Friday, February 1, 2008

Musharraf met Aitzaz's daughter in Davos

President Pervez Musharraf had an unannounced meeting in Davos with Saman Ahsan, daughter of Aitzaz Ahsan, the incarcerated leader of lawyers, to persuade her father to give up opposition to his regime, it is learnt.
“Saman was not convinced with whatever views he put across,” said Mr Ahsan’ wife Bushra Aitzaz while, confirming that the president had had a one-to-one meeting with her daughter on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum.
Saman, 30, works with the WEF in Geneva as project manager of the Council of 100 Leaders (C100), an initiative for dialogue between Muslims and the West. The meeting took place through Klaus Schwab, the founder and executive chairman of the WEF, who is a friend of former prime minister Shaukat Aziz.
Mr Aziz attended the WEF where he met corporate leaders and spent substantial time with President Musharraf.
Mr Ahsan’s daughter is reported to have told her friends and colleagues after the meeting that the president had asked her to convince her father “not to come in my way”.
Mrs Aitzaz said the president had not given any message to her daughter.
She said the WEF executive chairman had raised the issues of democracy, removal and detention of independent judges and assassination of former prime minister Benazir Bhutto in his meeting with the president and mentioned that the father of “one of my forum members is still in detention in Pakistan”. This led to a meeting between the president and Saman.
She denied that Mr Ahsan’s permission had been sought for the meeting.
She said that during the meeting the president levelled allegations against the deposed chief justice of Pakistan and referred to the Supreme Court’s decision against a reference filed in this regard.

Retired generals to seek apology from nation for imposing martial laws in the past

By Umar Cheema

ISLAMABAD: Several high-profile retired generals, air marshals and admirals, who have asked President Musharraf to resign, have announced to seek an unqualified apology from the Pakistani nation for imposing martial laws in the past, abrogating the Constitution several times and not letting democracy flourish in the last 60 years.

They would make this admission of guilt today (Thursday) at a press conference with a request for forgiveness from the people of Pakistan, who have been suffering at the hands of dictatorship for the role played by them and their successors. They have also invited General (retd) Pervez Musharraf to attend the meeting.

But surprisingly despite their apology, which would be a welcome and refreshing departure from the norm, these adventurous generals and admirals of the past are not showing enough moral courage. They have given the task of seeking the apology to a retired brigadier, Mehmood Qazi. "I will apologise on the behalf of all the ex-servicemen for the past misdeeds," Qazi told The News.

He is the convener of the meeting to be presided over by Air Marshal (retd) Asghar Khan, a man whose role against Zulfikar Ali Bhutto is well known. The first speaker of Thursday's meeting will be Lt. Gen. Abdul Majid Malik, a gentleman who was a major in 1956 when he drafted a resignation which General Ayub Khan forced President Iskandar Mirza to sign.

Malik has been a strong Musharraf supporter until the graduation clause for contesting the NA elections was introduced, leaving no option for him but to take a 'principled' stand.

Discriminatory treatment meted out to him by the PML-Q leadership further pushed him into the ex-generals' camp.

His speech will be followed by Mirza Aslam Beg, a former Army chief, whose political ambitions had forced the then president Ghulam Ishaq Khan to nominate the new Army chief three months prior to Beg's retirement. His role in the famous Mehran Bank scandal and misuse of ISI funds for electoral/political manipulation is still fresh in public memory. His then DG ISI, Lt. Gen. (retd) Asad Durrani, who had distributed Rs.140 million to win over 'for-sale' politicians never felt ashamed of his role or offered an apology.

After consuming two ambassadorial positions for four years during the Musharraf regime, Durrani has plenty of time now to criticise Musharraf. Lt Gen (retd) Hamid Gul, former DG ISI, is yet another activist who never thought very high of any civilian prime minister. As master spy, he employed all the dirty tricks to dislodge Benazir Bhutto's first government. These days he can count the damage that the Army's political role could incur on the political fabric of the society.

Another ex-serviceman and sitting President Gen. (retd) Pervez Musharraf was probably right in using the term "good for nothing generals" for some of these ex-serviceman. However, this correspondent came to realise the truth of Musharraf's words only recently when he was handed over a letter addressed to Musharraf for publication.

Initially, none of these generals was ready to name himself as the author of the letter, including those who had authored it. Air Marshal (retd) Asghar Khan, who had approved the draft of this letter, refused to acknowledge it when contacted. A ghost author and the convener of today's meeting, Brig. (retd) Mehmood Qazi, shifted the responsibility to others, including Gen. Hamid Gul, who was reluctant to own it. He rang up this correspondent to clarify that he had not written it. However, by that time the letter had gone into print.

Brig. (retd) Mehmood requested this correspondent that his name should not be identified. Other co-authors also made the same request, fearing that Musharraf could retaliate.
The truth dawned upon this scribe by accident when he overheard Brig. (retd) Mehmood talking to his colleagues. He was admitting that he gave wrong names to the media. He was heard disclosing to his colleague that the letter was initially written by him and he had used unprintable language.

Mehmood told his colleagues that many ex-servicemen raised objections to his writing and sought a correction. Asghar Khan later formed a committee to redraft the letter, which was subsequently approved by him before it was sent to the press.

When confronted with these facts, Mehmood did not admit that he was sharing the real story of the letter with his colleagues, which this correspondent overheard. Mehmood, however, admitted that Gen. Hamid Gul was not the co-author of the letter and admitted that he wrongly included his name among the list of the authors. Mehmood instead said there was serious resentment shown by the co-authors, who were of the view that Gul's name must not be passed on to the press, as he was a controversial figure.

(Courtesy The News, Jan 31, 2008)

Iftikhar Day at Karachi Press Club - Eyewitness account

Yesterday, we were at KPC around 11 am. As usual, we were out numbered by the police. I had gone prepared with a small wet towel and water bottle in my bag (you never know what these goons might be up to !!). While the mood was great, we wondered at the presence of Edhi ambulance. We discussed the apathy of the mega city, but being an eternal optimist, I think, if you start wondering about others, then you are not sure of your own role.

I took a poster of free judiciary and handed over to a police man standing close to us. Surprisingly, he took it and read it. I said to him, we are peaceful people, what we are doing is for your and our children and this country. In response he said what any decent Pakistani is saying today. 'Why not, am I not a Pakistani don't I know what is truth.. I am just in the uniform and doing my duty but I am with you.'

We were all waiting for lawyers rally and just after midday they arrived!!! My God it was wonderful to see in person the frontline soldiers for the battle for future of Pakistan. We were all chanting slogans and then I saw Munir Malik. The rush of adrenalin was phenomenal and guys I could not help shouting Munir Malik Zindabad. Wow it was great. There were speeches, slogans and photos.

These are makers of this country's history and I am privileged to be part of it. What an honour Iftikhar! your day was celebrating with great fervour while you are alive all across Pakistan.

I don't know of any heroes who have had this honour.

Pakistan Zindabad. Dictators murdabad.

Nighat Khan

Countrywide marches on Iftikhar Day

ISLAMABAD, Jan 31: The legal community mounted protests and processions in the federal capital, the four provincial capitals and other cities and towns across the country on Thursday to mark the ‘Justice Iftikhar Day’ on a call given by the Sindh High Court Bar Association. The call had been endorsed by the Pakistan Bar Council.Thousands of lawyers and jurists took part in the day’s events as did the representatives of various civil society groups and political parties. Those who attended the events called for the release of the deposed chief justice of Pakistan, Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry, who has been under ‘detention’ since Nov 3.

The protesters also called for the release of Chaudhry Aitzaz Ahsan, the president of the Supreme Court Bar Association, Ali Ahmed Kurd and Justice (retd) Tariq Mehmood, who have been spearheading the lawyers’ campaign for restoration of the pre-November 3 judiciary.The lawyers by and large boycotted all court proceedings.

In the federal capital, the Supreme Court building almost remained deserted as very little activity was witnessed. On the premises of the Islamabad District Bar Association an event was organised at which lawyers highlighted the sacrifices rendered by Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry.

Later the lawyers tried to march to the deposed chief justice’s residence. However, much like their previous such attempts they had to abort their march near the Balochistan House as a posse of law enforcement personnel had erected barricades there.

The lawyers remained peaceful during the 30 minutes or so that they spent near the Balochistan House. However, they did chant slogans against President Pervez Musharraf and in favour of the 60-odd judges who have been deposed.

In Rawalpindi, the wife of Justice Tariq Mehmood made a speech at the Rawalpindi District Bar Association. She assailed President Musharraf for his tirade against Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry during his recent visit to some European countries, saying the president had tried to malign the chief justice outside the country because he lacked the courage to face the nation.

Later the lawyers formed a procession and went to the Marir chowk (roundabout) via the main Jhelum road. They blocked the chowk and raised slogans against President Musharraf.

Rallies were also organised in Gujjar Khan, Attock, Taxila and Chakwal.

PUNJAB: Thousands of lawyers and members of civil society groups took part in a procession in Lahore — arguably the biggest to be organised anywhere in the country on Thursday.The main procession was taken out from the premises of the Lahore High Court Bar Association. Hundreds of lawyers from the Aiwan-i-Adl later joined the rally.
Workers of various political parties — including the Tehrik-i-Insaf, Jamaat-i-Islami, Awami National Party and Khaksar Tehrik — were also there as were members of different human rights groups like the Concerned Citizens of Pakistan, Women Action Forum and Pakistan Medical Association.The protesters then converged on the Punjab Assembly building. Some of them set some PML-Q banners afire. Some prominent lawyers made speeches on the occasion.Rallies were held in almost all the major cities in the province.

NWFP: In Peshawar, the lawyers held a general body meeting, followed by a demonstration. They later staged a sit-in near the chowk dubbed the “Justice Square”. The protesting lawyers said they would continue to boycott the courts and hold demonstrations until all their demands were met.Lawyers boycotted courts in Abbottabad, Dera Ismail Khan, Haripur, Mansehra, Kohat, Bannu, Lakki Marwat, Nowshera, Mardan and Charsadda and instead organised protest rallies and meetings.

SINDH: The lawyers of Karachi took out a rally from the Sindh High Court Bar Association premises to the Karachi Press Club after a general body meeting. The demonstration at the press club was joined by civil society groups.Addressing the gathering, the former president of the Supreme Court Bar Association, MunirA. Malik, announced that the legal fraternity would ‘besiege’ the Parliament House in Islamabad on Feb 19 and would continue its struggle until all the deposed judges were reinstated. Rallies and meetings were also held in Hyderabad, Khairpur, Sanghar, Shikarpur, Mirpurkhas, Thatta, Dadu, Kotri and Nawabshah.

BALOCHISTAN: A meeting was held in Quetta in the bar room of the district bar association. Speakers lauded the courageous stance of Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry.After the meeting, the protesters took out a procession that passed through Sharea Iqbal, Liaquat bazaar and Prince road. They later staged a sit-in outside the residence of Ali Ahmed Kurd, who has been under detention. Mr Kurd waved to the protesters from the roof of his house.

(Courtesy DAWN)

Protest outside FAST-Lahore

Impromptu protest held outside FAST at about 2pm on Thursday to mark Yaum-e-Iftikhaar. About 30-40 students and 3 - 4 faculty members participated in the protest. Police arrived at about 2.15 pm and asked the protestors to disperse, the peaceful protest continued though. Later, after about 15 minutes, another Police mobile arrived and protestors were asked to disperse.
The protest ended at 2.30pm. [The Police was keeping a vigil till the filing of this email :)]