EDITORIAL: Beginning of the end? Saturday, March 12, 2011

Source : http://dailytimes.com.pk/default.asp?page=2011\03\12\story_12-3-2011_pg3_1

The strike call given by the PPP throughout Sindh in response to the Supreme Court’s (SC’s) short order for removal of Justice (retired) Deedar Hussain Shah as National Accountability Bureau (NAB) chairman has brought the confrontation between the executive and the judiciary to the streets. Giving its decision on petitions by National Assembly Opposition Leader Nisar Ali Khan and a private citizen Shahid Orakzai, a three-member bench of the SC declared the appointment unconstitutional and ordered NAB chairman’s removal. In Karachi and other parts of Sindh, enraged PPP workers resorted to aerial firing and damaged public property, which also resulted in the loss of eight lives. The Sindh Assembly has passed a resolution condemning Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan’s petition against NAB chief. Some Sindhi leaders have tried to give this issue an ethnic hue by claiming that this was done because the opposition does not want a Sindhi to become NAB chief.

Much as we would like things to remain within constitutional parameters, it seems that the ruling party has become disenchanted with the judicial process and lost hope of redress. The perception is strengthening within the PPP that the judiciary is taking a stricter stance over all the issues concerning the government — be it the NRO case, appointment of retired officials as heads of public sector institutions or the issue of appointment of judges — because the PPP did not restore the sacked judiciary immediately after it came to power after the 2008 elections. It was forced to do so when the PML-N joined the lawyers’ long march to Islamabad and it became apparent that there was no other choice but to go along with popular demand. Observers have noticed an extraordinary aggressiveness in the judiciary since the restoration of the judges and many, including the PPP, have interpreted it as a bias against the government. The SC, for its own part, has time and again complained against non-implementation of its verdicts and complained against the government.

Now that the ball has been set rolling by the PPP through its strike call, it would not be possible to stop the divide from going deeper and various parties taking sides for or against the government. Already, the ANP and the PML-F have distanced themselves from the strike, stating that they were not consulted over this decision. Comments and analyses in the media have demonised the ruling party. The opposition parties would like to capitalise on the situation and further discredit the government and call for an early election. The vested interests would do what suits them, but does the country need this kind of confrontation?

The answer to this question is obvious. Such a course will not only damage the government’s credibility but would destabilise the country teetering on the brink of an economic collapse. It is unfortunate that the PPP lost its cool and incited its workers to go on strike, which did not prove to be as peaceful as the PPP had hoped. But will it end here? Does it mean that from now on the PPP would retaliate in similar manner on any decision that it perceives to be biased? Will it not affect the reputation of the judiciary, which has attracted controversy through its conduct and verdicts? Can we conclude that this is the beginning of the end of this government? Restraint by both sides can help save the situation, but all the indications are that it will further deteriorate rather than improve. *

SECOND EDITORIAL: ‘Witch-hunt’ in the US

Recently, in the US House of Representatives, Chairman Peter King opened hearings against rising Muslim radicalisation in the US. He said that radical elements in society are an easy target for al Qaeda, as local Muslims communities refuse to cooperate with the law enforcement agencies. He claimed that public opinion polls show that a small fraction of Muslim men supported suicide bombings and most mosques in the US have radical clerics heading them. Furthermore, he suggested that Muslim communities need to band with the US government in fighting terrorism within and without the US.

Peter King’s remarks remind one of a phenomenon not too long gone. It seems Peter King is following in the footsteps of a US Senator, who introduced McCarthyism to fight the ‘evils’ of communism all over the globe. In the process of wiping out evil, be it communism or radical Islam, they perpetrated the problem even further by playing right into the hands of the enemy they were trying to fight.

It is clear that Mr King is not helping the cause. The only purpose he is serving is that of gaining political mileage for the Republicans. There is some truth in the assertion that the new generation of Muslims in the Western countries are rejecting the authority of the state. However, the very reason why this rift was created was because of the hardline stance taken up by the Bush regime. His measures, such as the creation of the Homeland Security Department, ended up strengthening the fundamentalist elements’ agenda. Actions such as racial and religious profiling, helped al Qaeda find more recruits. The Muslim communities in the US, especially the younger generation, are forced towards extremism through degrading security measures taken by the US law enforcement agencies.

The Obama administration realised that the war will be lost if this discriminatory repressive policy continued. Even though President Obama has shifted his stance from confrontation to reconciliation, the rift between the Muslim community and the US lingers on. The last thing that was required at this point in time and under these precarious conditions, was a ‘witch-hunt’ directed against Muslims in the US. Not only did Mr King point fingers at the whole Muslim community rather than isolated cases, he also backed his claims with highly exaggerated figures not based on facts.

Mr King should tread carefully and instead of widening the gap in society, take steps to create bridges so that the hearts and minds of the young generation of Muslims living in the US can be won over. *

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