Victory for Civil Law in Pakistan a First Step

Here’s an excerpt from my latest external piece, published at World Politics Review:

A movement led by black-coated lawyers achieved a defining victory for the rule of civil law in Pakistan on Monday with the restoration of illegally deposed Supreme Court Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry. This highly popular movement provides an opportunity to strengthen the Pakistani state, improve the judicial system’s responsiveness, and resist creeping Talibanization.

You can read the remainder of the article here.

Print Friendly

Post-Long March Analysis (Public/Updated)


PPP-PML(N) rivalry continues. Bitterness remains high. Trust between the two parties has almost completely eroded.

a. Nationally, there are many outstanding issues between the two major parties. The most important of these is the electoral disqualification of the Sharif brothers.

b. More importantly, the battle for Punjab—Pakistan’s largest province—still goes on. There are major unresolved issues between the PPP and PML-N concerning Punjab. These include: future of controversial Punjab Governor Salmaan Taseer; and the question of which party will form the next provincial coalition government.  The PPP seeks to create a governing coalition in Punjab with the PML-Q, a troubled party once allied with former President Pervez Musharraf.

c. There have already been actions made by both parties that indicate growing belligerence:

1. On Tuesday, the federal government unilaterally appointed a new chief election in violation of a PPP-PML(N) pact Gilani committed to follow.

—      According to the Charter of Democracy (COD)—signed by Nawaz Sharif and the late Benazir Bhutto in 2006—the prime minister must consult with the opposition leader (which would be the PML-N’s Chaudhry Nisar) in picking CEC nominees. Also on Tuesday, Gilani pledged to work with the PML-N to implement the COD. The dissonance between actions and words will further antagonize the PML-N.

—       The utility of the COD is ignored in Western policymaking communities. The agreement provides a set roadmap for the PPP and PML-N to transition toward stable, democratic rule. It addresses a range of issues, including: civil-military relations, provincial autonomy, governance reform, center-periphery relations, accountability and anti-corruption, and government-opposition relations. If implemented, the COD will reduce the need for third party intervention and increase political stability. However, elements of the pact do pose a challenge to the army’s corporate autonomy.

2. Senior PML-N officials, including Nawaz Sharif and Khawaja Asif, continue to make aggressive statements against Zardari. Sharif spoke of undoing “this decayed, outdated system.” However, they remain positive about Gilani.

Gilani plays important role and will be tested again.

a. Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani remains an intermediary between former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and President Asif Ali Zardari. Gilani remained in contact with the Sharifs during the Long March.

b. Gilani deftly survived the Long March without earning the ire of Sharif or Zardari.

c. However, if the Sharif-Zardari conflict reheats, Gilani might eventually be forced to choose sides or risk being caught in the crossfire.

d. This puts undue pressure on Gilani—seen as lacking intelligence and gumption—to maintain systemic balance. But Gilani is not and will not be without guidance.


a. Zardari is bitten and worn. He wants to regain strength. During the weekend, he refused to budge; he didn’t want to negotiate from a position of weakness. But he, essentially, continued to weaken as the crisis lingered on. The lesson has not dawned on him. He will not go down without a fight. Zardari has demonstrated a lack of ability to engage in political competition without seriously endangering political stability.

b. Predictions of Zardari’s demise are too early.  Many prefer a weakened/neutralized Zardari.

c. PPP needs a fall guy. Taseer could go as soon as governor’s rule is lifted. Rehman Malik is unlikely to go. Plays key role as civilian ‘balancer’ to the ISI for Zardari and others.


a. PML-N has gained morally from this. But tangible political gains were limited. Position remains precarious.

b. Nawaz’s breaking of the police cordon—watched by many on television—is what inspired many Lahoris to fill in the crowd. It kept growing, even on the way toward Gujranwala/Islamabad. Just another example of how new media/television was essential to the march’s success.

c. The Sharif brothers work very well as a team.

d. After failure to achieve political gains during the Long March, the party has adopted an aggressiveness signaling a return to the dangerous zero sum game. Inclination toward compromise remains though.


a. Kayani is now invested in the political process more than ever. No possibility for a smooth retreat, even if there is a will.


a. The lawyers movement was a national movement. It was not just restricted to Punjab. The foot soldiers were the lawyers from bar associations in every major city, including Peshawar and Quetta. Consider the leadership of the movement: Ali Ahmed Kurd (Baloch); Aitzaz Ahsan (Punjabi); Munir Malik (Urdu-speaking, I think); Abdul Latif Afridi (Pashtun); Athar Minallah (Pashtun); Iftikhar Chaudhry (Balochistani).

b. In fact, I would contend that the lawyers movement is one of the most diverse social movements in the country’s history. It, and more broadly, the push for the rule of law, can serve as an integrative force for Pakistan. Equal justice under the law can bring together Baloch and Punjabi, Urdu-speaking and Sindhi, Pashtun and Hindko-speaking.

c. Additionally, the movement brought together persons and groups from a broad ideological spectrum. Uber-liberals Asma Jehangir and Iqbal Haider, and Islamists Liaquat Baloch, and Munawar Hassan were all on the same side. Islamists were singing along with Iqbal Bano’s rendition of Faiz’s anti-establishment poem, Hum Dekhenge.

d. Pakistan’s judicial crisis is essentially over. A handful of issues have not been resolved, but the lawyers movement seems to have backed away from its maximalist positions.


a. Those that described the movement as Punjab-only were the political losers: ANP, JUI-F, MQM, and PPP. The ANP and PPP had, in fact, supported the movement prior to fall 2007/winter 2008.


a. The Islamists are not coming. The center-right, not the hard right, has been bolstered.

b. The rule of law can serve as an integrative force in Pakistan. Pakistan’s smaller, ethnic nationalist parties such as the Balochistan National Party-Mengal (BNP-M) and the Sindh Awami Tehreek viewed the restoration of Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry very favorably.

Print Friendly

Protected: Long March Analysis

This content is password protected. To view it please enter your password below:

Print Friendly


Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry will be restored — without conditions — by an executive order, according to Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan of the Muslim League – Nawaz (PML-N).

The quiet, patient man is on his third life, having been deposed twice previously by former President Pervez Musharraf.  Let’s hope he serves his term completely, without obstruction, and for the public good.

Kudos to the lawyers movement — one of Pakistan’s most organized, disciplined, and strategically-keen social movements.  Kudos to the political parties, third party groups, and street and Internet activists who stuck by their side.

Print Friendly

What Failed State?

Pakistan’s state machinery is working fine. 

Islamabad has implemented one of the most severe blockages of public movement in the country’s history.  [Update: It didn’t work too well in Lahore.]  Remember, this is a country of 165 million.

Major national highways and city roads are off limits.  Shipping containers have been laid out on the roads by the Zardari-dominated Gilani government to prevent a sizable assembly of Long March protesters.  [Good luck to exporters with shipping deadlines to meet!]

The Pakistan Army is deployed in Islamabad in full force to prevent public assembly.  [It's unclear as to whether they are just following orders to let Zardari self-destruct completely or whether Army Chief Kayani is in on the draconian measures against Pakistan's citizenry.]

The provincial police services and national intelligence agencies – including, some lawyers movement activists claim, plainclothes ISI officers — have detained dozens of major civil society and political leaders.  They have also arrested hundreds of lawyers and party activists.   

The most watched news channel is blocked in much of the country.  Even dorm residents at Islamabad’s Quaid-e Azam University were booted out of their housing facilities — many or most with no place to go.  SMS service has been blocked in Islamabad.  This could extend to the rest of the country. 

The Zardari-dominated government (I write Zardari-dominated because the government is technically that of Gilani, the dodo premier who wears no clothes) has demonstrated very well that it is able to develop a comprehensive strategy to combat a threat to its creeping hegemony and use a wide range of elements of the state apparatus to execute it.

Granted, it is facing a non-violent opposition.  It is easy to suppress the peaceful and unarmed.  Fighting cannibalistic terrorists is another matter.  Rehman Malik, now de-facto interior minister, ran away to Zardari House in Islamabad after Benazir Bhutto was assassinated, despite being in charge of her security.

Proclamations of the demise of the Pakistani state are always premature as long as the state is able to function at will.  The will, tragically, is generally demonstrated for the sake of self-preservation or aggrandizement.

The state performs well when it wants to, when the major elements of the state work in concert with one another.  As with today, it is for the wrong reasons. 

But in losing legitimacy and earning the hatred of the people, authoritarians win the battle and lose the war.  It is all downhill for Zardari from here.  In his fake psychiatric report, Zardari claimed to be suffering from amnesia.  Apparently he forgot what happened to Musharraf in 2007-8.

Update: 4:45AM (New York) – Zardari just lost the battle of Lahore and the entire war.  I think the game will be over soon.  Bilawal — take out the sleeping bag.  Papa’s coming for a visit.

Print Friendly

Report: Islamabad Blast Target Was FBI’s Pakistan Operations Chief

ARY One World, a leading Pakistani news channel, claims that the intended target of Saturday’s Islamabad bombing was the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigations operations chief in Pakistan. Meanwhile, ABC News states that the FBI’s attache at the US embassy, injured in the blast, is the top FBI agent in the country. His name differs from that provided by ARY. Reuters reports that four FBI agents were injured in the blast.

Has the Bureau’s operations in Pakistan has been compromised? There is a significant likelihood of linkage between Saturday’s attacks and Tuesday’s twin blasts in Lahore. Tuesday’s attacks targeted an FBI-trained unit of Pakistan’s Federal Investigation Authority (FIA) and a clandestine FIA safe house, said to be visited by U.S. intelligence agents, where terror suspects were interrogated. That a secret FIA installation was hit suggests that, at the very least, an inside source provided information on the targets to the terrorists. And so it’s possible the same source also gave information on the FBI personnel in Islamabad.

The FIA-FBI partnership, so it seems, has been targeted twice in one week. Therefore it is possible that it will be a target again. An FBI forensics team is currently assisting with investigations in Lahore. An unidentified Pakistani intelligence official told the German Press Agency that the FBI team also has been investigating similar attacks in Iraq; the Lahore FIA attacks are believed to bear similarities with attacks there.

What lies ahead? Will the terrorists continue to target the FIA-FBI nexus? Or will they diversify their targets, including other components of U.S.-Pakistan anti-terror cooperation, including military trainers and, even, aid workers? As we noted yesterday, Maulana Faqir Muhammad of the Pakistani Taliban criticized the U.S. plan to train the Frontier Corps, calling it “an insult to one of the world’s best trained armies.”

Print Friendly

Breaking News: Blast in Islamabad

A blast went off this evening in Islamabad (F-6, Supermarket area) at the Luna Caprese, an Italian restaurant frequented by foreign diplomats and journalists (it serves alcohol).

The Victims
According to the director of the Poly Clinic hospital, at least one individual has been killed. She is a Turkish national who either worked a nurse in the U.S. embassy or for an NGO operating in Kashmir.

The director said the hospital has received 11 injured individuals consisting of:

  • three Pakistanis (two critically injured);
  • a Canadian national of Somali descent;
  • a Japanese national;
  • at least five Americans (the sixth could be a Brit).

Other reports have listed a total of 15 injured. Three victims were taken to Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences hospital.

Aaj Television reported that some American victims were taken away in U.S. embassy Land Cruisers to an unknown location, perhaps the embassy and seemingly not to Pakistani government hospitals. The same has been reported for at least one British victim. The spokesperson for the U.S. embassy refused to comment about this when questioned. Another report also states that medical staff from the U.S. embassy also made their way to one of the two hospitals to assist.

The news channel also posted a list of the injured. Pakistani television stations immediately note the names of the deceased and injured, irrespective of whether family members have been notified. At least two of the Americans injured are defense policy experts with a major think tank.

The Blast
Aaj Television’s Talat Hussain reports that the restaurant’s entrance had “scanners,” perhaps referring to metal detectors. The blast went off in the restaurant’s outdoor dining area. Authorities remain open to the possibility of a grenade having been thrown from an adjacent ally. At the moment, however, they seem to favor the idea that a planted device was responsible. If true, was it a timed device or remote-detonated? And when was it planted? Was the entire property, not just the indoors location of the restaurant, secure when closed? If not, it is possible a device was placed into the restaurant’s open area during off hours.

Despite today’s security breach, Islamabad was put on high alert yesterday with strict checking of cars leaving and entering the city and a newly instituted no tolerance policy for street beggars. On February 25, a suicide bomber disguised as a beggar detonated himself near the vehicle of the Pakistan Army Surgeon General Mushtaq Baig, killing him and several others.

The Motive
What was the intent of the attack? Were the terrorists simply out for Western blood? Or was there a particular stimulus or target?

There are several facts to consider.

One, Islamabad is currently replete with foreign journalists covering the formation of the next government and the new parliament’s opening sessions. Many targets around.

Two, U.S. military advisers training the Frontier Corps began arriving in Pakistan earlier this month. Over recent months, local papers have reported a growing presence of foreigners in local dress across the country–including in Quetta. Militant networks could have detected a greater presence of Westerners in the country. Moreover, they read the papers and have complete access to reports in the Pakistani papers about the military training program.  In fact, Maulana Faqir Muhammad, a Pakistani Taliban leader, criticized training program today, referring to it as “an insult to one of the world’s best trained armies.”

Three, legislation for the Reconstruction Opportunity Zones (ROZs) on the Pakistan-Afghanistan border was introduced in the Senate yesterday. While Pakistani militants don’t read Congressional Quarterly, the local press does provide timely news of relevant developments in Washington. The ROZs have been in the press for months. They are now closer to fruition. Aid agencies have already begun actively recruiting senior management staff for related projects. In late February, militants attacked the Mansehra office of a British aid agency in February, killing three.

And so it is conceivable that the militants are trying to discourage a greater presence of military advisers and aid workers in the country.

Print Friendly

Two Suicide Blasts Hit Lahore; Warning to Incoming Government?

Terrorists have struck Lahore again in two separate attacks, killing at least 23 individuals. The first attack hit the local office of the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA), a civilian law enforcement agency under the Ministry of Interior that does extensive counterterrorism work. The blast was perhaps a warning message to the incoming civilian government. The blast shattered the windows of the eight foot building and damaged a gas pipeline nearby.

The second occurred near an office building in the posh Model Town area. The victims include a woman and three children. A GEO News correspondent reports that behind the office building is the home of an army officer, a possible target. Another GEO News correspondent claims the blast occurred near the local home of People’s Party Co-Chairman Asif Zardari and Lahore Mayor Amir Mahmood.  

Today’s attacks are the latest sign that Lahore is increasingly on the terrorists’ radar. Lahore has witnessed far less violence than other cities, including Karachi and Peshawar, in recent years. However, the ratio is now reversing this year. A suicide bomber targeted police at a lawyers’ movement rally on Janaury 10. And last week, militants attacked the city’s Naval College. Militants would like to demonstrate the reach of their network and that they can hit the so-called Punjabi establishment at home.

An angry crowd of protesters amassed near the FIA building, protesting against Pervez Musharraf as well as the terrorists.

Lahore’s hospitals are requesting donations of blood.

UPDATE: 2:07PM (New York) – There are indications both attacks were focused on the FIA.  There are rumors that the  local FIA office was visited frequently by foreign intelligence agencies.  A report on Aaj Television claims that the second attack could have been intended for an intelligence agency safe house nearby where suspected terrorists were being held.  This would indicate inside cooperation.  Also, both locations housed American-trained FIA units investigating the Naval College blast.

Print Friendly

Aitzaz Ahsan’s Call for a ‘Black Flag Week’

Print Friendly

Breaking News: Suicide Bomb Blast in Swat at Funeral Procession

A deadly bomb blast, believed to be a suicide attack, hit a funeral procession this evening in Swat. The attack occurred at the funeral of Deputy Superintendent of Police Javed Iqbal, who was killed earlier in the day by militants. The bomber reportedly detonated himself during the gun salute.  GEO reports that over40 have been killed.

Print Friendly


Arif Rafiq, a Washington, DC-based consultant on Middle East and South Asian political and security issues. [About]

For Media and Consulting Inquiries:
E-mail // Tel: +1(202) 713-5897

On Twitter:

On the Radio:
Arif Rafiq regularly appears on the John Batchelor Show Friday nights from 09:30-10:00pm Eastern Time. Tune your dial to 770AM in New York or 630AM in DC. The show appears on affiliates in other cities. Listen live online at WABCRadio.com.
AddThis Social Bookmark Button AddThis Feed Button


Pakistani Bloggers