Sunday, May 12, 2013

PTA bans Roshni – Pakistan’s most popular progressive Urdu FB page

In yet another disappointing move, the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority earlier this week banned Roshni – one of the few Urdu pages on Facebook promoting progressive ideas and alternative opinions. The page was banned without a notice and has been inaccessible in Pakistan for more than two days now.This is not the first time PTA has tried to curb freedom of speech. YouTube has been banned in Pakistan for servral months. An indepedent #ShiaGenocide watchdog website ShiaKilling is also banned for several days. PTA could have spent their time better by blocking countless websites, blogs and Facebook pages being operated by terrorist organisations like Sipah Sahaba ASWJ, Taliban, Lashkar-e-Jhangvi which are freely accessible in Pakistan inctiing hatred and violence against Shia, Christians and Hindus, other minorities. Examples of such websites and pages include Facebook page Umar Media run by Tehrik Taliban inciting violence against people of Pakistan and its armed forces and Ulema e Deoband Facebook page run by banned Sipah Sahaba ASWJ promiting hateful literature against minorities.What is Roshni? Roshni ( is Pakistan’s most populat progressive Urdu portal with no affiliation to any political party or religious organisation. It is an effort of concerned citizens of Pakistan aimed at promoting alternative opinions, tolerance, diversity, harmony and is a leading voice against extremism and oppression of minorities.
Readers are encouraged to sign the petition here:
Within a period of one year, Roshni’s online membership or fan base has crossed 32,000. The page reaches more than 400,000 people every week – transmitting a progressive, liberal message to far reaches of Pakistan on issues related to society, politics, religion, history, culture, current affairs, news and more. Why Roshni is important? Everyone is entitled to the fundamental human right to freedom of thought, conscience and speech. Pakistan has a long history of suppressing dissenting voices whether they be political, religious or any issues. There has never been a better time in a country facing bloodbath due to extremism, to promote alternative opinions and progressive liberal ideas. That is precisely what Roshni has been doing, that too in the language which masses understand – the simple use of Urdu language. Article 19 of UNDHR states: “Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.” Blocking of Roshni Facebook page without a notice by PTA is a breach of article 18 and 19 of Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Roshni FB Page Link: Why Roshni is banned? Roshni is neither anti-state nor anti-religion – the two excuses the state of Pakistan uses to block all voices. Yes, it is a disenting voice. Roshni is the voice of oppressed and persecuted people of Pakistan. It has stood for Ahmadi Muslims, it has spoken for the Shia community, it did campaign for oppressed Hindu community facing forced conversions and was a strong voices over issue of blasphemy laws and supported the Chrisitain community help raise their voice. Roshni subsribes to progressive, secular, liberal ideas and has been promiting alternative opinions on matter of religion, politics, culture, society, news and current affairs considering these ideals. Roshni has no record of promoting hatred or inciting violence, rather it promotes diversity, tolerance and harmony.

Elections Over; But Where Are the Balochistan Results?

The Baloch Hal
The Election Commission of Pakistan (E.C.P.) has not released the official results of Saturday’s elections nearly 24 hours after the counting of the votes began. The delay in the release of the official results is eventually causing panic among some political parties that are now complaining about alleged rigging and mismanagement of the polls. The Balochistan National Party (B.N.P) of Akhtar Mengal is the most vocal critic of the election outcome. The B.N.P. is protesting for a number of reasons. For instance, Mr. Mengal has said that the E.C.P. is deliberately not announcing the results of the constituencies where his party candidates had actually won the race. The former chief minister believes that the delay in the announcement of the results will grant his rivals and the pro-establishment candidates an opportunity to manipulate the results. Mr. Mengal has blamed the Establishment and the State for manipulating the polls against his party. He has specifically highlighted the situation in his native Khuzdar district where he says former Member of the National Assembly (M.N.A.) Rauf Mengal had received 22,000 votes and was doing better than other candidates for the N.A. seat but the results have been held. Similarly, Mr. Mengal says the results for the N.A. seats in Turbat-Gwadar and Chagi and Quetta have also been unnecessarily delayed. “This is a clear attempt to prevent us from becoming a part of the democratic process,” complained Mr. Mengal who attracted tremendous criticism from hardliner Baloch groups over his decision to participate in this year’s elections. “We contested elections,” Mr. Mengal reminded,” only to prove the civil society wrong that we did not believe in democracy or were not capable of winning elections.” The B.N.P. has also rejected the results of P.B. 4 and 5 in Quetta asking the E.C.P. to reorganize elections on these seats. At a press conference in Quetta, B.N.P. leaders and contestants Sajid Tareen, Akhtar Hussain Langov and Ahmad Nawaz have threatened to file a writ petition at the Supreme Court of Pakistan against the outcome of the elections. They said they had pointed out irregularities even during the polling process but the authorities did not pay attention to their complaints. The B.N.P. clearly seems very frustrated with the outcome of the results. It has not performed as well as other Baloch and Pashtun nationalists such as the National Party and the Pashtunkhawa Milli Awami Party. The B.N.P., before joining the election race, admitted that the situation was not absolutely conducive to run for public office but they still decided to participate in the elections as a strategy. The B.N.P. allegations are very serious. The E.C.P. should look into these charges and make every effort to ensure the immediate release of the polling results. The more the results are delayed, the more they generate suspicion in people’s minds. Irregularities, if ever substantiated, will badly tarnish the credibility of the future government in Balochistan. The B.N.P. is an important political player in Balochistan irrespective of the fact how many seats it has managed to win the polls. Denying B.N.P. a level playing field will backfire. Broadly speaking, even the B.N.P-Awami, generally considered as a pro-establishment party, has also complained about rigging. Former Agriculture Minister and B.N.P.-Awami’s secretary general Asad Baloch has objected to the election results in his native Panjgur where National Party candidates are reported to have won two seats for the provincial assembly. The government’s primary responsibility is to come clean and disprove Mengal’s allegations regarding fraud and irregularities during the elections. If it fails to do so, these election results could open another chapter of Baloch discontent. The E.C.P. should do whatever it takes to prove that the elections were not engineered and the government had no favorites.

U.S. and Afghans Negotiate Future

Senior American and Afghan officials held talks on Saturday to try to iron out the details of a pact that defines the future of America’s commitment to Afghanistan. The strategic partnership agreement outlines a set of principles and commitments for relations between Washington and Kabul after 2014, when foreign combat troops are to withdraw from Afghanistan. But there is lingering uncertainty over whether either party will be willing or able to stick to the provisions of the pact, which includes loopholes for both nations. The meeting here on Saturday between Deputy Secretary of State William J. Burns and the Afghan foreign minister, Zalmai Rassoul, was the second round of negotiations on how to carry out the agreement, which was signed in May 2012 by President Obama and President Hamid Karzai. The deal spells out Washington’s commitment to Afghanistan over the next 10 years, as well as its expectations of Kabul, including free and fair presidential elections next year and pledges to fight corruption, improve efficiency and protect human rights, including those of women. Sticking points may include the amount of money the United States provides to Afghan security forces. The two countries are also still squabbling over a separate agreement that would protect from prosecution a residual force of as many as 10,000 American troops that would stay behind after the end of the international combat mission. In remarks before the talks, Mr. Burns promised that Washington would stand by Afghanistan and its nascent national security forces after 2014. But the deal allows either country to opt out with a year’s notice, which means that Mr. Karzai’s successor could scuttle the agreement. Mr. Karzai’s re-election in 2009 was marred by widespread allegations of fraud. He denied the charges, but the acrimonious aftermath tainted his relationship with the West, which was the most vocal of his critics. The pact calls for a free, fair and transparent election in 2014. Mr. Karzai, however, has been relentless in his criticism of American involvement in Afghanistan’s political process, saying that Washington was secretly maneuvering to strengthen his opposition. Mr. Burns denied that.

Zardari's sister wins

President Asif Ali Zardari's sister Faryal Talpur won the Larkana in the general elections, a media report said Sunday. Faryal Talpur, Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) leader, won NA-207 Larkana seat in the general elections. She won the seat with a huge majority by securing 70,800 votes against Pakistan Peoples Party-Shaheed Bhutto (PPP-SB) chief Ghinwa Bhutto, unofficial results showed.

Gilani's son's abduction

That political power comes with a price anywhere in the world. But in Pakistan that price is rather heavy, sometimes paid in the currency of life and limb. No surprises then the polls in six constituencies were put off because a contestant in each was eliminated from the scene by violent means. It's our earnest hope and profound prayer that the polling to PP-200 where Ali Haider Gilani is a candidate doesn't get postponed consequent to such a tragic eventuality. Haider, the youngest son of former prime minister Yousuf Raza Gilani and a PPP ticket-holder, was abducted by armed persons in a neighbourhood of Multan city as he was about to leave the place where he addressed a corner gathering. The incident took place in the presence of many but as to what actually happened there are varying accounts, except that while Ali Haider's secretary died on the spot and his guard expired in the hospital later on, the candidate was abducted in a car. The question whether he was injured has no clear answer, except for the solitary statement that some blood was spotted on his clothes. Then all that is the routine on the part of local police was done. Red alert was sounded, exit points sealed and some suspects arrested. But the kidnappers remain untraced. As usual the police are working on some lines; and in this these are three: that Ali Haider Gilani fell victim to a personal enmity; that it was kidnapping for ransom; and that Taliban are involved. According to a media report, the TTP has denied its hand in the abduction, though the precision with which the attack was carried out amply suggests involvement of a well-organised terrorist outfit possibly one of proscribed groups also known as Punjabi Taliban who are said to have honed the art of perpetrating sectarian violence. However it is all in the realm of conjectures and probabilities and would remain so till the truth comes out. Quite expectedly, the initial reaction of the Gilani family to the forced abduction of their scion was highly emotional. Ali Haider's brothers threatened not to let polling be held in the city. But the father, Yousuf Raza Gilani, took no time to restore balance to the situation by saying the elections would take place as scheduled. "Elections are a national obligation, we will not boycott them," he told reporters. Who knows the whole incident was the opponents' game-plan not to have the election which they cannot be won by them. The Gilanis were receiving threats and had hired a few guards on their own. Obviously that was not enough in face of a determined enemy. Rightly then they are saying that the required government security was missing. That the Punjab government could not provide adequate security to some 5,000 candidates - the Chief Minister Najam Sethi may say so, but he has yet to explain why not when the caretakers keep insisting that their sole task is to hold "free, fair and peaceful" elections.