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Abuse of Accountability Law to curb Freedom of the Press

The National Accountability Ordinance, 1999, was made by Musharraf, a military dictator, with the only aim of consolidating his usurpation of political power and to lock away political activists and dissidents in prison. The Ordinance was made with the unambiguous intentions of doing away with the presumption of innocence until proven guilty, the longstanding legal principles of bail and of the general safeguards of a fair trial and due process.

The Accountability Law also provides for long detentions of individuals during the investigation of alleged offences, not just individuals standing trial. This is simply an affront to the Constitutionally protected fundamental rights of liberty and security of person and of the right to a fair trial, a clear redundant vestige of the dictatorial era it comes from.

Bail stems from the principle of presumption of innocence of an accused. When a person is standing trial, since they are presumed innocent, they are given bail instead of being kept in pre-trial detention. After all, should a person be found innocent after trial, no form of compensation could make up for the deprivation of liberty. True to its purpose of a draconian dictatorial law, the law did not provide for bail, and instead provided for lengthy detention before trial.

The High Courts in Pakistan, in order to provide extraordinary relief in such matters allowed bail through a Constitution Petition to the High Court under Article 199 of the Constitution of Pakistan.

Following the end of Musharraf’s regime and restoration of a democratic setup when the Constitution of Pakistan was overhauled in 2010, it saw the introduction of Right to a Fair Trial as a constitutionally enshrined and protected fundamental right. The abuse of this law however continued unchecked.

It was as if the establishment actively worked behind the scenes to undermine the elected governments of PPP and the PML-N while these parties were in power. It was ironic that during the 2008-2018 period, no Prime Minister was allowed to complete their 5 year term. The accountability laws played a central role in that.

Former Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi maintains his innocence and has stated that he was victimized by the establishment and NAB for failing to fall in line. He has demanded an open and public televised trial. Similarly, Khawaja Saad Rafique, the former Railways Minister claims that he  is being victimized for defeating Imran Khan in the polls in his constituency.

When Musharraf took over, and the Musharraf regime and the establishment had to break-up the ruling PML-N, they used the accountability laws to force people into the newly formed PML-Q and made a forward bloc in the PPP called the patriot bloc. This happened once again when the establishment broke out electable from the PPP and PML-N to bring the PTI into power before the 2018 general elections, for example, Usman Buzdar, the current PTI Chief Minister of Punjab was a back-bencher in the PML-N and switched parties about month before the General Election. Again accountability laws were the stick to the carrot of being in power.


Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman, the chief editor of Jang Group of Newspapers was arrested by the National Accountability Bureau even before the opening of an investigation of an offence that allegedly took place more than three decades ago.

This could not be a more blatant attack on the Freedom of the Press in violation of not just Constitutionally protected rights of liberty and security of person by the state.

The Chairman of the National Accountability Bureau, Justice (r) Javed Iqbal, who ordered the arrest, is a retired judge of the Supreme Court. One could have been mistaken to have believed that a person who has held such high office would have been more mindful of the law and the Constitution and of individual rights, liberties and freedoms. However, Javed Iqbal, appears to have not only trampled upon Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman’s constitutionally protected rights but also on the Freedoms of the Press, perhaps at the behest of the establishment.

The establishment has been trying to reign in the Dawn group by withholding advertisements. There has been a viscous propaganda against the Jang group by labeling them as Indian agents and traitors.

The Jang Group, like the Dawn Group, has been a fiercely independent news group. It is shameful and unconstitutional that the state, through a retired judge and a public servant are persecuting a journalist for their own, unlawful ends.

There are numerous videos of PM Imran Khan before and after the election saying that he would persecute Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman using the NAB. It is pretty clear that the present government is using the same tools they have been using to rein in politicians to reign in the media. Needless to say that this is clearly unlawful and unconstitutional.

The arrest is unlawful. Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman was arrested at the stage of “complaint verification”. He is not an accused in any case, nor is he under investigation. There is no provision in the National Accountability Ordinance, 1999, which empowers NAB to arrest him at this stage.

The Supreme Court of Pakistan, interpreting Article 4 of the Constitution has held that a statutory body can only do what it is permitted by law to do, unlike a natural person who can do whatever the law does not prohibit.

The National Accountability Bureau had implemented a policy last year to not to harass, call or arrest businessmen, entrepreneur and members of the general public, and it now appears that either they are violating that policy blatantly, or are selectively applying them.

In either case, that makes the arrest and detention on mere suspicion and without a formal charge, unlawful, and the resultant effect unconstitutional.


It is imperative that the National Accountability Bureau raises no baseless objections to the release of Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman to save whatever reputation and image it can salvage.

In the present situation, the High Courts of Sindh and Islamabad are releasing all individuals on bail in such cases in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman’s case ought not to be an exception, however the wheels of justice turn very slowly in this country.

This illegal arrest should also be taken as an opportunity to critically review and analyse this relic of the dictatorial regime. The Parliament ought to repeal it, and perhaps replace it with a better, more balanced and debated piece of legislation which safeguards the rights of individuals accused of or even suspected of an alleged offence.

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Blog Social Issues

Travesty of Democracy

Pakistan held its general elections in 2018, to select its third successive democratic government, after almost a decade of military dictatorship under the Musharraf era.

Putting Things in Perspective

Before the 2018 polls, when the PML-N was in power, the PTI protested: it alleged poll rigging and election engineering. The 2018 polls brought the PTI, a party formed in 1996 into power. A party that had been on the sidelines for over two decades now held the reins of power. It is no surprise that on its own the PTI hardly ever had any political clout – it was brought into power by a process of election engineering orchestrated by those at the core of the state-within-the-state. The so-called electables were directed to join the PTI. Every other day a renowned politician would leave behind the corruption and crimes of the past and turn over a new leaf by joining the PTI. PTI was calling for accountability; all the electable politicians were joining it en masse – the very people the party was claiming to overthrow were becoming part of it. Each candidate was carefully hand-picked. Even a clearance was sought from the state-within-the-state. Even people like Sheikh Rasheed, for whom Imran famously said in a speech that he would never even appoint him as a peon, was brought on the team and has a seat on the Federal Cabinet as the Minister of Railways. It wasn’t too surprising that after extensive horse trading, the PTI was also able to appoint its own Chair of the upper house of Parliament even though it was in a minority.

You Become What You Hate

After coming into power, the Imran-lead PTI government started a vicious campaign of victimization of political rivals and election engineering. A process of selective accountability had already begun before the elections. Nawaz Shareef, the PML-N leader, his daughter and son-in-law had already been sentenced to prison. This judgment was so hastily made before the 2018 general elections, that after the elections the courts had to release the trio after the appeals were filed. Nawaz however remains in custody over other cases.

Shahbaz Shareef, the leader of the opposition in Parliament, and his son Hamza Shahbaz, the leader of the opposition in the Punjab Assembly, were also dragged in. Asif Zardari and his sister Faryal Talpur were eventually brought in as well. Other leaders of the opposition including former Federal Minister for Railways Khawaja Saad Rafique, Sindh Assembly’s Speaker Agha Siraj Durrani and others were imprisoned as well. The National Accountability Bureau is all but a tool in the hands of every incumbent government; in fact it was created during the Musharraf era to crack down on politicians.

The Federal Investigation Agency also arrested the President of PML-N’s youth wing over posting “hateful content” against the state on the internet. Ironically, the Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act, 2016, the draconian law under which this arrest was made was passed by the Parliament when the PML-N was in power, against strong protests by the civil society who had warned of the strong possibility of this law to be used to stifle freedom of speech.

In addition to this the two Members of Parliament (MNAs) from FATA were accused of an armed assault at a military check-post by the Military’s mouthpiece and were later taken into custody by the Counter Terrorism Department. One of the key figures behind this political engineering, the incumbent law minister, gave an unsolicited advise to the National Assembly’s speaker, to not to issue production orders for the FATA MNAs.

The PTI government is actively engaging in pre-poll rigging. Two candidates from the former FATA region, were imprisoned by the PTI lead Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government under the Maintainance of Public Order Ordinance, 1960, another draconian law from the dictatorship era of Ayub Khan. The Election Commission took notice of this eventually and ordered their release.

“It has come in the notice of this Commission that one Mr Muhammad Arif (independent contesting candidate from PK-113, South Waziristan-I) and Mr Muhammad Iqbal (independent contesting candidate from PK-114, South Waziristan-II), have been arrested by the Deputy Commissioner, South Waziristan on 19th June, 2019 and 24th June, 2019, respectively, allegedly under Section 3 of the West Pakistan Maintenance of Public Order Ordinance, 1960 (MPO) for one month and both the candidates have been sent to jails of Dera Ismail Khan and Haripur…”

Election Commission of Pakistan

The Election Commission also noted that the arrests made after the announcement of the election schedule were “tantamount to pre-poll rigging”.

And just recently, Rana Sanaullah, former Home Minister of Punjab and the President of PML-N in Punjab, was arrested by the Anti-Narcotics Force. This reminds of an incident a few years back when a friend of mine was stopped by the police in North Nazimabad, Karachi who checked his license and registration, and after finding everything in order, asked for a large bribe. When my friend asked what that was for, the officer calmly replied that if my friend refused, they would “find” a large quantity of marijuana in a search of him and his car; since possession can even carry a death penalty, he had no other option but to bribe. It is even more shocking to see the PTI government or the establishment stoop so low to victimize political opponents and to force them to change their political affiliations.

Freedom of Speech? Shut Up!

The PTI government is also taking extreme measures to stifle freedom of speech. When Muhammad bin Salman was visiting Pakistan, some journalists changed their display pictures on social media to a picture of Jamal Khashoggi, the Saudi journalist murdered by Saudi agents inside the Saudi Arabian consulate in Istanbul since it is widely believed that MBS personally ordered the brutal murder. As a response to this benign protest, the Federal Investigation Agency opened an inquiry against the journalists for an alleged social media campaign against MBS.

Furthermore, while Article 66 of the Constitution states that there shall be (unrestricted) freedom of speech in the Parliament, the PTI appointed Speaker of the lower house of Parliament, has “banned” the use of word selected from use in Parliament in connection with the opposition calling Imran Khan a Selected Prime Minister.

Press? What Press?

Similarly, when people were protesting the enforced disappearances of their loved ones by organizing a sit-in outside the residence of President Arif Alvi in Karachi, there was a virtual media black-out: no media outlet was allowed to cover the protest. Such draconian censorship of the press in unprecedented. Those peaceful protesters were arrested by the police and false cases of rioting, rioting with deadly weapons, waging or attempting to wage war or abetting the waging of war against Pakistan, and criminal conspiracy were registered against the protesters. The President was silent.

Similarly, last night Asif Ali Zardari’s interview with Hamid Mir, which was being conducted in the Parliament House was pulled off-air. The anchor without specifying who was behind it stated that Pakistan is no more a free country. Not just that, a subsequent interview of the anchor was also pulled off-air. In response to this Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) the state’s media regulator stated that it had nothing to do with the censorship.

Not just Democracy but Justice too

On February 6, 2019, a Supreme Court bench gave its verdict on the 2017 Faizabad sit-in organized by the TLP. During this sit-in, a uniformed Pakistan Army general was seen distributing cash to the anti-government protesters. The judgment, authored by Justice Qazi Faez Isa, a fiercely independent, upright and credible judge, criticized the armed forces and the intelligence agencies for acting outside the scope of the statutory authority. This brought Justice Isa into the cross-hairs. Justice Isa is expected to be the Chief Justice of Pakistan at the time of the 2023 general elections and thus came to be seen as a hurdle in political engineering at the time of the elections.

In what looks like an apparent attempt to undermine the independence of the judiciary and to remove Justice Qazi Faez Isa from office, President Arif Alvi moved two references to the Supreme Judicial Council to remove Supreme Court’s Justice Qazi Faez Isa and Sindh High Court’s Justice Karim Khan Agha. This was followed by selective leaks to the press to undermine the judges’ credibility. It later emerged that the references the President filed were sent to him by the law minister Farogh Naseem.

Lawyers all over the country have come out and protested against this move: there is a firm belief among the lawyers, judges and other intellectuals of the country that this move is nothing but an attempt to undermine the independence of the judiciary and muzzle independent judges. The Lawyers’ Movement back in 2007 lead to the ousting of Musharraf from power after he tried to undermine the judiciary and remove the then Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry.

Even as the lawyers and the Bar Councils and Bar Associations stood against these blatant steps to demolish the hard-won independence of the judiciary in the name of accountability, Farogh Naseem the law minister, a former lawyer, invited state counsels to his residence and had them issue a statement saying they stood for accountability across the board and that judges should not be able to escape accountability.

The Pakistan Bar Council, the provincial Bar Councils and the lawyers are still protesting and standing in support of Justice Qazi Faez Isa and Justice Karim Khan Agha to foil these attempts.

Either the PTI government is directly responsible for all these steps to cause a travesty of democracy, or they are mere rubber stamps for the establishment which has selected Imran Khan as the Prime Minister and brought the PTI into power.

What would Complete Accountability Look Like?

During the protests and sit-in in Islamabad which was lead by Imran Khan, the PTI workers clashed with the police outside the Parliament, in Imran’s own words, to make Nawaz Shareef run away.

Pakistan Secretariat, the seat of the federal bureaucracy and the offices of PTV, the state broadcaster, were attacked. PTV’s offices were ransacked and vandalized by the protesters. Cases, which included the charge of terrorism, were registered and the accused included Imran Khan and Arif Alvi, the PTI leaders leading the protests. Some time later, a recording of a phone call between Arif Alvi and Imran Khan was leaked into the press, Arif Alvi was heard telling Imran Khan of the ongoing ransacking and vandalism of the PTV offices, and Imran Khan expressed pleasure over it, saying that they had to increase the pressure to make sure Nawaz Shareef resigned. These two are the key accused in the case, however one holds the office of the Prime Minister and the other the office of the President. The case is not being proceeded as Arif Alvi enjoys immunity from criminal prosecution while he hold the office of President.

While “accountability” proceedings against political opponents and even judges are in full swing, similar proceedings against members of the PTI-lead federal cabinet are not being proceeded, and the clear beneficiaries of this selective accountability are not just the PM himself, but the Defense Minister and a number of other ministers and advisers.

Ironic, isn’t it? Two men facing trial for terrorism trying to imprison political rivals on allegations of corruption and removing judges over their tax returns.

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Blog Social Issues

Is an Immoral Law a Good Law?

Is an Immoral Law a Good Law?
The question may be a misleading one; to clear this, I will not look into what the words moral (or immoral) or good might mean in this context, I would rather define them just as we begin.

Statua Iustitiae - Lady JusticeMoral, in this context would be concerned with the principles of right and wrong: in the sense of what one believes or perceives to be wrong.
Good, in this context would mean valid and acceptable.

This simplifies the question at hand: Would a law, which is wrong in principle, be deemed to be a valid and acceptable law?

This question deals with the centuries old debate between the Naturalist and the Positivist view of law.
According to the Positivist view, a law is a law when it is validly enacted or proclaimed, and is binding in its entirety, regardless of whether it is moral or not.
The Naturalist view on the other hand is that, an immoral law is not a good law: a law must be moral to be valid. It must conform to the basic standards of right and wrong; a law which is unjust or immoral will not be law.

On the offset it is easy to dismiss the Naturalistic view: law is what distinguishes the right from the wrong. How could a law be wrong?

To better understand the Naturalistic view, and to appreciate for what it stands, we must understand what law is, and what purpose it serves.

I would argue that law is the collective embodiment of the rules a society makes for itself. Law is the foundation of a civilized society. Just as morality of the society evolves, so must the law. An old law, by today’s standards may be immoral and unjust.

An example may be the Witchcraft Acts enacted by different countries throughout the world in the 16th Century, and the inquisitions, trials and lawful executions that were done under them, by today’s standards are immoral and unjust. Surprisingly enough, these remnants of the past continue to exist in statute books of some countries.

Let us change the question to this: would the implementation of the Witchcraft Act, to accuse and punish an individual on the pseudoscience contained in the law, be moral and just? Should it be enforced?

The Trial and Death of SocratesIn Plato’s work Crito, the reason Socrates gives for his obedience to the law and the nature of the law, reflects upon the utility of law for a society. Law is what a civilized society is built upon.

It also makes one see the potential for abuse in a democracy. Democracy has the tendency to become mob rule: where the majority oppresses a minority.

Abusive laws are all around us: law has mandated slavery, racial segregation, suppressed classes of humans based on their sex, economic status, race, color and lineage. This was true in the past, and is still true today in many jurisdictions.

The concept of liberty, individual autonomy and human rights play their part in protecting an individual. According to a widely circulate quote, misattributed to Benjamin Franklin:

Democracy is two wolves and a lamb voting on what to have for lunch. Liberty is a well-armed lamb contesting the vote.

Liberty and Freedom are a recognition of certain rights which may not be taken away, not even by a 99% vote.

Many modern constitutional democracies like the United States, India, France, Germany etc. do recognize this. The US Bill of Rights and the French Declaration of the Rights of Man recognize certain rights, freedoms and liberties that the state cannot take away, under any circumstances.

This may be seen as either Naturalistic or Positivistic; consider the following statements:

  • Human Rights are protected because the Constitution says they are protected.
  • The Constitution protects Human Rights because they ought to be protected.

The first one sees Constitutional schemes to protect rights as Positivistic and the second sees them as Naturalistic.

Human RightsUnder either circumstances, an immoral law will not be a good law, regardless of whether it isn’t a good law because it is immoral or because another, higher law, the Constitution, says so.

Things become interesting when in the absence of a Constitution, an immoral law is considered in abstract: would a law condemning disabled children to death, be a good law?

The answer may depend on whether it is enforced. The Witchcraft Act is a valid piece of legislation existing in the statute books of countries like South Africa and Israel. Is it enforced? No. Would it still count as a good law? That might be a question of whether it would be enforced when it needs to be.

Martin Luther King Jr- Unjust Laws
One has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws. -Martin Luther King Jr.

Would I personally enforce an immoral law? Not if it violates the rights and liberties of a person for no fault of their own. At the end of the day, law is the embodiment of the collective wishes of the people. If the majority brutally crushed the minority using the law, then instead of serving as a utility the law would become a weapon or an excuse to commit atrocities – the Nazi Germany, for example, used laws to exterminate the old, sick and disabled, and minorities.

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Blog Published Social Issues

Does Right to Life include a Right to End Life?

As part of my LLB, I wrote a research essay on Suicide and Assisted Suicide.

The research essay was titled “Does Right to Life include a Right to End Life? Legal challenges to suicide and assisted suicide.”

In the essay I explored the Right to Life, protected by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. In the analysis of this right, I explored its content: whether it entails a right not to be arbitrarily deprived of life or does it ensure complete autonomy over one’s life and the choice to end it.

I explored suicide, and its history as criminal offence.

I moved on to consider the plea of “Protection of Cruel, Inhumane or Degrading Treatment or Punishment” raised by people seeking to end their life.

Next, I considered the current laws of the United Kingdom and India, and also the Dutch law that in limited circumstances permits assisted suicide.

Then I discussed the interests of the state in preventing suicide, discussing the rationale behind the need of the state in preventing suicide, and providing a good standard of life for its citizens.

Finally, I drew a conclusion from the entire research.

The original essay was much longer, however I had to remove certain parts and condense other parts to stay close to the recommended length of 2,500 words; even the final draft exceeded the word count by almost a 1,000 words. All the references were added in-line with footnotes and a bibliography in the end. Contributing to Wikipedia over the years gave me a great habit of adding in-line citations, which proved to be immensely helpful in writing the essay.


Read the Research Essay Does Right to Life include a Right to End Life? Legal challenges to suicide and assisted suicide on Academia.edu >>

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Shutdown to Rebuild, Wait, What?!

Shutdown to Rebuild - PTIShutdown to Rebuild, Wait, What?!? Seriously? What  were the PTI’s creative team thinking when they came up with this slogan?

On second thought, this might be perhaps the most clever way to present something that the party plans to do which happens to be so inherently outrageous and morally and legally unacceptable that the party leadership itself condemned the same in the past.

https://twitter.com/KhurrumZamanPTI/status/461937777488437248

Wait a second: the words ‘Shutdown’ and ‘Lockdown’ as display pictures next to a tweet condemning the same. Now that’s irony and hypocrisy.

That were PTI Leaders Arif Alvi and Khurrum SherZaman criticizing MQM’s strike on 1st May 2014. Few months later, the party is doing the same thing that they know and believe is wrong: PTI is planning to shut down major cities and eventually the whole country. Shutdown or Lockdown to Rebuild. Its an oxymoron.

And not just the PTI leadership, their supporters too:

Lockdown - PTIThey go an extra mile in abusing the MQM for something that their party is now doing.

Massive loss to economy. Yes. That’s what you get when you shutdown the financial capital of the country, or any city, as a matter of fact.

Yes we all agree that shutting down a city, blocking roads or paralyzing any city, is illegal.

https://twitter.com/AQpk/status/461870335818600448

But what can we say? The PTI is adamant to go ahead and shutdown Karachi, and Lahore, followed by the whole country. Just as they did in Faisalabad.

Attack on PTV building in Islamabad by PTI and PAT workers.
Attack on PTV building in Islamabad by PTI and PAT workers.

Arif Alvi stated that the loss suffered is over 10 billion for a day the city of Karachi is shutdown. Khurrum SherZaman too states that the loss is in billions. Not just this, we have seen the nuisance Islamabad. Yes, I’m talking about the assault on the Parliament and Prime Minister House. The attack and ransacking of PTV. Occasional attacks on Geo News office.

Pakistan suffered more than just this. This paid protest of PAT and PTI caused much more losses. The Chinese President canceled his visit to Pakistan, that put a question mark (or possibly a full stop) on the future of $32 Billion worth of investment.

The unrest and clashes in Faisalabad, and the enforced shutdown of the city following the death of a PTI worker: it is all condemnable in the strongest words.

But why is PTI doing this then? Because their beloved leader said so.

PTI talks about Justice. Well, even the name of the party Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf translates to Pakistan Movement for Justice. However the leader of the Party, cricketer turn philanthropist turn politician, is now a proclaimed offender in Anti-Terrorism Cases before an Anti-Terrorism Court in Lahore (well yes, terrorism in Pakistan is defined too broadly, therefore some of the acts he and his supporters have done fall under the category of terrorism),  and he has proudly challenged the incumbent government to try and arrest him.

Ironically…

PTI's Enforced Shutdown of Faisalabad
PTI’s Enforced Shutdown of Faisalabad.

Shutting down a city, just like they did in Faisalabad, if evaluated under the UK Anti-Terror legislation, is an act of terrorism. Yes, the same Anti-Terror laws for which the PTI grilled the MQM chief Altaf  Hussain, for this his statement about the Three-Swords monument in Clifton, Karachi.

Imran’s aid and ally, Sheikh Rasheed Ahmed has gone the extra-mile in calling out to the rioting workers of his party the Awami Muslim League and those of PTI to damage, burn and destroy public and private property to achieve the above stated goals. Incitement to an offence or speech that disrupts public order is criminally wrong. What Sheikh Rasheed has said does not sound just wrong, it is insane, treacherous.

Feisal Naqvi, a Supreme Court advocate, sketched Imran’s desperation to rid Pakistan of its elected Prime Minister in form of humorous future unreleased plans from Plan E to Plan Z; Plan X of which states:

Plan X: Imran Khan files a petition before the Supreme Court, asking for the Independence of India Act, 1947 to be declared unconstitutional. After the court accepts his petition, the Queen of England then appoints Imran Khan as her Viceroy.

Fortunately, or not so for Imran and PTI, English only has 26 alphabets and just like the article above, the number of plans end at Plan Z. However, people have suggested different approaches to this problem.

https://twitter.com/Secular_Pak/status/539093660151738369

https://twitter.com/KalimAlikhel/status/539094176269213696

The PML-N and PTI are quite similar, ideologically. They are both working in the same way, for the same ideology. They even share the same vote bank. Just as Babar Sattar rephrases it in a question:

Isn’t the Shahbaz Sharif model of governance in Punjab very similar to what Imran Khan is promising in Naya Pakistan: a strongman at the top and everything falling in place under him intuitively?

Of the certain aspects of Imran Khan’s behavior and policies, as Babar Sattar  states in the same article, that would give even his well-wishers the jitters, that most bothersome is the inability of the PTI leader to distinguish between the State and the government and the fact that Imran is willing to hold a gun to the country’s head to negotiate with the PML-N.

2: His vigilantism. Khan’s argument is that since he didn’t get justice on his terms, he’ll now have to shut the country down. Can any rule of law proponent justify such course of action? There is a pattern here. In 2013, PTI had asked its vigilantes to forcibly block NATO containers in KP. That circus was eventually dispersed by court orders.

3: Khan’s inability to distinguish between the state and government. Whether it was Khan inciting everyone to refuse paying taxes and utility bills and sending money through legal banking channels, or his Plan C of shutting Pakistan down, he seems to have no qualms holding a gun to the country’s head to negotiate with PML-N.

4: Khan’s polarizing politics. In a democracy people need to be brought together to forge consensus and get things done, not torn apart. Khan’s message of hope is wrapped in bitterness and hate, which has polarized this country. Today Pakistan is a divided house; even its rational segments at war with one another over political differences. Forget Khan’s ire for opponents and critics, is there room for dissent even within PTI?

We really need introspection and self-accountability all around: the PML-N has to reflect upon whatever has happened the last few months and how they should have handled it; the PTI needs to realize that ends don’t justify means. Both parties need to work together, get to the negotiation tables and resolve their conflicts in a sensible manner, for the sake of the nation.

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Blog Social Issues Speech Tribute

In Memory of the Slain

At SZABIST, the students held a candlelight vigil in memory of those slain in the name of blasphemy.

Over the last month a Christian couple in the town of Kot Radha Kishan, some 60 kilometers southwest of Lahore were beaten and burnt to death after they were accused of blasphemy by their creditor, which was followed by another horrifying and deplorable incident in Gujrat where a man in police custody was hacked to death by an axe wielding police officer, again in the name of blasphemy.

Below is the speech I gave at the occasion.


We have all gathered here today because we chose to not to remain silent on the brutal murder of Shama and Shehzad.

They both were burnt alive in the same place where they worked all their lives as a bonded labor.

That fateful day, it wasn’t just the two of them who were killed: Shama was four months pregnant.

But this isn’t about just these two.

According to the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, between 1st January 2013 and 31st December 2013, there were 540 ‘victims’ of blasphemy.

When we step into law school, in the first year we are taught about the values of Rule of Law; that no one is above the law. We are taught that no one can be sentenced or punished without due process of the law.

Sadly, 540 fellow citizens were condemned to their horrifying deaths last year by mobs, by lunatics, by murders, after they were accused of blasphemy. In this country, as rule of law erodes, we are facing increasing incidents of extra-judicial killings, vigilante justice and rising crime.

Yes, it is a crime to take someone’s life. Yes it is a crime to burn someone alive, or to hack someone to death. Sadly this has happened over the past week in our country.

This is a country, where even lawyers are killed for defending a blasphemy accused in a court of law, where politicians calling for reform of these laws are killed. I am talking about Rashid Rehman, a lawyer murdered because he was defending a blasphemy accused in court, I am talking about Salaman Taseer and Shahbaz Bhatti.

We all agree that this heinous crime must not go unpunished. We wish to see these killers being brought to justice.

Because as the saying goes:

“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”

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Independence Day

Every year Pakistan celebrates its Independence Day with renewed sense of ‘patriotism’ and great enthusiasm and zeal. This ‘patriotism’ is limited to love of flying the National flag and decorating residences with miniature flags.

This year, a very small minority took parts in ‘Azadi[1]‘ and ‘Inqilab[2]‘ marches from Lahore to Islamabad, in an attempt to de-seat the democratically elected government.

Those few aside, the Independence Day was marked with celebrations in schools, colleges and universities in the morning, parades and flag hoisting ceremonies elsewhere in the morning. Unfortunately, these brief moments of national pride were masked on prime time television by these marches.

Here in Karachi, restaurants offering breakfast and brunch were jam packed in the morning and early afternoon, and malls, beaches and large public parks were crowded during the day and the evening. People from all over the city were enjoying the Independence Day in their own unique ways.

I went out with some friends for breakfast at around 10:30 AM – not my usual breakfast time. The place we had decided upon had more people present than the chairs they had, and unfortunately for us, we were amongst those who were without it. After some waiting, we managed to be seated along with two other strangers, had breakfast with them and split the bill. Most of this time was not spent eating or chatting, but rather calling out for the waiters to be served.

My friend had parked his car right under a “No Parking” sign. When I jokingly pointed that out, he pointed out the National Flag fixed right above the sign. “Can’t you see? This is Pakistan” he jokingly replied. There were a few dozen cars already parked in front of those three “No Parking” signs.

For breakfast we had Halwa Puri and then went to a nearby milk shop and got ourselves a tall glass of lassi. After our breakfast, my friend remarked that we were the ones actually celebrating Independence Day, since we had breakfast with two strangers – unknown Pakistanis.

Later during the day, I could see quite a lot of patriotic posts on social networking websites; the patriotic content including “Happy Independence Day” was much, much more than what could be observed on Twitter regarding these two marches.

Oh, just so you know, some PAT workers replied to my tweet regarding Qadri’s comeback, most of their messages were nonsense repetitions of a simple (false) statement, containing #hashtags which they wished to trend.

Some local malls had declared “Family Day” – a cunning expression that means females only, and males might be allowed inside if accompanied by females. One such mall was the Dolmen City Mall in Clifton where I happened to go.

The mall was decorated in Green and White, with a crescent and a star hanging high above. Some people had painted the flag on their faces. There were cutout portraits of Muhammad Ali Jinnah, Liaquat Ali Khan and Fatima Jinnah around the mall. Many people were actually queuing up to take a picture of their kids with them.

The background music in the mall were patriotic songs and even the instrumental national anthem. Most of all, there were Azadi discounts, ranging from 10% to 50% on many outlets in the mall – perhaps that was the main attraction that day.

The day ended in a grand fireworks show – a rarity in our country. Well the show was privately organized and not by the Government as is the case around the world.

As the day, and its celebrations ended, and the clock struck midnight, the date changed to 15th August 2014. The real Independence Day of Pakistan. This day was only celebrated in India as their own Independence Day, which in fact was the day when Pakistan and India, both, came into existence. Here in Pakistan, things went quitter.


[1] – Azadi – آزادی – Independence: A caravan of Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf (PTI) workers lead by Imran Khan.
[2] – Inqilab – انقلاب – Revolution: A caravan of Pakistan Awami Tehrik (PAT) activists lead by Tahir-ul-Qadri.

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Blog Published Social Issues

An Open Letter to Imran Khan

Dear Mr. Khan

You rallied for change just a year ago in the 2013 General Elections. Your party bagged 7.7 million votes in the General Elections, which set your party as the 2nd most popular party based on the number of votes it received.

Your call for change came at a time when the Election Commission, and the returning officers were screening potential candidates, and many were disqualified on the grounds that they evaded and did not pay taxes, and utility bills. 7.7 million Pakistanis pinned their hopes to your call for a change.

Unfortunately, this change seemed to be just another election buff. After the elections your party rejected the results, protested, and made government in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

I would like commend your party’s policies on improving the educational infrastructure and the quality of education in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. Credit should be given where it is due.

However, your attitude and actions have shown that you too, sir, are one of those elites who bend the law and Constitution to use it to their advantage. You and your party is not respecting the mandate given to your political opponents; you have shown yourself to be no better than those who were totally rejected by the electorate.

You had made a promise of holding local government elections in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa within three months. It has been over a year now, and your promise has been just mere words. Is this call for Change just as another hollow promise?

IK in Azadi MarchThe Azadi March which you and your party came up with had dubious goals initially, and later on you settled upon asking a democratically elected Prime Minister to resign, threatening civil disobedience and public disorder. This is clearly against the law, and the Constitution. This, as defined by Article 63(1)(g) of the Constitution, is a ground for disqualification for members of the Parliament.

While protesting peacefully and without arms is a fundamental right of assembly under Article 16 of Constitution, this does not cover attempts to overthrow a democratically elected government, which may be classified as treason. Your actions not just undermine the rule of law, but also violate the laws of our country, and our Constitution.

So, at this point, sir, I am left with some questions unanswered:

  1. Would the PTI government in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa promote civil disobedience and non-payment of utility bills and taxes as a Government policy?
  2. Would the PTI government in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa not collect GST and other provincial taxes, or would it be hypocritical at this point?
  3. What difference, if any, remains between yourself and your party’s lawmakers who would not pay taxes and utility bills and those prospective candidates who were rejected by the returning officers for evading taxes and for non-payment of utility bills?
  4. If this civil disobedience and public disorder initiated by your party leads to disqualification of PTI lawmakers, including yourself, under Article 63(1)(g) of the Constitution, would you still blame it on this democratic government?
  5. Would you still blame the Punjab police for public disorder in the Capital which would undoubtedly result in PTI’s march towards the Red Zone?

The election reforms you seek are a welcomed change. However this change should come from your elected position in Parliament as a lawmaker and not from a show of force of your street power while laying a siege to the Parliament.

Yours sincerely


Karachi, Pakistan

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Blog Social Issues

Trial of High Treason

Whether General Pervez Musharraf’s régime was beneficial to Pakistan or was it tantamount to destruction of the democratic process, whether or not he was a good dictator; it is all a debatable matter.
General Pervez Musharraf in uniformHe, for the first time in Pakistani history, is going to trial for the heinous crime of High Treason.

Pakistani history is marred with the military’s interference in Politics, so much so that out of 12 holders of the office of the President, 4 were serving Generals of the Pakistan Army, who came to power as a result of a coup d’état, overthrowing a legitimately elected government. Even the inaugural holder of the office of the President of Pakistan was a retired army General.

The takeovers were prohibited under the Constitution of Pakistan, and so these Generals, excising their military might, not legal authority, to suspend or hold in abeyance the Constitution of Pakistan, make amendments to it in attempts to legitimize their rule. This act, as defined in the constitution, is an act of High Treason.

Article 6 of the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan states:

6. High Treason
(1) Any person who abrogates or subverts or suspends or holds in abeyance, or attempts or conspires to abrogate or subvert or suspend or hold in abeyance, the Constitution by use of force or show of force or by any other unconstitutional means shall be guilty of high treason.
(2) Any person aiding or abetting or collaborating the acts mentioned in clause (1) shall likewise be guilty of high treason.
(2A) An act of high treason mentioned in clause (1) or clause (2) shall not be validated by any court including the Supreme Court and a High Court.
(3) Majlis-e-Shoora (Parliament) shall by law provide for the punishment of persons found guilty of high treason.

From the words of the constitution, it is quite apparent that not just Musharraf, but all these Generals committed an act of High Treason by abrogating and subverting the constitution; Musharraf did this twice. The punishment for high treason as mentioned by Article 6 clause (3) of the constitution was provided by the Parliament a month after the constitution itself was enacted, under the short, 3 Section long, High Treason (Punishment) Act, 1973 (LXVIII OF 1973). Section (2) of this Act states:

2. Punishment for high treason, etc.:
A person who is found guilty
(a) of having committed an act of abrogation or subversion of a constitution in force in Pakistan at any time since the twenty‑third day of March, 1956; or
(b) of high treason as defined in Article 6 of the Constitution,
shall be punishable with death or imprisonment for life.

Life imprisonment or death: High treason is a serious crime. It is perhaps the gravest of offences. Why then, one may wonder, Yahya Khan and Ayub Khan walk away without ever being reprimanded for their crimes against Pakistan? And what took it so long for the trial of Musharraf to commence after he had stepped down?

Pervez Musharraf stressed

The answer is: The Pakistan Army is really really strong. These men took power when they were serving as the Army’s Chief of Staff, and used their position of power to command the Army to do their biddings. The Army protects its servicemen even after their retirement, and so Musharraf had a cover. Musharraf resigned in 2008 after the new parliament took office after the 2008 General Elections, and expressed its intentions to impeach him. The day he announced his intentions to leave office by stating that he had tendered his resignation to the Speaker of the National Assembly as under law, the man, in face of impeachment by the Parliament, was given a guard of honor by the Army before he left for the United Kingdom to seek refuge from the cases against him since his Presidential immunity lapsed upon resignation.

Musharraf escapes from IHC
General Musharraf, aided by military and paramilitary forces, escapes from the Islamabad High Court after his bail was canceled, and his arrest was ordered.

He spent about 5 years in self exile, and returned when his daughter was able to secure Protective Bail for him from the Sindh High Court; there were arrest warrants pending against him. He came during the time of elections when a caretaker Government was in office for the purpose of the conduct of the 2013 General Elections. When the Islamabad High Court had canceled his bail in a case, his security staff, comprising of military and paramilitary personnel, escorted him away from the court room even though the Police officials in the court room were ordered to arrest him.

When he finally surrendered, his farmhouse (a mansion) was converted to a sub-jail, probably to cut costs on providing him protection: he has angered many people by his constitutional and unconstitutional moves while holding the office of the President. This was the first time, a former army General was arrested, that too the former Chief of Staff.

Musharraf was arrested in multiple cases: Assassination of Former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, Murder of Former Balochistan Governor and Chief Minister Nawab Akbar Khan Bhugti, the Lal Masjid Operation and Judges’ Detention Case.

The last of these cases occurred when Musharraf proclaimed a state of emergency and suspended the Constitution of Pakistan for a second time. It is pertinent to mention that he is the first of all military rulers in Pakistan to suspend the Constitution twice.

The Supreme Court, on a petition, asked the Attorney General for the Government’s response upon prosecution of Musharraf for High Treason. The Caretaker government responded that it was not its mandate to take a decision on the matter, and that the same should be decided by the upcoming government. The Senate in the meanwhile, and previously too, passed resolutions calling upon prosecution of Musharraf for High Treason.

The government of Nawaz Sharif, formed after the 2013 General Elections, within weeks of taking office through the Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan expressed the government’s intentions to prosecute him. They wrote a vague letter to the Supreme Court stating the same, however it lacked instructions of commencing the trial.

It took five months, a sectarian violence in Muharram’s Ashura in Rawalpindi and a curfew in the Capital’s twin city, for Nisar Ali Khan the Interior Minister to announce at a hurriedly called press conference that the Government would be writing to the Supreme Court to form a Special Court under law for the High Treason trial. The announcement was described as a move by many to divert attention from the violence and curfew. True or not, the government through the Interior Secretary, wrote to the Chief Justice of Pakistan, with instructions to constitute a Special Court under the law for the purpose of the trial.

The Chief Justice in turn wrote to the Chief Justices of the 5 High Courts, requesting nominations of judges for the Special Court. Out of all the received nominations the Chief Justice had to select 3 judges for the full bench. Perhaps in order to avoid controversy, Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, the Chief Justice, forwarded the nominations to the Prime Minister for final selection, and three judges, one each from Balochistan, Sindh and Punjab were chosen to hear the trial. Justice Faisal Arab of Sindh, being the senior most, will head the trial.

Meanwhile a Musharraf’s North America based spokesman lashed out at the government for the move, criticizing it as “undermining Pakistani Military”. He might have forgotten that Musharraf lead the Pakistani Military into an unauthorized warfare against India in the Kargil War from May – July 1999, humiliating Pakistan in front of the world.

Under law, the Special Court enjoys exclusive jurisdiction to hear the treason trial, and no other court, including the Supreme Court can interfere or intervene in its matters and proceedings.

The investigation in this case isn’t complete, and a member of the 4 man investigation committee said:

We would then be in a position to get warrants or directions from the special court for summoning the people who have evidence but were not cooperating at the earlier stage of investigation.

The army might not save his skin this time. A current serving officer of the Pakistan Army, stating that what he was about to say would be his own views not the Army’s since he is bound by the law, to not to make official remarks, while explaining the army’s current stance, more specifically on the War on Terror personally told me:

The Military’s internal policy has changed. It is no longer what it was during the time of Zia-ul-Haq and Musharraf, yes I was in the army during those times. It is no longer like that, and I wouldn’t discuss that; currently the Army has just one mindset: we are subordinate to the Civilian Government. If we are ordered to fight, we will fight, if we are ordered to stop fighting, we will stop, no questions asked.

Statue of Lady JusticeIs this trial too little too late, or just not relevant to the interests of Pakistan. Over the last few years, both Turkey and Bangladesh tried and sentenced to death their former military dictators and their abettors. Would Pakistan follow suit? Musharraf’s trial is not just about him, it is about the Rule of Law over any individual in Pakistan. If Musharraf is punished for his crimes against Pakistan, this would serve as a deterrent to future military ambitionists who aim to usurp powers like those before them. This should be done for Pakistan to evolve as a democratic state where the law is above all; it would officially mark a new chapter in Pakistani history, where the armed forces would be what they should have been: subordinate to the government of the people.

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Blog Social Issues

The Tsunami of Change

Before I begin writing this article, I must clarify, that the article below was not meant to offend anyone; I respect each and every individual’s right to have their own opinion, and their freedom of expression and association. The article also contains quoted statements and remarks of other individuals, whose opinions I neither endorse nor denounce.

In troubled times, the fearful and naïve are always drawn to charismatic radicals.

In troubled times,the fearful and naive are always drawn to charismatic radicals
In troubled times, the fearful and naïve are always drawn to charismatic radicals.

This strong, wise saying has stood the test many a times. People are, in difficult times, in a dire need of change: yes, just change, not giving though to the type and consequences and repercussions of such a change; the more radicals the change seems, the more attractive it is.

Adolf Hitler, Vladimir Lenin and Barrack Hussein Obama all called out change to come to power, and indeed those were difficult times for those nations; I wouldn’t go on with history lessons here.

I’d rather talk about the “Tsunami of Change” that the PTI called out for when they were contesting the 2013 General Elections, the elections which brought them to power in the province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. The PTI made tall claims to end corruption and terrorism in Pakistan: now of course the party may have come up with excellent excuse for the failure. Let’s look into these in more details.

Let’s be honest, PTI is not the liberal, vibrant, all-embracing party that many believe it to be and what it partially portrays itself to be. It is a fundamentalist party, or rather a confused fundamentalist party, who favor talks with the Taliban, to such an extreme, that the party failed to condemn acts of terrorism which claimed the lives of its own lawmakers and ministers. Ironic, but true.

The PTI Chief Imran Khan had claimed that they would end corruption in the entire country within 19 days and terrorism within 90 days of coming to power . After coming to power in the province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Mr. Perwaiz Khattak, the PTI’s chief minister of the province stated that cancer of corruption would be eliminated in 30 days. The people of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa are yet to see this promise turn to reality. Tall claims, yet no actions.

I had earlier written about the PTI chief’s demand to the then PM-elect to either have US drone strikes stopped or shoot down the drones. This has come in as a handy excuse: the PTI claims that these drone strikes are the reasons for failure for the establishment of peace in the province, and comes as a response to terrorist activities, which claim innocent, precious human lives, and the lives of PTI ministers and law makers.

The Peshawar Carnage, other terrorist attacks which kill innocent civilians, and terrorist attacks on the Pakistani Armed Forces and Law Enforcement Agencies, all haven’t deterred the PTI chief’s determination to conduct peace talks with the banned terrorist organizations. As I had stated earlier, I see no distinction between this act and a sheer act of treason against the state of Pakistan. His determination is so strong, that he even stated that the TTP should be allowed to open up an office, for the purpose of the talks.

The backlash again this statement was so strong, that people went on to say that Imran Khan’s house is more or less an office of the TTP, and that the PTI itself is a political wing of the TTP and, I, too stated that the PTI is the TTP’s political apologist.

When a US Drone strike killed the TTP chief Hakimullah Mehsud, a notorious cold-blooded terrorist, who proudly claimed killing thousands of innocent Pakistanis, the PTI went haywire. They, it seemed, had lost a comrade. The PTI chief Imran Khan, and the party’s leadership and government of the province went on to blame the United States for all of Pakistan’s troubles and said that they wouldn’t allow NATO supply trucks to pass through Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, even if they had to loose their government for that. The reaction of the people become even more extreme:

It now appears that the PTI may soon have to loose their government, if not because of their blockade of the supply routes, then definitely in the elections, due to angry and disillusioned Pakistanis who once had jumped into their bandwagon of “Change”. This is the beauty of democracy.

The reason for Pakistan’s problems, says PTI, is not the Taliban, or illiteracy, or power shortage, or natural resource depletion, or poor healthcare, or poverty, or lack of welfare, but the very fact that the United States is giving aid to Pakistan to overcome the above mentioned problems that the country faces. They go on to say that the War on Terror is not our war and that the Taliban, actually an amalgamation of Pakistani and foreign rebels, are considered by the PTI as our people, who are being targeted by Pakistani military who are fighting America’s war on terror. I sincerely hope the PTI leadership soon realizes that the tens of thousands of people who die in Taliban’s attacks are Pakistani and not American, and killing a human being is inhumane and barbaric regardless of the victim’s race, sex, ethnicity, nationality or cultural identity; and that a terrorist is a terrorist, whether they be Pakistani or foreign nationals.

In his speech on the anniversary of the TTP’s Karsaz Attack on Benazir Bhutto’s homecoming, the PPP chief, Bilawal Bhutto Zardari stated his party would help the people of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa get rid of the “tsunami” –  the PTI’s election call. It appears that all political parties are feasting on the shortcomings of the PTI government.

Another change the PTI has brought about on Twitter is that the freedom of speech is now quite restricted: “PTI Trolls” are quite famous on the social media, these are those who harass people ‘daring’ to speak out against the PTI point of view, or those who speak out on the folly and policies of the party or its fundamental ideology.

I had read the opinion of a fellow blogger, they stated that the PTI’s policies, although bold and innovative, which promotes home based small industries, and community based healthcare and education, but are actually practically impossible to implement, and if the PTI, by some miracle, achieves this, it will cement their victory in the next elections.

This however, is not in sight in the near, foreseeable future.

Whether the PTI succeeds in its stated aims and objectives is another story, but what the party has succeeded in is exposing the true face of the Taliban, increasing the hatred for the Taliban in Pakistan and for every fundamentalist politico-religious party including the PTI, and alienating many of the people who voted for them in the 2013 General Elections.


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