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Daily Briefs


Photo : Dawn

30 July 2020, Thursday, Vol 1, No.93

Religiosity in Pakistan: From Creeping to now Galloping



An analysis by Mr IA Rehman on the nature of religiosity in the country, that is now galloping from an earlier "creeping." Resignation of two SAPMs, and the passage of two FATF related bills in the National Assembly.

PR Daily Brief | PR Team

In Focus
Religiosity in Pakistan: From Creeping to now Galloping
Today’s Dawn has an analysis titled “Galloping Religiosity” (Dawn, 20 July 2020) by Mr IA Rahman, the renowned human rights activist, who has a regular column in the newspaper. A few weeks earlier, there was another analysis titled “Creeping Religiosity.” (Dawn, 25 June 2020)
 
His primary arguments are the following: First, the strength “dark forces of bigotry” and obscurantism is not by accident, but rather they are rooted in the commission and omission of the government. He refers to the absence of sanction to the madrassa regularisation and reforming their curriculum that was given priority in the National Action Plan of 2014. Second, there is a surrender of the State to the conservative religious lobby, for which he provides two examples – the decision of the Punjab government to punish those students who fail to study the holy book, and the recent ban of three books for containing derogatory materials. In his latest analysis, he refers to the Punjab Textbook Board which has imposed a ban on over 100 books that were taught by the private schools.
 
According to him, “the most grandiose adventure by Punjab’s high priests of religiosity” is the latest bill by the Punjab provincial assembly titled “Punjab Tahaffuz-i-Bunyad-i-Islam Act, 2020.” In a hard-hitting criticism to the bill, Rahman concludes: “The bill relies on the coercive power of the state to achieve its dubious objectives. The state has no authority to impose Islam. Its religious obligations end with the creation of conditions in which the Muslims of Pakistan can freely practise their faith. Beyond this, the state has no legitimate right to interfere with anyone’s belief, which is strictly each believer’s private matter. The crude form of state interference in religious matters advocated by the bill is firmly hit by one of the most fundamental principles of Islam: ‘La ikraha fid deen’ (there is no compulsion in religion).”

Two Special Assistants to the PM resign
On 29 July, two special assistants of the prime minister (SAPMs) Dr Zafar Mirza and Tania Aidrus resigned from their posts amid the ongoing tussle between the elected and non-elected members of the federal cabinet. The resignations have come after the opposition criticized the government following its decision to make public details of the assets and dual nationality of 20 advisers and SAPMs.

Dr Mirza, the outgoing SAPM on health, said in a tweet, “Due to ongoing negative discussion about the role of SAPMs & criticism on the gov, I choose to resign. Pakistani people deserve a better health care. I have worked sincerely to contribute to this cause. will Inshallah emerge out of COVID-19 with a stronger hlth care system,” adding “I worked hard and honestly. It was a privilege to serve Pakistan. I am satisfied that I leave at a time when Covid-19 has declined in Pakistan as a result of a grand national effort.” Further, Ms Aidrus,the outgoing SAPM on Digital Pakistan, stated that she was resigning from her post due to criticism directed against her and the government because of her dual nationality. Meanwhile, the PPP has demanded that all SAPMs having dual nationality must resign. (Ikram Junaidi, “Blow to govt as two key PM aides step down,” Dawn, 30 July 2020)

Beyond the resignation tweets: An analysis
An opinion in Dawn titled "Ripples of resignations" by Fahd Husain comments on the recent resignations of Tania Aidrus and Dr Zafar Mirza, states much of what transpires in the PTI government finds context deep within its fault lines. While looking into the details, Husain notes that the Red Zone insiders have stated that Ms Aidrus informed abrasively of several compelling reasons why she had to walk away from the government, with the opinion to decline not made available. Further, pointing out to the journey of Ms Aidrus and the internal politics within the PTI.

The author notes that the unceremonious exit of Ms Aidrus is emitting jarring signals for all unflattering reasons, adding that it once again exposes the multi-layered fault lines within the PTI government, remarking that dual nationality, performance or conflict of interest are only meant to cover up the brutish turf wars which are fuelled by vested interest. Critical of the present government the author states that there are clear and visible power centres inside the Red Zone ruled by individuals in Iron Man suits, and if one wants to survive they would have to align themself with one of these Iron Men.

In conclusion, Husain notes that there may be more resignation however, the reasons may not figure in the tweets of those who leave. (Fahd Husain, “Ripples of resignations,” Dawn, 30 July 2020)


In Brief
POLITICS
Two FATF related bills passed in the NA
Amid strong protests by the opposition, the government managed to get two bills related to the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) passed through a majority voice vote during the extended sitting of the National Assembly. The two bills, The Anti-Terrorism (Amendment) Bill 2020 and the United Nations (Security Council) (Amendment) Bill 2020 were introduced by the government earlier this year to fulfil certain conditions of the FATF on terrorism, were both moved by Adviser to the Prime Minister on Parliamentary Affairs after the house witnessed clashes between the treasury and opposition members over their differences on the proposed changes to the accountability laws. Further, the bills are expected to be passed by the Senate today. (Amir Wasim, “NA passes FATF-related bills amid opposition protest,” Dawn, 30 July 2020)

Opposition in Senate criticizes the frequent use of ordinances
On 29 July, the opposition in the Senate protested over the frequent promulgation of ordinances with six ordinances being laid in the house. Former chairman of Senate Mian Raza Rabbani stated that he had agreed to vote in support of the law to provide for a parallel judicial system in the form of military courts after he was forced to by the ruling elite. Further, adding “But I happen to be tightened by ropes and will start dancing when my strings are pulled.” Further, Javed Abbasi of PML-N stated that under Article 89 of the Constitution, the president had limited powers to promulgate ordinances. Adding that these powers were not discretionary in nature and could be exercised only when the parliament was not in session and some emergency existed. (Iftikhar A. Khan, “Opposition in Senate assails frequent use of ordinances,” Dawn, 30 July 2020)

INTERNAL
Blasphemy accused shot dead in the courtroom by a teenage boy
On 29 July, an undertrial prisoner who was arrested over two years ago on a charge of committing blasphemy was shot dead by a teenage boy inside a courtroom at the Peshawar Judicial Complex. The accused, Tahir Ahmad Naseem, was seated in the court of an additional sessions judge after arguments in his case and was waiting to be moved to prison when he was shot dead at point-blank range by 19-year-old Faisal. The killer was arrested immediately by the police and is to appear in court today. Further, authorities are interrogating the suspect to determine how he carried a pistol into the highly guarded Judicial Complex and whether anyone else was behind the offence. (Waseem Ahmad Shah, “Blasphemy accused shot dead in courtroom,” Dawn, 30 July 2020)

ON GILGIT-BALTISTAN
Turmoil in Gilgit-Baltistan
According to the editorial, Gilgit-Baltistan citizens for long is in turmoil with a lack of political recognition. The upcoming election is pushed forward considering the political atmosphere. According to the editorial, many governments in Pakistan had tried to bring the region closer. further states that PTI with other parties should come forward boldly with a democratic solution for the region. (“GB’s status,” Dawn, 30 July 2020)

EXTERNAL
An analysis on the role of Bangladesh in South Asia power-sharing
According to an analysis, the gap between India and Bangladesh is increasing. India’s neighbours have opted to be a part of China’s Belt and Road. The relationship is going through severe damage, as India is replaced by China as Bangladesh’s largest trading partner. China is trying to be expanding its involvement in Bangladesh through BRI, However, Dhaka is trying to maintain a neutral stand with India and China. On the other hand, the editor tries to highlight that the relationship with both China and India enables Bangladesh to gain more. Both Pakistan and Bangladesh need to realize this bilateral synergy for the citizen of the country. (Inam ul Haque, “Changing times- Bangladesh’s emerging alliances”The Express Tribune, 30 July 2020)

An analysis lauds the Taliban’s commitment to girls education, criticises Ghani for being inflexible, advises him to embrace the Taliban, and blames India
Questioning Ghani’s flexibility to “ensure his own survival”, an analysis by Imran Jan titled “Kabul should embrace the Taliban,” (The Express Tribune, 20 July 2020 ) says: “The Taliban are showing signs of change such as their commitment to allow girls to go to school and for women to work if they returned to power.”

According to Imran Jan, “Because once the Americans leave, the Taliban would have an even freer hand to butcher the Afghan security forces. Anyone labeled “enemy” would be attacked. The Taliban would march to Kabul and become the political and the military power of the country. If the Taliban were a stock, now would be the time to buy shares. Is Ghani going to invest in this rising stock or will he cling to his saffron scarves-wearing sponsors? His defeat would mean his death. It remains to be seen if this is a true disillusionment on Ghani’s part or another chess move. All the stakeholders of peace should watch out for stakeholders of violence. Zalmay Khalilzad had called them “spoilers”. I don’t like riddles so I directly name those spoilers. Their name is India.”

Imran Jan “is a professor at the Lonestar College in Houston and also a PhD candidate at the University of Houston”.

ON INDIA
A conference addressing issues of Jammu and Kashmir
On 28 July, a virtual conference of public representative held upon for the deliberate humanitarian crisis in Jammu and Kashmir. The conference was attended by as many as 60 mayors, deputy mayors, councillors, and community leaders from across the length and breadth of the UK. the press release said they condemned the brutalities perpetrated, as the focus of the discussion was on ending human rights violations and bringing injustice”. The lack of access to medical facilities has compounded more suffering. (“Conference in UK condemns India excesses in held Kashmir”Dawn, 30 July 2020)

 


"The opposition is in no mood to indulge the federal government. They can arrest whoever they want. They can make a new Pakistan. The Opposition in Pakistan has no conditions from them...This government has politicised everything and is practicing illiberal values at the same time. They requested us to help them on few bills as they wanted to speed up the process. Normally this would have been done five months ago through the standing committees but they disregarded all deadlines. We have no idea how they are running the country"

-  Sherry Rehman (The Nation)

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