DAWN - Features; November 22, 2002

22 Nov 2002


General Zamir Ka vote: VIEW FROM PARLIAMENT

By Onlooker

IT WAS Maulana Fazlur Rehman’s day all the way in the National Assembly on Thursday when the MNA from Roojhan, Balochistan, Mir Zafarullah Khan Jamali, was ascertained the leader of the house by 172 votes — the 10 votes of PPP’s forward bloc making all the difference between a deadlock and victory for the PML-Q.

Earlier when he stood up on a point of order, the JUI chief first asked Speaker Amir Hussain to resign from the house for indemnifying at a press talk on Tuesday the LFO, as well as Gen Musharraf’s action of keeping some of the clauses of the Constitution suspended. Then he asked him not to sit in the Speaker’s chair when the time would come for the chair to give a ruling on the LFO debate.

The Maulana was more deadly when he stood up to congratulate Jamali on his victory. He made it clear that with such a thin majority, the prime minister-elect would find it impossible to run the house without the help from the formidable opposition whose tally would be close to 160 by the time the full house comes into existence.

And no one doubted the Maulana when he warned Jamali: “We will be controlling the house and running it, not you”. And then he brought the house down as he took a lethal swipe at the military regime by referring to zamir ka vote (vote of conscience) as General Zamir Ka vote (General Zamir’s vote), an indirect reference to Maj-Gen Ihtasham Zamir of the ISI who is alleged to be holding the strings of all the king’s puppets and the turncoats.

The Maulana was the only one among all the speakers today who vehemently criticized the notion of continuity in economic policies which he said amounted to surrendering the country’s economic sovereignty to the IMF and the World Bank.

The seemingly heavyweight prime minister-elect’s ideas appeared too lightweight when he stood up to thank the house for electing him its leader. The first thing he did after rendering his thanks was to issue a rhetorical warning to India for no rhyme or reason. Normally on such occasions you extend your hand of friendship and not warnings to neighbours with whom you have problems.

The PPP’s prime ministerial candidate, Shah Mahmood Qureshi, is an impressive speaker and he proved it once again on Thursday on the floor of the house while congratulating Jamali. He reminded him that the PM-elect had won only because of the defection of 10 of his party colleagues and described the whole sordid drama of floor-crossing as too inauspicious a beginning for the new house.

He, however, offered his party ‘s cooperation to Jamali if he needed it in restoring democracy in its true sense of the term. He offered the same kind of cooperation to his opposition colleagues, the MMA and the PML-N, in their endeavour to maintain and promote the democratic traditions in the house.

He found it difficult to recognize Musharraf as the president and referred to him as simply Gen Musharraf. And as expected, the loyal PPPian did not forget to ask Jamali, amid thunderous desk-thumping, to help facilitate the return of the two former prime ministers, Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif.

The man who impressed the most with his comments on the issue of the LFO after Maulana Fazlur Rehman was Javed Hashmi, the parliamentary leader of the PML-N. His arguments against the LFO were irrefutable. Even Ejazul Haq of the PML-Z and Tahirul Qadri of PAT spoke against the LFO, reflecting perhaps the mood of the majority of the house. Even Imran Khan of the PTI had wanted to speak but the speaker did not allow him.

Instead he rendered Farooq Ahmad Khan Leghari, a man who is never short of words on anything and everything under the sun, completely speechless for a change by asking the parliamentary leader of the National Alliance to speak on the LFO. A surprised Leghari stood speechless for a few seconds and then said he had not requested the chair for leave to speak on the issue.

Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain as usual had a one liner for the occasion when he said the house was going to debate the issue for the next five years, so let us get on with the business of the day which was the election of the leader of the house.

But when the speaker actually started the normal proceedings on Shujaat’s cue, he was reminded by some of the members that he should first give his ruling on the LFO debate conducted on a point of order before taking up other business. It was time for the speaker to look lost. But he quickly regained his composure and declared, as an afterthought: I reserve my ruling! No wonder!!

Two Balochistan MNAs stood out today, one was Mehmood Khan Achackzai who did not vote for any of the three candidates for the prime minister’s post because he said that all the three had supported martial law in the past. The other Baloch MNA, Abdur Rauf Mengal, refused to take the oath unless the speaker allowed him to speak about the atrocities of the constabulary in his province.

He had perhaps also wanted to know if the oath he was taking was the right oath minus the LFO. When the speaker refused to allow him to speak, he preferred to walk out without taking the oath, creating perhaps a world record of sorts.

Imran Khan and Faisal Saleh Hayat appeared to be the most sought-after MNAs in the house today as the two apparently got caught between their friendship with Jamali and their principles. Imran’s principles finally won and he voted for Maulana Fazlur Rehman. But in the case of Faisal it was the other way round.

‘Friendship’ as designed by Gen Zamir had perhaps won in his case. But then, he kept the PML-Q caucus on tenterhooks until the last minute by letting his PPP friends make to him their last-minute sales pitches. Then he sent further jitters among his PML-Q handlers by actually letting himself be dragged by his PPP friends towards the party’s division door.

And when he stepped up the first ladder leading towards the PPP’s division register, seemingly to shake hands with Dr Sher Afghan, one felt as if the entire PML-Q caucus had missed a couple of its heart beats. His colleagues in the forward bloc too looked apprehensive all this time and did not cross the division door of the PML-Q until Faisal came sauntering towards them rather nonchalantly, though their other colleague Rao Sikander, known to be college-mate of President Musharraf, had already crossed the barrier earlier without waiting for Faisal.

The turncoat PPP MNA from Jhang, it seems, has succeeded in making himself the man of the hour. And he is likely to remain so for some time. And, ultimately, he may cause it to collapse, some say in a year’s time!

What does his former leader Benazir Bhutto say about it? It was, indeed, touch and go, it seems in the case of MMA-PPP negotiations. Her party had all but decided to vote for the MMA’s Fazlur Rehman. But the BB is said to have argued against it and convinced the party caucus of 15 to change its mind at the last minute.

The all-embracing guidance: FRIDAY FEATURE

By Dr Abdul Karim

THE importance of the Quran is underlined by Allah Himself: “If We had sent down this Quran on a mountain, thou wouldst certainly have seen it humbled and rent asunder; for fear of Allah. And these are similitudes that We set forth for the mankind that they may reflect.” (59:22) “And We have sent down to thee the Reminder that thou mayest explain to mankind that which has been sent down to them, and that they may reflect.” (16:45).

The more one reflects, the greater is wonder about the scope and depth of the subjects dealt with in the Quran, making it a great miracle. It is surprising that so much has been packed in so little a space that a child can memorize it. At the same time, it discusses every conceivable thing, spiritual as well as material. “We have left out nothing in the Book.” (6:39) “And We have sent down to thee the Book that explains every thing and a guidance, and a mercy, and glad tidings to those who submit to God.” (16:90).

The holy Prophet (peace be upon him) said: “The learned will never be satiated with research on the Quran nor will its marvels ever end.” “The Quran does not consist of its apparent meanings but has many layers of meanings and each layer, in turn, has further branches.”

The Quran is unique among holy books as it is the only word of God from A to Z and was revealed to a person who was not at all literate. Allah says, “The revelation of this Book is from Allah, the Mighty, the Wise. Surely it is We Who have revealed the Book to thee with truth.” (39:2-3) “It is a revelation from the Lord of the worlds.” (56:81) “Will they not, then, meditate upon the Quran? Had it been from any one other than Allah, they would have found therein much disagreement.” (4:83).

There is a standing challenge for those who might think that the Quran is not the word of God. They are prompted to bring forth, with every possible help from human beings, anything even remotely comparable with the Quran, be that as a book (17:89), or much less as ten Chapters (11:14), or one Chapter (2:24), or just a single Verse (52:35).

The Quran is full of prophesies which attest to its being from Allah. First the prophesy about the Book itself. The very word Quran foretold that it will be read intensively and extensively. No other book, religious or otherwise, can ever compete with the Quran in this respect. The fact that recitation of a portion of the Quran in every prayer, five times a day, is obligatory ensures its recitation. Even otherwise, Muslims read it extensively so much so that it is read even by those who are not even familiar with the Arabic language. They are legion scattered all over the globe.

As to important future events in the Quran, it makes a very long list which is beyond the scope of this article. Of these, the most important was the triumph of Islam at a time when it was extremely weak and helpless, subjected to intense persecution. Skipping over the whole host of prophesies which are well documented, a few relating to contemporary conditions may be mentioned. For the space explorers looking for life on other planets, the news is, “And among His signs is the creation of the heavens and the earth and of whatever living creatures He has spread forth in both. And He has the power to gather them together when He pleases.” (42:30)

The Quran contains eternal guidance and, as such, is assured permanent divine protection against human interference in any form and this has certainly stood the test of time. “A Messenger of Allah, reciting unto them the pure Scriptures. These are the lasting commandments.” (98:3-4) “There is none that can change the Word of Allah.” (6:35) “Verily, We Ourself have sent down this Exhortation, and most surely We will be its guardian.” (15:10) Even the most severe enemies of Islam have to concede that the Quran has not suffered any change over time.

Die William Muire, otherwise quite critical of Islam, admits in his book, Life of Muhammad: “There is otherwise every security internal and external that we possess the text which Muhammad himself gave forth and used.” The Quran is also called the Book which signified that it would be extensively published and the word Quran means which is frequently read. These two characteristics of a book assure its continuance. Allah has provided a further much stronger means of protection in inducing Muslims to memorize the Quran. If by any chance all books of the world were to be destroyed, the only book which can be immediately reconstructed, without the least loss of original content, is the Quran, thanks to millions of Muslims who commit it to memory and diligently regularly keep that fresh.

To enable a person to understand and appreciate the arcane and subtle spiritual phenomena, the Quran points out the relevant physical things around him and exhorts him to reflect on them to see a parallel between the two systems. For instance, the Resurrection is explained; “Say, ‘Travel in the earth, and see how He originated the creation. Then will Allah provide the latter creation.’ Surely, Allah has power over all things.” (29:21) “Look, therefore, at the marks of Allah’s mercy; how He quickens the earth after its death. Verily, the same God will quicken the dead; for He has power over all things.” (30:51) This is a rather unique way of explaining an otherwise very difficult subject beyond the lay man.

There must be a sublime purpose for the Book which is the word of Allah, comprehensive, permanent, absolutely secure against any human interference and is to be read. Therein lies the real miracle of the Quran. “There has come to you indeed from Allah a Light and a clear Book. Thereby does Allah guide those who seek His pleasure on the path of peace, and leads them out of every kind of darkness into light by His will, and guides them to the right path.” (5:16-7).

The true significance of the Quran and its greatest miracle is that it leads a person with a mere belief in the existence of Allah to a stage where he actually experiences His very presence. The Quran provides the road map with clearly marked prominent milestones for this spiritual journey. “Eyes cannot reach Him but He reaches the eyes. And He is the incomprehensible, the all- Aware.” (6:104) “And when My servants ask thee about Me, say; I am near. I answer the prayer of the supplicant when he prays to Me. So they should hearken to Me and believe in Me, that they may follow the right way.” (2:187).

Muslims have been reminded that in following the Quran lies their success. “We have sent down to you a Book wherein lies your eminence; will you not then understand?” (21:11) “So hold thou fast to that which has been revealed to thee; for thou art on the right path. And, truly, it is a source of eminence for thee and for thy people; and you will be inquired about it.” (43:44-5).

Tailoring the Constitution: SINDHI PRESS DIGEST

By Abbas Jalbani

KAWISH writes that the Constitution has been partially restored through an ordinance but the fact remains that it is yet to be determined as to what extent the new setup will be constitutional and democratic.

Out of the 280 articles of the Constitution, 83 still stand suspended, whereas more than two dozen amendments have been added to it. The suspended articles include those pertaining to floor-crossing, parliament’s authority to amend the Constitution, Senate and provincial assemblies. Similarly, basic rights stand suspended as emergency has been allowed to continue.

With the partial restoration of the Constitution, President Gen Pervez Musharraf has been sworn in for five more years on the basis of the referendum.

The partial restoration of the amended Constitution means that the military government has tailored not only democracy but also the Constitution. As the Constitution has been restored, all the affairs of the country should now be run according to it. The partial restoration has no meaning, legally, constitutionally and democratically, because the country cannot be run under two sets of laws or setups at the same time. Either one has the Constitution or does not have it. One cannot have the cake and eat it too.

In the presence of the National Assembly and after the restoration of the Constitution, it is parliament alone that must exercise the right to suspend a part of the Constitution or do otherwise, as this is its prerogative. What a joke that parliament has been denied this prerogative through a brief amendment and instead this authority has been vested in an office which has no right to it. To deprive parliament of the authority at this juncture is tantamount to abolishing its supremacy on the very first day of the National Assembly.

After the convening of the NA, the biggest problem is the legal status of the Legal Framework Order. The government insists that the LFO is a part of the Constitution as, under it, the election had been held, reserved seats for women had been increased and the MNAs have taken the oath. But the parliamentarians do no agree to the contention and refuse to accept the LFO. That was why the MNAs of the People’s Party Parliamentarians, the Muttahida Majlis-i-Amal and the Pakistan Muslim League-N objected to taking the oath under the amended Constitution, on which former speaker Illahi Bukhsh Soomro had to assure them that they were going to be sworn in under the 1973 Constitution.

Instead of dragging the dispute, the Constitution should be restored in its entirety, and all matters, from the amendments to the presidency, should be decided under it. According to the Constitution, the election of the president should be held through parliament, and the amendments introduced by the Musharraf government be presented before the house as proposals.

SINDHU writes that birds and artists both represent peace and symbolize love. The flight of birds aims at touching the sky whereas the mental flight of artists dreams of world peace. However, the shadow of the hunter also lurks behind the flying wings of innocence. The dreadful shadow nowadays seems to overshadow everything under the sun in Sindh, which has virtually become a no-go area for peace and love. Here, killer bullet follows the flight of birds and feudal fury chases those bird-like conscious people who think about restoration of human values in society and strive for it too.

The tears of the grieved family of Shahid Soomro, the gallant newsman gunned down by the sons of a tribal lord in Kandhkot, had not dried that the bold story-teller, Malik Agani, and his young son, met the same fate in the Agani village. The shocking double murder at a guava orchard on the bank of the River Indus is not another ordinary incident of killings.

It is an attack on the anti-feudal consciousness of Sindh as daredevil Agani had not only exposed through his writings the barbarism of the feudal system but had also had the guts to confront feudal lords and reject obsolete traditions on different occasions. He was sacrificed at the alter of enmity which has destroyed countless families in the province. Neither the government bothers to take notice of the wanton bloodshed nor do the aware circles try to contain the self-destructive trend.

Tameer-i-Sindh says that yet another bus bomb blast in Hyderabad exposes the inefficiency of the police. Moreover, the activities of bandits are, once again, increasing to an alarming proportion in rural areas. The government should immediately evolve a strategy to protect the lives of citizens and check the rising incidents of kidnapping. Otherwise, the revival of the bandit rule, under which the people of the province had suffered greatly in the past, seems to be imminent.