Tuesday, October 16, 2007

A Country in Waiting

Everyone has a personal favourite.

In your Blogger's case, when it comes to TV journalists, it has always been that spry and often steely-gazed Canadian on BBC World - Lyse Doucet.

Doucet has toughed it out in several action-packed postings, including Pakistan, Afghanistan, Israel and more recently Iraq. At times when bullets were flying and bombs were exploding she always appeared completely calm and reported the facts to us in a clear no-nonsense fashion. In all the years of watching her on TV your Blogger has never seen her display even a trace of bias.

As Pakistan awaits the arrival of Benazir Bhutto and two Supreme Court judgements, Doucet had this to say in today’s Toronto Star:

Oct 16, 2007, Lyse Doucet

KARACHI - "What's your definition of democracy?" A Pakistani journalist thrust his microphone through a noisy scrum of hacks besieging the information minister outside Parliament, minutes after General Pervez Musharraf was declared the winner in presidential elections in the national and state assemblies.

The minister, Ali Durrani, launched into an elegant treatise on the vote of the majority and the will of the people.

"Does it include the manipulation of democracy?" the journalist demanded again.

Such is the mood in Pakistan today as it struggles to move from military rule to a credible legitimate democracy. The press, with an explosion of local television channels, is vibrant and critical notwithstanding telephone calls that still come from the government's military and civilian offices.

Human rights activists continue to display the bravery and commitment they have deployed for decades on the streets – from the repressive military rule of General Zia ul-Haq in the 1980s to Musharraf's "enlightened moderation" that began with his widely welcomed military coup in 1999 to his controversial attempt to hold onto power.

And lawyers, recently emboldened by a more robust Supreme Court, have spearheaded legal and political battles to declare loudly and clearly a man in uniform cannot run for office.

Against all these remarkable strengths of civil society is the juggernaut of Musharraf's machine. "The electorate has spoken," emphasized the finely suited Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz, "and that's democracy."

But will the general really keep his promise this time to remove his military uniform? "Absolutely," declared Aziz, his right-hand man.

Never mind that Musharraf got his mandate from assemblies packed with his supporters, whose terms are about to end. Never mind that the Supreme Court still has to rule on petitions challenging the general's decision to stand while still Army Chief. His supporters are blazing ahead with preparations for his next term in office.

Lawyers, who galvanized protests for months, could only take their campaign so far. They whipped up opposition to the president after he blundered in trying to dismiss the chief justice earlier this year. But a divided opposition proved unable to capitalize on this ferment in the streets.

The main opposition party, the Pakistan People's Party, has been focusing its energies on a deal to get all corruption charges dropped against their exiled former prime minister Benazir Bhutto and many others. Aziz called it an understanding to put aside the politics of victimization to make way for "national reconciliation."

Most of the country's commentators call it a cynical and sordid deal to allow Bhutto to come home to ease the political heat on Musharraf. It could still be overturned by the Supreme Court.

So for the next week or so, Pakistan is a country in waiting.

Waiting for the Supreme Court to rule on the deal between Bhutto and the general, and on the legality of the presidential election. Waiting for Bhutto to fly home on the morning of Oct. 18, even though Musharraf is now asking her to delay her return. She wants to fight in elections set for January, which she hopes will pave the way for her to become prime minister — if the general helps overturn a constitutional bar on more than two terms.

Backed by quiet support from Washington and London, Bhutto helps bolster Musharraf and sidelines the other ex-prime minister in exile, Nawaz Sharif, who recently tried to come home and was turned back.

Bhutto, whose previous terms in office are tainted by the corruption charges, admits she won't get the huge crowds, the millions who turned out to greet her when she ended her first exile in 1986. A general's fate also played into her hands then when a still mysterious plane crash killed the president, General Zia ul- Haq, and ended nearly a decade of martial law.

At a press conference after her resounding election victory in 1988, she was besieged by questions about how she would deal with a military that has always distrusted her and her Pakistan People's Party. When she confirmed she would meet the generals, I asked her then who had requested the meeting, "You or the generals?" In other words, who is really in charge?

Nearly 20 years later that is still the answer to the definition of democracy in Pakistan. Bhutto didn't answer my question then. She may not want to answer it now.


No one that I have met (and I've come across a fair few people in the past couple of weeks) expects the Supreme Court to spring a surprise on the legality of Musharraf's so-called 'election'. The full judgement, once it comes out, will make for an interesting read (as we will then be informed about the legal justifications for the court's decision).

As far as the National Reconciliation Ordinance is concerned the Attorney General has himself informed the press that he found it near impossible to defend this new piece of law in the courtroom.


Anonymous said...

Legal justification of court will be the same as in 1987:

All the country is ready for elections, we dont want to upset that.

I doubt they would use the phrase "doctrine of necessity" in their judgement

Anonymous said...

This is so depressing!! When will we learn, when will we be free, when will we come out of this maelstrom of justifications based on “expediency”, “pragmatism”, “necessity”, “in the greater benefit of the times”, etc. etc.

What will it take? Please my country fellows, we need to do something….. just compare ourselves to the rest of the world and you will know what I mean. Being number 9 in 2006 and number 12 in 2007 on the list of failed nations, we are regularly lumped with countries like Somalia, Iraq, Sudan etc….. unreal!!!

No “messiah” is going to come to save us, we have to do something ourselves!!

Ali Afzal said...

The sight of her Kids & Mr. 20 % himself sitting on the dais besides her during her press conference in Dubai should be a reality check for anyone, who naive enough to think for a moment that she’d learned anything from her years of self-imposed exile. Rest assured it’s still very much a family affair & party time. Seeing Zardari gleefully smiling made one shudder just as seeing Mustafa Khar sitting besides the heavy mandate before he was bounced back to Saudi!!

Ali Afzal said...


From Washington to war in Waziristan
By Syed Saleem Shahzad

A dramatic sequence of events in Pakistan has grabbed global attention, but few have so far connected the dots between the hurried issuance of a National Reconciliation Ordinance on October 5 and the savage fighting that is currently raging in the North Waziristan tribal area.

The National Reconciliation Ordinance, issued by President-elect General Pervez Musharraf, grants immunity to current and former lawmakers who have been accused of corruption. It paves the way

for a political settlement between Musharraf and former prime minister Benazir Bhutto, which is expected to result in a civilian-based consensus government after parliamentary elections in about three months' time.

The ordinance was issued just 24 hours before Musharraf’s reelection as president, yet only three days prior to the Musharraf-Bhutto deal, which is what the ordinance amounts to, Musharraf’s representatives had declined to accept Bhutto’s conditions.

And within 12 hours of Musharraf's reelection, he was commanding what has become the most bloody military operation against al-Qaeda and Taliban in North Waziristan.

On October 1, Bhutto announced in disillusionment that talks on a political settlement with Musharraf were completely stalled. Islamabad had categorically rejected Bhutto’s demand for tangible confirmation of a guarantee that if she supported Musharraf’s bid for the presidency and the formation of a new government after parliamentary elections, she would be absolved of all corruption charges pending against her in national and international courts. A verbal assurance that the cases would be withdrawn was not enough for the twice elected former premier, whose previous governments were both removed on charges of corruption.

News of the breakdown in the dialogue reached Washington - the chief broker of a Bhutto-Musharraf settlement - in a very short time. Indeed, Pakistan’s political transition is the most important link in US strategy in the southwest Asian region and to some extent in the Middle East. The US State Department's Richard Boucher has visited Pakistan and United Arab Emirates (where Bhutto has been living) six times in the past nine months in an attempt to reconcile Musharraf and Bhutto and thus ensure a friendly government in Islamabad, thus retaining an ally in the "war on terror" as well as curbing any adventurous designs by the Pakistani military and safeguarding Pakistan’s nuclear assets.

While last week's political machinations were under way in Pakistan, the US was providing intelligence to Islamabad about a massive regrouping of the Taliban in the Pakistani tribal areas in preparation for a big campaign against NATO forces in southeast Afghanistan. The US feared that a disruption of the political dialogue would mean a hiatus in Pakistan’s political transition, and delay military operations against the thousands of Taliban and al-Qaeda forces gathering in North Waziristan before launching attacks on the Afghan provinces of Khost, Paktia, Paktika, Gardez and Ghazni, and then Kabul with unending waves of suicide missions. If the Taliban were allowed to hatch their plans unmolested during a political vacuum in Islamabad, Washington believed the Taliban would seize the upper hand in Afghanistan.

That was the situation when a representative of the US spoke to Bhutto and noted her minimum demand for a political deal: “At least a signed letter by General Pervez Musharraf which would document his promises against my demands.” US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice then spoke to Musharraf by telephone, and immediately thereafter, Musharraf’s legal team promulgated the National Reconciliation Ordinance.

In Pakistan, certain circles are immune from ordinary legal recourse. Corruption in the military, for example, can only be probed and punished by the military. Under the new reconciliation ordinance, politicians and parliamentarians can now only be questioned by parliamentary committees and not through ordinary laws, and all past corruption cases against those who have held political positions in the past have been withdrawn. Some analysts have criticized the ordinance as permitting the rise of the rule of political mafias in Pakistan.

As soon as ordinance was issued, Bhutto's Pakistan Peoples Party separated itself from other opposition parties and did not resign from the assemblies. However, the party remained firm on its "principled stand" that it would abstain in Musharraf's reelection vote. Musharraf swept the election as there was virtually nobody to oppose him.

Within a day of Musharraf's victory, Pakistani F-16 aircraft were flying sorties from Kohat Airbase to bomb the North Waziristan town of Mir Ali, acting on intelligence and satellite maps provided by US intelligence. Top al-Qaeda ideologues, reportedly including the group's number two, Ayman al-Zawahiri, were believed to based in the town.

The fighting in the area is continuing for a fourth day, in what has become the biggest battle in the tribal areas since 2003. So far, over 600 casualties have been reported, the majority of them civilians. Several dozen militants have been killed. The Paksitani armed forces have reported 45 military casualties, but a jirga (assembly of elders) handed over 73 bodies of Pakistani soldiers to the commander of the 7th division of the Pakistan Army on Monday. Another jirga handed over 50 wounded soldiers to army commanders. The aerial bombardment continues, causing a mass migration of the local population to nearby cities.

The flames of Waziristan fires always reach Islamabad and Karachi. When Benazir Bhutto’s aircraft lands in Karachi on October 18, the battle of Waziristan will be reverberating there. The top commander of the Pakistani Taliban, Baitullah Mehsud, has already openly vowed to kill her, and a strong Taliban cell in Karachi is ready to perform the task.

Pakistani said...

God Bless Us,

For latest News in Video Format, visit: www.pakistannewsroom.com


Syed said...

The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.
Benjamin Franklin

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