Making a Mockery of Justice

Gen. Musharraf smoking his cigar

At the beginning of the year, Gen. Musharraf announced that he would return to Pakistan between 27-30 January. He would arrive in Karachi and would stand in general elections. When the date arrived, however, Musharraf was nowhere to be found. His aide told reporters that he was postponing his return, but insisted that “Gen Musharraf will return to Pakistan, that’s for sure”. Three months later, it looks like Gen. Musharraf’s return is not so ‘sure’ after all. The British government has refused to honour an extradition request for Musharraf to answer charges of his involvement in the assassination of Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto. But it’s not only the British government that seems to have Gen. Musharraf’s interests at heart.

The Harry Walker Agency represents prestigious world leaders including former American President Bill Clinton, Nobel Peace Laureate and former Secretary-General of the United Nations Kofi Annan, and Her Majesty Queen Noor of Jordan. They also represent Gen. Musharraf.

Next to a smirking photograph on the Harry Walker Agency’s website, Gen. Musharraf’s biography is an eyewash of his record as dictator. The biography notes that Pakistan came close to full-scale war with India in the late 1990s, but doesn’t mention that this nuclear scare came as the result of Gen. Musharraf’s too clever by half attempt to lead troops dressed as militants across the line of control in Kashmir – a strategic blunder salvaged only when then Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif traveled first to Beijing, then to Washington asking for help in defusing the potentially catastrophic standoff between two nuclear powers.

The Harry Walker Agency’s biography of Gen. Musharraf further describes the former dictator as “a fighter against terrorism and extremism”, despite the conclusion of former CIA officer Bruce Riedel that Gen. Musharraf was a “double-dealing” ally who allowed al Qaeda to regroup in the tribal areas while fleecing the US of billions of dollars.

Most disturbingly, though, is that the Harry Walker Agency describes Gen. Musharraf as a “democratic reformer,” ignoring the fact that he seized power in 1999 through a military coup, placed Supreme Court justices under house arrest when they attempted to enforce anti-corruption laws, and suspended the Constitution in 2007 less than a year before he was deposed. Gen. Musharraf’s regime set democracy back by decades.

As dictator, Gen. Musharraf consolidated power in himself and crippled civilian institutions. The present government of Pakistan has spent the past four years passing legislation including the 18th Amendment to undo the damage done to Pakistan’s democracy through power consolidation under Musharraf’s dictatorship. Some of the damage from Gen. Musharraf’s regime, however, can never be undone.

Mark Siegel, a close personal friend and former advisor to Benazir Bhutto, was with Benazir Bhutto when she received a chilling phone call from Gen. Musharraf threatening her with dire consequences if she dared return to Pakistan to participate in the 2008 elections. As usual, Benazir Bhutto did dare.

Though Pakistan People’s Party won the elections, Benazir Bhutto was not able to celebrate. On December 27, 2007, Benazir Bhutto was assassinated as she waved to crowds of supporters.

An independent investigation by the United Nations followed, and in 2010, the UN released a report that stopped just short of declaring Gen. Musharraf responsible for Bhutto’s assassination. Last year, an anti-terrorism court in Pakistan issued an arrest warrant for the former dictator on charges that he deliberately withheld security despite knowing of specific plans to attack Bhutto. Through his spokesman, Musharraf declared that he has “no intention of complying” with the court. The old habits of a dictator die hard.

Earlier this year, a federal Joint Investigative Team (JIT) report found that Musharraf “had prior knowledge of the assassination of Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto by accused Baitullah Mehsud and withheld this vital information of a conspiracy.” The government has asked Interpol to issue a red warrant for the former dictator so that he can be brought to Pakistan to comply with the courts.

Though Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto is the highest profile Pakistani lost under Gen. Musharraf’s regime, she is certainly not the only one. During Gen. Musharraf’s dictatorship, hundreds of Pakistanis went missing and are believed to have been disappeared by state agencies under his direction. In 2009, Gen. Musharraf told Al Jazeera that perhaps the missing Pakistanis had voluntarily disappeared, a suggestion the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan called “absolutely untenable,” noting that Gen. Musharraf referred to a Supreme Court investigation into the missing persons as a “constant interference in executive functions” when he suspended the Constitution for the second time in 2007.

Today, Gen. Musharraf is following the path set by his fellow dictators Augusto Pinochet and Idi Amin, living a life of luxury in so-called ‘self-imposed exile’. Based out of a multi-million dollar flat in London outfitted with silk carpets and leather furniture, the former dictator dines at five-star hotels and relaxes by playing golf and games of bridge with arms dealers.

To pay the bills, Gen. Musharraf travels the world – often to Europe and the US – giving high dollar speeches. Industry experts estimate that today the former Pakistani dictator is commanding upwards of $200,000 per appearance. In January, The News reported that the former dictator had amassed over $1 billion in Middle Eastern bank accounts.

While Gen. Musharraf hides behind British protection enjoying a life of fame, wealth and luxury made possible by the Harry Walker Agency, justice for Benazir Bhutto and the hundreds of other Pakistanis disappeared under the his regime remains missing. The UN report investigating Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto’s death concluded that, “it is essential that the perpetrators of the assassination of Benazir Bhutto be brought to justice.” The way some are facilitating Gen. Musharraf’s life of luxury doesn’t only deny justice, it makes a mockery of it.

Does Imran still want to put Musharraf to death?

Imran Khan and Pervez Musharraf

In his attempts to return to Pakistan without handcuffs, Gen (R) Pervez Musharraf has been looking at Imran Khan as a possible partner. The Nation reported earlier this month that the former dictator told an audience at LUMS that “APML could stand by PTI if Imran Khan would take up the challenge of doing away with the crises facing the country and strengthening Pakistan”. Geo reported that talks between Imran Khan and Gen (r) Musharraf are being brokered by American Arjumand Hashmi.

Imran Khan has been a little more coy about any possible grand alliance, possibly because his memory is not quite as short as Mushy’s. It was only a few years ago that Imran Khan announced a countrywide ‘Musharraf Hatao’ campaign. At the press conference, Imran Khan said Musharraf should be put to death.

Imran said Musharraf had accepted responsibility for killing 83 innocent citizens in Bajaur. “Though Saddam did not confess to any killings, he has been awarded the death sentence. The same should be done with General Musharraf, who has publicly admitted the government’s involvement in the Bajaur airstrike,” he said.

This raises an interesting question. If PTI-APML alliance somehow managed to form a government, would Imran Khan carry out his plan to execute Pervez Musharraf?

Birds of a feather

Movement to topple the govt soon: Imran Khan

Imran Khan

Chief of Tehreek-i-Insaf Imran Khan has announced ‘Save Pakistan; Topple the Government’ movement at the end of a two day peaceful sit-in at Native Jetty in Karachi that kept the Nato supply of oil and other goods suspended for two days.

1999 Coup: Musharraf’s party marks ‘Youm-e-Nijat’

 Gen Musharraf

When then army chief Pervez Musharraf, who is now president of the APML, toppled the PML-N government on October 12, 1999, he had led the country towards prosperity and stability, said his party’s spokesperson, while presiding over a party meeting at the Punjab Secretariat.

Musharraf hints at supporting Imran

Hinting at the possibilities of newly-born APML’s support for Imran Khan’s PTI, he said that APML could stand by PTI if Imran Khan would take up the challenge of doing away with the crises facing the country and strengthening Pakistan.

 

کندھم جنس باہم جنس پرواز کبوتر با کبوتر باز با باز

Gen Musharraf Imran Khan and MMA

Friday Book Club: What Makes a Pakistani?

While politicians, diplomats and business leaders are negotiating trade deals that would grant open access to American markets, a lucrative new industry of writing books about Pakistan for Western audiences is starting to take hold. Two of these recent books were the subject of reviews this week, and provide an interesting starting point for a discussion of Pakistan ideology both for what each book said…or didn’t say…about the subject.

In today’s Friday Times, Raza Rumi reviews a new book, ‘Explaining Pakistan’s Foreign Policy: Escaping India’ that explores the way the reliance on religion to define Pakistani identity has wreaked havoc with the nation’s foreign policy decisions.
Explaining Pakistan's Foreign Policy

The overall emphasis of the book is to highlight how Pakistan’s exclusive ‘ideological’ identity as opposed to a multi-ethnic nation-state cognisant of its past inhibits the formulation of a realistic foreign policy. This is a view, which many in Pakistan would empathise with especially the political parties. The book also documents the nuances and shades of policy options articulated by various political and religious groups.

This book suggests that the establishment’s attempt to use Islam as a “substitute for nationalism” has resulted in not only external wars such as Kargil, but internal wars to define who qualifies as “Muslim enough” to be Pakistani. In his review, Raza Rumi mentions the 1949 Objectives Resolution, but we can easily connect the dots between this and the way Yahya Khan characterised Bengalis as crypto-Hindus, 1974 law declaring Ahmedis as non-Muslims and present day attacks by anti-Shia groups like SSP and LeJ.

A similar observation was made by Ayesha Siddiqa in her review of a new book edited by Maleha Lodhi, ‘Pakistan: Beyond the “Crisis State”‘. According to Siddiqa, “The basic thesis of the volume is that there are many things which are not right about the country but that in itself does not qualify it as a failed or failing state”. This is true, of course, and it is important to recognise the progress that Pakistan is making as well as the challenges that remain. But Ms Siddiqa in her review worries that Lodhi’s volume serves as something of an unproductive whitewash, and in ignoring underlying issues surrounding ideology, Lodhi’s book fails to address the critical issue of ideology.

Pakistan: Beyond the Crisis StatePakistan’s fundamental problem is that the state defines citizenship on the basis of a citizen’s putative relationship with religion and the central establishment. This leaves out millions of non-Muslims or members of minority ethnic communities from a sense of representation. Those that choose to protest their rights like the East Pakistanis or Baluch are then brutally butchered in the name of national security. This volume chooses to focus on religion related violence. This category of violence cannot be stopped because the problem of the religiosity of the state becomes compounded with another issue of a powerful military bureaucracy, an institution which tends to use all measures including religion and violence to gain its military-strategic objectives. According to Zahid Hussain, some of the militant groups were connected with the military due to the role they played in the possible resolution of the Kashmir issue or in helping GHQ Rawalpindi deal with India.

Could it be that the bizarre handling of questions military, ideology and national identity were by design? After all, Maleeha Lodhi was appointed Ambassador to the USA following Gen Musharraf’s 1999 coup, and was awarded Hilal-e-Imtiaz by Gen Musharraf in 2002. According to Siddiqa, “Maleeha Lodhi’s edited volume is one of the few books that Pakistan military’s Inter-Services Public Relations’ head Maj. General Athar Abbas recommends to his visitors”.

Have you read any of these books? If so, what are your thoughts? Are there other new books on Pakistan that you like? Please share in the comments!

Let the people decide the politics, please

Following Zulfiqar Mirza’s unhinged ranting, another certain dust up in Islamabad gained little notice. Even though it gained mostly yawns from the anchors, it may actually have greater implications than is realised.

President Zardari recently appointed Akhtar Buland Rana as Auditor General of Pakistan (AGP) on advice of PM Gilani. After the appointment was reporter, Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry wrote a letter to the president expressing reservations about the appointment. The Chief Justice’s reservations were based on ISI reports he received.

The CJP raised several objections against Rana in his letter citing seven charges against him.

The letter alleged that Rana obtained a Canadian nationality without seeking prior permission from the government and travels abroad on three Pakistani passports and two national identification cards. It included that Rana attempted sexual assault on a subordinate woman during service and also pointed out that he did not qualify for his promotion to grade-22.

The Supreme Court Registrar on Saturday said the chief justice wrote the letter to the president after the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) and the Federal Investigative Agency (FIA) sent their reports on Rana’s credentials.

My first thought was, this is silly. The same court that is showing frustration with spy agencies manipulating the courts…are also taking dictation from the spy agencies?

The court believed that the non-serious attitude of the government wasn’t a positive step towards the recovery of missing persons, adding that if spy agencies weren’t involved in their disappearances, they should submit a written statement in the court.

This is also the same Chief Justice that less than five years ago submitted an Affidavit claiming that MI, ISI and IB were interfering with the Supreme Court and Chief Justice himself after Musharraf took them away from their proper duties of defending the nation and dragged them into domestic politics. Now the same Chief Justice believes spy agencies should be meddling in domestic politics? But this raises an even more important question which is why the ISI is meddling in domestic politics in the first place. Sadly, this is not a new issue, but one that continues to prevent progress.

In 1988, ISI formed the right-wing Islami Jamhoori Ittehad in order to compete with the PPP – a fact admitted by former DG ISI Hamid Gul in 2009.

In 2002, the ISI did it again, manipulating elections and making a mockery of the public’s wishes. This was admitted by Maj Gen Ehtesham Zamir who headed the agency’s political wing at the time.

The main wheeler and dealer of the ISI during the 2002 elections, the then Maj-Gen Ehtesham Zamir, now retired, has come out of the closet and admitted his guilt of manipulating the 2002 elections, and has directly blamed Gen Musharraf for ordering so.

Talking to The News, the head of the ISI’s political cell in 2002, admitted manipulating the last elections at the behest of President Musharraf and termed the defeat of the King’s party, the PML-Q, this time “a reaction of the unnatural dispensation (installed in 2002).”

In 2008, the newly elected PPP government closed the political wing of the ISI in hopes that the people could take back control of their own government without interference from spy agencies.

Abida Hussain, a leader of the ruling Pakistan People’s party (PPP) and former ambassador to the US, said: “The ISI should only focus on the ‘war on terror’ rather than undertaking a periodic dirty tricks campaign to reward or punish politicians who either toed their agenda or fell out of line. Why should an intelligence agency which was established to watch for threats from foreign sources become so acutely involved in our domestic politics?”

Three years later and this same question is just as valid. With the threat of extremists trying to infiltrate the military, rogue ex-ISI agents running their own operations outside the control of the official agencies, and rising violence threatening the citizens, why is the ISI still spending its time meddling in domestic politics?

The establishment’s narrative has always been that the military is “the only competent institution in Pakistan”. When it comes to defeating enemies o the nation, I have not a single doubt that the military is the best institution. The operations that cleared anti-Pakistan militants from Swat are proof enough. But militaries break things. They destroy them. And every time the khakis have meddled in domestic politics, they’ve broken it.

Regretting his actions in 2002, Maj Gen Zamir told The News that the ISI’s meddling “had pushed the country back instead of taking it forward”. The solution is easy. Let the military agencies do their own work fighting militants and protecting the people. And let the people do their own work of electing and running the government.