March 2007

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The Rediff Interview/Benazir Bhutto
 

 

 

March 2007

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Official US paper asks for free and fair elections in Pakistan this year


Islamabad March 30, 2007: The official U.S. newspaper ‘Roll Call’ that services the United States Congress has asked President Bush to push General Musharraf for holding free and fair elections in the country this year. ‘Roll Call’ is believed to wield considerable influence in US policy-making circles.

Here is the full text of the article titled “Bush Should Push Musharraf on Elections This Year in Pakistan” written by its Executive Editor Morton M Kondracke.

Bush Should Push Musharraf on Elections This Year in Pakistan

By Morton M. Kondracke
Roll Call Executive Editor
March 29, 2007


As a matter of hard-headed realism, not just pro-democratic ideology, President Bush should pressure Pakistan’s military ruler Pervez Musharraf to hold free elections this year.

That’s because, perhaps sooner than later, the increasingly unpopular Musharraf could go the way of the Shah of Iran, who was toppled by Islamic extremists.

And also, Musharraf’s leading Democratic opponent, former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, says she would do a better job than Musharraf in fighting the resurgent Taliban that’s menacing Afghanistan.

“As prime minister,” Bhutto told me in an interview, “I’d control the tribal areas of Pakistan,” where Osama bin Laden is believed to be hiding and the Taliban is ascendant. “I did it before, when the drug lords were in control and I’m confident I can clear out the Taliban.”

As opposed to the hostile relationship that Musharraf maintains with Afghan President Hamid Karzai, Bhutto says, “a democratic Pakistan would help Afghanistan stabilize, relieving pressure on NATO troops.”

Bush late last month dispatched Vice President Cheney to Pakistan to read the riot act to Musharraf about rising Taliban infiltration into Afghanistan, reportedly warning that Democrats in Congress might cut off aid to his regime if he was not more aggressive.

In fact, House Democrats, as part of their first “100 days” homeland security bill, conditioned future military aid to Pakistan on Bush’s certifying that Musharraf was making “all possible efforts” to oust the Taliban from his country, but the provision was pulled from the Senate bill at the administration’s request.

Thwarting a new Taliban offensive is uppermost on the U.S. priority list, followed by concern that nuclear-armed Pakistan not be taken over by Islamic fundamentalists.

Democratic development in Pakistan is somewhere on the list, but it’s not at the top. It needs to be, because democracy is intimately connected to controlling extremism.

Americans — including Bush — have the idea that Musharraf, like Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak, is all that stands between stability and Islamic fundamentalist rule.

That view is stoutly disputed by Bhutto and Pakistan experts such as Boston University’s Husain Haqqani, both of whom pointed out to me that in Pakistan’s 2002 elections, Islamic parties received just 11.3 percent of the vote.

According to Haqqani, a former Pakistani diplomat and government official, the United States has contributed to a “Middle Easternization” of Pakistan, actually strengthening Islamic forces while bolstering military rulers who prevent democratic political development.

“The Islamists are slowly expanding for one simple reason: You can shut down everything else, but you can’t shut down the mosques. If you shut down secular parties, as Musharraf is doing, the only other choice the people have is the Islamists.”

Bhutto noted that Pakistan’s former military dictator, Zia-ul-Haq, who in 1977 overthrew and executed her father, Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, formed an alliance with radical Islamists in Pakistan and, with U.S. help, aided Afghan rebels who became the Taliban.

Musharraf, who came to power in a coup in 1999, continued recognizing the Taliban until the U.S. demanded his support after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, but Bhutto said he has continued fostering fundamentalism — partly by starving public education and allowing fundamentalist madrassas to flourish instead.

Bhutto told me that she hopes the Bush administration will follow up on Bush’s own call last year for “open and honest elections” this year by pressuring Musharraf to allow her and her former democratic rival, Nawaz Sharif, back into the country to campaign, and by funding “robust” election observer teams to watch the voting, scheduled for November.

Haqqani told me he thinks that the administration fears that if Bhutto were elected prime minister, the Pakistani army would refuse to allow her to govern. But that opposition might be overcome if Bhutto agreed to let Musharraf stay on as president. She told me it is “premature” to discuss Musharraf’s future. It’s obviously a bargaining chip.

Musharraf is resisting free elections and is planning to rely on the parliament elected in 2002 — in what widely was regarded as rigged voting — to elect him president.

When Pakistan’s chief justice threatened to block that move and insisted that the country’s constitution be respected — which also requires Musharraf to quit the army — he had the justice arrested. That has led to demonstrations by lawyers and a Musharraf crackdown on news organizations reporting on the protests.

Musharraf’s popularity is plunging, though there is no threat — yet — of the massive popular unrest of the kind that led to the Shah’s ouster in 1979.

This is a moment for Bush to intervene — along with Congress — to forestall that possibility by fostering real democracy.

Four Senators, including Foreign Relations Chairman Joseph Biden (D-Del.), wrote Musharraf a polite letter March 12 urging him to let Bhutto and Sharif back to campaign and also to step up efforts to control the Taliban.

The outgoing U.S. ambassador to Pakistan, Ryan Crocker, now ambassador to Iraq, told Pakistanis that the U.S. would not pressure Musharraf on elections. It’s probably good diplomacy not to apply the pressure publicly, but Bush should have a friendly phone call soon with his strategic ally and warn him that stifling democracy only helps foster terrorism.

 Makhdoom Amin Fahim condemns killing of political activists in Rahimyar Khan


Islamabad, 30 January 2007: The Chairman Alliance for Restoration of Democracy, Makhdoom Amin Fahim has condemned the killing of three political activists in Jamaldin Wali, Rahimyar Khan including an ex-Nazim while organising a public meeting of a political party.

Makhdoom Amin Fahim in a statement said that it is the basic human right of the people to freely express their point of view and hold public gathering for the purpose. It is ironic that the regime which allows the extremist elements to run amok and create law and order situation in the Capital is busy in stifling the political forces. The regime seems to be hell bent to push the moderate and political forces to the wall just to create a bogey to show the West in the shape of extremists so to make the West believe that there is no political alternative in Pakistan.

The Chairman ARD asked the regime that is Pakistan a personal fiefdom of a dictator or it is a country envisioned by Quaid-e-Azam for which Shaheed Zulfikar Ali Bhutto sacrificed his life? He said that the Pakistan Peoples Party under the leadership of Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto is striving for a just society where every political party would have level playing field.

Makhdoom Amin Fahim urged the civil society and the Human Rights Organisations to raise their voice against this state oppression.

He also demanded a judicial inquiry into the incident and to bring to justice all those involved in the brutal murder of political activists in Rahimyar Khan.

Makhdoom Amin Fahim condemns killing of political activists in Rahimyar Khan


Islamabad, 30 January 2007: The Chairman Alliance for Restoration of Democracy, Makhdoom Amin Fahim has condemned the killing of three political activists in Jamaldin Wali, Rahimyar Khan including an ex-Nazim while organising a public meeting of a political party.

Makhdoom Amin Fahim in a statement said that it is the basic human right of the people to freely express their point of view and hold public gathering for the purpose. It is ironic that the regime which allows the extremist elements to run amok and create law and order situation in the Capital is busy in stifling the political forces. The regime seems to be hell bent to push the moderate and political forces to the wall just to create a bogey to show the West in the shape of extremists so to make the West believe that there is no political alternative in Pakistan.

The Chairman ARD asked the regime that is Pakistan a personal fiefdom of a dictator or it is a country envisioned by Quaid-e-Azam for which Shaheed Zulfikar Ali Bhutto sacrificed his life? He said that the Pakistan Peoples Party under the leadership of Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto is striving for a just society where every political party would have level playing field.

Makhdoom Amin Fahim urged the civil society and the Human Rights Organisations to raise their voice against this state oppression.

He also demanded a judicial inquiry into the incident and to bring to justice all those involved in the brutal murder of political activists in Rahimyar Khan.

Mohtarma Bhutto condemns lawlessness by Islamabad seminary incidents

Demands arrest and prosecution of law breakers


Islamabad March 30, 2007: Former Prime Minister and Chairperson PPP has condemned the incident on Wednesday when the female students of Islamabad seminary took law into their own hands as the police and law enforcing agencies turned a blind eye to it.

In a statement today she said that the images of burqa-clad and stick wielding women holding policemen hostage, forcing shopkeepers to shut their business and kidnapping a family of three women accusing them of loose morals had done incalculable damage to the image of the country in the comity of nations.

She said that the Wednesday incident had given rise to suspicions that under the present regime of the PML (Q) and its allies the country was moving towards Talibanization to seek international community’s support to the military regime.

She noted that the incident occurred within days of the letter sent by four US Congressmen asking General Musharraf to hold free and fair elections in which all political parties and leaders were allowed to participate in a level playing field. Many observers have expressed apprehension that the regime encourages talban activities and then flaunts increasing talibanization before the international community to seek its support for the military dictatorship.

“This is dangerous brinkmanship which will gravely undermine national security and integrity”.

Mohtarma Bhutto said that three dimensions of the incident need to be particularly investigated. One, who is behind the prayer leaders and students of a mosque belonging to the government to take law into their hands with impunity? Two, why no action was taken agasint the seminary when it illegally occupied a government library meant for the children? Three, why no arrests have been made and no action taken so far agasint those who kidnapped police personnel and also three women.

Mohtarma Bhutto recalled that during her government the father of the present prayer leader of Lal Masjid late Maulana Abdullah was set right merely by transferring him to a mosque in another sector of the federal capital.

She demanded arrest and prosecution of those involved in the incident.

“The duality of the regime is exposed by the fact that female political workers are slapped publicly, shoved into police vans and driven to jails without women police escort but seminary students are patronized even as they kidnap women, hold policemen to ransom and move around in the market threatening shopkeepers to close their businesses”.

Many observers have noted the strange coincidence between international events and domestic actions which gives the impression, rightly or wrongly, of collaboration. For example shortly after visit of the US vice president Dick Cheney, a leading Taliban figure called Akhund was produced as captured. Now with the letter by four US senators and an imminent visit by a four member US congressional team the two incidents of Tank and Islamabad seminary took place attempting to create a perception that due to the terrorist/Taliban threat the democratisation of Pakistan should be postponed. In fact under the PPP democracy there was no threat of terrorism or Talibanisation of Pakistani society and the country was addressing the root issues of poverty, unemployment, drinking water and basic needs of the people who were advancing forward.

Mohtarma Bhutto condemns lawlessness in Tank

Calls for urgent measures to contain spread of extremism


Islamabad March 30, 2007: Former Prime Minister and Chairperson of the Pakistan Peoples Party Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto has condemned the lawlessness and mayhem in Tank in Frontier province as the worst example of the erosion of the writ of the state.

The Principal of a private school and his brother were kidnapped and killed by militants for refusing on Monday the forcible recruitment of school children in the jehadi outfits run by militants. The next day on Tuesday militants attacked the city of Tank with mortars and rockets ransacking government buildings and public and private property.

In a statement today Mohtarma Bhutto said that the Tank incident had shown that the regime had miserably failed in establishing the writ of the state in the country and had lost all political and moral right to stay in power.

She said that when the peace treaty was signed with the militants in Waziristan on the terms of the extremists many had expressed apprehensions that it amounted to capitulation before militants and an abdication of state responsibility. “The apprehensions expressed then have finally come true as is evident from the fact the militants have spread to the adjoining district of tank”.

She also expressed profound grief and shock over the murder of the School Principal and his brother. She said that the Principal had laid down his life fighting extremism and to protect his students from forcible conversion to the creed of extremists and fanatics.

She called for recognition of the late Principal with a high civil award and compensation to his bereaved family.

She called for a restoration of true democracy through fair elections open to all parties and personalities free of politically motivated litigation to take Pakistan back to representative and accountable government noting that the crisis of lawlessness started with the dismissal of the PPP government and can only end with its restoration.

Islamabad seminary incident deliberate ploy of the regime


Islamabad March 29, 2007: Former Interior Minister and PPP central leader Major General (R) Naseerullah Babar has issued the following statement today,

“The manner in which the regime buckled under the pressure and allowed the female students of the Lal Masjid seminary in Islamabad to take law into their own hands is most shocking and is condemned.

“It is unbelievable that the administration negotiated with the religious hard-liners swap of the police personnel held hostage by the seminary students but abandoned to their fate the three women and a child wrongfully confined by the seminary students.

“The Lal Masjid is Auqaf property and its prayer leader is a paid employee of the government. It is incomprehensible that a paid employee of the government should take the law into his own hands and the regime looks the other way.

“The regime is seeking to create the impression that Talibanisation has spread to Islamabad with a view to deceiving the international community into believing that the choice in Pakistan is between military dictatorship and religious fanatics.

“On the one hand the regime warns the Baloch nationalists to stop demanding their rights otherwise they would not know what hit them from where and has killed nationalist leaders.

“On the other hand the female seminary students are allowed to illegally occupy the library, make rounds of the nearby markets threatening video and music shop owners to close their business, hold hostage police personnel and even kidnap women accusing them for not leading a virtuous life.

“It is not surprising that the drama was enacted within days of an open letter addressed by four American Congressmen asking General Musharraf to hold fair and free elections and allow all political parties and leaders to participate in it in a level playing field.

“This double speak and deliberately creating the misperception that talibanisation has spread to the federal capital so as to lift pressure for holding free and fair elections will only do incalculable harm to the country”

Mohtarma Bhutto condemns kidnapping of Hindu children in Sindh

Demands immediate recovery from kidnappers


Islamabad March 28, 2007: Former Prime Minister and Chairperson of the Pakistan Peoples Party Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto has condemned the kidnapping of three children belonging to the Hindu community in Sindh and demanded their immediate recovery and punishment to the kidnappers.

Three children Oam Parkash (6) in Jacobabad and Pun Kumar (14) and Tun Shaw (4) in Kashmore were kidnapped by outlaws during the past week. Tun Shaw was released but the other two children are still in the custody of kidnappers and the police have not yet been able to recover them.

In a statement today former Prime Minister and Chairperson of the Pakistan Peoples Party Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto said that the continued incidents of kidnapping and harassment of Hindus and other minorities in the country particularly in Sindh had sent very wrong signals about Pakistan to the international community.

“The regime must put its act together with respect to law and order and particularly with regard to the treatment meted out to the minorities”

Meanwhile on the directions of Mohtarma Bhutto the PPP MNA Ramesh Lal visited the aggrieved families to commensurate with them. She also asked the Party leadership and MNA Ramesh Lal to pursue the case with the local administration and ensure that the children were released from captivity.

She said that the basic responsibility of the regime was the maintenance of law and order and if the regime failed to provide it to the citizens it had no business to stay in power.

Mohtarma Bhutto also asked members of civil society and human rights bodies to raise their voice against growing lawlessness in the country.

The PPP Chairperson expressed sympathies with the aggrieved families of the kidnapped children and said that the Party would do everything to ensure that the children were recovered soon and safely and that the perpetrators of the crime were punished under the law.

Mohtarma Bhutto condemns victimization of Ashraf Sohna MPA

Demands his immediate release


Islamabad March 28, 2007: Former Prime Minister and Chairperson of the Pakistan Peoples Party Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto has condemned the victimization of PPP MPA from Okara Ashraf Sohna and demanded his immediate release from unlawful confinement.

Ashraf Sohna was first arrested three weeks ago on fake charges of terrorism. Even when he was granted bail the regime did not allow him to come out of jail. Finally when Ashraf Sohan came out of jail under court order he was re-arrested on the gate under another false charge. The PPP MPA is in jail without court orders only because he is very vocal against dictatorial polices of the military regime.

In a statement today Chairperson Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto said that the repeated arrests of Ashraf Sohna on false and fictitious charges was stifling the voice of the opposition and a blatant attempt to impose a one Party rule in the country.

She asked the regime not to push the opposition parties with their backs to the wall warning that such repressive politics would endanger the unity and integrity of the federation and must be avoided.

“Political activists have been subjected to worst kind of oppression and repression in violation of their human rights and any further persecution for satisfying the ego of some one can result in a serious backlash”.

The Party demands a judicial inquiry into the way Ashraf Sohna has been maltreated and his human rights violated, she said.

The Party also urges the human rights bodies to raise their voice against attempts to impose one Party rule in the country, she said.

PPP says government responsible for missing persons


Islamabad March 28, 2007: Pakistan Peoples Party has rejected the contention of the regime that it was not involved in the mysterious disappearances of citizens.

Addressing public meeting in Rawalpindi on Tuesday General Musharraf distance tried to absolve the government of any responsibility saying that those disappeared had been commandeered by jehadi outfits for waging jehad in different parts of the world. He also claimed to welcome the judiciary taking note of the issue of disappeared persons.

“It is unacceptable that a regime that is obsessed to establish its writ against nationalist elements in smaller provinces should abandon its responsibility to trace citizens allegedly kidnapped by jehadi outfits”, said spokesperson of the Party former Senator Farhatullah Babar in a statement today.

General Musharraf has been telling to the world that he has banned the jehadi outfits but to the families of the disappeared he says that he cannot recover their near and dear ones because they had joined hands with these very jehadis, he said.

“It is this double speak that strengthens the suspicion that Musharraf has been running with the hare and hunting with the hound in the war on terror”.

Former Senator Farhatullah Babar said that hundreds of nationalist elements have also disappeared in the provinces of Sindh and Balochistan, and asked, whether they too had joined the jehadi groups.

He said that the state agencies had run amok because there were operating neither under the ambit of law nor under the control of civil and parliamentary authority.

He said that when the government took the position before the courts that it had no control over the operations of agencies it was an admission that they were a state within state, he said.

He said that if General Musharraf was sincere in welcoming the courts to take up the issue he should not interfere with the Supreme Court in taking up the 1996 case involving the use of public money by the ISI to illegally interfere in national politics. The case if allowed to proceed can result in judicial review of the legal and constitutional framework of the working of the state’s agencies, he said.

Under the international law enforced disappearances of citizens is a crime against humanity and individuals involved in it could also be tried at any time in the future, he said, and warned the perpetrators that they can be held accountable for kidnappings anytime in the future.

Mohtarma Bhutto condemns large scale arrest of Political activists

Demands their release, urges judiciary to take suo moto notice

Islamabad March 26, 2007: Former Prime Minster and Chairperson of the Pakistan Peoples Party Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto has condemned the arrest of PPP and ARD workers in the country in connection with the protest demonstrations against the assault on the independence of judiciary.

Scores of Party activists were arrested in Rawalpindi, Multan, Lahore, Khanewal, Sahiwal and other cities ahead of the ARD call to hold protest demonstrations at divisional level against the sacking of the Chief Justice and in solidarity with the bar.

Those arrested in different parts of the country include Fakhar Imam in Multan, Mukhtar Awan, Salahuddin Dogar, Ahmad Hasan Daher, Khawaj Rizwan, Sajida Mir in Lahore, Khalid Bobi, Sardar Shaukat Hayat, Iqbal Razaq Butt, Malik Mazhar Husain and Qazi Sultan Mahmood in Rawalpindi besides scores of activists.

The activists were whisked away by security agencies and detained at undisclosed locations.

In a statement today Mohtarma Bhutto said that staging of peaceful demonstrations against the sacking of Chef Justice was a democratic right and the arrest of workers ahead of exercising their democratic right was condemnable. She called for the immediate release of all those arrested.

It may be noted that the ARD has given a call for protect demonstrations on Monday March 26.

Earlier also the police in Gujranwala arrested and instituted criminal cases against a number of Party activists on the eve of General Musharraf’s visit. The Party activists including members of the Peoples Lawyers Forum were demanding release of the non-functional Chief Justice from house arrest.

The largest number of arrests of any political party, following the removal of the Chief Justice has been of PPP workers who are in the forefront of the defence of the judiciary and the rule of law.

Mohtarma Bhutto urged the judiciary to take suo moto notice and order release of those arrested in violation of their human rights and their right to peaceful assembly and peaceful protest.

Mohtarma Bhutto also saluted the courage of the workers and said that the cowardly strong arm tactics of the regime will not cow down the Party workers. “Your courage and sacrifice offers great hope to the civil society in their struggle for upholding the independence of judiciary in the country”.

Restore the judiciary and end militaristic tyranny in

Pakistan A Statement by the Asian Human Rights Commission

 

The legal community of Pakistan has rejected a government offer for talks, while demanding the withdrawal of the reference against Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry and the formation of a national government to hold general elections within three months time. The convention of lawyers, which was meeting in Peshawer, the capital city of North Western Frontier Province, has also asked President Gen Pervez Musharraf to step down and demanded that he be tried for treason under Article 6 of the Constitution. The legal conference also appealed to all political parties to end their assemblies and join the lawyers struggle to removal the government. They have also demanded the immediate release of all missing people who have been abducted by all military and intelligence agencies, while lodging formal criminal cases against those responsible for the abductions.

The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) fully supports the demands of the legal community and urges all civil and political organizations in the country to engage in this social movement against the militaristic tyranny that has destroyed total credibility of every institution in the country. After seven and half years of military rule in Pakistan, the people must take back control of their own judicial system and not allow the authoritarian government to through justice out the window. The government and its ministers must also cease the harsh action of using the police to publicly beat any lawyer or journalist who questions the regimes intentions.

Journalists are being beaten by police on a regular basis. One television station was ransacked by the police force even in the presence of the Minister for Information who could not stop the attack. The police treated the minister as if he was a person of no value. More than one dozen journalists were beaten by police and several lost their camera. About 35 journalists were also arrested during and after the protests that involved lawyers, activists, civil society groups, as well as political parties. Even the President of Pakistan has had to apologise to the Geo Television network that was attacked by the police in the capital Islamabad.

One television program was stopped by the Pakistani regulatory authority (PEMRA) for discussing the removal of the chief justice. At he same time, this television program reproduced filthy language of the federal law minister against the family of an editor of a prominent English newspaper during a live discussion on Voice of America (VOA). The newspaper had written a story about the crises after the removal of the chief justice with a headline saying "A big arm in the law minister". The federal minister openly said in an assertive way on the VOA program that he will put his long arm in the family of the person who says that "a long arm in law minister." This demonstrates the ministers promise to silence the media. On March 9, when the president dressed in Army uniform and removed the chief justice, the Law Minister justified the removal and said it was very constitutional; however, on March 16 he took a 360 degree turn and announced that the chief justice was sent on forced leave by the president of Pakistan. The question of whether or not the chief justice’s role is still functional has remained unanswered.

The president of Pakistan sees the conspiracy behind the judiciary assertion, as conspiracy against his government. Not having any concern over the use of brutal force against the legal community, President General Musharraf is only concerned of why his actions against the judiciary have been criticised by the lawyers. He supposes that what ever his actions are, are in the greater interests and no one should criticise this because as being the Chief of Army Staff, he is the protector of the country and the protector must be obeyed in any situation.

Meanwhile, when the government in Pakistan begun realising that it was losing its total control over its citizenry, it started pressurizing the Supreme Judicial Council to delay the proceedings against the chief justice so that the legal community will exhaust themselves and their struggle for the restoration of the rule of law will subside. The government has also not allowed the chief justice to address the Lawyers' Convention which is being held in different areas throughout the country. While speaking from the Supreme Court on 22 March 2007, a government spokesman threatened Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry with a statement, saying not to 'politicize' the reference against him by addressing different bar associations in the country. The spokesman, named Arif Chaudhry said, "It would be in his own interest that such a sensitive issue is not politicized".

The Asian Human Rights Commission also commends the courageous action of more than a dozen judges and government law officers for their resignations and their refusal to work with the government of General Musharraf.

In light of the mishandling of this judicial crisis, the government's continued use of brutal force against lawyers, journalists, politicians and human rights activists, there now a moral obligation for the administration to step aside and give power back to the people of Pakistan. Therefore AHRC urges General Musharraf Government to step down and hand over power to the Chairman of the Senate to conduct free and fair elections within 90 days from taking power.

India and Pakistan need peace Benazir Bhutto.


NEW DELHI, March 24: Former Pakistani Prime Minister Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto, addressing a gathering in India, called Saturday for peace between her country and India.

Bhutto was the keynote speaker at the India Today Conclave in New Delhi, the Press Trust of India reported.

"On the 60th year of independence of both the countries, I propose that we put end to the destructive chapter of the lives of the two countries," she said. Bhutto said India and Pakistan should have the same kind of relationship India has with China, where the two countries have frequent disputes without going to war.

This week, Bhutto and another exiled former prime minister, Nawaz Sharif, agreed to a political alliance. During a meeting in London, the two talked about plans to oust President Pervez Musharraf, The Telegraph reported.

Bhutto heads the Pakistan Peoples' Party and Sharif the Pakistan Muslim League. They are expected to hold a joint demonstration Monday against Musharraf's suspension of the chief justice.

"This has become a very explosive situation for Musharraf," said Wajid Shams-ul-Hasan, a former high commissioner for Pakistan. "He should go and the army should go back to barracks."

Mohtarma Bhutto leaves for New Delhi for talk on India-Pakistan relations


Islamabad March 23, 2007: Former Prime Minister and Chairperson of the Pakistan Peoples Party Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto left London on Friday for New Delhi to participate in a Conclave by ‘India Today’ on Indo Pakistan relations and peace in the region.

Mohtarma Bhutto will speak on “Challenges for the Brave New World: Can Indo Pak Relations Be Reinvented”. Former Iranian President Mr. Khatami has also been invited to the Conclave.

During her brief stay in London Mohtarma Bhutto met former Prime Minister and PML-N Chief Mian Nawaz Sharif and also participated in a BCC program ‘Question Time’.

After delivering her speech at the Conclave Mohtarma Bhutto will leave for Washington.

She will return to Dubai early next month for participation in a function on the eve of barsi of Shaheed Zulfikar Ali Bhutto on April 4.

Mohtarma Bhutto’s message on Pakistan Day
PAKISTAN ZINDA ABAD


ISLAMABAD, March 22, 2007: Former Prime Minister and Chairperson of the Pakistan Peoples Party Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto has given the following message on the eve of Pakistan Day on March 23, 2007.

“Today is an auspicious day. Sixty seven years ago, on this day, the Muslims of the subcontinent through a formal resolution expressed their firm resolve to achieve a separate homeland for themselves wherein they could fashion their lives in accordance with their own values, culture, mores and traditions. With the blessings of Allah and through an unprecedented struggle the Muslims of the subcontinent achieved their lofty objectives with a short span of seven years. On this auspicious occasion I wish to greet the entire Pakistani nation.

“While celebrating this day we must also pause and reflect where we stand today. How far we have upheld the lofty ideals for which it was resolved on March 23, 1940 to achieve this great homeland of ours?

“When our founding fathers resolved to carve out an independent state, they had in mind a state where constitutionalism and rule of law reigned supreme. It is a sad thought that the regime has continuously trampled rule of law and Constitutionalism for the past eight years, the latest manifestation of which is the sacking of the Chief Justice Supreme Court just a few days ago.

“On this day let us all resolve that we shall endeavour to uphold the rule of law and Constitution by demanding that the Chief Justice be reinstated. Let us resolve to support the bar in its struggle till the Chief Justice is reinstated.

“Let us on this day also resolve to fight the tendency to have one set of laws for one person and one institution and another set of laws for the people. For unless there is rule of law and everyone is equal before law, the future of our great country will be exposed to internal and external threats.”

Bhutto and Sharif plan return from exile in a pact to topple Musharraf
By Tim Shipman and Massoud Ansari

Two exiled former prime ministers of Pakistan will launch a joint attempt this week to drive the current president, Pervez Musharraf, from power.


Former prime ministers of Pakistan Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif, pictured in 1999, plan to return from exile to topple Musharraf. Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif agreed to join forces during a meeting in London after weeks of political crisis in Pakistan have left its military strongman with a tenuous grip on power.

Thousands of their supporters are expected to take to the streets tomorrow in co-ordinated demonstrations, culminating in a rally in the capital, Islamabad.

Miss Bhutto's Pakistan Peoples' Party and Mr Sharif's Pakistan Muslim League will protest against Gen Musharraf's decision to sack the country's chief justice, who had opposed his attempts to cling to power. But last night a close ally of Miss Bhutto, who has twice been prime minister, made clear that the removal of Gen Musharraf, who is also army chief of staff, is the -ultimate goal.

Wajid Shams-ul-Hasan, the former Pakistani high commissioner in Britain, said: "The seriousness of the crisis in Pakistan means that we have formulated a joint strategy to neutralise Gen Musharraf and to ensure that the next elections are free and fair. This has become a very explosive situation for Musharraf. He should go and the army should go back to barracks."

A spokesman for Mr Sharif said: "We want his resignation and then free and fair elections without Musharraf. With him sitting there, you cannot get free elections."

The current crisis arose because Gen Musharraf wants Pakistan's National Assembly to rubber stamp his rule for another five years before it is dissolved for elections, due later this year.

The chief justice, Iftikhar Chaudhry, had said the plans were unconstitutional and pressed for Gen Musharraf to surrender his army post as well. Gen Musharraf -suspended him on March 9 claiming the judge had abused his position, provoking the worst crisis since he overthrew Mr Sharif and seized power in a military coup in 1999.

The pact between Mr Sharif and Miss Bhutto is significant since, until now, the public protests over the crisis have been led by lawyers rather than politicians.

Half a dozen judges, including a high court judge and deputy attorney general, have tendered their resignations and a further 16 are expected to stand down in protest.

On Friday, lawyers again took to the streets brandishing banners reading: "It is death for Musharraf".

If they return to Pakistan, Miss Bhutto and Mr Sharif face arrest on corruption charges, which they each claim are politically motivated. They are still the de facto leaders of their political parties.

After two hours of talks last week, Mr Sharif said: "We have jointly decided to struggle against this military dictatorship and do everything within our means to stop the brutalities Musharraf is committing against institutions in Pakistan."

He met Miss Bhutto after rumours that she had been in talks with Gen Musharraf. Mr Hasan, Miss Bhutto's ally, accused Gen Musharraf's supporters of spreading the rumours to divide the opposition. "There are no differences between us," he said.

Mr Hasan confirmed that Miss Bhutto was prepared to risk imprisonment to return to Pakistan and run for election, either to the National Assembly or to the Senate. "The time has come for her to go back," he said. "Musharraf may dare to arrest her but we are confident that she will be cleared by the judiciary. Musharraf has no moral authority."

The next flashpoint for Gen Musharraf will come when the supreme judicial council considers the fate of the chief justice.

Imran Khan, the former Pakistan cricketer, who now leads his own Movement For Justice party, said that Gen Musharraf was in a lose-lose situation. "If he gets the decision against Mr Chaudhry, nobody is going to accept it and these protests will increase tenfold. If Mr Chaudhry is reinstated as a chief justice, we now can see that Musharraf won't be able to continue as a president and army chief of staff at the same time." He added: "Once he is out as chief of staff, he will become irrelevant."

Legal experts say that revulsion at the treatment of the chief justice has backfired on the president. Syyeda Abida Hussain, a former Pakistan ambassador in Washington, said: "The chief justice of Pakistan suddenly taking a stand against a military dictator has motivated all of us. It is really something from God." Another lawyer claimed: "It seems like a beginning of the end for Musharraf."

Gen Musharraf's position has been further imperilled by an apparent change of heart in the US, where diplomats and intelligence officials are disenchanted with the president's failure to combat fully fundamentalist Muslim terrorists operating in the tribal areas in the north-west of the country who have repeatedly crossed into Afghanistan to attack British and American forces.

A CIA report leaked to the New York Times a week ago revealed that the Bush administration would be content to see Gen Musharraf replaced by his army deputy, Ahsan Saleem Hyat, and the former banker Mohammedmian Soomro installed as president. It concluded that a takeover of Pakistan by extremists Islamic mullahs - the doomsday scenario long feared by Washington - was no longer the most likely outcome of his removal from power.

A British diplomatic source stressed that while Britain is happy to do business with Gen Musharraf as long as he continues counter-terrorist co-operation, the loyalty of the British government is to Pakistan's "institutions rather than individuals".

Miss Bhutto called on the international community to force Gen Musharraf's hand. "If democracy must be defended in Afghanistan, then democracy in Pakistan must be defended, too," she said. "It is important for the international community to stop turning a blind eye."

Musharraf at the Exit
By Ahmed Rashid


Thursday, March 22, 2007: LAHORE, Pakistan -- In the rapidly unfolding crisis in Pakistan, no matter what happens to President Pervez Musharraf -- whether he survives politically or not -- he is a lame duck. He is unable to rein in Talibanization in Pakistan or guide the country toward a more democratic future.

Since March 9, when Musharraf suspended the chief justice of the Supreme Court, Iftikhar Mohammed Chaudhry, public protests have escalated every day -- as has a violent crackdown by the police and intelligence agencies on the media and the nation's legal fraternity.

The legal convolutions about Chaudhry's dismissal boil down to one simple fact: He was not considered sufficiently reliable to deliver pleasing legal judgments in a year when Musharraf is seeking to extend his presidency by five more years, remain as army chief and hold what would undoubtedly be rigged general elections.

Musharraf's desire to replace Chaudhry with a more pliable judge has badly backfired. After just 10 days of protests, lawyers around the country have made it clear to the senior judiciary that they will not tolerate further legal validations for continued military rule or tolerate Musharraf remaining as president. At least seven judges and a deputy attorney general have resigned in protest.

Across the country, in law offices, in the media, among the opposition parties and other organized sections of civil society, the feeling is growing that Musharraf will have to quit sooner rather than later. After eight years of military rule it appears people have had enough.

Moreover, Musharraf is losing control of three key elements that have sustained his rule but are now either distancing themselves or turning on him completely. The first is the ruling Pakistan Muslim League Party, which has acted as the civilian appendage to the military but faces an election and knows that going to bat for the unpopular Musharraf will turn off voters. Party leaders and cabinet ministers are already distancing themselves from him.

The second element is the country's three intelligence agencies, which are at loggerheads over control of Musharraf, Pakistan's foreign policy, its political process and the media. Military Intelligence and the Inter-Services Intelligence are military agencies, while the largest civilian agency, the Intelligence Bureau, is now run by a military officer. Ironically, Inter-Services Intelligence, the most powerful agency in the country, has been the moderate element urging Musharraf to open up the political system to the opposition parties. The other two agencies are the hard-liners and are urging Musharraf to adopt even tougher measures.

The third loss for Musharraf has been the unqualified international support he has received since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. Anger in the U.S. Congress and media, and particularly among members of the Republican Party, toward Musharraf's dual-track policy in Afghanistan -- helping to catch al-Qaeda members but backing the Taliban -- is making it difficult for President Bush to continue offering Musharraf his blanket support.

That was the tough-love message that Vice President Cheney delivered to Musharraf in Islamabad last month: Unless Musharraf goes after the

Taliban, the Bush administration can no longer protect him.

Any loss of Western support will be critical to the army, which is on an arms-buying spree and depends on annual U.S. military aid of about $300 million. Musharraf has balanced the pro- and anti-American factions in the army's officer corps, but if both sides see him as a lame duck, unable to deliver the goods or stabilize the country, their support will dwindle.

Musharraf is now too weak to pursue policies that could keep his back-stabbers in check, restore his credibility at home and abroad, and pursue his agenda of remaining in power for the next five years.

It is far better that he revert to the promise he made when he seized power in 1999: to return the country to democracy. His best course of action would be to say he is not a candidate for president, hold free and fair elections, allow the return of exiled politicians, restore full political rights and gracefully depart with his legacy, which is considerable, intact.

It is in the interest of the United States to support such an exit strategy. The military can no longer counter the phenomenal growth of Islamic extremism in Pakistan through offensives alone. What the country needs is greater political consensus and a popularly elected government, and to replace the extortions of the mullahs with the return of day-to-day parliamentary politics. The army created a political vacuum in which extremism has thrived. Pakistan needs a return to civil society and government.

Musharraf in "deep trouble", Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto
 

Washington, Mar 19 2007: Former Pakistan Prime Minister Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto has said that President General Pervez Musharraf is in "deep trouble". Mohtarma Benazir said the people of Pakistan were angry over the manner in which the regime had treated the Chief Justice of Pakistan, Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry.

She said General Musharraf should immediately reverse his decision, adding he has lost credibility with the people, who now are tired of his dictatorship.

She further said the Taliban was a threat to both Pakistan and Afghanistan, however, adding that the militia could not be fought with a dictatorship ruling the country, a system, which alienated the people.

"It is due to Gen. Musharrafs mistakes that terrorists are increasingly targeting Pakistan. A democratic government will be able to combat terrorism with the help of the people of Pakistan. Pakistan's return to democracy is the only way out," the Daily Times quoted Benazir as saying.

 Musharraf gropes for way out of Pakistan’s crisis


ISLAMABAD 19 March 2007:  President Pervez Musharraf, scotching rumours of a coup six months ago, told Pakistanis their country was not a “banana republic, where such things happen suddenly”. Filled with trepidation over a eepening political crisis, people could do with a similar reassurance now, but this time Musharraf’s crisis is real and appears self-induced.

A ham-fisted attempt to sack Pakistan’s top judge, and the use of excessive force to cow the media and counter protests has created the greatest challenge to Musharraf’s authority over Pakistan since he seized power in a coup seven-and-a-half years ago.

Things got so bad over the weekend that Musharraf said there was a conspiracy to turn people against him, and the United States, worried by instability in an allied country next door to Afghanistan and Iran, called for cool heads to prevail.

By Sunday, Islamabad’s rumour mill went into overdrive with talk that the constitution had been suspended, the National and provincial assemblies dissolved and martial law declared.

It was just rumour, but analysts say it could yet happen.

“Musharraf is capable of declaring martial law, and he’s capable of making a political retreat and calling it a victory,” said Najam Sethi, editor of the Daily Times newspaper.

Having been run by generals for more than half the 60 years since their country was carved out of India as a homeland for South Asia’s Muslims, Pakistanis are used to seeing leaders resort to desperate measures.

Vague allegations

The latest crisis began on March 9 with the suspension of Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhary on vague allegations of misconduct, setting off protests by lawyers and opposition politicians.

Analysts suspect the motive for axing Chaudhary was fear that he would block any attempt by Musharraf to hold onto his role as army chief, which he is obliged to relinquish this year.

Television images of police thrashing lawyers in Lahore, and ransacking the offices of a news channel during a demonstration in Islamabad on Friday, stoked public outrage with Musharraf.

“Who is hatching this conspiracy, so that everything is put on me?” the beleaguered president complained the next day.

Musharraf would lose what public trust he still commands if he put the army on the streets, analysts said.

A better option would be to buy time and patch up with self-exiled former premier Benazir Bhutto, they say.

Whatever General Musharraf does his position is critically weakened in a year when he is due to seek re-election.

“It is a complete no-win situation for him,” said Sethi.

“The options for him are very clear—more democracy or greater repression.”

Bhutto alliance?
More democracy means relinquishing his role as army chief, and possibly forging alliances with progressive politicians, such as the self-exiled, two-time prime minister Bhutto.

Greater repression means ducking a commitment to hold free and fair national and provincial assembly elections due this year or early next. A senior official told journalists in an off-the-record briefing on Sunday the elections would take place.

Like Musharraf, Bhutto sees religious extremism as the greatest threat to Pakistan, but she will be in no hurry to ally herself with a president accused of flouting the constitution and belittling the office of chief justice.

“Musharraf is becoming a lame duck as far as the political process is concerned,” said Ahmed Rashid, an internationally respected Pakistani journalist.

“The system is paralyzed with him there.”
A sense of foreboding stems from a belief that Musharraf is being ill-advised by non-elected hardliners, including army officers, with scant regard for the country’s institutions.

Even if the Supreme Judicial Council hearing accusations against Chaudhary were to recommend his reinstatement, it is hard to see how Musharraf could work with a chief justice who has been lionized for defying him.

Civilian politicians in the ruling coalition have distanced themselves from the controversy, and any judge who supports Chaudhary’s removal now risks being regarded as a stooge.

Strain within Pakistan’s hybrid military-civilian establishment is showing, as anger turns inwards over the handling of the crisis.

“Some heads may roll,” the senior official said.

PPP to attend meetings called by ARD

Will continue struggle for judicial reforms


Islamabad March 19, 2007: PPP is a member of ARD and would attend all meetings called by the ARD in connection with the judicial crisis as well as play its role in defending the independence of the Judiciary.

A spokesperson of the Party said this today commenting on press reports that PPP had not attended a meeting of an APC.

He said that the PPP wished to make a distinction between those in government and those not as well as those who are moderates.

“The PPP would be attending meetings from platform of ARD and PPP to keep the moderates option alive in the country”.

PPP would continue working with PML N through the platform of ARD, he said.

The spokesperson said that the Party lawyers wing had given unprecedented sacrifices in the present struggle. The pro PPP president of Islamabad Bar Association was injured and in a critical state in hospital whereas pro PPP lawyers including Senator Khosa who had been the first to suffer head injuries.

The PPP Chairperson was proud of the heroic struggle by the PLF and the PPP in the movement to protect the independence of the judiciary by reinstating the Chief Justice of Pakistan, he said.

He said that the PPP was a national Party with strength through the length and breadth of Pakistan. PPP, in coordination with Bar Associations and other democratic forces, has provided mass support to the lawyers movement. As the political protests in Islamabad showed on March 16, the largest political contribution was by the PPP that crossed all barricades to reach the Supreme Court.

The PPP will continue to play its role in the movement for judicial freedom, he said.

Mohtarma Bhutto felicitates Zoarastarians on Nauroz


Islamabad March 20, 2007: Former Prime Minister and Chairperson of the Pakistan Peoples Party Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto has felicitated all those celebrating Nauroz on the festive occasion that falls on Wednesday March 21.

Nauroz, marking the advent of spring, is celebrated with fervour in Pakistan by Zoarastarians as well as those of Iranian and Afghan descent.

In a message of felicitations she urged the people that while celebrating Nauroz they should also remember their less fortunate brethren and share with others the joys and festivities.

A true joy is the one that is also shared with all, she said.

She also prayed that the jovial spirit of Nauroz may last for the whole year.

Uncle Sam Says Cool It

B. Raman


After having initially commented on the suspension of the Chief Justice of the Pakistan Supreme Court, the US has decided not to voice any more criticism of Musharraf, but to reiterate its backing to him. For now.
 

According to reliable sources close Pakistan People's Party of Benazir Bhutto, the US is concerned that serious political instability in Pakistan at this stage might play into the hands of the Neo Taliban at a time when it is threatening to step up its attacks against the NATO forces in Afghanistan.

That is why, after having initially commented on the suspension of the Chief Justice of the Pakistan Supreme Court, the US has decided not to voice any more criticism of Musharraf, but to reiterate its backing to him.

It has also requested Benazir and Nawaz Sharif, the leader of the Pakistan Muslim League, not to add to the difficulties of Musharraf. It has reportedly promised to influence Musharraf to allow them contest the elections later this year and facilitate their re-entry into the political mainstream.

In the light of the US request, Benazir and Nawaz have advised their cadres to keep away from the street protests against Musharraf. Apart from calling for the reinstatement of the Chief Justice, Benazir has refrained from any rhetoric, which might tend to aggravate the street protests.

Presently, the protests are confined to the lawyers, some members of the Jamaat-e-Islami and some former members of the army and the Inter-Services Intelligence, who are anti-Musharraf. Involvement of non-fundamentalist political parties is very small. Musharraf is considerably embarrassed, but not yet significantly weakened. The US is also advising him to cool the crisis over the Chief Justice issue. If no major demonstration takes place on March 21, 2007, when the case comes up for hearing once more before the Supreme Judicial Council, Musharraf's troubles may decrease.

Pakistan is crucial to the world’s stability
BY DENIS MACSHANE


March 19, 2007: ANYONE who wants political power in Pakistan, so say the street pundits, must hold three aces — America, the army and Allah. As Pakistan plans its 60th birthday celebrations this year, it may hope for a future less in thrall to its military, to its mullahs and to Washington. President Pervez Musharraf, who took power in a bloody 1999 coup, is facing a crisis.


Far from being Nato’s calm eastern ally, a new front in the fight against terrorism, Islamabad’s streets feel shaky, divided and waiting for the worst. Pakistan is neither dictatorship nor democracy. Its newspapers are louder in criticism of their President than the anti-Blair or anti-Bush press in the West. Its intellectuals roam the world, trashing their country. Opposition politician, Cambridge-educated billionaire, Benazir Bhutto, is free to return home when she wants. But General Musharraf and his army are in charge.

The house arrest of Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, after he refused Musharraf’s demand to resign, has caused outrage. In a nation that reveres high office, the manhandling of the judge shocked even the most cynical of Pakistani politicians.

Pakistan urgently needs a return to democratic civilian rule even if its elected leaders in the Nineties became bywords for corruption, encouraging the Taleban and the madrassas, as well as the long- bearded, turban-wearing politicians who insist the law should be subordinate to theocracy. Democracy requires compromise between the military and the politicians. Instead there may be a slow drift towards increased authoritarianism under Musharraf, further alienating Pakistan.

In fact, the most poignant story in Pakistan last week was not about the Chief Justice but the stoning to death of a woman and two men accused of adultery. The rise of religious intolerance is now a political danger from the Christian West to the Muslim East. Yet it is all too easy to patronise Pakistan. Many are currently gushing over India with its clever graduates and Midas-touch businessmen.

But India’s record on human rights and the illiteracy of half its population is little better than Pakistan’s. India is rightly seen as a strategic partner for the West, especially the US, which is playing a balance-of-power game using India against China. But Pakistan, not India, is key to stability in the new world order.

The chain reaction that began when the West and Saudi Arabia called into being the jihadi movement to oust the Russians from Afghanistan is coming back to haunt Pakistan. In the Eighties it allowed itself to be the base for military attacks on Russia, even as the USSR tottered on the edge of history’s dustbin.

Now the jihadis are heading steadily eastwards as fanatical Islamism preaches hate and justifies suicide bombings. But Afghanistan could be saved if a political-economic-social campaign can gain ground from a purely military definition of the challenges. Earlier this month US soldiers ran amok after a bomb attack. They fired indiscriminately, killing 30 people. A few more Bloody Sundays like this and Pakistan’s neighbour will be Iraqified before reconstruction pays off.

Britain is sending one of its toughest trouble-shooting diplomats to take over a beefed-up presence in Kabul. The UN agencies, the European Commission plus the European Council, plus dozens of NGOs constitute the huge effort being made in Afghanistan, yet without better co-ordination it may end up chasing its tail.

The news is good in terms of schools, roads and hospitals built. Kabul looks richer than when it was a hippy-trail stopover three decades ago. But relentlessly the Taleban and the jihadis from among the three million Afghan refugees in Pakistan are back in business. Pakistan is endlessly reproached about not doing enough. It is told to close its frontier, as if the US can close the Mexican border or 30,000 British soldiers could seal the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland across which IRA killers roamed. Pakistan is pressured to hunt Bin Laden, but Nato can’t find Radovan Karadzic or persuade the Serbian army to stop protecting Ratko Mladic.

The time is overdue to acknowledge the sacrifices Pakistan has made. It has 80,000 soldiers along the 2,300km frontier with Afghanistan; 700 have been killed, far in excess of Nato casualties in Afghanistan or Britain’s in Iraq. India could join the war against terror by removing its 700,000 soldiers from Kashmir and opening the border. Musharraf has been braver than his predecessors in acknowledging that Indian-controlled Kashmir is not going to return to Pakistan.

If Pakistan felt its eastern flank was secure, it could transfer its military to the west — Afghanistan. Britain in recent years has given GBP1bn in aid to India, while India spends GBP200m on aid to Afghanistan. UK aid is, in effect, subsidising India’s efforts to pull Afghanistan into its orbit. India is opening consulates in parts of Afghanistan where no Indian has been seen in years. From Pakistan’s perspective, this looks like India seeking influence in order to keep up pressure on its old foe.

This summer heroin will be cheaper on the streets of Pakistan than sweets. India and China have a bigger drugs problem than the UK. Both countries should cut Islamabad some slack. If Afghanistan goes wrong, the next target for the ideologues who unleash suicide bombers will be Pakistan with its nuclear arsenal. Pakistan is the key to defeating the new threats to the world.

Time and again, the West has turned its back on Pakistan. That mistake should not be made again. Britain, with its close links to Pakistan, its able, articulate Muslim MPs, and its duty to tell America to change tactics, should help before it is too late.

Denis MacShane is British Labour Member of Parliament for Rotherham and was a minister at the Foreign Office until 2005

Restore the judiciary and end militaristic tyranny in Pakistan

A Statement by the Asian Human Rights Commission


The legal community of Pakistan has rejected a government offer for talks, while demanding the withdrawal of the reference against Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry and the formation of a national government to hold general elections within three months time. The convention of lawyers, which was meeting in Peshawer, the capital city of North Western Frontier Province, has also asked President Gen Pervez Musharraf to step down and demanded that he be tried for treason under Article 6 of the Constitution. The legal conference also appealed to all political parties to end their assemblies and join the lawyers struggle to removal the government. They have also demanded the immediate release of all missing people who have been abducted by all military and intelligence agencies, while lodging formal criminal cases against those responsible for the abductions.

The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) fully supports the demands of the legal community and urges all civil and political organizations in the country to engage in this social movement against the militaristic tyranny that has destroyed total credibility of every institution in the country. After seven and half years of military rule in Pakistan, the people must take back control of their own judicial system and not allow the authoritarian government to through justice out the window. The government and its ministers must also cease the harsh action of using the police to publicly beat any lawyer or journalist who questions the regimes intentions.

Journalists are being beaten by police on a regular basis. One television station was ransacked by the police force even in the presence of the Minister for Information who could not stop the attack. The police treated the minister as if he was a person of no value. More than one dozen journalists were beaten by police and several lost their camera. About 35 journalists were also arrested during and after the protests that involved lawyers, activists, civil society groups, as well as political parties. Even the President of Pakistan has had to apologise to the Geo Television network that was attacked by the police in the capital Islamabad.

One television program was stopped by the Pakistani regulatory authority (PEMRA) for discussing the removal of the chief justice. At he same time, this television program reproduced filthy language of the federal law minister against the family of an editor of a prominent English newspaper during a live discussion on Voice of America (VOA). The newspaper had written a story about the crises after the removal of the chief justice with a headline saying "A big arm in the law minister". The federal minister openly said in an assertive way on the VOA program that he will put his long arm in the family of the person who says that "a long arm in law minister." This demonstrates the ministers promise to silence the media. On March 9, when the president dressed in Army uniform and removed the chief justice, the Law Minister justified the removal and said it was very constitutional; however, on March 16 he took a 360 degree turn and announced that the chief justice was sent on forced leave by the president of Pakistan. The question of whether or not the chief justice’s role is still functional has remained unanswered.

The president of Pakistan sees the conspiracy behind the judiciary assertion, as conspiracy against his government. Not having any concern over the use of brutal force against the legal community, President General Musharraf is only concerned of why his actions against the judiciary have been criticised by the lawyers. He supposes that what ever his actions are, are in the greater interests and no one should criticise this because as being the Chief of Army Staff, he is the protector of the country and the protector must be obeyed in any situation.

Meanwhile, when the government in Pakistan begun realising that it was losing its total control over its citizenry, it started pressurizing the Supreme Judicial Council to delay the proceedings against the chief justice so that the legal community will exhaust themselves and their struggle for the restoration of the rule of law will subside. The government has also not allowed the chief justice to address the Lawyers' Convention which is being held in different areas throughout the country. While speaking from the Supreme Court on 22 March 2007, a government spokesman threatened Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry with a statement, saying not to 'politicize' the reference against him by addressing different bar associations in the country. The spokesman, named Arif Chaudhry said, "It would be in his own interest that such a sensitive issue is not politicized".

The Asian Human Rights Commission also commends the courageous action of more than a dozen judges and government law officers for their resignations and their refusal to work with the government of General Musharraf.

In light of the mishandling of this judicial crisis, the government's continued use of brutal force against lawyers, journalists, politicians and human rights activists, there now a moral obligation for the administration to step aside and give power back to the people of Pakistan. Therefore AHRC urges General Musharraf Government to step down and hand over power to the Chairman of the Senate to conduct free and fair elections within 90 days from taking power.

Bhutto says resignation of Judges an indication of judicial crisis


Islamabad March 19, 2007: Chairperson Pakistan Peoples Party and former Prime Minister Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto has said the resignation by six judges including one from the Lahore High Court is an indication of the deepening crisis the nation faces because of the military regime’s action against the Chief Justice of Pakistan.

In a statement, Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto said that the members of the bench could not be expected to be unaffected by the broad based sentiments of the lawyers community whose protests had paralysed the functioning of the courts for the last two weeks.

The inability of the courts to function was having a detrimental affect on the Nation’s standing within the world community as well as adversely affecting those in need of justice.

Mohtarma Bhutto called upon the military regime to take steps to immediately defuse the crisis by withdrawing the charges against the Chief Justice of Pakistan, reinstating the Chief Justice and then requesting the all the judges who had resigned to withdraw their resignations.

Former Prime Minister said that PPP was committed to the independence of the judiciary and had separated the judiciary from the executive during its tenure in office.

Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto assured the bar associations and lawyers’ community that the PPP would render the lawyers all political and moral support in their struggle to uphold the rule of law and independence of the judiciary.

It may be noted that PPP is the only govt in recent times, which has not attempted to weaken the judiciary by removing a chief justice.

Bhutto and Musharraf should think long and hard


March 19, 2007: The PPP chairperson Benazir Bhutto said in New York yesterday that the Taliban must be defeated in Pakistan this year, otherwise the country risked falling under the sway of extremists as much as Afghanistan did before 9/11. Her next observation was equally telling: “The Taliban have actually established a mini-state in the tribal areas of Pakistan. My fear is that if these forces are not stopped in 2007, they are going to try to take on the state of Pakistan itself”.

Ms Bhutto could have taken the easy course of simply denouncing President General Pervez Musharraf to an American audience that is increasingly becoming keen to hear such words, but she did not. She focused instead on the real threat that General Musharraf has failed to confront adequately. She has thus indicated that she grasps the big picture and is not seduced by the foreshortened current perspective.

The PMLN and other opposition leaders have protested at Ms Bhutto’s refusal so far to fully join the opposition parties to exploit the widespread popular anger against the treatment meted out to the Chief Justice of Pakistan, Iftikhar Chaudhry, by General Musharraf. That would have been easy to do. But we should know that neither the MMA nor leaders like Imran Khan think that the Taliban are any threat to us. Equally, the PMLN is too joined at the hip with the religious groups and parties to realise the nature of the ungovernable hiatus in the event of a sudden and unplanned departure by General Musharraf. An upheaval led by the clergy at this point would not lead to peace and normality.

An all parties’ struggle for “restoration of democracy” could be recommended unequivocally if all the participants, especially the MMA, Imran Khan and the PMLN, were agreed on the precise situation obtaining in the country as well as on what they wish to do with his policies of peace with India, business with America, moderation in life, women’s emancipation, etc., after they have removed General Musharraf from the scene. Thus it is disquieting that the PMLN has not thought it necessary to discuss the post-agitation scene with the MMA in the light of the MMA’s manifesto. One reason could be the PMLN’s uncertain attitude towards the kind of order it would like to prevail. It may be recalled that before General Musharraf overthrew the PMLN government, Mr Nawaz Sharif seemed bent upon establishing shariah and becoming Amir ul Momineen, standing above the parliament and lording it over everyone and everything, including the judiciary.

The MMA now stands for restoring the constitution to the state before the MMA agreed with President Musharraf to pass the 17th amendment. It wants to revert to the separate electorate system and it wishes to abolish the special women’s seats in parliament. But, as is well known, joint electorates are in the manifesto of the PPP which also remains in favour of women’s special representation. Indeed, the PPP has defended the reform of the Hudood Laws in the country and would not like to undo them.

There are cogent reasons for the PPP to chart its course carefully and deliberately before deciding to become a part of any mass agitation against the current dispensation. Ms Bhutto should know that Pakistan will be impossible to rule if the politicians fail to agree that the country is under threat from extremism and that they must carefully examine the mistakes made by General Musharraf and try to rectify them instead of simply doing the opposite of what he has been doing. Note: the MMA says there is no extremism in Pakistan, there are no Taliban in Pakistan and that Taliban governance of the 1990s should be replicated in Pakistan.

The agitation now going on in Pakistan is led by lawyers across the political divide. That is why they are reluctant to allow the political parties to “usurp” their struggle to defend the institution of the supreme court exemplified in the unlikely candidate of Iftikhar Chaudhry. But, at the end of the day, their political affiliations are bound to surface and colour the direction of any mass movement. The problem is that all mass agitations give rise to radicalism, which is not very different from extremism. Would that suit the PPP?

Yet it is the PPP which has the largest vote bank in the country. It is also the party with a significant presence in Punjab and Sindh. With the PML in the hands of General Musharraf, and Maulana Fazlur Rehman ready to negotiate with the government at all times, no mass agitation will succeed in the real sense unless the PPP leads it or is a dynamic part of it. This much has been accepted as a fact also by Qazi Hussain Ahmad, the president of the MMA. But it then stands to reason that if all the opposition parties are agreed about the role and position of the PPP, then they should listen to the opinion of Ms Bhutto and not force her to join the agitation without regard to the kind of situation it might bring about.

On the other side, it is clear that after the recent fiasco, General Musharraf’s key PML ally is discredited and cannot hope to win the next general elections fairly. Nor can the judiciary be counted upon to stand with the PML and risk being tarred with the same brush. In other words, General Musharraf cannot blithely bend the constitution and civil society to his tune, rig the elections and expect to be both army chief and president for another five years. So he will have to either democratise and share power with the PPP or become more repressive. The current mid-way house of guided democracy without the mainstream PPP in tow and the MMA up in arms is coming to an end.

Under the circumstances, General Musharraf, no less than Ms Bhutto, would do well to think long and hard too about which way to go. He must not succumb to the hardliners and impose an emergency or martial law. She must not let the MMA hijack the protests.

Bhutto warns of Taliban threat to Pakistan


NEW YORK March 19, 2007: The Taliban must be defeated in Pakistan this year, otherwise the country risks falling under the sway of extremists as much as Afghanistan did before September 11, 2001, said former prime minister Benazir Bhutto on Friday.

Bhutto, who hopes to return from exile and run for prime minister again in elections this year, also warned that the judicial crisis in Pakistan could spin out of control, and underscored the importance of restoring civilian rule.

“They (the Taliban) have actually established a mini-state in the tribal areas of Pakistan. My fear is that if these forces are not stopped in 2007, they are going to try to take on the state of Pakistan itself,” Bhutto told Reuters in an interview. “In my view, it is a genuine threat,” she said.

Other commentators have warned of the dangers to Pakistan of a resurgent Taliban. Bhutto said the Taliban comeback was particularly dire because President Pervez Musharraf was unable to suppress elements of the Pakistani security forces that remained sympathetic to the Taliban. She said that Musharraf had also been exploiting the presence of the extreme Islamist movement as a rationale for maintaining his military rule beyond general elections due before the end of 2007.

“General Musharraf does say that he wants to go after terrorists, that he wants to go after the forces that support the Taliban, but he’s unable to do it,” Bhutto said from her apartment on the Upper East Side of Manhattan, where she lives with her ailing husband when she’s not working for her return to Pakistani politics from Dubai.

“The people in the areas must see that it is in their benefit to kick out the extremist forces,” said Bhutto. To that end, she proposed a renewed commitment to health, education and infrastructure in the tribal areas. She said that in the absence of government welfare, Islamist religious schools had stepped in, winning over the poor population.

Bhutto (53) became the first female prime minister in the Muslim world when she was elected in 1988 at the age of 35. She was deposed in 1990, re-elected in 1993, and ousted again in 1996. Bhutto plans to return for the elections with her secular Pakistan Peoples Party, but there are questions about under which conditions. Through third parties, she is negotiating her return with Musharraf, who has passed a law banning her from seeking a third term. She also faces allegations of graft, which she says were fabricated. Her immediate concern was the crisis created by the suspension of the country’s Supreme Court Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhary. “The judicial crisis highlights that if you don’t bring about a peaceful political transfer, events could get out of control because there is a lot of frustration. The judicial crisis has touched a raw nerve, which has shown how deep-seated the frustration within Pakistan is,” said Bhutto.

Musharraf Loses Credibility with America Also


Having played games over terrorism for several years, Pakistan's military establishment now faces a crisis of credibility with the United States, despite their close military and political bonds. The gap between Gen. Pervez Musharraf's promises and his refusal to deliver has widened to an extent that his long-time benefactor feels compelled to warn him to behave, or else, suffer the consequences of playing a double game, including stoppage of military and economic aid. While Vice-President Dick Cheney bluntly told him to cooperate with NATO forces in flushing out Al Qaeda and Taliban fighters

who have infiltrated southern Afghanistan, both Houses of the US Congress have passed resolutions pressing Islamabad to do more than it was doing in the fight against Islamist extremists, who have crossed over in hundreds from sanctuaries inside Pakistan and are trying to destabilize the country.

Nobody believes that the so-called peace deal entered into by Gen. Musharraf with Taliban and Al Qaeda leaders and their tribal sympathizers has the remotest chance of success. In fact, Al Qaeda and Taliban training and related facilities have increased as a result of the "surrender" deal. Washington now seems to be considering reducing its dependence on the ability of Musharraf to fight terrorism and taking recourse to alternative strategies. It has replaced the commander of its forces in Afghanistan and the appointment of Gen. K. M. McNeili has been welcomed by the Afghan Government. "We will quit neither post, nor mission until the job is done," he said on the eve of launching the much-awaited Spring offensive against Taliban in Helmand and other southern provinces. With President Hamid Karzai having gone to town condemning Pakistan for promoting terrorism to destabilize his government, his Foreign Minister Rangeen Dadfar Spanta publicly accuses Islamabad of "using terror as its foreign policy. Under Taliban, Pakistan virtually controlled 80 per cent of Afghanistan's territory," and it is trying hard to establish its hold once again. He regrets that some countries are "rewarding" Pakistan with economic and military aid even after getting solid proof of its active involvement with Al Qaeda and Taliban.

At any rate, Musharraf has been put on notice by the United States which is unprepared to stand any more nonsense about his involvement in promoting Taliban and Al Qaeda. It is time for him to change to prevent Pakistan from sliding into mayhem and anarchy.

Mohtarma Bhutto demands release of Ahsan Bhoon President LHCBA


Islamabad March 17, 2007: Former Prime Minister and Chairperson of the Pakistan Peoples Party Mohtarma Benazir Bhuto has condemned the arrest of Ahsan Bhoon President Lahore High Court Bar Association and the President District Bar Lahore and demanded their immediate release.

Ahsan Bhoon President LHCBA and Muhammad Shah president of the District Bar Lahore were arrested in Lahore on Friday during protest demonstrations on the day of hearing in the Supreme Judicial Council.

In a statement today she said that the protesting lawyers were exercising their democratic and constitutional right to hold peaceful protest demonstration against the assault on the independence of judiciary. It is a grave violation of the constitutional rights of the citizens to forcibly stop them from exercising their rights guaranteed in the Constitution.

She said that the entire nation was with the bar and legal fraternity over the issue and no coercion or intimidation of the lawyers’ community will succeed in beating them into submission and withdrawing from their principled stand.

Mohtarma Bhutto condemns state brutality in LHC


Islamabad March 17, 2007: Former Prime Minister and Chairperson of the Pakistan Peoples Party Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto has condemned the vandalism resorted to by the regime at the Convention of lawyers in Lahore today as most barbaric and most unprecedented.

In a statement today she said that never before in the history of Pakistan the law enforcing agencies had had the courage to forcibly enter into the premises of the High Court and fire tear gas shells and resort to wanton and brutal lathi charge.

She said that sight of armed personnel carriers entering the High Court premises and police pelting stones at the participants of a peaceful Convention had made the heads of civil society hang in shame.

It is a sad day as brick by brick all state institutions were being demolished to keep one person at the helm of illegal and unconstitui0onal power.

Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto called for the reinstatement of non-functional Chief Justice, Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry to defuse the situation. She also called for the dissolution of the Punjab government, which have failed to protect the sanctity of the High Court and has allowed the law enforcing agencies to ransack the High Court building.

Mohtarma Bhutto said that the PPP will stand by the bar to protect the integrity and independence of the judiciary.

Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto warns that judicial crisis in Pakistan could spin out of control


Islamabad, 17 March 2007: Former Prime Minister and Chairperson Pakistan Peoples Party, Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto has warned the international community about the threat passed by Taliban to the Pakistani society. She in an interview to news agency Reuters said that the Taliban must be defeated in Pakistan this year or the country risks falling under the sway of extremists much as Afghanistan did before Sept. 11, 2001.

Following is the text of the interview:

“Bhutto, who hopes to return from exile and run for prime minister again in elections this year, also warned that the judicial crisis gripping Pakistan could spin out of control and underscores the importance of restoring civilian rule.

"They (the Taliban) have actually established a mini-state in the tribal areas of Pakistan. My fear is that if these forces are not stopped in 2007, they are going to try to take on the state of Pakistan itself," Bhutto told Reuters in an interview.

"In my view it is a genuine threat," she said.

“Other commentators have warned of the dangers to Pakistan of a resurgent Taliban, which was routed from power in neighboring Afghanistan by the U.S. invasion following the Sept. 11 attacks.

“Bhutto said the Taliban comeback was particularly dire because Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf was unable to suppress elements of the Pakistani security forces that remain sympathetic to the Taliban.

“Musharraf also has been exploiting the presence of the extreme Islamist movement as a rationale for maintaining his military rule beyond general elections due before the end of 2007, she said.

"General Musharraf does say that he wants to go after terrorists, that he wants to go after the forces that support the Taliban, but he's unable to do it," Bhutto said from her apartment on the Upper East Side of Manhattan, where she lives with her ailing husband when she's not working for her return to Pakistani politics from Dubai.

"The people in the areas must see that it is in their benefit to kick out the extremist forces," Bhutto said.

“To that end she proposes a renewed commitment to health, education and infrastructure in tribal areas. In the absence of government welfare, Islamist religious schools have stepped in, winning over the poor population, she said.

“Bhutto, 53, became the first female prime minister in the Muslim world when she was elected in 1988 at age 35. She was deposed in 1990, re-elected in 1993, and ousted again in 1996.

“Bhutto plans to return for the elections with her secular Pakistan Peoples Party, but there are questions about under which conditions.

“Through third parties, she is negotiating her return with Musharraf, who has passed a law banning her from seeking a third term. She also faces allegations of graft which she says were fabricated.

“Her immediate concern was the crisis created by ouster of the country's Supreme Court Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhary, who was suspended a week ago after a meeting with Musharraf.

“On Friday, Pakistani police fired tear gas, detained about 150 activists and raided a television station as protesters took to the streets calling for Chaudhary's reinstatement.

"The judicial crisis highlights that if you don't bring about a peaceful political transfer that events could get out of control because there is a lot of frustration. The judicial crisis has touched a raw nerve which has shown how deep-seated the frustration within Pakistan is," Bhutto said.”

Mohtarma Bhutto condemns arrest of Party activists
Demands their release


Islamabad March 16, 2007: Former Prime Minster and Chairperson of the Peoples Party Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto has condemned the arrest of PPP workers in the country in connection with the protest demonstrations against the assault on the independence of judiciary.

In a statement today Mohtarma Bhutto said that staging of peaceful demonstrations against the sacking of Chef Justice was a democratic right and the arrest of workers for exercising their democratic right was condemnable. She called for the immediate release of all those arrested.

It may be noted that a number of Party activists were arrested on Thursday in a midnight swoop ahead of the meeting of the Supreme Judicial Council meeting in Islamabad on Friday.

A day earlier in Gujranwala also the regime arrested and instituted criminal cases against a number of Party activists on the eve of General Musharraf’s visit. The Party activists including members of the Peoples Lawyers Forum were demanding release of the non functional Chief Justice from house arrest.

The largest number of arrests of any political party, following the removal of the Chief Justice has been of PPP workers who are in the forefront of the defence of the judiciary and the rule of law.

Mohtamra Bhutto hoped that the judiciary would take suo moto notice and order release of those arrested in violation of their human rights and their right to peaceful assembly and peaceful protest.

Pakistan: Protesters in Judge’s Case at Risk of Violence Legal Proceedings Against Chief Justice Chaudhry Must Be Fair and Open

 

New York, March 15, 2007: The Pakistani government should not block or use violence against peaceful demonstrators protesting the “suspension” and mistreatment of the Supreme Court’s chief justice, Human Rights Watch said today. On March 16, lawyers’ groups and opposition political parties plan to hold protests and demonstrations across Pakistan as the country’s Supreme Judicial Council, a body constitutionally mandated to hear complaints against the senior judiciary, resumes its hearing of President General Pervez Musharraf’s complaint against Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry. On March 9, Pakistan’s military leader summoned the chief justice to his office and dismissed him for alleged “misuse of office.”

 

The Pakistani government has diverted thousands of additional security personnel to Islamabad and has put the capital under “high alert.” Members of lawyers’ groups and human rights organizations as well as opposition supporters told Human Rights Watch that they feared the police and intelligence personnel would repeat the violence they used earlier in the week to stop protests from taking place. Scores of opposition supporters have been arbitrarily detained, and hundreds of lawyers have been charged under various provisions of the criminal code for protests since March 13. “Musharraf’s government should end this constitutional crisis by halting the illegal actions against the chief justice that have led to these protests,” said Ali Dayan Hasan, South Asia researcher at Human Rights Watch. “Trumped-up charges against lawyers must be dropped, demonstrators arbitrarily detained must be released, and peaceful protest must be allowed.” The government has still not released any details of the charges against Justice Chaudhry and said the hearing will be closed to the public.

 

Pakistan’s bar associations and international and Pakistani human rights groups have all demanded a public hearing. Lawyers on Justice Chaudhry’s defense team told Human Rights Watch that they had not been given any access to him or to a copy of the reference filed against him. “How can the chief justice’s lawyers be expected to defend him when they aren’t even allowed to meet him or presented with charges to rebut?” said Hasan. “Pakistan’s Supreme Judicial Council needs to show it can act independently and hold a fair hearing. So far it is failing.” The Supreme Judicial Council has prohibited the Pakistani media from reporting on its proceedings, and the government has put pressure on the media to tone down its reportage on the affair.

 

On March 12, the Pakistan Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) briefly suspended the broadcasts of two privately run television stations Aaj and Geo TV, after they transmitted footage of injured and bleeding lawyers beaten by police during a demonstration that day in support of Justice Chaudhry. On March 13, Musharraf’s minister for law and human rights minister, Wasi Zafar, used abusive language in a Voice of America program on the judge’s case apparently to intimidate Ansar Abbasi, a fellow panelist and Pakistani journalist, and his family. “Having made a mockery of the rule of law, the government is trying to intimidate the media and others in order to prevent condemnation of its behavior,” said Hasan. “Musharraf’s functionaries must end their bullying of civil society now.”

PPP condemns filing of criminal cases against Party activists


Islamabad March 15, 2007: Pakistan Peoples Party has condemned the institution of criminal cases against Party activists in Gujranwala and demanded an end to political victimization of the opponents.

On Tuesday March 14 police in Gujranwala arrested a Party activist Ahad Ramay ahead of General Pervez Musharraf’s visit to Gujranwala on Thursday March 15. Besides criminal cases were instituted against PPP office bearers including Advocate Muhammad Numan Aziz District secretary information, Ilyas Rehan President Distt Bar, Aftab Zaidi President PLF, Sh. Ezad Masood Advocate Member Ex PLF Punjab, Ahad Ramay Advocate Additional Secretary Peoples Lawyer’s Forum and Pervaiz Othi Advocate and about two hundred ‘unknown people’.

The cases were filed under u/s 380,188,186,504,431,427, PPC and the activists accused of attacking the office of district nazim and stealing office files just a day before the scheduled visit of General Musharraf to Gujranwala.

Earlier PPP leaders including Senator Sardar Latif Khosa and MNA Mehreen Raja Anwar were injured in police baton charge during lawyers’ demonstrations in Lahore protesting the assault on judiciary. During bye-elections in Sindh PPP MNA Dr. Azra Fazal the sister in law of Former Prime Minister Mohtarma Bhutto was fired upon by the armed guards of a provincial minister but the police refused to register FIR against the accused. In Karachi, MNA Sherry Rehman was also attacked. In Attock, six PPP activists were ambushed and gunned down by armed assailants last month.

The bar in Gujranwala is continuing protest demonstrations against the assault on the independence of judiciary and the treatment meted out to the Chief Justice who has since been made non functional.

“Institution of cases and victimisation of Party workers was an undemocratic and illegal act and is condemned in the strongest terms”, said a spokesperson of the PPP former Senator Farhatullah Babar in a statement today.

He said that the local administration at the instance of the Punjab government had abused the democratic norms and committed a crime and tarnished the image of the country. The Party demands immediate withdrawal of politically motivated criminal cases, he said.

He said that the Party workers were brave and have always refused to be deterred by such strong-arm tactics.

“The courage shown by the workers is a source of inspiration to all those who are waging struggle for democracy and human rights. The Party saluted its brave workers and all those who suffer for the cause”.

He said that the Party also urged the judiciary and the human rights bodies to take suo moto note of the incident and take action against those police officials who had abused the law and acted as an extension of the ruling party.

Mohtarma Bhutto condoles death of Ahmad Ali Khan


Islamabad March 14, 2007: Former Prime Minister and Chairperson Pakistan Peoples Party Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto has condoled the death of former Chief Editor Dawn Ahmad Ali Khan as ‘a great loss to journalism in the country’

In a condolence message today Mohtarma Bhutto said that late Ahmad Ali Khan was a truly great journalist who never allowed the newspaper he edited to be used for his personal projection nor allowed his personal likes and dislikes to affect his editorial judgements. “Keeping in view our record this is a rare professional virtue”, she said.

Mohtarma Bhutto also prayed for a chosen place in heaven to the soul of late Ahmad Ali Khan and also for patience to the members of bereaved family to bear the loss with equanimity.

Mian Raza Rabbani criticizes bid to divide bar


Islamabad March 14, 2007: Leader of the Opposition in the Senate and Deputy Secretary General of the PPP has issued the following statement today.

“The Punjab Chief Minister’s bid to herd some lawyers together for a meeting in Lahore today and use it a platform for the condemnation of the democratic governments of the past is an attempt to divide the bar and is condemned.

“Through such gimmicks neither the Punjab government nor its patrons in Islamabad can divert public attention from the unprecedented assault on the judiciary that has endangered the federation and also lowered the esteem of the country in the comity of nations.

“The opposition believes that democratic governments in the past could have done more to protect the integrity and independence of the judiciary. But the present dictatorship has broken all past records of wanton and deliberate disrespect to and assault on judiciary.

“Never before in the sixty years of the Nation’s history was a Chief Justice summoned by the Army chief, detained, held incommunicado and hassled and cajoled forcing him to resign and upon his refusal was charged with offences, according to media reports, of misusing official cars.

“By blaming the democratic governments of the past for allegedly not showing respect to the judiciary the Punjab Chief Minister has made a futile bid to shift the focus from the present regime’s treatment of the judiciary. But the minions of military rulers will not succeed in their bid.

Mohtarma Bhutto says manhandling of Chief Justice shameful


Islamabad, 14 March 2007: Former Prime Minister and the Chairperson Pakistan Peoples Party, Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto said it was a shame for the nation to witness police officers manhandling the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court.

In a statement today she said that the PPP condemned the manhandling of the Chief Justice of Pakistan and called upon the Supreme Court to take suo moto notice of the violent misbehaviour and to proceed against the culprits.

Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto said that under successive military dictatorships, political and now judicial leaders were being subjected to violence and lawlessness that we as a nation must stop. She said that PPP believed that differences must be resolved through peaceful and lawful means and not through violence.

The former Prime Minister recalled that first lady Begum Nusrat Bhutto was baton charged and injured in the head with blood streaming down her face but the world only watched. Women Parliamentarian like Dr. Azra were victims of murder attacks but the criminals were being protected by a cabinet minister, the clothes of a UN rapporteur we're torn but no action taken, a former President of the Bar Senator Lateef Khosa was hit and injured and society remained silent and today photos show the Chief Justice being mishandled.

Mohtarma Bhutto said that the PPP believes action must b taken against the culprits otherwise the day will come when no one, whether in politics, parliament, judiciary or even military will be safe.

She said after the fall of Shah in Iran total anarchy prevailed because of collapse of institutions, so was the case in Afghan and Iraq where none were spared.

On behalf of all Pakistan she called upon the nation to rise over power lust and determine to build institutions the first step of which was disciplinary and judicial action against those who manhandled the Chief Justice of Pakistan who by virtue of his office symbolised justice for the federation of Pakistan.

General Babar says real issue is constitutional corruption by generals and not misuse of cars by Chief Justice


Islamabad March 14, 2007: Former Interior Minister and central leader PPP Major General Naseerullah Babar has asked General Pervez Musharraf to do some soul searching after having filed reference against the Chief Justice before the Supreme Judicial Council.

In a statement today he said that now that the case was before the SJC he would not comment on its merits but would only ask General Musharraf to look inwardly and do some honest soul searching.

He said that according to media reports the Chief Justice has also been accused of such inanities as using BMW cars beyond his entitlement.

He said that the Army chief was way below in the warrant of precedence at a number below ten as compared with the Chief Justice who was placed very high, among the first four or five state functionaries. But today even military commanders below the rank of army chief moved around in BMW and other expensive cars with hooters, revolving flash lights and escort in a display of power and show as if they were generals of a conquering army and not of a national army, he said.

“It takes a lot of gumption and self righteousness to accuse the Chief Justice of using BMWs and Mercedes allegedly beyond his entitlement”.

He said that his head hangs in shame when he saw the way the generals moved around today as against his time when as major general he had to travel from residence to office and back in his personal car as use of staff car was not permitted for this purpose.

It is this self-righteousness and arrogance that is breeding alienation among the people and is dangerous for the defence and security of the country itself, he said.

The former Interior Minister said that the real issue was the constitutional corruption by the generals and violation of article 6 of the Constitution.

“We need to address the issue of constitutional corruption by generals rather than the alleged misuse of BMWs by a Chief Justice”.

Release Chief Justice of Supreme Court
Attacks on Protests by Lawyers Should Cease


New York, March 13, 2007: The Pakistani government must end the arbitrary detention of the chief justice of the Supreme Court and cease the police crackdown on lawyers staging peaceful protests, Human Rights Watch said today.

On March 9, Pakistan’s President General Pervez Musharraf summoned Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry to his office and effectively dismissed him for alleged “misuse of office.” The government subsequently declared the chief justice to be “non-functional” and has held him incommunicado at his official residence. It appears Justice Chaudhry has refused to resign.

Human Rights Watch said the government’s dismissal and detention of the chief justice contravened provisions for the removal of judges under Pakistan’s constitution and severely undermined judicial independence in the country.

Human Rights Watch called for Justice Chaudhry’s immediate release from illegal detention. “By brazenly and unlawfully dismissing, detaining and humiliating the chief justice of the Supreme Court, President Musharraf has created a constitutional crisis at the judiciary’s expense,” said Ali Dayan Hasan, South Asia researcher for Human Rights Watch. “Musharraf has undermined judicial independence before and nothing could make that more clear than his arrest of the Chief Justice.”

The government has not released any details of the charges and is presenting a legal reference against the chief justice to Pakistan’s Supreme Judicial Council, a body constitutionally mandated to hear complaints against the senior judiciary, on March 13.

Justice Chaudhry, Pakistan’s bar associations and human rights groups have demanded a public hearing. The government said that the hearing will be in camera and hence closed to the public.

“The Pakistani government must allow Justice Chaudhry a fair, open hearing where he has adequate opportunity to study the charges leveled and benefit from legal advice,” said Hasan. “Anything less will amount to a mockery of justice.”

On March 12, lawyers across Pakistan protested the arrest and detention of the chief justice by boycotting court proceedings and holding peaceful demonstrations. Police in the central Pakistani city of Lahore violently broke up one of the largest demonstrations ever by high court lawyers in Pakistan. Eyewitnesses told Human Rights Watch that protestors were peacefully marching down a main thoroughfare when police used batons to break up the procession. At least 20 lawyers were injured and some 50 have been arrested.

“The brutal assault on lawyers demonstrating for the chief justice raises bigger issues about the rule of law in Pakistan,” said Hasan. “The government needs to respond to this by taking appropriate action against those government officials responsible.”

Human Rights Watch said that the move to oust Justice Chaudhry points towards the Pakistani government’s determination to ensure control over the judiciary in the run up to elections due by the end of the year. Although Musharraf had appointed Justice Chaudhry in 2005, the judge has subsequently come to be regarded as a controversial figure who has attempted to assert judicial independence. Recently, he has taken up several human rights cases including initiating proceedings in cases involving enforced disappearances.

Research by Human Rights Watch indicates a pattern of “disappearances” in Pakistan involving US complicity in the abduction of individuals in the “global war on terror” and their interrogations by US law enforcement agents in illegal detention centers run by the Pakistani military’s Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) agency.

Human Rights Watch called upon the United States and other governments to urge President Musharraf to promptly take meaningful steps to restore respect for the rule of law in Pakistan, including the release of the chief justice.


Mohtarma Bhutto condemns baton charge of lawyers


Islamabad March 13, 2007: Former Prime Minister and Chairperson of the Pakistan Peoples Party Mohtarma Benazir has condemned the baton charge and arrest of the lawyers in Lahore protesting against the sacking of Chief Justice.

A number of protesting lawyers including PPP Senator Sardar Latif Khosa and PPP MNA Mehreen Anwar Raja besides many others were injured in the baton charge today.

“The baton charge and arrest of lawyers who were exercising their democratic and constitutional right to hold protest demonstrations in support of the independence of judiciary is most condemnable”, she said in a statement today.

Media reports have said that the Chief Justice had refused to resign and was demanding an open trial. It was the constitutional and democratic right of the members of the bar to hold peaceful protest demonstrations in support of the demand of the suspended CJ, she said.

She said that the PPP believed in the independence of the judiciary and would support the bar associations in protesting the assault on the independence of the judiciary. In this connection she recalled that directions had already been issued to Party leaders to liaise with the legal community in evolving a strategy.

She also demanded the release of all the detained lawyers. Mohtama Bhutto also saluted the legal fraternity for their courage in challenging the illegal actions of the dictatorial regime.

Meanwhile Mohtarma Bhutto has sent flower bouquets to the bar activists who suffered injuries during baton charge.

False Choice for Pakistan
By Benazir Bhutto


Monday, March 12, 2007: Last month President Bush told Gen. Pervez Musharraf of Pakistan that he must be more aggressive in hunting down al-Qaeda and the Taliban along his country's border with Afghanistan. During his recent visit to Islamabad, Vice President Cheney echoed the claim that al-Qaeda members were training in Pakistan's tribal areas and called on Musharraf to shut down their operations. British Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett also expressed concern recently about suspected terrorist safe havens.

Clearly, the pressure is on. Western leaders are finally beginning to recognize that Musharraf's regime has been unsuccessful in taming the Taliban, which has regrouped in the tribal areas of Pakistan while the military regime has given up trying to establish order on the Afghan border. At the same time, the regime has strategically chosen to help the United States when international criticism of the terrorists' presence becomes strident. The arrest of Mullah Obaidullah Akhund, a top Taliban strategist, by Pakistani authorities late last month is a case in point. The timing, right on the heels of American and British pleas for renewed toughness, is too convenient. Akhund was arrested solely to keep Western governments at bay.

There are other political calculations in all of this. For too long, the international perception has been that Musharraf's regime is the only thing standing between the West and nuclear-armed fundamentalists.

Nothing could be further from the truth. Islamic parties have never garnered more than 13 percent in any free parliamentary elections in Pakistan. The notion of Musharraf's regime as the only non-Islamist option is disingenuous and the worst type of fear-mongering.

Much has been said about Pakistan being a key Western ally in the war against terrorism. It is the fifth-largest recipient of U.S. aid -- the Bush administration proposed $785 million in its latest budget. Yet terrorism around the world has increased. Why is it that all terrorist plots -- from the Sept. 11 attacks, to Madrid, to London, to Mumbai -- seem to have roots in Islamabad?

Pakistan's military and intelligence services have, for decades, used religious parties for recruits. Political madrassas -- religious schools that preach terrorism by perverting the faith of Islam -- have spread by the tens of thousands.

The West has been shortsighted in dealing with Pakistan. When the United States aligns with dictatorships and totalitarian regimes, it compromises the basic democratic principles of its foundation -- namely, life, liberty and justice for all. Dictatorships such as Musharraf's suppress individual rights and freedoms and empower the most extreme elements of society. Oppressed citizens, unable to represent themselves through other means, often turn to extremism and religious fundamentalism.

Restoring democracy through free, fair, transparent and internationally supervised elections is the only way to return Pakistan to civilization and marginalize the extremists. A democratic Pakistan, free from the yoke of military dictatorship, would cease to be a breeding ground for international terrorism.

Indeed, Pakistan's return to democracy is essential to America's success in South and Central Asia, as well as in the Middle East, as democratization is an integral part of fighting terrorism. Wouldn't it therefore be prudent to tie aid money to genuine political reform?

Pakistan must take steps toward hunting down al-Qaeda operatives in the "ungovernable" tribal and border areas -- which were once successfully governed by democratically elected civilian governments. The regime must also stop its intimidation tactics of recent weeks, which include brutal murders, assassination attempts and other attacks on opposition party members.

Of course Musharraf's regime, to legitimize its coup and divert attention from the institutionalized corruption of the military, accuses Pakistan's secular, democratic parties of corruption. But according to Transparency International, 67 percent of the people believe the regime is corrupt, surpassing the rate for past civilian governments. Musharraf's regime has lasted twice as long as any civilian government in Pakistan. Yet not one of its ministers or key political supporters has been investigated.

The National Accountability Bureau has persecuted opposition leaders for a decade on unproven corruption and mismanagement charges, hoping to grind them into submission. However, when politicians accused of corruption cross over to the regime, the charges miraculously disappear. Musharraf's regime exploits the judicial system as yet another instrument of coercion and intimidation to consolidate its illegitimate power. But the politics of personal destruction will not prevent me and other party leaders from bringing our case before the people of our nation this year, even if that could lead to imprisonment.

In his State of the Union address in January, President Bush said, "The great question of our day is whether America will help men and women in the Middle East to build free societies and share in the rights of all humanity. And I say, for the sake of our own security: We must."

This holds true for countries in South and Central Asia as well. Now is the time to force Pakistan's government to make good on its promise to return to democracy.

The writer is chairwoman of the Pakistan People's Party and served as prime minister of Pakistan from 1988 to 1990 and from 1993 to 1996. She lives in exile in Dubai.

PPP writes to Inter Parliamentary Union

 

Islamabad, 12 March 2007: The Central Coordinator Human Rights Desk, Pakistan Peoples Party and Member National Assembly Fauzia Wahab has apprised the Inter Parliamentary Union (IPU) of the harassment and intimidation of the PPP workers including members Parliament and Provincial Assembly in Karachi by the workers of MQM, a coalition partner in the government.

Fauzia Wahab MNA in a letter addressed to Mr. Anders B Johnsson, the Secretary General, IPU has wrote, “Bye-elections for a National Assembly of Pakistan seat numbered NA- 250 Karachi took place on February 10, 2007. The reason for the bye-elections was the death of the member Mr. Abdul Sattar Afghani who returned from this seat in the October 2002 general elections. The MQM (Muttahida Quami Movement) an ethnic based party and a coalition partner of the military regime had deputed large groups of hardened criminals on all polling stations. They were all armed and had the tacit approval to use all kinds of coercive methods to intimidate, harass and frighten the opposition. What they were asked in return was to ensure a certain number of votes in the ballot box. For this they were provided with arms such as TT pistols and AK-47s. Besides weapons they were sporting expensive and sophisticated cell phones.”

Detailing the harassment Fauzia Wahab wrote that Parliamentarian Ms. Naheed Khan, the political Secretary to the Chairperson, who was taking a tour of all the polling stations (PS) had to bear the brunt of MQM's brutalities. She was fired upon at three different polling stations”, twice at Safia Girs School polling stations and once at Railway Colony polling station. All the polling stations were under the control of MQM workers where the large contingents of Police were placed, but the numerical strength of armed MQM workers outnumbered them and did not allow them to exercise their authority. To every violation and misdeed they would just look the other way. They looked helpless. Whenever they
tried to exercise their authority, they were rebuked by militant
activist of the MQM and threatened of dire consequences if they don't cooperate. Knowing that MQM controls the provincial and city administration, everybody feared for their life as well as for their jobs. Even the presiding officers and the polling staff, all government servants, looked meek and powerless. The polling staff which is consisted of either government teachers or government servant unaware of their power, and in the presence of a brutal force of hardened criminals, the polling staff would not dare to exercise their authority.

Fauzia Wahab wrote, “The bye-election was a charade and has exposed the regime's tactics to rig the forthcoming elections through brute force, intimidation and paralysis of police and Election Commission staff” and requested the Secretary General IPU, “Pakistan Peoples Party and its legislators Ms Naheed Khan, Nafeesa Raja, Shama Mithani, Nasreen Chandio and the undersigned demand the immediate arrest of the culprits who used coercive methods, assaulted our polling agents, fired on our lady legislators and stole the ballot boxes. We request your kind authority to take cognizance of this development and raise this matter with the concerned authorities.”

Mohtarma Bhutto says removal of CJ appears attempt to influence judiciary


Islamabad March 11, 2007: Former Prime Minister and Chairperson of the Pakistan Peoples Party Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto has said that the sudden suspension of the Chief Justice at a time when crucial constitutional issues are to come up for decision appears to be an attempt to influence the judiciary by pressuring it through the removal of the Chief Justice.

In a statement today the former Prime Minister who is in the United States said that the removal of the Chief Justice of Pakistan had alarmed the bar associations and political parties.

The PPP has noted the media reports on the manner in which the Chief Justice was removed as well as that he was pressured to resign. Disturbingly it is also reported that the Chief Justice is under informal arrest.

Mohtarma Bhutto also expressed concern over the violation of the seniority principle in nominating the next Chief Justice.

"The supersession of the senior most judge from elevation as Chief Justice is against the constitutional provision of independence of judiciary and the judgments of the Supreme court itself on the subject”.

Mohtarma Bhutto said that the PPP believed in the independence of the judiciary and would support the bar associations in protesting the assault on the independence of the judiciary.

The PPP Chairperson also has asked the Party’s Secretary General to liaise with the legal community in evolving a strategy.

PPP Suspects Political Considerations Behind Removal of Chief Justice Supreme Court of Pakistan


Islamabad March 9, 2007: Spokesperson of the Pakistan Peoples Party has issued the following statement today.

"The Pakistan Peoples Party received with shock the sudden suspension of the Chief Justice of Pakistan".

"Many will see the attempt to remove the second Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Pakistan since the military coup of 1999 as an attempt to intimidate the judiciary and send a message to the honourable members of the court that they too can be removed on so called charges of corruption. Such charges have regularly been used to persecute those who oppose the regime.

"While the Chief Justice of Pakistan had not taken up issues relating to the uniform, the court under him took up issues of public litigation including the attempt to abuse powers in the sale of the Pakistan Steel Mills at a throw away price and taking notice of the disappearances which are a violation of human rights".

“The PPP notes that corruption charges have been levelled against the Chief Justice that are for the Supreme Judicial Council to adjudicate. However, given the number of corruption charges against members of the present Cabinet that have been filed, and none taken notice of, the PPP finds it difficult to accept that the Chief Justice was removed for the reasons given."

The PPP and the democratic Opposition have opposed the election of General Musharraf as President from the present assemblies noting that he was notified as elected by the Election Commission following a vote of confidence in 2003. The matter is likely to go to the Supreme Court and the removal of the Chief Justice in such circumstances gives rise to many concerns.

In the eyes of many observers the suspension of the Chief Justice therefore has much more to do than what has been alleged, he said.

"Many would be forced to conclude that the removal of the CJ is motivated by political considerations with the goal to manipulate the judiciary”.

The Party is concerned that in nominating the next Chief Justice the principle of seniority has been violated. “While the PPP respects all judges by virtue of them being honourable members of the bench it sees as unlawful the supercession of the senior most judge Mr. Justice Bhagwan Das in making the nomination of the Chief Justice. Although Justice Das is expected to retire shortly, nonetheless under the law, he should have been nominated the acting Chief Justice until the Supreme Judicial Council made its decision. He could then have been followed by Justice Javed Iqbal who is next senior most.

"The supersession of the senior most judge from elevation as Chief Justice is against the constitutional provision of independence of judiciary and the judgments of the Supreme court itself on the subject”.

"The PPP will support the Bar Associations who have already announced that they will protest the attempt to intimidate the judiciary".

PPP condemns arrest warrants of Mohtarma and Senator Asif Zardari Says NAB is protecting mega corruption but chasing political opponents


Islamabad, March 9, 2007: Pakistan Peoples Party denounces the arrest warrant of Mohtarma Bhutto and Senator Asif Ali Zardari as an abuse of the judicial process by Musharraf regime.

According to media reports the district and sessions judge Islamabad Wednesday issued non-bailable warrants and asked the government to arrest Mohtarma Bhutto and Asif Zardari in the case of alleged mis-declaration of assets before the Chief Election Commissioner in 1993.

In a statement today Senator Babar Awan said that Mohtarma Bhutto and Senator Asif Ali Zardari declared their assets before the Returning Officers Larkana and Nawab Shah respectively in 1993 and no objection was raised by anyone at that time.

“If Mohtarma Bhutto has mis-declared assets before the CEC as is alleged then it is for the Chief Election Commissioner to give notice to her and seek her comments and not for NAB.”

He said that the case was not only time barred but it was also beyond the territorial jurisdiction of the court moved by the NAB. The politically motivated NAB was pursuing it for political propaganda and to harass the PPP leadership, he said.

He said that NAB was ignoring cases of mega corruption but chasing Mohtarma Bhutto because she had refused to submit to the dictatorial demands of the regime.

Senator Babar Awan asked the NAB to tell the people what action it had taken in the corruption involved in the privatisation of the Steel Mills, the sugar price scandal, the corruption in the fixation of oil prices, the Tawana Pakistan project and the purchase of defective Chinese locomotives as ‘honest mistake made in good faith’.

The regime is bent upon political re-engineering and to force Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto and PPP to give up the fight against dictatorship, he said adding, “it will not succeed in forcing the PPP to give up the democratic fight”.

Dr. Shazia Khalid praises Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto and PPP for safeguarding women’s rights


Islamabad, 8 March 2007: “I want to express my gratitude to Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto Sahiba, as I know being a woman she fully understands the problems faced by women in Pakistan. I wish her success in her mission. Aamin!” This was said by Dr. Shazia Khalid in recorded message to the Seminar held by Pakistan Peoples Party on world women’s day in Islamabad yesterday.

Dr. Shazia Khalid was a victim of rape in Balochistan where she was posted as doctor and fell prey to her attackers during the military operation in Sui and adjoining area.

In her message talking about lack of justice in Pakistan, Dr. Shazia said, “What kind of justice is this that everything of this person, who has been assaulted, should be destroyed and she be forced to leave the country to avert any political crisis? And in the end, she is to be told to place her case in God's hand for justice. If that is how it is meant to work, then the country's courts should be locked away” and prayed “May Allah protect the honour of all mothers, sisters and daughters.

She further said, “When justice is not done in national and international high profiled cases, what is the fate of the regular cases? What about those cases which have not been reported? When one out of these thousands stands up and make a strong call for justice then some people think this maligns the reputation of the country. Is making a hue and cry for justice giving a bad name or maligning the country? The country does not get a bad name from people crying for justice. It gets a bad name from non - availability of justice from those people who believe that rule of law and law courts are merely a joke. When on top of it, Pakistan's mothers and daughters are maligned internationally it is said that "Rape cases are money making concerns"? This way, not only the women and country gets a bad reputation, it also encourages the aggressors. As a result, these kinds of cases go up everyday. When you do not realize the real value of the women's honour and respect, then where is justice and protection? “

Reposing confidence on Pakistan People Party and its Chairperson Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto, Dr. Shazia Khalid said, “I request the Pakistan People Party and Bibi Sahiba that if Allah gives you people the opportunity to govern Pakistan, the priority task you should take up, should be the establishment of rule of law, and justice in the country to solve the women's problems.”

PPP questions another IT fiasco of current regime


Islamabad, 7 March 2007: "PPP fully supports the email users who are running out of patience and Internet Service Providers (ISPs) who continue to lose business due to the inefficiency of Pakistan Telecommunications Authority (PTA) and PTCL" said Tariq Malik, Advisor IT (Information Technology) of the Party in a statement today.


The PPP advisor criticised the Ministry of IT&T for its silence on the issue.

The Internet-users have been facing problems intermittently in accessing vital web-based email servers, business and information portals. PTCL blocked access to thousands of vital websites and email servers on February 28 in order to comply with the Supreme Court order of filtering certain websites containing blasphemous content "at all costs" .

It is interesting that neither Ministry of IT&T nor PTA or PTCL did any risk or impact analysis before embarking on over-simplistic approach of blindly en masse blocking the Internet Protocol addressees, he said.

"They could have used some content filtering software to avoid this embarrassing situation and financial loss to ISPs" said Tariq Malik.

He asked why the PTCL could not rollback or unblock the Internet Protocols (IPs) at its gateway exchange after it realized that it made a huge mistake? Almost a week has past and the users are continuing to suffer. The whole system had collapsed and owing to the routing and blocking flaws resulted in sporadic and random outage of the key websites

The Party’s IT advisor recalled that Pakistan's Internet and other telecom links with the rest of the world were severed in 2006 on account of a fault in a key submarine. And because of no backup at all, Pakistan was cut off with rest of the world as only internet link (through the SEA-ME-WE3 submarine cable) went down. This incident had shaken the will of foreign IT investors who before this incident were considering investment in Pakistan IT sector.

Just a fraction of cost associated to only Indian call centres to be outsourced to Pakistan amounted roughly $20 million as the companies withdrew the offer in the wake of internet blackout. "It seems no lessons were learnt from the previous disaster. This is yet another example of mismanagement of the current administration. ".

He said that Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto's government would never have tolerated such inefficiency and distress to the IT users. He said that under the dynamic and modern leadership of Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto, the PPP would provide the base for the youth of the country to prosper and for the economy to go strong.

He also demanded an immediate inquiry of the incident.

It may be recalled that the PPP government under Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto launched the IT revolution in Pakistan by obtaining optic fibre cables, digital phone exchanges, computer teaching schools and software parks. It provided internet services from Khyber to Karachi. However, after the dismissal of the PPP government, the software sector was neglected and Bangalore in India took off.

Mohtarma Bhutto’s Message on International Women Day

 

Islamabad March 7, 2007: Former Prime Minister and Chairperson of the Pakistan Peoples party Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto has issued the following message on the international women day falling on Thursday March 8, 2007.

On the occasion of the International Women Day being observed today I wish to congratulate the women of the world in general and of Pakistan in particular.

As the first woman ever elected to head an Islamic nation, I feel a special responsibility regarding issues that relate to women.

The Pakistan Peoples Party considers promotion of women’s rights as a religious, moral and political obligation.

Women the world over have been subjected to varying degrees of discrimination, exploitation and violence. This situation must change; it will.

The discrimination against and backwardness of women has nothing to do either with the religion or cultural values. It is simply the result of prejudice.

In the West, the women's liberation movement began in the 20th century. But in the Islamic world, the women's rights movement is as old as Islam itself although, unfortunately, one would not know this when looking at the degeneration of values over the years.

On this day let us all resolve to fight against these prejudices against women.

I am confident that we will win the fight. The celebrations today mark a realization that women everywhere are waking up.

The fact that four Muslim countries (Pakistan, Bangla Desh, Turkey and
Indonesia) have had female heads of government gives assurance that the problems of women in Islamic societies can be seriously addressed.

Let me on this day also recall that as Prime Minister my government was able to set a trend in gender equality and protection of women from violence. That trend is now irreversible.

We identified laws discriminatory to women adopted by male prejudice and began to review them. We also undertook a comprehensive social action programme largely for the benefit of women in the rural areas.

Had the PPP continued in Government, there would have been women in the Supreme Court of Pakistan. Unfortunately, the senior most woman judge that should have been taken into the Supreme Court was not which in our view was a clear sign of gender discrimination under the present regime. “Despite obstacles we were able to make great achievements such as:

1. After twenty years CEDAW (UN’s Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women) was signed in August 1995, ratified in March 1996 and accepted by the Legal Affairs Office of the United Nations, in April 1996.

2. A Commission of Inquiry for Women, headed by a Supreme Court judge was constituted to recommend the removal of disparities and discrimination in the existing laws against women the report of which has since been made public.

3. 5 to 10 % quota in the public and private sectors was reserved for women and family courts were set up.

4. Two bills were placed on the floor of the House for the restoration of women seats in the National and Provincial Assemblies but the outcome was not positive because the Party lacked two-thirds majority.

5. Lifted the ban on Pakistani women taking part in International Sporting events and established a separate Women Sports Board.

6. The First Women Bank was set up for women to extend credit facilities and loans exclusively to women.

7. Women Police Stations were set up and more women were brought in the law enforcing agencies.

8. A Human Rights Division was set up to focus on the violation of Human Rights primarily of women and to redress their grievances.

9. When our stand on the Hudood Ordinances 1979, which were patently discriminatory against women forced the present regime to adopt the Women Protection Bill recently the PPP supported the Bill despite being in the opposition. We supported this half measure for the sake of women as the first critical step towards complete repeal of the Hudood Ordinances.

The increase in rape incidents in the last few years is outrageous. On this day the PPP reiterates and wishes to send a powerful message that crimes against women would not be tolerated.

On this day also I appeal to all the political parties to join hands beyond partisan politics to extricate women from the agony and shame of discriminatory laws.

"By mobilising the collective power of women, we can make our world more tolerant, harmonious and secure. We share a common destiny. Let us work for it together”.

PPP is not voting for Musharraf as President


Islamabad March 6, 2007: The Pakistan Peoples Party has ruled out voting for General Musharaf as President of Pakistan from the present Assemblies as claimed by Minister of Railways Shaikh Rashid.

In a statement today Raja Pervez Ashraf MNA and deputy leader of the Parliamentary Party in the National Assembly said that the Party would oppose the re-election of General Musharaf from the present Assemblies, as it would be unconstitutional and illegal.

He said that Shaikh Rashid had a past association with hard-line members of the security establishment and fronted a government farm at Tarnol to train militants. This group of some retired military officials who had fought the Afghan Jihad had never forgiven the PPP for opposing their godfather General Zia and was responsible for the overthrow of the PPP government. They had brought to power all the cronies of the Zia era including his son and the son of the ISI General who ran the Afghan Jihad. They had also patted Shaikh Rashid on the head and had been indirectly running the country through the ruling PML Q. Now the PML Q and its backers were frightened of the forthcoming elections and were busy spreading disinformation as part of a psychological war against the people of Pakistan.

Raja Pervez Ashraf said that the PPP had faith in the people of Pakistan who were politically mature and were not going to fall for the disinformation campaign of the present rulers.

The PPP leader said so frightened were the rulers of the people of Pakistan and the power of the people through the ballot that they were even thinking of postponing the elections. However, the people would not permit this.

The ruling Party, the PPP leader said, has already conceded defeat in the next general elections by admitting that it could not elect General Musharaf as President from the next Assembly. Therefore they have begged General Musharaf to contest from the present Assemblies so that they can exploit the name of the army for their partisan political purposes, he said.

The PPP leader said that General Musharaf was elected in December 2004 through a vote of confidence and could not be re-elected through the present Assemblies and that the Party would oppose Musharaf's re-election from the present Assemblies.

The PPP leader also asked Shaikh Rashid to return the government property at Tarnol which he had illegally occupied.

PPP to commemorate International Women's Day in Islamabad


Islamabad, March 05, 2007: To commemorate the International Women's Day, the Pakistan Peoples Party is planning to host a seminar on March 7, 2007 in Islamabad at 3. 30 pm.

Chaired by Makhdoom Amin Fahim, the participants include prominent names in the area of human rights and gender justice. A special message from the PPP Chairperson Benazir Bhutto will be read out at the seminar. Former Chairperson of National Commission on the Status of Women Majida Rizvi, Chairperson HRCP Asma Jehangir, Director Aurat Foundation Naeem Mirza, MNA Sherry Rehman and MNA Aitzaz Ahsan, will be speaking at the seminar. Mukhtaran Mai and Dr Shazia Khalid will mark their virtual presence through an audiovisual address.

"This seminar is a reflection of the Peoples Party's long-standing and absolute commitment to the cause of women's emancipation. For us, women's rights are the same as human rights. The Chairperson of the PPP has also sent a special message for Women's Day, which she does every year, reflecting her commitment to giving women every opportunity possible , and to bring genuine change in the public and domestic lives of women in Pakistan. The PPP was the first party to wage a grassroots struggle against all the black laws that General Ziaul Haq imposed on Pakistan's women and minorities, and it continues to be the only party that has sustained its commitment to women's issues by supporting any law that has the potential to give women relief. The Women's Protection Bill that this regime takes credit for came about four years in response to PPP's more comprehensive legislative intiatives, and could only be carried in parliament because unlike the treasury benches the PPP voted en bloc as per traditional party policy on the issue. The PPP is proud of the historic role its workers and chairperson have played in the struggle for women's rights and the restoration of democracy, as the two are inextricably linked" said Sherry Rehman, the Central Information Secretary of the Pakistan Peoples Party.

All those wanting to attend can phone Mr Sohail Dilshad at 051-2652876 or call Peoples Secretariat, Pakistan Peoples Party.

PPP rejoinder to MQM


Islamabad March 5, 2007: Asking the MQM to put its own house in order before criticizing the PPP Raja Pervez Ashraf MNA and secretary general of the PPP Parliamentarian has asked the MQM leadership to answer the following questions.

"Would the MQM leadership tell the people why are they keeping a governor in the governor house who was also taking dole from UK govt while being governor?

"Would the MQM leadership tell the workers the story of the lottery having been exposed by their own dears and nears?

"Why the MQM leadership has thrown its own erstwhile workers the Haqiqis in jail?

"Is it not correct that the MQM supported the 17th amendment that also includes anti labour laws?

"Is it not a fact that the MQM leaders threatened to resign from the Assemblies if the assailants of Dr Shazia Khalid were not arrested but when the regime refused to arrest the culprits the MQM refused to resign?

"Is it not a fact that the MQM threatened to resign from the government in protest against the Balochistan operation but are still clinging to ministries despite the fact that the operation continues?

"Why the MQM leader resigned last year from the government but withdraw the same in no time? What were the demands made by MQM and accepted by the government?

"What message would the MQM leadership like to give to those mothers who have lost their sons?

"Would the MQM leadership explain the circumstances under which its governor was caught with bags of dollars?

"Would the MQM leadership tell the public as to what is their source of income to maintain a secretariat house in London?

"Would the MQM leaders explain the secret of abusing the govt one day and praising it the next day?

"What is the justification for MQM to propose postponement of the election? Is it service to nation to be a party in sabotaging the constitution of Pakistan?

"Who is sitting with General Musharraf under uniform at present "

Raja Pervez Ashraf said that MQM should learn to do politics of ethics and honesty. He said that the PPP has always played the politics for mass and not for power and it is a proof that we are sitting in opposition and MQM with all the insults from the leadership of PML Q is still sticking to the ministries.

PPP is answerable to the people of Pakistan and not the friends of the dictator, he said. PPP believes in the rights of the people and not in deals like the MQM.

Ministers' contradictory statements on so-called deal exposed


Islamabad, 5 March 2007: Pakistan Peoples Party has said that the Cabinet ministers were giving contradictory statements on whether there is a deal with the PPP. They cannot make up their minds whether it is politically advantageous for them to say there has been an understanding with the PPP or to say that there has not been an understanding with the PPP.

In a statement today Ms Naheed Khan MNA said that for the record there is no agreement reached between the PPP and the regime. However, every now and then the regime tries to give the impression of an understanding with a view to divide the Opposition before the forthcoming elections. Then the regime finds the ground slipping under its feet as its members rush to have secret meetings with the PPP leadership to switch sides. To counter the collapse of their own party, which exists on the basis of the differences between the establishment and the PPP on the future direction of Pakistan as a democracy or a dictatorship, the Cabinet ministers try to save their officially created Party by denying their own disinformation of an understanding, she said.

With the APC meeting scheduled for March and the major parties busy in preparing the resolution of mutual consensus, the regime is frightened and is trying to put the best face forward, she said.

Although PPP and PML N both mutually decided under the compromise formula that Mohtarma Bhutto would not attend, the regime is trying to give its own spin on it.

The PPP has already stated that Mohtarma Bhutto, amongst other reasons, was unwilling to sit with the members of the military regime. The MMA is a part of the regime in Balochistan where it is in coalition government with PML Q.

However, the Federal Minister for Railways Sheikh Rashid Ahmed, who used to train Jihadists at government property in Tarnol has tried to mislead the people by insinuating falsely that Mohtarma is not personally attending the APC in London due to "negotiations". She asked Shaikh Rashid to return that land to the Government.

The PPP said that it was not for Shaikh Rashid to decide who would be the next Prime Minister of Pakistan. It was for the people of Pakistan to decide who would lead them. Moreover, Mohtarma Bhutto was struggling for the rights of the people including providing them jobs, electricity, education, roads, drinking water, health facilities and better opportunities to lead a life of respect and dignity. She was not struggling for power. However, it is another matter if the people of Pakistan wish their sister to be the Prime Minister of the country. In that event no amount of amendments by dictators would be an obstacle in her path.

Naheed Khan also ridiculed Shaikh Rashid's claim for building an expressway over Nallah Lai in Rawalpindi. She said that funds for Nallah Lai had already been sanctioned in the PPP government one decade back but the project had been cancelled when the PPP government was overthrown

PPP delegation to attend APC as compromise formula


Islamabad, 4 March 2007: A PPP spokesperson, commenting on the statement of Qazi Hussain Ahmed and Mr. Imran Khan requesting the PPP Chairperson to attend the All Parties Conference thanked them for their advice.

In a statement today the spokesperson said that however under a compromise formula worked out between the parties of the two former Premiers, Mohtarma Bhutto would not be personally attending the conference. Instead she would nominate a PPP delegation to attend the APC from the platform of ARD and hosted by PML N.

Both the PPP and the PML N are working on a draft resolution of mutual consensus to make the APC happen. However, due to the PPP policy of, amongst other reasons, not sharing a platform with the members of the present regime, the Chairperson would not be attending the APC although as a concession to the PML N, which announced the APC without first obtaining the consent of the PPP, the PPP has decided to send a delegation, he said.

An open letter to Kasuri
Letter written by B. Raman


An open letter to Kasuri
Dear Mr Kasuri

I read with interest the following agency report, dated February 22, 2007, on some observations made by you regarding the need for co-operation between the intelligence agencies of India and Pakistan: 'Intelligence agencies of India and Pakistan will have to work together if South Asia is to live in a civilised manner,' Pakistan said on Thursday, emphasising that such a cooperation is possible if governments push it.

Pakistan Foreign Minister Khurshid Mehmood Kasuri, while talking to some TV channels in New Delhi, hoped India will share the outcome of the probe into the Samjhauta Express blast before the March 6 meeting of the Joint Anti-Terror Mechanism so that 'meaningful contribution' can be made to the fight against terror. Asked whether the intelligence agencies of the two countries could work together, he said, 'They will have to if South Asia is to live in a civilised manner.' He added that if both the governments 'put their weight behind' such an endeavour, it will work.' 'After all, both countries have suffered. It's your territory but majority of them are from Pakistan,' Kasuri said, and asked, 'Why shouldn't it work?'

Apparently, you are not aware that an exercise towards regular intelligence co-operation between Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence and India's Research and Analysis Wing was initiated when Gen Zia-ul-Haq was the President of Pakistan and Rajiv Gandhi was the Prime Minister of India. This exercise, which started well with promising results, ended in a flop due to an act of perfidy by Lt Gen Hamid Gul, who was the Director-General of the ISI in the late 1980s, not only towards R&AW, but also towards Mrs Benazir Bhutto, the duly elected Prime Minister of Pakistan between 1988 and 1990.

These are the facts of the case: In the 1980s, the Khalistani terrorist movement was at its height. The ISI was training and arming the terrorists. It had given shelter to terrorists of the Dal Khalsa, who had hijacked Indian planes to Lahore. Whenever the Government of India raised this issue with the Government of Pakistan, the latter denied the presence of any training camps or of the hijackers in Pakistani territory. In June 1985, Rajiv Gandhi went to the US on a state visit at the invitation of President Ronald Reagan. The Federal Bureau of Investigation discovered a plot by Lal Singh alias Manjit Singh of the International Sikh Youth Federation to assassinate Rajiv Gandhi during his stay in the US. Before they could arrest him, Lal Singh, who was a permanent resident of Canada, escaped to Lahore and was given shelter there by the ISI.

In the same month, June 1985, the Babbar Khalsa of Canada, headed by Talwinder Singh Parmar, planted an improvised explosive device in the luggage hold of Kanishka, an Air India aircraft, before it left Toronto for India. The IED exploded off the Irish coast. All the passengers and crew of the plane perished. Parmar, after having organised this, fled to Lahore and was given shelter there by the ISI. Lal Singh and Parmar lived in Lahore as the guests of the ISI from 1985 to 1992. Every year, Sikh jathas from India visit Lahore to worship at the Nankana Sahib. Many members of the jathas used to report to the Indian intelligence agencies on their return that Lal Singh and Parmar used to meet them and appeal to them to support the Khalistan movement. Whenever the Government of India took up with the Government of Pakistan the question of arresting and handing over the Dal Khalsa hijackers, Lal Singh and Parmar, the stock reply from the Pakistani Foreign Office was that they were not in Pakistani territory. Requests made by India through the Interpol also did not produce any results.

The then Crown Prince Hassan of Jordan was a good personal friend of Rajiv Gandhi and Zia. Hassan's wife was of Pakistani origin, and he had known Zia from the days when Zia, as a middle level officer, was posted in Amman as the commanding officer of a Pakistani army unit based there. He contacted Zia and Rajiv Gandhi separately and suggested that the chiefs of the ISI and R&AW should meet secretly and discuss these issues away from the glare of publicity instead of levelling open allegations against each other. He offered to arrange the first meeting at Amman. His offer was accepted and he arranged a meeting at Amman between Lt Gen Hamid Gul and A K Verma, who was the head of R&AW. He introduced the two to each other and then disappeared from the scene. The two had two meetings -- the first at Amman and the second at Geneva. The atmosphere in the two meetings was positive. The agenda included not only the question of stopping the ISI's support to the Khalistani terrorists and handing over the terrorists given shelter in Pakistan, but also ways of solving the Siachen issue.

While there was progress in the discussions on the Siachen issue because the Pakistan Army was keen to have the Indian Army withdrawn from there, on the terrorism issue Lt Gen Gul took up the standard position that the Sikh terrorists wanted by India were not in Pakistani territory. However, through a carefully worked-out operation, he enabled the Indian authorities to get the custody of four Sikh soldiers of the Indian army who had deserted while they were posted in Jammu and Kashmir and sought sanctuary in Pakistan. He wanted the operation organised in such a manner that it would not appear that the ISI had handed over these deserters to R&AW. R&AW agreed to this and kept its word of honour to Lt Gen Gul that it would not tell the media about it.

When this exercise for a dialogue between the ISI and R&AW started, Zia-ul-Haq was in power. He was killed in a plane crash in August 1988. Following the elections to the Pakistan National Assembly held a few weeks later, Benazir Bhutto took over as the Prime Minister after she accepted three conditions imposed by the Pakistan Army: First, Gen Mirza Aslam Beg would continue as the Chief of the Army Staff; second, Lt Gen Gul would continue as the ISI chief; and third, Pakistan's nuclear establishment headed by Dr A Q Khan would work directly under Gen Beg. It would not report to Benazir. Crown Prince Hassan as well as Lt Gen Gul kept her informed of the exercise for a dialogue with R&AW. She agreed that it should continue.

Some months after Benazir took over, Lt Gen Gul, without consulting her, organised a raid on Najibullah's Afghan Army post at Jalalabad with the help of Afghan Mujahideen, Osama bin Laden's Arab followers and Pakistani ex-servicemen. The raiding party managed to surround the Jalalabad post for some days. Everybody thought they would ultimately capture Jalalabad and that would be the beginning of the end of the rule of Najibullah. It did not happen that way. Najibullah's Army post managed to repulse the raiders, inflicting heavy casualties.

Benazir took advantage of this fiasco, which was the creation of Lt Gen Gul, to have him replaced as the Chief of the ISI by Maj Gen Shamshur Rehman Kallue, a retired officer, who was close to her father and had been very loyal to the Bhutto family. After taking over, Kallue abolished the political division of the ISI, then headed by Brig Imtiaz. It was responsible for keeping a watch on Pakistani political leaders and civilian bureaucrats and also for assisting the Khalistan movement. On the advice of Lt Gen Gul, Nawaz Sharif, who was then the chief minister of Punjab, took Imtiaz into the Special Branch of the Punjab police to continue the ISI's operation for assisting the Khalistani movement. Lt Gen. Gul had a message sent to all Khalistani leaders that in future they should contact Imtiaz in the Punjab Special Branch for any assistance and not Kallue.

Lt Gen Gul also leaked to Nawaz Sharif and some members of the media the information about the handing over of four Sikh deserters to India. He did not admit that he did it. He alleged that Benazir, who was in close touch with Rajiv Gandhi, did it despite his strong opposition. There was a big campaign mounted by the Pakistan Muslim League, then headed by Nawaz Sharif, against her on this issue. Lt Gen Gul also told her detractors that Kallue, on her orders, had handed over to R&AW some files of the ISI on the Khalistani leaders. Benazir Bhutto was accused of being an R&AW agent and of betraying the Khalistan movement. Embarrassed by these allegations, Benazir asked Kallue for the files relating to Lt Gen Gul's meetings with Verma. After checking, he reported to her that there were no papers on the subject in the ISI headquarters.

Benazir's close friendship with Rajiv Gandhi, her alleged links with R&AW and her alleged betrayal of the Khalistan movement were some of the secret charges used by Ghulam Ishaq Khan, the then President, to dismiss her in August 1990, at the instance of Gen Beg and Lt Gen Gul.

Towards the end of 1990, Chandra Shekhar took over as the Prime Minister of India, with the support of the Congress, after V P Singh lost a vote of confidence in the Lok Sabha. He took Vidya Charan Shukla, formerly of the Congress, as his foreign minister. Through an intermediary, Rajiv Gandhi had a message conveyed to Chandra Shekhar about the meetings between Hamid Gul and Verma held at the initiative of Crown Prince Hassan and the progress made on the Siachen issue. Rajiv Gandhi suggested to Chandra Shekhar that this dialogue should be revived. Chandra Shekhar agreed and took up the matter with Nawaz Sharif, who had in the meanwhile taken over as the newly-elected Prime Minister of Pakistan. After some weeks, Nawaz Sharif replied through a diplomat of the Pakistani High Commission in New Delhi that there were no papers on this subject in the ISI and on being contacted, Lt Gen Gul totally denied having met Verma and discussed any issue with him. We were totally surprised by Gul's denial. R&AW prepared a summary of the discussions at the two meetings at Amman and Geneva and sent it to Nawaz Sharif through the Pakistani High Commission in New Delhi. He was also told that if he had any doubts in view of Gul's denial, he could check with Hassan, who had organised the dialogue.

Nawaz Sharif agreed to the resumption of the dialogue and a third meeting was held in Singapore between Lt Gen Assad Durrani, the then chief of the ISI, and G S Bajpai, the then chief of R&AW. Nothing came out of it. Durrani kept levelling allegations of R&AW's interference in Sindh. It was a dialogue of the deaf. There ended the hopes of co-operation.

An analysis was made in the R&AW as to why Gul denied his talks with Verma. Our conclusion was that since he and Beg had got Benazir dismissed on the charge that she had colluded with R&AW and betrayed the Khalistan movement, if he admitted that it was he who had the four Sikhs handed over to R&AW, that could make the dismissal of Benazir Bhutto in August 1990 mala fide in retrospect. Nawaz Sharif, who was a beneficiary of the dismissal, did not want to go deep into this either.

During the investigation into the Mumbai blasts of March 1993, the Indian intelligence collected conclusive evidence regarding the involvement of the ISI in the explosions. This evidence was given wide publicity and also brought to the notice of the American and Chinese intelligence officials by the R&AW as suggested by P V Narasimha Rao, the then prime minister. The CIA and the Chinese external intelligence, independently of each other and without each knowing of the offer made by the other, offered to organise a dialogue between R&AW and the ISI so that the heads of the two organisations could discuss the matter away from the glare of publicity.

Narasimha Rao rejected both these offers. He said: 'R&AW has been having a relationship with the CIA for 25 years. It has not been able to get its co-operation in counter-terrorism. Before suggesting to us counter-terrorism co-operation with Pakistan, let the US first co-operate sincerely with us in counter-terrorism. We know how Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto deceived Indira Gandhi at Shimla. He made an oral promise to work for the conversion of the Line of Control into the international border. After getting his soldiers back, he totally denied making any such promise to her. Now Hamid Gul is even denying meeting and discussing Siachen with Verma. It will be a dangerous illusion to think anything will come out of co-operation between the ISI and the R&AW. Let us not commit the same mistake again and again.' Narasimha Rao said no formal reply need be sent to the US and China on their offer. 'Let them guess from our silence that we are not in favour of it.'

You would now understand, I hope, why there is not much enthusiasm in India to the idea of a Joint Mechanism for Counter-Terrorism Co-operation. They say once bitten, twice shy. India has been bitten thrice -- after the Shimla talks between Indira Gandhi and Z A Bhutto; after the meetings between Verma and Hamid Gul; and after the meeting between A B Vajpayee and Nawaz Sharif at Lahore in February 1999.

Mr. Foreign Minister, Pakistan has handed over so many terrorism suspects to the US and other countries. Forget about terrorists. Can you recall even a single instance where Pakistan has handed over even a cattle-lifter to India? Whenever India has asked Pakistan to hand over a terrorist or other criminal, Pakistan's response has been that India has not been able to produce convincing evidence against him. And whenever India has asked Pakistan to hand over a non-Muslim terrorist, Pakistan's response has been: 'Yes, we agree you have good evidence against him, but your information that he is in our territory is wrong.' The handing-over of the Sikh army deserters is the only instance of such action by Pakistan that I can recall. I cannot understand even today why Gul did it. Was he planning to use them to collect military intelligence from India?

All Pakistan has to do to demonstrate its sincerity is to hand over some of the terrorists from India living in Pakistani territory before the first meeting of the Joint Counter-Terrorism Mechanism. It will have a big impact in India and many sceptics will start supporting the mechanism.

With warm regards

Yours sincerely,

B Raman
Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Government of India

PPP writes to HRC, UN about Maulvi Sarwar


Islamabad, 2 March 2007: Pakistan Peoples Party has urged the United Nations to support the PPP demand that a high level judicial inquiry to investigate whether Ghulam Sarwar, who murdered a provincial minister who has also admitted to have attempted the murder of former Prime Minister Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto was connected to Al-Qaeda.

The Central Coordinator, Human Rights Desk, PPP, Fauzia Wahab MNA, in a letter addressed to the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Ms Louise Arbour, wrote, "Sarwar said he murdered minister Zille Human and attempted to murder Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto because, "women are not meant to subjugate men". Earlier a murder attempt was made on former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto's sister in law, Dr Azra Zardari, who is also a member of Parliament. Two other Parliamentarians Ms. Sherry Rahman and Ms Naheed Khan were also assaulted and fired upon respectively. The PPP believes the series of violent acts against women are meant to intimidate women from taking part in political life. It questions the failure of the military regime to arrest the bodyguards responsible for the murder attempt on Dr Azra. The refusal of the regime
to arrest the accused amounts to extending political support for further attacks on opponents. Your support is sought to ensure that the rule of law is maintained in Pakistan and the culprits are arrested."

Regarding General Musharraf's support for the alleged culprits, she wrote, "According to press reports, General Musharaf visited with provincial minister, Altaf Unar, whose bodyguards made the murder attempt on Dr Azra. The PPP said a meeting between Musharaf and Unar, and the failure of the regime to arrest Unar and his bodyguards would open Musharaf to charges of obstructing the path of justice as under the law those accused of the murder attempt on Dr Azra must be arrested, tried and punished."

Fauzia Wahab also apprised the Commissioner of the regime's decision to investigate killer Sarwar by the Intelligence Bureau (IB) which is headed by a retired ISI officer Brig Ejaz Shah. The PPP notes that Omar Shaikh, the man who conspired to kill the Wall Street Journal reporter Danny Pearl, had hidden in the house of Brig Ejaz Shah who was his close friend for five days. The PPP recalled that in last month's bomb attack in Peshawar, according to press reports, the man who planted the bomb claimed to belong to the IB. Killer Sarwar attempts to block the election of Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto through an assassination attempt during the election campaign of 1993 during a rally at Wazirabad was similar to the attempt made by Ramzi Yusuf during that election campaign. Khalid Shaikh, the CEO of Al Qaeda, had provided Ramzi Yusuf the weapons. Ramzi Yusuf was sentenced in New York for attacking the World Trade Towers in the nineties whereas where as Khalid Shaikh was arrested on charges of killing Danny Pearl.

"We hope you will consider giving moral support to the arrest of those accused of murder as well as a judicial inquiry into the background and connections of self confessed murderer Sarwar", Fauzia Wahab concluded.

Musharraf reaching out to Bhutto: Report


New York, Mar 05: Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf is reaching out to former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto despite the fact that he blames the exiled politician for the country's economic and political woes, a media report today said.

Musharraf is in desperate need for moderate allies to help him shore up his pro-western government in the face of rising extremist attacks, the Newsweek magazine said quoting western diplomats.

Ironically, they might make a perfect match, they said adding personal issues aside, both politicians share a liberal, secular outlook.

A Musharraf-Bhutto alliance could increase political stability and energise Pakistan's moderates prior to elections later this year, it added.

"Musharraf would likely hold onto the presidency, adding some democratic credentials, and Bhutto would be allowed to return home and perhaps even play a hand in selecting the new Prime Minister," it said.

Benazir to visit US this month


NEW YORK: former Prime Minister and chairperson PPP, Benazir Bhutto would embark on her visit to the United States in the mid of this month, sources said.

The sources said that she would remain in America for about two weeks and her visit is perceived as crucial for her political career. Benazir Bhutto is scheduled to address ceremonies held in connection with Pakistan Day. She would strive to reunite the scattered annoyed activists of the PPP and revive the party during her stay in New York and Washington.

The sources said the Benazir Bhutto would inform the party workers about her stance of not attending the Multi-Party Conference convened by PML-N leader Mian Muhammad Nawaz Sharif. They said the PPP leader would be requested through a resolution to attend the MPC to prove her sympathies with the masses and reject rumours of deal with the government.

She would address a mammoth gathering in little Pakistan, Brookline, on March 18.

PPP writes to IG Punjab regarding killer Maulvi Sarwar


Islamabad, 1 March 2007: Pakistan Peoples Party has asked the Punjab police to hold thorough, prompt and vigilant investigation of the murder case of Mrs. Zille Huma, the deceased provincial minister and of the confession of the killer Maulvi Sarwar of "planning a murder" of the national leader of international fame, Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto.

The Finance Secretary PPP and Legal Adviser to Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto, Senator Dr Babar Awan in a letter addressed to Inspector General Police, Punjab asked him that what is the result of investigation so far conducted after the confession of Maulvi Sarwar. He also asked the Inspector General Police, Punjab to ensure that the investigation of the accused must include the following questions so that the whole plot of this case is unearthed.

(i) Who others were involved in the plan, claimed by Maulvi Sarwar, as abettors, conspirators or co-accused and facilitators?

(ii) Where did he buy the arms to execute his plan or who supplied him the arms for murder plan?

(iii) Where was he trained for use of arms and by whom?

(iv) What kind of arms/weapons were in his possession when he tried to kill Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto?

(v) Who facilitated him to reach at the site of the Jalsa where Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto was making a public address?

(vi) Which persons and how many in numbers were involved in making the plan as well as bringing him to Wazirabad?

(vii) Who supported and boarded him during the entire mischief mongering?

"I on behalf of Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto require you in writing to keep me informed of the progress of investigation, step taken to dig out the entire truth and to provide me the copies of the relevant record prepared so far for further action and record", Dr Babar Awan concluded.

EDITORIAL IN LA TIMES
Keep pressuring Musharraf
Pakistan receives a lot of U.S. aid to fight terrorism. But are we getting our money's worth?


March 1, 2007: SINCE 9/11, THE United States has been trapped in an increasingly loveless marriage with Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf. Like many a miserable mate, the Bush administration has been known to rue the failings of its partner in private. Yet it has always defended Musharraf in public, arguing that whatever his shortcomings, the alternative is far worse.

Such forbearance may be changing. For the first time, the Bush administration this week let Islamabad know, through Vice President Dick Cheney, that it is unhappy with Pakistan's performance in fighting the resurgent Taliban. And it hinted that if things don't improve, the White House might not be able to keep the Democratic-controlled Congress from cutting U.S. aid to Pakistan.

This burst of candor is long overdue — and so is an overhaul of U.S. policy toward Pakistan. Musharraf, who ousted an elected government in a 1999 coup, has received between $8 billion and $10 billion in direct U.S. aid since 9/11 (and perhaps almost as much in covert aid) yet shows no signs of winning the war against Islamic extremism or of advancing democracy in Pakistan. On the contrary, his hold on power exists in part because of his unholy alliance with Islamist legislators.

President Bush and Congress have been willing to ignore these problems so long as Pakistan was seen as an indispensable ally in the struggle against Al Qaeda and the Taliban, was rolling up the Abdul Qadeer Khan black-market nuclear operation and appeared to be improving relations with India. But Islamabad's failed peace deal in North Waziristan, an escalation in cross-border attacks into Afghanistan and reports of Taliban bases in the tribal areas on Pakistani territory have made that bargain less satisfying. Congress is considering placing conditions on aid.

Meanwhile, the Pakistanis are having their own doubts about the marriage. They believe that the U.S. is just using them in the war on terror and will dump them as soon as they're no longer needed. And they say they are being blamed for NATO's failure to curb the Taliban inside Afghanistan — a weakness highlighted by the suicide bombing Tuesday outside Bagram air base during Cheney's visit.

The U.S. has a profound interest in the welfare of this strategic Muslim state with nuclear weapons. But what is the purpose of sending $80 million a month in "coalition support" to a Pakistani military that is not willing to fight in the tribal areas? Some conditions need to be imposed on U.S. aid, and some of the aid needs to be redirected to education, development and the building of democracy, including political parties, so that popular alternatives to Musharraf can one day emerge.

Supporters of the status quo say pressuring the politically fragile Musharraf risks his fall and the rise to power of a radical Islamic regime with nuclear weapons. This is unlikely. The Islamists have never gotten more than 11% of the vote, and fared badly in the last (albeit rigged) municipal elections. But the U.S. could increase the likelihood of Islamist success if it continues to allow Musharraf to repress the moderate opposition while making deals with the Islamists.

The U.S. may well be destined for a long marriage of convenience with Pakistan. But its spouse need not necessarily be named Musharraf.

Mohtarma Bhutto condemns dismissal of ADB employees Demands their reinstatement


Islamabad, March 1, 2007: Former Prime Minister and Chairperson of the Pakistan Peoples Party, Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto has condemned the sacking of nearly two thousand employees of Agricultural Development Bank (ADB) and demanded their immediate reinstatement.

Nearly two thousand low paid employees of the Bank have received dismissal notices without offering any reason.

“The decision of the military regime to sack low paid employees is most unfortunate, insensitive and anti-poor and is condemned by the PPP ” said the former Prime Minister in a statement today.

She said that PPP considered it most callous treatment of the employees economically when the poor and jobless were committing economic suicides.

Mohtama Bhutto said that the PPP is with the dismissed employees of Agricultural Development Bank and would strive to reinstate them in their jobs.

She said that the economic and employment policies of the regime are anti poor and anti low paid employees and aimed to concentrate wealth and financial power in the hands of a few of the cronies.

The policies of the regime have crushed the middle and working classes of Pakistan, she said.

On the one hand the regime had failed to check inflation and price hike and creating new job opportunities and on the other it was sacking low paid employees to make room for its cronies and serving and retired person of the military.

She said that the Party would raise this issue in the national Parliament and would also hold all the anti people elements accountable for committing crime against people.

Musharraf’s Larkana visit a big flop


Islamabad, March 1, 2007: Opposition Leader in the Sindh Assembly Nisar Khuro has said that the Larkana visit of General Musharaf was a total flop as the people of Larkana boycotted and the audience comprised of captive government servants and unwilling people herded from other areas at state expense.

Eight thousand policemen from seventeen district of the province were deployed in Larkana as the venue of jalsa was handed over to the military. Government servants and people from other areas were brought to the jalsa in impounded vehicles as citizens of the city kept away from it, he said.

Nisar Khuro said that as in the case of the previous tin pot dictator General Zia’s visit to Larkana the visit by the present dictator was also undertaken because he was haunted by the Bhutto ghost.

None of these tin pot dictators can win a union council seat from an ordinary PPP worker in a free election, he said.

Nisar Khuro said that in elections of 1977, General Zia chose Pir Pagara to contest against Quaid e Awam in Larkana. But the fear of Quaid e Awam sweeping the elections forced the dictator to postpone the elections for a decade.

When fair elections were finally held in 1988, Pir Pagara, was defeated in his own home constituency of Khairpur by an ordinary PPP worker. Since then he has never contested elections, he said.

The dictator’s visit to Larkana under bayonets and guns and his address to a captive audience only betrayed the fear in his mind of the most popular leadership of the country, he said.

Nisar Khuro also sympathised with government servants and other people who were herded to the jalsa and subjected to humiliating treatment by security agencies only to put up the façade of a symbolic move by the dictator. He also sympathised with transporters whose transport was impounded by the administration for the jalsa.

PPP writes to IG Punjab regarding killer Maulvi Sarwar


Islamabad, 1 March 2007: Pakistan Peoples Party has asked the Punjab police to hold thorough, prompt and vigilant investigation of the murder case of Mrs. Zille Huma, the deceased provincial minister and of the confession of the killer Maulvi Sarwar of “planning a murder” of the national leader of international fame, Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto.

The Finance Secretary PPP and Legal Adviser to Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto, Senator Dr Babar Awan in a letter addressed to Inspector General Police, Punjab asked him that what is the result of investigation so far conducted after the confession of Maulvi Sarwar. He also asked the Inspector General Police, Punjab to ensure that the investigation of the accused must include the following questions so that the whole plot of this case is unearthed.

(i) Who others were involved in the plan, claimed by Maulvi Sarwar, as abettors, conspirators or co-accused and facilitators?

(ii) Where did he buy the arms to execute his plan or who supplied him the arms for murder plan?

(iii) Where was he trained for use of arms and by whom?

(iv) What kind of arms/weapons were in his possession when he tried to kill Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto?

(v) Who facilitated him to reach at the site of the Jalsa where Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto was making a public address?

(vi) Which persons and how many in numbers were involved in making the plan as well as bringing him to Wazirabad?

(vii) Who supported and boarded him during the entire mischief mongering?

“I on behalf of Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto require you in writing to keep me informed of the progress of investigation, step taken to dig out the entire truth and to provide me the copies of the relevant record prepared so far for further action and record”, Dr Babar Awan concluded.

‘Musharraf has failed to gain popularity’

 
LAHORE: President Gen Pervez Musharraf has failed to gain popularity among the masses, and he will meet the same fate as all dictators before him, said Alliance for the Restoration of Democracy Information Deputy Secretary Munir Ahmad Khan in comments on Mushrraf’s visit to Larkana.

According to a statement on Thursday, Khan said that Musharraf’s visit to Larkana, Benazir Bhutto’s hometown, showed that he was suffering from “Bhutto-phobia” in the manner of General Ziaul Haq.

He said that all previous dictators had travelled to Larkana in efforts to make their presence felt in the city, but “none of these dictators can even win a union council seat from an ordinary Pakistan Peoples’ Party worker in free and fair elections.”

Previous Bhutto Murder Attempts Linked to New Violence in Pakistan; Al Qaeda Ties are Seen, Inquiry is Demanded


ISLAMABAD, Pakistan, March 1, 2007: The Pakistan Peoples Party is demanding a judicial inquiry into possible Al Qaeda ties to a man accused of murdering a female provincial minister earlier this month and who claims he tried to kill former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto when she was in office.

The accused man, Ghulam Sarwar, is being held in the slaying of Dr. Zilla Huma, a social welfare minister in Punjab and member of the ruling Pakistan Muslim League (Q) allied with the regime of General Pervez Musharraf.

In a statement, Ms. Bhutto said the tragic slaying of Dr. Huma showed the failure of the regime to control extremism and crime even within its own ranks.

Senator Rukhzana Zuberi, speaking for the Pakistan Peoples Party of which Ms. Bhutto is chairwoman, outlined a tangle of murder and violence dating to Ms. Bhutto's role as prime minister in 1993 when Sarwar now claims to have made an attempt on her life similar to one known to have been made against Ms. Bhutto the same year by Ramzi Yusuf. Yusuf was convicted in 1997 of bombing the World Trade Center in 1993.

The accused Sarwar has claimed he attempted to kill Ms. Bhutto because "women are not meant to subjugate men."

Senator Zuberi called on Pakistani authorities to investigate whether Sarwar has ties to Al Qaeda. One of Al Qaeda's top operatives, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the uncle of Ramzi Yusuf, has been linked to the killing in 2002 of Wall Street Journal correspondent Daniel Pearl and also to the attacks on the U.S. of September 11, 2001. Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was captured in Pakistan in 2002 and was sent to Guantanamo Bay.

Senator Zuberi said the Pakistan Peoples Party opposes the government's decision to turn the Ghulam Sarwar case over to Pakistan's Intelligence Bureau rather than Punjab police. The Intelligence Bureau, she said, is politically motivated and headed by a retired military intelligence officer, Brigadier Ejaz Shah. She pointed out that one of the conspirators in the murder of Daniel Pearl was a friend of Brigadier Ejaz Shah and hid in his house for five days before being arrested.

The slaying of Dr. Huma, the Punjab minister, followed a series of attacks on women leaders of the Pakistan Peoples Party, including machine-gun fire against a bullet-proof automobile carrying Dr. Azra Fazal, sister-in-law of Ms. Bhutto. Dr. Azra Fazal escaped the attack, but other women leaders have been injured and hospitalized in related incidents.

Bodyguards of a provincial minister in Sindh, Altaf Unar, are charged with attempting to kill Dr. Azra Fazal, and the Pakistan Peoples Party has blamed Unar for the attack. Meanwhile, General Musharraf is reported to be visiting Unar, an action that Senator Zuberi said should open Musharraf to a charge of obstructing justice because of the regime's failure to arrest the attackers.

Senator Zuberi said the series of violent attacks against women political leaders in Pakistan is "meant to intimidate women from taking part in political life."

Musharraf pitches hard for democracy


Islamabad, March 1, 2007: President Pervez Musharraf has said despite being an armyman he has established "genuine democracy" in Pakistan while the civilian leaders have only "plundered" the country.

"All they did was fill their pockets (with ill-gotten money) and enrich themselves. And if you want continuity, vote for pro-government people.

They will, in turn, vote for me," he said while addressing a public meeting in Larkna in Pakistan's Sindh province on Wednesday.

"Storming" the citadel of former Prime Minister ZA Bhutto and his daughter Benazir in Larkna, Musharraf said despite being an Army General, he has established "genuine democracy" in Pakistan while the civilian leaders have only "plundered" the country.

The visit came as his back-channel talks with Bhutto for a political rapprochement failed to make a headway after she reportedly insisted that she be allowed to return from self-exile without fear of arrest in connection with corruption case and take part in elections likely at the end of this year, the Dawn daily said on Thursday.

Musharraf's visit to Larkana was seen as an attempt to upstage the legacy of ZA Bhutto, whom he attacked in his controversial memoirs In the Line of Fire.

According to Larkana Member of National Assembly, Mohammad Anwar Bhutto, unwilling crowds were bused to a similar meetings addressed by previous military ruler Zia-ul- Haq, who had hanged Bhutto.

The same crowd has been bused to Larkana to take part in Musharraf's meeting too, he said.

Mohtarma Bhutto condemns gang rape of Hindu women

Condemns growing lawlessness in Sindh; demands arrest of culprits


Islamabad March 1, 2007: Former Prime Minister and Chairperson of the Pakistan Peoples Party Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto has condemned the gang rape of Hindu women in village Ghulam Ali Khawar in Larkana tehsil and demanded arrest of the culprits and punishment to them according to the law.

The gang rape of Hindu women has brought into focus once again the miseries heaped on the minorities and will only bring a bad name to the country the world over, Mohtarma Bhutto said in a statement today.

On Sunday eight armed people attacked the residence of a Hindu family in village Ghulam Ali Khawar in Larkana Tehsil, held the family at gunpoint, gang raped three women and decamped with loot. Earlier during this month Nasimah Labano in Ghotki was gang raped by criminals followed by another gang rape of another woman Nasima Girgej in the same locality.

“The lawlessness and anarchy marked by gang rapes, dacoities, murder and robberies in Sindh is growing every day as the regime has abdicated its responsibility due to obsession with getting General Musharraf re-elected from the same assemblies”.

Mohtarma Bhutto said that it seemed that the regime had hired the criminals and dacoits to carry out its victimization campaign against the people to strike a terror in their hearts during election year.

She said that gangs of dacoits were roaming free in the province, street crimes had increased manifold and the life and property of citizens was not safe. “The worst thing is that no action is taken even when the victims summon courage to lodge complaints and even identify the extortionists and criminals to the police”.

She demanded the arrest of the culprits who vandalised the members of the Hindu minority community as well as Nasimah Labano and Nasimah Girgej. She said the Party will raise the issue of deteriorating law and situation in the province and the indifference of the regime at all available forums.

It may be mentioned that ever since General Musharraf publicly exonerated the rapist of Dr Shazia Khalid and accused Pakistani women of getting themselves raped for dollars and visas the incidents of rape and violence against a women had increased.


Women Leaders Are Target of Violent Attacks in Pakistan


ISLAMABAD, Pakistan, March 1, 2007: Women political opponents of ruling General Pervez Musharraf are increasingly targets of murderous government-directed "goons" in a wave of violence similar to that in Chile during the Pinochet regime, the Pakistan Peoples Party has charged. The party's allegations came following a series of attacks against women opposition members of the Pakistani Parliament and local councils.

Four attacks took place this past week against women leaders. The Pakistan Peoples Party's charges against bodyguards of a provincial minister accused them of attempting to assassinate Dr. Azra Fazal, who escaped harm although her bullet-proof vehicle was damaged in the attack. Dr. Azra Fazal is the sister-in-law of Benazir Bhutto, former Prime Minister of Pakistan and chairwoman of the Pakistan Peoples Party.

In other incidents, Parliament member Naheed Khan was fired upon, member Sherry Rahman was attacked with a blunt instrument, and councilor Dr. Shahida Rahmani was hospitalized after being manhandled by supporters of the Muhajir Qaumi Movement (MQM), coalition partner of the Pakistani government.

Other Pakistan Peoples Party leaders were physically assaulted during local elections when government supporters grabbed ballot boxes to stuff them with votes.

The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, in a report issued February 12 on a Karachi by-election, expressed concern that "if the pattern of events witnessed in this by-election gets repeated in the coming general election, the country's transition to democratic dispensation cannot be safely assumed."

One week before the recent by-elections, six Pakistan Peoples Party workers were shot dead in the northern district of Attock. Senator Ruhkzana Zuberi, speaking for her party, said: "By failing to act against those who violate the law to intimidate the opposition, the regime is giving political support to goon squads and murder cells patronized by members of the government. We call upon the international community, which is giving financial assistance to the military regime, to protest attacks on political opponents and especially women leaders."

Senator Zuberi said failure of the Pakistan Election Commission to prevent widespread ballot-stuffing strengthens those who say "change can only come through force." The Election Commission has acknowledged receiving 64 major complaints from Pakistan Peoples Party candidates, but failed to halt announcement of by-election results, she said.


Words of Shaheed

Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto

There was a great Prime Minister, the first Prime Minister, the father of the present Prime Minister of India, who said, "We were too old, we were too tired to oppose Pakistan, and Pakistan had to come into being. But we hope that one day we will get together gain." I too hope so, not that Pakistan will emerge as subservient to India but in the sense that we will get together again as equal friends, in a common fraternity, living in a common subcontinent and sharing the common effort of seeing that poverty, ignorance and misery are wiped out. If there are any two countries in world that are the poorest in the world, they are Pakistan and India. Our resources might be tremendous, but the fact is that we two are the poorest in the world. Yet in the last 24 years, we have gone to war three times. Three times there has been conflict in the subcontinent. I remember that Prime Minister of the Soviet Union once telling me that even rich nations try to avoide war; poorer nations should make a greater attempt to avoid war.

Speech at the Security Council, New York

December 12, 1971

 



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