THERE is much (to put it mildly) that is primitive about the republic of Pakistan. There are but few who will admit to this and in their own way attempt to make all-round improvements. These few, quite naturally, have no connection with any of our ‘elected’ governments or legislative bodies — and as far as Karachi is concerned certainly not with the City Government, wonky as it be.

But it is hard going. Last week, according to a news item on March 13, in that ancient holy city of saints, where once an old civilization flourished, a sessions court judge ordered the amputation of the hands and feet of a robber. Now this man, a robber though he be, can in no way match the robbing skills of the grand larcenists who have ruled this country for decades and continue merrily on their way — hands and feet very much intact.

In the context of the ‘image’ of Pakistan, now being expensively worked upon to improve its glow in the world, how does the fact that these Ziaul Haq-imposed barbaric laws which prescribe the chopping off of limbs still exist on our statute books contribute to building of that image? And worse, how can we enhance the image when we still have magistrates functioning, paid by the government, who subscribe to these laws? When will a government of Pakistan (preferably the government of President General Pervez Musharraf), see sense and do away with these laws that but serve to invite contempt and loathing upon the desired image?

On that same day in Jacobabad, reportedly, a group of village idiots were gathered into the formation of a ‘jirga’ supervised by none less that the District Naib Nazim, Mir Changez Khan Panwhar, to ‘decide’ three murder cases. The three alleged murderers were commanded to walk upon a path of burning embers. They all completed the distance unscathed and were acquitted. Thousands of loyal subjects were witness to this 21st century judicial process.

A body known as the Peace Council of Pakistan issued a press release on March 14. According to statistics gathered, from between 70 to 90 per cent (rather a large margin) of the women of Pakistan are victims of domestic violence. This is believable, given the mindset of our macho males and the prevalence amongst them of functional disorders. One horrific statistic has to do with that obnoxious set of ordinances known as the Hudood Ordinances, which remarkably, under a president who has enlightenment and moderation on his mind, still forms part of the law of the land. How, in the space of over six years, General Musharraf has been unable to repeal these ordinances is not understandable. Fifty per cent of the women who are brave enough to report rape are immediately jailed under the provisions of the Hudood Ordinances which make rape a criminal offence committed by the victim, the woman.

A number of the women who sit in our assemblies have done their best to rid the country of this black law, but have fought unsuccessfully, unsupported by other women whose faith lies in the dark ages, and unsupported by the majority of our gallant male legislators who in no way wish to see the women of this country rise.

There is much to be changed and much to be saved. Dumb animals are treated in an unspeakable manner, horrific is their plight — but who cares? Trees that weep but also cannot speak are at high risk all over Pakistan.

The founders and makers of both India and Pakistan recognized animals as being God’s creations and they cared for them. Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi famously said that the level of a country’s civilization can be gauged by the way its animals are treated. Mohammad Ali Jinnah loved, kept and cared for his dogs.

In the sanctum sanctorum of General Musharraf hangs a photograph of the real Jinnah, on the lawns of his Hampstead home, kneeling with his Doberman and his West Highland Terrier. Musharraf himself was famously photographed, soon after the country was handed to him, in the company of his dogs. And the finest photograph we now have of him was taken on his visit to China last month when he met and held a Panda.

One of the few sanctuaries that care for Karachi’s animals is now at great risk. The only government hospital for animals, aptly named after able and caring commissioner Richmond Crawford, is scheduled to be closed down by the city government so that it can allow yet another hideous temple to consumerism to be raised in its place. What sort of government have we voted in? I suppose, we can only say — exactly what we deserve. But there must be someone, or some people, who can raise their voices against this outrage to civilization.

Then there is a park, the Behram Bagh renamed (when and by whom?) Jehangir Park, with its tall trees planted in the 1890s by Behramjee Jehangirjee Rajkotwalla. The city government plans to chop, chop and change and erect in what was a park a further temple to consumerism, a commercial motor car parking plaza supported by shops. There are many high court judgments that go against these plans and for those of the vicinity who wish to save their park and go to court, I quote hereunder from two :

“Moreover, we may refer to a much more recent decision of the honourable Supreme Court in Abdul Razzak v. Karachi Building Control Authority (PLD 1994 SC 512) wherein their Lordships, while interpreting the provisions of the KDA Order, clearly held that an amenity plot could not be altered for any other purpose.” (PLD 2006 Karachi 10)

“It may also be observed that para 3 of Schedule ‘D’ to Regulations prohibits the change of land use or conversion of amenity, utility and other plots without following the procedure contained therein which envisages inviting of public objections through the newspapers as above and hearing of the objections. The Regulations have been held by this Court to have statutory force in the case of Multiline Associates v. Ardeshir Cowasjee and Others (supra.). Reference may also be made to the judgment of this Court in the case of Abdul Razzak v. Karachi Building Control Authority 9 supra.) in which this Court with reference to above Article 52-A of the Order has observed that ‘We may point out that even under the Order the KDA is not authorized to change the use of any amenity plot without inviting objections and without obtaining the order of the Government.’

“Admittedly, no objections were invited in terms of the above provisions of the Order and the Regulations and therefore, per se, the alleged conversion of the plot for commercial purposes is illegal and contrary to the layout plan of the KDA Scheme No.5.” (1999 SCMR 2883)

Luckily for Karachi, we have a chief secretary to the government of Sindh who wishes to help and who does help. He has ordered that not one tree be chopped down in Jehangir Park until the issue of its razing is made public, objections are invited, and public opinion is sought and heeded.

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