The NewsFuror

Saturday, September 29, 2007

The day of the General: •Musharraf to run for president in uniform •Petitioners, lawyers’ leaders livid

ISLAMABAD, Sept 28: The Supreme Court on Friday dismissed on technical grounds petitions against Gen Pervez Musharraf holding two offices, giving a legal boost to the president to contest the election for the second term in uniform.

It was a majority (six-three) verdict by a nine-member bench headed by Justice Rana Bhagwandas.

The bench threw out the petitions challenging the dual offices of the army chief and the president held by Gen Musharraf, declaring that these were not maintainable. In other words, the merit of the cases which had been debated for two weeks along with the issue of maintainability, became irrelevant as the majority of judges dismissed the challenge by declaring that the petitions could not be entertained at this forum.

After suffering a series of setbacks from the superior judiciary over the past few months, such as the restoration of the chief justice, acceptance of Nawaz Sharif’s right to return from exile and bail to Javed Hashmi, President Musharraf received the first good news from the Supreme Court.

Government supporters termed the verdict a ‘great victory’ and said the day clearly belonged to Gen Musharraf.

The verdict received an immediate adverse reaction inside the packed courtroom the moment the bench rose for the day. Though the short order was heard in pin drop silence by scores of lawyers and some political leaders, the courtroom echoed with slogans of ‘shame, shame’ and ‘go Musharraf go’ which later turned into real protest as lawyers and supporters of the petitioners walked out to join a much bigger crowd.

Some of the lawyers described the judgment as revival of the doctrine of necessity in the country’s chequered judicial history.

Former vice-chairman of the Pakistan Bar Council Ali Ahmed Kurd asked lawyers to lay siege to the Election Commission on Saturday -- the day of scrutiny of nomination papers of the presidential candidates.

“For reasons to be recorded later, as per majority view of 6 to 3, the petitions are held to be not maintainable within the contemplation of Article 184(3) of the Constitution (court’s original jurisdiction under the fundamental rights),” the judgment announced by Justice Rana Bhagwandas said.

“As per minority view of Justice Rana Bhagwandas, Justice Sardar Muhammad Raza Khan and Justice Mian Shakirullah Jan, all these petitions are held to be maintainable under Article 184(3) and hereby accepted. As per majority view these petitions are hereby dismissed as not maintainable,” he said.

Attorney-General Malik Mohammad Qayyum appreciated the judgment and said it was a correct decision and the dissent in the bench reflected that judges had applied their independent mind.

Soon after the verdict, police escorted president’s counsel Sharifuddin Pirzada and the AG out of the courtroom to ensure their security from the wrath of a furious crowd outside.

Reacting to the judgment, PML (N) acting president Makhdoom Javed Hashmi said the infamous doctrine of necessity, under which all military rules had been validated by the apex court, was still continuing. “We thought the judiciary has become totally independent, but this impression proved to be wrong,” he deplored.

He announced that a campaign would be launched against the regime and for complete independence of the judiciary.

MMA parliamentarian Farid Paracha said the judgment did not reflect the aspiration of the people, rather it strengthened the rule of a military dictator. He said the people of Pakistan had rejected it, adding that the MMA would file a review petition. He said that the struggle for restoration of genuine democracy in the country would be intensified.

Supreme Court Bar Association president Munir A. Malik said it was not a verdict which had been unexpected. “Though the July 20 judgment of restoring Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry was a step ahead, we still have a long way to go for complete independence of the judiciary. Although the judgment is disappointing, our battle is not over,” he added.

He said the three dissenting judges would always be remembered as Justice A.R. Cornelius and added that history would record its own conclusion regarding the other six judges.

Senior Advocate Hamid Khan said judges had abdicated their jurisdiction in deciding the matter, adding that the order was a continuation of the Tameezuddin and Dosso cases (in which the concept of the doctrine of necessity was introduced).

However, he said, the judgment would not dampen lawyers’ struggle which would continue till the end of dictatorship.

Advocate Akram Sheikh said that by dismissing the petitions under the cover of technicality, the Supreme Court had resurrected the infamous decision in the Maulvi Tameezuddin case dismissing the petition on technical grounds.

He said he had been asked by his client (Jamaat-i-Islami) to move a review petition against the decision which he would file on Monday.

Earlier, Advocate Akram in his arguments before the court emphasised that it was the duty of the court to scrap the uniform of President Musharraf because it had allowed him to keep the uniform. Any validation by the court, he said, would not be accepted.

Advocate Hamid Khan said President Musharraf’s holding of two offices derogated the constitutional provision of equality before the law because he was holding the gun.

A.K. Dogar said that Article 63(1-d) allowed President Musharraf to hold one office, but the President to Hold Another Office dealt with the dual-office law which was against constitutional provisions.

Abdul Hafeez Pirzada, appearing as amicus curiae, said: “We as a nation have reached the final stage of transition where there is an opportunity to all candidates for the presidential election that they would enter upon the office of the president as civilians.”

Michael Jackson 'not re-married'

Michael Jackson's spokeswoman has denied that the pop star has married his children's nanny.

Raymone Bain issued a statement on the Michael Jackson Fan Club website following several media reports that the singer had wed Grace Rwaramba.

"Wide-spreading reports regarding Michael Jackson being married are not true," the statement said.

"Documents stating otherwise are a hoax." Jackson has already been married twice and has three children.

His two eldest, Prince Michael Jackson Jr and Paris Michael Katherine Jackson, were born to his second wife Deborah Rowe.

Custody case

The singer has never revealed the identity of the mother of his youngest son, Blanket.

A British woman who claimed she was the mother of Jackson's children was recently denied a role in any custody settlement.

A Los Angeles judge said Nona Jackson, 36, from London, failed to "establish any genetic relationship".

Jackson settled a custody row with Ms Rowe over his two eldest children in September last year.

$40m Shakira gift for relief fund

A charitable foundation set up by Colombian pop star Shakira has donated $40 million (£19.6 million) to help victims of natural disasters.

The money will go towards repairing damage caused by an earthquake in Peru and a hurricane in Nicaragua.

A further $5 million (£2.46 million) will be spent on health and education in four Latin American countries.

The singer made the announcement at a New York summit on climate change organised by ex-President Bill Clinton.

Shakira, who has sold more than 50 million albums worldwide, will also host a discussion on youth activism at the Clinton Global Initiative on Saturday.

Her foundation, Latin America in Solidarity Action, was set up with fellow Colombian and Nobel Prize laureate Gabriel Garcia Marquez, in a bid to combat the deaths of children.

Shakira also fronts a charity to help children who are victims of violence.

England 36-20 Tonga

England (19) 36

Tries: Sackey 2, Tait, Farrell
Cons: Wilkinson 2
Pens: Wilkinson 2
Drop-goals: Wilkinson 2
Tonga (10) 20
Tries: Hufanga, Pole
Cons: Hola 2
Pens: Hola 2

Champions England clinched a World Cup quarter-final against Australia with an ultimately convincing win over Tonga.

Tonga opened the scoring through Sukanaivalu Hufanga's sparkling try but two Paul Sackey scores helped England into a 19-10 half-time lead.

Pierre Hola's second penalty saw Tonga reduce the lead to six points.

But Mathew Tait and Andy Farrell went over to secure victory before Hale T Pole's late consolation, while Jonny Wilkinson kicked 16 points in Paris.

The England fly-half now has 222 World Cup points and is just five behind Gavin Hastings, who is the competition's all-time leading scorer with 227.

No champions had ever failed to reach the knock-out stages at the World Cup, but following their dismal start to the tournament there had been real fears England would crash out before the last eight.

They had showed signs of life in the win over Samoa but Tonga had beaten their Pacific Island rivals and then pushed South Africa right to the last whistle.

The pre-match script suggested the Sea Eagles' pace and power was likely to trouble England initially before the defending champions' set-piece ability, superior tactical game and greater fitness began to bear fruit, and so it proved.

Tonga threatened from the first whistle with Epi Taione and Finau Maka blasting into the England midfield and they took the lead after 10 minutes.

There looked to be little danger when Mark Cueto fielded a poor Tonga kick but the Sale winger dithered and Tonga captain Nili Latu wrapped him up.

Cueto held on as the ruck formed and Hola stepped up to drill the penalty between the posts, but England were level within three minutes after Tonga handled in a ruck and Wilkinson opened his account for the night.

Tonga enjoyed the best of the territory in the opening quarter and they went back in front with a fine try after 17 minutes.

Taione handed off former Newcastle team-mate Wilkinson and fed Hufanga, who beat three men before sliding over by the posts despite inside centre Olly Barkley's attempted tackle.

Hola converted but England hit back immediately with a dramatic score.

Tonga infringed as England drove at the heart of their defence from the re-start and it looked as though Wilkinson would take the shot at goal, but instead he kicked to the right wing.

The giant Joseph Vaka had left Sackey unattended and the Wasps flyer just managed to catch the ball and get it down before rolling over the dead ball line.

Wilkinson, who had spoken earlier in the week about his trouble timing his kicks with the official World Cup ball, caught his conversion attempt horribly and missed the posts by miles.

As the game moved deeper into the half England's upper hand in the set-piece began to pay dividends and Wilkinson knocked over a trademark drop-goal and a regulation penalty to put the defending champions 14-10 up.

Undaunted, Tonga went back on the attack, with the likes of Taione battering away at England's thin white line, but when Hola threw a poor pass it fell at the feet of Sackey.

He was on England's 22 but the Wasps winger has pace to burn and Hufanga gave up the chase with 30m still to go.

Wilkinson once again missed the conversion attempt to the left of the posts but England were 19-0 up and the quarter-finals were in sight.

The rain which began to hammer down during the half-time interval benefited England, who had a better kicking game and the advantage in the set-piece.

But they missed the chance to extend their lead when Wilkinson missed a kickable penalty - yet again to the left - after the battered and bloodied Lewis Moody fell victim to a high tackle by the otherwise excellent Tonga captain Latu.

The let-off boosted Tonga's morale and, after England brought on former Great Britain rugby league captain Farrell for Barkley with just under half an hour to play, they trimmed the gap with a second Hola penalty.

England looked a little rattled but within three minutes the scoreline had a very different air.

Cueto dummied his way through the Tonga defence and although he failed to find the supporting Farrell, when England switched play to the left Tait sliced over for the try.

While Wilkinson was adding the conversion to make it 26-13 England captain Phil Vickery sauntered on with the air of a gunslinger walking into "his" saloon before embracing Matt Stevens, the man who kept him out of the starting line-up.

Farrell looked fired up from his first touch and after 66 minutes he made the game safe, cutting back against the grain to score his first try for England after dummying a run-around with Wilkinson.

The Newcastle fly-half kicked the conversion and added a late drop-goal and although Pole went over for a last-gasp converted try, the champions ensured their defence of the Webb Ellis trophy will last for another week at least.

England: Lewsey; Sackey, Tait, Barkley, Cueto; Wilkinson, Gomarsall; Sheridan, Chuter, Stevens, Borthwick, Kay, Corry (capt), Moody, Easter
Replacements: Mears, Vickery, Dallaglio, Worsley, Richards, Farrell, Hipkiss.

Tonga: Lilo; Tu'ifua, Hufanga, Taione, Vaka; Hola, Tu'ipulotu; Tonga'uiha, Lutui, Pulu, Vaki, Fa'aoso, Pole, Latu (capt), Maka
Replacements: Taukafa, Taufa'ao Filise, Molitika, Afeaki, Havea, Huson Tonga'uiha, Havili.

Radical Syrian cleric 'shot dead'

A Syrian cleric suspected of recruiting foreign militants to fight in Iraq has been shot dead in the northern Syrian city of Aleppo, his aides have said.

Sheikh Mahmoud Abu al-Qaqaa was shot several times by a gunman as he left the Imam Mosque after Friday prayers.

The gunman tried to flee the scene of the shooting, but was chased by a crowd and later arrested, the aides said.

Correspondents say Abu al-Qaqaa was a charismatic Sunni cleric with thousands of radical Islamist followers in Syria.

His anti-American sermons attracted a wide audience after the US-led invasion in Iraq in 2003, and his reputation rapidly spread.

The BBC's Kim Ghattas, who has interviewed the sheikh, notes that assassinations are highly unusual in Syria.

She says there are a number of stories concerning why he was killed, some of them contradictory, but adds that he does appear to have been instrumental in channelling jihadis into Iraq.

'American agent'

After the shooting, one aide to the cleric told the Associated Press that "terrorists" had killed the sheikh, whose real name was Mahmoud Qul Aghassi, for his "nationalist positions".

The one who carried out the assassination was a prisoner of the American forces in Iraq and had been released some time ago
Sheikh Samir Abu Khashbeh

Another aide, Sheikh Samir Abu Khashbeh, said the gunman had told him that he had killed the cleric "because he was an agent of the Americans".

"The one who carried out the assassination was a prisoner of the American forces in Iraq and had been released some time ago," Abu Khashbeh said. "He is known to us."

In June 2006, a group of militants killed while attempting to carry out an attack in the capital, Damascus, were found to be carrying CDs of sermons by Abu al-Qaqaa in which he called for US forces in the Middle East to be slaughtered "like cattle".

Afterwards, the sheikh denied he had called on Syrians to go to war in Iraq.

Others have claimed that Abu al-Qaqaa was an agent of the Syrian government, who was used to appease rising anti-American discontent amongst the country's Muslims and to keep the authorities informed of the activities of his fellow jihadists.

Abu al-Qaqaa is said to have kept a low profile in the last year since he was appointed head of a religious school by the Syrian government and he did not openly criticise the authorities.

The Syrian government has yet to make an official statement about the incident.