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Posts from — January 2015

Insecure democracy: by By Dr Hasan Askari Rizvi,Express Tribune, Jan 26th, 2015.

The writer is an independent political and defence analyst.
A large section of the politically aware and active populace of Pakistan expresses disappointment at the performance of the elected government, especially when it comes to the delivery of basic services to people. Such discontent was expressed during the PPP rule (2008-2013) but it seemed to have deepened during the PML-N rule. The non-availability of petrol on top of electricity and gas shortages has increased frustration and anger at the societal level. If these trends are not reversed, the long-term sustainability of democracy will be jeopardised in Pakistan.
This alienation is in sharp contrast to the pro-democracy disposition of the politically aware and active population in 2007-08. By 2007, the civilianised military regime of General (retd) Pervez Musharraf had run aground in terms of governance and political management. General (retd) Musharraf’s political blunders, like the attempt to remove the Chief Justice of Pakistan (March 2007), securing his re-election in October 2007 and, above all, the imposition of the state of emergency on November 3, 2007, shocked the legal community, political parties and other activists. They launched a major protest in support of constitutional and civilian rule, civil, political and economic rights, and participatory governance. There was much optimism about the future of democracy in Pakistan when the elected PPP government assumed power at the federal level in March 2008.
The current disenchantment with elected civilian rule represents a typical dilemma of societies where democratic aspirations repeatedly get frustrated by the poor performance of political leadership. The rulers view their electoral mandate as a licence to advance their self-articulated agendas rather than for addressing the issues that hurt the common person in daily life. Another problem common with such rulers is that they create a personalised and patrimonial governance system, where loyalty is valued more than professionalism and merit.
Pakistan is currently experiencing a dichotomy between the theory of democracy and its operationalisation in terms of governance and political management. Every political leader talks about constitutionalism and democracy. However, once a leader assumes power through an electoral victory, he wants to run the state like a personal fiefdom and does not accommodate those questioning his rule. The other worst-case situation in a democratic system is that a political leader refuses to accept an outcome if democracy delivers a result that is not to his satisfaction. In the first case, we face the tyranny of the majority and in the second case, the political leader decides to oppose the government on every issue and settles differences with it through street agitation.
The political problems in Pakistan relate to the operational side of democracy. There is a serious problem of translating democratic aspirations and principles into concrete policy measures in order to strengthen trust between the ordinary people and the democratic political process. Elections do provide electoral legitimacy to the party in power. However, it is important that the electoral process is generally viewed as fair, free and transparent by most political contestants. If there are serious questions about the credibility of elections, these cannot ensure electoral legitimacy. The widely shared doubts about the credibility of the elections need to be addressed in a judicious manner rather than evading the issue or dismissing it as propaganda. Even if the elections are generally viewed as fair, free and transparent by a large number of political contestants, these do not give a free hand to the ruling party to govern the way it likes till the next scheduled elections.
If an elected government wants to hold on to power for its full tenure, it must ensure that its electoral legitimacy is supplemented by performance legitimacy. The success of the government depends on its performance in office rather than on how much support it enjoys in parliament. The performance of a government is judged on the basis of its concrete policies and administrative measures that ensure physical as well as socio-economic security of the common people. People in general must perceive the government as helpful in addressing their socio-economic problems and personal security issues. Furthermore, the government must ensure transparency in official financial deals and also when it comes to the use of state patronage. The key personalities of the government should not be tainted with major corruption and nepotism scandals and it must be ensured that there is no conflict between the imperatives of state policies and the business and personal interests of those exercising state power.
Pakistan’s federal and provincial governments falter on the performance criteria when it comes to socio-economic development, internal security and transparency, and professionalism. The federal government has found it difficult to cope with the challenges in the civilian domains and has drifted from crisis to crisis. It also has wrong priorities for development work by opting for publicity-oriented construction, road-building and transport projects, and distribution of laptops and loans from banks in dubious schemes ostensibly to help the people. Instead, these resources should have been used to address major economic problems, like the shortages of electricity, gas and petrol, price hike of essential commodities, lack of attention paid to education and healthcare, etc. Another problem pertains to the misuse of state resources and money-making by the power elite.
The non-satisfactory handling of these affairs has alienated the common people from the current elected civilian governance system. With the exception of the direct beneficiaries of this faltering democratic government, dissatisfaction with the existing political arrangements abounds. As the civilian government is unable to adopt a forthright approach towards internal security matters, especially when it comes to dealing with terrorist and extremist groups, the army has grabbed the initiative. This is in addition to its active role in the handling of external security and foreign policy issues. Now the army authorities are prodding the federal and provincial governments to deal effectively with the civilian side of countering terrorism.
The common person’s alienation from and anger against non-performing elected political leaders has made democracy insecure in Pakistan.

January 26, 2015   No Comments

Pushing hate to the margins: Editorial in The Express Tribune, January 26th, 2015.

The two lead stories, one on page nine and the other on page 13 in the Friday edition (January 23, 2015) of this newspaper, uncovered a spine-chilling, ugly truth about hate literature, its clandestine and not-so-clandestine sources and its extensive outreach with telling effect. Since no official monitoring mechanism is known to have been put in place ever to do content analysis of such literature, one suspects that the actual list of publications spreading hate is much longer than has been reported and their sources more widespread. Most of these publications are being produced by sectarian groups, seminaries, militant organisations and banned outfits. There are said to be as many as 82 sectarian groups, with 22 being violent and five having working relationships with militant outfits.

However, the main sources identified as responsible for the publication of such literature are the Jamaatud Dawa (JuD), Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM), Sipah-e-Sahaba and Imamia Student Organisation. According to interior ministry sources, these publications directly or indirectly glorify militancy and fuel support for the TTP and al Qaeda. Interestingly, both Hafiz Saeed, the chief of the JuD, and Maulana Masood Azhar, the chief of the JeM, contribute in their respective publications under pen-names — Abu Shams and Saadi, respectively.
The Sipah is said to be producing the largest number of hate publications with about 13 hate books being sold freely in bookstores in Islamabad. In the wake of the 9/11 attacks, about 22 publications spreading hatred were banned but they reappeared within weeks, some under the same title and others under different names. What has added to the worry is, due to the writings of a number of ‘influential contributors’, these publications are deemed to be ‘worth reading’. And horror of horrors, such contributors include former army chief General (retd) Mirza Aslam Baig, former DG-ISI Lieutenant-General (retd) Hamid Gul, an adviser to the prime minister, Irfan Siddiqui, and in-service civil servant Orya Maqbool Jan.
Article 19 of the Constitution is very clear on the cognisibility of hate literature. It states: Every citizen shall have the right to freedom of speech and expression, and there shall be freedom of the press, subject to any reasonable restrictions imposed by law in the interest of the glory of Islam or the integrity, security or defence of Pakistan or any part thereof, friendly relations with foreign States, public order, decency or morality, or in relation to contempt of court, [commission of] or incitement to an offence.
So under the law, the state can confiscate all such literature and proceed against its publishers, authors and sales outlets. The Pakistan Telecommunication Authority should be able to blank out most of such literature from the internet and social media. Perhaps, orders to the effect have already been passed to the relevant authorities for action as suppression of hate literature is an important part of the 20-point National Action Plan. However, this is easier said than done. The capacities of the official administrative and law-enforcement agencies being what they are at present, one is constrained to believe that the task assigned to them looks like mission impossible. More so, because those who produce hate literature currently enjoy almost an unlimited socio-political influence and superior firepower.
True enough, even the most developed societies have failed to suppress clandestinely produced hate literature using the law. But hate-based ideas could be marginalised by propagating superior ideologies that promote tolerance, peace, broad-mindedness and patience. So, while the law is doing what it is supposed to do under the circumstances — combing the country’s lanes looking for hate literature, confiscating it and apprehending its publishers — our political parties, civil society and the media should be fighting this menace openly with ideas that give hope rather than induce despair, instead of whispering in undertones about it in drawing rooms while looking over our shoulders in absolute terror.http://tribune.com.pk/story/827426/pushing-hate-to-the-margins/

January 26, 2015   No Comments

Irregularities In NA-122: edit in the Nation, Jan 25, 2016

The Inspection judge of a local commission, Ghulam Hussain Awan, appointed by an Election Tribunal (ET), has submitted his report to ET Judge Kazim Ali Malik regarding the irregularities found in NA-122 polling stations. National Assembly Speaker Ayaz Sadiq defeated PTI Chairman Imran Khan in NA-122 during the 2013 general election, and it is one of the four constituencies shortlisted by the PTI for investigation to serve as a sample to determine whether rigging took place in the elections. The local commission claims to have discovered 519 discrepancies from both sides: the record of PTI Chairman Iman Khan shows that 275 counterfoils of his votes are without thumb impressions whereas 232 counterfoils found in the record of Speaker Sardar Ayaz Sadiq do not carry thumb impressions. Furthermore, the commission found 23,639 unsigned and 3,642 invalid ballot papers.
Although the ET is yet to complete its work and give a final verdict, both parties – the PML-N and the PTI – are claiming victory. The PML-N claims that while the commission has found discrepancies, they do not seem to be favouring the party’s candidate any more than Imran Khan. Moreover, they are a result of mistakes made by the polling staff or procedural issues and do not imply ill intent on part of the PML-N as suggested by the PTI. The PTI, however, claims that the presence of nearly 30,000 unverifiable ballot papers proves that the election in NA-122 was rigged. According to the party, discrepancies show that the polling staff deliberately acted against procedural rules on the instructions of the PML-N.
This back and forth will continue until the Election Tribunal under Judge Kazim Ali Malik does not give a final verdict, which clearly answers the following questions: did rigging take place in NA-122? Was the scale of rigging such that it significantly altered the result of the election? If so, did it change the result in favour of one candidate over the other? As of now, the PTI is attacking the PML-N by claiming that irregularities are proof of rigging. The PML-N’s defence is that irregularities are a common phenomenon and do not implicate the ruling party. Both may be correct, but that cannot be ascertained in press conferences. It would be better if the ET were allowed to complete its work without any political influence. Premature interpretations of incomplete findings are completely unnecessary and ultimately damaging. The ET must not only answer questions in the most clear terms, leaving no room for interpretation but it should also hold accountable those responsible for regular irregularities. http://nation.com.pk/editorials/25-Jan-2015/irregularities-in-na-122

January 25, 2015   No Comments

The polio front: edit in the News, January 25, 2015

Pakistan’s bloody war against polio continues along the same patterns seen last year, with terrorists unleashing fury on health workers attempting to deliver polio drops to children and on those deployed to protect them. On Monday last week in Karachi, a city that has seen attacks on polio workers before, a policeman was shot as he accompanied an anti-polio team into the Orangi area of the Sindh capital, where a four-day localised drive was planned. The constable was shot by two motorcyclists who drove past the vaccinating team. The campaign in Sindh was resumed Thursday after a three-day gap. The attack that caused this disruption mimics those seen in 2014, when at least 65 health workers were killed in different parts of the country by terrorists in an attempt to prevent the vaccine reaching children.
The fact that 297 cases of polio were recorded in the country that year, nearing it’s own record of 299 in 1998, is of course directly linked to these attacks. They are intended to stop polio drops from being delivered, and they have succeeded in doing so with campaigns called off in both North and South Waziristan, Balochistan and other parts of the country due to the risk to vaccinating teams. The risk quite clearly continues, and in its presence the cases of polio rise with six more already recorded in the first month of 2015. Pakistan is now responsible for 80 percent of polio cases around the world; strains of the disease emanating from the country have been detected in Syria, Egypt and China among other countries and the WHO has declared the country calamity hit. But who is to deal with this calamity? The government, from time to time, calls meetings and issues statements. Public awareness campaigns have been launched, involving clerics, celebrities and other prominent figures. But on the ground nothing seems to change; polio continues to take its toll; those trying to prevent it are targeted and it seems the authorities can do little except look on as this process continues. There are no signs to suggest anything resembling success against the disease. Can we hope that our new-found resolve to defeat and eliminate extremism will also lead to a change in the situation on the polio front?http://www.thenews.com.pk/PrintEdition.aspx?ID=298025&Cat=8&dt=1/25/2015

January 25, 2015   No Comments

Punjab comes first?: edit in Daily Times, January 25, 2015

A review of the implementation of the National Action Plan (NAP) to counter terrorism by the Prime Minister’s Office has claimed that the province of Punjab is ahead of the rest of the country in taking anti-terror steps such as cracking down on militants and initiating the debate on how the media should ethically cover banned organisations and terror groups. If correct, this is a development that must be appreciated, but this is hardly the right time or the right situation to dole out congratulations. First of all, the release of this report will rekindle the suspicion people have had all along: the PML-N federal government is just too Punjab-centric. It remains under the stewardship of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s brother, Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif, a province that is the home base of the incumbent PML-N government. It has often been reported that Punjab houses a large percentage of terrorists, particularly in the south of the province, giving them safe havens from which to carry out attacks in the rest of the country. Given this ‘leeway’, in that the terrorists in Punjab have hardly been touched in the past, could be one of the reasons that Punjab has remained more or less safe from the terror threat being faced by the rest of the country, particularly Karachi, Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. Because of the presence of a large number of militants in Punjab, it could be argued that it was relatively easy for the law enforcement agencies to arrest many members of terror groups seemingly overnight. On the other hand, it could be because of two other reasons: the authorities knew the whereabouts of these individuals beforehand and knew exactly where to find them (but had not moved against them hitherto), or, the arrests constitute the cast of usual suspects, which means that nothing much is going to change. Whatever the case, this is no time for the government to start patting itself on the back.

The prime minister is the head of the entire country, not just Punjab. He is the leader of all four provinces, of all the citizens, Punjabi or otherwise. Yes, Punjab is important, but only as part of this extensive country. The release should have noted Punjab as a starting point in the action plan, not as an excuse for self-congratulation. This could lead to complacency and that is not what the government can afford at this critical time in our history.http://www.dailytimes.com.pk/editorial/25-Jan-2015/punjab-comes-first

January 25, 2015   No Comments

Stop the blame game on petrol: Editorial in The Express Tribune, Jan 25, 2015.

Earlier this week, Petroleum Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi went on national television and admitted that he was responsible for the recent petrol crisis. We would welcome the Nawaz Administration for having at least one cabinet member own up to his mistakes, were it not for the blame game being played out between three ministries and their respective staff. It is becoming increasingly clear that the finance ministry, the petroleum ministry and the water and power ministry do not get along very well. Unto itself, that is not a problem. Intra-cabinet rivalry is common and can even be a healthy force spurring ministers to perform at their best. Bureaucratic turf wars are also par for the course. But when they begin to affect the government’s ability to respond to a severe crisis that has brought the nation’s largest province to a grinding halt, they stop being fun and start becoming petty.
It all started on January 18 when Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan admitted that the government was responsible and implied that at least some of his cabinet colleagues might share the blame. Finance Minister Ishaq Dar joined the game a day later, strongly hinting that he felt that the crisis was solely the responsibility of the petroleum minister and the power minister. On January 21, the water and power ministry spokesperson felt the need to come out and spout an incoherent and disingenuous defence of his ministry’s performance in the entire matter. What is disturbing about this intra-cabinet squabble is that it is effectively the same as the arguments made by little children fighting on a playground: ‘He started it!’
Are these people truly our elected representatives? Do they not realise that the people of Pakistan do not care who started the petrol crisis. They do not make the distinction between the finance ministry’s payments of tariff differentials or the ability of the country’s largest oil company to import fuel. All they care about is that when they go to their local petrol pumps, they had to wait for several hours in lines that sometimes stretched for hundreds of yards. For that colossal failure of policy, they will blame the entire government and will punish the entire ruling party. Indeed, the whole finger-pointing mentality is what started the whole crisis in the first place. Energy is a complicated, interconnected web that requires delicate handling and sound, long-term policymaking. Yet, we appear to have the exact opposite: discrete government departments making haphazard policies with a very short-term horizon in mind.
Instead of long-term investments in cheap, clean and reliable energy sources that would enhance our future growth prospects, we got expensive subsidies on current consumption that eviscerates hope for the future for the sake of the present. Instead of intelligent planning based on forward-thinking projections of relative prices of fuel sources, we got spur-of-the-moment decisions that built infrastructure with multi-decade lifespans. And instead of a crackdown on electricity theft, we got subsidies that hide the true cost of the pilferage. No wonder the entire energy supply chain can grind to a screeching halt over the smallest of disruptions.
Perhaps, the government is unaware of this fact, but the longer it waits to make the tough decisions, the more expensive they will get. Electricity theft appears to be getting even more rampant under the Nawaz Administration than it was under the serially inept Zardari Administration, with the state-owned power companies collecting less of their bills this year than last year. Whatever happened to Water and Power Minister Khawaja Muhammad Asif’s promised crackdown? What happened to Mr Dar’s Economic Reforms and Implementation Unit at the finance ministry that was supposed to craft a long-term solution to the problem? And what happened to the petroleum ministry’s promise to deregulate prices? The cabinet may be arguing about who was responsible for this catastrophe, but the people of Pakistan have a longer view of who is responsible. They do not care who started the crisis. They want to know who will end it.http://tribune.com.pk/story/827030/stop-the-blame-game-on-petrol/

January 25, 2015   No Comments

Ghost Teachers: edit in the Nation, Jan 25, 2016

Education has always been low in the pecking order of Pakistani politics. Like an invalid on a wheelchair, education reform is rolled out periodically, shown to people, and then rolled back into the depths of its hiding place. Successive governments have failed so spectacularly that Pakistan is in a dire educational crisis at the moment. Pakistan has almost 5.5 million children in the 5-9 age bracket who are not in school, the second highest number in the world. The country also had the third highest number of illiterate adults in the world. Furthermore, it scores low on enrolment, dropout rates, academic performance and literacy indices. Unsurprisingly, very little is to be expected from the government’s decision to launch an “education emergency”, apart from the fact that at least the correct vernacular is being used for the situation’s gravity.
The government plans to hold an enrolment drive and increase the education budget to 4% of the GDP, but recent reports show that throwing more money at education is not the solution. The Sindh government has grandly unveiled successive increases in the annual education budget, yet Sindh’s education is in shambles. 13,500 (28%) of the total 47,394 public schools in Sindh are situated in virtual ruins – if there is any structure at all. Over 23,000 (49%) schools still function without basic facilities, such as electricity and drinking water, another 20,212 (42%) without washrooms, and more than 18,938 (40%) without boundary walls; all this despite earmarking 22% of the budget, which amounts to Rs149.4 billion, for education. Where does all this money go? Apparently, into the pockets of teachers teaching empty classrooms and staff maintaining non-existent schools. Less than 10% of the budget goes into developing or maintaining schools, the other 90% is swallowed up by salaries and related expenses. NGO’s estimate that Sindh alone has 40,000 ghost teachers; people who are ostensibly paid for “teaching” yet have never set foot in a classroom. No wonder the Sindh government is so eager to increase the education budget. A larger budget would only further line the pockets of corrupt officials in this lucrative profession, not reach the actual schools.
This shameful situation is mirrored in other provinces in a similar degree. Enrolling more students will be pointless if their institutions have no facilities or staff; the dropout rate would remain unchanged. Instead of bandying about generic education reform policies, focused around increasing funding, the government needs to overhaul the system. It needs to be released from the clutches of bureaucracy and be given an effective oversight system, it needs to be pruned of ghost teachers and be given ample development funds. The government has declared an emergency; it needs to act like it too. http://nation.com.pk/editorials/25-Jan-2015/ghost-teachers

January 25, 2015   No Comments

Commission confirms irregularities in NA-122 record

LAHORE – After completion of cross-examination on the commission’s report in NA-122, the election tribunal on Saturday asked the counsel for National Assembly Speaker Sardar Ayaz Sadiq to produce eyewitnesses and supporting evidences against the alleged rigging in the constituency on next hearing.
As the proceedings commenced, Ghulam Hussain Awan, who heads the commission, recorded his statement before the tribunal, confirming that he found many irregularities in the record of NA-122. Awan told the judge that the polling staff did not perform their job efficiently and committed many irregularities.
He further stated he found many polling bags with broken seals and ballot papers of different colours during the inspection. Awan said now the decision was up to the election tribunal.
The single-judge election tribunal, comprising Kazim Ali Malik, was hearing the case of the alleged rigging in NA-122 on a petition filed by PTI Chief Imran Khan, challenging victory of Sardar Ayaz Sadiq.
Awan stated that the number of valid, invalid and cancelled votes mentioned in the inspection report was finalised with the consent of the representatives of both PTI and PML-N.
The counsels for both the parties carried out cross-examination on the report submitted by the commission. Khawaja Saeed-uz-Zafar, the counsel for Sardar Ayaz Sadiq, asked Awan whether polling staff committed mistakes or the parties were involved in irregularities, he replied the irregularities found in the record were the result of serious negligence on the part of the election staff.
When asked if the representatives of both the parties were present there when he wrote the report, he responded he wrote the report in his office. However, he said, representatives for the two parties were present at Nadir Hall when the polling bags were opened and recounting was made.
Advocate Anees Hashmi, the counsel for Imran Khan, asked the commission’s head why he did not mention that two kinds of ballot papers were found from the record and why he did not explain the discrepancies found by him as forms 14 and 15 were missing.
The judge remarked he would inspect the record himself if he found irregularities. He directed the counsel for the respondent to produce eyewitnesses on the next hearing. The tribunal will resume hearing on January 31.
PTI Chief Imran Khan had already recorded his statement by appearing personally before the tribunal last year.
Meanwhile, Ghulam Hussain Awan who was appointed head of the commission authorised to check the record of votes in NA-122, Lahore, said he had not found any bogus vote during the scrutiny of ballots. He, however, added there have been observed many irregularities.
He was talking to media persons after recording his statement before the election tribunal judge, Justice Kazim Ali Malik. He said neither any rigging has been found, nor has he seen any fake vote. Awan said now it was up to the election commission to give its decision on the irregularities. He added if these irregularities were declared by the election commission illegal, the election result in this constituency can be affected.
Earlier, while recording his statement, Ghulam Hussain Awan told the tribunal that he has mentioned in the report all the facts he found during the perusal of the record of votes.
The election tribunal deferred proceedings on separate applications of PTI Chairman Imran Khan and National Assembly Speaker Sardar Ayaz Sadiq and held that these would be taken up after recording statements of the witnesses of Sardar Ayaz Sadiq.
In his application, Imran Khan has prayed to the tribunal to pay due consideration to the ballot papers of two colours recovered from the bags in which votes had been kept.
It is not out of place to mention here that the election tribunal had ordered opening of ballot bags on December 4, 2014, on the petition of PTI Chairman Imran Khan.
On November 29, 2014, after recording his statement before the tribunal, Imran Khan had said that there are all the proofs of the election rigging in the bags carrying votes. “On the opening of these bags, everyone will come to know the extent to which rigging was committed in the 2013 general elections,” he had said.
PTI BINS GOVT’S CLAIM;PTI Information Secretary Shireen Mazari on Saturday rejected the government’s claims regarding the enquiry commission’s report into alleged irregularities in NA-122 constituency in Lahore.
“During Saturday’s hearing, the commission’s judge said that his mandate is only to see what irregularities were committed in the polls and now it is up to the election tribunal judge to give a verdict on rigging in the light of the irregularities that have been put on the record,” Mazari said in a statement. “For the government to claim that no rigging has been found is a blatant lie,” she added in the statement.
Mazari said that the major irregularities found by commission included absence of Form XIV and XV in several polling bags. She said that forms XV not containing the serial numbers would lead to an annulment of the relevant polling stations’ results.
“The commission also found different coloured ballot papers during the probe. The commission judge referred to ‘minor discrepancies’ which, when asked to clarify, he defined as ‘where there were at least 10 votes at issue is a minor discrepancy.’ The commission found these “minor discrepancies” in 280 polling stations, which adds up to 2,800 votes,” Mazari said.
The PTI leader said the commission had substantiated PTI’s claims on the types of rigging that had taken place. “The NA-122 commission findings also are in line with the rigging highlighted by Aitzaz Ahsan in his white paper on NA 124,” she said. http://nation.com.pk/national/25-Jan-2015/commission-confirms-irregularities-in-na-122-record

January 25, 2015   No Comments

Sharif not ready to pay for someone else’s misdeeds : by INAMULLAH KHATTAK in the Nation, Jan 25, 2016

ISLAMABAD – One of the main reasons behind the refusal of the government to form judicial commission (JC) on the terms proposed by Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf (PTI) for probing rigging allegations is that Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif does not want to be punished for the wrong committed by polling staff.
Highly-placed sources in the ruling Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz) confided to The Nation that PTI wanted to send the whole system packing by demanding ‘peculiar’ terms of references (ToRs) in the proposed formation of the judicial commission for probing rigging allegations in 2013 general elections.
While the government side during the hectic negotiations with the PTI over ToRs of the judicial commission agreed that by-election would be held on constituencies where any irregularity is found by the commission, the PTI wanted to wrap the whole National Assembly in case the commission finds rigging in 148 constituencies.
Asad Umar, who was one of the key members of PTI’s negotiating team over formation of the JC, told The Nation that his party’s stance was that fresh election were demanded by his party in case the judicial commission found any kind of irregularity in the general elections 2013.
While the government side including Finance Minister Ishaque Dar insisted that the word ‘planned rigging” or engineered rigging’ should be expunged from the ToRs of the judicial commission.
“The word planned rigging means that Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif should be deprived of the mandate for the wrong committed by the caretaker set-up. Why not the PTI agrees to our assurance that by-election should be held on seats where the judicial commission finds out rigging?” he added.
Asad Umar told The Nation that Ishaq Dar prior to holding press conference on Saturday telephoned him and said that the government would not negotiate further with PTI on the terms demanded by Imran Khan’s party.
He said that the PTI wanted the rigging petitions, currently under process in different election tribunals, to be probed by the judicial commission, adding that the government did not agree to it.
To a question why the PTI insisted on ‘planned rigging’ when the regime of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif had nothing to do with the general elections that took place under the administration of caretaker government, the PTI lawmaker argued that the biggest beneficiary of rigging was PML-N.
According to a federal minister, who wished not to be named, the government was willing long ago to form a judicial council and was ready to hold by-polls on seats where rigging charges are proved but the PTI wanted to hold fresh elections in case any rigging allegations are proved true.
“It is irrational to punish those who had nothing to do with rigging. Why should the country go for full-fledged election on all constituencies? The judicial commission can be formed in a few days but within the limits of constitution,” he added.
However, Asad Umar maintained that the whole election should be considered null and void in case rigging in any of the constituencies was detected, arguing that transparency in election should not be doubted at any cost.
“Now when Finance Minister Ishaq Dar has made public what we discussed during talks about ToRs, PTI will also reveal the truth publicly. We will not agree to any commission without the word ‘engineered rigging’ in the TORs,” he added. http://nation.com.pk/national/25-Jan-2015/sharif-not-ready-to-pay-for-someone-else-s-misdeeds

January 25, 2015   No Comments

Maulana Aziz delivers another Friday sermon over the phone: by Ikram Junaidi in Dawn, January 24th, 2015

ISLAMABAD: Haunted out of the Lal Masjid by civil society’s legal action, Maulana Abdul Aziz reappeared there on Friday – but in virtual form.

Maulana sahib delivered his sermon to the Friday congregation by telephone. That delighted his supporters in the congregation but alerted his detractors.

“How can a person who has warrant of arrest against him use the microphone of the Lal Masjid which is run by the government,” asked Jibran Nasir, the moving spirit behind the civil society campaign against the Maulana.

“We are considering filing a petition in the Islamabad High Court to stop him from using the microphone of the mosque,” Nasir told Dawn.

“It seems the police are not willing to arrest Maulana Aziz.”

Indeed, his telephoned Friday sermon strengthened the rumours, circulating since he disappeared from the mosque over a week ago, that the administration has confined him to his house. Civil society activist Shan Taseer said that the police did not respond to their request to replace the police investigation officer with a Grade-18 officer. “So we have no option but to go to court,” he said.

“If the police arrest Maulana Aziz before February 16, we will say ‘thank you’, otherwise a protest will be held against the police,” he said.

Maulana Abdul Aziz had emerged a controversial figure from the military operation was conducted in 2007 to clear the Lal Masjid of ‘militants’ entrenched inside.

Though he rehabilitated his image after the departure of military President Pervez Musharraf the next year, the Maulana earned more opprobrium by saying the December 16 massacre of Peshawar schoolchildren was ‘in reaction’ to the military operations against the militants.

Civil society protested the remark outside the Lal Masjid for two days and the confrontation led to the registration of an FIR with the police against the Maulana’s alleged threats to the protesters.

As the civil movement persisted, a court issued warrant for arrest of Maulana Aziz who, however, said he would neither seek bail before arrest nor offer himself for arrest.

Things changed on last Friday when Maulana Aziz, though staying in the nearby Jamia Hafsa seminary for girls, did not turn up to lead the prayers.

That gave rise to speculation that he has been put under house arrest.

Senior Superintendent of Police (Operations) Mir Vaiz Niaz and Lal Masjid’s Naib Khateeb Maulana Amir Siddique both denied the rumours. His preference for addressing the January 23 Friday congregation by telephone revived the rumours, however. When contacted, Lal Masjid official Haider Zaman said that he was not aware why Maulana Aziz did not come to the mosque.http://www.dawn.com/news/1159105/maulana-aziz-delivers-another-friday-sermon-over-the-phone

January 24, 2015   No Comments