My Pakistani Persons of the Year 2019: Mohsin Dawar and Ali Wazir

Source: Pakistan Today

Never before in the history of this country have we ever seen politicians such as Mohsin Dawar and Ali Wazir. The anti-establishment independent MPs from Waziristan are the standard-bearers of the Pashtun Tahafuz Movment, which fights for the civil rights of the Pashtun ethnic minority in Pakistan and against their targeted killings since they have been largely demonized and racially profiled by the Punjabi dominated military following the operations against military insurgency.

Mohsin Dawar and Ali Wazir aided the movement’s leader Manzoor Pashteen to articulate the viewpoint of the Pashtun people and make their grievances known nationwide despite a draconian state crackdown. They reminded the world about the non-violent and progressive political traditions of the Pashtun people and that Talibanization was an engineered phenomenon in an otherwise peaceful community.

In May 2019, they exposed the authoritarianism of the Pakistani state, when they protested the un. The military checkpoint at Kharqamar opened fire on non-violent protesters without a warning. However, both Mohsin Dawar and Ali Wazir were arrested following the incident, with the state institutions held to no accountability for massacring thirteen people. Ali Wazir’s detention was even more painful considering the fact that he almost lost his entire family to terrorism during the “War on Terror” days.

After months of incarceration and torture, Mohsin Dawar and Ali Wazir were released in Septemeber 2019. The Speaker of the ruling pro-establishment party did not deliberately issue their production orders. However, Mohsin Dawar did have the opportuntity to speak his heart out after his release, which was shamelessly censored by the State Parliament TV with an ironical segment on “Lahore’s Historical Places.”

Check that particular clip over here: https://www.facebook.com/watch/?v=797188270711265

 

Mohsin Dawar and Ali Wazir have singlehandedly exposed the authoritarianism with their non-violent political resistance and have given a new dimension to parliamentary politics in a country where the debate on the Assembly floor has been almost rendered useless. Mohsin Dawar has also co-sponsored a bill proposing more representation from the tribal areas, which passed in the lower house. In a country where passing laws through Presidential ordinances has become the norm, parliamentarians like Dawar and Wazir inspire and represent not only the youth but every repressed voice in the country.

Read about my Pakistani Person of the year in 2018 here.

Pakistani Free Speech Hero of the Year 2019: Gulalai Ismail

Source: Dawn

In a country where freedom of expression is considered an abomination and where democracy is seen with disdain, the bar to become a free speech hero is not very high. But a person who took dissent and to a new level, it is Gulalai Ismail. The winner of the Chirac Foundation Prize in France for her feminist organization Aware Girls in Pakistan, Gulalai upheld the tradition of Pakistani women being global ambassadors of everything positive the country had to offer.

Gulalai became a victim of harassment by state agencies after she had openly expressed her support for the Pashtun Tahafuz Movement. She was noted for speaking out against Pakistani military’s abuses against Pashtun women. Her fiery speech following the rape and murder of Farishteh, an Afghan refugee minor girl whose father was denied a police report because of their refugee status. She was arrested in February 2019 following that and was shortly released. However, her life remained under threat and her family was constantly harassed about her whereabouts after she withdrew from public life.

In September 2019, The New York Times reported in an explosive story that Gulalai had arrived in the United States and had applied for political asylum. This brought some relief to Gulalai but it was short-lived. While she was safe in the United States, her family was being harassed back home in Pakistan. She continues to speak out for her family’s rights, the rights of the Pashtun people, and especially women.

Gulalai’s father, Prof. Muhammad Ismail, is probably where she draws her fiery spirit from. Prof. Ismail, recently detained by the Pakistani authorities, is as fierce in his dissent as Gulalai and remains defiant of the state to this day. After a torturous detention, he was recently issued bail. His crime, being Gulalai’s father and a dissenter to the State of Pakistan.

An honorable mention is due to Ammar Ali Jan, the progressive political activist and academic from FC College Lahore, who has been abducted and charged with treason only for speaking out about the rights of the people and students. A columnist for The News, Ammar had not even joined twitter of late. However, his influence as a social activist. He was one of the organizers of the Students Solidarity March, along with the Progressive Students Federation, and was charged with treason among others after a successful display of non-violent force by the students on November 29. Today, the Students Solidarity March has prompted the lifting of the ban on the Students Union in Sindh Province and a similar resolution has been presented in the Punjab Assembly.

I feel proud to mention the name of Lala Iqbal Khan, the father of a great free speech hero and martyr Mishaal Khan in this post. Disgustingly, the case registered against the organizers of the Students Solidarity March also callously booked Lala Iqbal. Despite this treatment by the state, he stood on solid ground as far as his convictions were concerned.

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Last year saw the beginning of the #metoo movement in Pakistan. Despite odds, otherwise-seemingly- privileged artists such as Meesha Shafi came out against Ali Zafar. However, considering Pakistan’s social taboos, Jami jolted the conscience of Pakistani society with the revelation of being raped by Dawn CEO Hameed Haroon, a journalist who many would like to see as a free-speech hero in his own right considering the harassment of the Dawn Group. Jami’s struggle is going to be long and potentially fruitless. I don’t know if I am educated enough to even comment on it, other than showing unconditional support and solidarity to him.

An important and unlikely dissenter who should be mentioned among free speech heroes is Mufti Kifayatullah, and it would be dishonest to ignore him simply because he is a theocrat. Mufti Kifayatullah defied the convention that theocratic politicians are pro-establishment in the country and proved to be a breath of fresh air for a change for openly speaking out against the military.

Special mentions, of course, go to journalist Gul Bukhari, journalist Taha Siddiqui, and blogger Ahmed Waqas Goraya, all three of whom have been assaulted extrajudicially by the Pakistani authorities, who have been relentless in their criticism of the military establishment and state authoritarianism in Pakistan. They have particularly been a nuisance in getting obnoxious responses from the current DG ISPR. Goraya recently claimed to be responsible for the shut down of thousands of twitter accounts of trolls which he alleges to be hired by the information wing of the Pakistani military.

However, more than them, many of the prominent journalists still in the country, who cannot appear on TV anymore are probably greater free speech heroes, including Talat Hussain, Matiullah Jan, and Najam Sethi. Hamid Mir, Amber Rahim Shamsi, and Asma Shirazi are also fighting the good fight while still on the air.

Read about the Pakistani free speech hero for 2018 here.

Pakistani Idiot of the Year 2019: Faisal Vawda

Source: thecurrent.pk

Well, it should not come as a surprise, given we have had the government of idiots complete its first year and still going as erratic as ever, which was a big win for idiots all across Pakistan. Even though the entire cabinet is a great congress of idiots, but the minister that embodies it the most has to be none other than Faisal Vawda, who is the Pakistani Idiot of the Year 2019.

The self-pompous, narcissistic, and Vawda is ironically everything that the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf has been claiming to loathe. Unfortunately, he has become the symbol of irresponsibility, indiscipline, and yes, financial corruption, as well as the embodiment of the personality cult mentality which the party suffers from already under the leadership of Imran Khan.

Source: twitter

However, apart from his usual antics, such as flashing expensive sports cars and heavy-duty sports motorcycles, and posing with the Pakistani soldiers on the Line of Control after the airforce downed an Indian MiG 21, he earns the title by pushing as the official position of the PTI government on corruption. Vawda had infamously stated on Hamid Mir’s TV show that hanging 500 people in the country will resolve its problems.

In his latest gem, he says that Ahsan Iqbal should be hanged for “three days.” However, it is strange that a party endorsing such penalties had such a strong reaction to the inappropriate final paragraph of the Musharraf verdict.

In a recent blog, I have talked about the hypocrisy of Pakistani social conservatives when it comes to “public hangings.” Of course, it is idiotic to endorse mass public hangings, if not stonings, but this is the narrative that drives even the mainstream conservative nationalists in Pakistan. The only difference is that they are okay with having their military carry out the job behind closed doors. Perhaps, the greatest symbol of that is the insane public intellectual Hassan Nisar, who disgraced himself by openly and shamelessly defending the financial corruption of former dictator General Pervez Musharraf.

Therefore, Vawda is the idiot who had delivered the message but it was by no means an isolated statement. The Prime Minister has already expressed his intention in China of implementing such a law if he had enough power, which was among many of his idiotic moments of the year including a bizarre speech threatening nuclear war at the United Nations, stating that the Pakistani military had trained Al-Qaida at a US foreign policy forum. It’s no surprise he has dodged a blasphemy accusation due to all his Messianic but loose Medina State talk. Here is the “Prime Minister” mimicking Opposition leader Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari on a national inauguration event.

There is no shortage of other idiocy that made Pakistan proud. As a matter of fact, the instances and statements are so numerous and outrageous, covering all those is simply beyond the scope of this post. It may even prove too overwhelming for a journalist or a historian to chronicle those in a journal. However, a few prominent ones need special mentions.

In the first quarter of the year, the Law Minister of Punjab Fayyaz-ul-Hassan Chauhan had opened his year-long account of idiotic behavior by responding to India’s aggression toward Kashmir. It is no secret that society in general and the government in Pakistan, in particular, are anti-Hindu. Chauhan, despite bearing a last name that clearly shows his Hindu ancestry, determine

In another instance of their anti-Hindu bigotry, another PTI minister Ali Muhammad Khan, who had shamed a Hindu MP for presenting a bill in the Parliament. It is important to remind that this is the same government that accuses the Modi administration to be Nazis day and night and also has a problem with the controversial Citizenship Amendment Act in India. Following all the bigotry, there was hardly a surprise that anti-Hindu riots were ignited in Sindh, this time conveniently blamed on “blasphemy.”

The entire cabinet of PTI sounded like a band of buffoons and who else but Fawad Chaudhary could consistently produce. In one of his infinite bizarre statements,

Fellow Islamists, the Emir of Jamat-i-Islami, Siraj-ul-Haq offered his brilliant vision of expanding his political party, by encouraging his party workers to give birth to more children.

Even though Mufti Kifayatullah was obviously joking, his hilariously ridiculous comment that the Vicky of “Wikileaks” is the cousin of Jemima Goldsmith, Imran Khan’s first wife. It is important to explain that the comment was not antisemitic, unlike popular belief. But it surely earns him a mention and allows me to bash another cleric.

While this post may come across comical, it never always is. The dark side of the idiocy of this nation shows its face in the form of the blasphemy zealots from Khadim Hussain Rizvi of TLP to numerous foot soldiers across the country indoctrinated by Barelvism. One such young dangerous idiot was Khateeb Hussain who murdered an English professor in Bahawalpur for something he decided was a blasphemy.

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In the similar spirit, the rioting lawyers stormed a cardiac hospital in Lahore this December and were responsible for more than one deaths. Hasaan Niazi of the ISF, who had later repented, along with the mob of lawyers, make the list for the sheer madness they helped instigated.

Another special mention goes out to Maj. Gen. Asif Ghafoor, the Director General of ISPR, who has pretty much established that the qualification for future appointments to the post will need you to be a professional troll. Please see the following tweets and make up your own mind.

Like always, apologies for missing out hundreds of other idiots. Please feel free to add to the list in the comments.

Read about the Pakistani idiot of the year for 2018 here.

A Case of Two Death Sentences

Source: Public’s Radio/Fareed Khan/AP

Pakistani people are known for their strange standards of morality, and nothing puts these paradoxes in the spotlight than issues considered “sensitive” in society. In a country, dominated by military dictatorship, a verdict such as the one issued by the Special Courts on December 17 was unheard of. This Special Court made of three judges in a 2-1 decision condemned former dictator Pervez Musharraf to death. Most liberal commentators, including Amnesty International, welcomed the verdict only for the supremacy and legitimacy of the civilian constituency over military dictatorship in a country with Pakistan’s history. These liberals went to great length to condemn or disapprove of “capital punishment,” while deeming such a stand by the judiciary necessary to uphold a civilian constitution in the country and to discourage military coups.

However, one of the Special Court judges, Waqar Seth overkilled the verdict by adding the infamous paragraph 66, probably to leave his personal political statement on the verdict, if not to sabotage it willfully. The paragraph or article reads as in the following picture, in which the judge orders the fugitive or convict’s “corpse be dragged to the D-Chowk, Islamabad, Pakistan and be hanged for 03 days” if found dead. To me, reading these words in a verdict by a Pakistani court is almost comical in a dark way, but it is indeed no laughing matter. And I wholeheartedly agree with everyone who has taken offense at such a verdict, even the pro-establishment nationalists and the government, involving public hangings, which have nothing to do with the law in Pakistan. Pakistan is not Iran and the anger of such social conservative uncles should not be enabled just because they happen to have convicted an authoritarian dictator.

Source: Muhammad Rizwan Safdar

It had to take a military dictator sentenced to death to start hearing about the cruelty and injustice of capital punishment from the pro-establishment social conservatives of the country. Most of these people are the lot who talk about hanging child rapists and “traitors” in squares.  However, it is important to understand that most of these people who you would otherwise not hear from on capital punishment are social conservatives. They have nothing against the death penalty. On the other hand, another brutal verdict from our courts went without any attention when Fulbright scholar and academic Junaid Hafeez was sentenced to death on blasphemy charges after being incarcerated for nearly six years. This must have come as a devastating blow to his family which is already ostracized and has suffered great financial losses ever since Junaid was arrested for the charge. The pain and grief of his father are evident from this VOA interview. You could hardly imagine what his mother would be going through.

Several reports and commentators have pointed out the flimsy evidence in the case of Junaid Hafeez. Many people believe that any court lower than the high court lack the courage to challenge the overzealous blasphemy mobs. This is not necessarily an unreasonable concern for even Sunni Muslim judges less likely to be accused of blasphemy. Rashid Rehman, a heroic lawyer, who opted to represent Junaid Hafeez as a defense attorney was murdered by the blasphemy zealots. It must be pointed out for the benefit of a novice reader who is not aware of the situation in Pakistan that killing of someone alleged to have blasphemed against the Prophet or anything remotely related to Islam is not only encouraged but is considered a great virtue of a hero. However, that does not absolve the so-called “moderate” Muslims or even liberal Muslims of their responsibility.

It is indeed these majority of moderate Muslims who allowed this new form of murderous religion known as “Barelvism” flourish in Pakistan. However, Deobandi Sunnis and Shia Muslims are also complicit in terms of their stance on blasphemy, the latter mostly out of fear, being a regular target of Sunni blasphemy zealots themselves. Even many of these liberal Muslims can be heard advocating the necessity of a blasphemy law but “minimize its misuse through reform.” Well, they have a point too, considering you cannot overturn blasphemy law overnight. But they are still pretty much okay with capital punishment for blasphemy, if not hanging them in the squares.

Ironically, many of the people advocate precisely what Judge Seth had written in paragraph 65 for the blasphemers and the “corrupt,” especially your common social conservative Sunni Whatsapp uncle, or sometimes even a PTI Shia uncle inspired by Khomeini’s revolution. Anti-democracy pro-establishment and anti-liberal social conservatives in Pakistan thrive on this narrative, especially targeted against blasphemers, “corrupt politicians,” and dissidents often labeled “traitors” by them. That is why the epithet of “traitor” stings so much as it is the treatment of their own medicine.

It is amazing how much two death sentences can reveal the hypocrisy and moral corruption of Pakistanis. There is outroar against the death penalty for a military dictator though there is a deafening silence on the sheer cruelty and barbarism with how the State of Pakistan is treating one of its gifted scholars in Junaid Hafeez. We should think twice before giving brownie points to pro-establishment liberals and conservatives in Pakistan for their “humanity.”