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Archive for May, 1993

With Bated Breath!

The eloquence of Khalid Anwar and the pronounced filibuster of Aziz Munshi notwithstanding, the merit of the Petitioners case in the Supreme Court against the Presidential Dissolution Order of April 18, 1993 will probably hinge on one crucial finding, did the President have the Constitutional authority to dissolve the National Assembly once it had been called into Session by the Speaker given the fact that once the National Assembly was so-called by the Speaker only he could prorogue it? The extraordinary argument by the Respondent’s Counsel that the President does not hear radio or see TV and so he did not know about the Speaker’s summoning of the NA lends weight to the conviction that even the Respondents concede this point to the Petitioner. Logic would dictate that once the fact of the Speaker’s earlier calling of the National Assembly became known to the President later, his Order should have been subsequently withdrawn. Given this argument as a core of the entire case, one speculates that on this one point alone, the National Assembly will certainly be restored by the Supreme Court.

While his mind has been functioning as sharp as a razor, Aziz Munshi’s heart was quite apparently not into a vigorous Presentation of the Respondent’s arguments. It is demeaning to see a brilliant lawyer searching to establish credibility in the face of the obvious, his arguments did not carry the weight of his own conviction. He seemed to be besieged, fighting a losing battle, probably the best he has been hoping for is a finding by the Honourable Justices of the Supreme Court that Nawaz Sharif may have to seek a fresh vote of confidence from the Members of the National Assembly before he can resume his interrupted stint as the Prime Minister of Pakistan. One can only guess that the in-camera proceedings would carry weight but would not sway the Court. It may be pure speculation but a positive verdict happens to be generally the perception of the intelligentsia and the masses, a street-smart population is almost never wrong. For over four decades they have despaired of being the masters of their own destiny, their so-called public servants having usurped that right and turned them into slaves. Now they see a pronounced ray of hope, any attempt to try and extinguish this by means other than Constitutional would amount to sacrilege, of the ethical and moral kind.

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Mission: Survival

The wolves are at the nation’s door in a pack and our house is burning from within. Instead of strengthening the nation from within and without we are engaged in an internecine quarrel that feeds the fire, does not quell it, that invites external interference, does not deter it. One does not need to look far for consequences, the plight of Muslims at the hands of majority Hindus in India to the East, at the hands of the Indian Occupation Forces in Kashmir to the North East and at the hands of fellow Muslims to the Northwest in Afghanistan, all serving as gory examples in graphic detail of the apocalypse staring us in the face.

With the deepest respects for the Supreme Court, whatever decision is given, the winners would use their incumbency to “guarantee” victory in the general elections. This will not satisfy the requirements of lasting electoral peace, may indeed further polarize the political crisis and create a Catch-22 situation. The major political parties would be helpless as long as power remains firmly in the hands of the Provincial Governments which are not really representative, which is why all the parties other than Chatta’s PML are asking for dissolution of the Provincial Assemblies and the appointing of Caretaker Provincial Governments on the lines of the Centre. Which is probably why PPP is talking about dissolution in the same breath as about a possible election alliance with Chatta’s PML!

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The Sindh Cauldron

The Federal Government ordered the Pakistan Army in May 1992, at the “request” of the Sindh Government, to restore the rule of law in the Province. Rather than giving them powers under Article 245 of the Constitution as demanded by the Army during the Beg era, Article 147 was mandated as being enough to accomplish the mission. The complexities of the situation demanded that the first phase was to physically eliminate the various marauding gangs in the urban and rural areas. Their potential to foster anarchy having been destroyed, the second phase was to eliminate those who were actually responsible for controlling, aiding and abetting crime. While the first phase was a success, the ground rules laid down by Article 147 (notwithstanding the amendments made later) and divergence from the substance of the original mission frustrated the efforts of the Army in eradicating the root cause of the trouble in the Province.

Formerly Commander 5 Corps before he became Chief of General Staff and then COAS, late Gen Asif Nawaz was best equipped to disseminate his inherent Sindh knowledge in the successful tactical execution of Operation Clean-up but why are we still at square one (except in interior Sindh) as far as the strategic results are concerned? Gen Beg had been far-sighted in refusing to “chase shadows” with powers less than comprehensive to deal with criminals through the whole strata of society. The compelling circumstances being absolute anarchy around the corner in a crucial Province, late Gen Asif Nawaz had hardly any choice but to bite the bullet. The Army hierarchy was extremely naive in assuming that having had their chestnuts pulled out of the fire, the Establishment politicians in the Provincial Government had any sincere intention of allowing justice to take its natural course and allowing their supporters in the Army’s famous list of 72 “Untouchables” to be picked up. In American parlance, the Army was used, the military hierarchy was had, taken for a ride.

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Pakistan as a terrorist state

The US State Department has sent the names of Pakistan and Sudan to US Congress for debate and consideration for being declared as terrorist States. Pakistan has been living for some time on a fine-line from such a distinction that would put us alongside Iran, Libya, Iraq, North Korea, etc, notwithstanding the morality of an erstwhile ally, the US, in turning 180 degrees around from its own stance during the Afghan war with respect to the commitment to support freedom movements. One should not be under any illusion that Pakistan’s inclusion in terrorist State status will not cause great hardships to the population of the country economically and politically. One must also not be under any illusion that the US does not know what is going on inside Kashmir, that would be insulting one’s intelligence (and that is not intended as a pun). We are back therefore to Square One where we started back in 1976 when US Secretary of State, Henry Kissinger, promised to make an “horrible example” out of us if we did not desist from our nuclear pretensions, US economic and military aid was then terminated forthwith. That brings us to the final loss of illusion that having been the frontline State in the successful prosecution of the “hot” war in Afghanistan (and by proxy the cold war against the Soviet Union) which led to the destruction of the “evil empire” (sic former President Reagan), the nation that opposed the US tooth and nail in every forum and at every conceivable opportunity over four decades, India, should now reap the rewards of the various sacrifices that Pakistan gave, especially during the 80s decade.

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Some Days in May

The indications are that the Caretaker Government has weathered the immediate financial storm that arose out of the Presidential dismissal of the Nawaz Sharif regime and the dissolution of the National Assembly. After a staggering first week when banks had to import US dollars to meet the rush of depositor withdrawals, the run has been stemmed. Except for those panic-stricken in the wake of the make-up of the Caretaker Government, the rest took notice of the repeated pronouncements of the Caretaker Finance Minister that they would continue the liberal policies of the Nawaz Sharif government. While decrying the Singer, this amounted to support for the Nawaz Sharif Song of the three D’s, Deregulation, Disinvestment and Denationalisation. This was a pragmatic acceptance of the obvious, that the policies annunciated by Nawaz Sharif would lead to the economic betterment of the nation and his far-reaching liberal reforms were starting to permeate into society on a broad front.

The fact that the economy has remained stable after surviving such a shock and has not continued to erode is because of the resilience of Pakistan’s economy, primarily because of the parallel economy that still persists in elongevity and secondarily due to the building up of investor confidence in institutions rather than individuals. As such, Nawaz Sharif, in a perverse way, has helped to stabilise the present Caretaker government, they are reaping the benefits of his courage and far-sightedness in unshackling the hold of the bureaucracy on the economy. What has been done in the way of reforms cannot be immediately undone. Market forces, rather than government instructions, have created an in-built resilience. Recognition of the obvious by the Caretaker Government meant that they shied away from being labelled as Undertakers of the economy, what could have happened if the situation had been handled less adroitly is open to speculation.

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Death of a Moderate

Azeem Tariq, Chairman MQM and lately leader of his own MQM faction, was brutally murdered in his own house by unknown assailants in the early hours of May Day in a Gang land-type assassination reminiscent of the worst days of Chicago mob warfare. Remaining underground after the army action to restore law and order in the urban areas of Sindh in June 1992, he had emerged from hiding a few months ago and gradually distanced himself from his former colleague and charismatic leader of the MQM, Altaf Hussain, now in self-imposed exile in London. In the past few days before his death, Azeem Tariq had been vocally critical of Altaf Hussain, laying out facts hitherto suspected but not otherwise widely evidenced, that the MQM had been essentially a creation of our intelligence agencies and that he, along with Altaf Hussain, had been regularly receiving money from them particularly during the MQM’s formative years. In countries where democratic institutions are seldom allowed to flourish, intelligence agency sponsored political parties are not a strange phenomenon.

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Death of a moderate

Azeem Tariq, Chairman MQM and lately leader of his own MQM faction, was brutally murdered in his own house by unknown assailants in the early hours of May Day in a Gang land-type assassination reminiscent of the worst days of Chicago mob warfare. Remaining underground after the army action to restore law and order in the urban areas of Sindh in June 1992, he had emerged from hiding a few months ago and gradually distanced himself from his former colleague and charismatic leader of the MQM, Altaf Hussain, now in self-imposed exile in London. In the past few days before his death, Azeem Tariq had been vocally critical of Altaf Hussain, laying out facts hitherto suspected but not otherwise widely evidenced, that the MQM had been essentially a creation of our intelligence agencies and that he, along with Altaf Hussain, had been regularly receiving money from them particularly during the MQM’s formative years. In countries where democratic institutions are seldom allowed to flourish, intelligence agency sponsored political parties are not a strange phenomenon.

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