Tag Archives: democratization

Justice Louise Arbour Concerned About Direction of Pakistan’s Supreme Court

Justice Louise ArbourJustice Louise Arbour has a distinguished career devoted to promoting the principles of justice. Currently serving as the President of the International Crisis Group, Justice Arbour is the former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, a former justice of the Supreme Court of Canada and the Court of Appeal for Ontario and a former Chief Prosecutor of the International Criminal Tribunals for the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda. As such, she knows a thing or two about the importance of an independent judiciary in developing countries and emerging democracies. That’s why, when Justice Arbour expresses concerns about the looming constitutional crisis in Pakistan, her concerns merit serious consideration.

An ardent supporter of Pakistan’s 2007 “Lawyer’s Movement” to restore judges deposed by Gen. Musharraf, Justice Arbour had hoped to see a new era for the Court, one that broke with its past of supporting military dictators and their mangling the Constitution and the rule of law. Today, she fears that those same justices have become “intoxicated with their own independence,” and that the current direction of Pakistan’s Supreme Court Justices threatens to upend the very democratic order that restored them to the bench.

Speaking to a crowded auditorium at the Woodrow Wilson Center in Washington, DC, Justice Arbour noted that the current tension between Pakistan’s Supreme Court and its elected officials might seem like a political soap opera were it not for Court’s history of collusion with the military to suppress democracy. Judges “who took an oath to a military dictator are not well placed to make the decision” to remove democratically elected officials, she observed, referring to Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry’s 1999 oath under Gen. Musharraf’s Provisional Constitutional Order. While not inevitable, Justice Arbour said, it is possible that Pakistan’s Supreme Court could end up dissolving the democratically elected government with the help of the military, putting in place an extended caretaker government in what would be, for all intents and purposes, another coup.

During her visit to Pakistan, she assured the room, she met with no government officials. Her interest was in the views of the legal community, whom she found deeply divided, seemingly on political lines. This troubled the former Justice, who worries that Pakistan’s Supreme Court has become increasingly politicized, threatening its credibility. She pointed to the memo commission, which she said “reflected very poorly on the judiciary,” and added to the appearance of growing politicization.

The present case, in which the Supreme Court has ordered the Prime Minister to write a letter to Swiss authorities requesting that criminal cases be reinstated against the President, adds to the appearance of an increasingly politicized judiciary. From a legal perspective, the issue centers on one of separation of powers. In fact, Pakistan’s Chief Justice has repeatedly stated recently that “parliament is not supreme.” In questions such as these, where the Supreme Court has a vested interest in the outcome, Justice Arbour suggests that it is all the more important that court show self-restraint and frame its decisions in a way that “advances the authority of all institutions,” not only its own.

Justice Arbour was also clear that her concerns about the Supreme Court’s actions do not imply a disinterest in accountability. There is a misconception that presidential immunity is unprecedented, she explained, reminding the audience that former French President Nicolas Sarkozy enjoyed immunity from prosecution during his term in office and, now that he is out of office,  faces possible charges for campaign finance violations.

Article 248 of Pakistan’s Constitution, which grants temporary immunity to Pakistan’s President, Prime Minister, and Governors, is clearly worded, said Justice Arbour; and that privilege exists for a reason – to allow government officials to perform their official duties without distraction. Asked by a member of the audience whether President Zardari should be subject to accountability, Justice Arbour responded that all officials should be subject to accountability. The issue is not one of accountability, but timing. Rather than wait six months for Pakistan’s next general elections, she said, the Supreme Court is unnecessarily undermining not only the present government, but the democratic system, which is weak from decades of neglect under military regimes.

Justice Arbour is not the only former Supreme Court justice to express grave concern about the direction of Pakistan’s Supreme Court. Last month, Justice Markandey Katju, a former member of the Supreme Court of India, wrote a detailed explanation for his concern that Pakistan’s Supreme Court is “playing to the galleries and not exercising the self-restraint expected of superior courts.”

As a growing chorus of international jurists expresses concerns about the actions of Pakistan’s Supreme Court, we hope that Pakistan’s Honorable Justices will consider Justice Arbour’s words carefully if for no other reason than their own self interest. Historically, Pakistan’s courts suffered greatly under undemocratic regimes. Should Pakistan’s democracy become derailed as a result of the present crisis, there’s no reason to believe the judiciary would fare better this time around.

Institutions and Individuals: Battle for Supremacy in Pakistan

Much is written about the struggle for supremacy between Pakistan’s civilian and military institutions. But Pakistani democracy is currently suffering from another power struggle – one between civilian institutions. During the past few years Pakistan has seen the rise of the Supreme Court as a new contender in the struggle for domestic power. Increasingly, however, conflicts between the judiciary and other branches appear to be battles between individuals rather than institutions.

After the controversial retroactive disqualification of former Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani by the Supreme Court, Pakistan’s parliament this week passed a bill to amend the Constitution to grant immunity from contempt of court charges to certain government officials in anticipation of the court’s using the threat of contempt as a means of forcing the executive branch to enforce its orders. Supporting this concern is the court’s order to the new Prime Minister to respond by July 12th to their order that a letter be written to Swiss authorities reopening corruption cases against President Asif Zardari. The executive  branch continues to insist that they are constitutionally prohibited from following the court’s order as the president enjoys immunity during his term in office, and legal analysts describe the Prime Minister as being caught in a “contempt trap.”

Opposition politicians are predictably against the bill. Ahsan Iqbal of the Pakistan Muslim League – Nawaz (PML-N) said in a press release that the bill is part of a political strategy to protect the president from corruption charges, despite the PML-N’s having passed a similar bill when it was in power in 1997 and PML-N President and then Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif was facing similar battles with the Chief Justice at the time, Sajjad Ali Shah. Syed Munawar Hasan and Imran Khan, leaders of the Jamaat-e-Islami and Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf political parties, called the amendment un-Islamic.

The lack of trust between parliament and the judiciary is mutual, though. While Pakistani parliamentarians were discussing how to reign in judicial oversight, Pakistan’s Supreme Court announced that judges were beyond the oversight of parliament. Neither is the first time that the Supreme Court has bristled at the prospect of parliamentary checks on its members. When parliament passed the 18th Amendment devolving powers that had been consolidated under past military dictators, the Supreme Court objected to a provision of the bill that created a new inter-institutional commission to nominate justices. Previously, new justices were selected by the Chief Justice himself. In a bizarre move, the Supreme Court began hearings on whether the unanimously passed constitutional amendment was unconstitutional for violating the “basic structure” of the constitution – an ambiguous set of unwritten principles that would essentially give the Supreme Court veto power over any act of parliament. Ultimately, the Supreme Court punted on the question, asking parliament to clarify certain aspects of the judicial commission and leaving the “basic structure” issue hanging over parliament.

As parliament prepared to take up the constitutional amendment limiting the court’s power to remove officials with contempt convictions, Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry may have hinted at the return of the “basic structure” doctrine. Speaking at a ceremony for newly enrolled Supreme Court advocates last weekend, the Chief Justice referred to a “misconception in the minds of people regarding supremacy of parliament,” adding that the Supreme Court is empowered “to strike down any legislation which encroached upon the basic rights of the citizens.”

The framers of the US Constitution anticipated that the personal ambition of officeholders would lead to attempts to encroach on the powers of other institutions. This led to the implementation of a complex system of “checks and balances” to ensure that no one institution could assert itself as supreme to any other.

To maintain stability, governments must follow rules and procedures written for institutions, not individuals. Asif Zardari will not be president forever, nor is Iftikhar Chaudhry Chief Justice for life. As Pakistan navigates current controversies, officials from all branches of government should look for solutions that will hold up no matter who is President, Prime Minister, or Chief Justice.

Pakistan’s Institutional Battles: Coups and Continuity

Raja Pervaiz Ashraf

Pakistan’s Prime Minister-elect, Raja Pervaiz Ashraf
 

The past few weeks have been been a tumultuous time for Pakistani democracy. Even Deputy US Ambassador to Pakistan Richard Hoagland Tweeted last week that, “it’s getting confusing”. But as people try to make sense of rapidly changing events, it’s important not to miss the forest for the trees. Despite what seem like inscrutable events taking place, it’s what isn’t happening that points to democratic progress in Pakistan.

After convicting the Prime Minister of contempt for “ridiculing the judiciary” (a claim that did not appear in the charge sheet against the Prime Minister) and allowing the Speaker of the National Assembly to rule the Prime Minister eligible to continue in office, Pakistan’s Supreme Court made an about face and ordered the Prime Minister be retroactively disqualified from office.

The Wall Street Journal called the decision, “Islamabad’s Judicial Coup,”, but Pakistan’s governing party took the announcement in stride, quickly announcing the nomination of Makhdoom Shahabuddin, a former minister, to replace Yousaf Raza Gilani as Prime Minister. The judiciary respond by issuing an arrest warrant for Mr. Shahabuddin and the former Prime Minister’s son at the request of a military-run anti-narcotics agency, further enflaming fears that the military is using the courts to wage a proxy war against the democratically-elected government.

Unlike his predecessor, however, President Zardari has not responded by attempting to remake with more pliant justices. Instead, new names were floated and, at the time of writing, Pakistan’s parliament assembled on Friday to choose a new Prime Minister from five candidates representing both coalition and opposition parties. While the political drama is likely to continue even after the new Prime Minster is sworn in, it appears that some of the worst fears are unlikely to come true.

After decades of interruption by military coups, Pakistan’s democracy finds its institutions struggling to assert themselves in a power framework that is still being defined. What is extraordinary is not that institutions are vying for power, but that the democratically elected government has remained more or less intact during the process. Rather than being a sign of a failing democracy, this should be seen as a sign of a maturing one.

We in the US are no strangers to institutional power struggles – even messy ones. President Bill Clinton was convicted of contempt of court charges in 1999 and faced impeachment proceedings in Congress. He was ultimately acquitted by the Senate and served out the remained of his term. Congress has been known to engage in the practice of “jurisdiction stripping” – inserting language into bills that limits the judiciary’s power to hear certain cases or review certain actions by other branches. And just this week, a House committee recommended that Attorney General Eric Holder be held in contempt for failing to turn over documents after President Obama asserted executive privilege in the matter.

Americans find such power struggles frustrating, but we don’t expect them to topple the entire system. Pakistan, of course, does not have over 200 years of democratic wrangling behind it to ensure a similar sense of comfort with political squabbles – more often, institutional battles are solved at gunpoint. Today, though, the level of military involvement in events appears to be subdued, and despite several false alarms, the government elected by the people in 2008 remains in place, even holding scheduled Senate elections earlier this year without major incident. Pakistan’s ability to weather the current political storm without sinking will be an important sign of democratic maturation. The government’s responses to institutional pressure so far give ample reason to believe democracy in Pakistan is here to stay.

Domestic Politics, International Effects

On Tuesday, Pakistani journalist Zahid Hussain spoke at the Wilson Center on the topic of Pakistan-US relations. During the course of his speech, Mr. Hussain touched on several important issues including blowback from increased drone strikes, differences in priorities vis-a-vis Afghanistan, and the burden of perceived historical rebuffs. One issue in particular, though, stood out – the effect of domestic politics on foreign policy.

Domestic politics is a reality that affects foreign policy not only in Pakistan, but in all countries. Recently, President Obama was overheard telling Russian President Dmitry Medvedev that he will have “more flexibility” after this year’s elections are over. The situation in Pakistan is no different.

Earlier this year, by elections and Senate elections in Pakistan boosted the Pakistani People’s Party’s (PPP) representation in parliament. But general elections for the National Assembly scheduled for next year puts the majority of seats in play. As a result, politicians are under intense scrutiny not only by the public, but by their opponents as well.

It is through this lens that we should view debates about redefining terms of engagement with the US taking place in Pakistan’s Parliamentary Committee on National Security (PCNS). Recommendations from the PCNS were expected weeks ago, but the process has been slow due to both boycotts by opposition parties and a general cautiousness about tackling sensitive issues such as drones and re-opening NATO supply lines with elections looming.

Despite taking longer than anticipated, however, the committee appears to have achieved a breakthrough as the PPP and opposition parties have managed to find consensus on tough issues. Pakistan’s Ambassador to the US, Sherry Rehman, remarked at the beginning of the process that the parliamentary review of US-Pakistan relations was “a success for democracy,” and it appears she was right. Democracy has never been fast moving, but by building consensus among political parties, it is the only way to develop sustainable policies.

Not all foreign policy decisions can be made through pure consensus, though, and it is in this area where political leadership is put to the test. In 2009, President Barack Obama demonstrated took the extraordinary step of addressing the Muslim world from Cairo, seeking “a new beginning between the United States and Muslims around the world; one based upon mutual respect; and one based upon the truth that America and Islam are not exclusive, and need not be in competition.”

Obama’s speech drew sharp criticism from many American conservatives, including Mitt Romney, for “apologizing” for past American mistakes.

Similarly, Pakistan’s President Zardari transcended historic mistrust last weekend when he became the first Pakistani head of state to visit India in almost a decade. Right wing organizations in Pakistan vocally opposed the president’s trip. Zardari made the trip anyway, and a few days later India’s Foreign Secretary Ranjan Mathai told The Wall Street Journal that his country is willing to open a new dialogue with Pakistan about resolving issues over the disputed area of Kashmir.

In the modern world, domestic politics is rarely confined to domestic issues. Complex issues of international relations are widely reported and discussed among local populations, and political leaders must make decisions based not only on what the believe is in the best interests of their country, but within a range of policies that can receive domestic support.

In mature democracies, this means that foreign policy is informed by consensus derived from the people’s elected representatives, and executed by the country’s leadership. The people of Pakistan have long cried out for change in relations with both the US and India. Recent events give reason to believe their democracy has matured to a stage that can deliver it.

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.

How not to promote democracy in Pakistan

Bill Keller, formed Executive Editor of The New York Times, has a must-read piece about US-Pakistan relations in this coming Sunday’s New York Times magazine. There’s quite a bit worth mulling over, but one item in particular drew our attention.

In late October, Hillary Clinton arrived in Islamabad, leading a delegation that included Petraeus, recently confirmed as C.I.A. director, and Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, Mullen’s successor as chairman of the Joint Chiefs. Petraeus used to refer to Holbrooke as “my diplomatic wingman,” a bit of condescension he apparently intended as a tribute. This time, the security contingent served as diplomacy’s wingmen.

The trip was intended as a show of unity and resolve by an administration that has spoken with conflicting voices when it has focused on Pakistan at all. For more than four hours, the Americans and a potent lineup of Pakistani counterparts talked over a dinner table.

Perhaps the most revealing thing about the dinner was the guest list. The nine participants included Kayani and Pasha, but not President Zardari or Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani, who provided the dining room at his own residence and made himself scarce. The only representative of the civilian government was Clinton’s counterpart, the new foreign minister, Hina Rabbani Khar, a 34-year-old rising star with the dark-haired beauty of a Bollywood leading lady, a degree in hospitality management from the University of Massachusetts and, most important, close ties to the Pakistani military.

Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar has proven to be an able and effective representative for Pakistan, and she was appointed by the Prime Minister in accordance with constitutional requirements. Whether she has close ties to the Pakistani military, we are not in any position to know, but regardless, she is one official who should properly attend such a dinner. Unfortunately, so are President Zardari and Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani, and the fact that they were left out speaks volumes about why democratic governments continue to be viewed as weak even within Pakistani society. If American officials believe that decisions realistically require the input of Pakistan’s military leadership, they should also require the input on Pakistan’s civilian leadership.

Talking about supporting Pakistani democracy is one thing, but it takes actually demonstrating respect for the civilian leadership to facilitate it.

Asma Jahangir discusses US-Pakistan relations and the fragility of Pakistan’s democracy

Pakistani human rights lawyer Asma Jahangir discusses U.S.-Pakistan relations and the fragility of the Pakistani democracy. Jahangir criticizes the United States for sending mixed messages to Pakistanis, saying “the U.S. has to be very clear on what it wants from us.” Jahangir also emphasizes the need for the U.S. to prioritize Pakistani interests in order to improve cooperation. “As an individual ordinary citizen of Pakistan, I want to hear from them that what they want us to do is for the benefit of larger humanity rather than their own, or alone their, security concerns,” she says.

President Zardari reiterates resolve to strengthen democracy in Pakistan

President Asif Zardari visiting flood victims in Sindh

ISLAMABAD, Sep 15 (APP): President Asif Ali Zardari has said that the greatest threat to democracy emanated from a militant mindset and called for defeating militancy and extremism and advance democratic values. “The greatest threat to democracy is from the extremists and militants who want to foist their political agenda on the people by bullet rather than ballot and also from intolerance to dissent and disagreement.”

“Let us on this day pledge to fight the dark forces of militancy and extremism and allow the blossoming of democratic culture in the country”, the President said in a message on the occasion of International Democracy Day being observed throughout the world on September 15 (Thursday) under the auspices of the United Nations.

The President congratulated the democratic forces in the world in general and in Pakistan in particular on the International Day of Democracy, and said “It is a day to re-affirm its commitment for democracy and democratic ideals around the world and in Pakistan.”

“On this occasion I wish to compliment all democracies of the world and also reiterate our firm resolve to further strengthen democracy in Pakistan,” he added.

The President said the people of Pakistan are resolute in safeguarding their democratic rights and moving forward on path of democracy against all odds and what the machinations against it.

“It is a attribute to the democratic genius of our people that despite setbacks to democracy our people have not allowed dictatorship to take roots in the country,” he added.

The President said the ethos of the people of Pakistan is democratic, adding, last year, their chosen representatives unanimously adopted changes in the Constitution to restore its pristine democratic credentials.

“I am confident the elected Parliament in keeping with democratic traditions ensure that the democratic Constitution is not subverted by any one,” he added.

The President said, “Our march on the road to democracy continues. During the year 2011 democracy took yet another stride forward in Pakistan when the people of tribal areas were given their democratic rights with consensus.”

“The Amendments in the FCR and Extension of the Political Parties Order 2002 has been designed to release the people of tribal areas in accordance with their wishes from the over a century old system of bondage and undemocratic dispensation,” he added.

The President said democracy will be strengthened by meeting the basic needs of the people and freeing them from the clutches of poverty and deprivation.
The devastation caused by incessant rains and floods in Sindh and other parts of the country has adversely impacted on the efforts aimed at poverty alleviation and meeting the needs of the people, he added.

“On this occasion therefore I also urge the people of Pakistan and the international community to step forward and help rehabilitate the lives that have been devastated by floods”, he added.

“It is hoped that the observance of the International Democracy Day will lend strength to the pro-democracy forces throughout the world and discourage potential dictators from curbing the aspirations of the people through political adventurism,” the President maintained.