Democracy, Military and Pakistan

While listening to President Bush, I was getting frustrated. So what do I do? I start reading the BBC News and Dawn websites and find even more frustrating news.

Forget President Bush, let’s hear from President-General Musharraf.

Pakistan’s President Pervez Musharraf has said he has still not decided whether to step down as chief of the army by the end of the year. His comments on BBC World’s HARDTalk programme were in contrast to his public commitment to quit the post and become solely civilian head of state.

Wasn’t that part of the law that was passed in the deal between the religious political parties and Musharraf and his cronies? It is. See the Constitution of Pakistan, Article 41(7)b.

The president’s pledge to quit the army post helped him win a vital confidence vote at the start of the year.

It seems that because of the uncertain political and security situation in the country, President Musharraf has now decided to keep his options open.

Bullshit. For people like Musharraf, their own power is what matters. They just cloak it in national interest and security concerns.

His reluctance to honour the commitment suggests he is giving serious thought to a request by some members of the governing coalition not to quit as army chief. On Monday, 18 MPs from one of the coalition parties formally asked him to retain both the posts of president and army chief to ensure stability and security.

Sure, people like those 18 MPs can always be found.

In the HARDTalk interview, the president was repeatedly asked whether he was to step down as head of the army by the end of this year, but refused to give a direct reply.

It seems he’s afraid of of becoming a lame-duck President-General.

But legal experts say it is difficult to see how he can wriggle out of the situation and retain his military post, particularly when the amendment clearly states that by the end of 2004 the president cannot hold any other office.

You can see Musharraf’s interview at the BBC website.

And Pakistani democracy and judiciary have obviously been strengthened1 by sentencing an opposition leader to 7 years in jail.

District and Sessions Court Islamabad on Monday sentenced ARD president Makhdoom Javed Hashmi to 23 years in prison and fined him Rs42,000 for inciting mutiny in the army. Mr Hashmi was sentenced on seven counts, with a maximum of seven years on one count. The prison terms will run concurrently.

[…]Mr Hashmi was arrested on Oct 29, 2003, after he read out and distributed among journalists an unsigned letter titled ‘Qaumi Qiyadat Kay Naam’ at a news conference. The letter on a purported GHQ letterhead was said to have been sent to some parliamentarians by unknown army personnel.

Here are the sections of the penal code under which he was found guilty.

  • Section 131/109 PPC (incitement to mutiny): Seven years rigorous imprisonment with a fine of Rs10,000.
  • Section 124-A of Pakistan Penal Code (defaming the government and the army): Three years rigorous imprisonment with a fine of Rs10,000.
  • Section 505(a) PPC (defaming army): Two years rigorous imprisonment with a fine of Rs5,000.
  • Section 468/471 PPC (forgery of documents): Four years rigorous imprisonment on two counts with a fine of Rs5,000 each.
  • Section 500 PPC (defaming army officers): One-year simple imprisonment with a fine of Rs5,000.
  • Section 469 PPC (forgery): Two years rigorous imprisonment with a fine of Rs2,000.

I would be happy if most of these sections of the penal code were repealed.

Here is what the judge had to say.

“A careful perusal of the contents of the letter reveals that not only an attempt has been made by the author to cause disaffection between the Pakistan Army but also he has abetted in inciting the people against the President of Pakistan as well as the Army for mutiny,” the order said.

In this way, the author has also tried to harm the solidarity of the country and to create hatred between the public and the government constituted by law, the judge said.

Thus the wordings used in the offending letter, distributed by none else but by the accused, fully constituted an offence, the judge said.

If you are wondering what the letter said, here is some information.

Javed Hashmi was arrested after circulating a letter bearing a military letterhead which was purportedly written by disgruntled officers. It called for an inquiry into alleged corruption in the army’s senior ranks and demanded a judicial investigation into a Pakistani military operation in Indian-administered Kashmir in 1999.

The authorities claimed the letter, which was also highly critical of President Musharraf and his alliance with the United States, was a forgery. Mr Hashmi’s allies say they believe the letter was genuine and that the charges of forgery are politically motivated.

Seems like I agree with everything in that letter in that description above. May be I should stay away from Pakistan.

Oh and the trial was closed and held in the jail.

1 That was sarcasm, in case you didn’t get it.

Author: Zack

Dad, gadget guy, bookworm, political animal, global nomad, cyclist, hiker, tennis player, photographer

9 thoughts on “Democracy, Military and Pakistan”

  1. Punishment to Makhdoom Javed Hashmi has made me recall an incident that took place about 37 years back. My new boss directed me, “You should be loyal to your boss.” I replied, “First I am loyal to my religion, then to my country, then to the organization for which I am working, and, I think sir, you are fully covered in it.” My boss said in loud voice, “No, you must be loyal to your boss.” The result was that, in spite of my hard work and loyalty to the boss, I never came on the good books of my boss.”
    Mr Hashmi appears to have committed a bigger blunder.

  2. Sure, people like those 18 MPs can always be found.

    LOL, there are always a few pliables around that can be found for this kind of stuff. Under the worst cronyism of Indira Gandhi, there was more or less a competition going on, as to who could abase themselves more in adoration of the Dear Leader.

    Section 500 PPC (defaming army officers): One-year simple imprisonment with a fine of Rs5,000.

    I have to say, I am quite surprised that there is even an offence such as this. An indication of the nature of the regime more than anything else, I assume.

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  4. I am quite surprised that there is even an offence such as this.

    Nothing to be surprised about. It’s the nature of the military control of Pakistan.

  5. Nothing to be surprised about. It’s the nature of the military control of Pakistan.

    Hmm, true, I suppose I am more used to the niceties of repression in a democratic country; in India such measures are always couched in very generalised terms that interdict any threatening action to the state or public order, which then is mis-applied, POTA being a good example. Our rulers despite their instutionalised abuse of these law and order mechanisms haven’t yet had the brazeness to actually enshrine these in law as yet; the closest one comes to it is being jostled and hassled by the VVIP culture. Yay, democracy !

  6. Ahmed Rashid on the Future of Musharraf

    One of the best journalists I’ve encountered is Ahmed Rashid (intro HC), who writes about Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf sharp turn away from restoring democratic rule in Pakistan (BBC). Lest Zack stop by and imagine I don’t know this, I’ll…

  7. I need a copy of the letter! Also that article of Abu Shamil of the Jama’ati magazine “Friday Special” which caused him to be arrested. How about using p2p networks for something other than mp3s and cracked software?

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