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…..

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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

Tyrant’s party eats the dust – a resounding defeat!

In what political pundits can term as pure revolutionary, the people of Pakistan have rejected the King’s party across the country with important puppet leaders ending up licking their wounds and some trying to flee to hypocritic West.

Even the threat of violence did not stop people show their full and total rejection of the despicable tyranny that ruled? this nation.

The demand to reinstate the nation’s independent judiciary is louder than ever!  The demand that the nation’s servants go back to serve it … not rules it!

So here goes the prediction!…

PML-Q or the King’s party is wiped out off history…….. full stop!

Punjab: PML-N i.e. Nawaz Sharif’s (the ex-Prime Minister who was shown the exit door by the will of might rather than the will of vote) party wins the largest province and takes the provincial assembly

Sind: PPP i.e. Benazir Bhutto’s party (Late ex-Prime Minister) wins most seats and forms majority

NWFP: ANP i.e. the socialist party rules the day and will probably form the government

Baluchistan: The only province in the country where the turnout was so low that the will of the people could not prevail (they really did not accept the farce elections under Tyranny) hence the King’s party PML-Q may take the majority with their ghost voters.

And what about the big prize… The National Assembly (Parliament)

The trend shows King’s party is almost wiped out to oblivion. PPP (Benazir’s party) and PML-N (Nawaz Sharif’s party) will split the vote and probably will be in a position to form a coalition government. There is also a possibility that alongwith ANP they’d take 2/3rd majority  ……… enough to impeach the Tyrant.

Letter from Pakistan’s Dejure Chief Justice

AN OPEN LETTER TO:

His Excellency The President of the European Parliament, Brussels.

His Excellency The President of France, Paris.

His Excellency The Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, London.

Her Excellency Ms. Condoleeza Rice, Secretary of State, United States of America, Washington D.C.

Professor Klaus Schwab, World Economic Forum, Geneva.

All through their respective Ambassadors, High Commissioners and representatives.

Excellency,

I am the Chief Justice of Pakistan presently detained in my residence since November 3, 2007 pursuant to some verbal, and unspecified, order passed by General Musharraf.

I have found it necessary to write to you, and others, because during his recent visits to Brussels, Paris, Davos and London General Musharraf has slandered me, and my colleagues, with impunity in press conferences and other addresses and meetings. In addition he has widely distributed, among those whom he has met, a slanderous document (hereinafter the Document) entitled: “PROFILE OF THE FORMER CHIEF JUSTICE OF PAKISTAN”. I might have let this go unresponded but the Document, unfortunately, is such an outrage that, with respect, it is surprising that a person claiming to be head of state should fall to such depths as to circulate such calumny against the Chief Justice of his own country.

In view of these circumstances I have no option but to join issue with General Musharraf and to put the record straight. Since he has voiced his views on several public occasions so as to reach out to the public at large, I also am constrained to address your excellencies in an Open Letter to rebut the allegations against me.

At the outset you may be wondering why I have used the words “claiming to be the head of state”. That is quite deliberate. General Musharraf’s constitutional term ended on November 15, 2007. His claim to a further term thereafter is the subject of active controversy before the Supreme Court of Pakistan. It was while this claim was under adjudication before a Bench of eleven learned judges of the Supreme Court that the General arrested a majority of those judges in addition to me on November 3, 2007. He thus himself subverted the judicial process which remains frozen at that point. Besides arresting the Chief Justice and judges (can there have been a greater outrage?) he also purported to suspend the Constitution and to purge the entire judiciary (even the High Courts) of all independent judges. Now only his hand-picked and compliant judges remain willing to “validate” whatever he demands. And all this is also contrary to an express and earlier order passed by the Supreme Court on November 3, 2007.

Meantime I and my colleagues remain in illegal detention. With me are also detained my wife and three of my young children, all school-going and one a special child. Such are the conditions of our detention that we cannot even step out on to the lawn for the winter sun because that space is occupied by police pickets. Barbed wire barricades surround the residence and all phone lines are cut. Even the water connection to my residence has been periodically turned off. I am being persuaded to resign and to forego my office, which is what I am not prepared to do.

I request you to seek first hand information of the barricades and of my detention, as that of my children, from your Ambassador/High Commissioner/representative in Pakistan. You will get a report of such circumstances as have never prevailed even in medieval times. And these are conditions put in place, in the twenty-first century, by a Government that you support.

Needless to say that the Constitution of Pakistan contains no provision for its suspension, and certainly not by the Chief of Army Staff. Nor can it be amended except in accordance with Articles 238 and 239 which is by Parliament and not an executive or military order. As such all actions taken by General Musharraf on and after November 3 are illegal and ultra vires the Constitution. That is why it is no illusion when I describe myself as the Chief Justice even though I am physically and forcibly incapacitated by the state apparatus under the command of the General. I am confident that as a consequence of the brave and unrelenting struggle continued by the lawyers and the civil society, the Constitution will prevail.

However, in the meantime, General Musharraf has launched upon a vigorous initiative to defame and slander me. Failing to obtain my willing abdication he has become desperate. The eight-page Document is the latest in this feverish drive.

Before I take up the Document itself let me recall that the General first ousted me from the Supreme Court on March 9 last year while filing an indictment (in the form of a Reference under Article 209 of the Constitution) against me. According to the General the Reference had been prepared after a thorough investigation and comprehensively contained all the charges against me. I had challenged that Reference and my ouster before the Supreme Court. On July 20 a thirteen member Bench unanimously struck down the action of the General as illegal and unconstitutional. I was honourably reinstated.

The Reference was thus wholly shattered and all the charges contained therein trashed. These cannot now be regurgitated except in contempt of the Supreme Court. Any way, since the Document has been circulated by no less a person than him I am constrained to submit the following for your kind consideration in rebuttal thereof:

The Document is divided into several heads but the allegations contained in it can essentially be divided into two categories: those allegations that were contained in the Reference and those that were not.

Quite obviously, those that are a repeat from the Reference hold no water as these have already been held by the Supreme Court to not be worth the ink they were written in. In fact, the Supreme Court found that the evidence submitted against me by the Government was so obviously fabricated and incorrect, that the bench took the unprecedented step of fining the Government Rs. 100,000 (a relatively small amount in dollar terms, but an unheard of sum with respect to Court Sanction in Pakistan) for filing clearly false and malicious documents, as well as revoking the license to practice of the Advocate on Record for filing false documents. Indeed, faced with the prospect of having filed clearly falsified documents against me, the Government’s attorneys, including the Attorney General, took a most dishonorable but telling approach. Each one, in turn, stood before the Supreme Court and disowned the Government’s Reference, and stated they had not reviewed the evidence against me before filing it with Court. They then filed a formal request to the Court to withdraw the purported evidence, and tendered an unconditional apology for filing such a scandalous and false documents. So baseless and egregious were the claims made by General Musharraf that on July 20th, 2007, the full Supreme Court for the first time in Pakistan’s history, ruled unanimously against a sitting military ruler and reinstated me honorably to my post.

Despite having faced these charges in open court, must I now be slandered with those same charges by General Musharraf in world capitals, while I remain a prisoner and unable to speak in my defense?

There are, of course, a second set of charges. These were not contained in the Reference and are now being bandied around by the General at every opportunity.

I forcefully and vigorously deny every single one of them. The truth of these “new” allegations can be judged from the fact that they all ostensibly date to the period before the reference was filed against me last March, yet none of them was listed in the already bogus charge sheet.

If there were any truth to these manufactured charges, the Government should have included them in the reference against me. God knows they threw in everything including the kitchen sink into that scurrilous 450 page document, only to have it thrown out by the entire Supreme Court after a 3 month open trial.

The charges against me are so transparently baseless that General Musharraf’s regime has banned the discussion of my situation and the charges in the broadcast media. This is because the ridiculous and flimsy nature of the charges is self-evident whenever an opportunity is provided to actually refute them.

Instead, the General only likes to recite his libel list from a rostrum or in gathering where there is no opportunity for anyone to respond. Incidentally, the General maligns me in the worst possible way at every opportunity. That is the basis for the Document he has distributed. But he has not just deposed me from the Judiciary. He has also fired more than half of the Superior Judiciary of Pakistan – nearly 50 judges in all — together with me. They have also been arrested and detained.

What are the charges against them? Why should they be fired and arrested if I am the corrupt judge? Moreover even my attorneys Aitzaz Ahsan, Munir Malik, Tariq Mahmood and Ali Ahmed Kurd were also arrested on November 3. Malik alone has been released but only because both his kidneys collapsed as a result of prison torture.

Finally, as to the Document, it also contains some further allegations described as “Post-Reference Conduct” that is attributed to me under various heads. This would mean only those allegedly ‘illegal’ actions claimed to have been taken by me after March 9, 2007. These are under the heads given below and replied to as under:

1. “Participation in SJC (Supreme Judicial Council) Proceedings”:

(a) Retaining ‘political lawyers’: Aitzaz Ahsan and Zammurrad Khan:

It is alleged that I gave a political colour to my defence by engaging political lawyers Aitzaz Ahsan and Zamurrad Khan both Pakistan Peoples’ Party Members of the National Assembly. The answer is simple.

I sought to engage the best legal team in the country. Mr. Ahsan is of course an MNA (MP), but he is also the top lawyer in Pakistan. For that reference may be made simply to the ranking of Chambers and Partners Global. Such is his respect in Pakistan’s legal landscape that he was elected President of the Supreme Court Bar Association of Pakistan by one of the widest margins in the Association’s history.

All high profile personalities have placed their trust in his talents. He has thus been the attorney for Prime Ministers Bhutto and Sharif, (even though he was an opponent of the latter) Presidential candidate (against Musharraf) Justice Wajihuddin, sports star and politician Imran Khan, former Speakers, Ministers, Governors, victims of political vendetta, and also the internationally acclaimed gang-rape victim Mukhtar Mai, to mention only a few.

Equally important, Barrister Ahsan is a man of integrity who is known to withstand all pressures and enticements. That is a crucial factor in enaging an attorney when one’s prosecutor is the sitting military ruler, with enourmous monetary and coercive resources at his disposal.

Mr. Zamurrad Khan is also a recognized professional lawyer, a former Secretary of the District Bar Rawalpindi, and was retained by Mr. Aitzaz Ahsan to assist him in the case. Mr. Khan has been a leading light of the Lawyers’ Movement for the restoration of the deposed judiciary and has bravely faced all threats and vilification.

Finally, surely I am entitled to my choice of lawyers and not that of the General.

(b) “Riding in Mr. Zafarullah Jamali (former Prime Minister)’s car”:

How much the Document tries to deceive is apparent from the allegation that I willingly rode in Mr. Jamali’s car for the first hearing of the case against me on March 13 (as if that alone is an offence). Actually the Government should have been ashamed of itself for creating the circumstances that forced me to take that ride.

Having been stripped of official transport on the 9th March (my vehicles were removed from my house by the use of fork lifters), I decided to walk the one-mile to the Supreme Court. Along the way I was molested and manhandled, my hair was pulled and neck craned in the full blaze of the media, by a posse of policemen under the supervision of the Inspector General of Police. (A judicial inquiry, while I was still deposed, established this fact). In order to escape the physical assault I took refuge with Mr. Jamali and went the rest of the journey on his car. Instead of taking action against the police officials for manhandling the Chief Justice it is complained that I was on the wrong!

(c) “Creating a political atmosphere”:

Never did I instigate or invite any “political atmosphere”. I never addressed the press or any political rally. I kept my lips sealed even under extreme provocation from the General and his ministers who were reviling me on a daily basis. I maintained a strict judicial silence. I petitioned the Supreme Court and won. That was my vindication.

2. “Country wide touring and Politicising the Issue”:

The Constitution guarantees to all citizens free movement throughout Pakistan. How can this then be a complaint?

By orders dated March 9 and 15 (both of which were found to be without lawful authority by the Court) I had been sent of “forced leave”. I could neither perform any judicial or administrative functions as the Chief Justice of Pakistan. I was prevented not only from sitting in court but also from access to my own chamber by the force of arms under orders of the General. (All my papers were removed, even private documents).

The only function as ‘a judge on forced leave’ that I could perform was to address and deliver lectures to various Bar Associations. I accepted their invitations. They are peppered all over Pakistan. I had to drive to these towns as all these are not linked by air. On the way the people of Pakistan did, indeed, turn out in their millions, often waiting from dawn to dusk or from dusk to dawn, to greet me. But I never addressed them even when they insisted that I do. I never spoke to the press. I sat quietly in my vehicle without uttering a word. All this is on the record as most journeys were covered by the media live and throughout.

I spoke only to deliver lectures on professional and constitutional issues to the Bar Associations. Transcripts of every single one of my addresses are available. Every single word uttered by me in those addresses conforms to the stature, conduct and non-political nature of the office of the Chief Justice. There was no politics in these whatsoever. I did not even mention my present status or the controversy or the proceedings before the Council or the Court, not even the Reference. Not even once.

All the persons named in the Document under this head are lawyers and were members of the reception committees in various towns and Bar Associations.

3. Political Leaders Calling on CJP residence:

It is alleged that I received political leaders while I was deposed. It is on the record of the Supreme Judicial Council itself that I was detained after being deposed on March 9. The only persons allowed to meet me were those cleared by the Government. One was a senior political leader. None else was allowed to see me, initially not even my lawyers. How can I be blamed for whomsoever comes to my residence?

Had I wanted to politicize the issue I would have gone to the Press or invited the media. I did not. I had recourse to the judicial process for my reinstatement and won. The General lost miserably in a fair and straight contest. That is my only fault.

4. “Conclusion”:

Hence the conclusion drawn by the General that charges had been proved against me ‘beyond doubt’ is absolutely contrary to the facts and wide off the mark. It is a self-serving justification of the eminently illegal action of firing and arresting judges of superior courts under the garb of an Emergency (read Martial Law) when the Constitution was ‘suspended’ and then ‘restored’ later with drastic and illegal ‘amendments’ grafted into it.

The Constitution cannot be amended except by the two Houses of Parliament and by a two-thirds majority in each House. That is the letter of the law. How can one man presume or arrogate to himself that power?

Unfortunately the General is grievously economical with the truth (I refrain from using the word ‘lies’) when he says that the charges against me were ‘investigated and verified beyond doubt’. As explained above, these had in fact been rubbished by the Full Court Bench of the Supreme Court of Pakistan against which judgment the government filed no application for review.

What the General has done has serious implications for Pakistan and the world. In squashing the judiciary for his own personal advantage and nothing else he has usurped the space of civil and civilized society. If civilized norms of justice will not be allowed to operate then that space will, inevitably, be occupied by those who believe in more brutal and instant justice: the extremists in the wings. Those are the very elements the world seems to be pitted against. Those are the very elements the actions of the General are making way for.

Some western governments are emphasizing the unfolding of the democratic process in Pakistan. That is welcome, if it will be fair. But, and in any case, can there be democracy if there is no independent judiciary?

Remember, independent judges and judicial processes preceded full franchise by several hundred years. Moreover, which judge in Pakistan today can be independent who has before his eyes the fate and example of his own Chief Justice: detained for three months along with his young children. What is the children’s crime, after all?

There can be no democracy without an independent judiciary, and there can be no independent judge in Pakistan until the action of November 3 is reversed. Whatever the will of some desperate men the struggle of the valiant lawyers and civil society of Pakistan will bear fruit. They are not giving up. Let me also assure you that I would not have written this letter without the General’s unbecoming onslaught. That has compelled me to clarify although, as my past will testify, I am not given into entering into public, even private, disputes. But the allegations against me have been so wild, so wrong and so contrary to judicial record, that I have been left with no option but to put the record straight. After all, a prisoner must also have his say. And if the General’s hand-picked judges, some living next door to my prison home, have not had the courage to invoke the power of ‘habeas corpus’ these last three months, what other option do I have? Many leaders of the world and the media may choose to brush the situation under the carpet out of love of the General. But that will not be.

Nevertheless, let me also reassure you that I continue in my resolve not to preside any Bench which will be seized of matters pertaining to the personal interests of General Musharraf after the restoration of the Constitution and the judges, which, God willing, will be soon. Finally, I leave you with the question: Is there a precedent in history, all history, of 60 judges, including three Chief Justices (of the Supreme Court and two of Pakistan’s four High Courts), being dismissed, arrested and detained at the whim of one man? I have failed to discover any such even in medieval times under any emperor, king, or sultan, or even when a dictator has had full military sway over any country in more recent times. But this incredible outrage has happened in the 21st century at the hands of an extremist General out on a ‘charm offensive’ of western capitals and one whom the west supports.

I am grateful for your attention. I have no other purpose than to clear my name and to save the country (and perhaps others as well) from the calamity that stares us in the face. We can still rescue it from all kinds of extremism: praetorian and dogmatic. After all, the edifice of an independent judicial system alone stands on the middle ground between these two extremes. If the edifice is destroyed by the one, the ground may be taken over by the other. That is what is happening in Pakistan. Practitioners of rough and brutal justice will be welcomed in spaces from where the practitioners of more refined norms of justice and balance have been made to abdicate.

I have enormous faith that the Constitution and justice will soon prevail.

Yours truly,

Iftikhar Mohammad Choudhry, Chief Justice of Pakistan, Presently: imprisoned in the Chief Justice’s House, Islamabad.

Sad Day for Pakistan!!!

Former Prime Minister, Benazir Bhutto was killed in an attack on December 27, 2007. Whether we agreed with her way of politics or not, it was a truly sad day for democracy in the country as the powers of obscurantism and dictatorship have got a new lease of life.

May she rest in peace.

Someone has written an interesting piece on her life which is reproduced below:

Benazir Bhutto (1953–2007)

Benazir Bhutto excelled at asserting her right to rule. In a male-dominated, Islamic society, she rose to become her slain father’s political successor, twice getting elected as Prime Minister of Pakistan. She would also be exiled twice. In the end, Bhutto was better at rallying people to the idea of her power than at keeping them inspired by her use of it.

She was a child of privilege, and took the mantle of power from her father Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, the fiery and magnetic founder of the Pakistan People’s Party, who himself would become a martyr for democracy when he was executed in 1979 by the military dictatorship of General Zia ul Haq. She inherited her bearing and physical presence from her mother Nusrat Ispahan, from a distinguished Kurdish family from Iran. Educated at Radcliffe and Harvard, she would also study law at Oxford. Her family and close Western friends knew her as “Pinky.”

As a Muslim woman leader, Bhutto was almost an iconic figure in the West. But her actual career in office was one of great populist spectacles and little governmental achievement. It was a personna she parlayed. “I am not one of those leaders who sell lies and buy time,” she told TIME in the mid-1990s. “No leader, no dictator could do what I have done.”

However, in the final analysis, her career was an almost tawdry cycle of exile, house arrest, ascent into power and dismissal, much sound and fury and signifying little. Jailed and then exiled after her father’s fall, Bhutto returned to campaign for office in 1986 after Zia’s military government gave in to international pressure to slowly restore democracy. (Despite his dictatorship, Zia was a key ally of the West, supporting the Mujaheddin against the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan.) In a scene reminiscent of her second coming in October 2007, she was greeted in April 1986 by hundreds of thousands of frenzied supporters, who enveloped her motorcade and staged a daylong demonstration that was the largest display in memory of discontent with Zia’s government. “Zia is a dog,” chanted the demonstrators again and again. “We love Benazir.”

Zia’s death in a plane crash in August 1988 helped to further loosen the military strictures around the country, and Bhutto became Prime Minister by December of that year. As a ruler, Bhutto got few favorable reviews in Pakistan. Her government passed no legislation except a budget during its first 14 months in power. Much of its energy was squandered feuding with the opposition. Among the first acts of Bhutto’s party after coming to power was a campaign to bribe and threaten legislators in Punjab. The goal: to overthrow Bhutto’s nemesis, Mian Nawaz Sharif, Punjab’s chief minister, a wealthy industrialist and a close associate of Zia’s. Worse yet, her Cabinet stank with corruption scandals, including allegations against her husband Asif Ali Zardari and her father-in-law Hakim Ali Zardari, who was chairman of the parliamentary public-accounts committee. With so much fractiousness and scandal, Bhutto’s first government lasted only until August 1990, dismissed by the country’s President for “horse-trading for personal gain.” Soon after, in November 1990, Nawaz Sharif, campaigning on an anti-corruption platform, became Prime Minister.

Bhutto returned to power in 1993, after Sharif was felled by his own corruption scandal. “This is my victory. It is a clear and decisive victory,” she declared after a bitter name-calling campaign between herself and Sharif. But despite her claims, she did not have a working majority in parliament and had to wobble through her next few years in office as head of a fractious coalition, beholden to contentious blocs of power. At the same time, Pakistan owed huge amounts to the International Monetary Fund as part of servicing its enormous $28.6 billion in foreign debts. Bhutto had raised taxes, which raised the level of discontent in the country. But even so, her government did not collect enough revenue. In an effort to appease the IMF, Bhutto gave up the finance portfolio she had held since retaking the government. “The debt servicing is breaking our backs — debt that I didn’t incur,” she told TIME. “But as Prime Minister, I have to pay it back.” Rumors soon spread that her government would be dismissed. “Rubbish,” she said. But that is exactly what happened. Soon, Nawaz Sharif was Prime Minister again.

Sharif himself would be overthrown in a coup by General Pervez Musharraf in 1999. Musharraf would become an indispensable ally of the U.S. after Sept. 11, 2001, when he became the guarantor of the stability of nuclear-armed Pakistan against the tide of Islamic radicalism.

And that is where Bhutto’s final chapter picks up — as the popularity of the Musharraf regime collapses and the world looks warily at the future of Pakistan and the threat of radicalism. In exile once again and with corruption charges against her, Bhutto struck a deal with Musharraf, who was under pressure to restore democracy. Washington smiled on it and Bhutto, now anointed as the West’s favorite to restore democratic credibility to a moderate Pakistani government, returned to retake what she always believed was hers. Thousands showed up to welcome her and more than 100 died when that welcome-back parade was attacked by still unknown bombers. The last quarter of 2007 was filled with political maneuverings between herself, Musharraf and Nawaz Sharif, who had also returned from exile. After one more stint under house arrest while Musharraf imposed a brief emergency rule, she seemed set for another triumph at the polls. But in the end, the violent cycle of Pakistani politics claimed another victim. And once and for all, Benazir Bhutto will rally people to her cause without being able to deliver on its promise.

http://www.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,1698498,00.html

The Plan To Topple Pakistan Military

In the interest of a balanced view (which I am afraid to say is not very tenable in these circumstances) … I have decided to replicate an article… read and form your own opinion.

 Editor’s Note:  See Steve Schippert’s comments to this entry

The Plan To Topple Pakistan Military

By Ahmed Quraishi

This is not about Musharraf anymore. This is about clipping the wings of a strong Pakistani military, denying space for China in Pakistan, squashing the ISI, stirring ethnic unrest, and neutralizing Pakistan’s nuclear program. The first shot in this plan was fired in Pakistan’s Balochistan province in 2004. The last bullet will be toppling Musharraf, sidelining the military and installing a pliant government in Islamabad. Musharraf shares the blame for letting things come this far. But he is also punching holes in Washington’s game plan. He needs to be supported.

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan—On the evening of Tuesday, 26 September, 2006, Pakistani strongman Pervez Musharraf walked into the studio of Comedy Central’s ‘Daily Show’ with Jon Stewart, the first sitting president anywhere to dare do this political satire show.

Stewart offered his guest some tea and cookies and played the perfect host by asking, “Is it good?” before springing a surprise: “Where’s Osama bin Laden?”

“I don’t know,” Musharraf replied, as the audience enjoyed the rare sight of a strong leader apparently cornered. “You know where he is?” Musharraf snapped back, “You lead on, we’ll follow you.”

What Gen. Musharraf didn’t know then is that he really was being cornered. Some of the smiles that greeted him in Washington and back home gave no hint of the betrayal that awaited him.

 As he completed the remaining part of his U.S. visit, his allies in Washington and elsewhere, as all evidence suggests now, were plotting his downfall. They had decided to take a page from the book of successful ‘color revolutions’ where western governments covertly used money, private media, student unions, NGOs and international pressure to stage coups, basically overthrowing individuals not fitting well with Washington’s agenda. 

This recipe proved its success in former Yugoslavia, and more recently in Georgia, Ukraine and Kazakhstan.

 In Pakistan, the target is a Pakistani president who refuses to play ball with the United States on Afghanistan, China, and Dr. A.Q. Khan. To get rid of him, an impressive operation is underway: 

* A carefully crafted media blitzkrieg launched early this year assailing the Pakistani president from all sides, questioning his power, his role in Washington’s war on terror and predicting his downfall.

* Money pumped into the country to pay for organized dissent.

* Willing activists assigned to mobilize and organize accessible social groups.

* A campaign waged on Internet where tens of mailing lists and ‘news agencies’ have sprung up from nowhere, all demonizing Musharraf and the Pakistani military.

* European- and American-funded Pakistani NGOs taking a temporary leave from their real jobs to work as a makeshift anti-government mobilization machine.

* U.S. government agencies directly funding some private Pakistani television networks; the channels go into an open anti-government mode, cashing in on some manufactured and other real public grievances regarding inflation and corruption.

* Some of Musharraf’s shady and corrupt political allies feed this campaign, hoping to stay in power under a weakened president.

* All this groundwork completed and chips in place when the judicial crisis breaks out in March 2007. Even Pakistani politicians surprised at a well-greased and well-organized lawyers campaign, complete with flyers, rented cars and buses, excellent event-management and media outreach.

* Currently, students are being recruited and organized into a street movement. The work is ongoing and urban Pakistani students are being cultivated, especially using popular Internet Web sites and ‘online hangouts’. The people behind this effort are mostly unknown and faceless, limiting themselves to organizing sporadic, small student gatherings in Lahore and Islamabad, complete with banners, placards and little babies with arm bands for maximum media effect. No major student association has announced yet that it is behind these student protests, which is a very interesting fact glossed over by most journalists covering this story. Only a few students from affluent schools have responded so far and it’s not because the Pakistani government’s countermeasures are effective. They’re not. The reason is that social activism attracts people from affluent backgrounds, closely reflecting a uniquely Pakistani phenomenon where local NGOs are mostly founded and run by rich, westernized Pakistanis.

All of this may appear to be spur-of-the-moment and Musharraf-specific. But it all really began almost three years ago, when, out of the blue and recycling old political arguments, Mr. Akbar Bugti launched an armed rebellion against the Pakistani state, surprising security analysts by using rockets and other military equipment that shouldn’t normally be available to a smalltime village thug. Since then, Islamabad sits on a pile of evidence that links Mr. Bugti’s campaign to money and ammunition and logistical support from Afghanistan, directly aided by the Indians and the Karzai administration, with the Americans turning a blind eye.

For reasons not clear to our analysts yet, Islamabad has kept quiet on Washington’s involvement with anti-Pakistan elements in Afghanistan. But Pakistan did send an indirect public message to the Americans recently.

“We have indications of Indian involvement with anti-state elements in Pakistan,” declared the spokesman of the Pakistan Foreign Office in a regular briefing in October. The statement was terse and direct and the spokesman, Ms. Tasnim Aslam, quickly moved on to other issues.

This is how a Pakistani official explained Ms. Aslam’s statement: “What she was really saying is this: We know what the Indians are doing. They’ve sold the Americans on the idea that [the Indians] are an authority on Pakistan and can be helpful in Afghanistan. The Americans have bought the idea and are in on the plan, giving the Indians a free hand in Afghanistan. What the Americans don’t know is that we, too, know the Indians very well. Better still, we know Afghanistan very well. You can’t beat us at our own game.”

Mr. Bugti’s armed rebellion coincided with the Gwadar project entering its final stages. No coincidence here. Mr. Bugti’s real job was to scare the Chinese away and scuttle Chinese President Hu Jintao’s planned visit to Gwadar a few months later to formally launch the port city.

Gwadar is the pinnacle of Sino-Pakistani strategic cooperation. It’s a modern port city that is supposed to link Central Asia, western China, and Pakistan with markets in Mideast and Africa. It’s supposed to have roads stretching all the way to China. It’s no coincidence either that China has also earmarked millions of dollars to renovate the Karakoram Highway linking northern Pakistan to western China.

Some reports in the American media, however, have accused Pakistan and China of building a naval base in the guise of a commercial seaport directly overlooking international oil shipping lanes. The Indians and some other regional actors are also not comfortable with this project because they see it as commercial competition.

What Mr. Bugti’s regional and international supporters never expected is Pakistan moving firmly and strongly to nip his rebellion in the bud. Even Mr. Bugti himself probably never expected the Pakistani state to react in the way it did to his betrayal of the homeland. He was killed in a military operation where scores of his mercenaries surrendered to Pakistan army soldiers.

U.S. intelligence and their Indian advisors could not cultivate an immediate replacement for Mr. Bugti. So they moved to Plan B. They supported Abdullah Mehsud, a Pakistani Taliban fighter held for five years in Guantanamo Bay, and then handed over back to the Afghan government, only to return to his homeland, Pakistan, to kidnap two Chinese engineers working in Balochistan, one of whom was eventually killed during a rescue operation by the Pakistani government.

Islamabad could not tolerate this shadowy figure, who was creating a following among ordinary Pakistanis masquerading as a Taliban while in reality towing a vague agenda. He was rightly eliminated earlier this year by Pakistani security forces while secretly returning from Afghanistan after meeting his handlers there. Again, no surprises here.

SMELLING A RAT

This is where Pakistani political and military officials finally started smelling a rat. All of this was an indication of a bigger problem. There were growing indications that, ever since Islamabad joined Washington’s regional plans, Pakistan was gradually turning into a ‘besieged-nation’, heavily targeted by the American media while being subjected to strategic sabotage and espionage from Afghanistan.

Afghanistan, under America’s watch, has turned into a vast staging ground for sophisticated psychological and military operations to destabilize neighboring Pakistan.

During the past three years, the heat has gradually been turned up against Pakistan and its military along Pakistan’s western regions:

* A shadowy group called the BLA, a Cold War relic, rose from the dead to restart a separatist war in southwestern Pakistan.

* Bugti’s death was a blow to neo-BLA, but the shadowy group’s backers didn’t repent. His grandson, Brahmdagh Bugti, is currently enjoying a safe shelter in the Afghan capital, Kabul, where he continues to operate and remote-control his assets in Pakistan.

* Saboteurs trained in Afghanistan have been inserted into Pakistan to aggravate extremist passions here, especially after the Red Mosque operation.

* Chinese citizens continue to be targeted by individuals pretending to be Islamists, when no known Islamic group has claimed responsibility.

* A succession of ‘religious rebels’ with suspicious foreign links have suddenly emerged in Pakistan over the past months claiming to be ‘Pakistani Taliban’. Some of the names include Abdul Rashid Ghazi, Baitullah Mehsud, and now the Maulana of Swat. Some of them have used and are using encrypted communication equipment far superior to what Pakistani military owns.

* Money and weapons have been fed into the religious movements and al Qaeda remnants in the tribal areas.

Exploiting the situation, assets within the Pakistani media started promoting the idea that the Pakistani military was killing its own people. The rest of the unsuspecting media quickly picked up this message. Some botched American and Pakistani military operations against Al Qaeda that caused civilian deaths accidentally fed this media campaign.

This was the perfect timing for the launch of Military, Inc.: Inside Pakistan’s Military Economy, a book authored by Dr. Ayesha Siddiqa Agha, a columnist for a Pakistani English-language paper and a correspondent for ‘Jane’s Defense Weekly’, a private intelligence service founded by experts close to the British intelligence.

TARGET: PAK MILITARY

The book was launched in Pakistan in early 2007 by Oxford Press. And, contrary to most reports, it is openly available in Islamabad’s biggest bookshops. The book portrays the Pakistani military as an institution that is eating up whatever little resources Pakistan has.

Pakistani military’s successful financial management, creating alternate financial sources to spend on a vast military machine and build a conventional and nuclear near-match with a neighboring adversary five times larger – an impressive record for any nation by any standard – was distorted in the book and reduced to a mere attempt by the military to control the nation’s economy in the same way it was controlling its politics.

The timing was interesting. After all, it was hard to defend a military in the eyes of its own proud people when the chief of the military is ruling the country, the army is fighting insurgents and extremists who claim to be defending Islam, grumpy politicians are out of business, and the military’s side businesses, meant to feed the nation’s military machine, are doing well compared to the shabby state of the nation’s civilian departments.

A closer look at Ms. Siddiqa, the author, revealed disturbing information to Pakistani officials. In the months before launching her book, she was a frequent visitor to India where, as a defense expert, she cultivated important contacts. On her return, she developed friendship with an Indian lady diplomat posted in Islamabad. Both of these activities – travel to India and ties to Indian diplomats – are not a crime in Pakistan and don’t raise interest anymore. Pakistanis are hospitable and friendly people and these qualities have been amply displayed to the Indians during the four-year-old peace process.

What is interesting is that Ms. Siddiqa left her car in the house of the said Indian diplomat during one of her recent trips to London. And, according to a report, she stayed in London at a place owned by an individual linked to the Indian lady diplomat friend in Islamabad.

The point here is this: Who assigned her to investigate the Pakistani Armed Forces and present a distorted image of a proud an efficient Pakistani institution?

From 1988 to 2001, Dr. Siddiqa worked in the Pakistan civil service, the Pakistani civil bureaucracy. Her responsibilities included dealing with Military Accounts, which come under the Pakistan Ministry of Defense. She had thirteen years of rich experience in dealing with the budgetary matters of the Pakistani military and people working in this area.

Dr. Siddiqa received a year-long fellowship to research and write a book in the United States. There are strong indications that some of her Indian contacts played a role in arranging financing for her book project through a paid fellowship. The final manuscript of her book was vetted at a publishing office in New Delhi.

All of these details are insignificant if detached from the real issue at hand. And the issue is the demonization of the Pakistani military as an integral part of the media siege around Pakistan, with the American media leading the way in this campaign.

Some of the juicy details of this campaign include:

* The attempt by Dr. Siddiqa to pitch junior officers against senior officers in Pakistan Armed Forces by alleging discrimination in the distribution of benefits. Apart from being malicious and unfounded, her argument was carefully designed to generate frustration and demoralize Pakistani soldiers.

* The American media insisting on handing over Dr. A. Q. Khan to the United States so that a final conviction against the Pakistani military can be secured.

* Mrs. Benazir Bhutto demanding after returning to Pakistan that the ISI be restructured; and in a press conference during her house arrest in Lahore in November she went as far as asking Pakistan army officers to revolt against the army chief, a damning attempt at destroying a professional army from within.

Some of this appears to be eerily similar to the campaign waged against the Pakistani military in 1999, when, in July that year, an unsigned full page advertisement appeared in major American newspapers with the following headline: “A Modern Rogue Army With Its Finger On The Nuclear Button.”

Till this day, it is not clear who exactly paid for such an expensive newspaper full-page advertisement. But one thing is clear: the agenda behind that advertisement is back in action.

Strangely, just a few days before Mrs. Bhutto’s statements about restructuring the ISI and her open call to army officers to stage a mutiny against their leadership, the American conservative magazine The Weekly Standard interviewed an American security expert who offered similar ideas:

“A large number of ISI agents who are responsible for helping the Taliban and al Qaeda should be thrown in jail or killed. What I think we should do in Pakistan is a parallel version of what Iran has run against us in Iraq: giving money [and] empowering actors. Some of this will involve working with some shady characters, but the alternative—sending U.S. forces into Pakistan for a sustained bombing campaign—is worse.” Steve Schippert, Weekly Standard, Nov. 2007.

In addition to these media attacks, which security experts call ‘psychological operations’, the American media and politicians have intensified over the past year their campaign to prepare the international public opinion to accept a western intervention in Pakistan along the lines of Iraq and Afghanistan:

* Newsweek came up with an entire cover story with a single storyline: Pakistan is a more dangerous place than Iraq.

* Senior American politicians, Republican and Democrat, have argued that Pakistan is more dangerous than Iran and merits similar treatment. On 20 October, senator Joe Biden told ABC News that Washington needs to put soldiers on the ground in Pakistan and invite the international community to join in. “We should be in there,” he said. “We should be supplying tens of millions of dollars to build new schools to compete with the madrassas. We should be in there building democratic institutions. We should be in there, and get the rest of the world in there, giving some structure to the emergence of, hopefully, the reemergence of a democratic process.”

* The International Crisis Group (ICG) has recommended gradual sanctions on Pakistan similar to those imposed on Iran, e.g. slapping travel bans on Pakistani military officers and seizing Pakistani military assets abroad.

* The process of painting Pakistan’s nuclear assets as pure evil lying around waiting for some do-gooder to come in and ‘secure’ them has reached unprecedented levels, with the U.S. media again depicting Pakistan as a nation incapable of protecting its nuclear installations. On 22 October, Jane Harman from the U.S. House Intelligence panel gave the following statement: “I think the U.S. would be wise – and I trust we are doing this – to have contingency plans [to seize Pakistan’s nuclear assets], especially because should [Musharraf] fall, there are nuclear weapons there.”

* The American media has now begun discussing the possibility of Pakistan breaking up and the possibility of new states of ‘Balochistan’ and ‘Pashtunistan’ being carved out of it. Interestingly, one of the first acts of the shady Maulana of Swat after capturing a few towns was to take down the Pakistani flag from the top of state buildings and replacing them with his own party flag.

* The ‘chatter’ about President Musharraf’s eminent fall has also increased dramatically in the mainly American media, which has been very generous in marketing theories about how Musharraf might “disappear” or be “removed” from the scene. According to some Pakistani analysts, this could be an attempt to prepare the public opinion for a possible assassination of the Pakistani president.

* Another worrying thing is how American officials are publicly signaling to the Pakistanis that Mrs. Benazir Bhutto has their backing as the next leader of the country. Such signals from Washington are not only a kiss of death for any public leader in Pakistan, but the Americans also know that their actions are inviting potential assassins to target Mrs. Bhutto. If she is killed in this way, there won’t be enough time to find the real culprit, but what’s certain is that unprecedented international pressure will be placed on Islamabad while everyone will use their local assets to create maximum internal chaos in the country. A dress rehearsal of this scenario has already taken place in October when no less than the U.N. Security Council itself intervened to ask the international community to “assist” in the investigations into the assassination attempt on Mrs. Bhutto on 18 October. This generous move was sponsored by the U.S. and, interestingly, had no input from Pakistan which did not ask for help in investigations in the first place.

Some Pakistani security analysts privately say that American ‘chatter’ about Musharraf or Bhutto getting killed is a serious matter that can’t be easily dismissed. Getting Bhutto killed can generate the kind of pressure that could result in permanently putting the Pakistani military on a back foot, giving Washington enough room to push for installing a new pliant leadership in Islamabad.

Having Musharraf killed isn’t a bad option either. The unknown Islamists can always be blamed and the military will not be able to put another soldier at the top, and circumstances will be created to ensure that either Mrs. Bhutto or someone like her is eased into power.

The Americans are very serious this time. They cannot let Pakistan get out of their hands. They have been kicked out of Uzbekistan last year, where they were maintaining bases. They are in trouble in Afghanistan and Iraq. Iran continues to be a mess for them and Russia and China are not making it any easier. Pakistan must be ‘secured’ at all costs.

This is why most Pakistanis have never seen American diplomats in Pakistan active like this before. And it’s not just the current U.S. ambassador, who has added one more address to her other most-frequently-visited address in Karachi, Mrs. Bhutto’s house. The new address is the office of GEO, one of two news channels shut down by Islamabad for not signing the mandatory code-of-conduct. Thirty-eight other channels are operating and no one has censored the newspapers. But never mind this. The Americans have developed a ‘thing’ for GEO. No solace of course for ARY, the other banned channel.

Now there’s also one Bryan Hunt, the U.S. consul general in Lahore, who wears the national Pakistani dress, the long shirt and baggy trousers, and is moving around these days issuing tough warnings to Islamabad and to the Pakistani government and to President Musharraf to end emergency rule, resign as army chief and give Mrs. Bhutto access to power.

PAKISTAN’S OPTIONS

So what should Pakistan do in the face of such a structured campaign to bring Pakistan down on its knees and forcibly install a pro-Washington administration in Islamabad?

There is increasing talk in Islamabad these days about Pakistan’s new tough stand in the face of this malicious campaign.

As a starter, Islamabad blew the wind out of the visit of Mr. John Negroponte, the no. 2 man in the U.S. State Department, who came to Pakistan last week “to deliver a tough message” to the Pakistani president. Musharraf, to his credit, told him he won’t end emergency rule until all objectives are achieved.

These objectives include:

* Cleaning up our northern and western parts of the country of all foreign operatives and their domestic pawns.

* Ensuring that Washington’s plan for regime-change doesn’t succeed.

* Purging the Pakistani media of all those elements that were willing or unwilling accomplices in the plan to destabilize the country.

Musharraf has also told Washington publicly that “Pakistan is more important than democracy or the constitution.” This is a bold position. This kind of boldness would have served Musharraf a lot had it come a little earlier. But even now, his media management team is unable to make the most out of it.

Washington will not stand by watching as its plan for regime change in Islamabad goes down the drain. In case the Americans insist on interfering in Pakistani affairs, Islamabad, according to my sources, is looking at some tough measures:

* Cutting off oil supplies to U.S. military in Afghanistan. Pakistani officials are already enraged at how Afghanistan has turned into a staging ground for sabotage in Pakistan. If Islamabad continues to see Washington acting as a bully, Pakistani officials are seriously considering an announcement where Pakistan, for the first time since October 2001, will deny the United States use of Pakistani soil and air space to transport fuel to Afghanistan.

* Reviewing Pakistan’s role in the war on terror. Islamabad needs to fight terrorists on its border with Afghanistan. But our methods need to be different to Washington’s when it comes to our domestic extremists. This is where Islamabad parts ways with Washington. Pakistani officials are considering the option of withdrawing from the war on terror while maintaining Pakistan’s own war against the terrorists along Afghanistan’s border.

* Talks with the Taliban. Pakistan has no quarrel with Afghanistan’s Taliban. They are Kabul’s internal problem. But if reaching out to Afghan Taliban’s Mullah Omar can have a positive impact on rebellious Pakistani extremists, then this step should be taken. The South Koreans can talk to the Taliban. Karzai has also called for talks with them. It is time that Islamabad does the same.

The Americans have been telling everyone in the world that they have paid Pakistan $10 billion dollars over the past five years. They might think this gives them the right to decide Pakistan’s destiny. What they don’t tell the world is how Pakistan’s help secured for them their biggest footprint ever in energy-rich Central Asia.

If they forget, Islamabad can always remind them by giving them the same treatment that Uzbekistan did last year.

The views expressed herein are the writers’ own and do not reflect those of DesPardes.com