Thursday, January 31, 2008

Book Reviews: How jihad went freelance

How jihad went freelance
Jan 31st 2008: From The Economist print edition
Al-Qaeda has evolved from a single group to an amorphous movement. Does that make it less dangerous or more so?

TERRORISTS are a bit like you and me, or so Marc Sageman suggests. It might be comforting to think that angry young Islamists are crazed psychopaths or sex-starved adolescents who have been brainwashed in malign madrassas. But Mr Sageman, a senior fellow at the Philadelphia-based Foreign Policy Research Institute, explodes each of these myths, and others besides, in an unsettling account of how al-Qaeda has evolved from the organisation headed by Osama bin Laden into an amorphous movement—a “leaderless jihad”.

Mr Sageman is a leading advocate of what is called the “buddy” theory of terrorism. He has spent much time asking why well-educated young men, from middle-class backgrounds, often with a secular education and wives and children, become suicide bombers. He suggests that radicalisation is a collective rather than an individual process in which friendship and kinship are key components.

The process has four stages. The initial trigger is a sense of moral outrage, usually over some incident of Muslim suffering in Iraq, Palestine, Chechnya or elsewhere. This acquires a broader context, becoming part of what Mr Sageman calls a “morality play” in which Islam and the West are seen to be at war. In stage three, the global and the local are fused, as geopolitical grievance resonates with personal experience of discrimination or joblessness. And finally the individual joins a terrorist cell, which becomes a surrogate family, nurturing the jihadist world-view and preparing the initiate for martyrdom. Many Muslims pass through the first three phases; only a few take the final step.

Mr Sageman has unusual credentials: a former CIA officer, he is also a forensic psychiatrist and a counter-terrorism consultant. He published the first version of his theory three years ago in an influential book, “Understanding Terror Networks”. His aim, to put the study of this new kind of terrorism on to a scientific footing, has not changed. But al-Qaeda has, and the task of analysing it has become more complex.

In his new book Mr Sageman's sample of militants has grown from 172 to 500. He gives more prominence to Europe, where, after the London and Madrid bombings and other thwarted attempts, a new front-line has opened up. He devotes a chapter to the internet. Crucially, he argues that most of today's suicide bombers have little or no link with the original al-Qaeda (dubbed “al-Qaeda central”) but are part of a broader, more amorphous phenomenon which he calls the “al-Qaeda social movement”. Mr Sageman is sceptical of the view, which gathered weight last year, that “al-Qaeda central” is resurgent. Rather, it is the mutual attraction of freelance jihadists, outraged by the Iraq war and increasingly mobilised online, which should worry us most.

Like others, Mr Sageman believes the Iraq war, which appeared to legitimise the idea of a rapacious West in conflict with Islam, was a spectacular own-goal for America. Unless that idea can be successfully countered, he says, America may find itself confronting not just a terrorist fringe but a substantial segment of the Muslim world, which would intensify and prolong the conflict to disastrous effect. A successful hearts-and-minds campaign, on the other hand, would stiffen moderate spines and help take the glory out of jihadism; eventually, “the leaderless jihad [would] expire, poisoned by its own toxic message.” It is an optimistic conclusion, given all that has gone before.

There is much common ground between Mr Sageman and Daniel Byman, a counter-terrorism expert at Georgetown University and the Brookings Institution who was at one time on the staff of the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks upon the United States (also known as the 9-11 Commission). He too laments the Bush administration's lack of a coherent strategy, the needless alienation of allies, the failure to win Muslim hearts and minds, and the deadly fall-out from Iraq. Both authors believe that in the war of ideas Americans should focus on jihadist brutality rather than trying to burnish their own image. Both regard Europe as the main battleground, and they also question just how useful democratisation can be as a tool of counter-terrorism; indeed Mr Sageman believes it is entirely irrelevant.

Mr Byman argues that America must do better on five fronts: the military, the war of ideas, intelligence, homeland defence and, in a nuanced way, democratic reform. Many of his policy proposals are eminently sensible, though some people will decry his advocacy of Israeli-style targeted killings. But where Mr Sageman is plain spoken, Mr Byman is often hesitant and diffuse. He has a disconcerting knack of undercutting his own arguments. Moreover, his remorseless concentration on prescription, with a minimum of explanatory background, will put off all but the most dedicated experts.

Counter-terror specialists are seldom knowledgeable about the intricacies of modern Islam, and vice versa. Those looking for a reliable guide to the currents of political Islam, of which al-Qaeda-style jihadism is but one, could do worse than turn to a young American scholar, Peter Mandaville, an associate professor at George Mason University, near Washington, DC. Mr Mandaville's primer, “Global Political Islam”, is a well-informed account of the origins of mainstream Islamism, the strategies of Islamisation, the emergence of the radical fringe, the competition for authority among Muslim elites and the impact of globalisation on Muslim politics. This is a study which sets out to transcend the “narrow moment” of al-Qaeda. Given our current obsession with global jihad, this book is a welcome companion to Mr Sageman's work.

Leaderless Jihad: Terror Networks in the Twenty-First Century.
By Marc Sageman.
University of Pennsylvania Press; 208 pages; $24.95 and £16.50

The Five Front War: The Better Way to Fight Global Jihad.
By Daniel Byman.
Wiley; 320 pages; $25.95 and £13.99

Global Political Islam.
By Peter Mandaville.
Routledge; 408 pages; $43.95 and £21.99

On Benazir Bhutto By Nafisa Hoodbhoy

Who Killed Benazir Bhutto? Looking Back on a Life in Politics
Written by Nafisa Hoodbhoy
Toward Freedom, Thursday, 31 January 2008

Benazir Bhutto, 1988On the morning of December 27, a simple e-mail alert to my cell phone confirmed my worst fears for the indomitable and courageous woman leader I knew as a former reporter covering politics in Pakistan: `BB Killed’. It did not matter that Benazir Bhutto, campaigning to return to power for a third time, would have merely stayed a symbolic leader. Her tragic murder has cut short the dream for Pakistan’s impoverished millions and increased their sense of desperation.
The grieving is most pronounced in her home province of Sindh, where she was buried in Larkana next to three murdered family members – her father former Prime Minister Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto and brothers Murtaza and Shahnawaz Bhutto.

For nearly two decades of her political career, Benazir grappled with Pakistan’s intelligence agencies. It was a struggle I saw up front as the only woman reporter for Dawn newspaper in Karachi, assigned to cover the woman aspiring to become Prime Minister.

Even after she became Prime Minister, Benazir shared her feelings of occasional helplessness about Pakistan’s military – whose intelligence branches work autonomously and sometimes at cross purposes with one and other.

In 1989, Prime Minister Benazir invited a small group of us journalists to share the dilemma facing her newly elected government. By then, I had spent five years covering the political violence in Karachi and seen the military’s involvement in domestic politics. Still, as a young reporter I was only just discovering the linkages. Although Benazir had been in power for only a few months, the city burnt uncontrollably in ethnic rioting. As we sat around an oval table in Bilawal House – named after her first-born – Benazir’s question confounded me.

"How can I control the intelligence agencies?"

The inexperienced and youthful Prime Minister had done the unthinkable. She had tried to take charge of Pakistan’s powerful intelligence agency, the Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) by replacing its chief Lt. Gen. Hameed Gul with a retired civilian officer close to her father.

Her timing couldn’t have been worse. It was the Cold War era, when the former ISI chief had acquired gargantuan powers as the chief conduit of U.S. weapons for the Mujahideen (Islamic warriors) fighting the former Soviet Union in Afghanistan. As ethnic riots rocked Karachi, Benazir’s government became the most chaotic in Pakistan’s history. A year later she was dismissed for "corruption" and "deteriorating law and order."

It taught the populist Prime Minister the inevitable. Namely that as a newcomer, a woman and the representative of a small province she would have to cozy up to the military establishment in order to rule. Benazir would internalize this lesson in both her attempts to retake power. It explained the "deal" she struck with President Gen. Musharraf last year, even at a time when his unpopularity had hit a new low.

Back in 1992 as Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif's government tottered, the PPP used "palace intrigues" to retake power. Every day, her party leaders contacted me about her parleys with the establishment. Through my newspaper, Benazir tried to create leverage to get Sharif sacked and win a second term as Prime Minister. My reports in Dawn newspaper kept readers informed that the assemblies were about to be dissolved and Benazir installed for a second term.

But even in her second tenure, Benazir suffered an uneasy relationship with the military. In 1994, when I met her at Bilawal House, she looked pensive and apprehensive at her exiled brother, Murtaza’s decision to return while she was still Prime Minister. We probed whether it might be because she feared her brother as a political rival. That was apparently not the case. She shared with us her premonition that her younger brother – exiled in Syria after hijacking an airplane to avenge his father Prime Minister Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto’s execution at the hands of the military – would not be safe on his return.

In September 1996, when Murtaza Bhutto was killed outside his family home – 70 Clifton – by a police party, the gunshots were so loud that I heard them at my home several miles away. Two months later, Benazir was removed from her position as Prime Minister and her husband Asif Zardari imprisoned for the murder. Although, Murtaza’s murder has been left an unsolved mystery, the promotion of top police officials who pumped the fatal shots makes it obvious that they were highly connected.

Benazir’s brother was killed during her second term as Prime Minister, even though she had kept her hands off the military. It led to a glaring disconnect between her manifesto to bring positive change and inability to follow up on it. Indeed, her schemes for women’s development were falling on the wayside, occurring at a time when her army – led by then military director Gen. Pervez Musharraf – pushed the Taliban to power in Afghanistan.

During this era of the mid `90’s, Pakistan appeared to have parallel governments. While the military gave a free hand to Islamic parties to prepare the Taliban for jehad in Afghanistan, Benazir’s government mobilized women for a show of force at the Fourth World Women Conference in Beijing.

In 1995, notwithstanding my critical reporting of the PPP, the party leadership nominated me to travel to Beijing as part of the government delegation. There I saw the glamorous and eloquent Benazir take the global community by storm -- speaking articulately as she did about the measures taken on behalf of the women of Pakistan.

Personally, I had less reason to be impressed by Benazir’s eloquence, knowing of the bitter realities for women back home. Indeed, nothing had changed from the report compiled in 1985 by the Commission on the Status of Women set up under Gen. Zia ul Haq: "The average rural women of Pakistan is born in near slavery, leads a life of drudgery and dies invariably in oblivion’.

Despite a growing sense that Benazir’s government lacked teeth, for one year I traveled every fortnight to Islamabad on the PPP government’s invitation to work on a Five Year Plan for women. We were a select group of women, mostly from non governmental organizations, who were entrusted with following up on the Beijing Platform for Action. And yet as the weeks rolled by, I felt increasingly entangled in the web of planning.

In August 1996, while I helped draft the Five Year plan for women in Islamabad, a panic rumor did the rounds that Benazir’s government was about to be sacked for a second time. As a journalist I had seen the end coming. Sectarian violence and extra judicial killings were rife. Indeed, Benazir appeared to act more frequently like the leader of the opposition rather than as the elected Prime Minister.

In September 1996, the Taliban took power in Afghanistan. A week later, Benazir’s brother Murtaza was killed. That set the ball rolling for Benazir’s removal – and she was dismissed 60 days later.

Fast forward ten years: I met Benazir again in 2006, when she arrived in Maryland to address a gathering of expatriate supporters. The PPP chairperson and former Prime Minister had lived in exile in Dubai and London since Gen. Musharraf seized power in 1999. A year later, I too had left the country to teach a course in gender politics at Amherst College, Massachusetts.

At that meeting, Benazir was making a pitch to the U.S. administration that they ought to look beyond the military to a civilian ruler to fight the `War on Terror.’ The expatriate community exalted Benazir’s leadership, as she looked on with her familiar regal air. Afterwards, I made my way through her bevy of fans, to say hello. She reacted with surprise and warmth and wanted to know where I had been. "Wait," she said, "I want to see you." Shortly thereafter, she sent word through her emissary at my lunch table that she’d like to see me at the home of a party Senator in Maryland.

It was a relaxed Benazir I met, her head scarf off and with the engaging style of a party socialite. Her husband, Asif Zardari, released after eight years of imprisonment, joked around in his cheerful manner. Surrounded by a small group of Washington based elites, Benazir was updating herself on Pakistan, including getting a sense of `Who’s Who’ at the different tiers of government. She probed me closely on how effective President Musharraf had been in the `War on Terror’ and the manner in which that was being projected in the Western media.

As we stood alone by the tea table, I told her I was glad she still had the courage to plunge back into Pakistan’s volatile politics. There was stillness in her lowered gaze, an unspoken aura that it was her destiny to do so.

Benazir knew that Pakistan had become vastly more dangerous since September 11. It was consistent with the Benazir I knew that just two months before her murder she had sent an e-mail to her U.S. consultant and spokesman, Mark Siegel that in the event she was assassinated, she would hold President Musharraf responsible.

Indeed, Benazir’s return had become even more dangerous after the clandestine meetings she held with Pakistan military officials prior to her return. There were any numbers of Islamic militants determined to eliminate Benazir, even as a section of the military may have been threatened by the prospects of her becoming Prime Minister. And yet, determined to adopt that route, she followed a separate track from civil society groups working to restore the independence of the judiciary and end curbs on the media.

The day Benazir landed in Karachi after eight years of self-exile, a series of car bombs killed 150 poor people in her humongous welcome procession. It was a harbinger of things to come. Pakistan was no longer the country Benazir or I had left before September 11. Back then, I was among four journalists who traveled with her on the `Democracy Train’ when it was welcomed by thousands of joyful, drum beating villagers in Sindh. We rode fearlessly in her processions atop open vehicles, never knowing the existence of suicide attacks.

In the aftermath of Benazir’s assassination, the masses vented their rage and frustration through the destruction of state property. Her murder left the PPP cadre numb with shock, and created a sense of disbelief in society. It has slowed down the campaign for February elections, even while the threat of violence has confined political leaders to indoor meetings and media advertisements.

In Pakistan, Benazir’s murder is viewed as a derailment of the democratic process. If there is any common unifying ground between the PPP, civil rights groups and the masses, it is their expressed mistrust in an impartial investigation into her murder. This is an issue that will linger on even after the February elections. Currently, there is unanimity among the people in Pakistan that the United Nations needs to form an independent body to investigate who really killed Benazir Bhutto.

Nafisa Hoodbhoy is a former reporter for Pakistan's daily Dawn newspaper, and is now based in Washington D.C.

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Pakistani Taliban warlord arises as terrorist leader

Pakistani Taliban warlord arises as terrorist leader
By Saeed Shah and Tim Johnson, McClatchy Newspapers; Wed Jan 30,

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan _The shadowy new terrorist leader who's being blamed for the assassination of former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto embodies a growing threat to the U.S.-backed Pakistani government, to America's supply line to Afghanistan and to the Bush administration's hopes for tracking down Osama bin Laden and defeating al Qaida.

A few months ago, few Pakistanis and even fewer Americans had heard of Baitullah Mehsud, and there are no pictures of the face of the Pashtun-speaking tribal chief from the rugged border area with Afghanistan . But in December, he was chosen to lead the Taliban Movement of Pakistan , a nascent Islamist insurgent coalition on Pakistan's northwestern frontier that preaches a radical form of Islam and opposes nuclear-armed Pakistan's secular regime.

According to Pakistani authorities, Mehsud is behind the murderous bomb attacks that have shaken the country in the last year. They also accuse him of ordering the Dec. 27 killing of Bhutto, a charge that the CIA has backed up. Mehsud has denied any role.

So many accusations have been hung around Mehsud's neck that some observers question whether he can be so powerful. Others say his brutal rise is only beginning.

Mehsud operates from South Waziristan, within a wild mountainous region bordering Afghanistan that's known as the Federally Administered Tribal Areas. He reportedly commands at least 5,000 armed followers— maybe many more— and models himself on Mullah Omar, the fugitive leader of the Afghan Taliban, with whom he acknowledges spiritual links.

Cunning but not well-educated, Mehsud orchestrated the killings of more than 100 maliks— traditional tribal leaders— in his area, many of whom wanted to talk peace with Pakistani authorities. Late last year, he humiliated Pakistan's army by kidnapping 250 soldiers, holding them for weeks and letting them go only in exchange for militants held in Pakistani jails.

In his first television interview, given last week to al Jazeera, Mehsud said his armed militants sought to drive the Pakistani army out of the tribal areas. He acknowledged his links to al Qaida and voiced ambitions beyond Pakistan's borders. Al Jazeera didn't show his face.

"We pray to God to give us the ability to destroy the White House, New York and London ," he told the network. "Very soon, we will be witnessing jihad's miracles." He called for a "defensive jihad," asking Muslims from around the world to support his fight.

The apparent success of Mehsud and his allies in Pakistan's tribal badlands has led the Pentagon and the CIA to lobby to be allowed to intervene.

For the last week, Pakistani troops backed by artillery and helicopter gunships have fought Mehsud's men in South Waziristan. On Tuesday, a missile struck a reputed hideout of Pakistani Taliban in a village in North Waziristan, in Pakistan's tribal belt.

Some 40 Pakistani Taliban leaders, representing all parts of the tribal areas and many settled regions in northwest Pakistan , formed the movement known as Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan in December, demonstrating the organization's ambition and reach. The group's spokesman has claimed responsibility for a number of attacks on security forces in the area.

President Pervez Musharraf said recently that "most if not all suicide bombings (in Pakistan ) can be traced" to Mehsud.

Some accounts say Mehsud is in his early 30s, but according to retired Brig. Gen. Mahmood Shah he's well into his 40s, which may make more sense given that he's supposed to have cut his jihadi teeth battling the Soviets in Afghanistan in the 1980s. Shah, formerly the top security official in the tribal areas, negotiated a peace accord with Mehsud through intermediaries in February 2005 .

"He is a very devoted Taliban," Shah said. "He is really motivated and not jumpy like some others. He's a very clever, surefooted animal. And when you talk to him he's very gentle, very respectful."

The flight of foreign Islamic radicals from Afghanistan — under military pressure from U.S. and NATO troops— into Pakistan's tribal border areas is one element in Mehsud's rise.

"He's kind of at the intersection of three groups of bad guys. There's the Afghan Taliban, under Mullah Omar. You also have the Pakistan Taliban. Then there are allied fighters," said Christine Fair , a South Asia expert at the RAND Corp. , a nonprofit research center with offices in Arlington, Va .

Mehsud has embraced several hundred Arab, Uzbek, Tajik and Chechen militants who fled Afghanistan and who fight for Taliban and al Qaida causes from South Waziristan.

"The Chechens and the Uzbeks, especially the Uzbeks, are known to be involved in the day-to-day fighting," said Ijaz Khan , a political scientist at the University of Peshawar .

How Mehsud's militants finance themselves is unclear. Analysts say charities in the oil-rich Persian Gulf countries send money and that other funds flow from Afghanistan , where the heroin trade is booming. Mehsud told al Jazeera that his group's leaders "don't know how some money has come to us or who has paid it."

"He's been funded from Russia and from India to degrade the Pakistani army," said Shah, the retired brigadier general. "They are financing the Uzbeks, and the Uzbeks help" the Pakistani Taliban.

Many Pakistanis don't consider Mehsud a menace. They're as likely to blame the spate of bombings and Bhutto's assassination on assailants with links to the intelligence services under Musharraf as on religious extremists.

"It is very easy to put the blame on someone who is sitting in a mountain retreat," said Rustam Shah Mehmand, Pakistan's former ambassador to Afghanistan . "I don't think Baitullah Mehsud has such long arms to be committing such brazen acts of violence."

Hassan Abbas , the author of the book " Pakistan's Drift Into Extremism" and a research fellow at Harvard University , said there were perhaps a dozen militant groups in Pakistan that were capable of killing Bhutto, including Lashkar-e-Jhangvi and Jaish-e-Mohammad.

Kamran Bokhari , the head of Middle East research at Strategic Forecasting, a private intelligence firm based in Austin, Texas , pointed out that unlike the very loose organizational structure that al Qaida favors, Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan is highly centralized.

"From an operational point of view, that's deadly," Bokhari said.

If Mehsud is the rising terrorist mastermind that authorities affirm, he's demonstrated skill at reaching across the nation with attacks.

"He's shown his ability to strike outside of the tribal areas with these suicide bombers," said Rahimullah Yusufzai , the editor in Peshawar , which is near the tribal areas, for the national daily newspaper The News and a recognized expert on the Taliban. "He has sent suicide bombers after every military strike against him."

After Bhutto's assassination, authorities produced an audio recording of a lengthy mobile-phone conversation said to be between Mehsud and a cleric, during which Mehsud supposedly expressed congratulations over the killing of Bhutto, although her name is never mentioned.

"The credibility of that cassette is very much in doubt," said retired Gen. Asad Durrani , a former head of Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence directorate. "Groups that can carry out such actions are wise enough not to claim credit on the telephone. The moment you start speaking, you can be targeted."

(Shah is a McClatchy special correspondent.)

What Former Pakistani Generals Must Apologize For

Editorial: What the generals must apologise for
Daily Times, February 1, 2008

The group of retired Pakistani generals and military officers who have asked General (Retd) Pervez Musharraf to resign as president of Pakistan have now reportedly decided to “apologise” to the nation “for imposing martial laws in the past, abrogating the Constitution several times, and not letting democracy flourish in the last 60 years”. The first “apology” session was to have taken place Thursday to which the retired brass had invited President Musharraf himself.

There is a newspaper report that the “letter” to President Musharraf by the retired generals was mishandled because the group, led by General (Retd) Faiz Ali Chishti, could not organise its composition properly and had allowed names to be named without first getting permission from those named. However, the first speaker is said to be General (Retd) Abdul Majid Malik, “who was a major in 1956 when he drafted a resignation which General Ayub Khan forced President Iskandar Mirza to sign”. He will presumably also apologise for siding with General Musharraf when he took over the government of the country in 1999 and split his party, the PML.

He will be followed by General (Retd) Mirza Aslam Beg, a former army chief, “whose political ambitions had forced the then president Ghulam Ishaq Khan to nominate Gen Asif Nawaz as the new Army chief three months prior to Gen Beg’s retirement”. The newspaper report says: “His role in the famous Mehran Bank scandal and misuse of ISI funds for electoral/political manipulation is still fresh in public memory”. The report adds: “His then DG ISI, General (Retd) Asad Durrani, who had distributed Rs 140 million to win over the “for-sale” politicians never felt ashamed of his role or offered an apology”.

One has to add that the retired generals have more to answer for than what has been designated in the announcement. Most of them will get a free ride condemning what they have not done directly and will succeed in targeting President Musharraf as a political gimmick unless they also do some more navel-gazing and confess to professional and moral crimes which they committed when they were in service, including acquisition of properties and mismanagement of military operations.

General (Retd) Aslam Beg will have to also apologise for bringing the Supreme Court in contempt when he admitted that he had influenced the chief justice. When confronted with challenging a general, the Supreme Court under Justice Zullah forgivably got cold feet and let Gen Beg go scot free. (We saw what happened to the Supreme Court in November 2007 when it tried to stand up to a general.) General Beg must also apologise for warning the then Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto off a large area of internal and external policy in 1988. He has also got to apologise to the then Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif for violating an agreed foreign policy decision to send Pakistani troops to Saudi Arabia when Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait in 1990, and for trying to negotiate a nuclear deal with Iran without consulting Mr Sharif.

We must insist that General (Retd) Musharraf apologise for the Kargil Operation which was more an example of professional incompetence than defiance of the Nawaz Sharif government whom he accuses of having agreed to the operation. He must apologise for undermining the visit of the Indian Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee when Mr Sharif was prime minister. But at the same time we must insist that General (Retd) Hameed Gul should apologise for planning the disastrous Jalalabad operation in 1989 as a prelude to the ISI setting up a government of the mujahideen. He has been boasting of having organised the IJI against the PPP. He must apologise first to the PPP for having done the sordid deed; after that, he must apologise for lack of wits because the IJI could not maintain its two-thirds majority for long.

General (Retd) Faiz Ali Chishti, who heads the Pakistan Ex-Servicemen Society, which last week issued a blunt open letter signed by more than 100 senior officers, calling on President Musharraf to quit, has to apologise, not only for being a willing and core partner in the military coup of General Zia-ul Haq in 1977 but of the thoughtless things he has since been saying on TV. By the same token, many senior officers have to confess to having less brains than needed for commanding an army. It is only after confessing to all the personality and intellectual defects of the generals that the Ex-Servicemen Society will be seen as justified in trying to get President Musharraf to step down. General (Retd) Chishti not long ago came on TV to explain why the army did not educate the nation. His answer was: if the roof is leaking why put good furniture in the room?

The biggest crime to which many retired generals must confess, and then apologise for, is the policy of seeking “strategic depth” in Afghanistan because the consequences of this policy are now threatening to actually spell the end of Pakistan itself. In fact, some of these retired generals are too tainted for mouthing principles that the civil society of Pakistan has decided to uphold. They should keep zip up unless they are ready to give up what they have enjoyed over the years and are still enjoying at the cost of the nation. *

Also See:Retired generals refuse to apologise,but want Musharraf to go - The News

US Air Strike kills Al-Qaida's Abu Laith al-Libi in Pakistan

Top al-Qaida Figure Killed in Pakistan

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan (AP) — One of al-Qaida's top figures, Abu Laith al-Libi, has been killed in Pakistan, an Islamist Web site announced Thursday. Pakistani officials and residents said a dozen people, including seven Arabs, died in a missile strike in northwestern Pakistan near the Afghan border.

Al-Libi was believed to be the key link between the Taliban and al-Qaida and was blamed for masterminding the bombing an American base while Vice President Dick Cheney was visiting Afghanistan last year. He was listed among the Americans' 12 most-wanted men with a bounty of $200,000 on his head.

Pakistani officials denied any knowledge of al-Libi's death. The killing of such a major al-Qaida figure is likely to embarrass President Pervez Musharraf, who has repeatedly said he would not sanction U.S. military action against al-Qaida members believed to be regrouping in the lawless area near the Afghan border.

A Web site that frequently carries announcements from militant groups said al-Libi had been "martyred with a group of his brothers in the land of Muslim Pakistan" but gave no further details.

However, Pakistani intelligence officials and residents said a missile struck a compound late Monday or early Tuesday about 2 1/2 miles from the Pakistani town of Mir Ali in North Waziristan, killing 12 people, including seven Arabs as well as Pakistanis and Central Asians.

Residents said they could hear U.S. Predator drones flying in the area shortly before the explosion, which destroyed the compound.

The Pakistani newspaper Dawn said the victims were buried in a local cemetery.

Rumors spread Thursday in the border area that al-Libi or his deputy died in the missile strike. But Pakistan's Interior Ministry spokesman, Javed Iqbal Cheema, insisted authorities had "no information" indicating al-Libi was dead.

One intelligence official in the area, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the matter, said the bodies of those killed were badly mangled by the force of the explosion and it was difficult to identify them. The official estimated 12 people were killed, including Arabs, Turkomen from Central Asia and local Taliban members.

In Washington, a Western official said that "it appears at this point that al-Libi has met his demise," but declined to talk about the circumstances. "It was a major success in taking one of the top terrorists in the world off the street," the official said. He added that the death occurred "within the last few days."

Defense Secretary Robert Gates said he did not "have anything definitive" to say on reports of al-Libi's death.

The Libyan-born al-Libi was among the most high-profile figures in al-Qaida after its leader Osama bin Laden and his deputy Ayman al-Zawahri.

In spring 2007, al-Qaida's media wing, Al-Sahab, released a video interview with a bearded man identified as al-Libi. In it, he accuses Shiite Muslims of fighting alongside American forces in Iraq, and claimed that mujahedeen would crush foreign troops in Afghanistan.

The U.S. says al-Libi was likely behind the February 2007 bombing at the U.S. base at Bagram in Afghanistan during a visit by Cheney. The attack killed 23 people but Cheney was deep inside the sprawling base and was not hurt.

The bombing added to the impression that Western forces and the shaky government of Afghan President Hamid Karzai are vulnerable to assault by Taliban and al-Qaida militants.

Al-Libi also led an al-Qaida training camp and appeared in a number of al-Qaida Internet videos.

He was known to maintain close ties with tribes living on the Pakistani side of the mountainous border, where U.S. officials believe al-Qaida has been regrouping.

A Pakistani intelligence official said that al-Libi was based near Mir Ali until late 2003 when he moved back into Afghanistan to take charge of al-Qaida operations on both sides of the border area. But he retained links with North Waziristan, the official said on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the information.

Mir Ali is the second-biggest town in North Waziristan and has a strong presence of foreign militants, mostly Uzbeks with links to al-Qaida who fled to Pakistan's tribal regions after the fall of the Taliban regime in Afghanistan in 2001.

The U.S. has in the past sought to kill top al-Qaida leaders but with limited success.

Al-Zawahri, al-Qaida's second-in-command, was the target of a U.S. airstrike in Pakistan near the Afghan border on Jan. 13, 2006, but he was not at the site of the attack. Pakistan condemned the missile strike that killed at least 17 people in the village of Damadola in the Bajur tribal area, about four miles inside Pakistan.

Pakistani security officials said four top operatives were believed to be killed in that strike. The officials said the operatives included Midhat Mursi al-Sayid Umar, who the U.S. Justice Department called an explosives and poisons expert; Abu Obaidah al-Masri, the al-Qaida chief responsible for attacks on U.S. forces in eastern Afghanistan; and Abdul Rehman al-Maghribi, a Moroccan and relative of al-Zawahri, possibly his son-in-law.

Some of the officials also said a fourth man, Khalid Habib, the al-Qaida operations chief along the Afghan-Pakistan border, was believed to be dead.

Associated Press correspondents Paul Schemm in Cairo, Fisnik Abrashi in Kabul, Zarar Khan in Islamabad and Riaz Khan in Peshawar, Pakistan contributed to this report.

Also See:
U.S. missile strike in Pakistan hit al Qaeda nest - Reuters

FRONTLINE/World | Talat Hussain on Musharraf's Policies

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Hamid Karzai in Trouble?

Hamid Karzai gets tough with Lord Ashdown
By David Blair; Telegraph, January 29, 2008

Of the 10 men who have served as Afghanistan's president in the past three decades, four were murdered and one strung up from a lamppost and disembowelled.

David Blair: President Pervez Musharraf's many faces
Bear this in mind when you judge President Hamid Karzai's erratic behaviour and his abrupt withdrawal of support for Lord Ashdown's appointment as UN envoy in Kabul. The former Lib Dem leader knows from personal experience that the worst possible fate for a British politician is swift elevation to the House of Lords.

Hamid Karzai must demonstrate his independence from the West

The penalty for political failure in Kabul can be very bad indeed. Mr Karzai must live with the knowledge that every one of his predecessors for the past 107 years, whether kings or presidents, was overthrown violently. You have to go back to King Abdur Rahman, who died in 1901, to find an Afghan leader who managed to avoid being ousted or assassinated.

Hence Mr Karzai's struggle for political survival is uppermost in his mind. Across the Muslim world - and most pertinently among his own Pashtun people - Mr Karzai faces the charge that he is nothing more than a Western puppet. American and British soldiers keep him in office, say the critics, and his leadership is merely a tool for Washington's "war on terror" which, they claim, is really a "crusade against Islam".

So Mr Karzai must seize opportunities to demonstrate his independence. This means picking occasional rows with a Western ally, as he did by criticising the performance of British troops in Helmand last week. Publicly humbling a prominent foreigner might also be expedient - and Lord Ashdown fitted the bill.

Yet behind these manoeuvres lies a profound division between Mr Karzai and his Western allies. If he is to survive, Mr Karzai must have powerful Afghan allies, yet this causes immediate tension with his Western supporters. They object to him having anything to do with drug smugglers, warlords, corrupt businessmen or Taliban-style Muslim extremists.

Yet in the quicksands of Afghan politics, these are very important people. If Mr Karzai is not allowed to deal with them, he may not survive for long. Moreover, political coalitions in Afghanistan do not form for ideological reasons. No one important will back Mr Karzai because they approve of his economic policies or his plans to extend primary education for girls. They will back him for money.

advertisementA feature of Afghan politics is that large piles of cash - or the opportunity to make illicit fortunes from government contracts - find their way into the pockets of deeply unsavoury people. Mr Karzai's chief complaint about the British in Helmand was that they prevailed on him to sack the provincial governor and a local police chief. One was implicated in the drugs trade, while the other was a suspected murderer.

But regardless of their morals, Mr Karzai saw them as necessary allies in a volatile area. Their removal, he said, only opened the way for Taliban subversion.

Behind the argument about Western policy towards Afghanistan lies a struggle between optimism and realism. Optimists think that Afghanistan can be recreated as a stable, prospering democracy.

History cautions otherwise. Afghanistan has been fought over for millennia, with conquerors ranging from Alexander the Great to Genghis Khan. The modern state emerged in the 19th century as a buffer between Russia's Tsarist Empire and British India. Its present boundaries, set during King Abdur Rahman's reign between 1880 and 1901, are a classic example of imperial statecraft. The vital eastern frontier with present-day Pakistan was drawn by a British civil servant, Sir Henry Mortimer Durand, in 1893.

These manoeuvres created a landlocked country, largely devoid of natural resources and riven by ethnic and religious rivalries. The Durand Line slices through the Pashtuns' homeland, dividing them between Afghanistan and Pakistan. Even today, populists call for Afghanistan to repudiate the border, invade Pakistan and forge a united "Pashtun-stan".

Modern Afghanistan has always been ungovernable. No ruler in Kabul has managed to control all the national territory, except during brief interludes between civil wars or regional insurgencies.

Contrast this with Iraq, the West's other exercise in nation-building. Baghdad governments had always controlled all the national territory until the Kurdish revolt of 1991. And Iraq is blessed with oil wealth. Given these structural advantages, Iraq seems a safer bet than Afghanistan.

So the history of Afghanistan counsels realism. If the country can become a functioning state that does not export drugs or terrorists, that will be a resounding achievement. In the meantime, we should not be too hard on Mr Karzai or fuss about his choice of allies. Simply by trying to prove that Afghanistan is governable, he is defying the lesson of history.

Also See:
Afghan reports offer bleak assessments - BBC
Problems with troops, aid and time means Afghan war may not be forgotten so easily - Times online
Kabul diplomats' concerns grow regarding Karzai - Financial Times
Afghanistan may plunge into 'failed state,' experts warn - AFP

Musharraf's Trip to Europe for Pakistan's 'Image-building'

'Denigrating Pakistan'
By Husain Haqqani, The Nation (Pakistan) January 30, 2008

Most heads of state paint a positive picture of their nation. During his recent tour of Europe, General (retired) Pervez Musharraf did the exact opposite. According to him,Pakistan's people are "ill disciplined," "tribal" and "feudal," and certainly not ready for modern democracy. Pakistan's politicians, in his view, are "corrupt." Its Supreme Court judges are "politicized," "inept," "corrupt," and "nepotistic." Its most respected media personalities are "undermining our forces and [their] own country." Pakistan's religious leaders, we have repeatedly been told, are "extremists."

The impact of Musharraf's assertions was reflected in the question posed to me by a European intellectual in the Conference Centre Lounge of the World Economic Forum inDavos, Switzerland. "When he has so much contempt for his own nation why does Musharraf want to lead it?" he wondered.

Before arriving in Davos, Musharraf gave a longish speech in Brussels during which he argued that Pakistan should not be judged by European standards of human rights. He pleaded with members of the European Parliament to have "more patience" with his unique brand of constitution-suspending "democracy." Musharraf's exact words were, "We are for democracy and I have introduced the essence of democracy, but we cannot be as forward looking as you are [in the West]. Allow us some time to reach that state."
Describing the West's concern with democracy in the third world as an "obsession," he said, "You have taken centuries to reach where you have come. Allow us time for going for the value that you have reached for yourself."

The problem with that line of reasoning is that it raises questions about Pakistan's preparedness for modernity. If Pakistan is modern enough to be a nuclear weapons power and an attractive destination for foreign investment, why does it have a problem embracing modern democracy? If it needs time to be "forward looking" then why should the backwardness apply selectively to human rights and democracy and not to the other characteristics of being a modern power?

Musharraf's assertions about democracy were reminiscent of comments by Nobel Laureate Rudyard Kipling, whom George Orwell described as the "prophet of British imperialism." When asked by a journalist in 1891 in Australia about the possibility of self-government in India, Kipling had said "Oh no, they are 4,000 years old out there, much too old to learn that business. Law and order is what they want and we are there to give it to them and we give it to them straight."

Apart from muddying the waters about the prospect of human rights and democracy in Pakistan, Musharraf also confused interviewers and audiences about Pakistan's priorities in the war against terrorism. He told his audience at the French Institute for International Relations that it is more important for his Pakistani troops on the Afghan border to root out the Taliban than search for al-Qaida leaders. That Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri are still at large "doesn't mean much," he said and suggested they are far less a threat to his regime than Taliban-linked militants entrenched in Pakistan's west. The problem is many westerners remember that from 2002 onwards Musharraf's line used to be "We are going after Al-Qaeda but the Taliban are not such a priority." His latest U-turn is bound to result in many new research papers and articles in days to come.

Musharraf should not have wasted time touring European capitals to try and convince western governments of Pakistan's stability and his own good intentions. He should, instead, have faced the evaporation of support for his authoritarian regime at home. His trip has helped project Pakistan as a troubled country and his own attitude during that trip has not helped his own battered image.

A simple browsing of all the interviews Musharraf gave during this trip reveals an unwillingness to make adjustments or acknowledge mistakes. He told one interviewer that he would leave power when he is convinced that the people of Pakistan want him to quit. But it would only be his "feeling" and personal knowledge, not the results of an election, opinion poll or any other mechanism that would determine when the people no longer support him. Such reasoning might have impressed Musharraf's own entourage, it only attracted sighs or giggles from outsiders.

When Nik Gowing of BBC World TV asked him about the statement by one hundred retired senior military officers demanding his resignation, Musharraf's response was that only ten people had signed the statement. This made him appear like a ruler out of touch with reality. His description of the statement's signatories as "insignificant personalities" some of whom had "served under me and I kicked them out" showed him to be arrogant.

Many of the retired military men criticizing him were senior to Musharraf in the armed forces. Air Marshals Asghar Khan and Nur Khan are war heroes, unblemished by charges of intrigue. Lt. General Faiz Ali Chishti was a Corps Commander when Musharraf was probably a Lt. Colonel. Lt. General Talat Masood is recognized for his contribution to the indigenization of Pakistan's weapons capability. One need not agree with Lt. General Hamid Gul to recognize that he is far from insignificant. Lt. General Ali Quli Khan would have been army chief instead of Musharraf if the latter had not persuaded former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif of his personal loyalty. In retirement, Ali Quli Khan is still significant because he did not try to reach the top by feigning personal loyalty that has been the consistent pattern for Pakistan's coup-making generals.

The dignified response from Musharraf to a statement by senior retired military men would have been silence. Similarly, there would have been less embarrassment for the government if handfuls of Musharraf supporters had not been asked to face much larger demonstrations by his critics. On occasion of Musharraf's meting with British Prime Minister Gordon Brown at No. 10 Downing Street, the media reported that thirty (30) pro-Musharraf demonstrators showed up with his portraits to face several hundred opponents. The one is to ten ratio of supporters to opponents in Londonistan exposed Musharraf's lack of support in Pakistan even further.

Pakistanis may be divided by ideology, ethnicity and class but they are increasingly uniting in their disapproval of Mr. Musharraf and the civil-military oligarchy he represents. The Western media is not buying into Musharraf's sales pitch that he is a valuable ally in the war against terrorism and the governments cannot be far behind. A ruler widely disliked by his own people is unlikely to be effective in defeating the expanding insurgency waged by Al-Qaeda's Taliban allies.

Musharraf is failing to recognize the widening gulf between State and society and appears ill-prepared to address its ramifications. His western backers especially British Prime Minister Gordon Brown and President Bush cannot forever ignore public opinion within their own countries, which seems to be that Musharraf's policies are undermining the war against terror while accentuating Pakistan's difficulties. In an effort to maintain international support, Musharraf is saying things that make him sound increasingly out of touch and haughty, while raising questions about Pakistan, the State, and causing erosion of respect for Pakistan, the nation.

Husain Haqqani, Professor of International Relations at Boston University, is Co-Chair of the Hudson Institute's Project on Islam and Democracy and author of the Carnegie Endowment book 'Pakistan Between Mosque and Military.' He served as an adviser to Ms Bhutto.

Journalism in Pakistan: An American's Experience

For Journalists in Pakistan, That's the Way It Is
By Nicholas Schmidle
Washington Post, January 31, 2008;

The police came for me on a cold, rainy Tuesday night last month. They stood in front of my home in Islamabad, four men with hoods pulled over their heads in the driving rain. The senior officer, a tall, clean-shaven man, and I recognized one another from recent protests and demonstrations. Awkwardly, almost apologetically, he handed me a notice ordering my immediate expulsion from Pakistan. Rain spilled off a nearby awning and fell loudly into puddles.

I asked, somewhat obtusely, what this meant. "I am here to take you to the airport," the officer shrugged. "Tonight."

The document he'd given me provided no explanation for my expulsion, but I immediately felt that there was some connection to the travels and reporting I had done for a story published two days earlier in the New York Times Magazine, about a dangerous new generation of Taliban in Pakistan. I had spent several months traveling throughout the troubled areas along the border with Afghanistan, including Quetta (in Baluchistan), and Dera Ismail Khan, Peshawar and Swat (all in the North-West Frontier Province). My visa listed no travel restrictions, and less than a week earlier, President Pervez Musharraf had sat before a roomful of foreign journalists in Islamabad and told them that they could go anywhere they wanted in Pakistan.

The truth, however, is that foreign journalists are barred from almost half the country; in most cases, their visas are restricted to three cities -- Islamabad, Lahore and Karachi. In Baluchistan province, which covers 44 percent of Pakistan and where ethnic nationalists are fighting a low-level insurgency, the government requires prior notification and approval if you want to travel anywhere outside the capital of Quetta. Such permission is rarely given. And the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), where the pro-Taliban militants are strong, are completely off-limits. Musharraf's government says that journalists are kept out for their own security. But meanwhile, two conflicts go unreported in one of the world's most vital -- and misunderstood -- countries.

There's no doubt that journalists in Pakistan, and throughout Central and South Asia, face great risks. Nine Central and South Asian journalists were among the 65 newsmen and women worldwide -- more than in any other year in the past decade, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists -- who lost their lives while doing their jobs in 2007. Five were Pakistanis. One died in FATA and one in the North-West Frontier Province, areas where the Taliban operate with increasing openness. Two others died in Taliban- or al-Qaeda-related violence, one during the Red Mosque siege in July and one in the terrorist attack on Benazir Bhutto's motorcade as she returned to Pakistan on Oct. 18, which left more than 140 dead.

Also in October, in the Kyrgyz city of Osh, a gunman using a silencer murdered Voice of America reporter Alisher Saipov, a good friend of mine and a fearless opponent of the regime in neighboring Uzbekistan. More recently, Taliban militants raided the exclusive and high-security Serena Hotel in Kabul, Afghanistan, one detonating himself in a suicide blast while the others combed the hallways, seeking and firing at targets; one Norwegian journalist died.

And yet throughout the region, journalism is considered perhaps the noblest profession around. In many of these countries, information is hoarded by corrupt, authoritarian leaders. Trying to expose it can be a liberating and empowering experience. That's why the state of the media there -- and the ability of foreign journalists to report what's going on -- should concern the West.

It's no secret that stifled societies often produce frustrated, angry youth. Pakistan, for example, is an amazing and fascinating country, filled with amazing and fascinating people, but every day, small numbers of young men and women there are brainwashed into thinking that the only answer to Musharraf's U.S.-backed regime is terrorism.

I moved to Pakistan in February 2006 on a research and writing fellowship. My wife left her job and joined me soon after. We had been married just three months; I convinced her that two years in Pakistan would be like a honeymoon that just wouldn't stop. We both learned to speak Urdu and embraced local customs (and clothes). She enrolled at the International Islamic University (the only non-Muslim American ever to do so), and I traveled extensively throughout the country. Pakistan became our home. Unhindered by deadlines and with a grasp of the language, I uncovered a side of Pakistan that few other foreign writers have been fortunate enough to experience.

My desire to explore regions and themes rarely addressed in mainstream media coverage took me to a number of areas often considered dangerous or hostile to Westerners. And yet I found the people there overwhelmingly hospitable -- and not at all scary. I soon learned how to assess -- and, to some extent, manage -- any potential hazards. I almost always traveled with a local journalist or two who knew the people, languages and customs far better than I ever could. Besides understanding which roads were safe to travel at night, they would also be aware that interviewing particular people might attract the unwanted attention of Pakistan's intelligence services, incuding the notorious ISI. When they advised, I listened.

Foreign writers in Baluchistan have always attracted the nervous attention of the intelligence services. A year ago, agents burst into the hotel room of a female New York Times correspondent and physically assaulted her. (She was reporting on the presence of top Taliban leaders in Quetta.) Another foreign journalist staying at the same hotel received a phone call threatening that unless he left Quetta immediately he would face the "consequences" like Daniel Pearl, the Wall Street Journal correspondent whom Islamic militants kidnapped and beheaded in January 2002.

Following my last visit to Baluchistan, in October 2006, intelligence goons stopped by my house on a regular basis for weeks, demanding to speak with me and asking my guard probing questions about my wife and me. The guard quietly shared these conversations with me out of earshot of my wife. I laughed about it with fellow writers and reporters, figuring that such visits were just the price of researching and reporting in Baluchistan.

But what makes Pakistan and the region an often hostile place for journalists is the difficulty of assessing the threat. While most fatalities last year occurred in random bombings and terrorist attacks, deadly incidents in years past remain shrouded in mystery. For instance, in December 2005, Hayatullah Khan, a journalist from North Waziristan, filed a story with photographs that gave evidence -- a piece of a U.S.-made Hellfire missile -- that the United States was conducting strikes against Taliban- and al-Qaeda-linked targets inside Pakistani territory. The photos were undoubtedly an embarrassment to the government, which had publicly insisted that U.S. military forays would not be allowed inside Pakistan.

Just a few weeks earlier, Khan had written a will, in which he stated, "If I am kidnapped or get killed, the government agencies will be responsible." The day after his story and the photos were published, gunmen ran his car off the road and kidnapped him. Six months later, his body was dumped in the bazaar in Miram Shah, the capital of North Waziristan.

A couple of weeks ago, a spokesman from the Information Ministry said that "the media in Pakistan is the freest ever in the history of the country." In many ways, he was correct; drawing-room columnists can be as critical as they wish to be. But opinion-writing shouldn't be confused with reporting. And every journalist working in Pakistan knows that crossing certain undefined lines can become a risky, often life-threatening endeavor. Pearl and Khan were both doing serious investigative work when they were kidnapped and killed.

Hamid Mir, one of Pakistan's most respected TV and print journalists, watched as his TV channel, GEO TV, and his talk show were pulled off the air after Musharraf imposed a state of emergency on Nov. 3. (On Jan. 21, GEO resumed broadcasting, albeit without Mir's show.) Mir recently e-mailed me: "Musharraf believes in removing people from the scene. . . . He cannot remove us from history."

Journalism, as the cliche goes, is the "first rough draft of history." If that's the case, then Pakistan's history is suffering.

On that wet Tuesday night, I finally connected by phone with an influential friend, who placed a couple of calls and made the cops go home. But it was obvious that my wife and I were no longer welcome in Pakistan. My mobile phone had been tapped for weeks. For the first time in two years, I feared for our safety. The next morning, we bought two one-way tickets back to the States. Within two days, we had pawned off out cat and packed or sold the rest of our belongings.

On our last night in Islamabad, a half-dozen expatriate friends came over to send us off -- and help drink the rest of our wine. Yet saying goodbye to our expat friends wasn't nearly as emotional as saying goodbye to our Pakistani friends and those who had done everything to protect us in those final hours.

The day after my story about the Taliban appeared, our guard, a gruff, bearded man from the North-West Frontier Province, had rebuffed the ISI inspector who'd arrived on a motorcycle and demanded to be allowed inside to conduct an investigation. A former ISI commando himself, the guard apparently told the inspector that he would never get past him and be allowed inside our house. Hugging this man on our last morning, as tears streamed down his face, was more difficult than bidding my family farewell back in February 2006 had been. Honestly, I don't know when I'll see him -- or Pakistan -- again. I miss them both already.

Nicholas Schmidle, a Pakistan-based fellow with the Institute of Current World Affairs from 2006 to 2008, is writing a book about Pakistan.

An Open Letter from Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry


His Excellency
The President of the European Parliament,

His Excellency
The President of France,

His Excellency
The Prime Minister of the United Kingdom,

Her Excellency
Ms. Condaleeza Rice,
Secretary of State,
United States of America,
Washington D.C.

Professor Klaus Schwab,
World Economic Forum,

All through their respective Ambassodors, High Commissioners and representatives.


I am the Chief Justice of Pakistan presently detained in my residence since November 3, 2007 pursuant to some verbal, and unspecified, order passed by General Musharraf.

I have found it necessary to write to you, and others, because during his recent visits to Brussels, Paris, Davos and London General Musharraf has slandered me, and my colleagues, with impunity in press conferences and other addresses and meetings. In addition he has widely distributed, among those whom he has met, a slanderous document (hereinafter the Document) entitled: "PROFILE OF THE FORMER CHIEF JUSTICE OF PAKISTAN". I might have let this go unresponded but the Document, unfortunately, is such an outrage that, with respect, it is surprising that a person claiming to be head of state should fall to such depths as to circulate such calumny against the Chief Justice of his own country.

In view of these circumstances I have no option but to join issue with General Musharraf and to put the record straight. Since he has voiced his views on several public occasions so as to reach out to the public at large, I also am constrained to address your excellencies in an Open Letter to rebut the allegations against me.

At the outset you may be wondering why I have used the words "claiming to be the head of state". That is quite deliberate. General Musharraf's constitutional term ended on November 15, 2007. His claim to a further term thereafter is the subject of active controversy before the Supreme Court of Pakistan. It was while this claim was under adjudication before a Bench of eleven learned judges of the Supreme Court that the General arrested a majority of those judges in addition to me on November 3, 2007. He thus himself subverted the judicial process which remains frozen at that point. Besides arresting the Chief Justice and judges (can there have been a greater outrage?) he also purported to suspend the Constitution and to purge the entire judiciary (even the High Courts) of all independent judges. Now only his hand-picked and compliant judges remain willing to "validate" whatever he demands. And all this is also contrary to an express and earlier order passed by the Supreme Court on November 3, 2007.

Meantime I and my colleagues remain in illegal detention. With me are also detained my wife and three of my young children, all school-going and one a special child. Such are the conditions of our detention that we cannot even step out on to the lawn for the winter sun because that space is occupied by police pickets. Barbed wire barricades surround the residence and all phone lines are cut. Even the water connection to my residence has been periodically turned off. I am being persuaded to resign and to forego my office, which is what I am not prepared to do.

I request you to seek first hand information of the barricades and of my detention, as that of my children, from your Ambassador/High Commissioner/representative in Pakistan. You will get a report of such circumstances as have never prevailed even in medieval times. And these are conditions put in place, in the twenty-first century, by a Government that you support.

Needless to say that the Constitution of Pakistan contains no provision for its suspension, and certainly not by the Chief of Army Staff. Nor can it be amended except in accordance with Articles 238 and 239 which is by Parliament and not an executive or military order. As such all actions taken by General Musharraf on and after November 3 are illegal and ultra vires the Constitution. That is why it is no illusion when I describe myself as the Chief Justice even though I am physically and forcibly incapacitated by the state apparatus under the command of the General. I am confident that as a consequence of the brave and unrelenting struggle continued by the lawyers and the civil society, the Constitution will prevail.

However, in the meantime, General Musharraf has launched upon a vigourous initiative to defame and slander me. Failing to obtain my willing abdication he has become desperate. The eight-page Document is the latest in this feverish drive.
Before I take up the Document itself let me recall that the General first ousted me from the Supreme Court on March 9 last year while filing an indictment (in the form of a Reference under Article 209 of the Constitution) against me. According to the General the Reference had been prepared after a thorough investigation and comprehensively contained all the charges against me. I had challenged that Reference and my ouster before the Supreme Court. On July 20 a thirteen member Bench unanimously struck down the action of the General as illegal and unconstitutional. I was honourably reinstated.

The Reference was thus wholly shattered and all the charges contained therein trashed. These cannot now be regurgitated except in contempt of the Supreme Court. Any way, since the Document has been circulated by no less a person than him I am constrained to submit the following for your kind consideration in rebuttal thereof:

The Document is divided into several heads but the allegations contained in it can essentially be divided into two categories: those allegations that were contained in the Reference and those that were not.

Quite obviously, those that are a repeat from the Reference hold no water as these have already been held by the Supreme Court to not be worth the ink they were written in. In fact, the Supreme Court found that the evidence submitted against me by the Government was so obviously fabricated and incorrect, that the bench took the unprecedented step of fining the Government Rs. 100,000 (a relatively small amount in dollar terms, but an unheard of sum with respect to Court Sanction in Pakistan) for filing clearly false and malicious documents, as well as revoking the license to practice of the Advocate on Record for filing false documents. Indeed, faced with the prospect of having filed clearly falsified documents against me, the Government's attorneys, including the Attorney General, took a most dishonorable but telling approach. Each one, in turn, stood before the Supreme Court and disowned the Government's Reference, and stated they had not reviewed the evidence against me before filing it with Court. They then filed a formal request to the Court to withdraw the purported evidence, and tendered an unconditional apology for filing such a scandalous and false documents. So baseless and egregious were the claims made by General Musharraf that on July 20th, 2007, the full Supreme Court for the first time in Pakistan's history, ruled unanimously against a sitting military ruler and reinstated me honorably to my post.

Despite having faced these charges in open court, must I now be slandered with those same charges by General Musharraf in world capitals, while I remain a prisoner and unable to speak in my defense?

There are, of course, a second set of charges. These were not contained in the Reference and are now being bandied around by the General at every opportunity.

I forcefully and vigorously deny every single one of them. The truth of these "new" allegations can be judged from the fact that they all ostensibly date to the period before the reference was filed against me last March, yet none of them was listed in the already bogus charge sheet.

If there were any truth to these manufactured charges, the Government should have included them in the reference against me. God knows they threw in everything including the kitchen sink into that scurrilous 450 page document, only to have it thrown out by the entire Supreme Court after a 3 month open trial.

The charges against me are so transparently baseless that General Musharraf's regime has banned the discussion of my situation and the charges in the broadcast media. This is because the ridiculous and flimsy nature of the charges is self-evident whenever an opportunity is provided to actually refute them.

Instead, the General only likes to recite his libel list from a rostrum or in gathering where there is no opportunity for anyone to respond. Incidentally, the General maligns me in the worst possible way at every opportunity. That is the basis for the Document he has distributed. But he has not just deposed me from the Judiciary. He has also fired more than half of the Superior Judiciary of Pakistan – nearly 50 judges in all -- together with me. They have also been arrested and detained.
What are the charges against them? Why should they be fired and arrested if I am the corrupt judge? Moreover even my attorneys Aitzaz Ahsan, Munir Malik, Tariq Mahmood and Ali Ahmed Kurd were also arrested on November 3. Malik alone has been released but only because both his kidneys collapsed as a result of prison torture.

Finally, as to the Document, it also contains some further allegations described as "Post-Reference Conduct" that is attributed to me under various heads. This would mean only those allegedly 'illegal' actions claimed to have been taken by me after March 9, 2007. These are under the heads given below and replied to as under:

1. "Participation in SJC (Supreme Judicial Council) Proceedings":

(a) Retaining 'political lawyers': Aitzaz Ahsan and Zammurrad Khan:

It is alleged that I gave a political colour to my defence by engaging political lawyers Aitzaz Ahsan and Zamurrad Khan both Pakistan Peoples' Party Members of the National Assembly. The answer is simple.

I sought to engage the best legal team in the country. Mr. Ahsan is of course an MNA (MP), but he is also the top lawyer in Pakistan. For that reference may be made simply to the ranking of Chambers and Partners Global. Such is his respect in Pakistan's legal landscape that he was elected President of the Supreme Court Bar Association of Pakistan by one of the widest margins in the Association's history.

All high profile personalities have placed their trust in his talents. He has thus been the attorney for Prime Ministers Bhutto and Sharif, (even though he was an opponent of the latter) Presidential candidate (against Musharraf) Justice Wajihuddin, sports star and politician Imran Khan, former Speakers, Ministers, Governors, victims of political vendetta, and also the internationally acclaimed gang-rape victim Mukhtar Mai, to mention only a few.

Equally important, Barrister Ahsan is a man of integrity who is known to withstand all pressures and enticements. That is a crucial factor in enaging an attorney when one's prosecutor is the sitting military ruler, with enourmous monetary and coercive resources at his disposal.

Mr. Zamurrad Khan is also a recognized professional lawyer, a former Secretary of the District Bar Rawalpindi, and was retained by Mr. Aitzaz Ahsan to assist him in the case. Mr. Khan has been a leading light of the Lawyers' Movement for the restoration of the deposed judiciary and has bravely faced all threats and vilification.

Finally, surely I am entitled to my choice of lawyers and not that of the General.

(b) "Riding in Mr. Zafarullah Jamali (former Prime Minister)'s car":

How much the Document tries to deceive is apparent from the allegation that I willingly rode in Mr. Jamali's car for the first hearing of the case against me on March 13 (as if that alone is an offence). Actually the Government should have been ashamed of itself for creating the circumstances that forced me to take that ride.

Having been stripped of official transport on the 9th March (my vehicles were removed from my house by the use of fork lifters), I decided to walk the one-mile to the Supreme Court. Along the way I was molested and manhandled, my hair was pulled and neck craned in the full blaze of the media, by a posse of policemen under the supervision of the Inspector General of Police. (A judicial inquiry, while I was still deposed, established this fact). In order to escape the physical assault I took refuge with Mr. Jamali and went the rest of the journey on his car. Instead of taking action against the police officials for manhandling the Chief Justice it is complained that I was on the wrong!
(c) "Creating a political atmosphere":

Never did I instigate or invite any "political atmosphere". I never addressed the press or any political rally. I kept my lips sealed even under extreme provocation from the General and his ministers who were reviling me on a daily basis. I maintained a strict judicial silence. I petitioned the Supreme Court and won. That was my vindication.

2. "Country wide touring and Politicising the Issue":

The Constitution guarantees to all citizens free movement throughout Pakistan. How can this then be a complaint?

By orders dated March 9 and 15 (both of which were found to be without lawful authority by the Court) I had been sent of "forced leave". I could neither perform any judicial or administrative functions as the Chief Justice of Pakistan. I was prevented not only from sitting in court but also from access to my own chamber by the force of arms under orders of the General. (All my papers were removed, even private documents).

The only function as 'a judge on forced leave' that I could perform was to address and deliver lectures to various Bar Associations. I accepted their invitations. They are peppered all over Pakistan. I had to drive to these towns as all these are not linked by air. On the way the people of Pakistan did, indeed, turn out in their millions, often waiting from dawn to dusk or from dusk to dawn, to greet me. But I never addressed them even when they insisted that I do. I never spoke to the press. I sat quietly in my vehicle without uttering a word. All this is on the record as most journeys were covered by the media live and throughout.

I spoke only to deliver lectures on professional and constitutional issues to the Bar Associations. Transcripts of every single one of my addresses are available. Every single word uttered by me in those addresses conforms to the stature, conduct and non-political nature of the office of the Chief Justice. There was no politics in these whatsoever. I did not even mention my present status or the controversy or the proceedings before the Council or the Court, not even the Reference. Not even once.
All the persons named in the Document under this head are lawyers and were members of the reception committees in various towns and Bar Associations.

3. Political Leaders Calling on CJP residence:

It is alleged that I received political leaders while I was deposed. It is on the record of the Supreme Judicial Council itself that I was detained after being deposed on March 9. The only persons allowed to meet me were those cleared by the Government. One was a senior political leader. None else was allowed to see me, initially not even my lawyers. How can I be blamed for whomsoever comes to my residence?

Had I wanted to politicize the issue I would have gone to the Press or invited the media. I did not. I had recourse to the judicial process for my reinstatement and won. The General lost miserably in a fair and straight contest. That is my only fault.

4. "Conclusion":

Hence the conclusion drawn by the General that charges had been proved against me 'beyond doubt' is absolutely contrary to the facts and wide off the mark. It is a self-serving justification of the eminently illegal action of firing and arresting judges of superior courts under the garb of an Emergency (read Martial Law) when the Constitution was 'suspended' and then 'restored' later with drastic and illegal 'amendments' grafted into it.

The Constitution cannot be amended except by the two Houses of Parliament and by a two-thirds majority in each House. That is the letter of the law. How can one man presume or arrogate to himself that power?
Unfortunately the General is grievously economical with the truth (I refrain from using the word 'lies') when he says that the charges against me were 'investigated and verified beyond doubt'. As explained above, these had in fact been rubbished by the Full Court Bench of the Supreme Court of Pakistan against which judgment the government filed no application for review.

What the General has done has serious implications for Pakistan and the world. In squashing the judiciary for his own personal advantage and nothing else he has usurped the space of civil and civilized society. If civilized norms of justice will not be allowed to operate then that space will, inevitably, be occupied by those who believe in more brutal and instant justice: the extremists in the wings. Those are the very elements the world seems to be pitted against. Those are the very elements the actions of the General are making way for.

Some western governments are emphasizing the unfolding of the democratic process in Pakistan. That is welcome, if it will be fair. But, and in any case, can there be democracy if there is no independent judiciary?
Remember, independent judges and judicial processes preceded full franchise by several hundred years. Moreover, which judge in Pakistan today can be independent who has before his eyes the fate and example of his own Chief Justice: detained for three months along with his young children. What is the children's crime, after all?

There can be no democracy without an independent judiciary, and there can be no independent judge in Pakistan until the action of November 3 is reversed. Whatever the will of some desperate men the struggle of the valiant lawyers and civil society of Pakistan will bear fruit. They are not giving up.

Let me also assure you that I would not have written this letter without the General's unbecoming onslaught. That has compelled me to clarify although, as my past will testify, I am not given into entering into public, even private, disputes. But the allegations against me have been so wild, so wrong and so contrary to judicial record, that I have been left with no option but to put the record straight. After all, a prisoner must also have his say. And if the General's hand-picked judges, some living next door to my prison home, have not had the courage to invoke the power of 'habeas corpus' these last three months, what other option do I have? Many leaders of the world and the media may choose to brush the situation under the carpet out of love of the General. But that will not be.

Nevertheless, let me also reassure you that I continue in my resolve not to preside any Bench which will be seized of matters pertaining to the personal interests of General Musharraf after the restoration of the Constitution and the judges, which, God willing, will be soon.

Finally, I leave you with the question: Is there a precedent in history, all history, of 60 judges, including three Chief Justices (of the Supreme Court and two of Pakistan's four High Courts), being dismissed, arrested and detained at the whim of one man? I have failed to discover any such even in medieval times under any emperor, king, or sultan, or even when a dictator has had full military sway over any country in more recent times. But this incredible outrage has happened in the 21st century at the hands of an extremist General out on a 'charm offensive' of western capitals and one whom the west supports.

I am grateful for your attention. I have no other purpose than to clear my name and to save the country (and perhaps others as well) from the calamity that stares us in the face. We can still rescue it from all kinds of extremism: praetorian and dogmatic. After all, the edifice of an independent judicial system alone stands on the middle ground between these two extremes. If the edifice is destroyed by the one, the ground may be taken over by the other. That is what is happening in Pakistan. Practitioners of rough and brutal justice will be welcomed in spaces from where the practitioners of more refined norms of justice and balance have been made to abdicate.

I have enormous faith that the Constitution and justice will soon prevail.
Yours truly,

Iftikhar Mohammad Choudhry,
Chief Justice of Pakistan,
imprisoned in the Chief Justice's House,

Autumn of the patriarch

Autumn of the patriarch
Tuesday January 29, 2008: The Guardian

President Pervez Musharraf is undoubtedly sincere in his belief that he, and he alone, can save Pakistan from the twin perils of terrorism and anarchy. Yesterday he met Gordon Brown, but he has been saying the same thing to anyone he met on his latest European tour: Pakistan is in the centre of the fight against Islamic militancy, and if it loses that battle the effects will be felt all over the world; elections are to be held on February 18 and they will be free and fair; a state of emergency had to be imposed because no country could tolerate anarchy. But sincerity is not the issue with Mr Musharraf. It is whether he is truly in touch with what is happening in his country.

Take his conflicted relationship with the Pakistan media, the independence of which he claims to support. The question put to him by a respected Pakistani journalist at the Royal United Services Institute on Friday was an eminently fair one. How could people trust Pakistan's ability to safeguard its nuclear assets or conduct a competent inquiry into the assassination of Benazir Bhutto when suspected terrorists like Rashid Rauf could give police the slip and escape? Mr Musharraf turned on the journalist saying: "It is people like you that cast such aspersions and then such aspersions get around and are picked up by the foreign media." Mr Musharraf should realise that democracy is full of "people like him".

Then there is the matter of the former chief justice of the supreme court, Iftikhar Chaudhry and five colleagues, who continue to languish under house arrest. Mr Chaudhry's case has been championed by Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, Britain, the US, and numerous western bar associations. All to no avail. Mr Musharraf will not tolerate what he calls "judicial activism". A government handout listing the misdemeanours of the former chief justice runs to seven pages. It alleges nepotism and corruption (both unproven). It claims he harassed judges, civil servants and police officers, but then goes into bizarre details. These include claiming for acne lotion as a medical bill and, under the heading "Conduct Unbecoming", a fracas over the use of a governor's house which ended with the justice denying another guest the right to use the lavatory. The impression given is less that the chief justice made the country ungovernable, and more that there is a personal vendetta going on.

Mr Musharraf conflates his destiny with Pakistan's. The two are synonymous in his eyes. He may have shed his military uniform but not his belief that he is the ultimate arbiter of order. He claims the elections will be free and fair and that he will work with whoever is able to form the next government. We shall see. There is already evidence of the PML-Q, the party loyal to him, getting substantial logistical and financial support from the government. If the PML-Q gets a clear majority, robbing the two other mainstream parties, the PPP and PML-N, of the chance to form a government, a fresh political crisis will be unleashed.

Pakistan is in the eye of the storm. The state faces not only a continuing constitutional and political crisis, but major challenges from al-Qaida, the Taliban and insurgents in the tribal areas. The central charge against Mr Musharraf is not that he has bungled the fight against militants and that he now has to wage a real war in the tribal areas and Baluchistan, it is that in his perpetual manoeuvring to stay in power he has lost the trust of the people of Pakistan itself. Few believe that the election next month will give vent to that feeling. Perhaps that is why 100 retired senior military officers, including some of the staff officers who once trained the future president, wrote an open letter exhorting Mr Musharraf to resign. They too consider themselves patriots acting in the national interest. If the president is serious about giving Pakistan a real transition to democracy, he should heed their advice.

Also See: Retired Pakistani General leads anti-Musharraf movement - AFP

The Rise of Pakistani Taliban

18 Orakzai tribes form Lashkar against Taliban
* Any tribe sheltering Taliban will be fined Rs 10m, have 100 houses burnt down
* Jirga decides to temporarily end mutual enmities
Daily Times Monitor: January 30, 2008

LAHORE: After the killing of three levies personnel by local militants in Orakzai Agency on Saturday night, 18 tribes of the agency have decided to form a Lashkar (tribal army) against the Taliban to flush them out of the area, reported BBC Urdu on Tuesday.

A grand jirga of the 18 tribes was held in Ghuljoo, Orakzai Agency headquarters, on Monday morning, which was attended by around ten to fifteen thousand armed men.

Talking to BBC, head of Rabiakhel tribe Malik Zaman Shah said all tribes had unanimously decided not to give shelter to any militant in the area and any tribe breaching the pledge would be punished with Rs 10 million in fine and a hundred houses of the tribe would be burnt down.

End to fight: He said the jirga had also settled ‘Islam Zona’ to temporarily end mutual enmities between the local tribes. The local tribes will, according to the decision, not fight each other until the area is cleared of militants.

Thousands of Pakistani forces are battling suspected militants in the tribal region bordering Afghanistan, where scores of militants and troops have died in clashes in recent weeks. Militants have stepped up attacks against government troops there.

Also See:
New Taliban Chief Entering Limelight - By Kathy Gannon, Washington Post
Camera-shy Baitullah is ‘law’ in Waziristan - Daily Times
White House, London, NY my targets: Mehsud - Daily Times
The rising menace of a terrorist mastermind - Globe and Mail, Canada
‘Get America out of the way and we'll be okay’ - Interview With General Hamid Gul (

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Pakistan-Israel Relations: Convergence & Divergence

Musharraf met Israeli defence minister
By Baqir Sajjad Syed; Dawn, January 29, 2008

ISLAMABAD, Jan 28: President Pervez Musharraf last week met Israeli Defence Minister Ehud Barak in Paris and the Foreign Office described it as ‘a chance encounter’.

There are reports that the two leaders met again and discussed the nuclear arms issues, especially the safety of Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal and Iran’s nuclear programme; the Middle East peace process; and the situation in Gaza.

The second meeting is said to have lasted about an hour.

Pakistan and Israel have no diplomatic ties and their officials rarely meet. But there have been several ‘chance meetings’ between the two sides in the past, apart from an arranged meeting between the then foreign minister Khurshid Kasuri and his then Israeli counterpart Silvan Shalom in Turkey in 2005.

Foreign Office Spokesman Mohammad Sadiq confirmed to Dawn that President Musharraf had met Mr Barak in the lobby of Raphael Hotel in Paris on January 22 by chance when the president was leaving the hotel.

Both of them were staying in the same hotel.

According to the Israeli media, Mr Barak had taken the initiative and approached President Musharraf. He introduced himself and praised the president’s role in the war on terror, saying: “We support your people and back you due to your significance in securing world peace”.

President Musharraf reportedly placed his hand on Mr Barak’s shoulder and replied: “Thank you very much. God willing, I hope you will make progress in the peace process”.

Mr Sadiq said the two dignitaries exchanged greetings and parted. “It was nothing more than a chance meeting and nothing was discussed there.”

Regarding the reported second meeting, the spokesman said he wasn’t aware of it.

Diplomatic sources indicate that there have been extensive contacts between Israel and Pakistan at various levels. These meetings were said to have focussed on the nuclear issue.

The World Renowned Pakistani Social Worker Being Deported from New York - Highly Condemnable

Edhi’s passport seized by US officials
Daily Times, January 29, 2008

LAHORE: Renowned social worker Abdul Sattar Edhi was interrogated by US immigration officials at the JF Kennedy Airport in New York, who also seized his passport and other documents, a private TV channel reported on Monday.

Edhi told Geo News that US immigration officials had questioned him for eight hours at the airport. “They asked me why I don’t reside permanently in the US despite having a green card,” he said. “I told them that I’m a social worker and I have to travel extensively around the world, and so cannot live there permanently,” he added.

Edhi said he had faced the same behaviour from US immigration officials when he visited America in June last year.

According to Geo News, the immigration officials allowed him to leave following the intervention of Pakistani officials, but did not return his passport and other documents. Edhi said the US officials, through a letter, had also asked him to appear in court for a hearing on February 20.

Separately, talking to News One television channel, Edhi said US authorities apparently wanted to hinder his social work. He said he, his wife and their granddaughter had been living in a small room for the last month as the US authorities were refusing to return his passport.

Also See: Edhi being deported

For details about Abdul Sattar Edhi's Work, see
1. Humanitarian to a Nation - Saudi Aramco World
2. Nominating Abdul Sattar Edhi for a Noble Award -
3. Gift 1: Abdul Sattar Edhi
4. Abdul Sattar Edhi by Asma Khan

in memoriam: Benazir Bhutto — Aitzaz Ahsan

in memoriam: Benazir Bhutto — Aitzaz Ahsan
Daily Times, January 29, 2008

“The first thing I want to do is to release all political prisoners,” she announced as our meeting on November 30, 1988 began at Dr Zafar Niazi’s house in Islamabad. In the elections held after the death of General Zia-ul Haq, the PPP, despite all efforts of the agencies, had succeeded in the elections. After failing to prop up any rival, then-President Ghulam Ishaq had finally agreed that very day to accept her as prime minister of Pakistan.

The historic meeting of PPP leadership was being held to set top priorities for Bibi’s first government. It was here as prime minister-designate that she showed her mettle. So far her life and emotions had been premised on the bitter fact that her dearest father had been deposed, imprisoned, humiliated, falsely charged, hanged and then buried without due ceremony. But she brought to that meeting only her winning smile and the undiluted optimism of a political idealist.

Zia had left behind a large number of political prisoners and convicts of military courts. Each had been denied due process. Releasing them, she said, was going to be her number one priority.

“What pledge should we make to ourselves?” she asked. “That we must ensure press freedom,” I suggested. “For anything that it may print?” she asked. “Yes, for anything. We must set a precedent,” I said. And she agreed at once, excited that it was a good idea.

Next day I was sworn in as her interior minister. In that capacity, I received countless recommendations to prosecute this or that publication. I turned down each of these even when our government was brutally and deliberately slandered.

Once a cabinet colleague complained to her that I was not prosecuting publications for false propaganda against her husband Asif Zardari. “But Malik Sahib,” she retorted, “we have pledged to allow full freedom to the media. We will have to bear with it.” Then she turned to me and asked: “Is there anything that can be done without the government getting involved?” “Yes,” I replied. “Asif should file a civil suit for damages in his personal capacity.” And so it was that Mr Asif Zardari, husband of a serving prime minister had the grace to file a private civil suit for damages as an ordinary litigant.

That is what she was: at once humane and proper. How can I recount in such a short piece, all aspects of a life lived to such fullness, particularly when I have worked so close to her during her life? Even books will fail to do justice. Presently only a few instances establishing her more prominent qualities must suffice. One was fortitude.

Between 1990 and 1993 there were as many as 18 prosecutions against her and Asif Zardari. Both were also slandered and defamed. I had publicly promised to turn these prosecutions “from the trial of Mohtarma into the trial of Ishaq Khan”. In the end, they were both acquitted in all those cases, with her husband bravely facing adversity and she standing by him like a rock. She had the fortitude to bear the designed torment aimed at her by the notorious regime of Jam Sadiq Ali in Sindh.

Never will I forget that day in 1992 when I entered the outer gate of Landhi Jail to defend Asif in a trial being conducted inside the jail itself. There she was, the former prime minister of Pakistan, carrying two young infants, Bilawal and Bakhtawar, in her arms, and sitting on a pile of bricks. I was furious and immediately went to the Jail Superintendent. But she calmed me down saying that she had learnt not to expect any decency from the jail staff. After all, she herself had remained imprisoned for five years as a young girl.

Through all her trials and tribulations, she demonstrated amazing charm and stamina. When she came to stay with us in Gujrat in December 1986, she arrived at 3 am on that freezing December night having travelled a full 10 hours from Lahore, but she sat up chatting with Bushra for another one hour with Zaynab, our youngest, in her lap. Early in the morning she was up, fresh as a flower, all ready to meet local party officials.

She kept punishing schedules and was the only politician who had toured the entire Pakistan, city by city, town by town, village by village and hamlet by hamlet at least five times. She knew the party workers by face and the towns by the streets.

And through it all she remained a model of womanhood at its most sublime. While being the most hardworking, hands-on, leading politician of the country, she was unabashedly feminine at the same time. In this intolerant and male dominated country, she refused to be uncomfortable about her womanhood. She gave birth to her first child in the middle of 1988 election campaign and another child while she was the first woman prime minister of Muslim Pakistan.

Then there was her courage. She was afraid of nothing. I was on her truck at the time of the blast of October 18. Next morning when I met her she was in her normal routine. I did not know that I was seeing her for the last time. When I sought her leave to return to Lahore for my Supreme Court Bar elections, she said, “It will be a landslide in your favour. Good luck. And thanks for being here.” When I was withdrawing from the parliamentary contest I sent word to her and she consulted me through Senator Safdar Abbasi on my choice for my substitute. She accepted the choice. But I was arrested the day after my election as president SCBA and denied permission even to attend the funeral or soyem of the one who believed in freeing political prisoners and the media, and in politics of non-violence.

As a political leader she could organise and mobilise the biggest political organisation in Pakistan, set the political agenda, make millions of ordinary people dream the greatest dreams for this land and yes, in fair elections, win elections too. She could do all that. But what she could not tackle were certain self-appointed guardians of the state, who refused to allow people the right to solve their problems themselves and who harassed, hounded, threatened and conspired against her. They did not permit her a fair shot at the democratic game because they knew that she would win, not by breaking the Constitution or at gun point but through the sheer will of ordinary people who are supposed to be sovereign. Even on the last day of her life, her foremost concern was not how to win the elections but how to prevent them from being rigged. I wonder if people understand that in this lies a tragedy, not only for Bibi, but for this nation.

Many sincere analysts questioned the integrity of her politics. They did not understand that after facing conspiracy after conspiracy, Bibi was forced to factor painful ground realities in her decision-making, always striving to achieve one day her true political ideals.

This fundamental question may indeed be addressed through another question: Why, during the 30 years from 1977, when an elected and popular prime minister was ousted at gun point to the date when Bibi lost her life to another gun, the total period for which she, the most popular political leader, was allowed to govern the country was three times less than the time that Chaudhry Shujaat’s party remained in power? The real source of this country’s problems may be revealed by the answer. In kowtowing to the civil and military bureaucracy there is a premium. He and his ilk can do it. She could not. They survive. She had to be eliminated.

One cannot help wondering why our establishment that claims to be obsessed with maintaining the federation, could not bring itself to see in Bibi that glorious human chain that kept all four provinces together, and as an asset and an ally instead of a foe.

Above all else I will remember her for three qualities: a constant urge to reach out to her people, a willingness to take on Herculean challenges, and for her ability to forgive, even embrace, her enemies. These three qualities made her superhuman. And all three took her to her tragic, yet heroic death.

All I can now say is: ‘Bibi it is an honour to have worked for you and with you. The Himalayas wept the death of your father. The world weeps for you.’

Aitzaz Ahsan is a former Interior Minister and President of the Supreme Court Bar Association