Thursday, March 19, 2009
The writer is a freelance columnist and former newspaper editor
The many who had advised deposed chief justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry to reach some sort of “deal” or “compromise” following the 2008 polls have reason to reconsider their words.
Though in many cases their suggestions were well-intended, meant to bring an end to the political deadlock that gradually grew in the country after the PML-N parted ways with the PPP in May 2008, building towards ever-growing instability, we must be glad the chief justice chose not to listen. His stubborn stand on principles has helped show us all that it is not necessary to make constant adjustments or to make concessions at every stage. While dialogue, negotiation and the building of consensus are almost invariably acts that help resolve crises, at some points we need to stand firm on issues that are important. The refusal to give in made possible the astonishing triumph of people we saw last weekend.
Everywhere in the country, perhaps most notably in Lahore which saw the most action Sunday, there is a new spring in the step of people, a new sense of pride in their achievement as citizens. Video footage is played over mobile phones and hand-held cameras of Hamza Shahbaz, the son of Shahbaz, using his vehicle to ram boldly through buses being used by authorities as barricades while hundreds stand and cheer. Other clips show people in Sheikhpura, in Gujranwala and in other cities commandeering cranes from building sites and using them to calmly shift the giant containers placed along roads by the men of Rehman Malik, at enormous expense, in a bid to stop the marchers. The tactics the government used was no match against a force of people which gained numbers only slowly, but then brought in women, children, teenagers, entire families with it to present an insurmountable challenge to the government. By doing so, people, perhaps for the first time in recent history, demonstrated that they have the power to make a difference and that decisions are not always made in foreign capitals or in offices where men in khaki uniforms pore over shadowy plans and strategies. This is a hugely important discovery.
The prime minister, by springing rather unexpectedly out of the shadows of the Presidency has made his mark; he will be remembered in history for his brave actions when it came to the crunch. PPP ministers who resigned to protest the dictatorial behaviour of the president provided Mr Gilani the pathway along which to walk. Sherry Rehman and Raza Rabbani must be applauded for demonstrating the moral courage to stand by their convictions – and to prove that somewhere within the PPP, the conscience and the desire to stand by people which was a part of the party when it was founded more than four decades ago, still finds at least some place. The challenge for Mr Gilani must be to keep the spirit going. He must now move towards other change aimed at strengthening institutions, bringing them fully into the framework of the 1973 Constitution – still the document that creates most consensus – and establishing the supremacy of a Parliament that has so far played only a secondary role in national events since the last election. There are many indications that this is just what Mr Gilani intends to work towards.
In the Presidency, one wonders what is being said beneath the glittering chandeliers and ornate drapings that cut inhabitants off from reality. Does Mr Zardari realise what immense mistakes he has made? Does he know that an opportunity to claim credit for a judicial restoration was squandered due mainly to foolishness and a feeling of megalomania? Have his coterie of advisors gathered red-faced and offered explanations? Will any of them have the grace to step down? Certainly, the president’s own claims that he had in fact never opposed Justice Chaudhry’s return and was waiting only for Justice Dogar’s tenure to end persuades no one at all. It only leaves everyone in that enormous house on the hill looking sillier than ever. Quite obviously, they were compelled by circumstances and the persuasion of powerful players to put up no hurdles in the way of the judicial restoration and permit the prime minister’s predawn announcement.
Some worrying trends have emerged over the past few days. An attempt was made to play the so-called “Sindh” card, with the president held up as a victim of events, like leaders from the province before him. This is absurd. It is however not an isolated event. According to reports in the Sindhi-language press, President Zardari, at the end of January this year, had lashed out vehemently at a meeting with Sindhi parliamentarians for failing to protect him. Ministers from that province were accused of being too inactive and of failing to appear on TV talk shows to defend the president against mounting criticism. All this is disturbing. There is no doubt that deep tensions exist between federating units. The attempt to use these to meet a personal need or to defend the indefensible is dangerous. It undermines the efforts of campaigners in Sindh, and elsewhere, to draw attention to the very real issues they face. The fact is that the people of Sindh are far too intelligent to be duped in this fashion. The Sindhi media, whose standards in terms of ethics and quality exceed those of many channels broadcasting in national languages, has jubilantly backed the restoration of the chief justice. People everywhere in the province make it clear they can see beyond the narrow boundaries of ethnicity and can assess their leaders on merit.
But this having been said, the fact remains that the provincial strains within our Federation are real. The prime minister and other national leaders, including Mian Nawaz Sharif, need to direct attention towards them and to do more to build national harmony. This is possible only by granting provinces greater autonomy and offering them a full share in decision-making.
For the present, the prospects for Pakistan seem brighter than ever. The new confidence can be seen in many places. Even the Karachi Stock Market has reacted almost instantly, climbing back up several hundred points after weeks spent in a listless slump. In other cities, shop-owners report an increase in sales which they link to the more optimistic mood of people. The key need for leaders is to keep this spirit of hope going, to ensure people remain a part of political life at every level and can be taken along during the days ahead to meet the many challenges that still lie ahead.
We must remember that though an important victory has been achieved, the war on many other fronts continues and can be won only if the momentum that has been built is kept going so that bigger change can also be brought about.
All the videos have been saved on multiple locations and can be seen by anyone. Feel free to circulate them
official anthem : http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IiwPotaS_4s
farooq naik : http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1aQh1oP5qZI
Waadae : http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HSPpIjr_FSg
Tahira abdullah : http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oZpbHLsOuuA
Benazir Baghi: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WQGX8OzFS9U
Insaf : http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0m5AZFF1O_g
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Saturday, March 14, 2009
The writer is a lawyer based in Islamabad. He is a Rhodes scholar and has an LL.M from Harvard Law School
The second long march in support of the rule of law movement has begun. The march is scheduled to culminate in a sit-in on the Constitutional Avenue in Islamabad, and is to continue until the judges deposed on Nov 3 are restituted to their constitutional offices. Has an overwhelming majority of our nation been rallying behind the movement merely to seek the reemployment of Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry? Is the rule of law movement now a partisan movement seeking the replacement of the Zardari-led PPP government with one dominated by PML-N? Should the long march be denounced because the apprehension of disorder must override any concern for rule of law? Can democracy thrive under a depraved governance structure that engenders a dichotomy between the twin concepts of law and order – that go hand in hand in all civilized societies – and the excuse of instilling order is actually used to thwart the law?
The long march is not about the person of Iftikhar Chaudhry or Nawaz Sharif. It is a march against the status quo and must succeed in order to usher in the much-needed change in the constitutional structure, political culture and social ethos of this country, without which Pakistan will be unable to sustain a moderate society or prosper as a democratic polity. The defiance of Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry on March 9, 2007, only ignited fires of resentment against the ruling elite for sustaining a justice system that denies the ordinary citizen access to justice. He might not have had an irreproachable past, but his perseverance and his dogged resolve to fight an illegal and unconstitutional act has given this country an opportunity to rally behind a cause that promises a better collective future for all of us. Likewise, Nawaz Sharif might be culpable for meting out highhanded treatment to the judiciary during his last stint in power. But how does that equate the PML-N with the PPP at this time, when the former is standing on the right side of principle seeking to change a fundamental cause of our misfortunes, while the latter has emerged as the intractable obstacle to such change?
This change being sought by the rule of law movement is imperative for five fundamental reasons. One, the Constitution of Pakistan needs to be reverted to its original sustainable form. General Musharraf vandalized the Constitution for a second time on Nov 3, 2007. On that fateful day the General had bestowed on himself the power to single-handedly inscribe changes into our fundamental law, and in exercise of such self-proclaimed power, disbanded the judicature, set-up a new High Court in Islamabad, validated all his illegal actions and gave himself immunity against charges of treason etc. The new Dogar Court that he constituted ‘validated’ his unconstitutional actions in the Tikka Iqbal Mohammed Khan case. While the general’s illegal acts outraged this nation and triggered a chain of events that led to his regime’s demise, this country continues to function under the presumption that his actions of Nov 3 were legal and the changes introduced by him are a valid part of our Constitution. The Constitution thus needs to be cleansed of the general’s adulterous acts, which cannot happen so long as we continue to live with a Dogar Court complicit in the general’s treacherous scheme.
Two, the constitutional structure of separation of powers and checks and balances needs to be given effect. The fundamental rights and liberties guaranteed to the citizens are never self-implementing. An independent judiciary is the enforcement arm of the Constitution. So long as the judiciary remains subservient to the executive and continues to function as an extension of the ruling elite, one can scribble in all kinds of sensible provisions in the Constitution but they will amount to naught. Without a judiciary that has the ability, resolve and reputation of being a neutral arbiter of justice and conscientiously adjudicates the relationship between the institutions of the state on the one hand and between the citizens and the state on the other in accordance with the letter and spirit of the Constitution, rule of law will not amount to anything more than the rule of the powerful. If we allow the Zardari-led PPP to stuff courts with perfidious quacks – as obvious from the recent judicial appointments made with the consent and collusion of the Dogar Court – overtime the gap between the law produced by our courts and demands of justice will become so wide that the notion of rule of law in Pakistan will itself become farcical.
Three, we need a constitutional and legal structure that sustains a level-playing field in the political realm. The leaders of the PPP and the PML-N both have tainted pasts, and this nation has not been vying for a return to the kind of corrupt and ineffectual representative governance that these parties punished the country with in the 1990s. The charter of democracy had brought along the hope that our mainstream parties had learnt from their past mistakes, agreed to let bygones be bygones, compete fairly within the political arena, and move forward with a clean slate. The NRO, however, was the first infraction. The PPP leadership got into bed with Musharraf who wiped clean its past sins through an unscrupulous and shameful edict. This left the Sharif’s out in a lurch, with the swords of Damocles hanging over their heads.
The Zadari-led PPP went back to the dirty political games of the 1990s once it decided to abuse the instrument of the law to cut the Sharifs to size by getting them declared ineligible for public office. If the Sharifs have a blemished past, so does Zardari – and one that is much murkier. Probably all our politicos will be rendered ineligible to hold elected public office if we strictly enforce the qualification requirements for such office enshrined in our Constitution. Our nation has thus been willing to give politicians with tainted past another chance, frankly, for want of options (as there is no short-cut to democracy) but with the hope that they will be willing to reform themselves and their sordid ways. Thus, if democracy is to have a chance in this country, we cannot allow one political party to establish a stranglehold over our skewed legal and judicial structures to entrench itself in power and outlaw the opposition.
Four, we need to reform our democracy and system of governance to ensure that the policies and actions of elected representatives reflect popular public opinion. Khaki saviours still have a controlling role in Pakistan in this day and age because there isn’t much distinction between the style and system of governance that subsists under military dictatorships as opposed to that practiced by civilian autocracies voted in during democratic times. The rule of law movement has sustained itself for two gruelling years and the ideal of constitutionalism that it is struggling for resonates with ordinary people. All opinion polls conducted in Pakistan since Nov 3, 2007, establish that an overwhelming majority of Pakistanis supports the restitution of the Nov 3 judiciary. And yet we have a popularly elected party in government that has willingly inherited the abhorrent policies and tactics of the dictator it replaced and refuses to give effect to the unmistakable will of the nation it claims to represent. If the growing gap between the popular will of the nation and the narrow self-promotional policies of our ruling elite is not bridged, the continuation of civilian autocracy in democratic garb will end up discrediting the desire for democracy itself in this country.
And five, we need to re-instil morality and ethics in public life. Over the last year we have witnessed a free fall in the standards of morality exhibited by holders of public office. To err is human, but to gloat over deliberate wrongdoing and use deceit as a favoured political tactic cannot be acceptable. A representative government that introduces a code of conduct for public life that celebrates and rewards indiscretions, corruption and malice cannot be a harbinger of hope for the future of democracy or rule of law in this country. If we accept Mr Zardari’s broken promises, his refusal to honour binding commitments, and his choice of lackeys smeared in scandal for elevation to revered public offices, it will not be too long before all sensible distinctions between right and wrong in public life get wiped away.
Now we are essentially being told that our perverted ‘ground realities’ have become so entrenched that in order to preserve order and peace in the society we should compromise the principle underlying the rule of law movement instead of changing the ugly reality. This must not happen. If we sacrifice principle on the altar of expediency at this critical juncture, we might not get another opportunity to redeem the soul and spirit of this nation through a peaceful mass movement led by the educated middle class of this country.
Those who think the present setup has something to do with democracy are living in the same fools paradise which was created by the American Dictator Mush. The only thing which has improved is that civil society in Pakistan is getting more and more stronger as the folds of feudals/dictators are getting tighter and tighter.
We salute the lawyers for giving our nation the vision to live with dignity and honour.
Keep up the good work.
RAWALPINDI: The legal fraternity across the country including Rawalpindi observed black day on Monday over completion of two years of illegal steps taken by Former President Gen. (retd) Pervez Musharraf against deposed Chief Justice of Pakistan Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry.
Besides boycotting proceeding of the courts, the lawyers wearing black band on their arms brought out rallies in different cities of the country for reinstatement of deposed judges of Pakistan. Lawyers in Rawalpindi also boycotted courts and also protested on Kachehri chowk, causing suspension of traffic for some time.
The lawyers also hoisted black flag at bar building in a protest of steps taken by Pervez Musharraf two years ago against deposed CJP. It may be recalled here that 9 members lawyer delegation who arrived in Rawalpindi from Lahore on foot also participated in the protest.
Addressing the lawyers, the leadership of District and High Court Bar has made it clear their movement would be continued till reinstatement of deposed judges, rule of law and independent judiciary.
The steps taken by Former President on March 09 2007 was illegal and unconstitutional, they said, adding that, sit-in Islamabad on March 16 would be peaceful but if government tries to create hurdle then it would be responsible for consequences.
Declaration adopted at the National Conference for the restoration of independent judiciary held at Islamabad on 4th March, 2009
Declaration adopted at the National Conference for the restoration of independent judiciary held at Islamabad on 4th March, 2009
This National Conference having deliberated upon the need for the restoration of the independent judiciary in the country and for that purpose it was necessary to undertake a peaceful and non-violent Long March to Islamabad and then to peacefully undertake a sit-in (Dharna) in front of the Parliament House, adopts the following resolution:
WHEREAS: This Conference is of the view that the actions taken by the General Musharaf on November 03, 2007 were wholly illegal, malafide and unconstitutional and therefore cannot be sustained;
AND WHEREAS: The action of November 03, 2007 ought to have been reversed by executive action and all their effects ought to have been purged immediately after General Elections of February 18, 2008 but was not done;
AND WHEREAS: The martyred leader of Pakistan Peoples’ Party Mohtarma Shaheed Benazir Bhutto had promised a Long March to ensure the reinstatement of Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Choudhry and his independent colleagues; while Mr. Asif Ali Zardari, the Co-chairman Pakistan Peoples’ Party has thrice through formally written and signed declarations, promised the restoration of the judges to the position that prevailed on November 02, 2007; but these promises have not been kept by the Federal Government;
AND WHEREAS: The people of Pakistan demand for an independent judiciary so that the nation may attain stability, prosper, progress economically and develop into one of the leading states in the comity of nations, as an independent judiciary is the most essential element to ensure the sustenance and stability of the democratic order, to ensure economic growth and to attract investment, that will then address the problems of unemployment, inflation, crimes, law and order to make Pakistan a terror-free and peaceful place;
AND WHEREAS: This Conference is of the opinion that after the failure to fulfill its promises the Government has left the nation with no option whatsoever but to take recourse to a peaceful and non-violent Long March and Dharna as proposed by the Lawyers of Pakistan;
AND WHEREAS: The Conference has taken note of the unconstitutional steps taken by the Federal Government in imposing Governor’s Rule in the Punjab and ousting the government of a Party that continues to display that it has mandate of the people of the Punjab. The Conference is aware that this illegal step has been taken to attempt to subvert the Long March and Dharna but has resulted in such a designed turmoil in the Punjab Police that resulted in the security lapse resulting in the tragic attack on Sri Lankan Cricketers in Lahore. Had the malafide transfers not been made, and had the Punjab government not been ousted this tragic incident would have been prevented.
NOW THEREFORE IT IS RESOLVED THAT:
This Conference calls upon the entire nation to participate wholeheartedly in the Long March scheduled to start from Quetta and Karachi on March 12, 2009 so as to reach Islamabad on March 16, 2009 and there to stage a peaceful and non-violent Dharna (sit-in) until the Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Choudhry and his colleagues judges are restored to the offices they held on 02 November, 2007.