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Friday, April 24, 2009

A letter to Bushra Gohar and her reply

Nafisa Shah and Bushra Gohar
Members of Parliament

Pakistan.

Re: Your approach to the Nizam e Adal debate in Parliament.>


Dear Sisters,>


So what did we end up seeing: Ayaz Amir rising to bravely oppose the Bill, a
mullah making a feeble technical protest about what flavor of Sharia one is
to adopt, and the MQM like both these individuals merely abstaining – just
abstaining, not voting against this dastardly Bill.>


And then one looked at the sisters, all 60 of them, and it seemed they had
wetted their panties – excuse my French! What happened to the great
campaigner for banning Karo Kari, and the wonderfully brave Pukhtun lassie?


As a Hindu living in Sindh, and wanting to continue to do so, I am fighting
against serious odd hand-in-hand with our revolutionary Muslim and Christian
sisters. We know of the killing of my people in Umerkot, about which none
of your parties have taken any action or expressed sympathy.


We know that Nafisa’s father is the Chief Minister of Sindh and it is his
responsibility to maintain peace in the province. Or is his only task now
to bow to his masters, the fascist MQM (whose recent abstaining doesn’t wash off their past sins)?

Razia Bhatti, the founder editor of Newsline (where Nafisa learnt her
ropes), will be turning in her grave at how her star reporter Nafisa has
become an ardent supporter of one of the most corrupt individuals to lead
this country. All this for the sake of PPP loyalty, and transitory power?

Remember dear sisters, your parliamentary slots will not remain for life.
You will have to climb down and be with the rest of us. How will you be
able to face us and the true reality after selling your soul to power?

You of course you know the way to redeem yourself – you have recommended it
to others in the days when you had tongues. Speak up or ship out, now. You
are better outside than inside that pointless white cube of a parliament on
Constitution Ave.

Wishing you the strength of your old conscience,


Your sister in strength,



Lila Thadani

Sindh Adyoon Tehreek

Sukkur.

..................
Bushra's reply

Dear Lila Thadani: Salaamoona and Greetings!! many thanks for sharing
your indignation and vehement reaction to the women parliamentarians
alleged silence when the Nizam i Adl regulation was taken up in the
National Assembly. It has indeed become a national trait to react to
events and situations rather than take positions in a timely manner to
build sufficient peoples pressure and build consensus on alternatives.
Unfortunately we did not witness from the women rights activists a
movement against the carnage in Swat, against the peace agreement with
Sufi Mohammad and a strong protest outside the Parliament against the
Nizam-i-Adl regulation either. Instead to soothe their conscience a
few activists have registered their protest through cyberspace or the
media channels from their comfort zones. None have tried to
understand the complexities of the situation in Swat, its links with
the mainstream terror outfits operating in the country and the
conditions that led to the peace agreement in Swat. Though I feel the
people of Swat are lucky that at least there is some debate in the
media and among the activists but there is complete silence on the
atrocities being committed in FATA since the military operations
started in Waziristan in 2004. Therefore, I too have been very
concerned with the eerie silence or mute response from women rights
activists mainly from the mainland to the carnage in Swat that was
going on for over 8 months both at the hands of the Military and the
Militants. It was only after personal appeals to activists and
opionion makers mainly from Pakhtunkhwa that we got a few brave ones
willing to stick their necks out and speak of the atrocities being
committed in the valley. Their writings in the print media drew
National and International attention to what was going on in the once
most beautiful and peaceful valley of the country. The Pakhtunkhwa
Provincial Assembly for the first time in the history of this country
openly condemned the military's shady operation allowing the militants
to gain ground and strength in Swat. They threatened to march to Swat
if the attacks on the innocent people were not stopped by both sides.
A direct consequence of this was one of the ANP MPAs was targeted and
killed for taking a strong position. More than 136 ANP elected
representatives families, office bearers and workers have been
targeted and killed in Swat alone. Several had their homes destroyed
and were forced to leave the area to live in camps or with families
settled outside. Elected representatives were threatened that their
families and voters would be targeted if they said anything against
the militants. Yet we heard Swat PPP MNA and a few ANP Swat MPAs
openly speak out against what was going on in their areas. The women
representatives of all political parties and civil society held a
massive jirga in Peshawar in March in the wake of life threats to
present their perspective on the situation in Swat and the rest of the
country and outlined conditions for a peace agreement with the
militants.

The provincial government has publicly accepted that the agreement
with Sufi Mohammad was not the best option for peace but after the
failure of military force, what other options were there for them to
consider...when militants barbaric control spread from 25 percent of
the area before the military operations to almost the entire valley
despite the ANP leaderships meetings and coordination with the
military and intelligence agencies at the highest levels to register
their complaints and pressure them to control the spread...the
military of course, thought ANP was carrying out a campaign against
them...an political government depends on the national security setup
for dealing with law and order situation, militancy and insurgency.
The already under resourced, strained from frequent suicide blasts
targeting them and demoralized Provincial civilian security setup is
putting their lives in danger to deal with militancy and insurgency
that is engulfing the Province and the country at a fast pace. Thanks
to military dictators, the country has been brought to the verge of
collapse and disinte. The Federal and Provincial governments are
faced with huge challenges and need the whole nation's support in
dealing with the scourge...as a first step we have to snap out of our
state of denial and hybernation and recognize that we are in a state
of war to be able to prepare ourselves adequately.

The Provincial government had to find a political solution to the
situation in Swat to bring normalcy and gain some space to manuevre.
It took a major risk in going into an agreement with Sufi Mohammad,
who had renounced armed struggle in an undertaking with the Provincial
Government in 2008, to facilitate the process with Fazlullah his son
in law after first taking all stakeholders including all political
parties operating in the Province, the President and all concerned in
the Federal Government, the top Military bureaucracy etc on board. It
is important to understand that the Provincial government went into
the agreement after it had technically experienced a military defeat
in Swat and thus were not going into it from a position of strength.
Also, it is important to note that the writ of the government had been
seriously eroded since 2006 or so, the key state institutions weakened
and terrorized and the people traumatized by the violence in the area.
Thus people sitting in the far corners of the counrty, who speak
against the peace agreement sound as if things were normal in Swat and
that all hell will break as a result of the Provincial government's
peace agreement.
The Nizam-i-Adl regulation a long standing demand in Malakand division
since the 80s, mainly because of ineffective integration of the
formerly princely states into the mainstream judicial and
administrative system, formed the basis of the agreement. The
Nizam-i-Adl regulation was first introduced in Malakand Division in
the early 90s by the then PM Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto to control a
violent campaign initiated by Sufi Mohammad. However, as is the case
with our judicial system throughout the country it failed to meet the
demands and needs of the people who were used to an effective justice
system under the Wali of Swat, the system in vogue under the Wali was
by the way called the Shariah Nizam-i-Adl, the matter had to be taken
up again by Nawaz Sharif's Government in 1999 when matters got
volatile but it too suffered from poor and ineffective implementation.
The Musharraf's interim government in 2007 was going to get the
regulation signed with some changes to address the concerns but at the
time all political parties opposed it saying that it should be left to
the elected government to take up after the elections in 2008. The
ANP led Provincial government introduced only two changes to the
already prevalent system...which is only to deal with the judicial
system reform and has nothing to do with the administrative, social,
political and economic etc. spheres in the area...firstly, the
criminal and civil cases would be dealt with in 4 and 6 months
respectively and the supreme court and high court will have benches in
Malakand so people won't have to go to Peshawar or Islamabad. The
main concerns some rights activists have rightly expressed this time
round in view of the weakeness of the government's writ and the links
of the Militants with a more global terror network based in
Waziristan, are that the militants might take executive control of its
implementation...concerns that Sufi Mohammad will be appointing Qazis
or Judges are ill founded as they will be appointed by the Provincial
government just as in other parts of the Province. However, when
moving from a violent war like situation to peace one must keep in
mind that there are going to be many problems down the road...things
are not going to settle down or be smooth sailing...the Provincial
government doesn't expect it to be and is working on a multi pronged
approach to establish its writ and strengthen the administrative
setup...A semblance of peace has returned to the valley with
businesses, hospitals and schools have reopened...however, militants
have yet to be disarmed and their check posts removed in most parts of
the district. We must watch the progress towards peace closely to
check the risk of any rights violations. I also would like an
independent judicial commission constituted headed by a retired judge
of the Supreme Court to review violations and losses both human and
property as a result of militancy and military operations in Swat and
FATA.

Now coming to your frontal attack on the women parliamentarians
especially those on reserved seats as your email only targets them and
not the 16 who have come on general seats...I feel is undermining the
struggle that most women rights activists have been involved in for
decades to ensure women's participation in politics. The Women who
have entered the parliament are playing a critical role both in their
parties and in the assembly to bring women's concerns on the priority
agenda with very little support both within the parties and/or
outside.

I for one strongly supported my party's position in opposing the
bringing of the resolution to the National Assembly as it was not a
consitutional requirement and that it was going to end up giving
legitimacy to something that the parliament could not effect change
in. Our position was that it should have been brought for an indepth
debate in the National Assembly in 2008 when it was first presented to
the Federal Government by the Provincial Government. The Parliament
should also have been taken into confidence on all peace agreements
including the one in Waziristan, Bajaur between the military and
militants. It has also been our long standing demand that the
President's powers to legislate for PATA and FATA should be transfered
to the Parliament through a constitutional amendment so that the
National Assembly is not expected to just pass a resolution but debate
proposed bills in the standing committee and in the assembly in a
meaningful way. On the other hand the Federal Government and the
President felt that considering the huge pressures from outside and
inside against and for the signing of the regulation, a resolution in
the parliament would strengthen the President's position. There was
no substantive debate really in the Parliament on the Nizam-i-Adl
Regulation but on whether it should be placed before the house or not.
I know many women parliamentarians were very concerned about the
repercussions of the regulation and would have openly expressed their
concerns had a debate taken place and had the parliament been
empowered to legislate for FATA and PATA...I know Nafisa Shah wanted a
thorough debate on the regulation despite the constitutional
limitations. She was of the opinion that the members be given time to
understand and debate the regulation before taking up the resolution.
As for your call to the media to continue to question the women
parliamentarians that you feel have done you all down, let me just say
that the majority of the Pakistani media has been unfortunately taken
over by the right wing and are more talibanized than even the most
hard core religious extremists themselves. They have created havoc in
the lives of the people by creating and thriving on confusion and
psychological stress. They have made heros out of militants and
criminals...therefore, would suggest not to expect much from our
mainstream journalists...the wave of formula talk shows with the aim
of making the politicians look like fools and militants and ex army
and ISI chiefs as experts, generally lack substance and objectivity
altogether. The women rights activists should do some critical
analyses of the way media is holding the nation hostage and promoting
the interests of the retrogressive forces in the country.

I hope that we can continue to engage in a debate on emerging issues
especially that affect women in reasonable manner to strengthen each
other.

I would be grateful if you could forward my response to all you have
shared your email with. I look forward to meaningful criticism,
timely suggestions and support from the women rights activists
especially those in WAF for whom I have great respect and have faith
in their clarity of vision and intent and unwavering commitment to
women's rights in the country.

Best wishes,
Bushra Gohar, ANP

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