EDITORIAL: Terrorists contesting elections?
Former federal minister and PML-N leader Syeda Abida Hussain has made a public statement that in Jhang well known personalities belonging to some banned terrorist parties and groups were talking part in the by-elections in NA-89. The said persons, according to her, belong to Sipah Sahaba, the mother of all sectarian jihadi outfits, whose leader Maulana Azam Tariq was done to death not long ago, and to its opponent, Tehreek-e Islami Pakistan, whose leader is currently under trial for the killing. In a list of six notorious gangsters, are included people like Munir Ahmad alias Kala Pehelwan and Hakim Ali, who was a minister in Punjab when the province saw the highest number of sectarian killings, not to speak of torture and mayhem inflicted on the opposed sect in Punjab. Others include a brother of the slain Azam Tariq, named after the great sectarian leader of Jhang, Maulana Haq Nawaz Jhangvi; and one Alam Tariq, ‘khatib’ at the Jamia Masjid of Jhang, named approximately after the last of the great apostatising leaders of our times, Maulana Azam Tariq. Mrs Hussain has sent her complaint to the Chief Election Commissioner.
The Chief Election Commissioner had better sit up and see what is going to happen once again in the district of Jhang, the incubator of Pakistan’s greatest political scourge, sectarianism. Last time around he was not so careful. Maulana Azam Tariq, despite the fact that his party had already been declared a terrorist party and banned from the polls, was able to stand for the 2002 elections and get elected to the National Assembly. Most embarrassingly, his vote enabled the Jamali government to obtain a majority in the house, suggesting that the secret agencies may have helped him win. Awakening late to the fact, the Election Commission went to court against his election and the matter was pending when Azam Tariq was gunned down in Islamabad in a revenge killing. The man had seen 21 attempts on his life and was a known patron of the terrorist outfit Lashkar-e-Jhangvi that is guilty of killing hundreds of innocent citizens and public servants. In any other country such negligence on the part of an election commission would not have been condoned.
In Jhang, a city that has known no reality other than apostatisation and sectarian violence since the Ahmedis were declared non-Muslim by the state in 1973, any major sectarian leader is likely to win the elections hands down. The tehsils of Jhang, Shorkot and Chiniot (including old Rabwah renamed Chenab Nagar) have been ravaged by the infighting mullahs whose creed has spread to the entire country, not without some help from our Muslim friends abroad. People of public spirit have absolutely no chance of getting a vote because they don’t have the ‘fire power’ that gives protection to people from the hoods ‘on the other side’. Our Election Commissioner should wake up to the nightmare of Jhang and pay special attention to who might get elected in the by-elections. He should take it well to heart that Jaish-e-Muhammad and Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, who have recently tried to take the life of President Pervez Musharraf on behalf of Al Qaeda, have been the offspring of Sipah Sahaba, which was founded in Jhang in 1985. Maulana Haq Nawaz Jhangvi (1952-1990), the founder, was assisted by the intelligence agencies spearheading General Zia’s plan ‘to teach the Shias of Jhang a lesson’ after they had refused to pay zakat.
A khoja graduate of a Deobandi seminary in the city, Jhangvi was vice-president of the JUI in Punjab till he became too big for the party. His hold on the administration (called thana-kutchehri) increased over time till everyone with political ambition had to fund him. Funding for him came from the marketplace, from businessmen and drug-dealers looking for protection. The businessmen of Chiniot — a group that dominates Pakistan’s industrial sector — were forced to seek protection. Jhangvi had put together a strong organisation of criminalised youth mostly from the muhajir Arain community from East Punjab. He was eventually to die in the violence he had done much to instigate. He was killed in a local feud in 1990. An Iranian diplomat in Lahore was killed thereafter to avenge Jhangvi’s murder. The thugs are back in the reckoning in 2004, and if the Election Commission lets them into the political mainstream, we are all done for. *
Javed Hashmi’s sentence
The chief of the Alliance for the Restoration of Democracy (ARD) and the acting president of PML-N, Makhdoom Javed Hashmi, has been found guilty of inciting the armed forces of Pakistan to mutiny by a sessions judge in Islamabad and sentenced on several counts, including forging a letter from the GHQ. In all, the sentence comes to 23 ‘concurrent’ years in jail, and if Mr Hashmi serves it he will be in the clinker for at least seven years. Surely, that’s a bit too much and will not redound to the advantage of President Pervez Musharraf while doing absolutely no harm to the political career of Mr Hashmi.
Mr Hashmi made the mistake of going public on a letter he said he had received. In the court the judge stated that the prosecution had been able to prove that Mr Hashmi had not received any letter from the GHQ reporting that there was disaffection in the army, and that he had in fact written it himself. That attracted the mischief of the various sections of the Penal Code and hence the conviction. As far as treason and sedition are concerned, a number of Penal Code provisions have actually become infructuous over the years for two reasons: some sections are too vague and too hard, and some leading politicians have leaned on them to get a leg-up politically. In this context, one wonders what the judge would say to a number of statements made by Qazi Hussain Ahmad openly suggesting that the army should remove General Musharraf from the scene.
This judgment is not credible. Therefore it is not likely to survive the test of justice higher up the ladder. *