Saturday, December 19, 2009

Outbreak of the rule of law in Pakistan?

So argues Juan Cole:

The US punditocracy has never understood that the central political narrative of Pakistan in the past 2 and a half years has been the restoration of the rule of law (in the form of the Supreme Court chief justice and then the rest of the SC) and the ending of the Musharraf military dictatorship in favor of a return of the major political parties.

That twin project was riddled with a contradiction, though, since the political parties capable of supplanting the military were themselves often corrupt, while Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry was determined to clean house. So what has happened is that the contradictions have just come to the fore.

How flat-footed the US commentariat is in this regard was obvious in the reaction of CNN's Wolf Blitzer to Malik's detention. He asked Pakistani ambassador to the US, Husain Haqqani if it was the sign of a military coup. Haqqani was taken aback, and the Urdu press headlined the interchange.

No, Wolf, it is the opposite. It is an outbreak of the civil rule of law. It was a military dictator who had amnestied Malik. It is the Supreme Court calling him to account. The US media think the Pakistan Story is 'violent fundamentalism, military rule, and nuclear threat.' The reality-- that most of the Pakistani public wants a civil rule of law, is almost impossible for Westerners to grasp.

The hysteria in Washington about Pakistani political instability (read: civilian politicians elected to office and an independent judiciary instead of a military dictatorship) will be heightened by this development. And it does potentially weaken president Asaf Ali Zardari, against whom there are outstanding cases. But most judicial authorities hold that Zardari cannot be tried while in office, and there is no obvious way to unseat him, since his party is the largest in parliament.

The rule of law is more important for the structural integrity of Pakistani society and politics than the back door deals of the Musharrafs, Bushes, Rices and Cheneys. Pakistan has a parliamentary system. It will go to new elections in a couple of years. If the government falls before then, it will just have early elections and someone will form a government based on their electoral performance. It might be Nawaz Sharif and the Muslim League. So what? Sharif once agreed with Clinton to send in a Pakistani SWAT team against Bin Laden, and it was Musharraf who nixed that plan. And whereas Zardari has never shown an ability to run anything, Sharif is a steel magnate-- though his last term as PM was marked by an overly authoritarian style and a cozying up to Muslim fundamentalists substantially to his right.

And who knows, maybe some of the new non-corrupt PPP voices such as Aitzaz Ahsan will emerge if Zardari falters.


Then there is this development, also drawn to my attention by Juan Cole (originating in the International edition of the News, a Pakistani newspaper:
ISLAMABAD: Ulema and Mashaikh, belonging to different schools of thought, unanimously declared suicide attacks in the country un-Islamic and forbidden in Islam.

A large number of Ulema and Mashaikh, who attended the Ulema Mashaikh Conference arranged by the Ministry of Religious Affairs at the National Library here, denounced on Thursday the killing of innocent people in the name of religion. They spoke against suicide attacks in particular.

Interior Minister Rehman Malik and Minister for Religious Affairs Allama Hamid Saeed Kazmi and Ulema Mashaikh from across the country participated in the conference. The interior minister also briefed the Ulema and Mashaikh about the security situation and the measures taken by the government for curbing the menace of terrorism.

The Ulema said it is clearly stated in the Holy Quran that killing of innocent people is un-Islamic and it could not be justified in any way. They said the Shariah introduced by Hazrat Muhammad (SAW) is complete and adequate for us and we do not need anything more.

Speaking on the occasion, Minister for Religious Affairs Allama Hamid Saeed Kazmi said the conference was arranged with an aim to devise a strategy against terrorism.He said those who launched attacks upon mosques and educational institutions could never be called Muslims. He said Islam does not allow anyone to kill innocent people or attack mosques.

Those laying down their lives in the fight against terrorism are martyrs as they are fighting to save the motherland, he said.

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1 Comments:

Blogger rewinn said...

I can speak at 1st-hand about American ignorance of Pakistan's legal system & governance.

A year or two ago, when Pakistan's executive branch was jailing its judges, one of Pakistan's chief prosecutors came to Seattle for personal reasons and decided he didn't want to go back, because at the time it would be his job to prosecute Chaudry et al. on behalf of the executive branch ... and he didn't want to do it.

He figured our local legal community would be interested what was happening, because you know we always talk about Rule of Law and that stuff. The problem was that we didn't really appreciate what was going on.

He seemed like a self-important jerk, when really he was a very serious guy with a very serious issue that we who claim to be 100% for the Rule of Law should listen to very intently. He was a very intense person who spoke as if he expected to be listened to and couldn't conceptualize that ( I'm not gonna name any names ) some of the people he met seemed to think he was maybe a crackpot or at least a person with an inflated sense of importance. I don't know whether it was ignorance, racism or just an incompatibility in personal styles, but our state bar association ( which you would think would jump at the chance to have a speaker of this quality ) just didn't know what to make of him. They handed him off to me as a leader in our "World Peace Through Law Section" and I set up a speaking opportunity for him and (in retrospect) didn't do enough to help him network with "Rule of Law" fans. He abruptly returned to Pakistan when there was a restoration of the judges and may well be a leader in the pro-law movement today, no thanks to us.

I mention this not to criticize anyone (except perhaps myself) but because I think there's a lesson: at any moment we may be confronted with the exceptional, and we usually don't know what to do with it.

11:53 AM  

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