Pakistan: Now or Never?
Perspectives on Pakistan
(The following is a guest contribution. Reuters is not responsible for the content and the views expressed are the author’s alone. The writer is Pakistan’s High Commissioner to the UK)
SHAHBAZ BHATTI: A TRIBUTE TO A BRAVE HEART
By Wajid Shamsul Hasan
Shahbaz Bhatti’s memorial meeting at the Pakistan High Commission (March 16) was a profoundly sad occasion for all to remember a person who laid down his life for a united and strong Pakistan.
This tribute to him is a humble acknowledgement – in solemn gratitude – of his selfless struggle for the high and noble ideals he so cherished. Those ideals have been a clarion call for every Pakistani to make his country – our country – a place where every citizen has equal rights without fear or favour.
Bhatti laid down his life at a time when he was most needed. In his official capacity, he represented the interests of Pakistan’s religious minorities. However, Bhatti also stood for the vision of Pakistan’s founding father, Quaid-e Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah, that in Pakistan all its citizens will enjoy equal rights, irrespective of caste, creed, colour or gender. Its politics was to be characterised by pluralism, the rule of law, the freedom to practice all faiths and that religion will have nothing to do with the business of the state.
After two assassinations, Pakistani politicians are finally beginning to address tensions over the country’s blasphemy laws.
Interior Minister Rehman Malik said in an interview politicians should be able to reach a cross-party consensus on preventing the misuse of the blasphemy laws, as proposed by Maulana Fazl-ur-Rehman, head of the Jamiat-e-Ulema-e-Islam (JUI-F) religious party. ”Its misuse is being, of course, taken into account and the party leaders are going to sit together as proposed by Maulana Fazl-ur-Rehman … and I hope this matter can be thrashed out, whenever this meeting takes place.”
For all the bad news coming out of Pakistan, you can’t help but admire the courage of two very different women who did what their political leaders failed to do — stood up to the religious right after the killing of Punjab governor Salman Taseer over his call for changes to the country’s blasphemy laws.
One is Sherry Rehman, a politician from the ruling Pakistan People’s Party, who first proposed amendments to the laws. The other is actress Veena Malik, who challenged the clerical establishment for criticising her for appearing on Indian reality show Big Boss. I’m slightly uncomfortable about grouping the two together — the fact that both are Pakistani women does not make them any more similar than say, for example, two Pakistani men living in Rawalpindi or London. Yet at the same time, the idea that Pakistan can produce such different and outspoken women says a lot about the diversity and energy of a country which can be too easily written off as a failing state or bastion of the Islamist religious right.
Following up on earlier posts here and here about Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), I’ve been looking closely at the arrest in Chicago on anti-terrorism charges of two men linked to LeT and accused of plotting attacks in Denmark.
Analysts say the Chicago case demonstrates the global reach of the militant group and its ability to plot attacks in India and around the world. The court documents submitted by U.S. authorities also allege that Lashkar-e-Taiba had suggested that attacks on India be given priority over the planned attack in Denmark, highlighting the threat still posed by the group one year after Mumbai.
By Zeeshan Haider
Pakistan is battling Taliban militants, trying to patch up relations with old rival India and struggling to revive a limping economy but another issue has preoccupied the country over recent days: the sighting of the moon that markes the end of the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan.
A row erupted when the Eid al Fitr holiday that follows Ramadan was celebrated in several parts of North West Frontier Province (NWFP) on Sunday, a day ahead of the rest of the country. Many Pakistanis say that violated a spirit of harmony and unity that should mark one of the
most important events of the Islamic calender.
Political scientist Samuel Huntington, whose controversial book "The Clash of Civilizations" predicted conflict between the West and the Islamic world, has died at age 81, Harvard University said on Saturday. You can see our story here.
In his 1996 "The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order," which expanded on his 1993 article in Foreign Affairs magazine, Huntington divided the world into rival civilizations based mainly on religious traditions such as Christianity, Islam, Hinduism and Confucianism and said competition and conflict among them was inevitable.