CIVIL SOCIETY PAKISTAN

February 25, 2008

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Musharraf clings to power as Pakistan’s main parties struggle to forge alliance

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THE INDEPENDENT

The country’s president, soundly beaten in the polls and with his enemies uniting against him, faces protests and demands for the release of the deposed chief justice

By Andrew Buncombe and Omar Waraich in Islamabad
Sunday, 24 February 2008

The motivation of the black-suited lawyer, campaigning noisily in front of barbed wire, barricades and several dozen riot police, could not have been simpler.

“We’re gathered here for the defence of justice and the release of the confined judges,” said Mumtaz Ahmad, as his fellow lawyers chanted slogans calling for the ousting of Pakistan’s President Pervez Musharraf and the release of Chief Justice Iftikar Chaudhry, whom he sacked and placed under house arrest. “This has been done by Musharraf. We are here for solidarity.”

In the wake of Benazir Bhutto’s assassination in December, and the dubious process by which Mr Musharraf became president, few expected last week’s National Assembly elections to be fair or peaceful. Remarkably, however, for the most part they were.

With Mr Musharraf’s parliamentary allies sorely beaten, there is now optimism among Pakistanis that, for the first time in several years, a genuinely civilian-led government is to take control. Yet the issue of what to do with the President, and the Chief Justice who defied him, could yet derail the agreement that the two successful parties are trying to forge.

On the surface, the issue appears reasonably straightforward. Nawaz Sharif, a former prime minister and head of the Pakistan Muslim League-N (PML-N), which unexpectedly won the second-largest number of seats, called for Mr Chaudhry’s restoration throughout the campaign. Indeed, he made it a point of principle, and many believe that it helped his party ride the anti-Musharraf wave that swept some parts of the country. But Ms Bhutto’s Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), which secured the highest number of seats, is less concerned about Mr Chaudhry’s return and appears keen to keep open its political options as it attempts to build a coalition. Some within the PPP have little time for him.

Pakistan’s politics is a three-dimensional game of chess, however. Alliances and agreements that appear solid can quickly evaporate, while bitter rivalries can vanish and a partnership be formed if suddenly the situation demands it.

Mr Sharif and Asif Ali Zardari, Ms Bhutto’s widower and the PPP’s leader, have said that their parties will, for the first time, work together to form a government. But to preserve harmony they have skirted the issue of Mr Musharraf’s future, and the restoration of Mr Chaudhry and other judges sacked by the president when they refused to ratify his imposition of a state of emergency.

“We want to form the parliament first and then let the parliament look at the issue of the judges,” a senior PPP member told The Independent on Sunday. “We need to have some legal basis on which to do this.” Mr Sharif has, for the time being at least, gone along with the PPP line. Surprisingly, the question of who should be prime minister is not causing any friction: various names have been mentioned, but the only sure thing is that it will not be Mr Sharif or Mr Zardari, neither of whom have a seat in the National Assembly.

But the issue of Mr Chaudhry is not going away. The lawyers’ movement, which supports his restoration and has been leading protests against the government, has said it is a point on which it will not compromise. Mr Sharif and his aides know he risks losing support if he now changes his position.

Aitzaz Ahsan, a veteran leader of the lawyers’ movement who has been in regular contact with Mr Sharif throughout the election period, said: “Iftikar Chaudhry must be restored, for how will we ever have an independent judiciary if a judge knows that acting independently could mean a life behind barbed wire?”

The US and Britain have been urging the two main parties to move swiftly towards forming a government. They say this is more important than becoming fixated on the issues of Mr Musharraf and Mr Chaudhry. The Bush administration has let it be known that it still supports Mr Musharraf, despite the electorate’s clear rejection of him. The British government – mindful of being accused of meddling in Pakistan’s politics – urges all “moderate parties” to form a government. Such a move would, according to a Gallup poll released yesterday, be the preference for most voters. Forty per cent of PPP voters said the PML-N was their second choice, and 45 per cent vice versa.

Yet for all the diplomatic nuance, many within the lawyers’ movement believe Mr Musharraf is being given a lifeline by the West. One of the demonstrators near Mr Chaudhry’s house last week was carrying a banner that read: “US – Shame On You.”

Yesterday the PPP indicated that if it does not immediately push for Mr Musharraf’s ousting – for which it would need a two-thirds majority – it may try to reduce his powers as president. In particular, it said, it wished to change Article 58 (2b) of the Pakistani constitution, which allows the president to dismiss the prime minister and the parliament – a power which has been used against both the PPP and Mr Sharif’s party in the past.

Just a week ago, few would have predicted that Mr Musharraf would find himself in a situation in which he could be fighting for his political life.

Mr Ahmad, the lawyer demonstrating outside Mr Chaudhry’s house, saw a simple solution. “We are against Musharraf, we are saying he should quit his office,” he said. “The people, with their votes, rejected him.”

GET OUT NOW – MUSHARRAF

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DAWN

FEB 25, 2008

DEMOS IN LAHORE FOR JUDICIARY

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https://i0.wp.com/www.khabrain.com/pics/main2.jpg

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JASARAT

FEB 25, 2008

NEW US INTERFERENCE IN PAKISTAN-EDITORIAL-JASARAT -FEB 28, 2008

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Blocked again

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THE NEWS

FEB 25, 2008

EDITORIAL


Monday, February 25, 2008
The Pakistan Telecommunications Authority (PTA), which has over the past few years acquired growing expertise in blocking ‘unwanted’ websites, has apparently struck again. This time its victim is ‘YouTube’, a giant, US-based website that allows users to post their own videos online. The reason for the blocking of the website is, according to the PTA, objectionable material but it also coincides at a time when some of its Pakistan-based users reportedly put up footage of poll rigging in the recently-held election. Similar clips, filmed using hidden cameras, have been aired in Pakistan by a private television channel. A few months ago, the electronic media regulator PEMRA had closed down channels attacking the actions taken against the judiciary. The previous year, websites run by Baloch or Sindhi nationalist groups and some blogs critical of the government had been blocked by the PTA. If the reason for the blackout is to deny people access to footage of rigging in the election then the move is truly lamentable.

In fact, the gagging is not restricted to the internet. One television channel, which in the past had earned the ire of the government has reportedly off air again after two of its hitherto banned anchors came back on air. In addition to this, renewed threats have been reportedly made to TV channels, which, in the eyes of President Musharraf and his allies, have re-started programmes by ‘banned’ hosts or adopted too critical a tone. It seems that even with the election over and done with, and a damning verdict given by people on repressive tactics used by the authorities in the past, lessons have not been learned. The most important among these lessons is that attempting to cover up reality brings more problems than facing up to what it reveals. Those giving orders seem not to have realized that in an age of rapidly advancing technology, such measures are futile. Other video clips and photographs of similar rigging, often captured on mobile phones, are in circulation. Some footage has been handed over t

President mulls over resigning: US, UK papers

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Updated at  
THE NEWS

FEB 25, 2008
By our correspondent

WASHINGTON: Rather than being expelled from the Presidency, President Pervez Musharraf is considering to voluntarily quit the office, Washington Post reported.

Quoting a confidante of President Musharraf, the daily said the president has concluded that he has exhausted his options. The report said the reason of President Musharraf’s decision is an understanding among three main parties, which have agreed on formation of government at the centre and restoration of the pre-November 3 judiciary.

According to the report, the Bush administration has initiated the process for parting ways with the six-year old ally and establishing contacts with new civilian leadership of Pakistan. Quoting a senior official of the US State Department, the daily reported that none of them wanted Musharraf to be shown the door.

Quoting Pakistani officials, the daily said that immediately after coming to know about outcome of the February 18 polls President Musharraf wanted to resign but he was told that it might lead to a political crisis.

NNI adds: The Sunday Telegraph quoting aides of the president also said Pervez Musharraf is considering stepping down as president rather than waiting to be forced out by his victorious opponents. One close confidante said that the president believed he had run out of options after three of the main parties who triumphed in the general elections announced they would form a coalition government together, and also pledged to reinstate the country’s chief justice and 60 other judges sacked by Musharraf in November.

“He has already started discussing the exit strategy for himself,” a close friend said. “I think it is now just a matter of days and not months because he would like to make a graceful exit on a high.”

According to senior aides, Musharraf wants to avoid a power struggle with the newly elected parliament, in which his opponents will be close to the two-thirds majority needed to impeach him and remove him from office.

“He may have made many mistakes, but he genuinely tried to build the country and he doesn’t want to destroy it just for the sake of his personal office,” said an official close to the president.

Musharraf had called for a harmonious coalition after the defeat of his party — the PML-Q — but his political rivals have demanded he go. Officials said he had considered resigning immediately after the election results were known, but had been persuaded by party loyalists that his sudden departure could precipitate a crisis.

In an article published last week he insisted that he would serve out his five-year presidential term. Behind the scenes, his staff attempted to broker an agreement with PPP Co-Chairman Asif Ali Zardari. Yet despite pressure from America, which has relied on Musharraf’s support for its war on terror, Zardari refused to strike a deal.

Presidential spokesman Maj Gen (R) Rashid Qureshi, meanwhile, denied report in the Sunday Telegraph. “I do not attach much credence to the report,” Qureshi said Sunday. “Nothing of this sort has been in president office,” he told Geo television.

The spokesman said that the reporter did not identify the source for his information that is why it does not have any credibility. To a question, Qureshi said the president has no role in government formation and it is up to the politicians to form governments.

PPP stakes claim to form new govt – Musharraf ‘will quit in days’

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THE NATION

FEBRUARY 25, 2008


IRFAN BUKHARI 

ISLAMABAD – Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) in its parliamentary party meetings of Balochistan and Sindh here on Sunday decided to form governments at the Centre and in the provinces in coalition with like-minded parties, sources said here.
The sources informed TheNation that in the meetings there was a consensus on forming the PPP governments at the Centre and in the provinces with the help of like-minded political parties and the participants authorised PPP Co-Chairman Asif Ali Zardari to decide the matters related to the formation of new governments.
PPP’s Parliamentary Party of Balochistan met in the morning at Zardari House to discuss the political situation in the province. Later on in the evening, the PPP Parliamentary Party of Sindh also met to discuss the option of cooperating with other political forces in the province.
During the meeting of Balochistan parliamentary party, the PPP apologised on behalf of the entire nation to the people of Balochistan for the atrocities and injustices committed against them in the past. It demanded an immediate end to the military operation and release of all political prisoners including Akhtar Mengal.
The meetings paid rich tributes to the late party Chairperson Benazir Bhutto for her courage and sacrifice in ushering a democratic era in the country. The meetings reiterated the demand of UN investigations be held to probe her assassination. The participants also offered fateha for the departed soul of Benazir Bhutto.
Welcoming the participants, Zardari said that he had called meetings of the elected members of all the provinces with a view to have broad-based consultations within the party. He said that Balochistan had suffered hugely in the past and the party would do all it could to heal its wounds.
Zardari said that the party had set up its own Election Monitoring Cell and asked the participants to agitate cases of rigging and electoral manipulation with the Election Commission of Pakistan and other legal forums through the Cell. The participants highlighted the problems being faced by the people of Balochistan and made suggestions on how to overcome them.
Several resolutions were also passed on this occasion. One of these resolutions called for immediate end to the military operation in Balochistan and release of all political prisoners, including Akhtar Mengal. They said that the Levies instead of police force should be deployed in the province and that the PPP will work to give maximum provincial autonomy to the provinces in the framework of Constitution of 1973 and that the party on behalf of the people of Pakistan apologises to the people of Balochistan for the atrocities and injustices committed against them in the past and pledges to embark on a new highway of healing and mutual respect.
The meetings were presided over by Co-Chairman Senator Asif Ali Zardari while Vice Chairmen Makhdoom Amin Fahim and Syed Yousuf Raza Gillani, Secretary General Jehangir Badr, Deputy Secretary General Senator Raza Rabbani, Secretary Information PPP Sherry Rehman, President PPP Balochistan Lashkar Raisani, Secretary General PPP Balochistan Bismillah Khan Kakar and Secretary General of the Parliamentarians Raja Pervez Ashraf attended the meeting. While in the Parliamentary Party meeting of Sindh Nisar Khuro, Nafees Siddique, Syed Qaim Ali Shah, Syed Khurshid Shah, Senator Safdar Abbasi, Nawab Yousaf Talpur and Dr Fehmida Mirza were also present.
Agencies: The PPP urged the government to convene a session of the new National Assembly and invite it to form the new government as it had emerged the largest party in last week’s general elections.
PPP leaders said the authorities had not yet invited the party to form government despite its victory in the February 18 parliamentary polls.
Former premier Nawaz Sharif’s PML-N party and the PPP last week announced plans to form coalition governments at the Centre and in the provinces.
Meanwhile, senior PML-N leader Khwaja Muhammad Asif on Sunday called on Zardari to discuss cooperation between the two parties in forming the new government. Asif told reporters he had no message for Zardari from PML-N chief Nawaz Sharif.
“My meeting is a continuation of the earlier meeting between the PPP and PML-N on forming the government. We had agreed to have further consultations and to discuss the emerging political situation,” Asif said. “We have decided that we will work together and respect each other’s mandate.”
Monitoring Desk adds: Expressing certain reservations, most of the PPP’s newly-elected MPAs in Sindh have opposed any possible political alliance with MQM and NPP, reported a private TV channel on Sunday.
The newly-elected Sindh MPAs held a meeting with the Co-Chairman Asif Ali Zardari at Zardari House in Islamabad. Zardari and Amin Fahim addressed the meeting members.
The members were taken into confidence over formation of government in Sindh and the issue of the PPP’s provincial parliamentary leader was also discussed in the meeting. Nisar Khoro is the most prominent name among the candidates for CM slot, the channel added.
Talking to the channel, Sassi Paleejo revealed that most of the MPAs had shown their reservations about any possible alliance with MQM and NPP.
“Many PPP leaders and workers were politically victimised, fake cases were registered against them in the past,” Paleejo added.
APP adds: Pakistan People’s Party has nominated Agha Siraj Durrani as Chief Minister of Sindh, a private television channel reported.
The channel, quoting its sources, claimed that the decision was taken in the meeting of People’s Party’s Parliamentary Party in Sindh Assembly that took place here at Zardari House.
Siraj Durrani served as Provincial Education Minister in Sindh during previous PPPP government and he won the February 18 elections from Shikarpur.
Monitoring Desk adds: According to PPP sources, Amin Fahim was unanimously nominated for the premiership, Agha Siraj Durrani for the office of Sindh Chief Minister and name of Pir Mazhar Ul Haq was finalised as Speaker of Sindh Assembly.
Online adds: Spokesperson of the PPP and former Senator Farhatullah Babar has rejected reports regarding the finalisation of nominee for the post of the chief minister Sindh in the Parliamentary meeting which held in Islamabad on Sunday.
He termed these reports as false and fabricated and said that the meeting which was held on Sunday did not even discuss the matter of parliamentary leader in the National Assembly or in any of the Provincial Assemblies let alone taking a decision on who will be the next chief minister.
Earlier, a private TV Channel claimed that PPP has finalised the name of Agha Siraj Durrani for the post of Chief Minister Sindh and former Provincial minister, Pir Mazhar ul Haq for the post of Speaker Sindh Assembly.

THE  NATION

‘Mother’ party seeks divorce from ‘father’

Maqbool Malik
ISLAMABAD – The former ruling party Pakistan Muslim League (Quaid) has technically abandoned its creator President Pervez Musharraf, TheNation has learnt from the party sources.
The party which contested general elections in 2002 with its original title PML-Q so proudly ‘fathered’ by the author of ‘In the Line of Fire’ has somehow maneuvered to register itself as Pakistan Muslim league (PML) and now become ‘mother’ political entity.
Background interviews and discussions with the party members suggest that the move to change the party title was done some time last year to set it out for the general elections.
“Do not call us Q-league, please. Call us Pakistan Muslim League (PML)”, Party’s Punjab President and former Chief Minister Chaudhry Pervez Elahi reminded this scribe during the press conference here on Saturday. Despite repeated efforts to seek clarification, neither Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi nor any other central leader was available, however it was learnt from other senior members that party had been reformed last year.
Some members took it as a conspiracy against the President in a bid to marginalize his future political standing. However, few close to the central leadership believed it was done on the recommendation of party’s Secretary General Mushahid Hussain Sayed, who, with ‘all sincerity of purpose’ intended to reform the party in order to serve as effective political tool.
“We are proud to be mother of all the factions of Pakistan Muslim League,” a senior women wing leader told TheNation.
When asked how come the party could be regarded as ‘mother’ of all the factions of Pakistan Muslim league since it was created out of Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz), she simply declined to answer.
Party sources however narrated a sorry tale of the party meeting held at the Muslim League House Saturday that was called to do soul-searching for the political defeat in the general elections. The meeting was dominated by calls for the central leadership to accept the responsibility and step down.
According to the insiders former foreign minister Khurshid Kasuri and Riaz Pirzada were more vocal in demanding explanations from the leadership as to why party had denied tickets to several members including Shaukat Aziz.
They further said that several former ministers including Hamayun Akhtar Khan had wilfully missed the meeting.
President Pervez Musharraf, formerly also the COAS, had created PML-Q by bundling up majority members of Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz) and using NAB as part of his strategy aimed at seeking honourable exit in testing times.

THE NATION

Musharraf ‘will quit in days’ 

Asif Mehmood
LONDON – Pervez Musharraf is considering stepping down as President of Pakistan rather than waiting to be forced out by his victorious opponents, said a British newspaper Sunday Telegraph report.
According to the report, one close confidante have told the newspaper that the President believed he had run out of options after three of the main parties who triumphed in last week’s poll announced they would form a coalition government together, and also pledged to reinstate the country’s chief justice and 60 other judges sacked by Musharraf in November. “He has already started discussing the exit strategy for himself,” a close friend said. “I think it is now just a matter of days and not months because he would like to make a graceful exit on a high.”
According to senior aides, Musharraf wants to avoid a power struggle with the newly elected parliament, in which his opponents will be close to the two-thirds majority needed to impeach him and remove him from office. “He may have made many mistakes, but he genuinely tried to build the country and he doesn’t want to destroy it just for the sake of his personal office,” said an official close to the President.
Musharraf, who stepped down as head of the army late last year, had called for a harmonious coalition after the defeat of his party – which won just 38 out of 272 National Assembly seats in last Sunday’s elections – but his political rivals have demanded he go. Officials said he had considered resigning immediately after the election results were known, but had been persuaded by party loyalists that his sudden departure could precipitate a crisis.
In an article published last week he insisted that he would serve out his five-year presidential term. Behind the scenes, his staff attempted to broker an agreement with Asif Zardari, PPP Co-Chairman. Yet despite pressure from America, which has relied on Musharraf’s support for its war on terror, Zardari refused to strike a deal.
According to the Telegraph, Zardai declined despite also claiming to have been threatened by Musharraf’s allies that the government would revive long-standing corruption charges against him. “I have seen these jails and this is not something new to me,” said Zardari. “I fought all these fake cases instituted against me with courage and never disappointed anyone by asking for a pardon.
“I’m ready to fight it out again, and will never disappoint anyone.”
PPP officials said that any deal with Musharraf would have dented the party’s public support and it was better to try to govern with the help of other main parties. “It doesn’t make any sense for us to sink with the dying man,” said Nisar Khuhro, a senior PPP leader, referring to Musharraf, according to the report.
Jamil Soomro, a PPP spokesman, said: “He has betrayed everyone since the very outset and we have no guarantee that he would not betray us once he stabilised his position. “Musharraf’s popular support drained away over the past year as he interfered with the independence of the courts, imposed a state of emergency, restricted the media and postponed elections.
NNI adds: Presidential spokesman Rashid Qureshi Sunday denied report in the British Sunday Telegraph that Pervez Musharraf is considering stepping down as President.
“I think do not attach much credence to the report,” Qureshi said. “Nothing has been this sort in President Office,” he told a private TV channel.
The spokesman said that the reporter did not identify source for his information that is why it does not have any credence.
To a question, Qureshi said that the President has no role in government formation and it is up to the politicians to form governments.

JANG

FEB 25, 2008

 














 
 
 

POST-ELECTION NEWS – FEBRUARY 24, 2008

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NAWAEWAQT

FEBRUARY  25, 2008

 

 

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