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August 13, 2009

Army still in power: Asma Jahangir

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August 13, 2009

Karachi

Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) Chairperson Asma Jahangir has said that the Army was still in power in Pakistan as it is not only running the foreign policy of the country, but also dictating vital policy decisions.

Delivering a lecture on “Democracy and Human Rights in Pakistan: A dead-end” at the Aga Khan University on Wednesday, Jahangir said that it was a fallacy that military governments did more development work. She said that we have to recognise that military rule was neither feasible economically nor politically. Apart from ruthlessness of the Army that we witnessed in former East Pakistan or were witnessing today in Balochistan, the Army people didn’t even have a clear perception of the major issues that confront the country, she observed. She said that a media cell was working to improve the image of Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) and advising young journalists what to write and what not to write.

According to Jahangir, the country was moving towards a dead end, but somehow people stepped in and days of evil were postponed. “I don’t want to be pessimistic,” she said. “We can deal with it, but we should not only insist on the transition to democracy but democratic forces should deepen the process further,” she said.

One of the major obstacles Pakistan was facing today, she said, was the lack of a leadership that could steer the country towards progress. We have to make sure that our aspirations were not thrown out of the window, she said. She said that the Supreme Court judgment was not enough since the task ahead of us was gigantic and it was only the people who could stop the Army from assuming power again.

Jahangir said that she has always been against “religious orthodoxy” but firmly believed in their human rights. She said that we don’t need a civil society that was “skin-deep political” but one that was “truly political”. She said that every Pakistani would

agree that we were under stress due to persistent power cuts, scarcity of water, and other problems. Then there is the added problem of religious militants challenging the State, she added.

She said that yet another issue was a “dysfunctional government.” She said that decent people do not join political parties because existing political leaders acted like “mafia bosses”.

She said that it was true that the judiciary was far more independent than two or three years ago but it was not independent enough. She said that a supreme judicial council should be constituted with some former judges, and the age limit of the high courts and Supreme Court judges should be 65 years. She said that appointments to constitutional courts should be made through inter-parliamentary parties.

The HRCP chairperson said that had the Election Commission been strong enough, it would not have allowed the ISI to rig the elections. She regretted that while Pakistan was overspending on external security, it had no funds to ensure internal security and the police was in a bad shape. Similarly, the civil bureaucracy had been sidelined because the military perceived it to be the only force that could counter-balance it.

She said that we have turned our attention away from political settlements and pointed out that the question of Balochistan and provincial autonomy were tied together. She said that assets in Balochistan as elsewhere belonged to the people and not the military.

She said that apart from Balochistan, FATA and PATA were other important issues that needed to be tackled. She said that FATA has been manipulated, and that was evident from the fact that it comprises of 2.4 per cent of the population but has 12 seats in parliament. Despite that, she said, its representatives were not allowed to make a law for their land. She said that Political Parties Act should be extended to FATA.