Zardari: We will bring democracy, we will protect the poor

During an address at Aiwan-e-Sadr on Wednesday, the President made clear the government’s dedication to strengthening democratic institutions and protecting the rights and well-being of the poor according to a report from Ary News.

President Asif Ali Zardari on Wednesday called for protecting democracy and democratic institutions adding that the elected assemblies and the government will complete their five-year mandated tenure regardless of what the opponents are saying and doing.

He said that when the party went into elections it had promised the voters to launch a series of programmes meant for alleviating the poor of the country.

“We are determined to complete our mandated period to fulfil the promises made to the poor”, he added.

The President was addressing the balloting and cheque distribution ceremony under the Waseela-e-Haq programme of the Benazir Income Support Program (BISP) here at the Aiwan-e-Sadr on Wednesday.

Spokesperson to the President former Senator Farhatullah Babar quoted the President as saying that the people were the ultimate repository of power and the people alone had the right to elect their representatives and send them to the parliament and assemblies.

The President said some time back when there was a law on statute book requiring representatives to possess bachelor’s degree, no one asked questions about the academic qualifications of elected members. But strangely, now that the said law had been repealed some people were agitating the issue of degrees of MPs and seeking to disqualify them, he added.

The President urged the detractors not to malign the Parliament and democracy adding that the Parliament was capable of defending itself.

He said that the Parliament asserted itself when it democratized the Constitution and gave the people of Pakhtunkhwa their identity and was capable of defending itself against any attack.

The President said that the government initiatives such as Benazir Income Support Programme, distribution of state land free of cost in command areas of 32 small and medium dams among the women of that areas and the offering of 12 per cent stock shares to workers in state-run enterprises through Benazir Employees Stock Option Scheme would help banish poverty from the country.

The spokesperson said that the President on the occasion congratulated the members of National Assembly for passing the other day the Bill providing for the establishment of the BISP and hence inscribing the name of Shaheed Benazir Bhutto into law that is meant for the uplift of the poor.

The President said that it was most appropriate that the National Assembly passed the law in the month of the birth of Shaheed Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto and hoped that the Senate would also pass the same soon.

The spokesperson said that the President termed it a tribute to the martyred leader of the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) and recognition by the Parliament of what Shaheed Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto has done for the poor and downtrodden of the country. In the remaining term of its office, the government would further advance the pro-poor agenda, the President said.

The President while congratulating the BISP Chairperson and her team said that the BISP was the flagship programme of the government to provide relief to the underprivileged and poor people of the country and added that “we all are very proud the way the programme has progressed into a comprehensive social safety net”.

The President said that the BISP programme has earned the praise of the international community for the transparency with which the poor are identified for help without political consideration. This is indeed a major achievement that the programme has reached more than 2.7 million families in a short span of time, he added.

The President said that BISP programme reflects the feelings Shaheed Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto had for the poor and vulnerable sections of society.

“It is her spirit and the mission of Shaheed Zulfikar Ali Bhutto that guides us forward towards the fulfillment of our dream of making Pakistan a truly welfare state” the President said.

The spokesperson informed that the President also appreciated and thanked the international community and development partners for supporting us in this noble initiative.

“The emphasis on transparency and impartiality through an internationally recognized poverty assessment tool, the Poverty Scorecard, will Insha Allah make the Benazir Income Support Programme truly a Benazir initiative”, the President said.

The President said that it was pleasing to see the Programme developing into a comprehensive social protection, poverty alleviation and women empowerment platform.

He said that BISP is not merely for poverty alleviation but it has been designed to work as a comprehensive social protection scheme, a platform for women empowerment and covering programs such as health and accident insurance, vocational training and Interest free financing for self employment.


Fake Degrees? Fake Crisis.

This fake crisis about where certain MNA’s received their degree is a ridiculous waste of time. No law requires an MNA to hold any degree, and that this is only now being mentioned two years after elections just proves that it is nothing but a ploy at overthrowing the government by some other means.

Musharraf’s law that required some degree to sit for parliament was thrown out by the Supreme Court in 2008. Elections were held and nobody has said a word about this until now, which should raise eyebrows. Actually, the political propagandists trying to push this fake crisis are misleading people by saying that the law would render anyone unqualified for the last elections. How can anyone be unqualified by a requirement that is not in accordance with the constitution.

That this fake crisis is being manufactured by anti-government propagandists like Ansar Abbasi says everything about the intentions behind this phony crisis. The moment the present government was elected freely by the people, these political opportunists declared that they would bring the government down. Try as they might, however, they have been unsuccessful.

Their continued failure has not stopped this mob from making new attempts at a ‘coup by other means’. Even now the Chief Justice is ordering the Election Commission of Paksitan to initiate action against legislators accused of having ‘fake’ degrees.

Remember that this same group that now says that even though Musharraf’s degree requirement was invalid it should still be respected, was only a few weeks before saying that there is some magical ‘basic features’ to the constitution that no law can avoid. Now it seems there are no ‘basic features’ and they are demanding that the courts respect an unconstitutional provision passed by a dictator!

What is worst, according to the Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry’s recent statements, “Every law of the land, so long as it exists on the statute books, has to be respected and must be followed.” This is quite a change of tune from the old Chief Justice! Does the Chief Justices newly acquired belief also mean that the cases against Zardari that were acquitted under the NRO and CrPC have to be “respected and must be followed” also? Or does the CJ believe that the law is only valid when it is politically convenient? Has the Chief Justice no shame?!

The truth is, it is not the present MNAs who have done some wrong but it is Musharraf for allowing elections before the court threw out the law. Musharraf’s actions prevented potential candidates from legally sitting for election.

The daily barrage of unfounded accusations and vicious rumours by this lot have only damaged their own reputations as their true souls have been unmasked before the nation. They will tell any falsehood, adopt any convenient politics, serve any poison in their efforts to achieve their political goals.

If the people don’t want a representative in parliament who has a degree from an unaccredited university – or any university – let them decide on election day which is coming up in 2013. Until then, this manufactured crisis is only a waste of time when parliament should be making sure people have food and jobs and safety. If the courts are bored, perhaps they could spend a little bit more time protecting the people’s rights, and a little bit more less time coddling terrorist militants.

Why Do Terrorists Have More Legal Rights Than Honest Citizens?

Why do terrorists have more legal rights than honest citizens?

As often as the police arrest some miscreants involved in bombing attacks and militancy, the courts continue to release the suspects citing lack of evidence and the need for a speedy trial. But honest citizens who follow the laws are not granted this same privilege. Why are militants given more rights than honest citizens?

Think about the hardships faced by any honest citizen who tries to get some justice from the courts. First, it is nearly impossible to even have your case heard before a judge. Even if you finally do get a hearing, it is likely years or decades too late. This inefficient and corrupt system of ‘justice’ is part of the reason that many in the tribal areas tolerated Taliban originally – they were able to provide swifter resolution to legal claims.

Waiting for the local court to open for the day, defence lawyer Noor Alamkhan shuffled a stack of cases and recalled one former client who filed for divorce from her husband when she was 28.

By the time her family finally won the case, she was 55.

“What good is that?” he asked, exasperated. “She’s too old by that time to marry.”

The expensive and snail-like pace of justice in Pakistan is seen as a key reason why a huge northwestern swath of the country fell under the rule of the Taliban earlier this year.

Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry even complained of the rampant problems with the judicial system when he was reinstated by President Zardari.

‘In my opinion, lawyers will have to continue their struggle for dignity of this institution and make it more respectable,’ the chief justice said. Chaudhry is correct; the restoration of the deposed judges is only the first step in a long struggle for an independent, responsive and effective judiciary. The task ahead is nothing short of gargantuan.

From providing speedy justice in ordinary civil or criminal cases to putting in place a transparent mechanism for the selection of superior court judges, from making sense of the constitutional mess to shoring up a failing judicial infrastructure — there is no shortage of areas where change is needed.

But this problem of slow and unresponsive judiciary does not seem to effect everyone the same way. Actually, the courts are very quick to release suspects with ties to terrorism. Actually, it may be that there are two completely separate legal systems: A ‘quickly out of jail free’ system for militant extremists, and a ‘please come back tomorrow’ system for honest citizens. Daily Times reported that 75 percent of terrorism suspects were set free in Punjab.

As many as 629 terrorism cases were decided by anti-terrorism courts in 2009, of which suspects in 471 cases were acquitted, sources in the Punjab Public Prosecution Department and Punjab Police told Daily Times on Thursday.

Taking stock of the situation, CJP Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry has nominated Supreme Court Justice Shakirullah Jan as an administrative judge for all anti-terrorism courts (ATC) and Lahore High Court Judge Ijaz Chaudhry to monitor ATCs and examine exonerations in Punjab.

On April 24, a meeting presided over by Justice Shakirullah Jan would be held at the Supreme Court Registry in Lahore to examine the overall performance of ATCs, acquittals in terrorism cases, pending cases and the standard of investigation and prosecution.

As a follow up, Punjab Public Prosecution Department officials and the inspector general of Punjab police would meet today (Friday) to examine the current status of terrorism cases registered between January 1, 2005, and February 15, 2010, and some other pending cases registered before this period, sources in the IGP office told Daily Times.

Punjab Prosecutor General Syed Zahid Hussain Bokhari told Daily Times that special attention was paid to terrorism cases, which could spike the ratio of convictions in these cases. Punjab Police DIG (Crimes) Ayub Qureshi said the chief justice was focussing on terrorism cases. He said the Punjab IG had directed all regional police officers, city police officers and district police officers to improve the standard of investigation in terrorism cases, include concrete and solid evidence in case files and arrest proclaimed offenders as soon as possible.

Even the main suspect in the attack on Manawan police training academy has been released. Perhaps this should not be a surprise, though. The China news website People’s Daily Online has found that that militant groups are directing the courts to do their will.

Militants groups in Pakistan are being proven so strong that they manage the acquittal of their colleagues from cases and proceedings against them in courts by threatening the families of judges, witnesses and police officers, local media reported on Tuesday.

According to reports, hundreds of militants have been successfully released from jails due to non-availability of witnesses and proofs enough to sentence them according to law.

Recently Pakistan’s Lahore High Court took a strict notice about the acquittal of a criminal from a lower court who was arrested red-handed with a grenade during a terrorism attack on a police training academy in March 2009.

In another case family of anti-terrorism judge Mohammad Asim Imam performing duty in Pakistan’s northwestern Malakand Division, received threats from the armed Taliban, who visited their residence few days back.

The judge is currently dealing with terrorism cases of Sufi Mohammad, Pakistani Taliban’s spiritually whip, arrested last year during the military operation in the area.

Taliban visited their place, left a message for the family and the judge to fall in line or be ready for the consequences. They also ordered the family cook to tell the judge that they were after him and would soon sort him out.

For honest citizens who only want to get some small amount of justice in their lives, the wait can be forever. For militants, though, it is always a speedy trial and ‘get out of jail free’. What kind of a topsy-turvy legal system is it that gives more rights to terrorists than to honest citizens?

Defence lawyer Suhil Aziz told The Star, “When you have to wait years for your case to even begin, that is not justice”. This may be the case for honest citizens, but Hafiz Saeed has no complaints



Pakistan’s right wing media: a breeding ground for extremism

The following article by Junaid Qaiser was originally posted on Let Us Build Pakistan. This article is an excellent examination of the poor conditions of too much of our media and is recommended to read. Obviously this does not refer to all journalists, but there is a growing group of very loud voices in media who have adopted the attitude that facts do not matter and only political ends are the goal of their pseudo-reporting. Sometimes these attitudes are taken because the people at the top of media companies are only interested in making millions and put money ahead of the good of the people as has been reported by independent groups like Pakistan Media Watch. Mr Junaid Qaiser’s article is especially recommended because it does not take a partisan approach but rather simply discusses the facts. I think our media ‘talking heads’ could take a lesson from him.

Pakistan’s right wing media: a breeding ground for extremism – by Junaid Qaiser

Pakistan’s predominantly right wing media’s hostile propaganda against politicians and misrepresentation of information serve as a breeding ground for extremist aberrations in the society.

Journalism is a gentleman’s profession, but here in Pakistan, newly born liberalized media seems to be working up mob hysteria especially against politicians and the democratically elected parliament. Media and its self-puritan anchors are continuously encouraging a pseudo-religious approach to politics and its hostile propaganda against democracy and against the West, which is very much suitable for extremist aberrations.

Mostly, TV talk show hosts and Ziaist brand analysts are seen to be duty bound to peddle anti American anti democracy conspiracy theories and bash parliamentarians. The right wing style media has been vociferously running stories of corruption, nepotism and malpractices of politicians and leaders in the parliament, and connect all these bogus stories to President Asif Ali Zardari.

Pakistan Peoples Party’s government is portrayed by the media as too deferential to the United States. Several anchor persons exhaust all their energies in presenting the prejudice of US against the Pakistani nation. Pakistani journalists who unconditionally support their establishment started the campaign against Kerry Lugar Bill and coalesced anti-Western politicians, and Muslim fundamentalists — implausibly claiming that Pakistan’s sovereignty was undermined and the country could end up as a U.S. neo-colony.

Corporate plutocratic media, as a sole grand savior of the nationalism, sovereignty and morality, seems to be fomenting instability and despondency in the society. It is imposing and thrusting hard line teaching, eulogizing dictatorship and count demerits of democracy. The stories have been written and presented to provide only one dimensional approach, world view and restrict the other independent thought process of readers/viewers. Turning a blind eye towards these obscurantists tendencies might prove costly to the nation.

Some talk shows have implicit sheer bias against the PPP government and parliament and they only counts it’s demerits, they are packed with illogical and fact-less stories of corruption and falsifying evidence on important democratic issues. – some TV anchors have launched vociferous campaign against PPP government exposing corruption of ruling politicians.

President Asif Ali Zardari has been the favorite punching bag for a media trial for the last 22 years, fake and baseless stories of him kidnapping an expatriate Pakistani and extorting money by planting a bomb on his leg to duty evasions, he has faced all. Not a single anchor has ever raised and highlight corruption and human cost. Why are corrupt army officials, judges and journalists beyond criticism in TV talk shows?

Alleged corruption from trafficking heroin to grabbing precious land; from taking kick-back on purchase of equipment (sub-marines included); how they have forgotten years of misrule by military dictators? Had they [Apex Court’s Independent Judges] not taken oath under the PCO (a fake, illegal document), but no one is raising question of morality here? Why then, we concerned citizens wonder, media only discusses civilian corruption? All this reflects the undemocratic mindset prevailing in the media to demonize democracy and parliamentary institutions. In a way these talk shows erode trust in democracy.

Dictatorial regimes’ policies aimed at perpetuating their own power at the cost of national interest and disruption of democracy and political instability have already created huge system deficit. Owing to our media sadly, not very much democracy appreciative – and due to irresponsible reporting and journalism, we have become apolitical nation and people have been losing faith and confidence in the democratic system and normative governance. All the above mentioned journalistic odds are eclipsing the future of Pakistan as a vibrant nation. Even media on occasions provide imputes of publicity to the terrorist groups and extremist aberration. This trend further confuse the ordinary citizens. Therefore efforts to counter terrorism and check extremism are needed to put an end to the above mentioned problems and to bring the nation out of prevailing quagmire of confusion and chaos.

Although we are living in the age of media abundance but still we are facing informational dearth, as pure citizens related issues and real political debates seem to be missing or lacking in our talk show democracy. It’s just tug of war and main emphasis is on speculation and conspiracies rather than fact and democratic thought.

The media persons should adopt a highly detached and objective style, while informing readers and viewers about the significant phase of the story, they should neither take side nor condemn any politicians, sect or group. Rather one should document the facts objectively and then leaves it to the readers to judge the event and draw the conclusion. It should try to give a balanced rather a one sided or biased view against peoples parliament.

While extremist groups are primarily responsible for denying space for pluralistic thinking and limiting the scope for democratic development, some newspapers in Pakistan are themselves involved in promoting intolerance in society. TV channels were guilty of providing the oxygen of publicity to the extremist ideology and in a mad race for breaking news many channels reported events without verifying the facts and often exaggerated the events.

There are flawed assumptions and speculations – misuse of the religious, political and national narrative by the hosts is the leading cause of extremism in the society. These political actors want a clash between the executive, legislature and the judiciary for their own ulterior motives. However, the political forces which represent the people of Pakistan and the current holders of high offices in other institutions have shown maturity by not getting into the trap of these political actors.

In the ‘talk show democracy’, political actors are, through their illogical and fact-less narratives, irresponsibly spreading confusion, conservatism and instability. Mainstream Media Mind and it’s conspiracy theorists do not want to see parliament complete its term and are prompting blue eyed politicians of the establishment i.e Ch. Nisar Ali and Abid Sher Ali, who say that fake degrees can lead to midterm elections. It is a new wish and conspiracy of political actors.

Pakistan Peoples Party’s stated policy is very clear that, extremism, militants and terrorism in all forms and manifestations pose a grave danger to the stability and integrity of the nation. It’s manifesto in election 2008 clearly described that- democracy never wages terrorism. Dismantle militant groups that take hostages and impose their writ through force and terrorism and militancy will be vigorously confronted.

The unprecedented successes made by the PPP led democratic government in the war against terror – today fully acknowledged by the international community — is a direct result of the national political will and consensus that gave legitimacy and effective strength to the military operations in Swat, Bajaur and FATA. Pakistan Peoples Party’s government is fighting a decisive war against terrorism and we as a nation very much moving towards being a more rationale, humanist, tolerant and moderate society.

There appears to be a lack of vision and wisdom in media and its talk shows. Very little focus is on creating intellectual and physical structure to transform the society. Now they have become a norm with media and it’s anchorpersons, whose world view is very much narrow and they nothing but to promote undemocratic mindset and intolerance. Even the content and debate in talk shows fails to highlight popular maxim of treating the of democracy with more democracy on the contrary they eulogizing extremism and undemocratic point of view. although Pakistan has come a long way, in terms of responsibility the private media scene is still it’s embryonic stage. It should highlight and emphasis that federation must be strengthened through the process of democratic pluralism, social justice, cultural values and tolerance. Instead of hate speech there should be free responsible speech and media should build public consensus against extremism.

There is no effective citizen’s oriented responsible journalism to transform the citizens into active and effective citizens. The need of the hour is to modernize news process with more emphasizes upon developing humane, democratic and scientific approach among viewers and readers instead of stuffing them with hatred against politicians [real representative of peoples] and parliament. Only then we as a nation can develop our identity as a rationale nation that would ensure much needed peace and prosperity. Media needs to frame a code of conduct and strictly adhere to it and should build intellectual safeguards against extremism instead of becoming tool for its own economic and political promotion.

Source: Let Us Build Pakistan