Saturday, May 31, 2014
U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel says Beijing has ''undertaken destabilizing, unilateral actions'' in South China Sea -- remarks a Chinese general called ''groundless.'
Thousands of Pro-Russian activists call for peace in Donetsk as Ukraine's ''anti-terrorist'' military operation pushes ahead.
After a gruesome gang-rape and hanging of two Indian teenagers, one Indian resident says ''that the accused should be found hanging in the same manner.''
Samar Badawi has done jail time to advance women’s rights, and now husband Walid Abulkhair will represent himself in court against the kingdom.
Samar Badawi and Walid Abulkhair are Saudi Arabia’s most high-profile human rights couple. Samar is a leading women’s rights activist who was jailed for disobeying her father who physically abused her for fifteen years. She took him to court and won a human rights award for courage presented by the State Department.
Samar’s husband, Walid Abulkhair, was jailed last month after years of staunchly defending the Kingdom’s leading human rights activists. On May 28, Abulkhair will appear before a Special Criminal Court in Jeddah for the sixth time to be tried for “inciting” public opinion and other spurious charges. Days ago, I spoke with Samar who is campaigning tirelessly for her husband’s release. I asked Badawi if she and her husband expected him to be jailed at some point. “Every independent activist in Saudi Arabia expects to be arrested,” she said.
Badawi adds that her husband was subjected to the government’s “carrots and sticks” approach to quash his activism. “He was interrogated and investigated countless times and taken to court repeatedly. He was harassed by the police and received many threatening phone calls. He was continually pressured at work and eventually was sentenced to jail. He was always ready to go to prison.” What exactly are the charges brought against Abulkhair? “Disobeying the rulers” and “offending the judiciary” and “inciting international organizations against the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.” In reality, the Saudi dictatorship simply got tired of his persistent defense of political prisoners. Abulkhair does not have to look far for representation; his lawyer will be the Kingdom’s best human rights attorney: himself. Badawi first met Al Khair in 2009, when she approached him for a legal advice regarding her case. They soon fell in and got married. I asked Badawi if she ever asked her husband to stop his activism? “No,” she says resoundingly. “I never pressured him, and would never do that. I am not exaggerating when I say that if Walid ever thought to acquiesce to pressure, and stopped his activism, I might change the way I look at him. Walid has known me as a woman who fights for her rights, and I know him as a person who supports the value of human rights and who calls for equality and justice.” In 2007, Abulkhair co-authored a petition calling on the Saudi royal family to accept a constitutional monarchy. He has worked tirelessly to support women’s rights,including driving a car. He is known as the Kingdom’s fiercest defending of political prisoners. He also now joins many other Saudi liberals jailed for calling for more freedom, Raif Badawi and Turki Al Hamad to name just two. As a former political prisoner myself—jailed and tortured under the Assad regime in Syria—I know the pain of being denied your freedom. Middle Eastern nations will continue to suffer so long as they imprison, repress and expel their most courageous defenders of liberty. Meanwhile, these brave dissidents can’t help but ask why the West supports their unelected dictators rather than democratic activists. The inverse priorities speak volumes.
Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, a captive of the Taliban for nearly five years, has been released to the U.S. military in Afghanistan in exchange for the release of five Afghan prisoners held at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
Bergdahl, an Idaho native, was 23 went he went missing in June 30, 2009, in the eastern Afghan province of Paktika, near the border with Pakistan.
"On behalf of the American people, I was honored to call his parents to express our joy that they can expect his safe return, mindful of their courage and sacrifice throughout this ordeal," President Obama said in a statement released by the White House. Bergdahl, now 28, was released to American custody Saturday evening, local time, in Afghanistan. The transfers happened after a week of intense negotiations mediated by the government of Qatar, which will take custody of the Afghans. Several dozen U.S. special forces were involved in the exchange, which took place in eastern Afghanistan, near the Pakistani border.
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said he had signed an order releasing five detainees held at Guantanamo Bay to Qatar. Hagel said in a statement that the Pentagon would give Bergdahl "all the support he needs to recover." "It is our ethos that we never leave a fallen comrade, " Gen. Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs, said in a statement. "Today we have back in our ranks the only remaining captured soldier from our conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. Welcome home Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl." Hope that Bergdahl was still alive was renewed in January when U.S. officials confirmed the existence of a video in which he referred to recent events.
Still, that video raised concerns about his health, which appeared to be in decline, according to an official who spoke to The Times. "Not life threatening," the official said at the time. "He’s been captive for [nearly] five years; it’s showing." A month after he was initially taken, in a video released by Afghan militants, Bergdahl said he was scared that he might never again see his family.
After the video surfaced in January, U.S. officials renewed calls for his release. “Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl has been gone far too long, and we continue to call for and work toward his safe and immediate release,” said a Pentagon spokeswoman, Navy Cmdr. Elissa Smith. Obama said Saturday that Bergdahl's released was occasion to "remember the many troops held captive and whom remain missing or unaccounted for in America’s past wars." "Sergeant Bergdahl’s recovery is a reminder of America’s unwavering commitment to leave no man or woman in uniform behind on the battlefield. And as we find relief in Bowe’s recovery, our thoughts and prayers are with those other Americans whose release we continue to pursue."
The president's statement specifically thanked the Amir of Qatar for his work on behalf of Bergdahl's release. Obama also reiterated the U.S. commitment to supporting the Afghan government. In a plan announced this week, Obama said he would reduce the number of U.S. troops in Afghanistan to fewer than 10,000 by year's end. The plan, which withdraws most of the 32,000 troops who remain, seeks to balance fear that a speedier withdrawal would push Afghan forces to collapse against his desire to end more than a decade of war.
"While we are mindful of the challenges, it is our hope Sergeant Bergdahl’s recovery could potentially open the door for broader discussions among Afghans about the future of their country by building confidence that it is possible for all sides to find common ground," he said.
As protest groups prepare to take the streets on the symbolic anniversary of the start of last year’s Gezi events despite large scale police measures, some minor demonstrations took place in other parts of the country.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Friday used international law as a disguise to stealthily advance his dream for Japan to be again a militarist power. At the Shangri-La Dialogue, a regional security forum, Abe said in a speech full of innuendoes that Japan would try its best to advocate respect for international laws in the region. But such a rhetoric is fundamentally flawed when it came from the nationalist leader who has been trying to conjure up the militarist past of Japan in a drive to re-arm his country. The fundamental spirit of international law is to maintain peace and stability by managing disputes, whereas what Abe did was trying to divide Asian countries and stoke flare-ups in the region. "Listening to him, you can easily sense his nationalist ego behind the thin veil," said Major General Yao Yunzhu, director of the Center on China-American Defense Relations, the Academy of Military Science, China. "It is consistent with what he has been doing," she added. Abe talked about international law, particularly the international law of the sea. Beneath the surface, however, he was trying to justify Japan's pursuit of revising the pacifist constitution that was put in place after World War II so that the country could be armed once again. He lamented the capabilities of Japan's Self-Defense Forces were not enough to handle humanitarian operations, while at the same time could not help revealing his excitement at Japan being able to export its "superb defense equipment." As one of the world's largest and most advanced economies, Japan has the capacity to arm itself to the teeth in a short time if it is allowed to. The Japanese navy is one of the most powerful. Abe also said that he would give patrol vessels to the Philippines and is pushing forward a plan to give Vietnam such vessels, too, to support their maritime claims. He did not name China, but both the Philippines and Vietnam have had overlapping claims with China. The fundamental approach to its national security, based on Abe 's speech, is to seek allies in the region to go against other countries. The Japanese prime minister said he would promote the new policy of "proactive contribution to peace," a translation of the Japanese term that can also be rendered as "proactive pacifism. " This should be all the more worrying when it becomes the banner of a country that invaded and occupied a large part of Asia and still is reluctant to come to terms with its militarist past. In an era of regional integration, such an approach to regional security should be abandoned, as cooperative security is the only way out to achieve shared security in the region. The existence of traditional and non-traditional security threats also means that the approach to regional security should be comprehensive. The countries concerned should pursue common security by maximizing their common interests. The only way out, therefore, is to pursue cooperative security instead of raising voices on differences. The strategies adopted by Japan will bring risks to the region as they will drive the discord among Asian nations, which is more likely to eventually lead to losses than gains for all. Asian countries should have a clear assessment of the regional security situation and not be swayed by negative influences. China shall also be confident enough to stick to its long-term pursuit of peace and stability through mutually-beneficial cooperation, including cooperative management of disputes.
Deputy Chief of the General Staff of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army, Lieutenant General Wang Guanzhong said Hagel’s speech demonstrated US’ hegemony. He says the speech is filled with instigation, threat and intimidation. It wanted to incite the destabilizing factors of Asia-Pacific region to stir up disputes. It was a totally non-constructive speech. Hagel’s repeatedly denouncement over China was entirely groundless. He also said as the great powers of the world, both China and the US should expand shared interests, narrow differences and clear up misunderstanding. But Hagel’s speech made no contribution to develop new relationship between the two countries.
The United States and China squared off at an Asian security forum on Saturday, with the U.S. defense secretary accusing Beijing of destabilizing the region and a top Chinese general retorting that his comments were "threat and intimidation". Using unusually strong language, U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel took aim at Beijing's handling of territorial disputes with its Asian neighbors.
He warned Beijing that the United States was committed to its geopolitical rebalance to the Asia-Pacific region and "will not look the other way when fundamental principles of the international order are being challenged". Hagel said the United States took no position on the merits of rival territorial claims in the region, but added: "We firmly oppose any nation's use of intimidation, coercion, or the threat of force to assert these claims." His speech at Singapore's Shangri-La Dialogue, Asia biggest security forum, provoked an angry reaction from the deputy chief of staff of the Chinese Army, Lieutenant-General Wang Guanzhong. "I felt that Secretary Hagel's speech is full of hegemonism, threat and intimidation," he told reporters just after the speech. Wang said the speech was aimed at causing trouble in the Asia-Pacific. Hagel's comments followed the keynote address by Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at the same forum on Friday evening, who pledged "utmost support" to Southeast Asian countries, several of which are locked in maritime disputes with China. "I felt that they were just trying to echo each other," Wang said. Hagel later held a bilateral meeting with Wang, where the Chinese military leader expressed his surprise at the U.S. defense secretary's speech. "You were very candid this morning, and to be frank, more than our expectations," he said. "Although I do think those criticisms are groundless, I do appreciate your candor … likewise we will also share our candor." A senior U.S. defense official said that, despite Wang's opening remarks, the tone of the meeting had been "businesslike and fairly amicable". While Hagel went over ground he covered in his speech, Wang spent most of the meeting talking about U.S.-China military-to-military contacts, including Chinese participation in forthcoming military exercises, the official said. The U.S. official said Hagel's speech had been well received by other Asian delegations with the exception of China. ONLY IF PROVOKED In Beijing, President Xi Jinping said China would not initiate aggressive action in the South China Sea but would respond if others did, the official Xinhua news agency reported. "We will never stir up trouble, but will react in the necessary way to the provocations of countries involved," Xinhua quoted Xi as saying in a meeting on Friday with Prime Minister Najib Razak of Malaysia. China claims almost the entire oil- and gas-rich South China Seas, and dismisses competing claims from Taiwan, Brunei, Vietnam, the Philippines and Malaysia. Japan also has a territorial row with China over islands in the East China Sea. Tensions have surged in recent weeks after China placed an oil rig in waters claimed by Vietnam, and the Philippines said Beijing could be building an airstrip on a disputed island. Japan's defense ministry said Chinese SU-27 fighters came as close as 50 meters (170 ft) to a Japanese OP-3C surveillance plane near disputed islets last week and within 30 metres of a YS-11EB electronic intelligence aircraft. Japanese Defence Minister Itsunori Onodera said Tokyo perceived an "increasingly severe regional security environment". "It is unfortunate that there are security concerns in the East and South China Seas," he said. "Japan as well as all concerned parties must uphold the rule of law and never attempt to unilaterally change the status quo by force." On Friday, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe pitched his plan for Japan to take on a bigger international security role and told the Singapore forum that Tokyo would offer its "utmost support" to Southeast Asian countries in their efforts to protect their seas and airspace. In a pointed dig at China, he said Japan would provide coastguard patrol boats to the Philippines and Vietnam. JAPAN OFFER SNUBBED Wang, China's deputy chief of staff, also snubbed an offer for talks with Japan made by Defence Minister Onodera, the semi-official China News Service said. "This will hinge on whether the Japanese side is willing to amend the erroneous policy towards China and improve relations between China and Japan," he said. "Japan should correct its mistakes as soon as possible to improve China-Japan ties." The strong comments at the Shangri-La Dialogue come as Abe pursues a controversial push to ease restrictions of the post-war, pacifist constitution that has kept Japan's military from fighting overseas since World War Two. Despite memories of Japan's harsh wartime occupation of much of Southeast Asia, several countries in the region may view Abe's message favorably because of China's increasing assertiveness. Hagel repeatedly stressed Obama's commitment to the Asia-Pacific rebalance and said the strong U.S. military presence in the region would endure. "To ensure that the rebalance is fully implemented, both President Obama and I remain committed to ensuring that any reductions in U.S. defense spending do not come at the expense of America’s commitments in the Asia-Pacific," he said.
Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, Patron-In-Chief, Pakistan Peoples Party has asked CM Sindh Syed Qaim Ali Shah to constitute a committee under CM’s leadership with representative of all minorities, IG Sindh, law enforcement agencies and local MPs, which would meet once a month to address the grievances of minority communities. A monthly report will be presented to PPP Patron-in-Chief by the committee. Bilawal Bhuto Zardari also condemned the recent violence in the worship places of Sikh community and assured full security to be provided to all worship areas through Sindh Police.
Peacetime is generally defined as any period of time where there are no violent conflicts occurring such as the time after World War II when for Western Europe and America there was no war. For most people, the idea of no war is a goal well worth achieving, and in fact, the rare times America was able to extricate itself from war, or a war came to an end, it was a time of relief, celebration, and using wartime expenses for the good of the nation. Republicans have a different opinion about wars than most Americans, and if one believes their rhetoric, they would keep America in a permanent state of war in several geographical locations at once.
The Republicans claimed that keeping combat forces in Afghanistan, presumably forever, would “preserve momentum on the battlefield and create conditions for a negotiated end to the conflict,” and that “any decision to end the war should be determined by conditions on the ground. The question is how the war ends.” The senators ended their end-of-war tantrum claiming that “wars do not end just because politicians say so, the president appears to have learned nothing from his disastrous decision to withdraw all U.S. forces from Iraq. The war in Iraq has ended in tragedy.” The warmongers are wrong on both counts; politicians do end wars just by saying “no more war,” and the Iraq war ended successfully for Americans weary of violent conflict halfway around the world. Period. It is worth noting, again and again, that the so-called disastrous Iraqi sectarian violence going on today began only after America invaded and destabilized the country and has continued unabated. There was no sectarian violence, no Iranian influence, and no al Qaeda presence in Iraq until George W. Bush set his sights on regime change in Iraq. American forces leaving Iraq had about as much to do with sectarian violence today as the civil war that General David Patraeus and his failed surge allowed to give Shia Muslims clearance to eradicate Sunnis from the embattled nation. On CNN, conservatives S.E. Cupp and Bill Kristol claimed that “what is happening in Iraq will happen in Afghanistan. You know, we successfully went in with a surge. We pulled our troops out too soon and it has collapsed yet again into a den of terrorism. Why not commit to the job and leave when the job is done?” However, one thing Republicans criticizing President Obama’s decision yesterday could not elucidate now any more than during the entire Iraq or Afghanistan wars; what job? What is the mission? If it is defeating an insurgency, history shows time and time again that an invading army cannot defeat an insurgency; particularly in a country like Afghanistan that has been invaded, occupied, and conquered throughout its history only to revert to its natural state of perpetual infighting and tribal wars.
The American people are war weary and the nation is, and will continue to be, in debt for waging unfunded and unnecessary wars of convenience over ideology, resources, and imperialism. It is prescient that as Republicans claim this country can ill-afford to rebuild and repair its pathetic infrastructure, fund unemployment benefits, food stamps, or any other domestic programs, it can afford to continue spending $10.1 million an hour to stay in Afghanistan until “conditions on the ground determine when the war ends.” As President Obama said, “we have to recognize Afghanistan will not be a perfect place, and it is not America’s responsibility to make it one.” It is high time that Republicans recognize that their sole responsibility is to do their jobs and make America as perfect a place as it can be and it starts with taking care of the Veterans their wars of choice created. Republicans oppose spending even a fraction of the amount of money to conduct the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan on the Veterans those wars created. In fact, over the past five years Republicans opposed spending any money on anything for this country or its people because they claim the country was broke, but they never once flinched at the cost of the wars. Likely because their corporate donors in the oil industry and military industrial complex were the beneficiaries; the troops or returning Veterans certainly did not benefit from the Republican largesse for war. It is hardly unreasonable to expect Republicans to support spending the same amount of money on Veterans, domestic programs, or rebuilding America that that are willing to continue spending to conduct the war in Afghanistan. Americans may have thought Republicans would be as relieved that the Afghanistan war is coming to an end as they are, but they would have been sadly mistaken. It is beyond belief that President Obama’s announcement that at the end of 2014 America will enter a rare period of peacetime was met with such criticism and disgust, especially when Americans are weary of the country’s longest and completely unnecessary war. What is seriously puzzling, is that support for the war in Afghanistan is reportedly at 20% of the population, but when one considers Republicans, neo-conservatives, and religious right warmongers love a crusade to kill innocent Muslims, it is surprising the support is not greater. However, the rest of America will love the idea of entering a rare period of peacetime after over thirteen years of war, and that certainly includes war weary combat troops.
Some American forces will stay on in Afghanistan. But not for long
AT FIRST glance, it looked like good news for Afghans who are increasingly nervous about what will happen when the American-led coalition of international forces ends its combat mission in December. On May 27th, a couple of days after he made a surprise visit to Bagram airfield north of Kabul (his first for two years), Barack Obama made a long-awaited announcement about the size of the American force that will stay on to train and assist Afghan security forces and conduct counter-terrorism operations against “the remnants of al-Qaeda”. Mr Obama said that the residual force would number 9,800—down from 33,000 currently and 100,000 in 2011. The figure is close to what had been suggested by General Joseph Dunford, America’s senior commander in Afghanistan, and a long way above the so-called “zero option” favoured by some White House aides. A further 2,000-3,000 troops are likely to be provided by NATO allies, principally Germany and Italy.
The timing of the announcement was prompted in part by the second round of Afghanistan’s presidential election, which will be held on June 14th. Hamid Karzai, the outgoing president, has, to the frustration of American military planners and most Afghans, refused to sign the bilateral security agreement needed to provide a legal basis for the troops to stay. However, both of the remaining candidates to succeed him, Abdullah Abdullah, the favourite, and Ashraf Ghani, have promised to sign as soon as possible. They recognise that without continued American help with air support, logistics, communications and intelligence, Afghan forces, which number about 380,000, risk suffering a morale-sapping level of casualties in their struggle against a Taliban insurgency that shows no sign of flagging.
But Mr Obama also has an eye on how things will play at home. Despite being urged by his generals to apply “conditions-based” criteria to how long the residual force should be deployed in Afghanistan, Mr Obama announced a strict timetable that appears to owe everything to the cycle of American politics and nothing to realities on the ground. Half of the remaining troops will be withdrawn by the end of 2015; and by the end of 2016, as Mr Obama prepares to leave office, nearly all of those left will depart. A tiny contingent will stay on to provide protection for the American embassy and help with military sales. Mr Obama, it seems, has decided that “to turn the page” on Afghanistan, as he put it this week, is more important for his political legacy than doing the minimum that might be required to prevent the failure of a long and costly mission. John McCain and Lindsey Graham, two perennially hawkish Republican senators, promptly criticised the plan and its “arbitrary date” as “a monumental mistake and triumph of politics over strategy” that risked a similar disastrous outcome to the premature withdrawal of troops from Iraq. But even allies of the president, such as Michèle Flournoy, a former Pentagon policy chief who now heads the Centre for a New American Security, a think-tank, are concerned about the pace and inflexibility of the timetable. David Sedney, a recent deputy assistant secretary of defence for Afghanistan and Pakistan, described the decision as giving with one hand and taking away with the other. As for the reaction of Afghan army officers, reports suggest they are bleakly pessimistic. They know that the big gaps in their capabilities, especially a chronic lack of air power, cannot be bridged in the time allowed. Mr Obama promised this week that he would bring the war to “a responsible end”. Many Afghans see it differently.
Pakistani police officers will be investigated because they didn't intervene when a woman was publicly beaten to death with bricks, a court official said Friday. Pakistani Chief Justice Tassaduq Hussain Jillani, speaking live on state TV Friday, said he's asked the police inspector general to provide a full report on the so-called honor killing of Farzana Parveen, 25, who apparently died because she married a man against her family's wishes. "I have also ordered that a case be filed against the police officers present at the crime scene," Jillani said, because it appears the "cops helped the criminals by watching the crime as silent spectator." Authorities said they arrested two of the woman's cousins, an uncle and a driver. Her father was arrested earlier.
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on Friday called the killing "totally unacceptable" and said it's a "great shame" for such a crime to happen in the presence of police. About 20 people, including members of Parveen's immediate family, attacked her with bricks Tuesday outside a court building in Lahore, police said. Aamir Jalil Siddique, vice president of the Lahore High Court Bar Association, told CNN, "We believe that this was an oversight on the part of the police -- they were stationed there and did not do anything. We have security, Punjab police officers, at the high court 24 hours a day. The advocate general's office, which is next door to the gate, has additional security."
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on Friday called the killing "totally unacceptable" and said it's a "great shame" for such a crime to happen in the presence of police. About 20 people, including members of Parveen's immediate family, attacked her with bricks Tuesday outside a court building in Lahore, police said. Aamir Jalil Siddique, vice president of the Lahore High Court Bar Association, told CNN, "We believe that this was an oversight on the part of the police -- they were stationed there and did not do anything. We have security, Punjab police officers, at the high court 24 hours a day. The advocate general's office, which is next door to the gate, has additional security."
Bride's family infuriated Parveen and Iqbal eloped and were married January 7 in a court ceremony. But Iqbal told GEO TV that Parveen's family was infuriated and filed a kidnapping case against him and other members of his family. They also demanded 100,000 rupees (about $1,000), he said. The couple went into hiding and filed statements in court to prove the kidnapping allegations false, Iqbal said. On Tuesday morning they were scheduled to appear before a judge when Parveen's family allegedly attacked outside the court building. "We went to the court to seek justice to tell them what had happened. We were sitting there when all of a sudden they appeared," he told GEO TV. "Someone fired shots in the air. My wife and I were sitting and then bricks were thrown, then a lady came and took Farzana away. ..." Police stood and watched and didn't come to their aid, Iqbal said. He said the crowd killed his wife and her unborn child. In addition to the prime minister, other officials rushed to denounce the killing. The chief minister of Punjab, Shahbaz Sharif, gave a 24-hour ultimatum to the inspector general to arrest the suspects. He asked that a murder trial be held in an anti-terrorism court. Britsh Foreign Secretary William Hague said, "There is absolutely no honor in honor killings, and I urge the government of Pakistan to do all in its power to eradicate this barbaric practice."
The murder case of Farzana Parveen, it seemed, could hardly have turned more tragic or gruesome: a 25-year-old pregnant woman, bludgeoned to death with a brick by family members on a busy street, for having married the man she loved. Then, in recent days, came a dark twist. It turned out that Ms. Parveen’s husband, Muhammad Iqbal — who had been photographed over the bloodied body of his wife, his face etched with grief — had been a black widower five years earlier. Mr. Iqbal, 45, said he had killed his first wife to be with Ms. Parveen, and later won his freedom, legally, using an Islamic provision of Pakistani law. “I strangled her,” he said of his first wife in a telephone interview. “I liked Farzana since she was a child.” The attack on Ms. Parveen in Lahore, Pakistan, on Tuesday has generated global outrage, a public intervention from Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and an unusually aggressive effort by the Pakistani police to pursue those responsible. By Friday morning five men, including Ms. Parveen’s father, had been arrested, but officers were still searching for her two brothers, one of whom faces accusations of beating her to death with a brick.
To some, Ms. Parveen’s death was a sign of growing religious intolerance in Pakistan, an impression burnished by news media reports of a stoning, an image with echoes of Taliban-era Afghanistan. Yet rights activists and analysts said the deaths of Mr. Iqbal’s two wives were not a product of religious extremism, but rather stemmed from a deep rooted societal prejudice against women and what they call a flawed legal provision that allows killers to, quite literally, get away with murder. “The state has created an enabling environment for honor killings,” said Saroop Ijaz, a lawyer and commentator whose office is yards from the spot where Ms. Parveen was felled. “A woman being disciplined by her family is seen as a private matter by the police, the courts and the law.” Under an Islamic provision of Pakistani law, a convicted murderer can avoid punishment either by obtaining forgiveness from the victim’s family or through payment of “blood money,” also known as diyat. The rich and powerful often abuse the law to avoid punishment, but rights activists say it can also foster a dangerous sense of impunity. “It creates the feeling that you can kill a person in broad daylight and get away with it,” said Ali Dayan Hasan, a former director for Human Rights Watch in Pakistan. In Mr. Iqbal’s case, police records show that after killing his first wife, Ayesha Bibi, in 2009, he absconded for four years, during which he stayed with Ms. Parveen’s family in Nankana Sahib, a district roughly 60 miles west of Lahore. The police captured Mr. Iqbal in April 2013 but his incarceration was short-lived. His son, his first wife’s next of kin, legally pardoned him for that killing and he was set free. Months later, he asked for Ms. Parveen’s hand in marriage. But that union was blighted by a dispute with Ms. Parveen’s father over the dowry payment, and came to a bloody conclusion Tuesday outside the Lahore High Court. As men crowded around Ms. Parveen, who was three months pregnant, a man fired a gun and the bullet grazed her ankle, said Umer Riaz Cheema, a police investigator. She tried to flee but was pulled to the ground by her shawl. Her father, Muhammad Azeem, hit her with a brick taken from the side of the road. Then her brother Zahid and a cousin named Mazhar Iqbal took up the attack, the investigator said.
Taliban fighters attacked several Pakistani military posts along the Afghan border Saturday, sparking an hourslong gun battle that included Pakistan launching airstrikes into Afghanistan, authorities said. Pakistan said soldiers killed 16 militants, while Afghan officials said the airstrikes killed five civilians. The fighting was the latest cross-border attack along the volatile and porous Pakistan-Afghanistan boundary and again tests the two countries' already uneasy relations. Two Pakistani military officers blamed the local Pakistani Taliban for the attack, saying dozens of fighters from the group crossed into Pakistan overnight to stage the attack. The insurgents attacks at least two military checkpoints in the northwestern tribal region of Bajur, killing one soldier and wounding two others, local government official Shah Naseem said. Naseem said the heavily armed attackers also targeted several military posts in the border village of Nao Top, about 50 kilometers (30 miles) northwest of Khar, the main town in Bajur. The army responded, sending helicopter gunships into battle as troops chased the attackers. The assault killed 16 insurgents, the two army officers told The Associated Press. The attackers then fled toward Afghanistan, the officers said, speaking on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to journalists. The officers said their intelligence suggested the attack local Pakistani Taliban fighters launched the attack. They said the fighters, originally from the Bajur tribal region and the northwestern Swat Valley, have been hiding in the village of Ghund in neighboring Afghanistan's Kunar province. Gen. Abdul Habib Sayedkhaili, the provincial police chief of Kunar province, said two Pakistani helicopters crossed into his country and opened fire in Dangam district. Their attack killed five Afghan civilians and wounded 10, Sayedkhaili said. Sayedkhaili said Pakistani forces fired mortar shells into Afghanistan throughout the day Saturday. Afghanistan and Pakistan share a 2,250-kilometer (1,400-mile) border and militants from both sides routinely launched cross-border attacks before fleeing back into their other country. The border area is remote and off limits to reporters, making it difficult to independently confirm information about fighting or military operations in the tribal regions. Mortar attacks and other military operations routinely strain relations between Afghanistan and Pakistan. Afghan President Hamid Karzai long has accused Pakistan of sheltering Taliban militants and other extremists. The Pakistani Taliban have killed thousands of people in an attempt to impose Islamic law in Pakistan and end the government's support for the U.S.-led war in neighboring Afghanistan. Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has made negotiations with the Taliban a centerpiece of his government. Supporters of the peace talks argue that negotiations are the only way to end the cycle of violence while critics say a deal will only strengthen militant ranks, allow them to regroup and strike back with more force.
A deputy commissioner survived an assassination attempt when armed men opened fire on his vehicle near Korangi. The driver and guard of the deputy commissioner sustained bullet injuries when armed assailants attacked the vehicle near Nasir Jump in Korangi. They were shifted to a nearby hospital for treatment. Commissioner Karachi Shoaib Siddique told media that deputy commissioner remained safe in the attack.
Despite the devastation caused by earthquakes in parts of Balochistan over the past few years, the province is yet to have an official body which ensures implementation of the building code which exists in the region on paper only. Additionally, the government is yet to take other preventive measures against natural disasters in the country’s largest province.Balochistan is no stranger to earthquakes, considering most parts of the province are located in the ‘earthquake-sensitive zone’. But have officials in the resource-rich province learnt from past mistakes? “Recent earthquakes were wake up calls for us,” Muhammad Ayub Baloch, who heads the University of Balochistan's Geology department, said. And it would be difficult to disagree with Baloch since the province has suffered widespread devastation due to earthquakes over the past several years and decades. In fact, it was on this day (May 31) in 1935 that Quetta was razed to the ground by a powerful earthquake measuring 7.6 on the Richter scale. The disaster that struck at 3:00am was felt about 165 kilometres southwest of the provincial capital. The deadliest earthquake in Balochistan’s history took the lives of thousands of people and caused massive infrastructural damage. According to Baloch, there are two active fault-lines in the province — Chiltan and Chaman. “The Chiltan fault line, located 16 kilometres west of Quetta, spreads up to Naushki and some parts of central Balochistan. The epicentre of the earthquake was recorded 16 kilometres in the Chiltan mountain. The seismic waves were originated 12 kilometres deep in the earth,” he explains. Despite these huge losses of life and property and the lingering threat of further damage, no concrete steps have been taken to safeguard the province and its residents. Speaking to Dawn on the subject, Professor Din Muhammad Kakar of University of Balochistan's Geology department says: “There is a time bomb of mass destruction beneath Quetta." Despite the province's geologically sensitive location and the destruction caused in the past, the 79th anniversary of the province's deadliest earthquake went unnoticed. Previously, meetings were held in memory of the victims as well as to spread awareness regarding natural disasters. Soon after the earthquake in 1937, the British, who were ruling the region at the time, introduced a building code in the mountain-ringed city of Quetta, which was also implemented. However, after 1947, successive governments that came to power in Pakistan ignored the code. Presently, high-storied plazas are being constructed in the heart of city in clear violation of the code and right under the noses of concerned quarters. The Balochistan government is yet to form a body which ensures implementation of the code. Additionally, there is no master plan for the city of Quetta, which roughly houses around three million people. “Under the existing building code, up to 30 feet construction is allowed,” says Fazal Muhammad Baloch, an officer of the Quetta Metropolitan Corporation. While QMC’s Baloch admits the city has high-storied plazas in clear violation of the code, no No Objection Certificates (NOC) have been issued for their construction. Further, the poorly-manned and ill-equipped Provincial Disaster Management Authority (PDMA) appears to be helpless when it comes to coping with natural disasters. “Current earthquakes have to be eye-openers for us,” Professor Kakar says. Most parts of Balochistan are prone to natural disasters, including tsunamis, floods, droughts and earthquakes. Chief of International Union of Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Balochistan Faiz Muhammad Kakar says the current climate change is also a contributing factor behind the increasing number of natural disasters in the province. According to the provincial IUCN head, natural disasters have claimed more lives than terrorism. Moreover, he has advised the government to act and act “very quickly” for preventive measures to cope with natural disasters in Balochistan.
By Anushe Noor Faheem.
A tide of protests have swept Pakistan’s southwestern Balochistan after threats from shadowy militants forced dozens of private schools in Panjgur, a district in the province, to close their schools.
The warning of “dire consequences” for private schools BokuuxmIgAEVhGGproviding “western education” intimidated at least 35 private schools and 30 English language centers in Panjgur to shut their doors on May 7. Government schools in the area remain open. Chanting “we want education. Education is our basic right. Save education,” thousands, including women, students and leaders from a few political parties marched on the roads of Panjgur. Protestors demanded that the government provide security for male and female students studying in all schools. There have been similar protests for Panjgur’s students in Balochistan’s capital city Quetta and the districts Naseerabad and Jaffarabad. The Baloch Hal, an online English news site that focuses on Balochistan and is banned within Pakistan, reports: These warnings are alarming considering that fact that Panjgur has remained one of Balochistan’s more advanced places in terms of education. A number of private schools run by local teachers and administrators have earned a great reputation for impartial quality education among male and female students in the Pakistan-Iran bordering town. The previously unheard of militant group “Tanzeem-ul-Islam-ul-Furqan” started distributing flyers in Panjgur at private schools against western-style education “regardless of them being a co-education or an all-girls facility” on 25 April, 2014. Two weeks later, masked assailants stormed a school in Panjgur and beat up a teacher. A school van transporting female students and teachers was set on fire by gunmen several days later. These events intimidated most private schools to close their doors to students in Panjgur. In an opinion piece on Baloch Hal called Pakistan’s Boko panjgur_protest_1-1024x768-800x600Haram Malik Siraj Akbar, the site’s editor-in-chief emphasises:
In grand protests joined by thousands of people to fight back against religious extremists, the people of Balochistan have given their judgment: there is no room for Boko Haram in Balochistan. The Pakistani government should now hear the people’s verdict and fulfill its responsibilities. Pakistan has the second highest number of children out of school,according to UNESCO. Poverty, poor government investment, patriarchy, social bias and religious extremism all play a part. In 2012, Malala Yousafzai was shot in the head in retaliation for campaigning for girls education in the northern part of Pakistan. In Balochistan, things are different. It is the country’s largest, least populated and poorest province. Baloch nationalists have waged an on-and-off war for independence from Pakistan, and their fight seems to be at its peak. Meanwhile, Pakistani intelligence operatives are accused of abducting Baloch men. Various sectarian and Islamist militias also use the area for recruitment and training to fight wars in Iran and Afghanistan, which border Balochistan, and within Pakistan itself. Malik continues: The public awakening in the town of Panjgur, on the contrary, has barely received any attention in Pakistan’s mainstream media or the international press. The developments in Panjgur epitomize a rare but organized community-based battle for protecting girls’ right to education. The rise of Islamic extremists in the secular Baloch province, which I had predicted in 2009, is deeply alarming but the local population’s uprising against the detractors of girls’ education simultaneously provides tremendous hope for a community that is being rapidly radicalized by the Pakistani government in an attempt to trade an ongoing left-wing independence movement with radical Islam. When I was growing up in Panjgur in 1990s, it was absolutely inconceivable to think about giving the clergymen a share in the social and political decision-making process. The role of the clergyman, locally known as the mullah, was clearly defined and restricted to the mosque.” Teachers themselves are in the crosshairs of this mistrust. Schoolteacher Abdul Hameed and five other members of his family were brutally murdered by separatist rebels on 21 May because they believed he was a spy for the government. Recently, Hina Baloch, a social commentator who focuses on Balochistan, education and conflict wrote a piece detailing the raid of Pakistan’s security forces at a school in Turbat, a town 220 kilometres from Panjgur: It is also worth noting that just recently Atta Shad Degree College in Turbat was raided by FC personnel during a book fair. Masterpieces, like the autobiographies of Nelson Mandela, Gandhi and Che Guevera, were brandished by the FC in front of the media – the works were labelled as ‘anti-state’ literature. [..] With religious intolerance and sectarian violence – an unheard of phenomenon for the secular Baloch populace – now mysteriously at an all-time high, it is alleged that the state is playing that dangerous game of curbing nationalism by stoking religious fanaticism once again. And in doing so, re-asserting its historic (and myopic) doctrine of ‘strategic depth’ – by providing tacit support to non-state actors for short-term strategic gains. Some activists are using Facebook and Twitter to spread the word and garner support. A Facebook page named “Save Girls Education in Baluchistan” was created by a Baloch journalist. Another Facebook page named “Save Our Girls” and a petition on Change.org also supports the cause. According to an unnamed official in this report by Abdul Ghani Kakar on Central Asia Online, militant attacks and intimidation have forced 70,000 students to leave school in Balochistan. Kakar quoted Balochistan’s education minister in this report, who said his government has allocated Rs. 61.3 billion (US $62m) to “fix the problem.” He added, “We are taking all possible measures to maintain law and order and to restore the educational system in the militancy-hit areas.
If there were a globally sanctioned blasphemy law to guard religious sensitivities, it would be the Muslim world that would be constantly under its gun, writes Kunwar Khuldune Shahid
A lawyer has been murdered in broad daylight for defending a blasphemy accused in court. 68 have been charged with blasphemy for taunting a police officer who shared his first name with the second caliph of Islam. A TV channel has been accused of blaspheming for mistiming a Qawwali, incorrectly depicting a religious tale, and by airing a drama where a young girl questions a misogynistic orthodox religious obligation. Six men have been accused of blasphemy for allegedly tearing a calendar. Three teens have been charged with blasphemy for protesting against a poster that targeted their religious community. And two men have been shot dead for blaspheming simply because they belonged to a different sect of a religion, or a different religion altogether – depending on where you stand on the bigotry scale. All of this has happened in the past couple of weeks in Pakistan. Each of the sufferers in the second paragraph was an Ahmadi. An accusation of blasphemy is a serious charge in Pakistan – like most Muslim countries – since it is constitutionally punishable by death. While no one has been judicially killed for blasphemy in Pakistan, 51 accused have been murdered before their respective trials concluded. Not to mention the riots destroying colonies over blasphemy allegations, as witnessed in Gojra and Joseph Colony to devastating effect. There were only 14 charges of blasphemy prior to 1986 when the Zia-ul-Haq regime incorporated the law in the Section 295 of Pakistan Penal Code. There have been over 1,300 cases since then. There was a solitary blasphemy case in 2001. 80 in 2011, the year Salmaan Taseer and Shahbaz Bhatti were murdered for their reservations against the misuse of the blasphemy law. The misuse of the blasphemy law to settle personal scores has been evident, with Mubasher Lucman and ARY using it in a blatant case of professional rivalry making it even more conspicuous. And in a country where a religious community, the Ahmadis, blaspheme merely by existing, it is pertinent to touch on conveniently overlooked common sense in the whole blasphemy debate. Basically the entire Ahmadiyya community blaspheme by breaching a pillar of Islam that all other sects believe is synonymous with being a Muslim. While everyone has the individual right to believe who can and can’t call themselves the follower of a particular religion, to shove that belief down everyone’s throat is contrary to basic human rights. Furthermore the same right, to define who can and can’t be dubbed a religion’s follower, should be given to those who you might not consider “true followers”. For, if excommunications were based on religious disagreements, allegations of apostasy and collective blasphemy wouldn’t stop after outlawing a single sect, as is being meticulously demonstrated in Pakistan. The constitution – a document one normally considers synonymous with democracy and protection of basic human rights – became party to this bigotry by “officially” excommunicating Ahmadis in 1974. Ordinance XX a decade later prevented Ahmadis from “pretending” to be Muslims. “At the moment I can raise a voice for my anti-Shia mission only at a local level and from my local mosque” Allegations of apostasy and blasphemy owing to sectarian differences should have ended there and then. For, if Ahmadis were the solitary Islamic sect that “defied” core teachings of Islam, why have over 2,000 Shia lost their lives in barefaced genocide over the past five years? Why is Ahmad Ludhianvi, the chief of Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamaat (ASWJ), the political face of the banned terrorist outfit Sipah-e-Sahaba, made statements like this on record: “At the moment I can raise a voice for my anti-Shia mission only at a local level and from my local mosque. But when I get the microphone in the [National] Assembly, the whole nation and the whole world will listen…” The Shia are being systematically exterminated merely for historical differences and not following the same pecking order for respecting the caliphs and the blessed companions as the Sunni Muslims. Believing one’s own interpretation of an ideology as the most accurate one is something we are all guilty of regardless of our liberal or conservative viewpoints. When said ideology happens to be a religious one, the debate over accurate interpretation becomes even more critical, for a consensus would help everyone decide who we can and can’t massacre.
Just like most debates, unanimous consensus is virtually impossible. Therefore, the violent segment of debaters uses excommunication and extermination as tools to enforce consensus. The blasphemy law is their most potent weapon. Picture this: If Christians started claiming that anyone not believing Jesus to be the son of God blasphemes and is therefore punishable by death, it would lead to global genocide, engulfing, among other religious communities, every single Muslim in the world. Does denying that Jesus is the son of God not constitute blasphemy according to the core teachings of Christianity? Does that not make every Muslim in the world a blasphemer according to Biblical laws? Does calling someone’s religious leader an imposter, not constitute blasphemy? Does mocking the worship of multiple deities not constitute blasphemy? Does believing your deity to be more exalted than someone else’s, your messenger to be more venerable than others’ not constitute blasphemy? Common sense alert: every single religion blasphemes against every other religion. If there were a globally sanctioned blasphemy law to guard religious sensitivities – as many Muslim countries have demanded – it would be the Muslim world that would be constantly under its gun. For, anti-Ahmadiyya statements would be blasphemous as well. All religious mudslinging against the “Yahood-o-Nisara” would be blasphemous as well. In fact a lot of our school curricula would be dubbed blasphemous for the anti-Hindu bile that it spews. The Muslim world believing that their religion is more superior than others’, uses the kindergarten logic of “my dad is better than yours”. A global blasphemy law is impossible, for, the blasphemy law is a pivotal tool for guarding a particular religious ideology’s status quo. A nationwide blasphemy law serves the same purpose. And in Muslim countries the law shields the apartheid and genocide of, among other communities, those that believe in the same prophet and the same God. - See more at: http://www.thefridaytimes.com/tft/blasphemy-101/#sthash.1Jqyran9.dpuf
I am pleased to learn that the Daily Times is bringing out a special supplement on the birth anniversary of Shaheed Salmaan Taseer to pay homage to the memory of a great humanist, an unswerving democrat and an astute political worker.
S. AKBAR ZAIDI
Its hegemony has been questioned and at times even challenged since 2007 by institutions which have not been able to do so until now
The general impression people outside Pakistan have of its military is that it is the most powerful institution there which determines every move by civilian representatives, particularly those who have supposedly been given the permission to be elected to higher office and govern the country. This perception may be more pronounced in India, where Mr. Nawaz Sharif’s recent visit for the swearing-in of Prime Minister Narendra Modi was seen as a very “bold move,” perhaps going against the military’s wishes, yet showing the mettle of the twice-dismissed elected Prime Minister of Pakistan. Little do people outside Pakistan know that in the last month, the social media in Pakistan — which is far from being a mere plaything in the hands of radicals and anti-military types — has been scoffing at Pakistan’s military for the situation it finds itself in today. From being an institution which governed and managed the entire country (for a decade, its two wings, the east and the west), it has now been reduced to one involved in issues as varied as imposing a ban on a television channel to preventing newspapers from a media house being distributed in cantonment areas. As a well-respected newspaper editor tweeted recently, “good to know the gens now have cable management as part of their job description. One would have thought DHAs [Defence Housing Authorities] & bakeries were enuff.” Another popular participant added, “used to be time when Pakistan army used to overthrow governments. Now they are overthrowing news channels. Sigh. How the mighty have fallen!” Changing political equation However, lest one is misled, this active and aggressive campaign against Geo by the military and the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) has some public support. Moreover, the first and immediate response to Mr. Sharif’s New Delhi visit was from a large number of Pakistani pro-military television anchors and so-called “security experts” appearing on talk shows, who gave the talks between the two leaders, and the subsequent statements a twist which only military minds could have constructed. They have already termed the visit to be a failure and have cast Mr. Sharif as a wimp. Some things have changed. Until around sometime in 2007, the question of what was the strongest institution in Pakistan was always met with the reply “the military”; it was unambiguous and did not call for any elaboration. For six decades after Independence, Pakistan’s military, specifically its Army, has reigned supreme over the political economy of Pakistan. However, since 2007, there has been not just far greater ambiguity regarding the question; for once, there are a number of possible answers as well. While the military is still powerful, it has now been forced to share the stage with at least two, possibly three, institutions which can make some valid and genuine claims to being powerful; perhaps not dominant, but at least vying for power, with varying degree, among a handful of contenders. The military’s hegemony has been questioned and at times even challenged since 2007 by institutions which have not been able to do so until now. The Judiciary, Parliament and to some degree, until recently, the media, have tried to assert their independence and sovereignty in the public and political domain, in effect pushing the military aside. The Supreme Judiciary, and the (now retired) Chief Justice of Pakistan, since 2008, have passed numerous judgments which have found the military as an institution — as well as serving and retired senior officers — guilty of treasonable offences. Many decisions and judgments are still pending and under review. Some of those which have already been made have not resulted in the officers concerned being imprisoned. But the fact that the Judiciary — which until recently has been a partner of the military in its anti-democratic political stance and decisions — is now in a position to be able to challenge the military and assert its own democratic and independent stance, is in itself significant in a country which has not seen such belligerent action. Parliament has also flexed its independent muscle after 2008, though, sadly, not enough to be able to demonstrate its right to govern while challenging the dominance of the military. The media, which has for the most part been a participant in this transition has been a tool for democratic forces to push out the military for its past anti-democratic behaviour and positions on many an occasion. The undisputed dominance of the military in the Pakistani political settlement has been successfully challenged; from being a hegemon, the military may at the moment be just a veto player, a huge transformation in Pakistan’s political economy. There is no clear dominant institution at this moment. For a country which has known military dominance for over six decades, these are extraordinary developments. The military is not what it once was in the eyes of the public nor in the equation which explains Pakistan’s political economy. Civil-military tensions There have been enough signs that the military’s hegemony has been broken, one being the largely symbolic indictment of General Pervez Musharraf himself. Yet, one needs to be reminded that such transitions, where civilian institutions begin to dominate and when the military recedes, can take years. In countries where the military has ruled for as long as two or three decades at a stretch, research has shown that it can be between eight to ten years before the military begins to reluctantly accept civilian supremacy and when it loses its supreme power. In the case of Indonesia, for example, it took almost a decade before the military lost even its power to veto key civilian decisions. We have not even completed six years of civilian transition, and war on our borders and within Pakistan gives greater legitimacy to military interference than in “normal” countries. Last month, Pakistani newspapers reported that General Headquarters had “convened” a meeting of the main economic ministers, including those handling finance, cmmerce, water and power, where they had to “satisfy the military leadership” over whether Pakistan should increase trade with India. This instance of interference by the military in sabotaging Pakistan’s trade policy is a sign that while the military is down and out, civilian supremacy and dominance over the military is still incomplete. What right does the military have to decide which country Pakistan should trade with? Under civilian control, Pakistan’s military needs to deal only with issues which affect security and Pakistan’s borders, and not about what consumers can buy and sell, or which country they can buy from and sell to. While civilian control over many institutions has been gradual, it continues to confront the military’s lingering supremacy in some areas. In the last two months, Pakistan has been engulfed by a major crisis between Pakistan’s largest media house, and the ISI and the military. The former has levelled allegations while the military and its clandestine institutions have hit back. As Hasan Zaidi, a Pakistani journalist wrote in The New York Times, “cable operators were informally pressured to take Geo off the air. Demonstrations, often by militant religious parties, suddenly began springing up all over Pakistan in support of the I.S.I. and against Geo — probably the first time anyone in the world has rallied to defend an intelligence agency.” This “tension” between one prominent pillar of civil society and Pakistan’s military has also rubbed off on relations between the military and the government for the government has been perceived to be taking sides against Pakistan’s valiant military in this latest stand-off, probably a correct assessment. The fact that a sitting elected government of Pakistan can be seen to take sides against the military is courageous enough and signifies a sense (perhaps a false one) of its presumed relative power over an institution which has dominated Pakistan unambiguously for so long. The military in Pakistan is also responsible for its fall from grace, after having had to explain the presence of Osama bin Laden in Pakistan, America’s night raid to kill him and numerous insider attempts to attack Pakistan’s military personnel. Also, Gen. Musharraf, by the time he was forced out in 2008, must share much of the blame for dragging the military through the mud. There is also a sense that the narrative in Pakistan may have shifted towards democracy, away from military rule — at least for the moment. Though Pakistan’s democratic dispensation is weak, it is still evolving and probably gaining strength. It needs to overcome the barriers put up by Pakistan’s armed forces who are waiting for civilians to trip over. It has avoided this for the moment, but the path is scattered with numerous challenges, especially by those related to civilian performance. Despite Pakistan military’s denuded power, it still remains an influence in public policy and has the ability to conduct another coup. While military-led governments in Pakistan have, ironically, benefitted India-Pakistan relations, they have been disastrous for Pakistan. Unlike India, where a military does not intervene in the workings of an elected government, in Pakistan it is a tradition that continues to persist. Pakistan’s political dispensation is in a process of transition, yet transitions are never automatic nor natural processes and require actors to show their agency as well. While the civil and democratic dispensation needs to speed up this transition and turn the corner once and for all, it will have to be far more assertive, efficient in delivering services and justice, and be a little less afraid.
It’s a sad week in the subcontinent as cruelty and discrimination against girls and women in the name of family honour, social stigma and caste system continued unabated, resulting in more sorrowful events. A three-month pregnant woman was stoned to death by her own family members, only because she married against their wishes. The couple was in the court to contest accusations by the woman’s family that she had been abducted (by her husband). Sad thing is the insensitivity of people around — general public, lawyers, court staff and the police — no one came forward to rescue the victim. Later Urdu print media preferred to brush aside the incident under the carpet. Two girls of ages 14 and 15 were abducted, raped, strangled and hanged from a tree. While knowing what’s going on, police refused to act and save the girls, only because girls were from a lower caste. Now all sorts of justifications are being forwarded on this inaction. Slavery might have been officially abolished across the globe but apparently the mentality which permits a human being to treat the other human of same God’s creation as slave has not changed. Perhaps it’s time for soul-searching. We need to rise above the shackles of culture and customs which somewhat wrongly find their roots in religion to justify their existence. All human beings are equal. If one doesn’t like to be stoned, raped and murdered, then why choose the same for others?
The Express Tribune News
Militants from across the border attacked a check post of the Pakistan Army in Bajaur, killing one official and injuring two others, Express News reported on Saturday. Military sources said that the Pakistan Army retaliated and as a result, 14 militants were killed. Gunship helicopters also took part in the retaliatory action, military sources further said. According to the sources, the attack took place at 5:15am today.
Shaheed Salmaan Taseer, former governor Punjab, was a brave man, rare politician, business tycoon and good human being. And earned respect in every sphere.
Today is May 31. It is on the calendar since the men started counting the days and nothing special in it for many but every one has conotation to the years and days and for the Taseers it is a very special day as their elder- Salmaan Taseer — was born on this date in 1944. Happy Birthday Salmaan Taseer. Salmaan Taseer, the son of soil, born in Simla, now in India, in a family hailing from Amritsar. Though his grandfather Mian Atta ud din was a peasant but he managed education for his son, Muhammad Din Taseer, commonly known as M.D. Taseer. M D Taseer was a a Professor at M.A.O. College, Amritsar and obtained his PhD in the United Kingdom.It is believed that he was the first Indian who got the first doctrate degree in English literature from UK. MD Taseer married to an English lady, Christobel George and , Nikah ceremony was officiated by Allama Muhammad Iqbal, a close friend of Taseer. The lady was later given name Bilqees was the sister of Alys Faiz, wife od famous poet and writer Faiz Ahmad Faiz. M.D. Taseer died, aged 47 years, in 1950, when hos only son Salmaan Taseer was merely six years ol. Salmaan and his two sisters were brought up by their mother, Bilqees, who struggled hard to meet the ends. The Taseers have many reasons to remember their elder but for a common man there is a lot to .love the Shaheed, Salmaan Taseer—his true and passionate love for Pakistan, his passion for life, his loyalty to his friends, co-workers and for all those who were hired by him for different projects, his lively attitude in the company of friends, his brilliance as a businessman, his witty response to his political rivals and above all his attachment for his family, wife, sons and daughter. The Shaheed spent his life very actively and had a great sense of humour as many who followed him on twitter always enjoyed his posts. His response to the events was always very clever. He has ability to enjoy the every moment of his life and was the man who could laugh on himself. He was a very hard working man and set up several chartered accountancy and managementconsultancy firms early in his career. He set up the First Capital Securities Corporation (FCSC), a full service brokerage house with equity participation by Smith Barney, Inc., USA, and HG Asia Hong Kong. He also founded the Worldcall group with a payphone network in 1996. He launched first business TV Chanel in Pakistan and was the publisher of the English language Daily Times and daily Aaj kal. Undoubtedly he was a matchless successful businessman. He was a committed politician and started his political from Zulfikar Ali Bhutto’s led Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) in the late 1960s. He was a part of the movement for Bhutto’s freedom and opposed his arrest and death sentence.]He also wrote a political biography on Bhutto titled Bhutto: A political biography (1980). He contested several elections to the national and political assemblies and was rturned to Punjab Assembly in 1988 from Lahore. In the 1990, 1993 and 1997 general elections, he stood for election to be an MNA but lost. He used to contest elections from a city which is considered a fort of Sharifs of Punjab and always challenged their political thoughts. He was not only jailed and tortured in General Ziaul Haq’s days but was kidnapped, tortured in democratic governmernt of Nawaz Sharif also In 2007, he was appointed the interim Federal Minister for Industries, Production and Special Initiatives. Despite tortures, arrests and unfavourable circumstances her stood of his stance and never betrayed his party and on 15 May 2008, was designated for the office of Governor of Punjab by the PPP-led coalition government. He was an educated Muslim and followed Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah’s vision for a modern Muslim country where each and every citizen has equal rights irrespective of religion, race or cast . He fought for those who could not stand for their rights. His services rendered for have- nots could never be forgotten. Being Governor of the province of the Punjab he made a record – the assembly paases bill and send to Governor for approval. The governor either signs the bill or return it with his comments. The first ever bill passed by the Punjab legislature was returned to the House by General (r) Tikka Khan, the governor of Punjab in 1990, a time when Nawaz Sharif was the chief minister (1988-90) and Benazir Bhutto was the prime minister. This bill could not be presented in the assembly for ‘reconsideration’ as the governor and the caretaker setup dissolved it. The second bill was returned by late governor Salmaan Taseer in 2010. The bill was ‘The Ali Institute of Education Lahore Act 2010’ pertaining to the establishment of the institution. The Punjab Assembly passed the bill and sent it to the then governor. He did not assent the bill and returned it with a suggestion - he asked the House to replace the words ‘vice chancellor’ with the word ‘patron’ written in clause 2e of the bill. Salmaan Taseer raised a very valid point, saying that the vice chancellor could be used in a university, since it was merely an institute, so the word should be patron. It was a valid point and the Punjab government accepted the change and made an amendment as per directed by the governor and got the House approval after reconsideration. The history shows that only Salmaan Taseer had a valid reason in returning a bill so far, which was accepted by the legislature admitting its mistake as there were dozens of bills returned by the governor but the asasembly reconsidered and passed again without changing even a single coma. Salmaan Taseer lived his life like a lion and died like a brave man voicing for those who could not speak. He was true believer of God and follower of the holy prophet but his words were misinterpreted by a section. “His views were widely misrepresented to give the false impression that he had spoken against Prophet Mohammad,”writes his daughter, Shehrbano Taseer.
Amna Taseer Thinking of Salmaan Taseer on the eve of his 70th bday. A great man, an even greater life. May he rest in peace. Am blessed to have the love and devotion of the greatest gift Salmaan Taseer gave me, my incredible kids , Shehryar Taseer, Shahbaz Taseer and Shehrbano Taseer. Shehryar Taseer I miss you Abba. you are alive in our hearts today. Shehrbano Taseer What I miss about my father is his sense of humour. I will never stop being proud of his courage and love for life.