Thursday, January 3, 2013
Editorial: http://www.thedailystar.netThough Bangladesh was being rated positively by international financial agencies and the media for its successes in the socio-economic sector in 2012, the human rights scenario remains its Achilles heel. A report released by the human rights organisation Ain O Shalish Kendra, ASK, shows that overall the human rights situation was rather dismal in the year that was. Particular mention has been made of the sudden eruptions of communal tension in September that saw the destruction of Buddhist temples, monasteries and houses in Ramu, Teknaf, Ukhia in southern districts of Cox's Bazaar. In addition, there were also some attacks on another community in Sitakunda and Patiya in Chittagong as well as in the south-western districts of Bagerhat, Jenidah and the northern district of Dinajpur. In the New Year, we do not want to see such incidents repeated in any form or scale. On the gender front, violence against women continued with more than 1100 rapes. Incidents of gender-related violence also lay behind the murder of more than 260 women as well as one and a half dozen suicides. Social sources of violence apart, citizens were often subjected to violence at the hands of the law-enforcement agencies. Though there was a decline in the number of custodial deaths and extra-judicial murders, disappearances emerged as a major concern for law and order as well as citizens' security. Contrary to expectations in a democracy, suppression of political dissent resulting in mass arrests, police violence against street demonstrations, denial of space to political opponents to a large extent eclipsed the government's image. Taking recourse to the Section 144 to stop the opposition from holding its political programmes leaves a lot to be desired about dealing appropriately with the opposition. Leaving behind the failures of the past year, as we would like to look forward to the next with fresh hope, people expect that the government would improve its records on human rights in a marked way. Thereby the government will be able to present a cleaner image before the electorate at this fag end of its current tenure.
It takes real courage for a woman to be a teacher or a lady health worker or a polio vaccinator in Pakistan these days. The women who have chosen these professions have become the frontline troops in the endless battle against extremism and are taking casualties in increasing numbers. The last month has been particularly grim for these female fighters who never use guns to wage their battles. First, there were the coordinated killings of nine polio vaccinators across the country and threats made to countless others. The polio vaccination campaign was suspended by the World Health Organisation; and health workers, most of whom are poorly paid women working at the grassroots, are rightly protesting at the lack of security they are provided. Then on Tuesday came another atrocity in which women were the primary targets. Six women and a male medical technician working for a local NGO close to Swabi were killed as they left the centre where they worked mostly as teachers. Their driver was gravely injured and the four-year-old son of one of the women miraculously survived. As always, the attackers escaped on motorbikes and no early arrest is expected. These women had done no more than try to impart the rudiments of education and provide basic health care to a poor and remote population. They had been doing so for at least the last two years and the organisation they worked for reports that it had received no threats prior to the murders. No organisation has as yet claimed responsibility for the atrocity. What is so tragic, apart from the loss of innocent lives, is the deafening silence from senior political and religious figures in the country. There have been no calls for protest and – apart from small gatherings of concerned protestors outside assorted press clubs across the country – nobody is likely to raise a voice in protest at the horrific death of these women. There were few protests in the case of the polio vaccinators as well – nobody has been charged with their murders nor are any significant arrests expected. As we move into 2013 it is apparent that large areas of Pakistan are, to all intents and purposes, ungoverned space. We should laud the strength and raw courage of these women who provide much of our health and education services, thereby supporting a state that does so little to support them. Instead they are little more than soft targets in a fight the state is unwilling or unable to engage in with all its considerable might.
Under intense pressure from angry Republicans, House Speaker John Boehner agreed Wednesday to a vote this week on aid for Superstorm Sandy recovery. The speaker will schedule a vote Friday for $9-billion for the national flood insurance program and another on Jan. 15 for a remaining $51-billion in the package, Republican Rep. Peter King of New York said after emerging from a meeting with Mr. Boehner and GOP lawmakers from New York and New Jersey. The votes will be taken by the new Congress that will be sworn in Thursday.
Daily TimesThe civil society will mark the second death anniversary of former Punjab governor Salmaan Taseer today (Friday).
http://www.commentarymagazine.comLike Lenny in James Steinbeck’s classic Of Mice and Men, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan doesn’t understand much about how the world works. He does understand, however, how to lead a slow motion social and religious revolution in Turkey and transform a once vibrant if dysfunctional democracy into a strongman dictatorship. In his first decade in power, Erdoğan’s animus has been strongest toward the press. Turkey now ranks below Russia and Zimbabwe in press freedom; Reporters Without Frontiers labels Turkey “the world’s biggest prison for journalists.” Indeed, Erdoğan strokes journalists like Lenny strokes rabbits. Now it seems that the Turkish government is beginning to turn its animus toward classic literature. According to Hürriyet Daily News, “The İzmir Education Directorate’s books commission is seeking to ban certain parts of John Steinbeck’s classic ‘Of Mice and Men’ for several “immoral” passages, according to daily BirGün.” This should be especially worrying because Izmir is not some provincial Anatolian town, but in the heart of the Europeanized Mediterranean. Now, many American progressives and liberals will note that American conservatives have tried on moral and religious grounds to censor classic literature. Two wrongs don’t make a right. America has the courts and the legal structure to resist such attempts at censorship; the censors in Turkey, however, have an intolerant prime minister on their side. The AKP has already reformed high school curriculum to insert religious content into secular subjects. “Muslim philosophy” has replaced the classics of Western philosophy in the new AKP-imposed curriculum. Islam is therefore mandatory even for students who opt out of religious studies. In May 2006, Turkey’s chief negotiator for European Union accession ordered the removal of references to Turkey’s educational system as secular from a negotiating paper. If European and American diplomats do not stand up to Turkey now, the censorship will only get worse. Perhaps it’s time for the Congressional Turket Caucus to stop running interference for Turkey and to start demanding Turkey adhere to the standard of Western democracy to which it once claimed to aspire.
A trove of ancient manuscripts in Hebrew characters rescued from caves in a Taliban stronghold in northern Afghanistan is providing the first physical evidence of a Jewish community that thrived there a thousand years ago. On Thursday Israel's National Library unveiled the cache of recently purchased documents that run the gamut of life experiences, including biblical commentaries, personal letters and financial records. Researchers say the "Afghan Genizah" marks the greatest such archive found since the "Cairo Genizah" was discovered in an Egyptian synagogue more than 100 years ago, a vast depository of medieval manuscripts considered to be among the most valuable collections of historical documents ever found. Genizah, a Hebrew term that loosely translates as "storage," refers to a storeroom adjacent to a synagogue or Jewish cemetery where Hebrew-language books and papers are kept. Under Jewish law, it is forbidden to throw away writings containing the formal names of God, so they are either buried or stashed away. The Afghan collection gives an unprecedented look into the lives of Jews in ancient Persia in the 11th century. The paper manuscripts, preserved over the centuries by the dry, shady conditions of the caves, include writings in Hebrew, Aramaic, Judea-Arabic and the unique Judeo-Persian language from that era, which was written in Hebrew letters. "It was the Yiddish of Persian Jews," said Haggai Ben-Shammai, the library's academic director. Holding the documents, protected by a laminated sheath, Ben-Shammai said they included mentions of distinctly Jewish names and evidence of their commercial activities along the "Silk road" connecting Europe and the East. The obscure Judeo-Persian language, along with carbon dating technology, helped verify the authenticity of the collection, he said. "We've had many historical sources on Jewish settlements in that area," he said. "This is the first time that we have a large collection of manuscripts that represents the culture of the Jews that lived there. Until today we had nothing of this." CBS News' Jere van Dyk reports it will most probably show, if the dates are true, that Jews and Muslims once lived together in harmony in Afghanistan, as they did at one point in the modern era. If the manuscripts can be shown to be older than 1,000 years or make references to previous centuries, then this will change many perspectives; Islam has only existed for 1,500 years. There is a famous Pakistani Pashtun quote: "I am a Pakistani for 50 years, a Muslim for 1,500 years and a Pashtun for 5,000 years." There is a fascinating amount of writing out there on the theory that the Pashtuns are descended from a lost tribe of Israel. Kabul is mentioned in the Old Testament. This discovery will put pressure on the Taliban who, while not anti-Jewish, are political and thus, like their mothers and fathers in the Mujahideen, are pro-Palestinian. They have adopted some of the anti-Israeli sentiment that comes from the Arabs who have been there, and are now in Pakistan, since the 1980s. The documents are believed to have come from caves in the northeast region of modern-day Afghanistan, once at the outer reaches of the Persian empire. In recent years, the same caves have served as hideouts for Taliban insurgents in Afghanistan. It remains unclear how the ancient manuscripts emerged. Ben-Shammai said the library was contacted by various antiquities dealers who got their hands on them. Last month, the library purchased 29 out of hundreds of the documents believed to be floating around the world, after long negotiations with antiquities dealers. The library refused to say how much it paid for the collection, adding that it hoped to purchase more in the future and didn't want to drive up prices. The documents arrived in Israel last week. Comparisons with the other find in Egypt are inevitable. The Cairo Genizah was discovered in the late 1800s in Cairo's Ben Ezra Synagogue, built in the ninth century. It included thousands of documents Jews stored there for more than 1,000 years. Ben-Shammai said it was too early to compare the two, and it would take a long time to sift through the findings from Afghanistan. He said they were already significant since no other Hebrew writings had even been found so far from the Holy Land. He said the Jewish community in the region at the time lived largely like others in the Muslim world, as a "tolerated minority" that was treated better than under Christian rule. Afghanistan's Jewish community numbered as many as 40,000 in the late 19th century, after Persian Jews fled forced conversion. By the mid-20th century, only about 5,000 remained, and most emigrated after Israel's creation in 1948. A lone Jewish man remains in Afghanistan, while 25,000 Jews live in neighboring Iran — Israel's bitter enemy. The library promises the finds will be digitized and uploaded to its website for all to see. Aviad Stollman, curator of the library's Judaica collection, said much more would be gleaned after intense research on the papers, but already it tells a story of a previously little known community. "First we can verify that they actually existed — that is the most important point," he said. "And of course their interests. They were not interested only in commerce and liturgy; they were interested also in the Talmud and the Bible," he said. "They were Jews living a thousand years ago in this place. I think that is the most exciting part."This undated Handout photo made available by The National Library of Israel shows an ancient manuscript discovered inside caves in a Taliban stronghold in northern Afghanistan - the first physical evidence of a vibrant Jewish community that thrived in that region a thousand years ago. Researchers say the "Afghan Genizah" marks the greatest such archive found since the "Cairo Genizah" was discovered in an Egyptian synagogue more than 100 years ago, uncovering a vast depository of medieval manuscripts considered to be among the most valuable troves of historical documents ever found. Photo: The National Library Of Israel, HO / AP Read more: http://www.ctpost.com/news/world/article/Israeli-library-unveils-ancient-Afghan-manuscripts-4164752.php#ixzz2GwsWyBsc
The vicious rape and murder of a young woman in New Delhi has highlighted the ingrained mistreatment of women in the countryMore than 630 women are known to have been raped in New Delhi last year, but it took the savage gang rape of a 23-year-old trainee physiotherapist on her way home from a cinema with a friend to turn the simmering anger of the capital’s long‑suffering women to boiling rage. Reports of the 634 attacks that preceded December’s rape of the woman who has become known as “India’s daughter” were sketchy – a few brief paragraphs in the local newspapers, nothing more. But in this case the details were too brutal to be overlooked. Here was an ordinary, modern, lower-middle-class girl trying to get a rickshaw home after a Sunday film at one of the city’s growing number of swanky shopping malls. The driver would take her only as far as a market, where she and her friend boarded an unlicensed bus. On it, six men, all drunk, first “eve-teased” her – the local euphemism for the harassment of women – then attacked her so savagely that she later died. Apparently incensed that she was out at night with a man to whom she was not married, they took turns to rape her and beat her friend while the bus cruised the streets of South Delhi, the atrocities inside shielded by curtains and tinted glass. An iron rod was forced inside her, mutilating her genitals and destroying her intestines. She and her friend fell unconscious and were tossed from the bus on a flyover after an ordeal lasting somewhere between 40 minutes and two hours. The woman was eventually taken to hospital, where 95 per cent of her intestines were removed in three operations. She suffered brain injuries, internal infections and had trouble breathing, yet she managed to make two statements to police officers to help arrest her torturers. The capital has rarely if ever read about a rape in such shocking detail and the revelation sparked spontaneous protests in front of Rashtrapati Bhawan, the home of the Indian president and cabinet ministers’ offices. There were clashes with police and protests spread throughout India. The country’s most powerful woman, Congress president Sonia Gandhi, visited the unnamed victim in hospital and spoke of the national shame of violence against its women. Her prime minister, Dr Manmohan Singh, later made a televised address to call for calm and voice his own feelings of revulsion.There have been demands from Right-wing Hindu nationalists for the culprits to be hung, while others have called for chemical castration for rapists. But gradually the chants of young, mainly male protesters have given way to a wider discussion of why so many women in India – the world’s largest democracy and a polity with powerful women leaders – live in fear of violence and under restrictions that would not offend a Taliban mullah in Kandahar. India has seen the number of reported rapes rise from 2,487 in 1971 to 24,206 in 2011. In that year, 35,565 women and girls were kidnapped, 42,968 were molested, 8,570 were sexually harassed and 99,135 suffered cruelty at the hands of their husbands or relatives. There were 8,618 “dowry deaths”, in which brides were murdered by their husbands or in-laws, often because their fathers had failed to meet increasingly extravagant demands for dowry gifts for the honour of landing a sought-after son. Last October, 25-year-old Pravartika Gupta and her 13-month-old daughter were set on fire as they slept, following a dispute with her in-laws who had demanded £15,000 and a Honda City car. Last year, there were 754 arrests for rape in New Delhi, but according to the home ministry only one of those accused has so far been convicted. Campaigners say that these figures barely scratch the surface – fewer than one in 10 rapes are said to be reported because women fear the public shame and the treatment they will receive from the city’s notoriously insensitive and hostile police. An Indian news magazine last year spoke to 30 of New Delhi’s most senior police officers and found that half of them believed that many of the city’s rape victims were either willing victims or prostitutes who complained after not getting paid. Sunil Kumar, a senior officer in Ghazipur, told one of Tehelka’s reporters: “Go to a pub in Greater Kailash, South Delhi, where there’s free entry for girls. You’ll find those who want to do it for a thousand rupees [£12]. They’ll drink and also have sex with you. But the day someone uses force, it’s rape.” Rajpal Yadav, a senior officer in Gurgaon, home to many of the country’s top call centres and their many women staff, told the magazine that “Girls from Darjeeling and Nepal have come here for business purposes. They go with men for money, but if the money isn’t enough, it becomes rape.” Attitudes like these have intensified fears among women that reporting attacks to the police will make matters worse. If they do come forward, many victims are subjected to a demeaning “two-finger” test to assess whether or not they are virgins, and therefore more or less credible witnesses. Delhi Police have now called in leading women’s rights campaigners and policy analysts to “sensitise” them to women’s concerns during rape and sexual assault investigations. Ranjana Kumari of the Centre for Social Research, who is leading the programme, says the growing number of rapes and the low conviction rates have left women feeling unprotected, while many men see themselves as beyond the law: only 28 per cent of rape cases and 20 per cent of cruelty cases against husbands are followed by convictions. “There is no fear of being punished,” she says. “Because of the [police] approach, it is not considered serious crime. That’s why they need a lot more sensitivity, to see it as a serious crime. Women report only one in 10 rapes, not only because of the policing, but also the huge social shame.” They fear they will be identified and their families will be stigmatised; finding a prospective husband in a wedding-obsessed society then becomes almost impossible, and the prospects of the victim’s siblings are similarly blighted. The stark truth is that the chances of a girl living a happy and fulfilled life of her own choosing in India are poor from the outset. A United Nations report last year said India was the world’s most dangerous country in which to be born a girl – almost twice as many girls die between the ages of one and five as boys; 100 girls for every 56 boys. Campaigners say the figures reflect the killing of unwanted girls by families who fear the financial cost of their weddings and neglect girls in favour of brothers. They also believe up to eight million female foetuses have been aborted in the last 10 years by women under pressure from their in-laws to deliver a son. Nilanjana Roy, a widely respected novelist and commentator, says the growing violence against women reflects not only traditional discrimination but also a “punitive” response to the new independence increasingly demanded and enjoyed by women in India’s cities, as new jobs and opportunities emerge. “The reality of what’s happening is that women are doing pretty well in terms of work opportunities, but dreadfully when it comes to sexual violence,” she says. Violence against women is embedded in India’s families, she believes, and there is an indifference to it – 90 per cent of rapes are committed by family members or acquaintances and the remainder by gangs of young men seeking to punish women for leaving their homes and traditional roles. What finally sparked anger over last month’s rape and murder was the intensity of the violence and the fact that so many women were able to identify with the victim – a young woman, training for a good job, out to see a film with a friend with the support of her parents. “This girl was blameless. She was not dancing in a club, she had gone to a movie and was coming back at a reasonable time, and the identification was huge,” says Roy. Brinda Karat, a veteran Communist MP and women’s rights campaigner, agrees that a new generation of women is facing a male backlash for claiming freedoms at work and in their social lives. “The kind of protests we’ve seen show that Indian women are not going to tolerate this kind of violence. There’s an assertion of independent identity and there is a backlash against that. It requires dealing with son preference, the education of boys and understanding masculinity, which is currently in contempt of women,” she says. “India’s daughter”, at just 23, had gone too far for many men, but not nearly far enough for the country’s women. The stage is set for a long confrontation between India’s past and its future.
http://www.time.comTwenty-three years after it was eradicated in the United States, polio still stalks Pakistan, one of three countries left in the world where the devastating disease remains endemic. Prevention should be easy – all it takes is two drops of the vaccine, administered three different times, for a child to become immune. For years, polio has hovered on the brink of extinction in Pakistan, thanks in part to a 25-year effort by UNICEF, WHO, the CDC and Rotary International that has established a system of nationwide vaccinations that take place every six weeks. In 1988 there were 350,000 cases of polio in 125 different countries; today, that number is down to 176 cases in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Nigeria. Hopes that polio could be knocked out for good in Pakistan faltered this summer when a pair of militant commanders in the ungoverned tribal areas along the border with Afghanistan banned the program, saying no vaccination teams should come to the area until the drone campaign against militants came to a halt — essentially holding the nation’s children hostage. The militant ban has spread amongst Pakistan’s Pashtun population, reaching as far as Karachi, in the country’s south. There were 48 cases of paralytic polio last year in Pakistan, down from 154 in 2011. And while the cases are concentrated in the Pashtun speaking populations of Khyber Pakhhtunwa Province and the tribal areas, many of them have direct links to Gadap Town, Karachi’s biggest slum. Home to more than 400,000 people, of which 60,000 are children under the age of five, the tightly packed warren of concrete-block low-rise apartment buildings and small family compounds has become something of a black hole for government services. There is only one basic health clinic to serve the entire population, no sanitation services, no water treatment and a high likelihood that waste water is mixed with drinking water. For polio, it is the perfect storm, combining limited access, bad hygiene, low education levels and severe malnutrition: the polio virus has recently been found in water samples collected from the fetid stream that runs through the slum, a popular playground for area children. One polio worker recounts watching young children play tea party there, sipping stream water from the lids of water bottles scavenged among the heaps of rotting refuse lining the banks. Pashtun-speaking migrants from the tribal areas dominate the area, and militant networks have made inroads among the population. Local officials call Gadap town “mini Waziristan,” in reference to an area near the Afghan border that is home to both the Pakistani Taliban and al-Qaeda linked militants. It’s not much of an exaggeration. In Gadap town, women, if they are seen at all, wear the trademark shuttlecock burqa of the Pashtun heartland. A recent survey conducted in Karachi by the World Health Organization noted that Pashtuns account for 75 percent of Pakistan’s polio cases even though they are only 15 percent of the population. Pakistan will never be free of polio, concluded the report, until a way is found to persuade poor Pashtuns to vaccinate their children. The Pakistani government is working with local communities on an education campaign, and making sure that every child on a public bus coming into or out of Karachi gets the drops. Still, some families have had to learn about the value of the vaccine the hard way. Not so long ago, every child in Muhib Banda, a Pashtun village not far from the provincial capital of Peshawar, was vaccinated each time the polio teams came through. Local shopkeeper Saiful Islam says that he made sure his sons were first in line. But in late May, rumors swept through the town, as vicious and quick as a virus. “Some people were saying that the polio vaccine was made of pig urine, or monkey urine,” says Islam. “They said that it was a conspiracy to make Muslim children infertile. I believed them.” When the vaccinators came through a few days later, he refused to answer their knock. He refused again in July. And then his six month-old daughter Sulaim came down with a fever. When she recovered, she could no longer move her legs. It’s likely that she will never be able to walk. “Our ignorance made her paralyzed,” says Islam. He has pledged to join the fight against the disease, praying that Sulaim will be its last victim.
The disease has claimed hundreds of lives but aid workers must also fight widespread suspicion and death threats.A major immunisation programme is underway in Pakistan to combat a large rise in the number of people with measles. The immediate challenge is to vaccinate almost three million people in the worst affected areas. But it is an enormous task - and a dangerous one. Aid workers involved in vaccinations are being threatened, attacked and even shot dead by armed groups who suspect the programmes are meant to harm them. The latest figures from the World Health Organization (WHO) show the number of measles cases in Pakistan has increased from 4,000 in 2011 to 14,000 in 2012. Of those, 306 died last year - up from 64 deaths in 2011. The worst hit area is the southern Sindh province where 210 children have died - almost half of them in December alone. The United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), says measles is still a leading cause of death among young children. It is a highly contagious virus, infecting the respiratory system, and passed on by coughing and sneezing and close personal contact. But it can be prevented - vaccination programmes worldwide resulted in a 74 percent drop in measles deaths between 2000 and 2010. In 2000, there were more than half a million deaths. Ten years on, that figures was down to 139,000. However, in Pakistan, some people are suspicious of vaccination programmes. The reason for their suspicion is that, in 2010, the CIA set up a phony vaccination drive against Hepatitis B to help track Osama bin Laden.A Pakistani doctor was recruited to carry out the work in poor villages. His goal was to gain entry to the compound where bin Laden was suspected of hiding and get DNA samples from those living there. The programme apparently failed. And the doctor is now serving 33 years for treason. Some groups say the vaccination programmes are used to sterilise Muslims, or cause them harm. The Taliban has repeatedly threatened health workers involved in vaccination work. And in recent weeks, a number of health workers have been shot dead. It is unclear who is behind the attacks. Gunmen ambushed and shot dead six Pakistani women and a male doctor in northwest Pakistan on January 1. The victims worked for an aid agency involved in health education and vaccinating children against polio. And just two weeks earlier, nine health workers involved in a similar programme were shot dead in a series of attacks in Peshawar and Karachi. Pakistan's parliament passed a resolution denouncing the attacks in December. Raja Pervez Ashraf, Pakistan's prime minister, said: "The polio workers were on their way to administer drops to our children to save them from polio. Should they have been riddled with bullets? Which society, which religion, gives permission for such savagery? I believe, Mr Speaker, that the resolution passed by this House is against those terrorists, against those enemies of humanity, and not against ordinary citizens. This is for the safety of the ordinary citizens, for safeguarding the lives of ordinary Pakistanis. We have passed this for the protection of our children, for getting them out of the clutches of those terrorists who want to send them to the valley of death." On this episode of Inside Story, we discuss Pakistan's fight against measles and the reasons why some do not trust the vaccination programmes to fight the disease. Joining the conversation, with presenter Laura Kyle, are guests: Zaid Hamid, the head of Brasstacks, a security think tank, and Dr Zulfiqar Ahmed Bhutta, the head of the division of women and child health at Aga Khan University.
Radio PakistanThe second death anniversary of former Governor Punjab Salman Taseer is being observed tomorrow. He was gunned down by his body guard two years ago in Islamabad. Quran Khawani will be held for the departed soul of former Punjab Governor. Salman Taseer played an important role in the politics of Pakistan especially Punjab. He spent his life with courage and fearlessness and stood for the weak and underprivileged. He was never afraid of controversies and did not remain silent about his stance on various issues. National Broadcasting Service of Radio Pakistan will air special edition of programme "Naey Ufaq" tomorrow at 08.05 p.m. to pay tributes to Salman Taseer. Relatives and friends of Salman Taseer‚ intellectuals‚ journalists and members of civil society would speak on different aspects of his personality‚ life and politics.Minister for Information and Broadcasting Qamar Zaman Kaira has said that Salman Taseer laid down his life during struggle for survival of Pakistan and improvement of its image. In an exclusive interview with Radio Pakistan‚ he said unfortunately a leader serving the country was gunned down by negative forces. The Information Minister said all segments of the society including political parties and media will have to join hands to defeat this mindset. He pointed out that Salman Taseer was not the only one to have become victim to this mindset as thousands of other people were also targetted. Kaira said the menace of terrorism is not the concern of just one party or organization and we will have to fight it together. The Minister said no one has the right to impose his will on others. Pakistan is a democracy and the only way is to go to the people who have the mandate to elect their leaders for taking decisions about future of our generations. He said the way Salman Taseer fought against the negative mindset is a beacon of light for us.
The Baloch Hal
By Mohammad Ali TalpurThis is not the first time that a military operation has been carried out by the Frontier Corps (FC), a paramilitary force, in southern Balochistan’s Mashky, Awaran District. The FC launched another operation just two months ago. Unlike the current offensive, this earlier, mid-October operation was denounced from the floor of the provincial assembly by the Balochistan Minister for Agriculture, Asad Baloch. He said that the operation had been carried out without the Government of Balochistan’s consent. Their silence this time around is telling, and has caused many to speculate that they did issue their consent when the FC launched the operation on December 25th. Whether the operation is consensual, however, might not matter. Consensual operations are not really required in Balochistan. The governor, the chief minister, the now ousted speaker, and a gaggle of ministers, are on record claiming that the Frontier Corps (FC) runs a parallel government, which I have written about, here. The FC does whatever it wants, whenever it wants. Political necessity forces it to label its actions as consensual–and at times, like this one, it appears that they are given consent, at least of establishment politicians in the province’s assembly. The FC’s actions, however, indicate that they would carry out the operations irrespective of the stance of establishment politicians. The present provincial government, riven by greed and power struggles (all members of the provincial assembly sit in the cabinet), has never had any real say in the affairs of Balochistan. When the speaker was ousted, the voting members of the provincial assembly had to show their votes to the bureaucrats to prove they weren’t deviating from instructions. “If you cannot catch the fish, you have to drain the sea” Mao once said, “The guerilla must move amongst the people, as a fish swims in the sea.” He knew what he was talking about, and counter-insurgencies conducting operations against the state follow this basic principle. The guerillas of Balochistan, or the sarmachars, as the Baloch call them, are no different. Dr. Allah Nazar, whose village was attacked last week, bases his tactics on the same principle. That is, perhaps, why the Pakistani state uses the same tactic as the Guatemalan government used, when they were fighting leftist guerilla groups supported by indigenous Mayans and poor peasants from the 1960s onwards. In 1982, Guatemalan President Efrain Rios Montt said, “The guerrilla is the fish. The people are the sea. If you cannot catch the fish, you have to drain the sea.” Montt was indicted for genocide and crimes against humanity in January 2012. The present Mashky operation, like other operations carried out by the state in Balochistan, serve the same purpose: to eliminate not only the guerillas, but the base that they thrive on. The FC wants to destroy the social, economic and political base of the Baloch resistence. The FC wants to terrorize the people and drain the sea in which the sarmachar swims. This is an old army tactic, and it is not the first time that it is being applied. In September 1975, the army carried out a massive operation in Balochistan’s Marri areas. The operation was targeted, not only against guerilla fighters, but also against their families. The goal was to neutralize the Baloch resistance. The operation deprived people of their lives, livestock, wheat and even beasts of burden. In his book on Baloch nationalism, political analyst, Selig S. Harrison observes that, in an attempt to destroy the Baloch economy, at least 500 camels, and 50,000 sheep and goats were taken and sold to traders in Punjab. The stored wheat was torched and water skins were slashed because these could all be used by the guerrillas. This was carried out during the 1973-1977 military operations in Balochistan, following the illegal dismissal of Ataullah Mengal’s government in February 1973. Guerrillas live in the mountains, not in townships and villages. That means that the actual targets and victims of the current operation are the people of Mashky. The continued blockade of the area has resulted in shortages of food, medicine, and other essential items. Yet, even the physical hardships may not be the most debilitating aspect of these operations. The atmosphere of terror in the affected population is far worse. Outsiders seem to overlook and disregard this aspect. The constant threat of unbridled force affects lives adversely, especially the lives of the very young and the very old. Children, who do not comprehend the reasons for this ruthlessness, bear the brunt of the attacks. These operations, however, cannot be succesful in destroying the political or economic support of the sarmachars. The simple lives that the Baloch lead in these areas are soon re-established, albeit with a fiercer determination to oppose the state, which is directly responsible for their misery. As hard as the FC, the army, and their collaborators may try, this sea can never, ever be drained, and the fish will continue to live in it. As long as the fish survive, the Baloch can hope that the shackles binding them will break one day. Pakistani Media’s Apathy News about Mashky has hardly filtered out into the Pakistani media. Though the physical blockade put up by the army plays a role, the mainstream media’s absolute apathy is also to blame. The media seems oblivious to all that transpires in Balochistan, and this neglect and unofficial blackout increases the resentment of the Baloch against the state. Baloch websites, and those sympathetic to them, are under a blanket ban. Thankfully, news in an age of social media has made it possible for people to get access to information. This information has also allowed people to develop a deeper understanding of the state’s role in Balochistan’s violence. Take the ruthless killing of Hazaras by the state’s ”strategic assets”, namely Lashkar-e-Jhangvi and other anti-Shia Islamists. The horrendous attack against Shia pilgrims in Mastung on December 30th has left at least 19 dead and 25 wounded. This year has seen more than 800 Hazaras killed in such attacks. Many in Balochistan say that the state’s continued tolerance of anti-Shia groups play a key role in the violence against Hazaras. The Pakistani state’s policies in Balochistan seem to be in line with the policies of another Guatemalan president, Carlos Arana Osorio who governed from 1970 to 1974 and declared a state of siege in his first year. An estimated 20,000 Guatemalans died during his rule, and it couldn’t have been otherwise for a vicious tyrant who proudly said, “If it is necessary to turn the country into a cemetery in order to pacify it, I will not hesitate to do so.”
The Frontier PostThis brutal slaying of seven aid workers, all except one females, in Swabi by terrorist monsters is a heart-rending tragedy. And the heart goes out in grief and sympathy to the bereaved families in their hour of great loss and sorrow. But couldn't this tragedy be averted? Plainly, the victims were at great risk. The thugs have been picking on especially workers and activists engaged in serving their fellow compatriots and promoting the cause of education. Malala Yousafzai was murderously attacked right in this very Swat region not very long ago because she talked of girl education and human rights. And only recently the polio workers too were assaulted, some even fatally, in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa for administering polio vaccines to children. Then, why were these unfortunate aid workers left so insecure? Why had they had no security cover? Weren't they the potential target of thugs who take on and take out anybody serving the humanity selflessly? They all were connected with an NGO running a primary school and a health centre for the poor in the area. And they all were mowed down with bullets while returning home after doing their tour of duty. But strange are the ways of the officialdom in this province. It shows itself all concerned about the security of those who luxuriate on the taxpayer's money and warm the ministerial chairs cosily. Even the cronies of those in power enjoy special protection. Several police mobiles are detailed to accompany the motorcades of the ministers riding in bulletproof cars. But not even a police cop is put on duty for the security of the aid workers when it is not unknown that their lives are in great danger. Wasn't it for this reason that the terrorist monsters preyed on the polio workers so blithely? But so uncaring is this officialdom that when for security concerns both the WHO and UNICEF asked for the suspension of the polio campaign in the province, it dismissed their appeal summarily. Surely, playing bravado at the cost of the others' lives comes easy to some. But this Swabi gruesome murder has left a four-year child to mourn his mother's violent demise for life. The time has come for this insouciant officialdom to get out of its flippancy and understand the real worth of life. Worthless are not the lives of aid workers who stick out their necks for public service. Theirs are precious lives. Not the lives of the worthies cocooned in fortress-like residences and offices, with the least truck with the public and the least concern about the people's wellbeing. Despite knowing the tremendous risks to their lives, the aid workers still venture out bravely to ameliorate the lot of their deprived and denied compatriots. Their services to their fellow countrymen need to be recognised appropriately by giving them all the possible protection to do their jobs safely. By no stretch of imagination this officialdom could be construed to be unaware of the enormity and viciousness of terrorism blighting this province, which is bearing the main brunt of this countrywide evil phenomenon. The vile thugs strike whenever they like and wherever they want. Their game plan is evident. They want to strike terror in the hearts of the people to perpetuate their wicked agenda. To this end, aid workers come easily to them for a soft target to spread fear and scare among the people. At least now, the officialdom must make a move to deny them this pleasure any more. It should get in touch with the aid agencies and NGOs, especially those engaged in field work in the province, and know of their security requirements. A system it must then evolve to give the security protection to their workers when they move out into the field to do the jobs of public uplift and welfare. And this should not be much of a burden on the provincial security apparatus. It has only to thin out the abominably phenomenally thick security shield on the ministers and their cronies to spare out hands to undertake this task. After all, for how long are we going to have at out hands sorrowfully the motherless children and orphans with parents done in savagely by wicked thugs with bullets and bomb blasts?
Sporting a long leather coat and western jeans under a headscarf, Soosan Feroz looks like many modern women in Kabul. But she is a surprising new phenomenon in this conservative Islamic country - she is the nation's first female rapper with a string of local performances already under her belt, including at the US embassy in Kabul. Her lyrics are not unfamiliar for many of her fellow countrywomen though, as she raps of rape, abuse and atrocities that Afghan women have endured during decades of war in a country gripped by poverty. "My raps are about the sufferings of women in my country, the pains of the war that we have endured and the atrocities of the war," Ms Feroz said. Like most fellow Afghans, the 23-year-old said her life is filled with bitterness with memories of war, bombing and life at refugee camps in neighbouring Iran and Pakistan. Told that rap and hip hop had become a way for many artists around the world to express daily hardships in their lives, Ms Feroz said: "If rap singing is a way to tell your miseries, Afghans have a lot to say". "That's why I chose to be a rapper," she said. Feroz's first recorded piece of music, Our neighbours, which recalled her woes at Iranian refugee camps was posted on YouTube and has been viewed nearly 100,000 times. The lyrics, which spoke of becoming "the dirty Afghan", were borne from personal experience. "As a child when I was going to bring bread from our neighbourhood bakery, the Iranians would tell me, 'go back, you dirty Afghan'," Ms Feroz said. "I would be the last one in the line to get my bread." Afghan pop star Farid Rastagar had offered to help the young artist release an album, the first song of which would be released in January. One of the songs is called Naqis-Ul Aql which could be translated as "deficient in mind" - a common belief about women among Afghan men. "In this rap, she sings about the miseries of the women in Afghanistan, about abuses and wrong beliefs that still exists about women," Mr Rastagar said. Afghan women had made some progress since the fall of the Taliban, but many still suffered horrific abuse including so-called "honour killings" for perceived sexual disobedience. Not surprisingly Ms Feroz, who had the support of her parents to sing, has already made enemies not only among conservatives but within her own family. After the release of her first song on the internet some of Ms Feroz's uncles and their families shunned her, accusing her of bringing shame on them. Others, mostly anonymous callers, have threatened to kill her. "I always receive phone calls from unknown men who say I'm a bad girl and they will kill me," she said. But with the strength of her father Abdul Ghafaar Feroz, who says he prides himself on being her "personal secretary", she said she was not deterred. "Somebody had to start this, I did and I don't regret it and I will continue," she said. "I want to be the voice of women in my country."