Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Yousuf Raza Gilani takes oath as PM of Pakistan

ISLAMABAD: Newly elected Prime Minister of Pakistan Makhdoom Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani sworn in as 23rd Prime Minister of Pakistan here on Tuesday. President Pervez Musharraf administered the oath to the new prime minister in the presidency. He had received guard of honour from the contingents of armed forces on arrival at Prime Minister House after taking the oath. Talking to media, Prime Minister Gilani said that president is a part of parliament and we would strengthen the parliament.
Earlier, an oath taking ceremony was held at presidency that was attended by armed forces chiefs, provincial governors, speaker National Assembly Fehmida Mirza, judges, foreign ambassadors, family of newly elected prime minister, members of caretaker government and other eminent personalities. President Musharraf had congratulated Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani as soon as he took the oath.

(Courtesy GEO)

Two US envoys in Pakistan for talks

ISLAMABAD, March 25 (AFP) - Two top US diplomats flew into Pakistan Tuesday for talks with senior officials and politicians, officials said. Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte and Assistant Secretary of State Richard Boucher arrived in the early hours on the latest in a series of trips to the frontline state in the “war on terror”. “They arrived this morning. This is part of an ongoing series of visits to Pakistan -- they will meet with a wide variety of people,” US embassy spokesman Kay Mayfield told AFP.

The spokeswoman would not confirm whether Negroponte and Boucher would meet President Pervez Musharraf or other senior officials, although they have done so on several visits in the past. But Pakistani officials said the US diplomats would meet former premier Nawaz Sharif and officials from the Pakistan People's Party of slain opposition leader Benazir Bhutto, as well as government figures. “The two US officials are due to meet Nawaz Sharif for talks in Islamabad,” PML-N spokesman Siddique-ul Farooq told AFP. It was not clear if the US diplomats would meet President Musharraf or prime minister Yousuf Raza Gilani who was administered oath of office by Musharraf in a ceremony at the presidential palace Tuesday morning.

(ED: After the release of the illegally detained judges by the newly sworn-in premier and the recent assertions by the leaders of the PML-N and PPP to pursue diplomatic solutions to the insurgency in the north, it is likely that alarm bells are ringing within the neo-con halls of the Bush administration regarding the future of their objectives in the region. Undoubtedly, their emissaries are here to pressurise the new political leadership to abandon their stated aims of judicial restoration and peaceful conflict resolution in the north. The visit reeks of the neo-colonial mindset of the US administration towards the issue of independent policy-making by third world governments, especially in geopolitically important areas like Pakistan. It is incumbent upon Pakistani society to be vigilant and ensure that our elected representatives do not sway from the mandate upon which the people voted them into power.)

Government of President Musharraf must immediately provide list of all disappeared persons

A Statement by the Asian Human Rights Commission

The relatives of disappeared and missing persons in Pakistan will observe the Day of Missing People on March 23, 2008, a national day in commemoration of a Pakistani resolution adopted in 1940 in the united India. On this day the relatives persons will hold protests with the photographs of the missing persons, hold seminars and discussion throughout the country and also show documentary films about “missing of people after arrests” by the state intelligence agencies. This day will be observed under the banner of Defense of Human Rights’ an organization working on the issue of missing persons that has challenged some 485 cases in the higher courts, particularly in Supreme Court of Pakistan in support of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan’s (HRCP) petitions. The HRCP also issued a report on missing persons.

The phenomenon of people missing after their arrests has escalated since the ‘war on terror’ since 2001. Taking advantage of support from international powers the military government of Pakistan has impunity in keeping activists in incommunicado for several months in the army torture camps. There are reports that since the war on terror was initiated up to now more than 5000 people have gone missing. The nationalists and political groups claim that 4000 are persons including women are missing from one province of Balochistan alone where the military government has been conducting operations since 2001 in an effort to take control of the provinces resources by bombarding the civilian population. Also, 1000 persons are reported missing from the Sindh and from North Western Frontier Province (NWFP). The missing persons from NWFP are from religious political groups who were arrested on the charges of associating with the Taliban and Usama Bin Laden.

The disappearances after arrests numbering in the thousands also pushed the judiciary of Pakistan to play its constitutional role for the protection of the freedom of ordinary citizens, their liberty, the right to be produced before courts and the right to life. One of the major reasons for the removal of Mr. Iftekhar Choudhry as chief justice on March 9, 2007, was when Mr. Choudhry started asking state intelligence agencies and their heads to produce the missing people. Their families were told by various sources that their missing family members were in the captivity of intelligence agencies, particularly in intelligence agencies of arm forces. The assertion of the higher judiciary annoyed the military ruler and he disbanded the whole judiciary later on November 3, 2007. Some of the missing people turned up but still there are thousands of people missing and their whereabouts are unknown. The higher judiciary’s insistence for the production of missing persons also irked the western countries, particularly the USA and Great Britain, who were also involved in pushing the Musharraf government to hand over the suspected “terrorists” without any legal process. Even the arrested persons from Pakistan or other countries were kept in US military camps in Pakistan or Afghanistan without mentioning their arrests for several months and many of them were transferred to Guantanamo Bay. The government of Pakistan and Afghanistan were paid in cash for their cooperation in nabbing the “terrorists”. Still there are 92 Pakistani prisoners in Guantanamo Bay and their presence was only made known to the relatives after one year and in some cases after more than two to three years. The persons who have surfaced after being held incommunicado by state intelligence agencies testified before courts and the media that they were kept most of the time blind folded, mostly in army torture camps, severely tortured and that they saw several people including females in the same conditions as their own.

The government of President Musharraf should immediately provide a list of all those people who were arrested and who have been missing. The armed forces must ensure that all persons in their prisons are either tried in courts of law or are released forthwith. Henceforth, no one must be kept incommunicado.

# # # About AHRC: The Asian Human Rights Commission is a regional non-governmental organisation monitoring and lobbying human rights issues in Asia. The Hong Kong-based group was founded in 1984.

PPP, lawyers debunk ‘Minus-One’ formula

By Muhammad Ahmad Noorani

ISLAMABAD: Some top legal aides of PPP Co-chairman Asif Ali Zardari have approached certain active members of the lawyers’ community to discuss a formula for the restoration of the deposed judges, which surprisingly does not include Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad
Justice (retd) Tariq Mehmud confirmed to The News that this strange formula called the “Minus-One-Formula” was also discussed with him recently by a top legal mind in the PPP.Though this suggestion is in complete contrast with what was committed by the PPP and the PML-N top brass in the Bhurban Accord a few weeks back, it is not yet verified if this new formula has the backing of Asif Ali Zardari.
The lawyers’ community, however, rules out such a move to resolve the judicial crisis. Barrister Aitzaz Ahsan, when contacted, said not a single judge would be willing to return to his office if Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry is not restored.
He said the lawyers’ movement is for the restoration of all judges sacked on Nov 3, 2007 unconstitutionally and nothing less than a complete restoration of the Nov 2 position of the judiciary would be acceptable.
“Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry would be the first one to be facilitated to return to his office and then the 44 judges of the Supreme Court and high courts will follow,” Aitzaz said, adding all the deposed judges are well aware of the situation and will return to their offices once the deposed chief justice returns to his office.
Aitzaz said the lawyers’ community has full faith and believe in the Bhurban Declaration signed by the PPP-led coalition. He said the lawyers have decided in principle to strengthen the hands of parliament and the new prime minister.
Aitzaz also reiterated that lawyers would foil any attempt to subvert the Bhurban Declaration. He also alleged that the presidency was trying to subvert the Bhurban Declaration and pressurising the newly-elected democratic government through international pressure to change its stance on the Murree Declaration.
Another key lawyers’ leader, Justice (retd) Tariq Mehmud said there are few people in the PPP-led coalition trying to convince the lawyersĂ­ leadership that it should agree to the ‘Minus-One-Formula’.
Justice Tariq said it was impossible not only for the deposed judges and the lawyers’ community but also for the whole nation. He said it was Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry, who dared to say no to the dictator and gave a new hope to the nation, and he has become a symbol of an independent judiciary. Any formula which excludes Justice Chaudhry will tantamount to humiliating and defeating the mandate the nation has given to the winning parties on Feb 18.
Justice Tariq said: “I can categorically confirm to you that none of the deposed judges would be ready to return to their office, if Justice Iftikhar, who provided them inspiration to stand by the Constitution of the country, is not restored.”
According to Justice Tariq, a PPP leader tried to convince him that the new PPP government would feel more comfortable with the present Chief Justice Abdul Hameed Dogar instead of Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry.“
He (the PPP leader) was trying to convince me to approach Justice Iftikhar so that he should give a guarantee that after restoration he would immediately resign from the office of the chief justice on the very first day he will return to his office,” revealed Justice Tariq, adding deposed Justice Javed Iqbal also stands no chance of reinstatement as he has already accepted a government job meant for retired judges. This would leave Justice Abdul Hameed Dogar as the senior-most judge of the Supreme Court.
Tariq quoted the PPP leader as suggesting: “If you accept this “Minus-One-Formula”, we will restore all other sacked judges in one go and there will be no more problems from any side in this regard.”
Tariq said he rejected the formula and made it clear that the movement of the civil society and lawyers for the restoration of the chief justice and all other judges would continue till the complete restoration of judiciary and the Constitution to the pre-Nov 3 position.
Farooq H Naik, senior lawyer and PPP leader who played an active role in the formulation of the Murree Accord, when approached by The News on Monday said he had no idea of any such formula.
PPP spokesman Farhatullah Babar told The News on Saturday that restoration of the pre-Nov 3 judiciary without Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry was out of the question.

(Courtesy The News)