EDITORIAL: Dictators and politicians - Saturday, April 23, 2011

Makhdoom Javed Hashmi is one of the few Seraiki area prominent leaders in the PML-N. Not only that, what sets him apart from the Sharifs is his resistance to General Musharraf’s rule, for which he served a four-year prison sentence. Since the Sharifs returned to Pakistan, this brave member of the PML-N found himself sidelined. His bitterness therefore is understandable. So is his outburst the other day from the floor of the National Assembly against his party’s leadership, dictators, and the politicians who collaborated with them in our history. These latter were asked by Hashmi, who led the way in this regard, to apologise for collaboration with such usurpers. His party’s members present in the house were less than pleased, but Hashmi’s admiring remarks about Zulfikar Ali Bhutto and Benazir Bhutto delighted the treasury benches.

Bitterness against his own party’s leadership aside, the mea culpa and demand that Hashmi has put forward has touched a raw nerve. It is an undeniable truth that almost all of the top leaders of the existing political class have been guilty of collaboration to a greater or lesser degree with military dictators in our history. Hashmi conceded that Zulfikar Ali Bhutto’s death wiped out all his mistakes, including the sin of starting his political career under the patronage of Pakistan’s first military dictator, Ayub Khan. A pattern or political culture can be discerned if one runs down the list and flow of time to examine the track record of most of our political heavyweight worthies. Some collaborated with powerful military dictators out of what they considered tactical necessity (and their opponents dubbed sheer political opportunism), others embraced dictatorships out of motives of revenge against their opponents whom they could not otherwise match, or even lure of power, pelf and lucre. Whatever the range of motivations and justifications presented by the authors of such collaboration, nothing can excuse these political crimes.

Perhaps Hashmi’s unexpected and surprising diatribe can help focus minds on the phenomenon of collaboration with military usurpers and dictators by politicians in our history. We may not be able to change that history, but revisiting it with a critical outlook can at least provide an opportunity not only to examine the phenomenon, but learn also about the damage collaboration by the political class did to the country, while at the same time rewarding them with far more than thirty pieces of silver for their betrayal of all principle. We cannot within the realm of possibility envisage a wholesale purge of the political class of such collaborators (they are too many and too powerfully entrenched), but at the very least we should take a leaf from Hashmi’s book and educate and mobilise public opinion against a continuation or repetition of such betrayals of democratic principles by any member of the political class.

The Sharifs and the PML-N are in no mood to oblige the Makhdoom with his demand for an apology to the country for all past collaboration with dictators. But at the very least the cast of usual suspects who are guilty, and who range across the whole political spectrum, should be shamed about their past ‘sins’ and a climate evolved that would ensure the automatic ostracisation and condemnation of any member of the political class who indulges in such opportunism ever again. After all, if the compliant judiciary of the past has given way to the present (restored) judiciary that has sworn never again to legitimise a military coup maker, why can the political class not shed its opportunist feathers and emerge reborn as a segment genuinely wedded to the service of the people, a task in which there is no room whatsoever for serving as the handmaiden of any coup maker, usurper, or dictator of any hue, variety, shape or size. *

SECOND EDITORIAL: Justice denied

The Supreme Court’s (SC’s) verdict on appeals against
the Lahore High Court (LHC) decision on Mukhtaran Mai’s gang-rape case is a damning indictment of the criminal justice system, which is heavily biased against women. Mukhtaran Mai has been searching for justice for the last nine years, but even the highest court has disappointed her and millions of women who would be discouraged from seeking justice for a crime that brings humiliation for the victims instead of perpetrators in our society. It is sad that even after a long legal battle, Mukhtaran still waits for justice. This case has seen many twists and turns since Mukhtaran first filed an FIR in June 2002. In September 2002, an anti-terrorism court acquitted eight men named in the FIR and sentenced six to death, four for raping Mai and two for being part of the panchayat (informal court) that ordered the gang-rape of Mukhtaran Mai to avenge an alleged affair between her brother and a Mastoi clan woman. Later, in March 2005, the Multan bench of theLHC acquitted five of them and commuted the death sentence of one accused Abdul Khaliq to life imprisonment. In its judgement on Thursday, the SC upheld the decision of the LHC in a split verdict 2-1 and ordered the immediate release of all the acquitted.

While two honourable judges were not convinced of the prosecution’s case and Mukhtaran Mai’s claim that she was dragged to a nearby room and gang-raped, Justice Nasirul Mulk, in his dissenting note, observed in detail the trauma, social stigma and difficulties women face at the hands of the police and justice system while seeking justice for crimes against them, particularly rape. Justice Mulk set aside the acquittal of the five men, but obviously, the majority prevailed.

Mukhtaran Mai herself and women’s rights organisations pointed to the weak FIR and investigation report presented in the court by the police, who were influenced by the powerful locals who committed this crime. The argument has weight that it will set a bad precedent and strengthen customs that encourage crimes against women. Mukhtaran does not feel safe and fears for her family with the release of men who subjected her to such humiliation. This judgement is a comment on the entrenched bias against women in the entire justice system, which tends to make too much allowance for the perpetrators rather than the victims.

In this context, the SC’s assertion of authority to appoint judges in the superior courts means that this inherent conservative bias will be sustained with the induction of more judges having the same mindset. Here one finds that the process of consultation for judges’ appointment laid out by parliament through the 18th and the 19th Amendments can break this continuum and give the people of this country a say, through parliament, in who sits in judgement on them. *

Source : http://dailytimes.com.pk/default.asp?page=2011\04\23\story_23-4-2011_pg3_1

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