Tag Archives: Shahabuddin

A bad movie plot

By: Irfan Husain

ANOTHER day, another crisis in Pakistan. What else is new? Given the roller-coaster ride we have been on these last few years, nothing has the power to surprise or shock anymore.

Even the fact that a warrant for the arrest of Makhdoom Shahabuddin has been issued just as he was filing his nomination papers for election to the prime ministership causes a big yawn.

If a screenwriter had crafted the script we have been following, a movie producer would have rejected it for being too unbelievable. The whole business about a tycoon bankrolling a series of multimillion dollar holidays for the chief justice’s son and his family is bizarre enough. But in a swift counterstroke, the prime minister is dismissed by the top judge, pushing his son’s scandal into the background.

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Pakistan’s Institutional Battles: Coups and Continuity

The past few weeks have been been a tumultuous time for Pakistani democracy. Even Deputy US Ambassador to Pakistan Richard Hoagland Tweeted last week that, “it’s getting confusing”. But as people try to make sense of rapidly changing events, it’s important not to miss the forest for the trees. Despite what seem like inscrutable events taking place, it’s what isn’t happening that points to democratic progress in Pakistan.

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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.

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

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.

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New York Times – Pakistan Court Orders Arrest of Presidential Ally

By DECLAN WALSH

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan – The high-stakes battle between Pakistan’s judiciary and government took a fresh twist on Thursday when a court issued an arrest warrant for a close ally of President Asif Ali Zardari, effectively blocking his nomination as the country’s next prime minister.

Mr. Zardari wanted Makhdoom Shahabuddin, a former health minister from Punjab Province, to replace Yousaf Raza Gilani, who was dismissed as prime minister by the Supreme Court on Wednesday.

But hours after Mr. Shahabuddin’s nomination, a magistrates court, prompted by the military-run Anti-Narcotics Force, ordered his arrest to face charges relating to the illegal production of a controlled drug two years ago.

The court also issued an arrest warrant for Ali Musa Gilani, a son of the outgoing prime minister, in relation to the same case.

The ruling party Pakistan Peoples Party quickly nominated a new candidate, former information minister Qamar Zaman Kaira, who now looks likely to become the prime minister after a vote in parliament on Friday.

The dramatic court manoeuver highlights the growing difficulty of separating law from politics in the country’s rapidly evolving machinations of power.

Mr. Zardari’s supporters, and some analysts, say judiciary is using its widening powers to erode the authority of the government and ultimately push it from power. “Absolutely no subtlety anymore in going after the govt. Amazing,” wrote Nadeem F. Paracha, a newspaper columnist, on Twitter.

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