Saturday, July 20, 2013

Trayvon Martin: Protests across US at Zimmerman verdict

Protests have taken place in more than 100 US cities, a week after George Zimmerman was cleared of murdering unarmed black teenager Trayvon Martin. Demonstrators demanded federal charges to be brought against Mr Zimmerman, 29, over the February 2012 incident. A Florida jury agreed that the neighbourhood watch volunteer killed the 17 year-old in self-defence. In his first comments, President Barack Obama admitted many black men in the US experienced racial profiling. The protests against the court's decision were led by the National Action Network, headed by civil rights activist the Reverend Al Sharpton. "We are not coming out with violence, we are coming to denounce violence. The violence that was perpetrated on an unarmed, innocent man named Trayvon Martin," Mr Sharpton told at a rally in New York. Thousands gathered for "Justice for Trayvon" protests in at least 100 other cities across America, including Atlanta, Chicago, Los Angeles and Miami. Mr Sharpton told supporters on Saturday morning that he wanted to see the scrapping of "stand your ground" self-defence laws, such as that in force in Florida. "We are trying to change laws so that this never, ever happens again," he said. The teenager's mother, Sybrina Fulton, told the crowd: "Today it was my son. Tomorrow it might be yours." Rapper Jay Z and his wife, the singer Beyonce, appeared on stage at the New York rally. In Miami, Trayvon Martin's father, Tracy Martin, was among those who gathered to the words of the civil rights song We Shall Overcome. 'Could have been me' In an unexpected press call on Friday, Mr Obama said very few black men in the US had not experienced racial profiling. Mr Obama said the pain that African-Americans felt around the case came from the fact that they viewed it through "a set of experiences and a history that doesn't go away". He said African Americans were also keenly aware of racial disparities in the application of criminal laws. "That all contributes to a sense that if a white male teen was involved in the same kind of scenario, both the outcome and the aftermath might have been different," Mr Obama said. "When Trayvon Martin was first shot, I said that this could have been my son. Another way of saying that is Trayvon Martin could have been me, 35 years ago." He shared his experiences of being racially profiled in the past, such as being followed while out shopping. "There are very few African-American men who haven't had the experience of walking across the street and hearing the locks click on the doors of cars. "There are very few African-Americans who haven't had the experience of getting on an elevator and a woman clutching her purse nervously and holding her breath until she has a chance to get off," he said. Mr Obama called for the protests to remain peaceful, saying any violence "dishonours what happened to Trayvon Martin". He said that although criminal matters and law enforcement were traditionally dealt with on a state and not a federal level, it would be useful to examine some state and local laws to see if they encourage confrontation in certain situations. On Wednesday, US Attorney General Eric Holder cited the case as he urged a nationwide review of the "stand your ground" laws, which permit the use of deadly force if a person feels seriously threatened. The issue was never raised during the trial, though the judge included a provision about the law in her instructions to the jury, allowing it to be considered as a legitimate defence. Trayvon Martin was shot dead by Mr Zimmerman after an altercation in a gated community in Sanford, Florida. Last Saturday, the all-female jury of six found him not guilty of second-degree murder and manslaughter.

President Obama’s Anguish

President Obama did something Friday that he hardly ever does — and no other president could ever have done. He addressed the racial fault lines in the country by laying bare his personal anguish and experience in an effort to help white Americans understand why African-Americans reacted with frustration and anger to the acquittal of George Zimmerman in the shooting of Trayvon Martin. Mr. Obama’s comments during a surprise appearance at the White House press briefing crystallized the dissonance around this case. In the narrow confines of the trial, all talk of race was excluded, and the “stand your ground” element in Florida’s self-defense law was not invoked by Mr. Zimmerman’s lawyers. But in the broader, more profound and more troubling context of Mr. Martin’s death, race and Florida’s lax gun laws are inextricably interwoven. On the first, Mr. Obama said: “The judge conducted the trial in a professional manner. The prosecution and the defense made their arguments.” The jurors, he added, “were properly instructed that in a case such as this reasonable doubt was relevant, and they rendered a verdict.” But on the broader context, Mr. Obama eloquently rebutted those — like Representative Andy Harris, a Republican, with his dismissive “get over it” remark on Tuesday — who said that the verdict should have ended discussion of the case, especially talk about race and gun laws. “Trayvon Martin could have been me 35 years ago,” Mr. Obama said, adding that “it’s important to recognize that the African-American community is looking at this issue through a set of experiences and a history that doesn’t go away.” He said there are “very few African-American men in this country who haven’t had the experience of being followed when they were shopping in a department store” or “the experience of getting on an elevator and a woman clutching her purse nervously and holding her breath until she had a chance to get off.” “That,” he said, “includes me.” Mr. Obama said African-Americans are also acutely aware that “there is a history of racial disparities in the application of our criminal laws — everything from the death penalty to enforcement of our drug laws.” He said it would be naïve not to recognize that young African-American men are “disproportionately both victims and perpetrators of violence.” But using those statistics “to then see sons treated differently causes pain,” he said. Mr. Obama called on the Justice Department to work with local and state law enforcement to reduce mistrust in the policing system, including ending racial profiling. He also called for an examination of state and local laws to see whether they “are designed in such a way that they may encourage the kinds of altercations and confrontations and tragedies that we saw in the Florida case.” Mr. Obama raised questions about the message that “stand your ground” laws send, telling a citizen that he “potentially has the right to use those firearms even if there’s a way for them to exit from a situation.” Mr. Obama noted that Mr. Zimmerman did not invoke that defense. But he said it was still relevant. In one of the most powerful parts of his remarks, he said: “I’d just ask people to consider, if Trayvon Martin was of age and armed, could he have stood his ground on that sidewalk? And do we actually think that he would have been justified in shooting Mr. Zimmerman, who had followed him in a car, because he felt threatened?” If the answer is “at least ambiguous,” Mr. Obama said, “we might want to examine those kinds of laws.” Mr. Obama said Americans needed to give African-American boys “the sense that their country cares about them and values them and is willing to invest in them.” He said he was not talking about “some grand, new federal program” or even a national “conversation on race,” which he said often ends up being “stilted and politicized” and reaffirms pre-existing positions. In a way, Mr. Obama began that conversation with these remarks, while speaking directly to African-Americans who have longed to hear him identify with their frustrations and their anger. It is a great thing for this country to have a president who could do what Mr. Obama did on Friday. It is sad that we still need him to do it.

Rallies for Trayvon Martin begin across U.S.

A week after a Florida jury acquitted George Zimmerman in the death of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin, rallies began across the country as activists press federal authorities to prosecute the former neighborhood watch volunteer on civil rights charges.
Zimmerman was found not guilty of both second-degree murder and manslaughter by a six-woman panel in last year's shooting death of Martin. His attorneys successfully argued that Zimmerman's use of force was justified as self-defense in the altercation with the unarmed teen. The case has spurred a national debate about gun laws, the use of justifiable force and racial profiling, even prompting President Barack Obama to weigh in with personal remarks Friday on race relations in the U.S.The "Justice for Trayvon" rallies are being organized by the Rev. Al Sharpton's National Action Network and will take place in outside federal buildings in at least 100 cities, including New York, Miami and Los Angeles. They are scheduled to happen at noon local time.
In New York, hundreds of people, including the music superstars Jay-Z and Beyonce, were assembled along with Sharpton and Sybrina Fulton, Martin's mother. Last Saturday's verdict spurred protests throughout the week, leading to sporadic violence and some arrests - mostly in California - but there have been no widespread disturbances. Organizers hoped for a day of peaceful protest Saturday. This week, Attorney General Eric Holder announced that the department would investigate whether Zimmerman could be charged under federal civil rights laws, which would require evidence that he harbored racial animosity against Martin. Most legal experts say that would be a difficult charge to bring. Police in Sanford, Fla., say the Justice Department has placed a hold on all evidence related to case, including the gun Zimmerman used and which he would otherwise be legally entitled to reclaim.Speaking to supporters earlier in the morning, Sharpton said he want a rollback of "Stand Your Ground" laws that make it easier for people to shoot each other if they feel threatened. He also repeated calls for the Justice Department to investigate the case. "We are trying to change laws so that this never, ever happens again," Sharpton said. Fulton, Martin's mother, saidm "Today it was my son. Tomorrow it might be yours." Earlier this week, Fulton told "CBS This Morning" that she was "stunned" by the verdict."I thought surely that he would be found guilty of second degree murder, manslaughter at the least. But I just knew that they would see that this was a teenager just trying to get home. This was no burglar. This was somebody's son that was trying to get home." Martin's brother, Jahvaris Fulton, was also attending the New York event. Martin's father was scheduled to participate in a rally in Miami, where a crowd also gathered Saturday morning. Several of the jurors, who are still anonymous, have spoken out since delivering the verdict. In a CNN interview Monday, Juror B37, revealed that the jury was evenly split on a conviction in the initial vote. But she felt that both Zimmerman and Martin were equally responsible for the physical confrontation and that race played no factor. The following day, four other jurors released a brief statement saying "the opinions of Juror B37, expressed on the Anderson Cooper show were her own, and not in any way representative of the jurors listed below." The six-sentence statement - signed by Jurors B51, B76, E6 and E40 - did not specify what parts of the other juror's comments they disagreed with, but they did say that "serving on this jury has been a highly emotional and physically draining experience for each of us. The death of a teenager weighed heavily on our hearts but in the end we did what the law required us to do." On Friday, in a surprise appearance in the White House briefing room, President Obama delivered extensive remarks about the case and about more broadly about the state of race in America."When Trayvon Martin was first shot, I said this could've been my son. Another way of saying that is, Trayvon Martin could have been me 35 years ago," he said. "There are very few African-American men in this country who haven't had the experience of being followed when they were shopping at a department store, and that includes me," he said. He spoke about hearing the locks click on car doors while crossing the street -- something Mr. Obama said he experienced before he was senator -- or seeing a woman nervously clutch her purse while in an elevator with an African-American man. "I don't want to exaggerate this, but those sets of experiences inform how the African-American community interprets what happened one night in Florida. It's inescapable for people to bring those experiences to bear." The president acknowledged that Florida's controversial "stand your ground" law was not actually cited as part of Zimmerman's defense. Nevertheless, Mr. Obama said that kind of law does not necessarily send a positive message. "If we're sending a message in our societies ... that someone who is armed potentially has the right to use those firearms even if there is a way for them to exit from the situation, is that really going to be contributing to the peace and order?" he asked. "For those who resist that idea, I'd just ask people to consider if Trayvon Martin was of age and armed, could he have stood his ground on that sidewalk? Do we actually think he would've been justified in shooting Mr. Zimmerman because he followed him in a car?" Finally, he said the nation shouldn't lose sight of its progress on issues of race and equality. "When I talk to Malia and Sasha, and I listen to their friends and I see them interact, they're better than we are," he said. "That's true of every community that I've visited all across the country."

Explosion hits Beijing airport

An explosion occurred Saturday evening at Terminal 3 of the Beijing Capital International Airport, police said. A wheel-chaired Chinese man, identified as Ji Zhongxing from eastern Shandong province, set off a home-made explosive device outside the arrivals exit of the Terminal 3 at around 6:24 p.m., an initial police investigation showed. The device was detonated after the 34-year-old was stopped from handing out leaflets to get attention to his complaints, according to the probe. Ji himself was injured, but suffered no life-threatening injuries and is currently under treatment. The explosion caused no other injuries. The police cordon at the arrivals exit has been removed, and the airport has begun to resume normal order. Police authorities are further investigating the case.

President Obama's weekly Address

Dozens injured in Bahrain as police, protesters exchange fire - reports

Dozens of people were reportedly injured in Bahrain early Friday, after police fired birdshot to disperse hundreds of anti-government protesters in several Shiite villages. A policeman was also wounded after being shot by a homemade gun. The protests, which erupted late Thursday and lasted until the early hours of Friday, were called by the opposition February 14 Coalition youth group, according to witnesses cited by AFP. “We will remove you [King] Hamad,” was reportedly the banner slogan issued by the group to rally protesters against the Sunni monarch.Activists said that dozens were injured in clashes as police responded to protests by firing birdshot. Meanwhile, the Bahraini Ministry of Interior posted on Twitter that “security forces confronted a terror group” near Manama, and that a policeman was wounded after being shot with a homemade gun. AFP quoted witnesses confirming both the police fire and the shooting, but said that an official list of casualties was not immediately available.Demonstrators have repeatedly clashed with security forces since the start of protests against the Sunni dynasty. The demonstrations have not ceased, despite a 2011 crackdown backed by Saudi-led Gulf troops. The Bahraini government has often referred to protesters – mostly Shiite Muslims - as “terrorists,” and recently used a car bomb explosion outside a Sunni mosque as a pretext to ban the opposition protests in several Shiite villages. At least 80 people have been killed in Bahrain since the uprising began, according to the International Federation for Human Rights.

Saudi rights activist Iman al-Qahtani given travel ban

A Saudi Arabian activist and journalist has been banned from travelling abroad. In a message on Twitter, Iman al-Qahtani said she had been stopped from flying to Istanbul. Only then, she said, was she told of her travel ban.
Ms Qahtani has been outspoken in her support for fellow human rights campaigners in the Arabian kingdom. Saudi officials were said to have been unhappy with her reporting. In April, she said she would stop tweeting to protect her family from reprisals. In a brief, dramatic tweet, she told her followers she was doing it for her mother's sake. Live-tweeting trials There were reports Ms Qahtani had been coming under pressure from the security services over her reporting of the trials of two leading Saudi human rights activists, Mohammad al-Qahtani and Abdullah al-Hamid. The two men founded the Saudi Civil and Political Rights Association (ACPRA). They were tried on a variety of charges including breaking their allegiance to the king and setting up an unlicensed organisation. Iman Qahtani was among a group of activists and journalists who live-tweeted the hearings, posting pictures from inside the court. This allowed a rare transparency for the legal process in Saudi Arabia. One of the judges originally ordered Ms Qahtani's arrest for providing false information, although this charge was later dropped. Both the ACPRA founders were finally found guilty and given sentences of 10-11 years in jail. Several other rights activists have been imprisoned in the past two years - indication the Saudi authorities are taking a harder line on dissent in the wake of the Arab Spring upheavals. Iman Qahtani's silence on Twitter had raised concerns for her. Now, she has broken that silence - if only to show she is clearly being closely observed by the security services. A travel ban is a common penalty in Saudi Arabia for those who are believed to be stirring political unrest. On Twitter, there have been messages of support from Saudi tweeters for Iman Qahtani, as well as fears expressed that the government's campaign to silence critical voices is intensifying.

Film,TV actor Nadeem turns 72

Famous film and television actor Nadeem Baig turned 72 Friday. Born as Mirza Nazeer Baig Mughal on July 19, 1941, Nadeem is a Pakistani actor who is considered as the best actor of his time in Pakistani film industry. He has acted in several films, telefilms, and TV drama serials. He was born in Vijayawada in Andhra Pardesh state of India in 1941. He was interested in singing and used to take part in musical competitions, and was noticed by the famous singer Firdousi Begum. She was impressed by his singing talent and encouraged him to try playback singing in Dhaka's film industry. Nadeem's film career spans more than 45 years. He started his career in 1967 and appeared in his first film Chakori in a leading role with Shabana as opposite actress. The film was produced and directed by Captain Ehtesham, who, in real life, became his father-in-law in 1968. The film did well in both circuits of Pakistani film industry, i.e., West and East. He achieved Nigar Award in the best actor's category for Chakori. With consecutive hit films, like Chotay Sahab and Sangdil, he became one of the leading film actors of Pakistan in the 1970s and 1980s. Nadeem's commercially successive films include Nadan (1973), Anari, Pechan (1975), Talash (1976), Aina (1977), Hum Donon (1980), Lajawab, Qurbani (1981), Sangdil (1982), and Dehleez (1983). Besides acting, Nadeem has sung many songs for films.

After Supermodel, no bikinis for Veena Malik

Pakistani actress Veena Malik says she has worn so many bikinis in her upcoming film Supermodel that she doesn't want to wear the two-piece garment ever again.
"The number of bikinis that I have worn in this film, I have never worn as many before. I don't even intend to wear a bikini again," the 29-year-old said.
"Probably this is going to be the only Bollywood film in which you will see me in a lot of bikinis. From now onwards, I have decided not to wear bikinis," she added. Directed by Navin Batra, the film, shot in Fiji, also features Ashmit Patel as a photographer.

US rules out post-2014 presence sans BSA
There would be no American troops on the ground in Afghanistan post 2014 without the Bilateral Security Agreement (BSA) being signed, a top US general said the other day.
BSA negotiations suspended by President Hamid Karzai after the United States announced the opening of the Taliban’s political office in Doha and plans for direct talks between the two sides. “That's right, sir,” Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey told Senate Armed Services Committee members, when Senator Carl Levin said any US presence after 2014 was dependent on working out a bilateral agreement with the Afghans. “I hope President Karzai is listening to that answer,” Levin said. But Dempsey, who is travelling to Afghanistan later this week, exuded confidence the BSA would be reached in time. Dempsey said the US military had made several recommendations to President Barack Obama on the residual force in Afghanistan. “We've provided several options. We've, as the Joint Chiefs, made a recommendation on the size and we've also expressed our view on when that announcement would best meet the campaign objectives.” In his remarks, Levin said while the campaign was on track to transition responsibility for the country's security to continue to draw down over the next year and a half, significant challenges remained to secure the hard-won gains. “Among those challenges is putting the US-Afghanistan partnership on a sound footing for the long term, including through the conclusion of a bilateral status of forces agreement to ensure our troops have the legal protections necessary for any post-2014 US military presence in Afghanistan,” he said. Recent statements by President Karzai had complicated negotiation of such an agreement and “I’ll be interested in what our witnesses have to say about the prospects for a successful negotiation, as well as what the status is of the efforts in Afghanistan militarily,” Levin remarked. Dempsey said Afghan security forces were on track. ISAF Commander Gen. Dunford, who hoped to achieve his campaign objectives in developing the Afghan forces, acknowledged there were potential gaps that he would like to have clarity on after the fighting season, the general concluded.

Afghanistan: Funds for roads end up in private pockets
Only a fraction of Kabul’s streets are paved properly. The vast majority of roads are nothing but potholes and dirt, yet contractors regularly overshoot road-building budgets. The Independent Media Consortium Productions (IMCP) investigates the money trail.* The Kabul Municipality has accused the Turkish-owned Copy International and three Afghan firms -- Hewadwal, Latifi and Quyash Niazi -- of inflating road-construction costs. A committee appointed by the president’s office in end-2008 to probe the charges of embezzling funds and failing to adhere to the terms of the contract had representatives from the ministries of economy, public works, and finance, the State Administration Office and Kabul Municipality. The findings were submitted with evidence to the presidential palace. Kabul residents complain the roads that have been repaired are in the10th, 1st, 2nd and 17th districts where the rich and powerful live. Meanwhile, work has not finished on a 2 km stretch from Campany to Mahtab Qala that should have completed in end 2011. In the 13th district, Reza, a resident says, “The work is going on very slowly on Barchi road, a grinder works like an ant …” The findings, which IMC has made public for the first time, has been endorsed by its authors Engineer Abdul Ahad Wahid, Technical and Construction Deputy Mayor of Kabul Municipality, Muradi, representative of the palace, Engineer Adel Shah, representative of Ministry of Public Works, Nayeb Khail representative of Finance Ministry and Bismillah Bismil, the technical adviser to Kabul Municipality. The companies that claimed the entire budget for the projects, did not bother to return the money for work that remains outstanding. Instead, additional funds handed out by the Kabul Municipality have also been pocketed. Investigations by IMC reveal that Quyash Niazi spent 4.43 million dollars to pave a 70 metre wide road in the west of Kabul but charged Kabul Municipality 7.2 million dollars. Copy International spent 16 million dollars on the road from the airport to Intercontinental Hotel, but collected 18 million dollars. Documents submitted by Hewadwal show the cost of work on Qala Zaman Khan in the 16th district was 5.1 million dollars but Kabul municipality has disbursed 10.5 million dollars. Receipts and invoices also show that the cost of repair work for the 60 metre-Ahmad Shah Mena road in the 12th district through Bagrami executed by Latifi was 11 million dollars but Kabul municipality paid 12.95 million dollars.

Taliban-style edict for women spreads alarm in Afghan district

One of Afghan President Hamid Karzai's main religious advisers will not overturn a decree issued by clerics in the north re-imposing Taliban-style curbs on women, in another sign of returning conservatism as Nato forces leave the country. Just days after the United States launched a $200 million program to boost the role of women in Afghanistan, a senior member of the country's top religious leaders' panel said he would not intervene over a draconian edict issued by clerics in the Deh Salah region of Baghlan province. Deh Salah, near Panjshir, was a bastion of anti-Taliban sentiment prior to the ousting of the austere Islamist government by the US-backed Northern Alliance in 2001. But the eight article decree, issued late in June, bars women from leaving home without a male relative, while shutting cosmetic shops on the pretext they were being used for prostitution — an accusation residents and police reject. “There is no way these shops could have stayed open. Shops are for business, not adultery,” Enayatullah Baligh, a member of the top religious panel, the Ulema Council, and an adviser to the president, told Reuters late on Friday. Residents of Deh Salah described the order as a “fatwa”, or religious edict, although only senior clerics in Kabul should issue such a binding religious order. But underscoring opposition to the edict, a mayor was shot dead by a teenaged shop owner while trying to enforce the order, which also barred women from clinics without a male escort, threatening unspecified “punishments” if they disobeyed. Afghanistan has one of the world's highest infant mortality rates and more than a decade after the US-backed toppling of the Taliban, it still ranks as one of the worst nations to be born a girl. Under Taliban rule from 1996 until 2001, women were forced to wear the head-to-toe covering burqa and sometimes had fingers cut off for wearing nail varnish. The decree, signed by a conservative cleric in the area named Zmarai, contained a warning of holy war if authorities tried to block it: “If officials do react to our demands, we will start a jihad.” There is growing fear among many people in Afghanistan that the withdrawal of Nato-led forces and efforts to reach a political agreement with the Taliban to end the 12-year-old war could undermine hard-won freedoms for women. “Like the Taliban again” In the deeply conservative, male-dominated country where religion often holds more sway than legal authority, religious leaders have often been a major barrier to women obtaining the rights granted to them under the constitution. In Deh Salah, home to about 80,000 people, most of them ethnic Tajiks rather that the majority Pashtuns, the main community from which the Taliban draw support, a cosmetic shop owner named Abdullah stood before his business — now hidden behind plywood sheeting — and said clerics were increasingly flexing their muscles.“They want to bring back the Taliban days. If they have their way they will take control in this district and make life impossible,” said Abdullah. “We are poor people and they have closed me down. I want the government to take action or we are going to have mullahs running the place like the Taliban again,” he said. Shah Agha Andarabi, a doctor, said the rumour of prostitution and adultery in Deh Salah was without foundation and was being used as an excuse by conservative clerics to crack down on women. “There is nothing going on in these shops and I guarantee that. There was no proof. They just wanted to close these shops to women,” he said. Deh Salah police commander Colonel Abdul Ahad Nabizada also rejected the claims underpinning the decree, but said the mayor who was shot while closing the shops had been frightened into action by the threat of jihad against him if he was deemed to be blocking the edict. “Everyone here is Muslim. We haven't seen any behaviour like they claim in this small city. There were women coming to get their needs in the market and conservative people were against it,” said Nabizada. US aid officials this week announced a $200 million assistance package for Afghan women, to be matched by other international donors allied with the Nato-led coalition in the country, due to end combat operations by the end of next year. Human rights and women's groups have accused Karzai's government of backtracking on pledges to protect women's freedoms, highlighted by parliamentary opposition to a presidential decree outlawing violence against women. The government also appointed a former Taliban official to the country's new human rights body, while criminal laws under consideration in parliament would prevent women and girls testifying against family members accused of abusing them.

PAKISTAN: Women in Karak barred from leaving home without 'mehram'
A committee of local clerics (ulema) in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa's Karak district banned the entry in markets of women who are not accompanied by a 'mehram' (close male family member). The local clerics committee of Khattak Ittehad held a meeting at the Tehsil Masjid Karak, headed by former district amir of Jamiat-i-Ulema Islam Hafiz Abne Amin on Friday decided that women roaming in the city bazaars (markets) without male members of their family were a source of spreading vulgarity in the society and should be stopped. The meeting which was also attended by Mualana Mir Zaqeem, Mualana Abdul Rehman and other clerics. The clerics also met the local administration and the police to implement the decision but they had refused to facilitate the implementation of this decision. When contacted, Mir Zaqeem who is the head of Khattak Ittehad, Karak city said that the decision was taken because most unaccompanied women were becoming a source of spreading vulgarity, especially in the holy month of Ramazan. He added that a group of such women (without a mehram) were also involved in theft and robberies. The Maulana further said that unaccompanied women in bazaars was not only against local Pakhtun culture but also against religious norms. He added that those women who were accompanied by a mehram would not be stopped from coming to bazaars. The clerics committee also requested local shopkeepers not to sell goods to women who are shopping alone in bazaars. Reaction of civil society Resident Director of Aurat Foundation Shabina Ayaz said that the decision of the ulema was a violation of fundamental human rights and was a denial of a woman's right to live on her own will. She added that the state must act swiftly to ensure women rights. She further said a few individuals should not have the authority to decide for 48 per cent womenfolk who had equal rights as any male member of the society in Pakistan. Qamar Nasim the programme coordinator of a civil society organisation has termed the ban a gross violation of the women rights and demanded that authorities take action against the culprits invloved. Nasim said a similar step was taken last year before Eid as well but due to pressure from the civil society the administration had the decision reversed. The chief executive of Paiman Trust, Mussarat Qadeem is of the view that this order is morally, ethically and humanly an act of gross women right violation and an injustice with women. If the jirgas and the local committees are so concerned about the women, they should come to their help and provide the daily needs to the destitute women at their doorsteps.

Pakistan: Imran Khan’s proposal

Daily Times
The All Parties Conference (APC) to reach consensus on a viable national security strategy was supposed to be held on July 12, but was postponed by the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) government. There may be good reasons behind the delaying of the APC, such as the realization that the much-touted negotiations with the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) may not be the best way, by themselves, to tackle national security issues. The Prime Minister (PM) has consulted the ISI and has also been briefed by the interior ministry on the menace of terrorism, which may have caused a shift in the PML-N leadership’s attitude. The PM has recently become less vocal about negotiating with the TTP, unlike previously when he was enthusiastically promoting the rhetoric that negotiations were the only way out of this conundrum. Imran Khan’s recent statement in which he asks the PM and the Chief of Army Staff to have a closed-door meeting with him further jeopardizes the prospects of an APC taking place soon. He claims that an APC on national security may be ‘inappropriate’ at this time because disclosing all facts regarding national security publicly will not be prudent. He further says that a closed-door meeting to ascertain all the facts should be held first before making an attempt to formulate a holistic anti-terrorism policy. The Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI) leader has previously also expressed his party’s lack of faith in an APC as similar meetings held in the past did not prove to be successful. Imran Khan shed some light on why previous APCs did not produce results and said that the PPP government continuously lied to parliament and the people about its covert agreements with the US regarding the war on terror and issues such as drone strikes. Imran Khan’s proposal is puzzling to say the least. He may be right in saying that certain sensitive information concerning national security should not be disclosed publicly, but if he wishes to have a meeting behind closed doors with the PM and COAS, why shouldn’t the rest of the political leadership be taken on board and apprised of the situation in similar fashion? One individual should not be given such a privileged status that his request to be privately briefed by the civil and military heads of the country is obliged. Moreover, Imran Khan’s incessant claims that the root cause of terrorism in Pakistan is our involvement in the war on terror are flawed, as the Pakistani Taliban came into existence years after Pervez Musharraf allied Pakistan with the US. The TTP, in fact, was the result of the Lal Masjid operation carried out by the military regime in 2007. The TTP’s goals are to topple the state system and impose their version of Shariah on the people. As has become manifest over the years, the TTP and its affiliated organizations have no qualms about ruthlessly killing soft targets such as civilians just to bring the government to its knees and force it to comply with their unreasonable demands. Negotiations can only take place where there is room for compromise. Considering that the TTP does not even believe in the political process and considers many political leaders of Pakistan to be infidels worthy of being killed, how can anyone expect to hold meaningful negotiations with such irrational people? Imran Khan is right in saying that the civilian-military leadership should be on the same page and that the people deserve to know the truth about any secret deals with the US. However, he should understand that the leadership of every major political party has an equal right to be consulted regarding terrorism. Also, Imran Khan should realize that the right way to deal with the Pakistani Taliban is to adopt a firm approach, although the door for negotiations should never be closed for any faction of TTP that believes in dialogue. The federal government, provincial governments and the security apparatus should all build consensus on adopting a zero-toleration policy against these miscreants who have caused immense damage to Pakistan.

Pakistan: All-out war against extremism

The US Commission on International Religious Freedom on Thursday painted a grim and challenging picture of growing religious extremism that had claimed lives over 700 people in Pakistan during the past 18 months, urging Islamabad to take concrete, resolute action to curb religious violence and emphasizes the need to ensure that perpetrators of violence are arrested, prosecuted and jailed. The US Commission forms the basis of its report on 203 publicly-reported incidents in Pakistan, resulting in over 1,800 casualties including those of 700 dead. Sectarian violence in Pakistan is of a prime concern for every Pakistani haplessly watching human bodies falling down like dried leaves in autumn every other day. The most of the religious militant organizations, born to resist the Russian invasion of Afghanistan, had been declared outlawed over the years yet they are relentlessly operative in many parts of the country but not without the foreign funding they are receiving even today. Thus any action against the outlawed extremists have become a difficult proposition despite the successive governments have planned to do so. The religious extremism has attained a complex dimensions. Many of the extremists of the outlawed religious outfits have formed their own splinter groups and have developed their nexus with the notorious bandits, the eminent political figures and the foreign contractors. Of late, the gangsters of notorious Chhotu Mazari gang operative in south Punjab, who are said to be linked to the banned Lashkar-i-Jhangvi, had kidnapped the eight policemen to use them as a bargaining chip for the release of three arrested gang members and the annulment of criminal cases against them. One of the kidnapped policemen has already died in the captivity. Police, restraining from using force against them for obvious reasons, are negotiating with the kidnappers through a local PML-N law-maker without a success. The talks between the two reportedly broke off when the authorities refused to free one of the arrested men on the kidnappers’ demand. In a state where the police had to negotiate with the criminals for the release of their colleagues, the rooting out such hardened criminals is, of course, a challenging task for the government that had assumed power just a little over month ago. Thus in the given scenario, any emphasis on the government to go after them is little over-ambitious call. The findings of the US report are, no doubt, sobering. The religious extremism is number one enemy of the state that the government and its security forces had firm resolve to root out the menace at the earliest. But it needs the cooperation of the world community to help stop foreign funding of the banned outfits, militants and disgruntled elements working against the existence of Pakistan. The situation existing today reminds foreign interference that cut off Pakistan in two pieces in 1971. After their own failure in the decade-long war on terror, the Americans are sharing a negotiating table with Taliban how can Pakistan on its own do what the US is urging it to do. First, the US and allies have to stop abetting and harboring the splinter groups and disgruntled elements living in there respective states only then Pakistan Government can purge the society with vengeance and commitment even it can successfully launch cleansing against the state actors that the US thinks are not blameless either. Pakistan has reached a point of do-or-die where it had to go for all-out war against all ills that are threatening its survival.

Pakistan:Father of Christian girl victim of rape by Muslims threatens to commit suicide if justice not ensured

LAHORE:Christian leaders presented a 14 years Christian girl, student of class 7, before media in Lahore Press club to tell horrifying incident of abduction and rape of this Christian girl that government may step forward to arrest Muslim culprits to ensure justice. The father of victim girl, who is illiterate told media representative that “Today I want to draw your kind attention on the unpleasant incident of the kidnapping and rape of my innocent daughter Humera aged 14, student of class 7th. Through this press conference I also demanded the Chief Justice of Pakistan and the High officials in the ruling government to take stern action against the rapists and ensure that the justice will be done. On July 13, 2013 in between 05:00pm to 06:00pm my daughter Humera was alone at home and was kidnapped by Zubair for the purpose to commit rape. The accused shifted her at undisclosed location and raped her on gun point for several hours. I along with relatives was worried about the whereabouts of my daughter Humera and started searching here and there. While I was searching for my daughter and later informed by Pervaiz Masih and Samson Masih that Zubair & Murtaza riding on the motor bikes taking Humera along with them and striding out towards the neighboring village Adha 367/EB. They also informed that my daughter was secretly put out of sight some here at the Bashir Memorial Trust. I along with my relatives and respectable in the local village council politely asked the accused Zubair & Murtaza for the safe return of Humera but the accused denied for the custody of Humera neither admit her kidnapping. Later near about 10:00pm I along with relatives went to the Bashir Memorial Trust and the moment we reached in the compound the accused Zubair and Murtaza escaped from the place of occurrence and I found my daughter naked and in critical condition. Immediately we covered her and she informed that the accused Zubair and Murtaza on gun point raped and sexually assaulted her severely. The accused also threatened and forced me for compromise and prohibited me for not to take any legal action against the accused. The accused person’s by attention delayed in the registration of case FIR. The Accused Zubair is cable operator by profession while the co-accused Murtaza is land lord in the vicinity and linked surrounding areas and has repute in the district. The accused party is influential and the police are following their instructions. Whereas on 15-07-2013 I went to the area police station Gago Mandi for the registration of criminal case FIR under kidnapping and rape against the accuse persons. The police was biased and even was not ready to listen my plea. Finally, after the strong resistance and agitation of my relatives the police got registered a criminal case FIR No. 529/13 offence under section 365-B and 376 (ii) of the Pakistan Penal Code (PPC) against accused Zubair and Murtaza at the Police Station Gago Mandi, District Vasari. The police have arrested accused Zubair and have obtained four day remand and the other accused namely Murtaza with the help of police has obtained on month pre-arrest bail starting with 15-07-2013 till 13-08-2013. According to the Pakistan Penal Code (PPC) the offences are non-compoundable and at this stage one month’s pre-arrest bail and release of accused is unjustified. The story of barbarism has not been ended and the doctors at the authorized local government’s hospital has joined hands with the accused party and has prepared bogus medico legal report. According to the medical report the doctors has falsely declared that victim Humera is habitual and nothing has happened with her neither the accused has raped Humera. I have a question in my mind that instead of helping my daughter to get justice, why the police, local political leadership, doctors and the law enforcement agencies are against my daughter? The accused party also influential and has strong political background and the local political leaders of the ruling party are backing the accused persons. The police are also giving favor to the accused party while misbehaving with all of us. The father of the victim Christian girl presented following demands;
1. I am appealing to the President of Pakistan, Prime Minister of Pakistan, Chief Justice of Pakistan, Chief Minister Punjab, Law Minister and relevant institutions for justice and demanding unsympathetic punishments for the nominated accused. 2. The local police has joined hands with the accused party and demanded the government to initiate the inquiry again and demanding for the composition of district level medical board for complete medical examination for my daughter. 3. I want to ask the Prime Minister of Pakistan that why the local political representative of your political party are backing the accused party and protecting Zubair and Mustafa (the rapists). 4. The accused party and their well wishers have warned that if I will not compromise or to will not withdraw the FIR, the Christian proprieties will be attacked and churches will be set into fires. The accused are influential and has strong political background and threatening me and my family for life and warning for the dire consequences. If I will be failed to get justice I along with my wife and children will commit suicide at the front of the residence of Main Muhammad Naas Sharif (Prime Minister of Pakistan). I want justice and please consider my daughter as your daughter and take stern against the responsible so that the accused rapists may not able to disgrace any woman. I thank all of you for your kind attention and consideration Sohail Johnson (Chairman Sharing Life Ministry Pakistan), victim Humera, Rasheed Masih (aggrieved father Humera), Bishop Yahoo Paul (Chairman Pakistan Christian Party), Aslam Pervaiz Sahotra (Chairman Human Liberation Commission), Nadeem Anthony Advocate (Program Manager SLMP), Yousaf Karman (Field in charge SLMP), Shaleem Samson (Volunteer SLMP) and Salem Shaker (Social Worker

Malala and mattersof the mind

By Kamila Hyat
The eloquent, poised speech from Malala Yousufzai at the UN Headquarters to mark a day named after her – and on her 16th birthday – should have filled us all with pride. Few teenagers possess the maturity Malala demonstrated and even fewer have moved the world as she has. We should be proud she comes from our country, and should certainly stand ashamed of what was inflicted on her and her schoolmates last year. The events in Swat on October 9, 2012 should have – in the first place – created a much bigger response amongst us. They, however, did not and the same confusion, the same dichotomy in mindset, was reflected after her UN speech. For a number of warped reasons, Malala Yousufzai has become an object of controversy rather than admiration. As a nation we are well-versed in the art of pulling people down to the ground, rather than helping rise them up and stand tall. This is what we have tried to do to Malala. Even though we desperately need heroes – male and female – who can act as role models, we refuse to accept Malala as someone who can play this part. This may be because to some degree we are unwilling to accept a young girl, indeed a mere child, as a symbol of courage and inspiration. But the problem goes beyond this. First, there are the conspiracy theories; the ‘suspicions’ that the whole incident may have been faked, with western support, to ‘damage’ Pakistan. It would appear some people actually believe the shooting incident was staged. There have been suggestions, from those one would have considered perfectly reasonable people, that there is ‘more’ to the Malala story than meets the eye. This story begins, essentially, with a bullet in the head. They do not explain if Malala and her parents deliberately allowed her to be shot, leaving behind extensive damage that could so easily have killed her. How can there be more to this sequence of events? It is hard to understand such thinking, harder still to analyse it. We have simply developed a diseased, twisted mindset in which anything or anyone praised by the west is considered evil. This thinking is driven on by leaders, such as those from both the Jamaat-e-Islami and the Jamiat-e-Ulema Islam-Fazl, who questioned last year if the child had been shot at all. This while she was undergoing emergency surgery in Peshawar and then, on medical advice, was whisked away to the UK for further care in an air ambulance provided by the UAE. Her distraught father, Ziauddin Yousufzai, was quickly portrayed as a ‘dollar digger’, presumably one who had his own daughter and her friends shot. No one who has met the determined schoolteacher from Swat – a valiant fighter against the Taliban, a man known in Mingora as a quiet humanitarian helping many however he could and an obviously devoted father who is proud of his eldest child – would believe this for even a moment. Still more shocking has been the response after the speech. Yes, there has been some openhearted praise and a sense of pride. But this seems to come from a minority group. The BBC and other online sites broadcasting the speech were flooded with snide, openly hostile comments and abusive comments even before the speech ended. Most accused Malala of being a ‘US stooge’ or agent. Others asked why she had not spoken about drone strikes – an entirely irrelevant issue, given her focus on promoting universal education – and around many of the remarks the ugly, green snake of jealousy seemed to have wrapped itself, grudging Malala the global attention and standing ovations she received, rather than celebrating this as a national success. Beyond sections of the English language media, coverage was largely muted. In some cases the speech, which made global headlines, was relegated to inside pages even by mainstream publications. While there were touching pictures of schoolchildren in England crying as they heard the speech, describing Malala as an ‘idol’, no such images seemed to come from her own homeland. Even people who one would expect would know better reacted in an odd fashion. Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif, rather unwisely, tweeted from a personal Twitter account, commenting that the speech was tailor-made for global audiences. Since Malala was addressing the UN, a speech suitable for an international audience was only appropriate. The comment from the CM was removed some time later as criticism poured in – alongside support from his many Twitter followers. The PML-N has pointed out that this was not Shahbaz Sharif’s official account. However, he has used the account often and it is his opinion as a leader that is relevant. The remark simply reinforces suspicions regarding certain political parties’ thinking, sometimes hidden behind a thin veneer of ‘progressiveness’. The president of the country, Asif Ali Zardari – in his official capacity – felicitated Malala after her speech. Some PPP and ANP figures are reported to have at least sent personal messages. No other major political figure or leader of a party did so. The lack of comment from the prime minister, the education minister and the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa chief minister were perhaps particularly obvious – glaring omissions that reflect the broader state of thinking in the country. Clearly, something has gone very wrong with a nation that hesitates to promote education or welcome open-heartedly those who do. In many ways, this way of thinking is even more dangerous than the bullets fired by the Taliban or the bombs used by them over the years to kill thousands of innocent people. We have become confused – almost dazed – living in a hallucinatory world and convincing ourselves that, like some kind of badly-written fantasy, almost every force is pitched against us and every event is orchestrated to malign our country and its people. The realm of rationality has slipped away. Malala Yousufzai has been nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize. If she wins it, she would, at age 16, become the youngest ever recipient of what is almost certainly the most prestigious award in the world. Even the fact that she is one of the frontrunners for the award is a huge honour. The question we need to ask is: if Malala is named as the Nobel laureate for the year, will we shun her as we did our previous Nobel prize winner, Dr Abdus Salam Khan? Will we refuse to acknowledge her as we did Dr Salam? Why is it that we refuse to accept our heroes with magnanimity? Clearly something has gone very wrong with our thinking processes. The Malala Yousufzai saga has simply highlighted this and shown just how much we need to do to stay in step with the rest of the world using logic rather than paranoia to guide us and determine how we act.