Shahzeb Murder Case: Did We Fight for Rule of Law or Retribution?


So the parents have decided to pardon Shahrukh Jatoi and his accomplices “fi sabillillah”, i.e, “In the Way of God”.

Social and electronic media is in an uproar. TV channels are working themselves into a frenzy reporting on details of an alleged deal (worth Rs. 30 to 80 crores depending on what time you turn the TV on). Footage of a smug Shahrukh Jatoi flashing a victory sign as he leaves the court after being sentenced to death is being aired hundreds of times a day. Articles are being written saying things like “Shahzeb was shot a year ago, but he died today”. Blogs are complaining to Shahzeb’s parents that their decision to settle has killed any hope of justice in Pakistan. People are swearing that they will never participate in any mass protest or movement for justice ever again. “License to kill and license to chill”, says Geo News!

Let’s try to look at this differently… maybe this is not the mockery of the law that we are making it out to be and we shouldn’t give up on the (rather newly found) spirit of fighting for the rule of law. Let’s look at the facts again:

A rich brat killed someone on a whim. Money and influence went to work and there was an attempt to “bury” the case. The police refused to register an FIR. A protest movement ensued in which thousands of people got involved. Some simply pressed “like” on a facebook page, while others worked very hard to organize protests in the streets. The movement snowballed and started getting media coverage, which resulted in the CJ taking suo moto notice of the matter. The police moved into action and did a good job to locate Shahrukh Jatoi in Dubai, swiftly extradite him back to Pakistan and put him in jail. A court case ensued and we got exactly what we wanted: a swift trial, a conviction and a death sentence. The way I see it, that is a complete and total victory of the power of public outcry over powerful individuals trying to escape the law. We won!

Whatever happens now will not change the fact that a criminal was caught, tried, convicted and sentenced, despite belonging to a rich and powerful family. Come to think of it, that in itself is a revolution in the way our criminal justice system treats the rich and powerful. After this, Shahzeb’s parents are fully within their legal rights to pardon the killers of their son, with or without compensation. And if the parents get a ton of money in exchange for the pardon, well, good for them (let’s just hope the parents settled in exchange for monetary compensation or out of the goodness of their hearts, and not because of fear or coercion). Just because we don’t like a particular loophole in the law doesn’t mean that the law of the land has not been followed. The rule of law prevails.

Are we disappointed because we didn’t realize that there is a Qisas and Diyat law in the country? Or were we actually looking for retribution (i.e. a body hanging by a noose) and not for the law of the land to be followed? Maybe instead of getting upset about Shahrukh going free or swearing never to fight for justice again, our next step should be to demand a change in the Pakistan Penal Code, section 310, which says “In the case of qatl-i-amd (murder with intent to kill), an adult sane wali (custodian) may, at any time on accepting badl-i-sulh (compensation for settlement), compound (settle) his right of qisas (equal punishment)”.

And for those of us who still can’t tolerate the thought of the feudal brat going free: don’t lose heart just yet… we still don’t know how this turns out. The courts can still wipe that grin off Shahrukh Jatoi’s face based on section 311 of the Pakistan Penal Code, which says: “…keeping in view the principle of fasad-fil-arz (corruption/mischief in the land) the Court may, in its discretion having regard to the facts and circumstances of the case, punish an offender against whom the right of qisas has been waived or compounded…”. In simple words, deal or no deal, the court can still send Shahrukh Jatoi to jail or to the gallows.

We may just get our retribution.

The Fascistbook Republic of Pakistan


It has been a week since we saw the results of the election being announced and our world came crashing down around us, seat by seat.

All of us learned a lot in the process.  We saw that rigging is a reality and how the ECP has done a less than perfect job in managing the elections.  We understood how many seats there are in the assemblies and how the system works.  We all heard the term “Facebook Republic of Pakistan”, since there was an argument doing the rounds that only the urban educated youth with Internet access would end up voting for the PTI.

However, as the election turned more and more in favour of PML-N, a learning for me was the reaction that we as the urban educated youth exhibited in the face of defeat:  the Facebook Republic of Pakistan turned out to be a fascist regime.

The past week has shown how the Republic is intolerant and dismissive of anyone who disagrees with it’s opinion on the election.  The first reaction to an impending defeat was to cry foul.  As the results favoured PML-N more heavily, the Republic’s verdict was cruel: either there has been cheating, or the people  who voted for PML-N are dumb.  The Republic eventually stooped to downright abuse of Punjabis for electing the PML-N.  Newsfeeds were full of announcements like, “Illiterate Punjabis should not be allowed to vote!”, or “The Punjabis let Jinnah down during the independence movement and they have let Imran Khan down today”.  In a matter of hours, the majority of this country’s population was labelled stupid and unpatriotic.  There was no respect for the decision of the people, nor was there any attempt to understand why the majority of Pakistan’s population voted the way it did.  Citizens of the Republic who suspected rigging also decided that their right to vote was important enough to start blocking the streets over, while the JI’s right to block the streets to protest against drone strikes has never been acknowledged by the Republic (“Damned these molvis blocking the road they should be lined up and shot!” they would Tweet).

In this self righteous enthusiasm, the Republic did not consider that maybe Imran Khan’s grandiose ideas of turning Pakistani into a welfare state along the model of Nordic countries is not something that appeals to the common Punjabi.  What if he or she does not care about Imran Khan’s vision that the Pakistani passport will be respected abroad (because they will never have the money to travel outside the country!).  The person earning Rs. 8,000 a month may not be  interested in how the tax collection system needs to be revamped and cannot afford to wait a generation as the investment in education that PTI was promising bears fruit.  Maybe, just maybe, what really attracts that simple fellow are quick and instant results that make his life less difficult: electricity, a yellow cab, a nice road, a laptop, a sasti roti, or the promise of microfinance and fast trains? Maybe he likes the fact that Shahbaz Sharif walks into the ward of a government hospital at 2am and starts asking patients what quality of treatment they are getting.  It’s even possible that the poor guy has actually used his mind (*gasp*) to decide that when it comes to the complexities of politics, experience is more important than idealism.

But no. Instead of being constructive and trying to think how Imran Khan can inspire this type of voter in the future, the Republic decided that the poor illiterate Pakistani has sinned by voting for the PML-N and therefore deserves to remain poor & illiterate forever.  The Republic knows what is best for the 80 million registered voters of this country.  All other points of view: go to hell.

Why did the Republic react like this? Is it a control issue?  Is it fear? A mixture of both?

Maybe this extreme reaction by the Republic is driven by the fact that, for a change, the poverty stricken masses did not act on our wishes. We are used to our drivers, our cooks, our maids and our guards doing our bidding. We wave a 100 rupee note in the street and a bunch of people line up to clean our windshields, sell us roses or fill petrol in our cars. Are we so used to them working for us that we were unable to tolerate the fact that they did not agree with our superior political vision of Pakistan? How DARE 80 million poor Pakistanis vote against the wishes of 8 million Facebook users?!

Or (more plausibly) is this fascist behaviour rooted in fear and helplessness? What hurts is not the fact that the Republic lost, but the stark realization that our group of well educated urban Pakistanis is so small that we have trouble swinging a single seat, much less an entire election. Being born into  the privileged few was already a guilt that we had to live with – the realization that in a democratic setup we are a powerless privileged few is an extremely scary thought.

Let’s try to scope exactly how small the Republic really is.  There are  8 million Facebook users in Pakistan. Assuming 4 people in every home use Facebook, that is 2 million households. At the rate of 3 registered voters per household, that puts the total number of voters at 6 million; less than 8% of the total registered 80 million voters. For some reason the Republic forgot this fact and assumed that massive support of PTI on Facebook automatically means massive support in the real world.

Let’s scope the same matter in the “real” world.  While we have all read the numbers, very few of us have a realization of the sheer smallness of this privileged group that we belong to.  In that sense, PTI’s loss is a good reminder of the fact that our nice little bubble full of Honda Civics, Pizza Hut and Beaconhouse might be comfortable, but it represents but a drop in the teeming masses of people that comprise Pakistan.

It’s about time that citizens of the Republic had their memories refreshed on what Pakistan is all about and remove any notions they may have that poverty and literacy are just a rural problem:

  • 89% of the population does not have Internet access
  • There are 3.2 million cars on the road in Pakistan, while there are 27 million households.  Adjusting for multiple car ownership, one can safely say that 90% of Pakistani households do not own a car
  • The average monthly income of a Pakistani worker is Rs. 8,500; in urban areas it’s Rs. 11,700
  • 46% of the population is illiterate; in urban areas illiteracy is at 28%
  • 40% of the population has NEVER attended school; in urban areas this number is 25%
  • 23% of the population has managed to enroll in (not pass) Matric; in urban areas Matric enrolment is 33%
  • 75% of households subsist on a monthly household income of Rs. 20,000 or less; in urban areas this number is 59%
  • 58% of children born in 2010-11 were delivered at HOME; this number is 34% in urban areas

BUT, despite everything that our teeming masses may not have, something that everyone aged 18 or more does have is: a vote.  And when it comes to this vote, no matter how poor they are, how illiterate they are, or how little understanding they have of economics and finance and politics, they are EQUAL to all citizens of the Republic.

A Tsunami will only come when these teeming masses rise up – and that Tsunami will be of their choosing, not ours. Maybe THAT is what is killing us.

 

Disclosure:
The author flew to Pakistan to vote, drove relatives around to make them vote for PTI and shouted “Imran Khan! Imran Khan!” at Shahbaz Sharif’s face as he walked past him to vote at NA 126 (PTI won there by the way).  He is and intends to remain a PTI/Imran Khan supporter and financier.

Reuters: Pakistanis Vow To Vote “Even In the Dark”


By Nzaar Ihsan
ISLAMABAD | Wed 20th Mar 2013 12:32pm

March 2013 has been a historic month for Pakistan: the first time in the country’s 65 year history that a democratically elected government completed it’s full 5 year term.

“I can’t believe that this day has finally come. Does this mean I can go home tonight without the fear of the Taliban shoving an AK 47 up my rear?”, asked Prime Minister Raja Pervaiz Ashraf, holding back tears of joy on his last day in office.

All, unfortunately, is not well. The outgoing government has made little progress in the war on terror and the country faces a deteriorating law and order situation. A massive energy crisis that leaves most areas without power for 8-10 hours a day is crippling industry and driving unemployment.

The government on the other hand says that’s all a bunch of crap. “We are working on a revolutionary new technology that will harness the heat generated from frequent bomb blasts in urban areas and convert that to electricity. We will, Inshallah, kill two birds with one stone. Take that, Taliban!”, said a beaming Ahmed Mukhtar, the outgoing Minister for Water & Power.

This newspaper tried to contact the Taliban spokesperson for the terrorist group’s response to the innovation above. However, we were unsuccessful in obtaining a quote since Ehsanullah Ehsan could not stop laughing.

“Yes, our cities are dark, our factories empty and our tractors silent. But we must be patient. We should all learn from the USA, the greatest nation on earth. America became independent in 1776 and the light bulb was invented in 1870. That’s almost one hundred years. Pakistan is just 65 years old God dammit! We deserve at least 35 more years to screw up the national power generation infrastructure before you filthy bastards are allowed to complain,” said Prime Minister Raja Pervaiz Ashraf in his tear-jerking farewell address to the nation.

Terrorism continues to remain an (Islamic) thorn in Pakistan’s side and is keenly reported upon. Unfortunately, we aren’t able to provide more commentary on the matter since all the newspapers have moved bombings and terrorist attacks to the sports pages (as of yesterday, the score was Taliban 38, Pakistan 17). All American led attempts at peace talks with the Taliban continue to fail since the two sides cannot speak to each other… literally! What seems to be happening is that all the negotiators appointed by the USA are Pashto (the local Taliban language) speaking, while Taliban fighters can only speak English as a result of the years they spent as children training with CIA operatives in the 80s.

In the political sphere, tragedy and drama continue to prevail. The ruling political party (the Pakistan People’s Party, founded by the famous Bhutto clan) has developed a reputation of coming to power every time a prominent member of the Bhutto family is killed. Zulfikar Bhutto was sent to the gallows in a military influenced court ruling, and in the 1980s his daughter Benazir Bhutto came to power riding the wave of the “sympathy vote”. Years later, Benazir Bhutto’s assasination generated a ton of sympathy vote, propelling her husband Asif Zardari to power. Sources close to the party say that Bilawal Bhutto (son of President Zardari and the only high profile Bhutto alive) is not thrilled with the tradition.

“Dad gets a gleam in his eye every time he talks about how a Bhutto dying is the only sure way to win the elections this year. Honestly, it’s a bit unnerving,” said Bilawal Bhutto as he wiped his forehead during an interview with a local TV channel.

Despite the difficulties, the 150 million+ poor people of Pakistan continue to exhibit an almost fanatic support for democracy. Hundreds of thousands of people turned up at a rally to support a government of the people, for the people, by the people. A banner in the rally read, “Who needs food when I can vote?” Another passionate supporter of the democratic process shouted, “Of course I will have the time to vote in the coming election, thank Goodness I don’t have a job! Allah is Great!”. “We will vote even if we have to vote in the dark,” said a young woman as she fumbled for a candle.

Foreign relations, however, has been an undisputed feather in the government’s cap. Hina Rabbani Khar is a 35 year old 5’9″ tall hot babe and the country’s first female foreign minister. “I’ll tell you a secret…” whispers the President, “Western diplomats can’t stop drooling over her. It helps with the aid.”

Disclaimer:
The contents of this article, though hilarious and satirical, are questionable, in fact, fake. The facts are not checked, the sources are not correct, the quotes are not verified and the opinions are not fully thought through.

It’s a Conspiracy. The Pakistan Army Does Not Suck.


A parade by the Pakistan army in Islamabad.

Ever since Osama Bin Laden’s assassination, the western media has been wondering why Pakistanis refuse to accept the truth and believe in wild conspiracy theories. As one particularly scathing article puts it, “This is the salve that now comforts millions of Pakistanis at a time of fundamental crisis. They choose the magical world of conspiracy.” As an expatriate Pakistani, I’ve also been asked by confused Britons, Arabs and Indians: “Why don’t you guys admit that things are out of control? Why is everything that goes wrong in Pakistan always a CIA conspiracy?”.

Let me explain.

In the 1980s, every 5 year old in Pakistan wanted to become a commando or a pilot. Nobody wanted to become an accountant or an architect or a civil engineer. Ever wonder why? I’ll tell you why.

It’s because the army was awesome.

One of my earliest memories was waking up early in the morning on 6th September to watch the Defense Day Parade on TV. It was amazing. There were planes, commandos and missiles: everything that makes up the fantasy toy world of a young boy. As we watched the tanks roll by, my mom told me that 6th September is celebrated to commemorate the valiant defence of the country against an Indian attack in 1965. The Pakistan Studies book in school later taught me that India attacked Lahore in the dead of the night, without any provocation or formal declaration of war. It as a “cowardly attack” and it was absurd how an Indian General wanted to have dinner at Lahore Gymkhana the next day. We won the war and caused major losses to the Indian military machine. Maj. Shaheed Aziz Bhatti was my hero.

The next chapter talked about 1971. We learned that India created a terrorist group called the “Makti Bahni”, which terrorized the population in Bangladesh. While a massive conspiracy engineered by the Indians misled the East Pakistan population and eventually led to partition, our army still won the war and the Indian army was left licking its wounds . Shaheed Rashid Minhas was the hero this time.

School books told us that India never accepted the creation of Pakistan and their army would invade Pakistan the first chance they got; we would then be forced to lead terrible lives, just like Muslims in India lived a life of servitude and backwardness.

We were awed by the army. We were indebted to the army. They were, after all, the defenders of Pakistan. The army was awesome.

A career in the army was a dream. Regardless of economic background, if a young man made it into the Pakistan Army as an officer, it was guaranteed that he would have a nice house, a decent car and access to the prestigious Services Club. His children would study in good schools and he would be eligible for discounts on everything from grocery to airline tickets. Never again would the police harass him and petty burglars would think twice before trying to break into his house in the military Cantonment. He would get to play golf and polo. A career in the army meant a lifetime of stability, respect and security. When he retired, he would end up with a couple of plots of land in prime neighborhoods, allowing him to grow old in peace. Whenever it came up that the perks enjoyed by army officers were excessive, the conversation would be dismissed by saying, “Come on yaar, they spend their career risking their life for the country, the least we can do is let them retire in comfort.”

Over the years, we realized that everything that was good, pure and reliable in the country was associated with the army. All government departments – everything from the police to utility companies to the national highway authority – were corrupt. The army was not. The state infrastructure was inefficient and lazy, while the army was disciplined and efficient. Policemen in the street were overweight, unshaven, and unkempt – they traveled in banged up pickups. Soldiers, on the other hand, were lean, well groomed and smartly dressed. They drove around in Land Cruisers and big shiny army trucks. Army officers wore Ray Bans. Girls dreamed of getting married to dashing young lieutenants. The army was awesome.

Everything the army did was of top notch quality, better than anyone else. If they built a neighborhood, it was well planned and well maintained. If they built a road, it had proper drainage and would last longer than any road built by the government. During the 90s, scenes of soldiers rescuing people from ravaging floods and patrolling the troubled streets of Karachi were portrayed daily in the Khabarnama (daily new bulletin on state TV) and are engraved in the nation’s memory. The army was a symbol of righteousness in a society riddled with corruption and nepotism.

The army was also obviously successful in the pursuit of Pakistan’s strategic interests. In addition to the fending off the Indians, the army had now also saved us from the wrath of the Soviet juggernaut. The creation of the Taliban and a pro-Pakistan government was a success in our effort to achieve “strategic depth” in Afghanistan. We had a highly skilled, extremely powerful and deadly efficient military. We were a nuclear armed nation which basked in the glory of our military strength – we were the world’s most powerful defenders of Islam. Allah-o-Akbar.

The nation was enamored by the army. Instead of protesting, we breathed a sigh of relief whenever the army threw politicians out and took over control of the country. The army was here, which meant that we could return to what the army stood for: security, stability and quality. It was agreed that a country as crazy as Pakistan can only be governed by the strong arm of the army. Thank God for the army. The army was awesome!

Then the 21st century happened and things started going wrong. Information that was locked up in books that nobody read was suddenly available on TV and in people’s email boxes. Internet articles told us that Pakistan started the 1965 war on 5th August by sending soldiers into Kashmir (and that the 6th Sep attack from India was a retaliation) . Wikipedia showed us a news item from the LA Times that referred to our beloved Gen. Tikka Khan (the martial law administrator for East Pakistan) as “The Butcher of Bengal”. Googling “Operation Searchlight” gave gory details of the mass atrocities committed by the Pakistan army in Bangladesh during 1971, including mass murder and rape. The media started complaining about how 80% of our budget was consumed by the army with no accountability to the public. Journalists wrote openly about how Gen. Zia manipulated the judicial process to hang Z.A. Bhutto, left the country with the infamous Hudood Ordinance and a Kalashnikov culture. Investigative journalists unearthed evidence that the ISI was involved in the rigging of elections to keep Benazir Bhutto out of power. Musharraf was blamed in 2001 for hastily jumping into bed with the US after 9/11. Books were written on the multi-billion dollar businesses owned by the army. Bomb blasts started happening. Was the army still awesome?

Fast forward 35,000 dead Pakistanis later to 2011. The Pakistani nation finds itself in a situation where Swat has been taken over for a few days by Taliban . For a brief moment of brilliance, the GHQ has been overrun by terrorists. Osama bin Laden has been found and killed by a covert US raid which our airforce couldn’t detect. The airforce has admitted that the UAE actually controls an airbase in Balochistan. The ISI exhibited a massive intelligence failure on OBL’s existence in Abottabad. Wikileaks has proven that our top General secretly asked for drone strikes and lied in public. Last but not least, one of our largest naval installations (PNS Mehran) has been held taken over by 5 terrorists and it took hundreds of commandos 16 hours to regain control. The media, emboldened and angered, has started highlighting the complete lack of accountability of the army on a range of failures including the 1971 debacle, Bhutto’s hanging, Ojhri Camp, Kargil, Red Mosque, Benazir Bhutto’s assassination, PNS Mehran and GHQ attacks. The international community is convinced that certain sections of the army are in bed with terrorists.

Pakistanis are already suffering from a number of problems. Prices of petrol and food are sky rocketing. A massive electricity shortage means households are without power for hours every day and unemployment is rising fast because factories and industries without power are laying workers off. The unemployed youth are turning to crime, further exacerbating the already precarious law and order situation. The elected politicians are considered inept and corrupt. India threatens from the east and the Taliban threaten from the west. US drone strikes often kill innocent civilians and tens of Pakistanis die every day in terror attacks. In these difficult times, the Pakistani nation wanted to turn to their knights in shining armour – the army.

But all of a sudden, 180 million people are forced to come to terms with the possibility that their armed forces might not be as awesome as they thought. Numerous incidents over the past few months indicate that the army is ineffective, incapable and inefficient. The army is not infallible and is not top notch. In fact, there are signs that certain sections of the army might be corrupt. or worse, supporting extremists. In a world where the army is the only thing in Pakistan that is reliable and true, this is a fundamental shock to the nation’s value system.

Jokes ridiculing the ability of the armed forces are going viral on the internet – peoples’ statuses on facebook are anti army like never before. Suddenly, the army is not awesome anymore.

Denial is a natural reaction when everything that you believed in is suddenly taken away from you. That’s why most Pakistanis run for the safety of a conspiracy. It’s a plan by the CIA to malign our armed forces and take over our nuclear assets. Maybe it’s an effort by RAW to hurt our defense capabilities. In fact, it’s probably an evil scheme by Mossad to destroy the world’s most powerful Muslim army. Any conspiracy will do as long as they don’t have to face the grim reality that maybe, just maybe, the army sucks.

So, it’s back to the magical world of conspiracy for us Pakistanis: It’s never us, it’s them. The army does not suck… the army is still awesome.