Wednesday, November 4, 2015

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Why Are Asian-Americans Such Loyal Democrats?

Thomas B. Edsall

In just two decades, Asian-American support for the Democratic presidential candidate more than doubled, from the 31 percent Bill Clinton got in 1992 to the 73 percent cast for President Obama in 2012, according to exit polls.
This shift followed the collapse of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War, developments that freed anti-Communist Asian immigrants – those with roots in China or Korea, for example – from single-issue ideological concerns that had previously drawn them to the Republican Party. Today, Asian-Americans, a population of 17.2 million, are among the fastest growing constituencies of the Democratic Party. In some ways, Asian-American voters, combining personal wealth, entrepreneurial success, high incomes, traditional family values and a strong work ethic, would seem to be ideal recruits for the more conservative political party. Nonetheless, the Republican Party has steadily lost their support.
The accompanying chart, provided by Karthick Ramakrishnan, a professor of public policy and political science at the University of California, Riverside, shows the steady movement of Asian-Americans away from the Republican Party to the Democratic Party.

Asian-Americans have the potential to transform the Democratic coalition. They add a large block of voters who combine economic and educational achievement with deeply felt liberal convictions. According to Taeku Lee, a political scientist at the University of California, Berkeley: Asian-Americans are, their vaunted educational and economic successes notwithstanding, a group that has in various contexts experienced differential treatment and a group that in various contexts identifies as a minority group.
In addition, Lee wrote in an email responding to my inquiry:
Today’s Asian Americans are not only liberal on the expected issues like health care reform, immigration reform, and educational reform, but they also seem to espouse liberal views across a wide range of unexpected issue areas like environmental politics, affirmative action, and the like. We even find, in our 2012 National Asian American Survey, that nearly 2 out of every 3 Asian Americans who report earning more than $250,000/year supported an approach to reducing the federal budget deficit that would raise taxes on those earning more than $250,000-a-year.
There is one issue, race or ethnicity-based affirmative action, on which Asian-American loyalty to the liberal agenda is more conflicted.
More than 60 Asian-American groups have filed complaints with the Department of Justice and the Department of Education charging that preferences for African-Americans and Hispanics at Harvard and other selective colleges have reduced the number of Asian- Americans accepted. The complaints are based on the fact that Asian-Americans as a group have substantially higher standardized test scores and grades than competing demographic groups, including whites.
The complaints prompted a separate coalition of 135 Asian-American civil rights groups to declare its firm support of affirmative action The accompanying chart, compiled from data provided by the College Board, shows that college-bound Asian-Americans received the highest average SAT scores in 2015 of any group. The cumulative score on all three SAT tests – critical reading, math and writing – was 1654 (out of a possible 2400) for Asian-Americans, 1576 for whites, 1277 for African-Americans, and 1343 for Mexican-Americans.
A 2005 study published in the Social Science Quarterly, “The Opportunity Cost of Admission Preferences at Elite Universities,” by Thomas J. Espenshade, a professor of sociology at Princeton, and Chang Y. Chung, a statistician at Princeton’s Office of Population Research, found that “Asian applicants are the biggest winners if race is no longer considered in admissions” at “three highly selective private research universities” which the authors declined to identify. The Asian share of those accepted at such institutions would grow from 23.7 percent to 31.5 percent, they wrote.
Asian-American resistance to race-based affirmative action surfaced in California last year when leaders of the Democratic-controlled State Legislature considered putting a referendum before the voters to restore race-conscious admission policies at public colleges and universities. Asian-American voters flooded legislators with phone calls and emails opposing race-based preferences, prompting three Asian-American Democratic state senators to declare their opposition. Legislative leaders dropped their plans for a statewide referendum.
Affirmative action aside, support for the liberal agenda is solid among the broad population of Asian-Americans.
Janelle Wong, a professor of American studies at the University of Maryland, emailed in response to my query:
Asian Americans tend to support a strong social safety net and stronger role for government in everyday life.
Wong noted that on a key polling question that tests political ideology, “58 percent of Asian Americans, versus 39 percent of the U.S. population in general, supports a ‘bigger government with more services’ over a ‘smaller government with fewer services.’ ” The same tilt to the left is clear on other issues, according to Wong: “Asian Americans are more likely than the U.S. public in general to support Obamacare and to support environmental protection over economic growth.” In the case of immigration, support among Asian-Americans for a path to citizenship for the undocumented has grown steadily, Wong writes, “so, as the Republicans’ rhetoric on immigration has become more punitive, the community has actually moved in the opposite direction.” The political liberalism of Americans of Asian descent is notable given their affluence, success in the marketplace and the high status of jobs they hold. Asian-Americans, according to the Pew Research Center, “are the best-educated, highest-income, fastest-growing race group in the country.”
In 2014, median household income for Asian-Americans was $74,297; for whites, $60,256; for Hispanics, $42,491; and for African-Americans, $35,398.
Three out of five in the Asian-American work force have a college degree, compared with 37 percent of whites, 27 percent of African-Americans and 18 percent of Hispanics. Fifty percent of Asian-Americans have managerial or professional jobs, compared with 39 percent of whites, 29 percent of African-Americans and 20 percent of Hispanics.
Asian-Americans also stand apart from other Americans of all races and ethnicities in family structure. The percent of out-of-wedlock births among Asian-Americas in 2013 was 17 percent, just over half the 29.3 percent rate for whites and far below the 53.2 rate for Hispanics and the 71.5 percent rate for African-Americans.
The work ethic is robust among Asian-Americans, who believe by 42 points (69-27) that “most people can get ahead if they’re willing to work hard.” Among all American adults, it’s a much smaller 18 points (58-40).
On the divisive issue of abortion, Asian-Americans are more liberal than the general electorate. By 17 points (54-37), Asian-Americans believe abortions should be legal in most or all cases, compared with an eight point spread (51-43) in the general public, according to the Pew Research Center.
What can we make of all this data? There are a few preliminary inferences.
The first is that despite their affluence, Asian-Americans are on course to become a mainstay of what Stan Greenberg, the Democratic pollster, calls the “rising American electorate”: the liberal alliance of black and Hispanic minorities, single women and young voters.
In this respect, Asian-Americans are similar to another minority voting group with strong Democratic ties, American Jews. They, too, have incomes and educations well above average. The Pew Research Center found that 42 percent of Jewish households had an income of $100,000 or more, compared with 18 percent of all American households. Along similar lines, 58 percent of Jews have college degrees, compared with 29 percent of the entire population.
Jewish support for Democrats is similar to that of Asian-Americans. According to Pew, 70 percent of Jews identify themselves as Democrats or lean toward the Democratic Party, and 22 percent are Republican or lean Republican. Asian-Americans share with blacks, Hispanics and Jews an experience of previously marginalized status and social exclusion. These four constituencies also share a belief that a commitment to hard work and self-reliance does not conflict with a belief in a strong government and a reliable safety net.
Such views stand in direct contrast to those of the Tea Party and Wall Street wings of the Republican Party, both of which see self-reliance and big government as antithetical to each other. It may prove that the values that Asian-Americans, Jews, blacks and Hispanics share will create sufficient cohesion to sustain a liberal coalition, even as some members of the coalition fail to ascend the socioeconomic ladder in lockstep with the others. That is the current conundrum of the upstairs-downstairs American left.
Their Republican adversaries, who have themselves fielded a multiracial and multiethnic set of presidential candidates, are determined to fight fire with fire, as they claim to be the party most committed to upward mobility. When voters go to the polls a year from now, these Republican claims will be tested as never before.

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Why Putin is so popular among Russians?


RD Interview: Valery Fedorov, director of the Russian Public Opinion Research Center (WCIOM), discusses the interconnection between foreign policymaking, media and society in Russia, the new historic high of Putin’s approval rating, and the cyclical nature of U.S.-Russia relations.

Public opinion surveys consistently find Putin scoring very high approval rates despite concern about the troubled economy and high tensions with the United States over the Ukraine crisis. Photo: AP
Russia's National Unity Day, celebrated on Nov. 4 to commemorate the popular uprising which expelled Polish occupation forces from Moscow in November 1612, is usually used as a political tool to promote the Kremlin's agenda among ordinary people. At the same time, it reflects the nature of the anti-Western policy of the Russian authorities. Russia's 1612 decisive response to the Polish intervention probably came as a surprise for Warsaw.
Likewise, the current policy, both domestic and foreign, pursued by the Kremlin does not fail to keep surprising Western experts and policymakers. All this leaves pundits in Europe and the U.S. uncertain about what should be expected from Russia on the world stage, with some experts like Stanford University’s Michael McFaul, former U.S. Ambassador to Russia, warning about the dangers that stem from Moscow’s foreign policy strategy and encouraging the U.S. leadership to contain Putin’s actions in Syriaand Ukraine.
To what extent is such worrying rhetoric grounded? What kind of social changes are happening in Russia and how is the political scene in Russia most likely to develop in the short term?
Russia Direct sat down with Valery Fedorov, director of the Russian Public Opinion Research Center (WCIOM), to discuss the interconnection between foreign policymaking, media propaganda and the public mood in Russia, Putin’s public image, and the cyclical nature of U.S.-Russia relations.
Valery Fedorov
Valery Fedorov
Russia Direct: What are the key topics that are the focus of international experts and policymakers today, from your point of view?
Valery Fedorov: The shock of the last year has passed and it is no longer accepted that Russia is the evil aggressor who is reforming the world order. There is no illusion now about the kind of government in power in Kiev and about the ineffective U.S. policies in the Middle East. Everyone understands that Russia is back in the international decision-making process.
Another point is that the dialogue on the world stage has now become multipolar. Not only Russia and the West are included in it, but also the global East. This reflects the global movement of power, wealth, science and technologies. In the political sphere, the East has usually been underrepresented. The same goes for Russia because we were traditionally oriented towards the West and Europe. Even our eastern part of the country didn’t receive enough attention.
Today, a balance is starting to form. The reasons for that are well known: If our Western partners don’t treat us well, we pivot to the East. Today, in some ways, we are paying our debt to the East and starting to recognize that the future of human civilization is now decided in the Asia Pacific region.
The final trend in focus is that currently we are going through a difficult problem-solving process both on the regional and global levels. On the regional level, the discussion is aimed at searching for specific ways to resolve conflicts, such as in Ukraine and the Middle East, while on the global level the question is more fundamental and broad. The whole structure of the post-Cold War world order is now in ruins. This became evident last year. Now the urgent question is: What do we do next? How can we substitute this system with another?
Some powers find the old system efficient enough so they push for its revival. On the other hand, they tend to forget about the numerous wars, genocides and instability that it gave birth to. Others believe that a new structure should be formed, but no one agrees on how it might look like.
Russia, in turn, is pushing for multipolarity with the UN and international law playing an important role. This concept, though, does not satisfy the rising powers – they do not have a voting power in the UN Security Council and they don’t find the UN capable of ensuring everyone’s interests. The U.S., on its part, also does not consider the UN to be efficient but they do not want to be just one country among others in the new concert of powers.
The discussion is just beginning to take place so it will remain on the agenda of the world ruling elite for the next decade or more.
RD: From your point of view, what is the correlation between Russia’s domestic development and its foreign policymaking?
V.F.: Speaking about Russia in the global context, it is necessary to note that in 1990s we were nobody, we didn’t believe in ourselves and we barely had enough resources to sustain our survival, even less our economic development.  
During the last 15 years we managed to resolve the urgent issues and focus on areas with the most potential. We achieved good results not only in economic development, but also in the area of politics. However, the achievements we reached did not come without a price: Russia still remains, first and foremost, a natural resources exporter bearing all the risks connected to oil price fluctuations. Energy resources are traded in dollars, so the Russian financial system is vulnerable to external influence, which is evident now with regard to sanctions.
In other words, it is clear today that we are not the same as we were a couple of decades ago. We can afford more, we live better than we did before and, as a result, we strive for more. We believe that we deserve more and carry out our policies as adults, not children, in the Western school of market economy and democracy.
On the other hand, it is also clear that we are still far from being able to play as equals with the West. Russia’s ability to sustain itself under pressure is limited. There are many urgent issues, which need to be resolved in the areas of technology, finance and business. Therefore, our main priority is to focus on domestic development.
Here we can speak about a similar situation in China. Starting in 1975, China has been successful in achieving a high level of economic growth and technological advancement. But, still, the gap between China and the West exists. This gap is also present between Russia and the West. So, our main focus is internal, not external.
Therefore, Russian foreign policy initiatives over the past year emerged not as a result of our desire to show off our muscles; rather, it was an inevitable consequence of the status of a great power. This status means specific requirements and if you do not meet them you get kicked out of the league – this means a different position on the world stage and a different form of dialogue. This will mean other bets and offers. That is why the transformation is in process, not as fast and efficient as it could be, but it is underway and I believe that we can make it successfully till the end.

Also read: Russia Direct Report 

"Decoding Social Transformations in Russia"

RD: How would you characterize the interconnection between Moscow’s foreign policy decisions, the mood of the Russian public and the media coverage:  What do you think comes first? Is it the Russian state media that influences the public to support the Kremlin or is it the public mood that shapes the Kremlin’s policymaking and the media coverage?
V.F.: In the 1990s there were no Communist media sources and the television network was largely liberal, promoting the market economy. However, all parliamentary elections held throughout that decade saw the high popularity of the Communist Party and the Russian ultranationalist Liberal Democratic Party of Russia. This is an example of the inability of the media to influence the public.
Today the situation is different: The liberal voices are not heard, and they have no political power. The liberal media is at the outskirts, while the mainstream media during the last couple of years has been mostly state-supportive, patriotic and anti-Western. And it is highly popular.
Why? Is it because they are trying to impose some kind of agenda? Or is it because they speak the same language with the common people and address the questions that concern them? I am inclined to think it is the second. Television’s popularity over the past years has been growing: everyone is watching it because they finally started to meet the demands of the public. I think it is the media that has changed, not the mood of the people.
RD: Recently Putin’s public approval rating reached its all-time maximum – almost 90 percent. To what extent is it possible to sustain it and what does this level of public support mean for the future development of the country?
V.F.: Of course, the high level of public support is something that you quickly get used to. On the other hand, when one and a half year ago the rating reached 86 percent no one hoped that it would remain this high for long – actually everyone expected it would decrease and reach 65-70 percent. It did not happen. Why? My version is that Putin went through his second symbolic birth. He transitioned from the category of a politician that might be compared to other public figures to the category of a historical figure- the ratings of which cannot be counted.
His right to determine the future of the country is now beyond discussion. His actions in Ukraine and Crimea are something that Russians believed he should do by showing the world what Russia is about and did not bend to the pressure. Basically, in some respects, he completely met the characteristics of a proper “tsar.”
By the way, the “tsar” epithet, while having negative connotations, points out a couple of interesting parallels. Who would measure the rating of a tsar? It’s absurd.
On the other hand, the rating of his prime minister can be measured. In this sense, the Russian system is quasi-monarchical: Putin has gone much further than other politicians have. And he has become a political institution himself. Unless he decides to leave his position, he will remain in power.
RD: Does it create any risks in the long run?
V.F.: The risk is that when the time comes and he decides to leave the political stage without a successor, the system might collapse. But I don’t find it urgent for now. This is a long time coming and there will be enough time to ensure the line of succession. The precedent was in 2008 when Dmitry Medvedev became president and he was one till 2012. The risk exists but it can be controlled.
RD: For now, there are no preparations for that?
V.F.: Putin’s term ends in 2018. It is highly likely that he will win the 2018 presidential elections. So I’d think about the risks in 2022.
RD: Talking about the dynamics of U.S.-Russia relations, how has the public attitude towards the United States changed? What are the main factors that influence the opinion of Russians with regard to America?
V.F.: The U.S. for Russia always was and will remain one of the most important states that we compare ourselves with and look up to, even if we are annoyed by it. That is why the dynamics of our relations are of a cyclical nature.
The most positive period for our relations was after the break-up of the Soviet Union. Then, in 1998, we became disappointed in the U.S. due to our financial default and the Yugoslavia bombings. After that, in 2001, another surge of sympathy happened after the Sept. 11 attack in 2001, when the U.S. was a victim and showed its weaknesses.
Two years later, the U.S. got involved in Iraq – the whole world including Russia disapproved of it and another period of coolness came along. Today we are experiencing another setback. The percentage of those whose attitude towards the U.S. is positive has hit an all-time low. Against this background, the public attitude toward China that has always been characterized by skepticism and fears of colonization has risen significantly in a more positive direction.
Hence, the new warm-up in Russia-U.S. relations might be expected after the new U.S. president gets elected in 2016. Every new president tends to reassess relations with Russia, forgetting everything that happened before and giving it a fresh start. In Russia it is more difficult to do – our history is five times longer and we tend to look into the past as compared to the American tendency to look into the future.
This means that the hands of the new U.S. president will be untied and we will be able to reset our relations once again.
RD: So the cyclical nature of U.S.-Russian relations is connected with the cycles of power in Russia and the U.S.?
V.F.: Yes, but this interconnection has now shifted because the length of presidential terms has changed. Earlier, the cycles coincided with each other quite well: for example, Putin and George W. Bush came to power in 2000. Now, as a result of constitutional reform in Russia, the presidential term length has changed from four years to six so the cycles do not match this well. However, over time this should level out.

Putin tops Forbes’ 2015 ranking of the World’s Most Powerful People for third year

Russian President Vladimir Putin has topped Forbes’ 2015 ranking of the World’s Most Powerful People for the third year running. The annual ranking was published by the U.S. magazine on Wednesday.
In spite of Western sanctions and economic recession in Russia, Putin’s approval ratings reached a record high, Forbes said.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel has taken the runner-up spot in the ranking, jumping up from last year’s fifth spot. U.S. President Barack Obama went down one spot to third on the list.
Besides Putin, three Russians were put on the list - the heads of the Russia’s state-run oil and gas giants Rosneft and Gazprom, Igor Sechin and Aleksey Miller, alongside tycoon Alisher Usmanov.

Excelling in Pakistan-a difficult task for Christians

By Yam.Y

Christian educational institutes in Pakistan, like Gordon College, Kinnaird College for Women, Murray College, St. Deny’s High School, Forman Christian and many other Convents and Presbyterian Church schools, are well regarded and are still very popular due to the quality of education they provide. But, the question I have had in my mind for a long time is that, if the leading institutes are owned by the Christians, then why are a large number of Pakistani Christians uneducated and what’s keeping them from gaining a good education?
A large majority of Christian families are uneducated.  They lack resources and equal opportunities. Due to nepotism and current economic condition of majority of Pakistani Christians, it is very tough for Christians to provide good education to their children. Fees of Christian institutions are usually sky high and it is not possible for a common Christian to admit his/her child to these schools. Muslims, on the other hand, can pay well and they are easily granted facilities from our Christian institutions.

Other than that I would like to say that our main line churches have played a vital role in education and health sector. However this facility (school or college) is not available to Christian families living in remote (non-city) areas. I wish to respectfully point out that church leaders (pastors, clergy, moderators, bishops) perhaps could do much more in terms of motivating and creating awareness among students of their respective congregations.

Being a minority, we, in different ways, are deprived of equal rights. There is religious prejudice and discrimination. In certain areas Christians are considered as low-castes. The Christian students are made victim of derogatory remarks and some odd religious questions. They face difficulties in seeking admission in educational institutions or securing jobs. All of these factors have profoundly affected the personality traits of our youth. Such a suppressed environment no doubt is a constant hurdle for Christians to excel and do well in education in fact in any field of life in Pakistan. Being a deprived class community lacking facilities and resources, we lack the academic merit, thus the doors of quality education or opportunities for good jobs are automatically closed. Low merit Christian students cannot compete and this adds to the misery pool of Christian community. This is how the vicious circle keeps going.

Recently there has been an increased awareness regarding education and its benefits and more and more people are focusing on education but much more needs to be done still.

Education is a key to success of individuals, families, communities and nation. It needs to be our priority.

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Pakistan - Tears Shed on Anniversary of Shama and Shahzad Burnt Alive in Brick Kiln

Today is 4th November. Not remarkable in any way, the day before Guy Fawkes Day - a cold, ordinary November day here in the UK. Yet this date is forever emblazoned in my memory as it marks one year since Sonia, Poonam and Suleman were robbed of both their parents, on the same day, both killed in the same cruel and inhumane way. Such a double loss would be a tragedy in any circumstances, but these children’s parents were lynched, beaten and burnt to death by a Muslim mob for alleged ‘blasphemy’ and thrown alive into the brick kiln where they worked. Let us imagine, as best we can, as adult westerners, what these children have gone through. Very young, knowing only poverty which saw several older siblings farmed out to relatives who could support them, they would not understand that their parents were borderline slaves, working as ‘bonded labourers’. They would never have known that their pregnant mother was being sexually abused by the accountant/manager at the brick kiln, nor that their parents were being cheated of their wages and debt repayments, a typical occurrence.

When their grandfather died, Shama, their mother, cleaned out his house and burned some magic occult papers as being Christian she was against this and wanted no trace of it left. This was the trigger for accusations of blasphemy by Muslim neighbours who claimed she was burning holy words from the Quran. The children likely wouldn't know that in villages all around, imams were using mosque loud-speakers to urge villagers to punish the blasphemous unbelievers. 

We know that at least one of the children witnessed some of what happened when that mob arrived at the brick kiln office where their parents had been forcibly locked up. Thankfully they were then whisked away to safety by an uncle. If they had seen it all, this is what they would have witnessed. They would have seen the mob storm the office and drag the young couple out. They would have witnessed their parents be stripped naked and dragged around the village whilst being savagely beaten so that every limb was broken. Eventually they would have seen their parents being thrown – reportedly still alive – into the brick kiln where they had laboured as virtual slaves. According to some reports, when their mother wouldn’t burn, she was taken out and covered in fuel, and thrown back in. They would have seen the police officers present do nothing to try and stop the lynching of these despised Christians that was unfolding in front of them, not even to fire their guns in the air to try and break up the mob. Imagine the trauma. Any child would be confused and grief-stricken if they lost their parents suddenly and horrifically on the same day, and any child would be left with a yearning ache and longing which only their parents can fill. 

The British Pakistani Christian Association (BPCA) has undertaken to help look after Sonia, Poonam and Suleman as best we can. We are providing them with shelter and we have employed a full time nanny, Elizabeth Dildar, to bring some semblance of stability, love and care. Nanny does the normal household tasks such as laundry and meals and homework supervision, similar to that which parents would provide, and she is very loving with the children. We feel that the children having the nanny is paramount to ensure that they receive appropriate physical and spiritual growth as the task is too great for their aging grandfather to shoulder alone. Nanny Elizabeth's duties include preparing them for school, checking school bags are correctly filled, lunch is made and uniforms are ready, and taking the children to and from school. In addition she prays with them, teaches them scriptures, and plays with them. She provides much needed emotional support and affection and we hope and pray that this care and nurture continues to be healing for Sonia, Poonam and Suleman.

Unlike many other groups who arrive, take photos, and claim they are doing something, it is clear that we really are. As long as funds permit, we will also continue to help provide food which costs about £50 per month. One bright spot is that the children seem to be very well treated at school by children and teachers alike. They have not had to protect their identity and have faced no bullying, in fact they are progressing well. When our officer Mehwish visited them recently, she was warmly welcomed, but as the children grow older, naturally they are asking questions about the murder of their parents. 

One of the girls often wakes crying out for her ‘Mama’ and the eldest is starting to ask questions about who killed their parents, if they still out there, and will they come back to kill us, particularly after reporters come and ask questions. These are still deeply traumatised children, with impoverished family members trying to help and protect them. They are trying to hide the reality, which is that although some fraction of the mob has been arrested, and a smaller fraction charged, on previous performance it is highly likely that they will go free and not be jailed, and similarly previous experience would suggest that that the three imams who incited the murder Mohammad Hussain, Arshad Baloch and Noorul Hassan will be exonerated.

Of the 620 people implicated in the original police report after the murder of Shama and Shahzad, only 126 culprits have been arrested. A further 32 are being examined, the rest of the mob are fugitives. Bail has been cancelled for all the culprits who await sentencing but the maternal grandfather Mukhtar Masih has reported to us that he has received intermittent threats from family and friends of those arrested promising violence unless the case is withdrawn. He said:

"We receive continuous threats to withdraw the case by the perpetrators' families from nearby towns – they come to the house and make threats. I will not give up justice for my daughter Shama and her husband Shahzad, they were innocent and the guilty must be punished. No father should see his daughter die before him and the brutality that my daughter went through, brings me to tears every time I think of it. None of the culprits have ever shown any remorse and this hurts the most - my daughter's life meant nothing to them." 

In the meantime a custody battle ensues over one of the children which is causing great turmoil for the grandfather and the children who are uncertain of their future. The family will be holding a private memorial today to remember the young couple killed in their prime before they could see their children grow, leaving behind four orphans. BPCA Officer Naveed Aziz is one of the few non-family members to be invited and he will be speaking at the event, we will share details on a later post. Please pray for the family who hold the event at 8 am (GMT), Pray for solace and peace and for the long awaited justice to come to fruition. 

Wilson Chowdhry, Chairman of the BPCA said; "This tragic event has often been described as Pakistan's most brutal killing, the murder shocked the world and ostensibly the authorities in Pakistan. Yet to date the perpetrators have not been brought to justice. Four young children have been mentally and emotionally scarred for life and nothing can bring back their parents. If Pakistan wants to retrieve any form of reputation in the international arena they must ensure that lessons are learnt from the murder of this innocent young couple, and that the rule of law and not mob rule permeates throughout Pakistan in future."

He added: "Charities such as ours have been left to protect and care for this family, taking on a state role. The promised compensation for the children are not so grand sums that have been left in trust till they reach adulthood, which does not help with their immediate concerns. This is another failing of the Pakistani Government, who need to review how they respond to victims of the polarised society that pervades in the country. The pittance received by the maternal grandfather, Mukhtar Masih, who is guardian for the children is shameful and an indication of the low worth set upon the lives of Christians in Pakistan." 

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Is Pakistan’s Islamic Council trying to incite genocide of Ahmadiyya Muslims?

Sitara was a special kid from the start. Questioning everything around her, she was a difficult student to be satisfied. At the young age of 9, she passed her O Levels exams to become the youngest child in the world to achieve the feat. In an ideal world, she would have been praised and supported by the government of Pakistan and civil society alike. But Sitara Brooj Akbar belongs to the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community. She wouldn’t go out of her house unless surrounded by two armed guards.

She had to leave Pakistan due to the continuous threat to her life for being an Ahmadi Muslim. Hence, a brilliant student and a great human being was chased out of the country. Sitara is not the only child, and her family is not the only one that had to leave the country. There are thousands of such families belonging to the Ahmadiyya Islamic sect who were either chased out or voluntarily chose to settle abroad due to depleting tolerance and growing hatred towards the community.

The contempt and loathing for Ahmadis in modern day Pakistan dates back to ’53 when violent protests erupted in Lahore against them. Led by famous religious scholars of that time, rioters demanded removal of Sir Zafarullah Khan – an Ahmadi foreign minister and a close associate of Jinnah – and the removal of Ahmadis from all top government posts, along with the formal excommunication of the community. Their demands were finally met in 1974 when all religious parties combined and passed the 2nd amendment through National Assembly unanimously – declaring Ahmadis non-Muslims. There was no stopping these parties after that. Zia added the misery of Ahmadis by promulgating Ordinance XX – under which Ahmadis were barred from using Islamic terms and titles, using Islamic texts for prayers, calling their worship place ‘Masjid’ or even greeting others in the Islamic way. Ahmadis today are the most persecuted religious minority of Pakistan.

Adding to the suppression, Maulana Sheerani, Chairman Council of Islamic Ideology, in his latest statement to the press announced that he intended to discuss three important issues in the meetings. 1. Deciding whether Ahmadis are non-Muslims or murtids (apostates) 2. Imposing jizya on non-Muslims 3. Determining which sects fall under Islam At a time when Pakistan is said to be fighting a final war against terror, extremism and radicalization, when our forces and civilians are sacrificing their lives, the Chairman CII has decided to reopen what the state is said to have been trying to close. Ahmadis have faced persecution and oppression of the worst magnitude. And with statements like these, what is Maulana trying to imply? Everyone knows the punishment of an apostate is death in Islam. Does he want all Ahmadis hanged? Although the position of Council is just a ceremonial one and has nothing to do with the law, even passing such remarks can provoke the religious zealots to kill people.

 Is Maulana Sheerani trying to incite genocide of Ahmadis? Now that the NAP has been implemented to some extent, hate speech by sectarian organizations has stopped. Before the National Action Plan, sectarian organizations would roam around freely – apostatizing and killing the opposite sects and their followers. These organizations, often patronized by state for proxy wars, were given a free hand until now. Under these circumstances, CII Chairman wants to debate which sects fall under the umbrella of Islam. Any sane person with a bit of concern about the country’s prevailing situation would know how vile the statement sounds. Lastly, he desires to impose jizya on non-Muslims. They are already considered third-rate citizens here. With such despicable demands, Maulana Sheerani doesn’t help but make things worse for them. Pakistan is a democratic state and a democratic state treats all its citizens equally, irrespective of their cast, creed, religion or ethnicity. Pakistan has been wrecked by religious intolerance, jihadism and religious terrorism. Instead of finding a way forward, Council of Islamic Ideology wants to impose medieval laws that have nothing to do with modern statecraft. The recent statements by Chairman CII are deplorable and must be condemned by all. Maulana Sheerani also needs to realize if he wants to stay relevant, he needs to stop passing such controversial remarks on a regular basis.

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Why Central Asia is increasingly worried about Afghanistan

As foreign militants join the Taliban's fight against government forces in Afghanistan, Central Asian countries are more and more worried about the danger of Islamic fighters infiltrating the region. DW examines.
S Secretary of State John Kerry recently concluded a five-nation tour of Central Asia, reassuring the countries' leaders - increasingly concerned about the threat of Islamic extremism - that Washington remains committed to the region's security, even though the US has scaled down its military presence in Afghanistan.
In fact, during a meeting with Tajikistan's President Imomali Rakhmon, Kerry reaffirmed Washington's intentions of helping that country secure its border with Afghanistan, and explained that the US decision to slow the drawdown from the war-torn country also served that purpose.
Afghanistan has been a source of concern in recent years for the former Soviet states which fear the fighting in the war-torn country could spill over into their territory, particularly after reports emerged that a large number of Central Asian militants - Uzbeks, Chechens, Tajiks and Kazakhs - fought alongside the Taliban during the insurgents' brief capture of the northern Afghan city of Kunduz in late September.
"Terrorists of different stripes are gaining more influence and do not hide their plans for further expansion," Russian President Vladimir Putin said last month at a summit of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) in Kazakhstan.
There is also a growing concern about the spread of extremist ideas in the region. For instance, Tajikistan's authoritarian government - which has been in power since 1992 - faced embarrassment earlier this year when the commander of the country's Special Forces declared himself a member of "Islamic State" (IS). There have also been reports of attacks on police staged by militants allegedly sharing IS views.
Assessing the threat
Any signs of instability in Tajikistan are a source of concern to Washington, but especially to Moscow upon which Dushanbe relies through the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) for external security. For instance, Moscow has military bases in both Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan.
But just how serious is the threat emerging from Afghanistan? According to President Putin, the situation is "genuinely close to critical." But analysts say there has been limited evidence of that so far. So in order to fully understand the issue, it's important to take a broader look at ties between Afghanistan and Central Asia.
Afghanistan's immediate neighbors - Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan - still share a common cultural and social heritage with their Afghan neighbors despite their isolation during the Soviet rule.
Tajikistan, for instance, is both an important trade partner - especially for energy - and a comfortable fall-back "base" for many Afghan politicians and commanders of Tajik ethnicity, said Alexey Yusupov, director of the Afghanistan office of the German foundation Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung (FES), explains.
But although generally stable, Kabul's relations with its neighbors to its north are not necessarily tension-free. There is a long legacy of cross-border crime and violence, much of it fueled by the drug trade, and such unrest has sometimes ratcheted up tensions.
'The wake-up call'
Central Asian states are particularly concerned about the trajectory of the Taliban insurgency, because in recent years it has become so much stronger in northern Afghanistan than it had been before.
"I think we can assume that the Taliban's brief takeover of Kunduz was a wake-up call for some of the more naïve officials in Central Asia who may have believed that the violence was restricted to areas further away from Central Asian borders," Michael Kugelman, Afghanistan expert at the Washington-based Woodrow Wilson Center for Scholars, told DW.
"My sense is that Central Asian states worry greatly about increased fighting in northern Afghanistan, not just because of the violence but also because of the refugee flows and drug trafficking that could intensify," Kugelman added.
Although the Taliban have repeatedly stated they have no ambitions beyond reclaiming control over Afghanistan, it is known that foreign Islamist groups operating in Afghanistan such as IS or the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU) have a much broader agenda.
Returning jihadists and Pakistan
Nevertheless, analysts argue that security threats to Central Asia don't come mainly from Afghanistan, but are rather posed by returning homegrown jihadists and groups based in countries such as Pakistan who have infiltrated Afghanistan.
"For Central Asia, the primary concern is descendants from the region who fight in Syria in the al-Nusra Front or IS-affiliated brigades," said Yusupov. Moscow says some 5,000 to 7,000 people from former Soviet states, including Russia, are fighting alongside IS jihadists in the Middle East.
"Their eventual return would mean an influx of experienced and radicalized militants thereby constituting a serious threat to the ruling regimes and societies of Central Asia. This is why preventing this scenario is one of the motivational rationales behind the recent Russian campaign in Syria," the FES expert added.
But that's not all. Tamim Asey, a research fellow at the Kabul-based Afghan Institute for Strategic Studies (AISS), points to a host of Pakistani groups such as Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, Lashkar-e-Taiba, and Sipah-e-Sahaba as contributing to the overall security threat in the region. It is believed that many of these militant outfits crossed into neighboring Afghanistan when the Pakistani army decided to launch a military offensive against them in 2014.
"Right now - their aim is to either return to North Waziristan or find an alternative sanctuary. Once resettled, they want to step up their operations in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Central Asia," said Asey.
IS gaining a following
As for IS in Afghanistan, experts indicate that the group's factual weight and importance is currently significantly lower in comparison to the public perception.
"Their territorial control is so far limited to a couple of districts in Nangarhar Province, with some incidents also reported in Kunar Province," said Yusupov. Afghanistan expert Kugelman agrees: "Despite all the hype and threats, IS remains a big threat in the Middle East, and not beyond that region - at least not yet."
The more pressing issue for Central Asia and Afghanistan is that many radicalized and unaligned militants are galvanized by the IS brand and wish to associate themselves with it, even if they have no formal institutional linkages.
This means, in effect, that many militants in the region are carrying out attacks and giving IS the credit, especially after the confirmed death of Taliban leader Mullah Omar.
"Though there's no indication of formal allegiances between these disaffected militants and IS, the group is starting to gain, at least rhetorically, a following that is more than negligible," said Kugelman. On top of that is the fact that the Central Asian IMU, described by some as one of the most vicious militant groups in the world, recently announced its loyalty to IS.
"The IMU has been close to al-Qaeda and has fought very closely alongside the Taliban. It's staged countless attacks in Afghanistan and Pakistan, and the fact that it's now tied to IS is nothing but bad news," Kugelman added.
This means that IS militants in Afghanistan could indeed become a significant threat if the country and especially its economy continue to deteriorate. What's surprising in this context, despite their proximity to Afghanistan, the Central Asian states do not have extensive legitimate economic relations with Afghanistan.
Main objective: Afghanistan
This is in part testament to the fractured nature of the larger region but also to the sheer profitability of the illegal drug trade, which links elites in Afghanistan and the Central Asian states, Deirdre Tynan, Central Asia Project Director at the International Crisis Group in Kyrgyzstan, explained.
"Efforts to stem the drugs trade in Central Asia have failed largely because there has not been the political will at the highest levels to do so. At the same time, there has not been the wherewithal to open the economic space between Afghanistan and Central Asia to legitimate cross border trade."
In the meantime, it seems the militants' main objective remains Afghanistan, especially since most of the fighters involved seem to share the Taliban's ideology of establishing a hard-line Islamist Afghan state and, perhaps more importantly, already enjoy de facto control of large swaths of the country.
By comparison, the situation to the north is very different. "In Central Asian states you have these large crackdowns against militant groups, which curtail their freedom of movement and make it harder for them to operate. In an ideal world, the militants would redirect their attention back to Central Asia and perhaps Russia, but they simply don't see a very easy environment to work in back in those areas at the moment," said Kugelman.
This, however, doesn't exclude a scenario of increased terrorist attacks in the area - probably the reason why Moscow recently decided to beef up its 7,000-strong military presence in Tajikistan with attack and military-transport helicopters.
A failed strategy?
Although both Russia and Central Asian republics have had their experience with combating domestic Islamism, they have concentrated thus far on instruments of law enforcement and intelligence control. But as FES analyst Yusupov explains, this strategy does not address the social issues and the economic factors underlying the recruitment dynamics.
"Most of the Central Asian combatants in Syria left their countries as migrant workers to Russia trying to support their families through remittances. The economic crisis in Russia took them then to the paying 'jobs' inside the IS, thus intertwining economic and ideological motivations," he said.