Black day

Pakistan’s President Asif Zardari knows how to stay in the news. And so does the country’s Chief Justice,Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry.

Written by Ruchika Talwar | Published: July 11, 2009 3:22 am

Pakistan’s President Asif Zardari knows how to stay in the news. And so does the country’s Chief Justice,Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry. Both have written of the symbolic value of July 5,the day when Zia ul Haq thwarted the constitution and jailed Zulfikar Ali Bhutto. Dawn quoted Zardari on July 5 as saying: “The dismantling of democratic structures that began on July 5,1977 reminds [us how one military dictator nurtured extremists for his political survival and how another dictatorship exploited the same extremists by running with the hare and hunting with the hound again for perpetuating himself in power. Let us vow to banish from the constitution all undemocratic insertions made by the dictators from time to time.” Simultaneously,at a conference convened for members of Pakistan’s legal fraternity,Chaudhry termed July 5 “a sad day in our [Pakistan’s constitutional history,as on this day 32 years ago,the country’s fundamental law was suspended and the democratic process was thwarted,” as reported by The News.

Braveheart Zardari

On July 9,Daily Times carried an editorial hailing President Zardari’s statement on how Pakistan had once sponsored the very terrorists they fight against today. “This articulation of ‘change’ through the ‘redefinition’ of old policy was needed although it has come only after the ‘new policy’ of confronting the Taliban was actually executed on the ground. The presidential remark is a bold assertion in the face of the ‘socialisation’ of the Taliban policy that has still not come to an end. The old policy was strongly advocated by the state through its exponents in civil society.” Dawn’s analysis matched Zardari’s in boldness. Thrown in were some tough questions. “The president is right,and we would add the policy was wrong then and it is wrong now. It cannot be any other way. How is it possible to rationally explain to the people of Pakistan that the heroes of yesteryear are the arch-enemies of today? The militants’ religious justifications remain the same; what’s changed is that the militants were fighting the state’s ‘enemies’ yesterday but have turned their guns on the state and its allies today. Should we have ever used jehadi proxies to fight the Russians in Afghanistan? Should we have ever supported the idea of armed jehad in Kashmir? Should we have ever sought to retain our influence in Afghanistan through the Taliban? If any of those choices ever made sense,then we should have no complaints about the rise of Talibanisation in Pakistan because we created the climate and opportunity for them to run amok.”

British Sharia

If you thought the Swat was the only home of Shariah courts,Dawn’s report may force a rethink. A startling report by M. Ziauddin,the Pakistani paper’s face in London stated on July 8: “Media debate is continuing since it was revealed in a report last week that at least 85 Sharia tribunals are now operating in the UK. Some quarters have attacked British law which is seen to be threatened by the creeping tide of radical Sharia. The Sharia courts in the UK are regularly giving advice on issues,including marriage and divorce. Decisions concerning marriages not recognised under English law,polygamy and disputes regarding children are being made by these Sharia courts,according to the report by the Civitas,a think-tank. The report claimed that there was no clear divide between the functions of Imams and the Sharia courts. One report said that about two-thirds of Muslim marriages were not being registered under the Marriages Act,which was illegal and a woman with such a marriage would have no choice but to go to a Sharia tribunal.”

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