About the State of Emergency in Pakistan

Dr. Stephen Gill

I am a democrat and believes firmly in the rule of the law. I begin to think when people discuss the state of emergency and suspension of the constitution in Pakistan from November 3rd. There are articles and press releases in support of lawyers and judges in Pakistan and to force General Musharraf to reinstate the constitution.

The question is which constitution of Pakistan they refer to. Was there democracy before this emergency? Let us talk about the blasphemy laws of Pakistan that put the minorities under the state-sponsored terrorism. For decades, the minorities, not more than three percent of the population, have been tortured, beaten outside and inside of the jails and if released could not enjoy the freedom that was given to them by a court. Either they died in jails or outside by crowds. The lucky ones who were freed by courts had to seek refuge abroad.

When Ms. Bhutto was prime minister, she said that there cannot be blasphemy laws in a country where a person can buy false witnesses for even twenty rupees that is less then half of a dollar. She also said she was in the office as prime minister without any power. General Musharraf tried to make these laws harder for every citizen to misuse them so easily to grab the lands of others, or to take revenge But the forces of anarchy stood against him and he had to withdraw his move.

In addition to these discriminatory laws, there are other laws that clearly discriminate between a Muslim and a non-Muslim. For example, a non-Muslim cannot be the head of the armed forces and prime minister of the country. There are discriminatory examinations for the students. The witness of two women equal to one Muslim male in court.

It will take pages to write about atrocities on the minorities. It happened under the reign of General Musharraf and it had happened even before. These atrocities will continue happening, may be even more, after him.

Discriminatory laws have been imposed through non-democratic means. Lawyers and judges of Pakistan from the majority group never spoke against these and other discriminatory laws, because these laws affected only minorities. The state of emergency affects all, particularly the majority. That is why a segment of judiciary is crying. This segment of lawyers of Pakistan threw stones at police during their demonstrations, knowing well that no citizen has the right to take the law in his or her own hands. The press release and articles do not condemn that part.

Now, when people are killing innocent people, even children; bombing the religious places of minorities, including churches; and when terrorists are everywhere, what can be expected from General Musharraf who himself has been targeted several times.

There is a long list to prove that Pakistan did not have democracy even before this state of emergency and its laws are not based on democratic principles. Moreover, there are at least three constitutions produced at different times. Situation under General Musharraf deteriorated in certain areas because he has been more liberal and democrat than his predecessors had been. The blasphemy laws of Pakistan is a kind of martial law on the minorities since the days of Zia-ul-Haq. These laws are divisive that have been introduced by a dictator who was not elected democratically. Zia used to say that the constitution consists of a few pages that he could tear any time.

The seeds of the deterioration of the law and order situations have been sown by Zia-ul-Haq in the early eighties. Pakistan is now reaping that crop. General Musharraf gave freedom of expression more than any other president or dictator of Pakistan has ever given. The press and citizens misused that freedom openly. There is freedom to condemn a religion of minority groups. Go to any shop in Pakistan and you can buy several forms of anti-Christian literature based on hatred. This type of freedom is divisive and poisonous for a nation. Moreover, corruption is common in almost every area. Can anyone say that Pakistan had a democracy or a rule of law before this state of emergency?

This is the time to reflect over the real reasons that compelled General Musharraf to impose this state of emergency. It is also the time to remember why and how he came to power. Which are those forces that made him to come to power? It is also the time to reflect and do something to destroy the divisive and undemocratic seeds that have been sown in the land of peace. Just to say that General Musharaf should go or lift the state of emergency is not going to solve the deep-rooted ailments. One ailment is fanaticism that is giving birth to terrorism. The blasphemy laws and other discriminatory laws are responsible for spreading the poison of hatred that are responsible for terrorism. As long as the divisive laws are there in the books of Pakistan, there will always be insecurity, dangers and other impediments to the prosperity in the land that is blessed with nearly every type of wealth.

©Stephen Gill