Monday, October 14, 2013

Votes sell for about $5 in Afghanistan as presidential race begins

Sayed Gul walked into a small mud brick room in eastern Afghanistan, a bundle wrapped in a shawl on his back. With a flick, he plonked the package onto a threadbare carpet and hundreds of voter cards spilled out. "How many do you want to buy?" he asked with a grin. Like many others, Gul left a routine job - in his case, repairing cars in Marco, a small town in the east - to join a thriving industry selling the outcome of next year's presidential elections. Gul, who had a long, black beard and was dressed in the traditional loose salwar kameez, said he was able to buy voter cards for 200 Pakistani rupees ($1.89) each from villagers and sell them on for 500 rupees ($4.73) to campaign managers, who can use them in connivance with poll officials to cast seemingly legitimate votes. From each card, Gul said, he made enough money to pay for a hearty meal like kebabs with rice, and maybe even a soda. There are months to go until polling day on April 5, but many presidential candidates are already alarmed by the scale of the illicit trade in voter cards and questioning how legitimate the election will be. An election marred by more fraud than the last polls in 2009 will play into the hands of Taliban insurgents and risk a breakdown of government as multinational troops pull out of the war-ravaged nation. "When people buy and sell voter cards for the cost of lunch, it means that Afghan democracy is for sale," said Azizullah Ludin, who was the chairman of the Afghan election watchdog in 2009 and is now himself running for president. The United States, which has led an international effort to restore democracy in Afghanistan since it helped oust the hardline Islamic Taliban regime in 2001, desperately wants the election to be the crowning moment of its presence before Western combat troops withdraw at the end of 2014. The winning candidate will replace President Hamid Karzai, who is constitutionally barred from seeking a third five-year term. Among the candidates are his elder brother Qayum, former foreign minister Zalmay Rassoul, another former foreign minister Abdullah Abdullah and a former Islamist warlord turned parliamentarian, Abdul Rab Rassoul Sayyaf. Some of the candidates and their supporters were on opposite sides of the Afghan civil war in the 1990s and charges of fraud in the election could set off fresh tensions, strengthening the Taliban. The threat of the insurgents, who oppose the election, was used at the last poll in 2009 to perpetuate widespread rigging, observers said. Thomas Ruttig, the co-founder of the Afghan Analysts Network, described how a group of men claiming to be Taliban fighters stormed a polling booth in an eastern province when the vote was on. "Everyone fled. The ballot boxes were empty beforehand, and full afterwards," he said. The nomination process for the 2014 poll ended only days ago, but the voter card trade is already starting to worry Western diplomats instructed to monitor the election for their governments. While it may be difficult to measure the scale of fraud compared to 2009, security will clearly be a bigger threat to the process next year, according to Davood Moradian, the director of the Afghan Institute for Strategic Studies. "Last time, there was a degree of certainty about the security situation surrounding the election. This time because of the transition and withdrawing of international troops, the security will be more challenging," Moradian said. THE TRADE IN BALLOT CARDS Last week, a group of diplomats from various European embassies swapped stories over dinner about how easy it was to pick up a voter card. One had first-hand experience, recounting how he had registered as a Panjshiri, or a native of the Panjshir Valley in the north, at a polling station in Kabul. One of his Afghan staff also signed up with false details. Their fingerprints were taken but no one asked for proof of identity and the voter cards were printed out in about five minutes. Government officials are struggling in vain to stem the trade in the cards and people like Gul have even started to sell cards in some of major cities around the country. Women's voter cards are the easiest to trade because men can obtain them on their behalf - without providing a photograph or their fingerprints. This is because in Afghanistan's ultra-conservative culture, it is insulting to ask a woman to show her face and many are not allowed to leave the house without an escort, if at all. Men's cards have photographs and fingerprints, but with the help of election officials who have been enticed or threatened into cooperation, these can be used to vote by anyone who holds them. "Very recently we have sacked a whole team of election officials in Momand Dara district because they were making up fake lists and giving away voter cards," said Akhtar Mohammad Ajmal, the head of the Independent Election Commission (IEC) in the eastern Nangarhar province. "I don't deny there is voter fraud but we are working hard to tackle it." In Kandahar, police were involved in the theft of registration lists from a polling station. The growing strength of the Taliban means that swathes of the country will be beyond the reach of independent observers, leaving the door wide open to manipulation by corrupt officials. In a recent of example of the hazards faced by monitors, Taliban gunmen shot and killed the IEC head in the northern province of Kunduz last month, a day after he warned that deteriorating security threatened next year's election. VOTER CARDS FOR POTATOES Traders like Gul say they are not engaging in criminal behavior, but merely responding to the demands of rich politicians and poor villagers who choose to trade their votes for a few extra meals. In parts of the northern and lawless province of Kunduz, voter cards have become a form of currency and are being exchanged for bags of rice and potatoes, local officials told Reuters, adding that most of those buying the cards work for candidates as campaigners. Most of Gul's cards came from his home district of Ghani Khil, a Taliban hotspot in Nangarhar where the physical danger of voting is enough to put many villagers off. The Independent Election Commission, which was created to ensure elections are free and fair, has had little to say on the matter of voter card trading so far. "We have heard of this and it is major concern for us," said commission spokesman Noor Mohammad Noor. "But we have certain measures in place to scrutinize the fraud." This week, Noor said the watchdog had expelled the first presidential candidate from the race for failing to provide required documentation, including evidence of support from 100,000 legitimate votes from 20 provinces. "He was missing most of his documents, including his support list," Noor told Reuters.

Pakistan's President Mamnon Hussain's family & extended family declared VVIP's to perform HAJJ on poor's taxes.

President Mamnoon leaves for Hajj along with 30... by arynews
According to the list received to ARY News, these 30 people include President Mamoon Hussain's wife Begum Mehmooda Mamnoon Hussain, son, daughter in law, grandson, granddaughter, sister, protocol officer and 8 others, who will perform the pilgrimage at the Government's expense. Sources reported that the Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) has not been paid for the VVIP travelling arrangements for the President Mamnoon Hussain and his relatives. PIA is already facing a loss of millions of rupees whereas the Government had announced that it will be selling 26% of its total shares in the market.

Senate seeks deal to avoid U.S. default as time runs short

U.S. lawmakers in the Senate said on Monday they hoped to reach a deal soon to reopen the government and avert a looming default as investors worried that Republicans and Democrats might not be able to resolve their differences by a Thursday deadline. After weekend negotiations proved fruitless, senators from both parties said they still thought they could reach agreement in the coming hours. With the most unrealistic demands off the table, the two sides were trying to craft a temporary measure that would allow Washington to step back from the ledge. "I'm hopeful we can have something meaningful by the end of the day," Republican Senator Roger Wicker of Mississippi said on MSNBC. The Treasury Department says it cannot guarantee that the U.S. government will be able to pay its bills past October 17 if Congress does not raise the $16.7 trillion debt ceiling by then. It's not clear whether Congress can meet that deadline. Even if Republicans and Democrats in the Senate reach agreement on Monday, hard-liners such as Texas Republican Senator Ted Cruz might be able to delay a vote for several days. The House of Representatives also would need to sign off on the plan. Republican leaders there face strong pressure from a vocal conservative flank that is deeply reluctant to make concessions to President Barack Obama and his Democrats. Many say they won't back any deal that doesn't undercut Obama's 2010 healthcare reform law, the Affordable Care Act - a non-starter for Democrats. "We've got to draw some lines in the sand now. This, to me, is an epic battle over Washington versus America, and I hope America wins," Republican Representative Matt Salmon of Arizona said on CNN. Analysts expect that any deal is likely to come down to the wire. Though Treasury likely will have enough cash on hand to meet its obligations for a week or so, it might be forced to pay a higher interest rate on the bonds it is due to issue on Thursday. Banks and money market funds are already shunning some government bonds that are normally used for short-term loans. In China, the largest foreign holder of U.S. debt, the state news agency Xinhua said it was time for a "de-Americanized world." U.S. stocks fell at the open on Monday. The S&P 500 Index was down 0.53 percent and the Dow Jones Industrial Average was down 0.48 percent by mid-morning. The ongoing government shutdown is beginning to weigh on the economy as well. The hundreds of thousands of federal employees who have been temporarily thrown out of work are likely to get back-pay when the standoff is resolved. But they aren't getting paid now, forcing many to dial back on personal spending and cancel holiday travel plans. Any agreement that would come in the following days would not resolve disagreements over long-term spending and the Affordable Care Act that led to the standoff in the first place. Despite the objections of rank-and-file conservatives like Salmon, many Republicans are eager to move the discussion away from "Obamacare" and toward possible spending cuts. "All of us now are talking about spending, which is where we should have been in the first place," Republican Senator Bob Corker of Tennessee said on MSNBC. Republicans have floated plans that would push back any possible default for several weeks and keep the government open for several months, but Democrats say that would simply set up another market-rattling confrontation which could spook consumers and further weigh on the economic recovery. "If we just extend this to January, we'll be right back in the middle of this," Democratic Senator Mark Begich of Alaska said on MSNBC.

World Leaders Press the U.S. on Fiscal Crisis

Leaders at World Bank and International Monetary Fund meetings on Sunday pleaded, warned and cajoled: the United States must raise its debt ceiling and reopen its government or risk “massive disruption the world over,” as Christine Lagarde, the fund’s managing director, put it. The fiscal problems of the United States overshadowed the official agendas for the meetings, with representatives from dozens of countries — including two of Washington’s most important economic partners, Saudi Arabia and China — publicly expressing worries about what was happening on Capitol Hill and in the White House. The leaders came to Washington to talk about the international recovery, Ms. Lagarde said in an interview on the NBC News program “Meet the Press.” “Then they found out that the debt ceiling was the issue,” she added. “They found out that the government had shut down and that there was no remedy in sight.” “So it really completely transformed the meeting in the last few days,” Ms. Lagarde said. With only three days left before a potential default, Senate leaders failed on Sunday to reach agreement on a plan to reopen the government and raise the debt limit. Many leaders at the World Bank and I.M.F. meetings said they believed the impasse would be resolved before Thursday, when the government would be at severe risk of not having enough money to pay all its bills on any given day going forward. But they pressed Treasury Secretary Jacob J. Lew and the Federal Reserve chairman, Ben S. Bernanke — who were both at the I.M.F. meeting — on the issue, predicting that even a near-default would lead to higher borrowing costs and a slowdown of the global economy. “This cannot happen, and this shall not happen,” Baudouin Prot, chairman of the French bank BNP Paribas, said at a meeting of the Institute of International Finance also being held in Washington. “The consequences of this would be absolutely disastrous.” Mr. Lew acknowledged the threat. “Our work begins at home,” he said. “We recognize that the United States is the anchor of the international financial system. With the deepest and most liquid financial markets, when risk rises, the flight to safety and to quality brings investors to U.S. markets. But the United States cannot take this hard-earned reputation for granted.” Participants at the meetings remained on edge, given the gravity of the threat. Ms. Lagarde said “that lack of certainty, that lack of trust in the U.S. signature” would disrupt the world economy. Wolfgang Schäuble, the German finance minister, issued his own urgent appeal. “The fiscal standoff has to be resolved without delay,” he said in a statement released by the I.M.F. Jamie Dimon, the chief executive of JPMorgan Chase, painted a bleak picture of the days ahead if there is no resolution. “As you get closer to it, the panic will set in and something will happen,” Mr. Dimon said at the international institute event. “I don’t personally know when that problem starts.” He added that JPMorgan had been “spending huge amounts of time and money and effort to be prepared.” Many of the high-ranking officials present in Washington for the meetings made open appeals to Congress, with warnings coming from many of Washington’s allies and creditors. Ms. Lagarde’s counterpart at the World Bank, the American physician Jim Yong Kim, said the world was “days away from a very dangerous moment.” “The closer we get to the deadline the greater the impact will be for the developing world,” he said. Fahad Almubarak, governor of the Saudi Arabian Monetary Agency, said “urgent political agreements on budget and debt issues are necessary to preserve and, indeed, reinforce the modest recovery.” And Yi Gang, an official with China’s central bank, said the fiscal uncertainties “must be addressed promptly.” Concern over the impasse has already led to a slide in stocks — including the worst two-day dip in months. American economic confidence has taken the worst hit since the collapse of Lehman Brothers in 2008. And investors have dumped certain short-term Treasury debt because of fears that the Treasury might not pay them back on time. Markets ended last week with a burst of optimism, after House Republicans took the first steps toward a compromise. But that optimism faded over the weekend. On Sunday, with negotiations in the Senate stalled, the value of the dollar was sliding. In the Asia-Pacific region early Monday, stock markets moved lower in Singapore, Taiwan and Australia. Markets in Hong Kong and Japan were shut for holidays. On Monday, all eyes in the American and European markets will be focused on the negotiations in Congress. Big American companies will announce their quarterly results this week, normally a significant event for Wall Street. But that is likely to attract little attention until the political negotiations are settled. There has been much debate about how quickly problems will ripple through the economy before and after the deadline. The Treasury Department will continue to take in money and might be able to pay its bills for as long as two weeks. Some House Republicans have said that even if the Treasury misses some payments, it will have enough money to avoid defaulting on its debt, the most frightening outcome for financial markets. The I.M.F., which lends to governments that have trouble finding financing on the sovereign debt markets, said it had been planning for any market disruptions. Mr. Kim of the World Bank said that the United States’ flirtation with default in 2011 raised borrowing costs for many poor countries. Much of the attention has been on the enormous outstanding pool of Treasury bonds and bills. Short-term government bills are used to grease the wheels for many financial transactions and provide a benchmark from which other assets are priced. If the value of that debt was suddenly drawn into question, markets could quickly seize up. Money market funds, the popular mutual funds that own large amounts of Treasury bills, have been selling those that are scheduled to pay out in late October and November. Anshu Jain, the co-chief executive of Deutsche Bank, said on the international institute panel that his executive team had been trying to make contingency plans in case of a default, but it had struggled to come up with measures that would significantly stem the losses. “You don’t want to go into all of it,” he said. “This would be a very rapidly spreading fatal disease.”

Malala Yousafzai: The Bravest Girl in the World

By Mick Krever
When Malala Yousafzai woke from the coma the Taliban put her in, she was aware of only a few things. “Yes, Malala, you were shot,” she told herself. She thought back to her dreams – of lying on a stretcher, being in some distant place far from home and school – and realized that they weren’t dreams, but recollections. “The nurses and doctors, everyone was speaking in English,” she recalls. “I realized that now I am not in Pakistan.” All Malala Yousafzai wanted was to go to school.
But she lived in an area of Pakistan, the Swat Valley, where the Taliban had effectively taken over governance, and imposed its harsh ideology – of no music, no visible women, and certainly no girls in school. For defying their will, and refusing to stay silent, the Taliban tried to murder Malala, then a 15-year-old girl. Miraculously, she survived, and has continued speaking truth to power about education, extremism, and equality. Almost a year to the day after the attempt on her life, Malala, and her father Ziauddin, spoke with CNN’s Christiane Amanpour in front of a live town hall audience at the 92nd Street Y in New York. The Taliban, she told Amanpour, “say that we are going to fight for Islam. … So I think we also must think about them.” “And that's why I want to tell Taliban [to] be peaceful,” she said, “and the real jihad is to fight through pens and to fight through your words. Do that jihad. And that's the jihad that I am doing. I am fighting for my rights, for the rights of every girl.” When she woke up from her week-long coma she asked for her mother and father by writing on a piece of paper; she had a breathing tube in her throat that prevented her from speaking. “The first thing I did was that I thanked Allah – I thanked God, because I was surviving, I was living,” she told Amanpour. “They told me that your father is safe and he will come soon, as soon as possible,” she recounted. “And the second question that was really important for me and about which I was thinking - who will pay for me? Because I don't have money and I also knew that my father is running a school, but the buildings of the schools are on rent, the home is on rent … then I was thinking he might be asking people for loans.” A 15-year-old girl, a week after being shot in the head by the Taliban, was worried about how her medical bills would be paid.
Extraordinary circumstances
Malala was ten when the Taliban came to the Swat Valley, she writes in her memoir out this week, “I Am Malala.” “Moniba and I had been reading the Twilight books and longed to be vampires,” she wrote. “It seemed to us that the Taliban arrived in the night just like vampires.” The Taliban started broadcasting nightly sermons on FM Radio. Everyone started calling it “Mullah FM.” In the beginning, their messages were guidance on living that appealed to a devout audience, including Malala’s mother. Slowly, they became more radical, urging people to give up their TVs and music. Then, Malala told Amanpour, the Radio Mullah – as they called him – made an announcement that the young schoolgirl could not possibly abide. “‘No girl is allowed to go to school,’” she recalls him saying. “‘And if she goes, then, you know what we can do.’” They congratulated the girls that heeded the call. “‘Miss So-and-so has stopped going to school and will go to heaven,’ he’d say,” she wrote. And you had only to walk around her hometown of Mingora, in the Swat Valley, to see what would happen if you crossed them – women flogged in the street, decapitated men lying in the gutter. But Malala defied the call. She went to school as normal, and listened to the Western music – Justin Bieber and Selena Gomez – of which she was fond. She replaced her school uniform with plain clothes, to avoid attention; she wore a Harry Potter backpack, as shown in a documentary by Adam Ellick of the New York Times. At one point, a Pashto television station interviewed some school children, including Malala, about life in Swat. Soon thereafter, she spoke to a national broadcaster, Geo TV. “I did not want to be silent, because I had to live in that situation forever,” she said, nearly screaming the final word. “And it was a better idea, because otherwise they were going to kill us – so it was a better idea to speak and then be killed.” A producer from the BBC approached her father about having one of his teachers blog about the experience of living under Taliban rule; instead, Malala volunteered herself. “On my way from school to home I heard a man saying 'I will kill you,’” she wrote on January 3, 2009. “I hastened my pace and after a while I looked back if the man was still coming behind me. But to my utter relief he was talking on his mobile and must have been threatening someone else over the phone.”
Daddy’s girl
You cannot really tell the story of Malala Yousafzai without talking about her father, Ziauddin. In most Pakistani families, Ziauddin told Amanpour, when a girl is born, “a kind of sympathy is expressed with [the] mother,” an acknowledgement of the fact that boys are vastly more valued than are girls.
Not so for Ziauddin.
“I usually tell people, don’t ask me what I have done,” he said. “Just ask me what I did not do. That is important. The only thing which I did not do, and I went against the taboos, and I went against the tradition – that I did not clip the wings of my daughter to fly.” It is impossible to stand with Ziauddin and his daughter and not feel, as if by osmosis, the soul-wrenching love he feels for his daughter. “She's the most precious person for me in my life,” he told Amanpour. “And we are not only father and daughter, we are friends.” But to ask Malala, it is Ziauddin’s personal courage, not his devotion to her, that has fueled her determination most. “I also remember the time of terrorism, when no one was speaking, and my father dared to speak, and he raised up his voice,” she said. “He was not afraid of death at that time. And he still not is.” Ziauddin, an English-teacher by vocation, ran the girls’ school, Khushal School, that Malala attended. “You blast my school and you will say, ‘Don't condemn it.’ It's very difficult,” Ziauddin said of the Taliban. “You kill my people and say don't say anything.” “I think better to die than to live in such a situation,” he told Amanpour. “I think that it's better to live for one day to speak for your right than to live for a hundred years in such a slavery.” Even when she had an international media profile, Malala worried that the Taliban would come for her father, not her. “I was worried about my father, because I was not expecting Taliban to come for me,” she said. “I thought that they might have a little bit manners, and their behavior would be – somehow they would be like humans.” It was Ziauddin who encouraged Malala to speak up, and allowed her to give TV interviews, blog for the BBC, and raise her international profile. Did he, Amanpour asked, feel at all responsible for the violent attack that almost ended his daughter’s life?
“No,” he said emphatically. “Never.”
Pakistan’s government, he said, “could not protect four hundred schools in Swat. They should be repenting that they could not protect the girls to be flogged. They could not protect the infrastructure of Swat to be sold and they could not protect the men to be slaughtered in the square. Why should I repent?”
The politician
When Malala was young, she wanted to be a doctor. She got good grades, she told Amanpour – and not just because her father was the school principal, she chuckled – and in her community the studious girls could become one of two things: a doctor or a teacher. Ziauddin, no doubt with some mix of affection and recognition that she was a prodigy, encouraged her to speak up and think about going into politics. Soon, she started to like the idea. “I realized that becoming a doctor, I can only help a small community,” she said. “But by becoming a politician, I can help my whole country.” And, with a wry sense of humor that surprised and delighted the town hall audience, she added that many doctors in Pakistan “have to treat patients who are being injured, who are being killed. So I want to go and stop those people who are doing killings. So it’s also like helping doctors.” And yes, she added, “I want to become a prime minister of Pakistan.”
The nuclear family
So much attention has been focused on Malala and her father – so progressive in their cause – that it is easy to forget the mother and two brothers who have stayed almost invisible to the public eye. “The first and the important thing in my life is that I raise my voice – against my brothers,” she joked. “I am, like, the only daughter. So it's very necessary to fight against them and to raise our voice against them.” Her mother, who is devoutly religious, has been supportive of her cause, Malala said, but just has maintained a modest profile. She grew up illiterate in Urdu, the national language of Pakistan, and English, literate only in her local mother tongue. “I used to write poems to her,” Ziauddin admitted, blushing. Malala rescued her father from further embarrassment. “A father must not share it in front of his daughter,” she said through a broad grin, “because the daughters learn from parents.” Malala said her mother used to take her to the market and scold her for not properly covering her head. “She used to tell me, cover your face. See, that man is looking at you,” Malala told Amanpour. “I said, mom, I'm also looking at them!” “We love our culture,” Ziauddin said. His wife, he said, has “always [had] her scarf. And this is not something imposed. This is cultural.” “For me, all cultural and traditional things, they are very lovely when they don't go against human rights. So that is simple.”
The fateful day
On October 9, 2012, Malala was on the white bench of her Toyota TownAce school van on her way home from school. She had just taken an exam, and was happy to be chatting with her friends. Two men stood in the middle of the road, blocking the van’s path. One started speaking to the driver. “Another boy, he came at the back,” Malala told Amanpour. “He asked, ‘Who is Malala?’ All the girls, they got furious. No one could understand what he is saying, because we were thinking about our next day exam paper. And on that day we were having a gossip, who would get the higher marks, who would get the lower marks.” “He asked ‘Who is Malala?’ He did not give me time to answer [the] question. … And then in the next few seconds he fired three bullets. One bullet hit me in the left side of my forehead, just above here,” she said, gesturing to the left side of her forehead. “My two other friends,” she said, “they were also shot in their shoulders. … That was a really sad news for me, because if I was shot, that was fine for me. But I was then feeling guilty that why they have been the target. So it was really sad for me to hear.” The next time she saw the light of day, she would be lying thousands of miles away, in a British hospital.
The world knows ‘Malala’
“I didn't know that - that the whole world was praying for me, and are still praying for me,” Malala told Amanpour. “Not only the people of Pakistan, not only Muslims, not only Pashtuns, but everyone prayed for me.” Not only are there prayers, but celebrities from Madonna to Angelina Jolie, leaders from Gordon Brown to Queen Elizabeth II have offered public and emphatic support. The Queen, in fact, has extended an invitation to Malala and her father for a royal visit. Of course she will go, Malala joked, “because it's the order of the queen – it’s the command.” “When people write on Twitter, we support Malala, it does not only mean” they are just supporting Malala, the person, she said. “They're also supporting my cause. It means that the whole world is taking an action for girls' education, for the education of every child.”
The cause
“In Swat, before the terrorism, we were going to school,” Malala told Amanpour. “It was just a normal life and carrying a heavy bag and doing homework daily and being good and getting high marks.” Why are we going to school, she and her friends asked themselves. “When the terrorists came, when they stopped us from going to school, I got the evidence,” she said. “And they showed me a proof that, yes, the terrorists are afraid of education. They are afraid of the power of education.” That power has sustained her through life under unimaginably harsh conditions, through an assassination attempt, through the alien world of book junkets and shouting reporters and flashing cameras. “They did a mistake, the biggest mistake. They ensured me, and they told me, through their attack, that even death is supporting me, that even death does not want to kill me.” “The thing is, they can kill me. They can only kill Malala. But it does not mean that they can kill my cause, as well; my cause of education, my cause of peace, and my cause of human rights. My cause of equality will still be surviving. They cannot kill my cause.” “They only can shoot a body,” she said, “but they cannot shoot my dreams.”

In Pakistan, new focus on rape after a string of deadly attacks on children

By Tim Craig
In a rural village in Pakistan’s eastern rice belt, two teenage sisters left for school one recent day on a muddy path far too narrow for cars. Within hours, they were dead, their bodies left facedown along a swampy canal after they were raped and shot multiple times, the medical examiner reported. By the next morning, their deaths were news across Pakistan, the latest in a grisly stream of sexual attacks on minors. “They were identified by their clothes,” Muhammad Nazir, the victims’ uncle, said in an interview. “All we know for sure: They went from their house to school, and they were murdered.” For generations, rape was a taboo subject in this conservative Muslim society. As recently as a decade ago, the news about the 14- and 16-year-old sisters might never have traveled beyond this rural area, where rice fields stretch for miles and workers shape bricks from the spongy soil. But thanks to a freer media and a push by child-welfare advocates to get families to report such crimes, the number of cases under investigation is rising, as is the outrage of parents, the public and advocacy groups. “People are now reporting things, and people are now seeing children are suffering heinous, horrible crimes,” said Narjis Zaidi, a human rights advocate in Islamabad. On the same day in late September that the sisters were killed on the outskirts of Gujranwala, the body of a 13-year-old girl was found on a Karachi beach after she was raped and killed on the way to school. A week earlier, a 5-year-old girl was raped multiple times after being kidnapped. She was then dumped outside a hospital in Lahore, Pakistan’s second-largest city. And on a single day — Sept. 20 — Pakistan’s Express Tribune newspaper reported on the alleged rape of a 4-year-old by his school principal in Faisalabad, and the rapes of another boy, also 4, and a 14-year-old girl. The teenager had been gang-raped by four men over two days, the newspaper reported. Each case has brought new waves of angry mothers besieging police stations demanding public executions. In Karachi, after the rape of the 5-year-old in Lahore, schoolgirls paraded with signs displaying a noose. In Pakistan’s culturally conservative northwest, female lawmakers attempted to block roads in Peshawar to protest the crime, according to media reports. “This country has gone to the dogs,” said Shazia Shaheen, coordinator for the Mumkin Alliance, a coalition of organizations that advocate for battered women. Activists and government leaders note that sexual violence is hardly unique to Pakistan, citing widespread abuses across much of the Middle East and South Asia, including the brutal gang-rape and murder of a 23-year-old New Delhi student in December that shocked India. What makes the reports in Pakistan especially notable is that they have emerged at all, reflecting a broader awareness by victims and the news media.
More widespread awareness
Activists say the media attention can be credited in part to the opening of several dozen privately owned television news stations after the government’s monopoly on electronic media ended in 2002. That has led to more aggressive coverage of topics previously ignored. “It’s like a disease,” said Rana Mohsin, a freelance television journalist in Punjab province. “Ten or 20 years ago, no one knew they had high blood sugar or blood pressure. But now there are labs, and people know and are more aware, and the same with this.” Several rape cases have been well publicized in recent years, including that of Mukhtar Mai, who made international headlines after she spoke out about being gang-raped in 2002 on orders from village elders. The convictions of all but one of six men charged in connection with the case were overturned. In Punjab, Pakistan’s most-populous province, there was extensive coverage in 2010 and 2011 of a serial rapist who attacked eight children in the Sialkot district, leaving some of them dead, said Muhammad Imtiaz Ahmed, program manager for Pakistan’s Society for the Protection of the Rights of the Child. “After that, the media, the police, educationally, all started talking about how we need to do a better job of protecting children,” he said. Pakistan’s government does not release frequently updated statistics for child sexual abuse. But according to Sahil, an Islamabad-based activist group, cases of child sexual abuse covered by the media grew from 668 in 2002 to 2,788 in 2012. “We still think these statistics are just a fraction of what’s going on,” said Manizeh Bano, the group’s executive director. Activists and government leaders suggest various theories for the recent attacks. Some blame the country’s conservative, Islamic-centered school system, which they say has been too slow to reverse cultural norms that treat females as inferior. Sahil staffers also worry about HIV-positive men who mistakenly believe they can be cured if they have sex with preadolescent girls. In February, according to media reports, a man cited his HIV-positive status as his reason for raping a 9-year-old and an 11-year-old in Islamabad. The girls were later killed. Still, as in other parts of the world, minors in Pakistan face the greatest risk of sex abuse from relatives or acquaintances. Abida Hussain, who was Pakistan’s ambassador to the United States from 1991 to 1993, noted that the average family in Pakistan is twice as large as the typical U.S. family. “There is crowding, less space, less of everything, and there is less sense of control,” she said.
Calls for legislation
Muhammad Tahir Khalily, chairman of the psychology department at the International Islamic University in Islamabad, said the details of many of the recent assaults are shocking even to experts. Although he said more study is needed, Khalily said he thinks the country’s struggle with terrorism and the near-daily reports of bombings and assassinations are partly to blame. “There is a famous saying, ‘Violence causes violence,’ ” Khalily said. “To have this fusion of aggravation and sexual acts, and with young children, this is highly unusual.” Concern about the attacks extends to the National Assembly, where legislators plan to consider new laws. The legal definition of rape was changed in 2006, but activists say successful prosecution relies too heavily on witness testimony. Activists estimate that less than 10 percent of rapes in Pakistan result in convictions. Saman Sultana Jafri, a lawmaker from Karachi, said she hopes to champion legislation that includes tougher sentences, a safety campaign aimed at children, resources for mental health treatment and a government-sponsored study of what is causing so many attacks on children. But she warns that it could take years to pass such legislation as lawmakers weigh concerns from religious leaders. Underscoring the potential hurdles, the influential council of Islamic leaders that advises lawmakers ruled last month that DNA evidence alone cannot bring a conviction in a rape case. Nonetheless, activists say the increased media coverage makes it harder for officials to ignore the problem. In the killing of the 13-year-old girl in Karachi, police arrested a cousin of the victim and the cousin’s husband. In the Lahore case, police have questioned at least 20 potential assailants. In Gujranwala, where the sisters’ blood still stains the grass, the local police commander said he is under pressure to make an arrest. “With the media attention and [pressure from] higher authorities,” said Zubar Warriach, the police commander, “we have to do our job.”

Pakistan: Negotiating With (Exiled) Baloch Leaders

The Baloch Hal
It is unclear what Balochistan Chief Minister Dr. Malik Baloch actually means when he says he will ‘take’ a jirga to exiled Baloch leaders Harbiyar Marri and Bramdagh Bugti to convince them to sit on the negotiation table with the Pakistani government. A Jirga is normally ‘convened’ not ‘taken’ to a place. However, since the enraged nationalist leaders are currently living in exile, the head of the provincial government plans to send a delegation of tribal notables and influential political figures to Europe to negotiate with them. Before doing that, the C.M. says he is going to convene an all-parties conference (A.P.C.) on Balochistan in order to develop a mechanism to push the disillusioned Baloch leaders to talk to the government. Dr. Malik is so enthusiastic about his plans that he is not deeply concerned about the outcome of his strategy. He says he does not worry at this point whether or not the Baloch leaders will heed his request. Yet, he is determined to establish contact with them and also optimistic about the outcome of his endeavors. In the past, different official leaders shared their plans about possible talks with Baloch armed groups and exiled leaders in an effort to buy more time. It is too early to judge whether Dr. Malik is also buying time like his predecessor Nawab Aslam Raisani or he is struggling to conceal the rifts within his own coalition government over the issue of cabinet formation and governance. When Dr. Malik recently visited London, he did not meet any of the Baloch leaders. He told the London-based correspondents that he would not meet with the exiled leaders because, he admitted, the government had still not taken ample confidence building measures to win the Baloch trust. The recent A.P.C. in Islamabad, which mainly focused on the issue of terrorism and talks with the Taliban, entrusted Dr. Malik the responsibility to approach all Baloch leaders and initiate talks with them. Since the A.P.C. was also attended by the heads of the Army and the Inter-Services Intelligence (I.S.I.), it felt as if Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and the Chief of Army Staff General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani were on the same page on Balochistan. Previously, Generl Kayani had implicitly said that the army would only support talks with those who believe in the supremacy of the Pakistani constitution. That said, he would not negotiate with those who call for a free Balochistan. The prime minister and the army chief’s expression of trust in the chief minister has a positive as well as a negative connotation. On the positive side, there seems to be an acknowledgement of the fact that Balochistan is a region with its own traditions and political culture. A part of the problem in the past has been Islamabad’s ignorance about Balochistan and the failure to learn the art of negotiating with Baloch tribal and political leaders. General Musharraf, for instance, made a blunder in his dealing with Nawab Akbar Bugti. Without realizing the social and political consequences of killing a prominent tribal chief and a key political figure, Musharraf ignited fire in Balochistan by ordering the killing of Bugti. We assume that the prime minister and the army chief realize that a Baloch chief minister would be an appropriate interlocutor between the federal government and the Baloch. At least, he can prepare the ground for more serious talks in the future. On the negative side, it seems that Sharif and Kayani are intentionally distancing themselves from a critical national issue. We all know that the Balochistan chief minister is too weak and powerless to carry the burden of such a big conflict. So far, the Pakistan army, the Frontier Corps (F.C.) and the intelligence agencies have been blamed for orchestrating the conflict in Balochistan. Therefore, it is the top civil and military bosses in Islamabad, not the provincial chief minister, who have to come forward, own their old mistakes and provide a road-map for peace in Balochistan. There are genuine reasons to be cynical about Sharif’s commitment. Last month, Sharif raised the Balochistan issue with the Indian Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh in his meeting in New York on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly. Subscribing to the military-promoted narrative of the alleged Indian involvement in Balochistan, the prime minister asked his Indian counterpart to refrain from interfering in Balochistan. Sharif’s flagrant discussion on Balochistan with Dr. Singh shows that Islamabad still does not feel the guilt of its own crimes against the Baloch and it blames other countries for the mess in the country’s largest province. As the prime minister of the world’s largest democracy, Dr. Singh should have instead raised the issue of human rights abuses in Balochistan and reminded his Pakistani counterpart that groups like the Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have repeatedly blamed the Pakistani security services, not their Indian counterparts, for political assassinations and dumping the bullet-riddled dead bodies of the Baloch civilians. Without the full support of the army, Dr. Malik would remain so powerless that even talks with the Baloch Students Organization (B.S.O.-Azad), the pro-independence student outfit, if they ever take place, will not yield any positive outcome. In Pakistan’s large cities, mainly in Islamabad, some confusion is now rising within the army, the government, the media and the policy circles as to why a “nationalist chief minister” should face any hardship negotiating with fellow nationalists. It is very important to make a clear distinction between the Dr. Malik-type of nationalists and the ones fighting in the mountains and supporting the movement from overseas. The sooner the establishment makes the distinction between the two, the better it is to skip illusions. Dr. Malik type of nationalists enjoy zero influence over those who ask for independence. They do not share the same goals and modes of struggle. In fact, the Baloch armed groups view Dr. Malik and his types as ‘traitors’ who have ‘sold out’ to Islamabad. Therefore, they are keen to target these pro-Pakistan leaders wherever they see them and absolutely unwilling to talk to them. Meanwhile, there are at least three major leaders that the government would ultimately have to talk to in order to initiate serious dialogue. First, Dr. Allah Nazar, head of the Baloch Liberation Front (B.L.F.), is the only one among the three leaders who is still inside Balochistan. Today, the B.L.F. operates in more districts than any other insurgent groups. Even the Baloch Liberation Army (B.L.A.) and the Baloch Republican Army (B.R.A.) do not have similar influence in the non-tribal parts of the province. The B.L.F. is active in Kech, Gwadar, Panjgur, Awaran and Lasbela districts. Second, the government should talk to Harbiyar Marri, the London-based pro-independence leader who significantly influences sections of the pro-independence groups. Although he has never confirmed his affiliation with the B.L.A., it is speculated that the group does not defy his instructions. Third, Nawabzada Bramdagh Bugti, the Switzerland-based head of the Baloch Republican Party, must be approached for talks. Mr. Bugti has a large following among the Bugti tribesmen and even outside the tribal region. The government does not need another A.P.C. on Balochistan because parties that are likely to participate in it do not matter with regards to the Baloch issue. Those who matter are either in the mountains or living on exile. The task of negotiating with the Baloch requires consistent commitment and engagement. The government should prove its sincerity and willingness to talk to the Baloch leaders with substantial confidence building measures.

Pakistani Anxiety Over Kabul-Washington Security Pact

With a conclusion to the Kabul-Washington Bilateral Security Agreement (BSA) on the horizon after U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry made an unexpected trip to the Afghan capital to hash out issues delaying its signing, some across the border in Pakistan have expressed worries about the possible implications of the accord. "Afghanistan wants America to react against Taliban and terrorists from Pakistan in Afghanistan, which means they [Afghanistan] want America to launch attacks in Pakistan, and that is concerning," Mahmood Shah, a retired Pakistani army officer, told TOLOnews. Relations between Kabul and Islamabad have long been on edge over the issue of insurgents in Afghanistan receiving training and resource support from groups in Pakistan. Many in Afghanistan, as well as in the West, have accused elements within the Pakistani government of providing support for these groups. The BSA intends to lay out the purpose and logistics of the U.S.' role in Afghanistan's national security once the NATO combat mission ends in December of 2014 and the majority of foreign troops withdraw. The prospect of continued U.S. military action in the region, particularly if it is tied to Afghan policymakers, worries some Pakistani experts who think the activity of insurgents and terror networks moving back and forth over the fluid border dividing the two countries could bring further conflict with the West to their doorstep. "Those who come from outside, if they are terrorists, Taliban, Al Qaeda from Pakistan, the Afghan government wants the U.S. to guarantee it will defend and support Afghanistan against them, and Afghanistan wants this point added to the agreement," Rahimullah Yousofzai, a Pakistani political analyst told TOLOnews. "America has not accepted that point but still it is of concern for Pakistan." Part of the negotiations between the U.S. and Afghanistan over the security pact was the issue of defining what would be dubbed an act of "aggression" against Afghanistan, warranting U.S. intervention. Based on recent comments from Afghan officials, it would seem they are as concerned about state-born threats as they are those from non-state actors like the Taliban and Al Qaeda. Previously, President Hamid Karzai pointed to the Pakistani military's shelling of eastern parts of Afghanistan just over the Durand Line and said that the U.S. also must regard such actions as examples of "aggression." Although Kerry and Karzai told the press on Saturday night that they had put to rest the debate over what constituted an act of "aggression" against Afghanistan, they did not offer any details as to what definition they had settled on. The nuts and bolts of that part of the BSA, as well as other parts, are not likely to be made public until the agreement is either signed or rejected. What is agreed on by Kabul and Washington negotiators must first be approved by the Afghan National Security Council (NSC), Parliament and now the Loya Jirga Karzai has decided to convene within a month before the deal is sealed. Although Pakistani experts outside of formal office have expressed anxieties about the BSA, the line out of Islamabad has not been one of major concern. "This issue is not the purview of Pakistan, this is an issue between Afghanistan and the United States of America and we don't know about the details," said Aizaz Ahmad Chaudhry, the spokesperson of the Pakistani Foreign Affairs Ministry. "But whatever is decided must be clear and must be for the peace, stability and development of Afghanistan." The first signals of possible final steps being completed on the BSA came on Saturday night after 28 hours of negotiations between Karzai and Kerry in Kabul. The two men held a press conference late Saturday night to announce that they had reached an accord on a number of the most contentious issues that were delaying the signing of the BSA. Kerry also decided to stay on another night in order to finish up their talks. During the press conference, President Karzai said that they had agreed on the issues of civilian casualty prevention, the definition of "aggression" in its relation to Afghan national security and U.S. unilateral operations. He said that U.S. forces in Afghanistan post-2014 would not be permitted to carry out such operations, according to the BSA.

Chinese businessmen wary of security conditions in Pakistan

Chinese businessmen are complaining that risky security conditions have made it difficult to invest in Pakistan. This is part of a new trend of criticizing investment conditions in Pakistan after years of government pressure to give favourable treatment to China's "all weather" friend. "The biggest concern is personal security. We do not dare to go out at night in Pakistan," Jiang Fukang, project manager of energy major, Sinotrans Limited, said at a recent seminar. State run Global Times recently advised Pakistan to improve its investment conditions if it wants foreign companies to put money in the proposed economic corridor linking it with China and Central Asia. At the seminar in Beijing, another business executive Hu Wei, Chief Strategist of Sinovel Wind, blamed the poor infrastructure for the low investment flows into Pakistan. The criticism comes at a crucial time when Pakistan is expecting to make the Chinese built Gwadar port to become operational with ships moving from it to the Gulf and to China. It also wants additional Chinese funding to expand the facilities in the ambitious project. "There are more than 13,000 Chinese workers in Pakistan. Chinese people are highly respected in Pakistan and the government of Pakistan will make maximum efforts to ensure their safety. Actually, safety incidents involving Chinese workers are very rare," Pakistani ambassador to China Masood Khalid said at the seminar.


The nomination of Malala Yousafzai for the 2013 Nobel Peace Prize produced a storm of emotions within Pakistan. Most people were—and are—enormously proud of her. But many people also responded with hate and anger. The pride is understandable. Unfortunately, so is the anger as is the hate.
But the fact that an emotion is understandable does not make that emotion justifiable. The hate comes from people who don’t know any better. It comes from those who have been carefully brainwashed into believing that the state of Pakistan is evil and that all those who stand in the way of the spread of Islam—as understood by the Taliban—are also evil. In a recent interview with The New York Times, a former assassin for the Irish Republican Army described the mindset of a killer. “What you’re seeing in that moment,” he said, “is not a human being.” He then talks about how, in August 1974, he walked into a bar in Northern Ireland and shot a man at close range. Fine, you may say. We can understand the mindset of a young boy indoctrinated into becoming a suicide bomber. But what about the anger among even non-Taliban types? What can account for their vehement distaste for a girl who, as Dawn’s Cyril Almeida wrote, is evidently the proud possessor of a beautiful mind and a beautiful soul? Almeida’s explanation for anti-Malala sentiment was that it stems from the collapse of the state. I beg to differ. I think it comes from shame. Over the past six decades, Pakistan has collapsed not just in terms of state institutions but also in terms of basic liberties. We have all witnessed the gradual closing of the Pakistani mind. It started first with the demonization of Ahmadis, whose victimization was then given official cover by the government of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto through a Constitutional amendment. Then came the Zia years in which the boundaries of acceptable debate were narrowed further so as to institutionalize a narrow-minded and mean interpretation of Islam. The following decade of democracy gave us the gift of sectarianism. Those seeds of hate were then further nurtured by the Musharraf regime through a misguided belief that preserving our strategic depth in Afghanistan was more important than preserving human rights. The end result today is a Pakistan that would cause Jinnah to vomit if only he was unlucky enough to see the extent to which his creation has officially embraced politics of prejudice. There is a genocide going on against the Shia and the Hazara and the state yawns. Our official opposition—the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan—informs us that bombing churches is a religious obligation and no one blinks. Our media is free. But it believes this freedom is best used to harass people holding hands in parks or to castigate those who have the temerity to teach our children about the existence of other religions. My thesis is that most of us know this is wrong. But unlike Malala we do not have the courage to speak out. We do not have the courage to put our lives, our families, and our jobs on the line. On an everyday basis, this cowardice gets hidden. We are too busy going to work and making enough to survive. But when someone like Malala comes along, that cowardice has no place to hide. We are forced to ask ourselves why we don’t have the courage to stand with her. And we are ashamed. Shame is a powerful emotion and very few people like being made to feel it. So when someone illuminates the poverty of our minds, it is but a natural reaction to point fingers back at the person doing the shaming. And so people claim that Malala is a CIA agent, a Zionist stooge or an agent of imperialist oppression. Pointing fingers at her allows us to forget her bravery. And it lets us get on with our lives—falsely believing that we are adequate.

Pakistan: Taliban Misfires as Shot Teenager Spurs Pakistan School Rush

The Pakistani Taliban’s attempts to deter girls from seeking an education, epitomized by the shooting of 16-year-old Malala Yousafzai in the face last year, are backfiring as school enrollments surge in her home region.
While Yousafzai missed out last week on the Nobel Peace Prize, her plight is helping change attitudes in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province, which lies at the center of a Taliban insurgency. The four-month-old provincial government boosted education spending by about 30 percent and began an enrollment drive that has added 200,000 children, including 75,000 girls.Yousafzai’s story “is certainly helping us to promote education in the tribal belt,” Muhammad Atif Khan, the province’s education minister, said by phone. “Education is a matter of death and life. We can’t solve terrorism issues without educating people.” Taliban militants targeted Yousafzai in retaliation over her campaign for girls to be given equal rights to schooling in a country where only 40 percent of adult women can read and write. Though the Nobel award went to the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, Yousafzai was showered with accolades in a week in which she published her memoir: she won the European Union’s top human rights prize and met President Barack Obama at the Oval Office.
Faces Covered
The shooting occurred a year ago as Yousafzai traveled home on a school bus in Mingora, a trading hub of 1.8 million people where a majority of women still cover their faces and girls aren’t comfortable answering questions from reporters. The bullet struck above her left eye, grazing her brain. She was flown for emergency surgery to the U.K., where she lives today. The increased media attention since the shooting on Swat, Yousafzai’s district in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, is pressuring government officials to improve educational standards and encouraging locals to send their kids to school. Three days ago in Mingora, as local channels flashed the news that Yousafzai didn’t win the peace prize, high school student Shehzad Qamar credited her for prompting the government to build more institutions of higher learning. “She has done what we couldn’t have achieved in 100 years,” Qamar said. “She gave this town an identity.”
Burning Schools
Four years ago, Taliban guerrillas took control of Swat and imposed their strict interpretation of Islamic law, which forbade girls to attend schools. They beheaded local officials and burned schools in a two-year fight that uprooted 2 million people from their homes in the forested, mile-high valley that sits 155 miles (249 kilometers) north of the capital Islamabad. While a 10-week army offensive starting in May 2009 ended their rule, Taliban strikes in the area are common, deterring tourists from visiting the area’s mountains, rivers and lakes. Soldiers and local militia conduct frequent patrols to protect the valley from attacks. For many in Mingora and elsewhere in Pakistan, Yousafzai’s global fame represents an attempt by the U.S. to disparage local culture. The government says Taliban attacks have killed more than 1,200 civilians, soldiers and police this year. U.S. drone strikes in Pakistan have killed 116 people, including 11 civilians, according to the Long War Journal. “We don’t want our daughters to go out and speak against our traditions,” said Wali Khan, 50, a restaurant owner in Mingora. “U.S. drones are killing innocent kids and women in our area. Do they really care about us? All they want is to malign us through this girl who is playing into their hands.”
Security Increased
While enrollment is increasing in other parts of the province, the Khushal Girls High School & College founded by Yousafzai’s father has suffered. New admissions at the school where Yousafzai attended have dropped since her shooting, administrator Iqbal Hussain said. It had added about 50 new students per year. “The environment is not the same,” Hussain, 38, said in an interview outside of the two-story school, which was guarded by the police and Pakistan’s army. Other schools in the area are doing better, however. Enrollment is surging in both private and government-funded schools, according to Ahmad Shah, the chairman of Private Schools Management Association, an organization that represents 500 schools in the area. His school has seen a 10 percent rise in admissions this year, the most since the Taliban’s ouster. “In our schools, girls are saying I want to be like Malala,” Shah said. “They are relating themselves with her in many ways.”
Female Leaders
Malala symbolizes millions of Pakistani women who are deprived of basic education and equal work opportunities. Only 22 percent of women aged 15 and older go out and work in Pakistan, compared with 78 percent of males in the same category, according to the Pakistan Bureau of Statistics. The country’s prominent female leaders include Shamshad Akhtar, a former central bank governor, and Fahmida Mirza, a former parliament speaker. Former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto was killed in an alleged Taliban attack in 2007. Yousafzai started blogging under a pseudonym for the BBC when she was 11 years old, chronicling her love of learning and Taliban oppression in Pakistan. The following summer the New York Times filmed a documentary about her life. As she rose in prominence, the Taliban targeted her for maligning insurgents. “They don’t think of me as a Westerner,” Yousafzai told the BBC yesterday, referring to other Pakistani citizens. “They’re encouraging me to move forward and continue my campaign for education.”
Schoolgirls Inspired
Sadiqa Ameen, a 15-year-old school girl in Swat, said she wanted to read Yousafzai’s book, titled “I am Malala.” The Pakistani Taliban, or Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan, has threatened to kill Yousafzai and target shops selling her book, the Dawn newspaper reported, citing spokesman Shahidullah Shahid. “This is probably the first ever book written by a Swati girl,” said Ameen, who lives near Yousafzai’s school. “I am sure her story will be something we all know and have gone through during the Taliban rule.” Musfira Khan Karim, 11, prayed for Yousafzai’s success in the Nobel competition with her 400 schoolmates in Mingora. “I want her back here among us,” Karim said in her school’s playground. “I want to know more about her. I want to meet her.”

Pakistan: The PML-N's loudmouth,Minister for Water & Power needs to Shut Up.

The Minister of State for Water and Power Abid Sher Ali accused Khyber Pakhtunkhwa of escalating line losses, to the tune of 157 billion rupees, which he claimed accounted for enhanced loadshedding. He accused the provincial government of its inability to maintain law and order and ensure safety of local electricity infrastructure during loadshedding. This comes in the wake of his earlier tirade against Karachi Electric Supply Company (KESC) and his contention that it has been getting more electricity from the National Transmission and Dispatch Company (NTDC) than agreed with the federal government, a charge that he failed to substantiate with the release of data. And KESC has denied this charge vehemently. The minister needs to put up or shut up. It is difficult to condone such overt verbal attacks against energy companies operating in two provinces by a federal government junior minister who, as a first-time minister of state, must be made aware that his primary responsibility is to ensure amicable intra-governmental coordination which is being compromised by his recent irresponsible statements. The importance and need for federal-provincial harmony is more enhanced after the 18th Constitutional Amendment than ever before. The sine qua non for provision of Council of Common Interest in the constitution is essentially for facilitating and augmenting the phenomenon of a cordial working relationship between the provinces and the federation. The only ostensible motive for Abid Sher Ali's attacks against KESC and Peshawar Electric Supply Corporation (Pesco) appears sadly to be political. The PML-N has been traditionally supported by the country's business community in general and Faisalabad's in particular because of the party's pro-business manifesto. However, there is a general consensus within the business community today that the 2013-14 budgetary tax measures and policies relating to the power sector, including the massive hike in energy rates for the industrial/business sector, are anti-business which, analysts maintain, account for the PML(N) candidate's defeat in PP-72 in by-elections, PP-72 is a constituency in Abid Sher Ali's hometown, Faisalabad and consists mainly of businessmen and traders which had been a PML-N stronghold for 20 years. If however he feels that by attacking KESC and Pesco/KP government he can somehow salvage the party's standing in Faisalabad then he is sadly mistaken: PP-72 has already voted against the incumbent government's policies and the PML-N has another four and a half years to convince the constituency that it will deliver on its manifesto. However, the government has begun to cut off electricity from those areas where the percentage of unpaid bills is high and it is restored only after an agreement on the repayment schedule is made. But while this action can be supported yet bad mouthing public sector companies and provincial governments in public with the objective of seeking political mileage in one's home constituency cannot be supported. Be that as it may, Peshawar Electric Supply Corporation (Pesco) is a poorly performing Disco and its privatisation, together with that of other profitable Discos including Lahore and Islamabad, is in the pipeline and the government has already committed to this in the Letter of Intent (LoI) submitted to the International Monetary Fund under the 6.64 billion dollar Extended Fund Facility. Abid Sher Ali would be well advised to look at the LoI where it stipulates that the government has "identified a number of other companies that can quickly be privatised in the financial and energy sector... in the medium-term energy companies can also be included among the companies to be privatised." At first glance, this appears contradictory and Abid Sher Ali may better spend his time discussing with his cabinet colleagues whether energy companies will be quickly privatised or privatised in the medium-term.

Pakistan: Embedded discrimination: ‘We are not minorities, we are nationals of this country’

Participants at a seminar on Sunday demanded the rights of non-Muslims in the country be safeguarded by making amendments to laws that according to them hinder their civil liberties. Speaking at the event organised by a local non-governmental organisation, Society for Rights and Development (SRD), at the Peshawar Press Club, Professor Salamat Akhtar Masih, a history professor from Rawalpindi said, “We do not believe in the two-nation theory. We only want one nation in this country so everyone has equal rights.” Masih stressed the purpose of the creation of Pakistan was to create a common ground for the people of the region, where everyone would live as one nation as was desired by Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah. He said he has been teaching history for 48 years at a government college in Rawalpindi and also authored a book titled ‘Tehreek-e-Pakistan k Gumnam Sepahi’ (The lost soldiers of the Pakistan Movement). “Whatever I have taught students for the past 48 years is incorrect. We are misleading our youth about our history,” Masih insisted. Religion has nothing to do with the state, he said, adding, “We are not minorities. We are nationals of this country. It is our Constitution which creates the divide by labelling non-Muslims as minorities.” In his address, Ijaz Durani, a social worker said Pukhtuns and followers of various other religions have lived together in harmony for centuries but now the land has been overtaken by extremism and militancy. “Pukhtun women can even become the head of a tribe, however, under our Constitution, neither a non-Muslim nor a woman can become the head of state,” said Durani. National Peace Committee for Interfaith Harmony Vice President Khalid Shehzad said, “This is a war being fought for economic interests whereby no religion, cultural values or human beings are safe.” He stressed the Constitution and laws of the state should ensure equal rights for all its citizens regardless of their religion or sect. Various Christian scholars and social workers belonging to various human rights organisations participated in the seminar.

Pakistan: Increasing violence against women

Startling new studies conducted by four different research bodies, all initiated by Rutgers WPF, have disclosed that domestic violence against women in Pakistan has increased. While such news is alarming, it is not all that surprising. The statistics tell of how as much as 85 percent of women in the country face one or the other form of violence by an intimate male member of the family; almost 47 percent of women are physically abused during pregnancy; a fifth of all pregnant women have been beaten so badly they have aborted; 40 percent face forced abortion because of carrying a female foetus, and the horrid list goes on. Women in Pakistan have always been receiving the hard end of the bargain. These statistics, while enough to make one wince at their enormity and callousness, are not uniquely new. However, what is new is the fact that the abuse and suffering women have faced in Pakistan has not just continued — it has increased. One would expect that as the years go by and awareness and globalised thought settles into society, there would be more civility and restraint practiced against such primitive violence. However, while the modern age has certainly afforded women more exposure to their rights and has empowered them enough to at least start asking for them, patriarchal societies like ours feel threatened by modernisation. The majority of men in our society are used to having their way with women, preferring to leave them illiterate and unaware of their rights. In this way, they have controlled and abused them since times immemorial. However, in this day and age, women are shaking up the accepted norm; they are fighting for their education, going out into the workplace and becoming important, productive members of public life. This is a complete turnaround for Pakistani men who are used to a domestic life where they are the kings and can get away with anything, even abuse levelled at the women of the house. It is not just husbands but fathers, brothers and even sons who are to blame for this alarming increase. Unfortunately, there is still not enough social awareness in Pakistan for us to effectively battle this trend. Victims of domestic violence have no avenues to report or lodge a complaint as it is traditionally thought that whatever happens in the home should not be outed. Women have long been marginalised in our society and have been its most repressed members. They have only now started asserting themselves and that is why the segment of society that has enjoyed complete hegemony and control over them, i.e. men, has become frustrated at their loss of control and are lashing out at them. These studies must not be left to academics alone but must translate into effective action and law to bring down the frequent violence and abuse against women.

Pakistan: From tolerance to extremism

TENSIONS soared in the town of Pangrio in Badin last week after some local Muslim residents objected to the burial of a Hindu man in a Muslim graveyard. After broadcasting warnings from the loudspeakers of the local mosque, a crowd dug up the body and dumped it outside the graveyard for the family to claim. The episode had all the gruesome aspects of mob justice, with the added perversity that the victim was already a corpse. This is the latest incident in an expanding picture of extremism in Sindh. Earlier this year, the custodian of the Dargah Hussainabad near Jacobabad escaped a bomb attack, which sparked Barelvi-Deobandi tensions. A later bombing claimed three lives at Ghulam Shah Ghazi’s shrine near Shikarpur. In 2011, a shrine in Mirpurkhas was also attacked and burned. According to the Pakistan Hindu Council (PHC), the kidnapping, forced conversions, and forced marriages of Hindus are also on the rise — up to 20 kidnapping cases are reported each month to the Hindu Council in Karachi. The PHC also estimates that about 50 Hindu families migrate from Pakistan to India each month to escape the fear of violence and impunity. Accusations of blasphemy (often against Shias and non-Muslims) are also increasingly common — last December, a man accused of blasphemy was burnt alive. Such incidents in parts of Sindh beyond the urban centres of Karachi and Hyderabad cause special alarm because the area is known for Sufism, tolerance, progressive nationalist politics, vibrant regional-language media, and a strong cultural identity, all of which should offer a strong defence against extremism. Signs that pockets of Sindh are vulnerable to extremism offer the federal and provincial governments an important opportunity to develop a pre-emptive strategy to weed out extremist tendencies before they take root. Until now, our government’s modus operandi has been to apply band-aid to gaping wounds once they are already infected (think of the futility of strong condemnations and compensation for those who have lost loved ones in sectarian and suicide attacks). The evolving situation in Sindh offers the authorities a chance to reverse this trend. Moreover, by identifying and addressing the root causes of intolerance, sectarianism, and violent extremism in Sindh, Pakistan’s policymakers can start to get clarity on why extremism spread in other parts of the country, and finally devise a proper counter-extremism strategy going forward. As in other parts of the country, Sindh’s population has grievances that can be exploited by extremist organisations. Inequality is rife: the PPP’s strong showing in the elections highlights the extent to which the province is in the grip of patronage politics, whereby elites enjoy largesse in exchange for loyalty while the poorest remain alienated and underserved. Much of the local population is not well represented; for example, there is only one directly elected Hindu in Sindh’s provincial assembly. As a result, minority rights are far from guaranteed. When the issue of forced conversions flared up last year, then president Asif Zardari tasked a parliamentary panel to investigate and directed the Sindh Assembly to develop a robust response to such complaints. Not surprisingly, no action appears to have been taken by either body. While political representation is flawed and under little pressure to deliver, traditional structures are also weakening (the role of Sufi shrines, for instance, has been weakened owing to contested successions and their co-option by those seeking access to prestige, constituencies, and land). Other chronic challenges include the lack of rule of law, education, and employment. Local police are beholden to waderas and the poor have little recourse to security or justice. Although the provincial government continues to increase the budgetary allocation for education, the funds are poorly utilised and education outcomes are among the worst in the country. There has been little development of the kind of infrastructure that can boost industry or enterprise, and urbanisation remains uneven with more than 70pc of the province’s population concentrated in Karachi, Hyderabad, and Sukkur. This leads to migration, which creates new vulnerabilities for migrants in cities where extremist groups are active. The major gaps in service delivery are being filled by extremist groups. Following devastating flooding in 2010 and 2011, the charitable wings of banned groups were among the first responders. Madressahs — more than 17pc of which have been termed sectarian and dangerous by the Sindh home ministry — have also mushroomed in Sindh in the past decade. For now, more than 70pc of these are in Karachi, Hyderabad and Sukkur, those parts of the province that have among the highest levels of sectarian strife. But their growth in rural Sindh should be closely monitored. Rather than aggressively tackle shortcomings in political representation, rule of law, and service delivery in an effort to snuff out flickers of extremism, the authorities have downplayed the threat. For example, many say concerns about forced conversions and marriages are overstated, pointing to Rinkle Kumari, Lata Kumari, and Asha Kumari, who opted to stay with their Muslim husbands even after their cases were heard by the Supreme Court. No doubt, incidents that seem like manifestations of extremism, including the one in Pangrio, must be properly investigated. Alternative motivations — business rivalries, land disputes — should be exposed where relevant so that the spectre of extremism does not haunt locals or perpetuate narratives of conflict where none are needed. But such investigations will also be the first step towards uncovering where and how extremist forces are active, and these should be met with strong responses by the local authorities. This would be the foundation of an effective, pre-emptive counter-extremism strategy, one that the provincial government would be wise to adopt before it’s too late for parts of Sindh.

Asma urges govt stop the foreign hand in Balochistan

Former President Supreme Court Bar Association Asma Jehangir has said that government have proofs of foreign involvement in Balochistan but government officials are silent. She stated that formation of new government in Balochistan is ray of hope for masses. Talking to media on Sunday, she added that banned outfits and armed extremists were working in the province even today. Asma Jehangir disclosed that according to Human Rights Commission’s report mutilated bodies are recovering from Balochistan up till now. “People are being kidnapped in broad day light there”, she said. The ex-president of SC Bar hoped that new government would control situation and start operation against banned outfits across the province.

Pakistan: The Takfiri Deobandi assault on the dead

Because of its complicity or cowardice, the mainstream media has once again obfuscated facts surrounding an act of extreme wickedness on the part of Sipah-e-Sahaba/Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamaat (SSP-ASWJ). As if the Takfiri Deobandi assault on the 95 percent of living Pakistani has not been destructive enough, the SSP-ASWL terrorists have now turned to the dead in their obstinate bid to impose Saudi-financed Islamofascism in Pakistan. Last week, the student-terrorists based in an SSP-ASWJ-run Takfiri Deobandi madrassa in Pangrio, a town 225 kilometres east of Karachi, dug up a grave, tied the corpse with ropes, dragged it out, and threw it outside the graveyard after kicking and spitting on it.
Whose corpse was it?
For centuries, the Hindus of Sind have been burying their dead in Muslim graves. This has been evidence of amity and brotherhood between the Hindus and the Muslims of Sind. After all, Sind is known to be the land of Sufis.
No more.
The corpse so callously dragged and desecrated was that of Bhooro Bheel, a Hindu teenager who died in an accident. He was buried in a Muslim graveyard where Hindus have traditionally been buried alongside Muslims. But the family of Bhooro Bheel did not realize that Sind is no more a land of peace. In the past few years, Deobandis, awash with Saudi riyals and patronized and protected by the Pakistan Army and its various intelligence incarnations, have taken over the whole province. Thus when the corpse was desecrated, the media give the incident the usual twist. Here is a sample from The Express Tribune, which styles itself as the foremost liberal publication in Pakistan: “. . . an enraged mob had dug up the body within hours, tied it with ropes and unceremoniously dumped it in the lands of a local landlord, protesting the burial of the Hindu in a Muslim graveyard. For some five days, the body lay out in the open. It is reported that seminary students from a neighbouring town had instigated the mob.” No reference to who the perpetrators were. No mention of whose seminary it was. Dawn, another ‘liberal’ newspaper had this to report, “The members of the Muslim community dug up the grave on Sunday, removed the body and handed it over to the town administration.” Dawn went on to quote “Maulvi Mithan, the prayer leader in a local mosque” as claiming: “The town was shut in protest by the Muslims.” ( Maulvi Mithan is not a Shia nor a Brelvi. He is a Takfiri Deobandi mullah. And who are the “members of the Muslim community”? Did any Shia take part in it? No; it was purely an SSP-ASWJ act. You can imagine what the rest of the Pakistani newspapers wrote: They simply did not mention even the word “seminary,” let alone even alluding to “SSP-ASWJ”. It took an Indian publication to quote a police officer who during his press briefing said, “The incident was caused by some clerics of the extremist outfit of Ahle Sunaat Wal Jamaat, but later other Muslims joined in and dug up the body and threw it away.”
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Pakistan: The surrender to religious cleansing

The Hindu
The Taliban attack on the Peshawar church that killed scores of people was an opportunity for Pakistan’s leaders to rally the nation against Islamist extremism but they squandered it. Pakistan’s leaders have squandered another opportunity to rally the nation against religious extremism. The terrorist attack on one of the oldest churches in the country, Peshawar’s All Saints Church, stunned all. For a couple of days, people wondered aloud about the depths to which Pakistan had sunk. But soon after the initial reaction, the media and politicians’ simply continued pandering to the Taliban and other terrorist groups. It is now a familiar pattern. Pakistanis censure acts of terrorism but refrain from condemning or acting against terrorist groups. The terrorists are emboldened with each attack, noting that their ideology is finding space in the political mainstream. The All Saints Church, established in 1883, symbolised the history of Christian presence in Pakistan. Christians have lived in Pakistan long before it was conceived as a separate country. By attacking this historic place of worship, the jihadi terrorists signalled their desire for religious cleansing of Pakistan. This was yet another moment for Pakistan’s leaders to say “No” to the extremist vision of Pakistan as excluding non-Muslims (or, for that matter, Muslim sects other than the hardline Sunni version of Islam). Instead, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and Imran Khan, the leader of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI) responded with calls for conciliation with the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Taliban (TTP). Mr Khan even insinuated that the church attack may have been a “plot” against talks with the Taliban even though the TTP had publicly claimed credit for the terrorist bombing. Although Mr Sharif backed away from talks on terms set by the Taliban ahead of his trip to New York to attend the UN General Assembly session, his government remains committed to talks with a group that murders innocent Pakistani citizens. Pakistan’s religious minorities have been under attack for some time, in stark contrast with the vision laid out by Pakistan’s founder Mohammad Ali Jinnah in his famous August 1947 speech. Jinnah had said: “You are free; you are free to go to your temples, you are free to go to your mosques or to any other place of worship in this State of Pakistan. You may belong to any religion or caste or creed — that has nothing to do with the business of the State.” Sadly for Pakistan and Pakistanis, Jinnah faded away from this life and guidance of the fledgling nation soon after. In the mass population exchanges that occurred at Partition, most Hindus and nearly all Sikhs left West Pakistan for India and a large number of Muslims moved to Pakistan. Christians stayed behind in Pakistan, expecting greater protection because of their support for Jinnah and the Muslim League in Sindh and Punjab. While the Pakistani state often encouraged a national narrative of Muslim Pakistan versus Hindu India, Christians were not often attacked after independence because they were deemed weak in numbers as well as political influence. That has changed over the years. Pakistan Christians now routinely complain of being threatened, harassed, and forcibly converted. There are frequent reports of young Christian girls being raped and unwillingly married off to Muslims. The state’s indifference to these grievances has now led to the attacks by suicide bombers and armed extremist groups. Some Pakistani leaders had voiced concern about the direction that Pakistan was taking as early as 1948. Huseyn Shaheed Suhrawardy, founder of the Awami League, later to serve briefly as Prime Minister of Pakistan, showed a depth of prescience during the Constituent Assembly debates a few months after independence. What was to become a way of life for Pakistanis was visible to him at the very outset. Addressing Pakistan’s first Prime Minister, Liaquat Ali Khan, Suhrawardy pointed out the danger of securing popular support by invoking fear of danger to Islam or the country. “Now you are raising the cry of Pakistan in danger for the purpose of arousing Muslim sentiments and binding them together in order to maintain you in power. This must go. Be fair not merely to your own people whom you will destroy but be fair to the minorities.” The pleas of Suhrawardy and others were ignored and Pakistan has gradually slid into an emphasis on Islamisation that is increasingly becoming violent. Using religion as the sole basis of forging Pakistani nationhood has had catastrophic results as has been the Pakistani establishment’s decision to orchestrate militant groups, groomed and armed for combat in Kashmir and Afghanistan. The Pakistani state can no longer control the jihadi extremists and will eventually have to fight them, unless it is willing to surrender to their narrow concept of an Islamic state. The refusal to accept that harsh reality is enabling the jihadis to persist with their plans while the government is caught with no plan of its own. Many Pakistanis realise that there is no good or bad Taliban. Pakistan needs to ban and disarm all jihadi and sectarian militias. The jihadi extremists do not accept our Constitution or the pluralism necessary for a democratic state. The talk about talks with these groups can never end well for a democratic polity and only encourages their belief that they are winning. The issue, however, is: who will lead Pakistan away from confusion and towards recognition of the need to fight and win against the jihadis?

The Plight of Pakistan’s Christian Minority

Before September 22, 2013, Christians in Pakistan defined history in two parts: before the blasphemy laws and after the blasphemy laws. That definition has now changed. History is now split into a time before the Peshawar tragedy and after. The suicide bombings in Peshawar changed the way Christian minority thinks about the concept of nationalism. The two simultaneous suicide attacks on the historic All Saints church left more than 80 dead and 100 wounded. The bombers used shrapnel in the explosive material for maximum impact, and thus most of the wounded are still in a critical condition. Others remain missing after the huge explosion in the overcrowded church.
The Davids were one of the families caught up in the attack. The eyewitness account by the family’s only surviving member, a teenage girl, explains how the horror unfolded at the church. The family was emerging with others from the church after the service when a scuffle was heard at the security checkpoint at the entrance. The scuffle was followed by a loud explosion as the first suicide bomber detonated his explosives near the entrance. Families ran in panic when the second suicide bomber entered the church and rushed toward the crowd. He then blew himself up, along with hundreds of innocent worshippers. Five members of the David family were amongst the dead. The eldest brother was studying to be a doctor and loved to paint. His surviving sister now stares at his paintings and mourns his death, and the death of other family members. Many other families were wiped out in the attacks. The Peshawar attacks are a brutal turning point for the mostly peaceful Christian minority in Pakistan. Never in the past has the community been targeted directly in a terror strike, notwithstanding the volatile situation in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwah province. Most attacks by extremist factions led by the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) have targeted security officials and other Islamic sects. Christians and other minorities had always kept out of the war. An extremist faction named Jandullah has claimed responsibility for the attacks, saying they are a reaction to the frequent U.S. drone strikes in Pakistan’s northern region, near the Afghan border. Jandullah links itself to TTP, but for its part TTP has denied any link. Through a spokesperson, the TTP insisted that it was not responsible for any attack on Christians nor would it be. Notwithstanding that reassurance, the killing of two well known Christian politicians and a rise in cases involving the blasphemy law augur a difficult future for Christians in Pakistan. The 1.6 percent of Pakistanis who are Christians are seldom involved in extremist activities. But the recent attacks have sparked protests across the country, with protesters chanting slogans against the Pakistan federal and provincial governments. Worried at the prospect of another Joseph Colony incident, security forces are on high alert. The 200,000 Christians in Khyber Pakhtunkhwah province, including the surviving member of the David family, do not wish to leave their hometowns. However, the deteriorating security situation may leave them with no choice. The protestors are now demanding something more than security. The slogans been shouted are slowly changing to better employment opportunities and legislation to avoid the abuse of blasphemy laws to persecute minorities. Perhaps the most surprising outcome of all this is the fact that the messages mostly being communicated by Christian and Islamic scholars are the same: the attacks were carried out by anti-state elements who do not wish to see inter-faith harmony develop in Pakistan. The suicide bombings in Peshawar may have their roots in the complex Taliban network in Pakistan, but they could conceivably end up revolutionizing the concept of minority rights in Pakistan.

Many things are not right about religion

Politico-historical factors notwithstanding, the present crisis is a conflict between “Science and Religion.” Conservatives of all colours and all items and nations have resisted scientific, social changes. Today, the fanatical elements of the Islamic world violently resist social reforms in the cyber age that were confronted by western societies in 19th century. Equality of life and liberty are the new mantra that threatens all old traditions that are based on the exclusiveness of their religious paradise. But, as we know, now there is no exclusive blood group identity that divides us in terms of gender, caste, race and region or religion. The democratic equality paradigm has undercut the very basis of exclusiveness. The principle of equality, irrespective of gender, caste, class, race, region or religion, is not found in the religious testament of any faith, or ancient religion. In fact, all religions promise a safe heaven or paradise, liberation or moksha or nirvana but for their own flock. No religion speaks about the inclusive civil rights of all humanity. No world religion speaks of establishing a non-discriminatory social order. There is no fatwa against killing a non-believer. There is no testament against raping and stoning to death a female or Dalit. In fact, all religious preachers practise social discrimination, and have disfranchised the non-believers, women, the poor and the outcast. Those who think the conflict is between the West and the East or Islamic world often justify terrorist violence due to the hopelessness of “the oppressed minorities” who turn to “violence and terrorism to avenge the majority oppression” But, according to the Concerned Scientists and Philosophers, it is an irrational political reasoning. (The 21st century Manifesto). For poverty and discrimination are not country-community-or religion-specific. In fact, there are no innocent followers of any caste, region or religion that have not violated the human rights of women and the weak. No race, region, religion or, caste, class or creed was or is free from wrongdoings against “other” humans. In the Hindu belief system, the social status is determined by the Law of Karma. If you are born as a woman, poor, or Dalit, that is divine dispensation based on your karma (wrongdoings) in the previous birth. There is, however, some redemption for those who die drinking the holy water of the Ganga. But there is no constitutional provision to grant equal human rights to women and the poor in any holy book of any world religion. Although banned under the Constitution, Hindutva votaries still worship satis (widow burned alive) and the neo-conservatives still commit “honour killing.” Raping and killing nuns by Hindu fanatics is symptomatic of the same sickness which drives Islamist jihadis to stone helpless women to death. We must be reminded of the ghastly act of burning alive an Australian Christian missionary, along with his two children, by Hindutva gangsters. But no Hindu saint or religious head cried of curse, or condemned Hindu rightist crimes. Similarly, those who raped and killed thousands of helpless women, and massacred Bangladesh President Mujibur Rehman and his family were not the oppressed poor minority. The genocide of the majority Muslim Bengalis was committed not by Hindutva men but by the Muslim majority state of the Islamic Republic. Those who issued a fatwa and attacked Taslima Nasreen, author of Lajja (the Shame), were not oppressed Kashmiris. Mrs. Malalai Kakar, 40, mother of six children, was a high profile first policewoman officer in Kandhar. She was investigating crimes against women and children in the Muslim majority Afghanistan. “We killed Malalai Kakar. She was our target and we successfully eliminated our target,” boasted a Taliban spokesman. In another case, a film director of the Netherlands was killed for making a film on the women’s struggle for equal rights in an African Muslim society. A multireligious nation, India adopted a secular and democratic Constitution granting inclusive equal rights to all citizens, irrespective of gender, caste, creed, region or religion. But religious conservatives of all colours actively oppose the political theory of separation of state and religion. The Christian world faced this problem in the 18-19th century when the Pope ruled the West. But theological polity cannot survive the challenges of scientific restructuring of society.