Note on the Disqualification Verdict of the Prime Minister

Source: Reuters/NDTV

And you thought that you would live to see the day when an elected head of government could complete their term.

More than anyone else, it was highly unlikely for Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, as much as he was the likeliest candidate to make it.

As much as his political party has been able to consistently win more two-third and clearer majorities than any other political party in the history of Pakistan.

As much as he was the perfect compromise for the people of Punjab between the bureaucratic establishment and a socially conservative and economically liberal tilt toward democratic values.

In many ways, it is an end of an era. Who knows? Just like in the 1990s, we might see Nawaz Sharif contesting the elections again. Though not likely after such a unanimous damning verdict, as absurd as it is. But Nawaz Sharif will remain to be the Prime Minister who initiated the Sunday as weekly holiday and constructed the motorway on his initiative.  And at least it offers a chance to Shahbaz Sharif to become Prime Minister.

One way or the other, the judicial coup of one of the most popularly backed elected government is complete. This is how Prime Minister will be dismissed in the post-military coup era.

Right after the farce of the JIT, which has essentially established the civil and military bureaucracy and intelligence as an extension of the judiciary, was put up by the Supreme Court, the Prime Minister was destined to be ousted.  The judges had already made up their minds. The only noteworthy and far from a substantial conclusion that the JIT had drawn, apart from a list of endless conjectures, was that the Sharif family was living way beyond their means.

In the end, the judgment by Supreme Court about the disqualification simply hinted that it was politically motivated. Even some of the most seasoned political commentators, publication editorials, and senior lawyers are analyzing it as such. There was a time under Iftikhar Chaudhary when you had the impression that the judges hear and judge cases after reading the papers. It seems those times have returned.

In other words, we have again had a mockery of democracy and our Constitution. Now at the hands of its guardians. What a shame.

However, there is little to expect from a Supreme Court that instead of safeguarding people’s right to the free internet, chose to uphold the YouTube ban. The bureaucratic institutions yet again let the people of Pakistan down by attacking democratic institutions and the mandate of the people’s vote.

What is worse though is that people who usually celebrate military coups are jubilant over the dismissal of the Prime Minister like they always are. Without realizing that the verdict has come against the mandate of the vote of the people, even though the grounds for qualification were clearly not of corruption. At least not in the least bit to warrant a lifetime disqualification.

Even though it is the day of thankfulness for the supporters of the PTI, I would neither be rejoicing nor be thankful if such a verdict came for an elected Prime Minister of that party. A part of me also wants Imran Khan to become the Prime Minister so that for once, they can be on the receiving end of this type of “justice.” Sadly, the party has been brainwashed to the degree of cynicism that some of them are even willing to see Imran Khan disqualified, being happy to see only the military rule.

But what do I know? Maybe I am missing the plot here. Maybe this is going to be really good for democracy after all.

Perhaps the judges have only lost their minds, or are being overly honest in their overzealousness of being “Sadik” and “Amin” instead of being malicious on purpose.

For once I hope that my friends on the other side are right and I am wrong.

In all seriousness, I would have no problems in conceding that I am at fault here.

 

But if only that were true.

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An All Too Familiar Face of Accountability

Source: BBC Urdu

Pakistan is a unique country in terms of governance and politics. Not everything is as it seems and you can often have a hard time discerning who is really at the helm of policy. The case with accountability is not any different. It is often used as a moralizing political tool than a dispenser of justice.

Ever since the office of the Prime Minister was created in Pakistan, the civil and military bureaucrats have been busy inventing excuses to dismiss it. And whether they have not been creative enough in coming up with those excuses, they most certainly have been effective in the ultimate objective.

Ever since General Pervez Musharraf resigned as President, it seems that the coup-ready military of Pakistan has changed its decades-old strategy. It apparently has realized that explicitly taking over the government in Pakistan is either not good for its image internationally or does not garner enough support at home. So now they prefer to move the strings from behind the curtain.

The Pakistani people have been fed a singular dimension of accountability. That the elected office holders or the politicians are the embodiment of all the corruption in the government, while the civil and military bureaucracy is the most efficient machinery in existence. Not only that, they are also the most suitable entities to hold the politicians accountable.

Ever since the revelation of the Panama Papers with the mention of the offshore companies of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, we are seeing the familiar face of accountability surface. As it came as a welcome relief after the drama around electoral rigging died out. And as before, when the military lies dormant, the judiciary plays its part to be the entity ready to stage a soft coup as in the case of Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gillani. The very tone used by judges, in this case, speaks volumes of their intent. It may or may not materialize, but the way the wind has been blowing is unmistakable.

At least for moral reasons, there have been calls for the Prime Minister to step down. Apart from not qualifying on the mystical constitutional standards of “Sadiq” and “Amin”, there is hardly any reason to until a definite proof of money laundering is produced on his person, as opposed to the conjectures listed by the JIT. But if the Prime Minister does not step down, it would be interesting to see how far his opponents go to bring about his demise. In that case, it is probably better for his purpose to play the victimization card.

However, where his governing achievement surpasses most other parties, his poor political leadership is costing him dearly. The problem with the PML-N has always been that it mistakes its heavy mandate as a carte blanche to alienate political stakeholders around the country. Of course, the incurably cynical PTI is on a saboteur mission to take democracy down with themselves but the rest of the parties can at least listen to the majority party and come to its rescue in case of bureaucratic threats.

What the PML-N does not realize is that its overwhelming majority that it takes for its strength is its greatest weakness. Because it has always been targeted by the bureaucratic establishment for such powerful popular support that no other party has enjoyed over three decades. The way it has been targeted is evident from all three terms of Prime Minister Sharif.

Unfortunately, there are elements in our civil and military bureaucracy, as well as the intelligence community, who do not want democracy to flourish in Pakistan. Not only do they not believe in democracy as a system of government, they strongly resent any hint of power in the hands of the public. The bureaucratic rule has been presented as a solution for the Pakistani people since independence and sadly, a good number of people buy into this narrative surviving since colonial times. And who better to hold the politicians accountable than bureaucrats, as evident from the JIT, which has now rendered military intelligence as an extension of the judicial branch.

Nobody has bothered questioning why the JIT has officially become an extension of the Supreme Court. Nobody has bothered questioning why the range of investigation has been extended beyond the revelations of the papers. Nobody has bothered asking why military intelligence officials are investigating the first family. And above all, nobody has bothered questioning why in Pakistan a panel of judges can undo the mandate of the people instead of impeachment by elected officials.

Of course, accountability should be a part of a strong democratic system. And a fragile democracy is hardly any excuse to forego the crimes of the political class. However, it would have been far easier to trust the high office of judiciary and bureaucracy in Pakistan had they enjoyed a cleaner political track record.

So, who is going to hold who accountable?

Well, let’s start from the politicians again. Now and forever.

 

The post was originally published in the Dunya Blogs.

How could the Chairman Savior be wrong?

Source: Reuters/Dawn

Source: Reuters/Dawn

It’s very much understandable that many of the PTI supporters and thought leaders are in denial of the Judicial Commission report on the 2013 general elections, from the very authority that they recognized and demanded for before their utterly ridiculous “sit-in” protest campaign in Islamabad. It’s déjà vu really, because all of us clearly remember how everyone was convinced how perfectly impeccable the person of Justice Fakhruddin Ibrahim would be for the role of Chief Election Commissioner for the 2013 polls, only later to be dismissed and demonized.

Just like the integrity of Justice Ibrahim was questioned after the unfavorable results of the 2013 general elections, the majority of the PTI following is still in denial, if not resorting to condemnation, of the findings of the Election commission. How could it be true if the Chairman Savior said otherwise? Despite the fact that the Chairman Savior Imran Khan reluctantly accepted the findings, the PTI leadership in general is doing nothing to change that impression among the party members. Of course, the people are not to be blamed for this. However, their trait of “questioning everything” would be far more admirable, if they took the trouble of questioning the judgement of their Chairman Savior every now and then.

PTI has created this political narrative of conspiracy theories for traction, cashing in on the miserable mood of the general masses. While it does work pretty well, it also proves to be counterproductive for the democratic process and progress, when the people completely give up any hope in the judicial institutions of the country, and rest all of their hopes in the person of the party Chairman, something which PTI hardly ever discourages.

The larger PTI narrative is worsening the already dying belief of the people in democratic institutions and the judiciary, while trying to enter and reform the same. This is why it is hardly any surprise that you would find so many among the urban middle class who support the party, while fiercely defending their democratic rights, but also resorting to condemn democracy at the same time, considering it “an inappropriate system of governance for Pakistani people.” Never thought I heard anything more insulting to the people of Pakistan. But then again, people who don’t vote for political parties that you side with always appear stupid. Many of such disgruntled supporters would even consider a military takeover than seeing the likes of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif in office, which sounds pretty familiar. Leaders such as ally Sheikh Rasheed are the perfect proponents of this view among the public.

I often find it hilarious when I find PTI supporters criticize PML-N for resorting to the “politics of the 90s,” even though many of them were not around to know what that means. But what is worse is that there is no shortage of such seasoned adults among them. It could be true actually in terms of politics of revenge, especially in terms of targeting of the MQM if it qualifies, but I also recall the politics of the 90s to be the politics of the sore loser. Both Nawaz Sharif and Benazir Bhutto resorted to juvenile tactics, refusing to accept their failure in general elections, though eventually coming to terms with the facts, but all that changed since the PPP government that formed in 2008. Call it the Zardari factor, if you will. But hard lessons were learned after the Musharraf coup d’etat in 1999.

However, it seems that the baton of the “sore loser” politics from the 90s has been taken up by the PTI, when no one was even around to pass it to them. Are they not the ones who resorted to hijack the entire elected parliament by concocting unrealistic allegations of the kind of rigging that only the state would have pulled off, and that were more like conspiracy theories than anything else? Many of them, by their own admission, turned out to be pure fabrication for political purposes, such as the allegations against the Interim Chief Minister of Punjab.

What needs to be understood here is that there is probably a not-so-thin line between movement for reform and self-defeating, cynical absolutism. This is somewhere even the most otherwise-sane followers of PTI look like losing the plot, and supposedly evil and “illiterate” political parties such as the PML-N end up appearing to be far more reasonable.

However, the critics of the PTI should not forget that the party derives its power from the passion of the people. Sheer passion putting all its force behind a Messianic leader that it blindly trusts, and one that is probably thirsty for a public lynching. Imran Khan could only have dreamed to have such support among whatever following he enjoys. However, it is the measure of a leader as to how they would want to direct this force of passion that they are blessed with.

Toward patient, organized reform through the parliament, or toward destruction, impatience, and chaos, just like the spectacularly failed “sit-in protest” campaign orchestrated in the fall of 2014. Because the direction would surely push many to question the very motives of the Chairman Savior.

It’s about time PTI started realizing and learning from its own mistakes for a change, though it could involve changing their popular narrative.

The post was originally published in The Nation blogs.

Why We Need More of Foreign Agenda

Source: APP/Dawn

Source: APP/Dawn

Recently the PML-N led federal government landed itself in yet another mess. The Interior Ministry ordered the closure of the prominent international NGO “Save the Children” and asking its staff to leave the country, but only to reverse the decision sooner than you know. The reason for banning the NGO temporarily was “the anti-state activities” they were allegedly involved in.

Now while the “Save the Children” matter has been taken care of, this just was not enough for the Interior Minister. He said that hundreds of NGOs are violating their charters in Islamabad and under the watch list. Someone else pointed out on TV that hundreds were unregistered.  There is no doubt that every NGO should be registered with the government. Makes perfect sense. But this incident also started a series of morally constipated nationalistic analyses on the national TV about how inherently evil the NGO business is. And how every NGO is absolutely corrupt and conspiring with world powers to destroy Pakistan and implement foreign agenda in the country.

Speaking of which, we should actually be thankful to the foreign NGOs for promoting foreign agenda in Pakistan, because clearly we could use more of it.

If helping children get a decent, rational secular education, better access to clean water and healthcare, and promoting democratic values mean foreign agenda, then certainly we could do with much more of it.

While the political parties and government in Pakistan, including the political party currently in power (since they have regained their monopoly over moral righteousness these days), make high claims about public welfare, they are clearly not touching areas that many of these “anti-state” NGOs are working on. If despite lofty claims, the government is not able to deliver education as a right, then do they blame foreign NGOs to take credit for promoting education in the society?

Why should we worry about the foreign agenda anyway when our own domestic agenda is so lethal.

OK, let me guess.

These foreign NGOs are dangerous because they are promoting education, free speech, and democracy. And that is probably anti-state, so that our children don’t get to learn that having a theocratic and discriminatory constitution is wrong. That could seriously disintegrate the almost perfectly homogeneous ignorance of our almost perfectly homogeneous society.

These foreign NGOs are particularly dangerous because they keep on talking about liberating women and helping them become financially independent. They are also a threat to the society because they keep on talking about legislating to punish violence against women. Because obviously that would shred our family values and honor to pieces.

If our constitution involves excommunicating religious communities, and our law supports provisions for capital punishment on blasphemy, then probably it’s foreign agenda alone that could come to salvage this hopeless mess.

But then again, when our local agenda involves hiding the most wanted terrorist in the world, there is not much to expect, is there?

That’s why we need more foreign NGOs to buy more local people with foreign money.

Let’s admit it as a nation, and there is nothing to be ashamed about it.

We need more of foreign agenda.

This post was originally published in The Nation blogs.

 

Kharcha Paani: Tracking Pakistan’s Bribery Path

Something worth sharing and worth spreading.

I have been told that RYSe.pk has come up with something really impressive. At least it impressed me, therefore I thought that it should get a mention in this space.

The project is called Kharcha Paani, the slang euphemism for bribery in India, and allows almost anyone with an internet connection to map and post their story whenever they are made to bribe someone in Pakistan, regardless of the sector of the economy or government.

Bribery tracking websites in the region probably originated in India with IPaidaBribe.com being one of the most prominent one and became an inspiration to a lot of similar projects in other countries. I guess Kharcha Paani is not the first such website in Pakistan, IPaidBribe.pk being an existing Pakistani version. Nevertheless, this initiative should certainly be appreciated. Much needed with the rapidly changing trends of internet usage in the country.  Too bad they don’t reflect the actual bribery rate in the country, but that can gradually improve. People make it work.

At least educated Pakistanis who know how to use facebook should be able to use this, though I don’t hope to use this tool. But I will if I have to. It will not stop them from asking for bribes, which you can always pay whenever it makes things convenient for you anyway (it can never be completely eliminated, fact), but it will at least offer a brutally true reflection of what this society is made of. Dishonesty and corruption that should be emphasized to tear down its false self-righteousness.

Who knows it could even reduce bribery cases some day.

The project could always be extended to other media, offering the masses access to a similar idea somehow.

Why Oh Why? – PPP, Please Get Rid of Abdul Qayyum Jatoi

Politicians in Pakistan have been known for their corruption and loose morals, but no one comes even close to Abdul Qayyum Jatoi of Pakistan People’s Party, who just resigned, correction, was rather sacked, from the position of Federal Minister of Defense Production and is MP from Muzaffargarh, Punjab. He has completely different ideas altogether when it comes to politics, morality and the responsibility of public office. Surely he has revolutionized the concept of equality and equal opportunity with his brilliant ideas. He is probably the only politician, and also the only person in the world, who openly approves of corruption, calls it the right of politicians and believes that everyone should have an equal opportunity for corruption.

Oh well, at least he is honest. Take a look for yourself.

On a TV Talk Show

Recent Press Conference in Quetta

His recent Press Conference in Quetta eventually got him into trouble. Again he shamelessly trumpeted his just ideals of equality that everyone should have an equal right to corruption, which clearly shows that he cares for everyone. Not only that, but he also criticized the Army and the Judiciary to an extent which got the Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gillani a bit agitated. He should have taken action when he made that irresponsible and insane remark for a figure holding a public office on that TV show, but at last, he made the right move.

He maintained that he made the remark in “personal capacity”. How absurd! Mr. Jatoi, I think you are a leader (unfortunately) and when you make a remark in a public press conference, I don’t think it is considered to be a “personal remark” for which you should not be held accountable, especially when you are serving in public office. First you need some basic lessons in leadership and politics, and only then should you be  allowed to run in elections.

But then again, he is not the only Pakistani politician who needs such a lesson. This clearly speaks volumes about the politics in Pakistan. It does not really need a lot of elaboration.

Jatoi was summoned by the Prime Minister and was asked to explain his remarks. On his failure to satisfy the Prime Minister, he was asked to step down from the position of Federal Minister for Defense Production. Mr. Gilani is one of the most generous souls in the country. Had I been the Prime Minister, not only would I have asked for his resignation from the National Assembly, which is the House of Representatives in Pakistan, but would have also recommended to the Party Leader to kick out this ridiculous criminal from the party.

I think Mr. President needs to take some action as well as the Party Leader, because as far as I know, he has been silent over the matter. I don’t want to be discussing party politics here, but speaking impartially, Pakistan People’s Party, founded by a visionary like Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, needs to decide whether it is appropriate to associate themselves with people like Jatoi. Because if they don’t mind, the party will soon be recognized as a symbol of political corruption in Pakistan, if it isn’t already.

At least the people of Pakistan should make up their minds clearly about it. Vote for any party you consider appropriate, but don’t vote for criminals and morally corrupt people like Abdul Qayyum Jatoi, or the country will never progress and improve from its current state of shambles. I am sorry to say this but if anyone votes for Abdul Qayyum Jatoi after all this, I will have to deduce that either that person is not sane, or is a traitor who deliberately wants to destroy Pakistan.

My Comment on Pakistanization: A Post by Syed Ali Raza Abidi

Apart from people fighting over how racist they are while discussing incidents of violence, sometimes words of sense appear on the pages of the Express Tribune as well. Oh, but then again, what I am talking about right now is not a work of a full-time professional columnist, so maybe that is why. However, let us come to the point. Pakistan right now seems to be passing through the darkest and worst of its phases ever since its creation in 1947. Pakistan is currently facing every possible problem which exists under the sun, let it be corrupt leadership, poor law and order, violence, lack of education and discipline, threat from terrorists, international pressures, a weak economy and even the worst natural disaster in recent history of the planet.

A coincidence? Maybe not, because in Pakistan, it doesn’t rain, but it pours. Some basic problems lead to many others. A lot of people can get you depressed with their words, but maybe not Syed Ali Raza Abidi. His recent post in the Express Tribune Blogs titled “Solving Our Problems: Pakistan-ization“, which offers solutions for a change, instead of the same old rhetoric of hopelessness and the same old mantra of “the end is nigh”. This is the reason why I have decided to mention this meaningful and constructive post here and to add further to it. I also added a brief and impromptu comment on the blog page.

A Secular Constitution, Education and Brave Leadership. Will solve many social problems. The goal must be Economic Freedom. One of the most meaningful posts that I have read on this site for a long time.

Although some people may not agree with the first three words of my comments. So let me address those first of all. Although it is a popular notion that the struggle for Pakistan was initiated for the Muslim community of the India under the Raj, so that is why many people believe that Pakistan should have a constitution with Islamic provisions, but that does not mean that Pakistan should not consider a Secular constitution like most sensible countries. Incorporating Islamic provision is not really an issue, unless they result in the preference of a particular community as compared to the others, and even worse, may not offer enough, and ideally equal civil rights to some communities.

It is useless to be too specific about it, but it is common sense if you look at it. Every citizen of Pakistan must have equal rights and the constitution should guarantee that. I don’t really understand why anyone should disagree. There should not really be a concept of a majority and minority community. I personally disapprove both these terms when it comes to communities. When every community and citizen has equal rights, why is one community a majority or a minority? What if the Sunni population is larger than that of the Shiites, and what if the Shiite population is larger than the Ahmedis? And the same applies to other religions like Hinduism, Sikhism and Zoroastrians. It does not matter because all are equal in importance. All are Pakistanis.

Maybe it is not possible to completely prevent social discrimination of communities which do not have the majority of population in a particular area, and this applies to anywhere in the world, whether you take the example of India or the United States, but at least Pakistan should correct the text book. It is important to do so. I think the most important step that any government can take is to change the communal based status of the constitution. This will be an important achievement, unless some crazy right winger registers a petition in the Supreme Court to get the amended constitution reversed to its miserable communal state. It will be the most tragic thing that will happen to the country since the 2010 floods.

Unfortunately, hardly anyone in Pakistan talks about it, and even the most progressive and secular parties of the countries assign no weight to it. Maybe they are afraid of the reaction of the people, who are under the false impression that Pakistan needs to have an Islamic constitution. There is no need to delete the Islamic provisions, if everyone agrees to that, but not if they are conflicting to the equality of civil rights. However, there is no need to paint a communal color to  the constitution anyway, so that no community in the country should feel left out. Only Muslims can be the President and the Prime Minister of the country currently. Pakistan should be an equal opportunity employer.

This was how the founder of Pakistan, Muhammad Ali Jinnah, a Twelver Shia by faith, but a Secular statesman in political vision, wanted the country to be like. Yes, he believed that the country should offer the freedom to Muslims to practice their faith, which they have, but he also wanted other communities to have equal rights in every way. They may have their freedom in the country, but we have to offer them their equal civil rights yet. The Ahmedis often complain of discrimination, and with a secular constitution, their complaints will be answered on a basic level at least. It is up to the Muslims to decide about their status as Muslims or Non-Muslims, but as far as ensuring  equal civil rights are concerned, that is the responsibility of the secular government.

I think we must not be emotional or sentimental in this regard, and must treat the matter pragmatically. This could solve a number of social problems in Pakistan and could prove the first step towards the education of the masses, which will further result in the eradication of communal prejudice, violence and sectarianism. Mr. Abidi talks about a solution in his post that as a nation we need to speak and face the truth. This is one truth which we have been avoiding for a very long time.

The blog post under discussion puts forth five very brief and strong points in his solution to the problems of the country, which are:

  • Separation of Religion from State
  • Bringing Uniformity to the Education System
  • Revamp and Revolutionize the Health Sector
  • Transparent Judiciary
  • Accountability with Honest Work by Citizens

While these points could never have been put in a better way, I only added a brave, honest and straightforward leadership to it, which should have a clear intention to work towards the progress of the country, unlike the passive establishment and the morally corrupt political leadership of the country. The bureaucracy, feudals and politicians of the country have been infested with corruption, which has become an integral part of the society, from the grass root level to the ruling elite.  And yes, the armed forces should be as accountable as any other Pakistani institution, because they ensure the existence of the country.

The people of Pakistan already realize the importance of an independent judiciary. But an important point was raised in the post under discussion that we must recognize the enemy within our ranks. It is the enemy within which is pinning the country down. As for the pseudo-intellectuals he talks about, well let’s just say that people find it fashionable to speak against their motherland. There can be no second opinion about the attention which the health sector requires. But education by far remains the most important element of the post. Unless the people are educated, do not expect any progress or improvement of any kind.

This means that the education facilities should reach every single village from Gilgit-Baltistan to Gwadar. Not only will this produce an economically self-sufficient society, but will also purge out the disease of acceptance of violence and prejudices in the society. A sincere and honest government can make that happen. We have all the funds we need. Once everyone is educated, and in a uniform system without abolishing the Madrassah system, there will be no more incidents like the Sialkot murder. Many in the West blame Islam for all the violence, but do not realize that actually the cause is lack of education. Why the educated Muslims around the world are not resorting to such violence?

I know it is easy to rant about it, but the right intention is all what is needed for offering a solution to the problems of the country. If you want to sum up the post under discussion, it can be done in just two words: “right intentions”. Moreover, Pakistan must work towards financial independence, no matter how difficult and hard it seems. This is the only way the country can break free from the shackles holding it down. This will also offer more diplomatic freedom to the country and greater influence among the nations of the world.

As for the pressures from the world powers in various areas, this is where the role of brave leadership comes into play. Leaders like Jinnah and Zulfikar Ali Bhutto have done that. It can be done again.

Things have never been worse for Pakistan. It is the perfect time to change.

The journey towards improvement can be begun

Facing the right way is needed to be done.

Why worry about the distance ahead

When you’re even afraid to take the first step.