An end to (coercing) ‘forgiveness’ in honour killings

The parents of Qandeel Baloch no longer have a place to live. According tonews reports, their landlord evicted them a few days ago.

He isn’t the only one at their necks; most of the people in Basti Marrha, their Multan neighborhood, have been at odds with them.

They, along with Qandeel Baloch’s brother-in-law Javed Iqbal Rind, have been insistent that Azeem Khan and Anwar Bibi forgive Waseem, their son and Qandeel’s murderer.

They have refused to do so, even as Rind has been threatening their lives and their seven sons have all forsaken them over their demands for justice over Qandeel’s murder.

Even as the tragic Qandeel Baloch saga births new chapters of misery, a milestone was finally reached, hundreds of miles away in Islamabad. The Anti-Rape and Anti-Honour Crime Bills, both of which had been pending for quite some time, were both passed by the National Assembly of Pakistan on Thursday, October 6, 2016.

According to the provisions of the Honour Crime Bill, relatives of the murderer would only be able to pardon him if he was sentenced to capital punishment.

This provision was expectedly fought over by members of the religious parties who insisted that the Bill should be approved by a panel of religious clerics before the final vote and passage.

The new provision relating to rape says that verdicts must be delivered within three months and that DNA samples be collected and sent for forensic analysis.

The Anti-Rape Bill also criminalises the rape of minors and the disabled and makes provisions for a mandatory sentence of 25 years for rape.

The Bills are a step forward, especially in the context of a country where the fate of the parents’ of Qandeel Baloch is a sharp and humiliating reality.

The loophole that allows (or leads to coercive) ‘forgiveness’ to be granted to the perpetrators of honour crimes has been a death sentence hanging over the heads of all of the country’s women.

In this sense, the legislative commitment to override the obstacles of opponents and the Prime Minister’s statement that he is committed to enforcing the provisions of the laws passed feels like the rare glimmer of the sort of hope that is often too hard to find in the country.

Honour killings of course will not end just by these particular laws.

The girls who become victims of these crimes are the bravest and sturdiest of the lot.

Far greater numbers kill themselves out of hopelessness and haplessness, driven to death by the oppressive demands of the men who they know can and will kill them.

Their deaths are not counted in the numbers of honour crimes, fractional figures of a reality too grim to count.

Of the ones that are counted, the increased commitment to try and convict, to not forgive beyond being spared the death penalty, is more than nothing.

It is also a reminder that, for nearly 70 years, there was precisely that: nothing.

The particular nature of honour crime is that its architecture is essentially dependent on many more people than the perpetrator himself.

Qandeel Baloch’s case and what her old parents have been telling interviewers is a case in point.

Their neighborhood and relatives, Qandeel’s brother-in-law with whom the murderer Waseem was staying, all of their sons, are all in favor of a pardon.

With so many involved directly and indirectly in allotting punishments to women they perceive as errant, punishments for single, literal perpetrators are not enough.

A system of disincentives has to be created via which these communities, which believe themselves tainted and dishonoured, and hence justified in committing the crime, face collective consequences for their involvement.

A possible life sentence for the murderer is an important step, but just one small portion of what must be a web of punitive measures.

When a village, a neighbourhood, a tribe and a family know that its own welfare is at risk owing to its promotion and perpetration of honour crimes, there will be some hope that they will cease.

In the meantime, Qandeel Baloch’s parents remain homeless and afraid for their lives. Anwar Bibi is in her seventies, her husband disabled having the use of one leg.

Amid the celebrations over the legislation, some attention must be turned to them, some arrangement made for the meager means they need to live out their grief stricken lives.

It is too late to save their daughter, but perhaps they can receive some protection from the state that failed their child.

Her grave, her father tells reporters, is covered like she wanted, with a Pakistani flag.


Path to legal reform

HOW does the legal community respond to the massacre of lawyers in Quetta (Aug 8) and the killing of lawyers in Mardan (Sept 2)? The massacre in Quetta was especially tragic because the death of so many lawyers has created a legal vacuum affecting the provision of competent legal services in Balochistan. More importantly, however, these lawyers were at the forefront of the lawyers’ movement (2007-2009) and of the democratic and human rights struggle of the people of Balochistan.

In the past, when some well-known senior members of the legal profession were busy acting as collaborators of Gen Pervez Musharraf as his lawyers, legal advisers and attorney general, the lawyers of Balochistan were spearheading the movement against the brutal repression of the people of Balochistan by the Musharraf regime. If this country survives as a united modern constitutional democratic state, then their contribution has been critical.

But how does one respond to such massacres and killings? There are two reactions, one of despair, the other of delusion. The government response is one of despair which is to reduce the entire issue to one of compensation for victims ie commodification and monetarisation of the struggle of lawyers, with vague and useless assurances of future security and wild allegations against hidden forces.

The judicial system will either perish or become irrelevant if far-reaching reforms are not initiated.

On the other hand, the response of the legal community is one of delusion as loud sermons are given about the resilience of lawyers and their ‘guaranteed’ victory, with blame and responsibility being completely shifted onto the government without any flaws being recognised within the lawyer community and judicial system.

But is there hope based on an analysis of history and the potential for change?

Hope from history: “Men make their own history but they do not make it as they please,” as Marx rightly noted. There are certain recognisable positive trends in Pakistani history. Firstly, since 1973, the Constitution has been suspended three times but could not be abrogated as in 1958 and 1969. Moreover, the last martial law of 2007 lasted for less than two months. Therefore, constitutionalism against militarism is on the rise and militarism against constitutionalism on the back foot.

Secondly, with constitutionalism is the rising power of the judges. Nothing is taboo anymore — prime ministers can be removed for disobeying a judgement of the court (NRO case), the treason trial of military adventurers (Musharraf) can be held, and the courts are more accessible to the poor and powerless (as seen in the expansion of public interest and human rights cases). Moreover, there is a revival of creative legal thinking to solve difficult problems, as seen in the judgements of Justice Asif Saeed Khosa, Justice Mian Saqib Nisar, Justice Munib Akhtar to name a few, and to initiate judicial reforms, for example, Punjab Chief Justice Mansoor Ali Shah.

Thirdly, Alexis de Tocqueville in his classic study Democracy in America put forward the thesis that the rule of lawyers leads to the rule of law. Therefore, the continuing rise of Pakistani lawyers as a powerful social and political power group is a clear sign of the possible future domination of the rule of law.

Fourthly, with the rise of constitutionalism and judicial and lawyers’ power, there is a continuing development of the human rights movement post-1980s in the form of increasing human rights court decisions after 1988, the emergence of a civil society human rights consensus and the present rise of state institutions like the National Commission for Human Rights. Therefore, all these historical trends point towards a possible future dominated by constitutionalism, judicial and lawyers’ power and human rights.

Ghosts of the past: Obsolete remnants from the past can destroy this possible future. Two are particularly dangerous. Firstly, the continuing domination of a political and legal militarism. Politicised thinking connected to the military, as opposed to the military as a professional institution, has the tendency to still lecture all of us about the ‘virtues of controlled democracy’ and the ‘miracles of military justice’. Such elements are now dinosaurs with the disappearances of military dictatorships globally but sadly, their self-righteousness blinds them.

Secondly, the supporters of the legal status quo ie business as usual. There is now a clear divide in the legal community between judges and lawyers who believe that large-scale legal and judicial reform is absolutely essential and judges and lawyers who reinforce parts of this unworkable and unjust legal and judicial system. The former group is in the majority but the latter are still a very powerful group.

What needs to be done: The task ahead has been brilliantly captured by Supreme Court Justice Qazi Faez Isa’s public letter to the Quetta’s bereaved: “What should we do now is the question that arises in these testing times?… They (the martyred and injured) now look to us in this hour of trial to see whether we too will be able to demonstrate comradeship … above all, whether we will be able to deliver justice even more effectively in the circumstances.”

To translate this task into more concrete language, three struggles are essential. Firstly, the judicial system will either perish or become irrelevant if far-reaching judicial reforms are not initiated. The question is not whether there are practical difficulties in providing speedy justice. The greatest difficulty lies in changing the sub acha hai (all is well) mindset. Reform will begin only if legal and judicial change dominates the legal and judicial mindset.

The second concerns the end of the legal aristocracy of a few rich and connected lawyers and the promotion of the overwhelming majority of young but disempowered lawyers. We need to recognise this class divide in our legal profession.

The third is to further make the judicial system accessible to the poor and less powerful, something which was the central project of the lawyers movement and the Chaudhry court (2007-2013). It is the common people who will protect lawyers and courts but only if the judicial system is relevant to their lives.

So, this is the question: will the legal community seize this historic opportunity or will it let it slip between its fingers?

The writer is a Visiting Fellow at the McGill University, Canada.

Why aren’t we taking action against Hafiz Saeed, PML-N lawmaker asks

ISLAMABAD: A lawmaker from the ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) has demanded action against non-state actors, especially Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JuD) chief Hafiz Saeed, BBC Urdu reported.

During a meeting of the National Assembly Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs held Thursday, PML-N lawmaker Rana Muhammad Afzal asked, “Which eggs is Hafiz Saeed laying for us that we are nurturing him?”

He also said, “The efficacy of our foreign policy speaks for itself when we couldn’t curtail Hafiz Saeed.”

“India has built such a case against us about the JuD chief that during the meeting on Kashmir, foreign delegates mention him [Hafiz Saeed] as the bone of contention between Pakistan and India,” he maintained.

Rana recalled a recent trip to France, where he had been tasked to explain the worsening situation in Kashmir, and said that the name of Hafiz Saeed was brought up time and again by foreign delegates.

The lawmaker said that although he had rarely heard about Hafiz Saeed during his 25 years in politics, Saeed was considered a notorious character in international circles. He asked whether Hafiz Saeed was good or bad for the Kashmir cause.

Rana said that although the government’s stance on Kashmir is correct, banned outfits were a source of embarrassment for the country.

It was reported in  newspaper on Thursday that state policy on non-state actors was discussed in a high-level security meeting between civilian and military leadership.

In an unprecedented warning, the civilian government has informed the military leadership of a growing international isolation of Pakistan and sought consensus on several key actions by the state.

During the meeting it was decided that military-led intelligence agencies are not to interfere if law enforcement acts against militant groups that are banned or until now considered off-limits for civilian action.

In an email to media, Afzal denied seeking any action against Hafiz Saeed.

He, however, acknowledged to have said that: “His [Hafiz Saeed] optics give India an opportunity to blackmail Pakistan internationally. If he is of no benefit to Pakistan, then why are we allowing his optics to affect loss to Pakistan?”

Foreign Secretary Aizaz Chaudhry summarised the results of the recent diplomatic outreach by Pakistan, the crux being that Pakistan faces diplomatic isolation and that the government’s talking points have been met with indifference in major world capitals.

In response to Foreign Secretary Chaudhry’s conclusions, Gen Akhtar asked what steps could be taken to prevent the drift towards isolation. Chaudhry’s reply was direct and emphatic: the principal international demands are for action against Masood Azhar and the Jaish-i-Mohmmad; Hafiz Saeed and the Lashkar-i-Taiba; and the Haqqani network.

To that, Gen Akhtar offered that the government should arrest whomever it deems necessary, though it is unclear whether he was referring to particular individuals or members of banned groups generally. At that point came the stunning and unexpectedly bold intervention by Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif.

BJP govt freed Masud Azhar and Daniel Pearl killer: Congress

NEW DELHI: Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) got an earful from the opposition Congress party on Friday, which reminded the ruling party of how they freed Masud Azhar and how he went on to set up Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM).

Delhi accuses JeM of staging spectacular cross-border attacks, including recently in Pathankot and Uri.

Senior lawyer and former Congress minister Kapil Sibal was pointing to a hostage swap that a previous BJP government carried out in December 1999. The controversial exchange happened in Kandahar after the hijack of an Indian Airlines plane from Kathmandu, which landed in Amrtisar and soon took off for Afghanistan.

Together with Masud Azhar, Syed Omar Sheikh was one of the prisoners India freed in exchange for the hostages, a deal in which the current National Security Adviser Ajit Doval took a lead part. Sheikh later staged the murder of American journalist Daniel Pearl.

As the war of words intensified between the opposition and Mr Modi’s party over the disputed claim of surgical strikes by Indian troops in Azad Kashmir, Mr Sibal asked the BJP not to politicise the campaign by the army.

Reports said he took a potshot at BJP president Amit Shah over court cases against him.

“Those who have murder cases against them, have been to jail, are in no position to question Rahul Gandhi,” said Mr Sibal in a reference to Mr Shah’s criticism of the Congress scion.

The lawyer’s statement is part of a continuation of the war of words between the two national parties over the army’s surgical strikes, reports said.

Earlier, Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal had praised Mr Modi for ordering the strikes but he also asked the government to respond to Pakistan’s denial of any such event, with proof. Mr Kejriwal is being denounced as anti-national.

Mr Sibal said relations between India and Pakistan wouldn’t have been so strained if the BJP during its time in the government hadn’t released Jaish founder Masud Azhar. “Who created JeM? BJP did,” he said.

On Thursday, Mr Gandhi said Prime Minister Modi was ‘hiding behind the blood of jawans’ and doing ‘dalali’ (cashing in) on their sacrifice.

Mr Sibal said the government is undermining the valour of the armed forces by giving PM Modi all credit.

“Stop putting up these posters claiming credit, it was the army that should be hailed, so stop this politics,” he said.

Mr Sibal further said that the BJP president’s comment claiming he doesn’t agree with taking political mileage from the army’s campaign seemed absurd against his other comment that the BJP would “take the success of the country’s army to the people”.

Mr Sibal also gave a detailed account of all the previous instances when he said the security forces had crossed the Line of Control to defend the nation. “India’s history doesn’t start from 2014,” he said. It was a response to Mr Shah’s claim that the Indian army had crossed the LoC for the first time.

$70 million — the loss to Pakistan’s economy from internet shutdowns

x internet shutdowns that occurred in Pakistan between July 1, 2015 and June 30, 2016 cost the country’s economy an astonishing $69.7 million, contributing to a total global cost of $2.4 billion, says Darrell West in a study published by Centre for Technology Innovation, Brookings Institution.

Citing the example of one such instance between March 12 and 23, 2015, West says Pakistan shut down mobile telecommunication services due to security reasons on the Pakistan Day parade.

“All mobile operators were told by national authorities to shutdown mobile communications within a 5km radius of the parade site. This move affected a major hospital, an airport, and businesses near Islamabad,” he writes.

In the study, West has examined 81 short-term shutdowns in 19 countries over the past year and estimated their impact on the economy of each nation.

He argues that if political authorities continue to disrupt internet activity, “it will be difficult for impacted nations to read the full benefits of the digital economy”.

“The growing scope of internet disruptions is creating significant detrimental impacts on economic activity in a number of nations around the world,” he says.

Based upon the analysis, West has derived that in the last fiscal year internet blackouts across the 19 countries cost at least $2.4 billion in Gross Domestic Product (GDP) globally.

“As the digital economy expands, it will become even more expensive for nations to shut down the internet,” West, who is also the founding director of Centre for Technology Innovation, writes.

“Without coordinated action by the international community, this damage is likely to accelerate in the future and further weaken global economic development.”

Economic losses include $968 million in India, $465 million in Saudi Arabia, $209 million in Iraq, $69 million in Bangladesh, $48 million in Syria, and $35 million in Turkey, among other places.

“These are conservative estimates that consider only reductions in economic activity and do not account for tax losses or drops in investor, business, and consumer confidence,” says West.