Monday, February 25, 2008

Nawaz Sharif tells the Americans a truth they hate to hear

Monday, February 25, 2008

ISLAMABAD: US Ambassador Anne W. Patterson met former Prime Minister and Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) leader Nawaz Sharif here at the Frontier House on Monday. During the meeting, the envoy exchanged views with the PML-N leader on the new political scenario and the ongoing fight against terrorism following the February 18 elections, party sources said.

Nawaz Sharif said the ongoing war on terror is not in favour of Pakistan; accordingly, the new parliament will decide upon the strategy of fight against terrorism in future.

According to the sources Nawaz Sharif briefed the envoy about the party's agenda including restoration of pre-emergency status of judiciary, supremacy of the parliament and strengthening of democracy.

The ambassador greeted Nawaz Sharif over the party's victory in the parliamentary elections held a week ago, the sources said.

Later talking to media, Nawaz Sharif said Pakistan gives great importance to its relations with the United States. He said that his party condemns all kind of terrorist activities but was of the view that negotiations provided a means to address the causes and find a solution instead of relying on force alone.

Nawaz Sharif said that if Pakistan could hold talks with India to resolve long standing disputes then there was no reason not to engage in dialogue with those involved in terrorist activities.

Responding to a question, he said the PML-N remains committed to restoring pre-emergency status of the judiciary and added that the heads of other political parties "are also with us on this stand."

Nawaz Sharif said that his party gives full respect to the mandate of PPP in the center while PPP would support PML-N to form government in the Punjab. The PML-N leader said that his party had not opened its doors for PML (Q) as the masses "have rejected the policies of Q-League." He said the PML-N believes in politics based on principles.

Pictures from PR Judicial Bus Rally

People's Resistance Judicial Bus Rally: Videos and Account

1. Reception given at Hyderabad
2. Excerpt from speech by CJ Sabihuddin Ahmed
Accompanying the "Judicial Bus" there were over 60 cars in the caravan, several motor-cycles, one bus and two Suzuki vans packed with those who could not bring cars. Chief Justice Sabeehuddin Ahmed, 13 non-PCO judges of Sind High Court, Justice Ghulam Rabbani of Supreme Court, Mr. Munir Malik and Mr. Rasheed Razvi were in the judicial bus.Several cars which were not part of the caravan joined it along the way on Super Highway and raised pro-judiciary slogans and victory signs. It was also pleasant to see the spirit on the streets of Hyderabad where many bystanders joined in. On one intersection in Hyderabad, traffic policemen smiled and nodded their heads to the slogans as they stopped traffic to let the rally pass through.
Earlier, the rally started with an upbeat mood. People's Resistance members reached the High Court at Karachi to join the lawyers around 9 in the morning. The previous night, thanks to Riaz, Sophia and Samina messages for new banners were decided. Couple of them were "Awaam ka mandate, Adlia ki Bahali", "Awaam ka Mandate, Musharraf ko Chelta Kero". The caravan left the High Court around 945. Tahmasp and Salahuddin were kind enough to ask the rally to wait for some PR members who joined late.Everyone re-assembled on Sharae Faisal near Awami Centre to allow others to join in and put up banners and posters on the cars and buses. The cars lined up on the side of the road and traffic flow was not disturbed. Traffic and Karachi police were present to guide the flow as well. Sophia arrived with the new banners and literally shocked everyone by the size and quality of the banners she printed !! There were 12 of them and one each was fixed on the back of the "Judicial Bus" and the other Coaster. The rest were put up on the larger cars in the caravan. Posters from "International Socialists" were taken by Pasban members and fixed on their cars :) !! A sort of coming together of two ends of the right-left spectrum for a common cause. Women's wing of Pakistan Tehreek Insaaf joined the caravan near Drigh Road Railway station. Speaking to them later, they told us that when they were waiting for us to arrive, the police had asked them to leave the road as "VIP movement" was expected !! When they asked further, they were told that the Prime Minister was arriving :) !! Of course, there was no "VIP movement" (of the government kind) and only the judicial bus rally passing through.Some PR members went as far as Malir Bar Association and lined up on the roadside to see off the rally which continued the journey. There were 3 stops on the way where locals including peasants, truck drivers and shopowners joined the traveling group and greeted them.
The venue at Hyderabad had to be changed as the administration of PCO'ed High Court of Sind had sealed the original venue at Circuit Bench in Hyderabad. In sharp contrast to the tear gassing of lawyers rally at city courts in Karachi few days ago, police throughout was very cooperative and even raised victory signs along the way (picture in one of the sets attached).Hyderabad was tremendous. Local lawyers and Awami Tehreek had organized a befitting reception at the District Courts. Song and dance with very catchy Sindhi slogans were raised. The entrance was flooded with flower petals.Chief Justice Sabihuddin, in his measured and emphatic manner, made two significant points. One was that the people had given their verdict through elections and have proven that "we are not terrorists" but "peaceful people" who "believe in the building of institutions to strengthen our society and country".He also said that an institution can only be strong if the people in it have an unwavering commitment to make that happen.After the event, on the way back in evening, some PR members stopped at a roadside "dhaba" for tea and snacks - but could not resist Dal fry :) prepared rural style - on coal.

ANP rejoices with restraint

By Adil Zareef
RIGHT until now the overriding three A's for Allah, America and the Army were meant to be Pakistan's preordained destiny. Finally, the (silent) fourth A – for 'Awaam' has spoken loud and clear – against the prevailing chaos and mayhem in Pakistan and Pukhtunkhwa (NWFP) in particular.

Words cannot express the current euphoric mood in the Pukhtunkhwa. The pre-election uncertainty and apathy has given way to an unrestrained jubilation – though nothing tangible has changed the wretched lives of ordinary folks – there exists a feeling of hope and yearning for tomorrow, after the nightmare of interminable bloodletting that had taken grip of the province during the MMA government.

On our way to the spacious Bacha Khan Markaz situated in the verdant suburbs of Peshawar, the ubiquitous red flags, banners, posters and slogans fluttered on a bright sunny day – PPP not lagging behind in this colourful outburst. Roadside crowds could not contain themselves offering us sweetmeats, gushing, 'The Red tide is here!' Was this reminiscent of the jubilant 1970s elections, after yet another protracted military regime as another dawn of democracy was on the anvil? Throughout the length and breath of Peshawar district people rejoiced, "We finally got rid of the scoundrels!" (Reference to the despised MMA government)

Asfandyar Wali Khan succinctly remarked: "The verdict of Pukhtunkhwa is that we prefer school uniforms rather than suicide jackets." The resurgent leader, who led the energised ANP with progressive, educated, mostly middle class leadership and cadre, deserves full credit for this landslide victory after decades of hopelessness in the aftermath of the Cold War. On one side were the resurgent Islamists gloating over the victory of religion against the liberal, secular forces – on the other hand the junta consolidated its heavy hand of despotism, deftly facilitating the MMA's victory in 2002 elections, while reinforcing terrorist elements into the tribal as well as the settled areas of the province.

Bushra Gohar, ANP's CEC member and the firebrand NA candidate from Swabi claimed, "The peaceful elections in Swat and the overwhelming verdict against extremist forces all over – including Waziristan – sends a resounding message to all and sundry. Pashtuns are not terrorists but peace loving, progressive people and against violence. In Swabi and some districts women not only voted but celebrated with traditional music!" Now this is a real revolution in the making in the Taliban hinterlands!

Clearly ANP won despite the bombings and threats. Their election manifesto spells provincial autonomy, economic reform, renaming of the province, gender empowerment, as well as redefining the 'war against terrorism' as their political agenda. Afrasiab Khattak, the provincial president argued: "Terrorism in NWFP is only a manifestation of the militarised state of Pakistan. Being the main source of instability, if the anomaly is corrected at Islamabad HQ, normality will naturally return to the entire nation."

ANP has made it abundantly clear that it will uphold their manifesto as a plank for governance. "At present the province is hobbled by a severe budget crunch as only six per cent of total expenses are covered by its resources, while the federal government pools in with occasional NFC award, the divisible pool and other sources to cover up the yearly shortfall," says Haji Adeel, General Secretary, ANP.

How would the social sector development, ignored by successive governments, face up to the challenges of public expectations on important issues such as health, education, inflation and the prevailing poverty trap? After all it is the economy that really matters, besides, governance.

According to Haji Adeel, "ANP expects that only foreign affairs, currency, defence and (partly) communications remain with the centre and the concurrent list be amended to emerging realities.

Pukhtunkhwa is a resource rich province that contributes Rs50bn in tobacco in federal tax alone. On the contrary, wheat and cotton are not taxed as they belong to the Punjab. Timber, gemstones (emeralds), minerals (uranium) high quality oil and gas are also taxed by the federal government and local exploitation of resources is not permitted. Fifty per cent of corn in Pakistan is cultivated here."

"Despite the 1990 ANG formula and subsequent 1991 Water Apportionment Award, Punjab has illegally diverted over one MAF through various water channels out of the province for cultivation, while over three million acres in the southern parts of the province remain barren for lack of water. The hydel power net profits should yield Rs30bn yearly. This amounts to over Rs7tn till June 30, 2007. Neither transfer of the much needed resources has occurred nor have we been permitted to develop the hydro electric potential of the province which can exceed over 45,000 MW, according to expert estimates, beyond our needs for another 20 years, besides, exporting to neighbouring countries," complains Haji Adeel.

These rough estimates, if translated into financial accords and transactions can change the fate of the impoverished, downtrodden and neglected province wreaked by the demons of hopelessness and extremism. The 'new social contract' between the federating units which PPP, PML-N and ANP have pledged to their electorates, needs to be drawn up in order to have any semblance of governance through public demand.

Violence is the last resort of desperation. But one can feel a tangible commitment by the ANP leadership not to let this golden opportunity slip by. Bushra Gohar says, "We cannot afford to fail again as this may be our last chance."

It is also imperative to mention the western donors who want to fight a 'war on terror' on their own terms, but also impose strict WB/IMF prescriptions need to critically look at the consequences of unravelling of the Pakistani welfare state. They simply cannot have it both ways.

According to John Pilger, "The goal is what Bill Clinton called the 'integration of countries into the global free-market community', the terms of which, noted The New York Times, 'require the United States to get involved in the plumbing and wiring of other nations' internal affairs more deeply than ever before'."

This plumbing and wiring has to stop now. Let Pakistan govern itself.

Carnivals vs curfews, and other intricacies of political suppor

Sunday, February 24, 2008
By Urooj Zia
Karachi: One of the factors for gauging the popular support or mass base of a political party is the number of people that turn out to vote for the party during elections. Voter turnout can however be a very vague term if one judges it only by looking at official election results.

In NA-249 Karachi, MQM stalwart Dr Farooq Sattar eventually won by a staggering margin of 30,623 votes, according to the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) website. Earlier in the evening however, while the vote count was showing that Dr Sattar was losing by a wide margin in what is almost considered his home constituency, he called a press conference and alleged that the PPP had rigged votes in his area.

In other areas of Karachi, the ECP website showed that around 200,000 votes were cast in some constituencies, especially in district central. To take one example, the website states that a total of 187,074 votes were cast in NA-244. The winning candidate there, from the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM), is said to have obtained 185,582 votes, while the remaining votes were distributed among the runners-up, which included candidates from the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), the Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal (MMA), as well as independent candidates.

A visit to these polling stations on February 18 had however, revealed virtually deserted polling booths, with less than 25 voters present within a polling station at any given time.

The ECP website lists 172 polling stations for NA-244. With a liberal average of three polling booths per polling station, a total of 516 polling booths can be assumed within the entire constituency. By noon February 18, less than 75 votes had been cast at a majority of these booths, and officials there had claimed that the voter turnout had been very low, but was "expected to increase after 02:00 p.m."

Assuming that more people started coming in after 02:00 p.m., and polling officials took an average of three minutes for each voter, around 20 people cast their votes every hour, making a total of 10,320 votes per hour for the entire constituency. Polling continued from 09:00 a.m. to 05:00 p.m., and thus no more than 95,000 votes could have been cast humanly on February 18 in NA-244.

Those were liberal estimates. Added to this is the general curfew-like atmosphere that was prevalent in areas of district central. Shops remained closed in Liaquatabad, North Karachi, North Nazimabad, Azizabad, etc. The roads were deserted, and the only places which showed signs of human life were the party camps set up right outside polling stations.

Only three PPP camps were seen in the area behind Haidery Market in North Nazimabad. Officials at one of the PPP camps in the area claimed that their chief polling agent had disappeared and was untraceable. This was compounded by the fact that PPP polling agents at stations in MQM-dominated areas were a rare sight. Polling officials at these stations did not seem concerned by this fact, however.

This was in stark contrast to areas in district central that are traditionally thought to be dominated by the PPP and the Awami National Party (ANP). Shershah, Mauripur, Banaras, Orangi Town and Sohrab Goth looked festive. Shops and restaurants were open and doing brisk business, while entire families were out on the streets, singing, dancing and chanting slogans for their parties. Polling agents from almost all contesting parties, including the MQM, PPP, ANP, MMA, Pakistan Muslim League – Nawaz (PML-N), and even the Pakistan Muslim League – Quaid (PML-Q), were present at most polling booths in these areas. There were discrepancies at these polling stations too – the presence of ANP and PPP activists inside some polling booths, for instance – but their presence was apparently ratified and accepted by polling agents of other parties present. "They're here to maintain peace and ensure that everything goes smoothly," an MQM polling agent at a booth in Banaras had said.

It may also be put on record that some irregularities were also reported in certain PPP-dominated areas. In these stations the PPP managed to get its way while the ECP and polling officials concerned took the other way. In the final analysis, however, one can say that the deserted streets and empty polling booth hallways in some areas, compared with a carnival-like atmosphere in other areas proved once and for all that respect in politics is given voluntarily, and only grudging obedience can be obtained by force.

Please go gracefully: Letter for the (retd) General

Mr. Musharraf,

You have stated time and again that you will quit (leave the Presidency) if the people don't want you. On 18th February the nation has spoken. They have repudiated you, your policies,and your hand-picked party, (which you have openly referred to as your party). Please stick to your promise, which you are now trying to wriggle out of by asserting that you have been elected for five years by a competent electoral college. You are fully aware that a lame duck or dying electoral college was not competent to elect you, nor were you eligible to be elected in uniform or out of it, since the Constitution specifically prohibits it. You knew what would be the verdict of the Supreme Court against you. Therefore on the advice of Pirzada and Malik Qayyum you illegally proclaimed emergency on 3rd November as COAS, , suspended the Constitution, removed the Superior judiciary, imposed PCO and obtained a judgment in your favour through a bunch of judges who like you, violated their solemn oaths to uphold and protect the Constitution. Not even Pharoah or Nero practiced such diabolical schemes.
For goodness sake, if you claim to be a Muslim and also consider 'Pakistan First', please quit, otherwise you may meet a fate worse than Mussolini, Please ask Pirzada and Malik Qayyum to read out Article 6 of the'Constitution of Pakistan to you in case you cannot read it yourself. It will be enough to deter you and your two (and more) advisors from persisting on a path which leads you to a pre-ordained and logical fate. Faiz has warned:Har ik ulil amr ko sadaa do,Kay apni farday amal sambhaalay.Uthay ga jab jammay sarfaroshaan..Koee na hoga jo kay bachaa lay,Jazaa, sazaa sub yaheen pay hogee..Yaheen pay roz-e-hisaab hogaIn Complete Solidarity with Pakistan

Concerned Citizens of Pakistan (CCP) A non-partisan, non- political group

Open Letter to Aitzaz Ahsan

Raza Rumi

"This is a historic moment that cannot be squandered or lost to the politics of personalities and individuals... this struggle just cannot be about getting rid of the president and reinstating the Chief Justice. That would be a belittling corollary of this fabulous episode in our recent history."The representatives of the PPP, PML-N, ANP and bulk of like-minded independents are touching the magic number of two thirds in the new Assembly. If they are asked to settle a score with an individual and honour another few, history will not record it in kind terms.

"Your call for a march towards Islamabad and the restoration of judges before Mar 9 is bound to polarise the fragile parliament, the political parties that have been beaten, poached, hounded with leaders assassinated or disqualified. It is a delicate juncture of our history and any division in the moderate political class or resort to historical bickering and blame-games will rock the system only to benefit the martial corridors of Islamabad's Byzantine palaces and their traditional occupants."

...The foremost objective of your movement should be to back the formation of a national coalition of the political parties who have been the victims of the nefarious Mullah-Military alliance of the last nine years. There can be no other alternative. If there are street pressures then this process will get derailed. We need the consensus of the political class on inter-party dialogue and cooperation. This should entail rectifying the Constitution and purging it of absolutist insertions, bigotry and most importantly how the judges are appointed."If your movement ends up dividing the tenuous partnership brokered by the Charter of Democracy, then mainstream politics will once again be de-legitimised. Another saviour will emerge from the ashes of this cycle to pronounce yet again the need for genuine democracy.

"Collisions at this point will only benefit the Mullah whose benefactors are retreating, but in no way giving up. This time they have to be defeated not through blood and resurrection of Garhi Khuda Buxes but through a democratic process that does not make the faceless masters an arbiter of our destiny."

Exactly after two decades, the moment has returned. It was squandered by the political forces and exploited by these faceless masters. Do we want another round of that regrettable phase where one institution gains at the expense of the millions?

"Continue your struggle but look at what might be the cost of exacerbating the tension between the big political parties and exerting weight on a parliament that has yet to learn the art of being sovereign. You and your associates must also be a little self-critical. The boycott of elections was not the wisest of decisions. Events proved your late leader right – no matter how tainted the electoral process was, it was the best option available and Pakistanis seized it."

Let an un-manipulated and fully representative executive, backed by an amended Constitution emerge; and let it end the executive arbitrariness in judicial appointments once and for all. And let the Parliament institute sound mechanisms for internal accountability within the superior judiciary. Institutions are greater than individuals, as you very well know."We know that your sense of history is unmatched. Now is the true test of your leadership where you will have to trade populism for statesmanship.

"And, we have faith in you."