Tuesday, March 27, 2018

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#Pakistan - Nawaz approached SC on someone else’s orders

Opposition Leader in National Assembly Syed Khursheed Shah on Tuesday claimed that Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) supremo Nawaz Sharif had approached country’s top court to bring Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) government down on someone else’s directives.
The PPP leader stated that Nawaz Sharif had confessed to his mistake of approaching the Supreme Court in notorious memo scandal for the first time.”Nawaz Sharif approached apex court to end Zardari’s political career whereas PPP came to his rescue. Such attitude distinguishes us from all other political outfits,” Shah told a press conference here.
To a question on Senate Chairman Sadiq Sanjrani, Shah condemned Abbasi’s statement stating that he did not expect such remarks from a man of prime minister’s stature.
To another question, Shah made clear that no one had jurisdiction to rollback 18th Amendment. To a question about the caretaker setup ahead of the upcoming general elections, the PPP leader said, “Consultation on appointment of caretaker prime minister will be held with Prime Minister Abbasi, not Nawaz Sharif. We (PPP) will try to bring everyone on the same page on name for the caretaker PM.”

Pakistan’s Judges Are on a Mission. But What Is It?


The chief justice of Pakistan’s Supreme Court, Mian Saqib Nisar, is a man on a mission. Our senior-most judge wants to rid the country of corrupt politicians, and he wants us to eat hormone-free chicken. “The aim of my struggle is clean air, clean water, pure milk,” he told lawyers last week during an impromptu stop by the cafeteria of the bar association in Islamabad, the capital. He was asking for their help. Also on his to-do list: fighting against hepatitis and cancer, and for a fair price for crops.
Nisar has said one reason Pakistan isn’t a superpower is that Pakistani gardeners take way more smoking breaks than their Chinese counterparts. He has also said the judiciary is like a village elder, and that its integrity should not be doubted.
Village elders go a bit batty occasionally, but we can’t say that about the chief justice because it would amount to a serious crime called contempt of court. There is already a former senator in jail for committing this crime, and two ministers may soon join him. (All three men are from the governing Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz, or PML-N.) And so Nisar goes around exhorting fellow judges, lawyers and citizens at large to do their work not “just as a job,” but with passion.
In July 2017 the Supreme Court invoked corruption charges to remove Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif from office. With passion. And last week a panel headed by Nisar passionately disqualified Sharif from heading the PML-N, also invalidating his selection of candidates to run on the party’s ticket in Senate elections scheduled for March 3.
It is often said that judges shouldn’t speak, that only their decisions for the court should. But Pakistan’s senior judges don’t just want to do justice, they want to be seen and heard doing it. In his opinion in a corruption case against Sharif, part of a scandal broadly known as Panamagate, Justice Asif Saeed Khan Khosa quoted Mario Puzo quoting Balzac in “The Godfather”: “Behind every great fortune there is a crime.” He called the mafia novel’s epigraph “fascinating” before saying that the current case revolved around the same notion.
Other judges so love the sound of their own voices that they run the superior courts like talk shows. The Supreme Court’s agenda increasingly seems to be set by what’s on television. Major news stories have spurred the court to start proceedings suo motu, or on its own authority. The hearings that follow then feed the news cycle again, with the justices making headline-worthy comments and cracking jokes. Last year, one of them told the attorney general that the government was like “the Sicilian mafia.”
Nisar recently invited a dozen famous journalists to attend hearings in a case involving the rape and murder of a child. He wanted to ask them for advice: What should be done about a TV anchor who had accused the suspected rapist of belonging to a pedophile pornography ring? When the victim’s father began to weep, the chief justice gave him his personal phone number, inviting the man to call anytime if he wanted help. But judges who play saviors are a dangerous thing in this country. When an army general takes over in Pakistan the first thing he does is ask judges to take their oath of office again; they usually oblige. Then they interpret the Constitution to justify a dictator’s claim to power. If they can’t find a basis for that in the law books, they invent it. The Supreme Court famously created “the doctrine of necessity” in 1954 to justify Pakistan’s first application of martial law. Its logic basically was: The general has an army under his command, so what do you expect us judges to do? Pakistan’s judiciary has played handmaiden to military dictators in other ways, too. It has hanged one elected prime minister on dubious charges (Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, in 1979), and failed to do its part going after the assassins of another elected prime minister (Benazir Bhutto, Zulfikar’s daughter, who was killed in 2007).
Judges and generals do clash sometimes, but the result is no better for the rest of us. In 2007, Gen. Pervez Musharraf dismissed a bunch of senior judges and put them under house arrest. He also wanted the chief justice at the time, Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, to resign. Like Nisar, Chaudhry hoped to fix Pakistan and had a tendency to tell politicians and bureaucrats how to run the country. He resisted being pushed out and had to be dismissed. Then lawyers rallied to support him, and their movement turned into a broad-based opposition against Musharraf’s rule, which finally forced the general out of power. Chaudhry was reinstated. But what was one of his first acts after resuming his duties? He set up a panel that exonerated his own son in a massive corruption case.
At the same time, there are issues the Supreme Court won’t touch. The Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate, Pakistan’s spy agency, has been accused of rigging the 1990 general election by distributing millions of dollars to political parties. A case about this has been dragging on for many years. There are also hundreds of cases alleging that missing persons have been kidnapped and tortured by intelligence agencies. Judges hardly ever hear those anymore.
Musharraf has said publicly that in a number of suits against him the army ran interference to get the courts to grant him bail. Although accused of abrogating the Constitution, Musharraf is allowed to live in comfortable exile and, unlike Sharif, he has never been prevented from heading his own party.
No wonder Sharif reacted with sarcasm to the Supreme Court’s recent decision to remove his name as the PML-N’s leader, goading the justices to search the law for a reason to “snatch” his own name from him as well. “All decisions of the Supreme Court are Nawaz Sharif-specific,” he said.
He has a point. Nisar wants passion from the bench, but passion is partisan, and we’d all be better off if Pakistani judges went back to treating their work as just a job, and to quoting law books instead of “The Godfather.”

Pakistan’s military is waging a quiet war on journalists


As activists and journalists are kidnapped, entire regions of the country are going silent.

On December 2, 2017, 40-year-old Raza Khan, a Pakistani political activist, disappeared from his home. When Raza wouldn’t answer his phone, Khan’s brother went to his residence in Lahore. He found the lights on, the curtains drawn, and the doors locked — but no sign of Raza.
It wasn’t until one of Raza’s activist colleagues visited the house that they found a clue to why he’d disappeared: Raza’s computer was missing. Diep Saeeda, Reza’s colleague, immediately thought that one of Pakistan’s notorious intelligence agencies had taken him. “It could be no one else,” she told me.
Saeeda visited police stations, hospitals, restaurants, and the morgue, looking for any trace of Raza. But she turned up nothing, and the authorities had no information either.
Almost three months later, Raza is still missing, and it’s become clear that his disappearance is part of a larger trend.
Pakistan is one of the most dangerous countries in the world for activists and reporters:According to the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, nearly 10,000 people have gone missing in the country since 2001, with nearly 3,000 still unaccounted for. In 2016 alone, there were 728 disappearances. The HRCP and human rights activists say these numbers are significantly underreported.

Pakistani civil society members and university students shout slogans and wave placards as they protest against the killing of Mashal Khan a journalism student, in Islamabad on April 15, 2017. 
Pakistani activists and university students shout slogans and wave placards as they protest against the killing of Mashal Khan, a journalism student, in Islamabad on April 15, 2017. 
Farooq Naeem/AFP/Getty Images

Pakistan’s powerful and secretive security establishment — which ranges from its feared intelligence agency, the ISI, to the country’s military, which has carried out three coups since its inception in 1947 — has long used abductions to silence anyone who dares to question and expose their actions. This matters, of course, for ordinary Pakistanis, who can’t speak freely about their government. It also affects Pakistani lawmakers, whose ability to craft legislation is hampered by the lack of information.
But the disappearances have real consequences for the rest of the world as well.
In his first tweet of 2018, President Trump took aim at Pakistan’s government and what he called their failure to assist the US in the global war on terror. “The United States has foolishly given Pakistan more than 33 billion dollars in aid over the last 15 years, and they have given us nothing but lies & deceit,” he wrote. “They give safe haven to the terrorists we hunt in Afghanistan, with little help.”
While many may disagree with the US president’s view, his tweet speaks to a larger issue: Pakistan, which is a nuclear power, is battling its own war on terror. Many parts of the country, including Waziristan, on its porous border with Afghanistan, have turned into safe havens for militants and terror groups. The Pakistani military has been accused of working closely with and even aiding terrorists there.

Pakistani soldiers patrol next to a newly erected border fence along Afghan border at Kitton Orchard Post in North Waziristan on October 18, 2017.
Pakistani soldiers patrol next to a newly erected fence along the Afghan border in North Waziristan on October 18, 2017.
 Aamir Qureshi/AFP/Getty Images

So as Pakistan becomes a black hole of information due to the lack of reporting and independent voices on the ground, we lose sight of what’s actually taking place. This not only complicates global efforts to counter terrorism but puts the region and the world at large at risk.
In January, the Trump administration announced it would suspend $900 million in security aid to Pakistan until the country got serious about cracking down on terrorist groups like the Taliban and Haqqani network. But without objective observers and reporting in the region, there’s no way to verify if this is happening.
In April, Sabeen Mahmud, a friend of mine and one of the country’s most prominent free speech activists, hosted a panel about disappearances in the country’s largest province, Balochistan. The Pakistani government is fighting a separatist uprising there of Baloch nationalists, and though accurate numbers are difficult to find, more than 20,000 peoplehave reportedly gone missing. The same evening, after the panel concluded, Mahmud was shot and killed by unknown gunmen.
I wrote about her death for an Indian magazine and started receiving threats myself from agents with ISI, Pakistan’s infamous government intelligence agency. They repeatedly told me, both in person and over the phone, that I was going to be killed like my friend Sabeen, “and no one will find who did it.”
I also learned that killing one person and then using their death to generate more fear was a common tactic that the Pakistani intelligence agencies used against journalists. It leads to self-censorship, and it works almost every time.
I was no exception. Since the ISI threatened my life, I’ve been too afraid to live and report in Pakistan, and currently divide my time between New York and Turkey.
It’s important to note that Pakistan’s government, although democratically elected, does not have the power to control or influence the far-reaching and powerful military establishment. Intelligence agencies gained more power after 9/11; the ISI in particular received funding and resources from the US and Pakistani governments to help fight the war on terror. The new resources helped the ISI expand its influence and freedom to act however it saw fit, and it began operating much like an independent arm of the government.
The intelligence agencies hold so much power that even the police can’t touch them. An officer at Peshawar’s police headquarters told me the police see several abduction cases a week but can’t write up official police reports. “We have orders not to meddle in such cases that might be part of an anti-terror campaign,” he told me. “The military … is an institution with higher power.”
And despite criticism and warnings from international groups, and pledges by the government of Pakistan, these disappearances seem to be getting worse.
Last year, Pakistan’s Commission on Inquiry on Enforced Disappearances “received nearly 300 cases of alleged enforced disappearances from August to October 2017, by far the largest number in a three month period in recent years,” according to the commission.
And in early 2017, three Pakistani bloggers who were critical of the government disappeared for weeks, without a trace. When they were released, all three described torture and sexual abuse at the hands of Pakistani security personnel.

Protesters hold images of three bloggers who disappeared during a rally in Lahore on January 12, 2017.
Protesters hold images of three bloggers who disappeared during a rally in Lahore on January 12, 2017. 
Rana Sajid Hussain/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images

Waqass Goraya, one of the bloggers, said he was detained by a government organization with ties to the Pakistani military. “More and more people are being harmed — our friends, our colleagues — so how can we stop [speaking out]? Someone has to stand up,” he told the BBC. Goraya currently lives in the Netherlands, where he continues his activism from afar.

Reporting on the Pakistani military’s abuses is important. It’s also really dangerous.

Trump alluded in his January tweet to the Pakistani military’s reputation for working closely with terrorist groups. This extends back several decades: In the 1980s, the US covertly sent about $5 billion to Pakistan to fund militant groups to help fight the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan. Pakistan continued to train and fund militants to help in the fight over Kashmir, a disputed border area between India and Pakistan.
The US ramped up funding to Pakistan again in the wake of 9/11 in exchange for Pakistan’s help in fighting the war on terror. US officials say, however, that they have not seen resultsand that much of the money has been lost due to corruption, or ended up in the hands of terrorist groups.
In 2011, Saleem Shahzad, a freelance journalist, reported about how Pakistani naval officerswere involved in aiding a terrorist attack on Pakistani naval headquarters in Mehran, a short distance from the capital of Karachi. Afterward, Shahzad was brutally murdered. His death received much publicity, and since then, it appears that no Pakistani journalists have dared to report in depth about the military’s links with terrorist groups.
“Anyone who reports on Balochistan, or terrorism in Pakistan, knows that the military agencies will come after them,” said Khushal Khan, a research officer at the HRCP.
Waziristan, the restive region on the Western border with Afghanistan, is one of the most underreported places in the country. There’s almost no information that hasn’t been vetted or censored by the military going in or out.
The Pakistani military has claimed several times that they defeated terrorism in this area and forced out the terrorists — but the military refuses to let journalists or NGOs visit the area to verify their claims.
Anyone who attempts to report on what’s happening in Pakistan now runs the risk of disappearing. When I was investigating abductions of civilians from Waziristan in 2015, my sources were threatened and told that they “should not speak to journalists.”
A leading activist in the region, Manzoor Pashteen, told me that hundreds of people who have been critical of the military in the region disappeared in 2017, and dozens more have vanished this year. “Every other day I get a call … [someone] is missing or someone’s body has been found,” Pashteen said.
Last month, when I visited Dera Ismail Khan, a city near Waziristan, I met with more than a dozen civilian sources who said they knew people who had been abducted from the region. The people who were taken had direct knowledge of the alleged close relationship between the Pakistani military and terrorist groups like the Taliban and the Haqqani network, my sources told me.
In November 2017, Pashteen was abducted by intelligence agencies that told him to stop working as an activist and speaking out against the military establishment. But Pashteen said he would continue to be vocal against the continuing abductions.
“What kind of state is this, against its own people?” Pashteen asked me. “This country is also ours, and the state needs to stop treating us like terrorists.”

#Pakistan - #PMLN’s anti-people policies are in full swing: Bilawal Bhutto

Chairman Pakistan Peoples Party Bilawal Bhutto Zardari has expressed deep grief over the death of protesting lady health worker in Punjab. He in his twitter message has said, “Deeply disturbed to learn of the death of a lady health worker as they continue to protest against the non-payment of their salaries. 

Shameful treatment by the Punjab govt. using violence against peaceful protester. PML-N’s Anti-people policies out in full swing”