Tuesday, April 1, 2014
NATO has announced that it is suspending all military and civilian cooperation with Russia over the Ukrainian crisis, the bloc said in a joint statement. "We have decided to suspend all practical civilian and military cooperation between NATO and Russia. Our political dialogue in the NATO-Russia Council can continue, as necessary, at the Ambassadorial level and above, to allow us to exchange views, first and foremost on this crisis," the statement reads. The alliance plans to review its relations with Russia at a meeting in June. The decision could affect cooperation on Afghanistan in areas such as training counter-narcotics personnel, maintenance of Afghan air force helicopters and a transit route out of the war-torn country. NATO foreign ministers also urged Moscow in "to take immediate steps ... to return to compliance with international law." The bloc said that it was stepping up its cooperation with Ukraine, promoting defense reforms and increasing the activity of a liaison office in Kiev. NATO and Ukraine issued a joint statement after a meeting of their ministers in Brussels. They said that they would “implement immediate and longer term measures to strengthen Ukraine’s ability to provide for its own security.” A series of meetings in Brussels was called on Tuesday in response to what the bloc sees as Russia’s aggression in Ukraine and its annexation of Crimea. The bloc called on Moscow to reduce its troop number in Crimea to pre-crisis levels, withdraw them to their bases and taper military activities along its border with Ukraine. Ministers ordered military planners to "develop as a matter of urgency a series of additional measures to reinforce NATO's collective defenses", a NATO official told Reuters. This might include sending troops and equipment to NATO allies in Eastern Europe, holding more exercises, taking steps to ensure NATO's rapid reaction force could deploy more quickly, and a review of NATO's military plans. Military planners will come back with detailed proposals within weeks, the alliance official said. The Republic of Crimea declared its independence from Ukraine following the March-16 referendum, in which 96.77 percent of the voters chose to rejoin Russia. Despite calls to boycott the vote and provocation attempts, 83.1 percent of Crimeans took part in the poll. Crimea became part of Russia in 1783, but was transferred to the Ukrainian SSR in 1954 by Nikita Khrushchev – a move that ex-Soviet leader and Nobel Peace Prize laureate, Mikhail Gorbachev, has called a “mistake.” Following the fall of the USSR in 1991, Crimeans were forbidden to hold a referendum on independence from Ukraine, and a procedure for making such a referendum possible has never been clearly defined in Ukrainian law.
Many people in the predominantly Russian-speaking region also rejected the coup-appointed Kiev authorities, and some feared that nationalist radicals aligned with the opposition might launch a persecution of Russians living in Crimea. However, a closer look shows that the neo-Nazi scare was not the only thing that concerned Crimeans about the coup-appointed authorities. One of the first moves of the post-coup Ukrainian parliament was an attempt to strip the status of regional minority languages, including Russian. The political program of the nationalist Svoboda party, which currently occupies four seats in the cabinet of ministers in Kiev, also clearly stated that it seeks to deprive the region of its autonomy and to make it an oblast (administrative division) instead of an Autonomous Republic. According to a common belief among the Russians living in Crimea, some of the Tatars, members of the Mejlis organization, also counted on the ex-opposition Batkivshchyna (Fatherland) party to support them in declaring the region a Tatar national autonomy, despite Russians and Ukrainians making up over 70 percent of the population and Tatars accounting for only about 12 percent of it.
Crimeans have also been consistently against Ukraine becoming a NATO state, and have staged protests against Ukrainian-NATO drills in the past. Polls showed that more than half the people living in Crimea considered NATO a “threat.” Despite Ukraine’s non-aligned status enshrined in its Constitution, the coup-appointed authorities said they are considering changing the relevant part of the supreme law, just as NATO’s chief stated they were “intensifying” their cooperation with Ukraine. Responding to such remarks, the Russian government reminded that pushing for NATO integration in Ukraine during Viktor Yushchenko’s presidency had in the past led only to a “widening of the split in Ukrainian society, the majority of which anything but supports the idea of Ukraine entering the NATO military block.”
World Series Champions, the Boston Red Sox, visit the White House, where MVP David Oritz takes a ''selfie'' with Obama.
http://tehrantimes.com/The removal of Prince Bandar bin Sultan, known as the organizer of a new Army of Islam in Syria to topple the Assad regime, from the position of the director general of Saudi Intelligence Agency is emblematic of a new power struggle in Saudi Arabia. The battle of succession continues in Saudi Arabia, as major socioeconomic and political challenges loom large in a country whose leaders have yet to recover from the shocks of the 2011 Arab uprisings across the Middle East and North Africa. This new development shows that the Bandar-era of supporting the Takfiri terrorists and jihadists—some of whom are affiliates of al-Qaeda in Iraq, Syria, Yemen, and Afghanistan—is practically over. The mastermind and principal financier of terror networks, Prince Bandar has fallen out of favor with both Washington and Riyadh, especially in recent months in light of the fact that the Syrian crisis has assumed a terminal direction highly unfavorable to the Saudi ruling family. What explains this change of leadership? Bandar’s influence on shaping Saudi foreign policy has proven counterproductive, to say the least. In recent months, Bandar has spoken of forging an alliance with the nuclear-equipped Pakistan to counterbalance Iran’s potential to grow as a nuclear power in the region. Most significantly, however, Bandar has been a driving force behind the formation of the Islamic Front Coalition in Syria, a move that has yielded no benefits, insofar as their efforts have undermined the Assad regime and have left hundreds of thousands dead, wounded, displaced, or refugees. At the regional level, the Turkey-Saudi rift over the July 3, 2013 coup in Egypt, which led to the removal of President Morsi from the Egyptian political scene has drastically widened. While Turkey supported the democratically elected Morsi administration, Saudi Arabia chose to support the coup against Morsi. Equally consequential has been the U.S.-Iran rapprochement, which has increasingly been seen as undercutting the traditionally stable Riyadh-Washington axis. Saudi security concerns in the region remain closely related to the role that Iran plays in the region. Most Saudi leaders as such fear that Washington may pull the plug on Riyadh by normalizing its ties with Tehran. Bandar’s replacement, Prince Mohammad bin Nayef, who is currently Saudi interior minister, represents a new strategy in Saudi foreign policy, one that is aimed at containing militancy in Saudi Arabia, mending some fences with Washington over Syria, and adjusting the country’s foreign policy to rapidly changing geopolitical considerations in the region. Most notably, Nayef may be concerned about curbing the increasing and expanding sectarianization of the Syrian conflict that has scarred and exacerbated the region. To the extent that Washington is seeking a more diplomatic and quieter approach than an openly militaristic solution vis-à-vis Syria, Saudi leaders might contemplate a change of approach prior to President Obama’s visit to Riyadh in late March. The dominant thinking in Saudi Arabia is that the settlement of the decade-old dispute between Iran, the United States, and the European Union (EU) is bound to further weaken Saudi’s policies in the region, undermine its rivalry with Iran, and boost Iran-Turkey ties. While attempts to patch over Saudi-U.S. relations are likely to take center-stage, the Saudis need to adjust their regional policies, largely because the nuclear deal reached in the next 6-12 months by the P5+1 group (Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia, the United States, plus Iran) could fundamentally alter the region’s balance of power. Never has the pace of change in the region’s geopolitical equilibrium been faster and never has the imperative of adjusting to new realities been so widely felt. Will the Saudis embark on a new path and where will it lead?
indiatimes.comA Hindu ashram was attacked in Pakistan's Sindh province by four persons who stole a 'trishul', triggering protests and a partial shutdown of businesses at several places, a media report said on Monday. The violators also desecrated parrh (a piece of cloth wrapped around the idol) at Faqir Par Braham's ashram in Tharparkar district, a Hindu majority area. The minority Hindu community came out on streets and also staged a sit-in at Mithi's Kashmir chowk. Markets in Deeplo, Islamkot and Chachro towns were shut. "The Hindu community is being targeted in all parts of Sindh under a conspiracy," Raja Bhawan of Tharparkar's Hindu panchayat, who led the protesters said. Tharparkar SSP Muneer Shaikh said police have arrested four suspects and the stolen 'trishul' has been recovered. An FIR has been lodged on the complaint of one Seth Jhaman Das.
The Express Tribune
Pakistan Ahmadi prayer center attacked, police arrests local Ahmadis for ‘desecrating’ Quran amid rampage
“We claim to be Muslims and the Holy Qur'ān is a holy book for all Muslim.No Ahmadī will ever do such a thing and all such accusations are always total lies, period.”An Ahmadiyya prayer center was attacked yesterday and a local Ahmadī leader injured when a charged crowd reacted to rumors that a young child was beaten by two Ahmadi men on account of the youngster carrying a copy of the Holy Qur'ān. According to a report carried by Daily Dawn, an English daily published from Karachi, Pakistan, activists of religious parties gathered residents from various parts of Tando Allahyar city near Hyderabad, and “attacked the home-cum-worship place of a man belonging to the Ahmedi community for his involvement in the alleged sacrilege.” The crowed “went on the rampage in the worship place on the ground floor” while Tahir Ahmed “took refuge on the upper floor, where his family lived,” the newspaper reported. The police and Rangers arrived in large numbers, the report said, and they arrested Tahir Ahmed while the crowd threw stones at the suspect and injured him. Police took Ahmad and an unidentified man to the local police station where they were booked on blasphemy and other charges under Sections 295-b, 337-A-1 and F-1 of Pakistan’s criminal code. The protesters burnt tires and fired shot in the air, forcing local business to shut down. The situation, according to Daily Dawn, was tense till late in the night in Tando Allahyar. Speaking to Daily Dawn, Tando Allahyar Deputy Superintendent Police, Noor Mohammad Marri, said that according to Tahir Ahmed’s wife, the young accuser and their son had fought over some petty matter in the afternoon. Also, according to Daily Dawn’s own sources, “it was rumoured that some people wanted to grab Tahir’s house.” Speaking to Ahmadiyya Times, a local Ahmadī (name withheld) rubbished the claim that an Ahmadī attempted to desecrate the Holy Qur'ān. “We claim to be Muslims and the Holy Qur'ān is a holy book for all Muslim.” “No Ahmadī will ever do such a thing and all such accusations are always total lies, period.” An official statement is awaited from the Ahmadiyya community in Pakistan.
http://mediacellppp.wordpress.com/Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, Patron-In-Chief, Pakistan Peoples Party has congratulated the newly-elected office-bearers Hameed Haroon as President and Sarmad Ali as General Secretary and all Executive Committee members of All Pakistan Newspapers Society (APNS) and hoped that the new body will place its priorities by looking into the grim situation our country is being pushed into. In a press release, Bilawal Bhutto Zardari said APNS is the prime body of national and regional media outlets and the role of media is going to define the future of the country and the democratic order. “A free media can survive and thrive only in a free Pakistan. At a time, when entire nation is under attack from the forces of darkness in the shape of terrorism and extremism, media should stand with the nation unambiguously,” he added. PPP Patron-In-Chief assured that his Party will extend all possible help and support to the newly-elected office-bearers of APNS in playing and performing its positive role at this crucial juncture in our history and putting it back on the track to a welfare state where terrorism, extremism, exploitation, crime and injustice have no room.
Few Pakistanis get to visit Colombia, a country quite physically and culturally distant from their land of abode. Yet as I discovered from my visit to Colombia’s capital Bogota this week, there is much which Pakistanis can learn from this land of coffee, cocaine and coal. So what are the similarities between these two ostensibly disparate lands, separated by geography, ethnicity and religion? A troubling common thread between Colombia and Pakistan pertains to the issue of terrorism and guerrilla insurgency. For the past few decades, both countries have been fighting locally grown, ideologically driven, terrorist militias, which receive some degree of foreign support but also thrive on drug money and various forms of extortion and kidnapping. Both countries are also currently involved in controversial peace processes with the insurgents that remain far from achieving their aim but are likely to continue.Colombia’s experience with fractured politics and terrorism predates Pakistan’s predicament. The country achieved independence from colonial Spain in 1819 — long before Pakistan was even dreamed of. Yet soon thereafter, the unified territory of “Gran Colombia’ fell apart, and Venezuela and Ecuador seceded from the land as independent states in 1830 – the same year that the great revolutionary and colonial liberator Simon Bolivar died in the northern Colombian city of Santa Marta. Like Colombia, Pakistan also has experience with secession – Bangladesh’s independence in 1973, only 26 years after independence from Britain. For much of the twentieth century Colombia endured political unrest and interference from the United States. Indeed, US intervention to build an ambitious canal between the Atlantic and the Pacific, led to the creation of Panama in 1903, from what was originally part of Colombia. However, in this case, the US recognized a level of culpability in this secession and in 1919 Colombia was paid $25 million in compensation for the American role in Panama’s secession. The Cold War brought intervention by both the US and the Soviet Union in Colombia. Among the various communist revolutionary groups that formed during this period, the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (FARC) has been the most persistent. Since its formation in 1961, as a reaction to land appropriation for industrialized agriculture, the group has grown to be a potent militia that has claimed half a million lives in its 50 year–long insurgency. Both Colombia and Pakistan are now at a crossroads. Peace talks are underway between the FARC and the Colombian government as well as between Pakistan and the Taliban. Unlike the FARC, the Taliban have a religious agenda which can lead to more trenchant absolutism. However, “hardcore” communist elements within the FARC can also be as intransigent as any theological fanatics. Both countries have political divides about whether to pursue compromise with an untrustworthy foe or to fight it out with the fanatics. Colombia’s nearby neighbour Peru fought its insurgency against the Sendero Luminoso till the ultimate capture of its intellectual leader Professor Abimael Guzman. The incarceration of Guzman in 1992 has essentially led to the dismemberment of the organization, although some vestiges linger in remote areas of the country. Some political leaders in Pakistan look to their neighbour Sri Lanka which also ended a bloody insurgency through armed defeat of the Tamil Tigers in 2009 after peace talks mediated by the Norwegian government failed to achieve resolution. Yet the current Colombian and Pakistani governments believe that the insurgencies in their respective lands are too entrenched and covering vast swathes of rugged terrain. The cost of armed conflict would likely be too great in such a case and hence some measure of reconciliation is worth a try. The Colombians have more experience with such insurgencies than the Pakistanis and have managed to recover from grave terrorist threats and incidents. In 1985, the M19 rebel movement managed to lay siege to the Supreme Court building in Bogota and the ensuing confrontation led to over a 100 deaths and the entire ‘palace of justice’ building in fiery ruins. Nevertheless, soon thereafter, a process of engagement under threat of greater military onslaught, led to a demobilization of this group and their mainstreaming into Colombian Politics. The current Colombian president Juan Manuel Santos is inclined to follow a similar path with the FARC. What should be the parameters of a peace plan and what might Pakistan learn from Colombia’s longer experience of dealing with ideologically driven insurgencies? Remarkably, despite the torrent of terror and conflict, Colombia has managed to still maintain a semblance of functionality in terms of foreign investment and develop its economy to the extent that in October 2013, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OCED) formally launched its accession process. This has all been possible because of highly effective military and police intelligence deployment at the federal and provincial levels, leading to a containment of the FARC threat away from the major industrial infrastructure. Although occasional kidnappings and low intensity attacks of continued, the government made it a priority to make investors feel safe. Pakistan has failed to accomplish this because of ambivalence on the part of its military to deal with the Taliban threat and the relative ineffectiveness of police intelligence services at the provincial level. Pakistan has to also learn from the Colombian experience that negotiations are only workable with such groups if there is some unified negotiation hierarchy and influence across the guerrilla population who are involved in terrorist activity. Unlike the FARC, the Taliban have so many factions that negotiations over specific actions become hard to enforce. Once there is some clarity on the enforcement power of the negotiators, it is worth considering whether the terms of a peace plan might undermine the overall functionality of the Pakistani state. For example, any points of negotiations regarding marginalization of minority sects such as Shias who constitute 20% of the population would lead to ruin. The FARC are willing to join the political process within Colombia if their basic demands for land and resource management regimes are met. Would the Taliban be willing to do so if given limited degree of governance in particular parts of the country so as to prevent imposition of their worldview in some form over all of Pakistan? How might there be enforcement of their sphere of influence under a peace plan? Expansionary tendencies will need to be monitored carefully in both peace processes. Disparate as they may seem on the surface, Colombia and Pakistan have much to gain from exchanging notes with each other on dealing with their intractable insurgencies. In a globalized world where arms and drugs can flow freely across the miles, surely lessons on governance and peace-building should find no barriers.
International community must address situation immediately, immigration minister says
Canada and its allies must take a united front against Pakistan because it is a state sponsor of terrorism that threatens world security, says Citizenship and Immigration Minister Chris Alexander. Alexander, a former ambassador to Afghanistan, said the fight against the Taliban and groups like al-Qaeda will never be won in Afghanistan alone because it is a “cross-border conflict” supported by the Pakistan government. Speaking on a special edition of CBC's Power & Politics about Canada’s legacy in Afghanistan, Alexander said the world has only caught up with that reality in recent years, despite long-standing warnings from Afghanistan that Pakistan is a big part of the problem. “This is state sponsorship of terrorism. It’s covert. It’s been denied. Not even Western analysts agree that it’s happening on the scale we know it to be happening,” he told host Evan Solomon.
Alexander, who authored the book The Long Way Back: Afghanistan’s Quest for Peace, called for continued support for Afghans who are fighting against the Taliban and for security and democracy as Canada and other countries wrap up prolonged military missions. But he also urged allies to confront Pakistan. “We need to have a united front in dealing with Pakistan. The civilian government there doesn’t control military policy, strategic policy.… the army and the intelligence service do,” he said.” And they have denied the obvious, postponed this reckoning for years with so many terrorist groups, including al-Qaeda, that are doing so much harm around the world, still based in that country, this should be a priority for everyone.” Alexander said the international community must address the Pakistan situation urgently because it’s “all connected” with other trouble spots — linked to Syria and Iraq because so many militants and jihadis are going there, and also linked to foreign policy on Russia.Alexander, who authored the book The Long Way Back: Afghanistan’s Quest for Peace, called for continued support for Afghans who are fighting against the Taliban and for security and democracy as Canada and other countries wrap up prolonged military missions. But he also urged allies to confront Pakistan. “We need to have a united front in dealing with Pakistan. The civilian government there doesn’t control military policy, strategic policy.… the army and the intelligence service do,” he said.” And they have denied the obvious, postponed this reckoning for years with so many terrorist groups, including al-Qaeda, that are doing so much harm around the world, still based in that country, this should be a priority for everyone.” Alexander said the international community must address the Pakistan situation urgently because it’s “all connected” with other trouble spots — linked to Syria and Iraq because so many militants and jihadis are going there, and also linked to foreign policy on Russia.
'Haven for terrorists'Pakistan's tribal region along the border of Afghanistan has long been labelled a "haven for terrorists." But Alexander said even people within Pakistan aren’t aware of the degree of official involvement. He cited a recent New York Times article (censored in Pakistan) that focused on Pakistan’s relationship with al-Qaeda and its knowledge of Osama bin Laden hiding within its borders. “The civilian government will say we don’t control it, it happens behind closed doors in places run by the army, run by the ISI (Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence). The Pakistani population doesn’t know this is happening. But it has to be said. You can not, they have not, trained, financed, equipped the Taliban on this scale without the institutional involvement with these groups. And they are negotiating with the Taliban — trying to lie down with the lion inside Pakistan in spite of all the loss of life inside Pakistan. This has got to change.” Former Canadian diplomat David Mulroney, who served as deputy minister in charge of the Afghanistan Task Force overseeing co-ordination of Canada’s engagement in Afghanistan, said that if Alexander’s remarks represent the government's official position, they must be followed up with “real measures” and a “much tougher stance” against Pakistan. “Tomorrow can’t be business as usual for our High Commission in Islamabad. We can’t have the same kind of co-operation with Pakistan,” he said. “And we have to make very certain that players like the Canadian Forces and our security establishment aren’t having one set of conversations with the Pakistanis while our diplomats are having another. We have to get really serious.” Mulroney, distinguished senior fellow at the Munk School's Canada Centre for Global Security Studies, said Canada should engage in talks with Washington, where the "real levers" are. Roland Paris, university research chair in International Security and Governance at the University of Ottawa, agreed that Alexander’s statement has significant implications for foreign policy. “If this is Canadian government policy, that has implications for what we are doing. And if it’s Canadian government policy, the actions need to be brought into line with that policy. If it isn’t Canadian government policy, then minister Alexander should reconsider those words,” he said.
http://www.dailytimes.com.pk/We seem to have been bombarded of late by the stunted intellect of the mullah variety in Pakistan. As if the Council of Islamic Ideology’s edicts on underage marriage and polygamy were not enough, the Jamaat-e-Islami, Pakistan’s mainstream hardliner religious political party, has moved a motion in the National Assembly that the talent show ‘Pakistan Idol’ is “obscene” and ruining the values of society. One wonders where these maulvis (clerics) come up with such logic from. How can a music and singing talent contest that allows youngsters to showcase their vocal abilities and add some fun and colour to their lives and the lives of the viewers be a vulgarity-promoting activity? There is absolutely nothing objectionable about the programme from an ethical or moral point of view but, it seems, anything that brings even the slightest amount of joy to the people of Pakistan must be condemned by those belonging to the Jamaat-e-Islami and their ilk. This is typical of the dogmatic mindset that has begun permeating almost every level of society of late, leaving little room for logic and reason. To add to the concern, the Jamaat-e-Islami has elected a new ameer (chief). Munawar Hasan has been replaced by Sirajul Haq, a senior minister in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government. His predecessor, Munawar Hasan, became quite notorious and loathed a few months back when he boasted that soldiers from the Pakistan army are not shaheeds (martyrs) but those militants killed by drone strikes are. Now it is quite alarming to note that Sirajul Haq, who has a reputation for being much more of a hardliner than Munawar Hasan, has been anointed ameer. His predecessor Munawar Hasan had been a lacklustre leader and only succeeded in weakening the position of the Jamaat-e-Islami to such an extent that, electorally, the party has continued to show dismal results, having only four of its members sitting in the current National Assembly. Sirajul Haq was also a senior minister in the now defunct Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal alliance, which, when it had a government in the then North West Frontier Province under the Pervez Musharraf dispensation, was so disliked by the people that it did not survive the political demise of Musharraf. To think that this man is now going to head the Jamaat-e-Islami is a pointer towards only one reality: the party will further issue harsh and ludicrous edicts like the one on Pakistan Idol, further limiting the open and broad vision with which the average Pakistani wishes to live. Also, when the Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal government was in place in what is now Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, it was a time of strengthening homegrown terror, betraying the link between the provincial government and militant outfits. So, combining the Jamaat-e-Islami’s love for marking all things recreational as obscene and for its open support for terror groups, we seem to now be looking at a period of further isolation of the party. The majority of Pakistanis, while religious, are not hardliners at heart. They believe in the Sufi tradition and culture and wish to live in peace. The brand of Islam that the Jamaat-e-Islami wishes to promote is out of sync with the mindset of the people. It is hoped the Jamaat-e-Islami will revisit its position on matters such as that of Pakistan Idol but this is unlikely. What will probably happen is more ludicrous assertions being made by the new hardline ameer of the Jamaat-e-Islami and the people rolling their eyes at the narrow-mindedness they reflect.
The government is planning to allow safe passage out of Pakistan to Pervez Musharraf on “humanitarian grounds” after direct possible diplomatic intervention from the Saudi Arabian authorities as a part of a covert deal, a top government functionary revealed on Monday. “The modalities are being given final touches,” the source, a federal minister by portfolio, told the Daily Times in an exclusive day-long interaction at his office. Musharraf’s application for the removal of his name from the Exit Control List (ECL) was discussed during a top-level meeting chaired by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and attended by Interior Minister Nisar Ali Khan and other cabinet members at the Prime Minister’s Secretariat on Monday. Requesting anonymity, a close aide of Musharraf confirmed to this reporter that the application regarding the removal of the ex-general’s name from the ECL will be filed on Tuesday (today). Saudi rulers, who were close to Nawaz as well as Musharraf, have traditionally been involved in the high-profile political deals in the past. During a recent conversation, the Saudi crown prince is said to have showed his “displeasure” with Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif over the way Musharraf’s case was being handled, especially in the backdrop of his mother’s poor health who, the prince believed, deserved to be attended by his son. In this context, grounds are being paved for Musharraf’s ouster from Pakistan for humanitarian reasons. The legal experts, however, say the former military dictator cannot leave the country without the Supreme Court’s consent. Unless the Supreme Court reviews its decree on federal guarantees over Musharraf’s presence in the country, the government cannot lift the travel restrains against him, according to a highly placed official at the Interior Ministry. The turn of the upcoming events looks to be a replay of the happenings in 2001 when Nawaz Sharif and his family were sent to Saudi Arabia under a deal, and after 13 years, Musharraf would be expecting the same from Nawaz. “The sole difference between then and now is that Musharraf would be allowed safe passage on health grounds,” a source added.
A HISTORIC day it was yesterday as for the first time ever a former army chief and military dictator stood before a judge and faced charges of violating the Constitution. Whether a trial of Pervez Musharraf under Article 6 of the Constitution will make it more difficult for future coup makers is an important question, but not the only one. Surely, if the Constitution is sacrosanct and the democratic will of the people is to be protected as a foundational value of the state, then a power grab in violation of the Constitution and democratic values ought to be punished, as stipulated by the Constitution itself. And while a court judgment alone is unlikely to deter a future dictator, the polity here has evolved and a trial could be the capstone of a new Pakistan in which coups are much more unlikely for a variety of reasons. Now for the complications. As known to one and all, Mr Musharraf was indicted for the November 2007 Emergency that saw him try to extend his hold on power by ousting a superior judiciary that may have stood in the way of him gaining yet another term as president. But, as also known to one and all, nothing Mr Musharraf did on Nov 3, 2007 would have been possible if it were not for the fact that he had already overthrown the Constitution and grabbed power — back in October 1999. Trying the former dictator for actions that were only possible because of the original sin, the original coup, without so much as a mention of the original sin is problematic, and inadequate. Yes, the events of 1999 have gone through a far more complicated legal path and validation than the events of 2007, which were not sanctified by the courts or parliament, but there is a simple, undeniable fact that ought to hold: power was grabbed illegally in 1999 by Mr Musharraf under the same Constitution that he stands accused of violating in 2007. Furthermore, there must be questions asked about whether Mr Musharraf alone should face history’s judgment, or whether the many individuals whose collaboration was necessary for sanctifying and perpetuating Mr Musharraf’s rule ought to also face trial. Nevertheless, a process is under way now and the immediate question is what will be its outcome. If indictment took far too long, a trial itself with Mr Musharraf inside the country is still far from a certainty. The will-he, won’t-he question has immediately taken centre stage: will Mr Musharraf be allowed to travel abroad, thereby reducing the likelihood of a return to Pakistan ever again, or won’t he be allowed to do so? For now, the matter appears to be the federal government’s to decide, but it is likely to seek direction from the Supreme Court first. The pre-trial circus may yet continue for a while.