Ahmadiyya Times

Telling the truth should be news – If it happened, it will be here…

Pakistan: Celebrating Asma Jahangir

As for our bar associations, most of them have a conservative worldview. Thus, Asma’s victory was a cause for celebration since it was not just unprecedented but a victory for all those who want to see Pakistan transform into a progressive state.

File Photo: Women struggle equally for an independent judiciary.

Ahmadiyya Times | News Watch | Int’l Desk
Source/Credit: Daily Times | Pakistan
By Mehmal Sarfraz | November 22, 2010

It is indeed our misfortune that a woman who has been honoured internationally on many a forum for her outstanding work in raising human rights issues is treated with disdain by some people in her own country. It is time to make amends. It is time to celebrate Asma Jahangir not just as an individual but as a movement

Hafiz Saeed, chief of the banned terrorist organisation Lashkar-e-Tayyaba (LeT) recently addressed a seminar organised by the Lahore High Court Bar Association (LHCBA). The LeT may have resurfaced under the garb of a ‘charity’ organisation — the Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JuD) — but it is no secret that this terrorist network has carried out several attacks in India, including the 2008 Mumbai attacks. Saeed is one of the most wanted men in India, yet he has been acquitted by a Pakistani court due to ‘lack of evidence’. So, when a man of Saeed’s dubious credentials is allowed, nay invited, to address a gathering of our legal fraternity, it shakes one’s faith in our justice system.

But all is not lost yet. There is still a silver lining. Despite the dominance of right-wing groups in our legal fraternity, we still have many liberal, progressive and secular stalwarts amongst the lawyers’ community. Asma Jahangir is one such name.

It was a historic day when Asma Jahangir became the first woman president of the Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA) after a closely contested election on October 27, 2010. This was not an ordinary contest. In the past the SCBA elections were fought between various factions of the lawyers’ community who were divided on the basis of ethnicity, biradari system, political ideologies, etc. This year’s elections were different. A dirty smear campaign was started by Asma Jahangir’s opponents to malign her character and question her patriotism. Never had such low values been deployed as in this election. By putting up her candidature in the SCBA elections, Asma had put at stake her prestige and struggle of the last four decades. There were allegations that Ms Jahangir was the PPP government’s candidate even though there was no truth to such reports. These rumours were circulated to lower her chances of winning, mainly due to a strong anti-PPP lobby within the ranks of the lawyers’ community.

The recent SCBA election was held in the backdrop of the tussle between the executive and the judiciary, which reached its peak on the implementation of the National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO) verdict, 18th Amendment case, and other issues. The delay in the restoration of the judiciary by the PPP-led coalition government soured relations between the judiciary and the incumbent executive. After the restoration, the Chief Justice (CJ) of Pakistan was on a high moral ground and had great public support. He had a clear mission, which he pursued without any obstacles due to the space provided under a democratic set-up. When the restored judiciary began to hear petitions against the government, it created uncertainty about the future of the democratic set-up. Constitutional and legal experts expressed their disagreement over some of the perceived excesses of the Supreme Court (SC). Asma Jahangir was one of those legal stalwarts who raised her voice against judicial activism and warned of an impending judicial dictatorship if things were not sorted out. Unfortunately, a section of the media launched a counter-campaign against those who were discussing various judgements in a fair and balanced manner. The former president of the SCBA, Qazi Anwar, and his team became very one-sided and it looked as if the SCBA was an instrument of the judiciary in its fight against the executive. It was in this backdrop that Asma’s candidature was portrayed as representing the PPP government. All the secular lawyers campaigned for Asma because they wanted to reform the judicial system instead of allowing it to be hijacked by reactionary forces.

We saw how a discussion on the Objectives Resolution created such a hue and cry in the apex court while a point pertaining to parliament’s power to amend laws was challenged by a senior judge who said that “western parliaments declared homosexuality and same sex marriages lawful. Can we contract such marriage? The powers of our parliament are not limitless”. With all due respect to his lordship, in a country like Pakistan, no government would dare to legalise same sex marriage even when exercising its ‘limitless’ powers. When a government cannot even repeal laws that deserve to be thrown out of our statute books such as the draconian Hudood Ordinance, Blasphemy Law or the Second Amendment pertaining to the Ahmedis, how can we even expect it to do something as radical as legalising homosexuality? As for our bar associations, most of them have a conservative worldview. Thus, Asma’s victory was a cause for celebration since it was not just unprecedented but a victory for all those who want to see Pakistan transform into a progressive state. We must also acknowledge the fact that Asma Jahangir put her life in danger by contesting the SCBA elections. A pamphlet titled ‘Asma Jahangir: Adalat-e-Uzma ke khilaaf targeted missile’ (Asma Jahangir: a targeted missile against the Supreme Court) was published by the Khatm-e-Nabuwwat Lawyers Forum and circulated days before the SCBA elections were to take place. The pamphlet was downright vicious and inflammatory. This was a ploy by Asma’s opponents to discredit her. Her opponents were so sure of winning that they had actually called a Seerat Conference at the Lahore High Court a day after the elections to celebrate their victory. What is alarming though, is that at the said conference, which included speakers like former ISI chief General Hamid Gul, Jamaat-e-Islami chief Munawar Hasan, a fatwa (decree) against Asma was going to be announced. When Asma won the elections, the conference was cancelled. Had Asma lost and the conference been held as planned, her life would have been in grave danger.

Asma Jahangir’s only ‘sin’ is that she has been a vociferous campaigner for secularism, human rights, women’s rights, minority rights, peace and democracy, apart from having radical views on civil-military relations. She has been a critic of all military dictators but at the same time she has never shied away from pointing out the mistakes committed by democratic governments, including that of Benazir Bhutto’s two tenures despite the fact that BB was a close friend of hers. Ms Jahangir has always taken a principled stand and not been afraid of any threats that come her way. It is indeed our misfortune that a woman who has been honoured internationally on many a forum for her outstanding work in raising human rights issues is treated with disdain by some people in her own country. It is time to make amends. It is time to celebrate Asma Jahangir not just as an individual but as a movement — a movement for a secular, democratic, progressive Pakistan.

The writer is Op-Ed Editor Daily Times. She can be reached at mehmal.s@gmail.com

Read original post here: Celebrating Asma Jahangir —Mehmal Sarfraz

Advertisements

Filed under: Asma Jahangir, Judiciary, Mehmal Sarfraz, Pakistan

PAKISTAN: Asma Jahangir awarded UN prize for promoting human rights

Internationally, Ms. Jahangir is known for her roles as the UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief, and the UN Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial, Summary or Arbitrary Executions.

Ahmadiyya Times | News Watch | UN Desk
Source/Credit: Asian Human Rights Comission
By Press Release | November 17, 2010

A Statement by the Asian Human Rights Commission

The Asian Human Rights Commission offers its warmest and sincere congratulations to Ms. Asma Jahangir on the announcement that Pakistan’s leading human rights defender has been named as this year’s winner of a United Nations award that recognizes outstanding individual contribution to promoting a culture of human rights around the world.

The Director-General of the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), Irina Bokova, nominated Ms. Jahangir as laureate of this year’s Bilbao Prize for the Promotion of a Culture of Human Rights in recognition of her work in Pakistan’s Supreme Court where she championed the rights of religious minorities, women and children.

Ms. Jahangir is the president of the Supreme Court Bar Association of Pakistan, a founding member of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan and served as its Secretary-General and chairperson.

Internationally, Ms. Jahangir is known for her roles as the UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief, and the UN Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial, Summary or Arbitrary Executions.

Announcing Ms. Jahangir as the winner of the prize today as the UN marks the International Day for Tolerance is intended honour her commitment and important contribution to fostering inter-religious and inter-cultural dialogue, tolerance, mutual understanding and cooperation for peace, UNESCO said.

The award carries a $25,000 cash reward, a diploma and a bronze trophy, which will be presented at a ceremony in Bilbao, Spain, on 10 December, which is observed globally as Human Rights Day.

The UNESCO/Bilbao Prize is given out every two years and is funded by a donation from the Spanish city. It succeeded the UNESCO Prize for Human Rights Education that was set up 30 years ago.

The prize was first awarded to Stéphane Hessel, a French human rights advocate, in 2008.

# # #

About AHRC: The Asian Human Rights Commission is a regional non-governmental organisation monitoring and lobbying human rights issues in Asia. The Hong Kong-based group was founded in 1984.

Read original post here: PAKISTAN: Asma Jahangir awarded UN prize for promoting human rights

Filed under: AHRC, Asma Jahangir, Award, Human Rights, Pakistan, UNESCO, United Nations

Faith and Extremism: Serious problems remain in Pakistan on religious freedom: US

“Organised violence against minorities increased; for example, there was violence against Christians in Gojra, Punjab, and a terrorist attack on Ahmadis in Lahore, Punjab. “There were instances in which law enforcement personnel abused religious minorities in custody.”

Anti-Ahmadi and Anti Christian graffiti

Ahmadiyya Times | News Watch | Int’l Desk
Source/Credit: Hindustan Times | World
By Press Trust Of India | November 18, 2010

Noting that serious problems remain in Pakistan with regard to religious freedom, the Obama Administration has expressed its concern over the existence of laws that are “discriminatory” against religious minorities. “There have been attacks against Christians, against the Ahmadis. There’s still
discriminatory laws on the books, blasphemy laws, anti-Ahmadi laws.

“We’re raising these issues with the government of Pakistan,” assistant secretary of state for democracy, human rights and Labour, Michael Posner, said.

Posner was responding to questions after the release of the annual state department report on Global Religious Freedom by secretary of state Hillary Clinton.

“The (Pak) government is taking steps. It’s a very tense situation now, and there are tensions within the society. So it’s a mixed picture, honestly.

We give the government credit for steps its taken, but also recognise that more needs to be done. And it’s part of our diplomacy with them,” Posner said in response to a question.

One of the things this report does is identify, in Pakistan and elsewhere, government actions that contribute to the problem, he said.

The annual state department report said despite the government’s steps to protect religious minorities, the number and severity of reported high-profile cases against minorities increased during the reporting period.

“Organised violence against minorities increased; for example, there was violence against Christians in Gojra, Punjab, and a terrorist attack on Ahmadis in Lahore, Punjab.

“There were instances in which law enforcement personnel abused religious minorities in custody,” it said.

Security forces and other government agencies did not adequately prevent or address societal abuse against minorities.

Discriminatory legislation and the government’s failure or delay in addressing religious hostility by societal actors fostered religious intolerance, acts of violence, and intimidation against religious minorities, it said.

“Specific laws that discriminated against religious minorities included the anti-Ahmadi provisions of the penal code and the blasphemy laws which provided the death penalty for defiling Islam or its prophets,” said the report.

The Ahmadiyya community continued to face governmental and societal discrimination and legal bars to the practice of its religious beliefs. Members of other Islamic sects, Christians, Sikhs, and Hindus also reported governmental and societal discrimination, it said.

Read original post here: Serious problems remain in Pakistan on religious freedom: US

Filed under: Annual Report, Pakistan, persecution, State Dept.

Faith and common sense: Truth is never extremist

A mother of five, who belonged to a minority religion, has been sentenced to death for blasphemy this week, which is also the first such conviction of a woman. The womans case dates back to 2009, when she was asked to fetch water, while working in the fields.

Ahmadiyya Times | News Watch | Int’l Desk
Source/Credit: Trading Markets
Asia Pulse Data Source | November 12, 2010

The religion of Islam, as I understand it, lays great emphasis on all human beings being equal. Some of that teaching managed to get fudged because of living in the subcontinent where the Hindu faith does not consider the entire human race as equals and is divided in a caste system. Despite living in Pakistan, and for 63 years now, there continue to be Muslims here, who believe that allowing people belonging to minority faiths to touch their utensils and food items renders them impure. One has never heard a fatwa against such behaviour.

A mother of five, who belonged to a minority religion, has been sentenced to death for blasphemy this week, which is also the first such conviction of a woman. The womans case dates back to 2009, when she was asked to fetch water, while working in the fields. A group of Muslim women labourers objected saying that she could not touch the water bowl. A few days later, some women went to a local cleric and alleged that she had made derogatory remarks about the Prophet Muhammad (SAW). The cleric went to the local police and opened an investigation. She was arrested and prosecuted under Section 295 C of the Pakistan Penal Code, which carries the death penalty.

The blasphemy law, in my opinion, has been misused with a serious fallout both at home and abroad. It is the easiest way to take revenge. Both the founders of Islam and the country did not believe in persecution of minorities. The Prophet (SAW) forgave even those who were the most disrespectful to him. He has given us that role model to follow. Unfortunately, the blasphemy sometimes is used as a tool of persecution to settle other scores that have nothing to do with religion. There is an urgent need to review these laws. Even on occasions when there have been acquittals on blasphemy charges, those acquitted have been forced into hiding or exile for fear of attacks by extremists. Some have been killed while on trial.

Speaking out against injustice and demanding justice for all is what differentiates the courageous from the ordinary. Arundhathi Roy, in her own inimitable way, continues to seek out and speak the truth in our neighbouring India. In the face of intense criticism from Bharatiya Janata Party and Bajrang Dal, a militant Hindu group, Arundhati wrote about the Kashmir issue this week as it deserves, with objectivity and truthfulness. The once solid consensus on Kashmir suddenly seems a little fragile, she thinks. She admonishes President Barack Obama for not mentioning Kashmir during his recent visit to India, despite calling for its resolution just before he became President. Just in the last few months 111 people have been killed, more than 3,000 wounded and over 1,000 arrested. For three years in a row, the Kashmiri stone pelters, mostly teenagers, have been on the streets protesting what they see as Indias violent occupation.

According to Arundhati: They dont seem to have leaders or belong to a political party. They represent themselves. And suddenly, the second largest army in the world doesnt know what to do. The Indian government doesnt know who to negotiate with and many Indians are realising that they have been lied to for decades.

India and Pakistan, if they are to claim their positions in this world as emerging, economically viable and democratic countries, will have to put their houses in order. They can listen to Bulley Shah, who wrote this so many years ago:

You have learnt so much from reading thousands of books,
Have you ever read whats inside you?
You go sit in mosques and temples,
Have you ever visited your own souls?
You, who are always busy fighting Satan,
Have you ever fought your own evil intentions?





The writer is a freelance columnist.

Read original post here: Agent Provocateur – Truth is never extremist

Filed under: Blasphemy, Pakistan, persecution