I know it’s been quite a long absence but sloth is one of the seven deadly sins for a reason. I’ll be jumping back into the blogging game and I think it would be best to start off with a rare good news story from Pakistan.
An Afghan couple Hewad and Mariam eloped to Pakistan. Mariam’s family wanted her to marry her sister’s widower but Mariam had been secretly seeing Hewad for years. With the help of a Pakistani friend they were able to flee to Pakistan.
Mariam’s family tracked the couple to the Pakistani city of Abbottabad where the couple had married. Mariam’s family with the aid of a local Jirga (Council of Elders) registered a case of kidnapping against Hewad who was promptly arrested while Mariam was detained at an Orphanage. Just a few years ago the only way for this story to end would have been with Hewad’s deportation and subsequent murder and Mariam being forced to marry her brother in law or killed for her defiance.
Yet the couple are still alive and well in Pakistan thanks to the efforts of the newly free media and the newly independent courts. Several newspapers and T.V. stations ran stories detailing the couples plight and the certain death that awaited them in Afghanistan. Dost Muhammad Khan the Chief Justice of the Peshawar High Court took notice of the couples arrest and ordered the police to produce them in his court. After hearing the couples stories he ordered the government to give full protection to the couple as they were now under the Court’s protection.
Several important points stand out in this story and should be explored further.
1) The Pakistani State can enforce it’s will and provide protection to vulnerable members of society; this power is not exercised nearly enough but it can still be exercised.
2) A failed State Pakistan is not, at least not yet. A country in which the Police can catch illegal immigrants and deport them, where the media exposes injustices, and the Courts can force the Government and other State institutions to fulfill their end of the Social contract is still a viable state; for now.
3) Only the common law can provide equal justice to all in Pakistan Had the Jirga in Abbottabad been able to decide the case using Pashtun customs Hewad and Miriam would have been killed. Had the Peshawar High Court been a Sharia (Islamic) law court the couple would have been killed. Had Hewad and Miriam been tried according to Hindu or Sikh law or Punjabi, Sindhi, Baloch , or any other local customs they would have been killed.
Only the common law of Pakistan, based off British common law, was able to protect Hewad and Miriam’s life from the age old customs both cultural and religious that have tried for thousands of years to prevent such Romeo and Juliet stories.
4)Why wasn’t Bin Laden caught in Abbottabad? You might have recognized Abbottabad the city where Hewad and Mariam were caught as the same city in which Osama Bin Laden lived for years before Seal Team 6 paid him a visit. It’s disturbing that the Police can catch an Afghan couple on the run yet they never once thought to investigate the large house full of ”gold merchants” from Waziristan ie. the Taliban controlled part of Pakistan, who lived in the shadow of Pakistan’s elite military training academy.
5) Pakistan is in Big Trouble. Pakistan isn’t a failed State it’s a failing state. As much as Hewad and Mariam’s story shows all that is going right in Pakistan, it also shows much of what is going wrong. The Jirga in Abbottabad that nearly succeeded in having the couple deported to death was illegal. All Jirgas in Pakistan are illegal but they exist in all areas of Pakistan and continue to enforce an oppressive, highly conservative, and patriarchal social order; oftentimes at the point of a gun. Hewad and Mariam just got lucky that their story got out before they were killed. Countless other Hewads and Mariams across Pakistan will never get such a lucky break.
That they were able to flee to Pakistan showcases Pakistan’s non-existent control over it’s own borders. Although in this case this lack of control proved to be a blessing for a pair of innocent lovers it also proves a blessing for those wishing to smuggle guns, drugs, and militants into Pakistan.
Finally the complete apathy of the government and it’s functionaries is appalling Not a single government official or politician spoke out about this story. Not a single politician tried to gain political favour or media attention by speaking out in favour of the Afghan couple. Not a single government official thought to use the couple’s case as a pretext to launch a crackdown on illegal Jirgas. And the police were fully complicit in almost sending Hewad and Miriam to their deaths. That this apathy can still be turned into action when prodded by an outside force, in this case the Peshawar High Court, is a sign that all is not lost in Pakistan.
As I mentioned in my first point the State of Pakistan can still enforce its will. This power is rapidly slipping away though and drastic action will be required to salvage it. The day when the State and it’s institutions can no longer enforce it’s will, will be the day Pakistan is finished.