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.

Feeling Sorry for Kerry

Source: mediatrackers.org

Source: mediatrackers.org

I feel sorry for Secretary Kerry. I really do.

He has a difficult task on his hands selling who knows what. Sometimes it seems to me as if he himself does not fully know what it is.

For those who have heard him at the Senate hearings and afterwards would have some idea of what I am talking about.

Don’t get me wrong, I take his word for it. I am sure he is a responsible man and I have no reason to doubt anything he says. Even though what he said made little sense to me.

Neither do I question the moral authority for taking action against Assad for having used chemical weapons against his own people, as is alleged.

Though the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations was not as confused and passed the resolution 10 to 7. However, the G-20 nations were not as clear and tied at 10-10. Kerry has been presenting his case in the EU after the hearing as well.

But what I am confused about are the same questions that pretty much everyone is asking.

  1. How does a missile strike deter Assad from using chemical weapons again if he is still in power and if he can deny doing it again?
  2. How does a missile strike from an enemy ship deter a dictator desperate to hold on to power to keep from resorting  to more desperate measures?
  3. If Assad has become such an evil, why not take direct action to depose him?
  4. Since it is about morality according to the President, how would bombing Syria make things better for Syrian people?
  5. Why is killing more people necessary to make a point about how terrible the use of chemical weapons is?
  6. If the strike is not time sensitive and the revelation would not put the enemy at advantage, then what is the harm in publishing the intelligence evidence and making things crystal clear, and most of all to prove the claims made by Putin and Assad wrong?
  7. If the concern is people getting killed, is it equally not important to stop the rebels, who I understand are armed by the West?
  8. Is the US government, in all good conscience, satisfied with letting Syria be captured by Islamist militants with Al-Qaeda factions?
  9. What is the US government planning to do once Assad has been toppled over and Syrian rebels control Damascus?
  10. How can Secretary Kerry be sure about the Syrian opposition “improving”?
  11. Why is the question about the chemical weapons in Syria falling in wrong hands in the aftermath of a strike not being clearly answered?
  12. What is the basis of the assertion that inaction on the Syrian conflict would only make things worse, given that there is no explanation of how precisely the strikes would make things better, especially if other countries are affected by the conflict?
  13. Why is this not being considered as a declaration of war, at least by the US government?
  14. Why did Secretary Kerry mention the possibility of deploying troops if the situation called for it and then maintained strictly that there would be “no boots on the ground”?
  15. Why is the President not being clear on his line of action in the event of Congress turning down the resolution to carry out a military strike against Syria?

Of course, it is easy to ask questions.

The “limited” US strike makes sense to me on just one account presented as two points, keeping into account Kerry’s categorical “no boots on ground” explanation.

  1. From a militaristic viewpoint, the artillery and air support will help the rebels advance toward Damascus.
  2. The military strikes will ultimately, though indirectly, help in the fall of Damascus.

While that is great, this makes way for the following problems, since we are discussing morality over here.

  1. Why are the President and Secretary Kerry not being clear to the American people that these strikes involve deposing the Syrian President?
  2. Why repeatedly and strongly insist that the strikes are not about regime change?
  3. Why not be clear about owning US involvement in Civil War, when the Senate has already voted 15-3 for approving a resolution arming Syrian rebels? (The political correctness reminds you of the Soviet Afghan War)
  4. If Assad is someone similar to Saddam Hussein and Adolf Hitler, in Secretary Kerry’s words, then would not that make deposing him a moral obligation to the United States and take credit for it?
  5. Therefore, why not clearly list deposing Bashar Al-Assad as the main objective of carrying out military strikes in response of his chemical attacks?
  6. If not, does this imply that leaders around the world can get to stay in power after carrying out chemical weapons attack, since the attack is about setting an example?

I understand that President Obama does not want to look like President Bush, given his “anti-war reputation” and that there is a lot of political correctness involved in their stance, but it is this covertness that arouses people’s suspicion. Too much zeal can be mistaken for malicious intentions. People are convinced of Assad’s brutality, it is the intention of their own government that they do not trust.

These and many more questions are confusing people in the United States and around the world. Unfortunately, President Obama, Secretary Kerry and the rest of the administration is answering none of them, so far. Congressman Dennis Kucinich also raises some questions, though I won’t go that far.

Today, the Congress votes for Syria.

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Note: This post is dedicated to Senator Tom Udall (D-NM) who was probably the first to mention the neglected role of the United Nations on the issue of military action against Syria in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing.

Ignoring the United Nations… Again

Source: The Guardian

Source: The Guardian

The United States and Britain are all set to attack Syria, after reports of chemical attacks allegedly carried out by President Assad’s regime against the Syrian people came in, “killing hundreds” as per the BBC.

Now given the available information, I don’t know who carried the chemical weapons attack. Syria denies it, blaming it on the rebels, but the Western governments are convinced. The United States has concluded that the Syrian government is behind the attacks.

However, without getting into a debate for evidence, if the intervening attack to prevent chemical weapons is necessary, then it must be carried out by the United Nations. It is the responsibility of the United Nations to keep peace.

Unfortunately, the United States is apparently by-passing the United Nations again, as it did for Iraq, as it is considering military strikes and have deployed units without even waiting for the reports of the UN chemical weapons inspectors. United States and Britain have even made it clear that they are not seeking permission from the UN or the NATO.

Debate has started in the United States whether President Obama should seek the approval of the Congress or not. But I am not concerned about that. I think a strike is the responsibility of the UN, not the US.

I believe that all the people who are concerned with war crimes in Syria and support correct moral choices and intervention would be much happier if such action is taken after comprehensive fact finding, and preferably under the auspices of the United Nations Security Council, which is unlikely.

On the other hand, Russia has threatened to veto the resolution for military strike against the Syrian government, as it has done in the past. Russia has even warned of “catastrophic consequences“. This makes the countries often exercising this power to wonder about the veto rule again.

And then people complain that the United Nations is useless, redundant and powerless. How can it possibly work, if its member states, especially the most powerful ones will not allow it to work?

I do hope that the Syrian regime had used chemical weapons, otherwise this could possibly go down in history as another unnecessary war like Iraq, ending in atrocities as usual. And the funniest bit is that they insist that the attack is not about regime change.

I hope I am wrong.

Writing Your Own Ill Fate

I have written earlier about Moammer Gaddafi pulling out of Libya too late and also a bit about the mistakes he had made. Well, it turns out he did not have enough friends to accept him and apart from that, he never really wanted to pull out of Libya anyway. Therefore, he lurked around his hometown of Sirte and was brutally murdered, or executed if you will, after public humiliation on October 20, 2011, which went on till his funeral in an unknown place. Maybe that’s how he thought he would have died honorably. But I have my doubts.

This brings to light even more lessons. One thing is for certain. Gaddafi was the architect of his own ill fate and if you ask me, it was he who chose his way of death. Now consider this.

 It is better to be feared than loved, if you cannot be both.

                                                                      – Niccolo Machiavelli (1469-1527)

                                                                         from The Prince

While you may consider Machiavelli evil, there is almost a consensus on his unmatched understanding of politics, as writers and political advisers in history go. Unfortunately, not many dictators are able to keep all that wisdom in mind. From a report in The Time Magazine, the Chinese version of this quote, though said a lot earlier, from Laozi was the favorite of Pakistani dictator Pervez Musharraf, the then new front line ally of the United States, in its July 22, 2002 issue.

When the Master governs, the people are hardly aware that he exists.

Next best is a leader who is loved.

Next, one who is feared.

The worst is one who is despised.

                                                                                        – Laozi (c. 604 BC)

                                                                                           From Tao Te Ching

Musharraf had had this quote inscribed on a plaque adorning his residency in Rawalpindi, according to the report.

There is a good reason why Machiavelli and Laozi said this. These dictators may have these quotes inscribed on a plaque or may sleep with a copy of The Prince underneath their pillows, but they often forget the wisdom when the moment of truth arrives. A relatively smart dictator like Musharraf did well as far as studying political retreat strategy is concerned but I don’t think Gaddafi really had any concept about it whatsoever, not that I am underestimating his abilities. The moment your people stop fearing you, you cease to be a dictator. This goes to show just how delusional Gaddafi was. As I have maintained before, he was probably the bravest of the international leaders, but yet he was delusional to the extent of being suicidal.

Source: Al Jazeera English (english.aljazeera.net)

The longer he stayed in Libya, the greater became his chances of being lynched to death by a crowd. And that is precisely what happened. He had the option of giving himself up to the Western powers had he been interested in living for long. He also had the option of shooting himself before arrest, as we are told that Adolf Hitler did, but he chose not to do that either. As I wrote before, his perfect diagnosis was being stuck in the middle of being scared of losing his throne and being scared of losing his life. His son Mo’tassem Billah Gaddafi was also murdered by the rebels. Looking at their end, his other son Saif-ul-Islam has announced that he would be ready to face the International Criminal Court for crimes against humanity. Maybe a smart move.

As for the rebels, while some people would have disapproved of his murder like that, but expecting anything else would be a little too idealistic and unrealistic. That is swift “justice”, if you will. Who has the time for trials for crimes against humanity? They knew he was guilty and instant justice was served, the revolutionary style. The rebels celebrated and the photographs of the killed Gaddafi, which I bet would have been far more gruesome than those of the dead Osama Ben Laden, were making headlines in the mainstream media around the globe.

The Libyans were celebrating, as they should. The rebels were ecstatic. President Obama said that Gaddafi’s death was a warning for the iron-fist Arab dictators, probably passing a hint to Syria’s Bashar Al-Assad. Surprisingly, in fact not surprisingly, some publications around the world, which otherwise have a pretty “liberal” record, published celebratory headlines on Gaddafi’s death. Still, there are a few who have been disturbed by the images of the incident. While it was a moment to celebrate, it was also encouragement to people around the world to kill the leaders they do not like once they get their hands on them. Not that anything is wrong with that. It is justice after all. But many of them would be upset and outraged if many other of the world leaders, who have committed similar or even worse crimes against humanity than the Libyan dictator, are brought to a similar end.

I wonder if he we have more bloody coups and revolutions waiting to happen. And more dictators dying a bloody death. As I said in my earlier posts, if you are upset at it, think of the Romanovs.

Smart dictators around the world still have a choice to make.

Repeat Gaddafi’s mistakes and you would be writing your own ill fate.