EDITORIAL: Finding a counsel - Sunday, April 17, 2011

National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO) case has become a double-edged sword for the PPP government. In addition to facing the ire of the Supreme Court (SC) for not implementing its verdict on NRO passed in December 2009, the government has had to face embarrassment at the hands of the counsels it appointed to represent it before the SC. Last year, former attorney general, Anwar Mansoor Khan, resigned after making the awkward statement that the law ministry was not cooperating with him. Recently, Kamal Azfar, who was appointed the counsel in NRO review for a brief period last year, conveyed his impression to the SC bench hearing the case that the government did not want to allow the case to proceed and is indulging is delaying tactics by changing its counsel. The government had requested the SC to accept Dr Khalid Ranjha as the new counsel, because Latif Khosa who had succeeded Kamal Azfar in October last year following the latter’s appointment as advisor to the prime minister on disaster management, was made governor of Punjab in January this year. The government’s complaint against Kamal Azfar is that instead of informing the court that he no longer represented the government, he had appeared before it. In reaction, the government has requested the Pakistan Bar Council (PBC) to take action against Azfar for overstepping his brief. Not surprisingly, the PBC is reluctant to get involved in an obvious case of vengeance. Kamal Azfar has also reported being harassed by a lawyer close to the government, which has evoked stern rebuke by the Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA) President Asma Jahangir, who has vowed to stand by a member of the association.

NRO has all along remained a very sticky issue for the government because some of its beneficiaries, including President Asif Ali Zardari, are occupying high positions. NRO was the result of a political deal between General Musharraf who was looking for the support of a mainstream political party to legitimise his extension in power, while Benazir Bhutto saw this as an opportunity to get rid of all the politically motivated cases against her, her family and other PPP members. The SC has struck down that deal, declaring it discriminatory. Since handing down the verdict, the SC has been insisting on reopening of Swiss cases, which were closed on the request of the Pakistan government. The government refused to do so on the plea that the Swiss authorities have already declared they would not do so. This has irked the SC and it has come to think that the government is indulging in delaying tactics. Therefore, in a very strict interpretation of SC rules, it maintained the government cannot change its lawyer in the review petition. It has asked the attorney general and deputy attorney general, who have already once appeared before the court, to represent the government.

Part of the blame lies with the government, as it has failed to appoint persons suitable for defending its case. Kamal Azfar was considered close to the PPP and was not expected to deviate from the brief given to him. Disappointed, the government is indulging in harassment campaign against him, which is not justified under any circumstances. Why single out Kamal Azfar when other lawyers too have failed to deliver or deviated from their job. *


Ever since the Raymond Davis debacle, the intelligence agencies of both Pakistan and the US — ISI and CIA — have been at loggerheads over just how to cooperate with each other when both are obviously in conflict over how anti-militant and counter-terrorism activities should be carried out in the country. According to recent reports, Leon Panetta, the CIA Director, has said that the US has no plans to cut down on its operations against the militants within Pakistan’s borders and that his first and foremost priority was ensuring the US’s safety, no matter what the objections. And of objections, there have been plenty. However, somewhat conflicting to Panetta’s statement are recent confirmations by the US on being ready to discuss the element of drone strikes in Pakistan.

Whatever the scenario, the fact remains that lately the drone attacks have been getting some very negative press. Ever since the attack on the jirga that killed some 50 people in Datta Khel immediately after the release of Raymond Davis, there has been the kind of mass hysteria, hardly ever witnessed before, concerning the drone strikes. That the Chief of Army Staff (COAS) General Ashfaq Pervez Kayani voiced, for the first time, apprehension and intolerance for the drones, almost every key public figure has claimed the same — the latest among the haters being Chief Minister of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Ameer Haider Hoti. It is almost like popular demand now for the drone strikes to end.

At such a juncture, the most important question to ask is: are the drone strikes effective or not? There are many who say they are precise, accurate and kill more militants than civilians, while there are others who say that more civilians are killed as collateral damage. All the facts and figures need to be laid out on the table before any dismissal or allowance is vouched for. We are in the midst of a terror war and we must not demand the end of drones if they are effective militant killing machines.

Although highly unlikely, given the mistrust that the Americans have for the Pakistani establishment, if they concede under pressure and end the drone attacks, it is up to the Pakistan Army to take over the reigns in countering the terrorists. The army will be under even more immense pressure by the Americans and will need to step up their game. The real question then is: will they? *

Source : http://dailytimes.com.pk/default.asp?page=2011\04\17\story_17-4-2011_pg3_1

No comments:

Post a Comment