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Welcome to the new Chief Justice in Pakistan

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Justice Nasirul Mulk was sworn in as the 22nd Chief Justice of Pakistan. Although we all are excited about a person who is very honest and committed on fundamental human rights in this position, we are concerned about the challenges he will have to face in a crisis prone environment and power brokers in every sector. he was among the judges who were deposed and suffered equally with the judges who took a stance on the illegitimate Martial Rule.

Mukhtara mai’s gang rape case became an icon for the struggle of women against violence. It went on for 8 years and finally met a disappointing fate at the Supreme court. Only one rapist was convicted all the others equally guilty in the gang rape went Scott free. Among the three judges on the Panel on Justice Nasir wrote a note of decent and fully supported Mukhtara Mai’s testimony. the decision of the case resulted in nationwide protests but at least women were happy that one of the three judges understood the social pressures women have to go through to file a case of this nature and the social dynamics around such cases. His historic note makes him popular among women and at the same time the expectations from him are more than it would have been from another justice.

He comes from the Swat Valley  and was brought up in a politically and socially aware family. His father was a Senator and so was his brother. He did his law degree from Peshawar in 1972 and his higher studies from London. He became the chief justice of Peshawar high court and was appointed as a Judge of the supreme court on 15 April 2005. Being the most senior Judge after the retirement of the last Chief Justice he has been appointed as the new Chief Justice. This smooth transition helps Pakistan’s judiciary to become stronger.

We welcome Justice Nasirul Mulk as our Chief Justice, a person with unblemished record, with the hope that he will keep the Judiciary independent. We need this support to stabilise our democracy.

 


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OUR LOSS!! Farewell my dear friend MUSADIQ!!

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In current times every sane person is very precious as somehow one doesn’t see much multiplication of such people. Loosing Musadiq Sanwal was a BIG LOSS!!!. A person not only sane, intelligent, with depths of an ocean on every issue but also a janooni in a sufi sense, a compassionate being and a lover of people. Where many of us at times would loose our patience at our youth, he fully believed in grooming  them into professions like journalism. I guess that is why one saw him surrounded by young people even at his dhabha DAWN.COM  Always looking at new ideas and new angles to deepen the analysis on our socio political problems. Topped by his love of music, made him a friendly boss who hires young people, grooms them and also sings for them in the evenings.

I first was introduced to him in 1988 as a friend of all my progressive friends and later got to know this sufi of our times . A journalist, a writer, a poet, an artist, a singer, a composer, a film maker, a theatre actor and an activist. The younger people know him more as the editor of DAWN.com. He was passionate about sufi poetry and music. Sometimes I would call him a singing journalist. His compassion was the most precious aspect which will make him live forever in our hearts. Not only within his family but in many large circles of his friends. Always giving! always caring! He was our creative mlangish friend, who never got attracted to the material world and maintained a sophisticated, simple, genuine and sufistic presence in this world throughout his life.

I am very proud of you Musadiq for the way you put the fight against this sartaan /cancer. I remember the day you were going back to Pakistan after a burdensome treatment. I talked to you on the phone and the joy in your voice was incredible. “I will start my work again! my family is now here with me! we will all are going back! what else do I want!” The medical treatments or these cancers cannot come in the way. You will live for ever in the contributions you have made to my beloved community and in all our hearts. We will hear your sirayki kafis you used to sing in the air around us.

You will never die Musadiq!

(an article by Dawn.com http://www.dawn.com/news/1080909/dawncom-editor-musadiq-sanwal-passes-away)

 


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SEVEN LESSONS FOR PROMOTING A DEMOCRATIC SYSTEM

The elections in Pakistan have brewed up many sentiments. Some people are happy, some are sad and some are angry. I see on the social media a string of slurs against others in the form of comments like “this is a nation of poor and greedy people who sell their vote on one plate of biryani”  or lashing at one sector as the “burger class”.  I am hopeful that the emotions will calm down soon and the focus will be on a substantive development agenda for Pakistan.

More focused on the political process and strengthening of our democracy, I have been more of a staunch supporter of certain social issues and have taken very strong stands, as a citizen, for the sovereignty and supremacy of the Parliament. Although it was pretty painful to be stuck in DC and not being able to vote, my struggle for several years has been on promoting politics and eliminating the demonization of all politicians.

So as a student of democracy I have made a list of seven points for our voting citizens of all kinds. Friends are welcome to add more points to it.

SEVEN LESSONS FOR PROMOTING A DEMOCRATIC SYSTEM

1) Democracy does not mean that if it doesn’t produce the results I WANT it is not a democracy. We can have our voice, but not necessarily control over the collective outcome.

2) If you support one party don’t think you are the only one who loves your country. Others can have exactly the same feelings.

3) Democratic systems have a certain conflict inherent in it. Competition and the tension resulting from it is a part of democratic process.  However,  it has to be balanced by consensus building and legitimization of the larger framework by the citizens. Any imbalance in this process can derail a democracy.

4) Democracy is not as efficient as an authoritarian government, therefore one has to be patient and mull through the mess if we do not want to revert to a dictatorship. There are no short cuts to democratic decision making.

5) The electoral system will evolve. We have come a long way. Voting lists are now computerized. Results are more transparent so as to bring out the anomalies and get them aired by mainstream media and resolved by the ECP. These are good signs.  If we keep up the pressure,  the process will continue to change for the better. Incremental improvements should be acknowledged.

6) Skepticism and accountability for those in power is necessary to strengthen the system. However, too much of it takes away the legitimacy of the democratic institutions and inculcates destabilization. A balance is necessary. (This point is also very relevant for the citizens linked with mainstream and social media)

7) Democracies that gradually become more consolidated and strengthened are characterized by a collective mindset where the right of other parties to run and voters to vote for them is legitimized. You cannot argue that if you do not vote for my party we might as well have a dictatorship.  The larger sense of legitimacy and respect for other parties, politicians and voters has to prevail.

To repeat point #3:  Competition and conflict is inherent in democracy, but it is the right to compete that ensure the legitimacy of the system, and this, above, must be respected.


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CONSOLIDATED RESULTS OF THE PAKISTANI ELECTION 2013

PML N headed by Nawaz Sharif had a sweeping win in Pakistani Elections in 2013. PPP, Benazir Bhutto’s party was the second largest party and PTI, lead by Imran Khan was on the third number.  In general the guestimates were proven to be somewhat correct +_ 5 seats. However, the western belief that Pakistanis support parties with Islamic ideologies and therefore are in favour of providing safe havens for militants was totally dispelled. Jamat-e Islamai, a comparable party for Muslim brotherhood, got 3 seats at the national level and Jamat-e Ulema- Islam (JUI) got 11 seats out of 272 seats for elected representatives. In total the House has 342 seats and not more than 15 would be occupied by the religious parties. This makes it about 4 – 5 % of the seats.  Historically Pakistani people have not voted for such parities more than 6%. The only exception was during Musharaf’s time with a coalition of all religious parties together  formed the government of Kyber Pukhtoonkhwa. 

People have made themselves heard. In the face of risks of being killed by the militants. They want democracy and they have chosen their leaders clearly. 

An article from DAWN is attached for a fuller picture of the winning parties and their geographical locations. http://dawn.com/2013/05/13/consolidated-national-assembly-results/

 

 

 


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GO WOMEN OF SWAT, YOU ROCK!

A mountainous valley of Pakistan that fell victim to a Taliban take over in 2007 and became a symbol of women’s oppression is bouncing back. Women, who had been banned from voting in 2008,  are determined to vote in the upcoming elections in May 2013.  Malala’s stand on girls’ education in the face of the Taliban, who burned 260 girls schools in the area, was representative of the courage of the women of Swat. They faced severe oppression following the militant take over. Their mobility was restricted, with their world reduced only to their home.  The militants often carried out public floggings of women on the pretext of immoral behaviour. But nothing will stop the women of Swat from bouncing back.

In the 2008 elections, the communities were forced to prevent women from voting. Less than 10% of the polling stations reported women voting. This push back was galling as women of Swat have always been aware and connected with their surroundings. In the upcoming elections, women have declared that they are determined to make their voice heard by voting. The Election Commission of Pakistan has decided to support them. There has been a long standing demand from women’s organizations to cancel the result of the polls in constituencies where women are not allowed to vote. In some tribal parts of Pakistan, men make a pact so none of the parties will allow women to vote. Our civil society and media has protested against this issue. Now the Election Commission has decided that no constituency’s result will be declared legitimate if less than ten percent vote of the voters are women.

But not only will women vote in these areas, but two women have surprised the nation by declaring they will run for elections from these highly tribal areas.  Nusrat  Begum from Lower Dir and Badam Zari from Bajaur are contesting in the upcoming elections.

Khadim Husain, a pro-democracy scholar, stated, “The attack on Malala drew a clear line between civilization and barbarity in Pakistani society”. He said Malala’s discourse emerged over 100 years, by progressive community leaders who gradually modernized Swat and resisted authoritarian rule.

The militant takeover of Swat and the Pakistani military’s operation to defeat them in 2009 resulted in over two million people displaced. The hardships people suffered, especially women, brought a renewed empowerment for women of the valley. The civil society within Swat, and the other parts of the country became activated and engaged in the rejuvenation of the valley. But it is the people of Swat, the poets, the progressive leaders, the political party workers who have made sacrifices to rekindle their progressive traditions. They believe in speaking out.  They fought for freedom.  They fought for the right of Malala and other girls to be educated. And now the women are making a clear statement by demanding their right to vote, knowing they can elect real leaders for  change.


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REPOSITIONING CIVIL SOCIETY FOR A NEW ASIA

In the politics of New Asia, Pakistan needs to be recognized as something more than just a hub of terrorism. With its maturing democratic processes, its attempts to defuse animosity with India and its military re-focusing on internal threats, it now needs to begin to project itself as a positive force in the larger Asian context. 

A symposium was organized in Tokyo to discuss how civil society needs to be prepared to play its role well as the center of economic development begins shifting from the western world to Asia. Selected senior civil society leaders from all over gathered to articulate a new role for civil society in a new Asia.

Listening to the speakers with sound examples of how civil society has played an important role in changing the politics as well as development all over Asia, I did feel that our nation also needs to embrace this point of view and our civil society needs to rise above petty concerns to take on the challenges facing our nation and the region. 

The damage caused to three nuclear reactors in Fukushima, Japan during the tsunami catastrophe on March 12, 2011 was taken as an example. The death, destruction and economic upheaval caused by the damage to these reactors was tremendous.  The Japanese civil society pressured the Government to end the use of nuclear energy to produce electricity. Thousands of people stood in front of the Prime Minister’s house for days. Finally, a historic rally of 170,000 on July 16, 2012 made the Government commit that they would end all nuclear power generation by the year 2040.  Similarly, the German Government, bowing to public discontent, has closed 8 out of 17 reactors and has committed to close all of them by 2022.  

Other speakers from Korea, Sri Lanka and Malaysia also gave examples where civil society is closely linked to the changes in politics in those countries. Chito Gascon gave an in-depth account of how their civil society was crucial in bringing about the Philippines revolution in 1986.  However, he noted that it was quickly co-opted and many other centers of power took charge so that the positive changes could not be sustained.  A Nepalese activist, shared the experience of social transformation where people have been pushing for sustained change through elections, but this remains a hope. Diana Wong, a professor from Malaysia, made a sentimental pitch saying that that we have to stop comparing ourselves with the West and find our own path through thinking more like ourselves and dealing with the tensions within. 

A Pakistani, Imtiaz Gul gave examples of how civil society brought about major changes in the world concluding with a quote from Nelson Mandela, “…the truth is that we are not yet free; we have merely achieved the freedom to be free, the right not to be oppressed. We have not taken the final step of our journey but the first step on a longer and even more difficult road. For, to be free is not merely to cast off one’s chains but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others…”

There is much that Pakistani civil society needs to learn so we can act effectively at the national as well as the regional level. I strongly believe that our civil society needs to learn how to be proactive rather than reactive. We should reflect on our own weaknesses and conflicts and acquire the skills to address them. We need to learn how to create viable solutions rather than merely criticizing the existing system. We clearly need to learn how to sustain any positive changes that emerge, rather than complaining that they are not enough. For Pakistan to have a role in the New Asia, we need start in our own home.

 

 


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OUR PAKISTANI WOMEN POLITICIANS MAKE US PROUD!

Women in political positions in the Parliaments of the world have almost doubled in the last 15 years. In 1997, Sweden was the only country in the world that had 40% women in their Parliament, and now there are more than ten countries with that number. About 30 countries have more than 30% women. The world average is about 21%. Pakistan ranks 57 out of 140 countries. Considering other extremely low our rankings are in areas of women’s empowerment and safety, at least this is one area we can boast about and celebrate on International Women’s Day. The top positions are taken by Rwanda at 56%, Andorra at 55% and Cuba at 45%, while Philippines and UK are close to Pakistan. USA, with its claims to be the greatest nation in the world and leader of gender equality, holds the 77th position.

The performance of our women Parliamentarians has been exceptional. They have headed significant Committees, proposed legislation, asked pertinent questions, performed well as Committee members.  They have been visible, hardworking and vocal.  Women were frequently seen on television representing their parties.

The Women’s Caucus clearly made a mark for being the first institutional mechanism to bring together women of all parties, enabling women to prove that they could go above party divisions when it came to pro women legislation.

By doing so, they have shown their solidarity with all women of the country rather than competing with each other as is so common among the male members.  We expect that the caucus will take on a wider range of issues in the next term,  but the women members made good use of it this time.

Although different forms of quota systems have pushed up the percentage of women in various political houses in the last decade, the number of directly elected women is also increasing. More than 100 countries now have quota systems, Saudi Arabia recently passing a 20% quota for their Consultative Assembly.

In most of the countries that have a quota system the results are mixed. The research shows that the elite of the countries try to by pass the quota regulations and then make excuses not to implement the rules properly. Some countries have worked out an incentive system for more effective implementation. In Burkina Faso, if a party elects 30% women their funding from the government goes up by half. In East Timor, more media time is given to parties that have more women.

In Pakistan, although parties make the lists of women to be selected on reserved seats with all seriousness tension remains between the male and female members. In the last term, several comments from men undermining women were heard as they considered them members without a constituency. This discriminatory attitude has to be dealt with within parties.  Many countries, like Tunisia, have quotas for party candidates. Fifty percent quota resulted in 20% seats in the elections. This quota system however has been manipulated more. Women are given seats that the party knows they would loose, which undermines the purpose of this quota.

Some parties do not give women tickets to run, saying they would be brought in through the party list so the opportunity should be given to a male candidate. They need to realize that quotas are only a transitional phase and are aimed at grooming women and getting men used to having them as their representatives. 

In Pakistan just as parties will be assessed on the level of women’s issues they bring up in their election campaign, they will also be assessed by how many women candidates they would field in their constituency.