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.


libertarian said...

Thanks for the insight. Not surprising that Nawaz's deportation went down without much fuss from the lawyers or his supporters. Guess the cajoling to return by armchair revolutionaries underestimated the ruthlessness of Mush, BB and the US.

This puts the judiciary in an uncomfortable position: if it does not call out contempt, it will rock it's "independent" image; if it does, it might get clobbered by a ruthless foe that has decided the end-game, come hell or high water. Gavels only go so far when the guns are unholstered and he bayonets bared.

Anonymous said...

my only hope is CJ comment, "Justice should be upheld even though the heavens may fall."

lets see what he can do.


Anonymous said...

though I also look forward to the judiciary but I am really surprised at the display of total lack of spine from our vanguards of freedom of expression - the TV media.

GEO was more of a government mouthpiece with all its programs from News to Shahid Masood to Kamran Khan acting more like goverment propaganda agents.


Anonymous said...

watch Aaj Tv, in particular its programs, Bolta Pakistan and Talat Hussain Show. I think they are the best ones.


Syed said...

Don't expect missionary approach (like Onlooker)from these channels, basically they are commercial outfits and GEO like Jang is most hopeless. Very fond of 'Jahil online' and his drama leader.

Pakistani said...

I have not felt the killing of SSG troops as loss of my army, but army has not got brains to understand that.

AAS said...

Why do we all fall into the pattern of supporting the same persons and should be clear that we can have new leadership in the CJ, AA and maybe even IK.

If the cycle of dictators and authoritarian and corrupt political leaders is the future of Pakistan...then i hope that this nation is torn asunder completely and finally. The last remainging ember of this idea must die.

Syed said...

First thing is to establish a process for electing the person/party of your choice and rejecting 'the sign of hatred'.(IMHO)

Anonymous said...

Nawaz Sharif should land in Afghanistan, Iran or India and then cross the border on foot. If Bin Laden and Zawahiri can live in Pakistan then why not Mr Nawaz Sharif.

Anonymous said...

The utter and blatant disregard and violation by the government on September 10, 2007 of the Supreme Court order and instructions has clarified a question that has confounded me for a while and simultaneously has set new standards and precedents for all the governments to come (if any!!).

Post March 9th the government, after a certain point, had started the rhetoric that “we will wholeheartedly accept whatever decision the Supreme Court would make” in regards to the restoration of the Chief Justice. And since the overwhelming decision of the Supreme Court to do so, the government has not let go any opportunity to point out that they indeed have wholeheartedly accepted the Supreme Court’s decision and actually has presented this in a manner as if they have done/achieved an amazing feat and should be given tons of kudos for it. Ever since the government started saying this till September 10th, I have been perplexed by an ever daunting question as to what does the government really mean when they say they will “accept Supreme Court’s decision”. Do they have a choice to do so? Will it be a great favor to the nation if the government did so, something which I always thought and was taught that we had no choice except to accept it and follow it? Finally, on September 10th I got the answer to my nearly six month old perplexity very loud and very clear – YES government does have a choice in accepting Supreme Court’s decision and indeed it is a big favor to the nation if it does so! Another great day in the sordid history of our “land of the pure”!

But more importantly government’s action on September 10th has really eased the task of maybe the future governments ( or rather the individual in power - for better part of the last sixty years we haven’t had a single government just different autocrats/dictators in uniform or civilian clothes, why would this change now).

The Courts have come under attack on various occasions previously with the modus operandi of all such attacks being physical violence by pumped up political workers/supporters (which can be a daunting task if you don’t have motivated/loyal supporters on ground) and, more importantly, prior to the Courts making a decision and passing an order. Clearly, the thinking being that if an order was passed by the Court, it will be impossible not to accept/implement it and therefore the need to stop the Courts prior to them giving the verdict. On September 10th the government has clarified a lot of things and has made the whole process very easy. There is no need to be violent about anything (after all we are a peaceful nation) and therefore whether one has support and pumped up workers on ground or not, it doesn’t matter. The verdict by the Courts is NOT mandatory and therefore let the poor judges do their work without disrupting or harassing them (this is actually even better because it gives the impression that the courts/judges are independent) and once they complete their work it can be decided whether to accept the decision or not. Why be violent and try to pre-empt the Courts, just sit back and relax!!! Thank you for setting this great precedent and making life so easy!!!!

It has been nearly a week since this has happened and we still have to see any concrete action against such blatant attack on the Supreme Court, with far reaching repercussions, by the Court themselves. Where is the Court activism now? What happened to the suo moto actions by the Court which was fast becoming a hallmark of it? If the Court is not going to take any action against such barefaced assault on it, we might as well close them down and give the money saved from the exchequer to the army (they could do with the extra buck as they are so stretched, you know fighting the war against terrorism/extremism, governing the country and running majority of the public institutions in addition to their own industrial conglomerates!!!). Why does the Court need a third party to file a petition to inform/make it realize it that somebody has violated their order? Was all the activism by the legal community just to restore their own Chief Justice? Are we as nation on the path to rapidly lose what we had attained since March 9th towards the independence of the judiciary?

To add insult to injury the so called independent media has in one day (rather few hours) turned its colors. Nearly all the channels now seem to be massively towing the government’s line. Being abroad I certainly do not have access to all the channels back home, but the few I do get to see, one can clearly see the change. Especially GEO, it’s amazing, the whole emphasis of discussions and shows has been how Nawaz Sharif lied about his undertaking/agreement and therefore what a bad person he is. There is hardly any emphasis and is only mentioned in passing the atrocity the government has committed by violating the Supreme Court orders. On Pakistan as a sovereign(?) country what will have a lasting affect, Nawaz Sharif’s supposed lie (in my opinion this is also debatable and should be probed/discussed, but for another time) or unashamed contempt of court by the government. When, as a nation, will we learn the difference between an “illegal act” and a “bad managerial decision”? If indeed Nawaz Sharif has lied, run a smear campaign against him and let the people decide and vote him out to his political death. But if the illegal act by the government is not rectified NOW and the nation not informed/taught the gravity and repercussion of it, I see an even further bleak future for the country. The responsibility of rectifying lies with the Supreme Court where as for informing the nation lies with the media, so I implore these two “pillars of the state” to do their job for the betterment of the country and a viable future, otherwise I see nothing but further rule of the law of jungle leading to anarchy and eventual death of the remaining infinitesimal civility in the country if not the country itself.

The Pakistani Spectator said...

Now the battle ground is empty for Mush, as Nawaz Sharif has gone, Kalsum Nawaz has again changed her mind, and Benazir after strinking the deal would come after the presidential election. Only threat (which I believe is the most serious one) for MUSH is from the justice.

The Pakistani Spectator

cowardpakistani said...

Recent notification of Election commission is a gift to the 'sheeple' of Pakistan.

Zinda bad!
USA & Army

Anonymous said...

CJ's son gives interview to UK newspaper

Anonymous said...

Fahim said...

Nawaz Sharif's deportation has led to have us no hopes from Musharraf when we think he will consider any rules of judiciary.
I have also read about no hopes with Musharraf on the following link:

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