Monthly Archives: January 2012

Pakistan’s Church Committee Opportunity

CIA Director William Colby testifying before the Church CommitteeTwo Supreme Court cases have dominated headlines in Pakistan recently, the judicial commission investing claims about an unsigned memo, and the ongoing hearings about decades old corruption cases against president Asif Zardari. But there is a third case set to begin next month that could have equally important ramifications for democracy and justice in Pakistan. Unlike the better-publicized cases which center on alleged acts by government officials, this lesser reported case centers on allegations of election interference by the country’s premier intelligence agency, the ISI. And the outcome of this case could significantly strengthen the democratic process.

The case, alternately known as the Asghar Khan case (after the former Air Marshal who originally filed the case in 1996) and the Mehran Bank scandal (after the bank where bribe money was kept), centers on allegations that Pakistan Army and ISI officers bribed politicians, journalists and public groups in an effort to prevent the re-election of Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) candidates in the 1992 elections.

Both Altaf Hussain, leader of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) party and Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain, a former Prime Minister from the Pakistan Muslim League – Quaid (PML-Q) party recently admitted to being offered millions by the ISI to oppose the PPP, though both claim they refused the offers. But others are alleged to have accepted the bribes. According to former Director General of the ISI Asad Durrani, funds were distributed to the following groups and individuals:

Nawaz Sharif got Rs3.5 million; Mir Afzal Khan Rs10 million; Lt. Gen. Rafaqat got Rs5.6 million for distribution among journalists; Abida Hussain Rs1 million; Jamat-e-Islami Rs5 million; Altaf Hussain Qureshi Rs500,000; Ghulam Mustafa Jatoi Rs5 million (Sindh); Jam Sadiq Rs5 million (Sindh); Muhammad Khan Junejo Rs250,000 (Sindh); Pir Pagara Rs2 million (Sindh); Maulana Salahuddin Rs300,000 (Sindh); different small groups in Sindh Rs5.4 million and; Humayun Marri Rs1.5 million (Balochistan).

While such blatant electoral interference may seem shocking, such acts were not previously unheard of in Pakistan. In 2009, Gen. Hamid Gul admitted to having organized a political party, the Islami Jamhoori Ittehad (IJI), while he was head of the ISI in 1988 as part of his efforts to prevent the PPP from winning a decisive electoral victory. According to the former Pakistani spy chief, under his leadership the ISI actively supported politicians “who had affiliation with the GHQ (Pakistan’s military headquarters)” against the PPP.

Nor did the ISI’s political machinations end with the turn of the century. Another former ISI official, Maj. Gen. Ehtesham Zamir, told the media that he had been personally responsible for manipulating elections in 2002 at the direction of Gen. Musharraf.

After Watergate exposed possibile illegal intelligence activities by the CIA and FBI, the Senate convened the United States Senate Select Committee to Study Governmental Operations with Respect to Intelligence Activities to investigate how American intelligence agencies were operating. Chaired by Senator Frank Church, this committee has come to be known as the Church Committee. The committee’s work resulted in the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act and the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court to provide guidelines and civilian oversight to American intelligence agencies.

Americans tend to think of intelligence agencies as working at the behest and under the oversight of their respective governments, as if all nations operate in a post-Church Committee environment. But the relationship between Pakistan’s civilian government and its ISI is quite different. In fact, in many ways the ISI operates not just independently of civilian oversight, but often in in direct opposition to it.

Shortly after Pakistan’s present civilian government took power in 2008, Prime Minister Yousuf Gilani announced that control of the ISI would be shifted to the portfolio of the civilian Interior Ministry. It was only a matter of hours before Army spokesman Major General Athar Abbas told the media that no such change would occur. The civilians promptly retracted the decision.

As Pakistan prepares for its next general elections, the cloud of past electoral manipulation by the ISI continues to cast a shadow over the democratic process. Former cricketer Imran Khan’s party is openly accused by the PML-N of receiving funding and logistical support from the ISI, and Pakistani news reports suggest that “more than half of the PTI top leadership now comprises either retired military, ISI officials or those politicians known as men of the establishment”, lending to the appearance that Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party is the latest in a long line of ISI front parties. Imran Khan insists that his is a populist, not an establishment party, but these rumors continue to surround his sudden rise in popularity.

Next month, Pakistan has the opportunity for its own “Church Committee” moment, ensuring that the next elections are carried out without freely and fairly, and without interference from the ISI or any other institution. With the Supreme Court, and not the parliament, overseeing hearings into the ISI’s interference in past elections, the process has the potential to avoid being politicized. The Chief Justice, who currently enjoys a high approval rating in Pakistan, has the opportunity to set clear limits for the involvement of military and intelligence agencies in political affairs, and to establish a transparent process of oversight to ensure compliance.

The Court’s guiding principle should be, as always, to allow the people of Pakistan the opportunity to choose their own leaders and define their own future without interference by any military or intelligence agency, foreign or domestic. By establishing an effective oversight regime for American intelligence agencies, the Church Committee strengthened the democratic process in the United States. Pakistan deserves no less.

Nixon vs. Zardari: Presidential Gates Abound

Waris HusainMany Americans can recall the political turmoil that came with the Watergate Scandal in 1972, but few understand its correlation to events currently unfolding in Pakistan. Just as Richard Nixon was brought down from the highest seat of power through allegations of corruption, President Asif Ali Zardari is facing threats from political opposition and the Supreme Court over his involvement in Memogate. However, the major difference between the travails of Nixon and Zardari is the Pakistani military, which has historically stood as an unchecked political force willing to sabotage democratic regimes. Thus, before the U.S. turns away from Pakistan completely, Americans should understand differences between Memogate and Watergate, in order to understand the ramifications of the current controversy embroiling the nation.

The Memogate controversy has its origins in the aftermath of the Osama Bin Ladin raid, where accusations were lodged by the U.S. against the Pakistani Army and its intelligence agency, the ISI, for harboring Bin Ladin. Fearing that the military’s culpability in hiding Bin Ladin would be revealed, the military leadership purportedly asked for permission from various Arab monarchies to perform a coup.

Asif Ali Zardari purportedly concluded that the military had decided to remove him from power, and it is alleged that he had conversations with Pakistan’s Ambassador to the U.S., Hussain Haqqani. These conversations allegedly resulted in a memo being written and sent to the U.S. government asking for help in stopping a potential military coup. In exchange for the American support, the memo promised that Pakistan’s civilian government would work more aggressively to pursue a wide range of American interests.

Soon, the memo, its contents, and its source were revealed by Manzoor Ijaz, who allegedly acted as a liaison between the U.S. and Pakistan government. Hussan Haqqani resigned from his post and returned to Pakistan, and the Pakistani Parliament took notice of the issue. Concurrently, the Supreme Court of Pakistan took notice, asking petitioners to explain their claims and under what basis the court had jurisdiction. While direct allegations against Zardari or Haqqani have not been leveled by the Court, the Court’s order did note possible charges of treason for guilty parties, and Haqqani has been placed on the Exit Control List, prohibiting him from leaving the country.

“If the facts were the same in Watergate, and Nixon was caught trying to stave off a coup by the CIA, he would be lauded as a national hero...”Though the Pakistani Supreme Court has drawn on the case of Nixon v. U.S. as legal precedence for launching an inquiry on the role of the President in this controversy, one should step back and compare the acts of Zardari and Nixon. In Watergate, President Nixon and his aides hired burglars to break into a political rival’s headquarters and illegally wiretap them. Nixon and his associates thereafter tried to cover up their involvement in the scandal and paid “hush money” to the individuals arrested.

On the other hand, Zardari, an elected president, was attempting to stop an unconstitutional military coup from taking place. Rather than holding the military officers who conspired against the civilian government responsible, the media and courts seem to blame Zadari for continually attempting to ‘sell-out’ to the Americans. If the facts were the same in Watergate, and Nixon was caught trying to stave off a coup by the CIA, he would be lauded as a national hero, rather than face treason charges, as is the former Ambassador Haqqani and possibly President Zardari.

However, politics and law in Pakistan is always subject to manipulation by the Army and ISI, and Zardari knows this. This is one of the many reasons why the President refused to answer the court’s request, claiming absolute sovereign immunity. Under Article 248 of Pakistan’s Constitution, a sitting head of state is immune from criminal prosecution. Though President Nixon did not enjoy the same constitutional guarantee of immunity, the U.S. Supreme Court had granted sovereign immunity to Presidents so long as they acted within the scope of their job in good faith. The only way to punish the wrongdoing of a President, either in Pakistan or the U.S., is through impeachment by the legislative branch.

Anticipating the sovereign immunity defense, the Pakistani Supreme Court cited to U.S. v. Nixon in its Memogate order, because, in that case, the U.S. court rejected President Nixon’s blanket claim of immunity. However, it is important to note that the U.S. Supreme Court was not contemplating a criminal prosecution for President Nixon. Prosecutors had already determined that Nixon would enjoy immunity from criminal prosecution while sitting as president, but they were continuing with a case against his aides and required evidence from him. Nixon took the case to the Supreme Court, where he argued that absolute immunity protected him from being forced to produce evidence before the court, which the justices rejected.

In the end, Nixon capitulated to the court, but his resignation came in order to avoid impeachment by Congress, not because of a potential criminal prosecution. However, in Pakistan, it is not clear what the Supreme Court has envisioned for its end-game. The petitioners in the case have justified jurisdiction under Article 5 and 6, which speak to loyalty and treason. The question that must be asked: if the Supreme Court finds that Zardari is guilty of treason, what action can they take?

The American Supreme Court never considered deposing the president or putting him in jail for corruption, as the Constitution assigned this duty to the legislative branch. The same goes for Pakistan, where the Parliament enjoys the exclusive constitutional right to impeach the president, a power which the Supreme Court does not possess.

“Pakistan’s military has always been a looming shadow willing to stunt the growth of democratic governance and snatch up power.”Finally, the consequences of any destabilization of Pakistan’s civilian government are far graver than in America, even in the chaos of the 1970s. Unlike the U.S., Pakistan’s military has always been a looming shadow willing to stunt the growth of democratic governance and snatch up power. There is certainly no love-loss between Zardari’s Administration and the military, especially considering last weeks’ statements by Prime Minister Gilani rejecting the Army’s status as a “state within a state.” Therefore, while the chorus of disapproval for Zardari from political opponents and the Court resembles the sound of democracy, they are all playing the military’s tune. And the Army stands in the wings ready to enjoy the rewards of toppling another civilian government.

In the meanwhile, the United States has halted most of its aid to Pakistan, as trust for the nation is wearing thin from the White House to Capitol Hill. However, before turning a cold shoulder to the nation as a whole, it is imperative to note that it is not democratic institutions which control foreign policy in Pakistan, but the military. Most of what the U.S. bemoans about Pakistan being duplicitous or sabotaging American attempts to reconcile with the Taliban emanate as strategies from the military.

Political analysts have not found a common interest shared by the U.S. and Pakistan because they have failed to delineate the civilian from the military power structures. If one realizes that the U.S. and the civilian government are both being sabotaged by the military, then abandoning the nation completely as an ally seems impractical. It is through comparisons like Watergate and Memogate that one understands the benefit of a having democracy free from the will of an unelected army. But more importantly, it should bolster America’s resolve to contribute civilian aid to a government in crisis, not because it is the most capable or most transparent government in history, but because the other option has been tried before and is so much worse.

The writer holds a Juris Doctorate in the US and is a researcher on comparative law and international law issues.

Secretary Hillary Clinton’s Remarks on Pakistani Ambassador to the U.S. Sherry Rehman

Secretary Hillary Clinton“I was delighted to welcome the new ambassador here yesterday. She is someone that I’ve known for some time. My message to her was very straightforward: The U.S.-Pakistan relationship is crucial to both of our countries, to the future of our people, to the safety and security of South Asia and the world; we recognize there have been significant challenges in recent months, but we are steadfastly committed to this relationship and working together to make it productive.

So we will continue to do so, and we obviously have expressed a lot of concerns about what we see happening inside Pakistan. It has been our position to stand strongly in favor of a democratically elected civilian government, which we continue to do, and we expect Pakistan to resolve any of these internal issues in a just and transparent manner that upholds the Pakistani laws and constitution.”

Muslim Americans ask Clinton to ensure justice for Ambassador Husain Haqqani

AILC logoThe American Islamic Leadership Coalition has joined a group of prominent American Muslims that has appealed to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton asking her and President Obama to intervene in the matter of the former Pakistan Ambassador to the U.S., Husain Haqqani who is under house arrest in Pakistan and expressed a fear for his life.

The letter signed by among others, Dr. M. Zuhdi Jasser and author Irshad Manji, asked Clinton to “let Pakistan’s military chief General Kayani and ISI boss General Pasha know that they will be held responsible for any harm that comes to Ambassador Haqqani.”

Ambassador Haqqani’s travails began after it was alleged that he had initiated a letter to the Chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Mike Mullen, following the US military action inside Pakistan in which Osama Bin Laden was killed. The letter reportedly asked for American intervention in Pakistan in order to forestall a military coup.

Ambassador Haqqani vehemently denied these allegations, yet honorably offered to resign his position and return to Pakistan to clear his name and answer any questions. He acted in good faith, but Pakistan’s military-judicial establishment and the country’s anti-American media have “convicted him” in the court of public opinion, without the benefit of any criminal charges.

In the letter to Mrs. Clinton the American and Canadian Muslim leaders also asked for the safety of Ambassador Haqqani’s wife. The letter said, “We also ask you to ensure the safety of Ambassador Haqqani’s wife, currently in the US. She is constantly followed by ISI agents working inside America. She should have the ability to live here free from intimidation and threats.”

“We American and Canadian Muslims have watched with increasing anxiety the situation of the former Pakistani Ambassador to the U.S., Husain Haqqani. Motivated by our deep concern for the life and safety of Ambassador Haqqani we write to you to ask you to speak on his behalf. Ambassador Haqqani is living under virtual house arrest in Pakistan. Pakistan’s security agencies confiscated his passport and the judiciary, under pressure from the military, has restricted him from travelling outside Pakistan,” the letter added.

The signatories of the letter to Mrs. Clinton said, “… Ambassador Haqqani … represented moderate Islamic values and was vocal in his opposition to radical elements in Islam, which was a source of pride for moderate Muslims in North America. During his stay in the United States, Ambassador Haqqani was an effective, intelligent and articulate refutation of all the negative stereotypes associated with the Islamist leadership inside America.”

 

State Dept: Amb Sherry Rehman Arrives at Important Time

QUESTION: Ambassador Sherry Rehman is expected to reach Washington this weekend. What kind of challenges do you think she will be facing? Because she comes at an important time when there is a sort of deadlock.

MS. NULAND: She does indeed come at an important time. We’re looking forward to having her here in the United States. We will, obviously, make clear to her that we consider this relationship extremely important. And although it is challenging, although it is difficult, we continue to believe that the United States and Pakistan and citizens throughout the region have an interest in the closer cooperation of our countries, and particularly in defeating the threats that challenge us both, and particularly the threat from terrorism.

State Dept: US Monitoring ‘Memogate’ Hearings

State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland told reporters today that while the US considers the issue dubbed “memogate” an internal issue for Pakistan, they are monitoring the situation closely and expect Pakistan’s former Ambassador to be “accorded all due consideration under Pakistani law and in conformity with international legal standards.”

QUESTION: On the subject of Pakistani ambassadors to the U.S., is there anything more than the very little that you’ve had to say this week about former Ambassador Haqqani?

MS. NULAND: Well, just to say again what we’ve been saying, but perhaps a little bit more clearly, while it’s obviously an internal matter for Pakistan and we respect Pakistan’s constitutional and legal processes, we expect that any process for resolving the matter of Ambassador Haqqani will proceed in a way that is fair, that’s transparent, that is as expeditious as possible. We also expect that Ambassador Haqqani will be accorded all due consideration under Pakistani law and in conformity with international legal standards. And we will be watching and monitoring the situation closely.

Statement of Senators McCain, Lieberman, Kirk on Husain Haqqani’s Mistreatment in Pakistan

United States Senators John McCain (R-Ariz.), Joseph Lieberman (I-Conn.) and Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) today released the following statement in response to reports of ongoing harassment and mistreatment of Pakistan’s former Ambassador the United States Husain Haqqani.

“Husain Haqqani served Pakistan honorably as its ambassador to the United States. While we did not always agree with Ambassador Haqqani, and our exchange of views could be spirited at times, we always had the highest respect for him and knew he was serving his nation and government with patriotism and distinction. We regret that the Pakistani people have lost a tough-minded, eloquent, and principled advocate for their nation’s interests now that Ambassador Haqqani has departed Washington.

“We are increasingly troubled by Ambassador Haqqani’s treatment since he returned home to Pakistan, including the travel ban imposed on him. Like many in Washington, we are closely following Ambassador Haqqani’s case. We urge Pakistani authorities to resolve this matter swiftly and consistent with civilian rule of law and to prevent the judicial commission investigating Ambassador Haqqani from becoming a political tool for revenge against an honorable man. The Pakistani people can be proud of the service that Ambassador Haqqani has provided Pakistan, and we look forward to the day when he can once again serve the government and people of Pakistan as one of the nation’s finest leaders.”