Archive | May, 2013

CII Decision on DNA Evidence

29 May

To whom this may concern,

I write to you today in my capacity as female citizen of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, in disagreement and disgust over your decision regarding DNA Evidence in rape cases. Being part and parcel of the Ministry of Religious Affairs, one would expect that the Council of Islamic Ideology (CII) would understand the position of women in our country, today. We live in a society where women are legally and socially oppressed. This is not only in contravention of our basic human right not to be discriminated against on the basis of our gender but this also impedes on basic Islamic principles. Women in Pakistan are the victims of domestic abuse, acid attacks, sexual harassment, rape and other heinous crimes. Regardless of this well-known fact, the CII has decided that women need not be protected via the inclusion of DNA evidence as primary evidence in cases of rape. Such a decision screams injustice and misinterpretation of Islam.

DNA evidence is the only certain means by which a woman can prove she was raped. It may have been the case hundreds of years ago that 4 male witnesses happened to be present in case of such a crime, but this is not so in the status quo. Islam requires us to keep ourselves updated with modern-day needs and technologies. By stating that DNA evidence cannot be considered primary evidence, I feel the CII has inadvertently displayed their ignorance of the law of evidence, and how it functions in various jurisdictions. DNA evidence is primary evidence which is admissible in court in the United Kingdom, and seeing as how most of our law flows from that model; it seems strange that the CII failed to recognize this fact. Moreover, it is important to understand the significance of DNA evidence in protecting all parties involved. There was a case in Colorado in 1996, where a man was sentenced to life imprisonment over the murder of a teenage girl. It was due to fresh DNA evidence that was permitted in court that the man’s innocence was proven. In using this example, I hope you understand that DNA evidence is both beneficial for the victim claiming she has been raped as well as a possibly innocent accused. DNA evidence is being utilized in several jurisdictions around the world as it is an efficient means of exonerating the accused (where the accused is innocent) and convicting the accused (where the accused is guilty). The fact remains that the only exception to the rule that no two people can have the same DNA is where a case of identical twins is concerned. Therefore, DNA has a high value in criminal cases as it is considered extremely reliable.

 A woman in Pakistan, currently, cannot come forth with a charge of rape against a man for fear of being stoned to death, publicly labelled an adulterer or other such nonsense. Women are the victims of the crime of rape and cannot be treated as the perpetrators. If we wish to develop as a society, based on Islamic principles, protection of women must be ensured. A woman cannot in this day and age be expected to have four male witnesses when she is being raped. Therefore, the inclusion of DNA evidence in rape cases is a prerequisite for justice to prevail and crimes of violence against women to be significantly reduced. It is on this basis that I urge you to reconsider your decision.

 

Regards,

Imaan Hazir Mazari

Islamabad, Pakistan

 

 

Basic Project Outline – “Responsible Citizens”

25 May

Basic Proposal Outline: “Responsible Citizens”

This is based on the idea of suspended coffee and meals in the United Kingdom and Australia.

How does it work? Walk into any of the partnered restaurants or coffee shops and order as per usual. Whatever the price for any meal you choose, you can choose to order another one of that or any other for any price listed and tell the waiter your second order is “suspended.” This basically means that any person who cannot afford the meal or drink in question walks into the store and asks if there are any suspended coffees or meals available. Simple right?

Our idea is based on extending this principle to cater to the needs of Pakistani society. Instead of people walking in and asking for one meal or one drink, we’re taking this concept a step further to target a larger group of people.

How does our plan work? Taking into consideration the fact that a large proportion of our society does not have access to the same restaurants as the elite class, we’ve adapted the principle. You still pay for an extra meal which you say is suspended and that money goes into the ‘suspended box.’ At the end of every month, a group of our volunteers will collect the various amounts and buy ration for the various kachi abaadis in Islamabad. Till the point of collection, the restaurants are responsible and accountable for the safety of the box. Our volunteers will collect all the money and publicly declare the total via Social Media (for transparency purposes as well as a semi-progress report). This is only the first step in the project.

Once ration has been distributed over the course of one-two months, the money collected after this period will be utilized to assist those with lesser resources in setting up businesses and educating their children. This is the most important step in the project because it implements the long-term project goals of not only encouraging citizen participation and responsibility but ensuring empowerment of a neglected part of society.

We will be publishing details of each business that is set up, as well as each child that is provided education. In addition, our volunteers will be dedicating 4-6 hours a month monitoring the progress of each activity (be it business or education).

Let’s take responsibility for our society – giving one-off charity is wonderful but we need to ensure a consistent source of earning for people. If this project is received well and succeeds, its long-term objectives of providing self-employment and spreading education will greatly benefit our society.

A Game of Votes

3 May

The world’s eye is on Pakistan as elections draw closer. Fear grips a country already struggling to ensure the smooth-functioning of a faltering democracy. Electoral candidates from ‘liberal’ parties on the Taliban’s hit list lose their lives in various parts of the country. The Taliban are ruthless and shameless in their attacks, targeting not only politicians but their young children and family members. I watched a video on BBC News regarding the violence associated with the Pakistani elections and it brought tears to my eyes. But more than anything, this video made my blood boil, not because of the video in itself but because of the thought process it instigated in my mind. A thought process relating to the electoral options one has in the upcoming elections. My mind quickly thought of the video Imran Khan had recently recorded and posted on the web. This was a video in which he felt the need to justify himself for the extremist minority that exists among us. He stated in the video that he did not ask for the support of “Qadianis,” which is all well and good if he truly didn’t. I wasn’t angered by his denial of something I believe he truly didn’t do, but I was furious at how he put his point across. He felt the need to appease the extremist Mullahs in saying that he is a good Muslim who tries to live a life of piety. I didn’t see the need for him to give explanations and defences at such length in such a defensive manner regarding a community that is already persecuted in Pakistan. Moreover, why should any politician feel the need to state what a good Muslim he is? I’m sure Zia-ul-Haq prayed 5 times a day and observed rituals like fasting and giving charity. That didn’t make him a good person. Infact, he wasn’t just a terrible human being, but he was a horrible leader who imposed horrendous ideals onto our society, due to which we still suffer from a “holier than thou syndrome.” I don’t claim to know a lot about any religion, including Islam, and I don’t claim to be a great Muslim because that is something only God has the power and authority to decide. We are human beings put on this earth not to judge and label others as good or bad followers of a faith, but to encourage a culture of tolerance, peace and love. As far as I know, all the major religions in the world encourage the propagation of these beliefs, inclusive of Islam. The sanctity of human life and love and respect for your fellow human beings is the basis of all religions.

Our problem has always been that we’re an overly emotional society that has been exploited in the name of religion for longer than I can remember. The irony is that Pakistan was meant to be a secular state where all people from various religions were free to practice their beliefs. Pakistan was meant to be a state where women were respected and protected, where minorities and the Muslim majority were to live in peace and harmony. I pinned a lot of hopes on Imran Khan as he promised to protect minorities, which the PPP, ANP, MQM and PMLN had failed to do. I believed in the change he talked about even when I left PTI because I believed that he was a man who wouldn’t bow down to the extremists when he came to power. My belief in him has wavered as his recent actions have been very disheartening to a Pakistani who believes in equal rights for all, regardless of religious beliefs. What is even more upsetting is that I, along with many other Pakistanis, feel helpless and out of choices. If not Imran Khan, who am I going to vote for? Am I going to vote for the PPP that has destroyed this country and robbed it? This is the party that has consistently harped on and on about democracy and has acted in the most unrepresentative manner, contrary to the ideals a true democratic system embodies. What do the five years of the PPP tenure show Pakistanis? A list of failures and consistent incompetence in the form of load shedding, rapidly increasing inflation, unemployment and poverty, lacking responses to violations of our sovereignty through drone attacks, an inability to enforce law and order resulting in the loss of innocent civilian lives. So that’s one option gone right then and there. We then move onto consider PMLN, which, one must recall, is a creation of Zia-ul-Haq and an embodiment of the intolerance he propagated that enhanced the divides in our society. Here we have a party that gave terrorists a free-hand in Punjab. This is the party that focused on Metro Bus projects instead of catering to the very basics the deprived population is in dire need of.  This is the party that circulated filth and propaganda against its opponents, using their private lives to score political points. How can one vote for such an unethical force? There’s two options that I would definitely not be checking off on the ballot paper.

The MQM is next in line to be assessed. Four words: have you seen Karachi? Those don’t need any explanation. Over 3,000 murder cases are pending against Altaf Hussain who refuses to come back to Pakistan despite the fact that his party is a major political force there. This is a party whose opponents you can spot without any difficulty; just look at body bags they put them in after they’ve spoken up against Altaf Hussain. Let us not forget the speech he gave in India a while back, claiming that the creation of Pakistan was “the biggest blunder” in the history of mankind. The question that comes to mind is, why is a man who thinks the country where his party is based running this party in the first place if he thinks the country itself is the culmination of a historical “blunder?” Not only is this nonsensical but it is extremely offensive to the thousands who lost their lives fighting for the creation of the soil we call home. Let’s go ahead and tick off MQM from the list of choices then. The ANP falls within the same boat; the situation in KPK speaks for itself, whilst Asfandyar Wali sat abroad and did nothing to stabilize the situation that worsened on a daily basis. And yet you see on TV that ANP, MQM and PPP electoral candidates are being targeted across the country, which undoubtedly, is worthy of condemnation as no political figure deserves to die over a principle he/she stands for. A culture of healthy discourse and political debate should be encouraged to replace this culture of just pulling a trigger on anyone you disagree with.

Reverting back to my mental process of deciding which party to vote for I realize that I haven’t even considered the religious parties. I probably don’t need to explain why since its one of those things that is so obvious even a fool could figure out the reasons behind it. But for the people who still allow themselves to be exploited in the name of religion, here’s a quick explanation of my rationale behind excluding these parties. The JUI is known for Maulana Diesel’s compromises for a shot at power – they held rallies celebrating the assassination of Salman Taseer, labelling his assassin a hero. Do I really want to vote for a party that talks about supposed Shariah and doesn’t know the first thing about Islam, i.e. it is a religion of peace and tolerance. Moving onto JI, it is a well-known fact that Syed Munawar Hassan justified rape and told rape victims who did not have four male witnesses to basically zip their lips and conceal the heinous crime committed against them. In a country where women are disrespected and assumed to have lost their dignity and virtue if they are sexually abused this is the last thing we need. It perpetuates a warped mindset that already exists in our society relating to “blame-the-victim” syndrome.

We, alas arrive back at the man who I started this article with; Imran Khan and his PTI. Despite certain things (as mentioned earlier on in this piece) I disagree with PTI over, it seems to be the only option left in a country that has seen the filth that the status quo parties have transformed the political process into. It seems to be the only party that has given us concrete policies ranging from education to energy. In a country like Pakistan, where one is already disheartened and desperate for change, PTI seems like the only viable option.