Thursday, May 31, 2007

Such Gup

Most of us are familiar with Friday Times's colourful column 'Such Gup'. The latest issue's Such Gup has the following entries which are worth noting




A leading light of the Lahore High Court Bar and the lawyers’ movement, went to see Big Ben recently with whose camp he is affiliated. We hear Big Ben cautioned the lawyer and told him “not play into the hands” of The Man of Steel. When queried, Big Ben hinted that the Chief Adjudicator, the focus of the movement, was in close touch with The Man of Steel via a kinsman, a member of the National Assembly from The Man’s party.

High tea

The CJ imbroglio has attained mythic proportions and incidental details are emerging which cast an interesting light on the crisis as it developed. Rumour has it that the country’s two senior-most spooks went to see the CJ at his home in the first week of March. After an exchange of pleasantries, the topic turned to Isloo’s weather. The CJ served high tea to his guests – samosas, sandwiches, cakes and pastries. After tea, the spooks told the CJ that the real PM wanted his resignation in exchange for “an ambassadorial position in the capital of his choice, excluding Washington and London”. It is said that the CJ heard out the spooks, didn’t comment on the offer and spoke some more about Isloo’s weather. The spooks tried to turn the conversation to the weather in various European capitals but the CJ did not bite. Finally, he put the spooks out of their misery and said that he would “hand over his resignation to the President in person”. Thereupon one spook made a phone call and said that the meeting was set for 11.00 am March 9. The spooks then went off happily, thinking it was a done deal. And the rest, as they say, is history..

Murder most foul

The District Management Officers Association called a meeting to discuss the murder of their colleague Hammad Raza, additional registrar of the Supreme Court. The meeting was attended by the highest officials in the land and it was decided that the DMG Officers’ Association would become a party to the case. It was also decided that the officers would discharge their duties wearing black bands. News of these decisions did not go dowm well in the corridors of power and the officers were arm-twisted to discard their black bands.

Stratfor: Expecting a Crackdown

Here is the latest take on Pakistan from the Strategic Forecasting Inc.

Geopolitical Diary: Musharraf Cracks Down
June 01, 2007 02 00 GMT

Pakistani President Gen. Pervez Musharraf on Thursday called an emergency meeting of the country's top military brass, including corps commanders and agency heads, for June 1 to discuss the domestic political situation. The same day, Information and Broadcasting Minister Sen. Muhammad Ali Durrani announced that all private electronic media outlets must now obtain permission from the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority before each live broadcast. Pakistan's Supreme Court also said it plans to investigate reports of state authorities and political groups harassing and threatening journalists.

The country's increasingly assertive judiciary and media have played a key role in the growing crisis of governance. The most recent blow to Musharraf came May 26 during a Supreme Court Bar Association seminar entitled "Separation of Powers and Independence of the Judiciary," when several prominent lawyers harshly criticized the government and the military's control of the state. Several TV channels carried the event live.

The seminar enraged the Musharraf regime, which responded by saying abusive and derogatory remarks about national institutions, especially the armed forces, will not be tolerated. In a May 30 speech to officers at the Jehlum garrison, Musharraf warned the media to stop politicizing the judicial crisis, though media criticism of the Pakistani government is hardly unprecedented.

In fact, the country has seen a major proliferation of private television channels under Musharraf's rule. The government allowed this in order to counter public criticism that it is a military-dominated autocratic regime. It also could afford to allow the increasingly vibrant media its freedom since Musharraf faced no real challenge to his rule.

But in the wake of the suspension of Supreme Court Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry, this vibrancy has damaged the public perception of the government. Yet, because the country's opposition parties continue to be divided over how to move against Musharraf, media coverage of political events and the broadcasting of damning criticism have not resulted in the protests attaining critical mass. Nonetheless, the government is moving toward a major crackdown that will drastically curtail free speech.

The nature of the criticism -- which has been aimed not only at the president, but also at the military's domination of the state -- and its reception within Musharraf's own constituency could present major problems for Musharraf's ability to rule.

Musharraf's most important source of power is the support he receives from the military, particularly the army. Criticism of Musharraf due to his dual role as military chief and president is one thing, but the questioning of the military's control over the state changes things dramatically. This forces the top generals to question Musharraf's ability to look after the military's interests. Hence, Musharraf is rushing to clamp down on the media. He must now show the generals he is very much in control and is capable of ensuring that the military maintains its hold on the state. Losing the confidence of the army's senior leadership would prove fatal to his own hold on power.

It is unlikely a crackdown on political dissent will help Musharraf shore up his position; in fact, it likely will make the situation worse for him. The verdict in Chaudhry's appeal case and the controversial presidential vote set to take place in September will only accelerate the momentum of the country's growing unrest.

© Copyright 2007 Strategic Forecasting Inc.

The Missing Pic

According to DealBreaker.Com this picture was, until very recently, displayed on the Faysal Bank website but has all of a sudden been removed.

It shows Faysal's CEO Farook Bengali (on the left) and the now notorious Ajaz Rahim (on the right), who was once the bank's Country Head of Investment Banking.

Rumours abounding in the local banking circles suggest that Ajaz Rahim will not be the only bank executive from Pakistan to face insider trading charges in the US.

The Chief Justice Finally Speaks…

After a wait of nearly three months we have at last received - through an affidavit submitted to the full bench of the Supreme Court - the Chief Justice of Pakistan’s account of what took place on that fateful day of 9 March 2007, along with a list of the characters involved.

For my readers I have prepared a readable (I hope) synopsis of the document submitted in the Supreme Court. For those interested in reading the complete affidavit, here is the link in the Daily Times


In his affidavit, the Chief Justice of Pakistan said he arrived about 11:30 a.m. at the military headquarters in Rawalpindi for a meeting with the General Musharraf. The General (accompanied with his Military Secretary and ADC) met the CJ wearing military fatigues. Soon after a number of TV cameramen and photographers entered the room and proceeded to take photos and video footage of the small gathering.

After the media men left the General promptly informed the CJ that he had received a complaint against him by a judge from the Peshawar High Court. The CJ responded by saying these allegations against him were baseless.

Then as the New York Times reports:
"General Musharraf then told Mr. Chaudhry that there were a few more complaints and directed his staff to summon Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz, who came into the room.

The most important military and intelligence chiefs in the country also entered the room:

Lt. Gen. Ashfaq Pervaiz Kiyani, the director general of Inter-Services Intelligence;

Maj. Gen. Nadeem Ijaz, the director general of Military Intelligence and a close relative of General Musharraf;

Aijaz Shah, a retired brigadier who is director general of the Intelligence Bureau;

and Hamid Javed, a retired lieutenant general who is the president’s chief of staff."

With the exception of Shaukat Aziz and the two retired military officers ( Lt. General Hamid Javed and Brigadier Aijaz Shah) everyone facing the CJ was dressed in military uniforms.

Musharraf then proceeded to read out allegations against the CJ from ‘small pieces of paper with notes on them’ which he held in his hand. All these allegations were unoriginal, as they had been acquired from the now infamous (and supposedly agency-initiated) letter written by Naeem Bukhari.

All these charges were vehemently denied by the CJ as baseless and defamatory.

Musharraf now began to insist that the CJ resign, saying that if he did, he would “accommodate him”, but if he refused then a reference would be filed against him.

When the CJ ‘resolutely’ refused to resign, Musharraf stood up angrily and marched out of the room along with his staff and Shaukat Aziz, leaving the three intelligence chiefs behind to show the CJ the so-called evidence that had been ‘gathered against him.’

According to the affidavit all this drama has so far taken only 30 minutes.

So around 12 pm the story from the affidavit continues…


Incredibly other than accusing the CJ - during his period as a judge of Balochistan High Court - of securing a seat for his son in Bolan Medical College, the all-powerful Intelligence Agency troika could come up with nothing else. Nevertheless the two leading Pakistani symbols of coercive clout – DG ISI and DG MI – insisted that the CJ resign immediately.

Faced with a determined refusal, these worthy officials then began a game of cat and mouse. While making it clear that the CJ could not leave the room, they would leave him alone for a while under the scrutiny of a close circuit camera before returning to badger him once again. Every time the CJ attempted to leave he would be confronted by ‘an officer’ who would ask him to wait. Needless to add, the CJ’s request to meet with his protocol officer was denied, as was his demand to have his car brought to the front porch in preparation for his departure.

According to the affidavit the CJ was kept at the Army camp ‘absolutely against his will’ till past 5pm, when the head of MI, told him that he could finally go home.

“This is a bad day — now you are taking a separate way,” said the MI chief, according to the affidavit. Further, the CJ was now informed by the MI chief that he was no longer able to function as a justice of the Supreme Court or as chief justice of Pakistan.

When the CJ went out to his car, he discovered that the flag and emblem had been removed and his escort was missing. Furthermore he was now told that Justice Javed Iqbal had taken oath as acting chief justice and it had already been shown on TV. His driver also then informed him that he had been instructed not to take the CJ to the Supreme Court but instead directly drive him to his residence.

As the rest of the story is too well known, I’ll stop here.

Having read the complete text of the affidavit, all your Blogger can say is that never before in the history of Pakistan has there been a public disclosure of such unbridled arrogance of uniformed power.

Whatever claims Musharraf may make about his 'dismissal' of the Chief Justice, he did not even remotely act in accordance with the Constitution. Instead he acted as a military dictator, as is his wont, by directing his army subordinates to carry out his wishes. Unluckily for him, the Chief Justice possessed the courage to resist them.

Monday, May 28, 2007

The Rich and Infamous?

Financial scandals regularly occur all over the world, however in Pakistan whenever they occur they hardly ever involve unfamiliar names from financial markets (as is the case in the US, UK and elsewhere) but always our local infamous bunch of the ‘elite and already loaded’.

In recent days much attention has been focussed on a choice new $110 million Lahore housing development project of some 1600 villas under the name of ‘Sukh Chayn Gardens’.

Sukh Chayn Gardens is planned to be a walled and gated community with 24 hour armed security patrols. It is advertised to have its own clubhouse, medical clinic, shopping mall, indoor gymnasium, parks and playgrounds for children, ‘Fresh Water Brook with a Jogging Track’, independent water supply, fibre optic broadband and many other salubrious amenities.

So far it sounds like another fancy suburb for the newly rich and not so famous. But its potential for high scandal lies in the names of its sponsors and how it was financed.

According to a recent newspaper report:

"Sukh Chain Gardens, Lahore, which was inaugurated by Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz and is funded by Chinese. Ejaz Rahim is a partner in one of the biggest housing project in Lahore, while the president of Faysal Bank, Farooq Bengali also holds share in this housing project. Bengali along with Ejaz Rahim, is facing charges of benefiting from a conflict of interest situation by investing personally in a scheme where his bank was the financier. They both invested in a housing project of Habib Rafiq Developers, Alhamra Hills in Islamabad and helped many politicians and businessmen benefit from this scheme, because the project was financed by Faysal Bank. Chaudhary Munir, who is very dear to Chief Minister Punjab because of his special links with the UAE rulers and is in-charge of their investments in Pakistan, is also a partner in Sukh Chain Gardens."

As you perhaps already know Ejaz (or Aijaz) Rahim is facing indictment in the US for making millions of dollars from insider trading

Farooq Bengali is the CEO of Faysal Bank where Rahim was heading the investment bank division until recently. It is widely rumoured among local banking circles that senior bankers at Faysal Bank were engaged in a wide scale front running operation that netted them an untold fortune.

Another major sponsor is Arif Habib, the billionaire stockbroker from Karachi and reputed close associate of Shaukat Aziz.

It is also believed to raise additional finance, plots from the property scheme were handed over to influential people at throwaway rates. The beneficiaries are rumoured to include leading bank CEOs of Pakistan.

But then Sukh Chayn Gardens is just part of a growing scandal…

Now it has been reported that a three man FBI team has arrived in Pakistan to probe a possible connection between Hafiz Mohammad Zubair Naseem and Ejaz Rahim, involved in the insider trading scam, and some Pakistani brokers, bankers and top policymakers.

Local journalist Syed Saleem Shahzad writes:

"According to sources, a FBI team arrived in Pakistan recently to probe the case and interviewed many top Pakistani bankers. Among those they wanted to talk to sources maintained, were the President of the National Bank of Pakistan, Ali Raza, Zaigham Mehmood Rizvi of House Building Finance Corporation of Pakistan, Farooq Bengali of Faysal Bank, prime ministerial financial advisor Salman Shah, Chief of Pakistan Industrial Credit and Investment Corporation Mohammed Ali Khoja.

The name of Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz, formerly a senior official in Citi Group has also been linked to the probe, it is understood."


Just to add to all this confusion a leading Karachi banker recently confided that a CEO of a privatised bank purchased a luxury villa in Dubai for $ 2.5 million in cash.

If this is true then it raises two questions:

Normally anything bought with a suitcase full of cash looks extremely suspicious as it circumvents financial documentation. So why did this CEO use cash?

This CEO has only been in charge for two years – so how did this salaried fellow make so much money so fast?

To add more ‘mirch to the masala’ your Blogger has also been told that a CEO of an overseas bank in Pakistan is possibly facing dismissal because part of the purchase price paid for a takeover of a local bank somehow allegedly managed to find its way back into his private account. An illegal commission perhaps?

All your Blogger can say is: All glory be to the Bank CEO fraternity of Pakistan!

Link :The Glasshouse: Some Crimes Do Pay Well in Pakistan

A Sinister Murder in Islamabad

The carnage that wreaked havoc in Karachi and its aftermath seemingly overshadowed a very sinister killing that took place in Islamabad two days subsequently.

In the early hours of Monday 14 May Syed Hammad Amjad Raza, Additional Registrar of the Supreme Court of Pakistan, who had been described in the Press as “a prime defence witness in the presidential reference against Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry”, was mysteriously killed with a single gun shot to his head.

The UK Times reporting the incident said:

According to Hammad’s friends and colleagues in the Supreme Court, he had been under intense pressure from the government’s feared intelligence service to provide evidence against his boss.

… Shabana and her husband were getting ready for morning prayers last Monday when they heard a loud knock. It was 4.10am and Hammad hurried to the door to stop the noise waking his elderly father.

Four men were standing on the step. As Shabana watched, one of them simply shot her husband in the head. “It was the way he was shot. He didn’t resist. They didn’t ask for anything. It was a single shot in the head and only a professional person can do that, someone trained,” said Professor Syed Mohammad Hayat, Shabana’s father.

Aitzaz Ahsan, the chief justice’s lawyer, said Hammad was one of a number of Chaudhry’s staff who had been questioned by the intelligence services after their boss was suspended and accused of misconduct and misuse of power. He claimed Hammad had been pressured to give a statement implicating Chaudhry.

“Hammad was subjected to the third degree because he was a staff officer and any statement he might have made about corruption would have carried enormous weight – he was a highly respected, elite civil servant,” said Ahsan. He added that his evidence could have exposed the government’s brutality and damaged its case against the chief justice.

The fact that these armed men took nothing with them other than their dead victim’s cell phones makes it all extremely suspicious. It is no wonder that the dead man’s relatives appear convinced that Hammad had been targeted for murder by a secret official agency.

As Dawn reported:

[Hammad's] widow Shabana, a witness to the killing, said it was a target killing. She alleged that the government and agencies were involved in the murder.

She said that she saw several policemen lurking around in the lawn of her house when she ran out crying for help, but they did nothing to catch the culprits. She vowed to do everything possible to bring those responsible to justice.

Her brother, Abid Hussain Shah, also insisted that it was not a case of robbery, because nothing had been found missing from the house, except two cellphones. It’s a target killing and a message to judges, he said.

According to newspapers reports the Ministry of Interior rejected the idea that the murder could have been a target killing and instead contended that it had been an incidence of a robbery going wrong.

After reading the above press reports it would be difficult for any Pakistani to feel safe anymore.

With no exit plan in sight Musharraf seems determined to stay in power at all costs; perhaps the rest - to him - is just incidental collateral damage.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Carnage at Karachi

Having just returned, it would be remiss of your Blogger not add a few words on the appalling carnage that took place in Karachi two weeks ago today.

Most of us by now have our own view on what took place and why it took place, so it is pointless for me to regurgitate what is already widely known. So, instead I’ll just simply state my own assessment of the Karachi bloodbath.


For me, the first indication of the coming slaughter took place on the night of 11 May when Geo reported that five unidentified men shot dead a private security guard employed by a shopkeeper who had refused to succumb to their demand to shut down his shop on Shahrah-e-Faisal (Drigh Road).

What was attention-grabbing was the fact that this shop was located at Falak Naz Plaza, the very point where the exiting road from the airport connects with Shahrah-e-Faisal.

Geo TV then quoted an MQM spokesman who blamed the murder on Punjabi-Pakhtoon Ittehad (PPI) but this was very soon contradicted by eyewitnesses who told Geo that the culprits were dark-skinned (‘kalay rung kay thay’), in other words they were suggesting that the killers were neither Punjabi nor Pathans. The insinuation was clear – according to them the killers were most likely members of the MQM.

Then, as The News reported on the morning of 12 May:

… the police in Karachi on late Friday night blocked sections of Shara-e-Faisal and its link roads, forcing hotels, shops and petrol pumps to close down. The law-enforcement agencies used containers and trucks to block streets and roads that open to Shara-e-Faisal.

After vehemently denying it for days the MQM finally confessed last week that it had been responsible for blockading all roads leading to Shara-e-Faisal, the arterial road linking the city to its airport:

Waseem Akhtar, adviser to the Sindh government and leader of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM), admitted … that he had directed the authorities concerned to block Shahra-e-Faisal with containers to stop the rallies on May 12.

And so on the morning of the Chief Justice’s arrival to Karachi Shahra-e-Faisal was hermetically sealed to all approaching traffic from Metropole Hotel all the way to the airport.

Soon after the Chief Justice’s plane landed heavy gunfire pervaded the air near Falak Naz Plaza once again, successfully blockading off the airport from Shahra-e-Faisal.

Then Geo TV began reporting heavy crossfire between the MQM and opposition rallies at most major intersections of Shahra-e-Faisal. This piece of news puzzled me greatly. How, I wondered, could the MQM rally which was centred on Bunder Road (also known as M. A. Jinnah Road) stumble upon opposition rallies which were clogged up at the various blockades on Shahra-e-Faisal some three miles away.

Subsequent live pictures from the scene cleared up this initial piece of misreporting. There was no meeting of opposing rallies and no crossfire, instead what we witnessed were dozens of gunmen positioned on the raised bridges and flyovers above Shahra-e-Faisal (at crossing such as Baloch Colony, Rashid Minhas Road, etc) intently engaged in a turkey shoot of opposition party supporters. With their cars and vans all jammed up at the block points on Shahra-e-Faisal there was little room for the hapless victims to find shelter. A massacre ensued.

To the best of my knowledge no MQM supporter is believed to have died near the vicinity of Shahra-e-Faisal. However, it is common knowledge that a handful of MQM people did die on 12 May. It now emerges that these persons were killed that day during a ferocious gun battle west of Bunder Road. Here the MQM gunmen encountered a heavily armed jihadi/MMA mob who took them on bullet for bullet. This should not come as a surprise to anyone as this part of town neighbours the vast Binori Masjid madarassa complex.

For those still unconvinced about MQM’s role in the carnage, I suggest they take a look this video clip available on (‘Real Face of MQM Exposed’) which contradicts their spurious claims of innocence.

It should also be noted that while MQM gunmen were freely wandering around Karachi with their lethal automatic weapons, Sindh’s MQM controlled Home Department ensured that Karachi police remained completely weaponless for that day.

As the Daily Times reported the next day:

KARACHI: Police personnel in Sindh were still weaponless Sunday, one day after Saturday’s bloodbath. The Sindh home department had directed the police departments to take back the weapons of all personnel deployed to control law and order on May 12, sources disclosed to Daily Times. Most of the police were given batons instead. Around 15,000 policemen were deployed to control the situation on Saturday. However, most of the policemen preferred to stay away from the violent areas on May 12 because they had no weapons.

A few hours after being stunned by the scenes of death and destruction in Karachi I was staggered to see a prancing Musharraf raise both his fists in the air and tell a gathered rent-a-crowd in Islamabad ‘Karachi nay aaj hummai’n apnee takat dikhaee’.


In parting I would like to leave you with quote from a UK-based writer and broadcaster Ziauddin Sardar:
Anyone who objects to the military dictatorship of President Pervez Musharraf can disappear at any time, anywhere. …Every Pakistani is now asking how many others will disappear, how many atrocities will be committed, before General Musharraf realises that he has overstayed his welcome. Unfortunately, Musharraf is incapable of realising anything. He is determined to hang on to power come what may. So the body count in Karachi and elsewhere in Pakistan is set to accelerate.


PS: While overseas my viewing was limited to a friend’s subscription of Geo TV. Hence my comments are largely restricted to what I saw on this particular news channel and some news items I subsequently read on the Net.

For those interested, on 12 May BBC reported that the MQM rally at Karachi numbered no more than 25,000 to 30,000 people, a substantial let down for Altaf Hussain. While Musharraf's Islamabad rally of '500,000 supporters' on the same day is believed to have numbered no more than 50,000 people 'rented' for the occasion from all over Punjab.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Back in a while

Dear Readers,

Your Blogger, having to earn his livelihood, has to depart for foreign shores for a couple of weeks.

Not being on the spot in Pakistan, it will be hard for me to write with any degree of sincerity - so I’ll be giving the Blog a miss for a while.

In the meantime I wish to thank all my regular readers, and there are many of you or so my Statcounter figures tell me.

Confession time: My favourite readers happen to be those who leave their comments behind.


There is no monetary recompense for most bloggers, the only pleasure we get is from being able to provide people with an alternate view – right, wrong, stupid or whatever that may be.

Feedback, criticism and comments of any kind then become an indirect sign of acknowledgment to the blogger for the time he/she spent researching and hammering at the keyboard.

In other words, yes, it stokes our miserable little egos!

Until my return, I wish you all well and pray that God bless our impoverished and misgoverned country.


MQM and the Declaration of an Emergency

While MQM is going all out to preserve its stake in Sindh, its leadership might have lost sight of the bigger picture.

The idea of a deal between Benazir Bhutto and Musharraf must have put the cat amongst the pigeons as far as MQM is concerned. One of the unwritten conditions of any such proposed deal would be an unofficial handover of Sindh to the PPP, which would mean the end of the MQM reign in the province.

Obviously in the past few years MQM has got used to ruling the Sindhi roost in partnership with Musharraf’s nominee’s (Arbab Rahim and co.), and to be deprived of its privileged position would be an anathema to the party.

To stay in the game, the MQM now has to make itself indispensable to the military regime. Purely from a practical standpoint this might make sense but on the other hand the judicial crisis has created a political powder keg. Now by insisting on holding a pro-Musharraf rally on a day coinciding with Chief justice Iftikhar Chaudhry’s arrival in Karachi, the party may be playing with fire.

Opponents have already decried the move and suggested that the MQM is acting in connivance with secret agencies. Whatever the case maybe, if there is an outbreak of serious violence between the rally accompanying the Chief Justice and the MQM one, it will almost certainly play into the hands of a regime seriously considering the imposition of a state of emergency as a means of staying in power.

Undoubtedly the diehard MQM supporter will support the party stand blindly, but I wonder how many of MQM’s traditional voters would support Musharraf over all the issues raised by the sacking of the Chief Justice.

To my mind MQM is taking an enormous political risk, but then power – even if it is only over one province - has its own addiction.

A Confident Musharraf?

According to Reuters Simon Cameron-Moore Musharraf is confident that the majority of judges would find in the government's favour.

“A source close to Musharraf described the decision to set up a full court as ‘the first good news for the government since March 9’”.

While I can no longer comment on the case, all I can say is that the pressures on the judges right now must be tremendous. It is perhaps time for us to reflect upon the oath they took upon taking their office:

That I will not allow my personal interest to influence my official conduct or my official decisions:

That I will preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan:

And that, in all circumstances, I will do right to all manner of people, according to law, without fear or favor, affection or ill-will.

May Allah Almighty help and guide me (A'meen.)


Pakistan’s Musharraf girds for collision with judge

10 May 2007

ISLAMABAD - Despite public anger, media criticism and a virtually united judiciary’s opposition that have undercut his popularity and clout, President Pervez Musharraf looks bent on ousting Pakistan’s top judge through the courts.

Months away from elections, Musharraf badly damaged his standing by suspending Supreme Court Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry on March 9, because of undisclosed charges of misconduct which people suspect are politically motivated.

‘He’s lost a lot of his authority,’ Najam Sethi, editor of the Daily Times, said. ‘He has to decide now how best to hold onto the authority he still has.’

Sethi believes the tide is carrying Musharraf toward a choice between either reaching a power-sharing deal with a civilian rival, such as self-exiled former prime minister Benazir Bhutto, or invoking authoritarian measures.

The trouble is, Bhutto will be shrinking away from a deal, and demand a higher price than she would have before Musharraf dug himself into a hole over the chief justice.

Ultimately, Musharraf might have to give up his post of army chief.

Political analysts are not alone in doubting whether US ally Musharraf can ever recover the influence he wielded over the volatile Muslim nation before the judge stood up to him.

‘He’s played his cards so badly. He could have turned the country around,’ lamented Parveen, a well-to-do, middle-aged Islamabad woman.

These days, she feels differently about the general she harboured such high hopes for when he came to power in a popular, bloodless coup in 1999, ending a decade of hapless civilian rule.

‘Oh for a Messiah,’ she sighed.

Here comes the judge

In contrast, Chaudhry’s image has been burnished by media accounts of how he withstood pressure to resign from Musharraf and a handful of generals.

The independent-minded judge had already impressed people, if not the government and security agencies, by taking up awkward cases such as the whereabouts of missing detainees and a challenge to the sale of a state-owned steel maker.

Chaudhry, 58, has sought to maintain decorum, avoiding political statements while urging the legal community to uphold

independence of the judiciary and supremacy of the constitution.

While rowdy lawyers have belted out chants of ‘Go, Musharraf, go’, Chaudhry’s moustachioed, heavy-lidded face has been a study in deadpan.

The lawyers’ movement championing the chief justice will keep up the pressure. The bar in Karachi has invited Chaudhry to speak on Saturday, after which he is expected to go to Multan in the south of Punjab province.

But the partisanship Chaudhry has provoked will make it difficult for him to resume his post, as he will be vulnerable to accusations of bias.

Musharraf has vainly warned against politicising the case, as he enters a crucial period with plans to secure his re-election in September or October for five more years from sitting assemblies before they are dissolved for a general election.

He is also expected to try to retain his post of army chief, violating a commitment to give up the dual role this year.

Tipping point?

Analysts suspect Musharraf wants a more pliable chief justice to deal with constitutional challenges opponents may mount.

‘The foremost objective on his agenda is his re-election in uniform by the present assemblies,’ said Ayaz Amir, a prominent columnist with Dawn newspaper. ‘With each passing day it is more and more unlikely that he will realise that objective.’

A tipping point could turn out to be the stunning display of public support Chaudhry received on a drive to Lahore from Islamabad last weekend to address the Punjab capital’s lawyers and judges, some analysts say.

Whatever Musharraf does, his next step in a crisis he brought on himself will be fraught with risk.

If he could not reach an acceptable political deal with ex-prime minister Bhutto and took the authoritarian route instead, Musharraf would alienate the public.

He would also make US allies think twice about whether he is a leader who can guide Pakistan to moderation and true democracy.

By all accounts Musharraf remains set against withdrawing the accusations against the chief justice, and seems confident the judges hearing the case will recommend Chaudhry’s removal.

On Monday, the Supreme Court ordered a stay on the inquiry by a five-judge Supreme Judicial Council.

It also ordered that 14 Supreme Court judges should open a hearing on Monday to decide whether the council was constitutionally mandated and free of bias.

A source close to Musharraf described the decision to set up a full court as ‘the first good news for the government since March 9’, and was optimistic the majority of judges would find in the government’s favour.

‘We are convinced that the full court and SJC will give a decision on merit and the president said he will accept the decision,’ the source said.

Daily Times editor Sethi saw compulsions other than the law.

‘It cannot be resolved legally because it has become a political crisis. The legal decision will be a political one.’

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

The Supreme Court tells us to shut up

In its wisdom the Supreme Court has just announced a ban on:

"Discussions, comments or write-ups which are likely to interfere with the legal process, ridicule, scandalize or malign the court or any of its judges or touching the merits of the case are strictly prohibited and violation in this regard shall be dealt with under the law relating to contempt of court”.


However your Blogger, being a law abiding citizen, still feels at liberty to express his opinion – not, of course, on the proceedings of the case which is now banned – but on the role of the judiciary in Pakistan.

For fifty years, from the days of Justice Munir, the judiciary has opted to play a subservient role to every dictatorship we have had. Commonsense tells us that respect can not be demanded but has to be earned. Unfortunately in recent years the senior judiciary has done very little to deserve respect from the Pakistani public.

For starters, as I mentioned in a recent blog, we require them to behave as judges ought to. The principles of natural justice and law demand that:

"Justice should not only be done but manifestly and undoubtedly be seen to be done"
(Lord Hewart, C.J - R. v. Sussex Justices, 1924)

"Judges, like Caesar's wife must be above suspicion"
(Lord Bowen, J - Leeson v. General Council of Medical Education & Registration, 1889)

Justice must be rooted in confidence and confidence is destroyed when right-minded people go away thinking 'the Judge was biased'
(Lord Denning, Master of the Rolls - Metropolitan Properties Ltd. v. Lannon, 1969)

If the present lot of judges in the Supreme Court show themselves worthy of our respect, then they shall, of course, be entitled to it. The ball is in their court, until then we – the citizens - must reserve our judgment on them.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Some Crimes Do Pay Well in Pakistan

A 37-year old Pakistani Banker based in New York named Hafiz Mohammad Zubair Naseem has hit international headlines by being charged for running an insider trading scheme linked to acquisitions involving nine publicly traded United States companies that netted millions of dollars.

This junior investment banker, who worked in Credit Suisse’s energy banking group in Manhattan, is accused of calling an unidentified banker in Pakistan and tipping him about deals shortly before they were publicly announced.

The unidentified banker in Pakistan has turned out to be the former head of Faysal Bank (Investment Banking Group), Ejaz Rahim, who yesterday, while denying any wrong doing, admitted to the Business Recorder that he made $5 million in a single trade.

According to the Business Recorder Naseem and Rahim have a decade old relationship, which began when Rahim, then employed with American Express Banking Corporation in Lahore, hired Naseem as a subordinate sometime in 1996-97.

US press reports that Naseem went to the New York in 2002 to attend business school at New York University. Subsequently after a stint at J.P. Morgan, in March 2006 he joined Credit Suisse’s energy banking group in Manhattan.

In a series of news articles the New York Times reported:

The complaint says that between April 2006 and February 2007 Mr. Naseem tipped off a co-conspirator about acquisitions involving Northwestern Corporation, Energy Partners, Veritas DGC, Jacuzzi Brands, Trammell Crow, Hydril Company, Caremark Rx, John H. Harland Company, and TXU Corporation.

“Because many of the subject transactions were staffed by members of the Global Energy Group, Naseem had access to information about these transactions by virtue of his membership in the Global Energy Group,” the complaint said.

It said Mr. Naseem’s desk was also near a printer used for some of the non-energy deals that he is accused of giving tip-offs about.

Mr. Naseem “regularly and repeatedly” called the Pakistani banker at his home and on his cellphone in advance of a potential deal, federal prosecutors and regulators contend. Shortly after receiving such a call, the banker would buy securities based on the news.

Then, once a public announcement was made, he would quickly sell. He executed dozens of trades, often in an offshore account.

Mr. Naseem authorized the Pakistani banker, who is identified in the criminal complaint as “co-conspirator 1” to operate a brokerage account on his behalf, according to the deposition of the Federal Bureau of Investigation agent in charge of the case.

After confirming in an e-mail message that the banker “can do whatever he wants,” the agent said that Mr. Naseem concluded one message with the comment: “Let the fun begin.”


Today’s Dawn informs us that Hafiz Naseem was earlier found to have been involved in illegal banking practices in American Express in Pakistan (where he had been hired by Ejaz Rahim).

The rumour mills among local banking circles allege that over the past number of years there had been a lot of ‘front running’ activity at the bank that Ejaz Rahim was subsequently employed at in Karachi and huge amounts of money are claimed to have been made by a group of senior bankers.

If these allegations are true, some might say: So what? Isn’t such white collar crime par for the course in Pakistan?

Insider trading in the share market, while a crime according to law, is the means of making big bucks in Pakistan To my knowledge no stock broker in the mighty USA has made a billion dollars simply by trading in shares – the same however doesn’t apply in Pakistan (which has a minuscule market when compared with Wall Street).

But with the powerful US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) now involved in the Naseem's case, the local laws pertaining to insider trading might finally be dragged from out of cold storage for a brief period just to please our Americans overlords.

So it’s no wonder, as Dawn reports, that “certain top bankers in Pakistan are now filled with fear about finding their names in sudden limelight”.

Don’t worry gentlemen, if by chance your names do appear, it will only be a short period of public disgrace. All you will get is a legal slap on the wrist and better still, you will be able to keep your ill-gotten loot. As most of our society worships money, you will all soon be forgiven and your lives will rapidly return to normal once again. (Gordon Gekko would have seriously envied you all).

Remember white-collar crime always pays in Pakistan!

The Glasshouse: The Rich and Infamous?

A former US Diplomat Attacks Musharraf

A former US a former U.S. diplomat and staff reporter at TIME vents his spleen at Pakistan’s "president general" on San Francisco Chronicle’s web page.

Pro-democracy rumblings in Pakistan: Should Musharraf - and Bush - be worried?

Pervez Musharraf, the Pakistani army general who stole his country's government in a 1999 coup, and has ruled dictatorially since then as its "president general," has been no friend of democracy.

Still, that hasn't stopped "democracy"-exporting Team Bush from showering Musharraf's regime with billions of U.S. taxpayer dollars for its unspecified role in the so-called war on terror. (To date, no one in Washington has indicated just what Americans may have gotten for their investment.)

Suspended Pakistani High Court Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry greeted lawyers who support him as he set off from Islamabad for Lahore this past weekend

Now, Musharraf is wrestling with the kind of annoying problem that tends to emerge whenever abusers of democratic institutions and the rule of law act on their drunk-with-power whims. Several weeks ago, the "president general" fired Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, the chief justice of Pakistan's High Court. His reason for the sacking: As the BBC reports, "It has been alleged that...Chaudhry illegally used his position in an attempt to procure a top police job for his son." Still, Chaudhry, "who became chief justice in 2005, has earned a reputation for challenging human-rights abuses and government wrongdoing," and is considered a popular public official.

In fact, this past weekend, when Chaudhry traveled by motorcade from Islamabad to Lahore, it took him more than 24 hours to make the 186-mile journey. That's because the judge, who had "decided to travel by road[,] ignoring the government's warning of possible suicide attacks against him," was routinely "slowed down by supporters who threw rose petals, beat drums and set off fire crackers" to honor hizzoner. Tens of thousands of supporters had waited overnight at different points along Chaudhry's route leading into Lahore, the capital of Punjab province, in order to greet him.

Arriving at the High Court in Lahore, the ousted chief justice was "greeted by a crowd [of] thousands of lawyers and political activists, as well as High Court judges and 18 retired senior judges.... It was a massive show of support even though police arrested political workers, blocked roads and in some cases fired tear gas." (BBC)

The fact that the welcome rally for Chaudhry took place in Lahore is significant, not only because the city is the center of Pakistan's legal system, but also because it is the home base for the Pakistan Muslim League, Musharraf's political party. As listeners chanted, "Go, Musharraf, go!", Chaudhry told the crowd that had waited to greet him that the "era of dictatorship is over." He said: "Autocratic system[s] of government and grabbing of power by a single person [are] now ended....Nations that do not learn from history and repeat the[se] mistakes, they have to face [the] consequences....It is the responsibility of the courts to defend [the] human rights of the people and protect the constitution." PTI also reported that, 16 [currently] serving High Court justices attended the Chaudhury welcome rally, "despite fears of [a] government backlash," a fact that could be "[s]een as a sign of his growing public stature."

An editorial in Pakistan's Daily Times observes that Chaudhury had "refused to go quietly when he was fired arbitrarily by a man in uniform" and that, as a result, "the public sees him as salvaging the honor of the country's judiciary after years of submission by his predecessor judges." The paper adds: "[T]he moment [Chaudhury] decided to take a stand, he won the sympathy and support of Pakistanis across the nation, if only to show that Pakistan could not be ruled whimsically and arbitrarily for so long without the people indicating they wanted a change of...government."

Giving a hint of what the future might have in store, the Daily Times also notes that, more than other cities in Pakistan, Lahore is regarded as "the city of political decisions" and "a good barometer of where the government stands at [any] given point." As such, "[t]here can be agitations all over Pakistan, but if Lahore remains unmoved, the ruler can go on ruling despite his foibles. But when Lahore wakes up, then it is time to listen to what it is saying."

Is Musharraf listening? What about his financial backers in Washington?

The Author:
Edward M. Gomez, a former U.S. diplomat and staff reporter at TIME, has lived and worked in the U.S. and overseas, and speaks several languages. He has written for The New York Times, the Japan Times and the International Herald Tribune.

Time magazine on Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry

Suspended Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry speaks during a function at Lahore High Court in Lahore, Pakistan, May 6, 2007. (Time Magazine)

This week's Time Magazine had this to say on Pakistan's judicial crisis:
How Pakistan's Sacked Judge Became a National Hero

During most of Pakistan's recent political history, the country's judiciary has always sided with its military, justifying its frequent coups against the country's malfunctioning elected governments and endorsing the generals' mandate to rule. So, when Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry was suspended and accused of misconduct by Pakistan's president, Pervez Musharraf, it was widely expected that the spat would soon blow over.

Instead, however, the firing of Chaudry has turned into a political crisis for Musharraf, as massive crowds continue to demonstrate their support for the 59-year-old lawyer from Quetta. His journey last weekend from Islamabad to Lahore on the historic Grand Trunk Road, usually a four-hour drive, turned into 24-hour odyssey as tens of thousands of people clogged the 200-mile stretch of road to catch a glimpse of the man who has become the country's most popular figure. The mood of the crowds was virulently anti-government, as protesters demanded that Musharraf step down and shouted anti-army slogans — outbursts that in Lahore's state of Punjab, considered the heartland of Pakistan's armed forces, must have come as a shock to its generals. In response, according to eyewitnesses and privately-owned TV channels, the government jammed the transmission of private TV channels covering the event, cut off power supply to whole neighborhoods, shut down small hotels and restaurants along the route to dissuade protesters from sticking around, and dragged empty shipping containers into the road to block Chaudhry's way. In Islamabad, Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz reminded one reporter that the government had the constitutional right to declare a state of emergency in such situations, prompting an editorial in the respected English-language daily Dawn to scold that the government "would be well advised not to opt for an emergency declaration. It if does, the regime itself would be the loser, because it is unlikely that a declaration of emergency will be able to contain the current wave of demonstrations."

The protests, led primarily by lawyers and judges supporting Chaudhry, are being taken as a sign that Pakistan's judiciary is losing patience with the Musharraf government's interference in the legal system, and that this is combining with popular anger over rising prices of basic commodities, corruption in the government and military actions in Balochistan and the tribal areas.

On Monday, Pakistan's Supreme Court prevented the Supreme Judicial Council from hearing the government case against Chaudhry, meaning that his case will instead be heard by the full Supreme Court bench, where Chaudhry enjoys the support of the majority of judges and is more likely to prevail. The ruling prompted lawyers in offices across Pakistan to burst into cheers. "We used to have a toothlees and boneless judiciary," says Aslam Butt, 50, a Supreme Court lawyer. "Not any more."

For Musharraf, the coming months are critical. His terms as both President and chief of the Army expire later this year, which is also when the next general elections are due. The general depended on the judiciary's support when he came to power in 1999, but with the courts against him, he will face a struggle to remain in power. That's because despite having seized power in a military coup, he has relied on the legal and constitutional system to legitimate his authority, rather than simply ruling by decree. As Ismat Mehid, a lawyer in Karachi, put it: "The judiciary has always been the B team of the army. Now it doesn't want to be the B team. It wants to become the A team of the people."

BBC: Musharraf’s future looking “increasingly untenable”.

Old Auntie Beeb, in the shape of Barbara Plett in Islamabad, now reckons that the future of Musharraf’s dictatorship is looking “increasingly untenable”.
President Musharraf's limited options
By Barbara Plett, BBC news, Islamabad

The triumphal road show taken by Pakistan's chief justice at the weekend has been hailed by local commentators as an "epic journey" with "few parallels in the country's history".

Tens of thousands of lawyers, political activists, and members of the public turned out to cheer on Iftikhar Chaudhry as he drove from Islamabad to Lahore.
Mr Chaudhry is whipping up support against his suspension by President Pervez Musharraf, who is also head of the army.

The general temporarily removed the top judge from office to face charges of misconduct two months ago.

The chief justice called this a blatant attack on the independence of the judiciary.
This is the third time Mr Chaudhry has taken his campaign on the road. He was well received in the provinces of Sindh and North West Frontier.

Emerging consensus

But both those trips were dwarfed by the massive turnout in Lahore, the capital of Punjab province, which is the legal and political heartland of Pakistan.

Thus it appears the judicial crisis has the potential to turn into a nationwide challenge to the government, especially because protests in Mr Chaudhry's favour have long since turned into a broader campaign against military rule.

For the past two months no other topic has gripped the country's pundits, political players, scribes and chattering classes like this one.

Broadly speaking, the emerging consensus is that the president has four options.

• To ride out the crisis in the hope that the protests run out of steam. The experience of Lahore suggests that is not working.

• He could simply accept that he had been wrongly advised, reinstate the chief justice, and look for a scapegoat. But many say it is too late for that now.

• He could declare a state of emergency and impose martial law. That might lead to violence on the streets, and to international condemnation, including from his strategic ally the United States.

• He could reach out to the Pakistan People's Party (PPP) of Benazir Bhutto, generally seen as the most popular political force in the country. According to the rumoured outlines of such a deal, corruption charges against Ms Bhutto would be dropped and she would be allowed to return from exile, if the PPP supported General Musharraf's presidency. However, the PPP says it will not accept the president if he stays on as army chief.

President Musharraf has warned lawyers not to exploit a "purely constitutional and judicial matter" for political gain. He says he has nothing personal against Mr Chaudhry and will accept whatever verdict the courts deliver in the case.

But the longer the protests go on, the more questions there are about the general's future and how the crisis will affect his plans.

President Musharraf wants to be re-elected this autumn by the outgoing parliament before it is dissolved for national polls. And it is believed he wants to keep his post as army chief.
Both steps could be contested. The view of many analysts is that President Musharraf moved against Justice Chaudhry because he wanted a more pliable man in place to face any constitutional challenges to his plans.

It is not clear what will happen, but it is clear the status quo is shaky: extending nearly eight years of military rule is looking increasingly untenable.

Monday, May 07, 2007

Stratfor: Musharraf will end up losing power

Strategic Forecasting Inc., more commonly known as Stratfor, a private intelligence agency (dubbed by Barron’s magazine as "The Shadow CIA") maintains that Musharraf is
running out of options and ‘ultimately will end up losing power’:

Musharraf's Political Dilemma
May 08, 2007 02 00 GMT
…The government is watching how the protests have increased from the thousands to the tens of thousands since the crisis began a little under two months ago, and more important, the fact that the protests have not fizzled out.

But Musharraf also is being advised to cautiously handle the crisis or risk exacerbating the situation. One of the signs that the battle over the judiciary has gone badly for the government is that Punjab province and its provincial capital, Lahore, have now moved to express solidarity with Chaudhry.

Historically this province has been the support base of authoritarian governments and has proven to be decisive in turning against unpopular governments. Already there is resentment against Musharraf in Sindh and Balochistan provinces, as well as the North-West Frontier Province, although for different reasons.

Therefore, strong-arm tactics are not an option in resolving the matter. This is why Musharraf and his allies are maintaining that they will abide by whatever decision the judiciary makes, even if it amounts to Chaudhry's reinstatement. But undoing the decision to sack the top judge will not end the crisis -- it will only exacerbate it because an emboldened civil society and judiciary will not allow Musharraf to seek a controversial second term from the same electoral college, especially while he is president and military chief.

Consequently, Musharraf has at his disposal few options, none of them good. He can follow the advice of those advocating a hard-line approach and end up like former Pakistani military dictator Field Marshall Ayub Khan, who was driven out of office amid protests in 1969; or he can cut a deal with the main opposition group, the Pakistan People's Party of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, and share power. Musharaf has been, to a great degree, an unorthodox military leader and is known to opt for pragmatism in the face of a difficult situation, and he is likely to go for the latter option. But doing so will just delay the pace at which he will lose power, since stepping down from the military in the current circumstances could erode his position to the point that he might not complete the second five-year term he is seeking.

Some would argue that because he fears losing power, Musharraf might not cut a deal and tough it out. This cannot be completely ruled out. But regardless of which option he chooses, Musharraf ultimately will end up losing power. He can only choose between a fast and complete loss of power, or sharing it -- a move that could lead to a decent exit.

Judges and the Caesar's wife

There is a widely accepted principle of natural justice that there should be no hint of bias or prejudice in the administration and application of law.

British law (much of which was inherited by Pakistan) has over the centuries evolved several principles of natural justice, three of the best known being:

"Justice should not only be done but manifestly and undoubtedly be seen to be done"
(Lord Hewart, C.J - R. v. Sussex Justices, 1924)

"Judges, like Caesar's wife must be above suspicion"
(Lord Bowen, J - Leeson v. General Council of Medical Education & Registration, 1889)

Justice must be rooted in confidence and confidence is destroyed when right-minded people go away thinking 'the Judge was biased'
(Lord Denning, Master of the Rolls - Metropolitan Properties Ltd. v. Lannon, 1969)

Having laid out these legal principles I will now come to the issue currently causing a stir in Pakistan. Tonight’s TV news and some talk shows were focusing on the following report published in the News last Saturday:

A lunch that raised eyebrows
By Ansar Abbasi

ISLAMABAD: Two serving judges of the Supreme Court of Pakistan had lunch with the government’s top legal adviser and the attorney-general at the Islamabad Club on Thursday.

It might have gone unnoticed during ordinary days, but in the middle of a lingering judicial crisis, such a gathering of the government’s top legal minds and the apex court judges raised many eyebrows in the dining hall of the club.

Senior Adviser to the Prime Minister, Syed Sharifuddin Pirzada, and Attorney-General Makhdoom Ali Khan were seen having lunch with Justice Muhammad Nawaz Abbasi and Justice Faqir Muhammad Khokhar of the Supreme Court. Both of these judges have served as federal law secretary under Gen Musharraf in the post-Oct 12, 1999 scenario.

Though Justice Abbasi and Justice Khokhar are the Supreme Court judges, none of them is, at present, either member of the Supreme Judicial Council (SJC) that is hearing the reference against Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry or part of the five-member SC bench which is seized with the CJ’s constitutional petition against the presidential reference.

A source, who was also sitting in the main dinning hall of the Islamabad Club when the SC judges and the government’s top legal advisers were having meal, said that prominent faces present in the surrounding also included Tehrik-e-Insaaf chief Imran Khan and former interior secretary Tasneem Noorani. They were sitting at different tables in their respective companies. The source said that he noticed the four in the dinning hall at 2.15pm and when he left at almost 3pm after finishing his lunch they were still sitting there.

Pirzada’s staff said that on Thursday the attorney-general came to Pirzada’s office to take him for lunch. Makhdoom Ali Khan was formally consulted by the government before filing the reference against the chief justice on March 9. However, Pirzada’s advice was not formally sought.

Pirzada had initially refused to represent the government against the chief justice before the SJC. However, he later decided to defend the president in the CJ’s constitutional petition, challenging the reference and the composition and constitution of the SJC as well.

Meanwhile, in an interesting slip-up on April 18, 2007 at exactly 3.14pm this correspondent received on his mobile phone a call from the office of a senior authority sitting in the Presidency. The operator was under the impression that he had dialled the number of a sitting judge of the Supreme Court. He insisted that the mobile phone should be handed over to the Justice Mr … so that he could put him through the authority. When told that the recipient of the call is not a judge but a journalist, he immediately said sorry and disconnected the phone.

Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry’s legal counsel, Barrister Aitzaz Ahsan, has now publicly demanded that Justice Muhammad Nawaz Abbasi and Justice Faqir Muhammad Khokhar should not make themselves available to sit on the full bench of the Supreme Court now scheduled to hear his client’s appeal.

Do you think it is fair request?

I certainly do.

According to widely accepted judicial practice these two judges should not have met Syed Sharifuddin Pirzada and Attorney-General Makhdoom Ali Khan, considering that these two are the leading players on the government’s side in the Chief Justice reference case.