Aafia and Aasia
Law books are important. They reflect where the state stands when it comes to its role as an arbiter and negotiator between its citizens and institutions. Whether it aims to stay neutral and side with the weak or take a certain position favouring a powerful interest group or particular sets of interests. Pakistan’s law books need major corrections and that is not just limited to Law of Blasphemy, Law of Evidence, Hudood Laws and the Law of Qisas-o-Diyat, introduced or amended during General Zia-ul-Haq’s martial rule.
It is about rehashing the constitution and beginning this process by replacing the Objectives Resolution, passed in 1949 after the Quaid’s death, with the Quaid’s first speech to the Constituent Assembly of Pakistan in 1947 as both the preamble and a substantive part of the constitution of Pakistan. To remind you once again that when a draft of the Objectives Resolution was shared with the Quaid-i-Azam, he disapproved of making any such move and made it clear to the then prime minister that he had a different vision for this country.
Conquered, saddened, defeated and left behind by other human societies in almost all walks of life, with a putrefied present and a shaky future, the traditional champions of Pakistani ideology and state establishment have their faces of patriotism pock-marked by the boils and blisters of hypocrisy and grandiosity. They are hypocritical when it comes to using religious symbolism to further their worldly power and economic interests, and, grandiose, when relating stories of a glorious past full of educational and scientific achievements, commercial successes, battle victories and conquests of lands and peoples.
I am always amused when a middle-aged Pakistani man gets overwhelmed by the greatness of his past after having a fulfilling dinner of qorma, pulao and kebabs and tells me that actually the west owes all its development to us, Muslims. “We, in the middle ages, were the torchbearers of philosophy and science.” I find the use of ‘us’ and ‘we’ interesting, to say the least. For I know the distance between mediaeval Baghdad and today’s Rawalpindi.
An abstract pan-Islamism and the desire to establish a Khilafah on the earth, which is entirely rooted in an imagined past and comparable only to the exhausted Christian concept of establishing a Kingdom of God, hinders the development of an indigenous narrative for Pakistan. This narrative, besides other things will undoubtedly include Islam, its culture, history, saints and preachers, but in a much different way. Today, Pakistani Muslims who live in an insecure state and a fragmented society, oscillate between two ends – Aafia Siddiqui and Aasia Bibi.
It is hugely difficult to have an objective assessment of Aafia Siddiqui’s case in public. How many politicians or opinion leaders have the courage to step out, when everyone is asking for her release by US authorities, and say that while total injustice was meted out to her children, there is evidence of her involvement in the game being played in the war theatre of the US and Afghanistan. She had studied, worked and lived for so long in the US that her children were born and naturalised there.
And then we have Aasia Bibi, a 45-year old Christian peasant woman in rural Punjab who is a mother of five. She could never make it to a dilapidated government school, let alone MIT or Harvard. Aasia now faces death sentence on blasphemy charges. But she is powerful too. She has so successfully got the bigots galvanised to get her killed.
The writer is an Islamabad-based poet, political analyst and advisor on public policy. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Source: The News