Back in January of last year, the sudden return to Pakistan of cleric Tahir ul Qadri, who had been in a form of exile in Canada, threatened to derail the elections that took place two months later. There were accusations at the time that he was working on behalf of the military. Qadri did not take part in the elections (and is being called out for that now), but he started agitating again last month, with his large demonstrations leading to the arrest of large numbers of his followers and a number of deaths in clashes between his followers and police.
Yesterday, it was announced that Qadri will lead a “revolution march” that begins on August 14 and is intended to turn into a siege of Islamabad. From Geo News:
Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT) chief, Dr. Tahirul Qadri Sunday said the ‘revolution march’ will begin on August 14.
“No one will return till the government is toppled and the system changed,” Dr. Qadri told his workers and asked them to take a pledge by raising their hands.
But it will not be just Qadri’s Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT) party marching in Islamabad on the 14th. The article continues:
Addressing the PAT workers who had gathered here to observe the party’s Yaum-e-Shuhda, the PAT chief said both ‘Azadi March’ of Imran Khan and ‘revolution march’ of his party will be staged on the same day of August 14.
Dawn is now counting down the days to the march (and somehow they borrow from the NCAA basketball tournament to call this march madness), and frame the major questions the demonstrations pose:
The Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf’s (PTI) Azadi March and the Pakistan Awami Tehreek chief Dr Tahirul Qadri’s ‘Revolution March’ will now storm the capital together, further intensifying the stand-off with the government.
Many questions remain unanswered at this stage. Will Imran’s ‘peaceful’ rally be hijacked by Qadri’s more volatile protesters? Whose demands is the combined march really about — Qadri’s, or Imran’s?
Will speculations of a military intervention push the situation beyond the point of no return for Nawaz and co.?
Pakistan’s government continues to negotiate with the groups and refuses to release the 1500 Qadri supporters who have been jailed. Significantly, the government also has called an additional 3000 federal troops to Islamabad to shore up preparations already undertaken by the military:
Pakistan Army’s 111 Brigade, Rangers, elite force and intelligence agencies personnel have already been assigned security duties in Islamabad as PTI and PAT gears up for a march towards the capital to oust the government on August 14.
The federal government called in military to Islamabad, from August 1 by invoking Article 245, for assisting the civil authorities in maintaining law and order situation of Islamabad for three months.
Ironically, despite his government calling in the military to deal with the chaos surrounding the march, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif is accusing former military dictator Pervez Musharraf (and by extension, Pakistan’s military) of being behind the movement:
In a speech that addressed the ongoing political crisis in the currently, the prime minister on Monday asked who is behind the calls for revolutions and marches in the country.
“I can’t help but laugh at the agendas of these long marches,” Nawaz Sharif said, indirectly referring to Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) and Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT).
“It hurts and confuses me – who has given them these agendas?”
The government has accused “Musharraf’s friends” of being behind the political chaos in the country, with PTI and PAT leaders Imran Khan and Tahirul Qadri calling for the prime minister to step down with a march on August 14.
In a veiled reference to former military ruler General (retired) Musharraf, he asked why those who invited the war on terror in Pakistan are not held accountable.
“Have we not learned lessons from what this country has suffered? The constitution has been uprooted, rule of law has been flouted…we suffered billion of dollars in losses [as a result of Pakistan’s involvement]. Who sowed the seeds of terrorism?” he asked.
“Who is going to hold them accountable?”
This week promises to be very revealing about the future of Pakistan’s politics. And shouldn’t someone be raising those same questions from Sharif here in the US? Have we not learned lessons from what we have suffered, as our constitution also was uprooted and rule of law flouted? Shouldn’t we hold someone accountable here?
Today marked the retirement of the Chief Justice of Pakistan’s Supreme Court, Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry. Chaudhry has played a central role in many of Pakistan’s most dramatic developments in the past eight years during which he served on the court. AP has a capsule summary of some of those events:
He was appointed chief justice in 2005 and attracted national prominence two years later, when he was sacked by then-President Pervez Musharraf. He was reinstated in 2009 after a protest movement led by the nation’s lawyers.
I must confess to having been turned into a huge fan of Pakistan’s lawyers during this time. The images of hordes of lawyers clad in black suits and marching in support of the rule of law led to many fantasies of such things happening here in the US. It took two years of demonstrations and the election of a new government after Musharraf was forced to step down, but Chaudhry eventually was released from detention and returned to his spot on the bench.
It should be noted that current Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif played a large role in the final movement that procured Chaudhry’s release. The first four minutes of this story from Al Jazeera provide a good summary of those momentous developments:
Chaudhry will be a very tough act to follow.
On the same day that Pakistan’s newly elected Prime Minister, Nawaz Sharif, spoke to the press alongside US President Barack Obama in Washington, Bob Woodward teamed with Greg Miller to release confirmation that Pakistan’s government has agreed to and collaborated in choosing targets for the US “secret” drone program inside Pakistan. Participation by Pakistan, and especially its military, has long been known by close observers and the regular insistence by Pakistan’s government that drone strikes are a violation of Pakistan’s sovereignty is viewed cynically as the government’s need to provide domestic political cover.
On first thought, the timing of this revelation seems to break the basic tenets of what Marcy describes as the Bob Woodward Law that applies to classified information being leaked to Woodward:
As explained by John Rizzo in the context of the Obama Administration’s leaks to Bob Woodward, they can and do insta-declassify stuff for their own political purposes all the time. They can do it to make the President look important; they can do it to lie us into an illegal war; they can do it to ruin the career of someone who might expose the earlier lies.
The timing of this leak seems to be aimed more at embarrassing Obama than making him look important. The description of the joint appearance by the New York Times is quite interesting if one assumes that Sharif and Obama were aware that the leak was about to be published:
But Mr. Sharif said after the meeting that he had asked Mr. Obama to halt American drone strikes in Pakistan, broaching an issue that has aggravated tensions. The president did not respond publicly, saying only that the two sides needed to find ways to fight terrorism “that respect Pakistan’s sovereignty, that respect the concerns of both countries.”
So Obama would not address the drone issue directly in his public remarks. But it seems that Sharif was not particularly enthusiastic in his obligatory public denouncement of drone strikes: →']);" class="more-link">Continue reading
Although he is already under house arrest for a number of other charges pending against him, Pervez Musharraf, Pakistan’s former military leader who took control of the government after ousting then (and once again, now) Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif in a coup, was indicted today on three charges relating to the assassination in 2007 of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto.
The charges were filed in the Anti-Terrorism Court in Rawilpindi. From Dawn:
“He was charged with murder, criminal conspiracy for murder and facilitation for murder,” public prosecutor Chaudhry Azhar told AFP at the ATC in Rawalpindi hearing the case.
The six accused persons include former City Police Officer (CPO) of Rawalpindi Saud Aziz, the then SP Khurram Shahzad, Hasnain Gul, Rafaqat Hussain, Sher Zaman and Abdul Rasheed respectively.
Salman Masood and Declan Walsh provide more in the New York Times:
The sight of a once untouchable general being called to account by a court had a potent symbolism in a country that has been ruled by the military for about half of its 66-year history. While the military remains deeply powerful, the prosecution has sent the message that Pakistan’s top generals are subject to the rule of law — at least after they have retired.
If only Stanley McChrystal and David Petraeus were called to account for their crimes. But I digress.
The Times continues with interesting information on the basis of the charges against Musharraf:
The case against Mr. Musharraf is believed to rest largely on a statement by Mark Siegel, a Washington lobbyist and friend of Ms. Bhutto’s, who says that Mr. Musharraf made a threatening phone call to her before she returned to Pakistan in October 2007. Ms. Bhutto was killed in a gun and bomb attack as she left a rally in Rawalpindi in December 2007.
Mr. Siegel said Ms. Bhutto had warned him in an e-mail that if she were killed, the blame should fall on four named people — a former director of the ISI spy service, a military intelligence agent, a political rival, and Mr. Musharraf.
It would appear that Siegel now bases his career on his former association with Bhutto and a book they wrote together just prior to her death. Here is more on the email at the heart of the case: →']);" class="more-link">Continue reading
Although he has been under house arrest since shortly after his return to Pakistan while facing trial on charges of arranging the assassination of Benazir Bhutto, former Pakistani Army Chief and President Pervez Musharraf was given a lifetime ban from holding political office by the Peshawar High Court:
The Peshawar High Court (PHC) on Monday banned former military ruler Pervez Musharraf from politics for life.
The ruling came in response to an appeal filed by the former army strongman over the rejection of his nomination papers for the National Assembly seat in Chitral.
A four-member larger bench, headed by PHC Chief Justice Dost Mohammad Khan and comprising of Justice Malik Manzoor, Justice Syed Afsar Shah and Justice Ikramullah ruled that since Musharraf had abrogated the Constitution twice, he could not be allowed to contest elections for either the National Assembly or the Senate.
Isn’t that interesting? In Pakistan, violating the country’s constitution as President gets a lifetime ban from politics, while in the US the same offense allows the perpetrator to open a Presidential Lie Bury.
Meanwhile, as the May 11 elections draw nearer, violence is escalating. Today’s New York Times reports on a suicide bomber who killed nine in Peshawar in an attack that seemed aimed at creating an overall climate of fear rather than attacking a particular target:
An attacker riding a motorcycle detonated his explosives near the suspected target, a police patrol car, on busy University Road during the morning rush hour, killing a police constable and several bystanders, said Faisal Kamran, a senior police official.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility, although the Taliban have carried out a relentless series of attacks against secular political parties around the country in recent weeks as part of a drive to influence the elections.
Officials in Peshawar said the attack on Monday was different in that it did not appear to target a specific party but aimed instead to foster a broader climate of fear during the campaign season.
Sadly, two of the people who died were Afghan trade officials who most likely were not targeted but merely were victims of the senseless attack.
As stated above, most violence ahead of the election has been aimed at political parties and candidates. It has become so widespread that Human Rights Watch issued a statement yesterday, calling for more protection of candidates and political parties:
Pakistan’s interim government should take all necessary steps to ensure the safety of candidates and political party activists at risk of attack from the Taliban and other militant groups, Human Rights Watch said today. Nationwide parliamentary elections in Pakistan are scheduled for May 11, 2013.
Since April 21, when election campaigning formally began, the Taliban and other armed groups have carried out more than 20 attacks on political parties, killing 46 people and wounding over 190. Earlier in April, another 24 people were killed and over 100 injured in election-related attacks.
That violence is continuing:
An independent election candidate and two of his relatives from Balochistan’s Jhal Magsi area were killed by unknown assailants on Tuesday night prompting the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) to postpone the elections in PB-32.
According to the police and relatives of the deceased, Abdul Fateh Magsi was kidnapped on Tuesday (sic) night and his bullet-riddled body was found on Tuesday morning.
Presumably, Magsi was kidnapped on Monday evening and his body found this morning.
There is a long article in today’s Washington Post handicapping the elections. I’m pretty sure that this passage is delivered without a clue to the level of hypocrisy it drips:
On May 11, Pakistanis will choose the next prime minister in an election hailed as a landmark of democratic progress for a country ruled by the military for nearly half its 65-year history. Yet decades of tradition dictate why democracy has remained more of a concept than a reality.
Even as Pakistan prepares to witness its first democratic transition of power, elite political families, powerful landholders and pervasive patronage and corruption undermine the prospects of a truly representational democracy, political analysts say.
Coming on the heels of Sandra Day O’Connor finally admitting the US Supreme Court should not have decided the 2000 Presidential Election and as the Post and other pundits continue to hype the Hillary Clinton vs. JEB! Bush 2016 contest, what more proof do we need that the US is completely free of corruption and elite political families?
I realized something as I was writing this post on Mark Mazzetti’s latest installment from his book. Signature strikes — those strikes targeted at patterns rather than identified terrorists — purportedly preceded our unilateral use of drone strikes in Pakistan.
At least that’s what appears to be the case, comparing this article, which dates General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani’s approval of signature strikes to a January 9, 2008 meeting with DNI Mike McConnell and Michael Hayden.
The change, described by senior American and Pakistani officials who would not speak for attribution because of the classified nature of the program, allows American military commanders greater leeway to choose from what one official who took part in the debate called “a Chinese menu” of strike options.
Instead of having to confirm the identity of a suspected militant leader before attacking, this shift allowed American operators to strike convoys of vehicles that bear the characteristics of Qaeda or Taliban leaders on the run, for instance, so long as the risk of civilian casualties is judged to be low.
The new agreements with Pakistan came after a trip to the country on Jan. 9 by Mike McConnell, the director of national intelligence, and Gen. Michael V. Hayden, the C.I.A. director. The American officials met with Mr. Musharraf as well as with the new army chief, Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, and offered a range of increased covert operations aimed at thwarting intensifying efforts by Al Qaeda and the Taliban to destabilize the Pakistani government. [my emphasis]
With Mazzetti’s latest, which dates unilateral strikes to a July 2008 meeting with Kayani (note, Mazzetti doesn’t say whether Hayden and Stephen Kappes, or someone else, “informed” Kayani).
While the spy agencies had had a fraught relationship since the beginning of the Afghan war, the first major breach came in July 2008, when C.I.A. officers in Islamabad paid a visit to Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, the Pakistani Army chief, to tell him that President Bush had signed off on a set of secret orders authorizing a new strategy in the drone wars. No longer would the C.I.A. give Pakistan advance warning before launching missiles from Predator or Reaper drones in the tribal areas. From that point on, the C.I.A. officers told Kayani, the C.I.A.’s killing campaign in Pakistan would be a unilateral war.
The decision had been made in Washington after months of wrenching debate about the growth of militancy in Pakistan’s tribal areas; a highly classified C.I.A. internal memo, dated May 1, 2007, concluded that Al Qaeda was at its most dangerous since 2001 because of the base of operations that militants had established in the tribal areas. That assessment became the cornerstone of a yearlong discussion about the Pakistan problem. Some experts in the State Department warned that expanding the C.I.A. war in Pakistan would further stoke anti-American anger on the streets and could push the country into chaos. But officials inside the C.I.A.’s Counterterrorism Center argued for escalating the drone campaign without the I.S.I.’s blessing. Since the first C.I.A. drone strike in Pakistan in 2004, only a small number of militants on the C.I.A.’s list of “high-value targets” had been killed by drone strikes, and other potential strikes were scuttled at the last minute because of delays in getting Pakistani approval, or because the targets seemed to have been tipped off and had fled.
So, in July 2008, when the C.I.A.’s director, Michael Hayden, and his deputy, Stephen Kappes, came to the White House to present the agency’s plan to wage a unilateral war in the mountains of Pakistan, it wasn’t a hard sell to a frustrated president. [my emphasis]
Now, Mazzetti dates the urgency to use unilateral strikes to a May 1, 2007 report that said al Qaeda was reconstituting in the tribal lands. The report was likely an early draft of or precursor to the July 17, 2007 NIE on “The Terrorist Threat to the Homeland.”
Let’s take a step back and contextualize that.
As Carol Rosenberg first reported, the government charged former US resident Majid Khan in Gitmo’s military commission on Monday. One of those charges–attempted murder in violation of the laws of war–pertains to his alleged attempt to assassinate Pervez Musharraf on March 8, 2002.
In that Majid Shoukat KHAN, a person subject to trial by military commission as an alien unprivileged enemy belligerent, did, on or about March 8, 2002, at or near Karachi, Pakistan, in the context of and associated with hostilities, intentionally and unlawfully attempt to kill Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf in violation of the law of war, by wearing a vest containing an improvised explosive device and traveling to a mosque where he expected President Musharraf to be with the intention of detonating the vest and killing President Musharraf, which actions amounted to more than mere preparation and apparently tended to effect the commission of the offense of Murder in Violation of the Law of war.
That’s pretty ironic given that the same day Rosenberg reported the Khan charges, the Daily Beast reported an accusation, made by the former head of Pakistan’s ISI, Ziauddin Khawaja, that Musharraf knew one of his close allies was sheltering Osama bin Laden.
Ziauddin says that the safe house in Abbottabad was made to order for bin Laden by another Pakistani intelligence officer, Brig. Gen. Ijaz Shah, who was the ISI bureau head in Lahore when Musharraf staged his coup. Musharraf later made him head of the intelligence bureau, the ISI’s rival in Pakistan’s spy-versus-spy wars. Ziauddin says Ijaz Shah was responsible for setting up bin Laden in Abbottabad, ensuring his safety and keeping him hidden from the outside. And Ziauddin says Musharraf knew all about it.
Ziauddin first made the accusation last October.
I’m sure time will sort out both these accusations. But it sure doesn’t make (much) sense that Khan was trying to kill Musharraf at the same time as Musharraf was watching a close ally construct a compound for OBL.
Although maybe it explains how Musharraf knew not to show up on the day Khan allegedly waited for him wearing a suicide belt.
Update: Alternately, if KSM sent Khan with a “suicide vest” containing no explosives to a location where Musharraf was not scheduled to appear, would it really amount to an assassination attempt? This is from Khan’s Gitmo file, and appears to be based on his interrogation in CIA custody from 2004.
Detainee said he checked the vest and did not see any explosives inside, and also noticed there was no increase in security at the mosque as would be expected during a presidential visit.
The precarious hold that Pakistan’s civilian government has on power took another severe blow today, as the Supreme Court handed down a decision (pdf) which threatens to find Prime Minister Yousuf Reza Gilani unfit to hold office. At issue is the failure of Pakistan’s executive branch to implement a number of corruption probes ordered by the Supreme Court when it overturned the 2007 National Reconciliation Ordinance in 2009. The NRO had provided amnesty to a number of political figures and parties in paving the way for a US-brokered planned transition from a Musharraf government to a likely Bhutto government. President Asif Ali Zardari’s government has steadfastly refused to implement the probes, citing immunity. Ironically, the Supreme Court cited the 1928 case Olmstead v. United States, in which the US Supreme Court upheld the use of illegal wiretaps in the prosecution of a bootlegger. The passage cited by Pakistan’s Supreme Court is from Justice Brandeis’ dissent and is an elegant call to observe the rule of law. Although Olmstead v. United States eventually was overturned, it is particularly ironic that Pakistan’s Supreme Court would cite this case in responding to executive branch claims of immunity at a time when the US is once again litigating the extent of executive branch and corporate immunity in a new era of illegal government wiretaps.
In documenting the crisis, Dawn quotes Supreme Court Justice Asif Saeed Khosa:
Tuesday, Supreme Court’s Justice Asif Saeed Khosa remarked that despite clear court orders, the government and the NAB [National Accountability Board] were not serious about implementing court orders, DawnNews reported.
Justice Khosa said that the apex court was giving a last chance to the government to implement its verdict on the National Reconciliation Ordinance by Jan 16.
He said in case of non-implementation, the court would be forced to take certain steps which would not be “pleasant”.
Khosa goes on to complain that the government has had over two years to respond to the overturning of the NRO, but refuses to act:
He moreover referred to President Asif Ali Zardari and said that the president had, “in an interview, refused to accept the court’s orders”.
The prime minister and the law minister also publicly refused to accept the apex court’s orders, Justice Khosa said, adding that the president and the prime minister preferred loyalty to party over loyalty to state.
It is in response to this failure to act that the written decision cites Justice Brandeis’ dissent in Olmstead v. United States:
In a government of laws, existence of the government will be imperiled if it fails to observe the law scrupulously. →']);" class="more-link">Continue reading
Let’s see if these results last after they count the vote, but it looks like Musharraf’s party lost today’s election–resoundingly.
From unofficial results the private news channel, Aaj Television, forecast that the Pakistan Peoples Party would win 110 seats in the 272-seat National Assembly, with Mr. Sharif’s party taking 100 seats.
Mr. Musharraf’s party, the Pakistan Muslim League-Q, was crushed, holding on to just 20 to 30 seats. Early results released by the state news agency, The Associated Press of Pakistan, also showed the Pakistan Peoples Party to be leading in the number of seats won.
The Election Commission of Pakistan declared the elections free and fair and said the polling passed relatively peacefully, despite some irregularities and scattered violence. Ten people were killed and 70 injured around the country, including one candidate who was shot in Lahore on the night before the vote, Pakistani news channels reported.
Fearful of violence and deterred by confusion at polling stations, voters did not turn out in large numbers. Yet fears from opposition parties that the government would try to rig the elections did not materialize, as the early losses showed.
If it’s true that Musharraf’s government didn’t (or didn’t succeed in) rigging the elections, score one for democracy. But that doesn’t mean the US is prepared to deal with the aftermath–even if, as projected, Bhutto’s party the PPP comes out ahead.
The results opened a host of new challenges for the Bush administration, which has been criticized in Congress and by Pakistan analysts for relying too heavily on Mr. Musharraf. Even as Mr. Musharraf’s standing plummeted and the insurgency gained strength, senior Bush administration officials praised Mr. Musharraf as a valued partner in the effort against terrorism.
The NYT, at least, makes it sounds as if Musharraf is ready to pack it in.
Two politicians close to Mr. Musharraf have said in the past week that the president was well aware of the drift in the country against him and they suggested that he would not remain in office if the new government was in direct opposition to him. “He does not have the fire in the belly for another fight,” said one member of his party. He added that Mr. Musharraf was building a house for himself in Islamabad and would be ready soon to move.
What will Dick Cheney do without his faithful puppet?
The NYT has a disturbing story this morning, explaining that, with the US policy in tatters after the assassination of Benazir Bhutto, they’re considering ratcheting up the pressure by allowing the CIA to partner with the Special Forces on operations in Pakistan.
President Bush’s senior national security advisers are debating whether to expand the authority of the Central Intelligence Agency and the military to conduct far more aggressive covert operations in the tribal areas of Pakistan.
Several of the participants in the meeting argued that the threat to the government of President Pervez Musharraf was now so grave that both Mr. Musharraf and Pakistan’s new military leadership were likely to give the United States more latitude, officials said. But no decisions were made, said the officials, who declined to speak for attribution because of the highly delicate nature of the discussions.
Many of the specific options under discussion are unclear and highly classified. Officials said that the options would probably involve the C.I.A. working with the military’s Special Operations forces.