The constitution is also like a confused Hamlet, trying to please the clerics as well as advocates of human rights and democratic ideals
The new governments in Islamabad and Peshawar have not yet fully set their feet in the saddles and both have received warning shots from all around. The bomb blasts in mosques of Peshawar and Swat are a rude reminder to the new Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI) government in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) that lofty wishes are not horses. Polio vaccination workers have been killed, with a stark realisation that the exit of a perceived enemy of extremism from the political scene of KP has not made any sobering effect upon preachers and promoters of hate and violence.
The debate on drone attacks also started casting its shadows on the new governments. While the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) has historically preferred strategic silence over the issue, the PTI leadership remained vocal about downing drones. The drone attack that allegedly killed Tehreek-e-Taliban’s number two, Wali ur Rehman, brought a clear message to the new political masters that the recent Barack Obama speech on drone policy notwithstanding, drones were still in business as far as the safe havens of Pakistan were concerned. Arguably this puts the new Prime Minister-elect Nawaz Sharif in a very awkward situation. He has expressed his eagerness to take up energy crisis as the top priority for his administration. But without availability of huge funds this would remain mere wishful thinking. Not only new projects for power generation need huge foreign investments but even maintaining the existing infrastructure is in a dire need of a significant cash injunction to plug the gaping hole of circular debt that keeps piling up and might reach one trillion rupees by 2014. As Mr Sharif wants to address the energy problem on a war footing the drone attack at this juncture might prove ominous for his new government. From the Jamaat-e-Islami to the PTI, almost all opposition parties would attack the PML-N government if more drone attacks happen.
Of late, the biggest drone attack, however, came from the clerical establishment. Heading a constitutional body, the Council of Islamic Ideology, Maulana Muhammad Khan Sherani, recommended to the legislature that DNA tests cannot become primary evidence in rape cases. The learned maulana sahib declared that only four witnesses can be the primary evidence as laid down in the Quran. It is interesting to see that when women rights are involved our religious establishment is only interested in the literal interpretation of the scripture without considering context of the verses. Where monetary matters are involved the clerics, however, resort to all kinds of ifs and buts to accommodate their mundane needs. For instance, in the case of riba (interest) there are clear admonitions to the extent of calling interest taker and giver an enemy of Allah and his Prophet (PBUH). We have not seen any extremist bombing banks and related monetary institutions though. In the Quran there is no mention of TV, mobile phone or motor vehicles but our maulvis have no hesitation in embracing these gifts of modern civilisation. But they are not ready to allow the consequential advancements made in the realm of human rights and jurisprudence benefit the disadvantaged sections of our society. Historically, all societies have suffered from racism, gender discrimination and class divisions. At times, religions have tried to introduce reforms but they have also institutionalised many injustices as well. Hinduism, Christianity, Judaism and all faith systems can be charged of male chauvinism towards females. But by separating legislation from religious scriptures all modern human societies have minimised pernicious effects of old times when man did not know that the earth was round and collective knowledge about human body was less than that of a normal primary school student today.
In Pakistan the situation is entirely different. As intoxicating emotionalism keeps us agitated round the clock, we are unable to separate law-making from our religious faith. The constitution is also like a confused Hamlet, trying to please the clerics as well as advocates of human rights and democratic ideals. Islamic Ideological council is a spanner in the works of modern democratic country. Sovereignty cannot be shared or divided. Even if the preamble of the constitution declares that sovereignty belongs to Allah, it is parliament alone that executes that sovereignty. In this 21st century we do not need any cleric telling us how a crime be investigated and culprits brought to book.
The religious lobby ignores three key facts when it discusses the rape issue. First, law is an organic institution. As societies evolve the notions of rights and responsibilities also change and, consequently, laws also undergo changes. As it is known, 100 years ago women could not vote in the UK. Today it is unimaginable to stop any woman from exercising this right in any democratic country. Second, the four witnesses’ requirement in the Quranic verse 24: 2-5 was in relation to the adultery accusation levelled against Hazrat Ayesha and aimed at providing legal protection to women who were customarily charged of adultery in the then Arab society. Third, our clerics do not take cognizance of the fact that the notion of rape as a crime was not developed in the then Arab society. Unlike Greek mythology or Roman law, we do not find rape mentioned as a crime in the Quran even though adultery is mentioned many times. Clerics, therefore, make a great mistake when they apply adultery provisions to cases of ‘rape’, a notion that like smart phones and a four-wheel vehicle is an invention of modern times.
If clerics find it hard to understand this, why should we give them any importance in our scheme of things? If the government genuinely wants to bring down one, the drone fired by the maulvis establishment should be the clear choice.
The writer teaches public policy in the UK and is the founding member of the Rationalist Society of Pakistan. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org