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Pakistan Press (10 Feb 2017 NewAgeIslam.Com)

Bloggers and Blasphemy: New Age Islam's Selection, 10 February 2017

New Age Islam Edit Bureau

10 February 2017

Bloggers and Blasphemy

By Kaleem Dean

Say No To Hate Speech

By Muneeb Farooq

Divided States of Trumpland

By Noor Fatima Sultan Khan

Testing Times for the Faithful

By Aijaz Zaka Syed

CPEC for Peace

By Adnan Adil

A Great Leap Backward

By I.A. Rehman

Usefulness of Trump

By Javaid Iqbal Bhat

The Unobtrusive Saint of Lahore

By Maria Sartaj

Big Lies, Little Lies

F.S. Aijazuddin

Compiled By New Age Islam Edit Bureau


Bloggers and Blasphemy

By Kaleem Dean


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 contemplate.

Source: dailytimes.com.pk/opinion/09-Feb-17/bloggers-and-blasphemy


Say No To Hate Speech

By Muneeb Farooq

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.

Source: .thenews.com.pk/print/185255-Say-no-to-hate-speech


Divided States of Trumpland

By 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 hazardous times.

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 Washington.

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, big league.

Source: tribune.com.pk/story/1320990/divided-states-trumpland/


Testing Times for the Faithful

By Aijaz Zaka Syed

February 10, 2017

“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 fathers.

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 everywhere.

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 al-Assad…”.

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 Netanyahu.”

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.

Source: .thenews.com.pk/print/185250-Testing-times-for-the-faithful


CPEC for Peace

By Adnan Adil

February 10, 2017

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 promote peace.

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 US.

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 Pakistan.

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 disrupt CPEC.

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 region.

Source: .thenews.com.pk/print/185252-CPEC-for-peace


A Great Leap Backward

By I.A. Rehman

10 February 2017

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 most.

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 backward-looking individuals.

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 hand.

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 backward.

Source: dawn.com/news/1313553/a-great-leap-backward


Usefulness of Trump

By 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 silver lining.

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 past?

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 against reformers.

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 emotions.

Source: dailytimes.com.pk/opinion/09-Feb-17/usefulness-of-trump


The Unobtrusive Saint of Lahore

By Maria Sartaj


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.

Source: dailytimes.com.pk/opinion/09-Feb-17/the-unobtrusive-saint-of-lahore


Big Lies, Little Lies

F.S. Aijazuddin

10 February 2017

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 decision.

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 blonde?

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 status quo.

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.

Source: dawn.com/news/1313555/big-lies-little-lies

URL: http://www.newageislam.com/pakistan-press/by-new-age-islam-edit-bureau/bloggers-and-blasphemy--new-age-islam-s-selection,-10-february-2017/d/110022


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