Category Archives: Justice

Weapons and information

By Zubeida Mustafa

IT is exactly 12 weeks to the day when Perween Rahman, director of the Orangi Pilot Project (OPP) Research and Training Institute, was gunned down in Orangi when she was returning home from work.

Two months later, another activist of the OPP who ran a school, Abdul Wahid Khan, was killed outside his home. A few days later on May 18, Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaaf leader Zahra Shahid Husain was assassinated by armed men.

These were not the only people who were victims of target killing in Karachi. Approximately 259 other people met a violent death in the city in the same period. We mourn them all. Above all, we mourn our own helplessness to save these precious lives.

Zohra Yusuf, the chairperson of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, was spot on when she once commented that in Karachi a person championing a human rights cause, who dies a natural death, is indeed lucky. Continue reading Weapons and information

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Trying presidents

By Rifaat Hamid Ghani

ONE could well say Pakistan’s democracy suffers from a president problem. Ghulam Ishaq was adept at dismissing Parliaments. Farooq Leghari, popularly doubted for the party status he enjoyed till assuming office, let down the party, if not the public. Tarrar, unofficially renowned for carrying a briefcase, drifted through the crosscurrents of a countercoup without a hiccup. Presidents Musharraf and Zardari though are in a class by themselves; and who would you send to the top of the class? If one posed a conceptual challenge as a COAS president, the other posed a more empirical one as an active party promoter and controller.

And now, perhaps the thorniest nettle the incoming premier, Mian Nawaz Sharif, will have to grasp: Should the government he is to lead press treason charges on the former President Musharraf? Continue reading Trying presidents

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2008-2013 Democratic Annals

by Rifaat Hamid Ghani

The government and the Parliament of 2008 completed a full term: a democratic first. But it could be more because interventionists have matured than because politicians demonstrated a reassuring capacity to learn on the job.

If we step outside the trite paradigm of democracy and dictatorship and the polarities of the civil and military public political interest, we might not see any polarities: Both want power and there is a competition for it. For most Pakistanis Pakistan is home, not a cow to be milked dry. They need and want their country. The touchstone for legitimacy then becomes pragmatic for them: How is the power of government being used?

guest-contributorIf asked about the 2008-onwards use of democratically mandated power there would be more than carping complaints about law and order and safety in daily life. The common perception is the state itself is increasingly endangered by the vice and folly of the politically empowered. In 2013 despite democratic freedom a question is suppressed: Is it a myth, which local democratic experience exposes each time, that democracy is invariably the better formula? As soon as there was no self-perpetuating incentive in maintaining or reaching a consensus, political rivals needed arbitration on the caretaker PM. When mainstream parties so evidently mistrust each other’s motives and nominees they also need unusually skilled spin masters to tell the electorate why it may place faith in their candidatures and avowals. Continue reading 2008-2013 Democratic Annals

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Death penalty should end

By Zubeida Mustafa

LAST Thursday Pakistan reported its first execution in four years. Muhammad Hussain was hanged in Mianwali jail thus ending the tacit moratorium the government has observed since 2008 when Gen (retd) Musharraf’s rule ended.

The convict was a soldier of the Pakistan Army who was accused of killing his senior — a havaldar — with whom he was embroiled in a personal dispute. This came as a shock to human rights activists who have been campaigning against capital punishment. This execution took many aback because only a fortnight ago the president’s spokesman Farhatullah Babar had disclosed that the government was working on a bill to abolish capital punishment before the elections. The bill will convert the death penalty into life imprisonment. Continue reading Death penalty should end

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Enigma of voters’ list

By Zubeida Mustafa

PRIME Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf has said that fair and free elections offer the only way out of the present constitutional crisis. He is right, but only if the elections are truly fair and free.

Given the state of the recently released electoral rolls it is difficult to believe that the exercise will be flawless. No one doubts the integrity of Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) Fakhruddin Ebrahim, who has an impeccable reputation. But how much can he do? The mantle of the CEC has fallen on his shoulders so late in the day. I.A. Rehman of the HRCP had a point when he reminded us that authentic electoral rolls are basic to adult franchise. The numbers game is baffling and political parties are disinterested. Continue reading Enigma of voters’ list

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Looking ahead: Making headway

By Zubeida Mustafa

As the curtain falls on the year 2011, one wonders what promise 2012 holds in store for the women of Pakistan. The fact is that most of the tangible progress that has come in empowering women has been in the shape of laws that have been adopted. The induction of a large number of female legislators in the Assemblies and the presence of an active National Commission on the Status of Women have helped them coordinate their efforts to bring about change. But in a country where governance structures are weak and the implementation of laws is weaker still, legislation may not be enough to transform the situation on the ground. Continue reading Looking ahead: Making headway

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The task before Justice Chaudhry

By Zubeida Mustafa
Source: Dawn

WHAT prompted the government`s change of heart at the eleventh hour that led to the announcement about the reinstatement of Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry?

Whatever other factors may have been at play, we also know that America, Britain and the Pakistan Army were active behind the scenes.
Continue reading The task before Justice Chaudhry

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Where have they vanished?

By Zubeida Mustafa
Source: Dawn

MANY would remember Argentina’s ‘dirty war’ in the late seventies when thousands of people who challenged the government’s ideology ‘disappeared’ without a trace. Augusto Pinochet’s Chile set a similar record when dissidents were picked up by security forces never to be heard of again.

Is Pakistan following suit? According to the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP), nearly 600 people are reported to have disappeared in the last two years, of which 170 cases have been verified.

This phenomenon started in the wake of 9/11 when Pakistan was deemed to be the breeding ground for terror and was under pressure to catch “terrorists” and “earn bounties totaling millions of dollars” as admitted by President Musharraf. What was initially a carefully planned operation under the law of the land has grown into a no-holds-barred adventure in which the police, the intelligence bodies and the military agencies pick up people on the slightest suspicion without observing the legal processes. It is difficult to imagine the agony it causes the family of the disappeared. They have no idea if the missing person is dead or alive, and if alive, in what condition.
Continue reading Where have they vanished?

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We can do without the death rows

By Zubeida Mustafa
Source: Dawn

TWO high-profile executions — one in India and the other in Pakistan — were stayed last week. Had they been carried out, both would have created ripples beyond international borders. One was the hanging scheduled for October 20 of a Kashmiri man in India, Mohammad Afzal Guru, who had been convicted for his role in the storming of the parliament house in New Delhi in 2001.

The other case was that of Mirza Tahir Hussain, a British national, accused of murdering a taxi driver 18 years ago in Chakwal. These hangings have not been set aside. They have only been postponed — the first indefinitely and the second until December 31. In the coming weeks human rights lobbies can be expected to mount pressure on the governments in New Delhi and Islamabad to commute the sentences.

Guru’s case has deep implications for India’s politics and foreign policy. It is highly political — the 2001 event brought India and Pakistan to the brink of war and the opposition party, the BJP, is baying for blood. Yet objective opinion believes that Guru’s conviction was flawed. As his mercy petition awaits a decision by the president of India, his lawyers have said they will approach the Supreme Court in an attempt to get the conviction overturned.
Continue reading We can do without the death rows

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