New Age Islam Edit Bureau
27 August 2016
By Benazir Jatoi
Endgame for MQM?
By Abbas Nasir
Lust for Land
By Irfan Husain
Rickety Criminal Justice
By Muhammad Ali Nekokara
Compiled By New Age Islam Edit Bureau
August 26, 2016
The writer is a barrister and UK solicitor
who works with Aurat Foundation on law and governance issues
The law in 15 towns of France over the ban
of the burkini, a fully covered up version of a swimsuit for Muslim women, is
finally being enforced. Images have hit the news with four policemen
surrounding a fully clothed woman on a beach in Nice, ensuring she removes her
top full-sleeved layer of clothing. Onlookers clad in bikinis and shorts look
on. It is reported that some chants of ‘go home’ and applause for the police
action could be heard in the background. What a 360-degree turn the Western
world seems to have taken with this image. In 1922 in the West, there are black
and white images of women being questioned by police on the beach for wearing
clothes that were considered too revealing — skirts too short, arms too bare.
It’s 2016 and the police are back, this time questioning a woman’s morality,
measuring it by how covered up she may be. Ironic, no? Actually more ironic is
that some things haven’t changed at all; telling a woman what is right to wear,
how to wear it, when to wear it seems to stay as is. Now cover up, now uncover.
Too much skin showing. Too little skin showing. All in the name of morality.
And now it seems all this is happening in the name of secularism.
A Muslim woman, in fully clad clothes on
the beach in Cannes, was fined and ticketed with not “respecting good morals
and secularism”. German cities are also considering banning Muslim women from
wearing the burqa. Maintaining the status quo when it comes to morally policing
women has not changed, just the reason for doing so has. The Burkini is now the
latest threat to freedom and secularism in the Western world. More than ironic,
this is farcical.
I am not sure what I feel about the Burqa,
Burkini or any overtly covered gowns and headscarves to represent a faith. I
believe linear, singly interpreted versions of any religion to be detrimental,
mostly always to women. Such interpretations also undermine diverse cultural
beliefs that are practised and go hand in hand with religion. But what I do
believe and hold dearly is the freedom for people to express themselves,
through spoken words or through the clothes they wear, regardless of whether I
agree with their beliefs or not. Freedom. We call it Azadi. Liberte, isn’t that
Now the famous French essential value,
liberte, is threatened by women too covered up on a beach, in a park, at schools
of learning. And with liberte compromised, egalite and fraternite are not far
behind and questioned. The fire in the house eventually spreads to all the
Feminism, the ideology that in France took
hold during the French Revolution, seems to be reeking of smoke as well.
Believe it or not, many French feminists supported the ban of the burkini and
headscarf in public spaces. And with this support, French feminists have
excluded and failed to represent all women. I would have thought the beacon of
feminism having stemmed from France, French feminists and liberals would be
shouting from the rooftops disagreeing with this deliberate targeting of Muslim
But the real stench here seems to be that
of racism and fear. The French are revisiting their colonial mindset and
self-imposed cultural superiority, this time on home soil. My belief may not be
similar to those more stringent Muslim women, in fact, probably completely
contrary to what they believe in, but my belief in the freedom for women to do
with their bodies as they please is rock solid. And if you are with me on that,
then let’s use Evelyn Hall’s famous words to defend freedom of expression to
register our protest — I may disapprove of what you wear, but I will defend to
the death your right to wear it.
August 27th, 2016
Although Dr Farooq Sattar has been in the
public eye since he was first elected mayor of Karachi in 1987 it took him
nearly three decades to come into his own after the MQM founder-leader Altaf
Hussain crossed the red line one final time this week.
As someone described it on social media,
Altaf Hussain seemed to have set off his suicide vest when he addressed his
supporters and workers at the hunger strikers’ camp outside the Karachi Press
Club as he incited attacks on media houses and launched a tirade against the
Given the sustained crackdown his party has
been facing on account of its involvement in militancy and against the backdrop
of charges that Altaf Hussain has been consorting with the Indian intelligence
agency, the MQM leader found the pressure unbearable and seemed to press a
There is no doubt that the man whose word
was the law on the streets of Karachi will never again be a shadow of his
There is no doubt that the man whose word
was the law on the streets of Karachi, where many inhabitants lived and
breathed at his pleasure, will never again be a shadow of his former self. What
isn’t clear is how many others he will still take down with him as a result of
his ‘suicide vest’ explosion?
Altaf Hussain’s huge support base in the
sprawling metropolis remains intact as does, sadly, the ethnic divide which he
exploited so skilfully to propel himself to power. But unless another Musharraf
era is somewhere round the corner, the sort of muscle the MQM leader is
accustomed to is going to be no more.
How will a man used to wielding absolute
power, the power of life and death, over a city and its populace reconcile to
being a much lesser mortal is the key question. The party may be at the
receiving end of a crackdown but it’s impossible to say all the militants have
Some may be lying low and waiting for
orders to strike or resurface with a bang. It is this uncertainty over the
remaining muscle and a support base which will, for now, remain committed to
the party founder that is forcing Farooq Sattar into his daily high-wire acts.
Having been forced or convinced to opt for
silence at least for now, all those who know Altaf Hussain recognise that he
has an immense ego, enjoys Pied Piper-like control over hundreds of thousands
of followers in Sindh’s urban centres and remains unstable, volatile and
incendiary in the best of times.
He is someone who doesn’t mind being
videotaped fantasising about torturing opponents with power drills and hammers.
His supporters insist their leader was mocking allegations that the MQM
indulges in such practices when he was filmed making that statement.
But the relish with which the MQM leader
was referring to such scenarios was scary and sickening at the same time,
particularly because over the years dozens of bodies have been found dumped in
and around Karachi bearing such torture marks.
To the reader whose sensibilities are
offended by my mention of matters so grotesque and who feels my view is
exaggerated, any reporter who has covered Karachi will bear me out. One isn’t
living some morbid fantasy but making a statement of fact.
Every member of the ‘sector’ set-up of the
MQM which the Rangers now seem to be dismantling as part of an
intelligence-driven campaign must be aware that most of these charges are real
and not imaginary or mere propaganda as the party often suggests.
Of course, many voters who show up in
droves on election day to accord the party dizzying successes rubbish such
allegations as propaganda and believe that they belong to a persecuted or at
least a neglected community which, without the MQM and its leader, would be
much worse off.
This state of siege does not afford the
voter an opportunity to connect the dots and realise that over the life of the
MQM whilst there have been crackdowns and lives lost in such actions, many
leaders who Altaf Hussain perceived as disloyal or a challenge to his authority
also met violent ends. Were their murders coincidental?
I can think of Azeem Tariq, Altaf Hussain’s
second in command and the party’s chairman, Dr Imran Farooq who was once the
founder’s right-hand man and senior leader Khalid bin Walid just to name three
whose killing can’t be laid at the door of the authorities or any opponent.
There are many more.
At the same time, so many of the grievances
and the insecurity that led to the meteoric rise of the MQM, remain; one need
only drive through Karachi and see the broken roads and mountain heaps of
garbage as mere glaring symbols of why many in the city still feel alienated.
Critics argue that Farooq Sattar is doing
what he is at the bidding of the party leader and once the crisis is averted it
would be back to business as usual. I don’t have the means to confirm this or
say with certainty it is rubbish.
But to me Farooq Sattar appears like I have
never seen him these past 30 years. He sounds more, and more, like his own man
albeit one who is fully aware of the pitfalls of the project he has undertaken.
The authorities have two choices.
They could back him and help him steer the
party gently and delicately towards distancing itself from Altaf Hussain’s
politics and moving towards an entirely democratic ethos. Simultaneously, the
mopping up of the militant wing elements should continue.
Or they could continue to express
unhappiness that he hasn’t gone far enough via voices such as Mustafa Kamal and
Amir Liaquat Hussain and have him subjected to daily media grilling questioning
his motives to whatever end.
I would opt for the former. Wish I could
read the minds under berets and peak caps.
Abbas Nasir is a former editor of Dawn.
IT’S become a cliché to say that all
countries have armies, but in Pakistan, the army has a country.
But clichés have an element of truth. I was
reminded of this while reading Dawn’s recent investigative report about the
Karachi Defence Housing Authority’s land-grab in the squatter colony
Qayyumabad. According to this detailed account, around 30 acres were set aside
by the municipal authorities for amenities like power generation, water
purification, a school and a playing field for the deprived people of this
But DHA had its eyes on this land, and
after a series of legal and administrative manoeuvring — to say nothing of
muscle flexing — has managed to have the disputed land transferred. It has also
been reported that a key player was a retired major who was selling commercial
plots even before the paperwork had been completed.
It’s not only the military that has
deprived the poor of land.
The military has long been expanding its
footprint across Pakistan’s cities through its multiplying defence societies.
Land is acquired at nominal rates from provincial governments, and developed
with money taken as advance payments for residential and commercial plots from
officers. Allotment letters are then sold to civilians at several multiples of
the price they paid.
Thus, some of the richest families in the
country live in some of the most garish houses in these housing colonies. We
have become so accustomed to this unending land-grab that we don’t notice that
Pakistan is probably unique in this respect.
As Dr Ayesha Siddiqa has noted in her book
Military Inc, militaries in China, Egypt and Indonesia run large business
enterprises. And while we are up there with our Fauji Foundation, to the best
of my knowledge, our officers have done better than their counterparts in other
countries with their defence societies. In addition, they have also benefited
from vast tracts of agricultural land in Punjab and Sindh.
For over 15 years, military authorities
have been locked in a conflict with peasant farmers in Okara over tenancy
rights. The army has reportedly been running farms and dairy plants in the area
for years, and is trying to force local farmers to sign new, disadvantageous
tenancy agreements. Protests have been crushed with much violence.
But the military has not been alone in
depriving the poor of their land and their rights. A few months ago, this
newspaper ran another investigative report that focused on the breaches of laws
and regulations by a project on the outskirts of Karachi. Here, a well-connected
tycoon is alleged to have used his clout with the Sindh government to bulldoze
huts and throw locals out to create the infrastructure for his giant housing
In Islamabad, poor Christians have been
living in fear of eviction from their Katchi Abadi as the Capital
Development Authority seeks the Supreme Court’s approval to level the slum. As
reported, retired chief justice Iftikhar Chaudhry has recently written a
(poorly drafted) letter to the current chief justice seeking his intervention
to have a plot allotted to him.
In a country with a rapidly growing
population, pressure on urban housing will obviously increase. But this alone
doesn’t explain the insatiable lust for land that has afflicted so many
wheeler-dealers. Speculation happens everywhere, but in Pakistan it has reached
fever pitch as qabza groups use political connections and violence to grab
So when did it all start? Younger readers
might be unaware of this, but the country’s birth was accompanied by our first
land-grab. As refugees fled across the new border with just the clothes on
their backs, many clutched documents proving ownership of property. To
compensate them for their loss, the newly established Evacuee Property Trust
handed them equivalent houses or agricultural land abandoned by Hindus and
Sikhs fleeing in the opposite direction.
However, many Muslim claimants were
desperate for cash and sold their claims to well-heeled businessmen who then
proceeded to acquire choice properties for peanuts. Thus were many early
fortunes made in Pakistan.
But these grabs pale into insignificance
when compared to some of the army’s manoeuvres. For instance, under Ayub Khan,
retired officers were allotted agricultural land in Punjab on the pretext that
they would be able to defend the area against an Indian attack. In Sindh, land
made available for farming with the building of dams and canals was also
allotted to officers.
I can understand such generosity with state
lands if the beneficiaries are the dependents of servicemen who have fallen in
battle. But surely officers who retire after their normal time in uniform leave
with a reasonable pension package. And officers who retire at an early age
almost invariably find jobs
But since this has now become a service
perk, surely it can be restricted to one plot per officer. When Musharraf
seized power in 1999, he released his assets; these included several plots that
were then estimated at many millions.
As long as this unseemly acquisition of
land by the military continues, it might be seen as a colonising force.
REPORTS of kidnapping and the abduction of
children have emerged as a serious issue in recent months across Pakistan.
Earlier this month, the Peshawar Police, with the help of the Intelligence
Bureau, arrested a gang which, shockingly, included doctors, lady health
visitors and nurses, involved in the abduction and trading of newborns. The
arrest of the gang, although reassuring, is distressing at the same time. The
gang leader had been arrested by Islamabad Police in 2015 for similar crimes,
and was subsequently released on bail.
Why can’t criminals and repeat offenders
involved in such odious crimes be brought to justice? The answer to this
question from actors of the criminal justice system (CJS) would entangle us in
a ‘blame game’ in which no one is a winner and the citizens are the ultimate
A couple of months ago, I had the privilege
of attending a discussion on CJS arranged by the Pakistan Institute of
Legislative Development and Transparency and presided over by the vice chairman
of the Pakistan Bar Council. Leaders of the Supreme Court Bar Association, PBC
and the prosecutor general Punjab were present along with political and media
representatives. Disappointment, contempt and hostility towards the police and
lack of respect in different organs of the CJS for each other were alarmingly
obvious in the session.
How can the justice system operate when there
is no trust among its components?
The problem with the CJS is not just lack
of funds, weak laws and poor skills. An equally troubling aspect is the
disconnect between its various actors including the police, judiciary, lawyers,
prosecution and prison personnel.
This disconnect is very evident in
incidents such as lawyers assaulting police investigators and judges of the
lower courts. This creates pressure for other important actors of the system.
The courts blame the police for defective investigation and lawyers for seeking
endless adjournments. The lawyers complain of poor training, low rewards and
insufficient facilities in the courts. Police officers grumble about the
difficult standards set for evidence collection; non-availability of witnesses;
the dearth of witness protection programmes; and ridiculing and humiliating
behaviour in court. Prosecutors bemoan their status as ‘poor relatives’ of the
CJS. This generates a narrative which has a paralysing effect on the wheels of
The dysfunctional relationship has serious
social and legal costs — the acquittal of terrorists, conviction of the
innocent and fast-tracked justice for the powerful and inordinate delays for
the not so well-connected. Importantly, it pushes people towards desperation instead
of giving them hope.
The clearly flailing wheels of the CJS thus
need to be aligned first. All the organs of the justice system are structurally
interdependent and cannot carry out their responsibilities if they work in
isolation. Any kind of capacity-building, legislative and monetary support
would founder on the rock of self-righteousness unless the relevant actors are
constructively engaged to collaborate in the public interest.
Appropriate institutional arrangements are
critical to reducing the disconnect because they can promote inclusive dialogue
within the justice system. The current institutional arrangements are set out
in Police Order 2002 (which provides for district criminal justice coordination
committees (DCJCC). Headed by a district and sessions judge, such a committee
includes the district heads of police, prosecution, investigation, prisons,
parole and probation as members. These committees continue to function in
Punjab and KP to date whereas in Balochistan and Sindh they were dissolved with
the repeal of Police Order 2002 in 2011.
The DCJCCs’ impact since their inception
remains insignificant mainly because there is no institutional arrangement at
the provincial level to watch and evaluate their performance. They could have
played a better role in addressing the ‘disconnect’ within the criminal justice
system had the district heads been supervised by their respective provincial
The law and justice commission of the
Supreme Court exercised its leadership by notifying the provincial justice
committees in 2015. The mandate of these committees includes coordination,
planning and guiding reforms in the justice sector. The role of the provincial
governments, particularly the political executive and the high courts, is
decisive in ensuring effective oversight and reforms in the system at the
provincial level. It would, therefore, have been better had the provincial
governments taken ownership and instituted provincial criminal justice
coordination committees (PCJCCs) by amending their respective police laws.
Punjab and KP need to amend Police Order
2002 and the KP Police Order 2016 respectively to provide for PCJCCs. Sindh and
Balochistan also need to institute similar arrangements ideally by reactivating
and amending Police Order 2002.
These provincial committees can deliberate
legislative reforms, support capacity-building, effectively demand more funds
from the government and develop feedback mechanisms, in addition to supervising
the district criminal justice coordination committees. The PCJCC may include
the chief justice of the high court as chairperson and the law minister, chief
secretary, IGP, home secretary, the advocate general, prosecutor general, IG
prisons, the vice chairman of the Provincial Bar Council and a CJS expert as members.
There is an urgent need to move beyond the
posture of self-righteousness to legal, political and moral responsibility and
The strain and disconnect can only be
reduced through the exercise of leadership by the leaders of the judiciary,
lawyers, police and prosecution, in addition to the political executive. The
judiciary, being constitutionally the most independent institution in the
country, is in an ideal position to bring all other actors of the criminal
justice system together and even nudge the political executive towards serious
reforms in the justice system.
In the words of the winner of the Nobel
Peace Prize of 2007, Al Gore, “The next generation will ask us one of two
questions … ‘What were you thinking; why didn’t you act?’”
Or they can ask: ‘How did you find the
moral courage to rise and successfully resolve a crisis…?
It is time to act for a safe future for our