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Saturday, March 21, 2009

Exclusive—The Judge And The Fudge

Contrary to media hype, both Mr. Zardari and Mr. Sharif have been cut down to size. Zardari has been snubbed, and Nawaz can't use the judge card anymore. The military effectively ended politicians from exploiting the problem for political gain. Aitzaz is busy trying to return to his party by – believe it or not – hijacking the reinstatement of the judge in favor of PPPP. The two, Zardari and Nawaz, still have to account for shamelessly leading Pakistan to civil war. One blocked Pakistan's exports by impounding all cargo containers and the other had no problem if his activists snatched and torched cars and public property as long as it served 'public interest.' Then there's the role of Balochistan, a positive note in concluding this report.


ISLAMABAD, Pakistan—True to our report on March 15, the Pakistani military intervened quietly to clean up the mess in a way that did not tip the balance in favor of any one of the warring politicians.

President Zardari was snubbed and might lose more power. His nemesis, Mr. Nawaz Sharif, had the 'Judge Card' taken away from him. As the Pakistani news portal says, "Nawaz is in a difficult situation. He has to search for new issues to destabilize Zardari because he has nothing else to do in the next four years."

Pulling the 'Chief Justice Card' from the market was a masterstroke. Hopefully, no politician will be able to exploit this card again.

The media hype and the congratulatory notes exchanged on Pakistani TV screens and in newspapers are misleading and emotional. No commentator dares start his or her talk without noting what a great day this is for Pakistani democracy. Those who don't show this enthusiasm risk being considered pariahs.

This emotionalism has blinded most commentators from presenting an accurate picture of the cutthroat power politics behind the story of the reinstatement of the deposed chief justice.

At the cost of ruining the celebratory mood, we present here a rundown of the actual status of all the key players post March 15.


1. After reinstating the judge, Mr. Ahsan is busy warming up to the party he ditched in the hope that he is welcomed back in the fold. That's the only way he can save his career. And how to convince his party? To do this, Mr. Ahsan is relying on a new technique: hijack the reinstatement in favor of the PPP. Believe it or not, this is true. Mr. Ahsan is planning to let PPPP get the honor of hoisting Pakistan's flag at the residence of the reinstated chief justice on his first day in office next week. The excuse for this PPPP-specific honor is, according to Mr. Ahsan, that the party's late head Benazir Bhutto promised to reinstate the judge. While it is a noble gesture by Mr. Ahsan, it is also the perfect cover for his ambition to return to the party. So the PPPP will get away with the honor of marking the chief justice's first day n office. No consolation for Mr. Nawaz Sharif, the Jamaat e Islami, and the other parties that actually backed the judge.

2. To flirt with his mother party, Mr. Ahsan was quick to hold a press conference after the decision to reinstate the judge, with no lawyer by his side and with a large PPPP flag as a backdrop.

3. More startling was Mr. Ahsan's revelation during the press conference that he 'hoped' that the reinstated chief judge will not touch the NRO legislation that allowed Mr. Zardari to become president. Stunning how the entire legal community and the parties that backed them are quiet. Wasn't repealing the NRO one of the main reasons for supporting the judge?


4. Mr. Sharif's predicament today goes back to the early hours of March 16 when his caravan was en route from Lahore to Islamabad for the sit-in when the government announced reinstating the judges. All of a sudden, the entire media coverage moved from Mr. Sharif to the house of the judge in Islamabad and exclusively focused on the celebrations and reactions from lawyers and members of the civil society and media.

5. Government's announcement fell short of addressing Mr. Sharif's key concern: the restoration of PML-N's government in Punjab province. But Mr. Sharif was in no position to publicly complain about this. When the government restored the judges and left Mr. Sharif's government out, the Raiwind chief was left with no option but to play to the gallery and quietly hope his party rule in Punjab is restored as soon as possible.

6. Having said this, Mr. Sharif did bag a moral victory, if not a practical one, over Mr. Zardari. Mr. Sharif will cash this victory in the next elections.

7. The downside to reinstating the judges is that Mr. Sharif is left with no real tool in his hand that he can use to destabilize Mr. Zardari and help pave the way for Mr. Sharif's triumphant return to the seat of power in Islamabad, which he believes was unjustly stolen from him in 1999.

8. It is unfortunate that Pakistani media and commentators failed to highlight one of the biggest failures of Mr. Nawaz Sharif: his refusal to outrightly condemn and restrain his activists and supporters from burning tires, destroying public property, snatching cars and then torching them, and forcibly shutting down shops in public places. All of these were tactics designed to spread chaos and create political tension meant to put pressure on government and draw political mileage.

9. If the government decides to destroy half of Pakistan, does this mean the opposition should go a step further and destroy the other half to prove its point? Is there no sane person among these power-hungry beasts?


10. The best part of this story is that the government of President Zardari, which is widely seen a protector of American and British interests in the country has considerably weakened. True or not, most Pakistanis feel that Mr. Zardari's government is a tool for Washington and London to contain Pakistan's military, intelligence agencies and its nuclear and advanced missile programs. They cite the examples of the behavior of this government in the aftermath of the Mumbai attacks, the attempts to sideline and dismantle ISI, and the acceptance of U.S. military's aerial and ground border violations. In this sense, Mr. Zardari has few friends within the Pakistani public opinion. Unless he dispels this impression by taking a strong stand for Pakistan on vital policy issues, his ouster would continue to be the demand of most Pakistani nationalists.

11. Both Mr. Sharif and Mr. Zardari are also guilty of attempting to use the s0-called Sindh Card and the so-called Punjab card to blackmail one another with little concern for how this could have unnecessarily pitted Pakistanis against each other. This alone is enough to question the competence of these politicians to safeguard the nation's interest.

The Military/Gen. Kayani

12. The military managed to avoid a direct intervention in government. It successfully pressured to end the festering and divisive issue of the deposed judges, and do it in a way that did not weaken Zardari too much or empower Sharif too much, which was important so that the military is not accused of taking sides.

13. The opinions within the military regarding both Mr. Zardari and Mr. Sharif are reflective of the debate within the wider Pakistani public opinion. There are those who like and those who dislike the president. Mr. Sharif is controversial in his own way. Some in the military think Mr. Sharif is the lesser evil. Others feel he is unpredictable, vengeful and cannot be trusted. In short, the political outlook appears bleak for the near future. But the military has no option for the time being except for nudging this failed political system forward, like Gen. Kayani did recently.


14. There is no question that the manner of removing Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry from office on March 9, 2007, was wrong and had to be corrected. There is also no question that the cause of his second removal on Nov. 3, 2007, was partially his own compromised status as a politicized judge.

15. To set the record straight, the only reason Mr. Chaudhry has been reinstated is because, on March 16, 2009, some Pakistani politicians used Mr. Chaudhry as an excuse to start a civil war and bring down the government through anarchy and violence, which could have had serious consequences for the entire country.

16. To set the record straight, the judge is not a hero for independent judiciary, he just BECAME ONE accidentally. Please read this line again. This is a ruthlessly honest and well-intentioned assessment.

17. When upright judges simply resigned, Iftikhar Chaudhry was one of the first judges to answer the call of coup leader Pervez Musharraf to take a fresh oath on PCO, the interim law.

18. When Mr. Musharraf needed a chief justice in 2004, Justice Chaudhry offered himself as the most loyal candidate.

19. In the weeks and months preceding his March 9, 2007 encounter with Mr. Musharraf, Chief Justice Chaudhry maintained a warm relationship with the military ruler. His supporters often cite the Steel Mills privatization case to prove that Justice Chaudhry was giving the military ruler a hard time. That is not true. Click here to see why. The judge maintained a good working relationship with Mr. Musharraf during and after the case, proving that 'saying no to a dictator' was not exactly at the top of his mind.

20. The emphatic 'no' that the judge gave to Mr. Musharraf on March 9, 2007, had nothing to do with independent judiciary and everything to do with a known stubborn man with a big ego clinging to his job no matter what.

21. Mr. Chaudhry owes his status as a symbol for independent judiciary to the security officials who were captured on news cameras manhandling a defiant chief justice and shoving him in a police car. These images showed extreme high highhandedness and captured the imagination of the Pakistani nation and provided the enemies of Mr. Musharraf, who faced no real opposition at the time, their first real reason to mount an opposition to his rule.

22. Having said this, Justice Chaudhry deserves credit for resolving many ordinary legal problems faced by ordinary people.

23. The reinstatement is not expected to create an independent judiciary despite the tall claims of the idealists. This is a system where judges and lawyers often collude with powerful bureaucrats, corrupt businessmen and politicians to deny justice to the poor. Only a committed government can take the wide range of steps necessary to ensure a sustainable independent judiciary.

24. Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry has a third chance to prove the skeptics wrong. Let's hope he succeeds.



The manner in which the Chief Minister of Balochistan intervened to try to resolve the crisis in another province, Punjab, left most Pakistanis in Balochistan with a renewed sense of the central role of their province within the Pakistani federation, at equal level with the rest of Pakistanis. The high profile role of the Chief Minister Mohammed Aslam Raisani played a strong indirect role in countering the propaganda of a small group of terrorists and their foreign backers. This propaganda centered on severing Balochistan from the rest of the nation. But Mr. Raisani's role brought Balochistan right in the center of federal politics. Intelligence sources noticed that during Mr. Raisani's engagements, separatist propaganda material prepared in a neighboring country and smuggled into Balochistan specifically mentioned to readers not to pay attention to activities meant to strengthen the Pakistani state, a veiled reference to Mr. Raisani's mission.


Mr. Raisani's mediation pulled Baloch politics back into the national fold.



Friday, 20 March 2009.

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