Sunday, October 26, 2014

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Punishment for sexual assault in Iran: Execution of victim!

By Arthur MacMillan
Iran hanged Saturday a woman convicted of murdering a former intelligence officer she claimed had tried to sexually assault her, defying international appeals for a stay of execution.
Reyhaneh Jabbari, 26, who had been on death row for five years, was put to death at dawn, the official IRNA news agency quoted the Tehran prosecutor's office as saying.
A message posted on the homepage of a Facebook campaign set up to try to save her noted the "sad news" of her death, adding the words "Rest in Peace" alongside pictures of Jabbari as a young child.
Amnesty International said in a statement issued late Friday that the young Iranian woman, an interior designer, was due to be executed for the 2007 stabbing of Morteza Abdolali Sarbandi.
Iranian actors and other prominent figures had appealed for a stay of execution, echoing similar calls in the West.
Iran's judiciary had given several deadlines for Sarbandi's family to spare Jabbari under an Islamic sharia law provision that allows a death sentence for murder to be commuted to a prison sentence with the agreement of the victim's family.
But relatives of Sarbandi, a 47-year-old surgeon who earlier worked for the intelligence ministry, refused to grant clemency, demanding, according to Iranian media, that Jabbari tell "the truth."
A UN human rights monitor said the killing came in self-defence after Sarbandi tried to sexually abuse Jabbari, and that the condemned woman's trial in 2009 had been deeply flawed.
But a medical report, prepared for the judiciary and quoted by IRNA in its Saturday dispatch, said Sarbandi was stabbed in the back and that the killing had been premeditated.
Efforts for a commuted jail sentence had intensified in recent weeks but Sarbandi's family and Jabbari remained at loggerheads over the circumstances of the killing.
According to Jalal Sarbandi, the victim's eldest son, Jabbari testified that a man was present in the apartment where his father was killed but she had refused to reveal his identity.
He told two of Iran's reformist daily newspapers, Shargh and Etemad, in April that his family "would not even contemplate mercy until truth is unearthed," about her alleged accomplice.
Jabbari's mother was allowed to visit her for one hour on Friday, Amnesty said, a custom that tends to precede executions in Iran.
According to the United Nations, more than 250 people have been executed in Iran since the beginning of 2014.
The UN and international human rights groups have said that Jabbari's confession was obtained under intense pressure and threats from Iranian prosecutors, and that she should have had a retrial.
Ahmed Shaheed, the UN's human rights rapporteur on Iran, said in April that Sarbandi had offered to hire Jabbari to redesign his office and took her to an apartment where he sexually assaulted her.
However, Sarbandi's family dismissed her account and said Jabbari had confessed to buying a knife two days before the killing.

Should the West stop intervening in the Middle East?

By Nahlah Ayed
Is military intervention only provoking more radicalism, or have we passed the point of no return?
Is it right for Western nations to intervene abroad using military force? There are few questions in our time that are as incendiary.
There are also few questions where both a yes and no answer can lead to comparably catastrophic consequences.
No need to look beyond Iraq for a particularly tragic example. A misguided intervention there not only set a war-torn country on a destructive path, it also played its part in creating the space for extremist organizations to thrive and recruit supporters, including alienated, radicalized youth from the West willing to sow destruction at home.
But the question of intervention still comes up repeatedly, and one way or another the tough choices are made.
Canada, for one, chose not to participate in George W. Bush's Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2003. But it did sign on for Libya in 2011, sending in a squadron of six F-18s as part of a NATO-led coalition.
And now Canada's planes are back again in the region, to join the U.S.-led campaign against the murderous group known as ISIS, which has created a so-called Islamic state straddling Syria and Iraq, and which at least partly grew out of the mess in Iraq — and, indirectly, Libya.
Back up three years, what would you have done?
How to respond when the rebels of Benghazi, freedom fighters as the West saw them, begged the world to come to their aid, as forces loyal to the notorious Moammar Gadhafi regime, bent on a bloodbath, closed in.
Many world leaders, including Canada's Stephen Harper, agreed that leaving these Libyans prey to a regime that had long oppressed them simply wasn't an option.
These leaders also felt that an oil-rich nation such as Libya couldn't be left to tear itself apart.
Mission creep
At the time, the case for intervening in Libya appeared compelling. What the participants may not have known was how it would later limit their ability to intervene in even more compelling situations, such as Syria's civil war.
The stated mission in Libya was to create and enforce a no-fly zone to protect civilians from the regime's air attacks.
But it went beyond that. And it ultimately encouraged the revolutionaries and led directly to regime change. Three years ago this week saw the gruesome, desert execution of Gadhafi.
Most Western capitals were happy to see the last of him, and so was much of the Middle East, even if it was done with the help of the much-despised "foreign intervention."
So none of the Western participants were particularly threatened for taking part. There were no calls for attacks abroad in retaliation.
But Russia was outraged. President Vladimir Putin called it a "planned murder." Among the litany of Putin grudges against NATO and the West, this would rank close to the top.
That mistrust would harden Putin's position, and make it virtually impossible for the West to intervene in the affairs of his remaining allies.
No need to look further than his staunch support for Syria's Bashar al-Assad. Russia always supported Syria’s Baathist regime, but the Libya experience meant Putin's support for Assad would be total, even in the face of all the death, displacement and destruction — including the use of chemical weapons.
So the options for the West — save for engaging in a proxy war by helping anti-Assad forces — were narrowed from the start. Even Barack Obama's "red line" on the use of chemical weapons failed to lead to intervention, because Moscow stood in the way.
"Once chemical weapons were used with impunity, and there was still no confrontation, the conflict reached the point of no return," said Payam Akhavan, a renowned Canadian human rights lawyer.
“Now there is a situation that will destabilize the region for many years," he says, because of the extremists forces that have emerged. He called the unwillingness to intervene a “gross failure of leadership.”
In short, the Syrian civil war has cost tens of thousands of lives, and the resulting mess ultimately made it possible for ISIS to flourish.
Soon, the question for the Western powers became, should war be declared on ISIS in the so-called Islamic state it claims to have created?
The answer has been a resounding yes. Some 60-plus countries have signed up. And that has been effectively used by ISIS and its supporters to argue that the West continues to wage war against Islam.
In an audio recording last month, a spokesman called for attacks on members of the anti-ISIS coalition, specifically mentioning Canada. This week, just as Canada's CF-18s left to join the fight, we saw two attacks on Canadian soldiers on home soil, with at least one of them directly inspired by ISIS recruiting.
A trail of radicalization
No Western country has been immune from the radicalization that the so-called war on terror has left in its wake. Even Canada saw its first high-profile examples in Xristos Katsiroubas and Ali Medlej, two young friends from London, Ont., who joined in an Islamist-led plot against foreigners at an oil refinery in the Algerian desert a year ago.
Today, a number of Canadians are known to be fighting with ISIS in Syria; many more trying to get there, and others presumably are inspired and might act at home. Some 500 Britons have also left to join ISIS. Belgium apparently boasts the highest per capita number of citizens who now call the Islamic State home.
All of these adherents make the same argument: That attacks on the West are justified because the West insists on intervening in their affairs. They consider it war.
Should that dissuade Canada or other nations from intervening?
A few countries over from ISIS's so-called Islamic state, Libya is a right mess, thanks in part to the armed rebels NATO helped, but who now refuse to disarm, and constantly clash with each other and the new government.
Awkwardly, Canada's F-18s could soon be targeting some of those same rebels they helped out in Libya, who turned out to be natural recruits for ISIS.
Within view of those cockpits will also be parts of Syria where innocent people are being killed with impunity by Assad's loyalists. For them, there has been no intervention nor will there be.
Much of Iraq, the birthplace of the precursor to ISIS, remains wracked with violence.
Of course, today's harsh realities feel graver than what could have been had there been no intervention. We don't know how many more would have died in Benghazi. How many more disappeared in Baghdad.
So, is it right for Western nations to intervene abroad using military force? Especially in a region that has a long history of being allergic to it?
Could there have been a better way? Though all these options are debatable, we are now almost beyond the question. The West has intervened, and is intervening, and the pushback has now touched Canada at home.
Agree or not, we have entered an indeterminate period of turbulence.

Bahrain: Free Activists Facing Free-Speech Charges

Bahrain authorities should drop all criminal charges against two prominent human rights activists, and immediately release them, Human Rights Watch and the Gulf Center for Human Rights said today. The charges clearly violate their right to free expression. Bahrain should also immediately revoke all laws that violate freedom of speech, including those that criminalize insulting or defaming state institutions or the monarch.
Nabeel Rajab, one of Bahrain’s most prominent human rights defenders, is due in court on October 29, 2014, to face charges that he offended national institutions, and a possible three-year jail sentence. Zainab al-Khawaja, another leading human rights campaigner, could receive an even heavier sentence of up to seven years when she stands trial on October 30 on charges that she insulted the king of Bahrain. Among Bahrain’s main international allies, only the United States has called on the Gulf state’s government to drop the charges against Rajab and al-Khawaja and release them.
“These two courageous activists face years in jail for their peaceful criticism of a deeply repressive government, yet only the United States and Norway have made explicit calls for their release,” said Joe Stork deputy Middle East and North Africa director. “A lot of influential governments that vociferously champion free speech elsewhere seem to have become shamefully coy where rights violations in Bahrain are concerned.”
Rajab is the president of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights, a director of the Gulf Centre for Human Rights, and a member of the Human Rights Watch advisory committee. On October 19, he appeared in court for the first hearing of his trial on charges that comments he made on social media violated article 216 of Bahrain’s penal code.
Rajab criticized the government for using counterterrorism laws to prosecute human rights defenders and accused Bahraini security forces of fostering violent beliefs similar to those of the Islamic State, noting that a former Interior Ministry employee had joined the extremist Islamist group. In court, Rajab’s lawyer submitted evidence to support his claims, including a YouTube clip showing Mohamed Isa al Binali, a former security officer for Bahrain’s Interior Ministry, urging other security force members to join the Islamic State.
Sources who were at the hearing told Human Rights Watch that the prosecutor urged the court to convict Rajab because he had acknowledged making the comments that form the basis of the charge. The prosecutor accused Rajab of lying when he said he did not intend to offend anyone, and also accused him of hating Bahrain, the sources said.
Bahrain authorities have previously prosecuted Rajab on charges that violated his rights, including to free assembly. In July 2012 a criminal court sentenced him to three years in prison for organizing and participating in three demonstrations between January and March 2012. The authorities presented no evidence that Rajab advocated or engaged in violence. Rajab was released on May 24, 2014, after serving two years in prison.
Al-Khawaja, who is eight months pregnant, faces six charges, five of which, according to information provided by her lawyer, clearly violate her right to free expression. The other charge arises from her action in ripping up a photo of the king on October 14 during a court hearing at which she faced charges that related to two previous incidents when she tore up photographs of the king. In September 2012, she was sentenced to two months in prison for ripping up a photo of King Hamad. In early February 2013, she was imprisoned on charges that included illegal gathering and insulting police officers. She was released in February 2014.
On October 3, the UN’s Office of the High Commission for Human Rights called for Rajab’s immediate release. On October 14, Norway became the first country to call for Rajab’s immediate release. Two days later, a US State Department spokesperson made the same demand and on October 20, the US State Department also called for al-Khawaja’s immediate release.
France has urged the Bahrain government to respect freedom of expression and called for “clemency” in Rajab’s case but has not explicitly called for dropping the charges. Ireland has expressed its concern. The EU has made no public call for the release of either activist. The UK, a close ally of Bahrain, has made no unilateral calls for the release of any human rights activists or government critics there since the anti-government protests of 2011.
In April 2014, Hamad ratified law 1/2014, which amends article 214 of the penal code to provide for a maximum jail term of seven years and a fine of up to 10,000 Bahraini Dinars (US$26,500) for anyone deemed to have offended the king, Bahrain’s flag, or the national emblem. Article 216 of the penal code states that “A person shall be liable for imprisonment or payment of a fine if he offends by any method of expression the National Assembly, or other constitutional institutions, the army, law courts, authorities or government agencies.” Article 54 of the penal code provides for a maximum three-year sentence for these offenses, except where other penalties are specified.
The United Nations Human Rights Committee, which reviews state compliance with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, concluded in relation to article 19, on freedom of expression, that:
The mere fact that forms of expression are considered to be insulting to a public figure is not sufficient to justify the imposition of penalties, albeit public figures may also benefit from the provisions of the Covenant. Moreover, all public figures, including those exercising the highest political authority such as heads of state and government, are legitimately subject to criticism and political opposition.
The committee also stated that “States parties should not prohibit criticism of institutions, such as the army or the administration.” Bahrain has ratified the covenant.
“The silence of the UK, the EU, and others may result in Nabeel Rajab and Zainab al-Khawaja paying a further heavy cost for their activism,” said Khalid Ibrahim, co-director of the Gulf Center for Human Rights. “Bahrain and the Gulf region in general are quickly becoming the litmus test when it comes to states’ support for freedom of expression.”


Pakistan: PTI local leaders offended after Gujrat rally

Local leaders of the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf from the district are offended by the senior party leadership over treatment they received in the Oct 24 public meeting as half of the total 12 ticket holders were not allowed to sit on the main stage with Imran Khan while those present there were not allowed to even shake hands with the party chief before, at, or after the rally.
Sources in the party said before the arrival of the party chief at the Zahoor Elahi Cricket Stadium a senior party leader had issued special instructions to the PTI men from Gujrat, present at the main stage, regarding protocol which they did not like.
This had earlier been decided that most of the party ticket holders would take the main stage with Imran Khan but the district president reportedly changed the list at the eleventh hour by eliminating some names, including that of district secretary general Sharafat advocate, who was also a ticket holder from PP-113 Dinga.
Former Caretaker Chief Minister Mian Afzal Hayat, Chaudhry Saleem Sarwar Jaura, Raja Naeem Nawaz, Afzal Gondal and Nasir Chappar were the only ticket holders that were present on the stage.
One of the former ticket holders of the PTI, on condition of anonymity, said the callous attitude of the senior party leadership had disappointed local cadres of the party.

Music Video - Mai Bhutto Hon

Second Round of Polio Vaccination Begins in Afghanistan

The second round of polio vaccination officially kicked off on Sunday and will continue for three days, officials of the Ministry of Public Health (MoPH) said.
All families are cautioned to vaccinate children younger than five. Fifteen cases of polio have been registered in the country in Laghman, Nangarhar, Uruzgan, Khost, Farah, Ghazni and Kandahar provinces so far this year, marking an increase in the number of polio cases in the country. "The MoPH has started seriously fighting against this illness to eradicate it across the country," Acting Minister Suraya Dalil said. "I ask all parents to vaccinate their children to prevent this illness."
Meanwhile, First Vice President Sarwar Danish stated that the country's health care system is not regulated, adding that an providing equal supply of health services across the country is one the main challenges ahead of the MoPH.
"There are some serious challenges left ahead of the MoHP. The new government has some strategies to provide facilities for people in remote areas."
Families of children suffering from the disease have asked the government to attend to their problems.
"'My son is three-years-old. I hadn't vaccinated him due to the lack of access to health facilities and now he cannot walk,"Noor Mohammad Din, father a child who has polio said. "I ask all parents to vaccinate their children."
Polio is eradicated in most countries but seen in remote parts of Afghanistan, Pakistan and Nigeria due to lack of access to healthcare facilities as well as weather irregularities.


Afghan authorities of Kunduz province are concerned about the situation in Dashti Archi and Imam Sahib districts, bordering with Tajikistan
According to observers, there is a sort of parallel government system controlled by the militants in the area, which approves and introduces even development projects.
“If the government doesn’t conduct a special operation, the district can move under the control of militants of the Taliban movement”, said the Dashti Archi district head Nasriddin Sadi. The official specified that there are about 55 rebel groups in the district, including militants from Pakistan and Uzbekistan, with a total of 600-650 people. The head of the Imam Sahib district, Amoniddin Kurayshi, said that the situation in his area is a little better, though however alarming. Terrorists from around the world gathered in the area: Chechens, Tajiks, local Taliban and others. Some 300 militants attack our post that only has 20 people stationed.
The militants are funded and provided with weapons and ammunition from Pakistan. “They take taxes from the population, oppress them, and the people have to pay out of fear”, explained Kurayshi.
The press secretary of the security chief of Kunduz province, Said Sarvar Husaini, said that the provincial government intends to launch an operation against the Taliban in the two districts, as well as in a number of other troubled districts of the province, and he stressed that governmental forces are able to eliminate these militant groups.
New figures released recently by the Defence ministry indicate that 950 Afghan soldiers were killed between March and August 2014, the worst rate of the war. “The fighting in Kunduz did not start this year. But in the past years we had international forces helping the Afhan security forces”, said Ghulam Sakhi Baghlani, governor of the Kunduz province.
The last time that Afghans felt so threatened by in the northern Kunduz province by the Taliban was in 2009, shortly before President Barack Obama deployed thousands of troops to push the insurgents over the border. Now the Taliban have returned.

Pakistan to fight Polio with 'Burka Avenger'

Pakistan was the only country in the world to see a rise in the number of Polio cases in 2014.
In an attempt to alert Pakistan's public about Polio, the country has unveiled its first female superhero to join the nation's fight against polio, where over 200 cases have been reported by the World Health Organization.
The "Burka Avenger" features Jiya, a teacher at an all-girls' school in a small town, whose alter ego is a burka-wearing super heroine, who uses a mystic martial art that involves fighting crime with the help of books and pens.
Pakistan is in the spotlight as the only country with endemic polio that saw cases rise last year. Its caseload rose to 93 from 58 in 2012, accounting for more than a fifth of the 417 cases globally in 2013.
The World Health Organization (WHO) placed the reported number of cases of polio at 210 as of the week of October 22nd, the first time in 14 years that the figure has risen above 200.
Polio passes easily from person to person and can spread rapidly among children, especially in the kind of unsanitary conditions endured by displaced people in war-torn regions, refugee camps and areas where health care is limited.
In June, about 50,000 Pakistanis crossed into eastern Afghanistan to escape air strikes and 435,000 fled within their homeland, which could fuel the spread of polio as many are not vaccinated, UN agencies have said.
The local governing shura, or religious leadership in North Waziristan, has banned polio vaccination for the past two years, demanding a halt to US drone strikes, according to the WHO. The ban on vaccinations in North Waziristan has led to a "huge outbreak of polio", the WHO has said.
The virus has recently spread to Afghanistan, Iraq, Israel and Syria, and has been found in sewage in the West Bank, Gaza Strip and greater Cairo, WHO assistant director general Bruce Aylward has said. It also appeared in China two years ago.
There is no cure for the disease but it can be prevented by immunization.
In Pakistan however, gunmen frequently attack polio vaccination workers. Militants accuse them of being Western spies or part of a plot to sterilize Muslims.
Creator Aaron Haroon Rashid (AKA Haroon) said each episode focuses on a social issue or message. "We always have a social issue or a social message that is the centerpiece of each show. And of course, with the rising number of polio cases- the WHO has declared a medical emergency; there have been 200 cases now. Its alarming, the situation is alarming. So in this particular case we decided to tackle the polio issue head on," he said.
Haroon wanted to ensure the message of the importance of vaccination got across clearly.
"Of course, as we know, in Pakistan, polio health workers have faced a terrible time; they've been - scores of them - have been killed or kidnapped or threatened. So they are very brave. They are out there on the front line, and they are being very brave. And we wanted to have that reflected in our TV show as well," Haroon said.
"The bad guys in this TV show they steal the polio vaccinations, and then of course 'Burka Avenger' has to come to the rescue. And its done in a very exciting manner, full of action, adventure and comedy. Yet the whole situation is dealt with very delicately, and the message is very clear. The importance of the polio drops and polio vaccination is very clear and its reiterated several times in the episode," he added.
Spectators at a special screening of Burka Avenger's polio episode in Islamabad were impressed with the effort.
"I think they brought a very serious subject to everyone's attention, especially kids. And they brought it to their attention in a very fun way," said Arkum Aslam, a military officer who watched the show.
The WHO says 10 million people are walking today thanks to efforts to wipe out the disease, which mainly affects children under five years old. It says economic models show eradicating polio would save at least $40-50 billion over the next 20 years.

Pakistan is rapidly becoming a polio hub

The WHO says it has detected new polio cases in Pakistan. The statement comes as the international community marks World Polio Day. Experts say that extremism in Pakistan is hampering the fight against the disease.
In an official event to mark World Polio Day on Friday, October 24, Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif said his government would do all it can to battle the infectious disease. The premier also declared a "polio emergency" in the country and urged parents to have their children vaccinated.
According to the country's health officials, the number of polio cases detected in Pakistan so far this year stands at 202. This is the highest figure in 15 years exceeding the previous record of 199 infections in 2001. The South Asian nation is one of the three places in the world, along with Afghanistan and Nigeria, where polio remains endemic.
"The current polio situation in Pakistan is critical. The country is really at a tipping point. All the other places in the world where people are still infected have seen massive decreases in the number of new cases," Sona Bari, spokeswoman for polio eradication at the WHO, said in a DW interview.
Lack of proper access to anti-polio vaccination has led to a rise in polio cases in the South Asian nation. The number of polio cases in Pakistan rose from 58 in 2012 to 91 in 2013, out of which 65 were located in the remote tribal region bordering Afghanistan. Earlier this year, the World Health Organization (WHO) described the capital of Pakistan's northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, Peshawar, as "the world's largest pool of polio virus."
Polio is a highly infectious viral disease, mainly affecting children younger than five. It can cause permanent paralysis and death, but can be prevented through immunization. The virus is spread through contaminated food and water. Opposition from Islamists
In July 2012, Pakistani authorities had to postpone an anti-polio campaign in Waziristan after the Taliban banned inoculations, claiming the drive was similar to a hepatitis vaccination program run by the imprisoned Pakistani doctor Shakil Afridi. Afridi allegedly helped the US intelligence agency CIA find al Qaeda's former leader Osama bin Laden, who was eventually killed by the US Special Forces at his Abbottabad hideout in May 2011. Afridi is currently in a Pakistani prison facing treason and murder charges.
Wajahat Malik, an Islamabad-based social activist and filmmaker, told DW that ever since the Afridi incident, the polio eradication campaign has lost its credibility.
WHO expert Bari believes that the beginning of a military action in Pakistan's northwestern areas this June has slightly changed the scenario. "The subsequent displacement - due to the army operation - of nearly the entire population finally provided an opportunity to vaccinate those who had been living in the region for two years without vaccination," Bari said. She added, however, that in such situations there was also the risk of the virus spreading to new areas as it traveled out with the people who haven't been vaccinated.
Militant Islamists retain a strong clout in Pakistan's northwestern areas and their influence has also grown substantially in the central and southern Pakistani cities, including Lahore and Karachi, over the past two or three years.
In January, the militants targeted a police patrol which was on its way to guard a polio vaccination team in northwestern Pakistan killing six policemen and a child. A day earlier, four gunmen opened fire on a medical team in the southern city of Karachi, killing three health workers including two women.
Experts say the militants' attacks have made it extremely difficult for health workers to run their campaign. They say that a failure of the polio eradication drive would be devastating for the country and its already weak economy. "If the polio virus spreads in the country, Pakistanis will be barred from travelling to other countries," Sikandar Januja, an activist in Karachi, told DW.
Many challenges
But a lack of security is not the only reason for Pakistan's inability to stop the spread of polio, believes Bari. According to the expert, there are also areas without security-related issues which have not achieved a high level of vaccination. This aspect, she says, points to a management and accountability weakness in these areas. "So we cannot say that the failure is only due to the militants, although they and the climate of fear have definitely played a role."
But there are other challenges too. "In other parts of Pakistan such as Karachi and in the province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, the problem is that vaccination activities are not of good quality. Sometimes, this is just because local officials who are in charge of having children in their district vaccinated haven't done their work in a manner that ensures the vaccination is delivered properly," said Bari.
For his part, Karachi-based journalist Nusrat Amin believes anti-progressive forces have often opposed campaigns that are aimed at improving people's lives. "Successive governments have always succumbed to tribal pressures, so it doesn't surprise me if the government chooses to postpone the drive," Amin told DW.

Pakistani Christian concerned on rejection of Asia Bibi appeal

Saleem Khursheed Khokhar, Ex-Member Provincial Assembly Sindh (Parliament) Pakistan, Ex-Chairman Standing Committee on Minorities Affairs, Sindh Assembly and President of APMA Sindh, Amir Jeol, Ex-MPA Punjab, Pervez Rafiq, Ex-MPA Punjab and Ms. Jacqueline Sultan, Lawyer & Chairperson Global Human Rights Association Alliance in joint statement showed sorrow for rejection of appeal of Asia Bibi by the High Court of Sindh.
Mr. Khokhar said after half a dozen postponements and cancellations, Asia Bibi’s appeal were heard in the Lahore High Court. Her lawyers also pointed out that the man who issued the complaint did not even witness the alleged blasphemous statement and the judges & court are under pressure of extremists to uphold the death sentence of Ms. Asia Bibi.
Late Governor of Punjab was brutally killed by his own guard / protection squad who was assigned to protect the Governor claimed that he had killed the Governor for supporting a Christian Lady Asia Bibi who was accused of blasphemy law.
They requested to review of the judgment and sentence to death to Ms. Asia Bibi at the earliest to provide justice.

Pakistan: 20 suspected militants killed in Khyber air strikes

At least 20 suspected militants were killed and several others injured early on Sunday as jet fighters targeted militant hideouts in Bara tehsil of Khyber tribal region.
The areas targeted are reportedly the main operational terror centers of banned outfits.
Sources said that militants’ hideouts in Sipah, Malakdin Khel, Nalan Sur Kas areas of Bara were targeted in the fresh air attacks, in which five dens were destroyed.
Scores of families have been moving to safer places as the offensive against militant groups is picking up.
Khyber is among Pakistan’s seven semi-autonomous tribal districts near the Afghan border, rife with homegrown insurgents and foreign militants. These are also home to religious extremist organisations including al Qaeda.
The plains of Bara hold strategic significance for militant groups as they connect the agency to the outskirts of Peshawar. The area was being used by militants to put pressure on the provincial capital. In recent weeks, police and military posts in and around Peshawar have come under attack.
The key area also straddles the NATO supply line into Afghanistan.
Khyber also links several agencies to each other, serving as a north-south route within the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata). The region has been long fought over by a mix of militant organisations, including the Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), the Ansarul Islam and Mangal Bagh’s Lashkar-e-Islam.

Pakistan: Religion, politics should be kept separate - Khursheed Shah

As Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) observes black day in protest against “derogatory remarks” made by Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) leader Khursheed Shah against “muhajirs”, Shah stressed religion and politics should be kept separate, Express News reported on Sunday.
On October 18, Shah had said that Urdu-speaking people of Pakistan were now permanent residents and should therefore stop calling themselves ‘muhajirs’. “The word ‘muhajir’ is a ‘gaali’ (curse) for me and I urge our friends to please stop referring to themselves as muhajir,” he had said. Addressing the media in Sukkur today, the PPP leader said all Urdu-speaking people are his brothers. “We Sindhis would not let anyone break the province,” he added.
Speaking about the blasphemy charges levelled against him, Shah said several conspiracies had been formulated against me in the past as well. “Despite all these nefarious schemes against me, voters have elected me eight times and I have an important role to play in the politics of the country,” he stated.
Muhajir is a sacred term
Former PPP MNA Abdul Qadir Patel said that Shah’s statement was misunderstood and despite having issued an apology, the MQM is exploiting it. “The word ‘muhajir’ is sacred and respected for me,” Patel said, questioning why the MQM removed it from their party name and changed it to Muttahida Qaumi Movement instead.
Addressing the media in Karachi, Patel said, “In politics there is a trend to exchange harsh words.”
Referring to the blasphemy charges levelled against Shah by MQM leaders, Patel said religion should be kept out of politics. Further, he criticised the MQM for ‘shutting off’ news channels in parts of Karachi yesterday.
“To cover their news conferences held last night and their rally today they made you forcibly shut transmission.”

#GoKhattakGo - PTI sacks Javed Naseem for opposing KP CM
Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) on Saturday sacked party’s Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KPK) lawmaker Javed Naseem.
According to President PTI KPK chapter, party membership of MPA Javed Naseem has been suspended for violating party’s code of conduct and failing to respond a show-cause notice. MPA Javed Naseem had attended session of KPK assembly on October 23 and he was wearing a black strip on his arm.
It is pertinent to note here that Javed Naseem had been opposing Chief Minister Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Pervez Khattak and had also chanted ‘Go Khattak Go’ slogan.
Earlier, Javed Naseem had accused the KP CM of paying no attention to Peshawar and that he (Javed Naseem) is only loyal to the party chief Imran Khan.

Pakistan: Polio’s Last Stronghold

As the globe observed World Polio Day, looking back at a story of human ingenuity and willpower overcoming nature’s vagaries, Pakistan looked ahead, at a task still not done. Pakistan produces 80% of the world’s polio cases, and along with Afghanistan and Nigeria remains one of only three countries in the world where the crippling disease is rampant; a sad commentary for a nation with global ambitions. The stigma is much more shameful, once you consider that a simple vaccination costing Rs.60 will protect a child for life against a disease that would otherwise leave him paralysed. Yet Pakistan’s quandary is not for want of initiative; the hurdles that it faces are unique to it, the solution must be unique too.
The disease is concentrated in the tribal regions, where structured propaganda, ignorance, insurgency, and the absence of state presence has led families to believe the rumours that the vaccine is a western attempt to sterilise Muslims or that it is made from pork, which is forbidden to Muslims. A 2011 CIA operation to locate Osama bin Laden using a staged hepatitis vaccine programme didn’t help matters either. Since then, at least 30 vaccinators and 30 security personnel have been killed in attacks by the Taliban, while on duty. The obvious solution: beefed up security and awareness drives, still haven’t managed to break through the phobias of the tribal belt. How do you combat a conspiracy theory when your attempts are viewed as proof of it? On Friday, tribal elders from South Waziristan, in a packed jirga, asked the agency’s political agent to administer polio drops to them. The symbolic act of a revered and trusted tribal elder asking the state’s representative to vaccinate them is much more powerful than words and guns could ever have been. The state cannot break this phobia from the outside, but from the inside. Previous state campaigners were outsiders or bit players in the local hierarchy. Involving local influential players can break the barriers. Religious leaders, sporting celebrities and doctors, all have a part to play. Now is the time, with Zarb-e-Azb clearing vast swathes of previously inaccessible land, and driving the Taliban underground, a concentrated push against polio is urgent and has the potential of getting rid of this disease once and for all.
Challenges still remain; cases of polio are also present in the area of greater Karachi and Balochistan. Recent studies have repeatedly found the virus in sewer samples, especially in Lahore, Peshawar, Chakwal and Ghakkar. Furthermore, the mass migration of unvaccinated children due to the military operation in the tribal belt has led to the threat of further spread into areas where the refugees reside. The efforts must not be restricted to FATA; only a nationwide campaign can cover all bases.
Winter is when the disease is least threatening; a revamped awareness campaign, a robust vaccination drive, a thoughtful local connection, and the security afforded by the military operation can allow Pakistan to wipe this blight off the face of its map, if the will to do so truly exists.

Pakistan: Imran’s growing delusions

After the Pakistan Awami Tehreek’s (PAT) decision to call off its sit-in in Islamabad, Imran Khan was expected to follow suit. However, according to the latest announcement by the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI) leader, he will continue the sit-in until the prime minister resigns. PAT’s decision to end the sit-in on the eve of Muharram has been hailed as a wise move in view of the potential sectarian threats. But to Imran such considerations are far meaner than the lofty aim to destabilise the government and get a chance to win the elections and become the prime minister of the country. He thinks the prime minister’s resilience to stay put in spite of the fierce protest he has put up is because of the commissions he will get on the contracts his government has signed. Since we have become accustomed to Imran’s uninformed, misplaced and underdeveloped political viewpoints, such allegations are now easy to brush aside, though it pains to find a potential leader losing his base because of an immature approach to hard political facts. And the facts are that Pakistan is facing serious problems emanating from years of terrorism and mismanagement of the energy sector. The survival of the country depends on how these two issues are solved, for which the present government needs focus.
Now that Imran has proved his point and exposed the government’s shortcomings, it is about time for him to play the role of a responsible opposition because the rhetoric of promising good days ahead will wear out one day. And for how long will he keep exposing the allegedly corrupt faces of rival politicians? Imran’s political survival will largely depend on how he saves the messiah image the youth had pinned on him, someone who will take Pakistan out of its myriad problems. Had Imran not been as cynical as he has proved himself to be since the start of the sit-ins, he might have made it to the prime minister’s slot comfortably in the 2018 elections. But then he would have had to wait for five years; a hard call for a person in a hurry to make it to the top. His rushing to Islamabad and then waiting impatiently for the umpire to raise his finger had all been part of the storyline co-authored by him to derail democracy. Inherently inclined to act autocratically, he has no ears to listen to any sane voice among or around his party supporters. He is persistent that the sit-in, now in its 70th day, would yield him the prime minister’s resignation. For all the seriousness of the purpose, he is ready to live even in a tent if he runs out of money to continue the sit-in in a container. He is lambasting the Speaker of the National Assembly and the prime minister for not accepting the resignation of his party’s MNAs. According to the standing operating procedure of parliament, which Imran considers ‘bogus’, the resignation will get accepted one way or the other. But Imran’s reluctance to send in his MNAs singly to the Speaker, who is bound to ensure the legislators had not been coerced into resigning, is dragging on the issue unnecessarily. If Imran is not convinced of the loyalties of his legislators, then it would be better to dispense with them. It is not the government making things difficult and unmanageable for Imran, it is the other way around.
Imran’s inability to analyse the situation politically will eventually reduce his campaign to a whimper. Large gatherings in big rallies have never been a guarantee of electoral success. Imran’s party is in charge of a province, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP). Imran’s success in the next elections will depend on PTI’s performance in KP. KP would have made Imran a success story had he understood the dedication the terror-ravaged province required of him. Unfortunately, Imran is wasting his energies on a quixotic quest to become the prime minister. He is slowly pushing himself into a cul de sac. Before it is too late, in the sense that the sit-in shrivels into nothingness, Imran needs to get back to parliament and acquire the missing political gravitas.

Hindu citizens looking for Jinnah’s Pakistan

Hindu citizens are demanding Jinnah’s Pakistan on the occasion of Diwali. From no official holiday on their religious festivals, Hindu marriage laws and social discrimination to life threatening security concerns, the Hindu community in Pakistan faces a myriad of problems.
“No holiday on Diwali is a minor issues. Our problems are much bigger,” said Akash Raj, a Hindu citizen.
He narrated that he got married many months ago but his wife is still waiting for her new Computerised National Identity Card.
“Why is Hindu marriage act still pending,” he demanded. Raj criticised political leaders like Imran Khan and Bilawal Bhutto Zardari who are using Hindus for their own political gains. “If they actually care about minority rights, they should play a role in drafting legislation for us,” he said. “Jogendra Nath Mandal was Pakistan’s first law minister and today we live in a state where we cannot even choose our own representatives,” said Rajiv Thakur, coordinator Pakistan Hindu Seva Welfare Trust. “Religious minorities in Pakistan are facing problems because they do not have real community representatives in assemblies; we should be given the electoral right to choose our representatives in assemblies. Nobody raises our problems in assemblies, it feels like minority lawmakers are helpless too,” he added. Thakur demanded for the Pakistani school curriculum system to be reformed.
“When you promote hatred in schools, it results in creating hatred at a societal level. For a better Pakistan, followers of religions have an equal role to play,” he said.
Hindu Sikh Social Welfare Organisation President Jagmohan Arora demanded that the word ‘minority’ should not be used as it has negative implications. “We should be called ‘non-Muslim Pakistanis’,” he said.
“We all are Pakistanis and we all should have equal rights as the founder of Pakistan Quaid-i-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah declared in his August 11 speech. The society should not be divided on the basis of minority or majority,” Arora elaborated.
All Pakistan Hindu Rights Movement Vice Chairman Ashok Chand demanded for the government to allot funds to Hindus and other religious minorities at the district level for the celebration of their religious festivals.
“Gazetted holiday should be announced for the minorities on their religious festivals and foolproof security should be provided to the holy places,” he said.
Ashok Kumar thanked Imran Khan and Bilawal Bhutto Zardari for celebrating Diwali.
“Other political parties and especially the government should also follow in their footsteps and share in our happiness,” he added.

Pakistan : Chapter being removed from textbook on JI demand

The Elementary and Secondary Education Department is set to remove a whole chapter from a school textbook highlighting the contemporary issues, their causes and veiled hints towards the invisible elements responsible for creating such issues that have made the lives of people miserable in the region, according to sources.
The chapter titled “Da Maujoda Dor Masalay” (problems of the present age) in the Pashto book for grade-10 will be removed on the demand of Jamaat-i-Islami, they said.
The chapter was included in the textbook by the previous ANP-led government to inform the students about the various issues engulfing the society for the last many years, said the sources in the education department.
In the third paragraph on page 65 of the chapter it is stated that due to political instability millions of Afghans were compelled to migrate to Pakistan who brought with them many problems from Afghanistan that still existed in our society.
The text on page 66 conveys that “It is crystal clear that human beings have always used their power and inflicted brutalities on others in the process to impose their religious, political, national and economic supremacy on others. In history whenever any group in any area on the earth started ruling by adopting such practices has left examples of brutalities and inhuman practices that has bowed down the head of human beings in shame”.
Without naming any area or country, it is stated that the power game still continues which has caused huge losses to the society, particularly to the poor people. It further says that rich countries have been using all resources in the region for imposing their agenda and increasing influence in the third world countries.
The students read in the chapter that the people of the third world countries getting financial support to fulfil their daily needs of life are being exploited intentionally or unintentionally, consciously or unconsciously at the hands of the rich countries for their agenda. “Such acts are apparently good and pious, full of benefits in this world and the life after death, but actually the planner behind such acts wanted to spread violence,” it is added.
“As such, the society which couldn’t educate their children due to lack of resources is used at the hands of others for achieving their goals, causing unrest and terrorism in the country,” it states.
In the same chapter, the students are told that due to lack of education, some religious sects have been promoting their causes in the society through use of huge amount of money. It has also been mentioned that in the race of leaving others behind, the religious extremism often causes differences, which is one of the big reasons for unrest in the society.
The writer has also listed the uncontrollable increase in population as one of the problems, stating that having more children and lacking resources most of the people couldn’t provide education to their children. Resultantly, such children become child labourers or beggars. The unchecked population growth results in rising joblessness, which leads to suicides, mental and psychological diseases and drug addiction in the society.
Everything mentioned in the chapter is based on the present day realities, said a senior teacher of a government school. “It will educate the students about the contemporary issues,” he said, adding such issues were discussed in the textbooks for the first time.
“Such issues should be also discussed in the English and Urdu textbooks to educate the students at larger scale,” another senior teacher told Dawn.
When contacted, a senior official in the education department told Dawn that the material given in the chapter was based on reality, but it could create bad impression of the state among the students.
“Actually, different schools of thought are discussed between the lines which could increase hatred in the society,” said an activist of Jamaat-i-Islami, who was one of the members of the team which held meetings with the officials of the education department in this connection. He said that distribution of resources was the real problem, not increase in population. “Linking problems with the population growth is the propaganda of the West,” he said.