Recent developments in Pakistan are worrisome. Pakistan’s fiery cleric Tahirul Qadri had organised a massive protest for four days backed by hundreds of his followers demanding that the government should quit and that national and provincial Assemblies be dissolved. Initially, the Pakistan government did not respond and Qadri was ridiculed by Pakistan Interior Minister Rehman Malik, who compared Qadri to the Pope for wearing a similar headgear. The fragile coalition government ultimately yielded and after dialogue with Qadri finalised an “Islamabad Long March Declaration”. Some observers believe that Qadri is supported by the army and ISI. If that be so, it is extremely worrying. Again, there has been a headlong clash between the Pakistan Supreme Court and the government on account of the Supreme Court’s order for the arrest of Prime Minister Raja Pervaiz Ashraf because of his alleged involvement in corruption cases. Soon after the Court order, Pakistan’s anti-graft body told the Supreme Court that there was not enough evidence against Ashraf that could lead to his conviction. This angered the court and prompted Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry to remark “there may be some persons who consider themselves to be above the law. I want to tell you no one is above law. Why your machinery is not moving against the persons concerned?” Thereafter, Minister of State, Fawad Chaudhry, slammed the Chief Justice and accused him of having an agenda for strengthening anti-PPP forces. It is reported that the Pakistan Supreme Court in its judgment has profusely relied upon judgments of our Supreme Court in support of its reasoning and conclusions. I hope no crank discerns a stealthy Indian hand in Pakistan’s present turmoil.
The battle lines are clearly drawn. Conflict between the two wings of the State is not conducive to stability and can lead to a volatile situation facilitating the entry of the Pakistan Army and ISI in the political arena. In this context, serious doubts arise about the utility of continuance of the composite dialogue with Pakistan. Who is in charge there? Who is or will be effectively calling the shots? It is a notorious fact that Pakistan’s anti-blasphemy laws are grossly misused to settle personal scores and to grab the properties of the alleged blasphemers. There is strong international cry for repeal of these laws but that is extremely unlikely knowing the mindset of the Pak authorities. Proposals for reform of blasphemy laws resulted in the assassination of a Pakistan Cabinet minister and his assassin was garlanded. It is distressing that the Pakistan Supreme Court on Thursday admitted a businessman’s petition seeking action against Sherry Rehman, Pakistan’s ambassador to the US, for allegedly committing blasphemy two years ago. What was her crime? A bill she had submitted to the Parliament Secretariat, seeking an end to the death penalty under the blasphemy law.
The cumulative effect of all these developments can facilitate the emergence of the Taliban and the jihadi elements in the present or future government of Pakistan. To my mind, the biggest worry is their access to Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal. These elements would not have the slightest compunction about targeting India along with the US and Israel with nuclear strikes. Whatever political developments take place in Pakistan, safety of Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal is of paramount concern and must be ensured by any means. State sovereignty and international law are important. Survival of humanity, however, is equally, if not more, important.
Slow wheels of Criminal Justice: A Bangladesh court recently took cognisance of the graft charges against former premier Khaleda Zia. Her conviction would prevent her from standing for election next year. A Delhi court last Wednesday convicted former Haryana chief minister Om Prakash Chautala and his MLA son Ajay Chautala in what is popularly known as the Teacher Scam. Wheels of criminal justice system move at a dilatory pace but ultimately criminals are caught in the net.