Saturday, April 15, 2017

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Bilawal Bhutto urges Sindh cabinet to improve its performance and remain more accessible to the people to resolve their issues

Pakistan Peoples Party Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari has urged the Sindh cabinet to improve its performance and remain more accessible to the people to resolve their issues as a PPP government is meant to deliver more than any its counterpart in the country.
PPP Chairman presided over a meeting of Sindh Cabinet held at Bilawal House today. Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah, Nisar Ahmed Khuhro, Mir Hazar Khan Bijarani, Manzoor Wassan, Mukesh Chawala and other Ministers and Special Assistants to Chief Minister attended the meeting.
Chief Minister informed the meeting that Sindh government has released Rs161 billion in the three quarters of the current fiscal year of them Rs86 billion have been spent. During the same period in the previous year Rs101 were released and Rs51 billion were spent.
Briefing the meeting, the Education Minister informed that of 5,000 closed schools, Sindh government has reopened 2079 primary schools while 1,400 others have been found not viable as puppet regimes of the past had established dozens of school buildings in smaller village to appease and bribe their crony Wadera allies. Third party evaluation of the reopened schools is being carried out to ensure that they are fully functional while teachers training is also being outsourced to improve primary education, the Minister informed.
On the question of garbage in Karachi, the Minister concerned pointed out the hiccups in removal of garbage and pledged that Sindh government was taking up steps to ensure Karachi as the cleanest city in the region but cooperation of the different tiers of elected local bodies was required without politicization of the issue by the opponents.
Local Government Department Minister further said that a mega project for provision of 200 mgd water to be sources from 150 kilometers away.
Minister Works and Services informed that Sindh government has completed construction of 2003 kilometers of roads in the province while 41 major road sector schemes were underway and all the concerned have been directed to ensure quality of work and in time completion of the ongoing schemes.
Minister Culture said that Umerkot Fort has been restored in its original glory in a short time while the work on Kotdiji Fort was underway to renovate with its unique architecture.
About the historic and scenic Gorakh Hills in Dadu district, Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah said that talks are underway with the Asian Development to build a specious road for easy access to the tourists. He said several small tourist rest houses have also been built but there was a need of construction of a big resort.
Information Technology Minister pointed out that his department was carrying out a project for websites of 44 departments and data collection of provincial infrastructure was also underway besides installation of security surveillance systems at hundreds of worship places of non-Muslims in the province.
The cabinet was informed that for the province’s famous Sindhri mangoes have been got registered to pave way for its exports as previously it exports were illegal in the international market.
Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari was further informed that Sindh government has increased the job quota for women from 5% to 15%, which is unprecedented in the country.
In Transport sector, the meeting was told that Sindh Mass Transir Project has formally been approved while buses under Edhi Lines, Yellow Lines, Blue Lines and Red Lines will be on roads by the end of this year in phases. Under Peoples Service, 617 new buses under Public-Private Partnership are ready to ply in provincial capital by July.
Apprising about performance of Health Department, the Minister concerned said that liver transplantation was being operated in Sindh while 12 vertical health programmes are being run. He lamented that Sindh government tried to recruit 6,000 doctors to meet need in rural and urban areas but could not do it because of litigations.
Cabinet meeting was told that Minority Affairs Department was undertaking 550 schemes for non-Muslim communities and their worship places, which is unmatched in any province.
Earlier, addressing the Sindh Cabinet, Bilawal Bhutto Zardari stressed upon the members of Sindh cabinet to work hard as he wants every department to deliver its best to serve the masses and mitigate their sufferings.


People of Shia majority Parachinar area of Kurrum Agency are suffering from multiple problems due to restrictions on them imposed in the name of the Red Zone because the security forces have declared several localities of Parachinar “red zone” in the wake of recent terror incidents in the town.

The affected residents complained that school-going children, government employees and patients are suffering very much due to long queues at the security checkpoints. They demanded that pupils and employees should be given special passes for smooth entry and exit and token be issued to the patients and patients-carrying vehicles and their attendants.
Azmat Ali Zai, local coordinator of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan and local social worker Sha’aban Bangash made these demands talking to the media.
Kurram Militia, a wing of Frontier Corps, informed people through pamphlets on Monday last that central Imam Bargah, Punjabi Bazaar, Hazara Colony and its adjacent commercial and residential areas had been included in the red zone. Security in the red zone would be responsibility of the law enforcement agencies and residents have been asked to cooperate with the paramilitary forces and Levies personnel during body search, checking of vehicles and verification of identity.
The latest step was taken following car bomb attack near Imam Bargah in the town on March 31. The explosion killed 22 people and caused injuries to around 100 people.

#Pakistan - #Christian girl forcibly converted after abduction, police reluctant to act

Another Pakistani Christian girl forced to convert after being abducted. Suvera was reportedly abducted by Muhammad Ijaz Butt and his accomplices. The incident took place on April 4, Tuesday Suvera was abducted and was forced to convert to Islam next day on April 5. She was forcibly given in marriage to one of the abductors.
The other two accomplices of Muhammad Ijaz Butt, have been identified Wahab Butt and Naveed Burgaranwala. After conversion, she was given a name Fatima. Mother of the victim Rozi Bibi, approached the local police station seeking legal assistance in this matter.
In this regard, Legal Evangelical Association Development (LEAD) was informed about the incident. Family of the victim requested LEAD for legal assistance. After the incident was reported in Police Station Civil Lines Gujranwala an FIR no 241/17 was registered on April 6. Sections 365-b of the Pakistan Penal Code was invoked in the FIR.
LEAD informed Christians in Pakistan that the police are showing unwillingness to act in this matter as they seem reluctant to take action against the abductors. It was also detailed that the police maintains that the girl has converted to Islam and is married wife of a Muslim. Moreover, the abductors have registered a complaint against the family of the victim in order to intimidate them.
Family of victim claims that the abductors are applying pressure so as to make them settle for a settlement. While remaking about the incident, LEAD chief Advocate Sardar Mushtaq Gill stated: “This issue needs to tackled by authorities seriously because these cases are prevalent in Pakistan and culprits put counter pressure on the victim’s family to withdraw the charges of abduction and get compromised with the abductors.”
LEAD chief further stated that the family of the victim is facing immense pressure as is customary in such cases. This is sensitive issue as it involves religion, and may augment into worst possible situation for the Christian family if they continue to insist for the return of their daughter Suvera.

Pakistan: Bail pleas refused again for two Ahmadi muslim men in jail for 5 years without trial

 A court refused on Friday the post-arrest bail pleas of two Ahmadi men, who were arrested more than five years ago allegedly for preaching their faith in Lahore.

The suspects belonging to the Ahmadiyya community have been behind bars since their arrest on March 12, 2012 for propagating their faith by inviting the complainant to accept it.

The complainant’s counsel, Advocate Ghulam Mustafa Chaudhry, told the court the men were found guilty of preaching their faith during the course of police investigation. A banned book along with other blasphemous literature was found on the suspects as well.

He contended that sufficient incriminating evidence was available on record to prima facie connect the men with the offence and no interior motives have been explained by the suspects’ counsel.

The lawyer for the accused argued his clients were implicated in a fake case merely to humiliate and blackmail them.

He contended that nothing had been recovered from the arrested men to connect them with the offence.

The lawyer implored that the suspects had been behind bars for five years without any conviction or having any criminal record.

After listening to arguments from both sides, the judicial magistrate dismissed the bail petitions of the men.

The Iqbal Town police booked the two men under sections 298-C and 295-A in March 2012.

Pakistan - Mainstreaming militancy

Once again terrorists struck at the heart of Pakistan, Lahore. This was on April 5 when the census teams of civilians and armed forces’ personnel were on their way for survey duty. Six people including four soldiers of the Pakistan army and two census staff lost their lives in the assault. The defunct Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) claimed the attack.
Pakistan has lost thousands of innocent lives in its fight against extremism. The country has gone through various phases of militancy that started back in the Cold-War era. The military-led operations have targeted terrorist hideouts and safe havens in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata). However, the threat is still imminent and looms large.
There are statements of former civilian and military officials where they have conceded to patronising various proxies in foreign countries. Similarly, there are banned outfits operating in the country on the behest of power corridors. Sometimes, these outlaws were used for political gains and sometimes to pressurise the democratic government.
The biggest apprehension is about the future of these banned outfits. Will they be eliminated, continue to be proxies or shun violence and join national politics?
An important development came to the fore on March 27 when defunct Ahl-e-Sunnat Wal Jamaat (ASWJ) and Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JuD) demanded a space in political arena of the country. The head of ASWJ Maulana Ahmed Ludhianvi and JuD senior leader and brother of Hafiz Saeed, Hafiz Masood were invited to a working group session organised by Pakistan Institute of Peace Studies (PIPS), an Islamabad-based think tank.
Is mainstreaming of banned outfit plausible?
Mainstreaming means how these banned organisations can be incorporated in the electoral process and how their trained armed cadre can be inducted in security forces?
Army claims there is mainstreaming plan in place for the JuD and Jaish-e-Muhammad (JeM) because “they have the support of establishment in their operations inside Kashmir”, revealed senior defense analyst Imtiaz Gul while talking to The News on Sunday.
“If you try to mainstream Lashkar-e-Tiaba and Jaish-e-Muhammad to become part of political mainstream and contest elections it will directly impact relations with India,” explained Gul.
During January 2002, the Pakistan’s Ministry of Interior (MoI) proscribed six religious parties and groups; Jaish-e-Muhammad (JeM), Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan (SSP), Tehreek-e-Jaferia Pakistan (TJP), Tehreek-e-Nifaz-e-Shariat-e-Muhammadi (TNSM) and Tehreek-e-Islami (TI). These organisations were proscribed under section 11-B-(1) of Anti Terrorism Act of Pakistan 1997.
According to this section an organisation is proscribed if a) “The Federal Government, having reason to believe that an organisation is involved in terrorism, by order, lists it in the First Schedule. b) It operates under the name as an organisation listed in the First Schedule or it operates under a different name. c) The First Schedule is amended by the Federal Government in any way to enforce proscription.”
These organisations continued their operations and resurfaced after changing their names. Pakistan’s security apparatus believes that turning back from these banned outfits could be a risky game. General (r) Musharraf’s regime carried out a crackdown on these organisations after 9/11 which triggered attacks on the state by a vast majority of these militants.
Renowned journalist Ahmed Rashid, while talking to TNS, says: “these organisations are not just carrying out acts of terrorism in Pakistan, they are also fighting with militant groups in half a dozen countries including Afghanistan, Central Asia, Syria and India.”
Article 256 of the Constitution of Pakistan forbids private armies. It states, “No private organisation capable of functioning as a military organisation shall be formed, and such organisation shall be illegal.”
Last week, Inspector General of Police Punjab, Mushtaq Ahmed Sukhera claimed in Geo News programme Jirga, “Earlier, in a gathering of the ASWJ, slogans would be raised against opposite sect but not so in the last two years. We don’t have any evidence to link ASWJ with Lashkar-e-Jhangvi.”
The implication of legitimising these banned outfits and allowing them to contest election will not be limited to Pakistan but will be regional. “If you try to mainstream Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jaish-e-Muhammad to become part of political mainstream and contest elections, it will directly impact relations with India,” explains Gul.
Many experts believe that if these organisations renounce violence, submit themselves to the Constitution of Pakistan and go through a rigorous exercise of deradicalisation and debriefing, they should be allowed to kick off their political activities.
The head of ASWJ, Maulana Ahmed Ludhianvi told TNS, “We [Maulana Ludhianvi and Maulana Sajid Naqvi of Shia Ulema Council] are sitting together on various forums to end riots and if somebody asks me to go there [Sajid Naqvi’a house], I can even go there for this cause.”
But. as Ahmed Rashid questions, “Are they prepared to bring back their fighters from these countries, support the Constitution of Pakistan, renounce trying to change the political and religious system that is guaranteed by the constitution, prepared to disarm and make their youth go through deradicalisation programmes, to carry out reform in their educational systems and the madrassas they control, be useful to the state instead of promoting religious extremism? — That appears difficult”.
If they are prepared to carry out this long list of what needs to be done and fulfill all the articles of the National Action Plan, he adds, “there is every possibility that they could join the political process”.
Several deradicalisation programmes are being run in the Muslim world like Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Morocco, United Arab Emirates and Indonesia. There are at least two deradicalisatioin and rehabilitation centres operating in Pakistan, Sabaoon which is located in Malakand and another is Mishal situated in the beautiful Swat valley. The programme in both the centres is run under the supervision of the Pakistan army. However, these centres are only meant to deal with the less affected cases of militancy. Hardcore cadre of militants is not the target of this initiative.
We have another significant example in our neighbouring Afghanistan where Hizb-e-Islami (HeI) has announced to shun violence and join mainstream politics of the country. A couple of months back, the United Nations lifted ban on the HeI Chief, Gulbadin Hikmatyar. The historic move was a result of a deal that was brokered between the Aghan government and Hekmatyar.
“As long as anybody or any group submits themselves to the Constitution of Pakistan and pledge to uphold and work for those fundamental human rights, he should be given a chance to become part of the mainstream,” suggests Imtiaz Gul.
Talking to TNS, social activist Jibran Nasir said, “It’s not about banned outfits renouncing violence but banned outfits renouncing their ideology for which they were banned. Is ASWJ willing to give up its ideology, their books, their narrative and teachings? A 40 page book ASWJ Kia Chahti hai (what does ASWJ want?) sums up their views”.
“A code of conduct will be developed whenever the government decides to take such an initiative and we will adhere to it,” responds Maulana Ludhianvi to a query about hate literature.

#Pakistan - #MashalKhan #MardanUniversity - The darkness within

A medieval brutality, a very cancer of the soul, has permeated this society. Not only has it pervaded the hinterland, it has also spread to places where minds are supposed to be enlightened by knowledge and learning.
Each ghastly detail of Mashal Khan’s murder on Thursday illustrates this chilling fact. The 23-year-old student at the Abdul Wali Khan University in Mardan was lynched on campus by a mob of fellow students over allegations of blasphemy.
Video footage of the savagery unleashed upon the young man shows an enraged crowd beating his naked body with sticks, kicking and stoning him while raising religious slogans. Another student was also attacked for the same reason and badly injured; his whereabouts are unknown.
But why should we be surprised at this display of bestiality masquerading as virtue? After all, the road to Mashal Khan’s murder is punctuated with many a landmark pointing to where we are headed: eight people, including a child, burned alive in Gojra in 2009 on allegations of blasphemy; governor Punjab Salmaan Taseer, gunned down by his security guard in 2011 for coming to the defence of a blasphemy accused; lawyer Rashid Rehman, shot dead in May 2014 for defending a blasphemy suspect; brick kiln workers Shama and Shahzad, burned alive by a mob in November 2014 on allegations of blasphemy. And this is but a partial list, even in terms of the lives lost.
For the ruin of many a life has played out in the crucible of blasphemy: people driven out of their homes, deprived of their livelihoods, sometimes even languishing in jail for years because few lawyers now have the courage to defend them.
The culpability of the state — particularly some elements of it — in bringing matters to such a pass is undeniable. For even while spewing platitudes in the name of anti-extremism, it has fed the fires of intolerance and unreason, deliberately creating an environment where mere allegations of blasphemy trigger vigilante ‘justice’ and where appeals to moderation are conflated with defending blasphemy itself.
This is a Damocles’ sword that can conveniently be used to silence anyone professing views that question or contradict the state-approved narrative. And if innocents must die in the process, then so be it.
However, while the law should take its course in punishing those guilty of Mashal Khan’s murder, voices of sanity must speak up in the face of such cynical manipulation of religious sentiment.
Imran Khan, whose party heads the KP government, has rightly condemned Mashal Khan’s lynching, vowing to resist “the law of the jungle”. He is, shamefully enough, so far among the few politicians to have taken such an unequivocal stance.
Even most of the electronic media, otherwise so loquacious, has only covered Mashal Khan’s murder in a superficial manner, carefully avoiding the real issues that underpin the tragedy. Until these are debated, and the contradictions in society acknowledged, our descent into a dystopian nightmare will continue.

In the aftermath of the horrific lynching and murder of #MashalKhan at #MardanUniversity, few, if any are stating the obvious truth

In the aftermath of the horrific lynching and murder of #MashalKhan at #MardanUniversity, few, if any are stating the obvious truth.
That this is the inevitable outcome of mainstreaming Deobandi terrorist organisations like Sipah Sahaba aka ASWJ-LeJ whose entire existence is based on inciting and perpetuating violence against anyone who criticises selective historical personalities.
In 2014, a Shia Muslim Syed Tufail Haider was gruesomely hacked to death in a Punjab PML N-run police station by a sub-inspector. His “crime” was simply being critical of historical personalities that were opposed to the Holy Prophet.
Pakistani Neoliberals are selectively quoting the sole murder of Governor Taseer in 2011 to correctly condemn the violence against anyone accused of blasphemy. However, the hypocrites that they are is evident once again from their silence against ISIS-affiliated, Deobandi groups like ASWJ-LeJ.
ASWJ (aka Jaish aka Jundullah) has mainstreamed genocidal violence based on their sectarian response to alleged blasphemy. They have been doing this for the last 3 decades!

Why the US used the MOAB bomb to target ISIS fighters in Afghanistan

  • On Thursday, the U.S. military dropped a never-before-used 22,000-pound bomb nicknamed the “mother of all bombs” on ISIS fighters in Afghanistan.
    Why was now the right time to deploy the massive weapon? Here's what you need to know:

    Why was the bomb used?

    The top U.S. commander of American forces in Afghanistan said the bomb was deemed the best to target the ISIS-K’s tunnel complex in Nangarhar province, located in eastern Afghanistan.
    Formally known as the GBU-43, or massive ordnance air blast (MOAB) bomb, it is the largest non-nuclear bomb ever used in combat by the U.S. military. Thirty-six ISIS fighters have been killed, according to the Afghan Ministry of Defense. As of now, there is no evidence of civilian casualties and no reports of civilian casualties, but an assessment of the bomb damage to the area is still ongoing.
    According to U.S. officials, the number of ISIS fighters in eastern Afghanistan is estimated to be between 600 and 800 -- a decrease from the estimated 3,000 operating in that area in late 2015.
    The MOAB “is primarily intended for soft to medium surface targets covering extended areas, targets contained in an environment such as caves or canyons, clearing extensive mine fields, and for psychological effects,” according to Ann Stefanek, a spokesperson for the Air Force.
    “This was the right weapon against this target,” Gen. John Nicholson, commander of U.S. Forces - Afghanistan, said in a press conference in Kabul Friday.
    “The enemy had created bunkers, tunnels, and extensive minefields and this weapon was used to reduce those obstacles so we could continue our offensive,” he added.
    Nicholson further explained that the purpose of the operation was to “eliminate” ISIS-K’s “sanctuary.”

    Why was it dropped on Thursday?

    Thursday was simply the proper tactical moment for this particular target, according to Nicholson.
    "In regard to timing, it's when we encountered this target on the battlefield,” Nicholson said.
    “It is not related to any outside events other than our focus on destroying Daesh in 2017,” he added, using another name for ISIS.
    The U.S. military has been conducting operations against ISIS in Afghanistan for the past year, specifically in southern Nangarhar since March, and has reduced the threat to a smaller area by roughly “two-thirds,” Nicholson said.
    “However this was the first time that we encountered an extensive obstacle to our progress,” Nicholson explained.
    The obstacles, according to Nicholson, included IEDs (improvised explosive devices), and the presence of tunnels and caves.
    The U.S. military’s planning to use the MOAB bomb goes back several months to the Obama administration, and Department of Defense officials were aware of the intent and plans to deploy the weapon.

    Does the use of the bomb send a message to North Korea?

    With North Korea reportedly preparing to conduct a nuclear test this weekend, President Donald Trump was asked whether dropping the bomb sends a message to the eastern aggressor.
    “I don’t know if this sends a message. It doesn’t make any difference if it does or not. North Korea is a problem. The problem will be taken care of,” Trump said Thursday during a meeting at the White House.
    Col. Steve Ganyard, a retired fighter pilot in the Marine Corps and current ABC News contributor, said on “Good Morning America” Friday suggested it certainly raises an alarm.
    “It sends a message to ISIS but I think the real question here [is] ... 'Was that heard on the other side of the world in Pyongyang and will it make an impression on Kim Jong-un?'" Ganyard said. "I think so."

    Will the U.S. use this bomb again in the future?

    “That depends on the tactical situation,” Nicholson said. “We employed this weapon for a specific tactical solution to a particular military problem and that determines when and how we operate when and how on the battlefield.”

    'Mother of all Afghan problems is terror sanctuary in Pakistan'

    Close on the heels of the U.S dropping its most lethal non-nuclear bomb on an Islamic State target in Afghanistan, a former U.S diplomat urged the Donald Trump administration to consider hitting terrorist sanctuaries inside Pakistan. Zalmay Khalilzad, a former U.S ambassador to Afghanistan and Iraq, said the single most important factor of instability in Afghanistan is the continuing sanctuary for Taliban in Pakistani territory.
    “Today we are talking about the mother of bombs. The mother of all problems in Afghanistan is the sanctuary (for Taliban inside Pakistan),” he said adding, ““If you respect the sanctuary and you don't attack it, you are allowing the insurgency to go on.”
    As part of the Trump administration’s ongoing review of the U.S policy on Afghanistan, National Security Adviser Lt Gen H R McMaster will be traveling to Kabul, Islamabad and New Delhi over the weekend. “We should not be accepting safe sanctuaries as something normal. We ought to make that very very clear to Pakistan," Mr. Khalilzad said. "I hope that the NSA makes that point clear when he sits across the table when he is in Islamabad,” the former diplomat said at a discussion at the Hudson Institute, a Washington think tank. “Being in Afghanistan and being successful will make us stronger. IS is being defeated in Syria and Iraq and they are trying to move to Afghanistan,” the diplomat said, rejecting a suggestion that America could leave Afghanistan to resolve its problems by itself.
    Speaking at another event in the city, Pakistan’s former military ruler Pervez Musharraf said that the US committed “blunder” by not turning its military victory in Afghanistan into a political one post 9/11. “After 9/11 Taliban and Al-Qaeda were defeated in Afghanistan. This was military victory. This military victory was to be converted into a political one,” Mr. Musharraf said at a conference on Pakistan organised by the School of Advanced International Studies of the Johns Hopkins University. Mr. Khalilzad said the final solution can only be political, but the duplicity of Pakistan, particularly the then ruler Musharraf, was the key obstacle to a political settlement then. Recalling that the U.S had a golden opportunity in Afghanistan immediately after the overthrow of the Taliban regime, the former ambassador recalled a meeting with Mr. Musharraf. “Musharraf was very clever in denying that he was allowing Taliban a sanctuary in Pakistan. Once I went to talk to him and he flatly told me that there is no Taliban in Pakistan. He began saying, ‘give me their phone numbers..give me their addresses’…I said, ‘Mr. President, the leadership is called the Quetta Shura, and Quetta, I understand is in Baluchistan. ” Quetta Shura was the Talibani leadership council that was based in Pakistan. Mr. Khalilzad said due to “a variety of reasons” the U.S could not confront Pakistan more strongly on the issue then. “They were helping us on some issues, and it was a complicated relationship.”
    Husain Haqqani, Pakistan’s former Ambassador to the U.S and Director for South and Central Asia at Hudson said the war in Afghanistan “will have a crucial impact on the global war on Islamist terrorism.” Robin Raphel, former U.S Assistant Secretary of State, argued that by supporting Taliban, Pakistan was truing to hedge its bets in Afghanistan.
    She called for clearer commitment from by the U.S on its plans for Afghanistan, a position that was contested by both Mr. Haqqani and Mr. Khalilzad. They said Pakistan has legitimate interests in Afghanistan, but its concern about Indian influence is misplaced, vague and ideological more than anything substantive. “Pakistan has never been firm on what exactly are their core concerns,” Mr. Khalilzad said.