Note on the Disqualification Verdict of the Prime Minister

Source: Reuters/NDTV

And you thought that you would live to see the day when an elected head of government could complete their term.

More than anyone else, it was highly unlikely for Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, as much as he was the likeliest candidate to make it.

As much as his political party has been able to consistently win more two-third and clearer majorities than any other political party in the history of Pakistan.

As much as he was the perfect compromise for the people of Punjab between the bureaucratic establishment and a socially conservative and economically liberal tilt toward democratic values.

In many ways, it is an end of an era. Who knows? Just like in the 1990s, we might see Nawaz Sharif contesting the elections again. Though not likely after such a unanimous damning verdict, as absurd as it is. But Nawaz Sharif will remain to be the Prime Minister who initiated the Sunday as weekly holiday and constructed the motorway on his initiative.  And at least it offers a chance to Shahbaz Sharif to become Prime Minister.

One way or the other, the judicial coup of one of the most popularly backed elected government is complete. This is how Prime Minister will be dismissed in the post-military coup era.

Right after the farce of the JIT, which has essentially established the civil and military bureaucracy and intelligence as an extension of the judiciary, was put up by the Supreme Court, the Prime Minister was destined to be ousted.  The judges had already made up their minds. The only noteworthy and far from a substantial conclusion that the JIT had drawn, apart from a list of endless conjectures, was that the Sharif family was living way beyond their means.

In the end, the judgment by Supreme Court about the disqualification simply hinted that it was politically motivated. Even some of the most seasoned political commentators, publication editorials, and senior lawyers are analyzing it as such. There was a time under Iftikhar Chaudhary when you had the impression that the judges hear and judge cases after reading the papers. It seems those times have returned.

In other words, we have again had a mockery of democracy and our Constitution. Now at the hands of its guardians. What a shame.

However, there is little to expect from a Supreme Court that instead of safeguarding people’s right to the free internet, chose to uphold the YouTube ban. The bureaucratic institutions yet again let the people of Pakistan down by attacking democratic institutions and the mandate of the people’s vote.

What is worse though is that people who usually celebrate military coups are jubilant over the dismissal of the Prime Minister like they always are. Without realizing that the verdict has come against the mandate of the vote of the people, even though the grounds for qualification were clearly not of corruption. At least not in the least bit to warrant a lifetime disqualification.

Even though it is the day of thankfulness for the supporters of the PTI, I would neither be rejoicing nor be thankful if such a verdict came for an elected Prime Minister of that party. A part of me also wants Imran Khan to become the Prime Minister so that for once, they can be on the receiving end of this type of “justice.” Sadly, the party has been brainwashed to the degree of cynicism that some of them are even willing to see Imran Khan disqualified, being happy to see only the military rule.

But what do I know? Maybe I am missing the plot here. Maybe this is going to be really good for democracy after all.

Perhaps the judges have only lost their minds, or are being overly honest in their overzealousness of being “Sadik” and “Amin” instead of being malicious on purpose.

For once I hope that my friends on the other side are right and I am wrong.

In all seriousness, I would have no problems in conceding that I am at fault here.

 

But if only that were true.

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State Violence, Democracy and the Illusion of Liberty

Source: Dawn

Source: Dawn

A comment on the latest incident of carnage in Lahore.

Ahead of the arrival of Pakistan Awami Tehreek leader Maulana Dr. Tahir-ul-Qadri, the Punjab Police supposedly wanted to remove a barrier outside his residence.

They were met with supposedly violent resistance and the police ended up firing on them, apart from violently beating them for not letting them do their jobs. The incident resulted in 8 deaths and counting and several critical injuries.

A needless, needless loss of lives. I really respect people who give their lives for democracy, but wonder what the cause was here.

In any case, this surely has been the greatest mistake to date of the Punjab government and one that could have been avoided. There was bait for state violence and Punjab government took it. Needless and disastrous.

But it is pretty much mission accomplished for PAT leader Tahir-ul-Qadri who had prepared supporters for martyrdom and has asked the government to step down as lex talionis.

I know it’s better to shut up about it if you don’t know the facts, but a few occurrences are unmistakable.

The Punjab police actively confronted the protesters this time around.

zI support aggressively curbing violent protesters damaging private property, but don’t forget, the Punjab Police were arguably infringing on private property themselves. Unless they had a judicial warrant.

However, if the guards fired first, as the government claims, they suffered the consequences. With liberty to bear arms, comes responsibility for actions.

But the Punjab police is traditionally very lenient when it comes to violent protesters, rioting religious mobs burning Christian colonies and women being stoned to death.

They usually witness the incidents and lodge a report afterward. Hell, they could not even protect vehicle-damaging Gullu Butt to be beaten up by an angry mob near, if not inside, the Lahore court.

So what happened that day?

It can be safely said that the police were ordered by some high officials to crack down on the protesters in such a violent way, some of them unarmed women. It could either be the responsibility of the police chief, the Punjab law and home minister Rana Sanaullah or the Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif himself.

At the moment, the Chief Minister is playing safe and has ordered an inquiry into the incident. But it is clear that what happened was undemocratic, unconstitutional and dictatorial. It was not only an excessive overreach, but criminal on the part of the government.

Rana Sanaullah - Source: Dawn

Rana Sanaullah – Source: Dawn

In my opinion, at least the Punjab law and home minister Rana Sanaullah should step down to offer reasonable closure to the incidence, if not someone higher in the hierarchy. For now, only police officials have been suspended.

Who would regard the Constitution, if not a democratic government?

But to add insult to injury, PML-N has now handed over tremendous political leverage to the Pakistan Awami Tehreek, who would rightfully play martyrs now. Well, and guess who is saying the same about the PML-N government. The opposition is rightful in reminding the provincial government that it’s a democracy.

PML-N must pay a price for its disregard of democratic principles, and especially more for its idiocy and political naivety.

But make no mistake about it. Dr. Qadri is on a mission here, and has way too many brainwashed pawns at his disposal. And he made a fool out of the PML-N, if not a criminal.

The likes of Dr. Tahir-ul-Qadri, as reasonable as they may sound in their criticism of a faulty democratic system, represent a mindset against democracy in Pakistan. This mindset has been particularly promoted and nurtured by the State bureaucracy in Pakistan, which involves holding democracy and the Constitution in contempt.

They are doing it for the right reasons alright, but all the parties lining up for the government to step down are the ones who are always standing for pro-establishment campaigns. Why is the PPP largely silent at this point and only resorted to issuing a warning before the incident?

In front of our very eyes, we are witnessing pro-establishment parties building a coalition against the elected federal government. And everyone who was not happy with the result of the last election stand behind them. Apparently except the PPP.

The demands of the government to resign due to the violation of democratic principles are fair. The demands of suspending democracy are not.

The most idiotic part is that people call for or expect the martial law whenever a civilian government violates democratic principles. More oppression as a remedy for oppression. How ironic.

Has anyone ever asked for our state bureaucracy to step down? Yes, and don’t ask what happened to them in the 1980s.

Sadly, many in this coalition do not understand that a dictator has no reason or interest to reform a democracy. They can wish for a dictator like General Musharraf again, but that’s just wishful thinking. But a democratic government, no matter how terrible it is, can be voted out.

I agree that the current democratic apparatus does not offer true liberty, since its foundation lies in authoritarianism and Islamic principles, but the perceived liberty offered by military dictatorships is an even greater illusion.

Don’t forget, right now at least people have the option to ask, and are asking, for government officials to step down.

Wonder if that would be the case if a Pakistan Army General were in power.

Rejecting the Candidate Running from Multiple Constituencies

Source: Dawn

Source: Dawn

Alright this is no good reason to reject a candidate’s party in any way. But it seems good enough for the people of Peshawar.

It seems good enough to me at least. But only when it comes to the candidate.

While I totally respect the decision of the people of Peshawar to elect Ghulam Muhammad Bilour on the National Assembly seat vacated by Imran Khan because of his victory from two other constituencies, people have been getting offended for all sorts of moral reasons.

But the people of the NA-1 constituency of Peshawar have made their voices heard. They probably voted for Imran Khan, not the PTI. Surprisingly, similar results surfaced in Imran’s native Mianwali. I bet many of the original general elections voters never returned.

So what is the positive out of the August 22 by-elections? That people have rejected the party or substitutes of the candidates running for more than one constituencies.

This also happened in a seat vacated by the independent candidate Jamshed Dasti in Muzaffargarh and Shazia Marri has won the seat from Sanghar which she lost earlier in the general elections like Bilour.

I think if all the people start deciding to boycott voting for candidates who run from multiple constituencies, perhaps our politicians could be convinced to change this ridiculous rule from the electoral constitution. Of course, if the people choose to do so.

Take Javed Hasmi’s example. He ran from NA-55 in Rawalpindi and beat Sheikh Rasheed in the 2008 elections and won his seat from Multan as well. He later vacated the Rawalpindi seat which was taken by Malik Shakeel Awan of PML-N. In 2013, he ran from NA-48 Islamabad and again vacated the seat for his other win in Multan.

Politicians such as Javed Hashmi, Imran Khan, Shahbaz Sharif and Nawaz Sharif have made a habit running from multiple constituencies, it seems.

I know it is perfectly legal for these candidates to do so, but I have a problem with it. It unnecessarily results in by-elections that everyone can do without, which only ends up wasting public money. In NA-54, the PML-N candidate Malik Abrar ran for both national and provincial assemblies at the same time in 2008 and won both offices. At least that can be avoided.

Personally, given the political structure in Pakistan, I’d rather vote for someone local. Someone who actually lives in the constituency. But this does not mean that educated and reasonable people like Asad Umer should not be given a chance if they run from another constituency, and he won from the NA-48 seat vacated by Javed Hashmi.

However, I am familiar that all these political heavyweights are too insecure to take the chance of running from just one constituency, though people like Chaudhary Shujaat, Sheikh Rasheed and Amin Faheem can do that, and this is what justifies this rule. But I would really like to see this rule go, among so many others.

But then again, that’s just me.

Sweeping the Ashes Beneath the Green and the White

Source: Nayyar Afaq/Unknown

Source: Nayyar Afaq/Unknown

Happy Pakistan Day. The Day of the Green and, yes, even the White.

Of talking about Quaid-e-Azam and Allama Iqbal and their delusional visions that brought about a humanitarian disaster. A lab with some 180 million lab rats, and I am not even counting those which have passed away.

I don’t want to be a cynic today, though there are few better other occasions. I love the idea of Pakistan Day. But that’s not what I am talking about here. I want to talk about our conservative ideals.

This addresses Pakistanis primarily. Pakistani Muslims and Pakistani Muslim Nationalists.

Those who are proud of their infallible ideology which can never possibly fail when it comes to righteousness and how people should be treated.

The ones with an all-encompassing code of life that covers just about every area of life with great justice and peace.

The ones who have presented the best way to the world to treat those who refrain from believing in their faith even though residing in their domain.

I want them to recall what happened on the fateful days from late February to June 2002 in the Indian state of Gujarat that resulted in the death of 790 Muslims and 254 Hindus as per the official figures.

I want them to recall Muslims houses burned by Hindu mobs there with little or no intervention from the police. And I want them to recall how they and all of us had reacted to that, criticizing the Indian state’s failure to protect the minority religious group.

Thankfully not with such drastic consequences, but equally horrifyingly, a mob of angry and pious Muslims, most of them young boys apparently, set fire to the houses and possessions of poor Christians living in Badami Bagh, downtown Lahore because one of their boys was said to have blasphemed against the Prophet.

Source: Express Tribune

Source: Express Tribune

There is something common between a few of incidents in the Gujarat riots and the Joseph Colony riots in Lahore.

The police made no attempt to save the victims.

But then again, this is usually the case historically in the subcontinent. Isn’t it?

Has not Shahbaz Sharif been as complicit as Narendra Modi in his handling of the affair?

Gojra riots and Gujrat riots. Even the letters try hard to separate them.

Yes, is Shahbaz Sharif Pakistan’s Narendra Modi?

Maybe not, not for us to decide maybe and who cares, but what about the role of Punjab police, who are supposed to protect the defenseless Christians?

Oh well, but why complain about it. The only difference however was that Muslims in India are strong enough to fight back against the Hindu mobs, or at least have been known to. Since they have mobs of their own attacking Hindus too.

Though it is actually ridiculously unfair to even come close to compare Gujarat riots to the Joseph Colony incident on so many levels, but the degree of offense can only be made out by humanistic and secular eyes. We are dealing with the absurd and ridiculous over here .

The riots in Gujarat sparked after Muslims set a train containing Hindu pilgrims on fire, after a Muslim girl’s kidnap, while others say it was an orchestrated conspiracy. But neither did the Pakistani Christians do anything as wrong, or that is at least what anyone not a fervent Muslim would think, nor are they strong enough to have even the remotest hope of responding back in anger.

Alright I don’t have to make it too long. The point is clear here.

I want the conservative Muslims of Pakistan to read it and I will try sending out that message in Urdu as well. But while keeping little more odds of staying alive, I can still send out the message to the one or two of the Pakistani Muslim conservatives Pakistani Muslims who happen to stumble upon this blog.

The Pakistani Muslims who would criticize Indian Hindu extremists for harming Muslims would tolerate incidents like Joseph Colony and Gojra riots at home, being as complicit and as protective of the culprits as their similar adversaries across the border.

To my eyes, there is hardly any difference between the two, which is why they hate each other so. And that is the ultimate insult to them.

Source: Mohsin Raza/Reuters

Source: Mohsin Raza/Reuters

But make no mistake about what happened in Joseph Colony. Make no mistake about its horrors and the misery of having your home attacked and your possession and memories burned to ashes and dust.

Home lost, families forced to live under tents or in indefinitely temporary camps, as was or would have been the case with some rendered homeless in Gujarat.

Let it be for possessing the land or whatever political crimes may be the reason behind this incident, the fact remains that the masses acted on their religious beliefs, and we love to protect that part of our faith.

And oh, how terrible this tragedy has been, and how wrong it was and there were only a handful of people doing it and how it should not have happened, would be the answers we have to it. But we wouldn’t want to face what is causing this behavior over and over again. That’s all there is to this matter and nothing more.

Good and evil do not matter anymore.

The key here is not to emphasize how atrocious the Joseph Colony tragedy is, but to tell Pakistani Muslim Conservatives how idiotic they are.

Raiding Sit-in Protests

Source: Pakistan Today

Right ahead of the launching ceremony of Khadim-e-Aala’s brilliant Metro Bus Service in Lahore, the hunger strike and sit-in protest camp of the Young Doctor’s Association was raided by Punjab police. They used violence and injured dissenting doctors in a very “fascist” manner, though the adjective is usually reserved for liberals in Pakistan. Even orders of arrresting doctors at sight were issued.

I am not talking about the YDA protest march to disrupt the launching ceremony over here, even though violence on those protestors is as wrong and horrid, even if we assume that these protests are politically motivated as alleged by the ruling party. The protesting doctors later made peace with the CM after breaking the fast, though I don’t expect it to last for long.

I would just like to ask if the people of the province would remain as calm had even a fraction of such a police raid been made on the sit-in protest organized by Dr. Tahir-ul-Qadri in Islamabad. This is something that everyone of us must ask ourselves and get our priorities straight, because a spectator would expect people to support a protest demanding better healthcare. No messages here for the Punjab government when some of our leaders think that this is the kind of treatment that our citizens deserve. Anyway.

I know a lot of friends would have supported action against the Islamabad sit-in protests calling for electoral reforms, regardless of who organized it and who did not, genuine or staged or whatever, because they did not agree with it, as neither did I. But I would have still strongly oppossed any violent action against the protestors, though there was talk of planning for carrying it out.

Because I knew that a lot more sit-in protests will be held all across the country in the future, whether they are about things you agree with or not. Yes, in a democracy, you never always get what you want, especially when you are living in a state as turbulent as Pakistan. And let’s talk about only those sit-in protests which remain peaceful and don’t become destructive in terms of damage to property.

And there will be more necessary sit-in protests as the ones carried out by the Shia and Hazara community. Because apparently our current PM Raja Pervez Ashraf sb needs a few corpses on the road every now and then to be inspired to get to work.

Before you are outraged at the post, I am not comparing the causes here, just the form of protest. Because you see, traditionally, our protests as a nation and a people are wild and violent, involving a lot of fire and gunshots, and that is what the world knows us for. Sit-in protests can really suck sometimes, especially when they disrupt life (though that is what they are meant for).

It is irritating but if Pakistanis have started to protest peacefully for a change, why force them to become violent? This is why the raid on the doctors’ camp, especially if it wasn’t even causing a road blockade, was wrong on so many levels.

But another part of me, though not strongly, doesn’t really want to put up with all the road blockades and traffic jams for too long. Though I know that there is no choice but to be stuck with a social and political system that is content with putting up with all the injustice and violence.

On How To Treat Unvaccinated Children

Source: AFP/Express Tribune

Source: AFP/Express Tribune

The past day saw one of the most ridiculous government decrees that I have ever come across in my life. But of course where it could have taken place than in the domain of the most dynamic and dexterous ruler of the world, the Khadim-e-Aala, Mr. Shahbaz Sharif. As it could not have gone without his dreaded blessing.

The DCO Lahore announced that any child that goes without a necessary vaccination will not be issued a birth certificate and will not be granted admission to a school. I have never heard anything more ridiculous in my life. It’s just amazing the things they are coming up with these days.

I don’t know who really came up with this fantastic idea in the first place. I actually find it more bannable than any blasphemous novel or a video sharing website.

Depriving unvaccinated children of school admission is just like denying a starving child a meal just because their parents didn’t feed them. Actually, you can’t even explain it with analogies. It’s so plain ridiculous, it probably has no equal. It’s simply brilliant.

I mean, are they really serious? While a part of me does not even take this order seriously, are they really going to treat children who are not given a vaccination in that manner? Are they really going to keep them out of schools? And not issue birth certificates? They didn’t even know anything such as vaccines existed when they were babies. It’s the parents’ fault, if at all.

Furthermore, while there is no doubt that children must be vaccinated unless there is a valid scientific reason not to such as allergies, not every unvaccinated child is infected. Also, being unvaccinated does not make you infectious, just less vulnerable to virus attacks. Correct me if I am wrong please. Some people are under the impression that unvaccinated children can infect their children. Well, it depends.

If a child does survive skipping vaccinations somehow, then I guess improving access to healthcare is the best way to move forward, instead of adding to the country’s already apalling rate of literacy. Again, I am not really taking their “threat” too seriously, but you never know with people like these at the helm.

They can spend billions of rupees on fly-overs and unnecessary road reconstruction, but would not spend even half that money on the hospitals of the province. The budget for healthcare is simply not a priority for the government. Despite the repeated protests from an association of doctors employed in the government hospitals. It’s not that building roads is not important, but other things are too.

But what kind of regulations are these, and someone running the government should know better than to allow their enforcement. How infinitely stupid some of our civil servants are, especially with their licenses to fuck the lives of people beyond redemption. They look down upon people and consider themselves demigods of intelligence, but I can tell you, you can’t serve people like that.

But since they are so disconnected with reality that they don’t even seem to have common sense, you can hardly expect anything but such nonsense from them. It really should not be surprising.

River Ravi - Source: Express Tribune

River Ravi – Source: Express Tribune

Let us just hope the unvaccinated children do not get thrown in the river Ravi in the years to come. However, it sounds an apt way to dispose them off since they don’t deserve birth certificates and school anyway.

It could even prove to be a blessing in disguise, as it could be the first real step towards resolving the overpopulation crisis in Pakistan.

Bohr Masjid: No Protests for This Mosque

The Damaged Bohr Masjid façade

Not too far from where I live, Bohr Masjid, or the Banyan Tree Mosque, located in Churr Chowk, Peshawar Road, Rawalpindi has undergone some drastic changes. The façade of the mosque is almost completely destroyed by the orders of the local government, operating in the constituencies NA-54 (Rawalpindi V) in the National Legislature and PP-10 in the Punjab government legislature, which comes under the jurisdiction of the Rawalpindi Cantonment Board.

While in my opinion, this step by the local government for the sake of road expansion was completely unnecessary, apart from the general needlessness of the entire project of the so-called renovation of Churr Chowk Rawalpindi, where the inauguration stone of Chief Minister Punjab Shehbaz Sharif had already been erected in March 2012 (If you happen to go around Churr Chowk these days, there is probably no other structure standing in its vicinity), what happened to the mosque only added insult to injury.

This project seems nothing else but the customary election year ritual of the reigning political parties of Pakistan, in this particular case PML-N, with their incumbent MPs Malik Ibrar Ahmed for NA-54 and his brother Malik Iftikhar Ahmed for PP-10, to gain sympathy of the voters by demonstrating that “developmental projects” are underway. I would have gone on to post the image of the ridiculously large and “vulgar” political hoarding thanking the mentioned MPs and Mr. Shahbaz Sharif and Mr. Nawaz Sharif for “fulfilling their promise of making Churr Chowk look like the Sahara Desert”, but I really don’t want to make this post sound like something political and targeting any one party, because I am sure that perhaps another party would be at it anyway.

However, it does concern politics anyway because the politics is ruining my neighborhood and my city. While a book can be written on how this project is being executed, the reason why I have chosen Bohr Masjid as its worst manifestation is because apparently mosques and religion are pretty important to the people of Rawalpindi, Punjab and Pakistan. I asked quite a few people about it, but they apparently considered the subject rather too unpleasant to be discussed much and it was something they were clearly willing to ignore.

Given the religious aspect of the damage to the mosque, the people of my city are apparently too peaceful or too lazy or too naïve to make fuss about it. However, to me, that mosque was a part of the city and a part of its culture and sights and sounds. It was heartbreaking to wake up one morning and see its façade gone just like that and what is worse, it is literally in ruins now, and it offers the view of a damaged structure in a bomb-battered warzone. A few images could offer a better idea of what has happened to the mosque.

The Debris of the Destroyed Bohr Masjid façade

Source: Another View of the Destroyed Mosque façade

What I can’t figure out is this. Why are there no protests over this? Had a Christian or some other non-Muslim even spitted betel towards the mosque, the person would have already left the world for committing the crime. Alright that is a little exaggeration, but hey, we have seen colonies of Christians reduced to ashes for supposedly desecrating the Holy Koran in this country. The only reason why there are no protests I guess is because the mosque has been destroyed by an elected Muslim government, who have apparently done great service to Islam and humanity by doing this, as they are carrying out a road expansion that everyone would have done without.

The Banyan Tree with Bohr Masjid

What concerns me more than the destruction of the mosque is the fact that the old banyan trees that are synonymous with the mosque and are an important landmark of the area would go down soon as well. Already a number of irreplaceable trees have been lost for the sake of this mindless “development” project and I am not sure how many more will follow. Peshawar Road, at least its Westridge part, is one of the relatively pleasant parts of the city connecting the G. T. Road and apparently the government wants to turn it like the rest of the urban parts of Pakistan as well.

Barren, dusty, dirty, treeless and an eyesore.

The Destroyed Bohr Masjid façade

I took these photos on August 2, 2012 and even visited the place today, on August 11. The mosque is still in the state that can be seen in the images and I expect it to remain that way for quite a while. No one knows how long will this gigantic “development project” will take to complete but I wonder if anyone would do anything to rebuild this poor man’s mosque. Surprisingly enough, it is the only building in the vicinity that has been graced by the authorities for its destruction.

Just a question for understanding the religious mind. If there is no outrage on the deliberate destruction of a mosque, a holy place, just for the trivial purpose of road expansion, why would you be raging on the destruction of a mosque claimed by another religion to be the birthplace of one of their human-gods? A much more important purpose. Maybe Muslims can destroy mosques themselves, but no one else can.

There is no connection of the two really as the attack of Hindu extremists was a violent and violating act in its own right, but why have different standards on the treatment of a mosque? Why not react to this deliberate destruction of a mosque, protesting against a Muslim government? No riots please, just concern on the loss of a cultural and historic building.

I find the apathy rather fascinating.