Tag Archives: Pakistan

Was Jinnah secular?

By Yasser Latif Hamdani 

(In wake of the national debate on ideology and textbooks, Mr. Raza Rumi, the founder and editor of Pakteahouse, recently asked me to revisit the issue of Jinnah’s secularism through a comprehensive blog-post. This blog post is written for PTH exclusively and may be reproduced by giving PTH credit.)

Many people (though not all) on all sides of the ideology divide in Pakistan take umbrage with the description of Mahomed Ali Jinnah – the anglicized founder of Pakistan- as a secular leader or a secularist. Islamists in Pakistan say that he wanted an Islamic state. Islamic modernists say he wanted a modern Islamic democratic state (whatever that means), some people from the left say he was a communalist who was not secular because he championed Muslim separatism (albeit only in the last 11 years of his life). All of these groups agree that if Jinnah had been secular, it would not have been necessary to make a separate state. All of them – unconvincingly and inaccurately- claim that those who lay claim to a secular Jinnah are basing it on a solitary speech of Jinnah made on 11 August 1947. A slightly different claim is made by the Wali Khan group- which is ideologically consistent if historically errant- which claims that Jinnah wanted a secular state and that his push for Pakistan was the result of British manipulation and divide and rule which made him utilize Islamist rhetoric for the creation of Pakistan. While respecting all these points of view, I disagree with all of them and through this article I will explain why. Continue reading

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Filed under Jinnah, Jinnah's Pakistan, Liberal Democratic Pakistan, liberal Pakistan, Pakistan, secular Pakistan

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

Supreme Court short order out …

By Yasser Latif Hamdani

… And thank god that they have not dabbled in that horrible theory of the basic structure which would have meant closing the door on any future prospect of democratic reform in Pakistan (in my personal view).

I think this is an important middle ground which has atleast restored some of the faith I had lost in our judiciary to do the right thing.

Now it is upto the democratic government to meet the judiciary half way. Continue reading

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Filed under Constitution, Democracy, Jinnah's Pakistan, Judiciary, Justice, Law, lawyers movement, Liberal Democratic Pakistan, Pakistan

Living in Denialistan

Raza Rumi

The recent attack on Abdullah Shah Ghazi’s shrine is another reminder of the plain truth that the Pakistani state needs to focus on its domestic crises rather than remain obsessive about external threats. The unholy conglomerate comprising al Qaeda, sectarian outfits and elements within the state has targeted Karachi’s best-known public and cultural space. This is a continuation of Islamist battles against Pakistan.

Yet, apologists remain adamant. Butchering of civilians and annihilation of a plural Sufi culture is a reaction, we are told. First, it was the US occupation of Afghanistan, then the invasion of Iraq and now drone attacks in Pakistan. True, Muslims and Pakistanis are enraged at US policies and its sheer arrogance in dealing with the region. But using anti-Americanism as an excuse to overlook the growing cancer of bigotry at home is disingenuous and dangerous for our future. Continue reading

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Hatred and bigotry – when will this end?

by Usman Ahmed

I have with me, at the time of writing, a number of bumper stickers, leaflets and pamphlets regarding Ahmadis (or Qadianis as they are more derogatively referred to). According to the material at my disposal Ahmadis are traitors, criminals and the very worst kind of heretics. One leaflet is telling me in the most hideously bold type that even if Ahmadis flee to the moon it is the obligation of all Muslims to hunt them down and make their life as miserable there as it has been made on earth. Of course, it fails to mention how this costly venture might be undertaken or tackle the logistical problem of how hundreds and thousands of zealous Muslims, pitchforks, dandas and other fiendish accoutrements in hand, might actually get there. But hey! Forget the feasibility issues, surely it is worth going all the way to the moon to…wait…to…well I don’t know what exactly but I am sure it will be fun once the party gets started– although I suppose not so much fun if you’re an Ahmadi. Continue reading

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Unpacking the governance debate

If the intent of the unregulated media and a recalcitrant establishment is to dismiss the government to achieve better governance then this is at best a delusional goal
Recent weeks have witnessed a supercilious debate on how the current government’s misgovernance is a potent reason to boot it out. Governance is about decisions, resources and management of public affairs. The sad reality is that Pakistan’s media now controls and spins the public discourse on these issues. The popular media never wanted this government to begin with. Since 2007, it sided with the ‘clean’ and morally correct lawyers’ movement that presented an alternative to the corrupt politicians and shunned the 2008 election. First, it vilified Benazir Bhutto for making a deal with the Generals on initiating a transition towards a power-sharing arrangement. This was a classic worldview of the urban middle class, which has never been a keen participant of the messy electoral politics that brings rural politicians with fake degrees at the helm of affairs.
The second critical moment was the election of the President, which sparked an unprecedented media trial with stories (mostly unsubstantiated) of Zardari’s corruption. There was a strong alliance between the local and the global media churning out a thousand stories highlighting his insanity, fallibility and venality. This happened despite the full confidence expressed by Zardari’s party and its allies. A rare federal consensus over the election of a President was undermined and the media perception intensified how all the crooks stand together to rob the country once again.
Now the third moment in the aftermath of the floods has arrived; and the high-pitched voices against the politicians have reached their peak. The charge-sheet is long but, in a nutshell, states that the feudal politicians were inept in handling the July-August 2010 disaster and harmed the poor to save their lands. This is a simplistic conclusion that has emerged without proper inquiry and mainly through anecdotes from the urban anchors visiting rural victims and interpreting their anguish as a condemnation of the politicos.
Discussions around regime change have strongly articulated the displeasure of the unelected institutions of the state on ‘governance’. The media has faithfully reported that the Army is unhappy about the corrupt ministers still in office and the looming economic crisis. The Judiciary is perturbed, as its judgement on NRO remains partially unimplemented and key appointments reek of illegality. The perennial power-seeker class of politicians has started to reconfigure the political landscape while fringe parties like Imran Khan’s Tehreek-e-Insaf and the right wing Jamaat-e-Islami want to seize this opportunity for short term gains. The ever-ready crop of technocrats is also getting anxious due to the anonymous contacts being made by the invisible elements of the state.
This display of crass opportunism by Pakistan’s traditional elites is nothing new. Since 1947 (including that fateful year), they have cared little for the ordinary citizens. But the alarming aspect of our present dilemma is the way Pakistan’s much-touted free media has become an instrument in spurring political instability. The endemic problem with Pakistan’s governance is that regardless of the government in power, the state (if we were to include all the dominant classes in the wider definition) remains disconnected and disengaged with the citizens. What is more worrying is that the state no longer is a monolith as it has delegated the state’s monopoly powers to faith-based militant groups which are ready to exploit its increasing inability to ‘govern’.
With 20 million people still struggling to reclaim their livelihoods, entitlements (such as land), shelter and security, Pakistan’s establishment and its politicians are all but willing to do anything about it. It is therefore problematic to see a legitimately elected government preparing a summary on NRO cases for 34 out of 8,000 beneficiaries and the Supreme Court chiding it like an accused party. Or, to read about the panicky meetings of the PPP while the latter should be strategising about re-enacting the NDMA legislation or preparing a resource mobilisation strategy to rehabilitate the flood victims and reconstruct the damaged infrastructure.
Equally disturbing is to witness the saga of Courts in effect suspending new Constitutional provisions while they are expressly not mandated to do that; and placing abstract notions of people’s will above the Constitution. In a similar vein, the Army has a separate fund for flood relief and the elected Public Accounts Committee cannot be given the details of how and why a Rs 5 billion supplementary grant was given to the country’s premier intelligence agency.
The argument on misgovernance by a coalition government is bogus when unelected institutions of the state are unaccountable, non-transparent and unwilling to accept the oversight of public representatives. Until the Army budgets can be audited, and judges are appointed through parliamentary commissions and the bureaucracy is answerable to legislature, we will continue to swirl in a vicious cycle of political instability.
If the intent of the unregulated media and a recalcitrant establishment is to dismiss the government to achieve better governance, then this is at best a delusional goal. Pakistan cannot afford another upheaval and the recent signals by the Army that it wants stability are welcome. But then Pakistan is an unpredictable polity with a growing constituency for suicide missions. Strange times, indeed.
Raza Rumi is a writer and policy expert based in Lahore. He blogs at http://razarumi.com. Email: razarumi@gmail.com

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Filed under Army, Pakistan, Politics

Addressing the challenges – a short term agenda

Raza Rumi

Strange things are happening. Two months after a natural disaster hit millions of people and created essential prerequisites for an economic meltdown, the focus of Pakistan’s ruling elite — elected and unelected — remains on power politics. As if the utter lack of preparedness to cope with a disaster was not enough, the response to the disaster and its monitoring by a holier than thou media is baffling.

The primal cause of the post floods mismanagement, if were to believe the analysts on prime time TV and opinion piece writers from the press, is the corrupt clique headed by Mr. Zardari. Those with the most religious bent of minds have cited a divine wrath as a cause of this calamity. A few right wing newspapers have even blamed the United States and India to have caused this natural disaster to punish Pakistan for its nuclear weapons. The genesis of such intellectual confusion and distortion of public debate lies in the way the Pakistani mind has evolved into a hydra-headed, paranoid and militarised being. This has been the greatest contribution of the Pakistani state to shape and craft a society that places a premium on nuclear weapons over citizen welfare and which demonises the political process and celebrates religious militancy as a just cause. This is why militarism of a softer variety is back in full force.

Undoubtedly, Pakistan army has done a tremendous job in rescuing people and ensuring that relief efforts are well-executed. However, this is neither unusual nor a matter of surprise as it happens to be an organised institution. But to apply this success in an emergency situation by a force trained to deal with urgent situations onto the domain of national governance brings back the central issue of Pakistan’s statehood: the unresolved and now perhaps a permanent civil-military imbalance. It started with the TV channels eulogising army efforts and creating a binary between the army and the civvies — a half truth and a rhetorical polemic with little substance. This was followed by calls for army intervention by the MQM and its nemesis, Mr Imran Khan. Luckily, for Pakistan the Generals appear to be in no mood to intervene and rock the applecart. Well, at least for now. Continue reading

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