Friday, October 17, 2014

Bilawal Bhutto Set for First Public Rally in Karachi
Pakistan People’s Party chief Bilawal Bhutto Zardari is set to launch his political career in a big way by holding his first public rally here on Saturday as security arrangements were in place anticipating a massive turnout.
The rally is being held on October 18, the day Bilawal’s mother and slain Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto returned to Pakistan after eight years in exile in 2007 and was attacked in twin blasts at Shahrah-i-Faisal.
Militant groups had attacked Benazir’s rally, killing about 140 people and injuring over 400 others.
Political analysts say that Bilawal has made a calculated decision to hold the rally on October 18 to launch his political career in a big way and present himself as the true successor to the Bhutto’s political dynasty.
Security arrangements have been made for the first public rally of the 26-year-old Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) chairperson.
The PPP, which is the ruling party in the southern Sindh province, is optimistic about a massive turnout for the rally which will be held at the Bagh-e-Jinnah, a public park adjacent to Muhammad Ali Jinnah’s mausoleum.
Seating arrangements have been made for about 150,000 people.
“It is a huge occasion for the party as this will be Bilawal’s first public rally in Karachi and also the first big rally by the PPP in the city after a long time,” Sindh information minister Sharjeel Memon said.
“Around 20,000 vehicles will come from interior parts of Sindh and party supporters are also coming by trains from other parts of the country for the rally,” Memon added.
Bilawal and the PPP have promised a historic turnout on Saturday.
Security for the rally was already being put in place from today with roads and even by-lanes leading to the Bagh-e-Jinnah being closed with containers.
“There should be around 3000 policemen and paramilitary rangers as part of the security plan for the rally,” a government official said. Bilawal, Bhutto visited the rally site today with other party leaders to review the arrangements.

PPP Chairperson Bilawal Bhutto visited Bagh-e-Jinnah, reviews arrangements
Pakistan Peoples Party chairman Bilawal Bhutto visited Bagh-e-Jinnah and reviewed the arrangements for October 18 public rally.
Bilawal, accompanied by party leaders, inspected the venue and was briefed on security arrangements.
Strict security arrangements have been put in the place for the rally with a state of the art control room stationed at the venue. The control room will be used to track all the cameras placed at the rally.
The use of drone cameras has also been prohibited during the rally.
Preparations for PPP rally scheduled for October 18 in Bagh-e-Jinnah near the mausoleum of Quaid-e-Azam have begun. More than three thousand members of PPP will perform duties to ensure security during the rally.

Christians are fleeing from Pakistan where Gul Sher will flee?

By Nazir S Bhatti
Today in a meeting with a friend, when I told him that Dr. Paul Bhatti, former Religious Harmony Minister and brother of Martyr Shahbaz Bhatti has fled from Pakistan after life threats from Punjabi Talban on pursuing case of Shahbaz Bhatti murder in anti-terrorist court.
My friend was not surprised on Dr. Paul Bhatti’s re-settlement in Italy but he raised very important question: Where Gul Sher will flee, who was driver of Shahbaz Bhatti and eye witness of killing incident of his boss Shahbaz Bhatti?
It was morning of March 2, 2011, in capital city of Pakistan; Gul Sher was waiting alongside car on door of house of mother of Martyr Shahbaz Bhatti which was not his official residence as Federal Minister for Minorities Affair; It is 11: 15 AM, Shahbaz Bhatti, Federal Minister of government of Pakistan, appears from house of his mother and directs his driver Gul Sher to head for Prime Minister House where he had to participate in Cabinet meeting; but before reaching PM House, he have to go to his official residence where Police was waiting for him to escort on daily schedule. It is 11:20 AM, before reaching to official residence where police escort was waiting, the vehicle of Federal Minister Shahbaz Bhatti slows down on a road speed breaker, then suddenly, gunmen stop car of Shahbaz Bhatti and order Gul Sher to get out of car and run to save his life. The gunmen spray bullet on Shahbaz Bhatti and wait to ensure that he is dead; the killers, then, put pamphlets written by Punjabi Talban on dead body of Shahbaz Bhatti which warn others to not speak against blasphemy law. It is on record that Gul Sher, driver of Shahbaz Bhatti, saw faces of killers and became a credible witness of the killing incident.
After murder of Shahbaz Bhatti, a joint investigating team of Islamabad police was constituted by government of Pakistan which instead of arresting terrorists of Punjabi Talban started harassing activists of All Pakistan Minorities Alliance APMA which was led by Martyr Shahbaz Bhatti; the police picked up Gul Sher also and tortured him for weeks to record a statement or confession that killers were Christians; later, Gul Sher was released from police torture cell on instructions to keep silent.
The government of Pakistan and Joint Investigation Team of Shahbaz Bhatti murder case was fully aware that Punjabi Talban are involved in killing of Shahbaz Bhatti and knew their hide outs in Punjab but stretched their investigation towards Christian activists of APML and Gul Sher who was driver of slain Christian leader.
The mother of Shahbaz Bhatti and family servant were awarded asylum by Canadian government who migrated to Canada but Gul Sher who was eye witness of killing incident and next target of Punjabi Talban was ignored.
When I talked last with khalid Gill who was Chief Organizer of All Pakistan Minorities Alliance APMA led by Shahbaz Bhatti and harassed by joint investigation team of Islamabad in murder inquiry of Shahbaz Bhatti. Mr. khalid Gill is one who invested millions of his family funds to organize APMA to strength leadership of Martyr Shahbaz Bhatti reached Canada in year 2013 and applied for asylum to save his life but he is facing difficulties which is causing depression on him when Mr. Gill is patient of high blood pressure and feeling unsafe in Canada even where some elements are propagating against him that he may not get asylum.
The very important question still stands very big; where Gul Sher will go to save his life who is eyewitness of killing spree of Shahbaz Bhatti but in hiding in Pakistan? While Paul Bhatti settles back in Italy and family of Shahbaz Bhatti along with family servants is settled in Canada.
There are thousands of Christians who are fleeing from Pakistan after persecution and life threats who are waiting for their case approvals from UNO offices in Sri-Lanka, Thailand, Hong Kong and Malaysia in very desperate situation which require attention of UNHRC but what’s future of Pakistani Christians: its big question mark like question of Gul Sher?

Pakistan: Ahmadiyya spokesperson says Ahmadis will not be intimidated, demands govt action

Saleem ud Din, the Ahmadiyya spokesperson in Pakistan, issued a press release yesterday expressing great grief and sadness at the latest murder of a well-known Ahmadi in Kamra, dist. Attock in Punjab.
Victim, Mr Latif Aalam Butt, 62, was killed outside his house in the evening hours on October 15 by unknown assailants who repeatedly fired at him.
Saleem ud Din said the incident represented a continuation of religiously motivated violence against Ahmadis. "Ahmadis are constantly on the receiving end of vicious threats and edicts of death."
"They [Ahmadis] are told that unless they turn away from their beliefs they will face persecution," he added.
Saleem ud Din declared Ahmadis would not be intimidated "by such cowardly attacks." He further added that in order to stop these sorts of incidents, the government should ban hate material against Ahmadis and take measures against those who distribute it.
Saleem ud Din demanded the arrest of those responsible for this crime so that they could swiftly be brought to justice. "Hundreds of Ahmadis are killed for their faith yet no one is ever charged for their murder which suggests a grievous degree of negligence on the part of the authorities."
Victim, Mr Latif Aalam Butt is survived by a wife, four sons and a daughter.
"He was an extremely kind, loving and pious man who harboured no enmity against anyone," said Saleem ud Din in the press release.
Remains of Latif Aalam Butt were brought to Rabwah where they were laid to rest yesterday.

White Cane Day: Balochistan doing little for visually impaired

The government of Balochistan is denying the right to education and employment to visually impaired persons, the Pakistan Association of the Blind (PAB) said on Wednesday as it observed White Cane Day. The provincial government is not implementing the quota of jobs allocated for blind people in Balochistan, PAB said.
Addressing a news conference at Quetta Press Club on Wednesday, President of PAB’s Balochistan chapter Qari Saki Mohammed said it is regrettable that blind people in Balochistan are denied the opportunity to show their talents in any profession. “There is merely a quota of two per cent for blind people in Balochistan and even this is not being implemented,” he said.
He cited the example of the Sindh police, where more than 800 blind people are included in the institution. In comparison, only four visually impaired people from Balochistan have been recruited to the police – less than one per cent.
He pointed out that there is only one education center catering to special needs individuals in Balochistan. “There should be schools at a district level across Balochistan to provide such students with equal opportunities for education,” he said.
He demanded that the government provide employment to educated blind people within the education department so the education system could be improved.

Pakistan: 10 militants killed in Khyber Agency

Ten terrorists were killed and several others injured during an operation carried out by security forces in Khyber Agency. According to sources, the security forces continued their operation against militants in Tirah Valley of Khyber Agency where clashes continued in Aka Khel area until the last report was filed. During clashes, ten terrorists were killed while several others were injured. Security forces also gained control of the border check post. Security forces continued operation to gain control of the Shah Kot check post.

Pakistan: Asia Bibi - Presumed Guilt

Asia Bibi’s appeal to the Lahore High Court was denied on Thursday, and the death penalty accorded to her still stands despite her lawyers citing lack of evidence to convict her of blasphemy. An appeal to the Supreme Court is the next step her lawyers will take, and might lead to charges being dropped as for Ayub Masih in 2002. But the fact remains that Asia Bibi has been in jail since 2010, and it may take years for the case to be cleared.
Courts in Pakistan must start recognising the fallibility of sworn testimonies. Asia Bibi was convicted on the basis of the testimony of a cleric and other women in the village, even though charges should also be leveled against her accusers for first marginalizing her and then using courts to settle their personal scores against a mother of five. The lack of proper investigative techniques means that evidence is often doctored, and witnesses coerced for personal or ideological reasons in order to spin the case one way or another.
The flaws in the blasphemy law, the repercussions they have against anyone who has been accused of blasphemy and the amount of cases that have little or no evidence proving that blasphemy was committed, mean that a revision of the laws is due. The law is based on the principal of innocent until proven guilty, yet in the case of blasphemy charges, the guilt of those that have been charged is accepted as fact, long before the case even goes to court, with the public often stepping in to execute their own brand of vigilante justice. The nation lost two giants- Punjab Governor Salmaan Taseer and minorities minister Shahbaz Bhatti- for vocalising the injustice accorded to Asia Bibi. Thus the case is both high pressure and high profile. Historically, when this is the case, politics and religiosity contaminate the judicial process. The LHC upholding the death penalty for Asia Bibi is an instance of that contamination, and a grave disrespect to those who have already given up their lives for the path of justice and equal humanity.

Pakistan is sliding toward extremism

By Farahnaz Ispahani and Nina Shea
The decision to award Malala Yousafzai the Nobel Peace Prize last week was a good one. After all, the 17 year-old, who was named a joint winner with along with Kailash Satyarthi, personifies the struggle for modernity, women’s equality and individual rights to religious freedom against the threat of Islamic extremism. But while Malala’s award is a triumph for her determination, it is far from clear that the cause she champions will meet as much success.
The reality is that Pakistan is facing a serious problem, with the mushrooming of Islamist appeal within Pakistani society reminding us that we risk seeing the Talibanization not simply of a small minority of ordinary citizens, but large swathes of the populace of the world’s second largest – and only nuclear-armed – Muslim country.
Pakistan abounds with violent sectarian and Islamist groups headquartered in semiautonomous tribal areas. Foreign jihadists, including Westerners like American David Headley, flock to areas such as North Waziristan. Yet although Islamabad devotes a full third of its armed forces to the northwest of the country, it is also pursuing policies that encourage a mainstream slide toward extremism.
State laws and practices relating to Islamic blasphemy, in particular, are increasingly suppressing moderate voices, while allowing extremists to dominate cultural discourse and learning. As a result, extremism is making ideological inroads into wider and wider segments of the population.
A shocking example came last month with the drive-by shooting of Muhammad Shakeel Auj, dean of Islamic Studies at the venerable Karachi University. Auj had earned a PhD after writing a comparison of eight Urdu translations of the Quran. But some found offense in his “liberal” religious views as he passionately denounced terrorism and suggested that Muslim women could pray wearing lipstick and could marry non-Muslims. Over the past two years, Auj has been subject to a barrage of blasphemy accusations, fatwas, and death threats, including that he will be beheaded. Particularly troubling is that four of his own faculty members were allegedly behind some of the threats. They were arrested, but soon released on bail. As one obituary writer commented, Auj’s murder shows that now “even the most mainstream Sunni voices will not be tolerated.” Junaid Hafeez, another university professor, may soon be sentenced to death by the state. Charged with insulting the Prophet Mohammed on Facebook, he is now on trial for the capital crime of blasphemy. Yet the charge is based entirely on oral testimony of students linked to the hardline Jamaat-i-Islami party.
Hafeez has reportedly found it difficult to find a lawyer willing to defend him, not least because those who manage to secure an acquittal for accused blasphemers run the risk of being seen as blasphemers themselves. And while the state doesn’t penalize such defense lawyers, it also does little to protect them or punish their extrajudicial killers either. For example, while after his first two lawyers quit following death threats, Hafeez was able to hire Rashid Rehman, a senior lawyer with Pakistan’s Human Rights Commission. But on May 7, Rehman was shot dead in his office. His killers remain at large.
Liberal Muslim educators, lawyers, and human rights activists aren’t the only victims of the country’s anti-blasphemy codes. Often targeted are the Ahmadis, an as many as 5 million strong, well-educated community that professes faith in Islam, but which is not deemed Muslim under Pakistan’s constitution. The sect’s tenets renounce violent jihad and embrace the separation of mosque and state, as well as religious pluralism. They now account for 40 percent of blasphemy prosecutions, which also disproportionately target Christians, Shia, and Hindus. Such extremism has touched us personally. Our friends Shahbaz Bhatti, the former Minority Affairs Minister, and Salman Taseer, Punjab’s former governor, were both outspoken critics of the blasphemy conviction of Christian mother Asia Bibi, and both were gunned down in 2011. The Lahore High Court on Thursday upheld the death sentence against Asia Bibi.
The blasphemy law was originally introduced to appease extremists, but has instead stimulated an appetite for more. As Bhatti noted: “This law is creating disharmony and intolerance in our society.” He is right – it legitimizes and enflames religious passions over speech, while providing extremists a platform within the very heart of Pakistani society.
American drones are now aiming at Pakistan’s northwest terrorist snake pit. But there is no military solution to the blasphemy law. And while it is only right that we celebrate Malala’s Nobel award, we also cannot forget the growing numbers of Pakistanis that take no pride in such an achievement.

Pakistani Christian Woman’s Appeal of Death Sentence Is Rejected

The Lahore High Court of Appeals on Thursday upheld the death sentence of a Pakistani Christian woman in a high-profile blasphemy case and dismissed her appeal for acquittal.
The defendant, Asia Bibi, 47, a farmworker, was sentenced to death in 2010 after being convicted of blasphemy. She has denied the accusations, which she said stemmed from a dispute with Muslim co-workers.
Ms. Bibi now plans to appeal the decision in the country’s Supreme Court, said her lawyer, Naeem Shakir. But given huge backlogs at the court, analysts said it would probably be at least three years before the appeal would be taken up.
The ruling was the latest chapter in a long ordeal for Ms. Bibi, whose case has focused international attention on how Pakistan’s blasphemy laws have become a weapon against religious minorities.
It was also a factor in the 2011 assassination of Salman Taseer, the governor of Punjab Province who vociferously campaigned for Ms. Bibi’s release and for overhaul of the blasphemy codes. Religious conservatives were outraged by Mr. Taseer’s advocacy, and he was shot dead by his police security guard in Islamabad. Months later, his son Shahbaz Ali Taseer was kidnapped by Taliban militants and his whereabouts is still unknown.
Meanwhile, Ms. Bibi has languished in prison, and successive governments have been reluctant to touch the issue.
Death sentences have rarely been carried out in blasphemy cases, but that is in part because such allegations have frequently led to deadly vigilante attacks on the accused or their lawyers.
The Lahore courtroom was packed with clerics and members of extremist groups who supported the prosecution, and they erupted in celebration upon hearing the two-judge panel’s decision to dismiss Ms. Bibi’s appeal. “Let us celebrate by distributing sweets!” said one cleric who was reciting verses from the Quran throughout the almost two-and-a-half-hour court proceeding.
“I am very happy,” said Qari Salaam, a co-worker of Ms. Bibi’s and the main complainant in the case. “The judges have given a verdict on merit, and Asia deserved it.”
He and other farmworkers accused Ms. Bibi of shouting insults against the Prophet Muhammad. But she and her family deny that, saying the workers decided to lash out at her because a manager had ordered her to bring water out to the workers, and they refused to drink from bowls she had touched.
Joseph Francis from the Center for Legal Aid Assistance and Settlement, an group that works for minority rights, called the ruling a bad decision that had been forced by religious extremists.
“The court had already made its mind to dismiss the appeal, and the presence of Muslim extremist groups in the court further undermined justice,” Mr. Francis said.
Ms. Bibi’s husband, Ashiq Masih, expressed disappointment after the verdict.
“We were hoping for some relief, but alas,” Mr. Masih said as he left the court.

Pakistan: PPP to raise in NA issue of migration from Balochistan
The Pakistan Peoples Party has decided to raise in the National Assembly the issue of unprecedented migration of people of different communities from Balochistan.
The PPP’s legislators Dr Nafisa Shah, Shahida Rehmani, Dr Azra Fazal, Imran Zafar Leghari and Ejaz Hussain Jakhrani have submitted a call attention notice to the National Assembly Secretariat about the reported migration of over 300,000 people from Balochistan. They said lack of response from the government over the serious matter was a cause for concern. “We want to know why such a huge number of people have migrated from Balochistan and what steps are being taken by the government to deal with the situation,” Mr Leghari told Dawn.
He agreed that people had begun to migrate from the province during the tenure of the PPP-led government, but said the problem grew worse in the last 18 months.
The MNA said the PPP wanted to know about the government’s point of view on the crisis.He said it was the general impression that people were leaving Balochistan because of the poor security situation there.
“If this is true then why the government does not hold negotiations with the elements involved in killing innocent people. If negotiations can be held with the Taliban then why not with Baloch separatists and tribal people,” he added.
Mr Leghari said there were intelligence reports that India was involved in the unrest and patronising extremists and terrorists there. He said the government of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif had failed to raise the issue at the national and international forums. According to the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP), more than 300,000 people, including Shias and Hindus, have fled Balochistan over the past 10 years due to the growing unrest there.
Media reports quoted an office-bearer of the HRCP as saying that Hazaras were hit particularly badly by the unrest, with over 200,000 of the community’s members relocating to the country’s other areas or going abroad.
At least 24 Hazara pilgrims were killed in June when their bus was targeted by suicide bombers. Two devastating bombings in Quetta targeting Shias killed nearly 200 people last year. The responsibility for the attacks was claimed by Lashkar-i-Jhangvi.
Around 10,000 Hindus have reportedly migrated from areas of Balochistan after incidents of extortion, kidnapping for ransom and killing.
About 300 Parsi families and 400 members of the Zikri sect have also left the province. Another 90,000 people who fled from the province are from Punjabi or Urdu speaking families.