A detailed rebuttal to Musharraf PR Teams Mis-statements at Asia Society Meeting in New York on Friday Nov 30, 2007 which ‘mis’represented by Nasim Ashraf, Kashmala Tariq and Barrister Ali Saif
My views before the event and after the event were all concentrated on the fact that this was sadly a pro-musharraf deal and Asia Society should have done better to widen the platform to actually see a proper debate. It must be noted that on Nov 8th Asia Society did conduct an Open Town Hall Meeting which seemed a little more balanced quite contrary to the 30th Nov event
The entire recording can be heard here [audio:113007pakistan.mp3]
Background: An Emergency was declared in Pakistan on November 3, 2007 by General Musharraf as Chief of the Army Staff and on the same day a “Provisional Constitutional Order (PCO) was issued by him as President of Pakistan. Pakistans 1973 Constitution only allows the President of Pakistan to declare Emergency. It does not give any authority to the Chief of the Army Staff to declare Emergency. This illegality was acknowledged by General Musharraf in an interview with BBC News on Nov 16th (BBC). He specifically says, “Have I done anything unconstitutional and illegal? Yes, I did it on 3rd November. Under the PCO, President Musharraf suspended Pakistans 1973 Constitution depriving the people of Pakistan of their fundamental rights and preventing the actions of his government to be challenged in the Courts.
The justices of the Supreme Court of Pakistan were ordered to take a fresh oath to abide by the PCO. The Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry and seven other justices issued their own legal order calling General Musharrafs declaration of Emergency unlawful and urged the military officials not to act on unlawful orders. General Musharraf then dismissed CJ Chaudhry and in his place swore in a pro-Musharraf member of the Supreme Court as the new Chief Justice. Earlier in March 2007, CJ Chaudhry was suspended by General Musharraf but was later reinstated as Chief Justice by a special bench of the Supreme Court. It should be noted that there is no provision in the Constitution of Pakistan for “suspension of the Chief Justice. Civil society, students, lawyers and human rights activists are all rising up in protest to the actions of President Musharraf across Pakistan. What we are witnessing, is the people of Pakistan’s quest for the Rule of Law.
In late November 2007, President Musharraf sent a Special Delegation to makes its official case in various cities in the United States including New York and Washington DC. The delegation comprised of Mr. Nasim Ashraf (Minister of State and Chairman of National Commission for Human Development), Barrister Mohammad Ali Saif (Minister of Tourism and Youth Affairs) & Ms. Kashmala Tariq (Former Member of the National Assembly of Pakistan). What follows are rebuttals to some of their mis-statements at an event at Asia Society in New York on Friday November 30, 2007. The event was sponsored by the Council on Foreign Relations and was moderated by Ambassador Nicholas Platt, President Emeritus of Asia Society and US Ambassador to Pakistan from 1991 to 1992. The audio of the event was made available by Asia Society on their website:
While listening to the tape, it becomes quite apparent rather quickly that the main target of this delegation was the Supreme Court of Pakistan and its deposed Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry. Several mis-statements were made specifically with regards to the person of CJ Chaudhry in order to discredit him. The main objective of the delegation was to make a case that the pre-emergency Supreme Court of Pakistan, led by CJ Chaudhry, does not deserve to be reinstated under any circumstances.
Mis-statement # 1: The Supreme Court of Pakistan was releasing “terrorists
Barrister Saif and Mr. Ashraf argued that the Supreme Court was releasing terrorists. At one point, Barrister Saif stated that “Chaudhry after being reinstated [after the first suspension in March 2007] took missing persons case in which persons were allegedly involved in terrorist activities. (34:05)
The Supreme Court never ordered the release of any person charged with any crime. Instead, it addressed a petition filed by the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) with the names of 485 individuals who had simply disappeared. These people had been picked up by Pakistan’s intelligence agencies and had never been heard of again. Many of these people have been held without being charged for years. Many apparently have no connection to terrorism, but have no way of proving their innocence since the government does not even acknowledge holding them. At the request of the HRCP, the Supreme Court demanded that the basic right of Habeas Corpus be observed, and that these missing people be produced in court, and properly charged with crimes or offenses. In those instances where the intelligence agencies and the government were unable to provide any charge or supply even the most basic evidence against such individuals, the Courts ordered their release. There is nothing wrong with the Supreme Court demanding that, as per Pakistan’s Constitution, any person in government custody be charged with a crime, and tried for it. Barrister Saif himself acknowledges on the tape that these people were “alleged terrorists.
Mis-statement # 2: The Supreme Court ordered the re-opening of the Red Mosque
Barrister Saif stated that a two-member bench of the Supreme Court ordered the Lal Masjid (Red Mosque) to be opened.
The two-member bench of the Supreme Court that ordered the reopening of the Lal Masjid (Red Mosque) was comprised of two judges who later took the oath under the Provisional Constitutional Order (PCO) after the emergency was declared by General Musharraf on Nov 3rd. It is clear that those two judges, Justice Muhammad Nawaz Abbasi and Justice Javed Buttar, are loyal to President Musharraf and it is not difficult to conjecture that these two “government judges” were instructed to issue such orders as a way of constructing a charge sheet against the Supreme Court and CJ Chaudhry.
Mis-statement # 3: The necessary military action in NWFP province was not possible without declaring Emergency on Nov 3rd
Mr. Ashraf argued that the Musharraf government needed the NWFP provincial government’s written approval to send military troops into Swat and because such an approval was not provided the Emergency declared on Nov 3rd was necessary for the military to carry on its operations in Swat.
The NWFP provincial government had resigned and the provincial assembly was dissolved prior to Nov 3rd. As a result, the central government already had full authority to send the military into Swat before Nov 3rd and it did not need to declare Emergency on Nov 3rd to do so. Even the Director General of Military Operations (DGMO) told several representatives of the media at a briefing at Military General Head Quarters (GHQ) in Rawalpindi soon after Nov 3rd that the Emergency was not needed for the Swat operation. The GHQ briefing was attended by leading journalists and TV anchors including Ayesha Haroon, Nasim Zehra, Talat Hussain, Zaffar Abbas, Najam Sethi, Ejaz Haider, Kamran Khan and Shafqat Mahmood. It should be noted that President Musharraf and the newly appointed Army Chief General Kiyani both held the DGMO post earlier in their military careers. It should therefore be quite clear that when it comes to military matters, the DMGO has lot more pertinent knowledge compared to a civilian like Mr. Ashraf.
Mis-statement # 4: There was a long list of charges against Chief Justice Chaudhry
Barrister Saif and Mr. Ashraf stated the there was a long list of charges against CJ Chaudhry when he was initially deposed in March 2007.
These charges had their day in court, and were dismissed unanimously by an 11 member bench of the Supreme Court. Yet Barrister Saif continues to malign the Chief Justice by bringing them up. Specifically, these charges were the subject of a several months long proceeding before a full bench of the Supreme Court. During the proceedings the bench not only unanimously rejected the charges, but also dismissed them as being filed with mala fide (i.e. malicious) intent, and as being false on face value. Indeed, the government actually tendered a formal apology to the Supreme Court for several of the accusations which were false on their face, and were remarkably fined Rs. 100,000 for making baseless allegations. The credibility of these charges and thus the integrity of the Chief Justice can be judged by the fact that, last month, Harvard Law School awarded Chief Justice Chaudhry its highest award, the Medal of Freedom. The most immediate past recipients of this award were Nelson Mandela, and the legal team which argued Brown vs. The Board of Education. In addition, the New York City Bar Association, in another vote of confidence in the integrity of the Chief Justice, has awarded him an honorary lifetime membership. This rare honor was last given to the late Chief Justice Rehnquist of the US Supreme Court.
#Mis-statement # 5: Chief Justice Chaudhry was making political speeches
Barrister Saif stated that after CJ Chaudhry was first deposed in March 2007, he went around the country making political speeches at Bar Association events. (52:00)
The Bar Association event organizers only allowed lawyers who were members to attend the events with CJ Chaudhry. Members of political parties were not invited at these events. CJ Chaudhry made all his speeches regarding human rights and did not touch on political matters. There is no evidence whatsoever that CJ Chaudhry made any political speeches.
Mis-statement # 6: Chief Justice Chaudhry was planning on running for President
Barrister Saif alleged that Mr. Aitzaz Ahsan, who was CJ Chaudhrys lawyer after he was first sacked in March 2007, had stated that CJ Chaudhry was planning on starting a “Justice Party” and CJ Chaudhry would be its presidential candidate. (52:30)
Mr. Aitzaz Ahsan or CJ Chaudhry never made any comments regarding any new party or about CJ Chaudhry running for President. Like all other public servants, CJ Chaudhry cannot run for public office till two years after his retirement from the Supreme Court, as stated in the 1973 Constitution of Pakistan. President Musharraf broke that law by running for President while still in a military uniform. The legal challenges against his actions were pending in the Supreme Court when he declared the Emergency on Nov 3rd.
Mis-statement # 7: None of the Supreme Court Judges are under house arrest
Barrister Saif stated that CJ Chaudhry and other judges are not under house arrest and there is no written order for their arrest. (38:09)
CJ Chaudhry can’t get out of his house which is under heavy police guard and his closest relatives are not allowed to see him. CJ Chaudhry’s daughter was due to take her O-Levels exams and the British High Commission arranged for her to take her exams at CJ Chaudhrys house as she was not allowed to leave the house by the police. Even the moderator of the Asia Society event, Ambassador Nicholas Platt, told Barrister Saif that the judges were indeed under house arrest. In addition, US Ambassador to Pakistan, Anne Patterson was not allowed by the police to meet with Mr. Aitzaz Ahsan who is also under house arrest after two weeks in solitary confinement in a prison. (The News)
Mis-statement # 8: A leading Pakistani journalist said that the Supreme Court was to blame for the declaration of emergency
Mr. Ashraf quoted Mr. Najam Sethi of The Friday Times from an article where Mr. Sethi blamed CJ Chaudhry and the Supreme Court for pushing President Musharraf to a point where he had to declare the Emergency on Nov 3rd.
Najam Sethi is indeed considered one of the prominent journalists of Pakistan but he is clearly in the very tiny minority among Pakistans influential journalists. The following journalists who are as widely read as Najam Sethi have strongly criticized President Musharraf for his Nov 3rd actions and lay the blame fully at his feet: Ayaz Amir, Tanvir Ahmad Khan, Hasan Askari Rizvi, Nasim Zehra, Shafqat Mahmood, Tariq Fatemi & Zahid Hussain. The overwhelming majority of respected journalists are against President Musharraf’s declaration of the Emergency, including those who were previously somewhat sympathetic to him.
Mis-statement #9: Mr. Saif is a “neutral member of the caretaker government
Barrister Saif stated in response to a question over the internet that he is a “neutral” member of the caretaker government installed by President Musharraf because he does not belong to a political party.
Barrister Saif is not neutral. He was an Advisor to the Ministry of Womens Affairs during the previous PML-Q government supported by President Musharraf. At the Asia Society event, he made the case in defense of the previous PML-Q government and blasted several major political parties in Pakistan as well as the lawyers, Supreme Court and the media. In every country of the world, except under the emergency in Pakistan, such a person is considered “biased”. Barrister Saif should be immediately removed from the “neutral” caretaker government and so should others belonging to the PML-Q party who are considered loyal to President Musharraf.
Mis-statement #10: International observers are welcome to come monitor elections
Ms. Tariq stated that “we welcome western observers to monitor the elections. (50:58)
US government has officially raised serious concerns that foreign election observers willing to rush to Pakistan are being denied visas by the Pakistan embassies, a matter which has been raised at the level of President Musharraf and caretaker Prime Minister Muhammed Mian Soomro. US Ambassador Anne W. Patterson held an urgent meeting with the caretaker PM to raise the issue while a delegation of US Congressmen, who called on General Pervez Musharraf on Friday, also informed him that visas were being denied to election observers. (The News)
Mis-statement # 11: President Musharraf would not have to face the death penalty
Mr. Ashraf stated in response to a question that while he agreed that under the 1973 Constitution of Pakistan, a military coup or martial law is punishable by death as its considered mutiny, President Musharraf was off the hook because the (hand-picked pro- Musharraf) judiciary post the coup in 1999 had upheld the coup and a 2/3rd majority of Parliament (constituted after elections in 2002 which were considered by most to be massively rigged) had also condoned his actions.
President Musharraf could still face the death penalty if the 1973 Constitution is reinstated. On Oct 12, 1999 the then-elected Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif sacked General Musharraf under powers vested in him by the Constitution of 1973 and replaced him with another general. Mr. Musharraf who was no longer the Chief of the Army as a result of the PM’s actions, later that day took the unlawful step of a military coup with the help of other military generals and breached Article 6 of the 1973 Constitution. The 1973 Constitution of Pakistan can indeed be amended by a 2/3rd majority of the Parliament but Article 6 has not been amended or deleted even by the pro-Musharraf government and it still states that a military coup is punishable by death without any statute of limitations. Therefore, President Musharraf could still face the death penalty for his actions on Oct 12, 1999. In addition, his actions on Nov 3, 2007 when he declared an emergency and revoked the 1973 Constitution (for the second time) are also punishable by death under the 1973 Constitution. Interestingly enough, President Musharraf admitted in a BBC interview on Nov 16th that he had in fact acted illegally and violated the 1973 Constitution on Nov 3rd. Since the Constitution cannot be amended until after it is reinstated and only an elected Parliament with 2/3rds majority have the right to amend it, the question at Asia Society by a member of the audience highlighted the lack of legal protection that President Musharaf would have under a reinstated 1973 Constitution. This could be one reason why President Musharraf does not want the pre-emergency Supreme Court and CJ Chaudhry to be restored.