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Pakistan’s ruinous political farce

By M Ilyas Khan

The political pantomime played out in Pakistan over the past few years is degenerating into farce.

On Tuesday, the Supreme Court terminated the career of Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani – disqualifying him from office on the basis of a contempt of court conviction linked to his refusal to reopen corruption cases against President Zardari.

Two days later, a lower court issued a warrant for the arrest of Makhdoom Shahabuddin, a member of Mr Gilani’s party, just hours after he was nominated as his possible successor. Uncanny timing, some might say.

Late on Thursday night Mr Shahabuddin was still closeted with senior colleagues at the president’s house – but whether he will be a free man come morning remains to be seen.

Many in Pakistan see these developments as signs that the skirmishes between the judiciary, the military and the civilian government are now erupting into all-out war.

This is all happening at a time when the country can least afford it – relations with the West are at an all-time low, the economy is heading for disaster and people are battling severe power and fuel shortages.

To compound matters, nuclear-armed Pakistan – which is known to have promoted armed militant groups over the past two decades – has steadily been losing territory to these groups in recent years. That’s a major issue for its neighbours and the wider world.

But instead of dealing with the big problems, Pakistan’s power elite have other fish to fry.

Military role

A major part of the problem lies in the traditional domination of the military in Pakistan, and the fact that the judiciary has supported successive attempts by the generals to cut the politicians down to size.

The civilians have rarely held the reins of power, and when they have, they have always had the military establishment to contend with.

Accusations of corruption are a time-tested tool to beat the civilians with, and corruption cases lodged against them during the country’s 64-year history literally run into the hundreds. Few of those cases have ever been resolved.

But they have been successfully used to bring every single civilian government down well before the end of its constitutional five-year term.

The present administration is the longest-serving civilian government Pakistan has ever had – it is just over six months short of reaching the finish line.

If it does, it will set a new precedent – and this is an unsavoury proposition for the establishment for two reasons.

First, prolonged civilian rule is likely to permanently dent the political influence of the military, and thereby the massive business and real estate empires it has acquired.

Second, while Pakistan’s military and civil bureaucracy are dominated by Punjab province, the country’s largest vote-bank, the ruling Pakistan People’s Party has its roots in the southern province of Sindh, the country’s main source of revenue and home to a distinct linguistic group that detests Punjab’s domination. So while the establishment is generally sceptical of politicians, it has been almost intolerant towards the PPP.

Judicial activism

The military is widely accused by Western powers of playing a double game in Afghanistan and lost credit in the eyes of many Pakistanis when US forces killed Osama Bin Laden in a secret raid on Pakistan’s soil.

But its diminishing ability to openly control Pakistan’s politicians has been more than offset by what some analysts describe as the judiciary’s increased ability to encroach on the administrative sphere.

This has led to a number of fierce battles between state institutions in recent years which are a distraction from the main challenges.

Since 2009, when judges sacked by the Musharraf regime were reinstated by the present government, they have shown an appetite for pursuing long-standing corruption cases against President Zardari.

Mr Zardari spent eight years in jail because of them, without being convicted in a single case.

That led to the Supreme Court’s dogged pursuit of Prime Minister Gilani and his conviction in April.

The Supreme Court also responded with alacrity late last year in investigating a controversial memo which invited the US to help avert a possible coup in Pakistan after Bin Laden’s death.

The “memogate” affair had the potential to drag in President Zardari but has led only to the dismissal of Pakistan’s then ambassador to the US, Husain Haqqani. Top military leaders showed a keen interest in the case and participated in initial hearings, but gradually pulled out when questions were raised over their own political role.

Most recently, the country was stunned to find its bulwark against corruption – Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry himself – implicated in allegations of bribe-taking levelled against his son. They both deny any wrongdoing and an investigation has been ordered.

Continue reading Pakistan’s ruinous political farce

Institute for Defence Studies & Analysis (idsa) – Pakistan Military’s Desire to Slip Into The Driving Seat Once Again

By P. K. Upadhyay

Excerpt;

Some very strange developments seem to be unfolding in Pakistani politics. A political dogfight between the civilian and military leaderships has been unheard off in the country’s history so far. The generals never had to air their differences with the political masters in the public as they are doing at present. When faced with a ‘defiance’ of their writ at any stage, the generals have always taken over power after booting-out the civilian government. …..

…. Then why this time around is General Kayani not able to push out the President and Prime Minister ….

….. Nawaz Sharief’s efforts to fish in troubled waters as also to move closer to the Army’s position on ‘Memogate’ ….

….. It was clear that the Army was reluctant to assume power and, at the same time, also reluctant to let the Zardari-led PPP government continue. It appears to have chosen the judicial route to hound out the government. Apparently, a deal between the Army and the Chief Justice of Pakistan allowed not just a renewed focus on the old National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO) cases against Zardari and others, but also the setting up of a four-judge judicial enquiry into Memogate ….

…. Why is this unprecedented and uncharacteristic spat between the Army and the civilian government continuing? Apparently, the United States is a factor. Although, for the record, the US Administration and Pentagon had dismissed the memo to Mullen, they seem to have quietly acted on it by heavily leaning on the Pakistan Army. Despite the recent breakdown in their relationship, the US military still has a considerable hold over the Pakistan Army …..

…. Why is this unprecedented and uncharacteristic spat between the Army and the civilian government continuing? Apparently, the United States is a factor. Although, for the record, the US Administration and Pentagon had dismissed the memo to Mullen, they seem to have quietly acted on it by heavily leaning on the Pakistan Army. Despite the recent breakdown in their relationship, the US military still has a considerable hold over the Pakistan Army in the form of continuing supply of spares and other vital equipment, apart from training and intelligence cooperation. The Americans could have conveyed to Kayani and company that ousting the civilian regime in a coup would mean a total break in links, including the supply of spares and other wherewithal. The Pakistan Army cannot resist this pressure, since without using US supplied armour and attack helicopters, it cannot continue its operations against the Taliban in FATA or the Baluchi rebels in Baluchistan. Another inhibiting factor for Kayani and his generals could be the extent of penetration of the Army by jehadi elements. For sometime now, there appears to be a lull in clashes between Islamic radicals and the Army. While a let-up in US drone strikes (after the handing over of the Shamsi airbase) appears to be a significant facilitating factor for this lull, it cannot be the key trigger for it. The possibility of a JUI (F) brokered truce between the Army and Taliban should not be ruled out. The Army wants to preserve this truce for the present and, therefore, is reluctant to rock the boat by staging a coup at this juncture. It possibly fears that in case it ousts the Zardari government and becomes all powerful, that may have some destabilizing impact on the current truce with the Taliban. Lastly, Kayani and other senior generals may still not be out of the shock they suffered from the violent outbursts of junior officers after the Abbottabad raid. They recognize that the younger lot of Pakistan Army Officers does not come from traditional sections of the society known for its contempt for ‘civilians’ and their ways. These officers are the off-spring of former JCOs/NCOs of the military, as also the urban middle and lower middle classes, and may be harbouring a strong antipathy towards the bourgeois attitudes of their superiors.

This, however, does not mean that Kayani and company are going to let the Zardari-Gilani combine continue to spite them. Army backed judicial action against the regime is a strong possibility. ….

To read complete article » Institute of Defence Studies & Analysis (idsa)

http://www.idsa.in/idsacomments/PakistanMilitaryDesiretoSlipIntoTheDrivingSeatOnceAgain_PKUpadhyay_130112

Fish, Cholesterol and Heart

Eating fish supports high density lipoprotein or HDL. High HDL gives benefits to heart health. When person eats fish triglyceride levels  generally drop. Triglyceride levels rise easily, especially after meals rich in carbohydrate (such as bread products and sugar).  Elevated triglycerides are yet another independent risk factor for cardiovascular disease. High triglycerides raise the risk of heart attack or stroke even if a person’s cholesterol levels are normal. Life style significantly aggravate elevated high cholesterol and heart problems such as obesity, smoking etc.

The destruction of Manchar & Haleji Lakes- It is a standard tragedy of Sindh

by Azhar Ali Shah

It seems that main reason behind the destruction of Manchar, Haleji and other lakes of Sindh is just negligence and improper planning of government coupled with selfish interests of local zamindars/feudals who want their land and fish farms to be irrigated at the cost of the supply of drinking water to the local people and preserving public tourist points!. Its all shame for the related ministries, departments, offices and peoples as well.