CITY NOTES

It has not been a good week, and provides too many reminders of the martyrdoms at Karbala for one to think of Ashura, or more precisely the martyrdoms it commemorates, as in any way closed transactions. Before Ashura, there was the blast at the flag lowering at Wahga. After Ashura, there was the killing at Kot Radhakishen. As if to lend that last-named horror point, there was the killing in Gujrat of a Shia mourner in a police station, and that too by an ASI. There was no possibility of self-congratulation on something once a given, of a peaceful Ashura.

While the Wahga blast saw militants falling over themselves to claim, or rather boast, responsibility, the other two showed policemen not doing their job. In the Kot Radha Kishen killing, a police contingent failed to protect the lives of the murdered couple, Shehzad Masih and his wife Shama. And the mourner in Gujrat was axed dead by a police ASI.

Let us not argue about the validity or otherwise of the blasphemy law. The law was not misused, as it is argued is done in such cases. There was no law applied. There was not even an arrest made, let alone a trial conducted. And even the strictest Sharia does not provide for the method of execution: burning. The Sharia permits for a large variety of methods of execution, but explicitly forbids burning, because this is the punishment that the Almighty alone administers, in the form of Hellfire. While the Sharia does prescribe execution for blasphemy, it does not permit burning. Blasphemers may suffer Hellfire, but not on Earth, not at the hands of men.

Anyway, the offence the couple is accused of, defiling the Quran, carries a life sentence, not capital punishment. And while the Kot Radha Kishen police was busy looking the other way, the ASI in Gujrat was busy playing one of the figures of the old ‘penny dreadfuls’, the Crazed Axe Murderer. Did the murdered man, Syed Tufail Haider, insult the ASI or Companions of the Prophet (Peace Be Upon Him)? Neither offence carries the death penalty. Insulting holy personages carries a three-year sentence, not the death penalty. But then, the example of fellow cop Mumtaz Qadri was probably before him. Admittedly, there was a difference between the Punjab Governor and a mourner, but try telling that to a cop.

It’s worth noting that Robin Raphel, the wife of the US Ambassador, Arnold Raphel, killed along with President Ziaul Haq in 1988, is also talking to the cops, though why, we aren’t sure. One wonders why her house is being raided. American cops don’t get to beat suspects senseless, or take axes to interrogations. That might be tied in with the fact that the Pentagon has come out firmly with the charge that the military is backing the Haqqani Network, which is killing American soldiers. The Americans are withdrawing most of their forces from Afghanistan, so why not let bygones be bygones? Especially since the USA wants to build a permanent relationship with Pakistan, or so it says. The answer should be sought in New Delhi, where the Indian government is doing its best to celebrate, and to link the report to the Modi-Obama meeting at the UN General Assembly recently. It seems that the pivot East means Pakistan kowtowing to the new US regional hegemon, India. Suddenly, the Wahga blast makes a certain sense. Who would want to tell the Army that it can fight terror, or India, but not both? The militants?

Whatever the case, PTI chief Imran ‘Last Man Standing’ Khan has suggested that the Supreme Court investigate his charges of rigging in last year’s election, and ensure that Mian Nawaz Sharif resign if the charges are proved. Until then, he says, the sit-in would continue. The problem is, what if the investigation says there wasn’t enough rigging to make Imran the winner?

It’s almost like the Chief Election Commissioner’s selection. Imran readily accused Mr Justice (retd) Fakhruddin G. Ebrahim, with the result that he resigned. And no one is willing to take the job. The latest dropout is Mr Justice (retd) Bhagwandas, who was being named by everyone, but told Senator Raza Rabbani ‘thanks, but no thanks.’ So Mian Nawaz has got another problem when he gets back from China, where he signed all of those power and infrastructure MoUs, which remained unsigned because of Imran. It’s almost as if China is the cause of all this worry. And where China comes in, will India be far behind?

The USA should remember that it’s the anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. That should show it that tyranny can’t last forever. And it’s also Iqbal’s birth anniversary. The two are yoked together for all eternity, or at least as long as the Gregorian calendar is used.