Archive for May, 2007

Islam is now safe in a country that is 97% muslim

Posted on May 8, 2007. Filed under: Enlightened Moderation My Ass, Politics, Talibanization, Useless Legislation |

Today a bill floored by MP Bhandara to alter the blasphemy laws, to provide equal protection to the prophets and founders of minority religions like Christianity and Buddhism on par with the protection provided to prophet Mohammad, was rejected and then verbally trampled upon by Sher Afgan (the federal minister for parliamentary affairs). Mr Bhandara had argued that all Pakistanis are equal citizens regardless of religious affiliations. Thus, he derived the notion that all religions of Pakistani citizens should have equal treatment under law and that all other religions be afforded the same protection against blasphemy that Islam currently enjoys in the country. Blasphemy against Allah (muslim god) and Muhammad(prophet of Islam) is punishable by death in Pakistan’s current Sharia inspired laws. If passed the bill would have made blasphemy against Jesus, Hindu dieties, or Buddha punishable by death.

These blasphemy laws have been proven in many cases to have been used to persecute non-muslims and Muslims alike. Many times the accusers have used these laws to exact revenge from enemies through law or mob-lynching. That second aspect is most worry some as there are many instances where people have been accused and lynched by mobs within minutes in the middle of roads. The passage of equal protection against blasphemy would have meant, religious minorities could just as well accuse their Muslim or non-muslim antagonists of blasphemy. They’ll be able to dish out as well as they have been taking.

Such a law would protect the remains of our Buddhist past as sacred, and prevent the destruction of Buddhist and Hindu statues and shrines from destruction at the hands of wannabe but-shikans(one who smashes idols). Prof. Adil Najam noticed one such instance of the destruction of our Buddhist heritage.

Instead of discussion, Bhandara was booed by the mullahs of the MMA opposition parties, and received a verbal thrashing from Sher Afgan. ‘This is the parliament of an Islamic state, not a secular one. No one can dare to present a bill here which hurts the sentiments of Muslims,’thundered Sher Afgan. Bhandara’s protestations that the bill would not hurt the sentiments of any Muslims, butwill only seek to protect the sentiments of non-muslims similar hurt were lost among the boos and brays from the parliamentarians. With no support from either the government or the opposition, the motion was rejected by the speaker.

Later, the MMAs’ bill of having Apostasy declared a crime punishable by death, was sent to committee after it received no objections from the government.

Curiously, the applicability of the death penalty for apostasy is going to be based on the sexual maturity of the accused. Thus, the punishment will be available for female offenders beginning at the age of sixteen and male offenders at eighteen. years old. I guess, when it comes to arbitrary laws this is as good as any other criterion. They certainly couldn’t have used a mental maturity test for this as that would have absolved the whole country of culpability. I haven’t yet found a report of any provisions for dealing differently with accused deemed mentally deficient. No insanity defence it seems.

There are provisions for those who repent. First time offenders may be forgiven by the court if the offender repents. Second and third time offenses may be punishable by two year jail term. Death upon the dumb-ass who commits the offence a fourth time. Women are treated differently, and in this case with a lighter final sentence. No death penalty for the serial apostate. A fourth offence shall earn her an indefinite sentence till she is rendered completely subservient.

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Does the MMA hold the trump cards

Posted on May 7, 2007. Filed under: Jamaat-e-Islami, JUI, Politics |

Here is a thought: To be elected the president needs the provincial assemblies of NWFP and Balochistan. Those are the domain of the MMA. The chief ministers of these provinces can ask the governors to dissolve the assemblies. The law of the land says: governors have to grant the petition and prepare for fresh elections. Should such a thing occur we will be short two assemblies. Not being a student of our constitution, I don’t know if there exists then the possibility, whereby the president can still get elected from the remaining assemblies. If not, that is a couple of swords hanging precariously above the door of his presidency.

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Some observations of GEOs’ coverage of the CJP rally in Lahore

Posted on May 6, 2007. Filed under: Chief Justice of Pakistan, Electronic media in Pakistan |

I have spent the better part of this saturday, dos equis (viva mexico) and chicken tikka in hand, eyes glued to GEOs’ coverage of the Chief Justices’ 24-hour journey from Islamabad down the GT road to Lahore. There is a lot to be said about the process and spectacle that should have been an essentially constitutional issue. But right now I have a couple of observations about the tv coverage of the event.

  • Firstly, kudos to Geo for giving precedence to this event over regular programming.
  • Geo should seriously think about acquiring a helicopter or two to cover such events from the air and give its subscribers a birds eye view. We could use that perspective. In the short term maybe they can charter such aircraft.
  • There was evidence of fatigue in the Geo production teams.
  • At times the newscasters/hosts came back from commercial breaks only to send us back on commercial breaks without uttering a word.
  • At a couple of other instances the programme would come back and the cameras catch the hosts anawares and not ready to be on air.
  • Still on other occasions the breaks would run a lot longer than usual with the Geo graphics being played on a loop. I am guessing this was caused to prevent the above two scenarios.
  • One suggestion I have for such instances would have been to shift the viewers to the cameras accompanying the CJ or at location in Lahore, even without the camera team saying anything. The event was powerful and interesting on its own and just some raw camera coverage would have brought that ambience home to the viewers.
  • For an event that lasted hours, there was a paucity of video clips and the same clips was being looped on itself tens of times for many hours.
  • I don’t know if Geo has tv Vans with uplinking ability as they do in western countries. That would have helped in providing us the atmosphere on the road live. If they do maybe such assets could be used more effectively.

This is slightly above nitpicking but its the little things that make for the highest quality product. Kudos to Geo for having the stamina to hang in there for the duration of such a marathon event, especially when it seems to have dragged on for much longer than expected.

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Was the whole Lal masjid issue an ISI produced drama?

Posted on May 3, 2007. Filed under: ISI, Jamia Hafsa Ninjas, Lal Masjid, Politics, Talibanization |

That question has been asked by numerous people. It is a natural question considering the heavy fisted treatment metted out to previous challengers to the Pakistani establishment. Civil and Military governments in pakistan have not been known to handle the threat of armed opposition lightly. And neither should they. Anarchists have to be dealt with severely to ensure peace on land. The Pakistani governments have gone miles further and have never flinched from bombing rebelious citizens. Be it East Pakistan, Balochistan, or Waziristan, we bomb resistance away. And then they bomb back. And we bomb some more, until they run out of collateral cassualties. With such background, many observers are puzzled by the current handling of the crisis in Islamabad.

The taliban at Lal Masjid and its associated madrasas, Jamia Fridiya and Jamia Hafsa, have certainly given enough cause to be dealt with severely.

  • They have illegally constructed a 5000 student madrassa on public land. 
  • They have been in illegally occupying a public childrens library for over three months now.
  • They have attacked, beaten, abducted, illegally confined for three days, and harrassed away a family of three women and a child from the neighbourhood.
  • They have abducted police men from the street, damaged police property, and held the abductees hostage as human shields.
  • They have threatened local businesses selling music and video CDs and DVDs with attacks lest they close down or change their business.
  • They have established a parallel court system, where they are the judge, jury, and executioners.
  • They have issued fatwa denying the Pakistan army soldiers, who die fighting taliban, the right of a namaz-e-janaza. They have gone even further praising the taliban who die in these encounters as the rightful shaheeds.
  • They have threatened the citizens of Islamabad and across the country with hundreds of suicide bombings if any action is taken against them for their crimes.

Just one of those complaints should have been enough to take action against these people. But we have a plethora of serious violations of law and nothing happens. Here is a few suggestion from Shakeel Anjum from The News.

  • They could be booked under Article 5 of 1973 Constitution, Section 3 of Illegal Dispossession Act 2005, Sections 124-A, 125-A, 506, of Pakistan Penal Code (PPC) and 6/7 Anti Terrorism Act (ATA), the report said.
  • The Section 3 (Illegal Dispossession Act 2005) says, “Whoever occupies a property without any lawful authority would be liable to punishment of imprisonment, which may extend to ten years and with fine”, the law book said. Section 124-A PPC says, “Whoever is found guilty of sedition would be liable to punishment of life imprisonment along with fine.”
  • 125-A (Sedition), PPC says, “Whoever by words either spoken or written, or by signs, or by visible representation, or otherwise brings, or attempts to bring into hatred or contempt, or excites or attempts to excite disaffection towards- the Federal or Provincial Government established by law shall be punished with imprisonment for life to which fine may be added, or with imprisonment which may extend to three years, to which fine may be added, or with fine”.

Instead of facing criminal prosecution, the mullahs and their brain-washed goons are seen holding court over the governments’ ministers. One idiot is attending brick laying ceremonies for the reconstruction of the demolished mosques. Even promising that the tax-payers will bear the expense. Another duffer goes around telling everyone that Jamia Hafsa is a non-issue, while the mullahs keep threatening the nation with hundreds of suicide bombings. The rhetoric from Lal masjid has been caustic enough for the governing bodies of madrassas to disassociate from them. These nutters don’t even have the support of other mainstream madrassas. Still, the government dithers.

Thus, the question, Why? Why have the taliban and talibaat of these madrassas been given a free pass to flay laws, and terrorize the capital city? Why hasn’t the government come down on them? Why hasn’t anybody been arrested or better yet killed?  

If anything the government has backed off and played dead. Recent news indicates the government has agreed to all of the illegal demands of the taliban. Being diplomatic and avoiding bloodshed in the capital is one thing. Being a refusnik and cowardly in the face of attack on the nation is another. And our generals have once again been found wanting in the ‘defending the homeland’ department. So what gives?

Lal Masjid and ISI headquarters don’t just happen to lie on the same road. They are co-travellers on the same path. Lal Masjid is where the military-mullah alliance was born and bred over decades. It is just too convenient to stage this topi-drama on Aabpara road. It might not be conspiracy, but it sure stinks like one.

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Burqay ke neeche kya hai, pardey ke peche kya hai

Posted on May 2, 2007. Filed under: burqavaganza, Culture, Enlightened Moderation My Ass, Jamia Hafsa Ninjas, Talibanization |

burqavaganza.jpgphoto from bbcurdu.com

This news is a bit old, but we have had it under warming lamps and it is still consumable. So lets have at it with some karak chai and a couple of fresh khatais for good measure. The government has recently stopped Ajoka Theaters from conducting any further performances of its satirical musical production Burqavaganza. The creative forces behind the show are the husband and wife dynamic duo of Madeeha Gauhar and Shahid Nadeem. So we know the thing must have been well written, well produced, and a new thorn in the sides of the subversive forces in the country.

The idea behind burqavaganza, it seems was to highlight the issues of talibanization of Pakistani society,the subjugation of women, and the role played in this macabre drama by the authorities and the fundoos. In the play, young men and women are shown going on dates under the cover of burqas.  The play also shows a burqa-clad married couple put to death for public displays of affection. There is a cricket match played in burqas. And a character named Burqa bin Ladin. The following link from BBC shows a video clip montage of Burqavaganza.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/urdu/meta/dps/2007/04/bb/070427_burqavaganza_16x9_bb.asx

The production team behind the play has reacted with shock and disbelief at the ban. What soft image? What enlightened moderation? As if giving in to the Lal Masjid mullahs in Islamabad wasn’t bad enough, the government is now playing dead in Lahore. All it took was for a bunch of unelected female MNAs to shriek, blasphemy! blasphemy! on the floors of the assembly, and the bearded and turbaned culture minister proclaimed a ban on the play. The educated citizens have expressed their displeasure and disappointment with the government on this issue. A few letters to editor of daily times express the feeling of this minority.

So, this is where we stand. The fundoos have become the morality police of the country. They decide what is permissible and what is punishable. Wither freedom of speech. They wouldn’t stop till they ban freedom of thought. In their comprehension anything even remotely tied to Islamic cultures is sacred. Today, satirizing the burqa has become blasphemous, tomorrow poking fun at the skull cap is going to earn lashes from the bearded lot.

Ajoka theaters can still take heart from the fact that they have unwittingly unveiled the duplicitous face of the musharraf regime. One of the hallmarks of true leadership is consistency. Consistency in rhetoric and action. That consistency allows others to have confidence in the leaders’ ability to stay on course. You cannot claim to be enlightened and moderate and then include in your cabinet ministers who act contrary to your promises. You cannot say media is free and then ban plays because the reactionary fringe protests too much.

 Shameless self-plugging alert: The daily rooznamah reveals the real issue might be a professional rivalry between Ajoka and the army-mullah tag team. The army and mullah alliance claim exclusive rights to producing burqa and topi dramas in the country.

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Dear General Sahib, please take off the uniform.

Posted on May 1, 2007. Filed under: Humour, Politics |

Our glorious leader, General Musharraf has said he will not take off his uniform until his re-election through the current assemblies. Politicos have pointed out the unconstitutionality of such a situation. They say an assembly cannot re-elect a president for a full second term. As if a military dictator, cum chief executive, cum president until someone kills him, cum chief patron of cricket, cum anything else he might fancy, is a constitutional position.

People who have read more books and write better essays seem stuck on these matters of constitutionality. But not me. Matters of religious dogma and political doctrine don’t hold my attention. The issues of the everyday life of layman are the real issues. The daily perils he faces are scarier than any so-called anti-islamic conspiracies. And that is why I am bothered by the General’s statement. I wonder how his stubbornness on this matter is going to effect the quality of life for those around him and those, whose lives he goads. Thus the following appeal to our glorious leader:

Sir, in the coming months there is going to be a lot of heat on you. Taliban terrorists, cunning politicians, even the trusty Americans are going to be on your case. You are already looking harrangued and your brows leaden with sweat. And then the real heat arrives. People sweat buckets even under shade in the Pakistani summer. And when the monsoons come, the country becomes one large steam room for weeks. The hot air is aromatized by the steaming human and animal feces littered on earth. Even the pretty girls stink in those months. Please Sir, reconsider your adamency on this matter. Take it off for a few hours when no one is looking. Maybe you can take off the uniform at night in the privacy of your bedroom. Have the first lady wash it and iron it dry while you take a well deserved and truly needed shower and scrubbing. I am confident, despite her recently luxurious life, begum Saba can still wash a shirt for you. And then you can put it back on when it is time to strut in front of your servant country.

Please sir, don’t make it any harder for the army to salute you. Their salutes, prod your salutes in answer and that lets escape whiffs from the underarms. In that regard may I also recommend a super strong deodorant. Mitchum claims its deodorant is so strong you can skip a day. I will vouch for that claim. I can FedEx you a couple months supply from costco for cheap. Daily showers at night, while begum sahiba washes the uniform and a liberal application of a medicated deodorant and you might just make all this bearable for yourself and the rest.

Please Sir, do the right thing. Do it for your wife and child. Do it for those who heed your commands without complaint. Do it for the country that serves you and the mighty army you command. Do it for yourself. Please think about taking off the uniform. We have had enough of this.

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