Free Asia Bibi

Source: Vatican News

So the moment of the decision of Asia Bibi’s appeal was this month. Surrendering to the terror created by the purpose-built gang Tehreek Labaik Ya Rasool Allah, which again stormed the capital to protest the possible acquittal, the court has delayed the verdict indefinitely. There is nothing the tortured and abused Christian community, or anybody else can do about it.

The Supreme Court of Pakistan must realize the moral significance of this verdict. If they uphold the verdict, they will be forever upholding the ruthless apartheid against non-Muslim citizens in Pakistan. If they uphold the verdict, they will be forever upholding the absolute lack of religious freedom for the citizens of Pakistan who are not Muslims.

The fact that we are not able to raise our voice against this unacceptable injustice, and obviously that includes me, speaks volumes of our insensitivity and a lack of morals. Even an acknowledgment of this wrongdoing should not let us sleep in peace at night. It is absolutely a joke how we go on raving about democracy and human rights in a country and then have the nerve to complain about the treatment of minority Muslims in other countries while we go on to slaughtering human beings in ours.

It is a joke that countries such as Pakistan, which should actually be facing sanctions for its draconian blasphemy law, are now members of the United Nations Human Rights Council. Or probably worse, it is a shame that a nation of 200 million morally constipated people has no power to do anything about this grave injustice. Until we adopt a secular constitution, religious clerics will keep on abusing the law to threaten the lives of non-Muslim minority citizens in Pakistan. It’s an absolute shame.

If indeed Asia Bibi is put to death, a 53-year-old mother of four, Pakistan will not be able to bear the burden of her blood.

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What Pakistan Day Says to the Minority Groups

Source: aaj.tv

While it is, and it is easy to write from the position of privilege from a very safe distance, I found myself horrified this Pakistan Day. Often equated as the Republic Day because some of the constitutions were deliberately passed this day to coincide with what it is actually celebrated for. The Lahore Resolution in 1940. The event which laid foundation of the division of India on communal lines. But worse than that, it laid the foundation of Pakistan becoming virtually a theocratic state. Something which happened and which people blame on the “untimely” demise of the founder Muhammad Ali Jinnah.

This day became a celebration of the toxic idea that Pakistan was a country acquired for the protection of the rights of a certain community which happened to be a minority in the United British India at the time. While many of their concerns were valid in the context of a Hindu majority, many, especially in Punjab, questioned the sanity of such a demand until Muslim League won the reluctant state over in the 1946 elections.

However, the idea remains that if you happen to be coming from a different background, then this country is neither meant for you, nor is it going to be a comfortable place for you anyway. So I am not sure if it is something to be too proud of. There are apologist nationalists and history revisionists who would really want you to believe otherwise, but the history of Pakistan tells a different story altogether.

And it feels even more embarrassing when you see them believing in the idea of Pakistan, an idea which actually took away their rights and freedom. And that makes it all the more difficult because somehow as a citizen you feel the pressure that you have been responsible for it.

So I am not sure if I can be so proud about the day until l can look some of my other fellow countrymen and women in the eye.

Well, you can be. But if you really ignore those and forget about the discrimination that has long become a norm.

How much insensitive do you need to be?

Pakistani Free Speech Hero of the Year 2016: Qandeel Baloch

Source: Qandeel Baloch Official Facebook

Source: Qandeel Baloch Official Facebook

She made a statement by expressing her sexuality in a society where it is considered an abomination. She was predictably accused of vulgarity in a society that has probably even forgotten the meaning of this vague expression.

Forsaken by the liberal media, in the words of feminist academic Nabiha Meher Sheikh, when she needed them the most and condemned by a society of self-righteous savages, model and internet sensation Qandeel Baloch tested the morality of our standards of morality.

Her selfie clip with Maulana Abdul Qavi pretty much realized my dream of watching Mathira and Mufti Muneeb-ur-Rehman do the tango on TV.

The shockwave that it caused not only resulted in his removal from the Ruet-e-Hilal Committee, an insignificant body that performs the significant function of sighting the moon but also leading to the murder of Qandeel at the hands of her own brother because she had offended his honor. Qandeel’s former husband was also said to be involved. To no effect, or without much substance, Mufti Abdul Qavi’s name was included in the investigation of her murder for provoking it on the complaint of her parents.

Yep, death comes that cheap in Pakistan. Or is it life?

Source: Human Rights Tulip Twitter

Nighat Dad – Source: Human Rights Tulip Twitter

Shout outs also go to some other free speech heroes in Pakistan, who are continuing their struggle in the face of brutal opposition. Heartiest congratulations and salute to internet privacy and digital rights activist Nighat Dad who won the 2016 Human Rights Tulip Award from the Dutch government. She has used the prize to establish the first cyber harassment helpline for the people of Pakistan.

A mention of publisher and social activist Abdul Wahid Baloch is also due, who was briefly abducted by unknown entities following his activism to find the whereabouts of the Baloch missing persons. These individuals have been the victim of the crackdown on the Baloch insurgency.  Thankfully, he is safely home.

Journalist Cyril Almeida became the victim of undue state scrutiny, following the daring release of an exclusive news story that revealed that the civilian government of the Sharif brothers had reprimanded the military leadership for inaction against religious terrorists. Almeida was briefly put on the Exit Control List by the Federal Ministry of the Interior following the government’s and the military’s repeated stern denials of his story. Too much fuss about nothing, of course.

Source: pakistantv.tv

Shaan Taseer – Source: pakistantv.tv

Another great Pakistani free speech hero remains to be Shaan Taseer, the son of the slain Governor of Punjab Salmaan Taseer, who was a free speech hero in his own right. Shaan Taseer is continuing the fight against the draconian blasphemy law and for the rights of the minority religious communities in Pakistan.

Source: Sunni Youth Parliament/Shaan Taseer facebook

Source: Sunni Youth Parliament/Shaan Taseer facebook

Qandeel’s antics may not sound serious to some of you, but the fatwa issued by Sunni clerics against Shaan Taseer, which he publicized on his facebook page, is no joke. If only this evidence was enough to convince people how much dangerous people we are dealing with here.

In the guise of peace and love, these religious zealots ensure that no one is safe from their venom. I can only commend people like Shaan Taseer for really taking them on in his bold and fearless manner. Now, I can’t do that for one, and the image of the “legal opinion” I posted above can be considered a death threat to Taseer.

All of these free speech heroes are important. Freedom of Press is important. Fighting for religious minority rights is important. But perhaps nothing is more important than a woman challenging the norms of a society that collectively hates women and is abusive to them. Pakistan remains to be one of the countries collectively abusive to women in the name of culture and religion, and apart from my own hometown of Rawalpindi, I have seen glimpses of that in various parts of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, such as Swat and Lower Dir. So, I am pretty sure of what I am talking about here.

For that reason alone, Qandeel Baloch is my Pakistani free speech hero for the year 2016.

As Nighat Dad herself said, every time a woman stands for herself somewhere, she is standing for all the women.

Read about the last year’s Pakistani free speech hero, Sabeen Mahmud, here.

Ignoring Local Atrocities

Source: dawn.com

Source: dawn.com

A couple of weeks ago I wrote about the not-so-correct political logic of accusing individuals of selective outrage.

Now I agree that such arguments are best reserved for academic debate instead of political campaigns.

I would not want to make this a habit, but perhaps I would actually like to engage in using such a line of reasoning every now and then too. And I’ll tell you why.

There is a deep problem concerning more educated but nationalist conservative Muslim Pakistanis who believe in the myth that Pakistan is fair and safe to all non-Muslim religious minority groups.

They simply fail to recognize a problem exists when it comes to local minority groups.

They would simply want to dodge the question about secularism, Shariah and the atrocities on the minority groups at home.

One of the more fresh and good examples is the recent incident of arson targeting an Ahmedi home in Gujranwala over an alleged blasphemous facebook post, which resulted in the death of a woman and two children. As usual, nobody stopped the rioting mob.

Now, these are the events that sadly do not even make it to their information radar, or even the mainstream media. Or are simply ignored, heh, let’s say because the body count in Gaza has exceeded a thousand. Yes, I know it sounds ridiculous.

But I actually agree with ignoring the problem of, say persecution of Ahmedis at home, and picking up the Palestinian cause in the Gaza conflict. Hey, you are free to do that.

It is the same crooked reasoning with a complete lack of respect for individuals that lets Pakistani nationalists ask why Malala does not speak up about Gaza and is so concerned about kidnapped Nigerian girls.

Well, you can only do so much.

It is this sort of jingoism which is why I actually find many protests at home in bad taste and want to think twice before joining. It is almost always an insult to your intelligence, but you need to put up with it for the sake of solidarity.

While politics is about emotional blackmail, it is also about compromises. Even though I greatly respect the policy of not joining any protests at all as well.

No, the ones who don’t speak up are not “criminals”. Yes, that is the word they use. Jesus, the rhetoric.

But then again, you have to stoop to the level of the Pakistani nationalist conservatives (actually, true for most political groups) to engage them and to proselytize. You need to really appeal to probably the kind of reasoning that they would understand and respond to.

Maybe, you need to do that when they accuse others of moral double standards and not even recognize secularism as a fair social contract, and opting for Islam instead while justifying murder for blasphemy.

I still think this line of reasoning is bullshit, but hey, who cares what I think.

The Embarrassment of Standing With the Oppressed

Source: M. Jibran Nasir facebook page

Source: M. Jibran Nasir facebook page – Under fair use

I am not particularly proud to be a Pakistani citizen.

I don’t really find it an unpatriotic thing to say because someone sympathetic to the country would say that provided its discriminating history. The Pakistani constitution, law and the society are largely discriminating.

So when you stand with the oppressed minority groups in Pakistan, there is this perpetual embarrassment that you need to deal with.

Take the Pakistan Christian community for an example, the most popular and widely recognized religious minority group in Pakistan. Most Pakistani people would agree with offering them security and coexisting peacefully with them.

Even with such a minority religious group, you would have the dilemma of treating them as if they were weak or not even raising that point at all. I mostly prefer to do the latter usually, though you can always agree with them tactfully about how terrible discrimination is.

Morally speaking, they are not weak, and it would be rather insulting to make that point, but let us face facts. They are not exactly powerful and are most certainly oppressed.

Especially in the wake of the Peshawar church bombing killing more than 300, the realization is increased, especially in protests and political events. But what remains is their constant friendliness, peacefulness and tolerance. What is added is a slight anger toward the intolerance, which is justified, natural and understandable.

I have no sympathies with the theology of any minority religious group, as is the case with majority religious groups, because they are as dangerous in their effect as the other. I know some Pakistani Christians, though not everyone, are as eager for their share of blasphemy law, despite knowing how harmful it can be to just about anyone.

But their religious zeal does not change anything for the better for them in the Pakistani society, where disbelief is a crime, more or less, or enough to qualify someone to be ostracized. Besides, they are not treated as equal citizens anyway, despite their religiosity.

So I want to save myself further embarrassment and would like to say that protesters and activists rallying for peace and against terrorism should raise their voices to demand a secular constitution. So while I may not exactly be proud to be a Pakistani citizen, I would have one less reason to be ashamed.

So instead of promoting gibberish like “Many Faiths, One God”, we should demand the elimination of the intrusion of faith into public life.

Keep your religion to yourself.

Why the Society Absolutely Needs the Council of Islamic Ideology

Source: Pakistan Today

Source: Pakistan Today

Although it is needless to emphasize the importance of the prestigious institute of the Council of Islamic Ideology, considering the kind of constitution and state we have in Pakistan, still it would be a good idea for the Pakistani youth to evaluate the kind of ideas they are putting forth. For their guidance, of course.

I have to offer some counter recommendations to the proposals they have presented only a few days ago. Accepting these recommendations, however, are up to the able people and government of Pakistan.

The Blasphemy Law should not be amended in order to protect minorities. 

Now this is an absolutely valid recommendation. In what other way could the minority religious groups would possibly feel safe if they were not told what to say and what to do? They should actually be prosecuted and indicted more frequently under the Blasphemy Law, so they can feel safer and happier under the infallible protection and shelter of the state. Their homes certainly are unsafe places for them, as we have seen time and time again.

Source: Abid Nawaz/Express

Source: Abid Nawaz/Express

Human Cloning is forbidden under the Shariah. 

There can hardly be a second opinion to this. What could be more horrific than reproducing another human being? Rather recreating. Are not such claims synonymous to challenging Allah that we can do just as good as you do. Indeed, secular scientists only use “medical research” as an excuse to indulge in this immoral and totally unnecessary act. I propose that cloning must be dealt with under the provisions of the Blasphemy Law. This should put such Satanic ideas to rest for good.

DNA shall not be considered primary evidence in rape cases. It can only be used as a secondary or supporting evidence.

Considering that adultery/fornication is a crime of as horrific proportions as rape, especially when done on the sidewalks, the prime evidence condition of four male witnesses should be upheld, and must have precedence over all other forms of evidence. This is why women are recommended to accompany at least four men, acquainted or not, with them at all times and under all circumstances, especially when wearing provocative clothing, so that they do not feel unsafe should a rapist attempt to approach them with malicious intentions.

Furthermore, why would a sane and righteous judge want to trust a woman’s testament which only has half as much weight as that of the accused?

Surely, she could wrongfully accuse an honorable man of faith. Through science, we do know now that all human DNA is 99.99999997% identical, so she could produce someone else’s DNA as effortlessly as if it was the real deal and the honorable courts would not be able to tell the difference. Besides, using DNA as prime evidence would trigger more indictments in rape cases, which would mean more stoned-to-death men and which would mean lesser chances of reproduction for men looking to increase the population of the followers of the Prophet.

What the hell are all the liberal people and feminists complaining about?

The Rectification of the secular translations of terms “Allah”, “Rasool” and “Masjid” as “God”, “Messenger” and “Mosque” or “Place of Worship”. 

This is a much needed recommendation in order to nullify the vile actions of a certain minority in the country that is hellbent to secularize things which are not even meant to be secular. However, there should be a certain exception to the rule, before it is blindly put into effect.

You would not want the Ahmedi community to be using the term “Masjid”, would you?

The Morality of Firing on Mobs

Source: ryot.org

Source: ryot.org

How would you handle a rioting mob?

Especially when you know for sure that it is going to damage personal property, and possibly harm and kill people.

Would you consider firing on them?

I bet you would if they were coming after your home, and your possessions.

Maybe not, but maybe most of us would.

You know, perhaps we have this political or public morality and private morality in a sense.

You may not be comfortable firing on a rioting mob as a political opinion but might do that, let alone consider doing that, if you are threatened yourself.

I asked myself this question after an angry mob burned down houses of Christian families in Badami Bagh, Lahore.

Now all this sounds a little too simplistic and distant, but I would really like you to see this from a completely personal perspective.

If you cannot imagine this from the viewpoint of a poor woman who lost her TV and washing machine, as well as her very home in the Badami Bagh incident, then consider your own living space under the threat of the riot.

Just picture for a second that you are sitting peacefully in your room, working on your computer and watching TV.  And after a few minutes, everything is gone after a violent mob raided your place. Breaking your computer and TV and setting your place on fire.

Even the thought of it is horrifying. And it is just taken for granted what the families in Badami Bagh would have gone through. Though it is not the only incident in which such tragedies have occurred.

So what would you do if a mob were raiding your place? Would you use violence, or gunfire, against them to stop them?

I know tear gas, rubber bullets and water cannons are effective ways to disperse mobs. But what if no such support is available?

Would you fire on them?

While the Badami Bagh case was targeted arson, would you advocate using such force during violent demonstrations?

Would you handle the situation in the same way if you were in the government?

Would justifying it for one case would justify it for others? And then would there be any limit to the use of firearms against rioting or even demonstrating crowds? Which is why I would only support peaceful demonstrations because there is no justification of using violence against it whatsoever.

Or should governments just let rioting mobs run free? Let the crime take place and then arrest offenders afterwards?

If yes, should such an entity be ideally called a government?

Alternatively, is there a justification to take preemptive violent action against crowds “expected” to turn really violent.

These are troubling moral questions to which I guess many people would have different answers for each case, by which I mean public and private opinions. At least I am not sure if I could refrain from deterring them this way.

You just need to picture yourself in the middle of that chaos to really be honestly able to answer these questions.

Pardon me for asking that many questions though. But that’s the trouble with morality. It offers you a lot of questions but very few answers.

In the end, how would you respond if police, Punjab Police to be specific in this case, would do nothing more than evacuate the targeted colony for the rioting mob to burn down, just because they are outraged by blasphemy?

Does that mean that people should resort to using arms on their own to protect their lives and property?

But wait, powerful thugs all around Pakistan carry guns and harass people in the name of security and defense.

Poor old Christian families in Punjab cannot.