Another case against MQM falls apart

The script is a familiar one by now. LEAs carry out a major raid. Media broadcasts images of political workers being loaded into the back of trucks. Weapons are displayed in photographs while anchors offer grave warnings about foreign agents destabilising the country. The report makes a strong impression, but do we ever ask what happens to these stories? Over and over again we are seeing them fall apart.

In October, three MQM workers arrested and accused of being RAW agents were quietly acquitted by the ATC who noted that prosecutors were totally unable to establish cases against the accused. Then we saw Scotland Yard drop cases against Altaf Hussain himself due to absence of evidence.

Now another major case has fallen apart before our eyes. Just a few weeks ago media was reporting that a major terror bid was thwarted by a raid on a political party in Karachi with RAW links (no extra points for guessing who they meant) that uncovered a massive weapons cache. One month later, however, police themselves were asking the court to suspend the investigation due to lack of evidence.

The plea was submitted by an investigation officer in Karachi’s anti-terrorism court on Tuesday, the plea also requested the court to categorise the case as ‘A-Class’ as police officials failed to produce and submit any substantial evidence.

“Police officials failed to produce and submit any substantial evidence.” It’s the same story over and over again. What’s not known is whether any of these cases were manufactured dramas to chip away at the reputation of MQM. Whatever the truth is, it is certain that these cases have chipped away at the reputation of law enforcement agencies and made them appear to be on a political witch hunt against a particular political party.

 

Du’a

tears

When my mother heard the news of Farzana’s brutal killing, she didn’t shake her head or cluck her tongue (two of her usual ways of reacting to sensational news). She took on a stoney silence and went about her work without making eye contact or speaking to anyone for the rest of the day. My father tried to distract her with his bad jokes, but when he couldn’t even get her glance, he began to look worried and left the house on some invented errand. I endured her silence alone, feeling more alone than ever in a house that is always vibrating with energy, even at all hours.

I could overhear their muffled voices late that night from the kitchen, my mothers sanctuary. I crept to see what was happening and I saw my mother standing by the window with her head down, muttering softly. She was making du’a, her soft voice carrying a list of names: Farzana Iqbal, Dr. Mehdi Ali QamarKhalil AhmadSalmaan Taseer, and countless other names I couldn’t recognise.My father sitting on a chair with his eyes closed, tears streaming down his face in silence.

I haven’t been able to sleep since that night. My father has always been a giant to me, a man whose strength could not be tested. Yet what I saw in that kitchen was a man who appeared on the verge of defeat, my mother praying off in the distance as if making du’a for her own husband’s funeral. More than that. For her entire family. But it was even more than that. My mother was not praying for her husband, or her family, she was praying for her country.

It was shocking. My parents have always been patriots of the highest degree. Growing up, my father loved to quote Iqbal any time he had a lesson to impart. My parents defended their country, right or wrong, and always believed that even during the darkness of Zia, that light was breaking through the cracks. They watched their friends leave for the UK or America, and they shook their heads and said, “just wait, they will come running home soon enough.”

Since that night, though, our house has lacked that sense of hope. My parents are quiet and slow, they seem to have aged decades over just a few short days. My father’s face is worried and stern, my mother appears in mourning. Each morning I look through the news papers for some story that I can use to reignite my parent’s natural optimism, but each day I am greeted instead with new horrors. Police chopping up bodies. Sectarian killers opening fire on innocents. And almost every day another bomb.

And yet life goes on. We close our eyes and ears. We hold onto hope, even if it is a hope that only exists in our imaginations. Like a man ignoring the cancer that is eating away at his body, we tell ourselves that we’re fine, we’re not dead yet. But unless we are willing to face the reality and take the harsh treatment needed to remove the cancer, our fate will be unavoidable. And my mother will continue to make du’a for her dying country.

What Justice System Says About Our Society

Only 4% terrorism suspects convicted

The reality about how so-called justice operates in Pakistan was put in stark relief this week. Courts gave decisions in three different cases, and the decisions speak volumes not only about law and order, but our society more generally as well.

Thursday, the Lahore High Court granted bail to Lashkar-e-Jhangvi chief Malik Ishaq who is facing charges of fanning sectarianism through giving hate speeches. Malik Ishaq must be quickly approaching the world’s record for being charged and released in terrorism cases. Actually, though, it’s not just Malik Ishaq but most terrorists never get convicted.

While Malik Ishaq is repeatedly given the benefit of presumption of innocence, another Pakistani is facing a very different judiciary. An appellate forum under the Frontier Crimes Regulation (FCR) has ordered a new case against Shakil Afridi, the doctor accused of helping the CIA find Osama bin Laden, for alleged involvement in anti-state activities and collusion with foreign intelligence. This is not an excuse for Shakil Afridi or a plea for innocence, only an observation that it accusations of cooperating with Americans against terrorism seem to be treated much more seriously than accusations of cooperating with terrorists against Pakistanis.

And then there is the third group in this trio of justice systems. According to media reports, as SC was prepared to close the 35 missing persons case, it was revealed that no FIR has even been filed against the accused Army men.

To the Court’s credit, it is taking the case seriously and is making what appear to be good faith efforts to see justice prevail. However, the Court also has to work within the boundaries of law, which means that it relies on other officials to carry out their own duties, who in this case appear to dragging their feet.

And let us not forget that which some would certainly like us to quickly forget, which is the much rubbished New York Times report that ISI had a secret, unaccountable desk dedicated to Osama bin Laden during his stay here. This is a serious allegation made in one of the most prominent of the world’s newspapers. The last time such unsourced allegations were made, judicial commissions were constituted, officials were placed under house arrest and their movements restricted, and the nation found itself in an uproar. In this case, though, the article was dismissed almost unanimously within hours. Gen Pasha will not be called home from Dubai. No judicial commission or investigation necessary.

But even if the ISI is completely innocent, which is, of course, a possibility that must be given all due consideration, the article does name others and mentions specific evidence against them:

The haul of handwritten notes, letters, computer files and other information collected from Bin Laden’s house during the raid suggested otherwise, however. It revealed regular correspondence between Bin Laden and a string of militant leaders who must have known he was living in Pakistan, including Hafiz Muhammad Saeed, the founder of Lashkar-e-Taiba, a pro-Kashmiri group that has also been active in Afghanistan, and Mullah Omar of the Taliban.

Will the DG-ISI secretly meet with the author in a London hotel room to view the evidence against Hafiz Saeed and Mullah Omar? Will the alleged correspondence be ‘leaked’ to the national media so that the public can decide for itself about the facts of the case?

So here we have one system of justice with at least three different types of justice: The jihadi terrorist who cannot be convicted, the accused foreign agent who can never be acquitted, and the Army men who can never be properly brought to book due in the first place. We can place the blame on the judiciary, but isn’t what we’re seeing actually a reflection of something much more familiar?

 

Want the economy to improve? Defend democracy.

As political season gets into full swing, one of the top issues is certainly the weak economic growth that the country has been suffering. Obviously there are many reasons why the economy has sputtered instead of taking off, but one important reason in particular is being overlooked. Arif Habib Group Chairman and CEO Arif Habib warned this week that economic growth is suffering due to negative perception of the country by foreign investors.

Speaking at a reception held in his honour by Ruhi Farzana Shafi, he said that “our capital markets are one of the best in the world providing 31 percent average return in the last 10 years, but it has been marred by image issues.”

Over 100 foreign investors left after Islamabad blast.

Image issues? What issues could possibly mar our image with foreign investors? Could it be the image of two government officials – a governor and a cabinet minister – being assassinated for standing up for minority rights? Could it be the image of lawyers throwing flowers at confessed assassin Mumtaz Qadri? Could it be the fact that Osama bin Laden was found living outside Kakul? Perhaps. And perhaps instead of ignoring this growing threat, the judicary should take notice and put militants in jail rather than allowing them to go around shooting up the streets.
Or perhaps it could be the never ending stream of cynical media reports and political slogans terming the government elected by the people as the most corrupt, incompetent rulers. Or the media predictions that the government will fall any day now. Perhaps it is the statements of anonymous military spokesmen who claim that Army is using the judiciary to unseat a democratically elected president.

Could it be that the ‘image issues’ we have come from the fact that in the modern media age, all of our political hyperbole, constant complaining, and drawing room gossip is now available for the whole world to see? And maybe, just maybe, foreign investors don’t want to risk their money in a nation that can’t hold two elections in a row? Actually, there may be something to this.

According to research by economist Ishrat Husain published in the Columbia Journal of International Affairs, political instability – or the expectation of it – is a key obstacle to economic growth in Pakistan.

The tour d’horizon of the past sixty years of Pakistan’s economic history lends credence to the argument that interruptions to the orderly political process whereby elected governments were dismissed, forced to resign or overthrown further accentuated the tendency of risk aversion. Besieged with a feeling of uncertainty over their future, elected representatives have indulged in distribution of patronage to their supporters as well as to self-enrichment. Both the preoccupation with keeping power—applied to both the military rulers and the elected regimes—and fending off attacks from the opposition by co-opting them through state patronage or by coercion has led to laxity in fiscal and monetary policies and to the concentration of economic and political power. The excessive use of discretion in case-by-case policymaking to favor narrow interest groups has derailed institutionalized decision-making based on well-established rules and transparency in transactions.

The solution, Ishrat Husain says, is obvious:

The lesson to be learned from this experience is quite obvious but worth repeating. Democracy, with such flaws and shortcomings as corruption and patronage, may cause economic disruptions and slow down development in the short-term. But it should be allowed to run its course as the inherent process of fresh leadership and governmental accountability through new elections provides a built-in stability to the system that eventually brings the economy back to equilibrium. Interruptions to the democratic process in the name of economic efficiency have created more problems than solutions in Pakistan.

With Senate elections only three months away, and general elections soon to follow, derailing the democratic process would be gratuitous and self-defeating at this point. Whatever might be gained by installing this mythical government of selfless technocrats would be more then undone by the demonstration of impatience and unwillingness to abide by the rule of law.

If the people want to change who’s in office, let them choose so with their ballot. Economies don’t turn around overnight. If we want the economy to improve, we should elect those who we believe have the best policies to improve it and give them a chance to do so without terming them a failure before they can even start.

Crime and Punishment

The Raymond Davis case continues to dominate headlines and news discussions. What began as a terrible tragedy has turned into a ball of confusion thanks to a media that values headlines more than justice. But media conspiracy theories aside, the greater question that should be asked is what the term ‘justice’ actually means in our country today.

Let us not forget that another Pakistani man was gunned down in the street in broad daylight just a few weeks ago. And this time the murderer’s victim was unarmed and shot not twice but 26 times in the back. In this case, the murderer has been showered with rose petals and termed Ghazi by lawyers and journalists. We are indignant about the US government asking for the release of Raymond Davis, but we are also demanding the release of Mumtaz Qadri.

Qadri supporters demand his release.

Another killer was recently released quietly from custody also. This man is responsible for the deaths of untold innocent Pakistani citizens and was held in custody until only a few weeks ago when he was allowed to walk scot free. Actually, this is not the first time that he has murdered innocents in Pakistan only to be caught and released back into the streets to continue his killing spree. This killer’s repeated arrest and his release does not make front page headlines or dominate talk shows, though. His name? Qari Saifullah Akhtar.

Qari Saifullah Akhtar

Raymond Davis has claimed that he acted in self defense while being robbed at gunpoint. While all the facts are not clear, there is some evidence to support his claim in the guns found on the deceased men and the stolen property that was in their possession. But what claim does Qari Saifullah Akhtar make in his defense? He has left a pile of bodies in his trail, and still he enjoys his freedom. Raymond Davis should be punished if he is guilty, not because he is an American. Mumtaz Qadri and Qari Saifullah Akhtar should not walk free only because they have Islamic names.

We must be careful that we are not playing a double game with law and order in the country and using the Raymond Davis case as a way to take out our frustrations with the Americans while we let terrorists stalk the streets. In the Raymond Davis case we should hold judgment until the facts have been made clear and allow the law to run its course. But the law should also be allowed to run its course for the murderers Mumtaz Qadri and Qari Saifullah Akhtar who continues to stalk the streets.

Punjab government spokesman Pervez Rashid told The News that the authorities would “ensure that the killers of Pakistanis are dealt in accordance with the law of the land.” When terrorists seem to have more rights than honest citizens, we might be forgiven for not understanding exactly what that means.