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Thursday, December 17, 2009

Behind the veil: Why Islam's most visible symbol is spreading

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Views of the veil: Afghans wear burqas at a conference on violence against women in Herat.
The undue problem for the WEST?!?


It liberates. It represses. It is a prayer. It is a prison. It protects. It obliterates. 
Rarely in human history has a piece of cloth been assigned so many roles. Been embroiled in so much controversy. Been so misjudged, misunderstood, and manipulated.
 This bit, or in some cases bolt, of fabric is the Islamic veil.
 For non-Muslims, it is perhaps the most visible, and often most controversial, symbol of Islam. From Texas to Paris, it has gained new prominence and been at the center of workplace misunderstandings, court rulings, and, in Europe, parliamentary debates about whether it should be banned.
 The veil’s higher profile stems from several factors, including greater awareness and curiosity about Islam since 9/11, US military interventions in Muslim countries like Iraq and Afghanistan, and the rising visibility of Muslim immigrant communities in the United States and Europe.
 It has also become a magnet for trouble in times of distress, as Illinois resident Amal Abusumayah discovered when a woman upset about the Fort Hood, Texas, killing spree tugged Ms. Abusumayah’s head scarf in a grocery store.
 “The veil has become a clichéd symbol for what the West perceives as Muslim oppression, tyranny, and zealotry – all of which have little to do with the real reasons why Muslim women veil,” says Jennifer Heath, editor of the 2008 book “The Veil: Women Writers on Its History, Lore, and Politics.”
All this attention on the veil brings immense chagrin to Muslims because their faith means so much more to them than what women wear on their heads. But the veil – in its many manifestations – also gives rise to disagreement among Muslims. And their contemporary debate about it, while not yet widespread, raises fundamental questions relating to free will, women’s status in society, and even how to interpret Islam’s holy book, the Koran.

IN ITS BROADEST SENSE, the “Islamic veil” refers to a large variety of coverings. The most widely worn is the head scarf. Covering hair and neck, it can be black and simple, or colorful and sweeping, as in Cairo, where scarves are tightly wound around women’s heads and then cascade luxuriously to their waists.
The head scarf is often referred to as hijab or hejab, an Arabic word meaning a covering or a screen. Mujahabat means “women who are covered.”
There is sweeping consensus among Islamic religious scholars around the world that Muslim women are required to, or at least should, cover their hair. So the head scarf, or some type of head covering, is widely viewed as mandatory in Islam.
 Other coverings worn by Muslim women also fall within the category of “veil.” Depending on the country, these outfits can be regarded as either optional or compulsory. Often they are said to be required on either religious or cultural grounds – categories that overlap in most Muslim countries.
 Iran’s traditional covering, for example, is the chador, an ample black cloth that fits over the head and reaches to the ground. Women often hold part of it over their face in mixed company. The more modern Iranian cover is a head scarf accompanied by a longish, coat-type garment. Women in Saudi Arabia wear an oblong black scarf flipped twice over their heads, along with the abaya, a loose black robe. Many add the niqab, a square piece of cloth that covers the mouth and nose, or sometimes hides the entire face with only a slit for the eyes.
The most restrictive covering by far is the burqa of Afghanistan, a long billowy smock that totally covers a woman from head to toe, including her face. She sees the world only through a small square of cloth webbing.

 NON-MUSLIMS TEND TO REGARD VEILING as a sign of women’s repression. That is true in highly patriarchal societies like Iran and Saudi Arabia, where women have second-class status and are required to cover both head and body when outside the home.
 But most Muslim women, including most in the US, voluntarily opt to wear the head scarf out of religious commitment. They believe they are following God’s wish, and reject suggestions that their head covering means they have less autonomy at home or on the job.
 “It’s something that you love to do because it makes you feel that you are closer to Allah, that you’re doing the right thing,” says Reem Ossama, an Egyptian mother of three who covers her head when she leaves her home here. “Allah ordered us to wear the scarf ... to protect our dignity, to protect women, [so we would] not be looked at just as a beautiful body, a beautiful face, [so others would] look at our minds and our personalities.”
 In addition to religious reasons, many Muslim women have adopted the head scarf to show pride in their faith, particularly in times like these when Islam is under attack from non-Muslims. It’s a way for women to say, “I’m proud to be a Muslim and I want to be respected.”
 This is an especially strong sentiment in Muslim countries where people feel their Islamic identity is threatened by the global spread of Western culture. For many women in these countries, being “authentic” means wearing the Islamic head scarf.
 Other reasons for veiling involve less freedom of choice. Some women, especially in developing countries, say they put on the head scarf to avoid harassment and stares from men, especially in crowded spaces such as public transportation systems.
 More commonly, there is family pressure from fathers, husbands, or brothers who want their female relatives to be seen by society as a “good girl” or “good woman.” These men are responding to their societies’ prevailing norms, which presume that veiled women are obeying Islam’s prohibitions on dating and extramarital sex.
 Some men ask their relatives to veil because they “are jealous,” says Ms. Ossama’s husband, Mohamed Gebriel. “They don’t like other men to see their wives.” Mr. Gebriel, who is managing director of a Riyadh business consultancy, isn’t one of these men. But he says that, like the “vast majority” of Muslim men, he respects women who cover because “we see that as a sign that she appreciates herself, that she has some dignity, that she’s not into that materialistic thing and trying to be a sex symbol.”

t the same time, Gebriel stresses that he has “many Muslim friends, female friends, who are not wearing hijab and it doesn’t bother me ... because at the end of the day, it’s one small thing that represents the entire entity ... of this human being.”

 GENERALLY, ISLAMIC RELIGIOUS SCHOLARS cite two verses in the Koran to support their consensus that Muslim women must, or should, cover their hair. The first is Verse 33:59, addressed to the prophet Muhammad and his family: “O Prophet! Tell Thy wives and daughters And the believing women, That they should cast Their outer garments over Their persons (when abroad): That is most convenient, That they should be known (As such) and not molested.” Verse 24:31 states, “And say to the believing women That they should lower Their gaze and guard Their modesty; that they Should not display their Beauty and ornaments except What (must ordinarily) appear Thereof; that they should Draw their veils over Their bosoms."
 But, writes sociologist Ashraf Zahedi, a scholar in residence at the University of California, Berkeley Beatrice Bain Research Group, “[T]hese citations emphasize modesty and covering the bosom and neck. There is no reference to covering female hair or to the head veil.”
 Ms. Zahedi is among a small but growing number of female Muslim scholars questioning the long-held consensus on head covering. Leila Ahmed, Amina Wadud, and Asma Barlas, to mention others, argue that because most interpretations of the Koran throughout the ages have been done by men, the holy book’s support for gender equality has been obscured.
 As Ms. Barlas, a professor of politics at Ithaca College in New York, said in a 2006 address at the University of Groningen in the Netherlands, “I am among those ... who argue that the reason the Koran has been read as a patriarchal text has to do with who has read it, how, and in what contexts. To make it clear, historically only male scholars have read the Koran ... always within patriarchies. That is why I call the dominant reading of Islam a misreading, which implies, of course, that I believe there can be a correct reading of Scripture.”
 In a phone interview, Barlas noted that the Koran also calls on men to be modest (Verse 24:30). But, she said, “we never talk about Muslim men’s sexual morality.... That’s why I get upset sometimes with all the discussion of the head covering because it seems to me that men benefit from this a lot.
 “It basically lets them off the hook from having to talk about what might constitute good behavior on their part….” she said. “There’s no discussion of how they should be dressing or behaving.... Why is the onus always on women to be the custodians of the community’s morality or identity?”
 Other Muslim women are using the political arena to challenge the dominant view that Islamic modesty requires a head covering. Last May, four women made history when they were elected to Kuwait’s National Assembly. Conservatives, outraged that two of the women – Rola Dashti and Aseel Al Awadhi – do not wear head scarves, petitioned a court to bar them from parliament because they violated Islamic law by not covering their heads.

In October, Kuwait’s highest constitutional court handed the women a legal victory when it dismissed the petition, ruling that the country’s Constitution guarantees gender equality and freedom of choice in religion.
MODERN HISTORY OFFERS MANY EXAMPLES of how men and male-dominated political regimes have used veiling as a way to control women, and by extension society, as well as a means to promote ideologies, whether secular or Islamic.

In the first half of the 20th century, for example, secular-oriented leaders in Turkey and Iran who were keen to modernize their countries along Western lines banned the veil in public – to the great distress of many devout Muslim women. In Iran, women who refused to unveil were forcibly removed by police from public establishments. Many refused to leave their homes, Zahedi noted in her study of veiling in the fall 2007 issue of the Journal of Middle East Women’s Studies.
 Today, Turkey still forbids head scarves at state-run universities. In Iran, the 1979 Islamic revolution reversed the veil ban and went to the opposite extreme, requiring a complete cover of head and body for all women, even non-Muslims. The point was to vividly demonstrate that Islam – not the West – was the controlling reference point for Iranian society.
 Zahedi noted that Iran’s revolution brought to the fore deep-seated notions about the erotic nature of female hair. One conservative male writer had opined that “it has been proven that the hair of a woman radiates a kind of ray that affects a man, exciting him out of the normal state.”
 Veiling was justified by “the need to control female sexual power,” Zahedi added. And instead of “questioning the ... uncontrollable sexual appetite of some Iranian men,” she wrote, “the regime forces Iranian women to conceal their hair and bodies to protect those men.”
 Similar rules were imposed when the Taliban took power in Afghanistan in 1996. They made the burqa, long worn by traditional women for both cultural and religious reasons, required for all Afghan women. During Algeria’s bitter civil war in the 1990s, radical Islamists killed unveiled women. And in Hamas-controlled Gaza, schoolgirls have been told to don head scarves. (Meanwhile, a few miles away in Israel, the Orthodox Jewish community requires its married women to cover their hair.)
 Barlas also accuses Westerners of politicizing the veil when they use it as a symbol for Islam, usually to critique women’s repression in Muslim societies. “I have been challenging many Western audiences to tell me what they think a ‘typical’ picture of a US-American woman would be,” she wrote in an e-mail. “When they find it hard, I ask why they pick only a ‘veiled’ woman to represent all Muslim women.”

 TODAY, IT IS THE MOST severe forms of the veil – the niqab and the burqa – that are generating heated debate in Europe and some Muslim majority countries.
 Islamic religious scholars disagree on whether Muslim women must cover their faces. In Egypt, Sheikh Mohammed Sayyed Tantawi, head of Cairo’s Al Azhar University, a renowned center of Islamic learning, recently reprimanded a girl for wearing a niqab when he visited her school. He ordered her to remove it, saying that it “has nothing to do with Islam and is only a custom.”
 Indeed, the niqab was never an indigenous form of dress in Egypt. But in recent years, it has been adopted by young women who have turned to a more conservative, Saudi-style practice of Islam. The Egyptian government, citing security, has banned it from female dormitories at universities.

“We all agree that niqab is not a religious requirement,” Abdel Moati Bayoumi, an Al Azhar affiliated scholar, told the Associated Press. Noting that the “Taliban forces women to wear the niqab,” Mr. Bayoumi added that “the time has come” to confront the idea that the niqab is mandatory. 
 Even in Saudi Arabia, where the niqab has deep roots in tribal customs and is widely worn, women have different opinions about it. “What is the most beautiful part of a woman?” asks Saudi newspaper reporter Laila M. Bahammam. “It is her face and her hair. So this beauty should be covered.”
 But Ahlam A. Al Qatari, a Saudi physician, says that she “would launch a campaign against the niqab” if she could. While she is “a hundred percent” with covering hair, she adds, the niqab “is different.... It’s a tradition rather than an Islamic ritual or rule. In Islam, you cover your hair, not your face, and I think for civilized communication between different nations, different people, to know others actually, you have to expose yourself face to face, with eye contact.”
 In Western countries, the face veil has become problematic for a variety of reasons. In an age of increased security, it is necessary for policemen, airline ticket agents, judges, and even teachers in schoolrooms to identify those in front of them.
 Also, it challenges the widespread assumption in Western culture that masks usually denote deceit or something to hide. In societies where high stock is placed on face-to-face communication, the face veil can be a high barrier to assimilation, not to mention a cause for anxiety. Former British Foreign Minister Jack Straw has called the niqab a “visible statement of separation and difference” that is “bound to make better, positive relations between the two communities more difficult.”
 Several European countries have considered proposals to ban the niqab and burqa in public, and a leading Muslim organization in Canada recently urged the government to pass such a ban.
 In France, where the Islamic head scarf (and other “conspicuous” faith symbols) was banned from state schools in 2004, President Nicolas Sarkozy says there is “no place for the burqa” in his country. But after studying the issue, the French parliament last month decided not to formally ban the burqa, though it may recommend against its use in some public places, news agencies reported.
 The Islamic head scarf, however, is another matter. As the most common type of Islamic veil, it now occupies a prominent place in both Western and Muslim majority countries as a statement of religious values.
 Not to mention as a fashion statement, as Reem Ossama is eager to demonstrate. She opens a drawer to retrieve several issues of “Hijab Fashion,” a Cairo-based glossy magazine full of models in colorful, ankle-length dresses and pantsuits – all with elaborate matching head scarves.
 “We have fashion of our own, we Muslim ladies,” Ossama says while flipping pages. “You can cover and be beautiful.”


India: Was Mumbai suspect a double agent for US?

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The Indian press is abuzz with news that Indian Home Ministry officials are investigating whether a terror suspect in the Mumbai attacks, David Headley from Chicago, was working as a 'double agent' with the US.

In this courtroom drawing David Coleman Headley, left, pleads not guilty before U.S. District Judge Harry Leinenweber on December 9 in Chicago to charges that accuse him of conspiring in the deadly 2008 terrorist attacks in Mumbai.

The Indian press is abuzz with news that Indian Home Ministry officials have said they are investigating whether Pakistani-American terror suspect David Coleman Headley was working as a "double agent."
Indian officials reportedly raised questions about Mr. Headley’s links with US intelligence agencies – even as another terror suspect accused of involvement in the 2008 Mumbai attacks was denied bail by a US federal court. These latest and widely-publicized accusations against Headley are expected to put pressure on India’s ruling Congress Party, which has emphasized closer ties with the US as part of its foreign policy.
The US has not allowed Indian authorities to interrogate Headley over the Mumbai attacks, much to India's consternation.
According to he Hindustan Times, Indian Home Ministry officials raised questions about Headley’s involvement with the American intelligence agency.
India is investigating whether a Chicago man accused of helping plan the deadly 2008 Mumbai siege was a double agent working for the United States and a Pakistan-based militant group, an official said on Wednesday.
"India is looking into whether Headley worked as a double agent. That is one of the many angles we are probing," a home ministry official said ….
Indian media reported that New Delhi was suspicious because the United States had not shared vital information about Headley's movements prior to his arrest….
Headley could have been a member of the US Drug Enforcement Agency which allowed him to make frequent trips to Pakistan and gain access to the Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) militant group.
The Times of India reports that Indian officials suspect that the CIA knew about Headley’s link with the banned Pakistani militant outfit, Lashkar-e-Taiba, one year before the Mumbai attacks, but did not alert Indian agencies.
The [Indian] investigators believe that the US agencies kept away the information from India and never allowed the Pakistani-origin Headley to get "exposed".
The 39-year old terror suspect, arrested by FBI for his role in Mumbai attacks, had visited India in March 2009 – four months after Mumbai attack carried out by LeT – but FBI still did not inform India that Headley is a LeT operative, apparently fearing he could be arrested in India.
According to the Times of India, Indian officials will also be investigating how Headley’s credit card bills were settled in American banks while the suspect was traveling through India.

At Copenhagen, many global warming issues likely to be unresolved.

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As the Copenhagen global warming talks head into their final days, observers say many climate change issues are likely to be left unresolved.

Talks on a new global warming pact in Copenhagen reached a more politically rarified height today as ministers from more than 190 countries took the hand-off from their technical negotiating teams.
Over a week of negotiations left a large number of unresolved issues that now land squarely in the laps of cabinet-rank government officials to resolve.
The process has been complicated by the early arrival of several heads of state, who are getting involved in the talks far earlier than anticipated.
The accelerated timetable prompted the meeting's president, Connie Hedegaard, Denmark's environment minister, to resign her presidency this morning and turn the reins over to Denmark's prime minister, Lars Løkke Rasmussen.
The rationale: It takes a head of government to cajole other heads of government. Ms. Hedegaard has continued to keep the process moving at the ministerial level.
With heads of state now directly involved in the talks, some observers say they doubt much will come out of the meeting beyond a symbolic statement.
One diplomat veteran of global-warming talks and international trade talks said that once heads of state get involved the outcome tends to be "a one-and-a-half page statement with nice words," with key decisions put off until the next major gathering.
To be sure, others are less pessimistic.
In a press briefing Wednesday Yvo de Boer, executive secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, said, "I still believe it's possible to reach real success. But I must say in that context that the next 24 hours are absolutely crucial."
Perils of Pauline?
Veterans of these talks note that during negotiations in Kyoto in 1997 over what would become the Kyoto Protocol, the final three days of talks resembled the silent movie serial Perils of Pauline, in which the heroine always appeared marked for death until a miraculous last minute escape.
At the end in Kyoto, leaders inked a deal, although the United State's never participated in that pact.
Though the Kyoto protocal only barely slowed the rate of increase in greenhouse-gas emissions, observers say the agreement was valuable in setting up mechanisms that could lead to further progress beyond the initial 2008-2012 commitment period.
Fast forward to 2009 and some analysts say the Copenhagen talks could lead to a similar outcome.
"The targets currently put on the table are not enough to meet what the science tells us is necessary. This stage of the process is not going to deliver the outcome we need," says Duncan Marsh, director of international climate policy for The Nature Conservancy in Arlington, Va.
But it will help establish on a global basis, rather than just for a handful of industrial countries, "the systems that allow governments to begin to grapple with the issue on a much more systematic, effective, and coordinated way,'' he said. "When we do that, we'll have opportunities to review the science and ratchet up targets accordingly."
Possible outcomes
At a briefing today, the Pew Center on Global Climate Change's Elliot Diringer speculated on what an outcome of the "somewhat chaotic and fractured" talks at Copenhagen could look like.

First and foremost, this will not be a legal document, but a political agreement, he said.
Emissions-control offers -- particularly from the US and developing countries -- likely will be included in the document.
Some offers, such as China's, are being built into the country's long-term economic planning process. Others, such as President Barack Obama's offer, are conditional.
In the US case, the condition is congressional approval of energy and climate legislation, which probably won't happen before next spring.
Other offers from major developing countries hinge on getting what they see as adequate financial support from rich nations.
Putting those offers into some form of treaty likely will be negotiated over the coming year, Mr. Marsh adds.
One matter that looks as though it could be resolved by week's end is so-called fast-start money -- some $10 billion a year from 2010 through 2012 that developed countries would give to developing nations as a down payment on longer-term financing to help poorer nations adopt cleaner technologies and find ways to mitigate the effects of higher temperatures.
Mr. Diringer says any political agreement at Copenhagen must set a deadline for resolving outstanding issues and crafting the legal language needed to eventually pull the results together into a formal treaty.
In addition, any agreement will preserve the two "tracks" of talks that have been underway: one covering a second commitment period under the Kyoto Protocol; the second crafting the political agreement that brings the US and developing countries into an international climate regime.
Finally, a final Copenhagen document is likely to include some numbers on a long-term temperature goal, variously debated here as either 2 degrees Celsius above preindustrial levels, or a 1.5-degree goal backed by many developing countries.
"There will have to be a finessing of those numbers; I don't think we'll see a single number," Diringer says.
As for commitments on long-term aid for developing countries, which some say needs to be more than $100 billion a year by 2020, it will be challenging for the US to come up with specific numbers, Diringer says. That is one topic whose details may get kicked into further negotiations over the next year.
Indeed, The Nature Conservancy's Marsh sees the short-term money as a confidence-building measure developed countries can offer up to ease developing country mistrust of their richer counterparts.
"These negotiations get pulled into a long history and debate between developing and developed countries. In many senses, developing countries feel like they've run through a series of broken promises, not just on climate change, but on a wide variety of other issues," he says.
The thorny issue of monitoring, reporting, and verification of any nation's pledged actions is likely to get pushed off to next year. This has been a prickly issue, especially between the US and China.
"The whole process is all about trust," Marsh says. Each country needs "a level of comfort that it can act because it knows its partners are acting in an appropriate way, depending on their own national circumstance."

Why are big banks like Citigroup rushing to pay back TARP funds?

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Citigroup announced it is paying back federal TARP funds, joining the likes of Bank of America, Goldman Sachs and JP Morgan. Why are they in such a hurry? 

Bailed-out Citigroup says it will be known as bailed-out no more. The bank announced plans to return $20 billion in federal funds while converting another $25 billion in debt into a 34 percent ownership stake in the company for Uncle Sam.
The move caused Citigroup's stock to fall about 6 percent in early Monday trading.
Of the 737 institutions that received bailout funds, 51 other banks have wiped out their financial obligation to the Feds according to ProPublica’s database on the subject.
Among them, however, have been most of America’s banking heavies. Bank of America made good on its $45 billion debt on Dec. 9, while JP Morgan Chase ($25 billion) Goldman Sachs ($10 billion) and Morgan Stanley ($10 billion) all paid the federal piper on June 9. In Bank of America’s case, the repayment came almost two years ahead of its own projected payback date.
While media attention has focused on these big names, the vast majority of banks receiving financial life support were smaller regional banks who aren’t charging on to repay their Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) funds.
So what’s the hurry for big banks?
For one, paying back Uncle Sam ends government strictures on executive pay. Bankers say these restrictions make it impossible for bailout-receiving banks to compete for top banking talent. AIG head Robert Benmosche was reportedly on the verge of jumping ship only a few months after being hired because of pay frustration.
Plus, there are plenty of what hedge fund whiz George Soros calls “hidden,” or indirect, benefits for bankers in the government’s attempts to reinvigorate the economy. From miniscule interest rates to a number of moves to get credit flowing freely once again, banks are getting plenty of federal help without the public relations blemish of counting government dollars on their balance sheet.
Third, there is that all-important public image of the bank. Many investors will view a bank as weaker if it's still dipping into TARP while its peers are in the clear. And beyond investors, the banks face broader public-relations concerns. How sensitive banks are to public criticism right now is best shown through the actions of Goldman Sachs, which recently announced that its top 30 bankers will have their entire bonuses converted into company shares for 2009. That follows on the heels of a widely panned move to donate $500 million to a variety of programs to help small businesses.
Medium sized banks, on the other hand, are not being pummeled with the same sort of public scrutiny and thus aren’t under the same pressure as the Wall Street titans. Moreover, the structure of large but not hulking banks like Wells Fargo is fundamentally different from Wall Street’s biggest institutions, as TIME magazine blogger Justin Fox recently wrote.
“It's that Wells, unlike BofA and Citi, doesn't employ legions of investment bankers and traders who expect to be paid millions of dollars a year,” writes Mr. Fox. “It's a financial institution that caters to consumers and small-to-medium-sized-businesses, not a creature of Wall Street.”
 

Guantanamo detainees on US soil: a legal minefield

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President Obama wants to house some Guantanamo detainees in an Illinois prison. But bringing the detainess to the US will likely broaden their legal rights. 'How much?' is the unanswered question. 

President Obama’s decision to transfer as many as 100 terror suspects from Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, to a maximum security prison in rural Illinois potentially sets the stage for a new round of high-stakes legal battles over what additional rights, if any, Al Qaeda suspects are entitled to.
 
Under their current terms of confinement at Guantánamo, detainees have a constitutional right to challenge the legality of their detention in federal court. But that’s it.
In contrast, from the moment the detainees set foot on US soil, their lawyers will have the ability to tap into the full array of constitutional and other legal protections enjoyed by every American citizen and resident.
How broad might those protections be?
“It is an unanswered question. We’ve never done this before,” says Scott Silliman, a professor at Duke University Law School and director of the Center for Law, Ethics, and National Security.
“They are probably going to end up with more rights than they have at Guantánamo Bay, but how much more, we don’t know,” he says.
They're not in Cuba anymore
Congress passed a series of laws aimed at stripping Guantánamo detainees of potential legal rights, including the right to challenge the conditions of their confinement at the prison camp and to claim fundamental protections of due process.
But the US Supreme Court has issued a series of decisions establishing rights at Guantánamo, including a 2008 decision finding a constitutional right to challenge the legality of their confinement via habeas corpus petitions in federal court.
Once detainees are moved to the US, the tangle of congressional restrictions on detainee rights at Guantánamo will fall away.
“The main argument the government has had as to why these men don’t have rights is that they are held outside the sovereign territory of the United States,” says David Remes, legal director of the Washington-based group Appeal for Justice and who represents 20 Guantánamo detainees.
“The Supreme Court rejected that,” he says. “But the government is still arguing that the detainees have no constitutional rights beyond habeas rights because they are offshore.”
Mr. Remes adds, “If the men are brought to the US, the government will no longer have that argument, and it will be possible for the detainees to raise a wider set of constitutional claims.”
Move could strengthen detainee lawsuits
These constitutional claims could strengthen the detainees’ ongoing habeas corpus lawsuits, Remes says.
Remes, who has spent years litigating on behalf of the detainees, says he doesn't support transferring the men from Guantánamo to Thomson Correction Center Illinois.
“When the habeas lawyers heard that Obama wanted to close Guantánamo, we thought that was a good thing because it would mean the men would be sent home,” he says. “We never imagined that to close Guantánamo would mean ‘move to a new location.’ “
Remes says he is concerned that the transfer to Illinois may worsen the day-to-day living conditions of his clients. He says he is worried that men now living in “relatively humane conditions of confinement” at Guantánamo may find themselves transferred into bleak supermax prison conditions.
Open-ended detention
The Obama administration has suggested that it is considering housing a number of the detainees sent to Illinois in open-ended military detention without charge. These are the detainees the administration considers too difficult to prosecute but too dangerous to send home.
Professor Silliman says such an effort will likely spark appeals. “Where is the authority to do that?” he asks. “You are talking about a domestic preventative detention program. I know of no statute that currently authorizes it.”
For the transfers from Guantánamo to take place, the president must first convince Congress to lift its current restrictions on detainee transfers to the US, Silliman says. Congress has said detainees may only be brought to the US for trial.
The administration must also work with Congress to establish statutory authority to hold military detainees indefinitely in the US without charge, Silliman adds.
A law passed in 2001 authorizes the president to detain enemy combatants. But a 2004 Supreme Court ruling restricts the government’s use of that law to the detention of battlefield combatants during an ongoing military engagement, Silliman says. When the military conflict ends, so does the president’s authority to detain. The battlefield combatants must be sent home, he says.
The Obama administration continues to argue that the president has the authority to order the indefinite detention of terror suspects. But Silliman says that authority may disappear if the US withdraws from Afghanistan.
“There are a lot of unanswered questions,” the professor says. “It is one thing when you are picking folks up on the battlefield. It is another thing when you are moving them from Guantánamo Bay inside the US – and relying on the theory that you are keeping them off the battlefield.”
He adds, “That has its limitations.”

Why Pakistanis would reject $7.5 billion in US aid.

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The United States is offering $7.5 billion to Pakistan for development – but only 15 percent of Pakistanis support accepting it, according to a Gallup Pakistan survey released Wednesday.
Barely a quarter of the 2,500 Pakistanis polled believe the money earmarked in a bill put forward by Sen. John Kerry (D) of Massachusetts and Sen. Richard Lugar (R) of Indiana will improve the ordinary lives of the people.
The poll comes after Pakistan's military and political opposition strenuously objected to various strings attached to the aid, opening a rift in US-Pakistan relations.
Senator Kerry said Wednesday that there are no conditions attached to the bill that "impinge" on Pakistan's sovereignty. But the people of Pakistan, it seems, aren't convinced. The outcome of the poll suggests that the US, which is facing opposition from Pakistan's entrenched political and military establishment, is also confronting a wave of popular distrust of US motivations.
"It's not something that only the Islamabad pols discuss," says Ijaz Shafi Gilani, the Gallup Pakistan pollster. "It's not only about the conditionalities [on the money], but disenchantment with aid as an instrument of development."

The bill's controversial conditions

The conditions on the Kerry-Lugar aid that have proved most controversial include "direct access" to Pakistani nationals associated with nuclear proliferation, ensuring civilian authority over military promotions, and certification by the US Secretary of State that Pakistan is cooperating on counterterrorism.
Additionally, the tone of the whole document is "quite humiliating," says Khalid Rahman, head of the Institute of Policy Studies in Islamabad. The bill states that monitoring and certification requirements can be waived if it's in the American national interest, meaning "it will be the American interests – not the Pakistani interests – that will be served."
Initial efforts by the Pakistani government to declare the bill a success have fueled the outrage, since some of the concessions supposedly won through its lobbying efforts in Washington ring hollow. Congress merely inserted vaguer language, critics say.
"They took out "India‚" but instead they put in the wording of "neighboring countries." You know and I know we are not neighbors of Tanzania and South Africa," says Sen. Tariq Aziz, a spokesman for the opposition PML-N party.

US skepticism


Pakistan's Army vociferously objected to the bill earlier this month – after the US Senate passed it. The military's intervention, coupled with a backdrop of past misuse of US funds, lead some US experts to caution against taking Pakistan's objections too seriously.

Pakistan Supreme Court strikes down amnesty deal

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President Asif Ali Zardari could once again face charges of corruption after Pakistan's Supreme Court found that an amnesty deal that allowed many officials to serve in the government was unconstitutional. 

 

Pakistan’s Supreme Court struck down a controversial amnesty deal on Wednesday that had erased charges ranging from corruption to murder against 8,000 people, including President Asif Ali Zardari. The verdict could invite political instability at a time when Pakistan is grappling with a deadly fight against militants and US pressure to do more.
The ruling that the 2007 National Reconciliation Ordination (NRO) is unconstitutional opens the door for existing cases to resume and for new legal challenges to be lodged against Mr. Zardari’s right to hold office.
Many Pakistanis welcomed the decision as a rare victory against corruption. Courtroom observers ran outside and chanted against Zardari and in favor of the justices’ decision to declare any acquittals under the NRO “of no legal effect.”
But it is uncertain how the Supreme Court's action will play out in the legal battle to oust Zardari as well as in the political arena.
The NRO was “the most discriminatory piece of legislation. It just stood the rule of law on its head,” says Maleeha Lodhi, a former ambassador to the United States.
“But of course it comes at a challenging and pivotal moment for Pakistan,” she continues. “A great deal with depend on what the aftermath will be.”

At the center of the storm: Zardari

The NRO was originally cast as a way to free elected officials and bureaucrats from “politically motivated” cases so they could serve in government. But many Pakistanis saw it as a get-out-of-jail free card for the political elite tied to Zardari’s Pakistan People’s Party (PPP). Party members currently serving as defense minister, interior minister, and ambassador to the US, among others, all got a clean slate.
For Zardari, the charges lifted include questions about a $4 million country estate in England and $40 million in foreign bank accounts. His total assets amount to $1.5 billion, according to a government anticorruption body, a figure his spokesman denies. Zardari had served 11 years in jail on corruption charges but was never convicted, and in 2004 left Pakistan.
The biggest legal battle ahead, over whether Zardari can stay in office, could take months to resolve. As president, he enjoys immunity. But his opponents plan to argue that, with his corruption charges now restored, he was ineligible to run for office in the first place and must step down.

Ball in president’s court

Outside the courts, meanwhile, a political fight could break out, depending largely on how Zardari responds.
In a conciliatory move last month, he promised to effectively become a figurehead, by fulfilling a promise to transfer hefty presidential powers – the right to dismiss the prime minister, dissolve Parliament, and pick the Army chief – back to the prime minister. But Zardari could raise the stakes by mobilizing supporters to take to the streets.
Presidential spokesman Farhatullah Babar says the government “will accept and honor the verdict,” but has yet to determine how to respond politically.
The uncertainty has raised concerns that the military will intervene in government, as it’s done throughout Pakistan’s 62-year history. But since taking over in 2007, Army Chief Gen. Ashfaq Kayani has largely pulled the Army out of politics. With 30,000 soldiers battling the Taliban, Army officials may feel too busy to step in anyway. And like many Pakistanis, the military brass may not mind watching Zardari fall.

Official: Pakistan snubbing US help by refusing key visas.

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The Pakistani government is refusing to extend visas to American government, military personnel, and contractors – a decision that punctuates a wave of anti-American sentiment here and threatens billions of dollars in US aid programs.


Pakistani officials have not granted visa extensions to about 135 individuals working for the US government here, as well as a number of Defense Department personnel trying either to extend or obtain a visa, according to a senior US embassy official in Islamabad. As a result, the planned aid programs are beginning to be scrapped, the official says.
The diplomatic snub comes as the US embassy expands the number of American personnel working here to oversee $1.5 billion per year in non-military assistance to Pakistan. The aid is part of an attempt to demonstrate a new, long-term commitment to the country. But it has provoked outrage in Pakistan, where critics said the package – which sets certain benchmarks for the Pakistani government – compromises Pakistani sovereignty.
“I don’t know if it’s growing, but it certainly is quite profound,” the official said of anti-American feelings across the Pakistani government. “They don’t want more Americans here, they are not sure what the Americans are doing, et cetera, et cetera.”
Rocky history
Pakistan and the US have had a rocky relationship for years, with many Pakistanis feeling the US pays attention to their country only when it serves US interests. Since 9/11, many Pakistanis have been even more scornful of the US because they feel used. There is a broad perception here that the US is demanding that Pakistan fight insurgents solely for US gain.
An October poll conducted by the Gilani polling group asked Pakistanis about their Army's offensive against insurgents in South Waziristan. About 37 percent of respondents said the fight is Pakistan’s war, while 39 percent said it is America’s war. Only 22 percent said that both Pakistan and America have shared interests in the war.
The American diplomatic official, who requested anonymity to talk about a sensitive political issue, said the visa issue is vexing because it actually undermines programs the Pakistanis have asked the US to pay for, like law enforcement training or military assistance along the western border. It means that some embassy departments are only about 60 percent manned.
Programs beginning to shut down
Reprisals will not come with a diplomatic quid pro quo, typically where the American embassy would stop issuing visas to Pakistanis. Instead, some of the assistance programs will have to be terminated.
“What’s going to happen is the programs are just going to begin to shut down, and that’s what’s happening now,” said the official.
The visa denials are being applied haphazardly across the government, the US official said. Once a ministry official hears how the visa issue is affecting a program important to them, the visas are sometimes issued.
In one example, American mechanics who are required to maintain helicopters and airplanes for members of the Frontier Corps fighting militants on Pakistan’s western border were denied visas. When Pakistani officials learned that the planes supporting the Corps were not flying and were told it was over this visa
issue, a limited number of visas were granted, the official said.
The US embassy here is expanding at a rapid pace during the next 18 months, from about 500 American personnel now to about 800 individuals, according to embassy officials.

32 accused of $60M in Medicare fraud in 3 states of America.

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 KEEP GOING ON....Federal agents arrested 26 suspects in three states Tuesday, including a doctor and nurses, in a major crackdown on Medicare fraud totaling $61 million in separate scams.
Arrests in Miami, Brooklyn and Detroit included a Florida doctor accused of running a $40 million home health care scheme that falsely listed patients as blind diabetics so that he could bill for twice-daily nurse visits.
The U.S. Department of Justice and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services said the indicted suspects lined up bogus patients and otherwise billed Medicare for unnecessary medical equipment, physical therapy and HIV infusions.
Indictments were issued for 32 people in all, but the status of the other suspects wasn't immediately known.
Miami Dr. Fred Dweck, along with 14 people with whom he worked, was accused in an indictment of running a scam to tap a Medicare program that pays very high rates to care for the sickest patients.
Dweck referred about 1,279 Medicare beneficiaries for expensive and unnecessary home health and therapy services, bribing the owners of two Miami clinics to join the scam. He also faked medical certifications, according to the indictment.
A telephone listing for Dweck could not be found and it was unclear if he had a lawyer.
"No matter what type of fraud is committed, there is one common denominator and that denominator is greed," Assistant Attorney General Lanny Breuer said. "Medicare fraud is not a victimless crime. It hurts every American taxpayer by raising the cost of health care."
The raids come a week after a report that Miami-Dade County received more than half a billion dollars from Medicare in home health care payments intended for the sickest patients in 2008, which is more than the rest of the country combined, according to a report by the Department of Health and Human Services' Office of Inspector General. Medicare paid the county about $520 million, even though only 2% of those patients receiving home health care live here.
In Detroit's raids, suspects paid recruiters to find patients willing to feign symptoms to justify expensive testing, including nerve conduction studies, federal authorities said.
A mother and son were charged in Brooklyn with billing Medicare $246 per patient for expensive shoe inserts reserved for diabetes patients, even though they only provided cheap, over-the-counter versions.
Including Tuesday's arrests, a Medicare Fraud strike force formed by the Justice and Health departments has now charged suspects accused of bilking Medicare of more than $1 billion in less than two years.
The pilot strike force, which started in Miami in 2007, has indicted more than 460 suspects in Medicare fraud scams. The program is now in Los Angeles, Houston and Detroit. HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius also announced Tuesday the operation will expand to Tampa, Baton Rouge, and Brooklyn.
Cleaning up an estimated $60 billion a year in Medicare fraud will be key to President Barack Obama's proposed health care overhaul. HHS and DOJ have promised more money and manpower to fight the fraud.

U.S. troops admit abusing prescription drugs .

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About one in four soldiers admit abusing prescription drugs, most of them pain relievers, in a one-year period, according to a Pentagon health survey released Wednesday.
The study, which surveyed more than 28,500 U.S. troops last year, showed that about 20% of Marines had also abused prescription drugs, mostly painkillers, in that same period.
The findings show the continued toll on the military from fighting wars in both Iraq and Afghanistan since 2003. Those wars have required troops to serve multiple combat deployments.
"We are aware that more prescription drugs are being used today for pain management and behavioral health issues," Brig. Gen. Colleen McGuire, director of the Army Suicide Prevention Task Force, said Wednesday. "These areas of substance abuse along with increased use of alcohol concern us."
The survey showed that pain relievers were the most abused drug in the military, used illicitly at a rate triple that of marijuana or amphetamines, the next most widely abused drugs.
About 15% of soldiers said they had abused prescription drugs in the 30 days before they were questioned for the survey. About 10% of Marines said the same thing.
Prescription drug abuse is "an issue for American society as well, and we're looking at it from every possible angle," McGuire said.
Painkiller abuse among troops has soared since 2005, the last time a similar study was conducted. The 2005 survey showed that 4% of soldiers had abused painkillers in the previous 30 days, compared with 13% in 2008. Abuse within the previous year was 10% in 2005 compared with 22% in 2008.
The authors of the report released Wednesday said different questions were used in 2008 compared with previous years. That makes an exact comparison difficult.
The 2008 survey asked more specific questions, such as whether troops were engaged in any non-medical use of the drugs they were prescribed.
Prescription drug abuse among the civilian population dropped in 2008 compared with 2007, a federal report released in September shows.
USA TODAY reported last year that narcotic pain-relief prescriptions for injured or wounded U.S. troops jumped from 30,000 a month to 50,000 since the Iraq war began.
Lt. Gen. Eric Schoomaker, the Army surgeon general, created a task force this year to review the service's pain management practices.
In addition, the Army is expanding programs to treat and educate soldiers about drug abuse. But the service struggles to provide enough drug counselors and needs to hire 270 to 300, Gen. Peter Chiarelli, Army vice chief of staff, said last month.
Other survey findings include:
•The percentage of troops showing signs of post-traumatic stress disorder increased during the war years. In a 2005 survey, 7% of the servicemembers described symptoms suggesting PTSD. That increased to 11% in the 2008 study.
The largest increases were within the Army and Marine Corps, the two service branches doing most of the fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan. The rate of soldiers who described problems suggestive of PTSD increased from 9% in 2005 to 13% in 2008, and from 8% to 15% among Marines, the survey results show.
•Nearly 60% of Marines admit engaging in binge drinking. The rate of heavy alcohol use — defined as five or more drinks per occasion once a week — among all servicemembers ages 18 to 35 remained higher than in the civilian population.
•Servicemembers admitting that they had thoughts of suicide during the year prior to being surveyed doubled from 1% in 2005 to 2% in 2008.

This is AmericA - Florida man dies after 20-hour response to 911 call

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Is this is AmericA - Florida man dies after 20-hour response to 911 call NOT ATTENDED AS OURs 15
It was an urgent call for help that didn't receive an urgent response.
After Brian Wood, 55, crashed his pickup into a pole on Friday, he got out and sat down nearby. A motorist saw him on the ground and called 911, but since he couldn't remember the exact name of the road, the North Port Police Department call-taker never dispatched an officer.
Twenty hours later, when officers finally arrived after a second 911 call, they found Wood had eventually died from his injuries.
"I'm trying to think if it's Lovebird or Lovesong," Mark Minisci Jr. told the 911 operator, trying to remember the name of the street. He even provided directions.
But the crash was on Lovering Avenue, and the frustrated call-taker told Minisci that the NPPD system "doesn't work like that" and she "(had) to have something."
Chief Terry Lewis took responsibility for the mistake on Tuesday, calling it either human error or a policy problem.
"A police officer," Lewis said, "should be sent to talk to people ... we need to do everything we can to make sure these mistakes don't happen."
Part of the problem was that the 911 operator from the Sarasota Sheriff's Office never told the NPPD call-taker what the emergency was, but Lewis said she should have asked better questions. He says there is nothing wrong with the 911 system.
The call-taker is on paid administrative leave, pending the outcome of an internal investigation. Lewis says the investigation should also help his department prevent similar problems in the future.

What Houston's Gay Mayor Means for Texas

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The news that a lesbian had been elected mayor of Houston, deep in the heart of the conservative South, was greeted with surprise this week. After defeats on gay marriage in places deemed far more gay-friendly than Texas, like Maine and New York, the victory of Annise Parker, who is in a committed relationship with two children, was a welcome, if puzzling, achievement for advocates of gay rights. The mayor-elect's photograph, showing her smiling sweetly and looking like Barbara Bush, was plastered everywhere from the Drudge Report to China's Xinhua news service, shattering all manner of clichés about Texas, lesbians and politics in the Old South.
Gay-rights activists were buoyed. "The fact that an openly gay candidate wins for mayor in the nation's fourth largest city, in the South, in Texas, shows that when Americans get to know gay people as people, not as stereotypes, their resistance to treating gay people equally reduces," Evan Wolfson, director of Freedom to Marry, a gay-marriage advocacy group, told USA Today. (See a two-minute bio of Annise Parker.)
Despite the worldwide headlines, Parker's victory will have little resonance on a statewide scale. Houston is a place where Republicans like Governor Rick Perry and his primary challenger, Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison, go for fundraisers, not votes. Indeed, the moderate GOP votes that Parker won may come at a price for Republicans in primary races. Candidates endorsed by Log Cabin Republicans, a GOP gay-rights lobby, have come under fire from noted anti-gay campaigners, including Houston physician Steven Hotze, whose political action committee sent out a last-minute anti-Parker flyer. Hotze is also reported to have pressured statewide Republican judicial candidates to back away from endorsements from gay groups or face primary opposition. (Hutchison has won some praise in the past from Log Cabin Republicans for her support for hate-crimes legislation.) (See a pictorial history of the struggle for gay rights in the U.S.)
In terms of geography, Houston may be a city in the Old South, but its personality is a mix of Western frontier and Third World boomtown: dynamic, diverse, a place to make a fortune and lose one. Only 40% of greater Houston area residents live inside the Loop, the freeway that defines Houston's city limits, and only 1 million of the city's 2.2 million residents are registered voters. Many are immigrants who cannot vote. The key to winning any Houston mayoral race is coalition-building, and Parker's political career has been deliberate, "low risk" and "canny," according to Richard Murray, a veteran political analyst and political science professor at the University of Houston. Her political journey echoes, to some degree, that of Houston's only other female mayor, Kathy Whitmire. Like Whitmire, Parker used the job of city controller as a jumping-off point, built on her base in the Montrose neighborhood (heart of the city's large gay community) and reached out to vital constituencies, like African Americans, Hispanics, Asian Americans and moderate, affluent Republicans.
Indeed, Parker's victory may come down to that old adage: all politics is local. The 53-year-old former bookshop owner and energy-sector professional was well known to Houston voters. This was her seventh successful citywide election (she had won three times for an at-large city council seat and three times to serve as the city's controller). Parker did not make her personal lifestyle an issue, running on a platform of fiscal conservatism, budget discipline and a promise to hire a new police chief who would translate some of the large police-budget increases into actual cops on patrol. (See the top 10 news stories of 2009.)
Parker's opponent in the runoff was a fellow Democrat, Gene Locke, who was also familiar to voters. A lawyer and lobbyist for the city of Houston, he won the backing of Houston's business leadership. An African American, Locke could have pulled key support from the black community but ran a "pretty bad campaign," according to Murray. The late revelation that two members of his finance committee had supported Hotze's anti-gay PAC did not help Locke with moderate Republican voters, who saw the issue as not central to the vote. The business establishment, which originally felt that Parker could not win, cooled to their chosen candidate as the runoff campaign evolved, Murray says, and Parker was able to win the race 53% to 47%. Turnout was also low — just 16.5% — meaning the candidate who was better organized to get out the vote would win.
As for Parker's being gay, Murray explains that Houston's voters "are not that caught up in lifestyle politics ... Across the whole country, attitudes have been evolving about issues like civil unions, and Texas is still part of the United States of America." It should also be noted, says Murray, that while Governor Perry's anti-Washington jibes may resonate in Houston's conservative suburbs, they have less impact inside Houston's city limits, where 62% of voters cast ballots for Barack Obama in 2008.
Todd Hill, a gay Democratic activist in the Dallas–Fort Worth area, says Parker's win does have a wider meaning. "I don't believe that Parker's victory gives life to wider LGBT agenda initiatives. But I do believe that her election gives momentum toward qualified, experienced and politically savvy gay candidates running for public office," he wrote on the political blog Burnt Orange. Gay candidates have won a seat on the Fort Worth city council and as sheriff in Dallas. Gay candidates must work at the local level, Hill says, building a record and political bench. "If you want to really make a mark and move elements of the LGBT agenda forward, get members of our community elected into positions of political power," Hill urged.
It is the grass-roots route that Parker adopted more than 18 years ago, and while she acknowledged that her victory was a significant moment for the gay community, she also told the Houston Chronicle, "One of the reasons I'm not having that big, excited, happy feeling is that there is a lot of work to be done ... I"m going to be the mom telling you to eat your vegetables [or] you don't get dessert." After all, local politics is not about savoring the glory; it's about delivering the goods.

Police: Criminals are packing more heat in USA.

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Criminals increasingly are choosing high-powered firearms such as assault weapons, a new survey of 166 U.S. police agencies shows.
Nearly 40% of the departments reported an uptick in the use of assault weapons, according to the Police Executive Research Forum, a law enforcement think tank. In addition, half reported increases in the use of 9mm, .40-caliber and 10mm handguns in crimes — among the same types of weapons that police use. The survey offers one of the broadest indications of officers' concerns about the armed threat from criminals involved in murder, assault and other weapons-related offenses.
Among problems cited by police officials in interviews about the survey:
Chicago: Seizures of assault weapons are up, from 264 in 2008 to 313 in 2009. Overall, 7,785 weapons were recovered this year, up from 6,963 in 2008. Chicago Police Superintendent Jody Weis says there is evidence that more weapons are being used per shooting and more shots are being fired.
Milwaukee: Semiautomatic 9mm and .40-caliber handguns were used in the non-fatal shootings of six city police officers over a 21-month period, ending Sept. 30. "The quality of weapons (used by criminals) has changed dramatically in the past decade," Police Chief Edward Flynn says.
Louisville: Weapons-related arrests are on pace to rise for the second straight year in 2009. "We're seeing higher-caliber weapons, a lot more automatic weapons," Police Chief Robert White says. "The criminals know you don't take a bow-and-arrow to a gunfight."
National Rifle Association spokesman Andrew Arulanandam says officers' concerns are largely misplaced: "The real issue is the high-caliber criminal, not the high-caliber firearms." He says repeat offenders are overwhelming the system and could increase as states send fewer to prison to cut costs.
Paul Helmke, president of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, says the high-powered weapons endanger officers. If police say there's a problem, "public officials should be listening."

Zardari becomes 1ST accused president of Pakistan!!

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The Supreme Court’s landmark short order on the National Reconciliation Ordinance, (NRO) although not Asif Ali Zardari-specific, has reduced him into an accused president, whose assets stand frozen and all corruption cases involving $1.7 billion revived to haunt him as the situation was before October 2007.

Much worse is the scenario for Interior Minister Rehman Malik and several others, who immediately become absconders of the law as they were on and before October, 2007. Our interior minister is now prone to be arrested by the police. The judgment raises serious questions over his fitness to continue to be a federal minister as his election as senator becomes controversial because of the revival of his pre-October 5, 2007 standing before the court of law. If not declared convicted in absentia, he was a fugitive of law before his return to Pakistan after several years of self-exile. Was he eligible as a fugitive of law to become the member of parliament?

The apex court neither reflected on the president’s eligibility to become the head of the state nor disqualified him from his office. However, the judgment has really pushed Asif Ali Zardari against the wall as all his cases within Pakistan stand revived to the pre-NRO situation. Though he enjoys constitutional immunity and could not be tried in these revived criminal and corruption cases till the time he is sitting at the Presidency, there is no such protection available to him in the foreign cases that the apex court has directed the federal government to get revived too.

The short order did not discuss any of the NRO beneficiaries including the president but it did make him the accused president. Legally speaking President Zardari can stay at the Presidency because of the constitutional immunity but on moral ground he can’t. Already the demand for his resignation has been voiced and most importantly it comes from the PML-N.

While the Supreme Court has evolved a sound mechanism to monitor the implementation of its order vis-‡-vis the proceedings of the revived cases within Pakistan, in terms of the foreign cases the government has been ordered to take immediate steps to seek revival of these cases and their status.

While declaring the NRO void ab initio, the court regarding the foreign cases said: “Therefore, any actions taken or suffered under the said law are also non est in law and since the communications addressed by Malik Muhammad Qayyum to various foreign fora/authorities/courts withdrawing the requests earlier made by the Government of Pakistan for Mutual Legal Assistance; surrendering the status of Civil Party; abandoning the claims to the allegedly laundered moneys lying in foreign countries including Switzerland, have also been declared by us to be unauthorised and illegal communications and consequently of no legal effect, therefore, it is declared that the initial requests for Mutual Legal Assistance; securing the status of Civil Party and the claims lodged to the allegedly laundered moneys lying in foreign countries including Switzerland are declared never to have been withdrawn. Therefore the federal government and other concerned authorities are ordered to take immediate steps to seek revival of the said requests, claims and status.”

Following the apex court’s judgment, the Government of Pakistan would be writing to the foreign courts including Swiss to revive the corruption cases against the president of Pakistan. In the Swiss courts most of the cases, closed following NRO promulgation as a consequence of the request of the Government of Pakistan, were pertaining to the alleged corruption of President Asif Ali Zardari. It would be a unique precedent where a government would be writing to another government for the initiation of corruption cases against its own president.

Spokesman for the PPP and Presidency Farhatullah Babar has welcomed the Supreme Court’s judgment and assured to get it implemented. However, it is yet to be seen if the president would like to be called “accused president” or be summoned by a foreign court on any corruption case pursued by no one else but his own government.

Full text of SC short order aganist NRO.

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O R D E R

Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, CJ. – The above titled Constitution Petitions have been filed under Article 184(3) of the Constitution of Islamic Republic of Pakistan [hereinafter referred to as ‘the Constitution’] challenging the constitutionality of the National Reconciliation Ordinance (No.LX) 2007 [hereinafter referred to as ‘the NRO’], while HR cases and Civil Appeal, by leave of the Court, have been filed by the applicants/appellant for extension of benefit of the NRO to them.

2. Succinctly stating the facts, giving rise to instant proceedings, are that on 5th October, 2007, the President of Pakistan, in purported exercise of powers conferred by clause (1) of Article 89 of the Constitution, issued the NRO, whereby, certain amendments have been made in the Criminal Procedure Code, 1898, the Representation of the People Act, 1976 and the National Accountability Ordinance, 1999 [hereinafter referred to as “the NAB Ordinance”]. By means of Section 2 of the NRO, Section 494 of Cr.P.C. has been amended. Likewise, vide Section 3 of the NRO, Section 39 of the Representation of the People Act, 1976 has been amended. Similarly, Sections 4, 5 & 6 of the NRO amended Sections 18, 24 and 31A of the NAB Ordinance, respectively, whereas by means of Section 7 of the NRO, Section 33F has been inserted in the NAB Ordinance.

3. The NRO came under challenge, as stated above, before this Court, through listed petitions. These petitions came up for hearing before the Court on 12th October, 2007 when after hearing the learned counsel for the petitioners, the Court proceeded to issue notices to the respondents as well as to Attorney General for Pakistan, for a date in office after three weeks, while making the following observation:-

“however, we are inclined to observe in unambiguous terms that any benefit drawn or intended to be drawn by any of the public office holder shall be subject to the decision of the listed petitions and the beneficiary would not be entitled to claim any protection of the concluded action under Sections 6 and 7 of the impugned Ordinance, under any principle of law, if this Court conclude that the impugned Ordinance and particularly its these provisions are ultra vires the Constitution”.

4. Pending decision of these petitions, on 3rd November, 2007, emergency was proclaimed in the country by the then President of Pakistan and also the Chief of Army Staff and under the garb of Provisional Constitution Order, 2007, Provisional Constitution (Amendment) Order, 2007 was issued, whereby, Article 270AAA was inserted in the Constitution, which provided protection to all the laws including the Ordinances in force on the day on which the Proclamation of Emergency of 3rd November 2007 was revoked. As a result of above constitutional amendment, the apparent interest was that the NRO should attain permanence. The Proclamation of Emergency as well as other extra-constitutional instruments were challenged before this Court in the case of Tikka Iqbal Muhammad Khan v. General Pervez Musharraf (PLD 2008 SC 178), when the Court declared the Proclamation of Emergency of 3rd November, 2007, the Provisional Constitution Order, 2007, Provisional Constitution (Amendment) Order, 2007, the Oath of Office (Judges) Order, 2007 and the President’s Order No.5 of 2007, to be validly enacted. However, this Court, vide its judgment dated 31st July 2009, in the case of Sindh High Court Bar Association v. Federation of Pakistan (PLD 2009 SC 879) declared all the above five instruments to be unconstitutional, illegal and void ab initio, as a result whereof Article 270AAA stood deleted from the Constitution. Consequently, the NRO, as well as 37 other Ordinances, which were meant to be protected, were shorn of the permanency purportedly provided under Article 270AAA of the Constitution and sanctified by the judgment passed in Tikka Iqbal Muhammad Khan’s case (ibid). However, through the same judgment, this Court, while supporting the doctrine of trichotomy of powers, as envisaged in the scheme of the Constitution and to prevent any disruption, enabled the Parliament to reconsider and, if thought fit, to enact, all the 37 Ordinances including the NRO, as Acts of Parliament. For this purpose the life of the Ordinances stood extended for another 120 days (in case of Federal Legislation) and 90 days (in case of Provincial Legislation). This constituted an opportunity to the democratic Government at the Centre and in the Provinces to legitimise the acts, actions, proceedings and orders, initiated, taken or done, under those Ordinances, by placing them before the Parliament, to make them enactments of Parliament, with retrospective effect.

5. In pursuance of above judgment of 31st July, 2009, the NRO was placed before the Standing Committee of the National Assembly on Law & Justice, in its meeting held on 29th & 30th October, 2009. During the discussions and deliberations, some of the members did not agree with the decision of the Committee and left the proceedings in protest. However, ultimately, on 2nd November, 2009 the Committee recommended that, after the proposed amendments in the Bill for enacting the NRO, the same may be passed by the Assembly. It is pertinent to mention here that despite finalisation of the report of the Standing Committee on NRO and before its approval by the Chairperson of the Committee, the Minister concerned withdrew the Bill under Rule 139 of Procedure & Conduct of Business in the National Assembly, 2007. As a result, the NRO could not be passed by the Parliament, within its extended life, therefore, it lapsed.

6. The petitioners in these Constitution Petitions have challenged the vires of the NRO with the prayer that the same may be declared ultra vires the Constitution, viod ab initio and of no legal effect. For convenience, the prayer made in Constitution Petition No. 76 of 2007, filed by Dr. Mubashir Hassan, is reproduced herein below:-

“1) Section 2, 4, 5, 6 & 7 of the NRO may kindly be declared to be void ab initio, of no legal effect and ultra vires the Constitution, in particular Articles 25, 62, 63 and 175 thereof.

2) During the pendency of the instant petition, the respondents may kindly be restraint from taking any action under or in terms of the impugned Ordinance. The respondents may in particular, be restrained from withdrawing any request for mutual assistance and civil party, letters rogatory and like issued to any Foreign Government, Court or other Authority or Multilateral Organization.

3) Any other order deemed beneficial to the interest of Justice and equity, may also kindly be made.

7. The instant petitions came up for hearing before this Bench on 7th December 2009, when Mr. Shah Khawar, Acting Attorney General for Pakistan, placed on record a written statement on behalf of Federation of Pakistan. Relevant paras therefrom are reproduced herein below:-

“2. That the Federation believes in supremacy of the Constitution of 1973 and the Parliament.

3. That the National Reconciliation Ordinance, 2007 was promulgated by the previous regime and I am under instruction not to defend it.”

8. Mr. Kamal Azfar, learned Sr. ASC appearing on behalf of the Federation of Pakistan, through Ministry of Law & Justice, filed Civil Misc. Applications No. 4875 & 4898 of 2009 in Constitution Petitions No. 76 & 77 of 2007. Contents of paras at page 11 & 12 of the said applications are reproduced herein below:-

“If however, this Hon’ble Court wishes to rule upon wider issues other than those raised in the petition and prayer the Federation requests that fresh petitions be filed precisely stipulating these issues whereupon the Federation will seek instructions on such new petition.

Pak Today is poised at the cross roads. One road leads to truly federal democratic welfare sate with the balance of power between an Independent judiciary, a duly elected Govt. representing the will of the people a determined executive which is fighting the war against terrorism and poverty. The second road leads to destabilisation of the rule of law. The people of Pakistan await your verdict.”

When we confronted the learned counsel with above contents of his applications, he requested that the same may be treated as deleted. In this behalf, he, however, filed a written statement, contents whereof are reproduced herein below for ready reference:-

“STATEMENT

In Compliance of the orders of the Hon’ble Supreme Court of Pakistan to appraise the Hon’ble Court as to how the Federation would interpret the wording “the second road leads to the destabilisation of the rule of law”, it is submitted as follows:-

(1) There is no mention of the wording ‘threat to democracy’ in the Statement.

(2) The Federation supports the Prosecution, in accordance with law, of persons alleged to have done wrongdoing. The Federation does not oppose the Petitions seeking a declaration that the National Reconciliation Ordinance 2007 (NRO) is illegal and unconstitutional.

(3) With regard to the “wider issues” mentioned in paragraph No.9 these refer to those matters which were raised by the Petitioner’s counsel during oral arguments and which find no mention whatsoever in the Petitions. For example, submissions made in respect of Articles 89 (in particular the alleged concept of “implied Resolution”) and A.264 on the effect of Repeal.

(4) The Federation’s view is that those who have benefited under the NRO should be proceeded against under the appropriate laws before the courts having the competent jurisdiction. As factual matters need to be determined by the trial courts.

(5) So far as my comments made yesterday before this Hon’ble Court concerning the threat from GHQ, the CIA and the contents of paragraph 9 of the CMA are concerned these were my personal views and were not made on the instructions of the Federation of Pakistan. As such I withdraw the same, which should not be considered by this Hon’ble Court in any manner whatsoever and the same should be deleted and expunged from the record.

(6) It is emphasised that the Federation of Pakistan holds this Hon’ble Court in the highest esteem and has the greatest respect for the same.”

9. Learned Advocates General of Punjab, Sindh, NWFP and Balochistan appeared and supported the stance taken by the Attorney General for Pakistan.

10. We have heard the learned counsel for the parties at length and have also gone through the material placed on record in support of their submissions.

11. As it has been noted above that challenge to NRO was thrown by the petitioners, no sooner same was promulgated by the President and admission order dated 12th October, 2007, was passed, to examine following questions:-

“2. Mr. Salman Akram Raja, learned counsel appearing on behalf of petitioner in Constitution Petition No. 76 of 2007 argued that:—-

a) Section 7 of the impugned Ordinance being self-executory in nature amounts to legislative judgment, which is impermissible intrusion into the exercise of judicial powers of the State and thus falls foul of Article 175 of the Constitution which envisages separation and independence of the judiciary from other organs of the State.

b) Legislative judgment cannot be enacted by the Parliament. [ Smt. Indira Nehru Gandhi v. Raj Narain (AIR 1975 SC 2299)].

c) By promulgating Section 7 of the impugned Ordinance, Article 63(1)(h) and 63(1)(l) of the Constitution have been made ineffective, as regards chosen category of people, therefore, it is ultra vires the Constitution as it amounts to defeat the constitutional mandates.

d) Impugned Ordinance exhorts about or indemnifies a particular class of people i.e. public office holders from proceedings, actions and orders passed by the competent authorities, whereas no such powers are available to the Parliament or, for that matter, to the President of Pakistan under Federal or Concurrent Legislative List. Further; the President is empowered only to pardon an accused person, under Article 45 of the Constitution, after passing of sentence by a Court of law, whereas by means of impugned Ordinance, the President has been empowered to indemnify or pardon an accused, against whom proceedings are pending before Investigating Agency or a Court of law or in appeal by giving a blanket cover.

e) The impugned Ordinance violates the provisions of Article 25 of the Constitution because it is not based on intelligible differentia, relatable to lawful objects, therefore, deserves to be struck down.

f) The impugned Ordinance is against the public policy because it also provides protection against future action in terms of its Section 7 and it had also rendered Articles 62 and 63 of the Constitution ineffective.

g) Sub-sections (2) and (3) of Section 494 of Cr.P.C. added by means of impugned Ordinance are contrary to provisions of Sub-section (1) of Section 494 of Cr.P.C. where it has been provided that cases can only be withdrawn with the consent of the Court, whereas, in newly added Sub-Sections, powers of the “Court” have been conferred upon the Review Boards of the Executive Bodies, therefore, these Sub-sections are also contrary to Article 175 of the Constitution.

and

No criteria has been laid down as to why the cases falling between the 1st day of January 1986 to 12th day of October 1999 have been covered under these provisions, inasmuch as definition of political victimisation has not been provided in these Sub-sections, as a result whereof it has been left at the subjective consideration of Review Board/ Executive Bodies to determine the same. Thus such provisions cannot exist in any manner.

h) The impugned Ordinance has been promulgated in colourable exercise of Legislative powers and its various provisions have created discrimination among ordinary and classified accused, therefore, all these provisions tantamount to malice in law.

i) The provisions of impugned Ordinance are so overbroad that these have provided blanket cover to all the holders of public offices, including chosen representatives and ordinary employees, therefore, the object of national reconciliation cannot be achieved by allowing it to exist.

j) The provisions of Sections 4 and 5 of the impugned Ordinance are highly discriminatory in nature, therefore, are liable to be struck down.

k) Section 6 of the impugned Ordinance is contrary to the basic principles relating to annulment of judgments, even if passed in absentia, in accordance with existing law, according to which unless the basis for the judgment, in favour of a party, is not removed, it could not affect the rights of the parties, in whose favour the same was passed but when the Legislature promulgated the impugned Ordinance, in order to remove the basis on which the judgment was founded, such judgment shall have no bearing on the cases. [Facto Belarus Tractor Ltd. v. Government of Pakistan (PLD 2005 SC 605)]. Hence, provisions of the impugned Ordinance as a whole are against the concept of equality of Islamic Injunction, provided under Article 2A of the Constitution, therefore, on this score as well, deserves to be struck down being ultra vires the Constitution.

3. Mr. Muhammad Ikram Chaudhry, learned Sr. ASC for petitioner in Constitution Petition No. 77 of 2007, while adopting the above arguments, added that :-

i) The impugned Ordinance is purpose specific and period specific, therefore, violates Article 25 of the Constitution.

4. Dr. Farooq Hassan, Sr. ASC appearing in Constitution Petition No. 78 of 2007 on behalf of petitioner, while adopted the arguments raised by Mr. Suleman Ahmed Raja, ASC contended that:-

i) The impugned Ordinance is contradictory to and violative of the United Nation’s Convention Against Corruption, enacted in 2005 and ratified by Pakistan on 31st of August 2007.

ii) Under the Constitution, no indemnity or amnesty can at all be given to any one, except granting pardon in terms of Article 45 of the Constitution.

iii) Sections 2, 4, 5 and 6 of the impugned Ordinance are violative of the doctrine of trichotomy of powers.

iv) The impugned Ordinance has in fact changed the basic structure of the Constitution.

v) The impugned Ordinance has also violated the principles of political justice and fundamental rights because it allows plundering of national wealth and to get away with it. More so, it tried to condone dishonesty of magnitude which is unconscientious and shocking to the conscience of mankind.

5. Mr. M.A. Zaidi, AOR appeared on behalf of Mr. Muhammad Akram Sheikh, Sr. ASC in Constitution Petition No.79 of 2007 and adopted the above arguments of the learned counsel for the petitioners.

6. Mr. Tariq Asad, ASC appearing in Constitution Petition No. 80 of 2007 also adopted the above arguments, while adding that:-

a) The impugned Ordinance has been promulgated on the basis of personal satisfaction of the President of Pakistan but for extraneous reasons and to provide indemnity/immunity to the public office holders, therefore, is liable to be struck down.

12. Subsequent thereto cases remained pending except when their hearing was fixed on 27th February, 2008 and order dated 12th October, 2007, was vacated in following terms : -

“3. These Constitution Petitions are adjourned to a date in office due to indisposition of the learned counsel for the petitioners. Meanwhile, in view of the rule laid down in the case of Federation of Pakistan vs. Aitzaz Ahsan (PLD 1989 SC 61), the observations made by this Court in Para 8 of the order dated 12.10.2007 in Constitution Petitions No.76-80 of 2007 to the effect that “however, we are inclined to observe in unambiguous terms that any benefit drawn or intended to be drawn by any of the public office holder shall be subject to the decision of the listed petitions and the beneficiary would not be entitled to claim any protection of the concluded action under Sections 6 and 7 of the impugned Ordinance, under any principle of law, if this Court conclude that the impugned Ordinance and particularly its these provisions are ultra vires the Constitution” are deleted. Resultantly, the Ordinance shall hold the field and shall have its normal operation. The Courts and authorities concerned shall proceed further expeditiously in the light of the provisions of the Ordinance without being influenced by the pendency of these petitions.”

13. As it has been noted above that while deciding the case of Sindh High Court Bar Association (ibid), all the Ordinances which were not laid before the Parliament, on account of insertion of Article 270AAA in the Constitution, were shorn of permanency, therefore, the Parliament was asked to examine all such Ordinances within a period of 120 and 90 days, as the case may be, commencing from 31st July, 2009, when a 14 Member Bench announced judgment. The period so assigned by the Court expired on 28th November, 2009 but the NRO was taken back from the Parliament, leaving for this Court to examine its constitutionality in the cases listed above. It is a cardinal principle of jurisprudence that courts are not required to give decisions of cases in vacuum rather it has to consider facts as well, giving a cause to a person to approach Courts. The NRO gave benefits to a class of people, whose identification is not difficult to ascertain, namely accused persons, involved in criminal and corruption cases, during the period commencing from 1st January, 1986 to 12th October, 1999 and this classification has created a divide amongst ordinary citizens of Pakistan and a class of alleged criminals who statedly have committed crimes of murder, dacoity, rape, looting/plundering of money/resources of this nation. Therefore, prima facie, to understand the nature of such beneficiaries, Federal Government, Provincial Governments and the NAB were asked to provide details in this behalf. In response to such query the Government of Sindh through its Advocate General filed a large list of such like accused, who being charged for the cases of criminal nature, benefited from the NRO, which included heinous and minor crimes, as well. As far as the remaining Governments and the Federating Units are concerned, they categorically denied extension of benefits of the NRO to even a single accused in their respective jurisdictions. However, NAB has submitted a list containing names of 248 persons, who benefited from the NRO within and outside the country. A cursory perusal of this list suggests that barring the cases inside the country, huge benefit has been availed by some of the persons in the cases pending against them outside the country. At this stage it is to be noted that application of the NRO, beyond the territories of the country, is a question which requires consideration on jurisdictional plane of this Court as well. NAB has also provided a list of the persons, who were convicted in absentia under Section 31A of the NAB Ordinance.

14. In depth examination of the NRO suggests that it has not been promulgated to provide reconciliation on national basis as this nation has seen reconciliation in 1973, when a Constituent Assembly gave the Constitution of 1973 to the nation, guaranteeing their fundamental rights, on the basis of equality and brotherhood, as a result whereof, the nation had proved its unity, whenever it faced a challenge to its sovereignty and existence. The representation of the people, in subsequent Legislative Assemblies, has upheld the provisions of 1973 Constitution, except for few occasions when they have made amendments under peculiar circumstances. However, salient features of the Constitution i.e. Independence of Judiciary, Federalism, Parliamentary form of Government blended with Islamic provisions, now have become integral part of the Constitution and no change in the basic features of the Constitution, is possible through amendment as it would be against the national reconciliation, evident in the promulgation of the Constitution of 1973, by a Legislative Assembly. Therefore, promulgation of the NRO seems to be against the national interest and its preamble is contrary to the substance embodied therein. Thus, it violates various provisions of the Constitution. Therefore, by means of instant short order, reasons of which shall be recorded later, we hold as follows:-

(i) that the NRO is declared to be an instrument void ab initio being ultra vires and violative of various constitutional provisions including Article Nos. 4, 8, 25, 62(f), 63(i)(p), 89, 175 and 227 of the Constitution;

(ii) that as a consequence of the said declaration, all steps taken, actions suffered, and all orders passed by whatever authority, any orders passed by the courts of law including the orders of discharge and acquittals recorded in favour of the accused persons, are also declared never to have existed in the eyes of law and resultantly of no legal effect;

(iii) that all cases in which the accused persons were either discharged or acquitted under Section 2 of the NRO or where proceedings pending against the holders of public office had got terminated in view of Section 7 thereof, a list of which cases has been furnished to this Court and any other such cases/proceedings which may not have been brought to the notice of this Court, shall stand revived and relegated to the status of pre-5th of October, 2007 position;

(iv) that all the concerned courts including the trial, the appellate and the revisional courts are ordered to summon the persons accused in such cases and then to proceed in the respective matters in accordance with law from the stage from where such proceedings had been brought to an end in pursuance of the above provisions of the NRO;

(v) that the Federal Government, all the Provincial Governments and all relevant and competent authorities including the Prosecutor General of NAB, the Special Prosecutors in various Accountability Courts, the Prosecutors General in the four Provinces and other officers or officials involved in the prosecution of criminal offenders are directed to offer every possible assistance required by the competent courts in the said connection;

(vi) that similarly all cases which were under investigation or pending enquiries and which had either been withdrawn or where the investigations or enquiries had been terminated on account of the NRO shall also stand revived and the relevant and competent authorities shall proceed in the said matters in accordance with law;

(vii) that it may be clarified that any judgment, conviction or sentence recorded under section 31-A of the NAB Ordinance shall hold the field subject to law and since the NRO stands declared as void ab initio, therefore, any benefit derived by any person in pursuance of Section 6 thereof is also declared never to have legally accrued to any such person and consequently of no legal effect;

(viii) that since in view of the provisions of Article 100(3) of the Constitution, the Attorney General for Pakistan could not have suffered any act not assigned to him by the Federal Government or not authorised by the said Government and since no order or authority had been shown to us under which the then learned Attorney General namely Malik Muhammad Qayyum had been authorised to address communications to various authorities/courts in foreign countries including Switzerland, therefore, such communications addressed by him withdrawing the requests for Mutual Legal Assistance or abandoning the status of a Civil Party in such proceedings abroad or which had culminated in the termination of proceedings before the competent fora in Switzerland or other countries or in abandonment of the claim of the Government of Pakistan to huge amounts of allegedly laundered moneys, are declared to be unauthorized, unconstitutional and illegal acts of the said Malik Muhammad Qayyum;

(ix) that since the NRO stands declared void ab initio, therefore, any actions taken or suffered under the said law are also non est in law and since the communications addressed by Malik Muhammad Qayyum to various foreign fora/authorities/courts withdrawing the requests earlier made by the Government of Pakistan for Mutual Legal Assistance; surrendering the status of Civil Party; abandoning the claims to the allegedly laundered moneys lying in foreign countries including Switzerland, have also been declared by us to be unauthorized and illegal communications and consequently of no legal effect, therefore, it is declared that the initial requests for Mutual Legal Assistance; securing the status of Civil Party and the claims lodged to the allegedly laundered moneys lying in foreign countries including Switzerland are declared never to have been withdrawn. Therefore the Federal Government and other concerned authorities are ordered to take immediate steps to seek revival of the said requests, claims and status;

(x) that in view of the above noticed conduct of Malik Muhammad Qayyum, the then learned Attorney General for Pakistan in addressing unauthorized communications which had resulted in unlawful abandonment of claims of the Government of Pakistan, inter alia, to huge amounts of the allegedly laundered moneys lying in foreign countries including Switzerland, the Federal Government and all other competent authorities are directed to proceed against the said Malik Muhammad Qayyum in accordance with law in the said connection;

(xi) that we place on record our displeasure about the conduct and lack of proper and honest assistance and cooperation on the part of the Chairman of the NAB, the Prosecutor General of the NAB and of the Additional Prosecutor General of the NAB, namely, Mr. Abdul Baseer Qureshi in this case. Consequently, it is not possible for us to trust them with proper and diligent pursuit of the cases falling within their respective spheres of operation. It is therefore, suggested that the Federal Government may make fresh appointments against the said posts of persons possessing high degree of competence and impeccable integrity in terms of Section 6 of the NAB Ordinance as also in terms of the observations of this Court made in the case of Khan Asfandyar Wali v. Federation of Pakistan (PLD 2001 SC 607). However, till such fresh appointments are so made, the present incumbents may continue to discharge their obligations strictly in accordance with law. They shall, however, transmit periodical reports of the actions taken by them to the Monitoring Cell of this Court which is being established through the succeeding parts of this judgment;

(xii) that a Monitoring Cell shall be established in the Supreme Court of Pakistan comprising of the Chief Justice of Pakistan or a Judge of the Supreme Court to be nominated by him to monitor the progress and the proceedings in the above noticed and other cases under the NAB Ordinance. Likewise similar Monitoring Cells shall be set up in the High Courts of all the Provinces comprising of the Chief Justice of the respective Province or Judges of the concerned High Courts to be nominated by them to monitor the progress and the proceedings in cases in which the accused persons had been acquitted or discharged under Section 2 of the NRO;

(xiii) that the Secretary of the Law Division, Government of Pakistan, is directed to take immediate steps to increase the number of Accountability Courts to ensure expeditious disposal of cases;

15. We place on record our deep sense of appreciation for the learned counsel for the parties as also for the learned amicii curiae who have rendered invaluable assistance to us in these matters. The petitions stand allowed and disposed of by this short order in terms noted above.

 
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