Sunday, March 9, 2008

Country-wide Black Flag Week

ISLAMABAD: The black Flag Week is being observed by the lawyers’ community across the country from today (Sunday), the day when Pakistan chief justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry was "suspended" last year through a presidential reference. The lawyers and other members of civil society have been actively engaged in the Black Flag week activities for the success of the event with a view to show their strength and power and reiterate their demand for the reinstatement of the deposed judges.
Lawyers’ protest rallies, meetings and seminars are being held throughout the country, attended by normal citizens and students, to reinforce their ongoing movement for the restoration of the deposed judges. In Islamabad, Lahore, Peshawar, Karachi and Quetta the lawyers staged rallies, held meetings and seminars to condemn the November 3 action by the then Army chief Pervez Musharraf Black flags are being hoisted at bar buildings and lawyers would wear black armbands.

Pakistan police teargas sacked judge's supporters

ISLAMABAD, March 9 (AFP) - Police fired teargas at supporters of the country's sacked chief justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry, protesting outside his official residence in Islamabad on Sunday, witnesses said. The protestors, including lawyers, political party workers and civil society activists, were stopped by riot police at the barbed barricade erected outside the residence of deposed supreme court chief justice. Later, police fired teargas at the protestors to disperse them and both sides threw stones at each other, an AFP photographer said.

The protestors wanted to march towards Chaudhry's residence and present him with flowers but police stopped them, he said. The hide and seek and intermittent clashes between the police and the judge’s supporters continued till late in the afternoon. Lawyers across Pakistan Sunday began the observance of “Black Flag Week” to press for Chaudhry's reinstatement. President Pervez Musharraf sacked Chaudhry on March 9 last year on misconduct charges but the Supreme Court reinstated him in July. In November Musharraf again sacked Chaudhry and other judges under emergency rule, fearing they might disqualify him for contesting presidential election while being army chief and president at the same time. Chaudhry and his family have been living under house arrest at the official residence in judges colony in a heavily-guarded government residential area of Islamabad since November. Pakistan's incoming government coalition partners Sunday said that the new parliament would reinstate the sacked judges.

PPP-PML-N agree on reinstatement of deposed judges in 30 days of govt formation

MURREE: Pakistan Peoples Party and PML-N have signed a joint declaration for formation of coalition government in Centre and Punjab. Asif Ali Zardari and Muhammad Nawaz Sharif signed the joint declaration titled “PPP-PML-N summit declaration Murree” during a joint press conference here at PC Bhurban hotel.

In the joint declaration, both the parties agreed upon the reinstatement of the deposed judges through the newly elected parliament within 30 days of the formation of the federal government. The nominee of the PPP for the slot of PM will be fully supported by the coalition parties, but the PM nominee should carry forward the agenda of both the parties, Nawaz Sharif said in the press conference.

Speaker and Deputy speaker of NA will be from the PPP and Speaker and Deputy speaker in Punjab Assembly will be of PML-N, he said. Nawaz Sharif also said that PML-N would be part of the federal cabinet. He said that he and Asif Ali Zardari had signed the Charter of Democracy, which was formulated by Benazir and himself earlier.

Even if the newly elected parliament was hung, it was against the dictatorship, Nawaz Sharif said. He said Musharraf should accept the mandate of people and avoid creating hurdles. PML-N and PPP in the joint declaration also demanded that the NA session should be convened immediately.

Asif Ali Zardari, speaking on the occasion, said that it was the dream of Shaheed Benazir Bhutto that PPP and PML-N should reach an accord and that dream has come to be true. Earlier, Asif Ali Zardari and Muhammad Nawaz Sharif also held a one-on-one meeting after the joint meeting along with the leaders of PPP and PML-N.

Asif Ali Zardari offered Muhammad Nawaz Sharif to become the Prime Minister of Pakistan but he declined with thanks and a smile.

(Courtesy GEO)

From the Editor: On the Decline in Postings

I would like to express my heartfelt apologies for being irregular in updating The Emergency Times in the past week or so. Recent upheavals in my personal domain are the primary cause of the inconsistency, but they are not to be dwelled upon here. Efforts are underway, however, to consolidate the information arsenal of The Emergency Times with other similar online efforts, such as the Emergency mailing list, Teeth Maestro and other blogs, so that the flow of independent citizen journalism, commentary and analysis continues uninterrupted.

We at The Emergency Times remain committed to providing you, the online community, with an alternative news source on the political scenario in Pakistan, one dedicated to a progressive vision of our future, free from censorship or corporate bias. It is your readership, contributions and feedback that keep us going; please stay with us as we enter a new era in Pakistan's history, armed with the knowledge, experience and resources that previous generations may not have had.

In Complete Unity,

The Emergency Times

Op-ed: March 9 revisited

Authored by: Dr Qaisar Rashid

March 9, 2007 has left a deep, lasting impact on the politico-social history of Pakistan. In past, where the institution of politics was found coming head on with the institution of military, this time the institution of judiciary has defied the verdict of the institution of military and hence invited its wrath. The basic premise of defiance was the rule of law. The fundamental effort now is independence of the judiciary and personification of that is being demanded in restoration of the deposed and detained judges.
Some still argue that the judicial activism was less a threat to the bureaucracy and more to the military. In the post-1999 era, the way the military pounced on other institutions, the judiciary posed first big and real challenge to the hegemony of the military in 2007. It was March 9 incident that provoked the judiciary to catapult the situation; the judiciary came out of its past subservient role to the military rulers. Subsequently, the judiciary showed its true colour till the emergency, in the name of martial law, was proclaimed on November 3, 2007.
In a country like Pakistan where the Cold War mentality is still lurking at the higher echelons of power, the ruling class yearns for every thing programmed according to its whims and wishes. For them, an independent judiciary is a hateful object for having potential for disrupting the program. It is sheer an autocratic approach of the ruling elite under the fa├žade of democracy.
Major tussle between the then sitting government of the Prime Minister, Shaukat Aziz, and the judiciary appeared when the latter criticized and halted the process of privatization of Karachi Steel Mill. That sent shivers down the spines of those who had thought of the judiciary a subsidiary to the prime ministerial office. The judiciary had also started taking notice of the missing person cases, besides resorting to suo moto actions before March 9 visited it.
Retrospectively, March 9 happened because of two main reasons. First, avenging the insult on the Steel Mill issue, which brought the then government to disrepute, and secondly, re-evaluating the supreme judicial mind in case the uniform issue was referred to it. It is still a mystery how a lawyer, Naeem Bukhari, could be able to gather quantitative information about the Chief Judge and had an access to the billing section of the Supreme Court? Secondly, the same letter which had been submitted to the Supreme Court was circulated around through the internet. How could Naeem collect email addresses of all those who contribute columns to various Pakistani dailies and why to inform them about the contents of the letter? The lawyers who cast curse on the role of Naeem claim that he played in the hands of the intelligence agencies to defame the Chief Judge to ease his ouster. It could be called the counter defamation policy of the then sitting government. On March 9, refusal of the Chief Judge from resigning was considered an offence to a higher authority worthy to be penalized.
The judicial reference could have been sent directly to the Supreme Judicial Council as a routine matter instead of inviting or detaining the Chief Judge, Iftikhar Hussain Chaudhry, in the Camp Office, Rawalpindi, and later in his own house. Further, by detaining the Chief Justice in the Camp Office and forcing the other judges to take charge and oath not only created bad blood but also harmed the intra-judiciary harmony. If memory serves, while justifying his ‘counter-coup’ on 12 October 1999, Musharraf had made remarks that the then Prime Minister, Nawaz Sharif, was guilty of disrupting intra-military accord by starring another General as Chief of Army before his ceremonious departure. On March 9, Musharraf did to the Chief Judge the same what Nawaz Sharif did to him. The difference was that on October 12 Musharraf had the force of gun to correct the imbalance in his favour but the Chief Judge lacked that force on both March 9 and November 3.
Retrospectively, March 9 was a needless event. Nonetheless, it necessitated the society to challenge the involvement and supremacy of the military on the societal plane. The sordid event also pushed the army to stand aloof of the society. It seems that this aspect has benefited the suicide bombers who are now selectively targeting the army men and material, besides their accomplices in the civil society. The gory act of a suicide bomber at a mosque in Charsaddha on the Eid day in a failed attempt to target the former Interior Minister, Aftab Sherpao, can be seen in that context. The intelligence failure in this regard may be due to the climate of indifference prevailing in the society for the government. Having broken this individual-state relationship is the single major alarming factor that forewarns what is in store for the future unless addressed to the people’s satisfaction. The new Chief of Army, General Keyani, seems cognizant of the state of affairs and is an advocate of confining the role of the military to its professional duties which are on the borders.
Later on, the insult inflicted on the Chief Judge in the streets of Islamabad on his way to the Court was tantamount to transgression of all boundaries of decency, norms and law. It seems that both the society and the bar and the bench have not pardoned the agencies involved. It was an overreaching act of the agencies – supposedly backed by Musharraf – which jolted the collective conscience of the society. The case of meting out punishment to those who were responsible for the law and order in Islamabad was also under hearing at the Supreme Court. Every body knew that the Islamabad police had acted at the behest of the military high-ups, besides being physically backed by them. In case of any final verdict from the Court, the police would not listen to the military command any more. Now, under the new Supreme Court, the Islamabad police have been protected and the culprits were freed. Perhaps, that was what Musharraf meant in his December 15 speech that he had introduced a harmony between the judiciary, the police and the intelligence agencies – by ousting the preceding judiciary and absolving those of any offence who had been booked in the manhandling issue.
Since March 9, 2007, the events have been speaking for themselves: there are lessons to be learnt for those who have conscience.


New York Solidarity Event

Saad Mustafa Rizvi

There will be a solidarity event in New York outside Pakistani Consulate at 4pm on March 15, Saturday. The event would start with a rally and end with a vigil. The rally/vigil is part of the Black Flag Week call given by Aitzaz Ahsan to commemorate the continuous struggle by lawyers, students and other civil society members for the last one year. Remember the theme is Black so please wear as much black as you can and bring black armbands, flags or anything to show your support.
Even though the counsulate would be officially closed on Saturday, the point of having a protest outside it is symbolic at the moment and to get as much media attention as possible. For more questions please feel welcome to reach me at 857-334-8012.
Our efforts have cornered Musharaf, its just a matter of time we achieve our goals.