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Archive for March, 2010

We need to revive the goals of justice, equality and freedom.

Happy Pakistan Day!

We need to revive the goals of justice, equality and freedom which resulted in the creation of our homeland.
We need to revive the spirit of Pakistan resolution and give sense of ownership to the different constituents of our federation through decentralization of power.
We need to analyze our mistakes as a nation and see where we went wrong to rectify it.

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Something I wrote a year ago for the same occasion:
https://united4justice.wordpress.com/2008/03/23/need-to-re-think-our-approach-as-a-nation-long-live-pakistan/

Judicial commission to probe disappearances

March 19, 2010 1 comment

Lets see what happens? Hopefully some justice will be done with them. The behavior of the army seems to be as if they are untouchables and no one can ask anything about their wrong actions.

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Judicial commission to probe disappearances :DAWN

By Nasir Iqbal

Source: http://www.dawn.com/wps/wcm/connect/dawn-content-library/dawn/the-newspaper/front-page/19-judicial-commission-to-probe-disappearances-930-hh-02

ISLAMABAD: A high-powered judicial commission comprising three retired superior court judges will be set up soon to look into the highly emotive issue of missing persons, the Supreme Court was informed here on Thursday.

“I have received the summary for the establishment of the commission,” Attorney General Anwar Mansoor told a bench comprising Justice Javed Iqbal, Justice Mohammad Sair Ali and Justice Tariq Parvez that is hearing cases of a large number of missing persons whose families have been running from pillar to post since 2005.

The attorney general said the commission would be headed by a retired judge of the Supreme Court and two retired high court judges would be its members.

He said the commission could call any senior officer of the armed forces or Rangers whose name had surfaced in connection with any missing person.

Its orders would be binding on all departments and institutions, he said.

Praising the setting up of the commission, the bench expressed willingness to take action against people held responsible by it.

“If a department is found committing an illegality, the Supreme Court will not condone its acts,” Justice Javed said.

An unpleasant incident took place during the proceedings when Advocate Hashmat Habib, pleading the case of Dr Aafia Siddiqui, accused the Defence Ministry’s Legal Director Lt-Col Sarfraz Ahmed of having threatened to teach him a lesson for maligning defence institutions.

Although Lt-Col Sarfraz later tendered an unconditional apology before a visibly disturbed court that had re-assembled after retiring for a few minutes, the officer explained that he had asked the counsel not to drag the army which was defending the borders into the case, rather point out specifically if he had any grievance against any agency.

“The sanctity of this court is like a God’s house and our job is to protect whosoever enters it. How could you threaten him?” Justice Sair asked. He said the officer had brought the court into disrepute.

“The army does not belong to you alone but also to us,” Justice Tariq said.

When the court asked about a report submitted by the Foreign Office that 6,000 Pakistani nationals were languishing in foreign jails, the attorney general sought two weeks time to tally the figure with other reports. The Foreign Office was also asked to make its report more comprehensive.

“A lot of grievances of the families of the missing people would be resolved if they are allowed to visit their relatives,” Justice Tariq said.

Justice Javed said the record of missing people available with different departments should be referred to the judicial commission.

Amina Masood Janjua, chairperson of the Defence of Human Rights group, who has been campaigning for the release of detained people, including her missing husband Masood Janjua, requested the court to continue hearing the cases instead of transferring them to the commission.

However, the court observed that the decision to set up the commission was a good step because now there would be two forums.

“You are not aware of stringent procedures; the SC is not a forum to record evidence; we have to find a recourse leading to a solution,” Justice Sair said.

Justice Javed said the phenomenon of missing persons should end now.

He said parliament had taken cognisance of the issue and “let’s see what kind of legislation it makes”.

When Mrs Janjua requested the court to issue directives to parliament for the early setting up of the commission, Justice Javed said parliament was supreme and no one could make it accountable unless an attempt was made to change the basic structure of the Constitution. “We are product of the Constitution framed by parliament,” he said.

He said parliament was entitled to bring any kind of legislation and the court could not cross certain barriers.

Justice Sair said the apex court would monitor and supervise the commission.

“The commission will start its proceedings from where we leave,” Justice Javed said, adding that the court would not dissociate itself from the process.

Justice Sair said the move would mean sharing the burden and not shifting it.

When Justice Javed recalled that 237 missing people had been traced, the attorney general said certain people whose names were on the list had gone for jihad and many were hiding abroad to evade arrests.

Referring to the missing people of Balochistan, Justice Javed said the court would not allow anyone to take political mileage out of the issue. He asked the media to verify facts before highlighting the cases because exaggerated figures created panic.

Asma Jehangir, chairperson of the Human Rights Commission (HRCP), asked the court to make the intelligence agencies accountable for their involvement in the cases.

Rawalpindi SP Kamran Adil said senior officers of the armed forces had recorded their statement before a joint investigation team constituted to locate Mr Janjua.

Advocate Raja Bashir, representing the defence ministry, said Mrs Janjua’s contentions were based on hearsay, what she had heard from others and not seen herself.

He said an FIR had been registered and recording of evidence at an appropriate forum would start soon about her husband’s disappearance.

Mrs Janjua said her objective was not to embarrass any institution, but to get her grievance addressed.

The court summoned the Islamabad chief commissioner and police chief and complete record about the number of casualties during the July 2007 Lal Masjid standoff when girl students of Jamia Hafsa had occupied the adjacent Children’s Library in protest against the razing of seven mosques. Several people were killed in battles between security personnel and students at the mosque.

The court also clarified that Dr Aafia’s case did not fall in the category of missing people and media- and public-driven campaigns were not suitable for judicial findings.

Justice Javed observed that the sincerity of the government should not be doubted because it had engaged good counsel to defend Dr Aafia in the US.

The bench adjourned the hearing for two weeks.

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Court temporarily adjourns hearing :The Nation

Source : http://www.nation.com.pk/pakistan-news-newspaper-daily-english-online/Politics/19-Mar-2010/Court-temporarily-adjourns-hearing

By: Farehia Rehman

ISLAMABAD – The Supreme Court on Thursday temporarily adjourned hearing of the missing persons case for almost ten minutes after an army man threatened a senior lawyer. According to details, Legal Director of the Ministry of Defence, Lieutenant Cornel Sarfraz threatened to Hashmat Habib during the break for commenting about the Army in the court.
After the break as proceedings started again, Habib Advocate appeared before the court and told about the incident occurred during the break. On which, three-member bench headed by Justice Javed Iqbal took strict notice of it and asked Sarfraz to tell the court why he did this.
On this, he told, “I did not threaten him in this sense, I was just asking him not to pass comments about Pakistan army in the court”. On which, Justice Javed Iqbal remarked that it is their Army too and commenting against the Army is contempt of the institutions.
He continued that the institutions could have good and bad qualities. Services of the Pakistan Army and secret agencies are appreciable, he added.
“We will protect everyone, whoever enters the court”, he said and further added that the people, who are taking part in the proceedings, are talking with facts and figures.
He said that the court was like mosque, where everyone could get protection and justice and everyone should respect the court.
Over the situation Justice Muhammad Sair Ali adjourned the proceedings for ten minutes saying that they could not continue till the matter was resolved.
As proceedings started after ten minutes, Lieutenant Cornel Sarfraz apologised for his behaviour, which was also accepted by the Senior Advocate Hashmat Habib.

Pakistan Government shows optimism as Abdul Hafeez Sheikh takes vacant FM office

March 19, 2010 2 comments

Isn’t this a familiar name “Abdul Hafeez Sheikh”. Musharraf team still rules the country like his destructive policies.

Source:Pakistan Government shows optimism as Abdul Hafeez Sheikh takes vacant FM office.

Infocrats-mag

Islamabad- Pakistani Prime minister Yusuf Raza Gillani has shown his optimism with the appointment of Abdul Hafeez Sheikh as his Finance advisor.He said appointment of an experienced economist as advisor will give fresh impetus to the management of Pakistan’s economy.

Mr. Abdul Hafeez Sheikh is well known in banking and financial sector for last 30 years. He was the investment and privatization minister from 2003-2006 and the Sindh finance during the tenure of Shaukat Aziz as PM and Finance Minister. He also served as planning and development minister from 2000-2002 when General (R) Musharraf was the Chief Executive of the country. He is also a former country head of World Bank Saudi Arabia.

The position of Finance advisor in the federal government was vacant since the resignation of Shaukat Tarin.

Pakistan can miss export targets due to power crisis:Amin Fahim

Is this war really our war? It is destroying our lives,economy,social fabric and except a few from elite who are benefiting from all this rest are just suffering.

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Source: Pakistan can miss export targets due to power crisis:Amin Fahim.

Infocrats-mag

Lahore- Amin Fahim, The Pakistani federal minister for commerce has warned about the possibility of not achieving the export targets if electricity crisis and the law and order situation do not see any positive change.

He also said that terror attacks are making the foreign investor to reconsider their strategy in Pakistan.

He also told the media that the government is trying to Persuade United States, European Union and friendly Muslim countries to provide free market access to Pakistani products to revive its economy.

He was talking to the media during his visit to Lahore Expo Center.He said Rs3.5 billion needed for its completion have been sanctioned and the center would hopefully be operational in two months.

According to Fahim every time a bomb blast occurs foreign countries gave new advice  to their citizens.

Pakistan being the front-line state of ongoing war in the region has suffered great economic and human losses as a price for its role in the war.The problems got worse with another ongoing issue of electricity affecting the industrial productivity especially for export goods.

I have respect for the will of People but I am a bit reluctant to use the term ‘DEMOCRACY’..!

March 10, 2010 1 comment

The US elections grasp attention of people all over the world and for a period of time, the two terms “Democrats” and “Republicans” become the most iterated of terms. In Pakistan also, it creates a lot of buzz with debates and discussions all around. But my intention to refer US elections is certainly not to debate over “Why Obama won?” and “What should Republicans do?” Here, I am more concerned about the differences between the two terms i.e. Democracy and Republic; or are these terms synonymous enough to be used interchangeably?

Literally, the word Republic is  derived from a Latin words res and publica, which mean everybody’s thing or interest or a public affair. Whereas the word Democracy has its origins from Greek, with Demos meaning people and kratos, meaning Government. Literally, democracy means Government by or of the people.

In modern political science, republicanism refers to a specific ideology that is based on civic virtue and is considered distinct from ideologies such as liberalism. Democracy is a political government either carried out by the people (direct democracy), or the power to govern is granted to elected representatives, without the restraint embodied in a fixed body of law. The law is whatever an official organ of government determines it is.

Considering our case i.e. of Islamic Republic of Pakistan, we follow a specific ideology that is based on civic virtue as prescribed by Islam. For us, as mentioned in the Objective Resolution “Sovereignty belongs to Allah alone but He has delegated it to the State of Pakistan through its people for being exercised within the limits prescribed by Him as a sacred trust.” Consider an extreme case of an ideal Democracy in Pakistan; if a law is passed by majority which is against the teachings of Islam or which goes against the fact that “Sovereignty belongs to Allah”, should we consider it as a law? In my opinion, I would have a vocal ‘NO’ against that. Now refer to our constitution where it is clearly prescribed tha Islam is the state religion which means in any case the principles described in Holy Quran have to be upheld, we can say that it does not exactly fit into the definition of the term ‘Democracy’. So it is necessary to keep distinction between implementing a complete Democracy and keeping some principles of democracy, freedom, equality, tolerance and social justice fully observed as prescribed in the constitution.

In order to have an idea of the will of people, consider the survey conducted last year by British Council of Pakistan which suggested that almost three-quarters of the Youth in Pakistan (which currently constitutes two-third of the whole population of Pakistan) define themselves as Muslims First then a Pakistani. Moreover, according to a survey conducted by Maryland University, almost 71 percent agreed with requiring “strict application of [sharia] law in every Islamic country.” Despite more than six decades of our creation, the debate still continues amongst the masses, on which side we fall but what is important here is to realize the difference between being a Democrate or a Republican, as this misunderstanding is becoming a major reason behind the dichotomy that exists within our society – a society which faces extreme opposition from many scholars regarding ‘Democracy’ and on the other hand extreme proposition from various circles. So the bottom line is instead of imposing a system which is executable in any other part of the world, we should work out in designing and implementing a system suitable for our needs and which rightly addresses our values. Now surprisingly, Urdu being our national language and the language of masses; has the same word “Jamhoriat” for both Democracy and Republic. Yes! The word Jamhoriat, a word which echoes repeatedly and amplified by various political personalities, is also reflected in the name “Islami Jamhoria Pakistan”.

So it should be kept as two distinct approaches whether the leader or party, for whom we keep on chanting slogans, wants a “Democratic Pakistan” or will keep it “Islamic Republic of Pakistan”?

As John Marshall (Chief Justice, The US Supreme Court 1801-1835) observed: “Between a balanced republic and a democracy, the difference is like that between order and chaos.”

Why the West craves materialism & why the East sticks to religion

My generation grew up at a time when colonial hang up was at its peak. Our older generation had been slaves and had a huge inferiority complex of the British. The school I went to was similar to all elite schools in Pakistan. Despite gaining independent, they were, and still are, producing replicas of public schoolboys rather than Pakistanis.

I read Shakespeare, which was fine, but no Allama Iqbal — the national poet of Pakistan. The class on Islamic studies was not taken seriously, and when I left school I was considered among the elite of the country because I could speak English and wore Western clothes.

Despite periodically shouting ‘Pakistan Zindabad’ in school functions, I considered my own culture backward and religion outdated. Among our group if any one talked about religion, prayed or kept a beard he was immediately branded a Mullah.

Because of the power of the Western media, our heroes were Western movie stars or pop stars. When I went to Oxford already burdened with this hang up, things didn’t get any easier. At Oxford, not just Islam, but all religions were considered anachronism.

Science had replaced religion and if something couldn’t be logically proved it did not exist. All supernatural stuff was confined to the movies. Philosophers like Darwin, who with his half-baked theory of evolution had supposedly disproved the creation of men and hence religion, were read and revered.

Moreover, European history reflected its awful experience with religion. The horrors committed by the Christian clergy during the Inquisition era had left a powerful impact on the Western mind.

To understand why the West is so keen on secularism, one should go to places like Cordoba in Spain and see the torture apparatus used during the Spanish Inquisition. Also the persecution of scientists as heretics by the clergy had convinced the Europeans that all religions are regressive.

However, the biggest factor that drove people like me away from religion was the selective Islam practiced by most of its preachers. In short, there was a huge difference between what they practiced and what they preached. Also, rather than explaining the philosophy behind the religion, there was an overemphasis on rituals.

I feel that humans are different to animals. While, the latter can be drilled, humans need to be intellectually convinced. That is why the Qur’an constantly appeals to reason. The worst, of course, was the exploitation of Islam for political gains by various individuals or groups.

Hence, it was a miracle I did not become an atheist. The only reason why I did not was the powerful religious influence my mother wielded on me since my childhood. It was not so much out of conviction but love for her that I stayed a Muslim.

However, my Islam was selective. I accepted only parts of the religion that suited me. Prayers were restricted to Eid days and occasionally on Fridays, when my father insisted on taking me to the mosque with him.

All in all I was smoothly moving to becoming a Pukka Brown Sahib. After all I had the right credentials in terms of school, university and, above all, acceptability in the English aristocracy, something that our brown sahibs would give their lives for. So what led me to do a ‘lota’ on the Brown Sahib culture and instead become a ‘desi’?

Well it did not just happen overnight.

Firstly, the inferiority complex that my generation had inherited gradually went as I developed into a world-class athlete. Secondly, I was in the unique position of living between two cultures. I began to see the advantages and the disadvantages of both societies.

In Western societies, institutions were strong while they were collapsing in our country. However, there was an area where we were and still are superior, and that is our family life. I began to realize that this was the Western society’s biggest loss. In trying to free itself from the oppression of the clergy, they had removed both God and religion from their lives.

While science, no matter how much it progresses, can answer a lot of questions — two questions it will never be able to answer: One, what is the purpose of our existence and two, what happens to us when we die?

It is this vacuum that I felt created the materialistic and the hedonistic culture. If this is the only life then one must make hay while the sun shines — and in order to do so one needs money. Such a culture is bound to cause psychological problems in a human being, as there was going to be an imbalance between the body and the soul.

Consequently, in the US, which has shown the greatest materialistic progress while giving its citizens numerous rights, almost 60 percent of the population consult psychiatrists. Yet, amazingly in modern psychology, there is no study of the human soul. Sweden and Switzerland, who provide the most welfare to their citizens, also have the highest suicide rates. Hence, man is not necessarily content with material well being and needs something more.

Since all morality has it roots in religion, once religion was removed, immorality has progressively grown since the 70s. Its direct impact has been on family life. In the UK, the divorce rate is 60 percent, while it is estimated that there are over 35 percent single mothers. The crime rate is rising in almost all Western societies, but the most disturbing fact is the alarming increase in racism. While science always tries to prove the inequality of man (recent survey showing the American Black to be genetically less intelligent than whites) it is only religion that preaches the equality of man.

Between 1991 and 1997, it was estimated that total immigration into Europe was around 520,000, and there were racially motivated attacks all over, especially in Britain, France and Germany. In Pakistan during the Afghan war, we had over four million refugees, and despite the people being so much poorer, there was no racial tension.

There was a sequence of events in the 80s that moved me toward God as the Qur’an says: “There are signs for people of understanding.” One of them was cricket. As I was a student of the game, the more I understood the game, the more I began to realize that what I considered to be chance was, in fact, the will of Allah. A pattern which became clearer with time. But it was not until Salman Rushdie’s “Satanic Verses” that my understanding of Islam began to develop.

People like me who were living in the Western world bore the brunt of anti-Islam prejudice that followed the Muslim reaction to the book. We were left with two choices: fight or flight. Since I felt strongly that the attacks on Islam were unfair, I decided to fight. It was then I realized that I was not equipped to do so as my knowledge of Islam was inadequate. Hence I started my research and for me a period of my greatest enlightenment. I read scholars like Ali Shariati, Muhammad Asad, Iqbal, Gai Eaton, plus of course, a study of Qur’an.

I will try to explain as concisely as is possible, what “discovering the truth” meant for me. When the believers are addressed in the Qur’an, it always says, “Those who believe and do good deeds.” In other words, a Muslim has dual function, one toward God and the other toward fellow human beings.

The greatest impact of believing in God for me, meant that I lost all fear of human beings. The Qur’an liberates man from man when it says that life and death and respect and humiliation are God’s jurisdiction, so we do not have to bow before other human beings.

Moreover, since this is a transitory world where we prepare for the eternal one, I broke out of the self-imposed prisons, such as growing old (such a curse in the Western world, as a result of which, plastic surgeons are having a field day), materialism, ego, what people say and so on. It is important to note that one does not eliminate earthly desires. But instead of being controlled by them, one controls them.

By following the second part of believing in Islam, I have become a better human being. Rather than being self-centered and living for the self, I feel that because the Almighty gave so much to me, in turn I must use that blessing to help the less privileged. This I did by following the fundamentals of Islam rather than becoming a Kalashnikov-wielding fanatic.

I have become a tolerant and a giving human being who feels compassion for the underprivileged. Instead of attributing success to myself, I know it is because of God’s will, hence I learned humility instead of arrogance.

Also, instead of the snobbish Brown Sahib attitude toward our masses, I believe in egalitarianism and strongly feel against the injustice done to the weak in our society. According to the Qur’an, “Oppression is worse than killing.” In fact only now do I understand the true meaning of Islam, if you submit to the will of Allah, you have inner peace.

Through my faith, I have discovered strength within me that I never knew existed and that has released my potential in life. I feel that in Pakistan we have selective Islam. Just believing in God and going through the rituals is not enough. One also has to be a good human being. I feel there are certain Western countries with far more Islamic traits than us in Pakistan, especially in the way they protect the rights of their citizens, or for that matter their justice system. In fact some of the finest individuals I know live there.

What I dislike about them is their double standards in the way they protect the rights of their citizens but consider citizens of other countries as being somehow inferior to them as human being, e.g. dumping toxic waste in the Third World, advertising cigarettes that are not allowed in the West and selling drugs that are banned in the West.

One of the problems facing Pakistan is the polarization of two reactionary groups. On the one side is the Westernized group that looks upon Islam through Western eyes and has inadequate knowledge about the subject. It reacts strongly to anyone trying to impose Islam in society and wants only a selective part of the religion. On the other extreme is the group that reacts to this Westernized elite and in trying to become a defender of the faith, takes up such intolerant and self-righteous attitudes that are repugnant to the spirit of Islam.

What needs to be done is to somehow start a dialogue between the two extreme. In order for this to happen, the group on whom the greatest proportion of our educational resources are spent in this country must study Islam properly.

Whether they become practicing Muslims or believe in God is entirely a personal choice. As the Qur’an tells us there is “no compulsion in religion.” However, they must arm themselves with knowledge as a weapon to fight extremism. Just by turning up their noses at extremism the problem is not going to be solved.

The Qur’an calls Muslims “the middle nation”, not of extremes. The Holy Prophet (peace be upon him) was told to simply give the message and not worry whether people converted or not, therefore, there is no question in Islam of forcing your opinions on anyone else.

Moreover, we are told to respect other religions, their places of worship and their prophets. It should be noted that no Muslim missionaries or armies ever went to Malaysia or Indonesia. The people converted to Islam due to the high principles and impeccable character of the Muslim traders. At the moment, the worst advertisements for Islam are the countries with their selective Islam, especially where religion is used to deprive people of their rights. In fact, a society that obeys fundamentals of Islam has to be a liberal one.

If Pakistan’s Westernized class starts to study Islam, not only will it be able to help society fight sectarianism and extremism, but it will also make them realize what a progressive religion Islam is. They will also be able to help the Western world by articulating Islamic concepts. Recently, Prince Charles accepted that the Western world can learn from Islam. But how can this happen if the group that is in the best position to project Islam gets its attitudes from the West and considers Islam backward? Islam is a universal religion and that is why our Prophet (peace be upon him) was called a Mercy for all mankind.

By Imran Khan

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