Night Watch

China: For the record. The four-day Seventh Plenary Session of the 17th Central Committee of the Communist Party of China (CPC) concluded on Sunday in Beijing.

Two hundred members and 165 alternate members of the CPC Central Committee attended the meeting. It was decided at the plenum that the 18th CPC National Congress will be convened from 8 November in Beijing, according to the communique issued on 4 November.

Comment: The Communist Party leadership change already has taken place and been confirmed by the Communist Party plenum. The National Congress is almost an afterthought that ratifies the leadership change in the government.

For nearly 100 years the Communists - Russian and Chinese -- have maintained the fiction that party position is somehow separate from government position. In fact, the head of the party is more important than the head of the government. Still the Communists persist in hiding behind a façade of rigorous adherence to legality to justify their rule.

Pakistan: The Chief of Army Staff General Kayani issued a strong warning to the Supreme Court of Pakistan to stop meddling in Army affairs.

According to the official press release,

"While speaking to a group of officers at GHQ, Chief of Army Staff General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani said, "as a nation, we are passing through a defining phase. We are critically looking at the mistakes made in the past and trying to set the course for a better future. An intense discussion and debate is natural in this process.

No individual or institution has the monopoly to decide what is right or wrong in defining the ultimate national interest. It should emerge only through a consensus, and all Pakistanis have a right to express their opinions. The constitution provides a clear mechanism for it….

Armed Forces draw their strength from the bedrock of the public support. National security is meaningless without it. Therefore, any effort which wittingly or unwittingly draws a wedge between the people and Armed Forces of Pakistan undermines the larger national interest. While constructive criticism is well understood, conspiracy theories based on rumours which create doubts about the very intent, are unacceptable. …

While individual mistakes might have been made by all of us in the Country, these should be best left to the due process of law. As we all are striving for the rule of law, the fundamental principle; that no one is guilty until proven, should not be forgotten. Let us not pre judge anyone, be it a civilian or a military person and extend it, unnecessarily, to undermine respective institutions.

All systems in Pakistan appear to be in a haste to achieve something, which can have both positive and negative implications. Let us take a pause and examine the two fundamental questions; One, are we promoting the rule of law and the Constitution? Two, are we strengthening or weakening the institutions? In the ultimate analysis, all of us would have served Pakistan better if history and our future generations judge us positively.

Comment: Kayani's comment is a warning to the Supreme Court to ease back on pressure. Kayani stated the Army position that the Court is not superior to other institutions, by which he means the Pakistan Army, which is a very curious construction of the constitution. His comment is a reaction to the recent conviction of a former Chief of Army Staff and a former Director General of Interservices Intelligence for illegally influencing elections in 1990, involving Benazir Bhutto.

Kayani appears to be justifying Pakistan Army meddling in civilian politics and his statement is understood in Pakistan and India as a warning to the Supreme Court of Pakistan to stop its investigation of Pakistan Army corruption in the past.

The Chief Justice remains defiant. The Chief Justice of Pakistan, Iftikhar Chaudhry, showed no indication of backing down in a speech he made Monday after General Kayani issued his statement. He cited the Supreme Court's constitutional "supremacy over all other institutions and authorities."

"Gone are the days when stability and security of the country was defined in terms of number of missiles and tanks as a manifestation of hard power available at the disposal of the state," Chaudhry told a group of civil servants. He said it means providing people with "social security and welfare nets and to protect their natural and civil rights at all costs."

Comment: Chief Justice Chaudhry's Supreme Court is on a crusade to coerce the institutions of government to abide by the constitution and the law. It succeeded in forcing the Prime Minister to request the Swiss government to reopen an investigation of the President of Pakistan. Now it has reached a decision on a case against the Army that has languished for 16 years, according to the court records.

Chaudhry's stated aim is to have the Army acknowledge its subordination to the Constitution under all circumstances in order to prevent future military takeovers. However, the Pakistan Army does not acknowledge that as an absolute obligation and considers itself co-equal, if not superior, to all other institutions of government.

The bottom line is that the constitutional struggle in Pakistan has moved beyond the Supreme Court's successful initiative to compel the National Assembly to obey the law, abide by the constitution and acknowledge the legal supremacy of the Supreme Court.  Now the Court wants the Army to do the same and the Army is resisting.  Nevertheless, this is the best chance the Court has ever had to consolidate respect for the rule of law and elected government in Pakistan and to prevent future military takeovers

End of NightWatch###

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