Archive for Arab World

Beware Human Rights Fundamentalism!

Posted in International Affairs, Law with tags , , , , , , , , , , on March 28, 2009 by Umer

by Mahmood Mamdani

When former South African president Thabo Mbeki makes the African case for a postponement of the International Criminal Court’s (ICC) indictment of President Omar al-Bashir of Sudan, what can he say with dignity and foresight?

To begin with, he should remind his audience that nowhere in the world have rights existed outside an enabling political context. No democracy enforces a fixed standard of rights regardless of the country’s political context. Few can forget how the Bush administration diluted the Bill of Rights in the interest of pursuing Homeland Security. In the relation between law and politics, politics is always paramount. Precisely because the struggle for rights is a political struggle, enforcers of rights — and not just its violators — need to be held politically accountable lest they turn rights enforcement into a private vendetta.

Mbeki can then share with his audience the lessons Africans have learned in the struggle for peace and justice over the past several decades. Contrary to what many think, this lesson is not that there needs to be a trade-off between peace and justice. The real trade-off is between different forms of justice.This became evident with the settlement to end apartheid. That settlement was possible because the political leadership of the anti-apartheid struggle prioritised political justice over criminal justice. The rationale was simple: where there was no victor, one would need the cooperation of the very leaders who would otherwise be charged with war crimes to end the fighting and initiate political reforms. The essence of Kempton Park can be summed up in a single phrase: forgive but do not forget. Forgive all past crimes — in plain words, immunity from prosecution — provided both sides agree to change the rules to assure political justice for the living.

The South African lesson has guided African practice in other difficult situations. In Mozambique Renamo sits in Parliament instead of in jail or in the dock. In South Sudan, too, there would have been neither peace nor a reform of the political system without an agreement not to pursue criminal justice.Why not in Darfur?

Mbeki would also be well advised to keep in mind that in the court of public opinion — unlike in a court of law — the accused is considered guilty until proven innocent.

The public needs to be reminded that when the justices of the ICC granted the prosecutor’s application for a warrant to arrest the president of Sudan, they were not issuing a verdict of guilty. The justices were not meant to assess the facts put before them by the prosecutor, but to ask a different question: if those facts were assumed to be true, would the president of Sudan have a case to answer? Unlike court, which took the facts for granted at the pre-trial stage, we need to ask: to what extent are these facts true? And, to the extent they are true, are they the whole truth?

The prosecutor’s case
The prosecutor’s application charged President al-Bashir with (a) polarising Darfuri tribes into two races (Arab and Zurga or Black), (b) waging a violent conflict (2003-2005) leading to the ethnic cleansing of Zurga ethnic groups from their traditional tribal lands, and (c) and planning the malnutrition, rape and torture of internally displaced persons (IDPs) so as to “slow death” in the camps — a process that the prosecutor claimed went on from 2003 to the time the application was submitted in 2008.

The racialisation of identities in Darfur had its roots in the British colonial period. As early as the late 1920s, the British tried to organise two confederations in Darfur: one “Arab”, the other “Zurga” or black. Racialised identities were incorporated in the census and provided the frame for government policy and administration. In spite of official policy, Arabs never constituted a single racial group. Contemporary scholarship has shown that the Arab tribes of Sudan were not migrants from the Middle East but indigenous groups that became Arabs starting in the 18th century. This is why there can be no single history of Arab tribes of Sudan. Little unites privileged sedentary tribes of riverine Sudan and impoverished nomads of Western Sudan. Unlike the Arabs of riverine north, who have tended to identify with power, the Arabs of Darfur are the most marginalised group in a marginalised province.

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Towards theocracy

Posted in Pakistan with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 12, 2009 by Umer

Pervez Amirali Hoodbhoy

Frontline on net

Note: This article appeared in the Frontline magazine of India. Therefore, the contents of the article and the message is addressed to the Indian audience. The article, nevertheless, is highly essential for us living in Pakistan.

Towards Theocracy: State and Society in Pakisan Today 

EMILIO MORENATTI/AP

Women in burqas and children from the Bajaur and Mohmand agency areas wait to be registered at a refugee camp near Peshawar in January. Today a full-scale war is being fought in FATA, Swat and other “wild” areas of Pakistan, with thousands dying and hundreds of thousands of displaced people streaming into cities and towns.  

FOR 20 years or more, a few of us in Pakistan have been desperately sending out SOS messages, warning of terrible times to come. Nevertheless, none anticipated how quickly and accurately our dire predictions would come true. It is a small matter that the flames of terrorism set Mumbai on fire and, more recently, destroyed Pakistan’s cricketing future. A much more important and brutal fight lies ahead as Pakistan, a nation of 175 million, struggles for its very survival. The implications for the future of South Asia are enormous.

Today a full-scale war is being fought in FATA (Federally Administered Tribal Areas), Swat and other “wild” areas of Pakistan, with thousands dying and hundreds of thousands of IDPs (internally displaced people) streaming into cities and towns. In February 2009, with the writ of the Pakistani state in tatters, the government gave in to the demand of the TTP (Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan, the Pakistani Taliban Movement) to implement the Islamic Sharia in Malakand, a region of FATA. It also announced the suspension of a military offensive in Swat, which has been almost totally taken over by the TTP. But the respite that it brought was short-lived and started breaking down only hours later.

The fighting is now inexorably migrating towards Peshawar where, fearing the Taliban, video shop owners have shut shop, banners have been placed in bazaars declaring them closed for women, musicians are out of business, and kidnapping for ransom is the best business in town. Islamabad has already seen Lal Masjid and the Marriot bombing, and has had its police personnel repeatedly blown up by suicide bombers. Today, its barricaded streets give a picture of a city under siege. In Karachi, the Muttahida Quami Movement (MQM), an ethnic but secular party well known for strong-arm tactics, has issued a call for arms to prevent the Taliban from making further inroads into the city. Lahore once appeared relatively safe and different but, after the attack on the Sri Lankan cricket team, has rejoined Pakistan.

The suicide bomber and the masked abductor have crippled Pakistan’s urban life and shattered its national economy. Soldiers, policemen, factory and hospital workers, mourners at funerals, and ordinary people praying in mosques have been reduced to hideous masses of flesh and fragments of bones. The bearded ones, many operating out of madrassas, are hitting targets across the country. Although a substantial part of the Pakistani public insists upon lionising them as “standing up to the Americans”, they are neither seeking to evict a foreign occupier nor fighting for a homeland. They want nothing less than to seize power and to turn Pakistan into their version of the ideal Islamic state. In their incoherent, ill-formed vision, this would include restoring the caliphate as well as doing away with all forms of western influence and elements of modernity. The AK-47 and the Internet, of course, would stay.

But, perhaps paradoxically, in spite of the fact that the dead bodies and shattered lives are almost all Muslim ones, few Pakistanis speak out against these atrocities. Nor do they approve of military action against the cruel perpetrators, choosing to believe that they are fighting for Islam and against an imagined American occupation. Political leaders like Qazi Husain Ahmed and Imran Khan have no words of kindness for those who have suffered from Islamic extremists. Their tears are reserved for the victims of predator drones, whether innocent or otherwise. By definition, for them terrorism is an act that only Americans can commit.

Why the Denial?

 

To understand Pakistan’s collective masochism, one needs to study the drastic social and cultural transformations that have made this country so utterly different from what it was in earlier times. For three decades, deep tectonic forces have been silently tearing Pakistan away from the Indian subcontinent and driving it towards the Arabian peninsula.

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PFLP Updates from Gaza

Posted in Communist Movement, International Affairs with tags , , , , , on January 4, 2009 by Umer

For more breaking news and updateshttp://www.pflp.ps/english

PFLP calls upon Arab and international forces to escalate their actions and solidarity

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The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine called on January 3, 2008 upon the Arab people and all progressive forces in the world to escalate all forms of resistance against the Zionist and imperialist enemy.

Resistance confirms casualties to Israeli occupation soldiers in the first hour of the invasion

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PFLP sources confirmed on January 3, 2009 that in the first hour of the ground invasion of Gaza, Israeli occupation soldiers have already suffered a number of casualties due to the courageous fighting of the resistance forces in Gaza.

Urgent: Occupation begins ground invasion of Gaza, resistance committed to victory

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The occupation forces began their ground invasion of Gaza on January 3, 2008. The occupation forces entered Gaza in several places at approximately 9 PM, while continuing their shelling and targeting of Palestinians from air and sea, killing and wounding still more of our people while their ground forces prevent ambulances and medical personnel from reaching the victims. All Israeli (and US-made) weapons are being used in this invasion, including massive bombs.

The road to our victory can only come through the dismantling of the colonialist, racist structure of Israel, in short, the liberation of Palestine. – Anonymous