Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Justice Served: 13 Convicted for Burning Christian Family to Death in Pakistan

In a judgement here today, Anti-Terrorism Court of District Kasur of Punjab province of Pakistan sentenced to death five Muslim who were involved in burning alive a Christian couple in furnace of brick kiln factory in Kot Radha Kishan on allegation on blasphemy. 

In November 2014, Muslim mob of hundreds gathered around a servant quarter in a Brick Kiln Factory where owner of factory have locked his two employees, wife and husband, named Shama and Shahzad Masih on allegations of defiling pages of Holy Quran.

The Muslim mob dragged out Christian couple from servant quarter and tortures them before throwing them in furnace of brick kiln factory to kill them.

A large number of angry Muslims gathered around Brick Kiln factory when Muslim cleric announced on loud speaker of nearby village mosque to punish blasphemers.

There was contingent of police present when Muslim mob was torturing Christian couple but they never fired singly shot in air even to rescue couple but kept eyes closed.

About one hundred Muslims were booked in case of lynching of Christian couple but only 13 were given sentences by ATC today while other were aquitted. 

The five Muslims sentenced to death are Mehdi Khan, Riaz Kambo, Irfan Shakoor, Muhammad Hanif, and Hafiz Ishtiaq (Muslim cleric who announced in mosque). These culprits were also fined Rs200,000 each along with death penality. The eight others who have been charged and sentenced to two years imprisonment are Muhammad Hussain, Noorul Hasan, Muhammad Arsalan, Muhammad Haris, Muhammad Muneer, Muhammad Ramazan, Irfan and Hafiz Shahid.

Dr. Nazir S Bhatti, President of Pakistan Christian Congress PCC said that it is too early to comment on this judgement until detailed verdict is not issued because culprits of 8 Christian burnt alive in Gojra Muslim mob massacre are walking free on streets while culprits in lynching Christian couple have right to appeal in higher court and if judgment by ATC is not written up-to-date then there are doubts that higher courts will set these killers free also.

Nazir Bhatti said that it is very surprising that main culprit and owner of Brick Kiln factory Mohammad Yousaf Gujjar and his two companions who locked Shama and Shahzad and later opened furnace to burn them alive is left out of judgment and charge sheet which will support these 13 culprits to walk free.

PCC Chief said that justice is never ensured in Muslim mob attacks of Christian life and property in Pakistan because police officers who are Muslims submit flawed charge sheets in courts.

Meanwhile, Riaz Anjum said “The five people awarded the death sentence were involved in dragging, beating and burning the couple while the other eight played a supportive role according to the judgement,” Senior prosecutor Khurram Khan confirmed the ruling. 

Wilson Chowdhry, Chairman of the British Pakistani Christian Association, said: "These convictions are a watershed moment for the Pakistani Christians. It is rare for perpetrators of violence against Christians to receive a conviction, for the sentencing to be so strong in this court case sends out a strong message that violence will be met with the weight of the law. The perceived impunity for mob attacks on Christians has been countered and now hopefully will reduce such crime." 

He added: "The family of Shama and Shahzad now need a time for solace and healing. The ongoing case and the constant death threats on the family have had their toll and the children often question why they and their parents were hated so much. The government of Pakistan must ensure that they work with us and other groups to ensure the protection of the family are of paramount importance. Quite frankly the families have suffered enough. 

- See more at:

Waheed Murad's 33rd death anniversary being observed today

The 33rd death anniversary of Pakistani film star and icon, Waheed Murad is being observed today (Wednesday).
An actor, producer and script writer, Waheed Murad was famous for his charming expressions, attractive personality, tender voice and unusual talent for acting.
He is considered as one of the most famous and influential actors of South Asia and is often referred to as “Chocolate Hero”.
Born in Karachi, Sindh, he started his film career as cameo in 1959 in the film Saathi when he was 21 years old.
His naughty facial gestures, bold romanticism and alluring performance style during picturization of songs made him immensely popular.
During the 1960s and early 1970s, he produced films like Insaan badalta hai (1961) (his first film as producer), Armaan (1966), Ehsaan (1967), Naseeb apna apna (1970) and Mastana mahi (Punjabi film of 1971). However, after Mastana Mahi he produced no film except Hero which was produced in the 1980s and was released after his death.
He won many awards for recognition of his services to the film industry while in November 2010, after a long period of 27 years after his death, the Pakistani government awarded him with Sitara-e-Imtiaz, the third highest honor and civilian award by the State of Pakistan, given in the fields of literature, arts, sports, medicine, or science.

Horrific cases of women abuse in Afghanistan

Musa Khan Jalalzai

The three-decades-long civil war in Afghanistan caused chronic poverty, unemployment, destruction, and mass migration. The US and NATO invasion in 2001 further added to the pain of civilians who then became a victim of drone attacks, Taliban, IS, and local warlords atrocities. All these misadventures have caused starvation and diseases, which forced poor Afghan parents to sell their daughters for bread, fuel, debt settlement, and other necessities. The irony is that this trade continues even under the nose of the Unity Government, while sexual abuse of young girls in safe houses, police stations, prisons and private jails of foreign forces, as well as that of war criminals in districts and provinces, has now become a national shame. Private security companies, government officials, IS commanders, and even Taliban are also involved in episodes of child sex. Women continue to be tortured, sold, killed and even mutilated for honour by their husbands and terrorist organisations that include Taliban and the IS in all cities and towns of Afghanistan. Human trafficking is another challenge that has grown with the civil war as Afghan parliamentarians, war criminals and government officials, and terrorist organisations still retrieve huge money from this business.
During the last eight months, Afghan women experienced several horrific episodes of abuse and violence but the authorities have always supported criminals instead of protecting young girls. Last month, a government official in northern Afghanistan admitted that a man had strangled his wife after she had given birth to a girl. She was dragged outside her room and brutally killed. In 2016, the international community had ranked Afghanistan as the most dangerous country for women. In a 15-page report, Human Rights Watch had highlighted the health and economic consequences of marriage for those under 18 years and violence against young girls. Recently, police arrested two men in northern Afghanistan for slitting the throat of a 15-year-old girl after her parents had declined a marriage proposal.
In 2014, a former Afghan warlord told me that women were treated like dogs in his province. A UN report has recently claimed that there was a 20 percent increase in violence and mistreatment of women. The annual report on the Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict spotlighted more than 300 women and girls who were brutally killed and another 560 injured by their husbands and parents in 2015. On December 14, 2013, BBC had reported that an Afghan official confirmed that a man had incised the nose and lips of his 30-year-old wife, Setara, in Herat province. However, preliminary reports indicated that Setara had been stabbed several times in her face as well. On November 28, 2013, two innocent women were hanged from a tree in Logar province. On December 13, 2013, a group of unidentified gunmen had raped a 12-year-old girl in Baghlan province of northern Afghanistan. In another incident, a 15-year-old girl from Herat province told a human rights reporter that she was beaten by her husband and father-in-law at least three or four times every day.
The Independent Commission on Human Rights in Afghanistan has compiled numerous cases of sexual abuse of boys and girls in various parts of the country. On October 24, 2013, Khaama Press reported a heartbreaking story of a teenage girl being sexually abused by her father. A local security official in Nimroz province, however, said that the man accused of sexually abusing his teenage daughter for the past eight years had been arrested. A fourteen-year-old girl, Moniza, also admitted that her father had sexually abused her.
Violence against women and teenage boys remains one of the most under-reported abuses. Bacha bazi (sodomy) among other forms of sexual abuse is an old tradition in the country. According to an Afghan NGO, RAWA, 90 percent of Afghan women are abused by their parents, relatives and husbands. The same story is repeated in northern Afghanistan and even in parts of the southern provinces, In various districts in the Northern provinces, poverty-stricken girls and children are being kidnapped and later sold into prostitution. Unemployed and poor young boys have also been subjected to trafficking for male prostitution, forced labour, and the ‘playboy’ business. In a society like Afghanistan, where a man cannot even look at a woman or girl in cities and towns unless he has entered into a marriage contract with her, men often resort to Bacha Bazi (male child prostitution). In this sexually repressed country, sections of society partake in unhealthy and abusive sexual relationships. Bacha Bazi is an old tradition in Afghanistan in which young boys are dressed up as girls and then made to perform at private venues. More than 60 percent of gang raped children are unable to survive the abuse. To feed their families, young children are sold into male prostitution. Afghan men who keep Bachas (boys) for sexual pleasure have to be able to provide everything required by the child partner, including money, vehicles and clothes.
The tradition of child marriage has long been practised in Afghanistan. Afghanistan’s civil war has left thousands of women widowed and young girls orphaned. Matrimonial ceremonies are also expensive in the country, specifically in Paktika and Paktia provinces where the price for a young girl has been fixed at more than three million in Afghan currency. Education for girls in these provinces is also considered to be a great sin while sports and other hobbies are not allowed. The majority of Afghan girls become pregnant before they reach physical maturity because they do not know about the law of the country. Afghan civil law sets the minimum age for marriage at 16 for girls and 18 for boys. Women are traded like animals in the Shinwari district of Jalalabad province in Friday Baazars. Director of an Afghan NGO, Women Rights, Sabrina Hamidi said that women are being sold like animals in different parts of Shinwari area of Jalalabad province.
Mrs Hamidi said that the price of a woman depends on her beauty and can range anywhere from around 80,000 in Afghan currency to $2,000. However, NGOs and other human rights groups have already registered numerous complaints with government authorities about the mistreatment of women by warlords and the police.
There are different prices fixed for young and old women respectively. In Kabul and Wardak provinces, young women can be purchased for USD 12,000. In Jalalabad, the price of a young woman is 800,000 in Afghan currency, 1,200,000 (17,400 USD) in Paktia and Khost provinces, 1,500,000 in Farah province and 3,000,000 or 43,000 USD in Kandahar. The exchange of women is another shameless business in Afghanistan, where women are forced to go with strangers like an animal. In some provinces, displaced families often sell their children. Months ago, a video of a crying six-year old girl had created panic across the country when Gharibgul was sold to a 60-year old cleric.


Chairman PPP urged the UN to take urgent notice of escalating Indian armed forces attacks across the LoC.
KARACHI, November 23: Chairman Pakistan Peoples Party Bilawal Bhutto Zardari has strongly condemned firing by Indian Army on a passenger bus at Line of Control near Dhadhyal resulting in martyrdom of four innocent citizens and injuries to seven others.
“After breaking all records of miserable human rights violations of the world in Held Kashmir, Modi’s Indian Army was targeting the innocent citizens from across the LoC,” the PPP Chairman said that urged the United Nation to take urgent notice of escalating Indian armed forces attacks across the LoC.
Bilawal Bhutto Zardari expressed deep grief over the loss of innocent lives and sympathised with the families of victims of Indian firing and pledged that PPP would continue to raise the issue of Kashmir at every national and international forum for their unquestionable and inalienable right of self-determination.

Bilawal takes on PML-N, PTI over Benazir bashing

Pakistan Peoples Party Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari has strongly criticised the ruling PML-N and the PTI for attacking Benazir Bhutto a decade after her martyrdom.

In a message posted on micro-blogging social media platform, Twitter, the PPP chairman said: “#NakaamLeague and #NainshafLeague still attacking SMBB a decade after [her] martyrdom. Jyalas remain calm. Let them do politics, we serve #Bhuttoism.”
Bilawal urged PPP supporters to remain calm and follow in the footsteps of the late Benazir Bhutto. He reminded the PPP detractors that Benazir Bhutto could never be compared or equated to ‘cowards’.
“The PML-N could not even face a day of dictatorship, and went packing with their handbags,” he maintained.
He warned his opponents, saying, “…as a flaming red line. Cross at your own risk. Remember, Meh Mir Aur Shah Ka Bhanja Bhi Hoon (I am the nephew of Mir Murtaza Bhutto and Shah Nawaz Bhutto).”
Meanwhile, Bilawal has nominated Dr Asim Hussain as PPP Karachi Division president, Saeed Ghani, PPP Karachi general-secretary and Shehla Raza information secretary.
He also nominated Ali Madad Jattak as PPP Balochistan president, Iqbal Shah, general-secretary; Humayun Khan as PPP Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa president and Faisal Karim Kundi, general secretary.
Talking to the media in Karachi, Dr Asim Hussain said: “The position of Karachi division president is a surprise for me,” adding, “all cases (against me) are fabricated.” The PPP leader said he would try to reorganise the party in Karachi after his release.
Also, Opposition Leader in the National Assembly Syed Khurshid Ahmed Shah has underlined the need for continuing the policies pursued by General Raheel Sharif; “otherwise, the country would face huge losses”.
“Gen Sharif took charge of his responsibilities in a very difficult situation, but he successfully fought against terrorism in the country,” the opposition leader said while talking to the media after condoling with the family of Jahangir Badr over his death.
Shah said the government should appoint the senior-most general as the next chief of army staff instead of going for a pick and choose policy.
Criticising PTI Chairman Imran Khan, he said, a consensus was developed among all opposition parties in the all parties conference that if the Panama Papers Bill would not sail through parliament, all political parties would launch an agitation campaign.
“But Khan had announced a lockdown of the federal capital.” Shah said Khan’s actions were strengthening the hands of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.

Raheel Sharif: The army chief who ruled without a coup

By M Ilyas Khan

Days before he hangs up his spurs and retires on 29 November, Pakistan's army chief General Raheel Sharif stands at the height of his popularity.
His massive portraits adorn the backs of lorries, posters depict him as saviour of the nation and he continues to inspire devotional social media hashtags.
Indeed when it was announced on Monday that the general was kicking off "farewell visits", many media reports hailed him as "Pakistan's beloved army chief", while the reaction on Twitter was similarly effusive.
The announcement apparently put an end to fears of an 11th hour surprise, and many people praised the fact that he was sticking to the retirement plan, instead of finding a way to stay in power.
Pakistan's military has long played a prominent role in the country's politics, having staged three coups since independence in 1947. The army chief is widely seen as the most powerful person in the country - above the prime minister.
Gen Sharif stepped into the top job in the winter of 2013, just after a historic transfer of power between two civilian administrations. But the military has done anything but cede power and influence to the government during his reign. Instead, it has grown even more powerful.

Why is he so popular?

Gen Sharif has a distinguished pedigree. His father was an army major, and his late brother, Major Shabbir Sharif, was awarded Pakistan's highest gallantry award.
Months after taking charge, the general took the bold step of launching a ground offensive to clear the Waziristan region of militant sanctuaries - a move Pakistan had been dragging its feet on despite repeated demands from its Western allies.
It led to a dramatic decline in militant attacks in northern Pakistan, instantly boosting his popularity ratings.
In the south, the paramilitary Sindh Rangers under his watch took on the task of clearing Karachi, Pakistan's largest city, of a confusing array of armed militants, organised criminal groups and festering political corruption.
The results were equally impressive. The extortion rackets, targeted killings and kidnappings for ransom that had become a permanent feature of life in Karachi diminished visibly.
Moreover, Gen Sharif has been determined to make operational a $46bn Chinese funded economic corridor that links up the southern port of Gwadar to China's western Xinjiang province - a key part of China's bid to shore up its influence and strategic links in the region.

Why was he chosen?

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif (no relation) won a landslide victory in 2013 and embarked on projects considered the exclusive domain of the military.
He instituted peace talks with the Pakistani Taliban, opened dialogue with separatists in Balochistan and made peace overtures to India.
He even tried to set a precedent by arraigning former army coup leader and later president, Pervez Musharraf, on charges of treason.
It was amid this civilian resurgence that he chose Gen Sharif as army chief, elevating him over two more senior officers.
But if he made the choice thinking Gen Sharif would behave like a professional soldier and accept civilian supremacy, it was not to be.

How has Pakistan changed?

Room for criticism of the military has worsened since Gen Sharif took charge, says Ayesha Siddiqa, an analyst and expert on the Pakistani army.
The country's once vibrant electronic media has stopped reporting on "sensitive" and longstanding issues such as the military's alleged patronage of selected extremist groups and their political wings.
And it has desisted from asking questions about the links between these groups and those who continue to hit targets in Pakistan. Instead, it happily buys the military's line that these attacks are planned by Indian and Afghan intelligence services to harm the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor.
The media fell in line following a gun attack on a famous TV journalist, Hamid Mir, in March 2014. His family blamed the attack on the military intelligence service, the ISI. They said he was targeted for challenging the military's narrative about Baloch separatists.
The ISI denied the charge, but Geo TV, for which Mr Mir worked, remained off air for several weeks without any direct order from the government.

What underpins the army's power?

The army's huge financial clout means that it "is not answerable to anyone", Ms Siddiqa says. In 2007, the military's private economy was estimated at roughly $20bn, handled mostly through its welfare wings that run vast industrial, services, real estate and retail empires.
In addition, its position as a political force means it accrues the lion's share of foreign assistance that Pakistan receives. While the US post-9/11 aid pipelines are now drying up, China is providing tens of billions of dollars of assistance.
Over decades, Pakistan's civilian institutions have crumbled - arguably due to corruption and mismanagement - while those of the military have prospered.
This trajectory hasn't changed during Gen Sharif's reign.
"Under him, the military has operated outside the institutional plane, and as a result militarism in our policy has increased," Ms Siddiqa says.

In what ways has the military strengthened its role?

It is believed that the general decided to launch the military operation in Waziristan in June 2014 without a nod from political leaders in Islamabad.
The December 2014 militant attack on an army school in Peshawar further helped the military consolidate its hold on political decision making. The government formalised the military's role in law enforcement at the provincial level by giving it representation in "apex committees" created under a national action plan.
A constitutional amendment was then passed by parliament allowing terror suspects to be tried in military courts.
A Pakistani soldier escorts schoolchildren from the Army Public School when it was attacked by Taliban gunmen in Peshawar (16 December 2014)Image copyrightREUTERS
Image captionThe Army Public School massacre in Peshawar was the deadliest militant attack in Pakistan's history
At the same time, the military's media wing, the ISPR, launched an aggressive campaign to build up Gen Sharif's political image, charting each and every move he made and making sure that he received prime coverage on TV channels.
The ISPR has since invested in producing songs, anthems and films to promote the military's image.

Who will be the next army chief?

There are several four-star generals who could be chosen as chief of army staff, but only a handful of them have headed corps and are therefore seen as qualified for the job. All come from infantry.
In making his choice, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif will be guided by personal and political considerations.
But regardless of who takes charge, the military is seen as wanting to control the political narrative going forward in order to protect and expand its financial empire. The narrative it prefers tends to be pro-religion, anti-India and at times anti-US.
So civilians in Pakistan are likely to continue for the foreseeable future to battle to regain their lost space as the military continues to find more subtle ways of controlling democracy.
The question as to who succeeds General Raheel Sharif and what style that person may bring to the job, therefore, is of little consequence.