[A Pakistani columnist on a recent TV talk show predicted a violent, chaotic and formless political disorder in the country within the coming months. Raja Mujtaba, founder of O. M. Center for Policy Studies, sees the coming of a French-style19th century revolution in Pakistan. During the above-mentioned show, the anchor Nasir Sherazi suggested the need to eliminate at least 30,000 heads to make the country peaceful for 300 years. Obviously, one interpretation is that it would entail an absolute and ultimate political abyss leading to bloodshed, death and destruction. One may or may not agree with their analyses or perspectives, but what cannot be denied is that the abysmal political ground realities in Pakistan threaten its present and future existence.]
By Dr. Haider Mehdi
The “Familygate” scandal has opened yet another floodgate of information on how the current political dispensation works and operates – how unspecified amounts of money are made and then used to influence national events, the country’s politics, media “gurus”, opinion-maker “pundits,” and the overall national political discourse. Irrespective of the facts of who said what to whom and why, who showed what evidence to whom and why, who was briefed by whom and why at a certain point in time, who was bribed by gifts of expensive automobiles and costly villas in upper-class estates, and why the recipients accepted these gifts, for what purposes and intentions, with what professional or ethical justification. Who did business with whom, who financed whom with enormous amounts of money, who paid whose holiday bills in thousands of British pounds for whom and why, and so on and so forth. But one single-most important fact that stands glaring in our faces is that this country is being deliberately pushed into becoming a “Criminal Empire.” The entire ruling elite is decisively committed to engineering and organizing a national political structure, oligarchic in nature, more oppressive and regimented than traditional feudal systems, with the objective to divide the nation between a ruling elite with enormous financial and political resources vested in them, and a largely marginalized populace majority subjected to the ruling elite’s political control for an indefinite period of time in the future. We live in very dangerous political circumstances now.
Indeed, judicial decisions and judgments will have to go through the normal legal processes and procedures in the “Familygate” case. But the Chief Justice of Pakistan’s prompt “suo motu” action against his own son has once again reinforced Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry’s personal credibility and professional integrity. In fact, it has set an unprecedented example of submitting to the rule of law no matter what might be at stake and who might be affected. Appreciable, isn’t it?
But the time has arrived for the nation to react and rebel against the ruling elite’s incessant political atrocities and national mismanagement. It is a moment to make enlightened, rational, philosophical and ethical-moral judgments in regards to national politics, and set a constructive discourse for the country’s political renaissance and reform in its political culture. It is time for a revolution to be instigated by the masses themselves. It is a moment for deliberation, reawakening of national consciousness, transformational change and political action to get rid of the entire incumbent political elite, its reactionary, regressive and backwards leadership, and the contemporary implicit planning to subjugate this nation to another era of vested-interests controlled regimes.
What Pakistan needs today is a “Tahrir Square” political movement of its own – political action on a scale that should rock the very foundations of the present-day political structure and bring it to its final demise. Enough is enough – the “Criminal Empire,” its political actors, its theatrics and its presence should no longer be tolerated. We still have time to save ourselves.
A Pakistani columnist on a recent TV talk show predicted a violent, chaotic and formless political disorder in the country within the coming months. Raja Mujtaba, founder of O. M. Center for Policy Studies, sees the coming of a French-style19th century revolution in Pakistan. During the above-mentioned show, the anchor Nasir Sherazi suggested the need to eliminate at least 30,000 heads to make the country peaceful for 300 years. Obviously, one interpretation is that it would entail an absolute and ultimate political abyss leading to bloodshed, death and destruction. One may or may not agree with their analyses or perspectives, but what cannot be denied is that the abysmal political ground realities in Pakistan threaten its present and future existence.
The question is: Must we wait for the chaos to engulf us in its flames and fires, and destroy us from within? Can we not find alternative solutions to our national predicaments? Do we not have other options to save ourselves from ourselves? Are the masses so powerless, so timid, so apathetic as to tolerate their own destruction at the hands of a few? Or are we waiting for a “messiah” to liberate us from ourselves? Let me share my own considered political judgment on the subject: celestial interventions never happen in the affairs of nations when people choose to remain indifferent to their own plights, and decide not to change and challenge their own destinies. That is the law of nature – and fundamental aspect of this view is the need to make ethical and moral judgments in one’s own personal and political conduct. Are we doing so? The void has to be filled. The question is: Who will fill this void – this gap – this empty political space – this destruction of us by our own hands?
Tariq Ramadan, Professor of Contemporary Islamic Studies at Oxford University, in January 2012, wrote a remarkably enlightened and intellectually provocative article: “[People all over the world]… are calling for more justice, transparency and true democratic procedures. They feel alienated, disrespected; their social benefits and rights are slowly being eroded and lost. They do not see a future beyond the chaos and they realize that only a few people and institutions are deciding their future far from any democratic process. What is the point to vote if neither the citizens nor the elected people have an effective say about the final decisions. Who then is guiding us?”
Today’s Pakistan remains guide-less, radar-less, direction-less, point-less — driven to the making of a “Criminal Empire” by those who, in fact, are politically irrelevant to the nation’s needs, ideologically insolvent, morally and ethically bankrupt, and absolutely indifferent to the need for making a people’s welfare state.
Let it be a reminder: “The nations are born in the hearts of the poets; they prosper and die in the hands of the politicians.”
Dr. Allama Iqbal (quoted by Raja Mujtaba in his recent article)
TRIAL OF SON TAINTS PAKISTAN’S VENERATED CHIEF JUSTICE
[Chief Justice Chaudhry had recused himself from Tuesday’s proceedings, yet only hours earlier he presided over another high-drama case in a different corner of the gleaming Supreme Court complex that offered a striking example of the broad powers his court has accrued. There, a panel of judges reported its findings that the country’s former ambassador to the United States had secretly approached the Obama administration last year requesting help to stave off a possible military takeover.]
By Declan Walsh And Salman MasoodISLAMABAD, Pakistan — Pakistan’s chief justice has wielded his court as a whip against the status quo, the country’s rich and powerful, calling top government officials and military spymasters to account and asserting himself as a political force in his own right. But on Tuesday he found himself at the center of a new political firestorm when a well-connected property baron stood up in court and accused his family of corrupt dealing, detailing $3.7 million in kickbacks and cash payments.
The allegations were a serious blow for the chief justice, Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, who until now has been virtually venerated by many Pakistanis for his flamboyant court crusades against powerful figures.
In his testimony on Tuesday, the businessman, Malik Riaz Hussain, laid out a seemingly self-incriminating campaign of corruption, implying that he had bankrolled luxury vacations in London, gambling in Monte Carlo and substantial cash kickbacks to Chief Justice Chaudhry’s 32-year-old son and his wife over the past two years.
Mr. Hussain said that Chief Justice Chaudhry’s son, Arsalan Iftikhar, had extracted the payments in return for favorable treatment in a slew of court cases related to his property empire. “I was victimized and blackmailed by him,” he said.
Mr. Hussain did not directly accuse Chief Justice Chaudhry of wrongdoing, but alluded to secret meetings “in the dead of night” between the two men.
“I will make more disclosures,” he told reporters, holding a copy of the Koran in one hand. “I will tell people what is happening in Pakistan.”
The lurid accusations and dark innuendo represented a once-unthinkable challenge to Chief Justice Chaudhry, who has steered the court into new and often controversial legal waters in recent years yet never faced such public questioning about his personal ethical standards.
Chief Justice Chaudhry had recused himself from Tuesday’s proceedings, yet only hours earlier he presided over another high-drama case in a different corner of the gleaming Supreme Court complex that offered a striking example of the broad powers his court has accrued. There, a panel of judges reported its findings that the country’s former ambassador to the United States had secretly approached the Obama administration last year requesting help to stave off a possible military takeover.
The findings, in what has become known here as the “Memogate” scandal, opened the door to possible treason charges against the envoy, Husain Haqqani, a close ally of President Asif Ali Zardari. Chief Justice Chaudhry ordered Mr. Haqqani to return from the United States, where he is now teaching, within two weeks — something few believe is likely.
But such was the atmosphere on Tuesday that the ruling was treated almost as a sideshow to the accusations surrounding the chief justice’s family.
The drama was led by Mr. Hussain, the businessman, who flew into Islamabad from Dubai, United Arab Emirates, on his private jet and proceeded to the courthouse. It was a most uncharacteristic move.
Until now Mr. Hussain, who made a fortune on the back of property development deals with the military, had a reputation as a well-connected but discreet power broker who shunned media attention. But in court his lawyers furnished extensive details of payments that they said were linked to the chief justice’s close family.
Producing copies of air tickets, hotel bills, wire transfers and car hire documents, Mr. Hussain offered an financial account of three European vacations taken by Arsalan Iftikhar in 2010 and 2011. The detail suggested a high-roller more akin to the son of an Arab prince rather than of a Pakistani judge.
During one trip to London in 2010, for example, Mr. Iftikhar spent more than $8,000 to hire a Range Rover for transportation. Later, in Monte Carlo, he spent around $10,000 on four nights at the Hôtel de Paris and worked up more than $12,000 in gambling debts. A year later, he rented an apartment on London’s Park Lane, and stayed with his mother and siblings at the nearby Marriott Hotel.
Mr. Hussain said the tab for the three trips, which cost $168,000, was picked up by his son-in-law, Salman Ahmed Khan, who is based in London. Although he never said it directly, Mr. Hussain gave the impression that he ultimately footed the bill. He also listed four cash payments totaling $3.6 million “made to Arsalan.” Documents lodged in court did not specify where the funds came from, and there was no further confirmation that money had changed hands.
Despite this largess, Mr. Hussain said, his property disputes in court did not progress satisfactorily. “Contrary to promises and assurances, I did not get any relief,” he told the court.
Mr. Hussain said he then warned Chief Justice Chaudhry, through an intermediary, about this son’s demands for money. “There are several other businessman, like me, who are being blackmailed,” he said.
But instead of taking action against the chief justice’s son, the courts charged Mr. Hussain with murder. “Instead of providing me with justice, they tried to screw me more,” he said at a news conference later in the day, holding up copy of the Koran as proof of his honesty.
What was least clear, and most speculated about in the Pakistani public in recent days, was what had motivated Mr. Hussain to come forward. “No one has prompted me,” he insisted.
Chief Justice Chaudhry did not respond directly, but his assistant, the Supreme Court registrar, told reporters that the judge had only met Mr. Hussain before his reinstatement in March 2009.
“This is unprecedented,” said Cyril Almeida, an analyst with the English-language newspaper Dawn. “An institution like the Supreme Court is not designed to withstand this kind of ignominy. It cuts too close to the bone.”
While Chief Justice Chaudhry has been criticized this year for pursuing what was seen as a personal grudge against President Asif Ali Zardari in the courts, he has also been praised for taking on the country’s top generals, including those of the powerful Inter-Services Intelligence directorate, for their part in suspected human rights abuses in the northwest and Baluchistan Province.
Some have speculated that those military cases may have prompted Mr. Hussain’s aggressive actions, which he flatly denied. Still, it appeared clear that the businessman wants to see Chief Justice Chaudhry ousted from office — something that is not easy to achieve.
Under Pakistan’s Constitution, the chief justice can only be fired by the Supreme Judicial Council, which is composed of fellow judges. The last time Chief Justice Chaudhry faced such a council was in spring 2007, when the country’s military ruler at the time, Gen. Pervez Musharraf, tried to have him fired.
That effort ended badly for General Musharraf when the streets filled with huge protests in support of Chief Justice Chaudhry.
Nevertheless, there is little doubt that Chief Justice Chaudhry’s position is suddenly weaker than it has been in years.
Late Tuesday night, local media reported that he had summoned a meeting of the entire Supreme Court bench for June 15 — a move widely interpreted as an attempt to rally his fellow judges behind him.
Mr. Almeida, the columnist, predicated this latest scandal would continue to widen, saying, “In the days ahead we’re going to see more tawdry allegations coming out, skeletons tumbling out of closet.”
@ The New York Times