Saturday, February 16, 2008

The More Things Change..

By Kamal K. Jabbar
In its sixty years of existence, Pakistan, envisioned by its founder as a constitutional republic, has had six periods of martial law, the last between 3rd November and 15th December of last year. On the eve of the general elections on 18th February, as one juxtaposes the past with the present, one gets the inevitable feeling of what the French refer to as "plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose"; the more things change, the more they stay the same.

While circumstances and people over the years have changed, certain election trends have remained remarkably consistent. Almost every election every held in the country has been replete with allegations of fraud and duplicity. The charges include, voter and candidate harassment, irregularities in the delimitation of constituencies, the fudging of voter lists, the misuse of state apparatus to assist state-favoured candidates, the active involvement of murkyintelligence agencies, ballot stuffing and biased appointments and conduct of election commissioners and election staff. A rejection of poll results by unsuccessful parties on the above pretexts has been afeature of almost all elections held so far.

In the 1965 presidential elections held under the Constitution of1962, Fatima Jinnah, Ayub Khan's main rival and the chosen candidateof the Combined Opposition Parties (COP) complained bitterly about howstate functionaries were actively impeding her campaign. She publicly stated that "so many obstructions have been placed that my faith inthe whole process has been shaken."

COP's demands for judicial inquiries into election complaints,stricter voter identity checks at polling stations and for judicialofficers (rather than executive officers) to serve as returningofficers were rejected by the government and the Election Commission.Miss Jinnah's demand that polls be held under an impartial, caretakergovernment was similarly brushed aside.

State-run radio, Radio Pakistan served as a propaganda mouthpiece forAyub who had publicly revealed his strongly held belief that democracywas not to the "genius of the Pakistani people", An indication of theGovernment's complicity in fixing Ayub's election comes from the factthat Khan A. Sabur, the serving Central Communications Minister,announced the date of the election to the press even before theofficial announcement by the Election Commission.

In the elections of March 1977 the Pakistan National Alliance (PNA)attributed the PPP's win of almost four-fifths of the availableNational Assembly seats to mass scale rigging, coercion, fraud and theuse of government jeeps and buses in electioneering. According to theZia regime's exhaustive though self-serving 'White Paper' on theelections, Bhutto had used government funds and intelligence and lawenforcement officials to ensure a PPP victory. Even in Bhutto's "safeseat" of Larkana, his opponent, Jan Mohammad Abbasi was arrested andkept at an undisclosed location till after the last date for filing ofnomination papers had passed. So lacking in credibility was thiselection, that even its Chief Election Commissioner, Justice SajjadAhmad Jan termed the process a hoax saying that "the failure of theelectoral process was, by and large, due to the candidates of theruling party who exploited their position and succeeded in hoaxing theofficials in charge of the elections, thus destroying the sanctity ofthe ballot box."

The Movement for the Restoration of Democracy (MRD), many of whoseleaders were in prison at the time, boycotted the February 1985elections held by Zia. Officially, these were party-less polls, thoughstate patronage was decidedly provided to the Jamaat-e-Islami. Thevoters responded by handing a resounding defeat to Zia and his allies.All but one of his Federal Ministers lost in their constituencies andthe Jamaat's showing was dismal at best.

In the October 1990 elections, the Pakistan Democratic Alliance (PDA)which included the PPP, alleged that massive rigging had taken placeto install an Islami Jamhoori Ittehad (IJI) government. PresidentGhulam Ishaq Khan, who had dismissed the previous PPP government madeno secret of his preferred party. On the eve of the election he made atelevised speech asking the people to vote against the PDA destroyingevery semblance of the neutrality and impartiality of the office ofthe President. The PDA's White Paper on the elections alleged thatIshaq Khan had set up an election cell at the Aiwan-e-Sadar to closelymonitor and manage the election for it to yield his desired result.

The 1997 general elections which resulted in a two-thirds majority forthe PML (N) were dismissed by Benazir Bhutho as being "engineered".Qazi Hussain Ahmed also rubbished the elections and said that theJamaat would not recognize the government that would emerge.
The 2002 general elections were no exception to the trend and weretermed by national and international organizations, including HumanRights Watch, as being "deeply flawed".

The irony of Pakistan's electoral history is that arguably the freest,fairest and most transparent elections ever held were those under thestewardship of the dissolute General Yahya Khan in 1970.

Referendums have also been mis-used by Generals to validate or prolongtheir illegal tenures.
Pursuant to Ayub's Presidential Order, on the 14th of February 1960,Basic Democrats were required to answer the penetrating question:"Have you confidence in President Field Marshal Muhammad Ayub Khan,Hilal-i-Jurat?" The rules of this farce, set by the regime, stipulatedthat if a majority of the "votes" answered yes then Ayub would bedeemed to have been elected the President of Pakistan, given the soleauthority to produce a new constitution and also to serve as the firstterm as President under it. The regime was proud to announce that95.6% of the votes had gone in Ayub's favour.

Zia was also proud to announce that 97.7% of the people had voted forhim in his 1984 referendum while Musharraf was equally pleased withhis slighter higher showing of 98% approval.

As we move towards the elections on 18th February 2008, it may be safeto say that things have changed. For example, never before has seventypercent of Pakistan's judiciary been deposed and incarceratedillegally.

Other things, however, remain consistent with the past. We have a"president" who has addressed political rallies favouring oneparticular party. Resources of the state have been used to assist thisparty. Violence and bloodshed has visited us. District judges havebeen frantically transferred. The issue of millions of missing votersremains unresolved as do issues of delimitation.

Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose!

Arif Hasan Talk in Karachi on Sunday

If you're a vintage Karachiite and you're deeply attached to the city though it troubles you, or you are posted here and it maddens you – whether infrastructurally, socially, economically or politically all of which are tied together – our forthcoming lecture will be of interest to you. Karachi is also a central issue in the elections for interest groups -- and the masses who may be more preoccupied by personal concerns than candidates.
We cordially invite you to a definitive talk on

by Mr. Arif Hasan,leading environmentalist, architect and people-oriented planner,
on Sunday, 4th February, 2008, at 4 p.m. sharp
at 2 Bath Island Road, Parin Lodge, Karachi (near Bridge Store)

Presented by
PEOPLE'S RESISTANCE in association with The Green Economics Initiative, SHIRKAT GAH
Your RSVP would be helpful ! - Please call Sahar Shafqat on 0300-2938550

Former AG Questions 'SC haste'

(Courtesy DAWN)

LAHORE, Feb 15: Secretary General of Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, Former law minister and attorney-general Syed Iqbal Haider has expressed surprise over the way the Supreme Court issued its judgment in favour of the Nov 3 emergency rule on Thursday and disposed of a review petition against it the next day although the matter was not of urgent nature.
In a statement on Friday, he said the review petitions had been filed by people with dubious credentials who belonged to Gen Musharraf's camp.
He said Friday was the last working day before the elections and the judges hurriedly completed all proceedings, possibly because they thought that after the polls they would not be there to give their judgment.
He said even the petitioners' counsel had requested for an adjournment for preparation because they were informed by the SC only the night before that their case was fixed before a 16-meber bench for Friday. He said by disposing of the review petition, the court had blocked the remedy by the "independent judiciary" when it would be restored.
He said the incumbent judges were forgetting one basic principle of law that they could not be judge in their own case.
"The persons who validated the emergency were not competent to do so because they were beneficiaries of the order which even its author Gen Musharraf had admitted was unconstitutional.
"The so-called validation of the proclamation of emergency and dismissal of the review petition is an exercise in futility as it is without jurisdiction and lawful authority and is of no lawful effect or consequence."
The independent judiciary would be competent to set it aside, he said.
He argued no important political party or bar representative had challenged the proclamation of emergency for the simple reason that no lawful judicial forum was available to decide the matter. Had they filed any petition, they would have accorded recognition to the existing courts.

CCP: This is a Defining Moment

Musharraf, by becoming the most favoured ally of the West in their war against terror, has reaped a harvest of billions of dollars, which he has misused to wage a war against his own countrymen in Frontier and Balochistan. He has weakened the federation with his divisive policies. To perpetuate his own misrule, he has disfigured the constitution, demolished the judiciary, muzzled the media, imprisoned the judges and lawyers and appointed favourites in their place. The public has no access to justice. Crises of Ata, sugar, electricity, water, gas, un-employment and insecurity have made life miserable for the common man.

Musharraf's government has misused public funds, spread terror in the county, appointed handpicked Nazims and election officers, set up ghost polling stations, fabricated and collected National ID cards in order to rig the elections. We deserve a united and prosperous Pakistan where citizens are secure, jobs and necessities of life are freely available and everyone has access to justice. Your vote will decide whether Musharraf's cronies will return to continue their despotism, or a leadership is elected which promises independence of the judiciary and government of the people, by the people, for the people. Be vigilant against rigging. Find your polling station and your name in the voter's list a day before the election. Arrive early, cast your vote yourself according to your conscience for honest candidates who promise to restore the judiciary and to work for a peaceful, democratic Pakistan.


(Concerned Citizens of Pakistan (CCP), a non-partisan, non-political group).

Parliament Watch-- Press Release 16-02-2008

It is with great honor and pleasure that the Future Leaders of Pakistan (FLP), an organization representing the youth of Pakistan, has completed the "Parliament Watch" project in anticipation of theupcoming elections. Our organization is the largest youth-based organization in Pakistan since being established in 1997.
For Parliament Watch, please visit:
As you can see, the website is a revolutionary format for free speech and it has become the medium of choice for the Pakistani internet community of over 12 million users. We have done this project with the greatest desire to strengthen the democratic political institutions of our country. We hope that you will lend us a helping hand in spreading awareness regarding this project by circulating this email widely.
Our youth are tomorrow's leaders, and we hope that you will recognize our desire to bring about positive change in Pakistan.

Tamreez Inam

President, FLP

Jawab by 3.0 - Music for our times

3.0 (three point oh) is an informal political/social musical experiment, made up of several LUMS alumni. Much before the recent political/social storm, they started making songs about revolution, about young people having a duty towards their society. Society however had little time for active politics before they found a leader they could trust or look up to in CJ Iftikhar. When our dictator president finally did us this favor, as I put it, these guys put out a video for their song Jawab, which talks about how so many people in our society will do nothing to put things right, and furthermore will do everything to discourage and pull down those around them that do care and are trying to make a difference. It talks about how the efforts of those who see and feel can never go waste.

The video is based on the concept of freedom and independence of journalism, and how that today is society's eyes, ears and voice today. Shackled, tormented, maligned, abused; it leads to a society on the edge of insanity and intolerance. The funny thing is, right after November 3 when they released it, 3point0 were told our country's music channels liked the song, but couldn't play it so as not to offend the powers that be. The same media who's independence they wanted to.

All their other songs I've heard are similarly political and optimistic, and I could put these up or something, with the hope that they help inspire young people who want to be bystanders no more, and who are already beginning to burn with a passion for fairness and justice.

The band has no commercial agenda.


3.0 are:

Sabqat Mansoor (MBA 06)

Farhad Nadeem (MBA 06)

Zain zakariha (MBA 06)

Danish Lamuel (MBA 06)

Omeir Zahid (MBA 06)

Message from Aitzaz Ahsan to Pakistanis - Part Two

Message from Aitzaz Ahsan to Pakistanis - Part One

The following video has been obtained by us through special arrangements and SAC is releasing it for the general audience right now. The video includes a message to the people of Pakistan followed by a very inspirational poem by none other than Honorable Aitzaz Ahsan. It is addressed particularly to the youth and future leaders of Pakistan who have been actively opposing oppression of the current regime and continuing the struggle for the restoration of the judiciary even when the main leaders are still kept under illegal custody or house-arrest.
This video is HIGHLY inspirational and I would recommend all of you to watch it.

PTV electoral coverage - heavy bias in favour of Musharraf & allies

With just four days to go to the 18 February parliamentary elections, Reporters Without Borders confirms that the state television station PTV's coverage continues to be heavily biased in favour of President Pervez Musharraf and his allies. The press freedom organisation has been monitoring the election campaign coverage of Pakistan's only terrestrial TV broadcaster since 28 January.
From 3 to 12 February, 81 per cent of the political items (reports, interviews, analyses etc) on PTV's four main news programmes were about the president, federal government or ruling party, the PML (Q). As regards political parties alone, PML (Q) got 24.3 per cent of air-time, while the opposition PML (N) got 6.7 per cent and the PPP, the other leading opposition party, got 10.1 per cent. During this 10-day period, the PML (Q) was mentioned for a total of 109 minutes and 38 seconds, while the entire opposition total was just 85 minute and few seconds.
"Despite the denials from the government and PTV in response to the first set of results we published, the trend has not changed significantly," Reporters Without Borders said. "Pakistan's only national TV station has, it is true, talked a bit more about the PPP and other opposition parties, but this in no way means its coverage is fair."
The organisation added: "We urge international observers to include PTV's lack of fairness in their conclusions on Pakistan's electoral process."
The breakdown of air-time allocation in the monitored news programmes was 11.8 per cent for the president, 44.9 per cent for the federal and provincial governments, 24.3 per cent for the ruling PML (Q), 6.7 per cent for Nawaz Sharif's PML (N), 10.1 per cent for the late Benazir Bhutto's PPP, 0.1 per cent for the nationalist parties (such as the ANP) and 2 per cent for the MMA fundamentalist alliance. The APDM alliance, which is calling for an election boycott, got no air-time.
The coverage given to the ANP, a Pashtun party, was mainly due to a suicide bombing on one of its meetings on 10 February.
A significant improvement in the PPP's share of air-time from 7 February onwards was due to the Chehlum ceremonies held 40 days after Benazir Bhutto's assassination. PTV's reports included criticism of the current PPP leadership and comments by politician Mumtaz Bhutto, who was able to condemn the "politicisation of Benazir Bhutto's assassination" for two minutes. The PPP got as much coverage as the PML (Q) from 7 to 9 February, but the difference resumed the next day, when the ruling party got 13 minutes 20 seconds and the PPP got 5 minutes 20 seconds.
It should be noted that the 81 per cent of air-time allocated to the president and his allies was a slight improvement on the first period monitored by Reporters Without Borders, when they were allocated 84.9 per cent.
Reporters Without Borders noted that PTV readily broadcasts criticism of the opposition by the regime's supporters. But the criticism of Musharraf and his allies that is expressed at opposition meetings is rarely broadcast. On 10 February, for example, it broadcast comments by politician Chaudhry Perwaiz Elahi forecasting that Pakistan would break up if the PPP got to power.
The authorities have described the Reporters Without Borders monitoring as mendacious. They have claimed, for example, that the government has nothing to do with the president's political camp. But all observers agree that most government ministers are, directly or indirectly, political allies of Musharraf or the PML (Q). The acting prime minister is a former senate president who was elected as a PML (Q) representative, while the ministers of information and inter-provincial coordination are leading PML (Q) members. A minister in the Balochistan provincial government is even a candidate, in violation of the electoral law.
In the programme "Khabar Nama" on 6 February, PTV described the first Reporters Without Borders release on its monitoring as false and fabricated. But it misrepresented the results. Reporters Without Borders never said that 85 per cent of the air-time had been allocated to the PML (Q). It said that it had been allocated to the PML (Q), the president and the government.
On 11 February, PTV launched a 55-minutes new programme called "Election hour" that provides a forum for "all the parties." Opposition parties' leaders have already been invited, but it is doubtful that it will restore balance in the distribution of air-time before the elections.
The Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) recently issued rules to the privately-owned TV stations for their election-day coverage. No forecast or estimate of results is to be broadcast until the person in charge of the polling state has announced the official results.

Reporters Without Borders has monitored the state-owned TV broadcaster PTV's coverage of the 18 February parliamentary election campaign since 28 January.

In Tribal Pakistan, Religious Parties Are Foundering

(Courtesy The New York Times)
Published: February 14, 2008

PESHAWAR, Pakistan — Senator Asfandyar Wali, the leader of an opposition party, the Awami National Party, is campaigning for the elections next week from the safety of his bed, under a quilt and propped up on bolsters for his bad back at his country home outside Peshawar. Ill health aside, Mr. Wali is staying home because suicide bombers are seeking to kill him, his party has been warned by high-level government officials. There have been two bomb attacks on his party's election gatherings in the last week. Two candidates have been killed, one in a suicide bombing and one in a shooting in Karachi.
Yet despite the attacks and the limited campaigning, his party is expected to do well in the parliamentary elections on Monday. The religious parties that for the last five years have governed the North-West Frontier Province and Baluchistan Province, which border Afghanistan and the tribal areas, are foundering. Since being swept to power in 2002 on a wave of anti-Americanism and sympathy for the Taliban after the American invasion of Afghanistan, the mullahs here have found that the public mood has shifted against them. People complain that they have failed to deliver on their promises, that they have proved just as corrupt as other politicians and that they have presided over a worsening of security, demonstrated most vividly in a rising number of suicide attacks carried out by militants based in the nearby tribal areas.

"They did not serve the people," said Faiz Muhammad, 47, a farmer whose son was killed in the bomb blast on an Awami political gathering on Saturday. The shift in mood here may be a bellwether of larger trends nationwide. The religious parties held 59 seats in the 342-member Parliament, making them a kingmaker at critical times, like helping President Pervez Musharraf to extend his military rule. But this time their number may fall to single digits, according to some estimates.Pollsters and political analysts in Pakistan have maintained that the religious parties command only a small percentage of popular support and that the 2002 elections were an aberration, a reaction to the American intervention in Afghanistan and the result of rigging by Pakistan's intelligence agencies, which have always had links with the religious parties.Two opinion polls released this week show that the standing of the religious parties has fallen to a new low, with voters showing a strong shift of support toward the moderate parties. A survey of more than 3,000 people at the end of January by the International Republican Institute showed that the religious parties could command only 1 percent of the vote nationally, down from 4 percent in November. In North-West Frontier Province and Baluchistan Province, their share was 4 percent.

Meanwhile, support for the Pakistan Peoples Party, the party of the assassinated former prime minister Benazir Bhutto, has soared to 50 percent nationally, the poll found. The face-to-face survey was conducted throughout Pakistan and has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus two percentage points. Another survey conducted by Terror Free Tomorrow, a Washington-based bipartisan group that seeks to reduce support for international terrorism, showed backing at 62 percent for the Pakistan Peoples Party and the faction of the Pakistan Muslim League led by the opposition leader, Nawaz Sharif.

If the Taliban were on the ballot sheet, they would garner just 3 percent of the vote, and Al Qaeda only 1 percent, according to the poll. The face-to-face nationwide survey of more than 1,000 interviews was conducted in January with D3 Systems and the Pakistan Institute for Public Opinion and has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus three percentage points. Here in North-West Frontier Province, where religious parties won a majority and ran the government, they are blamed for being soft on the militants and for allowing "Talibanization," the radical Islamist agenda creeping into society.

"People are fed up because they are not opposing the attacks by the Taliban openly," said Muhammad Jawed, 40, a businessman who attended the funeral for Mr. Muhammad's son. That frustration has redounded to the favor of moderate opposition parties like the Awami National Party, a Pashtun nationalist party founded by Mr. Wali's grandfather. It was almost wiped out in the last elections, in 2002, when it welcomed the American intervention in Afghanistan. In its place a coalition of religious parties, the Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal, was elected.

The provincial assembly in Peshawar was filled with madrasa-educated mullahs, more than a dozen heavily veiled women on reserve seats and even mujahedeen who had fought in Kashmir and Afghanistan. They advocated the introduction of Islamic law, or Shariah, and the banning of music, cinema and alcohol. The Awami National Party failed to win any seats in the national assembly and only 10 seats in the provincial assembly. It is now hoping to triple that on Monday and to secure as many as 12 national assembly seats. The religious coalition itself is in disarray, facing attacks from both left and right.

One of the largest parties in the coalition, Jamaat-e-Islami, is boycotting the elections, protesting what it says is an uneven playing field provided by Mr. Musharraf. The other main party in the coalition, Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam, is split, tainted after its leader, Maulana Fazlur Rehman, made compromises to support Mr. Musharraf. In particular, Maulana Rehman broke with the militants in their standoff last summer with government forces at the Red Mosque in Islamabad. When other opposition parties resigned from Parliament last October, seeking to undercut Mr. Musharraf's election to another term, Maulana Rehman stood by the president. Today, Maulana Rehman is homebound, under threat from the militants who resent the support he has lent to Mr. Musharraf. His house has come under attack, and he is under threat from suicide attacks, government officials have said.

For Mr. Wali, the expected trouncing of the religious parties on Monday is recompense. "I feel," he said, "that we Pashtuns have had enough of war, enough of bloodshed, and the common man now accepts that."

Original article here.

HRCP Condemns State Sponsored Violence

Press Release

February 12, 2008 Karachi: In a joint statement issued to the press Mr. Iqbal Haider, Secretary General, Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) and Ms. Zohra Yusuf, Vice Chairperson, HRCP strongly condemned spread of mob violence and lawlessness across the country, just before the general elections in Pakistan. This violence has spiraled completely out of control of the government, and is threatening to plunge the country into a state of total anarchy.

Recent terrorist attacks in Pakistan show the failure of anti-terrorism policies. It is obvious that mere policing and random arrests can do nothing to overcome the menace. A broader approach is required, coupled with a willingness to end the air of secrecy that currently surrounds operations being carried out against alleged terrorists, the statement said. Repeated attack on the election campaigns and the candidates, including the recent attack on the workers of ANP resulting in deaths of several party workers indicate there are attempts to intimidate voters. HRCP strongly condemns the attack and condoles with the grieved families and leaders and workers of ANP. A government which cannot provide safety to the voters and their candidates is incapable of holding free and fair elections.

The caretakers and President Pervez Musharraf have no moral or legal justification to remain in office. HRCP also condemns the violent attack on the peaceful gathering of lawyers, human rights activists and members of the civil society in Islamabad on February 09, 2007 and the recent fake cases of sedition and war against state registered against more than a dozen lawyers in Peshawar, who were protesting against the arrest of the Chief Justice, Mr. Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, Mr Aitzaz Ahsan, Mr. Justice Tariq Mehmood and Mr. Ali Ahmed Kurd. HRCP believes that targeting innocent people, suspending access to justice and repressing legitimate dissent would only create resentment, encourage extremism and exacerbate insecurity.

Iqbal Haider
Secretary General,
Zohra Yusuf

Pakistan's Tehalka!

Human Rights Watch Releases a shocking Phone Conversation
Pakistan: Attorney General Aware of ‘Massive’ Election-Rigging Plans
Audio Recording Calls Into Question Government’s Commitment to Fair Elections
(New York, February 15, 2008) – In an audio recording obtained by Human Rights Watch, Pakistan’s Attorney General Malik Qayyum stated that upcoming parliamentary elections will be “massively rigged,” Human Rights Watch said today.

In the recording, Qayyum appears to be advising an unidentified person on what political party the person should approach to become a candidate in the upcoming parliamentary election, now scheduled for February 18, 2008. Human Rights Watch said that the recording was made during a phone interview with a member of the media on November 21, 2007. Qayyum, while still on the phone interview, took a call on another telephone and his side of that conversation was recorded. The recording was made the day after Pakistan’s Election Commission announced the schedule for polls.
The election was originally planned for January 8 but was postponed after the assassination of former prime minister Benazir Bhutto. Another former prime minister, Nawaz Sharif, returned to Pakistan on November 25. An English translation of the recording, which is in Urdu and Punjabi, follows: “Leave Nawaz Sharif (PAUSE).... I think Nawaz Sharif will not take part in the election (PAUSE).... If he does take part, he will be in trouble. If Benazir takes part she too will be in trouble (PAUSE).... They will massively rig to get their own people to win. If you can get a ticket from these guys, take it (PAUSE).... If Nawaz Sharif does not return himself, then Nawaz Sharif has some advantage. If he comes himself, even if after the elections rather than before (PAUSE)…. Yes….”
Repeated attempts by Human Rights Watch to contact Qayyum by phone were unsuccessful.
Fears of rigging have been a major issue in the current election campaign. Human Rights Watch said that since the official election period commenced in November 2007, there have been numerous allegations of irregularities, including arrests and harassment of opposition candidates and party members. There are also allegations that state resources, administration and state machinery are being used to the advantage of candidates backed by President Pervez Musharraf. Human Rights Watch expressed concern that the Election Commission, which is monitoring the polls, was not acting impartially.
Background: Malik Qayyum is a former judge who resigned from the bench in 2001 amid charges of misconduct. On April 15, 1999, a two-judge panel of the Lahore High Court headed by Qayyum convicted Benazir Bhutto and her husband Asif Ali Zardari in a corruption case. They were sentenced to five years in prison, fined US$8.6 million dollars each, disqualified as members of parliament for five years, and forced to forfeit their property. The impending verdict led Bhutto to go into exile in March 1999.
In February 2001, the Sunday Times, a British newspaper, published a report based on transcripts of 32 audio tapes, which revealed that Qayyum convicted Bhutto and Zardari for political reasons. The transcripts of the recordings reproduced by the newspaper showed that Qayyum asked then-Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s anti-corruption chief, Saifur Rehman, for advice on the sentence: “Now you tell me how much punishment do you want me to give her?”
In April 2001, on the basis of this evidence, a seven-member bench of Pakistan’s Supreme Court upheld an appeal by the couple, overturning the conviction. In its ruling, the Supreme Court contended that Qayyum had been politically motivated in handing down the sentence. Faced with a trial for professional misconduct before Pakistan’s Supreme Judicial Council, the constitutional body authorized to impeach senior judges, Qayyum opted to resign his post in June 2001.
A close associate of Musharraf, Qayyum was appointed as the lead counsel on behalf of Pakistan’s federal government in the presidential reference against Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry, instituted after Chaudhry was first illegally deposed by Musharraf on March 9, 2007. A full bench of Pakistan’s Supreme Court reinstated Chief Justice Chaudhry on July 20, 2007. Qayyum was appointed attorney general of Pakistan by Musharraf in August 2007.