Daily Times: Zaid Hamid goes to court — Mohammad Taqi. April 05, 2012

Never a dull moment in the land of the pure, is there? Just as one is about to look past a real or made-up disaster, new tomfooleries appear on the horizon. A certain Syed Zaid Zaman Hamid has now declared war on the Pakistani liberal intelligentsia. More specifically, Sir Zaid — as his followers affectionately and reverently call him — has announced a legal battle against the South Asia Free Media Association (SAFMA) though a constitutional petition filed in the Supreme Court (SC) of Pakistan. Ordinarily one might have shrugged and moved on but then Sir Zaid is no ordinary human.

In the petition, filed through that champion of constitutional and judicial supremacy, Sahibzada Ahmad Raza Khan Kasuri, Hamid identifies himself as one of the 500 most influential Muslims around the world. His 164-word introduction enumerates Hamid’s accomplishments as a defence analyst, geopolitical strategist, an intellectual and a scholar of international repute who, inter alia, has ‘very actively worked in the Afghan Jehad from 1986-1992’. Studies produced by his think-tank Brass Tacks are “read and acknowledged by friendly countries, national and international media and national security organisations like Pakistan armed forces and Intelligence agencies.” Now who exactly and in what armed forces agency acknowledges whatever is put out by Brass Tacks is for the ISPR to clarify.

Timed to appear along with the petition was the following salvo on Hamid’s blog and Facebook page: “Allahu Akbar!!!! Today, we have filed a Petition in the Supreme Court against SAFMA for High Treason against Pak Sarzameen (land), its sacred ideology, its beloved founding fathers and waging a war against Pak Sarzameen, armed forces and our freedom on behalf of the enemies. We have demanded Death Penalty under article 6 High Treason law for All SAFMA leaders, members and supporters like Imtiaz Alam, Marvi Sermed, Najam Sethi, Hamid Mir, Asma Jahangir, Hasan Nisar, Khaled Ahmed, Beena Sarwar, Nusrat Javed and Ali Chishti!

Now these snakes will be dragged to the court and confronted with their crimes against Pak Sarzameen InshAllah. Thousands of Pakistanis have joined hands alhamdolillah to expose and confront these snakes and now the Petition has been filed in the Supreme Court! By Allah, we will defend our Medina e Sani, its sacred ideology, its geography, its armed forces and our freedom! [Sic].”

The petition itself, though littered with spelling mistakes and grammatical errors, is poisonous drivel supposedly to terrorise into silence the journalists, media persons and activists associated or thought to be associated with SAFMA. It takes a convoluted approach to basically posit that the respondents have allegedly been undermining M A Jinnah and Allama Iqbal’s message, the two-nation theory, the ideology of Pakistan and above all the ‘glory of Islam’, at the behest of India, and thus portend an existential risk to Pakistan’s national security. It makes full use of the Ziaul Haq-inducted clauses of the constitution and asks for first restraining these journalists and activists and then trying them for sedition. While not explicitly sought, the implication of invoking Article 6 is that the named and unnamed individuals thus be physically eliminated.

Hamid has specifically asked the court that under Article 19 of the constitution, the free speech of the individuals he has named should be restricted in the “interest of the glory of Islam, integrity, security or defence of Pakistan or any part thereof, friendly relations with foreign states, public order, decency or morality or in relation to contempt of court.” On his blog and in his various media appearances, Hamid has expressly described what he means by the “glory of Islam”. He wrote on his blog: “Our destiny is Ghazwa e Hind NOT aman ki asha! They spread vulgarity, filth, Hinduism, pornography, Hindu culture, dance and music within our youth.” Hamid has based this on a single Hadith, which appears in the only an-Nasai compilation of the Hadith: “A group of you will conquer India, Allah will open for them (India) until they have come with its kings chained — Allah having forgiven their sins. When they return back (from India), they will find ibn Maryam (Jesus) in Syria.”

Interestingly, it is not just the secular elements of SAFMA who differ with Hamid’s concept of the glory of Islam by waging war on India in the purported ‘Ghazwa-e-Hind’. Respected Islamic scholars have a broad range of points of view on this Hadith. Some like Javed Ghamidi consider it a weak narration, which like many other fabricated ones was inducted in the corpus of Hadith to suit the political plans of the Ummayads when they wanted to invade India. The late Dr Israr Ahmed held another view that the Muslim invasion of India prophesied in the narration has already taken place. He had stated in his lectures that the Ghazwa-e-Hind could have been either Mahmud Ghaznavi or Muhammad Bin Qasim’s invasion of India. Allama Dr Tahirul Qadri holds yet another view that the tradition is part of the signs of the end of time and the forecast invasion will actually be by armies originating not in Pakistan but from the Arab lands. Then there is the view of the Ahl-e-Hadith, expressed some time back in the periodical Muhhaddis, which categorically rejects this narration as concocted. The Shia books of Hadith make no mention of such a prophecy at all. I am confident that the seasoned ulema of the various schools of thought would feel duty-bound to appear before the court to present their expert opinion when asked by the court and/or SAFMA.

Zaid Hamid also claims to be an expert on Iqbal’s vision and poetry and has charged SAFMA with undermining Iqbal’s message. I am sure it is not lost on Hamid that four of Iqbal’s books — two each in Persian and Urdu — came out after the word Pakistan was coined in 1932-33. It is interesting that Iqbal has used the word Pakistan not even once in his poetry! Also, Iqbal’s poetry is replete with tributes to non-Muslims and especially many Hindus including Motilal Nehru and Jawaharlal Lal Nehru and, of course, the Lord Rama.

While it is for the august court to accept the petition for hearing or throw it out, it may actually be a great exercise to debate all these alleged ingredients of Pakistan’s ‘national security’ in an open court if Zaid Hamid so desires. Let some issues be settled for posterity’s sake.

PS: Article 19 also recommends censuring incitement to an offence, which Zaid Hamid’s hate speech and not-so-veiled call for vigilantism actually is.

Source: Daily Times

CPJ Blog: A Pakistani 'sword of Damocles' in the making? April 2, 2012

Given that it is usually punishable by death, “treason” is a dangerous word to bandy about. When it is applied to journalists, it is even more worrisome. We’ve seen that in Sri Lanka, which is in the throes of a backlash against a U.N. resolution on past human rights abuses. (See “Amid Sri Lankan denial, threats rise for journalists.“) Photographs of journalists who have been critical of Colombo, their faces barely obscured, have been shown on television; one broadcast even repeatedly used the picture of a journalist’s daughter, according to the Network for Rights media support group.

Now, in Pakistan, Zaid Hamid has filed a petition in the Supreme Court, calling on it to try several journalists, a leading human rights activist, the South Asian Free Media Association, and several of its members (many of whom are journalists as well), as well as several government ministries and the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority, for treason. That is a strange group of bedfellows indeed.

In the petition, Hamid describes himself as “Founding President of an Internationally Recognized Threat Analysis Consultancy and Defense Think Tank, Brass Tacks.” That website–basically a homepage and some YouTube links–describes Hamid as “the most eminent and profound security professional in Pakistan having extensive practical experience and exposure in the fields of Information Warfare and Psy-Ops, National as well as Corporate Security Management, Strategic and Tactical planning, Threat Analysis, Irregular Warfare, Electronic Security Solutions and training of security personnel. His expertise is largely through exposure and is most unique and diversified. He is a veteran of Soviet-Afghan war and has a rich experience of the finest guerilla operations in modern times.” He is a regular on many of Pakistani TV’s political talk shows, and has hosted his own.

Why do this? Hamid explains on his blog:

In these times of war, when journalism become subversion on behalf of hostile powers, then it is called High Treason! Information war and ideological subversion are integral part of the 4th generation war being waged against Pakistan. The terrorists on ground get support from the subversive elements within the media and they all create crisis for the armed forces, ISI and the nation instead of supporting them against the insurgents and terrorists.

While some of the people named on the petition dismissed the move as that of a “nutcase” or worse, others feel genuinely threatened by it. Bringing the case and the publicity it could engender puts people at risk, regardless of its legal validity. Treason is a hot-button issue like blasphemy, and cases of treason could incite extrajudicial reprisals, just as we’ve seen in some blasphemy cases.

The language of the petition is inflammatory and aimed at inciting a public response. As a Washington-based analyst, Sadanand Dhume, tweeted: “If calling journalists snakes and publicly demanding their execution for treason isn’t incitement to violence, then what is?”

The Court hasn’t accepted the petition yet, but it is under no obligation to reject it. As one journalist told me, it can just hang there indefinitely, as a “sword of Damocles” dropping into use if it becomes politically expedient to silence journalists or any critic of the government. The case, as bizarre as it is, is really just another way to intimidate journalists — as if there wasn’t a dark cloud of threats hanging over the profession in Pakistan already.

Source: CPJ Blog

Author: Bob Dietz/CPJ Asia Program Coordinator

Express Tribune: Mad dogs and laal topiwallahs. April 2, 2012

The good thing about a free judiciary is, duh, that it’s free. The bad thing about a free judiciary is that it becomes the refuge of last resort for every idiot with a cause.

The latest of these crusaders is one Zaid Hamid, self-described as the “Founding President of an Internationally Recognised Threat Analysis Consultancy and Defence Think Tank.” On March 27, 2012, he announced triumphantly that he had filed a petition in the Supreme Court seeking the death penalty for a number of journalists as well as the South Asian Free Media Association (SAFMA).

Mr Hamid’s basis for seeking the death penalty against eleven different people is his firm belief that they are involved in “nefarious activities”, hence guilty of treason and hence liable to be put to death.

More specifically, what the petition says is this: (1) “If the ideology of Pakistan is destroyed, the entire State of Pakistan will then automatically crumbles [sic] and cease to exist; (2) SAFMA is attacking the ideology of Pakistan by “projecting the father of the nation as a secular leader”; (3) In addition, SAFMA is “a covert operation of Indian establishment and RAW”; (4) The Federal Government should lodge an FIR under the High Treason (Act), 1973 so that the various SAFMA members can be prosecuted and punished (presumably with the death penalty); and, (5) the Supreme Court should listen to Mr Hamid because he is, inter alia, “an internationally known … analyst” and because the Jordanian Strategic Study Institute named him as one of the 500 most influential living Muslims.

Legally and logically, the petition is rubbish. To begin with, critical analysis will not lead to the physical disintegration of Pakistan. Pakistan has been criticised ever since its birth; it has yet to disappear let alone “automatically crumble”. In any event, we no longer live in a world in which it is possible to wall off all criticism: unless you live in North Korea, those days are over.

Secondly, saying that the Quaid was secular is not treasonous. Not only was Jinnah far from being an orthodox Muslim but he explicitly disavowed a purely religious identity for Pakistan in his famous speech to the Constituent Assembly on August 11, 1947.

Thirdly, the contention that SAFMA is a covert operation of the Indian secret intelligence services is laughable. If Mr Hamid knows about SAFMA’s covert status, so too does the ISI. Is Mr Hamid then accusing the ISI and the Armed Forces of Pakistan of deliberately ignoring an entity that is being funded/guided by RAW? Why is Mr Hamid taking his suspicions to the Supreme Court rather than to the DG ISI? Is it because the spooks know him to be a moron?

Fourthly, inclusion on the list of the 500 most influential living Muslims means nothing. Had Mr Hamid actually read the introduction to the publication, he would have noticed that the book itself makes it very clear that Islam encompasses a diversity of beliefs and that “influence” is by no means to be confused with rightness.

For example, the same publication also lists Mullah Mohammad Omar and Ayman Al Zawahiri as amongst the 500. Should all Pakistanis join al Qaeda as a consequence of this recognition? I don’t think so.

To take another example, the list of 500 includes Mir Shakil ur Rahman, owner of the Jang Group. The Jang Group is one of the main sponsors of the peace initiative called “Aman ki Asha.” The petition filed by Mr Hamid alleges that the objective of “Aman ki Asha” is to destroy Pakistan. Clearly, the honour of being one of the 500 most influential Muslims is no basis on which to determine the truth or falsity of anything.

At this point, the petition in question has yet to be accepted for hearing, let alone fixed. This is because the Supreme Court sometimes tends to deal with really stupid petitions by stashing them away in some back corner till everybody involved has either succumbed to old age or lost interest. But is that really good enough?

Not in my view. A petition asking that somebody be put to death, no matter how absurd, is still a document on which action can be taken. As we have seen in the Asghar Khan case, petitions can rise from the dead even after decades.

More importantly, the accusations being made by Mr Hamid are no laughing matter. While Pakistan has increasingly adopted freedom of speech as a core value, nobody has sympathy for RAW agents. To accuse somebody of being an Indian agent is therefore, a deliberate attempt to short-circuit all critical thinking and instead provoke a violent response.

One contrary argument is that SAFMA and the others should sue Mr Hamid for defamation. Unfortunately, while SAFMA has already filed suit against Mr Hamid for earlier allegations, the fact is that trials in Pakistan tend to be a joke. By the time any result ever emerges, and by the time the inevitable appeals are adjudicated, the issue and the controversy are long dead. For all that it is worth, we may as well not have a law of defamation.

The petition therefore does not deserve to be let alone: instead, it deserves to be dismissed with penal costs. The petition is not only an abuse of judicial process but a deliberate attempt to intimidate every person who does not agree with Mr Hamid. Indeed, Mr Hamid has made his intentions very clear, announcing that everybody who is not with him is a “SAFMA snake” whose name will be added to the “list of traitors” and that every word “barked” by such traitors will “become the hanging rope around [their] necks.”

So long as this petition remains even theoretically alive, it will continue to poison the intellectual atmosphere of Pakistan. What is at stake here is not just freedom of the press but the freedom of every Pakistani to think critically. It is a freedom that the Supreme Court must defend, if only to put petty bullies like Mr Hamid in their proper place.

Source: Express Tribune

Author: Feisal H Naqvi