Some Thoughts on Pakistan

Further to my previous post on Pakistan’s martial law, here are some thoughts about the past and the future.

Here is General Musharraf’s speech after he imposed emergency/martial law.

Chapati Mystery has done an English translation of the whole speech so I don’t have to.

You’ll notice the “I” in Musharraf’s speech, i.e. “I did this, I did that” and his conflation of him and Pakistan and how everything he has done and is doing is for Pakistan. That is of course the staple of such speeches, I still remember Zia’s speeches.

Also, consider his reasons for his actions as given in his speech and the emergency proclamation.

Whereas some members of the judiciary are working at cross purposes with the executive and legislature in the fight against terrorism and extremism thereby weakening the government and the nation’s resolve diluting the efficacy of its actions to control this menace;

Whereas there has been increasing interference by some members of the judiciary in government policy, adversely affecting economic growth, in particular;

Whereas constant interference in executive functions, including but not limited to the control of terrorist activity, economic policy, price controls, downsizing of corporations and urban planning, has weakened the writ of the government; the police force has been completely demoralised and is fast losing its efficacy to fight terrorism and intelligence agencies have been thwarted in their activities and prevented from pursuing terrorists;

Whereas some hard core militants, extremists, terrorists and suicide bombers, who were arrested and being investigated were ordered to be released. The persons so released have subsequently been involved in heinous terrorist activities, resulting in loss of human life and property. Militants across the country have, thus, been encouraged while law enforcement agencies subdued;

Whereas some judges by overstepping the limits of judicial authority have taken over the executive and legislative functions;

Whereas the government is committed to the independence of the judiciary and the rule of law and holds the superior judiciary in high esteem, it is nonetheless of paramount importance that the honourable judges confine the scope of their activity to the judicial function and not assume charge of administration;

Whereas an important constitutional institution, the Supreme Judicial Council, has been made entirely irrelevant and non est by a recent order and judges have, thus, made themselves immune from inquiry into their conduct and put themselves beyond accountability;

Whereas the humiliating treatment meted out to government officials by some members of the judiciary on a routine basis during court proceedings has demoralised the civil bureaucracy and senior government functionaries, to avoid being harassed, prefer inaction;

The terrorists and extremists were mentioned only a couple of times while most of Musharraf’s ire is towards the judiciary. A large number of the high court and supreme court judges have been thrown out now due to the requirement of a new oath under Musharraf’s latest Provisional Constitutional Order. Do remember that most of the judges serving now are those who took an oath under Musharraf’s earlier PCO in 1999-2000. So something has happened in the meantime to create this change in attitude.

It started with the Supreme Court taking independent positions and taking the government to task as a result of which Musharraf suspended the Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry in March 2007 and sent a reference against him to the Supreme Judicial Council. This triggered a protest by the lawyers in Pakistan which snowballed into a major headache for the government. Finally, in July the Supreme Court reinstated the Chief Justice.

The Supreme Court then declared former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s exile null and void. Sharif returned to Pakistan in September and was promptly packed off to Saudi Arabia. A petition of contempt of court against the government is pending in the Supreme Court and it was widely believed that it would result in conviction for the Prime Minister and other government officials.

The Supreme Court also recently punished the law enforcement officials who manhandled the Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry when he was suspended in March. Similarly, the Supreme Court was hearing petitions or taking suo moto notice of several government actions including the disappearance by intelligence agencies (or law enforcement) of terrorist suspects.

And then there was the issue of Musharraf’s reelection as President. The court allowed him to contest the election but still had to rule on Musharraf’s eligibility. It was widely expected that they would rule him ineligible soon.

All these matters resulted in a situation where the Musharraf government was pitted against the Supreme Court and the law community. Though Musharraf was wrong on most of these issues, the situation was unhealthy as a lot of political and policy issues were being decided not in the political arena but in the courts. And lacking an army the supreme court was bound to lose eventually.

Immediately after emergency/martial law was imposed, a 7-member bench of the Supreme Court declared it null and void and called upon everyone not to obey the government orders. And today the protests against martial law are coming from the lawyers and not the political parties, which just goes to show the bankruptcy of the political class in Pakistan.

It is also the talk of the town that Benazir Bhutto left Pakistan for Dubai on the eve of the imposition of emergency because she knew about it and has made a deal with Musharraf. While Bhutto has condemned the imposition of emergency and called it martial law, it remains to be seen whether her party PPP will actually oppose it on the streets. The government seems to be sanguine about the PPP though as none of the major leaders of PPP have been arrested despite more than 1,500 arrests of lawyers, politicians and human rights activists over the weekend. The only major PPP leader arrested is Aitzaz Ahsan who is the President of the Supreme Court Bar Association.

Pakistani Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz, who I might add has less cojones than Junejo, had earlier suggested that national elections might be delayed for up to a year but has now said that elections will be on schedule.

Pakistan’s prime minister says national elections will be held as scheduled, despite President Pervez Musharraf’s declaration of emergency rule.

Elections are planned for mid-January, but there were fears they might be abandoned because of the crisis.

The government had suggested parliamentary polls could be delayed by up to a year.

But Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz said on Monday that: “The next general elections will be held according to the schedule.”

Attorney-General Malik Abdul Qayyum was more specific.

“It has been decided there will be no delay in the election and by 15 November these assemblies will be dissolved and the election will be held within the next 60 days,” he told Reuters news agency.

But with restrictions on the Press and the constitution suspended what use could these elections be?

With the political parties not being active in their political and democratic duties and Musharraf being extremely unpopular, it is likely that the longer the martial law continues, the more the extremists and the Islamists will be strengthened.

While Musharraf is not at all justified in imposing martial law and these measures are not likely to help Pakistan, it is true that Pakistan is in dire straits right now as is evident by the title of my previous post.

The war in Waziristan has been going on for a while now. The terrain there is difficult and the locals are not at all in favor of interference by the Pakistani government. However, the militants haven’t been good to the locals either. If you look at the kill ratios in Waziristan, it is clear that the Pakistan army, which has 80 to 90 thousand troops along with an equal number of paramilitaries, is not doing too well. Plus soldiers were being captured easily by the militants, the most famous being the 300 soldiers led by a Colonel who surrendered in August and were released yesterday in exchange for 28 militants.

The tribal areas have always been on the periphery of Pakistan and the writ of the central government hasn’t mattered much there. However, the problems are spreading to settled areas such as Swat. The government looked on for a couple of years as TNSM leader Fazlullah ranted against polio vaccination, girls’ education, music and other such matters on an illegal radio station in Swat. Now the situation there is out of control and paramilitary troops of Frontier Corps, who are generally conservative Pashtuns, are surrendering.

In addition, there have been numerous suicide attacks against military and law enforcement targets this year. The latest was the attack on a Pakistan Air Force bus in Sargodha which killed 11. Even more surprising was the suicide attack against a commando unit at an army mess hall near Tarbela in September. The situation has gotten so bad that the army has been ordered not to move around in uniform.

All of these things must have affected morale of the army. While the killings must be laid at the door of the militants, Musharraf must share some blame for his ham-handed handling of the matter.

Finally, as a US resident, the question arises as to what the US should do. I agree with Chapati Mystery that:

Pakistan needed our help a year ago. It needed a genuine push for democratic processes back in March. We left unchecked, and unhindered, a megalomaniac
“enlightened moderator”. We keep insisting on our own interests ahead of the interests of the people of Pakistan. We remain steadfast in our belief that those people are not as developed nor as functional as we would like them to be. Pakistan needs a strong dictator.

And all the things that Obsidian Wings points out we could have done.

As for what the US should do now? It should make it clear that martial law is not acceptable and democracy must return. In addition, the US should not favor any specific politician or party. There is an impression in Pakistan that the Bhutto-Musharraf deal had the blessings of the US. We should not take sides for or against Benazir Bhutto or Nawaz Sharif. Instead we must insist on Pakistan lifting martial law and holding free and fair elections immediately. The more the elections are delayed and the US is identified with Musharraf, the worse it is for the future of Pakistan and Pakistanis and by implication for the US. And hence I second Chapati Mystery’s call to ask US Presidential candidates to take a stand against dictatorship in Pakistan.

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10 Comments.

  1. Thanks for the excellent analysis. I was eager to hear Pakistani opinion on this.

    However, I must record my discomfort with the following:

    “… it is likely that the longer the martial law continues, the more the extremists and the Islamists will be strengthened.”

    This term “Islamist” has no meaning to most Muslims. This is mainly used in the Western media (the “anglosphere”) and usually as an epithet.

    I don’t know of any Muslim who calls himself an “Islamist”. It is an external label and usually a derogatory term meant to discredit and demonise those Muslims who openly oppose, for example, US policies.

    To me, there “Islamist” means nothing. I know Islam and I know Muslims. And if ” Islam will be strengthened” or “Muslims will be strengthened” then there is no harm in that.

    Sorry I know this isn’t the main issue here, but this is just pent up feeling for a long time..

  2. I have been following politics in Pakistan ever since I was 6-7 years
    old. I still remember Bhutto’s unlawful hanging. I remember Zia’s
    corrupt and bigoted martial law and I also remember the nascent and at
    times the corrupt democracies which followed. But what I see happening
    today in Pakistan is not only unwarranted but also unparalleled in our
    history.

    Our Judiciary is under siege, they are effectively arrested as if they
    are nothing more than common criminals. Imagine majority of the Supreme
    Court is being held hostage in any civilized country. How shameful. With
    them a majority of the High Court Judges of Pakistan are also being held
    hostage by the present regime.

    And then the usurpers who call themselves the government of Pakistan
    have the galls to talk about that they are doing all this for the
    betterment of the country. They speak to us as if they are speaking to
    their slaves. They talk down to us.

    How long, how long are we going to suffer this ignominy? When will we
    stand up and be counted?

    All these years I have been disillusioned by the dream called Pakistan.
    A ray of hope arose when the lawyer’s community and the Higher Judiciary
    rose to the occasion.

    A hope that yes maybe I too might have some recourse against the people
    who sit in the corridors of power and who are not used to any one
    questioning their authority and wrong doings.

    A hope, that I too can enjoy basic freedoms and human rights.

    But for now it seems like it was just an amazing dream that has just
    ended too quickly. The ray of hope was quashed by those who are nothing
    more than Usurpers of this nation’s rights and hopes. And darkness
    prevails again. The fight between good and evil has moved into its
    second phase.

    The judges have done their duty, the lawyers and ex judges have done
    their duty, the media has done its duty, and now the bugle blows for us
    the citizens of Pakistan wherever we are to do our duty.

    My fellow Pakistanis there is no better time to be counted than now, let
    your voices be heard, let the people who are assaulting us in the cover
    of darkness know that we will not take it lying down any more.

    Let the usurpers and their cohorts know that Pakistan was not created
    for them but for us the common man, so that we could enjoy life, liberty
    and the pursuit of happiness.

    I ask my fellow Pakistanis to register their protest peacefully and for
    those who are in Pakistan to lay wreaths on the gates of the judiciary
    that has been murdered by the evil usurper, and do it in large numbers.
    So that by leaving behind these wreaths we can let these usurpers know
    that yes we are peaceful but we are aware and we will not let them take
    away our rights without a fight.

    I suggest we lay these wreaths outside all the courts in Pakistan. And
    mourn the death of our brave judiciary. And then when we have done this
    in the thousands, then we should rejoice and welcome the new judiciary
    which has arisen out of these ashes the brave judiciary who lies
    captured in the hands of these usurpers, and rise to free them from
    these shackles.

    For those who are not in Pakistan I suggest, we register our protest by
    writing to the editors of the various influential newspapers and writing
    or calling our elected representatives wherever we are and letting them
    know that they need to now stand up with the moderates and the democracy
    loving people of Pakistan and only then is there any salvation against
    the extremists that they are trying so hard to defeat. Or otherwise what
    stares them in their faces is a civil war in Pakistan. And that is not
    good. For you don’t want another Iraq or Iran in the face of Pakistan.

    It is time to be counted. Time to let our voices be heard. Stop all that
    you are doing. Your country needs nothing more than for you to be on the
    streets, and on the phones or with your emails to let you voices be
    heard among all mankind that we will not take this lying down.

  3. Zack, thanks for the analysis. Bloggers like you save us (bloggers like me who are too jaded to express political opinions) a lot of trouble. Haha. I think I might link you.
    However, I do think Faraz made a good point.

  4. The problem is that US administration wants “his-master-voice” ruler in Pakistan, master being US. A ruler elected as a result of fair election can not be so. Past history is witness that US administration has always supported military dictators, only Israel being an exception.

    Certain facts need to be recorded. Extremism is a reaction to exremism and a direct outcome of America’s unlawful and inhuman actions in Afghanistan, Iraq and then in tribal areas of Pakistan.

    Pervez Musharraf is the only ruler in the world who picked people of his country illegally and sold them to Bush @ $ 5000 per person.

    Pervez Musharraf is totally wrong in saying that people released as a result of superior courts decisions have committed illegal acts. Out of those who have been released on court orders, a few died because they were near death when released. Most of the remaining are under medical treatment some of whom cannot even speak. They were brought to that state as a result of crualties committed by agencies.

    The government had failed even to produce a samblence of proof of their involment in any type of antisocial activity in spite of the fact that they were with agencies for one to three years.

  5. Did you notice how at times he seems to be talking to himself? Explaining to ‘COAS Musharraf’ why ‘President Musharraf’ had to declare an emergency. Its terrible, the man is so amazingly lacking in any grey cells that he launches into english again and again…it wasn’t an explanation to the people of Pakistan…(‘who’re they?’ you said?) it was an explanation to the Western Powers. Quotes from Abraham Lincoln agalore, he didn’t mention the one man that would tell he’s addressing the general public of whom 60% doesn’t know how to even write their name…the arrogance! “‘EXECUTIVES’ per cases ho rahay hain…” o, do we feel sorry for you or what. He could’ve atleast accorded us enough respect to treat us like intelligent human beings for whom an explanation needs to be drafted. Its like getting the finger.

  6. I saw somebody saying “Bhutto ‘s unlawful Hanging”
    Do you mean to say the Judges were wrong then and now they Judges have reformed themselves?
    I am much older Pakistani (Of ourse now Pakistani-American) and have only seen one type of Governance since Pakistan was created, Subjgate the masses and rule them with all the power and do nothing to the uplift of Pakistan. I dont wish to go into the details of what ‘the elected’ leaders or the ‘army-userpers’ did but fundamentally I find no difference in their tactics and governance. The ones who are awaited like Benazir or Nawaz Sharif will come and do exactly the same as they did before
    “hukoomat karaingay”
    Is there any ‘Rajul-ur-Rasheed” in the leadership of Pakistan?

  7. Faraz: “Islamist” does not equal Islam or Muslims. It is a shorthand for Political Islam. At its best it refers to the religio-political alliance MMA and at its worst the Islamic Emirate of Waziristan and the TNSM group led by Fazullah in Swat. I consider increased support for MMA to be not a good thing and for the latter groups to be a disaster.

    Kashif: Welcome, and you are correct that we must all register our protest.

    Marigold: Thanks.

    Dad: Musharraf was actually speculating that those released might have been the ones committing the recent terrorist acts. And he was so sure of their being “black” as in confirmed terrorists, but that’s what courts are for. If they were terrorists and the agencies had proof, then it should have been presented to the court, so they could be punished appropriately.

    Specs: Musharraf’s whole speech was surreal. Read this article which is funny but accurate.

    As for Musharraf’s allusion to Lincoln, it turns out that Musharraf is referring to Lincoln via Nixon which would be sad if it wasn’t so funny.

    Wahaj: Welcome.

    Do you mean to say the Judges were wrong then and now they Judges have reformed themselves?

    May be the Bhutto judgment was wrong. It’s not necessary after all that if judges are right today then they must have been right then, or vice versa.

    I have only seen one type of Governance since Pakistan was created, Subjgate the masses and rule them with all the power and do nothing to the uplift of Pakistan.

    Whose fault would that be?

    Actually I don’t disagree since I have some major agreements with the libertarian critique of government. But I do see the issue pragmatically. Hence, what we (or rather those in Pakistan) have to consider is which path would lead to a better tomorrow. My contention is that a military government cannot, almost by definition. A democratic government might slowly and haltingly get us there.

  8. Interesting to follow the plight of Pakistanis. In Barbados we have one of the oldest parliamentary systems in the world and we take democracy and the freedoms which come with it for granted.

    Good luck with the struggle.

    PS. Was sorry to hear that one of our all time favourite cricketers had to go into hiding, Imran Khan!!

  9. Dear All,

    Most of us are not aware of what is happening around us due to a COMPLETE media blackout.

    One of Pakistan’s leading private news channels, GEO, now provides an online streaming service both audio and video.

    You can access this service at the following email address:

    http://www.geo.tv

    The students at LUMS held a VERY successful peaceful rally today on their campus. Details of the rally as well as other news regarding the emergency situation in Pakistan are posted regularly on the following blog:

    http://pakistanmartiallaw.blogspot.com/

    Whether you’re pro-martial law, anti-establishment, socialist, communist… YOU HAVE A RIGHT TO THE TRUTH and this is one way we are bringing it to YOU.

    However, most of Pakistan is in the dark. HELP PAKISTAN by making sure each and every one of you KNOWS the TRUTH.

    Spread the word! Paste this blog site EVERYWHERE you can. Print and distribute articles if you can.

    It’s the least you can do.

    Prayers, hope, and much love.

    - The Students of Pakistan.

    p.s. If you wish to receive emails regarding the latest developments in LUMS, Lahore or all over Pakistan, kindly send us an email at:

    studentactioncommittee@gmail.com

    or

    theemergencytimes@gmail.com

    Our blog: pakistanmartiallaw.blogspot.com

    We will be releasing photos and videos daily.

  10. David: Thanks for your comment.

    Students: Best of luck and thank you for bringing these links to our attention.