Hit and run
By Shakir Husain The News, May 17, 2010
Whenever people ask me about the funniest Asif Zardari joke I’ve ever heard, my response is always, “That he is the most successful president in the 63 year history of Pakistan.” I can picture readers cringing, noses wrinkling, and people asking to be passed the sick bag. What makes this nauseating sensation worse for most is that if you can get past the silly grin, the last name, the face – whatever your pet Asif Zardari peeve is, you will realise it’s true. Before you abandon this piece here to go and fire off a nasty email to me and the Editor, think about this rationally by removing the last name from the presidency, and just objectively look at what the man has achieved in the two years he has been in office.
Asif Zardari has spent more years in jail than any other politician in this country, has had millions of dollars spent on investing several dozen graft cases which have amounted to nothing concrete against him. Today, he controls the largest national political party in the country – the PPP. The man has dodged more silver bullets in the last two years than any other politician could even imagine. Asif Zardari has overseen the signing of the NFC Award, a feat unto itself. He has signed the18th Amendment to the Constitution defanging himself and any future president who feels like dismissing parliament. Asif Zardari has given provinces more of a share of the revenue they contribute to the federal government, which has always been a sticking point, and he has given the provinces the right to raise additional taxes and retain them. All sore points during Pakistan’s history. Continue reading
*This article is an abridged translation of one of the chapters from Col Rafi ud Din’s Urdu book “Bhutto kay akhri 323 din” (The last 323 days of Mr. Bhutto). Col. Rafi ud Din was the Special Security Superintendent of the Rawalpindi Jail*
Official Notification of Mr. Bhutto’s Execution
According to the orders of the SMLA, the following officials were to inform Mr. Bhutto of his execution on the night of 3-4 April 1979:
1) – Jail Superintendent, Mr. Yar Mohammad
2) – Security Battalion Commander, Lieutenant Colonel Rafi-ud-Din
3) – Magistrate First Class, Mr. Bashir Ahmad Khan
4) – Jail Doctor, Mr. Sagheer Hussain Shah
This party entered the jail cell at 6:05 p.m. in the evening on April 3rd and found Mr. Bhutto lying on the mattress on the floor.
Jail Superintendent, Yar Mohammad, read the execution order to Mr. Bhutto, “According to the 18th March 1978 order of the Lahore High Court, You, Mr. Zulfikar Ali Bhutto are to be hanged for the murder of Nawab Mohammad Ahmad Khan. Your appeal in the Supreme Court was rejected on 6th February 1979 and the review petition was turned down on 24th March 1979. The president of Pakistan has decided not to interfere in this matter. So it has been decided to hang you.”
I did not see any signs of panic on Mr. Bhutto’s face while the Jail Superintendent was reading out the orders. Instead, I could see that he was quite calm & relaxed and had a smile on his face. I was really surprised at the way Mr. Bhutto had handled the news. I was thinking that we were about to hang a leader who had listened to the orders of his execution with such calm and serenity. I could hear a voice inside me that the death of this person would be disastrous for our nation & our country. Probably for the first time in my life I felt that I was losing control over myself. Continue reading
Dedicated to Hameed Gul and Nadeem Farooq Paracha
By Raza Habib Raja
The political spectrum in our country is polarized between two extremes: patriotic conservatives and the liberals. Both these extremes are often in complete conflict and accuse the other of naivety and even fanaticism. While conspiracy theories of the rightwing are well known, I have seen that liberals are not at all far behind and churn out their own conspiracy theories in which they try to absolve the PPP government of everything under the sun. Following are the “pearls” of wisdom uttered by both sides.
The Patriotic Brigade
1. We are patriots and love our motherland like hell. We are macho and believe in jingoism. Our favorite terms are: Islam; nationalism; traitors; baigharat liberals; strategic location; CIA; Mosad; RAW; corruption; and independent judiciary. Of course those who do not agree with us are traitors or liberal fanatics.
2. Liberalism is an anti patriotic philosophy and has the sole aim of westernization and thus weakening of Pakistan.
3. The entire world is united against Pakistan because we have the nuclear arsenal for “peaceful” purposes. Although critics say that it is a crude copy of Chinese technology (which itself is of low quality) but since our engineers copied it therefore it is our pride. Continue reading
Published in the Daily Times
Giving Credit Where it’s Due (Daily Times 04/26)
By Agha Haidar Raza
Pakistan recently had two major delegations visiting the US. Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi led the first contingent under the auspices of a new ‘Strategic Dialogue’ with the US. In the second trip, Prime Minister Gilani led his team to President Obama’s first Nuclear Summit. Attended by over 47 heads of state, the summit was the largest gathering of world leaders to descend upon the US soil since the 1940s. Recognised as one of the world’s safe-keepers of a nuclear stockpile, Pakistan gained a nod of approval from the world’s seven nuclear bomb carriers.
I am unaware if many journalists or citizens in Pakistan read foreign newspapers, magazines or even blogs, but over the course of the nuclear summit, many international media outlets praised our country. From the words of admiration showered on Pakistan by President Obama for keeping its nuclear arsenal safe, to the positive role played by Prime Minister Gilani, it was our time to be in the limelight. Much attention was directed towards the professionalism of Army Chief General Parvez Kayani while the brilliant display of diplomacy carried out by Ambassador Husain Haqqani did not go unnoticed. Penned as a key ally of the US and taking the war to the very militants who threaten the fabric of our peace and security, Pakistan garnered much respect from the world community. Continue reading
Filed under Army, Benazir Bhutto, Constitution, Democracy, Economy, Egalitarian Pakistan, India, Islamabad, Jinnah's Pakistan, Judiciary, Kerry Lugar Bill, Liberal Democratic Pakistan, Pakistan, public policy, state, Taliban, Terrorism, USA, Yusuf Raza Gillani, Zardari
If the parliament and judiciary want to continue exercising their newfound powers, they have no option but to act strictly within the framework of the Pakistani Constitution
Pakistan is a surreal country. Only here we have long, protracted struggles for democracy and only here we are almost always ready to scuttle democracy. Perhaps Iskander Mirza was not all too wrong while making the assessment that democracy does not suit the genius of our people. An added qualification is that it does not suit the genius of the elites, in particular the unelected institutions of the state.
There is now a clear and present danger that the judicial review of the 18th Amendment will lead to a potential clash of the key organs of the state: the legislature and the judiciary. Pundits have also predicted that if such a situation arises, then a logjam will benefit the third force — Pakistan’s well organized formal institution, which is readily available to undertake crisis management. Perhaps such fears are slightly exaggerated and misplaced. But the reality is that Pakistani history teaches us some interesting though unsavoury lessons.
Curse of history
The Constitution of 1956 was drafted, almost after a decade of the new country’s formation, as the elites were not interested in changing the colonial structure of the state and its institutions. After much negotiation and a bit of arm-twisting, parity between the Eastern and the Western wings was achieved to finalise the basic law. However, the 1956 Constitution could not be enforced let alone implemented, as new elections were a risk for the national security establishment, which took charge of the country in 1958. The second moment arrived in 1970, when a political consensus arrived through election with divisive results, was once again scuttled by the unelected institutions and the West Pakistani elites. The results were tragic. 1977 was a third moment when the Bhutto administration and PNA movement agreed on a workable package for the future course of politics in the country. Even before this accord could reach the public domain, the Islamo-fascist General took the reins of power and thwarted the political consensus. There is a clear lesson here: a political consensus — wide-ranging, legitimate and inclusive — is a threat to the post-colonial state and the inherent contradictions of the Pakistani polity come into play the moment such compacts are arrived at. Continue reading
Filed under Constitution, human rights, Judiciary, Justice, Law, lawyers movement, Media, minorities, Pakistan, Politics, public policy, Rights, secular Pakistan, Society, state
Pakistan has crossed a major milestone last week by achieving a historic consensus on the 18th Amendment with 105 clauses, additions and deletions to the Constitution. The distortions inserted by the military rule have been done away with. Political elites this time, however, have gone a step further and improved the state of provincial autonomy. Perhaps this is where a civilian negotiation and democratic politics of compromise has been most effective. Who would have thought a few years ago that this was achievable? There were many skeptics who thought that the amendments might not be approved. However, the ‘corrupt’ and ‘incompetent’ politicians have proved everyone wrong.
Leaving aside the discourse of corruption, the NRO, and a vociferous media campaign against the President, the achievements in the last one-year by all political parties have been tremendous. The Awami National Party, after its initial truce with the militants, has stayed the course and resisted Talibanisation by giving full support to the army operations against the militants. The PPP and PML-N, despite their rhetoric and political point-scoring, have worked together on the national finance commission award (NFC) and now on the implementation of the Charter of Democracy (CoD) that has become the basis for the amendments to become a reality.
The nay-sayers of democracy and the political process forget one fundamental fact: a federal structure cannot work without a robust political process. A start has been made through the recent successes after a decade of ‘controlled democracy’. However, despite the march towards the democratic ideal, there are clear and present dangers that democracy is as fragile as ever. Continue reading
Raza Rumi (Published in Tehelka)
AFTER 37 YEARS OF POLITICAL UNCERTAINTY, PAKISTAN’S CONSTITUTION HAS BEEN RECAST ON ZARDARI’S WATCH. WILL IT HELP REKINDLE DEMOCRACY, WONDERS RAZA RUMI
BRANDED A ‘failed state’, Pakistan has become notorious in the global media. Political change is often a result of the notorious 111 Brigade (the Rawalpindi-based army contingent which leads any military coup) moving on the streets of Islamabad and capturing the derelict PTV (Pakistan Television) headquarters. News-worthiness is defined by the number of suicide blasts that take place in a single day within what has been termed as the “most dangerous country” in the world. Pity that such stereotypes have prevented a nuanced understanding of Pakistan, as well as the fact that it is a fast changing country with a strong yearning for the rule of law and constitutionalism. (Photo: AFP)
These days, Pakistanis, when they are on a break from the next suicide bomber, are rejoicing over a major political shift brought about by the April 8 approval by parliament of the 18th Amendment to fix the truncated Constitution. Thirty seven years ago, for the first time in its existence, Pakistan’s political elite was able to reach a consensus on the scheme and shape of the Constitution. An earlier version was the 1956 Constitution, which was abrogated even before its implementation by Field Marshal Ayub Khan in 1958. There were two other military “gifts” to the nation in 1962 and 1970, which were hardly democratic and barely representative of what citizens actually wanted. Continue reading