What’s in a (soft) drink?

Published: February 20, 2012

The writer is assistant professor of history at Forman Christian College and an editor at Oxford University Press

The recent controversy over an alleged ban on Shezan products within the precincts of the lower courts in Lahore, approved by the Lahore Bar Association (LBA) just because the owners of the company happen to be Ahmadi, has rightly sent shock waves through sections of Pakistani society. While it is still unclear if the ban has indeed been imposed, it is at least clear that such a resolution has been presented for consideration at the LBA general meeting. Regardless of the ‘legal’ situation of the issue, this event highlights a few very important things.

First, the proposed ban has the support of a cross section of the lawyers in Lahore. Mr Ghulam Mustafa Chaudhry, President of the Khatme Nabuwat Lawyers Forum (which has several hundred members according to available information) has presented a motion for this ban, and who knows that it might be approved at the general meeting, if it already has not been done. The point to underscore here is that such discriminatory actions cannot be voted upon. One cannot legalise discrimination using democratic means. No resolution in any democratic forum (assuming that the LBA is democratic) can take away the inalienable right of protection against discrimination.

Secondly, the ban was proposed by lawyers — people who have received at least 17 years of education. Often we hear that discrimination — against people from different religions, classes, ethnicities, backgrounds — are hallmarks of an ‘uneducated’ person; that with modern education, people become enlightened and appreciative of basic human rights. However, here we have highly educated people who are indulging in blatant discrimination. It is indeed shocking to remember that these were indeed the same lawyers who came out on the streets a few years ago, on the principle of justice when the chief justice was unfairly removed from office. So it seems that education does not necessarily civilise people.

Thirdly, this action shows that one, the main problem in Pakistan is that here people tend to view everything from a religious lens. Unless everything is religiously sound, it does not hold merit. So it does not makes a difference that Dr Abdus Salam was a Nobel Laureate in Physics, he was an Ahmadi and as such, whatever he did was useless. Similarly, Sir Zafrullah Khan, (our first foreign minister and earlier a Judge of the Federal Court of India and later President of the International Court of Justice) was unacceptable because he was an Ahmadi too. In the same vein, Justice Cornelius and Justice Rana Bhagwandas should not have risen to high positions, not because they were bad judges, but because the former was a Christian and the latter a Hindu.

Interestingly we are not unmatched in this approach. Case in point is the United States where religion, too, plays a major role in deciding what people think about a certain person. Therefore, for some conservative Christians, George W Bush was a good person since he opposed abortion (even though little happened in his two terms to stop it), and Barack Obama is bad because he does not oppose abortion. Similarly, their other policies are irrelevant to these people.

I know I am pointing out the obvious, but such an approach to life simply shows that we have yet to become ‘discerning’ beings.

This incident is also a litmus test for the so-called liberals in Pakistan. It is one thing to speak in English, buy international brands and eat at high-end restaurants, and quite another to speak out and act against all kinds of discrimination. Some of these liberals might now support Shezan since its ‘cool’ to do so, but would they also treat their workers with respect and not ridicule someone who comes from a lower class, different caste, or a minority religion?

Such discernment and sense is required at all levels if one is truly ‘liberal’.

Published in The Express Tribune, February 21st, 2012.

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Reader Comments (58)

  • the only rationalist left
    Feb 20, 2012 - 10:32PM

    By using the word “discriminatory,” you have already assumed that such actions are discriminatory. You have not provided any evidence for supporting your position that a group of people banning a product based on the religious and philosophical identity of the seller is indeed discriminatory. Not in Darwinian world, Sir.

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  • Javed
    Feb 20, 2012 - 10:47PM

    @the only rationalist left:
    You just proved the author’s point. Thanks.

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  • owais
    Feb 20, 2012 - 10:51PM

    “Some of these liberals might now support Shezan since its ‘cool’ to do so, but would they also treat their workers with respect and not ridicule someone who comes from a lower class, different caste, or a minority religion?”

    I don’t really understand where all this ‘liberal’ bashing seems to come from these days. I started reading this piece expecting a justified denunciation of the ban and the people behind it but instead it ends up bashing ‘liberals’. Being objective does not mean that we hold all parties culpable for the sake of appearing objective, because all parties are not culpable in this case and so-called liberals are certainly not culpable for the ban on shezan.

    It simply seems incapable of distinguishing between individual discrimination and state discrimination. Yes, individual discrimination exists in every country and even in the US as you pointed out but the state does not support it and does not place restrictions on economic activity based on the owner’s religion as it is against their constitution, and so that is where the US and Pakistan diverge. What we have here is a marginalization of a community by the Pakistan state and the bigoted defenders of the laws of that state on the basis of their religion. If there is a litmus test, it is for the government and Pakistani society as a whole, not for the liberals who’ve being quite vociferous in their bashing of this ban.Recommend

  • sidjeen
    Feb 20, 2012 - 11:03PM

    First of all what has been done by section of the lawyers community is very disturbing to say the least secondly while great injustices have been committed against minorities and women of this country the woman of this country have shown great courage to step forward and fight for their rights woman like mukhtaran mai and uzma ayub are shinning beacons of dignity and courage for all civilized people but for some strange reason no ahmadi has ever came forward to put an end to the injustices committed against this community i mean we need to know who we liberals (expecting the fanatics to fight for humans is asking for too much so all lost causes are left to the liberals) are fighting for you cannot fight a faceless war in fact the ahmadis are living in such hiding that in my 30 years of existence i have yet to meet a person who calls himself an ahmadi.

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  • faraz
    Feb 20, 2012 - 11:15PM

    Criticizing the ban is certainly not cool. People immediately start doubting your religious beliefs. Mostly think anyone talking against Shezan ban is himself an Ahmadi. Same goes for sectarian killings of Shias

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  • whoever
    Feb 20, 2012 - 11:25PM

    @Mr.Author

    Unfortunately I don’t agree with you . According to Islamic laws , all Muslims eat Halal meat items . Now if I ask the same question “What is in (Halal) meat ?” . Both halal and non halal meat taste same , smell same …then why do we follow this special food procedure ?

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  • HJ
    Feb 20, 2012 - 11:30PM

    It’s an Islamic Republic, whaddaya expect? Get to the root of the problem – make it a secular country. Then there might be hope of people looking at things from a more rational point of view.

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  • HJ
    Feb 20, 2012 - 11:35PM

    @owais:
    i think he’s not bashing liberals, but rather people masquerading as liberals by doing show-offy things but are not liberal and progressive in their actual beliefs and morals. for example, someone thinking they’re so liberal for wearing sleeveless, but still having backwards thinking

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  • Ahad
    Feb 20, 2012 - 11:45PM

    @whoever

    Brother,
    You are trying to say Shezan products are haram???? Because i did not got to understand your justification. If we wanted to ban products based on religions then we should have banned all the products that are being imported to Pakistan from America, Israel, France, n half of the freakin world. And u know it vet well that even are basic nesseciaty items like the iron from which we press our clothes is usually of Phillips which is again a product of west.

    I thnk what you are tryin to say is a baseless argument as i have also accidently eaten haram chicken which i mean to say is Non-halal and the tastes are a bit different. try to accept the reality. Islam promotes research try to find out whats going on then make up your own perception.

    no hard feelings Take care

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  • wasim ahmad
    Feb 20, 2012 - 11:46PM

    Its very strange to ban form the people who called themselves as educated pople.Our country is full with intolerance. No one want to see others and unfortunately on the name of Islam.I want to point out jus one thing.At the time of the Holy Prophet s.a.w.s it was his enemies who ban of Muslim and Muslims never ban to non believer.In this age you could not live on your on without other countries with out other nations and without one part of society. I like this article and we require such people more and more who come out and tell good thing and spread peace.

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  • yousaf
    Feb 20, 2012 - 11:47PM

    As I see things in Pakistan everyone here is a “liberal”(see the results of political elections)we only do not accept it openly because of “reasons”.What we import and in exchange for what we export is another example of us being “liberal” as we seldom bother to find-out the sources of our imports.Most of the imports are from countries which we otherwise claim to dislike,strange?.We are a people who will throw away a full cup of tea just because we happen to see a fly in it but chocolates,drinks and sweets?,we eat/drink with great pleasure because we do not know where and how they are made or come from.We are great at doing small things,I wish we were otherwise

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  • pakistani
    Feb 20, 2012 - 11:51PM

    @whoever:
    lol do you halal mango’s? or fruits in general for that matter? :P and just in case is minutemaid halal? etc etc all these foreign products, yet they are mass marketed in pakistan, then why pick on ahmedis? what have they done to hurt you that supposedly say india hasnt? yet indian products are very popular esp in khi, and rightfully so cause they are qualitatively better simple, but by ur definition made by infidels lol yet ppl dont say anything abt them :/

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  • Arifq
    Feb 20, 2012 - 11:59PM

    Dear writer! You are late by about nearly thirty years only, that’s when Ahmedisvwere declared non-muslims in the 1973 constitution which was agreed and passed with all political parties on board, through consensus I.e. Democratic voting principle! For some this sorry state began with the Objective Resolutiom declaring Republic of Pakistan to be Islamic Republic of Pakistan thus negating all rights to religious minorities. This Shezan issue has been blown out of proportion, why give so much importance to these lawyers, a bunch of bullies who will attack anyone challenging THEIR supremacy, upholding the law is the last thing on their mind. As for the movement to protect the CJP, we have the lawyers actions post victory and they speak louder than words.

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  • Feb 21, 2012 - 12:10AM

    The last bit comes off as a clumsy attempt to appease the conservatives, who might otherwise call the article “biased” (which, rest assured, they will anyway). It’s an effort to depict symmetrical lunacy, where there’s clearly no symmetry at all!

    Liberals, especially secularists, have always been on the side of the minorities. Lecturing them on respecting the minorities is like teaching a monkey how to eat a banana. And in no logical universe can you equate a liberal’s sarcastic remark towards a certain ideology with the right-wing’s all-out legal war against freedom of belief and say, “Meh, potato potaato..”

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  • Feb 21, 2012 - 12:12AM

    “This incident is also a litmus test for the so-called liberals in Pakistan. It is one thing to speak in English, buy international brands and eat at high-end restaurants, and quite another to speak out and act against all kinds of discrimination.”

    If liberals are going to do that in the face of armed religious crazies and a petrified police force what choice do they have other to arm and organize themselves in self-defense?

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  • Feb 21, 2012 - 12:15AM

    Most soft drinks are sugar, water, artificial flavors and stablizing chemicals, any health concious person will try to stay away from them.Recommend

  • Feb 21, 2012 - 12:18AM

    This is yet another dark day in the history of our country. Our exceeding bigotry and extremist are tearing apart our nation as a unified organic whole of a society which functions normally.

    Until sanity start to prevail, we are lost.

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  • Liberal basher
    Feb 21, 2012 - 12:25AM

    Regardless the content of the Article, or the point of view the author might have, On every post there is someone who talks about “bashing liberals”. Seriously whats the point?

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  • ayesha khan
    Feb 21, 2012 - 12:28AM

    @whoever: “Unfortunately I don’t agree with you . According to Islamic laws , all Muslims eat Halal meat items . Now if I ask the same question “What is in (Halal) meat ?” . Both halal and non halal meat taste same , smell same …then why do we follow this special food procedure ?”

    You are comparing incomparables. When it comes to halal, it is only the method of slaughter that we are supposed to pay attention to. Not whether the owner of the slaughterhouse is Hindu, Muslim, Christian. Nowhere in Quran does it say that we can only purchase halal meat from Muslim butchers.

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  • ayesha khan
    Feb 21, 2012 - 12:38AM

    BTW, like the author’s new picture. Looks nice.

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  • Arindom
    Feb 21, 2012 - 1:09AM

    Please donot mix support/opposition to Abortion with Religion. Certain religions leaders may take a stance on the issue of abortion – but stance on the issue itself is not something to identify one’s religion with. There would be Hindus and Muslims who either support or oppose abortion. Those Hindus and Muslims who oppose abortion donot become ‘Christians’.

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  • Aijaz Malik
    Feb 21, 2012 - 1:36AM

    @author
    You calling these lawyers “educated”, give me a break.

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  • Mazhar
    Feb 21, 2012 - 1:36AM

    It’s ridiculous. Grow-up brothers.

    Respect and honour all human beings irrespective of their religion,
    colour, race, sex, language, status, property, birth, profession/job and so
    on [17/70]
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  • Babloo
    Feb 21, 2012 - 1:58AM

    Discrimination based on religion is ‘protected, promoted and sanctified’ by the Pakistani constitution, the day it was written that Hindus cannot become president or prime-misnister of Pakistan and other such discriminatory laws were imposed by the state itself on its citizens.

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  • Lady gaga
    Feb 21, 2012 - 2:11AM

    I wonder how pakis would feel if western countries started a boycott of pakistani products because they are produced in an islamic country Recommend

  • saleem
    Feb 21, 2012 - 3:06AM

    There was time when PM of India Morarji Desai claimed drinking urine was good for health, so to all khatme lawyers …viva desai cola

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  • Umer
    Feb 21, 2012 - 4:27AM

    Bannin­g Shezan shows that the main proble­m in Pakist­an is that people tend to view everyt­hing from a religi­ous lens.

    Correction: Banning Shezan shows that the main proble­m in Punjab is that people in Punjab tend to view everything from a religiously bigoted lens.

    There are plenty of religious people in the world but not many do this; exceptions aside. In Pakistan religious bigotry is principally a Punjabi trait. Consider for example the number of blasphemy cases in only a handful of districts in middle Punjab which number around 80% of the total blasphemy cases in the country; or the incidents of Gojra and Shanti Nager or the jubiliation on Govenor Taseer’s murder and it clearly transpires that many Punjabis of middle Punjab (takht-e-Lahore and around) are fundamentally bigoted.Recommend

  • Mustafa Moiz
    Feb 21, 2012 - 6:35AM

    I don’t think I’m a liberal, but I’ve always felt a serious concern at the position of Ahmadis. I occasionally but Shezan drinks, but now I will make it a point to do so in view of this disgusting ban.

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  • Imran Ahsan Mirza
    Feb 21, 2012 - 6:55AM

    @whoever:
    So it means you should not drink Jewish/Christian drinks, the major 2 brands of Colas in Pakistan, stop importing milk products, Onions from India and the list can go on and on to declare a new kind of Halal definition. Our Holy Prophet Muhammad (SAW) had eaten food from his non-Muslim neighbours. All the so called Islamisation by this small bunch of lawyers is in fact unislamic and against the true teachings of Islam. Shezan is a juice derived from fruit, what Islam or Halal has to do with it? If you like it pay for it and drink it and if you don’t go and have a lassi.

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  • SaudiRules
    Feb 21, 2012 - 7:25AM

    The solution to the whole Ahmadiyya/Qadiani situation is simple. Muslims all over the world believe in the finality of the Prophet(PBUH), the Ahmadiyya/Qadiani do not believe in that finality, that is the main crux of problem.
    Why do Ahmadiyya/Qadiani keep on insisting themselves to be muslims, why cant they be proud of their own prophet and religion, just like hindus, xtians, sikhs etc? For example (As far as I know), sikhism is very similar to hindusm, just like Ahmadiyya/Qadiani religion is very close/similar to Islam, but sikhs dont call them hindus (at least, that what i think, i am not an expert in either hindu or sikh religion) and hindus also call them sikhs and not hindus.

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  • OS
    Feb 21, 2012 - 7:36AM

    First they came for the Ahmadis, and I didnt speak out because I wasnt an Ahmadi.
    Then they came for the Christians, and I didnt speak out because I wasnt a Christian.
    Then they came for the Hindus, and I didnt speak out because I wasnt a Hindu.
    Then they came for the Shias, and I didnt speak out because I wasnt a Shia.
    Then they came for the Deobandis, and I didnt speak out because I wasnt a deobandi.
    Then they came for the Barelvis, and I didnt speak out because I wasnt a Barelvi.
    Then they came for the Sunnis, and I didnt speak out because I wasnt a Sunni.
    Eventually they came for for the pathans, punjabis, balochis, sindhis, short, dark, brown, tall, fair, fat, thin, male, female, old and young.
    And I didnt speak out because I was none of those.

    And then they came for me, and there was nobody left to speak out for me.

    Citizens of Pakistan, we are all human. Where does this end?

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  • Ahmed Anwar
    Feb 21, 2012 - 8:39AM

    Cry the beloved country cry

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  • Feb 21, 2012 - 8:39AM

    @Author,

    If you have a passport, you have also actively discriminated against the Ahmadis, by signing THE pledge against them, you realize that dont you?

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  • muazzam khan
    Feb 21, 2012 - 9:12AM

    The writer has truly depicted the conservative and narrow minded ideology of pakistani people.
    If the lawyers start thinking in this manner who are the justice provider then what difference will remain between them and an extremist.If they are to ban a product whose owner is not a muslim then they should apply this to all other products and by doing, our majority of products will be banned which will cast a havoc for our so called pakistani muslims. because all major products whether edibles, medical equipments and etc are imported. We are the people who simply utilize religion to manipulate our political and personal affairs without thinking their exacerbated consequences on the whole society.

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  • Feb 21, 2012 - 9:17AM

    so what if they are non Muslims ???
    arnt we muslims living among different people of different religions ??
    so we are going to stop being HUMANS
    by closing down their business are we following OUR religion Islam ?
    we are supposed to respect all from different caste color creed
    if u all feel that im wrong then fine throw out all who are not Muslims out of Pakistan & bring back all Pakistanis Muslims back from uk, usa ,paris etc etc as they should also not live in non Muslims CountriesRecommend

  • Munir A Saeed
    Feb 21, 2012 - 9:41AM

    OS you are spot on! Will we ever stand up for Ahmadis, was not declaring them non Muslims enough.

    Ahmadis are citizens of Pakistan and have every right to do business. On a lighter note, will these bigots stop using all imported gadgets as they may be made by people of other faith or no faith at all.

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  • Mustafa Moiz
    Feb 21, 2012 - 9:48AM

    @SaudiRules:
    Actually, if you examine the different sects we have, I can name a very prominent sect that is actually much further away from mainstream orthodox Islam, but is considered a Muslim sect.

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  • Noor
    Feb 21, 2012 - 10:24AM

    Fine, we’re not dis-allowed to eat or drink with or from Non-Muslims, but if they start some sort of propaganda or campaign against the Muslims, we could, as a threatening step start by making a partial economic boycott, by not purchasing their goods.

    Islam provides equal opportunities to all religions to prosper, and rather better security for non-Muslims, by placing this responsibility on a Muslim state’s shoulders.

    Let it be any religion, if they’re not harming Muslims, we can’t ban their products.

    Anyway, it is personal choice of any individual, whether to buy a product of a certain group or not!

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  • sybil daniel
    Feb 21, 2012 - 10:50AM

    well written Mr. Yaqoob. Nothing is in a soft drink. Its all in the heads of these Morons

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  • jock
    Feb 21, 2012 - 11:03AM

    @OS:
    You forgot the left-handed people my friend…have you ever seen them sneaking a bite with their ‘impure’ hand? Their day of doom will come too.

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  • Tariq
    Feb 21, 2012 - 11:28AM

    I believe its the product not the manufacturer that makes any food Haram. If praying mats are being manufactured in China, it does’t mean praying on that mats are Haram. I think its another diversion by the government from the real issues. We have tons of other very important issues to discuss then Shezan, which i think is created purposely.

    Regards,

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  • M Khan
    Feb 21, 2012 - 12:01PM

    If the Pakistan Parliament has the authority to decide peoples religion and declaring Muslims to be Non-Muslims (and stop them from even calling the Azan which has kalmah shahadah). then it can also pass a bill declaring Hindus to be Muslims and all troubles with India may end!.

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  • Khanum
    Feb 21, 2012 - 12:20PM

    Why hard rules for soft drink?

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  • maria
    Feb 21, 2012 - 12:47PM

    if we are banning ahmedies products………..lets ban all the jew,christian,indian,chinese n japanese products………………there is no justification for doing one n not others…??

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  • IFTIKHAR-UR-REHMAN
    Feb 21, 2012 - 1:22PM

    We ban SHEZAN PRODUCTS because they are manufactured by Ahmadis but we import every imaginable drink, food stuff ( halal or not) from all over the world including JEWS. What a funny nation we are!!!!

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  • Feb 21, 2012 - 1:43PM

    I am quite strange feeling about the fact that all media sections like channels, newspaper online and printed and bloggers are very keen about ahmadis who have very false belief which always created panic in muslims. Do I think its your duty to spread western indoctrination to support those people who are damaging Islamic ideology

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  • Cynical
    Feb 21, 2012 - 5:58PM

    It’s interesting. If a ‘soft-drink’ can cause so much excitement, just imagine what a ‘hard- drink’ would do.

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  • Ahmee
    Feb 21, 2012 - 6:44PM

    Article…Pointing out to the obvious…the article has named Dr. Abdus Salam and Sir Zafar- Ullah-Khan, the disowned sons of Pakistan alas we have not learned at all.

    Religious extremism and intolerance is in our societies blood and it will not go that easy it would take a lot of more calamity and disasters. We have taken the matters of Allah in our own hands so we ought to suffer locally and globally.

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  • mateen
    Feb 21, 2012 - 8:42PM

    carpeted drawing rooms decorated with valuable furniture, speaking English and if not having good command than relying on Urdu, well-maintained home, car etc. this all what civility means for us. Human values, impartiality, kindness, respect for others irrespective of their class or faith, malice free mindset, honest means of earning etc have no room in our self-styled terms of civility. To us Drug baron is Haji Sahib, we welcome him with a lot deference, Land mafia Dons are equally respectable, they can be our elected representative likewise we have pinned high hopes with blood thirsty and ruthless killer demagogues. There is dire need to look into social and psychological fabric we are trapped in. Lawyers who put resolution to ban Shezan, have many other ways to ensure some space in paradise hereafter but it seems they believe by banning Shezan they will please Al-mighty and get a plot in paradise.

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  • Zalim singh
    Feb 21, 2012 - 8:45PM

    can pakistan ban all soft drinks?

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  • Roshan Zameer
    Feb 21, 2012 - 9:13PM

    Pity on the LBC….proven JAHILS of highest orders…..pseudo intellectuals!

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  • SaudiRules
    Feb 21, 2012 - 9:26PM

    @Mustafa Moiz commented:

    “@SaudiRules:
    Actually, if you examine the different sects we have, I can name a very prominent sect that is actually much further away from mainstream orthodox Islam, but is considered a Muslim sect.”

    That is a different argument. All the muslim sects regardless of their biases and philosophical leaning, agree on one thing, the finality of the Prophet(PBUH)!! Am I wrong?
    As I said, that is the crux of the the whole Ahmadiyya/Qadiani situation.

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  • muneer
    Feb 21, 2012 - 10:12PM

    Oh for heaven’s sake, Pakistanis……grow up!

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  • Sultan
    Feb 21, 2012 - 10:51PM

    @whoever:

    There is no pork in Shezan juice.

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  • Umer
    Feb 22, 2012 - 7:19AM

    @SaudiRules:

    By your standard west should ban products from Pakistan as most Pakistanis are not of correct faith according to majority of Westerners. If US banned imports from Pakistan on this ground you would be the one making most noise here and calling them islamophobes and what not.

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  • omar
    Feb 23, 2012 - 12:56AM

    i don’t get it. each day whenever i read the news i don’t know whats a joke article and what isn’t. Banning shezan? are you insane? it’s just a disgusting way to pick on ahmadhis and minorities. Not to mention the numerous more important things these “lawyers” could be setting up cases on. I’m sorry but the conservatives in this country are all insane. I didn’t protest against mushy for garbage like this to flood our courts. it’s a perfect example of the lunatics running the asylum. Rather than attacking a Pakistani domestic business that employs thousands of people and helps the economy we should be banning idiot “lawyers” from wasting everyone’s time.

    @OS:

    sir, you are a gentlemen and a scholar for re-quoting martin numoller like that.

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  • A.M. Hussain
    Feb 24, 2012 - 6:28PM

    Because a rational thinker doesn’t need to be spoon-fed, like an infant, the exact reason why prohibition of a product because of it’s manufacturer’s religious belief is discriminatory. @the only rationalist left:

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