Age Islam Edit Bureau
10 February 2017
By Kaleem Dean
No To Hate Speech
By Muneeb Farooq
States of Trumpland
By Noor Fatima Sultan Khan
Times for the Faithful
By Aijaz Zaka Syed
By Adnan Adil
Great Leap Backward
By I.A. Rehman
By Javaid Iqbal Bhat
Unobtrusive Saint of Lahore
By Maria Sartaj
Lies, Little Lies
By New Age Islam Edit Bureau
Dramatically, some bloggers kidnapped,
released and skedaddled. The quick episode of series of these incidents left
many questions, unanswered. The thunderbolt impression on affected individuals,
their families and the civil society at large has the hunch that the hostage
drama was part of the conspiracy or stratagem. Leaving aside speculations,
implications are serious, not only from within the country, the international
watchdogs get more elbow room to criticize Pakistani institutions. Bloggers and
thinkers are forerunners in all civilized societies, sometimes, offer bitter
pills for the well-being of the social and healthy culture.
Arresting these people may not delimit
their conscience, in a true sense, they are slaves of their ideologies, can be
killed or oppressed physically, but not spiritually. Let them speak and let the
society grow in, understanding, tolerance, equality, justice and human values.
In this case, the trouble did not stop at bloggers arrest or release but the
‘blasphemy charges’ were used as ‘mouth shut tool’. Is our society has reached
to the ill-famed vertex of religious intolerance to sway, the one, we do not
like, if this is the case, let us move to the real teaching of the religion, we
deem, a complete code of life. The Holy Quran provides such an environment
where all can enjoy the freedom of thought and all are allowed to live by faith
or values they believe in. Any Christian, Hindu, Sikh or person with another or
no belief has the right according to the basic tenets of Islam. The Quran
treats Jews and Christians as ‘people of the Book’. “God does not forbid you
from being good to those who have not fought you in the religion or driven you
from your homes, or from being just towards them, God loves those who are
just.” Therefore all human beings are equal including Muslim ‘bloggers’.
In a TV Show, several Islamic scholars and
Ulema-e-Haq from different Islamic denominations were consulted on the misuse
of ‘blasphemy law’ and surprisingly, all agreed that in several cases this law
is used for personal vendettas or the antagonism. Antithetically, any amendment
in the law is opposed against its misuse. Very recently, one of the PPP
Senators, Chair, expressed his concerns to bring any possible change in the law
which is bitterly being opposed by religious organizations. We have week brains
and memories; actually, the statement of the Senator was merely a political one
which was taken very seriously by the religious leaders. During PPP government,
Sherry Rehman, one of the parliamentarians tried to table an amendment bill and
Syed Yousaf Raza Gillani, the then Prime Minister of Pakistan not only withdrew
the bill rather ensured that no amendment in blasphemy law would be accepted or
allowed by the parliament.
It is interesting that when in the
opposition we try to do real things when we do not have the mandate to exercise
political rights, is not it? Should we expect from the present regime, no not
at all, the honourable Minister of Religious Affairs has precisely rejected any
proposal? Is there any ‘selected’ minority member, who dare to submit any
proposal, no way, remember the sacrifice of Salman Taseer who gave his life to
save the life of a blasphemy victim and also remember the assassination of
Shahbaz Bhatti, Minister of Minorities on 2 March 2011, his killers are still
on the run.
After the self-willed Military General
inaugurated the hardest version of blasphemy laws in 1985, the maniac social
tendency of victimizing ordinary people or marginalized communities has become
one of the references of the country that never has been taken seriously by any
of the governments, present nor previous. In each and every incident of the
blasphemy case, the civilized forces in and out of the country shout against
blasphemy laws but these voices are considered ‘very western’ which is not
true, anywhere in the world something goes against humanity, people cry, moves
are made and bloggers write. Such a fine example of this day, after the newly
American President, banned seven ‘MUSLIM’ countries for 90 days, all the
Christian world reacted against the step. Where is standing of our dear
country? Why the government is silent, not speaking a single word against the
decision. Islamic Clerics have cautioned to give tough time if the government
tries to bring any amendment in the blasphemy laws but not ready to demonstrate
‘pique’ against US ban on Islamic countries.
Christian countries speaking against Trump
and in the favour of Muslims, are protecting the heritage of humanitarian
values, values of equality and justice. American society, as well as the
western world, is standing with the communities of seven Muslim countries. Who
stands for minorities in Pakistan when the entire Joseph colony in Lahore is
torched but the court does not find any evidence against 115 accused setting
them free finding no evidence against them all, whereas the court found all
necessary proofs against SAWAN MASIH, a blasphemy victim from the same
ill-fated Joseph Colony, who is suffering in prison like many others including
Asia Bibi. It is imperative to re-launch investigation to bring justice in
Joseph Colony case, definitely, no revenants were invited for the filthy action
of incinerating poor Christian’s dwellings. When injustice becomes law,
societies, nations and civilizations are dilapidated. Sticking to rigidity will
serve nothing, but invite national and international criticism. Blasphemy laws
are there almost in every country, but seldom are these laws used against
individuals especially for despicable purposes.
The neighbouring Islamic country Bangladesh
has forbidden blasphemy by a provision in the penal code. Sheikh Hasina Wajid
describing Bangladesh a ‘secular democracy’ in 2013 rejected proposals by a
radical Islamist group, Hefazat-e-Islam’s ‘death penalty’ demand for people
charged under blasphemy law. Blasphemy laws particularly pertaining to religion
are absent in the Indian constitution. Section 295 (A) of the Indian Penal Code
introduced during British Raj to prevent hate speech that attempts to insult to
religion or religious feelings of any specific group or community. Indonesia,
the biggest Islamic country under Indonesian Criminal Code Article 156 (a)
forbids disgracing a religion; the maximal penalty is five years of
imprisonment. In the United Kingdom, under the Criminal Justice and Immigration
Act 2008, ‘the section 79 abolished the common law offences of blasphemy and
blasphemous libel in England and Wales’. The incessant abuse of blasphemy laws
in Pakistan demand urgent re-visiting of the law. The foremost responsibility
lies on the shoulders of Islamic clerics for the sought after solution.
The civil society and an educated youth,
the future keepers of the faith are vital too to bring social, cultural harmony
and tolerance in the society. The fact must not be ignored that sanctity of the
law is at stake after its businesslike use. Once again, bringing blasphemy
charges against bloggers will put the society in stinking bate that may foster
social vehemence. Because of the state of fear, bloggers are leaving the country,
was that the purpose of ‘blasphemy charges’? If so, Heaven forbid! Need to
To Hate Speech
February 10, 2017
It is indeed a travesty that our society is
propagating hate speech in the garb of free speech. It may sound harsh, but we
cannot deny that the inability to distinguish between intellectual diversity
and hate speech has brought us to this point.
These days, an opposing point of view is
not accepted. Religion – which is pure in nature – is being used to achieve
ulterior motives, such as labelling people traitors and terming their thoughts
and ideas sinful. We seek guidance from the teachings of Islam on all
occasions. But it is an unfortunate fact that we do not put them into practice
in our daily lives, especially when they are needed the most.
Islam teaches about patience and
forbearance. Dr Fazle Qadir Tarin writes in his book ‘Islam is misunderstood’
that “subject to merit, all human beings are equal in their rights as well as
in social obligations [4:58, 49:13]. Therefore, the freedom of an individual
ends where the freedom of others begins. Transgression of each other’s limit[s]
of the freedom, such as forcibly imposing own opinion or ideology (faith,
politics, culture) on others is ‘extremism’ (excess, Zulm). Making the freedom
of expression an excuse for ‘crossing own limit’ of the freedom is violation of
human rights (Zulm, crime) for it hurts the feelings of others”.
Today, this principle is not just
restricted to the hateful sermons delivered by a group of radical minds but has
also been extended to the mainstream media, which is now providing space for
such content. This has been allowed to happen even though we have a penal code,
which deals with offences related to the incitement to violence, and the
National Action Plan – which seeks to curb the dissemination of hate material
in any manner.
According to data compiled in August last
year, more than 14,000 cases were registered on charges of disseminating hate
speech and hate material. Though these details are extensive, questions have
surfaced about the ‘media-coated’ hate speech which is being practised by a
particular group of unscrupulous individuals.
The Ethical Journalism Network (EJN) has
set up a five-point test for journalists to assess the impact of hate speech.
The first point involves examining the position or status of the speaker to
determine how effectively he or she could influence people to achieve his or
her motives. The second point considers the impact of hate speech by assessing
how many people may be affected by a particular form of behaviour.
The third point explores why the hate
speech is being made and what goals it achieves. The fourth point examines what
the contents of the hate speech are and ascertains whether it is targeting
people for sectarian, political or intellectual preferences. The fifth point
explores the social, political and economic climate of the place where the hate
speech is made.
If Pemra – which is currently equipped with
weak legislation – incorporates these questions and guidelines, it will become
easy to determine whether specific content qualifies as hate speech in a court
of law or not.
Unfortunately, the media hates to regulate
itself and whenever someone else steps in to fulfil this task, the resulting
rebuke becomes almost inevitable.
The top echelons of the media have to
realise that no corporate interest can justify content that propagates hatred.
It is time mainstream media banned hate speech and compulsive liars. The
protagonists and supporters of free media and fearless journalism need to stand
up for the right cause this time because the deliberate confusion between free
speech and hate speech can cost lives.
Noor Fatima Sultan Khan
February 8, 2017
Those of us who experienced trauma as kids,
regularly because of bullies, fondled old injuries open simply by hearing
Trump’s furious maxim of aggression. Every one of us used to be a child. Every
one of us were, sooner or later, shut by somebody greater and louder saying,
“wrong, wrong,” however signifying “It’s not what you’re doing that is
wrong—it’s your identity that is off-base.”
Language is vital. Trump’s insulting “no
nos” are the figure of speech of risk and retaliation. For him, it’s
insufficient to boycott abortion; women who have abortions ought to be snubbed.
To him, it’s insufficient to triumph over Hillary Clinton; we need to loathe,
imprison, and conceivably even murder her. The horrible dialect of this
election and the Presidency of Trump is polluting America with enough
uneasiness and vitriol to dispatch a war.
For quite a while, it appeared like a joke;
Trump running Presidency. How could this six-time-bankrupt
billionaire-slash-reality-TV star expect to be taken seriously? His opening
move—naming Mexican immigrants, rapists —instantly lost the left, and his
downgrade of John McCain, from hero to loser looked as though it would cost him
the establishment right. But, in the wake of tussling with Megyn Kelly at the
primary GOP debate, and proposing that she had blood leaving her “wherever,” he
finished the incomprehensible. How did this mango Mussolini hope to win the
White House? Who could vote for him? Apparently, half America!
In any case, there’s no denying that his
messages had resonance with non-rational American minds. Scrutinising Obama’s
birthright, threatening to boycott Muslims, painting migrants as criminals to
be dreaded — these are not policy positions. They are flammable words and
pictures intended to light a movement. An optimistic mind, at this moment, can
only hope that the “superpower” is more prepared to unite together than to be
driven apart. Witnessing Trump’s immigration policies, it wont be wrong to
predict that Muslims and Mexicans will be like scapegoats in Trump’s America.
If Trump’s forceful stance towards Mexico
on trade causes the Mexican economy to suffer, motivation for illegal
immigration into the US will increase. The militarisation of the border has not
shut down trafficking, but it has professionalized it. Trump wants a wall. His
political recipe is halfway subject to white hatred and dread of nonwhites. The
future effects of having a wall will not reduce the crime or illegal migration
rate but will increase it since the harder it will be to cross, the more the
migrants will rely on organised crime.
Clearly, he does not have a comprehension
of the fine points of domestic and foreign policy and lacks the cool
temperament necessary to manage the most critical country on Earth through
He fans the flames of tribalism and
nationalism, inspiring and comforting those with deplorable views. He acquired
the support of a lion’s share of American voters through boldly false, often
contradictory promises. This triggers the question, “Do Americans fancy
wrongdoings that they elected a president like Trump?”
Under him, efforts to enhance climate
change are dead, the rich will appreciate liberal tax reductions and for no
less than four years, America won’t see important endeavours to control the
simple accessibility of guns.
Trump’s triumph likewise implies that
Republicans will recapture control of the US Supreme Court — implying that the
Citizens United decision will stand and the abortion rights will scrape away on
the state level.
Having divisive record of bigotry and
misogyny, he has put a quiet stamp of approval on white nationalism, and has
mainstreamed hateful anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim, anti-Jewish and anti-black
sentiments that, until the rise of his candidacy, had been pushed far into the
social margins. He will not bring back jobs that technology has taken. And if
he actually begins the exchange wars he has guaranteed, costs for everything in
the Wal-Mart will rise, the market for exports will become scarce and working
people will endure the most.
He will not build a wall. He won’t give
low-wage individuals better, less expensive medical coverage. He won’t put a
stop to wrongdoing “on Day One” as he guaranteed. He won’t bring down the
American debt or get rid of the tax advantages enjoyed by the wealthy. And will
blame his comprehensive failures on others — narcissists and hucksters always
do. He will stand presented even to his supporters as somebody who never
understood how to make America more noteworthy than it was.
His hair-trigger temper, poor poise and
inability to welcome the variations of foreign policy will make him a uniquely
risky man in terms of international affairs while his egotism and his scorn for
the people who oppose his views will shatter what’s left of comity in
But at the end, they say America has a
special purpose; a shining beacon. This is not about President Trump. It is not
about conservatives and liberals or Red States and Blue States. It’s about the
American vision and whether — those on watch during this moment in history —
have the will and capacity to keep the American project alive. It’s about
patriots, not the ones playing in the Super Bowl against the Falcons, but real
patriots defending what has justly been called the most important experiment in
modern history: the United States of America.
*Sometimes, a deal with the devil pays off,
Aijaz Zaka Syed
“Mr Gorbachev! Tear down this wall!” As
Donald Trump goes about walling America in and shutting out the world, these
prophetic words of Ronald Reagan – deified by the Republicans as the greatest
US president since Abe Lincoln – ring in my ears.
Reagan’s words – delivered as part of his
historic speech on June 12, 1987 at the Brandenburg Gate, near the wall that
divided Berlin and Germany and became the most powerful symbol of the cold war
– have been an iconic part of our history. Those words were like a call to arms
for the divided people of Germany and the silently suffering multitudes beyond
the Iron Curtain to throw off the yoke of tyranny around their necks.
Sure enough, the rumblings of discontent on
the eastern side of the wall turned into a groundswell that swept away the Iron
Curtain and, with it, the Eastern bloc and Soviet Union itself. Under the
benign gaze of Mikhail Gorbachev, the last president of the Soviet Union who
only wanted reforms and openness, the ‘evil empire’ unravelled and collapsed
like a house of cards. But it could not have happened without the active
‘encouragement’ and support of Reagan and his successor George HW Bush.
Trump calls himself a follower of Reagan
and other Republican greats. But by erecting walls around the US, openly
targeting Muslims and shutting out refugees and all the huddled, oppressed
masses that Lady Liberty offers to take in, he is not just betraying that proud
legacy, he is turning away from the celebrated traditions of America’s founding
As new technology moguls – including
Facebook’s Zuckerberg, Microsoft’s Bill Gates, Google’s Sunder Pichai, and a
hundred other US giants – have reminded Trump, America is, after all, a nation
of immigrants and has been built by refugees from around the world. Ironically,
not a single person from the seven blacklisted Muslim countries has ever been
involved in an attack on the US.
More importantly, if immigrants from around
the world, especially those from Muslim countries, are kept out, it is not just
their loss and end of their dream for they can go elsewhere. It would be the
end of the American dream as well. For what is America without its openness and
the nervous energy, ardour and can-do spirit of its immigrants and dreamers? In
the end, it’s not those who are being turned away from the country’s borders
but the land of the free that will be the loser.
Is this why Trump was voted to power? I
wouldn’t think so. After eight years of the Democrats, the voters wanted change
– not anarchy. It is not just on the immigration front and in relations with
the world’s Muslims that chaos reigns; the first couple of weeks of the
administration have left a long and wide trail of destruction virtually
Trump has turned the US foreign policy and
the most strategic partnership with Europe – including Nato, the most powerful
military alliance that was born out of this relationship in 1949 – on its head.
And he has gone ahead and embraced the very enemy that the US-Nato alliance was
supposed to guard against: the Russian bear.
The US and Russia spent hundreds of
billions of dollars on devising the deadliest of arms against each other and
nearly came to wipe out each other during the long and bitter cold war. Yet,
Trump cannot stop singing paeans to Putin.
In the words of former British foreign
minister William Hague, “Putin has played America beautifully. He interfered in
the presidential election. He used the period of the transition to a new US
administration to devastate Aleppo and entrench the regime of Bashar
Trump has already declared Nato ‘obsolete’
and believes that most members are enjoying the party at Uncle Sam’s expense.
He does not think too highly of the EU either – once the most potent symbol of
Western democracy and laissez faire capitalism. Trump has repeatedly cheered
Brexit and has welcomed more departures from the EU.
His disastrous telephone conversation with
Australian leader Malcolm Turnbull over refugees has already become part of
DC’s folklore. If this is how the most trusted of US friends and allies are
treated, imagine the predicament of hated enemies such as Iran.
Given Trump’s proximity to Israel and his
campaign rhetoric, the showdown with Iran looks inevitable. Strangely, Tehran
doesn’t seem too perturbed, though. Indeed, it seems to welcome the ‘real face
of America’ as Khamenei put it this week. Bring it on!
There are also apprehensions about the US
administration’s approach towards the UN. They are apparently planning to
reduce financial support to the world body. Such a move could further undermine
the already feeble world body and its various institutions.
Of all the changes in Washington though,
what is singularly the most disturbing is the all-pervasive influence of the J
Street. As if the stranglehold of the Israeli lobby over the US establishment,
media and government wasn’t already strong enough, this administration
virtually eats out of Israel’s hands.
No administration in US history has been
closer to Israel. The excessive influence of the lobby also manifests itself in
various appointments and pronouncements of the administration, including the
dangerous decision to move the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.
“We have now reached the point where envoys
from one country to the other could almost switch places,” wrote
Palestinian-American Professor Rashid Khalidi in The New Yorker. “The Israeli
ambassador in Washington, Ron Dermer, who grew up in Florida, could just as
easily be the US Ambassador to Israel, while Trump’s Ambassador-designate to
Israel, David Friedman, who has intimate ties to the Israeli colony movement,
would make a fine ambassador in Washington for the pro-colony government of
No wonder Israel has done away with all
diplomatic niceties and pretences, announcing thousands of new Jewish homes on
stolen Palestinian land almost on a daily basis. It has even passed a new
apartheid law to legalise all settlement colonies.
Amid this gathering darkness, the only ray
of hope is the stiff resistance put up by the vibrant US civil society, media
and courts. Angry marches and protests across the country against what is, to
date, the gravest challenge to the American dream, have been fierce and getting
progressively more powerful.
Tens of thousands of demonstrators
spontaneously turned up at US airports to protest the ‘Muslim ban’. These brave
voices of conscience are not only a testament to the tenacity of US democracy;
they are its best hope.
These are undoubtedly testing times for the
faithful in the US and across Europe. However, they can neither afford to give
up their hopes and aspirations nor give in. They must resist by building
alliances with other communities and responding to hate with love. It is time
to present the best side of their faith and traditions, hoping and praying
America will emerge stronger out of this trial by fire. Love trumps all hate.
The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC)
is largely viewed as a significant Chinese investment that will infuse a new
life into Pakistan’s economy, but this project bears much wider strategic
significance and has the potential of uniting the countries of the region in a
relationship of mutual economic benefit and thereby creating dependencies that
The strategic significance of CPEC lies in
the fact that the revival and expansion of the old Silk Road gives more
economic choices not only to Pakistan but also to other countries of the
region, reducing their dependence on the maritime trade routes controlled by
The British Empire had vigorously built
oceanic trade routes and regimes over the two centuries. On replacing the
British Empire as the key player, the US did not disturb these routes but took
command of all of them. The US’s interest requires that maximum international
trade is carried out through the oceans it controls.
China has created an alternative to the
existing maritime order for moving goods across continents through its ‘One
Belt One Road’ initiative. Trade conducted through the Silk Route is likely to
reduce the ability of the US to control international trade.
The 3,000-km long CPEC consisting of
highways, railways and pipelines connects China’s landlocked north-western
province of Xinjiang to Pakistan’s Gwadar Port. CPEC is not restricted to
Pakistan. It is a project under the Chinese vision of ‘One Belt One Road’ that
will link 64 countries including Pakistan.
The warm water port of Gwadar near the
Persian Gulf is the entry point to CPEC where Pakistan and China have developed
close naval cooperation. On the other end, the Chinese province of Xinjiang is
Eurasia’s axle that borders Mongolia, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Kazakhstan, India,
Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Tajikistan. Xinjiang’s capital Urumqi is emerging as
a hub for China-Europe cargo trains. During the last two years, more than 328
freight trains left Urumqi to Europe and Central Asia.
This land-link is the outcome of the plan
envisaged in the 1950s by Mao Zedong and Joseph Stalin. They had agreed to
build rail bridges between Xinjiang and Central Asia, but after Stalin’s death
it was put on the backburner. Under the ‘One-Belt, One Road’ policy, China
accelerated the plan and completed the rail link with Central Asia. China also
redrew its plans for the ‘One Belt One Road’ to Central Asia to include
China’s Ambassador to Pakistan Sun Weidong
said his country “is looking forward to enhancing its cooperation with Iran
through CPEC” and welcomed the road joining Gwadar to Chabahar in Iran. Iran
wants Gwadar to be a ‘sister’ port to Chabahar. The Chabahar Port will be
linked via road to four major cities of Afghanistan – Herat, Kandahar, Kabul
and Mazar-e-Sharif. Turkmenistan and other Central Asian states have expressed
interest in the Gwadar Port which will be a nodal point for trade through
Pakistan to China.
CPEC is the revival and expansion of the
ancient Silk Route that was made redundant by the British rulers in India.
Traditionally, the Indian Subcontinent had two openings into Xinjiang. The
first was the 600-mile-long Ladakh route that runs from Kashgar to Yarkand and
then over the Karakoram Pass to Leh. The other was the 460-mile long land route
from Kashgar to Gilgit.
After Partition, Gilgit became a part of
Azad Kashmir, which cut off Ladakh’s links with Central Asia. Thus, India can
trade with Central Asia only through sea routes. If India joins CPEC, as was
offered by Commander Southern Command Lt General Amir Riaz on December 20, 2016
the land route between India and Central Asia will be re-established.
Speaking at an awards ceremony at the
Balochistan Frontier Constabulary Headquarters in Quetta, General Riaz told
India, “Join CPEC and share the fruits of future development by shelving your
anti-Pakistan activities and subversion”. General Riaz’s invitation to India to
join CPEC is conditional on India abandoning its Afghan proxies launched to
A few days after this offer, the Chinese foreign
ministry called the offer a “goodwill gesture”, urging India to accept it. If
India joins CPEC, it will facilitate $70 billion worth of bilateral trade
between India and China. Not long ago, Saarc had considered Pakistan a “median”
territory allowing trade routes.
Afghanistan too is becoming a nodal point
for China’s land route to Iran. The Chinese often term Afghanistan as the
‘Heart of Asia’. Trains are already running from China to Uzbekistan and then
across the Amu Darya into Afghanistan. China has shown an interest in
connecting Afghanistan with Balochistan.
In the words of a noted Chinese academic,
Li Xiguang, “CPEC could unlock Kashmir and make it a part of a much grander
regional transportation network, with Srinagar as one of its important nodes.
Remember, in earlier times, Kashmir used to be the terminal of the Silk Road –
it was part of the route pursued by diplomats, connecting Central Asia,
Kashgar, Ladakh and Delhi”.
A soft border between the two parts of
Kashmir held by Pakistan and India and between Pakistan and Afghanistan will
boost trade in the region through CPEC – the new Silk Road. In the days of Gen
Pervez Musharraf, cross-border trade was initiated between the two parts of
Jammu and Kashmir, but the process did not go beyond initial measures.
If the soft-border approach is fully
adopted in the region, it will lead to the emergence of a grand trade route
from Central Asia to Afghanistan, from where cargo can go to Iran through
Herat. Another route can be developed to Kashgar in China via both parts of
Kashmir concluding in Gwadar.
If India, Pakistan and Afghanistan can
overcome their differences and agree on establishing soft borders, uniting all
of Asia can become possible. The countries will be tied in trade and economic
activity, and have more stakes in preventing war and maintaining peace in the
OSTENSIBLY designed to promote the
settlement of disputes without resorting to formal litigation in the current
social climate, the Alternate Dispute Resolution Bill adopted by the National
Assembly last Friday could put justice at a greater discount.
The reference to the state’s duty “to
ensure inexpensive and expeditious justice” should be read as a continuation of
the chorus for cheap and quick justice raised by military dictators from Ayub
Khan downward. The cost already paid for it can hardly be ignored.
The legislation that the federal government
apparently wants adopted by all the provinces empowers courts to transfer all
cases in 23 categories of disputes, from tenant-landlord conflict to family
matters, contractual cases and property disputes, to alternate dispute
resolution (ADR) centres, if both/all parties agree.
The ADR centres will be district panels of
‘neutrals’ selected by the government in consultation with the high court from
amongst lawyers, retired judges, ex-bureaucrats, Ulema, social workers, et al,
and they will settle matters through mediation, conciliation or arbitration. If
they fail to achieve a settlement, the matter will revert to court to be
decided through formal litigation.
The idea of ADR is sound in theory but its
success in a feudal-minded society is extremely debatable.
The idea of ADR is sound in theory but its
success in a feudal-minded society that is far from settled or justly organised
is extremely debatable. Incidentally, the present ADR scheme is materially
different from the design debated at a national judicial conference some years
ago, under which courts were to ask the parties in all cases to try for
settlement under ADR. That scheme fell through, perhaps because of the threat
it posed to senior lawyers.
The casual approach to the present
legislation has already drawn fire. Media reports have noted that only 23
members, less than the quorum required, were present when the National Assembly
adopted the bill. The lack of seriousness on the part of lawmakers becomes
clearer when we look at the report of the standing committee.
The 21-member standing committee is
reported to have met twice (Jan 9 and 18) but, while we are given the names of
the committee’s members, there is no indication as to how many of them took
part in scrutinising the bill. (It would be good if in future, along with the
names of committee members, the names of all those present are also disclosed.)
In any case, the committee made only three
changes in the bill. In the original bill, a matter could not be referred to
ADR if the parties did not agree to it. One of the amendments replaced “the
parties” with “any of the party” [sic]. The other two amendments added the word
‘Jirga’ wherever the word ‘Panchayat’ was used.
For example, clause 14(1) originally said:
“Where a Panchayat system has been established under any law, it shall
facilitate settlement of civil disputes and compounding of offences as provided
for in this act.” After the amendment the clause became “Where a Panchayat or Jirga
system…” Apparently, recognition of the Jirga as the essential forum mattered
The use of the word ‘shall’ in this clause
suggests that wherever the system of Panchayat or Jirga has been established,
all cases under ADR will be referred to them.
We already know that the law proposed for
Fata legitimises the institution of Jirga and makes it permanent. Thus, in the
tribal area ADR will simply bolster Jirga rule. This amounts to a paradigm
shift in the state’s appreciation of its duty towards the people still stuck in
the tribal stage of social growth.
Hitherto, the state has followed, or
pretended to follow, a policy of enabling the tribal population to progress
towards a higher stage of social development and replace allegiance to the
tribe with loyalty to a larger community, or to accept national laws in place
of tribal codes. The present ADR scheme puts the clock back and makes the
status quo in tribal society sacrosanct.
The impact of the proposed law will not be
limited to the tribal areas. The Jirga promoters in Sindh, who have resolutely and
successfully defied superior courts’ censure and ban, have good reason to
celebrate the proposed ADR system. Their less powerful counterparts in the
other three provinces too will receive a boost. The whole country might come
under the jirga system.
The heavens will not fall if subordinate
civil courts are named jirgas, and the high courts become grand jirgas and they
interpret the laws as heretofore. However, since the Jirga operating under the
ADR scheme will not be subjected to what are still called ‘normal laws’, the
heavens will surely be jolted if the law is replaced with the whims of
It should be noted that the Alternate
Dispute Resolution Act will override all other laws. The Oaths Act 1873, the
Limitations Act 1808 and the Arbitration Act 1940 (with a caveat) will apply to
ADR cases, but the Code of Civil Procedure 1908, the Qanun-i-Shahadat 1984 and
the Code of Criminal Procedure 1898 (except for Sec 345 — compounding of
offences) will not apply. Further, ADR decisions/decrees will not be subject to
appeal or revision.
These provisions mean the composition of Panchayat/Jirga
will be the most crucial factor in the working of the ADR scheme.
Nobody can ignore the fact that Pakistani
society is in the throes of acute regression. It is steadily yielding ground to
the priests of religiosity on the one hand and to the tribal right on the other
In this situation, the panels of neutrals
and the jirgas cannot but be dominated by tribal/religious orthodoxy, from whom
no good can be expected by women, minorities, tenants, labour and the socially
and economically disadvantaged. By pandering to the extreme right, tribalism
and religious militancy, the government could end up taking a great leap
Javaid Iqbal Bhat
If Donald Trump had been a poem, its title
would have been “Get the Hell out of Here.” The new US President has unsettled
opinion makers with his braggart conduct. A new raucous chorus has started. And
the refrain of this chorus is “Donald Trump, Donald Trump and Donald Trump.”
Even his own party men feel surprised that he is actually implementing what he
said in the run-up to the election. He has removed filters of political
correctness in his speeches and statements, even after making it to the White
House. The joke industry around his hair and his style of putting signatures
may have flourished, but he is unmindful of it all, and like a force of nature,
eroding the constructions of tradition and diplomatic custom, moving forward
with his iconoclastic foreign policy. He has set up new benchmarks with the
grandiose “America First” words. In this America First slogan, unfortunately,
Muslims come last and Islam is a word that is best kept out of the borders of
his country, or with folded hands at the Atlantic coast, at least not anywhere
close to the White House. One can only imagine the psychological state of
Muslims living in the USA. I assume many Hijabs might have come off by this
time, and many beards trimmed to approval-size. Their state might be that of
the Communists during the McCarthiyan era. However, is it really a bad time for
the Muslims and Islam? One might be urged to affirm yes, but there is perhaps a
Some people in the Muslim world have
actually supported the ban by Trump on travellers from seven Muslim countries.
Their reasons for support for the move may be motivated by business
consideration or other geostrategic grounds. They believe that these seven
countries have basic structural problems which are creating citizens who have a
flawed view of the world; that their outlook is out of tune with the demands
and requirements of the twenty-first century. They may not acknowledge it in
public, but the truth is that ever since Iraq was invaded, things are out of
shape in the Middle-East.
The “structural problems” came from the
ruins of Baghdad. They came from the selfish support by successive US
governments to undemocratic regimes in the Middle East. The support to
dictatorship and discouragement of the sentiments of the Arab street led to
structural deficiencies in the West Asia. Whether the ban is justified or not
is a matter of academic discussion. The fact of the matter is that there is now
a ban for some time on Muslims. The question now is of negotiating with this
ban. Does it have to be used by radical groups for further radicalisation or
does it have to be met with calm and understanding as befits a great and mature
civilisational paradigm that is Islam which has withstood greater crises in the
There is no dearth of men and women in the
larger Muslim world who will see this ban as an occasion to mobilise people
against the USA. One is aware of that, as it will become a staple for Friday sermons.
However, there is another way of looking at the anti-Muslim swing in the US
foreign policy. First of all, bans are historically counterproductive and which
often have sparked creative responses from mature cultures.
There was a time when Jews were banned from
coming out of their “diasporas” in Europe or what later came to be known as
ghettos, for the most part of the twenty-four hours of a day. And they could
visit only specific parts of a city for specific purposes. However, these bans
only produced what Frantz Fanon calls “determination from within” among the
Jews to meet the challenges of life and world. Though the ban today is not of
the same breadth and intensity yet there is no harm but all benefit in coming
up with a determination from within to circumvent the anxieties of this age. It
would have been good if Iran instead of reciprocating the ban on American
citizens had actually encouraged more Americans to visit the country.
Unfortunately, these days the Reverends of Ummah are not known for such things.
Most beards are busy with bombast. Second, the hate of Trump can be used to
ramp up support for reform within the Muslim countries.
He is a like a godsend for aspirations of
change in societies where laws seem to have to be written in stone. He provides
the justification for bringing about some long-demanded transformations. His
virulent presence can be used to turn the heavy-set page in the Muslim world.
His virulence is at its peak now, and the opportunity in the Muslim world is
greatest, to convince the conservative constituency of the need for reform. The
reform can be made in the laws which were made under some Iron Mullahs. Like,
for example, in Pakistan. Even if someone speaks of removing a clause or a
sentence from the laws made under Zia ulHaq, the orthodox veterans raise hell
They have turned human-made decrees into
iron-clad commandments which can never be touched let alone changed. The
resistance to change is so intense that even powerful people in Pakistan cannot
speak publicly against some laws which have stifled all open expression and
argument. The misuse of those laws is widespread. The label of blasphemy is
easily hurled at political opponents and death penalties handed down for flimsy
reasons. The Trump’s onslaught on Muslims world can be used both an opportunity
as well as an agent which will force the withdrawal of Muslims into deeper
cocoons. The former is better and is possible if Trump is converted into an
opportunity and seen as a blessing in disguise, for the cause of internal
reform. There is a lot to gain even in the most challenging time provided, as
Plato said in different context, the reins of wisdom control the horse of
Saint of Lahore
Near the overpopulated locality of
Dharampura, Lahore, amidst dilapidated buildings and congested lanes lies the
impeccable tomb of 17th century Sufi-scholar Mian Mir. He was also the
spiritual master of Mughal prince and heir-apparent to Shah Jahan, Dara Shikoh.
Lahore is largely recognized as Datas Nagri, people who visit Lahore often feel
compelled to visit Data Sahib to pay their respects or at the very least have a
look at the landmark from afar. Mian Mir’s Mazar makes no loud advertisement
about itself but it greets one ever so warmly almost to the point of arresting
the visitor’s heart and telling it to let it all go.
I am often confronted by religious
Pakistanis about my affinity for these dead dervishes, they lament ‘What can a
dead man possibly give you? He is helpless himself... this is shirk’. What they
don’t understand is that sometimes cemeteries can hold more serenity than our
bustling world, the dead seem to know something about life that we can’t wrap
our head around while alive. Mian Mir was a heretic belonging to the Qaddirya
chain in Sufism, the other two prominent ones being Chishtiya and Naqshbandi.
However, to the heart seeking God’s path and his Qurbat (closeness), sects and
sub sects don’t matter much neither do rituals or religion.
Maybe this multi-faith reality and
acceptance of others is what is most attractive about Sufism. Unlike other
strands of Islam which tend to be exclusive, inclusivity of Sufi saints needs
to be celebrated and acknowledged especially in current times. Unfortunately
today Sufism has mostly been reduced to listening to Coke Studio on loop or
using words such as Maula, Malang frequently in one’s language to give off an
air of mystique. Brand Sufism is a corrupt one because it is interested in
making money out of the remembrance of God and therefore majority of what one
encounters today termed as Sufi comes from an insincere place in the heart.
Real Sufism had a lot more to do with the emptying of the ego, giving away of
the riches, nourishing the hungry and maintaining harmony among people.
Mian Mir enjoyed popularity not only within
the Muslim community but with Sikhs as well, he was a close friend of Guru
Arjan dev, the fifth Guru, and often accepted invites from him to engage in
spiritual discourses. The revered Sikh Guru also urged Mian Mir to lay the
foundation stone of Harmindar Sahab, also known as the Golden temple of
Amritsar. Many religious heads of the time reacted adversely to Mian Mir’s
participation in the construction of holy place belonging to another faith but
he would hear none of it-it was important to him to honour his friend. He would
often laud the intention of the Sikh gurus and their faith, particularly their
efforts for unifying the bickering Muslims, Hindus and Sikhs of the time.
There are very few places that subtract
from you all of your words and render you truly speechless as well as
thoughtless, forcing you to free thy self; I found Mian Mir’s resting place to
have the same therapeutic effect as emerging in a hot pool of water after a long
tiring day. In the middle of its wide courtyard is a small Khanqah, a room
housing his remains, tiny shutters stick out from each side of the wall as
pigeons stand guard over the roof, women are not allowed inside so they offer
their salutations from outside peeking in thru the lattice.
There is also a mosque in the vicinity
reminding visitors to not forget the worship of Allah even as they make use of
a Waseela for their hard-pressed desires. Most of the conversations that falls
into the ears while at the Dargah revolves around people praying for jobs-money
and an adequate amount of it being a dire necessity and reality of today. One
also encounters childless couples praying for their heir, someone to pass their
genes and all their goodness on to.
Aulia are regarded as friends of Allah,
nearer to Him, because of their self-atonement, practice, devotion to a holy
life and self denial as well- a concept that sounds alien to our ears now. They
simply cannot be compared to the televangelists of our times, whose sole
purpose is attaining fame by conning people and minting money using religion
Mian Mir had patrons belonging to the Mughal clan, from Emperor Akbar to Shah
Jahan and his secular minded Dara Shikoh, all sought his advice on worldly and
spiritual matters. However, he himself walked around in the simplest of
clothes, fasted for many days and avoided mingling with people as much as he
could. Maybe that is the reason his Mazaar is a little concealed from the
public, veiled almost by nature’s design, I suppose we carry our essence with
us even in death — his being quietude.
Personally for me, a visit to any Dargah
means a visit to a spiritual friend, I may have initially started going to
these places out of greed for fulfilling a vow or two but those desires soon
faded away. The hunt for inner peace emerged after encounters of the terrible
kind with people, everyone has an agenda up their sleeves, finding a sincere
companion can be really daunting so I yearned to find my centre every once in a
while, which these places offered. Some Dargahs are more commercialized than
others, with religious hawkers looking to sell you your own spiritual
experience, while other shrines lie in some corner waiting to be discovered
only when the time is right-this one in Lahore is definitely for the keeps.
ON Nov 6, 2016, over 128 million citizens
of the United States voted to elect their 45th president. Since then, over a
billion persons across the world have searched for ways to reverse that
They have taken to the streets, they have
written columns that would dwarf Trump Towers, they have tried to thwart an
invitation for a state visit to the UK, the speaker of its House of Commons
wants to deny him permission to address a joint session of the Houses of
Parliament, and some countries like Iran would like to reciprocally ban his
entry into their country. But like Britons who woke up from the nightmare of a
pro-Brexit vote to discover that they were in fact living one, the nightmare of
a Trump victory has become the ‘daymare’ of his presidency.
Is President Trump just another dumb blonde
with a bouffant hairstyle? Or is he an American incarnation of president Boris
Yeltsin — the Russian populist leader with the DNA of an autocrat? Only time
will tell about Trump. Time has already told the truth about Yeltsin.
Many have forgotten the events of 1991 when
Yeltsin rose to the roof of a tank outside the parliament building in Moscow
(it was also known as ‘The White House’). They might just remember what
happened afterwards. Yeltsin spawned a shiver of shark oligarchs who
appropriated the country’s wealth; he attempted to dissolve the Supreme Soviet
parliament and set aside the Russian constitution, he stifled political
opposition, and given more time would have committed what even his vice
president in a moment of despair called ‘economic genocide’. It took eight
years to remove President Boris Yeltsin.
Is President Trump just another dumb
Is the tweet-happy President Trump perhaps
another Martha Mitchell, the wife of Nixon’s attorney general? Many would have
forgotten her obsessive addiction to making telephone calls to the press during
the Watergate crisis. Eventually (according to her), Nixon’s people sedated her
to prevent her from using the telephone.
If there is a Pakistani leader who could be
identified as a parallel of the Trump model (President Trump may not relish the
analogy), it would be our president, later prime minister, Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto:
elected, popular, charismatic, media savvy, contemptuous of all authority other
than his own, and a leader determined not just to disturb but to repudiate the
Within months of taking over in 1972, President
Bhutto had nationalised industry, diluted the bureaucracy with lateral
entrants, ravaged his opponents, and created a fiefdom that had no separate
smoking area for dissident voices.
President Trump, with the first
presidential executive orders issued within days of assuming office, has made
clear that he intends to be a bull with no respect for crockery. It took a man
of his singular daring to declare war in his inaugural address on Washington’s
establishment from the very steps of its Capitol Building. Not that previous
presidents have not challenged government. Republican Ronald Reagan once held
that government was not the solution — it was itself the problem. And Democrat
Bill Clinton told his America that the “era of big government [was] over”.
President Trump, like President Bhutto, in
one fell swoop has taken on the establishment, the bureaucracy, and the
judiciary. Bhutto waited some months before attacking the Pakistan armed
forces. Trump has yet to cross the Potomac River and mount his assault on the
Pentagon. He has yet to feel the surge of untrammelled power that turned
Yeltsin’s head as he stood on the roof of that tank. Trump the civilian has yet
to try out his Commander in Chief’s uniform.
Today, the world is distracted by the US
visa ban. Tomorrow, it may well experience the scourge of US military hardware
used against straw-filled enemies. A decade ago, the seven countries that have
been scarred for visa discrimination were functioning states. Today, through no
fault of their adult voters and their younger innocent population, they are
dysfunctional, international pariahs and subsist in ruins.
The sort of monochrome absolutism that
Trump espouses was once the credo of another leader who too believed himself invincible.
Trump’s first wife Ivana has revealed that Trump’s bedside reading during their
marriage was a copy of Hitler’s collected speeches, My New Order. Hitler, a
consummate propagandist, could not have found a more assiduous reader.
“The size of a lie is a definite factor in
causing it to be believed,” Hitler wrote in his book Mein Kampf, “for the vast
masses of a nation are in the depths of their hearts more easily deceived [.]
The primitive simplicity of their minds renders them a more easy prey to a big
lie than a small one, for they themselves often tell little lies but would be
ashamed to tell big ones.”
Leaders have no such qualms. Their lies
enjoy the grandeur of credible implausibility.