New Age Islam Edit Bureau
12 March 2018
Goal Eludes Gilgit-Baltistan
By Afzal Ali Shigri
As If I Am Not Human
By Ghazal Zulfiqar
State Of Siege
By Zamir Akram
Battered, Bruised, Rolling Down
By Syed Talat Hussain
Farewell To Rabbani
By Zaigham Khan
The Messiah Complex
By Asfand Yar Warraich
US Re-Engaging Pakistan
By Dr Muhammad Khan
American NSS: Noise before Defeat
By Sahibzada M Saeed
Politics, Economics and Nuclear Deals
By Amina Afzal
Compiled By New Age Islam Edit Bureau
March 11, 2018
THE constitutional rights of the residents of Gilgit-Baltistan (GB) continue to be denied because Pakistan keeps linking the area to the Kashmir dispute. This dispute in itself is like the proverbial Gordian knot — impregnable to all attempts to resolve it, no surprise given the persistent historical deadlock with India over the holding of the UN-mandated plebiscite to decide the fate of Kashmir.
Despite the unconditional accession of GB’s residents to Pakistan following an uneven bloody struggle with the regular Kashmir state army, and acceptance of this accession by Quaid-i-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah, bureaucracy has chosen to define the region as disputed, although de facto control by the Pakistan government has triggered a series of ad hoc executive orders starting with the imposition of the Frontier Crimes Regulation.
Experiencing the full force of these discriminatory laws, the locals began to clamour for their rights; each time protests ensued, successive governments would furnish a governance package ceding limited, sometimes cosmetic, self-rule structures to GB.
The first limited empowerment reform, introduced by the PPP in 2009, conferred the symbolic status of province on GB by establishing the offices of governor and chief minister. This limited recognition catalysed a strong demand for provincial status as elected representatives experienced shoddy treatment by the Pakistan government’s functionaries. This also mobilised Pakistan’s political parties to highlight the issue in their public statements, which is significant as the parties have a strong political presence in GB.
But despite the parties’ highlighting the issue at the national level, the local party chapters faced constraints in their demands as they had to follow the policy guidelines of the central leadership. A think tank formed for the rights of the people of Azad Kashmir, headed by former AJK chief justice Manzoor Gillani and others including three former Foreign Service officials, also worked on this issue and advanced the idea of conferring provisional provincial status on GB subject to its ratification after a UN-held plebiscite. This recommendation addressed the fundamental issue of empowered local government in line with UN resolutions without compromising the principled stance of Pakistan on the Kashmir dispute.
With mounting public awareness and political pressure on the leadership, the local legislative assembly had to adopt a unanimous resolution across the political divide for a full-fledged provisional provincial status for GB. However, to address the issue or at least appear to be doing something concrete, the PML-N government formed a committee for constitutional and administrative reforms in GB in 2015 under the then adviser to the prime minister on foreign affairs, Sartaj Aziz, with the only political representation from GB on this committee being the chief minister of GB.
This committee took 18 months to produce a report after a sustained cycle of agitation by GB residents for the conferral of constitutional rights. The Sartaj Aziz committee, according to the local press, also recommended the conferral of provisional special provincial status on GB, representation in parliament, constitutional bodies (eg the Indus River System Authority, the National Economic Council and the National Finance Commission), legislation on subjects presently delegated to other provinces and additional socioeconomic/administrative actions.
However, despite the creation of expectations that the findings of the committee would be approved and announced by the prime minister on his recent visit to GB, neither the approval nor the announcement has materialised, and the report has remained inaccessible to the local assembly and media.
Reportedly, on a recent visit to Azad Kashmir, the prime minister was persuaded by the local Kashmiri leadership to stall the meaningful empowerment of the people of GB in line with the recommendations of the Sartaj Aziz committee.
It appears that the aim of the government is to dilute the recommendations of this committee and impose cosmetic changes on the GB governance structure by abolishing the GB Council, a body serving as a link and constitutional bridge between the federation and the region, under the argument that it is purposeless since it is dominated by members who are not accountable to the people of GB.
It is also being stated that the GB Assembly and the government will get all the legislative, administrative and financial powers now being exercised by the GB Council, although ironically as 55 subjects are now with the council, many are unlikely to be devolved as they are the fundamental responsibility of the federal government. These will revert to the ministry and under the guise of coordination the stranglehold of the bureaucracy will be restored.
Reportedly, on the central issue of representation within federal constitutional institutions, only observer status is being proposed, which was even given in the Zia era, but to little avail. Patchy leaked information of the imminent changes and suppression of the Sartaj Aziz committee report have angered GB residents as seen at the last legislative assembly session when there was an uproar by the members; even ministers voiced their criticism of these so-called constitutional reforms.
The members have strongly demanded nothing less than regular provincial status, and the passage of a unanimous resolution for publication of the reforms committee report. In the latest development, the political parties are coming together on a common platform to press for full constitutional rights with provincial status for the region.
Given the strategic location of this region and awakening of the local population, particularly its educated youth, dithering will not be tolerated. If the evolving political platform makes it a rallying issue, currently avoidable but potentially serious complications can be anticipated. The Pakistani government has yet another honourable option of adopting the report of its own committee, as further delay will imperil the smooth operation of CPEC that starts from this region. The recommendations of the Sartaj Aziz committee seem to be the only viable solution; it should not be a case of yet another missed opportunity; the centre cannot hoodwink the people any further.
March 11, 2018
Eight-year-old Beenish did not know how to make roti for her employers in Gujranwala which put them in a rage. The husband and wife set Beenish on fire, burning 70 per cent of her body and she died soon after from her burns. If only this was a lone incident of a psychopath family. Just a few days before Beenish died, a young domestic worker in Lahore was raped and murdered by her employer, her parents most likely given shut-up money for they insisted it was a suicide and there was no need to pursue a postmortem.
A few months ago, a 17-year-old woman working in a Karachi home was found hanging from the ceiling. Initially termed a suicide, the police later found that the woman had been tortured and murdered. And of course who can forget ten-year-old Tayyaba, who was burnt and beaten to a pulp by her employers in Islamabad. Her parents too had been paid off to ‘forgive’ her abusers.
Parents of children like Beenish and Tayyaba force their daughters (and sometimes sons) to work as domestic workers, in order to pay off their debts. Deep poverty drives them to take loans just to feed their families for the wages they make are not enough to get by. At times their children are put to work in the homes of their debtors and in other cases parents pay off the instalments from their children’s wages.
Many of these children run back home to show their parents their bruised bodies, begging them not to send them back to their abusive employers, but go back they must for the loans have to be paid off.
Some of us have the luxury to celebrate ‘Women’s Day’ and ‘girl power’ but the reality for the vast majority of working girls and women is daily submission to abuse, torture and humiliation, not at the hands of men but the begums who expect servility for the price of a few thousand, that doesn’t even make it to the minimum wage. Socialite evenings are never complete without beautifully manicured women lamenting about their lying, cheating, thieving, lazy maids.
A friend recently mentioned that women never get together without talking about their maids. If you were to listen to these conversations frequently enough you too would begin to believe these hapless ladies were being exploited at the hands of their cunning young employees. But if you were to follow them home after dinner, you would see them shouting orders to young women and children who have no choice but to do their bidding.
We only raise our eyebrows about this form of abuse when we read of a domestic worker’s death in the newspaper; the everyday slaps and verbal abuse never make it to our newsfeed. Tazeen is a young woman that works for an upper-middle class family in Lahore. One day Tazeen allowed a visitor inside her employer’s home when she was supposed to make sure no one disturbed the lady of the house’s afternoon nap. This drove her employer into a rage and she began beating Tazeen with a bathroom viper. When the viper broke, her employer continued to beat her with a second viper and when that too broke, she took out a third and continued the beating.
Pakistanis love to claim that education will solve all of our problems: education Se Sab Theek Ho Jaye Ga, but the women behind these mundane acts of abuse and torture have often been educated at the best schools and colleges this country has to offer. One young woman told me, “My employer, who used to slap me whenever I would not do my work properly, was highly educated, she only spoke English with her children”.
The Punjab government has been working on a domestic worker bill and civil society activists are hopeful it will pass before the present government ends its term. Unfortunately, the chances that the bill will pass are low and the probability that it will be implemented at all, nearly non-existent. The bill, in its present form, will outlaw child labour in domestic service. This stipulation alone would empty a significant percentage of homes across the country of domestic workers, middle and upper class families are so reliant on and who they believe they have the right to abuse at will.
The bill also demands that employers pay the government-determined minimum wage to their domestic staff and provide them with at least one hour’s rest after every eight hours of work. The employer will have to ensure proper meals and adequate living quarters for every live-in employee. These conditions were not pulled out of thin air, they come from our labour laws. But since when did we consider the women and children working in our homes as workers? To many of us, they are not even properly human.
We live in palatial homes but put up our live-in staff in a quarter at the back of our homes that is often smaller than our luxury bathrooms. We cannot have a single meal without meat, but expect them to work like machines on a daily dose of stale bread, dal and sabzi, that is cooked separately because we don’t want our food to mix and be contaminated with theirs. Our utensils have to be separated from theirs as well, for they are paleed and we are not. We ask the children and young women who work for us to carry our sons’ and daughters’ backpacks to school, and while our children study hard in their expensive private schools we put these lesser beings to cleaning our toilets, making our beds and sweeping our floors.
In the larger scheme of Pakistan’s foreign policy, the Financial Action Task Force reversal is a storm in a teacup because we have been on this ‘grey list’ before despite which our economy has grown and is unlikely to be negatively affected now. But the mishandling of this issue is symptomatic of our policymaking failure of doing too little too late. This is the more serious concern. As a result, we find ourselves in a virtual state of siege.
This situation requires a course correction that is resolute, rational, objective and far-sighted. Pakistan’s decision-makers must make a realistic assessment of the global and regional realities in order to formulate pro-active rather than reactive policies that pre-position us to leverage opportunities and overcome challenges, in order to protect and promote our national interests.
At the global level, the reality is that the world is now in a new Cold War between a declining US determined to prevent the Chinese and the Russians from challenging their supremacy. This is clear from Washington’s latest National Security Strategy and Nuclear Posture Review. This great power competition overrides all other American considerations, including relations with smaller powers like Pakistan.
As a result, in the South Asian regional context, Pakistan is being impacted by the American strategic alliance with India to contain China. Washington has not only ‘de-hyphenated’ its relations with Islamabad and New Delhi, but has encouraged New Delhi’s ambitions of becoming a regional hegemon. Whereas the de-hyphenation is unrealistic, given the disputes between Pakistan and India, American backing for India’s regional pre-eminence violates a Pakistani red line. It is this reality that we have to accept instead of making inane claims about the ‘70-year-old Pakistan-US friendship’ which, as the Americans would say, is not worth a can of beans now. The simple fact is that there is now no strategic convergence between Pakistan and the US. To compound this problem is the American failure to militarily defeat the Afghan Taliban for which it uses Pakistan as a convenient scapegoat. Hence the lament of some Pakistanis that we are isolated, that we have failed to project our narrative and that we somehow need to accommodate the US as well as India and Afghanistan, will not change this reality.
We need to recognise that the divergence with Washington is out of Islamabad’s control because it is the result of the changing global power equation. Moreover, it is the superpower confrontation, especially with China, that has catapulted India as an American strategic partner, again not due to any failing on Pakistan’s part. Short of appeasement of the US and India, the price for which would be surrendering our sovereignty and security, Pakistan will be compelled for the foreseeable future to engage in damage limitation, ensure its deterrence capabilities and build on other options. This is where we would need to be more proactive.
Fortunately, our relations with China are already on an upward trajectory, with CPEC as a practical manifestation. But there is tremendous room for these relations to grow further in every domain — security, economy, trade, technology, education among a host of others. The problem is that in most cases there is no implementation. This will need to change through a whole of government approach. Moreover, we also need to do some hard bargaining with China for access to their latest weaponry, technology and investments based on the argument that the challenges we are facing are due to the Indo-US strategic partnership against China. Therefore, it is in Beijing’s own interest to step up its strategic cooperation with Pakistan to an even higher plane.
The opening with Russia is positive but in real terms the benefits have been pretty meagre so far. There is a need for some hard-nosed but realistic barging with Moscow for tangible gains — starting from economic and trade areas, and moving towards greater military and security cooperation. While this will be a long haul, there is certainly room for developing a strong partnership with Russia. A clear opportunity is in the area of counterterrorism cooperation and working for a political solution in Afghanistan, where our interests converge.
We also need to move with a clear plan to deepen cooperation with powerful neighbouring countries like Iran, for instance overcoming the hurdles in the way of the gas pipeline issue despite American pressure. We also need not be constrained in this regard by our relations with Saudi Arabia which is already a reliable regional partner. This would be a delicate balancing act but the fact remains that Pakistan is of vital importance to both countries and we should leverage this importance.
Even in the case of the US, Pakistan retains considerable leverage, at least at the tactical level, but we have been reluctant to use it. For instance, without Pakistan’s cooperation, the US would lose ground and air links to its besieged forces in Afghanistan as well as access to critical intelligence. Moreover, no political solution in Afghanistan is possible without Pakistan’s assistance, an option that now finally seems to be emerging with President Ghani’s offer to the Taliban. This leverage should be used to change America’s negative behaviour towards Pakistan, release Pakistan’s blocked Coalition Support Fund of $14 billion and, most importantly, to close down Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan camps in Afghanistan.
These objectives need to be pursued in a proactive grand strategy, involving all stakeholders who must be on the same page instead of working in silos. We also need to stop being reactive and lurching from one crisis to another. Unless we do this, we will continue to remain in a state of siege.
March 12, 2018
Democracy will complete an important climb today as the elections for the Senate chairman and deputy chairman take place, ending the suspense that has gripped the country for weeks now.
As things stand today, the numbers favour the ruling the party to get its choice installed to both the offices – and thus bag another electoral victory against its opponents. However, the PPP aims to bring all its resources into play and hopes to pull off a surprise. Even if the surprise is a consensus candidate, the damage is already done. Regardless of who wins, this climb has left the democratic order in Pakistan gasping for breath. There are more causes for worry than celebration over the closure of Senate polls and burial of fears that these elections could be scuttled, aborted or delayed. In fact, Senate elections themselves tell you all there is to know about the frail nature of democracy in Pakistan, and how truncated and moth-eaten it has become.
There was total manipulation of the procedure of democracy – starting from the change in Balochistan where PML-N party members changed tack and overnight became an independent party. The new chief minister, and all those who backed him, came to the stage thumping his chest about the services he aims to render for his deprived province. But it was lost on no one as to why and how this change came about and what its purpose was.
The Senate polls revealed it all: Balochistan (the deprived province) was positioned as a vital pawn in the game of Punjab-centred politics whose aim was (and is) to somehow reduce the ruling party to the level of Karachi’s Pak Sarzameen Party. That the equation of numbers still does not support the intended manoeuvre is not really important. What’s important is the lengths to which every political resource has been pressed into service to somehow achieve a result that is opposite to the natural outcome of a democratic exercise: ie the majority party gets to elect its own choice to lead the Senate. Earlier on, the election of senators showed the keenness to reduce a genuine majority into a restrained minority, with Asif Ali Zardari becoming both the ploy and the decoy in the strategy.
What followed is history that is minutely documented and is known to everyone. The victory of the PPP’s bonus senators from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Karachi, and the rate at which this bonus has been negotiated both are indicators of the intensity of the effort to cut the ruling party down to size and lay the foundation of a system that is not dominated by the influence of the Sharif family. One consequence of this battle is a deeply wounded system that has again shown itself to be up for grabs and manipulation – the argument that Farhatullah Babar has made and paid for through his nose. (That Asif Ali Zardari has sidelined him decisively is the biggest proof that he must have said or done something right!).
Now post polls, the Senate, the most august house in the parliamentary system, is the new example the public quotes of corruption, nepotism and buying and selling of loyalties. Regardless of who the chairman and deputy chairman are, the new house (half of it) will remain the under the shadow of this low public view for a long time to come. Senators are now seen in a light no better than what shines on those who make it to the National Assembly – hardly a compliment.
And this is just the beginning of a ruthless season of conflict. After the Senate polls, at least three more theatres of conflict are visible already. One is the outcome of cases in the National Accountability Bureau that involve the Sharifs. Extension of the date for closing these cases, granted by the Supreme Court, is proof of how complex the effort has become to establish legally-sound guilt of the Sharifs in the various charges levelled against them. Whether it is lack of evidence or poor prosecution, anyone watching the proceedings in NAB courts cannot but be struck by the feeling of how different this has turned out to be from the days of the formation of the JIT and the investigation process.
At that time, it looked as if everything had been found out, that all piles of incriminating evidence were in the pocket of the prosecution, and that it would just take weeks to get the Sharifs declared guilty. Clearly, this was the impression created on account of high-publicity Supreme Court proceedings and remarks. Now, from the Calibri font to paper ownership to records of money laundering and suspect property purchases, everything is turning out to be a prosecution’s nightmare. In retrospect, it makes sense why Nawaz Sharif was chucked out on the basis of the Iqama: declaring him guilty on the basis of JIT report findings would have been wholly untenable even in a system that is so good at declaring wholly untenable propositions totally tenable. Be that as it may, now NAB has gotten the final extension to decide the cases.
As it happens, the date of the decision is very close to the national election – two months from now. A guilty verdict (which is most likely, considering how narrow the lane of justice has become) that sends Nawaz Sharif to jail will become another tumultuous happening – deepening divisions, poisoning the system, mounting uncertainty. The PML-N won’t take it lying down and the judicial system won’t budge from its position, backed by power. That would be a clear-cut collision course which could scarcely be avoided.
The other big tussle that is coming up relates to the selection of the interim setup. The law makes it mandatory that this should be done mutually by the government and the opposition. In case of disagreement, joint parliamentary committees at the centre and the province come into action. A deadlock even at this stage brings the Election Commission into play which picks one out of the three names forwarded to it by the committee.
The abnormality of conflict witnessed during Senate elections should leave no one in any doubt about the viciousness that will pervade this process to establish the interim setup. The whole country will be governed by the interim government; it will be in command of the entire resources of the state. Of course, it cannot interfere with the election process, the sole preserve of the Election Commission. But even then there are a million ways an interim setup can become a pit of intrigue. Governing Pakistan at a time of extreme internal conflict and rising external pressures, the interim government will be the closest thing to the idea of a non-Sharif, non-Zardari and non-Imran setup of national consensus that has technocrats and experts in power! This is a rather mouth-watering proposition for those who have consistently argued for a government of all talents minus ‘traditional politicians’ to ‘fix’ Pakistan.
And then the last of the foreseeable battlefront: the 2018 national elections. A full-page space is required to detail the likely happenings in that mega event. For now, suffice it to say that these polls will be brutal, expensive and bloody, in which every inch of the political land will be fought for with all weapons deployed. A victory of the Nawaz League in Punjab will be the defeat of the whole narrative that has been carefully crafted in the last five years, of late in courtrooms more than anywhere else. This sentence says a lot. This tells in a few words a great deal about the extreme stakes that will define the 2018 polls and their conduct. It will be do or die, win or perish.
In sum, past the Senate polls, Pakistan’s politics and its struggling democratic order have entered the ring for the final few rounds. These rounds, unfortunately, won’t be pleasing to the eye and will be very heavy on the heart of a nation crying out for peace, stability and attention to governance.
Farewell to Rabbani
The Pakistan People’s Party deserves a nice epitaph. No political party can claim to have struggled and sacrificed more for democracy. No political party can claim to have achieved more political, constitutional and legal gains for people. A party that lived like a lion is dying like a jackal. It does not deserve this end.
I feel hurt and wounded at the insult Asif Ali Zardari has hurled at Raza Rabbani. A People’s Party with a mind in its head and a soul in its body cannot treat Rabbani like this. Only a zombie People’s Party can speak such language. Even the head of the Jamaat-e-Islami knows how to address the North Star of Pakistan’s politics. It was because of him (Rabbani) and a couple of other people that the PPP could make the false claim of continuity of its heritage.
Zardari had no need to be the great trader of the 2018 Senate elections if he were aiming at Rabbani’s re-election. He is clearly working on a different script, one that has no place for people like Rabbani and which does not aim at political consensus. Rabbani is perhaps the only politician who can mediate a political consensus in parliament and who enjoys the credibility and possesses the courage to mediate a consensus among state institutions. It is not Rabbani who needs the office, it is Pakistan and its democracy that need him in that office so badly.
What does Zardari want? If Zardari wanted the office of the chairman Senate for his party, it was already his – thanks to Raza Rabbani. We know that the office will not make much difference to the dwindling fortunes of the PPP. It will remain a minority party in the Senate anyway. With Rabbani as the chairman, the PPP had something to boast about to the people. Without him, it will be merely an office gained through clever scheming and suspect deals.
It appears to me that Zardari wanted to use the Senate elections to make a statement about himself. He wanted to prove his cleverness to the world once again. He wanted to show that he was still ‘Sab Par Bhaari’ – though he is Bhaari on the PPP alone. It was a desperate attempt to show that he is not the one responsible for the decline in fortunes of the party.
His attempts have only shown that this PhD in politics is merely a charlatan who has come to occupy the office because of the sudden death of an academic. He appears to be blundering because of his lack of understanding of politics and the heritage of the party.
Zardari succeeded where Benazir had failed and he failed where Benazir had succeeded. He is far cleverer than the Bhuttos but far less wise than they were. What sets wisdom apart from cleverness is not IQ. Intelligence, after all, is an amoral raw material. The difference between cleverness and wisdom lies in the scale and scope of the application of intelligence. Wisdom applies intelligence for the greater good of community, humanity or even the planet for a time frame that is often longer than the lifespan of an individual. That is why we celebrate the wise and curse the tacticians. It is wisdom that turns a politician into a statesman.
Politics is the art of the possible. Politicians can’t be expected to be wise all the time and not every politician is a statesman. However, all good politicians must have an element of wisdom and every statesman must be wise.
Manipulation requires cleverness. An appeal to the people requires both cleverness and wisdom. This is because before they follow you and want to see the proof that you are willing to go beyond your self-interest. People can be manipulated for a short period, but they can’t be manipulated long. That’s what Lincoln meant in his famous statement that all of the people can’t be fooled all of the time.
Our politicians have been too tactical, too clever by half, behaving like those monkeys in Aesop’s fable who end up giving their own share to the cat. Throughout the 1990s, democracy suffered due to the attitude of Mian Nawaz Sharif. Since 2013, we have Imran Khan who has been intent on chopping the branch he sits upon. Now we have Asif Zardari joining him with his own saw.
In a rare moment of wisdom, our politicians tried to set things right through the Charter of Democracy. They tried to set fences and agree upon the rules of the game. It required the brilliant legal mind, statesmanship and huge credibility of Raza Rabbani to turn that into the 18th Amendment. A good part of the credit also goes to Zardari who extended his full support to the initiative. However, it appears that it was the steam of Benazir’s PPP that pushed the machine for some time. It is only now that Zardari’s PPP has been fully shaped.
On a tactical level, Zardari failed to understand that the rules of the game and the game are two different things. By setting the rules of the game, you become free to play the game to your best advantage. He refused to play the anti-Nawaz game at a time when politics in Punjab was about the pro-Nawaz or anti-Nawaz sentiment. He ended up handing the anti-Nawaz vote bank to Imran Khan. In his farewell speech as the president of Pakistan at a lunch hosted by the Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, he delivered these pearls of wisdom: “We will work in your leadership and do politics (only) after five years. We will do politics after you announce (2018) elections.”
Now that he has realised his mistake, he is attacking the very rules of the game. This will push away the core pro-democracy, pro-people constituency of the PPP. It has also deprived Pakistan’s democracy of its main defender. All along, Zardari has failed to create any chemistry with the people and thwarted any attempts by Bilawal to do so.
The PPP cannot be revived through these clever moves. It needs a direct appeal to the people. This appeal cannot be created by Zardari, even if he is truly possessed by the spirit of Z A Bhutto. Bhutto’s soul must be struggling to wriggle its way out of the unlikely embodiment. And Bilawal Bhutto is losing his chance to reincarnate the party. Asif Ali Zardari has infantilised him, and Bilawal has allowed his father to do that.
If there is one thing that Bilawal needs to learn from his mother, it is the way she saved the PPP from her mother, Nusrat Bhutto, and her brother, Murtaza Bhutto. As the Mughal King Babar wrote in his famous memoir: “We, the kings, have no relatives”.
Asfand Yar Warraich
The ‘messiah complex’ – the belief (or grand delusion) that one is destined to save others – has long affected our non-elected state institutions, and the latest victim appears to be none other than our highest judicial forum.
Armed with the most formidable constitutional weapon in its arsenal – the ability to take cognisance of matters on a suo-motu basis – the Supreme Court has, in recent months, started taking unilateral notice of any matter that gains even a modicum of national prominence. And, while its intentions may be nothing short of noble, in so doing it unwittingly undermines the executive, transgressing its constitutional mandate and falling back into a perilous pattern of unbridled judicial populism that is reminiscent of the Chaudhry Iftikhar era.
Since its game-changing restoration, the Supreme Court has reconceptualised its institutional identity. This is not the toothless apex court of yesteryears, beholden to the vested interests of military rulers and political elites. It has, to a large extent, reclaimed its moral legitimacy, adamantly asserted its independence and emerged to the political fore as a significant third power.
But there exists a thin line between judicial vigilance and judicial populism. The Supreme Court ought to be careful lest it find itself teetering on the cusp of its jurisdictional powers, functioning more on whimsy than on law.
From a comparative legal perspective, the power to take suo-motu action, as encapsulated under Article 184(3), is already rather anomalous – a characteristic quite unique to the constitutional framework of Pakistan and its regional counterparts. In essence, it allows the Supreme Court to bypass the traditionally adversarial nature of our legal system, don an inquisitorial cape, and adjudicate on any matter that involves a question of fundamental rights, without the formal requirement that the question be brought before it by an aggrieved party.
In this manner, it offers a potent antidote against state excess – a judicial safety net, so to speak. Thus, if there occurs a critical violation of fundamental rights and the state patently fails to rectify its action or omission, the possibility of suo-motu action stands as the last remedy to counter such an infringement. This is a perennial threat that hangs over the executive machinery, compelling it into action, even if it is done reluctantly. In extreme cases, it even functions as a final refuge for the destitute or disenfranchised litigant – someone who exists within the peripheries of the legal system, incapable of accessing justice through ordinary mechanisms.
However, while this all-encompassing power is capable of correcting maladministration and dispensing much-needed justice, it is equally capable of lending itself to misuse. If left unchecked, it harbours the potential to render subordinate courts redundant, undermine rule of law and irreparably distort the constitutional relationship between the judiciary and the executive.
After all, if the Supreme Court begins summoning public functionaries to answer for every noteworthy headline and ticker, chiding them for their inaction and scolding them for alleged malfeasance, it will have the unintended effect of irretrievably erasing public confidence in state agencies – confidence that already stands on shaky foundations. In cases where the notice taken is premature, or where there exist viable alternative forums for the matter to be addressed, it will also have the effect of destroying the responsiveness of these institutions to issues of public import. This will further stunt their institutional growth and development.
There is also, of course, an underlying irony to this reinvigorated judicial activism. While the Supreme Court is busy reprimanding executive officers for their lethargic performance, the state of our judicial system, which lies exclusively within its own sphere of influence, is also seen as affected by nepotism, corruption and inefficiency. It is, therefore, odd to berate the executive for maladministration, particularly when the judicial apparatus is screaming for procedural and substantive reforms.
As for those who devotedly spur the Supreme Court forward, their line of reasoning is deceptively simple: public administration has become so ineffectual that the Supreme Court has no other option but to resort to direct intervention. But behind the populist appeal of this argument lies the slippery logic of all our previous messiahs. The very doctrine of necessity that once facilitated military coup d’etats, is now being employed to rationalise judicial overreach – albeit in a more nuanced and watered-down manner.
By resorting to its suo-motu jurisdiction without any guiding legal framework, the Supreme Court is blindly trudging into the treacherous territory of adopting a general supervisory function over the executive. It is, in effect, seen to be constantly peering over the executive’s shoulder and occasionally reprimanding it for indolence, and perpetually dishing out its personal brand of political wisdom. This is a role that is neither desirable nor constitutionally ethical.
What the Supreme Court must do is formulate some semblance of a policy for the exercise of its extraordinary jurisdiction under Article 184(3). The exercise of discretion by any authority must always be subject to fetters, even if that authority is the Supreme Court itself. Even as far back as 2011, in the heyday of Chaudhry Iftikhar’s judicial activism, the International Commission of Jurists, on a visit to Pakistan, urged the Supreme Court to exercise judicial restraint and warned that unhindered use of its suo-motu powers may “lead to a corrosion of ...rule of law and a blurring of the constitutional separation of powers”.
The public may be clamouring for a messiah, but the Supreme Court cannot become one. No matter its claims to the contrary, a messiah is essentially a being of politics. The Supreme Court can serve this country far better by clearly delineating the extent of its jurisdiction and diligently performing its functions within it.
Since an aggressive Trump policy against Pakistan has not worked, United States decided to re-engage Pakistan through diplomatic means. Indeed, Trump’s South Asian policy announcement on August 21, 2017 was a flawed document, which pushed Pakistan to walls, thus a total disinclination from Islamabad in subsequent weeks stunned the policy makers in Washington. In this policy announcement, US tried to promote India in South Asian region as well as at global level. On the Afghan issue too, US tried to isolate Pakistan and promote India. Whereas Taliban is a reality, which 150,000 NATO and US forces could not defeat in last 17 years, Trump tried to miscalculate them. All these policy pronouncement of President Trump backfired in a matter of few months.
Today, there is a strong realisation in Washington for the re-engagement of Islamabad. US realises this re-engagement at multiple levels. In the wake of global realignment, China and Russia are coming up with a new strategic cooperation against an exploitative unipolar system. Both countries consider Pakistan as a linchpin in their strategic alliance. In this regards, though China-Pakistan friendship has been a known reality for decades now. The renewed engagement between Moscow and Islamabad is taking place at a high pace. Very recently, Kh Asif, the Foreign Minister of Pakistan visited Moscow where both countries expressed lot of prospects for future cooperation at strategic, economic and political level. Besides, alongside Russia and China, Pakistan has been working day and night for brokering a peace deal between Afghan Government and Taliban.
After an offer of talks by Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, Pakistan responded positively for providing assistance in these talks. During a recent round of foreign secretary talks between Pakistan and US at Washington, both sides agreed for peace and stability in Afghanistan. They are ‘stressed the need for restarting the process for reconciliation in Afghanistan.’ Pakistani Foreign Secretary, Ms Tehmina Janjua, declared her talks with US authorities as positive. She said, “The meetings went very well. There’s a sense of positivity that they want to strengthen their relationship with Pakistan. There was also a great deal of focus on peace and reconciliation in Afghanistan. And both sides welcomed Afghan President Ashraf Ghani’s recent peace offer to the Taliban.”
At a time, once US administration desires engagement with Pakistan, people like Senator Larry Pressler is trying to further complicate this bilateral relationship. This senator was the originator of the infamous ‘Pressler Amendment’ of 1985, which necessitated the US president to certify that Pakistan does not have nuclear weapons every year. The amendment called for, in case, U.S president does not issue such certificate, Pakistan cannot not get any foreign aid from the US. Larry Pressler has now written an article in Hindustan Times, appreciating President Trump for bullying Pakistan through his faulty South Asian policy. The article entitled, ‘Thank you President Trump for identifying Pakistan as liars about terrorism’. The discredited senator has perhaps no idea that, how much Pakistan contributed towards combating the menace of terrorism. Just to please India and those opposing good relations between Pakistan and US, the senator who has been on US senate for 22 long years is indeed doing deceit with his own state through misleading articles.
In the post US South Asian policy pronouncement, Pakistan has emphasised Washington to recognise the role of Pakistan in combating the terrorism, whose roots can be traced back to US covert war against former Soviet Union in the decade of 1980s. In fact, the holy worriers turned terrorists have been the US blue boys, Haqqanis being the most favourites. Islamabad has also emphasised Washington to take action against the huge TTP terrorists, currently under the hospitality of Afghan spying network; NDS.
In this regard, there have been some positive indications, where US targeted and killed TTP leadership in bordering areas of Afghanistan. Besides, there have been high level contacts at the diplomatic and military levels, where both countries have reiterated for the continuation of this decade(s) old relations after doing away the misgivings arose over the years owing to intruders like India and writers like Larrey Pressler. Pakistan may not be looking for US financial assistance, the way it needed earlier, however, it certainly desires an equitable and a balance relationship in the South Asian context.
Whereas, Pakistan has multiple options for its future relationship in and around South Asia, its relationship with US constitutes as an important objective of its foreign policy. However, for the US whether it is peace process in Afghanistan or else its strategic and economic objectives in this region, Washington has to rely on Pakistani geopolitics. Indian geopolitics may be important to engage China for the time being. But, on long term basis, India has never proved to be a trusted partner. India is wily state and US strategists understand that. Therefore, this time US policy makers should re-engage Pakistan with a total positivity, taking into considerations the national interests of Pakistan.
Trump administration has presented National Security Strategy (NSS) after almost a year to take office. I had a chance to review the strategy document and when I was reviewing that NSS document the words of former Soviet Union’s leader Nikita Khrushchev came to my mind that “America will fall without a shot being fired. It will fall from within.” How much his assessment is correct the time will decide but right now one thing is crystal clear that the US is facing the turbulent situation at structural as well as domestic level.
The NSS document denotes that America is facing multiple internal and external challenges and the Trump Administration needs to deal with them. All these challenges including rogue states with Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMDs) to American porous borders and violent non-state actors to unfair trade practices all are categorically conferred in the document. But it is worth mentioning that the first time since the Cold War ended America firmly declares China and Russia as an open challenge to American supremacy. It has written on the second page of the document that “China and Russia challenge American power, influence and interest. They are determined attempting to erode American security and prosperity. They are determined to make economies less free and less fair, to grow their militaries, and to control information and data to repress their societies and expand their influence.”
Although China and Russia have denied American sentiments with an advice to quit Cold War approach in its Foreign Policy but in fact it is the acceptance of the reality by the United States and the reality is the change at structural level. World is briskly entering into multipolar world order. China is going to revive the millennia old concept of Middle Kingdom and One Belt One Road (OBOR), military modernization, offensive postures in South China Sea and Chinese investment in every corner of the globe are the indicators that China is ready to maximize its sphere of influence at structural level.
The United States criticizes that increasing economic inducement and military power of China is to enhance it’s political as well as security agenda. It also points out that OBOR is comprised biased trade approach and extractive economic policies. Chinese OBOR initiative is actually connecting more than 40 countries of the world physically and economically which will enhance Chinese influence and supremacy in these countries that is strongly challenging American long enjoyed sole power role in the world. Chinese increasing military strength, deployment of military in South China Sea, huge investment all over the world and ports and harbour construction on Indo-Pacific main Sea Lanes of Communications (SLOCs) are leading to bipolarity in the world and have strategic challenges to the US and Allies.
On the other hand resurgence of Russia under so-called “expansionist” Putin is an evident challenge to existing world order. In energy politics to Syrian crisis and boosting ties with so-called rogue states to annexation of Crimea, Kremlin has the capacity as well as capability to challenge America and its European Allies. Today Russia is regaining power and influence in the Middle East and Asia. Moscow has provided full support to Syria and Iran to subvert Washington’s interests in these countries and has done a lot of loss to the US sphere of influence. Russia has also joined hands with China to reduce the usage of American Dollar to affect American economic supremacy. That’s why, Moscow-Beijing Nexus is seen as real threat to the US by the NSS document as both countries are members of the UN Security Council and had confronted America many times by using veto power against American resolutions.
The NSS denotes that during one year Trump Administration did its best and further we are ready to deal with these challenges. According to the document, America has great history of crushing all challenges throughout its history. But realistically this time the situation seems more pessimistic. After reviewing the NSS document, I am not reluctant to say that the United States’ National Security Strategy is the “noise before defeat”.
Donald Trump’s behaviour and approach to deal various matters is unsatisfactory. Here I would like to quote renowned American author Michael Wolff’s recent book “Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House”, which is number one bestseller by the New York Times. Basically, it is a brief account of commotion and disorder in the White House under President Donald Trump. Mr. Wolff has conducted multiple interviews of all those people who served on the key positions under President Trump. All accounts by them are bewildering and disappointing not only in America but also in the world. Realistically, coping up with all these challenges is the real challenge for Trump Administration. Mr. Trump! Pushing North Korea and Iran more, giving Cache Blanche to Israel, patronising India to take care of interests in South Asia and South East Asia, sabotaging environmental regime and vitiating American liberal values within America, these are not wise choices.
French President Emmanuel Macron’s visit to India coincides with the anniversary of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster seven years ago. However, this will have no effect on proposed talks about a nuclear agreement between the Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited and France’s EDF on six nuclear reactors. If built, the proposed Jaitapur project is expected to be the biggest nuclear power plant in the world.
India’s stance on nuclear energy is best embodied in former president APJ Abdul Kalam’s words, ‘Economic growth will need massive energy’. Will we allow an accident in Japan, in a 40-year-old reactor at Fukushima, arising out of extreme natural stresses, to derail our dreams to be an economically developed nation?’
Following the Fukushima disaster in 2011, there was a huge public effort to block Indian nuclear projects. These protests gained popularity across the country. The French-partnered Jaitapur nuclear project in Maharashtra and the Russian-partnered Kudankulam project in Tamil Nadu received the most media attention. That international groups plan to hold a huge protest at the Jaitapur site to coincide with Macron’s visit is doing little to deter the governments on either side.
Notwithstanding the protests, Macron’s negotiations will focus on getting a better deal for the EDF. Negotiations between the two countries for the six European Pressurised Reactors (EPRs) in Jaitapur have continued for over a decade. In 2013, India’s Department of Atomic Energy announced that the cost could not go beyond Rs6.50 per unit, while France sought more.
Indeed economic factors play an important role in international affairs. Nuclear energy is currently India’s fifth-largest source of electricity. India aims to increase the percentage of nuclear power production in the overall energy supply to 9 per cent by 2026. It was India’s big nuclear market which provided an opportunity for nuclear suppliers to lift sanctions against New Delhi in 2008. Russia supplied two reactors to India in 1998 in violation of NSG guidelines. In 2001, Russia once again supplied low enriched uranium fuel to India’s nuclear power station at Tarapur.
Despite India not being a NPT member, both Russia and France supported the NSG waiver to exempt India from International Atomic Energy Agency safeguards. Both countries also signed nuclear agreements with New Delhi. Consequently Canada and Australia also voted in favour of the NSG waiver for India and concluded nuclear agreements to take advantage of India’s growing nuclear market. All these countries wanted a share in the Indian market and this was made possible by the NSG waiver.
From India’s viewpoint, only nuclear power can fuel its massive economic growth. According to latest figures, India’s growth accelerated in the quarter ending December 2017 to 7.2 per cent. The growth is faster than China’s over the same period.
In order to fast track its domestic nuclear programme the Modi cabinet approved plans to build 10 nuclear reactors with a combined capacity of 7,000MW in May 2017. The government’s decision became the first major step towards strengthening India’s credentials as a nuclear manufacturer. On March 1, 2018 India signed the so called tripartite agreement with Russia and Bangladesh. The deal is significant because it would enable the Nuclear Power Corporation of India to supply equipment and material for a nuclear power plant on Bangladeshi soil being built by Russia.
Incidentally India’s first venture abroad in the civil nuclear field also marks the country’s global entry into the strategic civilian nuclear field.
Domestically, India’s growth in the nuclear power field may so far have failed to match the projections that India has set for itself, the country has benefited significantly from the US-India nuclear deal and the consequent NSG waiver. India is no longer a nuclear pariah. Moreover, the removal of nuclear-related sanctions meant that India is no longer prohibited from importing many dual-use high-technology components and systems enabling it to not only manufacture electronic components but also help it further its space and defence programmes.