The Politics of Shipping Containers

Source: Dawn

Source: Dawn

A government is supposed to protect the interest of its public. But what to do if it becomes the biggest hurdle in their way?

Now for the uninitiated, the politics of shipping containers probably sounds like manipulating the trade at the port, not that that was never a problem, but these shipping containers are contributing to the economy around a thousand miles from the shore. In the federal capital and in a very different way too.

We had all suffered the consequences of the blockade during the 2014 sit-in protest by PTI and PAT.  Now it is time to brace ourselves again to dread getting out on the roads and to find our way out of the gridlock. The question is, who has the time and money? No matter which side you are on, you would be forced to either stay home or join the political tamasha.

Can you blame the entire problem on the PTI and Sheikh Rasheed protests? Probably you can, because the containers were not there a couple of days ago. But here they are now. Still, they are not put into place by them. The fact of the matter is that the government can possibly handle this situation in another way. Imposing Section 144 is not the solution to every problem.

So I wonder if it is the fault of the protesters or the Federal Interior Ministry itself that people like me cannot go to work when they should be able to on a regular weekday. Of course, we are not fully aware of the reasons why shipping containers are used to block roads, perhaps to block suicide bombing trucks, who knows? But ever since these blockades have started appearing on our roads, the lives of the people of the twin cities have never been the same.

While the party in power uses shipping containers to block access from roads, the one in the opposition would use it as a stage to prolong, if not perpetuate, the misery. PTI Chairman Imran Khan’s recent call to shut down the capital is just one such example, which has already sent the stock market crashing even when the actual sit-in protest has not taken place yet. To add insult to injury, he has decided to challenge the orders from the Islamabad High Court forbidding the shutdown.

The fact of the matter is that the people want to get on with their lives and are sick and tired of the storms of made-up revolutions that our political leaders like to stir in a teacup. Clearly, most of the people reject the politics of shipping containers, something which could even be a threat to our fragile democracy. But like always, this silent majority remains without a voice.

What is even worse is that the government that warns protesters of refraining from interrupting public life is doing all it can to make things miserable for them. This is what the politics in Pakistan have come down to, only to strengthen the ignorant belief that democracy is not fit for a “country like Pakistan.” Whatever that means.

Perhaps we cannot get past the days of tear gas because we have not evolved from rioting and destroying to the peaceful protest that is often met with ridicule in our society. Perhaps we would really attain the ideals that we speak so fondly of when we really start supporting peaceful, liberal democratic values on the ground and learn to respect the democratic process.

Out of all the rights of the people that the government is responsible to uphold, perhaps the most underestimated in Pakistan is the freedom to access. People are simply too willing to give too much for too little. This reflects the way our government thinks and it also offers an insight into our minds as well. This probably means that our days of living in an authoritarian state are not over and neither is the will to resist it. Or if things have improved indeed, we have still not been able to shake off the hangover from our past of dictatorships.

I hope some day our protesters would learn to make their point without blocking roads and that our governments could restore order without taking any lives.

Is it too much to ask?

The post was originally published in The Nation blogs.

May the Best Rioters Win

Source: @safya777

Source: @safya777

We know that there is not much that we can trust our government with in Pakistan, but there is one thing about which you can be completely certain. You can count on the government to not provide you with any security whenever a violent rioting mob is on the loose.

Now, violent rioters in the sub-continent in general, and in Pakistan in particular are not isolated incidents. It’s a pattern, a culture, which is not just openly practiced, but even encouraged by otherwise seemingly sane individuals and political leaders.

We have invented a million functions of the government from the regulation of online speech to forcing the prices in the market, but sadly we have completely lost focus of the most essential and fundamental one. Establishing law and order and protecting the lives and the property of citizens.

From Gojra riots to Joseph Colony tragedy, Kot Radha Kishan and Sialkot lynch mobs to the Yohannabad violence, and from the Benazir Bhutto assassination riots to May 11 shootings in Karachi, the common winners have been the rioting forces, looters, rapists and criminals. The only losers have been unarmed, defenseless, peaceful, law-abiding citizens.

While it is not hard to understand that the government is almost incapable of blocking terrorist attacks, despite its best efforts, it can at least use its police to stop a riot from culminating. Especially considering the recent examples of police violence on violent political protesters in the PTI and PAT rallies in Islamabad.

However, stopping a riot is not the usual custom. Especially when the riot is of religious nature, the police prefer to witness the complete carnage instead of taking any action and relying on footage captures for trying to catch the criminals afterwards. In all fairness, sometimes the police have valid reasons too, because no one wants to be tried for murder just because they prevented a crime. But largely, it kills the purpose of trusting the police and necessitates civilian arms.

It really does not matter if there are laws encouraging protection of self-defense. It is whether such laws help protect people or not is what is important.

I don’t care who the rioters are in any of the several past or future cases.  I don’t care who or what they associate with. I don’t care what their grievance is. If they resort to threatening people’s lives and private property, they are criminals. Invoking constitutional right to assembly to justify their madness is not only inappropriate and abusive, but also intellectually dishonest.

If they are threatening life and property, the law enforcement authorities are justified to use whatever force is possible to disable and disperse them. Either that, or pay the damages to the victims suffering at the hands of these violent mobs. Sadly, you cannot pay for lost human life with money, if the government ever had the intention to compensate the victims due to their negligence.

I don’t see any harm in shooting at a violent rioting mob to disable and disperse them when they are clearly about to hurt people or threaten their property, and a lot of harm in letting them run loose. There is no other way to deal with such threats to public safety. Unless the police are empowered and adequately equipped to do so with reasonable exceptions, I don’t see any end to this culture of madness in the near future.

The more humanitarian side of our political spectrum could see the condemnation of mob violence as provocation to further violence or even suppressing people’s rights to protest, but encouraging the culture of mob violence is even worse. They should revisit their definition of hate speech as far as political rhetoric and its impact are concerned.

Actually, it is justifying and apologizing for violent riots and tolerating the suspension of law and order which is inviting more unrest and harm. It is precisely the tolerance of state toward violent rioters that brings rioters to the streets more violently than ever before every excuse they get.

The way things are right now, you can only perceive the law enforcement authorities to be inviting people to take it to the streets and indulge in violent riots. Because apparently that is the only way your grievances are going to be addressed in this country and nobody seems to have a lot of problems with it either.

Any group that is not resorting to violent riots is idiotic, as they are missing out on this tremendous equal opportunity to clinch their rights by burning cites to ashes, robbing banks and businesses, and lynching defenseless people to death.

The more enlightened elements of the society are actually losing the battle by just resorting to vigils. If they want something done, say restoring the YouTube, they should begin a riot just like the one that forced the government to ban it.

The more oppressed segments of the society, such as the Hazara, should stop with their peaceful protests already. Christian communities in Punjab should stop turning the other cheek as their colonies are burned to dust and should retaliate by burning some more buildings to ground.

No aggrieved party should wait for the courts to try the murderers of their people. They should be lynched to death and burned alive.

Let the violent mobs run loose on the streets of the country and deliver the swift justice that we have been aching for so badly.

May the best rioters win…

The post was originally published in The Nation blogs.

 

Her Mother Didn’t Have to Die

 

 

The other day I was writing a post on the Lahore PAT protest and police violence, so I came across this video.

Let’s keep politics aside for a moment.

Now call me an idiot or accuse me of emotional blackmail, and I’d gladly agree, but nothing has affected me more recently than this. Because I can so easily see myself in her position.

Now the question that the little girl asks is so clear, so valid, so astonishing, that not only it moves you to tears, but also makes you reflect on its possible answer, which no adult would be able to give to her.

One simple question.

Why did they kill her mother? Really, why.

There is one thing that I know pretty clearly and that is that her mother did not have to die. But would she understand why.

Her mother should not have been putting her life on the line for a cause as ridiculous as removing a security barrier from a religious leader’s home. For her children’s sake at least.

Seriously, what was this incident about anyway?

But surely it was not her fault. Probably she was just trying to evade a bullet or a baton around the residential compound.

Probably she was a passer-by or just happened to be caught up in the great mess. Maybe she was just a Minhaj-ul-Quran employee and was doing her job.

But perhaps the Punjab police should have thought twice before relentlessly firing at the people and beating them.

But didn’t some cops die too?

I don’t know.

I just know very clearly that her mother did not have to die.

It’s not only unfair. It’s irresponsible.

Countless individual lives are ruined by politics everyday with people dying for the convenience of politicians.

War is understandable and hard to avoid, but such petty politics.

Nobody learns any lessons.

Boko Haram, Women and the Embarrassing Face of Islam

Source: abc

Source: abc

There is some problem with the way women are treated by Muslim populations, despite all the claims of honoring them.

Now there are a handful of events that actually directly point finger at the ideology, instead of the individual criminals.

The entire world was shocked when the Nigerian militant Islamist group Boko Haram abducted hundreds of teenage girls from a school. In a video released by the group, the girls were seen in Hijaabs and veils.

Well, if you thought their intentions were any good, they have been reportedly forced to convert to Islam and have a bride price to their names, which is another expression for selling slaves. The Nigerian state is vowing to take action against  the perpetrators.

Source: Independent

Source: Independent

On the same continent, a Sudanese Muslim woman Meriam Ibrahim who married a Christian was sentenced to death by a court in the state for apostasy. Coincidentally, she was pregnant at the time. So her punishment was suspended till the time she gave birth to a child, which probably the state was interested in “confiscating”.

She has delivered the child and is now awaiting a walk to the death row. The international community is outraged, but the Sudanese government is unmoved.

Source: awamiweb.com

Source: awamiweb.com

A few days ago, a Pakistani woman Farzana Parveen was stoned to death, right outside the Lahore High Court in an “honor killing”. The attack was carried out by her father, brothers and accomplices for marrying against their will to the man she loved. Her lover, turns out, strangled his first wife to death to marry her and got away with it as well*.

This incident would also reignite the debate on blood money laws in Islam, which allow acquittal on pardon for exchange of monetary compensation. However, it is encouraging that the news was highlighted by the media all over the world.

This was not necessarily a religious, but a cultural punishment. But one that is not necessarily frowned upon by most Pakistanis, and one that is reinforced by the treatment of adulterers recommended by the Islamic Shariah.

However, the Pakistani government has now ordered action against the criminals, most of them already arrested.

But when you ask yourself the question as to why the Punjab Police failed to intervene, while witnessing the incident, there are no simple answers.

Events such as these are just embarrassing for otherwise peaceful and sane Muslims who secretly harbor the same beliefs but choose not to practice them.

Peaceful and responsible citizens who would have a good sense that such beliefs have no place in a civilized society in any century, but choose not to renounce them.

Who would express sorrow at an adulterer being killed. Then present the caveat of four witnesses before finally agreeing that they should be stoned to death, when the question is asked.

Who would otherwise propose strict punishment for murder and encourage proselytizing, but would support death penalty for an apostate Muslim.

It is just an embarrassment. Plain and simple.

Though this little inconvenience is causing a lot of individuals their lives and liberty.

*EDIT: June 2, 2014 0226 HRS

I Brought You Flowers… and Got Arrested

Source: siasat.pk

Source: siasat.pk/Express News

What will become of you in a country in which people are arrested for bringing someone flowers.

Maybe I am exaggerating the horrific nature of their crime, because these men happened to have been standing outside a college exclusively for girls for the probable intention of harassment. You guessed it, on the demonic, capitalistic occasion of Valentine’s Day.

But that is not the point, because hey, moral policing on Valentine’s Day is nothing new. Moral policing and big government measures for all the wrong reasons have been a feature of the current administration.

What is noticeable in the incident is that in Pakistan you can get arrested when you are not even breaking the law, apparently.

The incident occurred in Faisalabad when dozens of male youths were arrested by the Punjab police for standing outside a girl’s college and allegedly “making noise“, whatever that means. It can even be argued that the noise was harassment and that they infringed on the institution, but I am not too sure if the latter really was the case.

The police can be rightfully called as a security measure, but why would they proceed to arrest them without any reported wrongdoing? In a news report I watched, the police officer was just having the question of them standing there. Whatever happened to the right of assembly?

The news report even mentioned special security arrangement in hotels and restaurants to prevent any wrongdoing or immoral activities. What in the world does that mean?

I mean, are all  those security measures related to a “festival”? Then why are weddings not raided?

The arrest was probably a preemptive measure to prevent possible or further harassment. Yes, it seems that pre-crime is not science fiction anymore. But of course, arrest on harassment would make complete sense.

Alright, I concede that the act of giving Valentine’s Day cards and flowers to someone (like that) is arguably cheesy and inappropriate, but it is not really the kind of offense that someone should be locked up for.

But I do want to give the police the benefit of the doubt and would like to think that they responded to the complaint of the college officials, but still the boys were not apparently breaking any law. The police could have guarded the scene if they thought the security situation was unsatisfactory.

But without a second thought, the police only ended up ruining their public record of a number of people for nothing at all, especially because they probably arrested some people who were there to pick up their relatives. Rest assure, these were more of raids than anything else.

And of course no one cares about the mental agony and harassment that they went through before they would be released. That is just not a priority for a nation obsessed with false sexual moral righteousness.

But what is alarming is that in a country where the police can just arrest people without a reasonable cause, a warrant or even without an instance of crime, what would be the status of those perceived to be rebels or enemies of the state?

The issue of Baloch “missing persons” is often brought up, but how can you expect suspected rebels to be treated fairly, and hey just about anyone can be a suspected rebel anywhere in the country, when citizens with no such credentials are treated so harshly.

And it does not even matter if the citizen knows their rights because the cop would only respond to reason with overwhelming slaps on the back of the head. The trademark policing maneuver in the country.

But nevertheless, it seems that Pakistani citizens must only leave their homes with a copy of the fundamental rights in the Constitution and the penal code with them to prove to the police when and why they can arrest them.

But perhaps the problem lies with the Constitution itself, in which Article 10 lacks much clarity and speaks very loosely about the “detention” of a citizen. This pretty much encourages the prevalent detention on suspicion practice of the law enforcers.

The Article 10 of the Constitution of Pakistan states:

No person who is arrested shall be detained in custody without being informed, as soon as may be, of the grounds for such arrest, nor shall he be denied the right to consult and be defended by a legal practitioner of his choice.

But more importantly, the Article 14 states:

(1) The dignity of man and, subject to law, the privacy of home, shall be inviolable.

(2) No person shall be subjected to torture for the purpose of extracting evidence.

Obviously the Constitution comes with countless caveats when it comes to the inviolability of the “dignity of man” and the “privacy of home”. Without the requirement of showing a prior lawful document pertaining to the cause, the articles could even arguably be in conflict with each other.

The provisions are somewhat vague and fail to convey a clear idea of a more precise guideline to prevent abuse of authority. Not that we can be sure that the police all over Pakistan would still read and follow it anyway.

But in comparison, the following is how the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States reads, which is an inseparable part of the Bill of Rights.

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

As opposed to the apparently compulsive right of detention provided for by the Pakistani constitution, the Fourth Amendment is very specific on the line it draws between the liberty of the citizen and the authority of the state.

It even goes to the length of requiring the mention of specifics in the warrant to make the search or seizure lawful. In comparison, Article 10 of the Constitution of Pakistan does not even mention the word “warrant“, correct me if I am wrong.

US Senators like Rand Paul (R-KY) are even suing the President of the United States for violating the Fourth Amendment rights over unwarranted NSA surveillance. Whether you agree with it or not, this is the extent of empowerment that the Constitution accords to the citizens in the United States.

But as long as liberty of the law abiding and peaceful citizens of Pakistan is continued to be abused at the subjective will of the law enforcers of the land, it is hard to trust its government to be democratic.

Hire-a-Mob

Source: asianews.it

Source: asianews.it

It is pretty elementary, yet so many people have been missing the point for such a long time. Not others though, because no one uses this openly secret weapon like religious groups.

In a democracy, the numbers count. For votes. But in half-baked democracies such as those in the Indian subcontinent, and in Pakistan in particular, it is the numbers with the pitchforks that count.

Yes, if you have the numbers, and passion, mobs can do just about anything for you.

Time and again, over decades, consistently and repeatedly, we have observed that rioting mobs have been and are superior to the police. They are the only force. There is simply no match.

The subcontinent has this proud medieval tradition of rioting. And then there are vendetta riots. Armed vigilantes taking control of things themselves and making sure that justice is delivered there and then.

Needless to say, that these mobs are often than not motivated by religion. Hindu Muslim riots, Hindu Christian riots, Muslim Christian riots, Muslim Ahmedi riots, Sunni Shia riots, partition riots, ethnic riots, favorite cult or political leader assassinated riots, anti Western blasphemy riots.

The history is so rich, both in variety and frequency of events, that a systematic proof is not even necessary.

The police has learned never to stand in the way of this unstoppable force. Any resistance is futile. When a mob is invading, the best bet for a cop is to run for his life and turn his firearms over to them like a responsible trooper.

After all, the police is neither trained, nor paid, nor equipped to handle these mobs. The worse that could happen is a few days of curfew and the military patrolling the streets. What could possibly go wrong?

So if you have an agenda, the most profitable way of achieving instant and tangible results is to hire a mob. There are professional rioters around who can execute the job with great skill and controlling chaos.

And the state is forced to listen to you. Rioting mobs forced the state to ban YouTube. Perhaps, activists who campaign against internet censorship could use the same tactics. But seriously, the state listens to rioters, say laid off government employees.

Of course, if you are in the business of insurance, life can be difficult for you. A lot of lost bets. Frequent claims, that is, if people bother to buy your hopeless policies at all.

But what of the relatively secular, god-fearing businessman and poor low key resident who is caught in the middle of the storm, just because they happened to be somewhere at the wrong time in the wrong place? Well, what of them? They are just a casualty.

If you are a Pakistani businessman, you are going to pay some very high premiums, especially if your business office or warehouse is located near a religious or political structure. Or even if it is located at a prominent location, where it is supposed to be, or a city square known to be a frequent rioting ground.

The most useful rioting agenda could be setting up an attack on one’s own office or home in order to lodge an insurance claim or to get rid of inconvenient office record. Just stir a riot for a reasonably unreasonable reason, and sit back and enjoy the show.

Who could ever possibly know?

So if you live in some city or village in Pakistan with reasonable population, you could be the next casualty. You have been warned.

Perhaps saying a little prayer at the right time could help.

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.