its criticism of the government and to desist from expressing their anger against its unconstitutional, undemocratic and anti-people actions and policies. These bleeding heart half-baked democrats feel that the crimes of the government should be brushed under the carpet to guarantee the survival of the oh-so-fragile democratic dispensation and the guns should be directed towards the army and the judiciary, who are blamed for creating hurdles in the way of all the good things the government would like to do. When some high and mighty member of the government or public official is summoned by the court, they see it as a waste of their precious time and a distraction from fulfilling their routine responsibilities. It doesn’t occur to them that the reason they are summoned is because they are not using their precious time to fulfil these routine responsibilities. When concern is expressed about the deteriorating situation in Balochistan, they blame it all on the security agencies.

It is difficult to understand the logic of these one-eyed friends. How could covering up or turning a blind eye towards the crimes of the government save democracy? There is no justification for the abdication of constitutional and democratic responsibility by political governments. If the security agencies are making a mess of Balochistan, who is supposed to stop them? If the policy of security agencies to counter the challenge of Baloch nationalists through force is counterproductive, who is supposed to create a competing policy based on political rapprochement? Where are the public representatives and what is their solution to the crisis? Can we blame the army for filling in the void left by the political leadership and sorting out matters in a manner that they know best? Why is the political leadership reluctant to assert its constitutional authority, take charge of the situation and deal with it within a political framework? Where is the army of ministers in the Balochistan Cabinet hibernating as their province burns? Why has the Balochistan Chief Minister spent six days in his province in the last six months? Given the explosive situation in Balochistan, why has the Prime Minister not summoned him and the Balochistan Governor under Article 148 despite repeated reminders by the apex court?

Surely, we cannot hope to move towards democratic governance by suppressing these questions for the sake of shielding public representatives. In fact, we do democracy a favour every time we question abuse of power by those in charge and demand that they fulfil their constitutional responsibility. It is the utter lawlessness perpetrated by political governments and the abdication of their constitutional responsibility that erodes their popular support and brings the army out of the barracks. And clearly, that is what the Chief Justice was telling the government.http://www.nation.com.pk/pakistan-news-newspaper-daily-english-online/columns/27-May-2012/the-mirage-of-democracy

May 27, 2012   No Comments

The rot deepens:op-ed by Lal Khan in The Daily Times, May 27

The writer is the editor of Asian Marxist Review

The brutal firing and gruesome killings at a rally in Karachi is yet another episode that epitomises the downward spiral into which society and the state is unravelling disastrously. Under the deafening din of democracy, reconciliation, rule of law and independent judiciary, the economic meltdown is taking its toll on the beleaguered masses in the form of escalating violence, crime and bloodshed. This is adding insult to injury for people who are suffering ferocious price hikes, torturous load shedding, crippling poverty, agonising unemployment, pathetic healthcare, unaffordable education and unprecedented deprivation. The viciousness of the assault on the rally in Karachi on May 22, killing even women and children, exhibited a harrowing mindset and a rampant lumpenisation. While society is beset with such misery and tragedy, repression of the state and its agencies upon the bereaved masses has become even more intrusive and tyrannical.

The abductions, torture, killings and mutilations of political activists have intensified. This also signifies internecine conflicts of various stakeholders within the beleaguered state apparatus of class oppression. The arrogance of these agencies in the hearings of the missing persons’ case in Balochistan depicts their rogue nature and breakdown of the military’s British-built chain of command. It has resulted in shattering of the confidence of the military top brass; their indecisiveness has never been so blatant. As the atrocities in Balochistan and Sindh go on unabated, there is a pathetic indifference amongst the political and military elite. The judiciary’s incapacity is reflected in its impotent rage. But if the state institutions have been eroded by intrusion of black capital, the elite of monetary politics that dominates society is also drenched in the informal economy that constitutes two thirds of Pakistan’s total economy. This black capital that originates from extortion, ransom, robberies, corruption, the drug trade and other criminal activities helps those very mafia bosses to infiltrate into the political superstructure. Hence, the ideological positions of an evil nexus of generals, bureaucrats, landlords and bourgeois politicians are restricted within the confines of the interests of this rogue capital. It is bound to direct and determine their policies. This black economy has grown as a tumour in this capitalist economy and has metastasised far too deep for this system to recover. Pakistani capitalism is in a condition of terminal decay but it would not abdicate on its own. Unless it is overthrown by a revolutionary insurrection, its semi-dead corpse will be a burden on society, choking the lives of the teeming millions.

Elections and democracy on a capitalist basis can in no way guarantee ending of repression or extinguish the rise of neo-fascist tendencies. Let us not forget, Hitler was an elected chancellor of Germany in 1933. After the defeat of three revolutions in Germany during the preceding decade, the failure to build a united front between the German Communist Party (KPD) and the Social Democratic Party (SPD) and the excruciating economic crisis led to the rise of fascism. There is hardly any difference in the economic programmes of all mainstream parties in Pakistan today. Hence, violence inevitably becomes an intrinsic part of their political methodology. The intensifying economic crisis aggravates mutual conflicts of drug barons and gangsters masquerading as political leaders. They use ethnicity, national chauvinism, religious bigotry, racism and other prejudices of the past to fight out these wars of attrition. The neo-fascist overtones in the mayhem in Karachi were palpable.

With further economic devastation, this crass bloodletting and socioeconomic distress will escalate. Along with the other tasks of a national democratic revolution, the Pakistani bourgeoisie has despicably failed to solve the national question. In a period of social and economic stagnation, this has become more acute and gangrenous. In Balochistan and Sindh, where national oppression has been chronic, the crises of the state and economy have made it even more callous. The US, China, India, Saudi Arabia and Iran amongst others use these nationalist conflicts in their proxy wars, being fought for their lust of mineral resources, wealth and strategic interests in these tragic lands. Imperialism has used national deprivation to further its hegemony throughout history. A new great game is now ravaging Afghanistan and Pakistan. The demand for a mohajir province itself exposed the failure of Pakistan to become a modern unified nation state. It is the agony of a festering wound inflicted by partition that cleaved the subcontinent through religious frenzy, with millions drowned in blood. It is clear that the national question cannot be resolved in this crisis-riddled capitalism. The ruling elite instead of resolving it is using it as a ploy to distract the impending class struggle. Such tinkering exacerbates hatreds and more bloodshed and conflagration erupts. New provinces in a sinking economy would not solve any of the burning problems of the toiling classes of the oppressed nationalities. If military rule is a curse for the people, this democratic facade has brought vexing misery and destitution. The Pakistan People’s Party became a sign of the working classes during the upheaval of 1968 due to its socialist programme. The reversion of the present leadership into policies of neoliberal capitalism have pulverised society. With a relative lull in society, after the defeat of the movement around Benazir Bhutto in 2007, the masses were in despair. Their hopes were decimated by a democracy of the rich, by the rich and for the rich. What they got is there for everyone to see. It is a fallacy and delusional to expect any amelioration from the rich and the powerful. Karl Marx wrote long ago, “Social reforms are never carried out by the weakness of the strong, but always by the strength of the weak.” The rot that has set in will continue to deteriorate as long as this system remains imposed. No one else will deliver fundamental rights of the proletariat for them; they will have to unite, fight and win their own class war. Nothing less than a social revolution can end this eternal misery and emancipate society.


May 27, 2012   No Comments

Imran stands out; op-ed by Adiah Afraz in The News, May 27

The writer is a teaching fellow at the Dept of Humanities and Social Sciences, LUMS.

PTI is holding its tsunami in Liaquat Bagh Rawalpindi today and I am thinking of a piece I read last Friday in this very newspaper called “Will the real Imran please stand up”.

Written by Mohammad Malick this piece reaffirmed my concern that the Imran Khan argument in our print media is somewhat one-sided. There is a huge majority of us who believe in Imran Khan, but in the print media we are not adequately represented.

I am not a PTI worker, nor am I under any obligation to support Imran Khan. I just speak for an average Pakistani who wants to see a prosperous, peaceful and proud Pakistan in her own life time and believes that Imran Khan can carve that Pakistan for her.

So when a journalist as credible as Mr Malick calls Imran Khan a case of ‘sheer default’, implies a mistrust in his companions, questions his extremist tendencies and alludes to his colourful past, all in order to raise the eternal question whether Imran is actually different from the other politicians; I feel I owe it to my intelligence, and my allegiance to the idea of a better Pakistan, that I show my side of the picture too.

This piece is my attempt to create a space for a pro Imran Khan argument simply because it’s needed.

Why do I support Imran Khan, the playboy, the extremist, the mullah in the closet? And when I say I, I speak for thousands of educated, reasonably sensible people, who gravitate towards him in droves, regardless of all the ‘intelligent’ criticism coming their way.

To begin with, I can safely say that I have never heard Imran Khan say anything that makes him an extremist. I think with this label, we commit the fallacy of omission. Of taking things out of context.

When does Imran Khan ever say that he supports extremism? All he says is that he doesn’t support the war against extremism because of the way it is being fought. In his view Pakistan is the biggest casualty in this war which is creating more extremism. He doesn’t sympathise with the ideology of terror; but has immense sympathy for the victims of the collateral damage. He asks for an end to one dimensional military policy, and wants a change of strategy. A political settlement, a ceasefire and negotiation.

Now right or wrong, simplistic or idealistic, this is a point of view. Like any other point of view it can be argued, thrashed or downright ridiculed. But the trouble starts when we misrepresent it and make it to be something that it’s not. A sympathy for terror, a love for the extremist.

Similar is the case of the playboy argument. The ad hominem, argument of attacking a person in order to disregard the ideas he stands for.

Do we honestly believe that having a colourful past means that a person cannot have a black and white present? Do we, the liberal educated moderate Pakistanis honestly believe that people cannot evolve with age and their changing roles in society cannot alter their priorities? That youthful adventures of a cricket sensation cannot be replaced with nationalistic aspirations of a mature political leader?

And if we do believe that then let those of us who are without a colourful past, cast the first stone.

I’m afraid, from a junior Bhutto to a senior Sharif we wouldn’t be left with a lot of choices if this is how we chose our leaders.

And speaking of leaders, I support Imran Khan because the leaders that my votes have put in power don’t inspire me. My life is difficult as it is, and I don’t have patience for a detached world where corrupt billionaires play victims and democracy serves the purpose of revenge. I have had enough.

Imran Khan speaks of my realities. His aspirations for my country are similar to mine. So what should I do? Should I stubbornly tell myself that no, good things can never happen to me, and painstakingly find arguments that feed my scepticism? Or should I get up and say: Ok, it seems very difficult, I don’t know how this man is going to do it, but then look at his track record. He is not an angel from the heavens, but he is credible. Credible, but human nevertheless, who like all humans is bound to make mistakes.

So let’s not attack him before he has even starts. Let’s help him out. He probably needs it.

With this I am not endorsing Mr Malick’s view that Imran Khan is a case of ‘sheer default’, a figment of a frustrated people’s desperate imagination. We might be frustrated but we are not delusional. Let’s not discredit Imran Khan’s rocky struggle of sixteen years by calling him a case of sheer default. Ayaz Amir once said that a lesser man would have given up long ago. And it’s true.

Imran Khan didn’t make a grand political entrance on October 30, he did so when he first stood in front of Pakistan during the ‘97 elections, wearing a woollen cap and a simple shalwar kameez and told us through our TV screens that he didn’t have the money to lure the voters, he didn’t have the buses to get them to the polling booths, but he wanted to end corruption and give us a just and self-respecting society.

The only difference between now and then is that we didn’t believe him then. But we do believe him now.

Imran Khan has tediously won us over, and that makes him not just another alternative, but the most viable alternative. He doesn’t need to stand up. He already stands out. http://www.thenews.com.pk/Todays-News-9-110789-Imran-stands-out

May 27, 2012   No Comments

Not learning from history; op-ed by Saroop Ijaz in The Express Tribune, May 27

The writer is a lawyer and partner at Ijaz and Ijaz Co in Lahore

Recently the Chief Justice of Pakistan made the observation or the “warning” that emergency could be imposed if the government does not get its act together in Balochistan. The remark was made during a hearing regarding the ‘missing persons’ issue in Balochistan. The logic of the statement is bizarre, or in any case not immediately graspable. Repeatedly, the relatives of those who have been abducted and murdered have said in open court that it is the armed forces and the FC which have kidnapped their loved ones. My lord, the Chief Justice himself has rather admirably highlighted the same with some fairly serious reprimand to the army and the FC. Yet, now he suddenly deems it fit to consider the possibility of putting exactly the same people in charge of the affairs who are admittedly the cause in the first place. That you would agree does defy principles of everyday reasoning.

One is entitled to be surprised for another reason. My lord has had some prior experience with a previous “emergency” and while we do not know his exact position on the matter now, however, he did not seem particularly thrilled about it back then. In a less reverent culture with more relaxed contempt laws, some people might have gone so far as to term it a “threat” to an elected government. Another minor objection of a technical nature could be that the Supreme Court does not possess any power to impose an emergency of any sort. However, we already know the answer to such petty nitpicking objections, namely various permutations of  “desperate times call for desperate measures etc.”.

I am in no doubt that the Supreme Court’s statement about a potential emergency was made in good faith and was prompted by the increasing frustration on the Balochistan situation. Yet, I humbly submit that the rage is largely misdirected. The federal and provincial governments have failed to the extent of not curtailing the role of the intelligence agencies, the army and the FC in the province, but to attribute direct culpability for abduction and bullet-riddled, mutilated bodies is myopic. As far as the court is concerned, my lords I hope would have noticed a marked difference between civilian elected governments and the gallant officers of the armed forces. Compelling the attendance of the IG FC has been considerably harder than making the prime minister of the country appear in court. And one might add that the Supreme Court has also been more restrained in the case of the personnel of the armed forces.

Let me be slightly plain on the matter. The Supreme Court does not like the elected government/s and is considerably fonder of the armed forces. I do not think I expose myself to the possibility of contempt here, as I do not in any way allege personal bias but rather an institutional leaning. The Asghar Khan petition should have seen summons being issued to the present DG ISI to come forth and explain if a political cell of the ISI is still operative and even easier should have been acting on the confessional affidavits of General (retd) Mirza Aslam Beg and Lt-General (retd) Asad Durrani. The follies of the present federal and provincial governments are hard to defend and in any case should not be defended, yet to hear the Chief Justice warning the government in inevitable, rather apocalyptic tones with emergency should not be allowed to go unexamined or unchallenged. We have heard the same arguments before and the fact that the maker of the arguments is changed this time do not in any way make them kosher or worthy of uncritical deference.

The prime minister’s contempt of court ordeal, it seems, is not ending anytime very soon. It can be justifiably argued that the NA speaker has little discretion in the matter and should only inspect if there is a conviction for “bringing the court into ridicule”. Perhaps, it is best the prime minister resigns. Nevertheless, it is also of some significance that the article of the Constitution which mandates this disqualification is revisited. Article 63 (1) (g), in addition to bringing the judiciary and armed forces in ridicule, also enumerates other grounds, including “propagating any opinion, or acting in any manner, prejudicial to the ideology of Pakistan, or the sovereignty, integrity or security of Pakistan, or morality”. This right here is a model for an Orwellian backward, repressive and silent state. Article 62 enumerates the qualification for membership of parliament, which are as specific as “good character and is not commonly known as one who violates Islamic Injunctions”, “adequate knowledge of Islamic teachings and practices obligatory duties prescribed by Islam as well as abstains from major sins”, “sagacious, righteous and non-profligate, honest and ameen.” This would have been laughable had it not been tragic. The blindingly obvious problem of how these determinations can humanely be made is too strenuous as to mandate any detailed elaboration. Also, no marks for guessing whose bright idea this was, of course it was Ziaul Haq’s. The disturbing part is the salience attached to the delusional visions of the dead theocrat by the subsequent governments, including the present government and now the Supreme Court. I think it is overdue that now we make a constitutional amendment ridding ourselves of Ziaul Haq.

Also, one might cautiously add that ominous warnings of  “emergency” do bring parliament into ridicule, admittedly parliament does not have and should have the same immunity as the judiciary, yet let us not lose all sense of proportion. And a gentle reminder to my lords that elected governments from whatever party are more likely to appear in court than the khakis, but my lords already know that. The temporary and reluctant alliance between the courts and the khakis reminds me of one of the most amusing anecdotes from Ronald Reagan’s presidency when he seriously told Mikhail Gorbachev that in case of an alien/Martian invasion of the world they would put the cold war on hold and put up a united front. An external invasion is the least of our concerns, my lords.


May 27, 2012   No Comments

Was the PM’s ‘sentence’ enough: op-ed by Rana Sajjad Ahmad in The Express Tribune, May 27

The writer, a  member of the New York Bar, is a partner at the Lahore-based law firm of Rana Ijaz & Partners

The prime minister’s conviction is considered a giant step forward in terms of Pakistan’s strong and independent judiciary’s exercising powers without fear or favour. To this extent, the Supreme Court certainly has set a good precedent for the powerful, influential and corrupt politicians of Pakistan. However, in light of the prime minister’s rather symbolic punishment, the outcome was not a good one.

While sentencing an accused, even after the mitigating factors have been accounted for, the final prison sentence pronounced by court still has to be proportionate to the nature and severity of the crime of which the criminal has been convicted. Consider the example of a criminal who has been convicted of robbing a bank and looting money worth millions of rupees. How would the criminal feel if instead of being sentenced to the full prison term of, say, 10 years he is sentenced to one month in prison? He would have very little remorse, if any, for what he did.

In the prime minister’s case, at issue was the disrespect and contemptuous disregard shown by the head of the country’s parliament for the orders of the apex court. At issue was whether the SC’s understanding and interpretation of the Constitution could be challenged (rather ridiculed), repeatedly by the prime minister. For this, he could also have been convicted on multiple counts of contempt making his prison sentence longer than six months if the prison sentences were ordered to run consecutively. In view of the enormous precedential value of the judgment, the apex court should have delivered a judgment that carried exemplary punishment. Imprisonment till the rising of the court fell far short of that.

Interestingly, the imprisonment was rather unprecedented too. Black’s Law Dictionary defines imprisonment as confinement (especially in a prison). The word confinement is defined in Black’s Law Dictionary as the act of imprisoning or restraining someone. In light of these definitions, even if the term imprisonment is loosely defined and interpreted, it would mean restraining someone. It is hard to imagine how the prime minister was being restrained “till the rising of the court” when all he was doing was hearing the judgment being delivered.

Now the question is why did the apex court sentence the prime minister in the manner that it did? To answer this, we must examine the reasoning given by the SC for the sentence. The relevant part of the judgment reads that the conviction is “likely to entail serious consequences in terms of Article 63(1)(g) which may be treated as mitigating factors towards the sentence to be passed against him”. Oddly, the PM’s “likely” disqualification from parliament under Article 63(1)(g) was considered a mitigating factor. This raises some more questions: What if the PM is not disqualified? And even if he is, was his “likely” disqualification considered punishment harsh enough for reducing his prison sentence?

Essentially, this sentencing implies that the costs in terms of what the prime minister is “likely” to suffer if he is disqualified far outweigh the benefits of him serving a full sentence in prison. These mitigating factors do not sound very compelling especially in view of the possibility that the prime minister may not be disqualified. This possibility may be fairly distinct since the apex court itself has not used affirmative and unambiguous language about the prime minister’s disqualification and the government can be trusted to come up with ingenious and creative ways to obstruct the disqualification process.

It seems that the court exercised caution and restraint while sentencing the prime minister. To me, this caution and restraint could be a result of either fear or favour. The fear could be that of possibly being labelled an overly activist judiciary that had gone too far. Such fear has little justification since judges are not elected representatives of the people and should not be concerned with their approval ratings.

The apex court set a good precedent with the verdict but should have followed that through with a proper sentencing, commensurate with the gravity of the charge that the prime minister was convicted of.


May 27, 2012   No Comments

Crown of thorns: op-ed by Nadeem F. Paracha in Dawn, May 27

In countries like Pakistan where democracy wasn’t allowed to properly take root, there is always the threat of it becoming a backdoor for mobs of not very democratic people who exhibit the audacity to actually start making use of democratic principles, especially freedom of speech.

And the irony of it all is that on most occasions than not, they use this principle to attack democracy itself! And when countered in this respect, they express exasperation and anger, pleading that they have a democratic right to express their opinion — even if that opinion is usually about lionising the benefits of authoritarian rule over a democratic one.

Does, can (or should) democracy really tolerate such brouhaha?

No. I have been fortunate enough to be able to travel across many European democracies in the last seven years or so and there I discovered that in these countries democratic principles come attached with an important condition.

It is about demonstrating a sturdy sense of responsibility, no matter what spectrum of political thought one comes from.

For example, a fascist individual or party will be taken to task if they preach hatred, bigotry or racism; but at the same time the person or the outfit will be largely tolerated if they decide to run for an election and take their agendas before the voters or in parliament.

The beauty of parliamentary democracy is bound to make a voice of hatred (if elected) eventually (and comparatively speaking) soften its stance. Otherwise it will expose it as a voice that was no more than a populist part of the lunatic fringe no matter how demagogic it may have sounded outside the parliament.

In Pakistan where democracy has always had to struggle to hold its ground in the face of both direct and indirect military interventions, we also have to keep an eye on the populist civilian advocates of authoritarian rule that (mainly through the mainstream electronic media) have been perhaps the most active exploiters of the whole democratic notion of freedom of speech and expression.

Largely made up of certain TV anchors, conspiracy theorists, politicians and televangelists, many of these have also been able to find applause from the country’s urban middle and upper-middle-class segments.

As mentioned earlier, they may be merrily using the notion of freedom of speech the most in a struggling democracy like Pakistan, but they remain largely demagogic and focussed on attacking democracy — either as an alien ‘Western/ Zionist construct’ or as a system that supposedly promotes chaos and corruption.

What is offered as an alternative by such men and women however, are some rather imaginative Utopian arrangements derived from a largely mythical understanding of Islamic and Pakistani histories in which certain prominent Muslim and Pakistani figureheads are spun into and explained as glorified hate-mongers!

This is then presented as ‘proof’ that Islam (and Pakistan) is historically not compatible with liberal democracy and its principles.

They will quiver passionately on the mini-screen; they will sweat, they will shout, wring their hands and clench their fists, pleading at the top of their voices the meaning of ‘patriotism,’ and ‘Islam’ and how both Pakistan and Islam are in danger of being infiltrated and obliterated by evil, enigmatic ‘lobbies’.

Perhaps it is this group of folks that is the most obvious lobby — on most occasions paternally patronised by sympathetic fatherly figures in the country’s largely conservative security agencies.

The truth is, all their pleading and shouting is a clear indication of their fear of liberal democracy and how this democracy can render them (and their intransigent ideas about the country’s social and political course) obsolete.

Nevertheless, such men and women are great software for mainstream 24/7 TV; and something for sections of the urban middle-classes to vent out their frustrations of feeling sandwiched between the democratic political parties and the classes that constitute these parties’ main vote banks.

But thus far these demagogic darlings of social media and TV have little or no popular roots in the figurative masses. But since many of them have become mainstream media mainstays, it has to be asked exactly how much can be tolerated of them and their rhetorical attacks on parliamentarianism, religious tolerance and their habit of turning demagogic fiction into ‘historical fact?’

Of course, they are more than welcome to make use of democratic principles and notions such as freedom of speech while operating outside the hard-fought democratic process, but they should not be allowed to do so without first understanding the all-important aspect of responsibility that inherently comes attached with this democratic notion.

More than the government, I think, the onus lies on TV channels that put them in front of the camera.

These televangelists, ‘security analysts,’ anchors and some politicians remain colourful media and cyberspace personalities.

Interestingly, such ladies and gentlemen have not been able to take root among the so-called masses, but thanks to their media presence they most certainly found a variety of fans amongst certain sections of the urban classes — from fashion designers to former rock stars, to born-again yuppies and businessmen, to young ‘revolutionaries’ who, figuratively speaking, are more impressed by the image of Che Guevara on a coffee cup, than by the man’s legacy as a guerrilla fighter in the hills of Cuba and mountains of Bolivia.

Democratic forces, both within the ruling elite as well as among their on-ground supporters and voters, should exhibit a bit of concern because, in the past, it has been sections of the well-to-do middle and upper-middle classes whose money and leverage were used to drill a destructive wedge in the democratic process.For ‘national interest’ and the glory of faith, of course. http://dawn.com/2012/05/27/smokers-corner-crown-of-thorns/

May 27, 2012   No Comments

Why we don’t need a Mohajir province: by Kumail Ahmed in The Express Tribune blogs, May 27

The author is an electronic engineer who is passionate about social, economic and cultural issues.

A dormant phenomenon has recently become active; the movement for a separate province for the Mohajir people. This movement was pioneered by the Mohajir Rabita Council  – a political movement which started in Hyderabad, Sindh.

It should be noted that it is not just the Mohajir community that is asking for their rights; Pakistan’s history is loaded with separatist tendency right from 1947.

An excellent research paper is presented by Mohammed Waseem, titled “The Political Ethnicity and the State of Pakistan”. Mohammed Waseem talks about the separatist tendencies which grew in the Baloch, Sindhi, Mohajir, Bengali, and Pashtoon people of Pakistan. He also outlines their aims and highlights what was achieved.

It is against this background that the Mohajir province movement evolved. The Mohajir Rabita Council has been holding large rallies for the disintegration of Sindh and has also published a new map.

This map includes all the important districts of lower Sindh, including Karachi, Hyderabad, Thatta, and Mirpurkhas, in the Mohajir province that is being demanded. These districts are the economic engine of Sindh.

This brings me to the question, is the Mohajir province even feasible in the present conditions?

I don’t think so.

The centralist attitude by the rulers of Punjab is not a major problem any more. The country is not like the old federation it used to be, where the centre had all the power to decide what’s best for the country.

The 18th amendment has changed the political balance of power; the concurrent list has been abolished,  National Finance Commission (NFC) awards have been announced, and the federation is compensating provinces through the federal divisible pool.

It is only the economy of a country which keeps a nation together – not religion, love or language. The Mohajirs won’t gain new taxes by carving out a land for themselves; the feudals will still control the assemblies and agricultural heartlands of Pakistan and the economy will remain in their hands.

The Pakistani middle-class and lower middle-class (99% of our population) doesn’t have a voice in this economic system. The need of the hour is to change the economy rather than the geography of Sindh.

The call for a separate province might lead to ethnic killings in interior Sindh – a region where a large Mohajir community is living happily with the Sindhi speaking community. I, myself, am a testimony to this good relationship. Most people have been living here after migrating from India in 1947. A second migration inside Pakistan would only lead to excessive bloodshed.

It should also be noted that the major representatives of the Mohajir community, the MQM, is against the idea of any territorial redistribution of Sindh.

A province can only be made if the provincial assembly of Sindh accepts a resolution on the creation of a new province. The MQM has never filed in a resolution, signalling it will never support territorial redistribution.

Moreover, a unanimous resolution was passed against the disintegration of Sindh. If the third largest political party of Pakistan and the largest party of Karachi, is speaking against the idea of a new province, it can easily be deduced that the idea has no political support.

I think the idea of provincialism might face the same end as Napoleon in George Orwell’s Animal Farm. Most great revolutions end the same ways as that one ended; Hitler spoke for the Deutsches Lebensraum (German’s living space) and conquered Poland, Hungary, Austria, France, and Denmark.

However, in the end, he was killing the common Berliners and ended up breaking Germany into West and East Germany. Lebensraum for Mohajirs will only end up discriminating among themselves.

Summing up, the call for a separate province is more of a divergence tactic rather than an answer to the real problems facing the Pakistani society.

After the 18th amendment, innovative ways should be sought to tilt the balance of power towards Sindh – this will help all the communities, including the Mohajir people.


May 27, 2012   No Comments

‘Mammoth’ rally: PTI looks to make history at Liaquat Bagh today I

ISLAMABAD: Imran Khan’s rally today at the historic Liaquat Bagh, situated at the confluence of the army headquarters and parliament, appears to be a make-or-break event for the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI).

It will also be the first significant political show by the PTI since the retirement of former intelligence chief Lt Gen Ahmed Shuja Pasha, who has been blamed by the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz for supporting Khan.

Leaders claim that “the PTI tsunami will restore moral disapprobation to corruption, and the campaign will offer the emerging political party an opportunity to show its power to the PML-N.”

Khan is likely to announce his party’s strategy for the next parliamentary elections.  Arrangements to attract hundreds of thousands of people to Liaquat Bagh have been finalised, complete with the formation of 10 committees working on a strategy to make the event a success.

“It will be the first time that the PTI will meet people of the garrison city … a big show will prove which party is really highlighting the issues of masses,” said PTI leader Ishaq Khan Khakwani.

Party members say that the main objective of the rally is to force the government to implement the Supreme Court’s orders, inform the public about how the government gave in to US pressure to reopen Nato supply routes as well as to set up grounds for kicking off a political fight against the PML-N.

“This rally will be as a litmus test for the local PML-N leadership as well,” said chief organiser Amir Mehmood Kiani.  The PML-N, however, does not seem so impressed. According to Shakeel Awan, a PML-N MNA from Rawalpindi, the “head of the Metrological Department (General Pasha)” has retired, so the so-called tsunami has not been working out.

He added that the rally will only prove how the PTI has failed to stand on its own feet, and will be the first political rally in which locals will not participate. “We will fully facilitate the PTI to organise the rally, but cannot guarantee that people will turn up,” he claimed.  The PML-N leadership has long claimed that Rawalpindi is their stronghold since most of their lawmakers in parliament are from the city.

Meanwhile, party officials said special security arrangements will be made and PTI workers will be deputed in residential areas, including Arya Mohalla. Organisers also claim to have designed over 150,000 banners inscribed with slogans against the leadership. “We hope over 100,000 people will attend the rally,” said Kiani.

PTI organisers dealing with financial matters told The Express Tribune on the condition of anonymity that an estimated Rs9 million to Rs10 million will be spent on the upcoming rally. All PTI leaders are contributing, they said.

He added that the district government will make all security arrangements. http://tribune.com.pk/story/384802/mammoth-rally-pti-looks-to-make-history-at-liaquat-bagh-today/

May 27, 2012   No Comments