Sunday, September 30, 2007

In Contempt of Public

Here is the text of the ‘short order’ that dismissed the constitutional petitions against the dual offices of General Musharraf.

For reasons to be recorded later, as per majority view of 6 to 3, these petitions are held to be not maintainable with the contemplation of Article 184(3) of the Constitution.

As per minority view of Mr. Justice Rana Bhagwandas, Mr.Justice Sardar Muhammad Raza Khan and Mr. Justice Mian Shakirullah Jan, all the petitions are held to be maintainable

Simply put, by a 6-3 majority decision the Supreme Court has allowed a usurping general to follow his election game plan on the basis of mere legal technicalities.

Reality informs us that in the 21st century world military rulers are now a rarity. Therefore when an apex court of a country seemingly turns a blind eye towards a uniformed army chief engaged in grasping the highest civilian office in the land, serious questions are bound to be raised.


Now instead of your Blogger adding his two bits of 'wisdom', it would be more appropriate if the task was left to two of Pakistan’s most respected senior jurists.

Retired Justice Fakhruddin G Ibrahim - who was sacked after refusing on principle to retake his judicial oath under Ziaul Haq’s post-coup Provisional Constitutional Order – was reported having made the following comments:

- “Friday’s decision was not understandable….the Supreme Court should have mentioned, at least, [a brief] reason in the short judgment that on what grounds or under which articles of the Constitution the superior judiciary declared the entire petitions not maintainable.”

- “The petitions couldn’t be rejected only by declaring that these were not in accordance with Article 183(4) … [instead] the apex court should have declared on the very first day that these petitions were not maintainable and there was no need to hang the nation in air for so many days.”

- “The plain rejection of all the petitions without assigning any reason or ground had raised many eyebrows.”

- “In fact, nothing has been decided still and all issues raised in different petitions will be challenged again in a more effective manner now… a better way to fight Musharraf’s rule was that first his nomination papers should be challenged in the Election Commission (EC) and on failure to get justice, the lawyers should then knock at the door of the superior judiciary.”

Not surprisingly a more stinging attack was delivered by the other highly regarded former member of the Supreme Court, retired Justice Wajihuddin - who was sacked after refusing on principle to retake his judicial oath under Musharraf’s post-coup Provisional Constitutional Order. He also happens to have been nominated by the the lawyer community as a rival candidate for the presidency.

Appearing on Dawn TV shortly after the controversial verdict was announced on 28 September, Justice Wajihuddin declared that according to law once a legal decision is delivered it becomes public property. And as such, honest criticism of the decision and the judges involved was quite permissible under law. Having made this point he then embarked on some damning criticism:

- The majority decision was incorrect in law.

- If these six judges had been convinced that these petitions were not "maintainable" then they should have said so at the onset and not wasted time, effort and money by stretching the proceedings for nearly a fortnight and should not have delved into the nitty-gritty of the case by asking so many ‘irrelevant’ long-drawn-out questions from the legal counsels of both parties.

- He also questioned the impartiality of three of the judges supporting the majority decision. According to him they should have recused themselves (Justice Wajihuddin then made reference to the Islamabad Club, where two of the judges are known to have openly dined and socialised with the leading member’s of Musharraf’s legal team in a complete contravention of proper judicial behaviour).

- And, according to him, when the Court earlier rejected the application asking for a full Supreme Court bench to hear the case in view of the public importance of the issue involved, the bench disregarded proper legal procedure by not naming the judges who had supported and those who had opposed this very important ruling.

- He also noted that on two recent occasions - the CJ Case and the Nawaz Sharif Exile Case- when the verdict went against the regime, both Sharifuddin Pirzada and Abdul Qayum had not bothered to await the verdict but had much earlier on opted instead to decamp from the court precincts. However, quite remarkably, on this occasion they both had remained at the Supreme Court (which understandably raises fears of advance notification).

Retired Justice Wajihuddin’s criticism probably proved all too scathing and I don’t think it was re-broadcast by Dawn News during primetime news later that evening.


For the record the three dissenting judges were:
Justice Rana Bhagwandas
Justice Sardar Muhammad Raza Khan
Justice Shakirullah Jan

And those supporting the majority decision were:
Justice Javed Iqbal,
Justice Abdul Hameed Dogar
Justice Muhammad Nawaz Abbasi,
Justice Faqir Muhammad Khokar,
Justice Falak Sher,
Justice M Javed Buttar

As your Blogger is not particularly familiar with the career history of Supreme Court judges, he wishes to share this relatively informative (and quite non-PC) web entry with his readers. It certainly provides food for some thought.

An aggrieved Pakistani by the name of Ammar Qureshi made the following comments on Pakistaniat.Com yesterday:

I did not want to bring in the ethnic factor into this debate, but as a Punjabi I feel really ashamed that 6 Punjabi judges have favored General Musharraf and 3 non-Punjabi judges (one Sindhi Hindu and 2 Pathans) ruled against General Musharraf.

CJ Iftikhar Chaudhry made a big mistake by constituting the 9 member bench in such a manner that it included 5 judges known for their association with the establishment or government:

Justices Nawaz Abbasi and Khokhar had served as law secretary during Musharraf’s time;

Justice Javed Iqbal took the oath of acting chief justice when CJ Iftikhar was illegally suspended on 9th of March;

Justice Buttar gave the verdict in favour of the government during CJ case and against CJ Iftikhar;

Justice Dogar has served as Acting Chief Election Commissioner;

Justice Falaksher was the only judge about whom one was not [sure] whether he would favour the government or not but at the end he also sided with other Punjabi judges.


Final Comment:

In your Blogger’s opinion this disagreeable verdict clearly does not provide legal sanction to Musharraf to contest the presidential election in uniform – instead it simply ignores the issue altogether.

As that pathetically supine Chief Election Commissioner, retired Justice Qazi Muhammad Farooq, is bound to reject all the objections raised against Musharraf’s nomination by Justice Wajihuddin, the matter will be raised once again in the Supreme Court on appeal. This time (hopefully)it will not be all that easy for some of these judges to shirk their responsibilities.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

‘Heads I win, tails you lose’

Well, it is finally all out in the open.

Musharraf has announced, through a one of his minions, that he will remove his uniform only if he is ‘re-elected’ as President. And, if for some reason or another he fails to get ‘re-elected’ he will then insist on continuing to hold his office as the all-powerful army chief.

His message to the advocates of democracy in Pakistan is quite simple: ‘Heads I win, tails you lose’.

As we all await the Supreme Court judgement on Musharraf’s legitimacy as a presidential candidate, your Blogger has come across a lot of despondency among those who claim to know the current workings of the Supreme Court. According to these people the apex court’s decision will go against the public’s aspirations of judicial independence.

In your Blogger’s humble opinion (he is an LLB by education and has done his bar) the law on this issue is fairly clear-cut. However, in Pakistan, history constantly reminds us that our Supreme Court’s constitutional decisions can be quite nebulous at the best of times.

So now all I can do is cross my fingers and hope that all that I have been recently hearing proves to be totally wrong.

Having said that, it would only be fair to share with my readers the following item that appeared in today’sThe News . According to this report some judges of the nine-member bench deciding the case have already become victims of the government’s ruthless intimidatory tactics.


Is govt trying to influence SC judges?
By Ansar Abbasi

ISLAMABAD: The government is allegedly trying to influence the nine-member Supreme Court bench, hearing the petitions challenging the dual offices held by the President, through behind-the-scene intimidation of some of the honourable judges and their families.

However, Attorney General Justice (retd) Malik Qayum has denied that any pressure is being exerted on the judges of the Supreme Court. "Somebody might have some sort of misunderstanding," Qayyum said, adding the executive's pressure on the judiciary was a thing of the past.

A family member of one of the judges, claimed to have been facing extreme pressure, shared with this correspondent the tale of the alleged unending pressure that the family is facing to make the honourable judge, who is a member of the nine-member bench, fall into line with the government.

"You can never think of what they are doing to us," the family member of the honourable senior judge of the Supreme Court said, adding that the situation had gone to an extent that the government was sending officials even to the judges to persuade them to support the government in these petitions.

According to another member of the same family, the messenger who brought the government's message seemed to be over-enthusiastic, showing that he was more loyal than the king.

Close relatives of the judges are being approached and told that in case the decision of the Supreme Court does not meet the government's expectations, the country might see another martial law. According to the source, they are also being warned that it is hard to fight with the government and there are precedents of un-ceremonial removal of judges.

Both the honourable judge and his family, the source claimed, were undeterred and clearly told the messenger that they would not commit anything and would only uphold the merit and the rule of law no matter what price they had to pay.

During one of his contacts, according to the family member of the honourable judge, the messenger had also referred to the murder case of additional registrar of the Supreme Court Hammad Raza. "You cannot believe what they are doing to us," the member said, adding that the messenger had also claimed to have developed contacts with some other honourable members of the bench.

The messenger's name, designation, and contact number have also been shared with The News but these details are not being published to protect the source. The messenger was also said to be contemptuous while making some predictions.

Disturbed with these contacts, a member of the concerned judge’s family also contacted a senior government authority but got a disappointing response.Meanwhile, the Attorney General denied that the government was engaged in any such activity. "Let me assure you that there is no such thing," he said, adding that had there been any such thing, then all the recent decisions would not have gone against the government.

He admitted that the judges were pressurized in the past but that was not the case anymore. He said most of the judges of the Supreme Court were personally known to him though he did not meet them. This is only to ensure that no one should have doubt of any sort, he said.

In the post-March 9 scenario and during the hearing of Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry's petition by the 13-member court, there were reports of government agencies trying to influence the judges to "seek accommodation" for the government. However, no such tactic worked as proved by the landmark Supreme Court decision of July 20.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Some Pieces of Weird News

In the past week since my last post little seems to have changed. Having said that, there is no denying that there has been a spate of rather peculiar news items.

Here are some of them:


From Dawn:
PML-N president Shahbaz Sharif announced here on Tuesday that former prime minister Nawaz Sharif would soon return to Pakistan from Saudi Arabia and lead his party in the forthcoming general election.

He did not give any specific date for his elder brother’s return but insisted that it would be soon, “immediately after Eid or even before”.

Comment: Yes, we all saw the pic of Nawaz Sharif meeting the Saudi King. Does this mean the whole drama was staged by Saudis just to allow Musharraf some ‘re-electoral’ breathing space?

From the Daily Times:
Benazir told Dawn News that it was unfortunate that her party could not reach a deal with the government, but said she would return to Pakistan on October 18. “Unfortunately, we couldn’t reach an agreement despite our negotiations with the government, but I will definitely return on October 18.”

Comment: Dear lady, if there is no deal (or secret understanding) then why are you arriving after the so-called presidential ‘re-election’. If you were the ardent democrat that you have perpetually claimed to be then you should have been here yesterday.

The Daily Telegraph reporting on the 250 or so missing soldiers in Waziristan since 6th September quotes a Pakistani army spokesman as saying:
"A situation developed where they preferred not to fire and they had to give up their weapons but that cannot be called surrender."

Comment: Hmmm…so when General ‘Tiger’ Niazi handed over his revolver to the Indian General Jagjit Singh Aurora he didn’t actually surrender either. It is likely that he must also have volunteered to go 'missing'.

However the strangest piece of news comes from Amir Mir. This journalist claims that Musharraf is now planning to clip the wings of the next Army Chief so that his ‘civilian’ presidency is protected from future upstart bonapartist generals (like himself).

Moves to weaken the next army chief
by Amir Mir

Having made up his mind to take off his controversial military uniform, President General Musharraf has moved to curtail the powers of the next army chief by reorganising the command and control structure of the Pakistan army – establishing three regional commands, which will be headed by three lieutenant generals in addition to the nine corps commanders, with each command having three corps under it.

A decision to create three new regional commands of the Pakistan Army – the Northern, Central, and Southern commands – has already been taken in principle, on the pretext of improving its operational efficiency and working. Under the revised command and control structure, all existing nine corps of the army will fall under one of the three commands, to be headed by a three-star general. The newly created Northern, Southern and Central Commands will be responsible for the administrative arrangements of the corps falling under their respective commands. According to well-informed sources in the military establishment, the army would be the second arm of the Pakistani defence forces to have three separate commands since the Pakistan Air Force already has three commands. While the Central Command of the army will be headquartered in Rawalpindi, the Southern Command will have its headquarters in Quetta and the Northern Command is most likely to be based either in Gujranwala or Mangla. The military circles say the idea to have three separate regional commands was conceived after a thorough study of the military systems of various countries having large contingents and the reformation was primarily meant to help build the Pakistan Army on modern management lines.

However, those familiar with the command and control structure of the Pakistan Army say the move reflects General Pervez Musharraf’s deep desire to erode the authority of the next army chief, assuming he decides to take off his uniform in the coming days. General Musharraf was elevated to the coveted slot of the army chief in October 1998 by his present foe Nawaz Sharif and his nine-year tenure is coming to an end by November 15, 2007. While the attorney general of Pakistan recently told the Supreme Court that President Musharraf is entitled to continue as the army chief until he appoints his successor, there is a strong possibility of the General elevating one of his closest military confidants to succeed him, but not without clipping his wings by restructuring the command and control structure of the army.

The successive rulers have always selected the army chiefs after careful scrutiny, but in many cases the chosen ones became the tormentors. Zulfikar Ali Bhutto chose General Ziaul Haq, who later toppled his government and eventually sent him to the gallows. Nawaz Sharif chose an Urdu-speaking Mohajir from India, hoping that he would remain loyal to him, but he too was overthrown and sent in to exile. As far as Musharraf is concerned, he has never hesitated to shuffle the command structure of the army when he has thought it warranted it. But he has always rewarded his friends and loyalists while acknowledging merit. That is probably why there is no serious sign of internal discomfort or unease in the army, although the fundamental factor for stability in the army remains its rigid discipline and organisational philosophy.

As things stand today, Musharraf has three options to relinquish the office of the army chief and appoint a new commander of his choice to succeed him. The first option is that he would immediately doff his khaki uniform before his re-election as president and make public the appointment of a new army chief, who would take charge on October 7, 2007. The second option is that he would only make the announcement that he would leave the office of the army chief on November 15, as provided in the Constitution, after his re-election in the third week of September. And at the same time, he would appoint the new army chief. The third option is that Musharraf would make known that he would appoint the new army chief on October 7, 2007, and leave the office after that, and his re-election would be held without uniform after this date but before October 15, 2007.

Before taking off his uniform, Musharraf is to fill the posts of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee (CJCSC) and the Vice Chief of Army Staff (VCOAS), which are next to that of the army chief. Presently, there are two four-star generals in the army besides Musharraf – Vice Chief of Army Staff, General Ahsan Salim Hayat, and Chairman Joints Chief of Staff Committee, General Ehsanul Haq. General Ahsan Salim Hayat can automatically succeed Musharraf if the latter chooses to doff the uniform before the retirement of the former, due on October 7, 2007. General Ahsan may also be granted extension to assume the COAS office if Musharraf quits the army after October 2007.

However, military circles simply rule out the possibility of Musharraf letting a senior general like Ahsan Salim assume the powerful office of the army chief. These circles believe Musharraf would most probably appoint a true loyalist who would be ready to act as a subservient army chief under the command of his former senior. These circles even say the incumbent CJCSC General Ehsanul Haq and VCOAS General Ahsan Salim Hayat are not interested in seeking extension in their terms and they have already initiated plans for the process to relinquish their respective assignments through farewell meetings in various formations of the army. One thing thus becomes clear that Musharraf would choose the next army chief from amongst the present top 12 lieutenant generals. A cursory glance at the list makes interesting reading and provides some idea about the diverse possibilities that exist, and the kind of choice that Musharraf has for selecting his successor.

As a matter of fact, the 12 Corps Commanders, currently heading vital divisions of the army, were all hand-picked by General Musharraf and some were even part of the military coup staged by him. They include (in the order of seniority): Lieutenant General Khalid Ahmed Kidwai (Director General Strategic Plans Division), Lieutenant General Ashfaq Pervez Kiani (Director General Inter-Services Intelligence), Lieutenant General Malik Arif Hayat (Serving in the GHQ), Lieutenant General Tariq Majeed (Corps Commander, Rawalpindi), Lieutenant General Mohammed Safdar (Chief of Logistical Service), Lieutenant General Ather Ali (Director General at the Joint Staff Headquarters), Lieutenant General Wasim Ahmad Ashraf (Corps Commander, Gujranwala), Lieutenant General Mohammed Sabir (Military Secretary, GHQ), Lieutenant General Imtiaz Hussain (Adjutant General, GHQ), Lieutenant General Muhammad Afzal Muzzaffar (Quarter Master General, GHQ), Lieutenant General Hamid Rab Nawaz (Inspector General Training and Evaluation, GHQ) and Lieutenant General Muhammad Salahuddin Satti (Chief of General Staff, GHQ).

Lieutenant General Khalid Ahmed Kidwai, Director-General of the Strategic Plans Division tops the list of the incumbent lieutenant generals. But the problem is that he is already on extension and is not likely to be considered for the post of the army chief or the VCOAS. But there are those in the military circles who believe that due to his deep involvement with the military’s strategic nuclear assets, he may have an outside chance to become the CJCSC. If a combination of seniority and competence remains the criterion, then the Director General of the all-powerful Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), Lieutenant General Ashfaq Pervez Kiani, may pair with Kidwai to be the new VCOAS. But if Lieutenant General Kidwai is out, insiders say, the two senior most three-star generals who qualify for the two coveted posts are Lieutenant General Ashfaq Pervez Kiani pairing with the Commander 10 Corps, Lieutenant General Tariq Majeed, with the former being elevated to the largely ceremonial post of CJCSC and the latter being made the VCOAS.

Informed military circles say unblemished loyalty and a meeting of minds had always been more important considerations for Musharraf than formal traditions or institutional niceties. Lieutenant General Ashfaq Pervez Kiani and Lieutenant General Tariq Majeed both are known as hardcore Musharraf loyalists, as well as hard-line professional soldiers. They are from the Baloch Regiment and had earlier headed the Military Intelligence (MI) in different times, one after the other. Yet, Lieutenant General Kiyani has more chances to be elevated because of his having emerged in recent times as a close confidant of Musharraf. His role as a negotiator for the president trying to strike a power-sharing deal with Benazir Bhutto during their recent London parleys is proof of the closeness he shares with his boss. He had been directly involved in the Musharraf-Benazir talks because of his past association with Benazir, being her deputy military secretary during her first tenure as prime minister.

However, in case a new tradition is established and General Musharraf opts to depart from tradition by bringing in a dark horse to replace him, Lieutenant General Salahuddin Satti, the Chief of General Staff, who ranks number 12 on the seniority list of the top 12 lieutenant generals, could be the choice for the slot of the VCOAS, along with Lieutenant General Muhammad Sabir, currently the Military Secretary to the GHQ, being appointed the CJCSC. Over the course of the last eight years in power since his October 1999 military takeover, General Musharraf has shunted, transferred, promoted, sacked or retired scores of army officers in order to suit his idea of the sort of army high command that he needs. And that is why when it is time for some of the top generals to go home, they will do so without a whimper because of once being the beneficiaries of Musharraf’s systematic largesse.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

The Nawaz Sharif Decision

Three days have passed now since Nawaz Sharif’s forced expulsion. The passage of this brief period should have given your Blogger an opportunity to overcome any unconscious emotionalism. It is therefore time for him to try and take a more detached view of the events that took place at Islamabad airport. And also, to make an attempt to answer as to why they took place and what these actions may portend for the near future.

Clearly, the presence of a belligerent Nawaz Sharif in Pakistan would have completely jeopardised Musharraf’s efforts to get ‘re-elected’. Not only would it would have drawn unwanted attention towards Benazir Bhutto’s unpopular collaboration with the military regime but it would also have led to a flood of further desertions from PML(Q)parliamentarians.

Faced with this unprecedented challenge, it appears that Musharraf opted to risk confrontation with the judiciary (which had upheld the former prime minister’s constitutional right of return), rather than face electoral failure.

A few hours after the event, on the evening of 10th September, the PML (Q) chief Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain appeared on Geo television and disingenuously announced that the deportation had taken place entirely at the behest of the Saudis. And further, that while he and his party had demanded that Nawaz Sharif be given an unobstructed right of return to Pakistan, the written request of the ‘Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques’ had rightly been given precedence over domestic concerns.

Now let us take the Gujrat Chaudhry’s utterances to their implied logical conclusion: A previously disinterested Saudi King becomes adamant that Nawaz Sharif keep to his commitments made eight years previously. Why the sudden change? Why, of course, it must be due to US pressure. Now then why would Washington wish to see Nawaz Sharif quickly shunted out of Pakistan? The answer, of course, is that it wishes to protect Benazir Bhutto’s deal with Musharraf from unravelling under political pressure.

So should we heap all the blame for Nawaz Sharif’s disgraceful deportation on Benazir Bhutto and the US?

A knowledgeable source in Islamabad suggested otherwise. Over the telephone he told me that the regime had cajoled, pleaded and begged the Saudis to honour the ‘commitment’ made to Musharraf which prevents Nawaz Sharif from returning to Pakistan for a period of ten years.

While a spokesperson at the US Embassy in Islamabad declared:
“The Pakistani government’s decision to deport Mr Sharif to Saudi Arabia runs contrary to the Pakistani Supreme Court’s decision on his return. Since this is still a matter under legal consideration, we’re not going to offer further comment at this time…With regard to the pledge that Mr Sharif made not to return to Pakistan, these are matters between Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and Mr Sharif himself. The United States plays no part.”

Even if the US played no role in the deportation, there is no denying that it remains an extremely involved party. As the New York Times reported:

“The Bush administration official said that one hope now was that General Musharraf’s strong move against Mr. Sharif would enable him to stand up to Mr. Sharif’s allies in Pakistan and go ahead with the power-sharing deal.”


Once it decided to deport Nawaz Sharif, the regime and its agencies have embarked on a ruthless approach towards its opponents. One of its obvious intentions is now to crush PML (N) so that the party is unable to influence the presidential ‘re-election’, and also to make it a less attractive option for those in the PML (Q) currently contemplating jumping ship in Punjab.

Evidently, according to several reports received by your Blogger, the regime is also involved in a multi-pronged approach to deal with potential threats it perceives as emanating from the lawyer community and the senior judiciary.

Some senior lawyers are seething at the recent antics of the ‘defrocked’ judge. Apparently, this regime appointee is being blamed for doling out prodigious amounts of money and official patronage among the legal fraternity. The underlying aim is to fracture the unity among the lawyer community and, unfortunately, it has already borne results. As a Nation editorial noted:

After an extraordinary success the legal community scored in the struggle for the restoration of the Chief Justice because it acted as a united force, it is unfortunate that differences should have emerged within the Executive Committee members of the Supreme Court Bar Association. However, it sounds strange that nine out of its 20 members should have assumed the authority to dismiss Mr Munir A. Malik from the office of its President and nominate Khawaja Naveed Ahmad, Vice President, as Acting President in place of Mr Malik. Its Secretary Zulfikar, who has declared the dismissal as unlawful, supports Mr Malik’s claim that the bar’s roll does not contain any clause of his dismissal or suspension.

Then there was also the 10th September killing of Raja Riaz, a former vice president of the Karachi bar association, who had been an active member of the anti-regime campaign protesting the March dismissal of the Chief Justice. Some lawyers have gone on record claiming that it was a targeted killing aimed at intimidating the lawyer community.

The independent Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) termed the murder as a “clear attempt to suppress and undermine the process of justice.” The HRCP went further by noting that “The fact that in some cases the State and its agencies are directly involved in threatening the lawyers recently is all the more reprehensible.”

And, of course, the storming of the Sindh High Court by a huge unruly mob on 11 September is a chilling harbinger of things to come as far as the judiciary is concerned. The resulting pandemonium forced a seven-member bench of the provincial high court to temporarily suspend its inquiry into 12 May carnage in Karachi.

According to the Hong Kong-based Asian Human Rights Commission
The government of General Musharraf attacked the Sindh High Court building today (September 10, 2007), beating several lawyers and using abusive language against the judges on the bench which was conducting an inquiry into the carnage of May 12, 2007 in Karachi, where more than 50 persons were killed. The same day the attackers also shot dead a senior lawyer, Mr. Raja Riaz, outside the High Court building as he was proceeding towards the court. These attacks were lead by the Mutehda Qaumi Movement (MQM) which is the leading party of the ruling coalition.

A Blogger quoting from Daily Jang has reported that on the day of mob invasion several unidentified armed men were seen hovering around the precincts of the Sindh High Court building. According to this report the police remained a silent spectator and did absolutely nothing:

The press is now talking about an executive policy of “defiance of the courts… Scary days are ahead, as the judiciary stands its ground and prepares to redress the plaints of those hurt by the government action of September 10."

With the deportation of Nawaz Sharif the scene of conflict has now shifted from the streets to the courts. The Supreme Court remains under pressure like never before. Already rumours have started about secret meetings with Musharraf’s emissaries. How long can its recent unity hold out against the might of the executive heaven only knows.

The short term future of the country is looking decidedly bleaker.

I’ll let an editorial from the New York Times have the last word

Published: September 12, 2007

The dangers of America’s Faustian bargain with Pakistan’s military dictator are growing more obvious by the day. Gen. Pervez Musharraf was on his way to declaring a state of emergency last month until Washington rightly warned him that such a move could set off a political explosion. This week General Musharraf defied Pakistan’s Supreme Court and blocked the return of his longtime political rival, Nawaz Sharif, and then arrested nearly the entire top leadership of Mr. Sharif’s party.

Mr. Sharif is no Washington favorite, and this time the Bush administration’s criticism of the general’s overstepping has been pro forma. The violent street protests in Pakistan, however, are raising new fears of cataclysmic political upheaval in a country that is both armed with nuclear weapons and the fault line in the fight against terrorism.

Mr. Sharif, a wealthy industrialist, is certainly no hero. His two stints as prime minister were seriously marred by corruption. And there is particular irony in his self-promotion as an opponent of military rule, since the military first helped put him in office. That is until General Musharraf decided to oust him in a bloodless coup. General Musharraf has spent the eight years since squandering his popular support. Pakistanis — professionals, ordinary people and even some in the military — have made clear that they are now sick of the general’s rule. Most want a return to civilian democracy. That should include elections in which all candidates, even deeply flawed ones like Mr. Sharif, can participate.

Despite his much-ballyhooed “freedom agenda,” Mr. Bush acquiesced in the general’s authoritarian rule as the payment for his help in the war on terrorism. General Musharraf delivered far less than he promised, and today Al Qaeda and the Taliban are resurgent along Pakistan’s border regions.

Mr. Bush is compromising his democratic ideals again by encouraging a power-sharing deal between General Musharraf and another exiled and flawed former prime minister, Benazir Bhutto, whom Washington considers more moderate and more sympathetic than Mr. Sharif. Even if they can pull it off, such a deal is unlikely to produce a stable political structure because the two leaders fiercely distrust each other.

With neighbors like Afghanistan, Iran, India and China, Pakistan is one of America’s most important allies, and its stability is vital. And there was a time when General Musharraf could have led his country’s peaceful transition to democracy and been a hero. Instead, General Musharraf increasingly risks being toppled, to the likely benefit of militant minorities — armed Islamists or conspiratorial military nationalists — who would gain control over Pakistan’s frontiers and nuclear arsenal.

If the general won’t listen to his own people, Washington needs to tell him the facts of Pakistan’s increasingly precarious political life. It’s time for General Musharraf to leave the military, for Pakistan to hold free and fair elections and for the army to find ways to support, not sabotage civilian democratic rule.

Monday, September 03, 2007

The General and his Uniformed ‘Traitor’

Your Blogger just came across this piece in today’s edition of the Canadian newspaper The Globe and Mail and thought it well worth sharing with his readers.

If anyone of you knows who the ‘traitor’ is, do kindly share the information with the rest of us.

By Graeme Smith
Globe and Mail, September 3, 2007

ISLAMABAD — It was only a whisper, but it was enough to put Pakistan's military ruler in a dangerously foul mood. At a recent dinner party, one of President Pervez Musharraf's senior officers leaned in close to him and muttered a few words. The general, who took control of Pakistan in a 1999 coup, has been hearing similar things for months, murmured in private or chanted in the streets: "Give up your command."

This single idea, the hope for a return to civilian leadership, has caught Pakistanis' imagination at the start of what promises to be a tumultuous election season.

Gen. Musharraf's reaction to the quiet aside from his trusted officer, however, shows how passionately he intends to defend his dual role as President and army chief, and helps to explain why observers are predicting turmoil in the coming months.

"Gentlemen," Gen. Musharraf said, raising his voice and hushing the room, according to a guest, "We have a traitor among us."

He grabbed the sleeve of the officer who had spoken to him and hoisted his arm up like a victorious boxer, identifying him to the gathering of military commanders.


Sunday, September 02, 2007

Stratfor on Pakistan & Other Comments

Two days ago the Texas-based private intelligence agency Stratfor (Pakistan: Systemic Change in the Making) came to the conclusion:

It no longer is a matter of if, but of when Pakistani President Gen. Pervez Musharraf will leave the helm in Islamabad. The judiciary and the man he ousted from power, former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, are threatening to throw a monkey wrench into his evasive maneuvers. The issue, however, now turns from the day-to-day drama of internal Pakistani politics to the much deeper issue of whether Musharraf's fall from grace will be paralleled by that of the Pakistani military as a whole.

Stratfor’s report also made the following points:

- Today, a vibrant civil society and increasingly independent and assertive judiciary have emerged within the country.

- The country's media, particularly the private television news channels, also have emerged as a powerful driver of events

- Pakistan also has witnessed an unprecedented surge in civil society activism. Instead of the political parties that historically have led protests, civil society groups -- especially the legal syndicates -- drove the protests during the legal crisis. There also has been an unprecedented outbreak of social debate on national issues, not only regarding the military's role in politics but also on the issue of rule of law. This debate has included criticism of men in uniform, as well as politicians.

Okay, so far this private intelligence agency, as far as your Blogger’s is concerned, has been stating the obvious. However the following comments made by Stratfor are more than a little interesting:

…within the military, Musharraf's repeated reshuffling of positions has contributed to his own undoing. It has brought to the fore a junior crop of generals that is inexperienced in politics and government. For a long time, this worked to his advantage by preventing any of his subordinates from rising up to challenge him. Now, however, as he faces challenges from Pakistan's civilian sectors, his top generals are unable and/or unwilling to support him.

In essence, the law of unintended consequences has worked against Musharraf. Moreover, it has weakened the military's ability to dominate the state. For now, this is limited to the political sphere. Eventually, the judicial branch can be expected to empower the legislative branch by forcing the military and the intelligence community to open up their books to parliamentary scrutiny. The weakening of the military's hold over the country's economic sector will be the next stage in the ongoing systemic change.

The question moving forward is: How far will the military's grip slacken before arrestors force the generals to take a firmer role? For now, the trend is running against the military -- and historical positions are being reversed. As the civilians entrench their power, it is the military -- not the civilian politicians -- that will mostly have to contend with limitations imposed by the judiciary. And civil society will serve as the watchdog.


Now for some local analysis.

On Nawaz Sharif

The News today confirms our recent assumptions:

Intelligence agencies have reported that there has been a phenomenal rise in the popularity graph of Nawaz Sharif and if he returns to Pakistan according to his announced schedule, he would be invincible because of his fame.

A top official source in Lahore, referring to the intelligence reports that were prepared and filed before the latest Supreme Court’s decision in the Sharifs case, said that Benazir Bhutto’s desperation for a deal with General Musharraf had made Nawaz the most popular leader in Pakistan.

In their assessment of the ground situation, these agencies indicated that the Punjab had slipped out of the hands of both the ruling Q-League and Benazir Bhutto and was now sympathetic towards Nawaz Sharif.

“According to the agencies’ estimation, out of the total 13 National Assembly seats in Lahore, at least, 11 will go to the PML-N,” the source revealed, adding that the agencies had a similar assessment about other parts of urban Punjab.

… In case he comes to Pakistan on September 10 despite the official threats and claims, Nawaz is expected to get an unprecedented reception, particularly in the Punjab. However, in case Nawaz fails to fly back home as hinted by some ruling party leaders and certain ministers, his ascendancy would vanish

On Benazir Bhutto

Having given Musharraf a 48 hour ultimatum till 31 August to deliver, Benazir Bhutto promptly backed out once the deadline expired.

As Dawn reported:
Contrary to expectations, former prime minister Benazir Bhutto has put off at least by 13 days the decision on when to return home, perhaps still hoping to hear from President Musharraf on the seemingly deadlocked talks on the proposed power-sharing arrangement between them.

She told a crowded press conference here on Saturday at the end of a two-day meeting of PPP’s Central Executive Committee that on Sept 14 her party would make known in Pakistan the date of her return home.

Despite being closely questioned on the matter she assiduously avoided agreeing with the suggestions that the talks had failed or were even in a deadlock mode…“Since I have received no word from Musharraf, either way, I cannot say whether the talks have failed or are still alive,” she added.

Your Blogger believes that the PPP leader is still naively relying on the US and the UK to pressurize Musharraf into making a deal.

So it is not surprising to learn, as the Daily Telegraph reported, that Ms Bhutto met the UK Foreign Secretary, David Miliband last Friday to discuss her plight.

And as the Washington Post points out:
Bhutto's own Pakistan People's Party, however, had also been resistant to the deal. Many of her strongest supporters have expressed grave reservations about the idea of negotiating with a military man. They have urged her to abandon the talks and return to Pakistan to oppose Musharraf's reelection.

Despite the efforts of Aitzaz Ahsan and others, the lady persists in clinging to the notion that only the Army and America can return her to power. It appears that the people of Pakistan - in particular the newly invigorated civil society - seemed to have completely escaped her outdated political radar screen.

On Musharraf

Apprehensive about Nawaz Sharif’s announced return to Pakistan on 10 September, Musharraf has sent the Senate chairman Mohammad Mian Soomro, on a desperate mission to prevail upon the Saudi royals to do their utmost to prevent this from happening.

However Nawaz Sharif’s impending return is not the only problem facing Musharraf. Now he even lacks support in his ISI-fashioned assemblies to get Benzir Bhutto’s constitutional demands ratified.

According to The Daily Times:

Constitutional amendments package: Two-thirds majority for govt unlikely
ISLAMABAD: Growing dissent in the ruling PML on re-electing President Gen Pervez Musharraf in uniform and likely defections to the PML-Nawaz in case of Nawaz Sharif’s return to Pakistan have brought the government to a numerically weak position, and even if PPP Chairwoman Benazir Bhutto finally comes to terms with President Musharraf, the government may not manage a two-thirds majority in parliament to pass a package of constitutional amendments.

The announced return of PML-N leader Nawaz Sharif ahead of the presidential election on September 10, if it materialises, would further complicate the situation with ‘expected’ defections from the ruling PML. Daily Times has learnt that a ‘soul-searching’ session of NA officials was held at the NA secretary’s office to work out numerical calculations for the two-thirds majority, but it ended on a negative note after analysing the current situation and in the wake of reports of treasury MNAs opposing the ‘deal’ in their private meetings

However hard Musharraf, Benazir Bhutto, the US and UK may try, it appears that the deal is dead as a Dodo.