Category Archives: Human Rights

Muslim Law: The Need For Reform

‘There is nothing in the Quran which says that a man should marry a young girl … It is not in the best interests of a girl to be married off early. Early marriage robs a girl of her childhood,’ argues Dr Reeza Hameed.

The All Ceylon Jamiyyathul Ulama (ACJU) is opposed to making any changes to the existing Muslim family law. Mufti Rizwi, who is a member of the Saleem Marsoof Committee appointed to look into reforms to the Muslims Marriages and Divorces Act (MMDA) of 1951, has made the oracular pronouncement that the law is ‘perfect in its present state’ and required no reform. Mufti Rizwi also presides over the ACJU. Regrettably, the views expressed by the Mufti and his outfit are anachronistic and obscurantist. Matters relating to Islam and Muslim law ought not to be the sole concern of the ulema. In this comment I have touched upon some issues in the hope that it will contribute to the debate on the need for reform. In Muslim law marriage is not a sacrament but a civil contract. Neither religious ritual nor having it done in a mosque is essential to confer validity to a marriage. A Muslim marriage is contract like any other in Islamic law. Parties to a marriage should have legal capacity to enter into the contract.

There has to be an offer and an acceptance of that offer with the intention of establishing a marital relationship. There must be consideration given to the wife known as mehr. All the schools of law recognise that a person has freedom of choice to enter into a marriage and that he or she cannot be forced into one. The age at which a young Muslim acquires legal capacity to marry has been a contentious issue. The traditionalist view adumbrated by classical jurists is that a person acquires the legal capacity to marry on attaining puberty. In the Hedaya, the manual on Hanafi law, the earliest age at which puberty is attained by a girl is 9 and by a boy at 12. A similar view is adopted by the Shafi School, which is followed by a majority of Sri Lankan Muslims. The presumption of Muslim law as applied in India and Sri Lanka is that a person attained puberty at 15. Continue reading

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Filed under Courts, Discussion, Dr Reeza Hameed, Human Rights, Islam, Pakistan, Politics, Sri Lanka, The Middle East, Women

Adviser Sartaj Aziz: The Role of Russia and China is Vital for Regional Changes

Nawaz Sharif’s first contact with Donald Trump was a very pleasant one. India is trying to isolate Pakistan. Islamabad will give a befitting reply to New Delhi on every front. Ties with Afghanistan remain complicated.

Sartaj Aziz is a renowned figure in politics. He used to be a senator and also served as the finance minister and foreign minister under past administrations. He spoke to the members of The Pakistan Institute of International Affairs (PIIA) on 11 February 2017. These days he is the foreign affairs adviser to the prime minister, who is also the present foreign minister. Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, the architect of Pakistan’s 1973 Constitution, was prime minister and foreign minister simultaneously from December 1971-March 1977. Mimicking the slain premier, who was judicially murdered during the Zia years, the present prime minister, Nawaz Sharif has held the office prime minister and foreign minister since 2013; a trait he is at times vehemently criticised for. We have a tormented constitutional history indeed. The fall of Ayub Khan and the martial law of Yahya Khan meant that the judiciary’s role was tried and tested beyond what one may consider “normal”.

Pakistan’s 1962 Constitution provided that the speaker of the National Assembly should become the acting president until a new president was elected but Abdul Jabbar Khan did not become acting president because the dictator Yahya Khan disgracefully usurped power. In A History of the Judiciary in Pakistan, Hamid Khan describes the period from 1968 to 1975 as “turbulent times”. According to him, Hamoodur Rahman CJ tried to steer the ship as best he could but he was unable save the judiciary from adversity. “During those seven years, the judiciary lived through the political movement against Ayub Khan, the martial law of Yahya Khan, the civilian martial law of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto Continue reading

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Filed under Afghanistan, Bhutto, Brexit, China, Constitution 1973, Disarmament, Europe, Human Rights, India, Islamophobia, Pakistan Horizon, Palestine, Russia, Trump, United States

‘The Legacy of Barack Obama’: A Talk by Ambassador Karamatullah Ghori

Obama was a man of consensus … Trump is Obama’s antithesis and is like a bull in a China shop – watch video

His blackness and Muhammad Ali antics and punchy talk endeared him to poor non-white folks everywhere. Many whites loved him equally. But the black president who set out to do so much achieved alarmingly little. His administration conducted more drone attacks than his predecessor George Bush and he deported more immigrants than any other president. He was spineless on Syria and failed to close down Guantánamo Bay. A very ugly aspect of Obama’s legacy is that his failing administration ultimately came to be replaced by Trump’s extremists who are determined to erase all signs of his blackness from the White House. But at least he did not make personal attacks on journalists. For historian Simon Schama, Trump’s America points to Kennedy’s nation of migrants being afflicted by a “split personality”. Yet Schama also stresses “the moral stench of xenophobia is nothing new in US history.” Novelist Viet Thanh Nguyen, author of The Refugees and the Pulitzer Prize winning book The Sympathizer, says “the refugee embodies fear, failure and flight”. Despite opposing Trump, he argues with some vehemence “it is un-American to be a refugee”.

Margaret Thatcher’s biographer Charles Moore, a leading proponent of Brexit and an influential right-wing pundit, called Trump a “cruel jester” not long ago. More recently he wrote: “Trump’s style makes other politicians feel that he is almost as dangerous a friend as an enemy”. Moore said May was “embarrassed in Ankara” while meeting Erdoğan as she knew nothing of the Muslim ban affecting dual British nationals but weirdly claimed a “special relationship” with America. But now John Bercow, the speaker of the House of Commons, has embarrassed her by stating that Trump is “unfit” to address MPs. Continue reading

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Filed under Brexit, Discussion, Drones, Europe, Human Rights, Iran, Islamophobia, PIIA, Politics, Russia, Syria, The Middle East, UK, United States

Pakistan’s Seventieth Anniversary and International Relations in 2017

Pakistan must not pay the price for the adventurism of other countries

Immigration crackdowns are a commonly used political ploy in western countries but president Trump has infamously institutionalised Islamophobia by banning Muslims from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen from entering the US. Sir Mo Farah, the Somali born British super-athlete denounced the American president by saying that the “Queen made me a knight, Donald Trump made me an alien”. Kim Kardashian highlighted that more Americans die falling out of bed annually (737) rather than those killed by jihadists (2). Theresa May “does not agree” with the Muslim ban. The vicar’s daughter also claims that the UK will not sleepwalk into America’s dirty wars. But the tough talking prime minister, decked out in her trendy clothes and bright red nail polish, could not resist his charms and held hands with him as they walked down a tricky slope in the White House to show off their “special relationship”. But since he wants to make a fantastic success of Brexit – which he calls a “wonderful thing” – how could she resist?

The recent UK Supreme Court decision that she cannot unilaterally trigger Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty and bypass Parliament has not gotten her off to a flying start. Her new best friend’s Muslim ban has also suffered a blow at the hands of a federal judge in New York. British foreign secretary Boris Johnson branded the ban “divisive and wrong” and there is public pressure to cancel Trump’s state visit to the UK later this year. According to the New York Times, “it would take massive effort to create a trade deal if even minimal effect” and of course no deal is legal until the UK remains in the EU. Continue reading

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Filed under Brexit, Courts, Discussion, Europe, Human Rights, Immigration, Iran, Islamophobia, Karachi, Pakistan Horizon, PIIA, Russia, Trump, United States

Dr Bärbel Kofler: Transferring the UN Guidelines on Business and Human Rights into Practice in Germany

Human rights must not be ignored when doing business overseas …

Speaking at The Pakistan Institute of International Affairs (PIIA, Watch Video), Dr Bärbel Kofler – member of the German Bundestag – said that because of high levels of exploitation of labour in the developing world, consumers in the west are willing to pay more for products which are produced using labour inputs under a system where people are fairly treated and paid for work. In interesting times when both internally and externally Angela Merkel is on the back foot for letting in a flood of refugees – who are usually dubbed “economic migrants” by right-wingers – Dr Kofler argued human rights in business are heavily debated in Europe and Germany, especially after unfortunate incidents in recent past, which include the Rana Plaza tragedy in Bangladesh and in Karachi’s Baldia Town fire factory incident. Germany’s National Action Plan (NAP) for economic cooperation is based on UN guidelines on Business in Human Rights.

In an era of globalization, the UN guidelines oblige states to protect the human rights of every citizen and they equally oblige business entities to respect those human rights. This post gathers the details of the event from the Internet and Farhan Khan’s excellent coverage is reproduced from the LiveRostrum news agency. Dr Kofler said that the UN guidelines have three pillars. First, states are obliged to protect citizens from human rights violations. Second, it is also the obligation of the business Continue reading

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Dr Gunter Mulack: Crisis in the Middle East: A German Perspective

‘The Arab elite responsible is for Middle East crises’ – Watch Video.

As seen on this blog, the German chancellor Angela Merkel has become rather controversial because of her “open door” or Willkommenskultur policy in relation to refugees from the Middle East and elsewhere in Asia. Last year, Merkel was involved in a tug of war involved in a tug of war with her uneasy ally Horst Seehofer (premier of Bavaria) and even members of her trusted cabinet openly challenged her over her refugee policy. The chancellery ultimately bowed down to pressure from finance minister Wolfgang Schäuble and interior minister Thomas de Maizière – Schäuble accused her of being a “careless” skier who has caused an “avalanche” which needs to be contained. Equally, Mrs Merkel has been under pressure from the extremist right-wing populist eurosceptic Alternative für Deutschland (Alternative for Germany) party and its charismatic co-leader Frauke Petry; a 40-year old chemist/businesswoman with four children turned politician who very radically argues that the German authorities must “use firearms if necessary” to “prevent illegal border crossings”.

Given that a million people have penetrated Europe’s border in just a year, Petry argues that the “police must stop refugees entering German soil.” Against that background, German diplomat and scholar Dr Gunter Mulack spoke at The Pakistan Institute of International Affairs (PIIA) and shared his views on the crisis in the Middle East from a German Perspective. Continue reading

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Filed under Al Qaeda, China, CPEC, Discussion, Europe, Germany, Human Rights, Immigration, ISIS, Islam, Karachi, Pakistan, Pakistan Horizon, Politics, Russia, Syria, The Arab Spring, The Middle East

A Talk by Ambassador Brigitta Blaha on Austria’s Foreign Policy

‘We have no problem with Islam but we don’t want any disruption or anything that goes against our cultural values’ – Watch Video

A longstanding diplomat who joined the Austrian Foreign Service in 1978, Dr Brigitta Blaha gave a talk on Austria’s Foreign Policy at The Pakistan Institute of International Affairs (PIIA) on 9 February 2016. Prior to her present posting in Pakistan as Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Republic of Austria, Dr Blaha had served her country in Washington, Bangkok, Rome, Tokyo, Hong Kong and New York. An astute diplomat, she speaks German, English, French, Italian and Spanish and has extensive experience in dealing with integration and foreign affairs, Austrians abroad, citizenship matters, elections, social and health and Labour issues. The event was chaired by Dr Masuma Hasan, Chairman, PIIA, former Cabinet Secretary to the Government of Pakistan and former Ambassador of Pakistan to Austria, the UN and International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna.

Certainly, in the existing political milieu, the interest in EU matters is amplified because of the continuing exchange between David Cameron and EU leaders. As we know so well, these days nothing in European politics is as important as the UK’s exit, or “Brexit”, from the EU. With a record one million people arriving irregularly in the EU last year, swelling numbers of refugees are giving rise to extreme Xenophobia in Europe and Austria is no exception. Continue reading

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Filed under Discussion, Europe, Events, Human Rights, Immigration, Islam, Pakistan Horizon, Politics