Beyond the Flogging-Video Debate
Lo and behold. Nizaamé Adl has arrived in at least one part of the country - and promises (threatens - if you do not agree with this version) to come soon to a location near you. It's no longer, then, just the matter of a debate between a blogger, who responded strongly and sensibly to what was probably the Urdu version of an email from Anila Weldon that has been doing the usual rounds. Read them both, if you haven't already.
My only comment on AW's email - since many others have already responded to most of this and similar views - is about the line that says "Nowhere in the world does one react to a video specially the one made on a handy camera..." Hmmmm. Really, Anila? Remember Rodney King?The debate has raged much more widely for the past few days on every conceivable electronic and print forum. Even Taliban spokesmen (no point in ever using 'spokespersons' in their context!) seem confused. Appearing on different TV channels they - (and even the same person on different occasions) - alternately share the views held by Anila and others who feel that the video is fake and, in other interviews, defiantly stand their ground and defend the flogging. A senior Tehreeké Taliban leader, Muslim Khan sahab, not only did not consider challenging the authenticity of the video but also went so far as to say that the girl was lucky she was only flogged because of insufficient evidence!!! Had full proof been available, she would have been stoned. Watch his interview. This is definitely a first! I've never heard that under any system - much less under one that aligns itself with a divinely inspired one - an unproven crime, gets a reduced sentence. Will the new spate of Qazis make statements like, "Err .. we can't prove theft, but, hmmm, the guy kinda does look suspicious. I'd say let's just get his pinkie this time." - ? The same maulana, in the opening statement of the above linked video, also criticizes the way the punishment was given, because it was meted out in full public view and not inside the house. Soddy Arabians would beg to differ. They stone to death or behead in public, based on the Qurãnic injunction quoted in an interview by journalist Ansar Abbasi that says people must view the punishment.
"My own take is that if the video is fake, the creators certainly went through a lot of unnecessary trouble staging this episode and then left mistakes in! Not the kind of thing proper film makers and editors are likely to slip up on, I imagine. I mean this has to be professional work, na? It couldn't be an amateur effort: Who'd pay for the 'extras' ... all those people, including kids, standing around? I am surprised all the critics missed out on the possibility of there being a man under that bürqa. Or is that only done when an escape is desired? I know for a fact, as do you, that this kind of thing happens in real life all the time in areas under the Taliban … and much worse happens in Soddy Arabia in full public view. There is no restriction on filming it, nor should there be - after all the perpetrators are not ashamed but are actually proud of following what they think is Sharea or Islam."I, therefore, choose to stand by the following paragraph that appears at the end of NYT's editorial:
"Many Pakistanis have wasted their time decrying the video as a conspiracy intended to defame Islam and Pakistan. They should be demanding that the army — Pakistan’s strongest and most functional institution — defend against an insurgency that increasingly threatens the state. Like their military and political leaders, Pakistan’s people are in a pernicious state of denial about where the real danger lies."Of course, it may already be too late. Threats to women activists have begun in more earnest than before, forcing some to retreat to safer spaces. Threats to women on the street have increased. People are already being jailed for not praying according to one news report on TV. (My friend, Dr. Shamim, an earnest Muslim, wonders if prayers uttered under the threat of jails are earnest and will be heard by God.)
The puritan Takfiri ideology adopted by the Pakistani Taliban militants has repeatedly brought them to conflict with gaddi nashin, the descendants of Sufi saints who yield great political power in Pakistan. Their ranks include Yusaf Raza Gilani, the Pakistani prime minister, and Shah Mehmood Qureshi, the foreign minister. To date, the conflict has been limited to gaddi nashin in the Khyber tribal agency, to the east of Peshawar, and Swat. The commander of Lashkar-i-Islami, Mangal Bagh, had last year expelled Pir Saif-ur-Rehman, a gaddi nashin, after their followers fought armed battles. He now lives in exile in central Punjab province.
Lashkar-i-Islami continues to clash with followers of Noor-ul-Haq Qadri, another leader of Sufi followers in the Khyber Agency who has been appointed a junior minister in the federal cabinet. The Swat Taliban faced their stiffest resistance from Pir Samiullah, a gaddi nashin who had formed a militia of followers and killed about 100 militants. He was shot dead in December in a battle with the Taliban, after army units called in for support went to the wrong location. His corpse was exhumed by militants and put on display at the main square of Mingora, the capital of Swat region, to be buried later at an undisclosed location.