Saturday, December 22, 2012

Wish you a merry christmas

Pakistan: Christmas dinner with Special Children
Under the auspicious of Global Human Rights Association Alliance (Pakistan) Christmas Dinner / Celebrations had organized with the Special Children at Dar-ul-Sukun 159/H/3 Kashmir Road, PECHS Karachi, Pakistan on 20-12-2012. The Special Children sung Christmas Songs which the audience appreciated. Renowned Poet and Evangelist Benjamin Pascal Adeel was the Chief Guest, other than MPA Pitambar Sehwani and MPA Saleem Khursheed Khokhar, Chairman Standing Committee on Minorities Affairs and President All Pakistan Minorities Alliance Sindh were also present. Chief Guest said that he found talent in special children and requested both the parliamentarian to voice in the floor of Sindh Assembly for special children / disable person’s quota, he said that the grant may also be given for their education. He suggested that a Desk for Special Children may be established by GHRAA. He said that the main aim of Jesus Christ to come in this world to help the humanity, he gave voiced to deaf, eyes to blinds. Jesus Christ shows many miracle between the special people. Before this, Ms. Jacqueline Sultan Chairperson of GHRAA addressed that their association has been focusing on Blasphemy Law and forced marriages, she said the dream of Saleem Khursheed Khokhar is now becoming true. Sister Ruth, Pitambar Sehwani were also delivered their views. MPA Pitambar Sehwani said that in the Darul Sakun he saw Quaid-e-Azam Pakistan where all the community children / people have been given facilities. In the end MPA Saleem Khursheed Khokhar and founder member of GHRAA thanked to all the people to attend this program with special children. He said that their association is struggle for the rights of the special children, poor, oppressed and religious minorities, so that their rights may be protected and may be given to them. He wished Marry Christmas and New Year.

India considers death for rapists
INDIA is considering using the death penalty to punish rapists as police fired tear gas to quell the most violent day of demonstrations against the brutal gang-rape of a young woman. Struggling to subdue mounting protests in the capital, Home Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde said the Congress-led government would look at "enhanced punishment in the rarest of rare rape cases" -- a reference to capital punishment. The current maximum penalty for rape is life imprisonment and "it (the death penalty) will have to be discussed in detail," Shinde told a news conference late on Saturday.
Thousands of protesters, many of them college students, converged at the India Gate monument in the heart of the capital in the biggest of nearly a week of demonstrations since the assault took place last Sunday. They then surged toward government buildings and the sprawling presidential palace, shouting "We want justice" and "Stop this shame" and remained late into the night as doctors said the victim was in critical but stable condition.Some carried banners that read: "Hang them (the rapists) now" and clashes erupted when a group in the crowd tried to break through police barricades and march towards the president's house. Some people hurled stones.
Some 20 students were injured in the clashes and taken to hospital, the Press Trust of India reported, while opposition party leaders condemned the police use of force to subdue the crowds. Shinde said the government was determined to make the country safer for women and appealed to demonstrators to disperse, saying, "You have shown your solidarity" with the 23-year-old rape victim. Six drunk men were joyriding in a bus last Sunday when they picked up the physiotherapy student and her 28-year-old male companion. They took turns raping her before throwing the pair off the speeding vehicle. During her ordeal, the victim was attacked with an iron rod, causing serious intestinal injuries. Six men have since been arrested. Police said the woman had given a "fearless account" of the attack from her intensive care bed. The attack was the latest in a series of violent assaults on women in the capital and elsewhere in the country that have triggered demands for stricter laws and swifter prosecutions. The attacks have broken the silence that has traditionally surrounded rape in India where victims of such assaults are often deemed to be dishonoured and unsuitable for marriage. Doctors said the condition of the woman was improving. "She is doing much better than yesterday. She took sips of water and apple juice," B.D. Athani, medical superintendent of Safdarjung Hospital, said. The victim is "very brave, positive and optimistic", said another doctor, Abhilasha Yadav. Sushma Swaraj, a leader of the opposition Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), has demanded the death penalty for rapists while another senior BJP figure Ravi Shankar Prasad said New Delhi is becoming India's "rape capital". India has only executed two people since 2004 -- one of those being Mohammed Kasab, who was the sole surviving gunman from the 2008 Mumbai attacks. The number of rape cases in New Delhi has risen by nearly one-fifth to 661 this year from a year ago, according to government figures, the highest among India's big cities. Experts say a combination of abusive sexual behaviour, a scant fear of the law and India's creaky judicial system encourage such attacks in the bustling city of 19 million people.

Iowa Supreme Court: OK to fire 'irresistible' worker

Obama starts Hawaiian vacation, leaving Washington on ice

Taking what promised to be a very brief Christmas break from the ongoing struggle to avoid the "fiscal cliff" of tax hikes and spending cuts, President Barack Obama relaxed with his family on Saturday at a beach retreat in Hawaii.
Congress was to return to Washington next Thursday and Obama has pledged to work with lawmakers to strike a deal to avoid the economic shock from tax and spending measures set to take effect on January 1 if a deal can't be reached, which many economists say could push the U.S. economy back into recession. The president is expected to indulge in some of his favorite pastimes on the island where he was born and raised: golf, an expedition for the local treat "shave ice," and an evening out with family and friends. He hit the links at the nearby Marine Corps base under sunny skies on Saturday afternoon. On Sunday, he is expected to attend funeral services for Senator Daniel Inouye, the long-serving Democrat from Hawaii who died on Monday, but the president has no other public events on his schedule. On Saturday, Democratic Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said he had urged Hawaii Governor Neil Abercrombie, a Democrat, to name Inouye's successor "with due haste." "It is critically important to ensure that the people of Hawaii are fully represented in the pivotal decisions the Senate will be making before the end of the year," Reid, of Nevada, said in a statement.
Obama's idyll was not expected to last more than four days, and he will likely retrace the more than 4,800-mile trip from the Aloha State to Washington after Christmas in a bid to cut a deal with Republicans, who failed on Thursday to agree on competing tax and spending bills of their own. Before leaving Washington on Friday evening, Obama urged Congress to come up with a stopgap measure to spare the U.S. economy the jolt of $600 billion in tax increases and spending cuts economists say would likely derail the economy. The president asked lawmakers for a stripped-down deal to continue lower tax rates on middle income earners and extend unemployment insurance benefits to avoid some of the worst effects of the "fiscal cliff" in the new year. Obama's family holiday, in a quiet beach front community on the other side of the island from bustling Honolulu, should also provide some respite from the somber focus on the Newtown, Connecticut, school massacre and the consequent bitter debate over measures to change America's gun culture and prevent violence. The president's weekly radio and Internet addresses, which in recent weeks have centered on his argument for extending tax cuts for all but the wealthiest Americans, on Saturday offered holiday greetings to U.S. military forces.

UN chief strongly condemns suicide blast in Pakistan

UN Secretary-general Ban Ki- moon on Saturday strongly condemned a suicide bombing in Pakistan that killed 10 people including a senior provincial minister. "The secretary-general strongly condemns the terrorist suicide bombing that killed Mr. Bashir Bilour, a prominent Pakistani politician and senior minister in the government of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province," said a statement issued here by Ban's spokesperson. "He conveys his sincere condolences on this tragic loss," the statement added. In the statement, the UN chief also reiterated the strong support of the world body for the efforts of the government and people of Pakistan to combat the scourge of terrorism. Ten people were killed and at least 17 others injured in the suicide blast that hit a political gathering in Pakistan's northwest city of Peshawar on Saturday evening, according to media reports and UN information. The 70-year-old Bilour was a leader of the Awami National Party (ANP), the ruling party in the northwestern Pakistani province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. The Taliban has reportedly claimed responsibility for the attack.

Measles outbreak in Sindh: More than 30 children died in 20 days

More than 30 children have died during the past 20 days of measles in upper Sindh. The villages of Salehpat, including Sobo Mahar, Masoo Dhondho, Tarai and Gagro, are the worst affected. The Executive District Officer (EDO) of Health, Dr Jay Ram Das, told The Express Tribune that cases were reported in Khairpur a month ago, and it spread to Sukkur later. Teams from the health department have vaccinated more than 6,532 children. Ten children passed away in Kandhkot recently but some of the deaths were from high fever and pneumonia, and not measles. According to the EDO, teams from the World Health Organisation and the United Nations Children’s Fund visited some villages in Kandhkot and took 135 samples. These samples were analysed in Islamabad and only nine tested positive for measles. Teams have been facing resistance from some parents. The villagers adhere to Hindu beliefs which state that a goddess enters the child during this period and using medicine may offend her. They believe that she would leave the child’s body on her own, and the child only needs to abstain from wearing red or eating red meat. Specific bhajans are also sung to the affected child. Dr Jay Ram Das criticised the prevalence of old customs and methods of treatment in villages. He said that some people didn’t even know the difference between a qualified doctor and a quack. He also advised that parents should not hide their children during visits from the vaccination teams or take them to hakims. Earlier, parents in Khairpur district refused medical help for measles believing that the disease was a test of faith. These Muslim families believe strongly in the Hindu mythology that the high fever and the red spots are signs that goddess Mata Rani has taken over the body of the children. Due to this, the parents did not allow the doctors provide vaccinations to their children. According to Thari Mir Wah Taluka Hospital superintendent Dr Qurban Sahito, the people in far flung areas still adhere to old customs and beliefs of the Hindu mythology even though most of them are Muslims, he explained, adding that they spend five to seven days chanting songs to appease the goddess after which the child health is restored. Explaining the ritual, a resident of Thul, Mukhi Baksho Mal, explained that when Mata Rani takes over a child, he/she should be treated very politely. During the stay of the goddess, the child should not be given any kind of meat or fish and only served vegetables and boiled rice. The families also sing hyms to appease Mata Rani. Mal also explained that Hindus avoid giving medicines to children suffering from measles and prefer using their faith during the healing process.

Waiting for Malala to grow up

By: Abbas Nasir
WHEN the state and the political elite of the country cannot be on the same page even on how best to deal with an existential threat to it, is there a point in debating anything else? The Taliban and their various franchised terror groups keep attacking at will, killing innocent, unarmed men, women and children. And we cannot respond because there isn’t a ‘consensus’ on how to. The state of Pakistan continues to resemble a crumbling edifice. Today, it is an assault on an airbase, tomorrow on school-going girls. Then, a girls’ school is blown up, a bus is stopped, with Shia passengers identified, pulled off and executed. Condemnation follows. Both from you and I. And from those whose responsibility it is to safeguard the life and limb of every citizen. But if we cast our eye over the past so many years we see very little beyond words. When it appeared the army may have been prepared to somewhat distance itself from its obsessive belief that the jihadi ideology coupled with nuclear weapons and conventional forces offered the most robust defence of the country, the civilian political elite balked at the prospect of a clean-up. To some action against militancy was an ideological issue so they opposed it, others let anti-Americanism dominate their response while some felt that any such an exercise would jeopardise or at least delay the next general election due in the coming months. Swat’s Malala Yousufzai was shot and wounded in October. The attempt on the life of a teenager for the crime of wanting to go to school was justified by the Taliban ‘because she represented and promoted western culture/values’. The outrage was spontaneous, widespread but to no avail. As November was drawing to a close, 12-year old Mehzar Zehra was gravely wounded in an armed attack when she was being driven to school by her father in Karachi. The ostensible reason for this attack was that they were Shias. And December saw multiple attacks on women in Karachi and Khyber Pakthunkhwa in which a number of them were killed. What did Naseem Akhtar, Kaneez Fatima, Madeeha, Fehmida and others have in common? They were poorly paid (on a daily wage of Rs250) health workers contracted to visit dozens of homes a day to make sure children received their polio vaccine drops. Given the security environment generally and specific threats to polio workers their work was marked by valour. Experts say the exercise involves in excess of 80,000 workers with some 33 million children to be vaccinated. Now the fate of the programme is in limbo. Who’d blame the health workers if not a single one ever agreed to step out of their home for the vaccination programme? Let me declare a personal interest here. I contracted polio when I wasn’t even three. I can walk on my own but have restricted mobility. In the early 1960s the knowledge of the virus and its symptoms was so sketchy that I was ill for a number of weeks before a diagnosis was made. I was fortunate in having devoted, doting parents (and lovely siblings) who spared neither effort nor whatever little material resources they had to ensure my upbringing in an environment free of complexes, sent me to good schools and supported me hugely in early life. The best orthosis was always fitted no matter how they had to cut corners elsewhere to be able to pay for it; the best physiotherapy was made available. The list is endless and I could go on about how blessed I was after my initial misfortune. But that isn’t the point. Even with a middle-class family, its values, resources and an indescribable amount of love behind me, life wasn’t (and isn’t) easy. When you are growing up and all the children around you can run while all you do is watch, imagine the frustration every day. Although I have always believed I am more ‘normal’ than many able-bodied people, it is also a fact that when you go through most physical activity, and I am not talking competitive sport here, at about a sixth or a tenth of the pace of the rest of the world, you are always playing catch up. Boy it gets exhausting. Sometimes you just want to stop. That’s me. Imagine the life of a polio victim in a poverty-stricken environment. With physical disability would inevitably follow challenges in earning a livelihood through manual labour. A begging bowl and reliance on others the next step. Today such dilemmas are easily avoidable but we have created a society where the simplest of issues become the most complicated, with the result that we don’t shy away from putting even our children at risk. The reader, one is certain, must get fed up when all columnists do is write laments, pen elegies and practically little else. I have often wondered if among the handful of readers who still read the op-ed pages of a newspaper there is growing irritation at the subject matter of columns such as these. One so wishes to focus on the positive, but also has to reflect reality which keeps getting direr all the time. One can only ignore that at the risk of appearing delusional. Let me sound positive for a change. A befitting response to the attackers would be for the president, the governors, the prime minister, the chief ministers along with their cabinet members, opposition politicians and the military leaders to go to each attack site and personally administer drops to the children there. Now wouldn’t that be an uplifting, positive sight? But I suspect it can only be a reality when 15-year-old Malala and others like her grow up and assume leadership roles in Pakistan for that sort of courage and conviction is nowhere in evidence right now.

N.R.A. Call to Guard Schools Is Criticized as Too Simplistic

The National Rifle Association’s blunt call on Friday to train and place armed guards in every school in the nation as a way to “protect our children right now” has brought a divergence of opinion from school officials, teachers, parents and police officials. But even those who said they might support some increased police presence on campuses as part of a broader safety strategy pointed out that the group’s proposal was far too simplistic. “It’s not that they’re simply there if something terrible happens,” said Martin Miller, a math teacher at Hyde Park High School in Chicago, which has three armed police officers assigned to the building. The officers, he explained, are working to diffuse potential conflict within the schools as much as to protect students from outside intruders. One also doubles as a wrestling coach, Mr. Miller said, and the officers spend time with students serving as de facto counselors or social workers. “In a lot of ways, I feel like our school is safer than a lot of other schools,” Mr. Miller said, adding that the school also had metal detectors at every entrance. “But as a whole, just having a police officer or an armed guard or someone with a gun is not going to stop the violence. I think it’s a lot more complicated than that.” While about a third of public schools nationwide have armed guards on campus, those who do not say they worry that allowing police officers with guns in schools would be far more destructive to the day-to-day culture of schools than any benefit they might bring in protecting against the worst-case scenario. “To have an armed guard at every school completely sends the wrong message in so many ways about what schools are about,” said David Fleishman, superintendent of the Newton Public Schools in Massachusetts. He added that in extensive discussions with principals, local police, parents and elected officials over the past week after the tragic shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary in Connecticut, “not a soul” had requested that the schools hire armed security officers. When the Cleveland school district overhauled its safety program a few years ago, it decided not to arm the 145 security officers stationed in school buildings. David Osher, director of the human and social development program at the American Institutes for Research, who advised the Cleveland district on safety, said that an armed guard does not necessarily make a school safer. “In theory what the N.R.A. is saying is we want to put someone in so that if somebody breaks in, we’ll shoot him down and everything will be fine and the only person that will be shot is the person breaking in,” he said. “In reality, the problem is you might shoot someone who isn’t in fact breaking in or you might shoot somebody else — a student or a visitor or a teacher or other adult who is doing something else that is inappropriate that is perceived by that person as being threatening.” And many opponents of the rifle association’s proposal pointed out that a security guard at Columbine High School did not prevent the tragedy there, and that even trained New York City police officers shot and injured nine bystanders in August in their pursuit of a gunman outside the Empire State Building. As a practical matter, placing trained professional security officers in all of the country’s schools would be costly, and it is not clear that there are enough people who could even do the job. There are currently about 99,000 public elementary and secondary schools in the United States, along with about 33,000 private schools. According to the Department of Justice, there were 452,000 full-time law enforcement officers across the country in 2009, the latest year for which data is available. Craig Steckler, president of the International Association of Chiefs of Police, called the rifle association’s proposal unrealistic and probably unwise. Putting at least one officer in each of the nation’s schools could mean hiring as many as 100,000 people, he said, expanding the ranks of state and local officers by one-quarter. Qualified applicants, he said, are already scarce. “My city has 32 elementary schools, 5 middle schools, 6 high schools, and that doesn’t include private schools,” said Mr. Steckler, the police chief in Fremont, Calif., a city of 214,000 people. “My patrol force is 89 officers on all shifts. Where are we going to get 40-some additional officers?” “I just don’t believe that putting more guns on the campus is a solution,” he added, saying that chiefs would rather see more resources devoted to mental health care and the control of assault weapons. Another tier of the rifle assocation’s plan would make use of local volunteers serving in their own communities. The group proposed that it could train volunteers, like retired police officers or military personnel, to serve as school guards. Others said that even school staff could be trained. “I have been saying for years that schools should have personnel, whether it is a janitor or a principal, who are armed,” said John DeLoca, a father of a teenager and two other grown children who owns the Seneca Sporting Range in Ridgewood, Queens, and is a licensed gun dealer and an N.R.A. certified firearms instructor. “We have fire extinguishers all over the place and hopefully we never have to use them. In the same way, we need trained armed personnel at schools.” Joseph Dedam, 16, a junior at Elizabethtown-Lewis Central School in Elizabethtown, N.Y., said the proposal “is proactive. Right now, the best a school can do is have the teachers lock the classroom door and have the kids try to hide in a corner. But this is a situation where you can’t fight fire with water. You need to fight fire with fire.” He added, “you would not want a school official who is scared of a gun or not fully trained to have one.” But a number of parents objected to the notion of a school staff member or a volunteer carrying a gun anywhere near their children. “If we’re going to do this — which I don’t know that we necessarily should — they should be paid professionals,” said Dave Lamb, a research physicist in St. Paul, who has two daughters in elementary school. Other parents regarded the proposal as simply missing the point. Picking up her children from a Washington, D.C., elementary school on Friday, Courtney Carlson, a business consultant, said she felt “so totally outraged when I stepped into the school thinking that was the solution to a totally messed up problem.” “I think crazy people who get access to high capacity-rifles want to cause mayhem,” added Ms. Carlson, a mother of three whose two eldest attend school. “Someone who has a gun that can shoot 200 rounds in under 10 minutes — you don’t stop that person unless you don’t let the person have that kind of gun.”

Saudi Arabia: Website Editor Facing Death Penalty
Saudi authorities should immediately drop all charges against the detained editor of a website created to foster debate about religion and religious figures in Saudi Arabia. On December 17, 2012, the Jeddah District Court, which had been hearing the case against the editor, Raif Badawi, referred it to a higher court on a charge of apostasy, which carries the death penalty. The charges against him, based solely to Badawi’s involvement in setting up a website for peaceful discussion about religion and religious figures, violate his right to freedom of expression. “Badawi’s life hangs in the balance because he set up a liberal website that provided a platform for an open and peaceful discussion about religion and religious figures,” said Eric Goldstein, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. “Saudi Arabia needs to stop treating peaceful debate as a capital offense.” A member of Badawi’s family told Human Rights Watch that during the December 17 hearing, Judge Muhammad al-Marsoom prevented Badawi’s lawyer from representing his client in court and demanded that Badawi “repent to God.” The judge informed Badawi that he could face the death penalty if he did not repent and renounce his liberal beliefs, the family member said. Badawi refused, leading Judge al-Marsoom to refer the case to the Public Court of Jeddah, recommending that it try Badawi for apostasy. Prior to the December 17 hearing, Badawi had been charged with “insulting Islam through electronic channels” and “going beyond the realm of obedience,” neither of which carries the death penalty. A different judge, Abdulrahim al-Muhaydeef, presided over five sessions of the trial but was replaced without explanation for the December 17 hearing by Judge al-Marsoom. Saudi law derives from principles of Islamic Shariah, which are not codified and do not follow a system of precedent. As a result, individual judges are free to interpret the Quran and prophetic traditions – the two agreed-upon sources of Shariah – as they see fit. With the exception of a few crimes – including the capital offense of apostasy – judges essentially can interpret offenses to fit facts rather than assessing whether facts fit a clearly defined offense. Saudi judges also frequently convict people who engage in peaceful criticism of religious or political authorities on vague charges, including “going beyond the realm of obedience.” Security forces arrested Badawi, a 30-year-old from the port city of Jeddah, on June 17. Badawi in 2008 was co-founder of the Free Saudi Liberals website, an online platform for debating religious and political matters in Saudi Arabia. On the website, Badawi and others had declared May 7, 2012, a day for Saudi liberals, hoping to garner interest in open discussion about the differences between “popular” and “politicized” religion, Su’ad al-Shammari, secretary general of the website, told Human Rights Watch. Human Rights Watch had previously called for al-Badawi’s release on the grounds that his arrest violated his right to freedom of expression. Based on a royal decree issued by King Abdullah in April 2011, all crimes related to insulting Islam by electronic means fall under the jurisdiction of a judicial council in the Ministry of Information. The council has the authority to refer cases directly to the king, who may “take measures in the public interest,” including referring cases to court. The judicial process against Badawi has not made clear what words or activities provoked his prosecution. However, international human rights law provides broad protection of the right to freedom of expression. It permits restrictions only in narrowly defined circumstances, such as speech that constitutes incitement to imminent violence. International norms provide protection for speech about religion, including speech that some may find departs from commonly held beliefs or insults a religion or religious group. Saudi authorities have harassed Badawi since he founded the website. In March 2008, prosecutors arrested and detained him for questioning but released him a day later. In 2009, the government barred him from foreign travel and froze his business interests, depriving him of a source of income, a family member told Human Rights Watch. His father and a brother have publicly distanced themselves from him and declared him an unbeliever, and members of his wife’s family also filed a suit in a Jeddah court to have him forcibly divorced from his wife as an apostate. His wife and children are living outside of the country. “Instead of protecting their citizens’ right to freedom of expression, the Saudi government has gone all-out against Badawi, to punish him and intimidate others who dare to debate matters of religion,” Goldstein said. “The authorities should drop the charges against him.”

Egypt's vice president resigns amid polls

Pakistan Says Ties With US Improving

Pakistan says its political and military ties with the United States are on the upswing after nearly two years of setbacks and crises. The country’s defense minister tells VOA that bilateral understanding has also improved on how to counter terrorism in Pakistani border regions and promote political reconciliation in neighboring Afghanistan. Bilateral cooperation has been gradually improving since July when Pakistan unblocked NATO supply lines into Afghanistan. The latest demonstration of normalizing ties came earlier this month when the Obama administration notified Congress it would reimburse nearly $700 million to Islamabad for the cost of conducting anti-terrorism operations on the Afghan border. Pakistani Defense Minister Naveed Qamar tells VOA his country hopes the United States will soon unfreeze other promised military aid to keep the momentum going. “Things have improved to quite an extent and I would venture out to say that we are back to where we were sometime back, where there is a constant cooperation between the two countries at various levels, political, military, intelligence and so on,” says Qamar. Pakistan had been receiving around $2 billion in annual security assistance from the United States, including the military reimbursements, called coalition support funds. But these payments had been held up because of diplomatic tensions over the U.S. raid that eliminated Osama bin Laden, and the killing of 24 Pakistani soldiers in a cross border NATO airstrike in November 2011. That incident had provoked Pakistan to block NATO supply lines and halt all anti-terror cooperation with the United States. For its part, the United States has been critical of Pakistan's refusal to mobilize troops against bases of the Haqqani network in the country's North Waziristan border region, a safe militant haven being used for cross-border insurgent attacks in Afghanistan. Better understanding in Washington Defense Minister Qamar says there is now a better understanding in Washington of his country’s reservations about an all-out war against Islamist militants on its soil. “In terms of when to do what, it is best left to those who are on the ground so that they can make a good judgment of whether a particular operation will be productive or counter-productive. We do see the U.S. moving closer to the Pakistani position but we need to work hand-in-hand to be able to come to the ultimate objective [of weeding out terrorism]” says Qamar. Pakistani leaders say that a renewed consultative process between Islamabad and Washington on how to promote Afghan political reconciliation also indicates convergence of views on achieving the common objective of ending the Afghan war. Islamabad is also apprehensive about an abrupt total pull out by foreign troops from Afghanistan without putting in place a stable political process. Qamar articulated those fears. “What we expect is that once the U.S. forces leave there should be forces left there that would be able to control the situation. It might be an internal compulsion of the United States government to speed up the withdrawal. But speeding up, again, should not result in a collapse.” Afghan diplomatic sources in Islamabad also agree that there are clear signs Pakistan has stepped forward to help facilitate the political reconciliation process inside the country. These sources believe this readiness appears to be driven by fears of a spillover of the conflict into Pakistan if the political system in Kabul collapsed following the withdrawal of foreign troops. At the request of the Afghan government, Islamabad has recently released about a dozen Afghan Taliban leaders from its jails to try to speed up the political reconciliation process and has promised to free dozens of remaining prisoners.

Obama's Weekly Address: The President and First Lady Extend a Holiday Greeting

Karzai Blames Foreigners For Corruption

Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty
Afghan President Hamid Karzai says foreign governments are to blame for widespread corruption in Afghanistan and are undermining his efforts to establish the rule of law. In a televised speech on December 22, Karzai said that local graft is negligible compared to the hundreds of millions of dollars paid by foreigners in suspicious deals. "The existence of corruption in Afghanistan is a reality; indeed, it is a bitter reality," Karzai said. "[But] the corruption in our governments' institutes, such as bribery, is a small part of the corruption. The biggest part of the corruption in our country, and that involves hundreds of millions dollars, does not belong to us. A huge part of the corruption is imposed on us in order to weaken our government. We are not to be blamed for that. That is not our fault." Speaking at a Kabul meeting marking the country's anticorruption day, Karzai stressed his government has to reform its administrative system and "pay enough salary" to government employees to fight bribery. "So far, I don't see signs of success in fighting graft or making government reforms," he said. "We are still depending on relations with foreign countries. In order to fight graft, we must reform our administrative system and make sure we pay enough salary to our employees and make sure their future is guaranteed. Then, of course, we can eliminate a big part of existing corruption in our country." Karzai accused foreigners of giving contracts to high-ranking Afghan officials or to their relatives in an effort to gain influence over the government, thereby paving the way for corruption. He said the withdrawal of NATO-led troops from Afghanistan in 2014 would help rid the country of corruption. Karzai that when "foreign forces have left Afghanistan…their contracts, their administration will gradually disappear." NATO has around 100,000 troops in Afghanistan fighting an insurgency by Taliban militants, but they are due to withdraw by the end of 2014. International donors have pledged billions of dollars in aid after NATO combat troops withdraw from Afghanistan but have conditioned payment on corruption being brought under control. Donors have said their efforts to stabilize Afghanistan have been hampered by endemic corruption and that the government has been unwilling to prosecute corruption cases involving political allies. Afghanistan is ranked one of the most corrupt countries in the world by Transparency International's Corruption Perception Index, published earlier this month.

Bashir Bilour.....Taliban silence another critic

Daily Times
Regarded a symbol of “anti-Taliban resistance”, Senior Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) Minister Bashir Ahmad Bilour succumbed to wounds minutes after a suicide bomber blew himself up leaving nine dead and 18 injured. “We lost a great leader,” said Awami National Party (ANP) President Asfandyar Wali Khan while paying tribute to the late party leader. The Saturday’s assassination of senior KP minister comes a week after an audacious attack on Pakistan Air Force (PAF) base inside Baacha Khan International Airport in Peshawar was foiled. Bashir Bilour was returning from a party meeting in Dhaki Nalbandi area near historical Qissa Khawani bazaar when he was attacked. He was immediately rushed to nearby Lady Reading Hospital from where his body was transported to home an hour later. Lady Reading Hospital Executive Director Dr Arshad Javed said Bashir Ahmad Bilour was brought to hospital “in critical condition” as he suffered chest and stomach injuries from the blast. The ANP leader was immediately operated upon to save his life. However, efforts of a team of doctors proved futile, leaving the country mourn the death of a fierce opponent of the Taliban. Bomb squad experts said the suicide bomber detonated his explosives when the ANP meeting was at its peak. “The suicide bomber walked into the house where the meeting was taking place and detonated his vest,” Shafqat Malik, chief of the bomb disposal squad, said. Zahidullah, 30, a shopkeeper in the area, said he was standing to Bilour’s rear when the bomber struck. “The meeting was about to finish when I heard a noise and soon afterwards I saw a blue flame and then the blast hit,” he told AFP. Peshawar SSP Khalid Hamdani also told reporters that the suicide bomber walked to join the ANP’s elections-related public meeting. Bashir Bilour had survived at least three such attacks in the past. Among the dead were Kabali Police Station SHO Sattar Khan and the late minister’s personal secretary Noor Muhammad. KP Information Minister Mian Iftikhar Hussain brushed aside impressions that Bashir Bilour was not provided enough security. “This is not true. Our security personnel are among the dead,” he told a private TV channel. The Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) claimed responsibility for the attack, justifying the attack in the name of “war” against “secular elements” in the country. The TTP said it had targeted Bilour in revenge for the death of one of their elders. “We claim responsibility for killing Bashir Ahmad Bilour. It is revenge for the martyrdom of our elder Sheikh Naseeb Khan,” TTP spokesman Ehsanullah Ehsan told AFP. Expressed his shock and grief over the killing of Bilour, Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf announced one-day mourning across the country today (Sunday). The national flag would fly at half-mast today, he said. The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government also announced three-day mourning across the province. Bilour’s funeral would be held at 2pm today and he would be buried at Syed Hassan Pirbiri cemetery in Peshawar.

Pakistan PM announces mourning on Bilour killing

Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf has expressed his shock and grief over the Shahadat of Senior Provincial Minister Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Mr Bashir Ahmad Bilour who lost his life in a terrorist attack in Peshawar on Saturday. Paying rich tributes to the services of Mr Bashir Ahmad Bilour, the Prime Minister said that he was a courageous person and sacrificed his life for his conviction. In a message of condolence to the family of Mr Bashir Ahmad Bilour, the Prime Minister said that "this is not a loss to his family or Khyber Pakhtunkhwa but a national loss". The Prime Minister prayed to Almighty Allah to grant his soul a place in Jannat ul Firdous and give fortitude to his family members to bear this immense loss. Asharaf also announced one-day mourning in the country on the tragic incident which claimed the life of the senior leader of ANP which is one of the allies of the ruling coalition.

Salute To Bashir Bilour: ''How much more?''

The Express Tribune
The death of senior ANP provincial minister Bashir Bilour, along with seven others, in a suicide blast at a party rally in Peshawar underscores yet again just how perilous it is to be a politician in Pakistan. Bilour was a staunchly anti-Taliban figure, one who made it a point to be the first on the scene of an attack. He and his fellow ANP politicians know how hazardous their line of work is and yet they remain the most committed to the fight against the Taliban. It would have been easy for Bilour and his ilk to cower in fear and hide behind hundreds of police escorts. Instead they took the fight to the Taliban and never shied away from their public duties. Bilour has become the latest martyr in our noble quest to defeat the Taliban and he should forever be remembered as a hero who set an example to other less courageous politicians. The ANP as a party has suffered tremendous losses in the war against terror and yet they have realised the follies of appeasement. Provincial information minister Mian Iftikhar was not only targeted by the Taliban but also had to suffer losing his son at the hands of the terrorists. Even pro-appeasement politicians like Maulana Fazlur Rehman, who is a borderline pro-Taliban figure, have figured on militant hit lists. The assassinations of Salmaan Taseer and Shahbaz Bhatti were also inspired by the same murderous mindset. Benazir Bhutto also disregarded the threat to her life and paid the ultimate price for standing up to the militants. Above all, there are the thousands of unnamed civilians who have been killed for no other reason but living in a country where a small minority which claims to speak in the name of religion has shown utter contempt for the tenets of that religion. Despite the murders, both of renowned politicians and the nameless, the military — the only institution capable of defeating the Taliban — has taken a head-in-the-sand approach. They see these thugs as assets to be used to further foreign policy interests in Afghanistan and India. The military’s first priority should be getting rid of this internal threat before it becomes an eternal problem. This means going into North Waziristan and any other safe haven the militants may have. It means securing our cities and protecting our elected representatives. Only then will Bashir Bilour not have died in vain.

Six-year-old girl, victim of a Taliban gunman in Afghanistan, comes to Long Island

Little Marizeh survived a horrific gun attack that killed her father and brother, but thanks to selfless New Yorkers, her face barely carries the scars of that fateful day.
A Taliban fighter aims his gun at the face of a 6-year-old Afghan girl, as she hides in her family’s car under the legs of her dead father. The gunman pulls the trigger. A bullet takes out her right eye — the same eye that just watched her father and brother die — before the gunman walks away, believing he added the small girl to his list of kills. Marizeh, who survived that horrific encounter, will never be reunited with her male family members, but thanks to selfless New Yorkers, her face barely carries the scars of that fateful day. Kaveh Alizadeh, a New York-based plastic surgeon, reconstructed her face Friday, three months after hearing about the ambush while visiting Afghanistan. The bullet entered her left cheek and exited her right temple. This completely destroyed her eye and severely impaired her ability to breath through her nose normally. “Half of the bullet had formed a complete scar down her airway and the middle of the face,” Alizadeh told the Daily News. Marizeh was brought to the United States as soon as a visa was secured. Alizadeh performed a surgery to correct the girl’s facial structure at Long Island’s South Nassau Communities Hospital. “We took her into the operating room and cleaned out all the scar,” Alizadeh said. “She actually did very well in the hospital and is going to go home this morning.”Alizadeh works for Mission: Restore, a foundation that provides free medical care and education for people with needs in the developing world. The medical treatment could have cost up to $100,000 otherwise. Marizeh, who was also given a prosthetic eye, is recovering at the foundation’s sister organization, the Global Medical Relief Fund on Staten Island. “They have a house there for kids like this,” said Alizadeh. “So she’s going to stay there to recover for the next two to three weeks.” Then Marizeh will return to her home country but the generous workers still fear for her safety, so they have changed her name and will not disclose the family member with whom she will live from this point forward. “They live in an extremely remote area in Afghanistan, which is pretty much controlled by the Taliban,” Alizadeh said. While in New York, Marizeh has been a cheerful and spirited girl, smiling as she cooperates with the medical staff — a far cry from the torment she endured months ago.

Benazir Bhutto's legacy five years on

The assassination of Benazir Bhutto five years ago sent shockwaves around Pakistan and the world. Her Pakistan People's Party has still not recovered. Benazir Bhutto, Pakistan's first female prime minister and the head of the Pakistan People's Party founded by her father, belonged to the fortunate few in Pakistan born with a silver spoon in the mouth. Her assassination on December 27, 2007 shocked the country and the international community. Political pundits and ordinary people drew their own conclusions;conspiracy theories abounded. A UN commission failed to bring about much clarity, and the current PPP government stands accused of not doing enough to solve the case. "The leadership vacuum created by Benazir's death has not been filled to date," political analyst Brig (Retd) Farooq Hameed Khan told Deutsche Welle. No novice Benazir Bhutto was no political novice. Her father Zulfiqar Ali Bhuttto remains one of the most important figures in Pakistani history. His daughter learned important lessons from his life and death.She followed the middle path at home but was not afraid to confront the military dictator Ziaul Haq, criticizing him in her 1988 election campaign. Her brave political stance secured her victory and she was able to strengthen her democratic credentials abroad. "She had an appeal within her party and outside," Pakistani political analyst Hasan Askari Rizvi told Deutsche Welle. "Her opponents also accepted that. She was Pakistan's identity internationally. No other Pakistani got as much global recognition as Benazir." However, here lies the dilemma of the political process in Pakistan. Electioneering based on personal charisma, the struggle against military dictatorship and the fact that she was the "daughter of a martyred father" did not suffice. To deliver on the national stage, Bhutto needed recognition from local power centers, which she was unable to secure during her two terms as head of government from 1988 to 1990 and again from 1993 to 1996. She was charged with corruption and in 1998 she went into self-imposed exile in Dubai.
Return to Pakistan
Benazir Bhutto returned to Pakistan only in 2007 after former President Pervez Musharraf issued the controversial National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO) that granted amnesty to politicians and bureaucrats accused of corruption.There was speculation that a grand coalition between the PPP and Nawaz Sharif's Pakistan Muslim League (PML-N) might be formed and that Benazir Bhutto might run for the premiership again although the federal constitution does not allow a third term. However, Bhutto's sudden death changed the whole scenario. There was a wave of sympathy for the PPP which won the election and Benazir Bhutto's widower, Asif Ali Zardari, became president. Rizvi says that her death had two consequences. "The positive impact is that people came to know that extremism was a threat and they should opt for democracy. The negative impact was that her death created a leadership crisis within the party, which isn't over yet." Zardari shares the leadership with his and his late wife's only son, Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari. However, neither of them have been able to build upon Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto's legacy as Benazir was able to. Observers continue to ask today whether Pakistan would be better off today if Benazir had not been assassinated. "She had more foreign policy experience than the present leadership," says Rizvi. "She would have shown effective leadership but other circumstances and players in domestic politics are also very important." "One can only speculate that with Benazir, Pakistani politics would have been a bit different, but not decisively."

MQM declares three-day nationwide mourning in Bashir Bilour’s honour

The Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) has announced three-day nationwide mourning in honour of Pakistan’s provincial minister Bashir Bilour who killed in a suicide blast in Peshawar earlier in the day. Talking to a local news channel, MQM leader Haider Abbaz Rizvi said his party would continue to fight terrorists and praised Bashir for his courage in the face of terrorism in the country. “Bashir Bilour’s martyrdom is a national loss and my leader Altaf Hussain and all party members stand by the Awami National Party (ANP) over the incident,” he said. Bashir and seven other people were killed when suicide bomber struck when the top provincial leadership of the ANP, who gathered at a meeting in the city of Peshawar, the capital of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province. Police said around 100 people had gathered for the meeting when the suicide bomber blew himself up.

Mob in Pakistan beats and burns a mentally unstable man accused of setting fire to the Koran
A mob in southern Pakistan stormed a police station to seize a mentally unstable Muslim man accused of burning a copy of Islam's holy book, beat him to death, and then set his body afire, police said Saturday. The case is likely to raise further concerns about the country's harsh blasphemy laws, which can result in a death sentence or life in prison to anyone found guilty. Critics say an accusation or investigation alone can lead to deaths, as people take the law into their own hands and kill those accused of violating it. Police stations and even courts have been attacked by mobs. Local police official Bihar-ud-Din said police arrested the man on Friday after being informed by residents that he had burned a Quran inside a mosque where he had been staying for a night. An angry mob of more than 200 people then broke into the police station in the southern town of Dadu and took the accused man, who they say was under questioning. Din said police tried their best to save the man's life but were unable to stop the furious crowd. He said that police had arrested 30 people for suspected involvement in the attack, while the head of the local police station and seven officers had been suspended. Past attempts by governments in predominantly Muslim Pakistan to review these laws have met with violent opposition from hardline Islamist parties.

President Zardari accepts Khosa’s resignation

Punjab Governor Latif Khan Khosa has submitted his resignation to President Asif Ali Zardari, which has been accepted by the later. Punjab Governor Latif Khan Khosa called on President Asif Ali Zardari in Karachi at Bilawal House on Saturday. Khosa reached at Bilawal house without his usual governor protocol; just five vehicles escorted him during his visit of Karachi During the meeting‚ both the leaders discussed the ongoing political situation in Punjab and future strategy for the province. According to media reports Sardar Latif Khan Khosa has submitted his resignation to the President which was accepted by the President. President Zardari praised the services of Khosa as Punjab Governor The Federal Law Minister Farooq H. Naik was also present on the occasion. Later on, Makhdoom Ahmed Mehmood, the expected new Punjab governor called on the president at Bilawal house. The president had summoned Makhdoom at Bilawal House where both discussed things regarding new Punjab Governor job. According to sources, PPP’s defeat in the recent by-polls in Punjab has irked the party leadership enough to take the decision. Yusuf Raza Gilani reportedly briefed President Zardari about Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz’s victory in the by-polls. Sources say the former premier held PPP’s lackluster campaign responsible for the rival party’s victory. They added that in addition to appointing Mehmood as the new Punjab Governor on Gilani’s recommendation, the President also decided to make the former premier responsible for the PPP’s campaign for upcoming elections.

Bashir Ahmad bilour embraced martyrdom

Senior provincial minister Bashir Ahmed Bilour was among eight people killed Saturday after a Pakistani Taliban bomber blew himself up near a meeting of the Awami National Party in Peshawar, the capital of northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province. Police and hospital officials confirmed that at least eight other people , including a police SHO and Bilour’s personal secretary, were also killed in the blast in the Dhaki Nalbandi area near the busy Qissa Khwani Bazaar. Bilour was critically wounded with injuries to the chest and stomach and was being treated in the operation theatre, a senior hospital official had earlier confirmed before senior minister passed away. According to details, the blast took place when senior leader Bilour and workers of the ANP, which is the largest and the ruling party in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, had congregated for a party meeting. At least 18 people were also wounded in the blast, hospital officials confirmed.

Asfandyar Wali: Demise of Bashir Bilour country's loss

Awami National Party (ANP) Chief, Asfandyar Wali termed the demise of Bashir Ahmed Bilour as the loss of the entire country and nation. Senior Minister Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Bashir Ahmed Bilour passed away in Peshawar's Lady Reading Hospital after receiving critical wounds in a suicide attack in Peshawar. Reacting to the assassination of his party's president of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Wali vowed to continue the fight against 'the terrorist mindset'. "ANP is rendering sacrifices for the motherland," Asfandyar Wali said, stressing that all the political forces will have to unite and evolve a joint strategy against terrorism. He said the terrorists are proudly claiming their involvement in terror activities. The ANP Chief said: "We should hold talks with the terrorists but if they refuse to participate in the dialogue, we will be left with no other option but to launch a crackdown on them."

(ZOMBIE)Taliban Claim Responsibility for a Bomb Attack That Killed a Pakistani Politician

The Pakistani Taliban claimed responsibility on Saturday for a suicide bomb attack that killed a senior politician in northwest Pakistan who was one of the group’s most vocal critics. At least eight other people were killed in the attack and more than 15 others were wounded, senior government officials and doctors at a local hospital said. The politician, Bashir Ahmad Bilour, was a senior minister in the northwestern Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Province, where the Taliban have a strong presence. Mr. Bilour was long on the target list of the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan, an umbrella organization of the Pakistani militant groups, for publicly denouncing them and challenging their violent policies. Mr. Bilour was coming out of a meeting of his Pashtun nationalist Awami National Party in the provincial capital of Peshawar, when the suicide bomber blew himself up, said the secretary of home and tribal affairs, Azam Khan. Mr. Bilour had been taken to the hospital in critical condition, said Dr. Arshad Javed, chief executive of the city’s Lady Reading Hospital. Among those killed were Mr. Bilour’s secretary and a police officer, Mr. Khan said. The provincial information minister, Mian Iftikhar Hussain, called for immediate action against militants in the nearby tribal region of North Waziristan, the safest haven for militants in Pakistan, saying it was time to take action against all militants. “Let there be no difference between good Taliban and bad Taliban,” he said. A security analyst, Asad Munir, a retired brigadier, said the attack would further complicate campaigning in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Province for a national election expected next year. He said that secular, liberal and nationalist parties would have a difficult time because they are on the Taliban hit list, and that, “Religious parties will take advantage of the situation.” Also on Saturday, police officials in the southern province of Sindh said that a mob had tortured and killed a man accused of burning the Koran, the latest in a series of violent episodes in Pakistan stemming from allegations of blasphemy. The killing occurred Friday in Seeta, a remote village in the Dadu district in southern Sindh Province. The village’s head cleric, Usman Memon, said charred remnants of the Koran had been found in the mosque that morning, and that the victim had been staying at the mosque alone. It is common for impoverished travelers and religious proselytizers to stay at mosques while traveling. The man, whose name was not known, was handed over to the police and accused of violating Pakistan’s blasphemy laws, Mr. Memon said. But as news of the episode spread later on Friday, an angry crowd gathered outside the police station and eventually forced its way in. The man was dragged out, tortured and killed, and his body was set on fire, according to the police. Usman Ghani, the district’s senior police superintendent, said that he had suspended the official in charge of the police station and filed administrative charges against seven other officers for negligence. He said that charges had been filed against 1,000 people believed to have participated in the mob action and that 150 people had been arrested. Little was known about the victim or what motive he was thought to have had for burning the Koran, if he did so. Cases of violence arising from blasphemy accusations appear to be on the rise in Pakistan. Human rights groups have said that most of those victimized are members of religious minorities, particularly Christians, but Muslims are sometimes accused. In a case similar to Friday’s, a mentally disabled man was beaten and burned to death in Punjab Province in July, also after an angry crowd broke into a police station. Blasphemy is a capital crime in Pakistan, and it is a highly delicate and emotional issue for the deeply conservative country. Calls for repealing or revising the blasphemy laws have met with strong resistance from religious leaders, who have organized large protests against efforts to amend them. Two prominent advocates of changing the laws were assassinated last year.

Bashir Bilour has been martyred in the suicide attack

Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Senior Minister
Bashir Ahmed Bilour and eight others were martyred in a suicide attack in Qissa Khwani Bazar of Peshawar on Saturday evening. According to reports‚ suicide bomber blew himself up soon after Bashir Bilour came out of the house of an ANP leader after attending the party meeting. Personal Secretary to Bashir Bilour and SHO Kabli Police Station Abdul Sattar Khan are also among the dead. Eighteen people have also been injured in the blast. President Asif Ali Zardari and Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf have expressed his deep sense of sorrow and grief over martyrdom of ANP leader Bashir Ahmad Bilour in a bomb blast in Peshawar. In a statement the President said the sacrifice of Bashir Bilour against terrorism would not go waste. The President said the entire nation is united against terrorism and its resolve would not weaken. He said political services of Bashir Bilour would always be remembered. President Zardari has telephoned ANP Chief Asfandyar Wali and expressed condolence over the death of Bashir Ahmed Bilour. President Zardari has also directed Interior Minister Rehman Malik to reach Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. Prime Minister said that he was a courageous person and sacrificed his life for his conviction. In a message of condolence to the family of Mr Bashir Ahmad Bilour‚ the Prime Minister said that "this is not a loss to his family or Khyber Pakhtunkhwa but a national loss". PPP Chairperson Bilawal Bhutto Zardari has also expressed grief and sorrow over the tragedy. Minister for Information and Broadcasting Qamar Zaman Kaira has said that politicians should follow the footstep of Bashir Bilour who steadfastly stood against terrorism. In an interview he condemned the terrorist attack and said there is need to strengthen unity in our ranks to face the challenge.

Peshawar: Bashir Bilour among seven killed in ANP rally blast

ANP leader and senrior minister Khyber Pakhtoonkhwa Bashir Ahmad Bilour could not surive the injuries after a suicide bomber blew hiself up in an ANP rally in Peshawar. Seven people were killed Saturday night when a powerful bomb exploded during the public meeting of ANP in Qissa Khwani Bazar.
SHO Sattar Khan was also killed in the blast. ANP leader Bashir Belour has also been injured and his condition is stated to be critical. Bashir Belour’s personal secretary Noor Muhammad was among the seven people who lost their lives in the blast. According to initial reports, the blast took place at Qissa Khwani Bazar during an ANP public meeting. ANP leader Bashir Bilour has received serious injuries while his personal secretary Noor Muhammad alias Babu also sustained injuries and was rushed to hospital where he succumbed to injuries. Police and rescue teams reached the site of occurrence and shifted the dead bodies and injured people to Lady Redding Hospital. The explosion was so powerful that the windowpanes of the nearby buildings were broken. According to hospital sources 18 injured were brought to Lady Redding Hospital Police sources says it was a suicide attack.

Pakistan mob burns man accused of desecrating Koran alive

A mob broke into a Pakistani police station and burnt a man accused of desecrating the Koran alive, police said Saturday, in the latest violence focusing attention on the country's blasphemy laws. The man was a traveler and had spent Thursday night at the mosque, said Maulvi Memon, the imam in the southern village of Seeta in Sindh province. The charred remains of the Koran were found the next morning. "He was alone in the mosque during the night," Memon said. "There was no one else there to do this terrible thing." Villagers beat the man then handed him over to police. A few hours later, a crowd of around 200 stormed the police station, dragged the man out and set him on fire, said Usman Ghani, the senior superintendent of police in Dadu district. Ghani said around 30 people had been arrested for the murder and seven police detained for negligence. At least 53 people have been killed in Pakistan since 1990 after being accused of blasphemy, according to the Center for Research and Security Studies, and accusations are becoming more frequent. Blasphemy in Pakistan is punishable by death but it is not specifically defined by law. During court cases, lawyers often do not wish to repeat evidence against the accused for fear of being blasphemous themselves. People have been arrested for just discussing or writing about Islam, making mistakes in homework or not joining protests against a film insulting Islam. In some cases, the accusers have had financial disputes with those who are accused. Most recently, international attention focused on the case of Rimsha Masih, a Christian teenager accused of having some burnt pages of a child's exercise book quoting the Koran in a bag of rubbish she was carrying. The case was dismissed last month after a neighbor came forward to say she was framed, possibly to chase Christians out of her neighborhood. In the past two years, two senior Pakistani officials who suggested reforming the laws have been shot dead, one by his own bodyguard. Lawyers threw rose petals at the killer and the judge who convicted him was forced to flee the country.

Peshawar blast leaves 7 dead‚ several hurt

Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Senior Minister Bashir Bilour is seriously injured in the bomb blast In Peshawar‚ seven people have been martyred and eighteen others injured in a suicide attack in the area of Qissa Khawani Bazaar on Saturday evening. Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Senior Minister Bashir Ahmed Bilour has also been seriously injured. According to reports‚ suicide bomber blew himself up soon after Bashir Ahmed Bilour came out of the house of an ANP leader after attending the party meeting. A doctor at the Lady Reading Hospital said the condition of Bashir Ahmed Bilour is critical and he is being operated upon. Personal Secretary to Bashir Ahmed Bilour and SHO Kabli Police Station Abdul Sattar Khan are among the dead. President Asif Ali Zardari and Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf have strongly condemned Peshawar blast. They expressed sympathies with the bereaved families. The President directed the provincial government to provide best medical assistance to the injured. The Prime Minister said the terrorists would not succeed in their nefarious designs. Interior Minister Rehman Malik while condemning the attack has sought a report from I.G. Police‚ Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

Bashir Bilour injured in suicide attack

KPK's Senior Minister Bashir Ahmed Bilour has been injured in a suicide attack in Peshawar. According to the hospital sources, Bashir Bilour has received injuries to his chest and stomach and is currently in the operation theatre. According to sources, the explosion took place when Bashir Bilour was exiting the residence along with his personal secretary and SHO Kabuli Police Station. His personal secretary as well as SHO Kabuli Police Station, Sattar Khan were killed in the explosion, while several others sustained injuries. The explosion took place at the house of a local ANP leader where a party workers meeting had taken place. The Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan have claimed responsibility for the attack.