Spy Pigeons: Subcontinent’s version of “biological” warfare

Published in the Express Tribune Blogs on May 29th, 2015

spy pigeon

 

According to a report in The Times of India, Indian authorities have captured a “spy bird”. The bird is believed to be a Pakistani spy and is reportedly being held in “police custody”.

Pigeons from all over Pakistan are expected to begin protests against Pakistan’s silence on this illegal detention of an innocent member of their community. A spokes-pigeon for the community says they are chalking out a plan of action for protests if the foreign office does not ensure release of the captured pigeon within 48 hours. It threatened countrywide wing-jam and boycott of insect killing at first. In the second phase, “we may resort to mass excretions on public vehicles and buildings”, it said.

When the cops holding the pigeon in custody were approached for comment, they said this is no ordinary pigeon. Interrogations have revealed that it works for Pakistan’s Intelligence agency: ISI and Its name is Capt. Kabootar. Indian authorities have been looking for this spy for some time now, and its capture will lead to further arrests inside India. Several pigeons were already under suspicion and surveillance.

I received an anonymous tip from an anonymous source who swears that he was told by an anonymous person that ISI has an internal wing called PCB: Pakistan Covert Birds Bureau and that this bureau is responsible for cross border spy pigeon activities. According to the anonymous source of my anonymous source, PCB was established by the ISI in 1999 after Pakistan captured two Indian spies namely; Colonel Daddu and Major Supp; a spy frog and a spy snake sent to Pakistan by India. The capture of Indian spies was intentionally kept secret by Pakistani authorities since they were aware of how absurd, farcical, nonsensical and ludicrous it may sound to the world. Apparently, under Mr. Modi’s leadership, sounding sane is now India’s last priority, especially when it comes to statements regarding Pakistan.

According to yet another anonymous source, Indian authorities are not actually interested in interrogating or punishing Capt. Kabootar, instead they want to use it in a prisoner’s exchange to free Colonel Daddu and Maj. Supp, and the exchange could take place any time soon.

The only problem, according to anonymous source no. 5, is that ISI locked the Colonel and Major in the same cell and unfortunately Major Supp ate his superior Colonel Daddu a few years ago.

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We are the cause of our own Misery

Published in the Express Tribune Blogs on May 28th, 2015

When a law enforcer murdered a lawyer; a citizen of Pakistan, he did not just kill a human being, he also injured the already burnt and bruised body of the sick and dying “rule of law”.

When the lawyers reacted by destroying state’s property and thrashing several individuals for they were colleagues of the culprit, they added insult to that injury.

Yes there was a better, saner, less violent way to register their protest. But they weren’t protesting, they were instead venting out frustration and anger. They weren’t protesting against the murderer who is an individual, they were expressing their contempt and hatred towards a system that allows such criminals to wear a uniform and take guise of our protectors. In a way we were protesting against ourselves, as part of a society that cultivates corruption and nepotism into tools of our own demise.

Segments of our society, institutions of our state and we; the individual citizens of this unfortunate country, are all responsible for the deplorable state that is our present. The freedom with which a law enforcement agency killed members of the very public they swore to protect, speaks of the confidence they had in lack of swift and effective justice. How those murders were allowed – if not orchestrated – by the government is evidence of a manipulation prone system of retribution that is our legal system. Protests, riots and sit ins not any less angry and resolved than the lawyer’s protest yesterday, resulted in a joint investigation team distributing clean chits like candies to trick-a-treating kids on halloween.

Human beings came up with the idea of laws and rules to co-exist peacefully. Laws are useless unless they rule. Selective justice is, at the same time, condemned and endorsed by us as a society. We want the powerful to kneel before law and simultaneously want concessions for our own selves. We live in a society where nuisance value takes precedence over financial incentives associated with a job. We want that position of influence to maneuver our way around laws and rules. From the driver who dials his phone and hands it over to the traffic warden preparing to give him a ticket, to the father who calls well connected friends for help in saving his son who just killed a couple of pedestrians while he was drunk, everyone wants to be above the law. In the end it is all about opportunity really.

Of course the actions of a police officer who killed two lawyers point blank cannot be ignored, should not be ignored. Neither should we ignore the actions of those who killed several in model town last year. The government who is responsible for – if not guilty of – these crimes should not be allowed to evade justice and retribution. Those who take law into their own hands after every such incident should also be dealt with in accordance with law. But dealing with any one of these vices in isolation would be as futile as treating just the kidney when the cancer has spread to all organs.

Politicians have never been out of the limelight when it comes to bashing and blaming for all ills of our country. Judiciary and Military have at times joined this club of the bashed. Till recently, media had managed to maintain its charade of self proclaimed righteousness, but has now exposed several black sheep of its own. Bureaucracy, lawyers, doctors, industrialists, vendors: no class or group of our society has hands any cleaner than the rest.

The problem is not in any of these institutions of our country or organs of the state, the problem is us and our mindsets. Our afflictions are not owing to a vocal and filthy minority alone, but also to the silent majority. A majority who chooses to ignore, or to not ignore just for a while. Some with their actions and words, some with their silence, we have all contributed to our suffering and misery.

I intentionally attribute the ethical and moral ills of our country to a minority, and just collusion by ignorance to a majority, because I still believe in Pakistan and I know that the good are in a majority, only they may not just be good or loud enough to turn the tide. I have been in an assembly, have had politicians as my colleagues, I know there are several very sincere, patriotic men and women of integrity in their midst, members from all political parties. Same goes for the judiciary and even the police. Our tendency to highlight the bad and hide the good and consequently eliminate any and all hope, forcing more and more of us to turn, is one of our ills. But by far the worst of our ills is our erroneous belief and hope that change will be thrust upon us from without, that a saint would one day come and mend everything there is to mend.

We have waited, we have hoped and we have seen but we haven’t changed anything at all. May be it is time we realized “we” cannot change, but “I” can.

Let change and betterment emanate from within each of us. We are eager to jump on any opportunity to blame another for our ills, all the while committing different, equally grave wrongs of our own. Let’s change that and rid ourselves of all that is wrong first. It may not have noticeable repercussions immediately, but then where has waiting, bashing and hoping gotten us in all these years?

Our enemy’s enemy, not necessarily our friend.

After the terrible massacre of people from Islamaili community in Karachi, President of Pakistan cancelled his visit to Sri Lanka and flew to Karachi immediately. He was briefed by Rangers about the incident and the initial inquiry. Mr. President then called head of the Ismaili community Prince Karim Agha Khan, to offer his condolences and assure him of swift justice.

While the President, and his cabinet in uniform, believes RAW may be behind this attack, the shadow civil government believes otherwise.

“It is not sane to jump to conclusions”, they say, “especially when such conclusions involve a neighboring country. We should remember that this neighboring country has exclusive rights ewhen it comes to jumping to conclusions and blaming ISI for anything from a blast in India to their Prime Minister’s bowel movement.”
“The probability of RAW’s hand in Karachi massacre is therefore ruled out, for the time being. A conspiracy against this civil shadow government, however, cannot be ruled out. While the President was being lauded for his just and appropriate response, Prime Minister of the civil shadow government, along with some friends, was shown having lunch. This certainly was part of a conspiracy since there was no lunch served in that meeting. The Prime Minister’s words were edited to make it sound like he said ‘lunch’, when he actually said ‘wipe my tears please’. His tears were also photo-shopped out while food items were photo-shopped in.”

Prime Minister of the civil shadow-shadow government was also lauded for sending his man to Karachi. Unfortunately during his flight to Karachi, the man had forgotten what he was supposed to do once in Karachi. He thus went on a dismissing spree, only to withdraw the orders after taking his evening medication that jolts his memory occasionally.

The citizens of Pakistan witnessed the President’s actions and the actions of civil shadow government, civil shadow-shadow government and the rightful claimant to a civil shadow government.

Many citizens remained silent and in grief over Karachi’s tragedy. Some spoke their minds and expressed their concern. But only the truly patriotic citizens changed their profile pictures. Some even went all out to add sad emoticons to their facebook statuses. These patriotic citizens of Pakistan expressed their grief and sorrow, resolved to not forget as long as they manage to remember.

Some insane citizens questioned the possibility of a foreign hand looking to disrupt Pakistan’s progress, fight against terrorists and economic growth. But it were the saner citizens who suggested to ignore a foreign hand and look inwards.

Why should we blame RAW for our ills? We should only blame ISI for our ills and the ills of India” they said. “If there is an intelligence agency responsible for any wrong, its the ISI. And if there is no possibility of ISI being involved in a crime, then rest assured no intelligence agency of the world can be involved.

‘Likes’ and ‘shares’ on such statements are a testament to their veracity and intellectual strength.

The good thing about us citizens is that we remember, we grieve, until of course distracted by other news like what Reham Khan said and what Ayyan wore to her hearing.

We the citizens stand united in these adverse times beyond ethnic and religious divides, until of course the Judicial Commission’s next hearing or another decision from a tribunal brings us to each other’s throats over political divides.

We see each other as brothers when some of our brothers and sisters are killed by animals, until of course we see each other as traitors for supporting someone we do not support.

RAW may be aiding these activities in Pakistan, local Pakistani people and hate mongers may be behind these barbarities, but it is us; the patriotic sane citizens who provide a conducive environment for anyone who wants to divide us. We are practically self sufficient in that. Divided over provinces, sects, political affiliations, feminism, even clans and castes; we don’t disagree, we despise anyone who does not share our opinion. We do not love each other for being Pakistanis, we hate each other for being a “nooni”, “insafian”, “peeplia” etc.

The problem is within us, in our attitudes, our apathy and our tendency to hate more than our tendency to love. Our enemy’s enemy is not necessarily our friend, for he may also be our enemy for other political or pettier reasons.

NA 125 order suspended – NOT OVERTURNED

Published in Express Tribune Blogs on the 11th of May, 2015

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The Supreme Court of Pakistan (SCP) today suspended – not overturned – an election tribunal’s decision ordering fresh elections in NA 125, Lahore.

Only a few days ago, this now suspended decision blew hot air into Pakistan Tehrik e Insaf’s (PTI) deflating balloon. A few days before that Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz’s (PMLN) victory in cantonment boards local government elections and a devastating loss in NA 246 by-elections had pushed PTI on the back foot. The lost fervor and vigor revived on May 4th, when Hamid Khan’s petition against Khwaja Saad Rafique’s election was accepted.

Imran Khan found his lost uncontrollable smile and confidence, PTI found life. Celebrations followed and continued till today when fireworks broke in the opposing camp with SCP suspending the tribunal’s order.

First off, let me clarify that a suspension means temporarily rendering an order ineffective. It in no way means that SCP has overruled the tribunal’s decision, not yet at least. It is basically a matter of routine for an appellate court to suspend orders of a trial court during pendency of an appeal. Rationale behind such suspensions and stay orders is to maintain status quo and not let circumstances change on basis of an order that may eventually be overturned. All it implies is that the appellate court has not found the appeal to be completely without merit and thus has not dismissed it in limine.

So there isn’t much to celebrate for PMLN, or to frown upon for PTI, just yet. It is not surprising that SCP has chosen to admit Saad Rafique’s appeal for hearing. The tribunal’s order did clear him of any and all allegations of corrupt or illegal practices. The tribunal based its order on irregularities found in the election process, and not on misconduct of any candidate. Furthermore, contrary to certain news reports, the tribunal did not ‘disqualify’ Mr. Saad nor has it declared his election void per se. It has instead declared the NA 125 election void as a whole, and yes there is a difference.

Section 68 of the Representation of Peoples Act, 1976 (ROPA), provides for declaring the election of a returned candidate void, if any irregularity, corrupt or illegal practice is found to have been committed by him or on his behest. In the absence of any such finding, Section 68(2) bars the tribunal from declaring Saad’s election as void.

Section 70, on the other hand, provides for declaring an election void as a whole, if ‘any person’, including the election officers, has failed to abide by election laws and rules, and if the tribunal finds large scale corrupt or illegal practices by more than one candidate and other persons. So there is merit in Khwaja Saad’s appeal and its admission for hearing was expected.

Having said that, this does not mean that SCP will necessarily overturn the tribunal’s decision. It may dismiss the appeal eventually. Celebrations in the PMLN camp are thus premature and not expected to last for long. Even though the tribunal cleared Saad Rafique of any guilt, there were grave irregularities found in the election process attributable to the election commission and election officers.

These observations of the tribunal can have twofold implications;

1. It may lead SCP to uphold the tribunal’s decision as in line with Section 70 of ROPA.

2. These findings will be consequential in the judicial commission’s proceedings. If the ECP failed to fulfill its constitutional obligation of holding a free, fair and transparent election, the judicial commission can find in favor of the allegers. The tribunal’s order only increases the probability of a decision in favor of PTI.

This roller coaster still has a few ups and downs on its path. Thanks to the over enthused supporters in both camps, some level tracks are also portrayed as ups or downs. Today’s suspension for instance, is not a victory for any party. Final disposal of the appeal pending before SCP will decide the fate of NA 125. Similarly, final decision of the Judicial commission will decide the fate of PMLN government.

However, winds do seem to be favoring PTI. A favorable decision in NA 122, which is highly probable, and more revelations before the judicial commission will keep tightening the noose around PMLN’s neck. Final verdict of the Judicial commission is still far from predictable though.

SCP may feel inclined to uphold the tribunal’s order and the judicial commission may hold the elections unfair and not free or transparent. This does not mean that previous elections were free, fair and transparent. But finally these age old malpractices, negligence and callousness has been exposed, investigated and brought out in the open. If we can come out of all this with an improved electoral system, we will be winners as citizens of Pakistan.

Is the Judicial Commission constitutional?

No election in Pakistan’s recent history has been shrouded more in controversy than the general elections 2013 (GE 2013).

Allegations of rigging, malpractices, negligence and irregularities have snatched much credibility from GE 2013. Political parties, election commission of Pakistan (ECP), judiciary and the executive; everyone’s role is marred by allegations and revelations. The staunchest stance on rigging was taken by Pakistan Tehrik e Insaf (PTI). Their sit ins and protests culminated in the establishment of a judicial commission (the Commission) tasked with probing into the allegations of rigging and malpractices in GE 2013.

Ever since the demand for a commission was first put forward by PTI, it has been subject of much legal debate. Now after establishment of the Commission, many legal and political circles continue to ponder and debate over the Commission’s constitutionality. In this piece I intend to look into the legality of the Commission.

Opponents of the Commission – those who believe it is unconstitutional – most commonly rely on Article 225 of the Constitution of Pakistan, 1973 (the Constitution); which in their opinion bars jurisdiction of any court and judicial forum, except that of an election tribunal, to adjudicate upon election disputes. Article 225, for the purposes of clarity, is reproduced below;

“No election to a House or a Provincial Assembly shall be called in question except by an election petition presented to such tribunal and in such manner as may be determined by Act of [Majlis-e-shoora (Parliament)].”

Relevant ‘Act of Parliament’ here, is the Representation of Peoples Act, 1976 (the Act). Chapter 7 wherein, deals with election disputes and their resolution through election tribunals set up under Section 57 of the Act.

Article 225 is thus believed to have given exclusive jurisdiction over election disputes to the election tribunals set up under the Act. In these circumstances, can the Commission take cognizance of any dispute relating to the GE 2013, irregularities of ECP and NADRA included?

The answer to this question, in my humble legal opinion, is yes.

First off, Article 225 does not specifically talk about collective disputes, or a dispute of a generic nature involving more than one constituencies. It is clear from a bare reading of the Article that it addresses election disputes that pertain to a single constituency. For such disputes, the Act is in place and gives exclusive jurisdiction to election tribunals.

What then is the procedure for a dispute pertaining to constituencies of an entire division, or a province? What if a district returning officer is guilty of mal practices that amount to unfair practices leading to a rigged election in an entire district? Are the Act and Constitution silent for such a scenario?

Political parties have more or less alleged just that in matter of GE 2013. It has been alleged that large scale irregularities and malpractices have lead to an unfair, nontransparent elections. So should the aggrieved parties have gone for individual election petitions for every single constituency? This would have resulted in a bulk of litigation, over worked tribunals and probably delayed justice.

Wasn’t it then prudent to find a way around? A solution that is not unconstitutional but only extra constitutional, if that; to collectively adjudicate upon allegations of rigging in GE 2013 through a judicial commission established by way of an ordinance.

There is the argument that Article 225 its self allows for formation of a forum to adjudicate upon such matters.

The Commission has been established by way of an Ordinance: General Elections 2013 Inquiry Commission Ordinance of 2015.

Article 89 of the Constitution gives the President powers to promulgate an ordinance. Clause (2) of said Article bestows, on such ordinance, the same force and effect as that of an Act of Parliament. Hence the Commission formed under a Presidential ordinance is a tribunal established, for all legal purposes, under an Act of Parliament, and is thus a legitimate forum for inquiry into allegations of a generic nature pertaining to GE 2013.

It is pertinent to note that individual elections petitions, under the Act, continue to be heard by election tribunals.

Thus in my opinion, there is nothing unconstitutional about the Commission. It is a precedent now set that addresses a situation previously not catered for by the Constitution.

NA 125: Prelude to Finale?

NA 125

The see-saw tilts back in Pakistan Tehrik e Insaf’s (PTI) favor.

A short term ecstasy of vindication brought on by cantonment board local government elections in NA 125 ended for Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz (PMLN) when an election tribunal disqualified Khwaja Saad Rafique and ordered re-election in NA 125.

Those who see a very visible nexus between this decision and a probable decision of the Judicial Commission (the Commission), formed to probe allegations of rigging in general elections 2013 (GE 2013), are not dreaming.
True that a single constituency cannot be representative of an entire general election. True that decisions of the election tribunal, comprising of High Court judges, are not binding on the Judicial Commission that comprises of Supreme Court justices.

Nevertheless, NA 125 is one of four constituencies initially identified by PTI as sample for inquiry into allegations of rigging. The whole case of PTI rested on these four constituencies for well over a year. While the Commission continues its proceedings, a subordinate forum has just endorsed PTI’s allegations to the extent of one constituency. While the Commission finds itself short on time to go into minute details of an election process, the tribunal has just given its findings after intricate inquiry stretching over two years. The decision of NA 125 election tribunal will, without a shadow of doubt, work in aid of the Commission.

Pertinent to note that the election tribunal has not found an isolated instance of foul play by, or on behest of a candidate in NA 125. It is obvious that irregularities and negligence on part of returning officers and election commission of Pakistan (ECP) has been found as the primary reason for ordering a re-election. Now that brings merit to PTI’s allegations against the ECP as regards their role in rigging. It also gives credence to accusations pertaining to an organized plan of rigging the GE 2013 through returning officers (ROs). If the Judicial Commission finds similar irregularities in other constituencies of the country, which it probably will, it will be reasonable to assume similar RO involvement on a larger scale. That would in turn move the Commission to hold in favor of PTI and against PMLN.

A commission that seemed toothless in light of the memorandum of understanding between PTI and PMLN, has just been given a sharp set of K9 dentures. If the reports submitted by NADRA and ECP point to irregularities, likes of which have been found in NA 125, the Commission can hold the GE 2013 void.

This decision is indeed a blow for PMLN but it packs a sharper blow for Saad Rafique. The poor guy probably wants to smash his head somewhere, since he believes he could have won the elections without any help from the ROs or “hidden hands”. There wasn’t a recount, he has been disqualified for large scale irregularities.

Rigging in GE 2013 is almost an established fact. The clumsiness in it, hints at PMLN’s connivance. Fact of the matter is that it does not matter who bagged how many votes anymore. Even if a PMLN candidate keeps his lead after subtracting bogus or unverifiable votes, the election is still void since the ECP failed to fulfill its constitutional obligations. PMLN may have ended up with a government in Punjab and a coalition government in centre had the elections not been so irregular and shady. Now, it may lose both.

This is not NA 125′ decision, this is a prelude to the Commission’s decision. PMLN should now prepare for next elections, in some ways it already has begun its campaign.

PTI too, needs to start preparing. Rigging did deny them a few seats, but their own immaturity and ill-organization denied them more. This will be a second chance; one rarely provided to any party in Pakistan’s politics. PTI will have to rid its self of organizational lacking. PTI does not have much time, if elections are held this year.

All in all this decision and what it leads to, promises to be a wonderful new precedent in Pakistan’s politics. A very democratic outcome aided by some very discreet non-democratic actors.

RAW writes to Altaf

“Dear Mr. Altaf Hussein,

We are overwhelmed by your recurring expressions of love for us and our country. We would come to your aid and happily adopt you as one of our own, if only there was a dearth of crap blabbering idiots in our own country. Although our blabbering idiots may not match your senselessness, still we believe you will not be adding anything to our political or cultural landscape.

We have had many hate spewing agitators of ethnic and religious sectarianism. But I doubt you will find an environment as conducive for your shenanigans as is available to you in your own unfortunate country. Although it is possible, but we cannot guarantee that you will be allowed to crap through your mouth on live television time and time again. Here, we shit through our asses and do it in toilets, and I am afraid you may not get live coverage for that.

We would however, like to take this opportunity to express our love for you. The entertainment that you provide and the way you make a mockery of yourself, the Pakistani and British governments in short spans of 40 minutes to 1 hour, is an amazing talent. We could offer you a slot as a standup comedian, but we don’t think you can actually stand up without help anymore.

With fake regards and real ridicule,

RAW”

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Above is a satirical piece and if it has caused any “dil azaari” to Altaf, his slaves, followers and to the zombies that he owns, please accept my sincerest apologies. Who knows better than you guys how an apology makes it all better.