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Posts Tagged ‘Nawaz’

 

Musharraf: pre-dictatorship. Nawaz: pre-hair plugs.

 

It is October 12 (or at least it still is here). On this day, Christopher Columbus reached the New World in 1492, and The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy was published in 1979. And, on October 12, 1999, Pervez Musharraf staged a coup in Pakistan, overturning the government of former PM Nawaz Sharif.**

It seems we aren’t too far from where we were eleven years ago. Musharraf has made his political re-debut once again, to much fanfare/Facebook poking. But instead of flowers, Nawaz’s “Happy Anniversary Mushy” present was a seven-page charge sheet, calling his “coup-inator” [yes, I just made that up] the “most corrupt, callous, immoral and ruthless ruler,” [via the Express Tribune]. Trés romantic.

According to Dawn,

The charge-sheet contains allegations that Musharraf imposed martial law twice, undertook a Kargil misadventure, misused army to serve his personal interests, declared war against the people of Pakistan, blackmailed people through NAB, murdered Akbar Bugti, abducted people, killed scores of people in Lal Masjid, promoted cronyism, nepotism, corruption and favouritism, attacked the judiciary, promulgated NRO, massacred people on May 12 and Oct 18 in 2007, and got himself elected unconstitutionally as President of Pakistan.

Meanwhile, Punjab’s Provincial Assembly unanimously passed a resolution on Tuesday condemning Musharraf and declaring October 12, 2009, “the worst tragedy of Pakistan’s history.”

Let me see if I got this straight. We are currently tackling the aftermath of one of the worst natural disasters that has faced Pakistan – that has impacted over 20 million people, devastated livelihoods, and destroyed homes and the Punjab Assembly wastes time declaring Musharraf’s coup the worst tragedy in our history?

It’s not that I don’t think the hoopla surrounding Musharraf’s return borders on the absurd. In fact, I’ve been humming the Twilight Zone theme song a lot these days. But I will acknowledge that Musharraf has a right, just like every other corrupt/failed/exiled Pakistani politician, to reenter the political process. If he thinks 324,650 Facebook fans are an electoral ballot make, then that’s his prerogative. And, even though Nawaz Sharif received the highest opinion rating (71%) among those polled in the recent Pew survey, that still doesn’t mean his own record is squeaky clean. Far from it. So if you’re going to accuse a former leader of cronyism, nepotism, corruption and the like, remember that pot called. He’s calling you black.

 

 

**October 12, 2010 is also the day that at least one of the Chilean miners was rescued! Whohoo!

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Sometimes we are really hard on our politicians. I mean, come on guys, they’re people too! Sure, many lie, cheat, and steal from the country. The whole “there’s no I in ‘team‘” saying is completely lost on most of them.  But beneath that lying, cheating, bratty exterior are people, with real feelings. Because politicians – they’re just like us!

For example:

They’re forced to wear dorky costumes that someone told them looked “amazing” at the time!

Ugh. This is SO not something Harry Potter would wear...

They sported bad haircuts in the 80’s and had jungle-themed bedrooms!

You're a tiger, Imran!! Growl! Rawr!

They think fuzzy animals are just SO adorable!

"Gimme the panda!! Give him to me!" "No he's my fuzzy wuzzy bear!" "NO! MINE!"

They really do love their pets!

"Aren't my lions AMAZING?! I call that one Nawaz and the angry one's Shahbaz."

Sometimes all they really want is a nice, big hug…

"If you insist, I might hug. No, really. Insist."

Or a big, fat, kiss!

"Come give your Altaf Bhai a smoochie!" "Oh. God."

So next time you rag on your seedy politician, remember – they’re just like us!

(Credit for the Imran Khan photo goes to Rockistani and via @dishoompk and @fiverupees on Twitter)

(Inspired by US Weekly’s inane “Stars – They’re Just like Us!)

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Today is Obviously Opposite Day…

I actually SOL’ed (Snorted Out Loud) when I read this in The News today:

Addressing a public meeting here in NA-123 constituency as part of PML-N’s by-election campaign, Nawaz Sharif called for returning to the people, what he said, their looted wealth, adding, the corrupt people will ultimately meet their fate.

Hey Kettle. The Pot’s calling you black.

I may not have a muchie, but I can still twirl my hair plugs. Mwahaha.

Let’s face it. Many politicians in Pakistan are corrupt. Our current president bears the nickname Mr. Ten Percent for God’s sake. But to win an election on anti-corruption grounds? That’s hypocrisy at its finest.

So voters in the NA-123 constituency, you may vote in PML-N’s Pervaiz Malik in this by-election because you were swayed by Nawaz’s talk and hair plugs. But don’t forget about the Hudaibya Paper Mills controversy, when Nawaz and Shahbaz Sharif were implicated in money laundering worth $14.8 million. Don’t forget that just a few weeks ago, the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) sought to reopen this Hudaibya case, as well as two other references that charge Nawaz and Shahbaz (among others) with “misuing loans,” and “accumulating wealth and assets beyond their declared means of income by allegedly misusing their authority.” If Nawaz wants to return “looted wealth” to the people, maybe he should start with his own loot first.

I recently paid a visit to Adiala Jail with a women’s organization. There, a police officer said, quite aptly, “The biggest chors (thieves) aren’t in here. They’re in the government.”

Update: Thanks to Khizzy, I was just informed about yet another addition to the controversy – According to Dawn, “As Nawaz Sharif addressed supporters in the run-up to a Lahore by-election, his large rally was lit up by extensive use of illegal connections using ‘kunda’ (hooks that are attached to live power cables to secure supply without having to pay for it). PML-N spokesman Siddiqul Farooq told DawnNews that an inquiry would be held to fix responsibility for what was “clearly” a crime.”

Oh the tangled web we weave.

[Thanks to Cyril for the background help!]

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What Are They Really Thinking…

We all know a picture is worth a thousand words, but how often do you look at [candid] photos of our Pakistani politicians and wonder what they’re really thinking?

WordPress very conveniently added the “write your own caption” function recently, and I just couldn’t help myself. The photo is of PM Yousaf Raza Gilani and PML-N leader Nawaz Sharif at Tuesday’s reconciliation meeting in Raiwind [Image from Dawn]:

Nawaz thought bubble: Hai, look at Gilanis swoop. Even with my hair plugs I still cant achieve such an aerodynamic style.

Nawaz: Damn Gilani. Why won't my hair plugs swoop like that?

If you could write your own caption, what would it say?

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Media outlets reported that Pakistani police launched a crackdown on Wednesday, arresting dozens of opposition activists and lawyers and forbidding demonstrations on the eve of the Long March. According to Dawn newspaper, “Thirty five political activists and lawyers were arrested in Islamabad during raids launched overnight and continuing beyond daybreak.” [News agencies did differ on the numbers of those arrested, with the NY Times reporting that an "estimated 300" activists were detained.]

Those rounded up include members of Nawaz Sharif’s opposition party PML-N. A senior police official told the AFP, “The government has provided lists of people to police and raids are being made to arrest them.” Other police sources told news agencies that a top PML-N figure, Raja Zafarul Haq, was placed under house arrest last night, and Dawn added, “Police dressed in civilian clothes attempted to arrest lawyers’ movement leader Barrister Aitzaz Ahsan from his residence early Wednesday morning but he was not present at the time.” The news agency noted, “Many lawyers and MPs have gone into hiding to avoid detention, and were unreachable by telephone at their homes and offices. Police also searched in vain for cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan, who lives just outside the capital.” [Image from the AP] (more…)

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Friday’s Op-Eds

[Image from the AP, PML-N supporters following a demonstration in Rawalpindi]

As the political turmoil mounts following the Sharif Supreme Court ban [see related post], several Pakistani news agencies threw in their two cents on the matter. Today’s Dawn editorial asserted:

…the PPP has opted for a dangerous path of confrontation. Nawaz Sharif, who himself is guilty of increasing bellicosity in recent weeks, immediately upped the ante further by coming out with extraordinary allegations against President Zardari. Where we go from here is anybody’s guess, though it’s safe to say that little good will come out of it. There are several immediate worries. The PML-N may take to the streets in Punjab and threaten a severe law and order crisis. The lawyer’s long march may now culminate in violent confrontation. The federation may feel the strains of pitting the largest province against the center. And on the back-burner may go the country’s serious crises of militancy, the economy and governance. Democracy is not dead in Pakistan, but common sense may be.

The News’ Ayaz Amir, in an op-ed entitled, “So What Else Did Anyone Expect,” wrote, “with the Sharifs’ disqualification by a bench of the Supreme Court – headed by a chief justice whose close links to Zardari are well known – followed by the ouster of the PML-N government in Punjab and the imposition of governor’s rule, Zardari has let slip the mask from his face by revealing his naked ambition: this time to extend his power and wrest control of Pakistan’s largest province.” Amir added, “This is a dangerous gambit with unpredictable consequences because it remains to be seen whether he is able to master the crisis he has sparked or whether it becomes too big for him …one thing about a crisis we should know: you either master it or it devours you, as Pervez Musharraf discovered to his cost when his action against Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry triggered the lawyers’ movement, leading to a series of events over which he had less and less control.”

I do not doubt that the Supreme Court decisions were inherently political in nature. But I wonder what state the country will be in after the violence, protests, and political infighting end. What will  be left after the dust settles? Dawn’s Cyril Almeida asserted, “Domestic upheaval even at the best of times is deeply damaging to Pakistan. But the unique combination of all major players simultaneously discredited while an exogenous threat to the state gathers, that is a scenario that can have catastrophic consequences for the state as we know it.”

The Nation’s editorial noted, The dreams for a tolerant political culture and a viable democracy have been shattered. With uncertainty gripping the country, questions are being raised if the government would be able to complete its tenure.” In the Nation’s opinion, Zardari “needs to seriously weigh the consequences. He alone is in a position to call the ugly standoff to a halt. For this there is need on his part to employ whatever legal, constitutional and administrative means are available to him to undo the disqualification of the Sharifs and maintain the PPP-PML(N) alliance in Punjab.” In the recent issue of the Friday Times, Dr. Hasan Askari-Rizvi, echoed, “If the PPP-PML(N) confrontation spills over in the streets in the Punjab and Islamabad, both will lose and the future of democracy will become more uncertain. If democracy falters under these circumstances the major blame will be on these political parties.” Oh, the irony – “democracy” damaged by its own actors?

In the wake of these political tensions, issues related to the Swat and the tribal areas seem to have been placed on the back burner. Ayesha Siddiqa, however, succintly related the two issues in her Dawn op-ed, “The Price of Justice,” noting,

Everyone wants justice in Pakistan including the deposed chief justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry, the lawyers, Mukhtaran Mai and ordinary people. However, the only group that eventually got the government to agree to implement a system of justice they wanted – and popularly called the Nizam-i-Adlis the Swati Taliban. So, the moral of our story is that justice will be granted to the most brutal bidder.

That may be a good albeit depressing thought to leave on. Happy weekend everyone. Here’s to hoping – for the people’s sake – that things don’t unravel further.

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[PML-N supporters protest in Islamabad, AFP]

On Wednesday, Pakistan’s Supreme Court nullified last year’s election of Punjab’s chief minister, Shahbaz Sharif, and “also declined to rule on a challenge to an electoral ban on…former prime minister Nawaz Sharif, effectively maintaining a bar on him standing for election,” reported Dawn. GEO and AAJ News reported that Punjab governor Salman Taseer will assume executive control over Punjab province for the next two months.

The court’s decisions could subsequently mean a confrontation between the country’s two main political parties – the Pakistan People’s Party [led by President Asif Ali Zardari‘ and the Sharifs’ party, the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz [PML-N]. According to Reuters, the development “raised fears of a return to the political instability of the 1990s, a decade that ended in a military takeover.” The news agency cited political analyst Hasan Askari Rizvi, who stated, “The political impact of this decision will be extremely negative and if not handled properly this can undermine prospects of democracy in Pakistan…This virtually amounts to excluding one of the major political parties from the political process.” Zaffar Abbas, an editor at Dawn Newspaper echoed, “The political ramifications will be felt for many months to come. We may be looking for a very long, drawn-out battle between the government and the opposition forces led by Nawaz Sharif.”

Although the court made its ruling on the grounds that Nawaz had been convicted of a crime [in 1999], his lawyer immediately denounced the decision, “asserting it was a political decision ordered by President Asif Ali Zardari,” reported the NY Times. In a news conference following the court decisions, Nawaz Sharif told reporters, “This is an attack on the country and on the country’s constitution.” According to The News, the PML-N chief claimed that Zardari had “offered that we [Nawaz and Shahbaz] would be declared eligible by the Supreme Court if we accept the present judiciary including Chief Justice Abdul Hameed Dogar.” He added, “I would have accepted the deal if power had been more dear to me than principles…we have embraced our disqualification but will not compromise on the national interest.” Dawn quoted Nawaz, who further asserted, “Our real judges are the masses, and not the PCO [Provisional Constitutional Order] judges. Have a referendum, I say! And only that way we can come to the real verdict – the verdict of the masses.”

Supporters of the PML-N took to the streets today to protest the decisions. According to AAJ Television, “An angry mob of some 800 people gathered on the main Mall Road in Lahore, blocking traffic by burning tires and chanting slogans against President Asif Ali Zardari. Witnesses said the crowd, including women supporters, attacked banners of the main ruling Pakistan People’s Party and tore down hoardings carrying pictures of the president, prime minister and the provincial governor [Taseer].” Similar protests took place in Multan and “more than a dozen cities and towns” in Punjab province, reported the news agency. The Sharif brothers, especially Shahbaz, are very popular in their provincial stronghold, and protests are likely to continue over the next few days.

Today’s development will also impact the country’s judiciary movement, and will likely galvanize support for both the movement and the Sharifs. Nawaz had pledged to join protesting lawyers [who are calling for the restoration of deposed judges, including Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry]  in a long march from Lahore to Islamabad next month, and to take part in a planned sit-in in the capital. According to the NY Times, “Such a move by Mr. Sharif could raise political passions on the street. With Pakistanis suffering economically and security concerns paramount, Mr. Sharif had the potential of causing grief for the unpopular civilian government.”

For further background on the judiciary movement and the Nawaz Sharif controversy, read the articles tagged in this CHUP category, particularly this article.

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Today, I ran across an interesting article in the Financial Times. Entitled, “Doubts Cast on Zardari’s Mental Health,” the FT’s Michael Peel and Farhan Bokhari reported, “Asif Ali Zardari, the leading contender for the presidency of nuclear-armed Pakistan, was suffering from severe psychiatric problems as recently as last year, according to court documents filed by his doctors.” The co-Chairman of the PPP was reportedly diagnosed “with a range of serious illnesses including dementia, major depressive disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder in a series of medical reports spanning more than two years.” Zardari, noted the FT writers, spent 11 of the last 20 years in Pakistani prisons, where he claimed he was tortured. The FT cited a NY-based psychiatrist, Phillip Satiel, who said in a March 2007 diagnosis that Zardari’s imprisonment had left him suffering from “emotional instability” and memory and concentration problems. [Image from the AP]

Despite this diagnosis last year, Wajid Shamsul Hasan, Pakistan’s High Commissioner in London and a longstanding ally of the Bhutto family, told the FT yesterday that Zardari’s subsequent medical examinations and his doctors “declared him medically fit to run for political office and free of any symptoms.” He added,

You have got to understand that while he was in prison on charges that were never proven, there were attempts to kill him…At that time, he was surrounded by fear all the time. Any human being living in such a condition will of course suffer from the effects of continuous fear. But that is all history.

However, despite Hasan’s assertions, such reports of mental illness were publicized at a significant time – less than a week from today, Zardari is slated to run for the country’s presidential elections, a development that has sparked questions and skepticism among many Pakistanis, [so far, 78% of those who voted in yesterday's CHUP poll deemed "President Zardari" the worst decision for Pakistan]. In an op-ed in today’s Dawn, Kamran Shafi asserted,

Bad idea, Asif Zardari putting himself up for election as president, and worse, to do it without consulting the PML-N…Yes, sirs, a very bad idea indeed as Asif will find to his own and the party’s cost sooner rather than later with Nawaz Sharif stalking out of the coalition. It will be interesting to see how the PPP runs the country without the help of the next largest political party.

According to The News on Tuesday, Zardari, “who till Sunday was quite comfortable in the presidential race, has now certain hurdles to cross to clinch the top slot.” Following yesterday’s decision to exit the coalition, the PML-N announced its own presidential candidate will be former chief justice of Pakistan, Saeeduzzaman Siddiqui, and media outlets have indicated the party is attempting to “woo” the PML-Q over to their camp.

Officially, the United States has been neutral in the contest over who succeeds Pervez Musharraf. However, a piece in today’s NY Times reported that Zalmay Khalilzad, the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations [and former U.S. Ambassador to Iraq], is facing angry questions from other senior Bush administration officials over what they describe as unauthorized contacts with Zardari. The Times noted, “Mr. Khalilzad had spoken by telephone with Mr. Zardari…several times a week for the past month until he was confronted about the unauthorized contacts.” U.S. officials, including Asst. Secretary of State for South Asia, Richard Boucher, reacted with outrage to such news, fearing such reports “could leave the impression that the United States is taking sides in Pakistan’s already chaotic internal politics.” [Image from the NY Times]

Ultimately, today’s developments – from reports of Zardari’s mental state to the PML-N’s presidential candidate – may show that the PPP co-Chairman’s ascendancy to the presidency will not be without its obstacles. As political infighting continues, other issues facing the country are ever-increasing. Media outlets reported the stock market reacted negatively to the recent political developments – slumping four percent on Tuesday, and severe load shedding in Karachi, Quetta, and Peshawar has drastically affected daily life and business activities.

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UPDATE [930 EST]: Media outlets reported Monday that former PM Nawaz Sharif announced he is withdrawing his party from the ruling coalition. The Associated Press reported, “Sharif said Monday that he is pulling out of the five-month-old alliance because it has failed to restore judges ousted by ex-President Pervez Musharraf.”

Original Post Below:

There was a great deal of speculation this weekend over the future of Pakistan’s ruling coalition government. On Saturday, PPP co-chairman Asif Ali Zardari emerged as the party’s official candidate for the presidential elections next month, reported media outlets. Although an AFP report Saturday noted that PML-N leader Nawaz Sharif said “he was ready to accept” Zardari as president “if he does away with powers to dissolve parliament,” other media outlets, including Dawn and the UK’s Guardian, provided slightly different accounts. The Guardian reported, “Nawaz Sharif, leader of the other major party in the coalition, is furious that he was not consulted over Zardari’s bid for the presidency.” Dawn noted in its coverage, “Nawaz linked his party’s support for Zardari’s candidacy “to the restoration of the judiciary by Monday and also called upon the government to repeal the 17th Amendment [slashing the presidency's powers] before the presidential elections.”

However, such demands are unlikely to be fulfilled, “putting the future of the coalition at stake within a week after the ouster of president Pervez Musharraf.” The Associated Press cited an aide to Nawaz, Pervez Rashid, who told the news agency Sunday that “general opinion” in the PML-N “favored an exit from the coalition and that party leaders would meet on Monday to decide.” Moreover, noted the AP, a PML-N leader, Javed Hashmi, indicated that “he was willing to run in the Sept. 6 election to succeed Musharraf if his party asks him to.” Currently, news sources have implied that Zardari “is almost certain” to win the presidential election, since his party has the required votes in parliament to get him elected. However, a collapsing coalition will surely complicate the already volatile political environment in the country.

With nomination papers for the September 6 election due Tuesday, much hinges on Monday’s judiciary deadline and the slated PML-N meetings [on whether or not to exit the coalition]. A PML-N spokesperson said Sunday, “There is no need for the party to be part of the coalition government, if one party is taking decisions unilaterally.” For further coverage of this developing story, watch this space.

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On Tuesday, PPP co-chairman Asif Ali Zardari and PML-N head Nawaz Sharif agreed “to give priority to [the] impeachment of President Musharraf after they realized that the president has made up his mind to dissolve the assemblies and send the coalition government packing,” reported The News. The news agency added, “Sources told The News that both the leaders reviewed President Musharraf’s engagements and activities and found out that in meetings with leaders of different parties including the PML-Q, the MQM and the Pagara League, the president was giving indications of uprooting the government and the system.”

However, the News can sometimes be guilty of sensationalized reporting, especially on the Musharraf issue. Although other Pakistani news sources made no mention of the president’s “indications of uprooting” the current government, they did also report on the new PPP/PML-N agreement. According to Dawn, the two parties “agreed to formally ask President Pervez Musharraf to step down and to impeach him through parliamentary measures if he did not oblige…” The Daily Times provided a more tepid account, noting that Zardari and Nawaz “agreed in principle to impeach President Pervez Musharraf, provided that all coalition partners assured their support for this endeavor.”

This is not the first time such talk of impeachment has been discussed. However, Dawn cited PML-N leader Khawaja Asif who reportedly confirmed in an interview that “all legal and constitutional hitches are being removed to impeach the president.” Moreover, reported the Daily Times, sources privy to the “make-or-break” meeting told the news agency that “the agreement came about after senior PML-N leader Khawaja Asif assured Zardari that the coalition partners had sufficient strength to impeach President Musharraf if the PPP took the initiative.”

Perhaps also significant were reports that President Musharraf “abruptly” canceled his trip to the Beijing Olympics amid these “fears that he could be impeached.” Although the AFP reported that the Pakistani president changed his mind soon after and will travel to China for the Olympics opening ceremony, a senior foreign ministry official told the news agency that Musharraf will now fly out Thursday instead of today. Although the official declined to comment on the change of plans, the series of abrupt decisions may be indicative of Musharraf’s concern over the future of his office. His previously planned departure for today also coincided with Zardari and Nawaz’s second round of talks this morning. Perhaps the change of plans may not have been a coincidence at all.

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