The Nation's Confused Concept of Justice

Feb 12th, 2010 | By | Category: The Nation
Aafia Siddiqui in Court

Aafia Siddiqui in Court

Today’s editorial in The Nation about Aafia Siddiqui presents a confused concept of justice that is at once both self-contradictory and misinformed. The editorial referred to, “The verdict,” attempts to argue that the conviction of Aafia Siddiqui in an American court demonstrates that the justice system that tried her case is defective. It is not for this blog to say if Aafia is innocent or guilty. But The Nation‘s editorial is so riddled with misinformation that it is hard not to consider it as propaganda.

The Nation‘s editorial writers begin by condemning the American justice system as broken because it relies on a judge and a trial by jury.

The American justice system is supposed to be one of the things for which the War on Terror is being fought, but the trial itself shows it as defective, as allowing the fate of a human being to be placed in the hands of a jury of his or her peers, a jury which may well be influenced by reasons of state. The jury, composed of laymen, depends a lot on the summing up by the judge, who is supposed to be a legal professional, and thus likely to be influenced by the kind of reasons of state at work in Dr Afia’s case.

The Nation gets its facts all wrong. Actually, a trial by jury protects the accused from the influence of the state on a judge because the jurors are chosen randomly and are not subject to state control like a judge may be. Also, the judge is only present to oversee proceedings to ensure they meet the standards of openness and fairness.

But let us for a moment consider more closely what The Nation is saying. First, they say that a jury trial is defective because supposedly it can be influenced by reasons of state. Second, judges cannot be trusted because supposedly they can be influenced by reasons of state. So, The Nation wants to have a justice system with no judge and no jury. What kind of justice system is this?

Jury trials, please remember, are not an American invention. The concept of a trial by jury was actually borrowed from the Lafif in the Maliki school of classical Islamic law:

The precursor to the English jury trial was the Lafif trial in classical Maliki jurisprudence, which was developed between the 8th and 11th centuries in North Africa and Islamic Sicily, and shares a number of similarities with the later jury trials in English common law. Like the English jury, the Islamic Lafif was a body of twelve members drawn from the neighbourhood and sworn to tell the truth, who were bound to give a unanimous verdict, about matters that “…they had personally seen or heard, binding on the judge, to settle the truth concerning facts in a case, between ordinary people, and obtained as of right by the plaintiff.” The only characteristic of the English jury that the Islamic Lafif lacked was the “judicial writ directing the jury to be summoned and directing the bailiff to hear its recognition.” According to Professor John Makdisi, “no other institution in any legal institution studied to date shares all of these characteristics with the English jury.” It is thus likely that the concept of the Lafif may have been introduced to England by the Normans and then evolved into the modern English jury. However, the hearing of trials before a body of citizens may have existed in courts before the Norman conquest.

Does this mean that The Nation also rejects Islamic law as “defective”?

The Nation next compares the case of Aafia Siddiqui to that of Alfred Dreyfus’ treason conviction by a military court in France in 1894. But The Nation fails to realize that, despite being initially convicted improperly, Dreyfus was exonerated and reinstated as a major in the French Army in 1906, eventually ending his service as a Lieutenant-Colonel. Furthermore, The Nation adds that the Dreyfus affair proves that military courts are defective justice.

For the record, The Nation suggests the following are defective systems of justice:

  1. Jury trials (and, by extension, Islamic law)
  2. Judge trials
  3. Military trials

Again, dear readers, I must ask what is justice system is left?

While it is unfortunate that some people are incorrectly convicted in any type of trial, a proper legal system includes a set of processes by which these individuals can show their innocence and be exonerated, even after a conviction. This was the case with Alfred Dreyfus in France, and this is the opportunity for Aafia Siddiqui in America. In fact, the government has already vowed to provide a good defense for Aafia in the next stages of her trial. So what is The Nation complaining about?

Of course, The Nation does not offer some alternative legal system that is better. The editorial writers only accuse the system of being broken because it allows them to add fuel to the growing hysteria over this case.

The Nation‘s editorial writers even try to use Aafia’s being a woman and mother as proof that she should not be convicted, even though this has nothing to do with the accusations, the trial, or her conviction.  The Nation even suggests that there is some unique brutality on the part of the legal system that convicted Aafia because she is a woman and a mother.

She symbolises the might of the USA, and its relentlessness in punishing all its enemies, even if they are in the form of frail mothers of three. And it shows that it will not only punish women but also children it has decided to make an example of.

But do we not convict women and mothers here at home? In fact, under the Hudood Ordinances, women have been most unjustly tried and convicted in our own country. Particularly, we may remember the embarrassing case of Zafran Bibi – another women and mother – who was sentenced to death by stoning in 2002 for the crime of adultery. Actually, 80 percent of the women in our prisons are convicted under laws that penalize rape victims. Certainly this is not the so-called justice that The Nation would like to see. So what is this other justice system that they are advocating?

Of course, The Nation does not say what system of justice would be more fair. The editorial writers at The Nation only make accusations and weave wild conspiracies. This is because at The Nation, justice is only a convenient word for political posing.

The Nation‘s editorial ends with a strange conclusion:

“Dr. Afia is being tortured, and her kids have disappeared, so that Americans may escape the effects of terror.”

Honestly, I am not sure how to respond to this concluding sentence as it makes absolutely no sense. How would it protect Americans to torture and kidnap anyone? Actually, this would make Americans less safe as it would add fuel to the fire of jihadi propaganda. Or, perhaps that’s what The Nation intended in the first place.

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  1. The curious case of Aafia Siddui and the conspiracy theorists!

    By: Ahmed Naqvi

    Aafia Siddiqui’s legal case has done its round in Pakistan’s media. From the anti-government newspaper The Nation, to the relatively liberal and seemingly unbiased Dawn, everyone has taken a swipe at this jaw-dropping, mind-numbing political situation. Yes, political situation. Though her curious case may have been shrouded under a dark cloud, the manner in which the opponents of this government have turned her case into a ticking time bomb is truly disgusting.

    Recently a protest was carried out in Gujranwala at the behest of the Jamaat-e-Islami. Why? They wanted to “condemn” the jury decision made by a US court, which went against their wishes. I have no complaints with holding a protest, it is a privilege we all share given by our constitution, but tell me, how many of the protestors knew the details surrounding the case? Is it not ironic that people argue for the supremacy and sovereignty of courts in their own country, but “condemn” the courts of another? Furthermore, you want the United States to be respectful, but all you can do is burn the US Flag and effigies of their political leaders. Practice what you preach; it is really not that hard.

    It is unfortunate that whenever Pakistan is mentioned in the media, we seem to be under a cloud of negative news stories. With the amount of media covering the case, one would think that Mrs. Siddiqui would take the opportunity and prove her innocence on an emotional front. What did she end up doing? Much to the delight of Zaid Hamid, Aafia Siddiqui lambasted Israel and Zionism (which has nothing to do with her legal case) and refused assistance provided by her government. I find it truly amazing that the MIT graduate did not take a smarter route and ended up looking like well – not innocent.

    What is more regrettable in such situations is not the outcry we witness in Pakistan but the instigators who enjoy making the situation a political mountain. These nincompoops play with the emotions and sentiments of the Pakistani nation. One of them seems to be enjoying the spotlight with a fashion designer, while the other is nothing short of a brilliant fable writer. You guessed them – Zaid Hamid and Ahmed Quraishi. Zaid Hamid is a comic story and it is hilarious to see how he is making rounds in schools and colleges promoting the Pakistan Allama Iqbal envisioned. It is an insult, that a character as shady and repulsive as Hamid’s, is trying to create parallels with one of our most noble and revered leaders.
    To truly understand the fable writing of Ahmed Quraishi, one only needs to go through his website and find all the predictions he has made. Sadly, none of them have come true. How I wish they had, it would have saved me some research and allowed me to concentrate elsewhere! Working in collaboration with The Nation, Mr. Quraishi has gone to great lengths slinging mud on diplomats, bureaucrats and elected officials. Singing a populist tone, he lambasts the United States for constant drone attacks, but refuses to pen a single word against the Pakistan Army who has sanctioned such strikes. He loathes Anne Patterson and the United States with a passion, but had no issues applying for employment opportunities with US companies. Does he truly think that he is our messiah by making himself look like a fool?
    The Nation enjoyed the verdict against Aafia Siddiqui. Using the political storm created by the case, the paper blasted their favorite punching bag, Ambassador Haqqani and the federal government for not securing the release of Aafia Siddiqui. It is strange that they would think that an Ambassador has the ability to give an innocent verdict and advocate a criminal case. It was the same logic that led them to believe Mr. Haqqani wrote the Kerry-Lugar Bill!

    In a recent article, Kaswar Klasara articulates that Mr. Haqqani flew all the way from the United States to the PM Secretariat in order to clear his position after he badly failed to pursue Dr Aafia Siddiqui’s case efficiently. Mr. Klasara believes we live in a day and age without any telephones or emails. Surely, Mr. Haqqani could have made a simple phone call to PM Gilani instead of enduring a grueling fifteen hour flight?
    Also, how could The Nation possibly publish an article without calling for the Ambassador’s resignation? Using information from his beloved “source”, Klasara states the Presidency and PM Secretariat were proposed by certain quarters to replace Hussain Haqqani by a suitable career-diplomat. Now this rings a bell! Oh yes, it was Ahmed Quraishi and his little gang sitting at their writers cubicle in The Nation offices some time ago, creating a rumor where Mr. Haqqani was being removed within 48 hours. That “time ago” was October last year.

    Stop the hate Mr. Quraishi and Mr. Hamid! Nothing good can possibly come out of it. All you guys are doing is taking advantage of the gossip and drawing room politic culture present in Pakistan by instigating downright lies. Fuelling conspiracy theories is not the solution to the problems we face today. It is not going to help anyone’s cause. This path of destruction that you two are leading conservatives on is not going to stop the militants from blowing up another school in Peshawar or them killing a few innocent civilians in Karachi. Too many lives have been lost; too many politics have been played. Stop indulging in these malicious activities; it is time you two started acting with some maturity and dignity.

  2. Why is it so that every key member of any so-called Islamic Militant has a US Background [either educational, professional etc.etc.] either they were in USA, are in USA and had been associated with USA??? Date of kidnapping of Ms. Aafia and Mr KSM is to be noticed while keeping in mind their US background. Who were they working for???

    ‘MI handed Dr Aafia over to US’ By Faraz Khan Friday, August 08, 2008

    KARACHI: The Sindh Home Department has alleged Military Intelligence (MI) detained Dr Aafia Siddiqui in 2003 and then handed her over to United States-based agencies, Daily Times learnt on Thursday.

    Six months after her divorce, she married Ammar al-Baluchi, a nephew of the 9/11 mastermind, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, at a small ceremony near Karachi. Siddiqui’s family denies the wedding took place, but it has been confirmed by Pakistani and US intelligence, al-Baluchi’s relatives and, according to FBI interview reports recently filed in court, Siddiqui herself. At any rate, it was a short-lived honeymoon. The mystery of Dr Aafia Siddiqui Declan Walsh The Guardian, Tuesday 24 November 2009

    Khalid Sheikh Mohammed is believed to have been born in either 1964 or 1965 in Kuwait into a family originally from the Pakistani province of Baluchistan, which borders Afghanistan. He is said to be fluent in Arabic, English, Urdu and Baluchi. He graduated in 1986 from North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University in the US. Profile: Al-Qaeda ‘kingpin’ Page last updated at 14:04 GMT, Friday, 13 November 2009

    Terror mastermind captured – Khalid Sheikh Mohammed is thought to be the man who masterminded the attacks on 11 September. His capture in Pakistan was seen as a key success in the US fight to counter al-Qaeda. BBC News Online presents key video reports following the arrest. Tuesday, 4 March, 2003, 22:56 GMT

    Mohammed was captured on March 1, 2003, at a safe house in Rawalpindi, a garrison town near the Pakistani capital of Islamabad. The photograph that flashed across the world after the arrest was of a slovenly, overweight man. When Mohammed, an avid reader of press reports about him, later saw it, he was furious. ‘THE MASTERMIND’ For smug KSM, federal court could be perfect arena By Peter Finn Washington Post Staff Writer Saturday, November 14, 2009

    In a surprise move this week, Pakistan’s federal minister of the interior, Faisal Saleh Hayat, listed a number of incidences in which members of the Jamaat-i-Islami (JI), the premier fundamentalist party in the country, had been tied to al-Qaeda, and called on it to “explain these links”.
    Pakistan turns on itself By Syed Saleem Shahzad Aug 19, 2004

    “It was published in the national press on the very first day after this raid that the police conducted two raids in Rawalpindi and arrested Arabs. I believe that they arrested these people from some other location and showed them arrested at the residence of Ahmed Abdul Qudoos, who is a relative of a leader of the Jamaat-i-Islami’s women’s wing,” the chief of the Jamaat-i-Islami, Karachi, Dr Merajul Huda, told Asia Times Online. The Jamaat-i-Islami is Pakistan’s most prominent Islamic party and a part of an ultraconservative coalition that gained an unprecedented number of seats in last October’s elections, largely on the strength of a virulently anti-American platform. Khalid: A test for US credibility By Syed Saleem Shahzad Mar 6, 2003

    CIA’s ‘preeminent source’

    Is There More to the Capture of Khalid Shaikh Mohammed Than Meets the Eye?

    Missing US Connections [why in every such US Citizens are involved] Dr Aafia Siddiqui’s disappearance The following is a chronological account of Dr Siddiqi’s disappearance and the current status of the situation: 30 March 2004 Tuesday

    Dr Aafia Siddiqui’s husband breaks his silence after six years – Wednesday, February 18, 2009 – Claims most reports in the local media are false, suspects his two ‘missing’ children are in Karachi – By Aroosa Masroor

    ’عافیہ نے جہاد کرنے پر زور ڈالا‘
    احمد رضا
    بی بی سی اردو ڈاٹ کام، کراچی
    وقتِ اشاعت: Wednesday, 18 February, 2009, 21:32 GMT 02:32 PST

    Musharraf recalls in his memoir, “In the Line of Fire.” Within months Kiyani had unraveled the two plots and arrested most of the participants. He was rewarded in 2004 with a promotion to chief of ISI, and the next year his agency scored big with the arrest of Abu Faraj al-Libbi, the senior Qaeda lieutenant who masterminded the attempts on Musharraf’s life. A former U.S. intelligence official who dealt personally with Kiyani says the ISI “took a lot of bad guys down” under his leadership. REFERENCE: The Next Musharraf A Westernized, chain-smoking spy could soon become the most powerful man in Pakistan. By Ron Moreau and Zahid Hussain NEWSWEEK From the magazine issue dated Oct 8, 2007

  3. Proof of Concept…

    […]The Nation's Confused Concept of Justice | Pakistan Media Watch –– پاکستان میڈیا واچ[…]…

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