Thursday, January 24, 2008

LUMS Issues Report Urging U.S. To Demand Restoration of Judiciary

Washington, D.C. - The Rule of Law Project at the Lahore Universityof Management Sciences (LUMS) is issuing a report today entitled Defending Dictatorship: U.S. Foreign Policy and Pakistan's Struggle for Democracy. The report is co-authored by members of a delegation from the United States National Lawyers Guild and is the result of a ten-day fact-finding visit to Pakistan to assess the status of the judiciary and the prospect for fair elections in light of recent attacks on judicial independence. The report criticizes U.S. foreign policy in Pakistan, concluding that U.S. support for PresidentMusharaff and its failure to demand restoration of the deposed judges will have long-term negative impacts on the judiciary and the rule of law in Pakistan and damage regional safety and security.
The report also concludes that the upcoming elections are unlikely to meet international standards due to widespread systemic and structural problems, including pre-poll abuses and the failure to enforce existing election regulations. Additionally, the report addresses press freedom in Pakistan, noting that severe restrictions faced by all media, in particular the Urdu-language press, constitute a "serious threat" to Pakistan's democratic development.
"The independence of the judiciary is a cornerstone of a functioning democracy. The United States' support for a dictator and its failure to demand the reinstatement of the deposed judges is critically damaging demcratic development and threatening regional safety and security," stated Rule of Law Project Director Devin Theriot-Orr.
David Gespass, the Vice President of the National Lawyers Guild and the leader of the delegation, stated that "We intend to share the report with the American people and place it before our elected representatives to help effect a drastic change in U.S. policy towards Pakistan that emphasizes human rights and democracy as the only real means of reducing the threat of terrorism."
Professors Roger Normand and Justice (ret'd) Jawwad Khawaja of LUMS established the Rule of Law Project to serve as an academic clearinghouse for documentation and research regarding constitutionalism and the rule of law in Pakistan. The Project is developing a comprehensive report on the impacts of the PCO and seeking information from all lawyers and members of civil society who were arrested, detained, or mistreated following the PCO.

We are especially seeking to get this report into the hands ofelected representatives and members of the press in Europe duringMusharraf's European tour.
* Report available here:
* Full Press Release (with photo) available here:
* Signon statement available here:
Thanks for your assistance.

Devin Theriot-Orr, Director, LUMS Rule of Law Project

Retired generals tell Musharraf to go

By MUNIR AHMAD, Associated Press Writer Wed Jan 23, 9:27 AMET
ISLAMABAD, Pakistan - An influential group of retired officers from Pakistan's powerful military has urged President Pervez Musharraf to immediately step down, saying his resignation would promote democracy and help combatreligious militancy.
"This is in the supreme national interest and it makes itincumbent on him to step down," said a statement released late Tuesday to the media by the Pakistan Ex-Servicemen's Society, after a group meeting attended by more than 100 former generals, admirals, air marshals and other retired officers and enlisted men.
The call came as Musharraf, who was commander of the army until stepping down last month, was in Europe on a tour aimed at reassuring Western leaders about his ability to restore democracy and prevail in the escalating combat between government troops and Taliban rebels along Pakistan's mountainous border with Afghanistan.
The group of former generals does not speak for serving officers, but its tough stance is an embarrassment to Musharraf whose popularity has waned considerably in the past year.
It could strike a chord within the army's current ranks —which are forbidden from expressing political opinions —over how a once-respected institution has lost a lot of support among the wider public as Musharraf's personal standing has eroded over his maneuvering to stay in power.
This fall, the U.S.-backed president purged the Supreme Court, which could have scuppered his recent re-election,and briefly suspended the constitution, setting back expectations of a restoration of democracy.
"The feeling was unanimous and strong among the (retired) officers and other ranks that Musharraf is the problem and that he is a source of divisiveness, a source of centrifugal forces and an impediment to democracy," saidTalat Masood, a retired general who is now a prominent political analyst.
"He is bringing down the reputation of the army, and undermining its support among the people which it needs in the war on terror," said Masood, who attended the meeting."He has brought disgrace on all ranks."
Musharraf, a top U.S. ally in its war on terrorism, led a military coup to seize power in 1999, but retired from the army before being inaugurated for a new five-year term as civilian president in November.
His successor as army chief, Gen. Ashfaq Kayani, is believed to remain loyal to the president. The continued support of the military — which has ruled Pakistan for morethan half of its 60 years as an independent nation — is essential for Musharraf to remain in power.
The Bush administration has continued to praise the former general, saying he is committed to restoring democracy through parliamentary elections scheduled for Feb. 18.
Kayani has moved quickly to disengage the army from politics. He has banned officers from maintaining contacts with politicians, and ordered the more than 3,000 officers now serving in the civil administration and government-run enterprises to gradually revert to their military duties.
Kayani has been praised by U.S. officials as an aggressive commander who has shown he is determined to restore law andorder to the border regions that have served as a haven for Taliban and al-Qaida fighters.
On Tuesday, Adm. William Fallon — the head of the U.S.Central Command and top commander of American forces in theMiddle East — held talks in Rawalpindi with Kayani. ThePakistani army said the two men discussed the "security situation" in the region, but gave no more details.
In the latest violence, suspected militants attacked a military camp in the frontier region with rockets and small-arms fire Wednesday, killing three soldiers andwounding several others, a military statement and securityofficials said. The strike against Razmak Fort in SouthWaziristan came a day after fighting that left seven troops and 37 militants dead.
Meanwhile, a suspected suicide bomber was killed and five people were injured in an explosion in Jamrud, a tribal area close to Peshawar, said Khan Dad, a local government officer. The bomb went off in a market in the village ofWazir Dand, he said.
"We think he was carrying the bomb somewhere when it exploded," Khan said.
In its statement, the Ex-Servicemen's Society said its members had been watching "events in the recent past withgreat concern and anguish," according to the Dawn newspaper.
Tuesday's meeting brought together retired commanders ofall political stripes, the daily said. It included hard-liners such as Javed Ashraf Qazi, the former head of Pakistan's feared Inter-Services Intelligence, and liberal reformists like Air Marshals Asghar Khan and Nur Khan.
"Kayani has made it very clear that army has to keep away from politics and the affairs of the state," Mirza Aslam Beg, who was chief of army staff from 1988 to 1991, told The Associated Press.
"He has realized the sentiments of the people of Pakistan that they do not want the army to intervene and take decisions on their behalf."
Associated Press writers Bashirullah Khan in Miran Shah,Ishtiaq Mahsud in Dera Ismail Khan, Riaz Khan in Peshawar,and Slobadan Lekic in Islamabad contributed to this report.

Open Letter to Najam Sethi

(Note: The Letter was written on Nov 7, 2007 but most of the issues discussed are still relevant.)

Dear Mr. Najam Sethi,

I never had any illusions about your democratic credentials after having gone through your editorials in Friday Times and later Daily Times for the last 8 years in your capacity as the self appointed spokesperson and advisor to General Musharraf and the GHQ. I was familiar with your jugglery and frequent 180 degrees somersaults, but your editorial of Nov 5 in Daily times "Wages of confrontation" still took me by surprise and I was really dismayed and disappointed at your audacity to justify the martial law proclaimed by General Musharraf on Nov 3. In this editorial you have summarily accused the lawyers, judiciary, journalists and political parties as confrontationists, who have brought us to the present state of emergency. This single editorial deserves that you are nominated as his official speech writer given your expertise at rephrasing the speech of General Musharraf, perhaps more eloquently. The reward for your services was very quick: the owner of daily times was appointed as a minister in the new caretaker cabinet and some crumbs might be thrown to you personally as well in the near future. You have chosen to apply the most infamous logic of General Musharraf by accusing the victim like he did in the case of Mukhtaran Mai and accused Pakistani women of staging rape cases to get immigration to Canada. You conveniently forgot the role of the present military regime in bringing Pakistan to the status of one of the most corrupt and dangerous countries of the world, keeping its vast majority illiterate and poor and subjecting them to draconian laws.

The crux of your argument is that the civil society does not realize the importance to fight extremism in the country and was creating impediments for General Musharraf to fight the war against terror and deserved the punishment meted out to them. Despite galloping US$10 bln in direct US aid in the last seven years, rescheduling of loans by the international financial institutions and a few more billions in covert aid, what has the military regime done against terrorism. It has brought terrorism from inside Afghanistan to tribal areas, then settled areas of NWFP and now up to Islamabad. How has it facilitated it. First by keeping the mainstream parties out of 2002 elections, delivering two provinces to MMA by recognizing the sanads issued by Madrassas, letting the extremists take shelter inside tribal areas and regroup and refusing to purge extremists from its intelligence agencies who had been able to infiltrate in the armed forces during long years of training Jihadis against the Soviets and later developing Taliban. Is the militant Islamic ideology godfathered by Military inadvertently or as a counterweight to undermine democratic political forces and use it both inside Pakistan against democracy and also for its intervention in India and Afghanistan?

Secondly for quite some time now you had successfully introduced highly confusing and misplaced terms of transition and transformation in the political jargon through your newspapers. Under transition you advocated extension of PML (Q) status to some more liberal secular political parties like PPP, who could be forced to join a Government under General Musharraf without demanding any major structural or policy changes by the military regime and providing it desired legitimacy and termed the position taken by the democratic movement for fair and free elections, sending the armed forces back to barracks (and focusing on fighting terrorism) and supremacy of constitution and law as an extremist position. These genuine democratic forces were called transformationists/confrontationsts, who were unaware of the ground realities of military domination in the society and instead of realizing that the primary conflict in Pakistan is not between civil and military forces but between liberals and fundamentalists, these forces are bent to destabilize the country and bring about a revolution. This statement and understanding has serious flaws. What you call transformation is by no means a revolutionary demand, it is very much a democratic demand advocated today by all civil society forces except a few opportunists like PML (Q), MQM and some individuals like you. It takes us back to 1988, not any farther, as the protagonists of this demand are mainstream political parties who do not want any revolutionary changes and are content by restoration of constitutional rule in the country. Permanent displacement of armed forces from politics and confining them to their constitutional role may be the dream of many, but is not a realistic goal given the lack of such an organization which can spearhead such a movement. Only a civilian leadership can fight the scourge of fundamentalism with appropriate use of armed forces and not otherwise. Today all political and civil society organizations are united that the only negotiations with the military regime can be for the exit strategy for Musharraf and the whole nation is backing the joint leadership of Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Shareef. It is very much clear to everyone that contrary to what Mr. Najam Sethi would like people to believe, General Musharraf is a dictator who never wanted any genuine sharing of power with any genuine political party and the assumption that he would have doffed his uniform if the courts did not press him is false and a blatant lie. CJ Iftikhar Chaudhry sensed the possibility of martial law and did not form a full bench to hear the case of Gen. Musharraf and excluded three anti-Musharaff judges to be members of the bench, thus trying to defuse the situation, but Musharraf was not ready to take any chance and preferred to topple the judiciary.

You have always highlighted the corruption under the civilian regimes and completely ignored the state of corruption under Musharraf. Even in the satire columns you have always targeted the political leadership by ridiculing them. The only column on Musharraf does not ridicule Musharraf, it targets President Bush. This is your true face: joining the hated military ruler against popular civilian leaders. I have not seen any of your columns on the corruption cases under the Musharraf regime. You fail to take note of the annual report of Transparency International in 2006, which declared Musharraf regime to be more corrupt than both Nawaz Shareef and Benazir Bhutto at the index of 63% against 48% for Benazir and 34% for Nawaz Shareef. It is due to journalists like you who have served the military rulers by black outing their corruption and focusing your entire energies on the civilian leadership and thus perpetuating military rule.

We kept on hearing about Transparency International throughout 1990's, however reference to their reports completely disappeared during the present regime. I am sure you know that more than half of our revenues goes to defence and the lack of accountability and massive corruption in various defence establishments at all levels remains unreported. You for obvious reasons failed to pay tribute to the glorious movement of lawyers for the supremacy of judiciary. Instead you have complained about the suo moto notices of CJ against the inefficient, corrupt government officials who deny to serve the people and provide them any relief. Was it wrong to provide justice to Munoo Bheel, who was oppressed by his feudal masters with the active connivance of police and provincial government of Sindh headed by the infamous Arbab. Was it wrong to provide some justice to the thousands missing persons from Balochistan and other provinces. CJ simply demanded that if there are cases against them these people should be persecuted through the law and courts and not held by intelligence agencies indefinitely. One could expect that you are sympathetic to such people abducted by the agencies without charges.

I can understand the ire of military rulers and bureaucrats on Judiciary, but I did not know that they caused sleepless nights to you, who himself underwent similar experience in the previous regime and cannot forget it. Obviously Mr. Sethi does not like the Judiciary to interfere in any constitutional matters such as the dual offices of President and COAS, return of Nawaz Shareef or ruling PCO to be against the constitution. Now even Musharraf admits that it was an illegal and extra constitutional step. But Mr. Sethi, you have decided to be more loyal to the king than he himself is.

You have also conveniently forgotten to mention two of the darkest days in the recent history of Pakistan: May 12 and Oct 18, when citizens of Pakistan were killed mercilessly by known actors. Suo moto notices by the supreme and high courts were about to disclose the faces of people behind these carnages and it is one of the primary reasons why Judiciary was attacked so vehemently. Now the sole criterion of selection of Judges is just one: compliance to the orders of an authoritarian executive.

Lastly you never fail to praise the present military regime with the outstanding performance of economy in the last 7 years. You are obviously aware that from 1999-2002 the economy grew at just 2.5% and it was only after 9/11 and the massive rescheduling of loans, channeling of huge funds of more than US$10 bln by the US alone and remittances of US$5bln each year by overseas Pakistanis due to uncertainty in the West has helped Pakistan keep floating. Musharraf regime has not contributed a single kilowatt in the national energy grid forcing citizens and the industry to face long hours of load shedding, there has been no trickle down effect of these remittances on the majority of Pakistanis who are barely surviving the wave of unemployment and inflation. Pakistan remains one of the most underdeveloped countries with mass illiteracy, lack of health care and is found at the bottom of list on all social indicators at No. 138. It is the only country in the world which shares a military dictatorship with Myanmar. Major terrorist activities world wide are somehow linked with Pakistan and everyone visiting abroad knows the worth of a Pakistani passport.

In such dismal times, it really takes courage to praise the present regime which has got Pakistan to the bottom of its prestige. It has managed to stay in the world headlines mainly due to your President's penchant for negative popularity.

I know it will not be possible for you to publish this letter in your newspaper given your own authoritarian tendencies, but let it be known what some of your readers think about your journalism.

Nadeem Khalid

Letter from a student at GIK

(The following is a moving account from a student of GIK (Ghulam Ishaq Khan) Institute, where an airforce plane crashed yesterday, killing the pilot and a gardner. Though unrelated directly, to any aspect of the crises our country faces today, it is a compelling reflection of the existential angst that so many of our fellow citizens are faced with in these dark times.)


Today, there was an incident here that substantially changed my way of thinking. A Pakistan Airforce trainer plane crashed inside GIKI premises today. The pilot and a gardener died on the spot. There was no other loss of life or property. Further analysis (and some witness reports) revealed that the trainee pilot's quick thinking had prevented loss of 300+ lives and damage to faculty buildings. The pilot, instead of ejecting from the plane when he knew it was going to crash, maneuvered the plane and kept it on the (narrow) road away from the buildings and places nearby, where students hang out during the day. Had he ejected from the plane, he would most probably have survived but the crash site was surrounded by buildings in which 300+ people were working/studying at the time, a lot would have been lost. In short, he sacrificed his life to prevent loss of other lives.

It is incidents such as these that force you to think about...well, about everything. And this time it got me thinking about his selfless act. It is only the leader of the Pakistan Army, who had lowered the army in the eyes of the civilian population. Whereas the truth of the matter is that our army, is willing to sacrifice for the country. They stand ever-ready, to defend our homeland from any harm.

It also made me think that It is really not a leader who makes all the difference. This single man had saved 300+ lives. It made me realize that every-day people can also be heroes. They can also do big things. And they can make a difference. If the pilot would have started blaming the engineers and the government for old planes with mechanical faults, there would not have been enough time for him to think and act as he did. We are too lazy and love to put the blame on others.

From now on, I resolve to change my lifestyle to favor growth and prosperity of Pakistan. I resolve to be honest, devoted and respectful and to deliver what I promise. May Allah grant me the strength to do so. Maybe one day I will be a hero and I will make a difference. Until then, I live on in the hope that the day will soon come.

Lastly, I salute the pilot, for his selfless act. May Allah rest his soul in peace. Amen.