Friday, May 9, 2014

kurdish music Narina Kurdi.ts

Turkey: New Mayor’s Arrest in Turkey Underscores Continuing Persecution of Kurds
Rezan Zugurli, Turkey’s youngest-ever mayor who was elected as the co-mayor of the Lice district of Diyarbakir from the pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party (BDP), has been sentenced to more than four years in prison for “crimes on behalf of” the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).
Zugurli, who is 25 and a student at Dicle University, was sentenced to four years and two months in jail for “committing crimes on behalf of the PKK without being a member of that organization,” according to the Turkish Penal Code.
During campaigning for the March 30 local polls, in which she received a record 88.77 percent of the votes, Zugurli said she had decided to engage in politics and join the elections “to test the veracity of the peace and resolution process.”
On the one hand, for more than a year the Turkish government has been engaged in a peace process with the PKK. On the other hand, there has been little let-up in the persecution suffered by Kurdish activists, or by PKK members or sympathizers.
Prosecutors first launched an investigation against Zugurli in 2012, demanding up to 35 years in prison for attending three demonstrations in 2010 and 2011. When she was arrested in a house raid in May 2012, she was a freshman at Dicle University, and working at the office of women and cultural affairs of the Baglar Municipality in Diyarbakir. The only breadwinner of her family, she was released after 13 months in jail.
Zugurli is not the first in her family to face court for pro-Kurdish activities. Ten members of her family, including her grandfather, uncles and cousins were reportedly killed by the state in their struggle for Kurdish rights.
Her father, Ihsan Tanrikulu, the former president of the pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) in Diyarbakir, was forced to leave Turkey after being sentenced to prison for membership in a “terrorist organization.”
Prosecutors also summoned Zugurli’s mother, Firuze, twice to court. Pictures of family members killed by the state, confiscated from her home, were shown as evidence of PKK propaganda to push prosecutors’ demands for a 20-month jail sentence. Firuze Zugurli reportedly said that the family had been exposed to police persecution since moving to Diyarbakir in 1984. “The mental state of my children has been ruined. Rezan was arrested in our house before the eyes of my four-year-old son, so he has had serious psychological problems ever since,” she said.
Tahir Elci, president of the Diyarbakir Bar Association, told Rudaw that some laws of the Turkish penal code give way to such unjust decisions.
“The Turkish penal code harms the freedom of expression and of association in Turkey. Even those who join demonstrations, or issue press statements, are punished within the scope of this code,” he said.
“The specially authorized courts have been abolished but unjust decisions are still made by courts because undemocratic laws have not been changed,” he added. “The current laws evaluate unarmed acts in the same category with armed ones. Even a peaceful sit-in or a press release can be considered an armed action according to the Turkish penal code. We have called on the government to change those laws in order to pave the way for liberties, but no step has been taken yet,” Elci said. International watchdog Human Rights Watch reported that Turkey's Anti-Terrorism Law contains a vague and overbroad definition of terrorism.
"The use of terrorism laws to prosecute sitting mayors and other BDP officials is both troubling and all too familiar," said Benjamin Ward, deputy Europe and Central Asia director at HRW. "Without compelling evidence of violent activities, it's hard to see the prosecution's effort to link this legal party with an illegal organization as anything but a clampdown on legitimate political activity."
The Human Rights Joint Platform in Turkey also issued a report criticizing the anti-terror laws of Turkey. “Designating legal and peaceful press conferences, workshops and demonstrations as offences committed upon the instructions of illegal organizations runs counter to the principle of the rule of law,” it said.
Amnesty International, meanwhile, announced its concerns over Turkey’s anti-terrorism legislation and its application.
“The definition of terrorism in this law is overly broad, vague and lacks the level of legal certainty required by international human rights law,” it said. “Persons can be found guilty of membership of a terrorist organization without being a member of the organization if found to have committed a crime ‘in the name of such an organization,’” Amnesty said.
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Hollywood calls for boycott of Sultan of Brunei's hotel

Protesters in the US call for a boycott of the famous Beverly Hills Hotel after its owner, the Sultan of Brunei, begins the implementation of Sharia law.

Video: Fireworks light up Moscow's sky on Victory Day

Video: Obama to heckler: You're screwing up my speech

Video: Inside the White House: Solar Panels

Go inside the White House and learn about the installation of solar panels on the roof of the residence

Activists gather outside Walmart for Obama appearance
Activists and schoolchildren gathered outside a Mountain View shopping center Friday in anticipation of President Obama's visit to a Walmart there.
Obama appeared at the store shortly before 10 a.m. to give a speech touting renewable energy initiatives. He selected Walmart because the chain has been working to boost its use of green energy.
Labor groups were angry with the president's choice, noting complaints that the company has worked to keep unions out of its stores and wages and benefits low.
As a teacher instructed a group of elementary-school students where to stand to watch the president's motorcade, a handful of demonstrators held signs across the street from the store on El Camino Real, calling for a raise in the minimum wage and better working conditions for Silicon Valley's working class.
"People think of Silicon Valley as this rich area, but there's this group of people who are contributing to the region and haven't found a way to share the wealth," said Alison Hicks, 56, of Mountain View. "Raising the minimum wage is a good start."
Elena Pacheco, a 56-year-old teacher from Mountain View, said many of her students' families can't afford the $1,800 average rent for a one-bedroom apartment in the city.
"Here, you have a private dog park," she said, gesturing to the neighborhood next to Walmart. "Ten minutes from here, my students are sleeping in living rooms because their parents can't afford bedrooms."
Meghan Fraley, 31, of the Raise the Wage Mountain View Coalition, said she wanted to show Obama that local residents support his call to increase the national minimum wage, an initiative that has been blocked in Congress. She said her group wants the City Council to consider raising the minimum wage in Mountain View.
"We want to make sure action is taken," Fraley said. "With all these people sleeping in their cars, we can't wait."
Dozens of other protesters gathered at the far end of the Walmart parking lot before Obama arrived, holding signs asking for him to support the chain's workers. Mixed in among the demonstrators were activists holding signs calling for an end to drone-aircraft attacks. An activist dressed as Darth Vader held a tongue-in-cheek sign supporting government surveillance. Maria Noel Fernandez, 31, director of organizing and civic engagement at the nonprofit Working Partnerships, expressed disappointment that Obama chose to visit Walmart instead of actively support its workers.
"Obama needs to listen to the workers and make sure all workers can live with dignity," she said. "Today's economy is really leaving people behind. The rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer, and it doesn't have to be like that."

Graphic video: Blood & fire as Kiev's army storms Mariupol

Kiev re-launched its 'anti-terror' operation in eastern Ukraine, anti-government protesters tried to stop the APCs, tanks and troops from entering the city to no avail.

Historic Significance: May 9th 1944 Soviet army retook Sevastopol chasing out Nazi forces

Russia shows its military might in Victory Day march in Moscow

Hundreds of troops march through Red Square on Victory Day in Moscow, where President Vladimir Putin fuels patriotic fervor amid an ongoing crisis with Ukraine.

Ukraine crisis: Vladimir Putin pays visit to Crimea

Spectacular video: Russia's top aces perform stunts in Crimea's skies

Crimea celebrated the 69th anniversary of Victory over Nazi Germany in the Great Patriotic War (WWII) with some awe inspiring stunts from Russian aviation aces. Earlier Moscow celebrated May 9th on the Red Square with 11,000 troops, 149 vehicles and 69 warplanes.

Pakistan: PPP will not support PTI’s rowdyism: Zardari

Former president Asif Ali Zardari has said that the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) will not become part of any rowdyism as planned by the PTI since it could damage the interests and cause of democratic dispensation in the country.
Zardari said this during a meeting with Sindh Chief Minister Qaim Ali Shah at the Bilawal House on Wednesday. He said the PPP had accepted the results of the last year’s general election despite complaints of irregularities in the electoral process for the sake of continuing democracy in the country. According to him, it would be unwise to create a law and order situation on the pretext of rigging in the general elections, a year after accepting its outcome.
Meanwhile, the chief minister apprised the former president about various aspects of PPP’s relationship with the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM), which has just joined the Sindh government.
The chief minister also informed the president about reservations of the MQM Coordination Committee over the “missing party activists and workers and their being subjected to violence and extrajudicial killings”.
Meanwhile, in a message to a PPP rally in lower Dir, which was read out on his behalf by his spokesperson Senator Farhatulalh Babar, the former president categorically denounced the politics of agitation that may be seen as leading to destabilising the democratic structure.
“The party has very serious reservations about the May 2013 general elections and believes that invisible hands were at play to ensure pre-determined results, but it will not join any agitation or movement to upset the democratic structure,” he said.
The event was organised by the provincial chapter of the party to mark the first martyrdom anniversary of party activists who were killed in a militants’ attack during an electioneering campaign last year.
Asif Zardari said that the militants’ attacks last year on political rallies ahead of the elections were aimed at derailing the campaign of the PPP and to force its voters to stay indoors. “This was part of a larger sinister plan by invisible elements to engineer the poll results according to their own scheme,” he said.
Despite obvious rigging and manipulation, the party will not come on the streets to protest against poll rigging, he said.Zardari reminded that elections were manipulated against the PPP and democratic forces. In at least one such case of gerrymandering, the involvement of invisible hands by doling out to anti-PPP elements monies stolen from a bank has been recently established. However, the PPP has refrained from agitation because it does not want to derail the democratic process for which it has rendered huge sacrifices. He said the PPP was the only political party whose two successive chairpersons laid down their lives for the sake of democracy and the people. It is the only party whose workers and leaders alike have made sacrifices for the cause of democracy and it will not allow derailment of the democratic process.
The PPP may feel wounded and aggrieved because of deliberate and dishonest tilting of the playing field against it in the past but it is not suffering from a defeatist mind because it believes that it cannot be defeated, he said. The former president, on the occasion, directed the PPP provincial president Khanzada Khan to urgently complete the organisational matters of the party and hold similar events to galvanise and motivate the workers throughout the province.
The public meeting attended by a large number of workers from Malakand and Dir was also addressed by PPP provincial president Khanzada Khan, Senator Ahmed Hassan and a number of former federal and provincial ministers and members of parliament including former federal minister Najmuddin Khan, former provincial ministers Engineer Humayun Khan, Liaquat Shabab, Zahir Shah, Muhammad Anwar Khan and MPA from Chitral Salim Khan and others.

Pakistan: Shopkeeper Jailed for Life Imprisonment Under Blasphemy Law

Malik Mohammad Farooq was blamed for tearing up a banner which was emblazoned with the name of Prophet Muhammad (Peace Be Upon Him), Kalma Tayyaba, Darood Sharif and a picture of Kaaba in January 2013 in Qayyumabad. The co-accused was acquitted due to absence of evidence.
Additional District and Sessions Judge (east) Nadeem Ahmed Khan also levied a fine of Rs50,000 and in case of non-payment the prisoner would have to go through an additional six-month. imprisonment.
The court observed that three key hearing witnesses in its verdict, including accuser, firmly testified against suspected Farooq and in spite of being subjected to extensive cross-examination their proofs remained strong. The suspect took the appeal in his defense that he was trapped in the case since he had a quarrel with the management of a mosque next to to his shop. The court, however, ruled that the suspect did not provide any proof to validate his claim.
The case of the co-accused was on a different foothold as two of the three spectators did not say anything about his involvement and the accuser stated that the area people had informed him that the co-accused fled after he committed the offence from the place at that time.
The court further said that the accuser also testified that he did not see the co-accused and was not certain about his connection in the case. The hearing therefore failed to establish its case against the co-accused, the verdict added.
According to the hearing, the key accused and accuser Syed Tahir Hussain Shah had shops next to to a mosque in Qayyumabad and the suspect along with his friend had torn up a banner and thrown it in a dustbin on Jan 16, 2013. The area people seized Farooq, beat him up and handed him over to police along with the banner while the co-accused succeeded to escape. Later he was also taken under custody, it further added.
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Pakistan: PTI Protest Politics

The violent disregard for the court shown by PTI supporters in pursuit of the party chief at the Lahore High Court, once again revealed the incoherency behind the compulsions of Imran Khan. There is little concept it seems, of thinking things carefully through. For example, a protest is being staged on Sunday, so we hear, against the same mandate that brought the party into power. All the while Javed Hashmi claims he stands firmly by his leader, Nawaz Sharif. The protest later this week is set to throw the capital into logistical turmoil and until a few days ago, there was nothing but ambiguity on what the protesters were really meant to protest.
Speculation was rife on whether it was load shedding, rigging, a means to express displeasure against Geo, or a combination of all of them. Turns out, the winner is rigging, which is comical considering that it has taken a year for Khan and his supporters to get angry enough to hold a protest. But wait, there’s more. Turns out that asking for a re-election is not the plan either. What then, is the PTI trying to achieve?
Imran Khan is of course, at the helm of the charge against all evil in society. Seen as the visionary leader, none of his supporters seem to question the practicality of all that he says. His cult of personality is centered on ‘doing’ instead of coming up with well-thought out initiatives to counter whichever problem he highlights when he sees fit. It was drones last year, and this year it is rigging. Next year, he will find something else to get the public going, a general issue, one that does not require much more to oppose than paltry slogans. Because no matter what happens, the fervor of PTI stems from Imran Khan and his heroic charge against the government, his glorified image in front of his own eyes and those of his incensed followers. There has to be a real agenda here; so far we haven’t seen it.

Pakistan: Tehreek-e-Insaf : It's just not acceptable

Wednesday morning, the charged workers of Imran Khan's political party stormed their way into the court of Chief Justice of Lahore High Court forcing him to retire to his chamber. It was a forced entry, pushing aside the security personnel they broke open the door of the courtroom and shattered windowpanes. And all this happened right in the presence of the party chief, who never tires of espousing the cause of a just, law-abiding polity in Pakistan. His attendance was not required by the court in the scheduled hearing of a petition filed by Sardar Ayaz Sadiq against an order of the Election Commission about inspection of ballots in NA-122, Lahore. But he showed up there, in the company of a strong contingent of party, storm-troopers who all wanted to be with him wherever he was. But the courtroom couldn't accommodate all, apparently firing up those left behind to force their entry into the courtroom. The Chief Justice withdrew to his chamber while the great Khan kept sitting - proverbially, this is called 'my way or highway' - till he was ordered to leave the courtroom. This is not the Imran Khan he was when he entered electoral politics. Then he was wildly greeted both by the common man who was fed up with traditional politicians and the intelligentsia who saw in him the nation's much-awaited option for clean politics. And that really happened, as people voted his Tehreek-e-Insaf to emerge third most popular political party in the country. Now the party leadership had to prove by action what was only a promise so far - and that triggered its denouement. It brokered political deals, embraced corruption-tainted turncoats and turned its back on pledge to obtain right conditions for pressure-free democratic politics.
Today, the PTI stands for bulldozer politics and rowdy rallies. We don't know if Imran is reenacting Asghar Khan of 1977. But what we do hear him humming the Punjabi adage "Nah khydaan gey nah khaydan dian gey" (Neither will we play nor let others play). Rightly then the ugly scene created by the PTI workers at the Lahore High Court premises serves a notice on the Islamabad administration as it prepares to host Imran Khan's May 11 'I am coming' rally - accompanied by Tahirul Qadri. Remember how for three nights and four days Qadri Sahib - himself camped in an air-heated makeshift room and his thousands of men, women and children followers exposed to subzero December temperatures - paralysed the capital city, only to decamp shouting 'Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry Zindabad'. This time it is going to be just the opposite of that December saga. For the Imran-Qadri rally now it would be the mid-summer with temperatures rising to 40s, and the former chief justice of Pakistan is to be blamed for all that has gone wrong with their dreamy whims and wishes. But the PTI rally is likely to conclude in no way different from Qadri's. Imran Khan would be sadly mistaken if he thinks his rally would force Nawaz Sharif government to run away, or the judiciary will come under his pressure. He needs to rethink his plan. Instead of calling thousands of workers to Islamabad he may like to go to Murree and do some hard thinking. All he wants is inspection of votes cast in four constituencies, and for that there is a legal procedure. As a political leader his best option would be to prove his worth by showing performance in the KPK province where his party is in power. Time for one-up showmanship is gone. Pakistan today is beset with enormous challenges, and they defy shortcuts and quick fixes. That the guilty of rigging elections should be tried under Article 6 is a demand that shows Imran Khan is ignorant of laws of the land.

Pakistan: Contempt petition against Imran Khan filed in LHC

A contempt of court petition has been filed against Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) chairman Imran Khan in the Lahore High Court (LHC) on Wednesday. The petitioner submitted that Imran Khan along with PTI party workers created a fuss and went on a rampage in LHC on Wednesday (May 7) badly hurting the sanctity and image of the court. The petitioner, therefore, prayed for initiating a contempt of court proceeding against PTI Chairman Imran Khan.

Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa tops in thalassaemia cases compared to other provinces

The Express Tribune
Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P) has the most cases of thalassaemia, a genetic blood disorder, compared to other provinces and experts say marriage between first cousins is to blame.
Speaking at the Peshawar Press Club on World Thalassaemia Day (Thursday), founder and Chairman of Hamza Foundation Ejaz Khan demanded the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) led government implement an existing legislation to contain the spread of the disease. According to the foundation, a charitable organisation that aims to raise awareness about thalassaemia in Pakistan, anywhere between 5,000 and 8,000 children are born with thalassaemia annually, and more than half of them are from K-P. Hamza Foundation Welfare Hospital and Thalassaemia Control Programme hosted the event and speakers used the occasion to talk about the progress made in available treatment and how easily the disease can be prevented if people – especially first cousins – get tested before getting married.
Thalassaemia is a blood disease that surfaces during early childhood. Children suffering from the illness lose their appetite and cannot sleep, vomiting frequently. It is a genetic condition passed on from parents to their children, and the chances of transmission can be detected by a simple blood test.
The provincial assembly passed the K-P Preventive Health Bill in 2009, making it mandatory for couples to get tested for thalassaemia and Hepatitis C before getting married. Though the law does not ban couples from getting married based on the results, it gives them the option of protecting their future offspring from inheriting the disease.
Khan said a majority of the children treated at the foundation need fresh blood every 15 days because their bodies have stopped producing red blood cells. Permanent treatment is a bone marrow transplant, which costs at least Rs2 million, he said.
“99% patients belong to very poor families and they cannot afford this treatment,” Khan added. To contain the spread of thalassaemia, his foundation is advising those families with a history of the blood disorder to undergo a Chorionic Villus Sampling (CVS) test after three months of pregnancy, which detects complications with the fetus. If the test returns positive, doctors suggest abortion as a safer option.
On the upside, the foundation recently began treating thalassaemia patients with medicines instead of blood transfusions. Cheap and easily available at pharmacies, the tablet is a much needed relief for low-income patients compared to expensive blood transfusions.
Khan said legislation calling for genetic screening before marriage, or keeping a record of cousin marriages, have been passed in Iran, Malaysia, Saudi Arabia and Cyprus. Because of this, many families today are protected from genetic diseases including thalassaemia. “The K-P government should properly implement the existing law across the province,” Khan said.

Pakistan: Taliban peace talks failed? Security forces prepare for operation
The security forces have informed the government over their preparations to launch military operation in tribal areas following the delay in peace talks with Taliban. According to government sources, the final decision over operation will be taken by the federal government, adding that the time will also be decided by the civilian rulers. The government sources said that the Taliban had revealed their intentions by ignoring government’s list of prisoners. Those attacking defense institutions were enemies of the State, the sources added. They also said that the talks couldn't further due to the stubbornness and inflexibility shown by Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) members. Action will be taken against those challenging the writ of the government, the sources added.

Pakistan: ANP opposes ban on Geo

Awami National Party (ANP) Secretary Information, Senator Zahid Khan says his party will strongly oppose a ban on Geo News and will not allow the channel to be labeled as a traitor.
Speaking to Geo News, Zahid Khan said difference of opinion was everyone’s right and it was a grave crime to label someone as a traitor. He said even the ANP had been labeled as a traitor.
Khan said Article 6 of the Constitution makes it clear who a treason case can be initiated against. He added that cases such as treason against Geo are tarnishing the country’s dignity.
The ANP senator cautioned those leveling allegations against Hamid Mir, stating that when the Geo News senior anchor returns he will show them the truth.
Zahid Khan said Imran Khan should have called Geo a traitor and boycotted the channel prior to the elections when his party was being given extensive coverage.

Pakistan: Descent into darkness

IT was almost a killing foretold. And the path to its inevitability is strewn with all the signs of this country’s descent into a dystopian nightmare. Rashid Rehman Khan, senior lawyer and member of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, was shot dead in Multan on Wednesday night in an attack that also injured two of his colleagues, one of them critically. Mr Rehman was the defence lawyer for Junaid Hafeez, a university lecturer accused of blasphemy, and he had received death threats from two lawyers representing the complainant, as well as two other individuals, for having taken up the case. The threats by the lawyers were reportedly made during the course of the first hearing of the case in March which was held inside the prison for security reasons.
The issue of blasphemy, already one upon whose edifice is played out the ruin of many a life in Pakistan, has assumed an even more deadly trajectory since Salmaan Taseer was shot dead on Jan 4, 2011 by his security guard for advocating changes in the blasphemy law and showing support to Aasiya Bibi, a Christian woman accused under the same law. The shameful spectacle of the killer, Mumtaz Qadri, being garlanded when he was brought to court for his trial, the fact that the judge who sentenced him to death had to move abroad for his safety, and the then government’s timorous response to the murder, have engendered an atmosphere where vigilante justice in blasphemy cases is openly celebrated by sections of the public. Meanwhile, those accused of the crime find it increasingly difficult to find a lawyer willing, and brave enough, to defend them in court. Trials of blasphemy accused in open courtrooms used to be a harrowing affair, with hostile crowds intimidating judges and defence lawyers during the proceedings, but as Mr Rehman’s murder shows, even moving such trials out of the public eye provides no safety when some lawyers themselves harbour contempt for due process when it comes to ‘crimes against religion’.
Although Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif has ordered the immediate arrest of those involved in the attack, it is scarcely enough to stem the tide. The state must not only review the blasphemy law but, through its words and actions, reclaim the ground ceded to those who believe they have a divine duty to play judge, jury and executioner to individuals accused of blasphemy, those providing the latter their right to defence, or anyone advocating changes in the law. One fears though, that it is too much to expect in a country where the state has taken no action to curb a dangerous narrative and where few words of condemnation are reserved for the increasingly violent acts of extremism. It is such silence and inaction that provide the fertile soil for intolerance to thrive.

By Ambreen Agha
“As many as 180,000 mujahideen, followers of Baitullah Mehsud, are hiding in the mountainous areas of Afghanistan and Pakistan and fighting against anti-Muslim forces for the supremacy of Islam. Their food expenditure is PKR 2,900,000 (USD 30,000) daily. You are requested to bear two days’ expenses of mujahideen-e-Islam or be ready to face dire consequences.” — Letter from the TTP to a lawyer in Islamabad, June 2013
In recent years the crime of extortion has spiralled and spread to all the Provinces of Pakistan, making the country a leading centre of this ‘industry’. Karachi, the country’s commercial capital and most prominent centre of the extortion racket, continues to be the worst hit, followed by the twin cities of Rawalpindi and Islamabad in Punjab, and the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) Province. Though the scale of violence varies widely across each Province, the targets remain the same, including the business community, politicians, doctors and, more recently, private school owners.
According to partial data compiled by South Asia Terrorism Portal (SATP), there were at least 92 recorded incidents of extortion in Pakistan through 2013, of which 15 violent incidents claimed 29 lives. In 2014, Pakistan has already recorded at least 54 incidents of extortion, including 10 violent incidents that have claimed at least 10 lives (data till May 4, 2014). These figures likely represent the tip of the iceberg since an overwhelming majority of incidents of extortion go unreported due to fear and a general consensus that there is little the Police can or will do.
Karachi, according to SATP data, recorded the maximum number of extortion related activities. Of the 92 incidents recorded in 2013, 87 occurred in Karachi alone. Punjab had three, followed by KP two. No incident was recorded in Balochistan and the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA). A more disturbing picture of Karachi emerges from disclosures by Ahmed Chinoy, the Chief of the Citizen-Police Liaison Committee (CPLC), a body set up to help the Police by providing crime statistics and technical support, who noted, on July 2, 2013, “The extortion racket has blown out of all proportion with the previous years.” According to the figures collected by the CPLC, 630 extortion complaints were registered in Karachi from January to mid-June 2013, compared to 589 in the whole of 2012. The CPLC has provided no subsequent data.
A heavily publicised ‘operation’ against criminals in Karachi, commencing September 5, 2013, has yielded no significant results so far. The current year has already recorded 50 incidents of extortion in Karachi alone, and media reports suggest that the problem, already endemic, is growing, demonstrating the redundancy of the much hyped ‘operation’. There has been no respite for the targeted communities in the mega city that has an estimated population of 13 million. Incidentally, on April 15, 2014, Member of National Assembly (MNA) and President of Awami National Party (ANP) Sindh Chapter Shahi Syed walked out of Parliament, protesting the poor law and order situation in Karachi. He informed the Senate that, despite the continued military operation, there had been no decrease in extortion, killing and kidnapping in the crime infested metropolis.
Medical practitioners and traders have been a vulnerable target of the pervasive and organised system of bhatta wasuli (collection of extortion). Expressing concern for the beleaguered medical fraternity, the Pakistan Medical Association (PMA) called on Sindh Inspector General of Police (IGP) Shahid Kamran Baloch on April 2, 2014, and remarked, “Every fifth doctor is receiving threatening calls for money.” Earlier on February 13, 2014, the President of PMA’s Karachi Chapter, Dr. Idrees Adhi, claimed that at least 40 medical practitioners of Karachi have received threatening emails from certain extortion mafias demanding large sums of ‘protection money’. These calls, he said, were traced to South Africa, Afghanistan and Dubai, indicating the international dimensions of these operations. Adhi lamented, “Our community is under immense pressure. We are frightened because of threats against the backdrop of the killing of some of our colleagues in the recent past.” He disclosed that at least 130 doctors had been killed in the city since 2010.
Meanwhile, the business community and traders have also been the victims of grenade and rocket attacks that damage their property and make them live in constant fear. Back in 2012, the All Pakistan Organization of Small Traders and Cottage Industries (APOSTCI) declared on August 5 that the recent trend of grenade attacks on shops and markets that refused to comply with extortion demands had terrorised local traders and businessmen, totally destroying the prospects of further investment in Karachi.
Borrowing their tactics from terrorist outfits, the extortionists have also targeted schools in the District. In one such attack on October 22, 2013, two people, including a student, were injured when extortionists opened fire outside Prince School, a private secondary school in the Gulshan-e-Bahar area of Orangi Town, for allegedly failing to heed extortion demands. This incident was soon followed by another, on October 28, when some unidentified extortionists opened fire at the Al Mehran School located in the Ghaziabad area of Orangi. Reacting to these incidents, William Sadiq, a leader of the Karachi-based Action Committee for Human Rights observed, “Targeting innocent schoolchildren, doctors and patients reflects the brutality of the terrorists.”
While security agencies continue to fail to control the menace, the extortionists continue to devise new strategies. On April 14, 2014, Atiq Mir, the President of the All Karachi Tajir Ittehad complained that a new modus operandi had been adopted for extortion in Karachi, where the extortionists demand hundreds of thousands of rupees from businessmen in the name of welfare funds and social work. In case of refusal, the extortionists threatened their target of dire consequences, revealing their original identity and their affiliations with notorious criminal gangs and terrorist groups.
Extortionists often impersonate terrorists to intimidate victims. In one such instance in November 2013, a businessman in Islamabad received a letter on the letter head of the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and signed by its already-dead leader Hakimullah Mehsud, demanding USD 50,000, and threatening ‘dire consequences’ if he reported the matter to the Police or failed to pay. The terrified man paid up, but refused to register a complaint or divulge any further details. A senior intelligence official remarked, “Posing as member of the Pakistani Taliban is the easiest thing because the victims then get the impression that they are dealing with a very mighty thing. So they don’t report the case with the Police and are very ready to cooperate with the criminals.”
In Punjab, similarly, the racket thrives, particularly in the twin cities of Islamabad and Rawalpindi, primarily due to the intrinsic network between criminal gangs, their political patrons, terrorist formations, and affiliated seminaries and local mosques. Reports indicate that seminaries in Punjab act as intermediaries and couriers to receive and deliver extortion sums to terrorist formations. Civil and military intelligence sources have confirmed that Punjab’s extortion racket provides revenues to terrorist outfits based in the tribal area via local seminaries. Significantly, on May 1, 2014, intelligence sources disclosed that seminaries operating inside the capital were assisting TTP with the collection of extortion and ransom money by arranging deals between terrorists and their victims. The sources further disclosed that extortion calls received in Punjab were traced back to Miranshah town of the North Waziristan Agency in FATA. Citing one such incident, the Intelligence sources stated that, in 2013, a retired Army Doctor, Lieutenant General Mehmood-ul-Hasan, received a call from a man who introduced himself as Latif, second-in-command to Hakimullah Mehsud, and demanded PKR 50 million. Following the demand, an administrator from an Islamabad-based seminary acted as mediator and finalised the ‘deal’ at PKR 10 million, and also sent two persons to collect the money from the target. A month later, a man named Ashfaq called Dr. Hasan again and demanded an amount of PKR 50 million within 10 days. This incident, according to sources, was followed by another call from someone who identified himself as a leader of the TTP and asked Dr. Hasan to ensure that the money was delivered within 72 hours. In all the three instances “the same man who brokered the first agreement was used to negotiate the price,” officials disclosed, confirming the role of seminaries in collecting extortion money from the targets and delivering it to the TTP.
The business community in Punjab also faces the brunt of factionalism among the terrorist formations. On May 3, 2014, officials in the Islamabad Police disclosed that the recent regrouping within the TTP into factions led by Shehryar Mehsud and by Khan Said alias Sajna had created trouble for businessmen in the twin cities of Rawalpindi and Islamabad, because businessmen who had first paid extortion sums to the TTP received renewed demands after a few days. The second set of calls often came through middlemen. The differences between the two factions emerged over the assumption of leadership after the death of Hakimullah Mehsud.
Extortion now funds a range of criminal and terrorist outfits, prominently including the Pakistan Amn Committee (PAC, Pakistan Peace Committee) in Karachi; and the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ), TTP and innumerable other local gangs that have been formed for the specific task of extortion in their given areas to fill the coffers of terrorist groups in the tribal areas. On June 29, 2013, Superintendent of Police (SP) – Investigation, Mustansar Feroz disclosed that the Crime Investigation Agency (CIA) of Islamabad Police had arrested three TTP terrorists , identified as Malik Aalam Khan Wazir, resident of North Waziristan Agency in FATA, the ringleader; Mohammad Tahir Yousafzai, resident of Malakand District of KP; and Mukammal Shah Qasimkhail, resident of Upper Dir District (KP), on their arrival in Islamabad for extortion. All three had been embroiled in extorting huge sums from industrialists, business tycoons and lawyers of the twin-cities of Rawalpindi-Islamabad and KP. The three member gang is accused of operating from the Sakha Kot area of Swabi District in KP. The situation in KP is also precarious as the extortionists threaten businessmen and school administrators. Identifying the problem as a law and order issue, officials briefing the KP Provincial Assembly on March 4, 2014, pointed out that there are 39 terrorist outfits operating in the Province, while 20 other gangs functioning under the garb of TTP were involved in extortion, kidnapping-for-ransom and other criminal activities. On August 4, 2013, terrorists fired a rocket at the house of Atta Muhammad, a private school owner, in Shabqadar tehsil (revenue unit) of Charsadda District for the third time, as he refused to pay an extortion amount of PKR 15 million. Muhammad had been receiving threats and he also lodged a complaint with the Police, but in vain. Instead, Police told him, “We are already short on resources; we cannot give security to every individual.” An angry Muhammad said, “Either the Police arrest the culprits or else I will buy weapons for self-defence.”
Lack of Police action worsened the situation in KP, Punjab and Karachi. Often, criminal gangs and terrorist outfits operate in collusion with the Police and politicians. The Muttahida Qaumi Movement’s (MQM) Rabta Committee Deputy Convenor, Doctor Khalid Maqbool Siddiqui, on February 10, 2014, alleged, “Karachi Police collects 22 crore (220 million) extortion money daily and it is the biggest organisation that is involved in extortion in the city today.”
Neither can the role of political patrons be ignored. The United States Institute of Peace (USIP) in its October 2012 report, ‘Conflict dynamics in Karachi’, remarked, “The armed wings of major political parties, including the MQM, Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), and ANP, are the main perpetrators of urban violence. The parties clash over city resources and funds generated through extortion.” This holds true for all of Pakistan’s Provinces.
Pakistan’s covert policy of supporting and sponsoring criminal and terrorist formations as instruments of state policy has led terrorists and criminals to consolidate their presence in all areas of commercial activities. Extortion – the menace of Karachi – has, gradually, spread to other parts of the country. While increasingly sophisticated and techno-savvy peripatetic groups of extortionists gain control across expanding regions in Pakistan, the Law Enforcement Agencies lack both capacity and will to act against them. Police laxity, political collusion and failure of the Federal and Provincial Governments to respond effectively to the challenge is pushing the endemic disorders of Pakistan to the edge of anarchy.