Friday, March 11, 2011


By Rabia Ahmed | Published: March 11, 2011
According to Orange News, an Immigration officer in London was so sick of his wife that he put her name on a terrorist watch list. This meant that following a visit to relatives in Pakistan, she was unable to return to England because she was denied boarding on her flight, without being told why. The enterprising husband promised to investigate the mystery, but did not, and for three years he whooped it up before finally being found out and sacked. I’d love to know whether she returned then, and what she said, but that’s asking too much, I guess. 
There is the case of Shahid Mahmood, a Canadian of Pakistani origin, an architect and a political cartoonist who locked horns with Air Canada for six years because it would not allow him to fly its carriers. The reason given was that he was too late to catch the flight (his Chilean wife beside him was allowed to board), and that he needed two pieces of identification, not just one (the law says he needs just one). The most likely reason however were two brilliant cartoons Mahmood made six years ago, one which showed Uncle Sam giving birth to Osama bin Laden, and the other George Bush reading the world map upside down. This almost certainly placed him on a US no-fly list accessed by Air Canada.
Shahid Mahmood
These cases are relatively benign and neither took place in Pakistan. However they well illustrate the point, of the facts behind accusations. Here, such incidents can be found under every stone, our personal and political vendettas are waged this way all the time.
People are condemned for major crimes they may or not have committed, such as blasphemy, zina and other such. Given the ease with which facts are manipulated in our society, the veracity of these accusations is questionable. You wonder, for example who Asiya Bibi may actually have offended, particularly since the charge against her was so flimsy. It is said that she was involved in some dispute over property with a neighbour...? This person could be perfectly innocent of course, while just as easily could Asiya Bibi be, of the charges laid against her.
If the death penalty against Asiya is carried out, she will be the first person ‘lawfully killed’ for the crime of blasphemy. Yes there are those ‘unlawfully killed’ for this crime, such as the factory owner Najeebullah, killed by a mob composed of his workers in 2009. Najeebullah was accused of blasphemy because he apparently placed an old calendar with Quranic verses on a table, which act spelt out blasphemy to his Muslim workers.
Sheer ignorance and bigotry aside, factory owners are often involved in wage disputes with their workers. Could this be the reason behind the accusations levelled against Najeebullah? We’ll never know, seeing that Mr Najeebullah is now as dead they come.
In a country as corrupt as Pakistan, where judges, witnesses, government officials, and almost all persons petty or important can be and are bought all the time, how can any harsh sentence be passed on any person? What shred of surety is there that the accusation, much less the witnesses and the judges were real, free and fair?
In 2009, almost sixty non Muslim families left their homes in the Orakzai agency. The reason was that Hakeemullah Mehsud the leader of the Tehreek e Taliban (TTP) asked for ‘jizya’ from these families. Jizya is a tax issued on non-Muslims in exchange for protection in case of war, in an Islamic state. Mehsud made this demand, and imposed a deadline for compliance.
When the families demurred against paying the tax, the TTP burnt some of their homes each day before the deadline was reached.
The TTP also imposed restrictions against women leaving home to work in the area.
From time to time, the public and its leaders break out in a rash of demands in favour of imposing punishments based on Shariah law, such as the law against blasphemy; they moreover resist any change or adjustment made to these laws.
The fact is that no law, whether Shariah or any other can function in a society where people lack the basic amenities of life which foster peace and a desire for fair play. The life of the common man in Pakistan leads him to bay for blood not justice, and laws particularly those that impose strict punishments are terrifyingly prone to abuse. This, remember, is no Islamic state by any stretch of the imagination, nor is there such a state anywhere in the world today.
It is not until these social issues are tackled that the niceties of law can be discussed. Until then we suffer the state we have created for ourselves.

This news was published in print paper. To access the complete paper of this day. click here

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