Thursday, May 15, 2014

Portrait of Birmingham schoolgirl Malala fetches $103,000 at US auction
painting of Birmingham schoolgirl Malala Yousafzai who was shot by the Taliban for campaigning for girls’ education was sold for more than 100,000 dollars at a New York auction.
Pakistani teenager Malala, 16, received treatment in Birmingham after she had been shot as she travelled to school in the Swat district of the country in October 2012.
A gunman asked for Malala by name, then pointed a Colt 45 at her and fired three shots. One bullet hit the left side of Malala’s forehead, travelled under her skin the length of her face and then into her shoulder.
Auction house Christie’s said the painting of Malala Yousafzai by Jonathan Yeo sold for 103,000 dollars.
The sale proceeds will go to the Malala Fund charity. Representatives of the fund said the money would ibe given to Nigerian charities that focus on education for women and girls in the wake of the kidnapping of more than 300 schoolgirls in that country.
The painting hung in the National Portrait Gallery in London last year for an exhibition of Yeo’s portraits of well-known figures, including Sienna Miller, Kevin Spacey and Rupert Murdoch.
Yeo, whose works are also in the Royal Collection, said he depicted her doing homework to reflect the irony that “the simple everyday thing she’s doing was what created the cataclysmic change in her life that nearly killed her.”
When the portrait was finished, Yeo said, Malala told him “it’s how she sees herself.”

Putin expects more active EU role in solving Ukraine gas debt problem
Russia is disappointed by the absence of specific proposals from the European Union on solving Ukraine's gas debt problem and expects European countries to play a more active role in the process, said President Vladimir Putin on Thursday. In a special address to European leaders, Putin said that Russia's decision to demand advance payment for natural gas deliveries to Ukraine was a forced measure.
"In early April, we came up with a proposal to hold immediate consultations with the aim of elaborating coordinated actions to stabilize the Ukrainian economy and ensure stable Russian gas deliveries and transit, in compliance with contract terms," Putin said in his letter.
Since then, Russia has held consultations in Moscow with some non-EU countries, at which "our partners fully shared our concerns over Ukraine's payments for gas delivered by Russia and the risks of insufficient amounts of gas pumped into Ukraine's underground storage facilities (to ensure uninterrupted gas transit to Europe)," Putin said. "As for EU member countries, only one meeting was held in Warsaw during this period with a delegation led by EU Energy Commissioner (Gunther) Oettinger with the participation of a Ukrainian representative (Energy Minister Yuriy) Prodan," Putin said. "Unfortunately, we have to state that we have not received any specific proposals from our partners on stabilizing the situation with the fulfillment of contractual obligations by the Ukrainian buyer and ensuring reliable gas transit," Putin said. The Russian president said that "over this time the situation over payment for Russian gas had only deteriorated" as Gazprom had received no payment for gas delivered to Ukraine.
"Ukraine's overall debt has grown from $2.237 billion to $3.508 billion," Putin said. "The debt grew despite the fact that the Ukrainian side had received the first $3.2 billion loan tranche from the IMF," Putin said. "In this situation, the Russian side issued a bill for gas prepayment from June 1 in strict compliance with the contract and will make gas deliveries in amounts prepaid by the Ukrainian side," Putin said.
"I would like to emphasize once again that this is a forced decision. The Russian Federation remains open to the continuation of consultations and for joint action with European countries for normalizing the situation," Putin wrote in his letter.
There was no choice over the decision to demand pre-payment from Ukraine, and Moscow is prepared for dialogue to normalize the situation, said Russian President Vladimir Putin. "I would like to point out once again. This (transition to a pre-payment system) is a forced one," he said in a message distributed by the Kremlin's press-service. Ukraine's gas debt has rocketed to $3.508 billion from $2.237 billion over a month, added the President. "Russia remains open to further consultations and joint actions with European countries for the sake of normalizing the situation," Putin said.
"We hope for a more active dialogue on the part of the European Commission designed to work out specific, fair decisions to stabilize the Ukrainian economy," Putin emphasized.
"Very sadly, we have to state that we did not receive from our (Western) partners any detailed proposals on how to stabilize the performance of our Ukrainian customer on its contract obligations and to ensure reliable transfers," Putin said. Russia's Energy Minister, Alexander Novak, earlier stated that Russia does not see that Ukraine has any ability to pay for natural gas supplies, even if a discount is provided, due to the economically complicated situation in the country. He added that the Russian side does has no guarantees that Ukraine will be able to pay for gas supplies even with a discount. "We do not have guarantees that even if a price of $100 is set, these bills will be paid by the Ukrainian side. What we see today is complete insolvency," the minister noted. Ukraine's gas debt
Since the beginning of May, Ukraine's Naftogaz has acquired 1.350 billion cu. m of Russian gas. In April, Ukraine has imported 2.7 billion cu. m, according to Gasprom.
To date, the outstanding debt of Naftogaz amounts to $3.508 billion, therefore "no one has a doubt that this is a substantial and non-biased reason for applying the relevant paragraph of the contract on prepayment," Kupriyanov said May 13. "If you buy natural gas, you should pay for it. All gas companies have specific payment conditions," said Gertjan Lankhorst, head of International Gas Union, commenting on the issue of Nagtogaz's nonpayment for Russian gas, its debt and the switch to prepayment mode. He believes that the switch to prepayment mode "may be more difficult for the client in terms of payments." "If as a result of that, consumers will not receive gas, this would surely affect Ukraine, and, I'm afraid, Europe as well," Lankhorst said. Read more:


By James M. Dorsey
A long awaited and much hyped announcement on a reform of 2022 World Cup host Qatar’s controversial kafala or labour sponsorship system has sparked more questions than answers and cost? the Gulf state an opportunity to gain the upper hand in a bruising debate that has significantly tarnished its image.
Confusion over what the proposed reforms meant was such that Sepp Blatter, president of world soccer body FIFA, and Theo Zwanziger, the FIFA executive dealing with the Qatari labour issue cancelled a planned trip to the Gulf state. FIFA has come under severe criticism for failing to take harsh workers’ conditions into consideration when it awarded the World Cup to Qatar in December 2010.
The confusion stemmed from the fact that the reforms appeared to involve a refinement of the kafala system rather than an overall overhaul or abolition as the government claimed. It was further fuelled by the announcement that future labour contracts would have to be in line with a model contract drafted by the government, the terms of which have yet to be disclosed.
The confusion compounded the fact that Qatar in the way it announced the measures filed to convey sincerity by having a senior Cabinet official disclose the changes rather than a senior military officer in uniform. Also fuelling doubts was the fact that the reforms have yet to be sent the Qatari Chamber of Commerce and approved by the Shura or Advisory Council. It was not clear how long that process would take.
The proposed reforms were announced in response to widespread criticism of the labour and housing conditions under which up to one million workers are expected to build massive infrastructure for the World Cup and reports that a significant numbers of workers have died on non-World Cup related construction sites since Qatar successfully bid for the tournament.
Trade union and human rights activists as well as the United Nations Human Rights Council have demanded that Qatar abolish the kafala system which severely restricts workers’ rights, including their freedom of movement and right to seek alternative employment, and puts them at the mercy of their employers.
“We still have many questions what is exactly meant by these changes. I don’t think these measures go far enough,” said James Lynch, an Amnesty International official, who has worked closely with Qatar to change the system. He said the requirement for workers’ to obtain an exit visa that was “completely illegal” according to international law and a “human rights violation” appeared to have not been completely abolished.
Beyond disappointing those activists with whom Qatar has engaged, the announcement threatens to strengthen the hand of hard line critics, foremost among which the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC), which says it has 175 million members in 161 countries. The ITUC has threatened to organize a boycott of Qatar if it failed to abolish the kafala system.
In a news conference, Brigadier General Muhammed Ahmed Al-Atiq of the interior ministry asserted that the measures amounted to abolition of the kafala system that puts workers at the mercy of their employer but that was not evident from the reforms he spelled out. General Al-Atiq said kafala would be replaced by a system based on employment contracts. The general and other officials at the press conference refused to be drawn on the details or clarifications of the proposed reforms.
The reforms that will apply to all workers, including domestics ones, according to General Al Atiq and a ministry press release, would:
Allow workers with a fixed-term contract to seek new employment without having to first leave the country or seek permission from their initial employer only at the end of their contract. They would not be allowed to break their contract without their employer’s permission;
Increase the penalty for employers who illegally confiscate workers’ passports;
Force employers to pay wages electronically to ensure on time payment;
Enforce as yet undisclosed standards for workers’ accommodation;
Streamline rather than abolish the requirement for workers to acquire an exit visa before leaving the country. Instead of having to seek their employers consent before departure, workers would apply through an automated system operated by the interior ministry.
The ITUC, which unlike groups like Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International and the International Labour Organization, a United Nations agency was not ?involved in discussions about reform with Qatari officials said in a statement that the kafala system had been relabelled but was alive and well.
One possible reason for Qatar’s bungling of the announcement of the proposed reforms is likely the lack of a domestic consensus on the need for change. Many Qataris, opposed a relaxation, let alone the abolition of the kafala system because they fear losing control of their society, culture and country in which they account for only 12 percent of the population if they grant foreigners rights. The proposed reforms further failed to address a concern in the business community that easing the exit visa requirement could potentially lead to foreigners running their businesses accessing company funds and leaving the country.
At the other end of the Qatari debate, assistant foreign minister Sheikh Mohammed Bin Jassim Al Thani said in a recent interview with Al Jazeera that “the sponsorship system was set up at a different time and according to a different demographic composition… but today the situation has changed and due to the flow of the expats, we certainly need to carry out many changes.”

Russian Foreign Minister Demands Obama Reply to Claim U.S. Mercenaries in Ukraine

President Obama Dedicates 9/11 Museum

President Barack Obama has dedicated a new museum in New York City that preserves the memory of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks in the United States.

May 13, 2014: President Obama Speaks on Immigration Reform

World at Risk: Mounting anger at Turkey mine disaster

TURKEY: Mine workers forced to salute Prime Minister Erdoğan

I dedicate my column today to the speech delivered by Özgür Özel, from the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP). Özel is the parliamentarian of Manisa and therefore also represents Soma, which is within Manisa province. CHP parliamentarians tabled a motion on Oct. 23, 2013 regarding the accidents that took place in the Soma coal mines. Discussions on the motion took place on April 29 and, in his speech, Özel gave clues about how certain companies probably evade effective monitoring due to the support they give to the ruling party. This is what he said:
“There are non-stop explosions in the coal mines in Soma and we lose our workers in those explosions. The answer given to our motion is, ‘We have monitored them 10 times, found 66 cases of wrongdoing and we fined those responsible.’ The result: New explosions, new deaths.
“There is a company … [the company named in this speech was not the one where the latest explosion took place] ... They have the best of relations with the Manisa parliamentarians. There are huge problems and flaws and it has been monitored several times, but never penalized. So what’s the secret? The secret lies in this helmet [he shows a mine worker’s hardhat]. The prime minister takes the stage on a rally in Manisa’s Republic Square and says: ‘Are my worker brothers from Soma here?’ 3,000 coal mine workers from Soma, lined up with military discipline, raised their helmets, standing straight, unhappy and unenthusiastic. Because a day ago, their lunch tickets were collected in the mine. The tickets will be redistributed back at the end of the next day's rally. The prime minister first has to be saluted and identity cards will be recollected [by the workers]. The daily wage is active; there is work to do for the prime minister. You salute the prime minister, if you don't you will be fired the next day. Those not fired go back down into the coal mine. The mine explodes; the worker dies; those who die, die; those who remain alive are enough for Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.
“When I mentioned this helmet salute in the rallies, Minister Faruk Çelik said ‘What’s wrong with it?’ It is here in the minutes and he said exactly this: ‘Can’t a manager, a citizen, be a member of a party. A citizen is fond of a political party. Can’t a citizen allow a break for its workers, pay them, and take them to a rally?’
“And so these words were registered in the minutes in Parliament, in our political history. There cannot be such an approach. ‘The worker is mine. I pay him: I can send him into the mine or to the rally or to the picnic as I please.’ This cannot be so. Those who try to capitulate the labor, the sweat, the living struggle of workers to the future of a political party, by having them fill in the square and applaud, will one day or the other held accountable in the face of history and Turkey’s working class.
“Nowhere in the world can ministers responsible for labor say after accidents, ‘Our friends have died, but their corpses were not burned; they died beautifully.’ Nowhere in the world do prime ministers say ‘Death is in the nature of this profession.’ There is death in the nature of man, there is death in life, but no one can say there is death in the nature of this profession. Prime ministers in the world resign when such deaths occur; ours makes a reference to the nature of things.”
Despite the support from the other opposition parties in Parliament, the motion was rejected by the ruling party’s deputies. Exactly 15 days later, more than 230 miners died in a mine explosion in Soma.

Footage of Turkish PM Erdoğan's 'punch' angers opposition

Both the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) and the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) have expressed regret after footage emerged apparently showing Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan engaging in a scuffle in a crowd, during his visit to the mining disaster-struck town of Soma on May 14.
“It is as if you have just discovered the prime minister,” CHP Deputy Chair Gürsel Tekin said on the same day as the footage emerged, in an apparent reference to Erdoğan’s short-temper.
“This is our prime minister who we know very well. He lectures everybody on manners, but he himself acts indecently,” Tekin said, speaking at a press conference following a meeting of his party’s Central Executive Board (MYK), which was chaired by party leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu. Tekin said Kılıçdaroğlu had instructed the party’s administration to be “calm and not to politicize such a disaster.”
The crowd surrounding Erdoğan in the footage, which has been widely circulated on the Internet, makes it difficult to discern the exact circumstances of the incident.
However, at the beginning of the video several people are heard booing and whistling at Erdoğan, who then appears to single out one protester, telling him to “Come and boo me here to my face.”
After the unidentified person enters a nearby supermarket, Erdoğan is seen following him with his aides and bodyguards. The prime minister’s arm then appears to swing in the entrance of the supermarket amid the scuffle, before he walks from the area along with his security team.
Many social media users suggested that the video shows Erdoğan “punching” the protester, though it is not clear from the footage whether his fist is actually aimed at someone or whether it was just swung in protest.
In late April, CHP Manisa deputy Özgür Özel filed a motion asking for a parliamentary inquiry into deadly accidents in the coal mines of Soma. The motion was rejected by votes from the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), which holds a majority at Parliament. Speaking to reporters on May 14, Erdoğan argued that only the title of the motion was related to Soma and it actually aimed to divert the agenda of Parliament and hamper the government’s activities.
CHP breaks 'no politicization' line
Apparently breaking with Kılıçdaroğlu’s “no politicization” line, Tekin said Erdoğan had himself politicized the issue with such a response. “A politician who has the average human dignity has a few rules that he should obey. There is no need for democracy, freedom and the rule of law for obeying these rules. The first fundamental rule that politicians with human dignity should obey is to immediately resign when similar incidents occur,” he said.
MHP Deputy Chair Tuğrul Türkeş shared the YouTube link to the alleged punch on his Twitter account with a note addressed to Erdoğan.
“One day, the iron punch of all of those oppressed people who you have victimized will be thrown at your head,” Türkeş said in his Tweet.
According to a report in daily Evrensel, Erdoğan entered the supermarket and targeted a teenage girl, punching her repeatedly after she shouted at him, “What is the murderer of my father doing here?”
“The girl was saying, ‘don’t do it, brother.’ I’ve never seen anything like this. I was horrified. How can a prime minister do something like this? What is this fury?” said an eyewitness who only identified herself as G.K. out of fear of repercussions to her fiancé, who is a civil servant.
The sorrow for the losses of Turkey’s deadliest mine accident ever has slowly turned into anger against the authorities, particularly after Erdoğan’s statement saying that such labor accidents are “typical.” The latest video also surfaced hours after a photograph emerged showing Erdoğan’s adviser, Yusuf Yerkel, kicking a mourner in Soma.

Turkish police fire water cannons at protesters after mine disaster

VIDEO : Hazrat Ali Aur Hazrat Fatema - ''Geo launches inquiry against 'Utho Jago Pakistan'''

Geo has launched an inquiry against 'Utho Jago Pakistan' over the inadvertent mistake on Wednesday's show.

ARY Ne Bhi Hazrat Ali Aur Hazrat Fatema Ki Shan... by UNewsTv Earlier, Dr Shaista Lodhi, the host of the famous morning show, apologized over the inadvertent mistake in the program that caused an uproar in various sections of the society. According to her statement aired today, the remorseful host said that she along with the entire team feels sorry and tenders an apology for the circumstances that were triggered unintentionally due to the content of the program broadcast yesterday.
Dr Shaista said that she seeks forgiveness from the Almighty Allah over an unintended gaffe that hurt the sentiments of the people.

US embassy welcomes release of final vote results, calls for credible runoff

The US Ambassador to Afghanistan James B. Cunningham welcomed the announcement of final vote results and scheduling of the runoff election by Independent Election Commission of Afghanistan.
“Today’s announcement is a milestone in Afghanistan’s democratic development. We congratulate Dr. Abdullah Abdullah and Dr. Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai, and commend all the candidates who put themselves at the service of their country,” Cunningham quoted in a statement by US embassy said.
The ambassador further added, “We also salute the millions of Afghan men and women who went to the polls on April 5. Afghans can be proud of the success of the electoral institutions, civil society, Afghan media, and the Afghan National Security Forces in carrying out the first round of voting.”
He insisted on a credible, inclusive and transparent runoff election and said the United States continues to support the electoral process and is working with Afghans and the international community to further strengthen the electoral institutions and their procedures.
“We reiterate our call to the campaigns neither to commit fraud nor to permit it to be conducted in their names. The presidential campaigns should also continue to respect the independence and mandates of the Independent Election Commission and the Independent Electoral Complaints Commission,” he said.
Cunningham insisted that the future of Afghanistan is for Afghans to determine, and this election is a truly historic opportunity. He said, “A successful election which produces a result supported by the Afghan people, and a President with a mandate to govern and to engage the international community, will provide a solid foundation for Afghanistan’s future. The United States supports the election process and favors no particular candidate or party. We look forward to continuing our partnership with the new President in support of a sovereign, stable, and unified Afghanistan.”

Results Force Runoff in Afghan Presidential Election

The Independent Election Commission of Afghanistan announced the final results of the 2014 presidential election on Thursday, making minor adjustments to its earlier estimates and calling for a runoff between the two top vote getters to determine the country’s next president.
The commission set the runoff date for June 14, setting the stage for a new cycle of intense campaigning.
“After reviewing the decision of the Electoral Complaint Commission, it became clear to us that none of the candidates secured 51 percent of the votes and the elections will go to a runoff,” said Mohammed Yousuf Nuristani, the chairman of the commission.
The commission said the front-runner, Abdullah Abdullah, won 45 percent of the votes and that the second-highest recipient of votes was Ashraf Ghani, with 31.6 percent. The third-ranking candidate was Zalmay Rassoul with 11.4 percent. Mr. Rassoul announced that he would support Mr. Abdullah’s candidacy in the second round.
Afghanistan has two electoral bodies: the Independent Election Commission, which oversees the conduct of elections and vote counting, and the Electoral Complaint Commission, which adjudicates complaints. For a candidate to win in the first round outright, he must win 51 percent of the votes.
“My request again of the brave and patriotic people of Afghanistan is to do as they did before, millions of them casting their votes, to go again and cast their votes,” Mr. Nuristani said.
In the first round, 7,018,049 Afghans went to the polls, 50 percent more than in the 2009 presidential elections. Of those, 64 percent were men and 36 percent were women.
Even before the commission’s announcement, there were accusations from Mr. Abdullah of last-minute changes in election rules, of improper counting and of other aberrations. He says that he believes he received more than 50 percent of the vote in the first round and should not have to go through a runoff.
His campaign is also upset by the long period between the final results and the runoff, which leaves time for fraudulent activities as well as the potential for fanning ethnic tensions. Mr. Ghani, a Pashtun, could use his ethnicity to push more Pashtuns, who are the plurality in Afghanistan, to vote for him. While Mr. Abdullah also is partly Pashtun, he is more often identified with the Tajik ethnic group.
Mr. Ghani, who lagged in the voting by more than 13 percentage points, will probably benefit more from the extra time, but for both candidates, persuading voters to come out to vote a second time could be difficult, particularly in unstable areas.
And for the ultimate winner, it will be important to have a significant margin of victory, said a former adviser to one of the campaigns.
“There has to be a mega gap between the winner and the loser for the winner to have a mandate and for the loser not to turn into a sore loser and create a crisis,” the former adviser said. “If it ends up being 52-48 or 50-48, then that’s not accepted — three percent is a margin of error in this country.”
However, it is always difficult to predict how people will vote, and Afghans surprised leaders in the first round of voting, with many in Pashtun areas supporting Mr. Abdullah, while some of those viewed as likely to support him turned out for Mr. Ghani.

Pakistan: Nawaz Sharif Needs to Break His Silent on Blasphemy Law

Pakistani Government needs to conduct a swift and unbiased investigation into the May 7, 2014 assassination of lawyer and human rights activists, Rashid Rehman, Human Rights Watch said today. Those criminals should be fully and promptly prosecuted.
Human Rights activists watch said that Rehman’s murder, an apparent payback for his willingness to help Blasphemy accused people, emphasizes the serious need for the government to repeal the Law.
The murder incident happened when two unknown gunmen shot down Rehman in his office in Multan, Punjab province. Who had been threatened with “terrible consequences” for advocating blasphemy accused Junaid Hafeez, a lecturer at Bahauddin Zakariya University. Hafeez was blamed for allegedly spreading blasphemous phrases via his Facebook account, however, it is not known what he said.
Brad Adam said, Asia director at Human Rights Watch, “Pakistan’s vaguely worded blasphemy law has led to discrimination, persecution, and murder since its imposition almost three decades ago. It should be reformed or repealed immediately and it is appalling that lawyers who defend the rights of people charged with blasphemy should themselves become the targets of deadly violence”
Rehman’s murder follows a series of recent incidents and persecution under blasphemy law. On april 15, Lahore court rejected Asif Pervaiz appeal for bail who was accused of allegedly making blasphemous statements via text message.
On April 4, a court in Gojra in Punjab province sentenced death penalty to a Christian couple, Shafkat Emmanuel and Shagufta Kausar, for allegedly texting blasphemous text messages to local Muslim citizens. The trial judge apparently specified that he levied the penalty under “great pressure” in the absence of practical proofs against the two. On March 27 a Lahore court levied the death sentence on blasphemy accused Sawan Masih for allegedly making “derogatory remarks against the Prophet Mohammed” during a quarrel. On March 9, 2013, police stood by while a thousand-strong crowd furious by the blasphemy claims against Masih attacked his residential community of Joseph’s Colony in Lahore. The crowd plundered and then burned down more than 150 houses as the police stood by without intervening. The Punjab provincial government has failed to protect and bring justice to those people.
Section 295-C leads to the death penalty effectively compulsory for blasphemy. Thousands have been accused of hurting religious emotions and feelings since its imposition, including several dozen in 2013 alone. In Pakistan, at least 18 people are presently on death row for blasphemy while another 20 are serving life sentences. Similarly, Asia Bibi, a Christian from Punjab province who was the first woman in the Pakistan’s history to be sentenced to death for blasphemy in 2010, continues to suffer in prison.
Adam Said, “Rashid Rehman’s killing underscores that the blasphemy law creates dangers for both defendants and their lawyers and Killers remain free while those engaged in peaceful expression are targeted by the state and extremists.”
In the recent years a series of assassination threats and intimidations by extremists has made it difficult to reform blasphemy law, Human Rights Watch said. In 2010, Punjab Governor Salmaan Taseer and Pakistan’s Minorities Minister Shahbaz Bhatti were killed for supporting repeal of the law. Pakistan’s previous ambassador to the United States, Sherry Rehman, was charged under the blasphemy law for presenting a reform bill in parliament the same year.
The blasphemy law is mainly used against minorities, while the government seldom brings charges against those accountable for attacks on people accused of blasphemy. The law is also frequently manipulated to settle personal disagreements.
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has not commented against the blasphemy law and the danger it poses to minorities.
“As things stand, even an accusation of blasphemy can mean prison, death, or exile,” Adams said. “Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif needs to end his silence on the blasphemy law and act to ensure all Pakistanis can live free from fear and discrimination.”
- See more at:

Pakistan's Streets of Shame : ''Sexual exploitation of poor and vulnerable children''

By Mohammed Naqvi and Jamie Doran
Pakistan is a strategically important Muslim nation. It's a democracy and a nuclear power, that's allied to the West in the war against terror. But Pakistan is also a country in denial, turning a blind eye to the sexual exploitation of tens of thousands of poor and vulnerable children.
Four Corners tells the story of children at risk, forced through poverty to live on the streets of the country's major cities. Directed by Emmy Award-winner Mohammed Naqvi and written by Jamie Doran, Streets of Shame focuses on the north-western city of Peshawar, where it is estimated 9 in every 10 street children have been sexually abused.
Brightly coloured buses fill the roads of Pakistan. These buses are a crucial element in the country's economy. But behind the colour lies another much darker story. Much of the sexual abuse of young boys takes place at bus and truck terminals. In one survey alone, 95 per cent of truck drivers admitted that having sex with boys was their favourite entertainment during rest breaks.
Peshawar is not alone in its shame. Zia Awan, a human rights lawyer, says child abuse is a national problem: "It's going on everywhere. In the big cities, or small cities, towns. Everywhere this is happening."
A 2010 UNICEF report suggests that traditional Pakistani cultural values of purity and the protection of women have contributed to men preying on boys. This theory is backed up by some psychologists, who suggest that the attraction to young boys stems from the segregation of the sexes, where women are perceived as the inferior gender, rarely seen in public and with very few rights.
"A woman is a thing you keep at home," says Ejaz, a bus conductor. "You can't take women out because people stare at them - they're useless things; you have to show propriety and chasteness with them. You can take boys around anywhere with you and it isn't a big deal."
We follow 13-year-old Naeem, whose parents died when he was eight. His brother began beating him and he ran away from home. He has now been addicted to heroin for five years and frequently sells his body to fund his habit.
One of the biggest problems is that police on the ground are more often caught up with Taliban attacks and the safety of children isn't a priority.

Pakistan: Dire straits: With 20 desks and two closets, can one middle school do the math?

The Express Tribune
The Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P) government has declared an education emergency in the province and poor enrolment is recognised as a key challenge. However, enrolment can’t be effectively addressed if public schools don’t have the capacity to facilitate students.
Government English Medium Middle School No 4 in Haripur serves as a reminder that the government has a lot of work to do to make good on its promise to make education a priority. Situated in the heart of the city on Northern Circular Road, this school is equipped with only 20 desks but has 85 students enrolled in grade six, seven and eight. Even so, the school’s principal, Sarfaraz Khan, claims their policy is not to enrol more than 40 students.
At least 50 new students were recently refused admission for the upcoming academic year due to the shortage of space and furniture.
Under the sizzling sun
The middle school section has only two steel cupboards for storage and one chair for teachers. Lessons are taught on the veranda outside, with the scorching summer sun streaming in from both sides. Children sit in the heat for up to six hours, leaving them vulnerable to dehydration and other conditions.
“I am really concerned about the health of my son, because he sits out in the open; sometimes with the sun facing him,” said Shafique, a resident of Mohallah Asif. The concerned father has made several attempts to get the attention of the local political leadership as well as the education department but no one has responded.
“The children sit in the sun because there is no space inside the building nor is there any furniture for them to sit on,” shared Principal Sarfaraz Khan.
The children from the area, who were turned away recently, were sent to schools in other neighbourhoods. “However, the policy of the education department is that children must be enrolled in schools nearest to their homes,” said Khan. Before 2012, this school was a primary level institution. During former minister for higher education Qazi Asad’s tenure as a lawmaker from PK-50, Haripur-II – the constituency where the school is located – he upgraded it to a middle school. Grade six, seven and eight were added without expanding the building’s capacity or the teaching staff. The same building facilitates the school’s primary students as well.
According to the father of a girl enrolled in grade three, two entire sections for girls are also made to sit outside in the veranda. Confirming this, Khan said the two sections were made to sit on the floor for the same reasons mentioned earlier. In 2012, the education department banned co-education in government schools following an incident where a male teacher allegedly harassed a girl.
“Despite these clear-cut instructions, the girls in our school have not been shifted to the separate building, which is just a stone’s throw away,” said Khan. According to the principal, over 100 girls from kindergarten to grade four are currently studying alongside middle-school boys. If these students were shifted to the girls school, the space and furniture problem would be solved to better accommodate the remaining student body, he added. Assistant District Officer Education Qazi Abdullah was not available for comments.

Pakistani: When blasphemy charges make no sense

If we thought we had seen the worst of what the blasphemy laws of this country could be used for, we really had not seen anything until the very unusual, very outrageous current case of as many as 68 lawyers being booked for the ambiguous ‘crime’ of committing blasphemy. In what can only be termed absurdity, the Punjab police has charged the largest number of people ever for a single blasphemy case after the same lawyers protested when one of their colleagues was detained by the police. Now, one wonders how a blasphemy case is applicable to a protest and that is where the sheer lunacy comes in: the lawyers were voicing their anger at what they alleged was the illegal detainment of one of their colleagues by the police in Jhang and were raising slogans against Station House Officer (SHO) Umar Daraz. The police levelled the blasphemy charges when a complainant registered the case saying that the name ‘Umar’ — also the name of the second Caliph — was used disrespectfully by the lawyers. This has got to be one of the maddest examples of the complete and utter abuse of the blasphemy laws in this country, which are a set of black laws frequently used to settle personal scores and achieve sinister agendas. The case smacks of collusion between the complainant, Arshad Mahmood, a resident of Jhang, and the police who seem to be looking for revenge against the lawyers who dared protest against them. This is nothing new as these laws have been used in the past for all other reasons except for blasphemy and religion. However, the sheer scale of the case is a first.
It reminds one of another tragic case that occurred a year or so ago when an unfortunate businessman dared to throw away the business card of a man whose name was Mohammad. The man was lynched and killed by an angry crowd that had been riled up with sentiments of blasphemy. This is a terribly primitive society if such moronic instances are enough to fuel the fire of hate and persecution. There is little doubt that the lawyers in this case are being made the victims of a plot by the Punjab police in an attempt by them to assert their dominance. It goes without saying that the lawyers’ community in Jhang has rallied together to stop this injustice but there is little luck that sanity will prevail considering that, once the label of blasphemy has been slapped upon any miserable soul, there is little one can do to protect them — such people, if even acquitted by the courts, are brutally murdered for the very accusation of blasphemy. These lawyers, all 68 of them, have now been assigned a death warrant no matter the fact that this case exemplifies the textbook abuse of the blasphemy laws.
Whilst we are on the topic of blasphemy, Chief Justice (CJ) Tassaduq Hussain Jillani has called for observance that offence against any religion is termed as blasphemy. He expressed his concern at the non-registration of cases against those who set Hindu temples on fire in Sindh. This is definitely a welcome move by the CJ, putting matters into perspective that all religions should be accorded the same amount of respect, especially in Pakistan where minorities are treated in an abhorrent way with many false blasphemy cases being registered against them. It is commendable that the honourable CJ has stepped up to establish some safeguards for our belittled minorities but the biggest safeguard can come from at least amending the blasphemy laws if we cannot repeal them. It is all too easy to falsely accuse members of the general public, particularly our oft-neglected minorities, and that is why the punishment for false accusation should be as harsh as the catastrophe usually mounted on the accused. We have seen too many blasphemy cases go horribly, bloody wrong. It is time to change the absurdity for some logic and safeguards.

The tyranny of Pakistan’s blasphemy laws
Nasir Saeed
We all know the law is being misused and this has also been admitted by Pakistani politicians and other responsible people on several occasions. It has to be stopped but still there is no sign of action from those in charge
The recent assassination of lawyer and prominent human rights defender, Rashid Rehman Khan, has once again shaken many, especially those who believe in humanity and human rights, not only in Pakistan, but throughout the world. It also reminds us how this draconian law continues to claim the lives of innocent people. Khan was representing a Bahauddin Zakariya Professor of English literature, Junaid Hafeez, who was arrested in March 2013 on blasphemy charges. He is a victim of internal politics. For a year his mother could not find a lawyer to represent him. At last, Rashid, who was not just a professional lawyer but also a human rights defender, agreed to represent him in court. The case was being heard in jail for Junaid’s security but Rashid was also a target of the extremists, having been threatened with his life in the courtroom in the presence of the judge. The judge kept silent instead of taking action against the culprits. Rashid had brought the issue of the death threats he had received to the attention of the police, judiciary and Bar Association of Pakistan and had asked for security for himself but no one took notice. On the evening of May 7 he was shot dead in his office.
I understand security concerns for victims and their representatives. I remember attending the court hearing of Wajihul Hassan, pejoratively called Murshid Masih, who was charged under the blasphemy law — it was a horrific experience for me. Ismail Qureshi, who had registered a case against Hassan, was the complainant and the court was full of his supporters while CLAAS, a Christian NGO that provides free legal aid to victims of the blasphemy law, only had a few. Police commandos were guarding the court, and it was a scary situation as anything could happen at any moment but Wajih, who is on death row, was taken back to prison safely.
Rashid’s brutal killing served to expand terrorism in the name of Islam and to horrify those seeking justice for others charged under the blasphemy law. We all know the law is being misused and this has also been admitted by Pakistani politicians and other responsible people on several occasions. It has to be stopped but there is no sign of action from those in charge. The government is very well aware of the precarious situation; it is responsible to protect those who are falsely involved in blasphemy cases, and those who are defending them. Extremists continue to create havoc and kill anyone they believe has dared to oppose their interpretation of Islam. The state must know its responsibilities and should react appropriately. No one should be allowed to take the law into their own hands while we have the police and courts to punish someone if found guilty.
Such a situation cannot be condoned and the government has to be held responsible for the deaths of all these innocent people, and letting the culprits believe they have impunity. I first came to know about this case not long ago when a professor from Quaid-e-Azam University contacted me with regards to his PhD research. For security reasons I will not mention his name as the thesis he is writing could get him into trouble too. As the tyranny of the blasphemy law continues, more people are raising their voices against it, and those who are raising their voice are no doubt brave and fully aware of the consequences, as even talking about changes to the blasphemy law is considered a crime — there is a history of several people being threatened and even killed in broad daylight.
On May 6, Pakistani Christians marked the 16th death anniversary of Bishop John Joseph who took his own life in protest of the misuse of the blasphemy law against his people. There was also the killing of Justice Arif Iqbal Bhatti who was shot dead by extremists for freeing two Christians, Rehmat and Salamat Masih, who had been falsely charged under the blasphemy law and then had to flee the country. In 2011, the Governor of Punjab, Salmaan Taseer, a very outspoken critic of the law, was shot dead by his own police guard for defending a poor Christian woman, Aasia Bibi. His killer has since been celebrated as a hero by many who consider his actions to be in compliance with the Quran, with a retired judge, Khawaja Sharif representing him. Very recently, a mosque was named after him in Islamabad. Around two months later, Shahbaz Bhatti, the Christian minister for minority affairs, was assassinated after publically criticising the law and demanding changes. The Pakistani Taliban claimed responsibility for the killing and the case is being heard in court, but there is not much hope as his family members have been threatened and warned of severe consequences if they continue pursuing the case.
The rising tide of the abuse of the blasphemy law is gruesome. The US Commission on International Religious Freedom (CIRF) has said that these laws are incompatible with human rights and the British Prime Minister (PM) has also raised concerns. There are about 33 people on death row charged under this law and I am not sure how safe they are as there is a history of several people being killed in police custody, including Samuel Masih, Nazir Masih, Tahir Iqbal and Fanish Masih. I also remember the case of Shahbaz from Bahawalpur who was wrestled from the police by an angry mob and burnt alive in a public square. Meanwhile, who can forget the eight Christians who were burnt alive during the attack on Gojra after blasphemy charges were brought against Talib Masih? However, all this bloodshed does not appear to have prompted the Pakistani government to take action. I met Tahir Ashrafi, the chairman of the All Pakistan Ulema Council and member of the Council of Islamic Ideology (CII) some time ago, and he insisted that the law is necessary and cannot be removed. At the same time, he conceded that it is being misused. The ongoing tyranny because of this law cannot be ignored and the government has to face this formidable situation. Religious tolerance and harmony is needed but just expressing a desire to do something is not enough and practical steps need to be taken. Pakistan is not the only country that is facing this situation; it should learn how other countries have overcome this problem and have established tolerant societies. Most importantly, the government will have to supplant the curriculum in schools and the culture of impunity has to be brought to an end with the perpetrators being brought to justice to end the tyranny of the blasphemy law. Nobody should be killed without being given a chance to prove their innocence.

Pakistan: Nawaz sets record of foreign tours

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has set a unique record during his tenure. He has become the first Prime Minister of Pakistan to undertake record number of foreign visits in less than a year. According to Foreign Office sources, the PM embarked on 14 foreign visits since assuming the office in June last year when his party, PML-N, came into power. He undertook 13 state visits, first to China, with two trips each to UK, Turkey and China, and the only private visit to Saudi Arabia. The countries the PM visited also include Thailand, Holland, Sri Lanka and Afghanistan. He has paid his latest visit to Iran from 11 to 13 May, 2014. Former PM Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani paid 18 state visits in his tenure spreading over four years and three months, while his successor, Raja Pervez Ashraf, embarked on six foreign tours in nine months.

Pakistan: Doctor held for suspected links with militants

Law-enforcement Agencies (LEAs) claim to have arrested some more people including a doctor on the suspicion of having links with the recently captured militants belonging to a network of the outlawed outfits.
Sources told Dawn that the LEAs had picked up a doctor who practices at his private clinic along Bhimbher Road near Qadir Colony on the basis of clues given by the arrested suspects.
The law enforcers are quizzing the arrested men who had been found involved in targeted killings during the last six months of 2013. A senior official of the University of Gujrat, Prof Shabbir Shah, Fazeelat Shah, policeman Sarfraz Ahmad and Dr Ataur Rehman were among the victims.
The sources said the doctor in custody used to preach the importance of waging jihad (holy war). As far as other activists are concerned, it is being suspected that they might have provided logistic support to the militant network.
The police and agencies are working on the legal as well as criminal aspects of the cases of targeted killings to frame charges against the culprits to make prosecution case strong for the trial in the Anti-Terrorism Court of Gujranwala.

Pakistan: Beleaguered minorities

IT is easy enough to recognise the good intentions, to say nothing of frustration in the face of growing religious intolerance, that underpinned the remarks made by Chief Justice Tassaduq Hussain Jillani on Tuesday. He pointed out that the desecration of places of worship of any faith attracted attention by the law under Section 295 of the Pakistan Penal Code, also referred to as the blasphemy laws. The hearing related to a case that was particularly harrowing: the bombing of a Peshawar church in September last year that left more than 80 worshippers dead and scores of others scarred for life. The country’s Christian community is not alone in the violence it faces. In just the past two months, Sindh has seen the desecration of six Hindu places of worship. The court’s observation that it empathised with the agonies of the country’s minorities must be shared by everyone who feels even a modicum of responsibility towards protecting the vulnerable. If blasphemy, actionable under Section 295, is a charge that is often misused to persecute individuals — in some cases, entire communities — who can argue that all religions are not equally deserving of being recognised as being inviolable in the eyes of the law? So far, whenever invoked, these laws have virtually exclusively been used in efforts to protect the faith of the country’s majority.
Yet the preceding details are but the tip of the iceberg when it comes to intolerance of various hues in Pakistan. We would be hard-pressed, in fact, to identify any community, faith-based or defined by other parameters, that has not found itself under attack at one point or the other in recent years as the spectre of violent extremism grows. For the myriad groups and individuals that peddle terror, justification can be found to make any person, any occasion, any place a target. This is evidenced by the fact that even places of worship belonging to various denominations within Islam, have been turned contentious and deemed worthy of being attacked. In addition to churches, temples and mosques, we have seen funeral processions and emergency wards in hospitals being targeted as the extremists strive to etch the divisions ever deeper. And, sad to say, the extremists are not just the ones wielding guns and bombs; an intolerance which condones violence is now a characteristic of society in general.
The best way out, then, is perhaps not to expand the use of a law that is considered problematic and in need of revision, but to make efforts to reform Pakistan into a place where the rule of law holds sway. We do not need to invoke Section 295 to protect the lives, properties and holy places of citizens, since there are several laws that already apply. What we need to do is to start applying them.