Islam Edit Bureau
of Islamic Ideology and the Social Realities
Our Afghan Obsession Finally Over?
Attempt at Protecting Women
By New Age Islam Edit Bureau
of Islamic Ideology And The Social Realities
of Islamic Ideology (CII) is a constitutional body that was created in 1961 to
advise the government or an elected assembly whether a proposed or existing law
is repugnant to the injunctions of Islam or not, but its recommendations are
not binding. The CII has been issuing rulings for decades, but its recommendations
have not really been given much weight by government or parliament. However,
whenever it suited the rulers, CII’s recommendations were accepted to some
extent. For instance, in 1983 the CII ruled that political parties were
contrary to the spirit of Islam, and that the presidential system was more
suited to Pakistan than the parliamentary form, General Zia-ul-Haq barred all
political parties from contesting elections in 1985, but did not formally
introduce the presidential system. But to perpetuate his rule, he held a fake
referendum and kept himself in power as president.
parties are still retained as the bedrock of Pakistan’s political system
despite CII’s clear injunctions against it. Similarly, on other matters
concerning finance and politics, the CII’s recommendations were mostly
overlooked due to their impracticability or given a superficial treatment like
renaming “interest” as “profit” etc.
even in social and family matters, the CII showed no significant impact except
that in 1974, Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto banned alcohol accepting its recommendations
under fear of public agitation. Most other recommendations of CII on social and
family matters were largely ignored. Significant among them is its ruling to
lower marriageable age of male and female to 12 and nine years, and declaring
laws prohibiting child marriages as un-Islamic, which was not accepted. CII’s
recommendations that the existing law requiring a husband to get “written
approval” from the first wife before his second marriage is un-Islamic was also
not accepted. Similarly, CII’s other rulings on the efficacy of DNA tests,
human cloning, and sex re-assignment surgery etc. have not been accepted by any
government. CII also declared family planning as un-Islamic, to which the state
has paid scant attention.
ruling of CII made in rebuttal to Punjab Assembly’s Women Protection Act passed
in February 2016 has created quite a furore across the country because of its
controversial and anti-Islamic provisions. Its ruling has been termed as
“ridiculous” by the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan and mocked by national
media. The ruling allows “light beating” of women by their husbands, and
prohibits women from working in a mixed gender environment, leaving little
scope for women to work outside their households. All this has been done in
sheer violation of the fundamental rights guaranteed by the constitution as
well as Pakistan’s international obligations for human rights and women
empowerment. It is obvious that such recommendations cannot be given a legal
effect by government because of their negative and regressive nature. The
history and fate of CII’s rulings during 54 years of its existence raise
serious questions on its desirability as a constitutional body. Despite their non-acceptance
for various reasons, their rulings send wrong signals about the working of our
polity at the international level.
need under which the CII was created was one of interpretation of what is
Islamic and what is not Islamic. Our superior judiciary has a brilliant record
of interpreting laws and rules of all complex matters relating to finance,
economics, accounts, taxation, science and technology that affect our social
life. Islam as a faith being too close to our bosom cannot be exempted from
interpretation by the same judiciary, particularly when Islam does not
recognise any priest class having a monopoly on religious matters. Even today,
all matters relating to the interpretation of Islamic sharia are entrusted to
the specially constituted sharia courts against whose decisions the final
verdict is given by the Supreme Court Appellate Shariat Bench. Thus in view of
the extremely sensitive nature of questions touching matters of faith, the
state has rightly left them to be adjudicated upon by the judiciary instead of
any other body with pretentions of special knowledge on religious matters. The
clergy should not be allowed to play ducks and drakes with civil society.
that “Islamisation” for which the CII has been used as a tool has been promoted
only for political purposes by every government in Pakistan since the founding
of the state. Since family life has always been CII’s main focus, its axe has
always fallen on women resulting in gender disparities, something that is not only
anti-Islamic but also against the spirit of time. Instead of closing gender
gaps in public sectors like health and education, and creating greater female
labour force, it has put barriers on women participation in social life, and
indirectly impeded economic growth and development. What a Pakistani society
would look like when all female nursing staff is withdrawn from hospitals,
females are prevented from attending universities for fear of mixing with
males, and female judges are made to wear veils. Is it time that we should see
no more of the CII intermeddling in our social and economic life?
Zafar Aziz Chaudary is a former member of
provincial civil service
EVEN as the
initial news flashes emerged about a gunman going on a rampage in the Pulse
nightclub in Orlando, Florida, one was compelled to wonder how long it would be
before someone expressed the view that matters would not have come to such a
pass had the revellers been armed.
take very long: “If you had some guns in that club the night that this took
place … you wouldn’t have had the tragedy that you had.” None other than the
presumptive Republican nominee for the presidency came up with this gem, after
congratulating himself on calling for a moratorium on Muslim immigration to the
wouldn’t expect Donald Trump to draw the line there, and he didn’t. The
deadliest mass shooting in US history provided cause for him to effectively
blame Barack Obama for its occurrence and to claim that his Democratic
opponent, Hillary Clinton, just doesn’t get it. In his limited vocabulary,
‘Islamic radicalism’ is the key demonising phrase. And anyone who doesn’t utter
it with the kind of vehemence he brings to the pulpit is complicit in
responses to the monumental tragedy were clouded by whether to designate it an
act of terrorism or a hate crime. It’s an artificial dichotomy. Most acts of
terrorism, Islamist or otherwise, are driven by some kind of hatred. In the
case of Orlando, as Obama has suggested, the two coincided in a perverse mind.
however, most Republican figureheads have either ignored or understated the
homophobia that persuaded Omar Mateen to go on his killing spree at this
particular venue. And they have been equally reluctant to broach the question
of his ready access to assault weapons despite the declarations of empathy with
Islamist militancy that brought him to the FBI’s attention some years ago.
don’t have a monopoly on homophobia.
The FBI, it
seems, didn’t find cause for too much concern. But once Mateen was on its radar
as at least a sympathiser with deplorable causes, should it not at the very
least have become harder for him to shop for weapons? Apparently not, at least
seems to be oblivious to the fact that Mateen wasn’t an immigrant. He was born
in the US. Perhaps he means to suggest that Mateen’s Afghan parents would never
have been admitted into America under his watch, but he hasn’t clearly
articulated that view, nor shared his thoughts on how his nation ought to have
reacted back when jihad was the cause du jour in a Soviet-occupied Afghanistan.
said to have pledged allegiance to the militant Islamic State group in calls to
911 during his killing spree, and reports suggest IS has claimed responsibility
for the Orlando atrocity. None of that necessarily means very much. There has
been no indication so far that the mass killer was guided in his murderous
intent by voices from overseas.
clearly admitted as much, describing Mateen as a homegrown extremist. The
extent to which he was radicalised by his interactions on the internet remains
to be determined, as do various other aspects of the terror in the Pulse
nightclub — including why it took the police nearly three hours to directly
intervene after the initial indications of an unfolding catastrophe.
What we do
have, meanwhile, are indications that as a high school student Mateen revelled
in the 9/11 attacks. It wouldn’t be outrageous to claim that his attitude was
guided by what he picked up at home. It is certainly intriguing in this context
to discover that Omar’s dad, Seddique Mateen, claims to be the “Provincial
Government of Afghanistan” (perhaps he means provisional) and appears to
support “the real Taliban who live in North and South Waziristan”, as opposed
to “the mercenaries of the ISI, who come to Afghanistan under the name of the
Taliban and kill our Afghan brothers and sisters”.
In a video
message this week mourning the death of his son — “I was not informed he had a
grudge” — this vehement opponent of the Durand Line wrapped up by declaring:
“Death to Pakistan, which supports killing and terrorism.”
not be a particularly unusual Afghan view, yet the content of Seddique Mateen’s
Facebook page may give those probing his son’s intellectual instability cause
to probe the possibility of hereditary dysfunction.
plenty of cause to mourn the massacre of 49 innocents, and there cannot be much
doubt that the perpetrator’s interpretation of his inherited faith played a
role in his perverse act of violence. Islamists don’t have a monopoly on
homophobia, though. And they certainly are not responsible for the gun laws
that make deadly assault weapons readily available to Americans of all
whereas Trump may be reasonably accurate in his description of Omar Mateen as
“a wack job”, the crucial question remains whether Americans think they deserve
a wack job as their president and commander-in-chief. We’ll find out in a few
‘hate’ and ‘crime’ both incur images of what the French thinker Emile Durkheim
called ‘anomie’, by which he meant the breakdown of everyday norms and values.
Individuals who fall out of sync with established modes of societal behaviour
develop a propensity to criminality and hatefulness — modern society is
charged, according to Durkheim, with the responsibility of nursing such
individuals back to normality.
passing through an age in which one of the candidates for president in the
world’s most powerful country openly espouses hate towards the ‘other’, while
his party continues to oppose bans on the purchase and use of guns by ordinary
citizens which, as we saw with Omar Mateen in Orlando, allows deranged
individuals to wreak havoc on unsuspecting populations.
Durkheim explain such a state of affairs? Is the outrageous behaviour of Donald
Trump more ‘normal’ than the actions of Omar Mateen? One could argue in a
strictly legal sense that Trump does not commit a crime by opening his mouth,
whereas Omar Mateen’s murderous attack was a crime of the most gruesome
variety. But that is neither here nor there. Indeed, it wouldn’t surprise me at
all if many gun-wielding, homophobic Republicans secretly advocate hate crimes
against the gay community which Mateen targeted.
example closer to home; in recent weeks two transgenders have been killed in
broad daylight in Peshawar, presumably under the pretext that their untypical
sexual identity permits ‘normal’ individuals to undertake such acts. And what
of Mumtaz Qadri? How do we reconcile his ‘hate crime’ with his adulation by
millions of ordinary Pakistanis indoctrinated to believe that godly justice is
served by such actions? How do we determine ‘normality’ and anomie when
confronted with such jarring facts?
are as pronounced today as they ever were.
increasingly standardised use of the language of democracy, rule of law and
human rights, modern societies are deeply divided, both in terms of material
inequalities as well as the norms and values that guide everyday behaviour. A
sophisticated thinker like Durkheim was certainly aware of this, but the world
has changed dramatically since classical social theorists came to prominence a
so-called ‘civilised’ countries that spawned the great (white) thinkers of the
19th and early 20th centuries saw their coloured subjects in the colonies rebel
against them and create independent states thus turning ideas of ‘normality’ on
their head, in which white was superior to non-white. Similarly, the
‘normalness’ of men exclusively determining the course of society’s development
was challenged by the institution of universal suffrage which gave women the
right to reject ‘propriety’ and participate in public life.
recently, the sexual rights revolution in the Western world has completely
altered the previous ‘normal’ vis-à-vis our understanding of human nature and
the family. Needless to say, every society has internalised these changes to
differing extents — it will be a long while, for instance, before a country like
Pakistan ever provides legal cover to same-sex marriage (if ever).
The point I
wish to emphasise is that there never has been, and nor will there be a
completely uniform set of norms and values in any given society. Perhaps more
importantly, behavioural norms are generally conditioned by the structure of
power, which needs to be critically interrogated if we are to understand the
contradictions to which I made mention here.
instance, does the electoral victory of individuals like Barack Obama or Sadiq
Khan suggest that racism in America and Britain respectively is a thing of the
past? Or does modern society rid itself of patriarchy when women become
legally entitled to the citizenship rights accorded to men? Not at all — in
fact it can very reasonably be argued that the differences between whites and
people of colour; men and women; sexual majorities and minorities; rich and
poor, and so on are as pronounced today as they ever were, notwithstanding the
adoption of formal measures that suggest equal rights.
We have to
be brave enough to acknowledge that the ‘abnormal’ behaviour of certain
individuals who commit ‘crimes’, whether hateful or petty, is due to rather
than in spite of the structures of power that prevail in society. The state in
particular, with its legal institutions, creates many of the conditions within
which ‘deviant’ behaviour takes place, whilst also enjoying a mandate to define
what is ‘normal’ and what is not.
discourse on ‘terrorism’ is perhaps the most obvious example of just how
dumbed-down our collective understanding of power, privilege, injustice and
inequality has become. It is a symptom of how much political space has shrunk
since the end of the Cold War, even while the rich and powerful continue to peddle
hate, and commit crimes with impunity, and sometimes even rapturous applause.
They keep us fearful of being the next victims of a ‘hate crime’, and we keep
Aasim Sajjad Akhtar teaches at Quaid-i-Azam
today’s activism is the decade-old Palestinian civil society initiative called
the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign against Israel that seeks its
compliance with international law and Palestinian rights.
with justice for the Palestinians and equal rights for both peoples. A majority
of Americans, polls confirm, share this desire for their government to be
even-handed in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
mainstream American churches, unions, and academic associations in the past
four years have voted for boycotts and sanctions of Israeli institutions that
subjugate Palestinians. In the previous half-century, even discussing the
Palestine rights issue in public was virtually impossible.
pattern has become clear,” one university professor who is active in BDS
initiatives told me on Monday. “At first an organisation’s members refuse even
to discuss Israeli policies and their impact on Palestinians. Then the matter
is discussed by the membership, but voted down. And after two or three years of
more public discussion by all sides, it is voted on again, and approved. We
expect the same thing to happen with the AAA vote and other academic associations
that raise this issue.”
American academic associations have supported BDS actions, and others are
debating the matter. The lesson, activists say, is that Israel ultimately loses
when the public debates the facts about Palestine-Israel.
debate now occurs regularly, mainly because during the past 68 years the world
has seen the facts of Israeli statehood and settler-colonisation, and
Palestinian disenfranchisement, exile, or occupation.
days of expecting automatic mass support for its position in the US seem to be
coming to an end. Israeli policies today are openly debated, mainstream
organisations support BDS, and even a serious presidential candidate, Bernie
Sanders, has called for a more even-handed US policy on Israel-Palestine.
The AAA and
other associations use boycotts to express their opposition to unethical or
illegal behaviour by corporations (Coca Cola) or even states (Arizona,
government and individual states sanction and boycott other nations (Russia,
Iran, Cuba, Sudan) for their political behaviour.
increasingly ask why Israel should be exempt from public discussion of its
behaviour towards the Palestinians.
even some politicians who wholeheartedly support Israel may see their decisions
backfire on them, and promote greater, rather than less, debate about Israeli
policies. New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo issued an executive order last
week saying the state would boycott any institution that boycotted Israel.
states have already legislated laws prohibiting a boycott of Israel, and others
are considering such moves. Cuomo’s decision sparked widespread media debate
about whether it violated the constitutional guarantee of free speech,
including a New York Times op-ed by a Jewish American who opposed Cuomo’s move
as being hypocritical, constitutionally suspect and inappropriate.
Church of Christ also quickly criticised Cuomo’s move for infringing the
Constitution’s First Amendment guarantee of free speech, noting that it and
other churches have often “actively supported human rights campaigns, sometimes
through consumer boycotts and even divestment of companies that have profited
from injustice …”
summer, the United Church of Christ called
for divestment and boycott of firms that profit from Israel’s occupation of
anti-apartheid movement in the 1980s, the struggle to counter Israeli
subjugation of Palestinians through boycotts and sanctions is steadily picking
up steam, and has moved from the fringes towards the mainstream of American
public politics. If I were Israeli, I would be worried, too.
article has been excerpted from: ‘A defeated sanctions vote in the US should
Afghan Obsession Finally Over?
question can be rephrased: is ‘strategic depth’ finally buried? We were idiots
to get involved in that superpower adventure called the Afghan ‘jihad’. We
understood not its ramifications and long-term costs, starry-eyed generals
nurturing dreams of Pan-Islamic glory on the back of unrealistic expectations.
Gen Raheel Sharif we clung to the pipedream that Pakistan could deliver the
Taliban to the negotiating table. This is the impression we conveyed both to
the Americans and the Afghans. And when we couldn’t deliver we had to suffer
the blowback, both the Americans and the Afghans accusing us of playing double
have learned nothing from our Afghan experience. The so-called mujahideen whom
we had pampered and fed throughout the Afghan jihad wouldn’t listen to us when
they seized power in Kabul. The Taliban whom we had supported wouldn’t listen
to us beyond a point when they became rulers of Afghanistan. So what led the
Afghan experts in the general staff and the ISI to think that we could carry
them to the negotiating table?
and bitter experience at that, has proved that there is no benefit, no possible
advantage, in nurturing Afghan assets – like the Haqqanis or Hikmetyar or
anyone else – in the belief that we can somehow become the chaudries of
Afghanistan. We never succeeded in the past and we won’t succeed in the future.
helped Vietnam against the French and the American. That didn’t turn Vietnam
into a satellite of China. We know what India did for the creation of
Bangladesh. The Awami League is pro-India but Bangladesh as a whole is no
satellite of India.
only goes that far and our generals were foolish to think in terms of permanent
‘strategic depth’. Were we thinking that if the Indian army entered Punjab we
would find strategic refuge in the mountains of Afghanistan? How far can
foolishness be taken?
still retired three-star generals and bright stars of the Foreign Office – and
I have heard them – who stoutly maintain that Pakistan did the right thing in
fighting the Soviets in Afghanistan otherwise the Soviets would have attempted
to reach the warm waters of the Arabian Sea. There is no cure for such
delusionary ideas, at least none in the standard war books. Before the breakup
of the Soviet Union, both Iran and Turkey had long borders with the Soviet
Union. There was no Soviet attempt to reach any warm waters across those
Afghan dynamics sucked the Soviets into intervening in Afghanistan. What
holdover of British thinking led our generals and diplomats to think that after
Kabul the Soviet army would race down the length of Pakistan and seize Karachi
and the Indus Delta?
shouldn’t have got involved in that superpower game. We did and are still
paying the price. But the Afghans are now doing us a favour. Nothing else would
have cured our Afghan obsession but the tough line the Afghans are taking
vis-à-vis the Torkham border should finally clear the mist from our eyes and
drill some sense into our heads.
We have no
business getting involved in the internal affairs of Afghanistan. Whoever rules
Afghanistan – Pakhtuns, Tajiks or warriors from outer space – is the Afghans’
business, not ours. If the Afghans can’t settle their affairs and war rages
there, we are in no position to bring peace to Afghanistan. The Russians tried
and failed, the Americans have failed despite trying for the last 15 years? Are
we to succeed where those superpowers failed?
of who rules Kabul we need constructive engagement with Afghanistan so that we
can savour Afghan grapes and Afghan dry fruit and buy Afghan carpets and send
Afghanistan the things it depends on: Pakistani cooking oil, wheat and other
foodstuffs. In the last Afghan elections posters and other election material
were mostly printed in Pakistan. This is the kind of exchange we should be
after. If we can’t do without the word ‘strategic’, let strategic trade now
replace the bogey of strategic depth. For the rest let Afghanistan be left to
its own devices.
should be no place here for something like the Quetta Shura. Let it now become
the Kandahar or the Helmand Shura and let the elders of that Shura now move to
Afghanistan. We should have nothing to do with Taliban ‘assets’ – we’ve had
enough of those. Let all those assets return to the beautiful mountains of
Afghanistan. And we should now frame a policy regarding the Afghan refugees.
hosted them long enough. We should inform the international community that it
is time for them to go home. And we should press upon our American friends that
if they are so concerned about the Afghans they should take some of them into
their own homeland, no doubt to the extended delight of Donald Trump and those
of his way of thinking.
done so much for the Afghans. Go to Kabul and you will find that the lingua
franca is Urdu, which is a measure of all that Pakistan has done for the
Afghans. And yet Pakistan is being kicked by the Afghans and accused of double
standards by the Americans. Are we the world’s leading masochists that we revel
in this punishment?
Americans hold us by the scruff of our necks and give us a shake every now and
then because they give us 800 million to a billion dollars a year. And we
suffer this humiliation because of that largesse. Let us learn to stand on our
feet. We won’t be able to do without our begging bowl but at least let us
reduce its size. Let us learn to live within our means. And until we learn to
do that let us stop calling ourselves an Islamic Republic. What’s Islamic about
being amongst the world’s leading debt-seekers?
We say the
Americans don’t treat us nicely. Why should they treat us nicely when our
leading lights, our blessed statesmen, are always asking for something? We say
they use us and discard us. That’s being clever and Americans are clever,
otherwise they wouldn’t be the world’s only superpower. The more important
question is: why do we allow ourselves to be so used? Why do we give the
impression that there stands our honour and it’s all ready to be violated?
another thing we have to remember about Afghanistan. The best we can hope for
with that neighbour of ours is constructive engagement. Friendship of the usual
kind will always elude us because of the historical baggage lying between our
countries. Afghans of all persuasions don’t recognize the Pak-Afghan border,
the Durand Line. We can bend over backwards, do anything for them, but they can
never be our friends in the traditional sense because of that border. They will
only be satisfied if the border moves to the River Indus, and even when that
happens they will ask for the incorporation of the Pakhtoon areas of
Balochistan. And if that occurs they will ask for access to the sea.
with India we inherited because of Kashmir and other historical memories.
Hostility with Afghanistan we inherited because of the Durand Line. Let us work
in a sustained manner to mitigate those hostilities. In that lies the test of
Pakistani statesmanship. But let us not be carried away on the wings of
fantasy. Our Afghan hangover has lasted a long time. It’s time we got rid of
member of parliament was called names during a parliamentary session and though
many condemned the action, there have been far too many who have found the
issue not to be worthy of censure. There has been no action against the
minister by the political party he belongs to.
threatened a female guest on a talk show, verbally abused her, allegedly tried
to physically harm her and, days later, we are still debating if any action can
and should be taken against him. The guest has lodged a complaint against the
senator with the police. There has been a campaign against her on social media
and she has even had threatening phone calls made to her. There has been no
action from the senator’s political party.
every other day, we have been hearing of women who have been injured,
mutilated, maimed, burnt or killed by relatives because they married of their
own choice, did not listen to relatives, were suspected of doing something that
their families did not permit, or were just not compliant enough. Most
recently, a mother has been accused of burning alive her daughter, who had
married someone of her choice.
It is not
just individuals who have been involved in such crimes against women, even
members of the Council of Islamic Ideology think it is okay for men to beat
their wives as long as the beating is ‘light’. When people have asked them to
explain what this means, we have been told to wait for the proposed draft bill.
did want a homeland for Muslims. But was it this sort of society and state that
been a spate of attacks against members of the transgender community. The most
recent incident involved Alisha who was shot several times but then her
treatment at a hospital was delayed because she was a transgender. She died two
days after she was shot.
against Christians and members of other religious groups are also quite common.
Even children and the elderly are not spared. Gokal Das of Ghotki, Sindh, who
is 80 years plus, was badly beaten by a policeman recently for selling edibles
before iftar time.
have been fair game, for abuse, torture and even murder, for a long time in
Pakistan. It is not just that the state of Pakistan has declared them
non-Muslims. People of this community also continue to face institutionalised
and state-level discrimination, and there is almost an incessant barrage of
verbal and written hatred spewed against them by certain mainstream sections of
our society. No wonder, like other minorities, many have chosen to leave the
country and settle elsewhere.
asked, is this the ‘dawn’ we set out looking for? Our elders did want a
homeland for Muslims. But was it this sort of society and state that we wanted?
We seem to
be facing a significant existential issue that is creating a deep confusion at
a very basic level for us. The confusion often manifests itself as an actual
contradiction in our thinking and actions.
‘state’ of a country have an official religion even if the majority of people
living in the country are from one faith? The problem is that if the answer is
‘yes’, the confusion we are seeing is bound to come through. If the state has a
religion, all answers about rights, obligations and responsibilities, will have
to come through the lens of the faith in question. We will have only rights
that the official religion gives us, or, in real terms, whatever the dominant
interpretation of religion that exists gives us.
religions, almost never, have only one interpretation at a time. They always
have internal contestations. There are always many sects, sub-sects, and
interpretations. And some of these interpretations differ from each other in
substantial ways. If the state has an official religion, it will have to choose
an interpretation of that religion as well: it will have to favour one sect,
one reading of the religion over others. How is this contestation to be
importantly, what happens to those who do not agree with the dominant
interpretation(s)? Will they have rights to exist in such a society or will
they have to either live as second- class citizens or leave the country? What
happens to those who are not members of the chosen religion at all? We have
Christians and Hindus living in Pakistan. We have some — though few would dare admit
that — who are atheists. Do we give them any rights? And will these rights be
interpreted through the lens of one religion?
those who made Pakistan wanted to go down this path or not, this is the path we
have followed. And the space, for contestation, has inevitably become narrower
over time. When it was possible for minorities to hold high office in Pakistan
in the early years, now it is a rarity. Where women had more space in the
1960s, now the space has shrunk a great deal. And social attitudes and laws
have followed each other to reinforce the narrowing of space over time. No need
to talk of all the inter-sect and intra-sect killings.
was another path. We could have gone down the route of making the Constitution
and the basic laws of the country secular and extended or assigned rights,
obligations and responsibilities of the state and individuals on that basis.
And then, space, personal and some common, could have been provided to various
religious communities to live by the codes they wanted to live by. It is not
that there would have been no issues on this path. But these might have been
more amenable to better solutions given the primacy of rights. Is this path
still open to us? Is this the only way we can move forward? And, given the
climate in the country, can that be a path we can even try to walk on?
Faisal Bariis a senior research fellow at the
Institute of Development and Economic Alternatives and an associate professor
of economics at Lums, Lahore.
THERE was a
time when newspapers pretended to be different in Ramazan or were actually
compelled by the lack of politics during the holy month to find offbeat sources
to fill their pages. This necessity would help the papers to flash-focus on
some areas of life which used to be at other times consigned to the obscurity
of the inside pages.
revelation that there were other things to be found under the sun in addition
to politics and the working of the state came as relief to some and brought
horror to others who were never bothered about looking too deep into what went
into living it up and down in the masses’ quarters at any given time. There
would be the routine Ramazan features, such as the ones on prices, on how the
law was being enforced to ensure that everybody gave the month the respect due
to it. One regular write-up would be on the places where the less faithful and
the ignorant and the criminally minded would gather, supposedly secretly, to
eat during the day hours.
to be daily updates on how many had been caught from which area of the city
breaking the fast and the code before the scheduled maghrib iftari. If
religious censure was something that they sought to fight with a reference to
their direct contact with and obligations to God, the ultimate authority to
hold them accountable, breaking the law was something they had to be punished
for here and in this world. That was one huge humiliation — to have been caught
in the forbidden act anywhere close to home.
be series upon series of news features on Eid shopping. These, completely
oblivious to the political correctness of the latter years, would categorise
women as helpless slaves of a material world that forever forced them to feast
on the latest fashion items on the market. These rich, standard images would
then be consciously balanced out by the good, responsible sometimes pious
journalists with some extra coverage of those who couldn’t afford to take part
in the race for the latest fads. And there would be things which were too pricy
to be within the reach of the ‘common’ man who everyone pitied.
there were many topics that were more likely to get noticed in Ramazan than
during other months when they were ignored.
features took up a lot of space in papers but other subjects had to be
diligently searched for to make up for the missing sensation craved by the
readers hooked on the political news and gossip. Of course, there would be some
politics available and some would be artificially crafted with ploys such as a
constant focus on the iftar parties the powerful hosted and attended, but
generally the truce between politicians would hold for the month.
— the fillers — that took centre stage would often be provided by such sources
as the roads which had that uncanny bias for throwing up big accidents ahead of
a festival or when the newsroom complained of it being a dull day. There would
additionally be stories of feuds from the cities and the villages, in bigger
supply than usual. These were places which found it hard to stick to the
Ramazan ceasefire and were always edging to fill the space left vacant by
politics or the lack of it — just as they quite often did on all weekends when
the flow of the ‘normal’ news was weak.
so many topics which were more likely to get noticed in Ramazan as opposed to
being ignored in the rush during other months. Someone who drowned in the local
canal in the holy month invariably got wider, louder mention on a slow Ramazan
day than he would have at any other time during the year. Thefts and robberies
increased towards Eid and were readily lapped up by papers looking to close
early and promising a fresh start to the operation full-scale when the crew
returned from the holidays.
It can be
said that this Ramazan, in year 2016, indicates a change in trend. There have
been murder stories flashed, a series of them covering ‘honour’ killings that
have been striving to snatch the limelight. There have been drowning and other
accidents, which, however, have not been able to get the coverage as they used
to in previous years simply because the regular supply of politics has
continued without too great a drop in frequency.
been more politics in the month than is usual for Ramazan, and the usual
scandals that hog attention the whole year did not leave the stage as they were
once expected to. There has been persistent heckling over the terms of
reference of the Panama probe, even if Ramazan has taken some of the energy out
of the protest and its reaction from firebrand government defenders.
case, the tone elsewhere has been harsh, as in the case of Bilawal Bhutto
Zardari who, it appears, wants to create an impression that he is out to break
the truce with PML-N far from pledging respect to it. There been actually war
on the border, with Afghanistan, and the holy month has brought little respite
from the clashes the electronic and social media have become famous for.
the faithful are viciously engaged in a debate about which of the two sides is
more evil than the other after some maulvi resorts to the obscene as he targets
a liberal participant in a talk show. A few years ago, there would have perhaps
been a greater number of voices demanding adherence to the Ramazan etiquette.
It seems that not too many today are prepared to waste time on practising and
preaching good Ramazan manners. This should come as a shock to friends in the
Asha'ar Rehman is Dawn’s resident editor in
It is now
well recognised the world over that violence against women, of which domestic
violence comprises the largest proportion, is beyond just a violation of a
fundamental human right. It is also a public heath risk of grave proportions.
Legislation is just the first step to help curb the injustice. Anyone would
think so, except perhaps in Pakistan, where it seems nothing should be taken
d’etat of a democratically-elected House is to legislate on behalf of the
people. And that is precisely what the Punjab Assembly did when it tried to
pass the Protection of Women Against Violence law. Women legislators in the
provincial assembly from differing political parties showed seasoned foresight
and unity, some in defiance of the male co-legislators of their parties, in
recognising the need for this government-initiated law in a country where 70-90
per cent of women face domestic violence at least once in their lives. There
were 175 members of the House who abstained from voting, mostly male
legislators, perhaps afraid of shaking the status quo.
unanimous passage of the law in the provincial assembly received extreme
reactions from all quarters. And what reactions a pro-woman law attracts! The
Council of Islamic Ideology (CII), unsurprisingly, declared the legislation to
be against the tenets of sharia. A parliamentarian of a religious party has
gone so far as to say that equality between men and women is a Western concept
and does not apply in Pakistan. At the other end of the spectrum, we have also
seen rights-based groups dismissing the law for not going far enough to
penalise the criminal. A celebration of the law, they say, is an acceptance of
a flawed attempt to protect women in Punjab. And these are only some of the
voices we can hear.
religious right wing feels that the law encourages the break-up of the family
home, is not Islamic, and amounts to Westernisation of a traditional society.
So the CII, in a stroke of ‘genius’, attempted to put up its own
recommendations for a bill to protect women of Pakistan. And in the name of
protection, it asserts that husbands are allowed to lightly beat their wives.
Maybe the clerics making up the CII misunderstood the brief. Perhaps, they
thought it was a bill on various ways to suppress Pakistani women, not protect
serious note, there is a case for the Punjab domestic violence law to be
revisited. The law is one that combines mainly preventive measures with penal
deterrents, identifying domestic violence under civil law. Under civil law, the
matter remains between the individuals concerned and does not involve the
state. This requires the victim to initiate the claim. Perhaps, this is the
biggest failure of this legislation: it does not recognise violence as a crime.
But it is important to look at how bringing the offence under civil law would
be like. It would mean that in a court of law, the burden of proof on the
person bringing the charges is less than it would be if domestic violence were
labelled under the ambit of criminal law. It was perhaps the intention of the
draftsmen to bring the legislation under civil law, seeing that the prevailing
domestic violence acts covered under criminal law in two other provinces have
not seen a single case being brought before the courts.
flaw is the potential prison term for false claims brought against defendants.
The fact that the case has to be proved in a court of law should be enough to
ensure that the due process of law is followed. This section is detrimental to
the very people that the legislation is attempting to protect.
legislation rightly defines domestic violence beyond physical injury to include
sexual violence, psychological and economic abuse, stalking and cybercrime. The
definitions could have gone further, particularly when it comes to
psychological abuse but giving a clear-cut definition of domestic violence is a
step forward. The great part is that architects of this law have recognised
that the real mechanism of identifying and supporting a victim is at the grassroots
level through protection committees and officers. Attempts have been sought to
systemise and create mechanisms to address violence. Surely, a welcome sign.
In my next
article, I will examine the more controversial elements of the legislation. But
right now, let us appreciate that the members of a democratically-elected House
tried to perform their duty to protect the people who elected them.
Fata Always Be Fata?
A lot has
been written in the print and electronic media about mainstreaming Fata but
nothing concrete has emerged so far except the creation of a five-member
commission by the prime minister to make recommendations in this regard.
In order to
comply with a mandatory requirement, the commission visited all seven tribal
agencies and meetings were held with selected notables, arranged by their
respective political agents. Although the commission still has to hold meetings
with the general public, even in these selected meetings they got a somewhat
mixed reaction to the general perception of the changes that they wished to
introduce for mainstreaming Fata.
the meetings the commission professed to lay both options forward – to be a
separate province or to merge with Khyber Pakhtunkhwa – there were many who
felt that the commission’s members had already made up their minds but were not
yet articulating their views.
the other day a federal minister who is a member of the commission reportedly
said that a majority of the people in Fata wanted a merger with Khyber
Pakhtunkhwa. Whether he was talking of the final decision of the commission or
merely expressing his own mind is difficult to say.
other hand, reports have appeared in the press that the commission has
submitted a draft report to the prime minister recommending the status quo be
maintained with minor changes in the FCR and extension of high court
jurisdiction to that area. Yet another report claimed that Fata was to be
merged into KP but before that a grace period would be given for its
development with specially allocated funds under the overall charge of a
tribesman. Which report will turn out to be true is something we have to wait
of all this, the problem faced by the people of Fata is different – the way
decisions are imposed on them without letting them have a say in anything. It
is not true that they resist the mainstreaming of the tribal areas. The fact is
that those sitting in the government in Islamabad neither listen nor understand
the manner in which the people of Fata want matters to be resolved, in the best
interest of the tribesmen as well as the government. Whenever such a situation
has arisen in the past the government has invariably resorted to undemocratic
means, listening only to the advice of its employees (civil/military) who are
in control of the area. I fear this may happen again in this context.
political agent told me that when the idea was floated and suggestions sought
from them on giving adult franchise to the tribal areas, being a tribesman, he
was the only one supporting it whereas the others opposed the proposal on the
ground that it would have negative political repercussions. Thankfully, the
late president Farooq Leghari did not pay any heed to their advice and extended
adult franchise to Fata in 1996. And the first election held under that a year
later proved him absolutely right as there was no problem, whatsoever, anywhere
In fact in
South Waziristan, a conservative area, women voted for candidates of their
choice. That gave lie to those who were opposing one-person, one-vote for Fata.
Those opposing a referendum to decide the fate of Fata will similarly be proved
wrong if the prime minister agrees to go ahead with a referendum.
invited to meet the members of the commission to give my views on the subject
and also on how Fata should be mainstreamed. It was a limited group, about a
dozen or so people, mostly former political agents, commissioners and chief
chairman of the commission, Sartaj Aziz, briefed us about a meeting held
earlier in the day with people of the Khyber agency. Despite his diplomatic
skills, he could not conceal the fact that the meeting had ended in
mentioned the following four proposals that they have received so far and
wanted our response to them: 1) maintenance of the status quo; 2) creation of a
Gilgit-Baltistan type council; 3) making Fata a separate province; and 4)
merger with KP.
Since I was
invited by the chairman to offer comments first I politely declined to consider
the first two proposals as they are not worth consideration. The first for the
reason that if status quo is to be maintained then why is the commission
conducting consultations? In fact it is because of the status quo, particularly
the political agent system, that the people want a change. As for making it a
council like Gilgit-Baltistan that is not viable since Gilgit-Baltistan is a
disputed area according to UN resolutions whereas Fata has no such problem. So
the first two proposals should be set aside and not considered.
As far as
the other two are concerned they are viable but the people in Fata are divided.
Some want Fata to be made a separate province whereas others want it to be
merged into Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. To decide which proposal has the support of the
majority it would be in the fitness of things if a referendum is held under the
eye of a person from Fata to make it transparent and acceptable to the people
of the tribal areas. Whichever way the majority decides will be acceptable to
I added in
my comment that in case the decision is made in favour of a merger with KP then
a reasonable amount of money be allocated to be spent on the development of
Fata in a defined period of 5 to 10 years, but during that period a person from
Fata should be made governor to ensure that the money is actually spent on development.
For that I gave the example of German (East and West) unification.
for referendum was vehemently opposed but only by those not belonging to Fata.
I am not privy to their reasons for opposition but I presume they must be
thinking that Fata would drift away from Pakistan if allowed to decide matters
through a referendum. If they think that, then they are badly mistaken. Nothing
of the sort will happen. No sensible person from Fata would like to go to
Afghanistan. That is like going from heaven to hell.
has burning for the last four decades at least. It is a poor country and
stability is nowhere in sight so why would anyone want to go there? Why would
more than three million Afghans stay as refugees in Pakistan if Afghanistan was
a better option? So let us not indulge in scaremongering or befool people with
empty slogans. Nothing is wrong with having a referendum if we consider Fata a
part of Pakistan and its people as loyal honourable citizens of this country.
It is their problem and must be decided by them. Denying this basic right will
force them to think of alternatives.
Let us not
forget that social media is full of all kinds of propaganda. The atrocities
committed in Fata are highlighted on a daily basis but people there have not
paid any heed to them as yet. So let us not put them to the wall by treating
them like enemies or aliens. Let them decide such an important matter
themselves rather than let others sitting far away take the decision and then
shove it down their throats.
government listened to saner elements in Fata earlier when the area was on fire
it would not have suffered so much. There wouldn’t have been so many deaths and
so much destruction and millions of people would not have been internally
We are in a
similar situation once again as far as the mainstreaming of Fata is concerned.
Let us not make a mistake again. Let us go along with the wishes of the people
there. If we try to hide behind the constitutional requirement and decide
matters only in consultation with notables (especially selected by the
political agents) then we are destined for endless trouble. Nobody can save us
then. We must mainstream Fata in accordance with the wishes of its residents.
Come what may, referendum is the only solution.
Ayaz Wazir is a former ambassador.