Monday, March 15, 2010

Pakistan-US strategic dialogue,courtesy Daily Times

EDITORIAL: Pakistan-US strategic dialogue

Pakistan and the US are all set to meet for an important strategic dialogue on March 24 in Washington. “The objective of strategic dialogue is to enhance people-to-people relationships, which can bridge the trust deficit,” was how Prime Minister Gilani described the upcoming meeting. The Washington ‘meet’ will be of utmost importance for both the US and its frontline ally in the war on terror. A high power delegation from Pakistan will be meeting its American counterparts. The significance of this meeting can be assessed from the fact that apart from the prime minister, the foreign minister and other ministers and government officials, Pakistan’s Chief of the Army Staff (COAS), General Kayani, will also be part of the delegation. General Kayani has already held a meeting with Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi to discuss the agenda for the Pak-US strategic dialogue. In the said meeting, the COAS exchanged views on matters related to Pakistan and India. If read between the lines, this exchange is actually going to be the central point of the agenda at the meeting in Washington.

With their war phase coming to an end, the plan to leave Afghanistan is very much on the cards for the US-led NATO forces. The Americans are seeking an honourable exit from Afghanistan but they do not want to leave without ensuring that a stable government and properly trained security forces are in place. For this they need the help of Afghanistan’s most important neighbour, Pakistan. But it seems that Pakistan is not very happy with the Karzai government’s one-on-one negotiations with the Afghan Taliban or Saudi mediation in Afghanistan. Cutting out Pakistan and the ISI has not gone down well with the military establishment in the country. It has been reported that President Karzai expressed his displeasure at the arrest of top Taliban leadership from Pakistan. In not so many words, Karzai has said that these measures were taken to sabotage the reconciliation process in Afghanistan and that Pakistan is manoeuvring to stay centre-stage in a post-US dispensation in the country. The Afghans are also wary of a proxy war between India and Pakistan on their soil. In the past we have witnessed terrorist attacks targeting Indians and Pakistanis in Afghanistan. Retaliatory attacks then follow as we can see from yesterday’s attack in Kandahar near a Pakistani consulate. This could be a retaliatory attack considering that India had earlier blamed Pakistan for an attack at a guesthouse in Kabul where several Indians were killed.

It is rather unfortunate that after 40 years of warfare in the country, instead of healing the wounds of the Afghan people, subcontinental rivalry is poised to cause even more damage to an already war-torn country. Pakistan insists that India be cut out from playing an active role in Afghanistan. Well, we should have thought about it before adopting a dual policy after 9/11. During the Soviet invasion and even after that, Pakistan had great influence in Afghanistan. Instead of retaining that advantage, we tried to outwit the Americans, which opened the door for India to make an entrance with its aid, reconstruction and rehabilitation programmes in Afghanistan. A proxy war between India and Pakistan would only lead to an increase in tensions, conflict and arguably a delay in the withdrawal of foreign troops. This is certainly not a good strategy. In the interest of continuity, Pakistan has recently adopted a policy of extensions, but there should be no extension of our Afghan policy. We should be rallying for a broad political consensus in Afghanistan so that peace can return to the region, and the world. *

SECOND EDITORIAL: Bittersweet irony

It is indeed a tragedy that our nation has a way of forgetting its real heroes. The lawyers, being part of the same nation, are no different. Thus it was not surprising to see that a majority of the legal fraternity are unaware of the resignation of former Civil Judge Saeed Khurshid, a stalwart of the lawyers’ movement. It highlights how those lawyers who have a different opinion from that of the superior judiciary are being pushed to the backburner. Mr Khurshid had resigned in August 2009 to protest against “personification, rather than institutionalisation, of justice”.

Saeed Khurshid was the first from the ranks of the lower judiciary to resign in 2007 when General Pervez Musharraf sacked Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry. His decision to resign back then was hailed as “an act of bravery” but ironically this time his resignation was accepted unceremoniously by the same superior judiciary for whom he had resigned in 2007. Saeed Khurshid had taken a principled stance back in 2007 and again in 2009, he resigned on principle. His resignation should be an eye-opener for the legal fraternity as it is a troubling reflection of the increasing concern being voiced by a number of people behind the lawyers’ movement. Their arguments are more or less the same: that the justice system should be based on institutionalisation and not become person-specific.

The aim of the lawyers’ movement was not just the restoration of the chief justice and superior judiciary but to bring about revolutionary changes in the justice system. Justice Javed Iqbal recently said: “Chief Justice Iftikhar is a symbol of bravery, boldness and rule of law and is acclaimed for supremacy of the Constitution.” With due respect to Justice Iqbal, there is no doubt that it was quite admirable that the chief justice stood up against a military dictator’s whims but the credit for the success of the lawyers’ movement equally belongs to the lawyers who rallied behind their chief valiantly, civil society that stood side by side with the legal fraternity, and the people of Pakistan.

Justice Iqbal said that the judiciary would preserve the democratic system. For that to happen, it would be more appropriate to strike a proper balance between the executive, judiciary and legislature. *

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