Thursday, August 12, 2010

Zardari talks to Americans and not Pakistanis

Asif Ali Zardari.
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Pakistan's President, Asif Ali Zardari, has chosen the Wall Street Journal to explain why he continued with his foreign trip to France and England, including a visit to his Chateau in Normandy, rather than staying at home when 14 million Pakistanis experienced devastation at the hands of floods.

Why would Mr. Zardari chose WSJ to talk to his people in Pakistan? Or is he at all interested in talking to his people. I believe there may not be any more than 100 private subscribers of Wall Street Journal in Pakistan. The question then becomes: Why WSJ and not the local media?

The answer to this question lies in the massive anti-Zardari sentiment that now consmes all media in Pakistan. His supporters made the matters worse by attacking news media that reported on the incident in Birmingham where an irate Pakistani threw a shoe in protest at Mr. Zardari.

Lastly, I wonder how can a man with dubious academic credentials and poor grammar, which is evident from his incoherent speech, be able to write op-ed pieces that are published by the Wall Street journal and New York Times?  This is most likely an op-ed drafted by the lobbyists/lawyers hired by the Government of Pakistan, and paid for the drowning taxpayers of Pakistan,  to build Mr. Zardari's image in the United States.

Not so long ago two Washington-based lawyers wrote another piece in WSJ supporting mr. Zardari and accusing the Supreme Court of Pakistan of attempting to destabilize democracy. David Rivkin and Lee Casey, Washington, D.C.-based attorneys, who had served in the Department of Justice during the Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush administrations, wrote the malicious op-ed piece, which is also pasted below.
I was completely disgusted by the Rivkin-Casey piece and sent the following letter to WSJ, which they opted not to publish.
Reference:, Feb 22, 2010
Dear Editor:
I am dismayed to read the misrepresentations made by Mr. Rivkin and Mr. Casey  about the Supreme Court of Pakistan. They have accused the Chief Justice of staging a judicial coup.  Their assertions are not based on facts and are biased to say the least.
The people of Pakistan see a champion of their causes in the Supreme Court of Pakistan and view Mr. Zardari as a political widower who do not have the decency to hold elections even within his own party. Mr. Zaradari is also in violation of the Constitution by simultaneously occupying the office of the President and holding the chairmanship of a political party.
Mr. Rivkin and Mr. Casey  have accused the Chief Justice of Pakistan of running an anti-Zardari campaign because a full bench of the Supreme Court (and not just the Chief Justice)  overturned the National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO), which was enacted by the former dictator General Musharraf to offer amnesty to approximately 8,000 individuals of which most were bureaucrats and some were politicians.
NRO has been one of the most unpopular legislations in Pakistan’s legislative history, and according to the opinion polls, NRO and its beneficiaries have been loathed by the ordinary Pakistanis. While the accused are considered innocent until proven guilty,  I wonder what details about these 8,000 cases are Mr. Rivkin and Mr. Casey privy to that led then to conclude that most receiving amnesty under NRO were not corrupt.
Furthermore, their concerns about Article 62 of Pakistan’s constitution is another red herring. President Zardari and the Prime Minister Gilani are free to legislate Article 62 out of the Constitution.
For the first time in the history of Pakistan the people have found faith and hope in the highest judiciary, which in the past have been subservient to military and civilian dictators. The Supreme Court of Pakistan is trying to ensure that arbitrary laws enacted by military dictators, which provide relief only to the rich and powerful,  are expunged from the Constitution of Pakistan. At the same time, the Supreme Court is trying to restore the basic human rights of ordinary Pakistanis some of whom have been imprisoned illegally for years by the coterie of intelligence agencies at the behest of the United States. I will term this not a judicial coup but a judicial reprieve for the 170 million downtrodden Pakistanis.
Pakistan's Project of Renewal by ASIF ALI ZARDARI
Pakistan, a nation beset by political tragedies for generations, now faces a new test of its national character: a natural calamity unprecedented in our history. Millions have been displaced and thousands have died in floods caused by unabated rain. The monsoons are destroying villages and exposing thousands to illnesses including cholera and dysentery. Apart from organizing immediate rescue and relief operations, our people and our government also face the challenges of rehabilitation and reconstruction.
As the floods hit the country, I faced a dilemma as head of state. I could stay in Pakistan and support the prime minister in our response to the floods, or I could continue with a scheduled visit abroad. I chose to use my travels to mobilize foreign assistance—money, supplies, food, tents, medical care, engineers, clean water and medicine—for our people. Some have criticized my decision, saying it represented aloofness, but I felt that I had to choose substance over symbolism.
As a result of my meetings with French President Nicolas Sarkozy and British Prime Minister David Cameron, the plight of Pakistan's flood victims is receiving full international attention. The British government pledged $24 million in aid. The U.S. government, with which I was in touch by telephone, has pledged $35 million in relief funds and made helicopters available for rescue efforts. The NATO coalition, at war in neighboring Afghanistan, has also offered help, as have major European nations and Japan.
My visit to Britain, an important ally in fighting terrorism, also helped defuse potential political friction over Mr. Cameron's remarks in India ostensibly criticizing past Pakistani policy on jihadist militancy. And it allowed me to reaffirm to the relatively new British government Pakistan's commitment to fighting all terrorist groups.
After a decade of suffering the political, economic and social abuses of military dictatorship, Pakistan has spent the last two years re-establishing our democratic infrastructure and rebuilding our national character and cohesiveness.
Our project of national renewal is even more difficult because we are on the front lines of the battle against international terrorism. In particular, we live with the effects of the historical errors of the 1980s that have come back to haunt the world. The use of jihad in Afghanistan as the blunt instrument to destroy the Soviet Union certainly had short-term benefits. But the decision to empower the most radical elements of the mujahideen—and then to abandon Afghanistan economically, politically and militarily after 1989—set the stage for the dreaded clash of civilizations that has plagued the world since.
Whatever horror the Western world has faced at the hands of extremists acting in the name of Islam pales in comparison to the nightmare endured by the people and government of Pakistan. Terrorists have killed more Pakistani soldiers than NATO coalition troops fighting in Afghanistan. Pakistan has lost 2,000 police in the war on terror, more than all other countries combined. And we have lost almost 6,000 civilians, twice the number who died in the World Trade Center.
We have also lost our country's greatest recent political leader—my wife, Benazir Bhutto. My wife's death was even more shocking than the United States losing a president or Britain its prime minister, because she defined our democratic consciousness in the face of dictatorship. She was a symbol of hope to tens of millions in my country—and hundreds of millions around the world—that there could be a better future ahead for our children.

As I return to Pakistan, I bring back tangible results that will help the flood victims in the short run and lay the foundations for national recovery in the long run. I might have benefitted personally from the political symbolism of being in the country at the time of natural disaster. But hungry people can't eat symbols. The situation demanded action, and I acted to mobilize the world.

Now the work must continue. I call on the generous people of the United States to rise to this occasion as they have countless times over the last two centuries. Pakistan welcomes your contributions, as individuals and by your government.

Mr. Zardari is the president of Pakistan.
Judicial Coup in Pakistan

Once a democratic champion, the Chief Justice now undermines the elected government.

When U.S. President Barack Obama sharply challenged a recent Supreme Court decision in his State of the Union address, prompting a soto voce rejoinder from Justice Samuel Alito, nobody was concerned that the contretemps would spark a blood feud between the judiciary and the executive. The notion that judges could or would work to undermine a sitting U.S. president is fundamentally alien to America's constitutional system and political culture. Unfortunately, this is not the case in Pakistan.
Supreme Court Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammed Chaudhry, the country's erstwhile hero, is the leading culprit in an unfolding constitutional drama. It was Mr. Chaudhry's dismissal by then-President Pervez Musharraf in 2007 that triggered street protests by lawyers and judges under the twin banners of democracy and judicial independence. This effort eventually led to Mr. Musharraf's resignation in 2008. Yet it is now Mr. Chaudhry himself who is violating those principles, having evidently embarked on a campaign to undermine and perhaps even oust President Asif Ali Zardari.
Any involvement in politics by a sitting judge, not to mention a chief justice, is utterly inconsistent with an independent judiciary's proper role. What is even worse, Chief Justice Chaudhry has been using the court to advance his anti-Zardari campaign. Two recent court actions are emblematic of this effort.
The first is a decision by the Supreme Court, announced and effective last December, to overturn the "National Reconciliation Ordinance." The NRO, which was decreed in October 2007, granted amnesty to more than 8,000 members from all political parties who had been accused of corruption in the media and some of whom had pending indictments.
While some of these people are probably corrupt, many are not and, in any case, politically inspired prosecutions have long been a bane of Pakistan's democracy. The decree is similar to actions taken by many other fledgling democracies, such as post-apartheid South Africa, to promote national reconciliation. It was negotiated with the assistance of the United States and was a key element in Pakistan's transition from a military dictatorship to democracy.
Chief Justice Chaudhry's decision to overturn the NRO, opening the door to prosecute President Zardari and all members of his cabinet, was bad enough. But the way he did it was even worse. Much to the dismay of many of the brave lawyers who took to the streets to defend the court's integrity last year, Mr. Chaudhry's anti-NRO opinion also blessed a highly troubling article of Pakistan's Constitution—Article 62. This Article, written in 1985, declared that members of parliament are disqualified from serving if they are not of "good character," if they violate "Islamic injunctions," do not practice "teachings and practices, obligatory duties prescribed by Islam," and if they are not "sagacious, righteous and non-profligate." For non-Muslims, the Article requires that they have "a good moral reputation."
Putting aside the fact that Article 62 was promulgated by Pakistan's then ruling military dictator, General Zia ul-Haq, relying on religion-based standards as "Islamic injunctions" or inherently subjective criteria as "good moral reputation" thrusts the Pakistani Supreme Court into an essentially religious domain, not unlike Iranian Sharia-based courts. This behavior is profoundly ill-suited for any secular court. While Article 62 was not formally repealed, it was discredited and in effect, a dead letter.
The fact that the petitioner in the NRO case sought only to challenge the decree based on the nondiscrimination clause of the Pakistani Constitution and did not mention Article 62 makes the court's invocation of it even more repugnant. Meanwhile, the decision's lengthy recitations of religious literature and poetry, rather than reliance on legal precedent, further pulls the judiciary from its proper constitutional moorings.
The second anti-Zardari effort occurred just a few days ago, when the court blocked a slate of the president's judicial appointments. The court's three-Justice panel justified the move by alleging the president failed to "consult" with Mr. Chaudhry. This constitutional excuse has never been used before.
It is well-known in Islamabad that Mr. Zardari's real sin was political, as he dared to appoint people unacceptable to the chief justice. Since consultation is not approval, Mr. Chaudhry's position appears to be legally untenable. Yet Mr. Zardari, faced with demonstrations and media attacks, let Mr. Chaudhry choose a Supreme Court justice.
There is no doubt that the chief justice is more popular these days than the president, who has been weakened by the split in the political coalition which brought down Mr. Musharraf. Former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif is now a leading opponent of the regime. There is a strong sense among the Pakistani elites that Justice Chaudhry has become Mr. Sharif's key ally.
The fact that Mr. Chaudhry was a victim of an improper effort by former President Musharraf to replace him with a more pliant judge makes his current posture all the more deplorable. His conduct has led some of his erstwhile allies to criticize him and speak of the danger to democracy posted by judicial meddling in politics. The stakes are stark indeed. If Mr. Chaudhry succeeds in ousting Mr. Zardari, Pakistan's fledgling democracy would be undermined and the judiciary's own legitimacy would be irrevocably damaged. Rule by unaccountable judges is no better than rule by the generals.
Messrs. Rivkin and Casey, Washington, D.C.-based attorneys, served in the Department of Justice during the Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush administrations.
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