Sunday, July 31, 2016

Pashto Attan Song 2016 - Naghma

Ignorant Muslim fanatics from Afghanistan storm Kalash Valley, steal 2,500 goats, sheep

Intensifying their cross-border attacks, the Afghanistan-based militants took away about 2,500 goats and sheep from the Kalash valley Birir, locals and officials said.
The incident reportedly happened hours after the militants’ attack on Friday in Bamburet valley inhabited by the Kalash minority community.
The Nuristan-based militants had killed two Kalash shepherds in Bamburet valley on Friday and seized over 300 sheep and goats in Karakal border village of Bamburet. This had created fear in the otherwise peaceful area in Chitral.
The locals said dozens of militants from Nuristan province of Afghanistan attacked shepherds in Birir valley and herded away some 2,500 goats and sheep to the neighbouring country.
There are, however, conflicting reports about the number of sheep and goats taken away by the gunmen to Nuristan. According to some reports, the militants drove away some 400 goats and sheep while others said the number was 2,500.
The locals said  the shepherds managed to save their lives by taking refuge in a nearby village.
Meanwhile, the funeral ceremony of Noor Ahmad and Khush Wali, the shepherds who were killed in Friday’s attack, was held late last night without any special rituals.
According to the Kalasha traditions, the mourners perform rituals for the dead for three days before they are laid to rest. People from the three Kalash valleys of Rumbur, Birir and Bamburet gather to pay their last respects.
District Police Officer (DPO) Asif Iqbal Mohmand said the first incident happened early Friday morning near the Pak-Afghan border.
He said they have deployed additional 150 personnel including Elite police force to provide protection to the Kalash people.
There is suspicion that the attackers were Pakistani militants based in Nuristan province of Afghanistan. They have undertaken attacks in the Pakistani border areas in the past as well. Three years ago the militants had infiltrated into the Bamburet valley and killed a shepherd belonging to the Kalash community and taken away his 200 goats and sheep.
The attacks have caused fear among the Kalash people, whose total population is 3,000, and their community elders have asked the government to provide them protection. Though the security and law-enforcement agencies personnel are present in Chitral, including the three Kalash valleys in strength, the militants have continued to launch attacks in remote areas close to the Afghan border.

Pakistan - Back to private jihad?

Afrasiab Khattak
Terminology of “old” and “new” Pakistan has acquired a particular connotation in the recent political discourse in the country. Parallel to that discussion there have also been similar claims and counter claims in debate about the emergence of a new Pakistan in terms of facing the challenge of terrorism.
Operation Zarb-e-Azb and the National Action Plan of 2014 were supposed to have started a new chapter in the country’s security policy with zero tolerance for extremism and terrorism of all brands. Pronouncements of the All Parties Conference held on December 24, 2014 made it quite clear that there is going to be no room for private militias working under any garb (including the religious one) in Pakistan. These notorious outfits working under religious camouflages were supposed to be disarmed and dismantled. The formulation of the amendments in the Military Act of 1952 clearly implied that those who take up arm in the name of religion and sect to wage war against the state will be regarded as jet black terrorists and will face the brunt of anti-terrorist laws. An important section of NAP declared a ban on the proscribed organisations from working under new names. Skeptics who expressed doubts about the seriousness of the deep state in breaking its prolonged relations with militant organisations were silenced because the army leadership was also a party to the decisions of the APC and that means business.
For a few months the optics reflected the NAP narrative. The Media was briefed by government spokespersons from time to time about “targeted operations” against sleeper cells of terrorists, hate speeches and written material inciting violence. But as the year 2015 drew to a close it became quite clear that the more Pakistan changes the more it remains the same. The focus was shifted from toxic ideologies and banned organisations to the alleged corruption in the Fisheries Department of Sindh that was supposed to have financed terrorism! Dr. Asim Hussain’s hospital in Karachi was supposed to have become the mainstay of terrorism. It became quite evident that good Taliban (Afghan Taliban, JuD, JeM and others) had nothing to fear under this new narrative. Haven’t we been here before? Remember General Musharraf’s “enlightened moderation” which was supposed to push back extremist/terrorist ideologies but subsequently the same proved to be a veneer for the regrouping of Taliban on Pakistani soil who were earlier vanquished in Afghanistan?
The middle of year 2016 saw a complete u-turn in the War on Terror. Particularly, after the death of Mulla Mansour, the leader of Afghan Taliban, the jihadi industry in Pakistan has seen a public revival. On May 30 JuD hosted a meeting of pro-Jihadi organisations in Islamabad under the auspices of Defense of Pakistan Council. Leaders of different outfits clearly hinted at an escalation of fighting in Afghanistan. They also expressed their determination to continue their support for militants fighting in the neighboring countries. On June 5 the same conglomerate of extremist organisations came out for a public show of strength in Islamabad. In the holy month of Ramazan Jihadist outfits publicly asked for financial donations in mosques in different cities of the country to support what they called jihad in different places. These activities were reported in media but the government remained totally indifferent. In June the PTI government allocated 300 million rupees in the annual budget of provincial government for the Haqqania religious seminary run by Sami-ul-Haq, the self proclaimed father of the Taliban. What is the rationale for money going from the public exchequer to institutions that refuse to be reformed and insist on spreading extremism? Last but not the least, a public rally was organised by JI, JuD and other extremist outfits last Sunday in Rawalpindi and Islamabad, ostensibly in support of the people’s uprising in Indian held Kashmir. The organisers of the rally publicly collected financial donations.
This line of action is particularly dangerous because the expansion of militancy in the region will inevitably lead to the contraction of peaceful economic cooperation in the region that includes CPEC, CASA and TAPI. Pakistan obviously can’t afford this. Public activities of UN-designated terrorist networks will definitely increase the country’s international isolation. But more dangerous is the possible rise of the so called IS in the region. The facts that have emerged from the news about military operations against militants affiliated with IS in eastern Afghanistan suggest that the bulk of commanders and fighters of this outfit are actually Pakistanis. Most of fighters in Achin, Nazian and Kot districts of Nangrahar Province hail from Oarakzai Agency, Khyber Agency and Bajour Agency and have remained part of the TTP. There has been an active supply line to these fighters in Afghanistan from Tirah Vally in Khyber Agency which is geographically adjacent to these Afghan districts. Lashar-e-Islami (LI) led by Mangal Bagh from Khyber Agency has been the main supplier. This partnership across the Durand Line also includes drug trade and other criminal activities. It is important to note that these elements have also exploited distrust and hostility between the governments of Pakistan and Afghanistan. Both the governments ignored these dangerous elements in the hope that they will harm the other side. Finally the Afghans decided to cleanse their area from this menace and a recent successful operation in Kot is convincing example of this strategy. So far there is no sign of any cooperation between Pakistan and Afghanistan to root out this scourge. The Pak-Afghan coordinated war on terror on both sides of the Durand Line envisaged in 2014 by the two governments did not materialise mainly because Pakistan failed to reconsider her relations with the Taliban.
IS has suffered serious setbacks in both Iraq and Syria in the recent past. Abubakar Albaghdadi who knows this area very well may be tempted to expand his network in Pakistan and Afghanistan where there is a lot of potential and conducive environment. That will mean a new chapter of terrorist activities in the region attracting international focus. But how will Pakistan and Afghanistan fare better than Iraq and Syria? Isn’t it time to finally close the chapter of private Jihad by the Muslim countries? For Pakistan it will mean a rethinking of her Afghan policy, among other things.

Bilawal Bhutto shocked over kidnapping of 715 children in Punjab

Chairman Pakistan People’s Party Bilawal Bhutto Zardari has expressed grave concern over kidnapping of 715 innocent children in Punjab within last month without any knowledge about the fate of such large number of children of our nation.
“Data about these ill-fated and innocent children brings in one’s mind horrific imaginations and criminal silence and inaction of Nawaz Sharif government on this human disaster should be condemned in strongest terms,” said the PPP Chairman in a press statement issued here.
He said that this was pathetic and tragic part of the report that three children are kidnapped daily from Lahore’s Badami Bagh but Punjab government was pressurizing the parents of the abducted kids to treat them as missing children to hush up the matter.
Bilawal Bhutto Zardari said, according to the reports, most of the kidnapped children belong to poor families which further aggrieves the concerns in the wake of use of innocent children in terrorist activities and brainwashing them into suicide-bombers.
PPP Chairman said that his Party was shaken by these reports and would take up this horrendous issue at all available forums as the PPP considers children as the future of our nation and protecting them from all the dangers was the prime responsibility of the state and the society.

Bilawal Bhutto condemns Larkana blast

Chairman Pakistan Peoples Party, Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, has strongly condemned blast near Rangers vehicle in Larkana on Saturday.
In a statement issued by the Bilawal House Media Cell, the PPP Chairman asked Sindh government to arrest the terrorists involved in the bomb blast and provide best possible medical facilities to all those injured.
Bilawal Bhutto Zardari expressed sympathies with the family of martyred sepoy and prayed for the departed soul, the statement added.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Is Pakistan at Risk for a Coup?

I am a Muslim doctor. I saved a Christian in Pakistan and it nearly cost me my life


I am a Pakistani medical doctor, currently receiving political asylum in the US for the past year and a half. I sought refuge here after having to go through much humiliation and outright hatred for trying to practice ethical medicine and for belonging to a religious minority in my own motherland.
A while back, my father retired from a reputed local bank in Pakistan and moved to the US, along with the rest of my family. I continued to live in Pakistan: I was a fresh medical graduate pursuing the dream of post-graduate education in nephrology.
Life seemed well on track until one night while working an ER shift, when I received a patient needing urgent dialysis. Unattended and disheveled as he was, there was no one with him to get him the medicine he needed. Fearing he might die, I instinctually grabbed the emergency medicine donated via zakaat, an Islamic system of alms-giving, and performed the life-saving hemodialysis.
He survived but I immediately faced the wrath of the nurse. She was mad at me because the patient was a Christian and she said Islamic alms are not meant to be used on non-Muslims. But I did not know the patient’s faith, nor did I know that such a law existed.
I promptly replaced the medicine, which cost around $20. But it didn’t end there. The representative of a conservative Islamic NGO, which was a donor to the clinic, was furious about what I had done. They attributed my lack of knowledge about the alms laws to the fact that I belong to a minority Muslim sect.
A departmental inquiry followed and I was discriminated throughout the entire process. The workplace discrimination gave way to threatening phone calls and vandalism of my car and bike. They found out my family lived in America and that I was alone. This made me an easy target. I was threatened with death at a medical conference hosted by the chair of the same NGO which had complained about me.
Fearing for our lives, my wife, who is also a doctor, and I made it to the US in 2015. We applied for political asylum based on what had happened to us. It took a lot of courage on her part to leave. She had to accept not knowing when she could next visit her family in Pakistan, owing to our asylum status.
Life here as an asylum applicant is hard, as I can’t practice medicine. I have a small, part-time job and study the rest of the time. I am working towards obtaining a license to practice medicine here. All this while, I am also deeply troubled by the discrimination of Muslims in America. I personally feel this country is abandoning the very principles its based on.
The demagogues emerging in this election campaign make me feel that I have no place to seek refuge anymore. My native country is a bedrock of religious fanaticism and presents a certain death for me. Meanwhile my country of asylum is fast enveloping in Islamophobia.
Humanity is the core of any religion. I believe no true Muslim can be an extremist. I knowingly went out of my way to help a human in need, without a thought about his religion. I faced backlash that would change my life forever. But, in the name of humanity, I deem that it was all worth it.

Pakistan - Bilawal Bhutto finally okays Murad Ali Shah as Sindh chief minister

Chairman Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) Bilawal Bhutto Zardari has Tuesday night formally named Murad Ali Shah as chief minister Sindh, ARY News reported.

My pleasure to announce the Pakistan People's Party's nominee for Chief Minister Sindh will be Syed Murad Ali Shah.

The outgoing chief minister Sindh Qaim Ali will submit his resignation on Wednesday morning.
The decision to replace an experienced and loyal party leader was very difficult but sometimes the party has to take such decisions for political and strategic purposes in interest of PPP and the province,” Bilawal said in a statement released by PPP media cell.
He said PPP would continue to seek Qaim’s guidance from his experience in the future also as he had been associated with the party for three decades.
Bilawal eulogized Qaim for standing by the party in difficult times. “Syed Qaim Ali Shah is a great asset of PPP who stood by the party through thick and thin for three generations of party leadership,” he said.

Qaim Ali Shah had called on the PPP chairman at Bilawal House today. The outgoing chief minister said that party’s decision was his own as the PPP leadership had always taken wise decisions and he would continue to serve the party.
The announcement of changing the provincial CM had long been lingering with the PPP leadership as it was difficult to remove the senior leader from CM office.

Chandio on behalf of Bilawal announces Murad Ali Shah as CM Sindh

Advisor to Sindh Chief Minister on Information Maula Bux Chandio on behalf of the chairman PPP formally announced replacement of Qaim Ali Shah with Murad Ali Shah as chief minister Sindh.
“We have to prepare for 2018 elections now and we need a courageous and enthusiast leader for this purpose. The chairman PPP took this imperative decision in consultation with the party leaders. The decision was not taken at once. The consultation had been going on for several days,” he said while addressing a press conference in People’s Secretariat.
He said Qaim was a very respected member of PPP who patiently stood by the party from Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto to Bilawal Bhutto.
“His ways are not parted with the party just post is changing. His relation will remain tied with PPP. He has served the province in different sectors. Qaim remained plausible since inception of PPP,” he said.
To a query, he said when faces were changed, policies also change, however Qaim had been following the chairman’s directions and Murad would also follow the same. Names of new Sindh cabinet members would be announced in a couple of days, he added.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Pakistan - Dangerous impasse

By Afrasiab Khattak

In response to a question about the possibility of talks with Pakistan recently Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi posed an interesting question; he said to whom in Pakistan should he talk to? Mr Modi might have said that for scoring a political point but he was not too wide off the mark in what he was saying. Military’s control over the commanding heights of the Pakistani state system has reached a stage where it is difficult to call it a complete civilian system. Democratic transition that had started with the general election in February 2008 and had proceeded forward in the following years has come to a grinding halt. The space in governance captured by elected civilian leadership in in the post Musharraf era has not only been recaptured by the military but the later has assumed such vast powers in policy making and day today running of the administration that can be conceivable only under martial law. Expressing deep concern over growing isolation of the country in international relations many Senators in their discussion on foreign policy on Wednesday pointed out in unequivocal terms that the General Head Quarter (GHQ) has taken over formulation of the foreign policy of the country. The federal democratic parliamentary system envisioned by the 1973 Constitution is not any more functional. It is replaced by a controlled democracy which has been the favourite system of the military rulers of the country. The quantum of vertical and horizontal democracy is decided by the generals. The widening gap between de facto and de jure is tearing the system apart. While some of the so called political parties have lent their shoulder to military for putting pressure on civilian government, the sitting government has also contributed in the process by putting its back on the Parliament and by weakening democratic institutions.
The situation shaped by the erosion of constitutional rule and emergence of quasi-military rule is fraught with dangers. The nation-building project in the federation of Pakistan is still in an embryonic stage. Army’s strategy for shooting its way through obstacles instead of leaving it to a democratic consensus was the single most important factor in dismemberment of the country in 1971. The situation is more precarious today as Punjab has not only a bigger population than the rest of the three provinces put together but Punjabi ruling elites also effectively control all the levers of state power. The present political tussle in the country is basically a struggle for power between the elected political Punjabi elite and the Punjabi dominated military bureaucratic elite. Sindhi, Pashtun and Baloch elites have only a side role. The federal structure of the state is in shambles. Rangers are hounding Muhajirs and Sindhis in Sindh, trampling under their feet the provincial autonomy provided by the 18th Constitutional Amendment. Baloch are embroiled in a bloody nationalist insurgency being crushed by the full might of state. Demolition squad of Taliban has been let loose on Pashtuns to kill them and deconstruct them as a national identity apart from implementing the policy of “ strategic depth” devised by the Punjabi elites. The social contract seems to be withering away. Growing social and political disempowerment of the people of smaller ethnic groups is creating political alienation which is quite visible and has the potential for creating ethnic earthquakes. As we know ethnic earthquakes have the capacity to travel across international borders without visas or passports.
Pakistan is far more isolated internationally than ever before. Pakistan is at daggers drawn with three out of its four immediate neighbours. Scores of Pakistanis were recently arrested in Saudi Arabia under the charges of terrorism. Relations with US are too bad to be glossed over by diplomatic rhetoric. The country’s international image is in tatters as important world powers publicly express their concern about the presence of dangerous terror networks in a country armed with nuclear weapons. After prolonged existence of Al qaida, IS is also eying Pakistan, the high sounding denials of the government notwithstanding. The presence of extremist and terrorist networks in the country equipped with Wahabi, Salfi and Takfiri ideologies makes the environment very conducive for the rise of IS. It is just a matter of time for the existing networks to rebrand themselves as IS. Pakistan can delay the implementation of National Action Plan against terrorism and extremism only on its peril.
The purpose of the aforementioned analysis is not to exonerate political parties of the country from the responsibility of the present crises. Unfortunately political parties are in a survival mode being unable to challenge the onslaught of the security establishment. I have pointed out more than once that political parties will have to start with reforming themselves if they intend to start a process of reformation. Political leadership can’t move forward without cutting out the culture of patronage and practicing democracy with in political parties. The treatment meted out to elected local governments by provincial governments in all the four provinces exposes the retarded character of our democratic culture. But as we have experienced many times in the past military rule provides no solution. It rather further aggravates the problems. So people of the country have no other option to than looking towards the Constitution and elected political leadership. The country can’t be perpetually run on ad hoc basis. Conducting national census, formulating the new NFC Award and implementing NAP can’t be delayed anymore.
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif as elected leader of the country needs to provide leadership. He should lose no time in going to the Parliament for discussing the present crises honestly and frankly. Elected representatives of the people, representing the collective wisdom, can find solutions to the multiple problems faced by the country. There is no point in calling All Parties Conferences for bypassing the Parliament. Both Mian Nawaz Sharif and Imran Khan have to learn to going through the rigours of noisy parliamentary debates. Parliament through its committees can connect with wider civil society by holding public hearings. The aforementioned path for finding solutions is less grandiose and less high sounding but is practical, legitimate and sustainable.

Pakistan - Lahore: Christians’ graveyard flooded by sewage, authorities urged to take note

A Christians’ graveyard flooded by sewage, graves desecrated by the waste water. The graveyard in Sunder Estate village, Nuhlah village, district Raiwand. Christian media reported that local government has turned a blind eye towards the desecration of Christians’ graves.
Christians' graveyard flooded by waste water
It was reported that local government has spilled sewerage water over the graveyard, which had resulted in flooding of the land. Christians complain that no dry space has been left in the graveyard, so that they can bury their dead.
Christians claim that due to lack of drainage of sewerage, Christians’ graveyard has been inundated. As a result the graveyard has turned into a pool. They are urging the authorities to look into the matter, and make arrangements for proper sewerage of the area. Local Christians are expressing grief over the defilement of graves, and are asking for due action from the concerned authorities.

Who will save Pakistan's Christians?

By Geoffrey Johnston

Pakistan's tiny Christian minority is dedicated to their faith. They are the salt of the earth, enduring hard lives, doing menial work and living in modest dwellings. They are peaceful and humble people.
And yet Christians are hated by much of Pakistan's Muslim-majority society, which inflicts terrible religiously-motivated violence on them. It's not right, and the community of nations should say so.
What is the current state freedom in Pakistan? "Alarmingly, conservative attitudes are growing, supported by the increased restrictions and threats to freedom of expression and association from the government and extremist groups," said Kiri Kankhwende, a senior representative for Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW), a United Kingdom-based human rights organization that advocates for religious liberty around the globe.
Church bombings
There is little doubt that Pakistani Christians are treated as second-class citizens by the state. Kankhwende pointed out that Pakistan's constitution guarantees freedom of religion. "However, Article 2 states that, 'Islam shall be the state religion of Pakistan'," she noted.
"In reality, there are many restrictions on the Christian community as discrimination on the basis of religion is a very deep rooted problem in Pakistan," continued Kankhwende. "Though discrimination may not be direct, Christians and other minorities are unable to rise to high ranking positions in the military and air force."
CSW representatives travelled to Pakistan in 2015 on a fact finding mission. And what they found was disturbing.
Christians are often targeted by Muslim mobs or extremist groups in Pakistan. But on many occasions, the authorities just sit back and do little to protect Christians and other religious minorities. "If you look at the Youhanabad double church bombing," said Kankhwende, "the response from the state and government was at times inconsistent and even discriminatory."
Clergymen speak out
When writing about Pakistan, it's important to gather, if possible, first-hand accounts of persecution. Two Pakistani clergymen spoke to The Whig-Standard about the challenges facing Christians in an increasingly hostile environment. To protect them from reprisals, their names and locations are being withheld.
Are Christians in Pakistan persecuted? "The question you asked can be answered by any Christian in Pakistan, because every Christian faces discrimination or persecution in his daily life," a Pakistani pastor said in an email interview. "Some are physically tortured and the other are mentally tortured through hate, discrimination and fear of (the) blasphemy laws."
Do government officials and police in Pakistan discriminate against Christians? "Yes," replied the pastor, alleging that the police have been "involved in discrimination, torture or persecution of Christians."
In addition, he stated that members of Pakistan's "poor Christian community" are "always reluctant" to register complaints regarding assaults perpetrated against them by Muslims. And they have good reason to believe that they will not be treated fairly by the authorities.
"Many times Christian girls were raped, kidnapped, forced to convert to Islam and forced to marry with Muslim males," the pastor said of common crimes against the Christian community. "But when their families went to police station for filing case against the culprits, police harassed the families and pressurized them to not raise (their) voice and sometimes refused to register the case."
The protection of Christian neighbourhoods and homes is not a priority for the police either, said the pastor. For example, when Muslim mobs attacked and burned Christian homes in Lahore in 2013, police failed to respond. And the perpetrators were never brought to justice.
The pastor alleges that police recently "attacked a church during Sunday worship and tortured (another) pastor on the charge of keeping the sound high in the church." And he also alleged that "if a Christian is charged and arrested by police for some offence, he is treated badly and tortured by police or other prisoners in the jail."
"This kind of discrimination is found not only in the police department," said the pastor, "but also increasingly in other departments of government."
Do Christians face societal persecution in Pakistan? "Yes," answered the pastor. "Christians are facing harassment or persecution in day-to-day life. And Christians are living a life of fear in their workplaces."
Young Pakistani Christians are not spared the wrath of hatemongers. For example, "Christian students are not allowed to drink water from the same tap or same glass from which other Muslim students drink." If they do, Muslim students might falsely accuse them of blasphemy, which is a capital offence in Pakistan. Consequently, Christian students live in constant fear of being threatened with Pakistan's blasphemy laws, said the pastor.
"And Christians are beaten by Muslims, but they cannot complain because they live in fear that they will be accused of blasphemy and no one will listen to them," he said.
Persecution and discrimination
Another Christian clergyman agreed that Christians face persecution and discrimination by police and society. "But these kinds of occurrence depends upon the environment and situations," he said in an email.
Pakistan's notorious blasphemy laws, including Bill 295 C, continue to be used to persecute Christians. False accusations of blasphemy are used by some Muslims to settle personal scores with Christians, or to torment the Christian community. "295 C is a hanging sword for innocent Christians, as people sometime trap people under this law for their personal revenge and create problems for the Christian communities," the clergyman said.
His church has been threatened "on many occasions," stated the clergyman. And he said that militants have attacked the church on three occasions.
"They opened fire on the church's front main wall, where the Cross was hanging," he said. One of those times, the attack was carried out in broad daylight, but the gunmen fled without ever being apprehended.
British inquiry
According to a 2016 report produced by a group of British parliamentarians, "Pakistan presents a particularly bleak environment for individuals wishing to manifest their right to freedom of religion or belief." The report of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for International Freedom of Religion or Belief (APPG) found that "there is a real risk of persecution for members of the Ahmadiyya, Christian and Hindu communities in Pakistan, who are perceived as not adhering to the 'orthodox' ideology."
"Forced conversions to Islam, rape, and forced marriage remain commonplace," stated the APPG report. "Such intolerance and such virulent attacks pose a grave threat not only to Pakistan, and the region, but also to the UK, where around 1.2 million British-born Pakistani people now reside."
In addition, the APPG report stressed that "Christian women face persecution and discrimination because they are Christian." And the British parliamentarians alleged that "radical sections of the society, often with impunity from state officials, view conversions of Christian women and their forced marriage to Muslim men as a positive and righteous action."
It is not surprising that significant numbers of Pakistani Christians have fled the country. Many have made the trip to Thailand on tourist visas--with the intention of seeking safe haven. But when their visas expire, they are treated as criminals.
A BBC investigative report that aired early this year showed hundreds of Christians locked up in a cramped detention centre. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) estimated that nearly 12,000 Pakistanis sought safe haven in Thailand in 2015.
The APPG report came about after Lord David Alton visited Thailand in Sept. 2015 on a fact finding mission. His investigation revealed that many Pakistani Christian refugees are being incarcerated in crowded, filthy conditions.
The UNHCR has issued certificates affirming that the refugees are actively being considered for asylum. Under international law, such legitimate refugees cannot be legally detained. And yet some are literally languishing in chains.
Given the dire situation of Pakistani Christian refugees in Thailand, Canada should dispatch immigration and refugee officials to process their refugee claims and bring them to Canada. It is time to take for Canada to save the persecuted.

Women of Pakistan:Tales of pride and more prejudice

By Naila Inayat

The brutal machismo behind the honour killing of Internet star Qandeel Baloch and the uproar that followed show a socially divided Pakistan with reformists and rights activists taking on age-old gender biases
She was forcefully married off at age 17 to an elderly man, had a son whose custody she lost after ending her abusive marriage. Fled from her house and took refuge in a shelter home and struggled as a bus hostess before taking up modelling as a career. She lived on her own terms, was unapologetic, spontaneous and definitely was not causing any harm to anyone. Was Qandeel Baloch a threat, was her presence as dreadful as the looming fear of terrorism? Why does the freedom enjoyed by one woman become a stigma on Pakistan society, values and above all the ‘honour’ of a brother who she supported financially?
Qandeel, a social media celebrity, was strangled to death on July 16, allegedly by her brother in the name of family honour, in Multan, Punjab province. After the police officers assigned on the case bungled the investigation, woman inspector Attiya Jaffari has been given the challenging task of getting justice for her. Qandeel’s father filed a report against both his sons, Mohammad Aslam and Waseem Baloch, who was the killer. Police are also questioning Aslam, a junior Pakistan Army officer. The Multan police are including cleric Mufti Abdul Qavi in the probe.
Retired judge, Justice Nasir Aslam Zahid, said, “There is a lot of pressure on the judges to settle such cases amicably. The biggest loophole in the law is that of compromise and there should be no compromise on murder. No religion and law allow forgiveness after murder. The Qandeel Baloch case has now become a public interest story because of media’s interest. In such cases, the police lose focus and do not collect evidence with seriousness.”
Today Qandeel has become yet another figure in the long list of thousands of Pakistani women who are victims of femicide every year. Honour crimes across Pakistan have been on the rise since the last three years. According to the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, 1,096 women and 88 men were killed for honour in 2015. In 2014, 1,005 women, including 82 children, were murdered, up from 869 women in 2013.
Read: A Litany of wrongs
The last four months have witnessed a surge in such cases. Last month in Lahore, Zeenat, 18, was burnt alive by her mother. Her crime was to marry her childhood friend rather than succumbing to her mother’s pressure for an arranged marriage.
In another case, near Gujranwala, a mother slit the throat of her seven-month pregnant daughter Muqaddas Bibi who three years ago had married a man she loved.
A young schoolteacher in Murree, Maria Sadaqat, 19, was tortured and set on fire for refusing a marriage proposal from a school principal’s son who was divorced and twice her age.
Earlier this year, Pakistan’s Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif resolved to eradicate the evil of honour killings.
The vow came in the wake of the Oscar-winning documentary, A Girl in the River, which highlights the issue. However, since then no fresh legislation has been tabled and the existing bill has been marred by controversies.
Imaam Mohammed Abdullah of Lahore said there is no place for women like Baloch in an Islamic society. “I laugh at the people who are saying she was wrongfully killed. She brought Allah’s wrath on herself and may I ask you what was so honourable in what she was doing?” he asked.
Despite an increased number of women in parliament and government, Pakistan has not moved forward significantly with regard to violence against women and discriminatory laws. Honour killings take place in virtually every part of Pakistan. In Abbottabad, Ambreen, a teenager who helped her friend elope, was tortured and then tied to a bus seat and set on fire. A jirga—a traditional Pashtun assembly of leaders that make consensual decisions in accordance with the Islamic law—ordered Ambreen’s killing as a warning to others.
“One of the main reasons is the law of qisas and diyat, which protect murderers who can pay the diyat (compensation) and get away with impunity. If the father is the killer, the son can forgive him and if the son is the killer, the father forgives him and this law enables the criminal to go unpunished,” says Dr Rubina Saigol, a Lahore-based sociologist.

Saigol explains that as long as property relations are there and women are seen as (property/chattel), they will not get full status as humans and citizens with the right to life (as guaranteed in the constitution). The practice of killing on the pretext of honour will continue —as it is an easy way to get rid of unwanted women and seize their property or otherwise gain economically or to get rid of an enemy by making him a co-accused. The practice is thus a product of the socio-economic relations of Pakistan and is rooted in material conditions which rely upon and support patriarchy as a material and ideological system that benefits men and subordinates women.

PAKISTAN: Is racial discrimination an issue in Pakistan?

The extent to which Pakistan has complied with human rights standards set out in the International Convention of the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD), will be assessed by a United Nation’s expert committee in Geneva on August 16-17, this year. The committee will look at a report to be presented by the government of Pakistan, encapsulating three periodic reports — 21st, 22nd and 23rd. The previous two reports were not submitted on time, hence the assessment period of six years (2009 — 2015).
This convention is one of the core human rights treaties that the international community managed to achieve as early as 1965. Pakistan, considering itself a supporter of a world free of racial equality, became a party to the treaty without any reservations soon after it was offered voluntary ratification in 1966.
Through the Treaty Implementation committee, the federal ministries for law and justice and commerce have been leading the preparation of the Pakistan’s compliance reports since 2014 — a burden that previously rested on the foreign office.
Now that clarity has been achieved on the institutional responsibility of adherence to international commitments on human rights, the focus must be on improving the quality content of the reporting as well as achieving the recognition, protection and fulfilment of those human rights in Pakistan.
International reporting, representing Pakistan’s official narrative, has relied on denial of facts, citing normative assurances and a deflection of issues because officials and consultants preparing the reports were handicapped by the stalled progress on human rights and proper functioning of institutions. Unfortunately, the current report to the UN CERD committee hasn’t succeeded in overcoming these difficulties.
The report claims that racial discrimination is “non-existent” in Pakistan. This can be challenged on several accounts. For instance, the claim is challengeable in the consistent economic, social and political deprivation of Pakistanis of African origin (Sheedis), the diminishing rights of the Kalash people as a result of forced conversions and occupation of means of their subsistence, and the government’s inability to document nomads, gypsies and tribesmen. The report’s claim can also be challenged on account of the mass killings of minority sects.
The government’s comprehension of racism grossly ignores the pervasive ethnocentrism that creates extremely dangerous sense of ‘otherness — a cause behind interprovincial conflicts and different forms of violence. If ethnocentrism had not plagued politics and society, linguistic groups, including the Punjabis would not be complaining about their language being ignored by the state. Therefore, it is a convenient claim as long as we do not recognise racial discrimination.
Pakistan was not a signatory to the International Convention on the Rights of Migrant Workers and their Family Members. The report stated that Pakistan was not a labour-receiving country, and hence not a party to this convention. Why then, is Pakistan a party to the convention on racial discrimination, as accession to it relies on the acknowledgement that problems do exist.
Seemingly, the reporting to international treaty bodies will have to get rid of the state’s narrative, crafted to defend dictatorships that relied on the techniques of denying facts and averting all chances of accountability. Our image in the outside world cannot be starkly different than our internal reality and our relation and place among the nations will depend on the quality of improvement of internal processes.
The world has come to realise that racism is a historical as well as contemporary phenomenon. No state or society is immune to it. Therefore, there is no way forward than admitting its existence, engaging in reforms and repairing the harm through social processes. Although the Constitution of Pakistan discourages discrimination in several forms, we do not have a proper law that defines and punishes discrimination.
Racial discrimination does exist in Pakistan in several subtle as well as manifest forms, and unfortunately, in state policies as well. We can choose to turn a blind eye, but the price will be social conflict, underdevelopment and political instability.
We have to choose between continuing to live in a society fragmented on the basis of caste, colour, descent, ethnicity and language, or make efforts to ensure equality, justice and accountability through internal and external scrutiny according to international standards of human rights. The earlier choice will leave us with the status quo the on the other hand, the latter can deliver rule of law and better governance. The choice rests with us.