http://news.yahoo.comNot every kid gets asked for his birth certificate by the president of the United States. But that's what happened to a Florida lad, Andre Wupperman, when he met Barack Obama at a Florida sports bar and family joint on Saturday.
Saturday, September 8, 2012
indiatimes.comEven before the first things were put in fine print and signed, media in Pakistan on Saturday gave a thumbs-up to the visit of external affairs minister S.M. Krishna visit to Pakistan saying that both countries had reached a milestone. The context was India and Pakistan finally agreeing to sign the much-awaited visa accord, which will mark a big change in the visa regime and make things simpler for the common people of both countries. Leading newspaper, The Dawn, which carried a lead story Friday saying that Krishna was arriving amid "low expectations", too lauded the ground covered by both countries to arrive at the visa pact. It talked about the "liberalised visa regime" being signed. Most newspapers, English and vernacular, had the visit and the visa pact as their lead story with enough space being devoted to related stories, including Krishna's meetings with top political leaders and even his panel discussion with Pakistani media. The News daily said that both Pakistan and India appeared "upbeat" after talks at the foreign secretaries' level here Friday. It spoke of the eight categories for which the visa regime will be liberalised, including group tourist visas, on-arrival visas for over 65 years, 36-hour transit visa, five-city visa for businessmen and visas for civil society, media, diplomatic and non-diplomatic categories. The newspaper, quoting diplomatic community in Pakistan, said that they were "expressing cautious optimism" about the latest developments but added that "continuation of talks between the two countries is itself an achievement". In another story on Krishna's panel interview with Pakistani media, The News quoted Krishna saying: " All problems cannot be solved in one go. India has always taken the position of following a step-by-step movement and that is the approach we are taking right now." India's desire to see a stable and peaceful Pakistan is "not only encouraging but a key to many outstanding issues that need resolution sooner rather than later", said the Daily Times in an editorial. "The issues besetting the two countries are well known and have been talked about plenty of times," it said, adding that terrorism, water disputes and Kashmir have been highlighted in the foreign secretary level talks held Friday. The daily observed that "with the realization finally dawning on India and Pakistan about the importance of interdependence within the present global context, the much sought after development in the visa regime is set to materialise with the signing of a liberalised visa issuance policy by the foreign minister of Pakistan Hina Rabbani Khar and Krishna".
Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) chief Altaf Hussain called an emergency workers’ conference in Karachi on Saturday. In his telephonic address, Hussain alleged that the Pakistan Muslim League – Nawaz (PML-N), along with the “so-called” Sindh nationalist parties, wants to break Pakistan but the MQM will not let PML-N’s dream come true. “The PML-N has looted the rights of people in Seraiki and Bahawalpur provinces. Altaf Hussain, till his last breath, will fight for the rights of the people in South Punjab and Hazara,” he vowed.
By Kiran NazishIn Pakistan a mosque is not the house of God, but the house of a sectarian God. Although Muslim sects across the world have their own separate mosques for the reasons of Imamat, procedure and methodology of prayers, no one is ever stopped from entering a place of worship or called a Kafir inside one just because they do not come from the same sect. Recently, I was told by a non-Sunni friend how he was tormented by fellow worshipers at a Sunni mosque during Friday prayers. He was on the road and getting late for jamaat (congregation), so he went for the nearest mosque he could find - only to discover later that he was a Kafir for doing so. He was identified as a Shia when he did not raise his forefinger for Shahadat during the prayers. We are led to believe that Pakistan is divided by its provincial politics, and our biggest insecurities come from India and the US, but some of the worst and the most real and physical crimes that people commit against each other in this country are based on religion. It is our pride in sectarian exclusivity that has valiantly strengthened our dissections. We sideline our minorities as people, because we fear them and they fear us. The only one being we trust and fight for is our exclusive sectarian God. Sectarianism divides our politics, our military, our media and even our militant groups. Eventually our people divide themselves. We have sectarian terrorist groups that are out to kill Shias and Ahmadis, so as to ensure their specific God's name is saved from the "evil of these sects". The most recent example of this phenomenon is the killing of over 200 people in sectarian violence in Gilgit-Baltistan on 28th February and 3rd April - including the selective slaughtering of more than a 100 Shias in one go. Looking for political mileage, Imran Khan blamed the PPP government for the violence in a statement on April 7. If at any point in this country's history, any politician had been genuinely concerned about sectarianism, we would not have been in the state we are in. In Gilgit-Baltistan, where Shias and the Sunnis once had intermarriages, community gatherings, and common hospitals and schools, they have separated their areas with precise boundaries. They cannot even use the same roads, markets and streets, let alone mosques. The entire politics of the region are sectarian based. Before partition, sectarianism was almost unidentifiable. Much of this could be because of the influence of Sufis and Pirs, but people were generally peaceful. In the contemporary Pakistan, things started changing and the sectarian divide increased between the 1950s and 1970s. It all started with the identifying of Ahmadis as non-Muslims, on which both Sunnis and Shias strictly agreed. Then a few Shia-Sunni clashes took place, but they seemed more politically driven and people remained genuinely peaceful amongst themselves. It was in January 2005 when Agha Zia-ud-din Rizvi, the popular and respected Shia cleric got killed that people were outraged and a real animosity was seen amongst them. Grave fear ran through the entire region. Sunni mosques were attacked, and there was an outburst of gunfire in different areas. Gilgit's polo ground was so volatile that army and paramilitary troops were called to cordon the area off and search for weapons. About 35 arrests were made, before Section 144 was imposed. But the arrested suspects were later allowed to go. And that is where the problem lies. Every time any arrests are made in G-B, the culprits are either facilitated in the escape, or are officially released. Both Sunni and Shia communities suffer because justice is not served. The second major issue is with the discourse. Every time there is violence and bloodshed, our intellectuals indulge in rants, discussions, op-eds and research papers on sectarian violence. There has been no study on what actually compels people from the same country and the same religion to kill each other. Since the media are not very efficient in the region and editors are based in bigger cities, there is a disconnect between the news desk and the on-ground situation. That allows for biased reporting, or in many cases, misreporting. When I compare the statistic of killings since the 1980s, I find a very close link between retaliatory Sunni killings in small tribal areas and Shia killings in major cities. In the case of Gilgit-Baltistan, Hangu and Parachinar - where Sunnis are in minority - Sunni killings are never recorded or reported, which makes it a challenge for anyone like me to even cite them. Shia killing are on a much greater scale and frequency but to understand what really exaggerates sectarianism in any place, is it not important to take into account both sides of the story? I have spoken to dozens of Shias, Sunnis and Ismailis from these areas, and they all have one thing in common - the fear of the other. Many families in G-B who have had Shia-Sunni intermarriages before the conflict worsened in the 1980s, have sent their children out to other parts of the country or abroad, because they feel threatened from both sides. Political negligence, lawlessness, military regimes, and terrorist attacks have caused sectarian hatred among the people, and we have started to worship our own sectarian Gods rather than one God. Yes, we wept with our Ahmadi brothers in the 2010 carnage, but we are still out to get them in schools, colleges and workplaces. We do cry over Shia killings in tribal areas, but still have no space for them in our mosques. I would end with an excerpt from a poem called Psalm by Iranian-born German poet SAID. Lord stay by me even if I nourish myself from ashes and salt be still and listen to that name which I lend to you because I want to distinguish you from the idols grant me patience to endure those who are vain with their empty words and the converts who are zealous to confirm their opposite and grant that my waiting be full of revolt Kiran Nazish is a journalist and activist. She is currently researching on difficult issues and areas of Pakistan. She tweets @kirannazish
A young Christian girl accused of blasphemy will need an armoured car and bodyguards to keep her safe once she is freed on bail, according to her lawyer.A Pakistani judge granted bail to Rimsha Masih on Friday, in a case that has attracted international condemnation and exposed the country's violent religious divide. The girl, whom supporters say is 11 and has learning difficulties, has been held in a high-security prison for three weeks since being accused of burning pages of religious script. In a sweltering courtroom in Islamabad, Judge Muhammad Azam Khan ordered her release and set bail at 1million rupees (£6,900). The decision is highly unusual in blasphemy cases. Such is the public hysteria, judges are under intense pressure to refuse bail and find defendants guilty. However, her lawyer said the decision came too late for surety to be paid and Rimsha would face one more night in prison.Tahir Naveed Chaudhry told The Daily Telegraph she would not be released until her supporters could guarantee her safety, which would mean an armoured car and armed guards. "We are working with the government and are confident we can keep her safe," he said. "She will be taken to a secret location and reunited with her family." Blasphemy suspects have been subjected to mob justice in the past. Two high-profile politicians were assassinated last year after they demanded reform of the controversial law and the release of Asia Bibi, a Christian woman sentenced to death. This time around Rimsha's youth and learning difficulties have led to more sympathetic coverage in local media and a less febrile atmosphere. Several influential clerics have offered support and asked for the case to be dropped. The breakthrough, however, came last weekend when three witnesses came forward to say they had seen the imam of a local mosque adding pages of a Koran to ashes in Rimsha's bag. Pakistan's minister for national harmony, whose brother was one of the politicians assassinated last year after calling for the blasphemy law to be reformed, said that the revelation would help protect Rimsha. "She will not face threats because everybody believes she is innocent," said Paul Bhatti, adding that he was working with the interior ministry and police to ensure Rimsha's safety. Her parents have already been taken into protective custody at a secret location. Alice Jay, of the campaign group Avaaz, welcomed the decision. "Now she and her family and community must be protected from mob violence, and the authorities should initiate a full review of the blasphemy laws that led to this childﾒs terror," she said.
By Malik Siraj AkbarThe Baloch nationalists are debating among themselves whether or not to participate in the upcoming general elections. So, is Balochistan’s political landscape going to change if the nationalists return to parliament? All nationalists are not on the same page on this crucial question, nor are they all equally capable of normalising the situation in the province. The moderate National Party (NP), which boasts about its middle class composition, has publicly acknowledged that it committed a “blunder” by boycotting the 2008 elections because they were immediately replaced by local rivals from the Balochistan National Party-Awami (BNP-Awami). In March 2009, the NP eventually returned to parliament by getting its leader, Hasil Bizenjo, elected as a senator with the help of the PPP, the PML-Q and some independent MPAs. The Balochistan National Party (BNP) has still not decided to contest elections but its decision is very critical. The BNP, headed by former chief minister Sardar Akhtar Mengal, is caught up in a dilemma for three reasons. Firstly, Baloch armed groups oppose the idea of elections, integration and reconciliation with Islamabad. The BNP is not a contributor to the armed insurgency. Street politics is its strongest point and a decision to participate in the elections will directly pit it against the hardline Baloch groups. Secondly, the party fears its exiled president will be assassinated on his return to Pakistan, just like Habib Jalib, the party’s secretary general. Opposition to General (retd) Pervez Musharraf had landed Sardar Mengal in a Karachi jail for 20 months. Thirdly, the BNP blames the security establishment for creating anti-nationalist underground armed groups such as the Baloch Musla Defai Tanzeem to attack the anti-government nationalists. This group has killed several senior BNP leaders, including three members of its central committee. It seems impossible for the BNP to run a safe election campaign under constant fear of assault and disruption by armed groups allegedly affiliated with the intelligence agencies. The BNP will probably participate in the elections only if powerful elements in the security apparatus assure them that no more attacks would be carried out on the party’s leaders and activists during the election campaign. Participation in the polls, nonetheless, does not guarantee nationalists’ landslide electoral victory. They are very likely to lose for the following reasons. The nationalist parties have not exercised street politics for the past many years. The absence of key leaders such as Sardar Mengal of the BNP has totally disconnected the ordinary Baloch voter from their leaders. These parties also did not show any interest in the preparation of the voters’ lists. Their rural voters are not even listed nor do many of them possess computerised identity cards. Political parties normally require at least one year to prepare for the elections whereas the Baloch nationalists do not seem to have fully completed their homework yet. Furthermore, there is simply no ‘sympathy vote’ in Baloch districts for the nationalists. The ‘kill and dump’ policies, for which intelligence agencies and the Frontier Corps are blamed, have increased support for armed groups among ordinary Balochs. They look at parliament and elections as a source of further strengthening the power of the state. The relatives of the killed or disappeared political activists support insurgent groups, instead of pro-parliament parties, in reaction to the killing of their loved ones. Finally, Baloch tribal chiefs from the PPP, the PML-Q and the BNP-Awami have accumulated so much wealth from the official treasury that it is practically impossible for the nationalists to have the same amount of finances to run election campaigns. Access to official machinery further benefits the current legislators against the nationalists. The elections will be a futile exercise if there is no change in the current composition of the Balochistan Assembly. The status quo did not change after the 2008 elections and a similar outcome this time will further block a ballot-driven solution for the Balochistan conflict. The government should make sure that intelligence agencies do not finance and influence the elections so that neutral results are achieved. (Courtesy: The Express Tribune)
What is all this hullabaloo about? While the ruling PPP contends it is contacting all the opposition parties on the interim government to ensure credible elections, one strand of the PML (N) confirms it is talking but its stalwart Chaudhry Nisar insists it is not. But why all this shrill? Why this silly cacophony at all? What will change even if the elections are held? Will not the same pedigrees, the same patriarchies and the same dynasties make to the legislatures and to the governments? Over these past decades, has it not been so after each and every election held during the period? Then how do the sages preach that things will change if elections are held uninterruptedly? And why would it be any different this time round? Have the entrenched dynasts released their parties from their strangleholds and turned them into open houses to the commoners to get in and secure berths in the legislatures and the governments? Have the fat-bellied landed aristocrats and gluttonous nouveau riches freed the nation’s politics from their clenched fists and thrown it open to the commoners for the talented and meritorious from amongst them to emerge to lead and guide the nation? You must be joking. It is the status quo that is in rule. And reign and rule it will in future too. Even the rising star has demonstrated it conclusively that he too is actually a man of the status quo, not of change. Not only has he embraced warmly every traditional political player walking over to his tent. He has shown no streak in him to go for a change. Never ever has he spoken of land reforms or land redistribution to liberate the huge lot of peasantry living in the suppressive serfdom of exploitative and oppressive landed aristocrats. Not even has he made this part of the economic agenda he has announced recently. Nor has ever made mention of the emancipation of the extremely promising and talented Baloch youths struggling to get out of the enslavement of unshakably-embedded sardars and chieftains who behave as if they have the divine right to keep the Baloch commoners in their perpetual slavery. Little wonder, then, hoi polloi across the spectrum are no part of this silly cacophony. Nowhere are they huddling or crowding any street corners to talk of the upcoming election. For these din-makers, the impending poll may be an event; after all, they are after the booties and bounties of the power lustily and hungrily. But for the masses, the coming election is just a non-event when it promises that it is only the elites that will once again rule and reign over them to the complete disinterest in their good and wellbeing. So, they are not talking elections when these promise not a commoner like Atal Bihari Vajpayee or Manmohan Singh will emerge to lead them and their country to progress and advancement. But it will be a Zardari, a Mian, a Gilani, a nawab, a jaghirdar or a robber baron sitting on their thin necks to belabour them. So, they give a damn to what the sages say about frequent elections throwing out the rotten eggs and ushering in sincere and public-spirited leaders. Their practical experiences tell them that the sages are plainly lying, only indulging slyly in their pep talk to burnish their spurious credentials of being wise men. And they give too hoots to the bickering going on between the political players over the interim government to hold free, fair and transparent elections. The masses know for a fact that whether foul or fair, the elections will throw up the same elite group to divvy up the power pie amongst itself, leaving them high and dry to nurse their grievances unattended and all alone, as now. Presently, they are going through hell. Neither their lives are secure, nor do they have the means to live a livable life. Yet the political players are hardly pushed about their painful woes. They are engrossed wholly in their own power games. Verily, for its own shenanigans the political class has forfeited for all times the people’s all trust. They distrust it; they abhor it, and they hold it in deep scorn. And they know for a fact that it would once again foist on them a plutocracy, not a democracy, whose meaning this class even doesn’t know. So, why should they become part of any silly cacophony of this class? And part they actually are not. The partisans are playing their symphony in a void, with no listeners at all on the street. What a pity!
The Express TribuneSave the Children has strongly reacted to allegations that it supported the CIA in its efforts to find Osama bin Laden in Pakistan. “A section of the press on Thursday cited allegations that Save the Children was involved with the CIA and Dr Shakeel Afridi in their effort to locate Osama bin Laden. We categorically deny these allegations,” it said in a statement on Friday. There is absolutely no truth to these allegations and there is no concrete evidence to support them, the organisation said. “We reiterate, Save the Children has never conducted a vaccination campaign in Abbottabad or in any other part of the country nor has provided any support to any other individual or organisation to carry out any vaccination campaign, the statement said.