With the government lifting the ban on the Islamic veil in public administrative buildings, restricting the sale of alcohol and taking control of the army, the Turkish secular opposition is worried. Are the Islamists trying to change a society founded on the separation of prayer and power? We investigate a country torn between Islam and secularism.Under the leadership of the AKP – the party for Justice and Development – Turkey has grown into a regional powerhouse. When the Islamist and conservative party came to power 11 years ago, the country was just recovering from a serious financial crisis. Since then, it has enjoyed renewed growth and begun the negotiation process to join the EU. But talks with the EU are now bogged down, and the Islamist policies of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan are raising concern, in a state born from the nationalist and secular vision of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk. On September 30, the prime minister unveiled a series of reforms, including the right of some civil servants to wear the Islamic headscarf, in a clear tip of the hat to the country’s most conservative fringe. Veiled university students have welcomed the reform. Another landmark was a law voted last spring to restrict the sale of alcohol. Prime Minister Erdogan said the law would create a “pious generation” rather than one of “drug addicts”. The secular opposition reacted strongly, denouncing a “creeping Islamisation” of Turkey. The same anger at the government’s policies, perceived as authoritarian and Islamist, was expressed in the mass social protests of last June. But the government cracked down hard on the protesters, sending a clear warning ahead of next March’s elections.
Sunday, October 20, 2013
Despite the heavy-handed oppression by the Al Khalifa regime against Bahraini citizens, Western mainstream media outlets have censored the pro-democracy protests in the Persian Gulf kingdom. Former CNN journalist Amber Lyon has stated that Bahrain is paying the American news network to ignore the regime’s brutal repression and create content that shows Bahrain is in a favorable light. “What CNN is doing is [that] they are essentially creating what some people have termed 'infomercials for dictators'. And that’s the sponsored content that they are airing on CNN International that is actually being paid for by regimes and governments. And this violates every principle of journalistic ethics,” she said. Lyon further noted that even though CNN says its content is editorially independent, Bahrain can affect that. And, the British royal family that has the final say on issues related to the state-funded BBC network, has established close relationships with Bahraini King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa. While the Western media keep ignoring the Bahraini regime’s human rights abuses, Manama keeps cracking down on its own population. Latest reports show Bahrain has even stepped up its campaign of intimidation against pro-democracy activists by arresting a large number of people over the past two months. The Bahraini uprising began in mid-February 2011. Protesters initially called for political reforms and a constitutional monarchy, a demand that later changed to an outright call for the ouster of the ruling Al Khalifa family following its brutal crackdown on popular protests. Scores have been killed, many of them under torture while in custody, and thousands more have been detained since the popular uprising began in the Persian Gulf kingdom. Physicians for Human Rights say doctors and nurses have been detained, tortured, or disappeared because they had "evidence of atrocities committed by the authorities, security forces, and riot police" in the crackdown on anti-regime protesters.
Pakistani film industry's renowned playback singer, Zubaida Khanum, died in Lahore owing to cardiac arrest. She was 78. "She had been dealing with old age related problems but Saturday night's heart attack proved fatal," her son Faisal Bokhari said. Khanum passed away yesterday and was today laid to rest at Raiwind graveyard in Lahore. Born in 1935 in Amritsar, her family migrated to Lahore after partition. Khanum started her singing career in 1950s and instantly got famous thanks to her melodious voice. She ruled the Urdu/Punjabi playback singing scene throughout the decade. Her voice was filmed on leading actresses of 50s - Musarrat Nazir and Sabiha Khanum. Her debut film was 'Shehri Babu' (1953). Some of her memorable songs include 'Kaise kahoun mein alvida', 'Balam tum haar gaye jeeta mera pyar' (Baghi), 'Masti mein jhoom jhoom re', 'Ho dil jala na dil wale' (Koel), 'Aaye mausam rangeelay suhane' and 'Ghoonghat utha loun yah ghoonghat chupa loun' (Saath Lakh). Khanum made actress Meena Shorey's debut on the Pakistani film screen in 'Sarfarosh' (1956) memorable with her evergreen songs like 'Mera nishana dekhe zamana' and 'Teri ulfat mein sanam dil ne buhut dard sahe'. The singer's smash hits included 'Kiya hua dil pe sitam' from 'Raat ke Rahi' (1960) composed by A Hamid. She sang more than 200 songs in 147 movies. Khanum married renowned cameraman Riyaz Bokhari in early 60s and quit playback singing.
ZARI Layaq, a young student of English literature hailing from Madyan, district Swat, recently brought out her first collection of English poetry titled ‘The invisibles’. She is the only daughter of noted Pashto poet Layaqzada Layaq, who is author of several books. She is the first-ever Pakhtun Swati girl to have penned down poetry in English. Drawing inspiration from her poet father at a very tender age Zari Layaq used to participate in poetry recital competitions in school and study books carrying fairy tales. She used to get fascinated by the scenic beauty of her native village. The crystal water rills, green meadows and the snow-capped mountains all paved way for Zari Layaq to express herself in poetry. Currently, she is doing her Masters in English literature from the English Department, University of Peshawar. Spreading over 110 pages, the book contains over 80 beautiful long and short poems mostly images of natural beauty that are reflective of the young poet’s flight of imagination. Some of these poems are emblems of a sad commentary on social injustices while a few others are focusing on bizarre images of our brutal society. In a brief rhymed poem captioned ‘Webbing minds’ the poet says: They weaved around Her infant mind The deadly web Of customs grand It visibly and clearly shows the stifling situation in which Pakhtun women are living under the garb of so-called traditions. Most Pakhtun girls are tied into wedding lock even before their births while some are destined to suffer the ‘grand customs’ in their infancy. In another short poem titled ‘The hidden fire’ Zari portrays the unfulfilled dreams of a Pashtun girl. Constructing without hands She is confident I can see I can see In her eyes The light of fire That glows With blow of dreams This is, however, a positive image of Pakhtun women that they are confident to realise their dreams owing to strength of their willpower and determination. The poet wants to say that despite odds in the form of social barriers a Pakhtun woman can rise from the ashes because she has now the enlightenment and awareness necessary for voicing her problems. She can realise her dreams and can face the modern day challenges. Yet in an another inspiring poem this time longer one, ‘Killing skills’, the poet remarks that poor are punished for being poor, though not poor in intellect and art. It points to the philistinism and violence ingrained in our society to the bone marrow. The book ends on the note of both hope and a question posed by two short poems.The first one ‘Breathing hearts’ relates the power of pen. With might of pen A verse composed Turned into melody of beating hearts The solemn sound of raining rain The last poem, ‘Who will win?’ comments on the deadly race going on between people of the world for their deeds and breeds. Who will win the race of deeds In this big world Of various breeds Social activist, educator and editor of an online literary magazine ‘Sahar’ Azra Nafees Yousafzai hailing from Dir in her remarks on the book told Dawn that it was very heartening and encouraging to know that girls from far-flung areas were motivated and determined to get into the field of literature. “I am personally glad that Pakhtun girls are fearlessly breaking shackles and are set to instill new life in literature,” she said. Ms Yousafzai added that there were many Malalas, who were struggling to restore peace in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa through education. “I see clouds with silver lining,” she hoped. This epigrammatic piece is in fact a critical comment from a young Swati girl poet on the global race among nations and world powers for serving their varied vested interests. But the preceding poetic piece gives us a hope that change can be brought through the might of pen. The pen symbolising ‘education’ is probably the only option that can change the plight of Pakhtun women.
It may not be that easy to let go of all the hatred and intolerance for those whose way of thinking has over the years only been fed bigotry and a fear of the ‘other’. Children, however, are a different story. The answer to obscurantism in our society may then perhaps lie in what we teach our young – the books we use. After all, to a very considerable extent, it was exactly this – text – that was used to change mindsets in the 1980s as well. What is needed now is a reversal of sorts. In this context the latest initiative taken by the Sindh government must be welcomed. Sindh Education Minister Nisar Ahmed Khuhro has set up an advisory committee on textbooks reform to review material taught at the primary level, and remove from it discriminatory matter promoting intolerance, extremism and violence. Instead fundamental human rights and democracy are to be promoted. While this is a positive step, it should not remain confined to one province alone. Post-18th Amendment it has been up to the provincial governments to set education policies. We only wish that a uniform policy on such curriculum reform could be followed nationwide. What we have seen in the recent past has been quite the opposite, with the teaching of comparative religion at a school in Punjab turned into a major issue by the government following a media campaign. There has been a complete refusal on the part of our governments to appreciate that learning about other religions – and communities – can only promote tolerance and understanding and poses no threat to faith or patriotism. In Khyber Pakhtunkhwa meanwhile, a province that probably faces the most daunting challenges, the PTI government has undone certain reforms introduced by the previous setup; there has been talk of reintroducing ‘pro-jihad’ texts. This makes for a rather sorry situation when in practice KPK under the PTI should have been leading the way to bring a change for the better. Both the government – central and provincial – and civil society need to push for a unified national approach that promotes tolerant learning and education devoid of hate and fear. To take on the challenges of today’s Pakistan, the generations we are teaching must learn to embrace the immense cultural, lingual and religious diversity of our nation. There was once a time we were able to at least acknowledge this diversity. The violence we see today is more a product of closed minds. Would it not be better for the state to use books and knowledge to counter it than resorting to violence itself?
The Economists in their recent article endorse the Peshawar declaration of 2010. The indigenous population of tribal areas see the drones as a blessing. LUBP has written about the Peshawar declaration in both English and Urdu. Reports by Jinnah Institute aimed at justifying the establishment’s long-standing Afghan policy, the strategic depth policy that has brought nothing but destruction to the Pakhtun and has created religious bigotry in Pakistan, have been exposed and debunked by LUBP. Dr. Farhat Taj commented on the report: The report is misleading and marred by selection as well as projection biases. It is prejudiced against the Pakhtun in Pakistan and Afghanistan and reflects the view of a narrow vested interest in Pakistan that has been engaged in the genocide of the Pakhtun for three decades. – See more at: http://lubpak.com/archives/56620#sthash.Y2JlXZ5b.dpuf A 2012 report by some Pakistani and non Pakistan students of Stanford University and New York University raised more questions instead of properly addressing the existing ones.:
The Pakistani schoolgirl and education rights activist who survived a Taliban assassination attempt has been reunited with two schoolmates who were injured in the same Taliban attack.
The denials made by Pakistan notwithstanding, the neighboring country continues to protect and shield Dawood Ibrahim and Hafeez Saeed, two of the most wanted terrorists in India. While Dawood lives in Karachi and is protected by ISI agents, Saeed is provided protection by the Pakistani government on par with a visiting head of state, LeT operative Abdul Kareem Tunda has confessed in his statement to the Special Investigative Team (SIT). "Saeed travels in a convoy of 12 vehicles that includes three bullet-proof cars. The bullet-proof cars keep shuffling in the convoy whenever he travels within a city or outside," Tunda revealed. Perhaps he is among a select few in Pakistan who have been given this kind of maximum security, the confession added. Saeed, the chief of Jamat-ud-Dawa, has close links with the LeT. He is said to be the main brain behind the terrorist attack on Mumbai in 2006. He has been declared a terrorist by India, US, UK and European Union and carries a bounty of $ 10 million on his head. The UN has declared his outfit a terrorist organization. Tunda, in his statement, said Saeed has amassed immense wealth in the last few years. He has accounts in Pakistan and foreign countries including Belgium. "In Al-Falah Bank, Lahore, alone he has over Rs 5 crore," Tunda told his interrogators. SIT had brought Tunda to Hyderabad from Delhi and got his custody for seven days. At the end of SIT custody on Friday, he was sent to Cherlapally Jail. SIT is investigating Tunda's links with the terror attacks in the city in the past. Asked about the whereabouts of Dawood Ibrahim, another character on the most wanted list of India, Tunda said the smuggler-turned-terrorist lives in the port city of Karachi and is protected by ISI agents. Tunda said he met Dawood twice between 2000 and 2002 in Pakistan. "Dawood is in the habit of spending lavishly on the ISI operatives. They reciprocate by providing him tight security and hiding his movements from the media and the public," Tunda told the SIT.
The Express TribuneA writ petition has been filed at the Lahore High Court challenging the constitution of an ad hoc committee by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to run the Pakistan Cricket Board’s (PCB) affairs. Petitioner Aftab Maqsood said that the prime minister, now also the patron-in-chief of the PCB, was not authorised to constitute an interim management committee. He said that the prime minister had acted beyond his powers. Maqsood said PCB elections should be held without delay. He asked the court to set aside the interim management committee and direct the prime minister to hold elections. On Tuesday, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, in the face of two looming deadlines, dissolved the PCB and constituted an interim management committee to run the game’s affairs in the country. The committee comprised Najam Sethi, former cricketers Zaheer Abbas and Haroon Rasheed, former PCB chairman Shahryar Khan and former team manager Naved Cheema. The move came a few days before a meeting with the International Cricket Council (ICC) in London on October 18, which also corresponded with a court-imposed deadline to hold fresh elections in the PCB. Former PCB caretaker chairman Sethi led the IMC after being ‘unanimously elected’ as chairman by the members. He represented Pakistan at the ICC Board meeting in London on Friday and Saturday. “An Interim Management Committee (IMC) has been constituted to ensure that PCB remains enabled to continue to perform day-to-day domestic and international functions for the promotion of the game and in line with the directions of the court,” said a PCB media release, “The supersession of the Board shall remain in force for a period of not more than 90 days unless extended by the Patron [Sharif].” Sethi was named as interim chairman by the prime minister in June to replace Zaka Ashraf who was suspended by the Islamabad High Court (IHC) after a writ petition on his election as PCB chairman. However, the IHC, through another judgment in July, curtailed Sethi’s power and asked to hold fresh election within 90 days –October 18 being the deadline. But the PCB was unable to comply due to complications pertaining to elections of regional associations.
A recently released UN report suggests there is “strong evidence” that top Pakistani military and intelligence officials approved US drone strikes on Pakistani soil during 2004 and 2008. The study says in some cases, even “senior government figures” gave their approval to the strikes in the country’s militancy-hit tribal areas. “There is strong evidence to suggest that between June 2004 and June 2008 remotely piloted aircraft strikes in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas were conducted with the active consent and approval of senior members of the Pakistani military and intelligence service, and with at least the acquiescence and, in some instances, the active approval of senior government figures,” says the report by Ben Emmerson, UN Special Rapporteur on human rights and counter-terrorism. The report, however, does not elaborate on the details of the evidence collected. Islamabad officially condemns US drone attacks as a violation of its sovereignty and counter-productive in the fight against terrorism and militancy. In April this year, former military dictator Gen (Retd) Pervez Musharraf admitted in an interview to CNN that his government had given approval “only on very few occasions”. Musharraf, who ruled over Pakistan until 2008 after coming to power in a bloodless coup as army chief of staff in 1999, said drone strikes were discussed and approved “at the military and intelligence levels” but only “two or three times”. Together with a study by the UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial executions, Christof Heyns, Emmerson’s interim report will be debated at the UN General Assembly on October 25, 2013. "In an apparent reference to Pakistan, Heyns’ report suggests consent from military or intelligence officials may not be enough to satisfy legal requirements for the US to conduct drone strikes on foreign territory, according to international, humanitarian and human rights law." “Only the State’s highest government authorities have the power to give consent to use force. It is not sufficient to obtain consent from regional authorities or from particular agencies or departments of the Government,” says the report, which lays down the legal conditions for the use of drones in armed conflicts around the world. The report adds that though consent may not necessarily be made public, it must be “clear between the States concerned that consent is being given to a use of force, and the parameters of that consent should also be made clear.” “Once consent to the use of force is withdrawn, the State conducting the targeting operations is bound by international law to refrain from conducting any further operations from that moment,” it says, adding that states “cannot consent to violations of international human rights law or international humanitarian law on their territory.” Emerson, during his international investigation into drone strikes and targeted killings, visited Pakistan in March this year and was provided with statistics by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs recording at least 330 drone strikes in Fata since 2004. According to the numbers provided by the Pakistani government, US drone strikes have resulted in at least 2,200 deaths in Pakistan, out of which the government confirms at least 400 were civilians, with an additional 200 individuals regarded as “probable non-combatants.” “Officials indicated that, owing to underreporting and obstacles to effective investigation, those figures [of civilian casualties] were likely to be an underestimate,” says the report. Emmerson urged the United States to “release its own data on the level of civilian casualties” caused by drone strikes to increase the level of transparency on the controversial campaign.
From 2007 till now the courts have released 1,964 alleged terrorists, says an official government document. More serious still is the fact that of those released, 722 have rejoined terrorist groups while 1,197 are still actively involved in anti-state activities, according to the official document available with Dawn. In other words, the document reveals that nearly 60 per cent of those acquitted of terrorist activities are still involved in anti-state activities. Though the wording of the document is vague it appears to suggest that those being monitored are still involved in militant activities. According to the information, after their acquittal 12 of the suspected terrorists have been killed - four of them in drone attacks in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata) and eight during the operations conducted by security forces. On the other hand, 33 of those acquitted have been re-apprehended and are currently confined to jails and internment centres under the ‘Action in Aid in Civil Power Regulations 2011.’ The provincial breakdown presents even more interesting details. The highest number of those released is from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Fata (1,308) followed by Islamabad, Gilgit-Baltistan and Azad Kashmir with 517, Punjab (83), Sindh (47) and Balochistan (9). This also shows that the state is keeping track of those who have been suspected of terrorist activities and released by the courts. Defence analyst Air-Vice Marshall (retired) Shahzad Chaudhry said intelligence agencies do keep check on the suspects who managed release in high-profile cases of terrorism. They monitor their activities to make sure that after acquittal the suspects would not be involved in terrorist activities again. Sometimes when the released suspect gets involved in an anti-state activity the agencies try to apprehend and detain him in an internment centre, he said. Since there is no legal cover for the detention after acquittal, certain quarters sometimes termed the detained suspect a missing person. Interestingly, all nine of those acquitted by the courts in Balochistan have re-joined terrorist groups though in absolute numbers the other provinces outstrip Balochistan – in KP-Fata 555 (of the 1,308 acquitted) while in Islamabad-GB-AJK 97 (of 517) have rejoined terrorist groups. In Sindh 22 out of the 47 released have re-joined terrorist groups while in Punjab the number is 39 out of 83 acquitted. This also means that in terms of percentage, Balochistan is followed by Sindh where nearly 45 per cent of those released have rejoined terrorist groups (the figure for Balochistan is 100 per cent). However, if the category of activities being confirmed is considered, Islamabad-GB-AJK leads with over 70 per cent of those released now still being suspected of ‘activities’ followed by KP-Fata. However, the numbers are higher for those who are described as having their “activities confirmed” – 736 for KP-Fata; 403 for Islamabad-GB-AJK; 34 for Punjab and 24 for Sindh. These figures show that in all the four provinces and Islamabad the majority of those acquitted have either “re-joined terrorist groups” or their activities “are being confirmed”. The highest number of those arrested (after having been acquitted by the courts) is a miserly 13 for Islamabad-GB-AJK followed by 10 by Punjab, nine by KPK-Fata and one by Sindh. On the other hand, no one acquitted by the courts in Balochistan has been ever re-arrested. This is not the first document that has highlighted the trend of those acquitted returning to the activities they were suspected of. According to a report of a security agency submitted to the Federal Review Board (a judicial body formed by the Supreme Court to examine the detention cases of suspects) the men accused of plotting attacks on former president Pervez Musharraf, the Danish embassy, Surgeon-General Mushtaq Baig and a military bus in R.A. Bazaar had re-joined the terrorist outfits after their acquittal by the courts. The story of the doctor brothers Dr Akmal Waheed, a cardiologist, and his brother Dr Arshad Waheed were accused of having links with Al Qaeda, attacking the convoy of the Karachi corps commander in 2004 and financially aiding and harbouring activists of the banned outfit, Jundullah. They were, however, exonerated of the charges in 2006. Two years later in March 2008, it was reported that Dr Arshad was killed in a US drone attack in Waziristan. Two accomplices of the acquitted brothers, Mohammad Ilyas alias Qari Jamil and Mohammad Rizwan alias Shamsul Haq, are in Adiala Jail in Rawalpindi. Both were tried, along with others, for allegedly attacking the Danish embassy, a serving army general and a military bus. The district administration of Islamabad on the request of Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) issued their detention orders but the IHC in last year set aside these orders. On December 15, 2010, the ATC of Islamabad acquitted Qari Ilyas of the charges of being involved in a suicide attack which had killed 15 policemen and two civilians near Islamabad’s Melody Market on July 6, 2008. The policemen were guarding a congregation to mark the first anniversary of the July 2007 military operation against the clerics of the Lal Masjid. According to the prosecution, Qari Ilyas was allegedly giving instructions to the suicide bomber before he launched the attack on the policemen. It has repeatedly been reported that the weak prosecution and half-baked evidence led to the acquittal of hundreds of suspects allegedly involved in high-profile terrorist activities. Because of threats, backtracking of witnesses and weak evidence, the trial courts acquit the accused persons. If the suspects are detained over some suspicions, they are set free at the high court level as most of the time intelligence agencies and police fail to produce credible evidence and sufficient supportive material to justify their detention.
http://www.thefrontierpost.com/Sindh Governor Dr. Ishratul Ibad and former president Asif Ali Zardari have discussed various issues and particularly prevailing law and order situation of Karachi. Dr. Ibad paid visit to former president Zardari in Karachi’s Bilawal House on Saturday and exchanged views over various issues of the province. Former president kept special focus on prevailing law and order situation of Karachi and discussed issues of the security, as priority, during talks with the Sindh Governor. The ongoing targeted operation, in the metropolis, and performance of the law enforcement agencies were also reviewed by former president Zardari and Dr. Ishratul Ibad during the meeting.
BY ELIZABETH ZACHARIAHA newspaper in Muslim-majority Pakistan has joined in the chorus of criticism against Putrajaya over the use of the word Allah by non-Muslims. The English-language Daily Times, in its editorial piece in conjunction with the Eid-al-Adha celebrations, was critical of the controversial ruling by the Court of Appeal which reversed a previous High Court ruling, allowing Catholic weekly Herald to use Allah in its Bahasa Malaysia section. It lamented that the problem with Muslims is that they looked at their religion like it was an "insecure entity" that needed to be protected with special care and attention lest it gets smeared and nullified. "The recent example of this attitude is displayed in Malaysia where the government has gone so far as proscribing Christians from using Allah as their God’s name." "Who has given Muslims the liberty to copyright the name of Allah? It is His name, and He is the God of the universe, as He has said in the scriptures," the editorial stressed. On Monday, a three-man panel of the Court of Appeal, in its judgment, ruled that "the word was not an integral part of the Christian faith and practice and that such usage if allowed, will inevitably cause confusion within the community". The editorial questioned why Malaysia would deny people of other faiths to "own God in all His attributes", pointing out that every religion believed in the existence of God. "Is this how piety in Islam is preserved or managed? In fact, being Muslim is no guarantee that we have reached that threshold. "Is this what the glory of Islam had been all about, something that we want to revert to and long for?" it questioned. The spirit of tolerance, sacrifice, patience, devotion and simplicity, Daily Times noted, was where Islam's glory lay, adding that these were the attributes that the prophets of the Quran had left for the Muslims to "cherish and follow". "With retrogressive steps such as prohibiting Christians from using the name of Allah or destroying churches and killing Shias or Ahmedis, we cannot attain that goal," it said. On Monday, The National - a United Arab Emirates daily - called the Malaysian court ruling "wrong", pointing out that the word Allah was never exclusive to Islam but both Christians and Jews used the word to refer to God even before the coming of Islam. "The Malaysian decision overlooks not merely the theology, but also the etymology of the word. The word 'Allah' is derived from the Arabic 'al-ilah', the God. It has found its way across the world and entered Malay from Arabic," the editorial added. - October 18, 2013.
Even festive occasions, where the motto ought to be nothing but unity and harmony, have become sordid affairs in Pakistan. This Eidul Azha has seen, yet again, the Ahmedi community persecuted for daring to partake in the celebrations. There have been many reports, particularly in Lahore, of Ahmedis being stopped from carrying out the ritual sacrifice, with extremist mullahs and madrassas’ insistence on this being supported by the Punjab police. Police in Lahore halted Eid activities for members of the Ahmedi community because, according to them, it is against the injunctions of Islam for Ahmedis to join in Muslim festivals and also to maintain the ‘law and order situation’. Instead of actually doing its job where it should provide security to each and every one of the nation’s citizens, the Punjab police seem to want nothing more than to make life easier for themselves by preventing an entire community from celebrating Eid just because it could rile up the ever-antagonistic maulvis and madrassa clerics. In other words, the police have turned into the uniformed tools of the extremists. Eidul Azha last year witnessed the same kind of discrimination when two Ahmedis were arrested and taken into custody for having the gall to sacrifice animals. This year, the only difference has been Ahmedis accused of sacrificing animals publicly being dragged off to police stations, ‘persuaded’ not to cause ‘trouble’, and then released. One must ask under what law can the police prevent anyone in this country from sacrificing an animal? The police have no business interfering in the religious activities of citizens. In order to maintain so-called ‘peace’, the police have kowtowed to pressure from the mullahs who are obsessed with their violent hatred of the Ahmedis. This is not what law enforcers do. One must also wonder whether the Ahmedis are considered citizens of Pakistan. While their forced ouster from the Islamic faith in the 1974 second amendment to the constitution is debatable on the grounds that parliament does not have the authority to determine who belongs or does not belong within the fold of Islam, this nevertheless does not imply that they have also been deprived of their citizenship of Pakistan and the rights it bestows on them. The Ahmedis of Pakistan are very much citizens and deserve to enjoy the same rights as anyone else. If the police have become party to the kind of intolerance and nonsense that the maulvis are known to fan the flames of, the Punjab government needs to take note. The police must be filtered of all such elements and trained to adhere to the law without fear or favour. Any fears of a disturbed law and order situation must be dealt with by protecting threatened citizens of all denominations and the minorities and taking action under the law against anyone who espouses violence against them.
Urging democratic forces to get united and guard against “dictatorial mindset”, former president Asif Ali Zardari warned on Friday against efforts to undermine parliament. “The days of direct assault on parliament are over but we must be vigilant against the dictatorial mindset that seeks to ambush parliament in different ways,” he said in a message released by the PPP’s media centre on the sixth anniversary of the massive bomb attack in Karachi’s Karsaz area, leaving over 150 workers of the party dead. The bomb attack targeted the home-coming rally of former prime minister Benazir Bhutto. “On this occasion, I would like to caution the democratic forces against the dictatorial mindset that refuses to bow before parliament and people’s verdict despite restoration of democracy and several milestones achieved in the path of (this) journey,” he said. He said the parliament represented the will of the people and served as a shield against dictatorship. “It must be strengthened, not undermined. We must stand together against all those who perceive parliament as a threat to their dictatorial ambitions and seek to undermine it behind various facades. The PPP will not allow anyone to undermine parliament. Let there be no doubt about it.” Mr Zardari recalled that on Oct 18 in 2007 battle lines were drawn between forces of democracy and militants and extremists. “Since then the battle lines have sharpened. The battle must continue till it is won,” he said. He paid tribute to the victims of Karsaz tragedy and said that the PPP would carry forward the democratic and egalitarian mission of its leaders Benazir Bhutto and Zulfikar Ali Bhutto. The former president asked the people to remember in their prayers the personnel of the armed forces and civil law-enforcement agencies and the people who had rendered sacrifices in the fight against extremism. Addressing an Eid Milan party in Naudero (Larkana) on Thursday, Mr Zardari said that the PPP’s Sindh government would generate electricity from coal and provide it to people at subsided rates. It will boost the process of industrialisation in the province. He said Sindh had the right to 50 per cent royalty on its gas reserves and the PPP was committed to ensuring that its benefits trickled down to the people. Pointing to the PPP’s mandate in Sindh and its majority in Senate, he said he had always avoided the point of no return in politics because he did not want to derail democracy. “We will support positive steps of the government and reserve the right to criticise its negative approaches,” he said. “We have given time to the government to see its performance and whether it serves people.” Mr Zardari said that a “third force” was pitting politicians against each other but it must not be allowed to succeed. “Our leaders had rendered tremendous sacrifices for restoration of democracy,” he recalled. He said that port in Karachi supported the economy of not only Sindh but of Pakistan too but the city needed a better security situation. He praised the youth for supporting the PPP in elections. Mr Zardari said that as president, he had handed over his powers to parliament to strengthen democracy. He condemned religious extremism and said the war against terrorism in Afghanistan might pose a threat to Pakistan. Sindh Chief Minister Syed Qaim Ali Shah said the PPP had won majority of seats in Sindh because of unflinching support and love of the people. He said that even a 10-party alliance had failed to cause any dent in the PPP’s popularity. He criticised the PML-N government for its failure to end electricity crisis and said contrary to promises made by it hours of loadshedding were increasing.
A Taliban ban on vaccination is exacerbating a serious polio outbreak in Pakistan, threatening to derail dramatic progress made this year towards wiping out the disease worldwide, health officials say. Health teams in Pakistan have been attacked repeatedly since the Taliban denounced vaccines as a Western plot to sterilize Muslims and imposed bans on inoculation in June 2012. In North Waziristan, a region near the Afghan border that has been cordoned off by the Taliban, dozens of children, many under the age of two, have been crippled by the viral disease in the past six months. And there is evidence in tests conducted on sewage samples in some of the country's major cities that the polio virus is starting to spread beyond these isolated pockets and could soon spark fresh polio outbreaks in more densely populated areas. "We have entered a phase that we were all worried about and were afraid might happen," Elias Durry, head of the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI) in Pakistan, told Reuters in a telephone interview. "The risk is that as long as the virus is still circulating, and as long as we have no means of reaching these children and immunizing them to interrupt virus transmission, it could jeopardize everything that has been done so far - not only in Pakistan, but also in the region and around the globe." CORNERING THE VIRUS Polio is a highly infectious disease that invades the nervous system and can cause irreversible paralysis in a matter of hours. A $5.5 billion global eradication plan was launched in April with the aim of vaccinating 250 million children multiple times each year to stop the virus finding new footholds, and stepping up surveillance in more than 70 countries. The virus has been cornered to just a handful of areas in Nigeria, Afghanistan and Pakistan, the three countries where polio is endemic. Global cases have dropped by more than 99.9 percent in less than three decades, from 350,000 in 1985 to just 223 last year, according to the GPEI. But so far in 2013, there have already been 296 cases worldwide. Forty-three were in Pakistan, the vast majority in children in the semi-autonomous Pashtun lands along the Afghan border known as the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), which include North Waziristan. Accusations that immunization campaigns are cover for spies were given credence when it emerged that the United States had used a Pakistani vaccination team to gather intelligence about al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, who was found and killed by U.S. special forces in Pakistan in 2011. The Taliban ban, and associated security threats, mean the polio virus could easily escape and spread back into previously cleared areas. Tariq Bhutta of the Pakistan Pediatric Association said there was little prospect that the militant Islamist group would change its stance. He said attacks on health teams attempting to reach children to immunize them were becoming both more frequent and more violent. "The vaccination teams are still going out, but at risk to their lives," he told Reuters. "People can come up on motorbikes and shoot them, and they've also started attacking the police put there to protect the vaccination teams." A Taliban bomb that exploded earlier this month near a polio vaccination team in the northwestern city of Peshawar killed two people and appeared to target police assigned to protect the health workers. "This will only be solved if the polio teams can get access to those children - either inside FATA, or when the children move out into other areas," Bhutta said. "Without that I don't see how things can improve. Rather I think things might get more serious when the polio virus gets out into settled areas." The GPEI says the FATA is the area with the largest number of children being paralyzed by wild poliovirus in all of Asia. Four polio cases in children in Pakistan were reported in the last week. Because the virus spreads from person to person, the World Health Organization says as long as any child remains infected, children everywhere are at risk.