Return of Memogate: There Are Better Ways For SC To Generate Media Headlines

Husain Haqqani outside court

Supreme Court has resumed the decaying corpse of memo gate case for one last flogging. Announced on Thursday that SC has issued arrest warrants for the ex-Ambassador and a request has been delivered to Interpol for ‘red warrants’ against him. This is nothing new as the same performance was given in 2012 also. This time, however, the script writers seem to be setting the Supreme Court up to play the fool.

First, just consider how this case has managed to be dragged up again:

More recently, Haqqani’s name had echoed in the apex court while a three-judge bench heard a set of petitions moved by PTI chief Imran Khan and a group of citizens in connection with the right of overseas Pakistanis to participate in the democratic process.

The case had reminded the chief justice of Haqqani.

“Should we also give him the right to vote?” the chief justice had wondered.

“Why don’t we issue him [Haqqani] a notice and summon him to face the Memogate case,” the chief justice had then said.

Later, while reviewing previous progress on the case, the bench had observed that, following his resignation, Haqqani had left the country on the assurance that he would return, but never did.

So we are told that whole case was completely forgotten by the Chief Justice like an aging, absent minded uncle until listening about voting rights of overseas Pakistanis? Is this what will be explained to Interpol when they ask why there is a new request after five years? We forgot? And Interpol will take this seriously?

Actually, there is already a problem with Interpol taking our requests seriously, isn’t there? Already last year Interpol rejected FIA’s request for a ‘red warrant’ against Altaf Hussain. Next Interpol rejected FIA’s request for a ‘red warrant’ against Brahumdagh Bugti.

It should also be noted that Interpol has rejected FIA’s request for a ‘red warrant’ against Gen. Musharraf. Actually, Interpol rejected this request not once – but three separate timesSpeaking of Musharraf, has the Court forgotten about him upon suddenly remembering Haqqani? Is it that our Justices are only able to remember one case at a time?

The futility of requesting ‘red warrants’ against political opponents is obviously no secret. International law experts have also already noted that it is impossible to legally force Haqqani to return against his will. If not, why doesn’t the government appeal to US authorities for mutual assistance? Legal experts have explained that “A request for mutual assistance between law enforcement authorities will, in any case, have to go through a U.S. court where the Pakistan government will need to prove that a crime has been committed,” adding that “Even if Haqqani is belatedly charged with something other than treason, his lawyers in the U.S. or any other country will claim that the charge is ‘a relative political offence'”. Whatever narrative they have tried to create within Pakistan, the rest of the world simply doesn’t buy it.

So what is the point of the SC’s latest action unless it is only to generate breaking news tickers for Pakistani media? And why have our Justices suddenly remembered this forgotten affair? Could it be because we are once again facing serious threats of international isolation? Is it purely by coincidence that this announcement is made soon after it is reported that US, UK, Germany and France have moved to place Pakistan on the global terrorist-funding watch list? Perhaps our esteemed Justices could do some good for the country and remember another forgotten case – the case of Ehsanullah Ehsan, an actual traitor who has actually waged war against Pakistan and is responsible for killing actual Pakistanis.

I promise, they will get some headlines from remembering this, too!

‘Pakistan Loses Human Rights Icon Asma Jahangir’

The team at New Pakistan joins Pakistanis in mourning the loss of Human Rights icon Asma Jahangir.

Ms Jahangir was a tireless fighter of human rights not only within Pakistan but around the world. Her untimely death has left a large void. Ms Jahangir was a democracy activist, helped co-found the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, was United Nations Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief and a Trustee at the International Crisis Group.

United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres expressed sorrow at Ms Jahangir’s demise: “We have lost a human rights giant, Asma was brilliant, deeply principled, courageous and kind […] She will not be forgotten.”

According to an editorial in Dawn: “Asma Jahangir was a citizen that all of Pakistan could be proud of and whom most can only hope to emulate. Principled and courageous, Asma’s willingness and determination to confront evil, defend the vulnerable, and insist on Pakistan living up to the ideals of its democratic, constitutional and secular foundations made her truly iconic. A woman who lived the majority of her adult life in the public eye, Asma eschewed self-promotion for a steadfast and remarkable focus on the issues that ought to be of concern to every right-thinking and sensible citizen.”

 

The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan released a statement on Ms Jahangir:

“The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) is devastated and shocked at the unexpected and sudden passing away of its co-founder Asma Jahangir: exemplary lawyer, human rights icon, pro-democracy champion, friend and mentor par excellence, and a brave comrade of the poor and the disadvantaged. She died yesterday due to cardiac arrest.”

“The human rights movement in Pakistan was founded and is defined by Asma Jahangir. She co-founded HRCP in 1986 to establish a highly informed and objective voice on a national level in the struggle for the provision of human rights for all and democratic development in Pakistan. Yet, HRCP had a voice and reach, both nationally and internationally, ​mainly because of her. Asma Jahangir had served as Secretary-General and Chairperson of HRCP in the past. She was currently serving as HRCP’s Spokesperson and as the UN Special Rapporteur of Human Rights in Iran, among her numerous other significant appointments.”

“Asma Jahangir’s unique and outstanding contribution to the human rights discourse is acknowledged by friend and foe alike, nationally and globally. HRCP has not known a braver and more tireless human rights defender than Asma Jahangir. She will be missed, always and immensely, by all whose lives she touched.”

The case of Junaid Hafeez

On the heels of news where a Pakistani court sentenced one person to death and five others to life imprisonment for the lynching and killing of Mashal Khan on accusations of blasphemy comes the news of further delays in the case of Junaid Hafeez.  

 

Junaid Hafeez, formerly a visiting faculty member at the Department of English at Bahauddin Zakariya University (BZU) in Multan, was arrested under charges of committing blasphemy on March 13, 2013. Mr. Hafeez’s trial has been dragging on for several years due to frequent transfers of presiding judges, absence of prosecution witnesses, and other reasons beyond the defendant’s control.

 

His case has once again been transferred to a new judge and human rights activists are concerned that his right to a fair trial will be further undermined. Pakistan. In a recent statement the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) expressed fear that “if a fair trial is not ensured this time round, Mr. Hafeez may end up spending another 5-10 years in prison.”

 

According to a story in Dawn “When the case first came to prominence in 2013, finding a lawyer to defend Junaid wasn’t an easy job for his father. At this point, director of Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP), I.A. Rehman, referred him to the late Rashid Rehman — a Multan-based lawyer who was also the HRCP’s organiser in Multan. Mr Hafeez still remembers how Rashid had reviewed the case even before he was approached. “He had studied the case thoroughly, went on campus to find the facts, and was totally prepared.”” However, on May 7, 2014, human rights activist and lawyer Rashid Rehman who took up his case was gunned down.

Subsequently, finding a legal representative proved extremely difficult for Mr. Hafeez’s family.

 

According to HRCP:

 

“The transfer of Mr. Hafeez’s case to a new judge when the defence has already tested the prosecution’s account – and the trial is near conclusion – seriously undermines the defendant’s right to a fair trial. A new judge at this stage will fail to understand the nuances of cross-examination because it was conducted before another judge. It will certainly lead to an inordinate delay in the disposal of the case and add to the suffering of the accused. Mr. Hafeez has a legitimate expectation that the judge who heard the case through cross-examination of the prosecution’s witnesses and challenges to its evidence preside over the concluding stages of the trial.”

 

Further, “the situation is made worse by the fact that Mr. Hafeez has been detained in solitary confinement since May 2014 in a high security prison in Multan. Jail authorities claim this is so because he faces a threat to his life even inside the prison. Furthermore, Mr. Hafeez’s lawyer has been denied an opportunity to meet him in private in prison. Mr. Hafeez’s right to a fair hearing within a reasonable time, an essential component of the right to a fair trial, is enshrined in article 10A of the Constitution of Pakistan and laid down in international human rights instruments. HRCP therefore condemns the transfer of Mr. Hafeez’s case, in the strongest possible terms, and reiterates that Pakistan’s national and international human rights obligations do not support such vehement and uncalled for disregard of the human rights of any of its citizens.”

The Pashtun Long March

The murder of a young Pashtun shopkeeper, Naqeebullah Mehsud, in a fake police encounter on January 13 in the financial heart of Pakistan, Karachi, has led to what is being referred to as the Pashtun Long March: Since February 4 thousands of Pashtun activists have gathered outside the press club in Islamabad chanting the slogan of Azadi (Freedom) and highlighting human rights violations against their community.

 

Pashtuns from Waziristan started the march on January 26 and were joined by 10,000 fellow Pashtuns from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Baluchistan. According to a report in Gandhara RFERL “In a series of emotional speeches, speaker after speaker ran through their grievances and called on the government to act. “Naqeebullah Mehsud was not the first Pashtun killed unlawfully in this country. A lot of our blood has been spilled,” protest organizer Manzoor Ahmad Pashteen thundered from the top of a metal shipping container used as a makeshift stage. “However, our patience has now run out after this killing.” Pashteen, an activist who has spent years lobbying to draw attention to the plight of his Mehsud tribe, is among the campaigners determined not to leave Islamabad until their demands are met.”

 

According to former Senator Afrasiab Khattak “Pashtuns in FATA in general and Waziristan in particular have been devastated by the armed conflict, but their sufferings and agonies remain unnoticed,” he said. “Rapid urbanization, education, remittances, and the rise of professionals and the middle class have led to greater awareness, but the process of political empowerment lags far behind.” “Khattak says Islamabad’s failure in implementing reforms in FATA contributes to resentment as the region still languishes under a draconian colonial-era legal regime known as the Frontier Crimes Regulations. He says youth activism has taken seasoned politicians by surprise and the masses appear to be now mobilizing for their rights. This, he says, is also changing perceptions about Pashtuns as a collection of warlike tribes. “Such stereotypes are being shattered by the most peaceful and disciplined political agitation in Islamabad’s recent history,” he noted.”

 

The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan called upon the Government of Pakistan to take notice of this protest and to listen to and address any legitimate demands. In a statement issued on Tuesday February 6, 2018, the Commission said:

 

“HRCP is dismayed at the apathy of the federal government towards the people of Waziristan, hundreds of whom have been protesting in Islamabad since 1st February 2018.” “The murder of Naqeebullah Mehsud in a fake encounter by the police in Karachi on 13th January 2018 has stirred up grievances of Pashtuns in general and of the people of FATA in particular. Thousands of activists from all over the country have come to Islamabad to participate in the protest that began on 1st February. The protesters have made five demands which include the immediate arrest and prosecution of Rao Anwar; the police official accused of murdering Naqeebullah Mehsud, investigations into extra-judicial killings in Karachi and elsewhere in the country, stopping of enforced disappearances and recovery of missing persons with the demand of producing them in courts and the release of individuals who are not guilty of any crimes, an end to the collective responsibility punishments meted out to entire villages, sub-tribes and tribes after any illegal, militant or criminal activities in Waziristan and FATA and the clearing of landmines in Waziristan and FATA.”

 

Further, “HRCP has always maintained that it is imperative that Pakistan ensures due process of law for all of its citizens as per its obligations under the Constitution and the international human rights treaties to which it is a signatory. Thorough and impartial probes must be conducted into illegal detentions, enforced disappearances and extra-judicial killings and the law should be enforced against the perpetrators of such acts.” “It is the state’s responsibility to ensure that the areas that have been declared clear are truly safe for the internally displaced persons from FATA to return to. Reports of incidents of injuries and deaths because of landmines in South Waziristan and other parts of FATA are very alarming. Authorities must take immediate notice of this very serious issue and begin working on measures to clear all such areas from landmines to ensure the safety of the local residents.”

 

HRCP also demanded an end to the delays in implementation of FATA reforms that “have added significantly to the frustrations and miseries of the people of FATA as they continue to languish under the draconian Frontier Crimes Regulations (FCR). The federal government must not delay the process of reforms in FATA any further.”

 

More from the Gandhara RFERL report

“It’s no surprise that clearing the deadly landmines is one of the protesters’ demands. An estimated half a million Mehsuds left their homes before the onset of a major Pakistani military offensive in 2008, and nearly 80 adults and children have reportedly been killed in landmine explosions since most Mehsuds returned to their homes by the end of last year. In a telling revelation about life in a conflict zone, the protesters are demanding an end to curfew and other coercive measures used after attacks against security forces. “Across FATA and Waziristan in particular, authorities should avoid imposing curfews and beating civilians,” the pamphlet said, referring to the Federally Administered Tribal Areas by its acronym.”

Time to Think about Child Abuse, not just clamor for Public Hangings

The brutal rape and murder of an 8-year old have led to demands for public hanging of killers and rapists as if that is the solution to such crimes. If military courts are the answer to terrorism, and lynching the answer to blasphemy then surely public hanging will help cleanse Pakistani society.

No one wants to stop and think that according to reports by Pakistani civil society organizations, on average 11 children were abused per day. In 2016, 4139 cases of sexual abuse were reported by Pakistan’s newspapers, a ten percent increase over 2015. And this is only those that were reported! And of course, no wants to discuss the root causes of these crimes.

Instead as Cyril Almeida points out the ‘outrage machine’ is “on fire and in overdrive.” And so “the rage — total rage — once activated was only going to go in ever more dangerous, more unhinged directions. APS brought hangings back. So this time it had to be a hanging plus. Hang him in the street outside her home. Hang him in a public square. The biggest one you can find. Hang him in a stadium. The biggest one you can find. Build a new stadium if there isn’t one big enough.”

Raza Rumi, asks why “a tragedy that should have been a wake up call for the country and how we raise children at homes, schools and madaris” has instead “turned into a sordid game for political elites and a rating contest for mainstream electronic media. Once again, a historic opportunity for reform has been squandered.”

Here is more from Rumi’s piece

“When Zainab’s story came into public light, every Pakistani was horrified especially those who are parenting young children. That sexual abuse of children is a part of people’s lives came as an ugly reminder. Celebrities opened up in public arenas recounting the horrors of being abused as children. Earlier, the Kasur child pornography scandal shook the public in a similar fashion but nothing came out of it in terms of setting things right. One hoped that with the outrage and protest over Zainab’s murder things would turn out to be different. But they didn’t.”

“From 2011 to 2016 a total of 19,508 cases of child sexual abuse were reported in the country. This is where the media could have played a constructive role. Instead, mainstream media covered the Zainab story while ignoring all ethics of journalism. Zainab’s parents were blamed for their negligence, his brother was scolded for not protecting his sister and the list goes on. A bereaved family found itself in the midst of rating sharks coping with an uninvited onslaught. The images of dead Zainab have only brutalised us and not helped the cause for child protection.”