South Asia becoming more like the Middle East (in different ways)

NEW DELHI: Adultery must remain a punishable offence so the sanctity of marriage can be protected, the Centre told the Supreme Court today after a petition called for gender equality in the punishment for adultery. The British-era law on adultery says a man having sexual a relations with another man’s wife will get a jail term of five years and a fine. A five-judge bench is expected to hear the case.

The petition challenges the 157-year-old law on adultery and contends not just the man, but the married woman he has a relationship with must be punished, since she is the abettor and not a victim of the crime.

Pushing for a dismissal of the petition, the Centre said, striking down Section 497 of the Indian Penal Code and the Section 198(2) Criminal Procedure Code “will prove to be detrimental to the intrinsic Indian ethos which gives paramount importance to the institution and sanctity of marriage”.

Just to forestall any accusations of bias I thought I would excerpt what’s going on in the Land of the Pure:

The story of Pakistan is the story of missed opportunities. I simply don’t understand why Pakistanis can’t get their shit together and get ahead. Venal elites, parasitic institutions and flawed ideologies make for a very toxic state..

34 thoughts on “South Asia becoming more like the Middle East (in different ways)”

  1. “The story of Pakistan is the story of missed opportunities. I simply don’t understand why Pakistanis can’t get their shit together and get ahead..”

    Come on, dont take away from us Indians, the only solace we have 😛

    1. LOL seriously, if you guys set the bar at being better than Pakistan, that’s a very low bar. Please aim higher. And I say that as a reasonably patriotic Pakistani.

      1. Bro, you forget we are S-Asian too, irrespective of how much fucked up you are, we wont be far behind.

        1. Up until a few years ago,you all were doing rather well. The current regime is regressive, no doubt about that.

  2. So weird. I had no idea adultery was still a crime in India. Europe moved past this long ago. Now cheating on your husband/wife is considered to be only an issue for the people involved (spouses and lover) and not for the State. And it is strange that only the man is supposed to be punished and not the woman he cheats with–as if she’s not involved in the affair at all.

    Pakistan has laws regarding “zina” (fornication) which come from Sharia (rape is “zina bil jabr” or fornication by force) though it has to be said that General Zia made the punishments much stricter than they were before. These were known as the Hudood Ordinances. If a woman reported a rape, she opened herself up to charges of fornication. Which is obviously very messed up. Like most religions, Islam frowns on extramarital sex. Since a man is given the license to marry up to four wives, whatever sexual activity occurs must be after a formal nikaah. Though you are not even supposed to take a second wife without the first wife’s agreement (which no one really follows obviously).

  3. By ‘flawed ideology’ surely you mean religion? So why not spell that word out clearly?

    1. I don’t think Zack means that at all (he can speak for himself obviously). Pakistan’s ideology is not simply based on Islam. There are lots of Muslim countries which don’t have the particular ideological baggage that Pakistan has. Partition and defining itself against India with whom it shares so much culture and history has led “Paknationalism” to some very interesting places. If you can only define yourself as what you are not (not India, not Hindu), that’s a negative self-definition and not a positive self-definition. And that is something Pakistanis need to work through.

  4. @Kabir, you say clearly that you think Pakistan is a fucked up country and you directly imply Islam is a flawed religion or ideology, when directly confronted you shrink and whine that you personally prefer secularism and think secularism is superior to Islam. And then whenever you get the chance you roar that you will not tolerate any attack upon Pakistan and Islam. Get you monumental and ridiculous personal schizophrenia sorted out first and then engage in debates about your country and religion.

    1. Again, the problem with Pakistan is not Islam. It is the rivalry with and hatred of India. Otherwise, Bangladesh is a Muslim-majority country too. Why do you not have the same problems we do?

      Since you are not a trained psychiatrist, I am going to consider your diagnosis of my mental state as what it is–utter garbage. I would suggest you refrain from further thoughts in that vein.

      I don’t know about you, but most people manage to love their country while still recognizing that it has flaws. Pakistanis discuss those flaws among ourselves. Being attacked by outsiders is something that makes people defensive. Perhaps you are a superior class of being that doesn’t really care about anti-Bangladeshi sentiment, but most people are not like you.

  5. Incidentally, I read this just today in my facebook feed. Its not a deep or insightful exchange but it shows what clear thinking people in Pakistan clearly see about their country.

    What drives young men to embrace religious extremism in Pakistan?
    8 May 2018
    Pervez Hoodbhoy is one of South Asia’s leading nuclear physicists and an eminent Pakistani academic and intellectual. He talks to Andy Heintz about why the word ‘liberal’ is so unpopular in Pakistan and the troubled legacy of international actors in the region

    QUES: Do you think veiling is mostly an autonomous choice made by Muslim women in Pakistan? Or is it something forced upon them because of pressure from Islamists?

    ANS: Pressure from Islamists to cover up is a fact. The extent varies from culture to culture. It is strongest in Saudi Arabia. Turkey was relaxed about it until Erdo˘gan took over. As for Pakistan, it was once a non-issue but the pressure has steadily increased from the 1980s onwards as people have become more pious.

    The mullahs want every woman in burqa. In 2007, I brought a radio broadcast from Islamabad’s Red Mosque to the attention of the authorities at Quaid-e-Azam University. The two institutions are practically next door to each other – just about two miles as the crow flies. The head cleric – our ex-student – had threatened that his female students would throw acid on the faces of QAU female students unless they covered their faces. QAU’s vice-chancellor did not respond. So, as chair of the physics department, I called a student body meeting in the physics auditorium. That meeting ended with a vote condemning the throwing of acid, but not by a huge margin. There were many pro-burqa voices.

    Veiling isn’t only because of fear of violence. There are enormous social pressures now. Increasing conservatism among Muslims has led to uncovered faces being regarded as sinful. Once upon a time there was no burqa on campus except maybe the odd one here or there. But today most women at my university – where I have taught for 44 years – are either in burqa or hijab. It’s hard to associate names with these covered-up entities. Exams become a real problem, as do thesis defences.

    QUES: What are the biggest reasons driving young Pakistani men to embrace religious extremism?

    ANS: Biased education poisons minds. The curriculum, textbooks, teachers and exams all act to create an ‘us’ versus ‘them’ mentality. Islam is shown as under siege by the evil West as well as India. And then there’s the electronic and print media – mostly privately owned – which drips with piety and with conspiracy theories that attribute all our ills to India, Israel and the United States. It seizes upon their every fault and then multiplies by ten. So a mindset is created wherein young people imagine that they, and their religion, are beset by enemies lurking behind every bush. The West is excoriated for being selective and hypocritical – which it surely is. But there’s no introspection, no explanation for how we went wrong. Ask a student why East Pakistan broke off to become Bangladesh and you’ll get the pat answer: it was a Hindu conspiracy. They won’t know of the genocide West Pakistan carried out there in 1971.

    Attributing religious extremism to poverty or lack of education was once a popular explanation. But local newspapers have countless stories of young religious killers from affluent middle-class families. Several had studied at Pakistan’s best known public and private institutions.

    QUES: Why is religious extremism so rampant in Pakistan?

    ANS: I don’t think that there is just one single reason. Think of a bomb, a fairly complex object. To make one you need the explosive, oxidizer, trigger, shell, etc. None alone can do the job. The same goes for religious extremism in Pakistan. One ingredient is to be found in the country’s genesis. Pakistan was brought into being on the slogan that Muslims simply cannot live alongside Hindus. This wove religion into the national fabric. But, in spite of this, and rampant poverty and illiteracy, Pakistan could have moved in a progressive, secular direction. This appeared to be happening in the first couple of decades after independence but then other factors kicked in. In the 1980s, all progressive trends were rapidly reversed once Pakistan and the US created an international jihad consortium for fighting against the Soviet Union. That was a turning point.

    From the day the Soviets invaded Afghanistan, American diplomatic strategy was to mobilize world opinion against them. Officials like Richard Perle, assistant secretary of defence, saw Afghanistan not as the locale of a harsh and dangerous conflict to be ended, but as a place to teach the Russians a lesson. Given the highly conservative nature of Afghan society, it did not need a genius to suggest that Islamic international solidarity could be used as a powerful weapon. The task of creating such solidarity fell upon Saudi Arabia, together with other conservative Arab monarchies. This duty was accepted readily and they quickly made the Afghan jihad their central cause. It was a natural course of action to take. And very convenient too, for multiple reasons.

    First, they felt genuinely threatened by the Soviets. Second, it shielded their patron and ally, the US, whose direct confrontation with the Soviets would have been dangerous and unwise in a nuclear-armed world. But still more importantly, to go heart and soul for jihad was crucial at a time when Saudi legitimacy as the guardians of Islam was under strong challenge by Iran, which pointed to the continued occupation of Palestine by America’s partner, Israel. An increasing number of Saudis were becoming disaffected by the House of Saud – its corruption, self-indulgence, repression and closeness to the US. Therefore, the jihad in Afghanistan provided an excellent outlet for the growing number of militant Sunni activists in Saudi Arabia, and a way to deal with the daily taunts of the Iranian clergy.

    In Pakistan, Zia-ul-Haq shoved Islam down our people’s throats. You couldn’t get a job in my [physics] department unless you could rattle off certain holy verses. Education was drastically changed and fashioned into a propaganda tool, and the mass media became a means for indoctrination. This strategy created the infrastructure for fashioning the mujahideen into a force that ultimately defeated the Soviets. But it also created the fanatics who later attacked their former masters, both American and Pakistani.

    QUES: Why is the Pakistani Left insignificant on the national scene?

    ANS: Before General Zia-ul-Haq took over [in 1978] the Pakistani Left was relatively strong. That Left should be credited with unionizing industrial and railway workers, helping peasants organize against powerful landlords, inspiring Pakistan’s minority provinces to demand their rights, and setting standards of writing and journalism. But even at its peak during the 1970s, the Left could not muster even a fraction of the street power of the Islamic or mainstream parties.
    A mindset is created wherein young people imagine that they, and their religion, are beset by enemies lurking behind every bush

    Whatever you do and say in Pakistan has to be judged according to Islam. That has limited the appeal of progressive movements among the masses.

    Consider the following: one of the most hated words in Pakistan is ‘liberal’ because that is seen as un-Islamic. But you can’t be leftwing without being liberal. By liberal, I mean one who values the freedom of expression – personal and political. A liberal says you have the right to dress and wear the clothes of your personal choice… to eat and drink as you will, pray often or pray never, and choose your religion or not have one at all. In the liberal mind, covering a woman’s face or head should be entirely optional. So every leftist is a liberal by this definition but all liberals are not leftists.

    QUES: What would a more enlightened US foreign policy in the Middle East look like?

    I have no expectations of Donald Trump, but if there were someone decent in the White House they would need to make three major shifts for an enlightened US foreign policy. First, a declaration that the US will withdraw all support to Israel unless it agrees to a Palestinian state comprising of territories more or less along the pre-1967 war borders. This would be an important step towards justice for the Palestinians, as well as take some wind out of the sails of those who peddle anti-West hatred. For too long the US has looked at the Middle East through Israeli eyes. This must change.

    Second, the US must dump its key ally, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia – a state whose cruelty and intolerance rivals that of Da’ish (otherwise known as ISIS). Saudi Arabia is the principal exporter of conservative Islam across the world and the fountainhead of Islamic radicalism in the world.

    Third, while vocally criticizing the human rights situation in Iran, the US must work with this Shi’a nation rather than see it as an adversary. Iran is not an ideal partner to work with but the defeat of Da’ish must take precedence over all else. The Middle East today, with its current artificial boundaries, is bound to change. By taking Iran, Russia and China as partners, the US could help engineer some minimum-pain solution in Syria, Iraq and Libya.

    Aggressive US imperialism has played a huge role in bringing about the terrible tragedies occurring across the Middle East. But for the 2003 invasion of Iraq there would have been no Da’ish. Still, you cannot turn back the clock. Adopting even an ideal US policy today will not eliminate extremism in Pakistan or in the Middle East.

    Andy Heintz is a freelance writer from Iowa, US. He is writing a book called Dissidents of the International Left, which features more than 50 interviews with leftists from around the world.

    1. Shafiq R + 21

      Kabir is complex. I still don’t understand how he thinks.

      Adultery Law is English leftover. English common law applies in India unless superseded by the Indian constitution and post 1947 law.

      1. @AnAn: “Adultery Law is English leftover. English common law applies in India unless superseded by the Indian constitution and post 1947 law.”

        I agree. Even different states in the U.S. have such strange laws but nobody bothers about them because they are never enforced and are difficult to get rid of. I am not aware of anyone prosecuted for adultery in India except perhaps as part of divorce settlement. Think for a minute who will come out and say adultery should be decriminalized. So the laws are carried on the books.

        1. hoipolloi, Me Too is bringing back some of these old Victorian values. This is one reason I support the Me Too movement so much. Now men will have to demand a long term commitment from their significant other before taking the relationship to the next level. Cheating will also go down since a married husband can easily be accused of forcible sexual predation during a random hook up should said hook up partner have a mood swing. Similarly a wife will have a harder time finding a man who trusts her enough to cheat with her [since if said wife of another man has a mood swing she can falsely accuse him]. What is not to love?

        2. If Adultery is no longer a crime in the UK (the country which gave India its law code), there is no need for it to be a crime in India as well. Cheating on your spouse has nothing to do with the State. It is a matter solely for the people concerned. I’m not advocating it , I just don’t think it is the government’s business.

    2. Hoodbhoy is quite extreme in his dislike of religion. If that is your standard for “clear thinking” Pakistanis you are not going to find very many.

      Pakistan is an “Islamic Republic”. Of course what you do and say has to be judged according to Islam. This is not some great insight. The question then arises as to whose Islam will call the shots in the country. Obviously 210 million people are not going to agree on every single religious practice. That is the problem with religious states (not just Pakistan).

      I agree with him on biased education. Thankfully, I was educated abroad.

    3. The Pakistani army and the Taliban are logical developments from Mohammed Ali Jinnah. MAJ raised the slogan of ‘Islam in Danger’ to rouse people for Pakistan. The same tactic is followed by Taliban or Pakistan army (which controls the civil society) . They think they have a winning formula there. I am sure they ill succeed in the short run. Long run , it will keep their societies in medievalism and unable to cope with challenges

        1. Yes, majoritarianism is a problem in both countries.

          As for Jinnah, he may have said “Islam in Danger” but then he also gave the August 11 speech. So don’t cherry-pick.

          1. What’s really interesting to me that muslim population is 15 percent in India, which is used by the right to perpetuate “hindu in danger” to galvanize the base. But in Pakistan even without that percentage of minority i feel that that degree of galvanization (more or less) is still there. How is this possible without having a substantial “other” to achieve this degree of galvanization is beyond me. Still its a ingenious piece of art.

          2. Saurav,

            Pakistan does have a “substantial other”–the Hindu country right next door with which we have fought four wars. Our whole nationalism is (unfortunately) based on being the “not-India”.

          3. But to make a substantial other which is not relevant to internal politics , i mean Indians cannot vote / have any say in who goes on to rule Pakistan. That’s why i said it was an art to sort of successfully portray an “external” other as if its a “internal” other, and have the same galvanizing effect.

          4. Saurav,

            There are examples of countries using an external other to promote nationalism. France and Germany were like this until the end of WWII and the European Union.

            In Pakistan’s case, Hindus are the “other”. Hindu India is seen as the enemy of Muslim Pakistan.

  6. VijayVan we don’t agree on Jinnah. Jinnah was an Indian patriot who should have been the first PM of a united India. Many in the BJP (not just Advani), RSS, Hinduttva like Jinnah. The demonization of Jinnah was a Congress/Nehru project.

    Deep State GHQ is nothing like Jinnah:

    The Taliban is another thing entirely from Deep State GHQ (or Jinnah) which I have not shared my thoughts regarding.

      1. If Congress had been willing to compromise with the League and Pandit Nehru with Mr. Jinnah, we would not be where we are today. Who was a megalomaniac is subjective and depends on which side of Wagah you are located.

        Also, we no longer live in Quaid-e-Azam’s Pakistan (though that is the hope that Pakistani liberals cling to). We live in General Zia’s Pakistan.

        1. You are overplaying the “compromise” (which not just the Congress leadership like Nehru, but, crucially, Babasaheb Ambedkar disliked). As Babasaheb himself and recently Ram Guha have argued, that Cabinet Mission Plan compromise, almost certainly, would have caused serious Balkanization in the country. And the unified army couldn’t be trusted by the Indian leadership with the defence of India’s borders.

          Straight quote from Babasaheb Ambedkar in “Pakistan or The Partition of India” (Chapter XIII, Part VII), Dec 1940:

          The question is whether Indians will be able to defend a free India. To that, I repeat, the only answer is that Indians will be able to defend a free India on one and one condition alone—namely, if the army in India remains non-political, unaffected by the poison of Pakistan. I want to warn Indians against the most stupid habit that has grown up in this country of discussing the question of Swaraj without reference to the question of the army. Nothing can be more fatal than the failure to realize that a political army is the greatest danger to the liberty of India. It is worse than having no army.

          1. +1 Slapstik.

            The Cabinet Mission Plan compromise wouldn’t have worked. However if Jinnah had 100% support from Nehru and Congress and was the first PM of India . . . Jinnah would have been able to persuade muslims to accept a more reasonable compromise. The Islamist leaning hold outs could have been managed by the united Indian Army.

            Jinnah also needed reassurances that India’s nonmuslims would help reasonable muslims with respect to Islamist extremists. [Nehru in practice didn’t do this.]

          2. Even though i agree with you on the compromise, i dont think “And the unified army couldn’t be trusted by the Indian leadership with the defence of India’s borders.” was the primary reason why Ambedkar supported partition. His reasons were far more about internal cohesion and the incompatibility between hindus and muslim and the quote you have given is one of arguments he uses to beseech the “hindu” side to accept partition. So its not the set of primary reasons he wanted the partition, the primary reasons are far more divisive to discuss specially within India(the reason why Guha does not deal with it either) .

          3. I wasn’t referring solely to the Cabinet Mission Plan (though that was the last chance to keep British India united). Congress had twenty years to compromise with the League. Unfortunately, they didn’t do so and the “Ambassador of Hindu-Muslim Unity” became the founder of Pakistan. Separate electorates and weighted representation would have kept that from happening. Pakistan was only demanded in the last few years before Partition. Even then it was a vague notion that did not necessarily imply a separate nation-state.

          4. primary reason why Ambedkar supported partition

            You are clearly strawmanning at this point. Who said it was “primary”?

            Ambedkar wrote an entire book on supporting the case for Partition and had a whole host of moral, legal, security and defence and social reasons to support Partition. The one I quoted was an important (and remarkably prescient!) one, but one of many.

          5. Ambedkar supposed problem with the political nature of the army had nothing to do with post events concerning Pakistan. He did not trust Indian muslims in the army, plain and simple. This is different than army’s political nature per se, which we see even in countries like Turkey. When he talks about the quote you have cited its just for the limited purpose of “communalization” of Indian forces, he is not talking about Indian army turning against its own Political masters, similar to what happened in Pakistan/Turkey.

            ” How far can the Hindus depend upon these ‘gate-keepers’ to hold the gate and protect the liberty and freedom of India? The answer to this question must depend upon who comes to force the gate open. It is obvious that there are only two foreign countries which are likely to force this gate from the North-West side of India, Russia or Afghanistan, the borders of both of which touch the border of India. Which of them will invade India and when, no one can say definitely. If the invasion came from Russia, it may be hoped that these gate-keepers of India will be staunch and loyal enough to hold the gate and stop the invader. But suppose the Afghans singly or in combination with other Muslim States march on India, will these gate-keepers stop the invaders or will they open the gates and let them in? This is a question which no Hindu can afford to ignore. This is a question on which every Hindu must feel assured, because it is the most crucial question.”

            That’s my limited point. I do agree had there been no Partition in 47, there would have been half a dozen post that.

  7. @Saurav
    I have not read the books of Ambedkar. If what you say is true ie he wrote a book to persuade Hindus to accept partition on grounds of cohesion, my estimate of the man goes down .

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