A Critique of Maududi’s ‘Human Rights in Islam’

(In the interest of humanity, I have decided to start uploading my term papers that I’ve written over the last four years for my undergrad. Knowledge, like joy, increases when shared. I know; you’re welcome humankind!)

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No student of Political Islam, whether he likes it or not, is able to deny the momentous influence of Syed Abul Ala Maududi in the aforesaid area. He is known to have written extensively on Islam and how Islam should shape every aspect of human life.  It would be safe to term him to be the most influential theologian, leader and Islamist thinker of India in the last century. The fact that his ideas have held such widespread impact makes it likely that his legacy will live on for generations to come. For the purpose of this paper, from his voluminous magnum opus, I have chosen to discuss and critique his pamphlet ‘Human Rights in Islam’ in detail. This document puts forth a doctrine which is a guideline for many Muslims who happen to be Maududi’s adherents, hence in large numbers. Human Rights is an important and widely contested issue in today’s globalized world politics. It is a generally held perception, mostly among Western audiences, that Islam is not only incompatible with human rights; rather it actively opposes the application of universal human rights. It is as though there is a tug of war going on between Islam and the West to vie as to who was the earliest indisputable pioneer of the introduction of human rights on the world stage. West tends to claim the roots of human rights in the Occidental tradition whereas Islamic thinkers seek to trace human rights back to Quran and Sunna. On one hand it is true that the ideas of ‘liberty, fraternity and equality’ emerged out of Enlightenment and French Revolution, which concurrently came about with the loosening grips of religion. On the other hand, we also see how Thomas Jefferson invoked God in the Declaration of Independence to establish the rights of humans: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights …” Later on in West’s history, such divinely inspired claims of justice provided primary motivation for numerous progressive movements, be it the Emancipation Proclamation by Lincoln as a step towards abolishing slavery, or the civil rights movement by Martin Luther King to eliminate segregation and secure equal rights for African Americans. Muslims, on the other hand, believe that it was in fact Islam that not only introduced the idea of huquq al-insaniyya i.e., the Rights of Humans 1400 years ago, but it is till date the greatest, unparalleled proponent of human rights. The idea of invoking God as a means to achieve the ends of justice is, therefore, not new. But perhaps what irked Maududi, and other Muslim theologians, was the fact that the same powers which colonized, subjugated and plundered weaker nations at some historical juncture, now claim to be the biggest champions of equal human rights and dignity, and simultaneously malign Islam as a hindrance in reaching their ‘noble’ goals. Therefore he provided his commentary to expound on his perspective of human rights in Islam, and apparently to exonerate Islam from the charge that it is incompatible with human rights. But as an Islamist ideologue, it does not come as a surprise that his position is not one that human rights ought to determine Islamic beliefs, rather, he believes Islam should help to determine human rights. In the course of our analysis, we will examine this position and also critique the validity of the claims put forth by Maududi in his article ‘Human Rights in Islam’.

It is interesting to note that any reader who has read Maududi elsewhere, for instance his articles ‘Al-Jihad Fi al-Islam’, ‘Islamic Law and Constitution’ etc. will easily notice that Human Rights in Islam is a watered down, somewhat altered version of his otherwise rigid views on women, freedom of religion, death penalty for apostasy, individual’s rights as a citizen and so on. There appears to be an uncharacteristic clemency in his tone in this article which does not agree with his definitive, unyielding style in his other writings and statements. This could be because of two reasons. Firstly, intended target audience: Richard Bonney cites Ishtiaq Ahmed whereby he accuses Maududi of dishonesty on the question of freedom of belief in the pamphlet under discussion (207). Since this article was published in the UK, and was directed towards the Western audience, Maududi made no mention of the doctrine of apostasy, rather emphasized on the Quranic injunction that proclaims no coercion in matters of faith. Ishtiaq Ahmed notices, that in the aftermath of anti-Ahmedi riots of 1953, Maududi declared before the Court of Inquiry that apostasy was punishable by death in Islam. Secondly, political evolution: Sam Houston notices that the totalitarian, communitarian aspect of Maududi’s philosophy gradually toned down according to the exigencies of time. For instance, in ‘Islamic Law and Constitution’, which was published in 1941 before the inception of Pakistan, Maududi provided Islamic rationale for an all-powerful executive (amir) and for total subjugation of the individual to the state. Pakistan’s creation was followed by anti-Ahmedi protests spearheaded by Maududi’s party, which led the government to clamp down on the agitators; Maududi was put on trial, found guilty of sedition and sentenced to death (later the verdict was reversed). These experiences made Maududi a stakeholder, and therefore personally concerned and interested in the protection of individual rights, due process of law, and freedom of political expression. It is clear that these circumstances led to Maududi’s disillusionment with the centralization of power in the executive, thus his newfound advocacy for the importance of protecting individual freedom of conscience. At this particular juncture, he penned the pamphlet under discussion.

Like every other work by Maududi, the starting point of this essay, too, is severe condemnation of the West. The argument reminds the reader, of the logical fallacy of tu quoque which is defined as an attempt to discredit the opponent’s position by asserting the opponent’s failure to act consistently in accordance with that position. Maududi asserts that West attributes every good thing to its own conception, even though there was no Western concept of human rights before the 17th century. In same broad strokes, he also paints UN, as well as UNHR, to be a farce that has no effective moral sanctions behind it. Accusing the other of hypocrisy does not truly help buttress one’s own position; instead it only serves to make ones arguments less objectively valid and more suspect. He goes on to claim that, on the contrary, Islam ensures unalterable human rights that have been conferred by God and hence they are “applicable to every believer” and that they are not subject to “scope for any change”. This raises two important questions. Firstly, the claim that ‘human’ rights in Islam are applicable to every ‘believer’ leads one to ask whether Maududian philosophy deems non-believers to be non-humans and hence not worthy that the applicability be extended to them regardless. Secondly, the assertion that any right given by God has no scope for change assumes no scope for expansion either. These kinds of claims which discourage evolution and adaptation with changing epochal circumstances cast doubts over the claim that Islam is a religion which is meant for all times to come.

Expanding on the ‘right to life’, Maududi states that it is not permissible for anyone to kill another human, except through the due process of law (Quran 6:151). A clear case can be made that even though he did not explicitly say it, for reasons explained above; this ‘law’ is the Shariah, according to Maududi’s understanding of which, its rules about apostasy make it possible to sentence people to death. In celebrating the righteousness of Islam, Maududi does not forget to, again, revile the West terming its declarations to be hypocritical in that they are, according to him, interested in protecting the lives of their own citizens or the white race alone (he gives multiple examples such as the destruction of Red Indians in America).

Whereas Maududi has written a separate document on women: Purdah and the Status of Woman, it is interesting to note that in his pamphlet on human rights, the only right mentioned related to a woman is ‘respect for the chastity of women’. He maintains that the chastity of a woman must be respected and protected regardless of her nation or religion. Not mentioning the actual women’s rights is, again, a sign of unwillingness to broach the subject and raises the question as to whether Maududi does not reckon women important enough to be considered as bearer of basic rights. He has made his views clear in his writing whereby he believes that equality of women, such as in modern secularized societies, only leads to promiscuity and loosened family values. Riffat Hassan condemns this chastity-obsessed approach, as though chastity is the only thing worthwhile about a woman to be protected, and as though Islamists are not worried about protecting men’s chastity. Protection of chastity does not qualify as a human right; it is neither a civil nor a political right. On the contrary, it has been used as a justification by conservatives and fundamentalists like Taliban to deny women personal freedom that they are entitled to enjoy, and to keep them restricted to chaadar and chaardiwari – housebound and in purdah.

Maududi goes on to claim that the sanctity of chastity of women can be found nowhere except Islam. This is a historically flawed, sweeping claim. Kautaliya wrote Arthashastra, no later than the 2nd century AD, to illustrate the Hindu political philosophy, in which he forbids, and lays out severe punishments for, violating the chastity of female slave girls. This text was written long before Islam’s advent, but this regulation has to be among the most liberal in history, in that how it protects the chastity of female slaves; whereas Islam explicitly allowed a master to have sexual intercourse with his slave women. Maududi writes that while Western armies have always raped and abused women of their conquered lands, such thing was not perpetrated by any Muslim army. This is a flimsy argument. Mayer terms this argument by Maududi to be a “curious, contrary-to-fact assertion” and writes that “there is no evidence that Muslim armies have historically conducted themselves any better in their treatment of women… and that prostitutes have not served the needs of soldiers in Muslim armies over the centuries” (101).Crimes against women in wartime are not allowed under any legal or moral system; violations in reality have little to do with what is theoretically permissible.

            When promulgating the individual’s right to freedom, Maududi starts a long exposition of how it was originally Islam, and not the West, that abolished slavery, by commanding to set the slaves free and treat them humanely. He then narrates, at length, how brutally the Europeans and Americans treated slave labour and now, with all their shameful record, they have the audacity to denounce Muslims for recognizing the institution of slavery. Slavery has now been abolished all over the globe and these kinds of arguments lack any theoretical or practical value. It is true that Islam guaranteed the lives of the slaves, but they had no property right; and Maududi’s claim that Islam has superiority over the West in abolishing slavery does not stand up to historical scrutiny. An-Na’im writes that since slavery was a norm at that time, Shariah recognized it as an institution and despite its encouragement for emancipation, “slavery is lawful under (traditional understanding of) Shariah to the present day “(172). Denigrating Western accomplishments by referring to its deviation, at different historical junctures, from modern human right standards, is akin to holding the golden age under the Prophet responsible for the malpractices that various Muslim societies over the centuries developed. This kind of smokescreen obfuscates the actual problems of oppression in the Muslim world and reflects the unwillingness to deal with them. Every civilization makes its positive contributions to the humanity and there should be no shame in recognizing West’s intellectual debt in terms of formally, legally, and irrevocably prohibiting slavery- certainly the lowest point in the history of human rights.

When Maududi talks about the right of equality of human beings, he claims that Islam enjoins absolute equality between ‘men’ irrespective of any distinction of colour, race or nationality. He cleverly evades the issue of discrimination based on gender and religion by avoiding mentioning equality in these two categories. Delling analyzes that by sidelining the rights of women and religious minorities, Maududi resorts to a “hypocritical way of allowing these discriminations to continue” (37).  These two categories are omitted, in this document, in an attempt to avoid answering sensitive questions; while Maududi has made his beliefs clear elsewhere that Islam, according to him, does not deem non-Muslims fit to administer state affairs, and prohibits women to participate in public life. Bielefeldt observes that by not including gender and religion in the criteria of nondiscrimination, and by not acknowledging the conflicts between Shariah and modern human rights, Maududi has reduced his essentialist, i.e. rigid and unchanging approach to a “superficial and uncritical ‘Islamization’ of human rights” (104). Maududi opines that superiority of one man over another is “only on the basis of God-consciousness, purity of character and high morals”. This is to say that Islamic standards of virtue and duty can lead people to claim a higher degree of dignity than those who fail to meet the religious standard. Bielefeldt maintains that “such dogmatic type of reference to a divine foundation of human dignity leads to a concept that … serves as a vindication to human inequality rather than justifying universal equality of all human beings in dignity and freedom” (104).

As we have discussed before, direct confrontation with the state of Pakistan led Maududi to begin advocating certain positive freedoms such as the right to participate in the affairs of the state, and the right to protest against government’s abuses. He also stipulated certain negative freedoms such as restricting the authority of the state with respect to interfering in the sanctity and security of private life. One wonders if Maududi and his party were in a position of state power and authority – instead of the victims of it – would he still tone down on his totalitarian inclinations and declare that state cannot encroach on the privacy of individual’s life, when we are all familiar that the underlying pillar on which whole Maududian philosophy stands is his concern with shaping all the aspects of human life according to the principles of Islam. Maududi maintains that government pries on the lives of citizens who are dissatisfied with its official policies. He claims that Islam terms this to be the root cause of all mischief in politics; it makes it difficult for a common citizen to speak freely. Again, as an example of ‘mischief’, Maududi sticks to his tradition of pointing out something Western; he refers to the evil of FBI agents meant to spy on the affairs of men, which Islam is strictly against. We can argue that if prying on people’s personal lives is reprehensible, it should by extension, also render preaching and censuring others on the basis their personal morality (‘forbid evil’) in their private lives unnecessary.

Maududi takes pride in declaring that Islam allows freedom of speech, expression, and association on the condition that it is used to propagate virtue and “not for spreading evil and wickedness”. This assertion is highly problematic in that Maududi does not, at all, define the open-ended terms ‘evil’ and ‘wickedness’. This deliberate loophole opens on the state the occasion to abuse power by making easy for it to define ‘evil’ to suit its own purposes. For example Houston and Oh note that government can prevent others’ religious activities terming them ‘evil’, or a discussion group gathered to debate religious issues or the proofs of the existence of God could be labeled as spreading ‘evil’ (6). Infact any party or organization that the government deems not in its favour can be proscribed under the pretext that it is spreading ‘evil’. Maududi maintains an air of superiority in claiming that Islam’s right to free speech is better than its Western counterpart because the former categorically prohibits evil. In my opinion, the latter is more functional in that the limits on the Western freedom of speech are relatively clear and precise i.e. hate speech and libel. Whereas the lack of a concrete definition of broadly vague term ‘evil’ in Maududi’s conception can lead to significant implementation problems. Perhaps, his aim is to remain open to the limitations Shariah rules bring about with reference to blasphemy. Mayer notes that using Islamic standards of virtue to organize public life, without giving the exact meaning of the qualification, leads one to “think of Islam as a curb on rights” (76), whereas Maududi is trying to make us believe the opposite. Although Maududi encourages toleration but he also stresses upon the necessity to “enjoin good and forbid evil”. It is not difficult to foresee that by allowing all Muslims to forbid each other from evil not only leads to self-righteousness galore, but the forbiddance would tend to manifest in the most violent forms. Irene Oh notes that these two injunctions (tolerance and the duty to forbid evil) lead to inevitable tensions, and Maududi fails to provide guidance as to which principle takes precedence if the two come into conflict, for instance, when a Muslim denounces Islam (4). Moreover, forbidding evil, for most part, necessitates prying on people’s personal affairs which, as already established, is prohibited by Islam. Taking the principle of forbidding evil too far, in the modern world, seriously undermines Mill’s idea of Over himself, over his own body and mind, the individual is sovereign.”

Maududi includes two articles maintaining “freedom of conscience and conviction” and “protection of religious sentiments” in which there is a palpable contradiction. On one hand he claims that Islam forbids harassment of the ‘people of the book’ and coercion towards them to convert to Islam. On the other hand he does not address the question of whether we can extend the right of freedom to religion to include, also, conversion from Islam to another religion. Like the rights of women, Maududi chooses to conveniently evade this contentious issue. He chose not to confess that he supported killing those who convert from Islam, to avoid undermining the credibility of his human rights scheme.

It is a curious fact to notice that in the section of ‘Rights of citizens under an Islamic State’, Maududi presents fifteen articles, some of which we have discussed; none of them deals specifically with the rights of non-Muslims under an Islamic State. Although he does mention in passing that the lives and properties of dhimmis are as ‘sacred’ as those of Muslims, and that they have the same rights as Muslims. This is a misleading statement which does not accurately reflect Maududi’s views on the subject, which he expressed in other publications. In Islamic Law and Constitution Maududi explicitly stated that non-Muslims are ‘not fit to administer state affairs’ and so they cannot be employed in government posts. He corroborates his stance by adding that if it was desirable to induct non-Muslims in state machinery, then Prophet Muhammad would have set an example by doing so. That the Prophet did not even keep one non-Muslim member in his Shura convinces Maududi to deem non-Muslims unfit to administer state affairs. This argument is again invalid, because the Prophet’s life preaching Islam spanned only over 23 years, which is a very short period of time to set examples for practically every issue that has to arise until the end of the world. If something was not the need of the hour 1400 years ago and was not implemented, does not entail that it is prohibited. I would argue that it has been historically documented that Jewish, Christian and pagan communities living in Medina were termed as part of the ‘umma’ in the first constitution scribed by the Prophet after consultation. Umma in this context held a wider connotation that signified the idea of a community living together in association (Faruki 14). If contemporary political rights are to be determined by following the examples set in Prophet’s time, will the Muslims of today be willing to also follow this example set during Prophet’s time?

            The lip service of ‘equality of rights for non-Muslims’ is essentially negated when non-Muslims are denied the equality of opportunity, and are relegated to an inferior status. It is equivalent to saying that ‘we recognize your rights, your freedom of religious belief, as long as you do not meddle with the matters of the state under which you live, and remain confined to your menial jobs’. Elsewhere, Maududi also advocates the reimposition of jizya tax on non-Muslims. In Jihad in Islam Maududi writes that Islam will not interfere with the faith and rituals of non-Muslims. And then he also adds that Islam will ban usury, gambling, prostitution and all activities that it deems immoral. It will make it obligatory for even non-Muslim women to observe modesty in dress as required by Islamic Law. Does this not interfere with the rituals and norms of the non-Muslims? Maududi is silent on these matters in his Human Rights pamphlet.

Before summing up, it is important to note a palpable irony visible in Maududi’s framework: despite his bitter criticism for Western ideas, he unavoidably borrows western vocabularies to show that Islam has institutions comparable and equally ‘advanced’ as those in the West; he “ultimately mirrored those very Western paradigms he sought to oppose” (Houston 8).  This tendency arises out of what French scholars have called concordisme pieux (pious harmonization), the practice involving “strained attempts by Muslims to project modern intellectual developments that have emerged outside the Muslim world back into Islamic past” (Mayer 171). Islamic scholars are inclined to do this to preserve the credentials of their religion as a ‘comprehensive ideology’ which anticipated all value achievements of modern civilization.

Moreover, Maududi’s excessive reliance on extensive quotes from the Quran indicate that his approach is to use text of Revelation as a permanent guide to law-making, not reason and the exigencies of time. Khadduri maintains that reliance on a Divine Legislator, God, who is not communicating to people through prophets anymore, to make contemporary law, makes human rights in Islam static (79). Moreover, the making of derivative laws was also prohibited by the theologians of 10th century AD which further made Muslim legal system entirely static.

As a way forward, I would propose the approach put forth by people like Mahmoud Mohammed Taha and Abdullahi Ahmed An-Na’im in the area of human rights in Islam. They honestly maintain, unlike Maududi, that instead of concealing the contradictions between Shariah and modern human rights, one should candidly confess that the contradictions exist, and strive to make an evolved and reformed Islamic law. It is possible that the proposed reform may diverge from the traditional interpretation of Shariah in its attempt to keep in line with the current times, while also maintaining its Islamic legitimacy in order to be effective in changing Muslim attitudes and policies.

Works Cited

An-Na’im, Abd Allāhi Aḥmed. Toward an Islamic Reformation: Civil Liberties, Human Rights, and International Law. Syracuse, NY: Syracuse UP, 1990. Print.

Bielefeldt, Heiner. “”Western” versus “Islamic” Human Rights Conceptions?: A Critique of Cultural Essentialism in the Discussion on Human Rights.” Political Theory 28.1 (2000): 90-121. Print.

Bonney, Richard. Jihād: From Qurʼān to Bin Laden. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2004. Print.

Delling, Malin. “Islam and Human Rights.” Thesis. Goteborg University Department of Law, 2004. Print.

Faruki, Kemal A. The Evolution of Islamic Constitutional Theory and Practice: From 610 to 1926 /by Kemal A. Faruki. Karachi-Dacca: National-House, 1971. Print.

Hassan, Riffat. “Are Human Rights Compatible with Islam? The Issue of the Rights of Women in Muslim Communities.” The Religious Consultation. University of Louisville, Louisville, Kentucky, n.d. Web. 29 Mar. 2014.

Houston, Sam. “The Contours of Conscience: Maududi, Freedom of Conscience,and Comparative Religious Ethics.” Southeast Regional Meeting. American Academy of Religion, Greenville, SC. 16 Mar. 2013. Academia.edu. Web. 29 Mar. 2014. <http://www.academia.edu/4402914/ >.

Kautalya. The Arthashastra. India: Penguin, 1992. Print.

Khadduri, Majid. “Human Rights in Islam.” Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science 243 (1946): 77-81. Print.

Maududi, Syed Abul A’la. Human Rights in Islam. Leicester: Islamic Foundation, 1976. Print.

Maududi, Syed Abul A’la. Jihad in Islam. Lahore: Islamic Publications (Pvt), 1990. Print.

Maududi, Syed Abul A’la. The Islamic Law and Constitution. Lahore: Islamic Publications (Pvt), 1990.

Mayer, Ann Elizabeth. Islam and Human Rights: Tradition and Politics. Boulder, Co.: Westview, 1991.

Oh, Irene. Islam and the Reconsideration of Universal Human Rights. May 2005. Essay by Assistant Professor. University of Miami, Florida, USA.

 

 

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A Public Holiday for the Sikhs in the Land of the Pure?

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Recently, Punjab Assembly approved the resolution to make Guru Nanak’s birthday a public holiday. The sensationalizing brouhaha over inconsequential media stories has, as always, drowned out the importance of this headway.

As much as many people praised this approval as a welcome step forward, some naysayers continue to demean and deride it, remarking that this nation needs to invent new reasons to remain unproductive. This approach confounds two unrelated issues, and fails to appreciate the importance of this step for Pakistan.

The approval is of great significance for what it stands for.

This resolution, demanding Guru Nanak’s birthday to be declared as a public holiday, was tabled by Sardar Ramesh Singh, the first Sikh member of Punjab Assembly. It highlights the importance and effectiveness of the presence and representation of the non-Muslim minorities in the legislative body. Empower them and they will take care of themselves. They can chalk out their demands and advance them on a formal platform; this results in a positive atmosphere of inclusion where they can feel a sense of belonging, of being heard and respected.

Let’s recall that the constitutional structure of this country stands upon the Objectives Resolution which was passed against the will of all non-Muslim representatives in the Parliament at that time.

Sris Chandra Chattopadhya, speaking to the Constituent Assembly in opposition to the Objectives Resolution of 1949, clearly articulated his disappointment. He maintained that this Resolution inevitably gave a superior status to the Muslims by establishing Islam as the state religion. He explicitly stated that this Resolution was going to create a Herrenvolk, a master race who deems itself superior to all other groups. He said: “… I am anxious to see that (Pakistan’s) constitution is framed in such a way which may suit the Muslims as well as the non-Muslims. I have gone carefully through this Resolution and… I cannot persuade myself to accept this Resolution and my instruction to my party would be to oppose this Resolution.”

However, despite the categorical rejection by all non-Muslim legislators, this resolution was conveniently passed and appended to the constitution. It takes little thought to imagine that such provisions in the constitution would certainly have made the non-Muslims feel alienated and unwelcome citizens, right from the beginning.

Herrenvolk was indeed created and non-Muslims have suffered way too much at its hands.

But it’s never too late to move towards making amends. A good legislation might be a harbinger of a positive change in the mindsets.

This approval for a public holiday to honour Sikhism has come right after the Sikhs protested against desecration of their holy books outside the Parliament. It’s of a telling symbolic value. This reflects that the state is now willing, in one way or another, to make amends for some of the past transgressions. Cynics may claim that public holidays amount to nothing but lip service. This is not true and here’s why:

Prominent political scientist Alfred Stepan writes that whereas European democracies maintain a “highly separatist, somewhat a religion-unfriendly pattern of secularism”, highly ranked emerging Muslim democracies like Tunisia, Senegal and Indonesia are positively developing, fit for their own context, along the lines of “twin tolerations”. Twin tolerations entail a civil state, instead of a religious one, where religion respects democratic prerogatives, and the state respects some prerogatives of religion and recognizes its legitimate role in the public sphere. Stepan maintains that three civil states (Indonesia, India and Senegal), in the interest of encouraging mutual respect between religion and democracy, carry out certain public policies and practices. One of them is that these three countries actively contribute to the celebration of more religions than Western Europe does. Denmark, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Sweden, and Switzerland decree a combined total of 76 paid religious holidays. All holidays come from the Christian calendar and there’s none for any minority religion. By contrast, Indonesia offers six Islamic holidays and seven additional holidays to cover the sacred days of Buddhism, Christianity, Confucianism and Hinduism. Senegal decrees seven Islamic holidays, and six for Roman Catholics, who are less than one-tenth of the total population. Senegal also subsidizes Catholics citizens’ pilgrimage to Rome. India offers five Hindu holidays and ten to accommodate its minority religions. Stepan calls this the “Respect All, Positive Cooperation, Principled Distance” Model. Institutionalizing respect for all religions is an ideal measure for traditional, heterogeneous societies.

Declaring public holiday to honour a minority religion is not a pretext to shirk work. It is a monumental gesture: to value all religions equally, to celebrate the diversity by not only allowing or tolerating, rather respecting the beliefs and practices of all religions.

It’s a welcome step; we must appreciate positive trends and hope for them to continue, instead of constant grumbling about everything that is wrong.

Don’t you ever wonder would 25th December still be a holiday if it wasn’t for the Quaid’s birthday? 

To Speak or not to Speak, that is the Question.

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Kierkegaard writes that people demand freedom of speech as a compensation for the freedom of thought which they seldom use. It is indeed an interesting observation. Undoubtedly, people are likely to become intellectually more refined individuals with contemplation and critical reflection. The need to debate and propagate is only the second step in this process of critical evaluation of themselves and their societies, which is built on the very foundation of freedom of thought first. This is not to undermine the importance of freedom of expression and speech, but just to stress upon the idea that freedom to speak in an unreflective and thoughtless manner does not essentially amount to any useful human freedom. However, there is barely any acknowledgement or appreciation of the fact that no polity in the world can directly restrain freedom of thought, unless it is indirectly hindered using propaganda and indoctrination to stem people’s mental faculties. Perhaps, one must get to live once, in the fictional, Orwellian world of thought police and telescreens to appreciate the importance and blessings of freedom of thought. Freedom of speech and expression has increasingly become a contentious subject in today’s politics. Free world hails maintenance of an open society as one of its significant achievements, and considers suppression of free speech as analogous to state-controlled, totalitarian society’s characteristics. But even the Free World has to draw some legal boundaries to proscribe certain types of speech which causes more harm to society than good, hate speech and libel for instance. John Stuart Mill, the most prominent advocate of free speech in the Western political philosophy, advocates that freedom of speech must be protected under all circumstances and the minority’s viewpoint must not be stifled because it does not only challenge the majority’s opinion but tends to debunk it when it is false, and to buttress it when it’s right. However, Mill also maintains the inviolability of the harm principle in that freedom of speech must be maintained to the point where it injures no one else. Karl Popper develops on this point further in his famous formulation of the ‘paradox of tolerance’, expressed in his ‘The Open Society and its Enemies’:

Less well known is the paradox of tolerance: Unlimited tolerance must lead to the disappearance of tolerance. If we extend unlimited tolerance even to those who are intolerant, if we are not prepared to defend a tolerant society against the onslaught of the intolerant, then the tolerant will be destroyed, and tolerance with them. — In this formulation, I do not imply, for instance, that we should always suppress the utterance of intolerant philosophies; as long as we can counter them by rational argument and keep them in check by public opinion, suppression would certainly be unwise. But we should claim the right to suppress them if necessary even by force; for it may easily turn out that they are not prepared to meet us on the level of rational argument, but begin by denouncing all argument; they may forbid their followers to listen to rational argument, because it is deceptive, and teach them to answer arguments by the use of their fists or pistols. We should therefore claim, in the name of tolerance, the right not to tolerate the intolerant. (Emphasis added) We should claim that any movement preaching intolerance places itself outside the law, and we should consider incitement to intolerance and persecution as criminal, in the same way as we should consider incitement to murder, or to kidnapping, or to the revival of the slave trade, as criminal (723).

These thinkers envisage a world where someone’s freedom does not militate against anyone else’s life, wellbeing or liberty. However, certain contemporary intellectuals subscribe to the fundamentally inconsistent position whereby they use third-party effects as a justification for restricting economic freedom. In the same breath, they also maintain that freedom of speech must be protected, even if it comes with any costs being imposed on the third parties. If the spillover effects, also known as the negative externalities, must be considered as a serious concern in policy framing, then this approach should be extended to all realms instead of picking and choosing some, and leaving others unrestrained.

The right to freedom of speech is not absolute. 

Meaningful introspection: A concept lost on us

Note: This article was first published in The Express Tribune Op-Ed on July 13, 2013.

http://tribune.com.pk/story/576078/meaningful-introspection-a-concept-lost-on-us/

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The Abbottabad Commission Report recently leaked by Al Jazeera has put Pakistan’s state machinery in an embarrassing position and for all the right reasons. It is increasingly distressing to watch the blame-games and finger-pointing theatricals being broadcast on television. The civilian leadership is insistent upon hurling all sorts of accusations; while the representatives of the military, euphemistically known as the defence analysts, appear eager to elucidate that the civilian authorities are equally responsible for the colossal debacle.

It is a very simple principle to understand that the act of not owning one’s mistakes is equivalent to a gravely stubborn impasse which defeats the purpose of a thorough inquiry in the first place. In order to redress a failure, improve a system, and avoid similar disasters in future, it is absolutely imperative as the first step to own the fault. How can a mistake be corrected if no one is even willing to accept that they have made it?

Future stability at the cost of temporary humiliation is not an irrational trade-off at all, if larger national interests are as sincerely considered as fervently as patriotic sentiments are brandished. In order to break the pattern of national humiliations, there must be a consensus upon placing the future above the past, and national prestige above personal egos.

I have always found finger-pointing habits ingrained deep in our culture and character. There are numerous instances when we have absolved ourselves from our self-committed faults and allocated all energies towards external conspiracy-laden explanations. To note two recent examples: nine foreign tourists were brutally massacred near Nanga Parbat, and some of our well-known anchorpersons and analysts began to say that perhaps India may be involved in this. Similarly, in the case of the bombing of the Ziarat Residency, there was an almost immediate uproar about a foreign hand.

Surely with evidence, a foreign hand in any of the incidents can be proven, or disproven. But the point is that it is far more important for us and our state to own up to the blame that we proved incompetent in the case of the May 2 raid. Even in the case of the Ziarat Residency, the incident should, more than anything else, prod us to reflect upon how our own stubborn negligence bore separatist movements in the first place. But unfortunately, meaningful introspection is a concept lost on us as a nation.

For our pathological selective blindness, the diagnosis of the root-cause is not as elusive as the remedy. Most of us have been brought up, educated, and socialised to believe that we can do no wrong. Take for instance, Pakistan Studies which indoctrinates us with a conflict model of history through which we choose to portray ourselves as the innocent victim while the ‘wicked bloodthirsty Hindus’ incessantly ravaged our existence. Similarly, government textbooks emphasise the villainous role of the Indian army that led to the creation of Bangladesh, instead of displaying even a shred of regret at the way West Pakistan treated its eastern counterpart.

Our history lessons tell us that our country, our nation, has never been the aggressor in any war or conflict. That the provocative attack has always been launched first by the evil ‘Other’, is an idea embedded so deep in our minds that we fail to accept the objective view of history that might tell us a very different tale. My point is that, we as individuals and as a nation, find it practically unthinkable to see ourselves at fault, as a result of such indoctrination during formative years.

And therein lies the problem. Patriotism or loyalty to institutions should not mean blindfolding ourselves to our glaring failures, and to our history’s fiascoes. Love for one’s country must go beyond hollow sloganeering. A crumbling society cannot afford the luxury of blame games. Let us encourage among ourselves and also invite our rulers to develop the positive culture of introspection. The only hope of reformation and betterment lies within this noble habit of accepting our faults.

Let it be known that there is no treason in speaking up the truth.

Published in The Express Tribune, July 13th, 2013.

 

Parts Omitted from the published version of the article 

Four points were edited away from the published version, due to “space and/or policy” reasons. But since these words came right out of my heart and are close to it, I’d want to share them with here anyway:

  • “Since nobody is carrying the load of charge, the matter gets beyond the grasp of human mind, as to what genies are then responsible for harboring Bin Laden within Pakistan for nine long years.”  – a clarification that as much as I find May 2 to be a shame, knowingly or unknowingly providing safe havens to OBL for a decade is equally or perhaps more reprehensible.
  • “In our early Islamic Studies lessons, Islamic supremacist ideas are drilled deep in our heads; Islamic history is taught in a way that most of us end up believing that Muslims are inherently unsullied by crimes or moral wrongs.” – this point was supposed to follow the Pakistan Studies’ point.
  • “Finger-pointing and allegation games, are therefore, not exclusive to the civil or military authorities as mentioned at the outset. Rather they are the product of a certain kind of socialization and indoctrination that make us blind to our own failings. This makes it easy to understand why a large majority believes the drone attacks to be the primary cause of terrorism on our soil. It is convenient to blame the ‘Great Satan’ USA and its unmanned aerial vehicles for all ills than to realize that extremism is like a cancer that has seeped into all segments of our society. For that we have no-one but ourselves to blame. Unlike grumbling about security lapses, it is difficult to realize that every individual and household that condones hate-mongering or fails to inculcate the values of tolerance and humanity in his child is complicit in the spread of extremism.” – It’s an important thing to realize, I wish there was enough space to accommodate this.
  • “A great deal of false consciousness has been propagated to declare that too much of in-depth critical analysis about certain state matters hurts the warm patriotic atmosphere. It’s a myth. ….. By not imparting balanced education, we are robbing our children of the ability to think critically and to introspect. It’s a huge disservice to a nation making it devoid of self-analysis and therefore incapable of self-transformation.” – Period.

Islam in Pakistan: A Tale of Distortion and Hypocrisy

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How many times in our lives have we successfully managed to convince ourselves that Western media is responsible for propagating the negative image of Islam and acquitted ourselves of the heinous offenses we commit everyday or silently, spinelessly observe being taken place around us in our country in the name of Islam.

Pakistan, the land of the ‘pure’, has unquestionably turned into the land of the self-righteously puritanical and self-complacently so.

When General Zia, the self-proclaimed savior of Islam, arrived brandishing the flag of Islamization to legitimize his unnecessary existence, he successfully sowed the seeds of the hollow, hypocritical version of Islam whose bitter repercussions we continue to reap till today. Zia’s parochial and distorted view of Islam presented the prohibition orders, the lethally vague blasphemy laws, the utterly flawed Zina Ordinance, and the Ehtaram-e-Ramzan law for which one could be jailed for eating in public and so on. One common underlying factor that is evident in all the components of Zia’s Islam is punishment.

I am not an authority on Islam, but I possess adequate knowledge to claim that Islam is not just about penalty, prohibition, punishment and castigation of the defenseless. Islam was a political and social revolution in itself whose foundations were laid upon the very essence of peace and compassion. Islam introduced and endorsed the concepts of accountability, of human equality regardless of caste and creed, of social justice, of all men being equal before law and of protecting the weak and vulnerable of the society, financially and socially. These very tenets of Islam when adopted can revolutionize and reform the face of a nation. But implementing these meaningful measures required sincerity and long-term commitment which Zia severely lacked. So instead, Zia chose to design malevolent, retribution-oriented laws which brought forth all the scandalization and sensationalism that promised him an immediate recognition as the upholder of faith. And that left us with the legacy of bigotry, riot and murder.

Apparently, while we were too busy believing that Islam is all about declaring the sects we do not like as infidels, others continued to adopt and inculcate within their social systems, the virtues and principles of religion that we should have inherited.

Ever since, the Islam of Pakistan has been shaping up to appear more like a superficially symbolic and a hypocritically melodramatic phenomenon and less like a religion of peace. Exhibit A: a Danish cartoonist in some other part of the world decides to draw the caricatures of our Prophet (PBUH), and we tear down our own country, burning tyres, blocking roads, damaging the infrastructure of our own towns and going to the ludicrous heights of filing blasphemy complaints against Mark Zuckerberg. Exhibit B: a mentally deranged man is alleged to have burnt Quran and we practically burn the man himself alive in public. Or an 11-year old Christian girl with a Down’s syndrome is seen to have manhandled the Noorani Qaida is severely beaten and imprisoned.

I, by no means, intend to defend and promote someone’s acts but to only highlight our internal contradictions that plague ourselves and our society.

My discontentment originates from the fact that if a goddamn faithless man’s drawings are to be considered as disrespect worthy of setting your country on fire, then why on God’s earth, a faithful man’s routine disregard and disobediences towards the teachings of our Prophet (PBUH) are not categorized as a sign of contempt that calls for stirring an equal controversy. Dictionary lists the word blasphemy to mean “irreverent behaviour toward anything held sacred.” Call me excessively concerned, but I believe disobeying and disregarding someone’s orders are just as irreverent as anything else. We lie, slander, backbite, bribe, cheat, spread intolerance and hatred, despise and hurt the poor, exploit the weak and blatantly violate and ignore our Prophet’s guidance everyday and yet have the heart and conscience to declare others as blasphemers while only a little introspection would be enough to convince us that we, ourselves, are the real blasphemers.

Similarly, we get so busy picking and hunting the rough-handlers of Quran that we completely forget that we also have one copy of the same Book lying dust-covered in some dark, forgotten part of our shelves back at our homes for us to read, understand, and apply to become better human beings who build better societies.

While Shias are dragged out of buses and shot dead at point blank range, and the drones keep eliminating innocent lives, we continue to apathetically switch the channels, too lazy to raise a voice. But we see the news of Veena Malik pose naked and we make a point of carrying out a detailed investigation into the matter scrutinizing all pictorial evidence and then let go a vehement outcry damning the model for tarnishing the image of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan. We imply: ‘Look we are the Muslims of Pakistan, we cannot tolerate Blasphemy and Behayayi. The other atrocities and misdeeds that are equally against the teachings of Islam and are actually hampering prosperity in Pakistan are there but we have comfortably chosen to turn a blind eye to them. We whine, under the fits of self-pity, about being misjudged but we are adamant that we will not mend our ways until we have absolutely and irrevocably reduced our Islam to just burning tyres and burning men.’

Sarah Khan

An Open Letter to Mr. President

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Dear Mr. President,

With all respect which I doubt that you deserve, I may state that I have a few massive concerns related to you and your recent address to the Joint Sitting of the Parliament that I seriously need to get across. I very well realize that your disregard towards general public opinion is brazen enough to render any expression useless.

But oh well, just for the sake of my own catharsis!

I recently had the chance to listen to your presidential address in which you nicely tried to present a beautiful rosy picture of our country, and maintained that all credit of this imaginary prosperity must go to your excellent governance. You also attempted to dub the longest tenure of an elected government as your giant achievement. I apologize if I disillusion any of the fantasies that you’ve created in your head, but I must emphasize on the fact that your government, more than yours, is the success of the patience of the people of Pakistan who have always shown incredible resilience in the face of adversity and disaster.

A few words also, on the way you proceeded with your address: I remember when we were in school, and any of our teachers would just mechanically read off from the book during her lecture; our faith in her grip over the subject would immediately erode away with dozing off as the only option left. I mean, I acknowledge the fact that the only steps you lay on Pakistani soil are mostly from your home to your helicopter that transports you to the airport. I sympathize with you that most of your days are spent abroad because your foreign assets need supervision and you are unable to overcome the alienation that you possess towards the people and the problems of this country. But I strongly urge you to at least prepare well for your extremely rare public appearances, because reading off the whole speech, keeping your eyes affixed on the script just doesn’t emanate the right kind of signals.

In the start, I was fooled into believing that you’re up to making some sort of important announcement, but it took me only moments to decide that there was nothing more to it except for the broadcasting of the accomplishments that never took place. Whoever was bestowed with the challenge of writing the presidential address was either amblyopic or under a serious dearth of resources, unable to factually present the bigger picture. For instance, the Benazir Income Support Program was touched upon; the inadequacies of it, were not. Neither was there any mention of the scam the program recently turned out to be. You claimed to have taken measures to appease the Balochistan crisis, but you failed to then justify where exactly on ground those measures are, and why are they unable to assuage the rage and the separationist elements boiling forth more than ever in Balochistan lately. You also made a rather surprising revelation about the sincere commitment of your government towards the goal of electricity production and asserted that you were successful in generating 33 million additional watts and more is work under progress. Excuse my curiosity Mr. President, but might you also reveal where exactly are you hiding all those extra million watts because, at present, the most torturous and the longest unscheduled bouts of loadshedding render your assertions just so hollow.

I realize that the undisrupted supply of electricity that you have ensured for yourself and your family financed mainly by our blood and taxes does not leave you in a position to understand the plight of a common man who suffers at the hand of power outages. But if I may remind you I am not talking about my own selfish concerns. Although God knows, how exceedingly annoying it is to be disrupted and how loadshedding has turned a normal human being into a factory of rage and curse. But most importantly, I dismay upon the state of stagnation and inactivity in the industry that lead to losses, unemployment and a wretched state of misery. Your golden statistics and extra million watts on paper are not enough to wipe that out.

I digress, but I might as well add that I was impressed to see with what reverence your cronies, yes-men, and beneficiaries were absorbing the sacred words coming out of your mouth. I mean they were all ears and I was surprised by the enormous human capacity at work to contain a plethora of blatant lies. Only if you had also talked about the corruption, incompetence, mismanagement and plunder carried out by these associates of yours.

The larger part of your address was dedicated to imparting the economic accomplishments of your government. You made it sound so utopic and prosperous that I assumed you had forgotten you were talking about Pakistan. I do not understand why all the relief efforts that you enlisted have failed to pull 50% of Pakistanis living below the poverty line any higher. And why so then Pakistanranks so low on the Human Development Index (fell from 125th in 2010 to 145th country in 2011) after all your tireless efforts to elevate the poor.

I wish to add that being an economics student, thinking in terms of economics has become sort of my habit and therefore I am in full position to identify the distortions and incomplete, manipulated pieces of statistics that you promulgated to establish your desired viewpoint. To count a few, you proudly announced that you raised the salaries of the government employees by 125% over the past four years. A person only needs to be college educated to debunk the myth of the efficacy of a nominal wage increase. But ah my memory! I keep forgetting that you did not really meet the criteria required for holding public office, which requires a college degree and chief justice Hameed Dogar had to relax and lower the qualification standards to allow you to become the president of Pakistan and hence you acquired your dream job with little education and hardly the intellectual depth deemed necessary for it. So, may I assist you a little? If you raise the nominal salaries and the inflation is rising at an even a higher rate, and the prices of basic necessities, food, fuel, education and medicine are skyrocketing, the benefits in real terms of any such measure are then reduced to almost zilch. The people are not better off in terms of their purchasing power and standards of living and you sadly failed to account for that.

Moreover, you also confidently asserted that exports under your tenure have reached a proud figure of $2.5 billion. Now I must praise, what a smart, smart move. What a skewed display of facts to mention the exports without having to say a word about the imports and the bigger picture known as the trade balance. Only if you had also mentioned that that imports have also crossed the figure of $5 billion which results in a negative trade balance. Concealing the truth in order to distort things is technically a lie.

And foreign debts?

I assume you might have forgotten to mention the foreign debts because the appalling figure related to them isn’t that petty a thing to be otherwise overlooked so easily: That the total foreign debts over the last four years have exceeded the overall sum of debts incurred over the past fifty years. The people of this country reserve the right to know that half their sweat and blood is being used to service these huge, mysterious foreign debts. The people must also need to know that under the façade of progressive taxation, they are being subject to repressive taxing, because big shots like you and your associates are essentially tax evaders and the whole burden falls on the shoulders of a common man in the form of oppressively increasing indirect sales taxes.

I am unhappy because the former dictator Musharraf dubs his economic policy as his major success despite the fact that it was dominantly consumption-based, supply-side, and essentially myopic. But yours is worse and is an incomparable malfunction leading the former to mistakenly believe himself as the only savior of the nation at this point of crisis while the country just cannot afford more mess.

Evil deeds are bad, but evil deeds along with a sense of self complacency are a disaster.

You seem to hold a lot on to the rhetoric of democracy. “We are proud of our young democracy” is what you stated in your address. Correct me if I am wrong but in your lexicon of political jargon, is ‘democracy’ listed as a term to describe the concentration of all power in the hands of one individual who can use the parliament as a rubber stamp? Or is democracy a legitimizing banner under which you can carry out all plunder peacefully? It seems so. Because the facts suggest that your practices are indeed far from the true essence of democracy. You brought your sisters in the parliament and allotted key positions to your favorite people in your party and government. Those who dared to disagree with you had to suffer the fate of marginalization from the mainstream. And I had been thinking all my life that democracy is all about consensus and elections at every level.

So basically, after recounting this all, I wish to also recall Abraham Lincoln’s words that you cannot fool all the people all of the time.

I realize that Pakistan has mostly been unfortunate in terms of the leaders it has acquired but some are classified as more unscrupulously obstinate than the rest. And it’s a total pity when a man allegedly involved in corruption, bribery, graft, blackmail, kidnapping and even murder is hauled into the office of the President, thanks to the assistance of a dictator and the intervention of a superpower. I am sure you can empathize with my sorrow over this series of misfortunes. But as your governance term is coming to its close, the best you can do at the end is to abdicate your presidential responsibilities peacefully without any theatrics and ensure to carry free and fair elections. I may add that sweeping your glance over the history of Pakistan should be enough to realize that most leaders let go the throne either by death or disgrace, or both. Faiz has beautifully portrayed in the verses that describe the inevitable day on which all crowns will be tossed in the air and all thrones will be smashed. Excuse my superstitiously medieval thinking but on the day of your address, when your chair hurled back and came down falling to the ground, it just rang like a bad omen in my mind and reminded me of the very same Faiz’s verses.

You, your associates and fellows might have ended up as multi-billionaires at the cost of the impoverishment of millions and have successfully deterred our faith in humanity, but a faith in the retribution of a higher power just keeps us all going. I wonder when will we all learn to learn and learn to care?

Regards,

A Concerned Pakistani

‘Though the mills of God grind slowly, yet they grind exceeding small;

Though with patience He stands waiting, with exactness grinds He all.’

These Uncouth Politicians

I remember when I was in kindergarten and prep, my teachers at school ensured a great deal to foster the correct social conduct and mannerly behavior among all children. In particular, we were repeatedly reminded to bear in mind the precise rules to carry out sophisticated, polite conversations with our elders as well as our fellow kids. The rules were plain and simple: harsh tone and abusive language are considered uneducated, rudeness is a herald of defective upbringing and hence it is to be avoided, the degree of loudness is directly proportional to the intensity of stares and glares that you are likely to receive back as a response, and interrupting someone while he/she is still in the middle of speaking is a cardinal sin! The failure to abide by these regulations as well as the cases of extreme infringement was categorically reported to our progenitors on the much dreaded occasion of the parent-teacher meeting. A formal tribunal of penance was then held at home, an inevitable consequence that followed and it was eventually declared that we need to inculcate the right kind of communicating skills and quit being a source of embarrassment to the household by exhibiting indecorum of any sort. Year after year, our annual result report card contained a column on which we were graded upon our general propriety of behavior and mannerisms within the school realms. This pattern of constant reinforcements, I must admit, helped substantially.

As we grew up and our minds developed, we began to ponder upon the universe and formed our own little beliefs and opinions. Being the little orators of our own little worlds, we deemed it highly essential to convince our peers and siblings to subscribe to our evaluations upon various matters. Therefore, a boisterous argument with a sibling was not an uncommon sight for our parents to witness each day. It was then when our parents helped this golden rule to dawn upon us: it is not a symbol of timidity but rather nobility to settle a difference of opinions calmly rather than bursting into a brawl which is downright brute by all formulas of judgment. As we leaped into our university life, we were emphatically taught in our university core course of communication to carefully avoid all forms of logical fallacies like ad hominen, ad baculum, red herring and tu quoque in order to argue for our stance reasonably and get it across effectively. Anyway, let me not get further into the details of how effectual parenting and schooling attempt to convert individuals into more shapely human beings, and unfold the question, indeed not novel in its nature, which popped up in my mind today after watching a couple of talk-shows on different news channels: Were most of our politicians taking a nap during all these stages of their own schooling, socialization and development? Because their behavior surely doesn’t exhibit any traces of human sophistication that education embellishes a person with.

Our news talk-shows have rarely been a source of fruitful debate but a mere platform for a bunch of politicians to unleash their acrimonious selves and dish out allegations on anyone and everyone who belongs to the opposition, being the quintessence of perfection that they themselves are. The current heated up political environment has left many politicians incensed and more illogical than they have ever been. As I tuned into a very famous talk-show and saw Mr. Faisal Raza Abidi seated on the panel of guests, I was glad I could finish my meal without needing to monitor the remote-control, because with him on the screen, the sound waves that the television emits are largely audible even when set at the minimum levels of volume. Such are the incredible wonders of Mr. Abidi! He is indeed hired to play the mouthpiece of PPP, and that too the most vitriolic of a kind. As Mian Mehmood-ur-Rasheed of PTI brandished a pile of documents and continued to corroborate and enlist the various foreign properties possessed by the honourable Mr. President, Mr. Abidi could no longer suppress his responsibilities of advocacy of the eternal truth that he represents. He dived in with the fervor that he does not need to advertently gather; it comes naturally. He raged and ranted at the top of his voice and almost got up from his chair in an attempt to snatch the papers from Mr. Rasheed and gauge them for reliability. He even abandoned the courtesy of ‘aap janaab’ and dropped down to “yaar tum” which by no means fell in the category of a friendly gesture. Call me a capitalistic mind, but I speculate that Mr. Abidi’s bonus salary is proportionate to the amount of action that he successfully puts at display in each show. With no disrespect intended, I also assume that during those crucial early years of schooling that I discussed earlier, Mr. Abidi must have regularly bunked them and sneaked to video-game bars instead. It just showed.

Hopelessly, I switched to another channel only to find out the following in another program: As the foreign properties of the Sharif Brothers were recounted, a PML(N) ‘tiger’ Mr. Parvez Rasheed roared in and remarked, “ You are a liar!” Ahem. I assumed may be he has resigned according to the challenge put forth by him (that he would resign if PTI could get even as many people required to fill the chairs placed in the Lahore Jalsa of the 30th October) proving himself to be the epitome of truthfulness and hence the brimming confidence to call another a liar. I was wrong.

On another channel, I had the honor to witness the very unique of her kind Ms. Fauzia Wahab, screaming “OOO BHAIII O BHAIIII” to the anchorperson just to get herself heard and downsize the analysis of the rest. She indeed puts all her past acting expertise to a perfect use. When an analyst accused the big parties of blatant corruption, Mr. Ahsan Iqbal of PML(N), with an ever complacent smile on his face responded comfortably that Imran Khan, too, has admitted in his book that he had been involved in matchfixing at some point. I immediately made a mental note that this response was a perfect example to explain to my freshman friend what does the logical fallacy of “tu quoque’’ mean. Congratulations Mr. Iqbal, you just made an educational contribution in the life of a student! Mr. Iqbal also passed a very profound evaluation that Imran Khan does not deserve to be in the government because he lacks the experience to govern and rule while PML(N) has learnt it over years. The host expressed a remark carved out of sheer humor: “Yes indeed you have very well learnt how to get away without being caught.” If the two politicians were merely smoldering by now, this comment set them ablaze and they exploded into a combat. Amid all the animalistic noises that ensued, I successfully decoded a fragment of a sentence uttered by Ms. Wahab that was directed towards the host, “Call the CEOs of big firms in your show and then try to talk to them like this.” I am sorry Madam but the validity of that comparison did not hold any ground; the CEOs are only answerable to their own shareholders, while you being in the government, are accountable to every Pakistani.

The unseemly behavior of our political class does not just end at these little excerpts from these talk shows, which last from 8 to 11 every night and are rarely any productive, rather it is also evident in the annoyingly crude routine ‘bayaan-baazi’, that includes dishing out cheap one-liners, be it by Ch. Nisar or Dr. Rehman Malik in order to malign their opponents. This is the loathsome community that politically represents Pakistan the world over.

Considering the uncivil and illogical communicating skills of our politicians and the great disservice they do by generating disuniting tendencies, I hereby propose to the higher authorities to not just declare the Bachelors degree a prerequisite for contesting in elections, but also insist that it is imperative for all the members of the Cabinet and the National Assembly to produce their early schooling report cards. They must be required to ensure that their attendance remained regular and they were not subject to parental negligence. Moreover they must submit the testimonies to prove that over the course of their development, they have internalized the basic criteria in order to be categorized as civilized citizens (read: human beings). Needless to say that the boundless creativity of our ever innovative politicians might as well force them into forging these documents because “degree tou degree hoti hai, chahay asli ho ya jaali ho.”

*This was originally written on 1st November 2011.

*Some parts are obviously meant to be satirical.

*Offence at places is indeed meant.

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