Friday, July 14, 2017


Whatever the law may permit, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif must do the right thing by democracy and step aside, at least temporarily.The JIT report submitted to the Supreme Court has now been pored over by experts, politicians and citizens alike. It is not a perfect report and the PML-N has already raised some important objections that will eventually have to be addressed by the court.

But the JIT report has laid out a number of very serious and specific allegations against Prime Minister Sharif and his children. Simply, no democratic order ought to have a prime minister operating under such a dark cloud of suspicion.

The PML-N may urge Mr Sharif to stay in office and Mr Sharif may be tempted to hunker down and fight, but the toll on democracy would be too great. The prime minister has a clear alternative: step aside, fight whatever charges are brought against him or his children in court and, if he is eventually cleared of the charges, he can seek a return to office as the law permits.

To be sure, stepping aside now would not be an admission of guilt. It would, in fact, be a necessary sacrifice for the protection and strengthening of the democratic order. The country does not need and cannot afford the distraction of an incumbent prime minister fighting corruption charges in the courts.

Moreover, with the JIT report now public, the principal PML-N allegation that the Panama Papers investigation is nothing more than a witch-hunt stands significantly diminished. Anti-democratic forces may exist in the country and they may wish Mr Sharif ill, but none of that prevented Mr Sharif and his family from providing evidence to the JIT that would corroborate the family’s claims.

The JIT conducted its entire investigation while the political stakes were crystal clear to the country and to the Sharifs themselves. Surely, the Sharif family should have gone the extra mile to provide evidence and explanations to the satisfaction of a reasonable investigation. As the JIT report makes clear, the Sharifs have not done so.

The other option would be for Mr Sharif to call a snap election. If Mr Sharif’s case is sent to the National Accountability Bureau, the presence of a caretaker government would dispel concerns of a manipulated process, NAB being prone to intense interference by the executive.

A fair but expedited accountability process would allow Mr Sharif to contest the next election without a cloud of suspicion hanging over him and his family, assuming a NAB process clears the family. Whichever option Mr Sharif chooses, it should be clear that the status quo is not an option. A prime minister preoccupied with fighting corruption charges is a prime minister no democratic polity deserves.

Mr Sharif may have his doubts about the fairness of the system, but the system has doubts about him. The system must prevail over the personal.

Courtesy dawn

Saturday, March 26, 2016


Pakistan’s former military ruler, General Pervez Musharraf has left for Dubai on Friday morning (March 18) to ostensibly seek medical treatment for a “decade-old illness”, after the interior ministry removed his name from the Exit Control List (ECL). Musharraf’s departure all but brings to an end the saga of his treason trial after nearly three years. On Wednesday (March 16), the Supreme Court (SC), ordered the removal of Musharraf’s name from the ECL, but this did not preclude the government from reinstating restrictions on the movement of the former president. However, Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan addressed a press conference and informed that his ministry would follow through with the court’s order after receiving assurances from Musharraf’s lawyers that he would eventually return to Pakistan after seeking his required treatment to face his charges. Many observers, however, view this assurance with skepticism and the consensus view is that the treason trial has whimpered to a close.

Back in 2013, Pervez Musharraf returned to Pakistan after a period of self-imposed exile in order to participate and lead his nascent political party in the then-upcoming elections. However, he was disqualified from standing in the elections; moreover, in an unprecedented move in the country’s history, the former dictator found himself facing arrest, after a warrant was issued by the Islamabad High Court in April 2013, over charges of suspending the constitution, dismissing judges and placing them under house arrest, and imposing an emergency. In addition to these charges, he was also charged with the failure to provide adequate security to former Prime Minister (PM) Benazir Bhutto, who was assassinated in December 2007. After winning the May elections, a confident PML-N’s federal government took the extraordinary step of bringing fiver charges of high treason against the former dictator in a special court. Predictions and assertions were made in December 2013 that the trial would be speedily concluded. There was an unquestionable amount of hype around the treason trial, as it was being touted as a historic occurrence that would reshape the contours of democracy, redefine the civil-military relationship, and set a positive precedent that would inhibit any future imposition of martial law.

But putting a former dictator and chief of the country’s most powerful institution on trial for treason was never going to pan out the way the government desired. The investigation and trial of Pervez Musharraf for imposing the 2007 Emergency was always underlined by perceptions that this was a matter of personal vendetta for PM Nawaz Sharif, whose government was overthrown in 1999 by the then Chief Of Army Staff. As a result of this desire of the Sharifs to get back at the man who forced them into exile, the proceedings exclusively targeted Musharraf, while no case was built against any of his alleged co-conspirators. The choice of focusing on the 2007 emergency was also a curious one when the much graver original sin of the 1999 coup d’├ętat made for a more logical case of treason. The 1999 coup, like all previous coups, was ratified by the SC and hence there exists a dire need to rectify this harmful precedent. Principles of justice and democracy demanded that an example be set so that in the future overthrowing an elected government and abrogating the constitution is not hailed as ‘saving the country’ but treated like the treasonous act it is. But to avoid risking drudging up its own past sins, the Nawaz government focused on the 2007 case due to its perceived straightforwardness, thereby compromising the integrity of the proceedings. It soon became clear however that the case was poorly and hastily prepared and that Musharraf still enjoyed the support of his former institution.

The trial played out farcically, as the former president easily avoided appearing in court by pleading ill health while the government and prosecutors manifestly lost their will to see the case through when faced with the possibility of drawing the military’s ire.

The entire saga reeks of a missed opportunity. Had the government’s prosecution covered all of its bases, perhaps we could have witnessed a historic trial that would have done the unthinkable: holding someone accountable in this country. The only kinds of accountability drives we witness in Pakistan are politically motivated as they are lopsided and transparently designed to fulfill vendettas against specific individuals and political parties. Whether it is the case against Musharraf or the various campaigns undertaken by the National Accountability Bureau, what is missing from all of the above is a rational, transparent and objective methodology that respects principles of justice. 
Courtesy: Daily Times 

Friday, January 29, 2016


ISLAMABAD: A recent verdict by the Supreme Court has made a mockery of conservation efforts in Pakistan. Despite outcry by protection organizations over hunting of the endangered houbara bustard, they have lifted a ban on it- claiming that controlled hunting was a tool for preservation and should be allowed. Only one of the judges opposed the court’s decision to conditionally allow hunting. Continuing to let moneyed foreigners indulge in the blood sport killing hundreds per trip only proves that we are more concerned with maintaining lopsided foreign relations, than protecting our diverse wildlife.

This remains a classic case of the government mishandling a simple issue- a complete ban to conserve what desperately needs attention. It is not far from the truth that the government is driven by a fear of falling out with Arab dignitaries, but what is the life of a rare bird in the face of an Arab with money? In early 2014 a Saudi prince hunted 2,100 houbaras during the course of 21 days, whereas the permit limits the holder to a maximum of 100 birds over a 10-day period. The argument then for sustainable hunting of these birds is senseless as this will happen again. This removal of the ban will probably make it harder for another ban to be put in place and signals the end of the species.
Successive governments have granted special permits to Arab dignitaries to hunt the bird on diplomatic grounds as they bring investment to the social sector. Though hunting for sport indeed is a pastime for some in Pakistan, it is morally distasteful and extremely cruel. Killing for fun, whether a bird of any other animal is one of the worst activities that men can engage in. It seems most of these men are Arabs. Our esteemed Supreme Court has lowered itself by lifting the ban.

Will the Supreme Court and Sindh Government also make sure that the proceeds from killing the birds will go to something beneficial for the people of Sindh? There is no hope for this. The same Government is also presiding over mass deaths of children in Thar due to malnutrition and starvation. For a leadership that is okay with children dying needlessly, birds must be a strange thing for them to protect.

In the context of the moral decline of a leadership that has no regards for the dignity of life as long as its not their own, the lifting of the ban makes perfect sense.
 Courtesy: The Nation

Friday, July 31, 2015


There have been several reports in the past that Mullah Omar had died. The BBC broke the news of his death the other day, claiming that it occurred in 2013, while quoting Afghan government sources. Another former Taliban member of the group’s council endorsed the Afghan government claim: “Mullah Omar died of tuberculosis two years and four months ago. He was laid to rest on the Afghan side of the border.” The earlier BBC report was that he died in a hospital in Karachi while the Taliban the next day officially declared him dead since 2013 from a heart attack in a village on the border. Another report talks about him disappearing from Quetta where he resided after the Taliban’s overthrow in Afghanistan in 2001. A statement from the Afghanistan presidential palace in Kabul said “based on credible information”, the Taliban leader died in April 2013 in Pakistan. Abdul Hassib Seddiqi, the spokesman for Afghanistan’s National Directorate of Security, said Omar died in a hospital in Karachi, Pakistan, in April 2013. “We confirm officially that he is dead,” he said.
Most importantly, his death has been confirmed, regardless of the location or cause. The question is why was this information disclosed now when the preparations were underway for the second round of peace talks between Kabul and the Taliban? Was the intention to sabotage them? A controversy started after the first round of peace talks held in Murree, Pakistan. The question of the legitimacy of the peace talks and the authenticity of representation was raised by some Taliban factions opposed to the dialogue. A statement purportedly from Mullah Omar was released stating that Islam allows dialogue with the enemy. Now, with the new revelation, obviously that statement appears to be an attempt to endorse the peace talks using the name of Mullah Omar to lend it legitimacy and authority. Amid concern over how a transition in leadership in the Taliban could affect the fragile peace negotiations, President Ghani’s office added that the government is of the view, “grounds for the Afghan peace talks are more paved now than before.”

In April the Taliban published a biography of Mullah Omar, saying he was alive and still supreme leader of the movement, as he had been since 1994. The last audio message thought to be from him appeared in 2006. He had not made a public appearance in very many years. The late US envoy for Afghanistan and Pakistan, Richard Holbrooke, articulated that Mullah Omar was in hiding somewhere along the rugged border between the two countries. Others were of the opinion that he had been hiding within Pakistan, something officials in Islamabad denied repeatedly. Spokesman John Kirby said the US State Department could not immediately confirm Mullah Omar’s death, but White House spokesman Eric Schultz said the Afghan intelligence reports are credible. He added that the US intelligence community is looking into the circumstances surrounding Mullah Omar’s death. Ending Afghanistan’s war with the Taliban has been a main priority for President Ghani since he took office last year.

The death of Omar could have deepened divisions within the movement as rival commanders position to succeed him, in a possible setback for the fledgling peace process. However, the tussle has been laid to rest as it has been finalised that Mullah Mansor, Mullah Omar’s number two, has succeeded him and is supporting the peace talks. The Taliban are split between those who support talks with Kabul to end the 13-year war and others who want to continue to fight. The only chink of light remains the peace talks continuing, as the only alternative is an indefinite civil war that will devastate an already prostrate Afghanistan and continue to spread ripples of instability throughout the region.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015


There's an age old dictum that "Justice delayed is justice denied" and "Justice hurried is justice buried" but in this case Justice delayed caused some one buried.

Nearly a year and half after one of the most audacious and brazen terrorist attacks in the capital’s history, investigators are no closer to finding the perpetrators behind the assault on the district courts building.

On March 3, 2014, up to eight men armed with weapons and explosives, entered court premises in Sector F-8. Using hand grenades and automatic weapons, they targeted court staff, lawyers and litigants indiscriminately, killing 12 people and injuring around 30 others. Additional Sessions Judge Rafaqat Awan was also among those who perished on that fateful day.

One of the lives tragically cut short in that attack was that of Advocate Fizza Malik. It was only the young graduate’s second day on the job when she was murdered by the attackers. But despite a suo motu notice by then-chief justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry and promises by various politicians that they would bring the culprits to justice, there has been no apparent progress on this front.

Tariq Malik, the elderly father of the young woman, recently passed away without getting to see justice done in his daughter’s case.

Asif Noor, one of Mr Malik’s friends, told Dawn that both his sons lived abroad and his daughter Fizza was the only child who lived with him. Mr Malik himself was around 70 at the time of her death and, according to those who knew him, he was completely shattered by the tragedy.

“Fizza’s death changed Tariq’s life. He used to be a very jolly person, but later became very serious and single-minded and only seemed to care about bringing the culprits to justice. When the chief justice took suo motu notice of the case, he hoped that it would ensure that the suspects would be arrested, but that did not happen,” he said.

“Disheartened by the inaction, Tariq later held press conferences and criticised Mr Chaudhry. He was also disappointed in the political leadership, who continuously promised to punish the culprits, but those claims never materialised,” he said.

“He established the Fizza Trust to work for girls’ education and help the poor, while simultaneously making efforts for the arrest of the culprits. But he did not survive to see his dream come to fruit and in March this year, nearly a year after Fizza’s death, he too died of cardiac arrest,” Mr Noor said.

However, investigators admit they haven’t had much luck so far.
A police official told Dawn on condition of anonymity that recently, a number of individuals had been picked up from Peshawar who had revealed some information about the case, so there was still a chance that the case may finally be solved thanks to the new leads. However, the case has changed hands many times.

“Every station house officer (SHO) of the Margalla Police Station becomes the investigation officer in the case by default, because under the FIR, the SHO is the investigation officer,” he said.

The current SHO, Malik Mohammad Bashir, also admitted there had been no progress in the case. “But the Federal Investigation Agency is also following up on the matter and we are hopeful that the culprits will be arrested soon,” he said.

Courtesy: Ikram Junaidi
Published in Dawn, June 24th, 2015