New Age Islam Edit Bureau
10 August 2017
Another Look at History
By Kamila Hyat
What Freedom Meant
By I.A. Rehman
Principles Vs Pragmatism
By Khurram Husain
An Unburied Lion
By F.S. Aijazuddin
The Power Dynamics of Misogyny
By Abrahim Shah
By Enum Naseer
Follow the Money
By Rashid Javaid Rana
Compiled By New Age Islam Edit Bureau
August 10, 2017
As preparations begin for us to celebrate
what will be the 70th anniversary of
Pakistan’s creation and the independence of the Subcontinent, it is time to
take a realistic and, possibly, not very palatable look at all that has
Publishing articles and reports that
document the memories of people who lived through that time provides a reminder
of just how horrific the breaking up of united India was for millions of
families. The largest genocide to have occurred in history is infrequently
mentioned in our country and glossed over in history books. We know from
anecdotal accounts that even Muhammad Ali Jinnah himself was shocked when he
saw the aftermath of the sequence of events that led to the hasty division of a
A majority of people in their 70s and 80s
who are now speaking out are attempting to leave behind some record of the true
ugliness of what took place. Those who still live in Lahore describe the
painful separation from friends belonging to the Hindu or Sikh community who
vanished suddenly. Their belongings are still with families in Pakistan and are
a reminder of how quickly they had to flee in order to avoid a massacre amid
the madness that occurred.
Others who moved from what is now India
describe the murder of family members and a sudden conversion of peaceful
villages into killing fields. Jinnah and his peers are not around today to tell
us how they had envisaged the divide would occur. It seems that they had
astonishingly not predicted how much hatred, death and misery would be
unleashed throughout the region – which, of course, stretches right into
As we wave small green and white flags that
are being sold everywhere or place larger ones on our rooftops, we should be
thinking a little more about the reality of what happened. The purpose of
Partition was, according to those who led the movement, to give Muslims a
homeland of their own. As we look at the wave of intolerance seeping across
India today under the government of Narendra Modi, we have reason to be glad
for this. But is it not true that within the land that was created in 1947, a
large number of Muslims have been killed at the hands of those who share the
The events of 1971 have been carefully
obliterated from history books and are simply never spoken about in our
country. Few can imagine the horrors that took place at Dhaka University and
many other places or the racial intolerance that marked the attitudes of people
living in what was then West Pakistan and, in a number of cases, working in the
eastern wing of the country. The prejudice continues today. The basis of
religion for the creation of a nation then falls into question.
Even since then, there have been many other
needless acts of violence committed against Muslims and also against
non-Muslims who should have been protected by a people who understood the
damage that acts of discrimination by a majority population could inflict.
Instead, as the decades have passed, we have become a country where sectarian
violence is rife, certain groups are discriminated against and militancy has
impacted tens of thousands of families across the country.
At a few forums, people are brave enough to
ask why Pakistan was carved out in the first place. But, of course, it is
easier to talk about this in hindsight now that they see what has happened.
Interestingly, in Israel – the only other country founded on the basis of
religion – similar forms of discrimination exist. It appears that those who are
persecuted are no less willing to persecute others when they get the
opportunity and power. The fate of the Palestinians in the Middle East and of
many smaller groups in Pakistan serves as a testimony to this belief.
Of course, we must now think of the future
and find a way to salvage the country that has been created. This has to be the
primary goal. Merely staging expensive celebrations will not achieve this. We
need also to look back at history and tell the truth. The truth is always
subjective. But we can make an attempt to document the voices of different
people who saw what happened to their cities and to their lives.
The project undertaken by the Citizens
Archive to record and put together the history of people who lived through 1947
is an important one. Ideally, the media and other groups should follow on from
here. But they will not do so. We have been told a false narrative for so long
that we have come to believe it without questioning its authenticity. Very
little thought accompanies this belief. There were some major parties that had
demanded greater autonomy for all Muslim-majority regions that would have
avoided a bloody slicing up of India and provinces, including Punjab and
Of course, this is a matter for debate and
discussion by experts. There are pros and cons to this debate. However, there
is no harm in bringing these matters before the people and allowing a freer
discussion. The blocking of thought processes and the deliberate moulding of
mindsets to fit a particular pattern reflects a legacy of fascism and other
similar systems. The greatest gift we could give our people on the 70th
anniversary of our independence is to offer them the power to reason, think and
take an open look at history.
The willingness to examine history under
different lenses is limited all over the world. The manner in which terrible
events, such as the first and second world wars as well as more recent
conflicts in Vietnam, Iraq and other places, could have been avoided is not
discussed frequently enough. Yes, we now know that the Iraq War was largely a
result of falsehood and the lies told by major leaders – who had, in some
cases, been fooled by their own intelligence agencies. Inquiries into those
events and some excellent documentaries by the independent media have exposed
Bush, Blair and many others. These are acts of true courage. Future generations
can learn and benefit throughthese efforts.
We need to develop a similar form of
bravery within our own broken nation. In the first place, we must admit that it
is broken. It is badly divided along the lines of wealth, gender, ethnicity and
religion that have deepened with time. Patriotism should involve an attempt to
improve the lives of people and be honest about what we say and what we believe
When history is as distorted as it is in
our country, people simply do not have the room to understand what took place
or to learn about the horrors that mark their past. Recognising these facets
can motivate them to make a bigger effort to undo the wrongs that took place
and build a brighter future for every Pakistani who now lives within the
boundaries of the country. This mission should have been undertaken many
decades ago. But, perhaps, it is better to begin now rather than abandon this
initiative forever and fall into greater disarray.
THREE days hence the people will be
celebrating the 70th anniversary of the birth of Pakistan in the hope that at
70 the state will start displaying some qualities of maturity and
responsibility that many younger countries acquired in their youth.
Before we begin the Independence Day
festivities, the members of the minority communities will be observing
tomorrow, Aug 11, as Minorities Day in remembrance of the address the Quaid
delivered before the constituent assembly. They will go over that speech again
and again to remind the powers that be of the ideals the founder of the state
had set for them. They will also recall the Supreme Court judgement of June
2014 that offered a broad framework for not only guaranteeing the minorities
due protection but also according their rights as equal citizens better respect
than they have so far received.
Mention might be made of the Supreme
Court’s implementation bench that had been charged with ensuring enforcement of
the verdict. The minorities should be forgiven if they think their case is as
important as any other.
Why should the minorities alone celebrate
Aug 11 with reference to the Quaid’s speech?
The next day, that is, on Aug 12, at a
modest place in Hyderabad a relatively small crowd of people will be paying
homage to Nazeer Abbasi, a different kind of shaheed, who had dared to oppose a
mighty dictator so that we could hold our heads high, call this land our own
and live without fear of falling to the sniper’s bullet. So let us also
celebrate Nazeer Abbasi’s courage and his commitment.
It is necessary to remind ourselves of the
tyranny of the regime under which Nazeer Abbasi was killed. But it is more
important to remember Nazeer’s courage to speak out when most people had chosen
to remain silent. While celebrating freedom we must not fail to honour all
those valiant souls, from different parts of the country, who strove to offer
its correct meaning.
But why should the minorities alone
celebrate Aug 11 with reference to the Quaid’s speech on that day 70 years ago?
Didn’t that speech have something that the entire nation ought to celebrate?
True, the Quaid promised the non-Muslim citizens equality with the Muslims, but
this was not a concession to the minorities. It was in the interest of the
Muslims. Without taking the minorities along, the Muslims could not have
realised themselves, then and they cannot realise themselves now. Besides, the
Quaid said much more in his address in 1947 that the whole nation must
When the Quaid declared that religion had
nothing to do with the business of the state did he not reject the idea of a
theocratic dispensation? After emphasising the sovereign character of the
assembly as the federal legislature he defined as its first task maintenance of
law and order “so that the life, property and religious beliefs of the subjects
are fully protected by the state”.
The other primary responsibilities of the
state were eradication of corruption as manifested in bribery, nepotism and
black marketing. But these basic requirements of good governance were not being
told to Pakistan’s politicians for the first time; these had formed part of the
dream of freedom those fighting for independence from alien rule had including
those working under the banner of the Muslim League and shouting for Pakistan.
It is often said that what was meant by
freedom was never spelt out. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Maybe,
the leaders by and large had not applied their minds to the needs and
aspirations of the drawers of water and hewers of wood, as Iqbal described the
poor Muslims, but what was said at the platform of the Muslim League too can
give us an idea of what was meant by freedom.
We find that in 1908, the campaigners
against colonial rule wanted separation of the judiciary from the executive,
right to primary education, end of official interference in local, government
and development of village unions for settling petty civil and criminal cases.
We also find the Muslim League demanding in
1918, the inclusion in the constitutional arrangement a bill of rights that
guaranteed the people equality before law, the right to life, liberty,
property, freedom of speech, expression and association, and freedom of the
Nearly two decades later the Muslim League
was asked by the president of its annual session to adopt a four-point
programme as its immediate aim. These points were:
A democratic, responsible government, with
Repeal of all exceptionally repressive laws
and the granting of the right of free speech, freedom of the press and
Immediate economic relief to the peasantry;
State provision for educated and uneducated unemployed; and an eight-hour
working day, with fixed minimum wages for the workers.
Introduction of free, compulsory primary
The Socio-Economic Programme adopted at the
Lucknow session of the Muslim League in 1937 has often been recalled. It also
included a resolve to uphold the rights of workers and peasants, to end rural
indebtedness, and also to free Muslim society of un-Islamic accretions.
All this is being recalled to demonstrate
that the fact of Pakistan meaning different things to different people does not
matter. The landlords had hoped to regain their mortgaged properties. The
clerks in the secretariat perhaps wanted to become deputy secretaries and the
assistant sub-inspectors of police might have fixed their eyes on DSP’s
uniform. But what inspired the millions of ordinary people was simply a
yearning for security of life and liberty and escape from poverty, disease and
The question that needs to be answered on
completion of 70 years of a sort of self-rule is as to how could the rulers
forget the dreams we had during the freedom struggle and the advice of the
founder of the state, and why did the people let them get away with it?
THIS is neither about principles nor about
the politics of pragmatism. This is a power struggle, pure and simple. One
person has the power and the other one wants it. The other one says and does
whatever he can (in this case since both are men, there is no need for gender
neutrality in language) to strip the other of power and take it for himself.
Once you realise that, and truly internalise its meaning, you see how little
many of the terms being invoked to justify one or the other position really
There are two courts at play here: the
court of law and the people’s court. One party has prevailed in one court, so
the other is leveraging his strength in the other court to build his position.
The proximity of the elections is the key here. If the N League returns with a
heavy mandate after the elections, it will have an opportunity to turn to
everybody else, particularly the PTI, and say ‘Hun Das?’ (‘Now what?’)
And one cannot, should not rule that
possibility out. Elections are strange creatures and it is a tricky game to try
and forecast their outcome based on one’s ‘gut feeling’. One poll done in
heavily contested constituencies by the Institute of Development and Economic
Alternatives in Lahore found that “[t]hirty-two per cent of potential voters
Never underestimate the paradoxes of
democratic politics. Never underestimate how large this field really is.
So the big question at the moment is
actually this: what is the voter’s assessment of the PML-N’s chances of victory
following the disqualification of Nawaz Sharif? This is neither a principled
question, nor a strictly pragmatic one. If anything, it is a supremely
opportunistic question, much like the Punjab voter. On this question will hinge
the endgame of this whole affair, not on how well the technicalities of the
disqualification order are debated by one side or the other, and not on how Sadiq
and Ameen the party leadership is on either end.
And on this question, the jury has not even
been assembled, let alone begun to decide. The disqualification and the long
march currently under way, the fourth since a former chief justice made the
same journey following his dismissal by Musharraf, are both just dust thrown up
by the struggle whose end will be decided by factors far beyond courts orders
and the legal debates that they kicked off.
A large part of the answer to the question
will hinge on the candidates fielded by either party in each constituency.
Those who think the narratives debated in TV talk shows decide elections forget
that in parliamentary systems, the voter sees the candidate first and the party
second. To some extent, the PPP managed to skirt this rule, but by 2013 the
party’s own appeal and the sacrifices of its leadership were no longer able to
bear electoral fruit.
Then there is the material circumstances
obtaining in the country at the time of polling: widespread load-shedding,
rampant dollarisation and galloping inflation can aggravate an anti-incumbency
bias. With a large number of undecided voters already in the field, and perceptions
in a flux following the disqualification, and the economy beginning to run
short on the vital macroeconomic fuel needed to ensure basic stability on the
surface in a year’s time, there could well be some swing in the elections. But
it is nowhere near a foregone conclusion at this point in time.
Those people insisting that there is a play
of morality here, please consider a little history. We have heard this tale of
accountability far too often now to take it seriously anymore. None other than
Nawaz Sharif himself argued, after his return from exile and the elections of
2008, that he was following a politics of principles. Remember his position in
the restoration of the judges, or in the debates around the NRO? That was
quintessentially the pragmatic vs principled politics debate, and his victory
back then has become a thorn in his side today.
Today, it is his party arguing for a
politics of pragmatism while the PTI has inherited the mantle of principles.
But even the great Khan is not immune from the tides of inevitability that sway
politics. Remember when he used to glorify the early years of Musharraf as the
perfect moment in Pakistan’s politics? Politics was held in abeyance and
technocrats ran the ship of state, he used to say. That’s what he wanted, to
bring the curtain down on politics altogether.
Then came the inevitable participation in
the game as elections approached. So his party went to the electorate, in 2013,
asking for the vote and promising a ‘tsunami’. But then another prickly
question was posed to him: with whom would he form a coalition if his seat
share was short of the majority needed to form a government? His response:
He will not sit in a coalition with any of
the parties because they are all corrupt, all tainted, and he has not come to
play in the game of politics, but to stand athwart it, to end it and subsume
its complexities into his simple, formulaic brand of born-again leadership.
Today, we see the same party fielding
Sheikh Rashid as its candidate for prime minister after the disqualification of
Nawaz Sharif, standing shoulder to shoulder on the containers with Chaudhry
Shujaat and Pervaiz Elahi, playing a video of Pervez Musharraf praising its
leader at a rally marking its biggest triumph yet.
Yes, never underestimate the paradoxes of
democratic politics. Never underestimate how large this field really is, how
empty the words, how feeble the deeds and how vast the multitude that
eventually sits in judgement. Never forget that the road of politics is
endless, there is no endpoint. Above all, more than winning, the game is about
survival, and survival is a brutal beast that feeds on the virtues of the
ELECTED governments in Pakistan have less
to fear from the Indian army than from their own — with good reason. For almost
60 years, since October 1958, politicians have lost every battle to gain the
higher ground of civilian supremacy. Will they ever win the war?
After the fall of East Pakistan in December
1971, Mr Zulfikar Ali Bhutto had the opportunity to send a demoralised army
back to the barracks. Many assumed he would. Instead, he opted to become
Pakistan’s fourth president and third chief martial law administrator. He could
not resist imitating his militaristic hero Napoleon Bonaparte.
In 1977, Mr Bhutto, accused of rigging the
general elections, was brutally reminded that, while political parties owe
their loyalty to the electorate, the Pakistan Army owes its allegiance to the
state. Political parties may hustle to present themselves to their voters as
the better option. They may take turns on the merry-go-around of selfish
governance. But the Pakistan Army — one of the region’s largest standing armies
— stands also as the vigilant watchdog of the national interest, the muscular
alternative to mismanaged democracy.
The public has nothing but the lowest
One word common to the lexicon of civilian
governments and the security establishment is contempt. Civilian governments
routinely display contempt for the public; the security establishment regularly
betrays contempt for civilians. There is a view that elected governments are
regarded as unwanted pregnancies, to be aborted whenever need be, to save the
motherland. The latest still-birth is the ouster of a third-time prime minister
Nawaz Sharif. It was done with a sleight of pen worthy of the late Sharifuddin
In time, books will be written on the way
Sharif’s removal was induced. There will be tardy admissions of remorse, as
there were after Z.A. Bhutto’s hanging. Many associated with this latest case
may want, like Pontius Pilate, to absolve themselves. What no one in Islamabad
will be able to escape is culpability for an unforgivable degeneration in
standards at every level.
We know the army prefers to subsist within
the boundaries of its own self-demarcated, well-defended political cantonment.
Civilians envy its manicured order, its privileges like housing, schooling,
medical facilities, preferential allotment of state lands, pensions (borne
directly by the civilian budget), and gilded retirement. No wonder civilians
feel like inferior ‘children of a lesser god’.
The custodians of our law have revealed a
fragile fallibility. Many remember a former chief justice’s obiter dicta
deciding Nawaz Sharif’s restoration to the prime minister-ship in 1993. “The
law,” he pronounced, “is mightier than the King of Kings.” They have now seen
his successors at the same Supreme Court stoop from that intellectual
pre-eminence to quoting from an airport lounge novel The Godfather.
Many question why the Supreme Court has
usurped the mundane functions of a magistrate’s court — that of investigation,
prosecution, and judgement? By allowing the media to set up camp on its very
doorstep and then live-stream the progress of the case being adjudicated
inside, the dignity of the Supreme Court cannot but be demeaned.
From politicians, the public has nothing
but the lowest expectations. Political debate has sunk to such abysmal levels
that no one is shocked or surprised anymore by increasingly salacious,
putrefying revelations. Scurrilous pictures of Mrs Nusrat Bhutto dancing with President
Gerald Ford in 1975 were small potatoes compared to the present character assassination
of the PTI leader Imran Khan. He is accused by Ms Aaisha Gulalai (a rebel PTI
party member) of having sent her inappropriate messages four years ago. Only
technology can affirm or refute her belated allegations.
The PTI has retaliated by fielding their
own Ayesha — Ayesha Ahad, who alleges that she is the mistreated wife of Chief
Minister Shahbaz Sharif’s son Hamza Sharif. With apologies to both, one is
reminded of a poem — John F. Kennedy’s favourite — about a pet so elongated
that “when its eyes were filled with tears of sadness, its tail still wagged
from previous gladness”. With Ayesha and Aaisha on board, can the Sita White
scandal be far behind?
Mr Imran Khan once boasted that he had been
offered the prime minister-ship by Gen Musharraf. It seems he is now expecting
similar largesse from his successor. Meanwhile, there is wounded Nawaz Sharif
left to finish. Almost 175 years ago, on Sept 15, 1843, the Sikh Maharaja Sher
Singh was murdered by his opponents at Shah Bilawal, outside Lahore. A Persian
couplet described the tragedy: Ba Shauq Sagan Shikar-I-Sheran Kardand (‘for
their sport, curs hunted lions’).
An unburied Nawaz Sharif plans to wreak revenge.
Ironically, both Z.A. Bhutto in 1977 and Nawaz Sharif in 2017, when ousted from
prime minister’s house, repaired first to Murree, then made a triumphant
journey to Lahore. Will Nawaz Sharif like Bhutto be arrested before he reaches
Lahore? Or will his revolution succeed where Bhutto’s revolt against Gen Ziaul
Ayesha Gulalai’s allegations against Imran
Khan and the subsequent invective the public has unleashed against her are
another stain on Pakistan’s increasingly losing battle against gender
discrimination and misogyny. Regardless of whether Gulalai’s allegations are
true or not, the response she has faced from the public — including notable
journalists and anchor-persons — is highly deplorable and highlights the sexism
endemic to our society.
The venomous response to Gulalai’s
accusations depicts how society intimidates and silences women who dare to
speak out against their oppressors. Intimidation and physical threats are in
fact fundamental tools males use to silence women. These threats can range from
emotional duress to outright physical acts of violence. Indeed, many men went
as far as to champion throwing acid on Gulalai as ‘punishment’ for her attempts
at ‘maligning Imran Khan’.
The callous way in which males can advocate
for violent measures such as acid throwing highlights not only their complete
disregard for women but also shows the power dynamics that lie at the heart of misogyny.
Whereas women like Gulalai are publically condemned for claiming they were
harassed by a male in a powerful position, all males have the right to advocate
violent acts against women.
Ayesha Gulalai’s vilification is both a
product of this power dynamic and further reinforces it. Controlling the
narrative is one way to shape opinions and discourse, and the conversation over
gender parity is very much in the hands of men.
Moreover, the masculine segment of society
is further able to perpetuate its control by shaming and publically ridiculing
women who dare to challenge the hegemony of tyrannical masculine forces. This
shaming, forces woman to remain silent in the face of oppression and accept
their position as suppressed minorities in society. Thus, when men are
ridiculing Ayesha Gulalai and threatening to act violently against her, they
are exploiting the power they have over women which society has afforded them.
When men ridicule Gulalai and also threaten
her with violence — they are simply exploiting the power they have over women
and which society has afforded them
It is important to realise that this power
dynamic is not at all limited to our political landscape. It is in play when a
man beats his wife or threatens her with divorce. It is evident when a woman is
castigated for giving birth to a daughter and not to a son. It is in front of
our eyes when women are catcalled in public, and it is evident when the honour
killings of women like Qandeel Baloch are justified on the premise that ‘she
had it coming to her’.
This episode also sheds light on another
aspect of misogyny in Pakistan — that a woman is never taken as an individual,
but as a representative of her family, culture, and community. This aspect also
lies behind so called ‘honour killings’ as well, where a woman is killed
because she somehow violated the honour or public standing of a male relative.
This was very evident in the way our public
resorted to condemning Ayesha’s sister, Maria Toorpakai. Maria was accused of
wearing shorts and thus somehow promoting promiscuity in society, and this was
in some way related to Ayesha’s own allegations against Imran Khan.
Society’s tendency to clump together Ayesha
and her sister and shame both of them highlights how women are seen as
representatives of those around them, and how they are considered responsible
for the actions of others. This is very prevalent in common speak as well,
where we continuously hear of how a woman must have corrupted a man, or caused
discord in families.
These charges against women, and
allegations that women are somehow more emotional and irrational than men stem
from the narrative a male-dominated society has created to perpetuate the
control of one gender over another.
Understanding the reasoning behind shaming
Gulalai’s sister is in fact crucial to fighting misogyny all over the world.
Since the advent of liberalism and the prominence of philosophers such as James
Mill and John Stuart Mill, women have come to represent progress and modernity
As a counterweight to this, traditional
thinkers especially in South Asia advocated an ideology that claimed women
represent ‘tradition’ and modesty, and thus, any steps taken by a woman which
seem out of line from this definition of tradition are considered immodest and a
violation of a society’s norms.
This is why a man’s honour is falsely tied
to his wife or sister or mother or any female relative, and this also pushes
men to shoulder the responsibility of ‘protecting’ women. This protection in
fact, takes the guise of oppressing women and jealously circumscribing their
freedoms of action, thought and movement.
Any discussion of fighting misogyny,
therefore, must start with men acknowledging their culpability in promoting
sexism. Claims such as ‘not all men’ and ‘it’s all in good fun’ must be
jettisoned for they in fact perpetuate misogyny. Each and every one of us is
guilty of promoting sexism if we ever claimed — no matter how casually — that a
woman is more sentimental or if we ever laughed at a rape joke.
We must also appreciate that the fight
against sexual harassment and against the oppression of women is indeed an
uphill one, but we can initiate the struggle by supporting Ayesha Gulalai and
defending her right to speak out in public. Let men take responsibility for once.
And let us stop shaming the better half.
The spectacle of violent hatred on social
media that started after Ayesha Gulalai went public with harassment allegations
against Imran Khan and has continued to grow unabated brought us face-to-face
with the level of our societal decay.
The presumption of innocence for the
accused quickly morphed into a vicious demonising of the accuser. It did not
stop here. The ease with which her sister, a squash champion, was dragged
through a nightmare that she did not sign up for was abhorrent. Just days ago,
we were all decrying a revenge rape in a village near Multan. To add insult to injury,
a Jirga’s decision is now a part of the recourse plan of the aggrieved
In a society as violent as ours, a woman
coming forward with such a claim not only puts her image but her entire life at
risk. And when she takes such a step, she must be heard. In cases involving the
harassment of women by men, among the many things to consider are gender and
power relations in tandem with the burden of proof which, sadly, lies with the
In total negation of these nuances, while
championing the presumption of innocence of the accused, society often denies
the accuser the empathy that it will happily extend to an idolised man and
backs her against a wall. While it may still be hard for us to wrap our heads
around the idea, in no way does simply listening to the latter’s account
jeopardise the innocence of the former.
How long will it take for us to inculcate
the decency to hear a victim’s account quietly before we start foaming at the
mouth over defiled honour? When will we understand that the accuser has a case
that deserves to be heard simultaneously while we believe the accused to be
innocent until proven otherwise?
For future reference, harassment is a
sensitive issue. It is as real as the air we breathe and may be just as
difficult to substantiate. And it is widespread: in the workplace, at bazaars
and on the road in the form of unsolicited attention and commentary and
everywhere women have learnt to tune out. Educated women and women who know
their rights also know that they don’t have an inexhaustible reservoir of
energy and courage. Out of fear of being ostracised, shamed and even subjected
to violence – which are significant components of women’s social conditioning –
they might choose to remain silent.
And when they are ready to tell their
truths, they must be prepared for a societal backlash. They often learn the
hard way that their pain amounts to nothing if their thoughts and stories
aren’t organised to communicate their concerns effectively. They often learn
that the very systems that give them the proverbial golden star on their
foreheads for model conduct are systems that will not come to their aid in
times of need. They often realise too late that the veil of ghairat across
their heads can one day strangle them in panic when they transgress the lines
of acceptable behaviour.
It is interesting to note how an entire
political party rushed to its chief’s defence as if it had already decided,
without due process, which one of the two was guilty and whom it needed to own.
The response to Ayesha Gulalai’s allegations eventually stooped to the level of
‘this is the same man who made you an MNA’ – as if a female lawmaker should
spend the rest of her life in grateful awareness of her dependency and
eventually acquiesce to benevolent oppression.
The current episode started with a presser,
involved two high-profile politicians and took place after the Panama verdict
during a time of political turmoil. Audiences who are accustomed to fashioning
their living rooms as mock courts had their own theories and understandings of
justice. Many of these theories were ghastly and left on Twitter for the world
to see, with threats of acid attacks and murder being the key themes.
Meanwhile, the situation has developed at a
pace of its own. It is unfortunate that given the portrayal of Ayesha Ahad’s
emergence on the scene – much like pawns on a chessboard – two alleged victims
of misogyny are being pitted against each other. The party chief tweeted:
“First test for new PM: Will he set up [parliamentary committee] to investigate
serious allegations levelled by Ayesha Ahad [against] PML-N MNA Hamza Sharif?
Or will he remain a Darbari of the Sharifs [and] ignore allegations by Ayesha
Ahad [including] torture by Punjab police [and] deception by Hamza Sharif?”
This was followed up with: “Women rights activists should stand by Ayesha
Ahad’s quest for justice denied to her for [seven years of] physical [and]
mental abuse by Hamza Sharif.”
It is all up for public show as traumas are
made to compete in the political arena. Regardless of the merits of Ayesha
Gulalai’s or Ayesha Ahad’s allegations, the way that such sensitive matters are
being handled and the narrative is being constructed trivialises what we call
The rest may be left to how things shape up
in the coming days, what investigations reveal and what is concluded after
legal proceedings. But there is much to learn from all that is going terribly
wrong around us.
EVER since the Panama Papers were exposed,
many voices advocating accountability have surfaced on electronic, print and
social media. Time and again, the higher courts have reprimanded the
accountability machinery for its inaction, and the prevailing accountability
laws have been subjected to vitriolic criticism for their controversial
By declaring corruption a provincial
subject, the Sindh Assembly recently repealed the National Accountability
Ordinance, 1999. For all practical purposes, does this not mean that NAB has
become defunct in Sindh? Provincial anti-corruption departments have
limitations in exercising their respective jurisdictions, and the existing
framework of accountability laws does not cater for thorough accountability,
especially for financial crimes.
The concept of a welfare state is built
upon a vibrant revenue collection mechanism. Taxing citizens is one of the core
functions of the state. Article 7 of the Constitution defines the ‘state’ as
the government or the authority “by law empowered to impose any tax or cess”.
The very definition revolves around the functionality of an authority that is
responsible for exercising the power of taxation.
Tax Evaders Rarely Make The Headlines.
Among federal laws, the Income Tax
Ordinance, 2001 (ITO) is the most comprehensive. A public office holder, being
salaried, remains in the domain of tax jurisprudence. Having taxable incomes
from salaries or other sources, he or she is under a statutory obligation to
file an income tax return. Non-filing may result in the imposition of a
penalty. Likewise, in almost every public-sector organisation, a record of
assets and liabilities of its employees is maintained. Some institutions — like
the Lahore High Court, Benazir Income Support Programme, ECP, FBR, etc — have
ensured submission of asset declarations (even return filings) of its employees
and other stakeholders.
The FBR has taken a positive step towards
transparency and accountability with the latest parliamentarians’ tax
directory, published for the fourth consecutive year. Essentially, it’s a who’s
who and what’s what of income tax paid by the honourable members of the
national parliament and provincial assemblies. Every public-sector organisation
must publish similar directories of their employees or other subjects under
their administrative control or jurisdiction.
Ultimately, all institutions engaged in the
process of accountability have to turn to the income tax returns of the
accused. Presently, under the income tax law, the order for assessment is
deemed to have been passed when a declaration of income and assets is filed.
Presumption of the truth is attached with this declaration unless it is
subjected to an audit, through which this self-assessment of a person’s income
may also be amended on the basis of ‘definite information’ received by the
In cases where the money trail is not
provided, or the lifestyle of an individual does not match that of the declared
means of income, provisions in the ITO — entering and searching premises and
calling for information from any person — become powerful tools in the hands of
the tax machinery in order to investigate such practices and make such
If someone conceals their income or furnishes
inaccurate particulars they may be prosecuted for the offence, punishable with
imprisonment up to two years, or with fine, or both. Moreover, concepts like
foreign sources of income, resident and non-resident persons, etc also act as a
stringent control against tax evaders internationally. In general, the
enforcement of returns and wealth statements of public office holders with a
salary or any other source of income is an inclusive task in the administration
of tax law.
Pakistan became a signatory to the
Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development last year, which was a
step in right direction. The formulation of an anti-money laundering agency in
the FBR’s Inland Revenue wing is a silver lining in the accountability process
through taxation. Likewise, bilateral tax treaties also serve as an effective
tool for further scrutiny in such cases.
Perhaps due to the absence of an evolved
tax culture, tax evaders rarely make headlines in this land of the pure. If the
person under investigation is a public functionary, he or she may be held
accountable through the tax law more effectively. It would be a useful
alternative even in cases where the accountability law has been omitted or its
wings clipped by provincial enactments. The framework provided by tax laws is
more effective and efficient in cases of scrutiny for accretion in assets of
public office holders, as there is no plea bargain contained therein. It is the
need of the hour to prioritise and implement Pakistan’s income tax law framework
in letter and spirit.