Sunday, November 14, 2010

ARDESHIR COWASJEE ARTICLES : Don't fool the people

THE events that have taken place over the past 60 years of this country's existence " and particularly over the past couple of decades " make it sure that universally we have no right to call ourselves civilised.
Just to take a few incidents of this past week: when a group of democratic citizens saw to it that seven of their fellow citizens were burnt alive, that others were shot and killed or maimed, and that the properties and vehicles of other fellow citizens were reduced to ashes; when an elected member of a provincial assembly was assaulted with shoes on the premise of the august assembly; when a former minister was physically attacked by a mob in which there were a goodly number of members of the legal profession, upholders of the country's laws.

Noises were made by the various leaders who supposedly lead, vows were made that investigations and probes would be held, enquiry tribunals set up and the culprits brought to book.

All this will be forgotten as the vows are overtaken by perhaps even more dire events. We had dramatic resignations in protest, but they were withdrawn within the space of five minutes after due protests were made by the ardent followers of the upholders of the betterment of the people and the nation.
In one horrific incident, not so publicised, a factory worker of a minority community was conveniently accused of blasphemy and literally beaten to pulp and to death by his fellow co-workers who are protected under Ziaul Haq's iniquitous blasphemy laws which exist in our penal code to allow victimisation and murder.
It is high time they were brought into line with internationally recognised human rights and laws. Will this supposedly "˜secular' government act and amend?
Then we have the Hudood Ordinances which have been in existence, upheld by a succession of governments, over the past two and a half decades which ensure that if a woman is raped she will suffer legally far more severely than her violator. The pathetic government installed by President Gen Pervez Musharraf in 2002 made efforts to tone down the ordinances, but in a House with a goodly number of obscurantists occupying seats, to do away with them was impossible.

What is this new government going to do about the state of the nation's women? Is the matter of the Hudood Ordinances high on its list of priorities? It should be. We need the women members of parliament to consolidate themselves and make an effort to have them repealed once and for all.

Let us look at the governments we have had. All have had little regard for the people who have voted them in, scant regard for their inherent rights, their human rights, or for the fundamental rights guaranteed to them by the much vaunted Constitution of 1973 which they profess to hold sacred. We must also look back at the man who made that Constitution, and take careful note of his intentions. He is now proclaimed a shaheed " let him be so regarded.
Early in 1970, after Zulfikar Ali Bhutto had formed his PPP and was readying himself for the coming elections, he met up with that man of integrity who has always spoken the truth (even if taken to task for so doing), Air Marshal Asghar Khan, who was about to form his own political party.

To quote from his book We've Learnt Nothing from History (OUP 2005): ""¦Bhutto had asked me to join the Pakistan People's Party. We had two long discussions and I had tried to learn something about his political philosophy and economic programme"¦. He told me that he was sure that if I joined hands with him, and if we both set off from Karachi, he to Dadu and Larkana, and I to Hyderabad and Nawabshah, meeting at Sukkur, and then again forking out in different directions and meeting at Multan, then to Lahore and so on, by the time we reached Rawalpindi, Yahya Khan would be at the railway station to receive us. "˜We can then rule together,' he had said.
"I had asked what his programme would be after he had been installed in power. He had laughed at this enquiry and replied, "˜The programme is to rule. The people are stupid and I know how to fool them. I will have the danda (stick) in my hand and no one will be able to remove us for 20 years.' I was grateful to him for a frank expression of his views and made up my mind that our paths would be different."�
So much for intent. Then came the elections of 1970 and the story from then on to the end of 1971 when half the country was shed purposefully is far too familiar to bear repetition. Bhutto ruled over the half of Pakistan that was left to us as president up to August 1973 when he promulgated his Constitution and set himself up as prime minister with full powers.

Now we must look at the actual promulgation. Zulfikar had it all set up for noon on August 14, independence day. Celebrations in Islamabad were joyful, the lunch party launch was elaborate. In his pocket Zulfikar had ready an Order for the signature of the appointed president who had taken over from him, that good man, the meek, mild and totally ineffectual Fazal Elahi Chaudhary. At four o'clock that same afternoon the Order was signed by the president and counter-signed by the prime minister under Article 48(3).
Under this Order, the Proclamation of Emergency issued on Nov 23, 1971 was deemed to be a Proclamation of Emergency issued under Article 232 of the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan.
Under the Emergency, the president had the right to declare that the right to move any court for the enforcement of the fundamental rights guaranteed by the newly-born Constitution would remain suspended for the period during which the proclamation was in force.
Thus, the right to move any court, including the Supreme Court, stood suspended with regard to the major fundamental rights provided for in Articles 10, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 23, 24, 25 and 27 of the sacred and inviolate Constitution given to the people of Pakistan. Thus were the people fooled.

This Order was published "˜for general information' in The Gazette of Pakistan, Extra, August 15, 1973. It was an act of infamy. Within the next few days, all of Bhutto's main political opponents were arrested and jailed. The state of emergency and suspension of fundamental rights held throughout the Bhutto regime. When Ziaul Haq came in with his martial law he did a deal with the jailed politicians, freed them, and having no need of a state of emergency it was lifted.

Constitutions are man-made and can be vitiated with ease by storto politicos who have chosen to walk the wrong path. Iman and insanyat are rare commodities in this land of ours. Until someone possessing both qualities springs up from somewhere to lead us, we will remain as we are " a failing state.

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