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Travesty of Democracy

Pakistan held its general elections in 2018, to select its third successive democratic government, after almost a decade of military dictatorship under the Musharraf era.

Putting Things in Perspective

Before the 2018 polls, when the PML-N was in power, the PTI protested: it alleged poll rigging and election engineering. The 2018 polls brought the PTI, a party formed in 1996 into power. A party that had been on the sidelines for over two decades now held the reins of power. It is no surprise that on its own the PTI hardly ever had any political clout – it was brought into power by a process of election engineering orchestrated by those at the core of the state-within-the-state. The so-called electables were directed to join the PTI. Every other day a renowned politician would leave behind the corruption and crimes of the past and turn over a new leaf by joining the PTI. PTI was calling for accountability; all the electable politicians were joining it en masse – the very people the party was claiming to overthrow were becoming part of it. Each candidate was carefully hand-picked. Even a clearance was sought from the state-within-the-state. Even people like Sheikh Rasheed, for whom Imran famously said in a speech that he would never even appoint him as a peon, was brought on the team and has a seat on the Federal Cabinet as the Minister of Railways. It wasn’t too surprising that after extensive horse trading, the PTI was also able to appoint its own Chair of the upper house of Parliament even though it was in a minority.

You Become What You Hate

After coming into power, the Imran-lead PTI government started a vicious campaign of victimization of political rivals and election engineering. A process of selective accountability had already begun before the elections. Nawaz Shareef, the PML-N leader, his daughter and son-in-law had already been sentenced to prison. This judgment was so hastily made before the 2018 general elections, that after the elections the courts had to release the trio after the appeals were filed. Nawaz however remains in custody over other cases.

Shahbaz Shareef, the leader of the opposition in Parliament, and his son Hamza Shahbaz, the leader of the opposition in the Punjab Assembly, were also dragged in. Asif Zardari and his sister Faryal Talpur were eventually brought in as well. Other leaders of the opposition including former Federal Minister for Railways Khawaja Saad Rafique, Sindh Assembly’s Speaker Agha Siraj Durrani and others were imprisoned as well. The National Accountability Bureau is all but a tool in the hands of every incumbent government; in fact it was created during the Musharraf era to crack down on politicians.

The Federal Investigation Agency also arrested the President of PML-N’s youth wing over posting “hateful content” against the state on the internet. Ironically, the Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act, 2016, the draconian law under which this arrest was made was passed by the Parliament when the PML-N was in power, against strong protests by the civil society who had warned of the strong possibility of this law to be used to stifle freedom of speech.

In addition to this the two Members of Parliament (MNAs) from FATA were accused of an armed assault at a military check-post by the Military’s mouthpiece and were later taken into custody by the Counter Terrorism Department. One of the key figures behind this political engineering, the incumbent law minister, gave an unsolicited advise to the National Assembly’s speaker, to not to issue production orders for the FATA MNAs.

The PTI government is actively engaging in pre-poll rigging. Two candidates from the former FATA region, were imprisoned by the PTI lead Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government under the Maintainance of Public Order Ordinance, 1960, another draconian law from the dictatorship era of Ayub Khan. The Election Commission took notice of this eventually and ordered their release.

“It has come in the notice of this Commission that one Mr Muhammad Arif (independent contesting candidate from PK-113, South Waziristan-I) and Mr Muhammad Iqbal (independent contesting candidate from PK-114, South Waziristan-II), have been arrested by the Deputy Commissioner, South Waziristan on 19th June, 2019 and 24th June, 2019, respectively, allegedly under Section 3 of the West Pakistan Maintenance of Public Order Ordinance, 1960 (MPO) for one month and both the candidates have been sent to jails of Dera Ismail Khan and Haripur…”

Election Commission of Pakistan

The Election Commission also noted that the arrests made after the announcement of the election schedule were “tantamount to pre-poll rigging”.

And just recently, Rana Sanaullah, former Home Minister of Punjab and the President of PML-N in Punjab, was arrested by the Anti-Narcotics Force. This reminds of an incident a few years back when a friend of mine was stopped by the police in North Nazimabad, Karachi who checked his license and registration, and after finding everything in order, asked for a large bribe. When my friend asked what that was for, the officer calmly replied that if my friend refused, they would “find” a large quantity of marijuana in a search of him and his car; since possession can even carry a death penalty, he had no other option but to bribe. It is even more shocking to see the PTI government or the establishment stoop so low to victimize political opponents and to force them to change their political affiliations.

Freedom of Speech? Shut Up!

The PTI government is also taking extreme measures to stifle freedom of speech. When Muhammad bin Salman was visiting Pakistan, some journalists changed their display pictures on social media to a picture of Jamal Khashoggi, the Saudi journalist murdered by Saudi agents inside the Saudi Arabian consulate in Istanbul since it is widely believed that MBS personally ordered the brutal murder. As a response to this benign protest, the Federal Investigation Agency opened an inquiry against the journalists for an alleged social media campaign against MBS.

Furthermore, while Article 66 of the Constitution states that there shall be (unrestricted) freedom of speech in the Parliament, the PTI appointed Speaker of the lower house of Parliament, has “banned” the use of word selected from use in Parliament in connection with the opposition calling Imran Khan a Selected Prime Minister.

Press? What Press?

Similarly, when people were protesting the enforced disappearances of their loved ones by organizing a sit-in outside the residence of President Arif Alvi in Karachi, there was a virtual media black-out: no media outlet was allowed to cover the protest. Such draconian censorship of the press in unprecedented. Those peaceful protesters were arrested by the police and false cases of rioting, rioting with deadly weapons, waging or attempting to wage war or abetting the waging of war against Pakistan, and criminal conspiracy were registered against the protesters. The President was silent.

Similarly, last night Asif Ali Zardari’s interview with Hamid Mir, which was being conducted in the Parliament House was pulled off-air. The anchor without specifying who was behind it stated that Pakistan is no more a free country. Not just that, a subsequent interview of the anchor was also pulled off-air. In response to this Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) the state’s media regulator stated that it had nothing to do with the censorship.

Not just Democracy but Justice too

On February 6, 2019, a Supreme Court bench gave its verdict on the 2017 Faizabad sit-in organized by the TLP. During this sit-in, a uniformed Pakistan Army general was seen distributing cash to the anti-government protesters. The judgment, authored by Justice Qazi Faez Isa, a fiercely independent, upright and credible judge, criticized the armed forces and the intelligence agencies for acting outside the scope of the statutory authority. This brought Justice Isa into the cross-hairs. Justice Isa is expected to be the Chief Justice of Pakistan at the time of the 2023 general elections and thus came to be seen as a hurdle in political engineering at the time of the elections.

In what looks like an apparent attempt to undermine the independence of the judiciary and to remove Justice Qazi Faez Isa from office, President Arif Alvi moved two references to the Supreme Judicial Council to remove Supreme Court’s Justice Qazi Faez Isa and Sindh High Court’s Justice Karim Khan Agha. This was followed by selective leaks to the press to undermine the judges’ credibility. It later emerged that the references the President filed were sent to him by the law minister Farogh Naseem.

Lawyers all over the country have come out and protested against this move: there is a firm belief among the lawyers, judges and other intellectuals of the country that this move is nothing but an attempt to undermine the independence of the judiciary and muzzle independent judges. The Lawyers’ Movement back in 2007 lead to the ousting of Musharraf from power after he tried to undermine the judiciary and remove the then Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry.

Even as the lawyers and the Bar Councils and Bar Associations stood against these blatant steps to demolish the hard-won independence of the judiciary in the name of accountability, Farogh Naseem the law minister, a former lawyer, invited state counsels to his residence and had them issue a statement saying they stood for accountability across the board and that judges should not be able to escape accountability.

The Pakistan Bar Council, the provincial Bar Councils and the lawyers are still protesting and standing in support of Justice Qazi Faez Isa and Justice Karim Khan Agha to foil these attempts.

Either the PTI government is directly responsible for all these steps to cause a travesty of democracy, or they are mere rubber stamps for the establishment which has selected Imran Khan as the Prime Minister and brought the PTI into power.

What would Complete Accountability Look Like?

During the protests and sit-in in Islamabad which was lead by Imran Khan, the PTI workers clashed with the police outside the Parliament, in Imran’s own words, to make Nawaz Shareef run away.

Pakistan Secretariat, the seat of the federal bureaucracy and the offices of PTV, the state broadcaster, were attacked. PTV’s offices were ransacked and vandalized by the protesters. Cases, which included the charge of terrorism, were registered and the accused included Imran Khan and Arif Alvi, the PTI leaders leading the protests. Some time later, a recording of a phone call between Arif Alvi and Imran Khan was leaked into the press, Arif Alvi was heard telling Imran Khan of the ongoing ransacking and vandalism of the PTV offices, and Imran Khan expressed pleasure over it, saying that they had to increase the pressure to make sure Nawaz Shareef resigned. These two are the key accused in the case, however one holds the office of the Prime Minister and the other the office of the President. The case is not being proceeded as Arif Alvi enjoys immunity from criminal prosecution while he hold the office of President.

While “accountability” proceedings against political opponents and even judges are in full swing, similar proceedings against members of the PTI-lead federal cabinet are not being proceeded, and the clear beneficiaries of this selective accountability are not just the PM himself, but the Defense Minister and a number of other ministers and advisers.

Ironic, isn’t it? Two men facing trial for terrorism trying to imprison political rivals on allegations of corruption and removing judges over their tax returns.

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A Positivist Constitution?

Is the Constitution of Pakistan Positivist in nature, or is it Naturalistic?

It is easy to say it is Naturalistic right off the bat: the Constitution begins by vesting the sovereignty of not just this country, but that of the entire universe in Allah.

The first sentence of the Preamble to the Pakistani Constitution reads:

Whereas sovereignty over the entire Universe belongs to Almighty Allah alone, and the authority to be exercised by the people of Pakistan within the limits prescribed by Him is a sacred trust;

If the above words are to be taken literally, then Pakistan is not a sovereign state, but is rather a trust; this is no doubt a legal absurdity. Pakistan is. in fact, a sovereign country, where a Parliament makes laws.

Pakistan is an Islamic Republic: the term is a unique one.
A Republic is a state in which supreme power is held by the people and their elected representatives, and which has an elected or nominated president rather than a monarch – a sovereign state in its own right.
An Islamic Republic however is a republican government which is governed on the basis of the Laws of Islam.

The Constitution, in its Principles of Policy makes Naturalistic references. Article 37, for example discusses eradication of evil as a state policy, which, is open to Naturalistic interpretations.

Are these sufficient to consider the Constitution as Naturalistic?

I would argue that the Constitution of Pakistan is Positivist.

Pakistan is a sovereign state, with a Parliament that enacted its Constitution, and which can make laws within the limits it set upon itself through the Constitution. Pakistan is an Islamic Republic because the Constitution says so.

The Parliament has unlimited power to amend and modify the Constitution, via the mechanism it has developed in the Constitution. This is reaffirmed by Articles 239 (5) and (6), which state:

Article 239 Constitution Amendment Bill

(5) No amendment of the Constitution shall be called in question in any court on any ground whatsoever.

(6) For the removal of doubt, it is hereby declared that there is no limitation whatever on the power of the Majlis-e-Shoora (Parliament) to amend any of the provisions of the Constitution.

The Constitution makes it abundantly clear that the there is no limitation whatsoever upon the Parliament to amend any portions of the Constitution; no court shall entertain any question regarding the validity of any amendments to the Constitution.

The Parliament can, at least in theory, repeal provisions that make the Constitution look Naturalistic.

 Above all, I would argue, the Constitution, created by an Assembly of the elected representatives and can be modified by the Parliament, in itself is a positive law, therefore it not just is Positivist, but should be interpreted this way too.

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Is an Immoral Law a Good Law?

Is an Immoral Law a Good Law?
The question may be a misleading one; to clear this, I will not look into what the words moral (or immoral) or good might mean in this context, I would rather define them just as we begin.

Statua Iustitiae - Lady JusticeMoral, in this context would be concerned with the principles of right and wrong: in the sense of what one believes or perceives to be wrong.
Good, in this context would mean valid and acceptable.

This simplifies the question at hand: Would a law, which is wrong in principle, be deemed to be a valid and acceptable law?

This question deals with the centuries old debate between the Naturalist and the Positivist view of law.
According to the Positivist view, a law is a law when it is validly enacted or proclaimed, and is binding in its entirety, regardless of whether it is moral or not.
The Naturalist view on the other hand is that, an immoral law is not a good law: a law must be moral to be valid. It must conform to the basic standards of right and wrong; a law which is unjust or immoral will not be law.

On the offset it is easy to dismiss the Naturalistic view: law is what distinguishes the right from the wrong. How could a law be wrong?

To better understand the Naturalistic view, and to appreciate for what it stands, we must understand what law is, and what purpose it serves.

I would argue that law is the collective embodiment of the rules a society makes for itself. Law is the foundation of a civilized society. Just as morality of the society evolves, so must the law. An old law, by today’s standards may be immoral and unjust.

An example may be the Witchcraft Acts enacted by different countries throughout the world in the 16th Century, and the inquisitions, trials and lawful executions that were done under them, by today’s standards are immoral and unjust. Surprisingly enough, these remnants of the past continue to exist in statute books of some countries.

Let us change the question to this: would the implementation of the Witchcraft Act, to accuse and punish an individual on the pseudoscience contained in the law, be moral and just? Should it be enforced?

The Trial and Death of SocratesIn Plato’s work Crito, the reason Socrates gives for his obedience to the law and the nature of the law, reflects upon the utility of law for a society. Law is what a civilized society is built upon.

It also makes one see the potential for abuse in a democracy. Democracy has the tendency to become mob rule: where the majority oppresses a minority.

Abusive laws are all around us: law has mandated slavery, racial segregation, suppressed classes of humans based on their sex, economic status, race, color and lineage. This was true in the past, and is still true today in many jurisdictions.

The concept of liberty, individual autonomy and human rights play their part in protecting an individual. According to a widely circulate quote, misattributed to Benjamin Franklin:

Democracy is two wolves and a lamb voting on what to have for lunch. Liberty is a well-armed lamb contesting the vote.

Liberty and Freedom are a recognition of certain rights which may not be taken away, not even by a 99% vote.

Many modern constitutional democracies like the United States, India, France, Germany etc. do recognize this. The US Bill of Rights and the French Declaration of the Rights of Man recognize certain rights, freedoms and liberties that the state cannot take away, under any circumstances.

This may be seen as either Naturalistic or Positivistic; consider the following statements:

  • Human Rights are protected because the Constitution says they are protected.
  • The Constitution protects Human Rights because they ought to be protected.

The first one sees Constitutional schemes to protect rights as Positivistic and the second sees them as Naturalistic.

Human RightsUnder either circumstances, an immoral law will not be a good law, regardless of whether it isn’t a good law because it is immoral or because another, higher law, the Constitution, says so.

Things become interesting when in the absence of a Constitution, an immoral law is considered in abstract: would a law condemning disabled children to death, be a good law?

The answer may depend on whether it is enforced. The Witchcraft Act is a valid piece of legislation existing in the statute books of countries like South Africa and Israel. Is it enforced? No. Would it still count as a good law? That might be a question of whether it would be enforced when it needs to be.

Martin Luther King Jr- Unjust Laws
One has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws. -Martin Luther King Jr.

Would I personally enforce an immoral law? Not if it violates the rights and liberties of a person for no fault of their own. At the end of the day, law is the embodiment of the collective wishes of the people. If the majority brutally crushed the minority using the law, then instead of serving as a utility the law would become a weapon or an excuse to commit atrocities – the Nazi Germany, for example, used laws to exterminate the old, sick and disabled, and minorities.

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Does Right to Life include a Right to End Life?

As part of my LLB, I wrote a research essay on Suicide and Assisted Suicide.

The research essay was titled “Does Right to Life include a Right to End Life? Legal challenges to suicide and assisted suicide.”

In the essay I explored the Right to Life, protected by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. In the analysis of this right, I explored its content: whether it entails a right not to be arbitrarily deprived of life or does it ensure complete autonomy over one’s life and the choice to end it.

I explored suicide, and its history as criminal offence.

I moved on to consider the plea of “Protection of Cruel, Inhumane or Degrading Treatment or Punishment” raised by people seeking to end their life.

Next, I considered the current laws of the United Kingdom and India, and also the Dutch law that in limited circumstances permits assisted suicide.

Then I discussed the interests of the state in preventing suicide, discussing the rationale behind the need of the state in preventing suicide, and providing a good standard of life for its citizens.

Finally, I drew a conclusion from the entire research.

The original essay was much longer, however I had to remove certain parts and condense other parts to stay close to the recommended length of 2,500 words; even the final draft exceeded the word count by almost a 1,000 words. All the references were added in-line with footnotes and a bibliography in the end. Contributing to Wikipedia over the years gave me a great habit of adding in-line citations, which proved to be immensely helpful in writing the essay.


Read the Research Essay Does Right to Life include a Right to End Life? Legal challenges to suicide and assisted suicide on Academia.edu >>

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Will be Back, Soon!

I have been away from blogging for quite some time. A long time really.

Here’s why. My draft section is piling up. I usually begin writing, then leave it incomplete, saved as a draft, and, since I blog about current/political issues, it becomes irrelevant over time.

I haven’t neglected this blog entirely. I’ve been updating the themes and plugins, and most importantly WordPress itself. WordPress is a great software. I even turned on HTTPS (the secure/encrypted variant of the Hypertext Transfer Protocol).

I am in the final year of my LLB. Four exams and an essay (which I’d post here, just like my presentation) to go. I’d be free by the end of May.

I plan on being more serious and dedicated to blogging as soon as I’m done with my exams. To that end, I’ve created an Urdu version of my site, and blog, and plan to blog bilingually.

I’ve had leaning a bit of Spanish and Esperanto some months back, via Duolingo. Spanish is the second most spoken language after Mandarin (that’s the name for Chinese). Mandarin is a bigger challenge, perhaps for a later stage in life. Esperanto is a constructed language; it did not evolve like other human languages, but was constructed – created, over a hundred years ago. It has accumulated a wealth of literature which I’d love to explore. Maybe I’d do a blog post on languages.

While I’m a native speaker of Urdu, my reading and writing skills lag behind. I hope my blogging in Urdu polishes them and brings them at par with English. After all, the more languages you know, the better you may express yourself!

I have a lot to write about; will be back by the end of May, a lawyer by then. 🙂

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Shutdown to Rebuild, Wait, What?!

Shutdown to Rebuild - PTIShutdown to Rebuild, Wait, What?!? Seriously? What  were the PTI’s creative team thinking when they came up with this slogan?

On second thought, this might be perhaps the most clever way to present something that the party plans to do which happens to be so inherently outrageous and morally and legally unacceptable that the party leadership itself condemned the same in the past.

Wait a second: the words ‘Shutdown’ and ‘Lockdown’ as display pictures next to a tweet condemning the same. Now that’s irony and hypocrisy.

That were PTI Leaders Arif Alvi and Khurrum SherZaman criticizing MQM’s strike on 1st May 2014. Few months later, the party is doing the same thing that they know and believe is wrong: PTI is planning to shut down major cities and eventually the whole country. Shutdown or Lockdown to Rebuild. Its an oxymoron.

And not just the PTI leadership, their supporters too:

Lockdown - PTIThey go an extra mile in abusing the MQM for something that their party is now doing.

Massive loss to economy. Yes. That’s what you get when you shutdown the financial capital of the country, or any city, as a matter of fact.

Yes we all agree that shutting down a city, blocking roads or paralyzing any city, is illegal.

https://twitter.com/AQpk/status/461870335818600448

But what can we say? The PTI is adamant to go ahead and shutdown Karachi, and Lahore, followed by the whole country. Just as they did in Faisalabad.

Attack on PTV building in Islamabad by PTI and PAT workers.
Attack on PTV building in Islamabad by PTI and PAT workers.

Arif Alvi stated that the loss suffered is over 10 billion for a day the city of Karachi is shutdown. Khurrum SherZaman too states that the loss is in billions. Not just this, we have seen the nuisance Islamabad. Yes, I’m talking about the assault on the Parliament and Prime Minister House. The attack and ransacking of PTV. Occasional attacks on Geo News office.

Pakistan suffered more than just this. This paid protest of PAT and PTI caused much more losses. The Chinese President canceled his visit to Pakistan, that put a question mark (or possibly a full stop) on the future of $32 Billion worth of investment.

The unrest and clashes in Faisalabad, and the enforced shutdown of the city following the death of a PTI worker: it is all condemnable in the strongest words.

But why is PTI doing this then? Because their beloved leader said so.

PTI talks about Justice. Well, even the name of the party Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf translates to Pakistan Movement for Justice. However the leader of the Party, cricketer turn philanthropist turn politician, is now a proclaimed offender in Anti-Terrorism Cases before an Anti-Terrorism Court in Lahore (well yes, terrorism in Pakistan is defined too broadly, therefore some of the acts he and his supporters have done fall under the category of terrorism),  and he has proudly challenged the incumbent government to try and arrest him.

Ironically…

PTI's Enforced Shutdown of Faisalabad
PTI’s Enforced Shutdown of Faisalabad.

Shutting down a city, just like they did in Faisalabad, if evaluated under the UK Anti-Terror legislation, is an act of terrorism. Yes, the same Anti-Terror laws for which the PTI grilled the MQM chief Altaf  Hussain, for this his statement about the Three-Swords monument in Clifton, Karachi.

Imran’s aid and ally, Sheikh Rasheed Ahmed has gone the extra-mile in calling out to the rioting workers of his party the Awami Muslim League and those of PTI to damage, burn and destroy public and private property to achieve the above stated goals. Incitement to an offence or speech that disrupts public order is criminally wrong. What Sheikh Rasheed has said does not sound just wrong, it is insane, treacherous.

Feisal Naqvi, a Supreme Court advocate, sketched Imran’s desperation to rid Pakistan of its elected Prime Minister in form of humorous future unreleased plans from Plan E to Plan Z; Plan X of which states:

Plan X: Imran Khan files a petition before the Supreme Court, asking for the Independence of India Act, 1947 to be declared unconstitutional. After the court accepts his petition, the Queen of England then appoints Imran Khan as her Viceroy.

Fortunately, or not so for Imran and PTI, English only has 26 alphabets and just like the article above, the number of plans end at Plan Z. However, people have suggested different approaches to this problem.

https://twitter.com/Secular_Pak/status/539093660151738369

https://twitter.com/KalimAlikhel/status/539094176269213696

The PML-N and PTI are quite similar, ideologically. They are both working in the same way, for the same ideology. They even share the same vote bank. Just as Babar Sattar rephrases it in a question:

Isn’t the Shahbaz Sharif model of governance in Punjab very similar to what Imran Khan is promising in Naya Pakistan: a strongman at the top and everything falling in place under him intuitively?

Of the certain aspects of Imran Khan’s behavior and policies, as Babar Sattar  states in the same article, that would give even his well-wishers the jitters, that most bothersome is the inability of the PTI leader to distinguish between the State and the government and the fact that Imran is willing to hold a gun to the country’s head to negotiate with the PML-N.

2: His vigilantism. Khan’s argument is that since he didn’t get justice on his terms, he’ll now have to shut the country down. Can any rule of law proponent justify such course of action? There is a pattern here. In 2013, PTI had asked its vigilantes to forcibly block NATO containers in KP. That circus was eventually dispersed by court orders.

3: Khan’s inability to distinguish between the state and government. Whether it was Khan inciting everyone to refuse paying taxes and utility bills and sending money through legal banking channels, or his Plan C of shutting Pakistan down, he seems to have no qualms holding a gun to the country’s head to negotiate with PML-N.

4: Khan’s polarizing politics. In a democracy people need to be brought together to forge consensus and get things done, not torn apart. Khan’s message of hope is wrapped in bitterness and hate, which has polarized this country. Today Pakistan is a divided house; even its rational segments at war with one another over political differences. Forget Khan’s ire for opponents and critics, is there room for dissent even within PTI?

We really need introspection and self-accountability all around: the PML-N has to reflect upon whatever has happened the last few months and how they should have handled it; the PTI needs to realize that ends don’t justify means. Both parties need to work together, get to the negotiation tables and resolve their conflicts in a sensible manner, for the sake of the nation.

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In Memory of the Slain

At SZABIST, the students held a candlelight vigil in memory of those slain in the name of blasphemy.

Over the last month a Christian couple in the town of Kot Radha Kishan, some 60 kilometers southwest of Lahore were beaten and burnt to death after they were accused of blasphemy by their creditor, which was followed by another horrifying and deplorable incident in Gujrat where a man in police custody was hacked to death by an axe wielding police officer, again in the name of blasphemy.

Below is the speech I gave at the occasion.


We have all gathered here today because we chose to not to remain silent on the brutal murder of Shama and Shehzad.

They both were burnt alive in the same place where they worked all their lives as a bonded labor.

That fateful day, it wasn’t just the two of them who were killed: Shama was four months pregnant.

But this isn’t about just these two.

According to the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, between 1st January 2013 and 31st December 2013, there were 540 ‘victims’ of blasphemy.

When we step into law school, in the first year we are taught about the values of Rule of Law; that no one is above the law. We are taught that no one can be sentenced or punished without due process of the law.

Sadly, 540 fellow citizens were condemned to their horrifying deaths last year by mobs, by lunatics, by murders, after they were accused of blasphemy. In this country, as rule of law erodes, we are facing increasing incidents of extra-judicial killings, vigilante justice and rising crime.

Yes, it is a crime to take someone’s life. Yes it is a crime to burn someone alive, or to hack someone to death. Sadly this has happened over the past week in our country.

This is a country, where even lawyers are killed for defending a blasphemy accused in a court of law, where politicians calling for reform of these laws are killed. I am talking about Rashid Rehman, a lawyer murdered because he was defending a blasphemy accused in court, I am talking about Salaman Taseer and Shahbaz Bhatti.

We all agree that this heinous crime must not go unpunished. We wish to see these killers being brought to justice.

Because as the saying goes:

“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”

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I’m Twenty!

Pre-Birthday Surprise on my 20thYep, that’s right! I’m twenty.

Another year gone by; a remarkable, happening year! So much happened in this one year, so many new experiences, so many lessons learned. I won’t write much because, well, its my Birthday!

So, before anyone else, I’d wish myself:

Happy Birthday to Me! 🙂

Now, a song for me, for today! 😀

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Independence Day

Every year Pakistan celebrates its Independence Day with renewed sense of ‘patriotism’ and great enthusiasm and zeal. This ‘patriotism’ is limited to love of flying the National flag and decorating residences with miniature flags.

This year, a very small minority took parts in ‘Azadi[1]‘ and ‘Inqilab[2]‘ marches from Lahore to Islamabad, in an attempt to de-seat the democratically elected government.

Those few aside, the Independence Day was marked with celebrations in schools, colleges and universities in the morning, parades and flag hoisting ceremonies elsewhere in the morning. Unfortunately, these brief moments of national pride were masked on prime time television by these marches.

Here in Karachi, restaurants offering breakfast and brunch were jam packed in the morning and early afternoon, and malls, beaches and large public parks were crowded during the day and the evening. People from all over the city were enjoying the Independence Day in their own unique ways.

I went out with some friends for breakfast at around 10:30 AM – not my usual breakfast time. The place we had decided upon had more people present than the chairs they had, and unfortunately for us, we were amongst those who were without it. After some waiting, we managed to be seated along with two other strangers, had breakfast with them and split the bill. Most of this time was not spent eating or chatting, but rather calling out for the waiters to be served.

My friend had parked his car right under a “No Parking” sign. When I jokingly pointed that out, he pointed out the National Flag fixed right above the sign. “Can’t you see? This is Pakistan” he jokingly replied. There were a few dozen cars already parked in front of those three “No Parking” signs.

For breakfast we had Halwa Puri and then went to a nearby milk shop and got ourselves a tall glass of lassi. After our breakfast, my friend remarked that we were the ones actually celebrating Independence Day, since we had breakfast with two strangers – unknown Pakistanis.

Later during the day, I could see quite a lot of patriotic posts on social networking websites; the patriotic content including “Happy Independence Day” was much, much more than what could be observed on Twitter regarding these two marches.

Oh, just so you know, some PAT workers replied to my tweet regarding Qadri’s comeback, most of their messages were nonsense repetitions of a simple (false) statement, containing #hashtags which they wished to trend.

Some local malls had declared “Family Day” – a cunning expression that means females only, and males might be allowed inside if accompanied by females. One such mall was the Dolmen City Mall in Clifton where I happened to go.

The mall was decorated in Green and White, with a crescent and a star hanging high above. Some people had painted the flag on their faces. There were cutout portraits of Muhammad Ali Jinnah, Liaquat Ali Khan and Fatima Jinnah around the mall. Many people were actually queuing up to take a picture of their kids with them.

The background music in the mall were patriotic songs and even the instrumental national anthem. Most of all, there were Azadi discounts, ranging from 10% to 50% on many outlets in the mall – perhaps that was the main attraction that day.

The day ended in a grand fireworks show – a rarity in our country. Well the show was privately organized and not by the Government as is the case around the world.

As the day, and its celebrations ended, and the clock struck midnight, the date changed to 15th August 2014. The real Independence Day of Pakistan. This day was only celebrated in India as their own Independence Day, which in fact was the day when Pakistan and India, both, came into existence. Here in Pakistan, things went quitter.


[1] – Azadi – آزادی – Independence: A caravan of Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf (PTI) workers lead by Imran Khan.
[2] – Inqilab – انقلاب – Revolution: A caravan of Pakistan Awami Tehrik (PAT) activists lead by Tahir-ul-Qadri.

Categories
Blog Published Social Issues

An Open Letter to Imran Khan

Dear Mr. Khan

You rallied for change just a year ago in the 2013 General Elections. Your party bagged 7.7 million votes in the General Elections, which set your party as the 2nd most popular party based on the number of votes it received.

Your call for change came at a time when the Election Commission, and the returning officers were screening potential candidates, and many were disqualified on the grounds that they evaded and did not pay taxes, and utility bills. 7.7 million Pakistanis pinned their hopes to your call for a change.

Unfortunately, this change seemed to be just another election buff. After the elections your party rejected the results, protested, and made government in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

I would like commend your party’s policies on improving the educational infrastructure and the quality of education in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. Credit should be given where it is due.

However, your attitude and actions have shown that you too, sir, are one of those elites who bend the law and Constitution to use it to their advantage. You and your party is not respecting the mandate given to your political opponents; you have shown yourself to be no better than those who were totally rejected by the electorate.

You had made a promise of holding local government elections in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa within three months. It has been over a year now, and your promise has been just mere words. Is this call for Change just as another hollow promise?

IK in Azadi MarchThe Azadi March which you and your party came up with had dubious goals initially, and later on you settled upon asking a democratically elected Prime Minister to resign, threatening civil disobedience and public disorder. This is clearly against the law, and the Constitution. This, as defined by Article 63(1)(g) of the Constitution, is a ground for disqualification for members of the Parliament.

While protesting peacefully and without arms is a fundamental right of assembly under Article 16 of Constitution, this does not cover attempts to overthrow a democratically elected government, which may be classified as treason. Your actions not just undermine the rule of law, but also violate the laws of our country, and our Constitution.

So, at this point, sir, I am left with some questions unanswered:

  1. Would the PTI government in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa promote civil disobedience and non-payment of utility bills and taxes as a Government policy?
  2. Would the PTI government in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa not collect GST and other provincial taxes, or would it be hypocritical at this point?
  3. What difference, if any, remains between yourself and your party’s lawmakers who would not pay taxes and utility bills and those prospective candidates who were rejected by the returning officers for evading taxes and for non-payment of utility bills?
  4. If this civil disobedience and public disorder initiated by your party leads to disqualification of PTI lawmakers, including yourself, under Article 63(1)(g) of the Constitution, would you still blame it on this democratic government?
  5. Would you still blame the Punjab police for public disorder in the Capital which would undoubtedly result in PTI’s march towards the Red Zone?

The election reforms you seek are a welcomed change. However this change should come from your elected position in Parliament as a lawmaker and not from a show of force of your street power while laying a siege to the Parliament.

Yours sincerely


Karachi, Pakistan