A Heroic Verdict from a Dark Judiciary

Source: aleteia.org

Finally! Asia Bibi has been acquitted of committing a non-crime.

Imagine the agony of the nine precious, irreplaceable years that the people and the state of Pakistan have taken away from her. Imagine the pain she and her family have been going through. As a nation, we have truly abused, harassed, and silenced her.

Chief Justice Saqib Nisar is a complex character. He is a judicial vigilante with an exaggerated sense of self-importance and probably believes that he has been sanctioned by divine authority to carry out some special task. This probably explains his bizarre behavior as the office-bearer of the highest judicial position in the country. However, his latest action, or at least the bench under him, has resulted in a historic heroic verdict from what has been an otherwise dark judiciary under him.

As heroic this verdict is, you can still read its full text and laugh at some of the ridiculous religious articles found in its initial arguments, especially conceding that the penalty for blaspheming against the Holy Prophet should be death as per the Islamic teachings. Not much you can blame the judges for considering the nature of the cases they are dealing with. However, going deep into it, you would wonder how the lower courts found Asia Bibi guilty based on the testimony that the current Supreme Court found untrustworthy and not having legal standings. This speaks volumes about how dangerous the blasphemy law and its usage in the judiciary. It is shocking how such interpretations of judges could be the difference between the life and death of a person. Especially in ridiculous offenses such as blasphemy.

Justice Asif Saeed Khosa closes his judgment with a particularly interesting remark.

Blasphemy is a serious offence but the insult of the appellant’s religionand religious sensibilities by the complainant party and then mixingtruth with falsehood in the name of the Holy Prophet Muhammad (PeaceBe Upon Him) was also not short of being blasphemous. It is ironical thatin the Arabic language the appellant’s name Asia means ‘sinful’ but inthe circumstances of the present case she appears to be a person, in thewords of Shakespeare’s
King Leare, “more sinned against than sinning”.
– p. 55, Criminal Appeal No. 39-L of 2015, October 31, 2018

Of course, following this verdict, pandemonium ensured across the country. The lunatic goons of the Tehreek Labaik Ya-Rasool Allah (TLP), a murderous cult of fanatics ran loose in the streets. The clerics of the movement openly called against the murder of the Justices who made the verdict and even called for the military rule on the condition of overthrowing Army Chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa who is commonly “alleged” to be an Ahmedi, which is a total abomination in the Pakistani society. As we speak, the TLP is ruining the traffic in my town by staging a sit-in protest at Faizabad.

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The newly elected Prime Minister Imran Khan, who ignored the clear merits of blocking roads and suddenly realizing that it hurts the poor, condemned elements such as the TLP and warned against stern action, even referring to them as “treasonous.” This bold piece of leadership also deserves a lot of appreciation.

Despite all their shortcomings and theocratic leanings, the Supreme Court justices managed to pull off not just a sane but heroic verdict under the circumstances. Their courage for keeping up the values of justice in the face of murderous religious fanatics is indeed praiseworthy.

Let’s hope these small steps of courage can lead to the eventual demise of the blasphemy law.

The Convenient Positions on Death Penalty

Source: newindianexpress.com

Source: newindianexpress.com

The recent execution of convicted Indian criminal or terrorist Yakub Memon for involvement in Mumbai bombings in 1993 has ignited a bit of a debate in India about the death penalty. It is healthy to see that at least people are debating this issue in the mainstream, which itself is reflective of how democracy is at a much healthier state in India, as compared to a society such as Pakistan. However, what is alarming is that apparently most of the Indians are as keen on hangings as Pakistanis and Iranians.

But even more troubling than the vicious righteous mobs thirsting for blood as justice is the convenient positions some politicians are taking about death penalty when it suits their agenda.  Of course, it’s not Shahshi Tharoor that I am talking about, whose views on the issue I absolutely endorse and support. The very opposition to his comments is reflective of how far they need to go in terms of fighting social conservatism in India, which has worsened ever since the BJP took power.

What I am really talking about Muslim religious conservatives and Islamist leaders complaining about the death penalty. While this could apply equally to Hindu right wing social conservatives, such inconsistency is more evident among their Muslim counterparts, especially because they otherwise support the most barbaric of punishments for insignificant offenses such as adultery.

The AIMIM chief Asaduddin Owaisi refreshingly criticized the execution of Yakub Memon, saying that capital punishment is not the answer to terrorism. It sounds pretty nice until he brings up the Babri Mosque incident and talks about how there were no hangings for the “original sin.” He probably makes a valid remark about any lack of convictions for the Mumbai riots, but it is not because he actually opposed the death penalty as a matter of principle. He was just upset because he just didn’t want Memon hanged, one of his own tribe. Obviously his stance saw retaliation by your typical idiotic BJP nationalists, the rival tribe, and one of the ministers asked the critics of death penalty to “go to Pakistan.”

This has not happened for the first time. If you recall, Bangladesh has sentenced quite a few Jamaat-e-Islami leaders to death for treason. And then the Egyptians sentenced many Muslim Brotherhood members to death, including the deposed Prime Minister Mohammed Morsi. Considering the connection between the parties, the Jamaat-e-Islami in Pakistan passionately protested against the harsh and cruel death sentences.

Now I totally support the right of the Jamaat-e-Islami to protest, of course as long as they behave themselves, and I agree with them on the issue, but it is interesting how they would themselves call for similar penalties, or worse Shariah sanctioned punishment, for similar and other offenses. All the Muslim Brotherhood members in Egypt and Bangladesh were tried and sentenced for anti-state activities and treason, which can be argued not to be crimes, but sadly they are considered to be. These entities themselves would support death for rebellion against religion, and would support putting apostates and blasphemers to death.

This is why supporting the abolition of capital punishment is so important.

Now secular liberals and libertarians who oppose authoritarianism and capital punishment would oppose the rulings made in Egypt and Bangladesh consistent with their ideology. They would agree with Jamaat-e-Islami on these issues, but not necessarily for the same reasons. The only converging reason could be that the charge is not worthy of such a penalty in the first place.

But the important point here is that Islamists and social conservative Muslims need to examine their political positions pertaining to the death penalty. Because their convenient positions on the issue would qualify for something they despise and often accuse their opponents of. Hypocrisy. Now, while pretty much every political entity is guilty of cherry picking and double standards in one way or another, minimizing such positions is good for their own public image. They need to embrace comprehensive rejection of death penalty.

One of the most fundamental things to understand about opposing capital punishment on the basis of morality is that you don’t want the state to commit the crime it is convicting someone for, in addition to the idea why the state should not be resorting to such extreme measures in the first place. You don’t have to turn criminals and murderers to punish them. Digging further into the debate, liberals present the argument that there is no evidence to suggest that death penalty serves as an effective deterrent to crime.

Perhaps the only solid and worthwhile, though inhuman and heartless, argument that I have heard from conservatives against the death penalty is why they should be paying to keep the convicts alive. Though then someone can argue why keep prisoners alive at all. Why not burn everyone at stake at even the most minor of offenses, just because we should not bear the burden of convicted citizens. Alright don’t burn at stake, just shoot them, or the lethal injection would do.

Many of the liberals who have evolved their position on death penalty must have started from supporting capital punishment. Similarly, many liberals change their minds and end up supporting the capital punishment as they grow old as well.

What the critics of the opponents of death penalty need to understand is that the state does not set a good example when it resorts to the very actions that it is condemning its citizens for. Furthermore, putting someone to death does not necessarily help achieve the abstract state of “justice.” It does, however, fulfill the thirst for vengeance.

The post was originally published in the Nation blogs.

Why We Need More of Foreign Agenda

Source: APP/Dawn

Source: APP/Dawn

Recently the PML-N led federal government landed itself in yet another mess. The Interior Ministry ordered the closure of the prominent international NGO “Save the Children” and asking its staff to leave the country, but only to reverse the decision sooner than you know. The reason for banning the NGO temporarily was “the anti-state activities” they were allegedly involved in.

Now while the “Save the Children” matter has been taken care of, this just was not enough for the Interior Minister. He said that hundreds of NGOs are violating their charters in Islamabad and under the watch list. Someone else pointed out on TV that hundreds were unregistered.  There is no doubt that every NGO should be registered with the government. Makes perfect sense. But this incident also started a series of morally constipated nationalistic analyses on the national TV about how inherently evil the NGO business is. And how every NGO is absolutely corrupt and conspiring with world powers to destroy Pakistan and implement foreign agenda in the country.

Speaking of which, we should actually be thankful to the foreign NGOs for promoting foreign agenda in Pakistan, because clearly we could use more of it.

If helping children get a decent, rational secular education, better access to clean water and healthcare, and promoting democratic values mean foreign agenda, then certainly we could do with much more of it.

While the political parties and government in Pakistan, including the political party currently in power (since they have regained their monopoly over moral righteousness these days), make high claims about public welfare, they are clearly not touching areas that many of these “anti-state” NGOs are working on. If despite lofty claims, the government is not able to deliver education as a right, then do they blame foreign NGOs to take credit for promoting education in the society?

Why should we worry about the foreign agenda anyway when our own domestic agenda is so lethal.

OK, let me guess.

These foreign NGOs are dangerous because they are promoting education, free speech, and democracy. And that is probably anti-state, so that our children don’t get to learn that having a theocratic and discriminatory constitution is wrong. That could seriously disintegrate the almost perfectly homogeneous ignorance of our almost perfectly homogeneous society.

These foreign NGOs are particularly dangerous because they keep on talking about liberating women and helping them become financially independent. They are also a threat to the society because they keep on talking about legislating to punish violence against women. Because obviously that would shred our family values and honor to pieces.

If our constitution involves excommunicating religious communities, and our law supports provisions for capital punishment on blasphemy, then probably it’s foreign agenda alone that could come to salvage this hopeless mess.

But then again, when our local agenda involves hiding the most wanted terrorist in the world, there is not much to expect, is there?

That’s why we need more foreign NGOs to buy more local people with foreign money.

Let’s admit it as a nation, and there is nothing to be ashamed about it.

We need more of foreign agenda.

This post was originally published in The Nation blogs.

 

Brutality Defining Justice

Source: Wikimedia Commons

Source: Wikimedia Commons

When justice needs to be served, how much is enough?

How much should be done to undo the wrong that has been committed and to relieve the wronged?

How much should the severity of the punishment be to inflict the same degree of pain that the victim of the crime suffered?

Is an eye for an eye enough? Or do we need to go beyond that to ensure that we have perfectly balanced the pans of the scale of justice?

How much torture would suffice the necessary urge for revenge?

Well, it’s hard to answer. Because every person has different needs and standards when it comes to revenge. But you do need a close-to-objective standard to establish a state-level punishment that would satisfy a mass audience.

So what could be the most potent standard?

Thankfully, there are systems of governance in the world that have just the answer.

Be as brutal as you possibly can be.

Sadly, gone are the days of medieval torture in Europe and even the Electric Chair has been outlawed in the most conservative states in the US.

But not to worry, there is plenty of other help.

Shariah Law punishment is alive and well, and growing healthy by the day.

Perhaps not everyone is chopping off everyone’s hand, but the intent is commendable.

Saudi Arabia recently beheaded another Pakistani for smuggling heroin. Well, the bastard certainly deserved that. That ought to teach those drug dealers a lesson.

But before you cry Islamophobia, well, it’s not the only guiding principle. there are a lot of guidelines in the secular law around the world, which can be just as illuminating.

Take China’s brutal punishment of Liu Xiaobao for an example. Is speaking your mind treason? And is treason even a crime?

Or perhaps take a few examples from the civilized world?

US citizen Jonathan Pollard is still in prison for spying for Israel in the United States. Could someone explain to me what has Private Manning done to deserve, how many, 35 years in prison. Or even how the terrorist financier Afia Siddiqui could probably survive 86 years of confinement, even though she has not apparently directly killed a single man. Or maybe Shakeel Afridi’s sentence.

But then again, isn’t our Blasphemy Law a by-product of the civilized world?

Oh, but that was the British Empire. Apologies.

Forget even that. What did private property destroyer Gullu Butt actually do to deserve 11 years in prison? Seriously, I would like to know.

We are probably just a bunch of self-righteous passive-aggressive closet sadists who thrive on publicly humiliating and killing one of our own. Which sounds more like symptoms of some sort of mass moralistic psychopathy. And in order to hide that instinct of ours, we have created the label of justice. Because we are not brave enough to apologize for our dark side.

And oh, swift justice. Isn’t that what Ambassador Zafar Hilaly recently quoted on Capital TV to hint why people loved the Sufi Muhammad regime in Swat so much. But he won’t recall it now. It was in the heat of the moment.

And then there is the news and opinion media to serve this very purpose. To satisfy our insatiable appetite and lust for punishing and humiliating someone. Like these cannibals and necrophiliacs.

But why bring local politics in.

Anyway, let’s go for more recent, safer examples.

Source: Golara Sajadian/AFP/Huffington Post

Source: Golara Sajadian/AFP/Huffington Post

Take Reyhaneh Jabbari for instance.

The poor woman killed someone who was about to rape her, which actually doesn’t make her an angel, but she did it in self defense. You never know if the rapist is going to not kill you, and prevention of rape is a right after all. So violence for violence, as per the eye-for-an-eye rule, is perfectly justified.

But no, she did something so terrible. The Iranians had to hang her despite all the Western propaganda. So they did. End of story.

But then again, she committed a murder. Numerous others are publicly hanged in Iran, with their executions seen in live media broadcast. According to many of my social conservative friends, this is the best form of punishment to help deter crime.

Let’s see the other extremity too.

Unlike her, somebody like Mukhtaran Mai survived a gang rape, which by the way, was ordered by a village judicial council or jirga to address another grievance. And dozens of women like her undergo that rather weird form of punishment.

Or maybe another, which involves calling for castration for rape. Death for rape. You know, folks back in India could be as brutal and heartless as the vigilante mobs and other brutal penalizing authorities.

Well, I can’t say I hold the moral high ground here. I definitely don’t. Following the brutal murder of a young girl after her gang rape in a bus in New Delhi, I felt the same way. But I do realize, I was wrong and probably not any better than the rapists.

Maybe I am as barbaric when push comes to shove. I support shooting at violent rioters to prevent killings and damage to private property anyway. And ironically, oppose capital punishment.

But my personal hypocrisies are secondary here. I could believe in private revenge, like a million superheroes, or I may not, but it’s setting a moral example for state governance is what matters here, doesn’t it?

Having said that, I still support, as in Jabbari’s case, killing for self defense, and even in theory and in part, the apparently savage Stand Your Ground laws in the United States, despite their discriminatory application, which demands abuse reviews and possible amends. It’s not a perfect world if you are looking for justice.

There are a lot of liberal folks in Pakistan who wanted to put Mumtaz Qadri to death. Recall him? The same guy who killed Governor Taseer because of his criticism of yet another barbaric guiding principle, the Blasphemy Law.

I am one of those who are against capital punishment for Mumtaz Qadri. I even think that the blood money laws, if not coerced, are among the better parts of Islam.

But probably a lot of folks would blame people like me for the death of a British blasphemer in Rawalpindi’s Adiyala Jail after the incarcerated Mumtaz Qadri incited his murder in religious zeal. He actually believes that shit.

I’d take them seriously, but we have a lot worse problems to deal with.

Because half of people in Pakistan want the country to look like this.

And this is what the other half wants.

And Justice has been served.

Happy Halloween.

Why No One Noticed This Historic Day for Pakistan

Source: Dawn.com

General Pervez Musharraf – Source: Dawn.com

March 31, 2014 will remain to be a historic day for Pakistan as a democracy.

Call it political point scoring or obsession with political correctness, but for the first time ever, a special civil court has indicted a former Army General for high treason for abrogating the Constitution.

He has been indicted for the November 2007 emergency, even though I guess his bigger crime was the October 1999 coup d’etat.

However, there is no sense of jubilation among the people of Pakistan. There is a good reason for that.

From the beginning, the Pakistani government establishment has undermined the importance of the Constitution in people’s eyes. And they have very much succeeded in it too.

This is why every time there is an imminent need to suspend people’s rights to save the State, nobody raises a brow. And this is why the violators get away with it every time, destroying the democratic system of government.

And no, I have absolutely no interest in people declaring President Musharraf a “traitor”. Neither do I support the barbaric law of capital punishment for treason.

But I am interested in seeing people who break the law brought to justice. I am interested to see some fair and equal treatment, especially when hundreds of thousands are rotting in prisons for acts that are arguably not even crimes.

Even if the secularists of Pakistan accept the Constitution of Pakistan for its own merits, it should serve as an inviolable social contract for the citizens.

Not only should the Constitution be respected, but it should not be suspended under any circumstances to protect the fundamental rights of the people. And any amendment whatsoever must be channeled through the legislative branch under the supervision of the Supreme Court.

It is this attitude that has left people not offering a lot of weight to the Constitution as far as the protection of their rights is concerned. And this is precisely why they have largely been left unaware of their fundamental rights.

However, clearly this is not a day of victory or celebration for most Pakistani people. To many of them, this is just another piece of daily news. Inconsequential, because they know that the military will ultimately come to the rescue of the General.

Probably the real historic day would only arrive when the people of Pakistan actually start believing in their fundamental rights as given in the Constitution. And standing up for them too.

But it’s encouraging to see that we are making progress.