Secular Jinnah & Pakistan

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Secular Jinnah & Pakistan

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Army’s one-day spending equivalent to one-year education ministry budget – The News (via Indus Asia Online Journal (iaoj))

Army’s one-day spending equivalent to one-year education ministry budget - The News by Umar Cheema ISLAMABAD: Pakistan spends Rs1.35 billion per day over the three armed forces just under the head of salaries and operating expenses only, Rs8.60 million daily on the president and prime minister, Rs7.8 million per day on the Senate and National Assembly but a paltry amount of three lakh rupees per day to take care of human rights, show the budget documents. It further discloses that the Army’s one-day spending is equivalent to the … Read More

via Indus Asia Online Journal (iaoj)

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International Crisis Group : Reforming Pakistan’s Electoral System

Pakistan’s dysfunctional electoral system has hampered democratic development, political stability and the rule of law; major electoral reforms would bolster a still fragile democratic transition.

via International Crisis Group : Reforming Pakistan’s Electoral System.

Reforming Pakistan’s Electoral System

Asia Report N° 20330 Mar 2011

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY AND RECOMMENDATIONS

Electoral rigging has hampered Pakistan’s democratic development, eroded political stability and contributed to the breakdown of the rule of law. Facing domestic pressure for democracy, successive military governments rigged national, provincial and local polls to ensure regime survival. These elections yielded unrepresentative parliaments that have rubber-stamped extensive constitutional and political reforms to centralise power with the military and to empower its civilian allies. Undemocratic rule has also suppressed other civilian institutions, including the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP), which is responsible for holding elections to the national and four provincial assemblies, and local governments. With the next general election in 2013 – if the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP)-led government completes its full five-year term – the ruling party and its parliamentary opposition, as well as the international community, should focus on ensuring a transparent, orderly political transition through free, fair and transparent elections.

General Pervez Musharraf’s eight-year rule gravely eroded the ECP’s already limited independence, impartiality and competence, reducing the institution to providing a façade of legitimacy to military rule. Handpicked chief election commissioners (CECs) oversaw widespread rigging of two local government elections, a presidential referendum, and a general election. Musharraf’s Legal Framework Order, enshrined in the constitution though the seventeenth amendment, massively distorted the political system, tilting the electoral playing field towards the military’s civilian allies, including the Islamist parties.

These constitutional distortions were repealed in April 2010, when parliament unanimously passed the eighteenth amendment to the constitution, undoing Musharraf’s political legacy and introducing new provisions to strengthen parliamentary democracy. The amendment package enhanced the ECP’s independence by making the appointment of its key officials more transparent and subject to parliamentary oversight. The CEC and other ECP members, previously appointed by the president, will now be selected through consultations between the prime minister and the leader of the opposition in the National Assembly, and subsequently vetted and approved by a joint parliamentary committee comprising, equally, government and opposition members. While encouraging, this is only the first step in a longer process of electoral reform.

To curtail opportunities for the military to manipulate the political process, the ECP must be made independent, impartial and effective. The commission remains poorly managed, inadequately resourced, under-staffed and under-trained. Promotion prospects for ECP personnel are limited, and recruitment policies fail to attract strong candidates; top positions tend to be filled by civil servants from the regular federal bureaucracy, primarily because ECP officials lack the necessary skills. There are no systematic training programs for ECP staff, and the organisation devotes few if any resources to researching and analysing past elections and raising important electoral issues.

Electoral reform on all fronts is urgently needed. Highly inaccurate voters lists are responsible for disenfranchising millions. Polling procedures are often manipulated; accountability mechanisms for candidates and political parties seldom employed; and the electoral code of conduct routinely flouted. Dysfunctional election tribunals, characterised by corruption and prolonged delays, prove incapable of resolving post-election disputes. Such internal weaknesses constrain the ECP from overseeing credible elections and an orderly political transition.

The ECP has taken some steps to address these problems. In May 2010, it produced a strategic five-year plan, with significant international assistance, listing fifteen broad electoral reform goals, divided into 129 detailed objectives with specific timeframes, which range from improvements in voter registration and election dispute management procedures, to the creation of a comprehensive human resource policy. Although there were some, albeit limited, steps towards meeting targets for 2010, more substantive progress is unlikely unless parliament assumes political ownership over the plan, oversees its implementation, and holds the ECP accountable for unsatisfactory progress.

Credible elections, however, require far more than just structural reforms. Many discriminatory laws remain in place, including easily manipulated qualification criteria requiring electoral candidates to be of good Islamic character. Moreover, an interventionist military high command appears bent on shaping the political order to its liking. Although the PPP’s main opposition, Nawaz Sharif’s Pakistan Muslim League (PML-N) has repeatedly expressed its support for the democratic transition and refusal to unseat the elected government via unconstitutional means, it must match rhetoric with action. In the past, both the PML-N and the PPP have instead chosen to collude with the military at times.

A new population census, originally due in 2008, is scheduled for August-September 2011, presumably followed by a large-scale redistricting exercise. The last redistricting, under Musharraf in 2002 and 2005, ahead of national and local elections respectively, was designed to serve narrow political objectives. Political violence and ethnic conflict could be sparked countrywide by a flawed census, gerrymandering and a rigged election.

The international community, too, particularly the U.S. and EU, should realise that a flawed general election in 2013, if not sooner, would pose a serious threat to Pakistan’s stability. Donors and Western capitals should immediately shift their programs and advocacy to support for a smooth political transition, rather than wait for the election season to begin.

RECOMMENDATIONS

To the National and Provincial Governments of Pakistan:

1.  Transform the parliamentary subcommittee on electoral reform to a permanent, full committee.

2.  Increase the independence and improve the functioning of the ECP by:

a)  appointing without delay new members of the ECP, according to the provisions of the eighteenth and nineteenth constitutional amendments;

b)  granting the ECP complete financial autonomy by passing legislation providing for budgetary allocation to the commission, reflecting to the extent possible its determination of needs;

c)  making the ECP’s code of conduct part of the electoral law, and requiring the ECP to revise it for each electoral cycle;

d)  requiring that the ECP’s nominees for election tribunals be approved by the permanent parliamentary committee on electoral reform;

e)  ensuring that all federal and provincial executive authorities assist the ECP, as required by law, particularly in enforcing the code of conduct, including provisions relating to the use of government resources for electoral purposes;

f)  ensuring that all executive officers deputed to electoral duties are subject to ECP supervision, and not of their parent department; and

g)  removing the condition that the CEC and members of the ECP be retired judges, instead opening up the selection process to people of integrity and experience.

3.  Submit the ECP’s five-year strategic plan for review and a vote by the permanent parliamentary committee on electoral reform which should make amendments where necessary; require regular reports by ECP officials on steps taken to achieve the plan’s objectives; and hold ECP officials accountable for unsatisfactory progress.

4.  Ensure that a new population census is carried out in August-September 2011, as scheduled, as well as a credible redistricting exercise ahead of the next local or general election, based on the new census; empower the permanent committee on electoral reform in the National Assembly, and similar committees in the provincial assemblies, to hold public hearings on the ECP’s redistricting exercise, to review and approve the redistricting plan for national and provincial constituencies; and subject final approval to vote in the relevant legislature.

5.  Remove all qualification criteria for electoral candidacy that are based on vague definitions of moral suitability, including adherence to Islamic injunctions.

To the Election Commission of Pakistan:

6.  Prioritise the timely implementation of the Five-Year Strategic Plan (2010-2014).

7.  Enhance accountability of voting processes, election officials and electoral candidates by:

a)  ensuring to the extent possible that all electoral constituencies are roughly equal in population size, and abide by other criteria in the Delimitation of Constituencies Act, 1974;

b)  revising the code of conduct for each electoral cycle;

c)  barring temporary election staff from officiating in their home districts, and taking action against those found guilty of corruption or bias;

d)  instituting an independent mechanism for challenging the appointment of polling officials;

e)  providing election observers unfettered access to polling stations;

f)  rejecting the proposed incorporation of electronic voting machines (EVMs), and instead improving the existing system of paper ballots and manual counts through better training and neutral observation;

g)  simplifying complaints and appeals procedures by reducing the number of administrative personnel tasked with processing petitions, and streamlining all relevant administrative mechanisms; and

h)  introducing robust measures for scrutinising annual statements of assets and liabilities filed by parliamentarians, and prescribing punishments, to be administered by the ECP, for elected officials filing false statements.

8.  Improve the polling process by:

a)  prohibiting candidates from contesting elections in more than one constituency;

b)  implementing complete computerisation of the voter registration process, including photographs of voters as a further guarantee against bogus voting; publishing the final voters list on the ECP’s website; and abiding by the new constitutional requirement for revising the list annually;

c)  preparing a permanent list of polling stations through consultations with all stakeholders, providing their locations on the ECP website and providing written explanations for any changes made by district returning officers; and

d)  expediting the pilot project on computerised electoral rolls and expanding it countrywide.

9.  Improve infrastructure, enhance training and research, and increase human resource capabilities by:

a)  implementing a comprehensive human resource policy, preparing job descriptions for all positions and devising a clearly defined path of career progression for all permanent staff;

b)  recruiting ECP officials in Basic Pay Scale (BPS)-17 through the Federal Public Service Commission, and establishing an Electoral Service of Pakistan along the lines of other occupational groups in the federal civil service;

c)    recruiting qualified people from the non-govern­ment sector as temporary staff for election day duties, rather than strictly from the executive; and determining the terms and conditions for temporary staff recruitment, investigating misconduct and taking disciplinary action against polling officials found guilty of misconduct;

d)  developing specialised courses in electoral administration, taught by professional instructors;

e)  expanding the role of the Federal Election Academy by equipping it with trained staff and improved facilities;

f)  adopting a comprehensive training program with two components: a basic orientation course that familiarises recruits with the history, functions and powers of the ECP, and its conduct of previous elections; and specialised instruction in specific areas of electoral administration, such as the preparation of electoral rolls, delimitation of constituencies and electoral dispute resolution; and

g)  establishing training programs for all temporary staff recruited for electoral duties on the role and functions of the ECP, responsibilities in managing assigned polling stations, and effective response to poll-related violence.

To the International Community:

10.  Support a still fragile democratic transition by prioritising democratisation programming, sending unambiguous signals to the military high command that any interference in the political process will be unacceptable and would result in the suspension of military assistance; and shift the focus of programming and engagement towards ensuring a credible and orderly political transition after the next general election.

11.  Acknowledge that elections are not a purely technical but an intensely political process and adjust programming to engage beyond the bureaucracy with the full spectrum of stakeholders, including parliament and political parties, and secure political ownership at the national and provincial levels over election-related programs.

12.  Support the development of specialised training programs for dedicated instructors in electoral administration.

13.  Provide the ECP with technical support towards timely completion of its five-year strategic plan, with particular focus on:

a)  developing a comprehensive ECP information technology (IT) policy, including modernising the ECP’s IT Directorate, as well as supporting a strong IT infrastructure at the ECP secretariat, provincial election commission offices and field offices;

b)  computerising electoral rolls and building a serviceable electronic voter database;

c)  establishing linkages between all polling stations, and between polling stations and the computerised voter rolls;

d)  building a serviceable electronic database to track electoral complaints; and

e)  providing geographical information systems to digitally map electoral areas and ensure that constituency delimitation takes place along scientific lines.

14.  Insist that the Strategic Plan Management Committee (SPMC) and the Review, Assistance and Facilitation Team (RAFT), be activated and made accountable to donors.

Islamabad/Brussels, 30 March 2011

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Osama bin Laden’s Pakistan – Opinion – Al Jazeera English

Osama bin Laden’s Pakistan – Opinion – Al Jazeera English.

Osama bin Laden’s Pakistan
Pakistan needs to reform its military and intelligence services in order to rid itself of terrorist activity.
Last Modified: 04 May 2011 11:00
The killing of Osama bin Laden by United States special forces in a helicopter assault on a sprawling luxury mansion near Islamabad recalls the capture of other al-Qaeda leaders in Pakistani cities. Once again, we see that the real “terrorist sanctuaries” are located not along Pakistan’s borders with Afghanistan and India, but in the Pakistani heartland.This, in turn, underlines another fundamental reality – that the fight against international terrorism cannot be won without demilitarising and de-radicalising Pakistan, including by rebalancing civil-military relations there and reining in the country’s rogue Inter-Services Intelligence agency.Other terrorist leaders captured in Pakistan since 9/11 – including Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, Al Qaeda’s third in command; Abu Zubeida, the network’s operations chief; Yasser Jazeeri; Abu Faraj Farj; and Ramzi Binalshibh, one of the coordinators of 9/11 – were also found living in cities across Pakistan. If there is any surprise about bin Laden’s hideout, it is its location in a military town, Abbottadad, in the shadow of an army academy.

This only underscores the major protection that bin Laden must have received from elements of the Pakistani security establishment to help him elude the US dragnet for nearly a decade. The breakthrough in hunting him down came only after the US, even at the risk of rupturing its longstanding ties with the Pakistani army and ISI, deployed a number of CIA operatives, Special Operations forces, and “contractors” deep inside Pakistan without the knowledge of the Pakistani military.

In recent years, with its senior operations men captured or killed and bin Laden holed up in Pakistan, the badly splintered al-Qaeda had already lost the ability to mount a major international attack or openly challenge US interests. With bin Laden’s death, Al Qaeda is likely to wither away as an organisation.

Yet its dangerous ideology is expected to live on and motivate state-sponsored non-state actors. It will be mainly such elements that will have the capacity to launch major transnational terrorist attacks, like the 2008 Mumbai strikes. Even in Afghanistan, the US military’s main foe is not al-Qaeda but a resurgent Taliban, which enjoys safe haven in Pakistan.

That is why the spotlight is likely to turn on the terrorist nexus within Pakistan and the role of, and relationship between, state and non-state actors there. Significantly, as the CIA closed in on bin Laden, the chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Mike Mullens, for the first time publicly linked the Pakistani military with some of the militants attacking US forces in Afghanistan. Pakistan’s homegrown militia continue to operate openly, and the Pakistani army and intelligence remain loathe to sever their cozy ties with “extremist” and “terrorist” elements.

For the US, Pakistan poses a particularly difficult challenge. Despite providing US$20billion to Pakistan in counterterrorism aid since 9/11, the US has received grudging assistance, at best, and duplicitous cooperation, at worst. Today, amid a rising tide of anti-Americanism, US policy on Pakistan is rapidly unravelling. Yet Pakistan, with one of the world’s lowest tax-to-GDP ratios, has become more dependent than ever on US aid.

Even as the US exults over bin Laden’s killing, the US government must recognise that its failed policy on Pakistan has inadvertently made that country the world’s main terrorist sanctuary. Rather than helping to build robust civilian institutions there, the US has pampered the jihadist-penetrated Pakistani military establishment, best illustrated by the fresh $3billion military aid package earmarked for the next fiscal year. After dictator Pervez Musharraf was driven out of office, the new Pakistani civilian government ordered the ISI to report to the interior ministry, but received no support from the US for this effort to assert civilian control, allowing the army to quickly frustrate the effort.

After coming to office, US President Barack Obama implemented a military surge in Afghanistan. In Pakistan, however, he implemented an aid surge, turning it into the largest recipient of US aid, even though the Afghan Taliban leadership and al-Qaeda remnants remained ensconced in the country. This only deepened US involvement in the wrong war and emboldened Pakistan to fatten the Afghan Taliban, even as sustained US attacks continued to severely weaken al-Qaeda.

Make no mistake: the scourge of Pakistani terrorism emanates more from the country’s Scotch whisky-sipping generals than from the bead-rubbing mullahs. It is the self-styled secular generals who have reared the forces of jihad and fathered the Taliban, Lashkar-e-Taiba, Jalaluddin Haqqani militia, and other groups. Yet, by passing the blame for their ongoing terrorist-proxy policy to their mullah puppets, the generals have made the US believe that the key is to contain the religious fringe, not the puppeteers.

In fact, Pakistan’s descent into a jihadist dungeon occurred not under civilian rule, but under two military dictators – one who nurtured and let loose jihadist forces, and another who took his country to the very edge of the precipice.

Without reform of the Pakistani army and ISI, there can be no end to transnational terrorism – and no genuine nation-building in Pakistan. How can Pakistan be a “normal” state if its army and intelligence agency remain outside civilian oversight and decisive power remains with military generals?

With bin Laden dead, the only way that al-Qaeda can reconstitute itself is if the Pakistani military succeeds in reinstalling a proxy regime in Afghanistan. Until the Pakistani military’s vice-like grip on power is broken and the ISI cut down to size, Pakistan is likely to remain Ground Zero for the terrorist threat that the world confronts.

Brahma Chellaney, Professor of Strategic Studies at the New Delhi-based Center for Policy Research, is the author of Asian Juggernaut  and the forthcoming Water: Asia’s New Battlefield.

A version of this article first appeared on Project Syndicate.

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera’s editorial policy.

Source:
Al Jazeera

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Dead man and the sea

Dead man and the sea.

Dead man and the sea

Dead man and the sea

We asked world famous occult medium, Mr. Abdul Qadir Awami Badami, to connect and communicate with Osama bin Laden’s soul, to ask him what really happened on the night he was shot dead in Abbottabad …

Mr. Osama, can you hear me? Mr. Osama?
Bubble … bubble … bubble

I think I have made contact with the departed soul. Mr. Osama, can you hear me?
Yes, where am I? Is this heaven?

No, sir, you are at the bottom of the sea.
Sea? Hmmm … yes, it does seem that way. Am I dead?

Well, yes. Kind of.
Hmm … how did I die?

I was hoping you could tell me that.
All I remember is that it was night and I was waiting for the Kakul guys to get my dinner, and then I heard these ’copters and thought maybe the Kakul guys were throwing me a surprise party or something and I got very excited, and …

The Kakul guys used to give you dinner?
Well, yes. Biryani on Mondays and Tuesdays, chicken chowmein on Wednesdays, steak on Thursdays, mixed veggies on Saturdays and Sundays …

And on Fridays?
On Fridays I used to call them over for dinner. One of my wives makes a darn good Yemeni stew.

I see. So they knew you were hiding there?
Of course, they did! They’re my wives!

I mean the Kakul guys.
Oh. Well, according to their intelligence reports, I was some rich Arab camel breeder and exporter.

Really? They didn’t bother to cross-check?
Let’s just say, I was not on their radar.

Must be the same radar that failed to pick the American ’copters …
I tell you, my men have better radars, hehehe … bubble, bubble..
By the way, you said that I was in hiding?

Weren’t you in hiding?
Not at all!

Then why did the Americans take 10 years to find you?
Those fools don’t know much about caves.

But you weren’t hiding in a cave, sir.
My friend, let me tell you, all of Pakistan is one big cave!

Then did the Pakistanis really know you were in the country all along?
My friend, they wouldn’t have been Pakistanis had they not known. Hehe … bubble, bubble.

Huh?
Never mind.

So you are saying they knew?
Well I was … excuse me, I think I have a fish stuck in my ear. *Plop!* Ah, a red snapper! So, what were you saying? By the way, what is your name, brother?

Abdul Qadir Awami Badami
That is a strange name. Are you by any chance a Hindu?

No.
Hmm … I guess I will have to kill you anyway.

But you are dead.
Oh, right, of course. Then I guess I will kill some fish instead.

Are you a seafood fan?
No, I just like killing infidels.

Infidel fish?
Yes, you have a problem with that, you idol worshipper!

How can fish be infidel?
Look at them! Swimming in the sea, all naked!

But they are fish!
And stark naked! Shameless.

Whatever, tell us about your stay in Pakistan
It reminded me of home.

Saudi Arabia?
No, Afghanistan, but with better cars and escalators.

But you’re a Saudi.
I’m a Muslim first. The best there was. And if you disagree I will get you killed. You are a Christian Crusader anyway.

No.
Non-Muslim!

Human being.
Infidel!

Any difference between human beings and Muslims?
Of course there is. That is why we only kill human beings.

But you and your al Qaeda and Taliban friends have killed thousands of Pakistani Muslims.
They were all bad Muslims.

How can you say that?
I don’t say.  I blow!

No, you say, while others blow...
Those who blow have true faith.

Even the small children and infants who have died in these attacks?
Yes!

So people who blow themselves up in mosques, shrines and markets are the only true Muslims?
It is much more complicated than that. A very complex concept.

Please explain.
You see, only those Muslims who blow themselves up in mosques, shrines and markets are the only true Muslims.

But that’s what I said.
You did?

Yes.
I see … you Hindu!

Why did you say that?
Because you worship idols.

But to some, you are an idol too.
I am an ideal.

A pretty violent one though.
Yes, mashallah.

But I’m not forcing my beliefs on you.
That is because you are a chicken!

So I should impose them on you?
Yes. Come on, I invite you to convert to my faith. Where is your suicide jacket?

Where’s yours?
I deal in suicide jackets, not wear them, fool.

I know so many Muslims who are nothing like you.
They are not Muslims!

Then who are they?
Human beings! Ugh!

But I thought a good Muslim also meant being a good human being.
Jewish propaganda!

What?
Well, as I … excuse me, I think I see a shark approaching.

Why don’t you move from there?
No worries. You know that red snapper that got stuck in my ear?

Yes…
Well, I trained it to become a suicide bomber. It just exploded over the shark’s head!

But the shark did not attack you!
But it could have.

You’re sounding like George W. Bush. He, too, was into pre-emptive strikes, remember?
Ah, good ol’ Bushy. He was good for my business. But this Obama guy turned out to be different.

Different, how? In policy and in strategy?
No, in colour. He is black.

A human being, nevertheless.
That is the problem. The whole world should be Muslim, instead.

Yes, just like Bush wanted the whole world to become American.
Ah, good ol’ Bushy. Those were the days. Right, I guess I’ll kill you now.

But you’re dead. Buried deep in the sea.
They buried me here?

Yes, the Americans buried you in the sea.
Wow! Has Obama converted to Islam?

What do you mean? You were a Salafi, right?
Yes. I am amazed. How did he know we didn’t believe in marked graves?

But some of your fans around the world are criticising him for not giving you a decent Muslim burial.
Infidels!

So you are happy that they buried you in the sea?
Of course! Otherwise bad Muslims would have made a shrine at my grave. We blow up shrines, you know.

Yes I do. But this is amazing. You are actually happy at what Obama did?
Yes, but minus the shooting-me-in-the-head part, of course.

So you do remember that you were shot in the head?
Well, I really do have this bad headache and … well, I’ll be dammed! There’s a hole in my head! The buggers did shoot me!

The Americans?
Yes, who else? The Pakistanis?

So Pakistanis weren’t at all involved in your assassination?
Well, their only contribution to this was that on that fateful, tragic night they delayed my dinner. Buggers.  Had to be shot on an empty stomach.

But the Taliban are blaming them and saying that now their top target is Pakistan.
Really? What was our top target before my death? Guatemala?

You tell me.
Hmmm … better warn Mullah Omar.

Why, is he hiding in Pakistan too?
Follow the dinner trail, follow the dinner trail …

So the Pakistanis did know you were there, right?
Pakistanis don’t know where they themselves are, forget about knowing where I was. What is the Pakistani media saying?

Some of their TV anchors seem shocked and sad.
Yes, one of them once worked as a cook for me and another used to give me great massages.

Can you name them?
No. Don’t want to give them undue importance. Let the ISI do that.

The ISI gives them importance?
Sort of.  They give the ISI great massages too.

Can you be more specific?
Yes, I can. I. Want. To. Behead. You. You. Hindu. How is that for being specific, you cunning Jew?

Human being.
Same thing.

Whatever.
Chicken! Come on fight me, you Buddhist coward!

I am disconnecting from you now. May God deal with you in whatever way he thinks you are to be dealt with.
Darn. I almost forgot. You are right. Now I will have to meet the maker. Do you think he likes seafood?

Nadeem F. Paracha is a cultural critic and senior columnist for Dawn Newspaper and Dawn.com.

The views expressed by this blogger and in the following reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of the Dawn Media Group.

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International Crisis Group : Reforming Pakistan’s Electoral System

Pakistan’s dysfunctional electoral system has hampered democratic development, political stability and the rule of law; major electoral reforms would bolster a still fragile democratic transition.

via International Crisis Group : Reforming Pakistan’s Electoral System.

Reforming Pakistan’s Electoral System

Asia Report N° 20330 Mar 2011

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY AND RECOMMENDATIONS

Electoral rigging has hampered Pakistan’s democratic development, eroded political stability and contributed to the breakdown of the rule of law. Facing domestic pressure for democracy, successive military governments rigged national, provincial and local polls to ensure regime survival. These elections yielded unrepresentative parliaments that have rubber-stamped extensive constitutional and political reforms to centralise power with the military and to empower its civilian allies. Undemocratic rule has also suppressed other civilian institutions, including the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP), which is responsible for holding elections to the national and four provincial assemblies, and local governments. With the next general election in 2013 – if the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP)-led government completes its full five-year term – the ruling party and its parliamentary opposition, as well as the international community, should focus on ensuring a transparent, orderly political transition through free, fair and transparent elections.

General Pervez Musharraf’s eight-year rule gravely eroded the ECP’s already limited independence, impartiality and competence, reducing the institution to providing a façade of legitimacy to military rule. Handpicked chief election commissioners (CECs) oversaw widespread rigging of two local government elections, a presidential referendum, and a general election. Musharraf’s Legal Framework Order, enshrined in the constitution though the seventeenth amendment, massively distorted the political system, tilting the electoral playing field towards the military’s civilian allies, including the Islamist parties.

These constitutional distortions were repealed in April 2010, when parliament unanimously passed the eighteenth amendment to the constitution, undoing Musharraf’s political legacy and introducing new provisions to strengthen parliamentary democracy. The amendment package enhanced the ECP’s independence by making the appointment of its key officials more transparent and subject to parliamentary oversight. The CEC and other ECP members, previously appointed by the president, will now be selected through consultations between the prime minister and the leader of the opposition in the National Assembly, and subsequently vetted and approved by a joint parliamentary committee comprising, equally, government and opposition members. While encouraging, this is only the first step in a longer process of electoral reform.

To curtail opportunities for the military to manipulate the political process, the ECP must be made independent, impartial and effective. The commission remains poorly managed, inadequately resourced, under-staffed and under-trained. Promotion prospects for ECP personnel are limited, and recruitment policies fail to attract strong candidates; top positions tend to be filled by civil servants from the regular federal bureaucracy, primarily because ECP officials lack the necessary skills. There are no systematic training programs for ECP staff, and the organisation devotes few if any resources to researching and analysing past elections and raising important electoral issues.

Electoral reform on all fronts is urgently needed. Highly inaccurate voters lists are responsible for disenfranchising millions. Polling procedures are often manipulated; accountability mechanisms for candidates and political parties seldom employed; and the electoral code of conduct routinely flouted. Dysfunctional election tribunals, characterised by corruption and prolonged delays, prove incapable of resolving post-election disputes. Such internal weaknesses constrain the ECP from overseeing credible elections and an orderly political transition.

The ECP has taken some steps to address these problems. In May 2010, it produced a strategic five-year plan, with significant international assistance, listing fifteen broad electoral reform goals, divided into 129 detailed objectives with specific timeframes, which range from improvements in voter registration and election dispute management procedures, to the creation of a comprehensive human resource policy. Although there were some, albeit limited, steps towards meeting targets for 2010, more substantive progress is unlikely unless parliament assumes political ownership over the plan, oversees its implementation, and holds the ECP accountable for unsatisfactory progress.

Credible elections, however, require far more than just structural reforms. Many discriminatory laws remain in place, including easily manipulated qualification criteria requiring electoral candidates to be of good Islamic character. Moreover, an interventionist military high command appears bent on shaping the political order to its liking. Although the PPP’s main opposition, Nawaz Sharif’s Pakistan Muslim League (PML-N) has repeatedly expressed its support for the democratic transition and refusal to unseat the elected government via unconstitutional means, it must match rhetoric with action. In the past, both the PML-N and the PPP have instead chosen to collude with the military at times.

A new population census, originally due in 2008, is scheduled for August-September 2011, presumably followed by a large-scale redistricting exercise. The last redistricting, under Musharraf in 2002 and 2005, ahead of national and local elections respectively, was designed to serve narrow political objectives. Political violence and ethnic conflict could be sparked countrywide by a flawed census, gerrymandering and a rigged election.

The international community, too, particularly the U.S. and EU, should realise that a flawed general election in 2013, if not sooner, would pose a serious threat to Pakistan’s stability. Donors and Western capitals should immediately shift their programs and advocacy to support for a smooth political transition, rather than wait for the election season to begin.

RECOMMENDATIONS

To the National and Provincial Governments of Pakistan:

1.  Transform the parliamentary subcommittee on electoral reform to a permanent, full committee.

2.  Increase the independence and improve the functioning of the ECP by:

a)  appointing without delay new members of the ECP, according to the provisions of the eighteenth and nineteenth constitutional amendments;

b)  granting the ECP complete financial autonomy by passing legislation providing for budgetary allocation to the commission, reflecting to the extent possible its determination of needs;

c)  making the ECP’s code of conduct part of the electoral law, and requiring the ECP to revise it for each electoral cycle;

d)  requiring that the ECP’s nominees for election tribunals be approved by the permanent parliamentary committee on electoral reform;

e)  ensuring that all federal and provincial executive authorities assist the ECP, as required by law, particularly in enforcing the code of conduct, including provisions relating to the use of government resources for electoral purposes;

f)  ensuring that all executive officers deputed to electoral duties are subject to ECP supervision, and not of their parent department; and

g)  removing the condition that the CEC and members of the ECP be retired judges, instead opening up the selection process to people of integrity and experience.

3.  Submit the ECP’s five-year strategic plan for review and a vote by the permanent parliamentary committee on electoral reform which should make amendments where necessary; require regular reports by ECP officials on steps taken to achieve the plan’s objectives; and hold ECP officials accountable for unsatisfactory progress.

4.  Ensure that a new population census is carried out in August-September 2011, as scheduled, as well as a credible redistricting exercise ahead of the next local or general election, based on the new census; empower the permanent committee on electoral reform in the National Assembly, and similar committees in the provincial assemblies, to hold public hearings on the ECP’s redistricting exercise, to review and approve the redistricting plan for national and provincial constituencies; and subject final approval to vote in the relevant legislature.

5.  Remove all qualification criteria for electoral candidacy that are based on vague definitions of moral suitability, including adherence to Islamic injunctions.

To the Election Commission of Pakistan:

6.  Prioritise the timely implementation of the Five-Year Strategic Plan (2010-2014).

7.  Enhance accountability of voting processes, election officials and electoral candidates by:

a)  ensuring to the extent possible that all electoral constituencies are roughly equal in population size, and abide by other criteria in the Delimitation of Constituencies Act, 1974;

b)  revising the code of conduct for each electoral cycle;

c)  barring temporary election staff from officiating in their home districts, and taking action against those found guilty of corruption or bias;

d)  instituting an independent mechanism for challenging the appointment of polling officials;

e)  providing election observers unfettered access to polling stations;

f)  rejecting the proposed incorporation of electronic voting machines (EVMs), and instead improving the existing system of paper ballots and manual counts through better training and neutral observation;

g)  simplifying complaints and appeals procedures by reducing the number of administrative personnel tasked with processing petitions, and streamlining all relevant administrative mechanisms; and

h)  introducing robust measures for scrutinising annual statements of assets and liabilities filed by parliamentarians, and prescribing punishments, to be administered by the ECP, for elected officials filing false statements.

8.  Improve the polling process by:

a)  prohibiting candidates from contesting elections in more than one constituency;

b)  implementing complete computerisation of the voter registration process, including photographs of voters as a further guarantee against bogus voting; publishing the final voters list on the ECP’s website; and abiding by the new constitutional requirement for revising the list annually;

c)  preparing a permanent list of polling stations through consultations with all stakeholders, providing their locations on the ECP website and providing written explanations for any changes made by district returning officers; and

d)  expediting the pilot project on computerised electoral rolls and expanding it countrywide.

9.  Improve infrastructure, enhance training and research, and increase human resource capabilities by:

a)  implementing a comprehensive human resource policy, preparing job descriptions for all positions and devising a clearly defined path of career progression for all permanent staff;

b)  recruiting ECP officials in Basic Pay Scale (BPS)-17 through the Federal Public Service Commission, and establishing an Electoral Service of Pakistan along the lines of other occupational groups in the federal civil service;

c)    recruiting qualified people from the non-govern­ment sector as temporary staff for election day duties, rather than strictly from the executive; and determining the terms and conditions for temporary staff recruitment, investigating misconduct and taking disciplinary action against polling officials found guilty of misconduct;

d)  developing specialised courses in electoral administration, taught by professional instructors;

e)  expanding the role of the Federal Election Academy by equipping it with trained staff and improved facilities;

f)  adopting a comprehensive training program with two components: a basic orientation course that familiarises recruits with the history, functions and powers of the ECP, and its conduct of previous elections; and specialised instruction in specific areas of electoral administration, such as the preparation of electoral rolls, delimitation of constituencies and electoral dispute resolution; and

g)  establishing training programs for all temporary staff recruited for electoral duties on the role and functions of the ECP, responsibilities in managing assigned polling stations, and effective response to poll-related violence.

To the International Community:

10.  Support a still fragile democratic transition by prioritising democratisation programming, sending unambiguous signals to the military high command that any interference in the political process will be unacceptable and would result in the suspension of military assistance; and shift the focus of programming and engagement towards ensuring a credible and orderly political transition after the next general election.

11.  Acknowledge that elections are not a purely technical but an intensely political process and adjust programming to engage beyond the bureaucracy with the full spectrum of stakeholders, including parliament and political parties, and secure political ownership at the national and provincial levels over election-related programs.

12.  Support the development of specialised training programs for dedicated instructors in electoral administration.

13.  Provide the ECP with technical support towards timely completion of its five-year strategic plan, with particular focus on:

a)  developing a comprehensive ECP information technology (IT) policy, including modernising the ECP’s IT Directorate, as well as supporting a strong IT infrastructure at the ECP secretariat, provincial election commission offices and field offices;

b)  computerising electoral rolls and building a serviceable electronic voter database;

c)  establishing linkages between all polling stations, and between polling stations and the computerised voter rolls;

d)  building a serviceable electronic database to track electoral complaints; and

e)  providing geographical information systems to digitally map electoral areas and ensure that constituency delimitation takes place along scientific lines.

14.  Insist that the Strategic Plan Management Committee (SPMC) and the Review, Assistance and Facilitation Team (RAFT), be activated and made accountable to donors.

Islamabad/Brussels, 30 March 2011

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Another death, another day

Another death, another day.

Another death, another day

Another death, another day

The Federal Minister for Minority Affairs Shahbaz Bhatti was killed today in an attack on his vehicle in Islamabad.

Two gunmen fired on Bhatti’s vehicle in I-8/3 area of the capital. He was taken to the hospital where he succumbed to his injuries.

No surprises here. Another voice bold enough to speak out against the madness that has gripped the country has been silenced.

Bhatti, a Pakistani Christian, had been an outspoken critic of the misuse of the controversial Blasphemy Law and according to his colleagues he was facing death threats from those who just wanted him to shut up.

After former Punjab Governor Salman Taseer’s assassination at the hands of a uniformed extremist more than a month ago, Bhatti has become the second high profile victim of the violent fanaticism being demonstrated by those who want the Blasphemy Law to stay put, without any amendments whatsoever.

Why shouldn’t these madmen continue the way they have been so far – slaughtering innocent men in the name of faith, taking out highly-charged rallies condoning the murders and using mosques to announce their list of those who (according to them) are wajibul qatal.

Why shouldn’t they, indeed. Because who are they afraid of? Not the state, not the government, not the law. All three have simply capitulated in front of the psychosis that is ever so often being presented to us through TV talk shows, mosques and cyber space as the ‘true faith.’

Forget the state, the government and the law. One never knows where they stand on anything anyway. The government is weak and is more interested in its own Machiavellian survival, blackmailed into further submission and paranoia by an anarchic, double-talking group of allies and an opposition still stuck in limbo between Riyadh and Raiwind!

And the state? Well, what can be expected from a state that has a history of both creating and hosting exactly the kind of faith-driven lunacy each and every Pakistani is now engulfed in?

For years a convoluted narrative has been circulated by the state, the clergy, schools and now the electronic media: i.e. Pakistan was created in the name of Islam (read, a theocratic state). Thus, only Muslims (mainly orthodox Sunnis) have the right to rule, run and benefit from this country. ‘Minority’ religions and ‘heretical Islamic sects’, who are citizens of Pakistan are not to be trusted. They need to be isolated constitutionally, socially and culturally.

What else? Yes, parliamentary democracy too cannot be trusted. It unleashes ethnic forces, ‘corruption’ and undermines the role of the military and that of Islam in the state’s make-up. It threatens the ‘unity’ of the country; a unity based on a homogeneous understanding of Islam (mainly concocted by the state and its right-wing allies). Most of our political, economic and social ills are due to the diabolical conspiracies hatched by our many enemies.

Now the same state is struggling to control the glorified monsters that it created. These monsters have no fear of their creator. The state is hapless and stunned; only good to play silly games with its subjects. The Pakistani state is not grounded in reality. In fact it is not grounded at all. It is a fantasy that has now started to rot and look redundant. It is a 63-year-old daydream about being pious, just and strong. And yet it has been anything but.

No one trusts the Pakistani state anymore – ironically not even those who want to make Pakistan look and sound macho, ghiaratmand and devout.

Going fascist

So now I wonder, who applauded the killing of a ‘blasphemer’ this time.

Bhatti was shot not only because he was vocal about the controversies that surround and emerge from a man-made law that is considered divine, he was also shot because he was from a minority religion in this country.

By the way, men like Taseer too are a minority: an orthodox Sunni Muslim but secular and liberal. Think about it.

The state and its religious allies have for long collaborated to continue sidelining and alienating the non-Muslim and non-Sunni minorities, so much so that there are actually state-approved history text books out there which to allude them as enemies.

It seems as though Pakistan’s survival can only be justified by the number of enemies we can concoct. As if there is no honour in being a country that does not have or cannot make any enemies. The whole ‘jihad’ industry that we have constructed, the fatwah factories and an army of twisted apologists, their performance and credibility is measured by the number of ‘enemies’ they can either kill or pinpoint.

The bad news is that such beliefs are symptomatic of a society that has started to respond enthusiastically to the major symptoms of fascist thought.

Symptoms such as a xenophobic exhibition of nationalism, a disdain for the recognition of human rights, identification of enemies/scapegoats as a unifying cause, supremacy of the military, obsession with national security, the intertwining of religion and government, disdain for intellectuals and the arts, and an obsession with crime and punishment.

We do not debate. We only react and then huddle up behind our flimsy and lopsided historical and national narratives about ‘Pakistaniat’. We manifest our destiny as conquering Muslims, cursing the world for our ills, looking out for ‘infidels’ and ‘heretics’ among us, or for scapegoats in the shape of media-constructed punching bags.

We are going nowhere. We are only busy constructing walls around ourselves. Societies that do this have lost their will to keep up with and positively compete with the world at large. It begins to isolate itself, cut-off from the outside world and only allowing itself to be compared to its own mediocrities.

So then, the whole world is against us, right? But I am convinced once we have shut ourselves up from this cruel, scheming world, we will then turn on each another (actually, we already have).

The goras have to go, then the religious minorities, the Shias, the liberals, the Sindhis and the Baloch and the Pukhtuns, the Deobandies and the Wahabis, the Barelvies will then begin cleansing ‘bad Muslims’ from among themselves. Qadris vs. the Chishtis vs. the Naqshbandis, and so on and so forth.

Such madness can only vanish when it eats itself. Unfortunately, by then very few will be left to celebrate its end.

Nadeem F. Paracha is a cultural critic and senior columnist for Dawn Newspaper and Dawn.com.

The views expressed by this blogger and in the following reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of the Dawn Media Group.

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what is the truth about Muslim Brotherhood? by Bruce Riedel

What’s the truth about the Muslim Brotherhood?

By Bruce Riedel

Updated 2/16/2011 3:30:38 PM |

The revolution in Egypt is a tsunami in Islamic politics. The toppling of Hosni Mubarak will raise expectations and fears from Morocco to Indonesia. At the center of many of these hopes and concerns is the role of Egypt’s oldest and best organized political party, the Muslim Brotherhood, or Ikhwan, which is certain to play an important role in how Egypt evolves after Mubarak. Is it a radical revolutionary party inherently opposed to American interests, or is it a reformed Islamist party ready to play by democratic rules and work with America? Will Egypt become another Iran or a Turkey?

he short answer is Egypt will be its own model and the Brotherhood will play a unique role in creating that model. Founded in 1928 as an Islamic fundamentalist party dedicated to fighting the British occupation of Egypt, the Brotherhood spread across the Arab world and beyond. Today it has branches in many other Muslim countries, especially in the Palestinian territoriesand Jordan. At first it engaged in terror and assassination, even raising an army to fight Israel in the 1948 war. Its ideologues in the 1950s and 1960s wrote extreme anti-American polemics and called for violent revolutions.

Suppressed by Mubarak and his predecessors, Gamal Nasser and Anwar Sadat, the Brotherhood abandoned violence in the 1970s and ’80s and committed itself to peaceful political change in Egypt. It organized clinics, schools and bookstores for the poor and participated in the rigged elections Mubarak tolerated. It committed itself to dialogue and change, not violence and one-party rule or rule by a clerical supreme leader.

A critical role in revolution

The Brotherhood was slow to join the demonstrations in Tahrir Square and the rest of Egypt last month, but once it did commit to the movement to oust Mubarak, its role was critical. The Brotherhood provided organization, and its turnout of demonstrators gave the originally very secular opposition a broader base in Egyptian society. But it has also tried hard to be a team player. It has promised to work with other secular parties and has already promised it will not run its own candidate for president when elections are held to replace Mubarak.

The Ikhwan’s fiercest critic is al-Qaeda, and especially its Egyptian leader Ayman el-Zawahri, who was once a member of the Brotherhood but broke with it decades ago. Al-Qaeda hates the Brotherhood because it represents everything al-Qaeda is not — a mass-based movement with a political program that rejects violence. The triumph of the Egyptian revolution is a dramatic setback for al-Qaeda because it shows that change can come in the Arab world through politics instead of jihadist violence. Twitter, not terror, worked. Zawahri, usually quick to comment on every event in the world, has been silent about the toppling of Mubarak. That is in part a testimony to the drones flying over his lair in Pakistan, but it is also a function of al-Qaeda’s rage at being left behind by its rival, the Brotherhood, in the future of Egypt.

his isn’t to say that the Ikhwan is surely free from extremists within its ranks. Indeed, as the new Egypt evolves, Islamists might try to steer the Brotherhood back toward its violent roots. Even so, this group cannot be ignored, and engaging the Ikhwan will help us find out whether dangerous elements are hiding behind the screen.

If the transition in Egypt leads to a national unity government or a broad-based coalition of parties backed by the army, the Brotherhood will probably play a role. If there are genuinely free and fair elections, it could secure a sizable bloc of the vote, although probably not a majority. It could be a player at the table of Egyptian decision-making like never before.

Its agenda will focus on Islamist concerns, such as ensuring a central role for Islamic law in the judicial process and an Islamist educational system. But there are significant constraints on what the Brotherhood can do in Egypt. The Coptic Christian community will press for its rights. The tourism industry, Egypt’s most vital source of foreign exchange, will not want to drive away Westerners with laws that scare foreign visitors to the pyramids and the Sinai beaches. Brotherhood leaders have said that they don’t want an Iranian-style extremist regime in Egypt. Now we should test their sincerity by engaging them.

What about Israel?

Nor do they say they want to return to war with Israel. Egyptians remember the severe costs of their four wars with Israel. They don’t like the 1979 peace treaty, and many find it deeply humiliating, but they know the treaty is essential to keeping Egypt at peace and its economy succeeding.

The issue that is most likely to cause friction between the Ikhwan and America, and indeed between Egypt and America, is the Hamas state in Gaza. The Brotherhood and most Egyptian politicians oppose the siege of Gaza and Egypt’s role in trying to strangle the Hamas movement. For the overwhelming majority of Egyptians, in and outside the Ikhwan, this is a humanitarian issue. Isolating 1 million Gazans is simply wrong and should end whether or not Hamas eschews violence and recognizes Israel.

It would be wise for Washington and Jerusalem now to start rethinking their policy toward Gaza and to re-energize rapidly the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. Egypt and the Brotherhood are going to be more difficult and complicated players in Arab-Israeli politics than Mubarak. Get ready for a new day.

Bruce Riedel is a senior fellow in the Saban Center for Middle East policy at theBrookings Institution and the author of Deadly Embrace: Pakistan, America and the Future of the Global Jihad.

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