We Have Your Words – 1

lahoreagainsttaliban-irfanmufti

Lahore, January 16, 2015. Photo from Irfan Mufti

Since we published our first installment of ‘We have your Words‘ last week containing the first 30 comments on the Secular Pakistan Petition, there were strong demonstrations of solidarity by Pakistanis around the World with Peshawar, Charlie Hebdo, and against all religious/sectarian violence. The slogans such as ‘Pakistan Against Terrorism’, ‘Lahore Against Taliban’ and ‘Silence is Criminal’ were raised. Many of us stood against the establishment of Military Courts in Pakistan as not being a solution to the fight against Taliban. We know, the causes lie elsewhere.

Here, your words tell us why. View the next 32 comments on the Petition for a Secular Pakistan.

Talat Afroze
TORONTO, CANADA
29 days ago
‘After several generations of Pakistan’s citizens having suffered from Obscurantism, it is high time that the State stops dictating what religious beliefs Pakistani citizens should nurture ! Leave every Pakistani’s religion alone and give us good governance instead!’

Feroze Jamall
KARACHI, PAKISTAN
29 days ago
‘The only way forward…’

Anita Kanitz
STUTTGART, GERMANY
29 days ago
“A small change can make a big difference. You are the only one who can make our world a better place to inhabit. So, don’t be afraid to take a stand.” ― Ankita Singhal

Husnain Baig
LAHORE, PAKISTAN
29 days ago
‘enough is enough’

Kamran Noorani
KARACHI, PAKISTAN
29 days ago
‘I truly believe this is THE solution’

Babar Ayaz
KARACHI, PAKISTAN
29 days ago
‘Because I strongly believe Pakistan has to be re-imagined as a Secular Democratic Republic to treat its genetic defect’

Sanjar Mirza
KARACHI, PAKISTAN
29 days ago
‘God created all human beings equal. HE did not create them Muslims, Hindus, Christians. Children adopt the religion of their parents. Islam taught us tolerence, peace and not genocide and murder’

Aref Deen
HYDERABAD, INDIA
29 days ago
‘It’s time to do it.’

Masood K NEEDHAM
MA
29 days ago
‘I believe that a secular state will give full religious rights to all persons of whatever faith or Aqenda they may have. In fact public life is not supposed to interfere in another persons faith which remains a matter of his personal choice and the choice of his co-religionists, as long they are not forcing this choice on others and as long as the State protects this right of religious freedom.’

Anwer Jafri
KARACHI, PAKISTAN
29 days ago
‘Hi! I just signed the petition “The Government, The Judiciary and the Army of Pakistan: Separate Religion from State, Declare Pakistan to be a Secular Democracy” on Change.org.
‘It’s important. Will you sign it too? Here’s the link:
Change.org
‘Thanks! Anwer’

Aaryan Ramzan
KARACHI, PAKISTAN
29 days ago
‘Name a successful theocratic state? Name any successful state which is not secular? Enough! Looking at the results and wanting more of the same is simply insanity.’

Faiza Khan
ISLAMABAD, PAKISTAN
29 days ago
‘I support the idea that all citizens of Pakistan be treated equally.’

Wendell Rodricks
COLVALE GOA, INDIA
29 days ago
‘We want our neighbours to have peace and no religious terror’

Tariq Mahmood
LAHORE, PAKISTAN
29 days ago
‘I honestly believe this is the only way to start solving our problems’

Naushervan Beg
KARACHI, PAKISTAN
29 days ago
‘To save my country’

Salman Kham
MISSISSAUGA, CANADA
29 days ago
‘I’m signing becaus that’s the only way to save Pakistan from perpetual destruction.’

Kausar Bashir
BUENA PARK, CA
29 days ago
‘to declare pakistan a secular state and the word Islamic republic be removed from constitution.’

Abdulrahman Rafiq
KARACHI, PAKISTAN
29 days ago
‘This is the only way forward. As a nation Pakistan must reacquaint itself with Jinnah Sahab’s vision.’

Sasha Ali
LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM
29 days ago
‘I believe in the supermacy of human rights and rational thinking.’

Adnan Shah
KARACHI, PAKISTAN
29 days ago
‘State Religion is the root cause of Patronizing, Promotion, Preach & Practice of “Religionization/ Talibanization” mindset in state as well as non state organizations. in other words “Division, Conflict & discrimination based on religious identity is the logical outcome of state religion.” So Separate Religion from state. No To State Religion’

Farhana Shakir
DUBLIN, IRELAND
29 days ago
‘We want diversity, we want peace for everyone regardless of any religon, faith or NO faith.’

Bilal Farooqi
KARACHI, PAKISTAN
29 days ago
‘Separation of religion from the State is not only essential for Pakistan’s progress, but for its very existence!’

Arjumand Rahim
KARACHI, PAKISTAN
29 days ago
‘I dream to live in a secular Pakistan that respects and protects every Pakistani irrespective of caste or creed. We are all equal human beings.’

Sheema Kermani
KARACHI, PAKISTAN
29 days ago
‘I think the only way forward for Pakistan is this!’

Wajahat Masood
LAHORE, PAKISTAN
29 days ago
‘I believe that a nation state can only be a secular state.’

Shafi Edwardian
PESHAWAR, PAKISTAN
29 days ago
‘It’s high time we separated religion from the state as was done in Europe lately. But better be late than never.’

Noreen Zehra
KARACHI, PAKISTAN
29 days ago
‘Nobody’s business (religion) is my business!’

G. M. Lakho
KARACHI, PAKISTAN
29 days ago
‘”Separate Religion from State!” Yes, but the point is how? The “Secular Pakistan” must come up with clear words by saying “NO TO THE STATE RELIGION” of Pakistan. It must demand repeal of the State Religion from the Constitution of Pakistan. What is the “root cause” of Peshawar tragedy? Our Pak (mis)-rulers have no answer of this question or they have the answer but do not like to share it with public. The Pak Media is not in a mood to discuss the “root cause”. Yet, they are saying parrot-like non-stop that anyone who is not ready to condemn Peshawar tragedy is mentally sick or ally of enemy but “we can’t ignore the root cause of this tragedy”. Thank you for admitting that you can’t ignore the “root cause” of this tragedy. But it is not enough. You should do more. Stop raising dust in the air. The demand of your good faith is to identify this “root cause”. The demand of your honesty is call the “root cause” with its correct name. You must admit in clear words free from the fetters of ifs and buts that the “root cause” of this tragedy is rooted in the Article 2 of the Constitution of Pakistan and that its name is “State Religion”. If you are sincere in saying that you can’t ignore the “root cause” of this tragedy; then, please take first step and “root” it out from paper, i.e., erase State Religion from the Pak Constitution. How much common sense do you need for saying that the “root cause” of Peshawar tragedy is the State Religion of Pakistan? Just imagine a moment when all good and honest citizens will start to walk on roads with this badge: “SAY NO TO STATE RELIGION”.’ (Earlier published as ‘But the point is how?’ By Ghulam Mustafa Lakho)

Tanvir Khan
NEEDHAM, UNITED STATES
29 days ago
‘This is what I believe.’

Samina Geti
KARACHI, PAKISTAN
29 days ago
‘There is no religion of state.’

Abdul Hameed Nayyar
LAHORE, PAKISTAN
29 days ago
‘I believe the quest for establishing a religious state in Pakistan has hurt it immensely, and the salvation of the society lies in a secular set up.’

Naveed Butt
LAHORE, PAKISTAN
29 days ago
‘I signed the petition, however there was no reason to address Judiciary and Army. These institutions do not have any role in policy making (or maybe should not have, in Pakistan’s case)’

Thank you.

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‘Deliberate distortion of the reality lived by Muslim women’ by Haroon Siddiqui

By:  Columnist, The Star. 

The two most cited reasons in support of Quebec’s anti-niqab bill are that the veil is an imposed oppression since no woman would ever voluntarily wear it and, second, that the province’s proposal to deny public services to niqabi women is far less punitive than the strictures imposed on non-Muslims in some Muslim countries.

The first proposition is conjecture. The second is misguided moral equivalency.

We can’t, and don’t, run Canada by the rules of theocracies. Ours is a secular democracy, in which all citizens are equal and must be treated as such – not as a favour to them but as a duty to our Constitution.

This is so obvious a point as to be moot. But it is not with those who argue, quite seriously, that since Iran discriminates against Baha’is and Jews, and Saudi Arabia does not allow non-Muslims to even hold public religious services, Canadian Muslims shouldn’t complain if their rights are trampled.

Controversies are the lifeblood of democracy but they also provide insights into public prejudices.

It is commonly assumed that Muslim women the world over are oppressed, so they must be in Canada as well. Even intelligent people, including some academics, routinely parrot that line, with zero proof.

Muslim women are oppressed all right. But are they any more so than others?

Take violence against women. Studies show that the phenomenon cuts across class, race, culture and religion. A World Health Organization survey found violence against women by spouses/partners to be “a common experience worldwide.” In Europe, “domestic violence is the major cause of death and disability for women aged 16 to 44, and accounts for more death and ill-health than cancer or traffic accidents,” according to Amnesty International. A quarter of American women are physically or sexually assaulted by a partner or a date, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Take women in leadership roles. The three most populous Muslim nations – Indonesia, Pakistan and Bangladesh – have had women leaders. So has Turkey. Pakistan’s Benazir Bhutto and Bangladesh’s Sheikh Hasina and Khaleda Zia served two terms each. Compare that to Kim Campbell, who was prime minister for 4 1/2 months.

In Pakistan’s National Assembly, 76 of 342 members are women – 22.2 per cent, compared with Canada’s 22.1 per cent in the Commons. Counting all elected women at the federal, provincial and municipal level, Pakistan ranks well ahead of Canada, according to the Inter-Parliamentary Union.

Take post-secondary education. Several Muslim nations, including Iran and Saudi Arabia, are showing the same trend as in the West, where a majority of students are women.

Contrast all this to the relentlessly negative portrayal of Muslim women in our popular culture. And when this image is grafted onto Muslim women in the West, the picture gets further distorted.

A Gallup survey shows that Muslim American women are among the most highly educated female religious groups, second only to Jewish American women. They are more likely than American Muslim men to have college and postgraduate degrees and to earn as much. “As a group, Muslim Americans have the highest degree of economic gender parity at the high and low ends of the spectrum.”

I can’t find comparable figures for Canada but there is little reason to think it is much different.

A separate Gallup poll shows majorities of Muslim women around the world believe that women should have the same legal rights as men. They may not equate the bikini with liberation but their aspirations are not much different than those of women elsewhere. This is even more so for Muslim women living in the West.

Also, the general values of Muslims living in Europe and North America, both men and women, are the same as those of other citizens.

None of this is to deny the many horrors inflicted daily on Muslim women or that some Canadian women may be forced to wear a veil. It is only to say that the opposite assumption – that all or nearly all are oppressed – is stupid and dishonest.

As Pankaj Mishra, noted Indian essayist and novelist and a Hindu familiar with the plight of women of all faiths, writes:

“Almost every day, the media berate Islam, often couching their prejudice in the highly moral language of women’s rights: It is not due to oversight that Indian women murdered for failing to bring sufficient dowry, a staggering 6,787 in 2005 (and since reported at 8,093 in 2007), occupy a fraction of the print acreage devoted to the tiny minority of veiled women.”

Haroon Siddiqui is the Star’s editorial page editor emeritus. His column appears Thursday and Sunday.

hsiddiqui@thestar.ca

Originally Published at The Star.Com on Thu Apr 08 2010.

NEWS BREAK, Anne Patterson Blocks Shireen Mazari

U.S. Ambassador Forces Newspaper to Censor Known U.S. Critic in Pakistan

By Ahmed Quraishi

Finally, the Americans take their revenge. Dr. Mazari single-handedly threw cold water on Washington’s plan last year to send a rabidly anti-Pakistani US army general as defense attaché to Islamabad. The Pakistani government quietly accepted the appointment. But Dr. Mazari broke the story and aborted the plan. When the new pro-US elected government seized power, Mr. Zardari’s special assistant Husain Haqqani’s first order of business was to fire Dr. Mazari from her official post. And now the US ambassador succeeds in blocking her column. Welcome to the Banana Republic of Pakistan where soon US ambassadors will have the right appoint presidents and prime ministers. Some say they already do.

United States Ambassador Anne W. Patterson intervened with one of the largest newspaper groups in Pakistan to force it to block today a decade-old weekly column by a prominent academic and critic of US policies.

Dr. Shireen Mazari, the former director of the Islamabad Institute of Strategic Studies and a mordant critic of US blunders in Pakistan and the region, was stunned when her column failed to appear in today’s edition of the newspaper. This happened after the US ambassador sent a ‘private’ letter to the management of The News International, one of the largest English-language dailies of Pakistan.

This is a new high for American influence inside Pakistan.

Never before did a US ambassador manage to force such a change in a newspaper’s policy. For those who are new to Pakistan, this is equivalent to having Maureen Dowd or Tom Friedman’s column knocked off the pages of the New York Times because Dick Cheney does not like their criticism.

Unlike Ms. Patterson in Pakistan, her colleague in London, ambassador Louis Susman, could never dream of achieving a similar feat by, say, convincing The Times of London to block a column by David Aaronovitch. Or the US ambassador in Moscow, John Beylre, Jr., who could never even think of forcing Komsomolskaya Pravda to do anything remotely similar. They have Vladimir Putin in Russian who knows how to protect his country’s interest.

Only in Pakistan, where American meddling has reached alarming proportions and risks turning this second largest Muslim country and the world’s seventh declared nuclear-armed nation into another version of Latin America’s banana republics where Washington has been known to change governments at will.

The US achieved a feat last year when it forced the country’s military establishment under a weak and insecure Pervez Musharraf to strike a ‘deal’ to forgive the questionable illegal wealth and other criminal cases against several Pakistani political figures in order to help them come to power in exchange for supporting US policies in Pakistan.

Another major break for Washington is Pakistan’s acquiescence in the construction in Islamabad of what will soon become the largest US embassy in the world. Recently, members of privately armed US militias have been spotted in Islamabad, in some cases roughing up Pakistani citizens, without Pakistani government daring to take action.

But blocking Dr. Mazari’s column is a new high for American influence in Pakistani affairs.

She especially earned the ire of the Americans last year when she single handedly threw cold water on US plans to post a notoriously anti-Pakistan US army general to Islamabad. It was March 2008 when the new pro-US government in Islamabad allowed Washington to post Major General Jay W. Hood as the Chief, Office of the Defence Representative in Islamabad.

But Dr. Mazari broke the news of the appointment through her column, creating an uproar and forcing the Pakistani government to reject the appointment.

Dr. Mazari held a press conference today at the Islamabad head office of Pakistan Justice Movement, or PTI, a political party headed by cricket star Imran Khan where she is a senior official handling foreign policy issues.

Ambassador Anne Patterson is reported to have sent a letter to the management of the newspaper protesting at Dr. Mazari’s writings, especially on the question of the presence of Blackwater and other private American militias on Pakistani soil. Interestingly, Ms. Patterson said she did not want to see her letter published in the newspaper and insisted it be kept private. It is also not clear if Ms. Patterson actually threatened legal action or other form of protest or pressure if the newspaper continued to publish Dr. Mazari’s columns.

The newspaper editorial team is said to be ready to publish the blocked column later, possibly with some editing. Frankly, no one can blame a newspaper for protecting its interest when the very government of Pakistan seems incapable of protecting the national interest. Had Pakistan had a truly nationalistic government in Islamabad, one that inspired confidence, I can imagine that any newspaper would have politely deflected undue pressure from a foreign diplomat.

But the very fact that the column failed to run marks a victory for the US embassy and a fresh sign of the growing US influence and meddling in Pakistan’s internal matters.

It is not clear if Ms. Patterson sought the permission of the Pakistan Foreign Office before directly contacting a Pakistani newspaper to exert pressure.

This is the fourth attempt by the US Embassy to silence Dr. Mazari, whose incisive political commentary based on her close brush with power corridors in Islamabad over the years has given the Americans and the Brits a constant headache. Her columns are fodder for those who advocate a more nationalistic and Pakistan-centric approach in dealing with Washington instead of the current approach where the United States is reaping strategic benefits at the expense of Pakistan’s interests and stability.

In 2006, the US ambassador at the time, Ryan Crocker, is reported to have warned Pakistan’s foreign secretary Mr. Riaz Khokar, that he will consider Dr. Mazari’s writings to be reflective of official Pakistani thinking because Dr. Mazari was heading a think tank financed by the Foreign Office. The US diplomat demanded Dr. Mazari, according to her, be removed from office or told to stop criticizing US policies.

The foreign secretary resisted the pressure and Dr. Mazari continued her policy discourse. The interesting thing is that the first order of business for the present pro-US government in Islamabad after seizing power last year was to fire Dr. Mazari.

Her ousting was engineered by Mr. Husain Haqqani, Pakistan’s ambassador to Washington who is widely known in Pakistan as a staunch American apologist. Many jokingly call him ‘America’s ambassador to the Pakistani embassy in Washington.’ So it was no surprise that Dr. Mazari was fired as soon Mr. Haqqani’s government came to power.

I personally faced a similar situation when a US diplomat telephoned me in November 2007 to accuse me of spreading anti-Americanism on the state-run PTV. My crime was to start a series of talk shows discussing how our ally the US turned Afghanistan into a hub for anti-Pakistan forces in the region. The US diplomat, used a cheap trick to intimidate me when she asked, ‘Does Musharraf know what you’re doing?’

My answer was, ‘Does President Bush know when US media frequently runs anti-Pakistan articles?’

Dr. Mazari is not disheartened by this episode. ‘They might have knocked me off this time,’ she told me today after her press conference, ‘but the last round will be mine. The Americans can’t gag me in my own country.’ And that is exactly what the newspaper, The News International, has assured her of.

Pakistan Daily

Judge humiliates teenage rape suvivor in open court

Posted by: “Taimur Rahman” 175286@soas.ac.uk redpak2000
Sat Mar 28, 2009 4:05 am (PDT)

The attitude of a Pakistani judge toward a teenage gang rape victim
has caused widespread outrage, throwing the training of the country’s
judicial figures into question. On March 25, 2008, additional
district and sessions judge Nizar Ali Khawaja conducted the trial of
four men who allegedly gang-raped 13-year-old Ms Kainat Soomro in
2007, over a three day period in Dadu district, Sindh. The girl, who
was expecting an in-camera trial (one in the judge’s private
chambers), was asked by the judge to describe and even demonstrate
her rape in detail in front of the accused, Mr Shahban Sheikh, Mr
Sheikh Ehsan, Mr Roshan Aleem and Mr Kaleemullah, all influential men
who have all allegedly threatened and bribed Somroo’s family to
settle out of court. About a hundred spectators were also present,
according to court journalists. “The room was jam-packed, people
crowding at the back because everyone knew it was a rape case.” noted
a reporter from TheNews International.

Although public prosecutor Mr Maroof, asked that anyone unrelated to
the case be told to leave, the judge sided with the defense counsel,
which argued that he had no legal obligation to bar citizens from an
open court. According to journalists and the prosecution, the cross-
examiners and judge started to ask a string of invasive questions
about the rape, which the teenager, who has had an extremely
sheltered, conservative upbringing, struggled with. Sources at the
trial noted that she was asked when certain items of clothing were
removed, and exactly what actions were done to her when. When the
girl replied, in a few instances, that she couldn’t remember and felt
out of her senses (having fainted), the judge berated her; speaking
harshly about reports made by her family to the media. Witnesses have
noted that he appeared to enjoy the invasive nature of the questions
and the humiliation of the girl.

Objections from the special public prosecutor and assisting lawyers
triggered an argument with the defense; the judge simply quelled them
with a warning and adjourned the hearing to a later date, according
to the Daily Dawn. In the years leading up to this trial the family
have been forced to leave their home town due to threats, and have
fought fiercely to get the case this far (police originally refused
to register the FIR and public and media pressure saw it taken up).

Since the Women’s Protection Act in 2006 reformed the law surrounding
rape cases, more women have been encouraged to use the legal system,
but the experience continues to be harrowing, partly due to the
attitudes of those within it. Pakistan is already a harsh,
patriarchal environment for women and this is no different within the
courts.

“Judges have not been trained or sensitized to gender issues,” says
former Supreme Court Judge Nasir Aslam Zahid, who now runs the Legal
Aid Office for women and children in prison in Sindh. “They say: ‘how
is this woman allowed to come to court?’ The law has been made by
men, courts are men, police are all male and when a court case
involves a women, everything is against that woman.” This attitude is
a big deterrent; judicial and police figures are often unresponsive
to female victims reporting crimes. Others go further: figures for
the physical abuse of women in custody are high (117 were reported
last by the Aurat Foundation but the number unreported cases are
thought to be much greater). Female victims of rape or domestic
violence are frequently too scared to go to court or seek redress,
and so their general situation gets no better.

Soomro’s case is just another warning cry, reminding Pakistan’s women
not to expect justice or fair treatment in court.

The cabinet of President Asif Ali Zardari considers itself committed
to women’s issues in Pakistan, but to be truly committed it must
assess and take stronger measures. Just as police should be taught to
deal professionally with sexual and gender-based violence, judges
clearly need training so that they abandon old prejudices and are
able to act humanely towards victims.

This is an obligation, rather than a choice. States are duty bound to
protect and promote the rights of women and children under
international human rights law. Pakistan has ratified the UN
Convention on the Rights of the Child, and the Convention on the
Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW),
which among other things, obliges it to protect those under the age
of 18 “from all forms of physical or mental violence… negligent
treatment, maltreatment or exploitation” and “take appropriate and
effective measures to overcome all forms of gender-based violence,
give adequate protection to all women and respect their protection
and dignity.”

When a judge cannot or does not show himself able to do this in his
court for the most vulnerable of plaintiffs, one wonders what he is
doing in the profession in the first place.

[cmkp] Digest Number 1799

Blasphemy defendants left defenceless

Staff Report

LAHORE: Lawyers representing accused in blasphemy cases are under constant danger from potentially militant elements, who consider defending a blasphemy accused as un-Islamic and unethical, said various lawyers.

Free Legal Assistance and Settlement (FLAS) Chairman Sheikh Anis A Saadi advocate said that he voluntarily defended people accused of blasphemy before courts throughout the province. He said that a lawyer representing an accused in such a case was usually considered an abettor and because of that, he was subjected to a social stigma.

He also said that normally, in such a case, the accused was considered guilty even before the court gave judgment against him. He said that he, along with three colleagues, had been defending blasphemy cases since 2003 and they had not only faced criticism from their friends, but had also received constant threats from different religious sects. He claimed that he had been attacked and his office had been set on fire, adding that he had filed two first information reports for attacks on him by unidentified bearded men. He also showed written threats that were sent to him and his family from a ‘jihadi’ group.

Another lawyer, Aslam Pervaiz advocate, said that from the very start of his legal practice, he had been defending people accused of blasphemy. He said that he had received death threats and been assaulted for doing so, adding that such proceedings were regularly attended by religious men, who constantly attempted to threaten the defendant’s lawyer. He also said that most Muslim lawyers avoided such cases based on their own beliefs.

Does not matter: Asif Ali Gujjar advocate said that he would not defend a blasphemer, as his religion did not allow him to do so. He said that it did not matter if the accused committed the offence or not, as the allegations are never raised without reason. He also said that his decision was not the result of pressure from society, as his conscience did not allow him to defend a person accused of blasphemy.

Sensitive: A blasphemy accused, requesting anonymity, said that when he was blamed for committing blasphemy, it seemed as though the entire society was hostile to him and people treated him like a leper. He said that people were overly sensitive about their religion and no one allowed the accused any chance to prove his innocence. He also said that when he was arrested, his family had been unable to engage a lawyer to defend him but after some time, lawyers from Lahore had contacted his family and offered to represent him.

dailytimes.com.pk

Address of deposed Chief Justice of Pak Supreme Court, Iftikhar Chaudhry, to NY City Bar Association

AHRC-FAT-009-2008
November 26, 2008

An article from the New York City Bar forwarded by the Asian Human Rights Commission

PAKISTAN: Address of the deposed Chief Justice of the Pakistan Supreme Court, Mr. Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, to the New York City Bar Association

By IFTIKHAR MUHAMMAD CHAUDHRY
Chief Justice of Pakistan
JusticeForum.info

New York, NY, USA, 17 November 2008 (InformPress.com) – It is a pleasure and an honour for me to be addressing the members of one of the largest bar associations in the world (the New York City Bar). I am extremely touched and moved by the honour that you have conferred upon me today. In actual fact this honour is being showered on the teeming millions of Pakistanis who have dared to stand for, struggle for and dream for those values and principles which developed societies such as yours value, cherish and I am sure at times take for granted. I stand here in solidarity with all those Pakistanis who continue to defy autocracy and repression, and have risen against despotism, dictatorship, tyranny and injustice.

My learned friends, in an ideal world I should not be standing here today giving this speech. In an ideal world where all nations bow to the rule of law, for the Chief Justice of a Supreme Court to take a principled stand against subversion of the Constitution and to warn against the erosion of the Rule of Law and Independence of the Judiciary, should be the norm rather than the exception. It is extremely unfortunate for us as a nation to have to fight for and struggle for something which should be the birth right of every human being. Winston Churchill’s statement at the end of the war about his war-torn country (UK) was a deliberated comment. He said that as long as the judiciary was independent and functioning then nothing was lost. And how true that observation was, because there is an irresistible bond between an independent judiciary and a nation’s capacity to resist an adversary, whether internal or external.

In any war the most effective weapon is a population with enforceable rights. Such a nation has a stake in the system and will fight to protect it. The key word here is ‘enforceable’. A nation who are promised rights, even if they are enshrined in a document as sacred as the Constitution, but are denied the enforcement of those rights, then for all practical purposes they remain deprived of those rights. A system that does not enforce and protect rights alienates the people. And what good is that judiciary that is remiss in guarding a Constitution given by the people to themselves? Without an independent judiciary people lose faith and commitment to their chosen constitutional system. They become indifferent to its survival and soon become apathetic, cynical and resigned. They then choose to follow those who challenge it, even those who oppose it with military force. And this then leads to the inevitable loss of crucial battles.

Ladies and gentlemen, no democracy can survive without an independent judiciary. No strong and stable Parliament can be constructed on the ruins of an independent judicial edifice. An independent judiciary is, in fact, the most significant protection available to Parliament. It covers the flanks of Parliament, resisting attacks from any adventurer in the wings. The entire argument that Parliament must prevail over justice and law is therefore flawed. There can be no democracy without law. Without an independent justice system even the best democratic system remains in jeopardy, and eventually degrades into lawlessness and anarchy.

My friends, we live in times of great peril and in times of great challenge to the human spirit of resilience. No battle in modern war or battles for peace can be won in lands that lack justice. Lack of justice produces economic and social inequities which in turn churn out disaffected elements that will destroy the fabric of the one just world that is our shared goal. Only justice for all can beat terrorism and tyranny. Only an independent judiciary can checkmate extremism. Rule of law is the most effective obstacle to repression, oppression and all their offshoots.

There is no doubt about the fact that Parliamentary sovereignty is sacred. But only the Constitution is supreme, and it is for the legitimately constituted courts to interpret the Constitution. Parliament and parliamentarians cannot be exempted from judicial scrutiny by installing a feeble and timid judiciary in the name of the sovereignty of Parliament. Both Parliament and the Executive must be restrained and kept within the boundaries of the rule of law.

My fellow jurists, permit me to emphasize one additional point. Just as an independent judiciary is vital to sustain democracy, the independence of the judiciary itself is dependent entirely on “independent judges”. For a truly independent judiciary the judges must be independent and fearless. If judges are afraid of being arrested, of being manhandled, of being imprisoned along with their families, and that too because they had the courage to take a principled stand against a dictator (Pervez Musharraf) and refused to be party to the mutilation of the Constitution, then we might as well forget about any judge ever being independent or fearless. If society turns a blind eye and condones the illegal acts of the dictator (Musharraf), then we might as well bury the hope of ever having free judges with free minds and a free conscience. Ladies and gentlemen, this is why Pakistan is going through a decisive and definitive moment in our history.

The Lawyers’ Movement in Pakistan is a unique and historic struggle against all those (PPP, MQM, PML-Q) forces which are trying to stifle the rule of law and are hacking away at the foundations of our judiciary. They are trying to suffocate and bury the concept of an independent judiciary once and for all, and once that happens then the very fabric of society is destroyed resulting in a domino effect, with all the other organs and pillars of the state falling one by one. This movement is being led by the young lawyers of Pakistan who seek neither office nor power. For the last 18 months these champions of freedom have risked life and limb in the face of all odds. The lawyers’ movement triggered a wave of patriotism and mixed emotions in the civil society of Pakistan – both of resentment against the forces working against the well-being of our beloved country (Pakistan), as well as the urge and desire to come out and do whatever they could within their capacity to assist the lawyers in achieving their goal.

The (Pakistani) media has also played a remarkable role, and in a country (Pakistan) where nothing is free or independent, they have carved a place for themselves in history. There is no doubt about the fact that the media has attained the status of a fourth pillar of the state, and in the case of Pakistan, it has proved to be both powerful as well as bold and courageous.

Ladies and gentlemen, I am sure all of you are fully aware of the link between economic growth and an independent judiciary. Investment shies away from economies or countries that do not have an independent judiciary. There is a report in the June 5th 2008 edition of The Economist (Newspaper of London, UK) based on the findings of a commission on the legal empowerment of the poor released on 3rd June at the United Nations. It asserts that “one of the main reasons why so much of humanity remains mired in poverty is that it is outside the rule of law.” Such economies are less productive and less attractive to capital. The term ‘Legal Empowerment’ is therefore likely to become a part of policy-making vocabulary just as the term ‘sustainable development’ has after it appeared in a similar report 3 decades ago. After all, what capital and investment, both domestic and foreign, primarily need is security. Inflation and rising prices are also part of the same phenomenon and revolve around the question of supply and demand. Without investment there can be no increase in production and opportunities of employment. Without increase in production, supplies cannot increase and meet the demands of an increasing and more demanding population. Net employment decreases and unemployment goes up, resulting in more competition for the same number of jobs. As a result, salaries and wages go down, purchasing power falls, and prices go up because productive capacity and production does not rise. Inflation, unemployment and an increase in crimes are natural consequences. As The Economist says, it is now widely understood that a vibrant, independent and fearless mechanism for imparting justice is crucial to the health of the economy.

Ladies and gentlemen of the (New York City) Bar, it is not the province of the courts to step into areas that are exclusively within the domain of the Executive or the Parliament. But, if these two institutions remain indifferent to the duties entrusted to them under the Constitution; or if they have acted contrary to the principles enshrined therein; or if their acts discriminate between the rich and the poor, or on religious, class, regional, or ethnic grounds; then judges are called upon by the Constitution, their oath and their office to act. We do not seek to deprive any other constitutional pillar of its authority or strength. In fact we seek to bolster and strengthen that authority. And above all, we owe it to the citizens of Pakistan to do our duty according to our original oath, the Constitution, the law and our conscience.

Parliament is no doubt supreme but the judiciary must be equally independent and authoritative. That is how the state and its institutions retain the confidence of the people. This is how nations develop and people prosper. People must not only have rights but must also have the means to enforce those rights. And that is only possible through an independent judiciary, comprising of independent judges. Nations with independent judges develop fast as they attract and maintain investment, whereas a weak and compliant judiciary may benefit some individuals, but it breaks the back of the economy, the people and the country.

Finally, ladies and gentlemen, permit me to part with this ending note. In the months that I remained incarcerated with my family at the house atop the Margalla Hills, I drew strength from the light that shined through the international brotherhood of all students and men and women of law who made common cause with the lawyers of Pakistan in shared ideal of establishing the supremacy of the Rule of Law. And to the American lawyers who attired themselves in black coats and marched on the streets of New York, Washington DC and many towns and cities throughout your land (USA) in support of the thousands of lawyers who marched throughout the length and breadth of my land (Pakistan), I say thank you and remain certain that we shall overcome.

(The Association of the Bar of the City of New York (the New York City Bar Association – NYCBA) is an independent non-governmental organization of the USA with more than 22,000 members in 50 countries. The NYCBA – nycbar.org – was founded in 1870, and since then has been dedicated to maintaining the high ethical standards of the profession, promoting reform of the law, and providing service to the profession and the public. The Association continues to work for political, legal and social reforms, while implementing innovative means to help the disadvantaged. Protecting the public’s welfare remains one of the Association’s highest priorities.)

(1) PAKISTAN’S CHIEF JUSTICE IFTIKHAR MUHAMMAD CHAUDHRY TO RECEIVE HONORARY MEMBERSHIP AT THE NEW YORK CITY BAR

nycbar.org/PressRoom

nycbar.org/Chaudhry

abavideonews.org

(2) NEW YORK CITY BAR HONORARY MEMBERSHIP BESTOWED UPON PAKISTAN CHIEF JUSTICE IFTIKHAR MUHAMMAD CHAUDHRY

nycbar.org

(3) PAKISTAN’S CHIEF JUSTICE IFTIKHAR MUHAMMAD CHAUDHRY ACCEPTS HARVARD LAW SCHOOL MEDAL OF FREEDOM

aw.harvard.edu

About AHRC:
The Asian Human Rights Commission is a regional non-governmental organisation monitoring and lobbying human rights issues in Asia. The Hong Kong-based group was founded in 1984. The above statement has only been forwarded by the AHRC.

First posted on 2008-11-26

Islam Says ‘No’ to Domestic Violence

The perfect couple

Meet Mr. and Mrs. Wonderful. No need for formal introductions, you know exactly who they are.

You see them at the market when you pick up your weekly goods — that adorable pair with the seemingly perfect marriage. They met in college and fell in love. He swore he couldn’t live without her, nor she him.

Their families were hesitant, but they didn’t care. Their wedding was the talk of the town — white procession horses, silk Damascus cushions, and pristine attire with intricate designs made to match those on the seven-tier cake.

Their walks in the park are observed my many in the neighborhood; how ardently he gazes at her and how content she appears in the company of his embrace.

At parties, no one can doubt their compatibility; her kind face composed with bliss and serenity balances his modest appearance and confident smile.

The perfect home, the perfect life, the perfect couple indeed. That is, perfect from where the public sees.

Behind the closed doors of their humble abode, however, lies a different story, one that is not spoken about at parties and gatherings nor displayed during peaceful walks in the park.

It’s the story of anger and heartache, sadness and guilt, anxiety and frustration.

It’s the story no one wants to hear, and everyone avoids admitting. It’s the story of an endless struggle of domination shadowed with bitter pain for which there seems no remedy.

It’s the story of a stressful marriage fueled by financial plunders, uncontrolled tempers, inconsistent communication, and lack of understanding.

It can be triggered from just about anything — a foul remark towards a significant other, the helpless cries of a hungry infant, or even the bitter taste of a piece of burnt toast served for breakfast on a Saturday morning — and can lead to the unexpected.

It begins with a war of words; a small meaningless quarrel evolving into a battle of control.

A slap across the face ignites the tempers; firm on contact, it provides the perpetrator with a blaze of relief while the victim succumbs to a blaze on the cheek.

A push here and a shove there follow, sometimes resulting in a broken arm or bleeding lip.

Pulling the hair and elevating the voice to chilling decibels of fury supply the right amount of intimidation while a burn next to the delicate eyebrow subdues any sensation to retaliate.

The victim hopes that a scream of anguish will pacify the incident; but then again, it may just aggravate it even more.

The noise subsides and the victim slowly moves toward a mirror — its time to survey the damage.

A bright red bruise on the elbow and a slicing burn mark next to the left eyelid; not too bad this time around, nothing that can’t be covered with a little makeup or a long sleeve shirt.

The finale convenes at last with a few sweet-nothings and an apology from the perpetrator. The victim sympathizes and they resort for a solemn night’s sleep, both fully aware that the incident will repeat itself again the very next day.

Every 15 seconds a woman is abused in her home. “Not in my community” one may say.

However the truth is, everyone at some point has spoken to someone in their life who has been a victim of abuse, whether or not you knew of it at the time.

You may not even know her name, only because she is too ashamed to admit it actually happened to her.

But she is a victim and she is out there — in your community, on your street, maybe even in your own home.

It has become the crime without a face and the sin without a penalty.

Why? Perhaps its existence isn’t acknowledged the way it should be; perhaps it remains too hidden from our view; perhaps its complexity makes it difficult to comprehend; or perhaps we’re just too busy to care. But undeniably, it is there.

The sour truth

Domestic violence affects all types of people and discriminates against no religious denomination or ethnicity; from the well known to the unheard of, from the prosperous to the helpless. It is the rotten fruit of the Muslim community.

Imagine peeling back the skin of a bright gold banana and seeing that unappetizing rotten brown spot. As you stare at it relentlessly, it begins to suppress your taste. You feel betrayed, for who would’ve expected such an appalling interior to such a perfect exterior? The flesh made it look so delicious, the smell made it seem so sweet, the texture made it appear flawless. But once the peel is shed, the damage is visible; it must be dealt with in some way — it must be rid of before it makes you sick.

Domestic violence must be dealt with in an appropriate way in order to educate, provide assistance, and prevent future occurrences in those who suffer. This devastating social crisis affects men, women and children across America as it hinders physical, social, and psychological functioning in well being and daily life.

The Family Violence Prevention Fund describes it as “a pattern of purposeful behaviors, directed at achieving compliance from or control over the victim.” Domestic violence has a theme of recurrence involving cycles of outbursts and regret by both parties.

It affects both women and men. According to researchers at Wake Forest University School of Medicine, abuse is a learned behavior that is intentional in order to gain control over another person. Abusers often tend to deny their behavior by rationalizing it, excusing it, or worse, blaming the victim for its cause.

Infants and children in these families are the most vulnerable. Ten percent of victims are pregnant at the time of abuse and 10 percent report that their children had also been abused by the batterer.

Dr. Aneesah Nadir of ISSA states that “the majority of battered women have children who are hurt physically and emotionally by the violence in their homes. More than half the children whose mothers are battered are likely to be physically abused themselves.”

During the last decade, domestic violence has been identified as one of the major causes of emergency room visits by women. Nationally, domestic violence has become the number one cause of death among women. Although research on domestic violence in the Muslim community is still ongoing, social advocates do not deny its predominance. A study done in the 1990s revealed a prevalence rate of 10 percent in the Muslim community, though advocates believe the numbers are much higher.

Islam says “no”

Domestic violence is common in Muslim marriages and has often been viewed as a permissible act by Muslims and non-Muslims alike due to misinterpretations that Islam supports the “subordination of women.”

Misinterpretation of Qur’anic passages have undoubtedly led to many misunderstandings about abuse in Islam. Western stereotypes have only enhanced those misunderstandings in a post 9/11 world.

“Violence against women is not an Islamic tradition,” said Shaikh Junaid Kharsany of Inglewood’s Jamat-E-Masijidul Islam. “Allah mentions, ‘And those women you fear their mischief, then counsel them, and distance from them in the beds and hit them, if they obey then you don’t have a path to them.’ (Qur’an, 4: 34). This applies when the wife of a person is guilty of major religious transgression such as adultery or theft and she is out of her bounds. A man is first advised to counsel her, then distance himself from her and finally to hit.”

“But in order for any [verse] to be understood, it has to be interpreted via the teachings of Prophet Muhammad,” Kharsany explained.

“The Prophet, commentating on this [verse] mentioned if it comes down to the last stage, you may hit ‘darban qaira mubarrih’ (such a shot that does not injure, bruise or leave a mark). When a man does wrong, his wife is not expected to beat him. He will be dealt with by his community. Too many people view this as a permit to use unregulated force. This is a cultural thing that stems from society allowing men to get away with actions unchecked. It stems from unjust favor showered on many males by their parents, giving them a false sense of superiority. If a man has not followed the guidelines shown in the [verse], he is an oppressor. If his action results in injury, he is an oppressor.”

Maintaining the happiness of a family is the solid foundation of Islamic morals. A husband is advised to find and appreciate the agreeable traits in his wife rather than focus on her faults. Prophet Muhammad equated perfect belief with good treatment to one’s wife when he said: “The most perfect believer is one who is the best in courtesy and amiable manners, and the best among you people is one who is most kind and courteous to his wives.”

Support is out there

Though their voices may be silenced and their stories often untold, Muslim victims of domestic violence will be surprised to learn that help for their wounds is as close as making a trip to an established Islamic center, contacting an agency like NISWA or ACCESS or picking up the phone and calling a help hotline.

Kharsany often sees victims of domestic violence who seek assistance from such Islamic Centers.

“Muslim victims of abuse should approach a religious leader they can trust or a reliable chapter of an Islamic organization like ISNA or ICNA,” he said. “I cannot guarantee how their case will be handled, but they will be educated on the legal and religious options available to them. Situations are more difficult when there is substance abuse or mental illness involved, it might warrant getting the authorities involved as well.”

Kharsany feels that victims will often limit police involvement because they think situations can be resolved in other ways or that they were brought forth from prior diminutive situations.

“Most victims are women, although an increasing number of men are complaining of this situation,” Kharsany said. “The number of men could be higher; however being considered a wimp is a factor in a man’s life.”

Seeking assistance at a local mosque is just one way in which victims can receive the guidance and support needed for protection. Local community organizations such as ACCESS California Services also provide a network of resources and social services for those who are in need.

ACS was founded by Nahla Kayali who had a passion to help the Muslim and Arab Communities in finding necessary resources pertaining to social services, immigration, health, employment and domestic violence. ACS reaches out to countless families in the southern California region who are in need of such support venues. Rida Hamida, the director of the organization’s new Counseling and Support program was herself a domestic violence victim. She feels there is a great need to give back to the Muslim-American community.

“People think domestic violence is just physical, but it’s psychologically and financially abusive as well,” Hamida said. “The perpetrator is not always the typical bad guy — he can be the charming good-looking man you see walking down the street. I was told I couldn’t have my own bank account or that I couldn’t finish my education. I was disconnected from my family and from my rights.”

“That’s what domestic violence does to you — your spouse embeds thoughts in you that make you question yourself and disregard your own judgment. It wasn’t until I filed for divorce that I realized what oppression was.”

Hamida, who received her education from UCLA with the Department of Social Welfare, joined ACS four months ago, working as a social worker. She provides families with a non-judgmental atmosphere while being culturally sensitive to their needs and stories.

“Empathy is the most important value a social worker practices when working with the victims,” Hamida said. “It’s something they may not always receive from families or Islamic centers. My having experienced domestic violence first hand has allowed me to establish a rapport with my clients. We want to empower them, make them feel like survivors and validate their worth.”

As an Arab-American, Muslim social worker, Hamida understands the necessity of safety first when it comes to working with the Arab and Muslim community.

“Victims need to feel a sense of safety when reaching out for help and that is why we provide them with options and resources that validate their concerns,” she said. “I try my best to empower those who are victims. It’s very hard to hear them say, ‘I deserved it.’”

ACS immigration attorney, Akram Abusharar, assists victims with applying for protection for legal status when their spouse uses their immigration status as a way to manipulate the victim into staying in the relationship.

“We refer to shelters, assist with social services, and assist them with applying for restraining orders,” he said. “As for the perpetrators, many of them are referred to our agency to receive counseling and anger management.”

Hamida is working on implementing protocols at each mosque in the area that provides a domestic violence assessment, as well as a bridge between ACS and the mosques for more supportive services.

Hamida collaborated with Shaikh Yassir Fazaga of the Orange County Islamic Foundation in Mission Viejo to discuss ways in which to educate the community about the severity of domestic violence in the Muslim community.

In accordance with October being Domestic Violence Awareness month, ACS, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department and the Islamic Center of Hawthorne hosted a program educating the community about symptoms of domestic violence, the legal process, and the Islamic and cultural perspective.

ACS recently received The Community Incubator Award from UC-Irvine for the work they do with the Arab and Muslim community.

“A lot of Arabs and Muslims don’t want to work with our communities. I find that to be the reason why our community is not as strong as it should be,” Hamida said. “If we just put our criticisms aside it will empower our community members to support each other. This is the great thing about [ACS]. We have the ability to say ‘I can help you’ without creating stigmatization cross barriers; we remain culturally competent while catering to the needs of every individual.”

Law firms and community projects — a Muslim in new territory

It’s not everyday that you see a woman in a headscarf walking the corridors of the Los Angeles Superior Court. That all changed, however, when 25 year-old Samina Husain arrived as a passionate volunteer to assist victims in the Domestic Violence Project. Founded 20 years ago at the Pasadena Courthouse, the Domestic Violence Project is sponsored by the LA County Bar Association and assists nearly 6,000 victims each year.

It aims to provide pro-bono legal services to needy victims and helps them prepare any legal documents such as filing a petition for a restraining order.

Husain is a graduate from Rutgers University with a degree in political science and captain of the EMT squad in New Jersey. She looked into opportunities to volunteer and came across the Domestic Violence Project through the LA County Bar Association Web site and immediately took initiative to contact them.

“It’s sad because domestic violence is very much prevalent in our community too,” Husain said. “Unless Muslims are willing to accept its existence and the pertinence in addressing it, we won’t get anywhere towards resolving it. We need the leaders of our community to talk about the social ills in our Ummah.”

Husain also emphasized the need for education by distributing pamphlets and holding seminars.

Husain’s supervisor and director of the Domestic Violence Project, Deborah Kelly, agreed.

“During the course of my being a part of this project, I have never seen a Muslim victim. Or perhaps they come and we don’t know their Muslim; either way, it’s not something we would normally ask,” Kelly said. “We try to be sensitive to the woman’s situation because we want to empower them. I just hope more Muslim women can become aware of the services available to them.”

Both Kelly and Husain urged more participation from the Muslim community in order to bring down cultural barriers and generate awareness of the services that are available. “You don’t see a lot of Muslims volunteering in these types of arenas,” Husain said. “It’s great da’wah and more people should do it. But more importantly, it will provide an intimate space for Muslim women who are victims to domestic abuse to communicate in a comfortable manner with someone who understands their religion.”

Prevention

Domestic violence is very much a preventable conduct and victim or not, everyone must play their part. According to the Orange County Department of Child Support Services, potential victims should be on the lookout for behaviors such as hitting, pushing, threatening, humiliating, isolating, damaging goods, withholding money and assets as signs of domestic violence. It is also important for families and friends to be alert of any unusual behaviors they see among partners and to notify the authorities, a shelter, or a hotline given the severity and longevity of the situation. It’s very easy to look away when witnessing a quarrel break out between a husband and wife – especially in a public arena; often people don’t want to embarrass others or come off as nosy. However, one must accept that this may come at the risk of harm reaching another innocent individual who may not have the means or stamina to speak out on their own.

Marriage preparation education and premarital counseling can also help future spouses learn skills that will assist them in developing a healthy, violence-free family life. “Both genders are equally guilty of this abuse. No one can look into a crystal ball and see the mindset of a person under stress prior to commitments like marriage,” Kharsany said.

“Most importantly, people should recognize that going into marriage is like learning how to drive a car. You must have the proper training and tools needed to make sure you avoid an accident. I advise young people to attend marriage workshops before making serious decisions. It’s important to understand what the role of a partner is in a marriage and what each party needs to do to placate versus fuel a stressful situation if it arises.”

Classes in leadership development and self-defense, and study in the area of communication and relationship psychology to learn about what healthy relationships look like may prove to be extremely beneficial.

In addition, anger and stress management, decision making and problem solving skills are also very important life skills that can help prevent domestic violence. Workshops are offered in various shelters and Islamic centers throughout southern California.

Sabeen Shaiq Flores works for the Asian and Pacific Islander American Health Forum in San Francisco. They provide training and resources to other organizations as well as to conduct research studies on the topic.

The APIAHF received funding from the National Institute on Justice to conduct a research study on help seeking efforts by Indian, Pakistani, and Filipino women who have experienced domestic violence.

Their purpose is to see how the criminal justice system and health officials have been treating such women and what improvements can be made to make it easier for the three populations of question.

“The Muslim community can address the topic by addressing the topic,” Shaiq-Flores said. “Talk about it; the more you talk about it, the less intimidating it is to deal with it. I have heard too many people giving harmful advice to women experiencing abuse or making false assumptions. It is never a women’s fault.

Muslim men need to act like Muslim men — have patience, be loving, be kind, and if they can’t handle it then they need to leave the woman and divorce her.”

Most importantly, Muslims must encourage victims of domestic violence to seek help, whether it is spiritually or professionally. “To any victims of domestic violence in the Muslim community, I want you to know that you’re not alone,” Kelly insisted. “Services are available to you. You don’t have to tolerate being abused, ashamed, or embarrassed — it’s not your fault.”

For more info about domestic violence and ways to reach out, educate and prevent, visit:

http://www.niswa.org

www.css.ocgov.com

www.accesscal.org

www.lacba.org/dvp

www.peaceoverviolence.org

Editor’s Note: InFocus published an article in July 2005 on the issue of domestic violence. We felt it was important to follow-up on such an important topic affecting the community.

To read the original article, go to: infocusnews.net

stop-stoning.org

Two Letters and a Story in Hell by Amaresh Misra

I want to tell everyone a didactic story.

We all knew that torture in Indian jails is a reality; but it has taken two letters to prove why people like Javed Anand, who argued against having any sympathy for innocent Muslims arrested for belonging allegedly to a dreaded organization like SIMI—an organization against which a proper Court tribunal dismissed the Government of India’s plea for a ban—are either sadists, safedposh criminals or simply lackeys of the anti-Muslim, communal forces in India.

What do these letters say about Yogendra Yadav and his stand? Only he can answer for despite issuing statements against the official version in the Batala House encounter—whatever the reason—he has chosen not to take a powerful enough stand against the ongoing Muslim Persecution in India. What also to say about people like Siddharth Vardarajan who make a big issue about being leftists and sensitive about secularism—appear on International platforms needlessly—but who do not take stand against torture?

On 23rd November 2007 bomb blasts ripped the Civil Court premises of Lucknow, Varanasi and Faizabad in Uttar Pradesh (UP). UP as we all know, is a bastion of secularism as opposed to say, Gujarat. In fact there was no major riot in UP after the Babri Masjid demolition even though the act took place in a district of the State. There was no riot in Lucknow, Allahabad and Varanasi, major UP cities, even in 1947. People still swear by UP’s Ganga-Yamuni Tehzeeb. UP produced the maximum, joint Hindu-Muslim resistance against the British in 1857; it sacrificed millions of its Hindu and Muslim sons to safeguard India’s freedom, faith (Deen), identity, soul and culture. UP was the place which made the BJP lose in the 2004 elections as the party came down to 10 seats in the state, which sends the maximum 80 members to the Indian Parliament.

If Gujarat is the new face of a fascist, corporate, anti-democratic, pseudo-modern, murderous and anti-national `India’, UP is the face of a democratic, progressive, indigenously modern, traditional and patriotic India.

Criminal/Intellectuals like Swapan Dasgupta hate UP and 1857 because it militates against their smelly, underdeveloped, toady `India Today’ type facile, vapid, yet aggressively anti-Muslim, anti-people ‘modernity’.

It is on the point of torture inflicted especially on Muslim youth that despite mutual disagreements, people like Javed Anand, Siddharth Vardarajan and Swapan Dasgupta ultimately share in a conspiracy of silence.

Yes—back to the November 2007 bomb blasts in UP. As usual Muslim youths were picked up—Aftab Ansari, who was picked up from Kolkata in East India was declared the `master mind’. As is the usual case in today’s India, the `mastermind’ turned out to be an innocent man trapped in the communal machinations of Indian security forces. He was let off by the Court.

But there were two other boys who were also picked up by the Police—their names are Muhammad Hakim Tariq Qasmi and Muhammad Khalid Mujahid. Both these boys are still lodged in the Barabanki jail. But the Courts have dismissed the charge of sedition against them—as is bound to happen, they too will be let off as innocents caught wrongly by the Police as the latter do not seem to have any evidence against SIMI or their alleged adherents.

But what happened to those boys while they are in Police custody, especially that of the Special Task Force (STF)? Both boys have written letters in Urdu to the Judge and the Jail Superintendent. I found these at a Hindi site called Mohalla, run by conscientious Indians, mostly young Hindus.

They are here before you in English, translated, quite badly I suppose by me:

Letter Number 1

‘To,
‘The Jail Superintendent and the Chief Judicial Magistrate, from the district jail,

‘I, Muhammad Khalid, am a resident of mohalla Madeeyahoon, district Jaunpur, UP. On 16-12-07, the STF people picked me up in front of a large crowd from a shop in Madeeyahoon; I was taken to an unknown place. There they tortured me; they beat me up in different ways. The hairs of my beard were uprooted from various places. Both my legs were literally torn apart—STF people stood on my face and forced me to lick their penis. Petrol was poured on my anus; it became commonplace to tie one end of a string to my penis, and the other to a stone and leaving me in a standing position. Burning cigarettes buds were stubbed on my penis several times. Despite me being a Muslim I was made to drink alcohol, eat pork and drink urine again and again. Ice was put all over me; I was made forcefully to drink water through my nose because of which I used to almost lose my consciousness. I was burnt several times because of electric shocks and battery charges. All this happened so that I accept that I am guilty.’

Letter Number 2

‘To,

‘The Jail Superintendent and the Chief Judicial Magistrate, from the district jail,

‘I urge that I, Muhammad Tariq, son of Riaz Ahmed Sakeen, hail from Sammupur Rani Ki Sarai, Azamgarh. I was picked up on 10th December (2007) in front of my medicine shop in Azamgarh by the STF and for 10 days I was tortured mercilessly and a video was made, which showed planted false stories regarding my person. On 22nd December, the STF people took me to Barabanki and showed my arrest with RDX and other explosives. This, when I was in their custody for 10 days—I had never possessed RDX or any other explosives. From 24th December to 2nd January, the STF put me in their office on remand. The second remand phase started from January 9th when I was under the charge of the Faizabad CO. They tortured me day and night to force me to say things they wanted to me to say; on the night of 17th January 2008, Rajesh Pandey, the CO City of Faizabad, and OP Pandey, the STF daroga, forced me to hold a red color battery (on which the word Shakti was prominent and there was something which was constantly sticking to my hands). Then I was a forced to hold bottles of Dabur Kevda. Then I was blindfolded and taken to another room. I do not know what other things they forced me to hold as I was blindfolded. This much I understood that there were bags and boxes. I am afraid that they tried taking my fingerprints through various means. I beg of you these people want to frame me; I am a peace loving, patriotic citizen of India. I have never committed any crime—neither am I of this nature.’

What do you now say— masters of culture and intellectuals of India— people like Sagarika Ghose and Rajdeep Sardesai? What is your specific response to this— are you ready to put these letters on your channel? What about that secular liberal named Vinod Mehta? Is he ready to print these in that magazine called `Outlook’?

I know some people might think that Amaresh Misra should tread cautiously and that he will make enemies— I do not care. All of them are shit scared of the UP temper and the fact that they by not exposing the truth, by deliberately suppressing the truth as in Vinod Mehta’s case, have obstructed justice as defined by India’s constitution, and they are guilty as hell.

Well, I have a more hair-raising story to tell regarding another torture and it exposes several other lovers of secularism…

misra.amaresh@gmail.com

Pakistan: An Interview with Farida Shaheed

3/10/2008

AWID interviews Farida Shaheed – active in the women’s rights movement in Pakistan for over 25 years – about women’s rights activism in Pakistan, the assassination of Benazir Bhutto, and the hopes of the women’s rights movement. (AWID)

AWID: Women in Pakistan are subject to some of the most horrendous rights violations worldwide. How are women mobilising for gender equality and women’s rights?

Farida Shaheed* (FS): Pakistan is a country of great contrasts – so it seems that we have people living in different centuries rather than just locations, with different rules and constraints as well as opportunities. Constraints, rules and opportunities also vary enormously by class background. So while we have strong articulate women’s advocates in large cities, the challenge is how to expand and link up with women in different classes and rural locations as well as in smaller towns, making sure that their voices are heard, their concerns articulated.

With Pakistan being under military rule longer than civilian rule, this increases the level of risk to activists. The severity of these risks varies with class and it has fallen to the urban middle class women with lesser risks to security and person to advance the movement. Given the numerically small number of activists, there has been a tendency to focus attention on the state: its actions and policies and laws (often trying to deny women their rights).

While state policies and laws are critical of course, women on the whole interact very little with the state, and are obliged to negotiate rights through the meso level of family, parallel adjudication and governance structures that impact their lives most immediately.

The fewer women who know about and enjoy state given rights, the more vulnerable these rights are to being overturned by dictators. Hence many organisations like Shirkat Gah have started ‘outreach’ programmes: that is, programmes to reach women in different village and urban locations. This has expanded the base of women’s rights activists and the movement as a whole.

Equally we try and ensure that international debates are shared with women in communities we work with and that their concerns and demands are articulated at the national and supra national levels. Secondly, the women’s rights movement has built strong links with human rights groups and actors within Pakistan to make common cause. This has helped to expand the movement and has also brought women’s issues onto the agenda of the general human rights movement. Thirdly, we have linked up with women’s rights groups and movements in the region and globally.

AWID: In your opinion, how closely related are women’s rights and democracy in Pakistan? How do women’s organisations influence government decisions?

FS: While democracy is not a panacea; our experience is that democracy and democratic spaces (not merely electoral processes, but inclusion in decision-making) support women’s rights while dictatorial dispensations (whether military or civilian) tend to undermine women’s rights. We believe many of the problems confronting women are common with other citizens and that there is therefore a need to link up with and support each other for a better society.

Shirkat Gah’s motto is Women’s Empowerment for Social Justice and Social Justice for Women’s Empowerment. For this, we work towards strengthening women as rights claimants and also work to ensure that duty bearers are better attuned to women’s needs and improve the delivery of state rights and services.

Organisations have different strategies that include: lobbying with policy-makers for improved laws and policies and regulations, projects etc. – often done in alliance with other women’s groups and also human rights groups in general; using opportunities tied to national decision-making such as the 5 year development plans, national policy for women; and reporting to the UN system (Beijing, ICPD, MDGs etc, and CEDAW Report) as a means to raise issues and press for change.

We have worked with parliamentarians to table and then to negotiate bills into acts by providing background materials and research, bringing in required expertise, meeting with standing committees of parliament – but we also use the mushrooming of new independent cable television networks and FM radio stations to get our opinions to a wider set of people – we also use newspaper articles (but less systematically). Finally and always there are public protests and demonstrations. Less frequently we have used street and interactive theatre to catalyse thinking and debates within communities resistant to change.

AWID: There have been some major political upheavals in Pakistan in the past 12 months, including the assassination of Benazir Bhutto and the resignation of Musharraf. How did the assassination of Bhutto impact the women’s rights movement?

FS: The assassination of Benazir was a blow to women in Pakistan as a whole, she symbolized for many the full potential of women here – that women could become the head of government.

Although Benazir was not a women’s rights activist as such, many in the women’s movement were profoundly shocked and upset. She was a defiant woman and a progressive force for democracy in very troubled times for the country. Her acceding to power had immense symbolic impact: this assumption by a woman of democratically elected power reverberated throughout society – resulting in an immediate easing of the social atmosphere, an invisible but palpable lifting of social constraints and a greater respect for women’s rights demands than otherwise. It was in this sense that her assassination was a tragedy for the women and women’s movement in Pakistan.

AWID: What are your thoughts on the recent election of her widower, Asif Ali Zardari as President? What is the potential for his appointment to impact women’s rights?

FS: With the PPP now in control of the presidency as well as the parliament, we hope that it will put women squarely on the agenda in a progressive way. However, politics in the past have shown that women’s rights are all too often sacrificed in the bargaining chip in the larger game of political manoeuvring and alliance building. The fear of such bargaining is always present and remains. Zardari is an unknown entity politically speaking, leaving many wary of backdoor arrangements – however he was democratically elected. It is too soon to say what impact it will have on women.

AWID: What are the hopes of the women’s rights movement with these recent changes and renewed hopes for democracy?

FS: We can only hope that the democratically elected government moves on with a strong decision to counter the right wing Talibanisation of the country by armed extremists using Islam. We hope that this brings peace so the government can concentrate on the very dire economic situation. We hope that the women elected in to assemblies and the national parliament will move to continue progress of women’s rights and institutionalise changes.

AWID: How do you aim to achieve your goals?

FS: Women’s rights activists continue to work with the parliamentarians, most recently in commenting on and suggesting improvements to the Domestic Violence Bill and other issues. We continue to mobilise women and public opinion to change practices harmful to women. We continue to support all democratic forces, most especially the lawyers’ community in their struggle for a free independent judiciary, and link up with diverse alliances and coalitions fighting for social justice for all.

Interview by Rochelle Jones

2 September 2008

Source: awid.org

* Farida Shaheed, based in Lahore, is a sociologist with over 25 years’ research experience on women’s issues (including rural development, women and labour and legal rights), especially in Pakistan, South Asia and Muslim contexts. More recent work has explored the forces at play in the interface of women, culture, identity, and governance/state. These are subjects she has written on extensively, using multiple research methods – from archival investigation to time-use surveys and large-scale surveys.

A consultant to UN and development agencies (e.g. ILO, UNESCO, UNRISD, UNICEF, FAO, DFID, NORAD, World Bank), she has served on numerous government bodies and committees e.g. the Punjab government’s Task Force on Women’s Development; the editorial committees for the National Plan of Action for women and the 2002 National Policy on Development and Empowerment of Women; and technical expert on Pakistan’s delegation at the international Muslim Women Parliamentarians Conference, 1995. In 2000 she led the Pakistan Beijing+5 NGO review process. On behalf of the Ministry of Women’s Development she led the work for the Ministry’s publication: On the Path of Women’s Empowerment: A Synthesis of Reports of Commissions/Committee on the Status of Women. In addition to being the editor for Shirkat Gah’s Shadow Report: Talibanisation and Poor Governance undermining CEDAW in Pakistan (2007), she provided page by page comments to the Government’s combined 1st 2nd and 3rd CEDAW report. Most recently she has been working to help facilitate effective implementation of the new Punjab guidelines for Darul Amaans (shelters), through research, capacity building and translations etc.

Active in the Pakistan women’s rights movement for the last 25 years, Farida is a founder of the Women’s Action Forum, a women’s rights platform that led the movement for women’s rights during the military dictatorship of Gen. Zia-ul-Haq. She received the Second Annual Award for Women’s Human Rights in 1997, the Prime Minister’s Award in 1989 for her book on the women’s movement in Pakistan (Women in Pakistan: Two Steps Forward One Step Back? 1987. Zed Books, London. Co-authored by Farida Shaheed & Khawar Mumtaz); and was one of the Thousand Women for Peace nominated worldwide for the Nobel Peace Prize. As Shirkat Gah Coordinator, she developed and, until January 2008, ran its (largest) legal consciousness programme that seeks to change laws and policies while building grassroots capacity through training thousands of women and male allies, and by providing legal counselling/assistance and networking.

Currently she is the Deputy Director of the DFID-supported Asia-focused research consortium: Women’s Empowerment in Muslim Contexts: gender, poverty and democratisation from the inside (WEMC) that seeks to understand obstacles to women’s empowerment and recommend ways to overcome these in 4 nodal countries (China, Indonesia, Pakistan and Iran) as well as cross-border situations. Running from July 2006 to June 2011, WEMC combines research, capacity building and communication for policy uptake in the four nodal countries. Led by City University, Hong Kong the research consortium has numerous partners that include Aga Khan University and Shirkat Gah in Pakistan, Oxford University in the UK and NGOs in Iran and Indonesia. In addition to being the Deputy Director of the WEMC as a whole, Farida is also the Lead Researcher for Shirkat Gah.

She is also the Asia Coordinator for the international solidarity network: Women Living Under Muslim Laws. It is for the network’s Feminism in the Muslim World Institutes (co-run with the Centre for Women’s Global Leadership – Rutgers University) that she developed a training module debunking the widespread myth that asserting rights is alien to Muslim societies, subsequently published as a two volume set: Great Ancestors: Women Asserting Rights in Muslim Contexts comprising of a training module and a book of narratives tracing women’s assertions for rights from the 8th century to the 1950s.

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Afghanistan: “Women who took on the Taliban – and lost”

5/10/2008: Three years ago, Kim Sengupta interviewed five women who wanted to build a new Afghanistan. Today, three are dead and a fourth has fled. (The Independent)

“It was another murder among so many in the bloody conflict in Afghanistan – a senior police officer gunned down by the Taliban. But the death of Malalai Kakar this week has removed a brave and dedicated champion of oppressed women; it has raised the fears of other women in public life that they too have, in effect, been sentenced to death.

Of five prominent women interviewed three years ago by The Independent for an article on post-Taliban female emancipation, three, including Ms Kakar, are dead and a fourth has had to flee after narrowly escaping assassination in an ambush in which her husband was killed.

Religious fundamentalists are waging a ruthless campaign to eliminate women who have taken up high-profile jobs. Parliamentarians, schoolteachers, civil servants, security officials and women journalists have been selected for attacks by the jihadists. Countless others have been maimed and murdered in villages where the vengeful Taliban have returned to impose the old order.

In the case of Malalai Kakar, the most prominent policewoman in Afghanistan, an additional “crime” which sealed her fate was that she was a determined and effective campaigner for women’s rights. Commander Kakar, 40, knew her work made her a Taliban target. She led a unit of 10 policewomen specialising in domestic violence cases. She was uncompromising with suspected abusers, men who in the past had relied on male police officers to turn a blind eye.

“I’ve been accused of being rough with husbands who beat up their wives” she said. “But I’m angry, we try to apply the law in the right way and the constitution is supposed to protect women’s rights.”

Kakar liked to cook breakfast for her husband and six children before going to work, she told me. She would spend a long time saying her farewell because, she said, she could never be sure what would happen. Her 15-year-old son was with her when she was killed last weekend. She carried a pistol under the burqa she wore to work, so as not to be recognised, before changing into uniform. But she had no chance to defend herself, or him, against the two motorcycle assassins.

Like Kakar, Shaima Rezayee was one of those who believed in a brave new world for Afghan women. After five years of burqa-wearing under Taliban rule, the bubbly 24-year-old presented a popular music show called Hop on the independent channel Tolo TV and helped run schemes to promote women in the media. When I asked for her help in preparing the article, however, she was already pessimistic. “Things are not getting better,” she cautioned. “We made some gains, but there are a lot of people who want to take it all back. They are not even the Taliban, they are here in Kabul.”

She was having her own problems, the station was being condemned for allowing her, a female in Western clothes and make-up to talk freely to men on the programme. Eventually she was dismissed after pressure from conservative clerics of the National Ulema Council who accused Tolo of “broadcasting music, naked dance and foreign films”. In particular, they picked out Shaima’s programme for criticism. There was no support from the police who declared that they may not be able to protect her.

Shaima was angry. “The bad days are coming back, we’ll have to go into exile again”, she said. Soon afterwards rumours began to appear that she had been killed. Tolo offered to broadcast an interview. “But they wanted to do it on radio, not TV,” she laughed. “The religious people might get offended even if they saw me for five minutes.”

Shaima was gunned down at her home near Kabul’s diplomatic quarters. Her killers, said the police, appeared to have been people she had known as they did not have to force their way into the house.

Kandahar, the birthplace of the Taliban, is the scene of particular brutality towards women. “It is much worse down there than it is for us here [in Kabul], you must go down there,” Shaima had said previously. One woman who worked tirelessly for women in Kandahar was Safia Amajan, 65, who stayed behind during the dark days of Taliban rule to teach girls in lessons held in secret. After the US-led invasion of 2001, she volunteered to work for the new government with great success, opening schools and workshops where at least 1,000 women learned to make and sell their goods at the market.

Amajan, or “dear aunt” as the girls she taught called her, survived the Taliban by learning the Koran by heart. But she was always independent, refusing a marriage arranged by her father and then eventually choosing her own husband, an educated and wholly supportive colonel in the army.

The couple lived on the outskirts of Kandahar, where she described, without any drama, the struggle of life for women under the Taliban. “Those of us who are around now are very lucky,” she said. “There were others, very brave, who also tried to make things better for young girls through education and teaching them skills. They were caught and they suffered.”

Amajan was killed in September 2006. Her husband had walked her to the main road where she was to be picked up by a taxi to be taken to work. Two young men approached on a motorcycle and one of them opened fire with a Kalashnikov. A Taliban commander, Mullah Hayat Khan, announced that she had been “executed” for defying orders to stop working.

I met the two men arrested for her murder last year at the Sarposa prison in Kandahar. They were in their early 20s, dishevelled and craven, repeatedly claiming that they were in danger from their own side as well as the authorities. They had killed Safia, they said, in return for $5,000 offered by a mullah in Pakistan. The men were caught when the mullah wanted proof that they had carried out their task and they attempted, by night, to dig up the body for a lock of hair.

Kakar had long been a friend of Amajan and threw herself into the hunt for her killers. “They would not have been caught if they had not tried to disturb Safia’s body,” she said at her office in the central police station. “I do not trust myself to be in the same cell as those men. They murdered someone who was old enough to be their grandmother. They murdered someone who has done so much for Kandaharis… so much for Afghanistan.”

“She was this wonderful person we heard about growing up in Kandahar,” she said. “I made a point of meeting her and I took guidance from her.”

Amajan and Kakar used to work closely with a woman MP in Kandahar, Zarghuna Kakar (no relation). Ms Kakar, 36, has now fled her home after she and her family were attacked in a market. Her husband, Mohammed Nasir, was killed in the attack.

Before the shooting, Ms Kakar had repeatedly pleaded for security. At one point she turned in desperation to Ahmed Wali Karzai, the brother of the Afghan President and a prominent figure in Kandahar. “He told me there was nothing he could do,” she recalled. “He also said that I should have thought about what may happen before I stood for election. But it was his brother, the Americans and the British who told us that we women should get involved in political life. Of course, now I wish I hadn’t. If only I knew what would happen.”

Ms Kakar fled to Kabul with her family. We met in a cold, dark hotel room. She worries constantly about the dangers. “I eventually managed to meet President Karzai. He told me to go back to Kandahar and he would make sure the governor provided us with bodyguards. But the governor has no men to spare.” The lack of official protection for women from either the Afghan government or Western forces is a source of bitter complaint among those who now find themselves under threat from Islamist zealots.

Now, with the Taliban mounting audacious attacks just on the outskirts of Kabul and President Karzai’s government engaged in negotiations with the Taliban and other Islamist groups, women who have the means to get away are planning possible escape routes. Foreign embassies report an increase in visa applications from educated, professional women.

Captain Jamilla Mujahid Barzai is staying on with Kandahar police to continue her murdered boss’s work. She left the police force after witnessing an infamous Taliban execution of a woman at Kabul’s football stadium, a judicial killing which was filmed and shown later around the world as an example of the savagery of the time. “I knew the prisoner, I shall never forget the way she died… There was nothing I could do, so I left the police. It is most important that now women try to get to positions of power to stop things like that happening again. It is dangerous. But we cannot go back to those days again.”

3 October 2008

Source:
The Independent

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