Only as good as our word

Justice Asif Saeed Khosa

“A man is only as good as his word.” My father told me this in all seriousness one day when I was trying to back out of a commitment I had made to a neighbor. It was a bit of drudgery that I had agreed to help out with, and since then my classmate had managed to get tickets to something much more enjoyable. I tried explaining to my father that when I agreed to help, I didn’t know the tickets were going to appear. Circumstances had changed. Circumstances were extenuating. And it wasn’t really that important, anyway, I argued. My father stared at me in stony silence, then spoke: “If you cannot be trusted with something unimportant, how can anyone ever trust you with something that is?” I rode my bike to meet my friend and give him the bad news. He’d have to give my ticket to someone else. I fulfilled my promise, but I did so under silent protest. My friends were having fun and I was tired and dirty. Time works a funny kind of magic, though. If I had backed out of my commitment, I would look back on that day with shame. Actually, I hadn’t thought about this moment in a long time. It came back to me unexpectedly, though, when I read a report about, of all things, military courts.

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Will Gen Raheel Face Qatl-e-Amd Case?

Justice Shaukat Aziz Siddiqui of the Islamabad High Court (IHC) has ordered police to register murder case against the then Islamabad chief of America’s Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) for a drone strike in 2009. One could argue that it is a complete waste of time and resources since the accused is no longer in Pakistan and the chances of US sending their former spy chief to face murder charges here are less than zero. The response being that the case provides not only symbolic importance but the opportunity to fully explore a case that determines a legal precedent about whether or not drone strikes are murder. However, there is an interesting predicament: Last month, Army officially inaugurated Pakistan’s own fleet of armed drones, which Gen Sharif announced would be used in strikes against militants.

Gen Raheel Sharif oversees Pakistani drone operationIf drones strikes qualify as Qatl-e-Amd for former CIA station chief Jonathan Banks, then drone strikes qualify as Qatl-e-Amd for COAS Gen Raheel also. The counter-argument to this would be that the state reserves the right to use force, but there are certain complications with this response.

It is true that states reserve the right to use force in enforcement of the writ of state, but this power is not unlimited. The state cannot anyone kill without justification. It may be easy to bring a case against a CIA chief as that agency is unpopular, but in many parts of FATA, Pakistan Army is unpopular also.

However there is another important point: Even if the state has the power to order drone strikes, the CIA defence could also include the question of whether the CIA drone strikes were carried out under the sanction of state authority. Remember when Wikileaks exposed that Army was secretly requesting more drone strikes in Pakistan even while anti-drone public sentiment was being whipped up?

All of these questions are purely academic in nature, but they present the difficult problems that arise when Army carries out certain policies in secret while whipping up public sentiments against those same policies. This is not a justification for drones, but we have to face the fact that if we truly believe in ‘rule of law’, we can’t do the exact same thing we condemn others for doing and get away with it.

Shooting the Messenger

We are repeatedly told that no effort is being spared in the fight against militants across all the country. What is the reality? A new report by ARY News has found a shocking lapse in the national security.

An investigative team was able to easily smuggle weapons and bomb making materials without being detected by Railways Police. When they arrived, the reporters opened the packages and revealed the materials so they could be confiscated. So what happened next?

On viewing the dangerous contents of the package, the on duty Pakistan Railways personnel arrested Asif Shehzad and took all the items in their possession. An FIR number 197/14 was registered against Asif in which he was charged with sections 13/20/65, 9A CNSA, 3/14 and 109 of PPC for possession of illegal arms, narcotics trafficking and connivance/aid in crime. Two other ARY men were also nominated in the FIR.

GM has said that it will be up to the Court the fate of the arrested journalists. If there is any justice, they will be given a medal.

What Mir Shakil-ur Rehman’s Conviction Means For The Rest of Us

Mir Shakil-ur-Rehman

Mir Shakil-ur-Rehman’s sentence to 26 years in prison for blasphemy has shocked the world. Besides questions about misuse of blasphemy laws, global human rights groups have expressed serious concerns about the fairness of the trial and warn that it could have ‘chilling effect on freedom of expression in Pakistan’. There is another meaning, though, that is far more frightening than worrying about freedom of expression.

Mir Shakil-ur Rehman is a wealthy person. He is well connected and can hire dozens of lawyers to defend him in all the high courts, in the apex court and possibly in many of the lower courts but still he can’t face 75 FIRs, 75 criminal investigations and 75 courts. If this could happen to a person with so much influence, the tales of the injustices of our criminal justice system in the case of ordinary Pakistanis and poor fellows would have been horrific and atrocious.

Mir Shakil-ur-Rehman has been estimated to be the second richest man in Pakistan. He controls the nation’s largest media empire, and is as politically connected as possible. Still this was not enough to save him, and like so many others he has reportedly been forced to flee his own own country.

What hope then for the common man who has no riches to hire an army of lawyers. No media group to help make his case in the public’s eyes. No friends in the halls of power to twist arms and pressurize the powers that be. What hope could Asia Bibi, Sawan Masih, and the countless other minorities who are targeted with blasphemy charges?

For the Jang/Geo chief, the courts have declared him a blasphemer and stained him with a black mark that could threaten his very life. For the rest of us, the courts have put us on notice that our meager existence is subject to the whims and vindictiveness of our enemies.

In other words, none of us is safe.