Afghanistan, Pakistan & Bangladesh HRDI News Indian Diaspora

Attack on a church

Sir: On Friday morning, two militants attacked the Assembly of God (AoG) Church located in Swati Gate, Peshawar. Minorities across Pakistan were already outraged over the remarks made on Thursday by Chief Minister Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Pervez Khattak, who belongs to the PTI, when he said that Muslims cannot be hired as sweepers and cleaners in the province. He also said that in the frequent absence of current sweepers, vacancies can only be given to minorities. Various minority groups expressed their outrage and demanded the chief minister’s resignation. On Friday morning, as the pastors gathered for a refresher course at the AoG Church, two armed men tried to enter the church; they were intercepted by a police guard on duty who tried to stop them. They opened fire and shot him thrice: on the neck, chest and near the heart. The guard died on the spot and the attackers fired at the church, took the guard’s gun and fled the scene.

There have been threats to the AoG Church, after which church members demanded security from the local authorities; two police officials were deployed at the church for security. On Friday morning, there was only one police guard on duty and he gave up his life in the line of duty. The senior police officials rushed to the scene and a first information report (FIR) has been registered about the incident. The incident has been condemned by civil society. Human rights organisation Life for All Pakistan has condemned the statement of the chief minister. It is shameful that the PTI has been campaigning for change; the people of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa entrusted them with the responsibility to ensure peace, justice, equality and respect for all individuals. However, Khattak’s comments on Thursday about how only minorities are fit to be sweepers have hurt the sentiments of minorities — this is clearly discrimination. The PTI talked about giving equal rights and opportunities to religious minorities but, after coming into power, the party speaks and does otherwise. We also condemn the attack on the church. Security has been raised at other churches and we praise the guard who intercepted the attackers and saved other lives by sacrificing his own.

Problems of the province

Sir: Quetta has been rocked by yet another suicide bombing, claiming 28 precious lives. The city has been in the grip of ethnic and sectarian violence for almost a decade now. The elections of 2013 have brought in a new government to the troubled province but it seems as if the change of government has actually worsened the problem. Apparently, the nationalis pro-Baloch chief minister is running the show with reservations from all sides, particularly from the far right exclusivists. The problem of Balochistan is multidimensional: there are nationalists who are literally running a movement for independence and have openly declared a war against the Pakistani state. To pacify the insurgents, the PML-N has installed a nationalist government in Balochistan without realising the fact that the insurgents are actually fighting the state and not the government. The mere installation of a nationalist government will not solve the problem unless the state institutions work with the government. The government and state go in different directions and cause total failure of law and order in the province. An unabated killing of Hazaras has now been internationalised. Social media is spreading the pictures of the dead Hazaras in Quetta, hence tarnishing the image of Pakistan to an irreparable extent.

The situation is alarming and demands stern and immediate action to address the problem. Lack of coordination between the government and state institutions is a major hurdle in the process of restoration of peace in Balochistan. Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, apparently realising the gravity of the problem, has endeavoured to coordinate the efforts of the government and state institutions. The situation demands a comprehensive approach to solve the Balochistan problem. All right wing parties, till now, have resorted to political populism instead of paying attention to the real issues of the common man. Media popularity, through scoring political points by paying visits to prison disguised as a common man and passing resolutions on so-called obscenity in television plays are classical examples of political populism. The country is in the hands of right wing conservatives who are ideologically close to the banned outfits responsible for the law and order situation in the country.

The roots of democracy

Sir: I am writing with reference to the column ‘Egyptian Revolution, 2.0’ by Yasser Latif Hamdani (Daily Times, July 8, 2013). Yasser Hamdani touches the crux of the problem facing Egyptian democracy when he says, “By definition, democracy must not mean simple majority rule. Frederick Douglass, the great American philosopher and abolitionist, described democracy as the process of taking turns. Indeed, in divided societies, such as Egypt, where a permanent majority, i.e. Sunni Muslims dominate permanent minorities, such as Nubians and Copts, any simple majority rule that imposes a certain way of life and marginalises permanent minorities is the antithesis of democracy.” To stem any tyranny of the majority, we may learn from the inventors of democracy. Democracy was invented by the ancient Athenians who believed that aristocrats and oligarchs did not have the divine right to rule and ordinary citizens must have a say in governing as it touches their own lives. So, they invented a system of government involving ordinary people and called it demokratia — a government by the people. Democracy is a brilliant idea and, like all brilliant ideas, it has some apparent contradictions and the most seductive one is majority rule. But this is not democracy, only rule by the majority. When the Athenians allowed the majority to rule, the poor majority imposed heavy taxes on the rich minority who conspired to bring down democracy. After several bouts of civil war, the Athenians took practical steps to bring everyone into the government and make democracy work for all citizens. Central to this was the Athens Council, composed of 500 people chosen through lottery to represent a cross-section of society. All social groups were equally represented. The Athens Council had the power to override any decision that ignored the legitimate concerns of the minority.

The world’s first democracy wished to avoid tyranny more than anything else. This is why it did not define itself as majority rule although it put to the vote most policy issues. Any form of tyranny — including majority rule — keeps some people out of government. The Athens Council provided necessary checks and balances against any tyranny by the majority. Although the Athenian system of direct democracy may not be practical in our complex world, stemming the tyranny of the majority still remains germane. Egypt can have its own Egyptian Council, representing a cross-section of society where the Sunnis, Copts and Nubians would be equally represented. It can be drawn from prominent Egyptians from all religious and ethnic groups. Like the Athens Council, it will have the power to override any decision that ignores the legitimate concerns of minority groups. With such checks and balances, fanatic Islamists like Morsi and his Muslim Brotherhood will not be able to impose their tyranny of the majority in the name of democracy.

Give us justice, not a court

Sir: Nearly four years have passed since the restoration of the judiciary. The expectations and longing of the entire nation at the time of this restoration were huge but all our ambitions and hopes have been squashed due to the fact that the judiciary’s decrees are not implemented. If we think deeply, we realise that this is because the courts issue order after order, so much so that the importance of these orders has simply vanished. Secondly, deviation from the court’s decrees has affected the judiciary a lot. When the judiciary takes note of anyone, the very next day, that same person addresses the press in a conference in London or the US. When the court orders the seizure of anybody, he/she can be seen wandering around in the city without any hindrance, like the accused of the rental power case and Shah Rukh Jatoi, who, when ordered to be remanded, was provided with bulletproof security.

The people demand fair play because maintaining the judicial institution is too expensive for the common man. We need justice, not the establishment of a court.

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