Lawless in Pakistan

Lawyers ProtestThe headlines everywhere are filled with the scandal of District Attorneys fired for political reasons. The White House, the Justice Department, Congress and pundits are immersed in pondering the consequences of such gross politicization of the Law. Gone un-noticed, outside of a few reports, is another crisis involving the executive and the judicial branches that is tearing a nation apart. This one, though, has consequences far graver than Karl Rove’s testimony before some committee. Two weeks ago, General Musharraf suspended the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Pakistan, Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, on vague corruption charges. Since then, daily riots and protests have broken out in major cities; the goverment has tried to shut down tv stations which reported on these riots; the police have repeatedly assaulted the lawyers who are leading the process. Musharraf claims that this is much ado about nothing. But this crisis could bring down the government of General Pervez Musharraf of Pakistan.

I said government, but of course, a more honest description of the State in Pakistan would be praetorianism or authoritarianism or dictatorship. And no, I will not be crying if it does fall apart. The truth is, though, that with the support of freedom-growers like Condi Rice and the White House, Musharraf is secure in doing what he can to stay in power. If that means turning Pakistan into a police state [if an sustainable argument can even be made that it is not already one] and imprisoning or vanishing his opponents, then he will do it. This is a pivotal year for him – 2007. He has promised elections. He has promised to return democracy. He has promised to run in elections. But, like his earlier promises of shedding the military uniform or stepping down, he would have found a way – with the support of the White House – to keep himself in power as a military and civil commander while allowing some rudimentary nods towards electoral politics. How would he have managed that? The same way that every single military regime in Pakistan has done it since 1958: with the support of an ‘independent judiciary’ which would legitimize his actions as mere counter-balances to a ‘corrupt or run-away’ legislature.

From Ayub Khan to Zia ul Haq to Pervez Musharraf, Pakistan’s warrior-kings have made one fundamental claim to the public: that their particular act of suspension of democracy in Pakistan was ultimately constitutional and, hence, for the benefit of the nation. And they have had the support of the Supreme Court in making this claim – a support which gave them the necessary legitimacy to stay in power. In order to understand the current crisis in Pakistan – and to recognize the ultimate blunder of Pervez Musharraf – we have to look at the history and role of the Constitution in Pakistan, the historical involvement of the judiciary in the dismissal of democratic institutions and the tensions between the three centers of power in Pakistani society that undergrid this whole enterprise. Feel up to it?
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Luck O’ The Draw

The World Cup of Cricket is currently underway. Those of you who care, already know this and I am informing the rest now. The concept is beguilingly similar to other ‘World Cup’s – a bunch of teams from across the world gather every 4 years and find out how bad they suck compared to Australia (at least, that has been the script for the last decade though things are far more fluid this time around). And while they let Bermuda play, Americans are shut out of this international tournament. Also Iranians, Iraqis and North Koreans. Make of that what you will. Incidentally, no one can find the Bermuda team.

My favorite WC memory – and yes, the fans will cringe – was the semi-final defeat of Pakistan by Australia in 1987 at Ghaddafi Stadium, Lahore. Pakistan had a glorious team. Experienced, hungry and proud co-hosts of the Cup. Imran Khan, the captain, the leader of men, the demi-god, had promised greatness from his team. But, then the brash youth of Steve Waugh brought us all crashing to the ground. Boy, did that hurt. But it taught me the valuable, life-long, lesson to expect my home team to turn to shite at the perfect moment. Bitter, no? True, though.

In this WC, I didn’t really expect Pakistan to do much. The top-bowlers were doped-up at home. The batting lineup is old, cranky, fat and bearded [say what you will but unless the sport in question is World’s Fastest Growing Hair Follicles – shave]. And yet, one still did not expect the #4 ODI side in the world to lose to Ireland. IRELAND! Who don’t even have a cricket team. These are injured rugby players on their physiotherapy routine, people! And those Irish beat, nay thrashed, nay smacked the jama’at out, nay drove the snakes out of our glorious team. Today, on St. Patrick’s Day, Pakistan was sent packing by Ireland. Kinya belev’t?

Except I didn’t watch that match. I watched, instead, Bangladesh’s amazing chase of India’s measely 191. The three bats who carried Bangladesh, with scores of 51, 56* and 53, were aged 17, 18 and 19 years old respectively. The inning of the youngest, Tamim Iqbal, was especially awe-inspiring. That slightly, sprightly, left-hander charged every single Indian bowler with defiance and confidence that made me remember the young Saeed Anwar or Sachin Tendulkar. The composure of all the young batsmen was just solid and their grins infectious. India, on the other hand, played like over-paid, over-endorsed, over-burdened paper tigers with horrid fielding, lackluster bowling and complete lack of imagination in the captainship. You are bowling to kids, yo! Come on! I am certain there is much glee in Dhaka and much sorrow in Calcutta tonight. Oh, how the times have changed. I will remark, though, that at least Pakistan got some money to famously lose to Bangladesh in 1999. Just saying.

Hopefully, Pakistan will go home and every one on the team will be fired. And we will find some 17 year olds to get out there. Luckily for the Pakistani cricket team, our nation is burning cars over the Supreme Court firing, our press is under direct assault and The General is about to go Franco on us. The nation may be too distracted to notice that the tablighis came home early and empty handed.

In other WC news, H. Gibbs did what no batsmen had done in the history of international cricket – he smacked 6 sixes in an over against Netherlands (that’s akin to hitting a grand slam at your every at-bat – plus 2). The best I ever did was 4. So, he wins that head-to-head, I guess.

Looking ahead, I think Sri Lanka, New Zealand, South Africa, Australia might be the Semifinal 4. With maybe West Indies in play for the NZ spot. Good chance that Sri Lanka takes it all.

update: Shocking news that Bob Woolmer, the Pakistani coach died suddenly. Truly shocking.

Pakistan Education Project

In 1957, Francis S. Chase, the founding Dean of the Graduate School of Education, established at the University of Chicago the “Pakistan Education Project” with support from the Ford Foundation. The purpose of the project was to improve education through teacher-training programs at extension centers in what was then East and West Pakistan and to improve facilities for students at those university campuses.

The program led to the establishment of 43 pilot secondary schools and new educational centers were organized at the University of Dhaka and Punjab University. More than 5,000 teachers and administrators were trained in the Pakistan Education Project with many Pakistani teachers coming to Chicago for their training.

From 1963 – 1973, this project was directed by Kenneth Rehage, who travelled extensively to Pakistan. He also directed the University’s Peace Corps Training Program for Pakistan in 1963.

Kenneth Rehage, Professor Emeritus in Education and a celebrated teacher, passed away this January. He was 96.

I will try and find out more about the Pakistan Education Project. Not many details are available online – though, a dissertation was written on it in 1962 by Alan Peshkin. But I will note this: In a report Kenneth Rehage wrote for the Elementary School Journal in 1958, I was struck by these words: “The influence of Sputnik was keenly felt at this conference.” The conference was on the future of high school education in America and Pakistan. Think about it.