Despite having different reasons, both conservatives and liberal democrats are opposed to the 21st amendment. This shows how the amendment is confused, hasty, ironical and discriminatory. Spare my audacity and let me explain how.
“Why not and what, if not this?” is the big argument in the favor of 21st amendment. However, this argument begs more questions:what did we achieve from National Anti-Terrorism Act, 1997? What did we achieve from National Anti-Terrorism Act, 2013? How useful were the Protection of Pakistan Ordinance (POPA), 2013 and Protection of Pakistan Act, 2014? How effective National Counter Terrorism Authority (NACTA) has been proven? It still does not have a formal office.
And now we have a constitutional amendment in the favor of Military courts in the presence of Judiciary and Parliament. Are we piling up drafts upon drafts of acts, ordinances and their corrigendum to fool ourselves?
If the powers entrusted in the Parliament by the people of Pakistan are not being regarded and cannot be used effectively, what is democracy’s use? Where is the competenceof our politicians then?
Coming to the “what” part of the argument, why not exploit the Parliament to take rational decisions to strengthen the already present judicial system instead of taking hasty “desperate” measures? Why is then taxpayers’ money being wasted on paying salaries and infrastructure of “other” law enforcement systems, futile exercises of parliament sessions, salaries, protocols, wastage of time, paper and all the man-hours spent in typing and correcting those drafts?
Because, who could ask such hard questions, anyways? That is the irony.
Of the 42 members who were either absent or abstained from voting, almost no one wasan unexpected abstainer. The absence of Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf has yet again showed their “look-confused-say-nothing-in-the-matters-of-religion” (in the words of a friend) policy.
I might be sounding contradictory, bashing politicians for not voting for an amendment I so vehemently opposed in last three paras. However, the problem here is that these 42 parliamentarians were absent not due to the reasons mentioned above.We should be very clear about this. Those who believed in the points mentioned above, did vote in favor half-heartedly, openly mentioning their reluctance; which begs to give the “devil” his due.
Government is trying very hard to assure the people that the military courts are temporary and would target only real terrorists and would not be abused against politician, journalists, seminaries or a common citizen, imprudently admitting that this was also a probability.
The myth of “jet-black” real terrorists has been beautifully busted by Dr. Ayesha Siddiqa in her latest op-ed, which I agree to, so I would rather try to dichotomize the “temporary” nature of such courts. Nations have this backbone which strengthens them in the future. It is called history.
We already have a defected (read: distorted) backbone. Among the first steps that are desperately required to be taken, one is to put our disfigured national narrative into actual historical context as a corrective measure. Instead, we rather are hell bent on furthering it into an irreversible condition.
How are weso sure that the military courts set now will be any different from the military courts set in the past? The times are different but times are always different.Yet those who learn from history and refrain from making similar mistakes again and again are successful.
I wonder whether this solution will be proven effective or will become another mistake destined to be ignored from history. If for an instance, we forget political, ideological and philosophical dimension of these courts, are we really sure about the sustainability of the solution that they provide? Will we be able to successfully remove the cancer of extremism and militancy?
The most heated topic of “intellectual” discussion, right now, after three weeks of Peshawar massacre, our quasi-9/11, that we have almost forgotten in the wake of new year celebrations and a “national” wedding, is whether seminaries are the problem or not? We are trying our best to look confused and make others confused too.
A corpse of seven years old naked kid cannot wake us up from our delusions. One cleric, who also happens to be a government employee, right in the capital, threatening civil society of suicide bombers and firing from inside a seminary is not enough to make us realize how important it is to reclaim our mosques. The students of the same seminary pledge their allegiance to ISIS and everyone is uninterrupted, perhaps busy in purchasing more keyboards to draft some more bills. While another cleric cum politicianblackmails the government that millions of students from the similar seminaries are ready to act behind him on a short notice. Other students, also in a cultural capital of country, not only disrupt a peaceful vigil in the remembrance of a murdered politician but also beat, threaten and terrorize the participants.
Forced conversions of Hindus are rampant. Ahmadis and Shias are being massacred. But we are ready to discriminate. Some of these incidents may fall into the category of terrorism as prescribed by the 21stamendment while others will not. This is precisely the reason of abstention of “some” of our conservative parliamentarians who definitely fear repercussions to their “allies.” The discrimination will, however, possibly bring more chaos because the other, ignored, not-so-real-terrorists will keep the spark of fundamentalism alive in our society.
If you are feeling confused and depressed after reading this article and are thinking to write a powerful comment to point out my pessimism, mistrust, frustration and moaning without presenting solutions, read it again. The solutions are between the lines. Think about them, act upon them and sort out our mutual feelings.
Akif Khan is a physical scientist and teaches at a university. He is also a freelance writer/blogger and writes a blog named Random Incinerations. Follow him on Twitter