Tag Archives: extremism

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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