Will The Political Establishment Wake Up?

By: Agha Haider Raza

Our country is at a crossroad.  Pakistan has come to a point where thousands believe they are righteous and have divine authority to carry out God’s acts on this earth.  The repugnant response by the supporters of Salman Taseer’s alleged killer has truly been mesmerizing.  Qadri’s fan base has distorted Islam to such an extent that it has become laughable to comprehend how they perceive themselves to be protecting the sanctity of Islam.  Are they protecting the very Islam, which teaches that murder of one human is the equivalent of killing mankind? Are they protecting the very Islam, which allows for questions over ambiguity? Are they protecting the very Islam that believes in modernity and equality for all? Continue reading

Learning from His Death

This article was published by Pakistan Today on January 11th, 2011. It  highlight the difficulties with which one can proceed on the blasphemy laws in Pakistan!

Salman Taseer will forever remain a hero of mine for the bravery he showed. But those who wish to change the blasphemy law need to adopt a different course of action.

“The Ornament of the World” is a wonderful book written some years ago by Maria Menocal, a professor at Yale University. The title of the book refers to 13th century Cordoba – a city which in those dark ages had libraries with hundreds of thousands of books, more than in all of England, a city in which Muslim, Jew and Christian all lived in the greatest harmony. But as Professor Mendocal notes, even in those days of peace and brotherhood, defamation of the Prophet was regarded as being so completely and utterly unacceptable that death was the only punishment.

Continue reading

Leave of Absence

Hi All! Now that I have graduated from college and am starting my professional career, I will not be active on my blog anymore.  It has been a great experience writing on making our country look towards a brighter future.  We are at a cross-road and the route upon which we travel will surely measure our success.  Hopefully my blog has set a ball in motion and will make us think outside of the box.  We must counter the threat of those who are seeking to destroy our future.  Pakistan’s glory days are yet to come.  Most successful nations of our time have had a turbulent past and Pakistan is no exception.  We must overcome the elements that are breaking our peaceful society.  Education should be our top priority in order to be exceptional.  Through my published articles and numerous blog postings, I hope that I have inspired and motivated many of us who assume we have a bleak future.  Thank you for your readership and support!

-AHR

There is nothing righteous in terror!

By: Agha Haider Raza

What happened in Lahore is truly one of the saddest and heart-wrenching incidents I have ever experienced as a Pakistani.  When places of worship no longer carry the sanctity they deserve, the stark divide in religious ideology is made clear in Pakistan.  After wandering around various blogs and reading horrible hate posts by people who label themselves as Muslims, I felt compelled to write to the terrorists and their followers directly.  It is mesmerizing that there are people in my country who actually applaud the heinous crime of killing innocent people, carrying out a crime against Islam, a crime against Pakistan.  I am shocked at the people who have the audacity to support those who kill in the name of our religion, one that bounds my faith for the timeless virtues of tolerance, compassion, and forgiveness. Continue reading

Times Square!

Just like the square itself, the news item of a lunatic Faisal Shahzad trying to set a car on fire has attracted millions of viewers.  Without diving into the act itself, the consequences are more important.  Various conspiracy theories have arisen from the right-wing in Pakistan who are exclaiming that with the help of the botched bombing the United States are going to force the Pakistan Army into North Waziristan, whereas the left are trying to break the link between Shahzad and a nation of 180 million. After all, Shahzad is a US citizen who has been residing in the United States for many years.  In an already fractured relationship, Obama and his administration need to tread rather carefully as much anger, resentment and fear lies below the surface. Pakistan’s Ambassador to the United Nations has done a wonderful job of explaining where Pakistan is coming from.  From being articulate to comprehensive, a much needed voice needs to be aired in both Pakistan and the United States to continue strengthening the Pak-US relationship.

I apologize in advance, for some reason I cannot add a flash video here. Please do follow the link to see the interview of Pakistan’s Ambassador to the United Nations.  http://www.cbsnews.com/video/watch/?id=6471329n&tag=api

Giving Credit Where It’s Due

Published in the Daily Times Giving Credit Where It’s Due (April 26th, 2010) looks to change the prevalent thought process in Pakistan. For far too long we have been pessimistic in regards to the future of our country. We have let too many domestic and foreign hands change the course of our tomorrow. It is time we cease to let negative elements contaminate our society. We log for a brighter future and at the critical point in time we find ourselves, now is the time for action. Now is the time to take control of our lives.

Pakistan recently had two major delegations visiting the US. Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi led the first contingent under the auspices of a new ‘Strategic Dialogue’ with the US. In the second trip, Prime Minister Gilani led his team to President Obama’s first Nuclear Summit. Attended by over 47 heads of state, the summit was the largest gathering of world leaders to descend upon the US soil since the 1940s. Recognised as one of the world’s safe-keepers of a nuclear stockpile, Pakistan gained a nod of approval from the world’s seven nuclear bomb carriers.

I am unaware if many journalists or citizens in Pakistan read foreign newspapers, magazines or even blogs, but over the course of the nuclear summit, many international media outlets praised our country. From the words of admiration showered on Pakistan by President Obama for keeping its nuclear arsenal safe, to the positive role played by Prime Minister Gilani, it was our time to be in the limelight. Much attention was directed towards the professionalism of Army Chief General Parvez Kayani while the brilliant display of diplomacy carried out by Ambassador Husain Haqqani did not go unnoticed. Penned as a key ally of the US and taking the war to the very militants who threaten the fabric of our peace and security, Pakistan garnered much respect from the world community.

I believe we are witnessing a new dawn. President Zardari has probably received more hate mail in his current tenure than the dictator Pervez Musharraf did in his nine-year rule. But Zardari did not suspend the constitution; he did not depose the chief justice, nor introduce the Legal Framework Order (LFO); nor did he chalk out the 17th Amendment, which put a black mark on our constitution. Rather, the current president put into place the 18th Amendment, which rectified the above-mentioned wrongs done by a military dictator. Giving credit where it is due, I think we have seen the rise of a new dawn.

Ironically, many journalists and media personalities in Pakistan are still unhappy with the current set-up. Earlier they used to admonish Zardari for not shifting the authority granted to him under the 17th Amendment to the rightful heir, the prime minister. With a streak of vengeance, columnists penned articles day after day, inciting anger and hatred towards Mr Zardari. But, like spoilt children, these journalists have not applauded the transfer of power, and have found nothing but faults in the latest legislation. In my humble opinion, they have continued in the age-old habit of misconstruing facts to suit their own needs.

Constantly speculating on motley issues, from clash between the judiciary and the executive to resignation of Mr Zardari after the abolition of the NRO to demanding expulsion of Ambassador Haqqani within 48 hours (which was sometime in October last year), these reporters have used every ploy to bring down the current government. Mind you, I am not arguing that the Zardari administration does not have its flaws, but surely we can give credit where it is due, especially if it is in the interest of our nation.

One of the reasons many Pakistanis showed dissent towards the US over the past decade was due to President Bush’s blind support of General Musharraf. A bitter relationship between Pakistan and the US stemmed from the love affair of these two polarising figures. Citizens of both countries were wary of the other, while public perception of Pakistan in the US was at an all time low and vice versa. During the Busharraf years we constantly heard the mantra of “do more”, while the Bush administration turned a blind eye towards the undemocratic steps taken by General Musharraf.

President Obama strode into office, articulating a new, stronger and secure relationship with the Muslim world, especially with Pakistan, due to our deep involvement in the war on terror. Placing Ambassador Haqqani at the helm of affairs has led to a much-needed boost in what was a tattered relationship with the US. Much criticism was directed at Mr Haqqani during the Kerry-Lugar saga, but many have failed to acknowledge the depth of the strong bond our ambassador has secured with the US. It was through the efforts of Mr Haqqani that Pakistan was able to procure the long-delayed F-16s and the crucial grant of $ 7.5 billion in non-military aid.

If we, as a nation, constantly harp on the past, we may never be able to see the future. We are not out of the woods yet, but that does not mean we will remain in this perpetual cycle of suicide bombings and low standard of living. Constantly bickering over the role of President Zardari or his appointees will lead us nowhere. The primary reason for fighting for an independent judiciary was to have an accountability mechanism in place. A section of the current ‘independent’ media needs to stop finding fault with every positive initiative the government has undertaken. Giving credit where it is due and holding elected officials accountable for their actions while in public office is the way to go and truly enjoy the fruits of democracy we strive for.

Ansar Abbasi Misleads Public On 18th Amendment

Stumbling across various articles in regards to the newly minted 18th Amendment, I found this particular one rather intriguing.  One of the primary objectives of this blog is to diminish the irrational voices in our society.  We have suffered for far too long at the hands of those who wish to maintain their power and dominance through suppressing others.  Below is an interesting article written by Sibtain Naqvi.

Since the inception of the 18th Amendment, The News has been constantly attacking the newly minted legislation. Being a major publication, it is the paper’s duty to pinpoint the flaws of the legislation and enlighten the public of discrepancies they may find. However, the two main articles that have been published only look to manipulate the public’s perception of the legislation by creating bogus facts or twisting the clauses to misrepresent what has been passed.

In the first article published by The News “PM to stay a puppet”?, Ansar Abbasi suggests that Prime Minister Gilani will still remain a dummy premier, even though he would have amassed all the constitutional powers granted to him. Although the 18th Amendment is a long piece of legislation the important migration of powers from the President to the Prime Minister should not go unnoticed. The President no longer has the authority to dissolve the Parliament or appoint the head of the military. These two powers, previously belonging to President Zardari did not sit well with the “independent” media. From the second Mr. Zardari took his Presidential oath, media personalities constantly lambasted him for retaining such powers. After passing on this authority to the Prime Minister, Ansar Abbasi seems to be dumbfounded.

The author backs up his argument by stating “After the insertion of the 18th Amendment…the PPP-head he can remove the prime minister, get unseated any number of ministers or the members belonging to his party”. He further articulates “there is no more room left for any member to vote according to his or her conscience except at the risk of getting unseated”. Now, to a layperson, such bold statements would truly make our members of government look like lame ducks.

It is the basic art of writing that when one makes an assertion he backs it up with a source. In the 627 word article “PM to stay a puppet”, Ansar Abbasi has not once given a reference from the 18th Amendment. After all, he is making such sweeping statements that the party head can get his politicians removed, I am sure there would be a clause somewhere in the text of the 18th Amendment. Being an amateur journalist, I took the liberty of reading the Constitution of Pakistan and the new legislation.

Article 63A. Disqualification on grounds of defection etc, (1)“If a member of a Parliament Party composed of a single political party in a House

(a) resigns from membership of his political party or joins another Parliamentary Party,

(b) votes or abstains from voting in the House contrary to any direction issued by the Parliamentary Party to which he belongs, in relation to

i. election of the Prime Minister or the Chief Minister; or
ii. a vote of confidence or a vote of no-confidence; or
iii. a Money Bill or a Constitution (Amendment) Bill
he may be declared in writing by the Party Head to have defected from the political party, and the Party Head may forward a copy of the declaration to the Presiding Officer.

The “a Constitution (Amendment) Bill” is the only addition to this article in the 18th Amendment. Therefore, in no way have the political Party Head’s received greater power under the new law. If Ansar Abbasi believes that this is the case, I would request him to show me the article or clause by which he made this assumption.

I was going to take the higher route and let this particular Mr. Ansar Abbasi make himself look like a fool, but when he wrote another article today “Convicts can grab top political posts” it was difficult for me to let this article slide. Being fair to the author, this time around he did manage to give a reference to a particular clause in the 18th Amendment from which he drew his assumption. In “Convicts can grab top political posts”, Ansar Abbasi states “The 18th Amendment inserted a new Article 63 (1) (j). This is not true as such clause was already present in the Constitution. Furthermore, clause (j) as quoted by the author is incorrect, it is actually clause (g) to which he should be referring to.

Ansar Abbasi is trying to make the case that due to the addition of the statement “unless a period of five years has elapsed since his release” to Article 63 (1) (g)(h)(i), all convicts will now automatically become office bearers. I would like to reiterate that in order to become any “public –official” one needs to win an election. The power of the vote lies with the people and if the electorate is content on handing a public office to a convict, than that is the democracy. Furthermore, an elected convict could still be challenged under “Article 62 (1) (d) he is of good character and is not commonly known as one who violates Islamic Injunctions” and Article 62 (1) (f) he is sagacious, righteous, non-profligate, honest and amen, and there being no declaration to the contrary by a court of law”. There are still laws protecting irrational characters from being elected to office. The electorate is a strong minded body and I would ask Ansar Abbasi not to under-estimate the power of the vote.

The purpose of my writing this article is to identify the incorrect and misleading manner by which our reporters have started to pen their assumptions. It is unprofessional and irresponsible for journalists such as Ansar Abbasi to mislead the public by misinforming them of the facts. I should have been studying for my exams instead of writing this article. But since what was written in the newspaper was so outrageous and deceiving, I am going to be getting an earful from my parents about procrastinating on my academics. Thanks a lot The News!