Wednesday, April 02, 2008

New Pakistan cabinet sworn in

Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf swore in a new 24 member cabinet on Monday under new Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gillani. Most members of the new cabinet are deeply hostile to Musharraf including 11 who came from Benazir Bhutto’s Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), while nine others were members of the PML-N party of Nawaz Sharif. Both the PPP and the PML-N swept to victory in general elections six weeks ago on pledges to limit presidential powers and re-instate judges that Musharraf removed.

The nine PML-N members wore black armbands in protest against Musharraf as he swore them in. The new ministers said they wore the black armbands to make it clear that while they had agreed to be sworn in by him, it did not mean they had accepted his legitimacy as President. The PML-N is pushing for the reinstatement of the deposed Chief Justice, Iftikhar Chaudhary, and 63 judges of the superior courts dismissed in Musharraf’s emergency rule pronouncement in November last year. New law minister Farooq Naek told Pakistan’s Dawn TV that the November “provisional constitutional order” was not legal as it had not been validated by Parliament.

Later that day, the Cabinet’s first meeting under Prime Minister Gillani announced it had set up two committees, one for the restoration of the judiciary and the other into the abolition of the Frontier Crimes Regulation (FCR). The FCR dates back to British Indian times is a set of draconian laws imposed by the Raj to subdue Pashtun areas. Its laws allow for collective punishment and securing easy convictions under a trial by jirga chosen by political authorities. Under the law, many women and children are serving prison sentences in the North West Frontier Province for crimes they did not commit.

The committee to reinstate the judiciary is a direct response to the six-point Murree Declaration signed between the PPP and the PML-N to finalise the formation of government between the two parties following the 18 February election. The six points are: 1. form a coalition to give practical shape to the mandate 2. restore the deposed judges sacked in November 3. support the candidature of the Prime Minister proposed by the PPP 4. the PPP to provide the speaker and deputy speaker of the national parliament and the PML-N to fill these posts in the Punjab assembly 5. Both parties would be part of the national and Punjab governments and 6. both parties were ready for the national and provincial assemblies to be summoned immediately.

The PPP’s choice of Prime Minister in point 3 above was Syed Yousaf Raza Gillani. The 55 year old Gillani was born in Karachi of Punjabi parents. He was educated at the University of the Punjab gained an MA in journalism. His family are influential in the southern Punjabi city of Multan and Gillani political career was launched there in 1985 when he was elected to the national parliament on a Muslim League ticket. After serving as a Minister under President Zia, he switched to the PPP in 1988 when he was re-elected defeated Nawaz Sharif in the process. He served as speaker of the national assembly between 1993 and 1996. Gillani was jailed in 2001 by Musharraf following a conviction over illegal government appointments. Gillani served five years for charges he said were “concocted and…fabricated”.

Given his background Gillani is unlikely to be a yes-man for Bhutto’s husband and PPP leader Asif Ali Zardari. While many in Pakistan expected Zardari to nominate Amin Fahim (who was parliamentary leader of the PPP), D Suba Chandran writing in suggests that Nawaz Sharif may have vetoed Fahim’s appointment as he was perceived to be too close to Musharraf. Another factor may have been the fact that like Sharif, Gillani is Punjabi and this would shore up PPP support in the north.

Whatever the reason, Gillani has started strongly and announced that every member of his cabinet would be expected to adhere to the 100-day programme he announced in the national assembly to provide immediate relief to Pakistan’s poor. Gillani said his government’s priorities were improvement in the energy situation, availability of wheat and job opportunities. He has asked each minister to provide a report on the conditions each of them had inherited in their new ministries. He told Dawn that Pakistani people wanted to see a change in the system of governance and a qualitative change in their life. This is an ambitious task. Gillani may start by insisting on a qualitative change in the life of President Musharraf by given him the boot in the next three months.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

There’s clearly an array of powers at work creating the case right now for a war on the Pashtun tribal regions. These things don’t just happen in a vacuum. Wars seem to start with the careful choreography of the news media. The war masters, the maestros, start feeding their lap dogs, the press. The music is then played by the press for the rest of us to hear.

Notice how all the papers are beginning to play the same thing about the Afghan and Pakistan border? The theme of “lawless frontier” is being played every week. The sound drowns out the reality of a noble 5000 year old culture of some 42-million people.

We hear instead about the vilified denizens of a “lawless tribal frontier.”

What you missed it? Well, it’s only been playing for about two weeks. You need to tune in to the inside pages. The maestros have been composing for a while longer…. Their creative juices kicked in about the time Sen. Obama, answering one of those deadly sucker-punch sound bite questions showed us his war face telling us he would take action on “high-value terrorist targets" in Pakistan if President Pervez Musharraf "won't act.

That’s the sunshine it took to start the war-sap flowing. War-sap is sticky stuff, its residue has been known to encapsulate the creatures that get too near and preserve them there for posterity.

There is a legal system in place of course, in this lawless frontier. It’s been there for 5000 years. The Pashtun call the system the jirga. But its not part of the sharia law, it’s unique to the Pashtun and precedes Islam by thousands of years. But we don’t sing about that just now.

Please, I definitely don’t want the Pashtun to start signing their homeland song either. I don’t want to learn that an 1893 border line drawn with the blessing of Queen Victoria divided a group of mountain dwellers along the Afghan and Pakistan boarder in two.

I thought mountain ridges where proper borders. Everybody uses them. I just can’t handle the sound of another this-a-stan or that-a-stan popping up. So please, I don’t want to know about a Pashtunistan. And I definitely have no interest in anything 5000 years old, if it means Obama can catch Osama on good intelligence, bring it on! That should be Commander Obama’s war face call: “Bring it on!” Hmmmm, that sounds familiar.

What is this Pashtuni-whatever, Pashtunwali, anyway?

It’s a code of conduct. The Pashtun openly express somewhat defiantly, total cultural independence and have seen conquering armies and powers come and go through the millennia. Probably because of their original geographic high mountain foothold they could stand off vast armies with terrain advantage. Well it’s about time maybe for all that to stop.

If the Pashtun just hang in there with there non-violent thesis a few more generations, they'll be the dominant culture of the entire region with the new awakening of intellectual prowess and coming Islamic Reformation which is beginning right now. Their hopes of control over their resources, a name for themselves, and an end to fundamentalist radical Islamic persecution will fade away and they will be the dominant culture. They would be wise to muster whatever assets are needed, magically go find Osama bin Laden and turn him over to the world court thus avoiding a coming war in the tribal area.

And, how come they sound more like American cowboys than foreigners? Darn it, if we are going to start another little war, can’t we start it with some body that doesn’t live like my great, grandfather? The old Pashtun nationalist non-violent Kahn Abdul Gaffari Kahn 1930's photo, even looks like grandpa!

Setting aside the Pashtun mostly pray to the same God I do, grandpa did, and great grandpa too, how on earth did they adopt the same code as the old cowboy code of the west?

According to “lawless frontier” musical score, the first impressions I hear is Pashtun love rifles, chewing green tobacco, and appreciate a good sense of humor. So what's not to like? I can’t go to war on that.

If I fell out of the sky and landed in a group of people like that, I'd get along just fine, especially if I were being chased by the law. What they call Nanawateh we call asylum. Nanawateh is extended even to an enemy, just like the Cowboy Code of the Old West. Except if you are granted asylum (called Lokhay Warkawal) by the Pashtun elders as a group you're in like Flynn! They protect you even if it means forfeiting their own lives. Man that is lawless. Imagine a code of living where a principal was so honored, that it exceeded my duty to the state. Hmmm. Now that is lawless. Isn’t it?

Better to just seek hospitality, then they’ll treat you like a king, which makes me want to open a 5-Star hotel somewhere in the snowy peaks along the boarder if I can find a few acres for a ski-lift not planted in opium poppies, viewed on Google Earth satellite, not that anyone is actually checking the carefully cultivated fields above 6,000 feet along the borders. I would feel right at home there, not unlike parts of Tennessee or California.

Look at the forces arrayed here. My little fantasy war is going to happen.

The Democrats need to show they can be trusted with national defense again, be it Hillary or Obama. And McCain says fight to win.

The second verse of the song is still being written: Floating the contingency balloon. Up, up, and awa-a-a-ay, in my beautiful ball-o-o-o-on….

Obama or Hillary, or McCain get sworn in January 20, 2009. By mid June, whoever is President is going to make a push into the boarder regions the so-called "lawless frontier tribal zones” and “on good intelligence,” unless of course my leader does it first before June 20th. The operation will be Pakistan’s (well okay we’ll give them a few billion). It will be a fast coordinated air-ground attack with airborne US intelligence and lots of surrounding US air cover as a safety check to insure the operation stays within operational parameters. Pakistani’s will not go into Afghanistan and vice a versa. Meantime the Pakistan Navy will be backed up (some would say surrounded and outgunned) by the US Navy to keep a lid on the operation seeing to it they don’t launch an attack on India by Pakistan Islamic fundamentalist-leaning ground forces. We’ll hold India’s hand throughout the entire episode and offer security where needed.

Up, up and awa-a-a-ay in my beautiful …. This thing’s going to happen regardless of who wins.

You can’t deny the poetic justice in someone with a Muslim name (Obama) catching a renegade terrorist (Osama). Can you imagine the songs that we could write about that? To the tune of “Froggy went a courting.”

Obama went a hunting and he did hunt, uh-huh
Obama went a hunting and he did hunt, uh-huh
Obama went a hunting and he did hunt, he hunt Osama on the Mount
Obama went a hunting and he did hunt, un-huh. …..

The best time to wage this little war would be during the Chinese Olympics. China would likely remain quiet with their hands temporarily full with the Olympics.

So my fantasy, glorious, contingency war needs to be brief, violent, and force the Pashtun jirga to rethink their long term cultural interests. It needs to end with Osama in a holding tank, brought up on charges in the world court.

If it fails? Well what do you expect from the lawless tribal frontier area in Pakistan with questionable army allegiance? Corruption is everywhere.

I’d still like to open a 5-star hotel with some good ski-runs. You don’t suppose the opium production their so good at, has anything to do with the foolishness of some of our drug laws? Nah.

Victor Davis Hanson says you have to look at war with a long term perspective in order to understand its meaning. Long term is real long term. It may well turn out that while many say Bush's legacy must be a failure, history may have a completely different take on things, long after both you and I and our great grand children have come and gone. It may turn out, that doomed legacy of a Bush Presidency we hear so often this campaign-cycle ends up being written 1000 years from now as the President who started Islamic Reformation (* See Footnote) and brought freedoms that enabled thinking people to ask questions about religious practices that eventually changed the world and started the east and the west talking again.

The Ritz, I like that franchise, a 5-star Ritz, 18-hole world class golf course, mini-conference center with A Pashtun bag-piper paying my old favorite, “The Ass in the Graveyard” with double malt scotch, in the bracing night air.


Footnote: Reformation: "Christianity has the advantage of having been able to interpret its religious texts in their historical context, thus arriving at the distinction between what belongs to the bedrock of faith and what is related to culture: a distinction that Muslims have difficulty making." ... This was a topic of discussion in Muslim and Christian dialogue in Brussels, April 17, 2008. And from Pope Benedict XVI during his visit to the US in April 15-21, while visiting a synagogue in New York, with about 200 representatives of other religions, including Islam, to the Muslims the Pope said that interreligious dialogue "aims at something more than a consensus for advancing peace." The greater objective of dialogue is "to discover the truth" and keep the deepest and most essential questions awake in the hearts of all men. "Confronted with these deeper questions concerning the origin and destiny of mankind, Christianity proposes Jesus of Nazareth. He, we believe, is the eternal Logos who became flesh in order to reconcile man to God and reveal the underlying reason of all things. It is he whom we bring to the forum of interreligious dialogue. The ardent desire to follow in his footsteps spurs Christians to open their minds and hearts in dialogue.... Dear friends, in our attempt to discover points of commonality, perhaps we have shied away from the responsibility to discuss our differences with calmness and clarity..... The higher goal of interreligious dialogue requires a clear exposition of our respective religious tenants."