Aug 29

Woe is Pakistan

Posted on Friday, August 29, 2014 in The Friday Times (Editorial)


The political crisis has come to a head. Someone or something must give quickly and diffuse the situation. Or there will be violence, followed by an army “intervention” in one form or another.

The problem is that any sort of army intervention, soft or hard, will generate another matrix of legal and political problems if it is aimed at removing or undermining the legally elected prime minister and parliament of the day. Parliament and the prime minister have both spoken out in defense of their constitutional rights to uphold their respective status quos while the Supreme Court has reiterated its orders to the government to clear the area of the protestors. But the government is reluctant to order the “law enforcement agencies” – police, rangers and army – to enforce the SC’s order.

Indeed, a statement issued by the government following a meeting between the prime minister and the army chief has expressly focused on two core issues: the urgent need to “resolve” the crisis quickly; and the government’s resolve not to use force. However, any government that publicly disavows the use of force to protect its constitutional rights is already admitting it has lost its mandate to govern. Moreover, by admitting the urgency of a “quick” solution in the face of agitators who have threatened to resort to unconstitutional violence, the government has all but succumbed to their core demands.

This is a reflection of the government’s weakness. It stems from a critical mishandling of the Model Town incident in which the government’s position has been weakened by two new developments: the order of the Lahore High Court to register an FIR against the PM, CM and many others; and the leaked report of the Judicial Commission that casts a shadow on the conduct of the chief minister, Shahbaz Sharif, thereby fueling demands for his resignation. Another such incident in Islamabad would be a nail in the political coffin of Nawaz Sharif himself.

Both Imran Khan and Tahirul Qadri have been quick to exploit the government’s vulnerabilities and up the ante. They have now thumbed their nose at the Supreme Court. Dr Qadri is actually digging his grave to prove his resolve to shed blood. If they order their followers to storm parliament or the prime minister’s office or house, the soldiers who are stationed there will have to stop them. If they don’t, it would be in defiance of the orders of the SC and government. In either event, the army’s action or inaction would amount to a military “intervention” for or against the legally constituted regime. Since the military leadership has already signaled its aversion to the use of force against the demonstrators – regardless of the fact that their leaders are openly exhorting them to be ready to storm the barricades by force – it is clear what it will and will not do and what its decision will signify.

In view of these factors, the government’s erstwhile allies in and out of parliament have recommended a human “sacrifice” in an attempt to appease the protestors. This is the resignation of Shahbaz Sharif for the Model Town tragedy demanded by Tahirul Qadri. The potential resignation of Nawaz Sharif, followed by the dissolution of parliament and fresh elections, for Imran Khan’s satisfaction is also on the anvil, if the Supreme Court’s commission of inquiry eventually finds that the elections of 2013 were inextricably corrupted as alleged by Imran Khan.

Nawaz Sharif can take this advice in the expectation of living to fight another day. But sacrificing Shahbaz Sharif under pressure might amount to misplaced concreteness if it so weakens his party and government in his base Punjab province that another onslaught by Imran Khan and Tahirul Qadri some weeks or months down the line on some pretext or the other would knock him down with a feather. On the other hand, holding the line forcefully behind a parliament-cum-Supreme Court “shield” might risk a military intervention that could have seriously adverse consequences not just for the PMLN and the Sharif dynasty but more critically for law, constitution and national security, thereby endangering state and society.

Nawaz Sharif has accepted all the demands of Imran Khan and Tahirul Qadri except the demand to quit before the judicial commission gives its verdict on the fairness of the elections. Unfortunately, he has done so from a position of weakness in the face of threatening mobs instead of strength based on a swift and just redress of the demands of Imran Khan and Tahir ul Qadri to investigate rigging charges in certain constituencies and transparently, neutrally and swiftly fix responsibility for the wanton carnage in Model Town.

The conclusion is inescapable: If Imran Khan and Tahirul Qadri are resorting to unconstitutional means to force out a prime minister, the same prime minister hasn’t mounted a true constitutional defense against their charges. The tragedy is compounded by the reluctance of the “miltablishment” to uphold the same constitutional imperative in such murky circumstances. Woe is Pakistan.

Aug 22

What next?

Posted on Friday, August 22, 2014 in The Friday Times (Editorial)


Three new developments suggest that, despite the aggressive and uncompromising rhetoric, the political crisis provoked by the long marches of Imran Khan and Tahir ul Qadri is dissipating. Neither a military coup nor the resignation of the prime minister, Nawaz Sharif, or dissolution of parliament followed by fresh general elections, is imminent.

The first is a statement from the military leadership indicating its mindset. It has called upon all parties to resolve their disputes through negotiations while signaling the army’s decision to physically protect “institutions of the state”, like Parliament, the Presidency, PM House, the Secretariat, the Supreme Court, etc – in effect to stop the demonstrators from storming or besieging the constitutional abodes of government. Following this “advice”, the siege of parliament ordered by Tahir ul Qadri has been lifted and both he and Imran Khan have entered into talks with government delegations. Although both are sticking to their maximalist demands – which are at odds over core issues – this is a good first step in the direction of conflict resolution.

The second is a demonstrated consensus in civil society that, however inadequate, Pakistan’s democratic dispensation should not be rolled back by unconstitutional or violent means, in effect disavowing any direct military intervention or regime change through violent long marches and street protests. All political parties, ulema groups, civil society organisations, lawyers associations and media are on the same page on this account. Now parliament is demonstrating its resolve to resist any encroachment on its sovereignty. This has isolated both PTI and PAT and compelled them to disavow violence. Indeed, this explains how the current protest movement is sharply different from earlier movements in Pakistani history for regime change – and why D-Square is not Tahrir Square – in which the opposition parties and civil society were all ganged up against a solitary government that responded with fierce repression.

The third is a consensus in civil society that Imran Khan’s charges of institutional election rigging are unmerited because all domestic and independent pollsters and monitors have declared these elections to be the fairest and freest since 1970. Equally, all are also agreed that an independent investigation needs to be commissioned in order to pinpoint serious flaws in the electoral system that give rise to such allegations so that suitable and timely reformist measures can be undertaken by the government in consultation with the opposition in parliament.

These developments may be considered a measure of the way forward in resolving the current impasse by giving each protagonist a face-saving exit while enforcing the national consensus.

Since the attempt to dislodge the prime minister by a long march of protestors representing 35 MNAs out of over 400 parliamentarians is unpopular, unconstitutional and untenable, PAT/PTI must climb down from their maximalist position. Equally, since the demand for an investigation into charges of electoral fraud has popular and political backing, the PMLN must concede a commission of inquiry – even if it means changing the election laws by Presidential Ordinance or parliamentary legislation to facilitate it – whose constitution and terms of reference meet with the unequivocal approval of the PAT/PTI. Both sides must also agree to unreservedly accept the findings of such a commission. If the commission finds that Imran Khan’s charges are institutionally unfounded, then he must resign from the leadership of the PTI. But if it finds the PMLN culpable such a charge, then Nawaz Sharif must resign as prime minister, dissolve the assemblies and quit the leadership of the PMLN. If it finds evidence of particular rather than general rigging, then re-elections must be held in the tainted constituencies under a mutually approved arrangement and the existing political dispensation should be allowed to continue until the decreed next general elections in 2018. In the meanwhile, the 33 member parliamentary committee, which includes 3 PTI representatives, established to recommend suitable changes in the election framework must do its job quickly so that the second core demand of PAT/PTI is satisfied.

The issue of the 18 PAT activists killed by police firing in Model Town last month also needs to be resolved quickly. Dr Qadri is within his rights to demand an independent commission that has his stamp of approval. The PMLN must concede this demand immediately. If such a commission finds the chief minister directly responsible, he must resign from parliament. If it doesn’t, PAT must back off. If it finds other functionaries guilty, they must be sacked from service.

In short, the findings and recommendations of both commissions of inquiry must be given the sanctity of law and complied with fully by all parties.

This long march can pave the way for another disastrous military intervention or it can have an enduring positive impact on Pakistan’s political landscape by compelling the PMLN to rule with greater accountability and parliament with greater responsibility. Imran Khan and Tahir ul Qadri can then either be jointly condemned for undermining and derailing democracy or jointly credited for cleansing and strengthening it.

Aug 15

Miltablishment’s End Game

Posted on Friday, August 15, 2014 in The Friday Times (Editorial)


It isn’t a coincidence that Imran Khan has woken up a year after the elections to contest their wholesale legitimacy and demand the ouster of the Nawaz Sharif government while Tahir ul Qadri has simultaneously leapt out of far-away Canada to demand nothing less than a “revolution” to change the political system.  Nor is it pure political opportunism that has compelled Imran Khan to constantly change the goal posts of his “azadi march” from a recount of votes in four Lahore constituencies, to the resignations of the four provincial election commissioners, to a reconstitution of the Election Commission and a reframing of electoral laws, to the establishment of a Supreme Court body for investigation into charges of electoral fraud and legitimacy, ending up with nothing less than regime change as a prelude to all of the above.

Both Imran Khan and Tahir ul Qadri have demonstrated links with the military establishment, or “Miltablishment”, dating back to the Musharraf-Pasha era. This powerful military establishment is now separate from and distinct from the defunct notion of the “Establishment” which denoted the military-bureaucratic steel-frame that once ruled Pakistan before the politicians corrupted and politicized the civil bureaucracy and co-opted it on their side. This agenda has been facilitated by the Chaudhries of Gujrat and Sheikh Rashid of Lal Haveli who are self-avowed proxies of the “Miltablishment”.

The “Miltablishment’s” aggressive but indirect interventionism in the political system stems from the potential tilting of power from the military to the civilians as electoral democracy has taken root internally and the external prop of the military in the form of the United States has withdrawn from the region. It first flexed its muscle during the Kayani era when the PPP government was straightjacketed and compelled to concede on all issues of “national security” as exclusively defined by GHQ-ISI. Now it has moved decisively to cut Nawaz Sharif to size after his decision to seize control of, and redefine, “national security” policy, especially as relates to regional foreign policy and ant-terrorism strategy. Mr Sharif’s decision to try ex-army chief Musharraf for treason has raised the hackles of the Miltablishment and compelled it to strike back.

This is to say that the Miltablishment’s preferred strategy now is to remain in control of the commanding heights of “national security” by making new allies in the media and even judiciary, both of which now claim “independent” status as organs of the state, to compensate for the abdication of the civil bureaucracy and loss of power to the representatives of the electorate.

This helps to explain not just the current movement for “azadi” or “revolution” by the political allies and proxies of the Miltablishment but also the critical role of the “new media” from the corporate sector in sustaining this development (The Jang/Geo Group is getting the stick because it belongs to the old media which is hamstrung by notions of “journalistic” independence.)

More significantly, it helps to explain how the Miltablishment intends to steer the ongoing political turmoil to its advantage in the next few weeks. A Zia-ist coup is not on the table. Equally, a Kakarist shove can be ruled out because the Nawaz Sharif of 2014 is temperamentally poles apart from the Nawaz Sharif of 1993. This leaves the Kayani option on the table. If Nawaz Sharif, Iftikhar Chaudhry and the old media were key allies in the game to make Zardari politically impotent, then Imran Khan, Tahir ul Qadri and the new media are allies today in the game to cut Sharif down to size. This is to say that the dogs of war will be called off from besieging Islamabad after Sharif concedes the demand to investigate the elections of 2013 via the Supreme Court, reconstitutes the Election Commission with the approval of the chief protagonists immediately, lets Musharraf off the hook, backtracks on his regional foreign policy initiatives and commits to dissolving parliament and holding fresh elections if the SC so directs on the basis of its findings.

Needless to say, however, the best-laid plans can go awry when these are subject to unpredictable mass crowd behavior.  Any deviation from the script by Imran Khan and/or Tahir ul Qadri in the heat of the moment can have unintended consequences no less than the premeditated provocation of terrorists. Certainly, after a series of miscalculations – starting with the Model Town incident and the stop-go measures to close and open the routes for the long marchers and the stubborn refusal to open negotiations with Imran Khan on his core issues some months ago – the Sharifs cannot afford to ride on their high horses any more. They have lost their foothold and standing and will be totally dependent on the goodwill and support of the Miltablishment to complete their term. Those who have pulled out the demagogues of today and also reigned them in can all too easily pull them out again, should the need arise, for a more decisive round in the future.

Aug 13

Najam Sethi Response On Imran Khan Allegations

Posted on Wednesday, August 13, 2014 in News

Aug 13

آئندہ سال پاکستان غیر ملکی ٹیموں کی واپسی کا سال ہوگا: نجم سیٹھی کا خصوصی انٹرویو

Posted on Wednesday, August 13, 2014 in Interview


پاکستان کرکٹ بورڈ کے سبکدوش چیئرمین سیٹھی کا کہنا ہے کہ 2015ء پاکستان میں بین الاقوامی کرکٹ کی واپسی کا سال ہوگا۔ سیٹھی کے بقول مفاد پرستوں نے قدم قدم پر ان کی راہ میں روڑے اٹکائے مگرعدلیہ نے ان کا موقف تسلیم کیا۔

ان کے مطابق ٹیم سلیکشن سے پچانوے فیصد سفارشی کلچر کو ختم کیا گیا ہے اور اگر نئے نظام کو پٹری سے نہ اتارا گیا تو چارسال بعد پاکستان دنیا کی نمبر ایک ٹیم بن جائے گی۔

لاہور میں اپنی رہائش گاہ پر ڈی ڈبلیو کو دیے گئے خصوصی انٹرویو میں نجم سیٹھی کا کہنا تھا، ’’میں صرف تین ماہ کے لیے الیکشن کرانے پی سی بی آیا تھا مگر مفاد پرستوں نے عدالتوں کے ذریعے ان کے راستے میں رکاوٹیں کھڑی کیں اب عدالتوں کو بھی احساس ہوگیا ہے کہ غیرسنجیدہ عرض داشتوں کو اہمیت دینے سے ناصرف پاکستان کرکٹ کو نقصان ہوا بلکہ توہین عدالت بھی کی گئی۔ اس لیے اب امید ہے کہ رواں ماہ الیکشن کے بعد پی سی بی کو کام کرنے کا موقع مل جائے گا۔‘‘

نجم سیٹھی نے دعویٰ کیا کہ اگلے برس پاکستان میں بین الاقوامی کرکٹ بحال ہو جائے گی، ’’جائلز کلارک کی مدد سے چند ماہ قبل آئرلینڈ سے لاہور میں تین ایک روزہ میچوں کا معاہدہ ہوا تھا، میچ کے موقع پر وزیراعلیٰ پنجاب شہباز شریف نے شہر کی مکمل حفاظت کی بھی حامی بھری مگر کراچی ایئرپورٹ واقعہ کے بعد وزیراعظم نواز شریف کے خدشات ظاہر کرنے پر ہم نےآئرش ٹیم کی میزبانی سے معذرت کرلی البتہ اگلے سال یہاں غیرملکی ٹیم آوے ہی آوے۔‘‘

سیٹھی کے مطابق پی سی بی میں بڑے پیمانے پر پائے جانے والےسفارشی کلچر کی حوصلہ شکنی کرتے ہوئے انہوں نے وقار یونس اور مشتاق احمد سمیت دیگر پیشہ ورکوچز کا تقرر کیا اور اس سے ماحول میں خوشگوار تبدیلی آئی، ’’نئے دور میں صرف میرٹ اور پروفیشنل ازم کا بول بالا نہیں ہوگا بلکہ فرسٹ کلاس کرکٹ کے فرسودہ نظام کی اصلاح کی جا رہی ہے۔ کراچی اور ملتان میں اکیڈمیز اگلے بارہ ماہ میں فعال ہوجائیں گی۔ پاکستان سُپرلیگ کرانے کا بڑا قدم اٹھایا ہے اور اگر یہ تجربہ کامیاب رہا تو پی سی بی کو بہت آمدن ہوگی۔‘‘

نجم سیٹھی کے بقول سابقہ بورڈ کے غلط چلن کے سبب پاکستان کرکٹ کی دنیا میں تنہا رہ گیا تھا۔ میں نے پی سی بی کا مقدمہ لڑا اور پاکستان کی آئی سی سی میں اہمیت بحال کرائی۔ بھارت سے چھ سیریز کا معاہدہ طے کیا۔ اگر میرے دور کی پالیسیز کوچلنے دیا گیا تو چار برس بعد پاکستان دنیا کرکٹ میں اپنا لوہا منوا لے گا۔

نجم سیٹھی کا مزید کہنا تھا کہ چیئرمین پی سی بی کی کارکردگی کو پاکستانی کرکٹ ٹیم کی کارکردگی سے منسوب کرنا جائز نہیں۔ انہوں نے کہا کہ یہاں منتخب حکومتوں کی طرح چیئرمین کرکٹ بورڈ کو بھی کام نہیں کرنے دیا جاتا۔ چیئرمین کا کام انتظامی ہوتا ہے، ’’ٹیم جیت جائے تو لوگ کپتان کوکندھوں پر اٹھا لیتے ہیں اور ہارنے پرگالی چیئرمین کو پڑتی ہے، جس میں ماضی کے کھلاڑیوں اور سابقہ بورڈ سربراہان کی سیاست کار فرما ہوتی ہے۔ یہ لوگ پچھلے دروازوں سے پی سی بی میں دوبارہ گھسنے کی کوششوں میں رہتے ہیں۔ پی سی بی میں آج تک تمام بورڈ سربراہان ایوان صدر سے نامزد ہو کر آتے رہے مگر دوہرا معیار یہ ہے کہ یہ دوسروں کو غیر جمہوری ہونے کا طعنہ دیتے ہیں۔ عہدہ کوئی نہیں چھوڑتا، میں بھی چاہتا تو تین سال کے لیے متفقّہ چیئرمین بن جاتا مگر مجھے فخر ہے کہ میں نے خود یہ عہدہ چھوڑنے کا اعلان کیا کیونکہ صحافت ہی میرا اوڑھنا بچھونا ہے۔‘‘

پاکستانی ٹیم کی سلیکشن کے بارے میں سیٹھی کا کہنا تھا کہ سلیکٹرز ایک دوسرے کی پسند کا خیال رکھتے تھے۔ ناکامی کا ملبہ سلیکٹرز اور کپتان ایک دوسرے پر ڈال دیتے تھے،اس لیے طویل صلاح مشوروں کے بعد اس معاملے کی تہہ تک پہنچ کر طریقہ کار کی اصلاح کی گئی۔ آج ٹیم سلیکشن میں پچانوے فیصد سفارشی کلچرکا خاتمہ ہوچکا ہے۔

سیٹھی کے مطابق مصباح الحق کو عالمی کپ 2015ء تک کپتان مقرر کرنا ایک آسان فیصلہ تھا، ’’کچھ لوگ آفریدی کو کپتان دیکھنا چاہتے تھے، ٹیم میں گروپ بندی کو ہوا مل رہی تھی، میں نے اپنے انتظامی تجربے کو بروئے کار لاتے ہوئے مصباح کے ریکارڈ اور قائدانہ صلاحیتوں کو دیکھتے ہوئے یہ قدم اٹھایا اور ٹیم کو تقسیم ہونے سے بچالیا۔ یہی وجہ ہے میرے دور میں پاکستان ٹیم کی کارکردگی تسلی بخش رہی۔‘‘

بورڈ میں بیتے اپنے تیرہ ماہ کو یاد کرتے ہوئے سیٹھی نے مزید کہا کہ انہوں نے کرکٹرز کی خوشحالی کے لئے کئی اقدامات کیے اور پی سی بی سے 125غیر ضروری ملازمین کو برطرف کیا۔ سابقہ ٹیسٹ کرکٹرز کی پینشن میں پچاس فیصد تک اضافہ کیا اور سیریز جیتنے پر پاکستانی ٹیم کا وننگ بونس ڈبل کر دیا۔

پاک بھارت ٹیسٹ سیریز کا مستقبل تابناک قراردیتے ہوئے نجم سیٹھی نے کہا کہ میری چڑیا کے مطابق اگلے برس جنوری میں دونوں ممالک کے وزرائے اعظم کی ملاقات کے بعد بھارتی دفترخارجہ سے بھی کرکٹ سیریز کو گرین سگنل مل جائے گا۔ ہم نے ایک عرصے کے بعد بھارتی بورڈ کو ایف ٹی پی پر دستخط کرنے پر قائل کیا اور سرحدی جھڑپوں کے باوجود اگلے سال دونوں ملکوں میں سیریز کی بحالی بھی ہو کر رہے گی۔

نجم سیٹھی کا کہنا تھا کہ پی سی بی کے نئے آئین میں پیٹرن کے اختیارات بہت کم ہوچکے ہیں اور اگر انہیں بالکل ہی ختم کر دیا جاتا تو پی سی بی ایک بے پتوار کا سفینہ بن جاتا، ’’ گورننگ بورڈ میں رہنے کا میرا مقصد پالیسیوں کے تسلسل کو یقینی بنانا ہے۔ نئے آئین کو آئی سی سی نے بھی تسلیم کیا ہے اور سپریم کورٹ نے بھی سراہا ہے۔‘‘

ایک سوال کے جواب میں نجم سیٹھی نے کہا کہ انہوں نے کرکٹ بورڈ میں بہت محنت کی اس لیے ناجائز تنقید سن کر انہیں بہت دکھ ہوا، ’’مجھے میرے پرانے دوست اور سابق ٹیسٹ اوپنر آفتاب گل نے کرکٹ بورڈ جاتے وقت روکا تھا کہ آپ سانپوں کی دنیا میں کیوں جا رہے ہیں؟ مگر اس وقت تک میں سانپوں کی دم پر پاؤں رکھ چکا تھا۔ میں نے اپنی ذمہ داری پوری کردی ۔‘‘