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The consummate circus
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16 Jun 2010
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Wednesday, June 16, 2010
Raoof Hasan

Seeing the circus that is being enacted before the Supreme Court by the cronies of the presidency makes further mockery of the moral and political fabric of the incumbent leadership. From one day to the next, this bunch of self-serving sycophants is busy in weaving webs of deception and deceit to put off what appears patently vivid and imminent to every one else by now. The strategy seems to be a Machiavellian mix of creating a false impression of confrontation with the apex court to put it under pressure and then employing petty delaying tactics to win further time.

The court, for now, does not appear to be in any inordinate haste. Instead, it is quite willing and agreeable to giving the defence team the time that it asks for, and then some more, to enable it to exhaust its stock of lies and false projections knowing fully well that all this would not help it escape the need of coming up with credible legal arguments regarding the principal question of the government’s reluctance to open the Swiss cases.

Not having done that so far, each day that passes takes the defence team further away from the prospect of convincing the apex bench regarding the validity or veracity of its arguments. What, then, is the circus all about and what are the real intentions of this protracted presentation that unfurls itself with a different act each day of the hearing?

There are no two arguments that the government does not have a case and its team knows it, too. Consequently, it is fabricating an escape in an effort by politicising the allegations of corruption and raising the ante to a frenzied pitch to create confusion and an utterly false impression of it being wronged by the judiciary and the media. Having stretched it this far, it has even deprived its principal argument of the veneer and the naked truth can no longer be hidden even from those who, so far, may have harboured a soft corner for the occupant of the house on the hill.

The court’s judgement regarding the retrospective opening of the cases closed earlier under the criminal National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO) has administered the knockout punch. In the light of this adjudication, technically, there were outstanding cases of corruption (even conviction!) against Mr Zardari on the day he became a candidate to be the president of Pakistan. Consequently, serious legal reservations have to be addressed with regard to his candidature to occupy the most elevated office of the state. Any one with even a modicum of moral fabric would have quit the office and defended the cases to come back to fight another day after having his name cleared.

That may still have been though the chances were only nominal. But, the problem does not rest with Mr Zardari alone. It also concerns his core team of advisers that includes his principal legal experts. If they allow Mr Zardari to take the legal course as he should, they are afraid of going down quickly as they are guilty of having committed multiple transgressions ranging from the criminal to graft to gross misuse of authority.

That’s why their only chance of survival lies in using all vestiges of authority resting in the office of the presidency, be that his supposed immunity from prosecution or his powers to write off sentences of people convicted by the courts. The patent lack of morality of these actions does not seem to sway the perpetrators to hold their breath and gauge the damaging impact of such actions on the writ of the state, nay the very prospect of continuing with the system with its present shape and manifestations.

Maybe, that is the real intent of the bunch of cronies: malign the system to an extent that it crumbles and use the void thus created to escape the grip of law and punishment. The alacrity with which the presidential powers of pardon were used in the cases of the president’s crony Mr Riaz and Interior Minister Rehman Malik amply reflect the real intentions of the members of the ruling hierarchy: they would stoop to any low to save their skins for now and for as long as they can keep the circus going.

As we race to the end game, the time that is being allowed to this bunch of cronies may be creating a false impression with regard to the earnestness of the judiciary to use its constitutional powers to punish those who have committed transgressions irrespective of their elevated offices.

It is a known fact that the judiciary does not owe its present position to the incumbent government, least of all the leadership of the PPP. Yet, it has shown patience in the face of delaying tactics and resilience in the face of barbs. That creates the right foundation for the forthcoming judgement. Whenever it comes, it is hoped that the incumbent leadership would have the good sense to heed it in its entirety as any thing short of that would expedite the unleashing of vultures that are out to devour the remnants of a putrid legacy.

The writer is a political analyst based in Lahore.

Email: raoofhasan@hotmail.com

Dance of the demons
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12 Jun 2010
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Saturday, June 12, 2010
Raoof Hasan

The lack of directional movement in a society is generally symptomatic of the absence of growth. In other words, it could also mean that a pattern of decay has set in that may, ultimately, jeopardise, even eliminate the prospect of its development generating hope for its people and becoming a credible voice in international engagements.

Currently, our society is a typical example of this malaise. It appears as if its growth has stymied and it is only moving in circles around the demons it has accumulated over the last sixty-two years of its existence. The one demonstrative of an extreme lack of flexibility in coping with the ever-changing realities that countries or nations may be confronted with tops the harrowing collection.

Internally, it typifies our inherent inability to accept and adjust to the emerging symbols of the rule of law and out insistence on perpetuating a mindset that promotes and lives by the opposite. Externally, it represents our growing aloofness in the comity of civilised nations that only grudgingly accords acknowledgement to our existence without tiring of exuding sentiments that they would be better off without us or, at least, would be more comfortable living with us if a drastic overhaul was undertaken swiftly in the manner of our thinking. This harsh approach is an apt rejoinder to the absence of legitimacy that is sorely pasted on all initiatives that we undertake either for our domestic consumption or international assimilation.

It is widely acknowledged that it practically took us all the years that we have been there as a sovereign country to throw off the yoke of living by the doctrine of necessity and see the emergence of the symbols of constitutionality and legality.

It is also a principal paradox that the very forces that initially embraced and championed the cause of these symbols and apparently fought for their ascendance quickly degenerated to joining hands in conspiring to thwart their empowerment. It is nothing short of a modern-day miracle that, through a combination of circumstantial events and happenings, these symbols ultimately succeeded in emerging on the horizon heralding the beginning of a new era of constitutionality and the rule of law. In spite of being frustrated by the tenacity of the forces spearheading this movement, the conspirators quickly set about erecting impediments to reverse the prospect of change and continue living by the decadent symbols of perpetuating the authority and ascendance of individuals over institutions.

There are numerous examples demonstrative of this effort, but the grotesquely brazen and blatant manner of combating the injunctions of the Supreme Court by the sitting government emerges as the principal indicator of measuring the lack of adaptability of the ruling hierarchy in accepting the change that may appear to work against their illegal and self-aggrandising interests.

The multifarious benefits accrued to an individual that are generally perceived to be at a tangent to the national cause and the concept of empowerment of the institutions found a confluence of interest with a coterie of his close associates and partners.

Consequently, we witnessed the emergence of a group of loud-mouths whose impassioned mission is to defend the status-quo that revolves around the perpetuation of the hold on power of an individual. In the process, and not withstanding the 18th amendment, their personal interests also found an umbrella in the weird interpretation of the concept of immunity for an individual and his credentials to be in a position of power consequent upon the annulment of the National Reconciliation Ordinance and the order relating to the re-opening of all cases with retrospective effect. All this is being enacted in broad day light with the whole world watching this bizarre concept of one person’s sway over the fate of a whole nation.

After its recent emergence as an independent pillar of power, though wobbly in its new-found authority, the judiciary does not appear to have given up on its resolve to assert its lawful credentials and, in the process, force all players to conform to the internationally accepted norms of legality.

The same is duly enshrined in our constitution that stipulates contrary to all power being vested in an individual to the detriment of the interest of the institutions and other pillars of the state. This principal conflict seems to be tearing the nascent contours of a system apart. In this advanced stage of decay, is there still a way out of the deepening quagmire?

This is a question that stares us in the face, desperately seeking an answer when, apparently, there is none that can be offered by way of the traditional yardsticks. Does that mean that we would have to suffer the pangs of childbirth again to chisel our way out? Or, is there still hope for a more peaceful recourse that would take us through the immediate and present crisis? While none of the two extremes may present a tenable solution, the answer may lie somewhere in the middle mixing a bit of both potions.

The hardened stances of the ruling hierarchy, crudely on display through its conglomerate of cronies and sycophants, may appear to frustrate the prospect of a compromise, but the dominant determination of a whole society that continues to pour forth in so many powerful variations will be the crowning factor to define the nature and contours of the outcome. In the event the change is not allowed to materialise, the prospect of blood on the horizon would descend right in our midst sweeping away the efforts of the saner minds still engaged in fostering a peaceful settlement.

Every day that is lost in this mindless quest of stamping the authority of individuals over principles and institutions would only expedite the shaping of a culture of intolerance that may take over in the end, obliterating completely the prospect of living by the rule of law. The demons would emerge from the silence of oblivion. One lives in fear of the day!

The writer is a political analyst based in Lahore. Email: raoofhasan@hotmail.com

Towards conflict
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21 Apr 2010
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Wednesday, April 21, 2010
Raoof Hasan

The confrontation between the political leadership and the judiciary appears a certainty now. When that happens, it will be a sad day for those who have struggled for the empowerment of institutions in the country without which true democracy cannot take root.

Apparently, it is the inability as well as unwillingness of the political leadership to implement the numerous directives of the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court’s insistence that the government take necessary steps with regard to the initiation of cases against the president in the Swiss court hinges on its belief that these cases are not covered by the much-hyped immunity clause. Another view that is supported by a vast majority of the jurists is that it remains the exclusive prerogative of the Supreme Court to interpret the immunity clause with regard to its applicability and its scope, both within and outside the country. Since the Supreme Court has already passed orders to start the proceedings in Switzerland vis-√†-vis the money laundering cases against President Zardari, it appears to emanate from the belief that the onus of seeking this interpretation rests with the executive. The executive, on the other hand, keeps parroting its resolve that there is no need for any interpretation as the contents of the immunity clause are self-explanatory.

What complicates matters further is the gross lack of legitimacy of the government that remains so even after the passage of the 18th Amendment leading to the transition of powers from the hands of the president to the prime minister. Many argue that this is only cosmetic and the real power would remain vested in the person of the president who is well-entrenched and in firm control of events as the co-chairperson of the PPP.

The essence of democracy hinges on an equitable and fair distribution of power among the various organs of the state. When these powers are exclusively used to benefit the interests of a select coterie, or just one person, it does not conform to any established rationale or morality. It is under these circumstances that those organs of the state that view things differently, and more correctly, start asserting their will to change the course of the tide. Concurrently, the coterie that has benefited from the dictatorial proclamations and enactments feels threatened, thus baring its undemocratic fangs to defend its stated and un-stated positions. That invariably leads to the onset of a conflict situation.

The situation is further complicated by a visible perception that there is a need for cooperation among different political forces as otherwise the undemocratic forces would find a rationale to walk in. This is a flawed argument as quite significant and unprecedented changes have already occurred indicating where the real power rests. The holding of a meeting chaired by the chief of army staff that was reportedly attended by some sitting secretaries and a couple of ministers within the confines of the General Headquarters announced this change with a bang. If any ambiguities still remained, the COAS’s dominant role in the Strategic Dialogue all but erased them. The GHQ is firmly in control and the insinuation that it may stage a coup is both improbable and untenable. This transition of power from the political to the military command has taken place ever so quietly, without even the proverbial whimper. It represents the inherent lack of legitimacy of the incumbent political leadership while sadly stamping the supremacy of the GHQ.

In the event the looming confrontation that currently hangs on the horizon precipitates, its outcome would be determined by the manner in which the military exercises its dominant position. With increasing contradictions that plague the working of the ruling political conglomerate, it may not require much imagination to determine which way we may be headed.

The writer is a freelance contributor based in Lahore.

Email: raoofhasan@hotmail.com

The intolerance syndrome
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07 Apr 2010
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Wednesday, April 07, 2010
Raoof Hasan

The symptoms of excessive violence being exhibited as a matter of routine by various segments of our society have been on display for long, but they have only now begun to be translated into a consistent collective character trait. This has rendered the society into becoming unmanageable and unwieldy, with conflicting violent groups that are operating mostly to assert their will on the rest of the society. We have succeeded in painting a picture that is an extremely perverse version of how we should have evolved as a nation.

When I was growing up in the late fifties and early sixties, I remember a society that was extremely tolerant of the way others were. Even if there were stark differences, they were overridden by understanding and giving others the right to live their lives the way they wanted to. There was no sickly urge to impose oneself over others and force them to submit to the way you perceived the world to be. There was little to no discrimination on the basis of religious, cultural or social affiliations.

This was all washed away by the religious bigotry unleashed on the country by the Zia dictatorship. Much of it emanated from the lack of legitimacy of the despot who believed that no one would be able to oppose him if he espoused the cause of religion as the principal objective of his military coup. His decision to push Pakistan into the Afghan cauldron exposed the country to extremism and violence.

The best part of the proposed 18th Amendment to the Constitution is removal of the name of Gen Ziaul Haq from history as a president of Pakistan. This move will bring the country much closer to the true cause of its creation. There is more to be done in terms of dealing with the legacies of other dictators, including Gen Musharraf and the way he brought infamy to the country. But you must credit him with provoking and precipitating the movement for the independence of the judiciary that can easily be termed as the single most significant achievement of the people of Pakistan over the last 62 years.

It is strange how the dictatorship malaise has permeated our daily lives, impacting the psyche of a whole nation. It has been instrumental in eliminating the power of logic and reason, replacing it with a tendency bordering on an insane espousal of the concept of self-righteousness with an inherent urge to pontificate and show others the “correct” path. This has invariably led to the elimination of the instinct to set ourselves credible goals and the urge to make a genuine and sincere effort of moving towards their attainment. Instead, we have been overridden by the belief that we are aware of all that moves under the skies, and what is left is only to let others understand that we know more and better than all of them put together.

This is an unmistakable sign of plunging to the depths of depravity of a mindset that not only blocks all avenues to progress but also curtails one’s ability to be able to think straight. Instead, a know-all syndrome sinks in deep that plagues one’s ability for lateral comprehension and objective appraisal. Thus we become a stunted people without the ability to initiate a process of self-appraisal to determine what assails our ability to think straight.

If this is the ultimate that we envisaged to achieve as a nation, then we are right there, having attained infamy and the unmistakable title of the preachers of violence in our midst as well as throughout the world. We have reduced ourselves to becoming an incongruous phenomenon that the rest of the world believes has to be dealt with urgently and effectively. Consequently, we are insulted at every port of entry to any civilised country of the world. We are meted out a treatment more deservedly meant for some other kind of species. But it is we who have brought it upon ourselves.

If we are to develop as a nation and a distinctive polity, we have to address the issue in its entirety. We have to revisit the causes that may have provoked this plunge into notoriety and evaluate ways and means to extricate ourselves from the clutches of intolerance and violence. It is only then that we would be able to take the first step on the road to achieving salvation and link up with the ideals of our creation.

The writer is based in Lahore.

Email: raoofhasan@hotmail.com

Culture of violence
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10 Mar 2010
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Wednesday, March 10, 2010
Raoof Hasan

If anyone was shocked over the humiliation of hapless naked victims lying prostrate under the wild swings of the police personnel in broad daylight and before an audience, I would be surprised. It was only an open exhibition of a culture of violence that has penetrated deep through various tiers and echelons of our society. It was the portrayal of the belief that such treatment would elicit the desirable confessions from those alleged to have committed a crime. Nothing could be more vicious, more distorted and more demeaning.

The germs of this culture of violence can be traced back to the days of the Raj when any semblance of resistance to its dictates was brutally subdued. This was perpetrated through a string of local appointees who became eager instruments in the hands of their foreign masters to inflict humiliation on their own people. The Raj disintegrated having outlived its utility and relevance, but the culture of violence not only survived, it caught roots because there was continuing need of its use by those who barged in. In essence, we only had a change of faces while the system not only survived, it became even more brutal and penetrative. The public exhibition of people being flogged with mikes placed before them so that the vast audience could hear them shrieking and begging for mercy under this sick and weird administration of ‘justice’ afflicted the national psyche in a manner from which it still has not been able to recover, and possibly would not for a long time to come. It, in fact, has become a sustaining trait of our character and large chunks of our society do not hesitate a bit in owning it up. This was amply demonstrated by the presence of an ‘approving audience’, who, in some cases were the alleged motivators of this blatant display of brutality.

In a way, it also reflects the lack of respect to the rule of law by our leaders. When those entrusted with the supreme responsibility of managing the affairs of the country and ensure and respect rule of law in all their dealings are seen seeking ‘immunity’ , one cannot expect ordinary citizens to show any concern when they see the law being trampled right before their eyes.

When the cameras catch the top associates of the regime decamping with hardcore evidence against their principal leader in sheer violation of the law and the orders of the Supreme Court, how could one expect that the police would behave any differently? The affliction has penetrated deep. What is required is a massive surgery that entails replacement of major organs.

But, there is another aspect that may be even more important: a change in the discriminatory manner in which justice is dispensed. While there is one rule for the rulers and their illegal, immoral and unconstitutional pursuits, there is a totally different rule when it comes to ordinary citizens. While the law dealing with the rulers is geared to defending them and their ill-gotten reservoirs stacked throughout the world, the one dealing with the plebeians envisages a lack of access to even the basic portals of justice.

A fundamental change in mindset has become essential. If we continue to suffer the (lack of) governance of those who have publicly broken law and against whom there are serious cases of a variety of crimes outstansinf in various courts, there is no way lesser mortals could be sensitised to observing either the rule of law, or the legitimate chain of command. There is every likelihood that such grave transgressions may ultimately plunge the country into a cauldron of unmanageable anarchy.

The writer is an independent political analyst based in Lahore.

Email: raoofhasan@hotmail.com

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