Friday, April 11, 2014
The current international poverty line of $1.25 per day used by the World Bank is “too low” and “artificial,” say researchers from Bristol University, adding that the total number of poor people worldwide would increase by 30 percent in future. The World Bank’s “estimates are flawed” as the organization hasn’t used “different poverty measures” and only explores one angle of the problem – financial, says the study, called “The mis-measurement of extreme global poverty: A case study in the Pacific Islands,” published in Journal of Sociology. “There is considerable controversy surrounding the ‘dollar a day’ measure used to monitor progress against the Millennium Development Goals,” adds the research, which was carried out together with specialists at the Australian National University, UNICEF Pacific and the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC).
Obama nominates his budget director, Sylvia Mathews Burwell, for health secretary following the resignation of Kathleen Sebelius.
http://www.tolonews.com/The Independent Election Commission (IEC) reported on Friday that 80 percent of election result sheets have arrived to their central office. The result sheets arrived in 5,156 security boxes from 13 provinces. The remaining results are to arrive in the upcoming days. IEC is responsible for the review of these documents. "So far, 84% of the result sheets have arrived to the central office and have been collected. Most of these materials are under process. We can say that 84% of these materials end up to have 5156 TB" Noor Muhammad Noor, IEC Spokesman. The result sheets were first delivered from districts to the provincial IEC offices and to the IEC headquarters in Kabul afterwards. "Result sheets have arrived from 13 provinces to IEC head office. Only three provinces are remaining and that is due to their small percentage that is also in the process of transfer" Noor added. IEC will announce the primary election results on April 24 and the final results on May 14.
During the question hour in the National assembly, in a written reply to a question submitted by MNA Lal Chand, the finance minister Ishaq Dar told the house that “from July 2013 to February 2014 the government waived Rs. 320.8 billion to the business class in tax exemptions.” This was actioned in a country whose major social indicators – tax as percentage of GDP, education spending as a percentage of GDP and healthcare spending as a percentage of GDP – are the lowest in the world.If these tax gifts were not enough, Sharif and his cronies are enriching their class in every which way possible, whether it’s through loot and plunder in the form of privatisation or rewarding loyalty or meeting the whims and demands of imperialist international donors. In reply to another question by an opposition parliamentarian, the Finance minister said, “The government had no plans to increase the salary of the government employees in the next budget.” All this does is unmask the real character of this capitalist regime that has come out unashamedly and blatantly to strengthen the rich and the mighty in an economy that faces record deficits and is in an eternal financial crunch. All doubts have been cast aside as the burdens of the system and its crisis are squarely resting on the shoulders of the deprived and disenfranchised masses. This is in reality an open declaration of a class war as the crumbling capitalism in Pakistan has made the ruling class more insecure. They have shed all pretence, hypocrisy, deception and have revealed their true colours with naked economic repression of the already impoverished masses. It is ordinary people on the street who are paying for the plunder of this cruel and callous Sharif government and their crony capitalism. The rich are being exempted from taxation and the capitalists given unprecedented incentives to raise their already huge profits whilst the poor are being subjected to more and more indirect taxation. The combination of these two policies have wrecked havoc in the form of astronomical levels price increase and inflation and diminishing purchasing abilities. People are being forced into absolute poverty, hunger, starvation and this not only in Thar and Cholistan. A retired federal secretary was recently compelled to (although anonymously) come out and say to a newspaper reporter that “considering current weak state of national economy, the government should review its policy of special concessions to benefit business interests of the few powerful. Its not only the PML (N), every government has generously thrown favours to the business class of their liking.” This is not a Marxist analyst but an elite retired bureaucrat confessing very vividly that every regime that comes to power favours the ruling class faction that supports and finances its politicians and those capitalist and landlords that are themselves politicos in all the mainstream parties. At the behest of the imperialist financial institutions, policies of privatisation, deregulation, liberalisation and restructuring are being fast-tracked. The policy of privatisation means more job losses, increase in prices and huge profits for the mafia capitalists that rule this tragic land. Liberalisation in reality means a total free hand to the elite to move capital and the imperialist corporations to plunder and transfer the wealth generated by the labour of the proletariat of this country. Restructuring means that permanent employment and associated meagre benefits will be systematically demolished. Contract labour and a daily wages system will be the order of the day along with massive cuts in wages, terms and conditions, health and safety in order to enhance corporate profits. Let us not forget the factory fires in Karachi, Lahore and other industrial cities due to total disregard for health and safety in the private sector. Those who talk about ‘rules and regulations’ live in a fools paradise and the capitalists with the state and the regimes on their side hardly even bother to abide by these so called legislations. More than 90 percent of the government revenues are generated from indirect taxation that targets the poor. But those who talk about tax reforms and taxing the rich to overcome the deficits are merely deceiving themselves and others. The bourgeois of this country, as with most other post colonial sates, has proved that, with its historical belatedness and financial and technological dependency on imperialism, it can only survive as a ruling class on the basis of plundering the state, evading taxes and writing off bad loans. The only character of this class in this rotten system is of the comprador or the mafia capitalism variety. The post second world war capitalist boom which lasted for almost 25 years did develop societies in the advanced capitalist economies and it also had a spin off effect in the so called third world. Pakistan’s economy also benefitted resulting in greater industrialisation. However, the wealth ended up being accumulated by a select few families and conglomerates, it failed to develop infrastructure and paradoxically exacerbated the social contradictions. The mass explosions of 1968-69 in Pakistan were due to the exacerbation of these contradictions. With the down turn in the capitalist world from the early 1970’s, the ruling classes rapidly abandoned any pretentions of social reforms and embarked upon the policies of trickle down or neoliberal economics. Every regime in Pakistan since the imposition of marshal law by the vicious dictator Zia ul Haq has been carrying out these policies in one form or the other. Both so called democratic regimes, especially the PML ones in the 1990s, and during the current period have proved to be bulwarks of the dictatorship of financial oligarchy. Instead of substantial social reforms, workers’ hard won rights and reforms have been brutally chiselled away. Even those reforms failed to alleviate poverty and were defeated by the inflation and the incapacity of capitalism to sustain such reforms. The later PPP regimes made a mockery of those reforms with its Public Private Partnership. Sharifs have come, all guns blazing in a crusade against the workers, not as a beacon of hope but as an expression of the despair of the populace. In Pakistan’s 1973 constitution a phrase is enshrined, “From each according to his abilities, to each according to his works.” This resembles a quote from the writings of Karl Marx and is beyond comprehension of today’s parliamentarians. These parliamentarians sitting in that house in Islamabad rejoiced at Ishaq Dar’s statement, as they are the ones who are beneficiaries of this tax exemption. They don’t represent the masses. They were there to represent their vested interests in the name of democracy. The working classes will have to go beyond this system of deceit and exploitation to emancipate society.
http://www.thehindu.com/The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) has voiced serious concern over threats extended to a senior lawyer representing a blasphemy accused inside a courtroom in the Multan Central Prison. In a statement issued on Thursday, the HRCP said it was extremely concerned about threats in open court to the lawyers of an accused in a blasphemy case, Junaid Hafeez. His lawyers Rashid Rehman and Allah Dad had appeared for a hearing on Wednesday. The case is being heard in Multan Central Jail in view of security concerns. "During arguments for acquittal of the accused, three persons addressed defence lawyer Rashid Rehman, in the judge's presence and said: 'You will not come to court next time because you will not exist anymore.' Mr. Rehman drew the judge's attention to the threat but the judge is reported to have remained silent. The difficulty that the accused has had in finding and retaining a lawyer is well known and HRCP said it views that as a systematic denial of legal representation to the accused. If this charade continues for much longer HRCP will have no qualms in concluding that it has been decided that the accused would not be allowed legal representation and there is no need to bother with a trial anymore, the statement said. HRCP demands action under the law against the three persons who threatened the lawyer in the case without delay and effective measures to ensure the defence lawyer's security. In the case of former federal minister Shahbaz Bhatti who was killed in 2011, two eyewitnesses received death threats in February and were told not to give evidence by two terror groups. The trial is underway at Adiala Jail in Rawalpindi. The witnesses had sought increased police protection and filed a police complaint.
A union of organizations, together with the Pakistani bishops’ justice and peace commission, has found in their study that approximately 700 Christian girls and women, and 300 Hindu girls and women, are kidnapped each year, who are forced to convert to religion Islam, and then are forced to enter into marriages with elite class Muslims.
Through media intimidation and neglect, militants are gaining access to an increasingly large audience in Pakistan.As the Pakistan government attempts to strike a peace deal with the Pakistani Taliban (Tehrik-i-Taliban, or TTP), significant developments threaten to unravel the social fabric of the state. By adopting a linear approach in pursuing negotiations, the government seems to be ignoring critical shifts, especially within the media, that if left unattended could spiral into a crisis too deep to eradicate and too complicated to reverse. On September 17, 2012, the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) blocked YouTube after the website refused to remove the trailer of the controversial, amateurish anti-Islam film, Innocence of Muslims by Sam Bacile (aka Nakoula Basseley Nakoula). The then PPP-led government declared the following Friday “Love The Prophet Day,” hoping to encourage peaceful protests. However, the violence that ensued was yet another disturbing reminder of the growing influence of the conservative right in Pakistani society. Although YouTube remains blocked in Pakistan, two days ago the TTP launched its official website through its media partner, Umar Media, which serves as a central information portal featuring videos, publications and statements made by its leaders. The website, until recently accessible in Pakistan, has been criticized for carrying propaganda that incites violence, especially against Pakistan’s security forces. The war Pakistan seems to fighting is not just against the physical presence of the Taliban but also the entrenchment of their it Islamic ideologies. This ideological infiltration has become more pronounced courtesy of the mainstream media, allowing both militant groups as well as conservative right-wing parties to exploit mainstream media attention and gain access to a larger audience. The Pakistani media has given extensive space to statements made by militant leaders and has readily covered terrorist incidents throughout the country. While this may fall within the ambit of the media’s responsibility, the editorializing and depiction of such incidents has only further emboldened the militants. By negotiating with militants, the government has transformed those who were previously seen as “enemies of the state” into “stakeholders,” granting them the appearance of valor, along with tremendous legitimacy and leverage. Against the backdrop of negotiations, leaders of different militant groups and conservative right-wing individuals like Maulana Abdul Aziz (former chief cleric of the Lal Masjid, infamous for fleeing under a burqa during an operation in 2007) have regularly appeared on political talk shows voraciously defending their rigid views on Shariah implementation. TTP leaders frequently give statements to national papers from undisclosed locations. In an interview given to Newsweek Pakistan, TTP spokesperson, Shahidullah Shahid claimed that, “We consider Mullah Omar as the Amir-ul-Momineen. In Pakistan, Mullah Fazlullah is leading us and he has all the qualities to lead the Pakistani nation.” Given the state’s weak negotiating position, extensive Taliban coverage not only glorifies and emboldens the militants but also creates space for a militant narrative. While the media can easily be criticized for engaging in a ratings race, the truth remains that it cannot function in an environment where it is under constant threat and intimidation. The government, desperately preoccupied with coaxing a peace deal out of the TTP, has failed to prioritize the security of its citizens and the media. Threats have been issued to journalists and media owners across the board. Since last year, militants have attacked the liberal Express Media Group in five separate incidents. Bomb attacks and shooting incidents outside the Karachi office caused much alarm and prompted the media group to ask the state for protection. Earlier this year, the TTP killed three employees of the same media group, prompting the Express Tribune to shift its editorial policy and refrain from publishing criticisms of the group, whether in its reports or in the opinion pages. In addition to this, the group’s TV channel also allowed TTP spokesman Ehsanullah Ehsan to appear on one of its talk shows and promised adequate coverage in return for a halt against attacks. Despite that, an assassination attempt targeting renowned journalist and outspoken Taliban critic Raza Rumi took place in Lahore on March 28. Rumi, a noted columnist, is also a TV anchor for the Express News channel. The militants’ strategy is clear and two pronged: exploit the media to carve out a space for its own narrative while at the same time intimidate media groups and individuals who dissent from their view. The lack of security granted by the government has prompted some media groups to provide private security to the owners, editors and heads of their news channels. However, the fact remains that Pakistani media and journalists face a serious threat and the government has so far failed to allay the media’s concerns or provide adequate security. Adding salt to the wounds, in the general atmosphere of competition and ratings, TV channels even now fail to unite; coverage of media attacks is fleeting and names are absent if the victim is a competitor. This trend is troublesome and the journalist community faces a dangerous challenge, one that will require non-traditional solutions to address. In Afghanistan, following the unfortunate attack on Serena Hotel, which killed nine people including a well-known AFP journalist and his family, Afghan journalists declared a 15-day boycott of news reporting on the Taliban. It is unlikely that the same action would be taken in Pakistan, where many remain sympathetic to the terrorist agenda. Given the violence and intimidation, the absence of a liberal counter-narrative, and the government’s policy of appeasement, the militant narrative has been able to gain increasing prominence in mainstream media. Where once a media appearance by a leader of a terrorist group that is responsible for the killing of 19,000 civilians was an anomaly, today it is common and tomorrow it will be normal. Using the powerful tools at their disposal to reclaim the ability to shape national discourse will undoubtedly be an uphill task for the Pakistani media, made particularly difficult in the absence of security and support provided by the government. However, the Pakistani media must stand tall. And it must stand united. If for nothing else, it must do so for its own survival.
Ahmed Ludhianvi:Pakistan's Mother of Terrorists: Banned ASWJ-SSP Chief Terrorist Secures NA Seat From Jhang
The Pakistani leader of a banned extremist sectarian group activists blamed for the deaths of hundreds has been given the okay to take a seat in the country's equivalent of the U.S. House of Representatives. Ahmed Ludhianvi, a Sunni Muslim who has denounced Shiite Muslims, will represent the city of Jhang in Punjab province, Pakistan's Election Commission ruled Wednesday. Activists worry that Ludhianvi -- who came second in May's election but was awarded the seat after the commission ruled the candidate who came first had been involved in vote rigging -- will seek to oppress Shiites, who make up some 20 percent of the population. "He ran an election campaign on his anti-Shiite agenda, it is not possible that he won't bring it into the assembly. He will want to use parliament to declare all Shiites as heretics," Tahir Ashrafi, chairman of clerical umbrella group the All Pakistan Ulema Council, told Reuters. Ludhianvi was a leader in Sipah-e-Sahaba, a Sunni group that emerged in Jhang in the mid-1980s and was later banned.The group reinvented itself as Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamat, which was also banned in 2012.
Ludianvi is also known as mother of Taliban terrorists in Pakistan.
Senator of Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) Barrister Aitezaz Ahsan said that it would be a stain on the electoral process, if the rigging claims are proven true. Speaking to journalists after the re-counting process in NA-124 was completed, Barrister Aitezaz Ahsan stated that lot of discrepancies took place in the general election last year. He further said that the institutions were in a state of dilemma. "We will talk when the matter becomes clear", he added. The PPP senator said that the rigging in the election was a huge stain but he would stand with the government if the Prime Minister faces threats from any institution. He added that he would discuss the Pakistan Protection Ordinance (PPO) in open during the session of the Senate.
THE Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan has never hesitated to own, in fact flaunt, the terror campaign it has been waging for years. Now suddenly, the banned outfit has staged a somersault, terming the killings of civilians un-Islamic and ‘haram’. In a statement issued on Wednesday, TTP spokesman Shahidullah Shahid said that killing civilians was illegal and claimed that a hidden hand was behind the recent atrocities in Islamabad and Sibi. Two questions come to mind: if we are to accept the absurd notion that killings are to be categorised as Islamic and un-Islamic, who is going to judge? Two, must it take the slaughter of 50,000 people, an overwhelming majority of whom were civilians, for the TTP to wake up, express a bit of remorse and try to find a scapegoat in the two recent acts of terror in Sibi and Islamabad? Ever since it began its killing campaign, the TTP never wavered from its rigid two-pronged policy about acts of terror: it either had no shame in claiming responsibility for acts of mass murder, or at best chose to keep quiet. The Taliban’s victims have included children in school vans, the faithful at prayer, patients in hospitals, mourners at funerals, peacemakers at jirgas, pilgrims in buses, devotees at shrines, civilians in religious processions, political activists at rallies and media persons on duty. Those murdered or maimed for life have included men and women of all age, and Pakistanis of all professions — doctors tending patients and judges administering justice. They have not spared the ulema: Maulana Fazlur Rahman survived two attempts on his life, and they succeeded in killing Mufti Naeemi of Lahore because he dared to condemn their criminality behind the facade of jihad. The list of the militants’ acts is too long to be mentioned, but some cold-blooded acts of carnage need to be recalled. For instance, to kill the then interior minister, Aftab Sherpao, a suicide bomber blew himself up at an Eid congregation in Charsadda, on Dec 21, 2007, killing 56 people. Again, on Dec 4, 2009, to kill a major general, militants attacked a mosque in Rawalpindi murdering 40 people, including 16 children, and they had no qualms when they fire-bombed the Marriott Hotel in Islamabad on Sept 20, 2008, killing 40 people at iftar time. They also need to be reminded that the beheading of captured soldiers was a barbaric act in violation of Islamic laws. The TTP’s now saying that the murder of civilians is un-Islamic is hypocrisy of the highest order. Nevertheless, this is not the end of the story, and the people will watch how the TTP behaves in the future and whether the sentiments expressed by its spokesman signal a change of heart or words uttered out of expediency.
The Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf may pride itself on achieving the seemingly unthinkable – bringing good governance to Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and putting an end to political interference. But a letter addressed to Chief Minister Pervez Khattak by his now former chief secretary presents what an officer described as a damning indictment and charge-sheet of his rule.Muhammad Shehzad Arbab, who relinquished his job as Chief Secretary on Tuesday, in his demi official letter to Pervez Khattak on March 11 cited several instances to highlight differences over key policy matters and questionable decisions. In his letter; and Dawn has its copy, the ex-chief secretary recalled his appointment by the federal government on the recommendation of the PTI leadership “with a clear understanding that a reform agenda of its government focusing on transparency was to be implemented, and expeditiously”. “I was always guided by the words of the founding father, Mohammad Ali Jinnah, delivered on April 14, 1948, at Peshawar that it is (my) obligation to remain compliant with constitution and law. Hence (I should) not be obliged to be servile or unthinkingly submissive to political executive,” Shehzad Arbab wrote. The officer was handpicked by PTI chairman Imran Khan to implement his party’s reform agenda with assurances of full backing and non-interference. But differences over key policy decisions, political interference and treatment meted out to officers, soon put him at odds with his political boss – Pervez Khattak. Officials familiar with the tense, and often not-on-speaking terms, relationship between the two say Imran Khan had personally intervened to resolve issues, but a stormy meeting between Khattak and Arbab in Islamabad in presence of the party leadership, brought the matter to a head. Mr Arbab wrote: “My endeavours to implement the proclaimed reform agenda was publically appreciated by the PTI chairman, but the strenuous efforts of my team soon fell casualty to political expediency. “A wide chasm between the declared policy and practice became noticeable, giving rise to divergence of opinion on various issues,” he added. “Resultantly, senior officers who disobliged were humiliated openly, which disillusioned and disheartened the bureaucracy. “Dejected at the disparaging and insulting treatment, a Capital City Police Officer tendered his resignation from service, which I did not forward,” the former chief secretary wrote. “More disturbingly,” the former chief secretary wrote, “transfers are frequent and made on directives with no regard to tenure or competence. It was pointed out many a time that such a practice was against administrative discipline. “An officer against whom inquiry was under way by NAB has been posted as Commissioner of a division,” he regretted. “Public representatives frequently intervene for transfer of officers/officials and there are numerous examples where officers have been transferred several times in a matter of months,” Arbab noted. Highlighting some important cases, Shehzad Arbab drew the chief minister’s attention to a meeting held on Nov11 last year to discuss the Draft Rules of Business to provide a basic framework for governance. “The establishment secretary recorded the minutes of the meeting reflecting therein the decisions made, but the recorded decisions were changed. This was against official propriety,” he wrote. “Your good self was requested either to approve the minutes as recorded or convene another meeting to review the earlier decisions. Neither has been done which has created confusion and uncertainty among government functionaries.” DI KHAN JAILBREAK Referring to the inquiry report into the audacious Dera Ismail Khan jailbreak, the former chief secretary lamented that disciplinary action should have been taken immediately against those responsible for security lapse. “But the file was held up in the Chief Minister’s Secretariat for about four months. And when it was returned, one of the officials was exonerated while action was ordered against the others. “This was unprecedented as defence is offered by an accused himself in consequence of a charge sheet, leading either to his exoneration or penalty. The Law Department raised observations on this premature exoneration, but again the file is pending decision.” The officer in question, who is currently the principal staff officer to the chief minister, was deputy commissioner of Dera Ismail Khan at the time of the jailbreak. The law department, officials said, had also sent in its opinion on the matter and pressed for action. A decision is still awaited. Referring to the much-delayed appointment of the managing director for Bank of Khyber, Arbab noted in his missive that while KP held majority shares of the premier financial institution, the appointment of its chief executive had been put on hold unduly for a long time. The position of the MD is vacant since March 2003. In his letter, Arbab also referred to the ongoing controversy regarding ex-secretary, Workers Welfare Board, Mr. Tariq Awan. He said that Mr Awan had manipulated a meeting of the WWB board without participation of its chairman and won a decision for his extension. “Apart from having worked for over six years after superannuation, he happens to be a corrupt official to the hilt. The NAB has been investigating various cases of embezzlement and irregular appointments. “Based on his illegal decision, he on his own assumed charge of the office of secretary. A summary was moved for his immediate ouster, but a decision has yet to be made while the individual is forcibly, and without lawful authority, occupying an important position,” he noted. Officials said an earlier separate summary on the issue was moved to the chief minister to explain the situation, but instead of taking a decision, he returned the file to the law department for further opinion. The law department, officials said, vehemently opposed his re-instatement. The file is now again with the chief minister. An aide said the chief minister was not pleased with Arbab’s missive and wanted to pay back in the same coin. “The chief minister thought the chief secretary’s letter amounted to a charge-sheet against his government,” the aide said. Shiraz Paracha, spokesman for the chief minister, was approached to seek Mr Khattak’s version on Arbab’s demarche. He said he would call back with an answer if and when he got one. No reply came through. CM’S REPLY The chief minister came up with a terse reply to the charges. “(The) chief secretary’s letter is more like a charge sheet. This cannot be done by a bureaucrat. What he has said are all routine matters.” He denied he interfered with posting and transfers, stating that everything was done with the chief secretary’s concurrence and consent. “Ï could have put my foot down but I never did that,” he said. “Let the chief secretary say how many of those he posted out had completed their tenure,” he affirmed. “Ï discussed everything with him from A to Z.” On rules of business, Pervez Khattak said after passage of the 18th Amendment, the rules of business were bound to change, but he charged that the chief secretary changed the minutes of the meeting. On exoneration of the deputy commissioner in Dera Ismail Khan jailbreak, the chief minister said the officer did not have magisterial powers and was not required to visit the jail. About the Workers Welfare Board secretary, the chief minister said he had asked the labour secretary to convene a meeting and “let them decide who they want to be the secretary”. He also denied that the commissioner of Bannu had any NAB inquiry against him. “There are many other officers who were probed by NAB and they are still serving,” Mr Khattak added. ”Ï may write to the prime minister against him," the chief minister said.
http://mediacellppp.wordpress.com/Surendar Valasai, Advisor on Minority Affairs to PPP Patron-In-Chief Bilawal Bhutto Zardari has strongly condemned the reported kidnapping and burning alive of a minority Hindu Dalit shop-owner Hans Ram in Punjab’s Bahawalpur district today. In a press release, Surendar Valasai said it is horrific that mobs and criminals have started kidnapping and burning the minority human beings in Punjab while its Chief Minister keeps on drumming mantra of so-called good governance. He said following the demolition of a Church in Okara under the very nose of Punjab administration, the criminal elements have started burning minority alive which is very dangerous trend and PML-N government in Punjab and Islamabad cannot be absolved for its failure to protect the minorities and their worship places. PPP leader demanded that Supreme Court should take notice and hold an inquiry by a judge of High Court into the growing incidents of violence against minorities in Punjab and order security to them.
EVER since Pakistan’s third, disastrous stint of military rule ended in 2008 with the coup-maker, Pervez Musharraf, slouching off to exile in London’s Edgware Road, the generals have tried hard to be seen to be getting out of politics. Behind the scenes the army still wields immense influence. But being seen to boss around civilian governments is to be avoided. So it is a sign of the army’s current unease that its newish chief felt he had publicly to defend the army’s “dignity and institutional pride” on April 7th. General Raheel Sharif was responding to rank-and-file concerns of “undue criticism of the institution in recent days”, the army said.
Tensions have been rising over the treatment of Mr Musharraf, a former general, who unwisely returned from self-imposed exile last year to relaunch his political career, only to face charges of high treason. Because even retired generals are thought to be untouchable, many Pakistanis did not believe that the trial would ever get off the ground. Indeed, the army seemed to come to Mr Musharraf’s rescue when he claimed a heart scare, moved into an army hospital and dodged court appearances by claiming ill health. Yet after weeks of legal wrangling the former president was indicted on March 31st.Even then people assumed that the government would allow Mr Musharraf to slip off back into exile rather than risk the repercussions of his conviction and possible death sentence. Not so, said a government minister, Khawaja Saad Rafique, who branded Mr Musharraf a “traitor” who must face justice. Such language infuriates the army establishment. And it heightens their worry that the prime minister, Nawaz Sharif, whom Mr Musharraf ousted in his coup in 1999, really does want the legal process to run its course. Last week the government turned down his request to leave the country to visit his ailing mother in the Gulf. Adding to the army’s annoyance is the government’s dogged effort to negotiate a peace deal with violent Islamist revolutionaries. In late March negotiators met militants from the banned Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP). A ceasefire was agreed, but violence continues. In Islamabad, the capital, on April 9th more than 20 people were killed by a bomb at a vegetable market (the TTP denies involvement). The army wants to launch an operation against militant sanctuaries in North Waziristan, a region it says must be subdued before NATO combat troops leave neighbouring Afghanistan in nine months’ time. It fears the TTP will stall for time. Next year, without the NATO presence, militants will much more easily melt into Afghanistan should the Pakistani army attack them. In the past a strong public rebuke from an army chief would have sparked panic among politicians. But a feisty judiciary and media appear to have made even the threat of a coup unthinkable. “Nobody should expect special treatment,” says Khawaja Asif, the defence minister, who was locked up during the Musharraf coup. Still, even those who share the view that Pakistan’s bouts of military rule are at the root of its many problems fear that Mr Sharif is being needlessly antagonistic. If, as seems likely, talks with the TTP prove fruitless, only the men in khaki will be able to deal with the militants.
Pakistan’s draft counterterrorism law threatens basic rights and freedoms in violation of Pakistan’s international legal obligations. The Protection of Pakistan Ordinance, 2013, which was approved by President Mamnoon Hussain on October 20, 2013 and the National Assembly on April 7, 2014, requires Senate approval by April 20 or it will expire. “Pakistan’s anti-terror laws shouldn’t be used to undermine fundamental rights,” said Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “The Protection of Pakistan Ordinance as drafted runs roughshod over rights provided under international law as well as Pakistan’s constitution.” The proposed law violates fundamental rights to freedom of speech, privacy and peaceful assembly, and due process protections embodied in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), which Pakistan ratified in 2010. In its current form, the law could be used to suppress peaceful political opposition and criticism of government policy, Human Rights Watch said. Pakistan’s Senate should refuse to approve the repressive law and return it to the National Assembly with needed revisions, Human Rights Watch said. The preamble to the ordinance describes the law as necessary “for protection against waging of war against Pakistan and the prevention of acts threatening [its] security” so as to expedite the investigation and prosecution of terrorism cases. The draft counterterrorism law contains vague and overly broad definitions that could be used to prosecute peaceful political protesters and those who criticize government policies, Human Rights Watch said. Among the ordinance’s most worrying provisions are: The vague definition of terrorist acts, which could be used to prosecute a very wide range of conduct—far beyond the limits of what can reasonably be considered terrorist activity. Besides “killing, kidnapping, extortion,” the law classifies highly ambiguous acts including “Internet offenses” and “disrupting mass transport systems,” as prosecutable crimes without providing specific definitions for such offenses. These terms are so ambiguous that a nonviolent political protest that disrupts traffic might be labeled “threatening the security of Pakistan.” As the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Human Rights and Counterterrorism has recommended, the legal definition of terrorism should be limited to acts “committed against members of the general population, or segments of it, with the intention of causing death or serious bodily injury, or the taking of hostages,” rather than property crimes. The expansion of powers of arrest without warrant from the police to members of the armed forces or “civil armed forces acting in aid of civil authority.” The ordinance empowers those forces to “enter and search without warrant any premises to make any arrest or to take possession of any property … used or likely to be used in the commission of any scheduled offence.” Providing such powers without warrant violates the rights against arbitrary arrest under article 9, and to privacy and the security of the home under article 17 of the ICCPR. Shifting the “burden of proof” from government prosecutors to criminal suspects. The ordinance states that those arrested under the law “shall be presumed to be engaged in waging war or insurrection against Pakistan unless he establishes his non-involvement in the offence.” This violates the fundamental principle of presumption of innocence embedded in article 14 of the ICCPR, which ensures “the right to be presumed innocent until proved guilty according to law.” Providing effective immunity for abuses committed by security forces and judicial officials acting under the law, protecting them from any liability “for acts done in good faith during the performance of their duties.” This blanket immunity violates article 2(3) of the ICCPR, which requires that governments ensure that any person whose rights or freedoms are violated “shall have an effective remedy, notwithstanding that the violation has been committed by persons acting in an official capacity.” Empowering the government to determine the place of custody, inquiry, investigation and trial. This could permit detentions and prosecutions being conducted outside the established judicial system in violation of basic protections against arbitrary detention under article 9 of the ICCPR and the right to “a fair and public hearing” under article 14. Terrorism is a very real concern in Pakistan. Sunni militant groups such as Lashkar-e Jhangvi, an Al-Qaeda affiliate, have conducted numerous attacks targeting civilians. Although ostensibly banned, Lashkar-e Jhangvi operates with virtual impunity across Pakistan, as law enforcement officials either turn a blind eye or appear helpless to prevent attacks. In 2013, more than 400 members of the Shia Muslim population were killed in targeted attacks that took place across Pakistan. On April 9, 2014, a truck bomb detonated at an outdoor market on the outskirts of the national capital, Islamabad, which killed at least 22 people. A self-described separatist group calling itself the United Baloch Army claimed responsibility for the attack. “Denying Pakistanis their universal rights and freedoms isn’t a smart or effective tool for battling terrorism,” Adams said. “The government should step back and fully revise the Protection of Pakistan Ordinance with input from civil society and international experts to instead craft a law that addresses serious crimes while protecting rights.”