Friday, September 18, 2020

Restoration of Law & Order: The War-Cry which may help Trump defeat Joe Biden in November 2020

This article is by

Share this article

Article Contributor(s)

Vanshita Banuana

Article Title

Restoration of Law & Order: The War-Cry which may help Trump defeat Joe Biden in November 2020


Global Views 360

Publication Date

September 18, 2020


Donald Trump at a presidential elections rally

Donald Trump at a presidential elections rally | Source: Gage Skidmore via Flickr

At the peak of the “Black Lives Matter” protest in June 2020, against the brutal killing of George Floyd by the police, the US President Donald Trump signed an Executive Order on Safe Policing for Safe Communities. It is now September, and as Black Lives Matter protests— and the police brutality that ignited them— continue amidst a pandemic leaving over two hundred thousand Americans dead and millions infected, Trump’s fear-mongering distortions of events also continues.

The executive order sets requirements for police “certification and credentialing” of law enforcement agencies, and links the credentials to discretionary funding. It bans chokeholds except where deadly force is allowed by law. A database will be created to share information and track incidents of excessive use of force, terminations or de-certifications of officers, criminal convictions for on-duty conduct, and so on. Additionally, the order asks for surveys and community support programs to address mental health, homelessness and addiction in context of law enforcement’s response to them. Lastly, the order proposes that new legislation be developed to increase funding and resources provided to law enforcement.

While announcing the executive order, Trump called for a “restoration of law and order” and more funding for police at a time when Americans are protesting in cities across the country to reduce police funding and presence in order to combat police brutality. He claimed to want to put a stop to “looting and arson,” further remarking that Americans want law and order even if they “may not say it” or may not “even know that’s what they want”. Additionally, he believed the percentage of bad police officers to be very tiny.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) responded to the announcement, and called Trump’s call for “law and order” a racist dog-whistle specifically intended for his voter base in light of the upcoming election, and reiterated the need for lesser police presence. Allocation of discretionary funds, mentioned in the executive order, has been known to lead to increased militarisation of the police. They observed that Trump used the word “race” once and never used the word “racism,” and that he was surrounded by law enforcement officers throughout the announcement and his prepared remarks.

Use of fear-mongering to shore up the support for electoral benefit is not something new which Trump is employing, but a time-tested tool for many leaders in the Republican Party. The phrase “law and order” has a long cultural history in America, even before its use by politicians was popularised, and therefore racialised (if it wasn’t already).  

President Richard Nixon’s TV ads in the 60s showed middle-aged white women walking nervously down city streets at night. Trump’s false claims of Biden wanting to defund the police are complemented by his recent campaign ad that shows an elderly woman at home alone, who calls the police when a burglar breaks in. However, she is told that the police can no longer serve her due to being defunded. Setting aside the misconceptions about what defunding the police would look like, the ad is clearly designed to create panic at the thought of a fantasised future, one that Trump and his family like to call “Biden’s America” every time they post pictures of present-day Trump’s apocalyptic America.

It is definitely not unlike Trump to use racist rhetoric about crime meant to cause fear. It was one of his biggest selling points in the 2016 election as well, promising a border wall and anti-immigration policy to keep out immigrants— mostly Mexicans— who he claimed would bring crime and drugs into America. This year Trump has revived the argument by acting as the saviour of the suburbs, who he claims are under the attack of calls for desegregation. To that extent, at the 2020 Republic National Convention, Trump invited the McCloskeys, the couple who brandished firearms at Black Lives Matters protestors, to speak about “forced rezoning,” which they alleged would make their suburban neighbourhood unsafe. Nixon’s comments about the “city jungle” threatening the suburbs come to mind.

President Trump’s election campaign flag with Confederate flag | Source: Gilbert Mercier via Flickr

Many would notice that the racism in Trump’s statements is often barely covered up by his abstract and vague choice of words. The message, whether in 2016 or 2020, remains unmistakably the same: he is telling rich and middle class white people— painted as the peaceful victims— that he will protect them from violence caused by the ‘other,’ i.e., poor people of colour.

This fear of the ‘other,’ the angry Black American, is the same fear used by Republican Presidential candidate (and later President) Richard Nixon in 1968. The law-and-order rhetoric that evolved during that election period can be connected to 21st century ‘tough-on-crime’ policies, both of which have heavy racial undertones and are weaponized by Republicans as well as Democrats.

Is Donald Trump the new age Richard Nixon? That might seem to be overstretched, but quite a few traits and  similarities can be drawn between 2020 and 1968, perhaps most of all due to the widespread protests and clashes with police that erupted after the assassination of civil rights champion Martin Luther King Jr. Another major political and cultural event of the time was the Vietnam War, which led to a feeling of disorder that many Americans might be feeling at present as well. Trump is using promises of imposing “law and order” to project a strongman image; the desire to project such an image, however, hypocritically leads Trump to encourage violence where it benefits him.

However, these strategies aren’t as successful as Trump wants them to be— least of all successful enough to cover up his gross mishandling of the COVID-19 pandemic. Additionally, the suburbs have not remained as ‘pure’ as they might seem in Trump’s eyes; they have grown in diversity of wealth and race, almost parallel to cities. Trump is out of his depth when forced to reckon with mass unemployment, preventable deaths, and science, and he would do anything to bring the focus back to his comfort zone, which is why it is unsurprising when he uses Black Lives Matter protests and renewed conversation around policing to spread unfounded alarms about increased crime and violence.

According to recent polling data, while neither Trump nor Biden are viewed favourably by any significant margin when it comes to law enforcement, Biden is surely being viewed as more trustworthy when it comes to handling a crisis like the pandemic. Trump’s constant barrage of tweets and other announcements are less appreciated or supported when they cause further confusion in an already extremely chaotic environment. It is hard to imagine trusting a President who tweets “when the looting starts, the shooting starts” to remain calm, organised or level-headed in any manner.  

While many may have expected Trump’s voter base to fall for the same old, recycled talking points, the public health crisis and economic meltdown took the conversation away from it. Now President Trump is desperately trying to take control of the narrative and scare voters to back him in November 2020.

There is some method to his apparent madness. The US President is not elected by securing  the majority of the popular vote, they are chosen by securing a majority of votes in the electoral college. There are different modelling of US poll results which predicts that Trump may lose by over five million popular votes but still win the Presidency due to scoring a majority of electoral college votes.

The constant hammering of being the “Law and Order” President and painting Joe Biden’s support for Black Lives Matter protest as the “support for lawlessness” is the only plausible way for Trump to gain a majority of the electoral college vote and retain the US Presidency in November 2020. It is to be seen whether the voters fear the COVID-19 & economic meltdown more than the Law and Order.

Support us to bring the world closer

To keep our content accessible we don't charge anything from our readers and rely on donations to continue working. Your support is critical in keeping Global Views 360 independent and helps us to present a well-rounded world view on different international issues for you. Every contribution, however big or small, is valuable for us to keep on delivering in future as well.

Support Us

Share this article

Read More

July 19, 2021 12:00 PM

The Blasphemy Law of Pakistan and its Implications

In Pakistan, Blasphemy results in a capital punishment in majority of cases. It is perhaps considered a crime worse than terrorism. A crucial case in point is the fact that the Pakistan’s Anti-Terrorism Court gave around 15 years jail term to two close aides of Hafiz Saeed—chief of the terrorist organization—Lashkar-e-Taiba—and mastermind behind 2008 Mumbai terrorist attacks—where at least 150 innocent people lost their lives.

Similarly, Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi—Lashkar-e-Taiba’s operation commander and another important figure involved in the 2008 Mumbai attack—was sentenced to 15 years in jail period. Not to mention—this happened amidst the international pressure on Pakistan for letting terrorists to function and roam freely within their country.

While something as violent as terrorism is dealt with lenient punishments, there are draconian laws for blasphemy in the country. Moreover, one can be accused of committing blasphemy—doesn’t matter if they did it or not—and might not even face a fair trial.

This article discusses what are the blasphemy laws and what are their implications while looking at some specific cases.

What are Pakistan’s Blasphemy laws?

What's called Blasphemy law today has its origins in the colonial era. The “offences relating to religion” were introduced by British in 1860, and were later expanded in 1927. These were sections 295 and 295-A from the Indian Penal Code. The laws were made to avoid religious disturbances, insult religious beliefs, or intentionally destroy or desecrate a place or an object of worship. Under the 295 and 295-A, the convicted were to be given a jail term from one year to ten years—with or without a fine.

Pakistan ended up inheriting these laws after the partition of India in 1947.

The laws were amended in 1982 and another clause was added which prescribed life imprisonment for desecration of the Quran intentionally. Another clause was added in 1986 to punish blasphemy against the Prophet Muhammad through imprisonment for life or death. These clauses, were added under General Zia-ul-Haq’s military regime, in an order to make the laws more “pro-Islam.”

Since then, this law has often been used to persecute people from minority communities—such as the Ahmadiyas, Shias, Christians, and Hindus—they have been accused of blasphemy without much evidence.

Infamous cases and implications of blasphemy in Pakistan

One of the famous cases was of Asia Bibi, which grabbed international attention as well. Asia Noreen—known as Asia Bibi—was a Pakistani Christan and a farm laborer in Punjab province. Her husband, Ashiq Masih, was a brick laborer. A dispute with her Muslim neighbours turned into an accusation of blasphemy—leading to her arrest and imprisoned. There were a lot of protests in Pakistan, demanding death penalty for Asia Bibi.

Two politicians—Salman Taseer and Shahbaz Bhatti—who supported and tried to help Asia Bibi, were murdered. Taseer was shot by his own bodyguard named Malik Mumtaz Hussain Qadri in broad daylight. Qadri was tried and sentenced to death. He was executed in 2016. Mumtaz Qadri became a hero for millions and hardliners praised him as a martyr. He is regarded as a saint and a mausoleum has been built over his grave in his village near Islamabad, where even devotees come to offer prayers.

Asia Bibi was first sentenced to death by a trial court in 2010, however was later acquitted by the Supreme Court in a historic judgement of 2018. In 2019, Pakistan’s Supreme Court ruled that she was free to leave Pakistan and was given asylum in Canada where she moved along with her family.

Although after a long struggle, Asia Bibi still got justice and was able to start a new life—unfortunately many others didn’t. Many met with Mob Justice.

In 2017, a journalism student at a Pakistani University was lynched to death by fellow students in Mardan—in the province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. The student—Mashal Khan—was a Shia Muslim and was falsely accused of blasphemy. The mob was enraged by a rumour according to which he had promoted the Ahmadi faith on Facebook. In a similar instance, a man named Tahrir Ahmad Naseem was killed by vigilantes in July last year for blasphemy. He was a former Ahmadi, and was in Peshawar Central Jail since 2018 for claiming to be a prophet. He was shot dead inside the courtroom during trial in the Peshawar Judicial Complex.

Furthermore, in a case similar to that of Asia Bibi, a Christian couple—Shahzad and Shama Maseeh—were accused of blasphemy as well. They were then beaten and burned alive by a mob in 2014. Shama was four months pregnant. The mob, which also included a local cleric, believed that the couple had burned some pages of the Quran along with some rubbish, although the couple’s family still denies this. Five people including the cleric were sentenced to death, while the eight others were given two years imprisonment.

Last year, former Foreign and Defense Minister Khawaja Asif as well was accused of blasphemy for merely stating that “all religions are equal.”

Why is this happening?

According to data by Pakistan’s Centre for Social Justice, there have been 1549 known cases of serious blasphemy in the years 1987-2017, out of which 720 were Muslims, 516 Ahmadis, 238 Christians, 31 Hindus, and the rest 44 are unknown. 75 out of the total cases ended in the person being murdered before their trial.

There are 13 countries in the world which punish blasphemy by death penalty and Pakistan happens to be one of them. But unlike countries like Iran and Saudi Arabia where they are executed judicially—as mentioned earlier—accused in Pakistan are often killed in mob violence or assassination. While Saudi Arabia and Iran continue to top in terms of the highest number of executions, most of them for sacrilege or crimes against Islam, Pakistan’s total ‘judiciary’ killings stand at zero.

The problem of this mob mentality in Pakistan, especially when it comes to religion, is actually deeply rooted in its constitution. The country’s aspiration to become a democracy as well as an Islamic state is in itself contradictory. The people want the right to freedom and expression and the hanging of a person committing blasphemy at the same time. The constitution denies criticism of Islam while claiming to allow freedom of speech and religion. The elevation of one religion over others in itself is principally undemocratic.

Another interesting point is the fact that the people supporting these ideas haven’t been aware of how things can backfire. Muhammad Din Taseer—father of Salman Taseer—supported Ilam Din, who murdered a Hindu publisher over blasphemy in 1929. An ancestor’s support for radicalism ended up in his own offspring being assassinated in the name of blasphemy.

Mental illness and blasphemy

In Pakistan, often some mentally ill people are punished to death by mobs for unknowingly ‘committing’ blasphemy. In 2012, a man widely reported by the media and police as ‘mentally unstable’ was arrested for blasphemy in Bahawalpur district, Punjab province. A mob gathered outside the police station, dragged him outside, and burned him to death. There have also been cases of misuse where such vulnerable individuals were subjected to sexual abuse and later accused of blasphemy by the abusers to cover up their crimes.

Such abuses towards mentally unsound people would have been a criminal case and the abusers would have been punished—unless they use the blasphemy law—as the mentally unstable victim cannot defend themselves.

Role of Anti-Terrorism courts

Pakistan’s Anti-Terrorism courts were set up to ensure quick justice in cases such as terrorism, sectarian violence, targeted political killings, hijacking, kidnapping, extortion and even arms trafficking. Earlier gang rape was also included in it—but removed later.

They are also key to controlling mob attacks on blasphemy accused as such trials are held here.

Yet, these courts have been facing several problems due to lack of basic resources and understaffing. The posts of judges often remain vacant for months, and the state prosecutors complain of poor working conditions—with no offices, stationery, clerical staff or legal resources. These problems may have risen due to the fact that there are not sufficient funds allotted for the ATC infrastructure, one of the major challenges in Pakistan’s legal system. Due to this, these courts are not able to fulfill their primary objective—to provide ‘quick’ justice.

Moreover, these courts lack independence and are vulnerable to political influence—the judges are held accountable to the executive. Sometimes the witnesses often refuse to testify against the accused, as they fear assassination by terrorist groups the accused belongs to. The judges, state prosecutors and others also have personal security concerns which also lead to delays in trials.

Also, these courts deny terrorism suspects the right to equality before the law. They are not even tried in a public place with full defense and are not presumed innocent. Peshawar High Court advocate Ghulam Nabi even challenged the Anti-Terrorism (Amendment) Ordinance 2009 under Article 199 of the constitution in December 2009, saying that it violated basic human rights.

The blasphemy laws of Pakistan need to be repealed in today's Global civic society. People are fighting for equality everywhere around the globe. And now it is up to Pakistan to choose—whether to become a democracy or continue with a pseudo-democratic authoritarian regime which is based on extremist interpretation of religion.

Read More