Tag Archives: Politics - Page 2

HOA and Obama Yard Sign

Obama Yard Sign

I have had an Obama yard sign in my front yard since the Democratic convention.

Today I got a letter from my Home Owners Association (HOA) which says:

According to the Covenants, signs are not allowed to be displayed. Please remove the election sign.

So I checked the Covenants and found the following:

No sign of any kind shall be erected by an Owner or Occupant within the Community without the prior written consent of the Architectural Review Committee. Notwithstanding the foregoing, the Board and the Declarant shall have the right to erect reasonable and appropriate signs. “For Sale” and “For Rent” signs and security signs consistent with the Community-Wide Standard and any signs required by legal proceedings may be erected upon any Lot.

It looks like they have the right to erect “reasonable and appropriate” signs. I would like a similar right on reciprocal basis since I would guess that a 16” by 26” sign for a major party Presidential candidate during election season is both appropriate and reasonable. But evidently the management company that runs the HOA disagrees.

I am of a mind to send a letter to the Home Owners Association:

I did not know that the Soviet Union was alive and well here in our subdivision. I had heard of its demise some years ago. Anyway, if I am not allowed to display a political sign for the elections, please grant me permission to fly the Hammer and Sickle on the front of my house.

On a more serious note, does anyone know if there are any local (Fulton county), state (Georgia) or Federal laws which the HOA might be going against here? What is the case law like on this issue here?

I had no idea about Home Owner Associations before we bought a house last year. My first interaction with the HOA was earlier this year when we decided to do some work on part of our backyard. We wanted to install a playset and a small vegetable garden as well as grow flowering plants and grass in a part of the backyard which had nothing. This required approval by the Architectural Review Committee of the HOA and I being a law-abiding fellow submitted the application despite protests by Amber about this being our property and hence we being free to do whatever we wanted.

It took the committee 10 days to approve the project. When I talked to the head of the committee, I voiced my disapproval at the length of time they had taken to do so. He pointed out that the Covenants allowed the committee to take as many as 60 days and that the committee members had lives of their own and were doing this only as part-time volunteers. I replied that that was precisely the point, since their time (and mine) was so precious, so project approval should be almost automatic. If they didn’t see any egregious violation at first glance, they should approve it. I don’t think he got what I was trying to say.

To reiterate, what do you know of Georgia law on political signs and HOA covenants? What do you think I should do and why? Should I simply remove the sign? Should I keep it? In that case, what’ll happen and is it worth fighting for?

Related Reading

How to Recall Your Condominium Association Board or Homeowners Association Board in 10 Steps (Condominium and HOA Reports)
Everyone Here Spoke Sign Language: Hereditary Deafness on Martha's Vineyard
The Sign of the Book
The 13th Sign
Hoa Lo / Hanoi Hilton Stories (Southeast Asia Studies Monograph Series)

Obama Campaign Volunteer

I first got contacted by the Obama campaign some time in Spring 2007 for a donation. I refused, not because I didn’t support Senator Obama but because I thought it was too early for a Presidential campaign.

After the primary campaign was over, I signed up online to volunteer for the campaign and soon received a call to do voter registration with the GA-400 for Obama group. So one Saturday morning, I went to the Roswell Farmer’s Market where the group was meeting. Someone from the group told us the basics of how to register voters, went through the registration form etc and sent us on our way in teams. I was paired with two others to go to Sandy Springs.

We drove to a strip mall and stood in the parking lot in front of Whole Foods, asking everyone if they were registered to vote. The reaction we got varied from person to person. Most people just said they were registered and thanked us. Others just tried to ignore us. Some said they were Republicans or supported McCain. We also ran into some Obama supporters who seemed excited to see our Obama buttons and shirts. A few people were rude as well. One woman told us she had complained to the store management because our Obama paraphernalia was screaming to her or something. So we were asked by the store to move and we went to the next strip mall and registered some voters there. We also handed out a few voter registration forms to people who wanted them for someone else. Overall, it was a decent experience for about 3 hours of work, though we didn’t get too many registrations. That was expected since most people up here in north Fulton are already registered. It’s in downtown and south of the city that there are a large number of unregistered voters.

Georgia is a very red state — Kerry lost 41%-58% to Bush in 2004 — but the Obama campaign is the first Democratic Presidential candidate to compete here since Clinton won here in 1992. There has been a large number of staff and thousands of volunteers plus 40 offices.

So I joined the local neighborhood team here in Milton organized by Alex from the campaign staff. We have had several meetings to decide our course of action, recruit volunteers and have fun.

I have been to two more voter registration events. Once our local team took Marta to Five Points. As I got on the train, someone saw my clipboard and the voter registration forms and asked me for one so she could register. We actually registered quite a few people on the train ride. Then we stood outside the Five Points station and asked everyone if they were registered to vote. Later we tried to register voters in Underground Atlanta, but it was almost deserted there and we didn’t register anyone until the mall security asked us to leave.

On the Friday before Labor day, I was in Atlanta and so I joined a group registering voters in Westside. We registered a few voters, but someone stole a volunteer’s blackberry.

We have also organized several phone bank meetings where we call voters. We have called Democrats to firm up their support. We have called Obama supporters to ask them to volunteer. Also, we have called voters who could be persuaded to support Obama.

Last Saturday, we went door-to-door canvassing in teams of two. We printed out maps and voter lists and knocked on doors. We asked them about their Presidential preference and gave undecided voters some campaign literature about issues they might be interested in. It was a pleasant experience. Most McCain supporters were very nice to us too. Only one person told us not to come campaigning to their house.

While the Obama campaign is moving some staffers out of Georgia and into more competitive states, even more local offices are opening and the volunteer network is still in place and we are still registering voters, making phone calls and going door to door.

Volunteering for the campaign has been an interesting experience. I’ve met a lot of people who are passionate about politics. Also, I have been amazed at the way modern campaigns work in a systematic fashion with a lot of available data. I think Alex related an anecdote about Abraham Lincoln sorting voters into different groups based on their support for him and then targeting voters to move them to the next group which was more supportive, e.g. from supporter of other candidate to undecided or undecided to leaning towards Lincoln, etc. So this systematic approach has a long history, though now we have computers and databases. BTW, if anyone has a reference for this anecdote, please let me know.

Please do donate to the Obama campaign (US citizens and permanent residents only).

Related Reading

Smart About the Presidents (Smart About History)
Volunteer Vacations: Short-Term Adventures That Will Benefit You and Others
United States Presidents' Inaugural Speeches
The New Breed: Understanding and Equipping the 21st Century Volunteer
Treading Water (Vet Volunteers)

Obama for President

If you read my blog regularly, you already know that I support Barack Obama for President. Why do I support him? Because I support him on the issues; not on every single item but enough to matter.

Senator Obama has detailed policy papers on his campaign site. You can read his blueprint for change which provides the basics of his positions and plans, or you could go to each one of the issue pages and find lots of details:

Compared to the Republican nominee John McCain, there is a lot more detail in Obama’s issue pages.

Only Senator Obama offers a break from the last eight years’ disastrous policies. Senator McCain wants to stay in Iraq and start even more wars which would be worse than even the Bush administration. While Senator McCain has been confused between Sunni and Shia, the two major sects of Muslims, Senator Obama can pronounce Pakistan and Gandhi correctly, understands the region better and is humble enough to realize the limits of our knowledge. While McCain would lash out without thinking against Iraq, Iran, Russia or China, Obama has a smart plan to defeat the terrorists who attacked us on September 11.

Senator McCain has admitted that he doesn’t know a lot about economics while Senator Obama is focused on making life better for the average American. If you are worried about taxes, you shouldn’t be because you will be better off under the Obama tax plan compared to the McCain plan unless you are one of the super-rich top 0.1%. Also, David Leonhart shows that Obama is a pragmatic liberal with influence from the Chicago school of economics.

Senator Obama is somewhat new on the national stage and questions have been raised about his accomplishments. There is no doubt that Obama is a very intelligent guy and has risen fast due to his intelligence and a confluence of events where the American public is dissatisfied with the status quo and wants change. However, it’s not true that Senator Obama doesn’t have any accomplishments.

There [Senator Obama] was, working for nuclear non-proliferation and securing loose stockpiles of conventional weapons, like shoulder-fired missiles. There he was again, passing what the Washington Post called “the strongest ethics legislation to emerge from Congress yet” — though not as strong as Obama would have liked. Look — he’s over there, passing a bill that created a searchable database of recipients of federal contracts and grants, proposing legislation on avian flu back when most people hadn’t even heard of it, working to make sure that soldiers returning from Iraq and Afghanistan were screened for traumatic brain injury and to prevent homelessness among veterans, successfully fighting a proposal by the VA to reexamine all PTSD cases in which full benefits had been awarded, working to ban no-bid contracts in Katrina reconstruction, and introducing legislation to criminalize deceptive political tactics and voter intimidation. And there he was again, introducing a tech plan.

Or consider Obama’s efforts to get all police interrogations recorded when he was in the Illinois legislature.

Consider a bill into which Obama clearly put his heart and soul. The problem he wanted to address was that too many confessions, rather than being voluntary, were coerced — by beating the daylights out of the accused.

Obama proposed requiring that interrogations and confessions be videotaped.

This seemed likely to stop the beatings, but the bill itself aroused immediate opposition. There were Republicans who were automatically tough on crime and Democrats who feared being thought soft on crime. There were death penalty abolitionists, some of whom worried that Obama’s bill, by preventing the execution of innocents, would deprive them of their best argument. Vigorous opposition came from the police, too many of whom had become accustomed to using muscle to “solve” crimes. And the incoming governor, Rod Blagojevich, announced that he was against it.

Obama had his work cut out for him.

He responded with an all-out campaign of cajolery. It had not been easy for a Harvard man to become a regular guy to his colleagues. Obama had managed to do so by playing basketball and poker with them and, most of all, by listening to their concerns. Even Republicans came to respect him. One Republican state senator, Kirk Dillard, has said that “Barack had a way both intellectually and in demeanor that defused skeptics.”

The police proved to be Obama’s toughest opponent. Legislators tend to quail when cops say things like, “This means we won’t be able to protect your children.” The police tried to limit the videotaping to confessions, but Obama, knowing that the beatings were most likely to occur during questioning, fought — successfully — to keep interrogations included in the required videotaping.

By showing officers that he shared many of their concerns, even going so far as to help pass other legislation they wanted, he was able to quiet the fears of many.

Obama proved persuasive enough that the bill passed both houses of the legislature, the Senate by an incredible 35 to 0. Then he talked Blagojevich into signing the bill, making Illinois the first state to require such videotaping.

Obama’s ethics reform bill in the Illinois legislature was called by the Washington Post as “the most ambitious campaign reform in nearly 25 years, making Illinois one of the best in the nation on campaign finance disclosure.”

You can read a summary about Obama’s efforts in the Senate or go in detail (1, 2, 3).

Being a cynic, I don’t believe Barack Obama to be perfect. But nobody is. He is, however, the better candidate by far. Therefore, instead of just voting for him or contributing to his campaign, I decided to take some action and volunteer to make Barack Obama the next President of the United States.

I was going to write about my experience with the volunteering effort here in the northern suburbs of Atlanta, Georgia, but it’s too long already. So that will be next week. For now, I do want to point out the campaign donation graphic on the sidebar. Please donate to the Obama campaign by clicking here.

Related Reading

Smart About the Presidents (Smart About History)
If I Were President
The New Big Book of U.S. Presidents: Fascinating Facts about Each and Every President, Including an American History Timeline
Secret Lives of the U.S. Presidents
The Presidents Club: Inside the World's Most Exclusive Fraternity

Register to Vote

If you are a US citizen and are not registered to vote, please do register.

For the November general election, the registration deadlines for most states are in October.

If you are in the US, please fill out this form and Rock The Vote will email you a voter registration form. Or you could go to the US Election Assistance Commission’s website and download a national voter registration form.

If you are overseas, then you can request an absentee ballot. You can register and request an absentee ballot together, but you need to do it at the earliest.

If you are not a US citizen and register to vote, you can be deported and permanently barred from becoming a permanent resident according to law.

Related Reading

An Introduction to Organ Registration (Church Music Pamphlet Series)
Construction Documents and Service (CDS) ARE Mock Exam (Architect Registration Exam): ARE Overview, Exam Prep Tips, Multiple-Choice Questions and Graphic Vignettes, Solutions and Explanations
Get Out the Vote: How to Increase Voter Turnout, 2nd Edition
The Myth of the Rational Voter: Why Democracies Choose Bad Policies
The Reasoning Voter: Communication and Persuasion in Presidential Campaigns

Rendition and Torture

Extraordinary Rendition is defined as:

the extrajudicial transfer of an individual to a country where there is reasonable probability he will be tortured.

Mother Jones (hat tip: Desi Italiana) recounts the renditions carried out by the United States, including those before the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.

In our research we have counted 67 known cases of extraordinary rendition by the United States since 1995. While the details are often incomplete, they help paint a more complete picture of this secretive and controversial Central Intelligence Agency program.

[…] Then-CIA director George Tenet testified before the 9/11 Commission that there were more than 80 renditions before September 11, 2001. We found information on 29 cases of extraordinary and ordinary rendition prior to 9/11. Of the 14 that qualify as extraordinary renditions, 12 were to Egypt.

[…] We found information on 117 renditions that have occurred since September 11, 2001. When we excluded renditions to Afghanistan, CIA secret prisons (or “black sites”), Guantanamo, or American custody, we found 53 cases of extraordinary rendition. All individuals for whom the rendition destination is known were sent to countries that have been criticized by the State Department’s annual Country Reports on Human Rights Practices, which document “torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.”

Of these 53 prisoners, more than one quarter have explicitly claimed that they were tortured while in foreign custody; four claim they were tortured while passing through American custody either en route to or following foreign custody. Four others may have been tortured while in foreign custody based on secondhand accounts or vague descriptions of treatment in prisons in their destination countries. Sixteen of the 53 individuals have been released after extraordinary renditions, and half of them claimed they were tortured while in foreign custody; two claim they were tortured while in American custody.

These renditions, which started in the Clinton era, resulted in torture by states that were well-known to use torture in their interrogations.

For hours, the words come pouring out of Abu Omar as he describes his years of torture at the hands of Egypt’s security services. Spreading his arms in a crucifixion position, he demonstrates how he was tied to a metal door as shocks were administered to his nipples and genitals. His legs tremble as he describes how he was twice raped. He mentions, almost casually, the hearing loss in his left ear from the beatings, and how he still wakes up at night screaming, takes tranquilizers, finds it hard to concentrate, and has unspecified “problems with my wife at home.” He is, in short, a broken man.

Torture is not just something we have outsourced to countries like Egypt. Instead, after the September 11 attacks, the Bush administration has issued legal opinions declaring torture okay. John Yoo of the Office of Legal Counsel wrote a memo in August 2002 and another one in March 2003, basically declaring an imperial Presidency that had the power to declare torture legal if it felt like it.

Torture was discussed and approved at the highest levels of the government.

In dozens of top-secret talks and meetings in the White House, the most senior Bush administration officials discussed and approved specific details of how high-value al Qaeda suspects would be interrogated by the Central Intelligence Agency, sources tell ABC News.

[…] The high-level discussions about these “enhanced interrogation techniques” were so detailed, these sources said, some of the interrogation sessions were almost choreographed — down to the number of times CIA agents could use a specific tactic.

The advisers were members of the National Security Council’s Principals Committee, a select group of senior officials who met frequently to advise President Bush on issues of national security policy.

At the time, the Principals Committee included Vice President Cheney, former National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and Secretary of State Colin Powell, as well as CIA Director George Tenet and Attorney General John Ashcroft.

As the national security adviser, Rice chaired the meetings, which took place in the White House Situation Room and were typically attended by most of the principals or their deputies.

And Bush approved of these torture policies.

In a stunning admission to ABC news Friday night, President Bush declared that he knew his top national security advisers discussed and approved specific details of the CIA’s use of torture. Bush reportedly told ABC, “I’m aware our national security team met on this issue. And I approved.” Bush also defended the use of waterboarding.

ACLU suggests that we should demand accountability from Congress and I urge you to send a letter to your Congressman right now.

The Bush administration is still using the euphemism of “enhanced interrogation techniques” for torture and claiming that the CIA is allowed to use these methods.

The Justice Department has told Congress that American intelligence operatives attempting to thwart terrorist attacks can legally use interrogation methods that might otherwise be prohibited under international law.

The legal interpretation, outlined in recent letters, sheds new light on the still-secret rules for interrogations by the Central Intelligence Agency. It shows that the administration is arguing that the boundaries for interrogations should be subject to some latitude, even under an executive order issued last summer that President Bush said meant that the C.I.A. would comply with international strictures against harsh treatment of detainees.

While the Geneva Conventions prohibit “outrages upon personal dignity,” a letter sent by the Justice Department to Congress on March 5 makes clear that the administration has not drawn a precise line in deciding which interrogation methods would violate that standard, and is reserving the right to make case-by-case judgments.

“The fact that an act is undertaken to prevent a threatened terrorist attack, rather than for the purpose of humiliation or abuse, would be relevant to a reasonable observer in measuring the outrageousness of the act,” said Brian A. Benczkowski, a deputy assistant attorney general, in the letter, which had not previously been made public.

The rot in the state is widespread. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia likes to excuse torture for the purpose of thwarting terrorist attacks and Republican Presidential candidate Senator John McCain, while an opponent of tortute, voted against prohibiting torture by the CIA, despite the fact that he was tortured by using stress positions by the North Vietnamese when he was a prisoner of war.

May be Congress can get the 7,000 documents relating to torture and rendition that the CIA is unwilling to release and make them public and the next administration can untie the hands of the FBI and get it to investigate these abuses.

Related Reading

Torture Porn
The Art of Rendition: A Robin Monarch Short Story (Robin Monarch Thrillers)
The Book of the Ring: A novelistic rendition of Wagner's Music-Drama: Der Ring des Nibelungen
Torture and Democracy
Extraordinary Rendition

Terror of School Districts

Laws giving more power of surveillance to the state are often justified in terms of their use against terrorists, pedophiles and other such criminals, but such laws can and will be used for such purposes as finding deadbeat dads or even checking if families reside in a specific school district.

A council has admitted spying on a family using laws to track criminals and terrorists to find out if they were really living in a school catchment.

A couple and their three children were put under surveillance without their knowledge by Poole Borough Council for more than two weeks.

The council admitted using powers under the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (RIPA) on six occasions in total.

Three of those were for suspected fraudulent school place applications.

It said two offers of school places were withdrawn as a consequence.

[…] RIPA legislation allows councils to carry out surveillance if it suspects criminal activity.

On its website, the Home Office says: “The Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (RIPA) legislates for using methods of surveillance and information gathering to help the prevention of crime, including terrorism.”

It goes on to say the act allows the interception of communications, carrying out of surveillance and the use of covert human intelligence sources.

Poole council said it used the legislation to watch a family at home and in their daily movements because it wanted to know if they lived in the catchment area for a school, which they wanted their three-year-old daughter to attend.

Also, in the past, these kind of laws have been used against political opponents, as the Church Committee reports show. It is quite probable that they will be used similarly again.

Related Reading

National Strategy for Combating Terrorism September 2006
Terrorism and Homeland Security
The Path of the Law (American Classics Library)
The 48 Laws of Power
Terrorism, Fourth Edition: An Investigator's Handbook

Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gillani

Syed Yusuf Raza Gillani of Pakistan Peoples Party has been elected Prime Minister of Pakistan.

Mr Gillani won the parliamentary vote by 264 votes to the 42 of Musharraf ally Chaudhry Pervez Elahi.

Who is Yusuf Raza Gillani? He belongs to a prominent feudal-spiritual family in the south Punjab city of Multan. His family has been active in politics in the area since the early 20th century. Mr Gilani was first elected chairman of the Union Council, Multan in the 1983 local bodies elections during Zia rule. Then he joined Junejo’s government as a minister of housing and railways. He parted ways with the Junejo Muslim League and joined Benazir Bhutto’s PPP around the time Junejo’s government was dismissed in 1988 by Zia.

In 1993, during the second Benazir Bhutto government, he was elected Speaker of the National Assembly. In 1995, Mr Gillani, as Speaker, issued instructions for the release of parliamentarians detained by his own PPP government. When the interior ministry refused to oblige, he had the matter brought on record.

He, like most PPP candidates in Punjab, lost the 1997 election when Nawaz Sharif’s PML-N(Pakistan Muslim League – Nawaz Group) swept the province. Then, during Musharraf’s martial law in 2001, Gillani was convicted over illegal government appointments when he was Speaker. He spent the next five years in jail, being released in late 2006 on a court order.

After being elected Prime Minister, Gillani made a speech in Parliament (video here).

In a maiden speech on the floor of National Assembly after he was elected as Prime Minister, he said, “I request the national assembly as my first job to pass a resolution for UN probe into the assassination of Shaheed Benazir Bhutto.”

Elaborating the top priorities of the new government, the newly elected Prime Minister of Pakistan Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani vowed to take all out efforts for the supremacy of parliament.

He also said the National Assembly should pass another resolution to apologize to the nation for hanging of Zulfiquar Ali Bhutto.

Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani also said that he would issue the immediate directives for release of the held judges.

Gillani also vowed to take efforts for the resolution of multiple problems of people, saying, “ We realize that the people of the country confront several problems including shortage of electrify.”

“Today, democracy has been restored thanks to the great sacrifice of Benazir Bhutto,” the 55-year-old Gilani, wearing a dark suit and tie, said in his first speech to parliament.

“I invite all political forces to join us because the country is facing such a crisis that a single man cannot save it,” he said.

Meanwhile, the Chief Justice deposed by Musharraf’s “emergency” last year and under house arrest since then came out of his house and was greeted by supporters.

Deposed chief justice, Chaudhry Iftikhar Muhammad Chuadhry along with his family members came out of his house Monday evening, marking an end to his and his family’s more than five month long detention.

People who gathered outside Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry’s residence warmly welcomed him when he came out with his family members.

He acknowledged the welcoming slogans of the people by waving his hands.

President Supreme Court Bar Association, Aitezaz Ahsan and Justice (Retd.) Tariq Mehmood and others accompanied Chaudhry Iftikhar Chaudhry.

The lawyers movement’s demands, including the restoration of the large number of superior court judges, would probably be the first important task for this government. President Musharraf has claimed that it is not constitutionally possible to bring the judges back, but then Musharraf’s action itself wasn’t constitutional.

There has been lots of speculation about why Yusuf Raza Gilani was chosen for the Prime Ministerial slot. In my opinion, there are a number of factors. First, Zardari wanted someone who did not have power on his own and was dependent on Zardari. The election of Fehmida Mirza as Speaker was also part of the same process, as she and her husband MPA Zulfiqar Mirza are close to Asif Zardari.

Second, both Asif Zardari and Nawaz Sharif probably wanted someone who had remained completely loyal and had not had any kind of relationship with Musharraf.

Third, Zardari would like to be able to have the option to remove the current Prime Minister for another or even for himself later as well as keep his kingmaker role now with a lot of behind the scenes power. A somewhat weak Prime Minister would fit right in for that strategy. Yusuf Raza Gillani’s statement after being nominated about staying as PM only as long as the party wants him to is suggestive in this regard.

Fourth, once the idea of a Prime Minister from Punjab was floated, it was in Nawaz Sharif’s interest for the PPP to select someone from the southern feudal families since such a choice wouldn’t encroach on the PML-N’s stronghold in the more urban central and northern Punjab.

I, on the other hand, would have preferred Zardari himself as Prime Minister because that would be a much more transparent system with fewer power centers.

Related Reading

Black Flag Week

Black Flag Week

Aitzaz Ahsan, President of the Supreme Court Bar Association, has called for a black flag week for this week, March 9-16, to protest the suspension of the Chief Justice last year on March 9 and then the dismissal of the superior judiciary in Musharraf’s November 2007 martial law.

The rule of law is a very important thing in any country and an independent judiciary is an essential part of that. This is what Musharraf has tried to destroy and the lawyers have been protesting. We should support the lawyers movement and this Black Flag Week is part of that support. So I urge you to attend Black Flag Week events or at least wear black armband or put a black flag or ribbon etc on your website/blog.

BTW, Teeth Maestro has good coverage of this week.

Here’s Aitzaz Ahsan’s call for Black Flag Week.

Related Reading

Strictly Business
Gandhi: A Life
A Most Disorderly Court: Scandal and Reform in the Florida Judiciary (Florida History and Culture)
Federal Rules of Civil Procedure: With Added Internal Cross-Links  Formatted and Arranged as an Ebook  2013 Edition
Federal Rules of Bankruptcy Procedure: With Added Internal Cross-Links  Formatted and Arranged as an Ebook  2013 Edition

Pakistan Election Aftermath

The elections are done and the results are out. Since I love maps, here is a map of the results by constituency, courtesy of Dawn. You can click on it for a larger version.

Map of Pakistan election results

And here are the results by party:

Party National Assembly Punjab Assembly Sindh Assembly NWFP Assembly Balochistan Assembly
PPP 89 76 64 17 7
PML-N 66 102 4 5 0
PML-Q 42 61 9 6 17
MQM 19 0 38 0 0
ANP 10 0 2 29 1
MMA 6 2 0 8 6
PML-F 4 2 5 0 0
PPP-S 1 0 0 5 0
BNP-A 1 0 0 0 5
Independents 28 33 6 6 11

The previous government in the center and in Punjab, Sindh and Balochistan was by PML-Q which supports Pervez Musharraf and they lost badly. In fact, most of their prominent leaders, like Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain, Sheikh Rashid, etc., lost.

Also, the religio-political alliance MMA lost to the secular Pashtun Nationalist ANP in NWFP. Both ANP and JUI, the component of MMA strong in NWFP, have traditionally been powerful in the NWFP. In the last elections in 2002, ANP was defeated roundly by the MMA and this time the reverse happened.

In my opinion, the unpopularity of President Musharraf was one reason for the dismal performance of PML-Q. According to the IRI survey in January,

  • 57% say that Musharraf’s performance has lowered their opinion of the army.
  • 72% are dissatisfied with Musharraf’s job performance.
  • 75% want Musharraf to resign from the office of President immediately.
  • Only 8% think Musharraf is the best leader to solve Pakistan’s problems.
  • Musharraf’s favorability rating is 16%.
  • 62% will feel much better and 17% somewhat better about the future of Pakistan if Musharraf were to resign.

Let’s also look at the Terror Free Tomorrow survey also conducted in January.

  • Only 10% strongly approve Musharraf’s job performance and 20% somewhat approve while 18% somewhat disapprove and 50% strongly disapprove.
  • Musharraf’s favorability rating is 30%.
  • 47% strongly agree that Musharraf should resign immediately while 23% somewhat agree.
  • Only 16.5% think Musharraf is the best leader for Pakistan. When poll respondents were asked for a second choice of leader, only 3% chose Musharraf.

PPP and PML-N have agreed to form a government together. This should make for a stable government in that it won’t be hostage to small parties and independents. On the other hand, the two largest parties would naturally be each other’s competitors and have quite different priorities which might result in the coalition breaking down.

The Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) and the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) brokered an agreement on Thursday to form governments at the Centre and the provincial levels and to sort out the modalities for the reinstatement of judiciary in parliament.

“We have decided to work together and move together for the future of the democracy in the country and to strengthen parliament,” said Co-Chairman PPP Asif Ali Zardari and PML-N Quaid Nawaz Sharif while addressing a joint press conference here on Thursday evening at the Zardari House after holding two-hour-long talks.

[…] The breakthrough reached by the two major political forces of the country, who jointly share 70 per cent mandate of the people of Pakistan gained through the elections, was also important in the sense that Asif Ali Zardari showed flexibility, demonstrating his willingness to join hands with the PML-N for the reinstatement of the deposed judges.

The two leaders, who appeared jubilant and confident during the press conference, also announced that there would be no cooperation with the pro-Musharraf parties. “There is no pro-Musharraf group or political force in the country,” said Asif Ali Zardari when asked whether he was ready to extend cooperation to the pro-Musharraf political parties.

It was also agreed that parliament would decide whether it was ready to work with the president or not.

[… Nawaz Sharif] said both the parties would work together to form the governments and implement the Charter of Democracy in letter and spirit. “We accept the mandate of the PPP with an open heart and wish that the PPP completes its five-year term. We will wage a joint struggle for the restoration of judiciary and the Charter of Democracy will also be followed,” Nawaz maintained.

When asked about the modalities for the formation of the government, Zardari said that everything could not be discussed in a two-hour meeting and they would continue to meet to sort out all the hiccups in this regard.

When asked if he would move away from the commitment if the United States exerted pressure on the formation of government, Zardari replied that he had not submitted to the pressure that was put on him during eight years of jail, then how he could yield to the pressure exerted upon him from any corner.

To a query, Zardari said that he was thankful to Mian Nawaz Sharif who agreed that the very first order the government would pass would be concerning a request to the United Nations to help the Pakistan government to uncover the hands behind the assassination of Benazir Bhutto. “It will be the top priority of the next government,” he added.

[…] When Asif Ali Zardari was asked if both the parties intended to take the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) into the fold of the government of national consensus, he said, “We are looking for a broader government and there are reservations on the MQM. But we want to move ahead for the better future of the democracy in the country and we even want to talk to all those political forces whether they are in parliament or outside the parliament.”

Meanwhile, the PML-N party has designated Nawaz Sharif and Shehbaz Sharif as its parliamentary leaders in the center and Punjab respectively. Since both of them were barred from election earlier, they will have to get elected in the bye-elections.

PML-N does not have a majority in the Punjab assembly but it is now wooing PML-Q members who broke away in 2002 to come back.

Since ANP is the largest party in NWFP, they would also be part of the coalition.

And the Bush administration seems to be as stupid as ever.

The Bush administration is pressing the opposition leaders who defeated Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf to allow the former general to retain his position, a move that Western diplomats and U.S. officials say could trigger the very turmoil the United States seeks to avoid.

U.S. officials, from President Bush on down, said this week that they think Musharraf, a longtime U.S. ally, should continue to play a role, despite his party’s rout in parliamentary elections Monday and his unpopularity in the volatile, nuclear-armed nation.

The U.S. is urging the Pakistani political leaders who won the elections to form a new government quickly and not press to reinstate the judges whom Musharraf ousted last year, Western diplomats and U.S. officials said Wednesday. If reinstated, the jurists likely would try to remove Musharraf from office.

Bush’s policy of hanging on to Musharraf has caused friction between the White House and the State Department, with some career diplomats and other specialists arguing that the administration is trying to buck the political tides in Pakistan, U.S. officials said.

Zardari’s response can be seen here.

In the post-election government formation phase, Asif Ali Zardari’s first love continues to be the PML-N though both the presidential camp and Washington are pressurising him to go for an otherwise awkward coalition with the PML-Q and other pro-Musharraf forces.

Background interviews reveal that Asif Ali Zardari has been offered governments at the Centre and in at least three of the four provinces if he distances himself from the Nawaz League. However, he told those who approached him that he did not consider the Q-League a political entity. Despite reservations of some of the PPP leaders from the Punjab against the N-League in the central executive committee of the party that met here in Islamabad on Wednesday, Zardari endorsed the idea of making a coalition government with the political parties like the PML-N, ANP, etc. Asif Ali Zardari while talking to this correspondent on Wednesday night also expressed his confidence that the two top-most popular parties – PPP and PML-N – would sort out the issues to make a workable coalition, both at the Centre and in the provinces.

Although, Zardari did not talk of Washington’s pressures, sources in the party confirmed that the Americans had brought tremendous pressure on the PPP co-chairperson to make a coalition government with the likes of the PML-Q and MQM but not with the PML-N.

Alienating the major political parties in Pakistan is not something that the US should strive for right now.

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Pakistan Elections

It’s February 18 in Pakistan now which means elections to the National and Provincial assemblies are happening today.

The last year or two have not been kind to Pakistan and more than the election results, there are worries of bombings like this one on Saturday in Parachinar (Kurram Agency, FATA).

A bomb explosion rocked a rally organised by the People’s Party here on Saturday, killing 40 people and bringing the election campaign to an unpropitious end.

The bomb, planted in a car parked near the election office of a PPP-backed candidate, went off even as a procession terminated at the place. Syed Riaz Hussain, the candidate, escaped unhurt.

Although the exact nature of the blast could not be ascertained, Political Agent Syed Zaheerul Islam told Dawn that it was a suicide attack.

He put the death toll at 37 and the number of the injured at 93.

Doctors said that 110 wounded people, 50 of them critical, had been brought to the town’s main hospital. Seven shops and 10 vehicles were damaged.

The explosion sparked riots in the town and a number of abandoned houses and shops were torched. Troops opened fire to quell the disturbances, injuring several people.

Polling opens at 8am (0300 GMT) and closes at 5pm (1200 GMT).

There are also fears of rigging in favor of the Musharraf-backed PML-Q, headed by the Chaudhries of Gujrat.

A spokesperson for Mrs Bhutto’s Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), which is leading in opinion polls, said the vote was “not going to be a free and fair election”.

The party accused the pro-Musharraf PML-Q of plotting to stuff ballot boxes.

Mrs Bhutto’s former rival, Nawaz Sharif, whose party is also ahead of Mr Musharraf’s supporters in polls, said a “massive rigging plan” had “been implemented”.

Mrs Bhutto’s widower and successor as party leader, Asif Ali Zardari, said in an interview with the UK’s Sunday Times newspaper that his party would have “no choice but to take to the streets” if the elections were rigged.

Two opinion polls, by International Republican Institute and Terror Free Tomorrow, conducted January 19-29 have been released. Here are their results for the different political parties.

Party Terror Free Tomorrow International Republican Institute
PPP 36.7% 50%
PML-N 25.3% 22%
PML-Q 12.0% 14%

As for MMA, or rather JUI-F as Jamaat-e-Islami is boycotting the elections, it is not expected to do well even in the NWFP.

In my opinion, the Terror Free Tomorrow poll is closer to the truth for the PPP share. Of course, in a first-past-the-post system, it is difficult to guess the number of seats each party would win from such country-wide opinion polls. Cynic that I am, I believe Musharraf is fighting for his political life and hence he (or his PML-Q surrogates) would not hesitate a bit in rigging the elections. The rigging need not be massive; only as much as is needed to result in a hung parliament and some large number of seats for PML-Q.

As to who to vote for, I am not in Pakistan, so I cannot vote. If Benazir Bhutto hadn’t been assassinated, I would have endorsed her PPP as the party to vote for. The reason is simple: PPP is the largest and really the only party with support all over Pakistan and Benazir Bhutto was a leader of stature. Yes, I lived through her earlier stints in power and am familiar with the large scale corruption and lack of any achievements of her government. But I don’t consider Pakistani politicians to be angels; rather the task of the voter is to choose the lesser evil and Bhutto’s party seemed like the best bet (among political parties only, of course) for a democratic Pakistan. Unfortunately, the way the PPP has handled Benazir’s succession has put me off. Appointing a 19 year old Bilawal as the boy king and then appointing Asif Zardari as his regent reminds me a lot more of absolute monarchy than of democracy. Plus voting for a party led by Asif Zardari is not something I can do.

Among the other major parties taking part in the election, ex-Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s PML-N is the only one that has made an issue of the large scale sacking of higher court judges done by Musharraf last November. I believe that to be worthy cause and so I recommend that everyone vote for the symbol “Lion” of Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz Group.

And finally here’s some fun at the expense of Pervez Musharraf when Jemima Khan interviewed him recently.

I’m also disappointed, I tell him. The corrupt got off scot-free. And now it looks as though he will shortly be doing business with the very same politicians he wanted to get rid of.

Disarmingly he agrees – something he does a lot of. And I sense it’s genuine rather than appeasement. He argues that he had no other choice but to deal with the existing leaders of the main parties. This is a little disingenuous. The national reconciliation ordinance which he passed in October 2007 effectively guaranteed lifelong immunity from prosecution to corrupt politicians such as Benazir Bhutto, her husband Zardari and others, and enabled her to return to Pakistan to contest elections. He asks if he is being recorded. I say yes. He hesitates, then answers tellingly, “Yes, I agree with you [that charges should not have been dropped]. But then Benazir has good contacts abroad in your country, who thought she was the future of the country.”

I press him further. Surely even in spite of pressure from outside, given his feelings about the effects of corruption on Pakistani politics, those charges should never have been dropped. There should have been a proper judicial process.

I put this to him. “No,” he replies, “because they would have all joined and then I would have been out.” At this point he looks a bit wild eyed. He quickly adds that, of course, being in power has never been his ultimate goal. How much easier it would be, he adds wistfully and a touch unconvincingly, if he’d just resigned to play golf.

[…] Later when I point out that his old opponent Nawaz Sharif, leader of the Pakistan Muslim League (PML-N), has vowed that if elected he will reinstate the judges who were unconstitutionally deposed by Musharraf, he retorts incredulously, “It is not a dictatorship here! How can you reinstate judges if you become prime minister? How?” This rhetorical question comes from a man who on 3 November dismissed 60 per cent of the superior court judges, including three chief justices, in anticipation of their ruling against his re-election as President while still head of the army. Many remain under house arrest.

[…] When I ask about the deposed chief justice, Iftikhar Chaudhry, who is still under house arrest, he denounces him as “the scum of the earth – a third-rate man – a corrupt man”. And the lawyers’ movement? The lawyers have vowed to continue protesting on the streets and boycotting the courts until the deposed judges are reinstated and the constitution is restored to its pre-3 November status. “With hindsight,” he replies solemnly, “it was my personal error that I allowed them to go and express their views in the street… We should have controlled them in the beginning before it got out of control.”

And so it is a fight only for Musharraf’s kursi, his staying in power for himself, just like it has been since that day in October 1999 when Musharraf first seized power in a coup.

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