Friday, December 30, 2016

NPR's Exit Interview With President Obama, Dec 19, 2016

World Insight— Russia diplomacy direction; China, US heading for a trade war?

China calls for dialogue and mutual respect on US-Russia tensions

#Russia - Ambassadors of music’: 64 members of Alexandrov army band lost in Tu-154 crash

Will Trump reverse sanctions placed on Russia?

Putin: Russia will not expel anyone in response to US sanctions

Pashto Music - Speeni Spoogmai wa ya Ashna ba charta we na

Religious minorities in Pakistan oft-times suffer from misuse of blasphemy law: Amnesty International

A recent report issued by Amnesty International stated that the religious minorities in Pakistan often become targets of false blasphemy accusations. The report spotlighted the plight of the Christians in Pakistan, mentioning various cases when Christians and other minorities became victims of blasphemy law.
Misuse of blasphemy laws in Pakistan
The report titled: “PAKISTAN: ‘AS GOOD AS DEAD’: THE IMPACT OF THE BLASPHEMY LAWS IN PAKISTAN,” said that the controversial blasphemy law actually “emboldening vigilantes” who are willing to threaten, torture or even kill those accused of committing blasphemy.
The report quotes Supreme Court judgment in Malik Muhammad Mumtaz Qadri vs the State, 7 October 2015: “The Majority of blasphemy cases are based on false accusations stemming from property issues or other personal or family vendettas rather than genuine instances of blasphemy and they inevitably lead to mob violence against the entire community.”
“On 4 January 2011, Salmaan Taseer, the governor of Pakistan’s Punjab province, was killed by one of his
security guards, Mumtaz Qadri. He said he committed the murder because, “this is the punishment for a
blasphemer.” Salmaan Taseer had sought a presidential pardon for Asia Bibi, also known as Asia Noreen, a 45-year-old Christian farmhand and a woman with responsibility for five young children from the village of Ittan Wali, near the Punjabi city of Sheikhupura. In November 2010, Asia Bibi became the first Pakistani woman sentenced to death for blasphemy. Salmaan Taseer’s support for her, and his view that Pakistan’s blasphemy laws were “black laws”, were also cast as an act of blasphemy by supporters of the laws.
Overnight, Mumtaz Qadri became a national hero for supporters of Pakistan’s blasphemy laws. Religious
parties brought tens of thousands of their followers on to the streets to demand Mumtaz Qadri’s release. A mosque was named after him and became so popular that funds were raised to create a new prayer hall. Many lawyers wanted to represent him pro bono to reward him for what they saw as a justified killing. Lawyers and religious clerics chanted slogans supporting him outside the court hearings. The Pakistan People’s Party-led government of the time bowed to public pressure, vowing not to amend the blasphemy laws.”
The report further stated: “On 2 March 2011, Shahbaz Bhatti, the only Christian member of the cabinet and the Minister for Minorities, was shot dead outside his mother’s house in Islamabad. Shahbaz Bhatti was the only senior Pakistani official to back Salmaan Taseer’s calls for the blasphemy laws to be amended. Before his death, he told the BBC that he was facing threats to his life for speaking out against the persecution of Christians and other minorities in Pakistan.
On 7 October 2015, Mumtaz Qadri’s death sentence was upheld by the Supreme Court, and on 29 February 2016 he was hanged. Following his execution, thousands of his supporters took to the streets of his hometown Rawalpindi to mark his funeral. In March 2016, thousands of Qadri supporters protested outside the National Assembly in Islamabad, setting fire to and damaging property, attacking journalists, and clashing with the police.”
“At the time of writing, Asia Bibi remains imprisoned in Sheikhupura. On 13 October 2016, the Supreme Court was scheduled to hear her case in the ultimate stage of her appeal process. On the day, the Supreme Court adjourned the appeal hearing indefinitely. Earlier, on 22 July 2015, the Supreme Court suspended Asia Bibi’s death sentence for the duration of the appeals process.
This report details how Pakistan’s blasphemy laws violate human rights, both in their substance and their application – whether this is violations of human rights by the state, or abuses of the laws by non-state actors. The laws do not meet human rights standards and lack essential safeguards to minimise the risk of additional violations and abuses.
It is difficult to establish precise information on the number of blasphemy cases as there is limited available data. However, data provided by human rights groups the National Commission for Justice and Peace (NCJP) and the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) shows a large increase of cases since the 1980s. For example, according to NCJP, a total of 633 Muslims, 494 Ahmadis, 187 Christians and 21 Hindus have been accused under various provisions on offences related to religion since 1987.” Amnesty International said in its report.


Saudi government itself has confirmed that Saudi citizens were involved in terrorist attacks in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq and Syria. However, Saudi monarchy has understated the correct statistics of the Wahhabi takfiri terrorists belonging to Saudi kingdom.

General Mansoor al Turki, spokesman for Saudi interior ministry said that 2093 Saudi citizens were fighting in other countries alongside other transnational terrorists in aforesaid four countries of which only 31 were in Af-Pak region (Afghanistan and Pakistan).
The ministry said that only 5 Saudi citizens were fighting in Iraq and 1540 were fighting in Syria. It further said that 73 Saudi citizens were being tried in different countries and mostly for involvement in terrorist attacks.
It is relevant to add here that people of Pakistan and these three other countries believe that Saudi Wahhabis were following the Saudi monarchy’s official religion Wahhabism and they were acting upon the teaching of Mohammad Bin Abdul Wahhab (al-Nejdi), the ideological godfather of Saudi Wahhabism.

Pakistan - Family Planning

Pakistan has remained unsuccessful in its efforts, or lack thereof, to control its population growth. Other countries of the region and various Islamic countries have fared much better, owing to improved literacy and better implementation of policies.
The National Institute of Population Studies (NIPS) hosted an event to launch a policy brief on the ‘Population Growth and Reproductive Health’, and an appeal was made to reaffirm commitment towards reducing the rate of population of Pakistan, as it is one of the least developed countries in terms of human resource development.
Punjab Population Welfare Department Director Dr Afshan Tahir said the country has made national and international commitments to reduce the fertility rate from 3. 3 per woman from 3. 8 by 2020, and in order to do that Punjab has purchased contraceptives and has asked private doctors to distribute them and raise awareness about them.
However, in doing so, the 70 percent of the lower income strata are left out, who do not have access to private and expensive healthcare, and require access to family planning services the most.
There is still a stigma attached to the topic that needs to be addressed by including the issue in the national curriculum and reducing the barriers to the use of contraceptives.
In Pakistan, family planning is an uncomfortable topic fraught with religious overtones, however recent research has indicated that poor access to family planning services, lack of counselling and technical knowledge of unmotivated providers, and insufficient availability of affordable modern methods are the major obstacles to the uptake of modern contraceptives, rather than the more frequently cited factors such as religious and social opposition to small families. The government must reaffirm its commitment to address the inadequate supply of family planning services that are affordable and accessible to all groups, it is the only way of addressing the wider problems that plague the country.

In a Pakistan family, deal is made, a girl is given as bride

By Kathy Gannon
Mohammad Ramzan can neither hear nor speak, and he has a childlike mind. But he knew his wife, Saima, was too young when she was given to him as a bride.
The 36-year-old Ramzan smiles, eager to please, as he uses his fingers to count out her age when they married. One, two, three . . . until 13, and then he stops and looks at her, points and nods several times.
The girl’s father, Wazir Ahmed, says she was 14, not 13, but her age was beside the point. It mattered only that she had reached puberty when he arranged her marriage as an exchange: his daughter for Ramzan’s sister, whom he wanted to take as a second wife.
His first wife, Saima’s mother, had given him only daughters, and he hoped his second wife would give him a son. But Sabeel wouldn’t marry him until her brother had a wife to care for him.
She would be a bride in exchange for a bride.
“We gave a girl in this family for a girl in their family,” Ahmed says. “That is our right.”
In deeply conservative regions such as this one in the south of Punjab province, the tribal practice of exchanging girls between families is so entrenched, it even has its own name in Urdu: Watta Satta, which means give and take.
A girl may be given away to pay a debt or settle a dispute between feuding families. She might be married to a cousin to keep her dowry in the family or, as in this case, married for the prospect of a male heir.
Many believe that their Islamic religion instructs fathers to marry off their daughters at puberty.
“If it is not done, our society thinks parents have not fulfilled their religious obligation,” says Faisal Tangwani, regional coordinator for the independent Human Rights Commission of Pakistan in nearby Multan.
Ahmed sees the hand of God in his daughter’s marriage to a disabled man.
“It was by God’s will that he was chosen,” he says. “It was her fate.” Ahmed sits inside the mud-walled compound where he lives now with his two wives. Outside, stray dogs roam in packs of three and four. They bite, Ahmed warns.
He says that the fact that Ramzan is nearly three times his daughter’s age is irrelevant. But the legal marrying age here is 16, and in a rare move, police did investigate Saima’s marriage after they received a complaint, possibly from a relative involved in a dispute with her father. Ramzan and Ahmed were jailed for a few days, but Saima testified in court that she was 16 and they were released. She says she told the authorities she was 16 to protect her father and husband.
In Saima’s world of crushing poverty, where centuries-old tribal traditions mix with religious beliefs, a crippling cycle traps even the perpetrators with a life’s burden: a father who longs for a son to help support his family; a wife who must provide that son; a daughter who must become a mother even when she is still a child. Saima’s mother, Janaat, agrees with marrying off her daughters early. She says girls are a headache after they reach puberty. They can’t be left at home alone for fear of unwanted sexual activity — or worse, the daughter leaves home with a boy of her choice. “That would be a shame for us. We would have no honor. No. When they reach puberty quickly, we have to marry them,” she says. “Daughters are a burden, but the sons, they are the owners of the house.”
She says she accepted her husband’s marriage to another woman; after all, it’s her fault he only has daughters.
“I feel shame that I don’t have a son. I myself allowed my husband to get a second wife,” she says. Her husband’s new wife, Sabeel, says she agreed to marry Ahmed because of her brother. She wanted him to have a wife.
“No one had been willing to give their daughters to my brother,” she says.
Ramzan is quick to extend his hand to guests who enter through the torn and tattered curtain that hangs over the front door to his compound, tucked away in a narrow alley lined with open sewers.
Ramzan’s elderly parents live with him. His father rarely leaves his bed, saying he has trouble walking. His mother begs from morning until night, sometimes knocking on doors, other times parking herself in the middle of a dusty road, her hand outstretched for donations.
Like Ramzan, she can neither hear nor speak. Both her hips and one knee have been broken. She gestures as if breaking a twig to explain her troubled knee. Ramzan looks at Saima, her hair hidden beneath a sweeping shawl, her large brown eyes downcast.
“I didn’t want to marry her so young. I said at the time, ‘She is too young,’ but everyone said I must,” he says through a series of gestures interpreted by those around him. He held his hand up just below his chest, showing how tall she was when they married.
Saima doesn’t talk much. Her answers are short, and matter-of-fact.
“His sister and my father fell in love and they exchanged me,” Saima says. “Yes, I am afraid of my father, but it is his decision who I will marry and when.” She picks at the rope bed where she sits with Ramzan. Her husband often reaches to touch the top of her head.
He gestures that he is afraid Saima will leave him one day, and says that God will be unhappy if she does. Saima had gotten pregnant soon after she came to live with Ramzan but lost the child at five months. Ramzan gestures that he wants Saima to take some medicine to help her get pregnant again.
Saima rarely looks in his direction but says she has no quarrel with him, nor does she plan to leave.
Saima says she understands her husband’s gestures, but it’s hard to know. Most of the translations are done by his 12-year-old niece, Haseena, Sabeel’s daughter from the previous marriage.
Haseena was 10 when Saima married her uncle Ramzan and her mother left to live with the new bride’s father.
Haseena stayed in the house with her uncle and her elderly grandparents to cook, clean and keep Saima company. She even prepared Saima’s wedding dinner. “When Saima married my uncle, my mother told me to leave school and be with Saima because she will be all alone at home,” Haseena says. Haseena recalls that Saima seemed so young, the family felt sorry for her.
“At her age, she should have been playing.”
Back at Saima’s old home, her 7-year-old sister, Asma, wanders around, shoeless, her hair matted with dirt and dust. Asma already has been promised to her cousin, who is about 10. They will marry when she reaches puberty.