Saturday, March 1, 2008

President consults legal advisors on judges' issue

(Courtesy The Daily Times)

ISLAMABAD: Legal expert Sharifuddin Pirzada, met President Musharraf on Friday and discussed with him issues pertaining to judges. Sources told Online that Pirzada gave the president a detailed briefing on the various options that were available to him. They said Musharraf said that the transfer of power would be completed by mid-March. Former law minister SM Zafar, Wasim Sajjad and Attorney General of Pakistan Malik Qayyum were also present.

‘No judge will be restored’

(Courtesy The Daily Times)
LAHORE: Presidential spokesman Rashid Qureshi on Friday denied reports that the president had offered a conditional restoration of judges sacked on November 3 to Pakistan People’s Party Co-chairman Asif Zardari, according to Geo News. No sacked judges would be restored, he told Geo News, and the procedure for the reinstatement of judges was laid down in the Constitution. Qureshi told PTV that President Pervez Musharraf had been elected for five years and was ready to work with the new government. He said the president had no plans to resign. He said rumours of the president’s plan to resign were part of a “planned campaign” in the Pakistani media and were “totally baseless and unfounded”. Only Nawaz Sharif and “the so-called civil society consisting of 100 or 200 people” wanted the president to resign. “In fact, the whole world is praising the president for holding free, fair transparent and peaceful elections in Pakistan,” the spokesman said.

Eroding Military Influence in Brazil: Politicians against Soldiers.(Review)

(Ed: An interesting academic review of a paper on the systematic erosion of Military influence on the political landscape in Brazil. Provides an interesting historical parallel for our nation to learn from.)

Written by: Wendy Hunter
Reviewed by: Hendrik Kraay

Not very many years ago, military regimes were firmly established throughout much of Latin America; men in uniform appeared to have taken out permanent leases on presidential palaces. Volumes analyzing "bureaucratic authoritarianism" or the "new authoritarianism" (as distinct from caudillismo) piled up, often introduced with assurances that, "[f]or the forseeable future at least," such regimes would remain prominent features of the political landscape." [1]
Then the generals resolved, perhaps reluctantly, to turn over the reins of power to civilians, but many expected that such governments would be short-lived or subject to long-term tutelage by officers. Early on in Brazil's redemocratization, it seemed perfectly reasonable to conclude that "the Armed Forces ... seem likely to continue their prominent role in governing Brazil."[2] Now, a decade after the generals gave up power, military influence on Brazilian politics has ebbed to lows unimaginable but a few years ago. Wendy Hunter undertakes the task of explaining why in Eroding Military Influence in Brazil.
Her answer is engagingly simple: democratic electoral politics unleashes a competitive dynamic in which politicians find it necessary to cater to interests other than the military who, after all, field few votes. As a result, even right-wing politicians pay more attention to workers than to soldiers; military budgets shrink as spending on social programs or patronage grows; environmentalists and Indian-rights activists stymie elaborate plans for border fortifications in the Amazon, leaving officers to fulminate against internationalist conspiracies.
Hunter develops her argument in six chapters and then, in a long conclusion, applies her model to Argentina, Chile, and Peru. Her focus is on the presidencies of Jos� � Sarney, Fernando Collor de Mello, and Itamar Franco (1985-94). Her sources include the principal Brazilian newspapers and newsmagazines and interviews with participants (but there is no indication of how many interviews she was able to conduct).
The extensive prerogatives that the military maintained during the transition to civilian rule constitute the baseline against which Hunter measures subsequent change. In 1985, the military enjoyed six cabinet posts (the three service ministries of army, navy, air force; head of the president's military household; chief of the armed forces general staff; and the head of the intelligence service), control over the pol�cia militar, a 1979 amnesty for officers involved in torture, and a series of informal understandings with civilian politicians to ensure the upholding of the amnesty and the maintenance of a military role in internal security, among other things.
The following chapter analyzes the military's failure to protect many of these prerogatives, while subsequent chapters examine the limited ability of officers to use those that remained to impose their policy preferences in three important areas: labor rights, budget allocations, and Amazonian development. Although no civilian ministry of defense was created, the military lost direct control over intelligence and the militarized police; the remaining military ministers became increasingly marginal figures in the cabinet. During the writing of the 1988 constitution, the military failed to win the continuation of extensive restrictions to the right to strike established under the dictatorship. Military budgets have declined steadily since 1985 (although off-budget allocations make precise calculations difficult). Finally, the military's elaborate Calha Norte program of fortifying and developing Brazil's Amazonian border fell to a combination of greater concern for both the environment and indigenous rights, particularly those of the Yanomami, as well as the continued military budget crisis.
What explains these outcomes? Why did institutional guarantees and prerogatives fail to ensure the military's continuing influence in these fundamental areas? Using a rational choice framework, Hunter argues that institutions were subject to considerable and continual change in the post-1985 environment of competitive electoral politics. The military could not institutionalize or "freeze" their power at its 1985 level. Rational politicians who sought to enhance their individual well-being contested the military and worked to reduce its spheres of influence. They were compelled to make populist appeals to garner votes from the enormous lower-class electorate; needing resources for patronage, they found it necessary to reduce military spending; desiring to implement broad popularity-enhancing programs, they sought to expand their political autonomy. In short, a sort of invisible hand guides competitive electoral politics to produce a desirable outcome of reduced military influence.
In her conclusion, Hunter sounds a note of caution. The fuller institutionalization of civilian control over the military--the establishment of a civilian ministry of defense or effective legislative oversight of defense policy, for instance--poses a "collective action" dilemma for Brazilian politicians. While all civilian politicians might benefit from such policies, the weaknesses of Brazil's political parties and the fractious nature of congress militate against such an outcome. Revisions of electoral rules to strengthen political parties and the establishment of a parliamentary system of government (rejected in the 1993 plebiscite) would, according to Hunter, improve the prospect of long-term stable civilian control over Brazil's military (pp. 141-46).
Finally, Hunter applies her model to Chile, Argentina, and Peru, finding in each case that competitive electoral politics led to a reduction of military influence on politics. In Chile, a more solidly institutionalized military regime faced a stronger political party system in which the center-left engaged in a coordinated strategy of reducing military influence without overly antagonizing the armed forces. The Argentine generals relinquished power from a position of abject weakness, facilitating Ra�l Alfons�n's policy of reducing defense expenditure, prosecuting officers for human rights abuses, and curtailing the military's political prerogatives, all highly popular measures.
In Peru, a dramatic decline in military influence took place under the populist government of Alan Garc�a, with assumption of civilian control over several formerly military-dominated areas of policy-making, the creation of a Ministry of Defense, punishment for human rights violations in the counter-insurgency campaign, and reductions in military spending. During the profound and protracted crisis that prompted President Alberto Fujimori to stage his own coup against constitutional democracy, however, the military regained much previously lost influence but, as Hunter stresses, this came at the behest of a civilian president (p. 167).
One of this book's strengths is its subtle and nuanced understanding of military influence in politics. Hunter examines the complex dynamics of policy formation in several key areas, identifies military policy preferences, and assesses the extent to which civilian politicians acceeded to officers' desires. She has been careful to avoid the tautology of defining democracy as the complete absence of interference by non-elected groups such as military officers (p. 6); rather, her goal is to document the changing level of military influence. For heuristic and comparative purposes, she even reduces all of her evidence for Brazil, Chile, Argentina, and Peru to a line graph (p. 170)!
Hunter's book provides a useful account of Brazilian civil-military relations after 1985; her portrayal of Fernando Collor de Mello is a striking reminder of the hope that Brazilians had invested in the first directly-elected president since 1960 and his early progressive measures: demarcating the Yanomami reservation and evicting gold prospectors from it, starving the Calha Norte program, curtailing the nuclear weapons program by opening the country's facilities to international inspection, and cutting weapons development programs. Collor's electoral mandate and his determination to enact neo-liberal reforms led him to challenge entrenched power groups, including the military as he sought the autonomy necessary to implement his program (p. 128).
That the armed forces stood aside during Collor's impeachment, letting both popular demonstrations and congressional investigations into the massive corruption scandal run their course, marked a significant shift, given officers' predilections for intervening in crises during the 1945-64 period (p. 23). Why this should have been so is unclear. Hunter notes that, in mid-1982, the embattled administration released previously-cut funds to the armed forces (p. 112) but unfortunately does not pursue this historical comparison further.
Where Hunter does look backward, she draws out intriguing precedents to the 1985-94 period, particularly the declining military budget share during 1945-64, which she attributes to the imperatives of electoral politics (pp. 100-102). A more systematic analysis of past crises and tendencies might have resulted in a more durable book. Hunter has ably identified a trend that few foresaw a decade ago, but, as she demonstrates with her Peruvian comparison, such trends can be abruptly reversed. Indeed, short-term perspectives have led to more than a few predictions about militaries in politics suddenly proven wrong, as Alain Rouqui�, one of the most thoughtful scholars of Latin American militaries, pointed out long ago.[3]
More important, Hunter's dynamic can only take place in a favorable larger environment. While she certainly acknowledges the importance of the end of the Cold War, the collapse of the radical Left, and the manifest failure of the military's economic project in reshaping the Brazilian political terrain, these may have been necessary prerequisites for the dynamic of electoral politics to reduce military influence.
At the risk of sounding like the obtuse reviewers who take hapless authors to task for not writing a different book, it is nevertheless worth reflecting on some evidence buried in a footnote (p. 179, n. 49). According to a survey conducted in late 1993 and early 1994, not one of 320 members of elite sectors (government, business, union, and political leaders) selected "the threat of military intervention" as an obstacle to democracy; the most common choices were "low educational level of the population" and "high levels of poverty and social inequality." The former and especially the latter existed in Brazil well before the ancesters of some of those elites called a recognizable military into being to defend their interests. Military participation in politics may well have more to do with class structure and dominant groups' calculations about how best to maintain their position than a dynamic of electoral politics abstracted from the larger social structure. After all, had Lula defeated Collor in the 1989 runoff (a distinct possiblity until close to the end of the campaign), could this book even have been written?
Two historical errors should be set straight (p. 32): Both the war (army) minister and the navy minister sat in Brazilian cabinets from the 1820s, not the 1920s. The air force, however, was not separated from the army until 1941, when its first minister (incidentally, a civilian) joined the cabinet.
This book is written in clear, jargon-free prose with convenient chapter summaries. Those considering it for classroom use should, however, be warned of the seventy-seven acronyms that garnish its pages, a serving of alphabet soup to which undergraduates will certainly turn up their noses, as well as the small number of Portuguese words used in the text for which a glossary is not supplied.
[1]. James M. Malloy, "Authoritarianism and Corporatism in Latin America: The Modal Pattern," in Authoritarianism and Corporatism in Latin America (Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press, 1977), p. 3.
[2]. Thomas G. Sanders, "Brazil in 1980: The Emerging Political Model," in Authoritarian Capitalism: Brazil's Contemporary Economic and Political Development, ed. Thomas C. Bruneau and Philippe Faucher (Boulder: Westview, 1981), p. 217.
[3]. Alain Rouqui�, The Military and the State in Latin America, trans. Paul E. Sigmund (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1987 [1982]), p. 3.

Pakistan court acquits Shahbaz Sharif in murder case

LAHORE, Pakistan, March 1 (AFP) - A Pakistani anti-terrorism court Saturday acquitted former prime minister Nawaz Sharif's brother of murder, clearing the way for him to contest a by-election, court officials said. The murder charges were brought against Shahbaz Sharif, a former chief minister of Punjab province, after the military toppled the government of Nawaz Sharif in a military coup in October 1999.

“The court ordered the acquittal after petitioners told the judge that they had found that Shahbaz was not behind the murders,” defence lawyer Khawaja Mohammed Haris told AFP. Shahbaz was barred by election authorities from standing in the February 18 election because he was facing the murder charges. His party, the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), has already said he will contest a by-election due to be held in the next few months. Shahbaz Sharif, who is PML-N president, returned to Pakistan with his brother after seven years in exile. (Posted @ 11:15 PST)

Aitzaz Gives Call for LAWYERS' Black Flag Week

Press Release

In a statement issued here from his residence, where he is detained, Barrister Aitzaz Ahsan, President Supreme Court Bar Association, said that a Long March scheduled for March 09 has been postponed to give Parliament time to restore the deposed judges. It has not been cancelle. The lawyers, he said, appreciated the concern of the Parliamentarians and the leadership of the political parties to permit Parliament to meet and take steps for the restoration of the judges in the first instance.

Aitzaz, however, said that two of the most unfortunate days in our history fell in the year 2007. On March 9, none other than the Chief Justice of Pakistan was arrested. On December 27 a much greater and far more enormous tragedy struck. The most important leader of the country Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto was martyred. The nation continues to mourn her. Lawyers have decided to commemorate both days with sorrow.

Aitzaz said that presently March 9th to 16th would be commemorated as the BLACK FLAG WEEK in and outside Pakistan . Those opposing Musharraf and seeking the restoration of the deposed judges will fly "Black Flags" through out the week as per the following recommended programme:·

On Sunday 9th March Provincial Bar Councils to hold conventions of Representative Lawyers presided over by a deposed judge at the Provincial Headquarters and hoist black flags.
· On the Monday 10th and Thursday 13th all Bar Associations will hoist Black Flags at 10.00 a.m. and after speeches by the President and other members will take out rallies. There will also be a Complete Strike on these two days. Arrangements are being made to relay the address of the SCBA President and the CJP on these two days at one and the same time to all the Bar Associations of Pakistan.
· Rallying lawyers will only carry black flags and black banners. Photographs of the CJP, CJs of Sindh and NWFP and lawyers who were detained may also be carried.
· On other days of the week, the flag hoisting ceremony will take place every day and the General Body will meet. Speakers will address the House.
· Special resolutions will be passed, every day, to appreciate the courage of the three school-going children of the Chief Justice of Pakistan who have been in complete detention since November 3 and have not complained.
· Lawyers will distribute black flags, arm bands, and head bands during the rallies and at other times among the public. Although it will remain a lawyers' protest, students, civil society and party cadres may join with party as well as black flags.
· All students, particularly of law, may volunteer to help the Bar Associations.
· From March 3 onwards, Press briefings will be given daily by all office bearers of all Bar Associations stating the progress of the preparations for the lawyers' BLACK FLAG WEEK in their district and area.
· In this regard Bar Office-bearers will contact students, businessmen, traders, professional and women organizations, chambers, trade unions for logistical assistance and support.

Aitzaz said that the Lawyers' Long March has been postponed but not cancelled. A date for it would be announced, if necessary, after the Parliament has convened. The Black Flag Week will be a soft preparatory step to the Long March and will re-energize lawyers and the Lawyers' Movement.

Aitzaz Ahsan
Supreme Court Bar Association.

The Failure in the War on Terror

Published On Monday, February 25, 2008 10:44 PM (Harvard Crimson)

It's not Osama, but Musharraf

The former head of the Pakistani Inter-Service Intelligence's (ISI) political cell recently confessed that he was responsible for political manipulation in Pakistan's 2002 elections that led to Islamists coming to power in two provinces and gaining 59 seats in the National Assembly.

This fraud was the work of the America's supposedly unfaltering ally in the War on Terror, General (ret.) Pervez Musharraf and his desire to paint an image of Pakistan as an extremely dangerous, unstable country ready to fall into the hands of extremists the moment he leaves.
Musharraf pretends that he is the only hope for the US in Pakistan. Closer analysis, however, suggests that his claims are far from true. In the 2008 elections—which were much freer and fairer than those of 2002—only 6 seats went to the Islamists. In addition, a secular party won the majority of seats from the North-West Frontier Province where the War on Terror is actually taking place.

These results prove that the people of Pakistan are against religious fundamentalism, something the US has largely ignored. In 1999, Pakistan was a stable country with a moderate political party in power. There were no suicide bombings, no abductions by extremists, and people were free to move about without security personnel. By 2007, Pakistan was among the world's most dangerous places. This transformation is the result of Musharraf's long, incompetent rule.

There are many other pieces of evidence to support that Musharraf is not committed to fighting terrorism now, or if he ever was. Musharraf's own speeches and words, such as, "[I am] not going around trying to locate Osama bin Laden and Zawahri, frankly" are the biggest confirmation of his indifference. In addition, Washington has been shocked by news reports that the majority of the funds given to Pakistan are not used for the War on Terror. This news is corroborated by widely available pictures of troops in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas moving around in traditional 'chappals' (open foot shoes) and poor equipment. If even a small portion of the U.S. aid were spent on weapons upgrades, bullet proof jackets, reconnaissance devices and training, the results would have been much better. The Pakistan Army would have performed better: more terrorists caught, fewer casualties and more leads to Osama bin Laden.

Over the past eight years, Pakistan has received $11 billion from the U.S. in direct aid for fighting terrorism, billions from other countries for curbing extremism and development projects, and access to secret intelligence. In response to this, Musharraf has been repeatedly diverting funds in efforts to retain his support within the army, upgrade weapons to be used against India, or pay his supporters and crackdown on political opponents. His long, highly extravagant foreign tours to publicize his book or beg for more aid are hardly helpful in fighting terrorism.

Musharraf's political ambitions have led to many serious lapses and failures in the War on Terror: Rashid Rauf, a high profile terrorist involved in a failed attempt to blow up transatlantic planes, escaped from Pakistani police custody. Militants have been capturing forts and have intercepted NATO's supplies. A radical mosque built up a brigade of terrorists adjacent to the Pakistan Intelligence's building in Islamabad, the capital. The intelligence agencies are not to be blamed; they have more important tasks to do—update files on and blackmail political opponents of Musharraf.

Last November, on the pretext of fighting terrorism a "state of emergency" was declared in Pakistan, and resulted in a country-wide crackdown on the judiciary, media, human rights activists, and anyone who could possibly oppose Musharraf. This was followed by the release of 25 high profile terrorists including former Taliban Defence Minister Mullah Obaidullah, who has close ties to Osama bin Laden and is the highest-ranking Taliban official ever captured. With Musharraf releasing arrested Taliban figures, U.S. taxpayers can be assured the $11 billion pumped into Musharraf's regime has gone to waste.

Musharraf is a major liability in the War on Terror, yet the Bush Administration fails to see this and continues to provide him unfaltering support. However, Musharraf does not have any support in Pakistan, as evidenced by the strong anti-Musharraf vote in the Feb. 18 elections. If the U.S. continues to support Musharraf it will further alienate the people of Pakistan from the War on Terror and augment anti-U.S. sentiments.

When the U.S, backed a highly unpopular dictator in Iran, it back-fired resulting in an extremist Islamic revolution. The world cannot afford a nuclear power like Pakistan to turn into another Iran. The U.S. must use all its capabilities to return Pakistan to the rule of law and to have the Supreme Court judges deposed by Musharraf restored. Musharraf must be tried for his crimes in the War on Terror as well as his crimes against the people of Pakistan by the real Supreme Court of Pakistan. This will send a clear message to the next government that it cannot take the war on terror lightly and that the U.S. will not allow itself to be manipulated by Pakistani leaders.

Balochistan's Prisoner of Conscience

Sanaullah Baloch

NELSON Mandela who was arrested in 1964 was convicted of sabotage and treason and sentenced to life imprisonment by the Apartheid regime of South Africa. But the world's most respected and admired statesman, who later won the Nobel Peace Prize. was fortunate that his trial was not held inside the prison. No anti-terrorism court tried him nor was he thrown into an iron cage.
Mandela and his companions were tried in a proper court room. His wife, mother, friends, journalists and supporters were allowed to witness the court proceedings.
Though the Apartheid regime employed the worst form of racial discrimination against native South Africans, no political activist of the ANC went missing or 'disappeared' during the struggle against the racist regime. But Akhtar Mengal, a well-known and respected Baloch nationalist, has not been so lucky. For some people in Balochistan he has the status that Mandela had in South Africa.
He has been kept in solitary confinement in Karachi since December 2006. Akhtar Mengal has not been tried in an open court. His trial is conducted inside the prison. No one except one person from his family is allowed to witness the court proceedings. Mr Iqbal Haider, secretary-general of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, witnessed the first hearing of his trial in Karachi prison on special request, and this is what he saw: 'Mr Mengal was brought into the courtroom and shoved into an iron cage with bars all around that stood in a corner away from his counsel.'
Akhtar Mengal is not the only political prisoner from a smaller province who has been humiliated or treated as a second class citizen. A number of Baloch, Sindhi and Pashtun leaders have been detained and humiliated repeatedly in the last 60 years.
Veteran Baloch nationalist Sardar Attaullah Mengal, Nawab Khair Bux Khan Marri, Khan Abdul Wali Khan, Mir Ghous Bux Bizenjo, Sher Mohammed Marri and Mir Gul Khan Naseer have spent years in prison for being insubordinate to the establishment.
Akhtar Mengal, president of the Balochistan National Party (BNP) and former chief minister of Balochistan, has been under detention since Nov 2006, and has been denied justice through delaying tactics. Mengal has not been arrested under corruption charges nor has he been charged with misuse of power. He is not an industrialist who is a bank defaulter. Neither has he been involved in any land scam like many other pro-establishment politicians of the country. He is facing trial for the brief 'abduction' of two undercover agents of security agencies.
Mengal's prolonged detention, mortification and the delay in the dispensation of justice has exposed the inequality that characterises our system. They also point to the inability of our courts to act independently without being influenced by the powers that be.
The Constitution guarantees that 'All citizens are equal before law and are entitled to equal protection of law.' The International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination also emphasises 'the right to equal treatment before the tribunals and all other organs administering justice'. However, the Baloch have not been treated according to national and international laws. Constitutional guarantees and the courts have failed to protect their fundamental rights.
Akhtar Mengal along with 500 BNP activists was arrested in Nov 2006, a day before President Musharraf''s visit to Balochistan. The mass arrests were aimed at stopping the BNP from protesting peacefully against the military operation, widespread arrests of activists and their enforced 'disappearance'.
According to Mr Mengal, his family had been receiving threatening phone calls since the beginning of the military operation in the province. Due to the gravity of the threats he would personally drop his children to school. On April 5, 2006, some unknown persons followed his car presumably to kidnap his school-going children. He stopped his car and asked them who they were. They refused to give any satisfactory answer. Considering this a security issue, Akhtar Mengal's security guards picked up the two riders of the motorcycle and took them back to the Mengal residence intending to hand them over to the police. At this stage, the two admitted to being army personnel.
Almost immediately, a large party of law-enforcement agency men arrived on the spot and took away their two colleagues who had been picked up, and laid siege to the house and its occupants.
On the intervention of the Sindh chief minister, it was agreed that no case would be filed if Mr Mengal's guards who were involved in the case were handed over to the police for questioning. At a later stage, it was discovered that a havaldar of the Pakistan army had filed an FIR against Akhtar Mengal and his four guards, who were voluntarily handed over to the police. Yet Akhtar Mengal remained free till Nov 28, 2006, when the Balochistan police arrested him, along with senior members of his party.
Since then, all proceedings are being conducted in camera. Repeated humiliation of the Baloch and their political representatives will intensify the animosity felt by the troubled Baloch population. The judiciary's tilted role and the unproductive hearings of the ATC have already shattered the credibility of the bench.
Akhtar Mengal, as a senior leader of a political party, is entitled to all basic rights and facilities. But he has been denied basic legal and human rights because of his political affiliations. The large number of political activists in Balochistan, who have been detained and denied legal and prison rights, are entitled to just treatment in accordance with UN conventions. The government of Pakistan must abide by the laws of the country and international law and respect the rights of the Baloch. There should be an end to the injustice, intimidation and harassment being meted out to them.
US civil rights leader Martin Luther King had stated in a letter from Birmingham jail to his friends, "Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere."

The writer is a member of the Senate.

Besieged Musharraf offers deal on judges

PAKISTAN President Pervez Musharraf has offered a deal to the winners of last week's elections - to reinstate the chief justice if moves to impeach him in the new parliament are abandoned.

In a sudden backflip, Mr Musharraf reportedly sent an urgent message to Asif Ali Zardari, leader of the Pakistan People's Party, offering to restore chief justice Iftikhar Chaudhry and more than 60 other judges to their posts.
In return, Mr Musharraf, his position increasingly isolated amid signs the US is backing away from his leadership, sought assurances that moves to impeach him would be quashed.
Chief justice Chaudhry has been held under house arrest since the then General Musharraf declared a state of emergency on November 3. His reinstatement, with that of other judges, is regarded as the key issue in Pakistan's political turmoil.
Last week, even after voters had spurned him and the party that supported him, Mr Musharraf boasted he could conceive of no circumstances in which chief justice Chaudhry could be restored to the Supreme Court.
But an official was quoted yesterday as saying that "the presidency is (now) ready to restore the judges provided they don't sit on benches hearing cases against the President".
The official indicated Mr Musharraf had caved in to other key demands from the victorious coalition, saying: "President Musharraf has also agreed to forgo powers of sacking parliament and appointing service chiefs." Sources close to Mr Zardari, widower of assassinated opposition leader Benazir Bhutto, said the PPP leader had promised to discuss the offer with the new Government.
It seems unlikely to prove acceptable to the new "grand coalition", which believes that Mr Musharraf has no choice but to accept "the mandate of the people" and quit office after the party aligned to him was beaten in last week's elections.
The offer is also unlikely to be acceptable to the powerful community of lawyers, which has led agitation against Mr Musharraf since he first attempted to sack chief justice Chaudhry on March 9 last year. Coalition leaders and lawyers are demanding the chief justice be restored to hear cases about Mr Musharraf's legitimacy.
Mr Musharraf affirmed yesterday that he had no intention of resigning, telling parliamentarians from his defeated Pakistan Muslim League (Qaid) party: "I am elected for five years and will continue to play my role. I will not resign."
Washington indicated a shift in its support for Mr Musharraf. US Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte, regarded as the most determined exponent of the Bush administration's embrace of Mr Musharraf, spoke of Washington's support for Pakistan's people rather than the President.
In testimony before the US Senate's foreign relations committee, Mr Negroponte made scant reference to Mr Musharraf, emphasising that the US "looks forward to working with the new Pakistani leadership".
He told senators "Pakistan has been indispensable" in the fight against extremists and that the US "looks forward to working with the leaders who emerge".

Reinstatement of judges

Zardari convinced constitutional amendment not required: Munir
By Muhammad Ahmad Noorani

ISLAMABAD: PPP Co-chairman Asif Ali Zardari has assured the top leadership of the legal fraternity that he is fully committed to the cause of the restoration of the pre-Nov 3rd judiciary and acceded to latterís viewpoint that the attainment of this objective does not require any constitutional amendment, party sources and participants confirmed to The News. Top lawyers leaders including former president Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA) Munir A Malik, Justice (retd) Tariq Mehmood and senior lawyer and chairperson Human Rights Commission of Pakistan Asma Jehangir met Zardari on Thursday in the Zardari House to discuss the possible modalities of restoration of judiciary. Zardari was accompanied by Sherry Rehman and Mian Raza Rabbani in the meeting. Munir A Malik told The News that the lawyers leaders told Zardari that they, the whole lawyers community and civil society want immediate reinstatement of all Supreme Court and High Courts judges sacked on November 3 with the illegitimate imposition of emergency and unconstitutional promulgation of Provisional Constitution Order (PCO), as an independent judiciary was impossible without restoration of these judges.

Asif Ali Zardari told the lawyers leaders that the PPP along with the coalition partners was preparing a constitutional package and all constitutional problems and issues would be solved with the passage of this package from parliament, Munir said.

Justice (retd) Tariq Mehmood told The News that all the three of us told Zardari that the coalition partners should go ahead with the constitutional package to undo all the unconstitutional steps taken by General (retd) Pervez Musharraf during the last eight years. “But, the issue of the restoration of judiciary should be kept aside from the said constitutional package and should be resolved without any amendment,” Tariq quoted the lawyers leaders in the meeting as telling Zardari.

According to Justice Tariq they argued to Zardari that if the issue of restoration of deposed judges sacked by an unconstitutional order is resolved through some constitutional amendment, it will become a precedent for any unconstitutional moves in future and that in future army chief would feel it easy to remove judges or eradicate and demolish other constitutional offices without any problem.

“We also argued to Zardari if the restoration issue is delayed it will create more and more problems as it needs immediate resolution,” Justice Tariq added. Both Justice Tariq and Munir A Malik confirmed to The News that on their suggestions, Asif Ali Zardari assured them that he and his party’s coalition will solve the issue of restoration as soon as possible as per their legal opinion without any constitutional amendment. We will not make any wrong move and will not set any precedents for future dictators, he said.

Senior PPP leader Mian Raza Rabbani, who was also part of the meeting when approached by The News said he couldn’t tell the details of the meeting. However, Rabbani said he can assure that PPP wants complete and immediate restoration of judiciary. He said he was making this statement on record and there was nothing off the record now. He further said his party wants a parliamentary committee comprising coalition partners to sort out modalities for immediate resolution of the most important national issue.

“I also want to assure you that constituting a committee never means that we want the issue to linger on, as we recognize the fact that as long as this issue will linger on, the situation will become from worse to worst.î After putting it before the parliamentary committee, we will follow the issue and make it possible to finalise the modalities, in consultation with lawyers leaders, as soon as possible and will immediately implement the decision of the committee,” Rabbani said.

Munir said he was very hopeful after the assurance of Asif Ali Zardari that he will act promptly to resolve the restoration of pre-November 3rd judiciary issue immediately without any constitutional amendment so as not to provide any precedent for future unconstitutional moves.

Pakistan lawyers urge new parliament to restore deposed judges

LAHORE, Pakistan, Feb 29 (APP): Members of the Lahore High Court Bar Association (LHCBA) and Lahore District Bar Association (LDBA) Friday staged a rally and sit-in protest against the dismissal of Superior Courts judges and urged the newly elected parliamentarians to restore the deposed judges as their first task. The rally was joined on the way by hundreds of workers of political parties including Jamat-i-Islami,Tehrik-i-Insaf and Khaksar Tehrik. They marched to Faisal chowk, in front of Punjab Assembly building, where they chanted slogans and staged a sit-in protest. Imran Khan, Chairman, Pakistan Tehrik-i-Insaf, addressing the protesters said the first task of elected political parties should be to restore the Constitution of 1973 and the reinstatement of the deposed judges. Earlier, the meetings of general bodies of both LHCBA and LDBA were held at which the lawyers vowed to continue their struggle (Posted @ 17:25 PST)

Crisis if establishment did not accept Feb.18 mandate: Hashmi

MULTAN, Pakistan, Feb 29 (PPI): Pakistan Muslim League (N) chairman Makhdoom Javed Hashmi Friday warned that crisis would emerge if the establishment did not accept the Feb.18 mandate. He told newsmen on telephone that president Musharraf's meetings with the PML-Q leadership and appointment of Nawab Zulfiqar Magsi as Balochistan governor, besides recent increase in the prices of ghee and cooking oil, reduction in wheat quota for flour mills and such other steps suggested that the establishment had not accepted the election results wholeheartedly. He agreed with SCBA chief Aitezaz Ahsan that restoration of the sacked judges through two-third majority parliamentary vote would amount to legitimizing the action. He also said that the PPP and PML-N had agreed to the reinstatement of judges and only the modalities were to be finalised. (Posted @ 18:34 PST)

PPP will not seek confrontation with Musharraf

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan, Feb 29 (AP) - Slain opposition leader Benazir Bhutto's Pakistan People’s Party set to form Pakistan's next government indicated Friday it will not seek a confrontation with President Pervez Musharraf, who is facing calls from other parties to step down. Shah Mahmood Qureshi, a front rank PPP leader, said his party would move cautiously to prevent fresh turmoil. “Relations with the presidency is a challenge, because as you know the PPP has been talking about a balance of power between the parliament and the presidency,” Qureshi told Dawn News television. “One has to tread carefully ... we do not want confrontation.” At the same time, the PPP wants to clip Musharraf's wings _ primarily by repealing the constitution's Article 58(2)b, which gives the president the right to abolish national and state assemblies. “We will move ahead with a positive mind-set and will try our best to tackle all issues purely on constitutional grounds,” said Makhdoom Amin Fahim, PPP's likely candidate for the prime minister's post. (Posted @ 21:54 PST)

25 killed, 50 injured in Pakistan police official's funeral bombing

PESHAWAR, Pakistan, Feb 29 (AFP) - At least 25 people were killed and 50 wounded when a suicide bomber blew himself up Friday during the funeral for a police official in Mangora town of Swat valley in northwest Pakistan, hospital officials said. “Fifteen bodies have been brought to the hospital and there are 40 others injured,” hospital official Hakeem Khan earlier told AFP. Hundreds of people were attending the funeral of Deputy Superintendent of Police Javed Iqbal when the bombing took place, security officials said. (Posted @ 22:00 PST Updated @ 23:16 PST)