Friday, March 28, 2014

Pakistan: TTP had ordered attack on Islamabad court, say findings

Investigations into the March 3 Islamabad Judicial Complex attack that killed ten people and the March 21 twin bombings in Peshawar that killed 20 people have concluded that these assaults were ordered by the TTP top brass which were then planned and executed by four Taliban commanders - Qari Mansoor and Mufti Hasan from the Mohmand Agency, Hafiz Daulat from the Orakzai Agency and Abdullah from the Khyber Agency.
According to well-informed sources in security agencies, those investigating the three terrorist attacks (claimed by the little known Ahrarul Hind) have been able to collect credible evidence which shows that these assaults had been ordered by none other than the fugitive TTP ameer Mullah Fazlullah in a bid to further erode the authority of the government especially at a time when it was holding talks with the Taliban.
While the TTP spokesman Shahidullah Shahid had refuted involvement in these attacks, an Ahrar spokesman had claimed responsibility for all these attacks including the one targeting the Judicial Complex, saying the prevailing judicial system including the courts was un-Islamic and their struggle would continue till the implementation of the Shariah law in Pakistan.
The Islamabad court attack took place just 24 hours after TTP’s ceasefire announcement which clearly stated that the TTP leadership had advised all the subgroups to respect their ameer’s call for a ceasefire and completely refrain from all jehadi activities during the set time period. The TTP spokesman had claimed after the attack that all the groups operating under the umbrella of the Tehrik-e-Taliban were obliged to follow the orders of their ameer and a stern action would be taken if some TTP-linked militant faction is found involved.
However, those investigating the post-ceasefire terrorist attacks have been able to get hold of the telephonic conversation of some close aides of Fazlullah and four TTP commanders who had planned and executed the Islamabad court attack and the twin bombings in Peshawar under specific instructions not to claim responsibility for them.
Information Minister Pervaiz Rasheed had announced on March 22 that the Taliban had assured the government side to trace out the Ahrarul Hind-linked militants who were involved in the post-ceasefire attacks. However, it seems that these attacks, which had claimed 30 lives, have been forgotten by the government as well as the Taliban sides in a bid to make the talks process a success. Claiming responsibility for the post-ceasefire attacks, Ahrarul Hind had claimed that it has already parted ways with the Pakistani Taliban because it was opposed to holding peace talks with the government. However, it seems that the so-called Ahrarul Hind is now toeing the TTP line by not conducting any more terror attacks especially when the government is seriously considering to release the ‘non-combatant Taliban prisoners’. However, well-informed officials in the security establishment still believe that the TTP leadership was not at all sincere in a permanent peace deal with the state of Pakistan and that it was using the peace dialogue as a ploy to buy time and avert a likely military action in North Waziristan. These officials regretted that the government is negotiating with a violent terrorist group which has known Afghan and Indian links and which has the explicit agenda of overthrowing the state of Pakistan and to replace it with a Taliban Emirate. They pointed out that all the known demands of the TTP are in conflict with a constitutional and democratic polity where fundamental rights and the rule of law are meant to be paramount. Informed quarters in the security establishment regretted that the ruling political elite is literally pressuring the khaki leadership to concede to even those demands of the TTP which tantamount to surrendering the authority of the state to a bunch of the non-state actors whose are being string-pulled by the Indian and Afghan security establishments. Besides demanding the release of 156 ‘non-combatant prisoners’, the TTP also wants the military to accept its domination over sections of the North Waziristan by withdrawing troops. But the khakis are resisting the civilians’ pressure on these key demands by reminding that Mullah Fazlullah had himself declared on October 3, 2013 that the talks with the government were a component of war which is still continuing. He had stated this while claiming responsibility for killing the General Officer Commanding of Swat, Major General Sanaullah Khan Niazi. The khakis further point out the pertinent fact that every time a peace deal was struck in the past, the Taliban had used it to their advantage by reinforcing their falling jehadi infrastructure, solidifying their bases and taking over large areas of the KPK and Fata, besides ensuring the release of their jehadi prisoners and receiving handsome monetary compensations, before unilaterally scrapping the deal. The khaki circles believe, even if a peace deal is struck with the Taliban on their terms, it would not last longer as had been the case in the past. According to them, the Taliban only wanted to avert a military action in Waziristan and they have effectively averted it by trapping the government in peace talks. To a question, a senior security official said, despite all the hullabaloo of peace talks, the army was still ready for a possible military action in Waziristan.
“After the martyrdom of 23 Frontier Corps jawans by the Taliban last month, 48 army units were dispatched to North Waziristan for a possible military action and aerial strikes were launched against the hideouts and the ammunition deports of the TTP by the fighter jets of the Air Force. Had the security forces been allowed to carry out a massive action against the Taliban at that time, the situation would have been much different in North Waziristan today.
The army would have uprooted the TTP’s jehadi infrastructure besides setting up its own basis there”, the security official said.To a question, however, he added that a military action in future would be less effective because of the fact that the TTP has already shifted much of its ammunition and 40 percent of its fighters from North Waziristan to the Mohmand Agency, Orakzai Agency, Khyber Agency and the Balochistan Province.

China takes no sides on Ukraine crisis, Xi tells Europe

President Xi Jinping said on Friday China would not take sides with the West or Russia over Ukraine, disappointing any hopes Beijing might add its weight to international pressure on Moscow for annexing Crimea.
"China does not have any private interests in the Ukraine question," Xi told a news conference with German Chancellor Angela Merkel. "All parties involved should work for a political and diplomatic solution to the conflict."
China has adopted a cautious response to the Ukraine crisis, not wanting to alienate its ally Russia or make comment directly on a referendum in which Crimea voted to join Russia, lest it set a precedent for restive regions of its own such as Tibet.
In an U.N. Security Council vote earlier this month on a draft resolution to condemn the Moscow-backed referendum in Crimea, China's abstention effectively isolated Russia. "If I were Russia, I would not be satisfied with the number of votes in favor of Russia," said Merkel, who despite her country's close trade ties with Moscow and heavy reliance on Russia gas exports has backed European Union and U.S. sanctions.
The chancellor, who has tried to use her influence on Russia President Vladimir Putin to de-escalate the crisis, called the U.N. vote a clear sign "that the international community is not very happy with what Russia has done".
China has signaled understanding for Russia's position, saying what is happening "has historical reasons". Chinese state media has also expressed sympathy for Moscow.
But China has also said it wants to develop "friendly cooperation" with Ukraine. Its foreign ministry said this week Beijing would play a "constructive role" on international financial aid for Ukraine, though it stopped short of saying whether Beijing would participate directly.
"We support the constructive efforts the international community has made to de-escalate the situation and are open to any concepts which serve to calm the situation and to bring about a political solution," Xi said in Berlin.
"The Chinese side always respects the principles of international relations and non-intervention in the internal business of other states," he said. The Chinese leader's first visit to Germany since becoming president last year saw the signature of business deals that will add to bilateral trade that was worth about 140 billion euros last year. But business considerations did not prevent Merkel from publicly raising China's patchy record on human rights and free speech with the visiting president.
"Broad and free expression of opinion is of course a very important element to promote the creativity of a society, be it in research, culture or civil society," said the chancellor.
There was no official comment on reports that Xi might visit a monument to the Holocaust in Berlin during his visit. China likes to contrast Germany's profound atonement for its World War Two atrocities with what it sees as Japan's reluctance to do so. Ties between the Asian rivals took a turn for the worse in December last year when Prime Minister Shinzo Abe visited a Tokyo shrine China sees as a symbol of Japan's militaristic past because it honors wartime leaders and millions of war dead.
But Xi did use a speech in Berlin on Friday evening to recall Japan's wartime invasion of the Chinese city of Nanjing and say that such atrocities "are still fresh in our memory".

Amnesty urges Obama to criticize Saudi human rights record

Amnesty International has urged US president Barack Obama to break Washington’s silence on human rights violations in Saudi Arabia during his visit to the country on Friday. The London-based rights group called on Obama to take a firm stance against discrimination and systematic violations in the Persian Gulf kingdom. Obama was also asked to express dismay at restrictions on women’s driving as his brief visit to Riyadh coincides with a campaign against the driving ban in the country. Saudi Arabia is the only country in the world that forbids women to drive. “It is crucial that President Obama sends a strong message to the government of Saudi Arabia that its gross human rights violations and systematic discrimination are unacceptable. A failure to do so would undermine the human rights principles the USA purports to stand for,” said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, Deputy Director for the Middle East and North Africa at Amnesty International. “For too long, the USA has shied away from publicly confronting Saudi Arabia over its human rights record, largely turning a blind eye to a mounting catalogue of abuses. This is an opportunity for the President to demonstrate that he will stop sacrificing respect for basic human rights, including equality and non-discrimination, for the sake of economic interests and political expedience,” Sahraoui said. “The government of Saudi Arabia has no qualms about crushing anyone who dares to criticize its methods. It has repeatedly and ruthlessly used repressive tactics to quash all forms of dissent.” President Obama’s visit also comes as Saudi Arabia has stepped up its crackdown on human rights activists and introduced an anti-terror law that virtually criminalizes all forms of peaceful dissent, Amnesty noted. Migrant workers and the country’s Shia Muslim community also face widespread and systematic discrimination. Saudi Arabia is a key US ally in the Middle East.

Germany defends Crimea stance as Russia touts new "reality"

Barack Obama: Russia must pull back troops from Ukraine border

President says Putin should begin negotiations directly with Ukrainian government and international community
Barack Obama has called on Russia to withdraw its troops from the Ukraine border and start negotiating.
Obama told CBS News that the decision by the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, to assemble forces on the border may "simply be an effort to intimidate Ukraine, or it may be that they've got additional plans". Although estimates of troop numbers vary, Obama said that "to de-escalate the situation" Russia should "move back those troops and begin negotiations directly with the Ukrainian government as well as the international community".
He also said Putin had been "willing to show a deeply held grievance about what he considers to be the loss of the Soviet Union", and the Russian leader should not "revert back to the kinds of practices that … were so prevalent during the cold war".
"There's a strong sense of Russian nationalism and a sense that somehow the west has taken advantage of Russia in the past and that he [Putin] wants to in some fashion … reverse that or make up for that," Obama said.
"What I have repeatedly said is that he may be entirely misreading the west. He's certainly misreading American foreign policy. We have no interest in circling Russia and we have no interest in Ukraine beyond letting Ukrainian people make their own decisions about their own lives."

President Vladimir Putin: Professional actions by Russian military saved Crimea from bloodshed
Russian President Vladimir Putin has said that the events in Crimea have demonstrated a high level of readiness of the Russian Armed Forces and he thanked the military service members stationed in the peninsula for their stamina and professionalism. "The recent events in Crimea were a serious test. They demonstrated both the completely new capabilities of our Armed Forces and the high morale of the personnel," the president said at a ceremony introducing the top officers on the occasion of new appointments and rank awarding.
The president thanked "the command and service members of the Black Sea Fleet, other units and formations based in Crimea, for their stamina and personal courage."
The supreme commander-in-chief praised "the clear and professional actions" of the Russian servicemen which "allowed [them] to avoid provocations and prevent bloodshed and ensure conditions for a peaceful and free referendum." "Serious work must be done to modernize the military structure in Crimea," Putin said.
"We need to complete the formation of police, emergency and penitentiary, as well as security, investigative and drug-control agencies in the new constituent regions of the Federation," Putin said.
There is also a need to swiftly implement the decisions to re-open the Black Sea Higher Naval School named after Nakhimov and to create a presidential cadet school in Sevastopol, he said.
Read more:

Zeenat Karzai : ''Afghanistan's First Lady''

By Malali Bashir
Have you ever seen Afghanistan's current first lady? Has anybody?
Throughout the time her husband has been in office, Zeenat Karzai has remained unengaged and hidden inside Arg -- the Afghan presidential palace. But in many ways, this might not have been expected. Even if she had no interest in politics, or no option to be active on behalf of other Afghan women, her training as a medical doctor might have motivated her to press the international community for help in developing medical technology and facilities inside the country, where hundreds of women still die during childbirth each year. Undoubtedly, Afghanistan has seen a lot of progress in women's rights under Karzai's government; women even have their own ministry now. Nonetheless, it would have had a far greater impact if the first lady had also taken part in rebuilding her country. (The rare photo above was taken during a meeting with Laura Bush inside the Presidential Palace in Kabul in 2006).
Zeenat Karzai could also have taken part in her husband's presidential election campaigns. Her participation may not necessarily have won more votes, but it would have sent a message to Afghan women that their first lady was not only aware of their problems, but also interested in working towards solving them. It would have assured them that she would work for their rights inside the presidential palace. But Mrs. Karzai did not, and with her husband's term ending in the next few months, her chance has passed.
In April, Afghans will elect a new president, and with him will come a new first lady. But even while the faces inside Arg will change, the hopes of Afghans, especially Afghan women, for a new reality may remain unrealized. The role of most Afghan women today does not extend beyond the walls of their own homes, and females working outside are not accepted easily. This is probably the biggest reason that after King Mohammad Zahir Shah's reign none of Afghanistan's first ladies have been seen in public or active in society.
Nine candidates have registered for the Afghan presidential elections of 2014. Some of them do not have good records of allowing women their basic human rights, but if they win, they will be sworn to honor the Afghan constitution that safeguards them. And some information is known about the wives of several prominent candidates, such as Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai and Abdullah Abdullah, giving voters a sense of what kinds of first ladies they would be.
Ghani, the former finance minister who was listed among the Top 100 Global Thinkers by Foreign Policy magazine in 2010 and was voted the No. 2 world thinker in 2013 by readers of Prospect magazine, is married to Rula Ghani, who he met in Lebanon, where he attended the American University of Beirut. On Saturday, March 8, Rula accompanied her husband to an event in support of Afghan women on International Women's Day and to a campaign event in Kabul where she delivered a short speech. According to Ghani's electoral campaign team, , during the event, women's rights activists applauded her presence as a positive gesture and called upon other potential first ladies to "follow her lead."
As for Abdullah, his wife was not seen during his 2009 presidential campaign, though she stood next to him on election day to cast her vote. While it is unclear if the couple remains together or has separated, if the former is true, the women's rights activists who appreciated Mrs. Abdullah's public appearance in previous elections would have high expectations of her, should her husband win.
Another one of the frontrunners is Zalmai Rasoul, known as "Arg's candidate" and "Karzai's favorite." Yet, if he gets elected, Afghanistan will officially be deprived of a first lady because the 71-year-old former foreign minister is reportedly unmarried.
During the Tokyo conference in 2012, apart from holding "inclusive, transparent and credible" elections, fighting corruption and improving good governance and enforcing the rule of law, Afghanistan made a commitment to defending human rights. The presidential candidates have slightly touched on the women's rights issue during the campaign, but have not addressed it as one of their priority topics. Last month, women's rights activists called upon the presidential candidates to come up with more comprehensive plans regarding women's rights in Afghanistan. In order to keep the commitments made in Tokyo, Afghanistan's next first lady could do a lot in helping the next president of the country.
In Afghanistan's deeply traditional society, laws are still passed today that further diminish the basic human rights of women. Even though Karzai did not sign the law that would have prohibited family members from testifying as witnesses to crimes committed against women by male relatives, the law did pass through the parliament. Yet there are other examples of laws that are part of an effort of legally stripping women of their human rights, including: the Shia family law, which legalizes marital rape and bans wives from going out of their houses without their husbands' permission -- it was approved by lower house of parliament and signed by Karzai in 2009, though he later decided to review it after facing international criticism; the law that lowered the proportion of provincial council seats reserved for women from 25 percent to 20 percent; and the backlash by conservative members of parliament against the Elimination of Violence Against Women law. Ironically enough, the news of a possible approval of a law that legalizes the stoning of adulterers in Afghanistan came out on the Day for Elimination of Violence Against Women.
Given the current situation in Afghanistan, it is hard to believe that any of the previously mentioned women or the other candidates' wives would come forward more often to take part in their husbands' presidential campaign. But at least one woman -- the woman who will become the first lady as a result of the 2014 elections -- will have the chance to play a prominent role in working for women's rights in Afghanistan. Even though there are no official duties assigned by the constitution to the first ladies of the country, it's time that the trend changes and the next first lady does not restrict herself to remaining obscure. It's time for the next first lady to start, not only actively hosting social events, but also actively participating in the development of the country and play the role of a good adviser to the president on pressing issues. She could advise the president on implementing programs for women's rights, furthering their economic independence and access to education, and enabling them with a greater voice in the law-making process.

Iran bent on release of kidnapped border guards:FM
Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said on Friday that Iran does its best to secure safe and sound release of the kidnapped Iranian border guards in Pakistan.
The foreign minister posted the remark on his facebook on Friday.
Our round-the-clock effort is ensuring safe and sound return of the dear ones to their families and not the publicity or slogans for mere false hopes which not only afford the least help to freedom of the dear ones but also make the issue further complicated,ˈ said Zarif.
On March 26, Zarif wrote a letter to the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to clarify fate of kidnapped Iranian diplomat in Yemen and five Iranian border guards abducted by a terrorist group in Pakistan.
The Iranian foreign minister in his letter has asked the UN secretary-general to urge the concerned countries to expedite probing into the fate of the abducted diplomat and border guards.
ˈOn this ground and to avoid likely consequences of writing a letter to the UN chief and of its publication, hours long exchange of view and consultations were made to prevent God forbids not adverse impact on release of our dear ones,ˈ Zarif further wrote in his Facebook.
He referred to intensive efforts launched by all Iranian officials, including President Hassan Rouhani and foreign ministry officials, for the purpose and said any consideration observed up to so far in that connection by the officials is ˈtimes more sensitive and more seriousˈ.
To the end of his Facebook anecdote, Zarif hoped for success in release of the Iranian border guards.

Is Pakistan aiding Syrian rebels?

Deutsche Welle
Pakistan denies claims it is arming Syrian rebels at Saudi Arabia's behest. Experts, however, say Islamabad is not only providing military equipment to anti-Assad groups, it's also helping jihadists to go fight in Syria.
Pakistani and international media have reported about Pakistan-based Wahhabi militant groups, including al Qaeda and the Taliban, sending their members to Syria to fight against President Bashar Assad's forces. Some observers claim these fighters are also getting some kind of state support. Despite the Pakistani government's categorical denial of any involvement in the Syrian conflict, the Islamic Republic's opposition parties, including the main opposition Pakistan People's Party (PPP) led by former President Asif Ali Zardari, have challenged Islamabad's claims. A number of political experts in Pakistan also disagree with the government's stance that it did not get itself involved in the violent Syrian conflict on Saudi Arabia's request. "We strongly reject the media speculation that Pakistan has changed its position on Syria or is supplying arms to Syrian rebels directly or indirectly. These impressions are totally baseless and misleading," Sartaj Aziz, an advisor to Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on national security and foreign affairs, recently told the country's parliament. The discussion about whether or not the Pakistani government armed the Syrian rebels commenced after the Saudi Crown Prince, Salman bin Abdulaziz, travelled to Pakistan last month.
"I would like to clarify that during the Saudi Crown Prince's visit, the two sides only mentioned the need to enhance bilateral cooperation in the field of defense with an aim to have a mutually beneficial defense and security cooperation," said Aziz. According to news agency AFP, which quoted a source close to Saudi decision-makers, Riyadh was interested in getting Pakistan-made shoulder-launched anti-aircraft missiles, known as Anza, and anti-tank rockets, to aid the rebels. "The United States could allow their to allies provide the rebels with anti-aircraft and anti-tank weapons following the failure of Geneva talks and the renewed tension with Russia," AFP quoted the head of the Gulf Research Centre, Abdel Aziz al-Sager. Ghaffar Husain, a London-based researcher and counter-terrorism expert, told DW that Saudi-Pakistani alliance is decades-long, and that it is highly likely that Riyadh could have asked for Islamabad's assistance in turning the tide in Syria.
Claims 'not exaggerated'
Ali K. Chishti, a security expert in Karachi, told DW that Pakistan's assistance to Syrian rebels was of covert nature, and that it was obvious why Pakistan did not officially admit it. "I don't think that the claims that Pakistan is helping Syrian opposition are incorrect or exaggerated. Islamabad believes that since Iran is openly supporting the Assad regime, which is responsible for killing hundreds of thousands of people in his own country, it is justified to aid the rebels," said Chishti.
Sharif's personal involvement
Some experts argue that the alleged Saudi-Pakistani deal on Syria was a result of Sharif's personal connections with the Saudi rulers. Earlier this month, Pakistan received a 1.5 billion USD loan from Riyadh, which Pakistani opposition parties claimed was a "gift' from Saudis to Sharif for his "services" to the kingdom. Husain says Pakistan has "the expertise, weapons and fighters for the Syrian war, and Saudi Arabia has the cash that Pakistan desperately needs right now."
Naqvi, however, says that any other head of the government in Islamabad would have complied with the Saudi demands. "We must not forget that Sharif has no say in defense related matters. It is the Pakistani army which calls the shots. Former President Zardari would not have acted differently in this scenario."
For Chishti, accepting the Saudi demands was a sensible decision: "Iran is openly supporting Assad whereas Saudi Arabia is aiding the rebels - both for their sectarian interests. Why would then the Pakistani state, which follows the Saudi Wahhabi Islamic ideology, side with the Shiite Tehran on this?"
Pakistani militants migrating to Syria
"A large number of foreign fighters are based in Pakistan's northern Waziristan area, which shares border with Afghanistan. Some of them are now migrating to Syria. The Pakistani Taliban have actually established a cell to monitor the Syrian situation. Al Qaeda's head, Aymen al-Zawahiri sent out a message to Pakistani militants to move to Syria," told Chishti, adding that Muslim al Shishani, a Chechen commander from North Waziristan, was one such Islamist who migrated to Syria on March 27.
The expert, however, is not sure whether it's a good thing for the Pakistani state. "We need to see how certain non-state actors are being used in this conflict. It can be a double edged sword," he said. For his part, Naqvi says there is "structural linkage" between the Pakistani military apparatus and the jihadists. "These militants have been doing what the army thinks is in Pakistan's geo-strategic interests," said Naqvi. The expert is of the view that Pakistan finds itself in a quagmire for not keeping itself non-aligned in regional and international conflicts and will ultimately have to pay a big price for its actions.

Pakistan: Hamza Shahbaz should listen to the families affected by terrorism
Sindh Information Minister and Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) leader Sharjeel Memon said on Friday, while responding to Hamza Shahbaz’s statements that it would be better if Hamza made the suggestions to federal government and not to Bilawal, Dunya News reported.
Reacting to Hamza Shahbaz’s statements, Sindh Information Minister Sharjeel Memon said that it is better if Hamza Shahbaz makes suggestions to federal government and convince them not to bow before terrorists.
Reiterating that he should keep his suggestions to himself, Memon said instead of making childish statements, Hamza Shahbaz should listen to the families affected by terrorism.
He said people of Pakistan have serious reservations over government and Taliban’s reconciliation policy, adding that federal government is insulting Pakistan’s constitution by negotiating with terrorists.
Memon said Punjab government should stop sheltering terrorists, claiming that federal government deems no difference among an ordinary Pakistani, Taliban and Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ).
He said that 2 different standards of laws were made while violating the constitution. Meanwhile, National Assembly’s opposition leader Khurshid Shah said that Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) bore sizeable loss in the past and that party cannot afford more risks.
He said that Punjab government should inform about the investigations over threats received by Bilawal. Shah also wrote a letter to Chief Minister (CM) Punjab Shahbaz Sharif reiterating a complete investigation should be carried out over the matter of death threats received by Bilawal.
He said that PPP is taking the matter rather very seriously, adding that he hopes Punjab government will complete the investigation soon and inform about the results.

Pakistan: Minorities in the Islamic Republic

Ahmadiyya Times
By Adnan Falak
For the Ahmadiyya community perhaps, the situation is most undesirable as it is considered a black mark just to declare their religious identity.
The Lahore resolution laid out the blue print for Pakistan. It envisioned an independent homeland for Muslims, consisting of “independent states” of geographical contiguous areas with a Muslim majority. It also called for the provision of “adequate, effective and mandatory safeguards for minorities in these units [independent states for Muslims] for the protection of their religious, cultural, economic, political, administrative and other rights and interests.”
If Pakistan was meant to be a country where Muslims could live according to their aspirations, then it was also supposed to offer equal status to minorities; a thought that the great Quaid expressed in a press conference at New Delhi on July 14,1947. According to Quaid -e- Azam, “Minorities, to whichever community they may belong, will be safeguarded. Their religion, faith or belief will be secure. There will be no interference of any kind with their freedoms of worship. They will have protection with regard to their religion, faith, their life, their culture. They will be, in all respects, the citizens of Pakistan.”
Far from being “in all respects the citizens of Pakistan,” and enjoying “political and administrative rights,” minorities in Pakistan today face a Pakistan that is dangerous for them to live in, a fact highlighted by our ranking as the fifth most unsafe country in the world for minorities. The State of Minorities Report 2013 explains this situation: “Pakistan has become one of the deadliest countries in the world for ethnic and religious minorities. In 2012, targeted attacks against the country’s minority communities rose significantly, with little or no action taken by the government to protect them.”
Militant organisations are indiscriminately targeting Shias across Pakistan, assassinating their leaders and attacking their religious processions. According to Human Rights Watch, “The Pakistani Taliban and its affiliates have conducted unprecedented attacks in 2013 on the country’s Muslim and non-Muslim religious minorities, claiming responsibility for most major bombings and vowing further violence.
Human Rights Watch has recorded dozens of attacks on Shias in 2013, including some of the worst attacks on the community in Pakistan’s history. Amongst Shiites, Quetta’s Hazara community is bearing the brunt of the sectarian attacks. According to some estimates, nearly a quarter of those who are killed in sectarian violence since 2012 are Hazaras. This campaign of sectarian cleansing has severely disrupted the daily life of Hazaras. Human Rights Watch’s Ali Dayan Hasan said in an interview, “Hazara religious pilgrims, students, shopkeepers, vegetable sellers, doctors and other professionals have been targeted leading to not just widespread fear but increasingly restricted movement and a ghettoisation of community members, increasing economic hardship and curtailed access to education.”
Hindus and Christians are also living in onerous conditions. The story of Rinkle Kumari of Mirpur Mathelo highlights the misery of Hindus in Sindh. The girl was abducted, forcibly converted and was later married to a Muslim man. Many other Hindu girls met a similar fate, and in each case, perpetrators coerced the family of the aggrieved to stay silent or accept the consequences. Last year the case of Rimsha Masih exposed the plight of Christians in Pakistan. Rimsha, a juvenile with a learning disability was framed by a local Muslim cleric. The girl was taken into custody and locked in prison under blasphemy laws, and the accused was denied the right of bail. However, an uproar in the media forced the government to investigate the incident, leading to the acquittal of the girl.
For the Ahmadiyya community perhaps, the situation is most undesirable as it is considered a black mark just to declare their religious identity. They are ostracized, harassed, threatened, targeted, and their places of worship and graveyards are desecrated. Ethnic minorities in Pakistan are also getting similar treatment. In their case however, the accused are not sectarian and extremist groups but state institutions. In Balochistan, locals are abducted, only to end up later as mutilated corpses dumped by roadsides. According to Reuters, “The bodies of hundreds of pro-independence rebels have been found across the Balochistan province and many more have gone missing in the past several years.” The Baloch activists have accused state agencies of undertaking a “kill and dump policy” to crush dissent, but the government has denied such accusations.
Unfortunately, in all of this, the state is acting as a hapless bystander, failing miserably to discourage intolerance and to reign in sectarian groups who target minorities whenever and wherever they desire with impunity. Facing such circumstances, many members of minorities are fleeing Pakistan and seeking asylum abroad.
The purpose of Pakistan was to create a welfare state for Muslims and non- Muslims, where they could lead their lives with the complete rights and obligations of citizenship and with their religious identities protected. Nearly seventy four years since the adoption of the Lahore resolution, we have created a country where minorities are terrorised and persecuted, a place where sectarianism runs amok and where Muslim clerics openly promote hatred and violence against minorities. If we don’t check our zeal of Islamization, and do not assure that all citizens of Pakistan are protected, treated equally and given the freedom of association and worship, we stand to fail the test of history.

Pakistan: Nothing for families of victims of terrorism in the talks

As the Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan and the federal government walk the treacherous path to discuss peaceful coexistence, the bereaved families of thousands of people fallen victims to terrorism are expected to remain neglected.
Political scientists and teachers of international relations, in their separate interviews with Dawn, opine the victims’ families could at best draw solace if peace is achieved, forgetting about more than 50,000 innocent lives lost to insanity.
“If peace is achieved in the longer run as a result of the ongoing peace deliberations, we will have to forget many bitter things for the national cause and move forward though it would be immensely difficult particularly for the families of terrorists’ victims,” said Dr Hussain Shaheed Soherwardi, a lecturer at University of Peshawar’s international relations department.
He said Jews went through the same situation when they unhappily saw their prime minister shaking hands with their terrorist, Yasir Arafat, searching for peace.
“It is always difficult to grant amnesty to the terrorists of the previous days, but this bitter pill has to be swallowed for durable peace,” he said.
Like Mr Soherwardi, Dr Hassan Askari Rizvi, an academician and a noted defence analyst, also feels the families of the victims of terrorism will be the ultimate losers as they lost their dear ones to militancy and, at the same time, they won’t get justice.
Usually, it has been seen (the world over) that in crisis situations, according to Dr Rizvi, the government keeps interacting with the affected families and remains in touch with the military throughout the crisis time.
“While the government is in touch with the military because of its compulsion, it has neglected the victims’ families,” he said. Dr Rizvi sees a reason behind the official neglect. “The federal government does not want to talk about them (families of the victims of terrorism) as it says it (their predicament) is history, so let’s move forward.”
The victims’ families do not appear to be on the priority list of either of the negotiating sides. There is no official word on what the government is thinking about the sacrifices rendered by thousands of civilian and military victims, who lost lives to the TTP brutalities.While the terrorists’ victims stand neglected, the two negotiating teams have been mulling over the exchange of non-combatant abductees held by the TTP and the state.
TTP negotiator Professor Mohammad Ibrahim, a senior Jamaat-i-Islami leader, has also indicated that the possible release of Ajmal Khan, vice chancellor of the Islamia College University, has figured out in the talks so far.
Similarly, from the TTP side demands have surfaced about the release of the non-combatant members of the families of TTP leaders allegedly held by the military.
However, there is a complete mum about the thousands of people, who have been sent to graves by the TTP suicide bombers and its agents of death and destruction. “The only solace that the victims’ families could draw from this situation would rest in their ability to feel proud about their personal sacrifices,” said Dr Soherwardi. “The public at large should remind them (families) that their losses have not been ignored and the whole citizenry stand by them in their difficult times.” He, however, acknowledges it will be difficult to practice. Dr AZ Hilali, chairman of the University of Peshawar’s political science department, doesn’t appear optimistic about the outcome of the talks. “The State will remain at the mercy of guns forever even if the current process leads to establish peace,” he said. Dr Rizvi also holds an identical opinion.
The likely extension in the ongoing ceasefire might will be acceptable to the government but the army “will never let the coming summer past” as TTP, he added, wanted to avoid armed confrontation this summer, waiting for the post-US drawdown from Afghanistan.
“The Army will not give them that much time; it would see this process a couple of more weeks but won’t let the coming summer pass,” said Dr Rizvi.
He said the nation was also divided over peace talks.
Even the religious scholars belonging to Shia and Barelvi schools of thoughts, too, had expressed reservations about the peace talks.
For Dr Hilali, TTP already has achieved more than it deserved from the negotiation process: it has managed to emerge as ‘innocent’.
“Certain religio-political parties conducted a vicious campaign to portray TTP as ignorant guys and those opposed to them were dubbed as warmongers,” he said. Dr Hilali said no one was opposed to talks since dialogue was the only way to resolve contentious issues, but the way the government had pursued the process, it had isolated commoners, making them question the whole exercise.
“Isolating people makes part of the psychological warfare in which everything is ignored to achieve specific results,” he said.
In such a situation, the families of terrorism’s victims shouldn’t expect dispensation of justice as the perpetrators of terrorist activities can’t be brought to the courts for trial.

PPP demands probe into LeJ’s threat to Bilawal

Leader of the Opposition in National Assembly Syed Khursheed Shah Friday wrote a letter to Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif, seeking to launch a probe into threats made by the banned Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ) to PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto.
“It is a very sensitive issue for the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP),” the letter said, saying that party leadership had been targeted in the past also.
“PPP has already lost its leadership. No more human loss would be tolerated,” Shah added.

Punjab police in action after Bilawal receives a threatening letter from LeJ

Inspector-General Chief (IGP) Punjab said that he and his team is finding any leading suspects in regard to the threatening letter received by Pakistan People’s Party’s Patron-in-Chief, Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, Aaj News reported.
According to IG Punjab, Bilawal Bhutto received a threat oriented letter from Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ), in regard to which IG Punjab and his team has started a detailed investigation to find the leads of this letter. IG Punjab, carrying a detailed investigation regarding the issue, telephoned Chief of Staff for Bilawal Bhutto, Hasham Sheikh and discussed all possible details mentioned in the letter to follow a specific lead, whereas IG Punjab also informed Shahbaz Sharif’s concerns regarding the issue.
IG Punjab has taken Hasham Sheikh and Bilawal Bhutto into confidence, whereas he assured to provide his complete assistance and cooperation in this case.

Pakistan: SA passes resolution against threats to Bilawal

Sindh Assembly (SA) on Friday unanimously passes a resolution against threats to Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) Patron-in-Chief Bilawal Bhutto Zardari.
The resolution was presented in the SA by Abdul Sattar Rajpar.
Yesterday, Bilawal Bhutto said on Twitter that he had received life threats from Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, an outlawed militant outfit.
Bilawal tweeted,” received threat letter from LEJ. Will hold Punjab government responsible 4 LEJ attacks if Sharif cont 2 give them protection & refuse2 take action.”

Salma Farooqi, Female Polio Vaccinator, Brutally Killed In Pakistan
Salma Farooqi worked on the frontline of Pakistan's battle with polio, helping to vaccinate children in one of the world's last havens for the crippling disease. On Monday, her bullet-riddled body was found, bearing marks of torture, after unidentified gunmen attacked her home near the Pakistani city of Peshawar.
Farooqi disappeared when a group of armed men raided her family home in Gulozai village overnight Sunday, relatives told Pakistan's DAWN newspaper.
"Salma was fast asleep next to me when the men came in, beat me and tied me and the children up," Farooqi's husband Mohammad Karim Khan described to The Guardian. "It took us an hour to free ourselves and then we saw that Salma had disappeared."
The next day, her mutilated body was found about 2.5 miles away. “The armed men cut her lips and broke her hands and dumped the body in the fields outside Peshawar,” a police official told NBC News.
Police are still investigating whether Farooqi was killed because of her work, but the brutal murder sends a chilling message to health workers who are frequently targeted by militants in Pakistan, The Guardian notes.
Many of those working for the vaccination program currently work under the cover of armed Pakistani police after a series of militant attacks on vaccinators has left at least 30 polio health workers dead since 2012. Some Islamic militants in the country accuse the polio program of being a cover for Western espionage, or a conspiracy to sterilize Muslim children, according to The Guardian.
Pakistan is one of three countries in the world that remain polio-endemic, along with Nigeria and Afghanistan. The Pakistani strain of polio was recently discovered in Syria, highlighting the World Health Organization's warning that the disease's steady decline of the past decades could be reversed.
Farooqi's home province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa in north-west Pakistan, as well as neighboring tribal districts, are some of the world's worst hotspots for the disease, according to Agence France Presse.

Bilawal Bhutto receiving threats from banned Lashkar-e-Jhangvi

Bilawal Bhutto, the chairperson of the Pakistan Peoples Party,has received threats from the banned Lashkar-e-Jhangvi.
"Received threat letter from LEJ. Will hold Punjab govt responsible 4 LEJ attacks if Sharif cont 2 give them protection & refuse2 take action," Bilawal, son of late Prime Minister, Benazir Bhutto and former President, Asif Zardari tweeted on Thursday night.
The PPP which rules the southern Sindh Province, has in the past accused the Punjab government of sheltering the LeJ, which is also reported to have sent threat letters to the provincial government, warning them to stop "atrocities", otherwise they would resort to targeting law enforcing agents and government officials.
A spokesman for Bilawal House, the official residence of the Zardari family, said steps have been taken to increase security for Bilawal and his sisters after the LEJ threats.
Bilawal's mother was assassinated shortly after addressing a public rally in Rawalpindi and before that she had survived a suicide bomb attack after returning to Pakistan from an exile.