New problems for the Chief Justice

Mahmood Adeel in his piece last week made an interesting observation about our Chief Justice regarding his son’s case. He pointed out that it seemed CJ had already made up his mind regarding the outcome of the case and it sounded as if he was leading the witnesses to “provide the testimony needed to give the decision already made”. This made me think that other controversial cases are also facing problems of credibility due to lack of transparency and questions of undue influence at the outset of the case.

A similar incident that can be linked to the idea of whether the CJP is influencing a trial outcome already decided is the neverending memogate case. While there have been many questions regarding the special treatment granted to Mansur Ejaz and his secret meetings with top agency officials, the Chief Justice has also found himself at the center of controversy about the contents of a secret letter Mansur Ejaz sent to the CJP and the Supreme court during the memogate saga. As reported by various newspapers earlier this year, Ejaz sent a letter to the CJ the contents of which Chief Justice wanted to remain sealed. Next thing, Masur Ejaz was permitted to give his testimony via video link from London and Husain Haqqani was permitted to leave Pakistan. Many are now asking about the contents of this top secret letter known only to Mansur Ejaz and the CJP which appears to have changed the course of the case.

Today, this question becomes even more alarming with media reporting that the Chief Justice is forming a bench for hearings on memogate charges based on a sealed probe report by the memo commission. First a secret letter influences the Court, now a secret report constitutes a larger bench. If justice is truly being served why is it being done in the dark behind closed doors?

The higher judiciary which has been considered as the institution devoted to impartial justice has found itself facing criticism for the CJP’s hesitancy to remove himself from hearing a case against his own son, and even then only after giving remarks that could influence the outcome of the case. This combined with the noted lack of dissent on the bench and the lack of transparency in memogate casew have created doubts about whether the Supreme Court is following the constitution or whether it has become the private tribunal of one man.

Oh no…I agree with The Nation


That’s right. Mark your calendars. Today may be a historic day. I agree (partly) with The Nation. The piece I am referring to, even more strangely it seems, is an editorial about drone strikes. What has changed my mind you ask? Nothing. Allow me to explain.

When drone strikes resumed after being stopped following the 26th Novemner NATO attack and Shamsi airbase being vacated, I expected an angry statement from Army, street protests, another media outcry about sovereignty. Of course, what I got instead was silence.

Apparently, I’m not the only one who noticed. Here’s what The Nation said:

The general understanding was that following the vacation of the Shamsi Airbase and discontinuation of NATO supplies to Afghanistan, drones would never again enter Pakistani airspace. It may be recalled that the American television channel MSNBC aired a report saying that on December 12 last year, Prime Minister Gilani and COAS Gen Kayani resolved, at a meeting, that any further drone attack would be considered an act of aggression. Not only this, the report said that the top civil and military leadership has also decided to shoot down any drone entering into Pakistani airspace. It is strange that no action against these invading planes was taken and not even protested.

But is it really so strange?

Consider the next sentence in The Nation’s editorial: “It gives credence to another US newspaper report that Pakistan has agreed to selective drone strikes.”

Yes, it does.

And that’s not the only thing we agree on. Here’s the conclusion reached by The Nation:

The civil and military leadership will have to put their heads together and decide once and for all whether they are going to continue making empty promises to Pakistanis or whether they will finally put their money where their mouth is. People are no longer willing to be hoodwinked about the clarity of the policy on this issue. If there is some renewed understanding with the Americans, that too must be clearly stated, failing which the government may face a strong spate of protest demonstrations. The US too must recognise, that whether or not its drone policy is one it officially recognises, it is having a justifiably negative impact on its perception as a whole in Pakistan.

Guess what? I agree.

I have written several times about drone strikes against militants, and I’ve been accused of everything from having a CIA visa handler to being on the payroll of RAW. I can assure you that none of that is true. Honestly, these comments don’t bother me because the people who know me know that I’m none of these things, and besides I think it’s funny that most of the accusations come from jihadi wannabes commenting from US and UK, anyway.

I’ve personally never been a strong supporter of drones, but I’ve never been strongly against them either. How could I be either when I have so little credible information on which to make a judgment? I’ve always just wanted to have a rational conversation about them. Part of that conversation is two crucially important questions that, until now, nobody has really wanted to ask:

1. Given that militant groups are a problem that must be countered, do drones result in less suffering for innocents than using ground troops?

2. Are officials condemning drones in Pakistan while secretly giving the nod to the Americans?

These are legitimate questions, I think. The first one has already been answered by Pakistani military officers, even though there is so much misinformation and confusion in the media.

The second quesiton has also been answered by Wikileaks, even given later contradictory statements by the COAS and the PM.

And there’s our problem. The subject of drones is being used as a political tool to manipulate the people’s sentimentalities. Let’s be honest – even if the civilians wanted to defy the military and allow the Americans to carry out operations in Pakistan that the military did not approve, they couldn’t. The military controls intelligence. The military controls the borders. The military controls the airspace. Blaming the PM for drones is like blaming the COAS for tax evaders.

Should the Army allow the Americans to carry out drone strikes? I say the military should take the people into confidence and give us the hard and honest truth. Believe me, we can handle it. If the generals honestly think that the drones are making things worse, then tell us – and tell the Americans, too. And lets put an end to this programme once and for all. But if the generals believe that some drone strikes are a necessary evil that will help more quickly bring an end this godforsaken war on terror, then tell us and we will support you 100 per cent.

Just stop telling us one thing and doing something else. We are your fellow countrymen. Please, sirs, we deserve this much at least.