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Shadow of the FCR

THE enlightened sections of society have been shocked at the acquittal of two killers in the tribal area on the ground that local custom permitted ‘killing for honour’. The incident should be seen not only as a denial of the fundamental rights of the population of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata) but also in the context of erosion of the rule of law throughout the country. The case was decided by the court of the assistant political agent, Landikotal (Khyber Agency), a stone’s throw away from the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa capital. The assistant political agent acquitted the two murder accused by accepting the jirga’s finding that they could not be punished as they had killed two close relatives, a woman and a man, for having developed illicit relations and the rivaj (custom) … Read entire article »

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Don’t exclude the people

THE confrontation between the government and the opposition parties has exposed the most fundamental flaw in the country’s political culture, namely, ‘leader worship’ at the cost of the people’s exclusion from political decision-making and governance. Take two screaming headlines noticed the other day. The prime minister was reported as saying that he was building roads for his detractors’ use. The fact is that roads are built by the government with resources provided by the people. On the other side, the PTI chief declared that when he came into power the Pakistanis would start returning from Britain instead of going there for work. It did not occur to him that if he became the head of government through … Read entire article »

The endangered Kalash

THE recent clash between the Kalash community and their more numerous Muslim neighbours, caused by a girl’s change of faith, appears to have been amicably resolved. However, the incident should awaken the government and the people both to their duty to save the tiny Kalash minority from extinction. This month’s attack on the Kalash again brought out their tradition of tolerance. Reena, a 14-year-old Kalash girl, was reported to have converted to Islam and chosen to stay with a Muslim family. Then she went back to her parents’ home and complained of having been forcibly converted. This enraged the Muslim neighbours and they attacked Kalash homes. The authorities intervened and the parties agreed to respect the … Read entire article »

The people’s champion

The essays collected in this slim volume titled The Public Intellectual in India, by Romila Thapar, give the right call at the right time. There is little doubt that the world is going through one of the worst phases of retrogression in its history. Everywhere the gains made by humankind in areas of culture, humanism, democracy, rule of law, and equity are under threat from extremists ostensibly out to defend religious/ideological puritanism or the sanctity of the nation-state. In many lands, people are waiting for what Thapar defines as “public intellectuals”, who will call a halt to the drift towards self-annihilation. The idea of the discourse contained in this publication began taking shape when Thapar, the … Read entire article »

The roots of misogyny

THE outpouring of anger and revulsion at the recent spate of murders of young women who tried to exercise their basic rights will go to waste if the causes of increase in such cases are not seriously tackled. The first thing to be noted about these murders is the escalating level of brutality. The young woman from Murree who was severely tortured before being set ablaze by her closest relatives was punished for refusal to marry against her wishes. In Kasur a young woman paid with her life for arguing with her husband and the latter was helped by his female relatives to burn her alive. A woman in Lahore strangulated her daughter for taking a spouse of … Read entire article »