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Geneva: Blasphemy laws on the books in one-third of nations, says study

Proportionality of punishment was a key criteria for the researchers. “That is why Iran and Pakistan are the two highest countries because they explicitly have the death penalty in their law.”

Laws prohibiting blasphemy are “astonishingly widespread” worldwide, with many laying down disproportionate punishments ranging from prison sentences to lashings or the death penalty, the lead author of a report on blasphemy said.

Iran, Pakistan, and Yemen score worst, topping a list of 71 countries with laws criminalising views deemed blasphemous, found in all regions, according to a comprehensive report issued this month by the US Commission on International Religious Freedom.

The bipartisan US federal commission called for repeal of blasphemy statutes, saying they invited abuse and failed to protect freedoms of religion and expression.

“We found key patterns. All deviate from freedom of speech principles in some way, all have a vague formulation, with different interpretations,” Joelle Fiss, the Swiss-based lead author of the report told Reuters.

The ranking is based on how a state’s ban on blasphemy or criminalising of it contravenes international law principles.

Ireland and Spain had the “best scores”, as their laws order a fine, according to the report which said many European states have blasphemy laws that are rarely invoked.

Some 86 per cent of states with blasphemy laws prescribe imprisonment for convicted offenders, it said.

Proportionality of punishment was a key criteria for the researchers.

“That is why Iran and Pakistan are the two highest countries because they explicitly have the death penalty in their law,” Fiss said, referring to their laws which enforce the death penalty for insulting the Prophet Mohammad.


After the launch of a mainstream political party by the banned organisation Jamat-ud-Dawa, the chief of another banned militant outfit Fazlur Rehman Khalil is all set to launch a new party with a name ‘Islah-e-Watan Party. He led the Harkatul Mujahideen that has been banned. 

Khalil is a Rawalpindi-based Deobandi cleric who had been tagged by US state department as “specially designated global terrorist” on September 30, 2014. A source close to him said he was in touch with many of his associates to mobilise people in order to launch his own party, and is in the final stages of finalising details of the new party.
“Khalil has taken a lead from Mr. Makki’s decision to mainstream his (banned) outfit. He believes it is about time to get back all his associates and friends who have been sidelined due to the effective ban on their movement and activities,” the source said.

It is pertinent to mention here that the activists related with JuD have recently entered the political sphere with the launching the Milli Muslim League (MML) — a new political party — on August 8 this year.

When contacted, Fazlur Rehman Khalil confirmed his intentions to launch a new political party soon.

“Yes, I have been in touch with my colleagues and followers and we have even finalized a new name for the party – Islah-e-Watan Party. For this purpose, the central Shura (executive committee) would soon meet to finalize details,” he added.

Pakistan - : A Christian girl forcefully converted to Islam after being kidnapped from her house

 Madeeha Bakhsh

A Christian girl betrothed to marry a Christian man forcefully converted to Islam after being abducted from her own house.
In keeping with details, a Christian girl identified as Nabila Bibi is yet another victim of forced conversion in Pakistan’s densely populated province Punjab. A Muslim man Allah Rakha kidnapped her from her father’s house in Changa Manga on October 16. Nabila Bibi was already engaged to Sajid Masih and was set to marry him this November.
Soon after the abduction of Nabila; her father Bashir Masih and fiancé Sajid Masih launched a complaint regarding Nabila Bibi’s abduction in the Changa Manga police station.
Shortly after the FIR was filed, a group of Muslim men arrived at Bashir Masih’s house. They told Bashir Masih that Nabila had converted to Islam after marrying a Muslim man. Moreover, Bashir Masih was shown some documents as proof of Nabila’s conversion and marriage. They told him that she was living happily in Allah Rakha’s house.
Nonetheless, after learning this, Bashir Masih, Sajid Masih and his cousins went to Allah Rakha’s house and asked him to bring Nabila out to meet them. However, Allah Rakha refused to let them meet Nabila Bibi, while a gang of about 15-20 Muslim men began threatening them in case they insisted meeting her or did not leave immediately. Despite, threatening from the Muslim men, Nabila’s family was reluctant to leave and kept insisting that Nabila be brought out to meet them. Seeing this, the Muslim men held them these Christian men captive at Allah Rakha’s house for a night.
However, the following day, the Christian men managed to flee from Allah Rakha’s house by some means. Yet their quandary was far from over, as the very next day the Muslim men went to Bashir Masih’s house and started inquiring about Sajid Masih’s whereabouts. After knowing where Nabila’s fiancé lived they left for Sajid Masih’s house. However, before they arrived at Sajid’s house, he fled from there and is still in hiding.
This is not an only case of its kind. According to a report by Aurat Foudation, every year about 1000 girls hailing from religious minorities are forcefully converted to Islam after forcibly given in marriage to Muslim men. Out of these 1000, about 700 are Christian women who fall victims to the gender based religious persecution.

Pakistani senate passed the compulsory teaching of Holy Quran bill 2017, no alternative programme has been announced for non-Muslim students

By  C.S Chand

On Friday 25th August the Pakistani senate passed the compulsory teaching of Holy Quran Bill 2017. The education minister tabled the bill which was collectively affirmed.

According to statement of Senator Maulana Attaur Rehman: Being a Muslim it is necessary for us to convey Islamic teachings to our children.
The National Assembly had just passed this bill on April nineteenth, making it mandatory for Muslim students from class 1 to 12 in every educational institutions to be taught the Holy Quran.
As indicated by the goals of the bills, it will make the divine message understood, guarantee the response of society, energize peace and tranquility, promote the preeminent human values of truth, honesty, integrity, character building, tolerance, understanding others’ point of view and way of life.

Additionally, the bill will help the state to discharge its constitutional responsibility as article 31(2) of the Constitution states that the “State shall endeavor to make the teachings of the Holy Quran and Islamiyat compulsory”.
Nasir Saeed Director CLAAS-UK said that although this is compulsory for Muslim students, no alternative programme has been announced for non-Muslim students.
He added: “Also, it will have a negative impact on the non-Muslim students and many will be forced to take it as subject, if there is no other choice.
“It will promote bigotry and hatred against non-Muslims in Pakistani society, something which is already on the rise.”
He said it is sad that instead of promoting freedom of religion and belief, the government is forcing children to study religion.

#Peshawar records highest population growth among all K-P divisions

Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa’s (K-P) Peshawar Division has an average annual growth rate of 3.99% – the highest among all divisions of the K-P – and its population has doubled since 1998, when the last census was conducted.
According to district-wise census results released by the Pakistan Bureau of Statistics (PBS), Peshawar division – that includes district Peshawar, Nowshera, and Charsadda – has a total population of over 7.9 million as compared to 3.39 million in 1998.
Among the districts of Peshawar Division, the district Peshawar’s population has surged from 2.0 million in 1998 to 4.26 million in 2017 and it has the highest annual growth rate of 3.99%, followed by 2.94% of Nowshera whose total population is over 1.5 million. Charsadda district’s population is 1.6 million.
After Peshawar, highest annual growth of 3.7 has been recorded in Lower Dir district where population has increased from 700,000 in 1998 to 1.4 million in 2017. Interestingly, the annual growth rate in urban population has decreased by 0.49% while in rural areas the annual growth rate is 3.9%.
According to census documents, the population growth rate in rural areas of Peshawar has been recorded at 4.23% and in urban areas 3.7%. The lowest growth rate is recorded in Torghar district whose population has increased from 171,000 in 1998 to 0.174 million in 2017 with an annual growth rate of -0.10 followed by Chitral whose population increased with an annual growth rate of 1.80.
The population of Bannu Division has increased from 1.1 million in 1998 to 2.04 million in the latest census while population of DI Khan division has increased from 1.09 million to 2.01 million.
Hazara Division’s and Kohat Division’s population has increased from 3.5 million to 5.3 million, and 1.3 million to 2.2 million, respectively. The census documents show that Mardan Division’s population has surged from 2.4 million to 3.9 million, while Malakand Division’s population has increased from 4.2 million to 7.5 million. According to the census data, the districts where female population is more than the male population include Upper Dir, Lower Dir, Swat, Buner, Kohat, Karak, Hangu, Mansehra, Haripur and Battagram.
The highest transgender population of 311 individuals is recorded in Hazara Division, followed by 292 in Peshawar Division, 121 in Mardan Division, 69 in Malakand, 54 in Kohat Division, 49 in DI Khan Division, and 18 in Bannu Division.

Pakistan - Exploding population bomb

Zahid Hussain

AMIDST intense political wrangling and a show of national indignation over President Donald Trump’s threatening words, a more important issue affecting the future of this country has gone almost unheeded. The population time bomb that had long been ticking is now exploding.
While in other underdeveloped countries, the population growth rate has slowed down significantly, it is a different story in Pakistan. The latest population census has shown that Pakistan has moved up the ladder becoming the fifth most populous nation only behind India, China, the United States and Indonesia. It is an alarming situation, especially considering the extent of poverty in the country. With a staggering growth rate of 2.4 per cent per annum, the country’s population is around 208 million. That marks an increase of more than 57pc since the last population census in 1998, and is higher than what had been projected.
The real implications of the census results are lost on the squabbling politicians.
With abysmal human development indicators, this population explosion presents a most serious challenge to the socioeconomic stability and security of this country. With 60pc of the population under the age of 30 and fewer job opportunities, it is a disaster in the making. What is most worrisome is that this population explosion and its implications have drawn little attention from the political leadership that is engaged in a fierce power struggle.
Despite the gravity of the situation, the issue has hardly figured in the national discourse. It is not surprising that the decennial population count, a constitutional obligation, was delayed by almost two decades and was held only on the intervention of the apex court. Not surprisingly, the provisional results of the latest census too are being disputed. There are some questions regarding the methodology used and how the urban and rural divide is defined. It is Sindh that is up in arms over what is described by its government as a deliberate attempt to understate the population of the province. The fact that Karachi’s population is less than what estimates showed gives some credence to Sindh’s objections. Meanwhile, the population of Lahore has more than doubled in the same period of time, causing some eyebrows to be raised.
Indeed, there is some explanation to these discrepancies. While part of Karachi falls in the rural category, the Punjab government eliminated the distinction between rural and urban areas in its capital. Then there are also questions about the unexpected rise in the population of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. Similarly, the higher than average national growth of the population in Balochistan has also been questioned. Some believe it is largely due to the influx of Afghans in the province and that this could alter the ethnic balance between the Baloch and Pakhtun populations. But while this may sound plausible, there is still an urgent need for coming up with all the details and findings of the census. Surely, these are political problems that have arisen after each census.
Notwithstanding the political controversies, the point that is being missed in the entire discourse is the challenge that this uncontrolled population growth poses to our society and how to defuse this exploding bomb. It just shows what little priority we attach to population planning.
Remarkably, while so many parts of the world have seen a reduction in fertility rates and population growth, Pakistan’s growth rate has increased. Pakistan’s fertility rate is among the highest in the region. Indeed, this is a scary situation. But is anyone bothered?
Interestingly, other Muslim countries like Bangladesh and Iran have successfully controlled their population; that is also reflected in their improved human development indicators. With few efforts going into family planning, there is no sign of the population growth rate coming down significantly. At this rate, Pakistan may well become the world’s fourth most populous nation by 2030, surpassing Indonesia. Not surprisingly, Pakistan is ranked 147th in the Human Development Index with close to 30pc of the population living below the poverty line. Literacy rate remains dismally low at 58pc, though many dispute even this figure as too high. With thousands of newborns added to the population each day, even this ranking on the development index would be hard to sustain.
One other alarming development is rapid urbanisation testing the fragile infrastructure of megacities. Census data shows explosive growth in urban centres since the last census. The fact that Pakistan is witnessing one of the fastest urbanisation rates is not fully reflected in the census because of the skewed definition of urban and rural areas. Hence the urban population at 36.4pc of the total population appears unrealistic.
This massive population growth is one of the factors contributing to environmental degradation. Major environmental challenges currently confronting Pakistan such as climate change, deforestation, pollution and waste management are rightly attributed to rising population density.
Pakistan, being one of the countries most vulnerable to the effects of climate change, has to bear the consequences of the increasing population. The existing environment management capacity cannot sustain such a large population if it is to provide a good quality of life.
Meanwhile, for a country confronting violent extremism, such a high population growth rate and huge youth bulge with apparently shrinking economic opportunities make it far more difficult to deal with the rising menace of militancy. There may not be a direct link between radicalisation and poverty but some studies show illiteracy as one of the major causes of youth being attracted to extremist religious groups. An illiterate and unemployed population provides readymade volunteers for militant groups of all hues.
All these problems faced by the country cannot be dealt with effectively unless the population growth is brought under control. It may be late but the situation can still be salvaged with the state taking the issue more seriously. The exploding population bomb has put the country’s future in jeopardy. But is anyone paying heed to the approaching catastrophe?

ATC to announce its verdict in Benazir Bhutto murder case on Thursday

Anti Terrorism Court (ATC) is expected to be announced its verdict of the former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto murder case on Thursday.
Legal counsel of the suspects, Jawad Khalid claimed no solid proof was presented against his clients and the conflicts was there among the investigation and a gun recovered from the crime scene.
Benazir Bhutto was martyred on 2 December 2007 during a public gathering at Liaquat Bagh, Rawalpindi’.
Anti terrorism court (ATC) started its trail in this case in February 2008 and later the PPP won the election and after forming government the case was handed over to the Federal Investigation Agency.
Former dictator and president Pervez Musharaf is also a suspect in the case who was not appear before the court in the murder of BB case.

Pakistan - Zardari’s acquittal

PPP Co-chairman Asif Ali Zardari has been acquitted in the last pending reference against him by an accountability court. The development comes at a time when National Accountability Court (NAB) is set to file corruption references against ousted Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. With general elections only a year away, the timing of the acquittal is certainly significant. PTI chief Imran Khan has already termed it a result of a deal between the ruling party and the PPP.
After Zardari’s 2015 speech against military establishment, many feared the PPP would have a hard time undergoing a revival since it had angered the establishment. But upon his return to Pakistan last year after an 18-month stay in Dubai, Zardari went into appeasement mode.
Some analysts believe Zardari now has friendlier relations with the establishment given the PPP refrained from standing with Nawaz Sharif after his disqualification the way it had been standing with him during the 2014 Islamabad sit-in by PTI and PAT demanding the former PM’s resignation.
This could mean the party has realised that the reconciliation policy is not working, especially in Punjab where several bigwigs have left the party in the last few years. It appears that the PPP is now all set to prepare for the upcoming elections and will also be ready to compromise on its ideological principles if need be.
The acquittal will certainly help the party during its election campaign as PPP leaders have always maintained that all corruption cases against Zardari were politically motivated. Having said that, Zardari and Bilawal should know the fastest way to revive PPP across the country remains efforts that can improve governance in the province that the party has been ruling for the last 8 years. Furthermore, the PPP needs to set an agenda especially for Pakistan’s young, uneducated voters if it really wants to revive it’s position as a popular national party. Brokering deals with the establishment will only dent its credibility further. We hope that the party’s young Chairman will avoid that short cut and accordingly advise his elders including his father.

Video Report - PPP co-chairman Asif Zardari held hard hitting press conference | 24 News HD