Love and the Law: An exerpt from Bulleh Shah (Required reading if you have studied the law)

Bulleh Shah (1680 – 1757) was a Punjabi Sufi poet, a humanist and philosopher from what is now considered Pakistan. As one of the leading figures in social thought and spiritualism, Bulleh Shah continually challenged the norms of society, be it materialism or hate for one’s fellow man.

While his work is expansive, the following passage was picked for a personal reason.  Throughout my career as a law school student I have felt an internal stuggle between what I would call my “Universal Self” (or innate sensibility of “fairness”) and the technical nature of the law as embraced by practioners and academics. Several justices over the years, the worst of which is Justice Scalia, have treated the cases that come before the US Supreme Court as a time to showcase thier talent of rationally explaing a inhuman or heartless decision by the court.

Most law school students in the first year, before they have been indoctrinated to accept the notion that injustice can/must be done in order to maintain the court’s precedent, always raise questions of a court not deciding the “right way” even though the Justices were maintained a high level of technical legal analysis. That is because we come into law school believing in our own internal moral compass, again what I would call a relationship to the Universal Self, and the process of learning the law forces one to take actions that may violate one’s own moral code becuase it is the “technically” correct thing to do.  

So I present Bulleh Shah’s verse which I will label as Love and Law. Though he presents teh argument as lambasting the laws created around religions by organizations and priests, but it easily translates to the abject focus on technical rationality in the modern legal forum.  This has been a more significant and epiphany inducing peice than anything I have read in law school- so for all the young lawyers, PLEASE READ THIS!

Love and Law are struggling in the human heart.
The doubt of the heart will I settle by relating questions of Law
And the answers of Love I will describe, holy Sir;

Law says go to the Mullah (priest) and learn the rules and regulations.
Love answers, “One letter is enough, shut up and put away other books.”
Law says: Perform the five baths and worship alone in the temple (reffering to the 5x daily prayer of Muslims) 
Love says: Your worship is false if you consider yourself seperate from the Universal Self.

Law says: Have shame and hide the enlightenment
Love says: What is this veil for? Let the vision be open
Law says: Go inside the mosque and perform the duty of prayer
Love says: Go to the wine-house and drinking the wine, read a prayer

Law says: Let us go to heaven; we will eat the fruits of heaven
Love says: There, we are custodians or rulers, and we ourselves will distribute the fruits of heaven
Law says: O faithful one, come perform the hajj (pilgrimage), you have to cross the bridge
Love says: The door of the Beloved (God/Allah) is in ka’baa; from there I will not stir 

Law says:  We placed Shah Mansur (a contraversial Sufi Saint) on the stake
Love says: You did well, you made him enter the door of the Beloved (God/Allah)
OUT OF LOVE, HE (Allah/ God) has created Bulleh, humble, and from dust.   

Charles Kenny- Dont Mess With Taxes

Published in Foreign Policy

Every spring, the Tax Foundation, a Washington-based advocacy group, announces Tax Freedom Day: the date by which the average employed American will have earned enough income to pay off his or her taxes for the year. This year, that day will be April 12. The Adam Smith Institute, a London-based, free-market think tank that makes a similar calculation for Britain, suggests that British taxpayers will have to work until around May 30 to pay off their own dues.

Tax Freedom Day is a clever-enough gimmick if your aim is to stir up ire over the government stealing income that rightfully belongs to the good people who have earned it through the toil of their labors. In an environment where Joe “the Plumber” Wurzelbacher is considered an expert on fiscal policy, it might even work. But it is worth remembering that, from a global perspective, how much we earn is actually 95 percent luck and maybe 5 percent toil. And it isn’t heavy-taxing big government that affects your income — it’s bad government.

The idea that anyone who works hard enough can become rich is a powerful one; for Americans, it’s not just appealing but central to national identity. The problem is that this vision of social mobility doesn’t hold true within the United States — and on a global scale, it’s just plain silly. The reason you earned as much as you did last year has far less to do with how hard you worked than with where and to whom you were born. In the United States, of those children born to parents in the bottom 10 percent of incomes, around one-third remain at the bottom as adults, and over half remain in the bottom 20 percent. Only one out of 77 children born into the bottom 10 percent of incomes reaches the top 10 percent as an adult, according to Samuel Bowles and Herbert Gintis writing in the Journal of Economic Perspectives.

But the advantages of being born rich rather than poor in America — large though they are — pale in comparison with the advantages of being born in a wealthy country rather than a developing one. The average rural Zambian will enjoy a lifetime income of about $10,000, compared with a lifetime income of around $4.5 million for the average resident of New York City. That’s not because Zambians are all soulless and corrupt. It’s because a Zambian with the same skills, intelligence, and drive earns a lot less in Zambia than she would in the United States — as is made abundantly clear every time a Zambian moves to the United States and starts earning a lot. The same people doing exactly the same job earn much, much more if they move from a poor to a rich country to do that job. In 1995, a construction carpenter’s wage in India was $42 a month. In Mexico, it was $125 a month. A South Korean carpenter, by contrast, made almost 10 times what his Mexican counterpart did; an American one made almost 20 times more.

For those of us lucky enough to be living in a rich country, are taxes really holding us back from a life of ease? In a word, no. Over the (not very) long term, it isn’t tax rates that decide how much money you take home — it is rates of economic growth. If a British person in 1984 paid no taxes at all, receiving as manna from heaven infrastructure, health care, education, policing, pensions, welfare benefits, and all the other services that the state provides, his or her take-home income (adjusted for inflation) would still be below that of post-tax Britons today. The same would be true of an American in 1988. People in the West are lucky enough to have been born in — or nearly as lucky to have moved to — countries that have seen a lot of economic growth over the past two centuries. That’s the reason they’re rich.

 Of course, an anti-tax advocate would respond that low taxes and a correspondingly small government are the secret to a country’s riches — an idea that is appealing, widespread, and very wrong. The last 100 years or so have seen the fastest rates of global economic growth in history; they’ve also seen the biggest governments of all time. From William Easterly and Sergio Rebelo writing for the National Bureau of Economic Research to Ross Levine and David Renelt in the American Economic Review (as well as numerous other analyses), economists have consistently failed to find robust cross-country evidence that a government’s size — measured by tax take or spending as a percentage of GDP — has any bearing, positive or negative, on its economic growth. Want further proof? Many developing countries see personal income tax receipts that would make a Tea Partier tip his tri-cornered hat in admiration, amounting to less than 2 percent of GDP. If a small income tax burden really was the determining factor in driving growth, those countries would all be richer than Luxembourg.

But while there isn’t a proven link between government size and economic growth, there is an important relationship between the quality of government and growth. If a government can’t ensure a basic level of security, stability, fair dealing, and public goods like infrastructure and education, whether it’s large or small is irrelevant — that country will be poor. If the government is providing those basic requirements, it doesn’t matter if it’s also blowing 10 percent of its GDP on bridges to nowhere, high-tech bombers for the last war, or corporate subsidies for ethanol production — that country will be rich. Better government equals richer people — it is as simple as that.

So why do rich people think it is all about effort rather than the luck of the draw? For one thing, there’s the oft-repeated finding from social psychology that people blame their own failures on circumstances beyond their control (“I was fired because the boss never liked me”) and the failures of others on personal flaws (“He was fired because he never did any work”). The reverse also holds: People take far more credit than they should for successful performance as part of a group, particularly if they do not know other group members personally. All of us — not only the rich — are just incredibly narcissistic by nature.

The second factor is that when we make comparisons it is usually to our peers, not the world as a whole. And our peers tend to have gone to the same type of school, work in the same field, and live in the same part of the world. Within these narrow groups, income differences — however small on a national or global scale — are more likely to be about ability and hard work. The fact that you earn more than your colleague who joined the firm at the same time as you did probably does have something to do with your different personal characteristics. The fact that you earn more than a peasant farmer in Lesotho doesn’t. At the same time, you rarely stop to care about how much a peasant farmer in Lesotho earns — despite the fact that the income gap between you and the farmer is many multiples larger than the gap between you and your colleague. However powerful our psychological foibles and narrow frames of reference may be, though, they are beside the point when it comes to public policy.

There are lots of reasons to hate current tax codes — not least because they are ridiculously complex and stuffed with loopholes for groups that can afford the best lobbyists. And governments the world over remain wasteful and spendthrift — including America’s, of course. Especially in poor countries, people ought to be focused on making government more efficient, equitable, and transparent — an effort that will entail lower government revenues in some cases and less government regulation in lots of cases. But the focus should be on better government, not smaller government. And the idea that taxation takes money that is rightfully ours alone, or that if only we managed to reduce the tax burden by a few percentage points we’d all be rich, is laughable. If you are in a wealthy country and it is tax time, be thankful you live somewhere where government works — and pay up.

Waris Husain Editorial: The Freedom to Offend


This week, the provincial assemblies of Pakistan and its President have expressed anger at the United States for allowing the burning of a Koran by Pastor Terry Jones in Florida. I have previously written about the common immoral perspective shared by Mr. Jones and Muslim extremists across the world, both irresponsibly seething hate and intolerance to the public. And while I condemn the Pastor, the U.S. Constitution defends his right to burn this sacred Islamic text without punishment from the state. The right wing in Pakistan has traditionally prosecuted and attacked those exercising free speech challenging their beliefs, and ask for the U.S. to do the same with Terry Jones. However, the U.S. system has been able to protect freedom and advance intellectually only by allowing an individual the right to offend others just as others have a right to offend him or her without government intrusion.

The development of America’s near-absolute protection of freedom of speech came from a presumption about human nature: that people would not value tolerance of others if it was handed down to them by the government. Rather, by prohibiting any government intrusion on peoples’ right to speak, the founders wished to create a marketplace of ideas where the public could pick and chose which ideas it adhered to. This meant that the government would not be in the business of indoctrinating the public by selecting which speech was permitted, but that the people themselves would determine the range and topic of their rhetoric and discussions

This concept is at the heart of American free speech and applies to Terry Jones in several ways. First, one should note that no major American news networks have given any coverage to this incident, and certainly none would risk losing their advertisement dollars by airing the disgusting images of Jones burning the Koran. This is not due to some ban by the U.S. government or courts, but is rather a choice made individually by each news corporation not to cover the story. Indeed, the right to free speech also carries with it the right to not speak, or to not give a hateful extremist any time on one’s private broadcast to offend viewers. It is more likely that if the U.S. government had tried to take legal action to stop Pastor Jones, the story would have been more heavily discussed in the media- but without such action, not many heard that the Pastor did such a hateful act.

Secondly, it is important to remember that Terry Jones is an outlier in the American society and not the average citizen, and his one voice of hate can be drowned out by the millions who disagree with his message and have the right to speak openly. Muslims have an equal legal right to protest Pastor Jones and even to burn the Bible (although such an act would violate the tenants of Islam and would be completely immoral).

Such a back and forth would certainly not produce any positive outcome, but is part of the open process that eventually strengthens a society and the citizens themselves. The society is buttressed by the simple fact that while you have the right to offend others, you have no right to use violence against them if they disagree. Criminal statutes apply regardless of the situation that led up to a violent action, therefore citizens grow by engaging in conversations with their opponents and learning from the experience rather than reverting to violence. This creates a marketplace of ideas where the best idea is the one that gains most support in the public, rather “might being right.”

The “might is right” doctrine applies in places like Pakistan especially through the hateful actions and rhetoric of right-wing political parties. The same parties that are petitioning the United States to prosecute Terry Jones supported not only a blasphemy law limiting free speech but advocated for the illegal murder of those who challenged the law like Salman Tasseer. The right wing doesn’t just advocate for violence, but continually instigates prosecutions against politicians, artists, and minorities for expressing their views. Thus, by creating an aura of fear and intimidation, the right wing parties of Pakistan and their terrorist allies hijacked the public discourse from the people, which has created a deficit in discussions and debates that can address Pakistan’s real issues.

As such, liberals have all but been silenced in the nation as they face death sentences against from political rivals if they merely engage in a debate with them. This is certainly a good sign for the religious right wingers but is an ominous sign indicating a breakdown in Pakistan’s “marketplace of ideas.” Thus, before Pakistan’s right wing advises the U.S. to follow its example and prohibit certain speech, they should understand the long-term benefits of protecting the freedom of speech with regards to creating innovative ideas that move the nation forward.

While such government inaction could leave a great deal in the hands of the majority, it also trains the majority to express their own opinions rather than relying on the government to learn about tolerance or interfaith harmony. Thus, rather than focusing on government censorship to quiet trouble-makers like Pastor Jones, the founders of the U.S. believed that people themselves should utilize their freedom of speech to challenge the intolerant opinion of Jones. This does not mean that one can use force against their rivals, but means that the louder majority can drown out hateful speech of Jones, with their own messages of harmony, tolerance, and love.

Waris Husain Editorial- Mullahs or Monarchs: Tyrants by Different Names

Pearl Square before and after demolition.

Bamiyan Buddah Statutes after being destroyed by Taliban.

I am not surprised to see Pearl Square, the symbol of Bahrain’s democratic movement like Tahrir Square in Egypt, destroyed after the Saudis invaded the country. Under the auspices of their Saudi benefactors, the Bahraini authorities have dismantled the Pearl Monument that was the centerpiece of Square, in hopes of quelling protests. The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has not only defended brutal monarchies across the Arab world, but has spread a vicious form of Islam which is advocated by groups like the Taliban. The Saudi sponsored act of destroying a cultural artifact that unites people is exactly what occurred when the Taliban destroyed the Bamiyan Buddha statutes in Afghanistan during their brutal rule. Both the Pearl Monument and the Buddha statutes have been demolished in order to uphold tyranny whether through Taliban Mullahs or Arab Monarchs, all stemming from Saudi Arabia.

The interest of the Saudi Arabians in Bahrain is of utmost importance due to the composition of the revolutionaries, which speaks volumes to the domestic politics of most Arab monarchies.  Much of the opposition has come from the Shiite minority who have long-complained about second-class treatment they receive in Bahrain, ruled by a Sunni royal family, the al-Khalifas. The same vocal minority of Shiites exists in Saudi Arabia, and due to the winds of change sweeping the Middle East, it is safe to say that the Saudis have much invested in the outcome of the Bahraini protests.

This helps to explain why Saudi Arabia has now sent 2000 troops to assist the Bahraini government in quelling protests, whether by force or other means. However, one should not blindly assume that these protests are exclusively a sectarian issue as the Saudis would like to paint it. Rather, the protestors that amassed at Pearl Square shared a common purpose beyond merely the interest of a specific minority. People came out in droves merely to express themselves; a right that was though not to exist for decades under despotic rule.

 These protestors want a voice in who will rule them, rather than being forced to defer to an 86 year old king and his royal family. It was this common purpose that most challenged the king’s ability to rule the nation unbridled by the needs and rights of its people. Further, this common purpose flies in the face of monarchies across the Middle East, especially Saudi Arabia, who expose their people to brutal treatment and disregard the rights of minorities and women.

And in the face of these existential threats to both domestic and regional interests, the Bahraini forces are cracking down hard on the opposition. Rather than accepting the calls of his people, the king of Bahrain has decided to destroy the monument at Pearl Square, hoping to eradicate the calls for change by erasing the symbols of it. However, the spirit that has been awoken among the people through protests cannot be eradicated merely by dismantling a few pieces of steel, despite the hopes of the Saudi family.

This is not the first time the Saudis have been involved in manipulating politics of other nations. The Wahabbi ideology was exported by scholars and sheiks in Saudi Arabia to madrassas across Pakistan and Afghanistan. The spread of this violent and intolerant form of Islam through the Taliban created the same tyrannical rule as the kings of the Arab World. This is because Taliban commanders attempted to pass themselves off as the exclusive spiritual guardians of the people, whose word was infallible as they derived their power from Allah, not the people.

These same commanders, when ruling Afghanistan in the 1990’s, wanted to begin erasing any history that existed before the importation of Wahabiism starting in the 1970’s. The Buddha Statues of Bamiyan stood as symbols of Afghanistan’s rich spiritual history extending before the Taliban and its program of eradicating all “non-believers.” These statutes represented the Buddhist religion, but more importantly challenged the notion that somehow hateful intolerance preached by the Taliban was a natural state of the Afghan people. In fact, it was a foreign imposition by the Saudis alongside Pakistan and the United States during the Afghan-Soviet War. These statutes reminded people that there was an alternative narrative and spiritual guide outside Wahabiism, which is clearly why the Mullahs decided to order the Statute’s destruction.

And even though the Taliban was successful in defacing Afghanistan’s culture and history, their efforts were all for naught. Most importantly, there are still Afghans who exhibit tolerance of other cultures as they realize the diversity of their own lineage and history. The physical destruction of the Bamiyan Statutes did nothing to quell their thirst for knowledge and interest in learning from the religions and cultures of their fellow man.

Interestingly, in 2008 after the Afghanistan invasion, a new massive statute of Buddha was discovered beneath the destroyed statutes in Bamiyan. This act of Allah or lack of attention to detail by the Taliban destructors shows that the shared history and culture of a people is not easily destroyed. This should serve as a lesson to the Bahraini authorities that they will not be able to stop calls for democracy and power for the people merely by destroying the vestiges of the movement.

In looking to the Spring of Revolutions and what form it could take in Pakistan, one must realize that tyranny in several forms has been spread and defended by Saudi Arabia. The oppression most felt by Pakistanis does not come at the hand of corrupt elected individuals, but from this hateful and foreign imposition of Wahabiism by the hands of the Saudis. It is groups like the Taliban who should face the wrath of the protestors in Pakistan and Afghanistan, as they have exposed the common man to brutal punishments and suicide attacks. The tyranny shared by mullahs and monarchs should help illuminate the hidden hand behind the destruction of symbols of hope, like the Bamiyan Buddhas and Pearl Monument.

RIP Shahbaz Bhatti, Pakistan’s Christian Minorities Minister slain by terrorists

Self-described Taliban gunmen have shot dead Pakistan’s minorities minister, Shahbaz Bhatti, an advocate of reform of the country’s blasphemy laws, as he left his Islamabad home. Two assassins sprayed the Christian minister’s car with gunfire, striking him at least eight times, before scattering pamphlets that described him as a “Christian infidel”. The leaflets were signed “Taliban al-Qaida Punjab”.

Bhatti’s 22-year-old niece Mariam was first on the scene. “I rushed out to find his body covered with blood. I said “uncle, uncle” and tried to take his pulse. But he was already dead,” she said at Bhatti’s house, extending a bloodstained palm. The sound of wailing women rose from the next room. Bhatti’s assassination was the second killing of a politician in Islamabad over blasphemy in as many months, following the assassination of the Punjab governor Salmaan Taseer outside a cafe a few miles away on 4 January.

Dismayed human rights activists said it was another sign of rising intolerance at hands of violent extremists. “I am sad and upset but not surprised,” said the veteran campaigner Tahira Abdullah outside Bhatti’s house. “These people have a long list of targets, and we are all on it. It’s not a matter of if, but when.” The only Christian in Pakistan’s cabinet, Bhatti had predicted his own death. In a farewell statement recorded four months ago, to be broadcast in the event of his death, he spoke of threats from the Taliban and al-Qaida.

But he vowed not to stop speaking for marginalised Christians and other minorities. “I will die to defend their rights,” he said on the tape released to the BBC and al-Jazeera. “These threats and these warnings cannot change my opinions and principles.” Lax security did not help. Witnesses and police said Bhatti was travelling with just his driver when he came under attack less than 50 metres from the Islamabad home he shares with his mother.

A small white car carrying gunmen blocked his way. After an initial burst of fire they dragged Bhatti’s driver from the vehicle, then continued firing through a side window. “It lasted about twenty seconds,” said a neighbour, Naseem Javed. “When I rushed out I saw the minister’s driver standing by the car, shivering, and his niece weeping and shouting.”  “They fired 25 bullets,” said a police officer beside a bullet-pocked pavement, holding a handful of brass Kalashnikov bullet cases.

As they left the gunmen flung pamphlets on to the road that blamed President Asif Ali Zardari’s government for putting an “infidel Christian” in charge of a committee to review the blasphemy laws. The government insists no such committee exists. “With the blessing of Allah, the mujahideen will send each of you to hell,” said the note.

Last November Bhatti joined Salmaan Taseer in championing the case of Aasia Bibi, a Christian woman who was sentenced to death last November for allegedly committing blasphemy against the prophet Muhammad. “This law is being misused,” Bhatti told Open magazine at the time. “Many people are facing death threats and problems. They’re in prison and are being killed extra-judicially.”

The government later distanced itself from the blasphemy reformists, repeatedly stressing that it had no intention of amending the law, leaving Bhatti and Taseer politically isolated. Now that both men are dead, angry supporters say the government bears some responsibility for not protecting them politically, if not physically. “The government distanced itself from anyone who took a stand on blasphemy. I blame them for being such chickens,” said Abdullah.

Ali Dayan Hasan of Human Rights Watch said Bhatti’s death represented “the bitter fruit of appeasement of extremist and militant groups both prior to and after the killing of Salmaan Taseer”. The embattled Christian community also voiced concerns about its safety. “We feel very insecure,” said Bhatti’s brother in law, Yousaf Nishan. “In this society you can’t open your mouth, even if you want to say something good, because you’re afraid who you might offend.”

The assassination raised fresh questions about the safety of Sherry Rehman, a parliamentarian who also championed reform of the blasphemy laws, and who has been in semi-hiding since January. She was not available for comment. Friends said she may have gone into hiding again, fearing for her safety.

Waris Husain Editorial: “I Have A Nightmare”

One week before the U.S. celebrated the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, a citizens’ demonstration was held in Karachi, not unlike the March on Washington led by Dr. King in 1963 where he declared “I have a dream.” However, the message of Karachi’s protestors was more of a nightmare, as they were assembled in support of the nation’s blasphemy law that has been used to persecute Pakistan’s religious minorities and indict innocent Muslims.  This protest has been organized to show the strength of the nation’s ultra-conservative right wing in the wake of the assassination of Governor Salman Taseer. The deafening silence from the liberal elements of Pakistan has exposed the dominance over the national discourse by ultra-conservative lawyers and religious figures. The U.S. entered a new era of democratic rule when the confluence of religious men like Dr King and lawyers like Thurgood Marshall were able to take hold of the nation’s hearts and minds. Oppositely, Pakistan could be entering a dangerous era with the dominance of militant Islamic rhetoric supported by religious figures and lawyers.

The issue of the blasphemy law has come to the forefront of Pakistani political discourse since the assassination of Salman Taseer, governor of Pakistan’s largest province. Governor Taseer was killed by his security guard because he believed the law should be revised to prevent its misuse. In the aftermath, one could expect the most extreme elements of Pakistan’s society to have supported the cold-blooded murder. What was alarming was the degree to which the general public supported Mumtaz Qadri, the assassin. Some individuals in the media have even given him the title of “ghazi” or religious warrior. 

However, the most frightening support for the assassin came from Pakistan’s lawyers’ community, who showered Qadri with rose petals as he exited the court house for his first appearance last week. Over 500 lawyers have volunteered to defend Qadri and public statements have been given by lawyers in support of the blasphemy law and the murder of Taseer. It seems quite ironic that lawyers would support the actions of an individual who took the law into his own hands. Indeed, there wouldn’t be much need for courts or lawyers if the citizens could operate like the assassin Mumtaz Qadri.

Much of the world looks with disappointment at these lawyers, some of whom helped to organize a non-violent movement that brought the end of the Musharraf dictatorship. Pakistanis had high hopes for the Lawyer’s Movement to act responsibly as it previously had in peacefully protesting to restore judicial independence and democracy.  It may seem that the Lawyer’s Movement has lost its way by supporting anti-state actors like Qadri, but one should note that the lawyers themselves are facing an ideological split like the country as a whole.

There are two camps in the law community with several variations but many adhere either to modern secularism or religious-based traditionalism. These two opposing groups joined forces for the first time in rejecting Musharraf’s regime and his firing of Supreme Court justices.  However, with the military dictatorship having ended, the voice of the liberal lawyers was drowned out by the ultra-conservative rhetoric emblematic of Pakistan’s middle class.

This does not mean that the liberal lawyers are without their support. The election of liberal human rights advocate Asma Jahangir to the Lahore Bar Council shows the ability of the left-leaning lawyers to garner votes. Much like the politics of the nation, the conservatives have the loudest voice on the streets by organizing marches and protests, but cannot turn this into seats in Parliament or in Bar Councils.

However, one must note that the confluence of religious figures and lawyers has allowed the conservative religious parties to dominate the public discussion over issues like the blasphemy laws. While the lawyers provide legal and organizational support, the religious leaders are the ones who can draw on huge numbers of supporters to attend rallies or carry out fatwa orders. The power of these imams has grown since the 1980’s when General Zia Ul Haq sent out a beacon call to all militant Islamic scholars to set up madrassas and mosques in Pakistan. He further allowed certain conservative elements to begin dominating middle class institutions like public schools and colleges, the civilian bureaucracy, the military and police.

These religious figures now enjoy considerable prominence in the society, with rather large followings, and will issue fatwas that call for the death of individuals like Salman Taseer, who was one of the few progressive voices in the nation. Thus we see that the religious figures and lawyers are working conjunctively: when someone acts on a fatwa issued by a religious leader, lawyers will attempt to legitimize this murder by defending the illegal action in court or in public. Dr. King and Thurgood Marshall employed similar tactics in fighting racism in the United States, where Dr. King would inspire an individual to break a discriminatory law and lawyers from groups like the NAACP would then defend that person.

However, the difference was that Dr. King’s movement was non-violent and called for an end to minority oppression, whereas the religious right-wing movement in Pakistan is creating an increasingly hostile and violent environment for the nation’s minorities. In the same vein, there is a lesson to learn for the liberal elements in Pakistan’s religious and legal circles: that they can collectively inspire the Pakistani people to do away with the violent narrow-minded rhetoric of the past in favor of a new modern and tolerant era for Pakistan to enter.


BBC: Jim Muir- Lebanon heads for lengthy political deadlock

Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah, left and Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri

Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah (l) and Saad Hariri face a political power struggle


Announcing the group resignation by the Hezbollah-led opposition’s 10 cabinet members, Christian minister Gibran Bassil said they hoped President Michel Suleiman would take the necessary steps towards the rapid formation of a new government. That is about the last thing that is likely to happen, and everybody knows it.

Assuming the situation cannot be retrieved – and it has gone so far that it is hard to see that happening – Lebanon is clearly in for a lengthy period of political deadlock and tension. Forming a new government on the debris of Saad Hariri’s collapsed national unity cabinet, which lasted barely 14 months and never functioned properly, is going to be anything but rapid.

President Suleiman will no doubt hold the ritual round of consultations with parliamentary blocs to see if they can agree on a replacement to try to form a new administration. Mr Hariri and his allies, who won a narrow majority in the 2009 elections, will clearly continue to nominate him, and will not endorse anyone else in the absence of a broad entente.

 It will not be possible to form a new government without their support. Hezbollah and its allies could bring the old government down, but they cannot simply replace it on their own. So there is bound to be a prolonged period of gruelling, angry politicking as a way forward is sought.

Outside influences

As the internal balance of power is fought over, outside players are also bound to pitch in, knowing as they do that the balance in Lebanon reflects wider regional and international currents. A great deal will depend on how far Syria and Iran, which support Hezbollah and its allies, want to push their advantage. Up until recently they appeared content to keep the Lebanese situation unresolved but on hold, contained.

Syria was working closely with Saudi Arabia, the regional patron of Mr Hariri and his Sunni community, to find a formula to defuse tensions in advance of indictments which the Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL) is expected to issue within a matter of days, naming some Hezbollah members in connection with the murder of Lebanese former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri in 2005.

Both the basic sides in Lebanon were supporting what they called the “S-S” (Saudi-Syrian) initiative, which had reportedly been crystallised into a concrete though highly secret accord. But on the ground, a dispute appeared to arise over who should take the first steps to implement their obligations. Each was waiting on the other. There was meanwhile a growing number of reports that the Americans did not want to see a settlement reached which would let Hezbollah off the hook in advance of the STL indictments.

But for Hezbollah, not coming to terms before the indictments constituted a red line.

It has never concealed the strength of its hostility towards the expected indictments, which it sees as an existential slur on its status and appeal as a heroic liberation movement. As the indictments grew more imminent and inevitable, neither side budged, and Hezbollah and its friends made their move.  But the consequence for Lebanon is clear.

As Hezbollah intended, the indictments will come out with no empowered prime minister able to give them any kind of credence, even if only tacit. Hezbollah had demanded that Mr Hariri and his allies renounce the STL and denounce its indictments in advance of their appearance, something he proved unable to do. Fears have been expressed that the indictments could trigger the kind of sectarian Sunni-Shia tensions which exploded in 2008, when Hezbollah fighters took over West Beirut and crushed pro-Hariri elements.

While friction on the ground cannot be excluded, it is not inevitable. If Hezbollah is worried about its image, using its arms – supposedly to be employed exclusively against Israel – to bully and punish fellow-Lebanese would compound any damage the indictments might do to its reputation. It appears to be sensitive to that issue. It has been careful to avoid the impression of a militant Shia takeover. Most announcements from the opposition side in the current crisis have been made not by Hezbollah itself but by Christian figures such as Mr Bassil, from the movement headed by the Christian former General Michel Aoun, who is allied to Hezbollah.

The impact may not be immediate and may in any case be mitigated.  Unless there are leaks – not an unlikely eventuality – the identity of the potential accused should not be made known until six to eight weeks later, when the STL’s pre-trial judge may endorse the draft indictments and issue warrants.  Hezbollah has also done much to prepare the ground and denigrate the STL’s case, which is reportedly based largely on evidence gleaned from telephone records.

The opposition has spent much energy documenting the degree to which Lebanese telecommunications have been penetrated by Israeli intelligence, and numerous alleged Israeli spies have been arrested.  The latest developments mean that any arrest warrants issued by the STL will be even more of a dead letter than they would have been anyway.

The idea of Hezbollah members being dragged off by Lebanese gendarmes to face trial in The Hague has always been far-fetched.  While the STL may be a professional international judicial body, it was conceived in highly politicised conditions at a time when the balance of power in the Middle East had been heavily tilted by the US invasion of Iraq and implied threats to Syria, Iran and other “hostile” powers. The balance has now shifted in the opposite direction, but the STL is still there, to the discomfiture of some. These include the Druze leader Walid Jumblatt, who pushed for it at the time but now finds himself threatened by its time-lagged consequences.

Balance of power

The question now is whether Syria and Iran want to see the kind of subservient government installed in Beirut that existed at times in the past, or whether they would entertain a more balanced accommodation. Either possibility is going to take a long time to reach, as conditions are not yet ripe.

Nor is the regional balance of power – as reflected also in Iraq – yet clearly established and stabilised, especially in terms of the US-Iranian contest.  So the best the Lebanese can hope for is that there will be an implicit understanding to continue keeping the streets quiet for an indefinite period, however acute political differences and invective may become. It is not going to be an easy time.

And as if all that were not enough, there is Israel on the southern border, ever ready for another attempt to deal a death-blow to a resurgent Hezbollah which declares itself stronger than ever.


Scene on 2005 attack on Lebanese former Prime Minister Rafiq al-Hariri

Lebanese former Prime Minister Rafiq al-Hariri died in a bomb attack in 2005.