Guest contribution by Frank Huzur (picture right)
‘Better the rule of one, whom all obey, than to let clamorous demagogues betray our freedom with kiss of an anarchy,’ once said Oscar Wilde, famous Irish writer. The outgoing President General Pervez Musharraf, who ruled Pakistan for nine-year, has great fancy for Oscar Wilde thoughts and writings. Dictators always look good until the last minutes. Clad in a grey suit as if to suit the sobriety of occasion, Musharraf was almost on verge of breaking into tears during his farewell hour-long televised address to 175 million people of Pakistan. Media analysts all over the world, including inside Pakistan, were quick in debating about the role of individual crucial in bringing down the rule of ‘strong man’ Musharraf.
A majority of commentators in both print and electronic media toed the expected line of government of the day and attributed the ‘fall from the grace’ of Musharraf to impeachment campaign of Pakistan People’s Party and Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz) coalition of Asif Ali Zardari and Nawaz Sharif , while conveniently overlooking the struggle and sacrifice of actual leaders of people’s resistance against the fourth dictatorial regime in sixty years history of Pakistan. So much so that even Pak Prime Minister Syed Yousuf Raza Geelani didn’t even pay any tribute to 90,000 lawyers for their struggle against dictatorship. Continue reading
Our Blue Law: The Unconstitutional and UnIslamic Ehteram-e-Ramzan Ordinance
By Yasser Latif Hamdani
The United States of America had till a few decades ago a curious legal creature called the “Sunday Closing Law” also known as the “Blue law” on statute books of many of its constituent states. On Sunday, that day being the “Christian Sabbath”, it was forbidden to carry out any business or for grocers to sell anything except necessities. The law applied across the board and was thus an instance of a religious law. Ultimately most states were forced to repeal this law for being ultra-vires to the US constitution which promises freedom of religion and freedom of conscience. Enshrined in the US constitution is the first amendment which forbids the state to either establish religion or forbid the practice of it. Thus freedom of religion was a fundamental constitutional right and the basis of the repeal of the Blue Law in most states.
One of the promises expressly made by the founding fathers of Pakistan was religious freedom for all. Jinnah promised in about two dozen speeches before and after partition that there would be no discrimination based on faith in Pakistan. His was a vision of a secular democratic state informed by Muslim cultural life the same way US is influenced by Christian values and secular India embodies the ethos of its Hindu majority on a civic level. The constitution of 1973 however sought to establish Islam as the state religion within the framework of a federal democratic republic. Nonetheless this constitution gives Pakistanis “the right to the right to profess, practise and propagate his religion” (Article 20) and further ensures that “all citizens are equal before law and are entitled to equal protection of law” (Article 25) and “in respect of access to places of public entertainment or resort not intended for religious purposes only, there shall be no discrimination against any citizen on the ground only of race, religion, caste, sex, residence or place of birth” (Article 26).
Pakistan, despite being officially christened as the “Islamic Republic”, did not have any such blue or green law for the first 30 odd years of its existence. Continue reading
Perception of the locals: Let’s face the ground reality: Up until a few weeks ago, a large segment of population residing in Pakistan’s tribal areas believed that the government as well as Pakistan’s armed forces were running with the hare and hunting with the hounds. It appears that the perception – as a consequence of the renewed and a vigorous military operation – is now changing both in Bajaur Agency and Swat. To be certain, the Pakistani government and the military need to do a lot more to rectify this perception and that requires the continuity of the operation, rehabilitation of and assistance of the Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) and ensuring law and order in the FATA.
Local tribesmen have seen the policy of the Pakistani government oscillating between confrontation and cooption; hence the apprehension. Some tribesmen have also suffered first-hand at the hands of the militants for cooperating with the security forces during the military operations. This would usually happen after the government would conclude generous peace agreements with the militants after the military operations leaving the militants as the main power-brokers in the area and the tribesmen at their mercy. Continue reading