Make-believe is emerging reality of town that is home to urban middle class of Pakistan in general and that of Punjab in particular. The town is more of a la-la land thriving on aspiring dream of a utopia that would not be polluted with any form of immorality found on the face of earth. Hyper nationalism, self-righteous morality, monolithic religious identity, antipathy to diversity and chauvinism are constituents, making up whole edifice of the far-fetched dream, that are more prone to lead it to dystopia instead of a utopia. The first casualty, being the historical tradition, in pursuit of propagating the tall tales has been the truth itself concealed under fabrications and factual inaccuracies. Bells and whistles certainly sound more attractive than weary details. Who got the time for details, anyways!
Latest revelation is the astonishing claim of Messiah Imran Khan that the concept of Welfare State in Europe traces its roots to second caliph Omar.
“The PTI chairman said that there was no concept of welfare states in Europe and that they had taken this concept from the Muslim world. “They formed all the Scandinavian states based on this concept. They call it Omar’s law in Sweden. We need to bring our culture back to our own land.”
The claim left many of students of history revisit their knowledge about not only political movements in Europe but also caliphate. Nonetheless, only a little effort is needed to debunk the foolish claim that not only is factually inaccurate but laughable to say the least.
Canvassing the Swedish social welfare system doesn’t bring forward the name of Omar, as khan claimed, let alone any resemblance with the caliphate. Then where did Khan take the idea from? The answer is yet another cogent evidence of his shallow perspective of history and cherry-picking habit.
What Khan is doing here is confusing the greater idea of welfare state with the concept of ‘ombudsman’ (a person who acts as a trusted intermediary between either the state (or elements of it) or an organization, and some internal or external constituency, while representing not only but mostly the broad scope of constituent interests). The word comes from Old Norse and essentially means ‘representative’. Ombudsman is not only an essential state organ in Sweden, where it is called Chancellor of Justice, but also in many other countries in the world.
In 1713 the absolute monarch of Sweden Charles XII had created the office of His Majesty’s Supreme Ombudsman. At that time King Charles XII was in Turkey and had been abroad for almost 13 years. In his absence his administration in Sweden had fallen into disarray. He therefore established the Supreme Ombudsman to be his pre-eminent representative in Sweden.
During his stay in Turkey the king observed ‘Diwan al Mazalim’ (a Board of Grievances). Its function was to examine complaints brought by the public against government officials. The institution was headed by a senior judge responsible for examining the grievances. ‘Diwan al Mazalim’ traces its roots to second caliph Omar’s ‘Mohtasib’. Its function was to be a guardian of public morals in many fields of life, especially in the towns and above all in the market place. He was the market supervisor, as well as the settler of disputes. He enjoyed complete independence and functioned within the framework of an institution called ‘Hisbah’.
As far as the Institution of Diwan al Mazalim of Turkey having influenced the establishment of the Provincial Ombudsman’s Institution in Sweden, Ibrahim-al-Wahab in his book “The Swedish Institution Of Ombudsman: An Instrument Of Human Rights” assumes:
“Of course one could not draw definite conclusion regarding the origin of any institution anywhere… but being aware of the handling of complaints from the public was an essential part of the Islamic system of justice. There are therefore good reasons for the assumption that the Islamic system has influenced the creating of the First Provincial Ombudsman in Sweden.”
Nonetheless, the current predecessor of ombudsman institutions, the Swedish Parliamentary Ombudsman, is based on the concept of separation of powers as developed by Montesquieu, which has a western origin and roots in the Enlightenment. According to the 1809 Instrument of Government, power was to be divided between the King and the Riksdag (Parliament of Sweden). The King was to appoint the Chancellor of Justice (in other words he was the royal Ombudsman) and the Riksdag was to appoint its own Parliamentary Ombudsman.
Hence, it is not so difficult to conclude that the notion of “Omar’s Law” came from a hypothesis and that too about an institution that is just a part of broader Welfare State concept. Here, like his previous claptrap, Khan seems to have no idea what he is talking about. Once again, he seems to be totally clueless, to say the least, how would he transform a country into a welfare state, that has one of the lowest effective tax rates in the world, equal to about 9 percent of the value of country’s economy. Once again, rhetoric and naïve understanding of things seems to be the predominant part of his politics which has nothing to do with ground realities.