Bring the deposed Chief Justice of Pakistan back

Here is another story of the farcical de facto chief justice (CJ) who has occupied the highest seat of Judiciary unconstitutionally in Pakistan and the collusion of the PPP government to manipulate the education board (an independent institution) to get CJ’s daughter a higher grade …..   read on!

what a shame!!!

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The PPP government on Thursday aggressively blocked the parliamentary probe into the chief justice’s daughter case amid an uproar in the National Assembly committee meeting that witnessed a walkout by the government members, including the minister of state for education.

The chairman of the NA Standing Committee on Education, Abid Sher Ali, of the PML-N was not allowed to proceed as the state minister consistently pressed that the inclusion of the CJ’s daughter case in the meeting’s agenda was a violation of the rules. The State Minister, Ghulam Farid Kathia, also strongly objected to the presence of not only media persons covering the event but also that of Ansar Abbasi, Editor Investigations, The News, who was invited by the committee as a special guest to take part in the proceedings.

The whole proceedings, which included the suspension of the noisy sitting for 15 minutes and followed by walkout of the government members and even the Education Ministry mandarins, turned out to be a joke when the chairperson of the Federal Board for Intermediate and Secondary Education, Ms. Shaheen Khan, refused to brief the committee on the issue despite repeated requests by the committee chairman.

Every time she was given the floor, she said that she would not utter a word unless allowed by her secretary and the minister, who kept on pressing that the issue could not be included in the agenda of the meeting without his consultation. At her response to the committee, the chairman told her: “You are answerable to the committee and if you do not talk on the issue, then you may leave.”

The angry chairman even once announced to postpone the meeting against what he said the negative attitude of the government side but the members intervened and requested him to continue the meeting. He again asked the FBISE chairperson to tell the committee about the issue but time and again the minister interrupted him and did not let him proceed.

Chairman Abid conducted short census among the eight members of the committee out of whom four said the proceedings on this issue of public interest be maintained. The chairman, while using his discretionary power, resumed the proceedings.

State Minister for Education Ghulam Farid Kathia refused to brief the committee, saying it was not on the agenda of the committee’s meeting. However, he was of the view that the issue should be discussed in camera, not in the presence of newsmen. This irritated the chairman who observed that the issue was of immense public interest and must be discussed in the presence of the press.

The committee witnessed some rowdy scenes and exchange of harsh words between Abid Sher Ali and Ghulam Farid Kathia as well as the FBISE Chairperson Shaheen Khan, who also declined to speak without the minister’s permission.

“You are trying to sabotage this meeting by interrupting me again and again … you may leave,” Ali repeatedly told the state minister for education who argued that the issue of CJ’s daughter could not be discussed, as it was not on the committee’s agenda.

The situation remained tense, as the government side insisted that the issue be taken up some other day. Kathia was of the view that the committee chairman had not consulted him on the issue and, therefore, he was going against the rules and regulations. However, Abid Sher Ali said he had written letters to all the concerned officials, including the FBISE chairperson, to appear before the committee with all the required record.

He said the issue was of serious nature in which the top government officials were involved in misuse of powers. “But nobody is ready on this issue,” Kathia argued followed by Abid Sher Ali’s remarks: “If you are not ready, then you can leave.” However, the minister refused to do so.

The chairman of the committee said: “You are trying to block the committee to proceed in the case of high public importance and defending the corrupt. You and the government are against the voiceless students who are tens of thousands in number.” Abid Sher Ali also said that the minister was defending those who indulged in abuse of power.

On the minister’s signal, four MNAs left the proceedings and staged a walkout. One of the National Assembly’s senior officials told the minister that under such rules, the committee could not discuss the issue.

Meanwhile, sources told The News that the meeting of the committee, scheduled to continue on Friday, was postponed by the speaker National Assembly. The sources said it was an attempt to strangulate the voice of truth.

Source: http://www.thenews.com.pk/top_story_detail.asp?Id=18652

Totalitarian regime revisited

Now that Musharraf has gone, one would think that things will start to improve for Pakistan.. alas not at all.

The country has a severe leadership crisis. People have to choose between bad and worse…… such is the situation that former Mr 10% is going to become the President of the country. The people of Pakistan should brace themselves for a new civilian totalitarian regime.

In spite of fiercely supporting democracy and democratic institution, one just cannot ignore the sorry state of affairs where a totally unpopular person is going to become the President with the support of most political parties which are “upto no good” (history speaks for itself)

“The middle class and the elite both have a distaste for this man [Zardari], despite the fact that he’s never been convicted of anything,” said Mosharraf Zaidi, a political analyst. “He is guilty in the court of public opinion … If there was a direct election, there’s no question that Zardari would come in last.”

http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2008/sep/06/pakistan

Not only people do not like him… he is so controversial, it appears highly unlikey he could represent the unity of the nations (as a President should in a parliamentary democracy)

Asif Zardari’s entry on Wikipedia is very instructive especially the section headed “Criminal charges and allegations”

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Asif_Ali_Zardari

Such is the character of this person that to avoid appearing before a court in a corruption case in London, he declared a false report declaring he was mentally imbalanced and could not travel. The case was dropped by Pakistan Government since his party took power (it does not surprise people how easy it is to get away scott free in a poor country). At the very least, he is ethically and morally too corrupt to hold a public office of any responsibility lest being the President of a country of 160 million people.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/asia/pakistan/2622123/Pakistan-presidential-candidate-Asif-Ali-Zardari-suffering-from-severe-mental-problems.html

We say false report because if the report is true, then Asif Zardari is clearly ineligible to be the President under the constitution of Pakistan.

Extracts from the Constitution:

41. (2) A person shall not be qualified for election as President unless he is a Muslim of not less than forty-five years of age and is qualified to be elected as member of the National Assembly.

63. (1) A person shall be disqualified from being elected or chosen as, and from being, a member of the Majlis-e-Shoora (Parliament)(National Assembly) , if:-
(a) he is of unsound mind and has been so declared by a competent court

So, why is he gaining traction to become the President. Well, the answer lies in two things – first he is very cunning and second the following (hallmarks of a client state 🙂 )

Analysts say Zardari may be just the man for the job of managing the Pakistan-U.S. alliance. He is a former resident of New York’s affluent Upper East Side. He often chooses well-tailored two-piece suits over the traditional, loose-fitting salwar-kameez that is the de rigueur dress of politicians in this majority-Muslim nation.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/09/04/AR2008090403445.html?hpid=topnews

So a President is selected by the dress he wears….. what a farce!

And ……

Recent revelations of Zardari’s unauthorised telephone contact with senior Bush administration insider, Zalmay Khalilzad, seemed to confirm that he is rated in the White House.

“He [Zardari] is coming with the blessings of the Bush administration,” said Tariq Fatemi, a former Pakistani ambassador to Washington. “They feel he will provide a political face to the military operations.”

http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2008/sep/06/pakistan

… Do I hear the same old wine with a new label ….

We hoped not to miss Musharraf and we still hope we won’t but eventually we may miss him (at least he was not personally corrupt).

In the eyes of independent experts:

While the PPP and its allies insist that Mr Zardari is ideally suited to lead Pakistan, his nomination has sparked widespread criticism. “Mr Zardari’s election is hardly the best thing for Pakistan in the circumstances,” said Farazana Shaikh of the think tank Chatham House. “In fact, I would be inclined to think that it is the worst thing when it desperately needs some semblance of consensus.”

Last month Mr Zardari backtracked on an agreement to reinstate the judges sacked by Mr Musharraf last year. The move wounded his popularity and led to former prime minister Nawaz Sharif withdrawing his support from the coalition government.

“It is demonstrated that he is not a man of his word,” added Ms Shaikh.

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/asia/bhuttorsquos-widower-to-replace-musharraf-as-pakistanrsquos-president-920632.html

Okay now that we have talked of doom and gloom, let’s hope that Zardari turns over a new leaf. He becomes a champion of democracy, and ensures Judiciary is restored with true independence and constitutional powers. Let’s hope that he moves this country forward and bring about the much sought Change (sounds familiar….US elections are always a great event to follow) this country needs.

After all, we have to start from somewhere…..

Denying the undeniable

A sad state of affairs indeed… and a long journey to a true democratic and welfare state..

“For us relief is only when our loved one is safe and sound standing freed before us. […] I believe that my husband Masood is held only three kilometres from my home, yet he continues to suffer unknown ill-treatment and we, his wife, his children and his very old parents cannot even see him. They [the new government] must act now to bring them back immediately.”

– Amina Masood Janjua, July 2008

The last time Amina Masood Janjua saw her husband, Masood Janjua, was on 30 July 2005 when he left home to meet his friend Faisal Faraz. Pakistani security forces apprehended both men on that day while on a bus journey to another city.

Since then, Pakistan’s government has been holding them in secret without charge or trial, repeatedly denying any knowledge of their whereabouts despite eyewitness testimony as to their detention.

Masood Janjua and Faisal Faraz are among hundreds of victims of enforced disappearance in Pakistan, including children as young as nine and ten years old. Many of them were detained after the attacks in the USA on 11 September 2001, their detentions justified in the name of the US-led “war on terror”.

The practice, rare before 2001, then spread to activists involved in pushing for greater ethnic or regional rights, including Baloch and Sindhis.

Despite undeniable evidence, the government of President Pervez Musharraf consistently denied subjecting anyone to enforced disappearances.

In the report Denying the undeniable, enforced disappearances in Pakistan, Amnesty International uses official court records and affidavits of victims and witnesses of enforced disappearances to confront the Pakistani authorities with evidence of how government officials obstructed attempts to trace those who have “disappeared.”

New government brings opportunity for change

The report urges the newly elected government of Pakistan – which has pledged to improve Pakistan’s human rights record – to end the policy of denial, investigate all cases of enforced disappearance and hold those responsible to account.

“By holding people in secret detention the government of Pakistan has not only violated their rights, but also failed in its duty to charge and try those suspected of involvement in attacks on civilians”, said Sam Zarifi, Amnesty International’s Asia Pacific director.

Crucially, Pakistan’s new government must reinstate deposed judges who had previously been investigating disappearance cases and were deposed by President Pervez Musharraf when he imposed a state of emergency in the country in November 2007.

Complicity of other governments

The report also calls on other governments – most notably the USA – to ensure that they are not complicit in and do not contribute to or tolerate the practice of enforced disappearance in Pakistan.

Many of those unlawfully held at the US detention centre in Guantánamo Bay, and those who have been held in secret CIA custody were arrested in Pakistan. Others were unlawfully transferred from Pakistan to countries where they faced torture and other ill treatment.

Many people who have been secretly held in detention centres in Pakistan say they were interrogated by Pakistani intelligence agencies, but also by foreign intelligence agents.

See the full report by Amnesty International on http://www.amnesty.org/en/news-and-updates/report/denying-the-undeniable-enforced-disappearances-in-pakistan-20080723

Chief Justice – will he get justice?

The Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), which has so far been a great champion of the restoration of the judiciary through parliament, is considering the option of a Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry-specific constitutional amendment, slashing his tenure from June 2013 to 2010.

Though no decision has been taken by the party leadership as yet on this highly controversial issue, there are certain PML-N leaders arguing that this compromise solution is being deliberated upon to save the PPP-PML-N coalition. The PPP leadership is adamant that it would not allow Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry to continue till June 2013.

The PML-N finds itself in a tight corner as it is being made to concede to slashing the tenure of the deposed chief justice in exchange for the PPP’s willingness to table the resolution in the National Assembly for the restoration of the deposed judges to their Nov 2, 2007 position.

Interestingly tenures of judges of the superior judiciary are not fixed either in Britain or India whereas in the United States the judges of the Supreme Court and those of the federal courts are appointed for life. However, there is a tradition in the United States where superior judiciary judges get voluntary retirement when they reach the age of 70-75.

If finally approved and agreed between the two parties, the PML-N might consider this formula a “compromise” to achieve the greater goal of the judges’ restoration and to save the PPP-PML-N-ANP coalition from possible demise. However, it is believed that such a solution might not be acceptable to the lawyers’ fraternity and the civil society, which had struggled relentlessly after March 9, 2007 for the cause of the independence of the judiciary.

While Asif Ali Zardari is also facing a great fall in his overall popularity among these quarters after dithering on his commitment to restore the judges within 30 days of the formation of the federal government, there is a realisation within the PML-N that the fate of Nawaz Sharif and his party could also be no different if such a compromise solution is reached. Perhaps, it would be more damaging in the case of the PML-N.

A party source believed that getting the PML-N to back off from its clear stance on the judges’ issue might be a trap set by the PPP to politically damage the Nawaz-League, which has so far been attaining more and more popularity for speaking out on the judges’ issue. The PML-N was the only political party which had contested the Feb 18 elections on the slogan of getting the deposed judges restored.

As in the world’s leading democracies, Pakistan has traditionally been setting the maximum age limit for the retirement of the superior judiciary judges without fixing any tenure for the chief justices of the Supreme Court or high courts. However, it was only during the government of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto when, in 1976, a constitutional amendment was passed to fix the tenure of the high court chief justices to four years and that of the chief justice of Pakistan to five years.

Bhutto got this amendment through because he was not happy with the then chief justices of the Lahore High Court Justice Sardar Muhammad Iqbal and the Peshawar High Court Justice Justice Safdar Shah. In the case of Justice Safdar Shah, Bhutto got annoyed after this highly respected judge had dismissed from service political appointees in the police department besides accepting bail of some workers of the then National Awami Party, now Awami National Party.

These constitutional amendments were undone by the martial law of General Ziaul Haq, who reverted to the system of getting the judges, including the chief justices, retired on their set age of retirement.

The retirement age for high court judges remained 62 years whereas in the case of the Supreme Court it has been 65. In his legal framework order, Musharraf had enhanced the retirement age of SC judges to 68 and that of the HC judges to 65 but the 17th Constitutional Amendment reverted to the original retirement age.

In a strange coincidence, it is almost after 32 years of not so appreciable 6th Amendment of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto that his son-in-law, Asif Zardari, is determined to introduce a person-specific constitutional amendment targeting Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry. Pakistan’s irony is that the Constitution has been repeatedly amended to the advantage or disadvantage of personalities instead of strengthening the system and institutions.

Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry has given a new hope for the independence of the judiciary in the country. Because of what he did on March 9 and later on Nov 3 and for the kind of decisions the Supreme Court handed down during his tenure as chief justice, he has become a symbol of the independence of the judiciary. Cutting his tenure only because a powerful soul is allergic to him would mean making a mockery of the dreams of the people of Pakistan.

http://www.thenews.com.pk/top_story_detail.asp?Id=14282

End note: It is clear from the outset that the PPP has been ambiguous on this issue since time immemorial. The people of Pakistan must take a clear stand whether they want an independent proactive judiciary, a key founding pillar of a strong and progressive democracy which is ready to deliver speedy justice and keep the executive in check or a mock judiciary as we have seen in the past. It is all about do we still want to live in the regressive past or move ahead towards a brighter and progressive future.

Boycott biofuels and ban speculation…. that is if you believe in humanity

The world is currently facing one of the worst food crisis in recorded human history…. it is at a boiling point but it can spill over at anytime.

Retail staple food prices have seen record inflation of up to 300% in the last three years across the world resulting in more and more people struggling to eat even once a day.

No.. it is not a doomsday scenario.. this is happening now and what we are seeing is an utter disregard from humanity .. almost 20% of crops in the US in now being harvested for bio-fuels which means 20% less crops for human consumption..

“Rice — a staple for billions of Asians — has soared to its highest price in 20 years, while supplies are at their lowest level since the early 1980s, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Meanwhile, the global supply of wheat is lower than it’s been in about 50 years — just five weeks’ worth of world consumption is on hand, according to the U.N. Food and Agricultural Organization. ”  (http://www.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,1717572,00.html)

It is funny that people have been supporting bio-fuels which, currently, can only be produced by substituting food supply so the food that needs to go into people’s stomach is going into vehicles.. Okay… the situation is not dire but we are not far off. It is time to say No to bio-fuels, at least for now.

On the other hand, Oil speculators who have pushed the prices of oil from a stable $60 to $70 barrels to atrocious $105+ a barrel are minting money. There is literally no shortage of oil but these speculators made sure that they pushed the prices by going long on the market and continue to push these to maintain their profits. 

It’s not the oil speculators alone – “As always in a crisis, there are winners. The creeping fear that the world might actually run short of food — no longer simply the stuff of sci-fi movies — has led speculators to pour billions into commodities, further accelerating price rises. In a single day in February, global wheat prices jumped 25% after Kazakhstan’s government announced plans to restrict exports of its giant wheat crop for fear that its own citizens might go hungry” (http://www.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,1717572,00.html)

As oil drives all transportation costs, everything is getting expensive including drilling and exploration costs for oil companies which in turn means no body in the oil industry wants to lose. But at the bottom of it, it is the speculators who are the culprit.

And with increasing transportation costs, the costs of bringing crops to the markets is skyrocketing.. prices of fertilisers is skyrocketing… which means increased costs of grain.

If oil speculation is banned for a few years, oil prices are going to drop to $50 – $60 dollars… I have no doubt but who is going to do it..  It is such a shame.

“The UN Food and Agriculture Organization warned on Friday that the food import bill for the world’s poorest countries will increase 56 per cent this year and civil unrest will increase if the international community doesn’t act vigorously to help. The World Bank recently estimated the food crisis will erase seven years of progress in reducing poverty in developing countries. Already, high food prices – the prices of wheat and rice are double what they were last year – have sparked riots in diverse hot spots around the world, including several African countries, Indonesia and Haiti.  Unlike famine in places like the Ethiopia, this situation is dispersed across the globe, from Asia to Africa to Latin America. FAO estimates 37 countries face food crises this year, requiring outside assistance for various reasons. The high price of oil is contributing to increased food prices and boosting inflation elsewhere in many economies.”(http://www.canada.com/montrealgazette/news/yourbusiness/story.html?id=21cdf43a-5cf7-4054-b65a-a2e995b21605)

Unless action is taken, many people will die of hunger and food riots….  Take action, show your responsibility and boycott bio fuels as a start.

“In India last year, more than 25,000 farmers took their own lives, driven to despair by grain shortages and farming debts. “The spectre of food grain imports stares India in the face as agricultural growth plunges to an all-time low,” warns India Today magazine.” (http://www.sundayherald.com/news/heraldnews/display.var.2104849.0.2008_the_year_of_global_food_crisis.php)

People.. wake up now! Criminal speculation of commodities must be banned.. and stop using and advancing biofuels……. Give humanity a break!

A strange country indeed!

After much effort and hassle, the caretaker Human Rights minister, Ansar Barni got released a poor Indian chap who was accused of spying, on a death sentence and kept languishing in a jail for two and a half decades – well done!

This chap, Kashmir Singh was indeed a spy and claimed he had done the duty to his nation.

http://www.hindu.com/2008/03/08/stories/2008030850020100.htm

Again.. we would say fair he was doing his duty…. and also can’t question the endless efforts by the Human Rights minister Ansar Barni to obtain his release including requesting personally a presidential pardon of death sentence… all well and good.

… But stop.. isn’t he oblivious of what is happening to Pakistani citizens…. doesn’t he know that the Chief Justice of the country is confined to his home since November. His whole family is confined. Recently there was a news items that one of his daughters annual school examination was conducted in their house (which was declared the Examination center by the Education Board)…. what a joke!….

This minister does not have the decency and courage to visit the Chief Justice.

So, in short, this is a country where a declared spy is pardoned and sent home with full protocol and the country’s Chief Justice and his family are confined to their house indefinitely…

🙂

How to strongarm a third-world country

Interesting stuff.. a little scary too! It is a recipe for disaster.

Read on!

Pakistan has given them bases and logistic support as well as intelligence sharing but what the US is now demanding from Islamabad has shocked the Defence and Foreign Ministries and the initial reaction has been a rejection of what are highly intrusive demands for the US military and auxiliary personnel in Pakistan.

This scribe has learnt of the latest set of 11 demands the US has put to the Government of Pakistan through the Ministry of Defence. As one goes down the list of the demands, they become increasingly untenable.

The first demand is for granting of a status that is accorded to the technical and administrative staff of the US embassy. The second demand is that these personnel be allowed to enter and exit Pakistan on mere National Identification (for example a driving licence) that is without any visas.

Next, the US is demanding that Pakistan accept the legality of all US licences, which would include arms licences. This is followed by the demand that all these personnel be allowed to carry arms and wear uniforms as they wish, across the whole of Pakistan.

Then comes a demand that directly undermines our sovereignty – that the US criminal jurisdiction be applicable in Pakistan to US nationals. In other words, these personnel would not be subject to Pakistani law.

In territories of US allies like Japan, this condition exists in areas where there are US bases and has become a source of major resentment in Japan, especially because there are frequent cases of US soldiers raping Japanese women and getting away with it. In the context of Pakistan, the demand to make the US personnel above the Pakistani law would not be limited to any one part of the country! So the Pakistani citizens will become fair game for US military personnel as well as other auxiliary staff like military contractors.

The next demand is for exemption from all taxes, including indirect taxes like excise duty, etc. The seventh demand is for inspection-free import and export of all goods and materials. So we would not know what they are bringing in or taking out of our country – including Gandhara art as well as sensitive materials.

At number eight is the demand for free movement of vehicles, vessels including aircraft, without landing or parking fees! Then, at number nine, there is a specific demand that selected US contractors should also be exempted from tax payments.

At number ten there is the demand for free of cost use of US telecommunication systems and using all necessary radio spectrum. The final demand is the most dangerous and is linked to the demand for non-applicability of Pakistani law for US personnel. Demand number eleven is for a waiver of all claims to damage to loss or destruction of others’ property, or death to personnel or armed forces or civilians. The US has tried to be smart by not using the word “other” for death but, given the context, clearly it implies that US personnel can maim and kill Pakistanis and destroy our infrastructure and weaponry with impunity.

Effectively, if accepted, these demands would give the US personnel complete freedom to do as they please in Pakistan – in fact, they would take control of events in areas of their interest.

It is no wonder then that Pakistan’s Defence Ministry, the Foreign Office and the Law Ministry have reacted with complete rejection. But, as one official source feared, “This is just the opening salvo of demands and the US can be expected to bargain in order to seek the most critical of these demands.”

As he put it, “Any hesitation or weakness that the US senses on part of Pakistan will put us on a fatal slippery slope to total submission. This would result in increasing instability in the country.”

So, for those who feel there is bonhomie and complete understanding between the Pakistan military and the US military, and the trouble only exists at the political level, it is time to do a serious rethink. The first step in dealing rationally with our indigenous terrorist problem holistically and credibly is to create space between ourselves and the US. As the US adage goes: “There is no free lunch”. For Pakistan lunching with the US has become unacceptably costly. When US embassy in Islamabad was approached for reaction to this report, Elizabeth Colton, US Embassy Spokesperson, said, “We will not dignify this attack with a comment.”

http://www.thenews.com.pk/top_story_detail.asp?Id=13430