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Ending oppression in Pakistan

By Irfan Yusuf - posted Monday, 27 June 2005

In some parts of Pakistan it is customary to respectfully refer to all men of one's father's age as Chacha or Chachaji (literally meaning “my dad's brother” in Urdu). In all parts of Pakistan, one must also show utmost respect to elders.

Now that President Pervez Musharraf of Pakistan has visited Australia, I would like to ask some respectful questions of Pervez Chacha:

Pervez Chacha, you would be aware of the negative press that Pakistan has received as a result of its implementation of a criminal code partially extracted from the Islamic Sharia. Under the code, female victims of rape can be faced with a death sentence, while male perpetrators can be free to plunder the honour of more victims.


Also, under the code, religious minorities are persecuted and accused of blasphemy. Christian Pakistanis, some as young as 11, are placed on trial and may face the death penalty for breaches of anti-blasphemy laws.

More than 50 years ago, the founder of Pakistan, Qaid-i-Azam Mohammed Ali Jinnah, declared that all citizens of Pakistan were to be treated equally regardless of faith. Christian Pakistanis have made enormous contributions to the Pakistani nation, including in its second religion: cricket.

You would be aware that recently a prominent Swiss Islamic scholar, by the name of Tariq Ramadan, has called upon all Islamic nations to implement a moratorium on all such criminal punishments. The professor believes God's law is fast becoming the devil's handiwork and an instrument for oppression. His call has been supported by Islamic scholars around the world.

Mr President, when will your government implement the professor's views? When will you stop such law from being used as an instrument for the oppression of women, Christian minorities and other downtrodden Pakistanis?

Muslims across the Islamic world are crying out for the liberty and democracy enjoyed by their relatives living in western countries. When will you return Pakistan to a fully-fledged democracy?

Mr President, I was born in Karachi. I arrived in Australia when I was hardly six-months-old. I have only ever held an Australian passport. Therefore, I am concerned with how Australians are treated overseas.


What does your government say on the alleged detention and torture of Australian citizen Mamdouh Habib? Did your government pass this Australian citizen on to American officials who then allegedly flew him to Egypt for more torture? The Prophet Mohammed did not allow prisoners of war to even have their teeth pulled out. I am concerned that in this war against terrorism, prisoners from various parts of the world are being taken to countries such as Egypt, Syria and your own. It is alleged they are tortured as part of an international contracting-out arrangement known as “rendition”.

Apart from this, we see at village level, innocent Muslim women subjected to the violence of honour killings. Women merely suspected of talking to a male stranger, or committing some other cultural crime, can be tried by an all-male village council of elders and sentenced to severe punishment, even execution.

Custom-based violence was apparently stamped out from Muslim societies by the Prophet Mohammed 14 centuries ago. Has it returned to Pakistan?

Mr President, I was taught that Islam guarantees human rights and the dignity of the individual in much the same way as liberal democracy. I understand you were in Australia on an official state visit on behalf of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan.

Yet the abuse of human rights and individual dignity continues to be perpetrated by police, security apparatchiks and government officials of a nation founded as an Islamic republic, a nation carved out for Islamic values. How can such a nation allow these acts to be committed within its borders, against its own people and even against people of my country, Australia?

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Article edited by Angela Sassone.
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First published in the Australian Financial Review on June 16, 2005.

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About the Author

Irfan Yusuf is a New South Wales-based lawyer with a practice focusing on workplace relations and commercial dispute resolution. Irfan is also a regular media commentator on a variety of social, political, human rights, media and cultural issues. Irfan Yusuf's book, Once Were Radicals: My Years As A Teenage Islamo-Fascist, was published in May 2009 by Allen & Unwin.

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