Judiciary frustrated by rule of law

An article in The News caught my attention yesterday when I read that the head of the Judicial Commission probing the memogate scandal is frustrated with inaction on the part of the government. According to the article,

Justice Qazi Faiz Esa on Thursday expressed anger at the Foreign Office’s inability to pursue the matter of the record of Blackberry messages between Husain Haqqani and Mansoor Ijaz with the Canadian High Commission in Pakistan.

This struck me as odd for a couple of reasons. First of all, the Foreign Office actually did pursue the matter of the record of Blackberry messages between Husain Haqqani and Mansoor Ijaz with the Canadian High Commission in Pakistan. The Canadian High Commission, being familiar with Canadian privacy law, told the FO that there was nothing they could do.

Justice Faiz Esa thinks the FO is “hampering the inquiry” because they haven’t created an international incident over the issue. The commission went on to complain that the Blackberry company, being a Canadian company, is following Canadian law. According to the judicial commission, “The Blackberry company is operating in Pakistan and they also have some obligations here for smooth functioning”. It is not hard to read such a statement as a threat – either provide us with the data or we will block your access to operate in Pakistan.

But even if the Canadian High Commission decided to become rogue and force a company to violate the law, what would be the point? Even Mansoor Ijaz himself says that Blackberry doesn’t have anything new data.

The reality is that what we found out from BlackBerry was not that; literally the data didn’t exist that we thought existed. Meaning, the chat, the actual lines of the chat exchanges is not stored by BlackBerry on their servers. What they store to some extent is, like a telephone log, here is the PIN number that communicated with another PIN number and here is the date and time which they did that.

The most anyone could prove is that Husain Haqqani had BBM chats with Mansoor Ijaz – something he has never denied. But none of the chat transcripts that Mansoor Ijaz has submitted say anything about a memo. The only way to read those chats as suggesting Haqqani had anything to do with Mansoor Ijaz’s memo is if someone has already told you how to interpret them before hand.

In many ways, the memogate case is similar to another case that is causing frustration to Our Lords on the bench. The Supreme Court continues to distract the government from real issues like poverty,

In the Swiss case, the Swiss have also said that they cannot reopen the case even if asked because the law says that the president benefits from immunity while in office.

A Swiss prosecutor said Wednesday that it would be impossible to reopen a money laundering case in Switzerland against Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari since he benefits from immunity as a head of state.

Nevermind what the constitution or the Swiss themselves clearly say, the Supreme Court has threatened the Prime Minister with jail if he does not write a letter requesting the Swiss to open cases against the president.

And even if everyone decided to ignore the law, what would be the point? The Swiss prosecutor said four years ago when the case was closed that there was not enough evidence to bring Zardari to trial.

On August 26, 2008, Swiss judicial authorities closed the money-laundering case against Zardari and released $60 million frozen in Swiss accounts over the past decade.

Daniel Zappelli, Geneva’s chief prosecutor, said he had no evidence to bring Zardari to trial.

Foreign respect for the notion of ‘rule of law’ seems to have thoroughly confused and frustrated Our Lords. Rather than taking up any of the other countless cases that affect the lives of ordinary Pakistanis, the judiciary continues to waste the national treasury on what increasingly look like witch hunts. Perhaps the judges believe that these cases are giving them more respect and power. But what would really give the court the respect of the people would be to address the issues that affect everyday Pakistanis and leave political vendettas to the politicians.

Musharraf: Swiss Cases Are False

In a stunning admission today, Pervez Musharraf admits in an interview with Daily Express that the Swiss cases and other cases against Benazir Bhutto and Asif Zardari were false cases that could be proven in neither Swiss nor Pakistani courts.

Former military ruler Pervez Musharraf has said that graft cases against slain PPP chairperson Benazir Bhutto and her spouse Asif Zardari in Switzerland’s courts were not proven.

In an exclusive interview with Daily Express, Musharraf revealed that a letter was also written to Swiss authorities during his regime showing displeasure at the lengthy trial.

He said the rounds of negotiations he held with Benazir Bhutto were always one-on-one.

He said people on TV talk shows make noises about NRO and talk incessantly about the deal even though they know nothing about the facts.

Replying to a question, he said his meetings with Benazir Bhutto in Abu Dhabi used to span three to four hours, and they were always one-on-one. Rehman Malik accompanied the PPP leader but did not participate in the negotiations.

He recalled that when in the first round of talks Benazir asked for abolition of 58-2 (b) “I refused point blank”. He said when talking about the cases instituted against her during Nawaz Sharif government, Benazir used to become misty-eyed.

The ex-president said that the cases against Benazir Bhutto and Asif Zardari were neither proved in Swiss courts nor in Pakistan’s, while both were acquitted in many cases.

He said he had written to the Swiss courts that their performance was even worse than Pakistani courts as they failed to decide the cases, “but the fact of the matter is that there was nothing in those cases”.

Precisely for this reason, Musharraf continued, he presented details of his talks with Benazir before his political friends, including Chaudhry Shujaat and Pervaiz Elahi. Among the points he presented included ending of cases against Benazir Bhutto and her spouse and setting aside the bar on becoming prime minister a third time.

The Chaudhry brothers, he said, reacted by saying that the cases be dropped but the bar on third-time premiership should stay or the Q league would lose elections.

Meanwhile, Interior Minister Rehman Malik has said there used be a concluding session on both sides after the meetings between Benazir and Musharraf and follow-ups by the nominees of General Musharf “and me in Dubai and London based on the minutes of the meetings drafted by Benazir and myself”.

Costs versus Benefits of Swiss Cases

Swiss Cases remain big news. Every day it seems like there is some new discussion about these cases that were closed years ago. Mostly this new discussion includes no new information, but only speculation and slogans that are transparent political posturing by all parties. What is missing from the discussion is any insight into what the costs and the benefits are of continuing to drag on with this issue.

Cost-benefit analysis is a process used to determine whether or not a particular decision is worth following. Mostly this is thought of in terms of businesses making decisions, but it is also used by everyone in some way. While you might find some benefits from buying an expensive car like a Mercedes Benz, probably the costs are more than the benefits, so you don’t do it. Or, you might think that it would be nice to have all the money in a bank, but robbing that bank will incur costs (prison, death) that make it not worth the crime. Cost-benefit analysis should also be used by government to determine if particular decisions are a good idea.

So, what are the costs of the Swiss cases? To answer that question we should look at both quantitative and qualitative measures. First, let use explore the quantitative side of things. After all, the Swiss cases are in large part about a quantifiable amount of money, are they not?

The allegation is that looted monies are sitting in Swiss banks and the government should get that money back. According to documents reviewed by Express Tribune, the government has spent Rs.318 Millions (USD$3.7 Million) on legal fees over the past seven years trying to recover this money.

And what has Pakistan received for it’s Rs.318 Million? Nothing.

That’s right. After seven years and millions of dollars – hundreds of millions of Rupees – nothing has changed.

There are also qualitative issues to be considered. For example, how does it make Pakistan look in the eyes of the rest of the world if we are constantly carrying on and spending hundreds of millions to pursue a case that has been dead for years? When even the Swiss prosecutor says there is no chance of going forward, what must it look like to other nations when we spend resources trying to revive a dead dog rather than to rebuild the country?

Certainly there would be some benefit to prosecuting corruption cases because it will serve as a disincentive to would-be crooks and looters. If there was no punishment for robbing a bank, surely there would be some persons who would do so. But there is a difference between prosecuting corruption cases and obsessing over them.

The Swiss cases in particular have been investigated and prosecuted for years and have only resulted in a loss of hundreds of millions of Rupees in taxpayer money and a loss of national prestige in the eyes of the world. It’s time to let go.

With all the problems that are facing the country, let’s concentrate on problems that we can solve. Let’s talk about ideas for increasing transparency in government so that we can see who is actually paying taxes and where that money is going. Then, if there is some corruption, we can prosecute it without wasting hundreds of millions and almost ten years only to find that we have nothing to show for it.