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Pakistan Press (11 Aug 2016 NewAgeIslam.Com)

Quetta Bleeds Again: New Age Islam's Selection, 11 August 2016

New Age Islam Edit Bureau

11 August 2016

Quetta Bleeds Again

By Adnan Aamir

Redefining Civil Society’s Role

By Amir Hussain

Forced Conversions In Pakistan: A Dark Reality

By Nasir Saeed

The National Minorities Day: A Mere Formality?

By Kaleem Dean

Compiled By New Age Islam Edit Bureau


Quetta Bleeds Again

By Adnan Aamir

August 11, 2016

On the first day of the week, the lawyers of Quetta left their homes early in the morning in a hurry. They not only had to reach the courts but also participate in the election campaign of the upcoming bar elections. They did not know that almost all of them would not return home that evening.

First, Bilal Anwar Kasi, the president of the Balochistan Bar Association, was gunned down in broad daylight. When lawyers gathered to collect his dead body from the Sandeman Provincial Hospital a powerful suicide blast wiped out the cream of Quetta’s lawyer’s fraternity. According to official sources, 73 people have died so far as a result of the blast while non-official sources put the death toll to well over 100. The suicide attack, which took out the entire leadership of lawyers in Quetta, was claimed by an Isis-affiliated splinter group of the TTP.

The first thing to consider in the aftermath of the bomb blast is that it was indeed a security failure and that the provincial government and law-enforcement agencies are responsible for that. The perpetrators of the attack used a very evil tactic – to first target a lawyer and then attack when people gathered over his dead body.

This is not the first time something like this has happened in Quetta. In fact, it is the fourth such incident. In the past, similar tactics have been used in the Bolan Medical Complex (BMC) attack, the Police Lines blast and also in the same Sandeman Provincial Hospital.

This time around the provincial government failed to pre-empt any such attack despite past precedents. There was no effective security arrangement at the entry of the hospital; this was the main reason for the high death toll. So, without any doubt it was a massive security failure and the provincial government can’t be absolved from responsibility.

The second point to discuss is the lack of life-saving health services in the city in case of such attacks. The victims of the blast were transported to the Combined Military Hospital (CMH) in Quetta Cantonment. CMH also has limited capacity and cannot accommodate victims in case of powerful blasts like the one on Monday.

According to claims by relatives of the bomb blast victims, some of the people lost their lives because they were not provided timely emergency aid after the blast.

All of this could have been avoided if there was a functional trauma centre in the heart of Quetta city. Surprisingly, there is a fully constructed trauma centre inside the Sandeman Provincial Hospital where the attack took place. This trauma centre is well-equipped but not functional even after having been completed. It is alleged that the trauma centre has fallen victim to political disagreements. If true, this is really tragic and criminal. Petty self-interests and egos are preventing life-saving treatment from being provided to the victims of such bomb blasts.

Third, this blast has once again generated debate over who is responsible for it. The chief minister of Balochistan was quick to blame RAW for the blast. Different people came up with different theories. Some blamed sectarian elements who are again gaining a foothold in Quetta, while others termed it as an act to sabotage the $46 billion CPEC project. However, notwithstanding the dubious claim made by a splinter group of the TTP, the people of Quetta will most certainly never know who was behind this attack. There is also no real hope that the perpetrators of this attack will ever be brought to justice.

Likewise, never in the history of Quetta has anyone been held responsible for such attacks. Those who are responsible for protecting the people of Quetta should also be held accountable if they fail to do their job. This is the basic principle of a functional democracy with a proper governance structure.

The day after the attack, Quetta seemed to be a deserted city except for crowds outside homes of the slain lawyers where people were coming to offer condolences. What is worse is that this is not the first time something like this has happened – and God-forbid it is least likely that it will be the last time.

Source: thenews.com.pk/print/141644-Quetta-bleeds-again


Redefining Civil Society’s Role

By Amir Hussain

August 11, 2016

The idea of social development is as old as human civilisation itself, with a perennial objective to promote the welfare of the common people in a polity. Social development has contextual, spatial and temporal attributes both as a concept and as praxis and has intrinsically been linked to the politics of the age throughout history.

However, the genesis of our contemporary notions of social development goes back to the rise of capitalism and its corollary, the nation-state. The term ‘social’ refers to associational life and the collective being of individuals – the collective life of citizens in the sense of the modern nation-state.

The term ‘social’ then becomes redefined as ‘civil’ in the modern sense, which includes all citizens of the modern polity – the nation-state. Social development at times, therefore, becomes synonymous with development for the citizens, who are constitutionally, legally and politically part of a state and who are both the right-holders and duty-bearers within the political system they live in.

From the altruism of old monarchs to the institutional accountability of modern democracies, the evolution of theory and practice of social development essentially remained a key instrument for subjects and citizens respectively to attain power, voice and representation of popular will in the cultural, socioeconomic and political life.

Coming back to the modern notion of ‘civil’ with the popularity of the classical liberal economic theory and distinction of political and economic domains, social development started to shape up as an autonomous domain of citizens during the last two centuries in the West.

This third domain as intermediary between citizen, state and market was termed as ‘civil society’ to protect the interests of citizens against a Leviathan state and profit-oriented socially indifferent logic of market. Civil society, thus evolved, gave rise to the idea of an autonomous space for citizens as a harbinger to protect democratic values in the face of a Weberian bureaucratic state and profit-oriented market economy.

The key premise upon which the Western concept of civil society is founded is primarily driven by this triangle of state, citizen and market which found strong expression in the writings of Alexis de Tocqueville, Robert Putnam and Antonio Gramsci. For Tocqueville and Putnam, erosion of social capital, lack of civic engagement and low participation in political life jeopardised democratic virtues while for Gramsci civil society provided the space to contest the ideological hegemony of the state which if left to its own devices will protect the capital and, hence, the interest of the bourgeoisie.

Unlike Tocqueville and Putnam, for Gramsci civil society is not an autonomous domain of citizens but a political space which the ruling classes use to establish ideological hegemony. Without contesting this ideological hegemony, qualitative transformation of societies becomes impossible because the hegemonic power spreads false consciousness to dilute the spirit of social change.

Thus the evolution of discourse of civil society in modern history is full of inner strains and critical thinking and is essentially a Western phenomenon that runs parallel to the evolving socioeconomic and political institutions under capitalism.

Elsewhere in the non-Western world, in particular in post-colonial societies, the civil society debate remained rudimentary in the sense that it could not emerge as a countervailing ideology to political and economic oppression. There have been attempts to articulate the post-colonial critical theory led by the Subaltern Group but it could not percolate to popular idiom.

According to James Ferguson, civil society has become like education, development or environment – no sane person can oppose it to look like a “reasonable individual”. This “often ahistorical and uncritical use of the concept of civil society serves to help legitimate the hegemonic and at times anti-democratic transitional politics”. Ferguson wrote this in the context of African politics but this has striking resemblance to what is happening in Pakistan in the name of civil-society activism.

Civil society cannot be reduced to NGOs only, but in reality these non-governmental donor-funded entities dominate the scene with their resources and ability to manipulate the discourse through conventional and social media. This tendency is reinvigorated by outside policymakers for whom the civil society of postcolonial societies is a set of NGOs, most of which are funded by bilateral and multilateral development donors or by international NGOs.

Some of these NGOs have grown large enough to become a quasi state – they effectively take over some of the state functions in health or education, for instance. Ferguson argues that “the reason the civil society concept is unhelpful in such cases is because these NGOs neither challenge the state nor the corporate interests but they instead become ‘horizontal contemporaries’ of wider institutions of transactional governmentality”.

In Pakistan, civil society activism has favoured military dictators like General Musharraf in recent history simply for his Westernised lifestyle. The Westernised, liberal and foreign-educated civil society lot of Pakistan is far removed from the political imagination of the common citizens of this country. And that is exactly why we are left with conservative, fundamentalist and backward elements (whatever term one may like to describe them) providing an alternative politics by resisting state and market forces.

The so-called ‘uncivil society’ shows civility while the proponents of civil society become isolated as irrelevant and as allies of Western imperialism –as conservatives put it. Comaroff rightly argues that “there is a Eurocentric tendency to limit civil society to a narrowly defined institutional arena”, which runs counter to Hegel’s original insistence that the civil sphere of relatedness has its origins in the historical particularities of the capitalist mode of production and exchange.

Even promoting local civil society through community-based participatory development has a strong Western lens that needs to be rethought, in particular when Pakistan has seen decades of this developmental paradigm with no visible impact on poverty and rural development. There are sporadic events of community-based institutions displaying the spirit of local transformation but this has been led by the self-selected activists rather than a broad-based consensus and aspiration of local people for change.

However, this should not imply that community-based participatory development is not a desirable development objective. It is only to suggest that this approach needs a critical rethinking. Societies do not operate in vacuums as there have always been social arrangements for socioeconomic and cultural transaction – no matter how primitive, kinship based or tribal they are.

Under the rubric of community participation, development practitioners tend to play down the role of power relations, patronage and heterogeneous nature of community itself in terms of power, social status and political millage etc. Village-based organisations created through development organisations are grafted in a complex local reality with little attention to existing evolutionary processes of indigenous institutions and their interconnectedness with local economy, culture and sociopolitical life as a whole.

Rather than imposing exogenous paradigms of participatory development to generate participatory numbers with a project implementation approach, it is vital to build on indigenous institutions that are organically linked to the popular imagination.

To unleash the transformative potential of the wretched classes in Pakistan, we need a more vibrant, counter-hegemonic and politically conscious civil society that has the ability, will and interest to say truth to power, and promote and protect democratic values.

In order for this type of civil society to flourish it is vital to contest both the Eurocentric unbridled and un-thoughtful liberalism as well as the brutal barbaric alternative discourses of religious fundamentalism. We ignore this important socio-political space of civil society only at a great peril.

Source: thenews.com.pk/print/141643-Redefining-civil-societys-role


Forced Conversions in Pakistan: A Dark Reality

By Nasir Saeed


Every year in Pakistan, hundreds of young Christian and Hindu girls are forcibly converted to Islam, but our media very rarely highlights their stories. However, many of these stories can be easily found on social and in the international media. The stories of Zeba Masih and Pooja are among the few on the BBC website, but today I wish to share with you the very unfortunate story of the hearing and speech disabled Christian girl, Asma, who is from Sialkot. According to her lawyer, Hafiz Ateeq-ur-Rehman, she was kidnapped a few months ago by her neighbour, Ghulam Hussain, a very influential person. Despite knowing who the abductor of his daughter was, Gulzar Masih knew he was helpless as he did not have the resources to fight for his daughters. Masih had lost hope of seeing his daughter again, but Asma somehow managed to escape. Now her captors are demanding that her father hand her back to them, but she has refused.

To prove the legitimacy of his forced marriage to Asma, Hussain has produced certificates of her conversion to Islam and her marriage to him. And although the papers do not match her name and even surname, Hussain still insists on her being sent back to him. It is a common and a very alarming fact that with money such documents can be easily made and verified in Pakistan. To pressurise the family and gain support from religious leaders, Hussain has resorted to other tactics, and has even brought religion in, claiming that since Asma has converted to Islam she is not allowed on religious grounds to live with her Christian parents anymore.

I am not aware of the existence of such laws in Pakistan or anywhere else in the world that forbid people of two different faiths to live together. And moreover, here it is simply a matter of a father-daughter relationship, which no social order has the right to break up. In this or other cases, evidence that is forged to cover up crimes that could lead to several years’ imprisonment cannot be condoned.

When Gulzar Masih took a stand to save his daughter and went to the local police station, instead of listening to his grievance and helping him, the police officer pressurised him to send his daughter back to her abductor. What a mockery of the law that the person who should be charged and put behind bars for kidnapping and raping a young Christian woman is being supported by the police. It is not just the police but in such cases even the courts often ignore the law, and instead of deciding the case on merit, resort to giving out decisions based on a prevalent opinion, or because of pressure from religious extremists.

I remember the case of two Christian sisters, Saba Younis, aged 13, and her sister, Anila Younis, 10, who were reportedly kidnapped in 2008 from Multan whilst on their way to their uncle’s house. Their abductors claimed that Saba voluntarily entered into marriage, and that both girls had agreed to convert to Islam. As far as I understand, both sisters were minors and their statements for marriage and/or conversion could not be accepted by law. But the district court judge in Muzaffargarh dismissed a petition by the parents to regain custody on the grounds that the two sisters had “converted in a legitimate manner to Islam,” and that the marriage of the elder sister was legitimate. Such legitimacy can be seen only in Pakistan.

Now Gulzar Masih who has no hope for justice and in order to save Asma has sent her to an undisclosed location, but I am not sure if she is going to be safe for a long time. Making a mockery of the law and abuse of power is a common practice for influential people, and especially in such cases where religious groups get involved and laws are manipulated

Unfortunately, the police and courts whose job is to dig into the matter to bring the truth out and dispense justice disregard the victim’s circumstances, and choose to believe documents and statements of the abductors. And instead of giving kidnapped girls’ custody to their parents/families, in a warped dispensation of “justice,” at times, the custody is given to their captors, their kidnappers. In some cases, these girls/women are sent to Dar-ul-Aman (women shelter). Either way, their lives are ruined.

These girls/women who are not converted to Islam in the first place are never allowed to reconvert to Christianity, and re-join their family. Sadly, if any girl reconverts to Christianity, she is accused of apostasy, and while the state does not prohibit any citizen from converting or reconverting to any religion, the reality in our society is altogether different. Despite having knowledge about this practice, the state has never made any tangible efforts to stop it because it is a matter that concerns minorities. And the rights of minorities do not matter.

I have had the chance to speak to some of these girls personally, and according to them, their thumbprints are taken on blank papers, or some sign under duress as they do not have any other option but to comply with what they are asked to do. Mostly, their parents seem helpless too because the police side with the captors, and often pressurise the victims and their families.

One example is Shazia, a married woman, and a mother of four from Pattoki, who escaped her captors and re-joined her family. But she was not as lucky as Asma, as her captor — an influential landlord — implicated her family in a false case, and forced them to return her to him, claiming her first marriage was no longer valid. Such a blatant manipulation of justice can only be seen in Pakistan, and only in the case of minorities. I fail to understand how and under which law Shazia’s first (Christian) marriage became annulled. Mothers like Shazia are not even allowed to see their children. Their misery is endless.

If somebody is able to take such a case to court, there is still no hope for justice. Last year, Boota Masih, father of 24-year-old Sobia from Lahore, took her case to court with the support of an NGO, but it was all in vain. He filed a petition of habeas corpus through his lawyer in the Lahore High Court. The honourable judge ordered the concerned police officer to recover and produce Sobia before the court. Instead, the officer in charge of investigation appeared before the court, and submitted Sobia’s marriage and conversion certificates. The concerned judge asked the parents to withdraw their petition, and despite the lawyer arguing for permission for Sobia and her father to meet, unfortunately, the court had to dismiss the request, and the case was withdrawn.

If the kidnapper of a girl of a minority faith feels any threat from her family, he starts to issue threats to their lives, and in some cases, the threat continues until the father or brother of the girl is killed. This is what happened to 14-year-old Mehwish from Faisalabad. Her father was killed when he was considered a threat, and made every effort to take his daughter back. Her mother, Najma, a poor and resource-less lady who even knows the abductor, has no hope that one day her daughter will be returned, as she has been told that Mehwish has converted to Islam and she cannot prove that she was abducted and forcibly converted to Islam by her abductor.

Nasar Masih, father of 16-year-old Sonia, has also lost hope of seeing his daughter again.

The growing threat is making lives of minorities increasingly hard. They live with a constant feeling of insecurity, and having little recourse in the face of violence, they are forced to leave the country their ancestors equally struggled for.

Converting to any religion is the fundamental right of every human being, while forcible conversion to any religion is a crime even under Pakistan’s penal code. Since Pakistan’s laws do not prohibit anyone to change their religion it is the responsibility of the state to ensure and guarantee every citizen freedom of religion and belief. Pakistan is under obligation to bring its law in line with international conventions ratified in relation to women and religious freedom and belief. The Convention on Elimination of All Forms for Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) clearly establishes state obligation to respect, protect and fulfil women’s rights. Under CEDAW, it is the responsibility of the state to take appropriate measures to eliminate laws and practices that directly discriminate against women, and also to create an environment in which women’s rights can be fulfilled and protected.

There are no indicators to prove the success of Pakistan’s endeavours to promote human rights, and prevent the ongoing persecution against minority women; rather, it is on the increase. Such atrocities against minorities’ women are not hidden from anyone as several reports have been published about this abominable issue. Even the Senate Standing Committee on Religious Affairs has declared the forced conversion of minority girls to Islam as un-Islamic, and has asked the government to adopt a comprehensive mechanism for protection of women belonging to minority communities. Chairman of the committee Hafiz Hamdullah said: “Forced conversion of girls to Islam is against the teachings of Islam and also a violation of the law in the country.” He further said that religion is a personal matter of every individual, and no individual can be converted by force.

Last year, Senate’s Functional Committee on Human Rights recommended to criminalise forced religious conversions, and to prevent misuse of the blasphemy law, but the government seems disinterested, and nothing has changed.

Since the police and courts have failed to uphold the law appropriately, the problem will continue to grow, and people of a particular mindset will continue to commit such crimes without any fear. Although according to the Constitution of Pakistan all citizens are equal before the law, but clearly some are considered superior on the basis of religion.

Many Christians believe that the government of Pakistan deliberately tolerates such lawlessness as a way of marginalising the Christian minority. Since there is an urgent need, and minorities have a longstanding demand, now even the Senate committee has once again recommended that instead of blaming media and NGOs for defaming Pakistan, government must bring this matter to parliament, and introduce legislation to stop the ongoing forced conversion of girls and women belonging to minority religions.

Source: dailytimes.com.pk/opinion/11-Aug-16/forced-conversions-in-pakistan-a-dark-reality


The National Minorities Day: A Mere Formality?

By Kaleem Dean


The National Minorities’ Day is being observed on August 11 in Pakistan to reiterate determination to secure fundamental rights of minorities of Pakistan. In 2009, 11th August was designated as the minorities’ day by the then PPP government. The efforts of Shahbaz Bhatti, the Christian minister of minorities who was shot dead in 2011 by fundamentalists, were the leading spirit behind this decision. His objective was to get reassurance from government for fair treatment of minorities in the light of the famous speech of the founding father, Mohammad Ali Jinnah.

On August 11, 1947, Jinnah said: “You are free; you are free to go to your temples, you are free to go to your mosques or any other places of worship in this state of Pakistan. You may belong to any religion or caste or creed — that has nothing to do with the business of the state.” Indeed, this was the beacon that inspired Bhatti to convince the PPP hierarchy to announce August 11 as the day of minorities. While declaring August 11 as the National Minorities Day, Asif Ali Zardari, the then president of Pakistan said: “August 11 has a special significance in the national calendar. It was on this day in 1947 when the Father of the Nation, Quaid-e-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah, in his historic speech to the members of the Constituent Assembly of Pakistan, had laid down the foundation of a modern, tolerant and progressive Pakistan in which everyone will have equal rights regardless of creed, caste, and gender.”

Zardari added, “The Minorities Day is an opportunity that reminds us to reaffirm solidarity for the betterment of humanity and for a prosperous Pakistan.” This statement by the president in 2009 was indeed an encouraging one for minorities discriminated in the country since 1947. Many minority leaders and thinkers started believing that after the recognition of a minorities’ day in Pakistan, the situation would be better.

On August 11, 2015, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif said: “On commemorating the Minorities Day I wish to reiterate the unflinching resolve of my government to protect the rights of minorities living in Pakistan without consideration of fear or favour. I have always stood by the principle of furthering minority causes in Pakistan with a view to ensure interfaith national harmony.

 My government is very conscious of the views expressed by the Father of the Nation in this respect, which very emphatically spell out the mode of mutual coexistence for all peoples living in the length and breadth of Pakistan. Emulating the Quaid’s vision in letter and spirit the government of Pakistan observes August 11 each year as the Minorities Day to reaffirm our commitment to all our minority fellow citizens. I am sure that our minorities will continue to play their respective role in national development. I wish them all the best in their future endeavours.”

The views expressed in 2009 by the then president of Pakistan are not different from last year’s message of the prime minister of Pakistan on the occasion of the National Minorities’ Day. The message was almost the same: reassurance and reaffirmation to safeguard rights of minorities. Now let us see some unfortunate incidents that happened against minorities between 2009 and 2015.

In 2009, militants grabbed homes and shops of 35 Sikh families in the Orakzai Agency in FATA. In May 2011, two Ahmadi mosques were attacked, and more than 70 people were killed. In 2013 in Peshawar, the All Saints Church bombing killed 80 innocent Christians, injuring hundreds. In 2015, suicide bombers in a church in Youhanabad claimed 15 lives, and injured 70. In April 2016, the Gulshan-e-Iqbal Park carnage was another example of the brutal treatment of minorities in Pakistan.

Reportedly, more than 1,000 girls and women of minority faiths are forcibly abducted and converted to Islam every year. Incidents of of persecution are a frequent occurrence, most of which remain unnoticed and unreported. Minorities are not free to elect their representatives in national and provincial parliaments. Nominated/selected minority members are not popular among masses. A kind of social apartheid is prevailing in a highly polarised society.

 Reaffirmation of safeguarding minorities’ rights cannot be ensured until and unless a strong narrative is adopted to protect an integral part of society. Minorities play their vibrant and exclusive role in the development of the country. Their loyalty cannot be questioned. It is a common phenomenon that deprivation and frustration compel youngsters to get involved in terrorism, but minorities despite living in abysmal conditions remain loyal and dedicated citizens of the state. The sad state of minorities is not only felt in Pakistan but reports in international media also comment on maltreatment of minorities in Pakistan.

Celebrating the minorities’ day has become a mere formality, and that is not what Shahbaz Bhatti envisioned. Practical steps are required to be taken: right to elect members and representatives; five percent recruitment quota for minorities; practical provision of scholarships to minority students; fair legislation to amend the blasphemy laws; unbiased promotions of minority officers in bureaucracy, judiciary, and establishment; protection measures for worship places of minorities; and equal rights in an open society.

This year too, Federal Minister for Human Rights Kamran Michael has announced the National Athletics Festival for minorities. The objectives of this programme have not been made clear by the said ministry, but it would be a good idea to have such programmes regularly organised on a national level to discuss the challenges faced by minorities.

Recommendations should be sent to government for bringing a real change in the lives of downtrodden sections of society. Minorities are anticipating another statement from the office of the prime minister, which would have another reassurance of fair treatment of minorities. What real effect would that have on the harsh reality of the plight of minorities? For national development, all sections of society should be treated equally. By ignoring a small but important section, the dream of a prosperous Pakistan may not be materialised.

Source: dailytimes.com.pk/opinion/11-Aug-16/the-national-minorities-day-a-mere-formality

URL: http://www.newageislam.com/pakistan-press/new-age-islam-edit-bureau/quetta-bleeds-again--new-age-islam-s-selection,-11-august-2016/d/108237


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