The Post reports: Gillani also announced the lifting of ban on student unions. First ban on student unions was implemented on February 9, 1984 in General Ziaul Haq era which was lifted in 1988 by late prime minister Benazir Bhutto. Second time Mian Nawaz Sharif banned the student unions and now the PPP has again lifted the ban.
What Do You Think About This? Please comment expressing your opinions.
Sunday, March 30, 2008
The Post reports: Gillani also announced the lifting of ban on student unions. First ban on student unions was implemented on February 9, 1984 in General Ziaul Haq era which was lifted in 1988 by late prime minister Benazir Bhutto. Second time Mian Nawaz Sharif banned the student unions and now the PPP has again lifted the ban.
Posted by Umer Gilani at 3:57 AM
Saturday, March 29, 2008
Pakistan's continued detention of the Baluch nationalist hero, Akhtar Mengal, is fanning the flames of insurrection
(Courtesy The Guardian)
The years of western-backed dictatorship in Pakistan are coming to an end. Candidates supporting the tyrant Pervez Musharraf were trounced in last month's elections. Now, the democratically elected government of Pakistan's new prime minister, Yousaf Raza Gilani, has ordered the release of the judges that Musharraf deposed and detained. They were dismissed because they dared uphold the rule of law and challenge his regime's systemic violation of human rights.
The next big democratisation step being urged by the people of Pakistan is the release of the vast, unknown numbers of political prisoners. As well as the hundreds of people who are known to be detained, there are thousands more who have simply disappeared into hidden detention centres.
One of Pakistan's most celebrated political prisoners is the former chief minister of Pakistan-ruled Baluchistan, Akhtar Mengal, the president of the Baluchistan national party.
To the people of Baluchistan he is a nationalist hero. Many see him as their Nelson Mandela - unjustly jailed for defending the human rights of the oppressed Baluch people. His continuing detention without trial is fanning the flames of nationalist resentment and popular insurrection against Islamabad's tyranny.
According to Amnesty International and the Asian human rights commission, Mengal is illegally detained. Held in solitary confinement in Karachi prison since December 2006, he has been denied justice by the use of delaying tactics. In all this time, he has never been tried in an open court. Cursory court hearings have been conducted inside prison. No one, except one family member, has been allowed to witness any of the legal proceedings against him.
Mr Iqbal Haider, secretary-general of the human rights commission of Pakistan, was present at the first hearing of Mengal's case in Karachi prison and this is what he saw: "Mr Mengal was brought into the courtroom and shoved into an iron cage with bars all around that stood in a corner away from his counsel."
Akhtar Mengal has not been arrested on corruption charges nor has he been charged with the abuse of power. He is facing trial for the alleged "abduction" of two undercover agents of Pakistan's security forces.
He was arrested, along with 500 party activists, in November 2006, the day before President Musharraf was due to visit Baluchistan. The mass arrests were apparently intended to stop party members from protesting against the savage Pakistani military operations on Baluch territory, and against the widespread arrests of Baluch human rights activists and their enforced "disappearance".
The events that led to his arrest began in April 2006. Mr Mengal reports that he and his family had been receiving threatening phone calls at the time. Because of these threats, he personally chauffeured his children to school.
On April 5, two men on a motorbike followed his car as he was taking his kids to school. Feeling menaced, Mengal stopped his car and asked the men who they were. They refused to explain themselves. Fearing for his safety, Mengal's security guards detained the two men and took them back to the Mengal residence, intending to hand them over to the police. By this stage, the two men admitted being army personnel.
The Pakistani senator, Sanaullah Baloch, recently recounted what happened next:
"Almost immediately, a large party of law-enforcement agency men arrived on the spot and took away their two colleagues who had been picked up, and laid siege to the house and its occupants.
On the intervention of the Sindh chief minister, it was agreed that no case would be filed if Mr Mengal's guards who were involved in the case were handed over to the police for questioning ... Akhtar Mengal remained free till November 28, 2006, when the Baluchistan police arrested him, along with senior members of his party.
Since then, all proceedings are being conducted in camera. Repeated humiliation of the Baluch and their political representatives will intensify the animosity felt by the troubled Baluch population. The judiciary's tilted role and the unproductive hearings ... have already shattered the credibility of the bench."
Akhtar Mengal is not the only political prisoner. Many other leaders from Pakistan's minority nationalities - Baluch, Sindhi and Pashtun - have been detained and abused on trumped up charges.
Veteran Baluch nationalists Sardar Attaullah Mengal, Nawab Khair Bux Khan Marri, Khan Abdul Wali Khan, Mir Ghous Bux Bizenjo, Sher Mohammed Marri and Mir Gul Khan Naseer have spent many years in prison for defending the human rights of the Baluch people and refusing to act as quislings for the Punjabi-dominated political and military establishment in Islamabad.
Senator Sanaullah Baloch has noted:
"Mengal's prolonged detention, mortification and the delay in the dispensation of justice has exposed the inequality that characterises our system. They also point to the inability of our courts to act independently without being influenced by the powers that be.
The (Pakistan) constitution guarantees that 'all citizens are equal before law and are entitled to equal protection of law'. The international convention on the elimination of all forms of racial discrimination also emphasises 'the right to equal treatment before the tribunals and all other organs administering justice'. However, the Baluch have not been treated according to national and international laws. Constitutional guarantees and the courts have failed to protect their fundamental rights.
Akhtar Mengal, as a senior leader of a political party, is entitled to all basic rights and facilities. But he has been denied basic legal and human rights because of his political affiliations. The large number of political activists in Baluchistan, who have been detained and denied legal and prison rights, are entitled to just treatment in accordance with UN conventions. The government of Pakistan must abide by the laws of the country and international law and respect the rights of the Baluch. There should be an end to the injustice, intimidation and harassment being meted out to them."
Posted by The Neem Revolution at 9:51 PM
ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gillani has announced revolutionary steps in his policy speech at the floor of National Assembly after getting unanimous vote of confidence from the house on Saturday.
The prime minister in his landmark speech increased the support price of wheat from Rs. 510 to 625 per 40 kilograms. He announced lifting of ban on student and trade unions, while changed the status of PEMRA to make it a subsidiary of the ministry of information.
Muslim League (Q), Functional League, People’s Party Sherpao and Muttahida Qaumi Movement announced to support the prime minister.
The prime minister in his speech thanked Almighty Allah for his election in this holy month.
He also expressed his gratitude to People’s Party’s slain leaders Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, Benazir Bhutto, party chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, co-chairman Asif Zardari and the party workers, leaders of allied parties Nawaz Sharif, Asfandyar Wali, Altaf Hussain, Pir Pagara, independent members and other parties that voted to him for confidence.
Prime Minister Gillani promised to take along all sides and work for the best interest of the country.
He vowed to strengthen the institutions and to improve law and order in the country. Talking about his government’s priorities he said terrorism and extremism is the most serious problem faced by the country. He called the militants to shun the path of violence and initiate dialogue with the government.
Price hike and unemployment are other key problems faced by the country, he said. The government would provide jobs to jobless, he said.
The prime minister welcomed the COAS decision of withdrawal of the on duty military officers from the civilian departments adding that it has boosted the prestige of the armed forces.
The Prime Minister announced repealing of the draconian Pemra laws of Nov 3, 2007 adding the Parliamentary Reconciliation Committee recommendations will be introduced.
The prime minister said media would be allowed to witness proceedings of the parliament.
Gillani said he would take along the APDM parties with him adding that all provinces have confidence over his government.
Speaking in the National Assembly after taking vote of confidence, he said maintaining law and order in the country would be the top priority of his government for which terrorism needs to be rooted out.
“We are ready to talk to all those who are ready to lay down their arms and wanted peace,” he said.
He said he would announce a special package for tribal areas to give them employment and to remove their backwardness and other social evils.
The Prime Minister also announced to revoke FCR.
He welcomed the announcement of the Chief of the Army Staff that all army personnel from the civil departments will be called back.
“This announcement by the COAS will enhance the dignity, respect and honour of the army.”
He expressed the hope that all the army personnel from civilian departments will be called back within two weeks.
The Prime Minister said his government will take steps for the restoration of deposed judges. As a first step, these judges have already been freed from detention.
Referring to power, flour and water crises in the country, Prime Minister Gilani said these problems were not easy to tackle. He said there was a possibility of more load shedding in the country during the summer season.
He said to overcome the electricity shortage in the country, which at present stands at 3000 megawatt, new power units will be set up and PEPCO has been asked to issue 10 million energy saver bulbs at discounted prices.
The shortage next year, he added, is expected to reach 4000 MW.
He said in the first phase of Thar Coal Project the electricity generation will be 5,000 mw which will increase to 20,000 mw in the next phase.
He said Wapda has been asked to complete the feasibility of large dams and investment in the project of Keti Bandar will be invited again and lighting on government buildings has been stopped.
To save the wastage of water, he added, canals will be brick lined and small dams constructed to ensure supply of water for irrigation and drinking purposes.
He said the budget of the Prime Minister House will be cut by 40 percent and hoped that other departments too will follow the example.
The cabinet members will not use a vehicle of more than 1600 cc and they will only be allowed Economy Plus class during air travel.
He said like many other democratic countries, during the Question Hour the Prime Minister would also be present in the house to answer questions.
To provide employment to the fresh graduates, Prime Minister announced the setting up of Literacy and Health Commission. It will also ensure employment to one person in a household.
He said a Madrassa Welfare Authority will be set up to carry out the audit of the accounts of all madrassas in the country. The authority will be responsible to ensure that curricula of all madrassas are uniform.
The Prime Minister said that every year one million housing units will be constructed in the country. He also announced the launch of 5-marla housing scheme in rural areas for the poor besides provision of houses on 80 square meters and flats in the cities for the general public.
He said all retiring government servants will be given flats or houses and the provinces have also been directed to launch similar schemes for the retired persons.
Posted by Ammar - Ed at 3:44 PM
SAC Isb-Rwp is holding a seminar on the students' role in politics -what it has been in the past and what it should be in the future- particularly with reference to the current political context, and why its important to begin a revival of student politics. The most time will be given to Q&A and participation from the floor.
Posted by Ammar - Ed at 3:07 PM
ISLAMABAD: The Muslim League (ML-N) and the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) have finalized matters relating to the ministries and all appears set for its announcement today.
ML-N and PPP had constituted committee for the distribution of ministries in centre, which continued its deliberations for the last three weeks. Ishaq Dar, Khawaja Asif and Chaudhry Nisar on behalf of the ML-N, while Syed Naveed Qamar, Raza Rabbani, Raja Pervaiz Ashraf, Sherry Rahman, Chaudhry Ahmad Mukhtar and Qamruzzaman Kaira from PPP represented in the committee. The committee agreed on keeping the size of the cabinet small—in the first phase there would be 22 ministries, while in the second phase it could go up to 40.
Posted by The Neem Revolution at 2:34 PM
ISLAMABAD: The National Assembly expressed its confidence in Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gillani Saturday by passing a resolution for vote of confidence unanimously.
Earlier Prime Minister Gillani requested the opposition benches to support the motion for vote of confidence. In response Muslim League (Q), Functional League, Peoples Party Sherpao and Muttahida Qaumi Movement announced to support the PM.
Later Asfandyar Wali said that now the vote count is not required and asked the speaker to announce that the house has passed the resolution for vote of confidence.
The speaker announced that the National Assembly has passed the vote of confidence unanimously.
Prime Minister Gillani later in his speech thanked the allied parties and Muslim League (Q), Functional League, Peoples Party Sherpao and Muttahida Qaumi Movement for their support.
In his policy speech after the vote of confidence Prime Minister Gillani promised to take along all sides and work for the best interest of the country.
He vowed to strengthen institutions and to improve law and order in the country. Talking about his government’s priorities he said terrorism and extremism is the most serious problem faced by the country. He called the militants to shun the path of violence and initiate dialogue with the government.
Price hike and unemployment are other key problems faced by the country, he said. The government would provide jobs to jobless, he said. He also announced a lifting of the ban on student and trade unions. He also announced that the restrictions on the media would be reviewed, but stopped short of lifting them immediately.
Posted by The Neem Revolution at 2:23 PM
ISLAMABAD, March 29 (AFP): Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani Saturday urged militants to renounce violence and offered to hold talks with those who give up arms and join the new democratic era. Addressing the parliament after wining a unanimous vote of confidence, Gilani said terrorism was the biggest threat undermining Pakistan's stability. “Our first priority will be restoration of law and order and elimination of terrorism from the country,” said Gilani.
“The fight against terrorism is our own fight because it has claimed innocent lives of children and young men of Pakistan…unfortunately some people have made violence a means to express their views. I appeal to all those people to abandon the path of violence and join us in the journey of democracy.” Gilani promised a special package of political and economic reforms in tribal areas as part of government strategy to fight terrorism and extremism.
Posted by The Neem Revolution at 2:09 PM
Friday, March 28, 2008
- Suspect in 'Lahore FIA blast' dies in custody: Torture, Poisoning... ?
How many people will have to be killed or debilitated or simply 'vanished' in police custody before the War on Terror can be won? That is a question we as a nation need to ask ourselves. If law enforcers insist upon gouging out 'voluminous confessions of truth' even from the depths of bruised entrails, they do nothing but destroy the legitimacy of law. No matter how many esteemed judgest, lawyers and activists rally behind the slogan of rule of law, and no matter how many movies and dramas are made to eulogize the agents of the law, incidents like the one reported below simply destory the foundations of respect for law.
In the eyes of the law, the deceased was no more than a mere suspect, innocent until proven guilty, duly protected from all torture. His life and well-being were no less than law's sacred trust - a trust that has been tragically betrayed. Largely unmourned and unbemoaned remains the violated deceased. Amidst all these tragedies, we do not even have a Mir Anis who may befittingly record the 'marsia of our times' so that we may sit together and weep over it.
Read on. From today's "The Nation".
AND WHEREAS, We pay tribute to Shaheed Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto and thousands of brave political activists across the country who made the ultimate sacrifice and laid down their lives or suffered imprisonment for the cause of restoration of parliamentary democracy and the rule of law in Pakistan. We shall not let their sacrifices go in vain.
AND WHEREAS, this Assembly is mindful that the foundation of democracy cannot survive without a return to the rule of law. We are mindful, that the rule of law cannot survive the rule of the gun unless we have an independent judiciary. And, we are cognizant that we shall never have an independent judiciary if the Judges of the Superior Court's of this country are imprisoned at the whims of a lone individual.
AND WHEREAS, we as Members of the National Assembly have taken oath to "preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan" and we shall not waiver from this oath.
AND WHEREAS, Article 209(7) of the Constitution provides in no uncertain terms that "A Judge of the Supreme Court of or of a High Court shall not be removed from office except as provided in this article." Therefore, as opined unanimously by leading former Chief Justices and Judges of the Supreme Court of Pakistan, the actions of 3rd November 2007, seeking to remove and restrain the Chief Justices and Judges of the Supreme Court of Pakistan and the Provincial High Courts is void ab initio and has no sanctity in law.
WE, THEREFORE, bound by our Constitutional Oath and the mandate given by the people of Pakistan on February 18, 2008 do hereby RESOLVE and call upon the Federal Government to remove all illegal restrictions placed on the Chief Justices and Judges of the Supreme Court of Pakistan and the provincial High Courts on and after 3
rd November 2007 with immediate effect.
History shall not forgive those, who even now, may seek to obstruct the irreversible path to constitutional rule in our great country.
THEREFORE, WE FURTHER RESOLVE, and call upon the Federal Government to perform its obligation under Article 190 of the Constitution and act in aid of the Chief Justices and the Judges of the Supreme Court of Pakistan and the Provincial High Courts who were illegally restrained on and after 3rd November 2007 so that they may resume their Judicial functions in accordance with the provisions of the Constitution.
Dated:  March 2008
Posted by The Neem Revolution at 3:29 PM
The visit by Deputy Secretary of State John D. Negroponte turned out to be series of indignities and chilly, almost hostile, receptions as he bore the brunt of the full range of complaints that Pakistanis now feel freer to air with the end of military rule by Washington's favored ally, President Pervez Musharraf.
Faced with a new democratic lineup that is demanding talks, not force, in the fight against terrorism, Mr. Negroponte publicly swallowed a bitter pill at his final news conference on Thursday, acknowledging that there would now be some real differences in strategy between the United States and Pakistan.
He was upbraided at an American Embassy residence during a reception in his honor by lawyers furious that the Bush administration had refused to support the restoration of the dismissed judiciary by Mr. Musharraf last year.
Mr. Negroponte once told Congress that Mr. Musharraf was an "indispensable" ally, but the diplomat was finally forced to set some distance after months of standing stolidly by his friend. Mr. Musharraf's future, he said, would be settled by Pakistan's new democratic government.
Perhaps the most startling encounter for the 68-year-old career diplomat was the deliberately pointed question by Farrukh Saleem, executive director of the Center for Research and Security Studies, at the reception Wednesday evening.
"How is Pakistan different to Honduras?" Mr. Saleem asked, a query clearly intended to tweak Mr. Negroponte about his time as ambassador to Honduras in the 1980s, when he was in charge of the American effort to train and arm a guerrilla force aimed at overthrowing the leftist government in Nicaragua. He was later criticized for meddling in the region and overlooking human rights abuses in pursuit of United States foreign policy goals.
The diplomat demurred, according to Mr. Saleem, saying, "You have put me on the spot."
Mr. Negroponte had no reply to his next question, either, Mr. Saleem said. "I asked him, 'What do you know about our chief justice that we don't know?' "
That question was meant to reflect, Mr. Saleem recounted afterward, that the Bush administration had refused to recognize the illegality of the firing of Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, and that many Pakistanis were angered that the United States had signaled it did not favor the reinstatement of Mr. Chaudhry who, it appeared, was too opposed to Mr. Musharraf for Washington's taste.
Mr. Negroponte and the Bush administration were tone deaf, Mr. Saleem and others said, to the changes in Pakistan, though the message of the tune seemed inescapable.
As they stood on the lawn of a diplomatic residence here in the spring evening, the chairman of the Supreme Court Bar Association, Aitzaz Ahsan, who has led the campaign to restore Mr. Chaudhry, picked up the challenge to Mr. Negroponte.
First, Mr. Ahsan said he told the diplomat, the lawyers were miffed that Mr. Negroponte had not included them on his planned round of meetings. When the lawyers asked for an appointment on Tuesday, they were rebuffed by the American Embassy, Mr. Ahsan said.
Then, Mr. Ahsan, a graduate of Cambridge and one of Pakistan's most talented orators, gave Mr. Negroponte a 10- to 15-minute discourse on why an independent judiciary was important to fight terrorism.
"I told him that the most effective weapon on the war against terror is a people who have enforceable rights — then they have a stake in the system," Mr. Ahsan said of his conversation with Mr. Negroponte.
Mr. Ahsan said he argued that an independent judiciary was "a middle ground" between the military and religious fanatics.
When Mr. Negroponte countered that the new Parliament had pledged to deal with the question of the restoration of the judges within 30 days, Mr. Ahsan said he retorted: "I said you can't build a Parliament on the debris of the judiciary."
In contrast to Mr. Negroponte, a delegation of legislators, led by Rep. John F. Tierney, Democrat of Massachusetts, chairman of the National Security Subcommittee of the House Oversight Committee, visited Mr. Chaudhry at his home on Thursday. They were the first foreigners to see the judge since police barricades were removed Tuesday after four months of house arrest.
"He believes the Parliament has a vote in the next 30 days and the judges will go back to work," Mr. Tierney said after talking to Mr. Chaudhry. "That's his position, and they're sticking with it."
Although he had little to do with the lawyers or the judiciary, Mr. Negroponte, accustomed to seeing a limited circuit of figures, starting with Mr. Musharraf, had to widen his contact list this time.
He met with the leaders of the two main parties in the new coalition government, Nawaz Sharif, and Asif Ali Zardari. They were both in exile for much of Mr. Musharraf's rule. He also met with prime minister, Yousaf Raza Gilani, who was an unknown politician until this week, and the speaker of the National Assembly, Dr. Fehmida Mirza.
Mr. Zardari and Mr. Sharif have said they want to change the military approach of Mr. Musharraf toward the extremists, and work toward talks.
At a news conference in Karachi before leaving, Mr. Negroponte said Washington could work with the new government, but drew the line at negotiations with extremists. "Security measures are obviously necessary when one is dealing with irreconcilable elements who want to destroy our very way of life," he said. "I don't see how you can talk with those kinds of people."
There was some hope, however, he said, of working with "reconcilable elements" who "can be persuaded to participate in the democratic political process."
In a marked change of tone from the Musharraf era, the new prime minister, Mr. Gilani, said after meeting Mr. Negroponte on Wednesday that Parliament was now the supreme decision-making body. Pakistan supported its long alliance with the United States, but the fight against terrorism would be discussed in the legislature, he said.
Mr. Negroponte's visit was generally poorly received. Coming in the week that the government was still being formed — a cabinet has yet to be announced — it was widely interpreted as an act of interference, a last effort to prop up a vastly weakened Mr. Musharraf. One television commentator called the visit "crude diplomacy."
Others said Mr. Negroponte did not understand that Mr. Musharraf was a disappearing figure, isolated and with little power. One of his last loyal aides, Attorney General Malik Mohammad Qayyum, resigned Thursday.
By the end of his trip, Mr. Negroponte indicated that perhaps Mr. Musharraf's usefulness to Washington had diminished. The future of Mr. Musharraf was up to the Pakistanis. "Any debate or any disposition as regards his status will have to be addressed by the internal Pakistani political process," he said.
Posted by The Neem Revolution at 3:21 PM
(A Sindhi Nationalist's interpretation of the assassination of Benazir Bhutto, leadership change in PPP, recent elections and expectations from the current coalition government in the context of provincial autonomy)
Abdul Khaliq Junejo
(Chairman Jeay Sindh Mahaz)
Date: Saturday 29th March
Time: 5pm SHARP
Venue: Nehrghar – 5 Zaman Park
Abdul Khaliq Junejo is the chairman of Jeay Singh Mahaz (JSM) and contributing writer to various newspapers & magazines. He joined JSM in 1972 under the leadership of G. M. Syed. He has been involved in politics since his student days at the Sindh Engineering University where he completed his Bachelors and later his LLB. He hails from Qazi Daro, a small town near the ancient ruins of the Indus Civilization at MohenjoDaro in the district of Larkana.
Directions: Nehrghar - 5 Zaman ParkOn the canal, cross the mall road and take the 1st left at the Zaman Park sign. Take an immediate right on the side lane. 2nd gate on the left.
Institute for Peace and Secular Studies (IPSS) is a community supported voluntary effort focused on the people's agenda. IPSS strives to highlight and promote discourses for the attainment of a peaceful society. 91 G, Johar Town. 0300.844.5072
Posted by The Neem Revolution at 3:15 PM
PU Disciplinary Committee head Prof Dr Iftikhar Husain Baloch said the committee had heard both parties and seen the available evidence on Monday.Prof Baloch, who is also principal of the varsity's College of Earth and Environmental Sciences, said the committee had finally decided to expel one student and rusticate the other for one year.
He said Usman Ashraf was IJT's professional zone nazim and son of an Islamic Studies teacher, Mr Ashraf, teaching at a college in Gujrat. Abdullah Munir Leghari is a son of a shepherd in Dera Ghazi Khan.
Both the students were charged with thrashing three PhD students -- Haroon Riaz, Amir Jalal and Muhammad Sajjal who were distributing fliers to promote independent judiciary outside the university’s Jamia Masjid following Juma prayers on March 14.
Posted by The Neem Revolution at 3:11 PM
Thursday, March 27, 2008
ISLAMABAD, March 26: The new coalition government is expected to announce on March 29 a 100-day reforms package to offset the effects of unprecedented price hike and high cost of energy and to ensure macro-economic stability, Dawn has learnt. Prime Minister Syed Yusuf Raza Gilani will announce the plan after taking a vote of confidence from the National Assembly on the day.
A committee is working out details of the package for reforms in various sectors, including steps to bring down prices of essential kitchen items.
A PPP leader told Dawn that various proposals were under consideration. He said the package was expected to be finalised soon. PML-N leader Ishaq Dar, however, said he had no knowledge of such a package. But another PML-N leader Khwaja Asif confirmed that the plan was on the anvil. He refused to give details, but said it would be announced by the prime minister.“The prime minister will announce the package and I am not supposed to divulge any information,” he stressed.
Informed sources in the two parties said the committee was working on a sector-wise basis to identify areas for reforms to be introduced in the first 100 days. The plan envisaged a small cabinet to reduce expenditures.
The sources said that for consumers, severely hit by the monster of food inflation and energy crisis, there would be relief in prices of essential goods. The plan would also focus on ensuring macro-economic stability.
The sources said the committee would also propose short-term measures for ensuring stability in the country and coping with problems like suicide bombings and unrest in tribal areas and Swat.
The committee is also considering measures for good governance. These will include the smooth functioning of various ministries, improvement in local bodies’ system and general administration. The sources said that efforts would also be made to reduce expenditures of various ministries, particularly the Prime Minister Secretariat.
The sources said that more than 500 new utility stores would be set up across the country to provide subsidised wheat, cooking oil, tea and sugar to the poor segment of society.
Posted by The Neem Revolution at 2:04 PM
WASHINGTON, March 27 (Reuters) - The United States has escalated air strikes against al-Qaeda fighters operating in Pakistan's tribal areas fearing that support from Islamabad may slip away, The Washington Post reported on Thursday. U.S. officials, who were not identified, said Washington wants to inflict as much damage as it can to al Qaeda's network now because Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf may not be able to offer much help in the months ahead.
Over the past two months, U.S.-controlled Predator aircraft have struck at least three sites used by al-Qaeda operatives, the Post reported. About 45 Arab, Afghan and other foreign fighters have been killed in the attacks, all near the Afghan border, U.S. and Pakistani officials were cited as saying. Neither U.S. nor Pakistani authorities officially confirm U.S. missile attacks on Pakistani territory, which would be an infringement of Pakistani sovereignty. Many al Qaeda members, including Uzbeks and Arabs, and Taliban militants took refuge in North and South Waziristan, as well as in other areas on the Pakistani side of the border after U.S.-led forces ousted the Taliban in Afghanistan in 2001.
According to the Post, the goal was partly to try to get information on senior al-Qaeda leaders, including Osama bin Laden, by forcing them to move in ways that U.S. intelligence analysts can detect. Citing an administration official, the report said the campaign was not specifically designed to capture bin Laden before U.S. President George W. Bush leaves office in January. “It's not a blitz to close this chapter,” a senior official who spoke on the condition of anonymity told the newspaper. “If we find the leadership, then we'll go after it. But nothing can be done to put al-Qaeda away in the next nine or 10 months. In the long haul, it's an issue that extends beyond this administration.”
Posted by The Neem Revolution at 1:57 PM
Today on 25 March, by the time, Yousaf Raza Gilani was taking oath as prime minister of Pakistan from General Musharaf; I was appearing in an Anti Terrorist Court in Lahore alongside with 11 more comrades. Ourtrial began on 7 March 2008 and during the last 15 days; we have appeared in the court five times.
Our advocate was brilliant today. She is Rabia Bajwa, one of the main activists of advocate movement. While cross-examining the police witnesses against us, she confronted several times the lies of the police officers. She exposed them in very clear terms.
For example, she asked one police officer what time he wrote the first police report. He replied, at 11am, while another police officer had told the court earlier that he had arrested us at 11am. When she asked another police officer if he knows the names of all those arrested on 27th September, his reply was in negative, while another said that he only knows two of us.
She asked if the advocate demonstration was going at the same time, to which they said yes. Then she asked why they had not arrested the advocates and why Labour Party activists were arrested. They had no answer. She asked one of them if we were raising slogans at the time of the demonstration; he said yes, we were raising slogans before the police stopped us. He had earlier stated in his recorded statement that we started raising slogans only after the police stopped us.
12 of us were arrested on 27 September 2007 after our participation in an advocate demonstration. Police booked us under terrorist charges. The maximum sentence is death. They lied that we had attacked the police and injured some of them while tearing apart their police uniforms and that we were armed with sticks.
Asma Jahangir and Rabia Bajwa along with 10 more advocates appeared on our behalf in the Anti Terrorist Court after our arrest and got us released on bail after a few days. The Anti Terrorist Court has now begun the hearing of the case. I am sure that we will be cleared of chargesin the next hearing on 27 March.
However, the point is that only political activists have to appear in the courts for the crimes of being part of the lawyers movement. The new government has to take up this important issue and we have demanded that all these cases registered during the advocate movement should be withdrawn unconditionally. The police officers who have acted illegally should face charges and not us.
I personally know Yousaf Raza Gilani, the new prime minister of Pakistan very well. We both have studied in the same university atthe same time in the seventies. He was a student of Journalism and I studied Applied Psychology. We lived in the same student hostel and I was elected as Hall secretary of Hostel 19 of University of Punjab, Lahore. However, I will not ask any personal favor of withdrawing cases against me and other friends. Our demand is to withdraw allp olitical cases against the activists during the last one year.
Posted by The Neem Revolution at 1:50 PM
PESHAWAR: "I am dying, take my gun and deliver it to General sahib," were the last words of Sepoy Gul Farosh as he lay critically injured near Manglawar village in Swat on October 28, 2007.
There was a background as to why Gul Farosh uttered those memorable last words. He had heard Maj General Alam Khattak, himself a Pashtun from Nowshera, telling a darbar, or soldiers� meeting, that losing one's gun amounted to abandoning one�s wife. There cannot be a greater insult to a Pashtun than to lose his wife. And it is common to hear the Pashtuns telling each other that abandoning one's gun was just as dishonourable as losing a wife.
Gul Farosh, a typical Pashto name meaning flower seller, later succumbed to his injuries. It took time to retrieve his body and transport it to his village, Shamozai, in Mardan district for burial. Three days after his death, the young bearded soldier was buried in his ancestral graveyard.
His death shocked his old father, Dervesh Khan. The tragedy made him ill and one could see that life was slowly ebbing away from this frail and poor farmer. He had spent almost all his life tilling other people's land as tenant and fetching firewood from the mountains to sell to villagers. Like his name, he was a Dervesh in the real life. Simple and honest, he couldn't even properly count the currency notes. And even though he was desperately poor, Dervesh Khan always carried sweets in his pocket to give to children. One does come across sweet persons in life and he definitely was amongst them.
About two and a half months after Gul Farosh's death, Dervesh Khan quietly bid farewell to the world. On January 10, 2008 he was buried close to the grave of his dear son. It was a double tragedy, which deprived the family of its breadwinners.
Gul Farosh's mother and wife would have coped better with the grief of his death if he had children. The couple remained issueless during the seven years of marriage. In August 2007, Gul Farosh was injured in action in Thall. But he recovered and continued to serve the FC with distinction. He had also qualified an anti-terrorism course at the FC training centre at Mir Ali in North Waziristan.
After his recruitment in FC Khyber Rifles wing on April 1, 1997, he served at a number of places, including Ali Masjid in Khyber Agency, Ghallanai in Mohmand Agency, Thall, Regi Lalma, Peshawar and Torkham. He also took part in rescue and rehabilitation activities for the earthquake-affected communities at Battagram in Hazara. That was the kind of work in which the deeply religious and kind-hearted Gul Farosh found satisfaction.
Posted by The Neem Revolution at 1:45 PM
The new PM Yusuf Reza Gillani ordered released of all detained judges on March 24, 2008. Right after that, people started reaching the judges enclave to get a glimpse of Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry. This video is a collage of how the media covered the evening. The video ends with the word of thanks from CJ to the crowd gathered at his residence and the people of Pakistan.
Posted by The Neem Revolution at 1:43 PM
Tuesday, March 25, 2008
Posted by The Neem Revolution at 2:57 PM
ISLAMABAD, March 25 (AFP) - Two top US diplomats flew into Pakistan Tuesday for talks with senior officials and politicians, officials said. Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte and Assistant Secretary of State Richard Boucher arrived in the early hours on the latest in a series of trips to the frontline state in the “war on terror”. “They arrived this morning. This is part of an ongoing series of visits to Pakistan -- they will meet with a wide variety of people,” US embassy spokesman Kay Mayfield told AFP.
The spokeswoman would not confirm whether Negroponte and Boucher would meet President Pervez Musharraf or other senior officials, although they have done so on several visits in the past. But Pakistani officials said the US diplomats would meet former premier Nawaz Sharif and officials from the Pakistan People's Party of slain opposition leader Benazir Bhutto, as well as government figures. “The two US officials are due to meet Nawaz Sharif for talks in Islamabad,” PML-N spokesman Siddique-ul Farooq told AFP. It was not clear if the US diplomats would meet President Musharraf or prime minister Yousuf Raza Gilani who was administered oath of office by Musharraf in a ceremony at the presidential palace Tuesday morning.
(ED: After the release of the illegally detained judges by the newly sworn-in premier and the recent assertions by the leaders of the PML-N and PPP to pursue diplomatic solutions to the insurgency in the north, it is likely that alarm bells are ringing within the neo-con halls of the Bush administration regarding the future of their objectives in the region. Undoubtedly, their emissaries are here to pressurise the new political leadership to abandon their stated aims of judicial restoration and peaceful conflict resolution in the north. The visit reeks of the neo-colonial mindset of the US administration towards the issue of independent policy-making by third world governments, especially in geopolitically important areas like Pakistan. It is incumbent upon Pakistani society to be vigilant and ensure that our elected representatives do not sway from the mandate upon which the people voted them into power.)
Posted by The Neem Revolution at 2:43 PM
The relatives of disappeared and missing persons in Pakistan will observe the Day of Missing People on March 23, 2008, a national day in commemoration of a Pakistani resolution adopted in 1940 in the united India. On this day the relatives persons will hold protests with the photographs of the missing persons, hold seminars and discussion throughout the country and also show documentary films about “missing of people after arrests” by the state intelligence agencies. This day will be observed under the banner of Defense of Human Rights’ an organization working on the issue of missing persons that has challenged some 485 cases in the higher courts, particularly in Supreme Court of Pakistan in support of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan’s (HRCP) petitions. The HRCP also issued a report on missing persons.
The phenomenon of people missing after their arrests has escalated since the ‘war on terror’ since 2001. Taking advantage of support from international powers the military government of Pakistan has impunity in keeping activists in incommunicado for several months in the army torture camps. There are reports that since the war on terror was initiated up to now more than 5000 people have gone missing. The nationalists and political groups claim that 4000 are persons including women are missing from one province of Balochistan alone where the military government has been conducting operations since 2001 in an effort to take control of the provinces resources by bombarding the civilian population. Also, 1000 persons are reported missing from the Sindh and from North Western Frontier Province (NWFP). The missing persons from NWFP are from religious political groups who were arrested on the charges of associating with the Taliban and Usama Bin Laden.
The disappearances after arrests numbering in the thousands also pushed the judiciary of Pakistan to play its constitutional role for the protection of the freedom of ordinary citizens, their liberty, the right to be produced before courts and the right to life. One of the major reasons for the removal of Mr. Iftekhar Choudhry as chief justice on March 9, 2007, was when Mr. Choudhry started asking state intelligence agencies and their heads to produce the missing people. Their families were told by various sources that their missing family members were in the captivity of intelligence agencies, particularly in intelligence agencies of arm forces. The assertion of the higher judiciary annoyed the military ruler and he disbanded the whole judiciary later on November 3, 2007. Some of the missing people turned up but still there are thousands of people missing and their whereabouts are unknown. The higher judiciary’s insistence for the production of missing persons also irked the western countries, particularly the USA and Great Britain, who were also involved in pushing the Musharraf government to hand over the suspected “terrorists” without any legal process. Even the arrested persons from Pakistan or other countries were kept in US military camps in Pakistan or Afghanistan without mentioning their arrests for several months and many of them were transferred to Guantanamo Bay. The government of Pakistan and Afghanistan were paid in cash for their cooperation in nabbing the “terrorists”. Still there are 92 Pakistani prisoners in Guantanamo Bay and their presence was only made known to the relatives after one year and in some cases after more than two to three years. The persons who have surfaced after being held incommunicado by state intelligence agencies testified before courts and the media that they were kept most of the time blind folded, mostly in army torture camps, severely tortured and that they saw several people including females in the same conditions as their own.
The government of President Musharraf should immediately provide a list of all those people who were arrested and who have been missing. The armed forces must ensure that all persons in their prisons are either tried in courts of law or are released forthwith. Henceforth, no one must be kept incommunicado.
# # # About AHRC: The Asian Human Rights Commission is a regional non-governmental organisation monitoring and lobbying human rights issues in Asia. The Hong Kong-based group was founded in 1984.
Posted by The Neem Revolution at 2:40 PM
ISLAMABAD: Some top legal aides of PPP Co-chairman Asif Ali Zardari have approached certain active members of the lawyers’ community to discuss a formula for the restoration of the deposed judges, which surprisingly does not include Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad
Justice (retd) Tariq Mehmud confirmed to The News that this strange formula called the “Minus-One-Formula” was also discussed with him recently by a top legal mind in the PPP.Though this suggestion is in complete contrast with what was committed by the PPP and the PML-N top brass in the Bhurban Accord a few weeks back, it is not yet verified if this new formula has the backing of Asif Ali Zardari.
The lawyers’ community, however, rules out such a move to resolve the judicial crisis. Barrister Aitzaz Ahsan, when contacted, said not a single judge would be willing to return to his office if Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry is not restored.
He said the lawyers’ movement is for the restoration of all judges sacked on Nov 3, 2007 unconstitutionally and nothing less than a complete restoration of the Nov 2 position of the judiciary would be acceptable.
“Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry would be the first one to be facilitated to return to his office and then the 44 judges of the Supreme Court and high courts will follow,” Aitzaz said, adding all the deposed judges are well aware of the situation and will return to their offices once the deposed chief justice returns to his office.
Aitzaz said the lawyers’ community has full faith and believe in the Bhurban Declaration signed by the PPP-led coalition. He said the lawyers have decided in principle to strengthen the hands of parliament and the new prime minister.
Aitzaz also reiterated that lawyers would foil any attempt to subvert the Bhurban Declaration. He also alleged that the presidency was trying to subvert the Bhurban Declaration and pressurising the newly-elected democratic government through international pressure to change its stance on the Murree Declaration.
Another key lawyers’ leader, Justice (retd) Tariq Mehmud said there are few people in the PPP-led coalition trying to convince the lawyersí leadership that it should agree to the ‘Minus-One-Formula’.
Justice Tariq said it was impossible not only for the deposed judges and the lawyers’ community but also for the whole nation. He said it was Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry, who dared to say no to the dictator and gave a new hope to the nation, and he has become a symbol of an independent judiciary. Any formula which excludes Justice Chaudhry will tantamount to humiliating and defeating the mandate the nation has given to the winning parties on Feb 18.
Justice Tariq said: “I can categorically confirm to you that none of the deposed judges would be ready to return to their office, if Justice Iftikhar, who provided them inspiration to stand by the Constitution of the country, is not restored.”
According to Justice Tariq, a PPP leader tried to convince him that the new PPP government would feel more comfortable with the present Chief Justice Abdul Hameed Dogar instead of Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry.“
He (the PPP leader) was trying to convince me to approach Justice Iftikhar so that he should give a guarantee that after restoration he would immediately resign from the office of the chief justice on the very first day he will return to his office,” revealed Justice Tariq, adding deposed Justice Javed Iqbal also stands no chance of reinstatement as he has already accepted a government job meant for retired judges. This would leave Justice Abdul Hameed Dogar as the senior-most judge of the Supreme Court.
Tariq quoted the PPP leader as suggesting: “If you accept this “Minus-One-Formula”, we will restore all other sacked judges in one go and there will be no more problems from any side in this regard.”
Tariq said he rejected the formula and made it clear that the movement of the civil society and lawyers for the restoration of the chief justice and all other judges would continue till the complete restoration of judiciary and the Constitution to the pre-Nov 3 position.
Farooq H Naik, senior lawyer and PPP leader who played an active role in the formulation of the Murree Accord, when approached by The News on Monday said he had no idea of any such formula.
PPP spokesman Farhatullah Babar told The News on Saturday that restoration of the pre-Nov 3 judiciary without Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry was out of the question.
(Courtesy The News)
Posted by The Neem Revolution at 2:28 PM
Monday, March 24, 2008
ISLAMABAD, March 24 (Reuters): Newly elected Pakistani Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani ordered on Monday the immediate release of all judges detained by President Pervez Musharraf after he imposed emergency rule in November. “I order the immediate release of detained judges of the superior judiciary,” Gilani told the National Assembly, shortly after it overwhelmingly voted for him to become prime minister.
Gilani also appealed to judges to resolve disputes through parliament, not through protests. The prime minister also said he will ask parliament to pass a resolution seeking a U.N. probe into the assassination of Benazir Bhutto.
Posted by Ammar - Ed at 7:18 PM
Islamabad, March 24: Yousuf Raza Gilani was elected as the new Prime Minister on Pakistan on Monday with a thumping majority in the National Assembly. He recieved 264 votes against the 42 votes bagged by Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi, the opposition candidate fielded by the PML-Q and its allies. Supporters shouted “Long Live Bhutto!” and “Go, Musharraf, Go!” as the result was announced. Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, sitting in the public gallery, wiped away tears and then shook hands with Mr. Gilani.
Posted by Ammar - Ed at 7:02 PM
Can a country compete in a global environment and develop as a fast growing economy without a literate, educated and trained workforce. The empirical evidence is clear: it cannot be done.
Then why are we hell-bent on trying to see if we can do it? Modern economies require sophisticated skills from a large number of people and it is impossible to acquire such skills without being literate. In fact, just being literate is often not enough; labour has to be educated to fairly high levels to give competitive advantage to a nation. When we say that developing countries have the advantage of cheap labour, it should be clear that it is not the money wage that matters, it is productivity, or produced amounts compared to wage given that matters. So, China is cheap to produce goods in because for the wages given to labour, the labour produces a lot and of high quality. India is able to attract some business on the same basis as well, as are a number of developing countries.
But a lot of businesses feel Pakistani labour is not cheap: though the wage rate for unskilled labour is only 2-3 dollars a day, the person is illiterate and unskilled and hence unable to provide input into producing quality products. Adding up the cost of either producing low quality products or producing high quality at an excessive cost (with high rejection rates and so on), Pakistani labour no longer remains as cheap - in productivity terms - as Chinese or Indian labour, even though they are paid more in simple dollar terms. So, how can Pakistan compete in this environment and how can we become competitive and sustain our growth trajectory?
The 'demographic dividend' that the previous government has been talking about, for the last couple of years, would be a demographic disaster if we do not invest in our people. There is a very strong non-functional argument for provision of education. Do people have a right to be educated and literate? Any notion of basic rights, that also comes with a notion that every citizen has a right to lead a life of dignity, will have to include some notion of education as a part and parcel of basic rights.
The question really is how much education should be considered a basic right: clearly as much as it takes to provide a life of dignity. And this might vary with the level of development of the society and its economy. For more advanced societies, anything below college education might not be enough, and for developing societies, education up to secondary level might be considered to be enough. But education, given the world we live, is necessary for a life of dignity: it is almost impossible to function in this world without some level of comfort with a couple of languages, the written word, and numbers.
The constitution of the country, in whatever form it is exists, recognises the rights of the citizen for access to education and health care facilities. It does not make these out to be the very basic rights, and so far we have not read the notion of 'right to life' as a right to what makes a life of dignity possible, but one feels that this is inevitable and one day the state will have to live up to the promise of providing education to all as a matter of right. The state in Pakistan not only does not recognise the right to education, if one looks at how the education policy has been implemented over the last many decades, it is also clear that the state never even intended to take the promise made in the constitution seriously. If we are going to spend only around 2 percent of GDP on education, how are we going to ensure that every child is going to be able to attend a school?
In fact the story of the last few decades is grim: the state seems to have given up on even trying to provide educational access to all. It has openly admitted, and many a time, that it cannot do it, and by making appeals to the private sector and the non-profit sector to help, it has repeatedly acknowledged its failure. And it has used the acknowledgement of failure as an excuse for pulling out of the responsibility of providing education to all as well.
But this cannot happen. It should be clear, and even empirically it is a fact that school education, the world over - in capitalist countries and others, in developed countries and others - is the responsibility of the state. It does not mean that the private sector cannot or should not participate in the education field; it can, but the ultimate responsibility for ensuring that children have decent access to education across the country lies squarely and unambiguously with the state. The Pakistani state cannot run away from this responsibility and duty.
But more is at stake here. Just opening up more schools is not the answer to the issues related to education. If the school does not have basic facilities and amenities, if the teacher does not show up, is not qualified, or does not teach properly, if the educational process, at the end (primary, middle, matric, and so on) does not provide a decent chance for the student to keep going forward to the next level and/or to become a part of the mainstream economy, it is not serving the purpose for which it was set-up.
Each and every child of this country has the right to have access to a quality of education that opens up doors for him or her to become a productive and contributing member of this society. If any child does not have that, if any school does not deliver this kind of education, we are not living up to the promise made in our constitution and we are not doing a service to the future of the country as this will just ensure that the 'demographic dividend' does not actually accrue to us. This sounds like a tall order but it is not. If Kerala can do it, if Sri Lanka can do it, if China can achieve this, and if any number of other countries, almost at the same level of development as we are, can do it, so can we.
The winning formula is not rocket science. We have, in a recent study, looked at some schools from the public sector, that, despite the poor financial and other conditions of our educational system, are still able to deliver reasonable quality of education to children and even in some of the poorest of communities. These schools had some of the basic amenities (building, roof, water, blackboards, books, and teacher and so on) that any school needs, but these were not what made the school tick.
In most cases it was a group of people who worried about the school, were committed to the school, the children and the educational process, were instrumental in motivating others about the school, were sometimes even instrumental in ensuring that the basic facilities were provided to it and were able to do all of this on a sustained and dynamic manner - providing an important feedback loop from performance to appreciation to performance. Most of the time this group had at least one or two teachers or the head-teacher in it, it usually had some members of the community in it as well, and sometimes even a committed education department employee was part of the group. And often there were a couple of people who provided leadership to the group.But these groups were organic to each school. Seldom did they come about through some fiat - like most school management committees, or parent committees that we once formed. And they helped make these schools integral parts of their communities. Many bureaucrats and politicians say we do not have the resources to provide quality education to all. It is true that we need to spend more on education, but given its importance, the more important question is, can we afford not to educate the children of the country?
Which would be more costly for the country, spending on quality education for all or dealing with an uneducated nation and work force? Equally importantly, one should keep in mind that though resources are important, they are not what are going to ensure the delivery of quality education to our children. It is developing the support, monitoring and mentoring network, at the level of each school that is going to be crucial. It is there that our main failing is occurring.
What is really needed is for a government to take delivering quality education to all as the most important challenge that it faces and then tackle it by increasing resources to education, but by also spending time to develop the networks that will be able to demand, sustain and develop delivery of quality education. Is there a government that will step forward and take this on?
The author is an Associate Professor and Head of the Department of Economics, School of Humanities and Social Sciences, at the Lahore University of Management Sciences (LUMS).
Posted by The Neem Revolution at 4:56 PM
A seminar on human rights was held at the HRCP auditorium at 3 PM on 23rd March 2008, the 68th anniversary of the adoption of the Pakistan Resolution. Entitled “Do countries sell their own people? A discussion on civil liberties in the age of the War on Terror”, the event presented the plight of the families of the victims of state-sponsored kidnapping. The venue was over-flowing with representatives from a broad cross-section of the general public – lawyers, journalists, human rights activists, students and young professionals.
The event started with a reading of N.M. Rashid’s poem Zindagi say dartay ho, followed by a screening of the suppressed documentary “Missing in Pakistan”.
This was followed by a talk by Mrs. Amina Masood Janjua, wife of Engineer Masood Janjua, missing since May 2005 and spokesperson of the families of the missing persons. She related their struggle to win the release of their family members, describing their street demonstrations and their meetings with various prominent political personalities.
Mrs. Janjua expressed her immense gratitude to the Chief Justice of Pakistan, Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, who had secured the release of more than a hundred missing persons and lamented the fact that this process had come to a halt with his deposition.
She mentioned that they have now started gathering incriminating evidence against President Musharraf, Chief of Army Staff General Kayani, Secretary Interior, Kamal Shah, IG Punjab and IG Sindh, linking them to the kidnapping of their family members.
She thanked the audience for attending the seminar and appealed to them for their help in reuniting the more than 500 persons still missing with their families.
Zainab Khatoon, talking about her missing son, was overcome with emotion and appealed to the audience to help her secure his release. Mr. Syed Tufail Shah, an aged principal of a high school in Peshawar, made a simple appeal for the release of his son.
Counsel for the families of the missing persons, Shaukat Siddiqui as well as Chaudhry Amin, Secretary of the Supreme Court Bar Association, also spoke on the occasion enriching the discussion with information on the basic rights of the citizens of Pakistan as laid down in the Constitution.
The seminar ended with a brief Q&A session with the speakers.
The event brought together people with very divergent perspectives and political affiliations all of whom nevertheless share a firm belief in constitutionalism, pluralist democracy and human rights.
The event was organised by the Students Action Committee, Young Professionals and FASTRising.
Posted by The Neem Revolution at 4:50 PM
Sunday, March 23, 2008
Syed Yusuf Raza Gilani, a member of an influential political family of Multan, started his political career in 1978 after the death of father Makhdoom Alamdar Hussain Gilani, who was a signatory to the Pakistan Resolution.
Mr Gilani’s grandfather, Makhdoom Ghulam Mustafa Shah Gilani, and paternal uncle Makhdoom Raza Shah Gilani had been elected members of the legislative assembly after defeating the Unionists in the 1946 elections.
Mr Gilani’s great grandfather, Makhdoom Raja Bakhsh Gilani, was both mayor of Multan in 1921 and member of the Central Legislative Assembly of India.
He served as a member of the assembly from 1921 till his death in 1936 and was known as the father of the Indian Assembly.
Mr Gilani was the first elected chairman of the District Council, Multan. He defeated the local government minister Syed Fakhar Imam, some 25 years ago.
In the 1985 non-party elections, he was elected MNA and became the minister for housing and railways in the cabinet of Mohammad Khan Junejo.
In 1988 elections, he defeated the then Punjab chief minister Nawaz Sharif on PPP ticket.
In 1990, again on a PPP ticket, he was elected an MNA after defeating Makhdoom Hamid Raza Gilani, a former federal minister. In 1993, he defeated Malik Sikander Hayat Bosan and later became Speaker of the National Assembly.
Mr Gilani contested the election in 1997 on a PPP ticket, but the party did not win a single seat in Punjab.
He was jailed in 2001 over charges of misuse of his authority by giving jobs to undeserving people in the National Assembly Secretariat when he was the speaker.
He spent six years in jail and could not contest the 2002 elections. During his detention, he also authored a book, ‘Chahe Yusuf Se Sada’.
He was made the senior vice-chairman of the PPP in 1998.
Mr Gilani has four sons and a daughter.
He is also related to Pir Pagara, the head of PML-Functional.
Posted by Ammar - Ed at 3:28 PM
ISLAMABAD, March 22: The Pakistan People’s Party on Saturday named Makhdoom Syed Yusuf Raza Gilani for election as the country’s next prime minister to head a landmark coalition of former political rivals, ending weeks of suspense on a day of high political drama that also saw some old friendships being punctured and a new one initiated.
Wiles and guiles of politics were in full play in Islamabad before a statement from PPP co-chairman Asif Ali Zardari announced the choice he said he had made through consultations within the party and with coalition partners, dumping the other most prominent hopeful, Makhdoom Amin Fahim.
The nominee of the PPP, which emerged as the largest parliamentary group in the Feb 18 election, will be the coalition’s joint candidate whose election by the National Assembly for a five-year term, set for Monday, is a foregone conclusion because of the expected support by more than two-thirds majority in the 342-seat lower house.
Mr Fahim, a senior vice-chairman of the PPP, like Mr Gilani, and president of the party’s electoral arm of PPP Parliamentarians, immediately accepted the nomination despite strongly pressing his candidacy publicly in the past, and told the media by telephone from Karachi that he would arrive in Islamabad on Sunday “only, only and only” to vote for Mr Gilani on Monday.
The nomination was earlier due to have been announced by PPP boy chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari who, according to party officials, had come home during a studies break in Britain only for this purpose.
But in an apparent last-minute change of plans amid murmurs about the wisdom of involving the 19-year-old undergraduate in a controversy and to announce a choice he was not expected to make, the task was left to a statement from Mr Zardari that was read out to the media by party spokesman Farhatullah Babar.
However, the statement spoke of consultations having been held with Bilawal as with other coalition partners and unspecified party members and made no mention of Mr Fahim, whose candidacy had fed rumour mills for weeks after media reports that Mr Zardari and main ally PML-N had developed some reservations about the PPP’s most senior parliamentarian because of his past contacts with President Pervez Musharraf.
Posted by Ammar - Ed at 2:33 PM
Saturday, March 22, 2008
Since the February 18 elections, a spate of threats emanating from the highest circles of MQM have served as a rude reminder that the party is still running its business as usual, i.e. meeting their goals through arm-twisting, intimidation, scaremongering and/or naked violence. Fairly or unfairly, Human Rights organizations and the majority of Pakistanis blamed MQM for orchestrating and executing the May 12 Karachi Carnage. Astonishingly, it's as if the MQM overlords haven't learned a thing from the severe backlash they received from the May 12 Carnage. Its gung-ho leadership continues with its hallmark heavy-handed tactics to convince or coarse their political foes.
As soon as MQM comes across a perceived hurdle, it tries to bulldoze through it with brute force. Ironically, despite its history of sorting matters through violent means, it's patrons in the West shamelessly project MQM as a secular and a moderate political party. Even though there are several criminal convictions against MQM's undisputed lord Altaf Hussain, still he is afforded security and luxury in London: courtesy of Her Majesty’s government, the United Kingdom. Never mind, if he is held squarely responsible for the massacre of thousands of Pakistani citizens. In a prime example of hypocrisy and violation of international laws, in February 2001, Mr. Hussain, who is believed to be one of the worst terrorists, was granted British citizenship with full civil, constitutional rights and privileges available to all British citizens. By granting him British citizenship, the UK violated several international laws, like UNSC Res: 1189 (section 5) and 1368. Why a British citizen so intimately linked with terrorism and a person who has renounced the creation of Pakistan (that too in front of Indian audience) is allowed to run Pakistan's fourth largest political party is a million-dollar question!
However, neither the majority of Pakistanis nor the human rights organizations share West’s pristine view of the MQM. In a 2007 press release, Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch, disputed western establishment’s portrayal of the MQM. Mr. Adams said, “The political crisis deepened on May 12, when 42 people died in violence fomented by activists of the Mutahedda Qaumi Movement (MQM)”. He disclosed, in order to silence its critics, the MQM frequently resorts to intimidation through death threats. He said, “Mohajir Rabita Council (MRC), an affiliate of the MQM, issued a statement naming 12 eminent Pakistani journalists as ‘enemies.’” Finally, Mr. Adams commented on the long history of human rights abuses by the MQM, “The MQM has a long record of political harassment, extortion, torture and targeted killings”
MQM's lust for power is only rivaled by its founding leader’s iron grip on the party. Even though Mr. Hussain, a British citizen and a taxi driver turned politician, has not set a foot in Pakistan in the last 18 years, he remains the overlord of the party. Curiously, he manages to fly over Pakistan to land in India only to renounce the creation of Pakistan, but for some conspicuous reason, can’t find heart to stop by in Pakistan for even few hours. Nevertheless, he enjoys a decent following among the Mohajir Pakistanis from Karachi and Hyderabad. His critics allege it's because people are forced at the barrel of gun to follow his edicts.
As soon as the 2008 election results became apparent, in its lust for plushy and lucrative ministries, MQM was back at what it does the best, blackmailing and extortion. Once again it tried to muscle its way through by demanding to become a coalition partner of the incoming government. In his typical style, reminiscent of Adolf Hitler's fiery sermons, Lord Hussain led the campaign of intimidation. He threatened, “It will be dangerous for Sindh if certain groups do not respect the mandate of the people.” In an apparent threat to Pakistan People’s Party (the overwhelming winner in Sindh, especially in the rural Sindh), he said, Sindh would face confrontation because ‘certain groups’ were trying to create an urban and rural division in the province. Translation: there will be violence if you left MQM out of the incoming government.
Taking a cue from their Lord's opening shot, his lieutenants backed up Lord Hussain’s campaign of intimidation with their own. The City Nazim Syed Mustafa Kamal said that Karachi can face law and order situation if MQM was not included in the new government set-up. To score the point home, MQM presented a sample to highlight their resolve to backup their words with actions. When PPP’s candidate from PS-110 Habib Jan tried to meet the hospitalized men injured in a shootout in which four people were wounded, and an eight-year-old girl and a man were killed, eyewitnesses reported, armed MQM men surrounding the Civil Hospital roughed up and then fired on Mr. Jan.
Then in a follow-up to his initial threats, Lord Hussain again warned, “The MQM does not want war. This is 2008 and we are ready to give our lives but not ready to surrender or retreat.” Evidently, Lord Hussain had been under the impression that in the 2008 Democratic system too, the number of seats don't matter, it's the ‘bully factor’ which matters. Apparently, that is how the MQM had been able to become a coalition partner in the past governments, but this time PPP was in no mood to give in to the threats of unadulterated violence, especially not after MQM's stellar performance in the May 12 Carnage. However, perhaps inadvertently, Lord Hussain confirmed MQM's frequent indulgence in violence and terrorism. He lashed out, “Do not push us against the wall. If anything happens tomorrow, do not hold us responsible. We are against violence and terrorism, but we are also human beings and we will never compromise on our self-respect, dignity and honor.”
It is anybody's guess why the backlash from the May 12 Carnage failed to jolt the MQM leadership out of their deep slumber into the reality that the days of getting business done through intimidation and pure violence are long gone. They need to listen to their voters’ voice, that they are tired of divisive politics. They are tired of their political leaders who constantly demand unbelievable sacrifices from ordinary workers but don't part with the luxuries they have accustomed themselves to. They are tired of the leaders safely and comfortably sitting in the West expecting their party workers to do the Lord’s dirty work and bear the brunt of retributions resulting from the sins of their overlords. They are tired of politicians who thrive on pitting Pakistanis against each other on their sectarian and ethnic differences. No longer do they want to be Balochis, Sindhis, Pathans, Punjabis or Mohajirs, they just want to be plain Pakistanis. They are tired of violence and killings. They couldn't care less who sits in the assemblies or who gets what ministry. They are more concerned about who can provide them the basic necessities of life, like electricity, atta, and security for their families.
If the MQM overlords are genuinely concerned about the well-being of Pakistanis then they need to stop running their business as usual, part with the security and luxury afforded to them by foreign-powers, return to Pakistan and serve their constituents without packing a gun in their back pockets.
(Courtesy The Frontier Post)
Posted by The Neem Revolution at 5:30 PM
March 22 (AFP): The leaders of Pakistan’s newly-formed coalition government intend to start negotiations with militants in a hope of ending the spate of bombings that has shaken the country, The New York Times reported on its website late Friday.
It said Asif Ali Zardari of Pakistan People's Party and Nawaz Sharif Pakistan Muslim League-N said in interviews that they will use military force only as a last resort. The talk of a softer approach to militants has alarmed US officials. Many Pakistanis -- the NYT report said -- are convinced the surge in suicide bombings (17 in the first 10 weeks of 2008) is retaliation for three Predator strikes since the year’s beginning.
Speaking in separate interviews, Zardari and Sharif said they were determined to set a different course from Musharraf. Sharif is quoted as saying, “we will deal with them sensibly. When you have a problem in your family, you don't kill your own family, you sit and talk. Britain got the Ireland problem solution. So what's the harm in negotiations?” Zardari said the war against the insurgents has to be redefined as “Pakistan's war” for a public that has come to resent the conflict as being pushed on the country as part of a US agenda, The Times said. “Obviously what they have been doing for the last eight years has not been working,” Zardari said.
Posted by The Neem Revolution at 4:27 PM
1. Student Action Committee (SAC) and Institute of Peace & Secular Studies
Colonialism & Resistance: From the Standpoint of its victims. A Critical Analysis of Third Worldism
With Qalandar Bux Memon
Date: Saturday 22nd March
Time: 3pm Sharp - 5pm
Venue: Nehr Ghar - 5 Zaman Park
Qalandar Bux Memon is one of the founding Editors of Naked Punch (London). Naked Punch is a quarterly journal of Philosophical and Political thought. To which Noam Chomsky, Tariq Ali, Zia Sardar, among many others have contributed. He is currently lecturing in Political Science at Foreman Christian College (Lahore). He holds masters in Philosophy (University of London) and in Politics (London School of Economics). His current research is focused on developing and synthesizing Philosophical concepts that emerged out of resistance to imperialism/colonialism from the Third World.Directions: Nehrghar - 5 Zaman Park
On the canal, cross the mall road and take the 1st left at the Zaman Park sign
Take an immediate right on the side lane.
2nd gate on the left.
SEMINAR: Do countries sell their own citizens?
Sunday, March 23, 2008
3:00pm - 5:00pm
HRCP Auditorium (Human Rights Commission of Pakistan)
107 - Tipu Block, New Garden Town
3:00 PM - Screening of Missing in Pakistan, an independent documentary by Ziad Zafar
3:30 PM - Talk by Mrs. Amna Masood Janjua, spokesperson of the families of the "missing people"
4:30 PM - Q&A session
It is not power that corrupts but fear. Fear of losing power corrupts those who wield it and fear of the scourge of power corrupts those who are subject to it. Aung San Suu Kyi
Posted by The Neem Revolution at 4:21 PM
Friday, March 21, 2008
LAHORE, March 20: Deposed Chief Justice of Pakistan Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry said on Thursday there was no room now for imposition of martial law and abrogation of the Constitution in the country.
Addressing the Lahore Bar Association by telephone ahead of a weekly protest rally, he said the judiciary had been under pressure since the inception of Pakistan.“But now things have changed drastically because people have rejected the dictatorship and supported independent judges,” he said.
The barroom echoed with slogans in favour of the deposed chief justice and against President Pervez Musharraf. Justice Chaudhry said the Supreme Court’s seven-member bench verdict against the imposition of emergency and PCO still held the ground.“A decision violative of the Constitution, neither has constitutional and legal significance nor required a fiat for setting it aside. It should be ignored completely,” he said.“The SC in its decision had restrained superior court judges from taking the oath under the PCO. Therefore, the judges who took the oath under the PCO on Nov 3 could not undo the verdict of the seven-members bench against the Nov 3 emergency,” he added.
He said the people of Pakistan had given their verdict on Feb 18 in favour of the supremacy of the Constitution, making it obligatory for the political leadership to respect their mandate. “Only the parliament, the supreme body, has the power to amend the Constitution with a two-thirds majority but it also could not disturb the Islamic provisions and basic structure of the Constitution,” the chief justice said.
Justice Iftikhar said the parliament should evolve a system of maintaing a balance among various state institutions. He said it should be ensured that the executive followed directives of the legislature and the judiciary in letter and spirit. Justice Chaudhry said that under Article 199 of the Constitution it was the duty of the executive to assist the SC in getting its orders implemented. But regretfully, the executive did not act upon the Supreme Court’s Nov 3 order and surrendered before an individual.
Defending his decision of not taking oath under the PCO, the deposed chief justice said: “We (the judges) could not become part of a process where the sacred book (Constitution) is trampled upon under boots of the army, by virtue of our oath of allegiance to the Constitution.”
He said he would have betrayed the people, who cared for him in the hour of need, had he involved himself in any way with the subversion of the Constitution.“No one is above the law. Nations who do not respect their constitutions are wiped of the world map,” he added.
He paid tribute to his colleagues, who declined to take oath under the PCO on Nov 3 and said that they had remained true to their allegiance to the Constitution. He said all extra-constitutional steps taken on Nov 3 were meant to perpetuate the illegitimate rule of an individual.
Justice Iftikhar said the country stood at a critical juncture and the new political leadership needed to handle the situation prudently. He lauded the civil society, students, doctors and people from different walks of life for supporting the lawyers’ movement.
Posted by The Neem Revolution at 4:38 PM
Ms Jehangir’s mission follows a similar one undertaken by her predecessor in 1996. “My forthcoming report will also be a follow-up on developments during the past twelve years, in order to analyse what has changed and why.”She said she was concerned at the extended timeframe of investigations in cases of communal riots, violence and massacres such as those which targeted the Sikhs in 1984, or the ones that followed the demolition of the Babri mosque and the most recent one in Gujarat in 2002.
“Any inquiry should not be done in indecent haste but it should be accorded the highest priority both from the investigation, the judiciary and any commission appointed to study the situation. Unreasonable protraction of the inquiry only keeps tensions simmering and devalues justice."
“I was astonished to learn that just before I arrived in India, the Liberhan Commission -– probing the circumstances leading to the 1992 demolition of the Babri Masjid in Ayodhya – got the 44th extension to conclude its inquiry,” she said.
The level of action of the government to protect its citizens in terms of freedom of religion or belief varies according to the states concerned. It was thus that the potential for greater harm to Kashmiri Pundits when they were forced to flee their homes was contained by the state’s prompt intervention, while the same could not be said about the protection of religious minorities in Gujarat, who continue to live in ghettoes and in fear.
“The de-escalation of violence in Jammu and Kashmir has had a positive impact on freedom of religion there,” Ms Jehangir said. “Places of worship are now more accessible and the tensions are reducing. There have been public statements inviting the Hindu Pundits to return to Kashmir. However, many interlocutors have confirmed a continuing bias amongst security forces against Muslims who also face problems with regard to exit controls lists and discrimination when renting hotel rooms outside Jammu and Kashmir,” she noted.
She urged the state of Orissa, where the Hindutva drive is intensive and widespread, to reconsider its anti-conversion legislation.Less than three months ago, there was widespread violence in the Kandhamal district of Orissa, targeting primarily Christians in Dalit and tribal communities. The attacks could have been prevented since the Christian community alerted the authorities before the incident.
“The tensions are still prevalent and the state should rethink its anti-conversion legislation which has been used to vilify Christians in general,” she said.In UP, communal violence continues to occur while perpetrators are dealt with sympathy by the law enforcement agents. “Some of the cases are still under investigation and I hope that justice will prevail.”
In Gujarat, the wounds of the 2002 massacre, where by all accounts more than a thousand people -– mostly Muslims -– were killed, have not healed, she said. “In my discussions with victims I could see their continuing fear which is exacerbated by the reported complicity of the state government and the distress that justice continues to evade most victims and survivors.
“It is also critical for the state government to recognise that development without a policy of inclusiveness of all religious communities will only add to aggravate resentments. The same is true for the increasing ghettoisation of Muslims in certain areas.”
Ms Jehangir said her predecessor, Mr Abdelfattah Amor, “unfortunately was prophetic when he expressed his fears that something in the nature of the 1992 Ayodhya incident will recur in the event of political exploitation of a situation. In my opinion, there is today a real risk that similar communal violence might happen again unless incitement to religious hatred and political exploitation of communal tensions are effectively prevented."
She urged the government and for non-state actors to diffuse tensions and address the root causes beforehand. The sincerity of the central government to implement the Sachar Committee report will be very much seen on the ground because state governments have been given direction to follow-up on the recommendations of the report.
Posted by The Neem Revolution at 4:32 PM