Friday, January 18, 2013

US supports only democratic government in Pakistan: Olson

US Ambassador to Pakistan‚ Richard Olson has said the United States supports only democratic government in Pakistan instead of extending support to any individual. Talking to newsmen in Islamabad on Friday‚ he said the US did not support any specific political party or person‚ including Chief of Minhaj ul Quran Dr. Tahirul Qadri. Ambassador Olson further said that the US would like to see free and fair elections in Pakistan. Commenting on the recent tension between Pakistan and India‚ he said the two countries need to work together for peace in the region and the ceasefire agreement along the Line of Control is encouraging. Earlier‚ the US envoy met more than one hundred students who have studied in the United States. He said the United States is working on a comprehensive education programme for the promotion of education in Pakistan.

Royal Canadian Mounted Police summons Qadri for violating oath

The Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) on Friday summoned Minhajul Quran International (MQI) chief Dr Tahirul Qadri on February 5, and sought explanation from him for violating the oath he took while seeking asylum, Express News reported. RCMP said that Qadri violated the oath stating that he was not allowed to enter the country he had sought asylum from. According to Express News correspondent Shakeel Anjum, Abdul Shakoor Qadri, otherwise known as Tahir Qadri, had sought asylum from Canada in 2008, fearing threats to his life after he met with the Danish cartoonist responsible for making blasphemous caricatures of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh). Qadri, through his lawyer Mendel Green, had requested that he was receiving death threats from Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan, Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ) and Sipah-e-Sahaba. On October 17, 2009, his asylum application was accepted, while he was issued the Canadian passport about six months back. The MQI chief has also been receiving welfare funds from the Canadian government, citing health issues. Qadri, who led a 5-day long march in Islamabad which concluded Thursday evening, is currently present in Pakistan. He is scheduled to fly back to Canada on January 27 along with his family.

Former CIA officer explains the politics of Pakistan

End result of Qadri's adventurism

The political crisis triggered by Allama Tahirul Qadri’s long march that took women, children and elderly people, his hostage for four long days and chilling nights in the coldest month of the year, ultimately stood resolved when all parties in the coalition government provided the man from Canada a situation to save his sullen face from a complete embarrassment on Thursday. The safe and honourable exit to Qadri was provided by a government committee, headed by Chaudhry Shujaat Husain, that held talks with the highly ambitious enlightened cleric for hours starting at 4pm. A formal agreement was also inked after about four hours and, no doubt, Qadri would present this document as a certificate of his “resounding success”. The fiasco in which the whole high political drama ended also clearly polarized the country in a sense that all the political parties whether in government or in opposition were seen on one page in support of the constitutional scheme of things and democratic polity. Other sections of society like lawyers and forward-looking people also came out in their support. This completed for the first time in history a consensual convergence of almost all shades of political opinion on the way forward: fair and free transparent elections through a consensus-based Chief Election Commissioner under an agreed caretaker setup whose neutrality will be beyond doubt because it will enjoy the confidence of both government and opposition. Standing against them was the Shaikhul Islam who presented most of the steps, outside the pale of a disciplined legal order ; that is why he has effectively been isolated along with all his ranting and Imran Khan’s ill-conceived seven-point demand that included the resignation of President Asif Ali Zardari. It is strange that the anti-democratic camp kept on rejecting these agreed rules of the game framed after a great deal of thought and discussion in parliament and which are enshrined in the 18th Amendment. The qualified criticism being leveled at the CEC being too old to ‘resist’ the machinations of the parties in government and the opposition, made no sense when these governments will cease to exist once the assemblies are dissolved and the caretaker setup takes over. March 6 is said to have been proposed by the government for this arrangement whereas it says elections will be held in the first week of May. If the caretaker setup to come is being criticized as some kind of underhand deal amongst the parties in parliament, surely this is an illogical stance given that inherently the government and opposition are rivals in the elections and have framed these rules of the game to avoid the usual accusations of election rigging that have bedeviled every such exercise in the past. On the touchstone of the constitution, they are the best democratic practices and intent and their criticism lacks a genuine political mannerism. The people of Pakistan are certainly unhappy with the performances of governments at the center and in provinces and this was this discontent than the people demonstrated during the Qadri show. Yet, only uninformed and foolhardy elements without an iota of understanding of our past want to dent a democratic order. The days of imposed governments manipulated into power by hook or by crook by the establishment may or may not be over, the situation and the conspiratorial moves to deny the people the right to bring in another elected government for the first time in the country’s history through fair elections cannot and should not be denied to them, especially when the moment is tantalizingly close. It is the interests of all political parties, arguably even those supporting Qadri for whatever misconceived reasons, that the electoral exercise is allowed to proceed on time and without putting obstacles in its way. Authoritarian, military and imposed governments are littered through Pakistan’s passage through time, but each one has left a bigger mess in its wake than when it started. The lesson is inescapable: the discontents with democracy and its failings notwithstanding, there is no way forward in the foreseeable firmament other than letting the democratic political process play itself out in what promises to be an increasingly credible manner since it enjoys across the board consensus, and using the space and freedoms only democracy allows to tackle vital issues confronting the country and society.

Pakistan averts, for now, two new crises

After days of anti-government protests, sectarian violence and political turmoil, Pakistan managed on Thursday to retreat from the brink of the kind of chaos that has often ushered in military rule during the nation’s 65-year history. Two cliffhanger developments provided a measure of stability in this nuclear-armed country: The Supreme Court delayed the arrest of Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf on corruption allegations, while the government bowed, in part, to the demands of a populist Muslim preacher whose followers had amassed in the capital by the tens of thousands in hopes of dissolving Parliament. The cleric, Tahirul Qadri, a religious moderate who heads a network of Islamic schools and charities here and worldwide, emerged mysteriously last month, returning to his native Pakistan after seven years in Canada to denounce government corruption and promote electoral reform. On Thursday, after four days of protests that shut down the capital’s commercial core, Qadri came away with government pledges to enact measures that officials said would help weed out political candidates linked to corruption. Principally, the government agreed to dissolve Parliament before March 16, when its five-year term expires, to provide a 90-day period before elections are held. “Allah granted us a victory and now you can go home,” Qadri told his supporters, according to the Reuters news agency. Qadri supported the 1999 coup that brought Gen. Pervez Musharraf to power, and the cleric’s current calls for military help in establishing a caretaker government prompted many analysts to see him as a stalking horse for another dictatorship as Pakistan prepares for elections that would be its first-ever democratic transition of administrations. Qadri denied such an intention and ultimately dropped his demand for the government’s immediate resignation. Qadri’s followers exited the capital triumphantly, singing and chanting, after cold, rainy nights huddled in tents and around wood fires. They said they had helped prevent what they call political “dacoits” — or thieves — from looting the country by using their connections to obtain positions of power. Ashraf is a prime example, they say. He stands accused of taking kickbacks in his previous post as energy minister in a privatization program that did nothing to solve the nation’s relentless electricity shortages. Ashraf’s arrest was ordered Tuesday by the Supreme Court, which said Pakistan’s major anti-corruption agency had failed to act quickly enough in the case brought against him nearly a year ago. He has denied the allegations. The evening brought another political palliative as delegates from various ruling-coalition parties signed off on a declaration drafted in Qadri’s bulletproof truck, which supporters guarded with cane poles and sticks fashioned from tree branches amid warnings that Islamic extremists were plotting to kill the anti-Taliban cleric. His followers asserted that they hoped through the protests to change the image of Pakistan as a failing state and kleptocracy. Many demanded that the government secure the country against terrorism and rising sectarian attacks, citing last week’s bombing against Shiite Muslims that killed more than 100 people in Baluchistan province. “This victory is not for us, but for the people of Pakistan,” said Saleem Heider, a 34-year-old high school political science teacher who joined Qadri’s movement. But some Qadri foes said that the agreement was more public relations than anything else and that it merely reinforced constitutional requirements. “It is a sort of honorable exit for the maverick mullah,” said Raza Rumi, a liberal writer with the Jinnah Institute, an Islamabad think tank. “The existing law will be implemented, so what’s the big deal?”