Sunday, May 30, 2010

Pakistanis critique their own society

I wish I could say better things about Pakistan. The people of the country deserve better. The one thing that seems so crucial and obvious -- but is discussed far too little -- is that the war in Afghanistan will never end if Pakistan cannot desist from nourishing the Afghan Taliban who are trying to unseat the current regime in Afghanistan. That, in turn, is unlikely to happen unless the Pakistanis find a way to re-configure their country into a much more stable society, resolving some of the many internal contradictions in its essential structure.
Actually, what some Pakistanis have to say reveals the issues as starkly as anyone from the outside could. I pray for the Pakistanis to come to terms with themselves, for some of the elements in that country that are deliberately tolerated by those in power [which is to say the army] are at war with the rest. Nothing reveals more grotesquely how intense the war is than the attack on the two mosques that took place this week. And no statements can reveal more pungently how conflicted this country is than the statements I reproduce below. The first is by Najam Sethi who has earned his right to respect, having already been imprisoned and misrepresented by his government merely for saying in India what he had said publicly in Pakistan. The second is by a woman who replied to his comment. Their comments speak for themselves. Note that they appeared in the Muslim magazine Islamic Ideology. RLC

Islamic Ideology 28 May 2010, NewAgeIslam.Com
PAKISTANI state and society is Pakistan’s own worst enemy
By Najam Sethi
May 28, 2010
PAKISTANI state and society is Pakistan’s own worst enemy. Consider. Fauzia Wahab, a PPP spokesperson, is in the dock because of remarks she made in the context of explaining why President Asif Zardari enjoyed constitutional immunity and could not be dragged before the courts. Sections of the media and mullahs argue that if Hazrat Umar could present himself before a Qazi court in the seventh century and be held accountable, why should a mere mortal like Mr Zardari enjoy immunity from prosecution today? Ms Wahab’s rejoinder was that modern democratic societies are governed by constitutions or social contracts between the state and people and that no such set of rules or laws defined state relations during the time of Hazrat Umar! But this, say her detractors, amounts to “blasphemy” because society was governed in accordance with the provisions of the Holy Quran at that time and there is no more comprehensive or sufficient “constitution” for governing Muslims than the Holy Quran. Accordingly, mullahs have been provoked to issue fatwas against Ms Wahab and at least one offended citizen has moved the courts to order the police to register a case of “blasphemy” against her.
There are obvious ironies here. Pakistan is an “Islamic state”, says Pakistan’s constitution as amended by General Zia ul Haq in the 1980s, and anything “repugnant to Islam” in it must be weeded out. The quest for “Islamising” Pakistan’s constitution, which led to the introduction of an omnibus clause defining “blasphemy”, has been going on since the dictator’s time, not just via the provincial high courts and supreme court but also via special institutions created for this purpose by the dictator, namely the Federal Shariat Court and the Council of Islamic Ideology and the Islamic Appellate Bench of the Supreme Court.
IT is strange then that the clause relating to presidential immunity should have been allowed to prevail in the constitution despite ten additional amendments to the constitution spread over half a dozen governments in the last thirty years. Indeed, the most pervasive 18th constitutional amendment enacted only a month ago by an unprecedented all- parties consensus studiously ignores this, despite a clause by clause pruning of the constitution for eighteen months by a parliamentary committee which led to a change in 105 clauses of the constitution.
Ms Wahab’s critics, it may also be noted, are among those who are in the forefront of the political struggle to empower the judiciary to become “more supreme” than parliament which is supposed to be supreme. No less significantly, they are also leading the political movement to “get Zardari” by hook or by crook. The irony here is that they want modern judges in Pakistan to appoint themselves and be totally independent of parliament or the executive, a sentiment that is outrageously at odds with “Islamic” practice during the time of the Caliphs when Qazis were appointed and removed by the “Islamic” executive authority! (Even today, the executive appoints judges in all countries that claim to be Islamic states, eg Saudi Arabia, Libya, etc) Indeed, these are the very groups which are agitating against the 18th amendment’s clause that seeks to introduce a judicial plus parliamentary commission to oversee the appointment of judges to the high court’s and supreme court.
The second issue which is agitating “Islamic” minds in Pakistan is a Facebook competition to draw images of the Holy Prophet Mohammad (peace be upon him). The Lahore High Court has ordered the government to block a page on Facebook that has outraged Muslims. But officials are inclined to be more loyal-than- the king.
Therefore, in the guise of protecting the diverse sentiments of Muslims globally, they have blocked over 1000 sites, including Youtube, Flickr and Wikipedia, etc., which seemingly offend for one reason or another.
Ironically, though, the global Muslim response to Facebook does not reflect the same religious intensity as in Pakistan.
Where Pakistani Muslims are agitating on the streets, in parliament and on the internet, for religious reasons, certain Islamic states that claim to be custodians or guardians of Islam like Sunni Saudi Arabia and Shia Iran have been more inclined to censor political comment on the internet.
Iran, in fact, blocked Facebook in the run-up to the country’s presidential elections last year to stop supporters of the reformist candidate Mir Hossein Mousavi from using the site for his political campaign.
Libya, Tunisia, Turkmenistan, and Egypt have also banned internet sites mostly to block political dissent. TURKEY doesn’t like Youtube because there are anti-Mustafa Kamal Ataturk videos hosted on it! In short, politics and religion continue to be combined in various ways in the Muslim world to quell political or religious dissent at home or abroad.
Unfortunately, Pakistan seems more prone to hurt itself than other Muslim states by constantly veering between democracy and dictatorship, religious extremism and moderation, global partnership and international isolation. “Jihad” is the norm in one decade, “Enlightened moderation” is up for grabs in another.
One day, the Taliban are fellow Muslims with whom peace deals must be signed; another day, they are terrorists against whom a bloody war must be waged. One day, American aid is self-righteously rejected; another day Pakistan is demanding a US-backed Marshal Plan. Today, the Holy Quran is being cited to deny President Zardari immunity from prosecution but the “basic structure of the Constitution” is being cited to stop modern day Qazis (judges) from being appointed or sacked by the Executive as in the days of Islamic yore.
Such hypocrisy and double standards in the name of religion cannot sustain, let alone nourish, modern nation-building.
The writer is Editor of The Friday Times
Source: Mail Today

date 29 May 2010 04:01
Subject: Harassment by personnel of different intelligence agencies
Respected sir,
I am a citizen of Lahore a social and peace activist, founder of Institute for Peace and Secular Studies. As such I have been involved in numerous social and right based activities for the last fifteen years. My activities involve peace initiative with our neighbours particularly India and additionally involved in campaign against various injustices prevalent in our society regarding minorities, women, poor and the underprivileged. For reasons that I cannot fathom these lawful activities have led to my constant harassment by the intelligence agencies of the country.
Following my protests against the horrors of Shantinagar massacre in 1999, my visits to India as part of people to people peace initiatives and visits of some Indian delegates to my home, I have been constantly harassed by various intelligence agencies.
I have been taken to various police station, forcibly picked up from the Lahore Press Club by the intelligence personnel to be later dropped outside their office near the Lahore Zoo, constantly threatened on the phone through “private caller ID” and harassed through regular visits to my home. Additionally my mobile phone and contact diary have been stolen. What is more depressing is that these agencies always ask the same questions’ who is you husband and provide us the detail of your family? ’Why are you interested in peace with India since India is our enemy’, ‘What is the source of your funding?’
I am a law abiding citizen of Pakistan with no links to any religious organization or a political party, and I work for the benefit of the people of my land within my constitutional rights and nothing to hide from anyone. If intelligence agencies have an issue with what I do, I appeal to you to kindly instruct all security agencies to carry out formal investigation where I should be permitted to answer all allegations, suspicions and question. This is my basic right and i request you to ensure it should not be denied.
Over the last few weeks I have found intelligence personnel stationed outside my house they have often sought entry into my house which I have not allowed without demanding the proof of their identity. Three officials have shown me their identity cards purportedly issued by the ISI, IB and the special branch. Sadly their manner of interrogation has always been impolite, menacing and threatening.
I urge you to please examine the following possibilities
• Are these officials harassing me under instructions from their seniors, or
• Is it possible that the higher authorities have nothing to do with the harassment of a woman who is a peace and human right activist and these officials are acting at their own .
In view of the above I appeal to you to look into my complaint and order these personal to refrain, from interfering with my right, and harassment, those found guilty for transgressing their powers and acting outside the law should be suitably punished under the law.
I should like to make it clear that if the intelligence personnel do not stop festering me I shall have no option but to take this grave personal issue to the superior courts.
Please note Since I have been harassed to the extent that I have begun to fear not only for my personal life, but the life of my children as well .I have deposited copies of my petition with my lawyer and human rights organizations so that they may take appropriate action in case something untoward happens.
Hope my submission will receive your sympathetic and immediate attention.
Mani, Germany

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