Judge Iftikhar Chaudhry threatens Pakistan’s democracy

By George Bruno

As the NATO military offensive against the revitalized Taliban progresses in Afghanistan, the political situation in neighboring Pakistan remains tense in a way that can directly impact U.S. military and political objectives in the region.

I have long believed that the pacification of the extremist threat in South Asia and around the world can only be accomplished in an environment of democracy and the rule of law. Any assault on these values fuels the fires of fanaticism.

Continue reading Judge Iftikhar Chaudhry threatens Pakistan’s democracy

What’s Wrong with Pakistan?

Why geography — unfortunately — is destiny for South Asia’s troubled heartland.

BY ROBERT D. KAPLAN

Perversity characterizes Pakistan. Only the worst African hellholes, Afghanistan, Haiti, Yemen, and Iraq rank higher on this year’s Failed States Index. The country is run by a military obsessed with — and, for decades, invested in — the conflict with India, and by a civilian elite that steals all it can and pays almost no taxes. But despite an overbearing military, tribes “defined by a near-universal male participation in organized violence,” as the late European anthropologist Ernest Gellner put it, dominate massive swaths of territory. The absence of the state makes for 20-hour daily electricity blackouts and an almost nonexistent education system in many areas.

For the good of democracy – By Farrukh Khan Pitafi

Democracy means government by the uneducated, while aristocracy means government by the badly educated.” — Gilbert K Chesterton

At a juncture when the propinquity of a truly democratic order was almost being taken for granted, Pakistan suffered the biggest disaster since the hanging of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto. A three-member bench headed by the Chief Justice of Pakistan, who has vowed to protect democracy, sacked a democratically-elected prime minister on a matter of constitutional interpretation.

The sacked man, Yousaf Raza Gilani, and his party accepted the ruling with grace and nominated another candidate. But the day the prime ministerial nominee, Makhdum Shahabuddin, was to file his nomination papers, an anti-narcotics court issued a non-bailable warrant for his arrest, on a case that had been pending for weeks. Imagine, a court waking up on that precise day. The powers that be in the Islamic republic do not seem to care much for democracy. I have previously expressed hope in the growth of democracy and the institution building process. With the prime minister removed through an undemocratic, albeit legal method, that optimism cannot be sustained. It is clear that this is not the case of institutions clashing over boundaries, but disputes concerning other matters. Of course, the ruling party, too, is responsible for this sorry tale.

In Islamabad’s drawing rooms, it is being speculated that a government of technocrats backed by the army will soon be installed through a soft coup. Those who make these claims, carry a list of candidates for each ministry. Another theory is that the judiciary-executive tussle will result in the announcement of early elections and when the assemblies are dismissed, names in the aforementioned list will be adjusted in the caretaker cabinet, which in time, will be granted two to three years of extension. As the sacking of a prime minister and embarrassing an elected government by asking it to write a letter against its own head of state can be considered akin to protecting democracy, there is little doubt that this would also strengthen democracy.

Change may come in any shape, but if it comes through any means other than fresh elections, it will be detrimental. And change will definitely come. But let us fix responsibility for any undemocratic development. It should be remembered that the current democratic dispensation was founded on an intricate masonry of checks and balances. One function of the independent judiciary was to protect democracy. While it might have protected it from a military takeover, it has not been able to protect it from its own wrath. You can foresee the entire system collapsing. Some would say that the protectors of the Constitution have plunged the nation into another crisis-ridden bog.

If any undemocratic change comes, our armchair theoreticians assure us, it will not be limited to the cabinet and parliament alone, but will affect the judiciary as well. Perhaps, our judicial custodians have forgotten that they are part of the very democratic order that their recent verdicts seem to have so negatively impacted.

Courtesy:  The Express Tribune, June 23rd, 2012.

Pakistan – Murder of Democracy

. Why go through this gradual decay of democracy, why not make Ayman al-Zawahiri the Khalifa of Pakistan and be done with it.

The Army is playing with the judiciary and democracy in Pakistan.

It is a shameful day for democratic traditions in Pakistan. As soon as the nomination papers for Makhdoom Shahbuddin for Prime Minister are filed by the largest democratically elected group (PPP) in Pakistan, the Army through Anti Narcotics Force (ANF) http://www.anf.gov.pk/ issues non-bailable warrant for arrest of the nominee.

According to the rules of election now the contest will be between Raja Pervez Ashraf (derogatory termed as Raja Rental by his opponents) and Molana Fazlur-Rehman (derogatory title: Molana Diesel). The original nominee of the people could be either in jail or hiding under a rock from the ANF warrant.

Here is a comment on social media:

“ANF is run by Army. A major general heads it. It is a open secret that Army is in charge of the drug trade in Pakistan/Afghanistan. This is how they fund their minions of terror groups.

So you don’t think it even slightly coincidental as far as the timing of these warrants are concerned.

Army is playing its card, media and Judiciary are enabling them.”

Some think that the PPP made a mistake by having Gilani stay on after he had been held in contempt by the Supreme Court http://criticalppp.com/archives/79330. The Supreme Court was clearly on the wrong side of history with this decision . However, once the decision had been made PPP could have shown political savvy and exited their PM with a glorious concession speech.

Now there is too much water under the bridge. Army has a lot of cards, they, through their sympathizers carefully placed in Urdu and English press, have successfully painted PPP as a band of thieves with the biggest thief at the top i.e. Zardari. Perception as they say matters more than the reality. I am not trying to defend PPP, I am not a Jiyla and have never been one. What I am concerned about is the continued weakening of democratic traditions.

Nowhere in the world other than Pakistan a Prime Minister is sent home by the Supreme Court. No where in the world warrants for arrest of the next nominee are issued on the very day nomination papers are filed.

The media in Pakistan will just fall in line and play the corruption tune to cover up the bigger crime, i.e., the MURDER OF DEMOCRACY by the usual suspects.

Courtesy: LUBP

http://criticalppp.com/archives/79613?utm_source=twitterfeed&utm_medium=twitter

via – Twitter

The Guardian – Yousuf Raza Gilani’s sacking is bad news for Pakistan

By Muhammad Hanif

Pakistan’s judiciary is starting to care less for the rule of law than the sound of its own sermonising voice. Which suits the military

In the past, Pakistan’s supreme court has hanged an elected prime minister on trumped-up charges, sentenced another to life imprisonment and forced several career politicians into exile. So the disqualification of the prime minister, Yousuf Raza Gilani, on contempt-of-court charges should be seen as a step forward. Nobody died, right? The Pakistan Peoples’ party and its coalition partners now have another prime minister in the shape of Raja Pervez Ashraf. Pakistan’s supreme court will thump its chest and say we have proved that the law is the same for a commoner and a king. Pakistan’s all-powerful army will say: look, no hands. So why are Pakistan’s human rights activists calling it a judicial coup and warning us that the whole democratic facade is about to be pulled down?

Political decisions used to be made in the Pakistani army’s HQ. But the action has shifted to court one of the supreme court, in full view of the public, with judgments framed and delivered like soundbites for the primetime news.

Since being restored to his job after being sacked by President Musharraf in 2009, the chief justice, Iftikhar Chaudhry, has been betraying an evangelical streak in his pronouncements. Maybe he feels that, with a country full of self-righteous zealots, he needs to adapt their tone. Or perhaps he is one. He doesn’t wait for the petitioners to come to the court, he watches TV and acts on his own cognizance. Even the half of Pakistan that can’t read or write will tell you what a suo motu is. We have already been quoted Khalil Jibran and the Persian poet Hafiz, and, it seems, a verse from the Qur’an or a hadith is only ever a suo motu notice away. When the chief justice took suo motu notice of allegations of his own son’s corruption he turned up in court waving a copy of the Qur’an and insinuating comparisons with himself and the second caliph, Umar.
Last year the chief justice took suo motu notice against the country’s most famous television actress for possessing a bottle of wine. Elsewhere, one of his sidekicks wondered aloud that if one day Pakistan’s parliament were to legalise gay marriages, would the supreme court sit quietly and watch?
This court is not as much in love with the rule of law as with the sound of its own sermonising voice. It has also mastered the art of selective justice. The same supreme court that has been sitting on an ISI corruption case for 15 years, the same judiciary that can’t look a retired general in the eye or force a serving colonel to appear in court, feels it perfectly constitutional to send a unanimously elected prime minister home.
There are not many tears being shed over Gilani. Looking at his record, many would say that he should have stayed home in the first place. But what is the point of clamouring for democracy if we can’t elect imperfect people – slightly less competent and way more corrupt than our average traffic cop – to lead us?
There are many ways of getting rid of a prime minister (though the old-fashioned way of voting them out has never been tried in Pakistan) but no simple way of telling the country’s highest judge, restored to his job as a result of a popular movement, that he has begun to sound like that dictator who sent him home.
In Pakistan, generals often confuse access to private golf courses with the country’s security. Senior bureaucrats consider it their right to name roads and villages after their grandfathers. Mullahs always fall back on God to justify their greed. Political leaders believe that democracy makes it mandatory to groom sons and daughters to take over their political parties. It’s not surprising that senior judges have started to believe that respect for them is the same thing as respect for the rule of law.
Pakistanis are being forced to choose between Gilani’s right to rule without doing a thing for his people, and a supreme court judge’s right to send him home. And people are refusing to choose. For a few days the country lacked a prime minister and a cabinet. And nobody really missed them.
The alarm being raised by pro-democracy people in Pakistan is that the whole system is about to be derailed. The supreme court’s reckless pursuit of government politicians could pave the way for a caretaker setup that will suit the military establishment.
The military, indeed, sulking after a series of humiliations at home and abroad, is watching from the sidelines. Some would say it’s even gloating at the prospect of civilian institutions cutting each other down to size, traditionally its job.

New Prime Minister of Pakistan Raja Pervaiz Ashraf was born in Sindh and speaks Sindhi but he was elected in Punjab

Zardari bowls out opponents once again

by Omar Derawal

Asif Ali Zardari has been underestimated from day one. The shrewd businessman has proved not only to be a master of the boardroom, but of political strategy as well. Nominating Raja Pervaiz Ashraf as Prime Minister after losing successive wickets appears his latest triumph. And, as with his previous deliveries, this one too seems to have outwitted the opposition.

Nawaz Sharif termed Raja Pervaiz’s election as ‘tragedy’, but perhaps the PML-N chief was thinking of his own political fortunes. After all, Raja Pervaiz was born in Sindh and speaks Sindhi, but he was elected in Punjab. Even the carefully staged energy riots look a little bit awkward with a new Prime Minister who, as Minister of Water and Power, added more Megawatts to the national grid than anyone since the government of Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto.

Imran Khan too seems to have been outplayed in this innings as he finds himself with a Vice-Chairman from a feudal family while Asif Zardari has a Prime Minister who rose through party ranks from a middle class background. By nominating Raja Pervaiz, Zardari has also neutralised Khan’s nationalistic appeals to security hawks. Though a liberal himself, Raja Pervaiz is strong on national security. In his first speech as PM, he declared that there can be no peace in Pakistan without peace in Afghanistan, sending a clear signal that the government continues to be united on defending Pakistan’s priorities.

Qamar Zaman Kaira’s stellar performances on talk shows had many PPP supports hoping he would pull off a surprise win, but it’s Kaira’s unmatched ability to silence the chattering heads that made him indispensable as Information Minister. Some suggested the name of Hina Rabbani Khar, too – but her deft handling of foreign affairs means that she too is more needed where she is. What is impressive about this debate among PPP supporters is that despite losing such figures as Benazir Bhutto, Salmaan Taseer, Shahbaz Bhatti, Husain Haqqani, Yousaf Gilani, and Makhdoom Shahabuddin, PPP still has such a deep line-up from which to draw new players.

Politics is a test match – not T20. You have to play a long term strategy if you want to win. Zardari’s opposition thought they could force him to retire early, but he proved too skilled for that. Now they are praying for a draw. But with this latest innings, Zardari has shown once again it’s the opposition who is still chasing.

Courtesy: new Pakistan

America mulls new covert raids in Pakistan

WASHINGTON: US military and intelligence officials are so frustrated with Pakistan’s failure to stop local militant groups from attacking Americans in neighboring Afghanistan that they have considered launching secret joint US-Afghan commando raids into Pakistan to hunt them down, officials told The Associated Press. ….

Read more » TOI »» WICHAAR.COM

Afghanistan: Attack on hotel shows Taleban’s disregard for civilian life – Amnesty International

The deaths of 15 civilians in a Taleban attack on a hotel outside Kabul is a shocking reminder of why the Afghan government must work with the International Criminal Court to help bring to justice all those responsible for war crimes and crimes against humanity in Afghanistan, Amnesty International said.

On Thursday night, armed Taleban fighters stormed the Spozhmay Hotel in the Lake Qargha area near the capital, taking dozens of hotel guests and staff hostage.

In the ensuing siege that lasted almost 12 hours, a fierce gun battle broke out between Taleban fighters and NATO and Afghan troops, resulting in the deaths of at least 20 people – including 15 civilians.

It was the most serious single loss of civilian life in Afghanistan since the Taleban attacked Kabul’s Intercontinental Hotel a year ago, killing 22 people, again mostly civilians.

The Taleban’s repeated brazen attacks targeting civilians show an utter disregard for human life and may amount to war crimes which should be investigated and prosecuted by the International Criminal Court, as should crimes which may have been committed by NATO and Afghan troops,” said Catherine Baber, Amnesty International’s Acting Asia and Pacific Programme Director. ….

Read more » Amnesty International

Raja Pervez Ashraf declared new Pakistani PM

ISLAMABAD: The Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) candidate Raja Parvez Asharaf has been elected as the 25th Prime Minister of Pakistan.

Ashraf, a unanimously agreed candidate of the PPP and its coalition partners, received 211 votes while Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz’s (PML-N) candidate Sardar Mehtab Abbasi received 89 votes.

President Asif Ali Zardari congratulated Ashraf on his success and said ” Ashraf’s election as PM is an indication of the nation’s confidence in democracy.” ….

Read more » DAWN.COM

A must read article of Khaled Ahmed – Fallout from Arsalangate

Fallout from Arsalangate

By Khaled Ahmed

The PPP government was already in the dock for corruption. Arsalangate dragged some other entities into it: the army, the media, and the chief justice

Malik Riaz Hussain, arguably the biggest real estate developer in Pakistan with ‘connections’, decided to reveal that he had been blackmailed by the son of Chief Justice of Pakistan Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry and had allegedly been forced to spend nearly Rs 40 crore on him. He used journalists of a media house on a social media website to deniably make his case, after which the country witnessed a full-blown media scandal undermining the authority and credibility of the Supreme Court.

Called to the Supreme Court on suo motu, Malik Riaz submitted evidence of payments made to Dr Arsalan Iftikhar. He then went on TV and made additional allegations, some of them implying that Chief Justice Chaudhry may have been aware of what was going on. In answer, Dr Arsalan Iftikhar claimed that he had never met Malik Riaz and that he had received no payments from him or his relatives to finance his clearly lavish holidays abroad. Chief Justice Chaudhry expressed his complete lack of knowledge of all this.

The linguistic divide: One partisan of the debate that followed stated: ‘The Chief Justice took suo motu notice of the case and presided over the Bench while in the complete knowledge of the code of conduct of Judges. Given the experience and acumen of My Lord, the Chief Justice, one can say to a moral certainty that he would be aware of the general principle and the specific provision of the code of conduct, which requires judges not to hear matters involving immediate family members’. This comment was in English.

The first divide became visible on the subject and it was linguistic. In Urdu, the issue was addressed in the light of the example of Hazrat Umar who presided over the trial of his son and punished him with his own hands. This linguistic split – which is the most glaring ideological bifurcation in the country – was followed by politicians squaring off against one another: the PMLN and Tehreek Insaf announced themselves on the side of Chief Justice. They accused the ruling PPP of having engineered entrapment through Malik Riaz to get rid of the Chief Justice.

First Army, then TV Anchors: The media rallied to the defence of the Chief Justice. Most of the TV anchors thought it was a conspiracy to challenge the Chief Justice because he had made pointed investigations into “disappearances” in Balochistan. The implication was that the Army was offended and wanted the judge to ‘lay off’, and had used Malik Riaz to make revelations about Arsalan whose reputation was already subject of rumours in Pakistan for some time.

Continue reading A must read article of Khaled Ahmed – Fallout from Arsalangate

What not even a “soft apology”? Pentagon chief all but rules out apology for Pakistan

Pentagon chief all but rules out apology for Pakistan

By Phil Stewart

WASHINGTON: (Reuters) – Defense Secretary Leon Panetta all but ruled out an apology over an air strike last year that killed 24 Pakistani soldiers and badly set back efforts to improve U.S.-Pakistani ties, saying it was “time to move on.”

Pakistan banned trucks from carrying NATO supplies into neighboring Afghanistan after the air strike, a move that costs U.S. taxpayers $100 million a month given the need to use more expensive, longer routes to the north.

To re-open the routes, Pakistan wants to impose high tariffs on NATO supplies and Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar said last week that Islamabad is still seeking an unconditional apology.

But Panetta, in an interview with Reuters on Thursday, suggested that past expressions of regret and condolences were enough and held out hope that troubled talks on re-opening Pakistani supply routes for the NATO war effort could succeed anyway.

Asked whether he would oppose any further apology, Panetta said: “We’ve made clear what our position is, and I think it’s time to move on.”

“If we keep going back to the past, if we keep beating up each other based on past differences, we’ll never get anywhere,” he said.

“The time now is to move forward with this relationship, on the (supply routes), on the safe havens, on dealing with terrorism — on dealing with the issues that frankly both of us are concerned about,” Panetta said. ….

Read more » Reuters