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Showing posts from January, 2012

Shining in Test cricket

Pakistan beat England, the number one Test side, in the second Test match by 72 runs. It would not be wrong to say that England snatched defeat from the jaws of victory because 145 runs was by no means a daunting target given England’s batting depth. The wickets in the UAE, similar to the ones in the South Asian region, give an edge to spinners. In the first Test match, also won by Pakistan, it can be said that England did not read the wicket right. Fortunately, better sense prevailed selection-wise in the second Test and Monty Panesar was included in the English side. Monty did his job well and proved to be an asset. The English bowlers, much to their credit, managed to restrict the Pakistani batsmen in both innings. Thus, it was expected that even on that turning pitch on the fourth day, England would manage to get 145 as it was a doable task. Unfortunately for England, as has been noted by some experts, their batsmen are not technically on top when it comes to spin bowling and have…

Balochistan and the military

The Supreme Court (SC) has started focusing on the Balochistan issue after a long hiatus. Between 2007 and now, the SC has either been in disarray or distracted by other cases. It is good to see that it has finally taken up this issue in earnest once again. The SC expressed its dissatisfaction over the Intelligence Bureau (IB) report on the law and order situation in the country’s largest province and has sought reports from the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) and Military Intelligence (MI). The court also wishes to talk to the prime minister in this regard. What is happening in Balochistan is no secret, yet our military and political leadership keep denying that there is a military operation going on in the province. Extrajudicial killings and a general breakdown of the law and order situation is not something that can be swept under the rug. The SC may have taken up the issue again partly because the situation has gone from bad to worse and partly because of the longstanding and i…

Sindhi nationalists vs the MQM

On the call of the Sindhi nationalists, a province-wide strike was observed in protest against the 20th Amendment bill tabled by the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) in the National Assembly. The Sindhi nationalists consider it ‘unconstitutional’ as it violates Article 239 (4) of the constitution. We have noted in the past in this very space that, “The constitution’s Article 239 (4) lays down that no bill to amend the constitution that would have the effect of altering the limits of a province can be presented to the president for assent unless it has been passed by the provincial assembly of that province by a two-thirds majority. It then also requires a two-thirds majority in both houses of parliament in order to pass muster. The conceptual and ground complications of creating or redrawing provinces are forbidding enough. The legislative route could be even more tricky and difficult” (‘The issue of new provinces’, Daily Times, January 5, 2012).

The MQM has a presence in the urban cent…

Custodial deaths

Eleven prisoners went missing in 2010 from Adiala Jail. They were suspected terrorists who were arrested on charges of an attack on former president General (retd) Pervez Musharraf, attacks on Kamra and Hamza Camps, GHQ, and possession of suicide jackets, but were acquitted by an Anti-Terrorist Court. However, they were not released. The Lahore High Court (LHC) then ordered their release but they were allegedly picked up by the intelligence agencies following their release. There was speculation that they were ‘handed over’ to the intelligence agencies by the Adiala Jail authorities. When the Supreme Court (SC) directed the Punjab chief secretary to recover them, the apex court was told by the Punjab Home Secretary that he was helpless. This was in 2010. In 2011, a senior law officer of the GHQ admitted that the prisoners were in their custody. The advocate general explained that they were formally arrested in April 2011 and a case had been registered against them under the Pakistan A…

Land of the absurd

On Tuesday, the Punjab Assembly ‘unanimously’ passed a resolution seeking a ban on ‘objectionable’ musical concerts in public and private educational institutions. The original resolution, moved by PML-Q’s Seemal Kamran, was against all concerts, as they were somehow considered ‘unethical’ and ‘immoral’. At first the treasury opposed a blanket ban but later acquiesced after the insertion of the word ‘objectionable’ instead of all musical concerts on the insistence of Punjab Law Minister Rana Sanaullah. The redoubtable minister then tried to justify the ban in the light of the stampede that took place at a concert recently without explaining how that concert was ‘objectionable’. Once the resolution came under fire from the media and civil society, the Punjab government distanced itself from it as an afterthought. PPP parliamentarians claimed that only a handful of parliamentarians were present in the assembly, thus the passage of such a resolution should not be a blot on the entire Pun…

Win against England

Pakistan cricket team was in the depth of despair following the 2010 spot-fixing scandal. The impact of losing a good batsman and two top bowlers could have hurt any team in the world but despite that Pakistan went on to reach the World Cup semi-final last year. Our cricket team’s record since then has been quite good. Coming close to defeating the world’s number one Test team — England — by an innings and actually managing to win the match in three days is no mean feat. Saeed Ajmal — who ranks 1, 2 and 3 in the ICC bowling rankings in the One-Day Internationals (ODIs), Twenty20 (T20) and Tests respectively — is now being hailed as one of the best spinners in the world. He took seven wickets in the first innings and three in the second. Individual performances flourish when a team is playing in a cohesive manner and all players are supporting each other. Cricket is as much a psychological and mental game as it is physical.

As far as this Test was concerned, England was a bit rusty as …

Ijaz: more ‘special’ than others?

Mansoor Ijaz made headlines in Pakistan and all over the world not just for his role in the Memogate scandal but also for appearing in a music video where he was seen as a commentator using double entendre during a women’s wrestling match. It seems that Mr Ijaz is a fan of wrestling, be it between wrestlers in a music video or between state institutions. He was instrumental in creating a hype surrounding a memo that was sent to Admiral Mike Mullen allegedly written at the behest of former ambassador Husain Haqqani who, according to Ijaz, had the full backing of President Zardari. The Pakistani military has fallen for Ijaz’s claims hook, line and sinker. In the process, the military has conveniently forgotten that this is the same man who is an avowed enemy of Pakistan’s army and the ISI.

Ijaz was supposed to visit Pakistan this month to provide evidence in the memo issue but so far he has not shown up on one pretext or another. He has cited ‘security concerns’ as the foremost reason f…

Women hold up half the sky

The National Commission on the Status of Women Bill, 2012, was finally passed by the National Assembly on Thursday. After many a hiccup due to the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz’s (PML-N’s) obstructionist stance, through the efforts of National Assembly Speaker Fehmida Mirza and other women parliamentarians, the bill finally passed into law. It now has to negotiate the Senate to become an Act. It is hoped that enlightened views will prevail in the Upper House. Being a signatory of many covenants related to women’s rights, Pakistan needs to act responsibly in this regard. The procedures and powers in the bill were discussed and finally it was approved by the National Assembly. It seems that the appointment of a chairperson would be a consensus figure enjoying the support of both sides of the House — the treasury and the opposition. The National Commission on the Status of Women would be tasked with the promotion of the social, economic, political and legal rights of women as enshrined in…

Give democracy a chance

The past few weeks were full of political speculation in Pakistan. There were rumours of a coup but most political observers were of the view that in this time and age it is very difficult for the military to go for a direct coup. It all began with a press release issued by the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) after Prime Minister Gilani gave an interview to China’s People’s Daily Online in which Mr Gilani called the affidavits submitted by the Chief of Army Staff (COAS) General Kayani and DG ISI General Pasha as “unconstitutional and illegal”. This obviously irked the military top brass. The dire warning issued by the ISPR on January 11 against a sitting prime minister is unprecedented, saying that: “There can be no allegation more serious than what the Honourable Prime Minister has levelled against COAS and DG ISI and has unfortunately charged the officers for violation of the Constitution of the country. This has very serious ramifications with potentially grievous consequenc…

No fireworks at the SC

All eyes were fixed on the Supreme Court (SC) proceedings yesterday (January 19), where Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani was to face a seven-member bench in the contempt of court case. Looking relaxed and confident, the prime minister drove to the SC himself with his lawyer Aitzaz Ahsan. With a number of parliamentarians present to show their support for the prime minister, the courtroom was all set for some kind of fireworks, or so the media hype surrounding this case seemed to suggest. Fortunately, there was nothing of the sort. Those who wanted to add more fuel to the fire and were looking forward to the prime minister being convicted were in for a disappointment. The prime minister showed his respect to the apex court by personally appearing before it while the court accorded him all the protocol befitting a chief executive. Justice Asif Khosa appreciated Mr Gilani’s presence in the court as it indicated that there is rule of law in the country. Prime Minister Gilani was not just…

Belated wisdom

Even though Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani said recently that he does not need a vote of confidence, the opposition was still contemplating the option of moving a no confidence motion but finally understood that they did not have the requisite numbers for its success. This finally dawned on the opposition parties led by the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) on Friday. PML-N chief Mian Nawaz Sharif met a number of leaders from other parties, including Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F) chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman, Jamaat-e-Islami’s (JI’s) Qazi Hussain Ahmad, Pakistan People’s Party-Sherpao’s (PPP-S’s) Aftab Khan Sherpao, Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party chief Mehmood Khan Achakzai, National Party leader Hasil Bizenjo, Jamaat-e-Ahle Hadith leader Sajid Mir and leaders of the PML-Q (like-minded). It is interesting that Maulana Fazlur Rehman, who was tasked by the PPP with bringing Mr Sharif and the opposition on board, was doing the exact opposite, i.e. contemplating a possible allianc…

Principle of democracy

Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani on Friday urged the political class to stand united, “protect yourself...protect parliament”, because otherwise there will either be “democracy or there will be dictatorship in the country”. Mr Gilani made this appeal on the floor of the National Assembly, giving a clear signal to the anti-democratic forces that the government will leave no stone unturned to unite the parliamentarians in the face of adversity. A resolution to this effect was tabled by ANP chief Asfandyar Wali Khan. The resolution reiterated that “the future of Pakistan and wellbeing of its people lies in the continuation and strengthening of democratic institutions and constitutionalism...all state institutions must strictly function within the limits imposed on them by the constitution...sovereignty lies with the people of Pakistan and parliament is the repository of the collective wisdom of the people.” The wording of the resolution is interesting. It seems that due to the mild tone…

Descent into anarchy

January 11 saw a lot of action on the part of both the government and the army. It all started with a harshly worded press release issued by the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) regarding Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani’s interview to the People’s Daily Online of China. It said: “There can be no allegation more serious than what the Honourable Prime Minister has levelled against COAS and DG ISI and has unfortunately charged the officers for violation of the Constitution of the Country. This has very serious ramifications with potentially grievous consequences for the Country.” The ISPR’s threatening tone is unacceptable because constitutionally the military as an institution is subordinate to the prime minister and parliament. The ISPR’s press release smacks of the military mindset bogged down in the past. They should not forget that the country and the world have changed. It is not easy to browbeat a democratically elected prime minister as it was in the past. The military mu…

Of ‘options’ and contradictions

In an unprecedented move, the Supreme Court’s five-member bench on Tuesday gave six options to the federal government on the non-implementation of its December 16, 2009 order on the National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO). Looking at the six ‘options’, it seems as if the apex court, in its ire at what it sees as the government ‘defying’ its NRO verdict, has gone beyond its judicial purview. It is very strange that the order gives six options but does not specify who is to do what. Can the court ask the government to act against itself, as it has done in the first option whereby the president, prime minister and the law minister may be disqualified for breaches of their oaths? By invoking Article 62 and 63 of the constitution — absurd provisions introduced by a despotic military dictator General Ziaul Haq — the honourable court has opened a Pandora’s box. A constitution that sets the standards for moral behaviour for parliamentary representatives can never be implementable in principle…

APC on Balochistan

Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) chief Mian Nawaz Sharif has consistently been reaching out to the Baloch leadership and trying to mend fences with the people of Balochistan. On Friday he met National Party President Dr Abdul Malik Baloch, Mir Hasil Khan Bizenjo, Tahir Bizenjo and chief of the Jamhoori Watan Party Nawabzada Talal Akbar Bugti. Mr Sharif asked for an immediate end of the ongoing military operation in Balochistan and called for an All Parties Conference (APC) on Balochistan. An APC on the Baloch issue with all political forces across the board will be able to put pressure on the military to desist from pursuing its ‘kill and dump’ policy in Balochistan. Mr Sharif even mentioned the brutal killing of Balaach Marri, something that most mainstream politicians have not done. He reached out to Sardar Ataullah Mengal recently and his consistent efforts to raise the issue of Balochistan in the mainstream media and political circles are courageous and commendable. The issue …

Tilting at windmills

In an interview with The Daily Telegraph, Mr Husain Haqqani has voiced his fears of being killed by ‘powerful quarters’. “My good friend Salmaan Taseer was killed by a security guard because he heard in the media that the governor had blasphemed. I am being called a traitor and an American lackey in the media with the clear encouragement of certain powerful quarters even though I have not been charged legally with anything,” said the former Pakistani ambassador to the US. Mr Haqqani’s counsel, Asma Jahangir, had already voiced these fears. Ms Jahangir was of the view that either the ISI would kill Mr Haqqani or force him to make a statement that serves their purposes. It is highly unfortunate that despite the fact that Mr Haqqani chose to come back to Pakistan and resigned in the interest of a free and fair investigation, he is being hounded by the media, judiciary and the military alike. Some quarters have taken Mr Haqqani’s resignation as a presumption of guilt and/or responsibility…

An ugly reality

January 4, 2012, was an emotionally charged day. It was Salmaan Taseer’s first death anniversary. A year ago on that fateful day, Punjab Governor Salmaan Taseer was assassinated in Islamabad. He was killed by one of his bodyguards who was of the view that the Governor had somehow committed ‘blasphemy’ just because he had spoken up for the rights of a poor Christian woman charged with alleged blasphemy. Mr Taseer tweeted on December 26, 2010: “Religious right trying to pressurise from the street their support of blasphemy laws. Point is, it must be decided in parliament, not on the road.” Unfortunately, the fate of the flawed man-made blasphemy laws was decided on a bloody road in Kohsar Market (Islamabad) the day he was brutally murdered. Mumtaz Qadri, his self-confessed murderer, was convicted of Mr Taseer’s assassination but the judge who handed out the death sentence fled the country due to threats from pro-Qadri quarters.

Two days after Mr Taseer’s assassination, Kala Kawa – a bl…

Shaheed Salmaan Taseer: a year later...

Today marks the first death anniversary of late Governor Punjab and founder-publisher of Daily Times Salmaan Taseer. Mr Taseer was gunned down by one of his bodyguards on January 4, 2011. His self-confessed murderer, Mumtaz Qadri, was a fanatic who took it upon himself to silence a voice of reason because some elements in our society cannot tolerate reforms. Mr Taseer was not just a successful businessman or an ordinary politician; he was a man with a vision. He was a strong proponent of a democratic and progressive Pakistan where human rights would be safeguarded and where the minorities would be treated as equal citizens. His vision espoused what the founding fathers of Pakistan envisioned for our country. Today, we have done everything humanly possible in complete opposition to what Mr Jinnah stood for and what he wanted to see in this country.

Salmaan Taseer lost his life because he stood up for the rights of a Christian woman who was charged with alleged blasphemy. His stance was…

Saluting a brave man

It seems as if it was only yesterday that Governor Punjab Salmaan Taseer was hosting a dinner at the Governor’s House where he was the centre of attention because of his intelligent remarks, charming personality and sharp wit. He was not afraid to say what was on his mind. That is how he lived and that is how he left us all, grieving for a man who stood up to be counted.

A year ago when TV channels broke the news that Mr Taseer had been shot in Islamabad’s Kohsar Market, I remember the fear and shock that swept me. I started dialling frantically — from Bano (Mr Taseer’s youngest daughter) to my journalist friends, I called a number of people to find out what had happened and whether Salmaan sahib was safe. Details of the incident started pouring in a few minutes later. The news of his death had not yet been announced on TV but a friend who was working for a local TV channel in Islamabad called and said, “Mehmal, bad news...” Then Iftikhar sahib, a senior journalist, confirmed the news…

Whither an independent judiciary?

Noted lawyer and human rights activist Asma Jahangir has refused to appear before the judicial commission investigating the memo case as counsel for Mr Husain Haqqani. Ms Jahangir’s decision is a serious expression of no confidence in justice being delivered from either the court or the judicial commission. This has raised some serious questions regarding the superior judiciary. From the very beginning of the memo case, it was obvious that more credence was being given by the court to the military top brass as against the civilians. Ms Jahangir expressed her disappointment with the judgement of the nine-member bench of the Supreme Court (SC) headed by Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry. She termed the judgement as a win for the military establishment, which undermined civilian supremacy: “If nine judges of the SC can be [under the establishment’s influence], then I am sorry to say I cannot have any expectations from the high court judges [heading the judicial commission].” That the court…

PML-N’s Gujranwala rally

Mian Nawaz Sharif, chief of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), addressed a rally in Gujranwala on the last day of 2011. Mr Sharif vowed to make Pakistan an economic power if his party came into power. “My team will bring revolution in Pakistan,” he said. The word ‘revolution’ is much abused in Pakistan. Our politicians are promising ‘reforms’ while using the word ‘revolution’. Those claiming to bring about a revolution have no understanding of the real meaning of this word and would do well to read Chairman Mao’s definition of a ‘revolution’.

Mr Sharif criticised the government for its economic mismanagement and rising inflation. No doubt the government has not been able to control the prices of essential items and bring an end to the energy crisis, but Mr Sharif should remember that part of the responsibility for the government’s failure lies with its coalition partners as well as the opposition parties. When the coalition government led by the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) tr…

Bidding adieu to the dark shadows of 2011

2011 was a year that would be remembered as one of the darkest in Pakistan’s history. The year started on a gloomy note when a fanatic in the country’s capital city, Islamabad, assassinated Governor Punjab Salmaan Taseer. On that day, January 4, 2011, Pakistan lost one of its finest. The right-wing forces were hounding Mr Taseer since the day he met a Christian woman charged with alleged blasphemy, Aasia Bibi, in jail. Mumtaz Qadri, who was supposed to guard the governor’s life as part of his security detail, shot the governor dead in cowardly fashion because he dared to raise his voice against the flawed blasphemy laws. Qadri, a self-confessed murderer, was given the death sentence several months later. What was shocking, though, was the support given to Qadri by right-wingers and the lawyers’ community. Federal minister for minorities Shahbaz Bhatti was assassinated on March 2 in Islamabad. That Mr Bhatti’s murder took place less than two months after Mr Taseer’s assassination was a…