Sunday, April 28, 2013

Risks to Musharraf's Life Amid Rising Pre-Poll Taliban Violence

Rising pre-polls violence in Pakistan and Musharraf's mounting troubles raise many questions about the outcome of the upcoming elections:

Can the elections be free and fair when secular liberal left parties (ANP, MQM, PPP) are facing violent attacks and unable to campaign while right-wing parties (PML N, PTI, JI, JUI) are campaigning freely, particularly in the battleground province of Punjab?

Is it a conspiracy to ensure right-wing victory in Pakistan's Elections 2013?

Who cancelled Musharraf's bail and ordered his arrest and why?

Why are MQM and PML Q being called "Pro-Musharraf" by rabid right media people like Hamid Mir and Ansar Abbasi for demanding a fair trial of the former leader?

Why is Musharraf's life being exposed to great risks by confining him in one known place and making his travel routes and schedules highly predictable?

Who will be responsible should something happen to Musharraf? How will it impact the upcoming elections?

Is the concept of fair trial completely alien to the right-wing media, judges and politicians in Pakistan?

Watch Viewpoint from Overseas host Faraz Darvesh discuss these and other questions with Riaz Haq, Sabahat Ashraf and Ali Hasan Cemendtaur.

Musharraf's Troubles, and Pre-Polls Violence Against ANP, MQM and PPP from WBT TV on Vimeo.

Related Links:

Haq's Musings

Pakistan Elections 2013 Predictions

Musharraf's Arrest

Impact of Youth and Women Vote and Taliban Terror on Elections 2013

Is Musharraf's High Treason Trial Justified?

Saving Pakistan's Education

Political Patronage Trumps Public Policy in Pakistan

Dr. Ata-ur-Rehman Defends Pakistan's Higher Education Reforms

Twelve Years Since Musharraf's Coup

Musharraf's Legacy


Riaz Haq said...

Here's an FT report on Pak Army officers' unease over Musharraf's treatment:

Pakistani military officers have complained about the way the armed forces are being treated by politicians and the media ahead of the May 11 general election, stoking fears of renewed military interference in politics after five years of civilian rule.

“Obviously, there is unease among them [army officers],” said Mushahid Hussain Sayed, who chairs the Senate defence committee. “They see the army being maligned or attacked.” He was commenting on a meeting he had in Islamabad on Friday with 75 mid-career army officers from the Command and Staff College in the western city of Quetta.

According to one serving army general, army officers are unhappy, among other issues, about the treatment of Pervez Musharraf, the former army chief and military dictator who returned from exile to contest the polls but was arrested on charges of treason and other offences.

Officers were particularly irked by images on Pakistani television news channels showing lawyers beating some of Mr Musharraf’s supporters while shouting insults against the man who ran Pakistan for nearly a decade until 2008.

“This treatment has triggered tensions,” the general said. “People are worried about this situation spinning too much out of control.”

Public criticism of politicians and civilian institutions by army officers has been rare in recent years, but the complaints aired at the meeting between the officers and Mr Sayed have been extensively reported by the Pakistani media.

Mehmood Durrani, a retired Major General and former national security adviser, said there was a belief that “the army has become everyone’s favourite whipping boy. When anything goes terribly wrong in Pakistan, it’s because of the army.”

Mr Sayed, the senator, said officers thought the sacrifices they were making in fighting al-Qaeda and the Taliban in the regions bordering Afghanistan were not sufficiently appreciated. “The feeling is that while middle ranking officers are fighting on the front lines, the institution is getting attacked,” he said.

On Monday, eight people were reported killed in Peshawar by a suicide bomber. Human Rights Watch, the international pressure group, meanwhile urged the Pakistani military to provide security for the election in a “non-partisan manner” following numerous Taliban attacks on democratic politicians.

For the moment, analysts say, there are no signs of the army preparing to seize power under General Ashfaq Pervez Kayani, the chief of staff who has consistently favoured keeping the army out of politics. But the mood could change if army officers believe Mr Musharraf is being badly treated.

“One of the telling indications of things to come will be Musharraf’s trial. If the army concludes that he will not get a fair trial, they will make their resentment known further,” says Hasan Askari Rizvi, an analyst and author of a book on the Pakistan army.

“The army can react by communicating messages discretely to judges and politicians and they can launch a media campaign by leaking information on key politicians to journalists.”

Pro-democracy activists, however, want Mr Musharraf put on trial on a range of charges. He is accused of involvement in both the killing of a prominent tribal leader from Baluchistan province and the arrests of judges and protesting lawyers during his time in power.

The army has ruled Pakistan for almost half its life as an independent state since 1947.

Imran said...

I am currently in Karachi and this labeling of left and right has come from nowhere. This is another strategy of differntiating the parties from the pack.If you were to ask the parties, they won't say yes or no to the question of left or right leaning, they'll only commit to being secular or religious - every party is secular except , JI or PUI.

ANP, MQM and PPP are facing violet attacks ! But where, in Karachi & KP, the violence is due to many reasons but mainly due to animosities created in the last 5 years, elections are being used as a revenge platform. I am surprised to see the PML-N labelled as a right wing party, they may be against Musharraf, but they are by any means, left or right leaning. I don't think Nawaz brothers care at this time to differentiate themselves front the left and right, their tussle is about the votes and not about the ideology. Its come down to door-to–door, bring the youth and youth will drive the family to the polling stations.

The main fight is between PML and PTI , others may get couple of seats here and there, but what is evident from gallop polls, media outlets etc is that Punjab is the battle ground. PTI is coming in heavy in KP, will grab a few seats in Sindh, form a coalition in Baluchistan and the trump card, PUNJAB – if its able to grab, 35- 40% seats, it can succeed in making a coalition government in the center. The smaller parties with handful of seats will flock to PTI in that type of a scenario.

Riaz Haq said...

Imran: " I am currently in Karachi and this labeling of left and right has come from nowhere. This is another strategy of differntiating the parties from the pack"

Taliban have made it clear as to which party stands where.

They attack the left and spare the right. Why? Because the left-wing wants action against the Taliban while the right-wing is soft on the Taliban.

As to PML (N), it was a part of IJI (along with JI) which puts it squarely on the right.

Imran said...

Do you really think that Taliban are the true measure of left or right ? Or they are simply trying to differnciate 'with us' or 'against us' criteria with a more politically savvy statement of left and right…

Riaz Haq said...

Imran: "Do you really think that Taliban are the true measure of left or right ? Or they are simply trying to differnciate 'with us' or 'against us' criteria with a more politically savvy statement of left and right… "

What's happening now is a litmus test for Pak politicians.

Some, like Imran Khan, keep saying that the Taliban terrorists are "our own tribal people" in spite of the continuing mass murder of innocent Pakistanis they are responsible for. Others, like Shahbaz Sharif, are pleading with the Taliban killers to "spare Punbjab because we are brothers".

Those who stand against the Taliban are making great sacrifices to defend Pakistan from the forces of darkness which, if not defeated, will eventually destroy the entire country and impose their will on everyone, including the meek politicians who fail to speak out.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a Washington Post report on feudal power in Pak elections:

GUJJAR GARHI, Pakistan — Winning a grass-roots political campaign in Pakistan or anywhere else depends on having committed, hardworking volunteers. Iftikhar Ali Mashwani, an aspiring provincial lawmaker, has come to realize that his supporters are neither.

“When I go into the villages and the fields, I should see my flags on the roadsides and rooftops. I should see my posters. And I don’t,” Mashwani, a 35-year-old furniture salesman, chided followers gathered in his small lumberyard in northwestern Pakistan. “This campaign is not up to the mark!”

Mashwani, running on the Movement for Justice ticket headed by cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan, is learning tough lessons as he scrabbles for votes against well-established foes in this largely rural area. On May 11, Pakistanis will choose the next prime minister in an election hailed as a landmark of democratic progress for a country ruled by the military for nearly half its 65-year history. Yet decades of tradition dictate why democracy has remained more of a concept than a reality.

Even as Pakistan prepares to witness its first democratic transition of power, elite political families, powerful landholders and pervasive patronage and corruption undermine the prospects of a truly representational democracy, political analysts say. The dominant Pakistan People’s Party and its rival, the Pakistan Muslim League-N, have the money, experience and connections that Mashwani does not as a novice contender from an upstart party.

As in the United States, Pakistan has what amounts to an entrenched two-party system, but even less space exists here for reformers and newcomers from lower classes. For decades, critics say, the parties have been run like insular family businesses whose only goal is to perpetuate their power and plunder national resources.

The Pakistani military, by contrast, is well respected by the public and not afraid to muscle into politics. It has overthrown weak governments three times with general public support. During periods of civilian rule, the army also wields great influence behind the scenes, adding to evidence that Pakistan has never been more than a Potemkin democracy.

Over the years, U.S. officials have seen only diminishing returns in their democracy-promoting efforts. The upcoming election, while historic, will not necessarily solve anything. Pakistan remains under siege by insurgents and shot through with corruption — and it is still a beggar nation seemingly always on the brink of collapse.

Most analysts predict the election will result in a fractured Parliament dominated by a coalition of old-guard politicians, with Nawaz Sharif, head of the Pakistan Muslim League-N and a two-time prime minister, likely to reclaim the job 14 years after he was ousted in a coup.

“I see elections not bringing change,” said Shamshad Ahmad, a former Pakistani foreign secretary under Sharif. “Without a change in the system there will be the same feudalized, elitist hierarchy that remains in power.

“Let’s hope a new culture is being born that civilians must take responsibility and take the reins in their hands,” said Ahmad, who remains a Sharif backer. “When our rulers show their ability to take good decisions, the army will stay in its space.”...

Oostur said...

Riaz and Imran,
I appreciate your dedicated efforts to provide information on Pak election. I am sure you guys have
seen the news that Musharraf has been banned for life.

Let me suggest that Pakistan politics is corrupt. All three branches of government do everything
to help their supporters. No one cares about Taliban issue or Pakistan's security. They simply use
everything to benefit themselves. During my last trip, I had a privilege to meet a supreme court justice
and few other high level officials. The conversation and comments were eye opener for me.

(1) Chief justice is as corrupt as anyone else.
(2) We will have next Zardari when this one leaves. That is the normal mode of operation.
(3) We don't like Taliban but Taliban fits in our national interest and is a must for international Muslim interest.
(4) US and European alliance to dominate world is the root cause of instability in our region and in Muslim world.
(5) The increasing empowerment of Israel is a bigger issue than Taliban, Syria, Saudi (Wahabi) extremism, or Iran bomb.
(6) Unstable Pakistan is a success story for US policy. Iran is the last domino US is working on.
(7) Democracy is winding down in USA starting with Muslims.

So,I suggest forget the election in Pakistan or Syria and focus on our own(US) policy.

Riaz Haq said...

Oostur and Imran,

Have you heard about a group called Hizb ut Tahrir?

Instead of attacking the Pak military as the Taliban and Al Qaeda do, the Hizb ut Tahrir use social media to recruit military officer to seize power and establish a caliphate. One such officer named Brig Ali Khan and four other officers were recently court-martialled by Pak Army.

The HuT sees the following realities which favor the achievement of its goal:

1. Pakistanis are disillusioned with political parties and democracy as evident from the lowest voter turn-out in the world.

2. A University of Maryland/ survey revealed that more than two-thirds of people in Pakistan and several other large Muslim countries favor the establishment of an Islamic caliphate.

3. A recent British Council survey found 94% thought the country was going in the wrong direction, with much of the blame laid at the door of the civilian institutions that have run the country since power was seized back from the army in 2008.

4. The British Council survey reported that 71% had an unfavorable opinion of the government, 67% of parliament and 69% viewed political parties unfavorably. By contrast, 77% of young people approve of the army, while 74% were favorable inclined towards religious organisations.

The real danger is that the incompetence and corruption of Pakistan's narrow-minded politicians will strengthen the hands of fringe groups like Hizb ut Tahrir who will scuttle democracy and civil society in Pakistan to implement their version of Shariah.

Oostur said...

HuT is a very old sunni Muslim group dedicated to justice for Palestine.
They started way before we knew the word Al-Qaida or Taliban.

Riaz Haq said...

Oostur: "HuT is a very old sunni Muslim group dedicated to justice for Palestine.They started way before we knew the word Al-Qaida or Taliban."

Hizb ut Tahrir has morphed since 911 into global movement with members from all Muslim countries. They are particularly recruiting Pak millitary officers as well officers in other large countries like Egypt and Indonesia, according to a recent book "Handbook of Research on Development and Religion".

Hizb ut Tahrir is organizing meetings, delivering lectures and distributing flyers with the following messages, according to a report in PakistanToday:

“Muslims have not been stung merely twice, but countless times by the current system in Pakistan. Each time new faces come through coup or election, the people curse the old faces. However, only after a while, the new faces appear even uglier and more despised than the older faces. The current system is incapable of looking after the affairs of the people and securing the rights that Allah guaranteed humankind, regardless of their race, language, gender or religion.”

“Pakistan's current system is a continuation of the British rule occupation that abolished Islamic rule in the Indian subcontinent in the first place. Even though the Muslims shed their pure blood to establish Pakistan in the name of Islam, it was the British Parliament that created Pakistan’s initial legislation under its Indian Independence Act of 1947.”

“It is democracy, designed by and inherited from the colonialist kufr that separates our ummah from Islam and its ruling system of khilafah, whether in Pakistan, Egypt or Turkey, Tunisia or Indonesia. The claim that yet more elections within this system would bring change of system is a lie made to secure this system from abolition.”

“It is the Khilafah alone that ensures our education, foreign policy, economy, judiciary, consultation; accounting and removing of rulers are all according to Islam.”ment with Muslims from all parts of the world. It's very active in Pakistan, especially these days in attempts to keep people away from the polls.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous said...

The former Chief JusticeSaeeduzzaman Siddiqui, who had refused to take oath under Musharraf's PCO had a great resolve for today's situation in Pakistan. He clearly noted that Pakistan should have a “Truth commission" (like South Africa’s after the all-white rule ended) that should look at what has happened to Pakistan since 1954. Judges have been knee deep in the conspiracy to make Pakistan weak with emergencies and military rules. He also pointed out that the treatment handed out to Musharraf was uncalled for... I wonder if this Judiciary will call the Corp Commanders and themselves when they try Musharraf on Treason. Or still better they are waiting for an all-out attack on his farm house or on his convey when he is brought to the courts??? I wonder if Musharraf is killed by the terrorists will the Judiciary be responsible? I guess not!

Riaz Haq said...

Here's BBC's Lyse Doucet on Pak elections 2013:

Pakistan can be an unpredictable place. But in a chequered history that has kept lurching from crises to coups, one event has kept coming back, with reassuring certainty - elections.

I've covered almost every one of them since 1988 when martial law abruptly ended and a people who fought for democracy directed their energies and enthusiasm towards the battle for ballots.

What boisterous campaigns there've been - massive rallies that packed stadiums and fields, convoys of vehicles snaking, horns blaring, through villages and down highways - a chaotic carnival in every constituency.

But elections in Pakistan can't be like that anymore. It's simply too dangerous. Not a day goes by without a report of an attack by one of many armed groups on a politician, or a public space, or the police.
“Start Quote

Social media provides the safest of places to argue and analyse”

I'm back in Pakistan to find out what it's like to campaign in "Elections 2013", and what it takes to win.

The crush of massive crowds has mostly been replaced by "corner rallies". Politicians travel across the land in helicopters on carefully guarded schedules, rather than spontaneously weighing into the fray.

Something has been lost. But something else has been gained. A different kind of explosion has transformed the political landscape here.

There's a dizzying array of television channels in all the languages spoken here. And social media provides the safest of places to argue and analyse, and of course to jockey for influence and joke. It wouldn't be Pakistan if they didn't.

Another chance

Many worry about "saving Pakistan" - from the blight of official corruption, growing violence and extremism, deepening divisions. That's on top of the age-old problems of poverty and illiteracy.

Everyone talks of "change". Everyone has waited a long time for it to happen. Will it come, this time, from within the parties which traditionally dominated politics or will it usher in the rise of new political dynamic?

Yet again, this is an election where people warn that Pakistan "at a crossroads", is facing a "last chance".

Despite all the threats and disappointments, every person I have spoken to - so far - told me: "Yes of course I am voting!"

Pakistan always seems to get another chance. And yet again, you sense that at least the people want to seize it.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's the link to Youtube video of Gen Kayani's speech today:

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a Reuters' report on Musharraf's situation:

Pakistan's powerful army chief has suggested the military is unhappy with how authorities have treated former army chief and president Pervez Musharraf since his return from exile.

A Pakistani court on Tuesday imposed a lifetime ban on Musharraf from contesting elections, undermining his efforts to regain influence by winning a seat in parliament.

The former army chief returned in March after nearly four years of self-imposed exile to contest a May 11 general election, but election officers disqualified him because of court cases pending against him.

In what newspapers described as a veiled reference to Musharraf's legal troubles, Army Chief General Ashfaq Kayani said: "In my opinion, it is not merely retribution, but awareness and participation of the masses that can truly end this game of hide and seek between democracy and dictatorship."

Kayani, arguably the most powerful figure in Pakistan, was delivering a Martyrs' Day speech at army headquarters. Newspapers carried his comments on front pages.

The military has ruled Pakistan for than half of its 66-year-history, through coups or from behind the scenes. It sets security and foreign policy, even when civilian governments are in power.

Current commanders have meddled less in politics, letting civilian governments take the heat for policy failures.

But Kayani has had an uneasy relationship with civilian leaders, as well as an increasingly interventionist Supreme Court, which has questioned the military's human rights record.

The chief justice, Iftikhar Chaudhry, was embroiled in a confrontation with Musharraf, who removed him from office in 2007 after he opposed plans to extend the general's stay in power. Chaudhry was later reinstated.

Musharraf's has been embroiled in legal issues since his return.

He became the first former army chief to be arrested in Pakistan when police took him into custody at their headquarters last Friday, breaking an unwritten rule that the top ranks of the military are untouchable, even after they have retired.

On April 20, a court remanded the former president in custody for two weeks, a term set to expire on May 4, as judges pushed ahead with plans to put Musharraf on trial for a crackdown on the judiciary during his time in office.

On Tuesday, an anti-terrorism court in the garrison city of Rawalpindi put Musharraf on 14-day judicial remand for charges of failing to provide adequate security for former prime minister Benazir Bhutto before her 2007 assassination.

Musharraf ousted then Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif in a coup in 1999. Sharif is seen as the front-runner in the election.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's an excerpt of a Pew Survey on Shariah in Islamic countries:

Acceptance of sharia as the revealed word of God is high across South Asia and most of the Middle East and North Africa. For example, roughly eight-in-ten Muslims (81%) in Pakistan and Jordan say sharia is the revealed word of God, as do clear majorities in most other countries surveyed in these two regions. Only in Lebanon is opinion more closely divided: 49% of Muslims say sharia is the divine word of God, while 38% say men have developed sharia from God’s word.

Muslims in Southeast Asia and Central Asia are somewhat less likely to say sharia comes directly from God. Only in Kyrgyzstan (69%) do more than two-thirds say Islamic law is the revealed word of God. Elsewhere in these regions, the percentage of Muslims who say it is the revealed word of God ranges from roughly four-in-ten in Malaysia (41%) to six-in-ten in Tajikistan.

Views about the origins of sharia are more mixed in Southern and Eastern Europe. At least half of Muslims describe sharia as the divine word of God in Russia (56%) and Bosnia-Herzegovina (52%). By contrast, three-in-ten or fewer hold this view in Kosovo (30%) and Albania (24%).

Overall, Muslims who pray several times a day are more likely to believe that sharia is the revealed word of God than are those who pray less frequently. This is the case in many countries where the question was asked, with especially large differences observed in Russia (+33 percentage points), Uzbekistan (+21), Kyrgyzstan (+20) and Egypt (+15). Views on the origins of sharia do not vary consistently with other measures, such as age or gender.

Hopewins said...

QUOTE: "The TTP spokesman quoted European philosophers, when he said elections were contrary to Pakistan’s Islamic values. “The two are contrary to each other because Islamic laws and values come from Allah Almighty, while the secular doctrine comes from Rousseau, Kant and Bentham.”

They are not just angry tribesmen riled up by drones. THEY HAVE A PLAN. And Pakistan, no matter how many nameless children die, DOES NOT...."


Well? Do you have a plan? What about Samandtar & Ashraf? Do they have a plan for Pakistan?

Faraz said...

Saleem Shahzad book, now available on Amazon, covers deep inside taliban and al qaeda. It is surprising because it highlights that we're not dealing with uneducated, ill planned, mental retards... there are ideologues, they know politics and are working on a plan to take over Pakistan...

Riaz Haq said...

Faraz: " Saleem Shahzad book, now available on Amazon, covers deep inside taliban and al qaeda. It is surprising because it highlights that we're not dealing with uneducated, ill planned, mental retards... there are ideologues, they know politics and are working on a plan to take over Pakistan..."

The TTP is inspired by few ideologues and strategists who direct thousands of illiterate brainwashed foot soldiers who carry out brutal attacks. I do agree with Reuters' Myra McDonald's assertion that "they (TTP) have a plan. And Pakistan, no matter how many nameless children among the dead, does not".

Let's see of anything changes with Kayani's latest speech yesterday in which he asked "if a small faction wants to enforce its distorted ideology over the entire Nation by taking up arms and for this purpose defies the Constitution of Pakistan and the democratic process and considers all forms of bloodshed justified, then, does the fight against this enemy of the state constitute someone else’s war?"

Faraz said...

We can't act against them because political forces can not reach to an agreement that taliban/al qaeda are Pakistan's enemy and we need to root out this cancer in anyway possible. Nawaz Sharif + right wing media + some factions of judiciary + JI are not convinced that taliban/al qaeda are actual problem, they all have sympathy with taliban. If you see recent Nawaz Sharif interviews, he totally oppose any action against taliban, in fact, he blames taliban issue on war on terror/drone strikes..

Riaz Haq said...

Faraz: "We can't act against them because political forces can not reach to an agreement that taliban/al qaeda are Pakistan's enemy and we need to root out this cancer in anyway possible. Nawaz Sharif + right wing media + some factions of judiciary + JI are not convinced that taliban/al qaeda are actual problem, they all have sympathy with taliban."

When you make a deal with the Devil, you have to face the consequences. If Nawaz and/or Imran are elected to office, they'll will find out soon enough because they too will be on the receiving end of the TTP and they'll cry uncle to seek military's help. I just hope it's not too late by then. Meanwhile innocent Pakistanis will continue to pay an increasing steep price.

Hopewins said...

^^RH: The TTP is inspired by few ideologues and strategists who direct thousands of illiterate brainwashed foot soldiers who carry out brutal attacks. I do agree with Reuters' Myra McDonald's assertion that "they (TTP) have a plan. And Pakistan, no matter how many nameless children among the dead, does not".

So you agree with Myra McDonald that Pakistan does NOT have a plan.

That is good to know. It indicates that your delusions, not matter how deep and widespread, do have limits. It indicates that you are still in touch with some of the realities that Pakistan is facing today. And that is an excellent thing.

However, do you have a PLAN for Pakistan? Do your friends Samandtar & Ashraf have a PLAN?

What should we do to counter the well-laid plans of the highly-organized terrorists? Should we make a deal? Should we fight them to the death? Should we spread discord in their ranks such that they fight each other to the finish? Should we put all civil rights on hold while we engage in a massive purge campaign like Ataturk did in Turkey?

Please tell us that there is more to you than merely copy-pasting articles from here and there. Please show us that you are capable of brain-storming and coming up with innovative solutions to the problems that Pakistan faces today.

This will be the REAL test of your 'I want to help Pakistan' efforts.

All that "improving Pakistan's image" effort you have been making on your blog is pointless. Pakistan's image is merely a reflection of the socio-political realities that are unfolding before our eyes today. Anybody who wishes to help Pakistan must come up with a creative, practical and clear PLAN on how we can reverse the madness of zealotry that has now taken hold of our society.

Please help.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's Daily Times on a pro-democracy fatwa by a Pakistani cleric:

Maulana Tahir Ashrafi, a secular and liberal scholar of Islam, using his influence as chairman All Pakistan Ulema Council (APUC), has issued a Fatwa (edict) through a consensus among 27 different religious organisations in Pakistan on the ‘right’ to vote. He has been hailed internationally for this effort. In the 40-page booklet philosophising the importance of democracy and elections, he has proved ‘voting’ to be a compulsory act enjoined by Islam on the Muslims, both man and woman. In other words, he has backed democracy and rejected militarism or dictatorship. However, he does believe that Pervez Musharraf has been a good dictator, who should have been given an opportunity to prove his innocence either by allowing him to contest the polls or putting a neutral judiciary overlooking his cases.

The question is that is it appropriate or for that matter ‘democratic’ for a religious organisation or body to represent the ‘will’ of the people through law-making. If they were to define laws, independently, than how the role of parliament, and the entire judicial system is explained in a constitutional democracy that Pakistan claims to embrace. Unless subordinated to parliament, an edict unequivocally is an attempt to add power to the militants already at war with the state. The edict issued by the APUC, broadly speaking, is being viewed as a legal position to facilitate polling in the face of the militants’ resistance to elections. That explains the power the religious organisations hold in the national polity and indicates the direction to which the country is headed.

Being a constitutional democracy where parliament is held supreme and constitution is taken as a contract between the people and state any resolution, law or policy should flow from the parliament represented by the people of Pakistan. Especially in the presence of Pakistan Ideological Council, of which now Maulana Tahir is one of the 20th member the issue of voting as considered un-Islamic by the militants could have been debated, vetted and declared legal and Islamic by this able body. The effort of the APUC to give a befitting response to the militants’ propaganda against the right to vote, especially for women and generally for Muslims, is appreciable, however, it can best be taken as a recommendation and not as a verdict. But the way the edict is issued through elaborative conferences in nearly every large city of Pakistan, followed by celebrations, including the media hype, smacks some deliberate attempt to add volume to the militants’ narrative of Islam.

I. KAMAL said...

A four-member larger bench, headed by PHC Chief Justice Dost Muhammad Khan, has barred Pervez Musharraf from politics for life on the premises that he had abrogated the Constitution twice. This is the same Dost Muhammad Khan who, three weeks earlier, in response to a writ filed by Barrister Bacha had stated that the SC, parliament had approved Musharraf’s acts.

The following is a verbatim reproduction of a news item dated April 11, 2013 published in The News International, Pakistan:

"SC, parliament had approved Musharraf’s acts

News Desk
Thursday, April 11, 2013
From Print Edition

PESHAWAR: Chief Justice Peshawar High Court (PHC) Dost Muhammad Khan observed on Wednesday that it was necessary to challenge the 17th amendment in the Constitution before challenging all the illegal steps of former military ruler General (R) Pervez Musharraf.

He said the Supreme Court and the Parliament had already approved all the actions of Musharraf.The PHC chief justice gave these remarks while hearing a writ petition filed by Barrister Bacha against Musharraf.

The writ has adopted before the court that all the actions of Musharraf from Oct 12, 1999 to 2009are illegal. The writ states that the former military ruler abrogated the constitution and deposed the superior judiciary. It said Musharraf allowed the US to conduct drone strikes in Pakistan, which not only caused the death of innocent women and children but also challenged the country’s sovereignty.

Despite all his acts, the writ says, Musharraf has returned to Pakistan to take part in the general elections. Therefore, it says, a case of treason should be registered against Musharraf.

However, the court disposed off the case with the observation that it was necessary to challenge the 17th amendment before accepting the plea of the petitioner as the Parliament and the apex court had approved all these steps."
Why this change of face? It looks like someone really does not want Musharraf to be a free agent. Although Musharraf is not the type who would sneak on anybody, it is quite possible that some journalist in some interview might press Musharraf to reveal the details and the deal under which Nawaz Sharif's sentence was commuted and he was allowed to go to Saudi Arabia. It's about time Imran Khan pressed his opponent to reveal the details of this deal. This might give Imran the break he needs to get anywhere in the May 11 elections.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's an excerpt from an ET Op Ed by Ejaz Haider on TTP's motives:

The TTP knows it cannot capture political power directly. It is also too early for it to expect, despite the denominational conservatism of an average Pakistani, to have him or her reject the idea of elections or democracy. The average Pakistani may do abominable things on certain issues of religion, including murder, but is not unidimensional.
So, if elections cannot be prevented at this stage in the game, what’s the best alternative? It is to ensure that those parties whose presence in the socioeconomic and political life of Pakistan is threatening to the Taliban ideology must be pushed to the sidelines.
The strategy then becomes twofold. On the one hand, the TTP will use terror tactics to instill fear in the parties that it wants out of the game, and on the other, despite its opposition to the institutional mechanisms that define Pakistan today, support those political elements that it thinks will be more amenable to negotiating with it. Within this, there is a third minor strand too — parties like the Ahle Sunnat Wal Jama’at (ASWJ), which are primarily the political face of terrorist groups affiliated with the TTP.
These parties, more like groupings, link up with the right-of-centre and right-wing parties to capture enough political space to become useful in pushing for legislation that is regressive. Of course, there are local compulsions that both restrict and facilitate their operations, but that is in the nature of the game which, as noted earlier, is far from linear.
The TTP has one thing going in its favour — the fear factor. It knows that the state, despite multiple operations, has not been able to either make it irrelevant or dislocate it from the context that strengthens it. It has also played on the great confusion that runs through Pakistani society: is this our war? While it is possible to criticise American policies in the region and yet be anti-Taliban, this being a desirable course of action in fact, the problem is that the Pakistanis, for the most part, have chosen to lull themselves into thinking that with the Americans gone from here, the TTP will automatically demobilise and accept the writ of the state.
This is certainly the view of Imran Khan and has filtered down to his party leaders and supporters. One could perhaps laugh it off for its naiveté if the consequences of this linearity weren’t so threatening. Be that as it may, the TTP knows that this confusion plays to its advantage. At the minimum, it has precluded the state from developing a proper response to the TTP threat. Military operations in general and counterterrorism strategies in specific cannot be fully successful without a public buy-in, and the public’s acceptance of what the state must do is heavily contingent upon a clear understanding of the threat.
Of course, there is the matter of how successful the state has been. There is, for instance, the example of the ANP choosing to talk to the Taliban. The ANP did this because it realised that it is alone and the state cannot secure it. To that extent, the ANP’s reluctant decision to call an All Party Conference to this end is not the same thing as when the Jamiat Ulema-e Islam (Fazl) calls for one.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's an AFP report on Pak election campaign on the airwaves:

RAWALPINDI: As Taliban bombs curtail campaign rallies, Pakistan’s political parties are ploughing millions of dollars into TV and print adverts to sway voters ahead of next week’s historic polls.

Competition is fierce but it’s a cash market and those with the biggest bucks get the most air time ahead of the historic May 11 polls, set to mark a key democratic transition, say television executives on condition of anonymity.

Bursting with colour, promising to fix the nation’s myriad ills, bust corruption and bring prosperity to voters, the “paid content” ads are broadcast day and night accompanied by the upbeat, nationalist jingle of campaign songs.

Unlike Internet access, which is still limited, more than 60 per cent of the 180 million population have access to TV, according to the Pakistan Advertisers Society.

For medium-sized channels, an average minute of advertising costs $460-500 during 6pm to midnight prime time or $250-300 earlier in the day, according to one television insider speaking on condition of anonymity.

There are around 80 channels in Pakistan, although the market is dominated by little more than a dozen with rolling 24-seven news coverage.

“On average a television channel airs up to five minutes of political ads an hour,” said the television insider.

The outgoing PPP gives prominence to former prime minister Benazir Bhutto, showing footage of her 2007 assassination and anointing her son Bilawal – still too young to contest the vote – as the country’s future.

The main opposition and frontrunner PML-N lionises its leader Nawaz Sharif as a statesman and a developer, the man who knows how to fix the economy, the man beloved by a sea of flag-waving crowds.

Ads for cricket star Imran Khan – looking to make a breakthrough at the May 11 polls – offer voters a “new Pakistan” with his PTI party symbol – a cricket bat – swiping away the corruption and jettisoning the country into the future.

With Taliban threats against the main outgoing parties, Khan and Sharif are the only party leaders to address traditional public rallies in person.

Ad men consider the election a two-horse race in which the PPP – rudderless without Bhutto and her son too young to run for parliament – has deliberately taken a backseat, consigned to a stint in opposition.

“It’s PTI and PML-N who are the highest spenders,” said Bilal Agha, general manager for Dawn News television.

He said the Pakistan Broadcasters Association raised ad prices by 25 per cent and made political advertisements cash only. But the PPP is not doling out big money....

Riaz Haq said...

Here's an AP report on fishermen's seaborne rally near Karachi:

KARACHI, Pakistan -- Wearing life jackets and bobbing on the gentle waves of the Arabian Sea, supporters of a candidate in Pakistan's upcoming nationwide election held a waterborne rally to highlight the challenges faced by their embattled fishing community.

Backers of independent political candidate Haji Usman Ghani took to the water Friday on a flotilla of fishing boats. He is contesting May 11 elections for the Sindh provincial assembly from a constituency near the southern port of Karachi, Pakistan's largest city, and many of his prospective voters work in the fishing industry on the nearby coast.

Dozens of boats filled with his supporters left the harbor and went into the Arabian Sea with flags flying.

Supporters did not let their cumbersome life jackets get in the way of the festive atmosphere, and danced and chanted slogans to show their support for Ghani.

But the candidate had a serious message. Ghani, who's been a social activist in the area for years, promised to improve the education system and provide clean drinking water to his constituency if elected.

"Our children don't get an education. We were forced to use contaminated water...There are no teachers in schools and colleges of the area. That is why I had to come forward and contest elections to get our problems solved. We supported and followed others for long, but no more. We will solve our problems ourselves," Ghani said.

Many people who took one of the roughly 50 boats taking part in the flotilla complained that the government has done little to help the fishing community.

Fishermen are often caught up in a tit-for-tat war on the water with Indian authorities who arrest Pakistanis after they allegedly cross into Indian territory. Pakistan does the same. The fishermen in both countries often languish in jail for months. According to members of the fishing community around 170 Pakistani fishermen are currently being held in India.

"The government has done nothing for the industry and the fishermen," Ali Mohammad, a supporter of Ghani....

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a NY Times blog post by Kamila Shamsie:

KARACHI, Pakistan — At the start of last week I was in the nation’s capital, Islamabad, which adjoins the country’s most populous and most powerful province, Punjab. Almost all the political talk there was about Punjab, the home province of former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, where he and his Pakistan Muslim League-N (P.M.L.-N) have been holding rallies, urging supporters to vote them into power. Most analysts believe that is exactly what will happen, even though Sharif won’t have the easy ride that he might once have expected: The cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan and his Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf (P.T.I.) party have strong support in Punjab, and Khan has been traveling the length and breadth of the province to prove the pundits wrong. This is as it should be in a democracy the week before an election.

But now I’m back in my hometown of Karachi, the capital of Sindh province, and here — as in all the provinces other than Punjab — the picture is very different. On the morning of May 3, the day after I arrived, the daily newspaper Dawn reported that since April 11 — exactly one month before Election Day — there had been 42 attacks on campaigners and campaign offices, with 70 people killed and more than 350 injured. Two candidates standing for elections were among the fatalities.
The parties that stand accused of being pro-Taliban — the P.M.L.-N and P.T.I., as well as religious parties — have continued to campaign as if none of this is happening. While the violence has prevented the A.N.P., M.Q.M. and P.P.P. from holding large rallies and relegated media coverage of them to squibs describing bombs and gunmen, the P.M.L.-N and P.T.I. are holding major gatherings, which are broadcast live on TV and make headline news.

The kindest explanation for those parties’ detachment is that although they’re distressed by what’s happening, they don’t wish to find themselves and their workers in the firing line. But cowardice in the face of terrorism shouldn’t inspire much confidence in them. And a less kind explanation calls them “appeasers,” Taliban “sympathizers” and “cold-blooded opportunists.”

The Taliban themselves appear to be of two minds about the election. On the one hand, they seem to be targeting only those parties they view as enemies. On the other hand, they have been distributing — mostly in A.N.P., M.Q.M. and P.P.P. strongholds — pamphlets that say democracy itself is an infidel system and that anyone who participates in it is acting against Islam.

And so in parts of the country where the threat of more attacks on Election Day is high, no matter whom people vote for, simply by going to the polling stations they will be casting their ballots against the Pakistani Taliban.