Holi

Lyrics via Indian Muslims:

horii hoye rahii hai Ahmad jiyaa ke dvaar
horii hoye rahii hai Ahmad jiyaa ke dvaar
Hajrat Ali kaa rang banaa hai Hasan Hussain khilaaR
horii hoye rahii hai Ahmad jiyaa ke dvaar

(horii : holi; Ahmad : another name of Prophet Muhammad; Ali : Cousin and son-in-law of Prophet Muhammad; Hasan : elder son of Hazrat Ali; Hussain : younger son of Hazrat Ali and the martyr of the battle of Karbala)

aiso horii kii dhuum machii hai
aiso horii ki dhuum machii hai
chahuuN or paRii hai pukaar
aiso anokho chatur khilaaRii
aiso anokho chatur khilaaRii
rang diiNyo sansaar

(chahuuN or : in every direction; anokho : unique; chatur : smart)

“Niaz” piyaraa bhar bhar chhiRke
“Niaz” piyaraa bhar bhar chhiRke
ek kii rang sahas pichkaar

(piyaraa : bowl; sahas : thousand)

I challenge you to find a more beautiful expression of subcontinental Islam!

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Rana Sanaullah on his meeting with Ahmed Ludhianvi in his own words

Rana Sanaullah clears away all doubts regarding allegations of his ties to Sipah-e-Sahaba:

Replying to a question about his contacts with a banned religious organisation based in Jhang, Sanaullah said all members of the Jamaatud Dawa and the Sipah-e-Sahaba were not terrorists. He said several Sipah-e-Sahaba members were registered voters in Jhang, and “I met their leader, Muhammad Ahmad Ludhianvi, twice to secure votes for the upcoming by-elections”. He said his political opponents had also met Sipah-e-Sahaba members while campaigning for the by-elections.

Rana Sanaullah touring Jhang with the leader of Ahle-Sunnat Wal Jamaat (SSP)

PML-Q MNA Waqas Akram of Jhang has accused Punjab Law Minister Rana Sanaullah of having ties with the leader of Jamaat Ahl-e-Sunna (formerly Sipah-e-Sahaba) and of touring Jhang with this militant in an attempt to gain some votes.

Waqas Akram’s allegation was seconded by Minister of State for Interior Tasneem Qureshi who said that the issue would be taken up with the Interior Ministry and by PPP chief whip and Labour and Manpower Minister Khurshid Ahmad Shah. Waqas Akram also got unexpected support from a member of Rana Sanaullah’s own party Rashid Akbar Niwani who described how the police of his district Bhakkar are helpless to arrest this militant leader. He even went so far as to say that “This is ‘Azaab-i-Elahi’ (divine torment) we are nurturing” As Raja Asghar notes in his report, Niwani was himself wounded in a suicide attack at his home which might explain his bold stance against his own party member.

According to Waqas Akram:

Speaking on the point of order in National Assembly, Sh Waqas Akram said that provincial law minister Rana Sanaullah visited Jhang on February 21 in connection with bye-election in PP-82. During his visit, law minister met with the chief of a banned organisation and took him to the election campaign in an official vehicle of the Punjab government with police escort headed by a Deputy Superintendent Police (DSP), Waqas Akram further alleged.
He further said that he had no interest in the said constituency (PP-82), as it was a rural constituency from where PML-Q had fielded no candidate, however, PPP and PML-N were contesting the elections in that constituency.
“I urge these political parties not to put the lives of people in danger for the sake of some votes,” he appealed.

In October 2009, Ayesha Siddiqua had described the hostility and non-cooperation of the Jhang district government as well as the Punjab government in her attempt to learn more about militancy in the district. Ayesha Siddiqua especially mentioned the accusations made by Rana Sanaullah that by trying to study the issue of sectarian militancy, she was “using a Western lens” to look at the issue. Rana Sanaullah also went out of his way to deny the presence of Jaish-e-Muhammad in Southern Punjab. Now it turns out that not only is Rana Sanaullah denying the presence of militancy in Southern Punjab but he is also maintaining his ties with these groups in order to strengthen his vote bank. Shame on PML-N leaders like Rana Sanaullah for allying themselves with terrorist groups who are slaughtering innocent Pakistanis and launching attacks against other PML-N politicians. Will it take a suicide attack on Rana Sanaullah for him to finally see reason?

Strange and twisted logic

In this article in The News, Mariana Baabar makes a really strange comparison between the current issue of judicial appointments in Pakistan and the controversy over the decision of the five-member Supreme Court collegium to not appoint former Delhi High Court chief justice Ajit Prakash Shah to the Supreme Court.

First of all, in her haste to call President Zardari “a dictator-like civil president” the author forgets that it was the Chief Justice, not the President who disregarded the convention of elevating High Court Chief Justices to the Supreme Court. Secondly, even a brief look at the Outlook India article that she references shows that the issue in the case of Justice Ajit Prakash Shah is exactly the opposite of what she is suggesting. In India, like in Pakistan, the role of the executive is very limited in judicial appointments. Unlike in Pakistan where apparently the Chief Justice can do whatever he wants, in India, a five-member collegium of Supreme Court judges is responsible for the decision regarding judicial appointments. Justice Shah’s appointment was apparently blocked by Justice S.H. Kapadia. The author of the Outlook India article speculates that Justice Kapadia’s objection to Justice Shah’s elevation is based on personal animosity but notes that it’s difficult to ascertain the reasons for his objections since the process of judicial appointments is so opaque and arbitrary.

If anything, this example, rather than highlighting the trials and tribulations of Iftikhar Chaudhry’s “brother judges” at the hands of a dictator-like Executive is another example of the dangers of the judiciary having the power to arbitrarily decide who gets to be appointed to the Supreme Court and who doesn’t with no accountablity to any other branch of government. But let it never be said that The News writers let facts get in the way of a good story!

A ceremonial government

Mao, who famously said: “Our principle is that the Party commands the gun, and the gun must never be allowed to command the Party” would have had a good laugh at the expense of the Pakistani government Today we hear that:

the Pakistan Army has officially clarified that extension in services of lieutenant generals is purely the prerogative of the Army chief and does not need the federal government’s approval

I guess I don’t understand. Officially clarified? What source was the basis of this official clarification? Did some army generals just show members of parliament pictures of army tanks? I mean, what is the basis of this strangely worded legalistic argument? Maybe I’m missing the part of the Pakistani constitution that makes the military the highest pillar of the state, but are we supposed to now accept that constitutionally the Army is not accountable to the federal government?

It looks like Aslam Beg is taking a page from the Chief Justice’s book when he says that:

General Aslam Baig was of the view that the outgoing COAS sends a list of five senior lieutenant-generals to the federal government four months prior to his retirement, and the government can appoint anyone from this list keeping in view the criteria and cannot go beyond this list.

Cannot go beyond this list? Or what? You’ll launch a coup?

funny

this article of the Constitution is pretty funny, given the circumstances:

256. Private armies forbidden.
No private organization capable of functioning as a military organization shall be formed, and any such organization shall be illegal.

The judiciary's Lal Masjid

I’m going to go out on a limb here and predict that yesterday’s decision by the Supreme Court to – for the time being – not examine evidence against the role of the intelligence agencies in the missing persons case is going to be the Court’s mini version of Lal Masjid.

Like almost every Pakistani politician, the Chief Justice and his fellow-judges used Islam as a rallying cry to a) ascend to power and b) defeat their political opponents. Riding on the support of people like Khalid Khwaja (of the Defence of Human Rights and also an admirer of Osama bin Laden), the Chief Justice took up the issue of missing people and we can argue for a long time about the issue of missing people. Now we can argue that the case of missing persons is a secular issue of human rights and I firmly believe that it is. However the question is who and what brought this issue to the forefront of public opinion? How many mentions of Aafia Siddiqui in the media are there compared to Baloch missing persons? How many people on this list are a household name? I don’t think it says anything good about the Pakistani media that the issue of missing persons only became an emotional issue for the vast majority of Pakistanis when the missing persons involved were individuals picked up in the cities of Punjab and Sindh for terrorism. And the truth is that to many, many, people who have an emotional stake in the missing persons issue, the issue is intrinsically tied up with the issue of religion.

The Supreme Court’s use of Islam continued with its detailed NRO verdict. However one of the interesting aspects of this verdict was that despite the multiple references to Islam and the weird toying with Islamic constitutional articles 227, 62 (f) etc, the verdict contained caveats and warnings about the use of these articles. Article 62(f), the verdict warned, is not self-executing. Of article 227 and the invocation of Islamic principles to strike down the NRO the verdict said:

These cannot be invoked as a matter of course, and certainly not to strike down formal legislation or executive action which is otherwise found to be within the scope of the Constitution and the law. The Constitution remains supreme and the primary reason for striking down the NRO, 2007 has been its being ultra vires the express and stated provisions of the Constitution.

These caveats led many opinion-makers and journalists to believe that the verdict was a wise one and not a cause for alarm. Some even argued that contrary to alarmist opinion, the verdict, by providing these caveats on the use of the Islamic articles actually put to rest any future misuse of these articles.

The question is, though, why flirt with these Islamic articles just to wave them away in the verdict? Justice Ijaz Ahmed in his supporting note spends pages praising the Objectives Resolution and calling it the “key to understand the constitution” but then suddenly added the warning:

There is no doubt that no provision of the Constitution or law be struck down in case it is framed in violation of preamble of the Constitution

Just like other brilliant politicians in the past, the Justices were experimenting with their power to use Islam to put to rest any sort of opposition to their verdict. But just like other brilliant politicians, these judges have quite a bit of affection for the status quo. After all, the status quo has landed them with these cushy jobs and they wouldn’t want to do anything to jeopardize their own secular legal careers!

An interesting parallel development was the verdict on the case of the restoration of the Chief Justice of Pakistan which reflected the judiciary’s increasingly friendly relationship with the army. In this, Justice Ramday noted with displeasure Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain’s comment that the dismissal of the judges was “was a matter between army and judiciary”. According to justice Ramday:

This, in our opinion, was a naive attempt to create a wedge between two important and indispensable arms of the State and to put them on a war-path. What was in question before us was an act of the President and it was just an accident or a coincidence that the said President also happened to be the Chief of Army Staff. The matter had obviously nothing to do with the Army as an institution. Needless to add that the Army was an invaluable organ and instrument of the State and was as precious to us all as any other institution of our homeland. We, therefore, take this opportunity to express our disapproval and displeasure about the said statement.”

We love you army! We love you status quo!

And you know, that’s really the bottom line. Politicians (and politicized judges) use religion to establish their positions of power and to wipe out their political rivals and then when they reach the top of the hill they realize how much they like the status quo and turn to pragmatism. Which is why we get the decision today to indefinitely postpone the role of the agencies in the missing persons case. According to Justice Javed Iqbal, head of the 3-member bench for this case, the issue of the involvement of the agencies is already decided!:

Justice Iqbal observed that the court would not like to create the impression that it was out to destroy or tarnish the image of intelligence agencies as it was not against security agencies.

The judge recalled that the court had also not found massive involvement of intelligence agencies in a majority of case

Now I don’t know how this is all going to go down with people like Khalid Khwaja who until recently was happily filing petition after petition against article presidential immunity on the grounds that it was unislamic (just like the NRO). Maybe Khalid Khwaja will consider the Supreme Court’s backing down with respect to the military to be a necessary evil since the military is once again doing Allah’s work in cleverly defeating the Kuffar in Afghanistan. Who knows. But one can be sure that sooner or later the Justices’ love for the status quo is going to come in the way of their supporters’ support for Islamization and they’ll find another group to support in toppling the existing status quo. Sadly for the justices, that’ll mean the end for them. But by then who knows what will be left of our country!

The winner

In every major political conflict in Pakistan you can bet on one thing and one thing only and that is that the side that represents the ideology of Pakistan will ultimately win.

What is the ideology of Pakistan? I’m not talking about the original founding ideology of Jinnah or the Lahore Resolution. I am talking about the living, breathing idea of Pakistani nationalism. It’s a vague concept but everyone whose ever had a political discussion in Pakistan recognizes it when he or she comes up against it. It’s Hamid Mir and Zaid Hamid’s breathless worship of Iqbal. It’s Talat Hussain’s tough stance on India. It’s Mirza Aslam Beg’s fantasies of Central Asian domination. It’s General Kayani’s shamelessly unchanging stance on strategic depth. It’s Benazir Bhutto’s ‘thousand cuts’ comment. It’s Shahbaz Sharif’s warning of Indian involvement in Balochistan. An image that captures it perfectly for me is Northern Light Infantrymen from Gilgit – a region of Pakistan whose people rose in revolt for the sake of Pakistan and were rewarded with constitutional limbo – disguised as freedom fighters, infiltrated into Kashmir and left to die. In short – it’s an ideology based on xenophobia, intolerance for dissent, victimhood and an objective sense that Pakistan can do no wrong and can only be wronged. In foreign policy, its proponents have relied on the dishonorable tactic of proxy warfare justifying it by the propaganda of freedom fighters and Pakistan’s manifest destiny as the guardian of Muslim interests in South and Central Asia. In domestic politics, its proponents have used it to silence any voices of sub-nationalism and provincial autonomy.

In the late 60s, the person who embodied this ideology was Ayub Khan’s foreign minister, Bhutto. In the 80s, it was mard-e-momin Zia-ul-Haq. In the late 90s, it was the great commando Musharraf and in the 2000s it has been Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry and his ideological associates on the Supreme Court.

That’s what Asma Jahangir meant today when she warned against a judicial dictatorship. Most people make the mistake of associating dictatorship only with the military. I’m going to put forward the idea that dictatorship in Pakistan is simply whoever currently exercises the dominant ideology of Pakistan in the minds of the people. Because this individual is able to use the ideology of Pakistan to crush all dissent and establish absolute power over events. In the current situation, the Chief Justice and his defenders represent the ideology of Pakistan uncompromisingly. They are therefore able to steamroll the PPP which represents weak pragmatism and compromise and have been able to defeat the army which was in a pragmatic mode post 2001. The Chief Justice has filled the vacuum created by the military which was dragged kicking and screaming into pragmatism post 2001. If and when General Kayani is able to successfully regain control of the Afghan situation, the army will once again replace the Chief Justice as the primary custodian of Pakistani ideology.

Islamists campaigning against Basant

This year, like before, self-righteous individuals and organizations have taken it upon themselves to cleanse and purify Pakistani society of pernicious and Satanic influences of Western and Hindu culture. This movement has found its expression in the various Islamic groups’ campaign against Basant and Valentine’s Day.

Shabab-e-Milli – the youth wing of JI – has announced its intention to beseige the CM House and Governor House if the Basant ban (recently upheld by the Lahore High Court) is not implemented. This is in response to Governor Punjab Salmaan Taseer’s statement that he will celebrate Basant in the Governor’s House. In response to Governor Taseer’s statement, PML-N Senator Pervaiz Rashid has warned the Governor that if he does indeed celebrate Basant in the Governor’s house he is liable to be arrested.

In many ways the argument made in support of the ban on kite flying is a very interesting one. This argument has two parts – the first is that Basant is a Hindu festival and represents a corruption of “pure” Muslim culture. The second part is that kite flying is dangerous; has resulted in the loss of life of many individuals over the year and has also caused immense damage to power infrastructure. The second reason is the basis of the Lahore High Court’s decision to uphold the ban on kite-flying (in their decision, they termed kite-flying and selling of kites as a “license to kill”)

It’s not unusual for groups like Jamaat-e-Islami and other urban Islamists (who have to come into contact with and convince individuals who do not subscribe to their hardline beliefs) to benefit from and to deliberately use two lines of argument to achieve their ends. In some ways, it’s similar to how such groups describe the war in Afghanistan. They speak of it in Islamic terms calling it a legitimate Jihad against foreign invaders but also describe it as an anti-Imperialist struggle. The first argument appeals to Islamists like themselves and the second argument is meant to have a broader more “rational” appeal. Another extremely callous iteration of this argument technique is the idea that members of the Shia community should – seeing the disturbance that their Ashura processions cause every year – stop taking out public processions in the interests of peace and safety. In the aftermath of the Ashura bombing in Karachi I was shocked and saddened to observe how many supposedly moderate and rational individuals put forward this argument without a thought as to how they were essentially pushing the exact same agenda of radical groups like Sipah-e-Sahaba, i.e. the disappearance of Shias from the public life of Pakistan.

David Hume believed that moral sentiment was often what motivated moral reasoning, i.e. that often what we want to do precedes our rational justification for it and our rational justification of it to others. The behaviour of Jamaat-e-Islami and its subsidiary groups like Shabab-e-Milli and IJT regarding Basant is a nice illustration of this idea. They realize that their own visceral hatred of “Hindu” festivals like Basant is not going to have a widespread enough appeal to achieve a ban on the festival so they pad their own justification with the issue of safety which is much more “neutral”. Their own position is an emotive one and the logic that they present to justify it occurs after the fact of their own belief in their point of view and is more of a tool to achieve their end. As an example, read advocate MD Tahir’s argument for the ban of Basant presented before the Lahore High Court:

In 2005, an advocate MD Tahir of Lahore High Court, Pakistan, contended that Basant was purely an event of Hindu community who observed it as part of their religious rituals. He said that forefathers of Pakistani Muslims had never taken part in Basant celebrations, though they also deemed it a part of their culture. The petitioner said that Pakistan was a poor country and Basant festivities could not please them by any means. He argued that frequent power breakdowns because of kite-flying were depriving people of electricity supply for hours and they were also exposed to life threats by kite-string on roads. Aerial firing and use of firecrackers was another factor of disturbance for patients, students and the elderly people, he said. He also counted the death toll taking place every year on Basant day as a ground to seek a complete ban on kite-flying and Basant festivities in the country. The petitioner said that the government was spending millions of rupees to entertain foreign guests on Basant, rather than spending it to improve literacy rate, inadequate medical facilities and the provision of basic amenities to common people.

Look how he states his primary justification at the very beginning but then brings every argument imaginable to pad his own position.

This is not to belittle the deaths that have been caused by kite-flying. But many human activities are dangerous if not properly regulated. One is tempted to give the example of Hajj which causes many deaths by stampede and disease every year. Perhaps the members of Shabab-e-Milli will start an SMS campaign against Hajj? Let’s consider the example of driving. It’s a dangerous activity causing many deaths every year. Does that mean that driving should be banned? Using Jamaat-e-Islami logic, one could perhaps come up with a rational justification for the ban on female drivers. The logic would go as following – studies have shown that female drivers crash their cars more frequently than male drivers. Therefore in the interests of safety, women should be banned from driving.

There really isn’t any way to protect ourselves from falling prey to these double-edged arguments. Kite-flying is indeed dangerous and to many people – already indoctrinated by the anti-Hindu nature of Pakistani society – Jamaat-e-Islami’s propaganda is very effective in changing their point of view. Similarly, individuals who are anti-Imperialist in inclination find themselves inclined to support the Jamaati propaganda on Afghanistan, not stopping to think of who they are enabling by their support. The idea that individuals are responsible for the broader consequences of what they support, even if they don’t support the consequences is a somewhat troubling one that can easily devolve into a “with us or against us” way of thinking. But it’s hard not to notice it happening every day in Pakistani society.

Not Enough

Just last week minority affairs minister Shahbaz Bhatti on a trip to Washington DC said that he was speaking with representatives of major political parties in order to seek a revision of the blasphemy laws by the end of the year. He said “These principles are the nucleus of my life. I will live for them and I will die for them.”

Bhatti’s remarks were criticized by Nizar Bhatti President of Pakistan Christian Congress. Nizar Bhatti said that Shahbaz Bhatti has often promised to work to repeal the blasphemy laws in front of foreign Christian and human rights organizations but has taken no steps towards this step and has changed his stance from supporting the repeal of the laws to simply revising them.

Shahbaz Bhatti was notable last August in his many statements criticizing the Gojra riots in which 7 Christians were burned alive and his promises that the killers would be brought to justice. He was reported to have received threats to his life for his strong statements against the killings. However the sad fact is that even though the protest of the Christian community of Gojra was only brought to an end by the the Punjab government registering an FIR against the perpetrators (including the DPO and DCO of Gojra), nothing was done to bring the killers to justice. In fact, horrifyingly, as of January 2010, the DCO and DPO have not only been reinstated but have actually been promoted although the Interior Minister claims to have no knowledge of who allowed the officials to be promoted. And so despite the unusual amount of attention given to the Gojra killings by the press, ultimately nothing was done to bring the killers to justice.

In the meantime, Imran Masih, a young Christian shopkeeper has been sentenced to life imprisonment by a Faisalabad court for allegedly (what else?) burning a copy of the Quran.

Last January, Hector Aleem, a Christian human rights activist was arrested in a blasphemy case in Rawalpindi under suspcious circumstances following local opposition to his campaign against the destruction of a church. According to his daughter he is still in prison, despite being granted bail by the Chief Justice in June.

In September 2009, a young Christian man Fanish (Robert) Masih was arrested and taken to Sialkot jail for allegedly desecrating the Quran and having relations with a Muslim girl. The next day he was found dead in Sialkot jail, allegedly from suicide, but his body had torture marks and he had rope burns on his neck. A case was lodged against the police officials at the jail, but the matter was not pursued any further, despite Shahbaz Bhatti’s statement that he had taken “serious notice” of the incident.

This January, the house of Walayat Masih in Gujranwala was burned down by three Muslim brothers and Masih and his family have been forced to flee to Rawalpindi where they are facing threats and living in hiding. Earlier this year his eldest son was murdered by influential members of his village. He has been unable to get any cooperation from the DCO and the DPO and apart from PML-Q MNA Akram Gill no one in the federal and provincial government has taken notice of this matter.

Just yesterday Chaudhry Muhammad Naeem, former president of the Lahore Bar Association was granted bail in the murder case of Shazia Masih – a 12 year old maid in his employment. Naeem had previously tried to pay off Shazia’s family. Her family rejected his offer and were told by the doctor on duty at Jinnah hospital that their daughter had been raped. However now a medical board of 3 doctors constituted by CM Punjab Shahbaz Sharif has declared that Shazia was not raped after all.

So in light of these events one can only agree with Nizar Bhatti that the Federal Minister of Minority Affairs needs to do more to bridge the gap between what he promises to foreign organizations and what the reality is in Pakistan.