Pakistan: A democracy abducted

Published: April 30, 2016
SHARES
Email

How did Jinnah’s vision come to this? Through wholesale civil law fare – the abuse of the law for the strategic and political gain. Religious intolerance – the kind that opposes legislative advances to protect women from violence – de facto defines Pakistani identity today, and this religious intolerance is codified into law. Both Pakistan’s lawmakers and clergy are responsible.

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s recent exposure in the Mossack Fonseca Scandal comes as no surprise to those familiar with Pakistan’s perennial opportunities for corruption amongst her ruling classes. While enraging much of the nation, the surfacing of these ugly realities has inspired its Islamist clergy.

Painting themselves even more ‘holier than thou’, Pakistan’s religious clerics are uniting in extraordinary consensus. Seizing on Sharif’s suddenly weakened position, they gather to oppose the Anti-Honour Killing amendment bill, the Anti-Rape amendment bill and the Punjab Protection of Women against Violence Act presented in Pakistan’s joint parliamentary session last month. Apparently laws containing ‘remedies for victims of violence’, criminalising ‘all forms of violence against women’ and building shelters for the protection of women and girls are anathema to the clerics’ Islam. Instead, they attack these ‘controversial bills’ as un-Islamic and profanely ‘secular’ even though such bills are indubitably aligned with Islam’s ideals.

As an observant Muslim, the only ‘controversy’ I see in these bills is that it took Pakistan 68 years to enact such laws. If Pakistan’s democracy is to be guided by Islam, then does the Holy Quran not teach us to protect our women and girls from all possible forms of violence? Does it not tell us to punish those that inflict such violence? Are we not meant to abandon the traditions of Jihaliyat (pre-Islamic Arabia), where such tribal punishments like honour killings were practised?

I can’t help thinking of my female Saudi physician colleague Dr Maha Al-Muneef who, under the patronage of the late King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, built shelters, hotlines and response mechanisms for Saudi women and children subject to domestic violence. Pakistan’s clerics seem to strive to be less compassionate than even the harshest expressions of Sharia. Opposing these bills corrodes the spirit of Islam. If the clerics succeed, denying women these legislative protections will ensure the on-going deaths of countless vulnerable women and girls.

Just as Islam is ensnared in the web of Pakistan’s Islamists, Pakistan’s financial corruption is equally entrenched amongst the nation’s powerbrokers. Less than a third of sitting parliamentarians file taxes confirming “tax evasion at the highest levels of society”. The Centre for Peace and Development Initiatives and the Centre for Investigative Reporting in Pakistan revealed only 126 of Pakistan’s 446 federal legislators filed income tax returns in 2011. Among the evaders was the Sharif’s equally ignominious predecessor, former President Asif Ali Zardari.

With tax evasion practically a social norm, international donors habitually rescuing Pakistan from financial demise are all too aware of the nation’s abominable record: a mere two per cent of Pakistani citizens are even registered to pay tax, with only a quarter of these abiding. Of course tax evasion is found most prevalent among Pakistan’s wealthy elite –namely Sharif’s ‘base’.

Worse, regionally, Pakistan stands out in its ineptitude.

Pakistan does worse in tax collection than even its developing world peers: at a tax-to-GDP ratio of 11.5% Pakistan’s tax collection ‘is among the lowest in the world’

Just like women and girls bearing the brunt of Pakistan’s Islamist clergy, Pakistan’s under-privileged share the heaviest burden of the nation’s taxation. The poor are forced to pay tax for basic utilities and other indirect taxes on goods including food, while Pakistan’s landed gentry are fully exempt from taxation. Astonishingly, Pakistan does not tax the agricultural industry! Such medieval injustices entrench Pakistan’s feudal lords at the top of Pakistan’s agrarian economy, guaranteeing wealth disparity remains ever widening.

Welcome to Pakistan: a democracy abducted. A democracy abducted by democrats who hoard (and flaunt) their wealth. A democracy abducted by the Islamists’ hybridisation of a manmade merciless ‘Sharia’ onto the organs of a hollow democracy.

How did Jinnah’s vision come to this?

Through wholesale civil law fare and through abuse of the law for personal strategic and political gains. Religious intolerance – the kind that opposes legislative advances to protect women from violence – de facto defines Pakistani identity today, and this religious intolerance is codified into law. Both Pakistan’s lawmakers and clergy are responsible. In Pakistan’s legislature today, a judiciary acquits gang-rapists to uphold misogyny, admits testimony which bears false witness against the vulnerable and passes laws which incite state-sanctioned religious persecution of both Muslim and non-Muslim minorities. A culture of impunity has taken deeply to root.

Today’s clerics are united not only in their impenetrable ignorance but in stalling genuine efforts at historic legislative advances.

It is Islamism that makes war with the secular, not Islam which embraces profoundly secular values: freedom of human will, freedom of belief, the foundations of Divinely Authored pluralistic world and the unshakeable tenet that Islam is nothing if not justice manifest. Objecting to the anti-violence against women bills are the hallmarks of the imposters of Islam, not Islam’s true stewards.

Certainly the Panama Papers have shed light on all kinds of unpleasantness. Whether bankrolls of money, portfolios of Park Lane property or an assembly of darkness consolidating deep within the barracks of Pakistan’s Islamist clerics. Pakistan with its magnificent people, noble origins and extraordinary bounty aside – is fully revealed as a deeply diseased society.

Today Pakistan has awakened not only the fragility of its most vulnerable at stake, but to the discovery that its democracy was abducted long ago.

Qanta Ahmed

Qanta Ahmed

A British Muslim who is the author of 'In the Land of Invisible Women: A Female Doctor’s Journey in the Saudi Kingdom' and a physician. She tweets @MissDiagnosis (twitter.com/MissDiagnosis)

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • vinsin

    What was slavery then? protection for women and girls. Secularism is Jihaliyat . By author definition Qasim cannot be consider as Hero. If persecution of minorities is not aim of Islam then where are Arab Pagans?
    Freedom of belief – so author is against circumcision and love Jihad?
    If Islam is justice then why Indian Muslims are in India are partition? Why Pakistan want J&K after getting 25% land and water resources.
    None of those are secular values – those are Islamic values. Secular values are women rights, child rights, animal rights, religious building and clothing laws.Recommend

  • Patwari

    Surprisingly this type of regressive behavior is becoming more prevalent
    in India. Where religious fanaticism and sectarianism has reached new
    heights. Hindustanis hindus were always a mild, secular, docile race. So,
    it proves that rising religious fervor, spares no religion. It is found all over
    the globe. Including a Prime Minister insisting that plastic surgery was
    a gift from Bharat, going back 5,000 years, [ in connection with religion ]
    A Super Read article by madame author. Seems a perfect opinion piece.
    Crafted faultlessly. And an eye opener for any denizen of the Land of the Free,
    who is still in denial. Truly, Islam has been hijacked, by these mullahs whose
    wisdom, if any comes from the depths of ignorance. They are a blight on the
    face of humanity.
    Sadly, these mullahs are not confined to Pakland. They are found all over the
    the Muslim world. including the one who said ‘the world does not revolve around
    the sun’…and the one who recommended…. ‘men should dutifully beat their wives’Recommend

  • Bairooni Haath

    Jinnah said different things to different groups. To claim that he had a vision for Pakistan is a bit farfetched. Jinnah was reluctant to bring Democracy to Pakistan because his party the Muslim League was not very strong in the provinces that became Pakistan. Nehru, Maulana Azad, Patel etc. all had their predictions for the course Pakistan would take and most of them came through. So one would not be wrong to say that Pakistan was preordained to do certain things based on the way it was formed and it turned out to be true.Recommend

  • Veryrealistic

    A democracy abducted and raped.Recommend

  • Meristan

    It is very clear that Sharif needs Clerics help to get out of corruption dilemma. Women bill will be back to 6th century rules.Recommend

  • siesmann

    Didn’t you know that MullH IS THE FINAL ARBITER OF EVERYTHING FOR A mUSLIM,AND THAT YOU have to get his opinion even to sneeze.Recommend

  • cordialguy

    completely agree with you.Recommend

  • rationalist

    “It is Islamism that makes war with the secular, not Islam which embraces
    profoundly secular values: freedom of human will, freedom of belief,
    the foundations of Divinely Authored pluralistic world and the
    unshakeable tenet that Islam is nothing if not justice manifest.
    Objecting to the anti-violence against women bills are the hallmarks
    of the imposters of Islam, not Islam’s true stewards.”

    take some time and read the Quran and learn what the true teachings are.Recommend

  • Patwari

    This is one strange convoluted comment. Coming no doubt, from
    a BJP cyber warrior troll. Paid to spew toxic venomous comments
    in Pak ePapers. But hardly anyone reads their diatribes. Because it
    is the same repetitive mantra. Hate against Muslims and Pakistan.Recommend

  • Pukhnatwaney

    Just like hindus needs RSS/Shiv Sena’s permission to even
    relieve themselves. Well, there is a shortage of toilets in Bharatland.Recommend

  • Parvez

    The clerics headed by Maulan Fazal-u-Rehman will make a lot of noise but Nawaz has dealt with him and his like many a time and every time they will change course and support him at the last moment ( not unlike Zardari ).
    Here in Pakistan the maxim ” when all are guilty then none are guilty “…..holds very true.Recommend

  • Laskero

    What are the punishments for apostasy, blasphemy, homosexuality, adultery, or petty theft in Islam? Death or mutilation.Recommend

  • gp65

    “How did Jinnah’s vision come to this?”

    Jinnah’s vision has been realized in Pakistan.
    If you were appalled by Qadri’s actions, please know that Jinnah would have supported him. Jinnah defended in court a murderer who killed someone because he thought he was a blasphemer.

    In 1948 Karachi Bar association he said “”The Prophet (PBUH) was a great teacher. He was a great law-giver. He was a great statesman and he was a great Sovereign who ruled. No doubt, there are people who do not quite appreciate when we talk of Islam. . . Islam is not only a set of rituals, traditions and spiritual doctrines. Islam is a code for every Muslim which regulates his life and his conduct in even politics and economics and the like.”

    “Why this feeling of nervousness that the future constitution of Pakistan is going to be in conflict with Shariat Laws? . . . Islamic principles today are as applicable to life as they were 1,300 years ago. “Recommend

  • np

    Bizarre statement. Some facts for you:
    1) Shiv Sena is a small party in one state out of 29 states in India
    2) RSS is not a politicial party and has never contested elections
    3) It is true that open defecation is a problem which India is trying to address. Had never heard that permission was needed for defecating in the open. Can you please provide reference?Recommend

  • gp65

    “Including a Prime Minister insisting that plastic surgery was
    a gift from Bharat, going back 5,000 years”

    So Modi goofed in talking about plastic surgery 5000 years back. What does that have to do with Pakistani laws denying rights to women and protecting men’s rights to domestic violence?

    “Surprisingly this type of regressive behavior is becoming more prevalent
    in India. Where religious fanaticism and sectarianism has reached new
    heights.”

    1, In India the police will act very promptly if any case of domestic violence is received.

    2. Sectarianism? in India Sunnis, Shias and Ahmadi Muslims can worship freely. How many Muslim majority countries is this true about?

    “Hindustanis hindus were always a mild, secular, docile race. So,
    it proves that rising religious fervor, spares no religion”
    So who spread the poison which led to a million people who had lived peacefully with each other killing each other in 1947? Yes the very same Jinnah whose vision the author seems to admire.Recommend

  • tellmemore

    “Truly, Islam has been hijacked, by these mullahs whose
    wisdom, if any comes from the depths of ignorance.”
    So Islam does NOT say that evidence of 4 good Muslim men is needed in case of rape?
    It does not talk about right hand possessions?
    It does not support killing an apostate?
    It does not support that a rich man can escape cold blooded murder by giving deeyatRecommend