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Bonded Labour — Modern-Day Slavery In Pakistan: New Age Islam’s Selection From Pakistan Press, 3 October 2015

New Age Islam Edit Bureau

3 October 2015

 Bonded labour — modern-day slavery in Pakistan

By Mehvish Muneera Ismail

 Pakistan prefers peace

By Dr Ejaz Hussain

 The state of the world

By Ashraf Jehangir Qazi

 House of cards

By Irfan Husain

 Human rights for religio-politcal parties

By Qamer Jatoi

 The will of God

By D Asghar

Compiled By New Age Islam Edit Bureau


New Age Islam Edit Bureau

3 October 2015




Bonded labour — modern-day slavery in Pakistan

By Mehvish Muneera Ismail

October 2, 2015

We recently celebrated 69 years of freedom — and just as many years of slavery entrenched within our system. Prior to Brandon Stanton’s August 15 post on the Humans of New York Facebook page, sharing the plight of brick kiln workers in pictures worth a thousand words — or rather likes and comments — we have had many others who have endeavoured to remind us of the existence of slavery in Pakistan. One such reminder, preceding modern media, was in 1988, when bonded labourers working in the brick kiln industry wrote a telegram to the then chief justice of the Supreme Court. These labourers begged to be saved from exploitation at the hands of their de facto owners. Thus ensued Pakistan’s first public interest litigation case Darshan Mashih vs. State (1990). It concluded with the Supreme Court banning and pronouncing bonded labour as unconstitutional.

Subsequently, the Bonded Labour System (Abolition) Act, presented as a draft bill in 1989, became the law of the land three years later in March 1992, ending the “bonded labour system”. Pursuant to this law, anyone working as a bonded labourer was no longer under any obligation to repay any part of his or her bonded debt. This was, technically, not a law without teeth. It introduced a punishment, including the option of imprisonment, for anyone who enforced a bonded debt by forcing a debtor to work. It empowered district magistrates to enforce the law, investigate whether bonded labourers existed in their areas and to take action to guarantee their release and rehabilitation. It also provided for the establishment of vigilance committees in every district in the country. Such committees were to include “representatives of the district administration, bar associations, press, recognised social services and labour departments of the federal and provincial governments”. It took the government an additional three years to promulgate the rules required for effectively carrying out the purposes of this Act. Yet, the rules were far less comprehensive than envisaged and their publication was given no publicity. The ability of these to leave any mark, therefore, was quite another matter. Debtors were not made aware that they didn’t have to break their backs — quite literally — to pay off any old debts, magistrates were not informed of their responsibilities and members proposed to be a part of these vigilance committees were not cognisant of their roles.

For the past 20 years or so, the government has continued to slight its obligation to eradicate bonded labour, including its commitments under ILO Conventions No 29 and No 105. Reminders to act have been met either with platitudes of its commitment to abolish slavery, or absolute silence. Soon after the 1995 Rules, a 1996 report on debt bondage in Pakistan by Anti-Slavery International identified that our main issue revolved around the lack of the will of the government. In 1997, at the International Labour Conference, the government’s representative offered wretched figures to show the government’s supposed implementation of the new Act. This included an official conviction rate of nil, between the time of the Conference and the promulgation of the law, i.e., between 1992 and 1997 — a clear indication of how serious the government was to pursue those in breach of this law.

In 2013, statistics put Pakistan among the top positions in the “Slavery’s List of Shame”. And of its population of 185.13 million people in 2014, the Global Slavery Index Report estimated that more than one per cent of people in Pakistan are enslaved. This is a conservative figure. The same report cites debt bondage as our most favoured form of slavery, and the provinces of Punjab and Sindh as our “hotspots” of bonded labour. These beings without basic rights will likely be found in our brick kilns, carpet weaving and agriculture sectors. Dr Ghulam Haider, of Green Rural Development Organisation — an organisation that aims to free bonded labourers — is quoted as saying that over 2.3 million people are in bonded labour. The government has no current official statistics. It also does not have a plan on how to tackle this evil.

There have been some attempts, however. The most recent is the campaign for enrollment of the children of brick kiln workers into nearby schools, inaugurated by the Punjab Labour and Human Resource minister on August 26. The intention of the scheme is to enroll children of kiln workers, between the ages of four and 14, in schools by as early as October 31. The minister is reported to have said that district vigilance committees would monitor the scheme. One can only hope that these district vigilance committees, if they exist, are empowered, or are expeditiously formed; and that the 6,090 brick kilns that this exercise aims to monitor to gauge the sustainability of the scheme, are in actuality observed. It would also be a step in the right direction if this exercise prompts the government to calculate and publish statistics to show how many persons are actually suffering in bonded labour. However, one should bear in mind that shackled in bonded labour, it is likely that the majority of parents may have pledged their entire families, including their children, to their de facto ‘owners’. Will these ‘owners’, who are reported to punish labourers in private jails and are not prosecuted by local authorities, be swayed by the possibility of district vigilance committees doing their job? Surely, a policy discussion on how to effectively rescue the millions enslaved is a crucial part of the conversation on Naya vs. Purana Pakistan.

There also appear to be other recent attempts. At the end of May 2015, a policy dialogue was organised by the Society for the Protection of the Rights of the Child. The participants, including parliamentarians, government officials, trade unionists, police and civil society members, suggested amendments to the Bonded Labour Abolition Act 1992 — ranging from harsher punishments for de facto slave owners, to penalising police officers who refused to register cases. It culminated with suggestions that the proposed changes be made in the form of a bill to be tabled for approval before the Sindh Assembly. While these, and really any, efforts are laudable, for them to be effective, a framework to make them effective must be put in place. A more robust law is certainly desirable, however, while we wait and lobby for it, we must be cognisant of the existing law for bonded labour — one that was passed decades ago and is still not being enforced. If the government and its instruments are serious on the issue of tackling bonded labour, then they should start with enforcing the existing law. At the very least, this will send the right message and could serve as a deterrent.


Pakistan prefers peace

Dr Ejaz Hussain

October 03, 2015

Addressing the UN General Assembly (UNGA) on September 30, 2015, the Prime Minister (PM) of Pakistan, Mian Nawaz Sharif, preferred peace to warfare with the country’s archrival, India, in particular and Afghanistan in general. Having been humiliated and castigated by the national media after the Ufa summit that took place in Russia a few months ago, PM Sharif, this time around, did not let the opportunity go against him and his party, which nominally is in charge of foreign and other affairs.

The PM proposed the following four-point peace plan: (1) Pakistan and India formalise and respect the 2003 understanding for a complete ceasefire on the Line of Control (LoC) in Kashmir to be monitored by an expanded UN Military Observer Group in India and Pakistan (UNMOGIP), (2) Pakistan and India reaffirm that they will not resort to the use or the threat of use of force under any circumstances, a central element of the UN Charter, (3) steps be taken to demilitarise Kashmir and (4) agree to an unconditional mutual withdrawal from Siachen Glacier, the world’s highest battleground. Importantly, elaborating on the Kashmir dispute, the PM emphasised the need for consultations with Kashmiris, who are an integral part of the dispute, to evolve a peaceful solution. On the issue of terrorism, the PM said, “Wisdom dictates that our immediate neighbour (India) refrain from fomenting instability in Pakistan.”

The above are indeed bold suggestions though they have already been talked about. Unfortunately, however, India and Pakistan, despite scattered peace gestures and, at times, ventures, such as composite dialogue, the Delhi-Lahore Bus Service etc., failed to move in the direction of building on stated confidence building measures (CBMs). One would be surprised to note that after very war that India and Pakistan fought, the two states turned to the table and negotiated terms of peace. Even after the 1998 nuclear test, to avoid any nuclear escalation in the future, the two sides concluded what is now known as the Lahore Declaration. It is a pity, however, that after every declaration/agreement India and Pakistan entered into a peculiar state of conflict that in one context may take the shape of a border stand-off and, in another context, violation of ceasefire on the LoC and, recently, Working Boundary.

Interestingly, every time India and Pakistan have engaged in a military stand off, regional and international powers, after initial silence, take notice of the situation and urge the two states to deescalate and de-militarise. Indeed, the UN, on whose forum the Pakistani PM shared his country’s peace vision, came forth with measures to put an end to warfare between India and Pakistan. In this respect, it was the UNO that called upon India and Pakistan to stop fighting in Jammu and Kashmir in the wake of the 1947-1948 war. Moreover, the international body established a commission to monitor the sanctity of the then established Line of Ceasefire, which was termed the Line of Control under the terms of the Simla Accord. Disappointingly, however, the UN did not prefer to transfer the status of the Jammu and Kashmir issue to priority areas that require urgent conflict resolution measures — for example, the case in Afghanistan (2001) and Iqra (2003) where the UN hurriedly provided legal justification for military solution — but on the other hand, miserably failed to implement Security Council resolutions on Kashmir. In this respect, PM Nawaz Sharif pointed out that the Kashmir dispute remained unresolved, the UNSC resolutions remained unimplemented and three generations of Kashmiris had only seen broken promises and brutal oppression, with over 100,000 losing their lives in their struggle for self-determination. “This is the most persistent failure of the United Nations,” he argued.

The UN’s “persistent failure” has a wider context beyond South Asia. It failed, for example, to implement its resolutions on Palestine where the majority of the Palestinians are forced to live outside their homeland. And those who are still inside their claimed land have resorted to agitation politics and an armed struggle to make their cause heard internationally and legally. The same is the case with the Kashmiris whose right to self-determination is militarily and legislatively (Article 370) restricted by the Indian state.

In such a context where the UN has not been able to resolve the Jammu and Kashmir dispute (and where India and Pakistan lack mutual will and trust to talk peace), General cum President Pervez Musharraf (1999-2008) attempted to reach out to Delhi in order to settle the dispute for good. Various proposals such as the Chenab Formula were proposed, which sought essentially a bilateral solution to the problem.

My namesake teacher, Dr Ijaz Hussain, an expert in international law, commented in these pages in 2006: “Musharraf appears to be a man in a great hurry. He seems to believe that now is the time for a deal on Kashmir favourable to Pakistan, as India is destined to become a global player before long. He does not trust future generations or the forces of history to deliver a verdict favourable to Pakistan or Kashmiris. Under him, Pakistan also appears to suffer from some kind of ennui on Kashmir, as if the burden of struggle for the Kashmiris’ right of self-determination has been too exhausting to continue. Perhaps these factors explain Musharraf’s numerous gratuitous concessions to India, particularly on UN resolutions. They also seem to inspire his latest offer to surrender claim on Kashmir in return for large autonomy. In this backdrop, India deserves to be commended for conducting a relentless and ruthless campaign to bring Pakistan to its knees. The question is whether history will remember Musharraf conducting the Kargil misadventure twice.”

The foregoing marks the urgency and extraordinary nature of the conflict that somehow urged the top Pakistani military man to find an “out of the way” solution. Linked to it was the implicit assurance of non-interference through proxies inside Indian-held Jammu and Kashmir. According to some independent security experts, under Musharraf’s post-2002 stand off, the nature and scale of Pakistan-backed anti-India militancy saw an unprecedented reversal inside Indian-held Jammu and Kashmir. Apparently, the plan was not to attack each other to generate enough space among the Kashmiris and the two states to work out an ‘autonomous’ Jammu and Kashmir. The Sri Nagar-Muzafarabad Bus Service and intra-Kashmir trade were realised consequently.

However, realpolitik overcame such ventures and subsequent governments in Delhi and Islamabad remained unable to either implement the ongoing plan or find another way to resolve the impending issues. To add insult to injury, Modi sarkar started reversing whatever the preceding Congress and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) governments had concluded. It is unfortunate that the current Indian political and military leadership believes in a military solution to issues with Kashmiris and Pakistanis. India should be aware of the fact that the Pakistan state is equally capable of engaging its counterpart in a military stand off over or away from the LoC and Working Boundary. Hence, in my view, it is in the mutual interest of both India and Pakistan to deescalate and demilitarise as suggested by the Pakistani PM at the UN, and strive to a find a peaceful settlement of all outstanding issues, including Kashmir.

The writer is a political scientist by training and professor by profession. He is a DAAD fellow and the author of Military Agency, Politics and the State in Pakistan.


House of cards

Irfan Husain

October 03, 2015

IN Saudi Arabia, the punishment of crucifixion results in the victim’s decapitation, and the public display of his body. This is what the teenaged Ali Mohammed Al-Nimr has been condemned to.

His crime? He was arrested in 2012 at a pro-democracy demonstration, but under torture, young Ali was made to confess to being part of a plot to overthrow the government. Another young pro-democracy Saudi, Raif Badawi, is in prison for 10 years; his sentence includes 1,000 lashes, of which he has received 50.

And this is the country that has been elected to chair a committee of the United Nations Human Rights Council. No wonder so many states question the credibility of the UN’s human rights body. Israel openly rejects its reports because it can say, with some justification, that the Saudis have no right to lecture others on human rights.

As for international law, we have the appalling bombing campaign against Yemen being carried out by the kingdom and its Gulf allies over months. Thousands of unarmed civilians have been killed, including 130 members of a wedding party a few days ago. Schools, hospitals and market places have been indiscriminately targeted by incompetent pilots. And the ongoing blockade of the impoverished nation has put millions at risk of starvation. A shortage of lifesaving medicines is also causing untold misery.

The Saudis should accept the blame for the Haj tragedy.

Had a coalition of Western forces inflicted so much death and destruction in a Muslim country, believers from Indonesia to Tunisia would have been rioting and attacking the embassies of the ‘infidels’. And yet when the custodians of the holy sites slaughter fellow Muslims, there’s not a squeak from the ummah.

This is entirely in keeping with our tradition of maintaining a discreet silence over Muslim-on-Muslim killings, while accusing the West of targeting the Islamic world, and of Islamophobia in its treatment of Muslim migrants. And yet it is the West that has taken in hundreds of thousands of refugees fleeing the Syrian conflict. The Saudis have offered to build mosques (hallelujah!), but have not taken any refugees. Ditto the Gulf states.

Against this backdrop, the callous attitude displayed by Saudi officials and princelings about the hundreds of deaths at the recent Haj is easy to understand. One blamed the pilgrims for ‘indiscipline’, while another made racist comments about African hajis.

Considering the kingdom benefits to the extent of 7pc of its GDP from Haj and umrah, one would have expected a little sympathy, if not a better-managed pilgrimage. The truth is that when it comes to such needless deaths, the Saudis (and most other Muslims) tend to shrug their shoulders, look skywards and mumble: “It was the will of Allah.”

However, incompetence and stupidity can hardly be laid at the Maker’s door. After all, He gave us brains to think with, so surely Saudi Arabia should accept the blame for its mistakes that cause so many deaths over Haj. The toll this year has been worse than usual, but is hardly abnormal.

But slowly, the chickens are coming home to roost. As oil prices refuse to rise above $50 per barrel, the House of Saud is feeling the pinch. Given the vast subsidies the ruling family hands out to keep the population quiet, as well as the mounting cost of the Yemen misadventure, oil needs to be around $107 per barrel for the kingdom to balance its books.

With thousands of royal relatives, the squeeze is getting real. Already, the Saudis are drawing down on some of their vast overseas holdings. How much longer they can live with low oil prices remains to be seen.

Meanwhile, dissent is simmering in the ranks. Quoting a letter circulated by an unnamed prince, the Guardian reports that there is talk of regime change, with important members of the royal family wanting King Salman and his son Mohammed bin Salman to be ousted.

But while such rumbling indicates dissatisfaction with the aggressive policies being followed by the present king and his son, these royals only call for the replacement of one Saud by another. There is no hint here of any democratic transformation of a backward, autocratic society.

More and more, though, the world sees through the pious mask worn by the ruling aristocracy. Its recourse to an extreme ideology to appease its clergy, and its export of a violent version of Islam, has destabilised much of the Muslim world. The sectarian violence we see in Iraq and Syria is largely due to the takfiri philosophy used by extremists to justify their mindless cruelty.

Thus far, Saudi Arabia has relied on its vast oil reserves to buy Western support. However, as the nuclear deal with Iran showed us, the Saudis are no longer indispensable. Cheap oil and gas have eroded Saudi clout. Surely the day of reckoning is coming. For me, it couldn’t be soon enough.


The state of the world

Ashraf Jehangir Qazi

October 03, 2015

IN the space available one can only use broad and selective brushstrokes. The world is challenged by climate change; nuclear weapons; autonomous artificial intelligence; population pressures; scarcities and uncertain access to essential resources; zero-sum ideologies and strategies; state and non-state terror including the use of drones, injustice and denial of basic human rights without prospect of redress; and the general lack of political ‘wisdom’ ie the ability to combine intelligent analyses with moral courage for humanitarian and just outcomes.

Today’s world does not suggest these challenges will be met. If they are not radically alleviated they will radically worsen. The wisdom of individuals needs to be translated into the wisdom of institutions, organisations and societies. This is a massive undertaking. It is also a survival imperative. Without a globally operational moral vision, technology developments and applications will eventually threaten human life on earth.

This realisation should provide a globally shared framework for policymaking including conflict management and resolution. This has never been as urgent as it is today. Political ‘leaders’ who refuse to act on this imperative because of a lack of education, courage and probity are unacceptable national liabilities in today’s world. The costs of their acts of commission and omission are ultimately fatal for their countries.

International polls indicate the United States is widely viewed as the major security threat to humanity. Its policies since the collapse of the USSR, and especially since 9/11, have resulted in the destruction of several Muslim countries and in traumatising Muslim society. The US-led war on terror has elicited and exacerbated pathological militant responses that threaten global civilisation. US support for puppet and corrupt autocrats has made it a major challenge to global “democracy development”. The anti-Muslim sentiment proudly displayed by many of its presidential candidates shows how politically regressive it has become. Pakistan is ranked not much behind the US as a security threat.

In Pakistan, extractive elites survive on diverting attention away from root causes of social injustice.

In East Asia and the western Pacific the US and its allies seek to contain an emerging China. It has encouraged Japan to reinterpret Article 9 of its pacifist constitution — the one gift from America to Japan worth preserving. As the only people to have been ‘nuked’ the Japanese set an ideal for humanity to strive towards. Unfortunately, this first step towards a more militarist Japan could eventually lead it to independently develop a nuclear deterrent capability.

What will this entail for US-China relations and the future peace of Asia? China has made clear to the US it must choose whom it wants as its main strategic partner for peace in East Asia: an assertive Japan that in conjunction with other countries seeks to contain China, or a China that espouses an Asian collective security system and a global partnership with the US that eschews regional and global hegemony? China may itself need to assure a number of regional countries, including Japan, about its longer-term aims. But to try to strategically confine China within its coastal waters risks becoming a casus belli.

The Mediterranean has become a ‘Muslim cemetery’. The US and its Nato allies have destroyed the countries from where millions of Muslims have been displaced and are seeking to escape political and economic terror. This unspeakable tragedy has been largely spawned by the Western military-media-corporate-government complex, or the ‘Masters of the Universe’ ie the globally ruling 0.1pc. They seek ‘full-spectrum dominance’ to preserve a global status quo that effectively excludes the vast majority of mankind from any prospect of living less wretched lives.

This is a war against humanity ‘hidden in plain sight’. No peace can be built on such wretched foundations. No momentum towards addressing global challenges can develop through a strategy of exclusion and hegemony. The US, nevertheless, could yet be the ‘world’s best hope’ — to catalyse not lead — a global movement towards overcoming these challenges. If its political reality can begin to resemble its self-image it could, indeed, help change the global prospect for the better. Today, however, this remains a forlorn hope.

As for Europe, it combines enormous achievement with conveniently low political self-esteem. There seems to be no US strategic folly with which it will not eventually concur. It is a major ‘deadbeat’ neighbour of the Middle East. Its dazzling intellectual traditions have grown barren as it betrays its enlightenment values. If the European Project falters it will be due to its own insipidity. Hopefully, the desperate migrants may yet jolt Europe into more active global responsibility. Otherwise, the future failure of the West may lie more in Europe than in the US.

The developing world, as the likely first victims of neglecting global challenges, can no longer cite their relative impotence for not seeking to demonstrate global possibilities on a national and regional scale. Their perennial conflicts and cynical manipulations of traditional faith are enduring betrayals of their peoples. Their elitist and self-serving national narratives exclude any pretence of honesty and are, accordingly, sterile with regard to tackling impending disasters. BRICS and Corridors are hopeful developments. But they are not well integrated into national policies. They are taken as opportunities, not commitments. Accordingly, they generally fail to become transformational multipliers for national and regional development.

In Pakistan, extractive elites survive on diverting attention away from root causes of social injustice and violence as well as policies that have unfailingly led to national humiliation and isolation. Our political system co-opts every pretender and dooms every decent national prospect. It provides an ideal setting for charlatans and mountebanks. Meaningless statements of resolve and half-measures are counted as achievements. The system as it functions is profoundly unconstitutional and anti-Pakistan. It has to be thoroughly restructured and reoriented before it can begin to address domestic, regional and global challenges. But those who might help bring about rapid and radical change do no such thing.

There is a fashionable but lazy intellectual tendency to resign oneself to a national fate our rulers have determined. Sadly, a passive people will endure without virtue.

The writer is a former ambassador to the US, India and China and head of UN missions in Iraq and Sudan.


Human rights for religio-politcal parties

Qamer Jatoi

October 03, 2015

“Human rights are praised more than ever and violated as much as ever.” These words by Anna Lindh (a Swedish politician) exactly illustrate the gruesome situation of human rights in Pakistan. Although Pakistan has made headway in the protection of human rights it still suffers terrible violence against women, discrimination against minorities, forced disappearances, sectarian violence, targeted killings, gross violations of children’s rights and slavery for bonded labourers. Although people are more aware than ever, the statistics on violations of human rights have been awful and deplorable in the last few years. Literally, the country has become a very difficult place to live in for women, minorities (ethnic and religious) and journalists.

The religious political parties’ human rights approach is nothing short of hypocrisy. It only fits their political interests and agenda for gaining public sympathy from selected human rights issues. Ironically, religious parties like the Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) that have for years supported laws like the Hudood Ordinance (the Hudood Ordinance was promulgated in 1979 by the military regime of General Ziaul Haq. In it laws pertaining to sexual offence and new punishments of whipping, amputation and stoning to death were included), have now become the ‘upholders’ of ‘women’s rights’. But wait, not all women are on the human rights’ agenda of the JI except Aafia Siddqui. Hardly any religious party raises concerns over the every day humiliation of Pakistani women who face severe torture, abuse and rape. Likewise, religious parties try to remain quiet over the persecution of minorities; one can hardly see any condemnation against the kidnappings of innocent Hindu girls, forced conversions, mob killings and deadly attacks on Shia, Christian, Ahmedi and Hazara communities in Pakistan. In addition, all leading religious parties are in consensus that persons like Osama bin Laden and Hakimullah Mehsud were martyrs; even JI Chief Munwar Hussain went to the extent of saying that Pakistani army soldiers fighting against the Taliban militancy, could not be declared martyrs if they fought against the Taliban.

Religious political parties were key in legalising human rights violations by formulating, recommending and supporting discriminatory laws. Most of these laws are seen as divine revelations to punish people, for example, the Hudood (limits) Ordinance, the qisas (retribution) and diyat (blood money) laws, the Blasphemy Law and the anti-Ahmedi legislation. These discriminatory laws have a profound effect on human rights violations in Pakistan. Even the government with two-thirds majority was unable to repeal or amend these discriminatory laws due to fear of religious parties and groups, which is indeed a gruesome act that shows the attitude of religious parties and weakness of democratic governments.

It does not matter who is in power; religious parties always object to human rights’ legislation and have always used religion and culture to skew the debate and opinion against change. When the government shows the intention to amend or repeal these discriminatory laws, religious political parties either threaten to boycott parliament or start countrywide violent protests. For instance, in 2010, the Senate unanimously passed The Protection Against Harassment of Women at the Workplace Bill and religious parties came out with strong criticism saying that it was un-Islamic. In another case, the MPs of religious parties threatened to resign from parliament if the government amended or repealed the Women Protection Act or The Blasphemy Law.

When the government decided to start a crackdown against terrorists involved in the Army Public School (APS) massacre, frontline religious parties, the JUI-F and JI, on one hand condemned the barbaric attack on children but on other hand warned the government that targeting religious seminaries would have “dire consequences”. Furthermore, when the current PML-N government presented the 21st Constitutional Amendment Bill 2015 and the Pakistan Army Act 1952 (Amendment) Bill 2015 in parliament to counter militancy, only religious parties came out with criticism. According to the Ahle Hadith (religious political party, which is an ally of the ruling PML-N), “The government did a grave injustice to religious quarters and literally deceived them by defining terrorism with religion or sect only.” It is quite evident that human rights are just part of a paper agenda for the religious parties, which is in fact against the basic ideals of democracy.

According to a collaborative study by South Asia Partnership, the National Assembly spent only 15 hours during all the assembly sessions of 322 working hours discussing minorities’ issues as a whole. This does not only prove that the legislators did not have much time to discuss the everyday persecution of minorities, it also shows that exclusionary democracy is being promoted in the Senate. Being a part of the democratic system, religious political parties are equally responsible for the plight of human rights. In fact, they are more responsible because major violations recorded against minorities, women, sects and blasphemy accused show that religious parties have more influence. They need to play a better role than mainstream secular political parties.

The writer is a DAAD graduate scholar and is currently pursuing a master’s degree in Development Management in Germany


The will of God

 D Asghar

October 03, 2015

No one knows what God’s will is. Everyone speculates and opines based on their convictions, belief systems and hearsay. Would God want to send an invitation to the millions to His house? Make those millions come to his House with utmost sincerity and the purity in their hearts. Then would the same God, the ultimate in mercy, order a crane to malfunction and take the lives of his beloved pilgrims? Would the same God turn around and make the pilgrims brake barriers in Mina and cause a stampede, leaving over 700 helpless people dead and many missing, which in itself is perplexing? How could people in a wide-open area go missing without a trace? Only the Almighty God knows.

If it is His will, then we mortals have to accept and accept it without a single word on our lips. Even my close friends, who have been fortunate enough to the visit the holy place a few times, were adamant that this was a blessing from the Almighty who took certain special people away in their sacred uniform to the highs of holy heaven. Many of the pilgrims must have asked in their prayers to meet the angel of death at that holy place. I smile at such blanket statements because those statements are coming from the emotional side of the heart and not from the rational side of the brain. To top it all off, my sincerely tuned friends give the royals a huge pat on the back by highlighting their generosity. Without a single claim from any greedy lawyer, supposedly the royal government has offered a sizeable compensation to every victim. I smile again at such sweeping statements, as what if one wants to file a claim at the venue? Can he or she do so and with who? Which law of the land will find who responsible? If it was the will of the Almighty then why is the government making that concession? Or, for that matter, my dear friend, have you seen any next of kin of those poor victims giving you a nod that, yes, they are holding that hefty and heavy check in their hand, which will give them solace and comfort for the rest of their lives?

Agreed, most people heading over to the holy place must have prayed to the Almighty for a better end, an end that takes them straight to glorious heaven. But does that mean that all of the people were in chorus praying for a similar ending, to be either crushed by a crane or by the weight of other pilgrims? That is the real question. The operative word here is ‘all’. Do you honestly think that every single person wished for such a painful end? I very humbly and respectfully disagree. These are our wild interpretations that we spin to be more devout.

The flip side of the argument is that there was negligence somewhere. That negligence cannot be sugar coated as the will of God. A close friend of mine even quoted the imam of the holy mosque, who rapidly absolved the Saudi government from any culpability. I respectfully asked a very simple question: whom does he work for? That was a painful question. By the way, no one is suggesting that the royal government has any involvement in these horrible tragedies but investigations and that too independent investigations into both these horrific incidents are paramount. The operative word here is independent.

The thrust of the argument is that human negligence is fatal. If I push the pedal of my car to the maximum and, God forbid cause deadly harm to another human being, I cannot attribute it to the will of God. Similarly, if I enter the wrong side of the freeway or highway and kill myself and others I cannot give credit to the Almighty for my reckless disregard for the basic rules of traffic.

People often mix devotion and human negligence. This is utterly fatal because, if the victims are guaranteed a ticket to heaven, this sets a dangerous precedent for those seeking that final destination at any cost. The fact of the matter is that one cannot expect a thorough and independent investigation in such a controlled society. One has to ask a very basic question: where can the allegedly missing go missing? Of course, there are many arguments that can stem from that painful question.

The idea behind any investigation after any fatal mishap is to determine the actual cause. The root cause leads to a possible preventive measure, which can be implemented to avoid such a tragedy from reoccuring in the foreseeable future. We tend to shy away from such things as this in our poor brain’s chambers is processed as blasphemous and questioning the will of God. The brain is what differentiates us from other creatures made by the Almighty but only if we know how to use it.

The writer is a Pakistani-US mortgage banker. He blogs at and can be reached at He tweets at