Understanding Pakistan Project Team August 23rd, 2007
By: Athar Osama
When I was writing this post this morning, the Supreme Court of Pakistan had not decided this case in the favor of Nawaz Sharif and his family’s “inalienable and unqualified” right to return to Pakistan. Then Understanding Pakistan’s long-planned switchover from its servers to the new (much faster one!) ran into some glitches and the site remained inaccessible for several hours. I wanted to comment upon and archive the original copy of Nawaz-Government deal. Now, with the decision already made much of the post has been made redundant but I will do so anyway to if only to archive this agreement on Understanding Pakistan. So, here is my post, as it stood in the morning (I shall return to it later to update it with new developments)
When Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhary was reinstated several weeks ago, I predicted–and prayed–that this would usher in a new era of judicial independence in Pakistan (here). Several ground breaking cases, I said, were likely to come before the Chaudhary Court. Among these cases was the the likely challenge to the exile of the Sharif family and the challenge to the constitutionality of General Musharraf’s dual appointments. The first of these challenges is now before the court.
While the legal battle has only started, one interesting thing that has recently come to light is the copy of the agreement between the Government and the Sharif family. The Government–for the first time in Pakistan’s history–has submitted something of value before the court and Dawn, to its credit, has made it publicly available for all of us to see and comment upon.
(Figure: Copy of the document signed by Nawaz Sharif on December 2, 2000. Source: Dawn.com, August 23, 2007)
The document titled “Confidentiality and Hold Harmless Agreement” shows that the Sharifs had also agreed not to engage in any business or political activities or any other activities of any nature against the interest of Pakistan, or relating to their incarceration, for a period of 10 years. They had also undertaken not to disclose to any party either the name of the ‘gentleman’ or of the country involved in their release from Pakistan and relocation, without their consent.
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Athar Osama August 3rd, 2007
By: Athar Osama
Just over an year ago, Pakistan’s two democratically elected Prime Ministers of the last decade–Ms. Benazir Bhutto and Mian Nawaz Sharif–signed a Charter of Democracy (Please take a few minutes to read the text of the document below) in London vowing to wage a joint struggle against military dictatorship in Pakistan. The Charter–a document, though with its own faults and failings, is perhaps one of the finest Charters of anything ever developed by Pakistani politicians, and thus deserves to be studied in its entirey and digested–was welcomed, albeit with some bit of skepticism by most political observers and perhaps even the general public in Pakistan. After all, it was these very leaders who were atleast partially responsible for giving the Army an opportunity to step into politics. At the time of the signing of the Charter they had argued, and many took their words on face value, that they have become wiser today than they were yesterday and that they deserved a second (third?) chance to bring real and meaningful democracy back to Pakistan’s politics.
Like many others, I too, was willing to give them a third chance, if only because there was no other alternative. However, deep down in my heart, I was very skeptical of how comprehensive and thorough their “education” in democratic values has been. True, adversity is a great teacher but our politicians have repeatedly shown a tendency not to learn from their own mistakes and Nawaz and Benazir were probably no exceptions. I was concerned that this alliance between these leaders was only temporary in the sense that once either of them came to power, he or she will forget all the lofty democratic values expressed in this Charter. Transplanting meaningful and stable democracy in Pakistan requires not only that our learders learn how to handle the “power” of the government (”absolute power corrupts absolutely!”) but also that they learn how to sit on the opposition benches and engage constructively, critically, and meaningfully with the government. Above all, it requires a certain temperament that will only come when our leaders will truly understand what democracy really is–as a system–and develop the right democratic values to sustain and nourish it.
Of course I was totally wrong in predicting that either of the two leaders are likely to renege on the demands of the Charter once they got back into power for little did I know that I would be writing an obituary of the Charter of Democracy even before elections would be held in Pakistan.
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