Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Ellie Goulding, Malala Yousafzai and Al Gore to headline youth empowerment day
Pop star Ellie Goulding will take the stage with children's rights activist Malala Yousafzai, former US vice-president and climate change campaigner Al Gore and actor Clive Owen at the UK's first We Day event on March 7.
The line-up for the day-long show which will take place at Wembley Arena, London, was announced today in front of students at the Paddington Academy, who were then treated to a surprise performance by singer Sam Callahan, former X Factor finalist.
We Day is an event which brings together celebrities – such as Ms Goulding – and speakers to encourage students to become involved in "making a difference" locally and globally. It is an initiative from charity Free the Children, which was co-founded by Canadian Craig Kielburger when he was 12 years old.
We Day is free to attend, but schools must earn their tickets by committing to take part in the year-long school citizenship programme We Act. The charity asks that schools support one local and one global cause of their choice.
"When I was 12 years old," Mr Kielburger, now 31, told the audience this morning, "I saw a story in the newspaper about a boy who had escaped from slavery in Pakistan. He then valiantly spoke out about it and was killed for doing so.
"I took the newspaper into school and said to the class: 'we have to do something'."
His group of friends started off with cake sales and car washing. Their efforts caught the attention of Oprah Winfrey and, to date, more than 2.3 million young people have been involved in volunteering through Free the Children.
Free the Children has been working in the UK since 2010; schools that sign up to We Act are offered speakers for assemblies, support for teachers and students and curriculum-linked resources.
Students at Paddington Academy have already been active in their communities. Yassine Abdul-Wahid, 13, spoke today about how when his family first arrived from Iraq, five of them had lived in two rooms in a basement flat. He had joined a youth club and started campaigning on the issue of overcrowded housing. He said: "Age doesn't exclude you from being passionate. If there is something you want changed, age shouldn't stop you."
Speaking to the TES, Mr Kielburger said: "Making a difference isn't cool. A lot of kids are making a difference and We Day makes it cool. It makes them part of a big community, who are excited about doing good things. We want people to be excited about social action and we bring together musical stars, Olympic stars and speakers to do that."
The UK event, which will be held at Wembley Arena in London, is expected to attract 12,000 people from 400 schools. It will also be streamed live on the TES website and aol.

Pakistan: Bilawal Bhutto declares 'cultural coup'

Chairman of the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari said on Tuesday that the culture and heritage of Sindh was in danger and the Sindh festival announced by him was aimed at protecting it.
During a televised advertisement campaign for the Sindh festival, Bilawal declared what he called a cultural coup saying that the threat posed to "our civilisation" by the Taliban would be fought.

Sindh Festival TVC from Haroon Masood on Vimeo.

Speaking about the Taliban threat, the PPP chairman said "we were civilised five thousand years ago, which they (militants) are far from even today".
Bilawal, who also actively issues statements on his Twitter page, said "the Sindh festival will make us aware of our existence", adding that the festival, beginning from the first week of February, would be held across the province, including in Moenjodaro and the Makli heritage sites.
"We will tell the world that we are not as we are presented," he said adding that, "this will be the beginning of our annual cultural festivities. This is the sign of our progress. This is the first step towards the protection of our cultural centres."

Spanish Music Video: Daddy Yankee - El Amante

President Obama to meet Pope Francis in March

Putin plays Soviet pop song on piano for students

Russian President Vladimir Putin sat at a piano and picked out the melody of a popular Soviet-era song on Wednesday as a group of students sang along. The strongman leader sat down at a grand piano at a top Moscow physics institute and played the song "Moscow Windows" while members of a male student choir joined in, the state RIA Novosti news agency reported.
The 61-year-old president admitted he cannot sing, however. "I don't sing too well, but I try to play. I'll start and you sing along," the pro-government Izvestia daily quoted him as saying. "I love to dream under windows/I can read them like a book," the choir sang as Putin played, a video posted on YouTube showed. At the end of the piece students clapped and shouted "bravo" while Putin raised his arms in acknowledgement. Putin has previously shown off his skill at the piano, playing a patriotic Soviet song titled "Where Does the Motherland Begin?" at a theatre in 2011 and "Blueberry Hill" at a charity gala in 2010. Putin has yet to react publicly to an escalation of protests in neighbouring Ukraine, where at least two activists were shot dead Wednesday in the latest outbreak of violence.
Read more:

US military proposal would keep 10,000 troops in Afghanistan after 2014

Military leaders have submitted a proposal to the White House that would keep 10,000 troops in Afghanistan after the U.S. combat mission ends in 2014, a senior U.S. official confirms to Fox News.
The 10,000-troop plan or any other troop proposal could still be rejected by Afghan President Hamid Karzai, who has not yet signed a security agreement that would allow American soldiers to remain in the country.
The plan to leave 10,000 troops in Afghanistan, which was first reported by the Wall Street Journal, has been backed by both the State Department and intelligence agencies. The Journal reported that the plan also entails bringing the number down to almost zero by the end of President Obama's term.
They have told the White House they need this many troops so the Pentagon can secure the bases where personnel could continue to work safely in Afghanistan.
The Wall Street Journal reports the top U.S. and NATO commander in Afghanistan Gen. Joseph Dunford told White House advisers last week he feels the U.S. should have 10,000 troops in Afghanistan, or withdraw all of them.

Attacks on Shiites intensify in Pakistan

Militant Islamists have once again attacked minority Shiites in Pakistan's restive Balochistan province. Experts say the sectarian war between Sunnis and Shiites in Pakistan is getting uglier by the day.
A passenger bus was carrying 51 Shiite pilgrims from Iran to Pakistan's western Balochistan province when it was hit by a bomb on Tuesday, January 21. Authorities confirmed 22 deaths in the attack, which took place in the Mastung district near the Pakistani-Iranian Taftan border. Two people were killed in a previous attack in early January when a bomb targeted a bus carrying Shiite pilgrims near Quetta, the capital city of the Balochistan province. Nobody claimed responsibility for the Tuesday bombing, but in the past militant groups belonging to the majority Sunni sect have carried out similar attacks. Lately, Pakistan's militant Sunni extremists with links to al Qaeda have intensified their attacks on minority Shiites, whom they do not recognize as Muslims.
In August, 2013, the al Qaeda-linked Lashkar-e-Jhangvi group massacred at least 50 Shiites in a string of terrorist attacks. The attacks were perpetrated on the mosque of ethnic Hazara Shiites in Quetta. 2012 was also a deadly year for Pakistan's Shiites. Human rights groups say that more than 300 of them were killed then.
A 'systematic' process of killing
Pakistani experts say that although the lives of Shiite Muslims are under threat all over Pakistan, those living in Balochistan and the northwestern Gilgit-Baltistan region face a systematic onslaught by the Taliban and other militant groups. Some experts have gone so far as to call it a "genocide."
Pakistani human rights groups accuse the country's security agencies of backing Sunni militants and failing to protect the minority groups of the country.
"The Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, which allegedly receives support from units of Pakistani intelligence agencies, has accepted responsibility for most attacks on Shiites in the recent past," said Malik Siraj Akbar, a Balochistan expert in Washington.
"The organization is closely connected to the Afghan Taliban and has renewed connections with Jundullah, the anti-Iran Sunni militant group. All these groups share abhorrence for the Shiites," he said, adding that the sectarian war in Pakistan between militant Sunnis and unarmed Shiites is turning uglier by the day.
Akbar says that militant Sunnis ask Shiites to either quit Pakistan or convert to their brand of Islam. "Both demands seem unacceptable considering the fact that Pakistan has the world's second highest Shiite population after Iran," he told.
Experts believe that the Saudi-backed Sunni hardliners are targeting Shiites to kill Iran's support in Pakistan. "Pakistani Shiites have close ties with Iran. On the other hand, Baloch separatists prefer to be with Tehran rather than Islamabad. This makes both the Shiites and Balochs suspicious in the eyes of the various stakeholders in the establishment. It is certainly not acceptable to Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and other regional powers," Nahyan Mirza, a communication expert in Islamabad, told DW.
State 'losing control'
Analysts are of the view that the Tuesday killings have again exposed the risks the Pakistani state has been confronting for many years. They say that unless the Pakistani state changed its priorities, such attacks would not cease in Balochistan and elsewhere in the country.
After coming to power in June 2013, Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif announced that his government would not follow the preceding Asif Ali Zardari government's anti-terrorism policy and would instead make peace with Islamist groups, including the Taliban. Development worker and political activist Maqsood Ahmad Jan believes Sharif's insistence on peace talks with the Taliban and other radical groups are emboldening them. Amin Mughal, a Pakistani journalist and scholar in London, believes that the policy of supporting Islamist groups has backfired and that the Pakistani state is no longer in a position to control the situation. "It is a logical consequence of state policies which are based on religion," Mughal told DW, adding that the only way out of the crisis was for "true secular parties" to come to power and change the course of state affairs.

Pakistan's Shia Genocide: They meet murder, again

In case anyone laboured under the impression that the constant targeting of Shias – more than 400 were killed in various attacks last year – would cease in the new year they have quickly had their delusions punctured. Following the January 1 attack on a bus carrying pilgrims from the Baloch town of Taftan, yet another bus, this time coming from Iran, was targeted on Tuesday in Mastung. The death toll as these lines are written is 24 and many of the dead are reported to be Hazara – a community struck over and over again. According to reports, Lashkar-e-Jhangvi has claimed responsibility. However, such details are irrelevant. We have witnessed yet another sectarian attack. One more act of hatred. The usual condemnations have poured in, from the prime minister, the president and others. Protests have been announced, shock expressed. But where will all this take us? The one thing which should be stressed after this attack is that it would be counterproductive to try and separate it from other militant attacks in the country, be it on anti-polio workers or military targets. The groups may have different names but they operate under the same ideology. Anyone who does not subscribe to their extremely narrow and twisted definition of religion is liable to be killed. Any possible solution to the militant problem, whether through negotiations or military action, must take into account that all these groups will have to be tackled. No negotiated settlement worth its salt will be able to exclude any militant organisation. At the same time, military action must be comprehensive enough to bring everyone into its ambit.
The particular problem with the anti-Shia groups operating in Balochistan is that they are mostly imports from Punjab. They made their bones first taking part in the war in Kashmir and attacking Shias in Punjab and later made their way to Balochistan. We all know what these groups are. The question is why the state is so helpless before them. Even after a spree of violence that has left scores dead within days the state and government seems undecided on how to act. The PML-N government is thought by many to lack credibility in taking on these sectarian groups because the party is perceived to have relied on such groups for support both in the Ziaul Haq era and during the 1990s. Even before the May general elections there were reports that the PML-N was seeking alliances with such groups. Additionally, the Punjab-centric PML-N has less motivation to go after militant outfits now operating in Balochistan and other provinces because its own province has been relatively free of the kind of violence tormenting the rest of the country. In fact, during the tenure of the PPP government, Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif once got himself into hot water for asking the Taliban to spare his province since the PML-N weren’t responsible for the military action against them. Now the party has to have a national outlook and take attacks in Balochistan as seriously as those in its own backyard. Excuse-making and apologies for such violence were never acceptable and they are even more shameful now. Urgent action is needed. Whether we opt for some strategy of negotiation or for other means, the killings must stop. They have shattered our society. How this is to be done is now the key challenge for the government.

Pakistan: Talibanisation of society and state of denial

Zubair Torwali
Since its very birth, Pakistan has favoured the Deobandi school. This favour touched new heights during the ‘darkest ages’: the years of General Ziaul Haq who was a protégé of the Wahabi state of Saudi Arabia
Thanks to the Almighty, 12th Rabi-ul-Awwal, the birth anniversary of Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) passed somewhat peacefully. However, the tightened security measures, along with shutting down the mobile phone networks, not only frightened everybody but also indicated how insecure we are — we cannot even celebrate religious events peacefully. Despite deploying thousands of police and other security personnel on Moharram and Eid-e-Milaad-un-Nabi, and despite sacrificing many of these poor personnel, the state as well as society constantly denies the existence of any sectarian fighting in Pakistan. Whether it is Moharram, Eid or Eid-e-Milaad-un-Nabi, the Muslims of Pakistan become nervous instead of becoming jubilant, mournful instead of thankful given the nature of these events just because of the religious ruptures in the social fabric of the ‘Pakistani ummah’. There is continued indoctrination on sectarian basis through the loudspeakers on the minarets and by means of the various, exclusive ideological enmities taught at the madrassas (seminaries) established by the various warring sects. These are not the only sources of religious hatred; there are thousands of pamphlets and books published in Pakistan that promote religious hatred. In addition, there are multiple websites, magazines and social media pages that widen not only the divide but also instigate violence on religious grounds.
The pious men and women at the Pakistan Telecommunications Authority (PTA) can easily stop Facebook pages like Nai Roshni — a webpage promoting rational thinking and trying to deconstruct Taliban ideology — and YouTube, but it avoids touching the multiple web-pages and websites of the terrorists either due to fear or complicity. In Pakistan, the Barelvi school of Sunnis celebrates the birth anniversary of Mohammad (PBUH) on the 12th of Rabi-ul-Awwal (third month of the Islamic lunar calendar) while the Deobandi school of Sunnis regards celebrating Eid-e-Milaad-un-Nabi heresy.
The divide goes back to religious debates in British India between the Deobandi and Barelvi scholars before partition. Religious anthropologists suggest that the former is akin to the subcontinent while the Deobandi school is under the influence of the Wahabi school of Sunnis, especially in Saudi Arabia. They also suggest the Barelvi school, which also recognises and respects the various schools of Islamic Sufi tradition, has always been more peaceful than the other. They had less political aspirations while the Deobandi school is politically strong. The major religious parties that contest elections in Pakistan adhere ideologically more or less to the Deobandi school. Among them, the Jamiat-e-Ulema-e-Islam (JUI), a successor of the Jamiat-e-Ulema-e-Hind and Maulana Maududi’s Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) have considerable political say in Pakistan. The JI claims to represent all sects but its overwhelming majority does not have many differences with the Deobandi school but could not shatter this perception because its members and leaders have been found sheltering al Qaeda terrorists. Both the JI and JUI hold in low esteem ‘traditional’ Islam — in other words subcontinental Islam.
Since its very birth, Pakistan has favoured the Deobandi school. This favour touched new heights during the ‘darkest ages’: the years of General Ziaul Haq who was a puritan Muslim himself in addition to being a protégé of the Wahabi state of Saudi Arabia. Under Zia’s policies, the Deobandi (read Wahabi) version of Sunni Islam was inculcated in the youth and children through public schooling and a network of Deobandi madrassas. The textbooks for Pakistan Studies, Urdu and other subjects were filled with lessons on Deobandi scholars and there was no mention of the other schools. In these textbooks, scholars were painted as saints and sages. A religious scholar, Syed Ahmad Sarhindi, was made Mujjadid-e-Alf-e-Saani (Sage of the Second Millennium) and his achievements were exaggerated hyperbolically. Similarly, Shah Waliullah, another great scholar, became the subject of many lessons in Pakistan Studies and Urdu textbooks. Both these scholars were great intellectuals in their particular spheres but their inspiration was mainly drawn from the urge to ‘purge Islam from the norms or influences of Hinduism’. In this way, it was an antithesis of Sufi Islam.
Sufi saints were the real harbingers of Islam in the subcontinent. Syed Ahmad Barelvi, though an inhabitant of Raibreli, was a disciple of the school of Shah Waliullah. He waged a jihad against the Sikhs and ended up in Balakot in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. He has been made a hero in Pakistan Studies textbooks.
Now, as our politicians are obsessed with the US and its drones, and many of them are in the forefront to appease the Taliban, the state stands begging for peace from the Taliban. One wonders what will become of sectarian strife in Pakistan. It seems the rulers think that if the Taliban are silenced by any means, sectarian strife in the country will end automatically. This is like putting the cart before the horse. The Talibanisation of society is actually an extreme manifestation of what our society is taught through mosques, madrasaas and schools. There is no question of the Taliban adherence to the Wahabi school, which regards all to be infidels except itself. This puritanical ideology has pushed the country to the verge of demise. Both the state institutions and society must come out of this state of denial. They must admit the problem and then design a counter-narrative to fight it. The present policy of the ostrich sticking its head in the sand will not work. It will never work when we declare there is no sectarian violence in Pakistan and that what is going on is the ‘enemy’s’ conspiracy. The fact is that we are a failing state and an intolerant society. Once this weakness is admitted, there can be some remedy for it. The counter-narrative needs a holistic approach on every front: use of state force, dialogue with the terrorists, change in the foreign policy, reforms in education and effective laws.

Pakistan: Sindh health sec says polio campaign shall resume, health workers refuse

The Express Tribune
Sindh health secretary Iqbal Durrani said that a security plan has been made for the protection of polio workers in the province, Express News reported on Wednesday.
He added that the polio immunisation drive will restart in Sindh on January 23 if polio workers are provided with appropriate security.
Polio workers refuted his claim, adding that the drive will not restart tomorrow under any circumstances. A female polio worker, Saba Saeed, said that Rs250 per day is not sufficient incentive for them to risk their lives. On January 21, four polio workers were killed and two injured in separate incidents in Karachi and Mansehra. Authorities had suspended the polio immunisation drive in District East and the Korangi District of Karachi after the attack. In Karachi’s Qayyumabad, assailants had opened fire on teams on the second day of a three-day polio campaign, killing two female polio workers along with a male colleague and injuring two others.
In the Mansehra incident, a schoolteacher engaged in a polio vaccination campaign was gunned down in a remote village of Oghi Tehsil.
In a third incident in Balochistan’s Panjgur district on the same day, armed men had snatched an official vehicle, mobile phones and polio vaccines from a polio team. According to police, the polio team was part of a door-to-door campaign to administer polio drops to children, when armed men took away their vehicle and other belongings at the Bantistan area. The police registered a case.

Pakistan: Military operation is needed

THE pattern is now clearer than ever: a significant attack against the military will prompt a deadly response against the banned TTP. That the military attempted to take out Adnan Rasheed, a terror kingpin, but missed can be cut two ways. One perspective would be that it underlines the military’s willingness to go after big targets and that the military is straining at the civilian leash to get the job done. The other perspective would be that in targeting and missing Adnan Rasheed — reportedly a nearby house was hit — the military has unwittingly highlighted the paucity of good intelligence and battlefield restraint. While there could be some truth in both perspectives, it still leaves unaddressed the fundamental question: what is the strategy? Retaliatory attacks are certainly not strategy.
To take on the militant threat that emanates from North Waziristan, it is reasonably clear what needs to be done — because it has been done before: a full-scale military operation that is properly planned and executed. With one caveat, however: this time the leadership of the groups that are targeted should not be allowed to melt away and return to haunt the country, as has happened in a number of other military operations that have been launched in the past. However, the military cannot — indeed, should not — be allowed to determine policy against militancy on its own. That is the job of the political government, which means clear directions and policy from the elected representatives. But with dialogue still seemingly the preferred option, there is little clarity or coherent policy from the government’s side as yet. The deferred internal security policy could yet shape into a meaningful document, but that will only be known once its full contours are revealed and agreed to by the federal and provincial stakeholders.
In the meantime, consider how true seriousness of purpose and coherence work. Unhappily, the examples continue to come from the wrong side — the TTP itself. As a report in this paper yesterday indicated, the TTP is clear about its goals and is looking ahead to taking advantage of the regional situation to achieve those goals. The TTP’s hopes for a Taliban comeback in Afghanistan, after the drawdown of foreign troops, syncing with a resurgent TTP in Pakistan and setting the stage for a global caliphate may be a flight of fantasy — but it is a dangerous one, and a fantasy that can inflict devastating harm on Pakistan. To defeat an enemy with ambitions on that scale and a proven capability to not just survive but thrive, the Pakistani state will truly have to get its act together and present a united front.

Former President Asif Ali Zardari condemns attack on Police vehicle in Charsada
Former President Asif Ali Zardari strongly condemned the attack on Wednesday morning on police vehicle which killed six policemen. In a statement the former President said that the continuous acts of terrorism in all parts of country will only strengthen the nations and security forces resolve to fight the militants. He called for forging unity so that this coward and brutal enemy are defeated once for all. The former President said that after the militants owning attacks on security personnel and innocent people there should be no doubt as to who our enemies are. He paid tributes to the brave policemen who are offering extreme sacrifices so that our men, women and children can live in peace. He also prayed to Allah for grant of eternal peace to the departed souls and early recovery of injured. He also expressed sympathy to the bereaved families.

Quetta: Terror victims relatives protest with coffins

The relatives of pilgrims killed in a terrorist attack yesterday, have started sit-in along with coffins of the victims at Shuhda Chowk in Quetta, ARY News reported on Wednesday. In an attack on a bus of pilgrims 24 persons including women and children were killed and 35 others were injured. Quetta mourning the victims of terrorism with shutter down as public transport also scant at roads. Majlis-e-Wahdatul-Muslimeen has announced to hold countrywide sit-ins to protest against terrorist attack. Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf leader Arif Alvi has demanded action against Lashkar-e-Jhangvi outfit, involved in the terrorism incident. It was second attack on Shia pilgrims near Quetta in less than a month. In an earlier attack on January 1st, three people were killed when a suicide bomber attacked a bus carrying pilgrims in Quetta.

''PAKISTAN'' ‘Release British Doctor Accused of Blasphemy’, Urges Human Rights Group
Global Minorities Alliance, a Glasgow-based human rights organisation which advocates for the rights of minority communities the world over, denounced the imprisonment as a further example of Pakistan's strict blasphemy laws being used to persecute minorities and whip up religious hatred rather than seek justice in a country which is increasingly being divided by violence.
Mr. Masood Ahmad, a member of the Ahmadiyya community, was charged under Pakistan's anti-Ahmadiyya blasphemy legislation after a religious leader posing as a patient attended his homeopathy clinic in Lahore and secretly recorded him reading a verse from the Quran.
Mr Ahmad, who has dual Pakistani/UK nationality and previously lived in London, was arrested shortly after and is now in prison awaiting trial. He has been refused bail and there have been calls from the angry mobs that gathered outside the courthouse for him to face the death penalty.
"In the past the police and the courts generally did not accept such accusations where the accuser had himself approached an Ahmadi at his home or job to discuss faith matters," said a spokesperson for the Ahmadiyya community in Pakistan. "It is noteworthy that while the political leadership repeatedly condemns sectarianism and extremism in public, it encourages its law officers to upgrade and intensify religious prosecution of Ahmadis."
Ahmadis belong to the minority Ahmadiyya sect, which has the Quran as their holy book but believes that there was a Prophet after Muhammad. In 1984 they were declared 'non-Muslims' under Pakistani law. The Pakistan Penal Code 298- C states: "An Ahmadi who refers to his faith as Islam, or preaches or propagates his faith, or invites others to accept his faith, by words, either spoken or written, or by visible representations, or in any manner whatsoever outrages the religious feelings of Muslims will be punished with up to three years in prison and is liable to pay a fine."
Laws like this leave Ahmadis at frequent risk of persecution, as accusations of blasphemy are often levelled in situations where there are personal grudges to be settled or where religious extremists have previously preached against the community; for example, some hardline Mullahs claim that killing an Ahmadi would earn someone a place in heaven. Speaking on the phone to Global Minorities Alliance, Mr Ahmad's son, Abbas Ahmad, said: "My father has not made any mistakes or acted against the law. Anyone can listen to or read the Quran. He has never done anything wrong.
"We urge the Pakistan government to release my father so that he can be reunited with his family. I have been born and brought up in Pakistan and we believe the anti-Ahmadi laws are being misused by the public. Ahmadis are given less protection and such laws should be abolished."
Shahid Khan, Vice-Chairperson of Global Minorities Alliance, echoes Mr Ahmad's says: "We call on the Pakistan government to better protect its minorities to stop people like Mr Ahmad from being imprisoned over very trivial matters. "We also demand that the government repeal anti-Ahmadiyya legislation. People are having their livelihoods destroyed and their families left devastated, all because they said the wrong thing to the wrong person and live in a country governed by laws which are used to persecute rather than prosecute. In this case it was even a private conversation which Mr Ahmad did not realize was being recorded, and one where he was encouraged to discuss religion by someone who was deliberately trying to entrap him. "The government of Pakistan deliberately looks the other way while more and more people from the various minority communities are imprisoned for blasphemy. This is discrimination rather than justice and should stop before more violent acts are committed against minorities in the name of protecting the majority." Mirza Waqas Ahmad, President of the UK Ahmadiyya Muslim Youth Association, said: "Dr. Masood Ahmad is yet another victim of the infamous blasphemy laws, which specifically target and infringe on the basic human rights of Ahmadi Muslims and are a root cause of extremism and violence in Pakistan today. "The international community needs to take collective action to bring an end to this state sponsored persecution of Ahmadi Muslims." Abdul Abid, President of the Ahmadiyya Community in Scotland, agrees, saying, "It is not the fault of extremists who are using the law. It is the fault of the state that these laws were introduced on the demand of extreme members of the clergy, thus the government encouraged extremism and is now paying the price as the situation is out of control." Pakistan's blasphemy laws do not only disadvantage Ahmadis, however. Last year, two bomb blasts in a Peshawar church left more than 60 dead and more than 100 injured. The church had previously received bomb threats but the authorities did not follow up on them, meaning the minority Christian community was not protected. In the aftermath of the attacks, Christians were arrested on blasphemy charges for protesting.
"This shows what can happen if the persecution of a minority community is allowed to continue unchecked," said Mr Khan. "Mr Ahmad may be one case but that is just the tip of the iceberg; around 20 Ahmadis were murdered in 2012 for their faith, and if the Pakistan authorities continue to do nothing then this will only escalate."
About Global Minorities Alliance
Global Minorities Alliance (GMA) is a human rights organisation which campaigns for the rights of minority groups and communities across the world, regardless of race, color, religion or belief, faith or no faith, gender, or membership of another particular social group. GMA works for global peace, interfaith harmony, equality in law and society, empowerment of women, access to education and justice for all. This is achieved through working with likeminded partner agencies, policy makers, NGOs, community/faith groups the world over to affect change for better.
GMA endeavors to achieve this through advocacy for groups or individuals, practical help in humanitarian crises, small business projects, education projects and awareness raising campaigns.
"Our vision is of a world free from persecution; a world where no-one will be disadvantaged because they belong to a certain group," says GMA's Chairperson, Manassi Bernard. "We believe that there is more that unites us than divides us, and that every human has inalienable rights that should not be curtailed because of who they are. We strive for justice, peace and equality."
According to Wikipedia, Ahmadiyya is an Islamic reformist movement founded in British India near the end of the 19th century. It originated with the life and teachings of Mirza Ghulam Ahmad (1835-1908), who claimed to have fulfilled the prophecies of the world's reformer during the end times, who was to herald the Eschaton as predicted in the traditions of various world religions and bring about the final triumph of Islam as per Islamic prophecy. He claimed that he was the Mujaddid (divine reformer) of the 14th Islamic century, the promised Messiah and Mahdi awaited by Muslims. The adherents of the Ahmadiyya movement are referred to as Ahmadis or Ahmadi Muslims.

Pakistan Secures Top Position In The List Of Countries With Most Religious Hostility

A recent information states Pakistan clinching top position in a list of 198 countries most suffering from social hostilities involving religion. - See more at:
An extract of the report is as below:
The Pew Research Center’s report issued two indices, based on statistics from the years 2007-2012:
1) The Government Restrictions Index (GRI), which measures government laws, policies and actions that restrict religious beliefs and practices.
2) The Social Hostilities Index (SHI), which measures acts of religious hostility by private individuals, organisations or groups in society.
The results show that “Pakistan had the highest level of social hostilities involving religion, and Egypt had the highest level of government restrictions on religion.” Neighbours Afghanistan and India were also up there with Pakistan in the SHI index. Worldwide, except for the Americas, “the share of countries with a high or very high level of social hostilities involving religion reached a six-year peak in 2012,” while the share of countries with a high or very high level of government restrictions on religion stayed roughly the same in the latest year studied.”
Pakistan topped the list for most religious hostilities while showing a ‘very high’ range of scores in the other index too.
Global Trends
SHI – One third of 198 countries reviewed saw high or very high levels of internal religious strife, such as sectarian violence, terrorism or bullying in 2012, compared to 29 percent in 2011 and 20 percent in 2010. The biggest rise came in the Middle East and North Africa, two regions that are still feeling the effects of the Arab Spring of 2010-2011, said the Pew Research Centre.
As an example, the report cites an increase in attacks on Coptic churches and Christian-owned businesses in Egypt. It said China has also witnessed a big rise in religious conflict.
PEW said: radical elements often target mainstream Muslims and Christians in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Somalia, while India has recurring tensions between its majority Hindus and minority Muslims and Christians. Results for strong social hostility such as anti-Semitic attacks, assaults by Muslims on churches and Buddhist agitation against Muslims were the highest seen since the series began, reaching 33 per cent of surveyed countries after 29 per cent in 2011 and 20 per cent in mid-2007.
Christians and Muslims, who make up more than half of the world’s population, have been stigmatised in the largest number of countries. Muslims and Jews have suffered the greatest level of hostility in six years, the report said. Religious violence declined in the Ivory Coast, Serbia, Ethiopia, Cyprus and Romania. GRI – The number of countries whose governments have imposed restrictions, such as bans on practicing a religion or converting from one to another, has remained more or less the same, however. Three out of ten countries have high or very high levels of restrictions, the study said. Official bans, harassment or other government interference in religion rose to 29 per cent of countries surveyed in 2012 after 28 per cent in 2011 and 20 per cent in mid-2007. Harassment against women and religious connotations of the way they dress has also risen in nearly a third of countries to 32 per cent, compared to 25 per cent in 2011 and seven per cent in 2007. The five countries with the most government restrictions on religion are Egypt, China, Iran, Saudi Arabia and Indonesia. Among the 25 most heavily populated countries, Egypt, Indonesia, Russia, Pakistan and Myanmar suffered the most religious restrictions. The 198 countries studied account for more than 99.5 per cent of the world’s population, said the Pew centre. It did not include North Korea, whose government “is among the most repressive in the world, including toward religion.”
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Punjab: The Brain Behind TTP

By Maryam Kanwer
The debate about dealing with the Taliban has intensified across the country dividing the public opinion in two schools of thought. One group insists on starting a major and full-fledge operation against the Taliban which should eliminate all signs of the Taliban from “the land of pure”. The other group, which is quite smaller in number, believes that a military operation is no solution in getting rid of the Taliban. Interestingly, both groups are anti-Taliban.
Ironically, the heat of the wave becomes fierce whenever the Taliban terrorism strikes the General Headquarters, some military bases, check posts or urban Punjab.
I am anti-war and I think the killing of even a single innocent person whether caused by collateral damage or under the pretext of “national security” is still unjustified and unacceptable.
Based on what I have learned from the history, the Taliban are a lesser evil than the army itself which has nurtured and tolerated these extremists for decades. According to a report in the New York Times, local residents believe that the fresh operation is targeting innocent civilians instead of hitting the actual Taliban hideouts.
“We know very well who is a Taliban and who is a civilian,” the Times quoted Muqeem Khan Dawar, a local schoolteacher from Mir Ali, “we were sleeping, and they attacked us in the night.”
While the army operation may kill a few terrorists, I believe most of the people targeted in these operations are innocent civilians. Even if one innocent citizen is killed, it is wrong. So, the killing of innocent civilians is wrong whether the Taliban, the army or the drones are responsible for these extrajudicial killings.
A lethal brand of the Taliban, known as the Punjabi Taliban, is currently safely hiding and operating from the Punjab province. The army, on the contrary, has not objected to their presence in the Punjab nor has it ever attempted to eliminate them. There clearly seems to be a selective application of the army’s anti-Taliban operations which is why we do not see a complete end of militant activities across the country despite repeated unproductive operations against the Taliban.
The Punjab, Pakistan’s most populated province, has become a breeding ground for the Taliban. The province is also a support base for militant groups. According to a B.B.C. report, at least 17 banned Jihadist groups are operating in the Punjab under different names.
“They are raising donations through religious gatherings, certificate award ceremonies and meetings held in the name of social welfare,” the B.B.C. quoted a leaked intelligence report.
Districts of Jhang, Faisalabad and Multan have become a hub for terrorism and Taliban activities. These are the same organizations and their activists who actually polluted and poisoned the minds of young Pakhtuns. I have never seen them carrying out bomb blasts or any terrorist activities in their own districts in Jhang and Faisalbad.
Some of the prominent organizations, including the banned outfits, that have a presence in the Punjab include the Jammat-e-Islami, Ahle Sunnat wal Jammat, Jammat-ud-Dawa, Lashkar-e-Taibia, Lashkar-e-Jhangvi and many others.
There is a common saying that Taliban tu Punjab mai baitha hain. [There are Taliban in Punjab as well]. The support base for the Taliban and extremist mindset in the Punjab is so widespread that you can easily find millions of admirers of Mumtaz Qadiri, the security guard who killed former Punjab governor Salmaan Taseer for allegedly committing blasphemy. If there are Taliban everywhere, including the Punjab, why are we only bombing the Pakhtun areas? The Jihad factories are in Punjab. Sushant Sareen, the author of the book The Jihad Factory: Pakistan’s Islamic Revolution in the Making, quotes leading Pakistani security analyst Amir Rana describe the Punjab as the “nerve center of Jihad” from where 50% of the Jihadists come. “A survey of 10 big jihadi groups has revealed that over 10,000 people from Punjab have died for Jihad. Out of this figure, Afghanistan accounted for some 4000 deaths and the rest are in Kashmir…40 % of the Jihadis from Punjab belong to 5500 madrasas operating in Punjab province which obviously means a majority of the Jihadis from Punjab are coming from the state school system.” Starting from the Punjab, this evil is eventually exported to other parts of Pakistan through various madrassas located in South and Central Punjab. So, I believe we have to identify and dismantle the brains of extremist ideology instead of bombing some groups of the Taliban. Unless that is done, the more Taliban you kill in KP and Federally Administered Tribal Areas(FATA), the more young people get recruited from the Punjab.
Institutional support for the Taliban should stop first. The army should abandon its “double game” The army, on its part, is unlikely to completely stop supporting the Taliban and other extremist groups as long as it presents India as our “enemy”. The army keeps these groups as strategic assets in order to gain “strategic depth” inside Afghanistan. If we do not overcome our insecurity, we will not be able to clean Pakistan from Taliban for the next several decades.
The Taliban, formerly known as the Mujahideen, were initially created in1980s to combat the Soviets but after the disintegration of the Soviet Union, Pakistan retained these Jihadists to bleed India. That policy backfired and today we are bleeding more than India. We have clearly fallen in the pit we prepared for India.
اپنے اپنے کاندھوں پر سب اپنی اپنی لاش اٹھائیں….آو چلو تنھا یو جائیں ~عبیداللہ علیم
There are more Taliban sitting in Punjab than Waziristan.
Since the recruitment centers for these militant groups are in the Punjab, killing some in Waziristan will pave the way for fresh recruits from the Punjab to join the ranks of the Taliban. Do we have the courage to raid or bomb the Taliban hideouts in the Punjab? Before condemning the Taliban, we all have to check our own homes, families and friends to see if there are Taliban activists or sympathizers hiding among them.
The T.T.P. also enjoys support from some sections of the Pakhtun population. At the same time, I have seen poor Pakhtun citizens who have simultaneously suffered because of T.T.P. terror and brutal army operations which displaced millions of people from their homes. Those responsible for the miseries of the victims have not been brought to justice yet. What we are seeing today in Pakistan is actually the outcome of the Punjabi version of Islam. The Punjabi Taliban is responsible for spreading extremism to societies, like the Pakhtuns, which were previously oblivious to such tendencies and patterns of behavior.
According to some estimates, around 2.4 million children study in Deobandi religious schools where they are indoctrinated to become supporters of and activists for the Taliban. The 84 percent of the youth studying at public schools barely thinks on secular lines. Most of the youth is a victim of state-sponsored propaganda that promotes a militant version of Islam. This ideology has even trickled down to middle class Punjabis who are often seen on social media subscribing to the extremist version of Islam. They also seem to endorse the same system for Pakistan that is championed by the Taliban.
We have to understand that whatever is happening today is the consequence of our disastrous policies of the past. So, it is not possible to eliminate this menace overnight. The Taliban are not a mere group of people but a mindset that has penetrated in our society. There are no shortcuts or temporary solutions to this challenge. The civilian government should lead the war against extremism and the army’s influence on country’s domestic and foreign policies should be significantly curtailed. A counter-extremism policy should not focus on only one group and spare the other.

Shia mourners’ sit-in along with coffins of the martyr pilgrims in Quetta
The heirs, relatives and other Shia mourners have begun a sit-in at Martyrs Intersection in Shia majority area of Alamdar Road in Quetta. They vowed they would not bury the martyr pilgrims till the “government meets” their demands. Shiite News Correspondent reported here on Wednesday that women and children have also joined the protest sit-in. Majlis-e-Wahdat-e-Muslimeen’s Member of Provincial Assembly Baluchistan namely Agha Raza and the MWM official Allama Hashim Mousavi are leading the protestors. Death toll rose to 28. Shia pilgrims were returning home after pilgrimage of holy shrines of infallible Imam Reza (AS), Hazrat Fatima Masoomah (AS) and other Imam Zadegan (PBUT). Notorious Yazidi takfiri nasbi terrorists made suicidal attack on the peaceful Shia pilgrims on Tuesday evening. “What is our sin? Why they assassinate our youths? Is it our sin that we adore the Ahl-e-Bait (AS) of Hazrat Mohammad (PBUH),” asked a tear-rimmed Shia woman at the sit-in. Thousands have been seen at the sit-in venue and the MWM has called for a countrywide sit-in to protest against the ferocious terrorist attack on innocent Shia pilgrims in Dareen Garh area of Mastung, Baluchistan.

Pakistan: Six of Spanish cyclist's 12 guards killed in Pakistan's wild west

Gunmen on Wednesday shot dead six guards protecting a Spanish cyclist in a violent and remote area of western Pakistan where a bus bomb killed 24 Shi'ite pilgrims a day earlier, police said.
The cyclist, who suffered minor wounds, had crossed into Pakistan's western province of Baluchistan from Iran, they said. Six guards were wounded.
Police said they did not know why he was cycling through such a dangerous area. He was assigned the escort by security forces because the province is plagued by kidnappers, Taliban militants, a violent separatist insurgency, sectarian killers, paramilitary death squads and drug traffickers.
Two young Czech women taking the same route by bus were kidnapped in March and are still being held.
The cyclist and his guards were travelling through Mastung district when gunmen attacked.
"Six of our security men have been killed trying to save the Spanish cyclist, who has suffered minor injuries," said Shafqat Anwar Shawani, the assistant police commissioner for Mastung district. One attacker was also killed, he said.
In the same district on Tuesday, a bomb targeting a bus killed 24 Shi'ite pilgrims, many of them women and children. Such sectarian attacks are increasingly common in Pakistan, where Shi'ites make up 20 percent of the 180 million people. On Wednesday, hundreds of Shi'ites protested against the bus bombing by sitting in the road alongside the bodies of the dead in the provincial capital of Quetta.
The community held similar protests demanding protection after bombings in Quetta, capital of Baluchistan, killed around 200 people, mostly Shi'ites, last year.

Pakistan: Lashkar-e-Jhangvi Claims Responsibility For Shia Pilgrims Attack; Shiites Stage Sit-In Protests
A pro-Taliban Takfiri Deobandi suicide bomber killed at least 28 Shiite pilgrims on a bus that was making its way through the Pakistan-Iran highway in Mastung district on Tuesday evening. Another 31 pilgrims, including women and children, were injured in the attack – which was claimed by the outlawed Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ).
Shiite Muslims have staged sit-in protests at Alamdar Road, Queta, including different cities across the country. The protesters have demanded immediate arrest of outlawed Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ) Chief Malik Ishaq and operation and terrorists.
Two buses with 103 pilgrims onboard were en route to Quetta from Taftan, a town in Chagai district that shares a border with Iran, officials said. The bomber struck one of the buses when it reached Dirangar village in Mastung, some 45 kilometres west of Quetta. “The targeted bus was carrying 51 pilgrims,” Assistant Commissioner Shafqat Shahwani told AFP. LeJ has ties to the Taliban, the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU), Sipah-e-Sahaba (SSP), Harkat-ul-Mujahideen (HuM), Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM), al-Qaeda, and Jundallah. In addition to receiving sanctuary from the Taliban in Afghanistan for their activity in Pakistan, LeJ members fought alongside Taliban terrorists. PML-N ruling government has also strong links LeJ and have never take action against the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi is because it has “a seat-to-seat adjustment deal between the PML-N and Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamaat (ASWJ) during elections. PML-N and the ASWJ had jointly contested a by-election on a Punjab Assembly seat for Jhang in March 2010, and that Punjab Law Minister Rana Sanaullah had openly campaigned for a PML-N candidate in 2010 along with Maulana Ludhianvi (a leader of first the SSP and now the ASWJ).
A Lashkar-e-Jhangvi-linked alleged terror suspect who spent five years in jail on murder charges and had known links with a slain al-Qaeda linchpin Amjad Hussain Farooqi was given a ticket by ruling PML-N to run for a National Assembly seat from Gujrat.

After Taliban Bombings, How Far Will Pakistan Respond
The Pakistan Air Force yesterday pounded suspected Pakistan Taliban (TTP) targets in the Tribal Areas adjoining the Afghan-Pakistan border in retaliation for two recent suicide bombings that killed dozens of military personnel. The bombings have led to speculation this could herald the start of a long-anticipated Taliban campaign, and call into question how far the government will allow the military to respond.
Former Australian defense attache to Islamabad, Brian Cloughley, said this may signal the start of a campaign of attacks by the TTP, partly in revenge for the death of their former leader, Hakimullah Mehsud. He was killed by a US drone strike in November.
“It certainly seems that these bombings are the beginning of a campaign, instigated by the recently returned Maulana Fazlullah, who is trying to cement his position as undisputed leader of the TTP,” he said.
After a long lull in serious attacks in Rawalpindi, Monday saw a deadly suicide attack on a combined Police/Army check-post not far from the Army’s General Headquarters. It killed 13 people, six of them soldiers with the rest passing schoolchildren and other civilians. Many more were injured. Sunday saw an attack on a military convoy in Bannu in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province bordering Afghanistan that killed 20 and injured more than 30.
Both attacks were claimed by the TTP, and today raids were carried out across Rawalpindi in which 48 people were arrested in suspicion of being connected to Monday’s attack.
The Pakistan Air Force meanwhile bombed suspected TTP hideouts around the town of Mir Ali in the militant hotbed of North Waziristan in the Tribal Areas, killing over 24 people. Whether the attacks will trigger a full offensive against the TTP remains unclear, however, as the government still appears wedded to negotiations although the TTP shows no indication of accepting talks. Cloughley described Fazlullah as “a psychotic savage whose mayhem and murder in Swat in 2007-2009 seem to have been forgotten by many people in Islamabad.”
A collective short memory about Fazlullah may be a problem, but analysts are convinced of the needed response. “The only thing that can be done about the TTP is to eradicate Fazlullah and as many of his hard core supporters as possible,” says Cloughley. Adding, “He does not want to talk peace, because he is incapable of living in peace — and he thinks he can win. It is up to [Prime Minister] Nawaz Sharif to prove him wrong, and the only way to do this, alas, is by sheer force.”
And the military is aware of this, says Cloughley.
“The Army remembers only too well that in Swat, when it went in to defeat Fazlullah and his fanatics, it took a long time and involved over a million people being forced from their homes.” Though the military is convinced, Salma Malik, assistant professor at Quaid-e-Azam University’s Department of Defence and Strategic Studies in Islamabad, is unsure the government will order a full-scale operation. “The security forces have long been asking for a full nod from the political decision-makers to undertake a big crushing action against the TTP, yet despite the mounting number of civil-military fatalities, I doubt the federal as well as provincial [Khyber Pakhtunkhwa] governments plan going for a zero tolerance, iron-fisted reply, which is the only means of tackling the menace,” she said. The reason for this, beyond a false belief in negotiations, is clear, said Malik. “It’s not only a divided house, but still there exists a strong empathy factor combined with those who strongly feel that this is still not our war,” she said. As long as this remains the case, she does not think there will be a proper response. “Unless there is a combined, coordinated and well synced inter-agency response that has both civil and military actors working in tandem, nothing will be possible.” Even the Air Force has only delivered a token response.
Analyst Usman Shabbir of the Pakistan Military Consortium think tank says the raids are “basically a small-scale punishment.”
He highlights that a truly effective response is not purely military.
“To be effective against the TTP, the first thing that needs to be done is the complete overhaul of our investigation [law enforcement/prosecution] and judicial systems so that whoever is caught, does get punished,” he said.
At present, suspects can be released for what judges decide is a lack of evidence or because of a faulty investigation in a criminal judicial system that largely relies on confessions. Coupled with an obvious fear some judges have displayed in sentencing captured Taliban militants, the criminal justice system provides little value in tackling the TTP. These problems aside, Shabbir does not ignore the need for a military option.
“A full-scale military operation like the one carried out in Swat is also needed to deny the TTP the foothold it has in North Waziristan,” he said. ■

Pakistan: Govt unable or unwilling to stop terrorist attacks: HRW

The militant groups, including the Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and some other banned outfits, are operating with “virtual impunity” in Pakistan as the country’s civilian and military institutions are either “unable” or “unwilling” to prevent terrorist attacks, says report of an international human rights organisation.
“The militant groups such as the ostensibly banned Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ), a Taliban affiliate, operate with virtual impunity across Pakistan as law enforcement officials either turn a blind eye or appear helpless to prevent attacks,” says Human Rights Watch (HRW) in its World Report 2014 released on Tuesday.
Talking to Dawn, HRW’s country director for Pakistan Ali Dayan Hasan said that in the 667-page report, its 24th annual review of human rights practices around the world, the HRW had summarised major issues in more than 90 countries. He said HRW with its head office in New York had released report about each country in their respective capitals.
“Taliban attacks, amounting to war crimes, have increased in scope and magnitude even as Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s government has renewed offer for peace talks in the aftermath of atrocities,” said Mr Hasan.
The HRW report has come at a time when the militants have stepped up their attacks across the country and the media has reported that the militants have already carried out 25 major terrorist attacks in the first 20 days of 2014. The report says that during the election campaign in April and May, at least 130 people were killed and over 500 were injured allegedly by the TTP and its affiliates, who had declared elections “un-Islamic” and warned voters to stay away from the rallies of the formerly ruling coalition parties. Numerous government installations and law enforcement personnel have been targeted by the Taliban. At least 22 polio vaccination workers were killed, and 14 wounded in 2012 and 2013 in attacks for which the Taliban claimed responsibility, says the HRW.
The human rights organisation says “a climate of fear impedes media coverage of militant groups and the Taliban and other armed groups regularly threaten media outlets over their coverage”. The report alleges that “security forces routinely violate basic rights” in the course of counter-terrorism operations with suspects frequently detained without charge or convicted without a fair trial. “Thousands of suspected members of Al Qaeda, the Taliban, and other armed groups — who were rounded up in a crackdown in 2009 in Swat valley and tribal areas — remained in illegal military detention at time of writing; few had been prosecuted or produced before the courts”, alleges the report.
The HRW report also mentions the security situation in the troubled Balochistan province, stating that “enforced disappearances and killings of suspected Baloch militants and opposition activists” continues in the province. “Violence against women and girls — including rape, honour killings, acid attacks, domestic violence and forced marriage — remains a serious problem in Pakistan,” says the report.
JUDICIAL ACTIVISM: According to the report, “Pakistan’s judiciary remains an independent but controversial actor”. Despite the adoption of a National Judicial Policy in 2009, access to justice remains poor, as case backlogs mount throughout the country.
“The courts are rife with corruption. Judges often use suo motu proceedings to help people gain access to justice. In other cases, the judiciary has used such proceedings to interfere with legislative or executive powers, part of a longstanding power struggle between former chief justice Iftikhar Chaudhry, the government, and the army.”

Pakistan: Five cops among six killed in Charsadda blast

Six persons including five policemen and a child were killed when a blast occurred near a police van Wednesday morning, Geo News reported. According to police, the blast occurred near a police mobile in Sardheri Bazar area of Charsadda that killed six persons including five cops and one child. Six others including two policemen were also injured in the explosion. Initial investigation suggested that militants had fixed explosives in a bicycle that went off with a blast when the police mobile crossed the area and were on way to provide security to anti-polio teams. Meanwhile security forces reached the spot and cordoned off the area and started investigation. Rescue teams shifted the bodies and injured to the hospital.