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Friday, November 17, 2006

Yeh voh sahar to naheeñ ...

It is sad, indeed, when political manipulations and disinformation manage to convince people that bad decisions are actually good. It is sadder still when the public - 'educated' people among them - accept these distortions because they choose to look at matters superficially, even when it could have a deep personal effect on them. A case in point is the recent Women's Protection Bill. Claimed as a victory (or, at least, a step forward) by a vast majority of liberals and the moderately enlightened, it is nothing short of pulling the wool over people's eyes.

The Hudood Ordinances need repealing! Period! They came into being as a one-man initiated order by military dictator and should be removed in the same manner. But that's not what President Musharraf would ever do. “I think those who had been calling for the repeal of all the Hudood laws are also extremists”, he has said. The reason? He said, according to the 'Dawn', it was not possible for him to do so as it would have unleashed all kinds of problems, including the lifting of prohibition from drinking. A sobering thought, indeed. Actually I'd rather have a couple of people drunk than people stoned to death through a debatable interpretation.

I think, after repealing the ordinances, it would be perfectly okay to table new motions and propose new laws, in keeping with the Qur'an and Sunnah. (I would prefer a separation of Church & State, but this is a constitutional requirement). The people's representatives (or, more accurately, those that go by that description) should debate - and, openly, please - each implication of the bill, making sure it is clearly understood, and establish the following: Is it Qur'anic? Is it derived from the Hadees? Are all the conditions (and pre-conditions) for its enforcement being met? It is also important to know, if only as an academic excercise, if Ijtehaad allows for Qur'anic punishments to be amended, in certain cases, as Sir Syed Ahmad Khan and - later - Allama Iqbal, had suggested. (Read Iqbal's Sixth Lecture on Reconstruction.) The will of the people, or some semblance of it, could then decide and the new laws can be promulgated, as is expected of a civil society.

The official and opposition hoohaa, choreographed to accompany this manipulative (and negotiated) move, confuses the issue by making the people believe that it is now in keeping with the Qur'an & Sunnah (according to the Government) and not so (according to the MMA members, who chanted "the bill opposed to Quran and Sunnah is unacceptable" for some time before actually walking out of the proceedings). Surely it does not take rocket science to understand that it cannot be both. One of them must be able to prove this, simply, by quoting the relevant verses from the Qur'an. Or even some irrelevant ones (considered Zaeef) from the Hadees. But let's not beat around the bush (like Bush and his evidence of WMDs) and see some hard evidence.

Does it make sense that the rapist (in a crime in which the victim is totally innocent) will be punishable with 10 to 25 years of imprisonment but adultery (where there is mutual consent for the same act) is punishable with stoning to death?

And while we are at that point in the discussion, can anyone show an aayat that supports stoning to death? What? It isn't there??? Ohhh. So isn't the Qur'an a mukammal zaabtaé hayaat (the Complete Code of Life)? Of course, we need to go to the Hadees, you'll say, taking the debate to another and more difficult level: There is far less consensus on which Ahaadees to accept or reject than there is in the interpretations of the Qur'an. Surely, before doling out death we should make sure that such texts mean what we understand beyond reasonable doubt.

The President will also be asking elected members to bring in more laws "to end the anti-women customs of vani*, marriage with Quran and watta-satta.” Considering that many of the 'elected members' condone and even enforce such practices in their own families (one of them has 3 of his sisters married to the Qur'an), this is going to be a real challenge. Or just another hypocritical, political, meaningless law that considers the powerful to be above it.
* = The custom of giving away female relatives to resolve disputes is called vani, and at its most extreme, in 2004 a three year old girl became betrothed to a 60 year old man. This led to vani and honor killings being officially outlawed, though in practise, this rule is rarely observed in village communities.
What many view as a positive amendment in the bill - (the new amendment moved on Wednesday provides for an imprisonment of up to five years and a fine of 10,000 rupees for the offence of fornication, or consensual sex of the unmarried) - has drawn angry criticism from a maulana, who has expressed that this would turn "Pakistan into a free sex zone". Haah! As if he always pays for his!

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Anonymous Rashid Latif said...

Undoubtedly, any dictator's ordinance can be undone by another. If Musharraf proclaims to be an enlightened moderate why is he clinging on to a dictator's proclamations as gospel truth?

Unless the Mullahs consider Zia as another prophet whose words are to be considered gospel truth that can not be discarded by the "believers", there is no place for retaining his "Farmaans" as God's directives.

I entirely agree with you that as an 'enlightened moderate' Musharraf must remove all the ordinances from the book of statutes as early as possible and then let our assemblies introduce properly drafted and well publicised bills on all or any subjects that they might like to.

By declaring that he was removing all ordinances by a certain cut off date, the parliamentarians will have to draft new laws by then.

This will endear him to Bush as well as all moderate and enlightened Pakistanis. Then the ball will be in Mullahs' court and they will have to do all the convincing on Hudood and other ordinances etc.

17 November, 2006 17:46

Anonymous damien washburn said...

Many here suspect Musharraf is playing a game, annoying and pleasing the opposition, in turn, to stay in power. And our government doesn't really give a damn, as long as the guy in every high position in your region is their man.

17 November, 2006 18:24

Blogger the olive ream said...

It is clearly evident that time travel is possible. The MMA members collective intellect now resides comfortably somewhere in the stone age, while their bodies remain in the present repulsing every sane individual has any common sense. No small achievement you will agree.

ZAK, will you contact NASA scientists or should I break the news to them.

17 November, 2006 19:53

Blogger Sidhusaaheb said...

Er...could it be that before tackling the tough parts, the leadership is keen to make improvements that are easier to make?

However, if this is all that they are willing to do, then there obviously is cause for concern.

18 November, 2006 01:02

Blogger Zakintosh said...

sidhusaaheb, i admire your optimism. but i really don't think that anyone among the powerful wants to solve this problem because the impact of such changes would be the empowerment of women, in the workplace, in the community, in the home. hardly something that macho military men or power-drunk politicians would feel comfortable with. of course, if they have to keep up the pretense so that the west lets them stay in power, a side-effect will be that some benefits will accrue to women and society.

18 November, 2006 19:37

Anonymous rayhan said...

Although the bill has now been passed, it IS a bit early to celebrate,

Jab kabhi kisi gul par ek zara nikhar aya
Kam-nigah yeh samjhay mausam-e-bahar aya!

24 November, 2006 14:35


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