Monday, February 17, 2014

Targeting Of Religious Minorities: Forgetting Pakistan’s Constitution

Targeting of religious minorities in Pakistan is still a painful point. Since Pew Research Center report named Pakistan, which is 96 percent Muslim, is one of the most unsympathetic states for religious minorities. Pakistan is one of the top five overall for margins on religion, for most commonly due to its blasphemy laws. Pakistani judiciary habitually use blasphemy laws to give fatality or life in prison penalties to minorities charged of offending Islam.
All religious minorities in Pakistan – and not just Christians, faces biased regulations, enforced conversions of religious faiths, bombs and shootings meant at minority sections of Muslims, such as Shiites and Ahmadis. Pakistan began a 10-year process of “Islamization” under general Zia-ul-Haq in 1978. He forced to renovate material laws into religious ones, establishin Sharia judiciary. School textbooks in Pakistan frequently demonize minorities and highlight the nation’s Islamic roots over assistances from inhabitants of other faiths. Religious minorities are time and again stuck on the inferior stage of the market, often working as servants, sweepers and day laborers. Even they are considered eligible for just such jobs. Regardless of this miserable presentation, there are accounts of minority assent. A host of interfaith activist movements is rising, approaching for multi-faith edification and less hostility. Minority leaders are now vocalizing worldwide in the media and throughout religious and human rights associations. They work for a more liberal Pakistan with less tolerance for terrorists. Among 183 million Pakistanis, religious minorities total just nine million. The biggest faiths among are Christians and Hindus, each of which accounts for less than two percent of the total population. Other faiths include Sikhs, Zoroastrians, Buddhists, Baha’is, Jews and Ahmadi Muslims. Shiite Muslims formulate up to about a quarter of Pakistanis, but they, too, find themselves gradually more victimized by leading Sunni Muslims. Despite the fact that Pakistan’s constitution gives assurance for freedom of religion. Reports of enforced conversions to Islam, abducting of non-Muslims, job inequity, and blasphemy imprisonments and demolishing of minority worship places have become every day’s news.
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Government of Pakistan Is Not providing Security for Witnesses In Shahbaz Bhatti Assassination Case
President of Pakistan Christian Congress PCC, Dr. Nazir S. Bhatti, articulated severe distress on not endowing enough safety to protect Akmal Bhatti, Sikander Bhatti and other key witnesses in Shahbaz Bhatti assassination case who got life threatening letters from forbidden outfits and similar arrived to office of Interior Minister of Government of Pakistan Choudhry Nisar Ali arguing for security to make sure justice is prevailed.
The killers of Shahbaz Bhatti were captured from Islamabad who admits the crime and case is under sessions in anti-terrorist court. The last hearing held on January 22, 2014, in which Akmal Bhatti appeared as witness along with other witnesses.
On March 2, 2011, former Federal Minister for Minorities, Shahbaz Bhatti was assassinated, when he was heading for cabinet meeting.
Dr. Nazir Bhatti stated that if government gave loose or released assassins of Shahbaz Bhatti on demand of Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan’s (TTP) then Christians of Pakistan will take necessary actions. He added “Government of Pakistan may take notice of life threats to witnesses in Shahbaz Bhatti murder case and provide them fool proof security, if government not acted accordingly then it will be meant that Pakistan administration is intentionally saving killers”
The registration of FIR was supposed to be as; Government of Pakistan V/S accused killers as in most of the murder cases happens, the government stands as complainant; like Benazir Bhutto’s assassination case, the government is complainant and FIR is filed by government as complainant but in this incident Shahbaz Bhatti’s brother Sikander is complainant. Nazir Bhatti said “Why in Shahbaz Bhatti murder case his brother Sikander was asked to be complainant when government of Pakistan was supposed to be complainant in FIR it meant that from first day administration was not sincere to ensure justice in this brutal day light killing”
It is on the record that terrorists after assassination of Shahbaz Bhatti, scattered pamphlets on his corpse in which TTP accepted liability of assassination and terrorized to kill everyone who will insists to revoke or alteration in blasphemy laws as Shahbaz Bhatti talked about it. Nazir Bhatti demanded security of petitioner of FIR and of all witnesses and to relocate case in any city of Sindh province of Pakistan where court proceeding may be held within jail and offender possibly punished.
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BALOCHISTAN: “I Have Lost My Health, Not My Courage”

By Yousaf Ajab Baloch
In Baloch society where women rarely play a role in public life, Farzana Majeed has bucked the trend. She has emerged as a symbol of struggle for Baloch missing persons.
Farzan Majeed (29) is daughter of Baloch nationalist leader, Majeed Bizenjo. Majeed in his youth was a student activist with progressive leanings. After students politics he emerged as an active leader of the Baloch National Movement (Haye). He was assassinated and his assassination was given the colour of a tribal conflict. However, his comrades believe that it was a conspiracy to eliminate him. His radical political views were not tolerated by the authorities.
Farzana holds two MA degrees, one in Biochemistry and the other in Balochi Literature. She had enrolled for M. Phil in Biochemistry, a plan she had to shelve to join the struggle for the recovery of Baloch missing persons when her brother Zakir Majeed went missing.
Zakir Majeed was an active member of the Baloch Students Organization (BSO) and one of the founding members of BSO (Azad). He went missing from Mastung in June 2009 along with his comrades, Abdul Waheed and Abdul Basit. While his comrades were released afterwards, he is missing to this day. Since Zakir’s disappearance, Farzan has been holding protests for his safe release along with other Baloch missing persons. Zakir’s family have also staged sit-ins in front of the Karachi Press Club and the Quetta Press Club. Farzana is also secretary general of the Voice for Baloch Missing Persons (VBMP), a body striving for the safe release of abducted Baloch. The VBMP has held a number of protest actions in Quetta, Karachi, Islamabad and host of Baloch towns.
An important action was 1300-day-long peaceful hunger strike which gained attention of the superior judiciary as well as national and international human rights organization. The historic hunger strike was followed by a long march initiated on 26 October, last year.
In the first phase, Farzana along with a handful of comrades marched to Karachi from Quetta. On reaching Karachi, Farzana told a seminar: ‘I have lost my health but not my courage. The blisters on my feet have not healed but some people have already forgotten us. We are not tired. We have not given up’.
At the time of writing these lines, they are marching on to Islamabad from Karachi. They have already arrived Sahiwal. Along the way, they have received death threats. Meantime, back in Balochistan the families of missing persons continue receiving mutilated and decomposed bodies of their missing members. According to the VBMP, around 18000 Baloch have been abducted by the state security forces since 2000 while 1500 have been extra-judicially killed.
Farzana Majeed, meantime, has inspired a number of Baloch women. She thinks the state is violating the Vienna Convention which protects against torture and enforced disappearances.
‘My brother is a student activist; abducting and torturing him in torture cells for years is against the Islamic principles. It is the ultimate violation of human decency. If he is involved in any sort of illegal activities, he should be produced in the courts,’ she says. She is also critical of country’s mainstream media: ‘The media should be the voice of the victims and report on the atrocities committed against our people; instead they have been pressured into silence by the state’.
Media may ignore her. Her peaceful but determined march—marching on as Viewpoint readers read these lines—is sparking many a imagination in Baluchistan and beyond. Conspiracy of mainstream media silence cannot hide the plight of Baloch missing persons. Every dignified step Farzana takes on her way to Islamabad, teases the silence. (Courtesy: Viewpoint Online)

Pakistan needs to be wary of Saudi intentions

Casting around for allies
After differences with the US over Syria, Egypt and Iran and an expected decline in petroleum profits, Saudi Arabia is looking towards east. After visiting Pakistan the Saudi Crown Prince is expected to visit India and Japan.
Pakistan and Saudi Arabia have signed a number of MoUs. The significance of some is clear while that of others will manifest itself in days to come. There are issues over which the interests of Pakistan coincide with those of Riyadh. There are others where the interests conflict. Pakistan must jealously guard its national interests and agree to nothing, openly or secretly, that has the potential to harm Pakistan’s national interests.
With US developing its shale oil reserves and a number of other countries following suit, they would depend less on petroleum inflows from the Kingdom, thus decreasing the Saudi ability to dictate the OPEC oil prices. Saudi Arabia can thus no more depend on entirely oil revenues. It is therefore looking for more sources of revenue including investments abroad. The country has already made investments in Near East and is trying to discover possible avenues of investment in countries like Pakistan, India and Japan. Here the interests of Pakistan and Saudi Arabia converge. There is however little possibility of any large scale private sector investment from the Kingdom as long as terrorist activities continue and power and gas remain scarce. What remains to be seen is if Saudi government will agree to make big investments in Pakistan. Currently whatever trade Pakistan has with Saudi Arabia is skewed in favour of the later. Will the two countries devise ways to reduce the imbalance? There is a perception that if the Kingdom transfers only a fraction of its funds invested in the western banks, the country would be rid of some of its forex headaches.
Saudi Arabia is keen to reach an understanding with Pakistan on regional security. This is a tricky subject. It must have come up during COAS Raheel Sharif’s Saudi visit. On Monday the Crown Prince had yet another meeting with Gen Sharif and CJCSC Gen Mahmud. While Riyadh is free to hold whatever views it likes about Turkey and Iran, no regional security arrangement at the cost of Turkey or Iran will be in Pakistan’s interest which has good relations with both. Similarly Pakistan must in no way be a part of meddling in Arab conflicts and decline to offer any support in suppressing the dissent in the Arab lands. Pakistan may sell weapons to any country but has to refrain from becoming a party in any conflict in the region under whatsoever slogan. Pakistan and Saudia are sovereign countries. It is facetious to maintain, as Defence Minister Khwaja Asif has done, that the defence of Pakistan and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is the same thing.

Pakistan: Former President Asif Ali Zardari condemns killing of 23 FC personnel
Former President Asif Ali Zardari has denounced the assassination of over 20 kidnapped troops by a group of Taliban as “most barbaric, coward and inhuman”. “The admission by a faction of the militants has exposed once again the real intentions of the savage people”, he said in a statement today. The TTP Mohmand Agency last night formally admitted to killing nearly two dozen soldiers of Frontier Corps in June 2010. It is hoped that in the fullness of time perpetrators of such heinous crimes will be brought to justice and they will have no place to escape, he said. The former President also expressed sympathies with the bereaved families and prayed for those martyred. Those who were assassinated by the militants in cold blood are our martyrs and the heroes of the nation, he said adding their sacrifices will not go in vain.

Pakistan: Two Karachi TV channels come under grenade attacks

Offices of two private TV channels located near Guru Mandir and Mazar-e-Quaid came under grenade attacks on Monday evening, however, no casualties resulted in the separate incidents. According to sources, unknown assailants lobbed a hand grenade at the office of Aaj TV, which damaged its entrance without causing any casualties. Ball bearings were also recovered from the site of the blast. In a similar incident, a cracker was hurled at the office of Waqt News near Mazar-e-Quaid which failed to go off. Police rushed to the spot and collected the evidence. The attacks on the offices of media outlets drew strong condemnation from various political parties, journalists’ organizations and others.

Iran 'may send forces to Pakistan' after capture of guards

Iran's interior minister has warned it may send forces into Pakistan if it does not act to free five Iranian border guards seized 10 days ago. The men are thought to have been taken into Pakistan after being captured in Iran's Sistan Baluchistan region. Abdolreza Rahmani-Fazli demanded that Islamabad treat the case "strongly and seriously" and "take the necessary measures" to secure their release. The Sunni militant group Jaish al-Adl has said it was behind their capture. The group has posted what it said were photographs of the guards, bound and being held in an unknown location. A video broadcast by al-Arabiya TV on Friday purportedly showed one of the men, Sgt Jamshyd Danaifard, saying they were "safe and sound". He added that Jaish al-Adl wanted the Iranian authorities to exchange 300 Sunni prisoners in Iran and its close ally Syria for the guards.
'New security sphere'
The day after the capture of the guards on 8 February, the Iranian foreign ministry reportedly summoned Pakistan's charge d'affaires to demand that Islamabad "act firmly against the leaders and members of the terrorist group who have fled into Pakistan". On Monday, Mr Rahmani-Fazli told state TV that Iran had "asked Pakistan to deal with the issue strongly and seriously". Otherwise, he said, Pakistan must "allow Iran to maintain the security of the region deep on Afghanistan and Pakistan soil". "We are expecting a proper and precise answer. Otherwise we do consider it our own right to intervene and create a new security sphere for our safety." The Isna news agency reported separately that an Iranian delegation had travelled to Pakistan on Monday to try to secure the guards' release. The deputy chief-of-staff of Iran's armed forces meanwhile told the Fars news agency that "political and military measures are under way to set them free". Sistan Baluchistan, which borders both Afghanistan and Pakistan, has been the scene of frequent clashes in recent years between Iranian security forces and drug smugglers and Sunni rebel groups. In October, Jaish al-Adl said it was behind the killing of 14 Iranian border guards and the capture of three others in Sistan Baluchistan. The authorities in the provincial capital, Zahedan, responded by hanging 16 people they claimed were "linked to groups hostile to the regime". In November, Jaish al-Adl shot dead a local prosecutor and his driver. The next month, a bomb blast killed three Revolutionary Guards.

Dictator Zia’s Pakistan

By Kahar Zalmay
Bhutto was a symbol of modernity; Zia represented darkness and made Pakistan an entity of hatred where only Muslims of a certain school of thought could live, and where the more illogical one is, the more acceptance and appreciation one receives.
Seeing young Bilawal Bhutto Zardari spearheading the two-weeks long Sindh Festival is refreshing but is this effort enough to revive a Sindhi culture that historically has promoted peace, harmony and diversity among the residents of Sindh, irrespective of differences in faith? In his promotional video speech, Bilawal Bhutto said that the culture was in danger and expeditious acts were needed to protect it. “The Sindh Festival will make us aware of our existence. The heritage was under threat and the festival is an effort to protect it,” he said. However, it is not just Sindhi culture that is in danger; Pashtun, Baloch and Punjabi cultures are in danger too after Zia’s tyrannical 11-year-rule.
There is little doubt that after the demise of General Zia, Pakistan remains clearly divided between two distinct blocks, one associating itself with Bhutto, the other linked with Zia. The block representing Zia is gradually taking hold of Pakistan while the space for Bhutto’s mindset is shrinking. The recent threat from the Taliban to the peaceful Kalash community in Chitral to convert to Islam or prepare for elimination, or their stopping students in Peshawar University from celebrating Valentine’s Day instead of haya (modesty) day, are manifestations of that disturbing reality. The incessant attacks on Shias, Hindus and Ahmedis in Pakistan indicate that people belonging to Zia’s block hold the strings of our lives in their hands and that the militancy and religious extremism nurtured by Zia are making it impossible for people of other faiths or free thinkers (like me) to live in Pakistan. It seems that the sunlight is receding and the shadows are increasing in this God forsaken country.
The words ‘liberal’ and ‘secular’ have become gaalis (insults) in Pakistan. A good example of the dominance of Zia’s followers is the weakness of Bhutto’s own party on the small matter of unblocking access to the popular video sharing website YouTube, where it could not take on the radical elements belonging to Zia’s block. Who could foresee in the time of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto that one day his own liberal party, after forming the government, would feel so weak and powerless against the forces of darkness that it would dither in its decision to unblock the website? The PPP also failed to stand up for Salmaan Taseer when he was singled out by the media and religious forces for defending a woman accused of blasphemy. The constant media coverage awarded to Maulana Abdul Aziz, the man responsible for the killing of dozens of innocent people in the Red Mosque incident, is another reminder that Zia’s forces are dominating the mainstream discourse.
Bhutto was a symbol of modernity; Zia represented darkness and made Pakistan an entity of hatred where only Muslims of a certain school of thought could live, and where the more illogical one is, the more acceptance and appreciation they receive. He turned Pakistan into a laboratory of Islam, the kind that religious forces dreamed of: a laboratory that is under the control of militant groups and their sympathisers, who silence any voice remotely connected with modernity and liberalism. What crime did hundreds of Hazara Shias commit that they were killed by the scores in Quetta? What crime did Salmaan Taseer, Shahbaz Bhatti and others commit that they were killed? Meanwhile, Salmaan Taseer’s killer was garlanded with flowers, not by people in the tribal belt, but by people in Rawalpindi, in the heart of Pakistan. The armed groups — the Sipahs and Lashkars — are so numerous that at times it feels like we have outsourced security matters to them.
When I see campaigns and banners demanding Jinnah’s Pakistan, I ask myself: is today’s Pakistan not, in fact, Jinnah’s Pakistan, despite the confusion and disorientation of the founding leadership? The leadership lacked a clear vision of what kind of Pakistan it wanted: a theocratic state or a liberal democratic state, of the kind Jinnah advocated in his speech just before the birth of Pakistan. Unfortunately, his decision to declare Urdu the national language gave the oppressors a tool that set the ground for alienation and separation. The language was later used by the Punjabi dominated ruling elite — led by Pakistan’s military — against the smaller ethnicities like the Pashtuns and Baloch. What could be more ironic than the fact that the millions who were uprooted from their villages, cities, their hearths and homes, their friends and dreams, the people who actually steered the Pakistan movement, are, to this day, called Mohajir and more derogatively Biharis?
Because of the poor vision and shortsightedness of our founding fathers, in our first constitutional document, the Objectives Resolution set the foundations of a state that would later embrace a particular group of oppressors like Zia who left no stone unturned in their quest to shrink the space for people belonging to other sects and religions, and free thinkers. Bhutto can never be more relevant than today. When I say Bhutto I do not refer to the person of Bhutto or his party but the philosophy of modernity, liberalism and secular beliefs that existed in pre-Zia Pakistan. With the arrival of Zia, shadows descended on Pakistan. If change is the only constant in nature, then the time for change has come. What the shrinking majority of Pakistan wants is the Pakistan of Bhutto, clear in its direction and outlook, a modern, democratic and secular Pakistan that is, unfortunately, losing its ground to the onslaught of Zia’s followers and sympathisers.

Bilawal Bhutto condemns killing of 23 FC personnel
Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, Patron in Chief, Pakistan Peoples Party has strongly condemned the reported brutal killings of 23 soldiers of Frontier Constabulary in Mohmand Agency by TTP terrorists and termed it an open challenge to the entire nation and its security forces. In a press statement issued here, Bilawal Bhutto Zardari said a handful of individuals and Taliban apologists are trying to push our country into terrorist hands and such massacres of nation’s brave soldiers are an eye-opener for all those who love this land and its people. “It is time to react instead of regret,” as Pakistan, its people and security forces are under attack from the disguised enemy and our very sovereignty for which our past generations sacrificed is at stake. PPP Patron in Chief said some people are out to misguide the nation by appeasing terrorists and rubbing salt on the wounds of the victims of terror. He said Pakistan, Pakistanis and all their institutions have to become one and up against the terrorists and their patrons before everything is wiped out. Bilawal Bhutto Zardari sympathized with the families of victim soldiers adding that being himself son of terror victim he feels their pain in complete solidarity.

PPP Human Rights Cell demands Government’s response to Taliban threat to minorities
The PPP Human Rights Cell has urged the Government to respond forcefully to the threats given to the Kalash and the Ismaili community in Chitral by the TTP and to take every step to protect the valley from the Taliban incursions. This was stated by Dr Nafisa Shah, Central Coordinator of the PPP Human Rights Cell.
“This threat of attack must be deemed a threat to Pakistan, and core values in Pakistan’s constitution which ensures protection of its citizens particularly the religious minorities. It is the government’s responsibility to protect life and property of citizens – the threat on an entire community which is already vulnerable is a grave matter” she stated. Dr Nafisa Shah further added that it was also surprising that despite repeated bloody attacks in all the major urban centres by the Taliban and their proxies, the government was continuing talks as if it was business as usual. It seems that in the eyes of the ruling elite the blood of the citizens is cheap and that the government has no counterterrorism strategy to protect the 180million people of Pakistan, the Human Rights Cell Coordinator added.
The PPP Human Rights cell also criticized the electronic media for glamourising Taliban apologists and those representing their viewpoint and for providing them with space to rationalize their evil war against the country and its citizens stating that this was an insult to the thousands of our people who had lost their lives to terrorism.