‘Memogate’: The basic issue is the civil-military relationship

Asma Jahangir: Speak out for democracy

Husain Haqqani: scape-goated and threatened

Former Pakistan ambassador Husain Haqqani’s counsel Asma Jahangir sounds a sombre warning about the danger Haqqani is in from the military and intelligence agencies that are capable of picking him up and ‘twisting his limbs’ to make him say what they want to hear. Talking to Dawn TV’s Matiullah Jan in a detailed interview of Jan 1, 2012 she says that she took up the case because she found it a travesty that an individual was being condemned on the basis of a media trial without due process or representation. However, she will not represent him before the Judicial Commission that has been formed as she does not trust the process. The interview, posted in six parts (about 5-6 min each), is worth listening to in full as she makes some crucial points about the significance of this judgement to Pakistan’s politics. She sums some of these points up in this earlier brief interview with Al Jazeera English:

“It’s is a very disappointing judgement, because the Supreme Court has actually said it is people’s fundamental right to come set up a commission against anyone that they accuse. So once a commission is set up and if Mr Haqqani is aggrieved by that something the Commission has done, there’s nowhere he can go; his due process has been taken away. But more than that it has restricted fundamental rights to national security. It’s a big blow to those who believe in the democratic process and in the protection of fundamental rights”.

The issue as she said, was not about one individual, Husain Haqqani. “The point of the case is to go right up to the government. So this is basically (about the) civil military relationship in which sadly the courts have more or less shifted their weight with the establishment.”

In Pakistan, the military is still in power, there has been no transfer of power, she said. “They have been able to use one of the opponents of the government to go to court and take this petition under the guise of fundamental rights.” So our fundamental rights “are now subservient to national security. When there’s a tussle between what the civilian government says and what the military says, which are two different things, there has to be a showdown and where will that take us?”

Asked what the course of action should have been, she pointed out that there was already a parliamentary commission looking into ‘Memogate’. And secondly “there are laws in this country under which they could have got an investigation”. Instead, they moved to the highest court as the first instance, taking Mr Haqqani “out of the queue and denying due process”.

In her Dawn News interview later, elaborating, she says she expected the judges to uphold the Constitution and fundamental rights, rather than undermining them in the guise of ‘national security’.

“I don’t have great expectations from the judges, they seem to have expectations of themselves,” she said. “I’ve argued in court, because this is such a politicised matter, let the politicians settle it. Secondly, if we want to further democratic norms and traditions, we need to support the power of the people” rather than the power of the establishment. It is this that will provide the state its true security.

“That’s not the job of the SC. Their job is to support us, the citizens. Judges are subservient to the Constitution. This is a crucial and critical point. They should not make an issue out of national security. There can be many interpretations of national security.”

To Matiullah Jan’s question about the issue of national security, given Pakistan’s status as a “Muslim nation with nuclear weapons”, she replied: “You can’t compromise on fundamental rights, you can’t compromise on people’s rights. Secondly, there was no danger to national security.”

About Mansoor Ijaz, she said, that the DG ISI went to him and said that prima facie this is a case. Someone who has been writing articles against Pakistan for some years, DG ISI never went to him before. He is “a man who is a US citizen, who says his loyalty is to United States, someone who has written many articles against Pakistan, including one that I didn’t read out in court out of respect, in which he’d written that the Chief Justice is indebted to Nawaz Sharif. You’re accepting his credibility, not giving credibility to your ambassador to US. You’re informing the civilian government after you’ve already conspired against them. There are so many holes in the BBM memos that we’ve pointed out, but the CJ can’t see those holes?”

In essence, the army leadership has prevailed over society and institutions. This is a victory for them. There have been many petitions before SC earlier but “this is the first time that that notice was sent to them and they went running.”

Asked what proof there was that the petition was sponsored by the military, she said for one thing, they are never in such a hurry to reply, secondly, they didn’t go through Attorney General, and thirdly, it’s “clear that the federation is giving one answer, they’re giving another”.
Could this have happened if the government wasn’t weak, asks Jan.

“Yes, the government is weak. We wouldn’t have seen this day if it wasn’t. It doesn’t matter which government it is, what matters is whether the army is going to retain its influence on politics in Pakistan. They’ve exposed themselves. They’ve exposed the fact that the DG ISI was carrying out an investigation against the Prime Minister.”

She said she had asked Husain Haqqani to get another lawyer for the Commission, as it was too much for her blood pressure.
“As a professional lawyer, shouldn’t you be able to fight this case also?” asks Jan.

“It’s not about losing a case. We lose 3-4 cases every month,” she replied. “This has been a struggle I’ve been involved in (restoration of judiciary and democracy). There was a hope, but I don’t see that being fulfilled. It’s not personal, it’s not about this government or another. There are much bigger issues at stake.”

The basic issue, she stressed, is the civil-military relationship. The judgement has been a setback to the struggle for democracy and due process. The struggle, as Asma Jahangir said, will continue.

3 Responses

  1. The struggle, as Asma Jahangir said, will continue. Three cheers for Asma Jahangir.


  2. […] ‘Memogate’: The basic issue is the civil-military relationship […]


    • But what about the Mullah who has turned our constitution into a ‘Fatwa’, which even the military could not touch.


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