Monday, May 18, 2015

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Canada urged to press Saudi Arabia on alleged cluster bomb use in Yemen

Mike Blanchfield

Canada has an obligation to publicly warn Saudi Arabia, its military partner in an ongoing bombing campaign in Syria, to refrain from using banned cluster bombs, say advocates who campaigned against the weapon.
The issue has come to light because of a report earlier this month by the U.S.-based group Human Rights Watch that said a Saudi-led coalition may have used the banned weapons while bombing Shiite rebels in Yemen.
Canada and Saudi Arabia, along with the United States, are among the half-dozen countries in another coalition that is currently engaged in bombing missions against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant in Syria.
Regardless of Canada's activities in Syria, it has an international legal obligation to speak out because it ratified the United Nations treaty to ban cluster bombs, said Steve Goose, the head of the arms division of Human Rights Watch.
"They could have done a demarche or something," said Goose, referring to the use of a standard, behind-the-scenes diplomatic notice. But that would not have been enough, he added.
"Publicly speaking out is the best way to do this because that's how you stigmatize the weapon. That's how you generate outrage against it, and that's the best way to discourage any use."
An emailed statement from the Foreign Affairs department on Monday said Canada would pursue opportunities "to discourage the use of cluster munitions by states not party to the convention."
The statement did not directly answer a question about whether Canada had raised the Human Rights Watch report with Saudi officials.
"We will continue to engage with Saudi Arabia on a range of issues including regional security and human rights," it said.
Goose said other countries have publicly called out the Saudis on the report, including Costa Rica, which holds the rotating chair of the cluster bomb convention, and Norway, which took the lead in creating it.
Paul Hannon, the executive director of Mines Action Canada, said the government has an obligation to tell its coalition partners that it won't use cluster munitions and that they shouldn't either.
"Historically, use of cluster munitions has resulted in at least 94 per cent of the casualties being civilians," said Hannon.
"If we want to create stability in this region, no one should ever use cluster munitions because of the deadly legacy they leave behind."
A single cluster bomb contains hundreds of brightly coloured, baseball-size submunitions that often fail to explode and can sit dormant for decades. They pose an ongoing hazard to civilians, especially children, in dozens of post-war countries.
The Harper government faced widespread international criticism for undermining the cluster bomb treaty, which it took more than six years to ratify.
The government was broadly condemned because the legislation that it used to ratify the treaty contained a loophole that would allow the Canadian Forces to be involved in the use of cluster bombs in joint operations with the United States, which has opted out of the convention.
Its critics included the usually neutral International Committee of the Red Cross.
The government eventually agreed to remove the word "using" from the bill, which prohibits Canadian military personnel from directly using the weapons, but doesn't entirely bar their indirect involvement in combined operations.
Goose said anti-cluster bomb advocates are happy Canada finally ratified the convention, and there is hope it will be a good partner in preventing the weapons from being used.
But he added one caveat.
"We will closely monitor Canada's implementation because of the extreme weakness of its legislation implementing the convention," said Goose.
"We don't think Canada will ever utilize those loopholes -- it certainly never should, which would potentially put it in violation of the convention."

Saudi Arabia 'could buy Pakistani nuclear weapon'


Saudi Arabia intends to buy an "off the shelf" nuclear weapon from Pakistan, according to US officials quoted in The Sunday Times.
The report comes amid ongoing negotiations between Iran and other world powers over its nuclear programme, and a potential thawing of relations between the US and Iran.
Saudi Arabia is wary of a potential deal on Iran's nuclear programme and Prince Turki bin Faisal, the former Saudi intelligence chief, has warned that it could pave the way for nuclear proliferation in the region.
The Sunday Times report suggests that Saudi Arabia has already taken the decision to acquire a nuclear device from its ally Pakistan.
The report quotes an anonymous US defence official as saying: “There has been a longstanding agreement in place with the Pakistanis [over nuclear weapons] and the House of Saud has now made the strategic decision to move forward.”
Saudi Arabia is believed to have helped fund Pakistan's nuclear programme, which began back in the 1970s. Pakistan tested its first nuclear device in 1998.
Pakistani officials deny allowing Saudi Arabia access to the country's nuclear technology.
Negotiators have yet to reach a deal on Iran's nuclear programme, but if they do it could leave Iran's 5,000 centrifuges and much of its research programme in place.
The Gulf States warn that any deal that leaves open the possibility Iran could eventually enrich uranium to weapons grade would promote a nuclear arms race in the region.
Barack Obama, the US president, has attempted to ally those fears, holding discussions with the US's Gulf allies at Camp David last week.

Arrested for reporting on Qatar's World Cup labourers

By Mark Lobel
We were invited to Qatar by the prime minister's office to see new flagship accommodation for low-paid migrant workers in early May - but while gathering additional material for our report, we ended up being thrown into prison for doing our jobs.
Our arrest was dramatic.
We were on a quiet stretch of road in the capital, Doha, on our way to film a group of workers from Nepal.
The working and housing conditions of migrant workers constructing new buildings in Qatar ahead of the World Cup have been heavily criticised and we wanted to see them for ourselves.
Suddenly, eight white cars surrounded our vehicle and directed us on to a side road at speed.
A dozen security officers frisked us in the street, shouting at us when we tried to talk. They took away our equipment and hard drives and drove us to their headquarters.
Later, in the city's main police station, the cameraman, translator, driver and I were interrogated separately by intelligence officers. The questioning was hostile.
We were never accused of anything directly, instead they asked over and over what we had done and who we had met.
Workers building al-Wakrah stadium in Doha, Qatar, May 2015
Qatar has been criticised over abuse of migrant workers
During a pause in proceedings, one officer whispered that I couldn't make a phone call to let people know where we were. He explained that our detention was being dealt with as a matter of national security.
An hour into my grilling, one of the interrogators brought out a paper folder of photographs which proved they had been trailing me in cars and on foot for two days since the moment I'd arrived.
I was shown pictures of myself and the team standing in the street, at a coffee shop, on board a bus and even lying next to a swimming pool with friends. It was a shock. I had never suspected I was being tailed.
At 01:00, we were taken to the local prison.

'Not Disneyland'

It was meant to be the first day of our PR tour but instead we were later handcuffed and taken to be questioned for a second time, at the department of public prosecutions.
Thirteen hours of waiting around and questioning later, one of the interrogators snapped. "This is not Disneyland," he barked. "You can't stick your camera anywhere."
It was as if he felt we were treating his country like something to be gawped at, suggesting we thought of trips to see controversial housing and working conditions as a form of entertainment.

Qatari government statement, 18 May:

"The Government Communications Office invited a dozen reporters to see - first-hand - some sub-standard labour accommodation as well as some of the newer labour villages. We gave the reporters free rein to interview whomever they chose and to roam unaccompanied in the labour villages.
"Perhaps anticipating that the government would not provide this sort of access, the BBC crew decided to do their own site visits and interviews in the days leading up to the planned tour. In doing so, they trespassed on private property, which is against the law in Qatar just as it is in most countries. Security forces were called and the BBC crew was detained."

BBC response:

"We are pleased that the BBC team has been released but we deplore the fact that they were detained in the first place. Their presence in Qatar was no secret and they were engaged in a perfectly proper piece of journalism.
"The Qatari authorities have made a series of conflicting allegations to justify the detention, all of which the team rejects. We are pressing the Qatari authorities for a full explanation and for the return of the confiscated equipment."
In perfect English and with more than a touch of malice, he threatened us with another four days in prison - to teach us a lesson.
I began my second night in prison on a disgusting soiled mattress. At least we did not go hungry, as we had the previous day. One of the guards took pity on us and sent out for roast chicken with rice.
In the early hours of the next morning, just as suddenly as we were arrested, we were released.
Model of al-Wakrah stadium, which is being built for the 2022 World Cup
Qatar has seen an influx of migrants to build facilities for the 2022 tournament
Bizarrely, we were allowed to join the organised press trip for which we had come.
It was as if nothing had happened, despite the fact that our kit was still impounded, and we were banned from leaving the country.
I can only report on what has happened now that our travel ban has been lifted.
No charges were brought, but our belongings have still not been returned.
So why does Qatar welcome members of the international media while at the same time imprisoning them?
Is it a case of the left arm not knowing what the right arm is doing, or is it an internal struggle for control between modernisers and conservatives?

PR effort

Whatever the explanation, Qatar's Jekyll-and-Hyde approach to journalism has been exposed by the spotlight that has been thrown on it after winning the World Cup bid.
Other journalists and activists, including a German TV crew, have also recently been detained.
How the country handles the media, as it prepares to host one of the world's most watched sporting events, is now also becoming a concern.
Mustafa Qadri, Amnesty International's Gulf migrant rights researcher, told us the detentions of journalists and activists could be attempts "to intimidate those who seek to expose labour abuse in Qatar".
Qatar, the world's richest country for its population size of little more than two million people, is pouring money into trying to improve its reputation for allowing poor living standards for low-skilled workers to persist.
Communal kitchen for labourers in Doha, Qatar, May 2015
Government inspectors have said some accommodation is substandard
A highly respected London-based PR firm, Portland Communications, now courts international journalists. On the day we left prison, it showed us spacious and comfortable villas for construction workers, with swimming pools, gyms and welfare officers.
This was part of the showcase tour of workers' accommodation, and it was organised by the prime minister's office.
Qatar's World Cup organising committee, which answers to Fifa, was helping to run the tour.
Fifa says it is now investigating what happened to us. It has issued the following statement: "Any instance relating to an apparent restriction of press freedom is of concern to Fifa and will be looked into with the seriousness it deserves."

'Open country'

Following our detention, the minister of labour agreed to talk to us on camera about how the media can cover what human rights campaigners have identified as "forced labour" within his country.
"Qatar is an open country forever, since ever," Abdullah al-Khulaifi said.
"The shortcomings that I am facing, the problems I am facing, I cannot hide. Qatar is open and now with the smartphones, everyone is a journalist," he said.
He said the negative coverage of migrant workers' conditions was wildly overblown and that much progress had been made to improve basic conditions for migrant workers.
The government has implemented a wage protection scheme. It says at least 450 companies have been banned from working in the country and more than $6m (£3.8m) of fines have been handed out to firms mistreating workers, and the number of inspectors has been doubled.
Workers are now ferried to and from work in buses, not lorries.
Workers are now taken to shifts in buses, not lorries
Labourers arriving at their housing after a shift
But change has not come easily in what one security guard privately described to me as a country with surveillance officers everywhere.
Without trade unions or a free media, bosses of large domestic and international companies have little incentive to radically improve conditions for well over a million labourers desperate for money.
Before we were detained, I met an 18-year-old mechanic, one of the 400,000 Nepalese workers there.
He said he wanted to support his older brothers because his father had died and the family was struggling financially.
He paid a recruitment agency in Nepal $600 to arrange his visa to work in Qatar and was told he would earn $300 a month.
When he arrived he was told his salary, as a labour camp cleaner for air conditioning mechanics, was in fact $165 a month. He said he has never been given a copy of the contract he signed. Worse still, he said he could not understand it as it was in English.
It's a very common trick that foreign recruitment agents play before workers even get to Qatar, and very difficult for Qatar itself to police, although it says it is trying.
This young man now finds himself at the mercy of Qatar's restrictive kafala system, which prevents workers from changing jobs for five years. Being tied to an employer in that way can leave migrant workers open to exploitation.
However, with so much money needed for rebuilding decimated parts of Nepal, there will be no shortage of future volunteers.

And as Qatar's World Cup approaches, the focus on migrant labour is only likely to increase.

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Afghan Music _ زیباترین آهنگ افغانی

Secularism Is Pakistan's Way Out to End Sectarian Violence


When armed gunmen stopped and shot dead 43 people from the Shia community in Pakistan's largest city of Karachi on Wednesday, it was certainly not the first time that the terrorists had carried out such an atrocious attack. Islamic extremists operate across Pakistan with absolute impunity. The Pakistani Taliban murder unarmed civilians randomly regardless of their sectarian affiliations. The Sunni militants routinely target the members of the Shia community. Similar attacks also take place on the followers of the Ahmadiyya Muslims; the Hindus and the Christens. These attacks are not confined to one city or a province. They occur in places as remote as the provinces of Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and in relatively modern cosmopolitans like Karachi and Lahore.

Of course the loss of precious human lives is the dark side of these attacks but the worst part is that these attacks take place so regularly that they just become a statistic for the government, media and the researchers. The government condemns these attacks, suspends a few policemen, makes some void promises to the people to take action against the terrorists sand then life goes. A few weeks or months later, the same terrorists strike in a different city in a newly crafted style. In this process, hundreds of Pakistanis lose their lives every year. Terrorists get strong and stronger by the day. They keep expanding their networks and invent new techniques to kill more and more people from the opposite religion and sect. In the recent times, the terrorists have found it convenient to wear police and army uniforms to gain immediate and unquestionable access to their targets.

The million-dollar question is why do these attacks take place again and again? Why doesn't Pakistan have a strategy to address this challenge? As a matter of fact, there are no administrative and technical fixes to this problem. Violence in the name of religion does not specifically target people from one gender, race or ethnic group. The Pakistani state has been lucky that most of its citizens are not educated enough to hold it accountable for its failures to defend the lives of the citizens. The relationship between the state and the citizens should be based on mutual trust and benefits. In Pakistan, the state has excessively benefited from its relationship to a docile public. The state has imposed an Islamic identity and a jingoistic narrative on its population and kept the public emotionally blackmailed that questioning the role of Islam in every day lives would amount to committing blasphemy. Religion has become such an integral part of the State's identity that people are unable to look at the world beyond religious frameworks. Given that context, people find it more comforting to trade conspiracy theories with the reality insisting that the Muslim extremists cannot be Muslims in reality. When the population does not blame the oppressor, this helps in exempting the government from accountability.

Recently, I attended a talk at Harvard Kennedy School of Government by a young Pakistani activist Jibran Nasir who has been struggling against religious extremists in Pakistan. Mr. Nasir, 28, just like many other activists, diagnoses Pakistan's problem wrongly. According to him, Pakistanis have to "reclaim their mosques". What does that mean? Nasir believes that religious obscurantists have taken hold of the mosques in Pakistan and they use these crucial platforms for preaching hatred and violence. Therefore, the Pakistanis have to reclaim their mosques. Well, this is not going to help Pakistan in getting rid of its existing problems with radical Islam. Pakistan has to renegotiate its relationship with all its citizens regardless of the faith they believe. Mosques should not be the place to decide the future of Pakistan. The Pakistanis should instead reclaim their constitution, parliament and democratic institutions and keep the mosque only as a place of worship without giving it any powers to decide the affairs of the state or individuals' personal lives.

After all, why should the fate of a Pakistani Christen, Hindu or any other religious minority be decided inside a mosque? In spite of recurrent attacks on innocent citizens in the name of religion, there is surprisingly not enough protest in Pakistan from the people telling the state directly that they can no longer carry its burden of Islam. People believe in religions because they want to be connected with some spiritual or divine force that comforts them not to be manipulated as tool in the hands of a state for its own political ambitions.

States are supposed to treat all their citizens equally and respectfully instead of discriminating them because of their religion. In Pakistan, religion is certain to become a cause of bloodshed given the overwhelming emphasis on Islamic identity. Religion is a dangerous recipe for a society like Pakistan where millions of children do not go to school and another millions of women do not get out of their homes because men decide their fate. In a society where dozens of television channels and radio stations regularly preach one version of religion, it is too naïve to expect respect and tolerance for other religions and appreciation for difference of opinion.

The way forward for Pakistan is detaching the state from religion. Official patronage of religion at school or any other level should stop and there should be more emphasis on civic education. The State should have no business with religion. People should be allowed to practice whatever religion they believe in. But when the State advocates and defends only one religion, it ends up offering too much tolerance for those who kill fellow citizens for the same reasons. In a way, it helps the state to promote its idealogical mission but it is simply wrong and unaccetapble to have tolerance for extremist groups because they are on the side of the state's narrative.

Senior Pakistani Politician Blames Saudi Arabia for Massacre of Shiites in Karachi

A senior member of Pakistan’s Majlis-e-Wehdatul Muslimeen (MWM) Political Party blamed Saudi Arabia for the massacre of innocent people of Pakistan.
“The massacre of a group of Ismailia Shiite Muslims exposed the plots of the Saudi ambassador and Mecca prayers leader to hold secret meetings with heads of the Takfiri groups,” Ahmed Iqbal Razavi said on Sunday.
Razavi’s remarks came after the Takfiri terrorists exploded a bus carrying a group of Ismailia Shiite pilgrims in the port city of Karachi on Wednesday.
“Saudi Arabia’s support for Takfiri terrorists in Pakistan is evident to everyone,” he added.
Several Pakistani political parties, including Majlis-e-Wehdatul Muslimeen, held rallies in Karachi to condemn the massacre of Shiites, and they called on the Pakistani army to follow up attack on the passenger bus.
At least 43 people were killed and 20 more injured in a gun attack on a bus carrying Ismailia Shiite Muslims in the Pakistani city of Karachi on Wednesday, police said.
A police official said six gunmen on motorcycles, appearing to be from a banned extremist group, stopped the bus and fired indiscriminately.
The bus carrying about 60 was going to an Ismailia Shite place of worship.
No group has yet said it carried out the attack.
Provincial police chief Ghulam Haider Jamali said the attack appeared to be the work of the same group involved in recent drive-by shootings of senior police officials in Karachi.
The bus was on its way to an Ismailia Shiite Muslim place of worship, police said
He said the bus was on its way to an Ismailia Shia Muslim place of worship when gunmen boarded it in the Safoora Goth area of Karachi and fired at those on board.
The attackers are said to have escaped easily.
In the last few months, several mosques belonging to religious minorities have been bombed in Pakistan.

In Pakistan’s War on Terror, Ordinary People Are Increasingly Vulnerable

Militants, stung by government operations in tribal areas, are refocusing their attacks on citizens.
First witness reports testify that Wednesday (May 13) morning’s attack in Karachi on a Shia Ismaili bus was conducted with precision.

Eight attackers boarded the bus, purportedly dressed in security uniforms. They subdued the driver and instructed the passengers to lower their heads. Then, starting from the back, the attackers shot them in the heads at point blank range with 9mm pistols. In all, they killed 43 people. A security officer told the Dawn newspaper, “One young girl hid and survived. Three or four others who were brought to the hospital have survived…the rest are all dead.”
The attack is hardly unprecedented.

In January, a suicide bomber killed 61 people at a Shia mosque in the nearby town of Shikarpur. Shias across the country—from the shores of Karachi to the mountains of Gilgit—are experiencing sustained, targeted persecution, whether in massive attacks like this, or ritual assassinations by militant groups, many of which are tolerated, if not supported, by the state.

Despite being Muslims (unlike Ahmadis, the state has not declared Shias to be non-Muslims yet), their persecution has implied that Shias, about 20% of Pakistan’s population, fit snugly as “religious minorities” with the Christians, Hindus, and Ahmadis.
Ismailis in Pakistan are an influential, well-knit community known for operating hospitals, universities, schools, charities and infrastructure projects. Their spiritual leader is the Aga Khan, who summarily condemned the attack.

Beyond the immediate barbarity and shock (if not surprise), Wednesday morning’s attack also highlights the increasing limitation of Pakistani militant groups.

Like the school attack in Peshawar last December, the attackers chose a soft target; in this case, an unguarded bus. That’s perhaps because major fortifications and security overhauls have been undertaken in government buildings, cantonment areas, mosques, markets, schools, and other public places.
Coupled with a sustained military operation in Pakistan’s tribal areas and a joint paramilitary and police operation in Karachi, security forces have managed to bring down the number of terrorist attacks and targeted killings, and the resulting fatalities.

Alternatively, it has made the most vulnerable and defenceless—passengers going to work—militants’ preferred targets. These kinds of attacks are more difficult to defend against, and possibly unlikely to stop.
Nonetheless, the attack revealed security lapses on a local and provincial level. The longtime chief minister of Sindh, Qaim Ali Shah, of the Pakistan Peoples Party has come under fire for the spiralling violence and extremism that has markedly increased in his province under his watch.

A spate of kidnappings, threats, vandalism, and killings—including the Shikarpur blast—have all added to the perception that Sindh, historically known for its religious diversity, is slipping into the same radical ideology that has engulfed other parts of the country. Shah suspended local officers of the Sindh Police (another institution under scrutiny) pending an investigation, while the usual rounds of empty condemnation have poured in from other politicians.
But there’s a bigger problem: Both the armed forces and Pakistan’s civilian government are yet to confront the ideology that drives these attacks.

Malik Ishaq, the founder of Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, perhaps the deadliest of the anti-Shia militias, oscillates between incarceration and freedom; Lashkar-e-Taiba leader Hafiz Saeed roams free under government protection. Media commentators still point to India and the US as Pakistan’s biggest threats.
Meanwhile, educationist Bernadette Dean fled after receiving threats to her life. And last month’s murder of Sabeen Mahmud indicates that free expression, diversity, and secular values are still anathema to the particular version of the Pakistani state that militants, and some sections of the government itself, envision.

Both the civilians and the military should know that military action forms only one face of a multifaceted approach that must also include reforms in education, intelligence gathering, foreign policy, and institution building.
Till then, the attacks will continue.

Pakistan - Fresh drone strike kills four in North Wazirstan

Hours after Pakistan Foreign Office’s sternly condemned last week’s drone attack in Shawal area of North Wazirstan, a drone strike in the same area  on Monday killed four suspected militants and injured two others, Express News reported.According to initial details a US spy plane fired two missiles at a house and a vehicle in Shawal area of North Waziristan.As a result at least four suspected militants were killed and two others were injured. The identities of those targeted was not immediately clear.
Earlier, in a statement on Monday, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs had termed US drone strikes in Pakistani territory a “clear violation of Pakistan’s sovereignty and territorial integrity,” calling for their immediate cessation.
On May 16, at least six suspected militants were killed and two others were injured when a US drone fired two missiles at a house in the same area of the agency.
A local source said those killed included foreigners while the house targeted was completely destroyed in the attack.

Pakistan - I am Pervez Rasheed

Gul Bukhari

If there was ever any doubt as to who the hate and death mongers were who brought this country to the precipice of self implosion amidst a war of ideologies, there should not be any more. Pakistan is today fighting for its existence, fighting to survive as a nation with common, peaceful, democratic values. But those who have introduced and nurtured the poison of religion based hegemony remain untouched.
At a cultural event in Karachi last week, the Information, broadcasting and law Minister Pervez Rasheed lamented the state of education in Pakistan, particularly criticizing madrassas as ‘universities of ignorance’, and called this particular institution a deliberate attempt at keeping the people ignorant of proper education. For this he has been flayed by religious ‘muftis’ who have declared him a non-Muslim and demanded the government to remove him from his post and to institute legal proceedings against him.
Let me state at the outset, that every word Rasheed uttered was true and correct. The madrassas are indeed institutions that spawn ignorance and obscurantism. I state this fearlessly and in support of the Information Minister. What is it that the madrassas teach except learning by rote, prejudice and takfiri ideologies? Have they produced mathematicians, physicists, novelists, scientists? Has any one of their students ever contributed in any manner to the culture, economy or body of knowledge? The only thing they have contributed to is increasing ignorance, prejudice, hate and the jihadi factories that have brought this country to its knees.
The onslaught on the Minister was started by Mufti Naeem of Jamia Binoria. It is appalling that this ‘mufti’ said what he said, on national television, and the government did not proceed against him per its newly formulated National Action Plan, that clearly outlines such hate speech as a cause of terrorism to be countered and punished. It is instructive to know exactly how he went about declaring the Minister no longer a Muslim, and carried on from there. First he declared that the Quran only refers to learning the Quran and Hadith when referring to education – a preposterous claim to begin with. I am assuming the respected Mufti did not hear of the Hadith of his own religion where the Prophet (pbuh) said go to China if you have to to gain knowledge and education. Or if he has heard it, I am sure he thinks there were madaaris and muftis sitting in China of the 7th century to impart lessons in Quran and Hadith.
Next he builds on this bizarre claim to deduce that therefore Pervaz Rashid has called the learning of Quran and Hadees ignorance (naoozobillah!). His outrageous leap of ‘logic’ then progresses to expelling Rasheed for criticizing what goes on at the madrassas. Naeem further declares that anyone who considered Rasheed a Muslim henceforth is not a Muslim anymore. Where he came up with all this nonsense is beyond comprehension. Is he not disrespecting and disobeying his Prophet of Islam, who declared that anyone who considered themselves a Muslim was to be considered a Muslim by all others – that ultimately it was Allah’s prerogative to decide these matters? Is Mufti Naeem contradicting Hazrat Mohammed (pbuh) and devising his own rules of the game? This gentleman’s ignorant, vile and dishonest statement aside, he had the gall to call for the removal from office of a Minister elected by the people of this country! Mind, Naeem did not leave it at this. He threatened the government with action that would be taken by madaaris, ulema, and all the people who had the tiniest of respect for Quran and Sunnah, should not the government not act against Rasheed.
Shockingly, neither the government nor the parliament took offence or action against this gentleman. It felt like a throwback to 2010 when a PPP governor of Punjab was under attack by the religious right for allegedly having committed blasphemy. Soon after, in early 2011 he was killed by a religious fanatic. Neither did the government of the time come in to bat for him while he was alive, nor after he was dead. I clearly remember, at least the Interior Minister of the time, and few other prominent people, declaring they would kill a blasphemer themselves.
Yet, that palpable fear and strategy of appeasement of the right did not obtain any positive results. Indeed, it only resulted in expanding the space for the fanatics, and shrinking it for liberals and humanists.
The sitting government and the parliament did not learn from history and exhibited the same fear and shell shocked silence. The dispiriting result was that another ‘mufti’ thought it fit to spew hate in the same vein. The Chief of the Ittehad Tanzimat Madaaris (ITM) Mufti Munibur Rehman echoed the same demands, threatening to hold country wide demonstrations and refused to accept the regret expressed by Pervez Rasheed.
Here it is interesting to note another interesting fact. A few months ago, when one of their own ilk, the born again Muslim and misogynist Junaid Jamshed committed ‘blasphemy’ when he spoke derisively of Hazrat Ayesha (RA), this community of hypocrites came together to exonerate him after his apology, declaring that it is up to Allah to decide.
It is very clear that these muftis, allamas and aalims are upto mischief and their power play is thinly veneered. They are inciting violence on a daily basis. Taking heart from their audacity, a PTI office holder repeated a similar accusation in a talk show hosted by Dr. Danish on the ARY channel. It was reported that the content of that program also implied that Rasheed belonged to the Ahmadi sect. It is a matter of fact that he does not. And even if he did, it is irrelevant. But clearly, it was intended to add fuel to fire.
It is obvious that silence and appeasement not only does not work, but backfires. I would urge the government and parliament to go on the offensive in this matter and bring to account all these elements who want to control this country through fear and want to silence anyone who dissents with their ignorance and obscurantist vision.

Pakistan - Conspiracy of silence

The FIA investigation report will identify the criminals and might well suggest severe punishment. The story will, however, end there
Has it surprised anyone that Jundullah, a Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) splinter group, killed 45 people from the Ismaili community in a brutal attack on a commuter bus? Will it surprise anyone if, in the coming months, a similar act is repeated and one of the several splinter groups of the TTP or the TTP itself takes responsibility? Surprises have become a rarity with the pattern known about terrorist attacks and the government’s response to the incidents. The terrorists come, kill and leave. The government sees, observes and condemns the crime without forgetting to order an investigation and announces three days of mourning and the national flag to be hoisted at half-mast. Nothing changes in between. The crime goes on. The government’s investigation goes on and the theatre is set for another scene.

It is hard to accept the argument that Pakistan is a failed state. The eagerness to consider Pakistan a functioning state stems from the fairness of all the investigation reports about a high profile crime or national tragedy. Born either of a judicial commission or of an independent police inquiry, these reports had always hit the nail on the head. In almost all reports, be it the Hamoodur Rehman Commission Report, Abbottabad Commission Report, Model Town Commission Report or Baldia Factory Commission Report, the problem has been identified, perpetrators of the crime recognised and the blame laid where it should be laid. What next?

We find complete silence once an investigation report is out. Accountability for which the whole exercise is carried out suddenly becomes unnecessary. The police, witnesses, parliamentarians, judges and movers of the investigation process return to their comfort zones. Why does this happen, especially when we do not lack people who want to say the truth? Our institutions could provide a credible assessment of the problem and our law enforcement and intelligence agencies can be quizzed to separate fact from fiction.

The government is trying to eliminate a fraction of this silence by hanging the criminals languishing in jails for years. This theory has failed to discourage the terrorists though. The idea of punishment is not about cleansing jails of terrorists; the idea of justice prevails when punishment is delivered irrespective of the criminal’s status, position and rank. The mavericks of our interior ministry cannot be ignored here in understanding how this country spares the influential. Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan had been indignant, quite rightly, about finding the Federal Investigation Authority (FIA), Pakistan’s apex crime investigating agency, mired in corruption. An investigation has been ordered to be carried out by none other than the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) and the Intelligence Bureau (IB). The report is awaited but, in the meantime, the minister has done another remarkable thing. He has vowed to allow those identified as guilty of corruption in the FIA to remain in service and receive salaries and perks. Those deputed to the FIA from other departments and found to have corrupted the institution will be simply returned to their parent organisations. The only punishment, according to the minister, will be the withdrawal of these corrupt officers from the decision making process. Could there be anything more absurd than this decision, which contradicts the government’s desire to free the country of corruption? Instead of punishing the wrongdoers, they are being rewarded and are allowed to continue in the jobs they perverted.

The FIA investigation report will identify the criminals and might well suggest severe punishment. The story will, however, end there. Silence will prevail. It will be business as usual. The immunity that surrounds the influential will strengthen and the FIA will become a more lucrative place for the new breed of corrupt officers. The apex committee the federal government has formed in each province to root out terrorism seems to have fallen prey to the discrepancy between the desire and the effort of provincial governments to eliminate terrorism. It seems more attempts have been made in arresting the violators of loudspeakers than the terrorists planning another attack on innocent people in urban cities like Karachi.

Everyone knows (and it has become almost a theory now) that only the police are capable of identifying criminals hiding in dense cities like Karachi. Report after report has identified loopholes in the performance of the police. Investigation after investigation has shown the police being deliberately turned into a weak force by the politicians. Analysts on television have given evidential proof about the deployment of the finest police officers for the security of VIPs. No action has been taken on any of these reports, investigations or analysis.

The result is that the criminals had another field day on May 13. They arrived and killed 45 people without discrimination. There were women, men and children. These poor souls had to die because the terrorists had the time, space and free hand to execute their plan without hindrance. In the coming days, the investigation on this attack might reveal staggering gaps in the performance of the police and perhaps in the targeted operation carried out in Karachi by the Rangers. Will anything happen? The chief minister of Karachi, Syed Qaim Ali Shah, does not consider the burden of 45 bodies enough to bend over backwards. He does not find any reason to resign when no other chief minister has done so when faced with a calamity as heinous as the Safoora attack.

So, what makes acceptable the argument that this country has not failed and will never let the hope of survival in its people diminish? This country is at the service of the rich people. It is in their interest to keep this ship afloat. Investigations will keep identifying the culprits. The governments will keep insisting it is not guilty. Innocents will keep falling like ninepins. And nothing will happen. This cycle will never run its course because it favours the powerful, the influential and the rich. Will it surprise anyone if the silence following the Safoora attack investigation report returns with a vengeance?