Sunday, September 15, 2013

Zardari warns of forces working against democracy

On the eve of Democracy Day on Sunday, former president Asif Ali Zardari paid glowing tributes to all those who laid down their lives and endured imprisonment and exile for the protection and preservation of democracy in the country and also warned the people of the new forms of threats to democracy. Zardari said the greatest threat to democracy emanated from the militant mindset who sought to impose their agenda through force. “We must be on the guard against the extremist mindset and must not allow appeasing the militants and extremists,” he said. He warned the people against yet another dimension of the threat to democracy. In the past dictators and demagogues forcibly uprooted democratic structures but now threat to the will of the people emanated from imperceptible but systematic encroachment upon the parliament, the repository of the will of the people, he said. Democracy-loving people throughout the country must be on the guard to protect the constitutional domain of each state organ and not permit the encroachments on any institution by another, he said. Congratulating the democratic forces in the world in general, and in Pakistan in particular, on the International Day of Democracy, the former president said: “It is a day for all democratic forces to re-affirm commitment to democracy and to guard against direct and indirect threats to democratic order and stability” Zardari also paid glowing tributes to Shaheed Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto and Shaheed Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto as icons of democracy, and countless political leaders and workers belonging to different political parties who rendered huge sacrifices for the cause of democracy. If dictatorship had not been able to take roots in Pakistan it was because of the huge sacrifices of all democracy loving people, he said. Asif Ali Zardari expressed the hope that the observance of the International Democracy Day would strengthen the pro-democracy forces throughout the world and in Pakistan. He also hoped that the people of Pakistan would be awakened to the new forms of threats to democracy that seeks to undermine the parliament.
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Lahore flour price hikes highest ever

The price of the basic essential item like flour has ballooned to the highest ever in the history much to the disappoint of the Lahorites who had pinned great hopes with the new government for some relief and respite from the grinding hyper-inflation, Geo News reported Sunday. The citizens said that bread being the most essential item for keeping oneself alive the rulers rolling in luxuries should at least have controlled its price to make their life somewhat bearable, but belying all hopes the price of chakki flour has shot up to Rs46 per kilo from Rs37. Retailers attributed the sudden surge in prices to phenomenal increase in power tariffs and petroleum products’ prices, while the consumers appear highly frustrated with these new developments quite contrary to the promises made by the ruling party for whom they had wholeheartedly rallied round hoping for a better future. The bread, which was selling at Rs6 per piece now available at Rs8 much beyond the reach of most of the poor wage earners who with their families are forced to sleep hungry or half fed these days. Experts said that a country like Pakistan, which is basically an agricultural country such a deficiency in food item was nothing but a total failure of the policy makers.

Pakistan: Our Laws; Our People?

By Saroop Ijaz
Factual situation number one is that a young boy was murdered by another young, callous and arrogant boy. The nation went into uproar, the conscience shaken, moral sensibilities outraged. Media, court, politicians, civil society, Facebook warriors all wanted to fight the good fight. Shahrukh Jatoi was sentenced to death. Truth had prevailed; falsehood defeated. Now Shahzeb’s parents seek to forgive Shahrukh Jatoi under the Islamic provisions of Qisas and Diyat. The gallant, fearless warriors who fought for justice for Shahzeb now feel betrayed and also feel free to attack Shahzeb’s parents. A few days of activism equated with the loss of a child? Now consider an alternative set of facts. A terrorist, militant organisation has killed thousands of Pakistani civilians and soldiers, and continues to do so. Hakeemullah Mehsud and his warriors show no signs of extending any mercy .What do we do? We gather in an All Parties Conference (APC) and wave high the flag of surrender. The legal heirs of the thousands killed were not invited. Their children’s murderers were not only forgiven, but forgiveness asked from the murderers without their consent. No women were visible either, signs of things to come, maybe. The TTP and the brother organisation LeJ also consider the Shias as ‘kafir’ and ‘wajibul qatl’. Well, what is some (actually a lot) Shia blood amongst ‘our people’, right? History will remember the APC for what it was; a shameful day’s work, abject surrender and cowardice. If blood was ever sold; it was sold in the APC, and sold cheap, sold even without Diyat. Yet, it gets more interesting. A significant number of those who think Shahrukh Jatoi should have been publicly executed (some went far enough to demonise entire ethnicities and cultures) are also the same people who think that accepting the TTP as a stakeholder and begging for mercy is the best course of action. These are the obvious points; and these people are obviously hypocrites. However, perhaps there is more to it. Hypocrisy assumes deliberate deceit. The truly frightening thing is that most of them are more ignorant than they are hypocrites, an unhappy mix. The APC resolution does not use uncomfortable terms such as ‘terrorist’, ‘TTP’ and ‘militants’ etc. Instead, it is “our people in the tribal areas”. Not only cowardly but also terming all citizens of the tribal areas terrorists; some start to ‘Naya’ and ‘Roshan’ Pakistan. Mian Sahib and Mr Imran Khan would have asked you to take a bow, but it seems you are already bowed enough. The urban warriors direct all the rage on the bereaved parents of Shahzeb because the criticism of the Qisas and Diyat laws is out of bounds. The TTP ‘our people’; the Diyat law ‘our law’. The Qisas and Diyat laws are above debate because they are Islamic laws. To argue for the difference between fiqh and Shariah, etc is perhaps too much to ask. However even, the simple facts that the ‘Qisas and Diyat Ordinance’ and the Shariat Court’s judgment in the ‘Gul Hassan’ case do not have scriptural authority; and before Ziaul Haq there was no Qisas and Diyat, also no Hudood law, etc are to be brought out at your own peril. As Governor Taseer found out; all he did was to criticise a law made by Zia. Another simple fact is that there is precise Islamic precedent for dealing with an organisation like the TTP. In the seventh century, during the Caliphate, there was a group of Muslims who not only excluded anyone who did not meet their exacting standards of holiness from Islam, but also took the liberty of implementing the next logical step of killing them; the Kharji (the Rejectionists). The Islamic state dealt with them by using the might of the state. Much like ‘our’ modern suicide bombers, they chanted Islamic slogans while being put down by the forces of the Caliph. However, again one has to be adventurous to make that argument. We have now moved past arguments and even history. A Middle Eastern Muslim leader looking at us once apparently remarked, “It seems that Islam came into existence in 1947”. Now, at least it seems undeniable that our march to civilisation and salvation began with Ziaul Haq. Any argument or piece of history that predates that period can possibly be answered with abuse or a bullet depending on the inclination of the answerer. The arguments of the apologists are neither rational nor religious. It is a blend of religious fervour, historical ignorance, shady YouTube videos and Junk email exposes. Maulana Maudoodi and Syed Qutb were people that one should disagree with, and one could because they had arguments; however lopsided and dangerous yet internally consistent arguments which allowed for counterarguments. Timur Kuran has thought- provoking writings on Islamic laws and modernity, Wael Hallaq has done incredible work on Ijithad; Javed Ghamdi fights for a semblance of rationality (from afar now because he faces life threats from ‘our people’). There are countless other examples, yet none of their works can be translated into Urdu, those who do it in the vernacular are either killed or are in exile. A modern understanding of Islam rooted in our context is not only necessary for the non-violent advocates of religious state but also for the half a dozen secular liberals. The secular arguments (like any other) can only be made in a space which allows arguments. In the Hobbesian, free for all, both the moderate religious and secular liberals will be outnumbered and then of course ‘dealt with’ by ‘our people’. Of course Jinnah or Averroes could have been murdered in this country; however the disturbing bit is that anybody can be. Consistency is not something that the apologists relying on blogs, forwarded emails, hysterical Facebook pages and old high school Islamic Studies textbooks for theological knowledge are particularly concerned about. The meagre consistency Mian Sahib and Mr Khan are displaying is that of being consistently afraid. Most religious scholars are now failed politicians or successful media spin artists. The only writing done by the Ulema now is pamphlets concerned about ‘fitnas’ than ‘usul al fiqh’. It is the sort of writing about which Gore Vidal once said, “These books are a great deal harder to read than they are to write”. The only real consistency on display is by ‘our boy’ Hakeemullah, which is to consistently kill ‘our people’. Are ignorance, hypocrisy and murder not the most dangerous of ‘Fitnas’?