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ISB 06-08-2012_Layout 1 8/6/2012 1:37 AM Page 10

10 Comment Dedicated to the legacy of the late Hameed Nizami

Arif Nizami

Time for tough questions Especially when little makes sense

Editor

Lahore – Ph: 042-36298305-10 Fax: 042-36298302 Karachi – Ph: 021-34330811-3 Fax: 021-34330900 Islamabad – Ph: 051-2287414-6 Fax: 051-2287417 Web: www.pakistantoday.com.pk Email: editorial@pakistantoday.com.pk

the art of the possible ...but only to a measure

W

e’re on the verge of a milestone in our country’s history. We’re about to have our first peaceful, constitutional transfer of power from one democratically elected government to the next. It is sad that this should happen more than six decades after the creation of the country but it is a milestone nonetheless. even “first world” South Korea could stake a claim to this only as recently as 1998. But what about the PML(Q) government’s term from 2002 to 2008? Surely that was a peaceful transition, barring some instances of violence in the ‘08 election process. True, but not many regard the elections of ‘02 to be fair. With the Punjab bureaucratic machinery running the League’s campaign, and with the spooks intimidating members of the other League to switch sides and even managing to eke out a dozen or so “patriots” from the PPP (tougher cookies any day of the week than the Leagues) it was clear the election was far from ideal. So what all plays out before the elections is of paramount importance if we are to have the semblance of a fair election. election day rigging can be called out. But the wide array weapons in the pre-poll rigging arsenal make countering the allegations a tough deal. Projection is reality. The elections must be seen to be fair. For that, the stakeholders must thrash out a consensus amongst themselves regarding a caretaker setup. As has been reported in this paper, something of the sort is underway between the PPP and the PML(N). The problem, however, is that an understanding between these two parties alone is going to spawn allegation of oligarchy, especially by out-ofparliament parties like the PTI. But then again, what is the moral argument for taking the PTI on board and not, say, the Swabi Qaumi Mahaz? Where does one stop? A consensus on these issues will be tougher to eke from within a large number of parties and easier (only relatively) from a smaller number. In this lies the trade-off. Practicality versus getting everyone (everyone) on board. Before making a call here, the major parties should realise that even if they do take the longer route, it would be next to impossible to keep everyone happy. Just imagine what the PPP and the ANP have to say about the MQM “sweep” of Karachi and parts of Hyderabad. Beyond a particular inclusive point, the main parties have to bite the bullet, bear the inevitable allegations of collusion, and place a system for the caretaker setup.

By Waqqas Mir

I

t has been quite a week. We have had news of cars running on water — and defamation law suits associated with it. Mr Hamid Mir is now at the centre of a controversy surrounding the laws of physics. Well, stranger things have happened I suppose. The not-so-strange thing is that the Supreme Court has struck down the new contempt legislation as unconstitutional. even though the electronic media did its best to make a big deal of the issue, everyone expected it. The law was flawed in multiple ways. If the purpose behind it was to solve something then it didn’t. If instead the purpose was to buy some time for the new PM? Well the jury is still out on that one. It will not be surprising if the government brings out a different version of the law. Obviously the jaanisars of the apex court will jump on the opportunity to file another petition. That means another case and some more time. This circus could go on. electronic media was also quick to attribute to the Supreme Court the view that the parliament had malafide intentions when passing the new law. The hype, however, soon died since the SCOPAK order does not engage in the detailed analysis of the motivations of the Parliamentarians that the media attributed to the court. Had the Supreme Court said any such thing it would have added fuel to the not-so-silent fire. Margalla Hills and surrounding areas can do without that for now. The electronic media also needs to realize that by focusing on the motivations of the legislators, it is opening a Pandora’s Box. Why does a legislator vote for a particular law? There could be a million reasons. Therefore a judgment by a court or

the media is at best as logical as sitting in front of a crystal ball while trying to explain what made Mr Amir Liaquat arrange his facial hair this way. My point is that you can’t get into people’s heads to decide what motivates them. I might vote for a law because I believe in it or I might vote for a law because I want to please the party chairperson, because I hate the opponents of the law, because I simply don’t care and the word “yes” just sounds more pleasant, because my mom said something, because my best friend loves the law or because I think saying yes now will help a law that I sponsor in the future. Is any of those reasons less valid than the other? How do you decide? If talk of motivations is fair game then the electronic media should have the stomach to accept that people will questions its motivations too. And if a court is willing to get into the motivations of the legislators then, of course, the legislators will question the court’s motivations. We all have them, right? So what do we achieve by debating for hours and hours on “why” you choose something. This society can use a little less of the “why”. A lawyer who was obsessed with why his sister chose to marry a man of her choice recently shot her in a courtroom in the Sindh High Court. The legal fraternity, quite ridiculously, called a strike to protest the contempt of court law but has never even worn black armbands to support the cause of women in this country. I am really confused about what counts as “an issue” in this country. Just come to the lower courts and see the contempt for the system being celebrated each day as lawyers pay off the staff for an “efficient” outcome. Working a corrupt system isn’t an issue and enactment of a law that was clearly going to be struck down is a reason for a holiday (aka strike). But what about the murder of a woman and silence over killings of so many women in this country? Little made sense this week—the car running on water included. Re-reading certain bits of Fukuyama’s latest book The Origins of Political Order depressed me even more. He speaks of tribal culture before a society develops into something more inclusive. But even before tribes he speaks of tied based on kinship and I wonder if that is as far as have we gotten as a society? I am not selling this as an empirical or research based finding of

course — just asking a question. Who your father is and who he knows, who your dada was and where you went for your high school in Lahore clearly matters to people a lot more than your intellect, professional competence or where you were trained. I don’t mind the hot days with no electricity — as long as I know that the work that I put in will bring some reward. But I wonder how many people in this society feel worthless as individuals because they can’t “impress” others with their high school or father’s name/connections? I am very fortunate that even though I did not go to an elite high school (I went to one in Sheikhupura), I can still sell myself as a professional. But it is heart-breaking to see people losing their self-esteem who, because of one reason or the other, didn’t come across the same opportunities that I did. At a medical store, I recently met a young man who was unemployed and had eyes that were empty of hope. He had trained as a pharmacist and couldn’t find a job. He felt betrayed by society thanks to nepotism. What does one tell such people to ensure they don’t lose hope and more importantly self-esteem? Can we blame someone for asking: why should I spend money on my education when the primary thing that defines me is whose son I am and who I know? And if you try to build a name for yourself only because you don’t want your kids to suffer, are you hurting the system or helping your children? And what should matter more? These and other questions, an awful lot of them, trouble me as they trouble many of you. Over the past 18 months or so I have used this space to raising some of those questions here and many of your comments/thoughts have provided the beginnings of promising answers. For that I am grateful to the readers, this paper as well as its ever helpful staff. I will not be writing for this publication as a regular columnist anymore but I am grateful for the opportunity. Let’s keep the conversation alive and let’s focus more on the difficult questions — that we can ask of ourselves and others — rather than easy answers. The writer is a Barrister and has a Masters degree from Harvard Law School. He can be reached at wmir.rma@gmail.com or on Twitter @wordoflaw

Call for an OiC Summit For the status quo or change?

PoliTact By Arif Ansar

S

audi Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal made a surprising and alarming announcement last week. He declared that King Abdullah has called for an emergency session of the Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC) in Mecca from August 14-15. Reportedly, the purpose of the meeting is to discuss critical issues facing the Islamic world. King Abdullah has summoned “an extraordinary Islamic solidarity meeting to ensure... unity during this delicate time as the Muslim world faces dangers of fragmentation and sedition,” Prince Faisal was quoted as saying by the Saudi Press Agency. Given the precarious situation of the Middle east, it certainly is a significant development. However, the news was not picked up and widely reported by the in-

monday, 6 August, 2012

ternational media. The question firstly is why was the conference summoned at this juncture, around the 27th of Ramadan, and secondly why was the news not considered important. This is only the fourth emergency meeting of OIC since its inception in 1969. The previous special summit was held in 2005 and was presented as a turning point in Islamic history. Its main thrust was to examine and promote the compatibility of Islam in modern times. It advocated political participation, equality and social justice for the masses of the Islamic world and called for studying the political, economic, cultural and scientific challenges. In preparation for the 2005 session, three panels were formulated. One of them studied the political and media issues, the other one looked at the economic, scientific and technological hurdles, while the third one reviewed the Islamic culture, thought and tradition. The panelists provided their astonishing findings in a report. The group on political and media issues noted that the Islamic concept of good governance is “compatible with democracy, equality, freedom, social justice, transparency, accountability, anticorruption and the respect for human rights”. The panel on Islamic culture was highly critical of people who have been passing irresponsible fatwas but are not qualified to do so. Clearly, the panelist failed to see the

distinction between theory and practice, or ‘Qol’ and ‘Fayl’. Moreover, the issue has never been about the compatibility of Islam. The astute and seasoned Saudi royal family, and other leaders that attended, clearly understood what was amiss; it’s the will that seems to be absent. In a couple of years after the 2005 summit, the lack of values such as equality, freedom, social justice, and human rights triggered the revolt on the Arab street. The upcoming 4th emergency meeting of OIC is likely to be another exercise in rhetoric. Talking to Saudi newspaper Okaz, President Zardari, who will be attending the special session, commented, “We hope the emergency summit will not only identify most critical issues facing the Ummah, but also suggest practical ways to address them.” However, there are many issues that can be considered a priority. According to Arab media, OIC’s Secretary-General, ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu, met with egyptian President Muhammad Mursi in Cairo on July 21st and discussed the agenda for Mecca Summit. Although not much was disclosed, it must have a lot to do with Syria, Iran and the escalating Shia-Sunni tensions. An invitation has been extended to Iran to attend the summit, which is presently being reviewed by it. Although, the country made clear that it wants Bahrain high on the list. The spokesman for the nations foreign ministry had re-

cently commented, “We will welcome any meeting that brings together Muslim countries and will actively participate in it. But the crises are obvious, and it is also clear which countries are taking interventionist measures. If such a meeting is supposed to be held, resolving the issue of Bahrain” should be on the top of the agenda. The Saudis and the Qataris are both playing with fire by supplying weapons to rebels in Syria with Turkish assistance and western backing. There is a great deal of worry that the tensions over Syria will escalate into a regional conflict, with NATO and GCC countries on the one side and Iran, Syria, Russia and China on the other. This has created an unprecedented situation where Muslim countries, including Pakistan, and others such as India, are being hard pressed to side with one or the other grouping. The emergency session will likely attempt to create unanimity of views against Iran. The emergency session is taking place when the Arab Spring has spread to many countries. Although other than Bahrain, the revolt has so far spared the Gulf countries. Nonetheless, the small riots have continued on and off in eastern Saudi Arabia, amongst the Shia population. Moreover, the activities of Al Qaeda in Yemen and Horn of Africa are progressively more alarming. This situation in the Arab world is not without precedent. Studying the causes of the fall of Ottoman empire,

historian Paul Kennedy reflected on the Shia-Sunni dynamics in his book The Rise and Fall of the Great Empires, “However, across the border the Shia kingdom of Persia under Abbas the Great was quite prepared to ally with european states against the Ottomans, just as France had worked with the ‘infidel’ Turks against the Holy Roman empire” (p.10). It seems the opposite is occurring now, where the Sunni’s are prepared to ally with West to handle the Iranian threat. Fearing each other, Shias and Sunnis have adopted extreme measures that have proven detrimental in the long run. Nonetheless, the present threatening outlook for Saudi Arabia and the Gulf countries is probably the reason behind the call for emergency session. Speaking at the December GCC Summit, King Abdullah while proposing a Gulf union had commented: “History and experience have taught us not to stop and watch the status quo as whoever follows such a behavior will find himself in the end of the queue facing loss and weakness….” Ironically, preserving the status quo is exactly what the special session may strive for. And, in this sense, it hardly represents a break from the past. The writer is the chief analyst for PoliTact (www.PoliTact.com and http:twitter.com/politact) and can be reached at aansar@politact.com

e-paper pakistantoday 06th august, 2012  

e-paper pakistantoday 06th august, 2012

e-paper pakistantoday 06th august, 2012  

e-paper pakistantoday 06th august, 2012

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