Saturday, August 3, 2013

Is Imran Khan Presumed Guilty by Pakistani Supreme Court Judges?

"Have you no sense of decency, sir? At long last, have you left no sense of decency?" asked Joseph N. Welch in responding to the accusatory US Senator Joseph McCarthy in 1950s as part of the Army–McCarthy hearings.

Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry
The conduct of many ongoing hearings by Pakistani Supreme Court reminds me of the McCarthy era which is still remembered in America as a shameful period of  US history. It was characterized by an unrestrained Senator Joseph McCarthy who used his broad subpoena powers to order people to appear before the committee. The Senator and his colleagues then proceeded to insult and intimidate people who were presumed guilty of being communists by the committee.

McCarthy's victims included mostly innocent people from various walks of life including writers, authors, soldiers, journalists, government officials and politicians whose views were found to be unacceptable by the committee's rabidly anti-communist members. The committee's relentless pursuit of innocent victims began unravel with the questions asked by US Army counsel Joe Welch, a courageous man indeed.

Can Imran Khan be the man to do what Joe Welch did more than half century ago? Let's wait and see.

If Imran Khan does take a stand, he might find himself convicted of contempt of court and disqualified from holding any office for several years. However, Imran's defiance and punishment might actually help him divert attention from major governance failures in Khyber Pukhtunkhwa province. The most recent failure was a well-planned jailbreak by the Taliban of the Dera Ismail Khan. Hundreds of  hard-core terrorists freed in the jailbreak will now swell the Taliban ranks who will mount even more devastating attacks on innocent civilians in KP and elsewhere.  What is even more disturbing is that KP government failed to act in spite of early intelligence report warning of the attack.

For now, it seems that Imran Khan and his colleagues in PTI have their heads in the sand and failing to own responsibility to fight the terrorists. It's huge failure of leadership on their part.

It's taken five years for Imran Khan to realize that Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry has become "controversial" after the Arsalan case. The fact is that the reference filed by President Musharraf against Justice Chaudhry was mainly about his abuse of office to assist his son Dr. Arsalan Iftikhar.

Since Justice Chaudhry's restoration, he has continued to protect his son's corruption while he has pursued suo moto cases against many he dislikes.  He is an unelected and unaccountable judge who removed a duly elected prime minister from office in what is being called a judicial coup in Islamabad. In fact, it could be persuasively argued that the judiciary is now a bigger threat to democracy than the military.

Will it take another 5 years for Imran Khan to recognize the seriousness of the threat posed by the Taliban? It might be too late by then.

Some of Imran Khan's detractors have called him "Im the Dim" (naive and clueless) while others refer to him as "Taliban Khan" (allied with the Taliban). Only time will tell whether or which of these monikers fit the great Khan. It could be former, latter or neither.


R. Mehdi said...

Imran still thinks that he is on the world cup victory stand and the word "I" has not yet left his vocabulary. A man without any depth of knowledge, he pretends to pass for a white. Pride definitely has a fall and his spoken vocabulary is anything but far from being sensible. Perhaps he should revert back to something that he has known all his professional life, cricket or reconcile with his white wife.

Namdar said...

The writer's assertion is that most of the victims of McCarthyism were innocents. Now if you are comparing SC to the McCarthy senate committee, wouldn't it mean that all the previous 'victims' of supreme court were innocents , and the list inculdes Musharraf, Zardari, Gilani etc.

Anonymous said...

It is called SELECTIVE justice....

Justice should be blind, but
not the CJ!!!!

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a News story on history of high-profile contempt of court cases in Pakistan:

...Let us briefly recap all the key incidents where some four Pakistani prime ministers, one caretaker premier, an army chief, dozens of judges, ministers, leaders of top political parties and influential business magnates etc have been guilty of earning the wrath of the apex court arbiters: Contempt proceedings against a sitting Prime Minister, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, were initiated in 1976 in the case filed by the National Awami Party (NAP), now called the Awami National Party (ANP). During the eventful 1970s, the National Awami Party was banned by the government and the decision was upheld by the courts of the time. However, Bhutto could not restrain himself from airing statements against the NAP, something that was not permissible in line with the court order. The late Abdul Wali Khan, father of the current Awami National Party Chief, Asfandyar Wali Khan, had then filed a contempt petition against Bhutto 37 years ago in 1976. Having entertained Wali Khan’s petition, the court had gone on to issue contempt notices to the prime minister of the time. However, no concrete evidences were found against Premier Bhutto and the notices were subsequently discharged. Pakistan’s former Army Chief, General Aslam Beg, was first charged with contempt of court on February 21, 1993. In a newspaper interview on February 4, 1993, General Beg had admitted that he had sent an emissary to the Supreme Court to warn the judges not to restore the National Assembly. The then Chief Justice Naseem Hassan Shah got infuriated over the former army chief’s interview and had held him for contempt. In this case, CJ Shah had remarked: “We are very sorry to hand over the defence of the country to a person who was so careless.” The court had finally convicted the retired General of contempt, but strangely did not give any judgment about the sentence. The same court even overturned its own decision after an appeal was filed. And finally on January 09, 1994, all proceedings against General Aslam Beg were dropped. The second time General Beg had to face a contempt charge was on March 8, 2012, when during the hearing of the 1996 Asghar Khan Case; his statement was termed contempt of court by the judges. During the proceedings on that date, Aslam Baig had submitted his rejoinder to the statement of the ex-Mehran Bank President, Younis Habib. Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhary-led Supreme court had expressed its ire over a paragraph of Baig’s statement and had termed it contempt of court. The chief justice had then asked Aslam Baig to tender an apology over that paragraph. Left with no other option, the former army chief had to seek pardon instantly and had to appeal for the deletion of that particular paragraph. General Beg was in court to reject ex-Mehran Bank President Younis Habib’s statement, which was submitted in the Supreme Court over the petition filed by Air Marshal (R) Asghar Khan. The statement was related to the alleged disbursement of money among the national politicians by the ISI to disrupt the general elections of 1990. Pakistan’s current Premier Nawaz Sharif had to appear personally before the Supreme Court on November 17, 1997, after a contempt notice was issued to him on recommendation of the then Chief Justice of Pakistan, Justice Sajjad Ali Shah. This was Sharif’s second stint in power..

Riaz Haq said...

Here's an Open Letter to Chief Justice Chaudhry from attorney Naeem Bukhari published in The News:

...I am mildly amused at your desire to be presented a guard of honour in Peshawar. I am titillated by the appropriation of Mercedes Benz car or is it cars, the use of the Government of the Punjab’s plane to offer Fateha in Multan, to Sheikhupura for Fateha on a Government of the Punjab helicopter, to Hyderabad on a Government of the Sind’s plane for attending a High Court function, the huge amount spent in refurbishing the chamber and residence of the Chief Justice, the reservation for yourself of a wing in Supreme Court Judges guest house in Lahore, the permanent occupation by the Supreme Court of the official residence of the Chief Justice of Sind, who per force lives in the basement of his father’s house. As his class fellow in the Government College, Lahore, I can vouch that living in the basement will do him no harm.

I am not perturbed that Dr. Arsalaan (your son) secured 16/100 in the English paper for the Civil Services Examination, that there is some case against him in some court in Baluchistan, that from the Health Department in Baluchistan he has shifted to FIA, that he has obtained training in the Police Academy, that he reportedly drives a BMW 7-Series car, that there is a complaint against him with the National Accountability Bureau.

My grievances and protests are different.

I am perturbed that the Supreme Court should issue a clarificatory statement on his behalf. I am perturbed that Justice (Retd.) Wajihuddin Ahmed should be constrained to advise you on television that “people who live in glass houses should not throw stones at others”. I am perturbed that the Chief Justice should summon Mir Shakeel-ur-Rehman to his chambers on Dr. Arsalaan’s account.

I am appalled that you announce decisions in Court, while in the written judgment an opposite conclusion is recorded.

In the Petition for leave to appeal filed by Dr Sher Afghan Niazi, Federal Minister for Parliamentary Affairs (in which Respondent’s Counsel were Mr Khalid Anwar and Mr Qadir Saeed), you refused to grant leave in open Court and yet in the written order, leave was granted to Dr Sher Afghan Niazi.

On 15.2.2007, Mr Fakurddin G. Ebrahim complained that, in open Court you had accepted his appeal but dismissed the same in the judgement, subsequently recorded.

If Mr Khalid Anwar, a former Minister of Law and Parliamentary Affairs and Mr Fakrhuddin, Senior Counsel are treated in this manner, the fate of lesser known lawyers would certainly be far worse.

My grievances also concern the manner in which the last and highest court of appeal is dispensing justice, under your leadership.

My Lord, the dignity of lawyers is consistently being violated by you. We are treated harshly, rudely, brusquely and nastily. We are not heard. We are not allowed to present our case. There is little scope for advocacy. The words used in the Bar Room for Court No. 1 are “the slaughter house”. We are cowed down by aggression from the Bench, led by you. All we receive from you is arrogance, aggression and belligerence. You also throw away the file, while contemptuously announcing “This is dismissed”.

Yet this aggression is not for everyone. When Mr. Sharifuddin Pirzada appears, your Lordship’s demeanour and appearance is not just sugar and honey. You are obsequious to the point of meekness. So apart from violating our dignity, which the constitution commands to be inviolable, we suffer discrimination in your court.

I am not raising the issue of verbal onslaughts and threats to Police Officers and other Civil Servants, who have the misfortune to be summoned, degraded and reminded that “This is the Supreme Court”......

Riaz Haq said...

Here's the untold story in the British Daily Mail of Pakistan's unsung heroes in the battle to save their countrymen from Taliban savages who are seen by some Pak politicians as "brothers":

Captain Qasim Abbas had finished a six-month stint fighting the Taliban close to the Afghan border and was heading home to get engaged when the militants struck, ambushing his convoy, pitching his vehicle off a 90-foot cliff and leaving him with brain injuries that make speaking and walking a daily battle.
Abbas and the other soldiers recovering at Pakistan's only military rehabilitation hospital are a testament to the human toll from Pakistan's fight against Islamist militants. Their plight receives little attention from Pakistani politicians, possibly because they are afraid of associating themselves with an unpopular fight that many citizens see as driven by the United States.
'Fight, fight, keep fighting,' Abbas said slowly but with purpose when asked if he had a message for his colleagues still battling the Taliban. He raised his fist in the air to drive home his point.

Nearly 3,000 Pakistani troops have been killed fighting insurgents — more soldiers than NATO forces have lost in Afghanistan. Over 9,000 others have been wounded, many by buried bombs that blew off limbs and caused other life-altering injuries, the Pakistani military says.

Abbas fought with paramilitary special forces in the Orakzai tribal area during the first half of 2010 and was awarded a commendation by Pakistan's army chief for his role in seizing a strategic hilltop, said the soldier's brother, Maj. Usman Abbas.
The tall and lanky former army basketball player grew out his hair and beard during his deployment so he could blend in among the locals in the mountainous region near the Afghan border, said Abbas' brother. But his luck ran out when he was ambushed on June 21 of last year as he was leaving Orakzai to meet his future wife.
The attack left Abbas in a coma for six months, but he is now driven to recover. He spends three hours every morning in the hospital's gym trying to coax strength back into his arms and legs and overcome partial paralysis on the left side of his body.

The most common injuries the rehab hospital has had to deal with have been from homemade bombs the militants bury throughout the tribal region, said the head of the institute, Maj. Gen. Akthar Waheed. These weapons also pose the greatest threat to U.S. troops in Afghanistan.
Captain Kaleem Nasar was part of an operation elsewhere in the northwest in January of this year when he stepped on a bomb. The explosion blew off one of his legs, and the other had to be amputated below the knee. He visited the rehab hospital recently so doctors could work on his artificial limbs.
Despite his injuries, he does not regret going to war against the Taliban and hopes he can return to active duty.
Waheed contrasted the lack of political attention in Pakistan with a visit he made to Walter Reed Army Medical Center in the U.S. in April. He was there for only five days but saw a stream of officials and reporters come to the facility to meet with U.S. soldiers wounded in Afghanistan and Iraq, he said....
The hospital hopes to expand its capacity to 150 beds in the next few years from 100 today, said Waheed. He hopes this expansion will be accompanied by greater appreciation of what the soldiers have gone through.
'Any person who has given his limb, say his right hand, what is left with him?' said Waheed. 'His suffering is for all of life.

Riaz Haq said...

Gallup Pakistan finds 59% of Pakistanis have positive view of Musharraf....31% favorable and 28% satisfactory.

Riaz Haq said...

In a candid conversation in San Francisco Bay Area, Pakistani rights activist Asma Jahangir acknowledged it was a mistake to support restoration of CJ Iftikhar overdue acknowledgement six years after Musharraf sacked him. But she still remains staunchly opposed to Musharraf. She is still unwilling to concede what Musharraf did was correct when he removed the corrupt self-serving judge, arguing that dictators hire corrupt judges to serve their interest and fire them once judges stop serving their interest. The problem with Pakistani liberals is that they are elitists who care more about their own rights than the rights of the poor people to get out of poverty and get educated as tens of millions did on Musharraf's watch. It's really Maslow's hierarchy of needs in action: The aspirations of the elite (lawyers, judges, media,feudal lords, tribal chiefs, etc) drive their "rights" agenda at the top of the pyramid while the poor find themselves stuck at the bottom under "democratic" rule, unable to get even their basic physiological needs properly fulfilled.

Riaz Haq said...

Geoffrey Langlands, teacher of #Lahore elite, says #PTI chief #Imrankhan was a mediocre student at Aitchison College. He says Farooq Leghari and Aitazaz Ahsan and Ch Nisar Ali Khan were good students. He also taught Bugti kids but he didn't think much of them as students at Aitchison College.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a Reuters story about Pakistan's retiring chief justice Iftikhar Chaudhry:

"Pakistan's flamboyant chief justice has strengthened human rights but his inconsistent choice of cases has left the Supreme Court vulnerable to accusations of partisan intervention, a global group of 60 eminent judges and lawyers said on Thursday.

Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry - due to step down on December 12 - spearheaded a legal movement that forced out a dictator and established the independence of the judiciary for the first time in Pakistan's history.

But without further reforms, Pakistan's justice system will continue to destabilise the nuclear-armed nation, the Geneva-based International Commission of Jurists warned in a report.

"The Court has often garnered public acclaim for demanding government accountability," the body said. But many felt "concerns that the Court has sometimes exercised its original jurisdiction in a political and partisan manner."

Vigilante justice and deadly feuds are still common in Pakistan and few trust the courts to protect them. Police frequently execute suspects because they fear the courts will free them. Bungled cases are often blamed as the reason why dangerous militants go free.

Chaudhry helped restore some hope in the courts, the report said, by intervening in individual cases, such as one where police did not intervene in a lynching and another where paramilitary forces were filmed executing a civilian.

"Officials who were responsible for the killing and who would have otherwise escaped accountability were investigated and brought to justice," the Commission said.

Such interventions have led to an explosion in the number of human rights cases submitted to the court. In 2011, it received more than 150,000 petitions, compared to just 450 in 2004.

Sometimes important cases were ignored and some seemingly frivolous ones taken up, the Commission said.

"In some cases, the Supreme Court has acted swiftly ... facilitating victims' right to remedy and reparation. In other instances, however, the Court has not responded to urgent human rights issues," it said.

Chaudhry protected the rights of transsexuals but ignored attacks on religious minorities, the report said.

He intervened in government decisions but was unable to punish a single member of the powerful security agencies for the disappearance, torture or killing of thousands of Pakistanis."

Riaz Haq said...

For all his revolutionary rhetoric, Justice Chaudhry singularly failed to reform the country’s crisis-ridden lower courts, where more than a million cases are pending in a shambolic system ridden with delays, corruption and systemic weaknesses.

At a time when the state’s authority is under vigorous assault from Islamist militants offering an alternative form of justice, that is no small problem.

This year, Taliban-run Sharia courts, once confined to the tribal belt, have started operating in parts of Karachi, a vast megalopolis and the country’s most populous city. Such courts can be blunt and brutal, but they resonate with a popular longing for timely justice that plays no favorites.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a Jurist Op Ed by Ali Dayan Hasan of Human Rights Watch:

So, why is it such a relief to see Chaudhry go?

Pakistan's tenaciously independent chief justice also turned out to be political, arbitrary and irresponsible. Upon returning to office, he presided over the firing of judges without giving them the same due process he had demanded of Musharraf. He refused to accept parliamentary oversight of judicial appointments, threatening to overturn a unanimously passed constitutional amendment to that effect unless it was revised. Parliament complied to avoid a confrontation.

Chaudhry also made unprecedented use of suo motu proceedings—the court acting on its own motions—to engage in unwarranted intrusion into the legitimate domain of the legislature and the executive. Suo motu proceedings in defense of fundamental rights are good, but in case after case Chaudhry acted as if the Supreme Court was not a co-equal branch of government but a de facto legislature and executive branch.

Further, Chaudhry used his discretionary powers to oversee, hire and fire government officials, intervening in governance areas ranging from economic policy to traffic management. He seemed to relish triggering constitutional confrontations with parliament and government, undermining the elected parliament and disrupting governance just when Pakistan was undergoing a difficult transition to civilian rule.

In just one example, in December 2011, Chaudhry embroiled the Supreme Court in the "Memogate" scandal by agreeing to investigate Pakistan's former ambassador to the US on charges that he attempted to conspire with the US against Pakistan's military. Such an investigation was the responsibility of the government, not the Supreme Court. However, showing his biases, Chaudhry did not investigate allegations from the same source that the head of Pakistan's security services, the Inter-Services Intelligence, had conspired to oust the elected government.

In June 2012, a Supreme Court bench headed by Chaudhry took the unprecedented step of firing Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani for "scandalizing the judiciary." Gilani had refused to sign a letter to the Swiss government asking for an investigation into corruption allegations against then-president Asif Zardari, even though the Swiss government said that it would not act on such a letter. Chaudhry's order appeared to be an attempt to settle a personal score—many independent observers called the move a "judicial coup." After all the controversy about the way Musharraf had sidelined the judiciary, the government decided to avoid a constitutional crisis and nominated a new prime minister.

When a corruption scandal involving Chaudhry's son emerged around the same time, Chaudhry first used his suo motu powers to seize judicial control of the investigation and then effectively prevented the investigation from proceeding.

Chaudhry treated attempts at oversight or accountability of the judiciary, however reasonable or justified, as a personal attack. He muzzled media criticism by the use or threatened use of overbroad "contempt laws."

While Chaudhry lashed out at his critics, access to justice in Pakistan remained abysmal and the courts remained rife with corruption and incompetence. Case backlogs stayed huge at all levels of the court system.

Chaudhry's supporters make much of his credentials as a champion of human rights causes. He deserves credit for standing up to a military dictator. He took a strong stand on government abuses in Balochistan and demanded the return of terrorism suspects forcibly disappeared by the military. However, after his much-publicized hearings into arbitrary arrests or disappearances, no military or intelligence officer was held accountable, even though he "loudly opined" in court that the military had been responsible..