More of the same

Published: January 6, 2013
The writer is a lawyer and partner at Ijaz and Ijaz Co 
in Lahore 

The writer is a lawyer and partner at Ijaz and Ijaz Co in Lahore saroop.ijaz@

The new year in Pakistan is condemned to get off to a wretched start for multiple reasons. However, none is more depressing than the death anniversary of Salmaan Taseer. Governor Taseer was martyred in the first week of January. The murder remains painful not only because of the murdered, perhaps the bravest man that Pakistani politics has seen, but also because of the murderer. Mumtaz Qadri was not an ‘amorphous’ enemy. He was clearly identifiable; his vile grinning face was inescapable. The murder could not be ascribed to vague, semi-coherent reasons of ‘empire’ and ‘war on terror’, etc. It brought out the distilled violence and hatred inherent to the enemy we face. And the fear, cowardice and evasiveness with which we face it. It is useful to recall the ‘sin’ for which he was martyred. He stood up for a Christian woman (who by the way is still in prison). He stood up against the ‘Islamised’ blasphemy law of Ziaul Haq. Every time you hear about a blasphemy law case, oppression of minorities, religious bigotry, think about Salmaan Taseer and how we treat brave men and women in this country. Also think about his son, who has been missing for over a year, for no other crime than being the son of a man who refused to be a coward.

Dr Tahirul Qadri, at that time, had, by relative standards, taken a somewhat rational and courageous approach to the issue and condemned the murder. Thus, he was lauded by some as a ‘moderate’ cleric. As a general principle, it is always helpful to remember a cleric is a ‘cleric’ before he is ‘moderate’. Sheikh ul Islam is back from a long vacation and is ready to save us. Nobody apparently knows how one becomes a ‘Sheikh ul Islam’, probably a trade secret. It is certainly impolite to ask. Why His grace chose to come back when a democratically-elected government is completing its term and did not bring his revolutionary agenda when an army dictator was in power remains as heavily guarded a secret as who is his tailor.

His grace is welcome to come back as and when he chooses and engage in politics. His slogan has a catchy tune to it, “Siyasaat nahin, Riyasaat bachao” (save the republic, not politics). The only irksome thing is the lack of creativity and laziness. Some of you will remember Ziaul Haq’s, “pehle ethesaab, phir intikhab” (accountability first, then elections). If one were to hazard a guess, probably written by the same veteran copywriter in ISPR. It is not great expose to point out that His grace is here because of ‘our saviours’. Still, it would be nice if we are shown some respect and some effort is put into the disguise.

The rhetoric of Maulana is fairly similar, if not identical to what we have heard every time there is about to be a democratic transition of power, the PNAs, the IJIs. In Habib Jalib’s words, “Bahut mein ne suni hai aap ki taqreer Maulana/Magar badli nahin ab tak meri taqdeer Maulana” (Too long I have heard you preach and prate, Maulana/But so far there has been no change in my fate, Maulana).

One of the major arguments of the Sheikh is that only those candidates who fulfil the rather stringent criteria of Articles 62 and 63 of the Constitution of Pakistan as amended by Ziaul Haq should be eligible to contest elections. The said articles containing precise requirements such as, “sagacious, righteous, non-profligate, ameen, … Not commonly known as one who violates Islamic injunctions”, etc. This along with the death anniversary of Governor Taseer, killing of Shias, the polio vaccine volunteers and the stupid ban on YouTube should make one rephrase our clichéd question of  “Is this Jinnah’s Pakistan?” to “Is this Zia’s Pakistan”? The answer would be a depressed yet unambiguous, yes.

It is mildly heartening to see the PPP, the PML-N, the ANP and the PTI displaying maturity and not joining this ‘Tahrir Square’ show. All these parties have considerable vote banks and are prepared to test their mettle in the elections. It will be for the best if they can put their political differences aside just for this one-point agenda. ‘Our friends’ are nobody’s friend in the long run, something His grace may find out soon. Many people have seen the light and in days to come, perhaps some more will still of Maulana’s revolutionary agenda. Brace yourself for a lot of talk of how our experiment with democracy has failed, we have had enough, anything is better than this, etc. This is all rubbish. This “mutilated, moth-eaten, truncated” democracy is all that we have got, and it is still better than the khakis and their puppets.

Published in The Express Tribune, January 6th, 2013. 

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Reader Comments (19)

  • Raza Khan
    Jan 6, 2013 - 12:47AM

    Fully agree with you!


  • John B
    Jan 6, 2013 - 12:57AM

    My hunch is that he is brought in as a buffer by the key political parties themselves , with blessings of the so called deep state, to counteract the growing influence of religious outfits and their political wings who are paralyzing the government.

    Who benefits if his agenda is met or not met? Everyone in PAK knows that he is not a political force but a mass force and which mass force he is attracting or keeping away and why now ?


  • Hammad
    Jan 6, 2013 - 1:53AM

    Pakistan has a very few real democrats. If Imran Khan didn’t believe he had a sizable votebank (which he does), he would be opposing democracy too. You can’t forget PTI bargained with Musharraf for seats in the ’02 elections, just like TuQ.


  • Asif
    Jan 6, 2013 - 1:59AM

    Nice and very clearly written.


  • Arifq
    Jan 6, 2013 - 1:59AM

    Well said Saroop! Salman Taseer stands tall in a country ruled by pygmies when it comes to integrity and bravery. As for Allama Tahir and his Tahrir square, it seems those who launched his second awakening are either getting cold feet or this was just another very expensive trial balloon. Having said that, we are making judgements based on circumstantial evidence which cannot be used in the court of law. Therefore, for a minute lets give the Allama the benefit of doubt and allow him his two minutes of stardom. Since we know, functional democracies tolerate and appreciate mavericks simply because of their ability to highlight issues other conventional parties find difficult to express. Hence, assuming Mr. Qadri manages to be the catalyst for some electoral reform, then his job is done.


  • Adil
    Jan 6, 2013 - 2:25AM

    Not really convinced. Even though Qadri hasn’t fully explained his position on electoral reforms etc, I have not heard anything yet that goes against what people pakistani people want.

    Until he crosses certain red lines such as delaying elections, giving military an increased role etc, we should give him the benefit of doubt


  • kanwal
    Jan 6, 2013 - 2:38AM

    A very well written article! I wonder what the Mr Maulana will have to say about Salman Taseer murder now. And then what about his son?


  • sabi
    Jan 6, 2013 - 3:22AM

    I have seen Pakistan geting robed by ch’rb zaban (orator) in buses,trains.lari adas.mosques,at manber rasool,parliaments,outside parliments,by khakis,mullahs,journalists.businesmen.In general, we understand the presence of noosar baz but what to say people have short memories and less staminas.And they (noosar baz) know it very well.And that’s why they feel no shame ,no fear,no accountability when making come back in broad day light.And to make matter worse ,youtube is banned.
    Excellant piece.regards.


  • Pakistani
    Jan 6, 2013 - 6:17AM

    Bravo Saroop Bravo! Well said! We are not going to be taken for another ride


  • Mirza
    Jan 6, 2013 - 9:01AM

    Once again a fair and pragmatic Op Ed by my favorite legal scholar. Thanks ET for that. Pakistani voters are not total fool they are smarter than many think. We know that before most elections there was King’s party, MMA, or 9 party alliance of losing rightwing parties to conspire against progressive democrats. They forget it is 21st century and the foreign aid is conditional that the army must be subservient to elected govt. The courts are independent and the popular politicians who have any chance in elections are not going to be fooled easily. The condition of Ameen and others is lot of hog wash. Zia promised elections in 90 days but if he would not have fallen from the sky he would still be the dictator. He was the worst thing that happened to Pakistan.Recommend

  • Saad K
    Jan 6, 2013 - 9:26AM

    Is democracy really better…even after all the events that happened under democracy that the author described in the same article. If Salman Taseer cannot get the credit he deserves under the rule of his own party, why are we so keen to save this system. What are we saving it from. And what is wrong with acting on the constitutional requirements of who should be able to run for elections. If those amendments in the constitution done under Zia were so harmful for democracy than why didn’t this govt. had them removed. So either you don’t follow the constitution or you do, or is it whatever suits the ruling party….


  • Aijaz Haider
    Jan 6, 2013 - 2:43PM

    “This “mutilated, moth-eaten, truncated” democracy is all that we have got, and it is still better than the khakis and their puppets.”
    I agree with this statement of the author. Also I agree with the statement (I don’t remember who said it), “The answer to bad democracy is MORE democracy”.


  • Parvez
    Jan 6, 2013 - 3:50PM

    Agree with your write up to an extent.
    A system that has and in its present form, will not deliver for the people, requires to be changed or at least modified – this is common sense. If the powers that be are working to this end, then what is wrong in that ? The puzzling question is ‘ Are they actually working to this end or is it an exercise in self preservation ?’


  • Anonymous
    Jan 6, 2013 - 7:06PM

    Not only this but even in fifties Iskander Mirza used Khan Qayoom for long march and postponed elections who was finally booted out . Ayoub came and he banned multitude of politician under certain acts for 10 years, under similar pretext as sadik and amin.
    Who invented this modes operandi? May be by people who topple Iranain prime ministet(? Tasasuq hussain ) to bring in shah!
    One more point,feudalism does not go away without true urbanization that does not come without industrialization where relationship between producer and labour changes.
    Unfortunately our cities are big villages. People who live there have same feudal mindset.
    There is famous speech by Khawaja a asif on you tube in 2006 in national assembly on this.there is no shor cut.


  • Haji Mastan
    Jan 6, 2013 - 10:37PM

    Author has exposed the Qadri’s agenda well.


  • Raja Dahir
    Jan 6, 2013 - 10:40PM

    Nawaz isn’t much different from Qadir either. He supports Taliban (described as closeted Taliban) and did not condemn Governor Taseer’s murder or the murder of many minorities in his state.


  • Chilly Halal Pork
    Jan 6, 2013 - 11:01PM

    Evocative article from the author as usual!
    Democracy takes decades to mature and I lament for those naysayers who are seeking immediate change (a dictatorship) in Pakistan. Don’t you realize that the quick change is what got you into this position in the first place? In Pakistan, due to the previous history of coups, it will take much, much longer for people’s psyche to stop thinking of shortcut measures.
    I am personally looking forward to these elections in Pakistan as it would (fingers crossed, still) be the first time a government completes its term and peaceful transition of power takes place in Pakistan, no matter who the victor.

    @Mirza: While you paint Zia with a black brush as often as you can, I hope someday you will acknowledge that Bhutto was no angel either.


  • John the Baptist
    Jan 6, 2013 - 11:08PM


    Thanks for wasting my time with your irrelevant reference to Khwaja’s speech–I did listen to it and it is only an anti army tirade, not a speech against Feudalism. You must be an N supporter!


  • Zab
    Jan 7, 2013 - 3:43PM

    Dear Mr. Saroop, what have these status-qou democrats done for us over and over again…? how much tax do they pay? “….On our roads, our high and mighty travel with guards that bully other motorists. The servants of the people don’t stop at traffic lights, don’t pay toll or parking fees and park where they want….”

    The degrees of 51 parliamentarians were found to be forged. In addition, some 250 parliamentarians have refused to submit their original documents to the Higher Education Commission for verification, in clear defiance of the orders of the Supreme Court. In any other country, such legislators would have ended up in jail for forgery, the government would have collapsed and new mid-term elections would have been held. But not in the Land of the Pure. The former chief election commissioner decided not to obey the orders of the Supreme Court and looked the other way. The Supreme Court should have acted swiftly as this was a most urgent national matter — the presence of some 300 persons sitting illegally in our National and provincial assemblies, controlling the destiny of our country and making our laws. A contempt of court notice should have been served on the chief election commissioner in 2010.

    And what has been done by the current reputable Chief Election Commissioner, Fakhro Bhai so far?? All these smuggs and they non elected party cronies will keep on looting and polluting this nation for next five years if not checked…? Electoral reforms are a must if we need common people to get into the parliament? I hope you can well imagine how much does it takes to contest general elections in our country?


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