Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Blasphemy and its discontents..

some random news items.

A "liberal" doctor said something to a pharma rep (he probably said "I dont want to prescribe your overpriced medication to patients who don't need it") and the pharma rep told his buddies that the local GP is a liberal and is not properly respectful of religion. His buddies happened to be graduates of the vast network of Islamic Purification Factories one can find all over Pakistan. Mom (Pakistan's far-sighted armed forces) and Dad (Saudi Arabia and the USA, in that order) got together to make this baby in the 1980s, but as in humans, the germ cells within mom were born a generation earlier. Lovingly cradled in the Islamic Republic and brought to maturity in anticipation of the arrival of Daddy's little swimmers. Anyway, the local graduates were quick to grasp the necessary implications of having a "liberal" doctor in Jalalpur Jattan. They went and shot him dead.

Junaid, a "liberal" student from the remote borderlands of Punjab went to America on a Fulbright scholarship and came back to teach at Multan University (yes, I know, Bloody Fool, so close to a Green card and he returns to teach!). His "conservative colleagues" were unhappy. So they asked the local chapter of the Islamic Chatra Shibbir to put a stop to this menace. A pamphlet was circulated, saying that Junaid was a blasphemer who wrote blasphemous things about the wives of the Holy Prophet on Facebook under the pseudonym "Mullah Munafiq". The police sprang into action and arrested the man from a 100 miles away. They prepared an indictment without bothering to involve the cybercrimes wing or otherwise find evidence connecting Junaid to Mulla Munafiq. No evidence? No problem. He is still in prison, 14 months later.


 Junaid's family had a hard time finding a lawyer for him, until the local representative of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan took the case. He was threatened in court by fellow lawyers for daring to do so. He reported the threats to the police. A few weeks later, he was shot dead. Junaid no longer has a lawyer and faces a mandatory death penalty. Mulla Munafiq is still happily posting on FB 14 MONTHS after Junaid was arrested and put in high security prison. The ways of the infidels are indeed mysterious.
Human Rights Advocate Rashid Rehman Khan. – Screenshot



Faisal, a generous, loving, hard-working doctor had served his community for 25 years. He happened to be a Shia and made no bones about it. This was not a problem in the old, impure Pakistan, but by now a "Muavia colony" has grown up near his home (how fast they grow up!).
Muavia colony. As they say in Urdu "naam hi kafi hai" ("the name says it all"). Someone from Muavia colony sent him (and his brother and his cousin) threats, warning them to stop polluting the clean air of Hasan Abdal with their "Rafidhi" religion. They stayed in town, providing medical care to thousands. So Dr Babar Ali was shot dead on his way home from work in March 2014. And 2 months later, so was Dr Faisal Manzur. The police remain clueless.
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A group of lawyers protested against police high-handedness. The police officer involved is named Umar Daraz. He was verbally abused during the protest. His name happens to be the name of the second caliph of Islam (and of a few million other people). 60 lawyers have been charged with blasphemy. 


A poor Christian woman working in the fields drank water from a "Muslim" cup. The local Muslim women ("superior" to the Chrisitan lady in terms of status) complained and they had an argument. A couple of days later she was charged with blasphemy. She was duly sentenced to death in 2010. She is still on death row. Hearing about this, the Governor of Punjab said he thought this was a bit much and she should be set free.


His own guard gunned him down. Hundreds of lawyers volunteered to defend the killer. Thousands rallied in front of the killer's house to support the noble family and to praise their glorious son. A judge sentenced him to death and then ran away from the country because of death threats. A mosque has just been named in honor of the killer. Local Barelvis (so-called "Liberal Sufi Muslims" in  the discourse of Western and Westernized Desis) are delighted that one of their own has restored their honor by killing the governor.


Subhanallah. Everything is going according to plan.

Only an armed force can stop these armed purifiers of Pakistan. But the army has other priorities (linked less to Islamic purification and more to permanent and over-riding "strategic" aims like the conquest of Afghanistan and the eventual defeat of India; but its all connected anyway). Liberals will either have to convert the army to their cause or move to the US to try and invent counter-propaganda for use after the apocalypse.


Theoretically, there is another option: the liberals, Shias, Pakhtoon Nationalists, Baloch Nationalists, Sindhi Nationalists, Ahmedis, Hindus, Free Thinkers, malcontents, etc. could, separately or together, invite another army to enforce order. For various reasons, I think this is not possible at this stage. But after the apocalypse, all bets are off...


For background on the blasphemy law, see here. 

I am posting this excellent column from Gul Bukhari in full. It sheds some light on some aspects of state collusion in this saga.

Silent onlooker? No, Sir
May 12, 2014

Just yesterday someone tweeted that the state is a silent onlooker in the context of HRCP regional coordinator and advocate Rashid Rehman’s murder. Progressive souls increasingly frustrated and angry at these blasphemy related murders so foul, point to the failure, silence or paralysis of the state in dealing with the crime.
But there is something wrong with even the nomenclature we use to describe what is happening, or to express what we want the state to do. A silent onlooker implies someone simply detached from proceedings, neither helping nor harming. Thus when we accuse the state of being a silent onlooker, we are implicitly asking it stop ‘onlooking’ and do something, to take some action.
Implicit to the term failure is an unsuccessful attempt at success, and therefore blaming the state for having failed means we are imputing an attempt by the state to put things right in which it failed. Similarly, when we criticize the state for apparent paralysis where blasphemy related killings are concerned, we are assuming a will or desire to do something, something good that is, but a bodily or physical inability to do so.
This language clearly indicates that we are not clear about what is going on, or what needs to change. The state is not a silent onlooker. No, the state is an active participant in blasphemy killings. It is not paralyzed at all, but actively complicit in the accusations and arrests. The state has not failed; it has been enabling incarceration of innocents, and aiding unfair trials of accused.
Though a cursory look at most blasphemy cases in Pakistan will demonstrate the same principles at work, just one horrifying example of Mr. Rehman and his client Mr. Junaid Hafeez should suffice here.
Firstly, it is the state that provides the open and alluring prospects for spurious and malafide accusations of blasphemy to be entertained seriously by the courts in shape of the blasphemy laws. The state made the laws, and the state remains responsible for not amending or repealing laws, especially at the time the 18th amendment was introduced to clean up the constitution of Pakistan during the previous government’s tenure. Thanks to the state, the blasphemy laws of the country continue to take the lives of innocents with increasing frequency in this country. It is ironic, every time anyone is lynched or murdered, everyone looks to the state to bring perpetrators to justice. It is almost laughable.
After an accusation has been made, the next state instrument, it’s law enforcement agencies, swing in with their role: the most ridiculous and nonsensical FIRs are registered without a shred of investigation, evidence or even exact description of the crime. Alleged acts or words of blasphemy are not even described. Yet, such FIRs are deemed sufficient to proceed against anyone accused of having committed a crime punishable with death.
In the case of Mr. Junaid Hafeez, he was accused of being the administrator of a Facebook page that is run by a pseudonym, and allegedly contains disrespectful commentary on the prophet’s wives. Reportedly, the police did not even check whether the IP address the Facebook page is being managed from, belongs to Mr. Hafeez or not. And reportedly, while Mr. Hafeez remains behind bars presumably without access to the internet, the Facebook page continues to be operated and updated. It might be useful to mull over whether thus far in this absurd saga, it is the state at work or the accusers of Mr. Hafeez.
Next, the state is obliged to ensure a fair and free trial of all accused, even of those it has facilitated in landing in this envious position. As in Mr. Hafeez’s case, neither are most lawyers willing to take on blasphemy cases, nor judges of junior courts will to stick their necks out to return fair or just verdicts. Once again, it is because the state will not provide them with the security that they deserve. Nor will the state prosecute those that threaten or perpetrate violence on lawyers and judges in these cases. Only after several months of trying to convince different lawyers, was Mr. Hafeez’s family able to engage Mr. Rashid Rehman as defense counsel. And only personal courage and strength of his convictions caused Mr. Rehman to take up the case, not any protection offered by the state.
Indeed, Mr. Rehman was threatened repeatedly, including during one of the hearings and in the presence of the presiding judge. Indeed, Mr. Rehman asked the judge to take notice. Indeed, Mr. Rehman asked for security. But the representatives of the state had discharged their duties: the police had registered the FIR and arrested the accused. The magistrate had remanded the accused. The judge sat on the bench listening to the case and the threats. Neither were aggressors apprehended, nor protection provided to Mr. Rehman.
Whilst the petitioner’s lawyer and other lawyers from the Multan bar are on record having threatened to kill Mr. Rehman, with several of these persons’ statements together with their photographs having been recorded in newsprint, the FIR registered for the murder of Mr. Rehman is against the usual ‘unidentified persons’. On the other hand, a Facebook page is run by a pseudonym, alleged insulting remarks unspecified, yet the FIR is registered against one Mr. Junaid Hafeez.
At every step, the state provided and facilitated the incarceration of the one and murder of the other. Neither was the state ‘silently onlooking’, nor paralyzed, nor failed. It succeeded very well.