Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Pakistan: A Young Christian Street Sweeper Barely Escapes Blasphemy Accusation

A Christian street sweeper saved by a Muslim Human Rights activist from the hands of a raging mob alleging him to have committed blasphemy.
Mansha Masih, young Pakistani Christian has been earning bread by scavenging the streets of Hajweri- a town of District Faisalabad. Mansha has been working for 15 years now and is illiterate. As the story unfolds that one day as he was picking up litter and leaves from abandoned houses in a street when a young Muslim named Billu accused him of defiling pages of the Holy Quran.Soon a raging mob rallied against the Christan street sweeper that was ready to carry out an extra judicial judgement upon the accused Christian, brutally beating him.
As revealed later that the pages were ripped up by two students. Following the rumours of a probable case of blasphemy committed by a Christian had promptly circulated in the town and a fanatical crowd was ready to punish Mansha even after the confession of two young men who had actually committed the crime. As reported the crowd was not willing to consider the plea of innocent Mansha Masih, who repeatedly stated that he was “illiterate” and “had done nothing wrong.” He claimed that he did not know the content of the verses printed on the papers.
As the mob was ready to kill him, a 26- year old Muslim Human Rights Activist Farhan Sadiq stepped forward and saved the innocent blasphemy accused from being killed. This young activist belonged to a network of pro human rights organization Human Rights Defenders Network. He seized the wounded Mansha from the hands of zealous mob and safely took him home. Later on he carried on an independent investigation to verify the facts presented by the accuser Billu. After careful investigation he was able to find out that the pages containing sacred verses were “desecrated” by two underage students in the area, who did not want to go to the local mosque and so they burned the books and most importantly Mansha was uneducated unable to read or write.
Suneel Malik- Director of Peace and Human Development Foundation ( Phd ) in an interview to an international news agency elucidates this incident as A “success” story with a happy ending thanks to the intervention of ” a Muslim activist, who saved the life of an innocent young Christian” who “is not even able to read”. He expressed hope that social and communal tolerance will increase in the Pakistani society in the days to come; specially the level of tolerance towards religious minorities living in Pakistan. - See more at: http://www.christiansinpakistan.com/a-young-christian-street-sweeper-barely-escapes-blasphemy-accusation/#sthash.BlNFEqFI.dpuf


Pakistan’s government should take all necessary measures to stop Sunni extremist groups in Balochistan province from committing further killings and other abuses against Hazara and other Shia Muslims, Human Rights Watch said in a report.
The 62-page report, “‘We are the Walking Dead’: Killings of Shia Hazaras in Balochistan, Pakistan,” documents Sunni militant group attacks on the mostly Shia Hazara community in Balochistan. Since 2008, several hundreds of Hazara have been killed in steadily worsening targeted violence, including two bombings in the provincial capital, Quetta, in January and February 2013 that killed at least 180 people.
“Sunni extremists have targeted Hazara with guns and bombs while they participate in religious processions, pray in mosques, travel to work, or just go about daily life,” said Brad Adams, Asia director. “There is no travel route, no shopping trip, no school run, no work commute that is safe for the Hazara. The government’s failure to put an end to these attacks is as shocking as it is unacceptable.”
The ongoing attacks have meant that the half-million members of the Hazara community in Quetta live in fear, compelled to restrict their movements, leading to economic hardship and curtailed access to education and employment. This oppressive situation has prompted large numbers of Hazara to flee Pakistan for refuge in other countries.
Human Rights Watch interviewed more than 100 survivors, members of victims’ families, law enforcement, security officials, and independent experts for the report.
Since 2008, Pakistan’s Shia Muslim community has been the target of an unprecedented escalation in sectarian violence as Sunni militants have killed thousands of Shia across the country. The Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ), group has claimed responsibility for most attacks, yet many of its leaders continue to play command and leadership roles and avoid prosecution or otherwise evade accountability. A number of convicted high-profile LeJ militants and suspects in custody have escaped from military and civilian detention in circumstances the authorities have been unable to explain.
On January 10, 2013, the suicide bombing of a snooker club in Quetta frequented by Hazaras killed 96 people and injured at least 150. Many of the victims were caught in a second blast 10 minutes after the first, striking those who had gone to the aid of the wounded. On February 17, 2013, a bomb exploded in a vegetable market in Quetta’s Hazara Town, killing at least 84 Hazara and injuring more than 160. The LeJ claimed responsibility for both attacks, the bloodiest attacks from sectarian violence in Pakistan since independence in 1947.
“It’s obscene that the Hazara community has been forced into a fearful and terrorized existence because the Pakistani authorities have failed to stop the LeJ’s violence,” Adams said. “But it’s beyond obscene that Pakistani authorities have suggested to Hazara that their severely curtailed rights are simply the price of staying alive.”
Civilian and military security forces deployed in Balochistan have done little to investigate attacks on Hazara or take steps to prevent the next attack. Many Hazara told Human Rights Watch that discriminatory attitudes and hostility towards them by elected officials and state security services are an important reason why such attacks go uninvestigated and unpunished.
The LeJ has also killed with increasing impunity members of the Frontier Corps paramilitary or police assigned to protect Shia processions, pilgrimages, and Hazara neighborhoods. While the Pakistani military and political authorities deny any complicity in the LeJ’s abuses or sympathy for its activities, the LeJ has historically benefitted from ties with elements in the country’s security services.
Pakistani and Balochistan authorities claim to have arrested dozens of suspects in attacks against Shia since 2008, but only a handful are known to have been convicted. Pakistan’s government should disband and disarm the LeJ and criminally investigate its leadership and others implicated in crimes. Pakistan’s international allies and donors should press the government to uphold its international human rights obligations and promote good governance by investigating sectarian killings in Balochistan and prosecuting all those responsible.
“Government officials and security forces need to understand that failure to tackle LeJ atrocities is no longer an option,” Adams said. “Inaction in the face of the slaughter of the Hazara and the wider Shia community is not only a callous betrayal of its own citizens, but suggests state complicity in allowing these crimes to continue.”

Pakistan: Army continues ground operation in NWA

As Pakistan Army on Monday formally announced to have kicked off ground offensive against the militants in the region killing at least 15 more terrorists in parts of NWA.
More than 270 alleged terrorists including fair number of fugitives, it may be recalled have been mowed down in the strikes by the PAF planes that had come into action from the day one of the Operation Zarb-e-Azb and have been pounding militants’ hideouts. However, the security forces claimed to have been waiting for the complete evacuation of the more than six lacs civilian population from the agency before starting the ground operation in order to avoid the collateral damages.
According to Inter Services Public Relations the Pakistan Army has started the ground operation in and around Miranshah after evacuation of the civilian population. The army has started a house-to-house search in Miranshah which is being carried out by infantry troops and special service group. “After evacuation of all civil population, ground operation started in Miran Shah today. Troops enter town for house to house search,” Director General ISPR, Maj. Gen. Asim Saleem Bajwa tweeted on Monday.
An ISPR press release said 15 terrorists had been killed in the ground offensive while troops have recovered underground tunnels and IED preparation factories inside. Three soldiers were injured in an exchange of fire adding the terrorists concentrations continue to be targeted by artillery fire, tanks and other heavy weapons in Mir Ali and other areas of North Waziristan.
“The special contingents of the Pak army led security forces, reports say, have been conducting thorough door to door search as fifteen terrorists were killed in ground action in and around the NWA headquarters on Monday while three troops also sustained injuries in exchange of fire with the miscreants”, military sources said adding the forces also seized factories manufacturing the landmines and the locally made bombs.
According to ISPR statistics since the start of Zarb-e-Azb on 15th June, 376 terrorists have beenkilled while 19 have surrendered to security forces. The Pakistan military has destroyed 61 terrorist hideouts while 17 soldiers embraced martyrdom during the two weeks of surgery.
The army’s infantry troops and Special Services Group conducted door-to-door searches in Miramshah town to ensure that the civilian population had evacuated the area.
The ISPR statement added, “Meanwhile integrated fire of artillery, tanks and other heavy weapons is being carried out on terrorist concentrations in Mirali and other areas. Effective cordon is in place at other areas housing terrorists.”

Pak-Afghan accord

The convergence of different ideas, groups, or societies is the process by which they stop being different and become more similar. The convergence of opinion that terrorism is a common threat to both Afghanistan and Pakistan expressed through a joint statement following Dr Spanta's meetings with Pakistani officials is not entirely a new development except for its arguably profound timeliness. The two sides seemed to have realised that those who were their proxies yesterday are their rivals today and insist on reversing the role both for governance in Kabul and Islamabad. Early this week, the Afghan government found it hard to fight back a massive attack by Taliban in Helmand, bringing home the reality that a war the US-led coalition claimed is over has only begun. For Pakistan, success in war over Taliban did come but only in miserly measures. Not that our forces couldn't defeat terrorists, they could always but other 'considerations' came in the way and never before was a comprehensive military operation allowed by the governments of the day. In North Waziristan Agency, there were the 'good' Taliban, the Haqqani Network and others like Mulla Gul Bahadar, who on the one hand signed peace agreements with the government, and on the other played generous host and provided protection to al Qaeda fighters. It took time, and quite a few precious lives, for the government to realise that a lack of action against them meant giving milk to snake. Then there were these peace-preachers who worked hard, and initially succeed in keeping the terrorist sanctuaries safe from any retaliatory action. But that was not to be, a time came when the government was left with no other option but to go for a full-fledged war on these enemies of the state. The baggage of a bitter past has proved to be too heavy to shoulder-carry any longer, a fact reflected through Karzai government's prompt response to Nawaz Sharif's letter delivered by Mehmood Khan Achakzai by sending here a high-level team headed by his national security advisor to set in motion a joint approach towards terrorism.
Terrorists have so far survived by seeking shelter across the common border that is the crux of the understanding that has finally dawned on both sides. Now that both sides have agreed to stop this crisscrossing of terrorists the sanctuaries are expected to run dry of fresh arrivals with a renewed zeal. But there is the imperative of going hard on presently existing sanctuaries and hideouts. On the Pakistani side terrorists have been encircled by troops and their escape is difficult. But on the Afghan side not much seemed to have done against terrorist sanctuaries. In the bordering provinces of Kunar and Nuristan the anti-Pakistan terrorists enjoy refuge of a protected sanctuary, which they use as a launching pad for their murderous forays into Pakistan. Hopefully, the first and foremost task before the joint working group on security agreed to during Dr Spanta's visit should be the complete elimination or Kabul may arrest them and send them to Pakistan. More than any other the Fazlullah group has with it to throw a spanner in the works. The ongoing military operation 'Zarb-i-Azb' in North Waziristan has been rightly described by the ISPR chief Major-General Asim Bajwa as Pakistan's "war for survival". It got to be won, there is just no alternative. By helping Pakistan at this juncture Afghanistan leadership would be fighting the same war for their national survival. Afghanistan too cannot afford to lose it; Kabul, therefore, must seize, not squander, this enormous opportunity.

Pakistan: To be a woman is a sorry thing

It seems that being a woman is fast turning into a curse in Pakistan. In another heartbreaking case, an 18-year-old girl has been doused with petrol and set on fire in a village in Toba Tek Singh, Punjab, by a jilted young man who was denied her hand in marriage. Storming into her house while her parents were away on Saturday, he burned her so horrifically that she died before reaching the hospital. While this is not a crime of ‘honour killing’ per se as the girl was murdered because of a rejected man’s ego, it can be classified in the same league because it underscores the fact that women are thought to be no more than male property to be bartered, oppressed and done with as pleased. If he could not marry her, he made sure that no one else would either. This murder comes just days after a particularly heinous honour killing in which a couple were beheaded by the girl’s family for marrying without their consent. A public beheading in Sialkot, a young pregnant woman stoned to death outside the busy Lahore High Court (LHC) and this most recent incident are just the tip of the iceberg. It is terrifying the speed with which these crimes are increasing in Pakistan — or maybe the media has decided to become more sensitive to the issue and is reporting honour crimes more diligently. Even the international community is watching in horror the sorry situation of our women, going so far as to label us with having an “honour killing epidemic”.
With this spike in honour deaths, are we seeing a corresponding response by our government and law enforcement agencies? Not in the least. The government seems to have completely absolved itself of all responsibility in protecting its girls and women. The reason is probably two-fold: allowance of the use of the Qisas and Diyat laws, in which murder can be settled outside the courts with the payment of ‘blood money’, and the fact that such crimes are considered ‘family matters’. This mindset permeates the police force also, which does not bother to investigate these crimes, hardly ever bringing the perpetrators to book. Hence, honour crimes go unpunished in Pakistan leading to greater impunity for other men to commit such atrocities against the women under their sway. Nothing is being done to even educate society against this menace due to which our sisters, mothers and daughters are being killed on what appears to be a daily basis. The government needs to step up and take note of the worrying statistics on honour crime and do away with the use of discriminatory laws, which enable murderers to get off scot-free without fear of punishment. We really are in the midst of an epidemic but no one seems to be willing to find a cure.