DIG Saleemullah, a potential witness in defence of the CJ in the Supreme Judicial Council, has been arrested and fears for his life
Two days after Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry was rendered non-functional by the federal government, Chief Minister Sindh Dr Arbab Ghulam Rahim said in a press conference that chief justice was 'sacked' because Sindh and other provinces had submitted complaints before the president that he was 'consistently' interfering in their administrative affairs of the state.
Listing interferences, he specifically mentioned the case of DIG Mirpurkhas range Saleemullah Khan. On May 14, 2007 he was arrested from Constitution Avenue of Islamabad by Sindh Police and produced in a court in Mirpurkhas to face a range of criminal charges.
Saleemuallah was coming back from the Supreme Court when he was picked up by plain-clothed officials. Islamabad Police did not participate in the operation and was informed later.
Dubbing Saleemullah as CJ's favourite, Dr Arbab said that when Sindh Government transferred CJ's 'favourite' DIG Mirpurkhas, Saleemullah Khan, the CJ called chief secretary Sindh before his court and forced him to stay inside Supreme Court till withdrawal of order of his transfer. Subsequently, DIG Saleemullah lodged an FIR against IGP Sindh. "Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz intervened and transferred the DIG," he added.
Given this background, Saleemullah is considered a potential witness in defence of the CJ in presidential reference pending against him in the Supreme Judicial Council.
In the backdrop of Additional Registrar Supreme Court Hamad Raza's murder in Islamabad, Saleemullah's apprehension that he possesses some important information and the fear of its disclosure may cost him his life, seems serious.
Saleemullah denied allegations levelled in FIRs registered against him and claimed that efforts were underway to lodge more false cases. He said he had done nothing wrong as he was only conducting different inquiries under orders of the apex court.
The most glaring case is that of Munoo Bheel who along with other bonded labourers was released from the clutches of a landlord of Sanghar district in 1996. (See Box) But in 1998 the family of Munoo Bheel was abducted and has been missing since then. In the year 2005 the Supreme Court took suo motu action in the case on an application filed by Swedish human rights activist Torborg Isakssan. And a three member Supreme Court bench headed by Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry entrusted DIG Saleemullah to investigate the matter.
That seemingly put him on the wrong side of the government. In May last year the Supreme Court ordered forfeiture of property of Sindhi wadera Abdul Rehman Marri, a disciple of Pir Pagara, for his involvement in abduction of nine members of Munoo Bheel's family.
The bench took the decision on the report of Saleemullah although DCO informed the court that Abdul Rehman Marri had no movable or immovable properties in the area. This was disputed by DIG Saleemullah by stating that Marri was the most landed person in the area and that he had not left for Saudi Arabia and was still living somewhere in the country.
The bench also issued a contempt notice to Chief Secretary Sindh Fazlur Rehman for transferring, on April 27, 2006, DIG Saleemullah Khan.
The notice, however, was vacated when the official tendered an unconditional apology and informed the bench that the DIG had been reinstated to probe into the mysterious disappearance of Munoo Bheel's family.
On court's direction, another case the DIG was probing was the allegations of abduction and torture of Naeem Arain (a poultry dealer) by Mirpurkhas police in a private torture cell. On June 22, 2006, the Supreme Court directed the Sindh police to take effective action to abolish torture cells allegedly being operated by some police officials. The bench was told that some police officers, at the behest of influential feudalists, operated private cells where innocent citizens were kept in illegal confinement.
Naeem who was recovered appeared in the court and informed the bench that each of the accused police officials was now ready to pay him Rs500,000 as compensation.
He submitted that police were pressurising him to withdraw cases against them and had even threatened him that women of his family would be kidnapped. He said that he had been forced to shift half of his family to Jhelum.
DIG Saleemullah Khan informed the court that 10 police officers, including four SHOs who had been running torture cells in Sanghar, Mirpurkhas and Jhole, had been arrested and some of them had even been dismissed.
However, the DIG submitted, one of the accused, SHOs Lakhmir Chand, had escaped and he was hiding somewhere along the Pakistan-India border.
The bench criticised the conduct of PPO/IG Sindh and observed that he should have shown respect to the apex court in connection with the case of abduction of nine family members of peasant Munoo Bheel by feudal lord Abdul Rehman Marri.
At the time, a divide between the Sindh government and DIG Saleemullah and Supreme Court became visible. The Sindh government tried its best to take the case of Naeem and Munoo from Saleemullah and informed the SC that a new DIG has been appointed to investigate these cases but the CJ observed that the Sindh administration was violating and interfering into court's affairs. "No one is above the law. Even if the Sindh chief minister is causing hindrance," the CJ added.
"Since police torture of a citizen is a very serious matter, the Sindh IGP is directed to entrust a senior officer as recommended by DIG Saleemullah in his report to investigate, compile report within a fortnight and submit challans against culprits," the court observed. "Saleemullah will supervise the investigations."
The whole issue took an ugly turn on October 22 last year when the rift between DIG Saleemullah and the Sindh government intensified. Saleemullah was suspended and a case against him and a number of other police personnel reporting to him was registered on directive of the then Provincial Police Officer (IG), Sindh, Jehangir Mirza.
Earlier when Jehangir Mirza sent a letter to Saleemullah directing him not to leave the headquarters without prior permission of the competent authority, Saleemullah tried to get a case registered against PPO.
However, since October last year, Saleemullah had been maintaining a low-profile. He has been arrested on May 14 after appearing in a TV talk show and attending the hearing of Munoo Bheel case in the Supreme Court.
Time to recollect the story, yet again...
By Adeel Pathan
Munoo Bheel's hopes are dying with time. Bheel, who became an icon of struggle for thousands of peasants facing the worst form of bonded labour in the Sindh province, sees no signs of recovery for his family and loved ones who were abducted nine years ago -- in 1998 -- a second time.
Bonded labour in Sindh in not restricted to a single case of Munoo Bheel. According to unofficial estimates, there are millions of peasants working as bonded labour and nothing is being done to get them released or rehabilitated.
"Everyone who had been instrumental for the release of my family members from the chief justice to the police officials have been removed," tells Munoo Bheel while talking to TNS on telephone from a peasant camp Sikandarabad, in Taluka Kotri in Jamshoro district where he is currently living (The informal peasant camp in Sikandarabad is where freed peasants live without any support from the government).
Bheel recently went to Karachi where he said he lodged his strong protest against the removal of Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry outside the Karachi press club for about a month. He sees media as the only hope that exists for him.
Late Shakeel Ahmed Pathan, the Hyderabad-based coordinator of the task force of Human Rights Commission of Pakistan received an application in 1996 that Munoo Bheel somehow managed to send from captivity that he along with his family members was under bondage in the fields of a landlord in District Sanghar -- the stronghold of Pir Pagara -- head of Functional Muslim League and spiritual leader of Hurs.
The application was received in March 1996 and district magistrate Sanghar was asked to take action on March 13. On April 5, the administration got 59 bonded peasants freed from the captivity of the accused landlord Abdul Rehman Marri including the family of Munoo. His application was duly processed and submitted to the district administration who actively pursuing the powers under Bonded Labour Abolition Act 1992 got the family of Munoo Bheel released. But their days of independence and freedom were numbered and Bheel's family were kidnapped in 1998.
Those who were kidnapped included his wife Moota, his two sons Chaman and Kalji, two daughters Moonal and Dheli and above all his mother Akhoo, his brother Jalal and a close relative Orkartu. Munoo escaped the kidnapping because he was not present with his family on May 2, 1998. A case of kidnapping was lodged with Jhuddo police station on May 4, but to date no progress has been made -- despite the Supreme Court having taken notice of the delay in the recovery of his abducted family.
Munoo's case was raised with the concerned quarters of the government. Not only that, international organisations like Anti Slavery International also issued an appeal for the release of his family but nothing worked. Munoo then started observing a token hunger strike regularly for six hours from January 19 2003 outside the Hyderabad Press Club till early this year when he lost hope and stopped the protest. "I am scared afraid as the men of the landlord threaten me and my life is in danger," Munoo told TNS.
While talking on telephone, Munoo said that whoever worked to pursue his case faced government wrath. He said he was a Pakistani but unaware of what more did he need to do for the recovery of his family, especially the children. "I planned a rally in Hyderabad in favour of the chief justice but section 144 was imposed in the province." This was after May 12.
Munoo observed that when the chief justice of Pakistan took notice of the delay in the recovery of his family, his case was progressing. "But suddenly everything went wrong for me." Abdul Rehman Marri, the landlord accused of kidnapping his family, is in central prison of Hyderabad for the last ten months but even then the authorities have failed to recover the children. What is worse, the DIG Mirpurkhas Saleemullah Khan has been arrested after removal because he was making headway in the release of his children. "But the influence of provincial government stopped his hopes from becoming a reality."
Munoo is facing difficulties even in moving out from the peasant camp in Kotri. The authorities must provide him safety and security so that he can pursue the recovery of his own family and children.
By Shoaib Hashmi
They are the newest phenomenon on the landscape of Lahore , and they are most welcome for many reasons. Actually I don't think much of the men, but the ladies are another matter; they are smart and snazzy in their dark uniforms and their nifty dark peaked caps. They are the brand new cadre of 'Traffic Wardens' which the people have quickly transformed to their own taste into 'Vaarden Police', and they in turn have transformed traffic on the two mile stretch of Ferozepur road I use, and for the rest of the city, in the immortal words of Rhett Butler, "Frankly my dear, I don't give a damn"! (In case you are ignorant this is from 'Gone With the Wind').
If you were born anywhere near the time of independence, you might still nurture a nostalgia for the lovely uniforms of khaki knickerbockers and 'pattees' on the shins and the turban with a crimson silken fringe on one side. The traffic policemen were the only kind most of us came in touch with, and we called them 'Sentry Badshah', and if you can imagine them in their knickers you will understand where we got our habit of telling all traffic rules to go fly a kite!
Pretty soon the realisation dawned that the quaint 'puggree' was a leftover symbol of our slavery and bureaucrats in all five provinces fell over themselves to replace them. Most settled for the simple switch to a black or khaki beret, but the Karachi Wallahs went to town.
They devised a uniform of pristine white trousers and jacket, with white shoes, a round white helmet, and elbow length white gloves! And that wasn't all. In the palm of each glove there was embedded a round piece of glass, or plastic with many facets off which the man could focus a reflected beam of light at an offending trafficker to reprimand him!
It was the kind of typical dumb idea bureaucrats are liable to get when asked for 'fresh ideas' at a high powered meeting. The red reflectors were easy enough to get; they were the ones bicycle manufacturers stick to the back mud-guard of a cycle so it can be seen by a following driver. And they were a mess because firstly the policeman couldn't hold a pencil to write a 'challan' in the gloved hand, and second, while he was working out the angles to direct the nearest street light off his glove into the eyes of a driver, traffic could pile up for miles behind. Pretty soon they replaced them with batons that lighted up when the policeman wanted. The batteries ran out and they went the way of all flesh.
But enough of that, the latest is the new Vaarden Police, and I must say that the omens are very good. One is immediately aware of a distinct improvement in arrangements wherever they are on duty, I attribute it to the smart peaked caps of the ladies but so be it.
Meantime there is an equally smart Sikh policeman at Kalima Chowk. I hear that young kids have been learning the Sikh greeting of 'Sat Sarryakaal' and getting their fathers to drive near him so they can call out to him, and shake his hand. It is the kind of habit of the Lahori 'Zindah Dils' which warms the cockles of a Lahori's heart!
A part-real, part-imagined chronology of what Lal Masjid brand of Shariah entails for the country
January 21, 2007
Scores of completely veiled girl students from Jamia Hafsa, armed with batons and bamboos, break the locks of the only public library for children in Islamabad, which is adjacent to the Lal Masjid, and occupy it. They are protesting the demolition of illegally constructed mosques on stolen land. They say they are raising their voice because the local residents had failed to do that.
The Jamia Hafsa and Jamia Fareedia are affiliated with the Lal Masjid. The Capital Development Authority, reportedly under the instructions from federal intelligence agencies, had demolished illegally constructed mosques including Amir Hamza mosque on the Murree Road to improve the security of the VIP motorcades frequently commuting on that highway. They justified their action with an old ruling of the Council of Islamic Ideology (CII) that such mosques and madrasas are unIslamic.
January 26, 2007
The event attracts little attention from the national press and no action from the government till January 26, 2007 when, during his Friday sermon, Khateeb of the Lal Masjid Maulana Abdul Aziz asks the government to reconstruct all the seven illegally constructed mosques or face suicide attacks. Minutes after his threat, a security guard at a local five star hotel died in a suicide attack. Intelligence agencies reportedly suspect al-Furqan, a breakaway group of Jaish-i-Mohammad, of being behind the suicide bombing. Al-Furqan is led by Commander Abdul Jabbar, once number two to Jaish-i-Mohammad founding amir Maulana Masood Azhar, who was closely linked with the Lal Masjid clerics. He was arrested by intelligence agencies for his involvement in the suicide attacks on General Musharraf in 2003. Abdul Jabbar had recently been released from the custody of an unknown intelligence agency.
January 27, 2007
The male students from Jamia Fareedia, who had joined their veiled female colleague, have been turning the Lal Masjid into a fortress without anybody noticing it from the very first day of the crisis. Now, they start going out in the markets and threaten video shops to close their immoral business. There is a sense of insecurity all over the city. The Lal Masjid moral brigade includes many baffled outsiders.
February 6, 2007
Islamabad has reportedly been receiving unprecedented threats of suicide attacks from previously unknown groups for several weeks now. Intelligence agencies are working to foil many terrorist attacks in Islamabad. Another suicide attack takes place at the Islamabad airport.
February 9, 2007
Seminary students from outside Islamabad, particularly from the tribal areas, have been joining their co-believers in the Lal Masjid without any hindrance since the start of the crisis. The government appears to have decided to take actions against the illegal acts of the Lal Masjid clerics and their followers. Police force is deployed around the mosque. The two clerics vow to resist any action. Rawalpindi and Islamabad are under siege both by law-enforcement agencies and seminary students for all practical purposes.
February 11, 2007
Four leading jihadist ulema, namely Maulana Saleemullah Khan, Maulana Sher Ali, Maulana Taqi Usmani, and Maulana Abdur Razzaq Iskandar, with tacit government blessing, come to negotiate with Lal Masjid administration and resolve the crisis. They hold negotiations with the two clerics and support their point of view in the meeting but express their helplessness in public.
February 12, 2007
The government finally bows down before the ulema and promises to reconstruct the demolished mosques. Federal Minister for Religious Affairs Ijazul Haq inaugurates the reconstruction of Ameer Hamza Mosque. A five-member and an 11-member committee are formed to resolve the issue permanently. It appears the issue will be resolved soon. However, that does not happen. The situation continues to worsen and the moral brigade of the Lal Masjid continues to spread its tentacles.
March 28, 2007
The moral brigade of the Lal Masjid breaks into a private house and kidnaps three women and a six-month old baby. They accuse the women (and the baby) of running a brothel. She is released after she accepts to abandon her profession under threat to her life. Later, she denies the charge. Many believe she was punished for being a Shia. The government turns a blind eye to the activities of the Lal Masjid moral brigade, their illegal acts go unchecked.
May 18, 2007
Under the direction of the two clerics, the students from Jamia Fareedia kidnap four policemen who were on duty. The Lal Masjid asks the government to release all the 11 students who had been arrested for burning a video-shop in the capital and other illegal acts. Police registers an FIR but is stopped from taking action to get the kidnapped policemen freed from illegal confinement.
May 19, 2007
Under an agreement with the government, the Lal Masjid released two abducted policemen against the release of four arrested students. They said they would release the other two policemen only after the release of the remaining seven arrested students. The government denies to have any one of them in custody.
May 20, 2007
Nearly 13,000 police and Rangers gather in Islamabad to carry out an operation to get the abducted policemen released from illegal confinement at the Lal Masjid. At midnight, the government once again bows down for unexplained reasons.
Encouraged by the happenings in Islamabad, the students of the Darul Uloom in Gujranwala demand the imposition of shariat in the country. In the meanwhile, following in the footsteps of the students of the Lal Masjid, they announce to impose their own shariat in the neighbourhood. The moral brigade of the Darul Uloom in Gujranwala roams around the city, shutting down the video-shops and throwing acid on the faces of unveiled women. The pace of Talibanisation in Gujranwala is faster than in Islamabad, given its more conservative population.
In the year 2008, more Darul Ulooms in Punjab announce to impose shariat in their neighbourhoods. They all start by shutting down video-shops and throwing acid on the faces of unveiled women.
The local warlords try to snatch territory from the neighbouring warlords in efforts to increase their area of influence. The bigger warlords chase their weaker rivals and increase their influence.
All the Islamist and jihadist forces are unleashed after having shown patience at the local successes of their rivals. The big militias try to overrun the small warlords. The clever ones join the bigger militias while the smaller ones are eliminated from the scene. Then, the bigger militias wage jihad against their sectarian rivals, who were once grouped in the MMA.
The process of Afghanistanisation is complete by the end of the year 2009. Local clerics-turned-local warlords are controlling their neighbourhoods, in some cases, small towns, and, in a few cases, cities. The liberal and democratic people have died or left the country. One rarely sees women in public life or in the streets.
The brief chronology of events from January to May 2007 is real while from May 2007 to December 2009 is imagined. If the situation continues as it is, the reality may not be very different provided the regional or international situation remains the same. The reality may be worse if the other regional actors such as India and Afghanistan decide, individually or collectively, to take action against the growing jihadist threat. The situation may improve only if the jihad factory is shut down for good. That is unlikely to happen in the given circumstances.
All hopes of the situation getting better vanished after the federal government decided not to take action to get the two kidnapped policemen freed. The two clerics and their militia are still holding the two policemen at the time of writing this article. With each passing day, the Lal Masjid episode adds to unanswered questions. The latest unanswered question is why did the government refuse to take action after gathering 13,000 police and Rangers?
We will never get the official answer. However, the Musharraf regime stands exposed for encouraging the rise of the fundamentalists in the country. The government had been explaining away the rise of the Pakistani Taliban in the tribal areas and the NWFP by giving different excuses. However, the Musharraf regime has to blame itself for the rise of fundamentalism in the national capital, and the rest of the country.
The mysterious death of Saud Memon has brought the missing people's cases to attention once again
With her relentless courage, Amina Masood Janjua became the only Pakistani citizen to lead a vocal rally outside headquarter of Inter-Services Intelligence with some two dozen sympathisers. This was of course after she had led silent protests outside Supreme Court and parliament for her missing husband. The electronic and print media covered the helplessness of the high and mighty at the hands of a simple housewife.
Soon the pictures of a half-naked boy were splashed by the international press who was being thrashed for seeking information about his missing father and many others like him. Amina could only see her son being picked up by the Punjab police for attempting to present an application to Chief of General Staff, General Ehsan Saleem in his General Headquarters office.
Eventually, led by the human rights organisations, uproar was heard in the international and the docile local media.
Meanwhile, the attorney general persistently employed delaying tactics on behalf of interior ministry in the Supreme Court by not sharing any information on the missing persons' whereabouts. Taking suo motu action on a series of stories appearing in the press, Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry made the country's untamed intelligence agencies uncomfortable.
Meanwhile, the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan had decided to pursue the case of missing persons including those from Balochistan, who allegedly belonged to the ethno-nationalist movement.
Though the judicial crisis has affected the functioning of the government and court in so many ways, the Supreme Court recently formed a new bench to proactively take up the case of the missing persons. Even the Crisis Management Cell of the Interior Ministry had to assign a serving army colonel to appear before the apex court for hearings in the case.
Mrs Amina Masood has to her credit the release of 60 missing persons by the intelligence agencies. "I don't believe that... We have corroborated their list with the real people who have reached their homes and the facts belie the ministry's claim."
Brigadier Javed Cheema denies the allegations. "We have submitted the list with full responsibility before the apex court."
Amina says she is challenging the 'fabricated' list of the 60 freed persons in the next Supreme Court hearing. The list remains silent over 100 persons including her husband Masood Ahmad Janjua.
On the evening of July 30, 2005, educationist and philanthropist Masood Ahmad Janjua had left for Peshawar along with his 25-year-old companion Faisal Faraz to attend a Tablighi (preaching) congregation. But neither did they reach their destination nor returned home ever.
Several hundred people in Pakistan have disappeared, apparently taken into detention in connection with the war on terrorism, says Amnesty International in a recent report. Amnesty International's deputy Asia director, Catherine Baber, says, "It is very disappointing to see countries such as Pakistan join in the trend that one would hope would be declining."
Atiq-ur-Rahman, a bright scientist with the Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission (PAEC), went missing from Abbottabad on the morning of his wedding on June 23, 2004, leaving his father Siddiq-ur-Rahman and the entire family emotionally devastated. Ever since, his parents, three sisters and a younger brother have lost mental balance to varying degrees.
The worried family made desperate searches to find the bridegroom and bringing home his waiting bride. Over the next few days, local police informed the family that the intelligence agencies have picked their son.
To utter shock for the family, the highly-disciplined PAEC did not panic over its missing official and instead kept dispatching warning letters and eventually stopped disbursing his salary. Atiq was awarded a gold medal by the then Chief Executive, General Pervez Musharraf, for his professional achievements. Now, his poor father carries the same photo in protest to win some compassion but to no avail so far.
Even more shocking is the story of Saud Memon, a Karachi cloth merchant, who was picked from Pretoria in South Africa after remains of Daniel Pearl were found on his barren land at Gulshan Memar, Ehsanabad, along the Super Highway.
The 45-year-old philanthropist was flown to Guantanamo by the FBI sometime in March 2003. After the American investigators failed to find any link between Saud Memon and plotters or killers of Daniel Pearl, he was handed over to the Pakistani security agencies sometime in January 2006 in Karachi.
The 44-year-old was brought before a Supreme Court bench on May 4 on a stretcher, his eyes looking blank and saliva spilling out of his mouth. The Supreme Court judges had ordered his medical check-up at any place of his family's choice and sought the medical report.
"On April 28, 2007, Saud was dumped at a place near his house in Karachi in an extremely critical condition," says Shaukat Siddiqui, a Supreme Court lawyer for the missing persons.
Weighing 18 kg, Saud met a tragic death in a hospital in Karachi at the hands of alleged mental and physical torture and diseases such as Meningitis, Tuberculosis (mental) and Hepatitis B. The 5.6-feet-tall, Memon, normally weighed around 50 kilograms. Disabled to the extent of being unable to walk or even hold his head, Saud could not even identify his wife, four sons and a daughter.
Affidavits submitted in the Supreme Court by the Pakistani citizens released by the intelligence agencies suggest that Saud was physically weak but had no mental or psychological problem after returning from American detention.
Mehmood Memon, the younger brother of Saud Memon told TNS from Karachi, "We are extremely terrified . . . Saud was dumped on the roadside with an implicit message: keep your mouth shut or else..."
In Rawalpindi, Mrs Amina Masood seconds Mehmood's fears.
"I am receiving abusive telephonic calls and SMSs from various numbers and threatened of life for further perusal of release of innocent citizens in illegal custody of intelligence agencies," Amina tells TNS. She has already moved a fresh plea before the Supreme Court seeking security for her family. She alleges that her cellular number has been blocked thrice after such threatening calls.
Frontline advocate of missing persons Khalid Khawaja has been failing to secure freedom from jail by winning bail pleas for the past many months. Every time, he wins a bail plea, Khawaja is imprisoned in another 'fabricated' case. Retired PAF officer and a former ISI operative, Khawaja was picked up by the CIA from his residence early in the morning. Shaukat Siddiqui believes Khalid Khawaja is innocent and there are no reasons for him behind the bars.
For Amina Masood and the families of other missing persons, the struggle is far from over despite running pillar to post.
"I feel pity over my 10-year-old daughter and teenage sons who have lost their smiles and energies," says the struggling mom. "Sometimes, I believe Masood and I both have gone missing for our children."
By Omar R. Quraishi
The whole problem with one-man rule is that it depends on one man and he has no check on his powers, not from the judiciary or from parliament, or even the press. What if this one man is someone who is bad for the country? What if he makes decisions that are bad for you and me? And who is going to make him listen if he continues to say: 'Oh I am right and you are wrong?'
Over the past few years, I have had several run-ins with people who said that Pervez Musharraf was a liberal and progressive man and was just the type of person that was needed to make this country go forward, and fight the extremists and the bigots. Now, there are far fewer of these advocates around, and it seems that even among his strongest constituency, the country's liberals and progressives (or whatever we have of these types), support for the president seems to have dwindled considerably.
Many must now have realised the problems and complications arising out of military rule, particularly that even practically the whole country thinks it is time for the one man to go, he thinks otherwise and begins to believe that maybe everyone is conspiring against him.
This seems to be unfortunately happening in Pakistan where even the ruling PML-Q (otherwise an assorted bunch of opportunists and lotas) has seen considerable discontent because some members of parliament have begun to realise that the bad policies of the current government and its mishandling of the CJ crisis, the Lal Masjid issue and the May 12 carnage (among others) may affect their re-election chances. This is sort of reminiscent of what happened during the final years of Tony Blair's rule (he was democratically, rather overwhelmingly elected, but began acting in a pretty dictatorial fashion as his time in office progressed) or even George W. Bush where many candidates of the Republican Party kept a distance from their president in the run-up to last November's US Congressional elections.
According to the much-quoted (and in some quarters hated) Wikipedia, a dictator (Latin term: 'dictator rei gerendae causa') was originally the title of a magistrate in ancient Rome who was appointed (as opposed to grabbing power in today's world) by the Senate to rule (usually for a fixed period) during an emergency such as a military conflict. Like in the present day, they had sweeping authority over the people (though one difference today is that contemporary dictators enjoy powers that are arbitrary and usually extra-lega/constitutional). The dictator (that is the Roman one) did not control over public finances but this was dispensed with during the rule of Julius Caeser who was eventually murdered, and after which the institution of dictatorship was abolished in ancient Rome.
It is interesting to note that perhaps the two most reviled and also most powerful dictators of modern times -- Mussolini and Hitler -- did not come to power through a military coup or any such arbitrary action but rather through the electoral process. They then used the electoral mandate to vastly augment their powers, something that Nawaz Sharif tried to do as well.
Roman history chronicles the ideal dictator, Cincinnatus, who served as dictator twice -- in 458 BC and 439 BC. He is considered ideal because he was a farmer, tilling his land, when called up for appointment. As dictator, he is said to have saved Rome from an invasion and after three months in office he returned to his farm.
Compare Cincinnatus (you won't find a dictator like him around these days, who willingly gives up his powers) with Idi Amin Dada. The Ugandan dictator used the following title for himself (this is no joke): 'His Excellency President of Life Field Marshal Al Hadji Dr Idi Amin, VC, SCO, MC, Lord of All the Beasts of the Earth and Fishes of the Sea and Conqueror of the British Empire in Africa in General and Uganda in Particular.'
There is another type of dictator, the so-called benevolent dictator. The question here arises is that 'benevolent' for whom, for what purpose, and perhaps, most importantly, for how long? Besides, just because there is a benevolent dictator doesn't mean that his successor will be equally benevolent -- and what if the benevolent dictator wakes up one morning and chooses to not be so benevolent?
The writer is Op-ed Pages Editor of The News.
Email: [email protected]