Thursday, March 20, 2008

Do Countries sell their own people? Civil liberties in the age of the War on Terror

You are cordially invited to a seminar on Human Rights titled, Do countries sell their own people? Civil liberties in the age of the War on Terror.

Time: 03:00 PM

Date: Sun, 23 Mar 2008

Venue: HRCP Auditorium

The speakers are Mrs. Amna Masood Janjua, spokesperson of the families of the missing people as well as a senior advocate of the Lahore High Court. Mrs Amna Masood's husband went missing about 2 years ago, since then she has waged struggle for the release of his husband whose whereabouts are still unknown. She has been joined by the relatives of other missing persons whose loved ones went missing during the last some years (allegedly 'sold' to US agencies, on the pre text of war on terror).

The issue made headlines when CJ Iftikhar Chaudhry took notice and ensured the release of several missing persons from the shackles of illegal detention.(Refer to for details)

The seminar will be preceded by a screening of the documentary "Missing in Pakistan".

Venue: HRCP auditorium (107 Tipu Block, Garden Town, Near Barkat Market)

Date: Sunday, 23rd March, 2008

Starting Time: 3:00 pm

Please forward this email to other groups and concerned individuals.


You can download map in JPG format from:

NA elects first ever woman Speaker

ISLAMABAD: Dr. Fehmida Mirza has been elected the first ever woman speaker of the National Assembly (also the first ever Muslim woman speaker of any legislature) and Faisal Karim Kundi has been elected as the Deputy Speaker.

Dr Fehmida Mirza received 249 out of 324 votes, of which 319 were valid and five votes were declared invalid. Asrar Tareen, the opposition nominee, received 70 votes. Faisal Karim Kundi bagged 246 votes defeating of PPPP Mrs Khush Bakht Shujat of PML, who received 68, in the election of the Deputy Speaker.

Dr Fehmida Mirza hails from Badin in Sindh and has been winning elections continuously since 1997. She is the wife of Dr Zulfiqar Ali Mirza, a close friend of PPP Co-chairman Asif Ali Zardari.

Musharraf trying to create clash, says Aitzaz

ISLAMABAD: President Supreme Court Bar Association Atizaz Ahsan said that President Musharraf is trying to set up a clash despite the fact that Parliament had proved a two- thirds majority during the election of the house speaker.

Talking to the media at his residence before leaving for Abbotabad to address a lawyers gathering, Atizaz said the President should be careful now as parliament had proved a two third majority. He said that lawyers are not adopting the path of confrontation and 30 days would be given to new parliament for the restoration of deposed judges.

Let the original judges return

17th March 2008

Naeem Sadiq

(Courtesy DAWN)

Just imagine for a moment that an ordinary government servant, say a Lower Division Clerk of the Revenue Department appears on a local TV Channel and announces that the constitution of Pakistan is no more valid and the country would hence forth be run by a new law introduced by him, called the CCO (Clerks Constitution Order). This gentleman further states that all judges should consider themselves fired and house arrested, unless they take an oath on his newly invented CCO. What is going to be the reaction to this rather ludicrous announcement? Most people are likely to consider it comical and disregard it as an incident of no consequence. Some others may consider this person to be suffering from a delusion of grandiosity, some form of megalomania, acute egocentricity or simply undergoing a hypomanic episode. The newspapers would hardly bother to cover this story, except for some eveningers which might wish to use this as a filler for left over spaces. The local Nazim may ask the SHO to discipline this LDC for a day or two, till he learns not to talk about issues that do not strictly fall in the realm of land revenues. The Interior ministry would not even feel the need to issue a clarification, as they would not like to extend any more credence to this inconsequential irrelevance. The Parliament would not be required to even take a notice of this absurdity, while the Judges would certainly not be seen bee lining in large numbers, dying to take oath under the new CCO.

Now imagine another government servant, say the Chief of the Army Staff, one day does exactly the same thing that the UDC did, except that he calls his figment as PCO instead of CCO. One would imagine exactly the same sequence of events to repeat themselves. People considering this to be a lunatic expression and the government not even bothered to issue a clarification. The civil society does not take to the streets and the constitutional experts do not hold seminars to debate how this illegal lacunae may be resolved. The parliament would not hold a special session to undo the PCO or to restore the judges, for the judges would keep going to their offices as normal. The state institutions, police bureaucracy, ministries, and executives of all kinds would ensure that nothing hinders the judges from performing their routine activities. However the Army being a responsible, law abiding, and disciplined force, would not leave this matter to the local SHO, and instead will decide to take the necessary disciplinary action against this gentleman. After all he violated the precious Army Act by indulging in politics and saying things against the constitution. This is how it would happen in any half civilized country, and this is how it should have happened in Pakistan.

Pakistan does need to explore unique methodologies to undo what was completely illegal and irrelevant to start with. The proclamations of November 3, 2007 were the brainchild of a government servant whose oath and job function debarred him from saying or doing any such thing. We do not have to wait for the arrival of the new parliament to make a grand decision to restore the judiciary. The judiciary was never unseated, for the Army Chief has simply no authority to do so. There is neither a court order nor a decision from the parliament required to restore the judges. All that is needed is that the state institutions enable and ensure that all judges can go back to their jobs as they stood on November 3, 2007. In a situation of a blatant conflict between the delusional desires of an individual and the dictates of the constitution of Pakistan, it should not be a complex assignment for the state institutions to decide which option to take. Acting in accordance with the dictates of their conscience and constitution, they should immediately facilitate all judges to resume their responsibilities from where they left on November 3, 2007. Any state institution not doing so is itself guilty of violating the constitution.

Perhaps the matters that the new parliament may look into are why the state institutions including members of their own clan were in such a hurry to rubber stamp such illegal arrangements. Why did the government functionaries (except for the sixty honourable judges) not refuse to obey the blatantly illegal orders of the Army Chief. Perhaps the Army also needs to implement its own accountability process for those who violated the Army Act (besides the constitution of Pakistan). By bringing the violators to justice, we may forever be able to get rid of our seven yearly PCO itch. Alternately we should start tightening our seat belts and brace up for a yet another déjà vu in not too distant future.

Journalists roughed up while covering the NA Speaker election

(Courtesy Teeth Maestro)

Yesterday during the National Assembly session where the elections were underway to elect the new speaker of the house, outside it seems that the media was being roughed up for God knows what reason, under specific orders of the SP & DSP. One can only speculate as to why these media outlets were being prevented from covering the national assembly session.

A matter of impeachment

Tuesday, March 18, 2008
Khwaja Ahmad Hosain
(Courtesy The News)

Two hundred and ninety-five. That is the key number. That is the number of votes that are needed to impeach President Musharraf under the constitution. The constitutional chronology contemplated for such removal is clearly set forth in Article 47. First, at least half of the members of the National Assembly would present a written notice to the speaker of their intention to move a resolution for the impeachment of the president. The notice would set out the particulars of the charge against him. In this case the charge is simple. The president violated the constitution on November 3, 2007.

Within three days from receipt of the written notice from the MNAs the speaker must send the notice to the president. Between day seven and day fourteen starting from the date the speaker received the notice, the speaker must summon a joint session of the National Assembly and the Senate which will investigate the charge. The president has the right to be represented and to appear during this investigation process. If, after considering the result of the investigation, two thirds of the total membership of both the National Assembly and the Senate at the joint session declare by a resolution that the president is guilty of violating the constitution or gross misconduct, the president shall cease to hold office immediately upon the passing of such resolution. No further action is required and upon the passing of such a resolution the president shall, ipso facto, cease to hold office.

The crucial point is that to impeach the president you do not need a two-thirds majority in the Senate, which is currently controlled by forces supporting the president. Even if the impeachment resolution is supported by less than half the Senators, as long as sufficient number of MNAs vote in support of it so that the threshold of 295 is reached, the resolution will be passed.

This procedure is different from the procedure prescribed for amendments to the constitution. To amend the constitution you need a two thirds majority in both the National Assembly and the Senate. There is no concept of a joint sitting here and each house will separately consider the constitutional amendment bill. As long as Musharraf has the support of at least 34 senators, he can block any constitutional amendment bill.

In addition, a constitutional amendment bill must be assented to by the president to become law. If the president wants, he can send a constitutional amendment bill back to parliament to reconsider the same and then parliament will need to pass it again (with the same two thirds majority in each house). Once passed again, the requirement for presidential assent is not removed but the discretion of the president to withhold his assent is removed. Under the constitution the president must assent to a bill which has been passed twice by parliament.

Constitutional amendments require, at the very least, presidential involvement. Even if a constitutional amendment package is passed with a two thirds majority in each house, the president can refuse to give his assent to a first draft of any such bill and can delay the grant of assent if the bill is presented to him for the second time. If any constitutional amendment bill is proposed in the presence of Musharraf and the post November 3 Supreme Court, various devices could be used by the presidency to sabotage the prospects of such a bill.

The constitutional impeachment process requires no action from the president and gives no rights or discretion to the president apart from the right to be represented before and heard by the relevant adjudicating tribunal which is the joint membership of the National Assembly and the Senate. The "court" in an impeachment trial consists of the representatives of the people sitting in the National Assembly and Senate. The conduct of the impeachment trial and the timing of any vote on the impeachment resolution will be controlled by the speaker. Neither the army nor the existing Supreme Court can save the president from impeachment if the necessary parliamentary majority exists.

The PPP and PML-N have expressed their desire to restore the deposed judges by a parliamentary resolution within 30 days. The president's advisers have stated this is not legally possible and that the judges cannot be restored without a constitutional amendment. There is a risk, which has been hinted at already, that if parliament "resolves" that the judges should return, the existing judiciary may stay such a resolution before it can take effect. This will put the current de facto bench and the presidency at loggerheads with the government and the legislature. Can the political players afford to take the gamble that the army will support them in such an impasse? It is this uncertainty that the presidency and establishment will seek to exploit.

It is for this reason that it is crucial that the maximum possible support is developed in the parliament in favour of the proposed resolution for restoration of the judges. If the resolution manages to get the support of sufficient members of parliament, the president and his supporters should be able to read the writing on the wall. All institutions of state and political players will then see that trying to block the restoration by coming to the aid of the beleaguered president will be a futile exercise.

The prospect of being the first president in the history of Pakistan to be subject to an impeachment trial hangs over his head like the Sword of Damocles. During any impeachment trial, apart perhaps from certain members of the PML-Q and the MQM, his remaining supporters will abandon him like rats leaving a sinking ship for the sake of their political survival. If notwithstanding this prospect, the president stays in his bunker and still tries to block the restoration, the democratic forces in parliament can strike and put the final nail in his coffin by impeaching him.

The writer is an Oxford-educated barrister practising corporate law in Lahore.

Resolution by US Representatives Condemning the dismissal of the Supreme Court in Pakistan and demanding restoration

Condemning the dismissal of the Supreme Court in Pakistan and calling for their reinstatement by the Government of Pakistan. (Introduced in House)
2d Session
H. RES. 1044
Condemning the dismissal of the Supreme Court in Pakistan and calling for their reinstatement by the Government of Pakistan.
March 12, 2008
Ms. ZOE LOFGREN of California (for herself and Mr. DELAHUNT) submitted the following resolution; which was referred to the Committee on Foreign Affairs


Condemning the dismissal of the Supreme Court in Pakistan and calling for their reinstatement by the Government of Pakistan.
Whereas on March 9, 2007, President Pervez Musharraf of Pakistan suspended the Chief Justice of Pakistan, Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry;
Whereas this removal triggered months of protests by hundreds of Pakistani lawyers;
Whereas on July 20, 2007, the Supreme Court of Pakistan found Chaudhry's removal unconstitutional and reinstated him as Chief Justice;
Whereas following his imposition of emergency rule on November 3, 2007, President Musharraf required Supreme Court justices to take a new oath of office under the Provisional Constitution Order and dismissed seven judges, including the Chief Justice, who refused to take this new oath;
Whereas the principles of constitutional order and the rule of law are prerequisites to any functioning democracy;
Whereas an independent judiciary and free elections are equally vital as fundamental foundations of democracy;
Whereas section 699F(b)(3)(D) of the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2008 (Public Law 110-161), withholds $50,000,000 of Foreign Military Financing for Pakistan pending the restoration of an independent judiciary;
and Whereas these actions by President Musharraf undermine democratic governance and rule of law in Pakistan and thus reduce the ability of the Government of Pakistan and the Government of the United States to effectively fight against al Qaeda and Taliban terrorists that threaten United States interests in South Asia:

Now, therefore, be it Resolved, That the United States House of Representatives--
(1) commends members of the legal profession in Pakistan as well as opposition politicians, human rights activists, and independent journalists for their courageous opposition to the removal of Chief Justice Chaudhry, their principled leadership in defending the Constitution of Pakistan, and promoting the rule of law;
(2) welcomes public statements from Pakistan's new civilian leaders that they intend to restore all judges dismissed after November 3, 2007, to office; and
(3) calls on the Government of Pakistan, consistent with section 699F(b)(3)(D) of the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2008 (Public Law 110-161), to restore to their positions Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry and all Supreme Court and high court justices and other members of the legal profession in Pakistan who were removed from office since the imposition of emergency rule, and to respect the independence of the Pakistani judiciary .