Subservient Pakistan or Life and Liberty

As long as Pakistan chooses to remain a serf state, a vassal of the powers that sustain it, both from West and East, it will be a nation of 'subcontinental primates' who have yet to lose their tails and climb down from the high trees.

How long will this country remain subservient to those who can reason and think?

Who engineered the killing of Benazir Bhutto? Apart from her own quest for power, it can safely and with emphasis be said that it was the rulers of the western world, the governments of George W. Bush of the USA, and of firstly Tony Blair and then of Gordon Brown of the United Kingdom. It was their global policies conjured up to suit their present-day needs and desires, their policy of having 'no permanent friends', that dispatched Benazir back to Pakistan and to her doom. This is the unified opinion of their own press and media.

It is perhaps set out most clearly in a Washington Post report of Dec 28 under the heading 'US brokered Bhutto's return to Pakistan'. Clear and simple - as it says it. "For Benazir Bhutto, the decision to return to Pakistan was sealed during a telephone call from Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice just a week before Bhutto flew home in October. The call culminated more than a year of secret diplomacy . . ." Rice, reportedly, was only engaged in the final stages of the famous 'deal'. Her call was made to Benazir in Dubai. "A week later, on October 18, Bhutto returned. Ten weeks later she was dead."

According to the report, as President General Pervez Musharraf's "political future began to unravel" after his disastrous March 9 confrontation with his chosen chief justice of the Supreme Court, from which he was never to recover but merely to dig himself in deeper as the months passed, to the US mind "Bhutto became the only politician who might help keep him in power". She was the only possible way that Bush & Co "could guarantee stability and keep the presidency of Musharraf intact". This was stated by Mark Siegal, Benazir's lobbyist in Washington.

And so, her pursuit of power and Washington's immediate policies brought her back with both knowing that her life expectancy could not be guaranteed. It was not. She has been slain, and death, as it must, diminishes us all. We mourn Benazir's going, and we mourn with the family she has left behind her. May her soul rest in peace, after her tumultuous and tragedy-tinged life.

Now on to the liberty of the living, to those who are very much with us but whose liberty has been taken from them. To name but two, the best known - former chief justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry and the fiery Cambridge Chaudhry, Aitzaz Ahsan.

I have had the pleasure of meeting Judge Chaudhry but once, in 2006, soon after he had assumed his high office. He was visiting Karachi and I spotted his motorcade pass by my house going up Bath Island hill to the Chief Justice's rest house. I wrote him a note requesting him to meet me at his earliest convenience whilst he was in Karachi, and dispatched it up the hill. Being a good judge, and a good one when in court, office or at home resting on a Saturday afternoon, he realised that it might be a matter of urgency and immediately ordered his assistant to telephone me and tell me that I could meet him straight away were it urgent. If not, I could meet him on Monday after he rose from the bench.

This message was delivered to me only when I rang his office on Monday to enquire whether he had received my note. His assistant, having forgotten to pass on Judge Chaudhry's message, feeling somewhat guilty I must suppose, summoned me over to the Supreme Court immediately. The Chief Justice received me with great civility, as was expected of a judge interacting with a citizen of his country.

The reasons for my visit were not frivolous. They involved two matters which required his urgent attention. The first was Air Marshal Asghar Khan's human rights petition of 1996 concerning the disbursement by the ISI of state money to influence the election of 1990. With elections scheduled for 2007-8, this was a matter of urgency. I requested that he take up and finally decide this pending petition.

The second matter was a case in the Supreme Court, pending since 1999. I had been charged with contempt by the Supreme Court for having made an undesirable statement on TV regarding the judiciary as a whole. I suggested that this also be heard and decided.

To my surprise he was conversant with both and told me he would take them up. Soon thereafter, I wrote a column on Karachi's Jehangir Park which was being destroyed by the local government, and all its trees were to be chopped down so that some hideous 'development' could take place. Justice Chaudhry took suo motu notice of the matter and swiftly the park and trees were saved. One paragraph of his order read : "Under Article 26 of the Constitution, it is the fundamental right of the citizens to have access to public places of entertainment or resorts. As per the socio-financial status of the citizens of Pakistan the majority is not in a position to afford the luxury of joining mini-golf courses along with their children and subject to the payment of tickets, etc."

I sent him a note of appreciation: "You heard the trees. You heard the people. Thank you."

Now, the question I ask of President Musharraf and his men is why have they chosen to restrict the liberty of not only Judge Chaudhry but of his lawyer, Aitzaz? Why is our intelligence being challenged? What threat do they pose to the integrity and survival of Pakistan or to its 'larger national interest'? What are the charges against them?

We are subjected to farcical remarks by the Musharraf minions that these two gentlemen are 'not under house arrest' when it is eminently apparent to all at home and abroad that they are.

In any democratic country, a citizen is allowed to remain free until and unless arrested under the law, and is subject at all times to the right of bail. If bail is refused, the citizen is to be remanded for definite periods by a court to verify his safety.

At the moment we have our fundamental rights restored to us. How is it that no member of the Supreme Court Bar Association has thought it fit to file a petition requesting the securing of the unfettered movement of these two confined citizens?

Musharraf is never at a loss to declare that his desire is to follow the edicts of Founder Mohammad Ali Jinnah. On August 11, 1947, MAJ told his people that the first duty of any government is to ensure and impose law and order.

Ardeshir Cowasjee is a long time political analyst in Pakistan and is a regular writer for the English daily Dawn. He can be reached at [email protected]

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Older Comments:
I agree with Dawood Haq.

And here I thought it was the guy with the bomb all along.Silly me.