In a new and unprecedented move of threat and oppression, the peaceful vigil holders arrested from Justice Siddiqui’s house have been charged under the Anti terrorism act (section 7). A large number of SAC students accompanied a lawyer for posting of bail at the cantt kacherry court early on the morning of the 10th. The magistrate dismissed the petition for bail explaining that the detainees had been charged under the anti terrorism act. Until the filing of this report the mass of SAC students with the lawyer were enroute to the anti terrorism court. Prayers and support is needed. There is a protest arranged by the HRCP at 11am onward at the High court to mark the Human rights day. We urge all of you to come in display of solidarity with the innocents who have sacrificed much and put themselves in immense danger for our collective cause.
Monday, December 10, 2007
Dictatorship fuels extremism, which reaches far beyond Pakistan, says Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto, while conveniently omitting to mention the resoration of the judiciary in this article. Benazir Bhutto
ISLAMABAD, Pakistan - The world has rightly welcomed President Pervez Musharraf's retirement as Army head and announcement that emergency rule will end on Dec. 16. However, a crucial question remains. Is Pakistan heading toward a democratic future? Parliamentary elections are currently scheduled for Jan. 8. Among many worrying signs of corruption, the election commission is biased and not acting on complaints of fraud.
Yet if credible elections are not held, it will have dangerous consequences for Pakistan and the rest of the world community: Extremism will continue to grow, putting everyone at risk. The world must act to prevent this. It must insist on free and fair elections in Pakistan.
President Musharraf's last term in office demonstrated that dictatorship has fueled extremism. The tribal areas of Pakistan have turned into havens for militants to mount attacks on NATO troops in nearby Afghanistan. Lack of governance has led to the expansion of extremism into settled areas of Pakistan.
Democracy offers the best hope of containing extremism. Yet democracy depends on a fair electoral process and an independent election commission willing and able to implement Pakistan's electoral laws to prevent vote fraud. That is not happening.
"Improvised" voting stations, a pseudonym for ghost polling stations, dot practically every parliamentary constituency. Electoral lists – prepared with financial assistance from USAID – are fatally flawed, with more than 10 million unverified and missing names (clearly enough to "win" or "lose" an election). The sanctity of any future ballot is doubtful against reports that district returning officers have been ordered to disperse 20,000 ballots already marked in favor of pro-government candidates. These bogus votes will be "cast" through the process of double voting in the "improvised" voting stations – in ballot boxes that are translucent rather than transparent.
Mayors continue to control guns and police and government resources and are using them shamelessly to campaign for government candidates. The election commission has asked for "a report" on such malpractices but has taken no concrete efforts to stop them. Politically motivated officials have been placed in charge of the civilian intelligence services and key state posts to manipulate the elections further, although election laws demand that such officials be neutral. An assistant to a former chief minister has been made a returning officer to preside over elections in his area. This complaint is being "looked into" as well, which is simply a fancy way of buying time and doing nothing.
Punjab Province, which elects more than half of Pakistan's parliament, chooses 148 of the members through direct elections, excluding reserved seats for women and minorities. Of these seats, it is believed that 108 have been marked for rigging for government-backed candidates.
By the time all such reports of fraud come in from across the country, the elections will be over.
On top of all this, the media remains gagged, opposition leaders remain imprisoned, voter lists and voting locations have not yet been provided to opposition parties or to the general public in final print or electronic format, and no effort has been made by the pliant electoral commission to regularly consult with political parties on these issues. There is also no plan in place to ensure that votes counted at voting stations will be delivered to local consolidation centers without being manipulated en route. The National Reconciliation Ordinance, which provides for an immediate consolidated count, has been suspended.
Put quite simply, the elections are being stitched up to give the country a continuation of the outgoing government – one that failed to prevent the spread of militancy, extremism, and terrorism. Major terrorist attacks, including the latest plot discovered in Germany this summer, tracked terrorists' footsteps back to Pakistan's northern areas.
Unless there is a change in the status quo, the past will repeat itself. But that change can only come when the world community puts its weight behind fair elections and its faith in the people of Pakistan.
Musharraf sent a delegation to the US last week to talk to the Bush administration and members of Congress about the current situation. This visit was only meantto feign progress and deflect criticism.
Musharraf wants the world to believe that the coming election, though not perfect, will be "good enough for Pakistan" given the country's difficult circumstances. But the current circumstances are of the regime's making. Those in charge can – and must – do much better on this count.
The international community must send a clear message that it will not be an accessory to this coming crime. It must not wait to see if the elections on Jan. 8 are free and fair. It must insist on a minimum set of benchmarks to be met for the election to be recognized as free and fair. If the benchmarks are ignored, the international community must be prepared to signal its displeasure to the Musharraf regime in specific, tangible ways.
Flawed elections will worsen instability in Pakistan as civil society and political parties protest. Imposing international restrictions after the fact will be fruitless and only deepen anti-American sentiment.
At the very least, America can and should prod Musharraf to give Pakistanis an independent election commission, a neutral caretaker administration, and an end to blatant vote manipulation.
America is the world's most powerful democracy. By standing up for democracy at this critical time, Washington can give this nuclear-armed nation an opportunity to reverse the tide of extremism that today threatens not only Pakistan but the larger world community as well.
Posted by The Neem Revolution at 9:11 AM
By Faisal Shakeel
LAHORE, Pakistan, 9 December 2007 (DAWN):
Lawyers on Saturday demanded
trial of Gen. Pervez Musharraf (retired) under Article 6 of the
Constitution and passed a resolution demanding the restoration of
judiciary to what it was on Nov. 2 .
The demand was voiced at All Pakistan Lawyer's Representatives
Convention held at the office of the Punjab Bar Council (PBC).
Representative of lawyers from across the country and students
participated in the convention.
The resolution, carried unanimously, demanded [all] the political
parties should boycott the upcoming polls, apprehending these
[elections] would be rigged massively.
It rejected the [illegal] Proclamation of Emergency and the [unlawful]
Provisional Constitution Order [PCO] and refused to recognise judges
who took oath under it. The resolution also termed the judges who did
not take oath under PCO the heroes of [Pakistani] nation and condemned
their eviction from their official residences.
The resolution condemned the foreign intervention in Pakistan's
internal matters, especially by the British High Commissioner [Robert
Brinkley], and demanded immediate halt to such acts.
It further demanded resumption of broadcasting of GEO TV and other
private channels, and condemned the [anti-media] PEMRA Ordinance. "It
is tantamount to strangulating the independent journalism", it added.
The house declared Attorney General of Pakistan Malik [Mohammad]
Qayyum and Sharifuddin Pirzada 'undesirable personalities'.
It demanded immediate withdrawal of eviction notices served on judges,
deployment of police outside their houses; observing, lawyers could
protect the judges themselves.
The house further termed the [unconstitutional] amendments to Army Act
and legal practitioners and Bar Council Act, illegal. It further said
Pervez Musharraf is constitutionally and legally NOT the President of
The convention also demanded immediate release of all the detained
lawyers, including Supreme Court Bar Association [SCBA] President
Aitzaz Ahsan, former [SCBA] President Muneer A. Malik, Ali Ahmad Kurd,
Justice Tariq Mahmood (retired), Baz Mohammad Kakar, Hadi Shakeel
Ahmad, members of civil society and political activists. It further
demanded withdrawal of cases lodged against them.
It rejected the [illegal] caretaker setup and described it as 'B team'
of dictatorial regime. It strongly condemned [unlawful] manhandling
and [illegal] forced exile of Justice Wajihuddin [Ahmed] (retired)
from Punjab and police highhandedness against the lawyers.
The convention pledged the lawyers would continue their struggle for
the restoration of Constitution, rule of law and independence of
judiciary, irrespective of their political affiliations.
Earlier, addressing the convention, Balochistan Bar Council Executive
Committee Chairman Noor Muhammad Baloch said consummation of idea of
Pakistan occurred in Balochistan, deploring whenever Baloch people
rose for their rights they were either killed or hanged.
NWFP Bar Council representative Muhammad Yaqoob Khan said if Gen.
Ashfaq Parvez Kyani wanted to restore the image of Army, he should
arrest Gen. Musharraf and produce him before lawyers. He added the
government blocked television programmes like [Aaj TV show] 'Live with
Talat' to deprive the masses of awareness.
Hyderabad High Court Bar Association President Abdul Sattar Qazi
condemned [illegal PCO] Justice Abdul Hameed Dogar for taking oath
under the [unlawful] PCO and praised students from Punjab. "I pray the
students of Sindh came out of MQM's politics and work for the
betterment of the country", he said.
Lahore Bar Association President Syed Mohammad Shah said the LHCBA
[Lahore High Court Bar Association] should shake off police from High
Court premises. He said he would move a resolution for cancellation of
licenses of lawyers appearing before the LHC [illegal PCO] judges.
LHCBA President Ahsan Bhoon said the Bar is not afraid of police and
believes in one-point agenda of restoration of judiciary in the
country. He added the LHCBA would take out a rally on Monday to GPO
crossing, along with members of civil society and students. Bhoon
assured the house he would effectively deal with the issue of
appearance of lawyers before [unlawful PCO] judges, who had taken oath
under the [illegal] PCO.
PBC Executive Committee Chairman Arbab Ahmad Syed emphasised on trial
of Gen. Musharraf (retired) under Article 6 of the Constitution and
urged lawyers not to appear before [illegal] PCO judges in Lahore.
Pakistan Bar Council member Hamid Khan condemned [unlawful PCO]
Justice Abdul Hameed Dogar for taking oath under the [illegal] PCO and
praised lawyers for keeping the boycott of [unlawful] PCO judges. He
said that he had spoken with Muneer A Malik, Justice Tariq Mahmood
(retired) and Ali Ahmad Kurd, who sent the message of love for all
lawyers. He said the lawyers stood behind [Pakistan Supreme Court]
Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry because he said 'no' to a
dictator. He praised him for saying 'no' again to the Saudi [Arabian]
PBC Vice Chairman Tariq Javed Warraich said the [illegal] PCO judges'
verdicts would not be recorded in the PLJ (law journal) because from
now on it would carry bar council resolutions and articles by lawyers.
Justice (retd.) Nasira Javed Iqbal, Justice (retd.) Khalil-ur-Rehman
Khan, Azad Kashmir Bar Association President, Balochistan Bar Council
Secretary and members of Sindh Bar Council and Hyderabad Bar
Association also spoke.
INTERNATIONAL MEDIA-PRESS - USA
Posted by The Neem Revolution at 9:09 AM
by Ali Malik
In the outrage post emergency, I was confused about whether the opposition should boycott the elections or not? For instance, soon after emergency, when a Lahore based journalist (and one for whom I have high regard for), currently in Karachi, was emotionally advocating oppositions' boycott of the polls, my only response was, I am not sure whether boycott is a good option or not. As the outrage is giving way to rational, I am getting more and more convinced that boycott is not the best option.
Before I build my case, let me clarify one thing. Just when I believe that boycott of 1985 elections by MRD was not the right decision; I am not ready to buy the argument that had MRD contested those elections, under Zia and his apparatus, it would have won them. However, what contesting would have done then was, make life a lot more miserable for Zia and let democratic forces have more bargaining power against Zia. And I don't expect miracles happening in 2008 either. Then why am I advocating opposition contesting elections?
My first argument, what is so different between 2002 and 2008? Here we have a bias set-up holding elections. Country is run by PCO and is under martial law. Musharaf has got himself elected as president using unfair means. He has appointed a handpicked Supreme Court. Election commission is part ineffective, part-biased in favor of his supporters. In 2002, we had a bias set up holding elections. Elections were held under PCO and martial law. Musharaf got himself elected president through a gimmick called referendum. Courts were Musharaf's handpicked. Election commission was headed by bezamir Irshad Hassan Khan. Popular leadership was in exile. Country was in large parts without independent electronic media (news channels were running their test transmissions and were not the news source or opinion makers as they became in 2007 before Martial Law hit them). Popular leadership was in exile. And surprise surprise. Musharaf was Head of State, Head of Executive and Head of "Army". If contesting elections in 2008 is giving Musharaf legitimacy, it was same back in 2002. Looking at all these facts, people who advocate boycott now, in principle, should have done it in 2002 too. If 2002 elections were contested under protest, so can 2008 be. They got elected. Many of them gifted nation with what we now know as 17th amendment. Others made a lot of noise about rubber-stamp parliament while staying in the same parliament till the very end (yes I am referring to Mr. Imran Khan - if opposition did not want to resign and he thought it was useless to be in parliament - principle demands he should have been out of it as two Baloch nationalist MPs did - hypocrisy).
Second argument is that boycotting elections will deny elections the credibility. To be honest, it does not make any difference to Establishment how credible the elections are for people in Pakistan. Supporters of the regime, if any, are going to hail them for rigging and will try justifying it in the name of stability anyways - so much for the tradition of rule of law of educated Pakistanis. Had it not been the case, we would not have what we had since first provincial elections in Pakistan back in early 50s - Ayub's election, Zia's referendum, 88s, 90s, 97s, Musharaf's referendum, 02, local bodies and list goes on and on and on. And as far as they West goes, did not the same man get away with something as shameless and fraudulent as referendum (about which Dawn apart from these glamorous pictures of handful men in black and women in red voting, was full of stories of ballot stuffing, bogus voting, fraud and rigging). It cannot be worse than that in the coming elections.
I agree that Musharaf will be desperate to have his henchmen in to get indemnity for his coup of November 3rd. He will go to any length to get the elections rigged. His best option is to have opposition parties boycott the polls to give his prodigies a walkover. Imran Khan and Qazi who have been known for being the helping hands of establishment in the past, is up for it once more. The hope of Musharaf in Nawaz's returns might be the same. I hope Nawaz Sharif has learnt his lesson and will not side with usurpers this time. However, my apprehension is that he will pressurize PPP and others to boycott elections (allowing Musharaf a free ride to 2/3rd) and if that fails he will lead a pro-establishment alliance in the elections (how establishment balances it out between Musharaf and him is to be seen) to check PPP.
I do not expect opposition to do wonders at elections. However, I do believe that with main stream parties contesting led by their leadership, and a higher degree of interest of international media as a result of main stream leaders contesting elections (the only noise that can force the western governments to act), life will be a lot more miserable for him than it was on any of the elections he conducted. It is not a time to boycott but a time to muster all the forces to check forces of establishment to rig elections as much as we can. Give elections a try for a peaceful victory over establishment. Our founding fathers contested election under British rule too. It did not mean accepting colonization. And in the end, street always remains an option. Boycott can only be an option, if it is absolutely clear that it will discredit elections in the eyes of powers who hold tap to aid that waters the plantation of commercial interests of Pakistan Army and will make them act.
In the end, someone said a few months ago that uniform is my skin and no one can make me shed it. Uniform is going today, skin - I have my fingers crossed. This is no small gain for us the people of Pakistan. A lot still needs to be done.
Tail Piece: Khabrain, known to be ISI paper, has published a message (without any proof) attributed to Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhary urging parties to boycott the polls. This shows how desperate regime is to force opposition to boycott the polls.
Posted by The Neem Revolution at 9:07 AM
By Samia Altaf
While everyone is focused on what will happen, the much more profound impact will be of what is happening before it happens. Something will happen after all, it always does— when the dust settles there will be a deal: it will be Him, or him, or her in the driver’s seat; or Him and her, or Him and him; rather less likely it would be him and her. It will matter a lot to the bunch of ladies and gentlemen, honorable individuals all, who want an office, a chair, a flag at any price and who need to bet right on who will be left standing when the music stops. But what will it matter to us? We have seen them all, individually and in pairs, we have seen them all. And we know that nothing much will change when the dust settles and the music stops.
But what is happening matters, and will matter, a lot to us because it will define the kind of society we will have to live in over the decades to come. It will define whether we move forwards or backwards as a society. And that is why we need to be involved, that is why we need to understand that what is happening at this time is more important than what will happen. That is why we need to make sure that we fight the fight that will be the more important one for our future.
Think of this in a stylized perspective. Imagine there are two states of societal development. The first state can be characterized as that of the jungle. In this state the primary struggle is amongst powerful groups over what would be the rules of the game under which other people would have to live and over who would impose the rules. The second state can be characterized as that of the playground. In this state, all the parties have agreed upon the rules of the game, and the contest is decided by who performs better on a given day.
The process of societal development can be characterized as the movement from the state of the jungle to the state of the playground and the rules of the game can be thought of as the constitution. In the normal course of history, societies move from the jungle to the playground, from the sons of a monarch killing each other to inherit the throne to a peaceful transfer of electoral power. That is the normal process of transition from savagery to civilization.
Now think what is happening in Pakistan—we are moving in the opposite direction. We were never really out of the jungle but we are moving deeper and deeper into it. Think about it. Do you want to spend the rest of your life in the jungle that Pakistan is being turned into?
Think of these two states of the world in terms of cricket and what is happening will become a lot clearer. Can you imagine an ongoing match where a gentleman walks on to the field, gun in hand, and says I am going to be the captain from now on? And all previous captains who have led the team twice can never captain again. Better still, all previous captains are hereby accused of ball tampering and banished from the team. And furthermore, all players in the future would need to have degrees from my school. And, when the umpire declares me out, the umpire too is to be banished and replaced by my favorite batman. Would you accept a jungle cricket of this sort?
Is this too fanciful? This drama of the absurd is not even half done yet. A team of this sort can win on the doctored pitches at home but would you be surprised if it starts getting thrashed in a fair contest? And what happens then? You would expect a move from the jungle to the playground—a reform that would re-establish the norms of the game and put the chaotic house in order. But wait; observe the trajectory. Okay, one of the exiled captains can come back. I will take back the ball-tampering charge, if you accept me as vice-captain for the next five years. I will amend the rules and allow you to be captain a third time if you accept the umpire of my choice. And, if you don’t play ball, I will allow the other captain to come back too and bowl underhand. And, by the way, I have just imposed a rule that no one can challenge all the previous changes of the rules. And, so on.
Think about it. What is happening right before our eyes, eyes that are fixated on what will happen, on who will be captain, is that we are being hijacked deeper and deeper into the jungle. The constitution, the set of rules, has become the personal plaything of the lions of the jungle to be changed arbitrarily and at will to cut any deal that serves the immediate purpose. And the neutral umpires have been sent home.
Think about it. Would you accept at the national level what you won’t in a game of cricket? Is this the kind of society you want to spend the rest of your lives in? If not, keep in mind that in the short run the captain we get will matter but not all that much. What will matter more will be if there is a level playground, a set of rules of the game, and neutral umpires to enforce them. We accepted that in cricket a long time back, didn’t we?
So let’s not focus on who will be the next lion of the jungle. Focus instead on turning the jungle into the playground. Focus for now on strengthening the national institutions and insisting on getting the best neutral umpires—a strong judiciary. Going back to the status quo ante without restoring a strong judiciary will be desired by all the lions and celebrated as a victory by all the courtiers. But if the neutral umpires are not brought back, and no one wants them back except you and me, it will be one more step into the jungle.
Samia Altaf is the 2007-2008 Pakistan Scholar at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington, DC
Posted by The Neem Revolution at 9:02 AM
“If all the students rise up against it, no oppression can last in this country” said the middle-aged man with a gleam of hope sparkling in his eyes that moment. The next moment that gleam vanished and my attention returned to the premature wrinkles on the forehead of this otherwise strong and healthy man. He was a not any political leader egging students into revolting – he was a policemen stationed to harass the student protester.
As we sat observing the hunger strike, we, the students, were vowing not to quit until our arrested colleagues are released. We had a detailed conversation with him and other policemen after accosting them and giving them one of our coal heaters. We had a long and cold night ahead of us - on the footpath outside the Lahore Press Club, the students and the police were in it together. The lines on their foreheads, their knits brows just like the sad tone of their voices eloquently told the tragic tale of our nation – the story of a nation marred by repeated oppression, persistent deep-rooted social injustice, unfulfilled dreams and the frequent corruption of otherwise noble souls. Indeed, writ in those lines was the story of humans miserably trapped in a system that pushes some into oppression, others into helplessness and most into ignorance.
It’s a strange thing. We were supposed to be enemies – the police and students. But we became friends. The truth is that some powers want to pit the people versus the state. They cannot succeed because the state, after all, is comprised of countless humans, none of whom can be completely beyond the appeal of conscience and reason, no matter how miserable constrained by material circumstances they may be. The police constables cannot help arresting, tear-gassing or baton-charging us when ordered to do so by those who control the bread and butter of their families. But their hearts and minds are theirs and there we have scored a clear victory over the powers-that-be. That is why, in the longest run, the people stand assured of victory in their battle with the state. The people are everywhere, within and outside the state, and in their hearts and minds they stand united in opposition to centuries of exploitation and oppression. They are united also in their hope that the youth of this nation will herald the coming of a brighter dawn than that in which their elders have lived their lives.
Lying on the footpath, as the night grew darker and colder around us, and our hunger increased by the moment, hope was all we needed – hope that the night will soon be over, that our fellows will be released and that life will soon get back to normal. May be it true that no one can completely live life off hope; but you can pass the night with just that. We, however, had a lot of other things to keep us busy - keeping the coal heater alive, maneuvering to fit all into the scarce razais, singing songs and reciting poetry of all sorts. Then, there was strategy-making but that is just another form of hope.
Dawn did break. The road became busier. More people, in buses, cars, on rickshaws, bicycles and on foot started passing. Some looked, others stated, yet others stopped to talk and some gestured support. We showed the victory sign to every passing police vehicle and got quite a few similar gestures in return – we have a video to prove that, but it is, of course, confidential. May be, the cold and hunger we went through does not soften the hearts of rulers who have caged our fellows. But it taught us what Pervez Musharraf and his cronies - who have never spent a night protesting on the footpath to solicit the people’s support - will, unfortunately, never learn. That lesson is: the people are with us as we resist the entrenched, systemic oppression rampant in this country. With all their machinations, tricks, frauds and bribes, they will never get as much love and sympathy from God’s people as we gathered in that one night, lying exhausted on a cold footpath. We don’t know if our hunger strike will succeed in getting our arrested fellows bailed out. But the hand that controls destiny has bestowed upon us a lot of other valuables – including the admiration of policemen deployed to harass us and the sympathy of thousands of ordinary passers-by.
Posted by The Neem Revolution at 4:43 AM
Posted by The Neem Revolution at 1:31 AM
Lawyers have been in the centre of the present constitutional and judicial crisis. For standing up for the rule of law and for raising their voice many lawyers were detained and hundreds imprisoned. Lawyers as a community have also boycotted the PCO judges, this being their most commendable sacrifice as it directly affects their livelihood.
Lawyers' movement rests on the fight for the rule of the law and restoration of judges. This entails imprisonment, detention and non- appearance before the PCO judges which has a sizable economic cost.
Keeping this urgent need in view, CITIZENS FUND FOR LAWYERS IN DISTRESS (FUND) has been formed with the objective to help and provide a sustenance fund for the need based lawyers and their families. This support also ensures that the Movement continues through thick and thin.
The Fund is supervised by three most credible names in the legal profession namely: Mr. ABID H MINTO, DR. PARVEZ HASSAN AND Mr. ANWAR KAMAL. The Disbursement Committee is headed by MR. ANWAR KAMAL and to date Rs 1.2 million has been disbursed to the deserving lawyers and their families.
We need more funds to keep the movement alive and in this movement lies the future of Pakistan and the future of our children.
Please come forward and donate generously !!!!
Kindly contact SAIMA KHAWAJA, Advocate High Court - cell 0300-8414843 off: 5870300-3 or the undersigned for your donations.
With personal warm regards,
Syed Mansoor Ali Shah
Advocate Supreme Court of Pakistan
Posted by The Neem Revolution at 1:20 AM
MONDAY, Dec 10 - Human Rights Day being observed as a 'black day' by HRCP, PFUJ/KUJ and People's Resistance
4 pm, Karachi Press Club - wear black.
TUESDAY, Dec 11 - - 'Live with Talat' - featuring Talat Hussain, & Nusrat Javeed & Mushtaq Minhas (Bolta Pakistan)
Karachi Press Club - 2.00- 4.00 pm sharp (
Confirmed guests include Justices (r) Wajihuddin Ahmed, Fakhruddin G. Ebrahim, Majida Rizvi & Rasheed Rizvi (Prez. SHCBA) and Noor Naz Agha.
FRIDAY, Dec 14 - The big rally - Join us to demand the Restoration of the Judiciary & the Media and Revoke the PCO.
4.00 pm - Meet at Regal Chowk, end at Press Club.
All organisations, parties and individuals who support these demands are welcome. Bring your friends. Register your protest.
Thank you & see you there.
In solidarity, and on behalf of People's Resistance
Posted by The Neem Revolution at 1:17 AM
Indeed, pretending “not to understand” is a crafty art practiced universally by political artisans on a daily basis – but the trouble is that it does not and cannot work all the time. There comes a time when the make-believe audacity of a claim sounds not only insincere, but poses grave dangers to a politician’s loyalty to his or her constituents.
The media, the press and TV, has reported Benazir saying that she fails to understand why Imran Khan and Nawaz Sharif wish to boycott the forthcoming elections. It is ironic that Benazir would make such a statement. Since I (like millions) can easily hear and understand what is being said and why it is being said, let me have the privilege to enlighten Benazir on the subject.
Boycotting the elections is intended to deny legitimacy to the president for another five-year term of office. We are all aware of the fact that the presidential election by the outgoing assemblies was unethically, immorally and illegally staged and managed by the incumbent political establishment. It has also become quite evident now that the present political establishment in Islamabad and in the rest of Pakistan has become a political liability for this nation. The president has lost the nation’s confidence and is now an unpopular and an unacceptable political figure. Since he refuses to relinquish office, boycotting the elections will expedite his departure from the political scene.
“It must be made plan to Musharraf,” wrote an eminent columnist recently, “that when a political leader becomes part of the problem, it is time for him to make a dignified exit and let his people reassemble their lives and rebuild their civil society.” The nation’s desire to rebuild their civil society along democratic lines is the precise message intended in the Imran-Nawaz movement to boycott elections. Further legitimacy to the president, even without uniform, runs contrary to the democratic norms and immorally justifies a pseudo-democratic dispensation in the country.
My question to the former prime minister is: What is it that you have failed to comprehend about this intended election boycott? Is your lack of understanding a deliberate act of political craftsmanship aimed at some hidden personal agenda? Indeed, you must be aware that rumors of a recent meeting between you and the president are ripe on the grapevine. You need to clear the air over doubts of your personal political integrity -- at once!
Boycotting the elections is about reinstating the Chief Justice of Pakistan and other judges of the apex courts. But above and beyond that, it is about restoring the integrity of the constitution and giving the judiciary back its dignity, honor and respect in a civilized democratic system. If such a place is denied to the judiciary before elections, it will stay indefinitely under the shadows of the executive power. Benazir’s claim that everything else will fall into place after the restoration of so-called “democracy” is politically incorrect and an erroneous concept. How Benazir can put the horse before the cart is mind-boggling. How can a structure of true viable democracy be introduced when the head of state is undemocratically placed in office for a five-year tenure by managed political control and a tamed, subdued and compromised judiciary? Does Benazir not see the damaging impact on the entire political process if the incumbent president continues in office for another 5 years -- or the cause-effect relationship in this scenario on the future governance of the nation? How much more “naïve” can one be? How much more can one pretend to disregard the basic and essential elements of ground realities? How much more can one repudiate the basic knowledge of political science?
Boycotting the elections is about taking stock of the Musharraf regime’s failure at people’s expectation management. It is about disenfranchising civil society, constitutional violations, growing economic disparity, the nation’s social-psychological exhaustion, and the intended demoralization of the masses by the use of an excessive force mechanism designed to subjugate the citizenry. It is about the emergence of a police state that has become an ugly reality in Pakistan during the last 8 years of this regime’s rule.
Boycotting the elections is about the present political establishment’s absolutely lamentable and disastrous suffering from total perceptual failure in terms of Pakistan’s foreign policy directions and its regrettable perspective on the so-called “War on Terror and Extremism”. It is about “un-sticking” Pakistan from the American connection and restoring dignity and independence to its global and foreign policy and, at the same time, safeguard the nation’s sovereignty from the US’s excessive interference in its internal affairs. In nutshell, it is about replacing Musharraf’s personal foreign policy doctrine with a national global relations agenda, rejecting Pakistan’s army fighting a US war in exchange for dollar payments to its armed forces. Pakistan’s armed forces are not for sale to do contract killing at American behest.
Boycotting the elections is about permanently sending “the khakis” back to the barracks, along with the generals, lock-stock-and-barrel, and rolling-back the army’s influence and stronghold as the economic empire and the political powerhouse that it has become under Musharraf’s endowment. It is to re-orient the Pakistani armed forces and to re-indoctrinate them to the virtual essence of their constitutional oath-taking that stipulates that it is a crime for a member of the armed forces to take part in politics while serving. Let it be said that Pakistan’s army is not a political party and must remain subservient to the civilian political administration. In the near future, Pakistan will have to make a constitutional amendment to place the ultimate command of the armed forces in the hands of a civilian-elected head of the government (as the US president is the Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces). Given the history of the generals’ interventions in politics, the amendment will have to specify that armed forces personnel will be barred from contesting head-of-state elections.
Boycotting the elections is about according due respect and an appropriate role to the media in strengthening the democratic process and in promoting the institutional democratic structure in the country by constant vigilance over the functioning of the state apparatus and the overall performance evaluation of the political system. It must be stated that it was an undignified claim for the president to make that “I” gave freedom to the media. Freedom of expression is an inalienable right of the people – it is not something to be given. Boycotting the elections is about proving the fact that it was the journalists themselves who earned this freedom by their diligent professional expertise and a full-fledged commitment to understanding democratic values and processes.
Boycotting elections is about burying once-and-for-all the “doctrine of necessity” and putting an ultimate end to a one-man rule in Pakistan.
My question is: What is it that Benazir cannot understand about any of this?
Posted by The Neem Revolution at 1:05 AM
ISLAMABAD, Dec 8 :
Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ), will "protest" on the International Human Rights Day, on Monday, December 10, saying continued curbs on media, ban on GEO, Royal tv and FM-99, have not only threatened the employement of over 5,000 newspapers employees but also the freedom of expression in the country and general elections without free media would be farce.
PFUJ, the representative body of the journalists urged the government to life the ban on GEO, Royal and FM-99, withdraw the amendments in the Registration of Printing and Publication Ordinance, RPPO, 2002 and Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority, PEMRA.
"Journalists in Pakistan have been deprived from their basic fundamental rights as well as economic rights," it said.
PFUJ's affiliated bodies will "protest," by holding seminars, demonstrations and rallied the International Human Rights Day.
" If government has any case against GEO, Royal and the two FMs or has complaint against any newspaper they must come out in public and move to the court instead of isolating them and refusing to withdraw the ban," PFUJ said.
PFUJ lauded the efforts of lawyers and civil society and thank for their support to the journalist's movement. It also demanded release of all the detained lawyers and civil society representatives.
PFUJ also warned tv channel and newspaper owners that if they remained silent over these ban, tomorrow they can face similar pressures and its time they must rise to the occasion.
"Ban under arbitrary orders as issued on November 3, against the channels or FMs, in the name of violating the so called code of conduct has raised serious question about government intentions for fair and transparent elections," it said.
"People have been deprived from their right to know through illegal order and it must be withdrawn," pfuj said.
Thousands of newspaper employees have already been deprived from their basic rights within the organisations due to the non-implementation of the 7th Wage Award, contractual employment and working on salaries fixed in 1996, and on the other hand government has threatened jobs of thousands more by bringing curbs on the media.
PFUJ urged both government and media owners to respect the rights of the workers and should not deprive them from their basic fundamental rights.
The PFUJ have launched the protest campaign since November 3, when the emergency was promulgated and the two anti-Press laws were introduced and held demonstrations, set up protest camps. In the last 35 days, police in Karachi arrested 187 journalists (who were later released). produce five journalists including four photo-journalists in chain in the court, detained two brothers of the President of Sukkur Press Club, Lal Asad Pathan, detained and beaten journalists in Hyderabad, Quetta, in Peshawar, Abbotabad.
However, journalists responded to the call of PFUJ and demonstrations were held in all the major cities and towns of Pakistan.
"Working journalists have shown their courage and its now upto the media owners, editots to join the struggle and play their due role," it said, adding that PFUJ welcome the visit of CPNE delegation to the protest camp in Lahore.
PFUJ urged the APNS, PBA and CPNE, bodies of owners of newspapers, private tv channels and body of editors to adopt collective line of action in consultation with PFUJ.
Secretary General, PFUJ
Posted by The Neem Revolution at 12:59 AM
“That light which shines only in palaces
Burns up the joy of the people in the shadows
Derives its strength from others weakness
That kind of system, a lightless dawn
I do not acknowledge; I do not accept”
-- Habib Jalib
A time of crisis is always a time for introspection. It is also a time of self-discovery. It is only when we overcome the hurdles of life that we discover our endurance, our strength, our greatness. By pushing against imaginary walls of fatalism erected by those fearful of an aware society, we realize our fundamental right to shape our destiny. History teaches us that no power has been able to suppress the will of the people if the people have categorically willed to rise. This will, however, cannot be born of the suppression, thereby becoming dependent on the very thing it wishes to destroy. It cannot be a reactive force to an external stimulus, but instead, it must be a vibrant force created by an inherent conscience. We cannot be part-time citizens. We will need to continue playing an active, responsible, and committed role in the shaping of the future of our country if we wish to realize our dreams and aspirations. While this emergency is a catalyst to action, it cannot be our inspiration. A year from now, maybe two or five, if the emergency is lifted, the Constitution restored, and democracy established will we go our separate ways? Will we return to who we were prior to November 3rd – apolitical, apathetic, disinterested. Or will we, instead, realize that November 3rd was a moment that changed us all forever, for it introduced us to a new “we”. A “we” aware of its power and ability to affect change; a “we” committed to justice, freedom, equality, respect, and truth. A “we” eloquent in expressing its sentiments and establishing its claims; a “we” willing to organize and sacrifice for peace and justice in the land of its people. A new “we”. A historic “we”. A beautiful “we”.
The creative, idealistic, and passionate student voices that echo in the vacuum of a suspended Constitution is the clearest indication that more and more youths must enlist in the process of determining the future course of Pakistan. While the tribulations of life have turned our parents into cynics and fatalists, the fires that burn in our hearts and the dreams that twinkle in our eyes are precisely what are needed to lift Pakistan from the ashes to a brighter tomorrow. History unravels itself only upon those people capable of rising to historic challenges. Pakistan is at a unique crossroads, and that we are in a position to witness history and alter its course requires deep reflection. Why has history chosen us? Will we respond? And, if so how?
Musharraf justified his imposition of martial law by resorting to flimsy nationalistic sentiments, restating the clichéd doctrine of necessity. He believes that only he is capable of bringing democracy to Pakistan and that his actions will prevent the country from committing suicide. Most of the country disagrees with him. So while Musharraf continues to believe that his actions were in the best interest of Pakistan, the people continue to argue that his actions will be detrimental for the nation. It is obvious than that Musharraf’s understanding of Pakistan is different from that of the peoples’. Therefore, what we confront today is a clash of definitions; of perceptions, and it is precisely this clash that has been at the heart of Pakistan’s struggles and tribulations. The renowned Pakistani thinker, Eqbal Ahmed, once wrote, “At the heart of this crisis has been our collective failure to resolve the central issue of the nature of the Pakistani state, and the sources of laws which govern it.” The present turmoil within our country is also an occasion for us to rise to the historic challenge of searching deep within and coming up with a comprehensive idea of Pakistan. We have been given a chance, once again, to articulate who we are as a people. What is Pakistan, what is its nature? What are our dreams, our aspirations? We cannot, we must not remain idle in the face of such redemption.
In order for any movement, any form of resistance to succeed, it must be guided by a vision; a vision not simply rooted in abstract principles, but fused with concrete steps and strategies. People often idealize revolutions, not realizing the serious, significant, and at times dangerous consequences of mass revolts. Democracy is not a panacea for our problems. Neither is any single individual. The upliftment of a society is a collective struggle that cannot fade away. That political leaders failed us in the past had more to do with the political system than the individuals themselves. The reason democracy has been able to flourish in other countries is not because they are endowed with inherently good natured leaders as opposed to our corrupt politicians. A stable structure with checks and balances, respect for justice, and ultimately based on the will of the people has ensured that these political figures remain accountable for their actions. Malcolm X once said, “Power never takes a back step — only in the face of more power.” Therefore, our inability to present a united front expressing our opposition to government policies led to the continuation of these policies detrimental to Pakistan and its people. We are now in a position to change the system. To ensure that checks and balances remain intact, that justice reigns supreme, and the will of the people is never compromised. However, this requires a deep analysis of the current system, identifying its faults, and presenting a new system based on the specific Pakistani context, taking into account possible future consequences. A successful movement, must therefore, possess binary vision – the ability to concentrate on short-term demands, while being aware of the larger purpose, the ultimate goal. And the ultimate goal of our movement has to be the restructuring of the political system within Pakistan and a clear elucidation of the nature of the state.
The primary short term goals have to be free and fair elections, resignation of Musharraf, end to martial law, and reinstatement of all suspended judges. However, under the current conditions most, if not all, seem impossible. It is clear that Musharraf must quit all together; he is unacceptable as a president irrespective of its civilian or military description. Therefore, I believe that the elections should be boycotted categorically if Musharraf does not quit and the emergency is not lifted. Any elections held under Musharraf’s supervision will be a mockery of and an insult to the intelligence and will of the Pakistani people. Three of the most important institutes within a society; the very lifeblood of a living nation are currently opposed to Musharraf: judiciary, media, and intelligentsia. If these three vibrant forces are able to combine their human potential they can seriously alter the outcome of events in the next couple of months. The government of Pakistan and all political parties willing to participate in the January 8 elections need to be told that the elections will only maintain a status quo that is now, simply, unacceptable. We also need to inform people internationally, thereby shaping world opinion in our favor, obtaining global solidarity, and hence imposing significant pressure on the government and the parties concerned. That the Harvard Law School Association has decided to give Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry a Medal of Freedom, and that Mazhar Abbas of ARY One World has also been recognized for his struggles is a testimony to the power of individual acts and our ability to be recognized and supported worldwide.
Educational institutes within Pakistan and Pakistani students studying abroad must continue their opposition and struggle. We should continue writing to the international media expressing our concerns, voicing our opinions, and stating our demands: that Musharraf must quit, that emergency must be lifted, that the suspended judges should be reinstated, and that free and fair elections should be held. Any other proposal will further destabilize the country, jeopardize the current movement, and fail in its attempt to answer the historic question of Pakistan’s nature and destiny. I also think that students within Pakistan and abroad should use hunger strikes similar to those witnessed at LUMS as an effective tool to be heard. We should continue using conventional methods to raise our voices and exert our demands, and, only as a last resort, begin a collective hunger strike if the government and political parties show an unwillingness to listen to our demands. We need to direct the world’s attention towards our cause and gain its support if we wish to be successful. The next two months are critical, and our actions today, in the current fiasco, will have repercussions for decades to come. We must decide wisely.
Eqbal Ahmed, in a profound article once wrote, “Gramsci draws three fundamental conclusions: (i) When civil society (which includes professional, literary and artistic institutions and associations) conforms uncritically or is coerced by the state into silence, totalitarianism prevails. (ii) When civil society enjoys a lively network of institutions and associations, and these maintain critical links with state institutions, then democracy prevails. (iii) When state and society are structurally and culturally antagonistic to each other, then conditions of civil war and anarchy obtain, and a society evades either fate only when its intelligentsia forges and popularities a program for reform or revolution. In all three situations the choices artists and intellectuals make affect not only their own but their society's destiny.”
These are difficult times that require deep thought and complex solutions. No one individual can provide all the answers. It is my hope that people sincere to this cause will be galvanized to come up with creative, bold, and innovative plans for addressing the issues confronting our country. There is much reason to be optimistic despite the atmosphere that surrounds Pakistan. The way people have responded, stood up, united, and opposed in the past few weeks is a testimony to a living conscience. Tyranny can take away our rights, our freedom, our speech. It can attempt to imprison us within walls of fear and oppression, but it can never extinguish our humanity; our passionate, inherent belief in truth and justice. A living conscience can never be suppressed; it can only overcome.
Ayesha Siddiqa wrote, “Societies have to find their own strength to win their battles.” People often find strength in poets. They offer hope to the rest of humanity, because they understand the complexity of human emotions, the depth of human experiences, and the value of human life. Who better to turn to in these times than the great poet, Faiz Ahmed Faiz? His experiences living in Pakistan several decades back were sadly not so different from what we confront today. And in the darkness of his prison cell fighting against tyranny, he left us these immortal words to inspire all those committed to the principles of liberty, justice, equality, and respect. As autumn’s wings envelop our beautiful country, Faiz’s words could never have been so pertinent:
This is the way that autumn came to the trees: it stripped them down to the skin, left their ebony bodies naked. It shook out their hearts, the yellow leaves, scattered them over the ground. Anyone could trample them out of shape undisturbed by a single moan of protest. The birds that herald dreams were exiled from their song, each voice torn out of its throat. They dropped into the dust even before the hunter strung his bow. Oh, God of May have mercy. Bless these withered bodies with the passion of your resurrection; make their dead veins flow with blood again. Give some tree the gift of green again. Let one bird sing.
May God guide us in our struggles.
Posted by The Neem Revolution at 12:56 AM
By Beena Sarwar
Justice (r.) Ebrahim drew the audience's attention to the joint statement signed by as many as seventeen retired judges of the Sindh High Court and made public at a press conference that afternoon, on Nov 27. The statement condemned the emergency declaration as illegal and demanded the restoration of the independent judiciary and the media.
The retired judges denounced the martial law as "entirely unconstitutional."
"A return to democracy is impossible without the restoration of all chief justices and judges to their rightful position as of Nov. 2, 2007," they declared. The statement also holds that "any election carried out under a de facto martial law shall be farcical and illegitimate."
Similar declarations were expected from retired judges of the Supreme Court as well as the High Courts of the other three provinces (the retired Supreme Court judges issued their letter on Dec 2, as reported in the papers)
Members of the People's Resistance initiated this thought-provoking street event to show solidarity with the banned television network Geo, which has now been off the air for over three weeks. The ban has caused huge revenue losses to the media company. But more importantly, it has deprived the people of Pakistan of their right to information.
The event featured brief addresses by eminent persons who are in the forefront of the movement for the restoration of democracy in Pakistan, and who recognize that the struggle for the independence of the judiciary and the media are interlinked to this issue. The addresses were interspersed by spots provided by Geo which the channel had started to run as soon as General Pervez Musharraf imposed martial law on Nov 3.
All the television channels, except for the official Pakistan Television were immediately blocked on the cable network. All except Geo have been allowed back on air in Pakistan. For over a week, Geo even disappeared from the satellite world as on Nov 16, the Dubai government under pressure from Pakistan ordered the network to stop its broadcast from its base in Media City, a free zone in the Emirates state. (The Dubai government restored Geo's satellite link on Nov 30).
Justice (r.) Ebrahim jokingly warned students in the audience that they would hear him at their own risk, as the government had banned them from participating in any debate on the crucial issue of media and judicial independence. "I have to speak about this, because it is a matter of life and death for the people of Pakistan," said the retired judge, who has also held office of the Sindh Governor. "Even under British rule we were never stopped from debate and discussion, particularly in the universities and places of learning."
He said that Article 5 of the Constitution obliged the government to restore the Constitution -- not just as of Nov 3, but since Musharraf's coup of 1999 when he overthrew an elected government and took over power. "We do not accept any amendments made after Oct 11, 1999," said Justice (r.) Ebrahim. "If the Constitution is the soul of the nation, then the judiciary is its heart. We are currently without a heart and a soul."
Justice (r.) Ebrahim refuted the government's allegation that the deposed judges had released terrorists. Talking about the judges who have taken oath under the PCO, he said, "With a judiciary like that, independence of the judiciary is in the doldrums. We stand for a democratic Pakistan, the supremacy of the Constitution and an independent judiciary and media." He added: "Anyone who is not with us, is against us."
Geo TV provided content for the event, including the bold statement set to images taking off from the famous anti-Nazi declaration about remaining silent as one by one different elements of society are victimized, ending with "Then they came for me, and there was no one left to speak up." The Pakistani version starts, "First they came for the Ahmedis..."
Another powerful spot featured the hard-won rights enshrined in the Constitution that the emergency has suspended -- after alternatively outlining some of these rights, a male and female voice together enjoin the people to stand up for the Constitution and for their rights.
Arif Parvaiz, a development writer and researcher, read out Noon Meem Rashid's celebrated poem 'Aadmi se dartey ho' that resounded with the current times, and the kinds of vicious restrictions ordinary people face for speaking out against martial law.
Secretary General of Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ), Mazhar Abbas, also addressed the gathering. He had just returned from New York after accepting the Committee to Protect Journalists' International Press Freedom Award on behalf of the PFUJ. "The fight has just started," he said. "The November 3 situation was not one that we could have kept quiet about. The issue is not that of one ordinance, or one channel or FM station. This fight is about freedom. We've never demanded this freedom for ourselves, but for the people who have right to know where their taxes go."
He said that till 1986, the journalists were mostly pliant and fell in with the government's directives. "We kept silent about the situation in then East Pakistan. The Pakistan army's surrender of December 16, 1971 was mentioned in just four lines in Dawn." Abbas blamed the media's silence not on the working journalists, who always spoke out even in the most repressive times, but on the media owners, "who have been late in joining the fight for press freedom."
Drawing attention to the PFUJ's prompt response to the martial law, Mazhar Abbas pointed out that even the 'Black Laws' of PEMRA contain clauses that stipulate certain steps before any media is shut down. On Nov 3, "verbal orders were issued to close the channels, without quoting any clause of PEMRA." The procedure, he explained, was that any complaint had to be followed by a show cause notice. This then went to the Council of Complaint, "which can summon the media organization in question. The Council could then recommend in writing for the closure of the media, citing the causes for this recommendation. None of this was done in this case." The government had instituted a PCO for the media, like it has done for the judges.
"The media was being punished for March 9, when it showed Chief Justice Iftikhar A. Chaudhry's campaign," he added. "This is not a fight of the owners. This is a fight for the freedom of expression. This is our fight, and we will fight whether the owners are with us or not."
"The restored channels are not free," said Abbas. In fact, the current restrictions on the electronic media are so severe that the offending talk show host or anchor has to prove their innocence, rather than the authorities having to prove their guilt. (Reminds one of the Hudood Ordinances in which this was the case for rape survivors, who were presumed guilty until being able to prove their innocence). "The anchor is even responsible for any words coming out of his guest's mouth. This is a constant sword dangling over our heads. Today, anyone can get a telephone call from the authorities and be summoned. We are treated like criminals."
The good thing is that APNS, CPNE, PFUJ have taken a unanimous stand, demanding that the government withdraw the ordinances and restore the media to the pre-November 3 position. "We have to be the voice of the people. Simply restoring Geo will not be enough," he said. "A free media is necessary for democracy. An independent judiciary is necessary for democracy. The Pakistani media is the most vibrant in all the Islamic world, the most critical of its own government. We are all for responsible journalism. If anyone has been irresponsible, prove it."
"Under this government," he said, "uniformed men come and slap journalists covering public events, and snatch their equipment. This has happened in Quetta, Lahore, Peshawar, Islamabad and Sukkur."
Posted by The Neem Revolution at 12:51 AM
By Beena Sarwar
"It was psychological torture to the worst degree," says Munir A Malik, former President Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA), talking about his three-week ordeal in prison before he was belatedly taken to hospital with renal failure. "It can drive a person insane to be lying on a bed staring at the ceiling for 16 hours."
Malik was arrested on Nov 3 from his hotel room in Islamabad. His colleague Justice (retired) Tariq Mahmood (who also got ill in prison) was with him earlier. Both had just reached Islamabad when they heard about the emergency. Expecting the arrest, Malik waited in his hotel room with the door open. The police arrived at about 10.30pm and took him to Kohsar police station where he deposited his cell phone. He arrived at Adiala Jail at 3am, half an hour after Aitzaz Ahsan.
The following day the superintendent said Malik was being transferred "to a 'better class', by which he meant B Class. Aitzaz threatened to bang his head against the wall until it bled if they removed me. They left."
The superintendent was transferred, having apparently lost the trust of the agencies running the show. "The new Superintendent had a Taliban-style beard and no moustache," says Malik. "He is the man who was Yusuf Raza Gillani's, [PPP Leader] nemesis when he was in Jail. I was woken up at 2am and told he wanted to see me. We woke up Aitzaz. Hameed Gul (who was brought in with his son that day) offered to go with me, but I said no, Aitzaz is my leader. The superintendent said I was being transferred to Attock. Aitzaz again wanted to resist, but I refused. They would have taken me by force."
At around 3am, Malik was put in a police mobile along with Siddique-ul-Farooque, [PML Leader], who was being sent to Bahawalpur Jail -- via Attock! Farooq had to endure the bumpy four-hour long ride to Attock, plus many more hours to Bahawalpur in the south. It was bitterly cold. The prisoners did not have adequate clothing. They arrived at Attock at 6.30 am, where plainclothesmen took Malik through a side gate, and into a room.
"Inside was a mean-looking fellow, weighing about 200 pounds, with a shawl over his shoulders. He thumped his chest and said, 'You know who I am? I am the person against whom the first suo moto action was taken' [i.e. by Chief Justice of Pakistan]. He wanted to know where Hamid Khan (another former SCBA President) was -- he had said that if Musharraf's uniform would have to be peeled off if it was a 'second skin'."
Uniformed policemen searched Malik so thoroughly "that if they had been looking for a needle in a haystack they would have found it." He was glad he had removed his money from his socks and handed it in (it was deposited into his account). He was finger printed and photographed like a criminal. Plainclothesmen then took him to the old part of the jail to an area marked 'Maut-yafta qaidiyon ke liye' - for prisoners condemned to death. "There was no one else there. They opened a cell and pushed me in." The cell was bare, with a high ceiling and a concrete slab for a bed. Malik was provided a rough blanket, a rug and a pillow.
"At 8.30am, someone brought a bucket of tea and raw 'nan' (bread) which they offered through the bars. I refused it, saying I was on hunger strike -- that is something I learnt from Aitzaz, as a very effective means of protest in jail. I told them I was not a criminal; I was brought there under preventive detention, not charged with any offence."
Malik used his account to get another blanket and a pillow, but was still cold. However, the cold was easier to endure than the isolation. "It was difficult to pass the day. At 4pm they lock you in until breakfast. You can only lie on the mattress and stare at the ceiling. I listened to the trains and reconciled their timings with my watch. The first train went by at 6am. I had no newspapers, nothing. I started scratching on the wall to record the days, to retain my sanity and sense of time. On the second day, I was still on hunger strike."
The jail superintendent said Malik was not in solitary confinement, but there was no other accommodation. "I asked if I could have something to read, but for that, he said the orders would have to 'come from above'."
At around 6 pm on Nov 7, Malik's solitary confinement ended, although he was allowed no visitors until four days after -- close family and one legal counsel (he appointed Tanvir Paracha, a local advocate). He was taken to the new portion of the jail, 'Pehra number four', a quadrangle with sixteen cells, about 8x4 feet each, with a concrete 'bed' slab. Malik was put in Cell no. 6, "the 'qusuri' cell meant for prisoners who had violated a jail rule or. They would be shackled if they were considered dangerous."
Each cells could accommodate one person ("and even that was suffocating") but contained three to four prisoners each. They were sent elsewhere when Malik was brought in. Apparently the barrack was needed for lawyers and those resisting the emergency.
Seven other lawyers were brought in at around 3am from Multan, having been picked up from courts. Others came in and were released over the coming weeks. One lawyer came in from Sahiwal.
"He was among the 41 who were injured during a torch-lit procession during the lawyers' movement to restore the chief justice. The police threw acid at them. His face was still disfigured. The Sahiwal bar has given the greatest sacrifices. The police filed an anti-terrorism case against them. The lawyers filed a direct complaint against police brutality. The Chief Justice of the Lahore High Court froze their file to protect the police," alleges Malik.
Malik ended his hunger strike because the local PML-N representative, former MNA Sheikh Aftab sent breakfast for the prisoners. "He was very generous and sent food for all of us, even when at one point there were 26 of us (when PPP workers were arrested and brought in)."
The first four cells of the barracks were apparently reserved for Nawaz Sharif: carpeted, air-conditioned bedroom with mattress, kitchen with fridge, study with table, and a bathroom. The bedroom was the only place with an electric socket where an ECG machine could be plugged in when a doctor from Attock General Hospital came to check the prisoners after newspapers reported that Malik was unwell. "He checked all the prisoners, we got to lie on the mattress for 30 minutes." They were allowed in the open courtyard from 7.30am till 4pm, but it was difficult to pass the time after being locked in for the night. The cell was cold and uncomfortable. Malik would fall asleep around 10pm. The light bulb hanging from the ceiling stayed on 24 hours.
By Friday, Nov 9, Malik started getting ill. The jail doctor catered to 1,400 prisoners (the facility has a capacity of 340). The medicines prescribed were often not available in Attock, and someone had to go to Rawalpindi to purchase them. Malik's medication was frequently changed. It did not work, and he had to take sleeping pills at night.
"When I had visitors, I had to say I was fine. It was for them to judge from my body language. There was always someone from ISI standing behind me and I feared repercussions. By the next Friday (Nov 16) I could feel the fluid shifting from one side to the other in my stomach. Specialists from outside hospitals came to see me. They all said I should be transferred to hospital, but no one did anything." One specialist extracted water from Malik's stomach with a syringe. Contrary to the impression of his family and friends, he was never transferred to the jail hospital.
"By the third Friday (Nov 23) I was completely incoherent, unable to even get up." He doesn't remember much of the next couple of days, after being finally taken to Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences, Islamabad. By then, he was near death. Doctors say it is a miracle he survived. He has undergone dialysis four times since then. He was transferred from PIMS to the Sindh Institute of Urology & Transplant in Karachi, on Nov 29.
He is still weak, but recovering and able to take a small daily walk. The doctors are still investigating whether any permanent damage has been inflicted on his kidneys. He still has trouble sleeping, as the tubes inserted for the dialysis procedure do not allow him to turn on his side.
Many imprisoned lawyers around the country were released after they signed undertakings promising not to take part in politics. However, Malik received no such offer. In any case, he says that he "would have died rather than sign such an undertaking".
Posted by The Neem Revolution at 12:41 AM
Bail applications of the 10 civil society members arrested from outside Justice Shahid Siddiqi’s house will come up for hearing before the magistrate Farhan Nabi between 830 am to 9am Monday 10th December, 2007. The magistrates sits at the Cantt kacherry.
Please be there.
Mansoor A Shah
Posted by The Neem Revolution at 12:28 AM
( This is Tighe Barry's response to a mail from a student, Umer Gilani from Lahore, in which Barry's efforts were appreciated and dismay conveyed regarding his maltreatment and arrest in Pakistan and the US. The following are his words of encouragement)
Thank You for your kind words and support. I was moved by the
sacrafice of the great people of Pakistan in thier brave stance
against the Dictator, and felt that it requires a lot from me and my
friends to support you.I hope that we can stay in touch. We have a
protest on monday the 10th at the Pakistan Embassy in Washington D.C.
at 5p, please tell everyone.
Posted by The Neem Revolution at 12:24 AM
By Tariq Ali
Arranged marriages can be a messy business. Designed principally as a means of accumulating wealth, circumventing undesirable flirtations or transcending clandestine love affairs, they often don't work. Where both parties are known to loathe each other, only a rash parent, desensitised by the thought of short-term gain, will continue with the process knowing full well that it will end in misery and possibly violence. That this is equally true in political life became clear in the recent attempt by Washington to tie Benazir Bhutto to Pervez Musharraf.
The single, strong parent in this case was a desperate State Department – with John Negroponte as the ghoulish go-between and Gordon Brown as the blushing bridesmaid – fearful that if it did not push this through both parties might soon be too old for recycling. The bride was certainly in a hurry, the groom less so. Brokers from both sides engaged in lengthy negotiations on the size of the dowry. Her broker was and remains Rehman Malik, a former boss of Pakistan's FIA, who has been investigated for corruption by the National Accountability Bureau and who served nearly a year in prison after Benazir's fall, then became one of her business partners and is currently under investigation (with her) by a Spanish court looking into a company called Petroline FZC, which made questionable payments to Iraq under Saddam Hussein. Documents, if genuine, show that she chaired the company. She may have been in a hurry but she did not wish to be seen taking the arm of a uniformed president. He was not prepared to forgive her past. The couple's distaste for each other yielded to a mutual dependence on the United States. Neither party could say 'no', though Musharraf hoped the union could be effected inconspicuously. Fat chance.
Both parties made concessions. She agreed that he could take off his uniform after his 're-election' by Parliament, but it had to be before the next general election. (He has now done this, leaving himself dependent on the goodwill of his successor as army chief of staff.) He pushed through a legal ruling – yet another sordid first in the country's history – known as the National Reconciliation Ordinance, which withdrew all cases of corruption pending against politicians accused of looting the national treasury. The ruling was crucial for her since she hoped that the money-laundering and corruption cases pending in three European courts – in Valencia, Geneva and London – would now be dismissed. This doesn't seem to have happened.
Many Pakistanis – not just the mutinous and mischievous types who have to be locked up at regular intervals – were repelled, and coverage of 'the deal' in the Pakistan media was universally hostile, except on state television. The 'breakthrough' was loudly trumpeted in the West, however, and a whitewashed Benazir Bhutto was presented on US networks and BBC TV news as the champion of Pakistani democracy – reporters loyally referred to her as 'the former prime minister' rather than the fugitive politician facing corruption charges in several countries.
She had returned the favour in advance by expressing sympathy for the US wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, lunching with the Israeli ambassador to the UN (a litmus test) and pledging to 'wipe out terrorism' in her own country. In 1979 a previous military dictator had bumped off her father with Washington's approval, and perhaps she thought it would be safer to seek permanent shelter underneath the imperial umbrella. HarperCollins had paid her half a million dollars to write a new book. The working title she chose was 'Reconciliation'.
As for the general, he had begun his period in office in 1999 by bowing to the spirit of the age and titling himself 'chief executive' rather than 'chief martial law administrator', which had been the norm. Like his predecessors, he promised he would stay in power only for a limited period, pledging in 2003 to resign as army chief of staff in 2004. Like his predecessors, he ignored his pledge. Martial law always begins with the promise of a new order that will sweep away the filth and corruption that marked the old one: in this case it toppled the civilian administrations of Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif. But 'new orders' are not forward movements, more military detours that further weaken the shaky foundations of a country and its institutions. Within a decade the uniformed ruler will be overtaken by a new upheaval.
Dreaming of her glory days in the last century, Benazir wanted a large reception on her return. The general was unhappy. The intelligence agencies (as well as her own security advisers) warned her of the dangers. She had declared war on the terrorists and they had threatened to kill her. But she was adamant. She wanted to demonstrate her popularity to the world and to her political rivals, including those inside her own fiefdom, the Pakistan People's Party (PPP). For a whole month before she boarded the Dubai-Karachi flight, the PPP were busy recruiting volunteers from all over the country to welcome her. Up to 200,000 people lined the streets, but it was a far cry from the millions who turned up in Lahore in 1986 when a very different Benazir returned to challenge General Zia ul-Haq. The plan had been to move slowly in the Bhuttomobile from Karachi airport to the tomb of the country's founder, Muhammad Ali Jinnah, where she would make a speech. It was not to be. As darkness fell, the bombers struck. Who they were and who sent them remains a mystery. She was unhurt, but 130 people died, including some of the policemen guarding her. The wedding reception had led to mayhem.
The general, while promising to collaborate with Benazir, was coolly making arrangements to prolong his own stay at President's House. Even before her arrival he had considered taking drastic action to dodge the obstacles that stood in his way, but his generals (and the US Embassy) seemed unconvinced. The bombing of Benazir's cavalcade reopened the debate. Pakistan, if not exactly the erupting volcano portrayed in the Western media, was being shaken by all sorts of explosions. The legal profession, up in arms at Musharraf's recent dismissal of the chief justice, had won a temporary victory, resulting in a fiercely independent Supreme Court. The independent TV networks continued to broadcast reports that challenged official propaganda. Investigative journalism is never popular with governments and the general often contrasted the deference with which he was treated by the US networks and BBC television with the 'unruly' questioning inflicted on him by local journalists: it 'misled the people'. He had become obsessed with the media coverage of the lawyers' revolt. A decline in his popularity increased the paranoia. His advisers were people he had promoted. Generals who had expressed divergent opinions in 'frank and informal get-togethers' had been retired. His political allies were worried that their opportunities to enrich themselves even further would be curtailed if they had to share power with Benazir.
What if the Supreme Court were now to declare his re-election by a dying and unrepresentative assembly illegal? To ward off disaster, the ISI had been preparing blackmail flicks: agents secretly filmed some of the Supreme Court judges in flagrante. But so unpopular had Musharraf become that even the sight of judicial venerables in bed might not have done the trick. It might even have increased their support. (In 1968, when a right-wing, pro-military rag in Lahore published an attack on me, it revealed that I 'had attended sex orgies in a French country house organised by [my] friend, the Jew Cohn-Bendit. All the fifty women in the swimming-pool were Jewish.' Alas, this was totally false, but my parents were amazed at the number of people who congratulated them on my virility.) Musharraf decided that blackmail wasn't worth the risk. Only firm action could 'restore order' – i.e. save his skin. The usual treatment in these cases is a declaration of martial law. But what if the country is already being governed by the army chief of staff? The solution is simple. Treble the dose. Organise a coup within a coup. That is what Musharraf decided to do. Washington was informed a few weeks in advance, Downing Street somewhat later. Benazir's patrons in the West told her what was about to happen and she, foolishly for a political leader who has just returned to her country, evacuated to Dubai.
On 3 November Musharraf, as chief of the army, suspended the 1973 constitution and imposed a state of emergency: all non-government TV channels were taken off the air, the mobile phone networks were jammed, paramilitary units surrounded the Supreme Court. The chief justice convened an emergency bench of judges, who – heroically – declared the new dispensation 'illegal and unconstitutional'. They were unceremoniously removed and put under house arrest. Pakistan's judges have usually been acquiescent. Those who in the past resisted military leaders were soon bullied out of it, so the decision of this chief justice took the country by surprise and won him great admiration. Global media coverage of Pakistan suggests a country of generals, corrupt politicians and bearded lunatics: the struggle to reinstate the chief justice had presented a different picture.
Aitzaz Ahsan, a prominent member of the PPP, minister of the interior in Benazir's first government and currently president of the Bar Association, was arrested and placed in solitary confinement. Several thousand political and civil rights activists were picked up. Imran Khan, a fierce and incorruptible opponent of the regime, was arrested, charged with 'state terrorism' – for which the penalty is death or life imprisonment – and taken in handcuffs to a remote high-security prison. Musharraf, Khan argued, had begun yet another shabby chapter in Pakistan's history.
Lawyers were arrested all over the country; many were physically attacked by policemen. Humiliate them was the order, and the police obliged. A lawyer, 'Omar', circulated an account of what happened:
While I was standing talking to my colleagues, we saw the police go wild on the orders of a superior officer. In riot gear . . . brandishing weapons and sticks, about a hundred policemen attacked us . . . and seemed intensely happy at doing so. We all ran.
Some of us who were not as nimble on their feet as others were caught by the police and beaten mercilessly. We were then locked in police vans used to transport convicted prisoners. Everyone was stunned at this show of brute force but it did not end. The police went on mayhem inside the court premises and court buildings . . . Those of us who were arrested were taken to various police stations and put in lockups. At midnight, we were told that we were being shifted to jail. We could not get bail as our fundamental rights were suspended. Sixty lawyers were put into a police van ten feet by four feet wide and five feet in height. We were squashed like sardines. When the van reached the jail, we were told that we could not get [out] until orders of our detention were received by the jail authorities. Our older colleagues started to suffocate, some fainted, others started to panic because of claustrophobia. The police ignored our screams and refused to open the van doors. Finally, after three hours . . . we were let out and taken to mosquito-infected barracks where the food given to us smelled like sewage water.
Geo, the largest TV network, had long since located its broadcasting facilities in Dubai. It was a strange sensation watching the network in London when the screens were blank in Pakistan. On the very first day of the emergency I saw Hamid Mir, a journalist loathed by the general, reporting from Islamabad and asserting that the US Embassy had given the green light to the coup because it regarded the chief justice as a nuisance and wrongly believed him to be 'a Taliban sympathiser'. Certainly no US spokesperson or State Department adjunct in the Foreign Office criticised the dismissal of the eight Supreme Court judges or their arrest: that was the quid pro quo for Washington's insistence that Musharraf take off his uniform. If he was going to turn civilian he wanted all the other rules twisted in his favour. A newly appointed stooge Supreme Court would soon help him with the rule-bending. As would the authorities in Dubai, who suspended Geo's facilities.
In the evening of that first day, and after several delays, a flustered General Musharraf, his hair badly dyed, appeared on TV, trying to look like the sort of leader who wants it understood that the political crisis is to be discussed with gravity and sangfroid. Instead, he came across as a dumbed down dictator fearful for his own political future. His performance as he broadcast to the nation, first in Urdu and then in English, was incoherent. The gist was simple: he had to act because the Supreme Court had 'so demoralised our state agencies that we can't fight the "war on terror"' and the TV networks had become 'totally irresponsible'. 'I have imposed emergency,' he said halfway through his diatribe, adding, with a contemptuous gesture: 'You must have seen it on TV.' Was he being sarcastic, given that most channels had been shut down? Who knows? Mohammed Hanif, the sharp-witted head of the BBC's Urdu Service, which monitored the broadcast, confessed himself flummoxed when he wrote up what he heard. He had no doubt that the Urdu version of the speech was the general's own work. Hanif's deconstruction – he quoted the general in Urdu and in English – deserved a broadcast all of its own:
Here are some random things he said. And trust me, these things were said quite randomly. Yes, he did say: 'Extremism bahut extreme ho gaya hai [extremism has become too extreme] . . . Nobody is scared of us anymore . . . Islamabad is full of extremists . . . There is a government within government . . . Officials are being asked to the courts . . . Officials are being insulted by the judiciary.'
At one point he appeared wistful when reminiscing about his first three years in power: 'I had total control.' You were almost tempted to ask: 'What happened then, uncle?' But obviously, uncle didn't need any prompting. He launched into his routine about three stages of democracy. He claimed he was about to launch the third and final phase of democracy (the way he said it, he managed to make it sound like the Final Solution). And just when you thought he was about to make his point, he took an abrupt turn and plunged into a deep pool of self-pity. This involved a long-winded anecdote about how the Supreme Court judges would rather attend a colleague's daughter's wedding than just get it over with and decide that he is a constitutional president . . . I have heard some dictators' speeches in my life, but nobody has gone so far as to mention someone's daughter's wedding as a reason for imposing martial law on the country.
When for the last few minutes of his speech he addressed his audience in the West in English, I suddenly felt a deep sense of humiliation. This part of his speech was scripted. Sentences began and ended. I felt humiliated that my president not only thinks that we are not evolved enough for things like democracy and human rights, but that we can't even handle proper syntax and grammar.
The English-language version put the emphasis on the 'war on terror': Napoleon and Abraham Lincoln, he said, would have done what he did to preserve the 'integrity of their country' – the mention of Lincoln was obviously intended for the US market. In Pakistan's military academies the usual soldier-heroes are Napoleon, De Gaulle and Atatürk.
What did Benazir, now outmanoeuvred, make of the speech as she watched it on TV in her Dubai sanctuary? Her first response was to say she was shocked, which was slightly disingenuous. Even if she had not been told in advance that an emergency would be declared, it was hardly a secret – for one thing, Condoleezza Rice had made a token public appeal to Musharraf not to take this course. Yet for more than 24 hours she was unable to give a clear response. At one point she even criticised the chief justice for being too provocative.
Agitated phone calls from Pakistan persuaded her to return to Karachi. To put her in her place, the authorities kept her plane waiting on the tarmac. When she finally reached the VIP lounge, her PPP colleagues told her that unless she denounced the emergency there would be a split in the party. Outsmarted and abandoned by Musharraf, she couldn't take the risk of losing key figures in her party. She denounced the emergency and its perpetrator, established contact with the beleaguered opposition, and, as if putting on a new lipstick, declared that she would lead the struggle to get rid of the dictator. She now tried to call on the chief justice to express her sympathy but wasn't allowed near his residence.
She could have followed the example of her imprisoned colleague Aitzaz Ahsan, but she was envious of him: he had become far too popular in Pakistan. He'd even had the nerve to go to Washington, where he was politely received by society and inspected as a possible substitute should things go badly wrong. Not a single message had flowed from her Blackberry to congratulate him on his victories in the struggle to reinstate the chief justice. Ahsan had advised her against any deal with Musharraf. When generals are against the wall, he is reported to have told her, they resort to desperate and irrational measures. Others who offered similar advice in gentler language were also batted away. She was the PPP's 'chairperson-for-life' and brooked no dissent. The fact that Ahsan was proved right irritated her even more. Any notion of political morality had long ago been dumped. The very idea of a party with a consistent set of beliefs was regarded as ridiculous and outdated. Ahsan was now safe in prison, far from the madding hordes of Western journalists whom she received in style during the few days she spent under house arrest and afterwards. She made a few polite noises about his imprisonment, but nothing more.
The go-between from Washington arrived at very short notice. Negroponte spent some time with Musharraf and spoke to Benazir, still insisting that they make up and go through with the deal. She immediately toned down her criticisms, but the general was scathing and said in public that there was no way she could win the elections scheduled for January. No doubt the ISI are going to rig them in style. Had she remained loyal to him she might have lost public support, but he would have made sure she had a substantial presence in the new parliament. Now everything is up for grabs again. The opinion polls show that her old rival, Nawaz Sharif, is well ahead of her. Musharraf's hasty pilgrimage to Mecca was probably an attempt to secure Saudi mediation in case he has to cut a deal with the Sharif brothers – who have been living in exile in Saudi Arabia – and sideline her completely. Both sides deny that a deal was done, but Sharif returned to Pakistan with Saudi blessings and an armour-plated Cadillac as a special gift from the king. Little doubt that Riyadh would rather him than Benazir.
With the country still under a state of emergency and the largest media network refusing to sign the oath of allegiance that would allow them back on air, the polls scheduled for January can only be a general's election. It's hardly a secret that the ISI and the civilian bureaucracy will decide who wins and where, and some of the opposition parties are, wisely, considering a boycott. Nawaz Sharif told the press that in the course of a long telephone call he had failed to persuade Benazir to join it and thereby render the process null and void from the start. But now that he is back in the country it's unclear whether he will still go ahead with the boycott or try and negotiate a certain number of seats with the Chaudhrys of Gujrat, who had betrayed him by setting up a faction of the Pakistan Muslim League, the PML-Q, to support Musharraf. Perhaps a shared bout of amnesia will bring them together again.
What will Benazir do now? Washington's leverage in Islamabad is limited, which is why they wanted her to be involved in the first place. 'It's always better,' the US ambassador half-joked at a reception, 'to have two phone numbers in a capital.' That may be so, but they cannot guarantee her the prime ministership or even a fair election. In his death-cell, her father mulled over similar problems and came to slightly different conclusions. If I Am Assassinated, Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto's last will and testament, was written in semi-Gramsci mode, but the meaning wasn't lost on his colleagues:
I entirely agree that the people of Pakistan will not tolerate foreign hegemony. On the basis of the self-same logic, the people of Pakistan would never agree to an internal hegemony. The two hegemonies complement each other. If our people meekly submit to internal hegemony, a priori, they will have to submit to external hegemony. This is so because the strength and power of external hegemony is far greater than that of internal hegemony. If the people are too terrified to resist the weaker force, it is not possible for them to resist the stronger force. The acceptance of or acquiescence in internal hegemony means submission to external hegemony.
After he was hanged in April 1979, the text acquired a semi-sacred status among his supporters. But, when in power, Bhutto père had failed to develop any counter-hegemonic strategy or institutions, other than the 1973 constitution drafted by the veteran civil rights lawyer Mahmud Ali Kasuri (whose son Khurshid was until recently the foreign minister). A personality-driven, autocratic style of governance had neutered the spirit of the party, encouraged careerists and finally paved the way for his enemies. He was the victim of a grave injustice; his death removed all the warts and transformed him into a martyr. More than half the country, mainly the poor, mourned his passing.
The tragedy led to the PPP being treated as a family heirloom, which was unhealthy for both party and country. It provided the Bhuttos with a vote-bank and large reserves. But the experience of her father's trial and death radicalised and politicised his daughter. She would have preferred, she told me at the time, to be a diplomat. Her two brothers, Murtaza and Shahnawaz, were in London, having been forbidden to return home by their imprisoned father. The burden of trying to save her father's life fell on Benazir and her mother, Nusrat, and the courage they exhibited won them the silent respect of a frightened majority. They refused to cave in to General Zia's military dictatorship, which apart from anything else was invoking Islam to claw back rights won by women in previous decades. Benazir and Nusrat Bhutto were arrested and released several times. Their health began to suffer. Nusrat was allowed to leave the country to seek medical advice in 1982. Benazir was released a little more than a year later thanks, in part, to US pressure orchestrated by her old Harvard friend Peter Galbraith. She later described the period in her memoir, Daughter of the East (1988); it included photo-captions such as: 'Shortly after President Reagan praised the regime for making "great strides towards democracy", Zia's henchmen gunned down peaceful demonstrators marking Pakistan Independence Day. The police were just as brutal to those protesting at the attack on my jeep in January 1987.'
Her tiny Barbican flat in London became the centre of opposition to the dictatorship, and it was here that we often discussed a campaign to take on the generals. Benazir had built up her position by steadfastly and peacefully resisting the military and replying to every slander with a cutting retort. Her brothers had been operating on a different level. They set up an armed group, al-Zulfiqar, whose declared aim was to harass and weaken the regime by targeting 'traitors who had collaborated with Zia'. The principal volunteers were recruited inside Pakistan and in 1980 they were provided with a base in Afghanistan, where the pro-Moscow Communists had taken power three years before. It is a sad story with a fair share of factionalism, show-trials, petty rivalries, fantasies of every sort and death for the group's less fortunate members.
In March 1981 Murtaza and Shahnawaz Bhutto were placed on the FIA's most wanted list. They had hijacked a Pakistan International airliner soon after it left Karachi (a power cut had paralysed the X-ray machines, enabling the hijackers to take their weapons on board); it was diverted to Kabul. Here Murtaza took over and demanded the release of political prisoners. A young military officer on board the flight was murdered. The plane refuelled and went on to Damascus, where the Syrian spymaster General Kholi took charge and ensured there were no more deaths. The fact that there were American passengers on the plane was a major consideration for the generals and, for that reason alone, the prisoners in Pakistan were released and flown to Tripoli.
This was seen as a victory and welcomed as such by the PPP in Pakistan. For the first time the group began to be taken seriously. A key target inside the country was Maulvi Mushtaq Hussain, the chief justice of the High Court in Lahore, who, in 1978, had sentenced Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto to death, and whose behaviour in court had shocked even those who were hostile to the PPP. (Among other charges, he had accused Bhutto of 'pretending to be a Muslim' – his mother was a Hindu convert.) Mushtaq was in a friend's car being driven to his home in Lahore's Model Town area when al-Zulfiqar gunmen opened fire. The judge survived, but his friend and the driver died. The friend was one of the Chaudhrys of Gujrat: Chaudhry Zahoor Elahi, a dodgy businessman who had ostentatiously asked General Zia to make him a present of the 'sacred pen' with which he had signed Bhutto's death warrant. The pen became a family heirloom. Zahoor Elahi may not have been the target but al-Zulfiqar, embarrassed at missing the judge, claimed he was also on their list, which may have been true.
It is the next generation of Chaudhrys that currently provides Musharraf with civilian ballast: Zahoor Elahi's son Shujaat organised the split with Nawaz Sharif and created the splinter PML-Q to ease the growing pains of the new regime. He still fixes deals and wanted an emergency imposed much earlier to circumvent the deal with Benazir. He will now mastermind the general's election campaign. His cousin Pervez Elahi is chief minister of the Punjab; his son, in turn, is busy continuing the family tradition by evicting tenants and buying up all the available land on the edge of Lahore. It has not been divulged which member of the family guards the sacred pen.
The hijacking meanwhile had annoyed Moscow, and the regime in Afghanistan asked the Bhutto brothers to find another refuge. While in Kabul, they had married two Afghan sisters, Fauzia and Rehana Fasihudin, daughters of a senior official at the Afghan Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Together with their wives they now left the country and after a sojourn in Syria and possibly Libya ended up in Europe. The reunion with their sister took place on the French Riviera in 1985, a setting better suited to the lifestyles of all three siblings.
The young men feared General Zia's agents. Each had a young daughter. Shahnawaz lived in an apartment in Cannes. He had been in charge of the 'military apparatus' and life in Kabul had exacted a heavier toll on him. He was edgy and nervous. Relations with his wife were stormy and he told his sister that he was preparing to divorce her. 'There's never been a divorce in the family. Your marriage wasn't even an arranged one . . . You chose to marry Rehana. You must live with it,' was Benazir's revealing reply, according to her memoir. And then Shahnawaz was found dead in his apartment. His wife claimed he had taken poison, but according to Benazir nobody in the family believed her story; there had been violence in the room and his papers had been searched. Rehana looked immaculate, which disturbed the family. She was imprisoned for three months under the 'Good Samaritan' law for not having gone to the assistance of a dying person. After her release she settled in the United States. 'Had the CIA killed him as a friendly gesture towards their favourite dictator?' Benazir speculated. She raised other questions too: had the sisters become ISI agents? The truth remains hidden. Not long afterwards Murtaza divorced Fauzia, but kept custody of their three-year-old daughter, Fatima, and moved to Damascus. Here he had plenty of time for reflection and told friends that too many mistakes had been made. In 1986 he met Ghinwa Itaoui, a young teacher who had fled Lebanon after the Israeli invasion of 1982. She calmed him down and took charge of Fatima's education. They were married in 1989 and a son, Zulfiqar, was born the following year.
Benazir returned to Pakistan in 1986 and was greeted by large crowds who came out to show their affection for her and to demonstrate their anger with the regime. She campaigned all over the country, but felt increasingly that for some of the more religious-minded a young unmarried woman was not acceptable as a leader. How could she visit Saudi Arabia without a husband? An offer of marriage from the Zardari family was accepted and she married Asif in 1987. She had worried that any husband would find it difficult to deal with the periods of separation her nomadic political life would entail, but Zardari was perfectly capable of occupying himself.
A year later General Zia's plane blew up in midair. In the elections that followed the PPP won the largest number of seats. Benazir became prime minister, but was hemmed in by the army on one side and the president, the army's favourite bureaucrat, Ghulam Ishaq Khan, on the other. She told me at the time that she felt powerless. They wouldn't let her do anything. 'Tell the people,' was my advice. Tell them why you can't deliver on your promises to provide free education, proper sanitation, clean water and health services to improve the high infant mortality rate. She didn't tell them; in fact she did nothing at all apart from provide employment to some of her supporters. Being in power, it seemed, was satisfaction enough. She went on state visits: met and liked Mrs Thatcher and later, with her new husband in tow, was received politely by the Saudi king. In the meantime there were other plots afoot – the opposition was literally buying off some of her MPs – and in August 1990 her government was removed by presidential decree and Zia's protégés, the Sharif brothers, were back in power.
By the time she was re-elected in 1993, she had abandoned all idea of reform, but that she was in a hurry to do something became clear when she appointed her husband minister for investment, making him responsible for all investment offers from home and abroad. It is widely alleged that the couple accumulated $1.5 billion. The high command of the Pakistan People's Party now became a machine for making money, but without any trickle-down mechanism. This period marked the complete degeneration of the party. All that shame-faced party members could say, when I asked, was that 'everybody does it all over the world,' thus accepting that the cash nexus was now all that mattered. In foreign policy her legacy was mixed. She refused to sanction an anti-Indian military adventure in Kargil on the Himalayan slopes, but to make up for it, as I wrote in the LRB (15 April 1999), her government backed the Taliban takeover in Kabul – which makes it doubly ironic that Washington and London should be promoting her as a champion of democracy.
Murtaza Bhutto had contested the elections from abroad and won a seat in the Sind provincial legislature. He returned home and expressed his unhappiness with his sister's agenda. Family gatherings became tense. Murtaza had his weaknesses, but he wasn't corrupt and he argued in favour of the old party's radical manifesto. He made no secret of the fact that he regarded Zardari as an interloper whose only interest was money. Nusrat Bhutto suggested that Murtaza be made the chief minister of Sind: Benazir's response was to remove her mother as chairperson of the PPP. Any sympathy Murtaza may have felt for his sister turned to loathing. He no longer felt obliged to control his tongue and at every possible opportunity lambasted Zardari and the corrupt regime over which his sister presided. It was difficult to fault him on the facts. The incumbent chief minister of Sind was Abdullah Shah, one of Zardari's creatures. He began to harass Murtaza's supporters. Murtaza decided to confront the organ-grinder himself. He rang Zardari and invited him round for an informal chat sans bodyguards to try and settle the problems within the family. Zardari agreed. As the two men were pacing the garden, Murtaza's retainers appeared and grabbed Zardari. Someone brought out a cut-throat razor and some warm water and Murtaza shaved off half of Zardari's moustache to the delight of the retainers, then told him to get lost. A fuming Zardari, who had probably feared much worse, was compelled to shave off the other half at home. The media, bemused, were informed that the new clean-shaven consort had accepted intelligence advice that the moustache made him too recognisable a target. In which case why did he allow it to sprout again immediately afterwards?
Some months later, in September 1996, as Murtaza and his entourage were returning home from a political meeting, they were ambushed, just outside their house, by some seventy armed policemen accompanied by four senior officers. A number of snipers were positioned in surrounding trees. The street lights had been switched off. Murtaza clearly understood what was happening and got out of his car with his hands raised; his bodyguards were instructed not to open fire. The police opened fire instead and seven men were killed, Murtaza among them. The fatal bullet had been fired at close range. The trap had been carefully laid, but as is the way in Pakistan, the crudeness of the operation – false entries in police logbooks, lost evidence, witnesses arrested and intimidated, the provincial PPP governor (regarded as untrustworthy) dispatched to a non-event in Egypt, a policeman killed who they feared might talk – made it obvious that the decision to execute the prime minister's brother had been taken at a very high level.
While the ambush was being prepared, the police had sealed off Murtaza's house (from which his father had been lifted by Zia's commandos in 1978). The family inside felt something was wrong. At this point, a remarkably composed Fatima Bhutto, aged 14, decided to ring her aunt at Prime Minister's House. The conversation that followed remains imprinted on her memory and a few years ago she gave me an account of it. It was Zardari who took her call:
Fatima: I wish to speak to my aunt, please.
Zardari: It's not possible.
Fatima: Why? [At this point, Fatima says she heard loud wails and what sounded like fake crying.]
Zardari: She's hysterical, can't you hear?
Zardari: Don't you know? Your father's been shot.
Fatima and Ghinwa found out where Murtaza had been taken and rushed out of the house. There was no sign on the street outside that anything had happened: the scene of the killing had been wiped clean of all evidence. There were no traces of blood and no signs of any disturbance. They drove straight to the hospital but it was too late; Murtaza was already dead. Later they learned that he had been left bleeding on the ground for almost an hour before being taken to a hospital where there were no emergency facilities of any kind.
When Benazir arrived to attend her brother's funeral in Larkana, angry crowds stoned her limo. She had to retreat. In another unusual display of emotion, local people encouraged Murtaza's widow to attend the actual burial ceremony in defiance of Islamic tradition. According to Fatima, one of Benazir's hangers-on instigated legal proceedings against Ghinwa in a religious court for breaching Islamic law. Nothing was sacred.
Anyone who witnessed Murtaza's murder was arrested; one witness died in prison. When Fatima rang Benazir to ask why witnesses were being arrested and not the killers she was told: 'Look, you're very young. You don't understand things.' Perhaps it was for this reason that the kind aunt decided to encourage Fatima's blood-mother, Fauzia, whom she had previously denounced as a murderer in the pay of General Zia, to come to Pakistan and claim custody of Fatima. No mystery as to who paid her fare from California. Fatima and Ghinwa Bhutto resisted and the attempt failed. Benazir then tried a softer approach and insisted that Fatima accompany her to New York, where she was going to address the UN Assembly. Ghinwa Bhutto approached friends in Damascus and had her two children flown out of the country. Fatima later discovered that Fauzia had been seen hobnobbing with Benazir in New York.
In November 1996 Benazir was once again removed from power, this time by her own president, Farooq Leghari, a PPP stalwart. He cited corruption, but what had also angered him was the ISI's crude attempt at blackmail – the intelligence agencies had photographed Leghari's daughter meeting a boyfriend and threatened to go public. The week Benazir fell, the chief minister of Sind, Abdullah Shah, hopped on a motorboat and fled Karachi for the Gulf and thence the US.
A judicial tribunal had been appointed by Benazir's government to inquire into the circumstances leading to Murtaza's death. Headed by a Supreme Court judge, it took detailed evidence from all parties. Murtaza's lawyers accused Zardari, Abdullah Shah and two senior police officials of conspiracy to murder. Benazir (now out of power) accepted that there had been a conspiracy, but suggested that 'the hidden hand responsible for this was President Farooq Ahmad Leghari': the intention, she said, was to 'kill a Bhutto to get rid of a Bhutto'. Nobody took this seriously. Given all that had happened, it was an incredible suggestion.
The tribunal said there was no legally acceptable evidence to link Zardari to the incident, but accepted that 'this was a case of extra-judicial killings by the police' and concluded that such an incident could not have taken place without approval from the highest quarters. Nothing happened. Eleven years later, Fatima Bhutto publicly accused Zardari; she also claimed that many of those involved that day appear to have been rewarded for their actions. In an interview on an independent TV station just before the emergency was imposed, Benazir was asked to explain how it happened that her brother had bled to death outside his home while she was prime minister. She walked out of the studio. A sharp op-ed piece by Fatima in the LA Times on 14 November elicited the following response: 'My niece is angry with me.' Well, yes.
Musharraf may have withdrawn the corruption charges, but three other cases are proceeding in Switzerland, Spain and Britain. In July 2003, after an investigation lasting several years, Daniel Devaud, a Geneva magistrate, convicted Mr and Mrs Asif Ali Zardari, in absentia, of money laundering. They had accepted $15 million in bribes from two Swiss companies, SGS and Cotecna. The couple were sentenced to six months in prison and ordered to return $11.9 million to the government of Pakistan. 'I certainly don't have any doubts about the judgments I handed down,' Devaud told the BBC. Benazir appealed, thus forcing a new investigation. On 19 September 2005 she appeared in a Geneva court and tried to detach herself from the rest of the family: she hadn't been involved, she said: it was a matter for her husband and her mother (afflicted with Alzheimer's disease). She knew nothing of the accounts. And what of the agreement her agent Jens Schlegelmilch had signed according to which, in case of her and Zardari's death, the assets of Bomer Finance Company would be divvied out equally between the Zardari and Bhutto families? She knew nothing of that either. And the £120,000 diamond necklace in the bank vault paid for by Zardari? It was intended for her, but she had rejected the gift as 'inappropriate'. The case continues. Last month Musharraf told Owen Bennett-Jones of the BBC World Service that his government would not interfere with the proceedings: 'That's up to the Swiss government. Depends on them. It's a case in their courts.'
In Britain the legal shenanigans concern the $3.4 million Rockwood estate in Surrey, bought by offshore companies on behalf of Zardari in 1995 and refurbished to his exacting tastes. Zardari denied owning the estate. Then when the court was about to instruct the liquidators to sell it and return the proceeds to the Pakistan government, Zardari came forward and accepted ownership. Last year, Lord Justice Collins ruled that, while he was not making any 'findings of fact', there was a 'reasonable prospect' that the Pakistan government might be able to establish that Rockwood had been bought and furnished with 'the fruits of corruption'. A close friend of Benazir told me that she was genuinely not involved in this one, since Zardari wasn't thinking of spending much time there with her.
Daniel Markey, formerly of the State Department and currently senior fellow for India, Pakistan and South Asia at the Council on Foreign Relations, explained why Washington had pushed the marriage of convenience: 'A progressive, reform-minded, more cosmopolitan party in government would help the US.' As their finances reveal, the Zardaris are certainly cosmopolitan.
What then is at stake in Pakistan as far as Washington is concerned? 'The concern I have,' Robert Gates, the US secretary for defense, recently said, 'is that the longer the internal problems continue, the more distracted the Pakistani army and security services will be in terms of the internal situation rather than focusing on the terrorist threat in the frontier area.' But one reason for the internal crisis is Washington's over-reliance on Musharraf and the Pakistani military. It is Washington's support and funding that have given him the confidence to operate as he pleases. But the thoughtless Western military occupation of Afghanistan is obviously crucial, since the instability in Kabul seeps into Peshawar and the tribal areas between the two countries. The state of emergency targeted the judiciary, opposition politicians and the independent media. All three groups were, in different ways, challenging the official line on Afghanistan and the 'war on terror', the disappearance of political prisoners and the widespread use of torture in Pakistani prisons. The issues were being debated on television in a much more open fashion than happens anywhere in the West, where a blanket consensus on Afghanistan drowns all dissent. Musharraf argued that civil society was hampering the 'war on terror'. Hence the emergency. It's nonsense, of course. It's the war in the frontier regions that is creating dissent inside the army. Many do not want to fight. Hence the surrender of dozens of soldiers to Taliban guerrillas. This is the reason many junior officers are taking early retirement.
Western pundits blather on about the jihadi finger on the nuclear trigger. This is pure fantasy, reminiscent of a similar campaign almost three decades ago, when the threat wasn't the jihadis who were fighting alongside the West in Afghanistan, but nationalist military radicals. The cover story of Time magazine for 15 June 1979 dealt with Pakistan; a senior Western diplomat was quoted as saying that the big danger was 'that there is another Gaddafi down there, some radical major or colonel in the Pakistani army. We could wake up and find him in Zia's place one morning and, believe me, Pakistan wouldn't be the only place that would be destabilised.'
The Pakistan army is half a million strong. Its tentacles are everywhere: land, industry, public utilities and so on. It would require a cataclysmic upheaval (a US invasion and occupation, for example) for this army to feel threatened by a jihadi uprising. Two considerations unite senior officers: the unity of the organisation and keeping politicians at bay. One reason is the fear that they might lose the comforts and privileges they have acquired after decades of rule; but they also have the deep aversion to democracy that is the hallmark of most armies. Unused to accountability within their own ranks, it's difficult for them to accept it in society at large.
As southern Afghanistan collapses into chaos, and as corruption and massive inflation takes hold, the Taliban is gaining more and more recruits. The generals who convinced Benazir that control of Kabul via the Taliban would give them 'strategic depth' may have retired, but their successors know that the Afghans will not tolerate a long-term Western occupation. They hope for the return of a whitewashed Taliban. Instead of encouraging a regional solution that includes India, Iran and Russia, the US would prefer to see the Pakistan army as its permanent cop in Kabul. It won't work. In Pakistan itself the long night continues as the cycle restarts: military leadership promising reforms degenerates into tyranny, politicians promising social support to the people degenerate into oligarchs. Given that a better functioning neighbour is unlikely to intervene, Pakistan will oscillate between these two forms of rule for the foreseeable future. The people who feel they have tried everything and failed will return to a state of semi-sleep, unless something unpredictable rouses them again. This is always possible.
Posted by The Neem Revolution at 12:13 AM