Saturday, March 31, 2007

New York Times: Pakistanis are fed up with Musharraf’s Lies and Thuggery.

Remember this disgusting photo?

It was taken on 28 December 2006 when the police began wildly thrashing family members of the ‘missing’ who had the temerity to present a memorandum of protest at the Army GHQ at Islamabad.

The poor boy in the photo is 17-year-old Mohammad bin Masood (son of ‘missing’ Masood Janjua) who was beaten and publicly stripped by policemen and later dragged away to a waiting police wagon.

Last Sunday one of NYT’s leading columnists Nicholas Kristoff met with Amina Masood Janjua, wife of the ‘missing’ Masood Janjua and mother of the teenaged Mohammad.

The General and the Housewife
March 25, 2007

Gen. Pervez Musharraf is facing angry street demonstrations around the country in the most serious crisis of his presidency — and that’s partly because he picked a fight with a middle-class housewife who is proving tougher and shrewder than he is.

This drama is playing out in extraordinary scenes on Pakistani streets: crowds of roly-poly lawyers in dark suits braving clouds of tear gas to demand that Mr. Musharraf resign — or even be tried for treason. It’s impossible to know whether the protests will lead to a democratic revolution that topples Mr. Musharraf, to a military crackdown, or to a political deal that causes the protests to fizzle.

And behind it all is the saga of the general and the housewife.

“The nation is ready to rise up; there is a revolution behind me,” says Amina Masood Janjua, a mother of three who has emerged as a nemesis of General Musharraf. Mrs. Janjua says she was a “very timid person,” uninvolved in politics and content to be “queen of my house.” But then two years ago, her husband disappeared, presumably kidnapped by government security agents.

The government has regularly “disappeared” people it doesn’t like, apparently keeping them in secret detention centers to be tortured and interrogated for months or years. Human rights groups count at least 400 such disappearances since 2002, when Mr. Musharraf began using the war on terror as cover to eliminate troublesome nationalists, religious activists and human rights organizers.

Mrs. Janjua’s husband, Masood Janjua, may have been picked up because of ties to a Muslim organization, but there is no indication he had broken any law. Mrs. Janjua says her family received a phone call from Mr. Musharraf’s military secretary last year promising that her husband would be freed soon. But nothing happened, and officially the government knows nothing of his whereabouts.

Terrified that her husband was being tortured, Mrs. Janjua began organizing other family members of the disappeared. They held a public demonstration — but the police attacked the group and beat and publicly stripped Mrs. Janjua’s 17-year-old son. As the police dragged him off, Mrs. Janjua’s 11-year-old daughter screamed: “You’ve taken my father; don’t take my brother!” He was freed that evening. The aim of the assault presumably was to warn Mrs. Janjua to be quiet — just as relatives of other missing people have been warned that their loved ones will be harmed if they protest or speak to the press.

One of the missing is Safdar Sarki, a Pakistani-American doctor and American citizen seized a year ago while campaigning for the rights of people in Sindh Province.

“I was crying today; I was thinking of him,” his wife, Rukhsana, said by phone from California. Her voice breaking, she promised that if Pakistan would just release her husband, she would make him stop fighting for human rights. She added: “My sons are asking every day, ‘Where is Papa? Where is Papa? …’ ”

Likewise: Where is the U.S.? The Bush administration has stuck more solidly with Mr. Musharraf (“a solid friend” is the current State Department formulation) than with its principles. President Bush needs to make clear that the U.S. sides with Pakistan’s democratic future, not its autocratic past.

That future is being shaped by Mrs. Janjua, who sued the government over the disappearances. To everyone’s astonishment, the Pakistani Supreme Court took up the case and ordered the government to account for those who are missing.

Perhaps partly as a result — and also to prevent the Supreme Court from complicating his election-fixing plans — Mr. Musharraf this month suspended the chief justice of the Supreme Court. That’s what has set off nationwide outrage and protests.

Ordinary Pakistanis seem increasingly fed up with the president’s lies and thuggery. Mr. Musharraf’s contributions to Pakistan are enormous — he rescued Pakistan’s economy, fostered 7 percent growth rates, promoted education and nurtured an expanding middle class. But those same accomplishments are now raising aspirations for genuine democracy rather than the sham he offers.

The risk is that a replacement would be worse: Pakistan has been one of the world’s worst-ruled nations over the last 50 years, and Mr. Musharraf is better than his predecessors. But if the Pakistani public demands better government, that is ultimately a bullish sign for Pakistan and a useful warning to other autocrats.

And maybe the movement will bring Mrs. Janjua and Mrs. Sarki their husbands home again.


Yesterday the newspaper received a funny little letter from one Nadeem Haider Kiani, presently Press Attaché at Pakistan Embassy in Washington DC, which among other things claimed that:

Musharraf has always believed in freedom of speech, press and judiciary.

It was a hallmark of the military regime ‘to provide basic freedoms and not to politically victimize opponents

Musharraf was ‘a person who is respected by millions of people around the world’.

Kiani then complained that Kristoff’s assertion that Pakistanis “seem increasingly fed up with the president’s lies and thuggery” was ‘highly inappropriate’ and disrespectful.

Nadeem Haider Kiani reminds me of one Qutubuddin Aziz, who did the same sort of duplicitous work for a previous military dictator - General Zia.

Today Mr Aziz prefers to be recalled as a journalist and writer of international repute, a former diplomat, a lecturer, broadcaster and social worker.

On the other hand I will always remember him as one of Zia’s mendacious toadies.

The Times (UK): Musharraf Severely Weakened By CJ Debacle

The Times had a piece today on Pakistan titled Genteel hunger strike and a protest in suits poses big threat to President.

Here are some extracts:

The saga began on March 9, when General Musharraf called in Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, his Chief Justice, and told him to resign for allegedly abusing his authority. When Mr Chaudhry refused he was summarily suspended, manhandled by police and put under effective house arrest.

To most of the outside world, the incident came as no great surprise, given General Musharraf’s track record of crushing all political dissent. But the 100,000 lawyers and judges of Pakistan, who regard themselves as the country’s last democratic redoubt, were incensed.

They accused General Musharraf of violating the constitution to get rid of an independent-minded Chief Justice who could block the President’s plans to be reelected while remaining head of the army.

Thousands took to the streets in their black suits and starched collars, battling with riot police in Islamabad, Lahore and other cities. At least seven judges and one deputy attorney-general resigned.

…This is by no means the first challenge to General Musharraf’s rule. In the eight years since he took power, the former commando has survived at least four assassination attempts and mass protests by Islamists. What makes this so serious is that it is the first time that secular forces from across the political spectrum have united to oppose him.

It also comes as American officials and politicians start to question his democratic credentials and his ability to fight the Taleban and al-Qaeda along the Afghan border.

Last month Dick Cheney, the US Vice-President, warned him that he risked losing support in the United States unless he took tougher action against the insurgents. This month a group of Democratic senators wrote to the Pakistani President asking him to guarantee fair parliamentary elections next year and to allow exiled opposition leaders to contend.

“The feeling is growing that President Pervez Musharraf will have to quit sooner rather than later,” said Ahmed Rashid, an expert on Pakistani politics. “After eight years of military rule, it appears people have had enough.”
And this is The Times correspondent Jeremy Page’s take on the future:

General Musharraf now hopes to persuade the PPP, which won 25.8 per cent of the vote in 2002, to form a new coalition that would represent Pakistan’s moderate, secular majority. But the PPP is likely to demand that he step down as Army chief, guarantee fair elections and allow Mrs Bhutto or another one of its leaders to be Prime Minister. And while the President is unlikely to give up without a fight, his negotiating position has been severely weakened by the Chief Justice controversy.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Media Buzz

There was a buzz among the journalistic community about how Musharraf got on the Geo programme “Aaj Kamran Khan Key Sath” a week after having it banned.

The story goes that the Commando General (along with a handful of powerful subordinates) reportedly subjected the boss of Geo/Jang Group to 2 ½ hour verbal battering via conference telephone, after which the gentleman is rumoured to have emerged a sweating, gibbering wreck.

And so, shortly afterwards, on 19th March Musharraf got his moment on Kamran Khan’s TV show. It is widely believed that Kamran Khan was under severe editorial limitations as to what he could ask Musharraf and what he could not. Taking this view into account, it not surprising that the interview turned into a voluble Musharraf talk fest.

The interview highlights include the following:

Musharraf insisted that Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry had not been summoned on March 9 – the day the general supposedly sent a reference against him to the Supreme Judicial Council – saying: “He actually called on me.

Musharraf also said that had been dressed in his army uniform because he was at work – “Should I have been in a sports kit?”, he asked.

The General also revealed that Sharifuddin Pirzada was the first person to complain against the chief justice, saying: “He advised us on the constitutional and legal aspects of the reference. He has offered a technical excuse on why he cannot represent the state against the chief justice in the SJC. But he is part of the game”.

To your Blogger his use of the word “game” for the manner in which the chief justice had been suspended was highly revealing.

The next day Dawn rightly panned the show in a front page article titled "Not very convincing, Mr President". The newspaper accused the General of being glib, evasive and unconvincing, but then the newspaper made the mistake of criticising the already harassed Kamran Khan with the comment:

Many fundamental questions were left unanswered and, more crucially, unasked in the TV interview

In retaliation Kamran Khan sent a sharp emailed rejoinder to Dawn’s Editor Abbas Nasir criticising the newspaper’s front page interview of Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry. This email was widely disseminated among the journalistic community (and through further distribution a copy managed to reach even your Blogger today.)

My humble advice to these two senior journalists is to kindly lay down their swords. Unity among senior members of the press is a must in present conditions.

Vanity of Vanities

Some weeks ago I chanced upon a senior member of PTV who made a very interesting admission.

Actually the confession came as a result of some polite teasing on my part about PTV News and how it was largely a Mush & Shortcut show.

The PTV senior staffer then revealed to me how closely Shaukat Aziz monitored his appearances on PTV News.

Aziz, it seems, regularly contacts PTV complaining about mundane trivialities like ‘Why didn’t the cameraman point out to me that my tie knot was slightly askew?’ or ‘Why did they shoot me with the lights at an incorrect angle?’ I gather he even lets them know if the any tickertape news about him at the bottom of the screen needs minor editing.

All I could say was, ‘Wow!’

I suppose it is a reflection of how much time Shaukat Aziz has on his hands in between cutting ribbons and his overseas jaunts.


A Foreign Take on Events

While many of us vent our steam at recent events in Pakistan, it is perhaps pertinent to note what neutral observers are also saying.

Here is a view from today’s Christian Science Monitor
...Earlier this month, Musharraf suspended the country's Supreme Court chief justice. Ever since, Pakistan's middle classes – ironically one of the chief beneficiaries of the military leader's eight-year rule – have taken to the streets. Also fueling the uproar are suspicions that Musharraf is paving the way to another term as both president and chief military leader.

The protests are prompting concern, both in Pakistan and the US, that pent-up political frustrations and social stagnation threaten the stability of a key American ally at least as much as Islamic extremism in the country's less-advanced regions.

"For too long, we've heard that the only alternative to Musharraf is something worse. But the fact is we don't need him if he doesn't move towards a civilianized government with broadened representation of Pakistan's people," says Selig Harrison, director of the Asia program of the Center for International Policy in Washington. The lack of political reform and civilian rule has exacerbated divisions, he says, "and the more polarized Pakistan is, the more unstable it's going to be."

While no one expects the social unrest to cause Musharraf's imminent demise, many observers do see the coming months as crucial to Pakistan's direction

"This is not just a flare-up. It is reflective of a broader discontent about the failure of the Musharraf regime to take concrete steps to restore civilian rule," says Karl Inderfurth, a former assistant secretary of State for south Asian affairs. "With elections on the horizon, this could be an important turning point."

Musharraf cited "abuse of power" when he suspended Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammed Chaudhry on March 9, and many Pakistanis agreed – with the charge at least, though they attached it to the president himself. Mr. Chaudhry had taken the government to task over hundreds of disappearances of Pakistanis, some suspected Islamic extremists but others human rights activists and representatives of ethnic minority populations.

Perhaps more telling for many Pakistanis, Chaudhry had also expressed his view that it was not legal under the Constitution for Musharraf to seek another presidential term while remaining the Army chief. In addition, he had said publicly that he anticipated a number of ways in which the issue could come before him.

Such open threats to the continued reign of Pakistan's military became intolerable, says Mr. Harrison. "The military establishment is deeply involved in a wide range of business in the country, and they have a big stake in staying in power," he says...

Daily Dawn comes of Age?

The blame for the over fifty year long, chronological abuse of the press in Pakistan can be quite properly laid at the autocratic attitude commonly found in Pakistani leadership – be it civilian, military or bureaucratic.

However, one cannot completely absolve the press itself for its historical subservience to Islamabad. The blame for this lies squarely on the press owners - such as Mehmood Haroon, Khalil-ur-Rahman, Majid Nizami et al - for placing self-interest and financial profit before the principle of press freedom. All of these gentlemen have had ingratiatingly close connections with various despotic governments over the years. For instance Dawn's Mehmood Haroon happily served as Interior Minister and Governor of Sindh under the military dictator Zia, Nawa-i-Waqt's Majid Nizami was exceedingly close with the Sharif family (while it was trampling on the press and arresting the likes of Najam Sethi) and Jang's Khalil-ur-Rahman remained thick with many a dictator.

Coming back to Dawn, a senior member of its editorial staff (M Ziauddin) took his own newspaper to task not so long ago by saying:

The Dawn survived decades of military dictatorships basically because it shamelessly toed the government line. Ziauddin recalls printing verbatim government press releases and letting the censor board remove entire pages.

So it comes as a pleasant surprise that Dawn has finally come out of its dusty closet and decided to take on a military dictatorship.

I wonder how much of this is due to the efforts of Zafar Abbas, the ex-BBC Urdu correspondent and recently appointed Islamabad editor for the paper?

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Back in a While

Your Blogger is going to be away for a while.

In the meantime he requests you all to keep your dreams alive and your hopes high.

Friday, March 16, 2007

Cracking Down or Cracking Up

The scenes outside the Supreme Court made for riveting TV this afternoon. Armed Police were attempting to prevent hundreds of determined demonstrators from reaching the court building. There were clouds of tears gas amid reports of a heavy use of rubber bullets and the ever-present lathi.

Intriguingly behind the lines of police one saw a large backup contingent of military rangers dressed in their khaki uniforms, carrying automatic weapons.

Then one heard a live report from the politico Qazi Hussain Ahmed speaking from a local police station. It appears he had been arrested by the police who somehow had allowed him to keep his phone. The JI Chief informed us that he had been physically picked up by Army Commandos and carried to a police wagon.

Shortly afterwards we saw the scene of Qazi Hussain Ahmed’s arrest on TV and he had not made the story up at all. There were a large number of burly men in green outfits picking up the protesting politicians one by one.

First the rangers, and now army commandos?

Then the 4pm Geo TV News came on at about 14 minutes past the hour. Your Blogger, suspicious as ever, reckoned something was in the wind. Within minutes of the news coming on a large detachment of police attacked the Geo office in central Islamabad, smashing windows and thrashing the staff with lathis. Unbelievably they even fired off a number of tear gas shells within the confines of the office.

As the police rampaged in the Geo office ransacking whatever came to hand, the Federal Minister for Information and Broadcasting Mohamed Ali Durrani appeared on the scene and began remonstrating with the police. Quite incredibly they went on with their work of destruction and completely ignored him. Obviously the order to invade Geo must have come from a higher source.

All this leads your Blogger to conclude that that the man micromanaging the ‘defence’ of Islamabad was none other than the Commando general himself. Angered by the showing of mayhem a door away from his own Presidency, a message must have been sent to Geo to behave or else. The Geo staff must have contacted Shakil-ur-Rehman (or some other senior), hence the 14 minute delay in showing the 4pm News bulletin. The moment Geo decided not to buckle down the assault commenced.

Given the unfolding scenario I think it fair to ask: Is Musharraf cracking down or cracking up?

The answer to that question will emerge in the coming days.

Get Up, Stand Up

Pakistan finds itself once again at a critical crossroad – the last it happened was in 1970-71 when we lost a majority of our population. The Establishment in West Pakistan had declared the East Pakistanis traitors. Tens of thousand were killed; countless women were raped – all in the name of a jingoistic brand of patriotism. It is shameful to recall, that with a few notable exceptions, the ruling elite silently acquiesced to the carnage.

Patriotism is a much abused concept in Pakistan and for some reason seems only to apply to the ‘sacred soil’ of the country. I disagree. To my mind ‘patriotism’ cannot be defined as some kind of loyalty to a geographical piece of real estate. True patriotism instead ought to symbolize the people that live within it. To be a true patriot, I believe, one has to be loyal to the people of Pakistan – that is the 159 ½ million of us (and not just the ‘cream’ at the top).

For most part of our sixty years of the history of Pakistan its people have been deprived of fundamental freedoms. The ruling class holds that the people of Pakistan are incompetent and incapable of deciding their own fate. The greed, ineptitude and corruption of past civilian leaders – such as Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif – are constantly held out as examples.

I beg to differ.

Firstly, both these leaders are creations of the military – Nawaz Sharif was handpicked by General Zia and Benazir came into prominence as the daughter of ZA Bhutto, whose political career was fathered by General Ayub Khan.

The other point which is regularly overlooked is that while in power, neither of these two civilian leaders had free reign. During their terms of office a large part of their time was expended in placating and dealing with the constant demands and conspiracies hatched by their co-rulers ensconced in Rawalpindi – the likes of Mirza Aslam Baig, Hamid Gul and Musharraf.

And then having got rid of these ‘wretched’ civilian leaders what have we been landed with? A cynic would reply: A rule of the Generals, by the Generals, for the Generals. And as long as members of the elite adhere to this system, they believe they will be left alone to pursue their comfortable and relatively worry free lifestyles.

But that raises the question: Acquiescence at the price of what? The answer is, at the cost of freedom denied to 159 ½ million of us.

So what is this freedom? Is it something gifted to the ruling educated class to enjoy life and make as much money as possible, providing of course they do not raise their voices and oppose the existing system? No. As we all know freedom is the ability to live without fear of official repression, to live under a system of rule of law where everyone is adjudged equal and possess the right to choose the government the majority wishes.

The one thing that history teaches us is that freedom is only attained by making sacrifices – the Americans had their brutal civil war and a century later their civil rights marches and the Europeans had their WWII when millions died. Today the ordinary citizen in the West enjoys his liberties as a result of the sacrifices made by his ancestors.

Sadly in modern Pakistan very few people have ventured to sacrifice anything for any cause. Perhaps the exceptions are the Baloch, but then look at what is happening to them. Hundreds of them have been arbitrarily adjudged traitors and have gone ‘missing’.

And so we woke up last Saturday to discover that the Chief Justice of Pakistan had gone ‘missing’ as well – missing that is from his august office (and unlawfully placed in detention).

It is time, dear readers, to make a stand and vent our rage at was has happened to our country – it is what true patriotism is all about. Otherwise one day we or someone dear to us might also go ‘missing’ as well. And there will be no courts and judges left to offer us even a modicum of protection.

The coming generations will justly entitled to curse us if we twiddled our thumbs while the future of Pakistan is burning.

So get up, stand up and fight for your rights!


PS: Don’t expect the West to come and support us. The US, UK and other governments are solely concerned with the future safety of their own citizens and would happily support an Attila the Hun in Pakistan providing he guaranteed to destroy Al Qaeda for good.

Safeguarding the future wellbeing of Pakistan can only be achieved by Pakistanis by themselves.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Shaukat Aziz the Scapegoat?

The PML(N) lota and perennial political loudmouth was back on TV today.

Sheikh Rashid Ahmad, the Federal Minister for Railways, made an appearance on Geo TV this evening claiming that his government had ‘shot itself in the foot’ by keeping the Chief Justice of Pakistan in custody. He openly lamented the fact that the Chief Justice's children were being prevented from attending school.But he then defended the General by blaming the current state of events on incorrect advice given to Musharraf by Shaukat Aziz.

It is possible that Musharraf has himself enlisted Sheeda Tulli’s help to extricate him from the present debacle, or then again it may be a case of Tulli trying to regain his lost status by demonstrating to Musharraf that he is much better at damage control in comparison with his asinine successor to the post of Minister for Propaganda, Mohammad Ali Durrani.

Whatever the case maybe, Rashid has blown apart the government’s persistent contention that the Chief Justice is not under house arrest.

The idea of making Shaukat Aziz the scapegoat for the disaster may just appeal to Musharraf. It would not be the first time that he has tried to pass the buck for his own failures. After his self created Kargill disaster, it should be recalled that Musharraf attempted to heap all the blame for the fiasco onto the dippy prime minister of the day, Nawaz Sharif.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

The CJ (contd.) - A Day of Shame and Loathing

Now to our nation’s shame we learn that not only has our Chief Justice been incarcerated illegally but he and his wife have been physically roughed up by Musharraf’s security personnel. (for more details on this click here)

Today’s Dawn Editorial (‘Spectacle of shame’) laments:

YESTERDAY’S brutal manhandling by the Islamabad police of the Chief Justice of Pakistan, Iftikhar Mohammed Chaudhry, whose clothes were torn as he was forced into a car by the police for taking him to the Supreme Court, casts the government in a terrible light. Never before has a chief justice been treated in such a callous and disrespectful manner, with little regard for his position, exposing the full extent of the government’s muddling of the whole affair since Friday. Restrictions placed on the Chief Justice who, together with his family, was virtually kept under house arrest shattered all illusions about any democratic credentials that anyone expected this government to have. Since the CJ’s illegal, virtual confinement, lawyers, politicians and senior media persons who wanted to meet him were turned away by the security personnel.

After the so-called ‘plane hijacking’ case in 1999 Musharraf publicly whinged that Nawaz Sharif had treated him, the Army Chief, worse than a chaprasi.

According to our constitution the office of the Chief Justice of Pakistan is much more senior than the office of an Army Chief (who in theory is junior to the Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff,who is meant to report to the Minister of Defence who then reports to the Prime Minister).

Taking note of the treatment meted out to the Chief Justice of Pakistan by Musharraf, all one can say is that the General’s hypocrisy is quite unparalleled.

And yes, the Press has been under considerable pressure not to report the reality and instead simply publish/transmit Islamabad’s shameless fabrications to the general public.

Early on the regime forced off two TV news channels off the air. As BBC reported:
Pakistan's Media Regulatory Authority (Pemra) on Monday reprimanded TV channels for showing live footage of protests by lawyers' supporting Mr Chaudhry.

Two channels, Aaj and Geo, were forced off air for some time. When their signals were restored, they did not show any of the same footage again.

At one stage the pressure from PEMRA was so immense that Hamid Mir, who anchors the popular Capital Talk programme on Geo TV, told PTI.

"I am mentally prepared that today is the last day of my show as I am personally aware of the pressure being exhorted on my management.”

I have seen many barefaced liars in my life but Mohammad Ali Durrani, the regime Minister for Propaganda, takes the cake. Last night millions of Pakistanis witnessed him on TV invoking the name of God and asking the All-mighty to punish all liars with ‘burning fires of hell’ while simultaneously feeding us cock-and-bull stories which blatantly contradicted everything we had all previously seen with our own eyes live on TV.

Then there is that coarse lout Wasi Zafar who yells abuse at the drop of a hat and is publicly known to physically assault low-ranking employees, such as restaurant waiters. Unlike the slick Durrani he drowns out contrary opinion by aggressively braying out falsehoods at the top of his voice. Last Monday Wasi once more took leave of his senses by abusing journalist Ansar Abbasi during a live interview on VOA and even threatening to do harm to the journalist's family.

As the same Dawn editorial commented:
The sheer deception indulged in by the federal information and law ministers, who kept denying that any restrictions had been placed on the freedom of movement or of speech of the Chief Justice, is a matter of further shame.

It is a pathetic reflection on Musharraf that he requires the services of such undisguised reprobates.

The goofiest (but decidedly accurate) statement recently made belongs to the head of PML(Q) Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain who refused to comment on the presidential reference against Chief Justice, by saying:

That it is an internal matter between the army and the judiciary.

Pray tell us Chaudhry under the laws of Pakistan what right does the Army possess to take away the authority of the Chief Justice of Pakistan?.

Is It Just Wishful Thinking?

Along with many other Pakistanis your Blogger has read Mark Mazzetti’s piece in the New York Times which appeared last Sunday. It appears that even the Bush White House might now be undergoing a serious rethink about their pal Musharraf.

Here are two pertinent quotes from the article:
The fear within Washington that Islamic extremism has become a dominant force in Pakistan has been stoked in part by Mr. Musharraf himself. Some analysts say his warnings are used to maintain a steady flow of American aid and keep at bay demands from Washington for democratic reforms. He often invokes the dangers of Islamic radicalism when meeting American officials in Washington and Islamabad..

.. If Mr. Musharraf were to fall to an assassin’s bullet, American diplomatic and intelligence officials say, it is unlikely that there would be mass uprisings in Lahore and Karachi, or that a religious leader in the Taliban mold would rise to power.


On the basis of this article and in view of recent events the South Asian correspondent for an Australian paper has this to say today:


THE US has indicated for the first time that it might be willing to back plans by elite echelons of the military in Islamabad to oust Pervez Musharraf from power, as the Pakistani President was beset by major new difficulties over his attempts to sack the country's chief justice.

Reports yesterday quoting highly placed US diplomatic and intelligence officials - previously rusted on to the view that General Musharraf was an indispensable Western ally in the battle against terrorism - outlined a succession plan to replace him.

US officials told The New York Times the plan would see the Vice-Chief of the Army, Ahsan Saleem Hyat, take over from General Musharraf as head of the military and former banker Mohammedmian Soomro installed as president, with General Hyat wielding most of the power.

The report adds another dimension to the range of challenges bearing down on the embattled military ruler following his weekend sacking of chief justice Iftikhar Chaudhry, whom he appointed just over a year ago.

Thousands of lawyers clashed with baton-wielding riot police yesterday during a nationwide day of action against the sacking of the top judge. About 3000 lawyers wearing smart black suits and chanting "Down with Musharraf" dismantled barriers in an attempt to stage a sit-in outside the Lahore High Court building.

More than 40 lawyers and 15 police were injured in the clashes. Police repeatedly baton-charged the demonstrators, some of them senior members of the bar, arresting 25 people.

In Islamabad, police barricaded the Supreme Court where the Supreme Judicial Council was meeting in camera to consider as-yet unspecified charges against the chief justice involving alleged misuse of his authority.

There was chaos and confusion as the council began its hearings last night. Having been held virtually under siege and incommunicado in his residence, the chief justice refused to get into a government car sent to convey him to the Supreme Court.

Instead, he stunned officials by starting to walk, surrounded by supporters, and told reporters he rejected any suggestion he had abused his office. Police soon intervened, however, and he was forced into a car and taken to another building before being transferred to the Supreme Court.

As courts across the country remained paralysed in protest, motives for the sacking emerged when it was disclosed that last month Justice Iftikhar said in a speech that General Musharraf could not continue as army chief beyond the expiry of his term as President later this year.

General Musharraf has a highly controversial plan that would have him elected to another five-year term as President by existing federal and provincial legislatures - before general elections are held.

But he also wants to continue as Army Chief of Staff, something that is bitterly opposed by political leaders as well as the international community. The plan would be challenged in the courts, and the chief justice's strong words on the issue may have forced the President to take pre-emptive action to remove him.

The bitter wrangling lends weight to those in the US diplomatic and intelligence community who believe it is time to consider the post-Musharraf era.

The US report suggests a growing disenchantment towards General Musharraf in Washington and indicates that the longstanding view that the alternative to his regime would be chaos and a takeover by extremist Islamic mullahs is no longer ascendant.

The US officials say hardline Islamists have usually not done well in elections in Pakistan and that if General Musharraf were removed, a doomsday scenario would not necessarily follow.

The report could be an attempt by Washington to pressure General Musharraf to take stronger action against militants in Pakistan's border areas near Afghanistan, where the Taliban and al-Qa'ida are operating. But it might also indicate the President's allies in Washington are about to pull the rug from under him.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Why is the CJ in Trouble?

Chief Justice Iftikar Muhammad Chaudhry, despite his good works (see my previous blog: The Chief Justice of Pakistan) managed to infuriate a large group of powerful people.
The Military
In December 2005 the CJ took a suo moto action on the illegal abduction of scores of Pakistani citizens. Many of the detentions were related to the anti-Musharraf insurgency in Balochistan, where a secret agency was accused of abducting hundreds of youths.

Previously relatives of the missing people would file writs of habeas corpus in the courts. The judges would then formally request the Interior Ministry for information. Characteristically, the ministry would reply that the secret agencies had no clue as to the person's whereabouts, and the matter would end there.

The Chief Justice changed all this by diligently following up these cases and compelling the authorities to trace the missing citizens. As a result, many missing people suddenly reappeared in the strangest of circumstances; many of them accusing the secret agencies of incarcerating and torturing them. The CJ then put the cat among the pigeons by ordering these agencies to appear in court in front of him.

It was perhaps the first time that the powers of these near omnipotent military agencies had been challenged in Pakistan and obviously they and their masters would not have at all been pleased.

The Bureaucracy and Government Politicians
In December 2006 the Supreme Court declared a land grab in Gwadar of 1000s of acres illegal. It ruled that the Islamabad’s handpicked Balochistan government was not at all competent to allocate quota for allotment of Gwadar lands to politicians, ministers, MNAs, MPAs, Senators, higher civil bureaucracy and provincial Judiciary without having a proper legislation.

The court also concluded that in view of the glaring illegalities in allotment of land in Gwadar all similar petitions would be given an early date of hearing upon the consent of the Chief Justice.

In another case of public interest, the Supreme Court took the unusual step of blocking bureaucratic shenanigans by citing the fundamental rights of the public enshrined in the Constitution. In this particular case the court cancelled a lucrative lease of a public park in Islamabad owned by the Capital Development Authority (CDA) which was to be converted into a mini golf club. One can imagine the distress of the bureaucrats to discover that there was such thing as ‘fundamental rights of the public’ and that it could be used against them in all their future dealings.

Shaukat Aziz and his Corpocrats
Late last year the Chief Justice cancelled the much publicized privatization of Pakistan Steel Mills which was being sold to Arif Habib and his associates. The billionaire stock market operator Habib is believed to be close acquaintance of Shaukat Aziz. The detailed judgement exposed a number of legal violations, lapses, omissions and commissions committed by the Privatisation Commission and the Cabinet Committee of Privatisation contrary to the law promulgated by the regime itself. Shaukat Aziz is believed to have been furious at this Supreme Court decision because he headed the Cabinet Committee of Privatisation which had attempted to rush through the sale of the steel mill.

Two days before his house arrest the Chief Justice had directed that the chairman of the Central Board of Revenue (CBR) and the Secretary for Finance be made respondents to a case against inflated prices of petroleum products, along with the Secretary for Petroleum, the Oil and Gas Regulatory Authority chairman, the Oil Companies Advisory Committee and eight heads of the major oil companies in Pakistan.

And now to the most important part.


A few days after Musharraf’s publicly expressed his wish to allow kite flying during Basant the CJ defied him by upholding a decision to ban kite-flying because of the large number of deaths that were caused annually as a result of the razor-sharp kite flying strings.

This act of open judicial defiance, taken together with the ‘Missing Persons’ case, must have caused loud alarm bells to ring in the General’s head.

2007 is a vital year for Musharraf. He has not only to get ‘re-elected’ as President but general elections also have to be held.

Right now Musharraf probably has a Plan A, a Plan B and a fallback Plan C for the coming general elections.

Plan A- a heavily rigged election in which PML(Q) emerges as a majority party. This will undoubtedly lead to dozens of legal challenges to the Supreme Court

Plan B – a deal with Benazir Bhutto and her PPP. However to date despite ‘on and off’ negotiations such a compromise is still up in the air.

Plan C- declaring a national emergency and postponing elections for a year. This can also be challenged in the Supreme Court.

As far as his plans for ‘re-elections’ go they are just as dependent on a pliable Supreme Court.

Plan E – Get re-elected by the existing parliament. Once again this will keep the Supreme Court busy interpreting its constitutional validity.

Plan D – Getting re-elected after the general election as part of a deal with Benazir Bhutto.

Even so there will always be the sticky issue about the uniform, which has to constitutionally come off by the end of 2007.

So Musharraf will remain largely hostage to any number of decisions that can emanate from the Supreme Court. This has never really worried previous military dictators as they ensured that the judges of the constitutional court remain malleable. However this does not appear to be the case when you happen to have an activist Chief Justice of the Supreme Court.

So CJ Iftikar Muhammad Chaudhry simply had to go!

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Musharraf Keeps to His 7 Point Pledge

Remember Musharraf’s famous seven point pledged commitment to the nation in 1999.

Well here is an update (and amazingly it appears that he has kept to his word).

1. Rebuild National confidence and morale
My secret agencies have ensured that I continue to retain high morale and remain nationally confident of staying in power for long as I want (just like my idol General Hosni Mubarik of Egypt).

2. Strengthen Federation, remove Inter-Provincial disharmony and restore National cohesion
I am planning to cleanse Balochistan of all troublesome Baloch as an example to all others what real national cohesion is all about.

3. Devolution of power to the grass root level
After getting rid of some of the old political ‘grass’ I manured the left over grass (weeds and all) to whom I devolved just enough power to enable them make money for themselves, rig referendums and elections in my favour, and nothing else.

4. Revive Economy and restore Investor Confidence
Nothing like a few property and share market deals to keep the ‘true’ investors happy. As the poor have no money to invest unfortunately I have had little choice but to let them wallow in their misery.

5. Ensure law and order and dispense speedy justice
Any one who has opposed me has received swift and speedy justice. Remember Akbar Bugti?

6. Depoliticize State institutions
Why, just the other day I depoliticised the Chief Justice by placing him under house arrest.

7. Ensure swift and across the board accountability
I’ve kept my word on this. All those who are corrupt and stupid enough to oppose me are in either jail, Dubai or London.

The Chief Justice of Pakistan

It is time to examine the Chief Justice of Pakistan Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry’s record as the head of Pakistan’s judiciary.

During CJ’s 20-month tenure the backlog of pending cases in Supreme Court of Pakistan was reduced from 38,000 cases to around 10,000

Free legal aid was provided to the unrepresented jail petitioners, who could not afford to hire the services of a lawyer.

Additional posts of research officers were created with the aim of improving the efficiency and performance of the courts

Steps were taken to curtail corruption among the court staff by banning the entry of munshies/clerks into offices.

The CJ established a Human Rights Cell within the Supreme Court premises to process citizen complaints. This forum soon became known for providing expeditious and inexpensive relief to members of the general public.

To his credit the CJ worked on a large number of human rights violations - from complaints and letters which he received from aggrieved persons and from press reports – by ordering the relevant authorities concerned to obey the law of the land. These suo moto actions resulted in provision of quick relief to the common man.

His only weaknesses it is believed was a heightened degree of haughtiness and a weakness for fancy official cars, but then these are very common failings among officialdom in Pakistan, a country where every general is driven in a Mercedes.

In the CJ’s defence it ought to be said that the post of Chief Justice is comparable to that of his constitutional associates - the prime minister and president. And for my part I would not begrudge any chief justice a fleet of Rolls Royces if in return he improved the rule of law and the quality of justice in Pakistan.

There is also now a Musharraf-orchestrated complaint that the CJ’s son Dr Arsalan Iftikhar was appointed to a government post that he was unqualified to hold. But then as The News points out:

there is no evidence of any formal request from the deposed CJ seeking any favours from the government for his son or that Justice Iftikhar in any way had pressurized the authorities to do the ‘undoables’ for his son-Dr Arsalan Iftikhar… If Arsalan’s case is probed, it gives a much more serious charge sheet against the government authorities than the already charge sheeted Justice Iftikhar.

Now to the amazement of most Pakistani citizens we discover that our Chief Justice was summoned to and later confined in the Army House, Rawlapindi, like some recalcitrant schoolboy and browbeaten for over five hours by Musharraf and his minions - including Shaukat Aziz and ‘two senior PML(Q) party members’ – who all badgered him to tender his resignation. The CJ resisted these bullyboy tactics and refused to bow to this pressure.

Some seven hours later the CJ, it appears, was reluctantly released, but when he tried to return to his office at the Supreme Court, he was stopped on the road by a police superintendent and forcibly escorted by an official posse which drove him directly to his residence. By doing so, the regime unwittingly revealed to all that a police superintendent can have more legal powers in Musharraf’s Pakistan than the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court.

And so to the present. While there has been no official order of ‘arrest’ or ‘detention’, the CJ continues to be detained in his residence, which remains surrounded by police. His phones have been cut and he has been prevented from communicating with anyone, including members of his family.

In the meantime Musharraf and his underlings continue to blather on about the unquestioned legality of his action. As the lawyer Anees Jillani points out in today’s Dawn that under articles 209 (4) and 209 (6) of our much tampered Constitution:

The president, if he comes to know about a judge’s alleged misconduct through information received from the SJC or from any other source, can ask the Council to “inquire into the matter” to determine whether the judge is guilty of the charge…After inquiring into the matter, the Council shall report to the president as to whether the judge has been found to be guilty of misconduct, and it shall be the Council that will advise the president as to whether the judge should be removed from office. If so advised, the president may remove the judge.

Opposition leader Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan has stated that the detained CJ is now under tremendous pressure of intelligence agency officials who are demanding his resignation.

According to told Dawn:

[Nisar Ali Khan] said the Chief Justice House was swarming with intelligence officials and the CJP, along with his family members, were confined to one room. He said even his house in Quetta had also been sealed.

In your Blogger’s view Musharraf arrogantly believed that he would have no difficulty in getting the CJ’s resignation. Sadly for him the CJ has proved to be man of sturdier character.

Having failed to get the CJ to resign the dictator has sailed into uncharted constitutional waters by sending a reference against the CJ to the Supreme Judicial Council after having unlawfully detained him.

Unfortunately the judges of the Supreme Court have a poor track record of standing by beleaguered colleagues. We will soon see what stuff the present lot of judges are made of, particular those currently sitting on the Supreme Judicial Council

If Musharraf can brutalise and unlawfully detain the constitutional head of Pakistan’s judicial system just imagine what he can do any ordinary citizen of the country.

God help us!


My next Blog will be about Musharraf's possible motives for trying to sack the CJ

Saturday, March 10, 2007

The Sacking Of The CJ & A Writer's Block

Over the past few weeks your Blogger has suffered from a writer’s block – a difficulty usually associated with an absence of inspiration. In my case it was compounded with a palpable feeling of disillusionment with the present circumstances.

Many people tell me that this infernal general is here to stay. Personally I don’t subscribe to this view - I'm convinced that he will be gone within a year - but the widespread apathy among the country's ruling elite can be, at times, disheartening. Odds are that Musharraf will be replaced by another Khaki-clad 'Savior of Pakistan', and that is also a depressing thought.

My view of current realities tells me that Pakistan has reached a critical juncture in its 60-year history and the future appears increasingly bleak.


We face the twin grave problems of a continuing population explosion and a looming water shortage. With the shrinking of the Himalayan glaciers the volume of water in our rivers is sharply decreasing. Unless we urgently begin addressing this problem, my apprehension is that by 2025 we will have grossly insufficient irrigation resources to feed an anticipated population of 275 million people.

I fear famine and water wars could be just around the corner for us. Conflict over water supplies will not just involve India and Pakistan, but also lead to inter-provincial bloodshed within Pakistan. Compared to this frightening scenario the present quarrel over the Kalabagh Dam looks like mere child’s play.

Associated with this dilemma of the ever burgeoning population is the complete and utter collapse our educational system. We are now producing and will continue to produce millions of citizens who will grow up espousing a bleak, simplistic black and white, good vs. evil outlook to most aspects of life.

If the philosophy of extremist ‘Jihadism’ is allowed to extend to even a mere 0.4 % of Pakistan’s future population, it will result in an enraged horde of a million people.

My fear is that the ‘oxygen’ and ‘breathing space’ traditionally provided to extremist religious views under military dictatorships (Zia’s and Musharraf’s) now not only threatens the future integrity of Pakistan but has the potential to wreak havoc on the West. One only has to recall that the world’s first computer virus (the 1986 ‘brain virus’) was created in Lahore – the future development of ‘dirty bombs’ and other deadly devices by sophisticated Pakistani fanatics is not such a farfetched idea after all.

And what have seven long years of Musharraf’s dictatorship achieved in addressing any of these problems?

In my book absolutely nothing – nada, zilch!

All we have seen is the economic, social and political aggrandizement by the military in every sphere of activity in Pakistan. This coupled with its mule headed and dogmatic approach to resolving differences by the use of overwhelming force – i.e. in East Pakistan and now in Balochistan – which helps create national catastrophes

While regime supporters will continue to insist that there has been economic growth in recent years, the reality is that most of these financial figures have been cleverly doctored. If one bothers to scrutinize the government’s economic data carefully these ‘growth’ figures soon turn out to be pure bunkum. Yes, huge fortunes have been made by those ‘investing’ in the property and share market scams and while national assets such as PTCL have been privatized and sold to overseas buyers let us not delude ourselves and call these purchases ‘overseas investments’. The glaring fact remains that there has been no overseas investment in our industry or export sector in past seven years, no many times our smooth talking Shaukat Aziz asserts to the contrary.

Simply put, as any honest economist will confirm, whatever economic growth Pakistan has experienced in the last five years is due solely to 9/11 and not to any genius on the part of Musharraf, Shaukat Aziz or for that matter any other Maula Jat.


So we now come to yesterday’s sacking of the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, Iftikhar Mohammed Chaudhry, by Musharraf.

This mockery of law and constitutionalism by the military dictator has had the effect of unclogging my writer’s block .

More about the CJ’s sacking tomorrow.