A Question About Torture and Justice

Source: AP/Mahesh Kumar A.

Source: AP/Mahesh Kumar A.

The December 2012 case of gang rape and (attempted) murder of a young woman in Delhi has come forth as one of the most hideous crimes on an individual level in recent history. The crime involved absolutely unspeakable torture in which the rapists used an iron rod to penetrate the woman, resulting in subsequent organ damage and her unfortunate demise a couple of weeks later.

India is completely outraged by this incident and people have taken to the streets to protest against it and rightfully so. As a matter of fact, the protests have been extraordinary and inspiring because this incident has shaken the whole world, not just the Indian nation.

However, let me dare say that I have noticed a lot of genuine urge to inflict torture, apart from the genuine anger at this crime. I mean really apart from the reactions that stem out of genuine frustration that are understandable.

Of course, I don’t even want to go on discussing the Talibanesque Indian (Far) Right, but not just the public figures.  Even though I tried to stop myself from thinking this way at a time like this, I could not help but find this behavior a little disturbing in terms of the relation between torture and justice at times.

But then again, I am not sure if I am clear about this myself. I mean they have a point. Isn’t that letting them off the hook too easily?

Now let me be clear on this that a part of me wants some sort of torture to be inflicted on the perpetrators as well. You know, like castration and life imprisonment. I don’t want to give the impression that I am at a higher moral ground and am free of violent urges at all, being a low animal. Castration is sort of cruel but intellectual, because it prevents procreation, at least from that individual.

But then again even when I ask this question to myself, I don’t find a clear answer. Especially when it comes to action. As much as I agree with severe punishments, I am not really sure if torture, or maybe even death should be a part of it. Just not as convinced.

What is justice, then? Torture for torture? Murder for murder? Eye for an eye? I know it’s not about compensating the loss at all, if anything at all. What about castration? That seems a mild punishment, or is it? That’s torture, surely. What about public hangings? That surely sounds perfect for deterring the crime. Besides, why worry about the cruelty of the punishment? Only those thinking about committing such a horrid crime would be facing the music. And they deserve it.

Source: India Today

Source: India Today

Go ahead with it by all means but then please never criticize the Taliban ever for their “brutalities”. Because the last time I checked, these are the sort of things that the Taliban do. And yes, they have hanged people too. They don’t just behead people in the good old fashioned “Middle Eastern” manner. But can you really stop such urges from emerging? Tempting.

In a way, it makes perfectly good sense to kill any such perpetrator at the spot, in defense at least. Such as an instance of using a licensed firearm to shoot down someone intruding into your house. At least, within the moral system followed by the rapists, I think they would not be too shocked if someone comes out to kill them, or even brutally torture them. You know, driving steel rods up their asses or burning them at stake.

But would you do that in cold blood? Especially when you do not share the lawless jungle morality of the rapists. This is an important question. But at the same time, I would like to appreciate the fact that the demands for death sentence on behalf of the people are mor or less justified because it is a commonly accepted penalty in the Indian Penal Code for murder. But of  course the matter is much more complex than that.

But I am not sure if it is appropriate to torture those men in more or less a similar manner or much mildly for their crime. And if we do penalize them strictly, would that really deter such crimes? Or perhaps if milder penalties are ensured to be imposed, without violating any human rights? Would that deter the crime still by simply ensuring effective enforcement?

But yes, the question becomes rather meaningless when rapists are hardly ever convicted at all, let alone penalized. And when the rate of rape is as appalling as it is in our part of the world and the society turning a complete blind eye to it. Because not only do we traditionally blame everything about rape on women, but in conservative circles create an environment where there are greater barriers to consensual sex than there are to rape.

I understand that the degree of this particular offense is simply too much and the charge is murder and sexual torture in this case, more than just the milder definition of rape, so probably a stricter punishment is justified in this case. Especially considering the physical and mental implications. Not to mention the mess the traditional patriarchal Indian society creates for rape victims if they survive.

But a stricter punishment is surely justified in this case. I am sure even the most liberal of commentators, politicians and judges would be at least forced to consider it. I mean, think about the precious lost life, and what her life could have been. Besides, think of the cruelty with which these criminals acted. Do they deserve mercy? A stricter punishment sounds more like justice.

But is it? I am not sure. I don’t want to make any secret of my confusion over here, but the more I think about it, the more I feel that probably torturing the criminals back is not really the answer. Or probably I would have an answer straight away. Because a part of me feels as if we probably love to see people tortured a bit too much as a species.

I don’t really support capital punishment but I cannot help but ignore the pressure in this case. I do know that capital punishment is the accepted norm in the sub-continent and so I guess I would not mind hanging these criminals.

I mean I expect very few to be upset about it when they even want to deny them defense in the court. But then there is the thought of letting these criminals go too easy. And what if they are at it again?

I am just lucky and relieved that I am not in the position to bear the responsibility of determining penalties on criminals.

I know that does not make me a good human being, let alone a better one.

But I envy the ones with convictions

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My Pakistani Person of the Year 2012: Malala Yousafzai

Source: Getty Images

Source: Getty Images

The undisputed Pakistani of the year 2012 is Malala Yousafzai. Malala has been significantly important this year and is expected to be in the future as well because her influence has not only created an impact locally, but also internationally.

The failed assassination attempt on her carried out by the local Taliban mercenaries resulted in a strange twist of fate catapulting her to the status of an international ambassador and symbol of education of girls around the world, particularly in repressive environments.

For those doubting her and undermining and underestimating her achievements, she stood for education of girls and women in probably the most unfavorable conditions in the world, especially where there was a direct threat to her life. This was proved by the assassination attempt on her on October 9, 2012, which also injured two other of her classmates. The Taliban still vow to continue their attacks until she is dead.

Another unconscious achievement of Malala, the daughter of a Pakistani teacher and school principal, has been exposing the insensitivity, cruelty and illogic of the fundamentalist conservatives of the country who rejected the incident as a hoax, denying that she had not been shot at all, and calling her a foreign agent.

Malala Yousafzai is a name well recognized around the world now, as she has been appreciated by the likes of President Obama, Secretary of State Clinton, British Prime Minister White and UN Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon. Canadian journalist Tarek Fatah has even initiated a global petition for nominating her for the Nobel Peace Prize for 2013, adding to her long list of honors including the Sitara-e-Shuja’at for her bravery. I am not a fan of the Nobel Peace Prize, but hell why not if Henry Kissinger and President Obama can win it.

Malala Yousafzai has also been the runner up for TIME magazine’s Person of the Year nomination for 2012.

But of course, she didn’t deserve the first place.

But I am pretty sure that the greatest of all her achievements is standing up against fundamentalism and even conservatism and that is what truly makes her a hero for me. I wish I had even half of her courage and energy. Hope is certainly not dead in Pakistan, as hard as they might try.

She is currently hospitalized in Birmingham, UK, recovering from damage and awaiting reconstructive surgery on her skull bone and let’s hope she gets back to full mode.

I am sure we all miss her energy.

Happy New Year.

The Mayan Apocalypse Day Post

Source: Bizarro.com

Source: Bizarro.com

So today is December 21, 2012.

The Sun aligns the center of the Milky Way galaxy, something that happens once in every 25,772 years. Well sorry, that occurs every year. Not me, NASA said that.

And everyone is making fun of the people who believed that today would be the Doomsday. Well, they are spot on because apparently the world will not end today, though I would want to wait till the date December 21 is over on the last timezone in the world, and everyone has the right to criticize the otherwise-all-knowing Mayans. But wait, what do Mayans have to do with this doomsday date? I’d rather give the due credit to the History Channel.

Well, for starters, the end of the Mayan calendar does not mean the end of the world. The cartoon above shows most probably what would have happened.  And no one is stupid enough to expect the plot of a pathetic Roland Emmerich motion picture becoming reality. Although I must say that the panic and destruction in that pathetic motion picture to some extent is very much possible, but perhaps not at ridiculosly apocalyptic levels.

But what really ticks me off is religious people criticizing and invalidating the Mayan Apocalypse theory with a shot of preaching of their own version of the Apocalypse, let it be Hadith eschatology or the Book of Revelations and the Rapture. And the usual line “Only Allah knows about the end of the world”. So your criticism on anyone and anything is more than welcome, but please do examine the validity of the explanation that you are confidently presenting as its alternative as well.

I mean how ridiculous can you get. If we consider the Mayan “prophesy” (because I am not even sure if there was any prophesy at all) to be religious, has it occurred to the religious people that their versions of the story-that-never-happened could be equally false? Especially when their versions of the history have no place for the dinosaurs who went extinct after a similar apocalyptic event, as per scientific estimates with the most plausible explanation, which you are free to doubt without being responsible enough to explain your conviction over your belief-without-evidence.

Source: disbelief.net via Michael Dare

Source: disbelief.net via Michael Dare

Yes there are millions more waiting for Jesus, the Mahdi, the Meshiach, Kalki and God knows who else. Are they any saner than the ones who have been supposed to have brought forth the Doomsday prophesy, a misnomer in the Mayan case. Sorry I am using the Apocalypse as an excuse to bash religion, but it’s just so related to it that it controls people’s lives, especially the Abrahamic fanatics, who base their present prejudices on the basis of horrific future certainties. I can tell that a lot of silent animosity between Muslims and Jews is because of the end of days traditions.

Actually it was really amusing. A news anchor on Aaj TV (and I really don’t want to single them out, it must be going on on several other Pakistani “news” channels as well, but that’s what I was watching at that time) was presenting a report on the December 2012 craze and he was literally preaching Islam on television and I said to whoever was sitting with me: Is this news? Is this a professional news channel? “Only Allah knows about the Judgment Day”. Are we presenting that statement as a fact to the people? I’d never allow that if I were in charge but it’s just hilarious. Maybe they should start hiring mullahs as newscasters and newsroom editors.

But the fact remains that science tells us there will be an Apocalypse sooner or later, whenever it may occur. The Earth could be eaten up by the Sun if Andromeda does not bang into our system before that, or we do not get to witness a Gamma Ray Burst in the coming months that occurred thousands or even millions of years ago. But I believe we have made enough scientific progress to see it coming a bit before it occurs, unless the space agencies choose to hide the information, and in any case we would not be able to do much about it though. Recall Armageddon (1998)?

But even a major earthquake or a flash flood or a tsunami is like Apocalypse for a person whose home is swept away with the indifferent fury of Mother Nature. Therefore, I would not call those who are spending hundreds of thousands of dollars to take precautions idiots. I think their investment is going to pay off sooner and later, and while hoaxes like 2012 could be dismissed as propaganda for stimulating the business of the “survival industry”, it is not really a bad idea investing for a doomsday backup, whether they call it paranoia or not. Though the key is ease of access on a minute’s notice.

In a similar effort, a Chinese citizen Li Qiyuan has built a spherical doomsday ark that can support 30 people for 2 months in apocalyptic conditions at a cost of $ 288,000. Sounds pretty impressive, especially because it could possibly withstand a lot of shock, though I am not sure about the impact on the physical health of the persons inside. But nevertheless, it is the next best thing after the underground shelter and Larry Hall’s comprehensive luxury 2012 condos. Another entrepreneur with a similar invention has even started taking orders.

The Chinese inventor fittingly named his creation the “Noah’s Ark” and the funny part is that a group of Muslims found that offensive, as usual.  I just hope they don’t kill this very very useful man. But apart from jokes, it is blasphemy scanners like these who end up achieving violent protests and killings.

So I’m glad the end of the world turned out to be pretty hilarious in the end.

Anyway.

Happy Mayan Apocalypse Day.

Better luck next time.

A Government of Idiots (Pakistani Idiot of the Year 2012)

Ghulam Bilour (Source: AFP/ET)

So how low a government made up of supposedly progressive parties can go just to win cheap voter sympathy and public support?

I can quote analysts like Ayesha Siddiqa that there are hardly any secular forces in Pakistan. She is absolutely right, because those who are secular are virtually non-existent and are overwhelmed by the center and right forces.

But there are political parties like the ANP who claim to believe in non-violence and secular values, apart from the undying support of a number of their members to Peshawar’s (in)famous declaring-Eid-in-advance Masjid Qasim. Hey, I support their right to celebrate Eid the way they want.

I was very disappointed to see ANP’s very own Ghulam Bilour, who by far is the worst performing minister in the cabinet considering the shambles that the Railways is in, offering a bounty of $ 100,000 to anyone who kills the maker of the blasphemous film “Innocence of Muslims“.

I mean, really?

Before we even go into questioning the moral and legal authority of the minister, who maintains that he has offered the bounty in “personal capacity”, the greatest question to ask is this.

How is Mr. Bilour still holding his office and why the Government of Pakistan and the Awami National Party have not taken any action against the statement?

However, I do respect how he has responded to the news of the Taliban removing his name from their hit list. He was largely ambivalent, saying he could also die of a heart attack.

Nevertheless, I can hardly fathom the incalculable damage that he has done to the reputation of the country around the world. Not that it was very good already, but with such leaders at the helm, who needs enemies?

Source: AFP/ET

The government and the ANP should have taken strict action and should have called for the resignation of Bilour, if they could not agree to sack him. But despite all the clarifications, Bilour is still in charge of the Railways, a department which his administration has pulverized quite literally.

The statement was sensibly rejected by the incumbent Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf, but let’s not offer him a clean sheet for that.

It was PM Ashraf’s absurd decision to observe the ridiculous holiday of “Yom-e-Ishq-e-Rasool” on Friday, September 21, 2012, which was an open invitation to the extremists of the country to unleash their wrath on the infrastructure and assets of the cities in Pakistan. The day ended with the loss of billions of rupees with more than 15 death and several injuries.

Source: AP/Dawn

It might sound a little harsh for someone who has lost his wife in such a cruel manner, but you really need to start acting like a head of state when you become one. I am really sorry to say but President Zardari looks like a complete idiot each time he places Benazir Bhutto’s portrait on the rostrum at the UN General Assembly. It was not his first appearance there this year. He has been at it before with the same portrait-displaying obnoxious exhibitionism.

Source: Wall Street Journal

His idiocy was also matched well by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu holding up a ridiculous chart which was supposed to tell the world why they have been all a bunch of idiots for not bombing Iran already. The bomb chart was brutally mocked by Israelis and non-Israelis alike shortly afterwards.

Both these props would have worked perfectly for both these gentlemen nevertheless.

What I personally found disgraceful about President Zardari’s speech was calling for an international blasphemy law or some kind of rules allowing UN to take action against alleged blasphemers. While this would sound perfectly sensible to Muslims around the world, I find it to be just another effort to extend censorship measures and to curtail freedom of speech. The Pakistani government, one which claims to uphold democratic and progressive values, has itself banned youtube over the film controversy and should keep its censorship advice for the world to itself.

I have been wondering why not start declaring the Pakistani idiot of the year from now on. We have our winner for the year 2012 already.

His Excellency Ghulam Bilour of ANP.

I can safely put my money on no one surpassing him in the last quarter.