Thursday, May 29, 2014

Oil rig explodes in Oklahoma, at least one dead

An oil rig erupts in flames in Oklahoma, where at least one person on the scene is reported to have died.

China: Xi urges anti-terrorism "nets" for Xinjiang

Chinese President Xi Jinping has called for "nets spread from the earth to the sky" to defend against terrorist acts in Xinjiang, stressing long-term stability as the main goal for the region.
Xi made the remarks at the second central work conference on northwest China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, a two-day meeting which closed on Thursday.
While urging strengthened precautions and international anti-terrorism cooperation, Xi called for "walls made of copper and steel" and "nets spread from the earth to the sky" to capture terrorists.
The meeting was held in the wake of a series of bloody terrorist attacks in the region, including one in an open air market in Urumqi, the region's capital, which left 39 people dead and 94 injured on May 20.
Calling for "meticulous" religious work, Xi stressed that there should be a focus on helping religion adapt to a socialist society and ensuring the role of religious figures and believers in boosting economic and social development.
"Focus on fostering a team of patriotic clergy and boosting the general quality of people in the religious circle so as to ensure that the leadership of religious organizations is firmly in the hands of people who love the country as well as religion," he said.
According to Xi, the basic principle for easing religious tensions is to protect legal religious activities, deter illegal and extreme ones, guard against infiltration and crack down on crimes.
The president noted that people's normal religious demands should be protected in accordance with laws and regulations and their customs should be respected.
"Legal channels for religious people to accurately grasp religious knowledge should be broadened," he added.
Earlier this month, Xinjiang's regional public security department said local police had busted 23 terror and religious extremism groups and caught over 200 suspects.

Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan sign ‘epoch' Eurasian Economic Union

Russia, Belarus, and Kazakhstan signed the historic Eurasian Economic Union which will come into effect in January 2015. Cutting down trade barriers and comprising over 170 million people it will be the largest common market in the ex-Soviet sphere.
"The just-signed treaty is of epoch-making, historic importance," Russian President Vladimir Putin said.
The troika of countries will cooperate in energy, industry, agriculture, and transport.
"In fact, we are shaping the largest common market in the CIS, with huge production, scientific and technological potential and enormous natural resources," the President added.
Citizens of Russia, Belarus, and Kazakhstan will have the right to work freely throughout the member states without having to be issued any special work permits, Putin said.
Over the last three years, trade within the Customs Union has increased by $23 billion, or nearly 50 percent. At the end of 2013, it stood at $66.2 billion.
Belarus and Kazakhstan are in third place in foreign trade with the Russian Federation, after the EU and China, Putin said.
The Russian leader said that the document brings Russia, Kazakhstan and Belarus to a new level of integration yes lets each individual state fully retain its sovereignty.
“We ensure a close and coherent economic collaboration and cooperation. Today we have created a powerful and attractive center of economic development, a large regional market that brings together more than 170 people. Our union has huge reserves of natural resources, including energy, which accounts for one fifth of the world’s gas reserves and 15 percent of oil reserves,” Putin said.
A new geopolitical reality of the 21st century is born,” Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev said shortly after the final treaty was signed by the three leaders.
“We see this as an open space and a new bridge between the growing economies of Europe and Asia,” Nazarbayev added.
David Gray, head of PricewaterhouseCoopers, Russia, said he hoped improving trade will help boost investment, as in the EU.
“If you look at the EU, for example, the reduction of trade barriers within the EU had a significant impact in terms of doing business, which does encourage investment. And I’m looking forward to similar results in terms of the Eurasia deal,” Gray said while speaking to RT at the St. Petersburg Economic Forum on May 24.
However, Kazakh President Nazarbayev warned members to try and avoid repeating the mistakes of the European Union, which is still facing grave economic consequences from the continent-wide recession.
“The point is that none of the participating countries were subject to de-industrialization, and traditional industries did not suffer. Lessons from the European recession are in this,” Nazarbayev said.
Belarusian President Lukashenko hailed the signing, but said there was still major work to be done in areas of bilateral trade.
“We believe the Economic Union will be the foundation for the future of political, military, and humanitarian unity,” he said.
The Customs Union is a project to gather ex-Soviet states into a free trade zone to rival the European Union. The three member states of Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan only comprise 2.5 percent to the Earth’s population, but account for 15 percent of the total land.
"The geographical position permits us to create transport, logistic routes of not only regional, but also global importance that permits attracting massive trade flows in Europe and Asia," Putin said ahead of the signing ceremony in Astana, Kazakhstan on Thursday.
All member states will retain full state sovereignty. Russia is financing the lion’s share of the administration, but each state will have a one-third voting status.
“The Eurasian Economic Union will operate on universal transparent principles understood by all, including standards and principles of the WTO,” Putin said.
The idea of creating a regional trading bloc was first suggested by President Nursultan Nazabayev of Kazakhstan back in 1994, when he gave a speech at Moscow State University. The Customs Union began on January 1, 2010, and started operating under a comprehensive customs code in July 2011. Commonwealth Independent States (CIS) like Armenia, Tajikistan, and Kyrgyzstan may be brought into the free trade zone later.
Kyrgyzstan plans to join the Customs Union by the end of 2014, President Almazbek Atambayev said at the meeting.
A decision on Armenia's membership will have to be made by July 2014, Kazakhstan's President Nursultan Nazabayev said.
Commenting on the fact Ukraine once wanted to join, Lukashenko said sooner or later, the country’s leadership will realize “where their happiness lies”, and what is “right for the Ukrainian people.”
“We lost some [potential member states] along the way. Ukraine started this hard work with us, but it was very difficult for Ukraine,” the Belarusian president said. Neighboring oil-rich Azerbaijan hasn’t made a decisive move towards either the Customs Union or European Union integration.

Obama calls for more research into youth concussions

U.S. President Barack Obama called for more robust research into youth concussions, saying ''we don't have solid'' numbers on the scope of the problem.

Video: Pakistani protesters outraged by brutal 'honour killing'

Pakistan's Shia Genocide: Takfiri Taliban Terrorists Kill 4 Shias In Lower Orakzai Agency
At least four Shia Muslims including a Levies official were martyred and several were injured by Takfiri Taliban terrorists in Sepoy village of Lower Orakzai Agency, the most under reported sectarian conflict zone in FATA, The SM NETWORK reported on Thursday.
According to SM correspondent, the terrorists in Army Uniform opened the fire on Shia mourners, who were returning from a funeral of a woman in the Kharkhosha area of the agency. The martyrs Safdar Hussain, Hareer Husain, Gul Ali and Shah Nawaz including injured were shifted to Kohat and Kalaya hospitals. After the incident exchange of fires were continued two hours, a terrorist Taliban was also killed. Four persons were also killed at the same spot a month ago after armed persons launched an attack during a jirga proceeding. Hidden Saudi gift 1.5 billion dollars exposing hidden agenda of shia genocide and takfirism promotion day by day Taliban and Pro-Taliban terrorists have killed thousands of innocent Shiite Muslims across the country, but government, judiciary and law enforcement agencies have failed to protect the citizens and have taken no step to stop ongoing genocide of Shiite Muslims in Pakistan.
The terrorist groups have launched a violent campaign against Shia Muslims and appear to have widened their terror campaign in major Pakistani cities. According to local sources, militants affiliated to Taliban and al-Qaeda terrorist groups have killed thousands of Shia Muslims in the country. The killing of Shias in Pakistan has caused international outrage, with rights groups and regional countries expressing concern over the ongoing deadly violence against the Shia community, which reportedly makes up about a third of Pakistan’s population of over 180 million. Shia parties and leaders have condemned the targeted murder of Shia notable. They demanded public hanging of the terrorists. They demanded military operation to eliminate the terrorists.
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Turkey sentences Twitter user to jail for blasphemy
A Turkish court on Thursday handed a 15-month jail term to a teacher over Twitter posts deemed religiously offensive, local media reported on Thursday.
The court in the eastern city of Mus ruled that the man, identified as Ertan P., insulted Islamic values with his Twitter handle -- @allah (cc) -- and a series of tweets he posted, Hurriyet newspaper reported on its website.
The defendant claimed his account had been hacked and appealed against the sentence, Hurriyet said.
Pretending to tweet as God, he wrote: "In my present state of mind, I would not have created the little finger of human beings.”
"Here [heaven] is very safe because there is no police," he tweeted in reference to police crackdown on protesters during mass anti-government demonstrations in June last year.
The Islamic-rooted government banned Twitter in March after the micro-blogging site was used to spread corruption allegations against Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his inner circle. The ban, which earned Turkey a strong rebuke from rights groups and its Western allies, was lifted two weeks later after the country's top court ruled that it violated rights.
Citing the same reason, the Constitutional Court on Thursday lifted a similar ban on Youtube, also imposed in March after the website was used to spread damaging leaked audio files from a state security meeting debating possible military action in Syria.

Bassera exit poll: Sisi is Egypt new president

The presidential candidate Abdel Fattah El-Sisi has won the presidential race with 95.3 percent of the vote, according to exit polls by the Egyptian Center for Public Opinion Research, or "Baseera".
The poll also showed that Sisi received the highest percentage of votes in Sohag governorate.
Many political analysts had already predicting Sisi's win due to his massive popularity following his ouster of former president Mohamed Morsy.
The poll also showed the other presidential candidate Hamdeen Sabbahi had received a meager 4.7 percent of the vote, and saw the highest percentage of votes in Al-Qalyoubia governorate.
Almost 96.7 percent voted for Sisi in Cairo, while Sabbahi received 2.4 percent. Meanwhile 0.9 percent of the votes were considered invalid.
Although, the Egyptian women played a pivotal role in casting their votes, the results of the exit poll showed that only 44 percent compared to 56 percent males.
The Egyptian youth aged from 18 to 30 represented 27 percent of the voters while voters aged 31 to 50 reached 45 percent and those aged 51 and higher reached 28 percent.
The Egyptian Center for Public Opinion Research "Baseera" conducted an exit poll for the 2014 presidential elections that took place from 26 May to 28 May 2014, exclusive to the privately owned MBC Masr TV channel.
The exit poll was carried out on a sample of 12,900 voters distributed over 182 polling stations in all Egyptian governorates, except for frontier governorates.

Sisi heads for crushing win in Egypt elections

Bahrain: A System of Injustice

Bahrain’s criminal justice system fails to deliver basic accountability and impartial justice, Human Rights Watch said in a report released today.
The 64-page report, “Criminalizing Dissent, Entrenching Impunity: Persistent Failures of the Bahraini Justice System Since the BICI Report,” found that more than two years after King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa accepted recommendations of the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry (BICI) to free peaceful dissenters and hold abusive officials accountable, Bahrain’s courts play a key role in maintaining the country’s highly repressive political order, routinely sentencing peaceful protesters to long prison terms. But members of security forces are rarely prosecuted for unlawful killings, including in detention, and the few convictions have carried extremely light sentences.
“A police officer in Bahrain who kills a protester in cold blood or beats a detainee to death might face a sentence of six months or maybe two years, while peacefully calling for the country to become a republic will get you life in prison,” said Joe Stork, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. “Bahrain’s problem is not a dysfunctional justice system, but rather a highly functional injustice system.”
The report, based on written verdicts and other court documents, reveals the stark contrast between prosecutions of serious human rights violations by security personnel on the one hand and prosecutions for “crimes” based on speech and peaceful assembly-related activities on the other.
The report sharply contests UK Foreign Office claims that Bahrain has implemented the Commission of Inquiry’s key recommendations and is moving forward on judicial reform.
The Commission of Inquiry report, the work of five respected international jurists, found that security forces were responsible for more than a dozen unlawful killings and routine excessive use of force in suppressing pro-democracy demonstrations in February through April 2011. It also found that detainees were subjected to “a deliberate practice of mistreatment” that led to at least five deaths in detention.
The report recommended that the government release from prison and void the convictions of “all persons charged with offences involving political expression, not consisting of advocacy of violence.” The report also recommended criminal investigations into the wrongful deaths of at least 18 demonstrators and detainees with a view to holding senior officials accountable for rights violations.
Two years after the report was issued, however, leaders of the 2011 protests remain in prison, some sentenced for life, and judges are convicting new defendants of “crimes” based solely on the expression of dissenting political views or the exercise of the right to peaceful assembly, Human Rights Watch said. To justify its decision upholding the terrorism convictions of the protest leaders, the Supreme Appellate Court held in September 2012 that terrorism need not involve the use or threat of violence but can be the result of “moral pressure.”
In another case, the Court of Cassation upheld a conviction of one protester for “inciting hatred and contempt for a certain class of people,” a charge Bahraini authorities regularly use to prosecute peaceful political speech. The Court of Cassation concluded in yet another case that advocating “changing the state’s political system” constitutes “the commission of a crime.” In a third case the Court of Cassation upheld a “destroying public property” conviction for a protester who had stepped on the prime minister’s photograph.
The few prosecutions of security personnel implicated in serious abuses have focused almost exclusively on low-ranking officers, and even those have resulted in acquittals or disproportionately light sentences. The officers responsible for beating suspected protester Ali Saqer to death were convicted of the lesser charge of assault rather than murder although a medical report submitted at the trial stated that Saqer had “blunt-force contusions” all over his body. An appeals court subsequently reduced the ten-year prison terms to two years, finding somewhat incredibly that the defendants deserved “clemency” on the ground that they had been “preserving the life of detainees, among them the victim.”
In another case, a trial court concluded that a police officer had shot Hani Abd al-Aziz Juma from a meter away, leaving him fatally wounded. But it found the officer guilty only of assault, stating that he had not acted with intent to kill. An appeals court subsequently reduced the seven-year prison sentence to six months.
Bahrain’s allies in London, Washington, and Brussels have failed to press the government of Bahrain to take serious steps to hold security forces accountable for abuse, or to call openly for the release of high-profile political prisoners. The UK Foreign Office, in its annual report on human rights published in April, highlighted judicial reform in Bahrain as an area where “the overall trajectory on human rights will be positive.”
“Something is seriously amiss when calling for a republic gets you a life sentence while shooting and killing an unarmed protester gets you six months,” Stork said. “Stability and reform will remain out of reach in Bahrain as long as its allies, notably the UK, offer uncritical support in the face of mounting evidence of abuses.”

Pakistan: Asia Bibi’s Appeal against Death Sentence Cancelled for Fifth Time

It is the fifth time that Asia Bibi’s appeal against death sentence cancelled, which was scheduled on Tuesday 27th May, 2014, an unfortunate mother of five, has been on death row since 2010 for allegedly committing blasphemy.
Shahid Khan, vice-chairperson of the Glasgow-based Global Minorities Alliance, told extremists “sometimes march into their prison cell and kill them while the guards turn a blind eye.” Khan worries Bibi’s life is “hanging in the balance.” He noted that one cleric has put forward a reward of 500,000 Pakistani Rupees, (£3,700, $5,800) for anyone who ends her life.
Khan is concerned that the hearing scheduled for Tuesday should not have failed like all the others previous four hearings. However, the courts are under pressure of extremist and fundamentalist groups. There has been a series of campaigns by human rights groups and advocacy organizations worldwide for the release of Ms. Bibi which held protests demonstrations from London to Brussels, from Geneva to New York appealing to end the misuse of Pakistan blasphemy laws which are often being manipulated to target the members of minorities to settle personal scores and quarrels. In spite of the international calls for a pardon for Asia Bibi, the Pakistan Government has not reacted, moved a muscle or made any suggestion to end the misery faced by this unfortunate mother. For Asia Bibi hence the chronology of torture goes on in many shapes and forms to this day.
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UN slams killing of pregnant Pakistani woman

The United Nations has taken serious notice of the killing of a 25-year-old pregnant Pakistani woman, who was stoned to death by her family as she approached a court on Tuesday, and called on the government to do much more to prevent such killings. “I am deeply shocked by the death of Farzana Parveen, who, as in the case of so many other women in Pakistan, was brutally murdered by members of her own family simply because she married a man of her own choice,” High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay said. “I do not even wish to use the phrase ‘honour killing’: there is not the faintest vestige of honour in killing a woman in this way,” she added in a news release, which also noted that Pakistan has one of the highest rates of violence against women globally. According to reports, some 20 members of Ms Parveen’s family, including her father and two brothers, attacked her and her husband when they were on their way to the Lahore High Court, where they were due to contest her father’s allegations that she had been kidnapped by her husband and that their marriage was invalid. “Every year, hundreds of women are killed in Pakistan as a punishment for marrying a man their families have not chosen or for refusing an arranged marriage,” Ms. Pillay said.
According to the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, 869 women were murdered in so-called ‘honour killings’ in the country last year, but the real figure could be much higher, with many such killings believed to be disguised as accidents, or not reported at all. “The Pakistani Government must take urgent and strong measures to put an end to the continuous stream of so-called ‘honour killings’ and other forms of violence against women,” Ms Pillay said.
“They must also make a much greater effort to protect women like Farzana Parveen. The fact that she was killed on her way to court, shows a serious failure by the State to provide security for someone who - given how common such killings are in Pakistan - was obviously at risk.” The UN General Assembly, in three separate resolutions in 2001, 2003 and 2005, called on Member States to intensify legislative, educational, social and other efforts to prevent and eliminate “honour”-based crimes and to bring the perpetrators to justice.

Pakistan: Nothing can be more barbaric

The call for a 'New Pakistan' is not a new one; we have heard it before. But Pakistan remains the same old Pakistan, unchanged and mired deep in the sea of obscurantism a telling sample of which was put on display on Tuesday - not very far from the precincts of the Lahore High Court. On a busy road a clutch of barbarians pounced upon a young woman, Farzana Iqbal, beating life out of her with repeated hits of broken bricks. As if bereft of humanity scores of people watched the spectacle unconcerned and detached, as none of the brave sons of Lahore gathered enough courage to intervene and save a human life. Farzana was pronounced dead upon arrival at the hospital because of excessive bleeding. As if this was not enough to suggest how heartless we the people of Pakistan are, it was the identity of killers that brings home the enormity of this failing. The killers included Farzana's father, her two brothers and her former fiance. In defiance of her family she had married a man of her choice earning the verdict of death in compliance with the so-called 'code of honour', enforced by the custodians of our sociocultural moorings. The murder was premeditated. The killers were waiting outside the office of her counsel who was to take her to the court to defend her husband against charge of having kidnapped her by her family members. She was required to testify whether she was kidnapped or that she had married him exercising her right of free will as an adult.
Marrying out of her own choice is a taboo in most of Pakistan, not only because the law against this is inadequate, it is there because the so-called elders of society want this curse to stay and flourish. Remember, how barbarically two girls in Shikarpur, Sindh, were accused of 'karo-kari' and murdered as dictated by a Jirga presided by a powerful feudal lord. Such inquisitional 'courts' exist all over the country, and function with absolute impunity from the prevalent legal system, as its proponents are quite often part of the political elite and cannot be denied the liberty they enjoy in terms of licence to play with the lives of ordinary people in their areas. Except for the expulsion of late Senator Ajmal Khattak from Awami National Party (ANP) by the party leadership - during a discussion in the house on a high-profile murder case he had condoned the crime saying it was called for by Pushtun culture - no other political party in Pakistan has moved against known offenders in its ranks. How despicable indeed, instead of political leaderships setting an example, it is the higher judiciary that takes cognisance of media-reported incidents of honour-killings and initiates suo motu proceedings.
All of this should change if we are really committed to build a 'New Pakistan'. And for that not only the general masses have to be educated by highlighting the cruelty that honour-killings precipitate and for that to happen there have to be some concrete legal and administrative reforms. Most critical is the degree of access to the court of law that is quite restricted presently. Then there is the need to evolve standardised format for registering First Information Report (FIR) in cases of honour-killings. Ironically, very often those convicted on charge of honour-killing walk free soon enough, because according to the law the victim's family can forgive the killer. As a general practice the victim's family would commit the murder, then nominate someone of its choice and thereafter forgive for whatever consideration. And so the curse of honour-killings remains alive. In Pakistan, no less than 1000 women are killed every year by their families, says the Aurat Foundation. The actual figure may be much more given that the foundation compiles only the figures based on reports in the newspapers. This is a huge human tragedy. No decent people can countenance such a barbaric custom, a challenge for all, irrespective of their desire to live in old Pakistan or 'New Pakistan'.

Pakistan: Marriage & murder

We have turned into a nation of brutalized beings unmoved by death. Family members of the ill-fated Farzana Iqbal may have been guilty of stoning her to death outside the Lahore High Court Tuesday. Her unborn child died with her. But the fact also is that many people in the crowded LHC area stood and watched as she was pelted with stones by over a dozen persons linked to her family, including her brothers and her father, who has handed himself in to police. No one, it appears, attempted to intervene as a helpless woman was first fired upon and then hit with bricks as she fell to the ground. Farzana Iqbal’s ‘crime’ was no different to that of many other women across the country. Engaged to a cousin, the young woman from Faisalabad, had instead chosen to marry a man of her own choice. Her father had filed a case of abduction against Iqbal. This was being contested before the court by the couple when Farzana was torn away from her husband – and publicly put to death. While at least 1,000 women die each year on the grounds of ‘honour’ according to women’s rights organizations, stoning to death in this fashion is uncommon.
The end result though is the same. Another woman is dead, there is every possibility that the murderers may escape scot free. The law in use in our land allows family members of a victim to accept blood money and allow the perpetrators to walk away free. Since ‘honour’ killings are often planned within families, the law comes in very useful when a woman is killed. This must be prevented in Farzana’s case. A horrific crime took place in the middle of one of our biggest cities. Scores witnessed it at close hand. If those who hurled one brick after another at Farzana, inflicting fatal head injuries, are able to get away with what they did, a terrible precedent will be set. The lives of other women will be endangered. This can simply not be permitted. The barbaric act that took place outside the LHC must lead to safeguards being set up to protect women. It is the duty of all of us as citizens to prevent our enfeebled hold on what is left of civilization in our country from totally slipping away and instead attempt to create an order where greater justice can prevail and the weak are not simply beaten to death on the streets, with no one attempting to protect them, as happened to Farzana Iqbal even as she sought to seek protection from the law.

Pakistan: Insecurity grows in Peshawar as extortionists have a field day

he incidents of bombing of houses in the provincial capital have increased to the extent that every individual is now feeling insecure even inside their homes.
Most of the cases are that of extortion in which the rings target the houses of those who refuse to pay the extortion money. Two houses were bombed on Wednesday while two more were targetted with explosives on Tuesday. Bombs and hand-grenades explode outside houses so frequently that it is no more a piece of news for the people of the city.
On Wednesday, the house of a schoolteacher, Naeem, was bombed in Sarband village. Police said the family had received calls from the extortionists and when they failed to pay up, the callers lobbed explosives into the house. Though no casualty was caused, the house was slightly damaged due to the impact of the blast.
Another bomb went off outside the residence of a former nazim, Tariq Mateen, in Bostanabad area in the limits of the Phandu Police Station. On Tuesday, the house of a former naib nazim, Yousuf, was targetted in Tor Baba while the house of a trader was targetted in Duranpur village in Chamkani. Both the families had received calls for payment of extortion.
The house of Yousuf had come under a similar attack a couple of months back. On Monday, houses were targetted in two different parts of the provincial capital. Hundreds of well-off people from the provincial capital have received calls for payment of extortion. Many of them are well-off people, but a large number are those who are either running small businesses or have earned a few hundred thousands in recent years.
Hundreds of families in the provincial capital are spending sleepless nights following calls for extortion or for fear of receiving similar calls since the menace is spreading to almost all parts of the city now.
Several families, who could afford, have already shifted to Islamabad, safer cities in Punjab and abroad to avoid further stress and threats to their families, businesses and properties. Apart from Peshawar, the menace of extortion has spread in many parts of the Mardan division, especially Mardan and Swabi districts.
The police find it hard to provide security to those receiving the calls or to bust the gangs. The number of victims of the groups is fast increasing with each passing day as the government is doing nothing to provide relief to them. Police officials argue they have busted a number of gangs and efforts were being made to tighten the noose around others, but most of them are operating from the tribal areas and Afghanistan.
The police sent a detailed report to the ministry of interior for setting up a taskforce to go after the gangs of extortionists in the tribal areas and make efforts to counter others operating from across the border. The force is looking for the technology to locate the callers without any delay and provide relief to those who receive threatening calls.

Edhi and I are ambassadors for human rights: Veena Malik

The Express Tribune
Pakistani starlet Veena Malik met with philanthropist Abdul Sattar Edhi at his headquarters on Wednesday following reports that he had fallen ill.
“I have wanted to meet you for ages now. Philanthropists like you are the need of the hour for this country,” Veena said. The famous actor also jokingly offered to donate her kidney to Edhi, who needs dialysis twice a week. “My family members and I have been regularly been praying for your speedy recovery. It’s a big thing that you have done for the suffering humanity of this world,” she added.
Edhi replied to Veena by saying that she should continue to pray for him, so that he can work towards helping other people. “Do pray to the Almighty to allow me to do more work for the others,” Edhi said. “Me and Edhi are the ambassadors for human rights,” she said. “Even if Pakistanis do 0.1% of good for humanity, the country will be a better place to live in,” the actor said.
Veena added that she was in talks with the International Human Rights Commissioner regarding the role that she would like to play in helping the country towards improving health and education.
Karachi visit
During her five-day visit to Karachi, the actor also paid tribute to Abdullah Shah Ghazi’s tomb in Clifton. She said that she would also like to visit Quaid-e-Azam’s final resting place during her trip.
When questioned if she had hopes of meeting political leadership residing in the city, she said, “No, that’s not in the schedule.” However, with the budget fast approaching she hoped that the government would make some incentive for an artists’ welfare fund.

The Stoning of Farzana: ‘Dishonourable’ love – You should be stoned to death

By Bina Shah
This story about a pregnant 25-year-old woman, Farzana Parveen, being bashed to death with bricks by her brothers and uncles because she dared to marry of her own choice, is the kind of news that makes your heart drop and your stomach churn. It’s being called an ‘honour killing’ in the press but it is murder – in fact, we should call it an execution.
Farzana was going to court in Lahore to testify that she had married her husband out of choice, in response to a fake kidnapping case brought about by her family who were enraged that she chose to marry him instead of the cousin they’d picked out for her. 30 people stood and watched as Farzana was shot at and attacked with bricks, but nobody did anything.
It reminds me of the famous case of Saima Sarwar of Peshawar who sought legal help from famed human rights lawyer Asma Jahangir, in fighting her own case against her family to divorce her chosen husband and marry a man of her own choice. Saima’s mother and uncle showed up in Asma’s office while Saima was there and her uncle shot her in the head. Saima died, and the uncle was never prosecuted because Saima’s family ‘forgave’ him for the crime.
People in Pakistan get away with these kinds of executions of women because of weak laws, contradictory legislation and the overarching power of jirgas or extra-judicial tribal court systems which reserve the harshest punishments for women exercising their free will.
We have a Protection of Women ordinance, enacted in 2006, which amended the Hudood Ordinances, making rape a crime under the Pakistan Penal Code and also made it illegal to force a woman to marry, kidnap or sell her into prostitution, and accuse her falsely of adultery or extramarital sex. We also have a bill, enacted in 2004, which makes ‘honour killing’ a crime. A Punjab law minister called for the crime to be tried in anti-terrorism courts in 2011, but I’m unsure whether this was ever enacted.
However, the 2004 law against ‘honour killing’ is contradicted directly by the Islamic law of Qisas and Diyat, which allows a family of a victim to ‘forgive’ the criminal and lessen the punishment or forgo it altogether. Most criminals use this loophole to get away with their crime.
Worse is that attitudes towards women who marry of their own free choice as having stained the honour of the family still persists. Even the policemen at police stations often won’t register a crime against a woman in this case because they agree with or sympathise with the angry family who wanted her dead. Combine this with a still-strong jirga system where men get together and condemn a woman (and sometimes her husband or partner, but he is almost never met with the same fate) to death for having acted out of her own free will.
They ignore the tenet of Islam that states any marriage must be enacted out of free will and that a woman has the right to choose her own husband. This law in Islam is set in stone and cannot be argued with. But the tribal system, which is steeped in patriarchy, ignores this basic fact and still seeks to control the lives and bodies of women by forcing them into marriages they don’t always want.
I’ve often heard activists try to make the phrases ‘there is no honour in honour killing’ and ‘dishonour killing’ stick. It will take more than a few catchphrases to undo centuries of regressive, misogynistic thinking and attitudes, dearly adhered to because it suits the power structure that is already in existence. To get people to understand that an honour killing is murder, plain and simple, is the first step. For a man to understand that his honour doesn’t lie in a woman’s body may be the second step, but to get him to accept that she has her own autonomy and independence and control over her own body is a final phase in the evolution of Pakistani society that may take generations to achieve.
In the meantime, we’ll have people like Farzana and her unborn child beaten to death with bricks grabbed from a construction site outside a court in Lahore, while onlookers do nothing but watch and take photographs on their cell phones. We will have a nation where the laws do not protect women. We will have a country that people look at in disgust and horror, grimace at and thank God they do not have to raise their daughters there.
Farzana must not die in vain. We must use her death as a turning point in how we prosecute the executioners of women who exercise their free will. They are braver than all the men who sit in judgment over a woman like Farzana, condemning her to a death she does not deserve.
But do not rest complacent, even those of you who live in so-called civilised societies. All over the world, there is a war going on against women. In Pakistan, it takes the form of Farzana Parveen’s body, prone and covered by a sheet, battered and broken in the ambulance with her bewildered husband sitting next to her. In Nigeria, it takes the form of 200 schoolgirls kidnapped and sold into sexual slavery by Boko Haram. In the United States, we have three women and three men dead because of the revenge fantasies of a spoilt, rich boy who thought that he was owed sex by “blonde sl**s”.
We’re already in the middle of the third world war. It is the war for women’s rights, safety and dignity. We are not winning this war yet. I wonder if we ever will.

In Pakistan, 1,000 women die in ‘honor killings’ annually. Why is this happening?

On Tuesday, a pregnant 25-year-old woman was stoned to death by her family for marrying a man she loved. The stoning took place in the middle of the day, outside a courthouse, beside a busy thoroughfare. The woman and her husband had been “in love,” her husband said, and they’d gone to a courthouse to sign the paperwork. Outside, the woman’s father, brothers and extended family waited. When the couple emerged, the family reportedly tried to snatch her, then murdered her.
“I killed my daughter as she had insulted all of our family by marrying a man without our consent, and I have no regret over it,” her father told police, adding that it had been an “honor killing.”
The anecdote is horrifying. But even more horrifying is the regularity with which honor killings and stonings occur in Pakistan. Despite creeping modernity, secular condemnation and the fact there’s no reference to stoning in the Koran, honor killings claim the lives of more than 1,000 Pakistani women every year, according to a Pakistani rights group. They have widespread appeal. Eighty-three percent of Pakistanis support stonings for adultery according to a Pew survey, and only 8 percent oppose it. Even those who chose modernity over Islamic fundamentalism overwhelmingly favor stonings, according to Pew research.
It’s the year 2014. Why is this still happening?
Some Islamic fundamentalists think that only through the murder of an offending family member can honor be restored to the rest of the family. Honor killings predominantly affect women — 943 women were killed under such circumstances in 2011 and another 869 in 2013, though not all of them were stoned. Some were just gunned down in cold blood.
One man in Punjab province suspected his teenage nieces of having “inappropriate relations” with two boys. So on Jan. 11, he killed both girls, confessed and said he did it for “honor.” Another teenage girl, living in Sukkur, was allegedly shot dead by her brother while she was doing homework because her brother thought she was sleeping with a man.
One mom and dad allegedly killed their 15-year-old daughter with acid because they said she looked at a boy and they ”feared dishonor.”
“There was a boy who came by on a motorcycle,” her father told BBC. My daughter “turned to look at him twice. I told her before not to do that; it’s wrong. People talk about us.” The mother added: “She said ‘I didn’t do it on purpose. I won’t look again.’ By then I had already thrown the acid. It was her destiny to die this way.”
Those who are stoned in an honor killing are oftentimes accused of committing adultery. Both genders face stonings in Pakistan and across 14 Muslim countries, but women are more frequently the targets. The reason is rooted in sexual inequality in such countries, where the punishment has survived through some interpretations of sharia, or Islamic law, that say adultery is punishable by stoning. In countries such as Iran, where stonings are legal and widespread, men often have significantly more agency than women. If accused of adultery, they may have the means to either hire lawyers or flee. But those options are frequently closed to women.
One 13-year-old girl named Aisha Ibrahim Duhulow faced such a fate. The Somali child claimed she had been raped by three men and told the authorities what had happened. But her report did not spur an investigation into her allegations. Instead, the girl was accused of adultery, buried up to her neck inside a stadium and stoned to death before 1,000 people.
Can anything stop the stonings?
It’s unclear. A petition circulated last year that netted 12,000 signatures called on the United Nations to enact international laws against stonings. But regardless of international pressure, rights activists say the number of stonings and honor killings have continued to climb in Pakistan.
“Stoning is a cruel and hideous punishment,” a spokesman for Women Living Under Muslim Laws told the Independent. “It is a form of torturing someone to death. It is one of the most brutal forms of violence perpetrated against women in order to control and punish their sexuality and basic freedoms.”

Pakistan stoning victim's husband condemns police

The husband of a Pakistani woman stoned to death in broad daylight outside a Lahore court says police stood by and did nothing to stop the attack.
Farzana Parveen, who was three months pregnant, was killed by her family on Tuesday for marrying a man she loved. "We were shouting for help; nobody listened," her husband, Muhammad Iqbal, told the BBC. Correspondents say there are hundreds of so-called "honour killings" of women in Pakistan each year. UN human rights chief Navi Pillay said she was "deeply shocked" and urged Pakistan's government to take "urgent and strong measures".
"I do not even wish to use the phrase 'honour killing': there is not the faintest vestige of honour in killing a woman in this way."
Mr Iqbal described the police as "shameful" and "inhuman" for their failure to stop the attack. "We were shouting for help, but nobody listened. One of my relatives took off his clothes to capture police attention but they didn't intervene.
"They watched Farzana being killed and did nothing."
Arranged marriages are the norm in Pakistan and to marry against the wishes of the family is unthinkable in many deeply conservative communities.
Ms Parveen's father later surrendered to police but other relatives who took part in the attack are still free. Mr Iqbal said they were threatening him and his family. "Yesterday they said they would snatch the dead body," he said. "We came here with a police escort". "We arrested a few of them and others are currently being investigated," local police chief Mujahid Hussain said. Dragged to floor
Ms Parveen's parents had accused Mr Iqbal of kidnapping her and had filed a case against him at the High Court. She testified to police that she had married him of her own free will. Mr Iqbal told the BBC that when the couple arrived at the court on Tuesday to contest the case, his wife's relatives were waiting and tried to take her away. As she struggled to free herself they dragged her to the floor, pelted her with bricks and then smashed her head. She died on the pavement.
The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan says 869 women were murdered in "honour killings" in the country last year, although it is believed that the real figure could be higher.

UN urges Pakistan to take action against ‘honour killers’ of Farzana

The Express Tribune News
UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay on Wednesday strongly deplored the cold blooded murder of Farzana Iqbal, a 25 year old pregnant woman, who was stoned to death by her family in front of the Lahore High Court on Tuesday. In a statement released on Wednesday, Pillay said that it was government’s neglect that led to her death.
“I am deeply shocked by the death of Farzana Iqbal, who, as in the case of so many other women in Pakistan, was brutally murdered by members of her own family simply because she married a man of her own choice,” stated Pillay. While deploring the way the woman was murdered she said, “I do not even wish to use the phrase ‘honour killing’: there is not the faintest vestige of honour in killing a woman in this way.”
Farzana of Chak 167, Jaranwala, was going to testify that she intentionally married her husband and that her family had wrongly accused her husband of kidnapping her.
While she was waiting outside LHC, near a mosque, members of her family opened fire, which narrowly she escaped. However, following which, her father, brother and dozen other men started pelting her with stones and bricks, as revealed by SP Civil Lines SP Umar Riaz Cheema.
A dozen security officials were present at the LHC at the time of the incident. Pillay said that hundreds of women are killed in Pakistan as retribution for marrying the man of their choice, or denying arranged marriage.
According to Human Rights Commission of Pakistan around 869 women were ‘honour killed’ last year in Pakistan. However accurate figure could me much higher as many deaths are not reported at all.
The High Commissioner exhorted that, “The government must take urgent and strong measures to put an end to the continuous stream of so-called ‘honour killings’ and other forms of violence against women”
While emphasising that, “the government must make measures to protect women like Farzana Iqbal,” she said that it was the neglect of the government in saving a women, who was murdered, while she was on her way to court. “The fact that she was killed on her way to court, shows a serious failure by the State to provide security for someone who – given how common such killings are in Pakistan – was obviously at risk.”
Pillay also criticised the Diyat and Qisas laws of the country, “People who carry out ‘honour crimes’ are rarely prosecuted, and even when they are, they often receive absurdly light sentences, considering they have committed pre-meditated murder.” “Such provisions are particularly pernicious when members of the same family that conducted the killing are given the right to pardon the killers.”
The committee on the elimination of Discrimination against women (CEDAW) that reviewed the Pakistan’s record on women rights previous year, articulated that despite amended criminal law act of 2004 that punishes offenses in the name of honour killing, two ordinances Qisas and Diyat continue to be used to pardon the perpetrators by the members of the same family who carry out the disgraced act.
The UN Committee called on Pakistan to attend to the limitations of the criminal law and abolish all requirements under which the perpetrators of Honour killing are are allowed to escape the penalty.
The UN general assembly had previously urged the member states through three separate resolutions 2001, 2003 and 2005 to increase governmental, educational, social efforts to prevent “honour killings”. It had also pushed for prompt investigations and immediate prosecutions of the perpetrators.