Saturday, April 28, 2007

Missing Persons Case: ‘Playing Hell with the Citizens of Pakistan'

It is a sign of the times that supercilious, self-important public servants are finally being made to trudge to the Supreme Court and make an appearance.

Yesterday in the Missing Persons Case, Defence Secretary Kamran Rasool and National Crisis Management Cell director-general Brigadier Javed Iqbal Cheema both showed up before the three-member Supreme Court investigating the ‘mysterious’ disappearance of scores of Pakistani citizens. The Secretary for the Interior excused himself from appearing on grounds of ill-health and the Attorney General, playing true to form, remained missing as has now become routine.

The regime officials informed the court that 56 individuals on the HRCP list of 136 had been traced. Of them, 45 had been freed, three were under trial, five under custody, one detained under the Security of Pakistan Act, one was an army deserter and one had been convicted. However, according to Brigadier Cheema, 80 people were still ‘untraced’.

Not true said the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP), as The Nation reported:

The HRCP lawyers Fakhruddin G Ibrahim and Asma Jahangir doubted the claims made by Brig Cheema about the 45 ‘free persons’ as according to HRCP’s information, these people were still missing.

The Nation then continued:

…Brig Cheema informed the court that rest of the people mentioned in the list could not be traced since the list provided by the HRCP “is very scanty and deficient of details, like parentage and addresses of the missing persons.”

Human Rights Activist, lawyers Asma Jahangir argued before the court that the addresses of those persons were intentionally not provided, since the families of those missing individuals had secretly contacted them (HRCP) and were afraid of being harassed by the “powerful intelligence agencies.”

…Defence Secretary Kamran Rasool, while defending the intelligence agencies told the court, “agencies denied that people have been picked up unlawfully.”

Justice Javed Iqbal asked the Defence Secretary about the procedure that intelligence agencies follow. “How are they (agencies) answerable to you and at what point they inform you about any individual being picked up. Where is that law according to which people have been picked up,” Justice Javed Iqbal questioned.

Defence Secretary informed the court that Defence Ministry is unaware of the operational activities of the intelligence agencies and was only controlling the administrative side of them.

…Advocate Ikram Chaudhry told the court that the persons who had been released were constantly threatened by the agencies, and that they could again be abducted if they tried to reveal any such information about their unconstitutional detention.

While denouncing Brig Cheema, Advocate Ikram Chaudhry said, “They are not as innocent and straight as they are portraying before you. They have played hell with the citizens of Pakistan.

The truth be told is that it is widely suspected that for the past few years the state has been managed by Musharraf by means of his ‘secret agencies’. And, the people that run these agencies are not accustomed to being answerable to anyone but the army chief.

Just take the latest example.

On Thursday Dato Param Cumaraswamy, head of the International Commission of Jurists’ (ICJ) mission to Pakistan, informed the press that on 9 March, after the Chief Justice’s release from his prolonged incarceration at the Army Camp and subsequent denial of access to his office at the Supreme Court, the ICJ has learnt:

“that when the Chief Justice reached his residence, 18 intelligence agents were reportedly inside the house, his housekeepers had been sent home and his phone and cable lines were disconnected. His cars were also fork lifted and taken away.”

While the Supreme Court has now:
- hinted at giving a ruling in the missing persons’ case which would not only punish the guilty but also guide parliament to frame a law to rein in intelligence agencies.

- indicated that whosoever was found responsible for disappearances would have to answer for each day of confinement of the missing persons.

It is obviously going to be a tough call for the judges. These agencies, having run unchecked for thirty odd years, are unlikely to cede their ‘sovereignty’ so easily.

However, we should all back our Courts to the hilt, with the sincere hope that one day Pakistan will return to the care of its 'uniformless' citizens.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

A Polite Rejoinder to a Judge

According to a newspaper two days ago, Supreme Court Justice Javed Iqbal took the opportunity to criticise journalists for discussing the constitution without possessing much knowledge about it.

With all due respect to the honourable judge I think he has got it badly wrong.

Lest anyone accuse me of contempt let me quote the highly regarded Lord Salmon in my defence.

In 1968 Salmon LJ, dismissing an application for contempt of court went to the extent of recognizing that writers must be permitted to make criticisms that may be inaccurate, unfair, off the mark, rumbustious or in poor taste.

"It is the inalienable right of everyone to comment fairly upon any matter of public importance. This right is one of the pillars of individual liberty - freedom of speech, which our courts have always unfailingly upheld.

"It follows that no criticism of a judgment, however vigorous, can amount to contempt of court, provided it keeps within the limits of reasonable courtesy and good faith.”

Anyhow I am not venturing to comment on a judicial judgement, but simply making an observation on an aside uttered by Justice Javed Iqbal.

Here is my respectful address to Justice Javed Iqbal.

Respected Judge Sahib,

As you should be well aware, the Constitution of Pakistan is not the property of the Executive, the Parliament or the Judiciary. It is the property of the people of Pakistan.

Simply put, the Executive is legally commanded to follow it and the Parliament empowered to amend it, the Judiciary’s role is limited to interpreting it – and no more.

As the Constitution is a property of the people they are perfectly entitled to discuss it, comment upon it, praise it and even criticize it. Judge sahib, whether their comments are informed or not, is completely and utterly irrelevant.

In fact it is high time the Constitution was discussed and debated on television, radio, chaikhanas and in the streets. The more it is discussed, the more people will become conscious of their so-called ‘sacred rights’ guaranteed by the Constitution - which sadly have been regularly watered down by a feeble judiciary following the instructions of dictators since days of Justice Munir in 1955.

It is widely accepted by many citizens of Pakistan, that along with the military, the judiciary is equally culpable in destroying their freedoms and human rights for over fifty years.

In the past month we have witnessed an extraordinary revival in the defence of our Constitution – thankfully it is no longer considered ‘a simple booklet of ten to twelve pages which can be torn up’ by any tin pot dictator with the support of a servile judiciary.

People are now calling for an independent judiciary as stipulated in the Constitution of 1973; others are calling for provincial autonomy as envisaged in 1973 when the constitution came into existence. Importantly, many citizens are demanding their guaranteed rights of free expression, an unshackled press and liberty from unlawful oppression and illegal detention as encompassed in this most important of all national documents.

One of the few admirable aspects of the modern Americans is the reverence they display for their constitution.

Judge Sahib, I respectfully suggest that it is high time we did the same.

Gen. Hamid Gul on ‘Bottle Friends’

Sometime ago in the capital city, I called at someone’s place. A small group of visitors had already gathered there and they were all busy discussing – what else? – the CJ crisis.

And then who should drop in for a visit?

The grandfather of jihadism himself, General Hamid Gul.

Needless to add, social decorum was properly maintained and the retired general was accorded the requisite degree of respect for his “age and stage” in life - that is no discourteous comments were made nor were any blunt queries directed at him.

Nevertheless taking advantage of the presence of a once extremely powerful (and still influential) Khaki, he was asked some pertinent questions by those present.

Here are some of his replies:

Musharraf, as one of his juniors in command, proved to be ‘a good subordinate but was of decidedly average intelligence.’

The present lot of his handpicked generals are much junior to Musharraf in rank, tenure and experience. They were probably brigadiers, or even junior, at the time he took over as chief of army staff with the rank of full general. More importantly, ‘Musharraf does not take the trouble to sound out any of them on important policy matters.’

‘Neither does Musharraf bother to consult his own group of handpicked politicians.’

So who does the Commando General consult when making important ‘decisions of state’ – like fixing a ‘pesky’ Chief Justice?

Well, according to the ex-ISI chief, regime policies are discussed and decided at Musharraf’s late evening sessions with - what Hamid Gul refers to in English as - his ‘bottle friends’ (hum payalas in local idiom).

Now I was not overly surprised by Hamid Gul’s revelation; I had been hearing the same thing from various sources for a lengthy period of time.

To me the actual confirmation came when Musharraf was interviewed by the Washington Post in September 2005.

When questioned by US journalists about the rape victim Mukhtaran Mai he gave what he thought was a well considered reply:

"A lot of people say that if you want to go abroad and get a visa from Canada or citizenship and be a millionaire, get yourself raped"

I t was obvious who these “a lot of people” were.

I could easily imagine a bunch of inebriated pals – endowed with an uncommon dose of ‘macho’ irrationality - giving that kind of message to their leader in the early hours of the morning. And given the type of man Musharraf is, he took it as a given reality.

When his blundering remark drew outrage around the world, he denied ever making it. However the Washington Post then posted an audio of the interview on the internet establishing the general, not only as a macho dipstick, but a fibber as well. .

It is therefore quite feasible that at one these sessions not so long ago, some members of this select company may have suggested that getting rid of a troublesome chief justice would be a piece of cake – just put on the uniform, glower at him and the guy would automatically crumble to pieces.

Well it did not quite happen as planned, but I would dearly love to know more about these ‘bottle friends’.

Does any one know who they are?

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

The Creepy Reichsleiter

Yesterday Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain made a decidedly creepy statement while addressing an assembled crowd of PML(Q) ‘toughs’ outside the Supreme Court in Islamabad.

The Daily Times quotes him as saying:
“those criticising the army should be gunned down.”

While I realize the Chaudhry owes his present social (his father was a humble constable), financial (he is a rupee billionaire many time over) and political (as a former-prime minister and a current Reichslieter of Punjab) positions to the patronage of a long list of army generals (from Ayub Khan to Musharraf), even such pathetic loyalty has to have its limits.

By publicly advocating these ‘summary executions’, he is in breech of every norm of civilized behaviour.

In my book perhaps the only American worthy of admiration was Abraham Lincoln – one of history’s greatest democrats. He once said:

"Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man's character, give him power."

Sadly in Pakistan, the gift of power has done nothing but produce a lengthy line of authority-addicted mediocrities.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Stratfor : Expect Violence in Islamabad Today

Strategic Forecasting Inc., more commonly known as Stratfor, a private intelligence agency (once referred to as "The Shadow CIA") has made the following forecast:

- "Pakistani opposition forces prepared for a large demonstration outside the Supreme Court in Islamabad on April 24 to protest the suspension of Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry. Pakistani President Gen. Pervez Musharraf and his aides have made plans to instigate clashes between the opposition and government supporters to justify a police crackdown in the Pakistani capital."

- "To counter the opposition's April 24 demonstrations, the Pakistani government has organized a 2,000-strong pro-government procession from Punjab to Islamabad, led by supporters of the ruling Pakistan Muslim League. Two notable figures that helped plan this march were Punjabi Law Minister Muhammad Basharat Raja and Salman Shah, financial adviser to Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz."

- "The pro-government march planners also have arranged for several delinquents, party strongmen and government agents to take part and set off a confrontation between the chief justice supporters and the pro-government demonstrators. The anticipated clashes are intended to justify a government crackdown against the opposition protesters and demonstrate how the government is going on the offensive. Musharraf hopes to kill two birds with one stone by using this police crackdown to send a message to the Red Mosque mullahs, who have taken advantage of the Chaudhry debacle to advance their own aggressive Talibanization campaign."

- "In line with this plan, Musharraf is temporarily escaping the heat from the Chaudhry protests by going on a tour to Poland, Spain, Bosnia and Turkey to enhance Pakistan's trade ties. By leaving the country during a political imbroglio, Musharraf is indicating that he has things under control and his government is still in the driver's seat."

- "Musharraf realizes the need to sustain Pakistan's relevance in Washington's eyes and has thus tacitly allowed Islamist militants to use Pakistan as a launchpad for attacks in neighboring Afghanistan, much to the ire of the Afghan government… Musharraf is likely to exhibit a marked change of attitude during the Turkey visit. Already fearing the growing Talibanization in his own country, Musharraf will assure Karzai that Pakistan will do more to rein in the Taliban along the border."

- "Meanwhile, rumors abound that Musharraf has finally cut a deal with his primary political opponent, Benazir Bhutto of the Pakistan People's Party-Parliamentarians (PPP-P). The two are ready to cut a deal, but there is no assurance that either side will uphold its part of the bargain without backstabbing the other."

- "The talk of Musharraf-Bhutto deal-making has also given the Pakistani government enough fodder to keep the Pakistani opposition front divided."

- "More important -- and contrary to public statements -- Bhutto sees Musharraf, who shares with the PPP-P a common secular ideology, as a medium through which her party could stage a political comeback. Should Musharraf lose his power, all bets are off. This is why, unlike Sharif, Bhutto does not favor using the Chaudhry crisis to oust Musharraf. She wants to use the crisis to pressure Musharraf into negotiating with her."

- "For any real deal to come from the Bhutto-Musharraf talks, the Pakistani president needs to devise some way to ensure he remains president without making the PPP-P look like it has sold out."

- "One thing for certain is that the general has not run out of options, and officials in Washington are just as eager to see how Musharraf manages to work his way out of this political fracas to ensure U.S. interests in combating al Qaeda and Taliban militants do not get tangled up in Musharraf's mess."

Regime Clamps Down on the Press Yet Again

According to BBC Aaj TV and Geo are currently the most popular news channels in Pakistan. Having largely muzzled Geo TV, the regime Media authority PEMRA is now whacking Aaj with its customary big stick

Dawn reported this morning that Aaj TV is once more under the gun “for airing news, talk shows and other programmes on the current judicial crisis”.

Pemra has also warned all private TV channels not to air programmes casting aspersions on the judiciary and “integrity of the armed forces of Pakistan,” besides contents which were likely to encourage and incite violence or contained anything against maintenance of law and order or which promoted anti-national or anti-state attitudes

Thanks to Reuters this piece of news has been given a wide coverage in the international press:

Aaj Television described the show-cause notice served on it by Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) as an "assault on freedom of press".

The notice said Aaj, which means Today, had violated an order of the Supreme Judicial Council, which is hearing a case against suspended Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry, by telecasting news, talkshows and other programmes on the sub-judice case.

The notice, signed by a serving senior police officer inducted into PEMRA, said the media watchdog could cancel the channel's short term uplinking license if it failed to respond within three days.

Syed Talat Hussain, Aaj Television's director news and current affairs, accused the Government of pressurising his channel "to take the chief justice case off air completely".

"Everything is facade in this country. Democracy is a facade, judicial independence is a facade, and today we discovered that press freedom is a facade
," Mr Hussain said.

PEMRA's spokesman, Mohammad Saleem, said the action was legal.

"It has nothing to do with freedom of expression. We did what regulatory bodies all over the world have been doing," he said.

What a load of rubbish!

Imagine claiming that they are only doing what “regulatory bodies all over the world have been doing”. Could someone ask these goons to name any other similar regulatory authority that has ‘a serving senior police officer’ issuing such draconian notices to the press? (Okay, Burma, Zimbabwe and North Korea excepted).

I enjoy watching Talat Hussain. He seems to a better job than most of his rivals put together. All power to Aaj TV and him!

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Musharraf phones Benazir himself

Newsweek comes out this week revealing how anxious Musharraf has really become.

Quoting sources from both sides of the political divide, Newsweek reports that a frantic Musharraf has telephoned Benazir Bhutto at least three times. Apparently this time desperation has made him seek her out directly rather than relying on his aides.

Here is an excerpt:


April 30, 2007, Newsweek, U.S. Edition
Musharraf's Secret Deal
By Zahid Hussain and Ron Moreau
One of America's most crucial allies against Al Qaeda is bargaining for his political life. Public opposition to Pakistan's autocratic leader, Gen. Pervez Musharraf, has grown so fierce that he's secretly reaching out to a longtime enemy of his military rule: exiled former prime minister Benazir Bhutto. According to sources close to both sides who cannot be named because of the sensitivity of the ongoing talks, Musharraf has telephoned Bhutto at least three times.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Desperately Seeking Succour

The anxieties of Pakistani political/military leadership vis-à-vis Washington, can be extremely embarrassing at the best of times. They seem desperately keen at all times to be in the good books of the US Administration.

Recently we had to suffer Benazir Bhutto extolling US’s beneficial impact in Iraq on BBC, now we have a besieged Musharraf suddenly offering his services to help resolve the sixty year old Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

In the interview aired late Friday on Dubai-based Al-Arabya television, Musharraf said he was "enthusiastic" to solve the Palestinian-Israeli conflict and would go to Israel if his offer to mediate was accepted.

"It will be an honor if I can contribute in any way," said Musharraf. "If there was a role that I can play, and both sides accept that role, yes, indeed, I would like to play that role."

The Israeli newspaper Jerusalem Post had this to say:

Israel has rejected the surprise offer by Pakistan's President Gen. Pervez Musharraf to help resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

An official in the Prime Minister's Office described the offer as "a little ridiculous," noting that there are no diplomatic relations between Islamabad and Jerusalem.

"We have an Arab initiative. Why would we need a Pakistani initiative?" the official asked, adding that mediation efforts would be welcomed from any state that had ties with Israel.

Sources in Jerusalem said that although Prime Minister Ehud Olmert welcomed the possibility of dialogue with Saudi Arabia, which also has no diplomatic ties with Israel, Saudi Arabia cannot be compared with Pakistan. Saudi Arabia, together with Egypt, is one of the leaders of the Arab and Muslim world, and is on a different level, as far as Israel is concerned, than Pakistan.

A more conciliatory note was sounded by Foreign Ministry spokesman Mark Regev who said Pakistan's involvement would be welcomed, but that Musharraf's effectiveness would likely be limited.

Bob Woolmer: His Murder Nearly Solved?

OK, I admit The Sun is the rubbishiest of newspapers, but…but for a brief moment imagine if what yesterday’s news item hints at, just turns out to be true.

I have never heard of Aconite. Has it really been used ‘in several high-profile assassinations in Pakistan’ as this piece asserts or is this wretched paper making it up to sell more copies.

Only time will tell.

And yes, the other piece of news in The Sun is that Jamaican detectives have identified a suspect on the newly cleaned and enhanced CCTV footage.


Potter drug did kill Woolmer

The Sun
, April 20, 2007

CRICKET coach Bob Woolmer WAS poisoned by the “Harry Potter” drug aconite.

Toxicology tests have confirmed “significant” traces of it in the Pakistan coach’s body.

The tests were ordered following an anonymous tip to Jamaican police — eight days after Woolmer died — that aconite had been used.

Aconite, which paralyses the nerves, normally takes only 30 minutes to kill. Victims suffer vomiting and diarrhoea before collapsing unable to breathe, to die in agony.

Experts say the drug causes a sensation like ants crawling over the body.

A neck injury — which caused police to say Woolmer had been strangled — is now thought to have followed a fall when he collapsed.

Detectives believe the drug, in the form of white powder, could have been tipped into whisky Woolmer was drinking in his room — or sprinkled over sleeping tablets and diabetes pills he was taking.

The ancient poison, also known as wolfsbane, is said to be perfect for concealing murder and has been used in several high-profile assassinations in Pakistan.

… One senior police source said last night: “The toxicology tests show that he had significant traces of aconite.

“We are now entirely convinced he was poisoned. The fact that aconite has also previously been used in Pakistan may also be highly relevant.”

Another source added: “This murder proves that truth can sometimes be stranger than fiction. It is now an international inquiry and could ultimately involve high-level diplomatic discussions.”

'Suspect' over Bob Woolmer

The Sun, April 21, 2007

AN inquest into the death of Pakistan coach Bob Woolmer has been postponed — due to “significant developments” in the murder inquiry, it was revealed last night.

Detectives are believed to have identified a suspect on enhanced CCTV footage from his hotel in Jamaica. Sources say images cleaned up by Scotland Yard show a man of “considerable interest”.

They added: “The time of the footage and its location mean that this individual must be considered a suspect.”


Agencies now threatening Lawyers?

This piece of ominous news appeared in The Nation's leader page.

Can things get much worse? I suppose they can if these people actually carry out what they threaten to do.


Lawyers threatened

THE Chief Justice’s Defence lawyers’, Munir A Malik and Muhammad Ali Kurd’s disclosure of the threats the two have been receiving, allegedly from the agencies, is rather chilling. “Different agencies are threatening me to take back my name from Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry’s panel. They threatened me about my children and also asked about my daughter’s school.”

The lawyers allege that the agencies have been threatening them for the withdrawal of their names from the panel representing the CJ in the reference against him, threats that would aggravate the current situation exponentially if acted out upon even slightly. The issue of the missing persons lies in the backdrop of the current judicial crisis. The lawyer community knows that when they receive threats from these quarters, they are to be taken seriously. As it is, quite a mess has been created in the country due to the extra-curricular operations of the intelligence agencies. They are a loose cannon that keeps diverting from their actual mission statement. This behaviour of theirs has been a malignant problem; a Damocle’s sword that is not conducive to the establishment of genuine democracy in the country.

In this specific case, they are also not conducive to the judicial process that has ensued with the reference. The CJ, along with his counsel, should be given due protection. This action further reinforces the image of injustice that recent events hold for the general public. The powers that be had better call the intelligence agencies off if they are actually serious about justice being served.

Chief Justice of Pakistan’s Petition in the SJC

The Regime’s feeble allegations against Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, Chief Justice of Pakistan have been publicised to death.

Today’s Daily Times carries details of the CJP’s legal rejoinder to Musharraf ‘’s nonsensical reference.

What Justice Chaudhry has to say before SC

The Chief Justice of Pakistan Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry (CJP), in his constitutional petition filed by Barrister Aitzaz Ahsan, has pleaded the following:

- That the reference filed against the CJP is mala fide (‘in bad faith’)

- That Article 209 of the Constitution does not allow the president to file a reference against a sitting CJP, nor does it permit a Supreme Judicial Council (SJC) to inquire into his conduct.

- It was unlawful to restrict the CJP from performing his functions by sending him on forced leave and appointing another judge in his place as acting CJP.

- That an in camera (secret) trial was not only a violation of the Constitution and the fundamental rights of the CJP but it also amounted to a travesty of justice and fair play. The CJP contends that a trial in camera can take place only with the consent of the petitioner.

- That the SJC has no validity without a permanent CJP and that an acting CJP cannot preside over the council meeting. (This law has been established in The Al-Jehad Trust case).

- That the appointment of an Acting CJP was illegal.

That the SJC must, at all times, be presided over by the CJP and that he was not only the lawful CJP but was also 'the integral and unavoidable' chairman of the SJC

That no person, harbouring a bias against the CJP (or against whom the CJP had sufficient allegations of bias), could not become a member of a SJC.

In more precise terms the CJP contends that there are ‘three controversial judges’ who are disqualified to sit at the SJC for having personal interest, bias, and prejudice against him. The CJP, as a petitioner, neither expects a fair trial nor does he expect any justice at the hands of these three judges as long as they remain members of the SJC.

About Justice Javed Iqbal

The removal of the CJP from his office will open up the prospect of Justice Javed Iqbal becoming the permanent CJP for a term of more than four years. “Can he escape then the temptation of voting to oust the petitioner,” the petition has questioned.

“He rushed to take an oath as the acting chief justice and celebrated the occasion despite [the fact that] the CJP was still detained in Rawalpindi in the office of the referring authority,” the petition says.

The petition also states that Justice Javed Iqbal obtained admission for two of his daughters – Ayesha Javed and Qaiser Javed – in the Bolan Medical College despite they failed to qualify for admission on merit. They were adjusted against a “special quota” in 1995 and latter against an “Azad Jammu and Kashmir quota” in 1998.

The CJP has maintained that Justice Javed Iqbal, got his son-in-law – a civil judge – transferred and posted him as the deputy secretary at the Home and Tribal Affairs Department, Balochistan, against the rules.

About Justice Abdul Hameed Dogar

The petition alleges that he too rushed to administer oath to Justice Javed Iqbal as acting chief justice despite the fact that CJP (the petitioner) was still detained in Rawalpindi by Musharraf.

That a reference/complaint is pending against him concerning the alleged misappropriation of funds of the Shah Abdul Latif Bhitai University, Khairpur. That is already on the record of the SJC.

About Justice Iftikhar Hussain, Chief Justice of the Punjab High Court (CJP)

That there several references/complaints pending against him.

That Justice Iftikhar Hussain had developed ‘a strong and settled hostility’ towards the CJP, which was widely known to the members of the bar and the bench.

That Justice Iftikhar Hussain was not even on talking terms with the CJP. Nor do they even shake hands. Such was the open display of hostility by him that even when the petitioner, as CJP, visited the Punjab Bar Council at its invitation, Justice Iftikhar Hussain instructed all Lahore High Court judges not to attend the function

The petition says that the Justice Iftikhar Hussain was actively involved in the conspiracy to disable the CJP. “His recommendations for elevation of advocates and judicial officers to the high court were not approved by the CJP and his elevation to the Supreme Court was opposed by the CJP in August 2005."

The petition says that Justice Iftikhar Hussain’s brother is in the federal cabinet and has been severely critical of the CJP.

Then there is also mention in the CJP's petition of the main player and his purported adviser:

About General Musharraf

The petition says that the General’s impugned action to file the reference against the CJP, and the manner in which it carried out, is an attempt by the General to humble, humiliate, subjugate the judicial organ of the state, especially at a time when the judiciary was just beginning to assert its constitutional authority by giving relief to the common man.

The reference is also rendered invalid by malice as it was brought about as a direct response to the fact that the CJP refused to resign after being pressurised by General to do so.

About Shaukat Aziz

The petition says that the Prime Minister, on whose advice the reference was purportedly filed, was himself found, in a judgement authored by the CJP, to have been engaged in some ‘serious omissions and commissions’ in the Pakistan Steel Mills case. It was a case in which the attorney general had himself admitted that the whole process of sale was ‘convoluted’. On the basis of this judgment, the PM had to face no-confidence motion in the National Assembly.

The Missing Persons Case (Part II)

Ten days ago I blogged ( They Remain Missing) about the hearing of Missing Persons’ Case held on 10 April before a three member bench of the Supreme Court.

At this hearing:
- The Attorney general, despite a Supreme Court notice to appear, ducked from appearing at the hearing despite being on the court premises earlier that morning.

- The Ministry of Interior failed to file a detailed reply on the missing persons despite being notified by the Supreme Court to do so. Instead the Ministry submitted a letter undertaking to provide a detailed response at the date of the next hearing.

A decidedly patient Supreme Court then:
- Assured the family members of the missing that that the attorney general would appear before the court at the next hearing; and

- Ordered the Deputy Attorney General to send a notice to the Interior Ministry to disclose the whereabouts of those who are in military detention, as well as locate the rest of those missing.

At the end of the hearing a dejected Raja Muhammad Irshad , the Deputy Attorney General told the press:
“If by next hearing the Interior Ministry doesn’t inform us about the whereabouts of those people, I will refuse to present this case.”


As the Missing Persons Case has been widely cited as one of the reasons for which the Chief Justice of Pakistan was unlawfully ‘dismissed’ by Musharraf, your Blogger believes it is imperative that the case be tracked to its conclusion.

The three member bench of the Supreme Court presently hearing this case is being presided by Justice Javed Iqbal, whom, readers will recall, briefly (and it turns out illegitimately) took the oath of the office of Acting Chief Justice while the Chief Justice of Pakistan was being subjected to illegal captivity at his residence.

The next hearing of the case was held yesterday.

Did the Attorney General, Makhdoom Ali Khan, show up?


Did the Ministry of Interior, as ordered, present the Court with a detailed reply on the missing persons?


The Travails of the Poor Deputy Attorney General (DAG)

According to The Nation, a visibly distressed Raja Muhammad Irshad, the Deputy Attorney General (DAG) informed the Court:

- "The crisis in the country is due to the non-enforcement of the Constitution."

- DAG "repeatedly told the bench…that he could not do more than contacting Ministry of Interior.
'I have my limitations and I can only operate through Ministry of Interior,' DAG said while responding to the distressed families’ demand of issuing notices to the heads of IB, ISI and MI to be answerable for the abduction of the nationals of this country."

- The DAG while "referring to articles 9 and 10 of the Constitution said, “The court can dispense justice through these articles.” He further told the court to use its powers."

The News adds:

The deputy attorney-general said, “I have sentiments, too, being a father, a brother and a husband and feel the difficulties of the families of the missing persons. Therefore, I cannot face them.”

“At previous date I was assured the Interior Ministry would provide me the report,” the deputy-attorney general submitted. “Head of the Crisis Management Cell Brig Cheema had told me that the orders of the apex court would be complied with. I wonder as to why he has not complied with the orders of the apex court.”

The deputy attorney-general informed the court that he can no longer pursue the case in the prevailing situation and can assist the court not more than this.


A Brief Summary of the extraordinary Court proceedings

Excerpts from The Nation, :

Asma Jahangir, one of the lawyers representing the aggrieved families, asked the bench to make the agencies answerable before the court. “Our lives are threatened by these agencies,” she said.

Justice Javed Iqbal responded to Asma Jahangir’s remarks by saying, “ yeah na kahain keh hur cheez agencies nay kee hai (do not blame agencies for everything that happens).”

While repeating President General Musharaff’s statement over the missing persons’ issue, he said that these people could be militants motivated to join jihad.

Justice Iqbal further told the anxious families, who have been searching for their loved ones for the past six years, “not to be hasty in pursuing this case.”

Senator Farhatullah Babar, who had filed a petition in the same case on the last hearing on April 10, 2007, urged the SC to order the government to divulge the law under which the intelligence agencies operate so that the issue of missing persons could be examined in its correct perspective.

He told the bench that he had also raised the same question in the Senate in October 2003 and the information was denied by the Ministry of Defense, saying, “the subject matter of this question is of secret and sensitive nature and it asks for information on a matter prejudicial to the integrity and security of the country.”

Justice Javed Iqbal while supporting Ministry of Defense’s response narrated by Senator Farhatullah Babar said that some laws were sensitive and could not be probed.

The lawyers present in the court were surprised over such a response and questioned about the laws kept secret from the public. “This is something new to me that laws are also kept confidential,” said Asma Jahangir.

Excerpts from the Dawn:

Mr Babar also urged the Supreme Court to ask the government to produce a copy of the law under which intelligence agencies operated so the issue of disappeared people could be examined in its correct perspective.

It was necessary, he said, because the parliament had denied even a copy of the law saying the issue was sensitive. Asma Jehangir, the HRCP chief, urged the court to summon officials of the intelligence services because, according to her, people were working under the threats of the agencies.

Ms Janjua recalled that in December, Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry had directed intelligence services – the Inter Services Intelligence, the Military Intelligence and the Intelligence Bureau – to send their representatives to the court and answer questions regarding the missing. Five hearings had taken place since then without any progress, she lamented.

“What is the point if this court has no control over these agencies,” she said, adding that the court was adjourning the matter week after week.

Justice Iqbal, however, assured relatives of missing people that the court would take every possible step to minimise their grievance. “Your confidence in the court will never be shattered and betrayed.”

Every institution in Pakistan was answerable to the Supreme Court and nobody was above the law, Justice Iqbal observed, but said certain jihadi outfits were also involved in the disappearance as they lured young men by convincing them to wage a holy war.

Prior to adjourning the case the Supreme Court summoned the Defence Secretary, the Interior Secretary and the Director General of National Crisis Management Cell to appear at the next hearing scheduled for 27th April.

Link: The Glasshouse: The Missing Persons Case - They remain Missing

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Shujaat: “It was an Intelligence Agency…”

There is a fascinating news item in today’s News (‘Why Shujaat stays away from judicial crisis ’) which provides a glimpse into what took place at the Chief Justice of Pakistan’s house (on 9 March 2007) shortly after he was so brazenly ‘dismissed’ by Musharraf.

On the evening of 9 March while Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain was hosting a reception at Punjab House for the outgoing US ambassador, Ryan Crocker,he received an urgent message from the Prime Minister’s Secretariat to meet with the Chief Justice as part of “a damage-control exercise”. Here is what followed:

- Before visiting the Chief Justice, Shujaat ‘formally secured permission from an intelligence agency for this meeting’.

- During his discussions with the Chief Justice, Shujaat found him to be ‘very accommodating in conversation’.

- '[As] the discussions were progressing, the agency officials kept working on their agenda to fully ‘disarm’ the chief justice. Ignoring [Shujaat’s] presence in the Chief Justice House, they snapped telephone connections and asked Justice Chaudhry’s family to hand over the keys of all the vehicles under their use.'

- '[Then] Justice Chaudhry’s son, Dr Arsalan, rushed into the drawing room and told his father about the fresh directive he had received from the officials. It stunned both of them — Justice Chaudhry and Chaudhry Shujaat. (Shujaat fails to enlighten us what this directive was).'

- ‘Shujaat had felt very embarrassed over this untimely demand of the security officials. And the demand was being made in his presence, thus putting his credibility and role under question.’

- ‘[Shujaat then] immediately phoned the Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz to ask about the reason behind this behaviour when he was doing all this at the behest of the government. Shaukat had promised to do something but he could not.’

- Shujaat insists that ‘It was the [agency] officials’ unwise gesture [that] foiled efforts he was making to broker a face-saving patch-up’.

- ‘Shujaat later stood up and thanked Justice Chaudhry. “I am happy with you and the way you honoured me. I promise you not to come again at the behest of the government,” Shujaat has been quoted as telling Justice Chaudhry in his concluding remarks.’

- ‘According to the sources, Shujaat categorically told the government that he would not offer his role any more in this issue and that he had made a commitment to Justice Chaudhry in this regard.’

- ‘Shujaat has distanced himself from the ongoing crisis afterwards, it has been reliably learnt. His statement that he did not meddle in the affairs of the judiciary and the Army, was against the backdrop of this incident, officials said.’

This confirms what was widely suspected (and reported) at the time that the Chief Justice of Pakistan had been left to the mercy of one of the regime’s intelligence agencies.

The agency would have been acting on the Army Chief's instructions; otherwise Shujaat and Shaukat Aziz would not have been so pathetically helpless.

The impending Benazir-Mushrraf Deal

A question: Why are Musharraf and Benazir Bhutto urgently trying to strike a deal?

From Musharraf’s standpoint it is quite comprehensible – it is all about kursi, kursi and kursi.

The Chief Justice crisis has demolished his image of invincibility, the Army is getting openly reviled at protest rallies held in streets of Punjab, and Washington has ended its post-9/11 love affair with him. With his grip on power eroding, the plan of getting ‘re-elected’ through once more gerrymandering the constitution has become fraught with political insecurity and is no longer an easy option.

Consequently, a suitable deal with Benazir Bhutto (and her PPP) is perhaps the safest way to extend his stay in power and enable him to face elections.


Benazir has been increasingly desperate for a deal ever since she was convicted in a Swiss Court of Law for money laundering. Having appealed the decision she now faces the possibility of even a harsher future - a maximum sentence of five years in jail.


The evidence against Benazir Bhutto and her spouse was strong enough to convict her in July 2003 of money laundering (the charge of corruption was not included as the funds had been placed in Geneva banks prior to the recent enactment of Swiss anti-corruption legislation) by Swiss Magistrate, Daniel Devaud.

Benazir Bhutto appealed the case. Unfortunately for her now there is an additional charge of aggravated money laundering which carries a maximum sentence of five years in jail as well as a fine of about one million Swiss francs if Bhutto is found guilty.

The evidence stacked against her appears to be fairly conclusive. In September 2005 she was grilled by the Swiss judge for over eight hours. Apparently an emotional Benazir replied to these questions by denying any knowledge of the bank accounts or the millions of dollars worth of ‘commission’ payments made into them.

And when presented with the evidence of the court-sequestered £120,000 diamond necklace discovered in their bank lockers, she admitted that her husband had bought it for her but claimed that as she had refused to accept it she could not be held responsible.

Even after having adopted the legal stance of dumping all the guilt on her spouse, Benazir is still not certain whether the Swiss Court will acquit her.

In the circumstances, it is not surprising to learn that Asif Zaradari has been living in New York for the past few years. As the US and Switzerland do not have an extradition treaty, it will not be possible for the Swiss Courts to lay their hands on him if he is found guilty in the criminal case arraigned against him.

In the event Benazir Bhutto is found guilty of the crime of aggravated money laundering in Switzerland her political future would suffer a tremendous blow. In fact it will be finished if she has to serve time in jail. For once she will not be able to claim political bias, as no one would believe that a Swiss Court would hold a political grudge against her.

For readers who still believe the accusations of corruption against Benazir Bhutto are mere fantasy, then your Blogger suggests that a brief bout of ‘Googling’ might change their perspective.

For those too lazy to Google just simply click the following links:

The New York Times
The Sunday Times
The Guardian


So, one can only conclude that any deal entered between Musharraf and Benazir Bhutto will be based on purely selfish motivations on the part of both of them. One hopes to retain his precious kursi and the other hopes to finally get a ‘Get out of Jail Free’ card.

However, whether a deal does materialise, is still a moot point.

Accepting Musharraf in uniform or allowing him to get re-elected through the existing assemblies, will damage Benazir’s political standing fatally; even the most loyal of her supporters will face difficulty in rising to her defence.

If she colludes with Musharraf and enters into political alliance for the impending elections, she cannot help but become seriously tarnished in the process. She might have got away with it if Musharraf had still been a powerful dictator (which is clearly no longer the case). Now she will be perceived as providing political sustenance to a drowning despot – an unforgivable sin as far as most democratically-minded people are concerned.

However, at the same time the self-centred pressures of getting rid of all corruption cases arrayed against her and the lure of return to Pakistan as a 'homecoming Queen' cannot be discounted nor undervalued.

From Musharraf’s standpoint losing his uniform is risking political suicide – without the 600,000 men in tanks, helicopter gunships and F-16s propping him, he may soon turn into a political nonentity and sent to political oblivion.

Even if he scrapes a deal with the PPP whereby he discards his uniform for a guaranteed five year term as president, his future remains fraught with risk. While he may possess the requisite constitutional sanction to dismiss future prime ministers and governments, recent events have shown him to be an exceedingly unpopular leader. This obvious lack of public support will weaken him in any potential conflict with the government of the day.

It must be borne in mind that the sight of a weakened Musharraf has changed the attitude in the Bush White House as well. Now beginning to plan for a post-Musharraf Pakistan, the White House has determined that a PPP-Army alliance is the best possible alternative for the US, given the current circumstances.

However, American demands to make a deal with Benazir must be galling for a military dictator used to getting his own way - his recent outbursts against the US are therefore quite comprehensible.

If a deal does come through - and the signs are there that it will - one can ask: How long will it last?

Considering, there is hardly any love lost between Musharraf and Benazir, if anything their state of mutual loathing has been quite overt, and that military dictators have always held a low threshold for even their own-appointed prime ministers (just take the examples of Zia and Junejo, and Musharraf and Jamali), it will be a deal built on quicksand and probably last no more than a few days after the elections.

As far the rest of Pakistani politics is concerned, this is what a commentator in Dawn said yesterday:

The Pakistan People’s Party would be a big loser in the event of a deal with the government, according to political analysts based in the capital.

Conversations with sources close to the leadership in different parties revealed that a good number of PPP hawks were seeking membership of other parties, especially the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz, after resigning themselves to an arrangement between their party and the government.

The reports of a PPP-government reconciliation have, paradoxically enough, brought joy to other opposition parties as they feel that the last impediment to an anti-Musharraf alliance — People’s Party chief Benazir Bhutto — will now be out of the way.

This was how a leader of the Muttahida Majlis-i-Amal saw the shape of things to come: “It will enable anti-Musharraf forces to gather on one platform, ensuring a head-on collision between the pro-US ‘enlightened moderates’ on one side, and ‘pro-Islam’ forces on the other.”

The Musharraf-Benazir deal will definitely be a setback for those elements which had set their sights on the forthcoming elections as a vehicle of change.

For hangers-on of the Musharraf government, for instance the PML-Q, the patch-up would be like a bolt from the blue. However, several observers warned of an upheaval if the new arrangement fails to come up to the expectations of the nation.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Legal Bells Begin To Toll

To the amazement of many, fifteen Sindh High Court Judges voluntarily turned up at Hyderabad last Sunday and listened to an address given by Mr Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry. The Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Pakistan had been invited to the meeting by the Hyderabad Chapter of the High Court Bar Association and the Hyderabad District Bar Association.

And to top it all, The Daily Times reported today that

The Sindh High Court has issued an order to the entire legal fraternity that a full-day strike be observed on April 18 to protest the president’s reference against the Chief Justice of Pakistan Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhary.

What next I wonder?

An American View on the Lal Masjid Crisis

There are many who believe that an official agency helped create the Lal Masjid crisis and there are others who maintain that while the military regime had no hand in its creation, it took deliberate advantage of the turmoil and allowed it, by calculated inaction, to deteriorate unnecessarily.

The purpose behind the action or inaction on part of the regime is purported to be twofold:
- To distract the public from the ongoing CJ crisis
- To use this display of ‘the spreading virus of Talibanisation’ to wring international support for a beleaguered establishment.

Here is a take on the situation by an American who is well-acquainted with Pakistan and its political foibles.

William Milam is a former US ambassador to Pakistan and here is a relevant excerpt from his op-ed in the Daily Times today:

Did someone or several someones in the government look the other way and do nothing while these clerics and their adherents went about setting up their own state in the capital?

But even the dumbest conspirators couldn’t be that dumb, could they? If someone in power allowed (or encouraged) the events that led to the confrontation with the Lal Masjid clerics in order to inspire belief in the president’s indispensability, they sure got it wrong. What they inspired instead is a widespread impression of impotence, fecklessness, or worse, Islamist fifth columns inside the government. The real question seems to be, with bulwarks against extremists like this, what’s left for Pakistan anyway but Islamist extremism.

This will accelerate the rate of change of perceptions about President Musharraf abroad, and domestically too. Here is the perception scorecard of the past few months: the president wishes for as much influence in Waziristan as the British had, but is able only to adopt one-half of the British policy—the money part. The British had a hammer they could use judiciously and carefully; he doesn’t. Without that hammer he is a one-handed adversary. He can get some things done such as getting the Al Qaeda foreigners pushed out, or killed. But it does not seem that he can stop the Taliban forays into Afghanistan to fight (and kill) US and NATO troops. Nor is he able (willing?) to disrupt Taliban actions by finding its leaders in Balochistan. And lately, when all this indecision and failure of nerve is in the international and domestic spotlight, his government has also seemed paralysed by the challenge from Lal Masjid. The issue of the chief justice, though seemingly quiescent in the past few days, has not gone away either

In other words, the vacillation and confusion in the face of the Lal Masjid defiance has only exacerbated the image of weakness, temerity and blunder that has developed over the past few months. This is exactly the opposite of what a conspiracy to make him look good would have wished for. And it is exactly the opposite of the image that President Musharraf has always seemed to want for himself.


Is the regime culpable? Most likely. Your Blogger is convinced that the word military intelligence is an oxymoron.

These people may be good at short term tactics, but as far as longer term stuff goes their track record is disastrous. Think about 1965, think about 1971, think about Kargil; the list goes on.

M B Naqvi in today’s News reminds us of two haunting and very recent instances:

A typical example is the way he treated Nawab Akbar Bugti. Bugti may be dead and his home destroyed, but politically it was the regime that was defeated. Bugti has become the Baloch nationalists' icon who will go on inspiring an insurgency for God knows how long. Musharraf gave Baloch nationalists a hero instead of negotiating over the Baloch grievances and accepting some of their demands while assuring them an honourable share in decision-making.

The way the chief justice of Pakistan was arrested and manhandled is another instance. Musharraf needlessly brought on this continuing and evolving crisis which he could have done without. Now, the whole legal fraternity -- important opinion makers -- is up in arms.