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Final round of survival? It’s do or die

Tehelka story last week: Government in final round of survival game: It’s do or die

Either the government will withstand the pressure from the unelected arms of the state or will cave in, says Raza Rumi

Pakistan’s beleaguered civilian government has entered into the final round of its survival game. This is not a new ‘game’ as the transition to democracy has been jeopardised from the very start. In 2007, the military junta started the process of negotiating with the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) and the then Army chief, General Pervez Musharraf, and his trusted associate General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani shaped a power-sharing arrangement with late Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto. The ‘arrangement’ was formalised in the shape of a law—National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO)—which inter alia intended to drop dozens of cases against PPP’s leadership and politicians. It should be noted that many of these cases were pending in courts for over a decade and due to lack of evidence or faulty prosecution, there were no convictions.

Politicians in Pakistan have faced ‘corruption’ charges since 1950s largely as an instrument to keep them in line and expand the space for the unelected executive i.e. the civil-military bureaucracy, which has ruled Pakistan for the longest period of time in its chequered history. The judiciary historically acted as a subordinate ally of the executive legitimising coups, convicting and debarring politicians and enabling a praetorian state to run the country.

Since 2007, the judiciary has evolved as a powerful institution due to the popular middle-class movement which contributed to the restoration of the deposed Judges and paved the way for Musharraf’s ouster in 2009. The period between 2007 and 2009 was when the urban middle class’ (led by the lawyers) aspirations […]

January 31st, 2012|governance, Pakistan|1 Comment

‘Greater rights’ abuses will ensue unless Pakistan’s elected institutions assert themselves’

An interview of – Ali Dayan Hasan (Director, Human Rights Watch) taken by me, published in TFT December 30 – January 05, 2012 – Vol. XXIII, No. 46
Q. HRW has consistently commented on civil-military relations in Pakistan. Why is this aspect of Pakistan’s politics so important for human rights?
Since 2008, Pakistan has made yet another attempt at a transition from direct military rule to rights-respecting constitutional governance. But history teaches us that this moment is as fleeting as it is special. It would be naïve to assume that the 2008 general election has transformed power relations in the country. Pakistan remains a praetorian state structured and geared to service, above all, the needs of a military that remains every bit as convinced as ever that Pakistan’s national interest is synonymous with its institutional priorities and the preservation of its position as the final arbiter of political power and patronage. Indeed, Pakistan’s foreign and national security policies are primarily controlled by the military. In the absence of civilian oversight, and given the military’s history, greater abuses will ensue unless Pakistan’s elected institutions assert themselves.
Q. What are the worrying flashpoints in HRW’s view?
It is hardly a secret that the government and the military are engaged in both a legal and political confrontation over the so-called “Memogate” affair. HRW finds it reassuring that both the Supreme Court Chief Justice and Army chief General Kiyani have ruled out military intervention. Indeed all arms of the state must act within the constitutionally determined ambit and in aid of legitimate civilian rule. In this context, justice must both be done and be seen to be done. Pakistan desperately needs a full democratic cycle and a peaceful transfer of power from one civilian administration to another. Should this process be derailed, the constitutional safeguards and legal rights protections created since 2008 may suffer irreparable damage. […]

January 24th, 2012|human rights, Pakistan, Published in The Friday Times|0 Comments