Minorities Gasp for Air in a More Undemocratic Pakistan

Source: The Nation

Seventy years since Muhammad Ali Jinnah made his famous August 11 speech about the freedom of religious minorities, Pakistan has become a much darker place than what its founders intended to be. His understanding of the logical consequence of founding Pakistan is astounding to anyone with even a remote understanding of the reasons for a separate state for the Muslim community. However, his words remain to be a beacon of inspiration for those who intend to make the social contract in Pakistan fair and humane, even though in reality it is nothing more than a speech.

The founder of the nation must have been shocked out of his senses seeing the covert military dictatorship that goes on behind democracy. The way the deep state has been censoring and manipulating the electronic media has been so astounding that even mainstream journalists could not resist raising their voices on alternative media sources. While the military and bureaucratic regime of the country has not yet considered social media such a threat, but as we have witnessed a couple of instances before, it is not beyond the Pakistani deep state to deprive its citizens of this modern but basic source of self-expression.

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It is an even greater disgrace, and perhaps a consequence of the authoritarian regime, that the current election was held as a virtual referendum on the discriminatory and undemocratic Second Amendment. The military and the theocratic mullah establishment clearly joined hands against one political party Pakistan Muslim League-N (PML-N), which had taken a relatively secular turn of late. Some Sunni clerics even went so far as to declare voting for the party haraam or forbidden according to Sharia. The two million votes and two Sindh assembly seats for the Tehreek Labaik Ya Rasool Allah Pakistan are a testament to the fact.

This is the consequence of establishing a constitution that requires Pakistan to be an Islamic Republic. It is a travesty that in such a country people would even claim that the religious minority citizens have equal rights. And then to maintain that Islam offers the best alternative to secularism. It is because of these faux intellectuals and theocratic bigots that Pakistan is in such a dismal state of civil rights and individual freedom. Relatively more liberal and progressive parties such as the PPP continue to offer representatives from religious minority groups opportunities on general seats but all of this remains meaningless unless constitutional reforms are brought into place. Something that remains impossible due to more nationalist and populist elements coming to power.

People continue to be killed in the name of blasphemy. Forget the minority religions, even members of the majority religion are not safe either. Recently, a Sindhi artist Qutb Rind was pushed from a building in Lahore because of an alleged blasphemy. To my mind, artists such as Rind are indeed minorities in an obscurantist nation blinded by bigotry and religious hate.

I can only be ashamed of being a citizen of such a country where minority communities are treated with such brutality and hang my hand low in shame this independence day.

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Calling for Sharia in the Capital

Source: tanzeem.org/Twitter: @syousuf71

To most people in Pakistan, there would be nothing out of the place about demanding Sharia in a country which was made in the name of faith. While a lot of people don’t even agree with the statement that Pakistan was established on the basis of faith but on the basis of the protection of the rights of a community, the distinction does not even matter considering the established narrative in Pakistan.

Throughout the Muslim majority world, you would find Islamist groups blackmailing the local population for enforcing Sharia, the Islamic law that eliminates a likelihood of establishing a fair secular social order and is widely known for persecuting women and minority groups. Granted, you might call for Sharia while also asking for the abolition of any secular order in a country alleged to be created in the name of religion but not in a democracy. Because those calls are by very definition

For the entire past week and even on the day when I write this post, the citizens can see signs from the self-proclaimed revolutionary Islamist group Tanzeem-i-Islami or Islamic Organization with inflammatory messages condemning secularism and democracy and calling for the Caliphate and enforcing theocratic Sharia.

Source: Original

There are following posts in Urdu language, which hope to incite an already tired and frustrated population to rise up against the democratic order, which barely exists in a country with a ruling bureaucratic oligarchy. Messages would barely translate to:

“Secularism will only lead to slavery and humiliation while only the Sharia can deliver.”

“Denying the ideological (theocratic) state is tantamount to ideological apostasy.”

Here it is important to remind that apostasy or “irtidad” is an offense in traditional Islam that apostates, or those converting out of Islam, should be put to death. Many Western liberal Muslims will deny such a rule even exists but it is the majority consensus in the Sunni or orthodox sect of the religion and you often hear antithetical critics quote it during debates. Now, equating the denial of the theocratic basis of the creation of Pakistan to a charged word like apostasy is clearly a threat.

There are many more messages like this which you can find throughout the length of some of the most modern sectors in Islamabad. The Tanzeem,  founded by the late Dr. Israr Ahmed and led by Hafiz Aakif Saeed, calls it the “Strengthening Pakistan Campaign” and cites Jinnah’s irrational quotes about the religious law as the basis for their faith in a theocratic version of the Ideology of Pakistan. And clearly, they are no fans of democracy as their very message displayed as the cover image for this blog reads that the idea of the rule of people is counter to the monotheistic beliefs of the sole right of worship of Allah or God.

If you go through their statements, they essentially present the Ideology of Pakistan as an article of faith, as if disagreeing with it, as the likes of Maulana Abul Kalam Azad did, would qualify you for apostasy. This is the promotion of an extremely dangerous idea in a nation which has already been blinded beyond control in terms of their approval of violence for blasphemy.

In a democracy, extremist entities such as anti-democratic theocrats and Islamists can exist and possibly practice their politics. Another instance is the Neo-Nazis in the Western democracies. However, when their ideas are so clearly undemocratic that they lead toward the harm of the people and the democratic system of law that threatens the very fundamental rights and liberties that offer them the chance to thrive, it is going beyond that acceptable line.

But never do you ever see such extremist groups becoming active electorally and come even close to representing the people in the legislature to affect the law and the constitution, unless that nation wants to give an opening for it to become Nazi Germany or Islamic Revolutionary Iran.

Some progressive and conservative liberals actually advocate actively pushing back these groups because they are a threat to democracy and fundamental rights in whatever capacity they exist. However, it is important to respect the principle on sheer emotion. Nevertheless, it is time to think about seriously banning such an organization when they start threatening democracy by taking their hate speech to the mainstream and by threatening to take electoral seats away from democrats just because they enjoy the sympathy of theocrats in the public.

Tanzeem-e-Islami is doing its job. I don’t wish them all the best but I do respect that they are taking their message across peacefully, even though a very violent and brutal message. However. what I am astounded at is the Government of Pakistan, the ever-present bane of our existence. A Government that openly asks for people to report social media posts for blasphemy, but would take zero action against an organization that is openly talking about enforcing theocracy and eliminating democratic freedoms, the very freedom it is exercising to take away their freedoms paradoxically.

In such a scenario, you can’t help but think that indeed Pakistan was formed for establishing a theocracy and is ruled by people who want such a policy to be enforced, even including the elected democrats.

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?

A Jumping Escape from Justice

Source: Pakistan Times Youtube

It was not a leap of faith. It was a jump of desperation.

It would be criminal of us to even remotely pretend to know what this person must be going through.

Sajid Masih is the latest casualty of the impeccable Islamic Sharia Justice system that we are so proud of. But wait, it is not Islamic Sharia system. Because in the case of Islamic Sharia, he would have been beheaded long ago. Though would he have endured the kind of abuse that Sajjad did is debatable. At least you can be sure of it in Pakistan’s imperfect law enforcement and the justice system. Let’s blame it on the colonial times.

Pakistan’s federal law enforcement agency FIA has been accused of abuse and torture by a dying man. That man is a Pakistani of Christian faith known as Sajjad Masih. He is the cousin of fellow detainee Patras Masih, who is accused of blasphemy and was detained with his cousin. According to him, apart from brutally torturing them, the FIA officials forced them to have oral sex with each other. While other mortals might have succumbed to their vile demands, Sajjad chose to break free and jump from the fourth floor of the building instead, regardless of consequences.

Check this tweet out by politician and activist Jibran Nasir.

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Now you may say that this is simply the big government going out of control but this is far more than that. While the sadistic FIA officials may have a habit of having fun at the expense of the detained individuals but they were not keeping Sajid and his cousin locked for fraud or murder exactly. It makes the occurrence all the more tragic and infuriating when you realize that they were being held for committing absolutely no crime at all. There really is no need to prove the insanity of

Here is the video in unadulterated form.

It is important to document instances such as this because of the social conservative majority in Pakistan that refuses to accept the wrong a theocratic constitution is doing to the non-Muslim minorities. It is also important to remind them that a secular constitution.

Source: Reuters

Sajid Masih’s misery and his struggle with life and death are a direct consequence of the draconian blasphemy law in Pakistan. People failing to recognize and at least voice their opinion against them are being complacent to one of the most blatant systematic and apartheid murders happening in our times. And if Pakistan was not getting enough bad publicity, Rome made the Colosseum go red to protest the blasphemy law in Pakistan.

The secular democratic forces in Pakistan must unite in the manner of the manifesto of such a larger movement proposed by the Awami Workers Party, which actually deserves another post but here goes.

If not for any other reason, we must come together to get rid of this evil from Pakistan. We can’t claim to reform our corrupt authoritarian state but perhaps we can at least do our due to defeat the organized apartheid theocratic terrorism in Pakistan.

Liberalism in Crisis in Pakistan

Source: Awami Workers Party facebook page (The slogan on banner reads: Progressives Unite!)

With the death of Asma Jahangir, you can find a sense of panic amid the circles of liberals in Pakistan. In a state of social conservatives, where we see the religious fundamentalists with more impunity than ever, liberals seem to be on the retreat.

This probably happens on the death of every prominent Pakistani liberal figure. And there is a good reason for that.

Liberals in Pakistan are in such small numbers that even the departure of a single person can create such a massive blackhole which might not even be filled in a generation. Though it depends on the liberal that has passed. And sadly in the case of Asma Jahangir, it is unusually massive.

Some of my friends such as @BenignDirector are beginning to worry about the future of liberalism in Pakistan and call on all liberals to come together. This, of course, led him to explain the troubling definition of liberalism in Pakistan. He also reflected on the meaning of the word in Pakistan, including the “lifestyle liberals” who would otherwise remain distant from political activism and disapproved of interference from religious social conservatives. It is complicated but I agree with his larger point.

The trouble is that in countries with medieval tribal societies such as Pakistan, just about anyone who thinks about something for themselves can possibly qualify. Now that is a good thing. But considering the conventions of the orthodoxy among nationalist social conservatives, this trait is a dangerous adventure. It is not really as rare as you would like to believe, but considering the conservative “masses,” this small minority becomes a precious perversion to celebrate and one which obviously needs better protection. Outspoken folks like Raza Rumi should remain miles away from the borders of this country.

But liberalism is truly in crisis in Pakistan, no matter the rays of hope would like to identify themselves as liberals or not. To my mind, it has been on a constant decline since the creation of Pakistan among the society that had been manufactured in the new nation state. A great deal of this decline can be attributed to the enlightened higher-ups in the ruling class who preferred separate rules for their echelons and different for the peasants, laborers, and especially those vulnerable at the hands of clerics. These criminals allowed the country to become a constitutional theocracy and eliminated any chance of a functioning electorate.

The 1971 civil war was the only and first major battle for the soul of a liberal democracy in Pakistan. It resulted in the loss of the then larger chunk of the country’s population with the humiliation of our countrymen allying with archenemies India against the immaculately great cause of the creation of a separate homeland for Muslims. Well, wouldn’t you say Pakistan would have been a logical consequence of that? As much as people would like to make it a Bengali-Punjabi-Pashtun-Hindustani war, it was more about secular democracy against a morally bankrupt theocratic authoritarian oligarchy.

Ever since the Pakistani liberals have been cornered, let’s hope not forever, so that another uprising like Mujeeb’s does not show its face. The Rawalpindi conspiracy case being another instance when they could have come close. But the leftists that had emerged in 1950s, perhaps as a reaction to the pro-American autocratic elite, had been completely displaced from their original form. Especially with the ban on the Communist party. Probably a blessing in disguise for liberal scum like myself who have always been dumbfounded by the extreme political choices between the reds and the Jamaatiye (members of the Islamist Jamaat-e-Islami or Pakistani affiliate of the Muslim Brotherhood) but no such option is acceptable when Jamaat-e-Islami roams free. How can they contest elections in a democracy? Then what is the choice but to be a leftist?

Or you could be a “liberal” like the intellectual bureaucracy of Pakistan that fashioned its lifestyle in the manner of Jinnah but asked everybody else to follow Maududi, a Jamaat-e-Islami cleric who was behind the worst Islamic clauses of the atrocious 1973 constitution. These enlightened ones, as mentioned before, would raise toasts in private parties and will ask women of their countries to cover their heads. They fed the elaborate visions of Quranic Apocalypse in Ghazwa-e-Hind to prepare an entire generation of Jehadi soldiers which they had no intention to recruit among their ranks to keep and expand the influence of the state. There really is no end to this disaster which carries on in just like evolution and natural selection.

The crisis in liberalism in Pakistan is that we consider the Jamaat-e-Islami as the solution to offer Islamists an opportunity to participate in mainstream politics so they don’t start blowing themselves and others up. The crisis is that we think that Tehreek Labaik Ya Rasool Allah contesting the elections is an improvement from their ridiculous antics in the sit-in protest. The crisis is that raging mullahs can set cities on fire to get what they want but the liberals, whether leaning conservative or progressive, can’t even imagine doing that. The crisis is that we keep confusing Bahria Town with free market capitalism. The crisis is that we think a separate nation state for a single community was a good idea.

So in these state of affairs, yes, I really don’t care about the various political and economic positions as long as they stand for secularism. I will attend the February 24 tribute to Asma Jahangir by the leftist Awami Workers Party, a party that you will find standing for the right issues more often than not, just like I have joined them to protest the killing of Sabeen and Mashaal Khan. I will stand by their side and endure slogans targeted at me for being a traitor-friend of the United States of America. I will still not join it but will cheer for their passionate volunteers and wonder about our dark future and pointless, wasted lives in that surreal moment and what toilets in Pakistani jails would look like.

Anybody who is for secularism is an ally. In Pakistan, you could argue all of them are liberals. Sorry, if you don’t like the label.

No Revolution for Pakistan

Source: Seattle Times

Do you recall the Arab Spring? It only happened within a period of last five years and even though it has largely died down, it has told us something very interesting about seemingly politically dormant populations. People can rise against oppressive governments, as they have so many times in history.

However, such instances among the population of the Indian subcontinent are very few in history, especially under a foreign colonial rule. Of course, there have been great exceptions with some great local warriors and insurgent empires like the Marathas rising against far larger forces. Resistance has not been absent. But largely, you will find little resistance until the failed War of Independence against the British in 1857, ignited for the perfectly wrong reasons, and finally the Swaraj movement under the unusual leadership of Mahatma Gandhi.

Pakistan, separated from its Indian motherland, has been a breeding ground for political chaos. One so political. Pakistan, the Western part to be precise, has seen great political turmoil in its 70 years but no revolution. Of course, the Eastern Pakistan, which let’s face it, had no connection whatsoever to its eastern and clearly more prejudiced wing, had nothing to do with it anyway. Bengal had been at the forefront of the independence movement and with a very predominantly progressive political culture, it was only a matter of time that it would part ways with the regression of the socially conservative and theocratic Western Pakistan made up of Punjabis, Sindhis, Kashmiris, and immigrants from Delhi, Gujarat, Hyderabad, Uttar Pradesh, and Bihar.

Pakistan immediately fell under oligarchical bureaucratic dictatorship. Forget the old battered revolutionaries locked away. That romance is over. For so much micropolitical storms in its teacup, the beverage of democracy was never eventually brewed. The founding fathers, who stayed true to most and betrayed in the eyes of a few, strangled the very idea by injecting theocracy in the framework of the Constitution. A discriminatory document that no self-respecting republican could stand behind. Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah apparently died too soon and too weak to have been a decisive factor over it, ironically and inadvertently becoming responsible for a theocracy for a man who embodied secular lifestyle and values.

With the context of this horrifying background and ruled by a draconian army that is apparently the best fit for the mix, the people of Pakistan live disconnected, indifferent lives. They acknowledge, but choose to ignore, the evils of their society. They recognize the need to hang people in public squares but never take any action. They frequently kill women for honor but never resist when their freedom is trampled on.

To add insult to injury, Pakistani not-so-private propaganda channels are loaded with state-backed faux revolutionaries to provoke people to throw out any remnants of elected office in the country, but never see any movement among the hibernating masses. Compare that to the Tunisian democratic revolution, then a lot more has happened in Pakistan to hurt the public sentiment to warrant one.

From the assassination of Benazir Bhutto to May 12 killings and Model Town massacre and from Panama Verdict and Judicial coups to allegedly systematic murder and rape of little children, nothing has inspired such a movement even though supposedly building public anger and frustration.

People continue to move on. So despite all the apparent injustice, widespread abuse, and intolerable discrimination and torture, people are opting to stay put. They have accepted their condition as a natural order, a will of God, and do not want to disturb the imperfect equilibrium that at least keeps life going.

But can you really blame them? They, the illiterate and naive people, have seen what revolution brings to those who seek it. Misery, persecution, and a whole new level of slavery and dangers. Nobody wants to give up their relative freedoms away, even those under a mildly draconian regime of thugs. There is still a lot to lose than to gain perhaps from such a misadventure. The loss of the individual is not the loss of society.

Nevertheless, you are compelled to ask when is it going to be enough. How many rapes and murders of the daughters of the poor and abandoned will it take for the people to be outraged enough? How many plots of land will be taken away from the poor and helpless before the people say no more? You wonder how much is it going to take.

And what will that outrage precisely be? A civil outrage fueling vigils? Is that enough? And if it isn’t what did the rioters in London, the arsonists in Missouri, and the miscreants in Islamabad achieve? Did they achieve revolution? Most certainly not. But were able to make life miserable for other common people like them, property owners or not. That same order of life those common people go to great lengths to preserve. Nobody really likes a radical, until he becomes socially acceptable.

When do you push the boundaries far enough to take a riot to revolution? To take political slogans to civil war? Why did the Egyptians feel compelled to overthrow Mobarek and why did they give up at Al-Sisi? Why did the Persians feel content with ousting the Shah and not the Ayatollah? Why settle with one oppressor, one abuser, and one tyrant and not the other? Are these people and this land worth sacrificing your life for? And if you wait for enough people to join in order to jump, do they ever get to?

These are the questions we are not willing to ponder, let alone even begin to think to answer. At least not now. We must get on with our lives because you only live once.

There is no revolution for Pakistan.

America Finally Standing Up to Pakistan for Free Speech

Source: geo.tv

What perhaps separates, or should separate, America from the rest of the powers of the world is its moral leadership.

The United States might have ended up getting involved in, and sometimes started, some of the most violent and costliest of wars around the war but more often than not you will find that it had some sort of a moral intention behind it as opposed to naked expansionism. Whether that is true or not is up for debate, especially whether the United States has a monopoly over republican causes around the world.

However, one thing that can be said for certain is that no other nation of the world holds free speech more sacred and fundamental to liberty than the United States. This is because of the very ideology on which the United States was based. This was probably the reason why the first amendment passed to the Constitution by the founding fathers was to protect speech.

People in repressive and regressive countries such as Pakistan look up to at least the United States, if no other Western power, when it comes to protection from their own governments. These words seem to be stating the idiotic obvious but believe it or not, a vast number of people do not even consider curbs on free speech, theocratic rule, and Especially in countries with Muslim majority population and many in the West who think that Muslims need a break from hate, not aware they are doing them further harm by protecting theocratic authority.

It came as a rather pleasant surprise when the representative of the United States government, in agreement with that of the UK representative, urged Pakistan government to repeal its draconian blasphemy law at a UN forum. To their credit, the EU has also made similar demands from Pakistan before on a public forum. However, this reprimand was made in the presence of Pakistani Foreign Minister Khawaja Muhammad Asif, who was heading the Pakistani delegate at the Universal Periodic Review of Pakistan’s human rights record at the Human Rights Council in Geneva. Khwaja Asif also presented Pakistan’s report.

Either way, it is a welcome sign but it still is a long way from the United States getting seriously in addressing this matter. States seldom are but this remains to be one outside hope for the citizens of oppressive countries than a bloody, brutal civil revolution from within, which hardly ever brings about a humane, democratic transition.

Perhaps one way that the United States could disturb the comfort and self-indulgence of the ruling class of Pakistan by threatening or imposing economic sanctions for imposing undemocratic laws such as the blasphemy law and discriminatory laws against Ahmedis.

While this sounds like colluding with a foreign power against your own, it is not. You could argue that willingly enforcing discriminatory laws targeting your fellow citizens is treason instead.

In a society like Pakistan, where the majority of the people do not understand how theocratic laws are contradictory to democracy and human rights, there is no other option but to count on moral diplomacy. There is no option but to influence change through lobbying and with the help of a foreign entity. Since Pakistani leaders and diplomats are never going to have this sense of social fairness, you have to pray that the Americans and the rest of the Western powers should do that bit of moral leadership for them.

You can read the full US delegation statement here.