Friday, April 29, 2005
Wasim Sajjad’s political career to date has been an exercise in sleepwalking. He never stood for any worthwhile issues nor did he manage to upset anyone as he meandered upwards through a ministerial position and then to the office of chairman of the senate.
More recently the ‘comatose’ Sajjad even managed to placate the Commando-in-Chief who generously waived a sum of Rs 8 million that Sajjad Wasim had been ordered to pay for misusing telephones and vehicles during his time as the Senate Chairman.
Unlike Sajjad, his colleague Yusuf Raza Gilani, the former speaker of the National Assembly, being a PPP chappie had reason to be wide awake. And because of this sin he was not only disqualified from contesting elections but was given a lengthy jail sentence by a NAB Court.
Now if one believes BBC’s Urdu world service, Wasim Sajjad has finally managed to open his eyes. Yesterday he informed the BBC that Musharraf will most probably be followed by another Army dictator. And this new Khaki-clad will issue a new provisional order which will then be blessed by our senior judiciary (recalcitrant judges would of course be shown the door). Everything else will function as normal and nothing will really change.
Just some stories from today’s Press:
- In Mandi Bahauddin Shahbaz Masih, a young Christian was beaten to near death because he refused to convert to Islam. (An example of Mush’s ‘moderate enlightenment’? Some would argue that these zealots ‘moderated’ by not killing the poor boy. I’d say, a pox on all of them) A stubborn stalemate has arisen because the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court and the Chief Justice of the Sindh High Court refuse to accept each others nominees for 10 vacant seats in the Sindh High Court - perhaps they should file contempt proceedings against each other…A suspected incompetent Tariq Kirmani replaces a confirmed incompetent (Ahmed Saeed) as Chairman PIA
- NAB initiates yet another probe against Imtiaz Shaikh - they must either love him or his money dearly!
- Heavy firing again near Dera Bugti (thanks to the PFUJ report I now believe Akbar Bugti when he says the Frontier Constabulary people are lying. They are probably following Fuhrer George W.Bush’s philosophy of repeated denials mixed with hefty doses of pre-emptive aggression)
* For info on the PFUJ report see today's 'Mush's Muzzled Press'Pakistan
According to this organisation, this downgrading is based on:
‘aggressive measures taken over the last two years by military authorities to silence critical or investigative voices in the media. A number of journalists have been pressured to resign from prominent publications, charged with sedition, or arrested and intimidated by intelligence officials while in custody.’
This harsh indictment is corroborated by a report recently issued last week by our very own Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ) which exposes:
‘government claims of press freedom, adding that in Lahore and Karachi, police created obstacles in independent coverage of the arrival of Asif Ali Zardari. The police baton charged and detained reporters and removed films from their cameras.’
The PFUJ report further informs us that:
'the government stopped news reports from Wana, Gilgit, Sui and Khuzdar and forced reporters to report the ‘official version’ only ...'
So our journalists are advising us indirectly not to believe a word they write on Wana, Gilgit and Balochistan (as, according to them, it is nothing but a load of government orchestrated bull).
Should we be surprised? Not really.
Wednesday, April 27, 2005
And damned right he was too!
As anyone familiar with martial or parade ground drill, such as I am, will tell you: a word such as 'U-Turn' simply does not exist in the military lexicon.
(Luckily for Mush no one asked him: "Then, what about an 'About-Turn'?" )
Americans have been training Pakistanis in night flying and airborne assault tactics to combat foreign and local fighters in the tribal areas of Pakistan near the Afghan border, the United States commander here, Lt. Gen. David W. Barno, said Tuesday in an interview.
It is the first time the American military has acknowledged the training. The presence of American troops in Pakistan is regarded as extremely delicate.
General Barno said he had visited the Special Services Group headquarters at Cherat, near the Pakistani city of Peshawar, on Saturday and watched a display by the units trained by the Americans in their new Bell 4 helicopters.
Pakistan's chief military spokesman, Maj. Gen. Shaukat Sultan, said there were no American military trainers at Cherat and that General Barno had probably been referring to joint military exercises between the two countries.
Tuesday, April 26, 2005
(As most know) in July 2003 a Swiss Examining Magistrate, Daniel Devaud, convicted Benazir Bhutto and her husband Asif Zardari of money laundering - the charge of corruption was not included as the funds had been placed in Geneva banks prior to the recent enactment of Swiss anti-corruption legislation.
Daniel Devaud sentenced them to a six-month suspended jail term, fined them $50,000 each and ordered they pay more than $2m to the Pakistani Government. He said they had illegally deposited millions of dollars in accounts in Switzerland, and ordered the money be returned to Pakistan.
To some the six-month suspended sentence may seem light for such serious offences, but they were the maximum the magistrate could legally impose in his capacity as a junior judge.
In a bid to avoid public opprobrium the couple appealed to a higher court and have thereby exposed themselves to the risk of longer sentences and tougher sanctions being imposed by a superior court.
On appeal the magistrate’s verdict was challenged simply on the basis of some legal technicalities and no effort was made to dispute any part of the overwhelming documentary evidence dredged up against them in the lower court.
In November 2003, the three judges of the Tribunal de Police dismissed all of the technical objections, while noting: ‘In any case, to the extent that the accused were to be found guilty, it is doubtful that a prison term of less than 18 months could be considered.’
However, on a point of law these judges declared themselves incompetent to try the case and following due Swiss legal procedure referred the case directly to the Swiss Attorney General.
Now according to legal experts the Swiss attorney general has three options open to him:
- Move the trial to a higher court
- Prosecute the couple himself on the basis of the established evidence.
- Order a fresh investigation.
The third option seems unlikely as the legality of the evidence presented in the lower court has never been questioned.
Sixteen months have elapsed and it is probable that the Swiss attorney general could announce his decision any day now. And, despite the claims of PPP’s propagandists, the future does not bode too well for BB & Co.
If the Swiss courts sentence BB and spouse to a prolonged spell in prison, no one, apart from her most biased die-hard and illiterate supporters, would give the slightest credence to any allegation of ‘political victimisation’. Unlike ours, the Swiss legal system is highly respected and completely above board.
And so, you might notice members of the regime - like Shaikh Rashid - when asked about PPP's potential threat to their PML (Chumvha Group) smirking on TV, all the while keeping their grubby fingers crossed behind their backs hoping that the judges in Geneva will come through for them.
Saturday, April 23, 2005
The latest issue of The Economist points out:
'On the eve of Mr Zardari's arrival—accompanied by dozens of journalists at his expense—thousands of PPP supporters were arrested in Lahore. On arrival, he was bundled into a police car and driven to his own house in the city. The journalists were roughed up by police and their audio-tapes confiscated.
But Mr Zardari had no words of comfort for them—or for the thousands of PPP activists arrested on his behalf. Instead, he praised the government of General Pervez Musharraf'.
As every school kid well knows, grovelling to a bully gets you no where other than a prospect of further beatings.
Friday, April 22, 2005
"A comment on paki politics
What is next for Musharraf??
Check the similarities between him, and Zia ul haq.
• Both are Army Generals.
• Both were made COAS after superseding other deserving Generals.
• Both imprisoned the persons who made them COAS.
• Both had their own muslim Leagues.
• Both had sham referendums.
• Both became darling of the west because of 'Afghanistan'.
• Both thought they were there because God wanted them there.
• Both hobnobbed with religious parties.
• Both usurped power, citing reasons: ‘bad politicians’ and ‘national security’.
• Both totally disrespected the constitution.
• Both did the cricket diplomacy thing.
Mr. Musharraf, please do not accept a gift of mango crates in your airplane".
General Pervez Musharraf Nishan-I-Imtiaz (Military), Tamgha-i-Basalat
News report: “Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden is alive and is hiding somewhere in the inaccessible Pakistan-Afghan tribal belt, Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf has said.
Osama is alive and I am cent per cent sure that he is hiding in the Pakistani-Afghan tribal belt," Musharraf said in an interview with CNN that will be telecast on Saturday, reports Online news agency.
Musharraf said the tribal areas on the Pakistan-Afghanistan border stretched to difficult mountain ranges where it would be very hard to locate Osama due to lack of communication infrastructure. The Pakistani government is developing the infrastructure there to hunt down Osama and the remnants of the Al-Qaeda, he said”.
Lt. General David Barno, Head of US forces in Afghanistan
News report: ‘Lt. Gen. Barno… has encouraged Pakistan to expand its military operations against militants on its side of the mountainous frontier’.
Lt GenSafdar Hussain, Commander of 70,000 Pakistan soldiers in Waziristan
News report: [Lt-Gen Safdar Hussain] described as 'highly irresponsible' remarks by a US general that Pakistan was planning an army operation against militants in North Waziristan. "It is a figment of his imagination. No operation is being launched in North Waziristan. This is highly irresponsible on his part. This is unwarranted and I condemn it," Peshawar Corps Commander Lt-Gen Safdar Hussain told reporters. …Gen Hussain also said was sure al-Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden was not hiding in Pakistan.
Thursday, April 21, 2005
A World Turned?
Not that long ago at the 57th United Nations General Assembly at New York in September 2002, General Musharraf stood up and vocally thundered about the Kashmiri freedom struggle. In front of the assembled world leadership, he insisted on differentiating between ‘freedom fighters’ and ‘terrorists’.
And, over the years, India repeatedly accused us of supporting ‘terrorism’ in Kashmir We, in turn, adamantly rejected the notion of ‘terrorism’ and instead insisted that these were heroic acts committed by determined freedom fighters who wished to liberate their land from Indian occupation.
And so to last Sunday in Delhi.
The General, while addressing a group of Indian editors, began condemning the Kashmiris trying to violently disrupt the newly launched Kashmir bus service. And what did he call them? umm...I think he called them :' terrorists'.
The Sandwich in a Jam
I am sure Sami-ul-Haq is hopping mad at the treatment dished out to him by the Belgians. First he was reportedly detained at the airport for three hours and then members of the EU parliament publicly boycotted him. No doubt the Maulana will be furiously hopping back to Akora Khattak and continue with his policy of openly:
- supporting Osama bin Laden
- supporting Mulla Omar and the Taliban
- encouraging holy jihad until all the ‘evil forces’ are defeated.
- expressing a view that Christians and Jews are ‘kafirs’
- denying rights of equality to women and minorities
Now to the pertinent question: Why should an ‘evil’ western country - which happens to espouse democracy, freedom of expression and speech, religious tolerance, and equality of gender - have the impudence to block Maulana sahib’s visit?
Sad to say, as every green passport holder knows, every country insists on retaining its right to deny entry to any foreign national it wishes to.
(And, in all honesty, why should a country that upholds the ideals of democracy, equality and human rights show even a modicum of tolerance for someone who advocates a violent destruction of everything that country's society stands for.)
Wednesday, April 20, 2005
On 9th April the Jang group’s English-language newspaper The News reported a new lead in the stock market scandal. The culprit, according to the news story, was one Zafar Iqbal who allegedly defaulted on a “futures contract to the tune of Rs500 million” (that’s about US$ 8 million in real money).
The newspaper went on to state:
“Zafar Iqbal was involved in insider trading in collusion with management of the stock exchange as well. His close contact with SECP and deep association with the Ministry of Finance higher-ups, put undue
pressure on the stock exchange management.
A member of the exchange on condition of anonymity said, "The actions taken by the director are a severe breach of regulations and ethics besides clear violation of rules regarding conflict of interest."
According to him, "The SECP nominated directors act like cronies of the regulator and have no interest or sympathy with day-to-day happenings of the exchange."
While I suspect that Zafar Iqbal is not a crucial figure in the stock exchange crash - there are much bigger players and Rs 50 crores in futures is probably just peanuts for them.
His name was probably raised to dirty the already murky water as it indirectly pointed the finger at the government and the Ministry of Finance. If what is alleged against Zafar Iqbal is factual then it will only probably prove no more then that he is a most unscrupulous and extremely greedy person. Unfortunately that is not an uncommon failing in Pakistan’s modern society.
And, who exactly is this Zafar Iqbal?
* Well for one he is a director on the board of Karachi Stock Exchange and was nominated to that position by Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan
* He was appointed the Managing Director of Pak-Oman Investment Company, set up in 2001 with a Rs1.5 billion paid up capital provided by the governments of Pakistan and Oman.
* More importantly, he is known to be an acolyte of one Shaukat Aziz, currently Prime Minister of Pakistan.
Zafar Iqbal is said to enjoy an unsavoury reputation but no more than his pal Mota Sherri (aka Shehzad Hussain). Mota Sherri - of the fabulous girth – was an ex-Citibanker who became the handyman for Mansoor ul Haq during the period of the ex-Admiral's massive corruption sprees.
These are the kind of people that someone like Shaukat Aziz should be avoiding like the plague, but he doesn’t. Someone should perhaps ask him why?
Tuesday, April 19, 2005
What’s with Kasuri?
As the second richest (declared that is) member of the National Assembly and co-owner of that vast chain of educational money spinners, the Rupee Billionaire Khursheed Kasuri can afford to dress in utmost sartorial splendour.
Instead what we seem to have is a Foreign Minister with a three-piece-suit fixation
Perhaps it hasn’t dawned on him that no major power celebrity in the world - from Bush and Blair to Berlusconi and Putin - bothers with three-piece suits anymore. It’s only discernable advantage is that the additional vest provides added warmth in cold weather.
Watching the Sunday one-day game on TV I thought my eyes may have been deceiving me but that wasn’t the case. Sitting behind the Indian PM and our ‘Commando’ General were Kasuri and Natwar Singh. And lo and behold in the 100° degree Delhi heat there was old Kasuri looking pleased as punch in yet another one of his incredible three-piece woollen suits.
Three decades ago a Lahori wit writing to the Pakistan Times commented “We Punjabis only feel superior when we are dressed in three-piece suits”. Perhaps, all those years ago, an obsessive Kasuri took this message to heart and never once bothered to look back.
Praise be to God that he doesn't wear a bowler!
Before answering this question let us digress a bit.
Question: Taking into account the money and lives expended in the 1948, 1965, 1971 and Kargil conflicts, what did we really achieve?
Answer: Zilch. In fact we ended up losing half our country and bankrupting the remainder.
One cannot escape the reality that from the very birth of Pakistan the Kashmir dispute has bled the country dry and rendered the vast majority of its citizens illiterate and impoverished.
In the absence of democratic practices, a powerful elite took it upon itself to decide where our national priorities lay. As Professor Stephen Cohen recently wrote "Pakistan’s economic and social problems are, at their root, the product of a strategic elite that placed security interests ahead of economic ones".
Cohen then concluded, “In the past, not only did the military component of Pakistan’s establishment not allow democracy, it did not see that economic reform and social stability were also strategically important for Pakistan in the long run. Now that the long run is here, administrators find themselves running a country that, despite its potential, is decades behind its former peers and very violent and corrupt."
Ironically, while the future of over a hundred and fifty million people was sacrificed, our elite never quite resolved whether we were fighting for the rights of the Kashmiri Muslims or for a piece of real estate - the Vale of Kashmir.
Now don’t get me wrong. I care about the future of the 6 million Kashmiri Muslims under oppression but as a Pakistani, the wellbeing of Pakistan holds a much greater importance.
And so over the weekend ‘irreversible peace’ was finally announced with India. And long may it stay that way.
However, one major difference was wisely glossed over and that was the issue of the LoC. For the record Manmohan Singh asserted that “boundaries could not be redrawn” but he optimistically envisaged a future "borderless border" of the type that France and Germany share today.
For Musharraf to accept the Line of Control as international border would have meant publicly acknowledging the failure of the catastrophically expensive military and emotional effort that Pakistan has expended in the fifty-eight years to 'liberate' Kashmir. So, it is prudent to fudge this issue for the moment.
Looking back, one may theorise that one ‘benefit’ (if one can use such a word) of Kargil was that it forced the Establishment to realise that using direct or indirect military means to shake off Indian control over Kashmir had become an expensive exercise in futility.
So who was the victor of the diplomatic play-off in Delhi?
For once, plain simple commonsense.
Saturday, April 16, 2005
After five and half years of unbridled power, has Musharraf kept his solemn word to the nation? Can we assume now that we have a ‘true democracy’ or are on a path to one?
(Need a pause here to refrain from laughing out too loudly)
Even if one overlooks the following facts -
* The 2002 Elections were rigged by the agencies
* Opposition MNAs/MPAs were later ‘NABed’ into submission to form PPP (Patriots), etc
. * Press freedoms were and still are being regularly curtailed by threats from the ‘agencies’
* Prime Minister and the Cabinet are totally powerless when it comes to important issues.
* The National Assembly has been rendered toothless and irrelevant
* Our senior Judiciary is still ‘out to lunch’ (This list can go on and on, so I’ll stop it here)
- remarkable ‘democratic’ events of the past two days suddenly speak loudly for themselves.
While the MMA was given a free hand to hold their Million March only a fortnight ago, the regime has gone completely ballistic when faced with a PPP rally at Lahore for Asif Zardari. Only time will tell whether the regime decided to harden its stance as it continues negotiating with the PPP under Uncle Sam’s pressure or was it a reflex reaction caused by panic.
The declaration of that old bugbear Section 144 in Lahore, the pre-emptive detention of thousands of PPP supporters, red alert at two major international airports, cancellation of several train services, nationwide blockage of buses and other vehicles heading for the Lahore rally, and Police beating up newsmen as well as snatching their cameras and mobile phones, all provide a grand testimonial to our Commando-General’s vision of ‘true democracy’.
If that is democracy according to General sahib, then one can only wonder what his definition of dictatorship might be? Pol Pot? Halagu Khan?
For once the obnoxious windbag from Pindi’s Red Haveli was on the ball. Asif Zardari is no angel by any stretch of anyone’s imagination. He was, however, incarcerated for eight years without a being convicted of a single offence. But the recent attempt to portray him as a local ‘Mandela’ strained all the bounds of credulity. Hence Sheikh Rashid’s witty jibe about a ‘Marcos’ trying to pass himself off as a ‘Mandela’ hit this load of bull right between the eyes.
Friday, April 15, 2005
Speaking strictly for myself, I reckon the latest tour of the Pakistani cricket team to India has created a fresh post-Kargill feeling of goodwill between the two countries. Of course, there will always be hard-bitten fanatics on both sides champing at the bits for a new round of blood letting but let us ignore these unforgiving blighters for a moment.
Today we saw a 'mad' Karachi-based Pushtun belt the leather ball as only he can. It wasn't cricket as we know it but what a mighty spectacle it was for all to witness. I couldn't help but feel for Rahul Dravid and his boys. There was simply no antidote on hand to counter Afridi's brilliantly orchestrated mayhem.
Pakistani-cricket lovers owe a debt of gratitude to Bob Woolmer for finally welding a team from what was by tradition a select group of eleven egotists all vying for individual supremacy. Having patiently put up with harsh public criticism from the likes of Miandad, Imran Khan, Zaheer Abbas and a host of other egotists (including Pak cricket's patron-in-chief - the ubiquitous 'Commando' Musharraf), Woolmer has come up trumps.
It is time full credit was given to Woolmer and Inzamam-ul-Haq for what they have painstakingly produced - by turning a bunch of mainly talented unknowns into the stuff of future champions. I have always believed that if the Pakistani Eleven (prodigiously gifted as they often are) ever played as a team they could beat anyone - including those disagreeable titans of modern cricket, the Aussies.
On Sunday let us have a delightful finale. May the better team win (which biased as I am, of course, means Inzi and our boys in green).
Thursday, April 14, 2005
Chaudhry Pervez Elahi must be worried man these days.
If he allows the PPP to hold their proposed mammoth rally at Lahore on 16 April to celebrate Asif Zardari's return, he runs a huge risk. He knows that the event could easily generate a momentum that will break the tenuous grip the Gujrat Chaudhries currently maintain over Punjab's politics.
Alternatively, if he cracks down - as he is currently proposing to do - with the full might of his administration (i.e. the usual thuggish Punjabi tulla) on the PPP, the backlash might destabilize the provincial government and lead to Pervez Elahi losing his job.
For the moment he has 'Commando' Musharraf's full support. But reality suggests that members of PML (Chumcha Group), like Pervez Elahi, cannot
count on their master's continued support. Right now Musharraf has only one supreme national interest and that is to resolutely hang onto his kursi. Under US pressure the military has to strike a deal with the PPP sooner or later.
Experienced politicos know that loyalty towards its supporters has never been a strong suit of the Khakis. Just ask Afaq Ahmed and Aamir Khan of the MQM (Haqiqi).
Perhaps it's time Pervez Elahi looked at the brighter side of life. Very few of his predecessors have managed to stay in office for as long as his 30 months. Enjoy it while it lasts, I’d say…
Wednesday, April 13, 2005
Mughal Emperors and other badshahs (including Ranjit Singh) used to, on occasion, bestow a khillat (robe of honour) on one of their subjects as a mark of personal approval. Yesterday General Musharraf followed this noble tradition by awarding our cricket team captain Inzamam-ul-Haq Rs. 1 million.