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Showing posts from November, 2010

WikiLeaks shake the ‘ummah’

WikiLeaks, a whistleblower non-profit media organisation, has taken the world by storm once again. On November 28, WikiLeaks began publishing 251,287 US embassy cables from 1966 to February 2010. As per its website, these are “the largest set of confidential documents ever to be released into the public domain”. These cables are not only a blow to US diplomacy but have also shattered many a myth, especially in the Muslim world. From a Pakistani perspective, the Saudi monarch’s remarks about President Asif Zardari were quite revealing. A cable from US Ambassador to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA), James Smith, to US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said: “King Abdullah firmly believes that Asif Zardari is the primary obstacle to the government's ability to move unequivocally to end terrorist safe havens there (“when the head is rotten, it affects the whole body”).”

Now, this is quite rich coming from the Saudi monarch when the leaked documents report that Saudi donors remain th…

Resolving Balochistan the sane way

PML-N chief Mian Nawaz Sharif hit the nail on the head when he said that the situation in Balochistan cannot be resolved at gunpoint and Balochistan’s stability is vital for peace in Pakistan. Mian sahib’s words are critical in the present situation because he is heading the leading political party in Punjab, the province that the Baloch have come to dislike because of its disregard for other provinces. Mr Sharif condemned the increasing incidents of target killings of the Baloch and acknowledged that the recovery of bullet-riddled bodies in recent days has “further aggravated the political situation”. He urged the government to take “concrete and revolutionary steps to resolve the problems in a political manner”.

Balochistan is on fire, more so in recent months. As if thousands of abductions of the Baloch was not enough, now they are being killed brutally and mocking notes like ‘Eid gift for the Baloch’ are being attached to their dead bodies. The Baloch leadership, including Balochi…

26/11: still waiting for closure

On November 26, 2008, Mumbai saw a series of coordinated terrorist attacks in the city. India accused Pakistan for the Mumbai attacks, which led to a complete breakdown of the Indo-Pak peace process for a long period. Tensions were so high in both countries that there was an imminent threat of war. Our government denied Pakistan’s involvement at first but later admitted that ‘non-state actors’ were involved. It was only after Pakistan assured India of full support in nailing the 26/11 culprits that the peace process began again, albeit haltingly. India has sent Pakistan a number of dossiers on the Mumbai attacks but nothing substantial has come of it so far. Thus, on the second anniversary of these deadly attacks, Indian Home Minister P Chidambaram reminded Pakistan of its promises. He said, “Our neighbour Pakistan made many promises to us that they will bring to justice the masterminds, controllers and handlers of the 26/11 tragedy. They have not done so, so far.”

Ajmal Kasab, a Paki…

Cloaked in a veil of impunity

Pakistan’s intelligence agencies seem to think they are above the law. This could not have been more obvious in the case of the 11 missing prisoners who were allegedly picked up by our agencies from the Adiala Jail. On Wednesday, Attorney General (AG) Maulvi Anwarul Haq submitted a written reply to the Supreme Court (SC) on behalf of the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) and Military Intelligence (MI) that says: “It is stated stance of answering respondents that the alleged detained prisoners are not in their custody.” In a separate reply, the Intelligence Bureau (IB) has claimed the same. Now, when looked at from the turn of events, it is unlikely that these agencies are telling the truth. Clearly, the prison authorities did not set the prisoners free despite the orders of first the Anti-Terrorist Court and later the Lahore High Court (LHC). The prisoners could not have evaporated into thin air. There had to be some documentation of their ‘release’. Earlier this month, the SC rejecte…

Reforming the judiciary

At the full court reference on the retirement of Supreme Court Justice Rahmat Hussain Jafferi, Chief Justice (CJ) Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry said that strengthening the judiciary is integral for the survival of democracy in case some extra-constitutional forces strike the political set-up. CJ Chaudhry’s words should strike a blow to all the undemocratic forces lurking in the shadows for an unconstitutional move to oust the government. The PPP-led coalition government has been in trouble with the judiciary ever since the restoration of the deposed judiciary. Cases pertaining to the National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO) in the past and now the 18th Amendment soured relations between the executive and the judiciary. Thus, the CJ’s words could not have come at a better time. Justice Chaudhry talked about tackling corruption in the judiciary and rightly said that accountability is necessary. It is hoped that the honourable CJ is able to eradicate the menace of corruption, especially in t…

Celebrating Asma Jahangir

Hafiz Saeed, chief of the banned terrorist organisation Lashkar-e-Tayyaba (LeT) recently addressed a seminar organised by the Lahore High Court Bar Association (LHCBA). The LeT may have resurfaced under the garb of a ‘charity’ organisation – the Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JuD) – but it is no secret that this terrorist network has carried out several attacks in India, including the 2008 Mumbai attacks. Saeed is one of the most wanted men in India, yet he has been acquitted by a Pakistani court due to ‘lack of evidence’. So, when a man of Saeed’s dubious credentials is allowed, nay invited, to address a gathering of our legal fraternity, it shakes one’s faith in our justice system.

But all is not lost yet. There is still a silver lining. Despite the dominance of right-wing groups in our legal fraternity, we still have many liberal, progressive and secular stalwarts amongst the lawyers’ community. Asma Jahangir is one such name.

It was a historic day when Asma Jahangir became the first woman pres…

Between a rock and a hard place

A report published in The Washington Post has taken the country by storm. The report’s title: ‘US wants to widen area in Pakistan where it can operate drones’, is self-explanatory. According to the said report, “The US appeal has focused on the area surrounding the Pakistani city of Quetta, where the Afghan Taliban leadership is thought to be based. But the request also seeks to expand the boundaries for drone strikes in the tribal areas.” As expected, the Pakistan Foreign Office (FO) has rejected the appeal. As per the report, the CIA’s cooperation with the ISI has ‘deepened’ and their joint operations have been “mainly focused on Quetta”. The FO denies this and maintains that though Pakistan collaborates with all the world’s agencies, the operations are conducted by our own security forces.

The report makes a few things very clear. One, the Pakistanis may underplay the Quetta Shura and deny its presence, but the Americans are sure that not only does it exist but that it has a very …

Eid ‘gift’ for the Baloch?

Six bullet-riddled bodies of ‘missing persons’ were found in different parts of Balochistan during the three days of Eid-ul-Azha. Lala Hameed Baloch, a journalist and president of the Baloch National Movement (BNM), and Samiullah Mengal, a student and Balochistan Students Organisation-Azad (BSO-Azad) activist, were among those whose bodies were found. This was the eid gift that was given to the families of the six Baloch men who were picked up by unidentified personnel and later killed brutally. A strike was observed in some parts of Balochistan to protest against these killings and today there will be another strike as it is the third death anniversary of BLA commander Balaach Marri. In recent months, we have seen a sudden increase in the targeted killings of Baloch nationalists. Despite the government’s assurances that the Baloch would get their just rights, nothing has changed since General Musharraf’s time; if anything, the campaign to get rid of nationalist cadres has made things…

PPP’s penchant for controversies

The Pakistan People’s Party’s (PPP’s) ‘love’ for controversies knows no bounds. As if there were not enough controversies surrounding the government, the PPP has landed itself into yet another one. On Tuesday, the government finalised the names of four members of parliament – two from the Senate and two from the National Assembly – belonging to the treasury benches for the parliamentary committee to make appointments in the superior courts as per Article 175-A of the 18th Amendment. The reason for this new controversy is that all four treasury members of this committee are from the ruling party, i.e. the PPP.

It seems as if the PPP has forgotten that it is part of a coalition government comprising other parties like the ANP, MQM and JUI-F. All three coalition partners of the PPP have voiced their resentment at neither being consulted by the PPP when making this decision nor being included in the parliamentary committee. The only saving grace for the PPP is that it has ensured represe…

Pakistan’s Salem witch-hunt

Religious minorities in Pakistan live in the most adversarial of circumstances. The Blasphemy Law, a draconian law promulgated by General Ziaul Haq, hangs over the heads of not just religious minorities but even Muslims like the sword of Damocles. Recently, a Christian woman, Asia Bibi, was sentenced to death on blasphemy charges by a local court. Though most such death sentences are overturned on appeal, there have been several cases of the accused being killed during or after the trial is over. One such case is that of a 22-year-old boy, Imran Latif, who was shot dead near his home even though the blasphemy charges against him had not been proved and he was released on bail.

Instead of catching the culprits or denouncing the murder, the investigating officer pronounced: “no Muslim tolerates a man who commits blasphemous acts”. If a law enforcer can justify a murder on this pretext, it means that we are officially sanctioning a free hand to murderers. When our policemen pass such int…

Musharraf’s mumbo-jumbo

Former president General (retd) Pervez Musharraf only opens his mouth to change feet. On a speaking tour of the US, Musharraf pronounced that “civilian governments [in Pakistan] have never performed”. He said that an elected government has to deliver to the people and to the state but “if that is not happening, that is the problem in Pakistan”. By dislodging Nawaz Sharif’s government in a military coup in 1999, Mr Musharraf remained in power for nine years. He then formed a quislings party, the PML-Q, to legitimise his military rule while continuing an elaborate pretence that a civilian government was in place. Musharraf should ask himself why his handpicked government was not able to ‘deliver’ or ‘perform’ when it was in power. The numerous crises that our country is facing today are mostly due to Musharraf’s policies. That said, Musharraf needs to familiarise himself with the historical perspective of why democratically elected governments in Pakistan have had a hard time performing…

Myanmar’s Mandela

The world celebrated the release of Nobel Laureate and Myanmar’s pro-democracy leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, yesterday. Ms Suu Kyi has spent 15 of the last 21 years in detention. She has played a central role in the democratic struggle waged by the people of Myanmar. Not only is she a woman of courage and principles but a symbol of resistance against oppression and an inspiration to the world. “It is not power that corrupts but fear. Fear of losing power corrupts those who wield it and fear of the scourge of power corrupts those who are subject to it,” contended Ms Suu Kyi in one of her most famous speeches. She could not have spoken truer words. Myanmar’s military junta has remained in power for decades and it is the junta’s increasing fear of losing control that has led it to throttle and manipulate the democratic process.

Myanmar is a multi-ethnic society but throughout its history since independence, the junta has oppressed the ethnic minorities. This has led to some of the longest ru…

Instigation to mob justice

Asia Bibi, a 45-year old Christian woman, was sentenced to death by a local court in Nankana district on Monday. Asia was working as a farm worker in a village and was asked to fetch water but some Muslim women refused to drink it, saying it was “unclean” since a Christian woman had brought it (contrary to Islam’s teachings and rooted in caste prejudice). After some days, these women went to a local cleric and accused Asia of making derogatory comments about Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). A mob then attacked Asia and the police was called, who ‘saved’ her from the angry mob but in the end succumbed to pressure and registered a blasphemy case against her. It seems as if the local court has succumbed to the same pressure and given her a death sentence. Though there has been no execution in blasphemy cases and most death sentences are overturned on appeal, many people have been murdered either while they were on trial for blasphemy or as soon as they were accused of it. Thus, there is an urgen…

A symbol of resistance

The legal fraternity observed November 3 as a ‘black day’ across the country to protest against the imposition of emergency three years ago by former president General (retd) Pervez Musharraf. When the general asked Chief Justice (CJ) Iftikhar Chaudhry to step down in March 2007, CJ Chaudhry refused to do so. He was then suspended and his case sent to the Supreme Judicial Council by Musharraf but after immense public pressure, he was reinstated in July. Once the CJ was reinstated, the pro-active judiciary became a threat for Musharraf as he perceived that if his presidential elections were legally challenged, the courts would rule against him. This led him to make a pre-emptive move; thus the emergency on November 3, 2007.

Despite our judicial history not being an exemplary one, Justice Chaudhry’s historic defiance of Musharraf, a military dictator, became a symbol of resistance. After Musharraf stepped down from his presidential post, the PPP government procrastinated in restoring t…

Colours of the wind

Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani displayed his displeasure on Tuesday at the talk of mid-term polls by the PML-N legislators. Opposition leader Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan made a statement on Monday that apparently rattled the prime minister. “Mid-term election is an option. Whenever there is talk about this, hue and cry is started in power corridors…Voices are coming from streets that we be saved from the present rulers and I hear these voices,” said the opposition leader. It was in response to this that the prime minister made it clear that no mid-term polls are in the offing since only he has the constitutional power to dissolve the assemblies and call for mid-term elections after the passage of the 18th Amendment. A rather aggressive Mr Gilani assured parliament that he will “not dissolve the assembly” and those asking for a change were “not sincere to the country”. He also dismissed the option of a military intervention saying that the “military is ours. It is Pakistan’s. It will ne…

Intelligence agencies: above the law?

The Supreme Court (SC) on Tuesday directed Punjab chief secretary to recover the 11 missing prisoners by November 10. The 11 prisoners were suspected terrorists who were arrested on allegations of attack on former president Pervez Musharraf, attacks on Kamra and Hamza Camps, GHQ, and possession of suicide jackets. They were acquitted by the Anti-Terrorist Court but were not released. The Lahore High Court (LHC) then ordered their release but they were then allegedly abducted by the intelligence agencies from Adiala Jail. The counsel for petitioners alleged that Adiala Jail Superintendent Saeedullah Gondal handed over the prisoners to the intelligence agencies but Punjab Prisons IG Kokab Nadeem Warraich told the apex court on Monday that Gondal was on leave at the time of abduction.

On Monday, Punjab Home Secretary Shahid Khan told the court that he was helpless in the recovery of the missing prisoners, to which Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry asked, “If you are helpless, then who wil…

Nationalisation: a mistake?

Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani termed the nationalisation of educational institutions in 1972 a ‘mistake’. Speaking at the death anniversary of Zamindar College founder Nawab Sir Fazal Ali in Gujrat, Mr Gilani said that “it was a wrong move, and we cannot move forward without admitting our mistakes”. There is indeed nothing wrong in admitting mistakes committed by his party in the past, but talking glibly or superficially on this subject is not doing justice to Zulfikar Ali Bhutto’s nationalisation drive either. Nationalisation may not have succeeded back then but we cannot consider it a failure without closer examination. It was not nationalisation that failed but the way it was implemented led to its failure.

Bhutto’s party, the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) swept West Pakistan on the heels of the euphoria of the late 1960s when socialist ideas and even talk of revolution were in the air. The PPP came up with a socialist manifesto, which appealed to the masses who were looking f…