Posts

Ahsan Procures Adjournment to Feb. 1 in Gilani Contempt Case; Pasha Term to Expire; NATO Routes to Re-open?

Aitzaz Ahsan announcing his Black Flag Week campaign in 2008.

In his much-anticipated appearance today before Pakistan’s Supreme Court, Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani was represented by Barrister Aitzaz Ahsan. [I must admit to a bit of bias here. Ahsan became something of a personal hero to me when he organized Pakistan’s Black Flag Week in March of 2008, eventually resulting in thousands of lawyers taking to the street and successfully securing the release and reinstatement of the Supreme Court Chief Justice who had been sacked and arrested by Pervez Musharraf. The picture at left is a screengrab from this YouTube of an appeal he sent out in organizing Black Flag Week.] The proceeding against Gilani was adjourned until February 1, in order for Aitzaz to prepare his case more fully. It also appears that Gilani has been excused from further personal appearances at the court.

In other Pakistan developments today, it appears that Ahmed Shuja Pasha will not have his term extended again as head of Pakistan’s ISI spy agency. The selection of a new ISI head will provide yet another front of intrigue in the ongoing struggles between the Zardari government and Pakistan’s military and intelligence forces. Also, it appears that Pakistan is getting close to re-opening NATO’s supply routes through the country, but with the addition of tolls.

Here is Dawn on the court proceedings:

The Supreme Court on Thursday adjourned the prime minister’s contempt hearing to Feb 1, leaving a brewing political crisis over corruption cases and presidential immunity unresolved.

The court has also exempted the premier from appearing for the upcoming hearing of the case.

Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani appeared in the court today to explain why he should not be charged with contempt for failing to re-open old corruption cases against President Asif Ali Zardari.

/snip/

Ahsan requested the court for a month’s time to file a response. He said the time was required to access and go through the case’s record. Responding to which, Justice Nasir-ul-Mulk said that access to records could be provided in two days’ time.

The Express Tribune has more on the issue of why Gilani did not write a letter to Swiss authorities, asking them to re-open their prosecution of Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari: Read more

Gilani to Appear Before Pakistan Supreme Court Jan 19 on Contempt Charges; Early Elections Likely

Pakistan’s Supreme Court stopped just short of declaring Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani unfit for office today, and instead found him in contempt of court. He is to appear personally before the court on January 19 to answer the charges. He could be thrown out of office at that proceeding. In the meantime, the Guardian is reporting that early elections are beginning to look likely. This would appear to be the only way out for a government that is facing a military that doesn’t want it in office along with two serious proceedings against it underway in the Supreme Court.

The Express Tribune reports on the contempt finding:

The Supreme Court of Pakistan issued a contempt of court notice to Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani on Monday and directed him to appear personally before the bench on January 19, Express News reported.

During the proceedings, National Accountability Bureau (NAB) Chairman Fasih Bokhari tendered an unconditional apology to the court, on which the court said that a written apology should be submitted.

Speaking to the media after the hearing, Federal Law Minister Maula Bux Chandio said that he will inform the government about the court’s verdict and admitted that the contempt notice is not something to be taken lightly.

A bit further along in the article, the Express News describes the six options that the Supreme Court had outlined last week as its possible courses of action on the NRO case. Here is the entry on a contempt finding:

Option 2: Contempt proceedings

The bench said the prime minister and the law minister could face contempt proceedings for “persistently, obstinately and contumaciously resisting” to implement the judgment. A possible conviction may entail a disqualification from being elected as a member of parliament for five years, the bench warned.

In a meeting of Zardari and Gilani’s PPP political party, it appears that Gilani has offered to resign if that is what is needed for the country: Read more

Zardari Flees to Dubai Again Under Cover of “One Day” Trip: Is He Finished?

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kfqrl17tZCw[/youtube]

Events continue to unfold at a very rapid pace in Pakistan. On Tuesday, I had noted, in comments to my post on the constitutional crisis facing the country over implementing the repeal of the National Reconciliation Ordinance, that Dawn was reporting that Pakistan’s President Asif Ali Zardari had said that he is ready to resign if that is what his political party desires. Further, Zardari had called for a meeting of Parliament for today, along with a meeting just before that with high officials in his PPP political party.

In the meantime, Wednesday was very eventful, as the civilian government and military traded multiple charges back and forth over the continuing memogate controversy. In the midst of that tussle, Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani fired the country’s defense secretary and the military announced a new head for a “brigade known for its prominent role in coups”.

Today, it appears that Zardari has once again fled to Dubai. Both a scheduled medical follow-up to last month’s hospitalization in Dubai and a wedding have been given as reasons for this trip. So far, I’ve seen no mention in any of the stories on his departure of the Parliament meeting and political party meeting that he had called for today. Neither a “scheduled” medical trip nor a trip for a wedding make sense as explanations for a sudden trip which cancels these hastily called meetings. Despite the explanation that this is a one day trip, I’d be very surprised if he chooses to return to Pakistan.

Reuters reports on Zardari’s departure:

Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari flew to Dubai on a scheduled one-day trip on Thursday, a member of the ruling party and sources said, while tensions grew over a memo seeking U.S. help in preventing a coup by Pakistan’s powerful military.

/snip/

Relations between Pakistan’s civilian government and the military have reached their lowest point since a coup in 1999, reducing the chances that the leadership can take on the country’s enormous social and economic challenges.

Military sources say that while they would like Zardari to go, it should be through constitutional means, not another of the coups that have marked Pakistan’s almost 65 years of independence.

“There is no talk in the military of a takeover,” a mid-level army officer, who requested anonymity because he was not authorized to speak on the matter, told Reuters.

“I don’t foresee a military coup.”

The stage is set, of course, for the “constitutional” removal of Zardari, as his government has a deadline of Monday for responding to the Supreme Court on the NRO case. As noted earlier this week, the Supreme Court has threatened to find the civilian government unfit to rule if it does not respond properly to its rulings. Zardari’s sudden departure, only four days before that deadline, would appear to be an admission that he and his government have no response to the charges.

Meanwhile, as if the Supreme Court breathing down its neck weren’t enough, the Zardari government has further enraged the military with the firing of the defense secretary: Read more

Olmstead v. US on Rule of Law'>In Constitutional Showdown, Pakistan Supreme Court Cites Quaint Olmstead v. US on Rule of Law

Pakistan's Supreme Court today cited Louis Brandeis' eloquent dissent in Olmstead v. United States

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. Read more

With US Attention on Memogate Fallout and Taliban, Khan’s Tsunami Gathers Strength

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iidC31wuEpE[/youtube]

As reported late yesterday by the New York Times, the US is finally acknowledging that it faces a diminished role in Pakistan. However, restoring even a diminished level of relations with Pakistan after the November 26 airstrike that killed 24 Pakistani troops is complicated by the fact that “civilian and military leaders are clashing over purported coup plots”. At the same time, the US continues its efforts at negotiating with the Taliban on a peace agreement for Afghanistan once the US leaves, and has even arranged for the Taliban to open an office in Qatar. These diplomatic moves are all focused on the scheduled 2014 withdrawal of combat troops from Afghanistan, but standing between now and then are the scheduled Pakistan elections in 2013.  Former cricket star Imran Khan appears to be gaining a huge political following and so it seems likely that whether it is the long-rumored military coup or an electoral loss, the Zardari government appears to have lame duck status while participating in these critical discussions.

The Times describes the reduced US role with Pakistan:

With the United States facing the reality that its broad security partnership with Pakistan is over, American officials are seeking to salvage a more limited counterterrorism alliance that they acknowledge will complicate their ability to launch attacks against extremists and move supplies into Afghanistan.

The United States will be forced to restrict drone strikes, limit the number of its spies and soldiers on the ground and spend more to transport supplies through Pakistan to allied troops in Afghanistan, American and Pakistani officials said. United States aid to Pakistan will also be reduced sharply, they said.

It appears that the reduced number of “spies and soldiers” is down to about 100 from a high of 400. It is also very interesting to note that there have been no drone strikes in Pakistan since November 16, a full ten days before the November 26 border post attack. Today marks the one month mark for the blocking of supply lines through Pakistan in response to the border post attack.

While trying to sort out whether the Zardari government is stable enough to negotiate with over US involvement, the US is continuing its frequently ill-fated attempts to negotiate with the Taliban.   Read more

Zardari Returns to Pakistan; Liaison Officers Return to Border Centers; Stage Set for Haqqani as Double Scapegoat

Two major steps toward stability in Pakistan and restoration of relations with the United States have taken place, as President Asif Ali Zardari returned to Pakistan yesterday while liaison officers have now returned to the border coordination posts from which they were withdrawn as part of the response to the November 26 NATO attack that killed 24 Pakistani troops. NATO supply routes remain blocked, however.  In a very interesting move, former Pakistani Ambassador to the United States Husain Haqqani has been forced to submit a statement and to appear before the Abbotabad Commission. The Commission is seeking information on visas issued by the Washington embassy during his tenure as Ambassador.

Despite the earlier statements that Zardari would take two weeks of rest before resuming his duties, Zardari yesterday returned to Pakistan from Dubai:

Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari returned home from medical treatment in Dubai to face rising tension between his civilian government and the military over a memo accusing the country’s generals of plotting a coup.

It’s not clear when the deeply unpopular leader who has uneasy ties with the army will return to work. He flew into the southern city of Karachi after treatment for a heart condition.

It would appear that Zardari immediately took up at least ceremonial duties:

State television showed him at his residence, looking relaxed as he met senior provincial officials.

Multiple media reports had addressed the fact that Zardari and Army Chief Ashfaq Kayani had talked on the phone prior to Zardari’s return. An article today by Dawn provides more details on that conversation: Read more

Zardari Released From Hospital, Remains in Dubai; Memogate Reply Delayed

Pakistan’s President Asif Ali Zardari was released from the hospital in Dubai on Wednesday, but has not returned to Pakistan. His reply to Pakistan’s Supreme Court investigation into the Memogate scandal had been expected today, but could be submitted tomorrow since the deadline has been extended.

Reuters gives us details on Zardari’s release from the hospital:

“President Zardari has been discharged from the hospital and he has moved to his residence in Dubai,” presidential spokesman Farhatullah Babar said.

The article also has more information on the ongoing question of whether Zardari suffered a stroke:

Zardari’s office had released a statement earlier on Wednesday from his doctor saying the president had been admitted to hospital with numbness and twitching in his left arm and had lost consciousness for a few seconds.

“All investigations are within normal range and he was kept for observation for a few more days,” Khaldoun Taha said, adding that Zardari would now rest at home and continue with his regular heart medications.

Zardari likely suffered a transient ischemic attack, senior sources in Zardari’s party said last week, an ailment that can produce stroke-like symptoms but no lasting damage to the brain.

Admitting to a TIA appears to thread the needle nicely in providing a few symptoms consistent with the widespread rumors of a stroke while avoiding any long-term stroke damage which would be obvious should Zardari return to public life. With Zardari now out of the hospital, his need for “rest” begins to look more suspicious, especially with the rest taking place in Dubai. I’m having a hard time seeing how Zardari can take two weeks of rest outside the country at a time when such crucial questions are facing Pakistan’s government and then come back and resume his duties.

One immediate crisis facing Zardari is the investigation into Memogate being carried out by the Supreme Court. Read more

Gilani to BBC: Zardari to Remain in Dubai Hospital Two More Weeks

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yxfZ2706b0U[/youtube]

Pakistan’s Prime Minister Yousef Raza Gilani granted an extended interview to BBC on Sunday.

Although many important topics were covered in the interview, the subject of the health of Pakistan’s President Asif Ali Zaradari was perhaps the most crucial.  The health part of the interview starts at around 1:50 of the video.  I find it interesting that Gilani states that Zardari has now been moved from the ICU to “his room” at the hospital.  If I recall correctly, early reports had stated that Zardari was in the ICU in order to cut down on the number of visitors. Gilani’s reference to this move to a regular room appears to be more in the context of Zardari’s recovery, so now there is reason to believe that Zardari’s health when he arrived in Dubai was poor enough to warrant an extended stay in the ICU.

Gilani rejected outright the rumors that Zardari has suffered a stroke.  Those rumors have persisted on Twitter for the entire time that Zardari has been hospitalized.

Most importantly, though, is Gilani’s statement that Zardari now will “take rest” and that the rest will be for “about two weeks”.  Recall that when it was first revealed that Zardari was hospitalized in Dubai, the story was that he had suffered a mild heart attack and that he had undergone angioplasty.  In my post about that news, I had this to say:

It should be kept in mind that if Zardari did suffer a mild heart attack and then was treated with angioplasty, patients in this situation often are discharged from the hospital the next day and are usually free to resume normal activities fairly quickly. Should the hospitalization continue into next week, then either the status of Zardari’s health or the status of the political situation should be assumed to be different from what has been reported.

If we were to work only from the assumption that this was a mild heart attack followed by angioplasty, then Zardari remaining in Dubai for two more weeks would seem to point pretty strongly to the likelihood that Zardari has deemed it either not safe or not prudent for his return to Pakistan.  However, that interpretation is complicated by Gilani linking Zardari’s shift out of the ICU as part of his recovery.  A stay of four or five days in the ICU is not consistent with the initial health status that was reported.  As a result, it appears that we are stuck in a holding pattern where we cannot fully ascribe Zardari’s extended hospital stay as wholly health-dependent or wholly politics-dependent. Read more

Zardari in Dubai Hospital; Coup Rumors Quelled for Now

Pakistan's President Asif Ali Zardari (Wikimedia Commons)

Late Tuesday afternoon, Twitter was awash in a flurry of rumors on the status of Pakistan’s President Asif Ali Zardari. One tweet that was repeated over and over stated that Zardari had been sedated, flown to Abu Dhabi, and would leave as soon as possible for London due to a medical condition. Then Josh Rogin put up a story at Foreign Policy stating that Zardari was in Dubai after complaining of chest pains and that there was a possibility that he would resign before returning to Pakistan. After first stating that Zardari was in Dubai only for medical tests relating to a known previous heart condition, the Pakistani government later stated that Zardari had suffered a minor heart attack and was in Dubai for treatment, which many have described as angioplasty.  Zardari is expected to return to Pakistan soon.

The tweet that set things off appears to have come from Najam Sethi, whose twitter profile lists him as “Editor, The Friday Times, & Group Advisor GEO TV; Senior Fellow New America Foundation, Washington DC; Eric Lane Fellow Clare College Cambridge University UK”. Although the tweet doesn’t seem to be in his timeline now, retweets put it as: “Prez Zardari sedated and taken to hosp in AbuDhabi. He will go to London asap. Faranaz Ispahani with him but not HH!” Tweets that are still in his timeline state that he meant to say Dubai, but he had just returned from Abu Dhabi and typed that instead. There is an additional tweet stating that he still expects Zardari to go to London.

Faranaz Isphahani is Zardari’s spokeswoman, “HH” is presumed to refer to former US Ambassador Husain Haqqani, who resigned in the memo scandal and has been placed on the Exit Control List, preventing his exit from Pakistan.

An even higher level of Twitter activity ensued after Josh Rogin Tweeted a link to his story at Foreign Policy.  The key aspect to Rogin’s story was information received from “a former US government official”:

A former U.S. government official told The Cable today that when President Barack Obama spoke with Zardari over the weekend regarding NATO’s killing of the 24 Pakistani soldiers, Zardari was “incoherent.” The Pakistani president had been feeling increased pressure over the Memogate scandal. “The noose was getting tighter — it was only a matter of time,” the former official said, expressing the growing expectation inside the U.S. government that Zardari may be on the way out.

The former U.S. official said that parts of the U.S. government were informed that Zardari had a “minor heart attack” on Monday night and flew to Dubai via air ambulance today. He may have angioplasty on Wednesday and may also resign on account of “ill health.”

Rogin then went on to quote another source on a potential coup: Read more

The Checkered Neocon History of Mansoor Ijaz, Instigator of Pakistan’s “Memogate”

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qFoUCUE6-U0[/youtube]

As I noted yesterday, Josh Rogin has been doing outstanding work on the issue now rocking Pakistan, a memo purportedly sent from the highest levels of the Pakistani civilian government seeking US support for shutting down the branch of Pakistan’s ISI that deals with the Taliban and the Haqqani Network and weakening Pakistan’s military.  Now that Rogin has confirmed existence of the memo (and today has even provided a copy of it), I’d like to return to the figure who got this whole scandal started, Mansoor Ijaz.  Here is information Rogin dug up regarding Mansoor Ijaz back on November 8, when Michael Mullen was still denying existence of the memo:

This is only the latest time that Ijaz has raised controversy concerning his alleged role as a secret international diplomat. In 1996, he was accused of trying to extort money from the Pakistani government in exchange for delivering votes in the U.S. House of Representatives on a Pakistan-related trade provision.

Ijaz, who runs the firm Crescent Investment Management LLC in New York, has been an interlocutor between U.S. officials and foreign government for years, amid constant accusations of financial conflicts of interest. He reportedly arranged meetings between U.S. officials and former Pakistani Prime Ministers Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif.

He also reportedly gave over $1 million to Democratic politicians in the 1990s and attended Christmas events at former President Bill Clinton‘s White House. Ijaz has ties to former CIA Director James Woolsey and his investment firm partner is Reagan administration official James Alan Abrahamson.

In the mid-1990s, Ijaz traveled to Sudan several times and claimed to be relaying messages from the Sudanese regime to the Clinton administration regarding intelligence on bin Laden, who was living there at the time. Ijaz has claimed that his work gave the United States a chance to kill the al Qaeda leader but that the Clinton administration dropped the ball. National Security AdvisorSandy Berger, who served under Clinton, has called Ijaz’s allegations “ludicrous and irresponsible.”

Those are some pretty damning allegations.  Before moving to the detail from the source Rogin linked on Ijaz’s attempt to get $15 million from Pakistan in return for securing a positive vote in the House of Representatives for the Brown Amendment back in 1995, it’s worth getting the context for this bill.  From the Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation: Read more