Tuesday, April 30, 2013

The PPP Goes Down the Drain!

By Saeed Qureshi
The Pakistan People’s Party founded by the firebrand, charismatic and revolutionary leader Zulfikar Ali Bhutto has been buried under a heap of scandals and notoriety. Apparently, It is destined to be consigned to the dustbin of history and only time would tell how and when it regains it lost glory and fame of yester-years.

The History of the “Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire” written by illustrious English historian Edward Gibbon can, also to a narrow scale, be applied to the rise and fall of the PPP. A political party that admiringly came to be known as the party of the downtrodden sections, oppressed masses and marginalized people of Pakistan has come to such an appalling situation that it cannot hold it election meetings or open its offices. 

Most of its offices are closed in Karachi and elsewhere as these are increasingly coming under attacks from Taliban and other disgruntled religious bands. Alas this one time most coveted party has come to such an unenviable pass.

The decline of the party began when in the wake of the controversial elections of March 1977; Mr. Bhutto surrendered to the exploitative classes and relegated the party’s revolutionary charter to the back burners. Earlier he also abandoned the poor and dispossessed sections and embraced the feudal, the petty bourgeoisie, the Sardars, the cutthroat industrialist, the mercantile monarchs and all those sections against whom the party had come into being.

He stooped and capitulated before the religious oppressive groups and zealots to save his power. He revived the religious fiat prevalent during the medieval times in the Islamic dynasties. In order to quell the uprising from the mosques triggered by the emotional Muslims and to pacify the religious demagogues and clerics, he declared Friday as the weekly holiday, banned liquor and closed the liquor shops, declared the Ahmadis as non Muslims, declared horse race as unlawful and took a host of similar retrogressive measures.

That was a shameless betrayal of his party’s milestone mission that stood for liberty, openness, human rights, democracy and welfare of the common people of Pakistan. He changed the trajectory of his people’s revolution and he left halfway the grandiose mission of changing the destiny of Pakistan and its people.

What went wrong with the party in the subsequent times? Let us examine it. Imagine a party in power could not trace or capture for five years, the assassins of its chairperson Mohtrama Benazir Bhutto. It had all the power and the resources to reach and bring the ruthless culprits to justice. 

All that Asif Ali Zardari as the co-chairman of the PPP, the president of Pakistan and the husband of Benazir, was to pronounce that he was aware of the murderers of BB, but couldn’t disclose their identities. What a shame and what cowardice!

One wonders a president of the country is so afraid that he lacks the courage to reveal the names of the assassins of an iconic political figure who was also his spouse. The Bhutto family fans have been disillusioned over the callous and deliberate circumvention of this murder that should be counted as one of the greatest tragedies that struck Pakistan. 

While the other political parties and politicians have been crying hoarse to catch the assassins of BB, the PPP has been evasive and seemed devoid of any interest, urgency or passion on this issue of the Himalayan import.

Now another issue that is shrouded in mystery and is outright murky and dubious is the will of the slain leader. Why on earth no one ponders for a moment that her will is an extremely vital document and which in fact belongs to the nation. It is long draft (said to be 35 pages) and narrates several national and family issues.

About Mr. Zardari she wrote, “I would like my husband Asif Ali Zardari to lead you in this interim period until he and you decide what the best is.” What was that interim period? Did she know that she will die and there will be an interim period and how long it should be? Whom she was addressing as ‘you’?

This lengthy document couldn’t be only about the appointment of Mr. Zardari as his heir or successor as party chairman. Now understandably, as per Benazir’s will, it is only her widowed spouse Mr. Zardari who inherits all the grandeur, power and prestige as the president of a leading political Party. But even if she appointed Mr. Zardari for an interim period as the chief of the party; the rest of the will still needs to be revealed.

The paramount question that intrigues the mind is that only one page of the hand written will has been disclosed. Interestingly that page shows only the appointment of Zardari to take up the reins of the party.  Normally as the practice is, all wills are opened by the lawyers in front of all the close family members. But it is said that except Asif Ali Zardari no one else not even the children of the deceased Benazir Bhutto have the full text of will.

I would not believe that Benazir was so novice and naive as to appoint an individual as the party’s chairman and not advise or direct the central executive committee to choose through vote, the next chairman of the party. The PPP is not a dynastic party and even if it’s because of Bhutto family charisma, still, the appointment of any person from the family should have been made through a democratic system.

And now let us turn our attention to the five years rule of the PPP. Perhaps the biggest achievement of Mr. Zardari as Pakistan’s president was to construct a freakish coalition with the help of smaller parties on any conditions that these parties laid down. In this scandalous give and take and odious format of scratching each other’s back, the grave national issues from deficient electricity to checking rampant corruption and mushrooming lawlessness were conveniently set aside.

Rather the party echelons themselves broke the record of corruption by spawning and patronizing unbridled culture of loot of national wealth. The PPP’s ministers down to the lowest party cadres were obsessed with one base goal and that was to make money through every conceivable foul mean.

The rental power units are one of those jumbo scandals. These white elephants and totally useless dysfunctional power units were rented by robbing the national exchequer of billions of rupees. The nation building institutions such as PIA, the Steel, Mills, the Railways and many others were debilitated ruthlessly and we all know why?

The five years’ reign of PPP along with it s coalition partners was a long nightmare that deprived the people of even modest living, they were having in previous regimes. The people are now poorer despite the facade of spending 72 billion rupees via Benazir Income support program every year on alleviation of poverty. I shall not repeat its running battle with judiciary and flouting it’s several orders.

The country is in the grip of a paradigm of lawlessness that was not seen before ever in Pakistan. While the people in power from top to an office clerk were riveted on filling their personal pockets, the country and the nation suffered from a spell of degeneration and administrative breakdown and it would take years for the recovery and rehabilitation.

So the unabashed and audacious manner the PPP leadership has destroyed the fabric of the Pakistani society, fragmented it and exhibited callous indifference towards its reconstruction is blowing back on its face. Predictably, most of its erstwhile staunchest voters may not vote for this party in May 11 elections. The accusing fingers for an historic failure to serve the nations are being pointed at Mr. Zardari and his close cohorts.

The party may not stage a comeback in the power corridors, and would keep facing Taliban and other religious outfits. But more ominous is the specter that PPP leaders might be arraigned in the courts for a surfeit of allegations. They might also have to face public backlash and outrage in the coming months and years.

The myth of “Roti, Kapra and Makan” cannot be drummed up by the party again as people won’t be bitten twice and even thrice by the same coterie of the crooks. The PPP face has been tarnished so much by its inept and corrupt leaders that it cannot be refurbished by the best of political perfumes and cosmetics.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Khaliq Qureshi: The Lone Crusader for Islamic Reawakening

By Saeed Qureshi

Soft-spoken and humble, Khaliq Qureshi, the founder of One Man Mission for the Muslim Unity is a remarkable person. His paramount dream is the Islamic renaissance with its pristine glory. His heart pains over the decline of the Muslims and their persecution in the present times. 

But he sternly believes that by emulation of the life and teachings of the Holy Prophet of Islam Muhammad (peace be upon him), Muslims can regain their splendid past. Khilafat-e-Rashida is the model of Islamic governance that Khaliq Qureshi exhorts the Muslim rulers to establish in their territories. 

This is the only route to the salvation of the oppressed, tyrannized and in some instances enslaved Islamic countries, he emphasizes. Khaliq Qureshi has an intellectual approach towards the debacle of the Islamic nation continuing for the past several centuries and has therefore contemplated for years to explore as to how they can overcome this calamitous phase and rediscover their lost or faded grandeur and redeem their status of a noble nation. 

Not minding what other do in this direction, he launched a solo yet monumental endeavor   One-Man Mission of the Muslim Unity in 1995 and ever since has steadfastly embarked upon this. With an unshakable faith in the divine help coupled with an indomitable will, he has not spared any effort that is not directed towards the spread and dissemination of his universal message for the salvation of the Islamic world from the prevailing downfall. 
A person of immaculate integrity and self abnegation, Mr. Qureshi has been funding his mission all by himself. Except the house that will be the property of his family, the rest of his possessions are dedicated to his mission. Perhaps there is no parallel of such a spirit of sacrifice as demonstrated by Khaliq Qureshi. Understandably all the movements and missions are carried from contributions and funds from the whole community whether at the national level or local level. 

As compared, the mission of Mr. Qureshi takes precedence over them and is on a much higher moral pedestal than many others who worked for the uplift or welfare of their community, but who depended upon the material or financial support of the community members.

 Temperamentally Mr. Qureshi is a pacifist, therefore he cannot imagine of employing violent or aggressive methods for the dissemination of his momentous program that is so inextricably linked to the destiny of Muslim states around the world. To begin with, he wrote countless letters to the rulers of Islamic states on the grave challenges facing the Islamic world. He beckoned and appealed to some of them to take up the onerous responsibility of steering the Islamic countries out of the prevailing impasse.

He originally pinned his hopes on former President Suharto of Indonesia and the incumbent Prime Minister Mahathir Muhammad of Malaysia to spearhead the Islamic resurgence movement for rehabilitation of the Islamic splendor. He went all the way to Indonesia and Malaysia to personally plead with them the inevitability and dire need of     pulling the Muslims out of the abyss in which they were sunk.

Unfortunately he could not deliver his vital message of Muslim unity to these leaders personally owing to their preoccupations. However he continued with his ‘crusade with pen’ which definitively brought about to a fair degree salutary changes in the perceptions of those whom he addressed. They not only readily responded to his thoughtful reflections on the plight of the Muslim world but also agreed with him in totality on the imperative need of such a unity.

But the Muslim world is so deeply torn apart and its Islamic fabric so fragile that despite pious planks nothing could be done practically. But Mr. Qureshi remained undaunted and least despaired. He has divine intuitions which constantly impel him to steadfastly pursue his noble mission without caring for the outcome.But outcome would be there. This is what Mr. Qureshi staunchly trusts .His holds that sufferings and hardships in life are also a part of divine will. These ought to be therefore accepted and endured with gratitude and as pre-ordained by almighty God.

This is the kind of unshakable belief in the mercifulness of God that keeps Mr. Qureshi unswerving on his chartered path of forging unity and brotherhood among the Muslims all over the world. Once it is done and once Muslims revert to the shining period of Khilafat-e Rashida, no country how strong or antagonistic could inflict any harm anymore them.

In the course of his passionate crusade for Islamic revivalism and to bring into limelight the grave atrocities being perpetrated by the oppressors on their Muslim populations, he wrote important and rather inspirational letters to the heads of non Muslim states, United States being one of them. His letters written to President Clinton and the first lady make impressive and persuasive reading. His correspondence, letters, communications and their replies are now compiled in his recently published book, A ONE MAN MISSION FOR THE MUSLIM UNITY. 

Mr. Qureshi has presented this valuable book to almost all the heads of states and governments, the ambassadors of the Islamic countries and to international organizations. The front page carries the image of the valley of spacious ARAFAT in Mecca also known as JABAL-E-AR RAHMA. It is a fascinating book and brings into sharp focus the Muslim tragedies all over the world particularly in Chechnya, Kashmir and Palestine. 

Mr. Qureshi calls his mission as strategy of non violence and civil dialogue and friendly persuasion. The Muslims are encouraged to read this book to understand the depth and significance of Mr. Qureshi’s message. The book is available on website onemanmission.org.

Mr. Qureshi felt that if no Muslim leader is willing to lead and articulate the sufferings of the Muslims, then at least the search for such an outstanding person should continue by someone as Mr. Qureshi who is so profoundly distressed over the affliction of the Islamic Ummah. It was precisely for this reason that Mr. Qureshi launched his “ONE MAN MISSION FOR MUSLIM UNITY”.

Mr. Qureshi wants the Muslim leaders to engage the non Muslim leaders in a civilized dialogue and help in ending the occupation and oppression of the Muslims in various parts of the world. He postulates that the Muslim world should know that neither terrorism nor extremism or fundamentalism will bring them the glorious era. 

He has a firm conviction that to achieve their pristine glory the Muslims should earnestly study and follow the life and character of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) and his followers whose tenure is known as Khilafat-e-Rashida. Besides Muslims should have unflinching faith in Allah and build the sterling character of a true Muslim. He says that the reward of deeds depends upon the real intentions of a person and the success comes through the divine will.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

What about the Journalists who took Bribe?

By Saeed Qureshi

Let us start from the premise that journalists are not angels. They need money because they are less privileged. We all know that 19 prominent Pakistani journalists from print and electronic media took bribe from the notorious property tycoon and founder of the so called “Bahria Town” Malik Riaz. 

The total amount given by Malik Riaz runs into crores of rupees. These leading journalists are still working on positions without any qualms of conscience. Neither these bribed journalists expressed any remorse or resigned their posts, nor did the owners of the concerned newspapers, periodicals and channels think of sacking them.

These journalists are still debating and discussing the national issues and dishing out their moral sermons, wise discourses and astute opinions via their newspapers, journals and channels. They are vibrantly exhorting their countrymen how the business of the state should be conducted and how the people of Pakistan should lead their life morally and socially; whom they should vote for and who was the rascal and who was upright in the political field.

They have conveniently put aside the disgrace and the stigma of compromising and selling their professional integrity and inviolable ethics to the fleecing crooks in business and industry. These crafty business magnates are not to blame because they need a congenial media to ignore their atrocious money making bonanzas. Malik Riaz is a good, amiable and intelligent businessman who is building residential colonies equipped with modern civic amenities, and where the safety and protection is ensured.

That is a good job to do and we need such modern colonies and neigbour-hoods where people can live with peace of mind. But the irksome, detestable and hard to digest is the sleazy manner these media stalwarts offered them for sale of their services and thus defacing their sacred profession.

Yet another list of 282 journalists, channels and newspapers has come to light that demonstrates how the media has been up for grabs of money for a dishonorable swap of their services in favor of the government and special interest groups.

The money disbursed to these journalists by the Information Ministry is reported to be Rs. 177 million. Besides one of the private TV channels received a hefty amount of 300 million rupees for putting their portal at the disposal of the Information Ministry and the government in power. It clearly surmises that the entire media empire is for auction. Reportedly, another list of 155 journalists who benefited from the largesse of the Information Ministry is on the way of being revealed in the near future.

I am aware of a mega graft case that happened way back in the 90s. This case was seldom reported in the press and went rather unnoticed. A mammoth amount of 25 crores (then roughly five million US dollars) was given by the Saudi ambassador to the editor of a local newspaper to drum up support for the Royal Saudi Government’s position against Saddam regime. It was the time when the United States had mounted the first Gulf war (2 August 1990 – 28 February 1991) in response to Iraq's invasion and annexation of Kuwait.

The Saudi government was on the side of the invading forces and had even provided bases to the coalition forces from 34 nations led by the United States. But still it was becoming difficult for the Saudis to win broader support in the Islamic countries especially in Pakistan where a sizable population liked Saddam Hussain.

The said Islamabad-based editors used his newspaper generously and unabashedly for a sustained smear campaign against Saddam Hussain and in favor of Saudi action. He was also instrumental in arranging meetings and venues for the Saudi and Kuwaiti ambassadors in Pakistan to explain the Saudi stance to the media and political figures.

Within a matter of couple of months, the said editor who was driving an old ramshackle car bought three brand new corolla cars and purchased a palatial mansion in a posh sector of Islamabad for about 8 crores rupees. The rest of the money was deposited in a Dubai bank. This is how in once in a life bonanza a journalist cum editor cashed his clout. He is perhaps now the richest among the journalists both from the past and the present.

Until 2001 when I migrated to the United States, Islamabad was rife with rumors about several journalists who were working for certain embassies as informers. One such journalist otherwise a seasoned, experienced and well mannered person was apprehended by one of the premier intelligence agencies for his association with the embassy of a hostile country. He was extensively tortured and later the poor chap died in a hospital.

The apex court of Pakistan has done marvelous job by taking suo-moto cognizance of the bribes doled out by the federal Ministry of Information in exchange for lenient and favorable media coverage about the government. But is there any chance for the bribed money to be returned to the national exchequer? Let us watch how the legal wind blows upon the beneficiary 282 journalists, the media lords and the TV channels.

One would expect that the Supreme Court might admonish the Ministry of Information for buying the services of the media corps with official funds. But it should also warn the journalist community to desist from the trappings of the buckets full of easy money that only tarnishes their image. It is also an outright dishonesty and shameless betrayal of their profession that is like walking on the edge of a sword.

But all said and done, journalists too are human beings and can be dazed by the glitter of money. We know that some of the leading TV anchors draw monthly emoluments as much as a million rupees or more. I believe that they would shun such ugly enticements if individuals like Malik Riaz and his elk throw at them like crumbs.


Thursday, April 18, 2013

To Prove Rape in Islam is Impossible

By Saeed Qureshi
The conditions laid down in Islamic jurisprudence to prove rape or sexual assaults are incredibly impossible to fulfill. As such in Islamic societies, not a single rapist has ever been sentenced for this heinous crime. The irony is that the burden of proof is laid upon the female victim who is coerced by one or more males to submit to their lust.
The evidence of rape against a woman is accepted only from four absolutely pious persons. The four virtuous individuals should keep watching the rape with actual penetration taking place. Yet there is no foolproof mechanism to determine if the witnesses were actually pious.  
There is no Islamic injunction that exhorts these righteous witnesses to stop or forcibly push away the perpetrator from tormenting the female victim who could be a 5 year teenage girl to a 70 year old woman. The devilish and heartless rapist can continue the abhorrent crime till all the four witnesses have minutely observed from a close distance that it was a real rape. While watching they cannot shut their eyes from seeing the naked body of the female and the organ of the fiendish sex maniac.
The vile act could last from a minute to an hour or longer. If the female victim wants justice against the rapist in a Shariah court, she has to go around and find four male witnesses to give evidence of the crime. In this situation there is no consideration that the victim woman was physically unfit to go or was unconscious and whether  mentally and physically she was in a position to travel all the way to the court which could be several miles way. What about the child victim? How could she deal with these tough conditions?
It is a matter of pure conjecture if the eyewitnesses would wait for her to come to senses or otherwise be ready to go with her to the court and offer evidence. The logistics, the condition of the victimized female, the availability or the possibility of four witnesses readily agreeing to go to court have been completely overlooked.
From the picture that one can perceive in the mind as if the woman was able to travel to a nearby court immediately and that the witnesses were all the time available to accompany her. In the meantime no one knows where the rapist would be: flee away from the scene or caught by someone and confined somewhere.
It surmises that the rapist or a group of rapists were committing their heinous crime in full view of  many people with absolute day time visibility. One would wonder if the rapist would be idiot enough to commit this despicable crime in the public and allow the four very pious people to watch his act for a certain period of time. The woman won’t cry, nor resist nor would the witnesses or the onlookers release the woman from his clutches.
Can a rapist physically remain in a state of sexual intercourse or assault till all the witnesses have seen it? By the time the second witness gets closer, the rapist might have finished his satanic act. Also from where would those four chaste witnesses come all of a sudden? 
If the act is being done in a secret place or with a kidnapped victim which is usually is mostly so in such situations, then how the witnesses could be produced? Another question is that how a victimized young child could remain in full senses and search for four witnesses and then persuade them to go with her in a court and give testimony in her favor?
Doesn't all this look a spooky facade never to be accomplished?  Even a moron would know that the criminals, the thieves and womanizers seldom commit their crime in broad day light as to be seen by others and be caught. A rapist committing an appalling  crime of snatching a female’s honor, virginity or chastity would be more secretive than a robber or burglar.
The social stigma attached to rape compels the victims as well their families to remain tight lipped. While Islamic law gives absolute leverage and escape route to the rapists, the poor and helpless victims do not have the corresponding protection and succor from the law to be bold enough to fight out the case.
In villages and cities, people know who molested an innocent girl. But besides muted gossips and limited protests, no one usually has the courage to challenge the savage perpetrators who stalk the streets with flattened chests and stiffened mustache.
But if a girl of an influential person or family elopes or falls in loves with a less privileged person, the honor killing becomes the paramount urgency with the family of the girl. These are paradoxically different yardsticks with which the society measures the rape or even infatuations. In Pakistan we learn and read about the honor killings of the wives or sisters. In many such cases, the female is totally innocent and would be brutalized by the callous and an overbearing husband.
In many instances, the husband wants to marry another woman and thus kills the previous wife in the name of honor (in Sindh it is called karo-kari). Additionally there are countless instances also when the sisters and daughters were killed because they were in innocent conversation with a young male counterpart or were having an actual love relationship with a boy.
The horrendous dimension of this repulsive phenomenon is that the child born out of the rape is used by the law as a certified criminal act against the victimized female. It means that she is treated as the one who willingly slept with a roughneck. The rapist who committed this crime is not touched till the four witnesses testify against him.
Tragically, the poor and infirm female is put in jail with no chances of release or reprieve. Isn’t a gross travesty of justice? A strong and overpowering rapist subjects a female to a horrifying crime but is free to repeat the same loathsome act again and again, while the poor victim is lodged in jail for an indefinite period of time.
When the rape cases are referred to the civil courts, there are no witnesses against the culprits and they invariably are freed. If the case is referred to the Shariah court, there is no way these monsters can be sentenced 100 lashes because of the  lack of evidence supposed to come from the four absolutely immaculate Muslim witnesses.
There are such innumerable miserable women languishing in jails for an act that was forced upon them. The pregnancy or the born child is taken as incontrovertible evidence against her for Zina or rape. The man who raped remains at large. The argument given by Islamic clerics is that the father of man cannot be traced but the child coming out of an unmarried woman’s womb is a sure proof of an anti Islamic act. It is simply overlooked that she was coerced by the powerful males to submit to their lust.
Bu while we talk only about female raping we forget that young children too are hunted and molested by the insidious individuals. That crime is as serious as the rape of a female victim. The boys should be protected from the habitual pedophiles that are everywhere  in our society and who  prey upon the boys of their localities and also carry away the runaway children found in parks or working in restaurants and workshops. Some of the boys carry the guilt feelings throughout their later life that  they cannot share with others. But this certainly corrodes their personality from inside.
It would be desirable and indispensable to try the rape cases in the civil courts. The proof of a rape committed in hiding could be determined by the latest technique of DNA. Once the women folks or their kith are confident that the culprit would be punished and law would prevail, they would be emboldened to identify them and provide all necessary information needed for the justice to take its course.
In the United States the laws about sex offences are absolutely strict. The rapist cannot go around and hunt down the females. The incidents of forcible sex do take place but once caught there is no mercy or leniency in American law for the sex offenders. Fro even touching a teen age girl or boy there could be several years of jail term for the offenders. Even for minor sex offences they are labeled forever or for specified period of time as sex offenders. The felons cannot reside near schools or in neighborhood and are treated as pariah by the law. Their pictures are published and circulated in local magazines and newspapers.
Now this kind of strict and severe punishment in heathen or Unislamic society should serve as a shining example for Islamic societies whose religion puts enormous emphasis on piety and sanctity of body and soul and where even going out of a woman without veil is treated as violation of Islamic laws.
It would be in order if some of the controversial  Shariah laws are amended through Ijtehad (reinterpretation of Islamic injunctions without altering the core objectives) with regard to the rape ( Zina Bil-Jabr)so as to ensure the imperatives of justice. Only by fusing the modern laws with the Islamic laws could the Islamic polities dispense justice to the rape victims and duly punish the perpetrators of this most abominable crime.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Musharraf’s Grave Mistake of Returning to Pakistan

April 13, 2013

By Saeed Qureshi
 To err is human. In that context, Musharraf’s return to Pakistan is patently a fatal mistake for his future and perceived political career. If adjudged as a convict for abrogating the constitution, he could go to jail for a pretty long term. His fate hangs in balance. 

His legal battle is an overwhelming distraction from his political campaigning for the 2013 general elections. His supporters that are sizable in number must have been shocked and rather starkly dismayed over the tragic turn of events against Musharraf for embarking upon a political course as the president of APML.

Pervez Musharraf landed in Pakistan on March 24 after ending his self-imposed exile. Since that day he travels surrounded by an army of body guards and under strict security conditions. This  restricted  and prohibitive movement coupled with the legal cases curtail his chances for lobbying and electioneering for his party and thus dim the possibility of winning any seats in May 11 elections.

He might have had iron-clad guarantees from internal and external undertakers and intermediaries. But evidently in a complex situation that suddenly popped up against him, even king Abdullah may not be able to influence the Pakistan judiciary for letting Musharraf off the hook.

Musharraf who ruled Pakistan for 9 years now conversely is an isolated and helpless person who can look forward to a prolonged involvement in legal wrangling in order to defend him and get absolved. Despite having an army of devoted and zealous fans and party workers, he personally may not benefit from the may 11 elections. 

When the dazzling glory of power fades the tormenting spell of sufferings follows readily When a power wielder falls from grace in third world and unstable societies like Pakistan, a degrading and fearsome nemesis starts.

Field Marshall Ayub Kahn remained at the helm of power for over a decade and look at the miserable manner he went into oblivion. Those Pakistani leaders who betrayed or did not serve Pakistan in right earnest would remain despised for all time to come. And former COAS and Pakistan’s president Musharraf would be no exception for an indelible stigma tagged with his name.

There are several high profile criminal cases pending against Musharraf in Pakistani courts. These are subverting constitution of Pakistan and treason trial under clause 6 of the constitution, the murder of PPP chairperson Benazir Bhutto and Baluch leader Nawab Akbar Bugti and the Lal Masjid massacre.

A two-judge bench of the apex court has summoned Musharraf on April 15 in connection with his trial under Article-6 of the High Treason Act 1973 for imposing emergency rule and arresting 60 judges including Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry in 2007.

 With regard to Benazir Bhutto’s murder case, the Anti-Terrorist Court (ATC) has once again summoned all the accused including the former president Pervez Musharraf on April 23. Currently Pervez Musharraf is on an interim bail in murder cases of Benazir Bhutto & Nawab Akbar Bugti. In August 2011 he was declared a proclaimed offender and his property was attached because of his absence.

Pervez Musharraf’s latest acknowledgment that his government inked a secret deal with the United States for allowing drone strikes on Pakistan territory might also be added to the litany of serious charges against him.  

Apart from his trials in courts, he is direly exposed to assassination attempts from Taliban and other religious extremists groups who hate him for his philosophy of “enlightened moderation that he pursued vigorously during his rule. 

During his tenure in power, the religious militants made at least five attempts on his life but each time he escaped. Of late Pervez Musharraf’s name has been placed on the Exit Control List which means he would remain in Pakistan till the finalization of legal cases. Who knows he may not be cleared and instead sentenced?  

Under the burgeoning civil society, hyping judicial activism, and an assertive media, it would not be possible for the army to come to the rescue of its former boss who is now a spent force and who looks like a liability rather than an asset. The old timers of the armed forces who might still have some soft corner for the former colleague and currently troubled former head of state, may also not assert to put their weight behind him.

It seems that Musharraf is now abandoned without any visible help from his own lobby. How would he emerge unscathed from this complex cobweb of crises can hardly be presaged by even the best of oracles.

I would end my current write-up by reproducing excerpts from my two previously written articles on Pervez Musharraf.

In the first article (October 2, 2010) “Musharraf May not Return to Pakistan so Soon”, I wrote the following lines: 
“However, as soon as he goes back to Pakistan, he would find himself like a bird in a cage. He will not be able to address the rallies, hold public meetings, lead processions, inspire and mobilize the masses. All this inputs are sine qua non for changing the status quo". 

"His confinement to the four walls, his inability to move around, and the lurking fear of being ambushed are the monumental challenges that he should be aware of. I cannot draw any other conclusion except to maintain that he is not going to Pakistan so soon. Yet his right to play politics as a citizen of Pakistan is incontrovertible and must be acknowledged.”

In the second article (August 11, 2010), “Musharraf Ready to Jump into the Political Arena” I made the following observation.

“According to reliable sources although Pervez Musharraf was eager to shuttle between London and Pakistan, yet he cannot venture going right now because of the formidable challenges and grave risks exposed to him. There is a lurking danger to his life from religious radical militants and from the Baluch avengers of Akbar Bugti’s assassination ascribed to Pervez Musharraf.

"Additionally he might be trapped in a maze of legal proceedings on issues such as storming of the Islamabad’s so-called Red Mosque in which scores of the resident female students were killed in the army action. He might be tried for suspending constitution and imposing emergency in November 2007. As such, he has a plethora of threats to his life during his stay in Pakistan”.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Let Pakistan be a Secular Democracy

April 7, 2013
By Saeed Qureshi

The rigid and myopic application of constitution’s articles 62 and 63 to determine the suitability of candidates for contesting this year’s elections has gone too far. While Pakistan is awash with endemic violence, unremitting abuse and infringement of every moral, social and religious injunction, paradoxically a strict religious, unrealistic and fanciful ethical criterion is being imposed on the aspirant candidates. Let the voters decide who the best candidate for them is.  

The ongoing practice is ridiculous and indeed farcical.  In 21st century and in a modern world, our election system wants religious robots to take part in elections. The faith should be confined to the individual level and have minimum role in state affairs. Civil societies are the hallmarks of the modern states and these, in a way excel, the rights given even by religions.

Are we turning Pakistan into a rigid and intolerant theocracy by sizing up the candidates as religiously suitable and morally as infallible as angels are believed to be? From where do the returning officers draw their rights for judging the conduct of others? Returning officers should not have the mandate to probe the religious or private credentials of the candidates.

Conduct and religious attachment are subjective issues and can be viewed and interpreted in multifarious ways. It is utterly impossible to pronounce someone as being pious, truthful and immune from sins or moral lapses. It is equally irrelevant, unnecessary and difficult to dub someone as wicked and morally bankrupt with varying degrees.

An individual supposed to be pious in my view could be devil for another person. So better abandon these frivolous benchmarks and vague hoaxes of ideology of Pakistan and infringement of constitution. It would be much desirable if clause 62 and 63 are set aside and later expunged from the statute book. These are recipes for a perennial ideological conflict that would dent Pakistan as a modern and progressive state.

Religions largely suppress the individual liberties, fundamental human rights and foster sectarian bad blood. The civil societies give vent to the inalienable rights provided within the framework of a modern secular and democratic state.

In Pakistan there is a persistent refrain on making Pakistan as an Islamic state but even the most ultra-conservative government of General Ziaul-Haq could not achieve this goal because of the inherent contradictions between the features of a modern state and the orthodox nature of the religion.

Since any religion is bound to degenerate and split into sectarianism and denominations, the state that is essentially a secular institution cannot function properly and peacefully because of the internecine feuding between various faiths. In a theocracy or in a state that calls itself a religious state or the custodian of particular faith and religion, the religious and sectarian harmony is not possible as we can see in Pakistan.

It is foregone, that notwithstanding the Islamic teachings about equality and justice, a majority sect seldom treats the adherents of minority sects on an equal footing. Rather the minority sects are persecuted and intimidated as heretics and infidels. This is happening in various Islamic countries.

Secondly, it is important to understand that the institution of democracy is the gift or product of modern society and civilization. Democracy essentially is secular in nature and empowers the masses without their ethnic, racial, religious, social or financial status. In Islam a head of state is both the custodian of faith and the ruler. He can be a monarch, an autocrat or a ruthless dictator (as the Umayyad, Abbasids, Ottoman caliphs were).

In democracy power lies with the people of a state. In theocracy or in a religious state it can rest with even an individual if he is the staunch proponent of a certain faith. There is no such thing as a religious democracy because the religious codes do not provide any system of elections on the principle of one man one vote for the entire population.

A democratic head of state is more concerned with the welfare of the state and its people and not of a particular sect or religion. The modern nation states are essentially secular and not strictly religious. Historically, religious dispensation has always been a monarchy or autocracy. The hereditary right to caliphate as claimed by Hazrat Ali after the demise of the prophet of Islam cannot be termed as democratic.

A democratic dispensation and the religious political system are heterogeneous towards each other and therefore even the Islamic states like Malaysia and Indonesia have to liberalize their societies despite having Islam as their official religion. Malaysia, Indonesia and Turkey are the appropriate models of an Islamic state where secularism and Islam converge. There is ethnic, sectarian and communal peace in those societies.

Religion urges the humans to believe for heaven or hell. Human nature is devious and obeys when punishment or reward is imminent and in sight. A political system or society cannot remain stable in face of an unremitting ideological conflict going on between the sects within Islam?

It would be a landmark feat if the Islamic scholars can Islamize democracy or democratize Islam. While the state has clear-cut laws and covenants and possesses the administrative apparatus to enforce them, the bulk of religious injunctions are contradictory, confusing, rigid and out of sync with the momentous changes in human societies.

Is it possible that there can be a reconciliation and compromise between the Islamic clerics and democracy? In a country which since its inception has remained in the throes of faith based- extremism, bigotry, sectarian and communalism, the most pressing need is to bring about a consensus and truce between the warring sects.

The most crying urgency is to evolve a consensual code of Islamic faith between Sunnis and Shias so that the state and the society don’t suffer due to their mutual doctrinal rivalry and ensuing bloodshed.

As such the only rational way-out is to adopt the twin panacea of secularism and democracy that would allow every sect and denomination and rich and poor to practice their own faith without trading the accusations of heresy.

The perception of secularism doesn’t necessarily mean negation or elimination of religion. It simply means tolerance and coexistence in matter of difference of religious beliefs and opinions. It is foregone that Pakistan as a theocracy or a country with a religious label cannot move forward and would always be trapped in a self-destructive ideological conflict. The devastation of Baghdad by Mongol hordes in 13th century is a testifying tragedy to the Shia Sunni animosity towards each other.

While acknowledging the distasteful fact that the ideological gulf between two main Islamic sects cannot be bridged, these must be legally bound to coexist and tolerate each other. As far political power is concerned, Pakistan has to decide once and for all that the war of conflicting beliefs should not be allowed to enter the political corridors.

The other forms of religious extremism and fanaticism also need to be forcefully curbed. The religion should be confined within the personal and at best group contours. That is the only viable, practical and rational solution to the religious bad blood that breeds violence and hinders smooth functioning of state and society.

The State and society have got to be secular and truly democratic for prosperity and advancement and for Pakistan to enter the fold of modern states. At the same time Pakistan, like Turkey, Malaysia and Indonesia, can retain its Islamic identity. In a nutshell, Islam, secularism, and democracy should go hand in hand in Pakistan.

It is, therefore, incumbent upon the Islamic theologians and scholars to explore a way to integrate religion with democracy in order to serve the imperatives of a modern society. The religion would best serve its pristine purpose of worshiping God, observing rituals and instilling morality if it is confined to the personal, individual or group levels. The underlying theme of all religions is morality, righteousness and obedience to God if left to private domain.