Wednesday, January 16, 2013
GEO TVPresident Asif Ali Zardari has ruled out the possibility of any operation against the participants of the sit-in being staged in Islamabad with Thehrik-e-Minhajul Quran leader Tahirul Qadri in the lead. President Zardari telephoned Najam Sethi, the host of Geo News program 'Apas Ki Baat', telling him no use of force will be undertaken against the marchers in Islamabad at any cost. The clarification from the head of the state came when all sorts of speculations were being made about government's next line of action to deal with the massive sit-in in the capital.
BY TAREK FATAH
We should be worried about the potential destabilization of a country with 200 nuclear-tipped missilesA Canadian cleric, who has twice played a part in backing military juntas in nuclear-armed Pakistan, is back in that country. And once more, he appears to be facilitating a military takeover in Islamabad. Tahir-ul-Qadri is better known for his role in the creation of the infamous “Anti-Blasphemy Law” of Pakistan, that has brought untold misery to religious minorities and agnostics. In the 1980s, Qadri backed the military junta of the Islamist General Zia who had overthrown former prime minister Z.A. Bhutto. In 1999, he backed the administration of General Pervez Musharraf, which had staged a coup against former prime minister Nawaz Shariff. By the time democracy was restored in Pakistan, Qadri had emigrated to Canada, where he went into political hibernation until he became eligible for a Canadian passport. With that in hand, Qadri left Canada to manage his worldwide network of devotees, who believe the Prophet Muhammad has appeared in Qadri’s dreams and gives him instructions. In September, Qadri landed in hot water in Denmark, where Integration Minister Karen Haekkerup pulled out of a conference when she discovered Qadri was one of the speakers, saying he had helped fashion Pakistan’s anti-blasphemy law. A Muslim member of the Danish parliament, Naser Khedar, wrote: “… thanks to Tahir-ul-Qadri the horrible blasphemy laws were adopted and are still in force — laws that have resulted in the death of many Christians — and Muslims.” Qadri denied he had anything to do with Pakistan’s blasphemy law. He told an audience it “is not applicable on Jews or Christians and minorities. It is just to deal with Muslims.” He also denied the allegations by Haekkerup and Khedar, claiming, “The way he (Gen Zia) was formulating the blasphemy law, I was totally against it.” However, within days, a new video emerged showing Qadri saying the exact opposite. He was shown boasting in Urdu before an audience that he alone was responsible for crafting the blasphemy law. On the tape, he says in Urdu: “Let me put it on the record, it was me and only me who is responsible for that law … No one else has made any contribution in making this law.” As for his claim made in English on Danish TV that the blasphemy law is inapplicable to non-Muslims, the leaked video showed him making this claim in Urdu: “Whosoever insults Prophet Muhammad and commits blasphemy, whether he is Muslim or Kaafir (infidel non-Muslim), man or woman, he or she should be murdered and kicked like a dog into hellfire, even if they repent ...” Now Qadri, travelling as a Canadian, has come back to haunt Pakistan by besieging the parliament in Islamabad with about 50,000 of his devotees. He told AFP, “We will stay in Islamabad until this government is finished, all the assemblies are dissolved, all corrupt people are totally ousted, a just constitution is imposed, rule of law is enforced, and true and real democracy is enforced.” However, many observers believe the real powers behind Qadri are his former mates in the Pakistan Army and their allies in the judiciary, who are using him as a front man in order to cling to power, while Pakistan’s Supreme Court has ordered the arrest of the prime minister. (Qadri has denied these allegations.) In the meantime, the rest of us should be worried about the potential destabilization of a country with 200 nuclear-tipped missiles and the role played by Qadri in that.
Information Minister Qamar Zaman Kaira says assemblies and the election commission cannot be dissolved at the whim of one person Minister for Information and Broadcasting Qamar Zaman Kaira has termed Tahirul Qadri's demands unconstitutional and unrealistic saying the assemblies and the election commission cannot be dissolved at the whim of one person. Talking to the media persons in Islamabad today‚ he questioned as to how the demands made by the chief of Minhajul Quran could be fulfilled within the parameters of the constitution. He said the parliament and the judiciary have shut the doors for the establishment of a dictator government and bringing amendments in the constitution through unconstitutional manner. The information minister said the election commission has been constituted by a committee of the parliament and there is the constitutional modus operandi for the removal of the election commission as is for the judges of the courts. Election Commission is a constitutional office and it cannot be dissolved at whim. Similarly‚ caretaker set-up will be installed in accordance with the constitutional provisions. Neither the president nor the army and the judiciary have any role in setting up an interim set-up. Referring to the demands of Tahirul Qadri made today‚ the information minister said the person who the other day declared us an ex-government‚ is making demands to the same govt. today. He asked Tahirul Qadri to stop hoodwinking the people and stop using women and children as a shield. "If Tahirul Qadri wants to bring reforms‚ he should register his political party‚ abandon his Canadian citizenship and then go to the people‚ seek their vote and fulfill his objectives‚" said Kaira. The information minister assured that free and fair elections will be conducted on time. All the political parties have full confidence on the election commission. "The Supreme Court has also directed to hold the elections on time and we have also given assurance to the court in this regard." Criticizing the tone and tenor of Tahirul Qadri‚ he said the chief of Minhajul Quran should abide by the norms of decency. "Tahirul Qadri should keep his tone under control otherwise political parties will reciprocate in the same manner‚ concluded the information minister.
RADIO PAKISTANPrime Minister has taken immediate notice of the demonstration by protesters from Khyber Agency who are staging a protest in front of Governor House Peshawar Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf has taken immediate notice of the demonstration by protesters from Khyber Agency who are staging a protest in front of the Governor House Peshawar over the killing of their loved ones yesterday. Speaking to the Governor Khyber Pakhtunkhwa‚ Barrister Masood Kausar over telephone‚ the Prime Minister directed him to engage the elders to end the grievances of the protesters. The Governor Khyber Pakhtunkhwa assured the Prime Minister that he will submit a report promptly after discussing it with the affected people and put up recommendation for decision of the Prime Minister.
Associated PressHundreds of villagers from northwest Pakistan protested Wednesday the killing of 18 of their relatives in an overnight raid that they blamed on security forces, displaying the bodies of the victims in the provincial capital. The Pakistan military has been waging a campaign against militants in tribal areas such as the Khyber Agency, where these deaths occurred late Tuesday, and according to human rights groups and residents sometimes commit rights abuses. About 3,000 people gathered Wednesday outside the house of the governor of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province in Peshawar. They said gunmen wearing military uniforms stormed homes in their area and shot villagers dead. Shabir Ahmed, a soldier from the paramilitary Frontier Constabulary, said his four brothers and father were present at their home when uniformed gunmen stormed his house, opened fire and killed them. "I want to know who killed my brothers and father and why?" he said, demanding justice. But an official with the Frontier Constabulary, which operates in the area, said the villagers had been killed by militants. The official spoke on condition of anonymity as he was not authorized to speak to the media. Human rights groups have accused the Pakistani military of widespread human rights abuses in their counter-insurgency campaign in the tribal areas. In a December report, Amnesty International accused the Pakistani military of regularly holding people without charges and torturing or otherwise mistreating them in custody. The London-based group said in the report that some detainees do not survive and are returned to their families dead, or their corpses are dumped in remote parts of the tribal region. The military rejected the allegations and in a statement called the report "a pack of lies." Amnesty also criticized the Taliban for a range of rights abuses, including the killing of captured soldiers and innocent civilians. The militants have carried out scores of attacks around the country that have killed thousands of people.
THE FRONTIER POSTChief Minister Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Amir Haider Khan Hoti Tuesday here at a special ceremony gave keys of busses to Principals of six Girls Colleges in the province. He said that the present government has spent considerable resources on promotion of higher education particularly girls education. Spreading the light of education was the only way forward to battle specific circumstances confronting the region.
The Express TribuneA large number of people on Wednesday staged a sit-in in front of Governor House in Peshawar, protesting against the killing of the 18 people whose mutilated bodies were recovered from the Bara area of Khyber Agency Tuesday evening. The bullet-riddled bodies were found in the Alam Gudar area. Reporters and media personnel present on the protest site estimated that around 5,000 people took part in the sit-in underway on Sher Shah Suri Road, right in front of Governor House. Bara tribesmen are sitting outside Governor House with caskets of their family members who were killed. The protestors, including family members of the deceased and social activists, chanted slogans against the army and the security agencies stationed in Khyber Agency and blamed them for the killings. The tribesmen from Bara said that the people killed were not militants but ordinary citizens, who they said were murdered in cold blood by the security agencies.
TIME.COMFor days, they refused to bury their dead. On a main road in the southwestern Pakistani city of Quetta, hundreds of mourners from the local Hazara community, adherents of Shi‘ite Islam, watched over the nearly 90 coffins in below freezing temperatures. The victims of an increasingly bloody wave of terror were no longer willing to inter the corpses of their loved ones for the world to forget about them. Among the dead was Irfan Ali, a brave and much liked young activist who had to abandon his education because of the appalling security situation in the province of Baluchistan, where Quetta is the capital, yet devoted much of his time telling the world about the suffering of his people. Last Thursday, Ali felt he had cheated death the first time. He tweeted that he had narrowly escaped a bombing in Quetta. When he went to tend to the victims, a second deadlier blast struck the billiards hall in Quetta, raising the death toll to nearly 100. It was the greatest single tragedy to visit the community. The tragedy jolted many Pakistanis, bringing tens of thousands around the country out onto the cold streets. Protests and candlelight vigils sprouted in many cities. Ali, the slain activist, was a familiar face at such protests. In recent photographs, he was seen holding up the image of a Pashtun politician, who was assassinated by the Taliban last month. This time, many protesters held aloft portraits of Ali’s smiling face, some adorned with words from his Twitter bio: “I am born to fight for human rights and peace. My religion is respect and love all the religions.” The protests were eventually heard. Some of the largest crowds had gathered in Karachi, outside the private residence of President Asif Ali Zardari. On Monday, the government dispatched Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf to Quetta to meet with the victims. Chief Minister of Baluchistan Nawab Aslam Raisani, a figure of clownish incompetence with a taste for the good life, was told there was no job waiting for him when he returned from his latest foreign jaunt. The provincial government was sacked, having forfeited its mandate. And a form of emergency rule imposed under the province’s more stolid governor. It was enough to persuade the families of the Hazara victims to bury their dead, but more will need to be done to stop others from being sent to an early grave. Last year, over 400 Shi‘ites were killed across Pakistan, double the number killed in 2011. A significant minority in majority Sunni Pakistan, Shi‘ites comprise roughly a quarter of the country’s population. At least a quarter of the recent death toll belongs to the Hazara community in Baluchistan, who migrated there over a century ago from neighboring Afghanistan. Seeking safety, many have been making journeys onward. Last Thursday’s attacks, though deadlier than previous ones, were depressingly familiar. In recent years, Shi‘ite pilgrims from the Hazara community have been hauled off buses bound for pilgrimages in Iran to be lined up and summarily shot. In other parts of the country, as far apart as Karachi in the south, Lahore to the east, the northern hills of Gilgit, Parachinar near the Afghan border, and Dera Ismail Khan in the northwest, Shi‘ite worshippers have seen their processions routinely attacked. On each of these occasions, Shi‘ite worshippers had gathered in the streets, as they have done for centuries, to mourn the memories of their ancient martyrs. They left having to mourn the loss of new ones. The seventh century massacre of their most revered saint, Imam Hussein, and his followers, becomes not just a retelling of the foundation of their faith. It is relived as a parable for the present, the story of a vulnerable minority brutally slaughtered for its beliefs. The responsibility for these attacks has often been claimed by Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ), probably the most dangerous group operating in Pakistan today, and its militant allies. LeJ began life as an even more vicious offshoot of the banned anti-Shi‘ite organization, the Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan (SSP). A decade ago, the group found common doctrinal ground with newcomers from al-Qaeda and proffered its deep and pervasive network. Al-Qaeda maintained operational control, LeJ supplied the foot soldiers. The lethal combine has been blamed for attacks such as the 2008 bombing of the Islamabad Marriott and the 2009 Lahore attack on the visiting Sri Lankan cricket team. The failure to stop these militants is the collective failure of Pakistan’s power elites: the politicians, the army and the judiciary. Less than 24 hours after the Quetta attacks, Malik Ishaq, a notorious LeJ leader, was in Karachi inciting further anti-Shi‘ite hatred. “I don’t have fun making speeches,” the self-confessed killer of Shi’ites told his supporters. “You know what I have fun doing.” Ishaq was shockingly released from prison in 2011 after the courts said they didn’t have enough evidence to convict him. As is often the case, witnesses are not protected and are either eliminated or reduced to a terrified silence. The prosecution and the police fail to marshal the evidence necessary to support a conviction. There are also questions that analysts raise about Islamabad’s intelligence agencies’ links to sectarian groups like the LeJ and its parent organization, the SSP. Ishaq has barely been prevented from roaming around freely. He was briefly taken into custody once only to be released again. He and his cohorts are also the beneficiaries of sordid deals with Pakistan’s power elites. When the army’s headquarters were under siege in 2009, Ishaq was reportedly flown from prison to help negotiate a stand-down. The Punjab government, lead by the opposition Pakistan Muslim League-N, has courted votes alongside leaders of the anti-Shi‘ite SSP. The failure of Pakistani authorities to protect the Shi‘ite population and act against their killers is eroding faith in the state and its institutions. Their failures amount, as Human Rights Watch has said, to complicity. It also raises troubling questions about Pakistan’s identity. In 1947, after the partition of the subcontinent, Pakistan was founded ostensibly as a state for the region’s Muslims — and the minorities that live there. The founder, Muhammad Ali Jinnah, was himself a secular man of a Shi‘ite background. Over the decades, various minorities have found themselves under siege. Prejudiced laws against the Ahmadi Muslim sect have seen the group’s leadership take exile as its followers have either abandoned the country, fall foul of its blasphemy laws or lose the loved ones in terrorist attacks by the same groups that have targeted the Shi‘ites. The beleaguered Christian community fares no better, similarly trapped between militant violence and laws that make them vulnerable to persecution. The old Parsi community has dwindled sharply, with an estimated three times as many living in Toronto as do in Karachi. For the Shi‘ites, it was supposed to be different. They have long lived peacefully alongside the majority Sufi-inspired Sunni community, marching together at the same annual Muharram processions. There were always levels of prejudice, with bigots comparing Shi‘ites to “cockroaches” and hard-line Deobandis — adherents of a puritanical South Asian strain of Sunni Islam — declaring them heretical. But the Pakistani mainstream never considered them a separate minority. In public, for example, Shi‘ite politicians are not identified by sect. If, however, Shi‘ites are not going to feel safe in Pakistan, it will have grave consequences not just for the country but also the wider region. Pakistan’s Shi‘ite population is second only to neighboring Iran, where Shi‘ites are the majority and Shi‘ite Islam is embedded in the heart of the country’s politics. In the long term, it could be the most destabilizing of all of Pakistan’s problems — with the violence not restricted to a remote borderland, but tearing into the country’s very fabric.