Sunday, February 24, 2008

Pervez Musharraf 'will exit in days, not months'

By Massoud Ansari
(Courtesy The Telegraph)
Pervez Musharraf is considering stepping down as president of Pakistan rather than waiting to be forced out by his victorious opponents, aides have told The Sunday Telegraph.
One close confidante said that the president believed he had run out of options after three of the main parties who triumphed in last week's poll announced they would form a coalition government together, and also pledged to reinstate the country's chief justice and 60 other judges sacked by Mr Musharraf in November.
"He has already started discussing the exit strategy for himself," a close friend said. "I think it is now just a matter of days and not months because he would like to make a graceful exit on a high."
According to senior aides, Mr Musharraf wants to avoid a power struggle with the newly elected parliament, in which his opponents will be close to the two-thirds majority needed to impeach him and remove him from office.
"He may have made many mistakes, but he genuinely tried to build the country and he doesn't want to destroy it just for the sake of his personal office," said an official close to the president.
Mr Musharraf, who stepped down as head of the army late last year, had called for a harmonious coalition after the defeat of his party - which won just 38 out of 272 national assembly seats in last Sunday's elections - but his political rivals have demanded he go.

Officials said he had considered resigning immediately after the election results were known, but had been persuaded by party loyalists that his sudden departure could precipitate a crisis.
In an article published last week he insisted that he would serve out his five-year presidential term.
Behind the scenes, his staff attempted to broker an agreement with Asif Zardari, who became leader of the main Pakistan People's Party (PPP) following the assassination of his wife, Benazir Bhutto.
Yet despite pressure from America, which has relied on Mr Musharraf's support for its war on terror, Mr Zardari refused to strike a deal.
He declined despite also claiming to have been threatened by Mr Musharraf's allies that the government would revive long-standing corruption charges against him.
"I have seen these jails and this is not something new to me," said Mr Zardari. "I fought all these fake cases instituted against me with courage and never disappointed anyone by asking for a pardon.
"I'm ready to fight it out again, and will never disappoint anyone."
PPP officials said that any deal with Mr Musharraf would have dented the party's public support and it was better to try to govern with the help of the other main parties.
"It doesn't make any sense for us to sink with the dying man," said Nisar Khuhro, a senior PPP leader, referring to Mr Musharraf.
Jamil Soomro, a PPP spokesman, said: "He has betrayed everyone since the very outset and we have no guarantee that he would not betray us once he stabilised his position."
Mr Musharraf's popular support drained away over the past year as he interfered with the independence of the courts, imposed a state of emergency, restricted the media and postponed ­elections.
Shortages of basic foodstuffs and unreliable gas and electricity supplies have left him more vulnerable now than at any time since he seized power in a bloodless coup in October 1999.

A coalition of the anti-Musharraf parties - the PPP, PML(N) and ANP - would govern with 211 MPs, just short of the 228 needed for the two thirds majority that would allow them to launch impeachment proceedings against the president. They could, however, win support from other smaller parties and independent members, which would leave the former general in a precarious position.
If Mr Musharraf decides to dig his heels in, the opposition parties plan to remove his constitutional powers to dissolve the assembly.
"I think his game is over but if he was able to survive for any reason, he would be like a dead fish, sitting and rotting the presidency," said Khwaja Asif, a senior leader of the Pakistan Muslim League.
The frontrunner to take over as prime minister in the new administration is Makhdoom Amin Fahim, the widely respected vice-president of the PPP.

Reclaiming the Generation Lost

Muhammad Asif Riaz

Pakistani youth is experiencing an age that lack stable government, justified economic growth, basic physiological needs and high rate of unemployment. History tells us that in such conditions, youth often challenges the authority and ideology of mainstream society through alternative options of religion, violence, extremism or migration (brain drain). Radical Islamist groups have been successful in portraying their version of religion as an escape from everyday problems and a channel through which to criticize the present day system. They have also been successful in recruiting the disillusioned and improvised youth, providing simplistic answers to questions about the grim reality of their lives. To this view is the reality that in today's conflicts, especially armed conflicts in different areas of Pakistan, usually children and teenagers are often seen as political actors being recruited into religious and political armed groups and motivated to serve in roles such as combatants and spies. An important study about the youth upsurge finds that the youth cohorts who are not given the opportunity to integrate into community and social structures are less able to acquire the skills they need for peaceful and constructive adult lives. A deprived, frustrated, or traumatized youth cohort, if left without help, can continue to foment violent conflict for decades. International media has branded such generation a "Lost Generation".
Youth traditionally provides upsurge for change; whether this is for a beneficial change or for the destruction of a society, the effects are equally felt. From beneficial Change all I mean is attainment of higher level of Peace in any Community, or Nation. This change can be achieved by reclaiming the lost generation by process of social transformation. Social transformation for peace very much means revolution. More and more of us should begin to realize that it could not mean less. We are marching towards the future but trying to have the barbaric ruling principals of "might is right". As I write, in this moment, hundreds of people are being killed, wounded, hunted, tormented, ill-treated, delivered up to the most intolerable and hopeless anxiety and destroyed morally and mentally, and there is nothing in sight at present to arrest this spreading process and prevent its reaching to us. It is spreading at velocity of light. It is time to act and try to start struggle for social transformation at massive level in Pakistan. If we run away from it, it will follow and get us. We have to face it. We have to solve it, or be destroyed by it. It is as urgent and comprehensive as that.
There must not be protection for leaders and organizations (armed, religious, poiltical or what so ever) from the positive criticism, on the plea of "Pakistan First". We have to talk and tell exactly what our ideas and feelings are. The more unpleasant aspects of a state, under modern conditions is the presence of a group of individuals, too clever by half, in positions of authority, excited, conceited, prepared to lie, distort, pseudo-intellectual and generally humbug people into states of agreements, resistance, indignation, vindictiveness, doubt and mental confusion; states of mind supposed to be conductive to a final victory. These people love to twist and censor facts. It gives them a feeling of power. They sit, filled with the wine of their transitory powers, aloof from the fatigues and dangers of conflict, pulling imaginary strings in people's minds. I put free speech and vigorous publication ahead of all. It is the best thing worth fighting for. It is the essence of personal honor. It is our duty as a citizen to do what we can do for that. We have not only to resist suppressions; we have to fight your way out of the fog. If we find our media failing to distribute any type of publication whatever- even if we are in entire disagreement with the views of that publication—we must boycott the offender and find another for everything we read.
Pakistan is burning and going to pieces. It has to be reconstructed and it can only be possible in the light. The youth is indeed restless, impatient and as we shall see extremely dangerous. This information modernized excess population has no longer any social humility. It has no belief in the infallible wisdom of its rulers. It sees them too clearly; it knows about them, their waste, vices and weaknesses, with an even exaggerated vividness. It sees no reason for its exclusion from the good things of life by such people. It has lost enough of its inferiority to realize that most of that inferiority is arbitrary and artificial. The eager and adventurous unemployed young are indeed becoming the shock troops in the destruction of the old social order in Pakistan. How are we going to use up or satisfy this surplus of human energy? "How can we offer the common young man a reasonable and stimulating prospect of a full life?" The simple answer to this question is to take mass initiatives that include integrating youth into society for social transformation and not merely aim at compensating youth for current disadvantages.

Standing up for Justice: A Test for our Leaders

On February 18, 2008, despite all the Machiavellian plans devised and implemented by General Musharraf’s government to subvert and divert the cause of justice, the voice of the people of Pakistan rang out loudly and clearly in support of this cause. One must thank the Almighty for this act of grace which saved our country from further devastation at the hands of a despot whose megalomania has reached cosmic proportions. But one must also thank those leaders who took an unswerving stand for justice - whether like Mian Nawaz Sharif they took part in the elections, or like Aitzaz Ahsan, Imran Khan and the A.P.D.M. members they withdrew from the process. These leaders who, at great personal risk and cost, make an ethical issue the centre-piece of their struggle, provided visionary and courageous leadership to a nation that was sinking deeper and deeper into the abyss of hopelessness and helplessness. By their words and deeds, they have inspired and empowered the suffering masses – “the silent majority” – of Pakistanis as no mere political rhetoric could have ever done. The mobilization of civil society that has occurred because of the efforts made by them – the first in the living memory of most Pakistanis - is the most hopeful development that has taken place in Pakistan almost since its inception.

The gravity of the problems that Pakistan has to face today is known to all thinking citizens. There are multiple complex challenges that have to be confronted in every sphere of life. The systematic manipulation of executive power by an increasingly ruthless military dictator in order to maintain and extend his authority at any cost, has done untold damage to the very fabric of Pakistani society. In whichever direction one looks one sees ruin – a breakdown of institutions which are pivotal to any civilized society, an erosion of moral values essential for the development of a self-respecting nation, a dissipation of precious dreams and hopes without which no country can evolve or advance.

The mandate that Mian Nawaz Sharif has received from the people has put a very heavy mantle of responsibility on his shoulders. So much is expected from him – not only that he will rectify the wrongs that have been done in the political, economic, social and other spheres of everyday life – but that he will make a fractured, broken nation whole emotionally, mentally and morally. This is a formidable task for any leader, especially for one who was forced to live in exile for many years and whose family was subjected to extreme hardship. But the fact that God has elected him for this task, the fact that God enabled him to return to Pakistan despite huge impediments and obstacles, makes it his religious and moral obligation to live up to the ideal of a leader – referred to by Allama Iqbal as “Mard-e-Haqq” or “Mard-e-Momin” - who represents the highest ideals and best practices of Islam.

Aitzaz Ahsan is a person of amazing versatility and talents. His brilliance and diligence as a lawyer has long been recognized. However, since he undertook to represent the Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Choudhry in March 2007, he has become much more than a lawyer or a political leader. He has become the symbol of the “mujahid” who pursues the quest for justice in the face of formidable odds.

The Honourable Chief Justice has immortalized himself by refusing to submit to the dictates of a “zalim sultan.” His courage and conviction and refusal to surrender even when Pharaonic actions were taken against him and his family, including his young children - something that has no precedent in history – made him a beacon of light for thousands of people who had lost all hope of ever finding justice in Pakistan. However, Aitzaz Ahsan - with his intense dedication, energy, and passion – has played a pivotal role in making the cause of the Honourable Chief Justice the rallying-point of a nation that the gallant lawyers’ movement awakened from a state of death-like dormancy. By doing what he has done, and is continuing to do, he has secured his place in history.

Imran Khan has phenomenal achievements to his credit. A legendary sportsman, he has followed in the footsteps of Muhammad Ali who has become larger than life through the work he has done to give hope and help to countless persons in critical circumstances. One cannot forget the massive effort undertaken by him to raise consciousness about cancer, the deadly disease that killed his beloved mother, and gather the community support that enabled him to establish The Shaukat Khanum Memorial Hospital, an outstanding medical facility which provides free treatment to disadvantaged patients. A social reformer par excellence in the core of his being, Imran Khan gave up a life of luxury and ease in the West, and returned to Pakistan to initiate “Tehrik-e-Insaaf” – a movement for justice.

Imran Khan’s profound commitment to justice has been exemplified in the way he has responded to the havoc wrought upon Pakistan’s judicial system by General Musharraf who removed the Honourable Chief Justice of Pakistan and his worthy colleagues so that their unworthy successors appointed by him would legitimize his past, present and future, crimes. Imran Khan did whatever was humanly possible for him to do. He tried to mobilize youth which idolize him. He participated in all kinds of protests and suffered all kinds of punishments, including being jailed. He went to the U.S. – the greatest supporter of General Musharraf – and talked to many groups and policy makers to inform them of Pakistan’s rapidly deteriorating situation and urge them to live up to their own professed ideals of democracy and justice. Imran Khan went to England – a country where many still regard him as an icon – and demonstrated in front of the Prime Minister’s residence when General Musharraf was visiting the country. Thanks must also be given to Jemima Khan who demonstrated her love for Pakistan and for the cause of justice by her ongoing ardent participation in the movement for the liberation of our country from the evil rule of a Western-backed military tyrant.

Mian Nawaz Sharif, Aitzaz Ahsan, and Imran Khan now stand at the centre of an historic movement. They also stand at the threshold of the opening of a new chapter in Pakistan’s politics. All of them are political leaders in their own different ways with their respective party loyalties. In the coming days they may have to make some crucial decisions with regards to their priorities. At this time it is very likely that a strong pressure will be put on them to focus on what Asif Ali Zardari has referred to as “the larger perspective” and not insist on the restoration of the pre-November 3, 2007 judiciary as their first priority.

There will be many who may advise them to be a part of, or to support, the new parliamentary set-up and assure them that in due course of time, the parliament will review the issue of the restoration of the judges through setting up committees etc. It is very easy to be seduced by such advice and assurance which takes away the burden of continuing an uphill struggle. However, the Qur’an – the highest source of authority for us – makes the pursuit of justice mandatory in all circumstances, as clearly and emphatically stated by Surah 4: An-Nisa’ : 135 :

O ye who believe!
Stand out firmly
For justice, as witnesses
To Allah, even as against
Yourselves, or your parents,
Or your kin, and whether
It be (against) rich or poor:
For Allah can best protect both.
Follow not the lusts
(Of your hearts), lest ye
Swerve, and if ye
Distort (justice) or decline
To do justice, verily
Allah is well-acquainted
With all that ye do.

The Honourable Chief Justice and his venerable colleagues have borne the undiluted fury of an unscrupulous, callous ruler without flinching. The strength and steadfastness that they have shown, as the nation has struggled through the dark night of the soul, has kept the light of hope alive amongst millions in Pakistan and elsewhere. At this time, thousands are looking toward Mian Nawaz Sharif, Aitzaz Ahsan, Imran Khan and other like-minded leaders, to fulfil the commitment they have made to the people of Pakistan that they will work ceaselessly to right the grievous wrong that has been done. If the crucial issue of the restoration of the deposed judges is allowed to be put on the back burner in the interests of “the larger perspective” and its review is relegated to committees, the momentum that our valiant freedom-fighters have built up in their respective movements will be lost forever. As Shakespeare said with ominous insight:

There is a tide in the affairs of men,
Which taken at the flood, leads on to fortune.
Omitted, all the voyage of their life
Is bound in shallows and in miseries.
On such a full sea are we now afloat.
And we must take the current when it serves,
Or lose our ventures.

Before Mian Nawaz Sharif, Aitzaz Ahsan, and Imran Khan is the shining example of Allama Iqbal and Quaid-e’Azam, two visionaries – incidentally both lawyers - who were responsible for the creation of Pakistan. The spiritual and political founder of Pakistan both believed that politics had to be grounded in ethics, and that moral principles must not be compromised on grounds of political expediency. By answering the call of God and the people to uphold the cause of justice - hard as it may seem at this time – their gain both in this world and in the hereafter will be much greater than if they walk away from this awesome responsibility.

(The writer is a Professor, specializing in Islamic Studies and Iqbal Studies, who teaches in the United States, and also heads The Iqbal International Leadership Institute.

Emergence of Civilian Masters


“War is too serious a matter to entrust to military men” is a famous quotation now getting popularity in Pakistan as Aitzaz Ahsan is using it frequently in his TV interviews while emphasizing the doctrine of Civilian Control of the Military. One more illustrative example are the words of Chairman Mao Zedong, who stated that "Our principle is that the Party commands the gun, and the gun must never be allowed to command the Party", reflecting the primacy of the Communist party as a decision-maker in Marxist-Leninist and Maoist theories of democratic centralism. One can find the same philosophy in the Jinnah’s advice to Colonel (later General) Akbar Khan. “Never forget that you are the servants of the state. You do not make policy. It is we, the people’s representative, who decide how the country is to be run. Your job is to only obey the decisions of your civilian masters.”
All of the above quotations lead to the doctrine of civilian control of the military that places ultimate responsibility for a country’s strategic decision-making in the hands of the civilian political leadership, rather than professional military officers. One author, paraphrasing Samuel P. Huntington’s writings in The Soldier and the State, has summarized the civilian control ideal as "the proper subordination of a competent, professional military to the ends of policy as determined by civilian authority”. Civilian control is often seen as a prerequisite feature of a stable, liberal democracy; use of the term in scholarly analyses tends to take place in the context of a state governed by democratically elected officials.
What is civilian control? Is it a fact? Is it a process? According to Professor Richard H. Kohn, "civilian control is not a fact but a process”. Affirmations of respect for the values of civilian control notwithstanding, the actual level of control sought or achieved by the civilian leadership may vary greatly in practice, from a statement of broad policy goals that military commanders are expected to translate into operational plans, to the direct selection of specific targets for attack on the part of governing politicians. Leaders with limited experience in military matters often have little choice but to rely on the advice of professional military commanders trained in the art and science of warfare to inform the limits of policy; in such cases, the military establishment may enter the bureaucratic arena to advocate for or contest against a particular course of action, shaping the policy-making process and blurring any clear-cut lines of civilian control.
For many young democracies, the institutionalization of civilian control over the military is a crucial task for democratic consolidation. This is especially true for Pakistan. After Pakistan gained independence in 1947 and lost its founder and first prime minister very early, the military history of Pakistan can be viewed as the history of modern-day Pakistan, as the military of Pakistan has played and continues to play a vital role in the establishment and shaping of the country. Although Pakistan was founded as a democracy after the partition of the Indian sub-continent, the military has remained one of the country’s most powerful institutions and has on occasion overthrown democratically elected governments on the basis of mismanagement and corruption. Successive governments have made sure that the military was consulted before they took key decisions. Political leaders know that the military has stepped into the political arena before at times of crisis, and could do so again up till now.
Pakistan’s ruling party has been routed in the country’s February’s general election , paving the way for a new government made up of former opposition parties that may try to impeach the President, Pervez Musharraf.
No party took an outright majority in the new parliament but anti-Musharraf parties, including the Pakistan People’s Party, the Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz) and possibly others, are in discussion about forming the next government.
Co-Chairman PPP Asif Ali Zardari and PML-N Quaid Nawaz Sharif while addressing a joint press conference on Thursday evening at the Zardari House after holding two-hour-long talks declared “We have decided to work together and move together for the future of the democracy in the country and to strengthen parliament.” In the same press conference Mr. Zardari said “system should be changed and there should be a new social contract with the establishment”. This is very bold and well thought of statement from Mr. Zardari but unfortunately got less attention from political and democratic analysts. If this statement read along with the quotation of Georges Clemenceau quoted by Atizaz Ahsan many times, gives some kind of insight of internal thinking taking place at PPP and shows that they are marching towards the doctrine of civilian control of the military in future.
Kohn succinctly summarizes this view when he writes that the point of civilian control is to make security subordinate to the larger purposes of a nation, rather than the other way around. The purpose of the military is to defend society, not to define it. As civilian leaders cannot usually hope to challenge their militaries by means of force, and thus must guard against any potential usurpation of powers through a combination of policies, laws, and the inculcation of the values of civilian control in their armed services.
Historically, direct control over military forces was hampered by the technological limits of command, control, and communications; national leaders, whether democratically elected or not, had to rely on local commanders to execute the details of a military campaign, or risk centrally-directed orders’ obsolescence by the time they reached the front lines. The remoteness of government from the action allowed professional soldiers to claim military affairs as their own particular sphere of expertise and influence; upon entering a state of war, it was often expected that the generals and field marshals would dictate strategy and tactics, and the civilian leadership would defer to their informed judgments.
Improvements in information technology and its application to wartime command and control (a process sometimes labeled the "Revolution in Military Affairs") has allowed civilian leaders removed from the theater of conflict to assert greater control over the actions of distant military forces. Precision-guided munitions and real-time videoconferencing with field commanders now allow the civilian leadership to intervene even at the tactical decision-making level, designating particular targets for destruction or preservation based on political calculations or the counsel of non-uniformed advisors.
While civilian control forms the normative standard in almost every society outside of military dictatorships, its practice has often been the subject of pointed criticism from both uniformed and non-uniformed observers, who object to what they view as the undue "politicization" of military affairs, especially when elected officials or political appointees micromanage the military, rather than giving the military general goals and objectives, and have the military decide how best to carry those orders out. By placing responsibility for military decision-making in the hands of non-professional civilians, critics argue, the dictates of military strategy are subsumed to the political, with the effect of unduly restricting the fighting capabilities of the nation’s armed forces for what should be immaterial or otherwise lower priority concerns. Politicians who personally lack military training and experience but who seek to engage the nation in military action may risk resistance and being labeled "chickenhawks" by those who disagree with their political goals.
In contesting these priorities, members of the professional military leadership and their non-uniformed supporters may participate in the bureaucratic bargaining process of the nation’s policy-making apparatus, engaging in what might be termed a form of regulatory capture as they attempt to restrict the policy options of elected officials when it comes to military matters.
Keeping these in minds it is hoped that results of this election, the power and the trust entrusted to political parties and their leaders, there will be an emergence of civilian masters in Pakistan.
The writer is Research Associate at The Iqbal International Leadership Institute and can be reached at

Pervez Musharraf's allies received a drubbing in Monday's elections. Now he faces the prospect of being impeached as president if his rivals can cobble together a two-thirds majority in parliament - Photograph: Aamir Qureshi/AFP

(Courtesy The Guardian)
In some ways life has changed little for Pakistan's president, Pervez Musharraf, since Monday's election. The retired general still trots out for afternoon tennis, aides say, and enjoys a game of bridge a few times a week. In the evenings he pulls on a cigar and, although he can't admit it, nurses a glass of whisky.
Visitors still call to see him at Army House, the marble-floored Rawalpindi residence of Pakistan's military chiefs, even though he retired three months ago. "It has been renamed Presidential Lodge," said spokesman Rashid Qureshi. "The normal routine is functioning."
But outside clouds are gathering. The spectacular rout of his Pakistan Muslim League (Q) party at the polls has shorn the retired commando of his political base, leaving him isolated and exposed.
"He's been sulking," said a senior party official. "He's retreated into a mental bunker, which is not healthy. He thinks everyone is out to get him and only listens to a small circle. It's a dangerous mindset to be in at this point in time. He could decide to hit back."
Musharraf's bad mood stems from the prospect of Nawaz Sharif, the rotund prime minister from Punjab he ousted in a 1999 coup and banished to Saudi Arabia a year later, returning to power. Sharif, who controls the second biggest party in parliament, the Pakistan Muslim League (N) has vowed to oust Musharraf at the earliest opportunity. "The nation has given its verdict. The sooner he accepts it the better," said Sharif.
But Musharraf, targeted at least twice by al-Qaida assassins, has a knack for survival. And he has at least one loyal friend left. Shortly after the electoral drubbing George Bush paused on a trip to Africa to pay warm tribute to him. He sounded less enthusiastic about Sharif's ascent. The message filtered quickly through the lines. In Washington the state department urged the opposition to work with Musharraf. In Islamabad American diplomats engaged in frantic talks with the opposition.
Senior officials from all parties told the Guardian they were trying to broker a deal that would ensure Musharraf stays in power. The PML (Q) official said his party was being pressured by US embassy officials hoping for a coalition between their party with Benazir Bhutto's Pakistan People's party, now led by her widower, Asif Ali Zardari.
"The Americans want a German-style grand coalition including the PPP," he said. "They want Musharraf to stick around, even if it's a diminished Musharraf."
British officials have been more coy, bristling at suggestions they are following the American lead. But many Pakistanis believe Whitehall is singing from a hymn sheet drawn up in the White House.
"The British are masters at using their language; the Americans are more crude. But in the end, it comes down to the same thing," said Nadir Chaudhri, a Sharif aide.
The western obsession with Musharraf seems puzzling. Since he resigned as army chief in late November most of Musharraf's power has drained to his successor, General Ashfaq Kayani. Diplomats unanimously praise the former spychief as a sober and sympathetic commander.
The problem is Sharif, who although not elected to parliament is still the power behind the PML (N). Although he went through a makeover during his exile in Jeddah and London - polishing his English, acquiring a hair transplant and a wardrobe of Saville Row tweed jackets - diplomats fear he cannot, or will not, deliver on their greatest concern: hunting al-Qaida and Taliban militancy.
Critics suspect Sharif of being a closet "fundo", or fundamentalist. They recall his infamous attempt to crown himself commander of the faithful while prime minister in 1998, and point to his family's conservative background. His close links with Saudi Arabia, which provided a royal jet and bulletproof Mercedes for his return from exile, have also caused some concern, particularly about possible leakage of nuclear technology.
But supporters and some political rivals say such fears are misplaced. A former Sharif minister said that during a 1998 meeting with Bill Clinton in the White House Sharif signed off on a secret plan to assassinate Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan, using a CIA-trained force of crack Pakistani troops. Earlier he permitted an FBI team to capture a terrorism suspect and bundle him into a plane bound for the US.
"The whole idea of Sharif being the odd man out in the war on terror is utter nonsense," said Chaudhri, his aide. "There's no one more committed to rooting out extremism than him."
Still, Bush, whose has given more than $10bn to Pakistan since 2001, is more at home with Musharraf.
"He's very loyal. It's almost a tribal thing," said one aide. To some degree, Musharraf has reciprocated. Yesterday the New York Times reported that the president has allowed the CIA to set up a secret base inside Pakistan from which unmanned Predator aircraft can attack al-Qaida fugitives in the tribal areas. If Musharraf goes, officials worry, so could the permission to strike at will.
But many Pakistanis are angry at what they see as American meddling, even among pro-western parties.
"The US has to understand that the parties now elected to parliament are not stooges of Musharraf. They are genuinely elected people," said Senator Enver Baig, of Bhutto's PPP.
On the streets there is a tangible sense that the boundaries of power are blurring and Musharraf's aura is fading. Sheikh Rashid Ahmed, a cigar-chomping politico who was a Musharraf favourite, was among 19 former ministers to lose their seats in Monday's election.
A few days later he held a press conference at a five-star hotel, visibly smarting from the loss and threatening to set up his own party.
"Politics is very crude. You have to deal with the situation," he told the Guardian.
Speculation is rife that other PML (Q) cronies will defect to Sharif's party - from whence many of them came - in droves.
On Thursday hundreds of lawyers and civil society activists tried to storm the barricades outside the Islamabad house of the imprisoned former chief justice, Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry. Lawyers in suits, ties and gardening gloves ripped back coils of barbed wire, only to be confronted with a phalanx of policemen armed with teargas and water canon. "Go Musharraf, go!" chanted the crowd - a mantra that has haunted the president since his botched attempted to fire Chaudhry last March. Musharraf despises the judge even more than he does Sharif; in a recent interview he described him as "the scum of the earth".
But unlike previous protests, the police did not baton charge or thrash the protesters - at least not very much - and only a few teargas canisters were fired, which landed half-heartedly in a nearby garden. When the crowd dispersed peacefully, one lawyer shook hands briefly with a policeman in riot gear, who smiled back.
"Things have changed," said the organiser, Athar Minallah. "Today Musharraf is obviously not in power, and that is the beauty of democracy."
But Musharraf's fate also rests on the ability of the fractious opposition to unite. In a country of giant egos and troubled history, that's no sure thing. A complex game of blackmail and manoeuvre is underway.
On Thursday afternoon government lawyers reinvigorated a corruption case against Zardari, a move seen as a shot over the bow in his government-forming talks with Sharif. But that night the two men appeared in public, looking chummy on a pair of gilt-edged thrones, announced they would "cooperate" to form a government against Musharraf.
Exactly what that means is unclear. Sharif's party wants to form a provincial government in Punjab but leave the national administration to the PPP, perhaps hoping to win an election outright in one or two years' time. Zardari wants a genuine coalition.
"We are still in the opening moves of this chess game," said Ayaz Amir, a newly-elected parliamentarian.
By roping in a few smaller parties the two leaders could cobble the two-thirds majority necessary to impeach Musharraf. The end could come by March 8, the date by which election officials estimate the new parliament will first sit.
Musharraf says he is going nowhere. "His term runs for five years. He knows there's a vast number of people who appreciate and love him for what he's done," said Qureshi, his spokesman. "After all he's done for this country, he would feel a little disappointed I guess."
In his self-vaunting autobiography, published last year, Musharraf wrote that "a true leader will always be loved by his people".
Supporters say if it comes to an impeachment motion, he may not fight to the end. "Frankly I'm not sure if he has the stomach for Custer's last stand. I don't see the fire in his belly any more," said a party official.
A new home, complete with security bunkers, is under construction on the edge of Islamabad. Whether he needs to move in there any time soon should become clearer in the coming weeks.

PTUDC Meeting in Canada on Elections 2008

Umar Bajwa
Over a dozen people attended a meeting on the recent fraudulent elections in Pakistan on a cold blustery Toronto evening. The meeting was hosted by Canadian supporters of the Pakistani Trade Union Defence Campaign (PTUDC), the first such meeting to date in Canada. Julian Benson of the PTUDC and Somia Saadiq, an activist with the Pakistani Communist Party, were the featured speakers; a representative of the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) was also scheduled to attend but was unable to make it at the last minute.
The discussion at the meeting centred on the fraud committed by the Pakistani state, and of course recognized by the major imperialist powers. Julian, in particular, emphasized the dangers the imperialists would face if the PPP had been allowed to sweep into power, with the support of millions of ordinary Pakistanis. Somia detailed many of the instances of fraud, as well as outlining the efforts and desires of the Pakistani masses in getting rid of Pervez Musharraf.
The most energetic debate of the meeting occurred over the class content of the PPP. One person argued that the PPP was nothing more than a bourgeois party and that socialists had no business supporting it. Instead, he praised the work of the Labour Party of Pakistan. Somia responded by pointing out that the LPP had aligned itself with the Islamic fundamentalists of the country, some of the most treacherous and reactionary elements within Pakistani society (and responsible for many of the attacks against working class militants and socialists in the country). Julian also pointed out that the LPP's call for boycotting the elections simply sidelined them from the mass movement, as well as ignored the millions of Pakistani workers that supported the PPP's banner.
A small collection was also taken, with all of the money directed to helping out the work of the PTUDC in Pakistan. Over the next few days, there will be similar meetings in Montreal and Vancouver which will help to expand Canadian solidarity with Pakistani working class militants.

Youtube banned in Pakistan

As many of you might have noticed, YouTube has been banned across some parts of Pakistan. The ban is not universal as yet but people who have internet provided by the PTCL in particular are unable to access the website. In addition Micronet Broadband users have also suffered from a youtube blackout.Worry not, you can still try a few anonymizers to access youtube. Details are at: addition if you are interested in copies of the rigging videos, contact me. I have 2 of them saved in AVI format.

In solidarity

The Post-election View

Sundas Hurain and Basim Usmani

The recent elections' outcome has created a myriad of colorful Newspaper headlines on February 18th. Dawn's Bruce Lee-esque headline read "Musharraf allies face voter's wrath". The News, now taken to paraphrasing Bilawal Bhutto, has "Democracy takes revenge". "All the King's men, gone!" is the headline at Daily Times, a newspaper known for being pro-Government due to its owner, Salman Taseer'sministership.At the street level, people have been echoing similar sentiments. On various occasions, we were exposed to working class parents who have found their children spending weeks without meals, gas or electricity under the current administration. Suddenly, returning to the pre-musharraf years seems like serious progress.

1998 was the last year Nawaz Sharif spent unchecked before being unceremoniously defenestrated from Pakistani politics by Musharraf's coup. He had stormed the Supreme Court Judges in 1997, his military operation in Kashmir was a disaster. He even gave the newly constructed motorway to the military, granting them a foot hold in what should've been a civillian market.

We are ten years on, and Nawaz is posed to become the opposition's golden boy. Upon sweeping victories in Punjab that have won Pakistan Muslim League's Nawaz group 66 seats, Sharif has hit his PPP counterpart Zardari with a set of demands. Restore the judiciary, impeach Musharraf, and select High Court advocate Aitizaz Ahsan for Prime Ministership. He is echoing the demand of the ever-increasing anti-mush voices. His stances have forced many of us to reconsider our opinions of him and his party. Many PPP supporters ended up voting for PML-N due to the lack of a clear concrete position on any issue by the former and the bold principled stance of the latter.

From this point on, several outcomes may be conceived of; each with its own reactions. Everyone is looking to the parties elected. PML-N has made its stance clear. Now it's up to them to stick to it. But more heavily so, the eyes of the people now turn to the so called People's Party. Will it oblige? There are quite a few uncertainties in the current situation. At the foremost being PPP-P which is still ironing out its internal politics and power hierarchies and is hence, still unable to take any concrete stances over anything. If PPP-P decides to yet again look to Washington and ally itself with the pro-mush forces, it will be heavily discredited within the country. It's only choice is either PML-N, or the other anti-mush parties. With Musharraf's popularity at an all time low, the independents are most likely to align with the party that speaks of ouster and accountability. PML-N also stands to be able to make a government without the PPP by aligning with the all the other anti-mush candidates, in which case, PPP will either have to join in, sit in opposition, or coalesce with the much despised PML-Q or MQM.

Pakistan is now a threesome between Musharraf and his allies, the professed anti-musharraf political parties, and the lawyer's movement.The will of the people is evident. The strongest of the king's party have faced miserable defeats. The popular notion was, vote for PML-Q if you support Musharraf. So strong are anti-musharraf sentiments in the larger populace that politicians like Sheikh Rasheed who have gone 30 yrs undefeated could not secure a victory from the seats they were running from. Interestingly enough, the candidates for whose success rigging was not deemed required, were the ones that lost. The party leader Ch Shujaat Hussain even succumbed to heavy defeat, not being able to secure even a single seat for himself.

What does this mean for the people of Pakistan? Moving around on the
streets on election night, as preliminary results came out, the sheer emotion and ecstasy of the people was overpowering. With hope in their eyes, smiles on their lips, and hands in the air, they celebrate the possibility that their overburdened lives may now become livable. With an unprecedented 250% food inflation, the Pakistani poor—who form 80% of the population—have been the hardest hit. With no remedies available, no recourse to welfare or justice; citizens of a country that has failed time and again to provide for them even the most basic of necessities.

Their only hope: change. Fighting against all odds, amidst news of murdered candidates and possible bomb threats, the turnout at many polling stations in Lahore was impressive. Being part of the student election monitoring cell of the StudentAction Committee, rampant instances of rigging were observed by us and many caught on video. But in spite of massive rigging, people turned up in even higher numbers. Speculations state that the 39 or so odd seats won my PML-Q and 19 by MQM would not have been possible were it not so for pre and during poll rigging.
One MQM candidate was caught rigging elections in his constituency in Karachi by a Ranger deployed at the booth. But that didn't seem to make people suspicious of the 19 other MQM candidates that swept up the total twenty seats in Karachi. And no coverage has been given to Scotland Yard's forthcoming investigation into Altaf Hussein, the MQM chairman who's been indispensable in the efforts to make Karachi unlivable due toviolence.

Due to a systematic de-politicization of society and a ban on any involvement of students in politics, Pakistan suffers from an acute lack of credible politicians. The people of Pakistan in spite of widespread mistrust towards all the political parties are yet again forced towards looking to them for relief. The question on everyone's minds and tongues; will they deliver this time or disappoint us once more?

As for Musharraf, he has repeatedly stated, refuting various polls, that he believed the will of the people to come through the elections alone, and that if a majority of the people wished for him to step down, he would. Well the people have spoken: GO MUSHARRAF GO!

Former ISI Rigging Chief Confesses

The man, who rigged 2002 polls, spills the beans

By Umar Cheema
ISLAMABAD: The main wheeler and dealer of the ISI during the 2002 elections, the then Maj-Gen Ehtesham Zamir, now retired, has come out of the closet and admitted his guilt of manipulating the 2002 elections, and has directly blamed Gen Musharraf for ordering so.
Talking to The News, the head of the ISI’s political cell in 2002, admitted manipulating the last elections at the behest of President Musharraf and termed the defeat of the King’s party, the PML-Q, this time “a reaction of the unnatural dispensation (installed in 2002).”
Zamir said the ISI together with the NAB was instrumental in pressing the lawmakers to join the pro-Musharraf camp to form the government to support his stay in power.
Looking down back into the memory lane and recalling his blunders which, he admitted, had pushed the country back instead of taking it forward, Zamir feels ashamed of his role and conduct.
Massively embarrassed because he was the one who negotiated, coerced and did all the dirty work, the retired Maj-Gen said he was not in a position to become a preacher now when his own past was tainted. He said the country would not have faced such regression had the political management was not carried out by the ISI in 2002. But he also put some responsibility of the political disaster on the PML-Q as well.
The former No: 2 of the ISI called for the closure of political cell in the agency, confessing that it was part of the problem due to its involvement in forging unnatural alliances, contrary to public wishes.Zamir’s blaming Musharraf for creating this unnatural alliance rings true as another former top associate of Musharraf, Lt-Gen (retd) Jamshed Gulzar Kiyani has already disclosed that majority of the corps commanders, in several meetings, had opposed Musharraf’s decision of patronising the leadership of the King’s party.
“We had urged Musharraf many times during the corps commanders meeting that the PML-Q leadership was the most condemned and castigated personalities. They are the worst politicians who remained involved in co-operative scandals and writing off loans. But Musharraf never heard our advice,” Kiyani said while recalling discussions in their high profile meetings.He said one of their colleagues, who was an accountability chief at that time, had sought permission many times for proceeding against the King’s party top leaders but was always denied.Kiyani asked Musharraf to quit, the sooner the better, as otherwise the country would be in a serious trouble.
Ma-Gen (retd) Ehtesham Zamir termed the 2008 elections ‘fairer than 2002’. He said the reason behind their fairness is that there was relatively less interference of intelligence agencies this time as compared to the last time. But he stopped short of saying that there was zero interference in the 2008 polls.
“You are quite right,” he said when asked to confirm about heavy penetration of ISI into political affairs during the 2002 elections. But he said he did not do it on his own but on the directives issued by the government.Asked who directed him from the government side and if there was somebody else, not President Musharraf, he said: “Obviously on the directives of President Musharraf.”Asked if he then never felt that he was committing a crime by manipulating political business at the cost of public wishes, he said: “Who should I have told except myself. Could I have asked Musharraf about this? I was a serving officer and I did what I was told to do. I never felt this need during the service to question anyone senior to me,” he said and added that he could not defend his acts now.
“It was for this reason that I have never tried to preach others what I did not practice. But I am of the view that the ISI’s political cell should be closed for good by revoking executive orders issued in 1975,” he said.
Responding to a question regarding corruption cases that were used as pressure tactics on lawmakers, he said: “Yes! This tool was used, not only by the ISI. The NAB was also involved in this exercise.”Former corps commander of Rawalpindi, Lt-Gen (retd) Jamshed Gulzar Kiyani said majority of corps commanders had continued opposing Musharraf’s alliance with top leadership of the PML-Q.“Not just in one meeting, we opposed his alignment with these corrupt politicians in many meetings but who cared. Now Musharraf has been disgraced everywhere, thanks to his political cronies.”

Taliban Facilitated Elections in Waziristan!

Militant help

In North Waziristan, the government sought the help of the militants to conduct peaceful polls
By Mushtaq Yusufzai

The Taliban in North Waziristan tribal agency facilitated the Feb 18 polling, where the tribespeople, unlike the rest of the tribal regions, evinced a keen interest in exercising their right to vote.
Almost a day earlier, in the militants-dominated North Waziristan Agency, the government had struck another peace deal with militants with the hope of restoring peace to the militancy-stricken tribal region.
In the peace deal, the government and tribal militants, who prefer to be called Taliban, had pledged to work together in future for maintenance of peace and resolving disputes.
The militants, on Dec 17, 2007, had announced a unilateral ceasefire and then extended it almost five times when the government reciprocated accordingly.
A senior militant commander on condition of anonymity said that the peace truce was signed in the grand 'jirga' where the militant commanders, tribal elders as well as government officials were present. He said that it was almost the same agreement which had been signed on Sep 5, 2006, between them and the government.
The government had almost made up its mind to reschedule polls in the adjacent North Waziristan after postponing the election on NA-42 in South Waziristan due to the mass migration of the Mahsud tribespeople to distant Tank, Dera Ismail Khan and other parts of the country as a result of clashes between security forces and Baitullah Mahsud-led militants.
Later, the government announced to conduct elections in North Waziristan but declared all the polling stations there the 'most sensitive' ones and suggested extraordinary security measures for holding free and fair polls.
Keeping in view the security concerns in the region, the government sought the help of the militants in conducting the election in a peaceful manner.
A senior government official said that the task was given to the Taliban after the paramilitary Frontier Corps (FC) and Khasadar force or tribal police personnel expressed their reluctance to provide security to the polling staff deputed in the remote and the most sensitive areas.
Tribespeople from parts of North Waziristan told TNS that not a single security personnel was sighted in almost all the 10 subdivisions of the volatile tribal region, including Miramshah, Mirali, Shawal, Data Khel, Ghulam Khan, Spinwam, Shawa, Dosali, Razmak and Garyum in the election day. Residents in Miramshah, North Waziristan's regional headquarters, said that militants were the ones who conducted the polls and provided security to the voters.
People felt it was primarily that reason, the presence of Taliban, which encouraged the already terrified tribesmen to come out of their homes and cast their votes.
"It seemed more like jubilation here. The people enthusiastically participated in elections and there were no signs of fear as the well-armed militants were deployed everywhere in and outside the polling stations," said Mohammad Salimullah, a tribesman while talking to the TNS by telephone from Miramshah.
The residents said that they felt a threat from the militants before the elections, but when learnt that they themselves were part of the game then everyone came to the polling station.
"It was the day of the militants and they proved themselves more capable than those who were supposed to do the job," said Haji Gul Halim, a resident of Dande Darpakhel town, near Miramshah.
During the polling, witnesses said, heavily armed militants were seen patrolling the streets and thoroughly searching voters before entering the polling stations.
"In some of the polling stations, militants, even briefly detained people for allegedly violating the Taliban's code of conduct which they had set for the election," said Mohammad Rahman in Mirali town, the second biggest town of the agency.
He, however, added that the Taliban were later seen releasing the detainees and giving them advice to help the people elected a sincere and pious representative. Interestingly, when the polls finished, militants informed the local political authorities that their job was finished and that they should collect the ballot boxes.
"The ballot boxes were then taken in armoured personnel carriers (APCs) to Miramshah and the name of the successful candidate was announced," said a government official, but wished not to be named.
16 candidates were contesting the election for the lone National Assembly seat of North Waziristan Agency (NA-40). Except for a few, like PML-Q's Ajmal Khan, who served as federal minister in the past, and an
independent candidate Abdul Qayyum, the majority of the contestants belonged to Maulana Fazlur Rahman's Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam (JUI-F), but only Maulana Nek Zaman, a former pro-MMA MNA from North Waziristan, was JUI-F nominee on NA-40.
The remaining candidates, including Aurangzeb, Haji Kamran Khan, Fazal Subhan, Mufti Sadeequllah and Nisar Ali were JUI-F dissidents and decided to contest when the party refused their nomination for the election.
Some of them are considered to be very close to the militants, including Abdullah Shah, who belongs to a banned outfit Al-Rashid Trust, Haji Kamran Khan and a few others. Now some of the losing candidates had started raising questions over this unique trend of involving militants to hold elections.
They have accused the government of allowing militants to help elect their blue-eyed candidate, Haji Kamran Khan in the polls.
They said that the militants organised a huge rally in support of the winning candidate and fired shots in the air when Kamran Khan was declared the winner.
(Coutesy The News)
My Comment: This report of cooperation between Taliban and the Government of Pakistan in Waziristan suggests that if there is enough will for peaceful co-existance, peace might not be so elusive an ideal, after all. Indeed, it suggests that while US and Taliban may remain irreconcilable, the same may not be true for Pakistan and Taliban. In the interests of the people, both parties can, and should, arrive at some reconciliation. Pakistani state, on the other hand, would do well to learn from history and keep itself out of that difficult region; above all, it would do well to spill less blood, there and everywhere else.