Monday, August 27, 2012

An infidel Pakistani

BY:T.G. Matthew
I believe that I love Pakistan because every day reading different Pakistani newspapers, watching Pakistani talk shows, writing E mails to columnists and talk show hosts; If this is not love to Pakistan then what should I call it? I was watching a talk show on Dunya Tv with Zahra Naseem. The topic was minorities and their rights. I was really shocked to see that an educated person claimed that in Pakistan minorities are enjoying better life than other countries. I really do not know why we have to compare ourselves to other nations in everything we do. We pretend to hate the neighbor country India but we always love to compare our beloved country to India for almost everything. I just don’t know when we will start to set examples for others so they will follow us instead of always looking at others and learning from them. We claim ourselves a great nation but the question is what we have done great to consider ourselves great. If getting developed in religious extremism or blowing mosques and public property or hating minorities make us great then no thanks I do not want to be part of that “Great” nation. Recently the killing of Shia has changed my opinion about Pakistani extremists that they only kill Non- Muslims. In Pakistan there are sectors of people who do not even want to talk about minorities and I am really tired of listening that in Pakistan all the nation is suffering and we should not talk about minorities. I am proud to be Pakistani but it makes me to rethink before I claim a proud Pakistani when I see Asia Bibi in Jail or an 11 year old Rimsha who does not even know how to read and write or when I hear that Shehbaz Bhatti has been killed or Taseer got killed for speaking out for an infidel Asia Bibi. It makes me to reconsider my opinion about being a proud Pakistani when I talk to a graduate Christian young man Isaac Pervez who applies for a job and gets denied because he is Christian or Non- Muslim. It does not make me feel comfortable to read in the newspaper that the sweeping jobs are only for Christians when the health department of Jhang calls for applications for sweeper jobs. It does not make me happy to be told at restaurant to bring your own plates to eat because these plates are for Muslims only. My heart cries when I see today’s Pakistan because I love Pakistan. I am sure that Muslims are not more patriot than Christians or any Non- Muslim Pakistanis. I believe in this philosophy that we all have to born again and consider ourselves Pakistanis first and then Muslim, Christian, Sikh, Hindu etc. I am afraid that our next generation will not tolerate the discrimination like we did or are doing. We must save Pakistan because whatever we are it is because of Pakistan. If there is no Pakistan there will be none of us.

Z.A.BHUTTO:The Paradise of Politics Lies Under the Feet of the People

A letter from a death cell written by Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto to My dearest daughter stated these words of a leader of masses… I give only one message. It is the message of the morrow, the message of history. Believe only in the people, work only for their emancipation and equality. The paradise of God lies under the feet of your mother. The paradise of politics lies under the feet of the people. I have quite a few achievements to my credit in the public life of the Sub-continent but, in my memory, the most rewarding achievements have been those which have brought smiles of joy to the weary faces of our miserable masses, achievements which have brought a twinkle to the melancholy eye of a villager. With such words Bhutto still lives in hearts of many people and he was the symbol of democracy and raised voice against dictatorship. His political figure is matchless; his political sagacity, practicality gave Pakistan a political party system (earlier, Ayub crushed political parties), socioeconomic development, nuclear deterrence, Constitution of 1973, economic independence, land reforms and a parliamentary system. A hopeless in the prison still hopeful in his last days, the revolutionary who was once envisioned as the leader of the third world had been abridged to a politico gambit of the Martial Law dictators. We should salute to his struggle and bravery as he gave his life without any compromise and being guilty over the fake case and Bhutto was an undoubted champion of democracy and the rights of the poor in Pakistan. He was a real beacon of light to promote democracy and kept it on with the sacrifice of his life but did not bow before dictatorship. One can’t deny the army’s tyranny of an abusive parent and one can even finds many an argument in favor of and justifying the Memo-gate if proven true that it highlights the desperado attempt of a civilian government to avert another coup. If the army is to be denied any future undertakings then the conformist way forward was and has always been for our elected leaders to cultivate an environment of trust fostering a meticulous and undistracted inquiry into the issues that make us paralyzed. If such a positive activity if conducted by an educated and progressive group of credible officers who is in-tune with the sentiments of the people they represent will be a genuine step forward to change in the current system. These steps will cement in our psyche that a government of the people, by the people and for the people is the righteous path to prosperity through democracy. The democratic government Sandwiched between the shadow governance of our “heroic” army and the umbrella conspiracies of the western powers the status is of a frustrated insolence stripped naked of any morals and courtesy. It is obvious in the current system any kind substantial investment towards any institution for the common good is viewed by the parliament to local government side as a wasteful exercise in futility. Under the present dilemma of governance the collective mindset is of a temporary opportunity so heavenly afforded in a narrow window of democracy. There is a Martin Seligman experiment done on animal-psychology of “learned helplessness” – where an animal is repeatedly exposed to hurt by an adverse stimulus which it cannot escape. It is observed that eventually the animal will stop trying to avoid the pain and behave as if it is totally helpless to change the situation. This experiment gave results that learning process is so successful even after the stimulus is stopped the behavior stays and when a chance to escape is given, the learned helplessness prevents any action. We are observing that in the present government, it miserably failed in all regards; if it is true that the democracy is the best revenge then this kind of democracy is a mockery of the martyrs and it will avenge nothing. In more wise words of the great Bhutto –If things do not change, there will be nothing left to change. Either power must pass to the people or everything will perish.

“If this isn’t Shia genocide, what is?”

By:Zofeen Ebrahim
“It must have been early morning when about two dozen masked men, in army uniforms, stopped their convoy of buses. All passengers were asked to get down. In an organised manner they separated the Shias from among the rest and having ascertained their identity (through their names and the area they belonged to), shot them dead,” said Hussain (real named withheld on request), who belongs to a village in the Astore district of Gilgit-Baltistan (G-B). Twenty-four people (21 Shias and three Sunnis) in aboard three buses, who had embarked on fateful that August 15 morning, from Rawalpindi, never reached their destination in G-B (a Shia-majority region), after their buses were intercepted near Lulusar area in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) province on Aug 16, where they were mercilessly massacred. Among them, 12 were from Astore and six were Hussain’s close relatives from the same village. Two family members, somehow, survived to tell the sordid episode. “They saw their cousins die in front of them,” he said. During the massacre, said Hussain, the masked men asked the passengers to loudly chant “Allah-o-Akbar” (God is Great) and “kafir, kafir, Shia kafir (infidels, infidels, Shia infidels)”. He belongs to the Shia sect although 90 per cent of the villagers were Sunnis. A shaky and grainy video doing the rounds on the internet shows the incident exactly as Hussain described to Muhammad Afridi, of the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan, associated earlier with the anti-Shia militant outfit Sipah-i-Sahaba Pakistan (SSP), stated the killings were in retaliation for ‘excesses’ committed by Shias against Sunnis in G-B. He warned that more such attacks would be carried out in other parts of the country. After the incident hundreds remained stranded in the twin cities of Islamabad and Rawalpindi, after public and private transport for the region was suspended. This is the third such incident since the beginning of the year. On February 28, and then again on April 3, 18 and nine Shia passengers were dragged out of the buses in a similar manner in northern district of Kohistan, and Chilas, 60 miles from Gilgit, respectively. Political analyst Hasan Askari Rizvi finding a “growing trend of Islamic sectarianism” predicts that with Pakistan’s rapid shift towards religious orthodoxy in Islam, “sectarian thinking” is likely to dominate. Pakistan has recorded at least 2,642 sectarian attacks, killing 3,963 people since 1989, according to the South Asia Terrorism Portal (SATP) database. Balochistan, said the SATP has witnessed at least 71 incidents of sectarian attacks in which 304 persons have been killed since 2009. Over 90 people have already been killed in 34 such incidents since the beginning of 2012 until August 19. Earlier Interior Minister Rehman Malik, hinted at “foreign” hands fanning sectarianism in Pakistan to destabilise the country and promote religious hatred. Dismissing Malik’s statement, Dr Mohammad Taqi, said it is Pakistan’s own domestic policy of using jihad as a tool which has “led to the tail wagging the dog.” Talking to, Taqi, who left Pakistan for the United States in 1996 “anticipating the disaster we are facing” added that the intolerance and extremism Pakistan is in grips with is a “direct consequence of Pakistan’s neighbour-phobic national identity anchored in religious ideology”. Hussain from Astore called the massacre nothing short of genocide against the Shias. “If this isn’t genocide, what is?” exclaimed Hussain. “What’s worse we were advised by elders in our village, that we shouldn’t agitate as it may fuel riots,” he said. Finding the “studious silence of the Shia massacre by the Sunni majority” disquieting, Dr Pervez Hoodbhoy, a peace activist and an academician told “Describing the killings as sectarian is outrageous because a conflict assumes two warring sides. But in fact here there is just one side – the Shias – which is being massacred.” “Pakistan was conceived in haste with just one goal in mind – Muslims must be separated from Hindus, and then somehow all Muslims will live together in bliss. Zero thought was given to what happens when religious fervour is aroused,” said Hoodbhoy retracing the partition of the sub-continent in 1947 when India and Pakistan became two separate nations. The pre-independence writings by Wahabbi, Deobandi and Ahle-Hadees hardliners, added Rizvi, show discord between Shias and Sunnis existed even then. “The division always existed but sectarianism gained momentum in the 1980s (during military dictator General Zia ul Haq’s 11-year rule) when Pakistani state began to implement and promote religious orthodoxy and conservatism,” he said. Today, the country is more fragmented than ever before and Hoodbhoy blamed the rise in extremism to the “overdose of religion given to young Pakistanis”. Citing the recent Washington DC-based Pew Research Centre’s survey which found 50 per cent of Sunnis in Pakistan believe Shias to be non-Muslims, Hoodbhoy warned this may result in “bitter religious wars”. Eighty-three per cent of Sunnis in Afghanistan, contrary to only 50 per cent in Pakistan, accept Shias as Muslims. Even in Bangladesh, which split before General Zia ul Haq’s regime took control of Pakistan, 77 per cent of Sunnis believe Shias are Muslims. “For now the Shia’s are feeling the brunt, along with the Ahmadis, but tomorrow it will be one Sunni faction butchering another,” warned Hoodbhoy. Finding the politicians, the government and even the army incapacitated, many like Hussain say: “When the state can’t protect itself, how can we expect or have the confidence in these institutions to protect us?” “The federal government is too bogged down in its survival,” agreed Rizvi. And when the attackers get away with their crime so easily, it encourages them to repeat it while it gives others the impetus to do the same, he said. With the breakdown of the state authority, hardline Islamic groups like Lashkar-i-Jhangvi, the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan and allies like the former SSP and Jaish-e-Muhammad can pursue their narrow religious-political agenda more boldly, said Rizvi. With foreboding he said: “These trends are expected to continue. The frequency of killings will vary from time to time but it is not expected to end in the near future.” Meanwhile there are reports that all government and private schools in G-B have been closed down for an indefinite period after Taliban announced attacks on Shia schools in Gilgit. “Instead of making a strong policy against terrorists, government and security authorities seem to have bowed down to the threats of the terrorists,” it was reported in the Shiite News.

Violence in Karachi claims 12 lives

Continuous violence has claimed the lives of 12 more people in Karachi, DawnNews reported. Two political party workers were killed in Orangi town, after a firing incident. The killing spread panic in the area and as a result shops and business were shut down. Two people were gunned down and one other person was injured, when unknown gunmen opened fire on them in Kharadar. One person was killed in Manzoor colony, while another was killed near Garden Dhobi Ghath. One person was killed near Korangi. The dead body of a woman was found near Nazimabad. Unknown gunmen opened fire in Memon Goth, killing one man. Police officials said that the killing appears to be a case of a personal vendetta. The tortured body of one man was found in a gunny bag near Maripur Road Crown Cinema. The dead man had been shot to death. Another man’s body was found near Rehri Goth. A political party worker succumbed to his wounds on the operating table after being shot at in Baldia Town. MQM chief Altaf Hussain expressed his grief over the killing and said that sectarian elements were targeting MQM members. Firing in Lee Market injured two police officials, including a crime branch officer. While at the same time firing incidents in Quaidabad, Sher Shah and Baldia Town left five people injured including one woman.

Pakistan's Supreme Court has gone overboard

It has no right to dismiss a Prime Minister or overrule the constitutional immunity given to the President When I was I was a student of law at Allahabad University, I had read of the British Constitutional principle ‘The King can do no wrong’. At that time I did not understand the significance of this principle and what it really meant. It was much later, when I was in law practice in the Allahabad High Court, that I understood its real significance. The British were experienced and able administrators. They realized from their own long, historical experience that while everybody should be legally liable for his wrongs and made to face court proceedings for the same, the person at the apex of the whole constitutional system must be given total immunity from criminal proceedings, otherwise the system could not function. Hence the King of England must be given total immunity from criminal proceedings. Even if he commits murder, dacoity, theft, or some other crime, the King cannot be dragged to court and made to face a trial. One may ask why should the King be given this immunity when others are not? The answer is that in the practical world one does not deal with absolutes. The British were one of the most far sighted administrators the world has known. They realized that if the King is made to stand on the witness box or sent to jail, the system could not function. A stage is reached at the highest level of the system where total immunity to the person at the top has to be granted. This is the only practical view. Following this principle in British constitutional law, almost every Constitution in the world has incorporated a provision giving total immunity to Presidents and Governors from criminal prosecution. Thus, Section 248(2) of the Pakistani Constitution states: “No criminal proceedings whatsoever shall be instituted or continued against the President or Governor in any Court during his term of office.” The language of the above provision is clear, and it is a settled principle of interpretation that when the language of a provision is clear the court should not twist or amend its language in the garb of interpretation, but read it as it is. I therefore fail to understand how proceedings on corruption charges (which are clearly of a criminal nature) can be instituted or continued against the Pakistani President. Moreover, how can the court remove a Prime Minister? This is unheard of in a democracy. The Prime Minister holds office as long he has the confidence of Parliament, not the confidence of the Supreme Court. I regret to say that the Pakistani Supreme Court, particularly its Chief Justice, has been showing utter lack of restraint. This is not expected of superior courts. In fact the court and its Chief Justice have been playing to the galleries for long. It has clearly gone overboard and flouted all canons of constitutional jurisprudence. The Constitution establishes a delicate balance of power, and each of the three organs of the state -- the legislature, the executive and the judiciary – must respect each other and not encroach into each other’s domain, otherwise the system cannot function. It seems to me that the Pakistani Supreme Court has lost its balance and gone berserk. If it does not now come to its senses I am afraid the day is not far off when the Constitution will collapse, and the blame will squarely lie with the court, and particularly its Chief Justice.

Pak judicial coup, threat to developing democracy

By Prof. Bhim Singh
There have been several coups in the world against the governments by the politicians and mostly by the military dictators. Coup de tat in Pakistan by the Supreme Court dismissing sitting and popular Prime Minister of the country on 19th June, 2012 has created an alarming situation about the developing democracy in Pakistan. The Supreme Court of Pakistan headed by its populist Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry has, “Found Syed Yousaf Raza Gillani guilty of contempt of Court under Article 204(2) of the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, 1973 read with section 3 of the Contempt of Court Ordinance, 2003 and sentenced him to undergo imprisonment till rising of the court under section 5 of the said Ordinance, and since no appeal was filed against this judgment, the conviction has attained finality. Therefore, Syed Yousaf Raza Gillani has become disqualified from being a Member of the Majilis-e-Shoora (Parliament) in terms of Article 62(1)(g) of the Constitution on and from the date and time of pronouncement of the judgment of this Court dated 26.04.2012 with all consequences, i.e. he has also ceased to be the Prime Minister of Pakistan with effect from the said date and the office of the Prime Minister shall be deemed to be vacant accordingly.” The Supreme Court directed Election Commission of Pakistan to issue notification to disqualify Syed Yousaf Raza Gillani as Member of Majilis-e-Shoora (Parliament) w.e.f. 26.04.2012. The Supreme Court had convicted Mr. Gillani on 26th April, 2012. The Supreme Court also directed the President of Pakistan to take further steps for the implementation of its direction. Interestingly, the Supreme Court, though, held Mr. Gillani guilty of contempt of the court on 26th April, 2012 whereas the judgment was announced 13 days later i.e. on 8th May, 2012. No convict has any opportunity or occasion to challenge an unwritten or non-speaking judgment whose order is kept pending by the court. This is first question which needs to be answered by the Supreme Court of Pakistan as to how the period for filing appeal against the conviction of the Prime Minister has expired. This only adds to the doubt that the judiciary was in a hurry to wreak vengeance against the Prime Minister of Pakistan for ulterior reasons which deserve the attention of the jurists all over the world particularly in the countries where democracy or even semi-democracy has been functioning. Secondly, Mr. Gillani has been held guilty of contempt of court under Article 204(2) of the Constitution of Islamic Republic of Pakistan, 1973 read with section 3 of the Contempt of Court Ordinance, 2003 and further read with Article 184(3) of the Constitution of Pakistan, which provides to uphold the fundamental rights of the citizens of Pakistan in all matters of public importance. Article 204(2) empowers the Supreme Court to punish any person who— a). abuses, interferes with or obstructs the process of the Court in any way or disobeys any order of the Court; b). scandalizes the Court or otherwise does anything which tends to bring the Court or a Judge of the Court into hatred, ridicule or contempt; c). does anything which tends to prejudice the determination of a matter pending before the Court; or d). does any other thing which, by law, constitutes contempt of the Court. The international fraternity of the jurists may have an opportunity to find fault with Mr. Gillani as to which of these provisions have been violated by a functioning Prime Minister of Pakistan. There was no abuse, no interference, no obstruction, no disobedience, no scandalization and no hatred in the entire episode or a conflict that was generated between the Chief Justice and the Peoples Party Government of Pakistan. Under Article 184(3) the Supreme Court may consider a question of public importance with reference to the enforcement of any of the Fundamental Rights conferred by Chapter-1 of Part-II is involved, have the power to make an order of the nature mentioned in the said Article. This is also a matter of debate whether instructions issued by the Supreme Court of Pakistan to the Prime Minister to take cognizance in a matter against the sitting President of Republic were having any legal sanction or were they issued in good faith and in the interest of the defence of the Constitution itself. It is interesting to note that the charges against President Zardari date back to the 1990s when his late wife Benazir Bhutto was prime minister. They were accused of using Swiss bank accounts to launder bribe money. President Zardari has always insisted that the charges against him are politically motivated. The Supreme Court ordered Mr. Gillani’s government to write to the Swiss authorities to ask them to reopen the cases against Mr. Zardari, the President of Pakistan. This order of the |Supreme Court was against the letter and the spirit of the Constitution of Pakistan. Mr. Gillani was quite within the constitutional limits and the rule of law that the President of Pakistan enjoyed immunity, protection from being charged in any criminal case because, “The President shall not be answerable to any court for the exercise of powers and performance of functions of their respective officers or for any act done or purported to be done in the exercise of those powers and performance of those functions.” The Supreme Court Chief Justice known the world over as an upright and honest judge has erred again, may be, he was blinded with rage of power towards the existing constitutional structure led by the Peoples Party of Pakistan. The Supreme Court has infringed the command of clauses (2), (3) & (4) of Article 248. Article 248(2), 248(3) & 248(4) clearly command that no criminal or civil proceedings shall be initiated in any manner against the President or a Governor. Secondly, the Supreme Court also ignored the fact that, “The Swiss shelved the cases in 2008 when Zardari became President and a Prosecutor in Switzerland has said it will be impossible to reopen them as long as he remains head of state and so is immune from prosecution.” This matter was insisted by Mr. Gillani and the Supreme Court utterly failed to find a reasonable and legitimate answer to this assertion of Mr. Gillani while ordering his conviction followed by his dismissal. Thirdly, the Supreme Court of Pakistan has erred gravely on another point declaring a sitting Member of Parliament as disqualified when there is no such account in the entire story dealing with the circumstances of the case. A sitting Member can be disqualified within the meaning and scope of Article 63 which has been mentioned by the Supreme Court in a hurry. According the judgment Mr. Gillani has been disqualified by the application of Article 63(1)(g) of the Constitution of Pakistan. The reading of this Article leads to the conclusion that a person shall only be disqualified if (g), “He has been convicted by a court of contempt jurisdiction or propagating any opinion, or acting in any manner, prejudicial to the ideology of Pakistan, or the sovereignty, integrity or security of Pakistan, or the integrity, or independence of the judiciary of Pakistan, or which defames or brings into ridicule the judiciary or the Armed Forces of Pakistan, unless a period of five years has lapsed since his release.” A careful study of this clause does not provide an iota of doubt that Mr. Gillani has committed no such offence as was prejudicial to the ideology of Pakistan or the sovereignty or integrity nor there is any case that the Prime Minister had ridicule the judiciary or the Armed Forces of Pakistan. The fact is otherwise. The Prime Minister of Pakistan walked into the court room on the day of judgment with grace and obedience, stood on the floor of the court like a gentleman and absorbed his 30-second- sentence with grace and patience that was expected of a person holding the rank of Prime Minister of the country. This is unfortunate that Election Commission of Pakistan, who was not served even a notice on the disqualification of Mr. Gillani issued a notification dislodging Mr. Gillani as Prime Minister. It is a mockery of the Constitutional arrangements in Pakistan that the Election Commission of Pakistan was not answerable to the President of Pakistan. The Election Commission of Pakistan by obeying the Supreme Court’s order to notify the disqualification of Mr. Gillani has added to the woos of shaky democracy in Pakistan. The judgment of the Supreme Court is loaded with contradictions and legal abuses of authority vested in the Supreme Court. Obviously, no legal person or a jurist can accept the judgment of the Supreme Court as its’ suffers from several serious anomalies and lacunas. The Chief Justice of Pakistan has given an impression that he was taking a clue from the judgments of the Supreme Court of India. This is not true at all. In India under Article 102 of the Constitution, no elected person shall be disqualified unless he is convicted for moral turpitude and sentenced for a period exceeding two years that too in a criminal offence. Conviction in a contempt of court case is not criminal offence nor this conviction shall attract any punishment for disqualification of an elected Member of Parliament. Even in the Constitution of Pakistan the minimum sentence has to be two years to disqualify a person from the membership of the National Assembly. The judgment of the Supreme Court of Pakistan amounts to a judicial coup against the developing democracy in Pakistan, which has started breathing during the past couple of years. The Parliament of Pakistan has clear jurisdiction to amend the law to this affect so that the Pakistan shall be free from any further coup from the armed forces or judicial command.
( The writer is Barrister-at-Law,Sr. Advocate & Chairman, State Legal Aid Committee)

Pakistan: Judiciary assaults democracy
The Pakistan Supreme Court's decision to disqualify Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani is unprecedented in Pakistan's constitutional history. It is a judicial assault on Pakistan's fledgling democracy, if not a "judicial coup". While the ostensible reason behind the decision was Gilani's reluctance to reopen graft cases against President Asif Ali Zardari, it is still not clear if there is a larger game-plan to unseat the PPP-led government. The PPP could have challenged the verdict as the power to disqualify a member of the National Assembly lies with the Election Commission and not the judiciary, but has chosen to avoid confrontation with an increasingly assertive judiciary. In all likelihood, the PPP decided that by avoiding a confrontation, it may buy some more time to manoeuvre the course of developments until the next elections. Given the fact that very soon a caretaker government will be formed to oversee the next general elections scheduled to be held in February 2013, the timing of the decision raises many questions. Though the PPP coalition has elected a new Prime Minister in Raja Pervaiz Ashraf, but it is apparent that the judiciary has not stopped with the verdict against Gilani. A non-bailable arrest warrant was issued against the earlier nominee Makhdoom Shahabuddin by a Rawalpindi court at the request of the Anti Narcotics Force for his alleged involvement in a multi-billion-rupee drug scandal. Further, the Chief Justice of the Lahore High Court has issued a notice to President Zardari for holding multiple offices despite an earlier declaration ordering against it. The court had ruled on 12 May 2011 that President Zardari should surrender the position of co-chairman of the PPP and that the presidency should not be used for political activities. A larger bench has been constituted for further proceedings of the case and President Zardari has been asked to reply within a week. It is likely, that in the coming days many old and new cases against the PPP leadership would be brought up in the courts. The memogate commission might be used again to target President Zardari. The fate of the new Prime Minister is a foregone conclusion. The Supreme Court will also expect him to write a letter to the Swiss authorities for reopening graft cases against President Zardari. The tension between the judiciary and the executive is likely to further escalate in the coming days. Questions can be raised about the decision against Gilani — whether it was in accordance with the rule of law or for purposes of political expediency. Is this truly an independent judiciary upholding constitutional principles? Or is the judiciary being used for political purposes. It may be recalled that in 1999, when General Pervez Musharraf ousted the democratically elected government of Nawaz Sharif, Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry had not only endorsed and legitimised the move taking oath on the Provisional Constitutional Order, but had also invoked the dubious doctrine of necessity to grant him the power to amend the Constitution. Is the Chief Justice above board now? Or is he pursuing a personal agenda? It is hard to believe that the increased judicial activism, which can lead to great instability, does not have the concurrence of the military, particularly at a time when the country is going through difficult times. If the clash between the judiciary and the PPP paralyses the functioning of the government, there may be a move to set up the neutral caretaker government much earlier than its stipulated time. In the absence of a process of consultation and consensus between the present government and the opposition, the Chief Election Commissioner will become the sole determinant of the selection and installation of such a government. At the moment, the Election Commission is presided over by an acting CEC, Justice Shakirullah Jan, a serving Supreme Court judge appointed by the Chief Justice. If he continues, then the next caretaker government will be chosen directly by the CEC and indirectly by the Chief Justice. If the powers that be in Pakistan decide to postpone the elections on some pretext, the caretaker government can be given an extension by the judiciary. This will bring back the unelected representatives who have ruled Pakistan for half of its history. This may also be the only way to fix the Zardaris and Gilanis. But the political costs of this trajectory of developments for democracy in Pakistan will be severe. One has to wait and watch how the PPP plays its cards in the standoff with the judiciary in the next few months.

Bahraini rights activist Al-Khawaja banned from entering Egypt
Bahraini rights activist Mariam Al-Khawaja
on Sunday was banned from entering Egypt after arriving at Cairo International Airport, where authorities have informed her that she is to be deported. Security sources at the airport told Egyptian state news agency MENA that Al-Khawaja's name had been put on the airport's entrance-ban list by Egyptian security authorities. The activist is expected to be deported to Copenhagen, Denmark on Sunday evening. Al-Khawaja is a prominent Bahraini human rights activist and head of the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights (BCHR)'s foreign relations office. The BCHR was originally founded by her father, Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja, who is currently serving a life sentence in Bahrain for so-called crimes against the state. Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja's case drew international attention in February of this year when he launched a hunger strike to protest his ongoing detention. During a previous visit to Egypt in April, Mariam had come close to being deported, but Cairo airport security had ended up allowing her entry into the country at the last minute.

Three Shias, five others gunned down in Balochistan

The Express Tribune News
Three Shias were gunned down on Monday in Quetta, a police official said. According to police officer Zakir Ali all three of them were killed in a sectarian drive-by shooting. Balochistan is a flashpoint for sectarian violence involving majority Sunnis and minority Shias that has left thousands dead since the 1980s. Earlier late Sunday, gunmen shot dead five people in attacks on two buses in Bolan as rebels staged a strike to mark the death anniversary of tribal chieftain Nawab Akbar Bugti, officials said. According to police official Iftikhar Bugti, five people including two women were killed in the incident. There was a “complete strike” in Quetta and several other districts on Sunday, local police chief Wazir Khan told AFP, with shops and markets closed and traffic brought to a standstill. The halt was called by Balochistan Republican Party (BRP) leader Brahmdagh Bugti to mark the sixth anniversary of the death of his grandfather Akbar Bugti, who was killed in his mountain hideout during a military operation in 2006. BRP spokesman Sarbaz Baloch claimed responsibility for the shooting. “We had launched an appeal for a complete strike and the buses bound for southern Sindh and central Punjab provinces had ignored our appeal. We therefore opened fire on them,” he said in a telephone call to AFP. Police and residents said Sunday’s strike was almost complete across the impoverished and insurgency-hit province, with 21 out of 30 districts affected. People blocked roads and erected barricades in several places on highways leading to Iran, Karachi and other important cities, they said. The strike was endorsed by other political and religious parties in the province, with around 300 people demonstrating in Quetta to demand the extradition and trial of former military ruler Pervez Musharraf for ordering the operation in 2006. Baloch rebels rose up in 2004, demanding political autonomy and a greater share of profits from the oil, gas and mineral resources in the region, one of the most deprived in Pakistan. Bomb blasts and attacks on police and security forces are frequent in the province.

Pakistan court gives prime minister more time to resolve corruption dispute

Taliban behead 17 at Afghan party 'with music and dancing'

Taliban Islamist insurgents beheaded 17 civilians, including two women, who were holding a party with music in a southern Afghanistan village, officials said Monday. "I can confirm that this is the work of the Taliban," the Helmand provincial governor's spokesman Daud Ahmadi told AFP, referring to the hardliners notorious during their rule for public executions and the suppression of music and parties. "Two women and 15 men were beheaded. They were partying with music in an area under the control of the Taliban," he said. Nematullah Khan, the Musa Qala district chief confirmed that the villagers had organised a party with music, and one local official said he suspected that the two women had been dancing. Secret parties with dancing women from a gypsy-type tribe are common across southern Afghanistan. During their 1996-2001 rule in Afghanistan the Taliban, waging a fierce insurgency against the NATO-backed government of President Hamid Karzai, also tried to stop the mixing of men and women who were not related. The latest atrocity happened near Zamindawar village, an area on the border between Kajaki and Musa Qala districts where the Taliban are active. The insurgents have in the past been blamed for beheading local villagers, mostly over charges of spying for Afghan and US-led NATO forces. Haji Musa Khan, a tribal elder in Musa Qala district, said the region had seen a surge in such killings in recent months. "We had three people beheaded during the month of Ramadan. Another person, the son of a tribal elder, was beheaded recently," he said. Khan said the killings followed major military operations by Afghan and NATO troops in the area. Hours after the beheadings, Taliban insurgents overran an Afghan army post in the same province in a pre-dawn attack on Monday, killing 10 troopers, authorities said. Four soldiers were wounded and six others were missing following the attack in Helmand's Washir district, senior regional police officer Colonel Mohammad Ismael Hotak told AFP. Ahmadi confirmed the incident and said the attack was an "insider" plot in which some army soldiers helped the rebels attack the post. "The Taliban attacked a post in Washir and killed 10 soldiers. Four other soldiers were wounded and five others have gone with the Taliban with their guns," he said. "It was an insider plot." If it is confirmed that the attack was facilitated by soldiers it will mark a new escalation in a string of insider attacks on Afghan and NATO security forces. Two NATO soldiers were killed Monday when an Afghan army soldier turned his weapon against them in a "green-on-blue" attack in eastern Laghman province, the US-led International Security Assistance Force said. "ISAF soldiers returned fire and killed the attacker," ISAF said. The latest NATO deaths take the toll from insider attacks this month alone to 12 and to a total of 42 this year, making up around 13 percent of all NATO deaths in 2012. NATO, which has about 130,000 troops in Afghanistan, has struggled to stem the attacks and they have become a major issue in the Afghan war, eroding trust between the two forces.

27 Afghans, 2 US soldiers killed in attacks

Associated Press
Attackers hit international forces, the Afghan army and Afghan civilians in two days of violence that by Monday morning had left 29 people dead — two of them Americans soldiers killed by an Afghan colleague. In the deadliest attack, insurgents beheaded 17 Afghan civilian for taking part in a music event in a Taliban-controlled area of southern Afghanistan, officials said. The attack happened Sunday night in Helmand province's Musa Qala district, said provincial government spokesman Daoud Ahmadi. All of the bodies were decapitated but it was not clear if they had been shot first, Ahmadi said. The victims were part of a large group that had gathered for a celebration involving music and dancing, said Musa Qala government chief Neyamatullah Khan. He said the Taliban slaughtered them to show their disapproval of the event. Information was only trickling out slowly because the area where the killings occurred is completely Taliban controlled, Khan said. Then on Monday morning, two American soldiers were shot and killed by one of their Afghan colleagues in the east, military officials said, bringing to 12 the number of international troops — all Americans — to die at the hands of their local allies this month. But Afghan officials said Monday's attack in Laghman province was a separate case from the rash of recent insider attacks on international forces, because it appeared to have been an accidental shooting. When the group of U.S. and Afghan soldiers came under attack, they returned fire and ran to take up fighting positions, said Noman Hatefi, a spokesman for the Afghan army corps in eastern Afghanistan. But an Afghan soldier fell and accidentally discharged his weapon, killing two American soldiers with the errant rounds, he said. "He didn't do this intentionally. But then the commander of the unit started shouting at him, 'What did you do? You killed two NATO soldiers!' And so he threw down his weapon and started to run," Hatefi added. The U.S. troops had already called in air support to help with the insurgent attack and the aircraft fired on the escaping Afghan soldier from above, killing him, Hatefi said. NATO spokesman Lt. Col. Hagen Messer of Germany confirmed that two international soldiers were killed by an Afghan soldier in Laghman province, but declined to give further comment. Insider attacks have been a problem for the U.S.-led military coalition for years, but it has exploded recently into a crisis. There have been at least 33 attacks so far this year, killing 42 coalition members, mostly Americans. Last year there were 21 attacks, killing 35; and in 2010 there were 11 attacks with 20 deaths. Meanwhile, Helmand officials reported that 10 Afghan soldiers were killed in an attack on a checkpoint in the south, and five were either kidnapped or joined their assailants. Ahmadi, the provincial spokesman, said insurgents attacked the checkpoint in Washir district Sunday evening. Another four soldiers were wounded he said. Ahmadi did not provide details of the attack. He said the five missing soldiers left with the insurgents but it was unclear if they were kidnapped or went voluntarily.


Some political leaders had been raising the controversy of annexed territories of Afghanistan by the British colonial rulers for which Baloch should not be blamed as they had no hand in keeping the territories of Afghanistan with Balochistan. Rather General Yahya Khan should be blamed for not merging the annexed territories of Afghanistan with nearby FATA or Waziristan. Neither Baloch had claimed on the annexed territories of Afghanistan, or they are interested in the resources of that territory for any reason. It is a fact that Baloch nationalists never fought for Parliamentary seats in northern Balochistan, mainly in former Afghan territories, allowing the Pakthuns to retain their seats in the assemblies. On the contrary, the Pakhtuns are a serious economic burden on Balochistan as they are exploiting our resources and taking tens of billions of rupees every month on the pretext of development funds and administrative expenditure. For the past half a century, the Mulla had monopolized the development spending and keeping the portfolio of Planning and Development for the disadvantage of Baloch areas, to be precisely specific. Billions and billions are being spent on constituencies of Mullas and at the cost of the Baloch people and their rich resources. It must be stopped by merging the annexed territories of Afghanistan with FATA till such time both Pakistan and Afghanistan settle all their outstanding issues and disputes, including territorial disputes. All the Government servants, including doctors, engineers, judges of the superior courts and others should be asked to report to the FATA Secretariat to serve their Pakhtuns sparing Balochs. It is a good decision that the National Assembly is forming a commission demarcating the boundaries of the new provinces, including Seraiki Province, and the same commission should be asked to re-demarcate the former Afghan territories and merge it with FATA if the local residents were reluctant to remain with KPK for economic and social reasons. The same commission should re-demarcate the boundaries of existing provinces merging Dera Ghazi Khan, Dera Ismail Khan, whole of Jacobabad District and its surrounding historical Baloch territories with Balochistan and merging the Annexed Afghan territories with FATA. The Commission should be asked to create natural and national provinces by re-demarcating the provincial boundaries on ethnic, cultural and linguistic basis and to the satisfaction of Baloch and Seraiki people. It is regrettable that some vested interests in the pay of the security establishment are trying to create differences between the Balochs and Pakhtuns in Balochistan. Off and on they raise non-issues at the behest of their masters as they had no scope in politics as Mullas had been recruited permanently to serve the establishment in Balochistan, if not in KPK. The JUI is well entrenched in Balochistan politics as it is getting billions of funds to invest in their respective constituencies ousting PMAP and others. PMAP and ANP is no match to power and influence of the JUI in the present context. Generally, people are not taking the politics of PMAP seriously as it never addressed the serious issues and resorted to slogan mongering using catchy slogans for the lumpen elements in some cities. Long ago, it deviated from serious politics and failed to address serious political and constitutional issues. Second rank PMAP leadership is totally blank unable to understand the political, social, economic and other issues of the masses. It was due to the brain drain as most seasoned political workers preferred to go on sideline if they had not changed their loyalties. They created a vacuum in the ranks of party workers and depending on people who lack basic knowledge about the area, politics, economics and social issues. That is why, no individual is authorized to issue a statement and their views are dispatched to the newspaper offices through a centralized Press release issued from the Central Party office. Even journalists are barred from covering their meetings asking them to print what the Party office provide them material through a Press release. It is the level of confidence on the provincial leadership, not to speak of the district leadership.

blasphemy law victim: The little girl Ramsha

Nothing brings Pakistan more negative publicity, particularly from the Western media, than cases of sectarian strife and interfaith mistrust that keep rearing their ugly heads in myriad ways. Earlier this month, it was the news of the 'exodus' of some Hindu families who had fled interior Sindh as they felt insecure and unprotected that went viral at home and abroad. Then there was this killing of some two dozen members of the Shia community as they were on way to their homes in the Northern Areas to celebrate Eid with their families. And now it is the detention of a Christian girl from the slums of the Capital on charge of blasphemy. And all this are not first-time happenings; Pakistan today is virtually a killing field of the undefended, be they members of rival religious sects or non-Muslims. In the case of Christians, the Zia-vintage blasphemy law is a handy weapon, as is the case of 11-year-old Ramsha, who is accused of burning some pages containing texts from the Holy Quran. Some say she is a mentally challenged child and was not expected to be doing what she allegedly did. Some others say she is victim of a conspiracy hatched by local landowners to kick out the Christians from their shanties, given that the area adjacent to posh Islamabad sectors, has become quite expensive. And there are also some that say that all of it was a small issue between two neighbours, a Christian and a Muslim, and was about to be resolved when religious zealots entered the scene and whipped up frenzy against the members of the Christian community accusing them of committing blasphemy. As to what actually happened remains a mystery, even after more than a week. Not that the local police is incapable of going behind the optics, or the doctors cannot judge how old the girl is and if she is normal. On the face of it, the truth in the matter is deliberately being concealed. If that is the case, we would mourn the helplessness of the concerned officials. Or, is it that challenging the religious fanatics is beyond the capacity of the police and its affiliates, who are tasked and fully empowered to ensure law and order in the country. If only these people had moved quickly and prevented things from coming to a boil. But many other sections of society, too, are responsible for incidents like this happening so regularly. One, the parliament owes it to the people of Pakistan to suitably amend the relevant parts of the blasphemy act and the Pakistan Penal Code to restore it to its pre-Zia pristine form which reflected interfaith harmony and made us a tolerant society. Two, the leaders representing various sects and faiths in the country have to take up the cudgels to fight for intra-faith and interfaith harmony. They must come forward and snatch back from the extremists and zealots their role as leaders of their respective faiths and sects. Unfortunately, this is not being done; they prefer words over actions, shrinking from their duty to guide the masses. Interfaith harmony, peaceful coexistence and respect for others' faith are quintessentially part of every religion. If that's no more the case in Pakistan, then the blame for the abysmal failure lies at the door of the religious leaderships. If Ramsha's case has been blown out of proportion it is only because that local administration failed to come to grips with the reality on the ground. Consider, the man who is supposed to have blamed the girl for the blasphemy is missing from the scene, not that he is afraid of her people, but of the extremists who now hold the field. Ideally, the local administration should have moved post-haste, but that was not done. Now that the All-Pakistan Christian League has demanded a high court-level judicial commission, it should be done. Equal access to prompt justice is every Pakistani's equal right, and members of minorities are as rightful Pakistanis as any Muslim in this country. That a little girl rots in jail is understandable, given the bitter truth that the Islamabad police cannot protect her. What a pity.

Pakistan: Blows against terrorists

In a series of blows against terrorists, Afghan and Pakistani, on Saturday, a sudden flurry of successes triggers thoughts on what this means for the struggle against terrorism on both sides of the Pakistan-Afghanistan border. First came the news that a drone strike in North Waziristan had killed Badruddin Haqqani, the financier of the dreaded Haqqani network, considered responsible for some of the most high profile attacks on western and Afghan forces inside Afghanistan. The source of the news was Pakistani intelligence officials and terrorist sources. The US, which could have been expected to quickly claim the success as a significant blow to the operational functioning of the Haqqani network, retained discreet ambiguity by neither confirming nor denying the information. This unexpected circumspection could be because past claims of success were later refuted or proved false, or even a tactical low key approach, given the current sensitivity surrounding drone strikes on Pakistani soil, an issue resonating between Islamabad and Washington these days. Badruddin Haqqani was reportedly a younger son of the leader of the network, veteran Mujahideen fighter Jalaluddin Haqqani. He was widely believed to be the finance and smuggling in-charge of the network, reportedly often travelling abroad to raise funds from friendly states and non-state supporters. If the news of his killing proves accurate, it would represent a significant blow against the network, against whom the US has been pressing Pakistan for a military operation, so far resisted by the Pakistani military. The second bit of news was even more intriguing than the one about Badruddin Haqqani. It said Mullah Dadullah, a commander of the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) had been killed along with 12 bodyguards in the eastern Afghan province of Kunar by a NATO air strike. Eastern Afghanistan generally, and Kunar province in particular, are believed to be the safe havens and operational bases of the TTP after it was driven over the border by the Pakistani military’s offensives in Swat and South Waziristan initially, and follow up operations in other Agencies of FATA subsequently. Since the withdrawal of US and ISAF forces from these eastern provinces of Afghanistan, the area is believed to be in the control of the Haqqani network, which therefore now stands accused of working against its erstwhile mentors in the Pakistani military establishment by supporting the TTP that has declared war on the Pakistani state. Now, therefore, if he has been killed by a NATO air strike inside Afghanistan, does this signal a new level of cooperation between the US/NATO and Pakistani forces? Inevitably, there is a discreet silence on all sides on this aspect, so as to maintain plausible deniability by the Pakistani military of any notion of ‘joint operations’ in the border area. NATO did reveal through a statement that Mullah Dadullah was responsible for the movement of fighters and weapons, as well as attacks against the Afghan and coalition forces. Here then, is an example of congruence of interests as far as the target was concerned, and quite possible effective sharing of intelligence. The result is a body blow to the TTP and its friends amongst the Afghan Taliban. The third item worth considering is the attack on a military check post in the Mohmand Agency, which was beaten back without any casualties. Some media sources have reported the attack as emanating from ‘Afghan terrorists’, presumably misled by the place across the border from where the attack originated. However, this is far from clear, given that the area s across the border house TTP elements who arguably would have more interest in attacking the check post, in line with previous such forays, rather than some real or imagined ‘Afghan terrorists’. Further news reports stated that TTP commander Wajeehuddin Mehsud and his collaborator Maulvi Abdul Qadir, a prayer leader at a local mosque, were arrested from a house in Nowshera. Last but not least, 28 terrorists of the Pakistani Taliban were killed in Bajaur by Pakistani troops backed by a local pro-government Aman Lashkar (peace militia) after a rocket attack. This series of successes on both sides of the Pakistan-Afghan border may be signs of closer cooperation between the two ostensible allies fighting terrorists in their own theatres. However, judgement should perhaps be suspended for fear that this may the proverbial single sparrow that does not a spring make. If the pattern is repeated and/or continues, one could perhaps argue with greater confidence that the logic of cooperation between Pakistan and the US/NATO forces is finally starting to take hold after a particularly fraught year and a bit. If so, this can only be welcomed, since the forbidding terrain of the border area suggests only such cooperation can yield success.

Pakistan: Religious groups make inroads into education sector

After mushroom growth of seminaries, organised religious groups and some alleged extremist outfits are now making significant inroads into the education sector by opening and operating English medium schools in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Fata to compete with the conventional private educational institutions. According to some educationists, religious groups changed their strategy and focused attention on English medium schools, vocational institutions and universities when seminaries came into limelight and were blamed for producing extremists. The Jamaat-i-Islami (JI) and Tanzeemul Madaris (Barelvi) have set up separate bodies for overseeing their affiliated English medium educational institutions. Maulana Abdul Malik, head of JI-affiliated Rabitatul Madaris in Mansoora, Lahore, said that a body with the name of Dar-i-Arqam had been established to look after English medium schools. He said that around 150 private schools were functioning in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa under the supervision of Dar-i-Arqam. Besides it, two more JI-affiliated chains — Hira and Iqra — have also their networks of schools and colleges. The Barelvi school of thought is also running English medium schools and colleges across the country. According to Maulana Fazl Jamil, the sect is running network of private schools under the supervision of four different bodies — AIMS, Mustafvi Model Schools, Muslim Hands and Minhajul Quran. Jamaat ud Dawa is also running about 30 English medium schools in the province, but it has a bigger network in Punjab. JI has taken lead over other religious organisations and sects in education sector. The party has one medical college and one dental college in Peshawar with full-fledged teaching facilities. In addition, well-off persons and families affiliated with JI and other religious groups have set up universities, vocational and technical colleges. The number of English medium schools in the province is around 5,500 compared with the number of registered seminaries that is 7,400. However, information reveals that the number of English medium schools is increasing as religious groups have started intervention in the modern education system. Some educationists say that religious sects’ intervention in private sector education of the country will be very dangerous for a polarised society, which has already been divided on sectarian grounds. The acting vice-chancellor of University of Peshawar, Dr Qibla Ayaz, expressing reservations over mushroom growth of seminaries and educational institutions, run by different sects, said that it was responsibility of the state to provide education to people. “When state fails then other groups start filling the vacuum which is very dangerous,” he observed. He strongly opposed intervention of religious groups in education system, saying those groups were basically indoctrinating children instead of educating them. “Opening of education institutions by religious groups or by their affiliates would further divide the society instead of cohesion,” said Dr Qibla Ayaz, who also teaches Seerat Studies at the university. A senior official, while commenting on the issue, said that English medium schools run by religious organisations were producing graduates, who were basically mullahs, but they wore three-piece suits. Inclination towards religious education has not decreased in the region. Few years ago there were only few hundreds registered seminaries in the province. The provincial industries department had registered 300 seminaries by April 2005 and the figure rose to 2,450 in May 2006. But now the number has reached 7,400. Maulana Fazl Jamil, provincial chief of Tanzeemul Madaris Board, said that abject poverty, a chance of free education and growing anti-Americanism were major factors owing to which number of seminaries in the region had considerably increased. Wafaqul Madaris al Arabia Pakistan, which regulates seminaries of Deobandi school of thought in the country, has the largest network of seminaries in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Fata. Wafaqul Madarris (Deobandi) Board, according to a list, has enlisted 3,395 seminaries both for males and females in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Fata having 556,199 students. Tanzeemul Madaris (Barelvi) Board is managing some 600 seminaries in the province with roughly 50,000 students while JI-affiliated Rabitatul Madaris Board has 500 seminaries with 50,000 students. Shia and Ahle Hadit have also separate boards for managing affairs of their affiliated religious institutions. Both sects have small number of seminaries. Jamaat ud Dawa, a charity body-cum-jihadi outfit, has around 50 seminaries in the province. Seminaries attached with all sects are being run on donations, Zakat and Ushr, but fee is collected from students in their English medium schools. The provincial government provides Rs20 million grant annually through Auqaf and religious affairs department to registered seminaries. But the department has no data of the registered and unregistered seminaries and number of students and teachers there. Minister for Religious Affairs Namroz Khan said that his department had no record of the seminaries. Home Secretary Mohammad Azam Khan said that the issue came under discussion in cabinet meeting and it was proposed to maintain proper record of seminaries. Mutahidda Majlis-i-Amal government through department of schools and literacy had conducted survey of seminaries in 2005 that put the number of seminaries in the province at 4,680 having 183,140 students including females. Seminaries functioning in Fata are unregistered because government is yet to extend Societies Act to the area. A cell has been set up in the directorate of education, Fata to enlist seminaries in the area. Officials said that 318 seminaries were enlisted in Fata and government had allocated Rs9.6 million in 2011-12 to provide assistance to those seminaries. About 48,318 students have been enrolled in these enlisted seminaries. Under the project some of the enlisted seminaries have been provided teaching staff, computers and other basic facilities. A hostel for girl students studying in a seminary in South Waziristan Agency has also been constructed.

Why Pak can’t bring about change in blasphemy law
Imran Khan says Pakistan’s blasphemy law is necessary. He says it is a British law and thinks in its absence people would be lynched and there would be anarchy, because it is an emotional issue. The stern law therefore also helps those accused of blasphemy. Is he right? Let us consider the law. Only seven cases of blasphemy were registered in undivided India and Pakistan from 1927 to 1986, according to a group of Pakistani Christians. The National Commission for Justice and Peace says that in the last 25 years, 1058 cases of blasphemy were registered. Of the accused 456 were Ahmadis, 449 were Muslims, 132 were Christians and 21 were Hindus. Non-Muslims, who are four percent of Pakistan’s population, are 57 percent of those charged with blasphemy. The other aspect is that by far the majority of cases are filed in Punjab. India and Pakistan share their penal code, which was given to us by Macaulay in the 1860s. Pakistan’s primary law on blasphemy is the same as India’s law, which I wrote about yesterday.Pakistan’s section 295-A reads: “Whoever, with deliberate and malicious intention of outraging the religious feelings of any class of the citizens of Pakistan, by words, either spoken or written, or by visible representations insults the religion or the religious beliefs of that class, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to ten years, or with fine, or with both.” Both in India and Pakistan, this law is secular and applies to all faiths. The only significant difference in Pakistan’s law is the punishment, which in India is only three years. In 1982, President Ziaul Haq introduced an ordinance that added a section to this law. Section 295-B reads: “Whoever willfully defiles, damages or desecrates a copy of the Holy Qur’an or of an extract therefrom or uses it in any derogatory manner or for any unlawful purpose shall be punishable with imprisonment for life.” It is difficult to see what new element this added which was not covered by 295-A, except that it is specifically a law that protects Muslim sensibility, and the punishment is increased. Under prime minister Muhammad Khan Junejo another addition to the blasphemy law was legislated in 1986. Section 295-C reads: “Whoever by words, either spoken or written, or by visible representation or by any imputation, innuendo, or insinuation, directly or indirectly, defiles the sacred name of the Holy Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) shall be punished with death, or imprisonment for life, and shall also be liable to fine.” This also was already covered by the original secular law. And again, here the punishment was increased, this time delivering death. Till this change came, the number of blasphemy cases, to remind the reader, was only seven in 60 years. Therefore Imran Khan is wrong to say the anti-blasphemy law is helpful in keeping peace. The truth is the opposite: Pakistanis have registered so many cases since 1986 because the Islam-specific laws 295-B and 295-C are being deployed. It is often said that property disputes or personal enmity are the reasons for many of these cases, because people can be charged on the basis of hearsay. If this were the case, the law would be misused in India also, which it is not. My view is that it is strong religious sentiment that is the reason why so many Pakistanis are accused of being blasphemers. President Musharraf said he would look into softening the law, but couldn’t. Sherry Rehman tried to introduce a change in the law and failed. Why? I would say that it is not possible for the state to bring change over an unwilling population. Punjab’s Muslims have defied the state on religion before. Emperor Bahadur Shah I (Aurangzeb’s son) was unable to get the Lahore Jama Masjid to recite the khutba because the word “wasi” was added by him to the name of the fourth caliph, Ali. Wasi means heir, and Shias use the word to suggest that Ali was the only rightful heir to prophet Muhammad, not the first three caliphs whom the Sunnis regard as legitimate. The khutba, which is a formal sermon delivered on Friday, proclaimed the emperor as head of state and was therefore important as a sign of his sovereignty. The emperor had an angry showdown with four sullen clerics in his tent, demanding they comply. In Bahadur Shah’s view the additional word was not against any specific Sunni practice. The clerics did not back down and, supported by the Afghans in Punjab, threatened civil war. A crowd of 100,000 civilians gathered to fight the state. In all the rest of India the khutba continued to be read in the prescribed form except Lahore. The emperor had to back down and finally the khutba was read on 2 October, 1711 without the word wasi. There is no chance that the state will be able to undo the two changes in Pakistan’s blasphemy law.

Pakistan: Wahhabi group releases video of beheading 2 Shia Muslims

The Wahhabi Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ) terrorist group has released a gruesome video of beheading two Shia Muslims in Pakistan. The Pakistani group first published the video titled “Revenge” last Thursday night on the Wahhabi terrorist Seminary Jamia HafsaUrdu forum and then distributed the film on other Wahhabi-Nasabi jihadist forums. In the video, the Shia victims, Shaheed Haseeb Zaidi and Maulana Nooruddin, with their hands tied behind their backs were accompanied by four masked members of the group. The Lashkar-e-Jhangvi terrorist group is believed to be linked to Pakistan’s Taliban and most militant attacks on Pakistani Shias are conducted by the group. The notorious group is regarded as al-Qaeda’s muscle in terror attacks and has an extensive network in Pakistan. This is while unknown gunmen killed at least three Shia Muslims from Hazara community and injured two others in southwestern Balochistan province of Pakistan. The incident occurred when the assailants opened fire at a taxi on Spini road of Quetta town on Monday. The gunmen fled the scene following the attack and no group has yet claimed the responsibility for the offensive.

Javed Hashmi announces to expose PML-N leaders

In a bid to level the field for the upcoming elections, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) President Makhdoom Javed Hashmi has announced that he would expose the leadership of Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N). Talking to the media, he said that it was the Sharif family which had escaped to Saudi Arabia after signing a deal with former military ruler General (Retd) Pervez Musharraf. “At difficult times, it was I along with my son and daughter who faced imprisonment and difficulties”. Hashmi, who was a senior leader of the PML-N until he joined hands with PTI chief Imran Khan, said that eight leaders of the PML-N had adopted the National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO) introduced by Musharraf. The PTI President said that senior PML-N leader Khawaja Mohammad Asif went to Dubai after the military coup and started working in a bank. Another close aide of the Sharif brothers, Ahsan Iqbal also went to Dubai. He reiterated that he would start exposing the wrongdoings of PML-N leaders, adding that his revelations would force them to leave Lahore. Hashmi said that Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif could only stage a “topi drama” by setting up camps, but could not resolve issues in reality. He observed, “The process of change had started and that the PTI was not afraid of threats from the PML-N, and would confront it squarely. It is giving a new color to politics, and asked the leaders of other political parties to follow suit and declare their assets”. Earlier, Hashmi dared Opposition Leader Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan to face him and alleged it was he (Nisar) who pit Gen Musharraf and Nawaz Sharif against each other and paved the way for martial law in 1999. He noted, “Chaudhry Nisar is responsible for the imposition of martial law in the past and he was also against the nuclear tests”. Reiterating his stance, he questioned why doesn’t Nawaz Sharif take the writer, who accused him of corruption, to court? The PTI President was of the opinion that Nawaz Sharif was enveloped by members who had left the party in difficult times and are now acting as party’s front-men.

Pakistan PM wins time in legal wrangle over president

Pakistani Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf
Monday won a few more weeks' breathing space in a long-running legal wrangle over the reopening of graft cases against President Asif Ali Zardari. The Supreme Court ordered Ashraf in July to comply with an order to write to authorities in Switzerland asking them to reopen multimillion dollar corruption probes investigating the president. Ashraf's predecessor, Yousuf Raza Gilani, was thrown out of office for refusing to write to the Swiss and the court has made veiled threats that the new premier could suffer the same fate. The court had given Ashraf until August 8 to indicate whether he would write to the Swiss before adjourning the case to try to find a way out of the saga, which has dragged on for two and a half years. On Monday Judge Asif Saeed Khosa adjourned the case again, to September 18, after Ashraf pledged to find a way to resolve the standoff. The government has resisted judges' demands to reopen investigations into Zardari, arguing he enjoys immunity as head of state. Earlier this month the Supreme Court struck down a new law passed by parliament that sought to exempt members of the government from contempt trials, clearing the way for legal proceedings against the premier. The showdown could force elections before February 2013 when the government would otherwise become the first in Pakistan's history to complete an elected, full five-year mandate. During a 45-minute address to the court, the prime minister said he was determined to find a way to bring an end to a chapter that has caused turmoil in Pakistani politics. "I will make all out efforts to bring an end to uncertainty that prevailed in the country," he said. "It is my firm belief that it is not in Pakistan's interest to linger on this issue. I am ready to give a positive commitment to this court that I will resolve this issue." Government lawyers last month said the court's order to write to the Swiss was "un-implementable" as it ran contrary to the constitution, which grants immunity to Zardari against trial in any court while he is president. Critics of the judiciary and members of Zardari's main ruling Pakistan People's Party accuse the court of overstepping its reach and waging a personal vendetta against the president. Experts say that if Ashraf does not satisfy the court, he risks being indicted for contempt, precipitating the second trial against a sitting prime minister in months. The allegations against Zardari date back to the 1990s, when he and his late wife, former premier Benazir Bhutto, are suspected of laundering $12 million allegedly paid in bribes by companies seeking customs inspection contracts. In 2009, the court overturned a political amnesty that froze investigations into the president and other politicians, ordering that the cases be reopened.