Sunday, June 17, 2012

KHYBER-PAKHTUNKHWA:34 dead in two KP bomb attacks

Thirty-four people were killed and more than 70 sustained injuries in two separate bombings in Landi Kotal and Kohat on Saturday. In the first incident, 27 people became victims of terror strike at a market in the Landi Kotal town of Khyber Agency. Assistant Political Agent Khalid Mumtaz Kundi said unidentified persons had parked an explosives-laden pickup truck at Ranghar Bazaar located on the Charbagh Road, which exploded at 10:55 am. Soon after the incident, security forces rushed to the scene and cordoned off the area. Two schoolgoing children were also among the victims, while 65 people, including a local journalist Ashrafuddin Pirzada, were injured in the bombing. The wounded were rushed to the Agency Headquarters Hospital Landikotal, from where five seriously wounded were referred to a hospital in Peshawar. No organisation or individual has so far claimed responsibility for the deadly attack; however, it is stated that the vehicle terminal owned by the anti-militant Zekha Khel tribe was the main target, as it openly opposes the Mangal Bagh-led banned outfit Lashkar-e-Islam. According to the local administration, 25 shops, three vehicles and other nearby buildings were damaged in the terror strike. Moving scenes were witnessed in the hospital as people were searching their beloved ones. Later, a remote-controlled bomb attack on a police mobile killed seven people including four policemen, as they were patrolling Dhoda Road. At least 10 policemen were injured in the attack. An additional SHO was also among the dead. Three more injured are reported to be in critical condition

Bahrain police shoot 5-year-old in chest, eye
Bahrain police have shot a five-year-old boy in the left eye and chest, reports said. The shooting occurred last Wednesday evening in the Dair village, a suburb of Muharraq, during a police crackdown on protesters. The boy was hit by birdshot, activists said. The young boy was then transferred to the Salmaniya Hospital for treatment, and doctors are still waiting to see whether the boy will lose his eyesight in the eye. The ABNA news agency reported the father said his son was conscious, but could not see out of his injured eye. Activists who were with the child in the hospital said that they were banned from speaking to the child’s father about the incident after the instructions of officer Yousef Mulla Bkheit “who is renowned for his torturing of the prisoners and assaulting them sexually,” the report said. The activists said that the family wanted to take the child to a private hospital, however, officer Bkheit refused. They said that the father’s body was full of bird shots pellets as well. They reported that police told him to move otherwise they would fire at him, when he turned to carry his child they fired on both of them. The man who was still in shock said: “It didn’t occur to me they would fire at an old man and his little child, we were only selling fish.” He confirmed that they fired on them on purpose. They fired twice at them. The activists said that the father’s and child’s blood covered their fish box where they were selling fish at the side of the road. The activists said the boy Ahmed Nahham was the youngest citizen whose eyes were fired at. Wefaq society, a leading opposition group, called on human rights organizations and groups to save Ahmed Nahham five-year old boy who was targeted by Bahrain police by bird gunshots along with his injured father who was with him during the incident. Wefaq statement explained that Ahmed was from Dair village that suffered the savage barbaric attack waged by the police. It added that police carried Ahmed away with them, nobody knew about his injury.

The plight of Manal al Sharif: a Saudi woman trying to drive to work
One year ago today around 40 women in Saudi Arabia drove their cars, daring to claim their right and breaking the ban. Today, the Right to Dignity Campaign, known as “Women2Drive”, will present a petition to the King to change this draconian prohibition. It is signed by at least 760 people. While there is no law against it, many have been arrested since last year only to be freed when they signed a statement saying they would never drive again, Shaima Jastania was sentenced to 10 lashes for it only to be overturned by King Abdullah Bin Abdul Aziz, and the interior minister formally banned driving right after that day. Two women have even sued the government because they refuse to grant them driving licences. It was Manal Al Sharif, the Saudi woman who started the Women2Drive Campaign . As an employee of Aramco, the world’s biggest oil company owned by the kingdom, at the information protection management division, she was only one of only two women. Part of her job benefits, included living in an Aramco employee town, in which, Saudi citizens enjoy a small amount of freedom. There are golf courses, cinemas, and, surprisingly, women drivers. Yes, women are permitted to drive inside the compound. One day, trying to come home from a doctor’s appointment in a neighbouring town, Manal could not find a cab and her brother’s phone was turned off. She started walking. Men drove by with the windows down, hurling insults and lewd comments at her. One car even slowed down and doubled back to intercept her. On that day Manal feared for her life. After hearing from coworkers the next day that there was no law against women driving, she asked herself, as reported by Women’s ENews, “I have a car and a driver’s licence. Why can’t I drive outside of Aramco?” As Manal began to speak out and gain recognition for her activism, she was invited to various rights conferences outside of the country. Aramco time and time again denied her time off to attend the events. When she asked for permission to travel to Oslo last month to participate in the Oslo Freedom Forum, she was refused, and in consequence, she resigned. Manal closed her Oslo speech with the following line: “the rain starts with a single drop.” On May 10 the Oslo Freedom Forum published Manal’s speech on YouTube. Since then, the video has been viewed more than 315,000 times, mostly from viewers inside the Arab peninsula. Some YouTube users have downloaded the original video from the Oslo Freedom Forum’s YouTube channel and re-posted copies with misleading subtitles and commentary, portraying Manal as a traitor to Saudi Arabia and an enemy of Islam. As a result, Manal has been the target of thousands of attacks — on YouTube, Twitter, blogs, online news sites, and even print media in Saudi Arabia. Saudi cleric Shaikh Abdul Aziz Al Tarifi recently issued a fatwa declaring Manal a “hypocrite” — thereby questioning her status as a Muslim and placing her under further risk. Manal lost her job, the mortgage on her house, her job prospects for the future, and, if she chooses to leave Saudi Arabia to find work, she may also lose custody of her six -year-old son. In Saudi Arabia there is no public transportation. On average, Saudi women pay upwards of one-third of their salaries to drivers. There are more than one million private drivers.

Saudi Arabian women risk arrest as they defy ban on driving
Women in Saudi Arabia have been arrested and jailed for defying a ban on driving. Now they want men to join them in the passenger seat as they get behind the wheel. In the past year, they have lost jobs, friends, social standing, reputations and they have been imprisoned, shunned and - in a few cases - even received death threats. But women in Saudi Arabia were this weekend preparing once again to risk arrest and even flogging to drive cars in defiance of the country's ban. It was on June 17 last year that about 100 women took part in the first demonstration organised by underground civil disobedience campaigns Women2Drive and I Will Drive My Own Car. Many were arrested and jailed. One woman's sentence of 10 lashes was revoked only after the king intervened. It was the largest mass action since November 1990, when 47 Saudi women were arrested after demonstrating in cars. On Wednesday, two founders of the movement, Ms Manal al-Sharif, 33, and Ms Najla Hariri, 45, posted an open letter with 600 signatories to King Abdullah, appealing once more for an end to the ban on women driving. The letter said: "Our initiative is not aimed at violating laws." Today, women with international driving licences are being urged to flout the ban, but to make sure they do it respectfully, wearing the legally required full Islamic dress and displaying a picture of the king. Campaigners want men to show their support by travelling in the passenger seat with their wives, mothers, and sisters. They are also asking women to flood the traffic department with driving licence applications. "We only want to enjoy the right to drive like all women over the world," Ms Hariri told the Observer. "It is really hard for women to take such a stand for the right of driving," she said. It was in May last year that Ms Hariri, fed up with having to find a male relative to ferry her and her children around, began to drive herself. After hearing about Ms Hariri driving on Facebook, Ms al-Sharif, a divorced mother, followed suit a few days later, posting a video of herself on YouTube. Ms Al-Sharif was imprisoned by the religious police for more than a week. This month, Ms Al-Sharif was unable to join four other Arab women in Washington to receive a Vital Voices Leadership Award from an organisation founded by Hillary Clinton. "The main reason for not being at the awards was (concern) for my family's safety after receiving death threats from insane people," Ms al-Sharif tweeted. A year after she won recognition for defying the ban, Ms al-Sharif has been forced to resign from her job at Saudi's government-owned Aramco oil company and has lost her housing. Family members have left the country out of fears for their safety. \Meanwhile, a campaign called My Guardian Knows What is Best for Me - which opposes calls for a more liberal approach to women's rights, including women driving - has been started by a group of Saudi women. That means the high personal price that is being paid by Ms Hariri, Ms al-Sharif and other women could be for nothing if apathy stops women driving in Saudi. "I am very happy with the attention that we draw to our right to drive and I thank God that so many men are supporting us," said Ms Hariri. "I can't say women are afraid, but of course they are worried - worried equally about the police and about their families. "I hope that June 17 this year will bring us some good news regarding driving, because society's awareness is so much better now and there is wider understanding that there is an alternative here," she said. "All of us have the dream that our country can and will become a supportive community for women, where men and women are treated equally."

Bahraini regime forces attack anti-regime protesters

Anti-regime protesters in Bahrain have been attacked once again by the country’s Saudi-backed forces as the demonstrators continue to insist on their demands. In the capital city of Manama, forces fired tear gas and rubber bullets at the protesters, who called for an end to the long-time rule of the Al Khalifa regime. The Sheikhdom has been the scene of anti-regime demonstrations since February 2011. The Manama regime forces have been cracking down on the protests ever since. The rallies continue across the kingdom despite a ban on public gatherings and the regime crackdown. Scores of people have been killed and many others have been arrested during the revolution. Bahrainis hold King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa responsible for the death and arrest of protesters.

Taliban ban anti-polio drive in Pakistan tribal area

Pakistani militants in a Taliban and Al-Qaeda infested tribal region Saturday banned anti-polio vaccination teams, to protest US drone strikes saying the attacks were killing civilians. "Anti-polio vaccination teams will not be allowed to administer polio drops among children in North Waziristan," local warlord Gul Bahadur said in a statement. Bahadur, who is allied with Afghan Taliban fighting US-led troops across the border, said the ban will remain effective until the US stops drone attacks in the tribal region. "On the one hand they are killing innocent women, children and old people in drone attacks and on the other they are spending millions on vaccination campaign," the statement distributed in the region's main town Miranshah said. It said "the day and night US drone flights in Waziristan are causing mental illness in the local population which is more dangerous than polio." Residents said people would respond to the call as Bahadur commands influence in the region. Pakistan's northwestern tribal region, known as a hotbed of Taliban and Al-Qaeda militants, is witnessing increasing drone strikes amid a stalemate in US-Pakistan talks to end a blockade on NATO supplies crossing into Afghanistan. Pakistan shut NATO supply lines in anger over US air strikes on a border post on November 26 that killed 24 Pakistani soldiers. The statement, citing the case of Pakistani doctor Shakeel Afridi jailed for helping the CIA find Osama bin Laden, also slammed the immunisation campaign saying that it may be used for espionage purposes. Afridi was arrested after US troops killed bin Laden in May 2011 in the northwestern town of Abbottabad where he set up a fake vaccination programme in the hope of obtaining DNA samples to identify the Al-Qaeda leader. He was sentenced to 33 years in jail on May 23. Pakistani authorities whipped up anti-American sentiment after the bin Laden raid calling the drone strikes a violation of national sovereignty. But US officials consider the attacks a vital weapon in the war against Islamist extremists, despite concerns from rights activists over civilian casualties. UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay recently called for a UN investigation into US drone strikes in Pakistan, questioning their legality and saying they kill innocent civilians.