Remembering Saneeya Hussain on her birthday

Here’s a note I sent out to the Saneeya Hussain yahoogroup yesterday, Aug 13th, her birthday – please do check out the link about the Saneeya Hussain Trust:Saneeya Homepage

Dear family and friends of Saneeya, scattered all over the world, this huge community of caring and committed people working in all kinds of ways to make the world a better place in their own ways

Here’s to Saneeya – we’ll always miss her. It is wonderful that the Saneeya Hussain Trust is up and running. Please do check it out at – The Trust has already done a lot of valuable work in terms of helping young girls obtain an education.

Several months ago I wrote a chapter for a forthcoming book on environmental journalism being published (eventually, we hope) by Sage, India. It focuses to some extent on Saneeya and Nazeeha had it posted to the SHT website for those who are interested

I finally made a blog (on which I post my own articles and other material that I also send to my issues yahoogroup) – have linked the SHT to it also. I’d encourage all those of you who maintain blogs or websites to do the same.

That’s all for now from hot and muggy Karachi


Gojra and education, conspiracy theorists and judicial activism

‘Gojra and education’ – Zubeida Mustafa correctly identifies economic rivalries and the education rot as the major factors at the root of what are termed ‘communal’ or ‘religious riots’ – not just in Pakistan but also in India. What is also disturbing is how very easy it is for the perpetrators of such crimes to incite people in the name of religion – Dawn oped, 12 Aug, 2009 –

‘In defence of reason’ – Nadeem Farooq Paracha takes on Pakistan’s king of conspiracy theorists, Zaid Hamid (who after the Mumbai terror attacks held forth on his talk show about the ‘real’ identity of the gunmen. According to him, the red thread around the wrist of one of them proved his Hindu identity – but that he was in fact a Sikh, whose name Hamid disclosed). Dawn, Aug 11, 2009 –

‘Days of judgments’, by Asma Jahangir – A warning from Pakistan’s most well known human rights activist and lawyer: ‘Musharraf’s head may roll in the streets of Pakistan on charges of treason but that could also open the doors for bigoted nationalists to put a few others in the dungeons of Pakistan on dubious charges of treason’ – The News, op-ed, Aug 12, 2009 –

‘Power with responsibility’ – by Haris Gazdar: The Supreme Court’s ruling on July 31 striking down some of the actions taken by former President Musharraf as unconstitutional has been hailed as historic. This is hyperbole. What is more important is how the judges and their supporters plan to use the power they are acquiring with respect to the key challenges facing the state and society. Dawn, op-ed, 06 Aug, 2009 –

Naeem Sadiq, Gojra and the Zakat suo moto notice

Aug 14 food for thought – it’s not just about Gojra as Shi’ias, Ahmedis and other endangered citizens of Pakistan deemed minorities by the religious extremists will testify. Posted below is Naeem Sadiq’s note of Aug 14 & my comment. Also below update on Naeem’s petition currently being heard by the Supreme Court, adjudicating on whether individual citizens are bound by the sharia version of state or not.

Incidentally, one small positive step is that the religion section on the new computerised Pakistani passports has been quietly done away with, so that they no longer contain a declaration of the bearer’s religion. However, Muslim applicants are still required to abuse Mirza Ghulam Ahmed, the spiritual leader of the Ahmedis whom the Parliament declared as non-Muslims during the Bhutto era. It’s a long and uphill battle — one that we cannot afford to lose.

Over to Naeem Sadiq, the indefatigable campaigner on Aug 14  — he agrees of course that Shi’as in Parachinar, DI Khan, Hangu, Quetta have for years now been subject to seige, murder, forced migration, ignored by the media or government – not to take anything away from the victims of Gojra… but food for thought:

From Naeem Sadiq, 14th  August

I decided not to celebrate the 14th August this year, to record my personal grief, shame and solidarity with the innocent citizens of Gojra, who were killed , wounded and burnt, for belonging to the same God, but a different religion. In my room I will fly the Pakistan flag at half mast, I will put my TV off,  have none of those “milli naghmey”  and sing no national anthem.  I am sad, ashamed and distressed. I will call up all my Christian friends to say I am deeply sorry and I apologise.

I do not wish to celebrate the birthdays of a land where the Mullahs spread hate from the minarets of their mosques.  Where 20,000 Muslims unite to kill a few hundred   Christian men, women and children.  Where the administration provides bullet proof vehicles and multi layer protection to its leaders but will do nothing to protect the  life and property of its  ordinary citizens.  I am ashamed that not one person, the CM, the PM, the Governor or the President resigned from his  job as an admission of failure to perform their primary duty.

There are plenty of  flags, parades, speeches and ceremonies, but  no real sense of guilt, remorse,  or reform. The Dawn newspaper alone has 24 ‘ad’ nauseam ads, sponsored by the government departments, with the tax payers’ money, most carrying the pictures of four members of the same family.  All under the garb of a “Happy Birthday to you, dear Pakistan”.   The theft and plunder of peoples’  money  does not pause for rest, even on the 14th day of August.  Should  not a state, at a minimum,  protect the life and property of all its citizens,  to deserve ‘a happy birthday’.



The Supreme Court took SUO Moto notice on the appeal of an ordinary citizen, and a  panel of three SC judges, headed by the chief Justice of Pakistan heard the case at 1300 hrs on August 10, 2009 .

Two issues were raised.

a.  That the procedure  for exemption from compulsory deduction of Zakat (notary public, two witnesses, affidavits , stamp paper, CZ-50 etc) was tedious, time wasting , and cumbersome for ordinary citizens

b. The  state cannot compel its citizens to declare a specific “Fiqh”, and thus be divided and boxed into one or the other schools of interpretations.

The Hon’able SC judges heard the submission, agreed that it was a pro bono case and ordered the State Bank and the Federation of Pakistan to appear before the court  in the next hearing, and explain why this procedure can not be simplified and improved in the light of issues raised by the appellant.

The next hearing was fixed for 1st week of October.

Background: Naeem Sadiq had approached the SC to take suo moto notice on the issue of compulsory deduction of Zakat by banks. The CJ accepted the  application and ordered  the case be heard at 0930 hrs on 10 August 2009 at Islamabad Supreme Court.  Required to appear in person.

The original letter that was sent to SC:

An appeal to the Supreme Court of Pakistan

For a  public interest Suo moto notice

Honourable Chief Justice,

The Supreme Court of Pakistan in a landmark judgment on March 9, 1999 gave a ruling that members of all ‘Fiqhs’ were entitled to exemption from compulsory deduction of  Zakat, and the Federal Government had no authority to reject the declaration of any Muslim seeking exemption from Zakat, if it was made on a prescribed form. This judgment enables any Muslim to declare his / her  ‘Fiqh” and thus seek exemption from compulsory deduction of Zakat. Defacto it also recognizes the right of individuals to practice their faith according to their own fiqhs, and not be dictated by the government’s interpretation.

The historic judgment while so well recognizing the right of individuals in matters of their faith, made an irritating mess on how this right was to be practiced. Firstly it requires Muslims to declare their “Fiqh”. The great Prophet of Islam did not subscribe to any  ‘sect’ or ‘fiqh’. For his followers to be forced  to invent, be branded and be divided by sects and ‘fiqhs’ is therefore an absolutely  unethical and undesirable  demand on the part of the government.

The second irritant relates to the requirement of making this declaration on a  prescribed format, thus creating a  serious bureaucratic and procedural difficulty for the ordinary citizens. They are  required to fill a judicial stamped paper of Rs.20 (available for Rs.120), have it signed by a notary public and two witnesses before making a completely unnecessary declaration  of their ‘fiqh’. The form is also called CZ-50 affidavit.

This anomaly could be easily rectified if the Supreme Court through a public interest suo moto notice, clarify  its original judgment by requiring only those Muslims to give in writing (on a plain piece of paper) who do wish their Zakat to be deducted by a bank. This would truly be in keeping with the  SC verdict that all Muslims are entitled to exemption from compulsory deduction of Zakat.

Naeem Sadiq


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