Politics in Pakistan is marked not simply by its religion, but rather its fragmented identity and a strong military, which has grown out of Pakistan’s need to secure itself.
Seventy years later we are still struggling to answer the question, who is Pakistan? In a sense, Pakistan is a paradox, cut between its religious identity and its need to formulate a state. Unlike India, it did not declare itself as a secular democracy but at the same time, it also failed to define its religious identity. Nationalism and Islam have often found themselves in opposition in the Pakistani state, creating a grave identity crisis. Even Jinnah was ambivalent about the role Islam should play in defining Pakistan’s identity; sometimes he claimed Pakistan should be based on the ‘principles of Islam,’ while on another occasion he portrayed Pakistan to be a secular state, ‘you are free; you are free to go to your temples, you are free to go to your mosques or to any other place of worship in this state of Pakistan.’ This meant that from its very existence Pakistan faced an ‘ontological insecurity’ being unable to create a stable identity for itself. This conflicted identity and highlighted insecurity then impregnated Pakistani politics to define its domestic and foreign policies.
While Islam has not been the driver of shaping politics in Pakistan, those in power have alluded to religion in order to wield their political interests. In part, it was believed religion would override all cultural differences in Pakistan. However, it became very apparent that the limited notion of Islam would come into conflict with the other forms of identity people attached themselves with. If Pakistan was to distinguish itself as a democratic state, it would diminish the role Islam would play as an organising factor to mobilise political action. While there was no definitive made as to what Islam’s role would be, the political representation of cultural identities was suppressed. Therein lay the roots of Pakistan’s problems; its failure to accommodate ethnic diversity and provisional autonomy, which has led to a mobilisation of ethnic nationalism. Continue reading
Hopefully these proceedings will set a robust process into motion and annihilate Pakistan’s corrupt dynastic politics for good …
Skeletons in the closet have led to the premature demise of Nawaz Sharif’s government yet again and his third premiership has ended in disgrace. But is history repeating itself? The question is especially interesting given that it was “strike three” for Nawaz Sharif. On the third and final occasion, dismissal from the solemn office of prime minister carries the further indignity of disqualification for life. Of course, questions also arise about the exact motivations of the judiciary in disqualifying a democratically elected leader, one who was close to setting a benchmark by becoming the first ever prime minister to complete a full five-year term during Pakistan’s seventy-year history. The ball must get rolling somewhere and the Supreme Court set a powerful precedent for a zero-tolerance approach to the use of deception in politics. However, it remains to be seen whether the high standard adopted by the Supreme Court will be applied across the entire spectrum of Pakistan’s dirty politics which is in dire need of cleansing.
It was an uphill struggle for Nawaz Sharif because he was practising deception in proceedings regulated by the very Supreme Court his PML-N party ransacked in 1997 when photographs of Muhammad Ali Jinnah were desecrated. One problem for the court is that it has many skeletons in its own closet because it has habitually upheld brutal dictatorships applying a perverse “doctrine of necessity”. Rightly or wrongly, the former three-time prime minister has become the second world leader to become the casualty of the Panama Papers, but at least Iceland’s former prime minister Sigmundur Davíð Gunnlaugsson had the dignity to resign promptly. Last year’s disclosures led to the pronouncement of the Panama Papers judgment which established the Joint Investigation Team. Memorably, Khosa J drew unflattering parallels with The Godfather and mocked Nawaz Sharif by recalling the maxim that “behind every great fortune there is a crime”. Continue reading
Filed under Accountability, Constitution 1973, Corruption, Courts, CPEC, Discussion, Human Rights, Mossack Fonseca, Pakistan Horizon, Panama Papers, PIIA, Politics
Nawaz Sharif’s first contact with Donald Trump was a very pleasant one. India is trying to isolate Pakistan. Islamabad will give a befitting reply to New Delhi on every front. Ties with Afghanistan remain complicated.
Sartaj Aziz is a renowned figure in politics. He used to be a senator and also served as the finance minister and foreign minister under past administrations. He spoke to the members of The Pakistan Institute of International Affairs (PIIA) on 11 February 2017. These days he is the foreign affairs adviser to the prime minister, who is also the present foreign minister. Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, the architect of Pakistan’s 1973 Constitution, was prime minister and foreign minister simultaneously from December 1971-March 1977. Mimicking the slain premier, who was judicially murdered during the Zia years, the present prime minister, Nawaz Sharif has held the office prime minister and foreign minister since 2013; a trait he is at times vehemently criticised for. We have a tormented constitutional history indeed. The fall of Ayub Khan and the martial law of Yahya Khan meant that the judiciary’s role was tried and tested beyond what one may consider “normal”.
Pakistan’s 1962 Constitution provided that the speaker of the National Assembly should become the acting president until a new president was elected but Abdul Jabbar Khan did not become acting president because the dictator Yahya Khan disgracefully usurped power. In A History of the Judiciary in Pakistan, Hamid Khan describes the period from 1968 to 1975 as “turbulent times”. According to him, Hamoodur Rahman CJ tried to steer the ship as best he could but he was unable save the judiciary from adversity. “During those seven years, the judiciary lived through the political movement against Ayub Khan, the martial law of Yahya Khan, the civilian martial law of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto Continue reading
Filed under Afghanistan, Bhutto, Brexit, China, Constitution 1973, Disarmament, Europe, Human Rights, India, Islamophobia, Pakistan Horizon, Palestine, Russia, Trump, United States
Fatehyab is an icon for the young generation
The legendary Pakistani politician Fatehyab Ali Khan (1936-2010) was born in Hyderabad, India. He was of Rajput descent and led movements for democracy during successive martial law eras that have stained the history of Pakistan. After Bhutto’s judicial murder he advised and represented Nusrat Bhutto. He was a friend of their murdered daughter former two-time prime minister Benazir Bhutto. Handwritten notes sent by her about secret meetings during the agitation they mounted against Zia-ul-Haq in the 1980s are nestled somewhere in a treasure trove of resistance related documents that Fatehyab has left behind. His odium for successive despotic governments and the corrupt judiciary – which repeatedly destroyed Pakistan’s democracy – meant that he chose a life of asceticism and renounced material wealth. Coupled with his gravitation towards simplicity, his passion for advocating the human rights causes of the common people of Pakistan meant that in his politics he ironically resembled more closely the great pre-partition leaders whose connections to the poor were rather profound.
Fatehyab was a grassroots politician. His politics represented an ideology linked to empowering the voiceless masses. Even so, his weighty writings and reflections on the Constitution are largely unpublished but we hope to publish them in due course. Speaking to the members of The Pakistan Institute of International Affairs (PIIA) in a session chaired by Dr Masuma Hasan on 1 October 2016, Senate chairman Raza Rabbani said: “Today we find that we are where Fatehyab left us and have not progressed after that. Article 6 of the Constitution failed to bring a culprit, a former head of state, to book, and allowed him to leave the country.” Last year while addressing the members of PIIA, Mr IA Rehman, Secretary-General, Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, remarked: “Fatehyab Ali Khan was the brightest star in the galaxy of progressive politicians.”
Coverage and reportage from our event can be found below. Continue reading
The Panama Papers are “a blessing in disguise” … Watch Video
The paper trail from Panama to Pakistan is a long and mysterious one and it reveals much about Pakistan’s first family’s vast wealth and international property empire. The leaked documents, which are linked to dozens of venal “super rich” politicians, had even forced Iceland’s prime minister Sigmundur Davíð Gunnlaugsson to resign. Yet Ramón Fonseca argues his firm is the subject of a “witch hunt” and it has done nothing wrong; there is “more dirty money in New York and London,” he says. His claim is backed up by Bill Browder, who made his fortune in Russia but has since converted into an ardent Putin critic; owing to the former KGB head turning Russia into a kleptocracy, he says. Browder argues London is a “brothel” for dirty Russian money. He is equally adamant that Cameron’s anti-corruption drive is just “hot air”. This post captures and recalls our recent Panama Papers discussion.
Financial regulators and tax authorities worldwide have expressed huge interest in the disclosures in the papers because the International Consortium for Investigative Journalism (ICIJ) has created “a searchable database that strips away the secrecy of nearly 214,000 offshore entities created in 21 jurisdictions, from Nevada to Hong Kong and the British Virgin Islands.” Indeed, the gigantic leak of more than 11.5 million financial and legal records is clearly groundbreaking. The documents show the details of the manner in which the world’s political and economic elites have used “crime, corruption and wrongdoing, hidden by secretive offshore companies” to hoodwink tax authorities. Continue reading
With its present policies, Pakistan is on its way to becoming a “cyber leper”. The speakers also agreed that cyber security is a matter of national security.
Despite being plagued by dictatorship and corruption, Pakistan does possess the ability to make advances, even leaps, in transparent and effective lawmaking. But as the recent conundrum disclosed by the contentious Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act 2015 (“the Act”) so ably demonstrates, even under the guise of democracy, Pakistan seems to be sleepwalking into rather dangerous territory. Described as quite draconian, controversial and retrograde when juxtaposed with the panoply of rights guaranteed by fundamental rights under Articles 9 to 28 of the Constitution of Pakistan 1973, the Act has been almost universally denounced. In a joint talk yesterday by Ammar Jaffri (formerly of the FIA) and Barrister Zahid Jamil, we learned that our country is doing poorly in writing robust legislation that targets root problems but does not compromise on individual rights. The basic flaw in the present approach to cyber crime in Pakistan appears to be that the wrong ministry is dealing with this important area of the law.
Rather than the ministry of interior, the task of prevention of electronic crime is erroneously allocated to the Ministry of Information Technology and Telecommunication. For example, in the UK, the country from which we inherited such a rich legal and institutional framework, the Draft Investigatory Powers Bill is moved on the Home Secretary Theresa May’s initiative. The Act introduces a series of new provisions that pose a grave risk to freedom of expression and privacy in Pakistan. It has been condemned in international circles for expanding surveillance Continue reading
Dr Masuma’s speech at Federal Urdu University, 30 September 2015, as delivered: Mr Raza Rabbani, Dr Pirzada Qasim, Dr Suleiman Muhammed, members of the audience. Some friends had suggested that this meeting and debate to honour the memory of Fatehyab Ali Khan should be held, as it was held last year, in the University of Karachi. But Fatehyab was not only the first elected president of the Karachi University Students’ Union, he was also president of the Inter-Collegiate Body, so he represented the entire student community. Therefore, it was in the fitness of things that the Vice Chancellor decided to hold this event in the Federal Urdu University. Here, I want to praise Asif Rafique and the members of his team who have arranged this event with so much devotion and care. My association with Fatehyab lasted for 50 years ─ first as students in Karachi University and later during our marriage. In politics, there were very few who matched his integrity and honesty of purpose. Since his youth, he was in the forefront of every democratic movement in our country.
During his political career, he made numerous sacrifices, was persecuted and subjected to many deprivations. He faced trials and convictions by military courts, long prison terms and externments but never compromised on his political principles. He was fearless and never yielded to political threats or pressure of any kind and he had that remarkable courage to refuse which is found in few people. He never changed his political party. He joined the Pakistan Workers Party and when it merged with the Pakistan Mazdoor Kissan Party, he remained its president until he passed away in 2010. Fatehyab was a people’s hero, a brilliant orator, and he wrote extensively on constitutional, political and contemporary issues. During the Movement for Restoration of Democracy Continue reading