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WashingtonPost
November 11, 2001

A Future Veiled in False Hopes

By Nafisa Hoodbhoy

Twelve years ago, I was astonished by what I found on a trip from my native
Pakistan to Afghanistan. I couldn’t have imagined a neighboring Muslim country
with so many women in public places. Each morning, the Afghan capital was abuzz
with young professionals on their way to work, most dressed in Western clothes
and some even in miniskirts and high heels as they vied with their
fashion-conscious counterparts in Paris. Kabul University, where I saw more
female than male students, was another surprise. But even then, the occasional
gunfire and bomb blasts in the city — ruled by Soviet-supported President
Najibullah — were a reminder that these freedoms could prove elusive. Young
women on campus, clutching their notepads in the streaming February sunlight,
told me apprehensively, “If the mujaheddin take over, they will force us to
veil.”

The encumbering full-lengthburqasthat women now have to wear have become a
symbol for Westerners of the ruling Taliban government’s oppressive policies.
Even President Bush acknowledged as much last week when he condemned the current regime under which “women are imprisoned in their homes, and are denied access to basic health care and education.” But it would be an oversimplification to imagine that simply ousting the Taliban will restore basic human rights to women there. Indeed, in its determination to use whatever means necessary to destroy Osama bin Laden and his al Qaeda network, the administration is in danger of exacerbating the rivalries among Afghanistan’s tribes, whose practices are shrouded in traditions few Americans comprehend.

Even though there has been much talk in the West about how to establish a
broad-based post-Taliban government that would guarantee the rights of women and ethnic minorities, the United Nations has not seriously begun addressing the role of women in any future form of government. If history is any guide, neither a government led by the exiled former king, Mohammed Zahir Shah, nor one dominated by the Northern Alliance would readily grant women freedom. Instead, the dramatic changes in women’s fortunes over the past century are testimony to their fragile position in Afghanistan’s oft-rent social fabric.

I got a clear sense of that during my 1989 visit. Although many Afghan women I
spoke with expressed trepidation about a takeover by Islamic fundamentalists,
they could not have predicted how oppressive their lot would soon become. After
all, they grew up in a relatively liberal Muslim society; many in Kabul and
Kandahar had working mothers — nurses and doctors, engineers, journalists,
factory workers and, of course, teachers. Soviet forces had withdrawn from the
country just two weeks before my arrival, and the question foremost on
everyone’s mind was whether the Soviet-backed Najibullah government would
survive the onslaught by the Islamist radicals.

As if anticipating his eventual death at the hands of Taliban fundamentalists,
the embattled Najibullah was clearly taking no chances — and he was even
recruiting women to help him. At a training school in Kabul, I came across a
female trainee reserve force engaged in combat exercises. They told me that
their job was to arrest and hand over mujaheddin suspects to authorities. They
knew full well what a formidable force the mujaheddin had become. With their
most radical factions in Northern Pakistan, they were receiving millions of
dollars’ worth of arms from the United States, funneled through Pakistan’s
military ruler, all directed at the goal they would accomplish a few years later — removing Najibullah from power.

I asked Afghan officials then whether such threats of future instability might
put women’s freedom on the line. The president of the Afghan Women’s Council at
the time, Massuma Esmaty Wardak, argued that, on the contrary, women’s
emancipation was deeply rooted in Afghan history. She pointed out that the
country’s most famous reformer, King Amanullah, who was inspired by Turkey’s
secular nation builder Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, encouraged sweeping changes for
women in the early 20th century. He introduced Western dress, she pointed out,
sent girls to study abroad, banned the sale of women, raised the marriage age
and abolished the tribal custom known as levirate (where a widow is obliged to
marry her brother-in-law).

What Wardak and others I talked to failed to mention was that King Amanullah was ousted in 1929, after a brief reign, when conservative tribesmen revolted
against his liberal policies. Thereafter, King Zahir Shah, Afghanistan’s
longest-reigning monarch (1933-1973) — whom the U.N. has now selected to head
the post-Taliban government — slowed down the changes for women. Yes, women
came to enjoy greater liberation than in some other Muslim countries, but
encouraging freedom also risked provoking a backlash from the conservatives.
Ever since, the role of women has continued to reflect the volatile nature of
Afghan society — and of the dangers of trying to alter traditions by imposing
outside standards on the people. The Soviet occupation that followed the bloody
communist Saur Revolution in 1978 attempted to force top-down changes in
Afghanistan. Peoples Democratic Party of Afghanistan (PDPA) workers fanned out
into the villages to stop Afghans from selling their daughters and coerced the
girls instead to go to school. Conservative tribesmen retaliated by murdering
PDPA workers. These changes also triggered a vast exodus of Afghan tribes. Some
3 million Afghans fled the country. Many of those who grew up as orphans of war
in Pakistan’s refugee camps have become today’s Taliban; others are that
regime’s fiercest critics.

The most militant Islamist groups who resisted the Soviet influence banded
together under mujaheddin leader Gulbuddin Hekmatyar in Peshawar, northern
Pakistan. They objected fiercely to Muslim women not wearing the veil and to
their working outside the home. Some of his supporters threw acid on women
wearing Western dress in Kabul. When I interviewed Hekmatyar in Karachi in 1986, I was surprised to find a soft-spoken man who was fluent in English. But his supporters included Pakistan’s Jamaat-e-Islami, the radical Islamist party that enforced gender segregation at Karachi University with acid attacks on female students. (This group has now given an ultimatum to the Pakistani government to stop supporting the U.S.-led anti-terrorist coalition or be overthrown.)

Hekmatyar has refused to join the Northern Alliance now backed by the United
States in its battle with the Taliban. But many other mujaheddin leaders are
members of that alliance, and even less radical ones than Hekmatyar punish women who refuse to wear a burqa. The tribal beliefs in the submission of women go far beyond the Taliban.

The stability that the Taliban offered when it snatched power from the warring
mujaheddin in 1996 came at a further cost to women. Made up of ethnic Pashtuns,
the Taliban enforced the strict Pashtunwali code of honor that requires women to be treated as the property of their men. The militia barredwomen from working in the professions. Without female teachers, schools soon closed. The Taliban issued a decree that forbade all girls from going to school. Women who organized the early protests against the ragtag militia were beaten back. Only two ways of earning a living were left open to them — beggary and prostitution.

Last week I spoke with two Afghan women who have been helping refugees as U.N.
staff. They told of women’s isolation, cowering in their houses behind darkened
windows so that they cannot be seen from the street. Few can read. Many are
depressed. Nafisa Nezam, who was in Northern Afghanistan until last month, said
that the Taliban have “brought about a new interpretation of ‘jihad’ to mean
fighting women who wear lipstick, nail polish and jewelry.” Some have reputedly
had their fingers cut off for painting their nails.

There have been some brave voices of dissent. Afghan women in Pakistan have
banded together as the Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan
(RAWA). The group’s members told me in Islamabad in 1999 that they lived in
mortal fear of being discovered. They know how the extremists treat women who
dissent. RAWA’s founding president, Meena, was murdered in 1987 — allegedly by
the mujaheddin — for speaking out against the fundamentalists.
About half of the 4 million or so people who fled Afghanistan over the past 20
years are women, and many of them would love to return to their home country
once the Taliban is overthrown. Among them, Tahira Shairzai, a former
schoolteacher in Kabul who now works in the United States, told me she favors
the U.N. choice of an interim government headed by King Zahir Shah. The
86-year-old exiled monarch shares Pashtun ethnicity with the Taliban, but he is
popular because he treated ethnic groups even-handedly during his 40-year rule
of Afghanistan. Tahira also holds out hope that the Northern Alliance, which
allows girls’ schools to remain open in the area it controls, will take a
positive attitude toward working women.

However, the past behavior of the Alliance leaders offers little indication that women’s rights will be taken seriously under the next regime. A mishmash of conservative and more moderate tribal leaders, the Alliance is united for the sole purpose of combating the Taliban. A recent meeting ofanti-Taliban leaders in Peshawar demonstrated that women’s rights do not figure in their deliberations.

What’s more, as U.S. bombs hit civilians, the Pashtuns are becoming even more
radicalized. The United States has had little success in wooing moderate
Pashtuns away from the Taliban — a move that the administration recognizes is
necessary not only to win the current war but because Afghanistan’s future
stability depends upon cooperation among tribal factions. As the U.S. bombing
continues, thousands of armed Pashtun tribesmen are gathering on the
Pakistan-Afghan border to fight alongside the Taliban.Political analysts I have
spoken with in Pakistan predict that even if the Taliban is routed, it will
likely withdraw into the hills and fight the new government. Moreover, the
Northern Alliance could plunge into internecine strife.

So although there is no doubt in my mind that women will fare somewhat better if the Taliban is overthrown, I wonder what comes next. Unless there is a means of ensuring durable peace, women’s rights do not have a fighting chance in
Afghanistan.

Nafisa Hoodbhoy, a journalist who worked for 16 years for Dawn newspaper in
Karachi, Pakistan, taught as a Ford Fellow at Amherst College this year, with a
focus on women and politics in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iran.

© 2001 The Washington Post Company

 

There’s Much More To Daniel Pearl’s Murder Than Meets the Eye

by Nafisa Hoodbhoy
The Washington Post
March 10, 2002
http://www.washingtonpost.com/ac2/wp-dyn?pagename=article&node=&contentId=A64435-2002Mar9&notFound=true
AMHERST,Mass.–Nine days ago there was an alarming indication of upheaval inPakistan — a crackdown on the press. According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, the government pressured the owner of an influential English language newspaper, the News, to fire four journalists. One of them, the paper’s editor, Shaheen Sehbai, said the trouble started after his newspaper reported a link between the prime suspect in the killing of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl, and recent attacks on the Indian parliament inDelhi and in the Kashmiri capital,Srinagar. When Sehbai asked the paper’s owner to identify who wanted to sack them, Sehbai said he was told to see officials at the ISI,Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence agency. Instead he resigned and left for theUnited States.

I suspected that the crackdown on the media was associated withPearl’s kidnapping and murder. Even from theUnited States, where I am right now, I could tell thatPearl’s slaying was more than an indication of a new level of political violence. It was also a stark reminder of the tenuous position of journalists inPakistan– especially when they tread on the delicate topic of the country’s mysterious intelligence service, its link to Islamic groups and its power over the government ofPakistan.

For the past month, as a former reporter forPakistan’s Dawn newspaper, I have been sifting through the evidence trying to figure out whatPearl’s murder was really about. It was not just a matter of his being an American and a Jew, though that was certainly part of it. In setting out to investigate the possible connection between alleged shoe-bomber Richard Reid and the Islamist groups in the region,Pearlhad entered dangerous ground.

It was ground that few Pakistani journalists would even attempt to cover: exploring the complex ties between the militant Islamist groups and the many intelligence agencies. Local news organizations are so infiltrated by intelligence agents that they can do little independent reporting on this subject. Moreover, as the latest crackdown on the press illustrates, Pakistani governments, past and present, have been using intelligence agencies to twist the arms of publishers, editors and journalists who dare to expose their dirty secrets.

I don’t know how muchPearlfound out. But I know full well how likely journalists are to become the targets of the intelligence agencies. I found out the hard way in September 1991. It had been only two years since the country had returned to democracy and a free press was only barely tolerated by then-Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. I began writing about the tactics his government was using to coerce opposition politicians to change their loyalties and indict their leader, former prime minister Benazir Bhutto.

My investigative reports led me into a maze of competing intelligence agencies. One day in late September, we journalists inKarachirallied against the stabbing of Kamran Khan, one of the reporters under fire at the News, who is known for using sources among the intelligence agencies and who also works as a special correspondent for The Washington Post. That night, as I reached home, I saw two men — knives glinting in their hands — approaching my car. Sensing danger, I raced back to the office. Coming after a spate of attacks on journalists, the incident generated new protests — with rallies and demonstrations by media organizations throughout the country culminating in newspapers suspending publication for one day.

The latest crackdown suggests that the Pakistani government may be hiding some of the facts on thePearlcase. ForPakistan, the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks have forced the military government to begin the very difficult process of disassociating itself from the Islamic militants with which it has traditionally kept close ties. These linkages were strengthened during the Cold War when the Reagan administration and the Saudi government usedPakistan’s military dictator, Gen. Mohammed Zia ul-Haq, to funnel billions of dollars’ worth of arms and ammunition to the Afghan resistance throughPakistan’s Islamic parties. At home President Zia promoted conservative Islamic officers to generals in the army. As a result, the ISI grew powerful enough to sideline the subsequent civilian governments of Sharif and Bhutto and become the chief architect of the Taliban government inAfghanistan.

Even afterPakistangot on board with theU.S.anti-terrorist coalition, the intelligence agencies did not sever ties with the Islamic parties. Then, as theUnited Statesstepped up pressure, the agencies began reducing their support for these parties. In December, I saw a pro-Taliban demonstration inIslamabadthat attracted fewer than 100 people. Only a month ago earlier, thousands of violent pro-Taliban demonstrators had rampaged through the streets, even though they failed to find support from the masses. In fact,Pakistan’s Islamist parties have never won more than 2 percent of the vote in any democratic election — and have therefore looked to the military to capture power. In turn, the military — and their multiple intelligence agencies — have found the parties useful for reining in opponents.

AsPearl’s kidnapping and murder show, Musharraf’s task of quelling Islamic militancy is a daunting one. To recognize that challenge requires not only understanding the anti-Western, anti-Semitic rhetoric of the Islamic extremists, but also the flash point ofKashmir. That is a grievance that can unite Muslims who believe the disputed territory should be freed from Indian control, and it provides a battleground for fundamentalists. It is clear thatPearl’s suspected kidnappers have taken that cause to heart.

Remember the Indian passenger airline that was hijacked fromKathmandu,Nepal, in December 1999 and made a series of stops inPakistanandDubaibefore finally landing inKandahar? There, the Taliban surrounded the plane and gave safe passage to the hijackers. They were demanding thatIndiarelease three members of a Pakistan-based Islamist group, which was launching attacks against the Indian military inKashmir. The Indian foreign minister traveled toKandaharand handed over the political prisoners, who included Masood Azhar and Saeed himself.

Once freed from jail inIndia, Azhar and his entourage returned toPakistanand remained untroubled by government security forces. I well remember how, with their long beards and turbans, they swaggered into the Karachi Press Club in March 2000 for a news conference. They told the assembled journalists how they had been carrying out jihad against the Indian military inKashmir. Azhar announced that they were changing the name of the group from Harkat ul-Ansar to Jaish-i-Mohammed — which literally means “Army of Mohammed.” Harkat ul-Ansar had by then been declared a terrorist organization by theUnited States.

We journalists were curious why Azhar — the newly appointed chief of Jaish-i-Mohammed — had chosen this moment to make a public appearance. President Clinton was about to visitPakistanon a stopover fromIndia. Three months beforehand, Musharraf had taken overPakistan’s government in a military coup — and this had not sat well with theU.S.administration. Hinting at a rift inPakistan’s intelligence agencies, one reporter asked Azhar if his appearance was intended to embarrass Musharraf beforeClinton’s visit. I asked the same question more bluntly: “Are you being supported byPakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence?” Azhar answered both questions with a curt “No.” It was the answer we expected, but it did little to allay our suspicions.

Since their release from Indian jails, Azhar, Saeed and their supporters have moved freely in and out ofAfghanistanandPakistan. Azhar was put under house arrest last fall only after theUnited Statesput pressure onPakistanto curb jihadi groups.Pakistanturned down aU.S.request to extradite Saeed, despite his known role in kidnapping Western tourists in New Dehli in 1994. Soon after he turned himself in in January, Saeed confessed to his role inPearl’s abduction — though he later denied it. Many other Kashmiri and Sunni militant groups are still operating freely inPakistan, and the latter have intensified sectarian killings inside the country.

TheU.S.war on the al Qaeda network has signaled a new phase for the reorganization of militant Islamic groups inPakistan. As theUnited Statesbombed Taliban targets, the Pakistan-basedKashmirmilitants began slipping home through the porous Afghan borders. Among them were the Harkat ul-Mujaheddin, some of whose members were killed by theU.S.bombing inKabullast October while holding a meeting. When the bodies of the “martyrs” were brought to a mosque inKarachi, thousands of people attended the funeral processions — and promised revenge against theUnited States.

That revenge came in the form of an innocent victim,Pearl, whom the shifting militant forces saw primarily as an American and a Jew. The militant groups now identify Western journalists with the enemy. Traveling with a group of Western journalists to the Afghan border in December, I witnessed firsthand the anger of the defeatedPakistansupporters of the Taliban as theU.S.troops bombedKandahar. Our convoy was making its way from the winding hills of Chaman inPakistan(about two hours fromKandahar) when our vehicle was pelted with stones from angry Pashtuns. A BBC film crew traveling with us was also attacked. But the worst hit was British print journalist Robert Fisk, who appeared the next morning at ourQuettahotel with his head swathed in bandages.

As Saeed’s ties with intelligence agencies become exposed, there are growing concerns among Pakistani analysts that he could be killed in custody in order to destroy evidence of his linkages. In fact, Saeed is being moved from one place to another — reportedly to prevent him from being killed. Another cause for concern is the widespread corruption inPakistan– where police alternately fabricate and destroy evidence, depending on pressure from above. The net result is that even prominent murder cases have dragged on for years in the courts without leading to any convictions.

A decade ago, it was the unity of journalists that enabled me to put the frightening knife attack behind me and to focus on getting out the truth. At that stage, I’d been predicting that unless we maintained unity, journalists could be killed for investigative reporting.Pearl’s murder came as a blow to independent reporting inPakistan. His brave wife, Mariane, has spoken about how his case highlights the importance of joining hands to fight terrorism. Whether this is achieved through the extradition of Saeed and his accomplices to theUnited Statesor through monitoring the court process inPakistan, it is imperative that the culprits be punished. The frightening fact is thatPearl’s murder has uncovered the tip of an iceberg. The challenge now is to continue the work he began — and investigate how terrorist forces are realigning in the region to threaten civil society.

Nafisa Hoodbhoy, who worked for 16 years for Dawn newspaper inKarachi,Pakistan, teaches at theUniversityofMassachusettswith a focus on women, politics and the media in Pakistan, AfghanistanandIran.

 

© 2002 The Washington Post Company

 

The Washington Post
Sunday, June 2, 2002; Page B02 . . . Revealing a Gap Between The Leaders and the People

By Nafisa Hoodbhoy

WESTFIELD, Mass.

A group of women from India and Pakistan who came here for a peace=20
conference in April returned home to find their countries on the=20
brink of a nuclear catastrophe. One of the delegates wrote back to me=20
about the “horrific atmosphere of war,” which can be averted, she=20
said, only through “sheer good luck.”

Luck, of course, plays a magnified role in the lives of many on the=20
subcontinent who cannot rely on receiving the staples that most=20
Westerners take for granted. But sheer chance is not what anybody=20
wants to think is the only thing between rice-for-lunch-as-usual and=20
a nuclear conflagration that U.S. experts estimate could kill as many=20
as 12 million people.

Yet that is what the escalating political rhetoric has made women=20
like these believe — that the tensions, the saber-rattling, the=20
missile tests and the brutal deaths on either side of the Line of=20
Control in predominantly Muslim Kashmir have less to do with the=20
hopes of the ordinary people than with the self-serving and mercurial=20
goals of their leaders. With a leader like President Gen. Pervez=20
Musharraf, who came to power in 1999 in a military coup, Pakistanis=20
fear all the more that their country’s response will be a military=20
one. How ironic it was, one Indian delegate pointed out during the=20
conference, that with flights and overland travel between their=20
countries cut off, these women had to travel to the United States –=20
more than 7,000 miles away from home — in order to meet face to face=20
with their counterparts.

The delegates had gathered at the conference, titled “Women of=20
Pakistan and India: Rights, Ecology, Economy and Nuclear=20
Disarmament,” at Westfield State College just as the war clouds were=20
forming over the subcontinent. Tensions had been building since=20
January, when India accused Pakistan of supporting the Kashmiri=20
militants’ attacks on its parliament in Dehli on Dec. 13 — and=20
retaliated by massing its troops on the border. The potential for a=20
nuclear exchange has since been triggered by the Islamic militants’=20
attack on an army camp in mid-May. The raid killed more than 30=20
soldiers and family members. That’s when Indian Prime Minister Atal=20
Bihari Vajpayee rallied troops for an all-out war. In a show of=20
defiance, Pakistan tested three missiles last week (all of them named=20
after Muslim conquerors of India) that are capable of launching a=20
nuclear attack on the Indians. The United States is taking all of=20
this seriously, urging Americans to get out of India and withdrawing=20
all but essential embassy personnel.

For the 10 women from India and Pakistan, coming to Westfield was an=20
occasion to analyze how governments on each side had hijacked=20
discourse to portray the other as the “enemy.” Growing up in=20
Pakistan, I was a witness to the constant hammering by=20
state-controlled television about “Indian atrocities in occupied=20
Kashmir.” In fact, the phrase masla-i-Kashmir (“the problem of=20
Kashmir”) has for me become a metaphor for any problem that can never=20
be solved.

I heard those thoughts echoed in the views of the Indian women at the=20
conference. Journalist Kalpana Sharma blamed her nation’s worsening=20
relations with Muslims, and by association with Pakistan, on the rise=20
of the Hindu fundamentalists in India — the ruling Bharatiya Janata=20
Party (BJP) and its coalition partner, the Vishwa Hindu Parishad=20
(VHP). India, Sharma said, had buckled under fundamentalist pressure=20
and escalated its military budget after the disastrous conflict near=20
the Kargil area of Kashmir that nearly led to war in 1999. And the=20
costs for ordinary people are clear. India has cut back on the social=20
sector, she said, and instituted higher taxes on its people.

For Anis Haroon, director of a women’s non-governmental organization=20
in Karachi, the U.S. support for Musharraf after Sept. 11 “had carved=20
out a permanent role for the army in Pakistan.” This, she said, had=20
come with costs, strengthening the military crackdown on=20
demonstrations by political parties, civil liberties groups and women=20
protesting against discriminatory laws. In early May, for example,=20
Pakistani authorities arrested women gathering to oppose the Hudood=20
Ordinances, which demonstrators say end up punishing female victims=20
of rape.

Civil liberties have taken a beating inside India as well, agreed the=20
Indian women. Ruchira Gupta, a member of a women’s group in Bombay,=20
pointed to the Indian parliament’s passage of the Prevention of=20
Terrorism Act (POTA) on March 26 as an example. POTA was advocated by=20
BJP Home Minister L.K. Advani to counter what he called “the=20
terrorism” launched by Pakistan. But Gupta argued that the act would=20
cramp the press, militarize the society and lead to injustices for=20
Muslim minorities.

Both governments, these women believed, were responsible for recent=20
atrocities. The Indians blamed the massacre of Muslims in Gujarat in=20
February following an attack on Hindus in a train on the “frenzy=20
whipped up by the BJP” which forms the central government in Gujarat.=20
The Hindu delegates said that organizations they belonged to had=20
visited the area to distribute food and clothing to Muslim victims.=20
Correspondingly, Pakistani delegates said that the Gujarat violence=20
had not resulted in reprisals against Hindus in Pakistan — showing=20
that such violence is not supported by ordinary people.

Indeed, my experience shows that all too often it is the self-serving=20
leaderships in the two countries that thwart the people’s desire for=20
peace. I saw this firsthand in 1995. As a journalist, I was invited=20
to join the official Pakistan delegation to the Fourth World Women=20
Conference in Beijing. The country was then ruled by Prime Minister=20
Benazir Bhutto, who was keen to portray a liberal image at the=20
conference. But we were instructed by a male leader of our group to=20
counter the Indian delegates each time the subject of Kashmir came=20
up. I watched as the leaders of both the Indian and Pakistani=20
delegations engaged in allegations and counter-allegations over=20
Kashmir. Slowly the hall began emptying as U.N. delegates walked out=20
of a meeting that was supposed to unite the women of the world.

The discussions at Westfield did not fracture along these lines=20
because the women were not here to promulgate their governments’=20
policies. Instead, they discussed how Sept. 11 has caused India and=20
Pakistan to vie for U.S. attention over Kashmir. Even as India=20
conducts its propaganda war against militants, it stopped Kashmiri=20
women from attending our conference. The pressure was coming from the=20
Hindu right wing, who, as Indian delegate Urvashi Batalia noted, had=20
been cashing in on the “demonizing of Muslims.”

U.S. dependence on Pakistan in its fight against terrorism appears to=20
have given legitimacy to the military government, argued Zubeida=20
Mustafa, a senior editor from Pakistan’s daily Dawn newspaper. In=20
Pakistan’s April referendum, journalists observed few voters at the=20
polling booths. A colleague wrotethat a polling officer he visited=20
had recorded only 125 votes by closing time. The officer told him=20
rather casually that he forged the remaining votes after deadline=20
because the local police directed him to show a voter turnout of=20
nearly 900 and to ensure a “yes” vote of around 98 percent, giving=20
Musharraf five more years in office.

With only the facade of being elected, Pakistan’s military government=20
has not had to answer to its people about the failure to improve law=20
and order. Earlier this year, targeted killings of Shia doctors by=20
Sunni extremist groups forced physicians to flee the country.=20
However, no action was taken until last month, when a suicide bomber=20
killed 14 people in Karachi, including 11 French men working on a=20
submarine project. Under severe international pressure, the Musharraf=20
government cracked down on the Sunni militant groupLashkar-i-Jhangvi=20
– which has been linked to the killings of Shia doctors. Later,=20
three members of this same group were accused in the brutal murder of=20
American journalist Daniel Pearl.

In December, when I last visited Pakistan, I was curious to see how=20
the Musharraf government would rein in Kashmiri militants. The=20
Islamic militants who were brought into the region by the United=20
States during the Cold War had turned to jihad in Kashmir after the=20
Soviets withdrew from Afghanistan in 1989. Since then about two dozen=20
militant Islamic groups fighting for Kashmir under the United Jihad=20
Council have established headquarters in Pakistan.

It’s not as if Kashmiris welcome such support. One Kashmiri from=20
Srinagar, Farooq Lone, who now lives in Islamabad, told me that=20
Kashmiris are “fed up” with Pakistan-based militants who attack=20
Indian forces and leave the Kashmiris to face the vengeance of the=20
repressive Indian troops. More than 35,000 people have been killed in=20
Kashmir since the militants entered the fray 13 years ago. Lone’s=20
family supports the All Parties Hurriyet Conference, whose moderate=20
Kashmiri separatist leader, Abdul Ghani Lone, was recently=20
assassinated. Although India has never allowed a plebiscite in which=20
the Kashmiris could decide their own fate, the Indian government had=20
been wooing moderates such as Lone for elections planned in Kashmir=20
in September. His murder deals a further blow to any peace prospects.=20
And it is a further example of the voice of the people being stifled.

The issue of Kashmir — left dangling by the British in 1947 when=20
they divided India and then departed without forcing a plebiscite –=20
has come to haunt the United States almost 55 years later. It is an=20
issue that is not going be resolved by luck or through a U.S.=20
admonition to Pakistan to stop abetting militants. Instead, the=20
United States will have to throw its weight behind the United Nations=20
to enable the people of Kashmir to decide their own fate. That=20
appears to be the only choice if the world is to be successful in=20
fighting the roots of terrorism.

Nafisa Hoodbhoy, who worked for 16 years for Dawn newspaper in=20
Karachi, Pakistan, teaches at the University of Massachusetts,=20
Amherst, with a focus on women, politics and the media in Pakistan,=20
Afghanistan and Iran.

 www.icsw.org/publications/sdr/2001…/fund-social-exclusion.htm

 

by Nafisa HoodbhoyThe emergence of fundamentalist movements in Muslim countries, more properly known as Islamism, is being viewed by some scholars as the last wave of anti-imperialism of the 20th century. Muslim fundamentalist movements that show militancy against Western colonial influences include the Hezbollah and AMAL in Lebanon, the HAMAS in Palestine, the National Islamic Front in Sudan, the Islamic Salvation Front in Algeria, the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, Khomeinism in Iran, the Jamiat-I-Ulema Islam (with its multiple splinter groups) in Pakistan, the Mujahideen and the Taliban in Afghanistan.While the Islamists have different interpretations of the Sharia (Islamic jurisprudence), they believe that all Muslim societies are subjugated and subordinated because of their deviation from the true Islamic path. When Islamists blame the West for co-opting their leaders, they also use Islam as a political ideology to mobilize the disenfranchised Muslim ‘Umm’ (community of believers) against the “corrupting” and “self-serving” ways of the West.Gender and Muslim FundamentalismWomen form the core of Islamist debate. Muslim fundamentalists across the board agree on restoring complementary roles between men and women based on their biology – men as wage earners and women as mothers and homemakers. Given the traditional, patriarchal Muslim view of women’s sexuality being ‘disruptive of the social order because of her power to attract the opposite sex,’ Islamists demand that women be veiled and segregated from men at every level of society.The extremist behavior of fundamentalists and Islamists in particular has proved harmful for the rights of women wherever they have captured state power. Their promulgation of “Islamist” laws and policies inPakistan,IranandAfghanistan, have introduced even more patriarchal norms into these predominantly feudal and tribal societies, and attempted to erode their existing diversity.The Veil and Four Walls – Women in PakistanThe Islamists supported the military government of Zia ul Haq, who took over in a military coup in Pakistanin 1977 and ruled for the next 11 1/2 years. This was the period when the concept of ‘chadar and chardiwar’ (veil and four walls) was pushed upon Pakistanwomen. Women began being discriminated against in the workplace and in the streets. The state used the electronic media to mount scathing attacks on working women and projected the “Islamic woman” as devoted to home and family.

The Zia government passed a series of laws against women. The Zina Ordinance (part of Hudood Ordinances, 1979) makes sex outside marriage a crime against the state. It also does not give maximum sentence on the basis of women’s testimony. Discounting women’s testimony has to date resulted in imprisonment for thousands of poor women, who have been accused of adultery or even been victims of rape. In addition, the equality granted to women under Pakistan’s constitution was subverted with the passage of the Laws of Evidence, 1984 (in which two women’s testimony is equated with one man in financial matters) and the Qisas and Diyat Ordinance, 1985 (in which the blood money for a deceased woman is half that for a man). 1

The effects of the Islamist ideology have seeped into the rural areas ofPakistan where customary laws hold sway. In the last two decades there has been an appreciable increase in tribal customs like honor killings in which the unfortunate woman and her lover can be killed by her immediate family and get away with a lesser sentence.

Religious Minorities in Pakistan

The Blasphemy Laws, passed by General Zia ul Haq have deprived religious minorities in Pakistan– Christians, Hindus and Parsees (Zorastrians) – full citizenship. These laws award the death penalty for anyone charged with ‘blasphemy’ against Prophet Mohammed. At times they have been used as a pretext against non-Muslims who might be involved in a land dispute. Blasphemy charges are also used against the Ahmediya community, who offend the sensibilities of the mainstream Muslims by denying that Mohammed is the last Prophet.

Religious minorities inPakistan have become further isolated because General Zia’s introduction of separate electorates. The latter requires non-Muslims to elect non-Muslim candidates. With reserved seats for non-Muslims, candidates are now required to contest elections on a countrywide basis rather than from a particular region. This, as non-Muslim voters have testified, makes the candidate unaccountable to his particular constituency and leads to a further neglect of the religious minorities.

The Classic ‘Islamist’ State – Iran

Iranhas even less diversity than Pakistanin terms of its religious sects, ethnic communities and women’s movements. The Shia clerics who ushered in Ayatollah Khomeini’s revolution in 1979 had been in power for only two weeks when they decreed that women ought to be veiled and segregated. Iranbecame the classic ‘Islamist’ state where Khomeni received support from all sectors of society, including women, against the Shah’s pro Western policies. Once victorious, the Shia clerics pushed women into the veil, after referring to those in Western dress as “Westoxicated” and, the “painted dolls of the Shah.”

One of the first acts of the Khomeini government was to suspend the Shah’s Family Protection Act. In one go, women lost all their rights of family law. Although the FPA was restored in amended form in 1992, Iranian laws presently weigh heavily against women. Women are treated as subjects within marriage: men can divorce more easily and remarry without seeking permission from their wives, polygamy is more common, temporary marriage has been re-instituted and child custody made more difficult for women. The legal age for marriage for girls has been dropped to nine years, eliminating their chances for finding a life outside marriage and motherhood.

Perhaps the biggest challenge to middle-class women in Iran is the gender
segregation in education and employment. Female literacy has dropped. At the same time, forbidding girls to be taught by male teachers has significantly narrowed their education opportunities. Women’s employment has increased marginally after the 1979 Islamic revolution, but only because of their induction into sex segregated occupations like teaching, “female oriented” fields of medicine and in government agencies that deal with women.

Since the death of Khomeini in 1988, a relatively liberal breed of Shia clerics (presently led by President Khatami) has encouraged “Islamic feminists”. The latter, who are “deconstructing” the Quran and Hadith (sayings of the Prophet) work with secular feminists to improve women’s rights in Iran. They have had limited success. Even these “Islamic feminists” occasionally risk the wrath of hard-line clerics by publishing articles by women poets and interviews of filmmakers from outside the mainstream. Even more likely to get arrested are unveiled women or those espousing secular views.

Inside the Burqa – Outside the Decision-Making Process. Women in Afghanistan
The Taliban, a Pashtun ethnic group who have ruled Afghanistan since 1995, rode the wave of Islamic militants brought into the region by the United States, Pakistan, and Saudi Arabia to fight the Soviet Union’s invasion of Afghanistan. Though the Taliban has an Islamic fundamentalist image, its practices are tribal rather than Islamic. For example, it allows the ‘Jirga” (consultative body of male tribal elders) to make communal decisions on the basis of the Pashtunwali code of honor and shame. Women are totally excluded from participating in this decision-making process.

Since the Taliban took power in Afghanistan, they have imposed the ‘burqa’ – a voluminous covering which women must wear from head to foot with only a mesh for the eyes. Women have been barred even from their Islamic rights of inheritance. Instead, the Afghan tribes are now resorting to a pre-Islamic custom whereby widowed women are being inherited by their brother-in-laws or stepsons. Also, stricken by dire poverty, Afghan farmers (who previously received a bride price for their daughters) are now selling their daughters to pay off loans.

TodayAfghanistan tops the list of fundamentalists attempting to stamp out diversity. About 100,000 women teachers, doctors, nurses, administrators and civil servants, who worked mostly inKabul, have been sent home. Primary schools for girls have been closed (for want of women teachers), whileKabulUniversity – once bustling with female students – has been closed to women.

Religious Minorities in Afghanistan

From time to time, the Taliban clashes with the other minorities – Hazaras, Tajiks, and Uzbeks – who remain unrepresented in this Pashtun based government. Tajik leader Ahmed Shad Massoud continues to fight the Taliban from the North of Afghanistan. In addition, the Sunni Taliban and the Iranian Shia militants have been sighting their battles on Pakistani soil. This has created sectarian clashes between the Shai and Sunni population in Pakistan, mostly to the detriment of Pakistan’s minority Shia population.

The Islamic fundamentalists export of terrorism to the West has now come full circle. Indeed, if any lessons are to be derived from the emergence of Islamists, it is to recognize that the West acted short-sightedly in the background of the Cold War and the oil crisis. TheU.S. support to the fundamentalist regimes inPakistan andAfghanistan not only weakenedPakistan andAfghanistan’s civil societies, it sparked the return of illegal immigration, heroin, debt liabilities and terrorism. It is high time the UN, world governments and religious leaders realized that a hard-line approach to the Muslim world will only elicit more fundamentalist responses – to the detriment of all concerned.

Nafisa Hoodbhoy has worked as a journalist for the last 16 years inKarachi,Pakistan for the English language daily newspaper,`Dawn’. In 1995 she was nominated by Amnesty International as a ‘human rights defender. Presently, she is a Visiting Lecturer atAmherstCollege, teaching a course on the `Regulation of Sexual Activities and Identities’ relating toPakistan,Iran andAfghanistan.


Notes

1- “Blood money” is a term used in tribal societies. It denotes financial compensation given for a murdered person in lieu of spilling blood.

 

Toward Freedom

The Taliban Rises from the Ashes

Thursday, 22 February 2007 14:07 Nafisa HoodbhWalking along the dusty broken roads of Frontier’s capital city,Peshawar, dodging smoke emitting rickshaws and vehicles speeding recklessly toward me, I went through public spaces which swarmed with men. An occasional shuttlecock burqa (veil) was the only indication that a woman was at hand. The `azaan’ (call to prayer) resounded in the antiquated city, throwing up a unique spectacle:  male congregations knelt in prayer in corridors of office buildings.

It was the backdrop for the militant Islamic clerics and Taliban supporters I would meet, who encouraged jehad (holy war) against `kafirs’ (infidels) and Western troops inAfghanistan.

Women activists, under siege, told me that the self-appointed “morality police” had sprayed black paint on female images atop signboards. Wiped clean, the billboards looked embarrassingly akin to gaping mouths without teeth. The coalition of Islamic parties which now controls the Frontier parliament subsequently had the images of women replaced by young men.

It was for me, a woman journalist based in theU.S., a metaphor of how women had been removed from the public space. Despite my modest Pakistani outfit – baggy trousers, tunic and scarf – my gaze occasionally met the hostile, commanding stares of Pashtun men and the frightened glances of women peering behind encompassing veils. Their glances said it all.

“What was I, an outsider, doing inPeshawar?

As a former daily reporter inKarachi, now living inWashingtonD.C., I had come to explore howU.S.troop presence had changed the region. I had last arrived here in November 2001, whenPeshawarcrawled with Western journalists. Equipped with cameras, microphones and fixers, the media had used the city as a gateway to theU.S.bombing of the Taliban inAfghanistan. Then, it had been hard to find a room in the Pearl Continental hotel. This time, I found the hotel strangely empty.

It was as if women and Westerners had been erased from the public view.

Quickly, I discovered that Islamic militancy had grown in proportion to U.S.-Pakistan military action in the region. Since September 11, 2001Pakistanhas battled the Al Qaeda and Taliban militants, who resettled in its tribal border areas of Waziristan to fleeU.S.bombing inAfghanistan.Pakistanhas paid a heavy price for its involvement: hundreds of soldiers and ordinary people have been killed and there has been a major setback to economic activity.

Since January 2007, there have been several suicide attacks in the Northwest Frontier Province – some of them high profile because of their targeting of major cities, hotels and airport. Those attacks were reportedly in retaliation for U.S.-guided strikes on militant hideouts inSouth Waziristan. That recently forcedPakistanto send emissaries of an Islamic party to make peace with militants from the Mehsud tribe — with whom the army had struck a peace deal in 2005.

InPeshawar, I interviewed a potential suicide bomber, Mohammed Zakaria from Charsadda district in the Frontier province. He was your average Pashtun, fiercely indignant atU.S.presence inAfghanistan. In 2001, when theU.S.bombed the Taliban, the young man had moved back and forth along the Pak-Afghan border mobilizing support against the `infidels’.

Zakaria told me the NATO offensive inAfghanistanhad people queuing before Mullah Dadullah, requesting that they be enlisted as suicide bombers. Dadullah, counts as the mastermind of the Taliban insurgency, with a web of connections with tribal militants and organizations as diverse as the Islamic Union of Uzbekistan.

“The truth is that we cheer every time we hear that the NATO troops have been killed inAfghanistan,” my source told me with disarming frankness.

My contacts told me that in the last few years, the Taliban had resurfaced inWaziristantribal areas to murder hundreds of `maliks’ (tribal leaders) on charges of “spying” for the Pakistani state. Small wonder, it has terrified the tribal leadership and made them impotent against the erosion of their authority.

Fear of the Taliban was evident in the gray green eyes of a hereditary tribal chief from the Dawar tribe inNorth Waziristan. It was warm inPeshawar, where my contact had traveled to meet me. Still, I suspected it was the heat of his narrative, which made him take off his spectacles to wipe his perspiration. Lowering his voice in a room that was empty and locked, he described the Taliban’s treatment of those believed to be working for the government.

“I have seen them cut off heads in front of my eyes,” he said with a tremor in his voice that stirred me with its intensity.

The Dawar man was among the hundreds of thousands of Pashtuns who have suffered “collateral damage.” Last year when the Islamic insurgents fired upon the military’s check posts inNorth Waziristan, two of his sons were injured in cross-fire.

Not surprisingly, my contact supported the North Waziristan peace accord signed in August 2006 between thePakistangovernment and area tribesmen. Since then, thePakistanmilitary has wound up its check posts and moved 80,000 troops to the Pak-Afghan border. With undulating hills that join seamlessly withAfghanistan,North Waziristanhad until last year suffered some of the heaviest fighting.

All this has come at the price of a stronger Taliban. With grudging admiration the Dawar man told me how the Islamic vigilantes, once under attack, had returned to bring iron rule to his war-torn area. They had won over locals by administering brutal punishments for theft, kidnappings, dacoits and drug smugglers – including publicly hanging offenders.

Today, billions of dollars and hundreds of casualties later, the Taliban inPakistan’s tribal belt have won the breathing space to cross over the porous Pak-Afghan borders and attack Western forces inAfghanistan. It has left NATO troops anxious about the spring offensive, when the snows melt and a Taliban onslaught is expected fromPakistan’s tribal belt. In a tribal region, where Pashtuns are related by blood and for whom the borders betweenPakistanandAfghanistanare meaningless, it is unrealistic to expect thatPakistancan stop them from doing so.

My sources told me that the Mujahideen commanders of the Cold war days, Gulbuddin Hekmatyar and Jalaluddin Haqqani now direct the offensive from the tribal border areas. Once supported by theU.S.as they fought the Russians inAfghanistan, the Mujahideen have now thrown their lot with the Taliban. They allegedly move around freely inPakistan’s tribal belt and recruit fighters in Afghan refugee camps.

Barely whispering, as though he was letting me into a state secret, the Dawar man told me, “I’ve seen Jalaluddin Haqqani, the former Afghan Mujahideen commander move his belongings around the  neighborhood.  I knew the same Haqqani in the 1980′s when theU.S.officials came to his house inPeshawar.”

I asked him whether it was true that the Taliban were spilling out of theWaziristantribal belt to the rest of the Frontier province.

“They already have their representatives in the Frontier assembly” he replied slyly.

I knew he was referring to the coalition of Islamic parties, the MMA, which commands a majority inPakistan’s frontier province. One MMA component, Jamiat-I-Ulema Islam (JUI) chief, Maulana Fazlur Rehman is nowPakistan’s leader of the opposition. In the 1990′s, Fazlur Rehman’s group trained young Pashtuns inPakistan’s `madressahs’(Islamic schools) – in what emerged before the world as the Taliban. Today the JUI negotiates with Islamic militants in the tribal belt on behalf of thePakistangovernment.

From speaking to my contacts inPeshawar, I knew it would be too dangerous to visitWaziristan. Instead, I decided to travel south to Dera Ismail Khan, where many dissident tribesmen and journalists have fled Taliban rule. To my surprise, my fixer told me the next day that “half the city” knew that a journalist fromAmericawas coming. At midnight he had received a message on his cell phone, the like of which he had never seen before:

`Oh you who believe

Enter into submission one

And all and do not

Follow the

Footsteps of

Shaitaan (devil); surely he

Is your open

Enemy

Sender -   `Al Quran.’

I had heard that Islamic militants were tech savvy. This latest text message appeared to be proof. In a region where theU.S.has become synonymous with the devil, it was obviously a warning to me – notwithstanding my being an independent journalist — not to dare investigate.

Changing my direction, I traveled instead along the barren gray hills of Kohat – on the cross-roads to the tribal areas of Bannu and the infamous arms market of the Cold War days, Darra Adam Khel — to meet a former member of the National Assembly and Chairman World Jehad Council, Javed Ibrahim Paracha.

A well-known figure here, Paracha lives in an antiquated combine of homes with `purdah’ (veil) observing women. I was ushered into the room reserved for male visitors. With his long heavy beard and watchful darting eyes, Paracha studied me shrewdly. He just returned from the Peshawar High Court after defending Osama Bin Laden’s Quranic teacher.

That was apparently routine. Paracha is a tribal leader from a village called Dhara Dhar, near Tora Bora inAfghanistan. As the head of the World Prisoners Relief Fund, he had a reputation for repatriating suspected Al Qaeda militants to their native countries.

The burly Sunni Wahabi tribal leader told me that in November 2001, he filed a legal challenge against thePakistangovernment’s arrest of Arab Muslims as well as Christians and Jews caught in cross-fire inAfghanistan.

That fetched him a snub from the princes ofKuwaitandSaudi Arabia.

“You seem to be worried about the `kafirs’ (infidels). How come you don’t care what happens to the Muslims?”

But that was exactly what Paracha had been aiming for:  he used the same court order to secure the release of thousands of Muslim militants lodged in Pakistani prisons under the Foreigners Act. Proudly, he told me he arranged their repatriation to Arab homelands – and they returned the expenses after reaching their destinations.

Paracha runs an Islamic school `Darul Uloom’ in Kohat, which preaches `jehad’ (holy war) against the infidel occupiers. A number of suicide bombers have recently been traced to this area. He smiled modestly when I asked if his `madressah’ was an inspiration for Pashtuns to bear arms and attack Western troops inAfghanistan

Seeing he was so well-informed, I asked, “Where is Osama Bin Laden?”

Paracha had been expecting the question. Enjoying the dramatic effect of his narrative, he told me that a government official had indicated to him that two of Bin Laden’s children – from multiple marriages – were studying in a school inHyderabad.

“His cook was arrested shortly thereafter,” he added.

“Now I can point to you houses inPeshawar, Kohat, Malakand andIslamabadwhere the foreign Mujahideen live. The government is trying to achieve a compromise with militants so they don’t take up arms in the public sphere. But with Russian and Chinese arms, the Mujahideen are today in a stronger position.”

Traveling around thePeshawarregion, I asked politically aware Pakistanis about the whereabouts of the infamous Bin Laden. Government officials I met typically responded, “I can assure you that he’s not inPakistan.”

Other Pakistanis – knowing of the Bush administration’s longstanding relations with the Bin Laden family and Islamic militants – answered with conspiracy theories of their own:

“Why he’s inWashington, where you are!”

I traveled through the noisy, lawless traffic inPeshawarto the Civil Secretariat to meet the government appointed Secretary Law and Order of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas, Arbab Arif. A bureaucrat, down to his crisp white waistcoat, he reacted in almost knee jerk fashion to my observation thatPakistan’s peace deal in the tribal areas seemed to have strengthened the Taliban. Skillfully disputing the usage of the term `Taliban’ for Pakistani militants, he merely conceded they were students of Islamic schools.

The government spokesman told me that thePakistanmilitary had made peace with the Utmanzai tribe inNorth Waziristanonly after receiving guarantees that they would not allow a “competing administration.” He flatly denied that the peace deal had given the Islamic militants breathing space to join the insurgency inAfghanistan. Instead, he talked tough: thePakistanmilitary could redeploy its troops any time in its tribal belt.

Despite these measures, it is apparent that thePakistangovernment has painted itself into a corner. Its spokesman admitted that the military had to “revisit” its policy after finding that its operations in the tribal belt had only whetted the Pushtun capacity for revenge and swelled the ranks of the militants.

The Awami National Party (ANP), a secular party of Pashtuns in theFrontierProvinceis best positioned to examine the policies of thePakistanmilitary after September 11. The party, which has inherited the pacifist philosophy of its founder Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan – also known as the `Frontier Gandhi’ – describes the resurgence of the violent Taliban as a ticking time bomb in the region.

I met the tall, strongly built ANP chief, Asfandyar Wali at the fortress like Bacha Khan center inPeshawar, named after his grandfather. The imposing center, with libraries and conference rooms offers a sanctuary from the chaotic world outside.

Asfandyar minced no words in criticizing the government’s claim that it had negotiated a peace deal in the tribal belt: “They have won the peace of the grave-yard.”

The ANP chief told me he sees a discrepancy in the military’s actions and the situation unfolding inAfghanistan.

“If the government claims it has stationed 80,000 troops along the Pak-Afghan border, why does the top NATO commander report a 300 percent increase in infiltration after the peace accord,” he asked rhetorically.

Back in theU.S., I read that a suicide bomber had blown himself up at an army recruiting camp in Dargai, nearPeshawar, killing forty eight young men. That was in retaliation for a U.S.-backed bombing attack on an Islamic school in Bajaur tribal region which killed 84 people – many of them innocent children.

The two events occurring in quick succession brought back a saying I heard during the trip: ‘When you hit a ball hard, it rebounds with even greater force.’

Today, the resurgence of the Taliban gives credence to the fact thatU.S.andPakistanmilitary policies have served to strengthen intolerance and promote Islamic militancy in the region. That should give policy makers pause to reflect on just where theU.S.andPakistanhave gone wrong in the ‘War on Terror.’

Musharraf’s emergency upendsPakistan’s courts By Nafisa Hoodbhoy

Musharraf’s emergency upends Pakistan’s courts By Nafisa Hoodbhoy
McClatchy Newspapers; Nov 30

KARACHI, Pakistan — A month after President Gen. Pervez Musharraf declared a state of emergency in Pakistan , the country’s once-independent judiciary is in disarray and still under attack, making it unlikely that America’s closest ally in the war on terrorism will have a functioning democracy anytime soon.

Police lines surround the principal courts, unfit judges are taking over the judicial apparatus and the enormous number of lawyers on hunger strikes has slowed the wheels of justice.

When Musharraf handed down his “Provisional Constitutional Order” on Nov. 3 , the federal Supreme Court was about to declare unconstitutional his plan to run for another term as president while remaining the army’s chief of staff. Musharraf said he couldn’t find a solution within the Pakistani Constitution, so he took “extraconstitutional measures,” with the judiciary a prime target. “Some judges by overstepping the limits of judicial authority have taken over the executive and legislative functions,” he said in the order.

Even though he’s given up his post of army chief of staff, donned civilian clothes and promised to end the stat of emergency by Dec. 16 , Musharraf has said he won’t reverse his takeover of the judiciary.

He put Iftikhar Chaudhry , the chief justice of the Supreme Court , under house arrest and demanded that all other judges swear under his order that they don’t have the power “to make any order against the president or the prime minister.”

Out of 17 Supreme Court judges, 12 refused to take the oath, a pattern that judges in the country’s four provinces followed. Musharraf’s military government has had to devise unusual ways to fill the vacancies. In Sindh province— whose chaotic capital of Karachi , population 15 million-plus, is Pakistan’s biggest city— the process usually begins with a telephone call from military intelligence to leading lawyers, according to Sindh High Court lawyer Shaukat Hayat .

Sabihuddin Ahmed , who’d been the chief justice of Sindh, said he’d rejected “overtures” from the government to remain in his post because the army chief of staff wasn’t allowed to issue emergency orders under Pakistan’s Constitution.

When Sabihuddin stepped out of his home to drive to the Sindh High Court on Nov. 5 — two days into the emergency— he found police cars barricading his street.

The officer in charge was apologetic but told him that the police “were merely following orders.”

The authorities quickly installed new judges who were willing to promise that they’d never challenge the president or prime minister, in some instances abandoning the usual appointment process and administering the oath “within half an hour,” said Justice Majda Rizvi , a retired judge of the Sindh High Court .

Rizvi, the former head of the government’s Commission on the Status of Women , was offered a ministerial post in Musharraf’s caretaker Cabinet, but said she told the authorities, “I couldn’t accept, after what you’ve done to the judiciary.”

In other instances, the military has resorted to severe arm-twisting. In Sindh, where less than a third of the judges took the oath under the emergency, the intelligence agencies have taken the lead role in what critics say amounts to blackmail. Rizvi said government officials had even made use of files they kept on corruption cases pending against lawyers in Pakistan’s National Accountability Bureau .

After Sabihuddin was ousted from his post as Sindh chief justice, the government hurriedly appointed three other High Court judges: Khawaja Naveed had been the advocate (attorney) general, Qazi Khalid an additional (assistant) advocate general and Rana Shamim an officer in a government institution before they took their oaths as judges.

Other lawyers in the Sindh High Court often have criticized the flamboyant Naveed— known for his cheerful smile and mop of curly hair— for his attempts at humor: giving a “thumbs up” sign and uttering phrases that television presenters use, such as “be back soon.” Human rights groups aren’t amused by a remark he made while presiding over a rape case: “Where was I?”

The biggest scandal surrounds the new chief justice in Sindh, Afzal Soomro . According to several former judges, Soomro was forced to resign as a judge from the Sindh High Court about nine months ago because of psychiatric problems. Justice Wajihuddin Ahmed , a retired Supreme Court judge, described Soomro as “mentally deranged” in a speech Nov. 14 before the Karachi Press Club .

Lawyers nationwide are astonished at the new appointees’ lack of qualifications. The secretary general of the Sukkur High Court Bar Association , Shabbir Shar , said there was “anarchy” in the courts, since lawyers refused to appear before judges who were appointed under Musharraf’s state of emergency.

Sindh Bar Council member Noor Naz Agha , released after 18 days of house arrest, said lawyers wouldn’t rest until the emergency was revoked.

Still, economic pressures and the pressure by clients to get their cases resolved are slowly forcing lawyers to appear before the new judges. That’s plunged the legal community into disarray.

Outside the Sindh High Court building— a British-built brownstone that still has its colonial grandeur— baton-carrying police seated under leafy old trees keep a vigilant eye out for protesters. Not long ago, the police had been there to protect the court. But after the new directives passed, police officers rounded up large numbers of lawyers and bundled them off to nearby jails. Most of them have been released now, according to the government.

Two streets away from the High Court is the Karachi Press Club . Military vehicles and police cars are parked outside, and plainclothes intelligence officials watch the movements of leaders. Every day there’s a peaceful hunger strike by journalists outside the club. Inside, civil society groups hold protest rallies; street protests are put down by force.

The news media and the judiciary are being forced into a virtual alliance. Private television channels filming the “humiliating treatment” meted out to judges and lawyers have been blacked out, said Faisal Aziz , the secretary general of the Association of Television Journalists .

Meanwhile, the government’s reconstituted Supreme Court , headed by Chief Justice Abdul Hameed Dogar , has dismissed petitions challenging Musharraf’s eligibility to be president and has validated all his orders. A caretaker Cabinet will oversee parliamentary elections scheduled for Jan. 8 .

(Hoodbhoy is a special correspondent for McClatchy)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Responses

  1. Mark says:

    Thanks a ton for your energy to have had these things together on this blog site. Josh and i also very much treasured your ideas through your articles on certain things. I understand that you have a number of demands on timetable hence the fact that a person like you took the maximum amount of time just like you did to guide people just like us by way of this article is also highly appreciated.

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