Islamic Sharia Laws
15 Apr 2011, NewAgeIslam.Com
By Dr Mahjabeen Islam
The questions in the Pakistani mind centre around the vast difference between an American life and a Pakistani one. There is furore over the US?s chest-thumping pronouncements about the supremacy of the law and then its flagrant violation in other countries
It is hip to hate sharia or Islamic law in the US. Many a Republican is jumping on the bandwagon and Representative Don Wells (R Cabool) even likens it to polio. That a CIA spy who killed two Pakistanis was freed because of it is quite ironic.
In late January, Raymond Davis was driving in a populated area of Lahore when he killed two Pakistanis, photographed their bodies and radioed for help wherein an American consular vehicle rushed to the scene, crushing a bystander to death in the process. Davis? car was loaded with arms and his cell phones showed contact with terrorist groups. Davis was arrested and started a diplomatic frenzy wherein the US maintained that he had diplomatic immunity and Pakistan?s foreign minister, Shah Mahmood Qureshi, was fired for not toeing the line, for he and his department maintained that Davis did not. Even President Obama invoked the Vienna Convention that confers diplomatic immunity insisting that Davis was an embassy employee. The Vienna Convention however confers diplomatic immunity in the pursuit of diplomatic duties and running around with unlicensed arms does not fall in that arena.
The American mantra did not change. For four weeks, under severe public pressure, the Pakistani government ran from pillar to post, frazzled but loathe to annoy its benefactor. And then someone had an epiphany: blood money or the qisas and diyat law.
Under sharia law, in the event of grievous injury or murder, the case must first go to court and a verdict pronounced. Thereafter, it is the victim?s family?s prerogative to either go with full retribution/an eye for an eye (qisas) or monetary compensation (diyat) with consequent forgiveness, or complete forgiveness with neither qisas nor diyat. The Qisas and Diyat Law has been part of Pakistan?s legal system for the last 30 years and the Federal Shariat Court specialises in cases of this nature. Monetary compensation is calculated in the case of murder as the cost of approximately 30,000 grams of silver.
In the Davis case, one of the victims? widows committed suicide and on her deathbed repeatedly said that she was killing herself as she was not getting justice and she wanted ?blood for blood?. The families of both of Davis? victims repeatedly said that they did not want compensation but justice.
Senator John Kerry visited Pakistan and CIA Director Leon Panetta visited President Zardari and Pakistan?s CIA counterpart, ISI Director General Ahmad Shuja Pasha a few weeks ago. Many a Pakistani antennae went up when David Ignatius wrote of the concept of blood money in The Washington Post.
Pakistan is famous for its bureaucracy and its maddening inefficiency. Yet, in a matter of two hours the attorneys for the victims? families were changed, their original attorneys detained, a one-by-one questioning of 18 family members by the judge about their compensation and forgiveness, and the whisking away of Davis to a waiting US Air Force jet at Lahore airport were all accomplished.
A total of $ 2.34 million was divided among the 18 family members, not by the US but some fund of the Pakistan government. The ingratiation of Zardari to the US is so complete that the vanity of the US was also kept in mind: no precedent was to be created in which the US might find itself paying blood money for its wayward spies. Foreign Policy magazine reports a Pakistani official as saying that the US promises to pay Pakistan back in the future.
The victims? families went into hiding for fear of public humiliation and were later tracked down by the media. The anger and outrage in Pakistan over Davis? hurried release is widespread and spans all sectors of society from students to lawyers.
Even relatively US-friendly scholars have clearly stated that the Qisas and Diyat Law was misapplied for the court should have given a verdict first. Religious scholars state additionally that Davis committed an act of terror against a nation and the Law of Qisas and Diyat does not apply in this case. An appeal against the disposition of this case has been filed with the Supreme Court of Pakistan. But the futility of that is obvious. It is all semantics now; Davis is gone.
The greater issue is what is raging in the Pakistani mind: the US?s flagrant double standards. In 1997, Mir Ajmal Kansi killed two CIA agents outside Langley, disappeared, surfaced in Pakistan and was handed over to the US by Pakistani authorities and executed. In 1995, Ramzi Yousef was extradited to the US by Pakistan, convicted of the 1993 World Trade Centre bombing and given two life sentences. In September 2010, another Pakistani, Dr Aafia Siddiqui, an MIT graduate and frail mother of two, was convicted in Manhattan of armed assault, carrying a firearm and three counts of assault on US officers and sentenced to 86 years in prison, essentially a life-term.
The questions in the Pakistani mind centre around the vast difference between an American life and a Pakistani one. There is furore over the US?s chest-thumping pronouncements about the supremacy of the law and then its flagrant violation in other countries. The sudden, suspicious release of Davis stokes the self-respect of the common Pakistani, entrenches anti-Americanism and catalyses extremism.
I am appalled at the wholesale caving in of the farcical Zardari government but it is a disaster on wheels; I know and expect it. It is primarily the US that I am so ashamed of and so scared for. It is not exporting peace, justice and democracy; it is just the super-bully of the world. With blinders on to boot. Pakistanis thought that the US would be forever grateful for Raymond Davis? miraculous exit and all kinds of overtures would occur to curb anti-American sentiments. The very next day American drones bombed northern Pakistan and killed 42 villagers. Thank you Pakistan, we will do it again.
At a time when Bangladesh is being asked (against the wishes of its citizens) to send troops to Afghanistan, an interesting article on the complex forces that are at play in the region.
related article: Sitting on a man’s back
By MATTHIEU AIKINS
Published1 October 2010
Matthieu Aikins is a journalist whose feature writing and photography have appeared in such US, Canadian, British and Indian publications as Harper’s Magazine, the Globe & Mail, the National Post, the Coast, the Toronto Sun, The Caravan, Progress Magazine, the Halifax Chronicle-Herald, the Kingston Whig-Standard, Bad Idea Magazine, SAIL Magazine, and on CBC’s ‘The National’ and Global TV’s ‘National News’.
THEY WERE BOTH YOUNG. One had just the first wisps of hair on his cheeks, like an adolescent. The other was not much older, his short-trimmed beard caked with dried blood. There were gaping exit wounds in his shoulder, and in the pale skin of his belly, where his undershirt had been pulled up to reveal the damage. The two boys were lying dead amongst scattered bricks, at the feet of a crowd of gaping onlookers and journalists, in an abandoned construction site in Kabul.
?Where do you think they?re from?? a reporter asked the policeman who was taking a picture of the bodies with his cell phone, his assault rifle dangling from his other hand. The glaze of adrenaline still shone on the cop?s cheeks and eyes. ?Pakistan,? he said. ?Definitely not Afghans.? They always say that here, as if you could tell. They looked like Pashtuns, at least.
It was just one of several attacks in Kabul this summer, unremarkable in its execution and impact, but as a result, a series of extraordinary events had been triggered that would serve as a bellwether of India?s waning influence in Afghanistan. It was 29 May, the first day of the National Consultative Peace Jirga, and the two militants had managed to set up in the empty site and fire rockets at the Polytechnic University, the site of the peace jirga?a carefully stage-managed event that had brought handpicked tribal elders and civil society figures to endorse President Hamid Karzai?s plan to reconcile with the Taliban.
Karzai was furious that the jirga had been disrupted, in the middle of his inaugural speech, no less. One of the rockets had severed the leg of one of his personal bodyguards, and the two attackers had held out for several hours in a gun battle with police before finally being shot to death.
The following week, Karzai called a meeting with Hanif Atmar, the Minister of the Interior, and Amrullah Saleh, the chief of the National Directorate of Security (NDS)? the Afghan intelligence service?where he accused them of deliberately failing to provide adequate security in order to undermine the jirga. In a heated exchange, both offered their resignations. It wasn?t the first time that either of them had offered their resignations in response to an angry outburst by Karzai, but this time the president accepted.
Continue reading “India in Afghanistan, Nation building or proxy war?”
Dear Mr. Kees,
Thank you for taking the time and the trouble to respond to my mail. Mine was a principled stand, and frankly not one I had expected the ambassador to respond to directly. I was pleasantly surprised that you did. In a similar case in 2002 (I have enclosed my description), where the dress code had not been specified, my national dress which I always wear, was not found respectable enough for an ambassador’s residence.
In that case the deputy ambassador had written to say that an exception could have been made in my case. I do not want to be an exception. If my national dress is not acceptable in a formal event in my own nation as a general rule, then I do not want to be part of it.
You correctly describe a ‘lounge suit’ as being internationally recognized as a ‘dark suit and a tie’. Indeed that is how I too interpreted it, and that was the reason for my objection. I find many Bangladeshi men proudly adhering to the same dress code you describe. Unsuitable though it might be for a Bangladeshi climate, I have no objections to the dress itself. It is the brown saheb’s aspirations for whiteness (luckily Europe is no longer exclusively white) that I find somewhat pathetic.
It is not for me to be judgmental about their aspirations. But I am free to make my own choices of attire. I am proud to be a Bangladeshi and proud to wear its national dress. This is what I wore when I met Queen Beatrix in Amsterdam, and what I wore when I met your current prime minister and the two previous ones. It is also what I wore when I sat next to the princess at dinner. I suspect I would have been warmer in a suit and a tie in each of those occasions, but my choice of attire was a conscious one.
I find it disconcerting that the same dress code is unacceptable in my own country barring ambassadorial pardon. However, I thank you again for inviting me, and though I regretfully decline, I would welcome the opportunity to invite you and Mrs. Vonhoff to ours. You would be free to wear a lounge suit should you want to.
Warmest regards to you both,
My experience at French Ambassador’s residence
The invitation said `informal’, but I had put on my Friday best. After all, the party was at the French Ambassador’s residence. I had even swapped my bicycle for my 1982 reconditioned Toyota Starlet. It had a fresh coat of paint and looked quite respectable. Road 99, Gulshan, was chock ‘a block. Cars with flags, cars with yellow number plates, cars with flag-poles, cars with drivers. Mine fell at the bottom of the chain, a black number plate, flag/flag-pole less, driver less, private car. Not much better than my bicycle in terms of hierarchy. Since all the other cars were chauffer driven, I had to park my car right at the end of the road, near the lake, and walk
back to the fairy lights. The drivers did look at one another as I walked up the long road. What was a non-chauffer driven person doing at the residence of the French Ambassador?
Not shaken by any of this, I strode up to the brightly lit gate. After all I did have an official invitation. To my horror, I realised that I had left my invitation in the car. The Frenchman at the gate asked me who I was, and I suggested that I go back to the car to get the invitation, but luckily his Bangladeshi colleague recognised me and tried to usher me in. By then, however, the damage had been done.
The Frenchman’s gaze had gone all the way down to my naked toe-nails. Sandals! No longer did he need to know who I was. I obviously didn’t belong there. The Bangladeshi tried to protest, but with a furtive glance, the Frenchman made eye contact with the extremities of my feet. Oh, said the Bangladeshi. There was no need for further conversation.
The glitterati walked past me as they stepped out of their chauffer driven cars. Peering ghostlike through their air condition cooled spectacles which had misted up in the humid monsoon air, they casually shook my hand with one hand as they wiped their glasses with the other. Some did ask why I was walking the wrong way. That I was being turned away because my attire wasn’t considered suitable for such an august occasion seemed quite a reasonable explanation. Some did pat me on the back in a fatherly sort of way for some recent award I had won. Mustafa Zaman Abbasi, the director general of Shilpakala Academy, kindly offered me a pair of shoes to wear. He didn’t live too far away, and had plenty of spare pairs. He seemed hurt at his generous offer being spurned.
The drivers nodded knowingly as I entered my reconditioned car. This was Gulshan. National costumes could hardly be suitable clothing for a party here, and a diplomat’s party at that! So what if my dress code was known to those inviting me. It was after all, the French National Day, and my principled stand of wearing non-western clothes had broken their boundaries of tolerance.
Dhaka. 14th July 2002.