The News writer puts Negroponte on the spot
ISLAMABAD: John Negroponte was put on the spot and left speechless by questions put to him by a staff writer of The News and Geo TV at a reception in Islamabad. The incident was duly reported by the New York Times on Friday.
The paper said: Perhaps the most startling encounter for the 68-year-old career diplomat was the deliberately pointed question by Farrukh Salim, executive director of the Centre for Research and Security Studies, (also a regular columnist of The News) at the reception on Wednesday evening.
“How is Pakistan different to Honduras?” Salim asked, a query clearly intended to tweak Negroponte about his time as ambassador to Honduras in the 1980s, when he was in charge of the American effort to train and arm a guerrilla force aimed at overthrowing the leftist government in Nicaragua. He was later criticised for meddling in the region and overlooking human rights abuses in pursuit of United States foreign policy goals. The diplomat demurred, according to Salim, saying, “You have put me on the spot.” Negroponte had no reply to his next question, either, Salim said. “I asked him, ‘What do you know about our chief justice that we don’t know?’”
That question was meant to reflect, Salim recounted afterward, that the Bush administration had refused to recognise the illegality of the firing of Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, and that many Pakistanis were angered that the United States had signalled it did not favour the reinstatement of Iftikhar Chaudhry who, it appeared, was too opposed to Musharraf for Washington’s taste.
Negroponte and the Bush administration were tone deaf, Salim and others said, to the changes in Pakistan, though the message of the tune seemed inescapable.
As they stood on the lawn of a diplomatic residence here in the spring evening, the chairman of the Supreme Court Bar Association, Aitzaz Ahsan, who has led the campaign to restore Iftikhar Chaudhry, picked up the challenge to Negroponte. First, Ahsan said he told the diplomat, the lawyers were miffed that Negroponte had not included them on his planned round of meetings. When the lawyers asked for an appointment on Tuesday, they were rebuffed by the American Embassy, Ahsan said.
Then, Ahsan, a graduate of Cambridge and one of Pakistan’s most talented orators, gave Negroponte a 10- to 15-minute discourse on why an independent judiciary was important to fight terrorism.
“I told him that the most effective weapon on the war against terror is a people who have enforceable rights – then they have a stake in the system,” Ahsan said of his conversation with Negroponte.
According to the NYT, Ahsan said he argued that an independent judiciary was “a middle ground” between the military and religious fanatics. When Negroponte countered that the new Parliament had pledged to deal with the question of the restoration of the judges within 30 days, Ahsan said he retorted: “I said you can’t build a Parliament on the debris of the judiciary.”
In contrast to Negroponte, a delegation of legislators, led by Rep John F Tierney, Democrat of Massachusetts, chairman of the National Security Subcommittee of the House Oversight Committee, visited Iftikhar Chaudhry at his home on Thursday. They were the first foreigners to see the judge since police barricades were removed on Tuesday after four months of house arrest. “He believes parliament has a vote in the next 30 days and the judges will go back to work,” Tierney said after talking to Iftikhar Chaudhry. “That’s his position, and they’re sticking with it.”
Source: The News