Targeting MQM: Conspiracy or Cleansing?

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“Altaf Bhai is MQM and MQM is Altaf Bhai”: relying too much on this ideology seems to have come to haunt the Mutahida Qaumi Movement (MQM).

With Bhai entangled in money laundering and other cases abroad, MQM faces the same fate in Pakisan. Bhai’s health is not too different from the political health of MQM. What began with a raid at Bhai’s residence in London by the Scotland Yard, progressed into an operation against “mafias” in Karachi, and is now an all out unveiling of MQM’s alleged evil face.

Rangers raiding 9-0, Saulat Mirza’s dying declaration – which ironically postponed his death – and now an SSP’s very revealing press conference alleging ties between MQM and RAW, are all nails in a coffin.

Is it all actually a conspiracy against MQM, as alleged by them?

Is the federal and provincial government plotting against Karachi’s party? Is the Army in on this?

Well I haven’t lived in Karachi, but I have been there several times in my life. I also happen to know many Karachiites. MQM’s activities of extortion, kidnapping, target killing are facts admitted by most Karachiites whom I have met, including some who support Altaf Bhai. So these recent revelations aren’t shocking in what they carry, but in why they are being made.

MQM has on many occasions been dubbed the establishment’s party. Why then would the Army and ISI suddenly “conspire” against one of their supporters?

I don’t buy this conspiracy theory cry by the MQM. It is NOT a conspiracy. When an ordinary citizen was aware of MQM’s real face, how could the intelligence and law enforcement agencies be oblivious of it all. Whatever is being revealed now is not new information for the police, rangers or the establishment. It may only be the breaking of a promise to scratch each other’s backs, or may be the keeping of it: since the inability of a party to scratch another’s back would automatically relieve the other party of any consequent duty to reciprocate.

MQM has lost its flare. The alleged involvement of their leader in the murder of one of their own, that too a British citizen, Karachi’s recently acquired status of a terrorist’s hub, an underlying shift in the establishment’s policies and probably Altaf Bhai’s age, all seem to have contributed in ridding MQM of any foreign and local support. Cornered by friends and double crossed by confidants, MQM now stands at the verge of its climax.

Their recent win in NA 246 was fervently celebrated, deemed to have stamped MQM’s legitimacy with popular support. It may have been hoped that faced with public support for MQM, the “conspirers” will lay off. But on moves the operation and revelations keep flooding in.

Pertinent to note that the SSP’s press conference is the first such attack on MQM after NA 246 by elections and comes a day after the Chief of Army Staff re affirmed his resolve to rid Karachi of its mafia culture.

This is an action against MQM, there is no doubt about that. But it is not a conspiracy hatched to victimize an innocent party of saints. This is probably the first step in cleansing Karachi, and hopefully a first step in cleansing Pakistan. I will not be surprised if, in the near future, blame for Sabeen Mahmud’s murder is also borne by MQM or one its “RAW sponsored” agents. The ISI or the Army does not benefit at all from her unfortunate death, in fact they stood to lose the most.

What I see is an overhauling of establishment’s policy towards its “assets”. Zarb e Azab is seen as having substantially ended the ‘good taliban – bad taliban’ rule which clouded our stance against terrorism over the past two decades. The restraint and manipulation displayed during last year’s political instability, that till late almost always resulted in “meray azeez humwatano”, is also a fresh and positive change. It could have been better without the manipulation, but then again it may have been what the country needed.

I cannot vouch for generals in their individual capacity, but as an institution, I know the Army and the ISI have the best interest of Pakistan in mind, for the simple reason that their survival is dependent on Pakistan’s survival. They have made blunders and mistakes in the past, and there is no denying that we have had to face the consequences. But in my humble opinion, this change of track is all for good. There are better times ahead. The course may not be entirely democratic, but there is a better Pakistan at its end. To me that is all that matters: a better, cleaner, prosperous Pakistan where democracy, freedom and justice prevail and not in their current contaminated forms.

Why doesn’t Obama apologize for Pakistani citizens?

Published in Express Tribune Blogs on the 25th of April, 2015

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On Thursday this week, United States President Barrack Obama apologized for the accidental killing of an American and an Italian citizen in a drone attack in Pakistan.

“As President and Commander-in-Chief, I take full responsibility for all our counter-terrorism operations,…………….
…..I profoundly regret what happened”
– Barrack Obama

What did happen?

In a drone strike targeting an Al-Qaeda camp, two hostages; Warren Weinstein and Giovanni Lo Porto, US and Italian citizens respectively, were killed. These innocent civilians joined a long list of unfortunate civilian casualties, tagged: collateral damage.

The multi-billion dollar drone project was lauded by US military and intelligence circles because there was no longer a need to risk human lives in aerial combat. The unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) did not need a pilot to fly it. It could instead be flown via remote control from the ground. It is quite remarkable how in terms of benefits of a UAV, only US military and air force pilots qualify as “human lives”.

There is no “official” estimate of exactly how many “collaterals” have lost their lives to this technological marvel called drone. Some estimates are as high as 98 percent (50 civilians for 1 terrorist); an astounding figure. This may come as a surprise, since we have not seen a US president publicly apologize for all these civilian casualties. Had Obama apologized for every innocent civilian who lost his life in a drone strike, he would have spent most of his tenure in making apology statements. In the absence of an accurate official figure, any figure is just a guesstimate. However it is an admitted fact that there have been civilian casualties, many of them in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

So why were these two lives worthy of an apology from the all powerful US President? And why weren’t the lives of thousands (guesstimate) – or even hundreds – of Afghan, Iraqi, Pakistani and Yemeni civilians so valuable?

The most convenient answer is the anti-US, hate fueling narrative; US hates Muslims and, in connivance with the Jews, plans on eliminating as many as it can. Well there may be some merit in this theory, but I am afraid it is not the answer to all our questions.

By apologizing for two, Italian and American, lives lost in a drone strike, did Obama discriminate against all the Muslim Pakistani ,Iraqi and Afghan ‘collaterals’ that he did not apologize for?

Did he endorse that lives are more valuable in the west than they are in the east?

It is always more entertaining to peak through another’s window and find flaws, but far more productive to look in the mirror once in a while.

My instant response to Obama’s apology was: why doesn’t he apologize for all “accidental killings” of my fellow Pakistani citizens, in drone attacks? That got me thinking. Brushing aside all alleged conspiracy theories, I tried and looked elsewhere for answers. And pretty soon, I wasn’t that offended anymore.

What if I told you that the sanctity of a citizen’s life in the world, depends on the value of his life within his State. What if Obama apologized not because the lost lives were not Muslim, Afghan, Iraqi or Pakistani but because lives of citizens in Italy and US are more sacred than they are in our States.

Citizens in Italy or the US are not lynched or burnt alive by their fellow citizens on a routine basis. They are not shot at and killed, by State law enforcement agencies, in municipal operations for removal of barricades. People in the west cannot publicly and confidently side with murderers on the pretext of religious freedom and divinity.

The absence of an apology from the US President may have offended me, but then the President of Pakistan never apologized for the loss of 19 Pakistani lives in Model Town Lahore at the hands of Punjab Police. Pertinent to note, the police wasn’t even hunting for terrorists, they were only trying to aid the local administration in “removal of barricades”.

My President did not apologize for the death of around a hundred innocent infants in the District Headquarter Hospital of Sargodha, due to lack of medical facilities. Facilities that could have been provided to the hospital with funds allocated instead for one metro bus.

Neither did he apologize for the death of an infant while his parents searched for a ventilator in Faisalabad, while the “State” was busy catering to the Chinese guests.

My president did not apologize for failing to protect his citizens from being burnt alive, on more than one occasion.

He did not apologize for all the men, women and children who died of hunger in Thar.

But then our President is powerless. And if great power begets great responsibility, no power should bring no responsibility.

So did the Prime Minister, Chief Ministers or Governors apologize?

No?

And here we are, expecting Obama to apologize for lives that we have, by implication, ourselves declared dispensable.

NA 246: Results and (Honest) Statements.

Originally published in the Express Tribune Blogs, on 23rd of April, 2015.

Who bags NA-246 and which party stands victorious tonight makes little difference. What matters is that today’s election will put an end to the environment and politics of fear prevalent in Karachi for years.

Active campaigning by other candidates in Muttahida Qaumi Movement’s (MQM) stronghold, polling agents standing brave at polling stations that were once no-go areas for all political parties and candidates except MQM and fearless voters walking into polling booths with the intention to not vote for MQM, and then being able to walk out and go home, are all a breath of fresh air for Karachiites.

This by-election is little about a seat in the Parliament; it has been more about creating political space, and room to breathe in Karachi’s once suffocating air.

Tonight will reveal only one victor, but many claimants. In their statements, everyone will be a winner. One can only predict these statements, but one can also add a tinge of presumed honesty to his predictions.

Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) may be the first to claim credit for ending fear. They have been doing so well before the Election Day. They may state,

“Winning the NA-246 seat was never our objective, the real aim was to eliminate fear from the voters’ hearts and minds, and in that we have succeeded. It is PTI, and PTI alone who is responsible for the fearless environment that we witness in Karachi today. We intentionally did not attempt to rid Karachi of this menacing fear in the 2013 general elections. It was always our plan to fight this battle in a by-election. The fact that Rangers had already done what we claim to be doing is yet another anti-PTI propaganda”.

Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) is contesting the election too, as they have several times in the past. JI and PTI are often on the same page on several national and political issues. Tonight’s statements from both these parties are also expected to be from the same page.

MQM’s statement, in case they win the seat – as expected – is likely to be very dramatic. With Altaf Bhai on the phone, drama is inevitable. The statement from Altaf Bhai is expected to be the most entertaining, consisting of pauses, songs, some really funny English pronunciations, threats and what not. MQM will reveal a hundred different interpretations of this one victory.

Some aspects of Altaf Bhai’s statement may be,

– How this is a slap on the faces of all “anti-MQM” forces.

– How the people of Karachi have “spoken”.

– How brave MQM followers have crushed all conspiracies hatched against the party under the feet of their political and popular force.

– How the Scotland Yard should now drop all cases against MQM leaders as they have won a seat they always win – only with lesser votes this time.

– And, of course, a resignation and then its withdrawal by Altaf Bhai.

However, these statements will not be restricted to parties contesting the NA-246 by-election. This bandwagon will be open to jump on for all. Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), through any of its many spokespersons, will claim credit. Their expected statement may read:

“It is the PPP that deserves credit for improved law and order situation in Karachi. After ruling Karachi for over seven years, we suddenly decided it was time to clean this city of all that is evil. Under the guidance of our sab pe bhari Zardari, we decided to nod in affirmation to everything the rangers say or do. The fact that we did not have a choice has nothing to do with our consent to the Karachi operation.”

Last, but in no way the least, will come Mr Pervaiz Rasheed. This guy has his own version of Newton’s third law of motion, which reads:

“For every press conference by Imran Khan, there is an equal and opposite press conference by Pervaiz Rasheed”.

As soon as PTI ends their press conference, PML-N will begin theirs. Mr Rasheed may be heard saying:

“Imran Khan jhoot boltay hain (Imran Khan lies)”, following his set format for opening press conferences.

He may continue to say,

“Karachi owes its improved law and order situation to no one but the honourable Prime Minister and his government. The army and rangers sometimes tell us what they plan on doing. Sometimes they tell us after they have done it. The fact of the matter is that sometimes, we are told and informed. Karachi operation is one of such planned and done things. And the government may or may not have been told; nevertheless it is the government and thus deserves credit for anything good going on in the country. Anything bad though, is a conspiracy against us hatched by Imran Khan in connivance with anti-Pakistan elements. I would like to end my statement by saying that Imran Khan aik ganda bacha hai (Imran Khan is a bad boy).”

PTI: Turning Vices to Virtues

Published in the Express Tribune Blogs on the 16th of April, 2015

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When Maryam Nawaz Sharif was appointed Chairman Prime Minister’s Youth Program, the act reeked of nepotism, despotism, cronyism and all other vile isms. Maryam was appointed, in all probability, because of being the Prime Minister’s daughter. It was a move typical of PMLN’s evil and dynastic ways. They ignored any and all qualified individuals for the position and chose daughter of the party president for an important post. How dare they.

Reham Khan has recently been appointed the Ambassador Street Children by Khyber Pakhtun-khwa (KPK) government. Behold the nobility that oozes from this profound feat of Pakistan Tehrik e Insaf (PTI). Now this is a trend that all parties should follow. Reham has not been appointed to the post because she is the Chairman’s wife, no Sir. It would be foolish, unreasonable, evil, anti-state and as good as worshipping satan, to believe such a biased and baseless assumption.

Reham has been appointed simply because she loves “street children”. It is a well kept secret that the KPK government held back on this appointment for a long while. They were actually going through a strenuous process of selecting the perfect candidate for this post. A team of highly qualified scientists and psychologists assisted the KPK government in this all important task. Blood samples were taken and analyzed, brain scans conducted, and behaviors observed. On the basis of lab results a few candidates were short listed; those who showed above 70 scips (scips is a recently discovered – by PTI scientists – unit to measure love) of love for street children. Psychologists interviewed shortlisted candidates and finally three candidates were picked and interviewed by the Chief Minister. To his utter surprise, he ended up picking Reham Khan, with 98 scips (highest ever in recorded human history). This was such a co-incidence that it amused the entire PTI leadership but they chose not to disclose this almost unreal occurrence.

Khan sahab was advised against this appointment by a few less enlightened members of PTI. But wise and selfless as ever, Khan sahab respectfully differed. In his infinite wisdom he opined:

“this dynastic politics has become an evil in our country. Although there is nothing inherently wrong in the trend itself, it owes its nasty repute to its adoption by evil parties. We must rid this practice of its evil reputation. For that we must adopt it, since once adopted by PTI any vice becomes a virtue”.

Being shown the light, all hailed Khan and the decision to appoint Reham Khan was finalized.

It is obviously dynastic when Maryam is appointed to a post by Nawaz Sharif, or when Bakhtawar or Asifa are appointed by Asif Ali Zardari. But when PTI does it, it is only merit and in the best interest of democracy, Pakistan, Muslim Umma, and all that is holy in the entire Universe.

Unfortunately, there are people who are criticizing this appointment, using it as the latest justification to question PTI’s claim of being different. These skeptics are all corrupt. Anyone who questions PTI’s ways is a corrupt, immoral, ignorant, misogynistic, treacherous, anti-Pakistan, satan worshipping hate monger.

I advise these lost souls to join PTI and be salvaged. Only when you join PTI, are you able to see the light and truth. There is no shame in admitting your flaws and making amends. If you are worried about being labeled a ‘lota’, don’t worry. It is written on page 34 of the PTI’s handbook on lotacracy that;

“any person who leaves a political party and joins another is a “lota”, regardless of what his intentions are and even if he does it for completely valid and cogent reasons, unless the party he joins is PTI.”

It is quite simple really. Since PTI is on such a high moral pedestal, as compared to everyone else, rules of gravity would not allow a lota to roll PTI’s way automatically. A lota would always roll with the slope and not upwards. So anyone who comes from anywhere is clean, patriotic and sincere as long as he is headed PTI’s way. Although, if at any time he chooses to leave PTI and join another party, he will have to surrender his cloak of sainthood at the exit and revert to being the devil he used to be.

I wonder what other political “evils” await transformation into noble principles at PTI’s hands. Shunning a member out of your party for disagreeing used to be dictatorial. But now, after Javed Hashmi’s eviction from PTI for speaking his mind, it is a democratic practice.

Not everyone can understand PTI, only those who believe and have seen the light, can. And they have an inherent right to bash those who haven’t yet seen the light. Only they know that even this bashing is in the best interest of the bashed, and in the best interest of Pakistan, Muslim Ummah and all that is holy in the Universe.

PTI’s return to Parliament

Published in the Express Tribune Blogs on the 7th of April, 2015

They questioned the legitimacy of Parliament. They objected to the transparency and fairness of general elections 2013 (GE 2013). They protested and resigned making their return conditional upon formation of an inquiry commission to probe into allegations of rigging in the GE 2013. And they returned to Parliament after promulgation of an Ordinance establishing that very commission. So what was all the fuss about?

On Monday, in Parliament’s joint session called to discuss the pertinent Saudi-Yemen issue and Pakistan’s role therein, Pakistan Tehrik e Insaf legislators returned to the National Assembly after seven months. Once again, despite all its vices, Pakistan People’s Party proved be the most – if not the only – democratic party, when the opposition leader welcomed PTI and its leader to the house. MQM, JUI-F and one very vocal minister from PMLN were not so welcoming.

Fazl ur Rehman has a hate-hate relationship with PTI and Imran Khan, owing to the latter’s tapping into his party’s vote bank in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. His displeasure with PTI’s return to Parliament and consequent elimination of the opportunity to contest for, and win by elections on, seats vacated by PTI, was quite obvious.

MQM, also has a long standing enmity with PTI attributable to PTI’s, and especially Khan’s, occasional bold statements against Altaf Hussain and his party. Legislators from MQM raised the issue of pending resignations tendered by PTI members. It is surprising that MQM could not digest a retraction of resignations, considering how it has become a hobby for their beloved leader. They quoted Article 64 of the Constitution and conveniently overlooked National Assembly’s Rules of Procedure whereby the Speaker can refuse to accept a resignation if satisfied that it wasn’t tendered voluntarily. If a member or members are sitting before the Speaker, on their allocated seats, in the National Assembly, the Speaker need not ask such members if they stand by their resignations or not. If the resignations were not accepted when the members were consistently absent from the house, they cannot be accepted now when they are present.

The odd – not so surprising – outburst came from the Defense Minister. Odd because his party claimed to have worked really hard to bring PTI back to Parliament in the “larger interest of democracy”. Not so surprising because Asif’s words were pretty much in line with PMLN’s “democratic” trends. They struggled to bring PTI back so that their minister could reciprocate Khan’s verbal aggression? Was it a move to bring the enemy on your turf and then hit him where it hurts? I am sure this wasn’t the case, but Mr. Minister sure made it seem so.

Khwaja Asif questioned why they (PTI) were sitting in the same house that they tagged bogus and illegitimate. It is again not so surprising that a PMLN senior member has assumed that formation of a judicial commission implies Khan’s retraction of rigging allegations. If PTI has fought for a probe into rigging allegations, and that probe is now being conducted, why would they accept Parliament as legitimate before findings of a commission to that effect?

Khwaja Asif’s fiery speech, which was anything but parliamentary, has apparently been lauded on social media. It seems to have satisfied the appetite for vengeance that PMLN supporters sought on PTI for having verbally ridiculed them and their leadership for months. Sitting on treasury benches, and then to be a minister, calls for some responsibility. It is not like Khan’s onslaught has not been responded to by PMLN on various forums. But to choose to vent out your anger in Parliament, in a joint session with an agenda so important, was extremely immature and irresponsible. PTI, very appropriately, did not reciprocate.

Imran Khan obviously did not expect a warm reception with garlands. Until recently making his return to Parliament conditional upon formation of a judicial commission, he had on many occasions resolved never to sit in a fake and bogus Parliament. But the recently signed MOU and forfeiture of more than one demand therein, foretells PTI’s future stance. The MOU favors PMLN more than it does PTI. It may just be a face saving opportunity for Khan and his party. Having realized the futility of his protests, Khan might just have agreed to wait his turn. Political victory is not only evident in MOU clauses, but also in PMLN blatantly allowing its minister to hit PTI when its down. Imran Khan returned to Parliamant because he knows what fruits a toothless commission will bear, and because he does not want to stay out of the assemblies till the next general elections. And maybe, just maybe because he has been assured that steps will be taken towards electoral reforms, ensuring that the next elections will be free, fair and transparent.

The joint session was however more about petty political score settling than deciding the fate of future foreign policy. Monday’s session gave credence to the rumored assertion that decisions on foreign and defense policies are now being taken elsewhere while politicians are allowed to play in their sessions and meetings. As we saw, they did not take any decisions, they only played.

Anatomy of PTI-PMLN MOU

Published in the Express Tribune Blogs on the 9th of April, 2015.

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Pakistan Tehrik e Insaf (PTI) and Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz (PMLN) finally reached an agreement over PTI’s long standing demand for establishing a Judicial Commission to probe the allegations of rigging in the general elections held in 2013.

Although it may seem a victory for PTI, it would probably turn out to be anything but. The news of PMLN giving in and agreeing to form a commission as per PTI’s demands implies that the see-saw has tilted Imran Khan’s way. But a thorough perusal of the Memorandum of Understanding and Accord (MOU) signed between the parties may depict a different picture where PMLN weighs heavier.

Despite Khan’s stern warning of reverting to protests if PMLN makes any alterations in the originally agreed upon memorandum; alterations have been made, no protests however.

In the original draft it was agreed that with the establishment of a special investigation team by the Commission, in pursuance of section 6(2) of the proposed Ordinance, the appointment of Director General Federal Investigation Agency will be made afresh in consultation with PTI, along with simultaneous appointments to the post of Chairman NADRA and Secretary Election Commission. The final shape of the MOU, however, contains clauses whereby PTI has surrendered its stance on Chairman NADRA and Secretary Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) and accepted their appointments as valid. So the two mainly relevant institutions responsible for providing record to the Commission will continue to be run by appointees, of the PMLN government, who were earlier objected to by PTI.

Then there is the absence, or semi presence, of any time limit for concluding the inquiry. Opposed to earlier claims by PTI of making the commission bound to complete and conclude its inquiry within forty five days, the proposed ordinance in Section 7 contains the following words;

“….as expeditiously as possible and, preferably, within forty five days of its first meeting.”

Laws are supposed to be clear and unambiguous. A stipulation of any agreement, an Act or Ordinance is either binding on a party, or a person, or not binding. There is no such thing as semi-binding. The Commission formed in consequence of the proposed Ordinance is, therefore, not bound to submit its final report within forty five days. This allows for delays and presents opportunity for a deadlock.

The first delay may be in promulgation of the Ordinance, as the MOU does not contain any time frame for said promulgation. The intention of bringing the Ordinance as early as possible was only orally expressed by PMLN at the press conference. The first day has passed, Senate is in session and a joint session has been called for the 6th of April. And since an Ordinance cannot be promulgated when Parliament is in session, it will have to wait.

Next, there is also a probability of the Ordinance being challenged in courts, as barred by Article 225 of the Constitution, which bars all courts and judicial forums, except election tribunals, from adjudicating upon election disputes. There is also a question of the legality of forming an inquiry commission by way of an ordinance despite a legislated Act – The Pakistan Commissions of Inquiry Act of 1956 – being in place.

Then there are probable, potential delays after promulgation of the Ordinance and subsequent formation of the Commission. If the Commission decides to form a special investigation team in pursuance of Section 6(2) of the Ordinance, then there is the matter of appointment of DG FIA. In light of the MOU, said appointment is to be made by the government after due consultation with PTI. The time required for “due consultation” and consensus between PTI and PMLN can be anything ranging from two weeks to two years, judging by past record. This presents a very potent scenario for a deadlock.

The Commission is bound to seek record of elections, and voters, from the ECP and NADRA. Both of these institutions are expected to take their time in providing their records, since the Commission will be inquiring into the entire general elections all over Pakistan and not just a single constituency. Delay in providing record may be attributed to alleged directions from the sitting government, which may result in another battle between PMLN and PTI, and may even trigger withdrawal of the Ordinance.

Even if all of the above apprehensions and probabilities don’t materialize, there is still the question of what will it take from the Commission to give PTI what it wants: dissolution of the Assemblies and fresh elections?

The scope of inquiry for the Commission as contained in Section 3 of the Ordinance is;

“3.The Commission shall enquire into and determine whether or not:
(a) the 2013 GE were organised and conducted impartially, honestly, fairly, justly and in accordance with law; and

(b) the 2013 GE were manipulated or influenced pursuant to a systematic effort or by design by anyone; and

(c) the results of the 2013 GE, on an overall basis, are a true and fair reflection of the mandate given by the electorate. “

The words “on an overall basis” are very significant. The very same words have also been added to clause 4.1 of the MOU, where it says that the National and Provincial Assemblies will be dissolved and fresh elections held, if the Commission finds that the general elections 2013 do not reflect the true mandate of the electorate on an overall basis.

To conclude that the elections were rigged on an overall basis, the Commission will have to ascertain, in its final report, that there was planned rigging in the entire country or in a majority of constituencies. The fact that there were irregularities in the elections on a large scale, attributable to the ECP or NADRA, will not suffice.

If the commission finds any one or two, and not all, of the allegations within its scope of inquiry to be true, the words “on an overall basis” would then be subject to interpretation. From the text of the MOU it seems the Prime Minister will dissolve the assembly only if all the allegations are found true.

It is not clear whether PTI has let the see-saw tilt of its own accord, or if a third party has persuaded them to do so. It is highly improbable that PTI overlooked all these aspects of the MOU and Ordinance, along with changes made in the final draft. The fact that this MOU was signed on the 1st of April may also be of some significance.

Neutering Parliament with APCs

“Published in Express Tribune Blogs on 2nd of April, 2015”

Opposition parties, under the leadership of Mr. Asif Zardari have asked the government to call an all parties conference (APC) for deliberation and decision on Pakistan’s role in the Yemen conflict.

A trend that has recently become all too common in the political scene of Pakistan, APCs are a way to bypass Parliament and put weight behind chosen reps and leaders of political parties instead of their elected representatives in National Assembly and Senate.

From an APC that discussed and decided to hold talks with the Taliban in 2013, to the APC in December 2014 contemplating a plan of action for dealing with the Taliban after their brazen attack on our children’s school, it seems all political and national security issues are now subject to decisions of the APC: a forum that has little democratic and no constitutional value or standing.

Proponents of APCs, mostly its participants, deem it a fruit and facet of democracy as it gathers all political parties on one platform and brings all opinions to the table. If only there was such a forum provided for in our constitution, something like a Parliament maybe.

Why call an APC when you have a Parliament in place where all political parties are represented with the weight of their voters behind them. While an APC may bring perspectives of all political parties to the table, it is a joint session of Parliament that not only brings political party perspectives but more importantly, the perspectives of various ethnic and religious groups and the entire population through their chosen representatives. Also, there is no representation for minorities or women in an APC.

These arguments against APCs are countered by its proponents – mostly its participants – with the rebuttal that an APC does not work in place of Parliament but in addition to it. And that Parliament’s main job is to legislate and not formulate policy. It is then a reasonable query that why do we need an additional forum for policy making when there is a government in place working through the Prime Minister and his cabinet.

Important internal and external security issues can be taken bypassing the Parliament, but only by the government through National Security Councils (NSC), Defence Committee of the Cabinet (DCC) or Cabinet Committee on National Security (CCNS), whichever is in place. At the moment it is the Cabinet Committee on National Security. The problem with these councils and committees is a politician’s aversion to the influence and participation of “boots” in these forums. An aversion aimed to be addressed by changing the DCC into CCNS. The constitution of National Security Councils in various military regimes over our history gave it a touch of military interference and control. Such control is an irritant for politicians and hence reliance on NSC has been discouraged. But it is equally problematic when politicians, instead of strengthening the constitutional, democratic and political forum of Parliament, attempt to create new forums that have no foundation in our constitution and little democratic utility. If and when the military acts to supersede Parliament, reliance on APCs would only aid the assumption regarding Parliament’s redundancy.

Parliament is supreme as it is a significant part of the State. Military, Judiciary or executive are subservient to the State and Parliament. In this hierarchy, there is no place for, or existence of an APC. In the presence of a functioning Parliament and Cabinet Committee on National Security, reliance on an APC is unjustified, uncalled for and fruitless.

Article 63 A, that takes away the right of Parliamentarians to vote against party lines on certain importance issues, and increasing reliance on APCs will jointly render Parliament redundant. When general sense on important national issues is to be conveyed through party leaders, and voting on bills and elections in Parliament strictly in accordance with the wishes of party heads is mandatory, the Parliament practically stands neutered.

The assertion that APCs are an addition to joint sessions of Parliament automatically implies that one of the two forums is a waste of time and money. If in the interest of democracy and supremacy of constitution, one of the two forums is to be gotten rid of, it should be the APCs. Politicians should be the last to endorse the ineptness and insufficiency of a Parliament. Calling for, and holding of APCs by political leaders conveys only one message: between political parties and a government, a Parliament is unnecessary.