Sunday, December 2, 2007

A letter to Benazir Bhutto from Ghazala Minallah

Dear Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto,
I was absolutely shocked and amazed at your latest statement regarding the judiciary. How could you, of all people, say that you believed in an independent judiciary BUT that personalities did not matter? If personalities did not matter then why was Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry removed? Why were some judges locked up whereas others were not? If personalities did not matter then why is Musharraf waging a personal war against the CJ? You do not have to be a genius to figure out the reason. How can you separate the personalities from the institution? What you have on Constitution Avenue right now is a besieged and helpless building. The unfortunate but harsh truth is that right now we are a besieged nation as well.
Ms. Bhutto, I am writing to you because your statement has shocked and disturbed me to the extent that I feel I have no option but to reach out to you in this manner. I would like to remind you, since you seem to have forgotten, that you too were the victim of a corrupt judiciary. If Justice Iftikhar had been the CJ of the Supreme Court at that time then perhaps your father would never have been hanged. Had the entire bench been like the present one then there would have been a unanimous judgment. But the judgment was not unanimous - it was a 4 to 3 split – just one judge too many on the wrong side. One more upright personality on the right side and our history would have been different. So yes, personalities certainly do matter.
Ms. Bhutto, I am writing to you in desperation because I am the daughter of Late Justice Safdar Shah, who was one of the three dissenting judges. When Mr., Bhutto was the Prime Minister my father was CJ of the Peshawar High Court. Both these headstrong personalities did not get on with each other, and because of Safdar Shah's constant criticism and disagreement regarding the reforms and policies being introduced by the PM, the latter had him prematurely retired by introducing the 5 th Amendment. After the coup, when Gen. Zia took over, and Mr. Bhutto was charged and convicted of Conspiracy to murder by the Lahore High Court, he appealed to the Supreme Court. Gen. Zia wanted Mr. Bhutto dead and he did his best to manipulate the bench. It soon became obvious as to WHY Safdar Shah had recently been appointed as judge of the Supreme Court . Having the typical mind-set of a dictator, Zia was sure that he would be vindictive and take revenge. But, he was wrong and the rest is history. WHY? Because three of the judges had the courage to say NO, and did not give in to the threats and pressure exerted on them. So yes Ms Bhutto, personalities do matter. Had Justice (retd) Wajiuddin's father , the late Hon.Waheeduddin not been prematurely retired on extremely dubious medical grounds , history could have been different, No one can dispute the fact that the judgment was wrong since Justice (retd) Nasim Hassan Shah confessed on a talk show on TV a few years ago that the judges were threatened and pressurized into giving that judgment. Yes Ms. Bhutto, they were, and I am a witness to that fact.
Ms. Bhutto, our paths crossed briefly and both of us were victims of a corrupt judiciary which colluded with a Military Dictator. But I am not writing this letter to lament about our plight, since nothing we went through can possibly compare to the torture and torment you and your family went through .Have you forgotten the times when you visited your father in prison? Have you forgotten the humiliating tactics those heartless tyrants subjected you and your family to? Have you forgotten the last time you went to visit him in prison and were not able to hug him? Whenever I think about that grave injustice, which was nothing but a judicial murder, my heart goes out to you and what you suffered then and have suffered since. That is precisely why I am at my wits end and cannot understand WHY you cannot value the importance of independent judges.
Ms.Bhutto, do you think you are invincible? Are you so blinded that you cannot or will not acknowledge the truth? Does it never occur to you that some day you might have to face those judges in the present Supreme Court.? Well let me please spell it out. With independent judges you get a verdict you deserve, whereas with the present kind of farce you get a judgment dictated by the intelligence agencies or the dictator himself. Do you honestly not know or are you honestly not aware of the grave injustice going on? Does it not send a chill up your spine that if the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court can be tossed around by Musharraf it could very well be you as well ?For God's sake Ms. Bhutto , WAKE UP .You owe it to your father as well as to the nation to defend the judiciary and fight for its independence.
My father continued to be persecuted even after the judgment and we were forced to leave the country. But I will never forgive or forget those responsible for the torment my father went through during his last years. He died an unhappy man and was never able to get over the fact that he was not able to prevent the cold-blooded murder of an innocent man. And that innocent person was your father for God's sake! I have vowed that I will continue to fight for the independence of the judiciary come what may! I was confident and certain that once you were back you would definitely take up this battle and lead the nation towards sanity.
Ms. Bhutto, is it not obvious to you WHY Musharraf wants Justice Iftikhar out of the way? Ask the families of the 'missing persons', who for the first time were being heard and for the first time they could see a light at the end of the tunnel. Everyone knows who is responsible but no one before this CJ had the courage to take up the matter. Ask the countless downtrodden people who had discovered that they could have direct access to the CJ through Suo Moto notices. Ask 2 and 3 yr old Aneela and Tasleem from Naudero Feroze in Sindh , ask 4 yr old Shaneela or 6yr old Munni or 8 yr old Marina from Mardan what this Chief Justice has done for them. These innocent little girls were the victims of jirga decisions according to which they were to be handed over to the enemy as a symbol of truce .It was Justice Iftikhar who took serious notice of this barbaric custom and passed strict orders to the local authorities to prevent this atrocity from carrying on. It was during the tenure of this CJ that serious environmental disasters were averted .Who took notice of the New Muree Project? Who took action in the Dungi ground case? Who prevented Shah Sharabeel from converting a public park in sector F-7 Islamabad into a multi-million commercial project? Ask the poor people living in the adjacent Christian colony what that decision meant to them. Sharabeel has taken up arms against the CJ since this decision because for that class of people the slum dwellers are a low life who do not deserve any special attention. I can go on and on about the cases in which the SILENT CRIES OF THE DOWNTRODDEN of our society were being heard by a sympathetic judge for the first time. Ms. Bhutto, these are the Suo Moto notices which Musharraf said were a waste of time in his speech justifying the emergency. If personalities did not matter then why is Musharraf so threatened by this man? On any and every occasion he gets he attacks and tries to malign the CJ with a vengeance. His abnormal hatred for the man has exposed the truth. He knows very well that this man was the biggest hurdle in his plans to destroy what is left of our country. The coup was against the judiciary, the 'emergency' was created to sack the CJ and the other conscientious judges. Musharraf needs to be told that we are not a nation of imbeciles and that everyone is aware of the truth and the depth of the situation. We all know that the 'crisis ' in Swat or the threat of terrorism had NOTHING WHATSOEVER to do with the sacking of the CJ and the locking up of him and the other judges.
Once again Ms Bhutto, I beg you to think very carefully about where you are heading. I beg you not to betray your father or the nation. I beg you not to fall into Musharraf's trap and to boycott the elections. The rigging has already taken place, so why are you allowing yourself to become a party to this farce? I beg you to realize that you are the one holding the trump card right now. If you boycott the election, THEY lose face. But if YOU participate, you not only lose face, you lose the confidence and the faith the people of Pakistan have in you. Last but not least, you owe it to Bilawal, Bakhtawar, Aseefa and all future generations of our beloved country.
Yours sincerely,
Ghazala Minallah
D/O Late Justice Safdar Shah


Syed Daniyal said...

With the political parties taking part in election, it is evident that they themselves are threatened by the independent judiciary. They still resort to use the same tactics of riding on establishment's tail and blame the same armywhen they are out of political scene. It is them who strengthen the hands of the millitary. Elections in these conditions means legitimising every action by the dictator. The worst part is that we never had real politicians but animals with human skins. God help us!

nazia said...

Ms Ghazal dont hurt by this foxy lady.Just ask her one question that if she dosnt believe in personalities then why she is permanent chair person of her party.Her desire of sitting on top seat is so obvious that she never comprimised anything on that issue.She knows very well that by law she couldnt be prime minister 3rd time that's why she made lot of pressure on Mussarf to make amendment that pave her way to primership .So the words of principles that you mentioned in yours letter has no effect on this cold lady whose one and only desire is top seat.Her only goal in coming back in Pakistan is to hold top seat not to help any kind of judiciary and hoping any kind of boycot from her is useless as her targets are only personal goals.

Ashir said...

If Pakistan is to have a future four things have to happen, NOW:

1. Juiciary under Justice Iftikhar has to be restored.

2. Musharraf as well as the present bench of SC judges, have to be tried for treason.

3. National Secuirty Council has to be dissolved. (no role for the military in politics in future.

4. Once the new government is formed through fair and impartial elections, a new security force like the American Secret Service has to be created, that is responsible for the security of elected civilian leaders. 11th Brigade has gotta to go. Like the the American Secret Service which reports to the Department of treasury and not Department of Defence, the pakistan Secret Service should report to a civilian ministry. The security service has to be extremely professional with real teeeth. Unless this is done there is no sure way to prevent military coups by idiotic generals in the future.

Wasiq Ali said...

Response to Ghazala Minallah's Open Letter to Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto

Recently there have been a spate of calls demanding that Pakistan's political parties, especially PPP, follow non-political civil society organizations in demanding restoration of Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry and other members of the unlawfully removed judiciary over and above all else.

There is also clamour that elections should be boycotted until judges are restored to their offices.

Civil society is fresh from its success of getting Justice Chaudhry restored a few months ago. But then the mechanism of restoration was street protests (backed by opposition parties) and a successful appeal to the Supreme Court itself. What mechanism do people have in mind this time? To think that General Musharraf will roll up his bed and go home after our demonstrations and the flurry of emails is a mistake. He could hand over power to another General, which won't solve Pakistan's rule of law problem.

It is time we take a long, hard look at Civil Society's relationship with political parties, Civil Society needs to put its weight behind them rather than making the unrealistic demand that they follow us. The goal remains the same, the -- supremacy of the constitution. The "trashing the mainstream parties" approach should give way to respecting their weight and sacrifices, too.

There is a long history of suspicion and criticism of the PPP by civil society organizations and admittedly Pakistan's politicians and parties are far from perfect. But let us face it, in the real world civil society assists political parties. It is not a substitute for them.

Wherever civil society has erroneously convinced itself that it can operate against or independent of politics, the establishment has thrived. Take the example of Egypt, which has more NGOs per capita than any other country. These NGOs denigrated Egypt's mainstream political parties in the 1980s and 1990s just as we are running down the PPP nowadays. The result is the entrenchment of Hosni Mubarak's Mukhabarat (Intelligence agencies) dictatorship.

Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto has been unequivocal in her support for the judiciary She is a politician and must deal with multiple constituencies and demands, unlike most of us who have no compulsions. Ms Bhutto, her family and her party have paid a heavy price for confronting Pakistan's military and intelligence machinery. Their flaws and faults aside, there is no denying they have fought and borne the brunt of the repression of the Zia and Musharraf dictatorships.

The problem is that civil society has a strong non-political component whereas Ms Bhutto is a political leader. A politician must weigh all options. What if a polls boycott fails and, like 1985, the new assembly becomes operational without any real opposition? Then civil society would be easily smashed.

Also, an election campaign can help mobilize masses (as it did in 1977) and become the forerunner of a bigger protest movement against polls rigging. Imran Khan and some of his supporters are wrongly assuming that Benazir Bhutto's concern in not limiting themselves to the judiciary demand relates to NRO.

Having shouted at the top of their voices for a decade about the cases these people really believe that is Benazir Bhutto's real problem. It is not. Spain has already dismissed the case on grounds of inadequate evidence. The Swiss case is in its death throes. The London case is being quashed by the Appeals Court and the Pakistani cases will get nowhere given that they
got nowhere in eleven years. So silly suggestions like "If we reassure Mohtarma that we will end the cases to get her to boycott the elections then maybe PPP will boycott" are based on a wrong premise.

Those who have never contested, lost or won an election do not understand the dynamic of elections. Especially in rural areas it is very difficult to stop people from voting. An election is one occasion when the poor get attention from the candidates. They do not want to miss this opportunity.

Even now, a boycott would be only partially successful with the Chaudhries, MQM and JUI participating. If PPP boycotts, there might be low turnout in rural Sindh but who will be there to see it? Poor Balochistan seldom counts in electoral arithmetic.

The result of a boycott would be a two-thirds majority for Musharraf's PML-Q, which would then do whatever it pleases with the constitution.

In 1985, Ziaul Haq used smaller parties in MRD to pressure Benazir Bhutto into boycotting the non-party polls. All those advocating the boycott later turned out to be ISI's people. (Read accounts of that election in books by General K.M. Arif and others).

In principle, it sounds very logical to argue "We will not legitimise the election" by participating. In practice, let us go through the mechanism of what might happen. Elections take place, are boycotted by the opposition, result in a four-fifths "win" for PML-Q and JUI.

Then what? Street protests against the illegitimate assemblies? Who will ensure these protests will be big enough to make a difference? Assuming the protests are very large and sufficient to force Musharraf's hand, what would be the next step? Resignation and handing over power to the army chief? Is that what we want or need?

We need to give the politicians, especially Benazir Bhutto, credit in figuring out how to work out a political formula of participating in elections under protest and then using the polls campaign as a springboard for a methodical protest campaign.

Moreover, while civil society is very important, it is never a substitute for political parties. If international pressure makes the polls freer, the opposition can win and force Musharraf's hand. If the election is rigged, a wider anti-rigging campaign can be launched with the involvement of the poor voters who will feel cheated. In either case, Musharraf will have to talk to the opposition and an alternative way for his exit can be found than another military

Anonymous said...

I agree with Wasiq's comment above. It is not the time for isolation by the civil society, but time for integration and support of political parties. (Although I disagree with the notion of prioritizing PPP, I think civil society should support all political parties struggling for the common cause, PML(N), Imran Khan as well as PPP). Further we must ensure that elections are not held, under the present bogus regime of PCO judges, come what may. Judiciary issue is supereme and has to be solved before anything else.
If the forces against tyranny are divided amongst themselves, we are only playing in the hands of the tyrants who have ruled Pakistan for years because of "divide and rule" we must not be divided, we must all act as one and strengthen each other.
We need a Tiananmen square, a ten million march on the capital or whatever it takes, to first oust the present regime and then, restore judisiciary and then any talk of elections, any other order of events would be useless.