South Asia Citizens Wire | 3 June, 2003
In Defence of the Indian Historian Romila Thapar
#1. India - Pakistan Relations: Our forgotten commitment (Hamida Khuhro)
#2. On South Asian Free Media Association
- Journalism sans frontiers (M.B. Naqvi)
- SAFMA brings region closer (Imtiaz Alam)
#3. Thaw in India-Pakistan Ties Needs New Push (Praful Bidwai)
#4. Prospects of Indo-Pak peace (Vinod Mubayi)
#5. India: Film Screenings on Communal harmony in Bombay's slums:
Appeal for support
#6. India: Reduced to Ashes: The Insurgency and Human Rights in Punjab
by Ram Narayan Kumar with Amrik Singh, Ashok Agrwaal and Jaskaran Kaur
#7. Sharia law for Pakistan province (BBC)
- Pakistani Province Makes Koran Law of Land (AP)
- NWFP PA adopts Shariah bill (Shamim Shahid)
- Playing with Islam (Editorial, The Daily Times)
DAWN, June 2, 2003
Our forgotten commitment
By Hamida Khuhro
Every time some leader of India or Pakistan makes a comment on the
desirability of ending tensions and creating better relations between
the two countries, there is an overwhelming response from the people
on both sides, welcoming the move and then waiting eagerly and
anxiously for something to happen.
A Pakistani public, grown cynical over half a century of governments
- the last thing on whose minds has been the welfare of the people -
is still capable of holding its breath whenever there is a prospect
of normalization of Indo-Pak relations.
The obvious conclusion is that there is an indissoluble bond between
the peoples of the two countries. Despite the continued efforts of
the policy-makers of the two countries to create different
identities, for instance, by separating the languages (by
Sanscritization and Persianization of what used to be known as Urdu
or Hindustani), and by erecting an information barrier between the
two peoples, the memories of a common culture and a common past have
not been erased altogether.
Over half a century of hostilities, four wars, countless people dead,
economic disaster and terrible impoverishment of the people - these
are the results of the very flawed policies that have governed the
relations between India and Pakistan. Every man, woman and child now
understands that enmity with India has cost us the freedoms, the
democracy, the prosperity and the living standards we had every right
to expect from gaining independence.
Fed up with the hostilities, the Pakistani public wants an end to
these. It wants peace and understanding, normal cordial relations, to
be able to come and go freely, to visit shrines and relatives,
exchange ideas and to share knowledge. It wants to see what India has
done for agriculture and for the environment; to debate on issues
common to our two countries, to read newspapers and books from the
other country, see films and write fair and unbiased history books
for the children of the subcontinent.
They long to do all this and more. But there is another factor as
well which makes normalization, friendship and understanding even
more imperative than all the reasons given above. This is the
existence of a large minority of Muslims in India. This is the real
loose link, the casualty of partition.
In all our arguments for peace and for all our justifications for
going to war, these are the people who are most affected and most
forgotten. We talk of Kashmir endlessly, of mountain peaks that must
be secured, of military might that we must ensure in order to be
secure but we forget the 'core' of our freedom struggle, the reason
Pakistan became first a possibility, then a fact.
The reason was the unified demand for the creation of Pakistan made
by all the Muslims of India. This was the demand of the Muslims of
Madras and Hyderabad as much as that of Dhaka and Lahore.
We proudly write in our history books that the demand for Pakistan
was the demand of the Muslims of India as a whole. Of these the most
vocal were the Muslims of the minority Muslim provinces. At a Muslim
League conference in Allahabad, my father (the late Mohammad Ayub
Khuhro) asked a vociferous supporter of Pakistan whether he knew that
Pakistan would not include the part of the subcontinent he came from
and of what use would Pakistan be for him. He replied that he did not
care as long as Pakistan became a reality.
Perhaps this was emotionalism just like that of the Khilafat movement
but the fact is that Pakistan became a reality. The hundreds of
thousands of Muslims spread from north to south India, who could
never hope to be accommodated in Pakistan and who in any case would
be reluctant to abandon the graves of their ancestors or their
undoubtedly glorious heritage, supported its creation wholeheartedly.
So there continues to be a shadow, a slight niggle at the back of our
minds about our dealings with India. There is this large population
of Muslims, almost greater than the numbers in Pakistan that is
deeply affected by the state of our relations with India. We know
that we cannot in all conscience afford to be enemies with India.
That was not the intentions of our founding fathers.
The Quaid-i-Azam and his sister Miss Fatima Jinnah told friends that
they would continue to visit the Quaid's favourite house in Bombay as
well as visit other places after independence in what was to become
Bharat. The attitude of the leadership of All India Muslim League was
that there would be easy communication even after separation, that
people would be free to come and go and that the formalities of
separation would not apply. They thought that the situation would be
somewhat like the one envisaged by the Cabinet Mission Plan between
the different 'groupings' of provinces or somewhat closer than the
European Union today.
This vague and undefined division did not materialize. Instead there
was the 'truncated' Pakistan which messed up the vision of Pakistan
as a multi-religious and multi-ethnic state with a Muslim majority -
a sort of mirror opposite of India- and in its place there was more
or less a single-religion state which could not be a guarantor of the
security of Indian Muslims.
Unfortunately, the leadership of Pakistan did not take stock of the
situation and work out some via media with India which would allow
peaceful coexistence and realization of their vision of an
independent subcontinent. Instead, the exact opposite happened and a
situation of distrust and hostility developed, thanks to unwise
decisions on both sides. India was ungenerous and Pakistan
cantankerous. The distrust led to the first hostilities over Kashmir
and the rest is history.
Gandhi was assassinated by Hindu extremists because he was perceived
to be 'soft' on Pakistan. Pakistan chose to fight over territory
rather than think of the larger interests of the people it was meant
to 'secure'. So where did this leave the Muslims of India?
The Muslims who had always had the moral support of the Muslims of
the majority provinces were now scattered and a vulnerable minority
all over India. They bore the blame for the division of India and for
The most articulate and educated section of this community migrated
to Pakistan leaving the rest, poor and leaderless, to struggle out of
a very difficult situation unaided. Every time Pakistan made a
hostile gesture or went to war with India the worst sufferers were
the Muslims of India. Until 1965 it appeared that indeed the Indian
Muslims had a rosy view of Pakistan and their loyalties were perhaps
But in the wake of the war of 1965 they made the final commitment to
India and cut off their sentimental attachment to Pakistan. But this
does not absolve Pakistan of its fundamental duty - to safeguard the
Muslim community of the subcontinent against the tyranny of the
majority. Nor indeed was the Hindu extremist perception of Indian
The destruction of the Babri mosque, the Bombay killings and the
Gujarat communal riots have occurred in recent years. Life continues
to be uncertain for the Muslims of India. There is no dearth of
right-wing politicians to call their loyalty into question and to
blame them for the ills of the country.
Fifty-six years after partition it is high time that Pakistan
realized its actual role in the subcontinent. The creation of
Pakistan came with certain commitments. We failed badly in one of
these - of justice and fair play for all the people and for the
provinces of the federation and the result was the bloody
dismemberment of Pakistan in 1971.
So far we have also had very convenient amnesia about our commitment
to the Muslim community of India and pursued our petty agenda to the
detriment of our national wellbeing. We talk ad nauseam about the
Muslim Ummah. But where is this Muslim Ummah?
Is it just in the Arab countries that call themselves Arab but hardly
describe themselves as 'Muslim Ummah'? What about the Ummah back here
in our historic homeland - the community which is the integral part
of our history, the integral part of our freedom struggle? No one
talks about that. The time has come to live up to the commitments of
our founding fathers.
They may not have realized what was in store for Pakistan but
enduring good relations with India were a necessary part of their
programme because only that would ensure the security of the huge
Muslim community in the rest of the subcontinent. It is not fair to
just concentrate on Kashmir, which after all is majority Muslim state
and in the last resort able to look after its own interests.
We have to think about those who cannot ensure their own security and
if that involves getting off our high horse, so be it. It is an
accident of history and the ulterior motives of the imperialists and
our own lack of forethought and wisdom that we stand where we do
today - isolated and bewildered, unable to fulfil our commitments. We
must get out of this bind. There is nothing eternal or essential
about being inimical to India. We are the same people and we share
the same ancestors and the same culture. We have a thousand years of
Let us make fresh beginnings which will also ensure that our
co-religionists elsewhere in the subcontinent can sleep easy at
night. It will do us good to remember that for the major part of his
life, the Quaid fought for a unified India in which Muslims would
have constitutional guarantees that they would not be victims of the
tyranny of the majority. These guarantees were not forthcoming, so
very reluctantly he opted for a separate state which would provide
that security. Let me quote the great Quaid-i-Azam speaking from his
"We are all sons of this land. We have to live together. We have to
work together and whatever our differences may be, let us at any rate
not create more bad blood... Believe me there is no progress of India
until the Musalmans and Hindus are united, and let no logic,
philosophy or squabble stand in the way of coming to a compromise..."
[South Asian Free Media Association
Web site: http://southasianmedia.net/ ]
o o o
Journalism sans frontiers
By M.B. Naqvi
One has grown old hearing lectures that journalists have this great
role or that vital role to play. Political leaders, mostly those in
office --- power is more elusive for Pakistani politicians ---, have
large intellectual and political interests and want the journalists
to help them. Thus they appeal to journalists to help forge national
unity for the sake of country's security and progress. Sometimes
moral sermons are administered by usually those whose own career does
not stand witness to high moral principles or consistency. Social
evils, moral degradation and external dangers are the most frequent
causes the achievement of which is sought to be facilitated by
journalists helping attain these laudable objectives.
But a closer look reveals the true purpose: these high-minded aims
are assumed to be the objective of the speaking leaders and the real
role of journalists is to strengthen their hand by urging the people
to support them. Behind their beautiful verbiage is the design to
recruit journalists to become their dream beaters and latter day
version of town criers proclaiming their goodness in power. Appeals
to patriotism, Islam, Ideology, national chauvinism are deployed to
make journalists ignore the voice of their conscience and to support
the politicians in office --- and occasionally some in opposition.
One is tired of saying to anyone who would care to listen that
journalists have no, repeat no, role in achieving any of the
seemingly noble causes. This is for moralists, social reformers,
religious and political leaders to popularise their own nostrums.
Journalists' only duty is to be professionally honest and efficient
journalists. Just that. You have a right to query what is the moral
or professional duty of a journalist: can he be amoral or immoral?
No, not at all. As an honest professional, he has to be guided all
the time by his own conscience as a good professional. And what is
the journalistic professional's main duty? Well, simple: to report
fairly and objectively and when he is required to comment, he should
piece together the reality from a plethora of reports with varying
degrees of objectivity and to make a fair and honest comment thereon
according to his lights (conscience).
Journalism is intended to reflect the real situation. Truth telling
is the norm for an honest professional. As an individual he has many
feelings and perhaps loyalties. He may want to work for social
welfare or to promote good public morals. But let him do these things
as an individual. Insofar as he is a journalist, the value to guide
professional work is to report factually and or make a fair comment
on an objectively delineated situation. His personal enthusiasm for
religion or morality has to be kept separate from his professional
duty of seeking facts and fair comment thereon. He or she may be
interested in promoting micro credit for poverty alleviation. Let him
engage in it in his or her spare time; he or she cannot become a
propagandist of this or that NGO or institution (including the
If the criterion of truth telling, with all its implications, is
accepted, then the huge and difficult issue of patriotism can be
tackled. It is specially acute in Pakistan and India where big modern
propaganda machines, information ministries with huge budgets, are
overactive. Their raison d'etre is to put a desired spin on facts;
they spread part truth and part propaganda all the time, when they
are not spawning actual disinformation. Has anyone looked into these
ministries' and myriad provincial departments', and of nearly all big
public sector enterprises, budgets? On what is all this big money
spent? Who is the intended beneficiary, leaving aside the sustenance
of bureaucracy? Much of it is spent on 'cultivating' reporters and
columnists. Some do informally become 'embedded', thus violating
There are great and praiseworthy international organisations of
journalists. There is the Paris-based RSF (reporters sans frontiers).
It clearly aims at what one has essayed to convey. There is the New
York based Committee on the Protection of Journalists, the coverage
of which is global. There is the International Press Institute. Other
organisations also exist. There is one that has been established in
South Asia of and for South Asian journalists. One has attended all
three of its annual conferences and a pleasing experience they were.
Let no one run away with the notion that South Asian Free Media
Association has come of age or that its impact has improved things.
Situation of the media, especially electronic, in this region, ---
which nature has designed as a distinctive region --- is unspeakable.
As a result of sharp differences, military tensions among the states
of the region and veritable civil wars in some states, electronic
media on the whole, and in many cases the press also, has
enthusiastically participated in the politics of whichever was their
government. Their presentation of the situation pleased their ruling
elites. That situation largely persists.
This has to be purposefully noted --- not to discredit the fledgling
SAFMA but to underscore what it is up against. One just reported that
the third annual conference in Dhaka was a pleasant experience. The
professional bon homie among the journalists of the five main South
Asian Nations was wonderful; their readiness for professional
correctness was obvious. Not that there were no differences among
them that gave intimation of proximity to that of their respective
government's or other partisan, line. Let it be said that the
Pakistani squad was more confirmist with many notable exceptions than
any other group. While there were many who wanted to be more critical
in describing the national situation, there were a few 'heavy
weights' who prevailed for the sake of good humoured unanimity.
Apparently they were weighed down by their perceived national
responsibilities. One wondered why a national consensus was required
in an international professional organisation; simple majority view
ought to prevail everywhere.
God knows that India and Pakistan, or the two warring sides in Sri
Lanka or Nepal, need to be brought closer to each other and if
possible enabled to make them friends. This is a noble aim. But it is
not for SAFMA to achieve. Insofar as India and Pakistan enmity is
concerned, it is for other organisations like Pakistan India Peoples
Forum for Peace and Democracy or Pakistan Peace Coalition to try to
reconcile them. SAFMA ought be a journalists' professional
organisation where they should merely compare notes over the media's
situation and problems faced in each country of the region. If this
process produces some beneficial fallout or byproduct, well it is
welcome. That will be a byproduct or side benefit. SAFMA need concern
itself only with professional matters, especially professional
o o o
The News International, June 3, 2003
SAFMA brings region closer
by Imtiaz Alam
Monday, June 02, 2003 4:14 PM
Thaw in India-Pakistan Ties Needs New Push
Commentary - By Praful Bidwai
NEW DELHI, Jun 2 (IPS) - More than six weeks after Indian Prime
Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee held out the ''hand of friendship" to
Pakistan from the Kashmir Valley, the process of rapprochement
between the two hostile neighbours has only made slow progress.
This raises the fear that if their relations do not thaw quickly,
domestic political compulsions could derail the process, as might
unaddressed tensions and conflicts between the South Asian
neighbours. Yet there is hope. But it has to be tampered with caution
The two governments have nominated, and secured approval for, their
ambassadors. But full-scale diplomatic contacts have not yet begun.
They have agreed to resume, although they have not restarted, the
Delhi-Lahore bus service, but their rail and air links remain severed.
Extreme caution, once-bitten-twice-shy attitudes, and suspicion still
mark their exchanges.
Vajpayee has now tried to infuse some dynamism into the process by
virtually delinking contact with Pakistan from India's frequently
stated precondition: end to "cross-border terrorism".
Addressing German parliamentarians in Berlin last week, he said:
"Even while we continue to deal with our specific problems of
cross-border terrorism, I have extended a hand of friendship to
Pakistan in the hope that it may initiate a process leading to peace,
friendship and cooperation à"
This is the closest Vajpayee has come to distance himself from his
government's formally stated stand.
Vajpayee told the German magazine 'Der Spiegel' that resolving
India-Pakistan disputes, especially Kashmir, will require "serious
compromises", but that "I am prepared to negotiate" with Pakistan
President Gen Pervez Musharraf.
Most important, Vajpayee said that he would "retire" if his latest
peace initiative fails. This remark -- like his declaration two weeks
ago, that this would be his "third and final attempt" to rebuild
bridges with Pakistan -- is targeted at India's domestic audience
rather than the international community.
Put bluntly, it is a threat to his Bharatiya Janata Party, which
leads India's 24-party coalition, that Vajpayee would not contest the
next election as a prime ministerial candidate unless he receives
backing for his peace move from the party and its far-right
Vajpayee is clearly leveraging his image as the BJP's most -- if not
sole -- acceptable "consensual" leader, to demand some manoeuvring
room for the "serious compromises" India will make.
It is characteristic of Vajpayee's style that he chose a foreign
forum to make the "retirement" threat -- rather than talk to his
Hindu hyper-nationalist colleagues directly.
It is also typical of the government he leads that its functionaries
speak in contradictory voices: While Vajpayee talked peace in Berlin,
his deputy Lal Krishna Advani breathed fire against Pakistan on the
same day, from India. He declared that India would defeat Pakistan in
the "proxy war" it has launched in Kashmir -- just as it had defeated
the neighbour in three "direct" wars.
The BJP and its associates have not welcomed the peace initiative
Most BJP leaders remain viscerally hostile to Pakistan. Some BJP
associates, like the Shiv Sena, oppose normal relations with
Pakistan. Demonising Pakistan and depicting Indian Muslims as its
Fifth Column is integral to its electoral-political strategy.
If Vajpayee follows up the points he made in Berlin with real action
when he returns home this week, he could induce some badly needed
inputs in the reconciliation process with Pakistan.
Similarly, the thaw in India-Pakistan ties could become more
imminent, if Pakistan Prime Minister Mir Zafrullah Khan Jamali speeds
up the formulation of confidence-building measures.
One key lies in economic cooperation -- Pakistan liberalising its
trade with India and giving it 'Most Favoured Nation' treatment under
World Trade Organisation rules. India granted Pakistan that status in
1973. MFN only means that the "favoured" trading partner will not be
treated worse than other partners in respect of imports and tariffs.
In Pakistan, there is a growing consensus within industry groups in
favour of MFN status for India, and the resistance offered by
protectionist lobbies is wearing down. Jamali should seize the
initiative. That will strengthen the hands of Indians who understand
that if a thaw does not come soon, rapprochement will probably have
to wait until next year.
Four important state legislature elections are due by October. Once
campaigning begins, India-Pakistan issues will take the back seat,
and hardline elements in parties like the BJP in India and the
Muthahida-Majlis-e-Amal alliance of religious parties in Pakistan
will be tempted to drum up hostile rhetoric.
Unless both Indian and Pakistani leaders broaden their horizons, they
could miss the present opportunity. Their objective must go beyond
returning to the situation before December 2001, when their relations
plummeted to their lowest ever following an attack on India's
Parliament building that New Delhi blamed on Pakistan.
The earlier status quo was not a happy state, marked as it was by a
spiral of mutual suspicion, recrimination and heightened tension.
What India and Pakistan need are restoration of trust and a
structured, transparent dialogue on a range of issues: border
disputes, water-sharing, nuclear risk-reduction, conventional
confidence-building measures, and above all, Kashmir.
This will not be easy. But the process can be fruitful if both states
eschew extreme approaches that impose unequal solutions upon, or
humiliate, each other. For any solution on any issue to be
acceptable, it must be equitable and fair to both and involve some
It is equally vital that they do not attempt to compress the process
by advancing cut-and-dried formulas. Among these, and currently doing
the rounds, is a proposal for dividing the entire pre-Partition state
of Jammu and Kashmir along the Chenab river.
Some people in Pakistan favour this, and the head of
Pakistan-controlled Kashmir (Azad Kashmir) has spoken for it. But
opinion in India would strongly oppose this because it would mean
ceding most of the Kashmir Valley, including the capital Srinagar, to
This would entail another partition on religious lines, something
that sits ill with India's secular aspirations. More important, no
significant political organisation in Indian Kashmir, no matter of
which persuasion, wants the state divided in this manner.
Finding the right solution will not be easy. But a beginning can be
made if India and Pakistan hold a dialogue and also, on another
track, gradually involve representatives of the Kashmir people in
their discussions. (END/2003)
[ From: International South Asia Forum Bulletin  June 1, 2003
Postal address: Box 272, Westmount Stn., QC, Canada H3Z 2T2 (Tel. 514 346-9477)
(e-mail; insaf@... or visit our website http://www.insaf.net) ]
o o o
Prospects of Indo-Pak peace
[Any comments on this article, will be carried in the next issue-Ed.)
The overture by Prime Minister Vajpayee to Pakistan last month
denotes the third time that he has tried to initiate a peace-cum-good
neighbor process between the two warring neighbors. The first was
when he visited Lahore in 1999 when Nawaz Sharif was the Pakistan
Prime Minister. This initiative was derailed by the Kargil war,
supposedly masterminded by the then General Pervez Musharraf, which
erupted barely two months after the embrace between the Prime
Ministers at the Shaheed Minar in Lahore. The second was his
invitation to now President Musharraf for a summit in Agra in 2001.
This initiative was reportedly sabotaged by the hardliners in
Vajpayee's own cabinet led by his Deputy Prime Minister L.K. Advani.
What will happen to this third initiative is as yet not known.
However, such persistence on the part of Mr Vajpayee, in the face of
so many contradictory currents, including the threatening speeches
and postures by leaders of the BJP such as Narendra Modi, the
hate-filled rhetoric of the VHP and other elements of the Sangh
Parivar, the continuing infiltration of militants from Pakistan into
the Indian part of Kashmir, and the rhetoric emanating from the
jihadi forces in Pakistan, deserves both appreciation and
Appreciation because even a small gesture in the current climate, no
matter what its motivation, is a step towards peace and good
neighborliness, a step towards sanity and a step away from the brink
of catastrophe that India and Pakistan have been teetering on for the
last two years. Understanding because the pitfalls in the process
need to be better comprehended in order to strengthen and enlarge the
constituency for peace and good relations in both countries.
However, since this gesture has come from Vajpayee, its significance
within the current Indian polity needs to be assessed. The last two
years have witnessed some of the lowest and most frightening and
ominous aspects of Indo-Pak relations over their entire 56 year
history. Following the assault on the Indian Parliament in New Delhi
in December 2001, India mobilized its armed forces and Pakistan
followed suit. Over a million soldiers faced each other across the
border for many, many months risking a confrontation that could very
easily have ended in a nuclear holocaust in both countries.
Diplomatic relations were virtually suspended. All road, rail, and
air links were severed. Attacks on each others few remaining
diplomats became commonplace. Then there was the carnage of the
Muslim minority in Gujarat last year carried out most deliberately by
fascist thugs from Vajpayee's own party which rules the state. The
elections in Pakistan brought extreme right-wing fundamentalist
parties to power in two provinces, an unprecedented development given
that these same parties had never obtained more than a few percent of
the votes in earlier elections.
Vajpayee has often been called a "moderate" in contrast, no doubt, to
most other leaders of his party. How much his views and image have
influenced his gestures towards Pakistan is unclear but judging by
the remarks he made he does seem to have reflected on his own role
and place in India and its history at this critical juncture. The
BJP certainly would like to continue to rule India but there must be
a country for it to continue to rule. India and Pakistan had reached
an utter dead end that could only be resolved it seemed by war, and
war could very easily result in the virtual end of civilization on
the subcontinent. The stand down at the border was the first step.
But the offer for talks without preconditions and the manner in which
the offer was made is more significant. The subsequent telephone
conversation between Vajpayee and Pakistan Prime Minister Jamali is
Certainly, peace activists have to view these developments cautiously
and with a realization of the many obstacles to be overcome. There
are and will continue to be many constituencies, in both countries,
not least the bureaucracies and the military establishments and the
politicians who profit from an atmosphere of endless hatred and
conflict. But there is no need to pooh-pooh the Vajpayee gesture or
be cynical about it. We should acknowledge that Mr. Vajpayee has
made a statesmanlike offer and has received a positive response. We
should recognize that to defuse the majoritarian Hindutva passions
continuously stoked by the demonization of the "Other" (i.e., Muslims
and Pakistan), the essential first step is to develop saner and
better relations between the two countries and if Mr. Vajpayee gets
the credit on the Indian side for achieving this he is welcome to his
place in history.
INSAF Resolution on Indo-Pak peace initiative
INSAF welcomes the offer for talks to resolve outstanding issues
between India and Pakistan made by India's Prime Minister Atal Bihari
Vajpayee last month in a speech in Kashmir. INSAF also welcomes the
positive response of Pakistan's Prime Minister Jamali to this offer.
INSAF was started with the express objective of working towards and
promoting peace and good relations between South Asian countries, in
particular, India and Pakistan. We sincerely hope that the talks
will be held in an atmosphere motivated by the desire to end conflict
and replace it by normal relations if not cordiality as befits people
who share many common features. We call on both governments to take
immediate steps to ease travel restrictions, restore road and rail
links expeditiously, and allow people-to-people contacts to take
Date: Mon, 2 Jun 2003 10:50:46 +0530 (IST)
We are planning to have regular screenings of films on the theme of
Communal harmony in Bastis [ Slum neighbourhoods]. Already this
activity is going on and over 30
screenings of Ham Sab Ek Hain by Waqar Khan have taken place. We plan to
broaden it and also incorporate more films in the list. The constraining
point is the VCD projector. We intend to buy a second hand projector (Rs.
50000) for this work. We solicit your support for the same.
The draft cheques should be drawn in favour of
Bombay Sarvodaya Friendship Center
and mailed to
Bombay Sarvodaya Friendship Center
Kajupada Pipeline Road
Kurla, Mumbai 400072
With best Wishes
A special web site with the report
o o o
Sunday, June 1, 2003 Books
They did what CBI could not
Review by A. J. Philip
Reduced to Ashes: The Insurgency and Human Rights in Punjab
by Ram Narayan Kumar with Amrik Singh, Ashok Agrwaal and Jaskaran
Kaur. South Asia Forum for Human Rights, Kathmandu. Pages 634. Rs 400.
THOSE who have read Hitler's Willing Executioners: Ordinary Germans
and the Holocaust by Daniel Jonah Goldhagen know how the Nazis
accomplished their task under conditions of social collusion. The
comparison may be farfetched or even hideous but it cannot be
gainsaid that the rampant human rights violations that occurred in
Punjab during the militancy days would not have been possible but for
the sanctions they received from influential sections of the society.
It is this collusion, conscious or otherwise, that emboldened the
police to pick up persons they found inconvenient and bump them off
in fake encounters. The exact number of people the security forces
killed in this manner or those who mysteriously disappeared after
they were last seen with the police would never be known.
At this point it is immaterial whether they are 2,000 or 20,000. But
for the wives who lost their husbands, the parents who lost their
sons and the children who lost their fathers, it is a loss, which can
never be quantified. They suffer the loss every moment of the day. To
talk about them or to write about them is to solicit ridicule from
the champions of the state, who have even a contemptuous term to
describe them, "the human rights wallahs." Little do they know that
human rights isa concept that predates even the United Nations and
the Constitution and has its origins in the Scriptures. It is an
inalienable right of man, the protection of which is the primary
responsibility of the state.
And when that very state through its agencies like the police and the
security forces make mincemeat of human rights in the name of
fighting terrorism, the concerned citizen cannot but sit up. That is
how Jaswant Singh Khalra stood up against the police highhandedness
but only to be tortured to death by the custodians of law.
Fortunately, the fight that he started did not end with him. Far from
that, the Supreme Court was forced to ask the premier investigating
agency of the country to probe Khalra's own abduction and the
complaint he had himself made about illegal cremations.
Much water has flowed down the Sutlej since 1995 when the apex court
entrustedthe job to the CBI, which in its final report disclosed that
"2,097 illegal cremations were carried out by the security agencies
in three crematoria of Amritsar district." It would not have,
perhaps, occurred to the court that the probing agency could be
headed by persons whose own track record, while they were posted in
Punjab, was hardly inspiring. The court could also not have
visualised how powerful vested interests would create roadblocks
against such an inquiry making the whole process meaningless.
The CBI did such a shoddy job investigating the illegal cremations
that truth remained hidden under mounds of illegible paperwork. It is
against this backdrop that the painstaking effort of four intrepid
researchers Ram Narayan Kumar, Amrik Singh, Ashok Agrwaal and
Jaskaran Kaur of the Committee for Coordination on Disappearances in
Punjab should be seen and commended. In Amritsar district alone, they
have documented as many as 672 cases of police cremation by
interviewing their relations and poring over dusty police records.
The question that crops up is: if the foursome can do such a splendid
job, why could not the CBI with its enormous reach, huge resources,
legal and administrative clout do a better job? But then who believed
that the CBI would do an honest job which would have exposed those
who in the name of saving Punjab from militants gave carte blanche to
their subordinates to eliminate those who stood in their way?
Is it any wonder that the case pertaining to those who "disappeared"
before the National Human Rights Commission is stuck in procedural
wrangles and legal hair-splitting? It was quite heart-rending to read
the stories of all those "Singhs" whose cases have been enumerated in
this book. By the time the NHRC is able to cut the Gordian knot of
investigation and verification, many of the parents who lost their
sons and daughters or the wives who lost their husbands would have
departed from this world. There is every likelihood of the whole
exercise eventually ending up as a farce. Hence, Paramjeet Kaur, wife
of Jaswant Singh Khalra, is not wide of the mark when she asks: "I
have no hope. In 10 to 15 years, we will also sit down and give up.
How much can we do?"
It is nobody's contention, least of all this reviewer's, that the
militants who created mayhem in Punjab should have been dealt with
leniently. No, they should have been dealt with severely under the
law of the land. In fact, no effort should have been spared to bring
them to book. How did the British react to such situations? Did
custodial killings, victimisation of family members of revolutionary
suspects or false prosecution occur then? This may provoke a prompt
counter-question: what about the Jallianwala Bagh massacre? It was
the act of a mad cap and not the result of state policy.
There are ex-guardians of law, who strut about claiming that they had
saved Punjab from militancy. It is not their strong-arm methods but
the conscious decision of a vast majority of the people not to
support militancy and participate in the political process that was
initiated in the state, which helped Punjab make a turnaround. Had it
been the other way round, Israel would have with all its
sophisticated weapons and brutality "finished" the Palestine problem
a long time ago. In any case, a modern state must at all time uphold
the rule of law. The moment it approves of extra-judicial killings
and torture, it loses its right to be called civilised.
2 June, 2003, 17:14 GMT 18:14 UK
Sharia law for Pakistan province
Anti-Western sentiment is running high in the province
Legislators in Pakistan's North-West Frontier Province have passed a
bill introducing Islamic Sharia law in the region bordering
It is the first time the strict code, based upon the teachings of the
Koran, has been in force in Pakistan in the country's history.
The bill gives Sharia precedence over secular provincial law and
stipulates that every Muslim will be bound by it.
God is great! God is great!
Ruling party members after vote
Cheers for Sharia
Critics fear a re-run of the Taleban, the Islamic hardliners who
ruled neighbouring Afghanistan and drove women and girls out of jobs
and schools, back into their homes.
Supporters of the move, however, say all they are trying to do is to
curb obscenity and protect human decency.
The bill was passed unanimously by members of the provincial
assembly, which is dominated by hardliners.
"We should have the freedom to decide whether we need to work or not."
Meraj Humayun Khan, NGO worker
Details of the law are vague but it sets the tone for the type of
rule the province's people can expect.
Opposition parties tried to water down some of the bill's provisions,
including those concerning women's rights, but withdrew amendments in
the face of overwhelming odds.
The bill still needs the signature of the provincial governor to
become law. Analysts say that is a formality.
The planned creation of a Department of Vice and Virtue has prompted
concern among some people who recall pictures of the Taleban vice
squads dispensing summary justice in Afghanistan.
Hardliners have been cracking down on activities they consider
un-Islamic since they swept to power in the province last October.
Several cinemas have been closed down, and musicians have complained
The BBC's Paul Anderson in Islamabad says radicals in an alliance of
Islamic parties are already using their ideals of Islamic purity and
justice as bargaining chips in negotiations with the government to
end a constitutional crisis.
Unease in Islamabad
Many people in North-West Frontier Province have close ideological
ties to the Taleban.
Pakistan's federal law enforcers have little jurisdiction over the
area, which is more strictly conservative than other parts of the
But many opponents say the law is unclear and there is nothing new in it.
Some principles of the bill are already enshrined in the preamble of
the Pakistani constitution.
Analysts say President Musharraf will be watching events with some discomfort.
He is keen to convince his Western allies that Pakistan is an ally in
the war against terrorism, nor part of the problem.
The News York Times, Jun 2, 2003
Pakistani Province Makes Koran Law of Land
By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
Filed at 12:30 p.m. ET
PESHAWAR, Pakistan (AP) -- A pro-Taliban provincial government passed
legislation Monday that will make the area along the border with
Afghanistan the first in Pakistan to be run based upon the teachings
of the Quran, Islam's holy book.
The bill, passed unanimously by voice vote in the North West Frontier
Province assembly, must still be signed by Gov. Sayed Iftikhar
Hussain Shah to become law, but that is considered a formality.
``God is Great! God is Great!'' shouted the governing party
legislators after the vote.
Pakistan, a deeply conservative Muslim nation, has nonetheless
resisted adopting a legal system based on a strict interpretation of
Shariah, or Islamic law.
The six-party Islamic coalition of the Mutahida Majlis-e-Amal, or
United Action Forum, gained a majority in the North West Frontier
Assembly in October elections, on the power of a strong anti-American
platform. Bringing Shariah to the deeply conservative province was
the cornerstone of the coalition's election platform.
Pakistan is a crucial U.S. ally in the fight against terrorism. The
government of President Gen. Pervez Musharraf has arrested hundreds
of al-Qaida suspects and turned them over to the United States.
But the rise of the Islamic hard-liners in places like the North West
Frontier province is sure to worry Washington. Intelligence officials
believe Osama bin Laden and other al-Qaida leaders are likely hiding
in the mountainous region between the province and neighboring
Opposition legislators had tried without success to amend the bill to
water down its power, including over women's rights. But with little
hope of standing in the way, they ultimately withdrew the amendments
and voted in favor.
Pervez Rafiq, a senior official of the All Pakistan Minorities
Alliance, an activist group of Christian, Hindu and Sikh minorities,
condemned the vote.
He said Sharia has been used in the past to persecute minorities
accused of blasphemy against Islam. ``Religion should not interfere
with the political affairs of the country,'' he said from Lahore,
where the group is based.
The bill approved by the assembly binds local courts to interpret
provincial law based upon the teachings of Shariah. It also calls for
the creation of committees to bring the province's education and
financial systems in line with the Quran, requires that Islamic law
be taught in law schools, and prohibits the display of firearms.
The package contains few specifics, but it comes with promises by
Islamic hard-liners to ban obscenity and vulgarity, and to set up in
a second piece of legislation an ``Accountability Force'' to monitor
corruption and fight ``social evil.''
The second bill, which the Islamic coalition says it will present in
the coming days, would create a parallel legal system whose decisions
could not be challenged by any court. The bill is expected to face
fierce resistance in parliament.
The federal government can still challenge any measure of the Shariah
bill passed Monday that is considered contrary to national laws,
which govern the penal system and other federal areas. But the
provincial legislature has wide authority to make and change local
Federal Information Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed has said the
government is studying the legislation to see if any of it conflicts
with national laws.
Even before passage of the bill, the hard-line government has begun
cracking down on what it considers un-Islamic activities.
Several movie houses have been shut and the remainder have been
forced to paint over posters of women in Western clothes.
Earlier this month, authorities banned male coaches from training
female athletes in the province and barred men from watching women's
sports events. In addition, they have called for compulsory reading
of the Quran in schools, and passed a resolution that only women
doctors should carry out medical tests on female patients.
After Monday's vote, Akram Khan Durrani, the chief minister of the
assembly, thanked the legislators for creating ``a historic moment in
the country's history.''
He said the new law will not compromise the rights of anyone, but he
also said that ``there will be no room for any official who will not
act according to Sharia.''
Many of the lawmakers cheered and hugged and congratulated each
other. Most of them had beards and wore turbans or white caps, in
keeping with Muslim tradition.
o o o
[For More details see]
NWFP PA adopts Shariah bill (The Nation, 3 June 2003)
From Shamim Shahid
o o o
The Daily Times, June 3, 2003 | Editorial
Playing with 'Islam'
Attempts are being made by the PML-QA to save General Musharraf's
Legal Framework Order (LFO) by conceding Shariah in the whole of
Pakistan, as defined by the Council for Islamic Ideology (CII) and
Mutahidda Majlis-e-Amal (MMA). PML-QA leader Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain
has accepted 10 out of the 17 demands of the MMA, presumably in
return for letting General Musharraf be president of the country in
military uniform. If the deal goes through, it will mean that the
MMA's 'tough' stand on the LFO has been conveniently bent in favour
of power politics in which the promises made to its ARD allies, the
PPPP and PML-N, were nothing more than political gimmicks.
Significantly, Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain has lashed out at the leaders
of the two 'secular' parties, saying they wished to control democracy
'from the outside'. But the fact is that what he has conceded 'from
the inside' may seriously complicate matters for Pakistan, not only
in terms of international isolation, but in terms of running the
economy and treating all citizens, including women, without
If the deal is done, General Musharraf and his PML-QA will have to
accept the recommendations of the CII to make Pakistan "Islamic".
Chaudhry Shujaat says there are no two opinions on the Shariah and
therefore it is the right thing to enforce MMA demands. But the fact
is that there are two opinions, and that is normal because each
Islamic state has its own Shariah. Let us take a quick look at what
the CII has 'recommended' in the recent past.
The CII announced that 'nikah' of a girl without the permission of
'wali' (male member of family) was un-Islamic and girls who got
married of their own choice should be punished under law. In one such
recent case, the Lahore High Court handed down a verdict favouring
the CII's version. But this was set aside by the Supreme Court. The
CII wants co-education, lotteries and prize bonds schemes to be
banned. The CII has criticised the Supreme Court for postponing the
abolition of bank interest for an additional year. The CII endorsed
the destruction of Afghanistan's archaeological heritage by the
Taliban. It recommended removing from circulation all currency notes
bearing the likeness of the Quaid-e-Azam. The CII also rejected the
former religion minister Mahmood Ghazi's plan to use zakat to allow
the poor to invest in businesses by saying that zakat could not be
used for investment of any kind. The CII ruled that insurance of all
kinds was against Islam and should be abolished forthwith. The CII
came to the conclusion that soft drinks sold as non-alcoholic beer
were not 'jaez' (not reasonable) in Islam. It said preparation and
trade of non-alcoholic beer inside or outside Pakistan was 'haram'
(prohibited) even if meant for non-Muslim minorities and export only.
The CII wants 'kalima tayyaba' to be inscribed on the Pakistan
national flag along with 'Allahu Akbar'. (The national anthem would
then have to be changed too because it describes the present flag).
The CII has declared that it is wrong to label jihad as a defensive
war alone. It has recommended the firing of civil servants who do not
say their namaz. It wants Friday as the weekly holiday instead of
Sunday. It has declared that sending anyone to prison is against
shariah and recommends that prisons be abolished. And so on.
The MMA government in the NWFP has already banned advertisements with
women's pictures on them as per the recommendation of the CII. Now it
will insist on banning 'obscenity' in films and TV according to its
own rigid standards. It has also made namaz compulsory for state
employees. Closure during namaz timings is already in force. There
are other Islamic jurisprudential views against democracy that might
crop up later once this sort of Shariah takes hold. Fort example,
neither Imam Khomeini nor Mullah Umar allowed political parties and
parliamentary oppositions to exist in their Islamic states. The issue
that is likely to crop up again will be the Supreme Court Appellate
Bench decision banning bank interest in the country. The MMA will not
bend on it although Islam's premier fundamentalist institution, Al
Azhar university of Egypt, has ruled that bank interest is not riba
To keep his uniform, General Musharraf is being advised to make
another sweeping compromise in the nature of the state apart from its
Islamisation. This is his pet local body system. The latest news is
that the nazims of the NWFP are threatening to resign en masse if the
MMA's hostility towards them doesn't end.
Muslim leaders find it easy to 'instrumentalise' Islam to stay in
power. If the deal with the MMA goes through, General Musharraf and
the PML-QA would have done the same. The economic and social
modernising 'reforms' that General Musharraf wants to save will
become irrelevant as the clergy asserts itself and gains concessions
for the banned but renamed jihadi militias. The NWFP will move
quickly towards Islamisation. The rest of the country will be in
turmoil, suffering ever-increasing vigilante action by MMA
supporters. The real custodians of democracy, the PPP and the PML-N,
will also lose out, this time to a new majority in parliament with
whom they have wrongly supped with in the hope of prolonging the LFO
In the end, since no nation is an island, the MMA shariah, as evolved
by the clerically-dominated CII, will not last in Pakistan, as
General Zia's 'nizam-e-salat' (enforcement of namaz) and
Friday-as-holiday did not last. But great damage will have been done
in the interim. In particular, General Musharraf's efforts at
returning the country to normal and stable self-sustaining governance
will have suffered a reversal like those of his predecessors. This
would be a far cry from putting 'Pakistan first'. *
SACW is an informal, independent & non-profit citizens wire service run by
South Asia Citizens Web (www.mnet.fr/aiindex).
The complete SACW archive is available at: http://sacw.insaf.net
DISCLAIMER: Opinions expressed in materials carried in the posts do not
necessarily reflect the views of SACW compilers.