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EDITORIALS

Army’s warning
Is Zardari being put on notice?

S
ixty
years after its creation, Pakistan is still experimenting with democracy. The latest exercise threw up the Zardari regime, which seems to be in danger. 

Murder, not ragging 
Exemplary punishment to the guilty is called for

D
espite
the Supreme Court ban on ragging in India, it continues unabated. Now, it has claimed another victim. A 19-year-old medical student of Dr Rajendra Prasad Medical College, Tanda in Kangra, has lost his life, allegedly due to the brutal beating he received at the hands of merciless seniors. 


EARLIER STORIES

Et tu, Naveen?
March 10, 2009
Limits of protest
March 9, 2009
Underachievers at school
March 8, 2009
Mahajot in Bengal
March 7, 2009
Pawar at play
March 6, 2009
Blame-game won’t help
March 5, 2009
Pak terror in sporting arena
March 4, 2009
A destabilisation game
March 3, 2009
Zardari courts trouble
March 2, 2009
In quest of a new identity
March 1, 2009


THE TRIBUNE SPECIALS
50 YEARS OF INDEPENDENCE
TERCENTENARY CELEBRATIONS


Politicians’ give-aways
Andhra leaders feel free with people’s money
I
T is raining promises in Andhra Pradesh and there seems to be no limit to the political parties’ promises to the electorate. Telugu Desam Party president Chandrababu Naidu’s Cash Transfer Scheme (CTS) has expectedly raised eyebrows.
ARTICLE

The Satyam fiasco
Nationalisation is the right course
by Rajindar Sachar
T
HE Satyam scandal, which has been described by our Prime Minister as a “blot on our corporate image”, gets murkier every day. The larger question is: when a private management has defrauded the company, should the government bail it out by pumping money in it to let it continue in private ownership? The question arises especially when it is done by ignoring the mandate of Article 39 of the Constitution, which directs that the State shall, in particular, direct its policy towards securing “that the operation of the economic system does not result in the concentration of wealth and means of production to the common detriment….”

MIDDLE

Bold and Blunt
by J.L. Gupta

We completed our round of golf and walked into the Bar. I asked him about his drink. “Anything soft” was the response. Something to munch? “No!” I got a glass of beer. He opted for orange juice. We nursed our drinks. And talked. About various things, including the most popular concern of our leaders. The life of “aam aadmi.”

OPED

Rights and wrongs
Ajmal Kasab has no right to trial
by Dr N.M. Ghatate
Ajmal Kasab
, the lone survivor of the terrorist group, which killed scores of innocent people in Mumbai after a four-day gun battle with the armed forces, is a Pakistani citizen. The question of all questions is: what are his rights under the Indian Constitution and the international law?

Hunting extremists, US hits a wall
by Josh Meyer
U
S efforts to identify and thwart the growing threat posed by Pakistani extremists who enjoy easy access to the United States – and already have a significant presence here – are being undermined by the government of Pakistan, according to current and former U.S. and Western counter-terrorism officials.

Inside Pakistan
by Syed Nooruzzaman

  • All Zardari loyalists

  • Sound of army boots

  • Women in Pakistan




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Army’s warning
Is Zardari being put on notice?

Sixty years after its creation, Pakistan is still experimenting with democracy. The latest exercise threw up the Zardari regime, which seems to be in danger. The Pakistan media has been warning the political class to this effect ever since the Supreme Court judgement disqualifying former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and his brother Shahbaz Sharif from electoral politics led to the straining of relations between the ruling PPP and the opposition PML (N). Now comes the report that Pakistan Army Chief Gen Ashfaq Kiyani is believed to have set the deadline — March 16 — for President Asif Ali Zardari to sort out the problem between him and the Sharif brothers to prevent the situation from taking a turn for the worse. The message is clear: Pakistan is heading towards another bout of army rule if the two principal political parties fail to find a way out for smooth functioning of the government.

March 16 has acquired special significance because the threatened Long March by lawyers will culminate on that day in Islamabad, where an indefinite “sit-in” agitation will be launched outside the federal assembly complex. There are fears of widespread violence as the PML (N) is bound to use the occasion to settle scores with the ruling PPP. Mr Sharif intends to create a condition so that the PPP-led government collapses under its own weight. His idea may be that if fresh elections are held, his party can emerge in a position to form its own government. But that can be possible only if the army remains a silent spectator. Pakistan’s chequered history says the power-hungry army has never allowed an opportunity to go unutilised.

General Kiyani, in fact, has not behaved like his predecessors who simply took over the reins of government when the opportunity came their way. Interestingly, his warning to President Zardari and the rest of the political class has come after the General’s visit to Washington. The US is obviously worried that the Pakistani politicians are helping, directly and indirectly, the extremist and terrorist outfits to strengthen their position. This can weaken the US-led international drive against terrorism. The US does not seem to be happy about the kind of government Islamabad has today. Past experience shows that Washington had no problem in supporting a military regime so long as its interests were protected. It may again look the other way if the civilians begin fighting among themselves, giving another chance to the army to grab power.

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Murder, not ragging 
Exemplary punishment to the guilty is called for

Despite the Supreme Court ban on ragging in India, it continues unabated. Now, it has claimed another victim. A 19-year-old medical student of Dr Rajendra Prasad Medical College, Tanda in Kangra, has lost his life, allegedly due to the brutal beating he received at the hands of merciless seniors. It is shocking that serious crimes are committed in the name of ragging. It involves verbal and physical abuse and at times also sexual assault and rape. The Kangra case amounts to murder.

Ragging, which started as an innocuous custom to break the ice between juniors and seniors, has in the recent past transformed into a kind of sadistic and perverse enjoyment. It often causes trauma to the victims, who carry the burden of the implied insult within themselves, and several of them are compelled to commit suicide. Rightly, the apex court has declared it a criminal offence. The many anti-ragging measures the Supreme Court has suggested, includes cutting off grants to the educational institutions found guilty of protecting the ragging hoodlums. The court has asked all colleges and universities to specify punishment for ragging in their brochures. Parents would also need to tell their children not to indulge in ragging and other nefarious activities.

Ragging shows little sign of ebbing. According to the RK Raghavan Committee report, medical colleges are the worst affected. But ragging is equally rampant in engineering colleges and other institutions. The apex court’s interim order has made it obligatory for academic institutions to file an FIR in the case of a complaint of ragging. Despite a written complaint by the victim Aman Kachroo, why the medical college at Tanda failed to seek the police help must be probed. In the wake of the unfortunate incident, the resignation of the principal and the suspension of the warden and the manager of the college are the steps in the right direction. However, the college management, too, cannot escape its share of blame. The perpetrators of the heinous crime who have been booked by the Himachal Pradesh police for murder deserve no leniency. The punishment for the culprits should be exemplary. 

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Politicians’ give-aways
Andhra leaders feel free with people’s money

IT is raining promises in Andhra Pradesh and there seems to be no limit to the political parties’ promises to the electorate. Telugu Desam Party president Chandrababu Naidu’s Cash Transfer Scheme (CTS) has expectedly raised eyebrows. The very idea of money for vote, as advocated by Mr Naidu, is repugnant to the concept of democracy. This scheme is totally unacceptable to our democratic culture and value system. Under this scheme, Mr Naidu, if voted to power, has promised to give Rs 2,000 every month each to the poorest of the poor, Rs 1,500 to the poor and Rs 1,000 to the middle class families. The issue in question is not only the huge financial burden it would entail on the state exchequer, if implemented, but its adverse effect on the electoral system and the people. Clearly, promising cash to voters amounts to inducing the electorate which is punishable under the law.

While Mr Naidu’s scheme is totally unacceptable, the manner in which Chief Minister Y.S. Rajasekhara Reddy has launched a plethora of populist schemes in the run-up to the elections in the state is equally irresponsible. The government of the day is entitled to carry out effective developmental schemes for the benefit of the poor and weaker sections. It should not, however, promise unrealistic and impractical schemes like free power supply to the farmers and a bagful of giveaways for the voters. Mr Chiranjeevi’s Praja Rajyam Party, too, has promised the moon to the voters. All this suggests that the political parties are willing to promise anything for power. Largesse costs the people.

Surely, the elections should be fought on issues and not on money power which is the root cause of corruption. Excessive, illegal and illegitimate expenditure in elections is translated into huge corruption siphoning off money at every level. Indeed, corruption alters the very nature of political and administrative power. It undermines the market forces, efficiency and trust on a much larger scale, retarding economic growth and distorting democracy. While a political party may promise schemes to alleviate poverty, it cannot promise cash even in the name of carrying forward the benefits of economic reforms to the poor as Mr Naidu intends to do if his party is voted to power. 

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Thought for the Day

My design is to make what haste I can to be gone. — Oliver Cromwell

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The Satyam fiasco
Nationalisation is the right course
by Rajindar Sachar

THE Satyam scandal, which has been described by our Prime Minister as a “blot on our corporate image”, gets murkier every day. The larger question is: when a private management has defrauded the company, should the government bail it out by pumping money in it to let it continue in private ownership? The question arises especially when it is done by ignoring the mandate of Article 39 of the Constitution, which directs that the State shall, in particular, direct its policy towards securing “that the operation of the economic system does not result in the concentration of wealth and means of production to the common detriment….”

The government is trying to find an alternative private investor to Satyam who would be given favourable terms, including bank facilities, to run it. The persistent query being asked by the poor is as to why when the government itself is putting forward its prestige and taking all steps to revive Satyam and when it is obvious that many old customers and market reputation are only being somewhat restored, because of the benign backing by the State, the Central government is hesitating to follow the path of nalionalisation which it followed (1974) when private management squandered many prosperous textile mills by passing the Sick Textile Undertakings (Nationalisation) Act, 1974. That course may deny the present shareholders the benefit of revival of Satyam. And why not, when private shareholding has brought this calamity on itself by its own default?

On the contrary, by nationalising Satyam, the State will create confidence in the foreign buyer and suppliers on the prospect of revival and health of Satyam. And the takeover will not be prohibitive. It can be done by following the legally accepted principle of paying compensation to the existing shareholders on the net worth of Satyam which, in accountancy terms, means paid-up capital plus free reserves. It is no secret that at present, the net worth of Satyam is minimal. Though one may fully sympathies with some innocent small shareholding, but then in free enterprise and speculative economy, investors must take bad along with good and cannot ask their private loss to be compensated by public coffer.

By virtue of nationalisation every liability (other than the liability specifically accepted by the Central Government, say moneys / advances paid by genuine buyers and suppliers) will be the liability only of the old company (owner) and shall be enforceable against him - the properties of Raju family.

A State takeover is not revolutionary. It has a history of successful precedents. The resulting benefit will be that immediately from the takeover Satyam will be discharged from any obligation mortgage, and all other encumbrances created by old management with the result that all attachment, injunction or decree or order of any court restricting the use of such property in any manner shall be deemed to have been withdrawn. More important, it will also free Satyam’s assets from being proceeded against foreign litigation which has been filed against it. But if Satyam is merely revived and then given over to another private investor it will be under obligation for all liability that may be ordered against it by courts or a foreign court. Thus, the whole objective of revival of Satyam will be frustrated.

There is nothing inequitable about such a course. It is obvious that the old Satyam management is totally incapable of running the company on its own and the only manner in which it can continue to function is because of extensive support (already over Rs 600 crore by the banks at the instance of the Central Government). Thus, a situation has developed where the very rationale for the existence of private management has failed. The much vaunted claim of the private entrepreneur like Satyam that its existence is necessary to raise untapped resources in the market by his initiative and risk-bearing capacity for the purposes of rapid and efficient industrialisation is sadly found wanting.

If the only manner in which Satyam can now be kept above water is by relying on the prestige and full guarantee of the Central Government, there would seem to be no reason whatsoever why the government should not directly take over the company.

Obviously, it is not in the public interest that the State should invest large sums of public money in Satyam with a view to bringing it back to health and then return it back to the private management. It makes no difference that there will be a new private investor. If in spite of this fraud, another private investor is to be trusted, it may only justify Marx’s taunt that “the State is the Executive Committee of the bourgeois class”. Thus, a policy decision of nationalising Satyam on the pattern of sick textile mills is the only viable alternative, especially when the Preamble of our Constitution reminds us that “We the people of India have resolved to constitute India into a - Socialist Republic”.

I know the shareholders may suffer but then why government money should be spent to benefit a few. The smaller shareholders may be compensated later on when the company revives. After all, the private shareholder took chance and also participated in the profitability of the company in the past — surely equity is not hurt if now they take the consequences of having ignored the fraudulent activities of the old management controlled by the Rajus.

The most surprising aspect is that with all this fraud and meltdown in the economy, the government is still running away from nationalising Satyam. It is a paradox that in this country where the nationalisation of oil companies and banks has shown far better results than private companies (the ONGC, the nationalised banks and the L.I.C.), the government should resist it, while the US, with its undiluted privatisation thinking, is suggesting nationalisation of some of the biggest banks (even though for a short time) as the only method of recovery of banking institutions.

Even the former Ferderal Reserve Chairman of the US Allan Greenspan, a staunch defender of free market, has had to concede ungrudgingly: “It may be necessary to temporarily nationalise some banks in order to facilitate a swift and orderly restructuring.

An average person may justifiably ask that if the diehard capitalist US is advocating nationalisation of banks, why our Central Government is reluctant regarding Satyam. The query needs an answer.

The writer is a retired Chief Justice of the High Court of Delhi.

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Bold and Blunt
by J.L. Gupta

We completed our round of golf and walked into the Bar. I asked him about his drink. “Anything soft” was the response. Something to munch? “No!” I got a glass of beer. He opted for orange juice. We nursed our drinks. And talked. About various things, including the most popular concern of our leaders. The life of “aam aadmi.”

“The air is polluted. The water is not potable. The roads have pot-holes. The power is inadequate. There is shortage of beds in hospitals and seats in schools. Majority of our people do not have a roof over their heads. They do not get two square meals a day. Life is not secure. Slums and stray dogs are a common sight. How can anyone claim to be concerned for the country much less than the common man? They only talk.”

I tried to tell him that we are a poor nation. We have paucity of funds. There is no work culture. The workmen do not work. Yet, we continue to multiply numerically. Thus, we are poor.

My words make no impression. The young man is not convinced. He counters – “Have you watched the Lok Sabha channel? Have you seen the way our parliamentarians debate and discuss the issues confronting the country? More than half the seats are usually empty. And majority of the people present are either in the ‘well’ or snoring in their seats. Are they fit to lead this nation?”

And then he adds. “Why do the poor remain poor while everyone in the government keeps getting richer? He gives names of bureaucrats who made humble beginning but were now living in luxury. He cites instances of politicians who were poor, but are now living in palaces. And yet, they revise their own pays and perks periodically.”

And then he asks in anger — “Do we work and sweat for their good only? To fill their fat purses? To ensure that even their pets go to the vets in luxury cars? Is the tax-payer not entitled to even the ordinary amenities? If they decide to open schools, they impose ‘education cess.’ If they make a road or a bridge, they levy a toll. If the authorities decide to improve the airport so as to provide some basic facilities, the traveller has to pay ‘user development fee.’ For security, which is the State’s duty, we have to pay the ‘passenger service fee.’ And to add insult to injury, we have to pay the ‘service tax.’ Without the government providing any service.”

I see anger in his eyes. There was a tremor in his voice. As if he had reached the end of the tether. He could not take more. I tried to tell him that one could not paint everyone black. There are good people too. Our problem emanated from the inability to control numbers. The numerical growth neutralises economic progress.

“Even here, the government is to blame. It has failed to control the rise in population. They have either fiddled with figures or followed the policy of appeasement. Today, the bureaucrat is a burden. The politician is a parasite. Gold is their God. Money is the mantra.”

Is he right? We know the truth. But only some say it. They may sound blunt. But they are bold.

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Rights and wrongs
Ajmal Kasab has no right to trial
by Dr N.M. Ghatate

Ajmal Kasab, the lone survivor of the terrorist group, which killed scores of innocent people in Mumbai after a four-day gun battle with the armed forces, is a Pakistani citizen. The question of all questions is: what are his rights under the Indian Constitution and the international law?

The answer assumes grave importance because it is now known worldwide that India is vulnerable to such attacks from citizens of Pakistan and other unfriendly countries. And, secondly, India has been fighting foreign-aided proxy for decades.

First, let us note what the Constitution mandates. Article 21 guarantees the right to life and liberty to all persons whether citizens of India or foreigners, and clauses (1) and (2) of Article 22 state that a person arrested under the criminal law has the right to be informed of the grounds of arrest as soon as possible.

Also, he has the right to consult and be defended by a lawyer of his choice and the right to be produced before the magistrate within 24 hours.

But Clause (3) (a) of this article states that none of these rights are available to a person who, “for the time being, is an enemy alien” and (sub clause b) who is detained under a preventive detention law.

Clauses (4) to (5) of this Article provide some safeguards to the detainee to regain his liberty such as the right to be informed about the grounds of detention, the right to make representation to the detaining authority and to the Advisory Board; and Clause (6) empowers Parliament to make laws regarding the procedure for fixing a time limit, the constitution and the procedure for the Advisory Board.

But the fact is no such rights or power whatever is given to an enemy alien under Clause (3) (a) of Article 22.

When the Constituent Assembly on September 15, 1949, debated this article there was a long-drawn debate about the likely abuse of the preventive detention law but not a whisper about the detention of an enemy alien.

Introducing this article, Dr Ambedkar also said that there cannot be any controversy on this point. At that time, he said, the “exigency of individual liberty should not be placed above the interest of state…or of defence services of the country.”

In a nutshell, an “enemy alien” is a class by itself. According to Basu’s framing of the Constitution, Parliament has the power to make laws regarding an enemy alien provided he is detained under the preventive detention law.

Now the question arises: who is an enemy alien? According to The Halsbury’s Laws of England, an enemy alien is the citizen of a country which is at “war with the Crown”. In other words, there should be a state of war to categorise a person as an “enemy alien”.

It is significant to remember that when the Constitution was framed and adopted in 1950 or the United Nations Charter, which emphasises about human rights, was framed in 1945, the international law recognised a state of war and a state of peace and there was nothing in-between.

The former phrase existed when there was a concept of declaration of war and later after there was a peace treaty but since the second half of the 20th century, this situation has undergone a sea-change in the international law.

There have been wars without an official declaration – for example, the Korean war of 1950, the Sino-Indian war of 1962, the Indo-Pak wars of 1965 and 1971, the Kargil war of 1999 and the recent Iraq war.

In these undeclared wars, both sides followed the international law of war. Soldiers captured in uniform of the other side were given the status of Prisoners of War under the Hague Declaration of 1899 and 1904 i.e. they could not be forced to fight against their own country, officers could not be subjected to manual labour, the Red Cross was permitted to deliver to the POWs their mail and goods without duty.

But, and this is a great but, if any enemy alien is arrested without uniform, he had no rights whatsoever. Such a person is treated as a spy and he could be shot down during the war.

He could also be detained without the right of habeas corpus. No human rights or fundamental liberties under the U.N. Charter and even under our Constitution are made available to him.

Undeclared wars and proxy wars have become a part of international relations and India is neither at war nor at peace with Pakistan and this proxy war is endangering the security, stability and sovereignty of India. Therefore, Ajmal Kasab, who is a citizen of Pakistan and who is caught in civilian clothes, has no right under the Constitution or the international law. Nor does he have the right to trial. Such a clear message should be given to Pakistan, which is conducting a proxy war against India and, furthermore, Pakistan should be told that “Goli” and “Boli” (talks and bullets) cannot go on simultaneously.

The writer is a Senior Advocate of the Supreme Court and former Vice-Chairman of the Law Commission of India.

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Hunting extremists, US hits a wall
by Josh Meyer

US efforts to identify and thwart the growing threat posed by Pakistani extremists who enjoy easy access to the United States – and already have a significant presence here – are being undermined by the government of Pakistan, according to current and former U.S. and Western counter-terrorism officials.

After the terrorist attack in Mumbai, India, in November 2008, the FBI and other U.S. agencies went on red alert, searching for evidence of plotters in the United States. But they were essentially shut down in efforts to work the Pakistan side of the investigation, not only to find additional plotters but to learn more about Lashkar-e-Taiba, the al-Qaida-affiliated Pakistani militant group suspected of orchestrating the attacks, and its global network of cells.

FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III flew to Islamabad last week, in part to press for better cooperation. But the FBI and other U.S. officials have been denied access to about 20 members of Lashkar, including about six senior officials also suspected of heading the group's global operations and fundraising.

A senior Pakistani official said the government wants to cooperate with U.S. authorities, but it must do so slowly and investigate the militants independently or risk a backlash from the populace and the military, which view them as strategically important assets.

"The big picture is that the civilian government in Pakistan is trying to set things right," the Pakistani official said. "But there will always be some people who say, how far back do you want to reach" – in terms of investigating the Pakistani militant groups and the Islamabad government's long-standing ties to them ... Can we just say, `Come in, guys, and find anything you want on Lashkar-e-Taiba and shut it down'? It's not going to happen."

Bruce Riedel, a former South Asia specialist for the CIA and National Security Council, said after the Mumbai attacks that Pakistan has long protected the militant groups. He warned that a "global jihadist syndicate" of disaffected young Pakistanis is the most likely mechanism for launching an attack on U.S. soil, possibly with al-Qaida.

Riedel, who chairs the Obama administration's Pakistan-Afghanistan strategy review, said Mumbai was only the latest of several attacks by such militants on soft targets frequented by Americans, including hotels in Kabul, Afghanistan and Islamabad.

Juan C. Zarate, the deputy national security adviser for counter-terrorism in the administration of President George W. Bush, said: "We are and should be concerned about the threat LT poses," using a popular acronym for Lashkar. Its name means "Army of the Pure."

Lashkar "doesn't just reside in South Asia. It is an organization that has potential reach all over the world, including the U.S," he said, adding that there are "LT-tied individuals in the country that we need to be concerned about."

U.S. and allied intelligence shows that potentially tens of thousands of Pakistanis have trained in Lashkar's guerrilla camps in Pakistan, and many of those trainees have gone on to work with al-Qaida. That includes a small number of U.S. residents, some of whom are believed to have returned to the United States. Nearly a dozen Americans, including many members of the "Virginia Jihad Network," have been convicted in U.S. courts of training at Lashkar camps.

Evidence confiscated from other, often computer-savvy, young militants shows a Lashkar interest in the Washington area, New York, California, Georgia and other locations, according to interviews and court testimony.

But authorities say their greater concern is the thousands of disaffected Westerners and Pakistanis in Britain and other "visa waiver" countries in Europe who travel frequently to Pakistan. An unknown number of those have trained in Lashkar camps and, after being indoctrinated in its hatred of the West and returning home, they are free to travel to the United States with only a cursory last-minute background check.

The recent commando-style attack on Sri Lanka's cricket team in Pakistan bore many similarities to Mumbai, prompting a warning by U.S. intelligence agencies about the possibility of domestic strikes against American sports events and teams. The assault in Lahore left eight people dead, six of them policemen.

According to Riedel and other U.S. terrorism officials, Lashkar and other Pakistani militants are, in many ways, a bigger threat to U.S. interests around the world than al-Qaida, whose leadership is on the run from numerous CIA airstrikes in the Pakistani tribal areas.

Many of Lashkar's leaders have close operational ties to al-Qaida, and the group has long embraced its concept of a global jihad, or holy war, against the west.

Lashkar has funded and trained fighters to attack U.S. forces in Iraq and Afghanistan, often in conjunction with its allies in the Taliban. Lashkar-affiliated militants also have been involved in several plots against U.S. and allied interests overseas – including the 2005 London subway bombings that killed 52 people, the surveillance of Wall Street and other U.S. financial hubs, and a 2006 plan to blow up as many as dozen commercial jetliners as they crossed the Atlantic Ocean from London to the United States.

U.S. officials say that Pakistan cooperates in going after foreign al-Qaida fighters within its boundaries, but that it often refuses to cooperate significantly in important counter-terrorism efforts focusing on Pakistani militant groups like Lashkar.

— By arrangement with LA Times-Washington Post

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Inside Pakistan
by Syed Nooruzzaman
All Zardari loyalists

President Asif Zaradri may be feeling uneasy owing to the challenge posed by Mr Nawaz Sharif and the agitating lawyers, but his position is getting strengthened day by day in various ways. An interesting news item carried in The News (March 8) has it that many important posts are going to be vacant soon. Mr Zardari will obviously ensure that these posts are occupied by his loyalists.

Chief Justice of Pakistan Abdul Hameed Dogar will retire on March 21, Chief Election Commissioner Justice Qazi Mohammad Farooq (retd) on March 14 and Senate Chairman Mohammadmian Soomro on March 11. The chief justices of the four high courts will be elevated to the Supreme Court and their positions will obviously go to those considered “friendly”. Islamabad High Court Chief Justice Sardar Alam was elevated to the Supreme Court before he could retire on March 8.

It is believed that Chief Justice Dogar may be allowed to continue to preside over the Supreme Court as his continuance fits in with the scheme of things of the ruling PPP.

Sound of army boots

There are fears that the threatened protest march by lawyers, to be followed by a sit-in programme in Islamabad, may spell serious trouble for the PPP government. It may become uncontrollable because of the involvement of Mr Nawaz Sharif’s PML (N), one of two largest parties of Pakistan.

 The issue of restoring the judiciary’s status quo ante has acquired emotional overtones. People may come out in large numbers and choke the streets of the affected cities, including Islamabad. Mr Sharif’s call for “a revolution” is bound to have the maximum impact in Punjab.

According to The News (March 9), “Many fear chaos. People have begun stocking up food items. All this is all the more alarming as it comes at a time when the dreaded tread of army boots can be at least faintly heard somewhere in the distance.”

Political analyst Ghazi Salahuddin, in an article (March 8) in the same paper, says that “a point of no return has been reached, though hectic efforts for reconciliation are underway by provincial leaders who have a vested interest in the present (political) arrangement. Considering Asif Zardari’s rigid stance on the pivotal issue of restoration of Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry, it is hard to imagine how they can pacify a rebellious Nawaz Sharif in these climactic moments when the die is cast. Some seasoned analysts can hear the approaching sound of army boots.”

 The Frontier Post, however, is more critical of Mr Sharif than Mr Zardari. The left-leaning daily says, “His (Mr Sharif’s) call for settling matters on the street is a double-ender; it cuts both ways. Wielding the street power for deciding what has to be done at the ballot box, legislative chambers or political forums is a very dicey enterprise.”

In an analysis of the emerging scenario, Rasul Bakhsh Rais, a well-known author and professor at the Lahore University of Management Sciences, says in Daily Times (March 10), “For the people and the army, there is a limit to power games and how long they can be allowed to linger. We are not sure if the country has reached that point, but the current situation cannot last very long. It would be unfortunate if the supreme leaders of both major parties refuse to listen to voices of reason and continue with their refusal to learn from their own sufferings in the past.”

Women in Pakistan

While the position of women has never been comfortable in Pakistan, the situation has become worse with the extremist outfits influencing the course of politics and other activities. What has been happening to them in Malakand-Swat division, where the government has entered into a deal with the extremists, is well known. Dawn quoted Aurat Foundation to highlight that “7,733 women fell victim to all kinds of violence in 2008.”

The paper says, “At a time when awareness of women’s rights has been growing worldwide, in Pakistan as well, it is paradoxical that violence against them should be on the rise. It is a measure of our low civilisational development that the use of violence by the powerful to subjugate the weak should be so widespread.”

Former military ruler Gen Pervez Musharraf got himself discredited because of his various follies, but his tenure as President is remembered for encouraging measures taken for women’s emancipation. The News (March 8) says, “Legislation introduced under President Pervez Musharraf has brought more women into assemblies and local government than ever before; many of the worst provisions of the hudood ordinances have been repealed and harsher penalties put in place for ‘honour’ killings.”

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