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Grilling Gilani

A register of reports and views from the Pakistan press

Written by Ruchika Talwar |
March 17, 2012 1:37:03 am

Grilling Gilani

Late last week,Pakistan’s Supreme Court hardened its stand on Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani and President Asif Ali Zardari in the ongoing contempt of court case. Until now,the court had been directing Gilani through the law ministry to explain why he had not written to the Swiss government to reopen graft charges against Zardari,as demanded by the NRO verdict pronounced by the Supreme Court. But last week,the Supreme Court directly asked the attorney general to convey to the prime minister that he is again mandated to write to the Swiss authorities and either submit through his lawyer a “compliance report” on March 19 or appear in person on March 21 to explain verbally.

This week,the legal duel took an interesting turn with Gilani acting defiant (that is,loyal to Zardari). Dawn reported on March 16 his convocation address at Islamia University,Bahwalpur: “‘If I write the letter,it will be a violation of the Constitution,which is treason and carries the death penalty. If I don’t write,I will be convicted of contempt,the punishment for which is six months’ imprisonment…’ Mr Gilani then stated in plain words that it would be better to face six months’ imprisonment than to be sentenced to death for treason.” Emphasising his loyalty to the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP),he announced that he could leave politics,but never betray the party. His lawyer,Aitzaz Ahsan said the prime minister would prefer to appear himself,though no decision had yet been taken on this.

Faith and politics

The news of a Hindu teenage girl from Sindh,Rinkle Kumari,converting to Islam and marrying a Muslim boy created a furore. Her family contended this was done under duress (abduction followed by conversion and marriage),while the girl,who was now named Faryal,said she had converted of her own will to marry Naveed Shah. This too,her family believes,is a statement given by Rinkle/Faryal under pressure. The legal battle between the families in the Sindh high court is due to be heard in the Supreme Court on March 26. This case is becoming a political,judicial and social issue. “Liberal” politicians are entering the frame. Religious ideologues are condemning forcible conversions. California Congressman Brad Shermen has written to President Zardari on the issue. Zardari’s sister,Azra Fazl,also a member of the National Assembly,was reported by The Express Tribune on March 16 to have taken up this matter in Parliament: “Hindu girls are being forcibly kept in various madrassas in Sindh and are later forced to marry Muslims… While speaking on the point of order,Fazl said that Hindus are facing a lot of challenges in Sindh. She stressed the need for legislation to protect minority rights and to end forced conversions.”

Meanwhile the Indian spiritual leader,Sri Sri Ravi Shankar went to Pakistan to teach his Art of Living. On March 15,a Daily Times article wrote: “He first visited Pakistan in 2004,and organisers said there are now 5,000 followers in the country. So does ‘Guruji’… think Taliban fighters are ripe for inner peace… Organisers insist they attract people from all walks of life,but the audience was predominantly wealthy and middle class — ladies who lunch or who took the day off work,well dressed with posh handbags and designer shades… ‘Everyone should take a little bit of time,10 minutes,five minutes to calm down. Even in the worst scenario they need to calm down and take action in a calm state of mind,’ he said.” The article quoted the co-chair of The Art of Living in Pakistan,Shahnaz Minallah: “‘We were scared about the Pakistan-India thing and the Hindu element attached to it,whereas it’s nothing. It’s neutral. It comes from that region but it fits into any tradition,’ she said.”

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