Monday, September 29, 2014

Musharraf, Dr. Qadri, Imran Khan and Nawaz Sharif

BY Saeed Qureshi
What is the political future of these four guys? Would one of the first three reach the pinnacle of power and rule Pakistan? Would Nawaz Sharif survive the burgeoning onslaught from Qadri and Imran Khan? Let us try to find out the probable answers to these questions.
General Musharraf has played his innings for pretty long time. His luck ran out in November 2007 following the declaration of state of emergency by him, suspension of constitution and firing of the chief justice of Pakistan. He resigned in August 2008, after initiation of impeachment both by PMLN and PPP.
He made the unbelievable and gravest blunder of his life by returning to Pakistan in March 2013 to take part in the general elections of 2013. He nursed a misplaced hope that he is going to emerge on the political seen by winning elections or as a runner-up. He could have the slimmest inkling that by returning to Pakistan his fate would be sealed and whatever good work he had done during his nine years tenure would be washed off. He was rather misled and deluded by his self created Utopian fantasies augmented by a galore of Facebook comments that he was a darling of the people of Pakistan and that the moment he would put his step on the soil of Pakistan, people would gather around him and he would be free to stalk the land without any let or hindrance.
As ill luck would have it, not only that he was inhibited for his projected political maneuvering but worst of it, his nemesis Nawaz Sharif won the elections and thus he took up the reins of the government. In due course he was arraigned for four high profile criminal cases which opened a Pandora box of interminable judicial floodgate against him. The cases of treason for suspension of constitution, the murder charges of Baloch leader Akbar Khan Bugti and Benazir Bhutto, incarceration of judges and the Lal Masjid (Red Mosque) case are like millstones around his neck.
By sheer luck, if he is pardoned he has no option but to live in exile. In a nutshell he has none or rather bleak future as a politician or even to live as a common citizen in Pakistan. If he somehow stays in Pakistan his many ubiquitous enemies would always be on the lookout to target him. His best choice would be to leave Pakistan (if such a possibility pops up) and spend his remaining life in foreign pastures.
Dr. Qadri does not have the making of a politician. He is primarily a religious demagogue like others of his ilk who are trained in religious seminaries how to deliver sermons in pompous, rhetorical and persuasive manner. Indeed he excels in that skill after teaching and delivering religious lectures for decades.
Dr Tahirul Qadri is the founder of two organizations. One is Pakistan Awami Tehrik (PAT), a political cum religious party that he founded on May 25, 1989. The other is “Minhajul Quran” a kind of religious forum brought into being in October 1981.
The aim and manifesto of both these outfits what he espouses is to bring about a green revolution in Pakistan which is the revival of the Charter of Medina. Dr. Qadri aspires and struggles also for a Democratic revolution through electoral reforms in order to elect people of integrity who will be subjected to a “pre-clearance” process to qualify for contesting elections.
What Dr. Qadri misses is that there was a huge difference between the state of Medina and the modern society. The socio-economic conditions are radically incompatible between those prime times and what the modern societies offer. Moreover the Charter of Medina was a peace document to grant rights to the minorities and Muslims alike and it was achieved through negotiations and not agitations or sit-ins.
A cleric who opted for a foreign citizenship aspires to unleash a revolution of his choice through a set of rules forced and dictated by show of street force. And let us concede that his party and politico religious appeal is limited to a fraction of the entire population.
We are not in France of 18th century (July 1789) when the peasants and the oppressed sections stormed the Bastille Fort and thus pioneered a revolution that spread all over Europe and beyond to the American Continent.The world has phenomenally marched ahead and the human rights and democratic culture, though not so profound, is functional in most of the societies including Pakistan.
His outbursts are hollow and he lacks the charisma and vision that is needed to run the modern societies. He would mess and wreck the prevailing order that would refine with the passage of time and with electoral and democratic experiments. Dr. Qadri does not have a magic wand to make everything blot-less and transparent. Also he doesn't have a support from other fellow religious and semi religious groups. Yet his intentions are sincere and well-intentioned.
The social media has seen glimpses of his meeting in London, with the Chaudhry brothers and chalking out a plan to dislodge the incumbent government. So his purpose behind this Dharna or siege is not for the love of the country but to outclass an enemy by their rivals through such fiery stalwarts as Qadri is. If the remedies are sought through the constitutional and legal framework it would be more laudable, credible and justified. Should we believe that by replacing the government, the devils would quit and angels would step in?
Imran Khan who initially looked to be merely an emotional rabble-rouser has proven to be tenacious and unyielding cavalier in his anti Nawaz Sharif campaign.  His message and pledges of ushering Pakistan into an era of good governance with honesty and accountability as the top most hallmarks for both the system and the leaders, are now being taken seriously. His supporters are also demonstrating an amazing endurance and unshakable resolve despite manifold severe hardships. One has to solute their resoluteness, unshakable bond and fidelity with their leader.
The continuous squatting and staying in Islamabad by his followers and the latest two mammoth public meetings in Karachi and Lahore offer evidence to the growing popularity of Imran Khan and his political party PTI (Pakistan Tehrik Insaf). The way Imran Khan stood to his ground seems to have made dents in the visibly impregnable power citadel of the sitting government of PMLN. More precarious has become the position of Nawaz Sharif who unsparingly remained under constant verbal ridicule and bitter tongue lashing and harsh bashing by Imran Khan and his political stalwarts.
One can imagine that with the unrelenting determination to expand Sit-ins and hold public meetings all over Pakistan, the government may not be left with sustained and formidable defense for it to continue with the vulnerable status-quo. As to when it resigns or announces mid-term elections could be a matter of conjecture, yet in the face of fierce storm perpetually gathering on the political horizon of Pakistan, it might not be able to complete its five years terms. 
 One dismal drawback of the incumbent government is that the major bunch of its ministers and top notch leaders are mediocre and armchair lobbyists. They are adept in the drawing room political maneuvering but are shy and introvert to come out in the public and show their oratorical outbursts because in politics only that person carries the day that can forcefully argue and offers persuasive defense. That is what the political battling is all about.
Unfortunately Mr Sharif himself is not a public speaker and drastically lacks the professional knack of articulation, dissemination and eloquence. On the contrary  Allama Dr Tahirul Qadri is a fiery orator who can go to any length to drive his assertion in the minds of his listeners.
Imran Khan too has learnt this invaluable art that is indispensable for a tit for tat and robust combat in the political arena. Good work that the PMLN government claims good work and boosting the economy. Yet the logic of dismantling this claim is more vociferous and stunning that the claims of the the PMLN ministers and even the prime minister himself.
As if like last straw on the camel’s back, the ugly and shameful episode of Gulu Butt and police firing at the crowd outside Dr. Qadri’s residence has colossally tarnished and bruised the image of not only Punjab government of PMLN but also the federal government as well.  It simply boggles the mind that how could any government worth the name commit such an atrocious and silly blunder? If the tide turns against PMLN, the perpetrators could be criminally prosecuted including the Punjab chief minister.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Dispensation of Justice is a mockery in Pakistan

By Saeed Qureshi
How can justice be delivered in a country where murderers and rapists go home after payment of blood money or reconciliation with the aggrieved party? This reconciliation is imposed more often than not on the victimized party by threats or intimidation. In other instances a payment as compensation is settled with the harmed side and the courts acquit the villains.
It means that anyone with a heavy purse and a gun can shoot anyone in broad day light and prevent the due process of law by undercutting it with payment of money. The perpetrators of heinous crimes like murders are usually goons with lot of money and therefore law can be bent if they can pay for blood money. On the contrary a poor guy who injures or even kills someone cannot have such an escape route and therefore languishes in jails for years and finally to be hanged or awarded life sentence.
We have seen that in myriad criminal cases a roughneck forced the weaker party to come to terms and bargain to let the offenders walk their way. Not long ago a high profile murder case hit the headlines for pretty long time. The flamboyant and defiant son of a super duper feudal along with his equally roguish buddies killed a police officer with impunity. The principal culprit was given death sentence but was later freed after paying the settlement amount with the aggrieved party.
I have been reading about flurry of such court settlements in which the persecuted party was coerced to state before the court not to pursue the case because they had either pardoned the offenders or had accepted the retribution by way of a handsome amount of money.
There are various glaring factors that hinder the swift, condign and deserving punishment to the criminals and outlaws. It is seldom and unheard of that any rapist even proven was ever punished by a court. The lacuna is the presentation of four witnesses by the female victim as evidence. The production of this evidence is like asking for the moon. As such all the rapists and womanizers remain immune from the   grip of law whether it is civil or the Shariah court.
For the aggrieved party it is absolutely imperative to produce the witnesses who had seen the crime being committed. First of all it is a tall order for the persecuted party to find out the witnesses because most crimes are not committed in public view. Second even if there are people who were onlookers or present at the crime scene they would not pick up the courage to come forward voluntarily or otherwise to be witnesses for a variety of compelling reasons. They would be aware that they would remain under a perpetual spell of fear and paranoid as long as the case is not decided.
Secondly, the cases on our courts take years from start to the end. The witnesses have to appear on each hearing before the court disrupting their jobs, and other activities of life. One would not wish or prefer to be caught in a grinding gridlock at the cost of disturbing their life and peace of mind. In the courts a witnesses is harassed, ridiculed and even humiliated by the defense counsels each time for hours. Any individuals even with strong nerves cannot stick to a statement verbatim each time as the prosecution or the defense make every effort to find out contradictions to prove the witness as a liar.
The aggrieved party hires the false or professional witnesses on payment for each appearance in the court. He has to bring them fully protected, take care of their traveling expenses and food etc. Most of the witnesses that are produced in the courts are therefore not genuine.
The evidence is taken after adjudication of case for pretty long time. By that time even if there was real eyewitness would forget the real scenes and the directions and timing and the faces and blah blah asked by the intimidating and aggressive lawyers. If at all witnesses can be helpful in the trial of a case then on the time of writing FIR their statement should be recorded or at the first appearance of the court. But even in this situation the witnesses cannot get rid of the subsequent appearances in the court that can prolong indefinitely.
But wring of FIR is a highly technical and legal job. It should not be entrusted to the minions of a police station. In Pakistan getting in an FIR written is a tough ordeal. The FIR is written after settlements of bribe or under the orders from the high ups. The FIR is mostly tainted and would favor more the stronger party than the weak or the victimized.
Now the police official who writes an FIR is summoned by the court and he would remain under a constant burden of being questioned by the court and the hostile counsels each time. There should be several cases for which he should be summoned when needed to put up the official outlook. Is he a computer to dish out the correct details about each case?
In the face of all these stumbling blocks and irritants for dispensation of speedy and fair justice, I suggest the following corrective measures:
1.       Changes should be brought about in the legal system that should encourage more litigants to use an expedited court process, as opposed to arbitration.
2.       The writing of an FIR should be handed over to a magistrate who can have his or her office within the precincts of the police stations or an independent office adjacent to a police stations’
3.       The FIR registration officer should not hesitate or defer the writing of the FIR. Even an FIR from both sides can be recorded.
4.       A time frame should be fixed for every case to be adjudicated and verdict announced even if it is to be done on daily basis.
5.       The condition of producing witnesses should be dropped as it does not serve the actual objective of dispensing justice because as explained above, in most case the witnesses are paid and hired to appear and briefed what to say.
6.       Instead the circumstantial evidence and forensic findings should be considered enough evidence. The Witnesses are usually produced mostly in criminal cases present at the time of occurrence of crime. In case of civil suits like property, money transactions the witnesses   are mentioned on the written deals. In such cases the tainted or tutored evidence fed by a lawyer may not work.
7.       In case of witnesses, the parties concerned should bring them along at the time of reporting the case or on the first day in the courts. They should be questioned by the lawyers on the same day and then liberated from future appearances. The FIR or reporting center should remain round the clock.
8.       We have seen in Pakistan that despite incontrovertible evidence captured in a video or Television coverage, the justice is delayed and law is not allowed to take its course. So primarily it is the mindset of the judge, the tricks of lawyer and the the faulty system that delays and determines the outcome of a case irrespective of the merits. As such strict honest and rigid ethical uprightness should be the yardstick in the appointment of judges. The review committees or the appellate courts should have authorities to criticize and even fire the judges whose conduct looks suspicious, biased or unprofessional.
9.       The colonies and cabins of the lawyers and sellers of the official stamps or documents around the court buildings should be disallowed. Instead of operating from the makeshift booths they should be lodged in proper offices and the court authorities should check their working conditions. The touts around the court premises should be barred. The stamp papers sold by the contractors can be even counterfeit. The court fees and other official charges should be deposited in a bank or in treasury so that all the money directly goes into the treasury. In America the fees are collected by at counters located within the court premises.  
10.   Our court buildings are rundown, broken stairs, with walls full of dirt and stains of betel nut (pan). The design of the court buildings has to be changed so that in one building all the relevant courts can be accommodated. Designs and plans of court buildings can be copied from the United States or western countries. We have seen these buildings to be immaculately organized, clean, dignified, elevators working, and the court rooms fitted with all the modern gadgets. We can make similar set up in Pakistan.
11.   It would also be in order to send out jurists and judges and other members of judiciary to witness the courts operating in advanced societies. There is a dire need to streamline and update our justice system that on the whole looks a mockery and negates the dispensation of unalloyed and true justice.
12.   In one of the counties in Texas in one building I have seen around 30 courts for different hearings. There is no noise or din or chaos anywhere.  There are county courts and municipal and besides immigration courts. There are no touts or people shouting at each other or courts interior with broken benches and seats. There are no separate judges’ colonies as we have in Pakistan. Judges live lie ordinary citizens in the cities, drive their own cars and attend the courts. The judges are always in the radar or under the watch for any kind of misconduct.
13.   For eradication of social evils as theft of power, adulteration, maltreatment of the citizens in government private departments and similar felonies, the mobile courts should be established to catch the culprits on the spot and award the punishment. That would serve the imperative of swift justice and save the litigants from a big hassle and unnecessary spending.
14.   The mobile court has to be equipped with the appliances as computers and small labs for testing the adulterated food items on the spot. A magistrate with a posse of police should make surprise visits in all the bazaars and shopping areas and restaurants to check the prices of food items and announce punishments on the spot. They can visit also the hospitals for spurious and expired drugs, used equipment etc or for unhygienic conditions or negligence by the hospital staff. The electricity and water thieves can be awarded punishment on the spot in front of the other officials touring with a judge or the magistrate.
15.   The rapist and molesters should never be allowed to escape under the Hadood laws or for being influential persons. The eyewitnesses’ condition is irrelevant and unreliable. The forensic and DNA can conclusively determine who had committed the crime. Even otherwise the victims and their families and the people in the area know about the culprits and perpetrators of the crime. So on the spot all information and evidence can be obtained that takes years for the lawyers to establish and still in many cases the culprits walk away unpunished.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Enough is enough!

By Saeed Qureshi
My argument is that if the incumbent PMLN government has failed to come up with any viable or meaningful strategy either politically or administratively to overcome the prevailing deepening crisis then let it resign and make room for an interim set up.  The ugly stalemate that we and the world at large are witnessing for about three weeks ought to be resolved one way or the other.

The sit- in of the supporters of PTI (Pakistan Tehrik Insaf) and PAT (Pakistan Awami Tehrik) continues unabated at the Constitution Avenue. The government functionaries and law enforcement paraphernalia exhibiting lack of will or skill to disperse them. The enraged and emotional agitators have had the temerity and courage to enter the parliament building, squat in front of the prime minister’s house and ransack the National Television building hampering the service.

The police looks to be not adequately trained to deal with such unusual or unruly situations and overcome somehow the stiff protests with a demonstration of organized and skillful counteraction against the dogged crowd. Rather ironically the police was seen in a state of disarray and some of the unfortunate policemen being beaten mercilessly in broad day light with wooden batons by the frenzied individuals. Such is the precarious law and order situation in the federal capital of Pakistan.

On the political front government seems to be clueless and rather lame duck as how to get out of this muddy quagmire that could have been deftly and diplomatically dealt with in the beginning. They could have worked out some feasible modus-operandi of this bulging fracas and sturdy standoff now getting more trenchant and stabilized.

The sitting government has lost much of precious time and upper hand in the hope that finally the protesters would lose heart and endurance and leave is disarray. But that vain hope seems to have been belied and blunted with the crowds of both Dr Qadri and charismatic Imran Khan, still squatting the most important boulevard of Islamabad where the entire network of government is situated.

So where do we go from here? Would the government keep sitting with its fingers crossed that the volatile crowd would disperse one day and they would be back in their powerful seats without even a scratch to their political clout and standing.

The Government’s acquiescence on conceding five demands out of a pack of six could have been met at the initial stages of this imbroglio. But perhaps the government wanted to exhaust the disgruntled interlocutors and then force them to agree on the minimum concessions. That did not happen. 

Now the leader of this political insurgency are loud and clear and uncompromising on the sticking demand of resignation of both the prime minister of Pakistan and his brother the chief minister of Punjab.

In the meantime the face and image of the armed forces have been significantly sullied by both the belligerents with contentious claims that one or the party was in league with   that the army and taking instructions. However still the army may take a stock of the whole bizarre scenario and advise both the sides to come to terms. One of the questions before the army high command can be that was it opportune and proper to declare army rule in order to end the unremitting crisis or let the wrestlers fight and settle their dispute.

But one may project that if the government stays, the status-quo would stay as any inquiry or investigation would either remain doubtful or put on the back burners as we have seen the outcome of such reports in the past. Even if the inquiry is impartial and fair, the losing side could still not accept it by finding faults with that. So the nasty stalemate would return creating another bout of tug of war between the two opponents.

So what is the probable solution? I am inclined to believe and suggest that the most pragmatic and objective solution for this kind of quagmire is to set up a semblance of interim set up that should be acceptable to both the parties.

An interim government either can initiate inquiry of the allegations of rigging and related contentious issues or else midterm elections can be announced under its aegis. In the meantime an independent authority that could be supreme court or the army or a committee comprising members of the parliament( both senate and national assembly) to take up the allegation of rigging, electoral reforms  and also the inquiry of Model Town police action killing and injuring several innocent people.

If the protest or Dharnas leaders could be pacified and disperse after the resignation of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, then let the prime minster even think of going for that unpalatable option to save the country from further chaos and mayhem. It is no more a question of ego.  

It is the paramount question of saving the country from further crippling and ruinous upheaval. If all these options or endeavors fail the army would be prone to step in and restore peace and order.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Five toppled Governments and this may be the sixth!

By Saeed Qureshi
Five governments in Pakistan were changed either by street agitations or through military intervention. The first was headed by Ayub Khan, the second by Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, the third was the first PMLN government (1993-1996), the fourth was the second PMNL government (1997-1999) and the fifth that of Pervez Musharraf.  The incumbent PMLN government may be the sixth one but the chances of its unceremonious send off seem to be slim.
The reasons for such an assessment are that Imran Khan is not a Bhutto and his appeal is limited to a section of the population, second the ground realities are different now, and third that PMLN is a duly elected government and supported by second largest party PPP. However, the perpetual chaos and continual turmoil may prompt army to step in.   
Ayub Khan captured power through a military coup. As a result of the popular uprising launched by ZAB, Field Marshall Ayub Khan bowed out of power in March 1969 after a decade’s autocratic governance. But he bequeathed a legacy of economic vibrancy for Pakistan. The Tashkent pact signed with India after 1965 war turned out to be his bĂȘte noir and the nation accused Ayub Khan of watering down the boons of war that the army and the nation fought in unison.
One could recall in the hindsight the intensity of emotions and the fervor and a bubbling spirit of patriotism and sacrifice in those days of war with India in September1965. The Tashkent agreement was profitably and deftly exploited by ZAB who was his foreign minister but had parted company with him to launch a countywide vilification campaign for his ouster. ZAB was a charismatic figure and knew the art of rhetorical outbursts and soon he became a darling and most lovable revolutionary leader of the entire nation.
He knew the art of mobilizing a subdued nation and truly that was the ripest moment for a phenomenal change that the Pakistani nation was yearning for long. The Tashkent declaration worked like fuel on the fire. On December 18, 1971, Bhutto was taken to the President House in Rawalpindi where he took over two highest positions from Yahya Khan: one as the President and the other as the Chief Martial Law Administrator. Thus he was the first civilian Chief Martial Law Administrator of the dismembered Pakistan. That was the most glorious moment for ZAB.
But unfortunately he became obsessive and so much power drunk that he started sacrificing his secular, liberal, socialist and democratic credentials at the altar of power. After the PNA movements in 1976 against the alleged rigged elections, he abandoned all his cosmopolitan principles and accepted all the conditions of the PNA. Pakistan from that moment turned into a conservative and orthodox Islamic state with curbs of religious freedom of the minorities, ban on production and use of liquor that amounted to the curtailment of civil liberties.
But his volte face did not rescue him from the inevitable fate of a betrayer of his conscience, creed and principles. The PNA after getting all their demands accepted and made part of the constitution, still kept him on the tenterhooks that culminated in the proclamation of Martial law by Ziaul Haq and the rest is history. He was sent to gallows for a controversial murder case.
Pakistan came under a brutal dictatorship of General Ziaul Haq who ruled Pakistan with an iron hand. He suppressed all dissent, curbed calls for democracy and human rights with full might of the state. He was the one in whose time even journalists were lashed. General Zia’s one plus point is that he spearheaded a crusade against the Soviet Union in Afghanistan and succeeded in throwing them out of that perennially bedeviled country. But he too was killed in the mysterious C-130 crash. It is still not known who was behind that plot.
The political parties that ruled the roost in Pakistan have been showing scant interest in the welfare of Pakistan and its consolidation. The four governments (two each) of PPP and PMLN were kind of family-centric and thus Pakistan remained a country to be fleeced and bankrupted by these ruling cabals.
In the first PMNL government that lasted for barely three years, Nawaz Sharif had to resign under military pressure. The Nawaz Sharif’s second government (1997-1999) remained locked in a confrontation with judiciary and army.  Nawaz Sharif was deposed through a military coup by General Musharraf On October 13, 1999.
However since his return to Pakistan in December 2007 from long exile, Nawaz Sharif has been supporting democracy and kept extending cooperation to PPP to complete its five years constitutional tenure.
Of late, Imran Khan has emerged as a formidable political contender of Nawaz Sharif and the ongoing standoff between the PMLN and PTI has been swelling beyond conjectures. Imran Khan has portrayed himself to be an obdurate and inflexible rival who doesn’t seem to be in a mind frame to patch up with Sharif. His demand is the ouster and trial of Nawaz Sharif and his brother Shahbaz Sharif.
This irreconcilable attitude from Imran Khan and his mobilization of the country’s youth and disgruntled sections had created an unprecedented prolonged rally in the federal capital. But overall Imran Khan doesn’t enjoy the support of the majority of the people of Pakistan. He can keep demonstrating in Islamabad and other cities of Pakistan indefinitely but there should be an end to this French style revolution call. 
Imran is trying to knock down the political edifice by forcing Sharif and PMLN out of power. The insistence on this demand through violence and show of street force may finally impel the armed forces to step in to disengage both the sides and take the country back to another prolonged and indefinite martial law. If that happens, it would be the fourth time in Pakistan of the ouster of a government through military take-over.
 Even if Imran Khan succeeds in forcible ouster of the PMNL from power then what next? Will he like the traditional revolutionaries walk into the prime minister or president house and start issuing orders? Still he will have to gain power through the votes of the people.
Will he without any constitutional authority force his dictations? Would the other political parties keep watching him doing all these things with folded hands? Would there not be a political vacuum of governance? It is not difficult to fathom which power will fill that vacuum. It would be then fourth military rule in Pakistan. As for interim government to hold midterm elections, it is doubtful that the other parties would agree to this demand.