Who is Thomas Houlahan?

Jun 15th, 2010 | By | Category: The News

Last week The News published a column titled, “US asked to stand by forces of law in Pakistan” that calls on the US to oppose the present government. Aside from the obvious problem of publishing an obvious opinion piece as “news,” the article raises several questions about whether The News is acting as a political propaganda machine.

The article is based primarily on another article written in an American newspaper called, The Hill. This appears to be a political newspaper for the US Congress. The article, published originally on 28 May, was written by one Mr Thomas Houlahan who says he is,

a former member of the New Hampshire House of Representatives. He served as an election monitor during the 2008 elections in Pakistan

After looking into Mr Houlahan a little bit, though, it seems that perhaps there is more to this story than is being reported.

In a 2007 article, Mr Houlahan writes that Pakistan cannot have a democracy but rather required Pervez Musharraf and Army to rule.

Many commentators seem to believe that the only reason Pakistan has not developed into a smoothly running democracy is that the Pakistani army is constantly involving itself in politics.

I think those commentators have gotten it pretty much backward. It is clear to me that the Pakistani army ends up involved in politics because Pakistan lacks some of the key prerequisites for the smooth functioning of a democracy.

He went on to say that Musharraf was ‘clearly entitled to run’ and that, by sacking the judges, he saved Pakistan:

The recent state of emergency stemmed from an attempt by the Supreme Court to expand its power.

There was already tension with the judiciary over what the government felt was excessive use of its right to take up issues on its own initiative, known as “suo-motu jurisdiction.” Issues like road traffic, prices, environmental problems, and appointment and transfers of senior officials were increasingly becoming court matters. In addition, government and civil service officials were being called to court with increasing regularity and dressed down by judges.

Musharraf felt that the judiciary’s activity rose to the level of interference with the conduct of government.

It has also been reported that two Supreme Court justices warned Musharraf that the court was preparing to rule him ineligible for election as president.

Such a ruling would have gone against not only any reasonable interpretation of the constitution, but an April 13, 2005 ruling by the Supreme Court on the very same issues.

It may not look good for a serving army general to run for president of a country, but under the constitution of Pakistan, Musharraf was clearly entitled to run.

Musharraf’s declaration of emergency may have served his own interests, but it may have also forestalled what would have been a dictionary-definition constitutional crisis.

In fact, while issuing praise for Pervez Musharraf and military rule, Mr Houlahan has some very bitter words to say about Pakistan’s political parties.

The PPP is essentially the fiefdom of Benazir Bhutto, its self-described “chairperson for life.” Before her, it was the fiefdom of her father, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, who was executed after having been convicted of authorizing the murder of a political opponent.

The PML(N) is the fiefdom of Nawaz Sharif. In fact, the parenthetical “N” in the organization’s name stands for Nawaz.

Because these parties stress loyalty to the leader over honesty and competence, all four administrations of Bhutto and Sharif ended early due to corruption and mismanagement on a massive scale.

So it seems that Mr Houlahan is far from an independent analyst, but actually has very strong political prejudices. This was also evident to Farrukh Khan Pitafi who received an email from Mr Thomas Houlahan in 2008 that supported Musharraf’s decision to sack Supreme Court judges.

On March 11, I received an e-mail from a Thomas Houlahan who, apart from mentioning that he was the Director of the Military Assessment Program, Center for Security and Science, Washington DC, also drew my attention to his report on the judicial crisis in Pakistan.While my detailed assessment of his report (along with the download link and the tricky quotes from the author) will be shortly available on my website (www.pitafi.com), I must submit that upon reading its 47 pages I was seriously dismayed. Despite the fact that the author displayed considerable knowledge of the Pakistani history, he was quite consciously distorting facts and making some glaring omissions that suited his thesis perfectly. They say an analyst should never start researching with preconceived notions in mind. In this case, however, the analyst had entered the fray with a clear view to vindicating President Musharraf’s stance on the judiciary.

In 2008, the same Mr Thomas Houlahan was on PTV talking with Ahmed Quraishi and saying that the justices removed by Pervez Musharraf should not be reinstated. See the video below:

Thomas Houlahan and Ahmed Quraishi

Thomas Houlahan and Ahmed Quraishi

Actually, Mr Thomas Houlahan is a regular guest of Ahmed Quraishi and has appeared on his shows more than once.

Mr Thomas Houlahan also works for the American Think Tank “Center for Security and Science” which is directed by Mr Stephen R Bowers who is a professor of government at Liberty University – a school that claims to be “the largest and fastest growing Christian Evangelical university in the world.” This school’s website says that:

Everything we do is designed to develop Christ-centered men and women with the values, knowledge and skills essential to impact tomorrow’s world.

As for his claim of being an election observer in 2008, there are some reports from his colleagues that paint an interesting picture of Mr Houlahan:

Just as invitees were jelling in Islamabad, an American appeared unannounced on the scene as “group leader.” Short, fat, bald and given to un-ironic remarks like “listen, I’m from New Hampshire, we invented democracy,” Thomas Houlahan presented himself as almost a parody of the obnoxious American abroad. He’d show up at group meetings dressed in college sweats with his gut hanging out while loudly pronouncing on the Pakistani constitution.“Ya know Fox, CNN, the networks….I’m their go-to guy on Pakistan, there’s nothing I don’t know about what happens here.” Describing himself as a ‘distinguished constitutional scholar,’ he claimed to represent a Washington think-tank, the Center for Science and Security. That he was also ex-US military deeply concerned about the Dutch delegates, representing a peace group. He liked to name-drop, notably General Rashid Qureshi, Musharraf’s senior aide and a man much hated by Pakistanis. When we made a courtesy call on the president, Houlahan took with him his copy of Musharraf’s autobiography while nodding sagely at the strongman’s every remark. I told my colleagues of suspicions I’d picked up from diplomats that CMD was close to Mohammed Ali Durrani, a former information minister and a tight palace ally.

Two days out from the poll, we ousted a very agitated Houlahan in a coup. Munir apologized to the rest of us, claiming he had no idea what this guy was like. Then we tore up the CMD observer procedures and made our own, following EU guidelines. The group would have no official leader. But that didn’t stop Houlahan from spouting his pro-government line to the local press as our ‘leader.’ The rest of us were compelled to make our own media statements stressing our strict neutrality, dissociating ourselves from him and from CMD’s affiliations. Then we headed to the provinces to observe voting.

Obviously this all points to a political operation and not some independent analysis by Mr Houlahan. So why did The News take his words and republish them without doing any independent research? It took me only a few moments using Google to find all of this information. Surely with all their resources, the people at Jang could find even more.

It seems that nobody at The News bothered to check out this Mr Thomas Houlahan or investigate why he would be writing such things. Instead, they saw an opportunity to make a political hit. But that’s not reporting. That’s a political campaign.

Of course, all of this raises again the ridiculousness of a conspiracy theory being peddled by Ansar Abbasi and The News a few weeks ago. If you remember, at the the time Ansar Abbasi was trying to tell that the US media is being controlled by some secret forces in Pakistan’s Embassy in Washington. So again, I ask, was this article by Mr Thomas Houlahan a plant by the Embassy? Or does The News only believe conspiracies about stories that it doesn’t like? Why is one article a plant, and another worthy of front page publication?

Of course, when a newspaper will publish obviously fake stories without doing even a minute’s basic fact-checking, what do you expect?

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  1. Asif Ali Zardari, Kamran Khan/The News & International Republican Institute (IRI) http://chagataikhan.blogspot.com/2009/10/asif-ali-zardari-kamran-khanthe-news.html

    To criticize any political government whether PPP or PML – N specifically Asif Ali Zardari one shouldn’t need the crutches of International Republican Institute (IRI)’s report/survey, only law and order news and rising prices of basic utilities would be more than enough to put any government in shame.

    But our so-called Investigative Journalist-cum- GEO TV Political Analyst (read Tout) i.e. Kamran Khan [Correspondent of The News/Jang & Former Correspondent of The Washington Pots] and many like him are so insecure that to prove their credibility they always quote ISI, Army Sources, Unnamed Political Sources, or IRI Survey.

    Kamran Khan has again quoted IRI Survey.Report today in his “Alleged” Investigative Report filed in The News dated Thursday, October 29, 2009.


    Dwindling faith in President Zardari’s capacity to act as a neutral, corruption-free, nationally respected leader of Pakistan waned further early this month when the Washington-based International Republican Institute (IRI), a pro-democracy group financed by the US government, reported in an in-depth survey that only about two in 10 Pakistanis carry any favourable opinion about President Zardari. As opposed to President Zardari’s terrible approval rating, the same IRI survey revealed that a big majority of Pakistanis, close to nine out of 10, hold the institution of the Pakistan Army in the highest esteem followed by the judiciary that won the support of seven out of 10 Pakistanis. Reference: Beleaguered Presidency left with single option By Kamran Khan Thursday, October 29, 2009

    The International Republican Institute (IRI), considered the international branch of the U.S. Republican Party, and one of the four “core groups” of the congressionally created and funded National Endowment for Democracy (NED), apparently knew of the coup d’etat in Honduras against President Zelaya well in advance. IRI is well known for its role in the April 2002 coup d’etat against Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez and its funding and strategic advising of the principal organizations involved in the ouster of President Jean Bertrand Aristide of Haiti in 2004. In both cases, IRI funded and/or trained and advised political parties and groups that were implicated in the violent, undemocratic overthrow of democratically elected presidents. REFERENCE: The Role of the International Republican Institute (IRI) in the Honduran Coup The International Republican Institute talks of “coup” in Honduras, months before By Eva Golinger MONDAY, JULY 6, 2009

    Let have look at the Credibility of International Republican Institute (IRI)


    A brief history of the IRI is as follows: In a bid to make the world friendlier to US interests, President Ronald Reagan (a supporter of Apartheid South Africa) called for the creation of the National Endowment for Democracy in 1983. The US, he claimed, needed an organization that would “foster the infrastructure of democracy–the system of a free press, unions, political parties, universities- -which allows a people to choose their own way, to develop their own culture, to reconcile their own differences through peaceful means.” As a result the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), which spawned the International Republican Institute (IRI), the National Democratic Institute for International Affairs (NDI), and United States Agency for International Development (USAID) were formed. NED receives about $50 Million from the US Congress. USAID requested a staggering $9.3 billion for 2007. Out of these three organizations, the IRI and USAID are the most active in the promotion of a world safe for US Democracy. The IRI at first “focused on planting the seeds of democracy in Latin America,” according to its website. After the “Cold War, [it] has broadened its reach to support democracy and freedom around the globe.” USAID states that U.S. foreign aid helps in “furthering America’s foreign policy interests in expanding democracy and free markets while improving the lives of the citizens of the developing world.”

    Through what NED terms Consolidating Democracy, democratic principles and sovereignty are being violated. The NED, IRI and USAID attempt to unify opposition against a target government. They provide strategic and monetary support to the opposition. They also infiltrate university student organizations, women’s and youth groups, trade unions, teacher associations and other sectors of civil society which they then into supporting the opposition parties that they have effectively turned into a coalition. Worse than instigating a coup (a top down mechanism of change), the IRI and USAID infect the very blood lines of the country by affecting “regime change” through civil society. Consolidating Democracy was successfully used in what the IRI refers to as the color revolutions in Ukraine (Orange), Georgia (Rose) and Kyrgyzstan (Tulip). In Haiti, democratically elected Aristide was overthrown using the same methods of unifying a rag-tag opposition and then mobilizing civil society behind it. But some countries such as Venezuela remain a failed target. The IRI’s 2005 Programs in Africa webpage states that it “provided training for political parties in Angola to establish a strong and stable political party system, and reinforce the national reconciliation process.” In Kenya it “worked with political parties to teach them how to develop positions and communicate them to voters.” In Nigeria they “focused on strengthening and preparing political parties for the 2007 elections and fostering partnerships between the parities and civil groups”. And in Liberia the IRI “sponsored the first-ever formal presidential candidate debates.”

    In September 2006, when receiving the IRI 2006 Freedom Award together with Laura Bush, Liberian President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf thanked the IRI which “was particularly active in promoting [the] elections.” She added that “Very quickly an office was established. They came, they did workshops. They brought political groups together. They worked with the media. They educated. They instructed. They supported. They assisted the process.” She was in fact recounting the steps taken to consolidate democracy in Liberia by the foreign NGO. President Mbeki has in the past questioned to what extent South African civil society makes independent choices. This concern can be extended to the continent. For example, a Boston Globe survey “identified 159 faith-based organizations that received more than $1.7 billion in USAID prime contracts, grants and agreements from fiscal 2001 to fiscal 2005” as part of President Bush’s Faith Based Initiative. The implications here are obvious. USaid has also tied acceptance of Genetically Modified food to foreign aid even in terms of disaster as in the case with Zambia in 2002. Organizations such as Oxfam have showed that GM foods in Africa would in the long run be harmful to the small scale African farmer, lead to the destruction of local food economies, create a cycle of dependency and cause more acute starvation. It was an absurd case of stopping starvation today by creating conditions for more starvation tomorrow.

    And in even more direct interference with the internal economy and politics of African countries, USaid, has worked in concert with the World Bank to promote the now infamous Structural Adjustment Programs consolidated wealth for a corrupt elite while taking away education and health rights from the poor. But it is the hijacking of democratic processes by using civil society that should be of the most concern to Africans concerned with genuine democracy. The IRI and USAID don’t have to win every African election they participate in – each parliamentarian and each political organization that gets a seat in the government becomes their lobbyist. In effect, they become shareholders in the new government. And as the American proverb says, “whoever pays the piper calls the tune.” Reference: African Democracies for Sale By Mukoma Ngugi February 07, 2007

  2. Why didn’t IRI monitor General Elections in Pakistan? Manufacturing a fig leaf of Democracy in Pakistan By Abdus Sattar Ghazali

    The government of Pakistan last week stopped the Washington-based International Republican Institute (IRI) from performing exit polls at February 18 general elections. Consequently, the institute, headed by US Senator John McCain, reversed a decision to send election observers for the polls. It was the only US group planning to send observers, although European teams still plan to be in place.

    According to an IRI poll in September 2006, Musharraf had a 63 percent approval rating. But last October 11, IRI released a poll showing him at 21 percent. Thirteen days later, an official letter arrived, telling IRI that it was not possible to register the group in Pakistan “due to administrative reasons”.

    Why the IRI was stopped from the exit polls? The reason looks very obvious. The government of President (Retired General) Parvez Musharraf does not want that the exit polls challenge the ‘doctored’ official election results.

    To digress from the subject, General Musharraf was re-elected as President for five years in October last by a parliament whose term expired a month later. Just to refresh your memories, he was Chief of Army Staff when he sought the re-election and resigned from the army post only after the controversial re-election which saw many parliamentarians quitting and boycotting the election because constitutionally a serving general was not legible to stand for president.

    Not surprisingly, popular perceptions about the integrity of the electoral process in Pakistan are dismal. Only 21% of the country’s voting age population believes elections in the country are free and fair. This is one of the lowest in the World. In a Gallup International study of around 60 countries, Pakistan is ahead of only Philippines (19%) and Nigeria (9%).

    According to Pakistan ’s Citizens Group on Electoral Process (CGEP), past eight elections from 1970 to 2002 were marred by rigging in three phases: the pre-poll,
    polling day and post-poll.

    Pre-Poll Rigging refers to a deliberate attempt to selectively tilt the rules of level playing field in favour of or against any contestant.

    It includes:

    Violation of constitutional requirements such as:

    1. Neutrality of the caretaker government,

    2. Independence of the Election Commission and related judiciary,

    3. Neutrality of the election administration staff,

    4. Violation of freedom of media to approach voters, and

    5. Use of public resources to benefit some contestants and/or hurt others, including politically partisan use of development funds through various government agencies such as utility organisations (Electricity, Gas) and local bodies.

    Polling Day Rigging refers to violation of the integrity (honesty) of the ballot box.

    It includes:

    Tampering with/stuffing ballot boxes;

    Impersonation and multiple voting:

    Prevention of voting by certain persons or groups through unlawful means, including coercion;

    Dishonest counting of votes, and Dishonest tabulation of results.

    Post-Poll Rigging refers to the absence of fair play in the formation of a government according to popular mandate.

    It includes:

    Use of public resources (in violation of Constitutional provisions) to influence, affect or alter the formation of government. This is particularly acute when the above is done to support the formation of government by those undeserving according to the will of people or to demolish government by those who are upheld by the will of the people.

    President Musharraf has already completed the first phase of election rigging. In November 2007 he imposed emergency rule. One of the first steps Musharraf took under emergency rule was to replace Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, who he had initially tried to dismiss in March 2007. He sacked dozens of independent mind judges. Musharraf then moved to crack down on the media, lawyers, social activists, and secular and religious political opponents. Under domestic and international pressure, he rescinded the state of emergency but the harsh measures remained eforced.

    There cannot be two opinions on the fact that without independent judiciary and free media fair and free elections will not be possible. There is a popular demand to restore all sacked judges. However, the U.S. has declined to support popular demand for the restoration of independent judiciary.

    Assistant Secretary of State Richard Boucher told a congressional panel on January 29 that Pakistan could deal with the dispute involving the judiciary after the elections as it’s important to hold the elections first. Tellingly, Boucher admitted that there will be rigging in the elections. “We don’t necessarily accept a certain level of fraud but, if history is any guide and current reports are any guide, we should expect some,” Boucher told the lawmakers.

    The last general election of 2002 witnessed an unparalleled heights of pre-poll and post-poll rigging. In order to perpetuate the rule of General Pervez Musharraf, a number of illegal rules were framed. Since the country was practically governed under an extra-Constitutional arrangement, there was no concern with ensuring level playing field, neutrality of the Administration or independence of the Election Commission. To this extent the pre-poll partisan role of the state was a continuation of the previous unlawful practice, but the 2002 election carried it a step further by engaging a sizeable number of military officials, local government functionaries and other public servants to play an openly political role at the grass-roots.

    Similarly, the Post poll interference with electoral process was massive. In no other election of Pakistan , with the possible exception of 1970 when the electoral result was totally turned down, the electoral outcome was disturbed as ruthlessly and unlawfully as in 2002. It was done through systematic use of rewards, punishments and intimidation by the state apparatus under the leadership of General Pervez Musharraf.

    A rigged election (in 2008) would have serious consequences for domestic stability and regional and wider international security, says the Brussels-based International Crisis Group. In 2002 the military government rigged the ele c tions and was able survive with its power, if not legitimacy, intact.

    This year opposition to centralised, authoritarian rule has grown considerably, particularly in the smaller provinces. To neutralise it, the government will be more dependent than ever on the most problematic of its civilian partners.

    In Sindh, for example, it will have little alternative for countering Bhutto’s Pakistan Peoples Party and its predominantly Sindhi constituency other than to use the electoral machinery to favour its MQM allies. This would further stoke Mohajir-Sindhi tensions, already high after the 12 May 2007 killings of PPP workers by MQM activists. A MQM government in Sindh, in coalition with Musharraf’s ruling party, would not only fuel anti-military sentiments but could well also return the province to bloody ethnic conflict.

    In Balochistan, where the military’s attempts to crush demands for democracy and provincial rights have triggered a province-wide insurgency, the prospects for the Baloch regional parties to win a free and fair election and form the provincial government have in creased considerably. Rigged elections could seriously strain the cohesion of the federation, even as they benefit the Islamist parties.

    The Baloch nationalist parties already have an uphill task to convince their young workers political change can and should come through the ballot box, not the gun. Should the election be rigged, that choice may no longer appear viable to many Baloch dissidents, who have borne the brunt of military rule for eight years, the ICG report concluded.

    In NWFP too, the government will have little choice but to give its allies free rein to manipulate the electoral process if it is to retain their support not just in the province but also in the national parliament.

    However, a distorted and rigged electoral process will not ensure regime stability, let alone national cohesion. The parliamentary elections are crucial for Pakistan ’s long-term viability as a democratic state. If they are free and fair, they will restore public faith in state institutions and constitutional and legal ways of changing governments.

    February 10, 2008

    Abdus Sattar Ghazali is the Executive Editor of the online magazine American Muslim Perspective:

  3. A get-CJ Iftikhar operation on the cards? Wednesday, June 16, 2010 Kaira rejects any move, political leaders show lack of knowledge By Ansar Abbasi http://www.thenews.com.pk/top_story_detail.asp?Id=29502

    ISLAMABAD: The Presidency has launched a covert operation to target Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry with clear signs that the massive government funds being doled out to lawyers and the highly dubious appointment of an ordinary lawyer as federal law secretary are part of this larger agenda, it is learnt.

    Information Minister Qamar Zaman Kaira, however, categorically denied this and termed it baseless and speculative, insisting that publication of such a story without concrete proofs would lead to confusion and misunderstandings.

    Sources confided to The News that the Presidency is desperate to effectively target the chief justice and possibly remove him for which the groundwork has already started and things are expected to mature after the Supreme Court hands down its decision on the 18th Amendment.

    Feeling insecure from a fiercely independent judiciary because of their tainted past, President Asif Ali Zardari and a group of his advisers, including a few federal ministers, all of whom have their personal grudge against the judiciary, have chalked out this strategy to muster much-required support of political and legal fraternity to target the top judge. Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani is also said to be on-board.

    Sure to win the support of all its coalition partners, including the ANP, the MQM and the JUI-F, all of them not too happy with the independent judiciary because of its decisions affecting them and their leaders, the PPP is also confident to take the PML-N on-board.

    After reading and hearing the anti-judiciary sentiments of certain PML-N leaders, the sources said, the Presidency is desirous to see the apex court striking down any part of the 18th Amendment so that the PML-N’s support could also be won to target Justice Iftikhar-led superior judiciary.

    Presidency spokesman Farhatullah Babar was simply inaccessible as he neither attended this correspondent’s phone calls nor responded to the SMS message conveying the question on the issue.

    Information Minister Qamaruzzaman Kaira, however, when approached categorically denied this and asked how the PPP government, which gave its blood during the judicial movement and restored the judges through an executive order, could even think of targeting any of the judges.

    “Neither there is any such thinking nor it will happen,” he said, adding that the PPP, the government or the Presidency have nothing against any judge. The information minister said the government respects the judges and the courts and is obeying their orders and directions. He said there is no issue of President Asif Ali Zardari as the 18th Amendment was passed by parliament.

    PML-N spokesman Ahsan Iqbal, however, emphatically said that his party, which has paid a heavy price for the restoration of the independent judiciary, would not let any attempt aimed at attacking it succeed.

    Denying that any of the PML-N leaders was approached even informally by the government for supporting the get-Justice Iftikhar operation, Ahsan Iqbal apprehended that the government was trying to deflect the NRO issue by preparing grounds for a bigger controversy, or a battle between the judiciary and parliament.

    He said the PML-N owns the 18th Amendment and defends it too but would give its response on the court decision only after it is be handed down and reviewed by the party. The sources, however, said some of the PML-N leaders have even assured the PPP men to stand with parliament in case of the striking down of any of the constitutional amendments. In such a situation, the government plans to move a resolution in parliament in favour of the 18th Amendment and against the apex court.

    Similar resolutions, the sources said, are expected to be moved and adopted in the provincial assemblies, including the Punjab, provided the PML-N gets on-board. The induction of Babar Awan’s junior as law secretary is also part of the impending get-Justice Iftikhar operation. The sources said Zardari’s confidants are also contemplating filing a formal reference before the Supreme Judicial Council against the chief justice.

    About the grounds of such a reference, nothing could be ascertained by this correspondent except that the President of the Supreme Court Bar Association, Qazi Anwar, revealed to The News something is said to have already been received by President Zardari against the chief justice.

    Qazi said he has recently hinted at a possible attack on the superior judiciary following the prime minister’s repeated statements that the judges were restored through his executive order, which could be withdrawn, and that the restoration was not the consequence of the long march.

    “These statements are not meaningless,” he said but resolved that the lawyers’ fraternity and the people of Pakistan would not let the government attack the independent judiciary.

    Only recently Dr Abdul Basit, the then counsel of the Federation representing in the 18th Amendment case, had talked of moving a reference against the chief justice. Basit, however, was removed from the panel because he had thrice changed his statements about the authority, who had directed him to object to the inclusion of the chief justice in the 17-member bench hearing the case.

    He initially named the president, then talked of Salman Farooqi and later said that the strategy was decided in the law minister’s office.

    Meanwhile, the sources said the Presidency also wants the PML-N to realise that with the kind of the judiciary that exists in Pakistan right now, no government could function freely. The PML-N, it is said, will also be made to realise that its leadership too has pending corruption cases in the superior judiciary, which might create problems for them too.

    The PPP is, however, confident of winning the support of its coalition partners. The MQM, which has not shown any sign of defiance against the judiciary, is expected to join the government’s move. Senior MQM leader Farooq Sattar, when approached told The News that no one from the government or Presidency has contacted his party for any such move against the chief justice.

    Sattar said if the government contacts the MQM in this respect in the future, the party would take the issue to its Rabita Committee and would take a decision accordingly keeping in view the overall situation. The MQM though never supported the NRO whether inside parliament or before the apex court, its annulment led to opening up of almost 8,000 criminal cases against the MQM leaders and workers. Of late, the Supreme Court had sought from the provincial authorities, including the Sindh government, an update about such cases.

    ANP spokesman Zahid Khan told The News that neither he was aware of any such development nor his party leadership was contacted by the government or the Presidency with such a proposal.

    Answering a question as to what would be the stance of the ANP if the government sought its support for such a move, he said he couldn’t respond to hypothetical questions.

    JUI-F spokesman Maulana Ajmad when contacted said he is not aware of any such move and is hearing it from The News for the first time. He, however, committed to get back to The News on the issue after talking to his party’s top leadership.

    Meanwhile, the government has also pinned high hopes on Asma Jehangir, who is contesting for the office of the president SC Bar Association. Though she is an independent candidate and highly respected, the government is supporting her with great hopes.

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