Monday, January 28, 2008

One party president


On October 6, 2007 it became 'official' that Musharraf had been elected by the Electoral College as president for the next five years. Quite apart from the fact that at time that very 'election' was under a serious challenge in the SC through a number of cases including one that I was arguing, the voting in that election requires serious notice.
The point requiring our present attention is not that legally it was entirely a flawed exercise devoid of jurisdiction and appropriate compliance with the Constitution; it was manifestly suffering from many legal infirmities. So much so that in the 36 amendments made in the Constitution during the earlier days after enforcement of emergency by Musharraf 17, are with respect to his candidature as president and 4 with respect to the courts and judges who were examining that matter at that time. However as this topic has been examined by me in my prior columns, it is the political aspects of this manoeuvre that require a deeper analysis.

It is on record that this process was totally boycotted by the Opposition. The MMA plus other parties had resigned from the assemblies and the EC; the PPP had also totally abstained. With the result that the voting was around 55% of the total vote which is about the voting strength of Punjab. The two western provinces' majority did not vote for him nor did rural Sindh which is generally represented by PPP. So the voting for Musharraf is entirely because of its representation in Punjab and the work of PML-Q. More odious to any one who looks at this development objectively in a historical context is the indisputable fact that this process wholly relies on just one province in Pakistan. The 1971 creation of Bangladesh because of a spate of follies by the military strongman general Yahya are a vivid reminder of what yet could happen in this country.
In political terms it can hardly be called an election for the president of the country when only one of the four provincial units is voting! Does it not prove that Musharraf's entire political constituency is thus just of one party, essentially hailing from just one province, and which has been aiding the regime in power that came to power in 1999 through a coup? Does it also not prove that against the letter and spirit of the Constitution, it has now attempted to cement the genesis of the break up of Federation whose unity he is supposed to represent?

Article 41 provides that the president should represent unquestionably the four units of the Republic and not just one. This provision demands that the president:
" Represent the 'unity' of the Federation.
" Be genuinely elected by the four province's majority vote in the EC.
" Must be above party politics.
In terms of political norms that govern elections Musharraf's manoeuvres of October 6 are the negation of the democratic process. It is an undeniable fact that not only Musharraf went to numerous political meetings of the PML-Q during 2007, a year of great political turmoil and extreme polarisation, even after the announcement of election he has gone around the country seeking voting preference for the ruling PML-Q under the garb of 'continuity' of his policies. Under a parliamentary system what priority does a president have to ask voters to give? Which parlimentary system allows this to go unchallenged? Does it happen in Canada or Australia or anywhere in the world may I ask?

When the Democrats pulled out of the Michigan primary, and Hillary Clinton's name did appear on the ballot, no contest was legally held, when it could have been so done, since everyone abhors in the US a one sides nominated beauty contest rather then an election which by its nature is a contested matter. As a consequence it is trite knowledge that in Pakistan the presidential camp is facing a political dilemma. How to regain the popularity of Musharraf without affecting the vote bank of the formerly ruling party PML-Q which cast its ballot in that farcical process of October 6, 2007?
According to well-placed sources in the US Musharraf has asked his senior civilian and military advisors to handle this uphill task with extra care in highlighting the president's 'impartiality'. But a question arises: how is that compatible with regard to elections when by doing so it would affect the political standing of the Q-league which is already being hard hit by the opposition parties' allegations of being the torchbearer of a military general? Would it not suffer further political damage? So the question that the pundits of the government have to respond to is this: while in theory the president is not supporting any of the political parties, all major opposition parties, PML-N and PPP are insisting that PML-Q is enjoying an overwhelming backing of Musharraf.
The presidential aides to hide the real truth of his own unpopularity have instead informed the president that people blamed their problems on the five-year rule led by the PML-Q and not of Musharraf's making. But the public perception about the presidential backing for the so-called King's party is axiomatic; the party could be equally harmed by tarnished image of the president, especially after the killing of Benazir who most in the country believe was murdered by the incumbent regime.

The dismissal of three main petitions by the reshaped Supreme Court by Musharraf in the post-emergency era against the legitimacy of the candidature of General (Retd) Musharraf for the presidential election while holding the army chief post has helped the general in an ad hoc time frame in a superficial legal sense but politically the fundamental questions of his illegitimacy remain.

Prior to the last hearing, an 11-member Bench of the Apex Court was proceeding with the petitions till November 2 when on date the hearing was adjourned until November 5. But on November 3, the state of emergency coupled with a PCO was declared in the country. The PCO suspended the Constitution of 1973 and called for taking fresh oath by the Superior Court judges under it. Resultantly 65 out of 90 judges refused. How a general can do so with the regard to the Constitution which under prevalent civilised political norms can be done only by a two-third majority of the people sitting in the assemblies? I leave that question for anyone who cares to defend this action of violating the Constitution. The legal community here at Harvard and the West Coast and at such places as Stanford and UCLA were stunned when I asked politely if they are prepared to accept that one day their chief of joint staff says, "I make these changes in the Constitution of 1787 rather than the two-third majority principle that lies embedded in the American Constitution because they aid my conceptions of democracy?"
The 1999 coup has assumed by now several times the office of 'president'; yet it is amusingly said by and on his behalf that it is only his second term! Indisputably he assumed such roles for himself, under rules devised by him at least three times before 2007. So it is the fourth time that such responsibilities are being assumed by him. Whatever policy-oriented view one may adopt, I cannot think any lawyer worth his salt can misinterpret 'facts'!

Musharraf finding that he does not have to confront Benazir any longer has made another U-turn vis-à-vis Nawaz Sharif to float the idea of a 'national government'. The move is a prelude to postponement of the forthcoming elections one more time as the regime spy sleuths have concluded that they cannot 'arrange' a sizeable number of seats for the Q-league and other collaborators even after record rigging. The elections may be postponed for a few months, then for a year and later the regime may find ways to extend itself for 4-5 years.

Even if we accept the varying interpretations being put on the causation of BB's murder, it cannot be denied that the assassins were seen by the world at just a few feet from her on December 27, 2007. Who allowed this to happen? On December 30 Musharraf did say that she killed herself. Let us agree on further implications that Musharraf wants us to agree to: Yes, Benazir killed herself by hitting the car's sunroof lever. Yes, she was warned not to hold a political rally. Yes, no state agency was involved in her gruesome murder. Yes, the Sharif brothers went into exile on their own request. Yes, several civil society activists, judges and lawyers deserve to be kept in detention. Yes it is necessary to put in detention the deposed CJ, the former acting CJ Rana Bhagwandas, and many more in Lahore and Karachi. Yes, many Pakistanis, particularly of legal fraternity are extremists and terrorists. Yes, Pakistan's survival as a nation is dependent on American goodwill and fighting its war on terror.

Does it make any honest sense I ask my American friends, to agree to such entirely false premises and preposterous hypotheses and yet appear to be serious about evaluation of the genesis of the crisis now waiting to explode?

I am informed that many of my recent columns appearing in this paper on the crisis in Pakistan are being taken as written testimony in the Congressional hearings now scheduled to be held from this week in Washington. While Lantos chairs the House Foreign Relations Committee. Congressman Gary Ackerman chairs the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on the Middle East and South Asia. Since Ackerman is a leading critic of Musharraf government, the resolution he has introduced has alarmed the government's supporters in Washington, as they fear that it may seek new restrictions against Islamabad. In addition the Congress already has two pending resolutions on Pakistan, both strongly supporting pro-democracy forces in the country. All these three resolutions seek punitive actions against the government for suppressing political forces and placing new restrictions on the media and the judiciary.

These three resolutions reaffirm the US commitment to assisting the people of Pakistan in combating terrorism, and promoting a free and democratic Pakistan. Further, these measures express support for freedom of media, the ability of political parties to express their views without restriction and the independence of the judiciary in Pakistan. In US relevant officials and think thanks are alarmed at the continuous state of instability in that country in which it is the presidency supported by Washington that is considered by many to be a major if not the main cause.

The president is now distrusted by the world and according to three recent polls conducted by reputable American institutions. His stature has fallen so much that he is treated dismissively even by Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. Shaukat Aziz, his imported PM has disappeared from the scene, even losing out to an ordinary banker - coincidentally from India - for the top job in his alma mater, Citibank. Pakistan politically and economically is in a mess, its own army, for the first time, is seeing its credibility, power, its pre-eminent position in Pakistan's society and power structure questioned and losing fast its respect in public estimation.

(The writer is a Barrister at Law (UK), Senior Advocate Supreme Court of Pakistan and Professor Harvard University)

A Hollow Political Economy?

PRESIDENT Pervez Musharraf’s promise to a gathering of businessmen in Karachi for coming down heavy on the ‘miscreants’ planning to disrupt next month’s parliamentary elections, yet again carries a hollow ring.

At a time when the poorest of the poor have recently braved an atta shortage crisis, compounding the quality of their lives beyond the electricity shortages and mounting inflation, the challenge to the economy comes significantly more from its questionable handling by the government rather than the fallout from the mounting political challenge.

Mr Musharraf, in charge of Pakistan for more than eight years, appears eager to reassure nervous investors of his determination to ensure relative stability during a potentially turbulent election period.

It is difficult to predict exactly what emerges from a likely controversial national election, with opposition politicians already questioning the neutrality of the process, not to forget the neutrality of the present-day caretaker regime and the president’s own position.Elections taking place not just after Benazir Bhutto’s assassination but indeed also after its chaotic fallout and the bloody violence following her tragic departure, will indeed be a high-risk game.

Mr Musharraf’s decision to open front after front since making the then Supreme Court Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry ‘non-functional’ in March, has only demolished his once established image of being politically above board and well-meaning. History has demonstrated time and again that the moral high ground once lost by a leader is seldom regained, unlike the possible reversal of territorial loss.

It is all too easy to describe the violence after Ms Bhutto’s death as nothing more than an emotional and frenzied response by angry demonstrators to a highly tragic event. Another way of looking at what instigated this violence may well be exactly what lies behind Pakistan’s increasing propensity for instability, fuelled by the way the economy has progressed in recent years.

Pundits in high places of economic thinking such as the mighty ministry of finance in Islamabad, may well be all too eager to claim success for overseeing a so-called bold economic recovery. Parameters such as rising liquid currency reserves and mounting economic growth rates have often been cited as supporting evidence. Added evidence has been drawn from quarters such as the privatisation ministry to reinforce the success story. It is undoubtedly true that there are more visible symbols of affluence in Pakistan today, ranging from many more luxury cars — including a few Rolls-Royce — to the large-scale proliferation of mobile cellular phones.

But anecdotal evidence suggests a number of equally profound gaps in this widely touted economic success story, with alarming linkages to Pakistan’s future political outlook. If the economic growth trends were ever calculated for individual provinces and districts within those provincial bounds, there is a good chance that parts of Punjab could emerge as the land of high hope and success against the rest of the country — with the possible exception of Karachi — being areas of despair, disorder and above all shrinking economic opportunities.

Another way of looking at this distorted picture may well be the number of those who remain below the poverty line. Even if the government’s estimates, which are not accepted by independent pundits, are taken for the record, at least a quarter of Pakistan’s population of at least 165 million live below the poverty line. The figure of more than 40 million Pakistanis living below the poverty line exceeds the size of the entire population of a number of countries around the world.

Faced with this distorted pattern of economic development, both across regions and among classes, it is not surprising that the worst manifestations of political turmoil of the kind seen recently in Pakistan, have taken place in the country’s non-Punjab regions, essentially the NWFP where militancy has spread to the settled regions, Balochistan where in the aftermath of Nawab Akbar Bugti’s killing it remains a recurring trend, and now, after Ms Bhutto’s assassination, the bloody violence in the interior parts of Sindh.

By contrast, it is not surprising that Punjab — the visibly fastest growing province of Pakistan — is also home to the largest community of pro-Musharraf politicians from the PML-Q.

The pattern of recurring violence seen in Pakistan recently underlines a fundamental and obvious point. People who do not see hope for a better future may be relatively more prone to joining waves of unrest and disorder.

In spite of the obvious connect between politics and Pakistan’s future economic challenges, there may be no immediate economic solutions to dealing with this profoundly complex issue. The effect of a set of economic choices followed over eight years under President Musharraf’s rule, cannot be undone in the potentially turbulent weeks or even months that lie ahead for Pakistan.

Without delicate handling, an election that lacks credibility will immediately evoke a possibly violent public response from Pakistan’s opposition leaders including some who would be encouraged to see more public response to their cause after the recent unrest in the country. If the government moves ahead in dealing a crushing blow to violent unrest as promised by President Musharraf, there is no guarantee that the situation will not aggravate further.

In the short term, the best option for the government must be all about setting the pace for a political transition which is fair, neutral, above board and, above all, free of bias in favour or against any individual or political group.

With official credibility already in tatters, it is difficult to imagine how President Musharraf can become a neutral arbiter of Pakistan’s national affairs, following a year in which his political battles appear to have primarily been about saving his own career as well as his self-created ruling order. Once the dust settles after the polls, a new Pakistani regime will have to quickly undo some of the worst legacies of economic policies in recent years. Diverting economic and developmental resources away from Punjab towards Pakistan’s impoverished regions may well be a key priority, all for the sake of preserving, protecting and promoting the cause of national unity.

In contrast to Pakistan’s economic picture under President Musharraf’s rule which has received a lift from US-led generous western support, there are huge gaps in the country’s economic structure. Areas such as the number of income taxpayers, staggering at less than one per cent of the population, say much about the failure to undertake structural reforms with long-term benefits.

Other distortions include the controversy surrounding public services such as government-owned hospitals and schools which present a pathetic picture which remains largely unchanged from the days preceding Mr Musharraf’s rule. Economic recovery may have indeed taken place if statistical evidence is taken as the guide. But the recovery is far from real when judged against the quality of life for average Pakistanis, especially those living in areas outside the economic heartland. The recent riots are just one of the many eye-openers to prove the point.

(Courtesy DAWN, Opinion, Jan 28th)

Judges under Siege

Qazi Faez Isa

CARRY a placard — “Release Justice Rana Bhagwandas” — and you will be thrown into the slammer. FIR No.13/08 lodged at the Clifton Town police station confirms the highhandedness of Musharraf’s despotic regime.

Justice Rana Bhagwandas started his judicial career as a civil judge at the age of 24. In 1994 he was elevated to the high court and then to the Supreme Court where he eventually became the senior-most judge, serving as Acting Chief Justice of Pakistan, whenever the Chief Justice was out of the country. He earned the reputation of hard work, dedication, clear thinking, impartiality and fairness. Upon retirement it has been the practice of the court to give the retiring judge a Full Court Reference, but in the building that now reminds one of the Supreme Court, traditions too have been banished.

On Nov 3, 2007, Justice Bhagwandas the senior-most judge of the Supreme Court was illegally incarcerated. After his retirement he was made a prisoner in his own home in Karachi. He caused offence because he did not break his oath to “preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan” when another was grinding his boot into it.
“The people should fight for the law as for their city wall” (Heraclitus, 5th century BC).

Justice Bhagwandas during his meritorious career spanning 41 years, decided thousands of cases, yet for this great judge who did not prostrate before a dictator there was no justice. Citizens, however, wanted to honour him and express their gratitude. They assembled outside his residence, held candles and flowers, and called for his release. Amongst them were recently-married Salahuddin Ahmed, barrister-at-law, Asad Umar, chief executive of Engro Chemicals Pakistan Limited, and Kamran Noorani, owner of Pakistan Law House.

The ‘law enforcement agencies’ doing another’s bidding in vulturine fashion made off with the citizens. But infamy did not stop there. The candle, flowers and placard holders have been charged under Sections 147 and 148 of the Pakistan Penal Code (PPC) for “rioting” and “rioting armed with deadly weapon”. To constitute “rioting”, there must be force and violence (Section 146 PPC).These conscientious citizens upon being convicted may be imprisoned for three years. Is this the republic that Mohammad Ali Jinnah wanted to create? “The idea was that we should have a state in which we could live and breathe as free men” (Quaid’s address to civil and military officers, Karachi, Oct 11, 1947). Instead, grovelling before the dictator and forced to accept the odious PCO oath of personal loyalty is the only guarantee to live and breathe freely.

The orders for lodging FIR No.13/08 must have come from the very top because Salahuddin Ahmed’s father is none other than Chief Justice Sabihuddin Ahmed, who has been prevented from carrying out his duties since Nov 3. Overnight the chief justice of the province is controlled by a foot constable. Light recedes, justice is eclipsed and darkness descends. The beast is born. “Law alone can give us freedom” (Goethe) and without it we are shackled.

The state itself violates the fundamental rights enshrined in the Constitution of Pakistan, including the right to “freedom of speech and expression” (Article 19), “freedom of assembly” (Article 16), the inviolability of the “dignity of man” (Article 14). Under Musharraf and his neutered caretakers anyone exercising his or her fundamental rights is liable to be arrested and imprisoned for a very long time. “When dictators and tyrants seek to destroy the freedoms of men, their first target is the legal profession and through it the rule of law.” (Leon Jaworski).

In Pakistan, the Constitution stipulates, that sovereignty “belongs to Almighty Allah alone” and “wherein the independence of the judiciary shall be fully secured”. A land “dedicated to the preservation of democracy achieved by the unremitting struggle against oppression and tyranny”. Abrogation and subversion of the Constitution is categorised as “high treason”.

Justice (adl o insaf) lies at the heart of Islam. Without justice, nations perish. Justice predates democracy and representative government. A candlelit vigil for the release of a judge who spent his entire life in the service of Pakistan is manufactured into a serious ‘crime’. This happened in the heart of the largest metropolis of Pakistan, and respectable members of society were targeted in the full glare of the media, but far worse treatment was meted out to people living away.

In interior Sindh, thousands of FIRs have been registered reportedly against half a million members of the Pakistan People’s Party. After the assassination of Benazir Bhutto the all-pervasive Police and Rangers disappeared for days, and advantage was taken by criminal elements. It now appears that this was done to help elect members of the quisling League.

FIRs have been lodged on the basis of ‘instructions from above’ and compliance made necessary to retain employment, but irreconcilable anomalies reveal the truth. Two representative examples put to rest the neutrality of the caretakers. The mukhtiarkar and the assistant mukhtiarkar both lodged FIRs (Nos.3/08 and 4/08) in respect of the very same incident against Abdul Jalil Memon, PPP’s candidate for PS 84.

FIRs against Haji Usman Jalbani, PPP’s candidate for PS 88, were lodged in four different police stations (Keti Bundar, Gora Bari, Garo and Gharo) pertaining to offences that took place at the same time, despite the fact that a day would be spent travelling between these areas. Coincidentally, six immediate family members of a caretaker minister are contesting on Q League tickets, including PS 84 and PS 88 constituencies.

Tainted self-seekers grasp their opportunity. Rather than apply salve to the raw wounds of the PPP, kerosene is sprinkled. People are being pushed towards intolerable injustices.Constitution is the force which coalesces and forges the nation. An iron grip must stay the hand of the terrorist as he does not have the right to take life and because the Constitution mandates that “no person shall be deprived of life” (Article 9). Forced closure of CD and barber shops must be stopped because the Constitution grants every citizen the freedom of trade, business and profession (Article 18).

“Obedience to the Constitution is the inviolable obligation of every citizen wherever he may be and of every other person for the time being in Pakistan” (Article 5). But General Musharraf declared war on the Constitution and its custodians. The Taliban and the terrorists have followed suit. Until the Constitution and the judiciary are restored, terrorism, oppression, tyranny, injustice and anarchy will continue.

Terrorists pierce the body. America’s trusted lieutenant whips the spirit. Pharaonic arrogance preserves the shell, mummified. A withered, shrivelled curiosity…

(Courtesy DAWN, Opinion, January 28th)

Zardari condemns victimisation of PPP workers

(Courtesy DAWN)
The Pakistan People’s Party has condemned what it called continuing victimisation of party workers as “a planned and orchestrated pre-poll rigging” aimed at forcing activists to keep away from elections.

“The registration of new cases and reopening of several years old cases to implicate party leaders and workers was clearly designed to put pressure and to disable them on the eve of elections,” PPP co-chairman Asif Ali Zardari said in a statement on Sunday.

He pointed out that arrest warrants for a dozen of PPP leaders, including six former MPAs, were issued in Karachi on Saturday for allegedly creating a law and order situation in the city after the murder of party’s Sindh information secretary Munawar Suharwardy three years ago.

Former MPAs Nisar Ahmed Khuhro, Syed Qaim Ali Shah, Mazhar Marvi, Sassui Palejo, Mehreen Bhutto and Sharfunissa Leghari were declared absconders, their names ordered to be published in newspapers and police directed to arrest them.

The Sindh police registered cases against over 100 party workers on charges of blocking the Dadu-Larkana road and burning tyres on Friday night in protest against the arrest of PPP workers.

Using blind FIRs as a pretext, police raided homes of workers and misbehaved with women. Thousands of workers were previously nominated in criminal cases following disturbances in the wake of martyrdom of Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto.

He said that under such circumstances when candidates and voters were subjected to intimidation and complaints against it remained unattended with a powerless Election Commission, the elections would neither be free nor fair. He demanded release of workers and withdrawal of fictitious cases against them and an end to the practice of registering blind FIRs for using them against political workers later.

The party called upon the international community to press the Musharraf regime to desist from electoral manipulation by arresting and intimidating party workers and candidates, he said.

Resign Musharraf, Resign!

( - I am now a serial protester, it seems. And among my English friends increasingly the butt of jokes. Three demonstrations in the UK since October, and several others – including some of a distinctly Monty Python-esque bent - during my years of
living in Pakistan. I have spent many a pre-protest evening in Islamabad quibbling with activists over the minutiae: what the placards should say (no "death to..." anyone, I would insist) or whether to allow effigy burning, a Pakistani protest staple ("Jem, you don't understand how politics works here - please, just a burning Bush").

Tomorrow at midday I will once again be positioning myself outside 10 Downing Street, to await the arrival of retired General and self- appointed President Pervez Musharraf, who I intend to greet with lusty jeers, provocative placards and slogans that almost rhyme. We have agreed that we don't like the commonly used kuta, meaning dog. Monkey, fox, hyena and, worst of all (for a pork-phobic nation), swine have also been banned.

I expect most of you will be thinking: "Aren't demonstrations a bit old fashioned and irrelevant? Can they actually achieve anything?"

It is 40 years since 1968, "The Year That Rocked The World", when mass protests erupted across the globe, in France, America, Mexico, Germany, Italy, Spain, Brazil, Belgium, Poland, Yugoslavia and Czechoslovakia. While none of those demonstrations achieved their immediate stated aim, cumulatively they changed the world more profoundly than those involved could ever have imagined.

Popular protests rarely achieve much on their own. Hillary Clinton had a point when she said that "[Martin Luther] King's dream began to be realised when U.S. President Lyndon Johnson passed the Civil Rights Act of 1964. It took a President to get it done." She was lambasted by her Democratic rivals for having demeaned the great civil rights icon. But she was right that, while there is no doubt King was brilliant at mobilising a movement, as well as an outstanding orator and inspirational activist, his real achievement was the shifting of American consciousness. This created the environment in which it was
possible for Johnson to pass the humanitarian Civil Rights Act which resulted in the greatest social change in 20th-century America.

The effects of protests are rarely immediate or even measurable. What demonstrations do is to change the weather. And the weather changes the landscape. Protests invariably move from the extreme to the mainstream.

Sometimes, though, they really do what they say on the banners. Gandhi's march to the sea to make salt marked the beginning of the push to remove the British from India; the Suffragettes did get the vote for women; the Peasant's Revolt did change the feudal system; and the Anti-Slavery Movement did do away with slavery. They are all
examples of what demonstrations hope to achieve: the mass power of the individually powerless.

Tomorrow I will be protesting Gordon Brown's continued support for Pakistan's dictator. I will be joined by politicians, lawyers, doctors, human rights activists, journalists and ordinary Pakistanis who want to know what happened to New Labour's "ethical foreign
policy". Our equivalents in Pakistan have been denied the same right to protest. Many hundreds remain in prison - some tortured. We can't read about it because the media in Pakistan remains restricted.

Brown and Musharraf are planning to discuss democracy, counter- terrorism and the upcoming Pakistani elections. We, the crowd outside Number 10, will be there exercising freedom of speech and practicing real democracy. Inside they will only be going through the motions.

How can they seriously discuss the "democratic process in Pakistan" with straight faces when 60 percent of the Superior Court judges have been dismissed and many are still under house arrest? How can "free and fair elections" take place in three weeks under the supervision of hand-picked substitute judges, a pet caretaker government and a bogus
election Commission? Why is our Government supporting and our taxpayers funding a counter-terrorism strategy that has encouraged terrorism? Above all, why has our Prime Minister chosen to host a constitutionally illegal ruler who has lost the support of Pakistanis both in Britain and abroad, and who is seen as the cause not the solution to the country's problems?

Every time Gordon Brown shakes hands with and gives tea to a dictator, in some small way, like protests, it changes the weather. If you shake hands with one, you shake hands with them all. It's pointless refusing to be in the same country as Mugabe, if you invite Musharraf into your home.

Wouldn't it be nice if, on hearing our shouts, Brown came to the window of Number 10, waved cordially at the rabble outside and announced: "Actually, you are right." To be followed from within by pleasing sounds of scuffle and outrage with Brown emerging to join our final chorus of "Resign Musharraf, Resign!"

It is more likely that we will just make ourselves heard. But who knows? 2008 may yet turn out to be Pakistan's 1968. Inshallah.

Monday, midday, Downing Street. Effigies supplied.

[Ms. Jemima (Goldsmith) Khan is a leader of the Free Pakistan Movement
(FPM) based in London, UK.]

The military millionaires who control Pakistan Inc

Elliot Wilson (The Spectator - UK)

Elliot Wilson says Pakistan ’s economy is dominated by a ruthless business conglomerate that owns everything from factories and bakeries to farmland and golf courses: The Army.

Sometime in late 2004, Pakistan 's all-powerful army made a curious decision. Under mounting pressure from London and Washington to capture Osama bin Laden, believed to be hiding in Baluchistan, Islamabad 's fighting forces instead turned their attention to a far more profitable venture: building golf courses.

In itself this wasn’t particularly unusual. With 620,000 soldiers, Pakistan boasts the world’s seventh-largest standing army, but its senior officers long ago realised the perks to be gained from commercial ventures. Since independence in 1947, the army has steadily intertwined itself into Pakistan’s economy: so much so that it’s hard to tell where the military stops and any semblance of free-market capitalism begins.

All too often, there is no dividing line. In her 2007 book Military Inc: Inside Pakistan’s Military Economy Dr Ayesha Siddiqa exposes the rampant commercialism pervading every aspect of the country’s military forces, until recently headed by President Pervaiz Musharraf. Dr Siddiqa, a former researcher with the country’s naval forces, estimates the military’s net worth at more than £10 billion — roughly four times the total foreign direct investment generated by Islamabad in 2007. She found that the army owns 12 per cent of the country’s land, its holdings being mostly fertile soil in the eastern Punjab . Two thirds of that land is in the hands of senior current and former officials, mostly brigadiers, major-generals and generals. The most senior 100 military officials are estimated to be worth, at the very least, £3.5 billion.

Many of the country’s largest corporations are also controlled by the military, thanks largely to an opaque network of powerful ‘foundations’ originally set up to look after the pension needs of army personnel. The largest three — the Fauji, Shaheen and Bahria foundations, controlled by the army, air force and navy respectively — control more than 100 separate commercial entities involved in everything from cement to cereal production. Only nine have ever published partial financial accounts, and all are ultimately controlled by the Ministry of Defence, which oversees all of the military’s commercial ventures.

The Fauji foundation, the largest of the lot, is estimated by Siddiqa to be worth several billion pounds. It operates a security force (allowing serving army personnel to double in their spare time as private security agents), an oil terminal and a phosphate joint venture with the Moroccan government. Elsewhere, the Army Welfare Trust — a foundation set up in 1971 to identify potentially profitable ventures for the military — runs one of the country’s largest lenders, Askari Commercial Bank, along with an airline, a travel agency and even a stud farm. Then there is the National Logistic Cell, Pakistan’s largest shipper and freight transporter (and the country’s largest corporation), which builds roads, constructs bridges and stores vast quantities of the country’s wheat reserves.

In short, the military’s presence is all-pervasive. Bread is supplied by military-owned bakeries, fronted by civilians. Army-controlled banks take deposits and disburse loans. Up to one third of all heavy manufacturing and 7 per cent of private assets are reckoned to be in army hands. As for prime real estate, a major-general can expect to receive on retirement a present of 240 acres of prime farmland, worth on average £550,000, as well an urban real estate plot valued at £700,000.

Unsurprisingly, the military is loath to release details of its commercial operations. The average Pakistani citizen earns just £1,500 a year, making his country poorer than all but 50 of the world’s nations. Most of the military’s junior officers and other ranks live in squalid tents pitched by the side of main roads, even in the capital Islamabad . Revealing to them that the top brass in their air-conditioned, top-of-the-range Mercedes are worth £35 million each (a few are believed to be dollar billionaires including, it is quietly suggested, Musharraf) would probably create widespread unrest. Little wonder that Dr Siddiqa’s book is banned in the country — and that Musharraf was so reluctant to take off his uniform and declare himself a civilian president.
Financial autonomy has also engendered in the military a dangerous sense of entitlement. When any premier or leading politician attempts to limit the army’s power, or even emasculate it, they get slapped down. In 1990 Benazir Bhutto, during her first stint as premier, made a concerted attempt to ‘secularise’ the army, installing non-army personnel at the highest level. Shortly afterwards, her government was forced out. She tried again in May 2006, joining with another former civilian leader, Nawaz Sharif, to issue a Charter of Democracy designed to reduce the economic power of the armed forces. Yet with Bhutto’s assassination, the latest move to tame the armed forces has again faltered — a rather convenient situation for the military.

It’s hard to imagine any individual or political body summoning up enough power or courage to challenge the army head-on. Each year the military gobbles up a bit more land, diversifies into new markets and industries and steadily consolidates power in the key sectors of agriculture, energy, natural resources, logistics and construction.

On the rare occasions when any constitutional body has stood its ground, the army has given it short shrift. In 2005, the Fauji foundation was asked by the elected parliament why it had sold a sugar mill at a ludicrously low price to senior army personnel. The Ministry of Defence refused to reveal any details of the deal. When the Auditor-General’s department questioned why the army was building golf courses — rather than attempting to capture bin Laden — its question was ignored. Yet the Punjab government had that year willingly handed over, for free, 30 acres of prime rural land worth more than £600,000 to the army, which promptly built a driving-range and an 18-hole golf course. Such ‘presents’ to the military are usually returned with interest, with senior civilian officials often being guaranteed a secure retirement on the board of one or more army-controlled ventures. Craven and submissive attitudes have thoroughly pervaded the political system, which defers to the military at every turn: little wonder that senior officers have so little respect for their civilian peers. Other countries have armies, but Pakistan’s army has a country.

Absolute power, of course, corrupts absolutely. It also engenders a sense of invulnerability — that the wielder of the power can get away with anything. This certainly seems to be the case in Pakistan . Land is being requisitioned left, right and centre across the country. In the financial centre of Karachi , the army has built eight petrol stations on land appropriated from the state. In 2004, the Karachi government again willingly gave land worth £35 million to the military, just because they wanted it. These are just two examples among many.

The military has also begun to act in the manner of a feudal landlord. When landless peasants in central Punjab complained in 2001 that the army had changed the status of the land on which they depended for their subsistence (forcing them to pay rent in cash, rather than working the land on a sharecropping basis) the army cracked down, beating many and leaving eight dead. At one point, Dr Siddiqa quotes a naval officer who questions why landless peasants should have any rights in relation to the land they till. ‘They do not deserve land just because they are poor,’ he says.

It’s hard to imagine anyone managing to circumscribe the economic power of Pakistan’s army. The military’s financial security reinforces its desire to retain control of the state. If full democracy were permitted in Pakistan, it would constitute a threat to the army’s throttling power. And since political power in turn creates greater economic opportunities, it’s in the interest of the military fraternity to perpetuate it. More political power leads to greater profit, and vice versa. The one factor that could still harm the army is its arrogant, dismissive attitude to its own people. Its flagrant profiteering engenders huge resentment in rural and smaller provinces, where the army is increasingly seen as an invading force rather than a protector. Ultimately, there is only so much abuse that an impoverished and subjugated populace can take before it rises up in protest.

London Protest: The Coup Against Musharraf

We have to narrate to everyone an extremely exciting and funny incident. We knew that Musharraf was coming to speak at the RUSI center in London. We prepared about 250 leaflets to give out to people and four CMKP members and a CAML member went to distribute these leaflets at the RUSI centre. When we got there we saw that there was a group of 35 young Pakistani studentswho were all standing on the street corner wearing impeccable suits. We asked them why they were so-well turned out and they told us that the Pakistan High Commission had invited them for a dinner with Musharraf through their respective Pakistan Societies at UCL and LSE.

At first we were quite dismayed since our people were running late and pro-Musharraf people had already arrived. We were five and they were 35.

But very soon we turned disadvantage into opportunity. At first we pretended to be part of their contingent and stood next to them. The funniest part was when Nadir Cheema began to shout "We want free dinner, Weare here for a free dinner". He did this in such a comic manner that it instantly attracted the press.

They asked us what we meant. We said that Musharraf has promised us a dinner and we are here to claim that dinner but we don't support Musharraf.

When Musharraf arrived the slogans of the five of us were so powerful (we really stretched our voices to the maximum) that the media people thought that the entire protest was anti-Musharraf.

Please take a look at the video report on BBC in which you can see CMKP cadres leading the chants.\&mp=rm&asb=1&news=1&bbcws=1

This was a fine coup against supporters Musharraf.

Next we went to the Hilton where Musharraf was speaking to the Pakistani community. He passed right next to us and we shouted "Muk giya tera show Musharraf, Tu hain zalim diyo Musharraf, Hum hain teray piyo Musharraf, Ja kaybhanday dho Musharraf, Zia tera piyo Musharraf, Jat gaya sara ghayyo Musharra, Kala bay kay ro Musharraf, Go Musharraf Go Musharraf".

Here are some press reports about our campaign forMonday and also our activity with other political parties here in London. We have really done our verybest to make sure that Musharraf gets the reception he really deserves in London.\eshow/2732796.cms\11652\raf-visit-20080125


Pakistan's Dilemma - A Perspective

Mustafa Waris

The gulf between the rich and poor is widening with every new day. We do have a yearly list of the richest people on earth but nobody pays any heed to the poorest people especially the new entries. We have become acclimatized to lots of things which we just take for granted. In reality, our system has become something of a labyrinthine, and the most disturbing fact is that our oligarchs are adamant not to disturb the status-quo.

In the 60 years of the history of our country, we have taste both capitalism and socialism with capitalism dominating for most of the years. I am not entering the fray discussing which one of these suits us or our local environment. But my main point of concern is that our masses at large were not able to benefit from either of the two systems. We heard for many years from both schools of thought focusing on the positive attributes of both systems. I personally think that both were successful to some extent and simultaneously failed as well.

Coming back to Pakistan and finding ways so that the gulf between the rich and the poor could be controlled, let’s identify our main problem. If we examine our history and the data on the richest people of our country, we would find two different classes. One are the traditional landed elites having the proud title of Chaudries, Sardars, Maliks, Khans, Mians, Nawabs and the offspring of the Sirs and Generals. The other category is of those once poor people who now have the wealth and the power of our traditional elites. Most of the people reached this category through cynical ploy but a mere fraction did excel through purely fair means.

The dilemma of our society is that our nouvelle wealthy did nothing whatsoever to bring change in the society, instead they themselves got engrossed in ways of bolstering their budgets and turned out to be more feudal than the established elites. It can’t be said for sure, but it was probably a kind of a vengeance against the oligarchs. If the idea was to display their hatred towards the aristocratic, it was certainly not the right style. The right thing was to help their once pauper-fellows both socially and financially.

The current extremely dangerous situation of Pakistan is self-made turned self-destructive. Our country is on fire and we all are to blame for the present scenario. Year 2007 had been annus horribilis for the ordinary citizens of Pakistan. Never in our history did we witness suicidal attacks. Be it suicides or the suicidal attacks, both are performed in exasperation. The paramount reason is apartheid and injustice for which we are all culpable and should be made accountable. The oligarchs are to blame for doing too little to bring a real social change and the oppressed ones are to blame for tolerating this injustice for such a long time and doing nothing practical to bring about change. If we want to create Pakistan of our founders, we need to do something collectively and that needs to be done As Soon As Possible.

God bless Pakistan