Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Arsalan case: SC stops JIT from further inquiry

Supreme Court has stopped joint investigation team from advance inquiry till further order. The stay order has been issued by the Supreme Court till August 2. During hearing of Arsalan Ifitikhar case in Supreme Court, Zahid Bukhari on the part of Malik Riaz raised an objection over showing video in the court, adding that what is authenticity of the video. How the counsel for Arsalan Iftikhar came to know about this, Zahid consulted. He advocated that this action has badly affected the case of his client. At this, Justice Jawad S Khwaja while passing his remarks said that issuance of stay order till August would not create any colossal problem. Justice Khilji Arif while directing Zahid Bukhari said, “Let the court do its job. Please avoid uttering such words which may cause trouble for you.” On the other hand, NAB’s Prosecutor General K K Agha while raising his objection on the video said that how Arsalan Iftikhar’s access to the Supreme Court video became possible. However, the Supreme Court rejected the objections raised by the Prosecution General and other actors. The apex court said in its judicial order that the court noted the objections raised by the learned counsel Zahid Bukhari on the part of Malik Riaz. When the court issued prohibitory order, he also raised objections. The reply to these issues is very simple. The learned counsel is not conscious of the reality that the court had issued notices in this regard.

President Obama related to country’s first enslaved man

A study from Ancestry.com has determined that President Obama
is related to John Punch, the first black African enslaved for life in America--which would make Punch the 11th great-grandfather of Obama. The connection is made through Obama's mother, Stanley Ann Dunhan. The website's records say she had ancestors who were white landowners in Colonial Virginia who descended from an African man, Punch. According to the site's press release, Punch tried to escape indentured servitude in colonial Virginia in 1640 and was punished by becoming enslaved for life. The records show that Punch had children with a white woman, and her status as free was passed on to her offspring. Punch's descendents became successful landowners in the slave-owning state of Virginia. This would mean that the first documented slave and the first African American president have a shared lineage, claim researchers. Said Ancestry.com's genealogist Joseph Shumway, "John Punch was more than likely the genesis of legalized slavery in America. But after centuries of suffering, the Civil War, and decades of civil rights efforts, his 11th great-grandson became the leader of the free world and the ultimate realization of the American Dream." Genealogists seem to be fascinated with the current president's family tree: The site has also traced an Irish branch of Obama's family. And researchers at the New England Historic Genealogical Society claim he is the distant cousin of movie star Brad Pitt and six past presidents, including George W. Bush.

Second blackout in India in two days leaves 670 million without power

Half of India's 1.2 billion people were without power on Tuesday as the grids covering a dozen states broke down, the second major blackout in as many days and an embarrassment for the government as it struggles to revive economic growth. Stretching from Assam, near China, to the Himalayas and the deserts of Rajasthan, the power cut was the worst to hit India in more than a decade. Trains were stranded in Kolkata and Delhi and thousands of people poured out of the sweltering capital's modern metro system when it ground to a halt at lunchtime. Office buildings switched to diesel generators and traffic jammed the roads. "We'll have to wait for an hour or hour and a half, but till then we're trying to restore metro, railway and other essential services," Power Minister Sushilkumar Shinde told reporters. More than a dozen states with a total population of 670 million people were without power, with the lights out even at major hospitals in Kolkata. Shinde blamed the system collapse on some states drawing more than their share of electricity from the overstretched grid. Asia's third-largest economy suffers a peak-hour power deficit of about 10 percent, dragging on economic growth. "This is the second day that something like this has happened. I've given instructions that whoever overdraws power will be punished." The country's southern and western grids were supplying power to help restore services, officials said. The problem has been made worse by weak a monsoon in agricultural states such as wheat-belt Punjab and Uttar Pradesh in the Ganges plains, which has a larger population than Brazil. With less rain to irrigate crops, more farmers resort to electric pumps to draw water from wells. Power shortages and a creaky road and rail network have weighed heavily on the country's efforts to industrialize. Grappling with the slowest economic growth in nine years, Delhi recently scaled back a target to pump $1 trillion into infrastructure over the next five years. Major industries have dedicated power plants or large diesel generators and are shielded from outages -- but the inconsistent supply hits investment and disrupts small businesses. High consumption of heavily subsidized diesel by farmers and businesses has fuelled a gaping fiscal deficit that the government has vowed to tackle to restore confidence in the economy. But the poor monsoon means a subsidy cut is politically difficult. On Tuesday, the central bank cut its economic growth outlook for the fiscal year that ends in March to 6.5 percent, from the 7.3 percent assumption made in April, putting its outlook closer to that of many private economists.

Professor Abdus Salam: Why Pakistan abandoned its Nobel laureate

The two-room bungalow, the birth place of Pakistan’s only Nobel laureate, today stands empty, testament to the indifference, bigotry and prejudice surrounding the country’s greatest scientist. Professor Abdus Salam,
the child prodigy born to a humble family on the sun-blasted plains of Punjab who won accolades all over the world for his ground-breaking research in theoretical physics, is all but forgotten. He was the trailblazer who helped pave the way to the recently hailed discovery of the “God particle” — one of the greatest achievements in science for the last 100 years — but as the world went into overdrive, Pakistan stayed largely silent. Not even boasting from India, whose late physicist Satyendra Nath Bose also contributed to the discovery, snapped Pakistan out of lethargy. And the reason? Because in the eyes of the law, Salam was a heretic. “Our people are not educated. They just know this is the house of Dr Salam, who was a scientist, and they, including me, are unaware of his contributions. They also know he was Ahmadi,” said local resident Kamran Kishwar, 23. One of the most religiously polarised towns in Pakistan, Jhang, 188 miles (300 kilometres) southwest of Islamabad, is home to thousands of Ahmadis and tensions run high between the community and mainstream Muslims. Dashed dreams: Salam’s portrait hangs in his old school and he paid for a block to be built in his father’s name in the 1970s, but locals are still fighting to have any connotations with him wiped from the premises. “Elements are still trying to remove Dr Salam’s name from the school,” said Rana Nadeem, an Ahmadi who lives near Salam’s house. It wasn’t like that when Salam was born in 1926, under British rule. The entire town turned out to welcome him after he scored the highest marks ever to get into the University of the Punjab. After a PhD at Cambridge, he returned home to teach and determined to set up a centre to encourage world-class science from the developing world. But his dreams were dashed. Associates say ignorant bureaucrats rubbished his ideas and to pursue an international career he returned to Britain in 1954. In 1957, he was made professor of theoretical physics at Imperial College, London and in 1964 set up the International Centre for Theoretical Physics in Trieste in an effort to advance scientific expertise in the developing world. He continued to advise Pakistan on science and atomic energy, and was chief scientific adviser to the president from 1961-1974. But after the law changed in 1974, he found an increasingly hostile reception on visits home. After winning the Nobel prize for physics in 1979 with American scientists Steven Weinberg and Sheldon Lee Glashow, he was banned from lecturing at public universities under pressure from right-wing students and religious conservatives. ‘Victim of narrow-mindedness’: On the other hand, he was given a rapturous welcome in Bangladesh and India. “Dr Salam is a great hero and possibly the most famous Pakistani in the world but he became victim of the narrow-mindedness of our society,” says Hassan Amir Shah, head of the physics department at Government College, Lahore. Even in 1989, the world’s first Muslim woman prime minister, Benazir Bhutto, who herself knew prejudice, refused to meet him, recalls nuclear physicist Pervez Hoodbhoy. “That day I was with Salam in his hotel in Islamabad and he had come all the way from Trieste. Salam was very disappointed when her personal assistant rang up to say the prime minister did not have the time,” he told AFP. Although Salam’s achievements far outstrip those of AQ Khan, the father of Pakistan’s nuclear bomb and a Muslim, it is he who is revered as a national hero, despite Khan’s alleged role in nuclear proliferation. “Ninety-eight percent of people in this country are Muslim but still they are insecure and intolerant to the two-percent minority,” said Shah. It took until 2000 for Government College to establish a physics chair in his name. The university has also named one of its halls after Salam. Salam’s colleagues also wanted to get the National Centre for Physics in Islamabad named the Abdus Salam Centre for Physics, whose first director had been a PhD student of the Nobel laureate, but Hoodbhoy said the authorities refused. The Ahmadiyya community certainly feels he was betrayed. “Even after he was buried, local administration asked the Ahmadi community to remove the word ‘Muslim’ from the inscription on the grave which said ‘the first Muslim Nobel laureate,” said Shah. The word has been painted over, leaving just: “the first Nobel laureate”.

Romney's dangerous statement should be watched out

U.S. presidential candidate Mitt Romney's statement that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel is likely to worsen the already tense Mideast situation, and even reignite a war between Palestinians and Israelis. Romney told the CNN on Sunday that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel and he thought the U.S. embassy should be moved to Jerusalem from the current location in the city of Tel Aviv. The U.S. presidential hopeful's dangerous words should be carefully watched out. Jerusalem is a holy city to the three major Abrahamic religions -- Judaism, Christianity and Islam, and its future status has always been a critical issue in the current stagnant Palestinian-Israeli peace talks, as they both declared Jerusalem to be their own capital. The status of Jerusalem is highly sensitive, which involves the religious sentiments and dignity of most Arab people. Until now, all the nations that have established diplomatic relations with Israel have set up their embassies in Tel Aviv or other cities, instead of in Jerusalem, due to the later's uncertain status. Recently Romney has delivered a series of hawkish remarks. For example, he pledged to "employ any and all measures to dissuade the Iranian regime from its nuclear course," and he also said the United States would never look away from its "passion and commitment to Israel." Romney's remarks totally neglect historical facts and are actually irresponsible if he just meant to appeal to voters at home. In 1995, the U.S. Congress passed the Jerusalem Embassy Act, which states that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel and says the embassy should move there. But Presidents Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama have all refused to implement the law. However, Romney stubbornly vowed to carry out this law, which, if translated into action, will cause international concerns. Romney's radical words were intended to win the support of U.S. Jewish voters in the upcoming Nov. 6 presidential elections. The status of Jerusalem will not be resolved until a comprehsensive solution is found to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Before that, any words that favor any party to the conflict regardless of history and reality are irresponsible and unfair for Palestinians who are in a less powerful position in the peace talks. They may even result in a much worse situation in this region by intensifying the differences between the two sides. What's more, according to the Oslo Accords signed in 1993 by Palestinians and Israelis, the future of Jerusalem is left to be decided at the final permanent status negotiations, and no unilateral action is allowed to change Jerusalem's current situation. On these key issues, every serious politician should watch out for his or her words, especially those from the United States.

Pakistan: Ending anti-women practices

President Asif Ali Zardari put his signature on Friday to "One Million Signatures" campaign to end violence against women, sending out the message that abuses and discriminatory practices against women must stop. As he pointed out, discrimination against women is deeply rooted in all spheres of society: social, political, economic and legal. Contrary to the general belief, gender prejudices are entrenched more firmly among the rich and powerful ruling classes than among the poor. To quote just two instances, when in 2008 two women were buried alive in Balochistan because the younger one wanted to contract a marriage of choice and the older relative supported her, a legislator from the province and then a member of the federal cabinet, Mir Israr Ullah Zehri, had defended the brutality saying "these are centuries-old traditions, and I will continue to defend them." Earlier, at the time General Musharraf's government introduced a bill aimed at exercising harsh punishment for the so-called 'honour killings' some of the otherwise respected legislators exhibited open reluctance to support it. The mindset being what it is, even small acts on the President's part, such as participation in a campaign against subjecting women to violence, can help counter anti-women prejudices and the violence they generate. Credit is due also to the PPP government for undertaking expansive pro-women legislation. These include protection against Harassment of Women at Workplace Act, 2010; Women in Distress and Detention Fund Act, 2011; Acid Control and Acid Crime Act, 2011; and Prevention of Anti-Women Practices Act, 2011. Speaking at the signature ceremony, President Zardari also disclosed his plan, as part of a women's empowerment initiative, to give representation to women in the higher judiciary. That would be an important symbolic gesture. Such symbolic measures place an extra responsibility on the government, however. Affirmative action appointees must be chosen on the basis of merit rather than favouritism of one sort or another. For, lack of competence in these cases tends to lend itself to generalisations about gender aptitude instead of being seen as an individual's inaptitude. Badly handled appointments can easily end up producing a result opposite to the one desired. All of the preceding measures are important, but these alone will not change social attitudes. It ought to be recognised that a lot of the social prejudices and resultant violence are rooted in economics. For instance, the law forbids dowry beyond a certain limit, yet there have been a number of cases of stove burning of brides by greedy in-laws. It is, therefore, imperative that the government should focus more on a general uplift of women than on symbolic appointments. Education together with vocational training with a view to promoting economic self-reliance is the key to women's empowerment.

Sadaf Mughal launches music video 'Fanaa'

Sadaf Mughal launches her music video 'Fanaa' in Lahore.

Tribal areas, K-P: Anti-polio efforts hit more snags

The Express Tribune
Though millions of rupees have been pumped into the polio vaccination campaign, a large portion of the population in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and adjoining tribal regions remains averse to the vital drops. Donors have been funding the National Research and Development Foundation (NRDF) to convince unwilling parents and have also sought help from clerics and religious leaders to vaccinate maximum number of under-fives against the crippling virus. According to the NRDF records, a sum of Rs52,80,000 is spent every month on vaccination across the province. If a family refuses to inoculate its children, a team is rushed to the area to educate the family on the importance of the drops. UNICEF has sanctioned Rs110 million for 14 months to be distributed amongst Ulema, so that they remove negative perception of the vaccine, Dr Janbaz Afridi, the deputy director of the Expanded Programme of Immunisation in K-P, told The Express Tribune. However, the number of refusal cases is not decreasing, he added. Parents remain unmoved and some sections of the population have started using polio vaccination as a bargaining tool to get their problems solved. A jirga, comprising elders of Mamand Khel and Sari Khel sub-clans in Frontier Region Bannu warned that they will boycott the vaccination drive and ban the entry of police officials into the area if the government did not ensure uninterrupted power supply in the district. Fresh concerns Meanwhile, medics warned of a measles outbreak in different parts of South Waziristan if children were not immunised on time. At present measles vaccine is not available at the Vaccine Centre at the Agency Headquarters Hospital in Wana, Dr Azmat Hayat Khan, the agency surgeon, told journalists. He warned that further delay would deteriorate the situation. “I have informed senior officials of the health department about the situation,” he added.

Pakistan’s blasphemy laws ‘restrict religious liberty

The United States on Monday took aim at Pakistan for using blasphemy law to “restrict religious liberty”. In its first report on religious freedoms since the start of the Arab spring uprisings, the US State Department warned, "In times of transition, the situation of religious minorities in these societies comes to the forefront." The report also said some countries, such as Indonesia and Saudi Arabia, were using blasphemy laws to “constrain the rights of religious minorities and limit freedom of expression”. "Some members of society who have long been oppressed seek greater freedom and respect for their rights while others fear change. Those differing aspirations can exacerbate existing tensions," it warned. The report which details the situation in 2011 noted that in Egypt, although the Arab country's interim military leaders had made gestures towards greater inclusiveness, sectarian tensions and violence had increased. It denounced "both the Egyptian government's failure to curb rising violence against Coptic Christians and its involvement in violent attacks". Ambassador at large for religious freedom, Suzan Johnson Cook, acknowledged that places such as Egypt were "still in transition" as new governments are installed following uprisings in 2011 against autocratic leaders. "We're looking, as they form new constitutions, it's a wonderful opportunity to include... religious freedom," she told journalists presenting the report. Governments should also hold accountable those carrying out violent attacks against religious minorities, she added. The State Department also signalled "a marked deterioration during 2011 in the government's respect for and protection of religious freedom in China" and noted that religious freedom does not exist in any form in North Korea. "In Burma, long-simmering tensions recently erupted in widespread violence against the marginalised Rohingya community," Johnson Cook added. Myanmar or Burma, China and North Korea are among eight countries designated by US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton as countries of particular concern for their failure to recognise religious rights. They are accompanied by Eritrea, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Sudan and Uzbekistan. The report also warned that European nations undergoing major demographic shifts have seen "growing xenophobia, anti-Semitism, anti-Muslim sentiment, and intolerance toward people considered 'the other'". It complains of a "rising number of European countries, including Belgium and France, whose laws restricting dress adversely affected Muslims and others". Cook accused some governments of limiting "the right to wear or not to wear religious attire". "This decision should be a personal choice," she insisted to the journalists. Hillary, who was to comment on the report later Monday, met Egypt's new President, Mohamed Morsi, earlier this month to urge him to respect the rights of all Egyptians. She also held two hours of private talks with Christian leaders to hear their concerns about life under the new Egyptian leadership, much of which is drawn, like Morsi, from the Muslim brotherhood. The report also documents "a global increase in anti-Semitism, manifested in Holocaust denial, glorification and relativism". "The law went into effect on January 1, 2012, reducing the number of recognised religious groups from over 300 to fewer than 32," it noted. Belgium and France have outraged many Muslims with laws against full veils, such as the hijab worn by many women in Saudi Arabia or the Afghan burqa, which went into force last year and in some places are punishable by fines. US President Barack Obama fiercely criticised European moves to ban the veil in a major speech to the Muslim world in Cairo in 2009.

US hits out at Asian nations over religious freedom

The United States warned the world was sliding backwards on religious freedoms, slamming China for cracking down on Tibetan Buddhists and hitting out at Pakistan and Afghanistan. As the State Department unveiled its first report on religious freedoms since the start of the Arab Spring, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said it was a "signal to the worst offenders" that the world was watching. "New technologies have given repressive governments additional tools for cracking down on religious expression," Clinton told a US think-tank, adding that pressure was rising on some faith groups around the globe. "More than a billion people live under governments that systematically suppress religious freedom," she stressed. "When it comes to this human right -- this key feature of stable, secure, peaceful societies -- the world is sliding backward." The 2011 International Religious Freedom Report noted that last year governments increasingly used blasphemy laws to "restrict religious liberty, constrain the rights of religious minorities and limit freedom of expression." In China "there was a marked deterioration during 2011 in the government's respect for and protection of religious freedom in China," the report said. This included "increased restrictions on religious practice, especially in Tibetan Buddhist monasteries and nunneries." "Official interference" in traditional Tibetan religious practices had "exacerbated grievances and contributed to at least 12 self-immolations by Tibetans in 2011." China's has not yet given an official response, but a Xinhua commentary said there was "no justification" for the criticism and accused the United States of "blatantly interfering in the internal affairs of other countries". "The US action will only backfire by creating more suspicion and distrust rather than fostering mutual understanding and improving relations with other countries," said Xinhua. China and North Korea, where the report noted that religious freedom does not exist in any form, along with Myanmar are among eight nations designated as "countries of particular concern" for failing to accept religious rights. They are accompanied by Eritrea, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Sudan and Uzbekistan. Highlighting the situation in Indonesia and Afghanistan, the report recalled the case in Pakistan of Aasia Bibi, the first Christian woman to be sentenced to death for blasphemy in the country. And while in Afghanistan the constitution says that followers of other religions are free to worship as they please it also maintains "that Islam is the 'religion of the state,'" the report said. The Afghan government's "failure to protect minority religious groups and individuals limited religious freedom," it insisted. Much of the focus of the 2011 report however was on the countries involved in the Arab Spring, where popular uprisings have ousted autocratic leaders. Despite gestures by Egypt's interim military leaders towards greater inclusiveness, sectarian violence had increased, the report said, denouncing "both the Egyptian government's failure to curb rising violence against Coptic Christians and its involvement in violent attacks." Clinton, who visited Egypt earlier this month, said she had had "a very emotional, very personal conversation with Christians who are deeply anxious about what the future holds for them and their country." Egypt's new leader, President Mohamed Morsi, who emerged from the Islamic Brotherhood to become the country's first democratically-elected president, had vowed in their talks "to be the president of all Egyptians." But Christians were asking "will a government looking explicitly to greater reliance on Islamic principles stand up for non-Muslims and Muslims equally? Since this is the first time that Egypt has been in this situation. "It's a fair question," Clinton said. The report also warned that European nations undergoing major demographic shifts have seen "growing xenophobia, anti-Semitism, anti-Muslim sentiment, and intolerance toward people considered 'the other.'" It complains of a "rising number of European countries, including Belgium and France, whose laws restricting dress adversely affected Muslims and others.

Pakistan:Official policies restrict religious freedom

In Pakistan, the Constitution and other laws and policies restrict religious freedom and the government enforced these restrictions, says a US State Department report released on Monday. The report, which examines religious freedom or the lack of it across the globe, points out in a chapter on Pakistan that individuals accused of blasphemy or who publicly criticised the blasphemy laws and called for their reform continued to be killed. The two most prominent victims of this practice were Governor Punjab Salman Taseer and Minister of Minority Affairs Shahbaz Bhatti, who was the only Christian in the cabinet, the report adds. “The government demonstrated a trend towards deterioration in respect for and protection of the right to religious freedom,” claims the report, adding that “some government practices limited freedom of religion, particularly for religious minorities”. The report also points out that: Abuses under the blasphemy law and other discriminatory laws continued; the government did not take adequate measures to prevent these incidents or reform the laws to prevent abuse. Since the government rarely investigated or prosecuted the perpetrators of increased extremist attacks on religious minorities and members of the Muslim majority promoting tolerance, the climate of impunity continued. There were instances in which law-enforcement personnel reportedly abused religious minorities in custody. The government took some steps to improve religious freedom and promote tolerance, such as the creation of a Ministry of National Harmony and the appointment of a special adviser for minority affairs following Shahbaz Bhatti’s assassination. There were reports of societal abuses or discrimination based on religious affiliation, belief, or practice. Societal intolerance and violence against minorities and Muslims promoting tolerance increased. There were increased reports of human rights and religious freedom activists and members of minorities hesitating to speak in favour of religious tolerance due to “a climate of intolerance and fear, especially after the killings of Salman Taseer and Minister Bhatti as a result of their opposition to the blasphemy laws. A rise in acts of violence and intimidation against religious minorities by extremists exacerbated existing sectarian tensions. Extremists in some parts of the country demanded that all citizens follow their authoritarian interpretation of Islam and threatened brutal consequences if they did not abide by it”.

Pakistan: Passport scam is a reality

Main character in passport scandal Muhammad Ali Asad has said the passport scandal is a reality.Talking to Dunya News in London, Muhammad Ali Asad said that employees of passport office in Pakistan are involved in corruption. He said that passport and CNIC can be obtained on payment of small amount of money.He requested the Chief Justice of Pakistan to take suo motu notice of the passport scandal. Asad said that he will present proofs to the Chief justice.He further said that Abid Chaudhry’s brother Arif Chaudhry died due to torture during FIA investigation.