Archive for the ‘judges’ Category

Commentary: Momentous day for Pakistan, Bhutto’s legacy

March 18, 2008
By Asif Ali Zardari

Asif Ali Zardari is the co-chairman of the Pakistan Peoples Party and widower of Pakistan’s former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, who was assassinated in Pakistan in December.

In this handout photo released by Pakistan Parliament House, ...
In this handout photo released by Pakistan Parliament House, Asif Ali Zardari, left, widower of slain opposition leader Benazir Bhutto and co-chairman of Pakistan People’s Party waves as former prime minister Nawaz Sharif looks on during the National assembly’s first session at Parliament House in Islamabad, Pakistan on Monday, March 17, 2008. Pakistan inaugurated a new parliament on Monday dominated by opponents of President Pervez Musharraf who have vowed to crimp his powers and review his U.S.-backed policies against al-Qaida and the Taliban.
(AP Photo/Pakistan Parliament House, HO)

(CNN) — Monday was a momentous day for the people of Pakistan, but a bittersweet day for me.

Sitting in the gallery watching a democratically elected National Assembly headed by the Pakistan Peoples Party and its coalition partners, I thought of the terrible price paid for this moment of liberty. I thought of the many jailed, beaten, tortured, and exiled. I thought of all of those who had their reputations assaulted. I thought of the undermining and dismantling of Pakistani civil society. I thought of the attacks on the independence and autonomy of the judicial system. I thought of the censorship of the press, emergency rule and martial law.

But of course more than anything else, I thought of my beloved wife, Shaheed Mohtrama Benazir Bhutto, who sacrificed her life for her beliefs and her country. This was the day of her triumph, the vindication of her long battle for the restoration of democracy. For my country, this was a day of celebration. But for me and our children, this day was also a day of tears. Democracy had come to Pakistan, but at a terrible, terrible price.

Last week, the two largest political parties in Pakistan agreed to form a coalition government that would restore democracy and bring stability to our country. The Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), which I lead after the assassination of my wife, has joined the Pakistan Muslim League (PML-N), led by former prime minister Nawaz Sharif, to form a broad-based, democratic, liberal government in Pakistan — an umbrella of reconciliation and consensus. The new prime minister, from the PPP, will be announced within the next few days.

In agreeing to form a coalition government Mr. Sharif and I have responded to the mandate given by the people of Pakistan in the February 18 election. Pakistan’s people no longer want to live under the thumb of a dictator. They want an end to terrorism and violence and wish to join the rest of the modern world in the pursuit of peace and prosperity. They want to restore the supremacy of the people’s house, the National Assembly, and free it from the sword of Damocles of a marginal presidency with inflated, unconstitutional authority.

Pakistan’s political leaders and people have suffered from the politics of personal destruction; we have been battered by dictatorship; we have seen civil society taken apart and a free and independent judiciary destroyed. We have seen international assistance, secured in the name of fighting terrorism, diverted towards making Pakistan’s affluent few richer. We have seen progress on education, health and women’s rights stopped and reversed. But now, with renewed confidence in democratic parties like the PPP and PML-N, it is time for the rebirth of a democratic, vital and progressive Pakistan.

Some fear a coalition government would lack the necessary strength to tackle Pakistan’s myriad problems. But cooperation between the country’s biggest political parties, representing an overwhelming majority of the people, would bring greater stability than one-man rule. Together, the PPP and PML-N will be able to build a strong civil society. That would go a long way to erasing the scars of militarism and militancy. We will focus on providing education and employment at the grassroots levels so the country’s youth can play an integral role in building a strong national economy.

Under the rule of Pervez Musharraf, extremists were allowed to thrive along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border. The key to improving security there is not to make citizens in Pakistan’s tribal areas feel like second-rate citizens kept under lock and key, caught between the threats of violence from militants and the military. Rather, we must let all of our citizens, including those in the Federally Administered Tribal Area, know they are part participants in the growth of Pakistan’s economy and civil society.

Fostering a better level of trust and understanding among the people in the border areas, and delivering on their key needs, is essential to enhancing security in the FATA and throughout Pakistan. While immediate steps must be taken to hunt down identified terrorists, the long-term solution to extremism lies in respecting the will of the people and in providing them with a means of livelihood at every level — food, clothing, shelter, jobs and education. By talking to and respecting our people, we will be able to isolate the extremists and terrorists.

Those of us who are now in a position of leadership seek, in my wife’s words, “a tomorrow better than any of the yesterdays we have ever known.” We see a Pakistan where all children, regardless of their socio-economic standing or their gender, are guaranteed compulsory and quality primary and secondary education. We see a Pakistani educational system of quality teachers, who receive decent salaries, and teach in modern classrooms with state-of-the-art computers and technology. We see a Pakistan where political madrassas that teach hatred are closed, and educational institutions that focus on science and technology flourish.

The PPP has a vision to build a nation that is one of the great capital markets of the world; a revitalized nation that will generate international investment. We look forward to the complete electrification of all of our villages, the purification of our nation’s drinking water, the privatization of the public sector, the expansion of the energy sector, the development of our export industries, the modernization of our ports and the rebuilding our national infrastructure. All of these elements are essential to a Pakistan where a democratically elected government, with the mandate of the people, confronts and marginalizes the forces of extremism and terrorism wherever they may exist in our nation. In other words, I see the Pakistan for which my wife lived and died.

Pakistan’s democracy has not evolved over the past 60 years because the generals believed they should intervene in politics and run the country. The army’s misperception of itself as the country’s only viable institution, and its deep-rooted suspicion of the civilian political process, has prevented democracy from flourishing. The PPP and its allies will reverse the current regime’s suppression of civil society and free speech. We will establish a Press Complaints Commission similar to that of the United Kingdom and stand up for the democratic rights of citizens to freely establish television and radio stations, subject to the basic legal framework.

While the tasks ahead are not easy, the Pakistan Peoples Party plans to work in good faith with its fellow democratic parties and our coalition allies to achieve our goal of building a new, progressive Pakistan. Everything will not come at once. The reformation of Pakistan — politically, economically and socially — will be a long and complex process. But we are determined to begin and we are determined to succeed.

We did not come this far, we did not sacrifice this much, to fail.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the writer.

Pakistan court meets amid looming showdown over judges

March 18, 2008

ISLAMABAD (AFP) – Pakistan‘s top court met on Tuesday amid a looming showdown between the country’s new parliament and President Pervez Musharraf over his sacking of dozens of judges last year.

Pakistani lawyers and opposition parties supporters at a protest ... 
Pakistani lawyers and opposition parties supporters at a protest rally in Karachi on March 16. Pakistan’s top court was due to meet amid a looming showdown between the country’s new parliament and President Pervez Musharraf over his sacking of dozens of judges last year.(AFP/File/Rizwan Tabassum)

Supreme Court Chief Justice Abdul Hameed Dogar, who was appointed by Musharraf to replace the president’s arch-foe Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, was due to chair a rare full meeting of the court’s 15 judges.

No agenda has been announced for the court’s extraordinary meeting, which comes one day after the parliament dominated by Musharraf’s opponents convened for the first time following last month’s election.

Read the rest:

Pakistan’s new leaders declare ‘last day of dictatorship’

March 18, 2008
By Saeed Shah, McClatchy Newspapers 

ISLAMABAD, PakistanPakistan‘s newly elected National Assembly met for the first time Monday and delivered an immediate rebuff to Pervez Musharraf , setting up a head-on clash between the elected assembly and the unpopular U.S.-backed president.

With the incoming government committed to restoring the judges who were fired by Musharraf and stripping the powers of the presidency, a battle seems inevitable in which Washington may find itself on the losing side. Critics said Musharraf is unwilling to retreat to the figurehead role prescribed for the president in Pakistan’s original constitution.

“The conspiracies of the (presidential) palace will be fought with the strength of parliament,” said Ahmed Mukhtar , a possible candidate for the post of prime minister from the Pakistan People’s Party , just before the assembly met. “We have the numbers to do whatever we want.”

The People’s Party , which won the most seats in the Feb. 18 election, plans to form a government in the next few days with its traditional rival, Nawaz Sharif‘s Pakistan Muslim League-N , in a grand anti-Musharraf alliance. Together, along with two smaller parties, the new government would control two-thirds of the National Assembly. According to Mukhtar, the coalition also will soon control two-thirds of the Senate , due to the defection of Musharraf backers, which would mean that it could impeach Musharraf.

Read the rest:

Pakistani policemen gather around an injured colleague at a ...
Pakistani policemen gather around an injured colleague at a hospital after the suicide attack in Mingora. A suicide bomber blew himself up at a police barracks in Pakistan’s violence-plagued northern Swat valley on Monday, killing two policemen and injuring six others, police said.
(AFP/Chand Khan)

Muhammad Calls For Urgent Action to Keep Peace in Pakistan

March 17, 2008

Dear John E. Carey
Peace and Freedom

Dear Sir,

I want to bring in your kind notice that a strong group within the Pakistani administration, who always exploited anti-American feeling for achieving their unlterior motives, has been making last-ditch effort to bring a revolution in Pakistan on the pattern of Iran.

If that happens it will be disastrous not only for Pakistan, but also for the whole world particularly the United States.

These people are still providing support to terrorists based in tribal areas. There are still training camps in the tribal areas where suicide bombers are being trained.

It is interesting to note that former prime minister and head of Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz Sharif in statement alleged that the Bush administration does not want reinstatement of judges removed by President Pervez Musharraf.

Actually he is trying to spark anti-American feeling.Today the terrorists carried out another attack.

A suicide bomber Monday killed SHO among two policemen and injured seven others in Pakistan’s violence-plagued northern Swat valley, police said. The suicide bomber blew himself up inside barracks in Mingora Police Line, the main city in the region where Pakistani troops have been battling Islamic militants for the past several months.

The mountainous, snow-capped Swat region is renowned for its ancient Buddhist relics and once attracted large numbers of foreign and local tourists, but has been beset by recent violence blamed on pro-Taliban militants.The injured policemen were reportedly in critical condition, the hospital sources said. The injured were shifted to a nearby hospital.

Dear Sir, the United States must show hurry in taking control of the situation otherwise later it cannot be controlled. Please pray for us.

Thank you very much,

Yours sincerely,

Muhammad Khurshid
Khar, Bajaur Agency,Tribal Areas Pakistan

Muhammad Reports from Pakistan, March 13, 2008

March 12, 2008

Dear John E. Carey
Peace and Freedom

Dear Sir,

I am sorry for delay in establishing contact with you during last few days. Actually I was in Bajaur Agency, my home town, where terrorists and security forces have pounded each other positions.

The security forces used heavy weapons against terrorists. Mortor shells hit several houses in parts of the agency killing dozens of people. The whole areas remained closed. No one was allowed to enter the areas.

I also remained trapped in the cross firing. The bang bangs of canons have created great fear among the people. During the firing I run for a mile for saving myself.

Small children were also ranning with me. They were screaming.

The exact death toll is not availabale, but people say that dozens of people were killed. I think now the security forces have been showing seriousness, but there are still some officials, who have been supporting these terrorists. I want to bring in you kind notice that now the terrorists have been losing support of the tribesmen.

Situation in other parts of Pakistan is also critical. According to a report, suicide bombers have struck Lahore for the third time since January this year. The eight-story building of the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) has been blown up, with many fatal casualties.

Pakistani lawyers offer funeral prayers in absentia for the ... 
Pakistani lawyers offer funeral prayers in absentia for the victims of suicide bomb blasts in Lahore, a day after the attacks. Mourners offered funeral prayers Wednesday for 27 people killed in two suicide blasts in Pakistan, as violence in the northwest of the country left another dozen people dead, officials said.(AFP/Arif Ali)
Another strike in Model Town by suicide-bombers riding a vehicle has killed four. One can say that the FIA bombing is a part of the series of attacks aimed at the security agencies of the country. The earlier two attacks were on policemen near the General Post Office and the Naval War College located in the city’s heart.

The second attack in Model Town is not clear in its intent. The place blown up by the bombers was near the house of an army officer and not too far from the houses owned by the PPP leader Mr Asif Ali Zardari. The message concealed in the second attack could be political, a link in the chain of events leading us to the assassination of Ms Benazir Bhutto in December last year.

Asif Ali Zardari, co-chairman of opposition Pakistan People's ...
Asif Ali Zardari, co-chairman of opposition Pakistan People’s Party addresses a news conference in Karachi March 3, 2008.REUTERS/Athar

A stupid interview given by Osama bin Laden’s son Umar in Egypt has the boy saying that his father was a “good friend” of Mr Nawaz Sharif, thus unwittingly queering the political pitch in Pakistan.

The war is between Al Qaeda and its Taliban allies on the one hand and the state of Pakistan on the other. Under the new army chief Pakistan has been able to counteract the inroads made in many parts of Pakistan by the soldiers of the terrorist organisation. But unfortunately the army is increasingly worried about the lack of sufficient support from the public at large so that it can face up to the terrorists.

An injured Pakistani man and others run after the bomb explosion ...
An injured Pakistani man and others run after the bomb explosion in front of a badly damaged building of Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) in Lahore. Mourners offered funeral prayers Wednesday for 27 people killed in two suicide blasts in Pakistan, which have piled pressure on the incoming government to tackle Islamic militancy.(AFP/Aameed Qureshi)
Political activism in Pakistan is focused on the restoration of the judiciary and the ouster of President Pervez Musharraf. What the politicians and the media are ignoring at great risk is the country’s response to the takeover of its territories and the virtual free run of the country that the suicide bombers have today.

To give just one example: a case unfolding in a court in Rawalpindi, where the boys who had formed the suicide squad to kill Ms Bhutto are under trial, has been totally ignored despite confessions on the part of the bombers.

Public reaction to the destruction of the FIA building yesterday came in the shape of a protest march by citizens — most of them flag-bearing members of the PPP — who raised slogans against the government of President Musharraf without uttering a word against the terrorists.

The misplaced assumption is that it is the state only which has the responsibility to protect the citizens and must be blamed for falling down on its job.

This draws our attention to the task of the democratically elected politicians to evolve a strategy against terrorism. So far their very rudimentary thoughts on the problem are encapsulated in three words: “talk to them.”

This of course is not enough. The people will expect the coalition government to take substantial steps to prevent the suicide-bombers from attacking at will.

Dear Sir, the people of tribal areas recognise your role in war against terrorism. Now the liberation of tribal areas from terrorists is imminent. We will never forget your kindness and love. Again thank you very much.

Yours sincerely,

Muhammad Khurshid
Khar, Bajaur Agency,Tribal Areas Pakistan

Human rights worsened in Pakistan in 2007: US

March 12, 2008

WASHINGTON (AFP) – Human rights in Pakistan worsened in 2007 despite President Pervez Musharraf‘s repeated pledges to foster democracy in the key US ally, a State Department report said.

Pakistani lawyers during a protest rally in Rawalpindi on March ...
Pakistani lawyers during a protest rally in Rawalpindi on March 10, 2008. Human rights in Pakistan worsened in 2007 despite President Pervez Musharraf’s repeated pledges to foster democracy in the key US ally, a State Department report said.(AFP/File/Aamir Qureshi)

“Despite President Musharraf‘s stated commitment to democratic transition, Pakistan’s human rights situation deteriorated during much of 2007,” the department’s annual report on human rights said.

Read the rest:

Pakistan Opposition to Form Government

March 9, 2008

By Zarar Khan The Associated Press
Sunday, March 9, 2008; 1900 GMT 

BHURBAN, Pakistan — Pakistan’s election winners sealed an agreement Sunday to form a coalition government and said parliament would restore judges fired by President Pervez Musharraf — further clouding the U.S.-allied leader’s political future.
In the capital, police fired tear gas at protesters who gathered outside the residence of the deposed Supreme Court chief justice to demand his reinstatement.

A lawyer holding a black flag walks amongst tear gas, fired ...
A lawyer holding a black flag walks amongst tear gas, fired by police, during a protest against Pakistan’s President Pervez Musharraf, near the residence of deposed Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry, in Islamabad March 9, 2008.
Asif Ali Zardari, the widower of slain opposition leader Benazir Bhutto, and former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, whose government was ousted in Musharraf’s 1999 coup, announced their pact after talks at a resort town in the foothills of the Himalayas.
“The coalition partners are ready to form the government,” Sharif said at a news conference….

Read the rest:

Pakistan Is Defeating Militants in Swat Valley, Musharraf Says

December 26, 2007

By Michael Heath
Bloomberg News

Dec. 26 (Bloomberg) — Pakistan’s army is defeating Islamic militants in Swat Valley near Afghanistan, President Pervez Musharraf said, three days after a suicide bomber killed nine people in an attack on a military convoy in the region.

The extremists’ effort to expand from the tribal regions “has been controlled,” Musharraf said in Karachi yesterday, according to the official Associated Press of Pakistan. “I want to pay tribute to the armed forces and people of Swat” for their work “in crushing the increasing terrorism in the area.”

The Dec. 23 suicide attack in Mingora, also in Swat Valley, killed four military personnel and five civilians, security agencies said. Twenty-three people were injured.

The army killed as many as 230 pro-Taliban militants in a two-week operation in Swat Valley that began at the end of November. It’s fighting militants loyal to Maulana Fazlullah, a cleric seeking to impose Islamic law in the once popular tourist destination about 250 kilometers (150 miles) from the capital, Islamabad.

Extremism and terrorism in Pakistan have “taken a new dimension and need to be controlled,” Musharraf said in a speech to mark the anniversary of the birth of Mohammed Ali Jinnah, Pakistan’s founder, according to APP. “We have faced problems in this process but we have also made headway.”

Musharraf’s support for the U.S.-led war on terrorism is unpopular with Islamist parties in Pakistan. He has survived at least four assassination attempts by extremists since 2001.

U.S. Intelligence

Al-Qaeda leaders have established a base in the tribal region of northwestern Pakistan, U.S. intelligence agencies said in a July report. Fighting between the army and militants in the region escalated after Musharraf ordered security forces to storm Islamabad’s Red Mosque in July, ending a challenge to the government by clerics seeking to impose Islamic law in the city.

Musharraf earlier this month denied there are people in the military who are sympathetic to the Taliban and al-Qaeda, saying the army has suffered 1,000 casualties since it began its anti- terrorist operations in the northwestern region in 2003.

Pakistan has about 80,000 soldiers in the tribal region and mans 1,000 military posts on the 2,430-kilometer frontier with Afghanistan.

Musharraf, 64, imposed a state of emergency in Pakistan on Nov. 3 and fired Supreme Court judges, accusing the judiciary of hampering the fight against terrorism.

The emergency decree was revoked on Dec. 15 before elections scheduled for Jan. 8.

Thailand Votes on Constitution: The Plot Thickens

August 18, 2007

What do a sexy female teenage rock star, one of the richest men in the world and a pack of angry generals have in common?  Politics in Thailand, naturally! 

[The referendum in Thailand is over and the new constitution passed.  See
Thailand voters approve new constitution   ]

By John E Carey and our
Contributors Inside Thailand
August 18, 2007

On Sunday, the people of Thailand will likely adopt the constitution developed by the ruling military junta governing Thailand.

The junta occurred last September and ousted popular democratically elected President Thaksin Shinawatra. Mr. Thaksin, thought to be one of the world’s richest men, showed kindness to Thailand’s poverty stricken. Thaksin went so far as to find ways to funnel money to the poor – a practice Thailand’s generals saw as a threat to military authority and a way of “buying votes.”

The generals of the junta also accused Thaksin of keeping too many secrets and running a corrupt government. The new constitution increases transparency for senior leaders.

To make sure such heinous crimes as Mr. Thaksin’s alleged wrongs never happen again, Thailand’s new constitutional draft gives a lot more power to judges and bureaucrats and minimizes the voice of the people.

The current government of Thailand has sent copies of the 149-page draft constitution to all 18 million homes in Thailand.

And to make sure the resolution passes, the angry generals running Thailand have tilted everything heavily in the government’s favor.  Half the country is under martial law and a new law threatening prison for anyone convicted of obstructing the referendum has made the referendum’s passage almost a certainty.

But Mr Thaksin’s supporters want to see the constitution rejected.  They staged unruly protests for weeks in Bangkok and other cities urging rejection of the referendum.

Thaksin supporters say the charter justifies and endorses the creation of an illegitimate government by the military.

Although most Thais see the junta’s constitutional draft as a blow to Thai democracy, most will probably vote to adopt it during Sunday’s referendum. Polls show Thais eager for parliamentary elections, a carrot the junta has promised the people for December – if the new constitution passes on Sunday.

The generals and former generals running Thailand have made it clear that “the only right thing to do” is to vote yes on tomorrow’s referendum. Some 60% of eligible voters have said they will turn out.

“I think the constitution will be accepted because the government’s publicity campaign is very widespread throughout the whole country,” says Somchai Pakpatwiwat, a political science lecturer at Bangkok’s Thammasat University. “Thai democracy will go back in time to before the 1997 constitution, when the tenure of governments was very short. It’s the same old story.”

Critics of the junta and democracy advocates say the people will have less power under the constitution. A seven member panel of judges, for example, will elect about half the Senate.

Thailand’s biggest threat to the ruling judges and generals, it would appear, remains Mr. Thaksin himself. The junta has abolished his political party and ordered his arrest.

The wealthy Mr. Thaksin would have to be extradited from his new home in London – where he is reportedly living the high life. He recently purchased the English soccer club Manchester City – and he has been associating with Thai teenage rock star Lydia.

An enterprising young woman named Sunisa Lertpakawat went to London, interviewed Mr Thaksin, and wrote a syrupy book about the former prime minister.

She says her chatty book about Mr. Thaksin’s life and moods could have been called “Lonely Thaksin.”

“Although he tries to remain light-hearted, deep down in his eyes, I feel his hidden pain,” writes the author.

The book is actually named “Thaksin, Where Are You?”

When it was released earlier this month, the leadership of Thailand’s current government went ballistic. The author lost her Army job and most every copy of the book was seized and destroyed.

That notwithstanding, newspapers and magazines inside Thailand reported heavily – and glowingly on the book.

The Thai Prime Minister Surayud Chulanont, during his weekly TV talk program on Saturday,m said he hoped the turnout to be high and that the draft charter would be accepted at the referendum on Sunday.

A low turnout during Sunday’s referendum would be seen as a repudiation of the ruling junta – and a reaffirmation of Thailand’s desire for the democracy under Mr. Thaksin.

High Turnout Expected For Thailand’s Sunday Referendum