Thursday, 12 June 2008

LT Gen Jamshed Gulzar Kyani - KIss & Tell Stories

TV Anchorman is a good listener (F Post 06 June 08)

While watching Dr Shahid Masood on Geo TV with Lt Gen (r) Kyani, one realises how good a listener Dr SM is. He was completely spellbound by the General who was given a golden opportunity to narrate one-sided tales.

So many of the retired Generals are suddenly becoming pious and patriotic democrats that I feel tempted to quote a Persian couplet:

Dar jawani tauba kardan shewa-e-paighambri
Waqt-e-peeri gurg-e-zalim me shawad parhaizgaar

در جوانی توبہ کردن شیوہِ پیغمبری
وقتِ پیری گرگِ ظالم می شوَد پرہیزگار

Simply translated, it means: To be pious in one’s youth is the style of prophets. In the old age, even a cruel wolf gives up his cruelty.

Khalid A
London UK

Tuesday, 25 December 2007

Political and Judicial Adventurism

Political and Judicial Adventurism

By Khalid A. London, UK
People are crying for independence of the judiciary. While their sentiments are laudable, I feel, there are deeper issues that need a detached and dispassionate perception of the present political and judicial chaos. When the journalistic fog has lifted and political dust settled and when the nation comes out of daze, the verdict of the historian may be different from today's headlines.
In 1975, the Allahabad High Court in India ruled that Indira Gandhi's election was invalid because she had used a Government jeep and loudspeaker etc during her electioneering. In 2007, President Musharraf tried to remove CJP Iftikhar Chaudry because he had used Government transport and other facilities in an unauthorized way.
In both the above cases, the law was perhaps correctly applied. But in both the cases the application of law clashed with the concept of natural justice. Natural justice demands that if there is widespread violation of certain laws in a society, one cannot select one or two individuals and award extreme punishments to them for violation of those laws. In such cases, a warning would be more appropriate.
In both the above cases, executive and judicial adventurism led to political anarchy and emergency rule, in India as well as Pakistan.
There are profound lessons to be learnt from the two episodes. I am a great supporter of independence of judiciary. But judicial adventurism is a danger to the judiciary itself. The world was watching with awe and trepidation when the Supreme Court of Pakistan was deciding cases by the dozens in summary trials. Now the same is true of the Executive when the ordinances are being promulgated by the dozens. Both arms of the state can be blamed for becoming loose canons.
The Executive's actions had no moral basis at all but the judges also lost moral high ground when they decided to go for a knock out rather than a victory on points. They forgot that a victory on points was still a victory. That would have left them alive to fight another battle, another day. And they would have fought the next battle from a stronger position on the political battlefield.
While trying for a knockout, was there some hitting below the belt? One wonders how, for example, the judges could rule that an undertaking by Nawaz Sharif was not legally binding because it was signed by only one party. Does the law not recognize an IOU signed by one person? What about a patient signing a consent form in a hospital or an employee signing an undertaking for confidentiality?
Inexplicably, the judges also decided that Lal Masjid clerics had the right to decide who should be in the next management of the mosque, as if the mosque was the clerics' private property.
Let this moment in our history be a clarion call for cool heads, lest the coming generations might say they knew not what they did, when they treaded the uncharted landscape and sank into the swamps of oblivion.

Monday, 19 November 2007

Knowing When to Stop

Knowing When to Stop (Dawn, Karachi 27.3.07 ) This was written soon after CJP’s removal

I often wonder why our nation manages to extract defeat from the jaws of victory. I am not talking of cricket.

I was able to identify at least 3 important historical moments when history of Pakistan would have changed, had we known when to stop, and bank our profits.

1. In 1969, an agitation for restoration of democracy was launched by Air Marshal Asghar Khan and others against the Ayub regime. It was no mean achievement that the all powerful military government was really shaken. Ayub Khan offered to hold elections within 6 months and to hand over power to the elected leaders. But Air Marshal Asghar Khan was thumping the table and demanded immediate hand over of power. There was no elected civilian leader who could have taken over immediately. The only person who could take over was Gen Yahya Khan, and he did. Air Marshal Asghar Khan and his colleagues did not know when to stop. Having achieved 90 percent of their goals, they tried for 100 percent and lost everything.

2. In 1977, the combined opposition launched a campaign against Mr Bhutto. It was no mean achievement that the all powerful Bhutto was ready to meet 90 percent of the demands of his opponents. But they wanted 100 percent – Bhutto must go immediately! Bhutto did go, but it was Zia who took over. Our politicians in the opposition did not know when to stop!

3. In 1997, Chief Justice Sajjad Ali Shah had the Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif in the dock. It was no mean achievement for a judge in a third world country to be able to summon the Prime Minister. Even in the West, such a situation would be quite remarkable. The Chief Justice had achieved 90 percent of the goals and could have accepted an apology. But he wanted a hundred percent victory. The rest is history. Alas he did not know when to stop!

Today we have another watershed moment in our history. Will the agitators know when to stop? Will they accept 90 percent victory or must they lose everything to achieve 100 per cent? The smell of victory is quite intoxicating and it blurs one’s judgement. Will they extract defeat from the jaws of victory? Will the nation face a coup a-la-GHQ?

Khalid A London UK

What Supreme Court could have done

What Supreme Court could have done. (Frontier Post 17 nov 2007)

I wrote on the subject in March 2007, under the title “Knowing When to Stop” ( Dawn 28th March 2007 & Frontier Post 27th March 2007). It is very tempting for me to say “ I told you!”, but the events are too traumatic for me to do that.

I said then that our nation always extracts defeat from the jaws of victory, because we do not learn when to stop. This happened in 1969, 1977 and 1997. Having achieved 90 per cent of our goals, we do not stop and consolidate our position. We go on fighting to achieve total humiliation of the opponent. Instead of a 100 per cent victory, we end up with total defeat.

This time, the Supreme Court had asserted itself and would have had a major role to play in our national affairs, in future years, had the Court avoided the path of confrontation. This should have been done,not under any pressure, but in the supreme national interest. The Court could have declared that the President’s election would be valid, but with the following conditions:
1. Gen Musharraf will give up the Army uniform BEFORE he takes the new oath as President. In this way Gen Musharraf will be a civilian when he takes the oath.
2. Gen Kiyani will be sworn in as Army Chief, in the same ceremony, immediately after the Presidential oath.
3. Gen Musharraf must seek a new vote of confidence from the next assemblies, within a specified time. If the vote of confidence is not granted, the office of the President will become vacant.

Alas, it was not to be!

Khalid A
London UK

Great Legal Issues & Mediocre Top Lawyers

Great Legal Issues & Mediocre Lawyers (Frontier Post 31 Oct 2007)
While Aitzaz Ahsan is basking in election victory, one wonders why our nation produces mostly mediocre personalities who then manage to reach top positions in most of the professions. Recent great legal issues have exposed our dearth of great lawyers. I invite your readers to consider the following recent episodes:

1. Mr Eitzaz Ahsan argues in the Supreme Court that elections in Pakistan cannot be postponed even if there is a state of emergency. He quotes the example of the British Parliament and quite wrongly claims that British elections were not postponed even during the 2nd World War. Yet, nobody from the gathering of ‘eminent’ lawyers challenges him. The historical fact is that in 1945 the British parliament was 10 years old. There were no elections between 1935 and 1945. Perhaps, on a different note, Mr Aitzaz Ahsan could have suggested that Gen Musharraf should follow the example of Winston Churchill who, having led the nation to victory in the war, gracefully accepted the voters’ decision to sack him in 1945 elections, just a few weeks after the German surrender!

2. The court asks the Attorney General Justice (R) Qayum about the date of expiry of the current Presidential term of office. He replies that he will have to ask the President! On a different note, the court points out to him that he had himself given a decision as a Judge, that is contrary to his present arguments. He replies that his judicial decision was wrong! The incompetence is breathtaking. Are we watching a comedy show?

3. Mr Nawaz Sharif’s ‘undertaking’ is being discussed threadbare in the court. Yet no one from the Govt’s team mentions the example of ‘undertakings’ signed by employees. Such undertakings are always considered as binding contracts by all employers. Similarly confidentiality and loyalty undertakings signed by any national is his/her binding contract with the nation. Most of such documents are signed by only one party. Another example is a consent form signed by a patient before surgery in a hospital.

4. While the destiny of our nation is at peril, our ‘great’ legal minds exchange jokes about luncheons, during the court hearings. Even the great name of Quaid e Azam is dragged into a joke about Sharifuddin Pirzada, when he is humorously called ‘Quaid’s second ehsan’.

5. One recalls the charade of CJP’s removal in March 2007, when the top legal experts in the Law Ministry cannot decide whether this is suspension or compulsory leave or something else.
My earnest appeal to the legal fraternity is to sharpen their legal skills and leave slogan mongering to others.
Khalid A
London UK