Cutting through the bullshit.

Friday, 8 June 2007

It's not perfect

On Wednesday, US President George W Bush, the leader of the free world, and champion of freedom for the unfree world, addressed a press roundtable at the Kempinski Grand Hotel in Heiligendamm, Germany. In answer to the question, ‘But if you think democracy is the best way to confront radicals and terrorists, shouldn't we be pushing hard for democracy to really get established in Pakistan?’ he replied

Well, democracy is -- it's a lot more established in Pakistan than some of the other nations I mentioned. And there's upcoming elections. And what you're seeing is a lot of posturing about the election process, and it's not perfect. Either was our democracy perfect for 100 years when we enslaved people.

To underscore how robust the establishment of democracy in Pakistan really is, Dawn reports

The Supreme Court on Wednesday ordered that a man handed over to the Military Intelligence by Faisalabad police in 2004 be produced in court. The Faisalabad police deputy inspector-general had admitted before the court that Hafiz Abdul Basit had been arrested by police in January 2004 but after recording his statement he was handed over to Capt Amir of the MI.

A Supreme Court bench comprising Justice Javed Iqbal, Justice Abdul Hameed Dogar and Justice Falak Sher has taken up petitions of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP)…

Mr Basit’s uncle Hafiz Abdul Nasir claimed that when he himself was abducted by the military to pressure his nephew, he was in critical condition.

However, National Crisis Management Cell (NCMC) Director Col Javed Iqbal Lodhi insisted that the cell had no information about Mr Basit.

Mr Basit is only one of hundreds who have disappeared into the bowels of Pakistan’s democratic security establishment. It was largely thanks to his demands for the release of disappeared persons that General Musharraf relieved Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry of his post, the principal catalyst for the current imbroglio. Justices Javed, Abdul, and Falak might need to take care how they pursue these cases, lest they find themselves on the receiving end of Pakistani freedom.

Also on Wednesday, civil rights campaigner

Syed Mohammed Iqbal Kazmi, who recently filed petitions on the May 12 mayhem in Karachi and the new Pemra ordinance, went missing after he dropped his 12-year-old son at the house of his mother-in-law in Gulistan-i-Jauhar.

Just yesterday, Pakistan again evidenced its profound respect for freedom when, Raja Asghar reports

…another first in Pakistan’s parliamentary history as Speaker Chaudhry Amir Hussain was quoted to have ordered his staff not to let journalists enter the parliament building to cover Thursday’s sitting of the National Assembly in what seemed to be a reprisal for a previous day’s unprecedented incident when they chanting slogans from the press gallery had scuffles with non-journalists who allegedly tried to undermine their protest walkout by occupying reporters’ seats.

Only members of the state media — the Pakistan Television, Radio Pakistan and the Associated Press of Pakistan -- were allowed entry to cover the…newly-promulgated Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (Pemra) (Amendment) Ordinance providing for easier and harder punishments for perceived violations of the original Pemra law.

All journalists from newspapers, private television channels and other domestic and foreign news organisations were not allowed entry when they arrived at the parliament building for the scheduled 10am start of the National Assembly sitting. But they stayed on outside under a scorching sun [yesterday’s high temperature was 41C/105F], often chanting slogans such as “we want freedom” and “Pemra Ordinance na-manzoor (unacceptable)” whenever a government minister or other assembly members would come and drive into the parliament premises.

To further demonstrate how freedom flourishes in the ‘Land of the pure’, Dawn reported Wednesday that

Scores of journalists, civil society representatives, lawyers and politicians, who staged a torch-bearing protest against new curbs on the media here on Monday, were booked by police on multiple charges, including...chanting anti- government slogans.

…the case had been registered on the directive of the government who had ordered the police to take strict action against the protesters.

Among those named were 250 journalists, including Rawalpindi-Islamabad Press Club president Mushtaq Minhas.

Former federal minister Julius Salik, Pakistan Muslim League (PML-N) information secretary Ahsan Iqbal and a representative of civil society, Jehangir Akhter, were booked on the charge of provoking the journalists during the procession.

Besides, the police also booked several lawyers and representatives of civil society.

At the same time, according to Carlotta Gall, writing in the NY Times on Wednesday,

The provincial home secretary of Punjab, Khusro Fazal Khan, told the independent channel GEO Television that the police had arrested 312 political party local leaders and workers throughout the province. They were detained under an article of law in force since Friday that bans gatherings of more than 5 people.

Opposition parties say hundreds of their workers have been rounded up in house raids in the last few days in the Punjab, Pakistan's most populous province. Legislators protested the arrests at the opening of a new session of Parliament, called after a three-week recess, but the speaker refused them time.

In the time honoured tradition of freedom loving leaders, the Times reports the Pakistani daily The News quoted General Musharraf at a Wednesday meeting with senior members of the governing party, the Pakistan Muslim League, which gives him his base of support in Parliament, “If I myself have to do everything, then you are for what purpose?”

As President Bush said on Wednesday, ‘The process and progress move at different paces and different places…in the long run, the best way to secure your society is through liberty. In the short run, let's work collaboratively to protect ourselves.’ Either the Pakistanis have all the liberty they deserve, or they can wait until the Americans feel adequately protected.

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