GEO Banned-I – Guest post by Aal e Hashmat

In the last week of November 2009, the transmissions of GEO concerning ‘Merey Mutabiq’ of Dr Shahid Masood were banned allegedly on the pretext that propaganda against the presidency was being sent on air without due scrutiny, care and caution. The presidency team considered that the media had mislead the general public with disinformation on following issues:

· The President had not fulfilled his promises with the nation which the PPP had spoken as their manifesto during general elections of 2008 especially the CJ Iftikhar Chaudhry and his colleague judges were not reinstated as per promise and announcement of Shaheed Benazir Bhutto at the residence of the CJ in November 2007.

· The President had held twelve meetings with Mr Nawaz Sharif, the leader of PML(N) and PPP’s coalition partner, and signed written pacts like ‘Ailan-e Murree’, Bhourbon pact, Dubai and London negotiations but never rewarded. ‘Ailan-e-Murree was the first declaration signed for the restoration of deposed judges on 9th March 2008. The PPP ignored the written agreement with the PML-N and finally the PML-N was forced to leave the federal cabinet.

· PPP presented a resolution in the National Assembly in April 2008, demanding investigation into the assassination of late Benazir Bhutto by the United Nations. This resolution gave an impression that the PPP leaders did not trust their own civil and military intelligence agencies. Later, a UN commission for the investigation was engaged from where the general public got conclusion that Mr Zardari himself was not interested or sincere in truthful investigation due to unknown reasons.

· Mr Zardari never agreed to adopt Charter of Democracy, which was mutually signed by Shaheed Ms Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif in London despite numerous meetings with PML(N) and with his own party members. Not only this, Mr Zardari had promised to eliminate 17th Amendment and amend the constitution adopting Charter of Democracy (COD) twice in his presidential address to the joint Parliament sessions on 20th September 2008 and then on 28th March 2009, but despite making announcements so loudly he never respected his own words.

· Mr Zardari had successfully shunned those PPP stalwarts like Senator Safdar Abbassi, Naheed Khan, Senator Anwar Baig and others who were near Shaheed Ms Bhutto during her life.

· The President used his ultimate authority in making policies after convening meetings in the Presidency though it was the prerogative of the Prime Minister’s office.

· The president’s team has nearly spoiled certain key institutions ignoring merit and by posting his personal friends as their heads. IB was given under control of Dr Shoaib Suddle; ultimate efforts were done to remove DG FIA Tariq Pervaiz and putting it under command of a friend of Mr Rehman Malik to which PM did not agree.

· Without permission or even knowledge of the PM, an amount of about 50 Crore rupees ($ 6.25 m) were drawn from the secret fund of the Intelligence Bureau in July 2008 through the then outgoing DG perhaps named Mr Tariq Lodhi. After taking over, the new boss Dr Shoaib Suddle initiated an inquiry into the affairs. First it was told that the said money was used to tame the media. The media negated it. The insiders told the media that the whole amount had been taken away by Mr Rehman Malik in the name of ‘some important assignment’ concerning the Presidency.

· The President purposefully followed footprints of Gen Musharraf in policy and spirits ignoring demands of the general populace and his own party workers. Gen Musharraf had allowed US security agencies to operate freely in Pakistan but Mr Zardari and his regime allowed them to buy land in many Pakistani cities and also allowed them to rent houses in Islamabad and Peshawar. Armed Americans clashed with Pakistani citizens many times in Peshawar and Islamabad but police was not allowed by the Interior Minister to take action against them. This damaged the credibility of the Mr Zardari and his team members.

· Mr Zardari kept 58(2B) intact; has not conveyed his consent to eliminate 17th amendment in the Constitution and could not reinstate judges till 16th March 2009 at his own.

· The President then reinstated the deposed CJ and other judges on 16th March 2009 only after intervention of the Army Chief Gen Ashfaq Kiyani and telephonic instructions from America. In fact Mr Zardari had ignored their restoration for the whole one year and finally lawyers were forced to start a long march from Lahore to Islamabad. Nawaz Sharif was put under house arrest but he defied the government orders. He came out to join the lawyers and within a few hours gathered about a million persons while leaving Lahore. Finally the PM Gilani had to announce the restoration of all the deposed judges.

· The President practically paralyzed the Parliament by not allowing acting them as sovereign. For instance, US drone attacks in Pakistani tribal areas had started during Gen Musharraf’s regime but these attacks were doubled in last 20 months despite a unanimous resolution adopted by the new parliament against such attacks. A non-transparent policy on war against terror could not be adopted due to President’s secret commitments with America through Mr Hussain Haqqani. It damaged the Zardari’s public image. Moreover, an expenditure on a huge cabinet of 71 members, practically inactive, too, also became a negative point.

· Just to gain PPP’s government in Baluchistan province, 62 MsPA out of total strength of Baluchistan Assembly were given cabinet portfolios. The opposition of Baluchistan Assembly consists of only one member. Where is democracy?

· The PML(N)’s mandate in Punjab was taken away in early 2009 and PCO judges were used to disqualify Nawaz Sharif and Shahbaz Sharif. This move created a lot of tension between the two big parties of the country and it also affected the vote bank of serious PPP workers. Governor Salman Taseer was asked to take over the reigns of Punjab Government who tried to win the loyalties of some PML(N) MsPA in the provincial assembly for a PPP Chief Minister in row.

· Mr Zardari had preferred to take the seat of the President though he was nominated vice-Chairman of the PPP, thus contradicting Constitutional provision in this regard. In the 62 years history of Pakistan, first time a sitting president had made a speech before his party workers as did Mr Zardari on 25th November 2009 in Karachi at an occasion of 43rd birthday of PPP. It was utter unconstitutional in a way.

· Corruption in government echelons became a routine practice again in this PPP’s regime. The news from foreign media about kickbacks in submarine deals with France, commission deals on rental power projects and hidden rewards in deals with Chinese Private Sector Banks were so much played in media that Presidency had nothing to forward in their defense.

· The Presidency could not maintain viable relationship with military establishment of Pakistan. So many issues like Afghan Border situation, calling Afghan President Hamid Karzai on his oath and then paying a reciprocal visit to Kabul on Karzai’s oath ceremony, Military operation in Swat and then in South Wazirastan etc left bad taste on both sides.

· Kerry Logar Bill created a visible divide between Army and the Presidency because the Army Chief had to issue a press statement that they do not approve certain clauses included in that bill.

· In the last episode, the NRO could not be placed before the Parliament because PML(N), MQM and JUI (Fazal ur Rehman Group) had fizzled out from voting for NRO and thus NRO lapsed on 28th November 2009 re-instating the closed down cases. When the media started discussions about the beneficiaries of the NRO, the law minister came out with a list of 8,041 beneficiaries including names of President Zardari, Defence Minister Ahmad Mukhtar and Interior Minister Rehman Malik and many others. The defence minister and many others rejected the report and destroyed the credibility of their own government. Moreover, Mr Zardari’s name was at the top of the list thus pindora box of Surrey Palace and Kotecna / SSG cases opened again giving recall and refreshment to the minds of general populace.

The Zardari group in the government was of the staunch view that Geo TV and the two papers of Jang group are trying to create an atmosphere of public hatred on behest of the establishment and rival political factions. President Zardari targeted Geo TV without naming it publicly while addressing a big PPP gathering in Karachi on 25th November 2009. He forgot that it was the same TV channel, which aired interview of Nawaz Sharif a few days back in which the PML(N) leader had supported the current democratic system and warned that he would not accept any unconstitutional move against President Zardari. This interview had killed many rumours against Mr Zardari and it should have been taken as the biggest relief for the Presidency at a time when political allies like MQM had gone hostile.

Secondly, the President’s friends are of the view that the column writers of papers and the anchors are writing stories of corruption allegedly done by Mr Zardari and his colleagues, conducting general programs using the shield of NRO and Cary Logar Bill etc. The Zardari group was also holding a firm opinion that in this president-ousting game Nawaz Sharif and his own PPP PM Yusaf Raza Gilani have also joined hands secretly. The stories and material of alleged corruption are being provided to the anchors and columnists by civil and army secret agencies.

The plus and minus points on the way of governance of Mr Zardari be kept aside for a moment. Think that why the issues related with NRO are being trumpeted at so high tone; because the army and Nawaz Sharif want to equalize their own scores through CJ Iftikhar Chaudhry. Nawaz Sharif has already got his price of favouring the CJ for his come back. He got himself acquitted from the criminal cases of conspiracy etc against him. He got his qualification back through the Court to contest election again. He got his brother’s Punjab government back again in February 2009 which was being snatched by Governor Salman Taseer. He successfully managed the Election Commission and the Higher Courts to keep pending elections on Rawalpindi NA seats.

Whereas Mian Nawaz Sharif was also one of the actual beneficiaries of NRO when he had agreed to join hands with Ms Benazir Bhutto in 2007 after she had signed her come back to Pakistan. He should have raised his voice when he and his associates were coming back to Pakistan under the umbrella of NROed people. Even afterwards, when the PML(N) knew it that Mr Zardari had not fulfilled his promises at Murree and Bhourbon in early 2008, they should have blocked his way to the Presidency. Why they remained silent then and provided approval for his go-ahead.

It is also very strange that when this NRO law was alive, all were silent and now when it is dead, every body is bent upon to hit the Presidency on this pretext. Today all are trying to fire Hussain Haqqani from NRO gun but when a famous columnist Saleem Saafi had written an article in ‘jang daily’ in March 2009 declaring him as ‘US envoy in the US’ then no one was moved. Mr zardari is unlucky in a way that he does not have a team of ‘sincere friends’ around him who themselves would have resigned from their portfolios, as Saeed Mehdi had done in Punjab for PML(N), saying that Mr Zardari should not suffer at least on their follies and counts.

Strange enough that so many people, including both factions of PML, (N) & (Q), are demanding or at least expecting resignations from the President and his friends ministers on the basis of their alleged involvement in NRO. They forgot that these ministers are ‘alleged culprits’ or accuseds and not yet sentenced by any court. They forgot their own history that why Faisal Saleh Hayat and Aftab Sherpao were called from London by their master and tolerated them for seven years as federal ministers despite the fact that they were also accused of NAB cases. Their cases were also running in the courts then.
When Nawaz Sharif had taken oath of his second time premiership in 1997, there were so many cases against him in various courts running active. It is on record that in July 1997 only, he got acquitted himself in at least three cases of corruption by getting his cases fixed before Malik Qayyum judge of LHC who issued 17 pages alike ‘judgments of honourable acquittal’ in those three cases. The acquittal orders were written and signed just after second ‘peshi’ of a PSI from FIA Islamabad finished who did not speak even a word against the then sitting Prime Minister. How could he speak?

Would the Supreme Court go back to open those cases of Malik Qayyum’s vicious decisions again favouring Nawaz Sharif and his family members especially when the world knows that the former was removed from judiciary in an unceremonial and disgraceful way in 2001 AND on the basis of cases related with Nawaz Sharif’s wish and plans.

In Saleem Saafi’s words published in ‘Jang daily’ of 2nd December 2009:
‘Why we are not crying against Nawaz Sharif for an NRO similar to this. He was even sentenced in some cases, more severe and stern to think, and his cases were also finished in a deal with an army dictator. Recall his leaving to Saudi Arabia on 10th December 2000. Benazir had also done a deal with the same army dictator. The difference lies that one PM signed a deal to go out of the country while the other PM negotiated a deal to come back; and more honourably to come back along with his rival politician Nawaz Sharif. One PM Nawaz Sharif did a deal to keep himself out of politics whereas the other PM Benazir Bhutto had done the deal to come back in politics. Who was better? Now there are cries over one later NRO but there is silence on the previous NRO …. Why so?’

Coming back; Under the NRO, there are much loud voices against the ‘beneficiaries’ and the President is being questioned to shun his minister friends. They are forgetting two main but basic issues:

· Either the whole NRO is right or the whole is wrong if the Supreme Court decides to reverse all the actions of 3rd November 2007 in the light of the provisions of S Court’s decision dated 31st July 2009. It cannot be classified as before 4rth February 2008 or after this date.

· If a court, whatever be its status, (the Court is Court by definition whosoever heads it) decides a case, it cannot be re-opened. If the Court had made an error in understanding the spirit of law or validity of an ordinance beyond 120 days (as in case of NAB Ordinance), it should have been appealed against in the High Court within 10 days of decision by some one. If not appealed against, how can you re-try an accused by opening a closed file again?

Is the Supreme Court above law to make any order of his own choice?
The media was bent upon proving it that their information was correct as per their scrutiny and sincere belief whereas the Presidency assumed that the above was not at all the whole truth. What were the real facts; let us see the analysis in the next post.

(Aal e Hashmat from UK)



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