Thursday, August 30, 2007

Another View on Current Events

Politically everything remains in a state of complete flux. No one - and that includes the players, Musharraf, Benazir Bhutto and the Sharif brothers - has any clear idea on what is going to happen next, let alone what the future holds.

Your Blogger can only give his own perceptions on the events - and, of course, all of you are entitled to disagree with him.

Benazir Bhutto
By loudly revealing to the international press that 'Musharraf had agreed to remove his uniform', she was trying to prove to her detractors that her policy of negotiating with a military dictator was bearing fruit, as well as, using the opportunity to apply further pressure on Musharraf.

In your Blogger's opinion the Charter of Democracy was a splendid foundation on which the future establishment of democracy could have been laid. It tacitly admitted the failings of the past civilian governments, and endeavoured to chart a new course of based on mutual tolerance and acceptance of democratic principles.

Arguably there could have been no more powerful symbol of change than Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif returning to Pakistan on the same plane.

Unfortunately (and in your Blogger's view, unforgivably) this was all scuppered by Benazir Bhutto acts of naked self-interest.

Nawaz Sharif
The public mood is not pro anyone. It is instead profoundly anti-Musharraf and against the military's persistent interference in politics. By refusing to compromise with Musharraf, Nawaz Sharif is now winning the public's accolades.

With desertions and dissension within PML(Q)the game is largely over. It is also unlikely - unless major last minute concessions are made - a deal with Benazir Bhutto is ever going to materialise. Besides, there is the ever-present shadow of the Supreme Court to wreak further havoc on the general's unrealistic dreams and unlawful ambitions.

Anyway enough from me. That old liberal warhorse, Tariq Ali, is in Lahore these days and here is his take on the events.

The Guardian: Sinking together

Tariq Ali, August 30, 2007

President Musharraf is isolated and unpopular, but the notion that Bhutto can deal with the Taliban more effectively is risible.

For a politician whose sycophantic colleagues boast that she is closer to the pulse of the people than any of her rivals, Benazir Bhutto's decision to do a deal with Pakistan's uniformed president indicates the exact opposite. She is sadly out of touch. General Musharraf is now deeply unpopular here. It is not often that one can actually observe power draining away from a political leader. And the lifeline being thrown to him in the shape of an over-blown Benazir might sink together with him.

An indication that she was not completely unaware of this came a few days ago when she declared that her decision was "approved" by the "international community" always a code-word for Washington) and the Pakistan army (well, yes). In short, Pakistani public opinion was irrelevant.

The mood among sections of the street - I am currently in Lahore - is summed up in a cruel taunt: "People's Party de ballay, ballay / ade kanjar, ade dallay" (Marvel at the People Party / half-whore and half-pimp). This is slightly unfair and could apply to all the Muslim Leagues as well. The fact is that people are disgusted with politics and see politicians as crooks out to make money and feed the greed of the networks they patronise and which double up as useful vote banks.

But it should be acknowledged that Benazir Bhutto's approach is not the result of a sudden illumination. There is a twisted continuity here. When the general seized power in 1999 and toppled the Sharif brothers (then Benazir's detested rivals), she welcomed the coup and nurtured hopes of a ministerial post. When no invitations were forthcoming, she would turn up at the desk of a junior in the South Asian section of the State Department, pleading for a job. Instead the military charged her and her husband with graft and corruption. The evidence was overwhelming. She decided to stay in exile.

In March this year, Musharraf's decision to sack Iftikhar Hussein Chaudhry, the turbulent chief justice of the Supreme Court, backfired unexpectedly and sensationally. Tens of thousands of lawyers protested and took to the streets, demanding his immediate reinstatement. Political and social activists of almost every political hue joined them and a country usually depicted abroad as a den of bearded extremists on the verge of seizing power was suddenly witnessing an amazing constitutional struggle that had nothing to do with religion. Even the cynics were moved to see lawyers insisting on a rigid separation of powers.

The use of force by Musharraf's supporters in Karachi who opened fire and killed peaceful demonstrators created a further backlash against the regime. The Supreme Court voted unanimously to re-instate their chief. The general was becoming increasingly isolated.

The politicians who surrounded him pleaded for a state of emergency or even a new declaration of martial law, but according to many sources here in Pakistan the joint chiefs said that the military was too over-committed on the western frontier to police the rest of the country, which was a nice way of saying "No". With this route blocked, Washington now insisted on a deal with Ms Bhutto. The inner preoccupation to which she was a prey (power at any cost and the withdrawal of corruption charges) prevented her, I think, from having complete control of herself.

The Bush administration, which has brokered this deal, is basically ignorant of Pakistani politics. To isolate the Sharif brothers instead of including them in the "secular package" will drive them in the other direction. Nawaz Sharif is posing as a man of principle, forgetting how under his watch Muslim League thugs raided the Supreme Court and journalists were harassed and locked up. Memories are always short here and the fact the Sharif refused to negotiate with Musharraf has made him more popular in the country.

The notion that Bhutto can succeed in dealing with the Taliban more effectively than the general is risible, as Kamran Nazeer has already pointed out on Cif. Every time innocents are killed in bombing raids in Afghanistan or Pakistan increases support for the Taliban increases. Militants now control or dominate Tank, parts of Swat, North and South Waziristan, Dir, and Kohat inside Pakistan. The solution is political, not military. Killing more people will not help and there have been cases of soldiers refusing to fire on fellow-Muslims and junior officers taking early retirement after a tour of the duty on the Pak-Afghan border.

Pakistan being Pakistan, many observers are convinced that even if the deal is consummated it will be of short duration.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Analysing Benazir’s Motives

Yesterday the Daily Times reported that Benazir Bhutto was persisting with her policy of keeping the PPP in the dark about her dealings with Musharraf.

Ignoring her party faithful, she apparently now relies on Rehman Malik - the policeman turned multimillionaire, currently absconding from the law in Pakistan – who, according to The News, has taken over the role as Benazir's top “adviser and broker” …on important matters ranging from politics to business…[because of his] "pragmatic and practical" approach.
In an attempt to comprehend her behaviour let me begin with reiterating some facts that seem to have fallen by the wayside.

In July 2003 a Swiss court 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. The Court 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.

Having appealed this decision Pakistan’s ‘illustrious’ political couple were then confronted, in 2005, with a enhanced charge of Aggravated Money Laundering as subsequent legal investigations had revealed that the money in question now involved a sum of 12 million dollars. Conviction under this charge meant a maximum sentence of five years in jail as well as a fine of about one million Swiss francs.

In September 2005 Benazir Bhutto appeared before a judge in Geneva’s Palais de Justice and underwent intensive questioning - during an eight hour period of hearing - about various deposits of millions of dollars, as well as that well-known necklace worth of £120,000 which was found in a Swiss deposit box.

Interestingly, after it had been legally established that the necklace had been purchased for Benazir by a company controlled by Asif Zardari, Benazir told the court that she refused to accept the gift of the necklace. Reportedly when she was asked why she had refused to accept the gift, Benazir said her mother had told her that the gift was “inappropriate”. She also said that it was her personal affair to accept or reject any gift. (Your Blogger’s comment: If such was the case, then why was the necklace not returned, instead of being kept concealed in a deposit box for all these years?)

Throughout the hearing Benazir Bhutto proclaimed her innocence - partly by pleading ignorance and partly by implicating other parties (notably her husband). However, there is nothing to suggest that the Court accepted her protestations.


For further details on the Swiss case see the following Glasshouse blogs:
A Damoclean Sword that continues to swing
The Timebomb Begins to Tick Louder
Benazir and the Swiss Chamber of Secrets


Not surprisingly, after the last court hearing Benazir Bhutto was scared out of her wits. A likely conviction by an impartial foreign judiciary would not only have finished her political career for good but it might also have involved a period of imprisonment for her.

Therefore it came as no surprise to your Blogger to learn that in early 2006 the PPP leader was prepared to publicly accept a President Musharraf-in-uniform providing the Swiss case was done away with it. But like all bullies, Musharraf preferred to control her rather than enter into any deal with her.

So, the military regime, rather than bringing the Swiss case to a logical conclusion, preferred instead to keep dangling it threateningly before Benazir Bhutto, to browbeat her with the hope of making her capitulate under pressure.

In view of these facts her foremost concern these days would be to get rid of all the corruption cases against her.

Her second probable concern, notoriously money-minded as she is alleged to be, would relate to all the millions of dollars that have been legally frozen in Switzerland, Spain and elsewhere. She would, of course, want these monies restored to her control.

While negotiating over these personal issues it is hardly likely that she wanted any of her party men around. Besides, unfortunately, her eleven years of self-exile has not resulted in a liberal metamorphosis, she remains as authoritarian as ever, particularly towards her party underlings.

Now your Blogger comes to her other concerns.

Try and imagine a future scenario where with the blessing of the establishment the PPP wins the next election (please note that Musharraf has already offered to ‘adjust’ the election in PPP’s favour). With the existing law preventing Benazir from becoming a third-time prime minister, the office would have to go to one of her party members. She would regard such a situation as a definite threat to her three decade long grip on the party.

Therefore, her third concern would be to have the law, barring two-term prime ministers from attaining the office again, cancelled.

Only once she has achieved these three goals, do the other demands come into play. These being the removal of Musharraf’s uniform, free and fair elections, date of her return to Pakistan, et al.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

When Musharraf’s Luck Ran Out

While a crumbling Musharraf is now prepared to even concede his uniform just to get re-elected, it might be all too late.

One should always try to negotiate from a position from strength, but then the General’s heightened sense of self-esteem and arrogance prevented him from doing so. And so it happens that it was only when he was finally driven into a corner that he felt the need to commence negotiations - but by then he had little choice other than to negotiate from a weakened position.

On the other hand, Benazir Bhutto, adrift in some cloud cuckoo land of pre-1996 vintage, has failed to recognise the radically altered political environment in the Pakistan of 2007. Thanks to the lively new media she has been exposed as a self-interested politician keen to be absolved from the potentially crippling Swiss Money Laundering Case, be allowed to keep her ill-gotten millions, as well as, be provided with a third go at the prime-ministership. In return for all this, she has been more than willing to betray the commitments she made under the ‘Charter of Democracy’ and dance a political tango with a military dictator.

However, in doing so she has provided Nawaz Sharif with a chance of a lifetime. If Nawaz Sharif returns to Pakistan, like he seems determined to, he can lead a nationwide anti-Musharraf movement (even if he is sent to jail) and win popular acclaim for himself.

One often wondered when a modicum of reality would descend on the lady’s cerebrum. Recent reports suggest that the moment might have arrived. Today’s Dawn reports

PPP insiders said that Ms Bhutto was gradually coming round to the thinking of most of her party’s senior members who believe that any power-sharing pact with the president at this juncture would greatly damage the party’s electoral chances.

The PPP sources said she seemed to have realised that by continuing her negotiations with Gen Musharraf, she was alienating most of the moderates in the country, most of whom have become hostile to the US after 9/11 and since the presidential move against the chief justice, do not want to see Gen Musharraf occupying the presidency any more.

“There is no way the two could help each other any more. Now by continuing to cling to each other they are only dragging themselves further down the drain,” said a PPP stalwart who was opposed to the deal from the very beginning.

He blamed the Americans for, what he said, delivering Ms Bhutto to Gen Musharraf and breaking up the ARD, which was ‘the most potent and winning political combination’. “The two (Ms Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif) would have received the widest national acclaim and support had they landed in Pakistan together and started implementing the Charter of Democracy, which is perhaps the best document ever produced by Pakistani politicians,” he remarked.

If she dumps Musharraf at this stage, then he will be left high and dry. In any case Musharraf’s chances of getting re-elected through the current assemblies are looking progressively uncertain. PML (Q) desertions are not only increasing by the day, but some of its leadership is getting more and more vocal against a uniformed re-election.

According to the Nation newspaper:

[M]any PML-Q leaders have viciously turned against the re-election in uniform only because they considered it unconstitutional. Senator S.M. Zafar and PML Senior Vice President Kabir Ali Wasti top the list.

When contacted, Wasti claimed that the decision has been taken that Musharraf would contest for the presidential slot sans uniform. “We will support him (Musharraf) only if he doffed off his uniform and tried to get reelected from fresh assemblies,” Wasti said, adding that if the case was not so, he and many other PML leaders would strongly resist the re-election.

Adding to this is yesterday’s widely publicised resignation of Ishaq Khakwani, the minister of state information technology and telecommunication. He is said to have resigned ‘to protest President Pervez Musharraf's plans to run for re-election while remaining head of the army’.

If Benazir Bhutto ditches Musharraf at this critical moment, the only honourable step open to Musharraf is for him to resign.

Such an event will, of course, not lead to a state of chaos. We already have a well-known precedent of a military dictator suddenly vanishing from the scene in a blazing C130. So was there chaos after Zia’s unexpected death? The answer is, of course, no.

Musharraf’s departure would mean the Chairman of Senate, Mian Muhammad Soomro, becoming the acting President. Soomro can then appoint a transparently neutral and above-board caretaker government which will be assigned the task of ensuring completely free and fair elections (i.e. without any interference from the ‘Agencies’).

If Musharraf refuses to resign – which will be the probable case anyway – some commentators believe this could lead to an impasse in the presidential elections, which would then ‘leave the army with no option but to impose martial law minus Gen Musharraf’.


In event of such national chaos, it is more likely that the army will ‘request’ its Chief - who is already way past his superannuation age - to retire ‘with grace and dignity’ (in other words, give him the boot).

On the other hand, with the majority of the public solidly opposed to very idea of martial law, if by some stupid misfortune it does come about, it will have to be very brief in nature as the army will be unable to confront the public in the streets of Lahore or Rawalpindi.

As I began this blog by blaming Musharraf’s ‘heightened sense of self-esteem and arrogance’ for his impending downfall, it is now well worth reflecting as to when his downward spiral actually commenced.


Amidst all this re-election ballyhoo a noteworthy date which almost slipped past everyone’s attention was that last Sunday was the first anniversary of Nawab Akbar Bugti’s death.

To mark the event virtually all of Balochistan came to a standstill for two whole days (with the exception of the Pushtun-populated northern areas where the provincial-wide strike was only partly carried out).

Intriguingly, this two day strike was carried out at the request of one Brahamdagh Bugti, who is not only the murdered Nawab’s grandson but also officially one of the two most wanted rebels in Balochistan (the other being Balach Marri, the son of Nawab Khair Buksh Marri). And, almost to a man, all the Baloch heeded Brahamdagh Bugti’s appeal.

This makes a mockery of Musharraf’s claims of having crushed the Baloch insurgency by killing the Bugti chieftain. The other night Hasil Bizenjo was on Geo TV admitting to all that in death Akbar Bugti had achieved the status of becoming the greatest Baloch hero and his fame had easily eclipsed Mir Chakar Rind and all other historical Baloch figures of note. (This admission carries all the more weight as Bizenjo is perceived by many in Balochistan to be an ‘Agency’ man).

The memory of Bugti now appears to fuel the flame of a widespread insurgency in Balochistan and, I am told, that a palpable hatred for a ‘murdering’ Musharraf is not an uncommon sentiment found among the Baloch people - particularly among the younger lot.

The irony is that ISI is said to have repeatedly warned Musharraf that the problems of Balochistan were political and would only be exacerbated by military action. Deluded by the arrogance of power, Musharraf instead listened to the hawks in the Military Intelligence - and some suggest, also the views of the chairman of Pakistan Petroleum Limited (PPL), the company that owns the Sui gas facility.

In the last few days of August 2006 it is believed that Musharraf secluded himself in the hill station of Murri, where he received regular reports from his troops who had by then successfully encircled Bugti’s hideout. It is from there that he is supposed to have issued instructions for the elimination of Akbar Bugti.

Unfortunately for him, after this brutal act of supreme arrogance the fortunes of Musharraf began taking a downward spiral. This is how Adil Najam, writing in The News, perceives it:

If one looks back and seeks the one turning point of political inflection in General Pervez Musharraf's rule; that point will be the killing of Nawab Akbar Bugti on August 26, 2006. From that moment on it was clear that Gen Musharraf was on his way out. It was not clear --- and still is not -- exactly when or exactly how he would go. But suddenly there was the sense that his departure was not only likely, but imminent. Something dramatic happened that day. It was not just Nawab Akbar Bugti who died but also the silent consensus that had propped up Gen. Musharraf's military rule in Pakistan the previous five years. From then on Gen. Musharraf has been on a downwards trajectory and it is clear that his personal survival can come only at increasing costs to him and to the country.

Up to that point there was a sense that even if there was not a majority that actually supported his rule, there was in fact a plurality of Pakistanis who were willing to tolerate it. Or, at the least, were not actively opposed to it. This is what really changed on August 26, 2006. The killing of Nawab Akbar Bugti -- or, more precisely, the manner in which he was killed and the government's reaction to it -- forced many people who were willing to sit on the sidelines to actually choose sides. Invariably, they choose to distance themselves from the general. There was a clear sense that a line had been crossed. It was obviously not the first time that line had been crossed, but it was one crossing too many. Like the proverbial last straw on the camel's back, this was the one decision that decided the issues for the then undecideds.

Much like those who would later march for the reinstatement of the Chief Justice were moved to do so not because they 'liked' the Chief Justice but because they vehemently disliked the way he was treated by Gen. Musharraf. Similarly, many of those who were repulsed by the killing of Nawab Akbar Bugti were moved not because they approved of Bugti's agenda or tactics, they were revolted by the arrogance of power that was evident in the manner of his removal. It is this recognition of the arrogance of power, the obvious desire to retain that power at all costs and for purely personal satisfaction that has turned the tide against Gen. Musharraf. And the tide was turned on August 26, 2006.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Delving in the Recent Past

With Musharraf’s emissaries in London, engaged in last ditch efforts to win over Benazir Bhutto, everything remains in a state of flux.

There are also some reports in the press suggesting that the team - ISI chief Lt. Gen. Ashfaq Pervaiz Kiyani, the chief of staff to Musharraf, Lt. Gen. Hamid Javaid, and the ubiquitous Tariq Aziz - might try and meet the Sharif brothers as well.

In absence of anything new to report, I hope readers won't mind if your Blogger instead reprints two of his earlier blogs. These were written in earlier days when The Glasshouse, being new, had much fewer readers - most you of will therefore be reading these pieces for the very first time.

CNN - Predicting Pakistan's Future
(Previously posted on Saturday, May 28, 2005)

Dateline: 27 May 2105

Transcript of CNN’s interview at Army House, Rawalpindi

CNN: General, will you be standing for re-election and more importantly, will you be keeping the uniform?

Musharraf: No and Yes and, of course, Yes and No.

CNN: Sorry. Sir, could you kindly clarify that.

Musharraf: (Chuckling) You people never really understand what I’m trying to say. As I have always said we have to place the interest of Pakistan first and foremost.

CNN: Yes? (Interviewer nodding her head and looking quizzical at the same time)

Musharraf: As a straight shooter I don’t dilly dally, you see. So really, whatever is in the interest of the nation is the only path to follow.

CNN: So you will be standing again?

Musharraf: Yes and No.

CNN: And in uniform?

Musharraf: No and Yes.

CNN: Sir, do you realise that at the age of one hundred and sixty-three you are the most ancient Army Chief in world history.

Musharraf: So what? Pakistan needs me, my uniform fits me and I am positive that we will catch that rascal Osama by the end of the year.


Those Damned Chowkidars
(Previously posted on Sunday, January 29, 2006)

Here is a modern parable

Years ago the head of a family died leaving two separate groups of family members. Neither side was rich, but the older family clan had much larger numbers and more resources. The less powerful and anxious younger clan decided to breakaway and divide the joint family holding as they feared they would be overwhelmed by their more numerous cousins.

After having broken away the junior clan continued to feel intimidated. Convinced that their more powerful cousins would not tolerate the property division, they employed a bunch of Chowkidars to protect their property and counter any potential aggression from their neighbouring cousins and their employees.

As year went by there was a great deal of acrimony between the two clans, which led to several serious scuffles involving employees on both sides of the divided fence. The Chowkidars of the younger clan kept warning their employers that things were going to only get worse as the rival clan was not only more powerful, but, according to these employees, held very hostile intentions. The younger clan got decidedly nervous and not only employed more Chowkidars and enhanced their status and remuneration, but also began involving them in their family council meetings.

As years went by the Chowkidars grew more powerful within these family council meetings. Why? Well they managed to convince some of the family members (especially those that loathed the other clan), that the family would not survive without the Chowkidars, who were not only qualified to protect them, but were the only ones able to defend their community.

A few years later the Chowkidars decided to take over the council and dismissed the family altogether. Why? Well, according to these employees, the family had become too weak and feeble; thus unable to defend itself. To bolster the family’s defences the Chowkidars insisted that the larger part of the family income be handed over to them, as they were now not only shielding the family from aggression but were now obliged to run the family’s affairs as well.

After a number of years an odd thing came to pass – the Chowkidars had by now taken over the property and the family that had originally employed them, found themselves working to the bone to provide for their once-upon-a-time employees. Whenever the family members – by now completely powerless and impoverished - tried to raise their voices and attempted to remind the rich and powerful Chowkidars that the property they now controlled wasn’t really theirs, these unfortunate people would be smacked on the head, be accused of criminal ingratitude, and told that they didn’t really know what was good for them.

Does the story sound familiar?

It definitely ought to. After all it is our bloody Chowkidars that have taken over our property – Pakistan.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Hatching Plans Against the CJ

There was an interesting revelation by Shaiq Hussain in today’s Nation newspaper.

According to Hussain’s sources Musharraf was yesterday engaged in “hectic” and “‘behind-the-scenes” discussions at his Rawalpindi Camp Office with his political and legal advisers, who included:
Shaukat Aziz
Chaudhry Shujat Hussain,
Chaudhry Pervez Elahi
Muhammad Ali Durrani
Sharifuddin Pirzada
Justice (Retired) Malik Abdul Qayyum

According this report, the ‘main focus’ of the meeting was on how to limit the power and tenure of the Chief Justice.

The regime’s obsession with attempting to constrict the judicial freedom of the Chief Justice has already been doing the rounds. In a column in another newspaper The News, Nasim Zehra had this to say:
There was some talk of government considering some amendments to curtail the power of the judiciary. This cannot be more than mere speculation. Such a move would prompt a replay of the judicial crisis-like lawyers' and peoples movement. It would be unquestionably suicidal for the government.

Nasim Zehra is right. Such a move would lead to intense chaos in the streets of the country, which would then bring about a swift end to Musharraf and his regime. It appears that in Commando-led Pakistan desperate times lead to desperately dim-witted thoughts and deeds.

Apart from discussing the ways and means of limiting Chief Justice’s authority, other topics of discussion included:

New efforts to win the support of Benazir Bhutto in the face of growing political crisis created by Nawaz Sharif’s possible return.

Legal advice was also given to Musharraf (probably by Pirzada and Qayum) that the Sharif brothers could be arrested after their return as the verdict of Supreme Court only demanded that there be no obstacle preventing their return to the country.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Consequences of SC’s Nawaz Sharif Verdict

In your Blogger’s view there are a number of important political implications resulting from the latest Supreme Court verdict.

On Nawaz Sharif

After the SC’s ruling, the question on everyone’s lips is when is Nawaz Sharif going to return?

If he is a true champion of democracy, as he now holds himself out to be, it is imperative that he does not dillydally and returns to Pakistan at the earliest opportunity, even if it means risking jail. The fact that he had been convicted of some serious offences – such as hijacking and terrorism – and that the regime may attempt to reactivate the prison sentences, is a reality he has to confront.

By any display of dithering, he risks exposing himself to charges of cowardice. As one of his local party leaders told the press yesterday: “If he does not come now after such a conducive verdict, it will rock his credibility”.

Daily Times reported today that Nawaz Sharif and his plan to return to Pakistan by the end of November:
Nawaz held a meeting with his family members before the Supreme Court gave a ruling on his petition and it was decided that the Sharif family would first go to Saudi Arabia to perform Umrah and spend the last two weeks of Ramazan in Mecca. They would also call on the Saudi royal family to thank them for their hospitality.

But this decision, as the newspaper indicated, had been made prior to the Supreme Court judgement. Let us see what Nawaz Sharif decides to do now with the sudden change in his circumstances.

On Musharraf

Some people believe that the SC judgement has completely destabilized the government and it may soon fall.

Your Blogger does not buy this view. The answer lies, worryingly, deep in Musharraf’s psyche. As the latest Time magazine points out:
Musharraf has a history of getting out of a mess by taking out his weapons. As [a US official put it], "The question still becomes, At what point does his tendency as a commando to, you know, blow his way out of the situation, take over?"

If Musharraf becomes convinced that his ambition to be re-elected by the existing assemblies will be thwarted by Nawaz Sharif’s presence in Pakistan (in jail or out of jail), there remains a strong possibility he will attempt to declare martial law - as opposed to imposing a state of emergency.

Why not an emergency? Because in your Blogger’s opinion the constitutional conditions required for imposing an emergency do not exist and such a move will most likely, and quite correctly, be reversed by the Supreme Court.

By declaring martial law Musharraf can abrogate all existing laws at the point of a gun. Using the draconian powers of a Chief Martial Law Administrator he can then easily dismiss or lock up all the Supreme Court judges and prevent them from ruling against his unilateral decree.

However, a successful imposition of martial law will require two important fundamentals:

(i) That Musharraf’s subordinates - the corps commanders and services chiefs – support him without question.
(ii) That the public of Pakistan does not openly and violently resist the imposition of martial law in the streets (particularly in urban Punjab).

Your Blogger has little idea of what the mood of the corps commanders and other senior army officers will be to another bout of martial law. One point which has become increasingly obvious is that Musharraf’s politics have made the army extremely unpopular in its traditional heartland of central and upper Punjab. Such a situation has never occurred before and how this has impacted on the psyche of the senior officers - taking into account their traditional obedience to their chief - one has little way of knowing.

However, when it comes to the reaction of the public the answer is clearer. It is important to remember that all our four historical impositions of martial law found a large degree of support among the public.

1958 - Ayub Khan was welcomed as a CMLA in 1958 after a series of political crises.
1969 – Violent public protests led to Ayub Khan’s resignation and the arrival of Yahya Khan as CMLA
1977 -Nationwide rioting led to the dismissal of ZA Bhutto’s and the entry of Zia-ul-Haq as CMLA
1999 - Fed up with the repetitive political mismanagement of Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif, Musharraf was widely welcomed in as “Chief Executive”.

Today the public mood is extremely hostile to Musharraf and to a large extent the military as well. If martial law is re-imposed by Musharraf, your Blogger foresees our lawyers marching in the streets from the very day that martial law is declared. This time the public will be right behind the ‘black coats’in extremely large numbers. There will be tumult and upheaval and, as was the case in 1977, the army will find it difficult to shoot citizens in Lahore, Rawalpindi and other urban centres of Punjab. Logically this can only lead to the ouster of Musharraf. How this will be done, we have no way of telling as there are no precedents for this.

On Benazir Bhutto

If Nawaz Sharif returns rapidly to Pakistan, Benazir Bhutto is going suffer immense political damage. Her meeting and attempts to make a 6-point deal with Musharraf have already tarnished her badly, even in the eyes of her own supporters.

As Kamila Hyat recently reported in The News:

[As] a petulant Benazir Bhutto continues to suggest that promises made to her by President Pervez Musharraf have fallen through and that she has been 'betrayed', it is already obvious that the 'deal' attempted in Dubai has caused her party possibly irreparable damage. Certainly, many mid-level party workers seem pleased the deal has not been forged, and are reassuring angry party workers that much of the conjecture regarding an agreement was the result of speculation.

Despite this, in a tiny, cramped street along Mozang, a traditional PPP stronghold, young men have refused to once again raise the red, green and black party emblem on their homes, after pulling it down a few weeks ago, as news of the Benazir-Musharraf dialogue came through. It is not known in how many other cities, towns and villages, similar displays of anger have been made and gone unnoticed by the party's leaders.

With her political graph heading southwards, she will have no option but to dump the Dubai deal and salvage her sinking fortunes by returning to Pakistan and stringently and publicly opposing Musharraf.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

The Sharif Deal and Musharraf’s men

To delay the possible arrival of the Sharif brothers, yesterday the regime leaked parts of the Sharif-Saudi deal to the press.

Last Friday your Blogger informed his readers ( Blog: Saudi-Nawaz Sharif Exile Deal, etc) that the ‘deal’
consisted of a few papers on the Saudi Arabian Interior Ministry’s letterhead listing out a number of conditions which are signed by Nawaz Sharif and countersigned by Prince Nayef bin Abdul Aziz, the Saudi Minister of the Interior.

Readers were also told that the ‘Deal’ was a result of Saudi royals fears that Nawaz Sharif would share a fate similar to his predecessor Z A Bhutto and their lack of confidence in Musharraf’s personal declarations to the contrary.

Even if the original document is produced it obviously will have no legal validity in Pakistan. At the same time the Saudi silence on the ‘deal’ is quite deafening. Your Blogger believes that as the deal was pushed through simply to protect Nawaz Sharif’s life, the Saudis have little interest in the matter now.

By asking for an adjournment for three weeks to get the original documents from Saudi Arabia, Musharraf’s legal team is all too obviously playing for delaying tactics. Musharraf will make his problematic attempt to get re-elected through the existing assemblies probably within the next two or possibly three weeks. Having the Sharif brothers present in Pakistan during that period poses a nightmare scenario for him, as many unnerved PML(Q) members of the existing assemblies will then simply refuse to vote for him.

Latest: According a new press report the original ‘Deal’ document is already in possession of the military regime. If that is the case, then the refusal to present it in the Supreme Court and the request for a three week adjournment is not only deceitful subterfuge, but more importantly, a blatant act of perjury.


Now something about Musharraf’s legal team.

In recent weeks your Blogger has been fascinated by the ‘eminence’ of the individuals handpicked by Musharraf to fight his legal battles in the Supreme Court.

Syed Sharifuddin Pirzada

While everyone knows that this gentleman has provided legal advice to every Pakistan military dictator on how to circumvent the laws of our nation, apparently there might be more to him than meets the eye.

Ask senior members of the Karachi society who were out and about in the early 1950s, and they will tell you that Pirzada’s first wife is supposed to have died in strange circumstances. And, that soon after the incident the man apparently married his deceased wife’s sister. According to some of these now elderly citizens, at the time a few people suspected that Pirzada had been up to no good but in the absence of proof nothing ever came of it.

It would of course be improper and inappropriate on your Blogger’s part to presume that Pirzada had something to do with his first wife’s death, but the fact that there was suspicion about him at the time does indicate the kind of reputation he enjoyed during his younger days.

Malik Muhammad Qayyum

In 2001 Qayum was forced to resign in disgrace from the Lahore High Court after the Supreme Court ruled that Qayum’s decision in a case involving Benazir Bhutto and her husband, Asif Ali Zardari, had been politically motivated.

The Supreme Court said that the judge had "acquired a personal interest" in the case and that there was "close liaison" between the judge, Saifur Rehman, the minister in charge of the anti-corruption bureau, and Nawaz Sharif himself.

The Supreme Court also noticed that Qayyum and his wife had applied for diplomatic passports on 17 April 1998 after taking up the case against Bhutto and Zardari. The Foreign Office initially opposed their applications on the ground that diplomatic passports could not be issued to a judge and his wife. However, three days after Qayyum issued an order on 27 April 1998 freezing the properties and assets of Bhutto and Zardari, Qayyum and his wife were granted diplomatic passports

Also, quite revealingly, at the Supreme Court appeal hearing defence lawyers produced taped conversations, which exposed the then law minister, Khalid Anwar, Saifur Rehman and Qayum discussing the case and the forthcoming verdict. ‘Give them full dose," was what Saifur Rehman told Qayum.

Ahmed Raza Kasuri

In 1979 Zulfikar Ali Bhutto met his death at the gallows as a result of being convicted in the murder of Nawab Mohammad Ahmed Khan, the father of Ahmed Raza Kasuri.

Shortly after the death of his father on 9 November 1974, Ahmed Raza Kasuri lodged a First Information Report (FIR) with the local police station accusing Bhutto of having plotted the killing - it was this FIR which formed the basis of Bhutto’s trial for murder during General Zia-ul-Haq’s military regime. Some ten days after the murder, on 20 November 1974, Ahmed Raza Kasuri arrived in the National Assembly, carrying the blood-soaked shirt of his slain father and a bottle filled with his blood, and publicly vowed to avenge his father's death.

What few people know is that after holding Bhutto responsible for the killing of his father, Ahmed Raza Kasuri applied for a PPP ticket in 1977 and contested the elections as a member of the PPP under Zulfikar Ali Bhutto’s leadership.

With these facts before us, I will leave it to the reader to make a judgement on the moral worth of the man.

From the onset of the Chief Justice case very few members of the legal fraternity were willing to present the regime’s case in court. It is not surprising, therefore, to discover that the men who eventually turned up to defend Musharraf, are, putting it mildly, not known for sturdiness of character.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Latest Asides

Parting of Ways

The US-brokered ‘love match’ between Musharraf and Benazir Bhutto may be coming apart at the seams.

Two days ago Bhutto (during an interview with Canada’s CBC television channel) directly blamed the Musharraf and the military for sustaining terrorism.

“As long as we have a cabinet ... that needs the threat of terrorism to sustain a military dictatorship in Pakistan we’re never going to get rid of terrorism."

The military is the problem...True democracy will deal with the social and economic needs of the people of Pakistan."

Then using the services of to Canadian columnist Eric Margolis she went above Musharraf’s head and directly made an appeal to ambitious army officers.

`We must deal with reality,’ she politically answers. Power sharing with Musharraf, I asked? `We can get along with some generals,’ comes her cautiously reply. She used to accuse me of being too chummy with `your beloved Pakistani generals.’ Now, she is playing a dangerous game with them.

`Musharraf needs to resign to clear the way to promotion for younger, capable generals,’ says Bhutto, ` otherwise the army will loose some of its best men.’ A lot of mid-ranking officers will be listening to her.

These kinds of remarks will do little to endear her to Musharraf. As an editorial in The News commented today:

It would be fair to say that both the former prime minister and the general seem to have dug into their positions. Given that the latter is ostensibly in a weak position these days, this doesn't reflect too well on Ms Bhutto's negotiating capabilities. In any case, if the military is a problem then why enter into a deal with it?


Police and the VIPs of Islamabad

According to Dawn official records show that crime has been rising in the Capital Territory of Islamabad despite regular increases in the city’s police’s budget.

Dawn’s investigations reveal that of the 10,000-strong police force:
57% or 5,700 are detailed into proving security and protocol for VIPs.
13% or 1,300 perform traffic and intelligence duties.

This leaves just 3,000 policemen to maintain law and order and fight crime in a city with a population of over 1 million.

According to Dawn, all if not most of this city’s police department budget is spent on providing services to VIPs. The newspaper doubts if the eleven police stations providing law enforcement and crime prevention duties, forgetting even their proportional 30% share of the budget, get anything.

Dawn, print edition of 21 August, 2007 (page 2)

Brand Marketing Shortcut style

According to The News, Shaukat Aziz announced yesterday that “[Musharraf] is a brand in the world”.

Well, according to your Blogger, so are ‘Preparation H’ and ‘Marlboro’ cigarettes - but that doesn’t mean that they are good for us!

(On second thoughts, unlike Musharraf, Preparation H is at least useful for Pakistanis suffering from Hemorrhoids).

Monday, August 20, 2007

Military Justice

From today’s proceedings in the Supreme Court in the Missing Persons case, it appears that a person sentenced to eight years imprisonment under Field General Court Martial (FGCM) on spying charges, was in fact only guilty of having an affair with a female relation of an ISI Brigadier.

Imran Munir, 35, has been missing since July 8, 2006. According to family members, he was invited by Brig Mansoor Sheikh of the ISI for a dinner in the Blue Area of Islamabad. He has been missing ever since that night.

Munir, a dentist by profession, was apparently settled in Malaysia and was already married. He had been on visit to Pakistan and had been here only a fortnight prior to his disappearance.

The redoubtable Asma Jehangir is on record for having told the Supreme Court that:

.. the Ministry of Defence has denied having any knowledge about Imran Munir before the Lahore High Court Rawalpindi Bench. And now [in the Supreme Court]they say that he is a spy. In fact Imran had an affair with a girl related to an ISI official and he is now levelling personal grudges against Imran.

Today the Attorney General announced that Munir’s conviction has been set aside and a retrial has been ordered.

It appears that wonders will never cease!

Luckily for the ordinary citizens of Pakistan the Supreme Court appears to be in an unforgiving mood. Today the court threatened to imprison the Director General of the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA),Tariq Pervez, unless he produced the missing Abdul Basit - whom Pervez had arrested in January 30 2004 - within the next twenty-four hours.

As Aaj Television reported:
The Supreme Court on Monday gave one day dead line to Director General FIA to produce a missing person of Faisalabad after knowing that he was in the custody of Military intelligence and was picked up on his orders.

Earlier the court was informed that the then Additional Inspector General Police and Present Director General of FIA Tariq Pervez directed Faisalabad Police to arrest Hafiz Basit and ordered him to hand over to an officer of Military Intelligence at Pindi Bhattian interchange of Lahore-Islamabad Motorway.

A four-member bench of the court comprising the Chief Justice Mr.Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, Mr.Justice Faqir Muhammad Khokhar Mr. Justice Nasir-Ul-Mulk and Mr. Justice Raja Fayyaz Ahmed directed the DG FIA to produce the man in the court on Tuesday otherwise he will be put behind the bars.

The Attorney General (AG) for Pakistan requested the court to give him some time so that he can contact the authorities concerned.

“I am new in the office and don’t know how to contact the key persons”, the AG said.

“This is very simple case that police had handed over the custody to Army…its not our job to run after constables”, the Chief Justice said.

There must be a few military moustaches being twirled tonight in angry frustration.

Some Answers to Difficult Questions

A reader recently asked your Blogger a number of pertinent questions and the questions were:

Which political leader/entity do you think presents the best hope to take Pakistan in the direction you want?

And do you think this person or party can be voted to power if fair elections are held this year?

What do Pakistanis really want?

Not easy questions to answer. But as the reader has put your Blogger on the spot, he will attempt to answer these questions as candidly as possible.

Some readers will disagree with my views, and they are perfectly entitled to express their contrary comments - providing of course it is done in a civil manner. Recently a reader described one of the blogs as a ‘big fudge and an outright lie’. No one appreciates being called a liar. Is it too much to expect readers to be tolerant of views they disagree with?


A Preamble

Musharraf has to go!

Why the vehemence?

In my mind’s eye I can still picture the television shots of Musharraf gloating over the fact that Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry’s attempt to address the Karachi lawyers had failed. The reality of the bloody carnage at Karachi – some fifty dead and over a hundred badly wounded with bullet wounds - seemed of little significance to him.

Unfortunately Pakistani military dictators have all be prone to such callousness. The fact that fifty civilians (as in Karachi), a thousand plus (as currently in Balochistan) or a million (as they did in East Pakistan) may die is a matter of no consequence to them as long their self-interest is protected.

Today it is believed that Musharraf is prepared to do anything to stay in power, even if it means letting Pakistan sink into a chaotic social, political and economic quagmire. Therefore, the quicker he goes the better for all of us!


The Attempted Answers

From a purely Pakistani perspective, your Blogger believes to replace him we need a leader who:
- is honestly determined to cleanse the political system from military interference for good. While it will not be easy to remove such an entrenched political ‘foe’, the task should be commenced soon and with earnestness.

- is sincere in strengthening institutions such as our judiciary and refrains from using the law enforcement agencies as a personal tool for extracting political vengeance.

- will provide smaller provinces a greater clout over their natural and other resources and provide for greater provincial autonomy for the sake of national harmony.

- will allocate sufficient funds and restore life to the debacle currently known as our educational system.

- will genuinely tolerate a completely free press and media and show respect for dissenting views.

- does not fall victim to the traditional political system based on sycophancy, corruption and crony capitalism

Okay this idealistic wish list can go and on, but the realistic question that was asked remains as yet unanswered: Which political leader/entity do I think presents the best hope to take Pakistan in the direction you want?

Recently I was a spectator at the All Party Conference which was recently held in London and had a chance to observe some of current political leadership, in particular Nawaz Sharif and Imran Khan, at close hand for a period of two days.

Ten plus years ago I had a one-to-one with Benazir Bhutto for a period of half an hour or so and subsequently had a chance to witness her in action with some of her team as she dealt with a political crisis.

Having said all this, this does not render me an expert on any of them, but it does give me something to work on, by adding flesh and bones to what I already know about them.

In my opinion if free and unrigged elections do take place, the voters in Pakistanis will unfortunately have only two realistic options left to chose from: Nawaz Sharif of the PML and Benazir Bhutto of PPP.

(Other parties such as MQM, ANP, etc are regional parties and possible future government coalition partners and no more. And in my book PML(Q) does not qualify as a party as it is widely recognised as consisting of a motley crew of political ‘lotas’ and self-seeking sycophants who are now happily faced with a dismal future.)

Unfortunately for us, the eleven years in political wilderness have, it appears, done little to change Benazir. Over a year ago she was reportedly prepared to go to any lengths to make a deal with Musharraf – even accepting him in uniform as president – as long as he got her off the Swiss and other overseas money laundering / corruption cases. Sadly she has proved to completely unchanged and remains utterly self-centred and opportunistic to do any good for the future of this country.

The uncerebral and crony capitalist Nawaz Sharif was packed off five years ago into exile. These days, much to my surprise, he seems to be somewhat of a changed man. Not only does he appear to be reasonable and tolerant of dissenting views, but also seems genuine about the need for change in Pakistan’s political system. His uncompromising stand against the military’s role in politics has won him many public plaudits. (However, only time will tell how authentic his conversion has been).

(In London the person who actually appealed to me was Imran Khan but his national political muscle, if it exists, lies in the future. It will take him at least another election or two to consolidate his party in the national scene, but he can play a valuable role in the meantime. His political strength - and possible weakness - lies in the fact he is a straight shooter, but his sincerity of purpose will always be his strongest asset.)

And now to answer two questions:

Which political leader/entity do you think presents the best hope to take Pakistan in the direction you want?

And do you think this person or party can be voted to power if fair elections are held this year?

In the given circumstances Nawaz Sharif currently presents the best hope for Pakistan in the near future.

And yes, with Benazir Bhutto’s declining popularity as a result of her publicly perceived rank opportunism, Nawaz Sharif has probably the best chance of getting voted into power if fair elections are held this year. In all likelihood he will sweep central Punjab and with his current alliance with nationalist and the mullah parties he will have little difficulty in forming a government in Islamabad.

But we hope for better leadership to emerge once democracy is allowed to take root in the country. It must be borne in mind that with an aggressively free press and a recently liberated judiciary, all future governments will be kept under close scrutiny for all their acts or omissions. And Hurray for that!


And now to the final question: What do Pakistanis really want?

In the past year, thanks to Aaj and other TV news channels - beginning with Akbar Bugti’s murder and followed by the crisis over the Chief Justice and the Lal Masjid debacle - Musharraf and his generals have been exposed as arrogant blundering incompetents out only to preserve their own selfish interests. These people are also now widely blamed for the insurgency in Balochistan and the cancerous spread of extremism in FATA and elsewhere.

Not surprisingly the vast majority of the public in Pakistan (as opposed to a few non-resident Pakistanis in the UK and US) want to get rid of military interference in politics for good.

They long for an independent judiciary, a free press and an accountability of their political rulers – in short they want a full-fledged democracy with all its trappings.

With an accountable government there is hope that a rule of law will finally emerge. People desperately wish for justice and an end to the corrupt anarchy that currently exists.


This of course does not concur with what the US wants.

As one of Washington Post’s leading columnists Jim Hoagland wrote yesterday: The Islamabad regime is being 'aided by the hidden hand of U.S. diplomacy working to preserve President Pervez Musharraf's dwindling power in Islamabad.'

Washington’s priority remains fixed on Al Qaeda and its associates. Just because Bush-Cheney-Rumsfeld took their eyes off the target in Tora Bora in 2001 and foolishly (and quite calamitously) opted to attack Iraq instead, does not mean that 160 million Pakistanis have to indefinitely forgo our rights to a democracy. If they insist on supporting Musharraf (via Benazir Bhutto or some other route) then Washington will be loathed by secular moderate Pakistanis like never before.


There is perhaps a lot I have left said unsaid but then again a blog has to end somewhere.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Putting the Boot into Benazir

Today one of Pakistan’s senior journalists, Mariana Baabar, lets it rip into Benazir Bhutto.

Does the PPP leader deserve it?

In your Blogger’s opinion, for someone who is so selfishly bent upon betraying the cause of democracy in Pakistan, she most definitely needs to be exposed for her behaviour

Et Tu, Mohtarma?
Benazir, Musharraf make up. Now to see if it's boon or bane

Mariana Baabar

Lust for power can make even dictators do funny things—like compromise their dignity, undermine their own authority, even sup with their enemies.

Take Pakistan president Pervez Musharraf. He was wont to be virulent about ex-prime minister Benazir Bhutto, describing her as so corrupt that she could never be allowed to return to plunder Pakistan again. In a TV chat show, he became so enraged at the host for taking her and Nawaz Sharif's names that he said he wouldn't hesitate to "kick them".

Intemperate remarks, threats, moral posturing: all was quickly forgotten after Musharraf and Benazir sealed a deal during their July 27 meeting in Abu Dhabi. There's no doubt about it, the implacable general is eating crow. Look at the developments since then—the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) has withdrawn cases against Benazir in the Swiss and Spanish courts; the government isn't to pursue cases against her in Pakistani courts, leaving the judges to decide their future; it's been decided to defreeze her foreign bank accounts (estimated to have $1.5 billion); and the Sindh high court has ordered the government to seek withdrawal of the Interpol "red notices" issued on its advice.

Lust for power can do funny things to politicians as well—they become myopic, court infamy, even risk the people's support. Former editor Shaheen Sehbai left Pakistan because he feared the diabolic intent of the military regime. Today, his wrath is directed against Benazir: "Of course, all she's interested in is getting back her billions, withdrawal of cases against her and Asif Zardari and an amendment to the Constitution that would allow her to become prime minister for the third time. Party workers have never been her top priority." Adds Mir Afzal Khan, a confidant of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto and now a political commentator, "She is an unscrupulous politician who's ready to throw away the sacrifices of her father—a man who had refused to negotiate with the generals, even went to the gallows for it."

Always the quintessential politician, Benazir will surely harp on aspects of the July 27 deal which show her as contributing to the restoration of democracy in Pakistan. The deal will apparently (nothing's been made public officially) see Benazir's Pakistan People's Party (PPP) abstain from the National Assembly (NA) during the vote to elect Musharraf as president in uniform. Once elected, Musharraf is to doff his uniform and conduct a free and fair general election. The new NA will then delete from the Constitution Clause 58 2-B that allows the president to dissolve legislatures. Another amendment will remove the provision that bars a person from becoming PM thrice.

But even these salutary aspects didn't cushion PPP workers from the shock of the July 27 deal. An old party hand who has braved several hostile regimes for the Bhuttos told Outlook, "The general is at his weakest. Why did Mohtarma agree to the deal? We are the followers of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto Shaheed, and we are confused.

Can't she read the mood on the street? If she returns to Pakistan through a deal with Musharraf, then many like me will sit at home rather than vote for a PPP-GHQ alliance in the polls."

The faceless PPP worker's anguish is echoed by Shafqat Mahmood, a former minister whose disenchantment with Benazir prompted him to leave the party some years ago. He feels the deal may compel Musharraf to hold a free and fair election, but it will be the PPP's Waterloo. "Should the PPP join the general and the ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Q in an alliance, then I am sure they will get an electoral thrashing they will remember for a long time," says Mahmood.

An electoral washout for Benazir is predicted for she has forged a deal with a man who, by now, is reviled countrywide. Worse, he also appears politically isolated. As Mahmood says, "He is in a unique position where neither the left nor the right of the political spectrum, neither the conservatives nor the liberals, except a minuscule faction, are standing with him." Rahimullah Yusufzai, executive editor, The News, is emphatic: "The lawyers' movement has proved that people want rule of law, independence of the judiciary and empowerment of the masses. Cutting deals to stop this from happening is bound to haunt her and the PPP for years to come."

What's worse is the chasm between Benazir's future plans and those of PPP leaders like Aitzaz Ahsan, who was the chief defence counsel for Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry in his legal tangle with Musharraf. As Ahsan puts it, "The moment Musharraf announces he is going to seek election from the present assemblies, lawyers, backed by civil society, will come out on the streets once again, and push the country into the throes of yet another agitation."

So, can the Mush-Benazir deal survive the turmoil? Are voices such as Ahsan's portents of a split in the PPP? Not necessarily. As columnist Ayaz Amir sums it up, "There is a disquiet...but the PPP has fostered a culture of sycophancy and absolute docility to the point where questions may be asked of Musharraf in the Corps Commanders Conference, but not of Benazir within her party. So no fears of any mass revolt in that quarter." There's also the poor track record of those who left in the past: but for Aftab Khan Sherpao who formed his own party with some success in urban NWFP, others were consigned to the dustbin.

Benazir's apologists say she has cut a deal because she feels the PPP is the only pan-Pakistan party which could reap a rich harvest in a free and fair poll; that she knows from past experience that a win at the hustings could secure her the PM's post only if she has Washington and the army's consent. But Benazir's former aide, Kamran Shafi, scoffs at such assumptions: "This deal will never work, there is only one deal that can work and that is a deal between the politicians and the people of Pakistan. The commando can have no part in it, in or out of uniform. I bet my last Rs 100 that Musharraf will agree to wear a pink jogging suit if it keeps him in power." Well, if that happens, don't say we didn't warn you. We did say lust for power can do funny things to generals and politicians alike.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Saudi-Nawaz Sharif Exile Deal, etc

Shortly after Shahbaz Sharif's forced deportation from Lahore airport in May 2004, I was informed by a senior local journalist that he had been shown - by a senior ISI officer in Islamabad - the purported written agreement which allowed the Sharif family to secure their exile to Saudi Arabia.

At the time of the deportation there was much public debate on whether such an agreement actually did exist or not. One can therefore assume that the intelligence agency was only too eager to provide proof of its existence to a number of influential journalists.

Here is a potted account of what really happened:

After being overthrown Nawaz Sharif soon found himself being tried in an anti-terrorist court on charges that included hijacking, attempted murder and terrorism. His friends and mentors in the Saudi royal family became perturbed when they leant that the government was seeking the death penalty against the deposed Prime Minister.

In April 2002 when the court sentenced Nawaz Sharif to life imprisonment on two charges of hijacking and terrorism, the government filed an appeal against the life sentence by once more demanding a death penalty.

Worried, the Saudis wanted to be reassured by Musharraf that the deposed prime minister would not meet the same fate as his predecessor ZA Bhutto.

Despite the personal declaration given by Musharraf during one his trips to Riyadh, it appears that the Saudis remained far from convinced that the general would not seek ultimate vengeance from Nawaz Sharif for attempting to sack him.

The Saudis resolved the issue by pressurising Musharraf into accepting a deal whereby Nawaz Sharif would be released by Musharraf on the condition that he and his family would live in exile in Saudi Arabia for a 10 year period. And so on the 9th December 2000, Nawaz Sharif along with his family left for Jeddah on a Royal Saudi plane.

From all accounts it appears that the deal between Musharraf and the Saudis had initially been a verbal one. However, subsequently when Musharraf came under local media pressure to explain the deal he took the precautionary measure of requesting the Saudis to confirm the deal in writing. And so a document was prepared and delivered to the general.

And what exactly was the document?

The journalist who saw document said that it consisted of a few papers on the Saudi Arabian Interior Ministry’s letterhead listing out a number of conditions which are signed by Nawaz Sharif and countersigned by Prince Nayef bin Abdul Aziz, the Saudi Minister of the Interior.

For the record Prince Nayaf happens to be one of the powerful Sudairi Seven, seven close-knit sons of King ibn Saud. The Crown Prince Sultan bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud, and Prince Salman bin Abdul Aziz, the Governor of Riyadh, are among the others.

From a purely legal perspective, while the signed papers issued in Saudi Arabia are evidence that some sort a deal may have existed between the Saudis and Nawaz Sharif, they will have little legal validity in Pakistan or for that matter under the law of any other country (with the possible exception of Saudi Arabia).

In view of this, it is likely therefore that the Supreme Court will recognise Nawaz Sharif’s right as a citizen of Pakistan to return to his homeland.

It is no wonder that after his meeting with Benazir Bhutto in Dubai in late July, Musharraf flew to Saudi Arabia to ask King Abdullah to use his influence to stop Nawaz Sharif from returning to Pakistan; a request that the King is believed to have politely declined.

The Etc

Having given hope of preventing Nawaz Sharif and Shahbaz Sharif from returning to Pakistan on the basis of the Saudi agreement, the regime petitioned the National Accountability Court at Rawalpindi on 3 August to reopen three cases against the two Sharif brothers and their family, which had been filed with the court in 2000 and 2001.

It should be recalled that after the Sharif family’s departure to Saudi Arabia these particular cases had been closed at regime’s request.

The three cases were related to:
1. Hudaibiya Paper Mill
2. Ittefaque Foundries
3. The Sharif family’s 50 acre real estate in Raiwind

According to the prosecution these cases involve charges of ‘willful default, financial irregularities and holding of property beyond known sources of income ' against Sharif and his family members.

Yesterday the National Accountability Court ruled that these cases can be opened, which means that Nawaz Sharif, as well as his brother, could be arrested the moment they return.

Your Blogger’s guess is this court ruling will be challenged in the High Court of Punjab at the earliest opportunity.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Benazir Takes a Knock

Your Blogger will concede that Benazir Bhutto can be extremely shrewd, cunning and politically savvy, but he nevertheless maintains that she has never been known to be overly bright.

Take last week when she appeared gloating with new found confidence during an interview with Ayesha Tammy Haq on the Business Channel. Little did we know that she was about to attend a “non-meeting” with Musharraf in Dubai a day or so later. Anyone familiar with the current mood of the nation would have had second thoughts about such a venture; but not Benazir. By all accounts, despite the long faces of the PPP leadership in Pakistan, she appeared to be revelling at the ‘change’ in her fortunes.

It has taken her a fortnight or so to realise the price she has had to pay for her opportunism. Two days ago she finally admitted "we are risking our popularity even by having this dialogue." (Apparently the rushed trip of PPP’s local leadership - Makhdoom Amin Fahim, Farhatullah Babar and Raja Pervez Ashraf - to New York has managed to bring a dose of much-needed reality to her thinking).

The latest poll taken by BBC should make her think even harder. As the Daily Times reports:
According to a new BBC poll, Nawaz Sharif has emerged as the most popular leader of Pakistan. The late Zulfikar Ali Bhutto has made to the second place while Ms Benazir Bhutto has been placed third after her father. Surprisingly, the generals have dominated the three lower positions of the poll: General Ayub is fourth, General Zia fifth and General Musharraf sixth …The PPP has slid because of the “deal” and PMLN has come up because of Mr Nawaz Sharif’s London APC and his party’s generally confrontational attitude.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Jinnah’s People vs. Real Estate Ideologues

At the 60th anniversary of Pakistan’s independence it is appropriate to recall that the creation of our country had not really been Mr Jinnah’s principal goal.

Close colleagues of the Muslim leader have stated on historical record: "Jinnah never wanted a Pakistan which involved the partition of India”.

The demand for a separate Muslim state of Pakistan was essentially a bargaining chip utilised to push the Congress Party into acknowledging the rights of the large Muslim minority present in India.

Let me remind those who are unaware that on 6th June 1946 Jinnah and the Muslim League voted to accept the plan calling for a confederated united India. Under this ‘Cabinet Mission Plan’ there would be a grouping of autonomous Muslim and Hindu provinces which allowed for a three tiered federation between Hindu and Muslim provinces, with the centre in Delhi only keeping the subjects of Defence, Foreign Affairs, Currency and Communication, all other subjects would vest in the provinces. These provinces would have been free to form groups (i.e. Muslim and Hindu) with their own executives and legislatures that would then deal with such subjects as the provinces within the group assigned them.

As we now know it was the rejection of this plan by the Congress party and the subsequent dishonest shenanigans of Mountbatten and Nehru, that forced a disappointed and dying Jinnah to accept 'the moth eaten and truncated’ state that we now know as Pakistan.

The profoundly vain and egotistical Mountbatten was so angered by Jinnah’s refusal to accept him as Pakistan’s first Governor General that he acidly warned him: "(This) may cost you the whole of your assets and the future of Pakistan” (Stanley Wolpert, Shameful Flight, OUP, 2006, p. 164).

Thanks to vengeful Mountbatten and Nehru, India delayed transferring Pakistan’s share of assets, which together with the Kashmir debacle embittered the relation between the two countries.

The precarious existence of the early Pakistan resulted in a warped emotional tunnel-vision which gave India-obsessed defence/foreign policies precedence over the economic wellbeing of its people. Six decades of this irrational passion has led to misplaced priorities which doomed our country to widespread illiteracy and economic penury. At the same it illogically elevated the status of the armed forces into some sort of ‘conquering heroes’ – which is ironic considering after six decades of existence our military has yet to win anything in the battlefield (other than those fought against its own people in East Pakistan, Balochistan and elsewhere).

Much of the blame for this distorted vision lies with self-styled intellectuals who appointed themselves guardians of our ‘National Ideology’. This dogma offered no economic or social benefits to the common citizen, but was instead steeped in a visceral distrust of India and called upon our ‘noble’ armed forces to defend every inch of ‘our sacred soil’ (which included Kashmir).

In a revealing moment I asked one of these ideologues: ‘What is more important? The future wellbeing of millions Muslim Kashmiris or obtaining the Vale of Kashmir’. The answer was immediate: ‘The Vale of Kashmir!”

Somewhere along the line these ideologues have managed to miss the boat completely. Whether one takes a religious, ethical or commonsensical approach the answer remains the same: It is always the people who matter (and not some piece of imagined real estate).

Unfortunately from the early days of Pakistan’s existence these absurd convictions have pervaded our Establishment. And so, the Army has always been there to protect ‘our sacred soil’ rather than to defend the liberties of its people. Compare that with the Allied Forces during the WWII who fought for five longs years to defend the freedom of their people from the tyranny of Nazism.

In defence of this pernicious ‘National Ideology’ it has been acceptable for our military leadership to declare thousands of Pakistani citizens (in East Pakistan, Balochistan, Sindh and NWFP) anti-state miscreants and kill them in course of their ‘sacred duty’ to protect Pakistan. As an editorial recently pointed out:
'Alas, much of this was done with a large civilian consensus in the dominant Punjab province'.
It is therefore understandable that there exists a degree of animosity towards Punjab from the smaller provinces.

Contrary to this spurious ideology it is clear from our history that Pakistan came into existence simply to safeguard the economic and social wellbeing of Indian Muslims who feared getting subsumed by an overwhelming Hindu Majority. While Jinnah relentlessly fought for the rights of his people, it must be remembered, that he never uttered a word about the sacredness of any soil.

Sixty years down the track, your Blogger believes, it is high time we honoured Mr Jinnah's mission by placing the wellbeing of 160 million Pakistanis above all else.

An Addendum

The above Blog was written simply to mark 60 years of Pakistan’s existence, hence the reference to Mr Jinnah. The why and wherefores of Pakistan’s creation, in your Blogger’s opinion, are now only of historical relevance – Pakistan exists and that is all that should matter.

The point that I wished to make – probably not too clearly - was that Mr Jinnah did not fight to create a geographical entity but instead struggled to protect the rights of British India’s Muslims. And it was as a result of his battle to safeguard the interests of these people that Pakistan came into being.

The real purpose behind this Blog was to highlight the fact that for years spurious notions of “National Ideology”, “National Interest” and “National Security” have resulted in the rights of millions of ordinary Pakistanis being trampled under the pernicious jackboot of authority.

I believe it is high time that we acknowledged that it is the people who make up a country (and not simply the land they occupy); and that the civil rights and the wishes of the Pakistani citizen should take precedence over all else if we hope to succeed as a modern nation state.