Category Archives: Activism

Asma Jahangir – a formidable fighter

Raza Rumi

Fearless and a formidable fighter, Asma Jahangir personifies the struggles Pakistanis have initiated against shameful cultural practices, discriminatory legislation and executive excess. A frail woman has kept the torch of public liberties, freedom and democracy alive for decades. Born on January 27, 1952, in Karachi, Asma Jahangir during the last forty years has become a champion of women, child and minority rights and in many ways the conscience of Pakistan.

A leading Pakistani lawyer and an advocate of the Supreme Court of Pakistan, Jahangir is most renowned for her role as a human rights activist, a role which has made her confront military dictatorships of General Zia-ul-Haq and General Pervez Musharraf and the civilian autocrats. In 1972, Asma Jahangir was only 18 when she filed her first petition to have her father — who had been arrested for denouncing the genocide in Bangladesh — released from prison. In a landmark judgment ten years later, she won the case. In fact, the earliest and perhaps the only judgment against a military coup is now attributed to her name. Her resistance to army’s role in politicshas been legendary. In 1999, when Pakistan’s so-called civil society welcomed the secular Musharraf with two dogs in his lap, hers was the only clear, unequivocal voice against military intervention. A decade later when Pakistan rallied behind the judges and lawyers to oust Musharraf, Jahangir was once again at the forefront. Continue reading

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Asma Jahangir’s victory is a cause for celebration

Raza Rumi

Asma Jahangir’s victory in the Supreme Court Bar Association elections is a major development in the legal and judicial history of Pakistan. She is the first woman to hold this office, and a progressive rights activist as well. Her struggles against injustice, discrimination and oppression have spanned over nearly forty years and are globally acclaimed. PTH wishes her all success and hopes that she is able to fulfil the mandate for which she has been elected: To transform the apex Bar into a professional, neutral and non-partisan body and operating at a healthy distance from the judges. At last some sanity might prevail. This take by lubp is worth a read.

I took the picture on the right after the victory and Asad J with the winnersmore can be found here

We are also posting a well considered view from HRW below:

Pakistan: Prominent Rights Advocate to Lead Supreme Court Bar

Asma Jahangir’s Election an Advance for an Impartial Judiciary

(New York, October 28, 2010)—The election of a prominent human rights activist to the presidency of the Supreme Court Bar Association of Pakistan   is a victory for human rights in Pakistan and for the country’s transition to genuine civilian rule, Human Rights Watch said today. The election of Asma Jahangir on October 27, 2010, will make her the first woman to lead the country’s most influential forum for lawyers. Continue reading

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Filed under Activism, Judiciary, Justice, Lahore, Law, lawyers movement, Liberal Democratic Pakistan, movements, Pakistan, Rights

A letter to the youth of Pakistan

Usama Khilji, a young activist from Islamabad addresses his contemporaries in Pakistan
Dear Young Pakistani!
I understand how these times are testing of your patriotism, but let me tell you how these times are actually a golden opportunity for you to prove your worth, your love for the country, and desire for a better future.

You must have been hearing a lot about how Pakistani society has degenerated into moral chaos, how we as a nation are worthless ‘cockroaches’, and how we as a nation are deserving of calamities such as the catastrophic flood. These are all baseless generalizations that you as the youth should take up as challenges, and rather than accepting such fatalism, prove them wrong instead.

For those of you who were disheartened by the beating to death of two brothers in Sialkot by a mob, don’t be disheartened. Use this event to realize the importance of justice, the importance of rule of law. Many of you went out on the roads of different cities of Pakistan demanding justice to the deceased brothers. Excellent. Be involved. Stand up and question any wrong that you see happening around you. Refuse to consent to injustice; otherwise you are one of the spectators of the mob-justice scene in Sialkot. Continue reading

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Saving a drowning country needs an ideological shift

Nasima Zehra Awan’s passionate post for the Pak Tea House

You are free to go to your temples, you are free to go to your mosques……..Religion is not the business of the State”.   Thus spoke Jinnah, whilst addressing the Constituent Assembly on August 11, 1947.

Sixty three years later, this is what our honorable Chief Justice has to say: “Parliament with Unlimited Powers can secularize state” (Source:  DAWN,Monday August 16, 2010)
Won’t that be a good thing, judge saheb!

At a time when our country is intellectually and morally bankrupt because of its moorings as a national security state built on the toxic teachings of Maududi, isn’t secularism the way to get out of this mess.  Instead of spending tens of billions to support a failed national security state, “a fortress of Islam” if you will, wouldn’t Pakistan have been better off with sustained representative governments that could have gone past the Kalabagh dam issue and built provincial consensus for half a dozen other dams that could have greatly reduced
the current catastrophe.
Unfortunately for Pakistan, this Judiciary, like most of its predecessors follows the ethos of the bureaucracy-security establishment, not the parliament or gasp, the principles of law and constitutionalism.  That would entail that
they ditch the prevailing sentiment, nay, control of Jamaat Islami at all the Bar Councils and actually allow the elected representatives of the people to draft and discuss legislation that would make Pakistan a functional state in the 21st century, not an faux Ommayad Caliphate of the 8th century!

The Judges and their media supporters and urban elite cheerleaders are obsessed with going after the elected leaders of one party and folk singers; the two actually have the same political powers in Pakistan today.  The dare not go
after Jihadi sectarian leaders who have rendered Pakistan into a wasteland.  The damages incurred by these Jihadis;  thousands of Pakistanis killed including the targeting of professionals belonging to minority sects and religions, the tens of billions of destroyed property and lost investment is incalculable.  These are the fruits that the State of Pakistan, the Islamic Republic of Pakistan has reaped by constructing itself in the vision of Maududi and Qutb.

However, in the chauvinist and elitest debates about corruption, there is NO mention of the billions that are taken at every budget without audit, the tens of billions taken from foreign powers who are subsequently vilified by the same and the trillions that are made by using the country as a corporate and real estate business entity.  After all, how will this debate start while we continuously see ourselves not as a modern, democratic and secular state but as the
realization of the Islamist neurosis of failed ideologues who see a warped view of religion and not shared human values, as the basis for a functional society. Continue reading

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REFLECTIONS POST-MAY 28

An exclusive post by Aamenah Yusafzai for PTH

The recent attacks on two Ahmadi mosques in Lahore demonstrate the urgent need to strengthen the rights of Pakistani minorities. Pakistan is not a country inhabited by Muslims only, or even Sunni Muslims. This is represented by the green and white of the Pakistani flag, a fact often taken for granted. The three quarter green represents the majority Muslim population, while the one quarter white represents non-Muslim minorities.

The preamble to the Constitution provides that provisions be made for “minorities freely to profess and practice their religion and develop their cultures.” Furthermore, it provides for guarantees to “fundamental rights, including equality of status, of opportunity and before law, social, economic and political justice, and freedom of thought, expression, belief, faith, worship and association, subject to law and public morality.” Article 36 further reiterates the security of minorities by the state by stating that “the State shall safeguard the legitimate rights and interests of minorities.”

The state is required to protect sectarian and religious minorities. Yet it is doing the complete opposite. Section 295B of the Pakistan Penal Code (PPC) calls for life imprisonment for anyone who “willfully defiles, damages or desecrates a copy of the holy Quran”. Section 295C imposes the death penalty or life imprisonment on anyone who defiles the Prophet Muhammad. Although not enacted to undermine the rights of minorities, unfortunately, that is what Section 295 is often used for. Continue reading

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Judicial Activism and Orientation: A Mixed Blessing

The current situation with respect to Judiciary merits several questions. Is there any scope for Judicial activism or Parliament should have the sole supremacy?  Assuming there is some scope (either through constitution or due to “necessity”) what are the desirable limits from political cum social point of view? What explains the current conservative orientation of the Judiciary? Was the lawyers’ movement a just cause or a vehicle for reactionary elements to direct the country towards further conservatism? What problems can occur due to the current ongoing tussle between Government and Judiciary?  This article tries to analyze the above questions.  

By Raza Habib Raja

Right now the country is embroiled in a rather destabilizing controversial tussle between increasingly hyper active judiciary and Government. Judiciary is actively pursuing a policy of activism as compared to judicial restraint and even 18th amendment which had unanimous support of political parties is right now under review and during session the remarks of the honourable judges are indicating that Judiciary may clamp the wings of the parliament.

Judicial activism obviously stands for an active court which is not exercising judicial restraint and is quite ready to even enter into the reign of executive and in fact even at times policy making domain. An important component is of judicial review through which courts can review and decide whether a certain act passed by the legislative is unconstitutional or infringes basic rights of the people. Another related issue is the Judicial orientation ( i.e. whether judiciary is ideologically moving towards liberal or conservative side).

 The ongoing judicial activism is difficult to be categorized as “good” or “bad’ mainly because it is trying to affect complex and at times interconnected variables in our society. The perception about it will also vary from person to person depending on his/her OVERALL political orientation.

Within liberal community the opinion is somewhat divided but most are worried due to a string of recent decisions regarding banning of websites and releasing of controversial individuals like Hafiz Saeed. Those who support it are also cautious as Judiciary while cracking on corruption is also veering towards reinforcing conservatism. The role of Lahore High Court is particularly a cause for concern. In my personal opinion while there is some limited scope for judicial activism but at the same time the judicial orientation is a cause for concern. On the good side Judiciary is instilling a culture of some accountability but on the flip side it is also showing strains of excessive activism and increasingly conservative orientation.

The current situation merits several questions whch have been outlined in the introductory part of the article. Let’s try to evaluate these Continue reading

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World Cup Brings Justice for Apartheid League in Former Prison

As the soccer world cup heats up in South Africa, it is worth remembering that the present day South Africa is largely a result of the sacrifices of courageous men and women who stood up against apartheid in their native land. These people spent best years of their lives locked away for the crime of speaking for equal treatment for all of South Africans.

These brave souls are a model for not just the South Africans, but for all humans everywhere on this globe. As the saying goes, sacrifices of one generation make way for better lives of the next generation. Below, we reproduce a small yet powerful story about the political prisoners in South Africa, who formed their own football federation behind the prison walls. As they bask in the limelight their country enjoys on the world center stage, we hail these heroes who stood valiantly and selflessly for the equality of all men. May their sacrifices never ever be forgotten.

(AZW)

World Cup Brings Justice for Apartheid League in Former Prison

Reproduced from www.bloomberg.com

 By Tariq Panja

 June 10 (Bloomberg) — For Lizo Sitoto, the arrival of the soccer World Cup in South Africa is another justice for the former political prisoners who nurtured the sport there.

 Sitoto, who was incarcerated on Robben Island where Nelson Mandela was imprisoned for 18 years, was among the group of inmates that formed the Makana Football Association, which ran soccer leagues at the penal colony.

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