December 31, 2014

My Talk Show on Sach TV 30 December 2014

Filed under: Uncategorized — sharafs @ 5:46 am

Regional politics after NATO withdrawal from Afghanistan


December 29, 2014



For Pakistan, it is important to make the latest round of consensus on terrorism into an enduring reality. The three constitutional pillars of the state with a very strong executive backed by the army will have to evolve a new complementary Civil-Military equation to fight out this menace. It is full throttle and no half measures.

At last, we have a drift of counter terrorism. Skeletal outline on the sweeping canvas belie that the government and its interior ministry slept over terrorism for a year. The loud blurting’s of Chaudary Nisar Ali Khan on the floor were rattling cans devoid of mettle, grit and resilience. It also exposes the lethargy and callous attitude of the opposition parties for want of imaginative and working suggestions. Maximum time was taken by speedy trial courts and not surgical procedures to rout terrorism from every nook and corner of the country. Military, proficient in detail and contingency plans must have mused over the huffs and puffs of politicians like blind men describing an elephant with subjective experiences to reach a bare describable! Being well prepared, the army had the answers and way.  Much depends how the contingency plans of the army will shape into a concise national policy that leads the way for the people, executive and the judiciary.

Prime Minister Sharif has replaced Imran Khan with a bigger baggage. General Raheel Sharif with a clear road map will relentlessly push and prod towards a military led plan. Through an APC, the Prime Minister made a belated attempt at farming national consensus. The bare minimum achieved, as time passes will be vulnerable to cracks that lack detail. Civil-Military Supremacy that Asif Ali Zardari and Nawaz Sharif had set out to achieve is now a pipe dream. In the absence of good governance, the military was forced to fill the void. If political expediencies persist, the country could spiral into turmoil democracy can ill afford. As a blessing in disguise, this equation could be used to forge commonalities and perspectives in a politically led Civil-Military Alliance.

Speedy Trial Courts

The constitution of speedy trial tribunals manned by military officers (military courts) through political consensus is a no confidence on the role of our anarchic judiciary. Apex courts were found wanting thereby prolonging the misery caused by terrorism. Members of the Bar and Bench were biased. Since July 2008, the judiciary in disregard to checks and balances, had overarched beyond the ‘question of law’ and ‘political question doctrine’ to exercise extra constitutional powers. These courts came into being through violation of the constitution. Handpicked judges and magistrates propelled to glory are seen lacking experience, knowledge and elucidation. It will be up to the judiciary to reset its template annul past violations of the Supreme Court and let law take effect. If the judiciary stutters, legislations would not.

Counter Terrorism Policy will have to lay down detail procedures through legislation to remove legal anomalies and escape points. It is not just the constitutional cover to speedy trail tribunals, or the employment of armed forces in Aid of Civil Power but also the need to precede it with focussed legal reforms. In what framework would new courts convene remains to be seen? A limited declaration of war/emergency would make it easier. However, the questions of human rights, miscarriage of justice and oversight cannot be relegated.

Triple Oversight Mechanism

To deal with terrorism, post 9/11, governments around the world invoked special legislations to ensure credible legislative and judicial oversight. Pakistan needs a system of inherent accountability of the executive to impartial groups. Under the new arrangement, the government will have to constitute a triple oversight mechanism dealing with policy, political question doctrine and judicial oversight. These checks will be exercised by the parliament, provincial assembles and in-built mechanisms.

Executive Oversight

In democracy, the legislature is the classic model that enforces its unlimited writ (policy related) through parliamentary committees on the Prime Minister. Such committees will have to be made and empowered. The legislation could provide for inclusion of non-elected experts from diverse fields and armed forces. The mechanism though new would in course become efficient. These committees shall oversee the smooth function of the counter terrorism mechanism throughout the duration of intelligence and enforcement operations.

Intelligence Oversight

With relation to the obscure world of intelligence, the policy will also have to cater for the inherent extra-constitutional sovereign authority under a higher law of self-preservation not subject to normal judicial review. This law will need deliberations with the judge advocate branch of the army, legal fraternity, international experience and the Parliament. The intelligence agencies will have to be embedded with police powers and judges to form a water tight compartment with no leakage of information.  Under the ‘political question doctrine’, judges will have to avoid jurisdiction over intelligence controversies, allowing resolution of national security disputes to the government and its select parliamentary committees.

A selected judicial cadre will have to be co-opted with twin objectives to deal with questions of law relating to security and to act as surrogates for public and fundamental human rights. This will neither be outlawry nor a measure to facilitate sinister intelligence and enforcement officials to operate in a space of operational extra-judicial mechanism. The imbedded judiciary will act as public surrogate and directing political questions to the executive. 

Review Oversight

A major question will be the review jurisdiction of judiciary over sentences passed by speedy trial tribunals. This issue will have to be settled to meet the ends of policy or else the entire effort will revert to square one. The Chief Justice of Pakistan will have to play a formatting role.

Over Arching Role of Provinces

Under the 18th amendment, provinces will enjoy maximum powers in requisitioning armed forces for counter terrorism operations. They will also have to bear the cost of such operations. So a lot will depend how the provincial executives are co-opted in this policy making. Ideally the federal government with its limited writ should extend oversight mechanisms to the provincial assemblies and include them in policy making.

National Pacification Operations

Many internal vulnerabilities of the country can be offset by imaginative economic planning and strengthening the internal economic foundations. The onus of creating a harmonious environment conducive to fighting terrorism and countering narratives will rest on the reconciled Parliament. Ideally, the Prime Minister should extend this mood into a national government that pursues policies in tandem to bring immediate relief to the people. These pacification operations will have to be active and passive. Like the Red Book on terrorists, the Parliament will have to agree on a home growth led three year socio-economic development road-map to kick start the economy on sustainable basis.

Pakistan’s war on terrorism will have to be a synergised implementable policy involving every sinew of the state. This effort needs to be reflected in political parties, local governments, trade and labour unions, civil society and religious scholars and sweeping reforms.

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

December 22, 2014



While the Prime Minister was busy shedding crocodile tears and cracking jokes against Imran Khan in Peshawar, the COAS General Raheel Sharif after a brief stop over from Quetta rushed to Kabul to coordinate operations against the TTP. This was the nature of priorities in two contrasts. 

It took a gruesome tragedy at Army Public School (APS) Peshawar to irk the sleeping conscience of Rip Van Winkles of Pakistani politics. These men with small hearts, metallic smiles and big ambitions; intoxicated in power, greed and tantrums of self-preservation forever exploit for political largesse. Set in the environments before the American Revolution, Winkle dozed off to awaken after twenty years to realise that the revolution has changed everything. In Pakistan, it took ten years for some politicians to realise that the nation was indeed at war. As events indicate, they are preparing to doze off again.

18 months down the line and eradicating terrorism has moved back full circle. This proves my thesis that “parties representing status quo and familiar with the contours of these suggestions would prefer to work quietly towards this objective in the guise of national reconciliation” (On national counter-terrorism policy, Nation 8 June 2013). My new fear is that the political class entrusted with the broad spectrum security of Pakistan will soon retreat to rest rooms of reconciliation. Counter Terrorism Political Committee that Chaudary Nisar heads will like NACTA, become the second step towards this slumber. The manner in which the issues are being handled means that the inertia will resist change. I am forced by events to quote from an article I wrote using the story of five blind men describing an elephant: –

“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).

The battered, bruised and decimated nation was awake but clueless. Yet it responded and the entire country went voluntarily into a shutter down. This character reflects the winds of change. Future of political parties will depend on how they read these winds. This is vindicated by my analysis in 2013 that parties that built their electoral campaigns against ownership of this conflict will consent to a military option only after all other options are exhausted (On national counter-terrorism policy, Nation 8 June 2013). Reconciliation means that some undisclosed options exist. If not, APS carnage provides for the logic of a Declaration of War.

I hope the tone set by Sherry Rehman of Pakistan People’s Party on counter terrorism is manifested during the committee meetings to sift grain from the chaff. PPP in opposition will find many allies if it remains true to this mission statement. It will be a test for status quo parties to take a tangent and tackle the terrorism bull by the horns. Will cracks between PPP and PMLN widen is a wait and see?

Rulers who occupy the constitutional avenue and provincial capitals like the fabled Winkle are oblivious to nation building. They are clueless how nations are galvanised against challenges and, how national character and morale can be harnessed to tame the impossible. The knee jerk reaction of removing the moratorium on death penalties is no solution. In a policy vacuum this reaction will invite a blowback. The remedy lies in a National Counter Terrorism Policy.

The fact that non-professional representatives cum career politicians will once again sit in committee rooms to describe and re-invent a wheel is ominous. It also proves that the mantra of a counter terrorism policy spelled by the interior minister Chaudary Nisar Ali Khan was meaningless. The entire governance machinery while seeking a civilian supremacy is disconnected from FATA operations. Yet, the government is quick to latch on to the success of military operations. Drawing political mileage was and will remain the norm. The fissures and disconnect that stand exposed are most likely to widen.

Imran Khan was right in suggesting the formation of an experts committee to draft a policy that could be ratified by the Parliament. The Prime Minister side stepped the issue into a delaying stratagem in the name of political consensus that means status quo.

Mr. Prime Minister, you have the requisite majority in the lower house to make any legislation. The upper house with its inherent character will surely support you. By holding a long joint parliamentary session against Imran Khan and Tahir ul Qadri, you sent an impression that the entire Parliament was with you. Your henchmen used the podium to bash the army and expose a non-existent London Conspiracy. The media house and anchors that support you moved in tandem. The judiciary does not wish to entertain anything against you. You apparently have your rigging tracks well covered. With all this support and a carte blanche, why don’t you act like a man of crises and lead the way? Why is collective decision making so important to you? Or will you hang around looking the other way to counter terrorism operations to claim the last lap to victory as you did in nuclear explosions or disown failures like you did in Kargil?

Imran Khan made a big sacrifice by willing to attend the conference and stop agitation politics. As compared to Nawaz Sharif, he occupies the high moral ground by ceding the energy mass he had generated tediously for an immediate national cause. He made a suggestion for making an expert group on terrorism. The Prime Minister ridiculed it with his unpunctuated wit before an audience in mourning and in no mood to hear a joke. His smile and relaxed demeanour indicated that he thinks he has won one more battle. Like the crocodile tears he shed on Benazir Bhutto’s murder, Peshawar was the venue for his drama. His next move is to sit in recusal over the terrorism committee and engage the nation in Winkle’s yarns. The overwhelming shadow of the tragedy prevented Imran Khan from making a forceful rebuttal and walking out. His mind was not on a victory lap but rather on the misery of his people. The body language of both reflected two different paradigms. But now that he is there, he must assert his presence and galvanise likeminded Parliamentarians.

Footage of a grim looking Nawaz Sharif during a national security briefing in GHQ is a contrast to his smiles in Peshawar. The latest round of victory was short lived. The battle of Civil-Military supremacy will go on.

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

December 18, 2014

APS Peshawar Carnage by Terrorists.

Filed under: Uncategorized — sharafs @ 5:07 am
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Tariq Saeed

I attended the funeral of Shaheed Mrs Tariq wife of Brigadier Tariq Saeed at Mardan yesterday. I paid respects to the bereaved family and prayed with them.
The details I got are chilling. The militants had detailed instructions and knew names of specific individuals to be targeted. After they broke fire, they were getting constant orders on Russian wireless sets. It is also suspected that they had some accomplice within the school. Wireless intercepts revealed that they had orders to locate and burn Mrs. Qazi and Mrs. Saima Tariq, both wives of military officers. In the auditorium, they singled her out, shot her in the arm and then poured phosphorous over her. During this chilling episode she was yelling at terrorists in Pushto not to kill the children.
Mrs. Tariq was a PhD from UK and teaching at the school. She was eight months pregnant.
The school is located outside the cantonment premises and had very little protection. There were only two Askari Guards and no police. The Quick Reaction Force arrived after 17 minutes, had no contingency plans and ill prepared to seize the situation.
It is normal practice that mobile squads of QRF and Elite Force are stationed close to likely soft targets. In this case, it appears that nothing was coordinated. The school was a sitting duck.
Heads must roll amongst local military commanders and district administration including police.

December 11, 2014



After an inordinate delay of 16 months, Pakistan has a new Chief Election Commissioner to head an organisation that had surrendered its autonomy to certain vested interests including the judiciary and some political forces. This appointment seen in the present scenario will not be a bed of roses. The accusations against ECP have come from all political parties. In fact Pakistan’s elections since 1977 have been overshadowed by pre and post poll rigging to produce results as desired by certain interested quarters. Sardar Reza Khan will have assert to restore the credibility and reputation of this institution for securing the future of democracy in Pakistan. A bold initiative is required from him in this regard to restore the independence and impartiality of ECP while initiating reforms that make all future elections credible.

The new CEC would do well to study the entire functioning of the commission and electoral process before he begins to take decisions. For this purpose he would need invaluable support from retired, competent, upright and experienced officials of ECP. Under the existing provisions as approved in Election Commission (Officers and Servants) Rules, 1989. [Article 221], the CEC has the power to reemploy retired officials in public interest. It would be interesting if the CEC uses his powers to objectively take into consideration the views of Mr. Kanwar Dilshad who is very vocal critic of malpractices in ECP and Mr. Muhammad Afzal Khan who served in ECP during elections 2013 and one who claims to possess irrefutable evidence. Similarly, he could enlist many other officials of the lower cadres who have since retired and could be of assistance in public interest to unfold pre poll, electoral and post poll irregularities.

Within the internal functioning of the ECP, the CEC will also have to go through all documents pertaining to its correspondence with Ministry of Law and its offices, State Bank of Pakistan, National Accountability Bureau, Federal Board of Revenue, NADRA, FIA and other government organisations whose inputs are needed to ascertain eligibility of candidates for elections. It is being criticised that in elections 2013, the ECP was bypassed by the Returning Officers appointed by interested elements within the judiciary while determining the qualifications of the candidates for eligibility and that much incriminating information was set aside by these returning officers to benefit certain individuals. It is absolutely essential that the CEC review the eligibility once again and disqualify individuals who were ineligible. There is plenty of evidence floating on the surface about individuals now holding high offices, who were ineligible in the first instance. This inquiry outside the ambit of tribunals should form the basis of taking disciplinary action against ECP officials and returning officers guilty of willful violations.

The CEC also needs to evaluate Post Election Review Report 2013 and order an in/out house study to improve the functioning and transparency of ECP. The new Chief Election Commissioner should then exercise his powers to implement objective reforms including electronic voting if feasible.

Since it remains the responsibility of CEC to ensure completion and accuracy of electoral lists on yearly basis, he should insist on a general census prior to the next general elections. In this regard the Census Division, ECP and NADRA will have to work in tandem to ensure that every individual of the country is accounted for. NADRA will also have to link its software to Form B and records of births and burials to keep all records updated. Its software should automatically notify individuals turning 18 and delete those who have died. This entire exercise would in future reduce long queues outside its offices and the need of new census.

Election tribunals are appointed under the orders of CEC. He needs to establish oversight mechanisms that effectively deal with delays. The tribunals must act in public interest to assist petitioners in procedural matters rather than rejecting appeals on minor technicalities.

There are many question marks on the outsourcing of tasks by ECP. It is within the administrative powers of CEC to order an internal inquiry and ascertain the nature of crimes committed. CEC will have to ascertain if the rules and procedures were violated or not. This includes printing ballot papers and forms from unauthorised sources, using unauthorised labour and sources for numbering, substandard ink and stamps resulting in large percentage of voter rejection, forgery and pilferage.

A major challenge for the ECP is to adopt the electronic system of ballot in cooperation with NADRA. CEC must take note as to whether the Indian version of Electronic Voting Machines (EVM) is already outdated. Pakistan needs to move to the leading edge of electronic voting and provide the world with a template on which accurate, economical and fool proof elections and surveys can be conducted in real time. The advances in smart screen tablets, thumb recognition and superimposition of thumb impressions on election symbols are simple and affordable. 3/4G technologies, firewalls and GPS provide readily available mediums of passing secure data into central servers in real time. Pakistani IT companies have already developed these concepts and employed them in reality. Their expertise can be used to develop a home grown solution to electronic voting.

While the parliament and politicians squabble and fight over the true nature of electoral reforms, the ECP within its ambit can lead the way immediately. Provided the ECP begins to function within the powers and space it already has and by adopting the aforesaid measures, much of Pakistan’s internal political unrest can be laid to rest. Additional legislation if needed can be obtained through the Parliament.

To achieve this end, much will depend on the willingness, resolve and dexterity of Justice (R) Sardar Reza Khan to take the bull by its horns and reclaim the space ceded timidly.

December 6, 2014


Filed under: Uncategorized — sharafs @ 9:41 am

Sam and Imran

The waves in electronic and print media propagate mixed signals on Imran Khan’s ability and strategy to succeed from the continuing containerised agitation interspersed with crowd-pulling events in major cities of Pakistan. Though created with an intended spin and twist, there is no denying that Imran Khan has used this period to arouse political awareness to a massive scale in all corners of Pakistan. According to Justice (R) Tariq Mahmud, households are divided.

Within the opposition ranks, every family is showing cracks and pro PTI feelings. Media eager for breaking news ignores the reality that all political movements are a long haul; a seed once sown has to germinate and propagate with the wind. Though Imran Khan may appear falling short of some tactical objectives, the movement set alight by him with multiple pincers will ultimately achieve grand objectives; “The creation of an egalitarian Pakistan within a systems approach in which all elements of the state function with optimum efficiency”.

Cynics and critics must view and analyse the process of Azadi March in the broader framework of egalitarianism, sanctity of ballot and good governance. The best of best generals lost battles but won the war. In Islamic history, the Battle of Uhud is a defeat the Holy Prophet had to face before a series of Muslim conquests. In the larger context, the Azadi March is more likely to succeed on the basis cognition and not short term cost-benefit analysis. This process is vindicated on the streets of major cities. While waves created by PTI and PAT surge, a deck of cards steadily crumbles. This attrition makes status quo edgy and provokes them to knee jerk reactions. Chaudary Nisar the interior minister blows democracy to smitten by stating that state power always prevails. Power lies with the people and not the state.

Indeed there was salvation; elections 2013 mark the start point of a mass movement. The massive electoral mismanagement and fraud gave a victory to status quo but also mobilised people towards awareness and power of ballot. The precursors in sit-ins at Karachi and Lahore were set by the civil society. Imran Khan and Dr. Tahir Ul Qadri provided the leadership to harmonise and channelize these emotions. Marches, dharnas and public gatherings are mere way points towards Coup de Grace; ‘A Naya Pakistan’.

Though the opposition may cry foul and bad mouth, the fact is that ripples through their spines cause nightmares. Election tribunals appointed by an overshadowed ECP rejected some PTI appeals on technical grounds but could not indemnify fraud. This diversion tactic constantly loses steam. As constituency after constituency opens, electoral mismanagement and fraud point to a familiar pattern. The Pandora’s Box speaks for itself; massive irregularities have been deliberately committed against PTI candidates in Punjab. So far 18 seats of the National and Provincial Assemblies in Punjab have been sampled. They all point to violating the sanctity and manipulation of the ballot. A sampling of only four of the 18 constituencies means shutters down for PMLN. In all cases, ballot boxes are stuffed with fake papers, wrong thumb impressions, fraudulent stamping, bogus voting, stuffing of wastepaper and questionable Form 14s. Results announced by ROs do not match with recounting. Irrefutable evidence of rigging floats on the surface. Loss of national assembly seats means that corresponding provincial assembly seats would also be lost. In the ultimate conclusion, this spells a fatal blow for the ruling elites and ECP.

Massive electoral frauds have surfaced in NA 110 of Sialkot. In the initial results, PTI candidate Usman Dar lost by a narrow margin to Khawaja Asif of PMLN. Asif is the present Water, Power and Defense Minister and a key member of the PMLN kitchen cabinet. His agitation with PTI needs no explanation.

NA 118 in which Hamid Zaman of PTI contested against Muhamad Riaz Malik of PMLN is a test case in all dimensions. Hamid Zaman has gone through the entire process at a high financial cost. Rigging in this case is beyond doubt. The special judicial commission and NADRA thumb verification declared that 85,000 votes do not exist. The tribunal is imposing an intriguing silence on its decision.  The conclusion is foregone and provides a template for electoral audit.

In NA 122 of Lahore, Imran Khan of PTI lost to Sardar Ayaz Sadiq of PMLN, now Speaker of the National Assembly. Apart from regular features of rigging, the bags of the Provincial Assembly Candidate from PP147 contain ballot papers of NA122. Rigging is established beyond doubt. Ayaz for some time has been hiding behind Stay Orders from the courts but his disqualification in face of irrefutable rigging is a foregone conclusion.

NA 125 of Lahore is set to unravel the extremes of electoral rigging and irregularities. Khawaja Saad Rafique the loud mouth of PMLN was declared the winner against Hamid Khan of PTI. In addition to modes of rigging exposed in other constituencies, he was seen and recorded carrying ballot boxes and papers. Member ECP Punjab Justice (R) Riaz Kayani was seen looking the other way when material and technical irregularities were exposed to him in real time on polling stations. Ballot bags have been found stuffed with used toilet papers. A few months ago, Lahore police carried out an exercise of collecting National Identity Cards from the slums surrounding NA 125, purportedly on orders for a dubious purpose. Mysteriously, a school used for storing ballot bags was gutted and all evidence reduced to ashes.

Jahangir Tareen’s NA 148 constituency is a case where fraud was committed to benefit his opponent. The evidence of fraud once again floats on the surface.

In face of compelling evidence, there appears s no respite for PMLN. Disqualification of four key members of the party is on the cards. Once done, the process will spread to disqualify the remaining fourteen National Assembly and consequently the Provincial Assembly seats. It will discredit the entire electoral process making criminal inquiry and judicial commission a necessity.

Those who rejoice that the Dharna Plan of PTI may be huffing, puffing and panting ought to be in awe of the larger strategy. PTI has workable and viable multiple envelopment pincers to question the entire legitimacy of Elections 2013 backed by a mass movement.

Questions pertaining to disqualification of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif have also been raised. The constitution of a lager bench to hear petitions seeking disqualification under Articles 62-63 of the Constitution should not be lost on the opposition and media.  The Shakespearian day of “When the hurly-burly’s done, When the battle’s lost and won,” sound ominous for status quo.

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

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