Latest Developments in Pakistan on the Judicial Crisis Front
Morning Edition, NPR, June 7, 2007
Sharif says that if he returns to Pakistan he is willing to go to jail if it will take the struggle forward, faster.
"Well I have every intention to go back to Pakistan before the elections," Sharif tells Steve Inskeep. "And when will [the elections be] held, I don't know."
I'm just trying to figure out how that works if President Musharraf says he's not going to let you back in.
I think the people of Pakistan will let me back in. He can't stop me. There's no law which prevents me from coming back to my country. I am holding a Pakistani passport. How can Musharraf block my entry into Pakistan? Only he knows. Nobody else knows.
For Complete Interview, click here
Benazir Bhutto's Interview with NPR
All Things Considered, NPR, June 4, 2007
"This is an opportunity for the people of Pakistan to try and restore democracy," Bhutto says. "And it's also an opportunity for us through the restoration of democracy to undermine the forces of religious extre'ism who have expanded their influence in Pakistan during the last five years. I believe it's important for Pakistan's democratization as well as moderation for me to go back and play a role."
Do you anticipate that if you went back, would there be an understanding that you would not be arrested or prosecuted by the government if you returned?
Right now, there is no such understanding on the cards, and it's very possible that the regime might try to arrest me. I have consulted my lawyers, and they too are ready to support me. But ultimately it's a political decision. We do have a chief of army staff as president of Pakistan, so the military is in a very strong position. And our judicial institutions are a little weak. But nonetheless, I am prepared to take the risk because I think it's important for Pakistan and for its future.
For Complete Interview, click here
Government Rebuttal to Chief Justce Iftikhar's Affidavit in the Supreme Court of Pakistan: June 7, 2007
Text of Affidavit of Director Intelligence Bureau Brig. (Retired) Ijaz Shah
Text of Affidavit of Chief of staff to the President Lt. Gen. (Retired) Hamid Javaid
Text of Affidavit of Director Military Intelligence Major General Nadeem Ijaz
Article of the Day:
Dictatorships don't go easy
By Shafqat Mahmood: The News, June 8, 2007
The writer is a former member of parliament and a freelance columnist based in Lahore
Of the many splendours of democracy, flawed or otherwise, the most nourishing is its ability to provide an honourable way out for unpopular rulers. Elections become a perfect exit strategy. A reference is made to the electorate and if it decides against the incumbent, he or she gets an opportunity to make all the right noises and gracefully bow out before the will of the people. No such luck for military dictators.
They take power by force, hang on to it through the barrel of a gun, and only leave when people push them out. In the process, there is repression and sacrifice, tragedy and heroism, and an enveloping sense of bitterness. All the fault lines within the state and society surface to create an emotional and physical paralysis.
This affects the economy because production and commerce slow down and foreign capital starts to shy away. It affects governance because the state's primary focus becomes repression leaving normal functioning by the wayside. It affects society because the tensions smouldering within become manifest leading to intolerance, vigilante highhandedness and crime. The death throes of a dictatorship are singularly unpleasant.
There were many in this country who had convinced themselves that Pervez Musharraf was a different kind of a military dictator. He appeared to be straight-talking, result-oriented, and enlightened. Above all, he seemed to have his feet firmly planted on the ground. He often said that he was pushed into this position of power against his will and if he ever felt that people were not with him he would quit. How time has belied everything he professed or claimed to be.
It is obvious now that he is not as straight talking as people had imagined him to be. When asked why the state abdicated its responsibility in Karachi on May 12, he goes into a long harangue about how it is MQM territory and they had a right to take out a procession, etc. etc. Not a word about who gave the orders for the police or rangers to stand down and give the murderers a free hand. No desire to pin responsibility for this carnage on political or administrative shoulders. Not even a shard of remorse for the mayhem, the trauma that the city was made to go through.
He is neither as much of a realist as people thought he was. When he is told that there is genuine and widespread anger on the sacking and mistreatment of the chief justice and on the murders in Karachi, he refuses to acknowledge it and instead blames the media. If this was tactical and a spin on the news, however dishonest, one could at least understand it. It appears that he genuinely believes that the current crisis has only been created by the media. This is beyond deceit. It is a flight from reality.
He is also not such a reluctant ruler as he has always pretended to be. He obviously loves power and is willing to go to any length to retain it. He refuses to take off his uniform because it ensures him support of the army. He knows that it is a disciplined force and he is using this admirable trait within the institution to strengthen his hold on power.
Much has been made of the corps commanders conference and the obviously political statement that was made in support of General Musharraf. Why this should surprise anyone or particularly strengthen the General, is beyond me. What else would an institution, whose organising principle is discipline and obedience, do? It would obviously stand behind the person who at that particular moment happens to be its chief. The sad part is not that this statement was issued by the corps commanders. The tragedy is the use of this institution by the General to retain his hold on power
This 'reluctant' ruler is also determined to take every step however controversial to secure his hold on power. He is determined, for instance, to make the current assemblies elect him as president in September. He knows very well that this is not only legally and morally contentious but also deeply divisive and could lead to further disruption and unrest in the country. But, he does not care. As long as he can hang onto power, it does not matter what happens to the country.
Now the general has started, like all military dictators, to believe that his staying in power is essential for the country. This was the crowning argument made by him while berating PML-Q legislators for not standing up for him. According to published reports, he said: "You do not know the problems for Pakistan if I am left out …You would see Talibanization in Lahore and Karachi as well… I am not worried about myself. I am fighting your war."
Our war indeed. There is no time in this column to restate how during his tenure the radical elements in the country have gained greater power. Not only to do religious parties have more representation in the parliament and in the provincial governments, the radicals are directly challenging state authority all over the country. The problems in Islamabad are only its most visible manifestation.
This enlightened man full of moderation has now trained his guns on the electronic media. The draconian PEMRA ordinance is straight from the rule book of dictators. As long as the General did not feel that his hold on power was directly threatened, he could play the benign military ruler to the hilt. It was a repetitive mantra. "The media have never been freer than in our time. We have allowed a hundred channels to bloom. We are more democratic than the democrats."
The moment a real challenge came to his hold on power, all the democracy and freedom that 'we' gave to the media, came to nought. Channels are being forced off the air, particular programmes being targeted and now the threat through the ordinance of even greater punishment. This is reverting to form. Dictatorships just cannot be benign. It is not within its genetic code.
No wonder then that one by one, Musharraf has begun to dismantle all the false embellishments of democracy he had garnished his rule with. Those who watched carefully knew the truth, particularly since the fraudulent referendum, but many were taken in by the benign facade. It began to unravel with the treatment of the Chief Justice and then by turning a blind eye to the murders in Karachi. Now it is the turn of the media.
Dictatorships don't go easy. They will use every ounce of state authority to bolster their hold on power. Already thousands have been arrested all over the country and more of this will follow. The media will also be subjected to further harassment. Repression is the last weapon of weak dictators and it will be unleashed to the full. The sad part is that the country will suffer greatly before a new beginning can be made.