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Showing posts from October, 2010

Déjà vu all over again

Another bid to ‘unify’ the different factions of the Muslim League is being witnessed these days under the patronage of Pir Pagara. The Muttahida Muslim League (MML) that has emerged from these efforts is a merger of four factions of the League – PML(F), PML(Zia), PML(Like-minded) and Awami Muslim League. Historically, the unification of Muslim League only comes about when some shadowy forces are at work. Otherwise, their practice has been to ‘unite later, split first’. The Muslim League has very often been the handmaiden of dictators and part of anti-democratic manoeuvres in our history. Under newly appointed president Pir Pagara, PML-Q’s dissident group who like to call themselves ‘like-minded’ have joined the MML bandwagon in yet another opportunistic move, perhaps encouraged by the ‘invisible angel’ friends of the Pir. It is ironic that Allama Iqbal and Jinnah’s Muslim League has remained hijacked by opportunists for the most part of our history as an independent country. These ‘m…

Another Pakistani ‘innovation’

Pakistan may not have the world’s best university but it sure has succeeded in coming up with the world’s best ‘innovations’ over the years. Roofless cars have become very common, which is why Pakistanis have come up with another innovation – roofless schools. The authorities in Pakistan do not believe in wasting money on providing rooftops to children when they are studying, instead they would rather that money be diverted to the elected representatives’ bank accounts. According to a report published in this newspaper, hundreds of primary school children are being forced to study in roofless classrooms of the Government Primary School in Hammad Colony, Lahore. Imagine a child trying to study in a roofless classroom in extreme weather conditions in the summer, winter and monsoon season. This is not just ridiculous but highly irresponsible on the part of the concerned authorities.

The school in question is situated in the constituency of Hamza Shahbaz, son of Punjab Chief Minister Shah…

A historic win

The Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA) elections on Wednesday saw Asma Jahangir win despite the fact that her opponents had started a maligning campaign against her. Ms Jahangir secured 834 votes while her main opponent Ahmed Awais got 796 votes. She has become the first woman president of the SCBA. Ms Jahangir’s victory was celebrated all across the country. Ms Jahangir is not just a leading light of the legal fraternity, she is one of the most vocal advocates of human rights, women’s rights, minority rights, democracy and justice.

One of the reasons for those opposing Ms Jahangir in the legal fraternity is because of her criticism of the bar and bench for getting embroiled in politics. After the successful movement led by the lawyers for the restoration of the judiciary, it was expected that the lawyers would go back to practicing law and the judiciary would work towards strengthening its institution. Instead, we saw them encroaching on the space of other state institutions, espec…

Sleeping with the enemy

Politics makes strange bedfellows, especially in Pakistan. Federal Law Minister Babar Awan and PML-Q’s leader Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi met on Monday and agreed to strengthen democracy. It was interesting to see the PPP extending a hand of friendship to the PML-Q, considering that this is the same party the PPP leadership labelled as the ‘Qatil’ (murderer) League after Benazir Bhutto’s assassination. Babar Awan said, “There is no place for arrogance in politics,” thereby attempting to justify the move. Perhaps the word ‘arrogance’ should be replaced with ‘principles’.

The political landscape in Pakistan is so complex that it is not unusual to see radical political shifts. The PPP’s olive branch to the PML-Q could be for a number of objectives. There could be apprehensions in PPP circles that the MQM may prove an unreliable ally again, which could arguably lead to an in-house change. As an insurance policy, the PPP now seems to be warming up to the PML-Q. Talk of an in-house change has b…

SCBA polls and dirty tricks

The Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA) elections are to be held tomorrow (October 27) but it seems that a mudslinging campaign has been launched against one of the contestants for the post of SCBA president. Asma Jahangir, a renowned human rights activist and lawyer, is the target of a malicious campaign by her opponents’ dirty tricks ‘department’. A pamphlet titled ‘Asma Jahangir: Adalat-e-Uzma ke khilaaf targeted missile’ (Asma Jahangir: a targeted missile against the Supreme Court) is doing the rounds in the legal fraternity. The pamphlet has been published by a spurious group that goes by the name of Khatm-e-Nabuwwat Lawyers Forum.

The eight-page pamphlet has made some serious allegations against Ms Jahangir, most of which do not even need to be dignified with a response, but this sort of skulduggery has no place in an SCBA election. Someone of Ms Jahangir’s standing does not need any defending since her work speaks for itself. She has served as the chairperson of the Human Rig…

Future of the PPP

Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani has said that the government would complete its tenure and the PPP will also win the next general elections. Mr Gilani’s confidence (read overconfidence) notwithstanding, the performance of the PPP-led government is nothing to write home about. In a democratic system, the government should be allowed to finish its term but if it does not deliver on its promises and does not do anything for the masses, it should be ready to face the music, i.e. be voted out in the next elections. The PPP has not done much as far as good governance is concerned during its two and a half years of rule. Whether the people vote the party to power again in 2013 or not cannot be said with certainty since it depends on the electorate, but the performance of the government makes it look uncertain. If Prime Minister Gilani is serious about the PPP coming to power again after the next general elections, he needs to not just improve governance but heal the internal fissures insid…

The Iraqi files

WikiLeaks, a whistle-blowing website, has released 391,832 reports documenting the Iraq war and US occupation from January 1, 2004 to December 31, 2009. ‘The Iraq War Logs’ have created quite a stir around the world as it has unveiled some very damning facts related to the US military. WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange said this “disclosure is about the truth” and “we hope to correct some of that attack on the truth that occurred before the [Iraq] war, during the war, and which has continued on since the war officially concluded”. WikiLeaks had previously released the ‘Afghan War Diary’, a set of over 91,000 leaked US military reports from 2004-2009 that became an embarrassment for the US-led NATO troops in Afghanistan.

According to the WikiLeaks website, “The reports detail 109,032 deaths in Iraq, comprised of 66,081 ‘civilians’; 23,984 ‘enemy’ (those labelled as insurgents); 15,196 ‘host nation’ (Iraqi government forces) and 3,771 ‘friendly’ (coalition forces).” Over 60 percent of t…

Supremacy of parliament

In the interim judgement of the 18th Amendment case given by the Supreme Court (SC) on Thursday, the apex court referred Article 175-A to parliament for reconsideration. The said Article pertains to the appointment of judges to the SC, High Courts and the Federal Shariat Court. The SC has postponed further hearing of this case till the third week of January 2011. The judgement has been welcomed by all sections of the state and society. As per the SC ruling, “This is for the first time ever in our national, judicial and constitutional history that such a serious challenge has been thrown by a cross section of society, including some premier bar associations of the country, to a legislation which was no ordinary piece of legislation but a constitutional amendment.” It further states that both parliament and the judiciary “are vital and indispensable for all of us and they do not vie rather complement each other so that the people could live in peace and prosper in a society which is jus…

The many faces of ‘national interest’

Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi said in a talk at Harvard University that Pakistan will preserve its national interests as a frontline ally of the US in fighting the war on terror. “What we are trying to create is a long-term, mature and mutually beneficial partnership,” he said. To call ‘national interest’ a disputed term would not be wrong, especially in Pakistan. This term has so many connotations that anyone and everyone can invoke ‘national interest’ in their own cause. The military and the civilians have different definitions of national interest. Saying that the Pak-US dialogue and the coordination of our policies “will define the direction and future of our bilateral relationship, as well as the success of the containment of terrorism and, quite possibly, the very future of the region” makes one believe that Mr Qureshi’s use of the term ‘national interest’ is close to what the GHQ has in mind.

Ever since the war on terror started, the strategic partnership between Pakis…

Of warnings and promises

The situation in Karachi is not getting any better. At the time of writing these lines, 11 people had so far been killed in a fresh bout of violence on Tuesday. This happened a day after federal interior minister Rehman Malik met with the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) leadership in Karachi to end the current imbroglio. The meeting was successful despite the MQM showing its reservations about Mr Malik’s ‘assurances’. Even though there had been reports that the MQM was contemplating leaving the coalition government, after the PPP assured the party that those spreading violence would be found and brought to book, the MQM has decided to remain in the government. MQM chief Altaf Hussain warned that if the PPP does not deliver on its promises this time round, his party will take a stern decision. Altaf bhai said that the PPP should not “take the democratic attitude of the MQM as its weakness” because “the MQM is not hungry for power, it wants to bring about a revolution”. The MQM has been …

‘Final showdown’ averted?

Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani addressed the nation on Sunday at a time when tensions between the executive and the judiciary were at an all-time high. The Supreme Court (SC) had taken a tough stance against the executive after some television channels aired the news about the reversal of the executive order regarding the judges’ reinstatement. Despite the fact that the prime minister denied these rumours, the apex court still believed that something was brewing in the corridors of power and sought for a written assurance from the government in this regard. It seems that Prime Minister Gilani then thought it best to put the rumours to rest once and for all by addressing the nation. He made a strong point about the stature of the office of the prime minister and rightfully said, “When the prime minister says something, whether it is verbally or in writing, it ought to be respected by everyone.”

The leader of the House is the highest office in a democratic parliamentary dispensation…

Karachi’s unending woes

More than two dozen people have been killed while dozens others injured in the fresh bout of violence to have hit Karachi. By-elections of a Sindh Assembly seat in Orangi Town (PS-94) took place yesterday amidst more violence. The metropolis has seen a spate of target killings in recent months. The Sindh government has not been able to cope with the situation and even federal interior minister Rehman Malik’s assurances to catch the culprits time and again have not materialised into anything substantial. Now the situation has taken a turn for the worse and political tensions are at an all-time high.

The Awami National Party (ANP) boycotted the by-election in PS-94 after alleging that the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) would rig the election and because the ANP did not get adequate security by the concerned authorities. On the other hand, the MQM alleged that “soon after announcing its boycott of the by-election, ANP’s terrorists began killing innocent citizens in a bid to sabotage the…

Time to rethink

A complete shutter down strike was observed in most parts of Balochistan on Friday to protest against the murder of Mir Nooruddin Mengal, a senior member of the Balochistan National Party-Mengal (BNP-M). Mengal was shot dead in Kalat by unidentified men on Wednesday. After the murder of Habib Jalib Baloch, secretary general of the BNP-M, Nooruddin Mengal’s assassination leads one to believe that the state’s oppression against the Baloch is not going to end despite paying lip service to the ‘Balochistan package’, which is only visible on paper while the ground realities reflect otherwise. The situation in Balochistan has now become quite alarming.

The pattern that is emerging is not only worrying but also downright dangerous, both for the province and the unity of the federation. The BNP-M is a nationalist party that is wedded to the democratic process and believes in raising the issue of Baloch rights in parliament instead of resorting to violence. Murdering nationalists who are part…

Democracy under threat

President Zardari has said that democracy in Pakistan is strong enough to protect itself. How Mr Zardari has come to this conclusion is not quite clear. He also said that the PPP government “has been formed by the people, who are ready to foil any conspiracy against the democratic government”. The president’s overconfidence in his party and government shows that either Mr Zardari is oblivious of the ground realities or he is pretending that all is rosy in his Garden of Eden. Perhaps the president needs a reality check.

There is no question that democracy is better than dictatorship. A democratic system gives representative government to the people, in recognition of their status as sovereign. It negates hereditary chieftainship, monarchy and autocracy and places the people centre-stage. Democracy is the only form of governance that represents the people’s will and opens the doors to accompanying benefits like freedom of expression, etc. When a party gets a mandate from the people, it…

A bird that won’t fly

Former president General (retd) Pervez Musharraf launched his political party, the All Pakistan Muslim League (APML) in London on Friday. Describing himself as a “ray of light” in the “darkness that prevails in Pakistan”, Musharraf offered himself as a political alternative to the people. This is the same man who stifled the political leadership in the country and sent Mian Nawaz Sharif into exile while not allowing Benazir Bhutto to return from her self-imposed exile for eight years. Only after Ms Bhutto reached an understanding with him in 2007 was she allowed to come back, paving the way for Mr Sharif to return as well.

At the launch of the APML, Musharraf tendered an apology “to the whole nation” for the mistakes he made during his tenure. Maybe it is time to remind Mr Musharraf of the long list of mistakes he made during his tenure as army chief and president. Musharraf’s Kargil misadventure is no secret. It brought the country to the brink of war with its neighbour. On October …

Violating the judiciary’s dignity

Lawyers from the Lahore Bar Association (LBA) attacked Lahore High Court (LHC) Chief Justice (CJ) Khawaja Sharif’s courtroom on Thursday. The LBA was protesting against District and Sessions Judge Zawar Ahmad Sheikh and asking for him to be transferred. Members of the LBA took out a rally from the Aiwan-e-Adl and after protesting at the GPO Chowk, ransacked the CJ’s courtroom. They not only chanted hostile slogans against CJ Sharif and Justice Zawar but also burnt the latter’s effigy. Some 200 lawyers were booked after this shameful use of force. Members of the Punjab Bar observed a Black Day on Friday over the LBA members’ arrests. More lawyers were arrested on Friday but LHC CJ Khawaja Sharif ordered their release.

It is apparent that some lawyers are still high on the success of the lawyers’ movement. What they do not understand is that the success of that movement was because a dictator tried to thwart the judicial system and the people were ecstatic to see a note of defiance from…