Friday, November 15, 2013

Deadly attack on Shia procession in Pakistan

At least eight killed and 30 wounded when gunmen opened fire on a Shia Muslim procession during annual day of mourning.
Eight people were killed when gunmen opened fire on a Shia Muslim religious procession in Pakistan, hospital officials said, in what appeared to be the latest incident of spiralling sectarian violence. More than 30 others were wounded in the attack on Friday, which began when the procession passed a Sunni seminary. Rock throwing quickly degenerated into gunfire, said staff at the district hospital headquarters in the city of Rawalpindi. The Shia Muslims dragged the Sunnis out of the seminary after hearing the shouted insults and killed them, police officer Afzal Hussain told the AFP news agency. They also set dozens of shops outside the seminary on fire, he said. Police tried to stop the clash, but officers were wounded as the two sides threw stones at each other, Hussain said. An army unit based in Rawalpindi eventually reached the scene and took control. The Shia Muslims were marking Muharram, an annual Shia day of mourning to mark the death of Imam Hussein, a grandson of the Prophet Mohammad. Many join long processions where they flagellate, beat or cut themselves to show their grief. Rawalpindi is a few minutes' drive from the capital, Islamabad, and home to the headquarters of Pakistan's army. Further details of the attack were difficult to ascertain since the government suspended mobile phone services in much of Pakistan during Muharram to try to foil suicide bombers. Attacks on Pakistan's Shia, who make up about a fifth of the 180 million population, have worsened in recent years. Most of the attacks are the work of Sunni Muslim fighters, many of whom are affiliated with banned groups such as the Taliban or Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, which wants to drive all Shia Muslims out of Pakistan. Hundreds of Shia Muslims were killed in bombings and other attacks last year, including children gunned down on their way to school and doctors heading for work.

Curfew imposed in Rawalpindi as violence claims eight lives

A curfew was imposed in Rawalpindi after eight persons were killed and a market was burnt on Friday during a clash between two groups in relation to the harassment of an Ashura procession in Rawalpindi's Raja Bazar area, DawnNews reported. Spokesperson for the Punjab government was quoted by TV news channels as saying that keeping in view the tense situation in Rawalpindi a curfew was imposed in the city. Authorities also decided that cellphone services would remain suspended in the city until Sunday. The Jaffria Alliance condemned the violence in Rawalpindi and demanded from the Punjab government to bring to justice those who had resorted to gunfire. A cloth market situated in Rawalpindi's Raja Bazaar was set on fire by unknown persons while members of the rival groups resorted to stone-pelting and firing. “The clashes started when a sermon was being delivered from a Sunni mosque which was on the procession route.” Waseem Ahmed, a police official told AFP. The clash triggered a stampede in the procession which caused more casualties. “The death toll from the clashes have reached to eight people and 44 others are injured,” Qasim Khan, a doctor at Rawalpindi's district hospital, told AFP. “Among 44 wounded people brought to our hospital, 13 had gunshot wounds,” Khan said. He said five wounded people were shifted to another hospital. The violence prompted Punjab Chief Minister Mian Shahbaz Sharif to take notice of the incident and also seek a report from officials. Police officer Afzal Hussain told AP earlier that participants of a procession beat to death three men in Rawalpindi, belonging to a seminary, for insulting them as their procession passed the seminary. The procession members dragged the harassers out of the seminary after hearing the shouted insults and beat them to death, Hussain said. They also set several shops outside the seminary on fire, he said. Police tried to stop the clash, but officers were wounded as the two sides threw stones at each other, Hussain said. All fire brigades in the city were deployed to put out the fire. An army unit based in Rawalpindi was called in which eventually reached the scene and took control of the situation.

Message of PPP Patron-in-Chief Bilawal Bhutto on International Day for Tolerance – Nov 16, 2013
Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, Patron-In-Chief, Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) has stressed upon the people of Pakistan to increase level of tolerance in their daily life to bring happiness, peace and harmony in our society. In a message on the International Day for Tolerance being observed on Saturday, Bilawal Bhutto Zardari said that intolerance is on the rise in whole world causing violence, death, and extremism posing great challenge to the very humanity on earth. He said tolerance means extending every right to other person which we claim for ourselves. “Tolerance is the key to human values. It breeds brotherhood and the International Day for Tolerance provides us the opportunity to reaffirm our commitment to peace around us,” he added. Bilawal Bhutto Zardari said his Party and its leadership has always been a flag-bearer of tolerance and will continue the policy of tolerance and reconciliation to save the country and its people from violence, enmities and extremism.

‘Saudi Arabia funds Takfiris' distorted Islam in Syria’

Saudi Arabia has been spending its money to sponsor the Takfiris’ deviant interpretation of Islam in Syria, a political analyst tells Press TV. “Saudi Arabia is fraudulent in terms of it using its money to pervert justice, to pervert Islam, to pervert social change,” said Randy Short in a Friday interview. “It seems like they should use that money for the poor people in Saudi Arabia versus destroying Syria” he added. Touching on reports about Saudi Arabia’s plan to finance a so-called transitional government in Syria, the analyst argued that any such measure by Riyadh runs counter to all the international treaties and conventions. “It just shows that the Saudi ruling monarchy has made itself a criminal regime,” Short pointed out. Saudi Arabia has reportedly earmarked USD 300 million to finance a so-called transitional government in Syria, which is planned to be set up by the foreign-sponsored opposition. The monthly budget for the “transitional government” is estimated to be USD 50 million. The “transitional government” is planned to be set up by the so-called Syrian National Coalition. Syria has been gripped by deadly unrest since 2011. Riyadh’s plan to spend the lavish amount on the so-called transitional government in Syria comes as media reports and private estimates suggest that between two and four million native Saudis live under the poverty line. The rising cost of living is also stirring dissatisfaction among people in Saudi Arabia.

Militants kill seven, injure 34 Shia Muslims in Pakistan

Pro-Taliban militants have attacked a religious gathering in the Pakistani city of Rawalpindi, killing at least seven Shia Muslims and injuring several others, security sources say.

Peshawar Church attack: A 23 year old paralyzed girl likely to be sent abroad for treatment

A Scotland based pastor striving to transport his paralysed niece to Scotland for treatment.
Scotland’s First Minister has got involved to help bring a Grangemouth minister Rev. Aftab Gohar’s injured niece to Scotland for imperative treatment. Farah Javed has been rendered paralysed from the waist down by the terrorist attack on the All Saint’s Church in September this year. However, after few months have past she is still lying in a hospital bed in Peshawar; with slight hope of walking again if she remains there.
Rev. Aftab Gohar is an ordained minister at AbbotsgrangeParishChurch, who is do his utmost to bring his niece to Scotland in the hope she can be helped. Farah Javed 23 year old victim of the bombings, was beauty therapy student, and is one of more than a few members of Rev. Gohar’s family injured in the bombings on September 22. Moreover, Rev. Gohar’s 79 year old mother, his niece, nephew and two uncles, passed away in this terror campaign; that left more than 200 dead and countless injured. It turned out once Falkirk East MSP Angus MacDonald bring to light Farah’s case to Alex Salmond; his staff contacted Rev. Gohar. Subsequently, they arranged for Rev. Gohar to discuss Farah’s case with neurosurgery expert Eric Ballantyne, who receptively advised the best suitable option for his niece to be a referred to the national specialist spinal injuries service in Glasgow. Mr MacDonald said; “The First Minister and the other ministers I contacted about this unfortunate incident have been most supportive to the Rev. Gohar and his family, and are keen to assist in whatever way they can.” The Falkirk Herald has on the other hand appealed for funds to help bring Farah and her mother to Scotland and the MSP added: “It is heartening to know there are many very caring people in Grangemouth and elsewhere who are actively raising funds to help bring Farah to Scotland. I hope arrangements can be progressed swiftly so Farah can be treated as quickly as possible.” Rev. Gohar is confident that obstacles would no longer hinder him from bringing his injured niece to Scotland quickly. He said: “She remains in the government hospital in Pakistan. Unfortunately, they are not allowed to refer patients to overseas hospitals, but we hope that this can be sorted out quickly.”
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Pakistan: “Umeed”- Hope for the victims of Peshawar Church attack

This concerned minister from the Church of England had himself lost more than 25 members of his extended family in the deleterious suicide bombings in All Saints’ Church, Peshawar on Sep 22. Consequently, he has essentially aired weighty distress about the plight of those injured in the worst ever attack on Pakistan’s Christian community. Rev. Fayaz Adnan- Team Vicar of West Bolton, was born in Peshawar, and later was baptised, confirmed, and ordained at the All Saints’ Church. Rev. Fayaz Adnan subsequently rushed to Peshawar in the days to follow the most awful attack on a community ever chronicled in Pakistan’s history. Just the once visiting local Christian graveyards, he chalked a vague figure of no less than 200 causalities in the twin suicide bombings: “people were still dying because of those fragments in their bodies,” he figured out. Nonetheless, aside from mounting death toll, he took into consideration the helpless situation of the many injured people still in need of hospital treatment. “It is sad to share with you that the local private hospitals are charging about 30,000 to 40,000 rupees [£300 to £400] a month,” he said. “It is a fortune, there. So, after our discussion with the community members in Peshawar, we are encouraging families to go to the Taxila Mission Hospital, 60 miles away. The hospital is running in very good condition, and we are happy to take those families. We need funds. We are looking for those people to walk back and go into All Saints’ Church and worship the Lord again.” Christian Hospital Taxila was established in 1922, founded by Dr John Gregory Martin of the United Presbyterian Mission. The hospital itself was once knocked for six in August 2002; when terrorists hurled grenades at the hospital’s chapel resulting in loss of four lives. Aware of dismal condition of the sufferers of the All Saints Church bombings; Rev. Fayaz Adnan has launched a relief project named “Umeed – which means “hope” – to raise funds for treatment of those lying helpless in anticipation of financial help for treatment. “What’s more, funds are also required to repair graves of those who died in the attack,” he claimed. Extending a hand of help to the best of their potential Rev. Adnan’s wife, who is registered nurse, now prepares to travel out to Taxila to supervise the project. And so a fund-raising event was held at St Peter’s, Halliwell, and was supported by the writer Adrian Plass. The All Saints’ Church was reopened few days after the attack took place, but Mr Adnan says the congregation was “still in trauma”. Notwithstanding the doting memories of growing up there: “It is the only Anglican Church in the city; so about 20 different colonies around this city wall come to worship here, and every Sunday more than 600 people come to worship together,” he added. The attack came as a bolt from the blue, Rev. Adnan averred, since relations between Christians and Muslims in Peshawar had been good since years. Even if there had been some bias, largely blasphemy cases had been observed in the Punjab and other provinces accordingly “Christians and Muslims have been living together for ages.” In the wake of this horrendous episode of suicide bombings, however, he continues to raise calls by the British Pakistani Christian Association, maintaining that asylum should be given to Pakistani Christians. From the time when he visited the victims Rev. Adnan met the Archbishop of Canterbury, who, he said, was accommodating of his project. Moreover, LambethPalace has also confirmed that Archbishop Welby plans to visit Pakistan next year. All are therefore urged to support Rev. Adnan in facilitating the victims of the All Saints’incident. Donations to Project “Umeed” can be made by cheque, payable to “Manchester DBF”, Church House, 90 Deansgate, Manchester M3 2GH. “Peshawar” should be written on the back of the cheque. - See more at:

Pakistanis may face travel ban if polio not curbed

After infecting China, Egypt, Palestine and Syria, the Pakistan poliovirus now threatens Turkey and parts of Europe as the ban on anti-polio campaign in parts of the tribal areas continues to deprive thousands of children of vaccination against the crippling disease. The situation also mocks the authorities of the polio programme, who tried their level best to eradicate polio from Pakistan. After confirmation from the WHO and Unicef that the poliovirus that infected 13 children in Syria belonged to Pakistan, scientists in Europe have now put the Republic of Turkey in a state of high alert, fearing that the massive refugee movement into the country from Syria may transmit the poliovirus. Dr Martin Eichner from the University of Tubingen and Stefan Brockmann of Germany’s Reutlingen Regional Public Health Office in their joint article published in the globally famous Lancet Medical Journal said that most European countries administer anti-polio vaccine at the time of birth, rather than giving anti-polio drops repeatedly. “Since a large number of refugees are fleeing Syria and seeking refuge in neighbouring countries and Europe, there is now a chance the virus could be carried to the areas that have been polio-free for decades,” he said. A health expert requesting anonymity said the social sector minister of Syria had been claiming that the virus was transmitted from Pakistan’s militancy-affected Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata) into his country as he intended to prove the foreign militants’ involvement in Syria’s uprising. “According to our research, the virus that has been detected in Syria was the same that was traced in Egypt and it has been transmitted from Egypt to Syria and has nothing to do with Fata rebels,” explained an official of the WHO. Pleading anonymity, he said Pakistan may be singled out for international travel restrictions if steps were not taken to stop the transmission of poliovirus from the country. “The mistrust of parents in the anti-polio drive and increasing number of refusals by parents is the biggest challenge for the anti-polio drive in the country,” a WHO official said. He revealed that Pakistan recorded a huge number of 65,000 families that refused administering polio vaccines to their children during the recentlyconcluded polio campaign. By recording 62 polio cases this year, Pakistan has already crossed last year’s polio case count of 58. The experts believe that the country was on track to report over 70 polio cases during the current year. The Fata region remains the frontrunner in reporting polio cases as 43 children have been paralysed in the region. Khyber Pakhtunkhwa has reported nine polio cases, Punjab six whereas Sindh has reported four cases during the current year. In South and North Waziristan tribal regions, where the government signed peace accords with militant groups, the Taliban banned polio immunization two years ago as a mark of protest against US drone strikes. The government and health department authorities have been unable to vaccinate the children from Fata against the crippling disease. A fake anti-polio campaign conducted by a Pakistani physician Dr Shakil Afridi in May 2011 in Abbottabad to collect DNA samples of Osama bin Laden, which reportedly helped the CIA track him down, has caused irreversible loss to the immunization campaign in Pakistan. Many people suspect polio vaccination to be an attempt by the government and foreign-funded organizations to make male children infertile.

Pakistan's Polio & malaria: Hong Kong advises PIA to take precautionary measures

Hong Kong authorities have alleged that a malaria patient arrived in the special administrative region of China aboard a Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) aircraft and advised the airline to take precautionary measures in this regard, according to sources. The authorities also instructed the PIA officials to inform them in case any of the crew members of the flight concerned had shown any signs of the disease, the sources said.
According to the sources, on Sept 16 Dr C.K. Wong of the chief port officer’s office, department of health, the government of Hong Kong, sent a letter to the Jardine Airport Services (local handling agent of PIA at the Hong Kong airport), which said: “A passenger who arrived in Hong Kong from Pakistan on Sept 6 by PIA flight PK892 was confirmed to have contracted malaria. “Mosquitoes biting the passenger would become infective and remain so for life. This will pose a risk to other passengers and crewmembers.” The letter went on to advise the airline to disinfect the aircraft concerned and take other vector control measures, if not already taken. It also stressed the need to make the crew aware of the symptoms and dangers of malaria. PIA spokesman Mashhood Tajwar could not be contacted for comments despite repeated attempts. According to the sources, malaria is among the diseases which have been wiped out from several countries. The authorities of such countries are extremely careful about the disease and restrict the entry of malaria patients because they don’t want the disease to be reintroduced in their countries. The international community is already worried about the possibility of spread of polio from Pakistan, where the crippling disease is endemic. Reports about the possibility of transmission of yet another disease from the country may prompt the international health organisations to call for a travel ban on Pakistanis. That was why Pakistani organisations like the PIA and the CAA should take precautionary measures as soon as possible, the sources warned.

Pakistan: Has the army learned its lesson?

Ayaz Amir
Is the army happy now? When you play with fire and ride the dragon’s back it’s too much to hope that once you try to get down the fire will not scorch you. For 30 years the army has played at ‘jihad’ and held in a tight embrace elements like the Jamaat-e-Islami, considering them as knights of the faith, ghazis of Islam. Now these same elements have bitten the hand that has fed them for so long. Nations can disagree with the wars they fight. There was opposition in the United States to the Vietnam War. There was fierce opposition both in the US and the UK to the invasion of Iraq. In Pakistan there is a better appraisal of what the army did in East Pakistan in 1970-71. But no nation with any notion of self-respect or honour insults its soldiers, the way the Jamaat chief has done, and the way that other mufti of the faith, Fazlur Rehman, has done by calling the Taliban dead the righteous dead and insulting the memory of our fallen soldiers by implying that they died on the wrong side of righteousness. This is a society steeped in religiosity. People here take the concept of shahadat (martyrdom) very seriously. Our army, for the most part, is a peasant army, its strength drawn from northern Punjab and the Pakthtun belt. When our soldiers, officers and men, go into battle they are sustained by the conviction that they are fighting not only for Pakistan but for Islam. When they fall in battle they say, their families say, it is the will of God, fortitude and fatalism going hand in hand…that what will be, will be, it’s all written in the stars.
So for anyone to question their martyrdom, as Munawar Hasan of the Jamaat has done, and for anyone to bestow the title of martyr on their enemies is the greatest insult of all. This is the Jamaat and it’s getting away with it. Just imagine if such a thing had slipped from the mouth of a PPP leader. The Jamaat would have been on the warpath. Since it is the Jamaat, one of our custodians of holiness, the reaction, while strong in some quarters, has not been as intense as it would have been if a ‘secular’ leader had uttered the offending words. Look also at the crocodile tears of the ruling party, the PML-N, silent for several days after Munawar Hasan’s outburst, not a squeak from its side, and waking up from its meaningful stupor only after the army’s information wing, ISPR, came out with its statement taking the Jamaat amir to task. Only then did PM Nawaz Sharif remember that the fallen dead of the army were the nation’s ‘benefactors’. Thori der kar dee mehrban aate aate.
How well-controlled on this occasion is the anger of our trading classes, a mighty political force in today’s Islamic Republic. No streamers have gone up in Lahore denouncing the Jamaat chief. If we are not a sick society already we are fast turning into one. If a person can be shot by his own official bodyguard on the false charge of blasphemy – Salmaan Taseer uttered not a blasphemous word – and if his killer can be called a hero of Islam, and if lawyers garland that hero and religious parties hold huge demonstrations in his support, then someone coming from outer space and witnessing what we do would be hard put to testify to our sanity. But for the army to ponder is this: that much as it may be upset by the anti-shahadat babbling of the Jamaat chief, the peculiar atmosphere prevailing in Pakistan, the winds not just of intolerance but sheer stupidity blowing across the national landscape, have much to do with the army’s own policies and preoccupations. The maulvis and assorted holy fathers were nothing. They were just instruments in the army’s hands. The army showed the way, mapped out the geography of ‘jihad’, and the holy fathers, under army tutelage, became the nuisance that we now see them to be. Mustafa Kemal at the head of the Turkish army swept away the cobwebs of the past, smashed old superstitions, and created a new nation. Pakistan’s secular elites, led by the army, created new superstitions and instead of taking Pakistan into the future, pushed it back, into the hole in which we now find ourselves. The holy fathers played second fiddle to the army and the secular elites. And now, to no one’s surprise except ours, the holy fathers, and assorted Munawar Hasans, are in the ideological vanguard and the ruling elites, too scared to take a stand on anything worth fighting for, tremble and quake before the trumpet blasts of the holy right. If this is how they are against paper tigers how do we expect them to perform against the real stuff, the Taliban?
So the question is not whether their holy nuisances, lords of the pulpit and the loudspeaker – the latter once considered an invention of the devil, now first in their list of weapons – will change their stripes. Who cares about that? The question is whether the army is capable of discarding the so-lovingly nurtured shibboleths of the past and changing its thinking. Before Pakistan can emerge from the mists of obscurantist thinking, before it can put the demons of intolerance and sheer stupidity to rest, it is the army which has to change its spots. If it can’t do that we are doomed. The Republic’s sword-arm is the army. Let there be no doubt about that. Therefore, before Pakistan’s reformation – whether it takes a Luther to bring it about or an Ataturk – the army must reform itself. The task is not easy. Look even at the ISPR statement. While castigating Munawar Hasan it praises the Jamaat’s founder, Maulana Maudoodi, for “his services to Islam”. What services to Islam? Is this the army’s knowledge of Pakistan’s history? Mauduooi opposed the creation of Pakistan and denounced Jinnah. There is an extensive literature on the subject but let just one quote from Maudoodi’s ‘Muslims and the Present Political Turmoil’ suffice: “Pity! From League’s Quaid-e-Azam down to the lower cadres there is not a single person who has an Islamic outlook and whose perspective on matters is Islamic.” Al-Qaeda’s ideology has been influenced by Maududi’s writings. The seeds of intolerance and bigotry in the country created by Jinnah were sown by Maudoodi and the Jamaat-e-Islami. Indeed, the Jamaat was the inventor of danda-bardar – lathi-bearing – Islam. The Taliban have gone a crucial step further and become the Janissaries of Kalashnikov-Islam. It’s a difference of degree, not substance. And the army had a hand in these transformations. Not surprisingly, Gen Zia was a fervent admirer of the Maulana and his brand of Islam. And for Pakistan’s passage into the dark ages we know how much we owe Gen Zia. If, oblivious of all this, the ISPR can still bring itself to idolise Maudoodi’s services to Islam then perhaps the time may have come to abandon all hope. This martyrdom debate has been a good thing. It has helped clarify some matters, unless of course we have lost the ability to think clearly and are past the point of no return. The physician should have a clearer idea of the demons he helped create. But can the physician now heal himself? This is the most important question of all. Tailpiece: And I had almost forgotten about Mullah Naseeruddin Haqqani. Now what explanation will we give regarding his presence in Islamabad? The skeletons in our cupboards.

K-P government shuffle: Coalition breakup does not come as a surprise

The Express Tribune
The breakup within the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P) coalition government does not come as a surprise for many – the boycott of assembly sessions by the Qaumi Watan Party (QWP), the absence of its members from select committees and inept silence on core issues were indications of ‘all’s not well’. However, the provincial president of the QWP and Senior Minister Sikander Sherpao says he did not expect the decision to be taken so abruptly by the PTI. “It came as surprise,” he told The Express Tribune, with a deep breath followed by a laughter “I feel … relieved now, it was never workable since the very start,” he adds. The genesis of the relation between the QWP and PTI is not just between two political parties but a relation carved out by two politically conniving minds – Pervez Khattak and Aftab Ahmad Khan Sherpao. Almost two decades ago, in 1994, governor’s rule was imposed upon K-P assembly (NWFP then) after toppling the Pakistan Muslim League – Nawaz’s (PML-N) government. There were two key players, Khattak and Sherpao senior. Sherpao senior took over as the chief minister amidst ‘horse trading’ later that year. Then government held its own special place in the province’s history with an overwhelming number of ministers. Wednesday’s decision brought back some memories of the time as the characters remained the same while their assigned roles reversed, with Pervaiz Khattak being the chief minister of the province, Aftab Sherpao’s son, a senior minister from the newly baptised in nationalism – QWP (Peoples Party Pakistan – Sherpao) and PML-N in the opposition. Sikandar Sherpao says that the PTI was skeptic of his parties’ relations with the PML-N in the centre. However, the charges are that of corruption. “I have signed letters of Imran Khan asking for favours,” he says, when reminded the reason of why two of his ministers were removed, hinting at another period of an endless blame game of corruption charges, while the province is to set up its own Accountability Commission soon. Changes within the government hint at the possibility of more changes ahead. A senior leader of the PML-N from K-P claims that one of the requests made in a recent meeting between Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif by President Karzai was to appoint Aftab Sherpao as the governor of K-P. A source privy to a meeting between provincial leadership of the PTI and JUI-F leader Maulana Fazlur Rehman said that both the parties had warmed up to each other recently. The same are claims that echo from the quarters of the Pakistan Peoples Party, whose joining the K-P government was certain had there been no resistance from its central leadership. Looking at the strength of the government which now consists of the PTI, JI, Awami Jamhori Ittehad and a number of independents it is less likely that the government feels the pain of parting its ways with the QWP. While political players watch their cards keenly to make their next move – the local government elections – the province itself is faced with a number of problems, the first and foremost being terrorism. While consensus needs to be developed amongst political parties, questions still remain such as: was this a wise decision at such a time? Only time will tell.