With charges against former dictator, General Pervez Musharraf, formally filed in an Islamabad court, the assassination of Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto is once again the center of attention. While few doubt that Musharraf failed to provide sufficient security to the popular leader, her assassination was not just Musharraf’s doing. In a forthcoming book United Nations investigator Heraldo Munoz has pointed out that there is much more that needs both investigation and prosecution.
The Pakistani establishment seems to have gone berserk. At a time when the country is facing both domestic and international crises, the establishment is squandering its energy chasing journalists, bloggers, social activists, and others within the country instead of trying to united the nation.
Pakistan’s problems are severe. Opposition parties are once again threatening a country-wide strike, democratic institutions are under threat, and there is widespread social unrest. Terror attacks inside Afghanistan are on the rise, the United States continues to mount pressure on Pakistan to act against terrorist groups, and Pakistan’s relations with India are worse than ever. But still the establishment appears to be more interested in clamping down on dissent than in seeking solutions to real problems.
The latest exercise in futility is the lodging of FIRs against former Ambassador and well-known author, Husain Haqqani. Forget that international law prevents bringing Haqqani back to Pakistan to face fabricated charges of ‘treason’ or ‘waging war against the army.’ Ignore that most of the world finds allegations of treason in 2018, based on Haqqani’s books published in 2005 and 2013 patently absurd. Is Husain Haqqani really so much of a threat that Pakistan’s ‘miltablishment’ should prioritize threatening him with new legal proceedings over the country’s other problems?
On Sunday January 20, three FIRs were lodged against Haqqani in Kohat district of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, at Cantonment and Bilitang police stations by Momin, Muhammad Asghar and Shamsul Haq. The complainants, all previously unknown individuals, alleged that Haqqani’s words and writings had caused irreparable loss to the
country and defamed it.
Haqqani’s response to this was “How weak must the Pakistan army be, if an individual’s articles and books amount to waging war against it.” He said he planned to treat the registering of criminal cases against him as “just a media gimmick” as “No one in the rest of the world will treat them as legitimate either.” The former ambassador pointed out that the Supreme Court never decided the so-called ‘Memogate’ after considerable media noise.
“Pakistan has serious problems and those who do not like my research and solutions should publish theirs,” he pointed out. “A constant hyper-patriotic media circus at home will not change the impact of my ideas all over the world.”
In an editorial The Daily Times noted the absurdity of the charges against Husain Haqqani.
“As a matter of fact, Haqqani’s views, no matter how strongly expressed, do not fall under the category of hate speech. Criticism of the armed forces is often met with severe allegations and this is evident from the way space for dissenters is fast shrinking in this country. Regardless of one’s agreement or disagreement with Haqqani, it must be said clearly and loudly that there is nothing wrong, legally and constitutionally, with critical remarks about the armed forces. The latter is an institution of the state, and just like any other its performance has to be assessed with a critical eye. That is the only way to ensure that it continues to serve its constitutional duties effectively.”
Here is the rest of the editorial:
“Last Sunday, former Ambassador Husain Haqqani was nominated in FIRs in three different police stations of Kohat, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. The charges brought against him included ‘hate speech’ and writing books and articles against the armed forces and the ‘sovereignty of Pakistan’. Earlier, the former envoy had been a target of a malicious campaign on electronic and social media, where he was accused of portraying Pakistan in an unfavourable light. That the US State Department does not hold a very high opinion of our authorities is fairly obvious given that it has been seeking indiscriminate action against extremists and we have yet to write off certain networks, lashkars and jaishs. By pointing out these facts, and by expressing his opinions on the matter, Husain Haqqani is in fact doing Pakistan a favour, since the extremist outfits that remain the bone of contention in the matter are no well-wishers of the country and its people. One may disagree with what Haqqani writes but he is well within his rights to express his views and to recollect his memories from the days when he was serving the country. Many retired diplomats have written about their experiences, often to the dismay of successive Pakistani governments. FIRs over such frivolous charges and non-issues should not be entertained by the authorities concerned. There are plenty of real issues needing their attention.”