Thursday, May 25, 2006

Hoodwinked by the Hudood Ordinance

Geo TV's 'Zahre Sochieye' (Think) campaign has turned the spotlight on the sacrosanct status of Zia's Hudood Ordinance, and the conclusion of the beards they sought out for comment is unanimous: the Ordinance is indeed amenable to scrutiny and revision.

But don't pop the champagne (non-alcoholic, if you so choose) corks just yet. While it is a good thing that the topic is being debated on Pakistan's most popular TV channel, in my opinion it leaves a lot to be desired. The framing of a debate is critical to its success, and on this score Geo fails miserably: the channel posits the Hudood Ordinance as divine law that may be legitimately considered to be immune from scrutiny. The very idea that a repressive militay dictator could be acting as an agent of Allah is clearly an insult to any religion, but Geo isn't brave enough to tackle the obvious head on. Indeed, in the FAQs section of its website, the channel issues this disclaimer: Geo does not aim to repeal the Hudood Ordinance or amend it.

So expect no more than talking heads and learned beards to soberly state the obvious. My suggestion: tune in to the Late Show with Begum Nawazish Ali on Aaj TV instead.

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