Dual Nationality Suspensions: A Continuation of Zia’s Political Targeting?

ZAB courtAfter Gen Zia carried out his coup, he made sure that democratic politicians could not threaten his grip on power. He did this by having Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto put to death, throwing Benazir Bhutto in prison, and carrying out an orchestrated campaign to harrass, torture, and kill democratic activists and leaders across the country. Many fled, not out of fear, but out of the dedication to regroup and return to liberate Pakistan from the clutches of a brutal dictator. Zia is long gone, but unfortunately, his programme of hounding democratic politicians continues – only this time, through other means.

A couple of months ago, I noted that people take dual citizenship for a number of reasons, most of which have nothing to do with a diminished love or loyalty to Pakistan. One of those reasons was fear of political targeting:

It is also important to view the issue of dual nationality in a historical perspective. For most of the past 35 years, Pakistan suffered under one military dictatorship or another. Gen. Zia especially treated his political opponents brutally and without mercy. Martial Law Regulation No 53 left an indelible stain on the nation and many families were forced to look for security abroad.

Even during brief periods of democratic rule, politics was a high stakes game that ruined lives. We should remember that before the NRO was spun into a ‘get Zardari’ campaign, it was considered as a way to deal with the fact that the judiciary had become a weapon used against opponents. Just as the Supreme Court seems interested only in 4 cases of dual nationals, it seems to have forgotten that the NRO affected not only Zardari’s case but 8,000 others.

And the dual nationality issue affects every party and political ideology also. Just because the PPP is the only party being targeted by the Supreme Court, we should remember that even Imran Khan has said that dual nationals “should be treated equally”. Actually, PTI is taking much of its funding from foreign countries and some top PTI officers such as Fauzia Kasuri are dual nationals. Does this mean that she is not loyal to Pakistan? Imran Khan himself was married in England where he lived for part of every year for almost a decade. Maybe he too is a dual national. Does anyone honestly think that he is more loyal to the UK than Pakistan? Ridiculous.

Whatever your political beliefs, it is difficult to argue that any party has been the target of dictators wrath more than PPP. Benazir Bhutto was forced into exile by one military dictator, and her life was sacrificed under the watchful eye of another. But Benazir Bhutto’s political vision – moderate, tolerant, and pro-democracy – did not die. If anything, her martyrdom made it grow stronger, and PPP won the 2008 elections.

Gen Zia, on the other hand, hated democracy and is best known for introducing Islamisation to Pakistan including the draconian Hudood laws. But that is not his only legal legacy. It was also under Gen Zia that Articles 62 and 63 were added to the Constitution – including the language that the Court contends disqualifies dual nationals from joining parliament. It is in this context that we must view the current actions of the Supreme Court regarding dual nationality.

Is it mere coincidence that the first parliamentarian to be suspended is a PPP MNA? Or that she just happens to be married to the former Ambassador Husain Haqqani, another PPP loyalist who was forced to resign without any formal charges or trial? Is it further coincidence that the second parliamentarian to be suspended is the Interior Minister, another PPP loyalist?

In a hearing, the petitioner told the Supreme Court that Former Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) secretary, Kanwar Dilshad, has said that there were 35 parliamentarians with dual nationalities. The Court, however, has taken drastic measures against only two parliamentarians – Farahnaz Ispahani and Rehman Malik. Two others are still under scrutiny by the Court – MNA Iftikhar Nazeer (PPP) and MNA Chaudhry Zahid Iqbal (PPP). It appears that the Supreme Court is only concerned with disqualifying PPP members, while ignoring allegations against the 31 others.

Democratic activists and leaders, especially those affiliated with the PPP, were systematically targeted and persecuted by Gen Zia’s forces. They were driven into exile where they regrouped until they could return to their homeland, bringing back the democracy promised by Qaid-e-Azam.

And return they did, smashing the idols of fascist dictatorship and giving back to the people their right to rule themselves. Now, we are being told that we cannot trust the loyalty of these same people because they chose to temporarily leave rather than submit to an illegitimate dictator. The General must be laughing in his grave.

Pakistan’s Latest Political Trial

Pakistan’s security establishment has a history of using politically motivated trials to get rid of inconvenient civilian governments. Most famously, Gen. Zia-ul-Haq’s 1977 coup was finalised when a military court sentenced Prime Minister Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto to death following what international officials dismissed as a mock trial fought in a Kangaroo court. Troublingly, there are reasons to worry that Pakistan may be witnessing another political trial against a democratically elected civilian government.

This latest chapter began with American businessman Mansoor Ijaz’s claim that Pakistan’s Ambassador to the United States, acting on the direction of the country’s president, sought American support for replacing Pakistan’s military leadership in order to prevent a possible coup. Mr. Ijaz, whose bizarre claims have been strongly questioned by the international media, has found himself an unlikely celebrity in Pakistan where his years of accusing Pakistan’s military and intelligence agencies of facilitating international terrorism have been largely ignored in favour of his allegations against democratically elected civilian officials.

Despite serious questions about the accuser’s credibility, a media circus erupted over the issue. The first casualty of Ijaz’s allegations was Pakistan’s Ambassador to the United States, Husain Haqqani, who was driven to resign despite an absence of formal evidence suggesting his involvement. At the time of this writing, Pakistan is still operating without a permanent Ambassador to the world’s most powerful nation.

In response to the media uproar, Prime Minister Gilani announced a parliamentary commission to investigate the issue, only to have the rug pulled out from under him by the judiciary when the Chief Justice accepted a petition by opposition leader Nawaz Sharif and announced that the Supreme Court would hold its own investigation, further ordering the country’s civilian and military officials to respond within 15 days.

Asad Jamal, a Lahore-based advocate of the high court, reviewed the Supreme Court’s justification for taking up the issue and found the decision completely outside the constitutional jurisdiction of the court.

The irony of Nawaz Sharif presenting the petition before the court was not lost on Pakistanis as Mr Sharif himself has been convicted by multiple courts on charges ranging from corruption to highjacking and terrorism. The cases were well known to be politically motivated, and many of the convictions were later overturned citing lack of evidence.

Perhaps the most ironic thing about Nawaz Sharif’s latest legal gambit is that not only has the former Prime Minister himself been the subject of judicial persecution, but he has even been accused of the same charges that he is now petitioning the court to investigate.

According to Shaheen Sehbai, an editor at The News (Pakistan’s largest English-language newspaper) reported in 1998 that Nawaz Sharif and his emissaries held secret meetings with U.S. government officials during which they asked the Americans for support in changing the military leadership who they suspected of plotting a coup. In return, Nawaz Sharif allegedly promised to sign the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty and task the ISI with supporting CIA operations to kill or capture Osama bin Laden. The following year, the government fell in a military coup and Nawaz Sharif found himself hauled before a court and quickly handed a life sentence. Sound familiar?

Pakistan’s Supreme Court has already placed Husain Haqqani on the nation’s Exit Control List (ECL), barring him from travel despite the fact that he vehemently denies the allegations leveled against him, returned to Pakistan of his own free will, and has yet to be formally charged with any wrongdoing. In contrast, the court has not taken any position on his accuser, Mansoor Ijaz, who has made nearly daily appearances in the Pakistani media repeating his allegations.

Though this latest episode in Pakistan’s political history is unfolding in deeply troubling ways, there are reasons to hold out hope. The judicial inquiry suffered its first setback when the man appointed by the court to head the commission, former Director General of the Federal Investigation Agency, Tariq Khosa, refused to take part.

And Husain Haqqani himself is not without significant supporters in Pakistan’s legal community. After reviewing the merits of the case, Asma Jahangir — one of Pakistan’s leading human rights advocates and president of the Supreme Court Bar Association — offered to defend Haqqani before the court. As compensation, she is asking only 4,000 Rupees — about $45.

Still, many in Pakistan and abroad are watching the proceedings anxiously. If Pakistan holds democratic elections as planned in 2013, it will be a historic moment for the country when the next government forms. Not once has Pakistan seen a transition between consecutive democratically elected governments. More often, we have seen the democratic process derailed by a misguided judiciary. Let’s hope history is not repeating itself.

Military Accountability: The Role of Political Parties

The presence of Osama Bin Laden in Abbotabad has led to an opening of a Pandora’s box. The Pakistani military has had to pick and choose from limited options; that is either complicity or incompetence. The civilian government, already incapable of influencing any foreign policy, has once again chosen to side with the military and the intelligence agencies. On the surface, however, they have tried to act tough by establishing an “independent” commission in charge of analyzing the Osama Bin Laden mishap. The likes of Najam Sethi, Nawaz Sharif and Asma Jehangir have already called the commission useless. Nawaz Sharif was upfront about labeling the Osama Bin Laden a “security lapse.” He also criticized the PPP for not trying hard enough to ensure accountability within the military.

It is fair to assume that Nawaz Sharif has been bitter with the military since he was ousted in October 1999. His second tenure as the prime minister was marked with him trying to decentralize the military’s power in the political sphere. General Jehangir Karamat was nice enough to resign in face of civilian aggression, but Musharraf pounched on Sharif’s ego and ultimately ousted him. Sharif finally has seen an opportunity to once again engage in a verbal war with the military( and the election campaign of 2013). This time, the military may have found a more schrewd Sharif, and a public that is more aware of the military’s alleged incompetence. This situation is much similar to 1972, when army dictatorship collapsed.

The creation of East Pakistan sent shockwaves across Pakistan, as it lost 52% of its population within a matter of months. Martial law ended with Zulfikar Bhutto becoming both the Chief Martial Law Administrator and the President of the nation. While the public raised furor over the military’s policies, it was not fully aware of its atrocites in East Pakistan. Zulfikar Bhutto chose to keep it that way. In order to appease the military and ensure his future Presidency, Bhutto decided to conceal the “Hamoodur Rehman Commission Report” from the public. The report was also questionable in nature, as it did not indict General Tikka Khan, a military figure complicit in the army’s lawless actions in East Pakistan. General Tikka Khan went on to serve as the chief of army staff for four years under Zulfiqar Bhutto. The military, after a brief interruption in politics due to unpopularity, reinserted itself back into politics in 1978. Zulfikar Ali Bhutto missed the chance as Chief Martial Law administrator by not conducting a thorough investigation into the incompetence of the army. The result was the reinsertion of Martial Law in 1977.

Today, the PPP has once again allegedly decided to take the easy route by protecting the incompetence of the military. In fear of retaliation and possible aid withdrawal from foreign nations, it has decided to conduct an investigation in accords with the military’s wishes. Now, it would be foolish to assert that the military’s present blunders are remotely comparable to the atrocities of East Pakistan. Similarly, it is also unwise to assume that today’s PPP government is as strong as Zulfikar Bhutto’s government in 1972. Far from it, actually.

The morals of these two situations remain the same though. Public perception of the military is changing, just as it did in 1972. The PPP needs to act together with other civilian parties in order to ensure accountability in the military. It similarly needs to establish a proper independent commission in accord with the consent of the opposition parties. Najam Sethi, a distinguished Pakistani scholar, has critiqued the commission for catering towards the military’s needs. A commission needs to be established for ensuring justice within the military, not one that should be used by a party for political security from the military.

Three years ago, political parties were able to join together to restore the Chief Justice from a military dictator through unity. MQM President Altaf Hussain has already critiqued the alleged extremism within the army, and has demanded swift action within the military. Nawaz Sharif has called for a proper investigation into the blatant “security lapse” of Abbotabad. Imran Khan also wants a re-evaluation of military policy on the war against terror. This is the time for political parties to join together for a cause. Otherwise, public frustration with the military will frustrate itself to passiveness, and parliamentary democracy might once again meets its deadliest foe; martial law.


Hum Sub Bhutto Hain

Bhutto at courtOn this thirty-second death anniversary of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, allow me a moment to reflect on the meaning of this occasion without judgment. Bear with me whatever your political affiliation. I come to bury Bhutto, not to praise him.

Zulfikar Ali Bhutto was a man. Like all men, he had his strengths and his failings also. Like very few men, though, he left a lasting impression on his country. When he founded Pakistan People’s Party in 1967, he did so under a revolutionary idea – that all power should reside with the people, not an elite.

Recall that this was a different time than today. There was no pan-Islamic democratic movement, and his rise followed a long line of dictators and martial law administrators. Actually, he too would be followed by one of the most damaging military dictators the country has suffered through. Bhutto had to know always that this idea of democracy would not be so easily put in place, and that the struggle would cost him dearly.

And yet, he willingly made this sacrifice. He went out every day knowing that it could be his last because he knew what was right for his country had to be done. He knew that if he, with all of his privilege, was not willing to sacrifice, how could anyone else be expected to?

I have been thinking about the words of Bilawal on Sunday:

We know our great martyrs lives will not be avenged if any insignificant man alone is held responsible. For us to have our revenge we must insure that the circumstances that allowed for Shaheed Bhutto’s Judicial murder never arise again. For us to take revenge of Shaheed BB’s assassination we must defeat the forces of violent extremism and dictatorship that together assassinated my mother. To do this we must dedicate our lives to the establishment of a fully functioning democracy in Pakistan.

I contend that this sentiment holds true not only for avenging the death of ZAB, but of Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto also. And not only for Bhuttos, but for the 50 people who were martyred at the shrine of Syed Ahmad Sakhi Sarwar; for the 12 year old boy killed by a suicide bomber at Dara Adam Khel; and for the thousands of innocent Pakistani men, women, and children who have been killed by ruthless madmen who use violence as a tool of power. The only revenge is not through violence, but through the continued struggle for justice, equality, democracy, and basic human rights for all Pakistanis.

In the 1990s, militias roamed southern Mexico, slaughtering the peaceful people as a means of control through fear and violence. An Army rose up and defeated these death squads not with bullets, but with something more powerful – the idea of freedom and human rights. The leader of this band of revolutionaries was not a famous athlete, a business tycoon, or a media celebrity. He wore a mask at all times and was known only as ‘Marcos’ or ‘Delegado Cero’ (Delegate Zero). As can be expected from such a mysterious figure, journalists, intelligence agents, and politicians all demanded to know the identity of the rebel leader. Soon, a slogan began to appear painted on the walls in cities and villages across Mexico: “Todos somos Marcos”. “We are all Marcos.”

Bilawal ended his speech to the PPP CEC with the slogan, ‘Jiye Bhutto’. This is meant to invoke the unbending spirit of PPP founder Zulfikar Ali Bhutto and his daughter Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto who sacrificed their lives for the ideal of social progress and democracy. But these two martyrs of Pakistan are not the only ones who show that strength of purpose. It is that same determination of spirit that makes each of us go out each day to continue working to build a free and prosperous Pakistan for the future of our children. That fire in Bhutto’s heart is the same fire in our own hearts that drives us to sacrifice for our country and to never, never give up on the promise of Jinnah’s vision.

And so, on this 32nd death anniversary of Bhutto I borrow the words of William Shakespeare:

I speak not to disprove what others say,
but here I am to speak what I do know.
You all did love Bhutto once, not without cause:
What cause withholds you then, to mourn for him?
O judgment! thou art fled to brutish beasts,
And men have lost their reason. Bear with me;
My heart is in the coffin there with Bhutto,
And I must pause till it come back to me.

As I look out the window onto my country torn by distrust, fear, and the violence of ambitious men who will stop at nothing to stop the rise of democracy, I realize that on this death anniversary of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, it is not one person only that I honour, but many. It is for Hussain Ali Yousufi, Imran Farooq, Salmaan Taseer, Shahbaz Bhatti. It is the thousands of brave soldiers and police who willingly risk their lives to defend the freedom of their country and their people. It is the spirit of democracy that lives on in us all.

Hum Sub Bhutto Hain. Pakistan Zindabad.

Bilawal: We must dedicate our lives to democracy in Pakistan

The following is a transcript of the speech delivered by Bilawal Bhutto Zardari at the Central Executive Committee PPP meeting on the occasion of the death anniversary of his grandfather, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto. Accuracy of the transcript has been confirmed.

Bilawal Bhutto Zardari and President Asif Ali Zardari visit ancestral graveyard of the Bhutto family

Bismillah Rehman Raheem
Assalaam alaykum

We gather yet again to mark the martyrdom of our great leader Quaid-i-Awam Shaheed Zulfikar Ali Bhutto.

My mother Shaheed Benazir Bhutto taught us that democracy was the greatest revenge. The day she took oath as the first female prime minister of Pakistan was the day she took her revenge.

When she too was martyred I fought against my natural instincts as a son who’s mother was assassinated. My heart, my entire being pulsed with rage demanding violent vengeance.

Revenge against the dictatorial regime that purposely sabotaged the security arrangements, provided purposely inadequate resources, purposely flawed equipments,  purposely designed to leave her vulnerable.

All the while having the complete knowledge, supported by unquestionable evidence that the extremists lay in wait at that exact spot ready to attack.

I believe my mother’s spirit and her teachings cooled the tempers of a hot headed 19yr old. Allowing me to convince a party ready for all out civil-war and a traumatized nation that democracy is the best revenge.

This remains our mantra. Be it the judicial murder of Shaheed Zulfikar Ali Bhutto or the forces of extremism and dictatorship that assassinated his daughter: Democracy is and always will be the best revenge.

We know our great martyrs lives will not be avenged if any insignificant man alone is held responsible. For us to have our revenge we must insure that the circumstances that allowed for Shaheed Bhutto’s Judicial murder never arise again. For us to take revenge of Shaheed BB’s assassination we must defeat the forces of violent extremism and dictatorship that together assassinated my mother. To do this we must dedicate our lives to the establishment of a fully functioning democracy in Pakistan.

However, democracy is not our only revenge. There is a matter of Justice. The rule of law must be allowed to take its course. This after all is also an important component of democracy. It is our responsibility to history to ensure the full and complete facts – the truth – of these crimes are known to the world.

Thus, I fully support the party’s decision to revisit the case of the Judicial murder of Shaheed Bhutto. It is not just a question of law, it is also a question for history. It is right for us to finally set the record straight and ensure that such an autocracy never ever again takes place in our nations courts.

On my mothers assassination the circumstances are far more complicated. As her son and heir I am the only person to have received a complete briefing of the investigation into her assassination. I would like to thank our  investigation team. In taking on this responsibility they have risked their lives.  They have worked tirelessly for 3 years to come to the truth.

I would also like to thank the United Nations. They honored my mother by passing a resolution condemning her assassination. They also obeyed the wishes of the people of Pakistan, who demanded through unanimous resolutions passed by all 4 provincial assemblies, our national assembly and the senate, that the United Nations investigate her assassination.  There detailed and invaluable report is of the utmost importance to history. It did the best it could in the confines of the parameters set. Both reports combined lead us towards the answers we seek.

Our national report identifies the individuals involved in the criminal act its self. It also follows the trail they left behind in an attempt to expose the financiers, orchestrators and co-conspirators involved. Everyone directly involved, who could be arrested and are still alive have been taken into custody.

The report also raises many questions. Having read everything it is easy to conclude that this was a grand conspiracy. A conspiracy to rid the world of its best weapon to combat international violent extremism. A conspiracy to rob Pakistan of its best hope to establish a fully functional democracy.

We must therefore proceed with caution. The premature release of the entire investigation report could legally sabotage the case currently in progress. It could also allow the conspirators – who may not be confined to our borders – to permanently deprive the people of Pakistan and the citizens of the world of the truth they deserve.

Therefore I advise the members of the CEC to appoint a limited number of its most senior members to have a full and complete briefing of the entire investigation report.

Given the complexities of this conspiracy this committee of senior members can advise us on how to proceed with the publication of the report. It will decide what information can responsibly be released to satisfy the desire of our supporters for information. While also ensuring we do not hamper the legal proceedings already in progress in our national courts. We cannot allow those that conspired to rid the world of Shaheed Benazir Bhutto to sabotage our desire for justice and our search for the truth.

I would like to conclude by saluting our martyrs all of whom deserve justice for their sacrifice. I salute our martyred founder who choose the gallows but refused to be silenced by tyranny. I salute his martyred daughter who refused to be silenced by fear. I also salute our party’s newest martyrs who have joined their leaders in the afterlife. I salute our martyred minorities minister – Pakistan’s modern day equivalent to Martin Luther King.  I salute our martyred Governor – the real lion of Punjab. I salute all the martyrs of the PPP who have given their lives for our party, our country and our democracy.

Jiay Bhutto.