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Showing posts from September, 2010

‘Foiling’ terror attack in Europe

According to reports in the British media, the American CIA has attempted to foil Mumbai-style terror attacks in France, Germany, the UK and the US by ramping up missile strikes in Pakistan’s tribal areas. The source of this information is a German citizen of Afghan descent. A US official confirmed the reports of an al Qaeda plot to carry out attacks in western Europe and the US. He said: “The threat is, at this point, credible but not specific.” Just this year, there was a failed attempt to bomb Times Square in New York by Faisal Shahzad, a naturalised US citizen of Pakistani descent. The US took a hard stance after the Times Square incident and warned Pakistan of dire consequences if a terror attack originating from our soil takes place in the US. In the light of the rise in attacks in Afghanistan by the Taliban, the US appears to be losing patience with Pakistan.

US top commander in Afghanistan General David Petraeus has given a veiled warning that the US can eventually launch gro…

No more carrots?

In yet another strike by NATO helicopters inside Pakistani territory, at least five people were killed and nine others injured in the Matta Sangar area of Kurram Agency. After Pakistan protested at the previous NATO strike in North Waziristan, which killed 50 insurgents, we saw a diplomatic reversal of the International Security Assistance Force’s (ISAF’s) earlier strongly worded statement. Despite this diplomatic ‘victory’, Pakistan should reconsider its policy on terrorism. With the passage of time, the US-led NATO forces are fast losing patience with Pakistan’s dual policy vis-à-vis the Taliban and its ‘strategic depth’ doctrine. The Afghan war is getting unpopular with every passing day in the US and other western countries. They have spent billions of dollars on a war that has not borne much fruit, and they see the main reason for this ‘failure’ as Pakistan’s covert support to the Afghan Taliban. That Pakistan considers the Afghan Taliban a strategic asset is no secret.

Bob Wood…

Dual policy’s fruits

NATO helicopters carried out an operation inside Pakistani territory, killing about 50 insurgents in North Waziristan. Pakistan lodged a strong protest against the incursion and said that it was “a clear violation and breach” of the UN rules for foreign troops in Afghanistan. Pakistan also said that it will have to “consider response options” unless corrective measures are taken. On the other hand, the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) maintains that since Afghan forces in Khost province were attacked by “a significant number of insurgents”, this attack was carried out “after following the proper rules of engagement under inherent right of self-defence”. In its statement, ISAF said that the helicopters “crossed into the area of enemy fire” as per the ISAF rules of engagement. It has often been claimed by the US military that ISAF forces are allowed to pursue insurgents across the border during hot pursuit while Pakistan denies that any such agreement exists.

North Waziris…

The sublime and the ridiculous

Minister of state for defence production Abdul Qayyum Jatoi was asked to resign after he made controversial comments about the army, judiciary and corruption. Mr Jatoi made these remarks while addressing a press conference at Bugti House in Quetta. Not only did Mr Jatoi harshly criticise the holy cows, i.e. the army and the judiciary, his remarks about corruption, albeit tongue-in-cheek, were an embarrassment for the government. He said that the “sound of boots” does not scare the government and that instead of killing its own citizens, the men in boots should concentrate on protecting the country’s borders. He alleged that the army was behind the murders of Nawab Akbar Bugti and Benazir Bhutto. Mr Jatoi was highly critical of Chief Justice (CJ) Iftikhar Chaudhry and alleged that while he had been putting politicians in the dock for holding fake degrees, the CJ himself hailed from Faisalabad but held a ‘fake’ domicile of Balochistan, on the basis of which he managed to be appointed to…

A possible showdown

Prime Minister Gilani has stood his ground on the issue of reopening the Swiss cases. He has reiterated that parliament is supreme and President Zardari has immunity under the constitution. The president is part of parliament and the supreme commander of the armed forces. Article 248 (2) of the constitution clearly says: “No criminal proceedings whatsoever shall be instituted or continued against the President … in any court during his term of office.” But PML-N chief Nawaz Sharif, on the other hand, is of the view that the Supreme Court (SC) will be the one to decide whether the president enjoys immunity. It seems that Mian sahib is taking sides with the judiciary for political gains. It should not be forgotten that today’s ‘champion’ of the judiciary was the same Nawaz Sharif whose last stint in power yielded an attack on the SC by his supporters in 1997.

It is time that we take stock of the current situation and the consequences that could ensue. The National Reconciliation Ordina…

Avoiding a constitutional showdown

The Swiss cases against President Asif Ali Zardari have become a major bone of contention between the incumbent government and the Supreme Court (SC) of Pakistan. The apex court had directed the law secretary to move a summary on reopening the Swiss cases to the prime minister by September 24. The law ministry did comply but according to reports, it was suggested in the summary that no cases could be initiated against the president in the Swiss courts and that he has immunity from prosecution under Article 248 of the constitution. The Attorney General (AG) told the SC that Prime Minister Gilani had approved the summary but the contents will not be made public. Chief Justice (CJ) Iftikhar Chaudhry ordered the AG to present the summary in court. Justice Chaudhry further said that the prime minister should know the consequences of defying the SC’s verdict.

On May 25, federal Law Minister Babar Awan appeared before a five-member SC bench overseeing the implementation of the NRO judgement…

A wake-up call for the government

The arrests of former Oil and Gas Development Company (OGDC) managing director Adnan Khawaja and former head of the Intelligence Bureau (IB) Brigadier (retd) Imtiaz Ahmed from the apex courtroom should serve as a wake-up call to the government. The arrests were made because both Khawaja and Brigadier Imtiaz had been convicted in corruption cases but were later pardoned under the National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO). The Supreme Court (SC) had declared the NRO null and void last year and directed the government to implement its verdict in letter and spirit. Instead, we saw the government dragging its feet on the verdict despite several claims to the contrary. Logically, both Khawaja and Brigadier Imtiaz should have been either back in jail or on bail if their bail had remained valid. The National Accountability Bureau (NAB) should have acted on the SC’s orders after the NRO was declared unconstitutional but it did not. And it must be said that the government’s decision to let Adnan …

Karachi’s unending woes

Karachi has been in the news for all the wrong reasons lately. Ethnic violence led to a spate of target killings in recent months. In the past two days, more than a dozen people have been killed in target killings. Whether this present series of killings are because of the murder of Muttahida Qaumi Movement’s (MQM’s) leader Dr Imran Farooq in London, or for some other reason, it cannot be denied that tensions in Karachi were visibly palpable after Dr Farooq’s death.

Awami National Party’s (ANP’s) Ghulam Ahmad Bilour expressed his concern over the tense situation and asked why buses of the Pakhtuns were being burnt after the murder of an MQM leader. The MQM has denied any role in the recent target killings. MQM’s Dr Farooq Sattar laid the blame on the government, especially the Sindh Home Ministry. “If they are not responsible, then they should tell us as to why they failed to curb the acts of terror in the city,” said Dr Sattar. He added that the deterioration of the situation in the …

Support for democracy

PML-N chief Nawaz Sharif has vowed to support democracy though he would not support the government blindly. The opposition’s role is to keep a check on the transgressions of the incumbents. Mian sahib therefore has taken a stance well within the constitutional ambit. For an opposition to criticise the government for bad management and incompetence is within the ambit of a democratic system. Meanwhile, Prime Minister Gilani has said that there is no harm in a democratic intervention to make things better but that a change through undemocratic means would be dangerous. Mr Gilani also offered to make way for any parliamentarian who wanted to lead the country.

Right now, the premier’s slot is a crown of thorns and not a bed of roses. No one in his right mind is willing to destabilise the system and take charge. The arithmetic of parliament is such that no political party has a clear majority and would need the support of other parties to form a government. The PPP settled for a coalition…

Democracy through education

Education is one of the most important things in today’s world, yet Pakistan’s literacy rate remains low as compared to many other countries. The Higher Education Commission (HEC) was allocated Rs 15.7 billion in the budget 2010-11 as compared to Rs 22.5 billion in the previous year. So far only Rs 1.5 billion has been released to the HEC. In view of the financial crunch following the devastating floods, the government had decided to cut development funds. Vice chancellors of 72 public sector universities had threatened to resign and close down the universities by September 20 if the government goes ahead with its proposed cuts. They also protested against blocking the 50 percent pay raise for university employees. Prime Minister Gilani has taken note of the situation and directed federal Finance Minister Abdul Hafeez Shaikh to address the issue. Mr Shaikh has now constituted a six-member committee to examine the problem.

No doubt the floods have wreaked havoc all over the country and…

The land of mischief mongers

A local English daily recently published an ‘investigative’ story based on an alleged report by the Special Branch of Punjab Police. According to the report, a federal minister and the federal government’s nominee in Punjab were allegedly working on a plan to assassinate the chief justice of the Lahore High Court (LHC) Khawaja Muhammad Sharif. Though the alleged planners were not named, it was all but obvious that the report was trying to implicate federal Law Minister Babar Awan and Governor Punjab Salmaan Taseer. It was also alleged that a PPP Punjab chapter’s official was tasked with hiring hardened criminals to carry out this plan. Some of the suspects were arrested by the Punjab Police but have been declared innocent after interrogation.

Federal Interior Minister Rehman Malik has reportedly asked the ISI and IB to check the authenticity of the report while Governor Taseer has written a letter to the Chief Justice of Pakistan, Iftikhar Chaudhry, to order a judicial inquiry into th…

Yet another murder mystery

Muttahida Qaumi Movement’s (MQM’s) leader Dr Imran Farooq’s murder in London on Thursday has opened up a Pandora’s box. Dr Farooq’s body was found with multiple stab wounds and head injuries near his London residence. Scotland Yard is investigating the murder. According to latest reports, the murder will be investigated under the purview of anti-terrorism. MQM chief Altaf Hussain has called this the greatest loss of his life. After Shahnawaz Bhutto’s murder more than two decades ago in France, this is the first time that a Pakistani political leader has been murdered outside Pakistan. All sorts of speculations surround this murder. Dr Farooq had taken political asylum in Britain in 1999 after going underground in 1992 following a military crackdown against the MQM. He was accused of involvement in murder and other serious crimes, though he denied these charges. Being one of the founding members of the All Pakistan Mohajir Students’ Organisation (APMSO), which eventually led to the for…

Talk of another ‘intervention’

Chief Justice (CJ) of Pakistan Iftikhar Chaudhry has stressed that all state institutions should work within their given parameters. He said that the superior judiciary has a “unique responsibility to ensure that all branches of the state are functioning within their jurisdiction” and “if any institution crosses its limits, then the judiciary has the authority to intervene”. CJ Chaudhry is right in asking all state institutions to stay within their limits. What is worrying though is the use of the word ‘intervene’. For the past few weeks, the country has been up in arms because of MQM chief Altaf Hussain’s open call for military intervention. That furore had hardly died down and now CJ Chaudhry has talked of judicial intervention. No one can doubt the integrity and sincerity of Chief Justice Chaudhry, but issuing such statements at this point in time may create further unnecessary panic in an already grief-stricken country. Since the 2008 elections, the incumbents have been engulfed i…

Something’s in the air

Prime Minister Gilani has had to reiterate once again that there will be no military coup and that there is no threat to democracy. Why the prime minister needed to hammer this point home once again could be anybody’s guess. Mr Gilani is right in saying that “the media, the masses and the political parties are very clear that democracy is the need of the country”. Those who want to see Pakistan progress and develop have always advocated the need for democracy and have argued for the democratic process to take its course. Military dictatorships are inherently a recipe for disaster. Thus, no sane person would ever ask for a military intervention. This, however, does not mean that the PPP-led government can afford to be complacent or sanguine.

Democracy has never taken roots in Pakistan because of military interventions, but even an avid supporter of democracy is put between a rock and a hard place when a democratically elected government starts to lose credibility. ‘Save democracy’ is …

Bull in a china shop

Federal Interior Minister Rehman Malik has banned five Baloch militant groups – the Baloch Liberation Army (BLA), the Baloch Republican Army (BRA), the Baloch Liberation United Front (BLUF), the Baloch Liberation Front (BLF) and the Baloch Mussalah Diffah Tanzim (BMDT). This is highly illogical since none of these groups were legal entities to begin with. Mr Malik’s remarks that these groups “will not be allowed to undertake any activity, their offices will be closed, bank accounts frozen and action will be taken against their office bearers” is ludicrous. Which offices, bank accounts or office bearers? The insurgent groups in Balochistan do not function from any formal offices or through any official channels for funding. Mr Malik is acting like a bull in a china shop. His announcement of transferring police powers to the Frontier Corps (FC) is another example of complete high-handedness and utter disregard for the law of the land. FC is a federal paramilitary force to begin with and…

Compromising the game

The latest corruption scandal involving Pakistani cricketers was still under investigation when the News of the World (NOTW), which had earlier broken the spot fixing story, carried out another sting operation. This time they got another Pakistani cricketer, Yasir Hameed, who claimed that his teammates were fixing “almost every match”. A video of the new sting operation was also released.

Initially, Mr Hameed denied having given this interview and later clarified what actually transpired. In a statement issued on his behalf, Mr Hameed said that he was having dinner with a friend when he was “approached by a man who introduced himself as Abid Khan and offered that he would arrange a sponsorship deal for me with Etehad Airways. I have now seen a photograph of the so called Abid Khan and have discovered that he is Mazhar Mahmood.” It is clear that Yasir Hameed was set up by the NOTW reporter but it is astonishing to see that the PCB authorities were in a slumber even though the biggest …

The alienated Baloch

“They kidnap us, arrest us on false charges, torture us, brutally murder us and then throw our corpses away. Many of us are still missing,” is how Khalid Hayat Jamaldini explains the ordeal of the Baloch in Balochistan (‘Baloch are treated as aliens in their own homeland’, Daily Times, September 4, 2010).

The story of the treatment meted out to Mr Jamaldini by the paramilitary forces in Quetta is a typical story of every Baloch citizen in Balochistan. The latest military operation against the Baloch started in Musharraf’s era – official denials notwithstanding. Since then the Baloch have been humiliated in their own land, in their own country. Security checks have been instituted all over the province. Life for an ordinary citizen has been made impossible as Mr Jamaldini’s story shows so vividly. Because of the presence of the security forces for many years now, the scope for abuse has increased. The men in uniform seem to be fed up of their ‘duty’ and thus take it out on the citizen…

National flood relief strategy

Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani told the National Assembly on Saturday that the Council of Common Interests (CCI) will be meeting today (Monday) to develop a consensus among the federating units over the strategy to distribute flood relief funds. The CCI is the statutory body that looks after inter-provincial and Centre-province issues. The CCI was reconstituted last year by President Zardari on the advice of Prime Minister Gilani. Its importance currently should be seen in the context of the issues and disputes amongst the federating units and between them and the Centre. The recent floods have wreaked havoc all over the country, with none of the four provinces left untouched by the natural disaster. International as well as domestic aid has started to pour in, though not as much as was expected or is needed. Now there is a tussle between the provinces on how the aid should be distributed and what role should the Centre play in all this.

The prime minister told the National Assemb…

Cricket: tainted by corruption

The latest corruption scandal in cricket, much to our chagrin and shame, continues to swirl around the Pakistan cricket team. The International Cricket Council (ICC) has charged Salman Butt, Mohammad Asif and Mohammad Amir “with various offences under Article 2 of the ICC Anti-Corruption Code for Players and Player Support Personnel relating to alleged irregular behaviour during, and in relation to, the fourth Test between England and Pakistan at Lord’s last month”. The ICC has realised that its own credibility is at stake if it does not take action. The allegations against the three players are based on circumstantial evidence but the matter is murky, as all betting allegations tend to be. Therefore, in the interest of the credibility of the remainder of Pakistan cricket team’s tour, these players have been suspended by the ICC. Fans were threatening to stay away from the limited overs series, but now perhaps the tour has been salvaged to a certain extent by removing the taint of sus…

Social change through land reforms

Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) chief Altaf Hussain’s controversial statement regarding a martial law-like intervention by ‘patriotic generals’ took the country by storm. With the exception of opportunist politicians like Imran Khan and Pir Pagara, all other political parties came out strongly against Mr Hussain’s appeal to the military. It seems that in order to redeem himself, the MQM chief has asked his party to table a land reforms bill in parliament. “We believe that Pakistan and feudalism cannot exist together and the only formula to save Pakistan is to abolish the feudal system, which is against the spirit of democracy,” said Mr Hussain. It is incontestable that in a democratic system, feudalism has no space but what the MQM is proposing – limiting land holdings and distributing the rest of the land among poor farmers – is not any different from General Ayub Khan and Zulfikar Ali Bhutto’s failed bid for land reforms. Either the MQM does not understand that the redistribution of …