COMMENT: Of crooks, cranks and madmen —Yasser Latif Hamdani - Monday, March 21, 2011

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COMMENT: Of crooks, cranks and madmen —Yasser Latif Hamdani
My concern is when a brother kills his sister in the name of honour and then his parents forgive him under Qisas and Diyat laws, introduced by a military dictator in their present form

Pakistan treats murder as an optional tort in the name of religion. It is nothing but a distortion of Islamic principles in my view. In the modern concept of citizenship, the state becomes an heir of last resort as well. For reference, consider the doctrine of escheat as it applies to property, a principle that is recognised by the ‘Islamic’ Constitution of Pakistan under Article 172.

Ownerless property becomes the property of the state. So what happens when the heirs to the victim of a murder forgive the murderer? Logically, the state should still imprison him or her as tazeer punishment. In Pakistan, though, the Islamic principle of forgiveness and mercy is used in a most opportunistic fashion. Raymond Davis, for me, is not the issue, quite frankly. He enjoyed diplomatic immunity under the Vienna Convention. In fact, what happened seems to be poetic justice for the religious groups that insisted on having these laws on the cards. It is also now becoming clearer that there is no mystery as to who paid the diyat (blood money). Imran Khan can go on claiming that it was paid from the national exchequer but those who know better have reason to believe that the great and mighty Islamic ruler, Saudi Arabia, was involved in the transaction.

My concern is when a brother kills his sister in the name of honour and then his parents forgive him under Qisas and Diyat laws, introduced by a military dictator in their present form. Fox News recently described the whole law as “effectively a bribe”. In our zeal to Islamise our legal system, we have managed to bring Islam into disrepute.

The issue goes back to the one I discussed in my previous article ‘At ideological crossroads’ (Daily Times, March 14, 2011). Those who argue that there was something inherently wrong with the idea of Pakistan are absolutely misguided and wrong. After Ireland, East Timor, Southern Sudan, Bosnia, Kosovo, Montenegro and countless other instances from our recent history, it is clear, as it has always been, that the principle on which we achieved Pakistan was just, fair and universally acknowledged. To understand however as to why we fell the way we did and so far off from where we wanted to be, we have to consider if we have been faithful to the real raison d’être of Pakistan and if we have even tried to fulfil the idealism with which we started.

The view of the founding fathers was that everything that is rational, just and fair cannot be in contradiction to Islam. Therefore, every just and fair secular law and system would be Islamic. The founding fathers were worldly men, well versed in modern political concepts. Therefore, at the very outset, the first amongst them warned against “priests with a divine mission” who would lead Pakistan astray.

Ironically, Pakistan abandoned this wisdom for the view of those people who had consistently opposed Pakistan’s creation. To this end, Samina Awan’s seminal work Political Islam in Colonial Punjab: Majlis-e-Ahrar 1929-1949, published by Oxford University Press, has convincingly proved that the religious right wing carried out a fanatically bigoted and sectarian religious campaign against the Pakistan Movement. Not only did Majlis-e-Ahrar and other religio-political parties, including Jamaat-e-Islami, attack Pakistan’s founding father Mohammed Ali Jinnah’s western lifestyle, liberal ideas and secularism but, according to Ms Awan, the religious parties contested the 1946 elections on a one-point agenda “rejection of the division of India ...based on an anti-Pakistan and anti-Qadiani rhetoric” (page 132). It was this group of sectarian Sunni Islamists, backed cynically by ‘Mahatma’ Gandhi and the Congress Party throughout the Pakistan Movement, who, after Pakistan was created, started the anti-Ahmedi agitation and, in the 1970s, forced their own narrow version of Islam on Pakistan. There is some evidence to suggest that even General Ziaul Haq was from an Ahrari family. Others like the unscrupulous Agha Shorish Kashmiri, who even forged an interview with Maulana Azad to discredit the whole idea of Pakistan, played a double game by paying lip service to a distorted ideology of Pakistan that had nothing to do with anything remotely linked with the Pakistan Movement while attacking the country’s very foundations.

The Raymond Davis issue has overshadowed the grave conspiracy that was unleashed on January 4, 2011 against our nation-state, our history and our very existence. The forces of reaction and bigotry unleashed by Majlis-e-Ahrar and Jamaat-e-Islami, those ancient enemies of Pakistan, killed the one man who could unhesitatingly claim to be the true child of Jinnah’s Pakistan and who stood like a rock against them. After him came the deluge. Next to depart was Pakistan’s indefatigable minorities’ minister. His crime? He staked a claim to being an equal citizen of this country. Thomas Jefferson once said that the tree of liberty needs the blood of patriots. How much more blood will our tree take before it takes root remains to be seen.

We must stand our ground for, unlike George Fulton, we do not have an England to go back to. This is our country provided we are ready to fight and take it back. Abandoning it would mean betraying our ancestors and the founding fathers of this country and leaving it to crooks, cranks and madmen to do with it as they please.

The writer is a lawyer. He also blogs at and can be reached at

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