Five people who are not in jail in Pakistan

Shakil Afridi, the Pakistani doctor who helped the CIA collect data that led to the killing of Osama bin Laden, was convicted of high treason today and sentenced to 33 years in prison. Given the severity of the sentence, it's worth considering a few of the people who the Pakistani justice system has not seen fit to put behind bars:

Hafiz Saeed

The head of a banned charity widely believed to be a front for the international terrorist group Lashkar-e-Taiba is wanted by both India and the United States for his alleged role in orchestrated the 2008 Mumbai attacks. The Lahore High Court dropped all charges against Saeed in 2009. Last month, the U.S. offered a $10 million reward for information leading to Saeed's arrest, which raised some eyebrows since he's not in hiding. Saeed held a press conference inviting U.S. authorities to come and get him.

Abdul Qadeer Khan

Despite having admitted to selling nuclear secrets to North Korea, Iran, and Libya, A.Q. Khan was freed from house arrest in 2009. The father of Pakistan's nuclear program has been officially pardoned and is now immune from further prosecution. 

Dawood Ibrahim

The boss of the organized crime syndicate D-Company is believed to be one of the world's richest criminals. He is suspected of ties to both al Qaeda and Lashkar-e-Taiba and to have masterminded a series of bombings in Mumbai in 1993. Accodring to some accounts, he lives in a palatial mansion in Karachi, though the Pakistani government has always denied that he is in the country. 

Qari Saifullah Akhtar

Akhtar, who is believed to have run an al Qaeda training camp in Afghanistan before 9/11, was arrested in 2004 in the United Arab Emirates and turned over to Pakistan custody, then released a few months later. He was later detained in connection with an attempted assasination attempt on former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto in October 2007 in Kharachi and then a successful one in December but released both times. Bhutto herself accused Akhtar of involvement in the Karachi attack. He was last released after four months under house arrest in late 2010. 

Malik Ishaq

The founder of the al Qaeda-affiliated militant group Lashkar-e-Jhangvi was released after 14 years in jail earlier this year. Ishaq has been accused in at least 70 murders and faced 44 criminal cases -- including allegeldy masterminding a 2009 attack Sri Lankan cricket team that left seven dead,*  but no conviction has ever stuck.  

*Correction: As originally worded, this post implied that members of the Sri Lankan cricket team were killed in the attack. In fact, it was six policemen protecting the team and a driver who were killed. Seven players and a coach were injured. 

A Majeed/AFP/Getty Images


Could Zimbabwe be the next Myanmar?

Yesterday, I had the chance to speak with David Coltart, Zimbabwe's Minister of Education, Sport, and Culture. A human rights lawyer who campaigned against the regimes of Ian Smith and Robert Mugabe, Coltart was a founding member of the Zimbabwe's main opposition party -- the Movement for a Democratic Change. He was among the MDC politicians, led by Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, who entered government in an uneasy coalition with Mugabe's Zanu-PF following the disputed election of 2008. 

We discussed why he opposeses economic sanctions, why it would be dangerous for Mugabe to exit the scene too quickly, and an unlikely role model for democratic transition:

Robert Mugabe has called for elections to be held this year. Is the MDC preparing for them? 

The call for elections comes from hardliners within Zanu-PF. It doesn't enjoy support from moderates within Zanu-PF, SADC [the Southern African Development Community], or South Africa. If Robert Mugabe decides to align himself with the hardliners, there's going to be a very high political cost to pay in terms of his support in the region.

There's also a financial cost they haven't confronted. The country's on a shoestring budget because we've adopted the U.S. dollar -- we can't print our own money. So they're going to have to find money from somewhere. What the region, all of us in the MDC, and even moderates within Zanu-PF are saying, is that the process of constitutional reform must be completed, the reform of electoral processes must be completed. Once that's happened, then fresh elections must take place.

If they do go ahead with these elections, they will be on the basis of the old laws. We may not even contest those elections. So one will be left with just another crisis. It won't resolve the political situation.

Robert Mugabe's health has been the subject of a lot of speculation lately. Does that factor into your political planning?

The bottom line is that he's 88. He's old and he's clearly tiring. But from what I've seen, he's in remarkably good health. So I don't think it helps to plan around Robert Mugabe. I think one should make the assumption that he's going to be part of the short-to-medium term political environment.

One of the ironies is that Mugabe is necessary in the short term. If he went suddenly, the divisions between Zanu-PF would come out in the open and cause a lot of turmoil. I think that there are many within Zanu that recognize that he's the glue that holds the party together.

Some might say, "great, let Zanu fall apart." But there's a danger that it would fall apart in such a way that there would be a lot of strife and the military would use unscrupulous means to stay in power.

It seems to me that certainly within the cabinet there's a fairly strong moderate wing forming under Vice President [Joice] Mujuru. Whilst I don't agree with many of the policies, on some of the basic issues they clearly are committed to seeing this reform process through and are even prepared to contemplate the loss of power.

It's been over three years since you entered into this unusual power-sharing government. Do you think it's possible to say now whether it's been a success?

One needs to go back to where we were in 2008. Zimbabwe was lurching towards becoming a failed state. There was hyperinflation, people flooding out the country, thousands losing their lives to cholera, the prospect of virtually a lost generation. In that context, despite all the problems, we've achieved a great deal. We've stopped the cholera epidemic, we've reopened hospitals and clinics, we're dealing with sewerage issues in cities, we're getting clean water to people in cities.

Take education. When I took over I had 8,000 schools closed and 90,000 teachers on strike. Education was facing total collapse. We've got every single school open we've progressively increased the salary of teachers, we've got the textbook-to-pupil ratio down to one-to-one.

The same with the economy. We had hyperinflation in 2008. This year's it's down to four percent. Bank deposits are growing. Don't get me wrong. The economy is still in extreme crisis. I liken the country to a jumbo jet that was in free-fall and we've leveled it out about 200 meters above the ground. We could stall again but we are gradually gaining altitude.

What are you looking for from the international community?

First, sanctions should go. They've outlived their purpose. They were always symbolic in many respects and their primary purpose was to stigmatize those responsible for human rights abuses. That stigma will not be removed with the removal of sanctions. Ironically, sanctions are being used by hardliners as an excuse for ongoing economic woes. Of course, it's a lie. But for a country that' starved of information, it's a lie that people sometimes believe.

The second thing is that the international community needs to support the social ministries within the country and civic organizations -- not political parties -- that are working to get a new constitution and get better electoral laws. Take education. The United States in the last three years has put in a million U.S. dollars. In relation to other countries, that's minimal. Germany has put in $18 million. Finland has put in over 10 million euro. The contribution of the Germans and the Finns has had a profound impact. Not just an educational impact but a kind of peace dividend that shows people something can be gained through a fragile but slow process of democratization.

If there's improved health, and sanitation, and education, Robert Mugabe and Zanu-PF are not going to get credit for that.

What are your main priorities right now on education?

Our primary goal this year is to make conditions for learning safe. We're looking at the provision of water and sorting out sanitary conditions for children. We've had two decades of neglect. So the physical buildings are collapsing. We need to get toilets working, provide clean water, and repair roofs and windows. Nothing grand, just stabilization.

We've just pushed through a medium-term plan that has been approved by cabinet. A key component is keeping teachers on board. We lost 20,000 teachers in 2007 and 2008. We've attracted a lot of them back but we need to do a lot more.

How would you assess America's role in Zimbabwe's democratization?

I thinks its important to emphasize consistency in foreign policy. America's attitude toward apartheid was to support the process [of reform.] People have very short memories. We've forget about Magnus Malan and the military leaders in South Africa, but the process succeeded because the international community embraced it. We haven't seen this process [in Zimbabwe] being embraced by the United States in the same way.

Even currently, there's an inconsistency. We see the U.S and Great Britain opening up with Myanmar. The military is still in effective control there -- more overtly in Burma than in Zimbabwe. At least in Zimbabwe we have the fig leaf of a civilian government. In Burma you don't even have that. Despite that, there's encouragement for the process. I don't see that happening in Zimbabwe. All we ask for is consistency.

Do you think that the kind reform from within we've seen in Myanmar over the past two years could be a possible future trajectory for Zimbabwe? 

The great fear about Zimbabwe is that we could revert to what Burma was prior to this period of relative enlightenment -- that the military will exercise their power directly. Having said that, I think we're far further down the road than Burma in terms of a new constitution. Morgan Tsvangirai has had a lot more effective power than Aung San Suu Kyi. We've got actual control of whole ministries. So I think if the international community supported that process more proactively, one could argue we have an even greater chance of getting to effective democracy.