Friday, October 23, 2015

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72% Of Saudi Death Sentences Handed Down For Non-Violent Crimes

Among those facing execution are prisoners who were sentenced to death as children, such as Ali Mohammed al-Nimr and Dawoud Hussain al-Marhoon.

The vast majority of people facing execution in Saudi Arabia were convicted for non-violent crimes including political protest and drugs offences, according to new research from the human rights organization Reprieve.
The report includes data gathered by Reprieve on 171 of the prisoners currently on death row in Saudi Arabia. It finds that 72 per cent of those prisoners whose alleged offences Reprieve has been able to determine were sentenced to death for non-violent crimes – including attendance at political protests and drug offences. Reprieve has also been able to establish that of 62 of the 224 prisoners estimated to have been executed in Saudi Arabia since January 2014, some 69 per cent had also been sentenced to death for non-violent offences.
Among those facing execution are prisoners who were sentenced to death as children, such as Ali Mohammed al-Nimr and Dawoud Hussain al-Marhoon. The two juveniles were arrested at 2012 protests, and were tortured into ‘confessions’ that were later used to convict them in the country’s secretive Specialized Criminal Court (SCC). Reprieve’s report also establishes that the use of torture to extract ‘confessions’ is widespread, with specific cases identified where prisoners have been beaten to the point of suffering broken bones and teeth.
The death sentences handed down to the two juveniles have provoked strong public concern from countries allied to Saudi Arabia such as the UK, the US and France. Yesterday, speaking to MPs both about Ali’s case and that of British citizen Karl Andree, British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond said: “I do not expect Mr Andree to receive the lashings that he has been sentenced to, and I do not expect Mr al-Nimr to be executed.” However, Mr Hammond provided no details of any assurances received from the Saudi government.
Speaking to human rights organization Reprieve earlier today, Ali’s father Mohammed al-Nimr, said while he was glad politicians may have received some assurances from the Saudis, “the facts on the ground leave much fear and doubt”. He revealed that Ali was now being held “in the solitary cells reserved for those facing execution”, adding: “I tried to visit him yesterday but they prevented me.”
Commenting, Kate Higham, caseworker at Reprieve, said: “This report shows how Ali and Dawoud’s death sentences are just the tip of the iceberg. The Saudi government appears to be routinely sentencing people, including juveniles, to death for non-violent crimes such as attending protests. All too often, these sentences are handed down on the basis of ‘confessions’ extracted through torture, as in Ali and Dawoud’s cases. Ali and Dawoud are now being held in solitary confinement and could face imminent execution at any time. The UK and other close allies of Saudi Arabia must redouble their efforts to see the juveniles released to their families – they must also send a strong message to the Saudis that these widespread abuses are utterly unacceptable.”


The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has warned about the “dire” humanitarian situation in the southwestern Yemeni city of Ta'izz as Saudi Arabia keeps bombarding its neighboring Arab country.

“The situation in Tai'zz is particularly dire, even by the standards of the appalling conditions all over Yemen, with the nearly half of the hospitals closed and streams of wounded people desperate for treatment,” the head of the ICRC delegation in Yemen, Antoine Grand, said on Thursday.

“We have been asking the parties concerned to authorize the delivery of urgent medicines to the al-Thawra hospital for the last five weeks, to no avail so far,” Grand said, adding that “this shipment is critical to save lives.”

It is said that thousands of people have fled the city of Tai'zz and those left behind are facing severe shortages in water, food and electricity.

"Today, we have been able to distribute food and basic aid to some displaced people on the outskirts of Tai'zz, but it remains very difficult for essential goods to enter the city, leading to an extremely worrying humanitarian situation," the ICRC official added.

The Geneva-based organization urged all parties to the conflict to take all the necessary precautions "to protect civilians and civilian infrastructure, and to lift the restriction of movement of essential goods into and within Yemen."

Yemen’s al-Masirah TV said earlier on Thursday that at least 10 Yemeni fishermen were killed after Saudi fighter jets pounded their boats off the western coast of Uqban island.

On Wednesday, the ICRC said that Saudi warplanes targeted residential areas in Tai'zz, which is Yemen's cultural capital and third largest city, killing at least 22 people and wounding 140 others.

Yemen has been under incessant Saudi strikes since March 26. The strikes are supposedly meant to undermine the Houthi Ansarullah movement and restore power to the fugitive former president, Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi, a staunch ally of Riyadh.

Some 7,000 people have lost their lives in the Saudi airstrikes, and a total of nearly 14,000 people have been injured since late March.

Video Report - CrossTalk: Syrian phoenix

50 ton-question: Who got US ammo intended for anti-ISIS Arabs?

Arab rebels in northern Syria say they have received none of the ammunition air-dropped by the US. The supplies appear to have ended up with Kurdish fighters, whose anti-ISIS offensive stalled following protests from US ally Turkey.
The Pentagon said the shipment dropped by US airplanes on October 11 was intended for the “Syrian Democratic Forces,”an alliance of Arabs and Kurds several thousand strong intent on attacking the Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) capital of Raqqa. The group’s existence was announced just hours before the first airdrop.
The newly minted coalition consists of the al-Sanadid Arab tribal militia, a Christian group dubbed the Assyrian Military Council, and the Burkan al-Furat (“Euphrates Volcano”), a joint Kurdish-Arab group on the Raqqa front, as well as the formidable Kurdish YPG militia, which outnumbers all the other forces by 4 to 1, according to the Washington Post.
However, no Arab units have received any of the ammunition so far, Bandar al-Humaydi, head of the al-Sanadid militia, told a McClatchy reporter by phone on Tuesday.
"We got nothing, and it’s not clear at all [if we will],” al-Humaydi said.
“Maybe our partners, the Kurds did,” added his father, Sheikh Humaydi Daham al Hadi, head of the Shammar tribe.
“I don’t know where they went,” the commander of Thuwar al-Raqqa, an Arab unit that is part of Burkan al-Furat, told the Washington Post. “There are also front lines in Hasakah, so maybe the ammunition will be used there.”

Those 50 tons of ammo dropped into northern Syria for Arab coalition Raqqa offensive? Arabs say they got nothing.


Key union endorses Hillary Clinton


By Dan Merica

AFSCME, the largest trade union of public employees in the United States, endorsed Hillary Clinton for president Friday, according a release from the group provided to CNN.
The endorsement, a key for Clinton, came after the 35 person member-elected board representing American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees councils and affiliates from around the country voted to back the former secretary of state.
"The next president will make decisions that could make or break the ability of working people across America to sustain their families. That's why we spent the last six months engaged in the most member-focused, in-depth, and transparent endorsement process AFSCME has ever undertaken," said AFSCME President Lee Saunders
    Saunders added the group was looking for someone to fix the "out-of-balance economy."
    "Members want a candidate who will make it easier instead of harder to join together in strong unions and stand together for wages and benefits that can sustain our families," he said. "What we also heard was AFSCME members want the candidate who will be the most effective champion for working families, and who will be able to deliver a victory in this critically important election. AFSCME members believe that candidate is Hillary Clinton."
    The decision came after the union had conversations with all candidates, including Clinton, former Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley and independent Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders. All three candidates participated in town hall meetings with the unions in Iowa earlier this year and the union used three member polls to gauge which candidates their members we backing.
    Polling, according to Saunders, showed that nearly two thirds of AFSCME members would vote for Clinton in the Democratic primary.
    The AFSCME endorsement is big for Clinton, who is coming off arguably the best three weeks of her campaign. With the endorsement, the 1.6 million members of the union will provide help on the ground in key states and will be able to back her campaign financially, too.
    The national endorsement does not mean that AFSCME state chapters are compelled to endorse Clinton, but the national endorsement is the only backing that comes with organization and money, according to union spokespeople.
    The Sanders campaign brushed off the endorsement.
    "Bernie is proud to have the grassroots support of tens of thousands of working families in AFSCME and other unions," Sanders' spokesman Michael Briggs said.
    Republicans were quick to use the endorsement against Clinton.
    "Hillary Clinton is now officially beholden to the big government union bosses who routinely put their special interests ahead of the hard working taxpayers," RNC Chairman Reince Priebus said in a statement. "With their endorsement, its clear AFSCME is counting on Hillary Clinton to block commonsense efforts to reign in Washington's runaway wasteful spending that is mortgaging our children's future."
    The union has long been supportive of the Clintons. AFSCME backed Clinton in 2007 and went early for then-Gov. Bill Clinton in 1992.
    The union is a major player in Iowa, too, representing 40,000 public employees.

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    Investing in Afghanistan, 14 Years Later

    US not to broker India-Pakistan ties


    Secretary of State John Kerry tells Nawaz Sharif that normalisation of relations vital for the region.

    The United States says it “encourages” India and Pakistan to engage in a “direct dialogue,” but steers clear of Pakistan’s demand that it intervene to reboot bilateral relations. This is a reiteration of the U.S. position that while it will encourage both countries to talk, it has no direct role to play.
    Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, who is on a three-day visit of the U.S, raised with Secretary of State John Kerry and members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee India’s reluctance to engage with Pakistan. He told his U.S. interlocutors about his four-point agenda for improving ties with India that he announced at the United Nations last month. India has rejected the proposal, saying that ending terrorism originating from Pakistan is essential before talks can begin.
    Mr. Kerry said normalisation of India-Pakistan relations was vital for the entire region. Incidentally, Afghanistan occupies a major part of discussions between the U.S and Pakistan during Mr. Sharif’s visit.
    State Department spokesperson John Kirby said India and Pakistan “stood to benefit from practical cooperation”, and the U.S encouraged both countries to engage in direct dialogue to reduce tensions.
    At his meeting with members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee too, Mr. Sharif brought up relations with India.
    “Members noted the Prime Minister’s proposal that given India’s resistance to bilaterally resolve outstanding issues, including Kashmir, it would be imperative to have the third party intervention for which the United States would be most relevant,” a statement from the Pakistan Foreign Office said.
    Mr. Kirby refused to discuss specifics of the three dossiers that Pakistan said it had given to the U.S., alleging Indian involvement in insurgency in Balochistan.

    Pakistan’s politics of a doomed class

    By Lal Khan

    As the din goes on of the media-based politics that the moneyed political elite so adores, and the petit-bourgeois hordes scramble in an orgy of lobbying the pseudo “experts” of the different factions, the oppressed masses in the depths of society look on with a passive indifference.
    But this superficial silence of the vast majority of the simmering populace has its own clamour - the resonance of a seething discontent and revolt below the surface is clearly there..
    After more than two and a half years of elections, the agenda of mainstream politics has not moved beyond the issue of electoral rigging. Elections have become a day-to-day routine, rather than an act which empowers a certain government to redress the grievances of a deprived society. Apart from other reasons, they have become a non-issue being overplayed by the corporate media and the filthy rich politicians to distract attention from the real burning issues that are crushing the country—while the ruling PML (N) has mastered rigging to the level of an art. The PTI has developed a twitch, inadvertently moaning, groaning, and cursing rigging and corruption. This soap opera is being shown on the television screens and social media as entertainment for the vociferous and fitful middle classes. The masses, however, remain distant and apathetic towards this media gimmickry.
    The truth is that every mainstream party is in crisis and is losing its social base amongst the masses, who have given up any real hope in this corrupt and impotent politics. The PML (N) regime is being run by a “kitchen cabinet” of three, while all the other federal ministers are openly at each other’s throats..

    The PTI has lost most of the by-elections, and its internal dissensions are ferociously repressed by its despotic leader, Imran Khan. The PPP’s mass base has shrunk drastically, as seen in the recent by-election in NA-122.
    What Zia ul Haq and the military establishment couldn’t do to the party, Zardari has managed to do, molding the PPP into his own image - despised and discredited. The revival of the PPP’s fortunes becomes bleaker by the day.
    The MQM is facing internal splits and fatal conflicts as much as the wrath of a military establishment that was scorned by its acts of insolence to its mentors. The ANP, after blatantly embracing neoliberal capitalist policies, internal dynastic strife, and, more importantly, its dismal and corrupt performance in the previous provincial government in Pushtoonkhawa, has been reduced to a shell.
    Like most other mainstream parties, the family soap of its dynastic leadership has entered a tragic phase. The nationalists have been weakened more by the betrayals of their leaders and their capitulation to capitalism than the manoeuvres of the state. Those genuinely fighting for national liberation are smeared by the links of their leaders with the various imperialist vultures plundering the resources of these lands.
    The Jamaat a Islami, JUI (F), and other known Islamic parties are not immune to this process. History is a testament that these obscurantist entities only flourished under the patronage and watchful eyes of the military establishment. The madrassas and their other social welfares projects are a façade for their criminal acts to accumulate black money. Their predominant army of supporters came from the petit bourgeois who, in the current era of social media, are being lured by the other, more attractive avenues and commercial indulgences.
    The organic and inherent weakness and erosion of the corrupt civilian political elites raises the spectre of the repressive alternative of the military as the saviours of this tragic land. Trotsky, the great revolutionary Russian leader, said, “the crisis of mankind can be reduced to the crisis of leadership.” This has never been more applicable as in today’s Pakistan, and explains why—in a country where the military has ruled directly for almost half its chequered history and carried out harrowing atrocities upon the oppressed masses—it is being peddled as a saviour.
    The generals, however, are reluctant to take over direct power. Why should they, when they can see the burgeoning economic and social crisis in society, and are already calling the shots in crucial policy matters, from foreign policy to commercial decision making? At the same time, they are the biggest entrepreneurs in the manufacturing, real estate, construction contracts, and services sectors of the formal economy. The generals’ tentacles in the informal economy penetrate much deeper, but none of the ingenious “Think Tanks” can dare to expose this state of affairs.
    This political impotence of these parties and leaders - who are no more than pawns of Pakistan’s rotten capitalism and commission agents of imperialism - stems from the failure of the system itself. In spite of the cooked figures and lies about favourable conditions, the macroeconomics of the country is in bad shape. Despite the praises from the imperialist financial institutions, the prospects of any economic growth and betterment are extremely limited.
    In its history, Pakistan’s economic growth averaged a rate of around six percent. The last two democratic regimes have struggled and failed to reach even a modest 4 percent growth rate, in spite of the fact that in this moment in time the hegemony of finance and corporate capital in Pakistan is absolute, and all parties have capitulated to preserve this system by hook or crook.
    Pakistan’s finance ministry and imperialist financial institutions that actually control this economy are rejoicing in a false delusion. The high foreign exchange reserves and the low rate of inflation are exhibited as successes of the PML (N) regime. The World Bank and the International Monetary Fund in reality are a political and monetary conglomerate. These parasitic institutions must serve their political subscribers and impose such policies on recipient countries, like Pakistan, that enhance the probability of repayment of foreign loans. Pakistan’s forex reserves of about 19 billion dollars are the result of large foreign borrowings, and the low inflation rate is because of declining global oil and gas prices.
    However, there is a clear disconnect between this right-wing capitalist regime and the World Bank/IMF’s celebrations, and the everyday reality confronting the ordinary people in Pakistan. If you are unemployed or underemployed, high foreign exchange reserves and the low inflation rate are practically meaningless.
    Pakistan currently has a working-age population of some 100 million, nearly half its population. Most of this labour force works less than 35 hours a week, thus qualifying as underemployed. In order to stave off an even more drastic conflagration in the coming period, Pakistan will need to create at least 2 million new jobs a year and achieve an annual GDP growth rate of 7 percent. This is a tall order for a system that has rotted to the core.
    The reality on the ground is that all key economic and social indicators are deteriorating. Among others, this is evident from the circular-debt figures—up from Rs. 411 billion in 2013 to Rs. 633 billion as of June 30, 2015. This mammoth amount of hard-earned capital from the blood and sweat of the Pakistani workers is being blatantly robbed by the IPP’s [Independent Power Producers], the imperialist and local private power producers who are paid astronomical amounts by every government in power whether they produce any electricity or not. This gruesome plunder is continuing due to the agreements signed by regimes of the PPP and the PML (N) in the 1990’s, who reaped massive bribes for selling off the power production and consumption of the future generations to these corporate vultures.
    Pakistan’s is far from a fair-taxation regime, the cornerstone of basic fiscal justice even on a capitalist basis. The indirect taxation component of its Rs. 2.7-trillion tax pool for the current financial year is 57 percent. This regressive taxation (the lower your income, the more taxes you pay) is cruel and exploitative. If your electricity bill is Rs. 20,000, about 40 percent of this is tax; if your landline phone bill is Rs. 3,000, about 30 percent is taxes; if you buy high-speed diesel, the ad valorem tax is 45 percent.
    Every dominant political party’s economic recipe to come out of this catastrophic crisis is the “miracle” of FDI (foreign direct investment). Paradoxically, with the crisis of capitalism on a world scale, the opposite has been the outcome.  Domestic and foreign investors are keeping their wallets shut. Foreign Direct Investment, which peaked at $5.4 billion in 2007–8, has hit a 13-year low of $709 million. If the traditional party of capitalism, the PML (N), has failed to improve the economic situation, none of the other mainstream parties, be they secular or Islamic, vying to serve the ruling classes better, can do much about pulling this economy out of the disastrous crisis it is in.
    Some more savvy and astute politicians, realising the historical bankruptcy of this system, have developed plunder to a fine art. All the talk in all political spheres, and in the intelligentsia’s debates, is about corruption. The more they scream against it, the more it spreads throughout the economy and society. It is a social norm that has become a way of life. With almost two-thirds of the economy in the informal sector, corruption is not the cause of the crisis of capitalism, but is a product of this system, one without which it can no longer function..  In a society where the ruling classes cannot generate a healthy rate of profit to preserve their socio-political status and certain stability in society, they have no option but to plunder the state and society. The resultant deprivation of the masses spreads misery and destitution throughout society. The more the misery, the more will be the corruption.
    It has penetrated every aspect and organ of the capitalist state and society like a metastasizing tumour. The PML (N)’s victor from NA-122 in Lahore, Ayaz Sadiq, in his first interview after victory let the cat out of the bag when he said, “now it has become impossible for any ordinary person to contest election as it has become such an expensive exercise where only billionaires can seriously indulge in this electoral process.” This shows that ideologies and politics hardly matter in elections. All one needs is bags of money to reach the height of power.
    In today’s Pakistan, jobs are at the mercy of bribery, health and education is a privilege for the upper middle classes and the moneyed elite, and tycoons can buy off ministries and dictate every policy. This mad lust for money has created an insane social milieu. Human souls and delicate relations have been debased by the lust of money. This system has reached a stage where any reform or improvement of society has become a deceptive slogan. The crisis is unravelling rapidly, pushing society even further into the horrific abyss of plunder, bloodshed, and human devastation.
    Under capitalism, the future of society is harrowing and barbarous. It is not an accident that the masses have profoundly rejected the prevalent politics. In their agony and pain they have come to the conclusion that that this system cannot deliver. The system is rotten to the core. It cannot be reformed. The seething silence and alienation of the masses reflects a burning quest to end this misery.
    The necessary task of the surgical removal of this cancerous system depends upon the oppressed masses’ ability to carve out a revolutionary mass party and a Marxist leadership as they enter the arena of class struggle. The historic task of every class conscious youth and worker is to fight to the finish for the socialist transformation of Pakistan.

    Pakistan- #PMLN's Friends of LeJ claims responsibility for Bagh Imambargah attack

    Outlawed Lashkar-e-Jahngvi (LeJ) on Friday claimed responsibility for the Bagh Imambargah suicide attack.
    Speaking to a local newspaper, the spokesperson for the group, Usman Saifullah, said his organisation carried out the attack. “Our suicide bomber Muhamamd Hussain carried out the attack in Kazmia Imam Bargah in Bhag on Thursday,” Saifullah claimed.
    At least 10 people were killed while 13 others including children were injured after a suicide bomber attacked an Imambargah in the Kachhi district of Balochistan on Thursday.
    Balochistan suicide attack: Blast kills 10 in Imambargah
    The bomber attacked the Imambargah just as Maghrib prayers were under way, medics at a state-run hospital in the area told The Express Tribune.
    According to eyewitnesses, the suicide bomber was a teenager. They said he was clad in a burka when he entered the place of worship. According to sources, an examination of the attacker’s remains suggested he was not a local.
    The funeral prayers of the people killed in the attack were offered in Bhag on Friday which was attended by the large number of people, including the deputy commissioner and other high ranking officials.

    Pakistan - Punjab - Metro disaster

    The Orange Line Metro Train project is shaping ut to be another ecological, cultural and economic disaster, similar to its predecessor the Metro Bus. The Orange Line, which is the first track line of the proposed larger Lahore Metro network to be constructed, will stretch for more than 27 kilometres and is projected to cost more than $ 1.6 billion. It is being developed and funded with the help of the Chinese government and a consortium of Chinese firms. 

    The ruling PML-N is eager to fast track this rapid transit project and have it completed before the 2018 elections so it can show off its capacity to deliver massive, ostentatious infrastructure projects. Certainly, the Sharif brothers have been gung-ho about the viability and necessity of the Metro Train and have been delivering animated speeches in favour of a project that seemingly fulfils the requirements of a ‘world class’ city. It is undeniable that a modern and efficient public transport system is needed in the major cities of Pakistan due to the exponential increase in the presence of vehicles on the roads in recent years, which results in dangerous traffic choke points and a lack of mobility for those without personal vehicles. Projects like the Metro Bus and now the Metro Train are therefore couched in relevant terms: of reducing traffic and giving poor people cheap and safe transport. But the N-league is responding to the concerns of traffic in such an irresponsible manner that it betrays its authoritarian flourishes and the poor people such projects purport to benefit are in fact the ones who suffer exclusively in their wake.

    The Metro projects and the ongoing signal-free corridor project reveal how the executive takes decisions unilaterally without consulting the relevant environmental protection bodies or taking the consent of locals who will face the brunt of the construction. Thousands of trees have been uprooted so far in favour of building a concrete jungle and have not been replanted, to the detriment of public health and the environment. The Archaeology Department was also not consulted and now key heritage sites are in danger as the route of the train has devoured protected land of the GPO and will see construction work taking place within metres of the Shalimar Gardens. Other than the unquantifiable but critical phenomena like culture, heritage and greenery, the Metro Train will also directly ruin the lives of many poor people whose dwellings lie in its path. Flawed and inconsiderate land acquisition rears its ugly head once again as residents of the Kapurthala House, who have lived in the area for generations, are protesting because they are offered inadequate compensation and face homelessness due to a lack of any plan to relocate and rehouse them. These arbitrary, unjust and autocratic policies reveal the government’s worldview wherein the poor are to be ‘dispensed’ with at the whims of the rulers. 

    Bilawal Bhutto’s message on Youm-e-Ashur

    Bilawal Bhutto, Chairman Pakistan Peoples Party emphasized on unity in Muslim Ummah and working jointly towards peace among human kind.

    In his Youm-e-Ashur message, Bilawal Bhutto Zardari said the sacrifices of Karbala are membered forever and displayed the kind valour put up against atrocities and injustices.

    He hoped that government has made extraordinary arrangements on the eve and occasion of Youm-e-Ashur for peaceful observation. There is a need of cohesion, brotherhood and unity so that the elements who spread hatred are defeated in their designs to fan sectarianism.

    He said that Youm-e-Ashur reminds us the worst tragedy in human history where innocence was put to sword and human rights crushed in horrendous way.

    Bilawal Bhutto Zardari paid great tributes to the martyrs of Karbala.

    Threats to Pakistan’s Women Journalists

    In January 2015, I had just returned to Islamabad from assignments abroad and was investigating a story involving the influence of intelligence agencies on civilian government. After shuttling around for months meeting sources, a minister asked me to drop the story; I would face “severe consequences” if I did not. That was followed by calls telling me I was being watched. People I spoke with were later interrogated about their meetings with me. The stress that followed moved me into silence.
    I feared stepping out of home, answering the phone, or calling the electrician to fix the lamp in my living room. I grew suspicious of neighbors, cab drivers and friends. I wasn’t even sure who to fear most: the minister who told me to drop the story? Perhaps the intelligence officials who harassed me outside Mir Ali — a town in North Waziristan where Pakistani military had been carrying out Zarb-e-Azb, its operation against terrorists? Or maybe I should be most scared of working in Balochistan, where my sources were threatened following my visits if they spoke to journalists?
    I did not, however, fear my own life. Women journalists do not face such dangers in Pakistan, I told myself. (Except my old companion and activist Sabeen Mehmud, who got killed in a busy street in Karachi, shot by armed men, while all this was going on.) That doesn’t mean that female reporters don’t receive threats in Pakistan. The Committee to Protect Journalists keeps watch on harassment and exile of journalists. Of the 56 journalists that CPJ lists as having been killed in Pakistan since 1992, 100 percent are male targets, but that doesn’t reflect the full story. From my own experience and reporting, I’ve found that female journalists have so effectively been intimidated that their cases don’t make it to local or international public reports.
    “Nobody ever reports it,” says one female colleague, who I’ll call Sarah, who was sexually harassed by an intelligence officer and intimidated into dropping the story she was investigating. “Even if my life is in danger, publicizing these threats will make my family’s life hell.” After various incidents, Sarah suffered severe depression. Within a month she had to leave the country, and is now living in exile with extended family in the West. One prominent obstacle in getting female reporters to talk about their cases has been shame. Women journalists who speak out about their difficulties are publicly humiliated, harassed by supporters of politicians and the establishment. Their families and colleagues often suffer along with them. Lubna Thomas Benjamin says she felt greatly intimidated while reporting on Rimsha Masih, a young teenage Christian girl who faced the death penalty under blasphemy law. Lubna, who comes from a Christian minority background, is now in exile in the United States. Shaista Wahidi, a prominent morning show host at GEO TV, had to flee the country immediately after one of her programs was accused of blasphemic content. Sana Mirza, a GEO News reporter, was harassed by a political mob of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf supporters while reporting on their rally in Lahore, and Maria Memon, a GEO News anchor, was showered with sticks and bottles while covering a political rally of the group in another city.
    “No one is accountable when a politically or religiously driven mob attacks women reporters,” one TV female reporter told me.
    These are often portrayed as isolated incidents, but they have consistently discouraged women journalists from working in the field. I spoke with more than a dozen female colleagues who have faced harassment. Some received private threats. Some were threatened by right wing Islamist groups, while others feared politicians who invited them to private dinners and then requested sexual favors. Some faced threats from police and mafia alike, or were blackmailed. All of them complained about the irresponsible responses from their editors and colleagues. When one woman who covered crime for The News received threats from a politically-driven mafia in Karachi, her editor and colleagues told her: “It’s your fault. You’re too aggressive… Drop the story.” Saba Eitizaz, Urdu correspondent for the BBC, had many traumatic encounters. When she started covering Balochistan, she was given clear instructions by intelligence officers about what she could and could not cover: “If you report on military activity, you will be considered a threat.” She was reminded of the incident of a white foreign white journalist, Carlotta Gall, The New York Times reporter who was punched in the face in her hotel room in Quetta. “If it could happen to her, it could happen to you,” the intelligence officer would tell Saba.
    Saba often got calls from Military Intelligence on her office number, and frequently encountered cars parked outside her house, watching her. Her driver was once beaten up, and she has had multiple interrogations. “These incidents constantly remind me that I should be afraid. There is someone watching me, chasing me,” Saba said.
    She was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder, and her marriage almost broke up. When she considered moving to another country, Saba was followed outside the consulate by intelligence officers who once again reminded her of her limitations. Saba confesses it has affected her work. “We feel so ashamed of sharing our trauma, but we constantly live in it. And it constantly transforms the stories we cover,” she says.

    Pakistan on the edge ahead of Shiite Ashura festival

    Pakistan today deployed thousands of security personnel, surveillance cameras and aerial drones to avoid any terror attack during the Shiite Ashura festival, a day after 12 people were killed in a suicide attack at a minority Shia shrine in the troubled Balochistan province.
    The Ashura is observed on 10th day of Islamic of Muharram, falling tomorrow, to commemorate the martyrdom of Hussain Ibne Ali, the grandson of Prophet Mohammad.
    The Shiites have taken out processions in major cities on 9th day of Muharram today.
    In Pakistan’s most populous province of Punjab, at least 12 districts including Lahore and Rawalpindi, were declared sensitive, said the Inspector General Police (IGP) Mushtaq Sukhera.
    The internet and mobile services remained blocked today at some places and will remain so tomorrow as well. A ban on pillion riding is already in place for both days.
    Entries to the route of procession have been strictly monitored with the help of walk—through gates and metal detectors. CCTV and drone cameras are being used to record the movements of people.
    In Pakistan’s biggest city of Karachi, additional IG police Mushtaq Mehr was personally supervising the security arrangements of the processions and gatherings.
    He said about 28,000 security persons were taking care of security of Karachi.
    Thousands of more security personnel were deployed at other places in Sindh province.
    Balochistan, where a Shiite religious center was attacked last night that killed at least 12 people, more than 20,000 police and Rangers were deployed for two days to ensure security.
    DIG of Quetta Imtiaz Shah said that more than over 5,000 security personnel were guarding the capital Quetta which has a history of attacks at Shiite shrines.
    In the militancy-plagued Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, police, paramilitary Frontier Corps and army was deployed to assure security.
    The police has also declared Hangu, Kohat and Dera Ismail Khan as the most sensitive districts.
    Police has also banned the entry of Afghan nationals in provincial capital Peshawar and also banned pillion riding in the city.
    A senior security official said that are reports that militants have planned attacks at the procession of Shiite and government had taken extensive measures to avoid any untoward situation.
    Shiite are attacked by extremist Sunni groups who consider them as heretics.

    Pakistan's Shia Under Attack - Bomb targeting Muharram procession kills 20 in Jacobabad

    A bomb detonated in a Muharram procession near Shershah Haveli in Jacobabad's Lashari Mohalla Friday evening, killing at least 20 people and injuring many others, DawnNews reported.
    Security and rescue teams rushed to the site following the explosion. The dead and the injured are being shifted to Civil Hospital Jacobabad, where an emergency has been declared.
    Rescue sources told DawnNews that at least 20 persons were killed in the incident, including four children.
    SSP Jacobabad Malik Zafar Iqbal Awan claimed “police have recovered lower part of a body of possible suicide bomber from the place of blast”.
    Talking to Dawn over phone from the place of incident, he said that more than 15 people were killed in the attack.
    He claimed that "lower part of a body is found which shows that it is possibly a suicide bombing".
    The police officer explained that the blast took place in a six feet wide allay in Lashari Mohalla, where the procession was being attended by more than 20 mourners.
    The director general health services of Sindh, Dr Hassan Murad Shah, said emergency has been declared in District Hospital Jacobabad. He, however, avoided confirming number of bodies that arrived at the district hospital.
    Security personnel have cordoned off the area, while a search and rescue operation is being carried out.
    Sectarian violence has claimed thousands of lives in the country over the past decade.
    Yesterday, a suicide attacker blew himself outside an imambargah in Bolan’s Goth Chalghari area, killing at least 10 people and injuring many others.
    It is the second deadliest bombing on a Shia congregation after 61 people killed and at least another 60 injured in a bomb explosion in an imambargah in upper Sindh district of Shikarpur on Jan 30, 2015.
    The law enforcement agencies in Sindh had found a “nexus between sectarian terrorists and anti-state elements”, posing a threat to peace during Muharram.
    The intelligence agencies were told to keep an eye on the Indian intelligence agency RAW during the month, it emerged.
    The Sindh government had already imposed a ban on pillion riding in Karachi, Hyderabad, Sukkur and Larkana.
    Moreover, cell phone services have also been suspended in major cities, including Karachi, as a security measure during the observance Muharram.
    The gatherings and processions during Muharram mark Hazrat Hussain's (RA) martyrdom in the Battle of Karbala, Iraq, in 680 AD.