By Najam Sethi
May 28, 2010
PAKISTANI state and society is Pakistan’s own worst enemy. Consider. Fauzia Wahab, a PPP spokesperson, is in the dock because of remarks she made in the context of explaining why President Asif Zardari enjoyed constitutional immunity and could not be dragged before the courts. Sections of the media and mullahs argue that if Hazrat Umar could present himself before a Qazi court in the seventh century and be held accountable, why should a mere mortal like Mr Zardari enjoy immunity from prosecution today? Ms Wahab’s rejoinder was that modern democratic societies are governed by constitutions or social contracts between the state and people and that no such set of rules or laws defined state relations during the time of Hazrat Umar! But this, say her detractors, amounts to “blasphemy” because society was governed in accordance with the provisions of the Holy Quran at that time and there is no more comprehensive or sufficient “constitution” for governing Muslims than the Holy Quran. Accordingly, mullahs have been provoked to issue fatwas against Ms Wahab and at least one offended citizen has moved the courts to order the police to register a case of “blasphemy” against her.
There are obvious ironies here. Pakistan is an “Islamic state”, says Pakistan’s constitution as amended by General Zia ul Haq in the 1980s, and anything “ repugnant to Islam” in it must be weeded out. The quest for “Islamising” Pakistan’s constitution, which led to the introduction of an omnibus clause defining “ blasphemy”, has been going on since the dictator’s time, not just via the provincial high courts and supreme court but also via special institutions created for this purpose by the dictator, namely the Federal Shariat Court and the Council of Islamic Ideology and the Islamic Appellate Bench of the Supreme Court.
IT is strange then that the clause relating to presidential immunity should have been allowed to prevail in the constitution despite ten additional amendments to the constitution spread over half a dozen governments in the last thirty years. Indeed, the most pervasive 18th constitutional amendment enacted only a month ago by an unprecedented all- parties consensus studiously ignores this, despite a clause by clause pruning of the constitution for eighteen months by a parliamentary committee which led to a change in 105 clauses of the constitution.
Ms Wahab’s critics, it may also be noted, are among those who are in the forefront of the political struggle to empower the judiciary to become “more supreme” than parliament which is supposed to be supreme. No less significantly, they are also leading the political movement to “get Zardari” by hook or by crook. The irony here is that they want modern judges in Pakistan to appoint themselves and be totally independent of parliament or the executive, a sentiment that is outrageously at odds with “Islamic” practice during the time of the Caliphs when Qazis were appointed and removed by the “Islamic” executive authority! ( Even today, the executive appoints judges in all countries that claim to be Islamic states, eg Saudi Arabia, Libya, etc) Indeed, these are the very groups which are agitating against the 18th amendment’s clause that seeks to introduce a judicial plus parliamentary commission to oversee the appointment of judges to the high court’s and supreme court.
The second issue which is agitating “Islamic” minds in Pakistan is a Facebook competition to draw images of the Holy Prophet Mohammad (peace be upon him).
The Lahore High Court has ordered the government to block a page on Facebook that has outraged Muslims. But officials are inclined to be more loyal- than- theking.
Therefore, in the guise of protecting the diverse sentiments of Muslims globally, they have blocked over 1000 sites, including Youtube, Flickr and Wikipedia, etc., which seemingly offend for one reason or another.
Ironically, though, the global Muslim response to Facebook does not reflect the same religious intensity as in Pakistan.
Where Pakistani Muslims are agitating on the streets, in parliament and on the internet, for religious reasons, certain Islamic states that claim to be custodians or guardians of Islam like Sunni Saudi Arabia and Shia Iran have been more inclined to censor political comment on the internet.
Iran, in fact, blocked Facebook in the run- up to the country’s presidential elections last year to stop supporters of the reformist candidate Mir Hossein Mousavi from using the site for his political campaign.
Libya, Tunisia, Turkmenistan, and Egypt have also banned internet sites mostly to block political dissent.
TURKEY doesn’t like Youtube because there are anti- Mustafa Kamal Ataturk videos hosted on it! In short, politics and religion continue to be combined in various ways in the Muslim world to quell political or religious dissent at home or abroad.
Unfortunately, Pakistan seems more prone to hurt itself than other Muslim states by constantly veering between democracy and dictatorship, religious extremism and moderation, global partnership and international isolation. “ Jihad” is the norm in one decade, “ Enlightened moderation” is up for grabs in another.
One day, the Taliban are fellow Muslims with whom peace deals must be signed; another day, they are terrorists against whom a bloody war must be waged. One day, American aid is self- righteously rejected; another day Pakistan is demanding a US- backed Marshal Plan. Today, the Holy Quran is being cited to deny President Zardari immunity from prosecution but the “ basic structure of the Constitution” is being cited to stop modern day Qazis ( judges) from being appointed or sacked by the Executive as in the days of Islamic yore.
Such hypocrisy and double standards in the name of religion cannot sustain, let alone nourish, modern nation- building.
The writer is Editor of The Friday Times
Source: Mail Today