Thursday, November 15, 2007

Sharif Vs Bhutto; and America

In the midst of palace intrigues, military coups and political victimization, Pakistan’s tumultuous history has one significant achievement: The evolution of a two party system.

In 1988 Benazir Bhutto was elected as the first woman Prime Minister of Pakistan (and the Muslim world) represented by her center left leaning Pakistan People’s Party (PPP). In opposition was an alliance of various religious, conservative and regional parties led by Nawaz Sharif. This alliance united behind an "anti-Bhutto" common factor.

During the turbulent democratic years from 1988 to 1999, both Bhutto and Sharif had the honor of being elected as Prime Minister twice (although, neither was able to complete the full term). In these years, Sharif was able to breathe a new soul in an otherwise factionalized and demoralized Pakistan Muslim League (PML). PML represented the center right leaning policies.

The events subsequent to the 1999 coup of Musharraf and his 8 year dictatorial rule have proved that both PPP of Bhutto and PML of Sharif remain the most popular parties in the country. The people of Pakistan anxiously await the opportunity to exercise their right to choose their next leader, and all opinion polls point towards a tough competition between PPP and PML.

Some of the policy differences between these two parties are:

1. Unemployment

Use Government to provide employment and reduce unemployment

Encourage private sector to create more jobs to reduce unemployment

2. Inflation

Spend, in order to invigorate the economy despite danger of inflation

Spend cautiously to keep inflation in check, since inflation is a tax on poor

3. Taxation

Increase collection by increasing taxes on the rich

Increase collection by broadening the tax base

4. Nuclear Program

Let IAEA inspect country’s installations

The nuclear program is safe and is for defensive purposes

5. Taliban / War on Terror

Fight the Taliban and War on terror; if not successful, invite NATO to fight

Reassess the root causes and resolve the Taliban and War on Terror issues with a mix of fighting and conciliation

6. Proliferation

Let IAEA question A Q Khan

This is a closed matter

As can be seen, the first three issues show different positions of the two parties on domestic/economic fronts, while the last three indicate very different perspectives on foreign policy issues.

Pakistan has, therefore, been able to evolve a strong democratic two party system based on different perspectives on policy issues (rather than political confrontation). Further, the people of Pakistan believe in the principles of democracy and wish to have a say in choosing their leaders.

A reinvigorated independent judiciary along with a vibrant and open press and electronic media, facilitate the check and balance needed for a moderate and representative society to prosper.

This makes Pakistan perhaps the only Islamic country in the world that has such democratic credentials.

Furthermore, after looking at the foreign policy differences, it is not hard to gauge that the Unites States will prefer Bhutto’s PPP to be in power. Having said that, even if the Pakistani people were to vote Sharif’s PML in office it will not pose any major problem for the United States (since Sharif represents a moderate/pragmatic leadership rather than the extremist/fundamentalist viewpoint which the West would like to avoid).

Consequently, Pakistan can boast a well organized democratic system along with a strong judiciary and open media to prove to the world that genuine democracy can work in an Islamic country (an exercise that the West has been trying to undertake in Iraq).

The West, therefore, needs to pressurize Musharraf to quit in order to pave way for the first genuinely democratic modern Islamic state of the World.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Letter to a principled Senator

Dear Senator Biden,

I am writing to appreciate and admire your understanding of ground realities in Pakistan. No doubt your experience in foreign relations and meticulous knowledge about geopolitical sensitivities gives you the ability to decipher the complexities of a nation like Pakistan better than any other politician in the USA.

You are absolutely correct to conclude that any support to Musharraf’s current actions by the international community (and especially by the United States) will marginalize the vast majority of moderate civil society of Pakistan and will push them to join forces with a handful of extremists.

Musharraf's declaration of January 9 election date is a complete eyewash in presence of emergency, uniform and kangaroo courts. To make things worse Musharraf has introduced draconian amendments in law to try civilians in military courts (to use it against political opponents and to spread a reign of fear and terror among law abiding and peaceful citizens).

As you are well aware, in Pakisatn the Judiciary remains in chains, media is under a blackout while civil society faces brute force. In doing so, Musharraf has crossed all limits and is hell bent to destroy the fabric of Pakistani society in order to cling to power.

Senator Biden … amongst all this gloom, your voice of reason to categorically oppose the Martial Law, demand the reinstatement of Judiciary and removal of uniform has come as a ray of hope for the 160 million beleaguered Pakistanis. You are standing up for the Truth. You are winning the hearts and minds of the people of Pakistan. You are, through your in-depth exposure of world affairs, preventing the front line state in the war on terror from falling into chaos.

Not only is this a show of mature leadership, but it will also be a big advantage to your camp in the current Presidential race.

The majority of moderate and civilized Pakistanis thank you for this effort.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Musharraf's Best Option

Gen (r) Mush is cornered. All doors seem to have closed on him. He has no one to blame but himself for this "checkmate".

By suspending the constitution he has committed treason for the 2nd time. His act of 1999 was condoned by the rubber stamp assembly of 2002. By that token, he will need another rigged election and another rubber stamp assembly of cohorts to avoid application of article 6 of the constitution on him (which declares treason as a crime punishable by death).

If Mush does not take off the uniform, he risks the wrath of the West, and especially the USA in which President Bush is finding it harder by the day to defend the policy of supporting Mush. Keeping the uniform, therefore, does not seem to be an option anymore.

Consequently, Mush may get a stamp of approval for his actions from the Kangaroo Supreme Court, notify himself as President for another 5 years, take off his uniform and declare elections in early 2008.

Since the source of his power revolves around the uniform, the moment he relinquishes charge as the Chief of Army Staff, he would expose his vulnerability to, not only the turncoats of Q-League but also to the Army high command. The tables may turn very quickly in such a scenario and he may face a severe backlash from popular uprising demanding his resignation/removal from the scene.

Mush, therefore, risks being ousted and put under trial for treason.

The only safe option that Mush might have at this point is to relinquish charge to the Senate Chairman and to the VCOAS, and perhaps opt for exile. Staying away from Pakistan for the next few years might provide him the oppotunity to launch a successful comeback, in case the successive government(s) are not able to deliver.

In the case otherwise, he will be risking a violent end for himself.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Justices Seek Justice

Judiciary, one of the strongest pillars of a state, plays a key role in maintaining a balance between the powers of the executive and rights of the citizens. A strong and independent Judiciary, therefore, ensures the establishment of a vibrant society where every citizen is guaranteed certain fundamental rights.

Judiciary provides the root for maintaining order. It generates the respect for law in the eyes of the citizens. Together, these represent "law and order". It is not possible to keep order in a society where there is no respect for law.

There could be no sustained economic activity without law and order. And without sustained economic activity, there could be no prosperity for the citizens.

A strong Judiciary is, therefore, needed to ensure law and order, to generate sustained economic activity and to achieve the goal of being a prosperous society. Consequently, an independent and strong Judiciary is one of the biggest assets of a vibrant nation.

Pakistan, after 60 years of looming in the dark, finally set its course towards an independent judiciary. For the first time in its history the judges started redressing issues faced by the poor and needy. The transformation was so swift and so real that people, young and old, men and women, would travel hundreds of miles to come to Islamabad to knock at the door of the Supreme Court in the hope of getting justice. This was a hope that was awakening a nation which was in coma for the past 60 years.

And the honorable Justices were committed to deliver. The Supreme Court reduced the load of undecided cases from approximately 32,000 to only 7,000 by March 2007.

All this did not go too well with the dictatorial establishment. The executive arm of the state, for the first time in the history of the country, saw its power being challenged. For the first time it felt that it had to be answerable for its deeds. For the first time it was being forced to operate within the limits drawn by the constitution of Pakistan.

Finally, on Nov 3rd, 2007, Mush's patience gave way and he took the unprecedented step of displacing the Justices of the Supreme Court.

Most Justices (including the Chief Justice, Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudry) are still under house arrest in their official residences in Islamabad. Their household workers are allowed to shop for groceries only once a week. They are completely cut off from the rest of the world. Their telephone lines have been disconnected. They do not have any televisions or Internet connection.

The Chief Justice has an 11 year old son who needs constant medical attention. The son is being denied these medical facilities. His daughter was due to appear in an A-levels exam on Wednesday, but was not allowed to leave the house. Eventually, the British Council declared the official residence of the Chief Justice as an examination center to conduct the daughter's exam! There are reports that intelligence agencies are planning to move the Chief Justice from Islamabad to his private residence in Quetta.

Justice Rana Bhagwan Das, confined in his official residence, will not be able to celebrate the festival of Diwali with his family and friends in Karachi.

Justice Javed Iqbal is a heart patient and was experiencing chest pain. He was denied the facility of a doctor for hours.

Another Judge, Justice Sardar Raza Khan has been under house arrest with his entire family. They did not even have groceries and daily supplies in the first few days of the Martial Law.

It is outrageous that an illegal dictator has the cheek to treat the honorable Justices with such disrespect. Indeed, Gen (r) Mush will have to pay for his deeds, both in this world and the next.

For now, the Justices seek justice themselves. But Truth will eventually prevail and Evil will be rooted out.

Justice will soon knock on the door of the Justices. Amen.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

The Fabric of Society

Today I had the opportunity to speak with a notable journalist of Pakistan. I wanted to share with him some directions to overseas Pakistanis who are outraged at the imposition of Martial Law and wish to do something to help the country.

After deliberating my views with him (which I will share in a separate blog), I asked whether something could be done within Pakistan. His answer came as a shock to me. This is what he had to say:

"My suggestion is that overseas Pakistanis should just concentrate on raising support outside of Pakistan. Do not worry about what should be done within Pakistan. There is a lot happening and a lot being planned. The authorities are not letting us report much of the activity but I can tell you that things are moving towards a clash.

In one incident, students from a few Universities in Islamabad were trying to make a peaceful demonstration when they were brutally attacked by the police. These 16/17 year old students were completely outraged at this despicable treatment and vowed to react with full force, only this time not with placards and banners, but with Guns!"

The journalist told me that he is receiving constant phone calls from young people asking him that they wish to go to the tribal areas to join the rebels to fight against Musharraf regime. In his opinion, suppression of freedom by a ruthless dictator will result in a disproportionate increase in extremism which will come to haunt the regime.

When I asked him about the mood within the army (quoting a story from New York Times which claimed that the US is contacting some senior army Generals, including Gen Kiyani), he said that he has absolutely nothing to do with the army and he does not even like to answer their phone calls.

After speaking with this senior and well-respected journalist, it was clear to me that the somber mood in Pakistan (after 4 days of Martial Law) is now changing to a mood of defiance and action.

Can Musharraf, along with the army top brass and the turncoats in his government realize the damage they are doing to Pakistan? The suppression of freedom and civil liberties is playing havoc with the fabric of the society. This brutal repression is pushing the already fed up common man up against the wall.

The regime needs to wake up and take immediate steps to put the country back on rails. To begin with, the Judiciary needs to be reinstated while media curbs need to be abolished. Without these steps the emotions will continue to steam up and will result in an explosion capable of causing much damage.

The Insane Commando

Pakistan, a nation of 160 million people, is hostage to an insane commando who is hell bent to cling to power at any cost. Eight long years of dictatorial misrule and twisted priorities have left a peace loving nation of predominantly moderate and harmless people in complete shambles.

This insane commando is Gen (r) Mush whose biggest shortcoming is his inability to find "middle grounds". As a military man, he has been trained for 35 years to focus on ONE thing: the enemy. Hence, anyone who agrees to the high command (in his case the high command being "himself") is a friend while anyone disagreeing is an enemy.

8 years of unchallenged power has blinded Mush's vision to see the truth. He has surrounded himself by characterless sycophants who continue to praise and flatter him.

Mush's arrogance has also peaked. He considers himself indispensable for a successful fight against the war on terrorism. He claims to be the one who gave freedom (a right guaranteed by the constitution) to the press and media in Pakistan. And he openly boasts that it is the country that needs him (rather than the other way round)!

This mix of commando training fixed on "enemy", a long period of unchallenged power, blinded vision and height of arrogance has resulted in a total loss of rationality within Mush's mind. The results are fatal for Pakistan.

Consider this: In 1999, Mush started by evicting a democratically elected Prime Minister, without giving any regard to his oath as a soldier to not take part in politics of the country. He then attacked the parliament in 2002 by rigging the elections in favor of his cohorts and then by horsetrading other elected members to give his King's party a majority. And now, in 2007, he crossed all limits by sacking the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Pakistan and other judges of the superior courts. If that was not enough, he totally blacked out the private TV channels and placed draconian controls on print and electronic media.

What does this mean? Well, Mush has systematically demolished all four pillars of the state of Pakistan. The Executive, the Legislature, the Judiciary and the Media, all lie flat on their faces after being stabbed in the back by Mush. And in doing so, Mush used the power of the armed forces. The very power that the people of Pakistan had entrusted him with while bestowing him with the honor of becoming the Chief of Army Staff in 1998.

In short, Gen (r) Mush broke his oath, he committed treason (twice) by suspending the constitution of Pakistan, he destroyed the four pillars of the state of Pakistan and he continues to preside over a ruthless, unpopular and dictatorial rule over the freedom and aspirations of the people of Pakistan.

This ain't an accomplishment of a sane mind. It has to be the "insane commando".