Enlightened Moderation My Ass

I told you so – imposition of martial law in Pakistan

Posted on November 7, 2007. Filed under: Chief Justice of Pakistan, Electronic media in Pakistan, Enlightened Moderation My Ass, Martial law, Politics |

I am not bragging but I did forsee this one coming. The imposition of martial law seemed imminent even two months ago.  Actually, fellow chai-lover Harris called it first in private conversation with me. We were talking after the Bhagwandas led bench had restored Ch. Iftikhar to the head of the apex court about the possible scenarios developing after that. He thought the CJ was going to over estimate his power on the street and go after Musharraf with a vengeance. That would have forced Musharraf to take stronger measures, read: martial law, to restore the pecking order. His argument was that Pakistanis as a whole are a people given to abusing power. Your age, gender, education, socio-economic background, political leanings, field of influence, …. none of that matters. They will abuse power for personal agendas.

And that is what Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry and his merry court did for months. The ran amok. They put thousands of existing cases on the back burner and decided to become a thorn in Musharraf’s side. Their interests spanned all issues of media interest. If a story was on the news media one day, the court was taking suo moto notice of it on the second day. Be it the flooding and consequent traffic jams on Karachi roads after heavy rainstorms, price of tomatoes, shutting down of terrorist breeding madrassas, and what not. If cable news thought an issue was inflammatory enough, the court thought it was worthy of their interest. The court was infact trying to be popular with the ignorant masses who are swayed by these media hyped issues. I will go in detail of this false hype in the next posting. Seeking popularity by activism is the domain of the politician, not the court.

That president Musharraf ward it off for as long as he did is credit to him. That the ex-Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry, brazenly led his motley crew of judges down the path of direct confrontation with the president shows his foolhardiness. Still, I think the president is not without blame in this year of crisis. He has managed to go back on too many promises and estranged too many of us in the silent majority who supported him through the last eight years. We have sat on the sidelines and wondered what exactly kept him from doing the needfull to move the country towards his promised land. Defeats and back paddling on one issue after the other has confused and disheartened the moderate majority of Pakistanis who want a prosperring and peacefull Pakistan. The biggest blow came with the ill advised attempt at removing the CJ. It has been a downward spiral since then. Again, I will compile these issues in a detailed chargesheet against Musharraf here in a post to follow.

And here we are. Two wrongs have made a massive wrong. Sadly, it seems there is not one person of honor and integrity left in the higher echlons of Pakistan. What we have is either dumb asses at best, or manipulative opportunists at worst. Oh, and I told you so.

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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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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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