EDITORIAL: Hasba Bill beats the WP Bill hands down!
The NWFP Assembly has passed the infamous Hasba Bill and says the bill is a big step towards an Islamic system. It should be noted that the MMA remains strong in the province despite the usual frailties like corruption and incompetence that all politicians are heir to, but its strength actually comes from the great divide in Islamabad and the failure of the PMLQ’s policy against terrorism and other so-called anti-state elements in Balochistan and the Tribal Areas. Extremism is on the rise and the passage of the Hasba Bill is yet another barometer of it.
The new law is supposed to replicate the Taliban system of peripatetic vigilante justice which attracted the world’s opprobrium and finally caused them to be pulverised. The bill was first passed in July 2005, but the Supreme Court struck it down, rejecting some of its clauses as unconstitutional. It was also sent to the Council for Islamic Ideology which too thought it was not really Islamic. But when the clergy condemned and attacked the Council, its members ran for cover while the MMA mullahs sat smiling triumphantly. In fact the mullahs in Peshawar are being lionised in various parts of the NWFP that are increasingly falling to Talibanism.
There is a great attraction in the Pushtun tribes for ‘speedy justice’ dispensed by a whipping posse headed by a mullah appointed by the Peshawar government. While all the right-thinking and sane people of the province are scared of the law and are predicting all kinds of malpractices under the garb of Islam, they are in a minority and the clergy elected by the people in 2002 knows this is the only ‘achievement’ they have so far posted as a morally immaculate government. In Islamabad the PMLQ has the required numbers in parliament to pass the Women’s Protection Bill but is quaking in its shoes because it doesn’t really believe that it wants the women of Pakistan to be treated with humanity. It is quaking also because the MMA clerics have threatened to resign from the assemblies and take to the streets if the bill is passed.
The federal information minister, Muhammad Ali Durrani, says the federal government might challenge the Hasba Bill and take it back to the Supreme Court. But there is a limit to which the Supreme Court can go on pulling the political chestnuts out of the fire for the government. The mullahs have amended the Hasba Bill a number of times and are hoping that the Supreme Court will simply get tired of the hypocrisy of the federal government and let the MMA have its way. A government that has run away from the battlefield on women’s rights after a nation-wide debate in its favour can sound very hollow when appealing against the Hasba Bill. Extremism is hardly being rolled back by the King’s Party. It is actually creeping in under its door like a stain of blood.
The All Pakistan Minorities Alliance (APMA) has criticised the passage of the Hasba Bill by calling it a conspiracy to impose Talibanisation on the people of the NWFP. The minorities are already unequal citizens in Pakistan despite a clause in the Constitution and can hardly sound convincing railing against the Hasba Bill. But the chief of the PMLQ in the NWFP, the federal political affairs minister, Amir Muqam, says the bill is an effort to create a parallel judicial system in the country and to undermine the authority of the judiciary, paving the way for corruption by government officials and for the misuse of power.
Unfortunately, however, the federal government doesn’t sound convincing at all when it criticises the Hasba Bill. The people can easily comprehend what is happening. The government is in turmoil not because a province is breaking off from the justice system of the country but because it has to uphold its pledge to pass another long-overdue law protecting women against the misapplication of Islamic laws in Pakistan. The MMA will not accept women’s rights and will use the Hasba Law in the NWFP to counter it. Another war may be in the offing. *
SECOND EDITORIAL: Say ‘yes’ to ‘naswar’!
Before the Pushtuns took a fancy to the Hasba Bill, we thought naswar was sheer ignominy as a national snort. Originally meant for the nose, as the nas part of it suggests, the moist paste is also stuck behind the back gums, producing a lot of coloured, ill-smelling spit, which is then sprayed all over the place, included on newly constructed public offices. Only a Pushtun can say what pleasure it gives, but we can say today that it is better than the opiate of the Hasba Bill that is being injected into the already much abused veins of the people of the NWFP.
Of course, out should not forget that there are more Pushtuns in Karachi than in Peshawar. The government of Sindh has dramatically decreased the sale of various types of gutka and other chewable mild narcotics in the city but has failed to get people to shake off naswar. The dough-like narcotic is Pakistan’s best product because it has beaten back the imported naswar. Three kinds are favoured by the Pushtuns of Sindh: Kali (black) naswar is a speciality of Peshawar, powdered hari (green) naswar belongs to Quetta and the slightly pasty hari naswar represents the Kashmiri taste. When the people of Bannu are not busy in the more manly pastime of sectarian violence they make the country’s best naswar and there is no threat to their product from globalisation. *