Monday, May 26, 2014

Jackie Evancho "Somewhere" Memorial Day 2014

President Obama Delivers Remarks at Arlington National Cemetery

Press Battle in Pakistan Feeds Into Larger Conflict: Government vs. Military

For a moment, it seemed that a victor had emerged from Pakistan’s news media wars. After a month of mud-slinging between rival television stations, officials from the government media regulator announced last week that Geo News, the country’s most popular news channel, would immediately be closed.
The decision appeared to be a triumph for Inter-Services Intelligence, the military spy agency that has vigorously campaigned for Geo’s closing. The news channel and the agency have been at odds over accusations, broadcast on Geo, that the ISI orchestrated a gun attack last month on the station’s most famous journalist, the talk show host Hamid Mir. Other television stations, eager for the demise of a powerful competitor, have backed the ISI.
A vigil in Karachi on Thursday for the journalist Hamid Mir, who was wounded by gunmen. His station, Geo News, accused the intelligence agency of involvement.Attack on Journalist Starts Battle in Pakistani PressAPRIL 26, 2014 Pakistan Is Asked to Shut Down News ChannelAPRIL 22, 2014 The Lede Blog: Pakistan to Lift YouTube Ban, as a Viral Video Star Is Welcomed HomeDEC. 28, 2012 But the ban on Geo was short-lived. Hours later, the regulator’s executive arm, backed by the government of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, reversed the decision, which it termed an illegal act by a handful of its own members. Geo would remain on the air.
The farcical about-face was a mark of the chaos that has engulfed Pakistan’s influential news media in the past month, as the spat over Mr. Mir’s shooting has broadened into a much wider conflict.
A powerful array of critics, from Islamist extremists to slick-suited television hosts, have lined up behind the ISI to attack Geo. Rival channels have issued nightly tirades against the station, painting it as a patsy of India and the West.
The politician Imran Khan accused it of helping to rig last year’s general election. Hafiz Saeed, the leader of the banned militant group Lashkar-e-Taiba, joined the attack. And religious leaders, riding a wave of intolerance, charged it with blasphemy — a criminal offense that carries a potential death penalty in Pakistan.
More broadly, the campaign to oust Geo has become enmeshed in a web of tensions between the country’s civilian and military leadership. Just one year into his term, Mr. Sharif has already clashed with the army chief, Gen. Raheel Sharif, on several major issues, including Taliban peace talks and the fate of Gen. Pervez Musharraf, the former military leader currently facing a treason trial. Now Geo, too, has come between them.
“The media fight is intense and dramatic, but it’s not the main show,” said Ayaz Amir, a commentator and former politician. “On a broader canvas, it’s about Nawaz and the military.”
Geo has dominated television news coverage over the past decade with a showy, often buccaneering style that has drawn huge audiences, made handsome profits for its reclusive owner, Mir Shakil ur-Rehman, and helped establish television news as a feisty new center of power and influence in society.
That success has also brought powerful enemies. The news media’s newfound strength has constrained the military’s ability to interfere in politics, and once unassailable generals have winced under sometimes withering press criticism, such as after the American commando raid that killed Osama bin Laden in May 2011.
But while the army’s animus toward Geo is understandable, the hostility of Mr. Khan, whose political career was bolstered by his appearances on Geo, is more baffling. Some analysts suggest he is siding with the army to boost his flagging base. Another political actor to seize on Geo’s weakness is Muhammad Tahir ul Qadri, a fiery Canada-based preacher who led thousands of supporters into central Islamabad in January 2013 and recently started a protest movement to oust Mr. Sharif’s government.
In the past week, Geo’s opponents have focused their efforts on the blasphemy charges, which stem from an entertainment show in which a popular actress, Veena Malik, re-enacted her marriage ceremony as a religious hymn played in the background. Ms. Malik is known for publicity stunts that have outraged conservatives, like appearing topless on the cover of an Indian magazine with the letters “ISI” tattooed on her arm, and Geo’s enemies seized on the presentation of the song to claim that the channel had disrespected the family of the Prophet Muhammad.
Attacks on Geo by rival channels are motivated in part by commercial rivalry; Geo’s dominance of the lucrative advertising market has made Mr. Rehman a wealthy man, and made his station a target for smaller channels. But the recent wave of attacks, some encouraged by the ISI, have acquired a vituperative quality that veers dangerously close to propaganda.
On ARY, a rival channel whose host Mubasher Lucman has practically made a career of attacking Geo, Islamic clerics declared last week that the broadcast featuring Ms. Malik constituted blasphemy. Days later, a religious group filed blasphemy charges against Geo at a police station. Online critics have reinforced the assault on Twitter, subjecting Mr. Rehman and Mr. Mir to vicious personal attacks. Geo has apologized for the entertainment show and offered a robust rebuttal to its other critics. Even so, the rolling crisis has visibly damaged the station. Cable companies have relegated Geo to an obscure location on its channel lists or just pulled it off the air. Advertisers have deserted the channel. Mr. Rehman’s son, Ibrahim, who runs the station, has fled to Dubai, where Mr. Rehman already lives.
Pakistan’s minority liberals have recently rallied behind Mr. Rehman, even those who had previously criticized Geo for irresponsible and sensationalist programming. In an unusual statement, the independent Human Rights Commission of Pakistan called for a halt to the “malicious campaign” against Geo.
“Irrespective of what H.R.C.P. or anyone else might think about Geo’s editorial judgment,” the group said, “instigating people to come out on the street following charges of blasphemy is an extremely dangerous trend.” In theory, the crisis should be resolved by the government regulator, the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority, which is due to adjudicate this Wednesday on ISI complaints that Geo mounted a “vicious campaign” against it. But the process has become deeply politicized.
Mr. Sharif is seen to be siding with Geo, as part of a wider conflict with the army. Much of it stems from General Musharraf’s treason trial. Although the military is outraged by the sight of a former army chief facing prosecution in a civilian court, Mr. Sharif, who was himself ousted by General Musharraf in a coup in 1999, has refused private entreaties to let his nemesis slip quietly out of the country.
The military, in turn, has behaved in a cool fashion toward Mr. Sharif, and there have been policy clashes over major issues, such as whether to fight or negotiate with the Pakistani Taliban. Some worry that Mr. Sharif is alienating the army in the same way he did before the 1999 coup.
“When Nawaz was elected last year, people said he was a changed man, wiser and more mature,” said Mr. Amir, the analyst, who belonged to Mr. Sharif’s party until last year. “But when the crunch comes, he’s still the same man.” The internecine news media strife has dismayed senior journalists, leading to calls for a new system of regulation. On Friday the English-language newspaper Dawn warned that further fighting risked “destroying any semblance of a free and responsible Pakistani media.”
Amid the furor, the plight of Mr. Mir, the journalist who was shot last month, has been all but forgotten.
He has started to recover from his six gunshot wounds, and on Monday appeared before an official inquiry that seeks to identify his attackers. But in such a charged atmosphere, and in a country where political violence is rarely resolved, few believe that inquiry will amount to much.

Persecution against Ahmadi Muslims in Pakistan increased manifold: Report
M Zulqernain
Acts of persecution against the minority Ahmadi community in Pakistan have increased “manifold” over the past year as seven community members fell prey to religious intolerance and 16 were attacked, according to a report. The annual report of Jamaat Ahmadiyya also claimed that due to pressure from extremists, Ahmadis are being persecuted under discriminatory laws. “Acts of persecution against the Ahmadi community have increased manifold while the law enforcement agencies pandered to the whims of the aggressors,” the report said. “Whether it is the desecration of Ahmadi worship places or graves, the Pakistani authorities align themselves with extremists instead of enacting the law,” it claimed. During 2013, there had been significant increase in fabricated news stories published in the Urdu Press.
More than 1,700 news reports and 400 articles appeared (in Urdu Press) during the year depicting Ahmadis in a negative light,” the report claimed. “Ahmadis have been facing political, social and legal discrimination since the promulgation of the notorious Ordinance of 1984 which is contrary to the basic and equal rights of citizenship,” it added. “As many as 237 Ahmadis have been killed since the Ordinance was passed while 193 attempted murders have taken place. Some 27 mosques have been demolished and 31 sealed by the authorities,” the report said.
“Some 37 bodies exhumed after burial while burial of 61 dead bodies of Ahmadis were denied in common cemetery. Not only are the lives of Ahmadis are under constant threat the departed souls are in no peace either,” it added. Jamaat Ahmadiyya spokesman Salmuddin claimed: “The Government’s silence suggest official patronage of these heinous acts.” He said the Government functionaries seemed to have close dealings with extremists under the cover of discriminative legislation against Ahmadis. Pakistan’s Ahmadis consider themselves Muslim but were declared non-Muslims through a constitutional amendment in 1974. A decade later, they were barred from proselytising or identifying themselves as Muslims. Some 1.5 million Ahmadis live across the country.

Pakistan: Punjab Police Detains 8 Shias Including 3 Women, 2 Minors, A Disable
Biased Punjab police arrested an innocent Shia leader along with his wife, 2 sister-in-laws, 2 minor children and a disabled Shia notable and his father in unjustifiable raids in Chakwal and other parts, Shiite News reported here on Sunday. Khuwaja Mohammad Ali was arrested from his Chakwal residence. His wife, 2 sister-in-laws and 2 minor children were also whisked away along with him. Rawalpindi Police also thrashed them severely and tortured them. They were taken to Rawalpindi where they were out behind the bars in Rwat police station. Ghulam Shabbir Joya, 55, was also held. Shiite News Correspondent reported he has served as central secretary education for the Majlis-e-Wahdat-e-Muslimeen and now is a patient of red-cells shortage.
Police have arrested father of Mehmood Iqbal, a disabled Shia notable along with his brother Hassan Iqbal. In another raid, Shaikh Mazhar Ali son of renowned Shia leader Allama Mirza Yousuf Hussain was also arrested. Witch-hunt against innocent and peaceful Shia Muslims has sparked off reaction from all Shiites around Pakistan and across the world. They expressed surprise that on the one hand government was releasing the notorious Taliban and other Yazidi takfiri terrorists in the guise of peace process and talks with the terrorists and on the other Shia Muslims were being implicated in false cases to please the Yazidi terrorists.
Allama Asghar Askari, Maulana Asrar Gilani, Maulana Zaigham and Seed Rizvi of the MWM met the RPO and CCPO Rawalpindi and lodged protest against the unjustifiable arrests of the innocent Shiite leaders. On their protest, the CCPO ordered immediate release of the women and children.

Pakistani Christian Salves Released from Brick Kiln

Members of five Christian families have been released after being apprehended for more than two decades as slaves in a Muslim-run brick kiln in eastern Pakistan, Christian officials involved in the rescue operation told BosNewsLife.
The Centre for Legal Aid Assistance and Settlement (CLAAS), a major advocacy and aid group, told it arranged for two vehicles for the May 6 searches at the brick kiln in the industrial city Wazirabad in Punjab province. Nasir Saeed, a CLAAS director, told BosNewsLife that “a total of eight” Christians were found working as slaves in the area, belonging to five families.
He added that some were imprisoned around the brick kiln itself; others at a proximate location connected to the operation’s owner, Gul Nawaz Cheema.
He explained, “CLAAS’s staff accompanied the bailiffs to two separate locations” after appealing to the Lahore. There were no reports of captures and police allegedly unwilling to further inspect the case. In their statements took by BosNewsLife, Christians told that they had been “in bonded labour for more than 25 years”. One of the women, Safia Bibi, told she started working at the brick kiln along with her husband, Anwar Masih, soon after her marriage. She added their all nine children were born at the brick kiln where they grew up and soon started working at the brick kiln with them.
The Christians further told they had been living in a house at the brick kiln without basic facilities such as a bathroom or toilet.
Owner Gul Nawaz, whose name is publicly recognized, “often forced this family work without wages and whenever they tried to leave, he cruelly tortured them,” CLAAS investigators said.
Christians further told that they would “sometimes have to go for days without food” and when they demanded money, “were forced to work more”.
Safia’s husband reportedly died in 2013 due to sickness and weakness because he was forced to continually work. “He was prevented from visiting a doctor, but would not have been able to afford treatment even if allowed,” CLAAS told. “His children were not allowed to attend his funeral and were forced to work on the day.” According to investigators, however they are Christians, they are not permitted to be present at prayer meetings or celebrate Christmas and other religious festivals.
Saeed told BosNewsLife that “it is sad that even in the 21st century, slavery still continues” in Pakistan, a profoundly Islamic nation.
CLAAS says it offers free legal aid to slaves. “The government is aware of the situation, but unfortunately has never taken concentrated steps for the welfare of these people, and therefore slavery continues,” Saeed told. - See more at:

Pakistan: Visiting Ahmadi Muslim doctor gunned down for his faith in Pakistan
A US based cardiologist visiting Pakistan to provide free healthcare has been murdered today in Chanab Nagar (Rabwah), Punjab. According to preliminary reports, Dr. Mahdi Ali was gunned down few hours ago by unknown assailants shortly after the dawn prayers on Monday. Dr Ali had just finished paying his respects at friends and family graves at the Ahmadiyya elders cemetery when he was killed while coming out of the gate, it is reported.
The victim was murdered in front of his wife and a toddler son. He also leaves behind a 5 years old son and a 17 years old son, it was further reported in social media.
Dr. Mahdi Ali had traveled to Pakistan as a volunteer to serve in rural area of Punjab and provide free healthcare to poverty-stricken people of all faiths. Dr. Ali was providing his services at Rabwah's famous Tahir Heart Institute. Qasim Rashid, national spokesperson of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community - USA, expressed regret and sorrow over the senseless killing through his Twitter posts. "From God we are and to God must we return." "Dr Mahdi Ali's crime was healing the ill & lessening the pain of the suffering. For this "horrible" crime he paid with his life," Rashid said. The victim, an Assistant Professor of Cardiology at Ohio University, is a younger brother of Imam Hadi Ali Chaudhary, missionary of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community serving at the Ahmadiyya Institute of Islamic Theology and Languages in Canada.

Pakistan: Ahmadi Muslim doctor killed in Chenab Nagar

The Express Tribune News
A member of the Jamaat-e-Ahmadiyya was shot dead in Chenab Nagar on Monday allegedly because of his faith. Cardiac surgeon Dr Mehdi Ali was on his was way back from a graveyard when two men on a motorbike opened fire. He was shot 11 times, a spokesperson for the Ahmadiyya Jamaat in Rabwah told The Express Tribune. The 50-year-old US national was visiting Pakistan for research work at Tahrir Cardiac Hospital, Rabwah along with his family. The attackers managed to flee the scene of the crime. Ali’s body was taken to a nearby hospital. No FIR was registered till the filing of this report.

Karzai refused to meet Obama at Bagram Air Base,

Afghan President Hamid Karzai was offered a meeting with President Barack Obama at Bagram Air Base outside Kabul but declined, a US official said Sunday.
The official said that Washington was not surprised that the meeting did not work out at short notice, after Obama arrived at the base on a surprise visit after night fell on Sunday. "As we said, we weren't planning for a bilateral meeting with President Karzai or a trip to the palace, as this trip is focused on thanking our troops," the official said. "We did offer him the opportunity to come to Bagram, but we're not surprised that it didn't work on short notice. "The President will likely be speaking by phone with President Karzai in the days to come, and also looks forward to working with Afghanistan's next President after the election is complete." Obama and Karzai have a testy relationship and Washington has been deeply frustrated by the outgoing Afghan leader's refusal to sign a bilateral security agreement that would allow it to lock in a post-2014 US troop training mission in the country.

Video: President Obama Pays a Surprise Visit to Troops in Afghanistan