Salmaan Taseer’s Killer and the Death Penalty Question

Today is a day that will go down in the history books. The best response I have seen comes from Nadeem Paracha on Twitter.

What he is referencing, of course, is the historic decision by Supreme Court maintaining the conviction of Governor Salmaan Taseer’s confessed murderer and rejecting his appeal against his death sentence. The confessed murderer will now hang to death as a terrorist, the lowest of the low in our society.

This has brought mixed emotions to many liberals in Pakistan who celebrate with great relief and a renewed sense of hope the Court’s decision which not only cements the principle of rule of law by demanding that individuals cannot take the law into their own hands but must take their complaints through the due process of law, but asked some pointed questions about the use – and misuse – of blasphemy laws. The feeling of hope that, while we have a long way to go, the darkest days may finally be behind us cannot be understated.

However that feeling is also mixed with a discomfort with the death penalty for many who have seen it also misused and know that in killing someone the state takes on the ultimate power of life and death. It is a sentence that cannot be overturned. Death is permanent. Even when the death penalty has not been misused for political purposes, such as the case of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, we have seen situations such as the hanging of people convicted when they were children over the outcry of international human rights groups. This has left an understandable distaste for the practice.

In the case of Salmaan Taseer’s killer, though, I believe the Court has made the correct decision. In the case, there is no question of the killer’s innocence as he has freely and proudly confessed to his crime. In that way it is a fairly open and shut case. In another way, the case is extraordinary. Such a case cannot be viewed without acknowledging the times we live in. By treating the convict in the same way that we have treated hundreds of other terrorists, we are sending a clear message that this is not the case of a hero or Ghazi but a common murderer and terrorist that has no place in our society.

So let us end this case with a feeling of hope. Hope that the Supreme Court’s courageous decision will mark a turning point when our justice system is following the popular sentiment against extremism and lawlessness. Hope that the pathetic end to this terrorist prevents others from following his evil path. And hope that with the closing of this case, we also begin to close a dark chapter in our nation’s history and begin a new, happier chapter for generations to come.

Why do we debate like this?

When I saw Asad Khan’s piece attacking Husain Haqqani, I yawned. In 1,000 words, the author managed to say nothing new. What he hoped to gain from writing it or the newspaper hoped to gain from publishing it I can only guess to be some easy website hits and re-tweets which they probably succeeded at. A few days later, that piece was responded to in the same newspaper by Junaid Qaiser who answered each of Asad Khan’s points. With that, I thought for sure the matter would be finished. Then, someone who I have a lot of respect for made a serious accusation that Haqqani was on the payroll of Arab Sheikhs. This was actually a new one, usually it is RAW or CIA I thought was supposedly paying everyone. I was astounded and I asked what evidence he had to make such a sensational allegation. After a polite back and forth, I was left more depressed than ever. Not because a former Ambassador had been proven to be working for a foreign power, but because after seeing the evidence I felt like it was just another example of the self-defeating way that we debate in this country.

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Farrukh Saleem: Political Scientist…or Politicised Scientist

Farrukh SaleemFarrukh Saleem’s latest column includes a startling claim. He says that “the estimated amount embezzled over five years of PPP rule” is Rs8.5 trillion. TRILLION. Such a sum amounts to 8.5 percent of GDP during the five year period that PPP was in power. According to the author, this was not only due to the corruption of PPP but also could not be stopped because “Our entire anti-corruption infrastructure is designed and structured to protect corruption“. Farrukh Saleem knows the solution, though, and unsurprisingly it starts and ends at GHQ which if it is not allowed to succeed will result in “wholesale nation-wide disappointment“.

There is not much in Farrukh Saleem’s piece that is surprising. He has been a long-time supporter of the military taking over more and more of the country. What is surprising is the massive number that he is throwing out. Where did this come from? I know it is fashionable to accuse Zardari and Co. of looting everything they put their eyes on, but over 8 percent of GDP may be taking the “Mr 10%” smear a little too far don’t you think? But Farrukh Saleem…excuse me…DR. Farrukh Saleem is a respected political scientist writing for one of the largest media groups in the country. Surely some fact checking was done before this was allowed to be published.

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Why are we celebrating the fall of Kunduz?

Pakistani newspaper writes "America cries, another victory for Taliban"

Afghan forced backed by NATO are reported to have regained control of Kunduz after a three day battle with Taliban fighters. This comes as a disappointment to many of our own countrymen who celebrated reports that Taliban had seized control of the major Afghan city on Monday. This is deserving of reflection. Why are so many of us celebrating advances by Taliban fighters even while we are locked in a battle to the finish with Taliban ourselves? The answers offer important clues to the root of our troubles and, possibly, provide some hope for a solution.

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A Matter of Attitude

I recently stumbled upon a three minute clip that went viral on social media. The video showed paramilitary force, Sindh Rangers, making arrests of Karachi citizens from the roads and their residences.

The video clearly demonstrated the high headedness tactics used by paramilitary forces while making the arrests. By watching the clip, it can be said for sure that arrestees surrendered them to the law enforcers. There was no need for such brutal and harsh behavior in further investigation or arrest. The video is raising many questions on the law enforcement agencies’ method of arrest and investigation. First of all, they did not produce any arrest warrant. Some people on social media raised point that the video is nearly a decade old. If this particular incident is decade old then it raises more questions about the arresting procedure by the law enforcers. At that time, our national legislators had not passed Pakistan Protection Act, which could have given excuse for such arbitrary behaviors like:

  1. Arresting citizens from the roads or the place of their residences without producing warrants;
  2. Vandalizing personal properties of arrestees, like destroying the motorcycle of an arrestee shown in the video;
  3. Stripping the arrestees of the clothes and blind folding them;
  4. Severely beating them and kicking arrestees to the ground before taking them away.

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