New Age Islam Edit Bureau
24 March 2018
Waiting For the Next Naqeebullah
By Abbas Nasir
Balochistan’s Missing Poor
By Assad Ahmad
Chairman Senate from Balochistan
By Mansoor Akbar Kundi
Pak-Turkey Affinity Is Unique
By Gulshan Rafiq
As A Doctrine Descends
By Babar Sattar
Fissures in PML-N
By Mohammad Jamil
The Flat and Round of Politics
By Hussain H Zaidi
Compiled By New Age Islam Edit Bureau
March 24, 2018
IT took a street movement, the insistence of the Supreme Court and the outright arrogance of those harbouring Rao Anwar, the Karachi police officer who had become a fugitive from the law after being cited in the extrajudicial killing of Naqeebullah Mehsud, to finally ensure he ended up in custody.
While the surrender of the policeman figured prominently in TV news bulletins and also featured in newspaper leaders, including an excellent one in this newspaper, and all the right questions were asked, it was left to Islamabad-based Azaz Syed, a journalist working for Geo, to piece together the sequence of events in the run-up to the dramatic appearance of Rao Anwar in court.
Reporters and TV viewers were amazed at the manner in which Rao Anwar came to the Supreme Court — in a car that was driven through a gate which, reporters say, does not even open for the attorney general of Pakistan.
That it was not a sudden appearance but one that was orchestrated was equally evident from the presence of a dozen or so policemen, including anti-terrorism commandos, who surrounded Rao Anwar when he alighted from his car and ushered him into the courtroom.
Well, now the police official has returned to his favourite hunting ground of Karachi (though having lost his freedom) and a court has remanded him to the custody of the police investigating the case afresh. One TV report suggested that he is being kept in his own house in Malir Cantonment but there is no confirmation.
The two-and-a-half-month saga began when a young man from Waziristan, trying to eke out a living in Karachi, was picked up while entertaining a couple of friends over a cup of tea in Karachi’s Sohrab Goth area in early January this year. Some 10 days later, he was shot dead allegedly in an encounter with the police.
Police, most notably, Rao Anwar had dubbed Naqeebullah a Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan militant but when the young Mehsud’s friends and family took to the social media and then the streets to dispute the claim and also spell out how he was picked up before being killed some 10 days later, a storm started to brew.
Young Pakhtun activists protested vociferously and the government, the police force and also the country’s highest court took notice after it became apparent what had actually transpired. With the statements of the two friends, who’d been picked up with Mehsud but, thankfully, released, it appeared like an open-and-shut case.
Rao Anwar disappeared from public view and the next one heard of him was when he tried but failed to board a Dubai-bound Emirates flight from Islamabad airport due to a watchful FIA (Immigration) official who refused him permission to travel because his paper work was not in order. This was towards the end of January.
Even when he made the abortive attempt to leave the country, it was reported in the media that he arrived at the airport in the company of plainclothesmen who got his boarding card and completed the check-in on his behalf. Yet, nothing was confirmed.
Some two months later, that day’s events at Islamabad airport became the main reason the absconding police official finally resurfaced to face at least a bit of the music. Reporter Azaz Syed says when the Supreme Court asked police and intelligence agencies on more than one occasion to find and produce Rao Anwar they continued to dodge the issue.
However, when the Supreme Court insisted angrily, resistance started to weaken and CCTV evidence appeared which led to (via the Nadra database) the identification of the agency personnel who’d accompanied the police officer to the airport some 10 days after the murder of Naqeebullah Mehsud and in their supreme self-confidence made no effort to hide their faces.
It was after this development that Rao Anwar’s protectors were left with no option but to facilitate his surrender. But, sources suggest, there was still some negotiations on the terms of surrender including a fresh joint investigation team to probe the Naqeebullah case, even though the police had registered a case after an earlier Sindh police JIT.
Therefore, when he finally arrived at the Supreme Court a little over two month and a few hearings after the young Mehsud was gunned down, it appears everyone was ready for him. One hopes and prays the Supreme Court’s interest in this case will ensure that justice is dispensed.
But can one also hope that the larger issue of forced disappearances and summary executions also be addressed? I, for one, am not optimistic. The Supreme Court is right to focus its attention on the government’s shortcomings in various areas of concern to the common man. There, however, seems to be no commitment or effort on the part of any institution to undertaking judicial reform which is the only route to ensuring the provision of justice at a very basic level and protecting the life and liberty of citizens.
And, when viewed against the battle the country is waging against terrorist groups, the legislative and judicial framework appears wholly inadequate. Where extrajudicial killings and disappearances are, and should be, repugnant and unacceptable in any civilised society, the system finds itself incapable of prosecuting and sentencing those guilty of heinous crimes.
Here lies my worry and concern. One Rao Anwar can be taken out of commissioning for a while perhaps but the pressure and, to some warped minds, the rationale remains to ‘take out’ those considered guilty. Such a situation and attitude will always lead to bloody miscarriages of justice.
Regardless of high-and-mighty doctrines, pledges to dispense justice, and declarations of a commitment to the common man, without meaningful reform we will always be waiting for the next Naqeebullah Mehsud.
THE fact that 57 per cent of Balochistan lived on less than Rs3,000 per person per month in 2014 may raise a few eyebrows, but is unlikely to fly in the face of what informed citizens generally know. What will be less widely known is that Balochistan is the only province where this rate increased between 2010 and 2014, and that it stands at nearly twice the rapidly falling, national rate of under 30pc. (World Bank estimate using newly developed 2014 poverty line, back-casted, and inflation adjusted for prior years)
The good news for Pakistan’s poor is, of course, the Benazir Income Support Program. Dispensing over a billion dollars a year across the country, helping deserving families fight the poverty trap, BISP remains a splendid idea that needs to be expanded manifold to bring our social protection expenditure in line with our economic peers. Despite recent noises to the contrary, this is a view that rightly enjoys broad consensus amongst serious economists. This, of course, doesn’t mean there is no bad news.
The bad news for Balochistan is this: the state’s premier social protection programme is systematically biased against what is by far the poorest province in the country.
Demonstrating this bias is simple. The way BISP works is that deserving families selected via a nation-wide poverty census (last completed in 2011) receive Rs4,700 a quarter, paid to the woman of the house. Sounds fair. Until one starts examining the provincial numbers.
Based on the latest census, and BISP’s latest data, 16pc of Pakistani households received unconditional transfers from BISP. For Punjab, with the lowest poverty level, the coverage level is, unsurprisingly, the lowest of the provinces, at 12pc. One would expect that the percentage of Balochistan’s population covered by BISP would be the highest.
In fact, only around 13pc of households in Balochistan were beneficiaries. Thus, bizarrely, a resident of Balochistan, while more than twice as likely to be poverty stricken as a resident of Punjab, has a roughly equal likelihood of being a BISP recipient. Every other area (including Fata and Gilgit-Baltistan) has substantially higher coverage. To the north, 25pc of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa’s households receive BISP transfers, and to the east, far richer Sindh, with far smaller household sizes, is 22pc covered.
So, to equal KP’s coverage, BISP’s reach in Balochistan would have to nearly double. This would mean an additional 235,759 of the province’s women getting a stipend. Put another way, nearly a quarter million of Balochistan’s families are being deprived of what should rightfully be theirs. To say that this is unacceptable is to state the obvious.
The renowned economist, Dr. Kaiser Bengali, the first national coordinator of the BISP, in his recent book (A Cry for Justice: Empirical Insights from Balochistan) arrives at a similar conclusion. He notes that it is “disturbing” that Balochistan’s share in total BISP disbursements in 2014/2015 was substantially lower than its population share, whereas one would expect the reverse, based on relative deprivation.
So How Did This Happen?
Initially, BISP beneficiaries were chosen by legislators, each of whom were given quotas. Because each province has an equal number of senators, Balochistan’s share of the pie was thus far larger than its population share. Unsurprisingly though, leaving the need assessment to parliamentarians proved to be a bad way to target the genuinely poor.
That’s when the federal government adopted the current methodology, based on an ambitious nationwide poverty census concluded in 2011, rating households using a poverty scorecard. While, by most accounts, this has largely resulted in a more equitable selection of recipients within provinces and regions, it has been disastrous for inter-provincial distribution, and has caused the injustice at the heart of the programme today.
Dr Bengali’s work helps explain why. He argues that the main reason for Balochistan’s underrepresentation among recipients is the fact that a larger portion of the populace (compared to other regions) wasn’t even surveyed. This thesis is corroborated by even a cursory data analysis of houses visited as a per cent of estimated population.
Why might this be? Simple answer: roads. Thanks to a terrible road network across the province, Dr Bengali reckons that enumerators for the house-to-house poverty tally (conducted after he had left BISP) essentially ignored thousands of families living in isolated, inaccessible settlements across the vastness of Balochistan. Adding to the gravity of the omission, those left out for this reason were almost certain to be poorer than average. For a social protection programme to overlook people who are so poor and neglected that they are difficult to reach is a special kind of absurd.
Ms Marvi Memon, chairperson of BISP, is on record multiple times over the past few years acknowledging that the poverty census was flawed in Balochistan, and the errors will be corrected in an update. This update is now finally under way, and should be completed this year. Better late than never, surely. But it is critical that the results be compared to other poverty estimates to ensure that there are no such omissions this time.
It is unclear why an obviously unjust distribution continued for more than five years, or why the programme grew substantially over the same period, without addressing such a clear wrong. Why none of the major impact assessments of the programme brought attention to this issue is an important question worth asking. Why the new poverty census didn’t start from Balochistan is another.
BISP is an excellent mechanism to ensure that growth in Pakistan is equitable and inclusive. Indeed, those in power will be judged by such metrics. As far as the poor families in Balochistan missed by the BISP survey are concerned, the jury is still out.
THE coming of Sadiq Sanjrani as a Chairman Minister from Balochistan can be a good omen for province which has long been neglected politically, socially and economically. No matter whatever political, establishment or strategic tactics might have been applied in his election, nevertheless a fact remains that it can be a bridging factor in the gap of feelings that the province is neglected and least shared in power corridor. Balochistan constitutes an important geo-strategic position by linking Iran (1584 kilometres) and Afghanistan (1181 kilometres) with a 770-km coastline. But it has lagged behind the other provinces. Punjab is the leading province while KP despite political grievances and economic problems is comparatively a privileged province by having an established educational and social structure and enjoying a sufficient share in the higher echelons of the military/bureaucratic and other organizational structure of society; and an increasing level of political maturity. Sindh may not seem that deprived. It being below par administratively and economically with an ethnic bifurcation between rural and urban has not been without enjoying a share in government. Karachi being its port city and a nerve of the economic inflow of Pakistan stands an international importance. Sindh rural/urban has witnessed Prime Ministers and Presidents and enjoyed a political value under a representative system. But Balochistan indeed found no feeling of spring in the changing political weathers since the creation of Pakistan.
Balochistan experienced very little development under One Unit (1954-1970) in which it was actually merged in 1958. It was raised to a province level in 1970 by an ordinance issued by President Yahya Khan. Though civilian rule returned in 1972-73, the political situation and lack of comprise between the centre and the province led to the dissolution of the NAP coalition government under Ataullah Mengal in May 1973. In protest, the NWFP government also resigned. The dissolution of Balochistan Assembly and putting of its leaders in jail was a political cruelty (arrest of NAP leaders under the Hyderabad conspiracy case) by Z. A. Bhutto was a political mistake for which he paid in the longer run.
It directly led to the outbreak of insurgency in the Marri area and triggered few minor insurgencies as a result of which a full-fledged military action took place in the area. According to an estimate 5300 Balochs and 3300 army men killed over a period of three years. A huge Marri population was forced to live in exile in Afghanistan until 1991. All this thwarted the possibility of any meaningful development. Under the military regime of Zia ul Haq some significant development work was done. A number of divisions and districts were established, and funds allotted for different projects. But many of them remained incomplete. Even after the restoration of quasi-democracy, the level of development seemed far less than the potential of this region.
A major factor accountable for the lack of development in the province was considered the Sardari and tribal system. However, it was more myth and less reality. The fact remains that the major responsibility lied with the federal government for ignoring the province in infra-structure development. History is witness to the fact that whenever a major development initiated in the province was not resisted by a Sardar or common man. “The people are in dire need of development, why would they resist development,” said Nawab Bugti. “But people have reservation which be addressed.” The fact is evident from the latest mega development project of China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) about which there is least resistance. The Baloch population, particularly from Mekran belt, have reservations about which they stand justification and right to be addressed. They show distrust of central government for not giving them their due rights and respect. Baloch leadership and intellectual in large believe that their reservations could well be addressed had the people from Balochistan enjoyed important slots in federal government. Zafrullah Khan Jamali with the support of Musharraf establishment stepped into the office of Prime Minister but was thrown out in less than two year.
Sadiq Sanjrani hails from a Baloch tribe which is the sub-cost of Rind. Sanjranis have never been in the power corridors of the province but are respected in large due to their soberness and social services as well as obedience to the government. Sanjrani is a MA graduate from the University of Balochistan. His family enjoyed very close relations with Zardari family and so did he. In fact he was dragged into politics by Zardari, otherwise he was more inclined to business like his uncle: Ibrahim Zehri. During the PPP government (2008-13) he was Advisor to Prime Minister and was influential in political affairs with quite participant role. He was involved in business affairs. He initiated his testing service (Balochistan Testing Service) and wanted to run it on the NTS basis. No matter he being a non-Sardar enjoyed the support of establishment, however, he believes in the promotion of common man. The noise and indiscipline of democracy in longer run far better than silence and discipline of dictatorships. The process be continued. And in this process of democracy, the election of a Balochistan Baloch is good omen. It would have been at for Balochistan had Usman Kakar been elected too. It would have represented two leading segments of society: Baloch and Pakhtun. Nevertheless, Sanjarani’s leadership will take time, but if shrewdly applied can lessen the grievances of the Balochistan against centre. He at least can follow the leading traits of his predecessor who was a chairman and icon.
AMID domestic political crisis and country’s smearing image internationally, Turkey’s vote to support Pakistan against the US move to put Pakistan on grey-list of Financial Action Task Force (FATF) saved Pakistan from diplomatic isolation. The FATF grey-list includes countries which have failed to stem terrorist financing. Though, since 2015, Pakistan has banned almost 8,000 people and 58 outfits and put them on the fourth schedule, which shows Pakistan’s efforts to curb terrorism and money laundering. The Anti-Terrorism Act (ATA) was also amended through a presidential order for taking action against the three organizations that had been declared proscribed by the United Nation Security Council (UNSC).
The Turkish government always commends Pakistan’s success against terrorism. In 2015, it announced $20 million aid for the internally displaced persons owing to the Operation Zarb-e-Azb. Turkey has also been praising Pakistan Army for its successful fight against terrorism and contributions towards regional peace and stability. In January 2018, similarly, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan called President Mamnoon Hussain and expressed solidarity with Pakistan in the wake of allegations levelled by US President Donald Trump. He also assured his Pakistani counterpart of full support and cooperation.
Though Pakistan and Turkey are not geographically neighbours, the affinity between them is unique. Naturally both countries feel so close to each other and the relationship between them is regarded as heart-to-heart. Both countries were partners in the Central Treaty Organization (CENTO) and along with Iran, founded Regional Cooperation for Development (RCD) which later was reincarnated as Economic Cooperation Organization (ECO). Pakistan and Turkey are also part of the Developing 8 Countries (D-8) organization. Pakistan supports Turkey on Cyprus issue and Turkey supports Pakistan’s position over Kashmir. Turkey has also been taking keen interest in promoting peace in South Asia by bringing Pakistan and Afghanistan closer with a view to resolving the Afghan conundrum and building mutual trust between them. It initiated Trilateral Summit mechanism in 2007, and so far several Summit meetings have been held to enhance cooperation for regional security, stability and development.
Owing to its strategic location, Pakistan is also gateway to the Central Asian Turkic Republics. Turkey welcomes the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) and appreciates cooperation between Pakistan and China in that regard. In 2015, during the G-20 Summit, it signed the Memorandum of Understanding on Aligning the Silk Road and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road and the Middle Corridor Initiative with China. It wishes to revive the ancient Silk Road with the help of Pakistan and China and believes that two project together will promote regional development, welfare, cultural exchange and people-to-people contacts. A strong cooperation between these countries can bring successful results in aligning the Silk Road Economic Belt initiative with the Middle Corridor project.
All this goes to show that both countries value the future even more than the past. However, Pakistan needs to get more out of this relationship. Despite the constructive engagement at political and diplomatic level, the trade volume between two countries is far below the potential. The said volume between two countries is $497 million only, which is very low. Pakistan’s exports to Turkey are constantly decreasing since 2011. As far as imports from Turkey to Pakistan is concerned, these have been ranging between $160 million to $260 million from the year 2011 to 2016. Though both countries have negotiated a Free Trade Agreement (FTA), it is still not signed. Had an FTA was signed between both states, it would have been maximized economic potential in both country’s best interests.
Pakistan also recorded a trade deficit of Rs. 401391 million in January of 2018. Balance of Trade in Pakistan have averaged Rs. -34418.28 million from 1957 until 2018, reaching an all time high of Rs. 6457 million in June 2003 and a record low of Rs. -401391 million in January. In this situation, prolonged discussions on a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) between Pakistan and Turkey have hit an impasse as well. Pakistan is unfortunately not an export-led economy and this is one of chief reasons for failure in finalizing FTA agreement. Pakistan’s exports are decreasing strongly since 2014 and that is where Pakistan needs friends like Turkey to support its economy. In an era of economic engagements, Pakistan’s goal of foreign policy should be to augment economic power. Changing global trends in regional trade and the growth of Asian economies force Pakistan to readjust the focus of its foreign relations especially with an ally like Turkey. The importance of historical relationship between Turkey and Pakistan must take precedent over and above any trade dispute. Turkey has always been a fair partner and Pakistan must continue to work with Turkey to resolve the matter to mutual satisfaction.
Let’s assume Nawaz Sharif is done and dusted. Is the ‘Bajwa doctrine’ (which has been unloaded upon us in a manner choreographed to seem incidental) capable of leading this country onward and upward?
Conceding that the thought process driving this so-called doctrine reflects a burning personal and institutional desire to make Pakistan a stable, viable and progressive country. The question isn’t one of the bona fides of the underlying intent but of correctness of the thought process. Will the means proposed lead to the desired end?
According to Imtiaz Gul’s account of this (off-the-record?) conversation with journalists, the chief said, “I saved democracy in this country, I’m the biggest supporter of democracy”. As someone wondered on Twitter, savind democracy from whom exactly, General?” Bullet points from the doctrine that solicit comment are: (i) the 18th Amendment was a mistake and needs to be reconsidered; (ii) indiscriminate application of laws anchored in the constitution is a must; and (iii) subversion of the judiciary won’t be tolerated.
Before we consider these points, let’s recall a few fault-lines that have held us up: democracy vs dictatorship; centralism vs federalism; bigotry vs tolerance; representative vs unrepresentative institutions; and doctrine of necessity vs constitutionalism. The civilian-control-of-military camp argues that historically civil-military imbalance in Pakistan has fed centralism, bigotry and doctrine of necessity justifying dictatorships and rule of men. If you stand on the other side of these fault-lines, you seek an end to civ-mil imbalance.
As this conversation is premised on the basis that khakis and civvies all want this country to prosper, this debate isn’t about how best to confine military adventurism to the barracks. So let’s get the awkward bit out of the way. Our history of the constitution being molested and democracy being disrupted is a history of authority being usurped in ‘larger national interest’. All the ‘Meray Aziz Humwatno’ speeches were filled with claims to be serving democracy. This is what makes one nervous about such claims to democracy being or having been saved.
Khurram Husain has written an excellent piece about how NFC formula in the 18th Amendment has given a bigger share of the financial pie to provinces along with a commitment that such share won’t be reduced. This has left less with the centre to commit to defence budget. Is the attack on the 18th Amendment our version of the guns vs butter debate coming to head? Many have warned for years that our national security thinking (and its funding need) isn’t sustainable. Should we reconsider the thinking that makes us a security state or should we wrestle back money committed to people’s welfare in programmes such as BISP?
The ancillary argument is that provinces aren’t yet ready for the power delegated to them and are splurging the cash they’re now awash with. The unstated part of this argument is that post-18th Amendment, the centre has fewer instruments of control over the provinces, which have greater flexibility to do as they please. And this is a bad thing for the country. This is the kind of thinking that broke Pakistan up in 1971. Provinces are underdeveloped – but because they have been kept as such by a paternalistic and overbearing centre.
We are a diverse country. But with Punjab as its largest unit, which naturally dominates all institutions, derisive labels such as ‘Punjabi establishment’ resonate with those in smaller provinces seeking autonomy and empowerment. The 18th Amendment hasn’t transformed us into a confederation. It is step toward realising the constitutional promise that we are a federation. If provinces are to be puppets controlled by a stick-bearing centre, let’s stop pretending that we are a federation or democracy. Allowing agency to provinces is a must for our survival.
For rule of law proponents, there can be nothing more soothing than a chief seeking indiscriminate application of the constitution and the law. Part XII of the constitution deals with the armed forces, and Article 243 states plainly that, “the federal government shall have control and command of the armed forces.” And yet we continue to pretend that the military is a pillar of the state independent of the executive, and ‘doctrines’ appear which nurture the sense that the military is endowed with the power to oversee and keep elected governments in check.
If the wish is to reiterate unflinching commitment to supremacy of the constitution, wouldn’t actions speak louder than words if institutions were seen discharging responsibilities exclusively within their lawful domain? Wherefrom is claimed the legal authority to pontificate on matters that fall way beyond the functions of an institution? Wherefrom is claimed expertise to pronounce upon matters in relation to which one has no training? Would sceptics be wrong in viewing the content of such a ‘doctrine’ as self-contradictory?
And how firm is any professed commitment to indiscriminate application of laws? We have Articles 9, 10 and 10A in the constitution that guarantee right to life and liberty, freedom from illegal detention, due process and fair trial. Now with military courts in place and with the (amended) Anti Terror Act and Fair Trial Act vesting overbroad authority in security agencies, why is the missing person problem still alive and kicking? Why is the Pashtun Long March (or PTM) being painted as anti-Pakistan and Rao Anwar being treated as a pampered son of the soil?
Why is it unpatriotic to question the scope of authority of intelligence agencies or ask why the ISI doesn’t functionally report to the prime minister when the law says it does? When the military pulled itself back from civilian domain post-Musharraf, it was for all to see. The 2013 election didn’t see spooks involved in electoral engineering and credit for that was attributed to General Kayani. Why is the perception growing once again that sector commanders are on the prowl in the run up to Election 2018? And what is being done to dispel it?
Who in his right mind can support subversion of the judiciary? An independent judiciary is essential to uphold rule of law and our collective right to justice. But why was the need felt to declare support for the judiciary? Article 190 of the constitution obliges all executive and judicial authorities to act in aid of the Supreme Court. But when the SC has sought no such assistance and seems perfectly capable of having its orders enforced, why did the leadership of an institution that forms part of the executive volunteer such help and protection?
Justice Shaukat Siddiqui of the Islamabad High Court has been issued a show-cause notice by the Supreme Judicial Council for asking thorny questions about the military’s role as guarantor in the agreement post-Faizabad Dharna. The notice states that the judge questioning “participation of officials” in resolution of the Faizabad fiasco “fell outside the judicial domain”. It will be interesting to see the outcome of this reference, as day in and day out judges scrutinise discharge of authority by public officials (who are in civvies of course).
Likewise, a petition against Justice Faez Isa (who as part of the SC bench hearing the Faizabad Dharna matter has given grief to intelligence agencies for their sloppy role) is also up for hearing. Now these happenings must be purely coincidental, but they create a perception that so long as the judiciary is rendering judgments against politicos it will be defended and supported. But if judges turn their focus toward exercise of authority by khakis, a consequence could be piercing scrutiny into the conduct of the judges in question.
The basic contradiction underlying a claim to being saviour of democracy and rule of law in this context is: the real source of the power to control the polity from behind the curtain is the threat that if politicos don’t fall in line, directs charge will be taken of the stage. So long as the threat is real, the levers of control are effective. But with such means of control, the state remains unstable and democracy hangs by a thread.
DESPITE a few desertions, former PM Nawaz Sharif has been able to keep the party in tact so far, because the PML-N is at the helm in the centre as well as Punjab, which helps him in mobilizing the public. However, his real test and of the party will start after interim government is in place, and parliamentarians would then decide keeping their personal interest in view. A few members of the PML-N have joined PTI and other parties; many are waiting in the wings to join other parties, if Nawaz Sharif does not stop confrontation with the military and judiciary. Former interior minister Ch. Nisar in an interview with private TV channel strongly criticized Nawaz Sharif for locking horns with Judiciary and for his acerbic remarks against Army for alleged meddling in politics. He suggested to Nawaz Sharif to avoid confrontation with national institutions.
Ch Nisar’s criticism is reflective of the widening gap between leadership of PML-N over its policy of confrontation with the institutions. Perhaps former prime minister Nawaz Sharif realised that if he remained in confrontational mode it could ruin the party, which is why his tone and tenor has changed, and there is let up in Nawaz Sharif’s criticism of the judges for the last few days. Taking cue from Raza Rabbani’s statements, he is also talking about dialogue between the institutions. But his opponents say that he should have taken the initiative during the four years of his government. It should be borne in mind that October 12, 1999 Nawaz Sharif government was overthrown by then COAS Pervez Musharraf, which was cumulative effect of his being at loggerheads with president Ghulam Ishaq, president Farouq Leghari, army chiefs Abdul Waheed Kakar, Jehangir Karamat, Asif Janjua, Raheel Sharif and lately Qamar Javed Bajwa, and earlier CJP Justice Sajjad Hussain Shah.
A great majority of his party members and parliamentarians had then left the party, and joined the kings party PML-Q, as the parliamentarians watch their own interest. This time round, with his disqualification by the apex court Nawaz Sharif was barred from holding any public office. However, PML-N managed to amend the Political Parties Order (PPO) to make him president of the party. The amendment was challenged by PTI Chairman Imran Khan and others. The government claimed that an amendment to the PPO was part of the party’s reform agenda. But it was widely believed that the amendment to PPO was to restore Nawaz Sharif’s grip over the party. However, the apex court had struck down the amendment declaring it contravention of the Constitution. It was obvious from the statements of Nawaz Sharif and other PML-N leaders that they were on a collision course.
Nawaz Sharif’s narrative that he was disqualified only for iqama and not on corruption charges was belied by the detailed judgment. Nevertheless, there is a lot more to come. Nawaz Sharif and his family members are facing three corruption references in the accountability court – Avenfield Properties, Al-Azizia Steel Mills and Flagship Investments – in which they are accused of money laundering, tax evasion and hiding offshore assets. A supplementary reference pertaining to their Avenfield Properties has already been filed. Nawaz Sharif owns two big groups – Ittefaq Group and Sharif Group in Pakistan – owning 42 sugar mills/and industrial units. Panama JIT also identified and confirmed other 15 industrial units in Pakistan owned or shared by Sharif Family. M/s Freezone Entity (FZE) was established in 2001 at Jebel Ali, Dubai (UAE) by Hassan Nawaz Sharif and Waqar Ahmed.
In February 2007, Nawaz Sharif had signed Employment Contract as Chairman of the Board of Capital FZE for a salary of 10000 UAE Dirhams from August 07, 2008 to April 20, 2013. Nawaz Sharif claimed that he had not withdrawn any salary; however according to JIT there was evidence that salaries from February to July 2013 were paid to him over the counter. Meanwhile, at least three parliamentarians are facing charges on contempt of court and have been indicted. In a contempt case, the court had rejected the unconditional apology of Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) Senator Nehal Hashmi and awarded him one month jail time and ordered to pay Rs. 50000 fine. Hashmi had also been barred from holding public office for the next five years. After he was released from jail, he once again used abusive language for the court, for which he has once against been indicted.
The Supreme Court (SC) of Pakistan had also issued show cause notices for contempt of court to PML-N leaders Daniyal Aziz and Talal Chaudhry, who have been indicted. Both leaders are ministers in the current federal government of PML-N. Daniyal Aziz is the Federal Minister of Privatization while Talal Chaudhry is the Minister of State. In a public meeting in Abbottabad, Nawaz Sharif had said: “The only court he is answerable to is people’s court of 200 million”, meaning that he did not care a damn for the judiciary. Anyhow, senior party leaders believe that Sharif is annoying the judiciary at a time when crucial cases are pending against him. As regards civil and military relations, these started deteriorating when PML- N decided to prosecute Retired General and former president Pervez Musharraf under Article 6. An organized campaign was launched against the armed forces and agencies, which had irked the military.
It is, by all means, one of the most conspicuous ironies of our short political history. A person who was brought up in the lap of a despot has emerged as the most potent symbol of liberal politics in present-day Pakistan.
By contrast, a political party that had its genesis in the struggle against another dictator – and which for several years remained a torchbearer of popular politics – is leaning on chintzy tactics to get back into the corridors of power. History thy name is irony.
Nawaz Sharif set off his political career under the wings of military dictator General Ziaul Haq. He started as the finance minister of Punjab and was made the province’s chief minister after the 1985 elections. From then on, he was to be the proverbial blue-eyed boy of the establishment. In 1990, he assumed the highest political office of the land.
The novelist E M Forster believed characters in a work of fiction can be placed in two categories: flat and round. Flat characters don’t change in the course of a novel and always do what they are expected to do. Round characters undergo change and often take the reader by surprise. Flat and round characters can be found in real life as well. Sharif has turned out to be a round character.
The year 1993 was a turning point in his career. The irresistible impulse to break free made him bite the hand that had so far fed him. He was forced to vacate the prime minister’s office. His role was beginning to change. Four years later, he swept back to power. But he would never enjoy the same confidence of his mentors again.
After he had been sent home by the Supreme Court for not being truthful and honest, Sharif had two courses of action open to him. He could have grinned, borne his disqualification and packed his bags. But he did not choose the reconciliatory course. Instead, he decided to go on the offensive and started rounding on the institutions that, he believed, unfairly brought his tenure to an abrupt end. Although nearly eight months have passed since he vacated the PM office, he continues to blow hot and cold. He has been pulling in massive crowds, which has raised his political stature. And, despite being debarred from formally heading a political party, he continues to lead the PML-N by the nose.
The keynote of Sharif’s narrative is that an elected prime minister can only be sent home by the electorate or their representative – parliament. This is also one of the cardinal principles of political liberalism. For example, even though the queen of England is legally competent to dismiss the prime minister as well as the House of Commons in the presence of strong constitutional conventions, she can’t even think of doing so. The PM can be voted out either by the electorate or by parliament. The same is the case with India. In the US, the president, who is the chief executive, can either be impeached by Congress or defeated in an election. There’s no other way to throw him overboard – not even if he happens to be Donald Trump.
Sharif’s narrative assumed a more powerful expression after the apex court’s verdict debarred a person who is not qualified to be a parliamentarian from heading a political party. Once again, the narrative is rooted in the liberal view that the right to form or head a political party is a fundamental right, and that it is for a party to decide who will lead it.
From a legal standpoint, Sharif’s position is untenable. His term as PM came to an end because he ceased to be a member of parliament under Article 62 of the constitution as per the apex court’s July 28, 2017 judgment. The definitive interpretation of the law and the constitution is the exclusive domain of the Supreme Court. All else is wit and gossip. In addition, since democracy has a chequered history in Pakistan, constitutional conventions have not taken root. In the absence of these conventions, the letter of the law prevails.
Having lost on the legal front, Sharif is fighting a political battle that a politician must fight. At times, he goes overboard in passing caustic remarks against the judiciary, which are not in order. But no one can deny that he is entitled to reach out to the people and win popular support for his narrative.
All other mainstream political parties have been dismissive of his narrative – and understandably so. In a rat race, one player’s loss is another player’s gain. However, political expediency apart, other political parties would also have reacted in a similar fashion if their top leadership was disqualified. Does the PPP approve of the Supreme Court’s judgments in which it upheld the dismissal of Benazir Bhutto in 1988 and 1996, not to speak of the death sentence it awarded to ZA Bhutto? To date, the party has not reconciled itself to those decisions.
Like Sharif, the PPP is a round character. The PPP’s anti-establishment credentials received the first serious jolt when Benazir Bhutto made a common cause with the then president Ghulam Ishaq Khan (GIK), an archetype establishmentarian, in forcing the popularly-elected Sharif to quit in 1993. For a party that avowedly believed in respecting the popular mandate, striking an alliance with a GIK-like figure to force the exit of an elected government was hard to defend. Next, Bhutto struck a deal with the military regime of General Pervez Musharraf in the form of the National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO) that washed away corruption charges against the party’s top leadership and subsequently enabled the party to govern the country for five years.
Asif Zardari presided over a fundamental shift in the party’s stance from populism to the politics of reconciliation. Abandoning popular politics has, however, almost written the party off. With the exception of Sindh, where it adroitly plays the ethnic card, the PPP has been reduced to a rump. Shorn of its popular strength, the party has been grasping at the straws to make itself palatable to the arbiters of the last resort.
In politics, fair is foul and foul is fair. In the scramble for power, questions of morality and law often take a backseat. That said, by making choices in testing political situations, a party positions itself in a particular way. It can choose to hunt with the hounds or run with the hare. It can’t do both. If it does, it leaves no one with any doubt that it is with neither.
Sharif is also projecting himself as a revolutionary, which he is not. The word ‘revolution’ has been so blatantly misused in our society that it has almost been denuded of all meaning. Any political change, including a change in government, is touted as a revolution and the change-maker is cast, or masquerades, as a revolutionary.
A revolution entails changes in the political or economic organisation that have far-reaching significance, changes which shake the sociopolitical order to its foundations. If political or economic power only changes hand and the same elite – albeit in a different garb – continue to be in charge of the destiny of the people, the change is anything but revolutionary. At any rate, liberals are seldom cast in the revolutionary mould.
Sharif is not seeking to shake the prevalent political or economic order. He has never attacked crony capitalism or the heartless market forces that survive every change in the government. He is not a whit against the sticky-fingered elite or racketeering businesspersons as long as they don’t turn against him. In fact, like other frontline political leaders, he draws his strength from the existing forces. He is only keen to get the pre-July 28, 2017 situation restored.