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Pakistan Press (17 Jun 2016 NewAgeIslam.Com)

Council of Islamic Ideology and the Social Realities: New Age Islam's Selection, 17 June 2016

New Age Islam Edit Bureau

17 June 2016

Council of Islamic Ideology and the Social Realities

By Zafar Aziz Chaudary

Orlando Outrage

By Mahir Ali

Hate Crimes

By Aasim Sajjad Akhtar

Debating Israel

By Rami G Khouri

Is Our Afghan Obsession Finally Over?

By Ayaz Amir

Different Path

By Faisal Bari

Business As Usual

By Asha'ar Rehman

Punjab’s Attempt at Protecting Women

By Benazir Jatoi

Compiled By New Age Islam Edit Bureau


Council of Islamic Ideology And The Social Realities

By Zafar Aziz Chaudary


The Council 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.

Political 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.

However, 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.

The latest 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.

The basic 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.

It appears 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

Source: dailytimes.com.pk/opinion/16-Jun-16/cii-and-the-social-realities


Orlando Outrage

By Mahir Ali

June 15th, 2016

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.

It didn’t 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 US.

You 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 terrorism.

Initial 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.

Like Trump, 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.

Islamists 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 in Florida.

Trump also 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.

Mateen is 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.

Obama has 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.”

That may 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.

There is 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 descriptions.

Finally, 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 months.

Source: dawn.com/news/1264837/orlando-outrage


Hate Crimes

By Aasim Sajjad Akhtar

June 17th, 2016

THE words ‘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.

We are 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.

How would 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.

Take an 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?

Differences are as pronounced today as they ever were.

Despite the 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 century ago.

The 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.

More 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.

So, for 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.

The global 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 applauding.

Aasim Sajjad Akhtar teaches at Quaid-i-Azam University, Islamabad.

Source: dawn.com/news/1265351/hate-crimes


Debating Israel

By Rami G Khouri

June 17, 2016

Central to 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.

Time is 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.

A dozen 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.

“The 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.”

Seven 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.

That public 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.       

Israel’s 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, Illinois, Georgia).

The US government and individual states sanction and boycott other nations (Russia, Iran, Cuba, Sudan) for their political behaviour.

So people increasingly ask why Israel should be exempt from public discussion of its behaviour towards the Palestinians.

Ironically, 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.

Seven 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.

The United 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 …”

Last summer, the United Church of Christ  called for divestment and boycott of firms that profit from Israel’s occupation of Palestinian territories.                           

Like the 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.                                                       

This article has been excerpted from: ‘A defeated sanctions vote in the US should worry Israel’.

Source: thenews.com.pk/print/128484-Debating-Israel


Is Our Afghan Obsession Finally Over?

By Ayaz Amir

June 17, 2016

The 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.

Even under 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 games.

Indeed, we 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?

Experience, 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.

China 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.

Influence 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?

There are 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 countries.

Internal 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?

We 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?

Regardless 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.

There 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.

We have 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.

We have 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?

The 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?

And there’s 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.

Hostility 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 it.

Source: thenews.com.pk/print/128480-Is-our-Afghan-obsession-finally-over


Different Path

By Faisal Bari

June 17th, 2016

A FEMALE 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.

A senator 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.

Practically 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.

Our elders did want a homeland for Muslims. But was it this sort of society and state that we wanted?

There has 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.

Attacks 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.

Ahmedis 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.

As Faiz 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.

Should the ‘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.

But 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 structured?

More 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?

Whether 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.

But there 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.

Source: dawn.com/news/1265356/different-path


Business as Usual

By Asha'ar Rehman

June 17th, 2016

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.

The 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.

There used 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.

There would 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.

Previously, there were many topics that were more likely to get noticed in Ramazan than during other months when they were ignored.

These 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 stories — 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.

There were 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.

There has 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.

In any 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.

Not least, 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 old mould.

Asha'ar Rehman is Dawn’s resident editor in Lahore.

Source: dawn.com/news/1265354/business-as-usual


Punjab’s Attempt at Protecting Women

By Benazir Jatoi

June 16, 2016

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 for granted.

The raison 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.

The 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.

The 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 them.

On a 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.

Another 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.

The 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.

Source: tribune.com.pk/story/1124234/punjabs-attempt-protecting-women/


Will Fata Always Be Fata?

By Ayaz Wazir

June 17, 2016

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.

While in 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.

However, 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.

On the 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 for.

Irrespective 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.

A former 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 Fata.

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.

I was 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 secretaries.

The 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 pandemonium.

He also 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 everybody there.

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.

My proposal 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.

Afghanistan 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.

Had the 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 displaced.

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.

Source: thenews.com.pk/print/128479-Will-Fata-always-be-Fata

URL: http://www.newageislam.com/pakistan-press/new-age-islam-edit-bureau/council-of-islamic-ideology-and-the-social-realities--new-age-islam-s-selection,-17-june-2016/d/107667


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