The honorable Chaudhry Mohammad Wasi Zafar–formerly of the PPP and now a PML(Q) elected member of the Pakistan Parliament from NA-76, Faisalabad (Zafarwal, Chak No.562 GB, Tehsil Jaranwala)–seems to be a passionate man, rather quick of temper, and always ready to ‘defend’ his democratic right to be abusive. In doing so, he has sometimes been known to take the law in his own hands (literally)… and he can; after all, he is Pakistan’s Federal Minister of Law, Justice and Human Rights.
Now, it seems that the ISI is after him (thanks to Watandost for pointing me here). I am not sure how to react. On the one hand, someone should look into the Minister’s temper tantrums. On the other hand, the ISI has no business whatsoever doing this (haven’t they messed enough with our politics already!). Supposedly, the Prime Minister has tried once, but obviously was not persuasive.
But lets start from the beginning. I am willing to give him the benefit of the doubt. Maybe, there were compelling circumstances in each case. But the news trail does seem to build up. Here is a sampling:
On 29 October, 2004, The Nation reported that “the Senate witnessed unprecedented uproar Thursday when Raza Rabbani-led opposition members and Minister for Law and Justice Wasi Zafar entered a verbal scuffle and used abusive language against each other over the consideration of the uniform bill forcing the Chair to adjourn the session…”:
The uproar erupted when the opposition started chanting loud slogans against Law Minister Wasi Zafar who was speaking on the floor about the consideration of the bill uniform. The slogans infuriated the minister who also retailed [sic] in the same way. Meanwhile, Raza Rabbani and Wasi Zafar started direct exchange of harsh words…. The law minister left his seat and rushed to the opposition benches after having a verbal clash with ARD parliamentary leader in Senate Mian Raza Rabbani… The situation got very tense when the minister and opposition members came eyeball to eyeball abusing each other and pointing fists. Some of the treasury and opposition members including Leader of the House Wasim Sajjad, Mushahid Hussain and Shahzad Waseem tried to quash the verbal brawl but the situation remained uncontrolled.
Then, on April 12, 2005, The Nation again reported on the Minister’s tantrums, this time in discussing the Gujranwalla Marathon race, where “Law Minister Wasi Zafar and Hafiz Hussain Ahmed, entered into serious verbal clash in National Assembly after they reportedly abused each other at House Business Advisory Committee meeting.” Reportedly the exchange of abuse was very colorful in teh choice of gaalian.
On 11 August, 2005, The News International reported that “Mujeeb Khan, a PIA passenger received injuries when Umair, the son of Federal Law Minister, Wasi Zafar, gave him a drubbing… at the entrance to the Jinnah International Terminal.” This happened in the presence of the Minister.
…the unpleasant incident occurred when Federal Law Minister Wasi Zafar, along with his son Umair, reached the Karachi airport to get PIA flight PK-306 for Lahore. When the minister, along with his son, entered the departure lounge, the Airport Security Force (ASF) personnel allowed him and his son to proceed to the reporting counter without the routine body search passengers are required to go through. At this, another passenger, Mujeeb, who was booked on flight PK-370 for Islamabad, objected to allowing the ministerÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s son without body search, sources said. Umair, the son of federal law minister after hearing, MujeebÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s comments turned back and attacked him with punches and kicks and injured by beating him up badly, sources added.
Soon after that, in September 2005, news reports in Pakistan and abroad were recounting how Wasi Zafar had a brawl in the Marriott Hotel in Islamabad where he beat up a waiter in the presence of other ministers, including Minister Naourez Shakoor.
Eyewitnesses said … the minister used abusive language and slapped the poor waiter across the face many times, but the minister refused to comment on it when contacted…. It was reportedly around 12pm when the minister and his family entered the dinning hall of the hotel and placed an order for their dinner. President General Pervez MusharrafÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s senior staff member Col Hassan and other dignitaries were present there. Some sort of delay in serving the food led to the beating up of the waiter, who tried to argue with the minister, eyewitnesses said. [According to eye witnesses] the waiter, in a humble manner, tried to argue, resultantly inviting the wrath of the minister. ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œYou are arguing with me,ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚? Wasi shouted at the waiter. The thundering voice of the minister failed to ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œshut the mouthÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚? of the waiter as he continued citing reasons for being late. It further infuriated the minister, who started using abusive language and then slapped the waiter.
On March 27, 2006, The Glasshouse (a blog on Pakistan politics) wrote:
According to news reports [Minister Wasi Zafar] occupied a seat on a PIA flight which had been allocated to another passenger. When a young passenger brandishing his boarding card politely asked him to vacate the seat, the Federal Minister for Law, Justice and Human Rights not only broke loose with the foulest words possible in the Punjabi language but threatened to rearrange the ladÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s face. The shell-shocked young man had to be comforted by a helpless member of the cabin crew who found him an alternate seat.
And that brings us to the current fascinating story about and ISI getting involved. The best account I found was in the Daily Times (26 June, 2006) which reports that “Inter Service Intelligence (ISI) has discreetly launched an investigation into reports of misuse of million of rupees meant for victims of human rights abuses by Law Minister Wasi Zafar. An ISI officer reportedly visited the ministry offices on Friday to collect information and documentary evidence.”
The ISI investigation has been ordered from the ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‹Å“topÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢ after it was reported that the minister had mistreated a woman bureaucrat who refused to approve funding from the human rights fund for 560 applicants who belonged to ZafarÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s constituency of Jaranwala Tehsil, Faisalabad. Sources said the ISI might not have interfered in the affairs had damaging findings of the auditor general of Pakistan not been made public. The AGP has confirmed reports of the misuse of HR funds, along with the fresh disclosure that last year a total of 365 people successfully applied to get funding from the Ministry of Law, Justice and Human Rights, out of which 305 belonged to Jaranwala tehsil.
The sources said the ISI official had asked why the sudden row had developed between Zafar and the woman bureaucrat, senior joint secretary Saira Karim…. The minister allegedly accused Karim of trying to ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œcollect documentary evidenceÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚? against him. Karim then got herself transferred from the Law Ministry to the Establishment Division, but Zafar brought her back and ordered an inquiry against her under the Removal from Services Ordinance. He was then reportedly told that only the president had the power to sack someone in BPS 21. Zafar later ordered another inquiry, only this time to be told that only the prime minister was authorised to order such an inquiry against a senior official. Zafar did not give up and his ministry is still busy in inquiring into allegations that Karim funded bogus NGOs, a charge she denies.
So, there it is. Not a pretty story. I am still not sure why is the ISI and not some other agency taking the lead; why is this not being done at the level of a parliamentary enquiry. And why are the President and the Prime Minister quiet. They should at least send Mr. Wasi Zafar to temper control counselling.