Posts Tagged ‘Law’

If I Were a Christian

March 16, 2013

What would I be thinking if I were a Christian in Pakistan today after yet another incident that has victimized the members of my community? What would I be asking of those who are my fellow citizens?

I use the term ‘fellow citizens,’ knowingly because I am asking for a reciprocal recognition of my rights as a full citizen of this country. These include my civil rights, the protection of my life and property, which are guaranteed under the law.

I would urge my fellow citizens to understand the nature of the incident in which the houses of an entire community have been burned for the alleged transgression of one member of that community. (more…)


Two Fires

October 16, 2012

By C. M. Naim

On Tuesday, September 11, 2012, a horrific fire in a garment factory in the Baldia Township in Karachi killed at least 259 persons, male and female. As I read about it on subsequent days I was reminded of another fire that occurred a century earlier—to be exact, on Saturday, November 25, 1911—in New York City. It too was in a garment factory, and took 146 lives, mostly young females. Named after the shirtwaist factory where it occurred, it is known in American history as the Triangle Fire. To refresh my memory I took to the books, and soon realized that the Triangle Fire had a few lessons for the present day Pakistan.[1] (more…)

Informal Labour at the Root of Corporate Corruption

August 6, 2011

By Dipankar Gupta

If bribe giving is legalized will that ground the bribe taker for good? This suggestion was made recently by Kaushik Basu, the Prime Minister’s Economic Advisor. Sadly, such low cost, budget one-liners invariably fail to fly. Eager to clean up the corporate sector, Narayana Murthy, of Infosys, initially endorsed this suggestion, but later found faults with it. The bribe giver could rat on the bribe taker, but it would not be worth the halo. Word would go around and that person would be singled out forever in the real world of give and take.

Under current conditions, but for a handful of companies in IT, telecom and financial services, it is hard for business to play clean and be above board. (more…)

On the Inhumanity of Humanity

August 21, 2010

By Anjum Altaf

I had been intending to explore why, throughout history, man has been the perpetrator of so much inhuman behavior and what, if anything, could be done about it. My plan was to substantiate the claim of inhumanity with some examples before moving on to a discussion of the possible remedies.

It is a coincidence that between the intention and the execution, I chanced upon a poem by Josh Malihabadi (1898-1982), a poet held in high regard in Urdu poetry. This poem written in 1928 (Fitrat-e Aqvaam – The Character of Nations) makes a much better case than I could have and I offer it here (with a rough translation by myself) in lieu of the first part of the intended article. (more…)

Islam: Moving On

July 19, 2009

Religion is so central to life that its impact on society needs to be studied quite independently of the beliefs of the analyst.

Religion has both individual and collective dimensions. At the individual level, it can provide a sense of meaning and predictability and be a source of comfort and solace. The individual dimension can cast its shadow on the collective depending on selective emphasis by those who interpret God’s will on the religious tendencies of resignation or revolt (qana’at versus jihad, for example).

At the collective level, religion inevitably gets intertwined with politics and more often than not ends up as a tool subservient to larger political objectives. Any objective analysis of the history of religion has to record the terrible costs inflicted upon society by this combination. (more…)

Laws and the Rule of Law

June 2, 2009

By Anjum Altaf

What have we learned from our discussion of the laws of inheritance?

First, that laws pertaining to the same issue can differ across societies and over time.

Second, that laws need not be divinely ordained and fixed for all times and places. The law of primogeniture was introduced in England in 1066 after the Norman invasion because the Norman knights who were awarded land grants did not wish their estates to be diluted by divisions.

Third, laws can have negative and positive effects. The law of primogeniture was unfair because it deprived all heirs except the eldest son from a share in the wealth of the father. (more…)

Ghalib Says – 4

August 7, 2008

This week’s she’r is the following:

shar’a-o-aaiin par madaar sahii
aise qaatil kaa kyaa kare koii

Even on the basis of religious law and secular law
What can anyone do with such a killer?

An earlier she’r in this series on the subject of faith and faithfulness (Ghalib Says – 2) prompted a reader to refer to the Shah Bano case – was it right to be unjust while claiming to be faithful to a set of beliefs? We referred the issue to the scholar Dr. Asghar Ali Engineer who pointed out the distinction between Diin and Sharia’h – faith and law. In secular matters, it is law that should govern and the law should be in harmony with the changing times (see comments on Ghalib Says – 2).

This exchange led us quite naturally to the she’r under discussion this week which refers to religious and secular law – shar’a-o-aaiin. Commentary on the she’r is available at Mehr-e-Niimroz.

The accepted interpretation of the she’r is quite unambiguous. The novelty of thought is Ghalib’s reminder that there are things that are beyond the grasp of both religious and secular laws – there is no mechanism to hold responsible a (metaphorical) murderer who slays with just a glance of the eyes. What law can you apply to such a murderer?

Our objective in this project is not to restrict ourselves to the meanings that might have been intended by Ghalib but to reflect on the questions that come to our minds on reading his verse. We draw out the questions that seem important in the context of our times.

In this perspective, there is something that jumps out to those who are familiar with the history of Pakistan. A murderer can certainly be beyond the grasp of religious and secular laws (like Ghalib’s beloved) but there could also be a murderer who elevates himself or herself out of the reach of religious and secular laws. What are we to do with such a murderer?

Let us take an example with which Pakistanis are very familiar. A dictator removes a legitimately elected government by force, changes the constitution (aaiin) to provide a cover for his actions, appoints new judges to legitimize his changes, and declares that he will follow the amended constitution from then on.

Is such a person a murderer (of the constitution) and what is to be done with such an individual?

It should be noted here that a lot of Pakistanis, including its leading opinion makers, have more than once welcomed such individuals and reposed their hopes in them.

Is it wise to expect a person to respect the law who starts out by violating it?

These are important issues that bear on the destinies of millions who are never consulted when murders of this type are committed and legitimized by the ex-post manipulation of the law.

It would be a better world if the only murderers we had to contend with were ordinary criminals or the beloveds of Ghalib.

Back to Main Page