Saturday, May 24, 2014
At least seven people have been killed in bombings in Pakistan, two of which exploded in Islamabad. The deadliest of the May 24 blasts was in Mohmand tribal region, an area bordering Afghanistan. Six soldiers were reported killed and three wounded when a roadside bomb exploded. Spokesman for Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan, Umar Khurasani, called RFE/RL's Radio Mashaal to claim responsibility for the attack in the Mohmand region. Some 20 people in Mohmand have been taken into custody in connection with the attack and a curfew has been imposed in the area. Earlier, an explosion occurred at 2 a.m. (local time) in an upmarket shopping area close to the city center in Islamabad. Police officer Chaudhry Hafiz Hussain said one watchman died after being taken to a hospital. The second blast was described by authorities as a "low intensity" explosion inside a car in a different part of the capital. There has not yet been any claim of responsibility for the blasts in Islamabad. The bombings come after three days of air and ground attacks by Pakistan’s army against militant hideouts in the tribal region of North Waziristan near the Afghan border. The offensive has killed at least 75 people. Pakistan’s military says those killed were militants, including important commanders. But locals have told journalists that civilians were among the dead.
At least 30 children fell ill in Swat after receiving vaccinations for measles on Saturday, Express News reported. A team of health officials had gone to their school, MR Model School in Mingora, where they were given injections of the vaccines. After which, the children fell ill and were taken to Saidu Sharif Hospital for medical treatment. According to sources at the hospital, the children are out of danger. The reason of the adverse reaction to the vaccinations is not known as yet. On May 21, six children had fallen unconscious after being administered measles vaccines in Kohat district. A team of health officials went to a private school in Jangal Khel to vaccinate children against measles after which the students fell unconscious and were rushed to the Liaqat Memorial Hospital. Two days earlier, at least 23 students of Government Girls Primary School in Dalan union council of Thal, Hangu had fallen unconscious after they were administered anti-measles injections. The commonly known side-effects of measles vaccines range from the common ones which are fever, rash to the very rare ones such as mild seizures and deafness.
By Abdul Ghani Kakar Nazeer Ahmed Bangulzai was a typical student in the Awaran area of Balochistan Province, but militant threats have reached the point that they are blocking him from an education. “My father is not letting me to go to school,” the 10th-class student said. “He told me that armed men would kill me if they found me going to school.” This situation has repeated itself throughout the province, blocking thousands of young students from getting an education. And that’s casting a shadow on the future for coming generations. “Our future is moving ahead in darkness; someone should come forward to assist us in this calamitous situation so that we can continue our education without any fear,” Nazeer said. As the situation reaches the crisis point, Balochistan residents are calling for the provincial government to step up efforts to keep the school system functioning. “The role of government is, primarily, in protecting educational institutions,” Mohammad Ali, a schoolteacher in Noshki, told Central Asia Online. “If they [the schools] are destroyed by the militants, the government must ensure that these schools are rebuilt and the process of education continues without any further disruption.” Dropout rates pose a major challenge Militant attacks on schools and on educators have forced roughly 70,000 children to leave school this year, according to officials. The terrorism has included barrages of gunfire at school buses. Roughly 1.3m children throughout the province aren’t going to school, Balochistan Chief Minister Dr. Abdul Malik said. “A high dropout rate and poor access of children to school have emerged as the biggest challenges in the province,” he said. Observers accuse the militancy of being the chief culprit behind Balochistan’s nation-leading illiteracy rate, A.N. Sabir, president of the Government Teachers Association Quetta, told Central Asia Online. “The militants’ biased attitude is shutting the doors of education … and they want to keep the masses in the darkness of ignorance,” Shantul Gurginari, a senior educator and former professor of history in Balochistan, said. “It is a great conspiracy against Balochistan that anti-peace elements want to smash the entire system of education in the province,” Ali said. “These militant groups are trying to keep the Baloch nation backward and illiterate … making their youth easily susceptible to militancy.” Putting children back in school The harsh situation contradicts what the residents want, analysts say. “People want their children to be literate … but in reality there is no one to help them out,” Khuzdar social worker Behram Rind told Central Asia Online. “In conflict areas, seeking an education might cost you your life.” The provincial government says it recognises the need to ensure safe access to schools and a safe learning environment. “We are taking all possible measures to maintain law and order and to restore the educational system in the militancy-hit areas,” Malik said. The government is reviewing education-related policies and has allocated Rs. 61.3 billion (US $62m) to fix the problems, he said. Reforms will include providing security for teachers, students and other stake-holders, Sabir said. “It is the need of the hour to eradicate the menace of extremism and terrorism from education in Balochistan,” he added.
Qaumi Wattan Party (QWP) Chairman Aftab Ahmed Sherpao on Saturday said that Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Chairman Imran Khan wanted to sabotage the process of democratic setup and interested to become the next prime minister. He slammed Imran Khan for leveling allegations of rigging in Punjab and termed general elections 2013 were also rigged in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. During his visit to the district, he offered prayer on the death of party’s district organizer Matwakal Khan’s brother. Strongly criticising on Imran, Sherpao showed concerns over the administration of PTI in the province and said that Imran Khan must focus on the issues in Pakhtunkhwa instead of mourning over the elections held in 2013. He called Imran Khan a politically immature person. He said that the PTI chairman was raising a hue and cry to hide his failure in the Pakhtunkhwa. He urged the federal government to review foreign policy and its relations with neighbouring countries particularly with India.
According to religious news service, one of the nation’s leading—and official—defenders of religious freedom beseeched the Obama administration to add Pakistan and Syria to the list of nations that most violate religious rights.
before a congressional subcommittee Robert P. George, chairman of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, said it makes little sense that the list compiled by the U.S. has hardly changed in a decade. The congressionally chartered commission George heads recently encouraged that the State Department add eight nations to the eight already chosen as “countries of particular concern.” But among the recommended additions, he named Pakistan and Syria particularly for their deteriorating and troublesome record on religious liberty. “Pakistan represents the worst religious freedom environment for a country not designated as a CPC,” said George, whose testament underlined Pakistan for continuing violence against Shia Muslims, Ahmadi Muslims, Christians and Hindus. A renowned intellectual at Princeton University, George, spoke of the “horrible and tragic” sectarian battle in Syria which resulted in killing of thousands and displaced millions. Sunni versus Shia violence is widespread. Extremist religious groups, including al-Qaida affiliates, target Christians and other religious minorities. George said, “Not every three years, not every five years . . . every administration needs to make these designation on a regular and, we believe, annual basis.” He labelled the list as a commanding tool to pressure countries to improve their human rights records. A State Department spokeswoman told that it’s uncertain when the report and a new CPC list will be released. Presently the State Department’s list includes Burma, China, Eritrea, Iran, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Sudan and Uzbekistan. In addition to Pakistan and Syria, George’s commission wishes it to add Egypt, Iraq, Nigeria, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan and Vietnam. - See more at: http://www.christiansinpakistan.com/religious-rights-overseer-urges-to-add-pakistansryia-to-list-of-worst-offenders/#sthash.6YoZNX7L.dpuf
BY MATTHEW REISZ
Scholars at Risk Network warns of threats to academic freedom after the killing of a lawyer defending a scholar
The recent assassination of the lawyer and human rights activist Rashid Rehman – who claimed that he had received repeated death threats after agreeing to defend Junaid Hafeez, an adjunct lecturer at the Bahauddin Zakariya University, against charges of blasphemy – has raised wider concerns about academic freedom in Pakistan. In response to the killing in Multan on 7 May, the Scholars at Risk Network in New York issued a statement. It notes that “Rehman had taken up the case in 2013 when previous defense counsel withdrew after similar threats” and it then goes on to highlight the concerns raised by the assassination. “In addition to the deprivation of the right to life of the victim and harms to the others injured, their families and associates, an attack on defense counsel deprives defendants of due process and a fair trial,” the network says. “Where the defendant is a scholar detained for nonviolent expressive activity, as in this case, an attack on defense counsel also undermines academic freedom by denying the scholar a full and fair defense and sending a message of intimidation throughout the university community and society.” In the Education under Attack, 2014 report by the Global Coalition to Protect Education from Attack (of which the Scholars at Risk Network is a member), Pakistan is cited as one of the six most “heavily affected” countries for violence against schools and universities. Hundreds of attacks were documented between 2009 and 2012, and one student and four academics were killed. Clare Robinson, Scholars at Risk’s director of protection services, noted that the network had logged three other attacks on higher education since November: a Shia imam and professor at Hashmat Ali College killed by unidentified gunmen; a professor at the University of Gujrat, said to have been “progressive-minded” as well as a Shia, shot dead with his driver on the way to work; and a first-year student at Khyber Medical College allegedly harassed and assaulted by an academic because she wore a face veil. To put this in a wider context, Ms Robinson added that “SAR has been contacted by over 65 applicants reporting threats in Pakistan”. Mr Rehman was “representing someone who was a lecturer and a student and working in the field of gender studies – all of which raise questions about wider threats to academic freedom in Pakistan”. She said that Scholars at Risk feared that Mr Hafeez “will never get the representation he needs for a fair trial. His other lawyers were threatened and asked to step down, which they did. No one has been held accountable for those threats, nor, to the best of my knowledge, for the threats issued to Mr Rehman. Such threats also need to be taken seriously.” Campaigners argue that Pakistan’s strict laws against blasphemy, which theoretically carry the death penalty, are often used to settle personal scores or deployed by right-wingers keen to silence liberals. “We have seen a handful of recent cases regarding blasphemy,” agreed Ms Robinson, “which risk eroding the rule of law.”