Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Taylor Swift - Shake It Off

Rihanna - Rihanna - Needed Me (Our Version)

Bibi Netanyahu Makes Trump His Chump

Thomas L. Friedman
For those of you confused over the latest fight between President Obama and Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu of Israel, let me make it simple: Barack Obama and John Kerry admire and want to preserve Israel as a Jewish and democratic state in the Land of Israel. I have covered this issue my entire adult life and have never met two U.S. leaders more committed to Israel as a Jewish democracy.
But they are convinced — rightly — that Netanyahu is a leader who is forever dog paddling in the middle of the Rubicon, never ready to cross it. He is unwilling to make any big, hard decision to advance or preserve a two-state solution if that decision in any way risks his leadership of Israel’s right-wing coalition or forces him to confront the Jewish settlers, who relentlessly push Israel deeper and deeper into the West Bank.
That is what precipitated this fight over Obama’s decision not to block a U.N. resolution last week criticizing Israeli settlements in the West Bank. The settlers’ goal is very clear, as Kerry put it on Wednesday: to strategically place settlements “in locations that make two states impossible,” so that Israel will eventually annex all of the West Bank. Netanyahu knows this will bring huge problems, but his heart is with the settlers, and his passion is with holding power — at any cost. So in any crunch, he sides with the settlers, and they keep pushing.
Obama ordered the U.S. to abstain on the U.N. resolution condemning the settlements (three months after Obama forged a 10-year, $38 billion military aid package for Israel — the largest for any U.S. ally ever) in hopes of sparking a debate inside Israel and to prevent it from closing off any chance of a two-state solution.
Friends don’t let friends drive drunk, and right now Obama and Kerry rightly believe that Israel is driving drunk toward annexing the West Bank and becoming either a bi-national Arab-Jewish state or some Middle Eastern version of 1960s South Africa, where Israel has to systematically deprive large elements of its population of democratic rights to preserve the state’s Jewish character.
Israel is clearly now on a path toward absorbing the West Bank’s 2.8 million Palestinians. There are already 1.7 million Arabs living in Israel, so putting these two Arab populations together would constitute a significant minority with a higher birthrate than that of Israeli Jews — who number 6.3 million — posing a demographic and democratic challenge.
I greatly sympathize with Israel’s security problems. If I were Israel, I would not relinquish control of the West Bank borders — for now. The Arab world is far too unstable, and Hamas, which controls another 1.8 million Palestinians in Gaza, would likely take over the West Bank.
My criticism of Netanyahu is not that he won’t simply quit all the West Bank; it is that he refuses to show any imagination or desire to build workable alternatives that would create greater separation and win Israel global support, such as radical political and economic autonomy for Palestinians in the majority of the West Bank, free of settlements, while Israel still controls the borders and the settlements close to it.
Bibi never lays down a credible peace plan that truly puts the ball in the Palestinians’ court. And when someone like Obama exposes that — and Bibi comes under intense criticism from the liberal half of Israel, which sees the country getting more and more isolated and less and less democratic — Bibi just calls Obama an enemy of Israel and caves to the settlers. U.S. Jewish “leaders” then parrot whatever Bibi says. Sad.
More worrisome is the fact that President-elect Donald Trump — who could be a fresh change agent — is letting himself get totally manipulated by right-wing extremists, and I mean extreme. His ambassador-designate to Israel, David Friedman, has compared Jews who favor a two-state solution to Jews who collaborated with the Nazis. I’ve never heard such a vile slur from one Jew to another.
Trump also has no idea how much he is being manipulated into helping Iran and ISIS. What is Iran’s top goal when it comes to Israel? That Israel never leaves the West Bank and that it implants Jewish settlers everywhere there.
That would keep Israel in permanent conflict with Palestinians and the Muslim world, as well as many Western democracies and their college campuses. It would draw all attention away from Iran’s own human rights abuses and enable Iran and ISIS to present themselves as the leading Muslim protectors of Jerusalem — and to present America’s Sunni Arab allies as lackeys of an extremist Israel. This would create all kinds of problems for these Arab regimes. A West Bank on fire would become a recruitment tool for ISIS and Iran. One day Trump will wake up and discover that he was manipulated into becoming the co-father, with Netanyahu, of an Israel that is either no longer Jewish or no longer democratic. He will discover that he was Bibi’s chump.
What a true friend of Israel and foe of Iran would do today is just what Obama and Kerry tried — assure Israel long-term military superiority to the tune of $38 billion, but, unlike Trump, who is just passing Israel another bottle of wine, tell our dear ally that it’s driving drunk, needs to stop the settlements and apply that amazing Israeli imagination to preserving Israel as a Jewish and democratic state.

Video Report - John Kerry's entire speech on Israel

Video Report - Love and Happiness: White House concert hosted by President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama

Pashto Music - Za Yam Wafa

Woman beheaded in Afghanistan 'for going out in city without her husband'

Peter Walker
A woman has been beheaded for visiting a city without her husband, officials in Afghanistan have said. The 30-year-old was decapitated and stabbed to death on Monday evening in Lati in the Sar-e-Pul province of northern Afghanistan. The Middle East Press claims a government spokesman told them Taliban militants killed her for the “infidelity act” of going shopping without a male guardian. The Taliban, which occupies Lati, imposes fierce policies of discrimination against women which includes banning them speaking loudly in public and appearing in media. Punishments have included public lashings and executions in football stadiums. National broadcaster Tolo News reports that the provincial governor spokesman Zabiullah Amani said the woman’s husband is in Iran, and that they do not have children. It also claims Sar-e-Pul women’s affairs head Nasima Arezo has confirmed the incident took place. No one has been arrested and the Taliban have reportedly rejected any involvement. The Sunni fundamentalist movement, which has roots in the days of Soviet occupation and emerged out of the Afghan civil war in around 1994, held power between 1996 and 2001.

Pakistan's Ahmadi Muslims - Perspective: Consequences of hateful rhetoric

Ijaz Ahmed, PhD

On December 12, a mob of 1,000 attacked an Ahmadi mosque in Dulmial Village, Chakwal District, Pakistan. This grotesque action was committed by so-called Muslims celebrating the Holy Prophet Muhammad, who stated, "To take any man's life or his property, or attack his honor, is as unjust and wrong as to violate the sacredness of this day, this month and this territory."

The local police and government officials were notified days in advance of a potential attack, yet failed to uphold the law and defend its citizens. Ahmadi Muslims in Pakistan have been disenfranchised, imprisoned, tortured, murdered, and discriminated against due to their faith. Authorities in Pakistan have sealed Ahmadi mosques, desecrated tombstones, and seized Ahmadi publications. While the requirement of ID cards to vote in elections has caused uproar in some places across America, Ahmadi Muslims in Pakistan are forced to renounce their religious beliefs in order to participate in elections.

The widespread persecution is a result of a 1973 Constitutional amendment declaring Ahmadi Muslims as outside of Islam. Ordinance XX, adopted in 1984, criminalized any attempt by Ahmadis to "pose" as Muslims. They aren't even allowed to give their children Muslim-sounding names.

Living in America, I am extremely grateful that this country grants me the freedom to practice my religion. My experience as part of the peaceful Ahmadiyya Muslim Community sheds light on the importance of this basic human right. Looking at Pakistan, it becomes obvious what happens when hateful rhetoric is allowed to reign freely.

Ijaz Ahmed, PhD
Post-Doctoral Researcher, Worcester Polytechnic Institute


Deobandi cleric and head of his own faction of Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam Samiul Haq has again declared notorious terrorist outfit Taliban as group of his children and declared China Pakistan Economic Corridor as a threat to their Deobandi version of Islam.

Urdu daily Express carried a news of his speech at Tahaffuz e Ulema wa Madaris Convention in Bahawalpur where he expressed these views.
Samiul Haq lambasted the PMLN government at the Centre and in Punjab for what he said roots of evils in the country and in Punjab. He also lashed out at the Punjab legislature for adopting women protection bill.
Deobandi cleric censured the PPP government and provincial legislature of Sindh for what he said adoption of the minorities rights bill that opposed the forces conversion of non-adult non-Muslims and forced marriages of non-Muslim girls with Muslims.
He said that Nawaz Sharif government had adopted several measures to turn Pakistan into a liberal state and it took steps which even the PPP government had not taken so far.
Backing the banned Sipah-e-Sahaba (ASWJ)’s Masroor Nawaz Jhangvi, Samiul Haq reiterated his version that those Taliban fighting in Afghanistan are his children and integral part of Deobandis.
It is relevant to add here that Pakistani state had treated many communities as traitors for making such statements. Baloch and Sindhi separatists are secular and liberal Taliban of Pakistan and they were declared traitors but no action has been taken against the proponents of sectarian Talibanisation of Pakistan. If any sort of action will be taken against Samiul Haq for making anti-CPEC statement?

Pakistan - “Punjab tops in cases of honour killings”

BBC Urdu journalist and presenter Aliya Nazki and Planning Editor Asif Farooqi talk about the new three-week long BBC Urdu series, Qatal-o-Ghairat (Murder and Honour)
The News on Sunday: Let’s talk about the BBC’s series on honour killings. Is it focused on cases with ties in the UK alone or the ones that happen in India or Pakistan?
Aliya Nazki: The whole point of this season was to shine a spotlight on honour killings in the region — the subcontinent with the focus mostly on Pakistan because that’s basically where our audience is. We have also looked at bits of India and bits of Afghanistan too. We haven’t done any of this for the UK at all. The whole idea with the series of programmes that we’ve commissioned and executed was to shine literally a spotlight on this underreported crime which, when we look at the figures, is quite alarming. These are only the reported figures. 1,000 women are killed in the name of so-called honour in Pakistan every year; so that is 3 women a day. So that’s quite horrific. And you have to factor in the fact that most of these crimes are not reported so the actual numbers are probably much higher.
TNS: What would you say are the main questions related to honour killings that you explored in the series?
AN: We just wanted to explore what this meant and what the reasons are so we sent our reporters to different parts of the country to gather information. Obviously, we are only looking at cases that were reported and finding out what happened. We’re looking at things like what is the break-up in different provinces in Pakistan? Where are the most number of cases being reported from? Where are the least number of cases being reported from? What does it mean for women who survive — who actually manage to come out of this and are still alive? As a result, what we have now is a series of in-depth reports from different parts of the country; some from India and some from Afghanistan as well. We have lots of content on our website We also had stakeholders write for us — for example Farhatullah Babar who was actively involved in the new bill. We have what is essentially a resource on our website and you can look up a lot of the things that have happened around honour killings.
In KP, there was no record of honour killings — ‘it just didn’t happen there’. When honour killings happen, they are labeled as suicide cases instead. For instance, they throw away the victim’s body in the river and say that she committed suicide but everyone knows that she was killed.
On top of all of this what we’ve tried to do is have a debate where we’ve gone to local universities and had conversations with students. For example, we had a debate on a Karo Kari case in Sindh in Khairpur University exploring whether Karo Kari is really part of the culture in Sindh — asking young people what they think. We have had debates in Khairpur, Peshawar, Swat and Karachi and we’re having debates in Islamabad and one in Quetta. The idea was to start a conversation.
TNS: With respect to the different cases of honour killings that you’ve explored where you look at themes and patterns, what are your findings?
AN: One of the things that I was shocked by was that Punjab tops the number of cases of honour killings. Most women killed in name of honour were from Punjab. More cases of honour killings were reported from urban centres and villages — most of these, you can say, are from the middle class. So that shocks you a little bit. For me, intuitively, I was expecting more cases from tribal areas and villages where I thought that it must happen more. But when you look at these cases and try to analyse them, you also realise that these are reported cases! Does that then mean that in Punjab they are reported more than elsewhere? Does that mean that in urban centres people are more likely to report them than in villages?
Asif was just talking about how in KP there was no record of honour killings — ‘it just didn’t happen there’. We thought that that was interesting and so explored it. We found out that in KP when honour killings happen, they are labeled as suicide cases instead. For instance, they throw away the victim’s body in the river and say that she committed suicide but everyone knows that she was killed in the name of honour. But the crime is not reported as an honour killing or recorded as such. I think that the underlying cause or theme generally is that when you consider women as second-class citizens they become dispensable. So, if you know that you murder your daughter or sister or wife and you will not be held accountable because she’s a woman and you can just say that it is an honour crime and you’ll get away with it… if there is no consequence to your action, a certain impunity sets in and that perpetuates a patriarchal mindset and culture that feeds into a vicious cycle. Apparently, that is what is at the bottom of all of this — it takes different shapes, people may call it different names and have different reasons for it but if you look at the foundation of all of it, it is that kind of mindset. At least, that is what it looks like.
TNS: How many of these crimes are related to forced marriages?
AF: This has happened in many cases. For example, when we went to Khairpur University and later to Swat, during our panel discussions, the female students there said that their parents force them into marrying people that they don’t want to marry and when they rebel, things take an ugly turn. I wouldn’t say that there is a direct link of honour killings with forced marriages but like Aliya said the idea that women are dispensable dictates how they are treated — they are denied their own agency while men are given the freedom to say yes or no to a match.
AN: You as a woman cannot make your own decisions, they are made for you.
TNS: In documenting and reporting on honour killings, what kind of difficulties did you encounter?
AN: Well, there are issues around access — how you actually find out what has happened in a certain case of honour killing. Who are the survivors of the victim? Most likely, if it is an honour crime, her own family killed her. They’re not going to talk to you. Police records are also limited because these cases are not even registered as crimes half of the time and the police will not get involved. So, there are difficulties logistically. There is difficulty with respect to access. But, we’ve got a team of excellent reporters who have done a great job.
AF: It is not like honour killings are novel incidents in this region but when you get the details they are often quite shocking. About two to three months ago, a father killed his daughter and nephew in Lahore and got arrested. In court, during the third or the fourth hearing perhaps, the judge (a female) received a document stating that the father (the accused) had forgiven himself. The blatant misuse of the law here is quite astonishing. Another case was from Landi Kotal in the tribal areas, where a man approached a political agent with a problem — he said that his brothers had killed his wife while he was abroad. The political agent called for the Jirga to investigate the case. The brothers revealed that the victim had had an illicit relationship with their uncle and so they had murdered both the woman and their uncle to preserve the family’s honour. The man said that his brothers were lying and that this was actually a property dispute over a shop and he had all the details. So, the poor woman was killed to turn this into an honour crime because of the idea that you can get away with an honour crime. The Jirga, however, maintained that since the woman had supposedly jeopardised family honour and this was an honour crime, the men were let go. And obviously, you cannot go to any Pakistani court for appeal. The man is still waiting to get justice from the commissioner’s court.
It’s a different thing altogether when you are not just listening to such incidents but you’re interacting with people who are suffering because of these; it is quite shocking.
TNS: How is the UK government dealing with the issue in case of people from the diaspora falling victim to such crimes? In the recent past, there have been a few instances.
AN: The UK government is looking out for its own citizens. There has been a campaign against forced marriages. Most of the time, these girls are vulnerable. They don’t feel safe enough or they are surrounded by their families all the time so they are not able to get in touch with the authorities. Last year, there was a whole campaign against forced marriages that I just mentioned. The idea was that look if you’re being taken against your will to your parents’ country, just hide a spoon in your underwear or on your person because the metal will set off the detectors and security will take you to a separate room to check you. Then you can tell them that you’re being taken against your will. I think they saved some girls because of this. But, the problem is that half of the time these girls don’t even know what is going to happen to them. They are only going for a vacation and they are only 15 or 16 years old and they haven’t even thought about it. Then they get married off to a cousin.
The BBC did a panorama on this some time back where they were embedded with the high commission team. They were trying to rescue this one girl in Mirpur, Pakistan who had made contact with them and wanted to be rescued. But obviously they couldn’t force anything and they had to go through the British High Commission. So there is this awareness but their interest is only in safeguarding their own citizens’ rights.
TNS: Are trends changing with times vis-à-vis women’s rights and agency? Are women asserting themselves more?
AN: The fact that we’re having this conversation and the government passed a law in November — however small a step — it is encouraging. The reason that they’ve passed this law means that they recognise that there is a problem here and there is a huge gap between what is happening and what should happen. Women need more legal protection and the fact that there is a law is a step in the right direction — it may not be enough because there are certain loopholes in this law. From the kinds of conversations that girls are having today in the different cities that we’ve been to and the kinds of questions that they are asking today, we can say that it is encouraging. Because once you realise that as a woman you’re not being treated equally and that this is not how it should be, things start changing.
There was a time when women knew ‘their place’ — they weren’t supposed to laugh loudly, let their hair down and they accepted that — but when you start questioning it and saying that this shouldn’t have to be the natural order of things, then you start thinking about how things should be instead.
TNS: Do you think that women questioning ‘their place’ in society and asserting themselves has led to a violent backlash?
AN: There probably has been a backlash — particularly in urban centres and among the middle class where women are more aware of their rights whereas 20 years ago, they might not have questioned society’s plan for them. There is probably some truth in that. See, you can’t go back into a world where women did not know — these smart phones have revolutionised the way we see ourselves and the rest of the world. Because of increased connectivity, women are also forced to accept that this is not the case everywhere, that they can have opinions. We cannot turn back the wheel of time.
TNS: In a society which is becoming increasingly intolerant and violent against women, what is the importance of legal reform which is often full of loopholes?
AN: It’s one thing to say that the law is not perfect or maybe that society needs awareness or tolerance or a change in attitude but without legal protection there is no hope. If, for example, I know that I will not be punished for murdering my sister, there is no redress or accountability or even an attempt at justice. If you have a legal framework in place, then you work on everything else. The first thing any society is supposed to do for its citizens is to give them that legal framework. I’m a big believer in legislation — at least then there is a process, if you’re being victimised, then you can take the issue to court. Without a framework, you have nothing.
AF: Law is a basic remedy. That is not to say that this law has no loopholes — it does. For instance, for a case to qualify as an honour crime, it has to be registered as such. Now, let’s say, if someone kills their sister in the name of honour, when the police arrests them they will say that it was a property dispute then it is back to square one and the whole cycle of forgiveness etc is repeated. A lot is left to the police’s discretion — whether the officer thinks it was a property dispute or an honour crime. There are several areas for improvement in this law.
TNS: Are you solely focusing on honour killings or also addressing other forms of violence against women in the series?
AN: There are various forms of violence against women but this series focuses only on honour killings. Although the basic underlying theme is that women are not seen as human beings or they are seen as people who should do what you say. But violence against women is too broad a topic and we wouldn’t have been able to squeeze it in a three-week series so we decided to focus on just these so-called honour killings. We tried to do it in a way that gives it the time and space that it deserves and explore it fully instead of doing a bit of this and that and cramming it all in one place. So, we decided to just give our reporters time to go and do these stories and focus fully on that. There are some reports from Indian Punjab, Haryana and some from Afghanistan, but the focus is on Pakistan.
TNS: Do you have future projects related to violence against women where you might expand on other forms violence or honour crimes can take up?
AN: Hopefully, we’d like to. But Pakistan is such a news-heavy country — in fact the region is too. The news agenda dictates what we do and do not do — that’s what day-to-day journalism is. We do try and commission special reports from different parts of the subcontinent every now and then and this is a big one. Before this, we did a series on Gwadar and a series from India.
AF: We are, however, planning a few series on issues of interest for the younger generation. Women’s rights will be something that we are planning to explore. But, these are still in the pipeline and being discussed.

Forced conversions in Pakistan: a dark reality

By Nasir Saeed

If any girl reconverts to Christianity, she is accused of apostasy, and while the state does not prohibit any citizen from converting or reconverting to any religion, the reality in our society is altogether different.
Every year in Pakistan, hundreds of young Christian and Hindu girls are forcibly converted to Islam, but our media very rarely highlights their stories. However, many of these stories can be easily found on social and in the international media. The stories of Zeba Masih and Pooja are among the few on the BBC website, but today I wish to share with you the very unfortunate story of the hearing and speech disabled Christian girl, Asma, who is from Sialkot. According to her lawyer, Hafiz Ateeq-ur-Rehman, she was kidnapped a few months ago by her neighbour, Ghulam Hussain, a very influential person. Despite knowing who the abductor of his daughter was, Gulzar Masih knew he was helpless as he did not have the resources to fight for his daughters. Masih had lost hope of seeing his daughter again, but Asma somehow managed to escape. Now her captors are demanding that her father hand her back to them, but she has refused.
To prove the legitimacy of his forced marriage to Asma, Hussain has produced certificates of her conversion to Islam and her marriage to him. And although the papers do not match her name and even surname, Hussain still insists on her being sent back to him. It is a common and a very alarming fact that with money such documents can be easily made and verified in Pakistan. To pressurise the family and gain support from religious leaders, Hussain has resorted to other tactics, and has even brought religion in, claiming that since Asma has converted to Islam she is not allowed on religious grounds to live with her Christian parents anymore.
I am not aware of the existence of such laws in Pakistan or anywhere else in the world that forbid people of two different faiths to live together. And moreover, here it is simply a matter of a father-daughter relationship, which no social order has the right to break up. In this or other cases, evidence that is forged to cover up crimes that could lead to several years’ imprisonment cannot be condoned.
When Gulzar Masih took a stand to save his daughter and went to the local police station, instead of listening to his grievance and helping him, the police officer pressurised him to send his daughter back to her abductor. What a mockery of the law that the person who should be charged and put behind bars for kidnapping and raping a young Christian woman is being supported by the police. It is not just the police but in such cases even the courts often ignore the law, and instead of deciding the case on merit, resort to giving out decisions based on a prevalent opinion, or because of pressure from religious extremists.
I remember the case of two Christian sisters, Saba Younis, aged 13, and her sister, Anila Younis, 10, who were reportedly kidnapped in 2008 from Multan whilst on their way to their uncle’s house. Their abductors claimed that Saba voluntarily entered into marriage, and that both girls had agreed to convert to Islam. As far as I understand, both sisters were minors and their statements for marriage and/or conversion could not be accepted by law. But the district court judge in Muzaffargarh dismissed a petition by the parents to regain custody on the grounds that the two sisters had “converted in a legitimate manner to Islam,” and that the marriage of the elder sister was legitimate. Such legitimacy can be seen only in Pakistan.
Now Gulzar Masih who has no hope for justice and in order to save Asma has sent her to an undisclosed location, but I am not sure if she is going to be safe for a long time. Making a mockery of the law and abuse of power is a common practice for influential people, and especially in such cases where religious groups get involved and laws are manipulated.
Unfortunately, the police and courts whose job is to dig into the matter to bring the truth out and dispense justice disregard the victim’s circumstances, and choose to believe documents and statements of the abductors. And instead of giving kidnapped girls’ custody to their parents/families, in a warped dispensation of “justice,” at times, the custody is given to their captors, their kidnappers. In some cases, these girls/women are sent to Dar-ul-Aman (women shelter). Either way, their lives are ruined. These girls/women who are not converted to Islam in the first place are never allowed to reconvert to Christianity, and re-join their family. Sadly, if any girl reconverts to Christianity, she is accused of apostasy, and while the state does not prohibit any citizen from converting or reconverting to any religion, the reality in our society is altogether different. Despite having knowledge about this practice, the state has never made any tangible efforts to stop it because it is a matter that concerns minorities. And the rights of minorities do not matter. I have had the chance to speak to some of these girls personally, and according to them, their thumbprints are taken on blank papers, or some sign under duress as they do not have any other option but to comply with what they are asked to do. Mostly, their parents seem helpless too because the police side with the captors, and often pressurise the victims and their families. One example is Shazia, a married woman, and a mother of four from Pattoki, who escaped her captors and re-joined her family. But she was not as lucky as Asma, as her captor — an influential landlord — implicated her family in a false case, and forced them to return her to him, claiming her first marriage was no longer valid. Such a blatant manipulation of justice can only be seen in Pakistan, and only in the case of minorities. I fail to understand how and under which law Shazia’s first (Christian) marriage became annulled. Mothers like Shazia are not even allowed to see their children. Their misery is endless. If somebody is able to take such a case to court, there is still no hope for justice. Last year, Boota Masih, father of 24-year-old Sobia from Lahore, took her case to court with the support of an NGO, but it was all in vain. He filed a petition of habeas corpus through his lawyer in the Lahore High Court. The honourable judge ordered the concerned police officer to recover and produce Sobia before the court. Instead, the officer in charge of investigation appeared before the court, and submitted Sobia’s marriage and conversion certificates. The concerned judge asked the parents to withdraw their petition, and despite the lawyer arguing for permission for Sobia and her father to meet, unfortunately, the court had to dismiss the request, and the case was withdrawn. If the kidnapper of a girl of a minority faith feels any threat from her family, he starts to issue threats to their lives, and in some cases, the threat continues until the father or brother of the girl is killed. This is what happened to 14-year-old Mehwish from Faisalabad. Her father was killed when he was considered a threat, and made every effort to take his daughter back. Her mother, Najma, a poor and resource-less lady who even knows the abductor, has no hope that one day her daughter will be returned, as she has been told that Mehwish has converted to Islam and she cannot prove that she was abducted and forcibly converted to Islam by her abductor. Nasar Masih, father of 16-year-old Sonia, has also lost hope of seeing his daughter again. The growing threat is making lives of minorities increasingly hard. They live with a constant feeling of insecurity, and having little recourse in the face of violence, they are forced to leave the country their ancestors equally struggled for.
Converting to any religion is the fundamental right of every human being, while forcible conversion to any religion is a crime even under Pakistan’s penal code. Since Pakistan’s laws do not prohibit anyone to change their religion it is the responsibility of the state to ensure and guarantee every citizen freedom of religion and belief. Pakistan is under obligation to bring its law in line with international conventions ratified in relation to women and religious freedom and belief. The Convention on Elimination of All Forms for Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) clearly establishes state obligation to respect, protect and fulfil women’s rights. Under CEDAW, it is the responsibility of the state to take appropriate measures to eliminate laws and practices that directly discriminate against women, and also to create an environment in which women’s rights can be fulfilled and protected.
There are no indicators to prove the success of Pakistan’s endeavours to promote human rights, and prevent the ongoing persecution against minority women; rather, it is on the increase. Such atrocities against minorities’ women are not hidden from anyone as several reports have been published about this abominable issue. Even the Senate Standing Committee on Religious Affairs has declared the forced conversion of minority girls to Islam as un-Islamic, and has asked the government to adopt a comprehensive mechanism for protection of women belonging to minority communities. Chairman of the committee Hafiz Hamdullah said: “Forced conversion of girls to Islam is against the teachings of Islam and also a violation of the law in the country.” He further said that religion is a personal matter of every individual, and no individual can be converted by force.
Last year, Senate’s Functional Committee on Human Rights recommended to criminalise forced religious conversions, and to prevent misuse of the blasphemy law, but the government seems disinterested, and nothing has changed.
Since the police and courts have failed to uphold the law appropriately, the problem will continue to grow, and people of a particular mindset will continue to commit such crimes without any fear. Although according to the Constitution of Pakistan all citizens are equal before the law, but clearly some are considered superior on the basis of religion.
Many Christians believe that the government of Pakistan deliberately tolerates such lawlessness as a way of marginalising the Christian minority. Since there is an urgent need, and minorities have a longstanding demand, now even the Senate committee has once again recommended that instead of blaming media and NGOs for defaming Pakistan, government must bring this matter to parliament, and introduce legislation to stop the ongoing forced conversion of girls and women belonging to minority religions.

Pakistan's Minister of Defence - Comedy Of Errors

The next global war could start with a fight on Twitter as our Minister of Defence very well proved on Sunday.
Khawaja Asif has the unique distinction of being the only Minister of a state to try and start an actual war on Twitter, that too a nuclear one. His not-so-veiled threat of using nukes against Israel was the subject of ridicule at both home and abroad, making Pakistan headline across international media for all the wrong reasons. The worst part is that he based this ill-thought out tweet on a fake news item, and did not bother to check any alternative reports to verify what was going on.
Khawaja Asif based his rancour on the former Defence Minister of Israel, and not the sitting one.
The armed forces’ reluctance in dealing with our colourful Defence Minister then, is not the least bit surprising. His off-the-cuff remarks, and his aggressive stance can be witnessed by a simple search online for news stories related to him. Terms such as ‘lashing out’ and ‘takes aim’ are common elements in all search results. ‘Loose cannon’ will be the next term associated with him (pun intended).
This is the government’s frontman on all matters of strategy, defence and war, and by the looks of it – not only based on this statement, but past occasions as well – lacks all the poise, stability and maturity expected from a federal minister.
Now that his error has been made public, the Pakistani state comes out looking extremely foolish. If we can’t temper our remarks against a very dangerous state like Israel, what scope do we have in resolving outstanding conflicts with India? An apology and retraction is essential now. Gaffes are made as a matter of course by all politicians, this is nothing new, but Khawaja Asif has been known to make one too many.
The government is not too bothered seemingly; the last time the country took issue with Khawaja Asif’s speeches against the army that surfaced, he was simply benched until things seemed calmer. Expect nothing more on this occasion, if anything.

Pakistan - Shahbaz Taseer - No security, intelligence agency came to my rescue during captivity

Shahbaz Taseer, the son of slain Punjab Governor Salmaan Taseer, while giving an interview to DawnNews on Wednesday, said no security or intelligence agency came to his rescue during captivity, and “its Allah’s blessing” that he managed to escape.
Months after the assassination of his flamboyant father over siding with a blasphemy convict, Shahbaz Taseer was abducted from Lahore on Aug 25, 2011 by the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU) when he was on his way to his office. He was recovered in March this year after being held captive for almost five years.

Politicians abandoned Taseer family

Talking about the role of Pakistan People’s Party during his captivity, Shahbaz said: “In order to correct the record I must mention that after the assassination of my father, Bilawal was the only person who talked to me.”
Every other senior politician had distanced themselves from the Taseer family, saying it was a controversial issue, he added.

'No deal behind my release'

“I am only thankful to Allah for my freedom, as no one else played any part in my release, neither the security agencies nor the government authorities,” he said.
“All the security agencies did was to bring me back from that hotel in Kachlak near Quetta, where I had reached after running away from my captors.”
When asked whether any deal was struck with the captors to ensure his release, Shahbaz categorically negated the notion saying “the only deal was that I managed to escape from captivity”.
He was of the view that freedom is a wonderful gift of life which people generally take for granted, and that he was glad to have it back.
"My story is a story of survival, it’s a story of hope. Being hopeless was not an option for me," he said.

'Writing a book is a difficult task'

When asked whether he plans to publish his ordeal, Shahbaz said: “Writing a book is a difficult task, it will probably take me a year to write down my ordeal. It’s a challenge for me.”
“I feel lucky that my grandfather was a poet and father an author.”
Recalling his experience in captivity, Shahbaz said: “When I look back, there is nothing painful. I see it as a healing experience.”
“For four years I never spoke to anyone, I had very little exposure to humans.”
“I also learnt Pashto during captivity, it’s a difficult language and it took me nearly three years to learn basic sentences in order to communicate with my captors — as they only spoke Pashto and Uzbek,” he said.
"Initially they were very frustrated that I could not understand their language. That was a hard time for me, I tried a lot to talk to my captors but they started abusing and torturing me."
Shahbaz said it was difficult for him to make a human connection with the persons who used to routinely torture him.
When asked to share any particular instance he plans to write in his upcoming book, Shahbaz recalled: “Once there was a drone strike on the hideout where militants had kept me, I got injured in it too. My captor had no other place to hide me, so he took me to his home. His one-and-half-year-old son came to the room in which I was kept and started playing with his toys.
"That brought smile to my face. At that point I realised that I had not smiled for more than two years. These are the instances I plan to write in my book,” he said.

Nearly five years in captivity

Shahbaz was kidnapped from Lahore in August, 2011, near his company’s head office in Gulberg area. He was driving towards the offices of the First Capital Group, off M.M. Alam Road in Gulberg when he was intercepted by the kidnappers.
The Pakistani Taliban never officially confirmed their involvement in the kidnapping, but there were reports that the army operation in the tribal areas had made it “difficult” for the group to keep him.

Russia, Pakistan, China warn of increased Islamic State threat in Afghanistan

By Peter Hobson

Russia, China and Pakistan warned on Tuesday that the influence of Islamic State (IS) was growing in Afghanistan and that the security situation there was deteriorating.
Representatives from the three countries, meeting in Moscow, also agreed to invite the Afghan government to such talks in the future, the Russian Foreign Ministry said.
"(The three countries) expressed particular concern about the rising activity in the country of extremist groups including the Afghan branch of IS," ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova told reporters after the meeting.
The United States, which still has nearly 10,000 troops in Afghanistan more than 15 years after the Islamist Taliban were toppled by U.S.-backed Afghan forces, was not invited to the Moscow talks.
The gathering, the third in a series of consultations between Russia, China and Pakistan that has so far excluded Kabul, is likely to deepen worries in Washington that it is being sidelined in negotiations over Afghanistan's future. Officials in Kabul and Washington have said that Russia is deepening its ties with Taliban militants fighting the government, though Moscow has denied providing aid to the insurgents.
Zakharova said Russia, China and Pakistan had "noted the deterioration of the security situation (in Afghanistan)".
The three countries agreed a "flexible approach to remove certain figures from sanctions lists as part of efforts to foster a peaceful dialogue between Kabul and the Taliban movement," she added.
Afghan President Ashraf Ghani last month asked the United Nations to add the Taliban's new leader to its sanctions list, further undermining a stalled peace process.
Earlier on Tuesday, Afghan Foreign Ministry Spokesman Ahmad Shekib Mostaghni said Kabul had not been properly briefed about the Moscow meeting. "Discussion about the situation in Afghanistan, even if well-intentioned, in the absence of Afghans cannot help the real situation and also raises serious questions about the purpose of such meetings," he said.
A number of Afghan provincial capitals have come under pressure from the Taliban this year while Afghan forces have been suffering high casualty rates, with more than 5,500 killed in the first eight months of 2016.
An offshoot of Islamic State has claimed responsibility for several attacks in the last year.


Chairman Pakistan Peoples Party Bilawal Bhutto Zardari has expressed anguish and sorrow over the death of 35 people after consuming poisonous liquor in Punjab’s Toba Tek Singh district.

PPP Chairman said that he was shocked to see reports that this poisonous liquor was sold by Punjab Police on the eve of Christmas.

He sympathized with those who lost their loved ones and demanded stern action against those involved in the making of this tragedy.

“These tragic deaths of 35 people have exposed the so-called “good governance” being propagated by PML-N government to create a superficial impression. Sharifs have held the people of Punjab hostage through a moneyed cartel and treating them as slaves,” the PPP Chairman said.

Bilawal Bhutto Zardari said that only PPP and its government are always blessed with the “suo moto clouds” and judicial activism but Takht-e-Jati Umrao has somehow been denied these blessings. Doing away with the clearly visible “One Land, Two Laws” will be the greatest gift to pass on to the next generation by those who want to be sung post-retirement, he added.