New Age Islam Edit Bureau
04 February 2016
Back to the Council of Islamic Ideology
By Asad Jamal
Democratic system at risk in Pakistan
By I.A. Rehman
Stop terrorism with grassroots policing
By Khawaja Khalid Farooq
Buck up America!
By Harlan Ullman
Journalism is the first draft of history
By Anjum Niaz
Compiled By New Age Islam Edit Bureau
Back to the Council of Islamic Ideology
By Asad Jamal
February 4th, 2016
THE chairman of the Council of Islamic Ideology, Mohammad Khan Sherani, has indicated the CCI was ready to review Section 295C of the Pakistan Penal Code if it received a request from the government. This statement comes at a time when a committee appointed by the federal government is already working on law reforms for the past one year or so.
By now, we all know that Section 295C in its existing form is prone to abuse and has led to serious miscarriage of justice in thousands of cases. Thus some significant changes to the substantive law, if not its outright repeal, and procedural aspects would only be reasonable.
The basic question is whether there is any justification to refer back the question of blasphemy to the CII when all available evidence points to the need for some obvious reform.
Consider. When the Federal Shariat Court declared death as the mandatory punishment in a 1990 judgement, it also noted that the law in its current form did not contain the Islamic standard of criminal intent to prove the offence. Parliament should have taken note of this vacuum. Similarly, the court also held that penitence could be availed to show that the accused committed the act without intention; thus by implication the offence would not be proved. Further, the court by implication held the offence of insult of the Holy Prophet (PBUH) as hadd but didn’t consider the question of standard of proof which must be unimpeachable.
Asking the CII to review the blasphemy laws is pointless.
These aspects of the otherwise poorly reasoned judgement have not got the attention of the lawmakers yet. The FSC judgement was poorly reasoned because even when there was no agreement among the jurisconsults invited by the court, who represented neither all Islamic schools of thought (fiqh), nor their own schools competently, the court went on to declare death as mandatory for an offence which, in the light of the court’s own discussion, was flawed.
In several judgements, superior courts have pointed out that Pakistan’s blasphemy laws are liable to be misused. In the most recent judgement, in a case registered under Sections 295A, 295B, 295C and 298A of the PPC, Justice Ibad-ur-Rehman Lodhi of the Lahore High Court has pointed out that the trial court judge awarded punishment to the accused under Section 295A while acquitting him under Section 295C, because he was under pressure, even though the prosecution miserably failed to prove the case on the required standard of proof — beyond reasonable doubt.
Constitutionally, the CII is assigned a recommendatory role alone. It cannot impose its will on parliament. Similarly, decisions of the FSC can only render an existing law repugnant to the injunctions of Islam. There’s nothing to stop parliament from enacting new legislation.
Therefore, the role assigned to these unelected bodies is only limited and subservient to the will of parliament.
In 2003, the CII had considered some aspects of the law referred to it by the federal ministry of law and justice. The questions included whether the court could give a verdict of acquittal in case of an apology being tendered by an accused. The council members could not reach a consensus because of the fundamental difference in understanding the nature of the offence of ‘defiling the name of the Holy Prophet’ (Section 295C). They, however, agreed that no change may be recommended in the substantive law even when the FSC had already pointed out serious problems with the law. This is as far as the council is likely to go in 2016.
If referring the question of blasphemy law back to CII will serve no purpose, what can and must parliament do? One, Section 295C must be rephrased to assign maximum certainty in its application, incorporating the requirement of intent as mandatory for conviction. Two, mandatory death penalty must be done away with because society is divided on this extreme punishment as an option.
Apart from these minimum substantive safeguards, parliament must assess reasons for the failure of procedural safeguard provided in a 2005 amendment (Section 156A Code of Criminal Procedure 1898 or CrPC) which requires mandatory investigation by a police officer of the rank of superintendent of police. The object of the procedural safeguard was to ensure fair and responsible investigation which could not be achieved. Further, the offence of blasphemy of the Holy Prophet should be made bailable and non-cognisable. Parliament should review whether it should at all be applicable to non-Muslims. Expression of penitence should lead to presumption of absence of intent, thus early acquittal.
The religious right’s politics of blasphemy has kept an honest debate on the issue impossible. By making the offer to review the law, Mr Sherani is only seeking authority over parliament which neither the council nor the ulema have.
Asad Jamal is a lawyer.
Democratic System at Risk in Pakistan
By I.A. Rehman
February 4th, 2016
ELECTED civilian governments in Pakistan have mostly owed their fall less to the opposition parties’ doings and more to their own death wish. Hopes that our politicians had learnt enough to avoid history being repeated have unfortunately begun to fade.
The public complaint that the state’s writ in regard to its benevolent functions, such as guaranteeing its citizens security of life, liberty and a means of a decent living, is shrinking is now old hat. A new cause of their anxiety is that the state’s growing reliance on its coercive powers is undermining its credibility as a responsible entity and is putting the democratic system at risk.
Last Tuesday’s incident in which force was used to suppress the PIA employees’ protest was the result of a long history of the government’s refusal to listen to labour’s point of view on the controversial policy of selling off public-sector enterprises.
In a similar fashion, Wapda workers are being provoked into resorting to extreme action to defend their rights. These issues will not be resolved until the government agrees to discuss its misguided enthusiasm for privatisation with workers, economists and the concerned citizens. Strangely enough labour is being denied a fair deal at a time when Pakistan is required to respect its rights in order to enjoy the GSP-Plus benefits.
Civil society’s ties with the state cannot be modelled on the master-servant relationship.
However, labour is not the only victim of the government’s inability to address matters of grave concern to the people in a fair manner. Due notice has yet to be taken of the plight of farmers caused by an unprecedented failure of the cotton crop.
Women, the largest vulnerable group in the country, cannot understand the state’s failure to manage the conservative clerics who wish to preserve the evil practice of child marriage and would not allow abolition of corporal punishment. Did the government listen to the wail of the mothers of the Bacha Khan University victims, who offered a significant variant on the official narrative on the campaign against terrorism?
Likewise, little is being done to address the concerns of the minority communities. Many months have passed since the Hindu marriage bill was okayed by the federal cabinet but the delay in enacting the measure has deprived the government of the goodwill it could have earned. If some flaws in the text of the bill have been discovered at this late stage the government alone is responsible. The government has also missed the opportunity to mitigate the hardships faced by the minorities that was offered by the Supreme Court verdict of June 2014.
Not only is the government inviting criticism for its failure to respect the Supreme Court’s advice, it does not seem keen to benefit from the institutions it has created. For instance, the National Commission for Human Rights (NCHR) is yet to be allowed to fulfil its mandate and help the authorities improve their human rights record. Nobody believes that some petty bureaucrats alone are responsible for preventing the NCHR from taking off.
Besides, the government does not seem to realise the dangers it is courting by opening a front against civil society organisations that do it and the country good service when they point out its shortcomings and errors. The process of registration and re-registration has not only been made unnecessarily cumbersome, it also smacks of vindictiveness.
Ever since junior intelligence and police functionaries were let loose to hound civil society activists they have been inventing ever new methods of obstructing and disrupting activities aimed at articulating the grievances of the underprivileged. A particularly vicious form of harassment is subjecting the office bearers and activists of civil society organisations to questions that encroach upon their rights to freedom of association and privacy.
It should not be difficult for the exalted figures in authority to realise that by decimating civil society they will lose a cushion against militants and extremists who can promise nothing other than anarchy and death.
The democrats in civil society are perhaps still prepared to give the political parties; those in government as well as those outside, a chance in the hope that they will not fail to complete the state’s transition to a functional democracy. But civil society’s ties with the state cannot be modelled on the master-servant relationship. The state has to conduct its affairs in a manner that civil society can defend it without losing the people’s trust and respect.
The government seems to have convinced itself that since it is engaged in a mortal combat with terrorists it can afford to ignore the abuse of law, which is evident in the curtailment of the right of the accused to due process, the extension of pre-trial detention to unreasonable limits and publication of statements of the accused before they are made in any court. The dictum that extra-legal measures can ruin the noblest of endeavours can hardly be ignored.
The government also needs to realise that the Rangers’ success in reducing lawlessness in Karachi does not mean that Balochistan’s sores may be allowed to fester, and that the completion of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor will not eradicate the causes of poverty rooted in the archaic landownership pattern.
The tales of increased prosperity in Punjab should not blind the government to the threats to the foundations of the federation posed by the growing disparity between the privileged province and the other regions, something the students of political economy have already begun to notice.
The citizens’ most fundamental grievance is that the system of governance is losing the quality of impersonal rule and the practice of taking decisions after due deliberation at the prescribed, democratic forums. It is time to rediscover the key role of the cabinet in the parliamentary system and realise that a genuine democracy demands not only rule by parliamentary consensus, but that it is also contingent on respect for the will of the people.
Stop Terrorism with Grassroots Policing
By Khawaja Khalid Farooq
February 04, 2016
The gallant efforts of the local police in deterring the terrorists at Charsaddah University before reinforcements arrived have once again highlighted the importance of the police force in combating terrorism. Without the valiant efforts of the local police, who not only resisted the advance of the terrorists (some reports say they actually killed two of them), the casualties could have been much higher. This again highlights the importance of local police forces. Local police are the best personnel to prevent terror attacks by combating terrorists, using the basic principles of policing, including patrolling, information gathering and surveillance of suspects of the area concerned. They are the appropriate persons to find and investigate local terrorist threats, and they can work to neutralise sleeper cells and ensure that vulnerable targets in their jurisdictions are protected. There is no substitute for the policeman who walks the streets. He is the gatherer of intelligence, the enforcer of the law, the preventer of the offence, the investigator of the crime and the standard bearer of the authority of the state all rolled into one. If he is not there, it means that all these functions are not being performed.
Patrolling is a central aspect of policing and constant patrolling by police forces establishes an official presence that enhances security and builds confidence in people. The police have to opt for compassionate patrols in the daytime, which become covert at night and track specific suspects, terror groups or sleeper cells. Specifically during terror alerts, to deter terror attacks, the police have to inundate the area with a number of small patrol groups working in unison to focus on specific targets.
The best source of information can be gathered from the local police stations across the country. In any plan for a terrorist attack, vital information that may forewarn a future attack may result from facts gathered by local police personnel in the course of routine law enforcement functions. For detecting the early activities of terrorists, gathering intelligence through the human intelligence (HUMINT) sources of local police is the primary source with respect to any specified or sensitive area or person.
Under the jurisdiction of a police station, officers like the Station House Officer (SHO), sub-inspectors and police constables have an everyday presence in their concerned area. They know the people in their area by their castes and professions, and they have an idea of villages or parts of their city, and local leaders, members of assembly and parliament. They always have the opportunity to communicate regularly with local residents and business people, street vendors, hawkers, etc, and are aware of minute and fragile changes in the locality under their jurisdiction.
As police know the local area and its people, they are at the forefront of developing primary deterrent capabilities to prevent terror attacks. To foster such capacity and competence the police forces in Pakistan might have to make considerable changes in their operating practices to fight against terrorism by adopting methods such as intelligence-led policing (ILP) and community policing, models followed by the UK and other jurisdictions. The focal point of the ILP model of policing is based on the identification, analysis and supervision of existing and approaching terror threats in the future.
Though some of the concepts are quite complicated, in its simplest form community policing is when some police constables are allocated to a particular area so that they can hang about there for a period of time, be acquainted with the locals and talk to them about local problems and suspicious persons. Such inputs in their jurisdiction could be used to get intelligence, which offers the best probability of preventing and deterring future forms of terror attacks. As mentioned, there might be many models but in a very simple form, an assistant sub-inspector and one or two constables in every police beat could be exclusively devoted to monitor community policing, and they should not be burdened with any other work.
Even though intelligence inputs are disseminated to the police force in the field, it does not necessarily convert into action by the deployment of enough police personnel in the sensitive areas to undertake surveillance activities and to protect susceptible targets. Lack of sufficient manpower and resources is slowing down and obstructing heavy new responsibilities of the Pakistan police in dealing with terror related activites that have significantly increased the workload of police forces already engaged in hectic work schedules.
Most of the resources of a provincial police department go towards salaries and, despite some up scaling of police resources, they are still grossly inadequate. The ratio of one police officer for every 700 citizens is highly inadequate by any standard, and in mega cities like Karachi it rises to 1,400 for every citizen. Consequently, to address the menace of terrorism and to prevent terror activities effectively and efficiently in every area in Pakistan there must be more police stations and professionally trained police officers. At the top there is an imperative need to reshuffle the police forces by posting young and newly recruited officers trained in tactics and technology in critical wings of the police dealing with terrorism. The Counter Terrorism Departments (CTDs) in every police force are one such force that should be strengthened.
Undoubtedly, local police are the primary source to keep terror groups off balance and keep the population reassured by neutralising terror activities and attacks. However, shortage of visibility and response is damaging policing, and despite success stories like Bacha Khan University, the police are becoming ineffective in preventing terror related attacks and sleeper cell activities. Under such existing constraints, where the police not only have to put up with meagre resources but also political interference, intimidation and patronage, things may not work optimally. In this time of national crisis, it is necessary not only for the politicians not to interfere in police responsiveness to terror activities, but also the need for rapid expansion of police forces with a modern outlook.
Khawaja Khalid Farooq is a retired Inspector General of Police and ex-head of Pakistan’s National Counter-Terrorism Authority
Buck up America!
By Harlan Ullman
February 04, 2016
Franklin Delano Roosevelt is not alive to say it. But if he were, his advice to the nation would be this. “Buck up America! Things are not as bad as they seem.”
Pessimism reigns. From the presidential campaigns of both parties to chaos in the Middle East, Persian Gulf and Afghanistan to falling stock markets and rumours of Europe imploding as Vladimir Putin finds ways of further dividing the western alliance, finding good news is not easy. It is much easier to become depressed.
About the presidential sweepstakes; not a single vote has been cast in the primaries. Iowa holds a caucus today at the time of writing and when New Hampshirites, South Carolinians and Nevadans make their decisions, only slightly more than one percent of the necessary votes for the nomination will have been determined. Yet the media is reporting as if every primary were a super bowl or world series that, by the way, occur only once a year!
One can argue that the current race is the inconceivable running against the incredulous. This column has long argued that one of our political parties has lost its soul and the other its mind. The reader can chose which is which. On one side, the leading candidates are without qualification or experience for the presidency. On the other, a democratic socialist and a credibility impaired rival are jousting for the honour.
Meanwhile, Americans are being falsely frightened by how much danger they face from a Jihadi terrorist attack at home, which is virtually negligible even though Islamic State (IS) is surely interested in keeping the fear factor high. Vladimir Putin is being elevated into cosmic threat levels rivalling the bad old days of the Cold War. Iran is peremptorily accused of using the many billions of dollars it will receive now that sanctions are being lifted to underwrite terrorists who will make the region more violent. And China’s economy is described as so fragile as to trigger an international recession, or worse.
Is this paranoia deserved? Certainly, the paranoid conceivably have enemies. Instead, what the nation is undergoing is a collective crisis of confidence. This crisis is manifested in how Americans perceive institutions most important to them and to their lives. The presidency is held in low esteem. Congress is even worse with approval ratings barely touching double figures. From the Boy Scouts to police forces to the Catholic Church, Americans show little to no confidence. The media is far from blame. Worse, talk radio and cable news have polarised the public into a partisan zero sum game. In believing one set of views, all others are categorically rejected with extreme venom, vitriol, anger and prejudice. This partisan polarisation has stricken Congress and partly explains why government remains badly broken.
Optimists, particularly political ones, are a disappearing species. In the presidential debates, Republicans label Barack Obama’s seven years in office among the worst in our history. Clearly, political amnesia has sunk in. It might be impossible and surely insane to repeat the catastrophes of George W Bush’s administration. Yet, to Republicans, Obama is worse.
The Democratic side is little better. Hillary Clinton has to overcome a credibility and honesty gap wider than the Grand Canyon. Bernie Sanders cannot be optimistic about a democratic socialism platform that has almost universally failed and has of course been long rejected by Americans perhaps until 2016. Can anything be done to eject this malaise that is adversely affecting the US, even though Jimmy Carter never used that term? Theoretically, the answer is of course. Operationally and practically, reversing this crisis of confidence is far more a Herculean labour. Two unlikely Hercules inhabit both ends of Pennsylvania. The first is the president. The second is the speaker of the House. And the models are Ronald Reagan and Tip O’Neil and Bill Clinton and Newt Gingrich — odd couples of the first instance.
Barack Obama and Paul Ryan have it in their ken to change the national mood. Neither has the outgoing personality of the odd couples noted above. Yet, on one hand, conditions are not as dire as they appear. On the other, perception invariably trumps, if I may use that word, reality. But both offices are meant to represent the larger polity rather than one party — the public regarding the president and the whole Congress, not just one side of the aisle, by the speaker.
If the president and speaker can work together with good will and intent, we stand a chance, even if it is slim, of reversing this crisis of confidence. If not, then morning in the US will be the morning after the worst night one ever had!
Harlan Ullman is chairman of the Killowen Group that advises leaders of government and business and senior advisor at Washington DC’s Atlantic Council. His latest book, due out this fall, is A Handful of Bullets: How the Murder of an Archduke a Century Ago Still Menaces Peace Today
Journalism Is the First Draft of History
By Anjum Niaz
February 3, 2016
“You shouldn’t have affairs. But definitely don’t have one with a memoirist,” writes Meredith Maran, editor of Why we write about ourselves. Great advice. But when a memoirist has a 50-year affair with journalism, juxtaposing personal with the political evolution of a nation, I think it’s safe to say that Mohammad Ali Siddiqi’s 700-page book, Pakistan: From religion to fascism, Memoirs of a journalist is an affair to remember.
The sheer expanse and variety Siddiqi packs in his narrative is breathtaking. For a student or an initiated observer of journalism, political science and foreign affairs, this book makes for a prized source of first-hand information. The full sweep of Siddiqi’s career ranges from editorials, over 3,000, to feature stories, scoops and news reporting as an English language newspaper’s Washington correspondent. He’s an all-rounder, employing a heuristic approach to learn, discover and hone journalistic skills encapsulated in his life’s travails. He began as a sub-editor and ended as a Readers’ Editor. His thorough professionalism is reflected on the pages of the book, zeroing in on the tortuous history of Pakistan laced with his crisp comments and wry humour that his friend called “unapologetically subjective”. The author’s ‘subjectivity’ is what sustains the reader’s interest. Enough books on political history of this country lie biting the dust. Siddiqi is shrewd enough to keep the reader entertained with his quips while taking us on an exciting tour of virtual reality in real time! Not every writer has the smarts to interact with his reader by presenting history as though it were live.
Our attention span defined as “the amount of concentrated time on a task without becoming distracted” has shrunk to levels where humans now have a shorter attention span than goldfish! Microsoft’s CEO predicts that in the near future “the true scarce commodity will be human attention!” Given this environment, Barrister Kamal Azfar, a man for all seasons who has worn many hats over the decades, has written a brilliant Foreword for Siddiqi’s book. Azfar has telescoped for the reader its salient features, recommending chapters one and 17. The first captures Karachi’s lost charm and the latter is on “Brother Arabs”. “It is about us Pakistanis’ romantic view of the Arabs … his (Siddiqi’s) thesis is that the Arabs are basically a secular people, they do not appreciate religion as a state’s basis, their historical experience has been vastly different from South Asian Muslims,” writes Azfar. “The Arabs have no concept of pan-Islamism” and that “they are often amused by Pakistanis’ infantile concept of the ummah.” “The reader”, continues Azfar, “may not accept these rather radical views, but I recommend the chapter for reasons of originality.” While Azfar is perhaps being politically correct about our relationship with the Saudis, kudos to Siddiqi for calling a spade a spade.
I asked Siddiqi about his most deeply felt personal experience grounded in one of the chapters of his book. He pointed to chapter three, entitled “Revanche” [revenge]. It is an anguished story of a patriot and a journalist with a wounded heart. It tells us about his wound. As a boy, Siddiqi had to flee his home in Hyderabad Deccan when the Indian Army came in 1948: “I had been roused from bed early in the morning and made to say goodbye to the home which I would never see again,” he writes. He hasn’t forgiven India since then. He wanted revenge for that September 1948 morning; instead he has witnessed only disasters and reverses in South Asia and abroad — Hyderabad, Junagadh, Kashmir, East Pakistan, Kargil, Palestine, Iraq and Bosnia. Still, his unabashed love for Pakistan is an act of faith, the most beautiful and deserving of our admiration for the author: “I have loved Pakistan the way no other human being does … two people loved Pakistan as much as I do: Jinnah and Bhutto. A third has not yet been born.”
While waiting to join his father in Pakistan, Siddiqi’s family sojourned in Aurangabad in 1949 where his mother’s brother lived. “Zaheer [his uncle] had a daughter Razia.” Love blossomed. The rest you read!
Anjum Niaz is a journalist with over 30 years of experience