Friday, 30 January 2015

SC and 21st Amendment

Courtesy:-  MALIK MUHAMMAD ASHRAF

Ever since the passage of the 21st Constitutional Amendment by the Parliament to provide for the establishment of military courts to deal with cases related to terrorism and giving them constitutional cover, a controversy has been raging about the rationale for their establishment from the legal and constitutional perspective. It has even been challenged in the Supreme Court contending that the Parliament could not alter the basic structure of the Constitution. An honourable judge of the SC Sarmad Jalal Osmani during the hearing of a case remarked “there is no need to set up military courts” and asked if the judges of the military courts would be more competent, dutiful and intelligent than those of the apex court and would be able to address all the problems.

Thursday, 29 January 2015

Our new security narrative

 Courtesy:-  Malik Muhammad Ashraf

The government announced a ban on Jamaat ud Dawa (JuD) and the Haqqani Network on January 22 and also froze bank accounts of the former, besides placing restrictions on foreign travel by Hafiz Saeed, chief of JuD. The move, contrary to the scepticism being expressed by certain circles, came in the backdrop of the objectives of the National Action Plan and the new narrative of zero tolerance for terrorist and militant outfits evolved by the civilian and military leadership in consultation with the entire political leadership of the country. 

Wednesday, 28 January 2015

Impact of Obama’s visit to India

Courtesy:-  Talat Masood

President Barack Obama’s interview in India Today in which he has repeated the demand that Pakistan needs to make greater effort to clear the sanctuaries of militants and take action against the Lashkar-e-Taiba for its involvement in the Mumbai massacre of 2008 was not surprising. It was meant to please Narendra Modi and also to maintain pressure on Islamabad. At a time when the Pakistan military is engaged in a major military operation in North Waziristan and other areas to reestablish the writ of the state at an enormous cost in terms of blood and sweat, such remarks that are meant to put pressure, in fact, have just the opposite effect. Religio-political parties opposed to military operations have always maintained that the government is fighting under pressure from the US. Their views gain credence and weaken the support of the people when US leadership makes such remarks.

Thursday, 22 January 2015

Rigging case unravelling

Courtesy:-   Malik Muhammad Ashraf

Reportedly, the former Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry has filed a defamation suit of Rs.20 billion against PTI Chief Imran Khan for alleging his involvement in the rigging of the 2013 election. The former CJ also asked the session judge to allow him to become a party to the proposed judicial commission demanded by PTI to probe rigging. Accordingly, the Sessions Judge Islamabad has sent a notice to Imran Khan to submit his reply by 20th January. This is a very significant development which might pave the way for the unraveling of the rigging rigmarole to find out whether the 2013 elections were rigged through a conspiracy as repeatedly claimed by Imran Khan, or not.
For the last five months, Imran Khan has been crying hoarse from every convenient rooftop about a conspiracy to steal the mandate from PTI and has with impunity indulged in shaming and denigrating individuals and state institutions by hurling unsubstantiated allegations at them. He also kept the nation hostage to his politics of violence, intolerance and lawlessness besides causing incalculable loss to the economy. Even last week, talking to media men at his Banigala residence, he forcefully claimed that former CJ and Justice Ramday were involved in the rigging in favour of PML(N). It is strange that the SC which has been intervening in everything under the skies using its suo moto jurisdiction never took notice of such an important national issue and the character assassination of the former honourable judges of the apex court.
True that Article 225 of the constitution debars any legal forum other than the Election Tribunals to deal with petitions regarding irregularities and rigging, but as per legal and constitutional experts, it does not preclude the possibility of the SC forming a judicial commission to find out whether systematic rigging was done through a conspiracy in which all the institutions and individuals named by Imran Khan were involved, or not. The government has already sent a request to the SC without any positive response so far.
The matter is too serious to be left unresolved because it could create chaos and anarchy in the country if Imran Khan re-launches his street agitation as being threatened by him in case the government does not form the Judicial Commission within the next seven days. My considered view is that the SC must take the initiative to form the Judicial Commission to probe into the conspiracy theory, irrespective of the fact that the two parties agree on the terms of reference or not. The nation wants an end to the crass politics and focus on the fight against terrorism as its topmost priority. The Prime Minister and the COAS have repeatedly vowed to take the fight against terrorism to its logical end at any cost and that resolve enjoys the full backing of the nation.
Under prevailing circumstances, the best course of action for Imran would be to abandon his politics of agitation and wait for the decisions of the Election Tribunal. He should realize the gravity of the situation. The nation is not in the mood to tolerate any politicking and Imran must have had a fair idea of it when he visited Army Public School Peshawar. Before entering the school, he had to wade through a crowd of parents of the deceased children who were furious over the apathy shown by the provincial government of PTI ever since the incident occurred as well as Imran’s insensitivity to their feelings by having married before the passing of the 40 day mourning period. Most of them viewed the visit as an exercise in ‘politicking’ rather than genuine concern and sympathy for the martyred children and their parents. He was also greeted with vociferous slogans of ‘Go Imran Go,’ a slogan he and his followers have been using to disrupt the gatherings of the PML(N) dignitaries and against the Prime Minister at different forums; kind of a taste of his own medicine quintessential of the proverbial retribution.
The way the protesting parents were handled by the police and reportedly even abused by Chief Minister KPK, Pervez Khatak, was simply outrageous and shameful to say the least. The episode exploded the myth of the PTI being a democracy loving entity. Instead of showing respect and appreciation for the sentiments of the parents of the deceased children and allowing them to go through the process of ‘catharsis’ they were treated with violence. The information minister of KPK even rubbed salt in the wounds by claiming that the demonstration was politically motivated and the government would not allow politics of ‘vandalism’ in the province.
With regards to the attack on the APS, the contention of Imran and the provincial government that the school was being run by the Army and therefore the responsibility of the attack could not be put on the provincial government, was also contrary to the facts and a clumsy attempt to cover up laxity on its part. Providing security to the institutions and maintaining law and order is the prime duty of the civil administration and in view of the fact that there was intelligence about possible attacks on the schools, the provincial government was under obligation to arrange necessary security to educational institutions, indicated as possible targets of the terrorists. The argument that terrorist attacks can happen even where the security is of the highest level, like GHQ and other military installations, cannot be contested. But not providing security at all is criminal negligence. This lapse on the part of the provincial government was probably attributable to the long absence of the Chief Minister from the provincial capital in connection with the sit-in and the public rallies held by PTI in different cities of the country which were enthusiastically participated in by him, neglecting his responsibilities in the province.
Imran, therefore, needs to revisit his strategy and outlook, focus more on KPK as rightly announced by him and return to the parliament to nudge the changes he perceives are necessary in the system of elections and governance. There is no other possible way to achieve those objectives in a democratic and constitutional set-up. The days for bringing change through extra-constitutional means are over.

Monday, 19 January 2015

Calculus of Pakistan-US relations

Courtesy:-   Javed Hussain

Secretary of State John Kerry’s recent visit to Islamabad for attending the second edition of the revitalized Pak-US Strategic Dialogue provides a useful opportunity to evaluate the potential and the future prospects of Pakistan-US friendship against the background of the evolving regional and global scenarios. An accurate understanding of the convergence and the divergence of the interests of the two countries in a dynamic setting is an essential prerequisite for judging the long-term worth of this vital relationship. An analysis on these lines reveals that whereas Pakistan’s friendship with the US must remain an enduring factor in Pakistan’s foreign policy for the foreseeable future, it would be a mistake to attach exaggerated expectations to it because of the likely evolution of the regional and global scenarios. There is convergence of the strategic interests of the two countries in four broad areas. The first is the issue of terrorism. Since the terrorist attacks of 9/11, Washington has assigned top priority to countering terrorism for ensuring the security of both the US and its allies and friends. Pakistan itself has also been the victim of terrorism. Its people and military personnel have rendered enormous sacrifices in the fight against terrorism.

Wednesday, 14 January 2015

Open letter to Mr Ban Ki Moon

Courtesy:-  Asghar Qadir

The UN and the European Union have expressed great concern about the decision of Pakistan to rescind the moratorium on the death penalty. Some of us feel that perhaps they do not fully grasp the reality of the situation in Pakistan. With your permission, I would like to set the background for my argument to revive the death penalty here, then give the argument itself and finally give a brief proposal.

Sunday, 11 January 2015

War against terror

Courtesy:-  MALIK MUHAMMAD ASHRAF

The decisive phase

Extraordinary situations and circumstances require extraordinary solutions. That is what the pragmatism is all about. The nations are sometimes faced with situations and dangers that threaten their existence and ways of life and have to go for responses which are beyond the normal and acceptable constitutional and legal framework. History is replete with such examples. The National Action Plan against terrorism formulated with the unanimous support of the entire political leadership, the government and the military establishment, particularly the establishment of military courts to try terrorists, their abettors and facilitators and those involved in sectarian violence, represents an extraordinary response to any extraordinary phenomenon which posed existentialist threat to Pakistan and its way of life.

Thursday, 8 January 2015

From their war to our war

Courtesy:- Malik Muhammad Ashraf

After hectic consultations between the entire political leadership and military leaders, in the wake of the December 16 terrorist attack in Peshawar, there is now a national consensus on trying terrorists in military courts. 

Accordingly two bills, one to amend the Pakistan Army Act to make provision for trial of civilians involved in acts of terrorism and another to amend the constitution to give constitutional cover to the proposed changes in the Army Act, have been tabled in the National Assembly. Hopefully these bills will be passed by both houses of parliament without any hiccups in view of the commitments made by the political leaders of all the parties represented in parliament. 

The establishment of the military courts, the most important ingredient of the National Action Plan against terrorism, is undoubtedly a necessity-driven initiative to deal with an unusual phenomenon that not only threatens the very existence of Pakistan but also constitutes a formidable challenge to our faith and way of life. Unfortunately the journey from their war to our war has taken more than 14 years and cost thousands of civilian and military lives besides economic loss in the vicinity of US$ 100 billion. 

This was a consequence of the wrong policies of the previous regimes as well as the lack of national consensus on whose war we were fighting and how to go about it. As they say it is never too late. Thankfully TTP apologists, sympathisers, political leadership of all hues, politico-religious parties and the military establishment are all in agreement that this is our war and needs to be fought with unswerving resolve and impregnable national unity. 

Although the Peshawar incident acted as a catalyst to the transformation of the outlook about the war on terror, it is an undeniable fact that the Nawaz-led PML-N government and the military establishment have worked together tirelessly to bring everyone on board on the issue of mounting a serious challenge to militancy and terrorism and have remained in a continuous huddle to devise policies and strategies to eliminate the threat.

Operation Zarb-e-Azb, which has achieved tremendous success in destroying the terrorist infrastructure in North Waziristan, is a testimony to the success of the efforts made so far in fighting terrorism. Reportedly the entire area of North Waziristan has been cleared of terrorists and there are plans to start the repatriation of IDPs from next month.

Another major contributory factor in formulating an effective and serious response to the threat posed by the terrorists is a paradigm shift in our relations with Afghanistan and US and the tough stance being taken against proscribed entities that have acted as proxies for terrorists. The cooperation of Afghanistan with Pakistan in fighting terrorism and not allowing the TTP to use their territory for attacks against Pakistan and vice versa is a very big development – thanks to a visionary approach collectively evolved by the civilian and military leadership. 

The twenty-point National Action Plan is a comprehensive strategy designed to deal with all aspects and manifestations of terrorism. Pakistan, now having the assurance of the Afghan government to tackle TTP operative based on its soil, is in a better position to deal with terrorism on the internal front. There is no denying the fact that our present judicial system has failed to act as a deterrent for the terrorists, who have mostly escaped justice due to legal and procedural lacunas in the system and a variety of other reasons. 

The reasons include the reluctance of the investigating and prosecuting officers to deal with cases related to terrorism as well as the judges hearing those cases, because of the direct threats given to them by the terrorists, a usual tactic employed by terrorist organisations all over the world to harass and intimidate officials responsible for dispensing justice. Military courts provide the best answer to the inadequacies of the legal system as well as the threat factor. These courts are meant to expedite the dispensation of justice providing fair chance to the accused to defend themselves through lawyers – and nobody would be hanged or punished unjustly or without being given a proper opportunity to explain and defend the charges against him as is being feared by human rights groups and even the legal community.

What the detractors of the military courts and human rights groups tend to forget conveniently is that the country is at war against an existentialist threat. Neither our religion nor any constitution nor the law permits anyone taking up arms against the state. Moreover, human rights are contingent upon allegiance to the state, therefore, any individual or group that act to harm the state lose their claim on fundamental rights. Going by this logic the terrorists or their abettors could be shot at sight or hanged straight away. But nothing of the sort is being contemplated or done. 

The mechanism of dispensing justice through military courts being put in place by the government – despite the fact that terrorists do not deserve any mercy or clemency – will make sure that there is no miscarriage of justice. These courts are meant for specific cases relating only to terrorism and cannot, therefore, be construed as a threat to the existing judicial system or as a parallel system of justice. We already have a number of special courts in the country established under the constitution and the law. The proposed military courts will also have a constitutional and legal backing in addition to the unqualified support of the Pakistani society.

All stakeholders in the future of Pakistan need to contribute their bit to make sure that the National Action Plan against terrorism achieves its objectives as envisioned by its architects. This is not the time for any turf war or for torpedoing the national unity that has been forged to deal with terrorism. This is a now-or-never situation for the country. While we expect the government and our valiant soldiers to spare no effort in eliminating the scourge of terrorism, it is also the duty of all of us to support them in their endeavours in this regard. 

As rightly pointed out by the prime minister and the COAS on numerous occasions, we simply cannot afford to fail. The war against terrorism has to be fought with only one option – to win it. The media has a pivotal role at this critical juncture of our history and needs to act with utmost sense of social responsibility. As the fourth pillar of the state it is bound to lead the fight against terrorism on the ideological front. 

The citizens of Pakistan, who have the biggest stake in warding off the danger of terrorism, also need to extend unstinted support to government and the security establishment in identifying and reporting on terrorists, their abettors and sympathisers dwelling among them.

Friday, 2 January 2015

Translating the plan

Courtesy:- Malik Muhammad Ashraf

The twenty-point National Action Plan against terrorism devised through intensive week-long deliberations between the civilian and military leadership and consultation among the entire political leadership unanimously is undoubtedly the strongest ever statement of intent to deal with and eliminate terrorism in all its manifestations. 

It is for the first time in the history of the country that all the political and religious outfits have acknowledged the fight against terrorism as our own war; the military and political leadership have complimented each other for the sagacity and acumen to rise to the occasion; the entire political leadership is on one page regarding the objectives of the war on terror and there is an unqualified support for Operation Zarb-e-Azb against the terrorists.