How CJ was shown Pro-terrorists

The Bush administration and the world was deliberately and systematically presented a mutilated and distorted image of the deposed Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammed Chaudhry, according to well planned strategy of the Presidency so that Washington may not raise serious objections when the Nov 3 coup against the judges was carried out. The main objective of this strategy was to convince the US that Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry was soft on terrorists and could create serious problems by asking for the production and release of all missing persons, most of whom were handed over by Pakistan to US.

Top government officials holding key positions in the previous government have revealed in separate interviews that the Presidency had reached the conclusion that it had no option but to take extra constitutional steps to remove the apex court judges, which was impossible without taking the US into confidence. According to the officials, the government had decided to take advantage of the missing persons’ case which was being heard by the apex court then.

A key plank of the strategy was to produce some of the missing persons but not provide any evidence to the court so that the judges had no legal ground to keep them under detention. “The court was being forced to release these missing persons which would then be presented as a proof of Justice Chaudhry’s sympathy for terrorists,” one official said.

The chief justice and some lawyers had smelled a rat. The chief justice thought it may be a good idea to accept a request for a meeting pending with him from the US Ambassador Anne Patterson and explain the situation. But he used the official procedure and asked the Pakistan Foreign Office to give clearance for the meeting as is required under the rules. But according to the government strategy, this meeting could be damaging, so the Foreign Office did not give permission to the CJ to see the US ambassador. Accordingly, the CJ declined the meeting with Ambassador Patterson.

But the denial was presented by the Pakistani officials as part of Justice Chaudhry’s anti-American tilt, an official said. “Refusing a meeting with the US ambassador easily conveyed the wrong message to the US government that the sitting judiciary was adopting a hard line on the war on terror,” the official added.

The chief justice had received the Saudi Ambassador in Islamabad on December 8, 2007, but when a US diplomat was then asked whether Ambassador Patterson also wanted to see him, the diplomat was quoted as saying no. Explaining his answer, the US diplomat had said that Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry had turned down the request for a meeting with the US ambassador twice after his re-instatement on July 20 and before imposition of emergency on November 3. “Now, we don’t feel any need to request for an appointment with Justice Iftikhar as he may also refuse,” the senior US diplomat had told ‘The News’.

Deposed Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry on knowing the US embassy concerns had informed two lawyers in contact with him about the actual situation. Justice Iftikhar told them that it was not he, but the Foreign Office, which had instructed him not to meet the US ambassador.

“It is mandatory for any top official of the judiciary to inform the Foreign Office before meeting such a high profile diplomatic official, and especially in the situation the country was passing through. On our intimation to the Foreign Office, we immediately received a message that we could not meet with the US ambassador and subsequently there was no option other than regretting the US ambassador’s request,” Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry said in his message. The same situation was also conveyed to the US ambassador, credible sources told ‘The News’.

A senior government official said that when the Supreme Court started hearing of missing persons case after restoration of the chief justice on July 20 last, the attorney general and other government officials repeatedly promised the court to provide credible evidence about the alleged involvement of these “traced” missing persons, but never did so.

According to reports, in the post July 20 scenario, cases of only three traced missing persons were decided and subsequently they were released, in the petitions filed by the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan and former senator and Pakistan People’s Party’s spokesman Farhatullah Babur. These were Naeem Noor Khan, Aleem Nasir and Hafiz Abdul Basit.

According to these reports, Naeem Noor Khan, a computer expert and resident of Karachi, was released by the agencies holding him on the grounds that he cooperated with them, and because of his help the agencies managed to arrest Musaad Aruchi, who was alleged to be a senior member of the al-Qaeda leadership.

With the information provided by Naeem and his help the UK police arrested a terror gang of 13 people. The Supreme Court was informed on August 20 last that Naeem Noor Khan was released and had reached his home. “The court was never provided with the details of the crimes in which Naeem was involved, otherwise no judge could order release of a person even allegedly involved in such heinous crimes,” a member of the bench hearing the case told a senior lawyer.

These facts are also evident from the Supreme Court record as well as from the media reports published in all leading national dailies in the month of August 2007.

Aleem Nasir, a German national, was arrested by the ISI from Lahore Airport on July 18, 2007, while on his way to Germany on charges of smuggling precious stones and was missing from the same day. He was never even charged by the government of being involved in some terrorist activity, according to a senior former official of the Supreme Court. “The government did not come up with any proof against Aleem, and he had to be released by the apex court on August 21, 2007,” the official added.

The most important case was that of Hafiz Abdul Basit, who was allegedly involved in a terrorist attack on General Musharraf, according to the official. “Basit was arrested from Faisalabad by police and was subsequently handed over to the Military Intelligence (MI) on Pindi Bhatian Interchange of Lahore-Islamabad Motorway on the instructions of the then Additional Inspector General of Police Tariq Pervez, who was DG-FIA at the time of hearing, as court was informed by the police officials themselves.

The attorney general was quoted by all the newspapers of Pakistan on August 21 and 22, telling the apex court that proof of his involvement in heinous crimes will be provided to the court. This was never done.

When Attorney General Malik Qayyum was approached by this scribe last week and asked why the Supreme Court was never provided with authentic proof of involvement of Basit, Aleem and others, his response was: “This is an old case, and I don’t remember anything about it.”

Another important case heard along with these three persons was that of Imran Munir, a Malaysian Pakistani. According to one official this case seriously damaged the credibility of the whole process of detaining civilians by secret agencies on terrorism charges.

“Imran was in love with the niece of Brigadier Mansoor of ISI. He was invited to dinner by Brigadier Mansoor and went missing from that day,” Imran Munir’s attorney, Mujeeb Pirzada, told the Supreme Court on Aug 20, 2007, after Imran was traced in Mangla Cantt. Imran’s sister provided evidence that her brother loved the niece of Brigadier Mansoor of ISI. This, she did outside the Supreme Court building the same day.

“This was the first incident which told the world that some of the missing persons in the custody of intelligence agencies of Pakistan were not just terrorists but also lovers. It was the worst case which demolished the credibility of intelligence agencies,” the former Supreme Court official said.

He added: “The most interesting point was that government officials never came up with any allegation of involvement of Imran in any terrorist activity but shockingly, he was sentenced to eight years imprisonment by a military court, Field General Court Martial (FGCM), on spying charges. Loving a niece was equal to spying for a military court, it proved.

This conviction had been set aside, and his retrial was ordered by another military court, the SC official said. But this higher military court did not order Imran’s release because of the serious nature of allegations levelled against him.

According to the former senior official of the SC, the SC bench hearing these cases comprised deposed Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, Justice Faqir Muhammad Khokhar, Justice M Javed Buttar, Justice Nasirul Mulk and Justice Raja Fayyaz Ahmed.

“The bench was of the view that all the missing persons should be produced before the court and should be prosecuted and kept in jail in accordance with the Constitution,” the official said, adding: “The bench never made even any observation indicating that it wanted the release of those persons involved in terrorist activities.”

The official also repeated that the allegations regarding supporting terrorism leveled by the General Pervez Musharraf at the time of imposition of emergency on Nov 3 against the apex judiciary was about the Lal Masjid case.

The official said that it was worth mentioning that Justice Faqir Muhammad Khokhar and Justice Muhammad Nawaz Abbasi, who first took suo moto action and then heard the case, were both invited for taking oath under PCO on Nov 03 last.

Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry himself had told The News on Nov 04 last that if any alleged terrorist was released by the Supreme Court, it was not the judges’ fault but the government never provided any evidence justifying the arrest. He had then said: “I have never been lenient towards the terrorists, but it was not possible for the judges of the Supreme Court to start punishing people without any evidence against them.”

He had also revealed that out of his serious concern over terrorism, he set up a committee under him that included judges from each provincial high court to expedite terrorism cases. Every month, he had said, the said committee used to meet and review the cases of terrorism to ensure that there were no delays.”

The official said that all the drama of presenting some innocent people as alleged terrorists and criminals was the part of a conspiracy against the country’s judiciary just to deceive the outside world that our judges were supporting terrorism and were hard liners.

By: Muhammad Ahmad Noorani, Islamabad
Published in The News, Monday, March 24, 2008

Pakistan Day

On this day 68 years back, Muslims of India passed an historic resolution at, the then, Minto Park Lahore, situated near Badshai Mosque built during the period when Mughals ruled India, and where Minar-e-Pakistan stands now.

This Resolution resulted in creation of a new Muslim country, Pakistan, on the face of this globe at 11:57 PM on 14th August, 1947.

Today we celebrate the 68th anniversary of this Resolution.


Why the Brick ?

A young and successful executive was traveling down a neighborhood street, going a bit too fast in his new Jaguar.. He was watching for kids darting out from between parked cars and slowed down when he thought he saw something. As his car passed, no children appeared. Instead, a brick smashed into the Jag’s side door! He slammed on the brakes and backed the Jag back to the spot where the brick had been thrown.

The angry driver then jumped out of the car, grabbed the nearest kid and pushed him up
against a parked car shouting, “What was that all about and who are you? Just what the heck are you doing? That’s a new car and that brick you threw is going to cost a lot of money. Why did you do it?” The young boy was apologetic. “Please, mister…please, I’m sorry but I didn’t know what else to do,” He pleaded. “I threw the brick because no one else would stop…” With tears dripping down his face and off his chin, the youth pointed to a spot just around a parked car. “It’s my brother, “he said “He rolled off the curb and fell out of his wheelchair and I can’t lift him up.”

Now sobbing, the boy asked the stunned executive, “Would you please help me get him back into his wheelchair? He’s hurt and he’s too heavy for me..”

Moved beyond words, the driver tried to swallow the rapidly swelling lump in his throat. He hurriedly lifted the handicapped boy back into the wheelchair, then took out a linen handkerchief and dabbed at the fresh scrapes and cuts. A quick look told him everything was going to be okay. “Thank you and may God bless you,” the grateful child told the stranger. Too shook up for words, the man simply watched the boy! push his wheelchair-bound brother down the sidewalk toward their home.

It was a long, slow walk back to the Jaguar. The damage was very noticeable, but the driver never bothered to repair the dented side door. He kept the dent there to remind him of this message: “Don’t go through life so fast that someone has to throw a brick at you to get your attention!” God whispers in our souls and speaks to our hearts. Sometimes when we don’t have time to listen, He has to throw a brick at us. It’s our choice to listen or not.

Go Musharraf Go

A genuinely concerned voice on the other end of the line asked “so, is there really democracy in Pakistan now?” It was Marianne Murfett, a dear friend from law school, now a senior associate at a top London law firm. I was stumped. Now how do I answer that? I scrambled for words and gave her a less than satisfactory answer, barely summarizing a deceptively complex reply to this seemingly straightforward question.

If I wasn’t worried about running up her phone bill, this is what I would tell Marianne about the new democracy in Pakistan:

We, the people of Pakistan feel strangely empowered. This unfamiliar feeling comes from the simple act of dropping our votes in ballot boxes and then watching leaders with a genuine mandate form government. Something that you probably take for granted in your country.

But my dear Marianne, how can I tell you that there is real democracy in my country when a dictator, who declared himself our president through illegal, immoral and unconstitutional measures, continues to rule over us.

Let me give you a brief round up of our self-styled president’s deeds: When General Musharraf feared that the courts might hold him ineligible to become president, he declared martial law, held our constitution in abeyance and ousted the senior most cadre of our judiciary. He mauled our constitution in order to give himself outrageous powers. And when judges protested against the illegality of such acts he house-arrested them and their families and held them as prisoners of conscience (yes, including young school-going children who have not been allowed to attend school, visit the doctor, or even step into their own courtyard for some fresh air!). He unlawfully arrested some of our most respected and senior lawyers who were not only held in prisons meant for the most hardened criminals but were also beaten and physically manhandled. Lest people made too much noise over all this, he then muzzled the media and banned certain private channels till they were ready to behave and play by his rules!

Here is a man who has perversely violated fundamental human rights. He has put the principles of democracy through the shredder and has shown utter disregard for the rule of law and supremacy of the constitution. I ask you, how can we ever expect real democracy to flourish under his dark shadow? How can the most potent symbol of anti-democratic beliefs and practices contribute to strengthening democratic institutions?

This is not all. The problem does not end with General (r) Musharraf. It extends to those forces which he represents and who have enabled him to retain control and rule by force. These forces are, (a) the internal conspirators– our corrupt and morally parched ‘establishment’ which has sold its soul to the devil and, (b) the American administration which cares not a tad that my country, its men, women and children are suffering as collateral damage to their ‘war on terror’.

The quid pro quo is simple: he does their work and fights their war on our soil. On America’s call, he turns our army on our own people and then watches civilians face retribution in the form of suicide bombings ripping through the heart of our cities. And in return he is duly awarded with the reins of our country and doles of ‘aid’ to fatten our military. These forces are where the real power vests. Their individual as well as collective agenda can only succeed at the expense of Pakistan’s national interest–and hence, Pakistan is suffering.

In a genuine democracy each institution of the state, be it parliament, the executive or the judiciary, function as per their role envisaged by constitution. These institutions are the driving engines of the state and help it remain afloat. One pillar of the state should not be beaten into submission by another. They are meant to respect each other’s role and at all times submit themselves to the ultimate word of law.

But the warrior instinct of the ex-general knows no submission. To retreat is to accept defeat and the only way forward in any combat is to destroy all that stands in his way. So the general marched on ravaging every piece of law that stood in his way to powerdom. With a stroke of his pen, he unilaterally validated his self-admittedly illegal acts and further awarded himself with perverse powers. The skewed distribution of power amongst our state organs sneers at the very concept of democracy. How democratic our new democracy will be shall depend hugely on the next government’s ability to correct these imbalances of power and allow our state institutions to function independently, without fear or favour.

However, subtle warnings against any measures to undermine the ex-general’s authority are surfacing even before the new parliament has been sworn in. As if the support of the establishment and the US were not enough to intimidate his opponents, Mr Musharraf has now taken to openly brandishing his relations with the army. In Davos earlier this year Mr Musharraf said: “His (General Kayani’s) loyalty is personal to me”. In Jacobabad on the March 7, he said: “There is a rumour that now there is a distance between the president and the army. These rumours are baseless and fabricated.

Is Mr Musharraf not increasingly sounding like the school bully? Weak from within, vulnerable as an individual, but belligerent on the strength of another. I ask you, in which democracy do you have the purported president trying to intimidate the judiciary, parliament and civil society by flaunting the support of the army. Is this not a travesty of democracy?

Just take the issue of the restoration of judges. In the historic Murree Declaration Nawaz Sharif and Asif Zardari have promised that the deposed judiciary will be restored within 30 days of them forming government. Super! It’s good to see our leaders speaking our mind. However, Musharraf remains adamant that his decision to remove the judges was a ‘constitutional act’ (funny man!) and cannot be challenged in the parliament. There are reports of immense pressure from the GHQ and its patron embassy in Islamabad for the two leaders to roll back all plans to rehabilitate the judiciary-consequences be damned.

I ask you, how can there be real democracy under a so-called president who loathes the independence of judiciary and serves his foreign masters better than his own people? How can there ever be real democracy without a free and independent judiciary?

But my dear Marianne, we have not lost hope. With the lawyer’s movement, the awakening of our civil society and the role of the media, dictatorship has been dealt a blow and real democracy now stands a true chance. The common man or ‘civil society’ deserves a special mention here for fearlessly standing behind the media and the legal fraternity in their fight against oppression.

Armed with banners, placards and an awe inspiring spirit they raise slogans which leave no room for ambiguity: “Restore the judiciary” “Go Musharraf Go” (did Musharraf not say that he would leave if the people no longer wanted him?) Ordinary men and women, girls and boys, and even children from all walks of life are seen taking the frontline at demonstrations and protests. They are mercilessly beaten with batons and are bombarded with teargas shells. But this only fuels their spirits and reinforces the demand that Musharraf must go.

Mr Musharraf warns us that ‘a war between the presidency and the newly elected parliament could be catastrophic’. The man still does not realize that it is he who is at war, not only with parliament and the judiciary but also the people of Pakistan.

By: Alizeh Haider, a barrister and human rights activist currently based in the UAE.