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Sir: This is apropos your editorial, “A better year for women” (Daily Times, Jan 15). I entirely agree with its contents but would like to add a few points. We throw the terms democracy, human rights and progress with gay abandon. The hidden assumption seems to be that these are clear-cut categories — i.e., that there is no moral ambiguity in them. I’d disagree. These terms are as much fraught with moral ambiguity as any other value, some of which we tend to flaunt as absolute values. Take the example of democracy. What does — or should — it denote: majoratarianism or pluralism? If a party is voted in massively and gets down to the task of making regressive legislation, would that be in line with democracy? The answer is yes, especially if democracy is to be looked at in terms of headcount. No, if democracy is perceived as a combination of the majority’s will tempered by constitutional liberalism. In the first case we will get the tyranny of the majority; in the second, pluralism. The same is true of human rights and progress. What must a government do if it needs to set a society right? Should it try and create a consensus on what constitutes progress? Can such a consensus be reached in a divisive society? Also, if laws are challenged by those who consider enlightenment to be opposed to religion on the basis of legal procedures and human rights, would the progressive government put them down or balk at the prospect of having to respect everyone’s right to speak while risking the stalling of a process to ensure those rights to everyone in the longer run. As a specific example, let me cite the order of the Algerian government to call off the second round of elections in that country in the early nineties because elections would have brought to power the Islamist FIS party opposed to democracy and reforms. That was not a democratic decision but was it justified for securing democracy? Questions abound.
In any case, I think DT is doing a great job by writing informed leaders and giving to us opinion by perhaps the best line-up of writers that any newspaper in Pakistan can boast off.
Empower Shaista Aalimani
Sir: A brave Pakistani girl, Ms Shaista Aalimani, is fighting for her rights and her life, against the cruel and ruthless pre-Islamic practices still prevalent in some parts of Pakistan. It is amusing to see that a number of Pakistani chauvinists have sent her marriage proposals. This is a most ridiculous attempt to gain petty fame, trying to use the name of a tortured young woman. Such proposals are like rubbing salt into someone’s wounds, and are sure to hurt her in a manner similar to when her family members forced her to separate from her husband, whose own life is still in danger.
I suggest that listening to the repeated requests for protection made by Ms Shaista to the President of Pakistan, this young lady should be provided encouragement to fight the inhuman traditions, and be empowered to help many more women who are suffering from similar cruelties in this society. For Shaista, it would be best if she is recruited and trained in the Lady Police force, and allowed to work as a lady counsellor and investigator. Another less secure, but appropriate job for her would be to work at the Edhi home, where she can help Mrs Bilquees Edhi. She could also become a women political rights activist, due to the attention that she has received on a national basis.
SUMREENAH HASHIM SYED
Sir: Everyone in this country has witnessed the release of French journalists which clearly indicates the helplessness of our government before outside pressure. But clearly domestic views in favour of Mr Khawar Mehdi do not matter to General Musharraf since domestic pressure means nothing either in political or moral terms. Also, what about the hundreds of Pakistani prisoners in Afghan jails (though a Pak-Afghan agreement is reached for the release of some of them), Guantenamo Bay, Camp Delta and many others like that. Atrocities against Pakistanis in countries like the US and EU are also read and heard from time to time. Some factions also equate the Wana Operation with civil war. What factors should be held responsible for this chaos in the country?
Sir: How ungrateful of Senator Samiul Haq of the MMA to accuse the Aga Khan group (Daily Times Press gallery column, January 15) of planning to set up an Israeli-like state in the Northern Areas of Pakistan. Is it just because the Foundation has invested billions of rupees towards the economic and social uplift of the area? Where, may I ask Senator Haq, is his sense of Islamic ethic of gratitude to someone who has tirelessly worked for the uplift of Pakistan, not simply the Northern Areas.
The commitment to Pakistan of Prince Karim’s family began even before Pakistan was founded. And the present Ismaili imam has demonstrated the Islamic ethic of care and generosity by providing for Pakistan’s progress in all spheres of human endeavour over the past four decades. This is irrespective of who was at the helm in the government, the military or elected civilian governments led by Pakistan People’s Party and the Muslim League.
While the AKED may be a foreign entity, it is I think it is wise to treat it as a Pakistani entity for all the magnificent work, resource and time that Prince Karim and the Aga Khan Network have devoted to this country. It is very easy to mouth conspiracy theories but in today’s age facts can easily be sifted from fiction.
ABDULMALIK J. MERCHANT
Sir: On September 11, 2001, America was attacked. Terrorists living within the United States destroyed the World Trade Center, severely damaged the Pentagon and murdered 3,000 unsuspecting Americans. There was no security even though terrorists had already bombed the WTC only a few years ago.
Present security regulations are a response to September 11 and they are needed to ward off any future attacks. It is clear that terrorists are waiting to attack America as soon as it lets its guards down. Most Americans understand that these security measures are essential for their own security even though they might infringe on their civil rights. They understand that at a time of war, security must take precedence over civil rights. This is why Mr. Bush continues to enjoy such a commanding lead over presidential candidates among ordinary working class Americans.
Yet, theories about a neo-con cabal in the Bush administration trying to build an empire abound among left-wing critics of America. One day you read about neo-cons pushing for plans to move into Syria, another to Iran. But these theorists of American empire never mention that the United States may be acting simply to prevent another 9/11 from happening.