Thursday, July 6, 2017
By S Tariq
In the first instance, Mr Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, an undisputed political genius, was tried and executed in what went down in history as a controversial trial, initiated by General Zia ul Haq. It is indeed ironic that a product of this dictator is currently being subjected to investigation.
With each passing day since the commencement of proceedings in the Judicial Academy premises, we have seen a progressive change in the body language of PML-N spokespersons and those appearing before the JIT.
These individuals have become increasingly vitriolic against the investigators, little realising that by doing so they are levelling allegations against the very authority that initiated the probe. The persistent wailing of those being questioned has now become irksome to the point where it may even contribute to losing whatever sympathy they had been able to generate. What is said in this media interaction, is laced with stuff that is nothing short of ridiculous. Take for example Imran bashing – something that has no relevance to ongoing proceedings, except for the fact that it was PTI, which doggedly pursued the Panama Leaks case in the Apex Court. Worry and anger is writ large on the faces of PML-N leadership as the deadline for submission of findings approaches.
Desperation is now so evident that fingers are being indirectly pointed at one of the most revered institutions of the country that has shown marvellous constitutional restraint, contrary to historical precedence. To that end, extensive use of social media is being resorted to in order to spread fake news and rumours. This campaign is nothing short of collaborating with those who are out to undo Pakistan and therefore needs to be stamped out ruthlessly. There is split opinion on summoning of Maryam Nawaz Sharif before the JIT.
I find nothing amiss in this since there are no gender-based preferences or reservations in the eyes of law. I however, am not sure if Wednesday’s appearance of the PM’s daughter will catapult her as an heir to the top slot in PML-N in a smooth fashion, whenever the time comes for such a transition to manifest itself. If and when such a scenario does develop, its successful culmination will depend on the answer to a single critical question – will there be an intra-family power struggle for the throne? While news making events are occurring in the Federal Capital on a daily basis, the Qatari Prince has refused to come to the Pakistani Mission in Doha to appear before members of the investigation team.
The implications of this refusal and whether the member of the Qatari Royal Family would be examined on his own turf, are questions that will perhaps be answered by the time this write up goes to print. Nonetheless, the continuing arrogant Qatari’s attitude, is not likely to provide much help to the Sharif family. In spite of the serious atmosphere surrounding the JIT proceedings, there have been some lighter moments too (if they can be termed as such).
Take for example the reported response by Mr Hussain Nawaz to a question whether he held dual nationality, “I don’t know”, came the reply. Then there was Mr Kirmani’s fiery outburst, which drew a similarity between General Zia ul Haq’s takeover on July 5, 1977 and Maryam Nawaz’s appearance on the same date in 2017 with reference to ‘certain forces’ that were conspiring to sabotage democracy (or words to that effect).
The speaker must have later bitten his tongue on realising that Mr Nawaz Sharif was himself a prodigy of the military dictator, who imposed Martial Law in 1977. So, the nation waits expectantly for July 10, when we expect to see the climax of the Panama epic with all its rhetoric, drama, tears and comedy. This will be a great moment in our national history, where the battle between corruption and accountability will finally be lost or won.
By HUSAIN HAQQANI
President Trump’s review of American policy in Afghanistan should involve adopting a tougher approach to Pakistan. Although the Taliban are said to control or contest 40 percent of Afghanistan’s territory, Taliban leaders operate from the safety of Pakistan. United States incentives since the Sept. 11 attacks have failed to dissuade Pakistan from supporting the Taliban, and Mr. Trump must now consider alternatives.
Reading Pakistan correctly has not always been easy for American officials. Pakistan was a key American ally during the Cold War, the anti-Soviet jihad in Afghanistan and the post-Sept. 11 operations against Al Qaeda. But for Pakistan the alliance has been more about securing weapons, economic aid and diplomatic support in its confrontation with India. The United States and Pakistan have both disappointed each other because of divergence in their interests in South Asia.
The George W. Bush administration erred in ignoring the regrouping of the Taliban in Pakistan after their defeat in Afghanistan in the aftermath of Sept. 11, considering Pakistan’s cooperation in capturing some Qaeda figures as sufficient evidence of its alliance with the United States.
President Barack Obama’s administration tried to deal with a resurgent Taliban with a surge in troop numbers for a specific period. Mr. Obama deployed armed drones to strike at Taliban targets inside Pakistan, but that proved insufficient in dealing with the leadership living in the Pakistani cities of Quetta and Peshawar.
Gen. Pervez Musharraf, Pakistan’s former military dictator, had secretly authorized the drone strikes, and some of the drones operated from bases inside Pakistan — a policy that continued under his civilian successors. Under his rule, Pakistan audaciously denied having anything to do with the Afghan Taliban or its most sinister component, the Haqqani network.
But the United States presented evidence of Pakistan’s links to Afghan militants just as Pakistan transitioned from military to civilian rule in 2008. As Pakistan’s ambassador to the United States for the new civilian government, I urged Pakistan’s civil and military leaders to engage with Americans honestly instead of sticking to blanket denials.
Islamabad’s response was to argue that Pakistan does, indeed, support insurgents in Afghanistan, but it does so because of security concerns about India, which is seen by generals and many civilian leaders as an existential threat to Pakistan.
But that excuse is based on exaggerations and falsehoods. India has no offensive military presence in Afghanistan and there has never been any evidence that the Afghans are willing to be part of India’s alleged plan for a two-front war with Pakistan.
Afghanistan’s president, Ashraf Ghani, recently asked India to train Afghan military officers and repair military aircraft after frustration with Pakistan, which failed to fulfill promises of restraining the Taliban and forcing them to the negotiating table.
Pakistan’s leaders question Afghanistan’s acceptance of economic assistance from India even though Pakistan does not have the capacity to provide such aid itself. It seems that Pakistan wants to keep alive imaginary fears, possibly to maintain military ascendancy in a country that has been ruled by generals for almost half of its existence. For years Pakistani officials falsely asserted that India had set up 24 consulates in Afghanistan, some close to the Pakistani border. In fact, India has only four consulates, the same number Pakistan has, in Afghanistan.
Lying about easily verifiable facts is usually the tactic of governments fabricating a threat rather than ones genuinely facing one. As ambassador, I attended trilateral meetings where my colleagues rejected serious suggestions from Afghans and Americans to mitigate apprehensions about Indian influence in Afghanistan.
While evidence of an Indian threat to Pakistan through Afghanistan remains scant, proof of the presence of Afghan Taliban leaders in Pakistan continues to mount. Mullah Omar, the Taliban’s leader, reportedly died in a Pakistani hospital in 2013 and his successor, Mullah Akhtar Mansour, was killed in an American drone strike in Baluchistan Province in Pakistan last year.
The United States should not let Pakistan link its longstanding support for hard-line Pashtun Islamists in Afghanistan to its disputes with India.
Both India and Pakistan have a lot of blood on their hands in Kashmir and seem in no hurry to resolve their disagreement, which is rooted in the psychosis resulting from the subcontinent’s bitter partition. The two countries have gone through 45 rounds of summit-level talks since 1947 and have failed to reach a permanent settlement.
Linking the outcome in Afghanistan to resolution of India-Pakistan issues would keep the United States embroiled there for a very long time. The recent rise in Islamophobia in India and a more aggressive stance against Pakistan by Prime Minister Narendra Modi should not detract from recognizing the paranoiac nature of Pakistan’s fears.
The Bush administration gave Pakistan $12.4 billion in aid, and the Obama administration forked over $21 billion. These incentives did not make Pakistan more amenable to cutting off support for the Afghan Taliban.
The Trump administration should now consider taking away Pakistan’s status as a major non-NATO ally, which would limit its priority access to American military technology. Aid to Pakistan should be linked to a sequence and timeline for specific actions against Taliban leaders.
Sanctions against individuals and institutions involved in facilitating Pakistan-based Taliban leaders and pursuing Taliban reconciliation talks without depending on Pakistan could be other measures signaling a firmer United States stance.
Moving away from an incentive-based approach would not be punishing Pakistan. The United States would be acting as a friend, helping Pakistan realize through tough measures that the gravest threat to its future comes from religious extremism it is fostering in its effort to compete with India. Negotiating a peaceful settlement with the Taliban also remains desirable, but it is important to remember the difficulties 21st-century negotiators face while seeking compromise with seventh-century mind-sets.
More than six years after former president Asif Ali Zardari filed a presidential reference in the Supreme Court (SC) to revisit Zulfikar Ali Bhutto’s controversial trial, the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) still awaits a formal hearing.
As the president, Zardari had on April 2, 2011 approached the SC through a presidential reference under Article 186 of the constitution seeking opinion on revisiting Bhutto’s murder trial.
“The PPP had never intended to seek revenge but it wanted to put right a historic wrong and thereby vindicate the position of the founding chairman of the party,” Zardari’s office had said in a statement after he signed a request for the SC to revisit the trial. Forty years ago on July 5, 1977, then army chief Ziaul Haq had overthrown the democratically-elected government of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto. The PPP won the 1977 parliamentary elections but a conservative alliance alleged widespread rigging and launched agitation. On July 5, 1977, General Ziaul Haq deposed Bhutto in a coup.
Bhutto was controversially tried by the Supreme Court for authorising the murder of a political opponent.
He was later controversially convicted and executed in 1979.
PPP leader Senator Farhatullah Babar told The Nation that the party was determined to ensure justice for the country’s most popular leader.
“We have been waiting for the SC to act. We cannot pressurise the SC but have been trying to raise the issue as much as we can,” he said. Babar said that Bhutto’s execution was a disgrace to the county’s history and should be corrected. “We have taken the first big step [of filing the presidential reference]. We have been pursuing it and hopefully we will be able to clear Bhutto’s name,” he added. The senator said that the former chief justice, Iftikhar Mohammed Chaudhry, threw the case into the deep freezer after preliminary hearing. “We demand that the case should be heard soon,” he stressed.
PPP leader Maula Bux Chandio said that the party was actively pursuing the reopening of the Bhutto execution trial to “expose the killers” but it was for the SC to start the hearing. “Iftikhar Mohammed Chaudhry himself remarked that Bhutto did not get a fair trial. There should be an official verdict to clear Bhutto’s name,” he maintained.
Chandio said that the PPP would not go slow on the Bhutto case.
“We want justice for Bhutto. This should be done as soon as possible,” he remarked. When the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) assumed power in 2013, there were speculations that they might withdraw the presidential reference on Bhutto’s execution. However, the PML-N did not touch the case.
Legal expert Tariq Mehmood said that President Mamnoon Hussain had the authority to withdraw the presidential reference.
“Legally he can do it but I don’t think he will do it. He has not done it for around four years so he won’t do it now. It is of course a difficult decision,” he said. In 2011, the PML-N had opposed the idea of seeking reopening of the Bhutto trial but never uttered a word on it after forming the federal government in 2013. In 2011, the PML-N ruled the Punjab province, while the PPP led government in the centre.
Wednesday, on the call of PPP chief Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, the party observed black day to condemn the 1977 coup that ousted Bhutto as the prime minister.
Bilawal accused that extremism, terrorism, Kalashnikov and drug culture were all the nasty gifts of Ziaul Haq’s dictatorship, which “unleashed a reign of terror against democratic, liberal and truly patriotic people of Pakistan.” “July 5, 1977 shall remain a black day in Pakistan’s history because the hopes and aspirations of our nation were crushed by a dictator who remains the root of every evil, which continues to haunt the people,” he said. Meanwhile, PPP Senator Aajiz Dhamra criticised the government for providing “official protocol” to Maryam Nawaz – the daughter of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif – when she appeared before the joint investigation team (JIT) in connection with the Panama leaks case on Wednesday. “This is the difference between the accountability of the Bhutto family and Nawaz Sharif’s family.
Our leadership was baton-charged, while their family is being saluted by police,” he said in a statement. The accountability process, Dhamra said, should be across the board and fair to all. “The Sharif family will have to answer the nation’s questions,” he added.