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Dawn Editorial 22 February 2020

Attorney general fiasco

THE recent fiasco involving the exit of the attorney general of Pakistan has, once again, exposed the lack of cohesion at the top and the federal government’s seemingly haphazard method of handling highly sensitive legal matters.
The handling of the reference against Supreme Court Justice Qazi Faez Isa is, of course, not the first crisis of its kind but it was hoped some lessons would have been learnt by now so that blunders were not repeated.
The controversy emerged when the now former attorney general Anwar Mansoor Khan reportedly made comments casting aspersions on the judges of the apex court.
The exact nature of his remarks cannot be dwelt on because of the court’s verbal orders.
The Supreme Court had asked him to produce evidence to substantiate his allegations or apologise; on Friday, Mr Khan chose the latter option.
This is not the first time Mr Khan’s neutrality has been questioned as following the sentencing of retired Gen Pervez Musharraf by a special court in the high treason case in December, he had said that the military ruler had not received a fair trial.
While the ex-attorney general’s comments were enough to raise eyebrows, the government’s fumbling in their aftermath did not help matters much and, in fact, resulted in blowing the controversy out of proportion.
The government distanced itself from Mr Khan’s comments, once the attorney general resigned, though the law minister and the Assets Recovery Unit chief were present in court on Feb 18 when the controversial comments were made, and did not say anything at that point.
Moreover, it is still unclear whether the ex-law officer tendered his resignation, which he claims to have done at the behest of the Pakistan Bar Council, or was asked to leave, as his ministry maintains.
There needs to be greater clarity about the facts but one thing is evident: when the government’s top law officer speaks in court, it is always assumed that he is speaking for the state, in this case the law ministry, and not in his personal capacity.
Mr Khan had also told a TV channel that the matter had been discussed in government circles.
For the ministry to distance itself from his comments in an apparent damage-control effort after the controversy erupted speaks volumes for the disarray in the government’s legal team, and the state of affairs within the ruling circle in general.
A new attorney general, Khalid Jawed Khan, has now been appointed, and it is hoped that from here on more thought is put into what the state’s officers say before the courts, especially the apex court.
These are not trivial matters and there needs to be cohesion in government ranks.
And especially when discussing sensitive matters, it should be ensured that the state’s legal team is on one page, and embarrassing episodes such as the latest controversy are not repeated.

 
 

Attacks in Germany

ONCE again, terror has reared its ugly head in the Western world, as a gunman opened fire on two sheesha lounges in the German city of Hanau on Wednesday, killing at least nine people, a number of whom were of Kurdish descent. The locations the gunman targeted, as well his apparent motives, means that the attack is being treated as an act of far-right terrorism. One Kurdish journalist, a political refugee living in Germany, told news outlets that he was shocked, but not surprised — a statement echoed by many others. Indeed, only a few days ago, German police conducted multiple raids in an attempt to break up a vast far-right network that had been planning attacks on Muslims, asylum seekers and politicians in order to ‘incite’ civil war. On Monday, thousands attended an anti-Islam protest in Dresden. And earlier this month, a state premier was elected with the support of the racist Alternative for Germany party for the first time in the country’s modern history. In the past few years, a wave of outright xenophobia, anti-Semitism and Islamophobia has swept across Europe, but perhaps nowhere is its presence more chilling than in Germany — a country that is once again haunted by the spectres of its dark past.
The tragedy also sparked an outpouring of grief and outrage, as vigils were held across Germany while the embattled Merkel government sought to condemn the politics that inspired Wednesday’s attack in the strongest terms. But it will take more than condemnation to stem this far-right tide. What Germany and other Western democracies need now is serious introspection on the ways in which the hateful ideology of white supremacy has been indulged and mainstreamed by politicians, government policies and the media alike. It requires the international community to interrogate the role that the global ‘war on terror’ has had in defining today’s iterations of terrorism. It is no coincidence that the gruesome scenes from Abu Ghraib were used by Al Qaeda and the militant Islamic State group to recruit disaffected Muslim youth, which in turn led to attacks in the West that have gone on to radicalise disillusioned white men. The two ideologies enjoy a symbiotic relationship, and it is only if the world recalibrates its counterterrorism strategy, abandoning counterproductive policies like racial profiling, that we might triumph over both. Ultimately, the fight against hate is a universal issue.

 
 

Umar Akmal saga

FOR the umpteenth time, right-handed batsman Umar Akmal appears to have brought the gentleman’s game into disrepute, that too on the eve of the high-profile Pakistan Super League. He has been duly suspended by the PCB. The youngest of three brothers to have represented Pakistan in international cricket, Akmal since his debut in 2009, has gained a reputation for flouting the rules and arguing with team officials. And though he has been penalised, suspended and dropped from the team on countless occasions, he has blundered time and again. This time things are more serious. His swift suspension by the PCB under the anti-corruption code on Wednesday night could spell doom for his cricketing career.
According to reports, the player was approached by the bookies a day before the PSL V kick-off but failed to report the incident to the anti-corruption officials, as per the procedure laid down by the PCB and ICC. It is a case not too dissimilar to that of dashing opener Sharjeel Khan who was also abruptly withdrawn and suspended from the PSL 2017 and subsequently served a two-and-a-half-year ban. The world of cricket has been no stranger to ‘bad boys’, who may be good performers on the cricket field but end up being in the news for all the wrong reasons. Akmal, too, was hailed as one of the brightest stars on Pakistan cricket’s horizon after his dazzling entry into the game. But he has failed to find a permanent place in the team, mainly owing to his erratic behaviour. The complete relocation of the PSL to Pakistan this year is touted as the best thing to have happened to national cricket in nearly a decade. But with as many as 34 matches to be held in four cities, the logistic and other challenges can be daunting. Having said that, the authorities certainly seem well prepared to counter the challenges and hopefully the PSL extravaganza will prove to be a morale booster for the nation and not face any further hiccups after the unfortunate Akmal saga.

 
 
 

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