INSIGHT AND FORESIGHT

March 11, 2017

ODE TO SAJJAD ALI SHAH

Filed under: Uncategorized — sharafs @ 4:19 am

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Ex Chief Justice Syed Sajjad Ali Shah passed away this week. May his Soul Rest in Eternal Peace? Unlike lateral entrants who form the majority of Supreme Court, he was a career jurist rising through the ranks from 1967 t0 1998. Consequent to a long tussle he had with Mian Nawaz Sharif, he was stripped of his title by his fellow judges in 1998. Amidst the PSL finals and controversies, the news of his death was damp and insignificant. Akin to the cantankerous nature of Pakistani politics, the man who made headlines from 1994 to 1998, died in oblivion. Yet the cause for which he lived and died remains unaccomplished. The battle between corrupt elites and public interests of the people is ongoing in the very courts that disgraced him.

The anonymity of Justice Sajjad Ali Shah is explainable in the interrelationship of ‘Raw Power’ in Pakistani politics with short public memory that makes truth the first casualty. It also reflects a yawning gap in the ability of opinion makers and media to sift real from fiction. Most, it is a grim reminder that nations that forget history and do not self-correct continue to suffer indignity and pain. It is also an indictment on public perceptions that are managed to eclipse realities. Lastly it represents a collective flexible conscience of the elites that only awakens when self-benefits can be reaped. Justice Sajjad Ali Shah’s death reflects the dearth of the ‘Rule of Law’.

His autobiography, ‘Law Courts in a Glass House’ rots in dustbins with no reviews. Not a single readable copy of his memoirs is available on the internet. Oxford University Press that published his book does not have a copy. Many legal experts are reluctant to talk about him. When confronted with existing controversies, they reluctantly agree but only so. Being on the wrong side of history is an admission impossible to come by. The only introduction available is, “Supreme Court Justice Sajjad Ali Shah was about to reach a major constitutional decision when Legislators of the ruling Muslim League Party stormed the Supreme Court in Pakistan, physically preventing him from delivering judgment. Here, Shah provides the judiciary’s version of this bizarre episode, shedding new light on Pakistani history, law, and politics.”

Ironically his autobiography corroborates with the existing political culture of Pakistan with a bench of Supreme Court seized with an ‘event in succession’, that could make judicial history. Once again the party exerting implied pressure on the Supreme Court is PMLN that masterminded the humbling of Sajjad Ali Shah. If past is precedence, the culture of gratification will prevail and therefore reflect the divides in the bench. There may be insignificant few who will ‘pity the nation’. Apex Courts are on trial ‘to come of age’ or fall to the temptations of a judicial culture put in place by Zia Ul Haq, PMLN and Chaudary Iftikhar. Odds are uneven.

Despite many controversies that surrounded him, history will record him as a jurist who led a single handed campaign against forces of corruption and nepotism. Had he succeeded, the constitutional and political history of Pakistan would have been remarkably different. There would have been no military rule; a different military chief; and a better line of political succession. Also the highly politicized judiciary would have been purged. Most, Pakistan’s nuclear capability would have been boosted by political stability and economic development.

As a prelude to Pakistan’s nuclear explosions, this was perceived in 1997-98 as a logical course of events put off-track by forces of political greed and inertia. General Karamat’s departure as the COAS was the last nail in the coffin of wishful thinking. His capitulation was too docile, drowning the aspirations of a nation. Alas, Pakistan was to take a most wrecking course leading to present controversies. With Malik Qasim’s report and Rehman Malik’s investigation on money laundering, Panama, offshore investments and Swiss Bank accounts would have been nipped in the bud. Pakistan would have been richer by scores of billions in US Dollars.

Effort by him to unsuccessfully alter the course of Pakistan’s tainted constitutional and corrupt politics caused his isolation. Live by the sword and you die by it. Himself a beneficiary of political expediency, he miscalculated his services and failed to realize that he was surrounded by fellow judges who owed a lot to their political masters. As his differences with Mian Nawaz Sharif reached a crescendo, he was controversially removed by his fellow judges. The two justices who created the factions were politically rewarded to become the President of Pakistan and Governor of Sindh.

Eventually, neither the military not the President came to his support. Thumped with a two thirds majority, Prime Minster was quick to move the Thirteenth Amended that deprived the President of powers. Disarmed, President Laghari had a choice to get impeached or resign. Besieged by a majority he had craftily managed to put in place, he chose resignation. In mysterious circumstances, the COAS General Jehanghir Karamat also resigned.

Equipped with the Thirteenth Amendment, Nawaz Sharif could now have a Chief Justice and Army Chief of his choice. He did, but was removed through a coup led by his handpicked military chief. With good overseas connections, he bounced back in controversial elections to only begin from where he had left. The issues that Justice Sajjad Ali Shah tried addressing aggravated with time, and remain unresolved.

The cardinal sin committed by Justice Sajjad Ali Shah was the even application of law. This he manifested in his dissenting judgment in Nawaz Sharif case in 1993 and dismissal of PPP government in 1996. Though he is discredited with upholding this dismissal, the decision came from the highest office under pressure from USA for her reconciliatory efforts in bringing peace to Afghanistan (Nation: I August 2010. The Elusive Peace: A War of Error).

Eventually, the system isolated him. In desperation he asked the three services chiefs to protect him and his court under Article 190 of the constitution. This was not done and ultimately PMLN mobs ransacked the Supreme Court. At his weakest, suddenly the elastic conscience of his brother judges to gang up against him came to fore. Belatedly, they realized after three years that his appointment was illegal and stripped him. With him ended one chapter of Pakistan’s judicial anarchy [interpretation of Article 184 (3)] only to successively re-sink Pakistan whenever it suited the benefactors and beneficiaries.   The tug continues.

If one was to draw an organogram of Pakistan’s judicial and bureaucratic elites, factorise events with empiricism, the conclusions would be shocking and heart breaking.  These would authenticate the memoirs of Justice Sajjad Ali Shah.

As a hypothesis, the present judicial system is a continuation of the courts of Justice Nasim Hassan Shah and the young bureaucrats inducted into service in the 90s. One way or the other, the majority are directly or indirectly placed as beneficiaries of political gratification and what Qaid e Azam abhorred; jobbery.  As regards Panama Public Interest Litigation proceeds, these findings will be staring down the throats of many judges of the apex courts who are beneficiaries of the system.

The Shah has died. Long live the Shah.

Samson Simon Sharaf

The writer is a political economist and a television anchorperson

SOCIOLOGY OF CONFLICT

Filed under: Uncategorized — sharafs @ 4:10 am

Conflict is a science of sociology emanating from conflicting interests. Not only wars but conflicts across the entire spectrum are competitive in nature. A modern nation state is a creation of this conflict and can only integrate when its diversities are bonded by complementary interests. This is called nation building.

Two very contrasting headlines captured Pakistan in the past weeks. The federal government announced mainstreaming Federally Administered Tribal Areas adjacent to Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Balochistan and Afghanistan. The second related to stereo-typing Pashtuns in Punjab by a hyperactive police notorious for its high handedness. Both headlines affect Pakistan’s efforts at nation building and have to be handled like an artisan making his crafts. Given the hasty manner in which the government came out in mainstreaming FATA, the two events also seem interconnected and an effort at damage repair.

Like the Nation Action Plan which was more talk than action, the merger plan is conspicuous by its insensitivity. Given the hasty modalities, the meanings of nationalism, nation building and devolution seem to be least understood. The government does not seem to realize that it is about to embark on a journey into unchartered waters. Pakistan’s record at building inclusiveness and using diversity as strength is not good. The crises within All India Muslim League, separation of East Pakistan, Punjab centric approaches and existing marginalization of ethnic and religious minorities are a sorry tale at building nationhood. History has many examples where good ideas were ruined by bad plans. Pakistan needs a surgeon’s incisiveness and not a butcher’s cleaver.

There is only one way to merge FATA into KPK. This way is the RIGHT WAY drafting the aspirations of the people reflected in their ethnic, cultural and historical aspirations as also creating opportunities for mutually beneficial complementary alliances that strengthen national cohesion. Though the people of FATA have always yearned for a more inclusive identity within Pakistan, the abrasive manner of handling Pashtuns in Punjab was shameful to say the least. It provided an opportunity to the forces of disintegration and ultra nationalists to reopen the Pashtun question that is already dead in Pakistan. If the people of FATA feel that their immediate problems are not being addressed, how would they feel comfortable with a 5-10 year rolling plan whose outline is already controversial?

Since 1947, tribal regions were loosely federated with Pakistan with the will of the people represented by their tribal maliks. The Rahadari System and pastures permitted cross border movement which has now become extremely contentious. What separated Pashtuns living across the Durand line were the strong economic linkages with Pakistan. But the non compliance of federal laws had created an environment where FATA became a haven for illegal activities. This apathy and disregard gave way to turmoil, violence and lawlessness. Therefore, Pakistan must make the best of this decision. FATA with its people and its abundant natural resources that spread from Chitral to South Waziristan must be mainstreamed under a social, economic and political plan that benefits everyone. The rich rare earth minerals of Waziristan must not face the same fate as Reko Diq. If exploitation is avoided FATA has the potential to become the powerhouse of Pakistan.  In this backdrop, the merging of FATA into KPK is a landmark decision warranting astute socio-political, administrative and socio-economic handling. This is where the catch lies.

FATA comprises seven tribal agencies and six frontier regions. To cut a long story short, the arrangement represented the British forward policy against Afghanistan and Russia. This arrangement served the imperial designs of the Cold War when USSR occupied Afghanistan. FATA became the base of operations for launching a mock Jihad and so called Mujahedeen. Statistically, only a small group amongst these militants was Pashtuns. Others included Arabs, Chechens, Uzbeks and Punjabis. Though FATA under the arrangements was designed a lawless area, the conflict, drugs, proliferation of weapons and diverse fighting groups marginalized the Maliks and made it a free for all hornet’s nest. It is only after a series of operations by law enforcement agencies that the area has been cleared of militants but only temporarily. Most fled to Afghanistan and parts of Pakistan to reorganize and live to fight another day.

If someone in Pakistan’s elitist decision makers thinks that palming off FATA to KPK is a good idea, he is grossly at fault. This thinking without an imaginative back up plan will only make things worse. The much touted FATA Reforms Package and merger plans spread over five to ten years may just be the beginning of the challenges. No plan works to perfection and practical challenges will emerge as and when the plan is put into effect. Widespread criticism of lawmakers of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa over the hastily agreed arrangement is only the beginning of challenges. At the same time the government should resist the temptation to put the merger plan at the mercy of Pakistan’s polarized and corrupt politics. But this is exactly what it seems to do.

First the much touted six-member committee constituted in November 2015 based its consultations and recommendations on a two day flying visit to FATA.  In this time it was impossible to consult over 3,500 representatives it claims. Consultations have only been peripheral and exclusive.

Secondly, it is impossible to ordain inclusiveness to a problem that has lingered ever since the Sikhs handed over FATA to the British. The scars of history, questions of identity and culture, the miseries of people, and their aspirations cannot be absorbed and articulated in hastily called jirgas within two days. People of FATA as a start point want their return to homes, reconstruction and rehabilitation (3Rs) under their own supervision. The merger plan is non representative and controversies will emerge along the way. This is avoidable.

Thirdly, the province that has to absorb FATA is only in an indirect loop. No KPK representatives are part of the merger committee. It is unimaginable that a province that has to do all the donkey’s work is not represented in such consultations. There is an immediate need that all elected representatives of FATA and at least three members of the KPK cabinet should also be co-opted in the merger committee.

Fourthly, the civil society and activist of FATA, many of whom are highly accomplished individuals are not happy with the merger plan. As a start point they want the 3Rs to begin under their own representatives. This means either constituting Jirgas at Tehsil level or conducting local body elections immediately. As is obvious from the Prime Minister’s statement, this is not a federal priority. All development work will be conducted under the unpopular political agent’s office.

Following measures are of extreme importance.

The government must assemble a consultative group of eminent sociologists and those with hands on experience in FATA to reevaluate the FATA merger plan. This group must be cognizant of the sociology of conflicts and draft best measures to promote nationalism.

The work on 3Rs must begin forthwith. This will reassure the people of FATA that they are not being exploited for someone else’s political gains.

The federal government must direct all chief ministers of provinces to exercise caution in exercising authority that appears racist and counterproductive to Pakistan’s nationhood.

As a last comment what happens to devolution of larger provinces? To the contrary, another mega province is being created. I only hope that halfway in implementation, a future government does not decide that devolution is a good idea. Then we will be back to square one. So why not consider devolution right now?

Samson Simon Sharaf

The writer is a political economist and a television anchorperson

 

 

February 25, 2017

The Panama Pyre

Filed under: Uncategorized — sharafs @ 5:53 am

 

The hearings of a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) on Panama by a bench of the Supreme Court of Pakistan have concluded and the judgment reserved for future. Litigations filed by Pakistan Tehrik e Insaf (PTI), Jamaat e Islami, Watan Party and Sheikh Rasheed Ahmad were earlier dismissed. The Registrar of the Supreme Court had ruled that these petitions were frivolous for pecuniary gain but was overruled by the Chief Justice who constituted a bench that dissolved on his retirement and was again reconstituted with Justice Asif Khosa heading it.

What is important is that the Supreme Court ‘in principal’ accepted the petitions in the spirit of public interest in as much it exercises the jurisdiction of suo moto, (representative of people and strengthening democracy in public interest). It took on the onerous task of ascertaining the wrongs done to the fundamental rights and interests of the people of Pakistan. In the days of Justice Retired Iftikhar Chaudary, the Supreme Court has invoked this jurisdiction repeatedly.

The proceedings were never about the petitioners versus PML-N. Though the media did try reflecting debates as adversarial they were in fact inquisitorial with the Supreme Court Bench acting as a surrogate of public interest. The questions on money trails were inquisitorial in nature and the respondents exercised evasion. As PILs the world over imply, it was the bench ascertaining facts with assistance of litigants who represented the people of Pakistan. It was in this spirit that Imran Khan, Chairman of PTI invoked Article 184 (3) of the Constitution of Pakistan and reminding the court that his petition was justified in advocating the interests of the people.

In such cases as provided in Article 184 (3) of the Constitution of Pakistan, the inquisitorial and judgment writ of the Supreme Court extends beyond what exists in judicial precedence. It is for these reasons that while the petitions provided leads to the violations of public interest, the onus of ascertaining the truth and facts fell on the Supreme Court. For this reason, many jurists in Pakistan commented that the ‘Supreme Court was on trial’. The petitioners repeatedly reminded the bench that they were not an investigating agency. To invoke the inquisitorial jurisdiction of the Supreme Court and enable it to question investigative agencies and lower courts, PTI had prayed for the following actions by the court: That Mian Nawaz Sharif, Captain Retired Safdar and Ishaq Dar be declared to be disqualified to be Members of the National Assembly. There should be a direct recovery of looted/laundered money along with properties purchased through British Virgin Island Companies and companies in other safe havens. A direction to Chairman NAB must be given to discharge his obligations under S.18 read with S.9 of the National Accountability Ordinance 1999 and complete investigation in mega corruption cases pending for the last fifteen years. The Secretary Interior was to be directed to take steps for placement of the name of Mian Nawaz Sharif and his family members named in Panama leaks on the Exit Control List. Secretary Law and Chairman NAB must be ordered to initiate claims on behalf of Government of Pakistan for recovery of the properties in question. The FBR is to be directed to probe and minutely scrutinise the tax returns and assets declarations of the respondent and the entire Sharif family. Any other relief, direction or order deemed just and proper may also be afforded, issued and given.

PILs and suo motos have a historical precedence and past decisions of the Supreme Court have an effect of law. These are always inquisitorial and non-adversarial.  Judicial activism and what some may call the power of the Suo Moto emerged in Pakistan post-1985. According to Rafay Alam, “the creation and development of the PIL jurisdiction can also be seen as a manifestation of the Islamic and democratic ideals enshrined therein… the non-adversarial nature of PIL proceedings often result in consensus which appear similar to the principle of Ijtma in Islamic law…PIL jurisdiction is one of the few places citizens can challenge their elected representatives and the institutions they operate without recourse to the polls. With some Islamic scholars arguing that the use of Ijtma makes Islamic law compatible with Democracy, the link between PIL and Islamic and democratic principles is becoming difficult to ignore.”

It appears that the court hearing the Panama PIL forayed into unchartered territory and therefore learnt as it proceeded. The case itself that spans irregularities from 1992 to this day, requires unprecedented inquest. This is the reason why PTI had made NAB and FBR as respondents and also included the proviso of ‘deemed just and proper’. The challenges for the honourable judges were reflected in the exchange of dialogues during the proceedings.

But the first prayer of PTI had no ambiguity. It related to Sadiq and Ameen about which the court had set precedence in the past like disqualification of elected representatives failing Articles 62-63 of the Constitution of Pakistan. In the case of the disqualification of Yusuf Raza Gilani, the Supreme Court itself had disqualified the Prime Minister after conviction rather than refer it to the Election Commission of Pakistan. The litigants felt that based on evidence, past precedence and the evasive attitude of the respondents in the court, the bench in a short order could disqualify Mian Nawaz Sharif under Articles 62-63 of the Constitution of Pakistan.

Other prayers of PTI will take time to address. The respondents, cognisant of dire consequences, deliberately kept the issue of money trails ambivalent. Stopping the buck at 2006 and Qatari letters were used to confuse the court. The crucial links to untangle the knot and discover the trails back to 1992 lay in the Economic Reforms Act of 1992, Hudaibya Paper Mills and Ishaq Dar’s confessional statement on money laundering. These cases were not probed enough and governor State Bank of Pakistan never questioned.

The appearance of Chairman NAB in the courts was more for optics. It was the courts and not NAB that had shut doors on the Hudaibya Paper Mill case. In one case, the judge who closed the case is named in Panama papers. The Lahore High Court, while quashing a NAB argument admitted that Nawaz Sharif had nominal shares in the business. Judge Anwar Ahmed of accountability court termed all charges ‘politically motivated’, a remark that was never deliberated. The bench should have investigated these court decisions before admonishing Chairman NAB, who stood his ground with grace.

Another missing link and not probed enough was the Economics Reforms Act 1992 and its relevance to money laundering. These trails are mentioned in detail in FIA report investigated by Rehman Malik. Though the report did find mention in the proceedings, it is available with the bench to determine the relevance with evidence provided by the litigants. While the bench deliberates over the final outcome, it is hoped that State Bank of Pakistan will be asked to furnish crucial financial data from 1992-98. These, combined with the judgments of British Courts will make a water tight case. Indeed, if proved, it will result in convictions and recovery of Pakistani assets. Individuals who abetted in hiding money trails before the bench will all be in the firm grip of the long hand of law.

Given the damage done to Pakistan and its people, the final judgment of the bench could comprise a short order followed by more investigations. During that phase, the courts that ruled in favour of Sharifs, FBR and State Bank of Pakistan will all be under inquest.

In case the prayers of Imran Khan are not addressed, the litigants will always have a right of review. Then a legal team of PTI will raise issues on questions of law (not framed by the bench) leading to more inquests. To assume that Panama Case will be dead after the bench gives its judgment is wrong. To the contrary, the game would have just begun. The Panama Pyre will burn.

Published in Nation. 25-2-17

February 18, 2017

RED ALERT

Filed under: Uncategorized — sharafs @ 4:37 am

What has happened within a week in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Mohmand Agency, Quetta, Lahore, Karachi and Sewan Sharaf was a matter of time. According to counter terrorism analysts it was long overdue. Two years of military led operations in North Waziristan with a napping National Action Plan (NAP) scattered militants like flies on a heap of filth (Nation: 17 September 2016, NAP or Napping). Now they have regrouped and returned with vengeance. With NAP in deep slumber, a government preoccupied with Panama and frail linkages of the center with the provinces, the environments were most lucrative for militants to swim like fish in water.

I have remained a fierce critic of NAP for deliberate inaction on political, judicial and social responsibilities. I had cautioned the military that in absence of political and social responsibility, it was impossible for it to handle counter terrorism like a comical Western Lone Ranger. Absence of a comprehensive policy aggravated by lack of political will and expediencies brew a lethal mixture. The paragraph below sums up the appraisal on terrorism.

“As time passes, the suspicions will become the obvious. At that point of time, Pakistan will pass through another phase of bloodshed. This will happen when the LEAs, even in absence of orders will be head on with many islands of militancy lying dormant in Punjab and operating in Sindh/Balochistan. It could also happen if militant organizations on a nod for any reason, take on the LEAs at their own” (Nation:  21 January 2017, Pakistan, the dependent state Part 2). Unfortunately, as events indicate, Pakistan has passed that point of time and terror is revisiting urban Pakistan. It is now Red Alert; creating panic that propagates the narrative of militants.

What makes the situation more ominous is that Pakistan’s internal security has linkages to the international environment. Militant sanctuaries within the Kacha Areas of Punjab, Sindh and Balochistan with Punjab’s reluctance to take on sectarian outfits combine with hostile intelligence agencies supporting intrusions from Afghanistan. This is now a very serious security threat. Government’s leverage to equate these outfits to negate the larger policy interests of Pakistan in order to appease India is now ‘talk of the town’.

Many assessments by me and other analysts are remarkably similar. Given the environments and politician’s games of expediencies, terror is revisiting urban areas of Pakistan with more ferocity.  The strategic appraisals on incomplete counter terrorism operations were validated by Quetta Commission Report that singled out Punjab with hideouts and open presence of sectarian organizations.  The Federal and Punjab government frowned over these assessments but facts float on the surface. As I wrote, “Threats from Punjab are always implied. They leave enough room for Houdini acts,” (Nation:  21 January 2017, Pakistan, the dependent state Part 2). Local body elections in Jhang (Punjab) and Dawn Leaks provide linkages to this assessment.

It was no coincidence that after the departure of General Raheel Sharif who had kept the civilian establishment on toes, a malicious slandering campaign began against him. This campaign was a reflection of a carefully planned and astute thinking to slander the armed forces for the ends of civilian supremacy even before the military had completed 50% of its task in counter terrorism operations. As General Kayani had assessed, a 100% military success would bring only a 20-30% success in counter terrorism. The remaining 70-80% pertained to politicians and civilian establishment. As the government reluctance and inaction continues, the 10% portion of military success will also erode for two reasons. First, treating people of FATA like disposable commodities and secondly, by providing space to militants in urban areas and allowing them to propagate.

This reinforces the dictum that unless the hammer and anvil are not used immediately, the sacrifices of civilians and Law Enforcement Agencies that account for over 100,000 lives and many more maimed, Pakistan could return to square one. The anvil was and remains missing in the external and internal environment. Ominously, the battle for winning hearts and minds has not even begun.

Counter Terrorism Operations were never a choice but a compulsion. The government and Parliament have treated it like a choice. But most, it is the responsibility of the government and it cannot shy away from taking bold decisions.

For whatever Zarb e Azb stood for, the government failed to pursue an effective foreign policy that required Afghanistan and USA to seal the Pakistan Afghan Border like an anvil in North Waziristan and Tirah Valley. Yet the military tried sealing it on the Pakistan side. But due to the rugged nature of terrain, most militants found sanctuaries in Afghanistan and were facilitated to fight another day. This was a continuation of the policy of 2002, when India helped denude Pakistani forces on Afghan Border by mobilizing with a very threatening posture in the East. Pakistan has failed to garner allies of peace. The third dimension is that that an anvil on the internal front is also missing.

As I have maintained, Middle East, Afghanistan and Ukraine comprise a triangle of instability. (Nation: 22 March 2014, The Devil’s Triangle). Russian intervention in the region was a matter of time. It came first in Ukraine followed by Middle East. Now it is also getting involved in Afghanistan.  The space on ISIS is shrinking in Middle East. The theatre along with the ISIS threat is shifting to Afghanistan and Pakistan. The regrouping of old hands with new names has already taken place. A loud battle cry has been made in Lahore and Sewan Sharif. Militants are more emboldened in attacking security forces along the Pak-Afghan Border and also in depth. Ultimately, this new game will hit CPEC.

More so, due to government inaction and non cooperation, Zarb e Azb never reached the political objective of forcing militants into negotiations on Pakistan’s terms. It is the government and not the military that is to be blamed. Sparing them to flee to Afghanistan was no solution for extremist whose narrative was up and running.

So the conclusion is that though the tactical battles were won and FATA garrisoned, nothing was done to inflict a crushing defeat to the foes. Ill conceived notions of peaceful co existence in Punjab are too wishful at best, or too dangerous at worse.

The threat dynamics explained above are neither new nor an impulsive reaction to latest events. They are a continuation of a thoughtful analysis by many analysts in Pakistan and abroad. Successive governments rather than read the winds showed complacency and lack of political will. Deep down, they are guilty of complicity by allowing their ambitions and expediencies to override national concerns. Though alarming to comment, the truth is that destruction of the edifice is coming through own hands. Redoubts in Waziristan may have crumbled but the state is being consumed from within.  Then many redoubts like termite citadels will come up.

It would be wrong to assume that all this has come to pass due to incompetency. The script that counters Pakistan’s interests is well articulated and extremely well executed. It is RED ALERT and let’s brace for battle. To eat ‘Lohay ke channay’, the country needs teeth of tungsten carbide.

Samson Simon Sharaf

The writer is a political economist and a television anchorperson

December 12, 2016

PITY THE NATION

Filed under: Uncategorized — sharafs @ 5:49 am

supremecourt

Each man’s death diminishes me,

For I am involved in mankind

Therefore, send not to know

For whom the bell tolls,

It tolls for thee

Johne Donne

Panama Papers scandal is tantamount to a political Buzkhashi in and around the Supreme Court of Pakistan. I call it ‘tossing a carcass’ to evade responsibility, and reluctance to bring corrupt to justice.

The remarks and observations of the honourable judges of the bench become a hot topic outside the court. Irked by the furore their comments generate, the court remarked that both parties are speaking more on media and presenting less proofs in court. But when a case is being contested between the public and individual interests, the responsibility for creating awareness falls directly on the petitioners.  Also unearthing missing links are the function of the state and its organs. This function of acting as investigators and jurists puts an added burden on the apex court.

It is to be seen that petitioners are acting in public interest and not purely for their own individual interest. Relentless pressure by petitioners has led to admission of ownership of properties by the respondents. Once such a petition is entertained and heard as a matter of public importance, the court along with the relevant investigative authorities are under a legal obligation to switch into an inquisitorial or enquiring mode respectively as per the recent judicial precedents or law and more so under the present circumstances wherein raising of important legal questions has resulted in admission by the respondents (i.e. the family of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif) that ownership of properties worth billions belong to them and consequent whereupon the burden of proof has already shifted on the respondents. If they continue withholding information, it is to their own peril.

At the same time the petitioners are not equipped with the mandate and tools of a criminal investigation agency which can employ its coercive procedures or processes to carve a trial worthy case for prosecution.  The culpability of Mian Nawaz Sharif’s family is already floating on the face of the record unless they prove that the assets or properties in question have been lawfully acquired through legitimate sources besides also clarifying the contradictions that hitherto exist in the statements made by the Prime Minister and his kith and kin before the Parliament, press and electronic media. Indeed if it deems Pubic Interest to be legitimate, then it also means that this is the test of Supreme Court to put all issues of governance and its laments related to it to the anvil of correction. Surely the Supreme Court has the power to order NAB, FIA, SBP and SECP to file corruption cases against Nawaz family in the event of their failure to justify such huge acquisition of assets which is much beyond their known sources of income. There are links of the past that include the FIA Report submitted by Mr. Rehman Malik and proceedings of NAB in Hudaibiya Paper Mills that need to be consulted.

The Supreme Court once rejected the notion of a Commission in May 2016 with the remarks that in order for a commission to be formed, legislation (ToRs) will first have to be passed by the parliament. Earlier Barrister Zafarullah Khan submitted a wild card challenging the legitimacy of the bench alleging interference in the powers of the Parliament. The Supreme Court dismissed the plea with the observations that the court had already refused to form the commission, adding it was premature and “does not call for exercising court’s jurisdiction under Article 184 (3) at this juncture”. So when the Court has already started to exercise its powers under Articles 184 and 187 of the Constitution, then, why is it now showing a tilt towards the formation of a commission; and why is it seemingly of the view that Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif may present himself before a commission?

Those who dealt with Gilani case and are familiar with the facts thereof also know that Gilani’s contempt of court conviction was commented as ‘poetry rather than on any evidence of actual contempt of any court order’. As maintained by Aitezaz Ahsan the defendant had never been directly ordered and was yet punished. Even the case of hanging of Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto has become an albatross for the Supreme Court. If innocent Prime Ministers were convicted in the past then why not a guilty Prime Minister who has candidly admitted that the ownership of vast assets belong to the Sharif Family.

Finally, the apex court has postponed its constitutional responsibility till January 2017 when a new Chief Justice will be in office to constitute a new bench. The new Chief Justice will also henceforth be on trial since justice is not only to be done but it also should be seen to be done. If news and flashes in social media are correct, then the new Chief Justice should take leave from the case and allow the senior judge to head the new bench.

Legal judgements based on the high pedestal of poetry also become an albatross around the neck of jurists. One such example is quoting the poetry of Khalil Gibran and John Donne by Justice Asif Saeed Khan Khosa, followed by his own poetry with an apology to Khalil Gibran in his remarks on Contempt Proceedings against Syed Yousaf Raza Gillani, the Prime Minister of Pakistan on 26 April 2012.

Pity the nation that achieves nationhood in the name of a religion

but pays little heed to truth, righteousness and accountability

which are the essence of every religion.

Pity the nation that proclaims democracy as its polity

but restricts it to queuing up for casting of ballots only

and discourages democratic values.

Pity the nation that adopts a Constitution

but allows political interests to outweigh constitutional diktat.

Pity the nation that demands justice for all

but is agitated when justice hurts its political loyalty.

Pity the nation that elects a leader as a redeemer

but expects him to bend every law to favour his benefactors.

Pakistan is a Nation-State. Should we pity the Nation comprising its people whose public interests are captive or the state that comprises the Judiciary, Parliament and Executive? What lies between the State and Nation is the Bastille Revolution.

Samson Simon Sharaf

December 7, 2016

PANAMA: THE MARSHY TRAILS

Filed under: Uncategorized — sharafs @ 6:22 am
Few would realise that this OpEd on 12 November 2016 by me changed the course of the entire Panama Case in the Supreme Court of Pakistan. I got an unexpected appreciative call from Senator Rehman Malik, who despite his dialogue with me is absent from the entire affair
panama
Money laundering and operating offshore businesses by Pakistanis without intimation to authorities under the operating laws is a criminal offence. Though PROTECTION OF ECONOMIC REFORMS ACT 1992 and circulars of the State Bank of Pakistan prohibit such activities, loopholes in it facilitated laundering and evasion. The critical period spanned 1992 to 1998 when black money through Hawala was whitened. During this period, mushrooming industries, growing bank loans/defaults and corresponding activity in offshore acquisitions in contrast to economic indices provide interesting conclusions. Remember, Pakistan was under sanctions while some were making fortunes.
 
Commentaries on Panama lead to an irresistible conclusion that the entire drama of Economic Reforms Act 1992 passed by the legislature was actually a diversion in the name opening overseas markets. The hidden purpose was to whiten black money through Hawala and subsequently siphon it abroad through fake accounts. The Act did not permit offshore businesses without intimation to concerned authorities. With hindsight, freezing these accounts in 1998 and allowing banks to surreptitiously shift capital abroad also had a purpose. The entire nation and system was cheated from 1992 to 1998. Once this system was reintroduced with more checks in 2001, post 9/11 Pakistanis flooded the banks with remittances instead of the ‘run on banks’.
 
The State Bank of Pakistan did investigate the unprecedented outflows post 11 May 1998, but the volume of flight never became public. Given the indicators, it is probable that much of this cash was parked to offshore businesses. Interestingly, most offshore companies including those owned by Sharifs were formed after this legislation.
 
There is a legal opinion that Panama Papers are an open and shut case for all accused Pakistanis. But trails of surreptitious activities lead through marshes that erase footprints. In contention is the ownership of properties in London that the sons insist were bought in 2006. The links to these companies and owners before 2006 trail back to 1992. Reports allege that during this period, Sharif businesses grew from one to thirty and loans (money laundered abroad) snowballed to Rs. 10 Billion. The actual figures could be much higher.
 
In order to connect the dots, litigants have to find trails to these offshore companies prior to 2006 during the time when any member of the Sharif family held a public office. They also have to prove that all family members aspiring to hold public offices made wrong declarations to Election Commission. In addition, the law must act against those members of the Sharif family who still hold Pakistani nationalities.
 
The tussle to indict Nawaz Sharif in money laundering and offshore businesses is ongoing since 1996. The storming of Supreme Court in 1997, sacking of Rehman Malik in 1998, resignation of General Jehanghir Karamat in 1998 and the deal with President Musharraf in 2002, manifest determination of keeping this case shut. The latest efforts to reopen the case of Hudabiya were squashed by courts in 2012 and 2014. Repeated appeals by NAB particularly during the tenure of Admiral Fasih Bokhari were neither accepted by courts nor the election commission.
 
Experts believe that Hudabiya is ‘THE CASE’ that establishes the linkage of shady money trails, offshore business and properties of Sharif family since 1992 in full knowledge of the members of the Sharif family holding public offices. Pursuing it has remained elusive.
 
In the 90s, investigations were led by Rehman Malik, the Additional Director General of the Federal Investigation Agency. Reportedly, this comprehensive report was submitted to the President of Pakistan and Chief Justice with the following remarks “I have also been warned to keep my lips tight, otherwise, my services shall be terminated and I again would be jailed in false cases. In brief, the extent of corruption and money laundering are staggering. I leave it to your absolute wisdom and judgment to determine the moral and constitutional justification of a person like Nawaz Sharif to hold the sacred office of prime ministership of an Islamic republic”. After the release of Panama papers, the accuracy of this report stands confirmed.
 
Based on this report NAB investigated and filed many cases against the Sharif family. Incidentally the names of Nielson Enterprises Limited and Nescoll Limited in this report link to Shamrock Consulting Corporation (missing link) established in May 1992. Trails of fake accounts maintained by Khalid Kayani in Habib Bank AG Zurich, Davis Road, Lahore and Bank of America, Lahore ultimately lead to Shamrock an offshore company established on 15 May 1992 began in August 1992, a month after the legislation on foreign currency was passed. Shamrock is owned by the Sharif Family and they cannot absolve themselves of fake accounts leading to transactions in dollars from Pakistan.
 
One identifiable trail of 350,000 dollars leads to Lloyds Bank to Hans Rudolf Wegmuller, a Director of Banque Paribas en Suisse Zurich who is also Director of Ansbacher Switzerland, a fiduciary company that acts on behalf of the Sharifs. The report reveals purchase of four luxury flats at Avenfield House, London through solicitors, namely Dibb Lupton Broomhead in 1993, 1995 and 1996. Wegmuller administered the four luxury flats, owned through two offshore companies called Nielson Enterprises Limited and Nescoll Limited, controlled by Urs Specker of Ansbacher Switzerland. Panama Papers confirm that these companies are owned by Sharif’s children.
 
Interestingly, the money trails to Shamrock, subsequent incorporation of Nescoll and Nielson bear identical names and signatures of agents. While Maryam documented as a dependent is the sole beneficial owner of Nescoll and Nielson, Coomber is jointly owned by Maryam and Hussain. Now the name of Shamrock has changed to Greyrock Consulting Limited and Mossack Fonseca & Co that handled these companies in past has been replaced by MMG (BVI) Corp. This brings into contention the declaration filed by Nawaz Sharif before the Election Commission.
 
Two sets of decision by British Courts clarify trails.
 
First, Nescoll, incorporated on January 27, 1993, purchased flats 17 and 17-A of Avenfield House, Park Lane, London, on June 1, 1993, and July 23, 1996, respectively; and Nielson Holdings, incorporated on April 14, 1994, purchased flats 16 and 16-A of Avenfield House, Park Lane, London, on July 31, 1995.
 
Secondly, the decision of the UK High Court in the Hudabiya loan default case in 1999 shows that the loan was acquired on February 15, 1995. Despite Court orders on March 16, 1999 the loan was not paid back. Therefore the said court on November 5, 1999 attached the properties of flat 16, flat 16-A, flat 17, flat 17-A of Avenfield House to the UK Bank. Once the loan was paid, the properties were released.
 
If the offshore companies Nielsen and Nescoll own Park Lane flats since 1993/1995, the only way the Sharifs could have attached them to a UK bank in 1999 would be if they also owned the offshore companies. Thus it is clear that the Sharifs owned these flats in 1995 and not 2006 as is being claimed. It is also evident that both Mian Nawaz Sharif and Mian Shahbaz Sharif were in full knowledge of these offshore businesses and chose to hide it after re-entering Pakistani politics in 2007.
 
Courts showed bias in a criminal case that should have ended in conviction or acquittal. Lahore High Court while quashing a NAB argument on opening the case admitted that Nawaz Sharif allegedly had nominal shares in the business. The question is not nominal shares but full knowledge and allowing it to happen while in public offices. They continue to deny such activities before 2006 while still holding public offices. Judge Anwar Ahmed of an accountability court termed all charges “politically motivated”, a remark that was never deliberated.
 
Justice Iftikhar Chaudary targeted select individuals who could have impacted the logical conclusion of this case. The pressure brought on Admiral Fasih and Governor State Bank by the Chief Justice was not without reason. Soon after PMLN came to power, Admiral Fasih was dismissed by the Chief Justice. Governor State Bank and Chairman SECP resigned.
 
The Supreme Court bench handling the case must take cognizance of these events.
 
After evaluating all evidence, some questions the apex court and litigants must pursue include: –
1) When were the offshore companies in the name of any family member formed or purchased?
2) Names of owners/trustees,
3) Sources and amount of initial and subsequent funding/profits
4) Loans obtained through these companies and against what securities
5) What and when were properties owned by these companies purchased?
6) All financial transactions pertaining to these companies since 1992 and
7) Ask State Bank of Pakistan to submit and make public record of all foreign currencies remitted out of Pakistan from April to May 1998.
 
Samson Simon Sharaf
12 Nov 2016
 

June 22, 2015

SLEEPING WITH THE ENEMY

Filed under: Uncategorized — sharafs @ 6:45 am

Zardari

There is still time for the PPP leadership to huddle, contemplate and review events of the past few days. It will be a test of the senior party leadership in asserting themselves and redeeming the party for what it is not worth. Given the nature of hierarchy it is doubtful anyone will show the mettle for dissent. Yet as patriotic Pakistanis, it is the moral obligation of every PPP leader to prevent their party from becoming an exploitable tool at the hands of individual whims. A divide along ideology and political pragmatics could be the only salvation. Given the attrition of past seven years, the latest could turn out to be the ‘unkindest cut of all’. How can PPP afford to sleep with the enemy? In other words, become part of Pakistan’s internal security challenges.

To expect the party to indict itself in Sindh despite its massive mismanagement and corruption is foolhardy. Yet there is ample space between now and fait accompli that can redeem the party. If reconciliation is a possibility, the federal government and military have a role to play. As the protective layers around crimes erode, much will stand exposed as also PPP’s moral dilemma. The party has to come out clean. As a desperate measure, Zardari led PPP with its allies could impose enough pressure to halt the Karachi operations in tracks. But then Ex-President Zardari would have played his ultimate card and put Pakistan on an implosion course. This was predictable and hence the inevitability of what may, or may not come to pass.

Way back, I had commented that, “National security policy, or counter terrorism policy or whatever is being drafted with subjective experiences shall elude the national consensus. It will open cracks and wounds that shall take ages to heal. The weakness demonstrated by the state in acting against militancy has emboldened militants and Pan-Islamist in Pakistan. In some ways, some politicians are the soft face of militants”, (T’error Policy Nation January 25, 2014). A twenty point National Action Plan was never a substitute to a National Security Policy. Over the course of one year, it has opened cracks that shall widen by each day. Today it is Karachi; tomorrow it will be South Punjab. Model Town still begs justice. The buck will not stop here. PPP must avoid becoming the soft face of violence.

Such a clash was brewing for a long time and the readers were repeatedly alerted that criminals of all descriptions, sectarianism and militants were coalescing for a common objective. To wrest control of Karachi, PPP in its last government had embarked on a dangerous sojourn into the underworld. Perhaps the motivations to do so also find linkages with target killing of Khalid Shahinshah, a principal witness to murder of Benazir Bhutto, Uzair Baloch and trails of ill-gotten money. Now with Ranger led operations in full swing, pugmarks lead to Bilawal House. Besieged, Zardari minced no words when he challenged the armed forces of Pakistan for a showdown. Get off my turf or I will let loose mayhem all over the country. But is this threat credible?

Surely, beyond the political clout of PPP, this threat is bolstered by the capabilities of regressive internal and external support. Zardari wants a carte blanche for unchecked abuse of power for personal and political purposes. He reckons that land mafias, criminal gangs, extortionists, thugs, smugglers and militants of diverse typologies will swell his rank and file. He is keen to enlist the support of MQM to pose a credible challenge to the security establishment. A common threat could make them strange but dangerous bedfellows. Will a party once brandishing the ‘Sword of Allah’ fall in line with the hyenas.

As if the unsaid diatribe in simple moralistic and legalistic terms of absolute good and absolute evil between the rulers, opposition and armed forces did not refract the intensity and objectiveness of counter terrorism operations, the threat by Mr. Zardari has drawn a Rubicon. Cross it and I will stall the entire operation as ill-conceived, misdirected, anti-democratic and anti-PPP. Already, the Sindh Government has followed with directions to Rangers to limit their operations. It appears that with ample evidence already gathered, the security establishment supported by the federal government will ignore these directives and continue to nibble beyond this politically franchised underworld to ultimately expose the real culprits. This means stepping on Zardari’s toes.

Destabilising Pakistan through internal dynamics was always the logical alternative to a nuclear deterrence against external threat. As written earlier, the imaginary line west of Quetta-Karachi is eyed by international actors to cut Pakistan to size. India with support of international actors is already threatening Pakistan of a 1971 like situation in Balochistan. A chaotic and bloody Karachi along with embedded violence let lose in Sindh could provide enough motivation to Pakistan’s detractors to push for more gains. This is the card that Zardari is using to threaten Pakistan Army.

Zardari’s mantra of reconciliation is a façade. Do not forget his swearing ceremonies and denials. His political logic is multi-tiered and conceited. Despite being the beneficiary, he never pursued the investigations of Benazir’s murder to exonerate doubts about himself and his friends. He tried through the ill-conceived memogate to convince Americans on the logic of civil supremacy over the military. He ignored that this was never possible without capacity building; something he never attempted. Instead he concentrated on building gangs in Karachi to reclaim the turf from MQM and ‘if need be’ confront the law enforcement agencies. Immediately after the Abbottabad Raid, he published an article in Washington Post taking satisfaction ‘that our early assistance in identifying an al-Qaeda courier ultimately led to this day’ exposing unsaid vulnerabilities and rumours. During his five years of all-powerful tenure, Pakistan remained rudderless and leaderless. He never made any effort to put Pakistan’s economy on track. Now he has chosen Pakistan’s most vulnerable element to ride himself out of trouble.

But questions linger. What was the intention to fast forward a crisis? Is he pre-empting a governor’s rule in Sindh. Is he creating a situation for demanding a similar rule in Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa? Or is he anticipating a landmark verdict by the Judicial Commission on elections 2013 that shall result in a new electoral exercise. Most, to get even with the establishment, has he made the ‘decision fatale’ and threatened to sleep with the enemy?

Would any sane Pakistani do this?

Brigadier (Retired) Samson Simon Sharaf is a political economist and a television anchorperson.

Email and twitter: samson.sharaf@gmail.com

ARCHITECTURE OF NATIONAL POWER

Filed under: Uncategorized — sharafs @ 6:13 am

 National Power

“National power rises from a relatively stable foundation of geography, through different gradations of instability to its peak in the fleeting elements of national character and morale. Hans Joachim Morgenthau

Pakistan is a country of contrasts and paradoxes. It appears at the top or rock bottom of various indices indicating the idiosyncratic nature of the collect. Few flashes of brilliance are punctuated with pathetic lows and a yawning national disconnect; a nuclear state with a begging bowl and lowest of low human development indices. A lethal brew of self-serving politicians, absence of an informed political discourse, moral bankruptcy and corruption put the security of citizens at risk. Yet resilient working classes sustain themselves despite a politically franchised black economy that sucks more blood from stones than revenue departments. Missing is a vision backed by an imaginative and workable national framework based on Pakistan’s short, mid and long term architecture of National Power. The absence of balanced national interests makes the lofty objectives of the constitution a jargon.

The reasons for this low lie in a constitution subjected to unchecked abuse. Had the organs of the state implemented the first three parts of this document, Pakistan’s road map to a credible self-respecting country would have already peaked. Realities reflect hollowness of national purpose and proliferation of whims. Countries with a compact set of indices enjoy more respect in comity of nations and show consistency in growth. These nations are resistant to threats, and exercise leverages towards attaining national objectives. Constant incremental development raises the bar consistent with international competition bringing happiness and wellbeing to people.

It is high time that Pakistan’s policy makers and analysts learn that National Power is a continuously aggregated sum of the potential of a country overlapped by natural and social determinants on a timeline. The two are connected by knowledge, resolve and hard work. The geography is permanent; the power is dynamic spurred by national character and morale. Power is latent and needs effective governments to convert into implementable policy tools. These elements can be divided into natural and social determinants.

NATURAL DETERMINANTS

Geographically, Pakistan shares borders with India, China, Afghanistan and Iran. It connects West, South and Central Asias, has four climates, a very steep gradient, world’s highest mountains, steep rivers, alluvial plains, deserts, plateaus and a long coastline from Thatta to the mouth of Arabian Gulf. At a glance it translates into an enviable geo strategic location and natural barriers for security. Pakistan has exploited this determinant in great power rivalry only. National growth is missing. No dams, no hydro-power, no ports, no communication infrastructure and no modern agriculture.

Demographics are an important determinant though not an assurance of strength. The correct balance in diversity and skills of the population is significant. 60% of Pakistan’s population is unskilled, uneducated and unemployed youth. The limited resource of skilled manpower is fast shrinking. Education and technical development is incompatible. Crime and militancy provide ripe grounds for disillusioned. Unplanned urbanization and slums grow. The educated and skilled manpower serves West and Middle East with distinctions. Brain drain is a constant. Within Pakistan, this resource is unutilized. This resource is crucial if Pakistan’s geography is to be realized into a juggernaut. Failure means ripping the nation’s seams.

Large amounts of natural resources are essential for security, an industrial base, export of raw and finished materials, trade led foreign policy and political influence. The mineral rich Tethyan belt extends from Taftan through Waziristan to Chitral and Swat. Mere physical possession of natural resources is not a source of power unless the country has the political will and technical prowess to maintain control and harness its dispositions. Pakistan’s vast reserves of gold, copper, antimony, uranium, coal, lignite, hydrocarbon, precious and semi-precious minerals are meaningless if in control of outside actors. The energy, minerals, gemstones, irrigation, water and land based communication infrastructure is nowhere. Agriculture is neglected.

SOCIAL DETERMINANTS

Sound economic capacity bridges between natural and social determinants of power and overall modernization of institutions, education, social mobility and instrumentalism. Strong domestic economies produce non-military power that impacts the international arena. Leading industrial nations exercise power without a bullet through their impact on international agreements and international financial institutions. A country tied to outside trade, aid and strings remains pliant, weak and poor. Pakistan has the potential to become the world’s fastest growing economy within three years if its natural determinants are harnessed by a creative economic policy.

The political system of Pakistan has psychological fallouts. Do the constitution and system of government deliver? Is the system inclusive? Do political institutions have the capacity and will to gel the natural determinants. Do they have the vision to see their country progress from year to year? Does the leadership have the potential to keep its citizens in a high state of morale and optimum performance?  Are they instrumental in creation and control of a national construct? A paragraph in the preamble of constitution states, “So that the people of Pakistan may prosper and attain their rightful and honored place amongst the nations of the world and make their full contribution towards international peace and progress and happiness of humanity”? The failing can be summed in the system’s contextual inability to create a framework for its realizable systemic potential on a continuum based on its strengths, weaknesses and force multipliers.

National will and morale imply zeal that citizens properly led manifest in the pursuit of internal or external objectives. This is a force multiplier and synergy for growth of social capital. Education, skill development, national development, employment and state of happiness integrate diversity towards a common objective. Unfortunately, this is a rare commodity in Pakistan.

Military in a modern nation remains just another instrument to meet ends of national policy, primarily the defence of its geography and national interests drawn from national power. It performs in tandem and not isolation of other instruments of policy. In peacetime it also has a constitutional role to use its diverse ability in national development. In Pakistan, in absence of a comprehensive national framework, it is frequently sucked into every sphere of national activity. This is a bad omen for a nonfunctional democracy.

I have been writing on this subject for two decades. Each day is a new low convincing me of the inevitability of a national narrative and framework. Someone has to take the lead in framing this narrative. Unfortunately, Pakistan is like a cricket team whose captain has no game plan, whose bowlers spray the ball, whose batsmen are in awe and whose fielders yawn.

Brigadier (Retired) Samson Simon Sharaf is a political economist and a television anchorperson.

Email and twitter: samson.sharaf@gmail.com 

BEAKING THE NEWS

Filed under: Uncategorized — sharafs @ 6:07 am

breaking-news-lettering-sign-cartoon-illustration-destroyed-letters-48477745

This week’s headlines in Pakistan will be remembered for wrong reasons. The nature of breaking the news has eclipsed realities. Local body elections in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KPK), inauguration of a yet to complete metro bus project in Rawalpindi-Islamabad, India’s aggressive tirades, the defence establishments frustration with the slow pace of operations against militancy in Karachi and finance ministers insistence that despite negative indicators, Pakistan is on way to sustainable progress are a few headlines. Whatever the truth, each reflects the lack of capacity and institutional building in our political parties. It also indicates that whatever remains is under seige.

The local government elections in KPK registered a defining moment in Pakistan’s chequered history of local self-government. It transfers powers to local representatives down to village level. Over 30% of development funds will be controlled by the civil society. This is a paradigm shift and like all things original threaten status quo. In due course it will be subjected to criticism, delays, organisational frictions and absence of an enabling mechanism. The mechanics of reorganising the existing administrative structure to the new organogram will prove to be a testing ground of KPK Government’s ability to deliver. The system for the first time in Pakistan’s democratic history departs from the Legislative Act of 1935 where Viceroy’s control at every tier of governance was mandatory. Other provinces and vested interests have not followed suite, do not like it and try discrediting it.

The manner in which these elections were conducted leaves no room for scapegoats. Both the KPK government and Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) must share blame for mismanagement of a landmark event and making it contentious.

KPK government had done little homework on the execution of the project. An appraisal of likely hindrances and counter-plans was missing. Had the provincial chief minister, concerned ministries and civil administration deliberated on the brass-tacks during in-house discussions, their coordination with ECP would have been better. The entire exercise at a paradigm shift warranted was marred by the absence of a matching willpower. The political and civil administration never switched gears. A right and noble intention of Imran Khan the philanthropist was made to look wicked.

The flak that ECP took after 2013 elections should have resulted in a renewed vigour. Its absence was apparent in its ignorance that simplified the process. Its staff had neither grasped nor assimilated the enormity, complications and complexity of the challenges. They never realised they were out to make history in self-governance.  Most they were unfamiliar with the wide canvas of change and neither internalised it nor seemed willing to become part of the change.

The provincial government kept sleeping over the rumours of plans to disrupt and make these elections controversial. These allegations and disruptions will get fiercer. Opposition political parties achieved multiple objectives. First, they discredited Imran Khan and secondly shielded themselves from not replicating this system in other provinces while still clinging to strong political and bureaucratic controls of status quo.

Transfer of powers from District and Tehsil administration involving over thirty subjects is a colossal task riddled with challenges and mal-intent. To ensure that the paradigm shift is affected without further hiccups and least teething problems, Imran Khan the politician cum philanthropist will have to act as a project director to get his team to deliver. This includes healing internal wounds and parrying off sword brandishing opposition.

The Rawalpindi-Islamabad metro project stands inaugurated though incomplete. What is the hurry when there are many more compelling and time sensitive challenges?  The 500 Million dollar project will benefit around 600,000 commuter trips during the day. In contrast IDPs languish as squatters due to lack of funds. People in Karachi due to lack of potable water are at the mercy of hydrant mafia. Punjab, the country’s most dense area of arsenic poisoning lacks proper potable water facilities. Hospitals lack sufficient beds and live saving drugs. The rising circular debt keeps bringing industries to a shutdown. The nation is being forced to survive on fairy tale projects. Unemployment had increases, agriculture rescinded and exports fallen. Why the government is hell-bent on completing Wi-Fi projects in major urban centres when majority of people in rural areas lack minimum basic facilities? Where are the national priorities and who sets them?

Where is the urge and will power? The military fighting the biggest war against terrorism in recorded history is starved of funding. Military operations are being conducted in a void. There is no counter terrorism policy to back the armed forces and law enforcement agencies. Operations in Punjab have yet to begin. Karachi continues to bleed due to an unholy mix of local politics, armed political parties, ethnic and sectarian fault lines and terrorism. Why do the rulers not comprehend that the country is fighting a multi-dimensional war that needs to be won on emergent footing? In all probability, all have coalesced to bleed the army.  But then a nuclear Pakistan needs a strong army to survive. With the army defeated, there will be instability and disintegration. The argument of total civilian supremacy actually means there will be no Pakistan.

The way political parties behave indicates a complete absence of informed thought, debates and intellectual frameworks. Not a single party has so far spoken about the absence of a national counter terrorism policy. All operate on adhocracy and whims. In KPK provincial leaders failed to internalise the vision of its leader. In Karachi some political parties oppose operations because they have stakes in the existing system. Parties equating CPEC with Kalabagh Dam are overly aggressive towards the country. The federal government is Punjab centric. No party has questioned the intentions of the Sindh government in dragging its feet on the lignite coal projects. Where are cash rich indigenous projects?

In this age of riding airwaves and breaking news, the media has to shoulder the biggest responsibility. It has to keep the people informed of the multi-dimensional threats to Pakistan and not ‘Break the News’ in the literal sense. It has to discover and expose those subtle designs and recognise those aggressive pincers that threaten the country. Editorial boards have to work overtime at Threat Perception and work in the best interests of the country and its people. They also have to impose checks on programme contents that spin a yarn beyond its realities.

The urge to be in Breaking News distorts realities; it beaks the news into unrecognisable jargon.

Brigadier (Retired) Samson Simon Sharaf is a political economist and a television anchorperson.

Email and twitter: samson.sharaf@gmail.com

METRO TO INSTABILITY

Filed under: Uncategorized — sharafs @ 5:58 am

metro

The recent photo of the Prime Minister with the military on the right and civilians on left says it all. At the highest level, the civil-military establishment stands divided. Political will to back counterterrorism is lacking.

This is Pakistan’s unending phase of armed conflict against violence sans consensus; avoidable but inevitable; dangerous but deliberate. Confronting this menace are the armed forces (include civil armed forces) taking orders directly from military and civilian law enforcement agencies operating under a political control. Clearly, the two are divergent with different motivations. The people of Pakistan are at the receiving end.

As the rift widens and cracks deepen, futility of a twenty point National Action Plan as substitute for a Comprehensive National Counter Terrorism Policy is evident. The irrelevancy reflects that military and civilian establishment began on different coordinates from the go. Now, they have turned their backs to each other gazing in different directions. The political stratagems have moved beyond the edge while the military looks reluctantly towards the abyss. Both PMLN and PPP know that in international matrix, a military intervention could lead to irreversible destabilisation. Because the military is a reluctant coup maker, they are emboldened to stretch the military to a breaking point. By a strange notion, this will usher civilian supremacy. In the past Bhutto tried it at the cost of the country and his life. The present men are no Bhutto and ignore lessons of history.

Perhaps the military high command is also reflecting on the simplicity of its military plan and the change of commands in its structure. It has bitten more than it could chew. All military plans have limited objectives paving way for other instruments of policy to take effect and ensure victory. In prolonged counter terrorism, limiting incremental objectives assume more importance. The totalitarian notion that the spirit of Zarb e Azb would spread to rest of the country was a simplification. Entrenched political elites never bought the military idea and are hell-bent on undoing battle field success.

I had repeatedly warned that in the absence of a coherent policy, the entire exercise would be counterproductive. As a least measure, government and military should have deliberated in and gone for a pause to resettled IDPs. Concurrently they should have built national consensus for the next phase. But the motivations of each side were different. Military did not want to lose momentum especially when militants from FATA had melted into Karachi, South Punjab and Balochistan. PMLN and PPP were reluctant because it threatened to unsettle their priorities. This divergence provided a haven for hostile agencies.

A unified objective in Pakistan’s war against terrorism does not exist. I remained critical about the absence of a policy with political ownership. PPP and MQM feel irked about the singular focus on Karachi while no action is being taken against militant outfits in Punjab. Yet they are comfortable with the limbo. KPK adjoining FATA has to contend with millions of displaced people. KPK alleges it is not getting the required support from the centre. The process of resettlement of IDPS back to Waziristan has not begun due to absence of funding for resettlement, infrastructure development and compensations. A small group of foreign funded separatists operating in underdeveloped Balochistan has been augmented by concentration of hard-core militants from FATA making the settled Pashtun areas unstable. Proliferation of hostile intelligence agencies add a lethal amalgam, the government seems unwilling to handle. Had the government taken its responsibility to frame a policy to synergise the nation, events would have been different. In Islamabad, the immediate priority was the consolidation of rigged elections and winning strategy for 2018.

The military successes of Zarb e Azb in North Waziristan have run into multiple road blocks in settled areas. The cooperation by the people of Waziristan to voluntarily displace is leading to disillusion and despair. Due to lack of federal support and inability of the civilian administration to take over the cleared areas, this frustration could soon become a source of instability. From a high intensity and swift military operation Zarb e Azb extensions are synonymous to knee jerk actions in Karachi. The state and the media have made no efforts to delink the two. A perception is being framed that large scale military formations will soon come steaming into Karachi. This perception shifts the entire onus on the military and COAS thereby widening the civil-military gulf. Confronting terrorism and militancy in urban areas has entirely different characteristics. Large scale use of force is impossible, identification of targets that swim like fish in water difficult and civil military coordination crucial.  The reality that these operations are civilian led and use of military use is selective and precise is eclipsed.

Recent events highlight this disconnect. Zulfiqar Mirza makes a mockery of law by moving with large contingents of armed guards. Hooded squads of Sindh anti-terrorism police called Zardari Force beat journalists outside the courts. Following a boiling hot provincial apex committee meeting in Karachi, Sindh police swiftly arrested culprits of Safoora massacre purportedly belonging to a militant outfit morphing into Da’esh. To confuse matters and deepen the mystery, Rangers followed arrest of four MQM hitmen for alleged complicity in Safoora shooting. It is a very dangerous development if religious, sectarian and ethnic criminals have forged common grounds for survival.

This means that while the battle is being won on one front, the larger war has run into a barrier. The situation suits and complements hostile intelligence agencies and corrupt political elites. As long as their interests are secure, Pakistan can wait. Who cares?

On a conclusive note, the military is battle fatigued for twelve years. It is in intense combat for over a year. Combat battalions are being rotated for a third time. Military hardware is undergoing wear and tear. Replenishments are far and few. In a few months General Raheel Sharif will be into the retirement year. Then rumours to drive a wedge will be rife with names of his successor. This is the waiting game of political crocodiles.

Evidence of deliberate rigging in Punjab and Sindh the two main obstacles to counter terrorism is mounting. Implications of the verdict of Judicial Commission could swing either way. Meanwhile an incoherent WOT with spates of violence and misery would continue.

Brigadier (Retired) Samson Simon Sharaf is a political economist and a television anchorperson.

Email and twitter: samson.sharaf@gmail.com

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