Never forget… the day she arrived and the day she died

Oct 18, 2007: Benazir returns. Photo by Beena Sarwar

Benazir Bhutto’s assassination on this day two years ago was utterly devastating for many of us. Here is the link to a piece I wrote for IPS just before she returned to Pakistan. On Oct 18, 2007, Absar Alam and I were both at the Geo TV studios in Karachi. We hopped onto a motorbike and headed for the airport, a cameraman and assistant on another motorbike. Absar managed to get us onto the truck on which Benazir was riding. See photos taken with my cell phone at this web album. Absar scooped a brief interview of her – her first to a Pakisani journalist on home soil since her exile – broadcast on Geo shortly afterwards.

Even those who had been her sternest critics over the years were unable to stem the tide of grief that hit them on learning of her death. I wrote this article after her murder – I was in Lahore, on my own at a friend’s house and it was an incredibly difficult piece to write, in between breaking down, monitoring the television, and calling people for quotes and information.

To those who even on this day, her second death anniversary, focus on her alleged corruption and plundering: please read M. Hanif’s article ‘My Benazir murder fantasy’ posted in Jan 2008 that the Newsline blog just re-posted. Extracts: Even if all the allegations about her corruption and arrogance are true, one should keep in mind that she was active in politics for 30 years, out of which she was in power only for four and a half years. The rest of the time she struggled against two of the most well entrenched military dictators in the region…

“The reason we don’t see very many dossiers on the financial corruption during General Zia and General Musharraf’s regimes is that when Bhutto was in power the intelligence agencies went into over drive documenting or sometimes inventing her misdemeanours. When the generals or their cronies are in power all the intelligence leaks just dry up.”

This is not to suggest that corruption should be condoned or excused, but it is important to get some perspective on the issue.


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IAR on NRO ruling

I.A. Rehman, one of the clearest, sanest voices in Pakistan analyses the NRO ruling in his op-ed today in Dawn, ‘Pause, sirs, and ponder

Extract: “…the issue before the Supreme Court was not an amendment to the constitution that would have attracted the basic features theory. The issue before it was an ordinary presidential ordinance. And for laws and ordinances that conflict with the constitution clear remedies are available.
“By invoking Article 227 in the present case the Supreme Court seems to have put Islamic injunctions in command of the whole constitution. Quite a few lawyers argue that this amounts to overruling the court’s judgments in the Hakim Khan (1992) and Kaneez Fatima (1993) cases.
“…The people of Pakistan have every right to ask whether Ziaul Haq’s agenda has been revived.”

Jan 1, 2010 – Aman Ittehad peace & solidarity day

JAN 1, 2010, ‘AMAN ITTEHAD’ – PEACE AND SOLIDARITY DAY
Please join us where ever in the world you are
Friday, January 1, 2010
2:30pm – 5:30pm
“Let’s stamp out injustice, light a candle each”

Rallies planned in Abbottabad, Haripur, Mardan, Karak, Swabi, D.I.Khan, Peshawar, Mingora, Lahore, Gujranwala, Multan, Bahawalpur, Faisalabad, Sialkot, Badin, Jamshoro, Larkana, Sukkur, Hyderabad, Karachi, Loralai, Quetta and Islamabad

Working together for an end to intolerance, violence, injustice. and equal opportunities for all. Citizens across the nation come together on the first day of 2010 to usher in a decade of peace, justice, equity and tolerance. More than a hundred organisations across Pakistan including the youth, students, concerned citizens, media, lawyers, labour, NGO’s and academics come together to express their resolve to struggle for the right to ‘a life of dignity’.

Join us…. for neither can we afford the luxury of indifference nor a lack of expression of the values that we hold so close to our hearts. Let our resolve find expression. We are one and we are all equals.Solidarity Day marks the beginning of a journey of building trust between citizens and the strengthening of democratic values and institutions.

For more details, contact Ali Asghar Khan

Not just hot air – Himal Southasian zindabad

This article was published in The News on Sunday (TNS) as Mountain magazine resort’, on the Footloose page, Dec 20, 2009 for a special issue on conference tourism

Not just hot air

Himal Southasian, Feb 1998

There are conferences and there are conferences. Some organisers lure participants with travel and daily allowances and fancy hotels at exotic locales. Others rely on goodwill and commitment. If it’s the latter, it helps to be located in an exotic place anyway — like Kathmandu. It also helps if the organisers are professional colleagues for whom you have the highest regard.

These last two factors contribute to my ‘favourite’ conference being one that took place in Kathmandu in early 1996. The man behind it was Kanak Mani Dixit, whom I had met at an earlier South Asia conference about water resources organised by Panos some years ago. Kanak had decided to turn his ‘mountain magazine’ Himal into a Southasian venture (there is a reason Himalers write ‘Southasian’ as one word – for an explanation see the published magazine or the Himal Southasian website.

So Kanak got together a few journalists from around Southasia to meet and brainstorm on this venture. He put Mitu Varma from New Delhi (who later became Country Representative in India for Panos South Asia) and myself up at the Third World Guest House in Pattan, one of the five ancient kingdoms around Kathmandu that are conserved as World Heritage sites. Continue reading

Pervez Hoodbhoy strikes back; More on the NRO ruling

More on the NRO ruling below – but this response by Pervez Hoodbhoy to the scurrilous attack on him by an expat professor deserves mention (he doesn’t usually respond to personal attacks),  published originally in Counterpunch on Dec 14 (later on Chowk on Dec 18) and is worth a read: “Is The Cheque In The Mail? – The Confessions of a Pakistani Native Orientalist”

Below, more about the NRO short order and its implications, including the emphasis on morality and acceptance of the “Islamic provisions” of the Constitution:

1. Two comments on Dec 19 by Asma Jahangir on the NRO ruling, one in a BBC Urdu interview, and “Another aspect of the judgment” oped in Dawn – Extract: “Witch-hunts, rather than the impartial administration of justice, will keep the public amused. The norms of justice will be judged by the level of humiliation meted out to the wrongdoers, rather than strengthening institutions capable of protecting the rights of the people.”

2. Aasim Sajjad Akhtar argues against simplifying the NRO ruling in ‘After the verdict’ (The News on Sunday, Dec 20): “…the structures that produce one bad apple after another need to be interrogated and eventually replaced. There can be no shortcut to justice, and the ‘rule of law’ brigade would do well to bear this in mind.”

3. ‘Legal, moral, political‘ – in this oped (Dawn, Dec 20) Asha’ar Rehman points out some inherent ironies and contradictions, eg “If the legal, political and moral must mingle, how can a lawyer, hailed as the author of the constitution, allow himself to defend a dictator who held the document in abeyance, and also defend his referendum — and then, a few years later, contest an ordinance fashioned by the same dictator?”

4. Letter to Chief Justice Ifitkhar Chaudhury from Bilal Qureshi at Foreign Policy Blogs, December 18, 2009, in which he calls upon the CJ to:

Continue reading

‘Bridging Partition: People’s Initiatives for Peace between India and Pakistan’

Cover art: K.B. Abro; design: Bindia Thapar

JUST PUBLISHED

BRIDGING PARTITION: People’s Intitiatives for Peace Between India and Pakistan

Edited by SMITU KOTHARI and ZIA MIAN

With Kamla Bhasin, A H Nayyar and Mohammad Tahseen
Essays by Shehryar Ahmad, Karamat Ali, Sumanta Banerjee, Kamla Bhasin, Nirupama Dutt, Madeeha Gauhar, Mubashir Hasan, Pervez Hoodboy, Asma Jehangir, Sheema Kirmani, Sanat Mohanty, Kuldip Nayar, Sandeep Pandey, Narendra Panjwani, Anand Patwardhan, Balraj Puri, Laxminarayan Ramdas, Lalita Ramdas, I A Rehman, Beena Sarwar, Jamila Verghese, Achin Vanaik

“Over the past three decades, in the shadow of hostile nationalisms fuelled by radical Islamic and Hindu politics, military crises, a runaway arms race, nuclear weapons and war, an amazing set of civil society initiatives has been taking root in India and Pakistan. A citizens diplomacy movement embracing thousands of activists, scholars, business people and retired government officials has emerged in an unprecedented effort to build national and cross-border networks for peace and cooperation between the two countries.

“In these essays, leading scholars, activists and writers from India and Pakistan reflect on the political and personal impact of crossing the border, and explore the possibilities and limits of this new movement in its quest to chart a path to peace between the two countries.”

Cover design Bindia Thapar
Cover art 60 Years of India Pakistan by K. B. Abro

Published by Orient BlackSwan India

NRO ruling and its fallout

There must and should be accountability, but selective accountability, and cases filed motivated by political victimisation do not serve the cause of justice.

Text messages doing the rounds include the following questions:
– NRO is unconstitutional but the Oct 1999 military coup was constitutional because Supreme Court approved it, and so was the LFO (legal framework order) of 2002?
– The murder of Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto was constitutional because SC approved it?
Hudood Ordinances & 8th Amendment were constitutional?
Provisional Constitution Order (PCO) on which the current CJ took oath was constitutional?
– No larger bench discussed violation of Article 6 of Mehran Bank scandal (in which ISI allegedly gave funds to IJI for the 1990 elections).
– Why has there been no judicial inquiry into Rs 94 billion Mulk Sanwaro Qarz Utaro scheme?

(Re Mehran Bank case – see Foqia Sadiq Khan’s article in TNS in Sept 2009, ‘Far from over’)

Also doing the rounds is a clip of Benazir Bhutto on Youtube, on the Supreme Court and NRO, talking about political victimisation

The Sindh Assembly passed a unanimous resolution in support of Zardari – and Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gillani just told the Punjab media they are ‘playing to the gallery’…

Ayesha Siddiqa in Dawn today, ‘After the NRO‘ points out that the ruling has weakened the civilian government in relation to the army, a point also made by the senior analyst C. Raja Mohan, in Indian Express, ‘Pakistan: Zardari falls, Kayani rises‘ in which he writes:

Lahore’s lawyers have surely won the point on the illegality of the Musharraf-Bhutto deal, which gave special protection to Benazir and her husband from the many previous charges of corruption. But they might be losing the larger struggle for establishing the civilian primacy over the military in Pakistan, as the nation’s latest experiment with democracy begins to unravel.

(ends)

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