Saturday, September 2, 2017
By Kimberly Kindy, Sari Horwitz and Devlin Barrett
On June 3, 2014, Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. restarted a long-dormant domestic terrorism task force created after the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing. A former Ku Klux Klan leader had just murdered three people near a Jewish Community Center in a Kansas City suburb and yelled “Heil Hitler” as police took him into custody.
For too long, Holder said, the federal government had narrowly focused on Islamist threats and had lost sight of the “continued danger we face” from violent far-right extremists.
But three years later, it is unclear what, if anything the Domestic Terrorism Executive Committee has done, despite expectations that its reanimation would better focus efforts throughout the Justice Department to disrupt and detect plots in a more centralized way, as was already being done by the department and FBI when it came to hunting Islamist terrorists.
As President Trump continues to suffer political backlash for his response to the deadly Charlottesville protests led by white supremacists, analysts who follow far-right groups say generations of neglect by multiple administrations has allowed them to proliferate and strengthen.
“The federal government has taken their eye off the ball, and it has allowed the far right to fester and grow for decades,” said Heidi Beirich, who leads the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Intelligence Project and runs its Hatewatch blog. “They are a real threat that has been underestimated.”
On the morning of Sept. 11, 2001, the domestic terrorism task force was due to convene for a regular meeting. It never happened, and the group remained dormant for more than a decade. The 9/11 attacks were transformative for the federal government, nowhere more so than at the Justice Department and the FBI. The agencies made counterterrorism their chief concern, pouring billions of dollars into the effort to sniff out terrorist plots before they could be executed.
The FBI’s aggressive and preventive posture meant terrorism dominated the Justice Department’s agenda, but when they talked about plots, officials were focused on those inspired by radical Islamist ideologies, not anti-government or hate groups.
But far-right violence remained a significant issue. Since 9/11, there have been 95 deaths in the United States linked to Islamist militant violence, while 68 people have died at the hands of the far right during the same time, according to the nonpartisan think tank New America. Just months before 32-year-old Heather Heyer was killed and 19 others were injured in Charlottesville, the FBI and Department of Homeland Security issued a joint intelligence bulletin that said white supremacists “were responsible for 49 homicides in 26 attacks from 2000 to 2016 . . . more than any other domestic extremist movement.”
Federal authorities are also dealing with an emerging problem from an increasingly confrontational and sometimes violent leftist extremist group known as antifa. Homeland Security officials said members of the loosely organized group are “anti-fascist, anti-government extremists.” And their membership and public demonstrations have spiked in recent months in response to activities organized by violent white supremacists, such as the Charlottesville rally.
However, most of the money and manpower to combat terrorism — even under the Obama administration after Holder warned of the danger of far-right extremism — has centered on preventing threats posed by Islamist extremists. “They never really focused on neo-Nazis and the far right,” said Seamus Hughes, a former lead staffer at the National Counterterrorism Center and deputy director at George Washington University’s program on extremism. “The Obama administration was very good at messaging, but if you actually looked at their programs, it was always a secondary thought.”
Vanita Gupta, who served as principal deputy assistant attorney general in the Justice Department’s civil rights division under Holder, was less critical, saying that while there were a number of efforts to confront violent extremism and white supremacy in the Obama administration, “even then, more could have been done.”
The issue also became ensnared in the country’s increasingly partisan politics.
In 2009, for instance, a senior analyst at the Department of Homeland Security wrote a report warning that the election of a black president, the financial crisis and the stock market crash were fueling a resurgence of right-wing extremist activities. But the report was heavily criticized as an attack on conservative ideologies. After 20 conservative groups sponsored ads calling for Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano’s dismissal, she said it was disseminated without regular review and apologized to the American Legion for the report’s warning that veterans could be targeted by militias for recruitment.
The six-person unit that tracked domestic terrorism groups was dissolved months later. “They took us off the organizational chart,” said Daryl Johnson, who wrote the report. “We were all reassigned to regional teams, looking at al-Qaeda threats and Islamic extremism.” Even after deadly white supremacist violence, the label of “terrorist” is more rhetorical than legal. When Frazier Glenn Cross, a 73-year-old former leader of the White Patriot Party, shot and killed a 14-year-old Eagle Scout and his grandfather in the parking lot at the Jewish Community Center of Greater Kansas City before gunning down a woman at the Village Shalom retirement community nearby, he was charged with capital murder, three counts of attempted murder, and assault and weapons charges.
Bringing Cross up on terrorism charges was not a real option. Federal statutes are generally written to prosecute violence inspired by international terrorist groups, not domestic extremists.
The Justice Department’s National Security Division drafted legislation to change that after Holder reactivated the Domestic Terrorism Executive Committee in the wake of Cross’s actions. The committee endorsed the measure, two members said, but no members of Congress were identified to sponsor it. Under Attorney General Jeff Sessions, there has been no new move to resurrect the proposal. Legal experts say the gap in the law presents a twofold problem: It perpetuates the uneven way the federal government treats terrorists based on their ideologies, and it allows violent criminals influenced by far-right ideologies to avoid the stigma of being labeled terrorists.
Justice Department spokesman Wyn Hornbuckle said criticism of the Domestic Terrorism Executive Committee is not valid, despite its lack of work product, because it is “an internal deliberative body, so its work is not public.” Hornbuckle said the committee is a “forum for information-sharing among DOJ components and other federal departments and agencies.”
Some members of Congress are also expressing concern about the government’s failure to address the rising violence coming from right-wing extremists. They, too, are having a difficult time getting answers. For the fifth time in three years, Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) and other Democratic members of the House Homeland Security Committee have asked for a hearing exclusively focused on the terror threat posed by right-wing extremists. Each time, Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Tex.), the Republican chairman of the committee, has turned them down.
“There is a clear increase in activity by right-wing organizations in this country,” said Thompson, who is the ranking Democrat on the committee. “We are coming up on the 12th anniversary of doing annual hearings on terrorism since 9/11, but we only hear about Muslim terrorism in the country.”
In response to Thompson and other Democrats’ requests, McCaul sent a letter, saying no special hearing will be scheduled but that a hearing about terror threats scheduled for Sept. 12 — held annually since 9/11 — could serve as a forum for any questions they want to ask about groups such as the ones that held the rally in Charlottesville.
“I strongly encourage Members of both parties to engage the witnesses on the dangers posed by domestic terrorists and other extremist groups,” McCaul wrote.
Transcripts from the last four annual 9/11 hearings show one brief mention of threats from white supremacist extremists, while more than 10 hours of testimony and questions focused on threats from Islamist militant groups.
“The time to look at this is overdue,” Thompson said. “We need to move beyond this reluctance to look at right-wing threats in this country.”
The working woman was everywhere in 1980s and 1990s pop culture: The tough single gal Murphy Brown ran the news on TV every week. Dolly Parton in “9 to 5,” Melanie Griffith in “Working Girl,” and the ominously coldhearted mother in “Mrs. Doubtfire.”
We didn’t know it then, but that was the apex for the American working woman. It’s fitting that “Murphy Brown” left the airwaves in 1998. It would only be two years later that the share of American women over 16 who are in the labor force would hit its peak: 60.3 percent in April 2000.
The late 1990s — Murphy Brown’s decade — may have been as good as it gets for American women in the workplace.
The steady, seemingly inevitable march of significant numbers of American women into paid jobs began during World War II. Women certainly worked before the war, but it was usually certain groups: women of color, who have almost always had to work, and single women. During and after the war, work suddenly opened for more and more women.
But then, in the early 2000s, the rise in the share of working women came to a halt. And since the Great Recession the figure has even fallen. Today it’s just over 57 percent.
We’ve spent a lot of time worrying about American men. Their labor force participation trend line has looked like a tumble down the side of a hill since the late 1950s. But all of this time, men have always worked at higher rates than women.
Up until the late 1990s, the United States stood out among developed countries for its higher female labor force participation rate. But that’s when the other countries started to catch up.
“We noticed right away,” said Heidi Hartmann, president of the Institute for Women’s Policy Research. Her organization compiles an annual report on the economic status of women in every state, and in 1998 it sent a preview to some people in Vermont. The data showed that women’s labor force participation had fallen in that state, a harbinger of a national trend. The reviewers said “this can’t be right,” she recalled, adding, “We looked at the numbers again and we wrote back and said, ‘It is right.’ ” Things seem to have changed around the 2001 recession. Until then, women tended to keep their onward march into employment steady even when the economy faltered. If their employment dipped, it quickly recovered. But this was the first time that the share of working women dropped without bouncing back.
A number of things may have coalesced at the time. Women are now getting even more bachelor’s degrees than men. There is much less room for them to keep getting ahead by obtaining degrees.
Husbands’ wages grew faster than wives’ in the 1990s, which may have eventually discouraged married women from staying at work. The gender wage gap has stayed relatively stuck for some time, offering women less incentive to work.
For lower-wage women, work itself has also gotten worse. Research by Robert Moffitt, a Johns Hopkins economist, has found that the decline in women’s labor force participation, especially among lower-educated women, mirrors that of their male peers.
The 1990s were a turning point, Professor Moffitt noted. Every office suddenly had a computer. “It’s an economywide thing,” he said. “It’s not gender-specific.” Just as technology has reduced the number of jobs on factory floors, it has also meant fewer secretaries, bank tellers and retail workers. The low-wage jobs these laid-off workers found are more likely to come with variable schedules that make it difficult to arrange child care. Work hours have also stretched later and later, which hurts women more. Even as women pushed their way into the workplace, the United States has done almost nothing to help make it easier for parents to work and raise a family at the same time. Unlike all other developed countries, the United States doesn’t guarantee parents any paid time off when they have children.
Francine Blau and Lawrence Kahn, economists at Cornell University, have found that while the United States had the sixth-highest female labor force participation rate in 1990, by 2010 it had fallen to 17th place. About a third of that drop, they say, could be explained by the fact that other developed countries instituted and expanded policies like paid family leave, subsidized child care and flexible work arrangements while the United States did barely anything at all.
It may very well be that the American women who were in the best position to make it all work — who faced the lowest hurdles to arranging child care and balancing work with family — have made it into the work force, but those who have bigger challenges simply can’t swing it. “A lot of women were able to make do, and those women are in the labor force,” Professor Blau said. “How do the rest come in without some kind of change?”
It’s unlikely that the country has simply hit a ceiling for how many women want jobs. If the United States were to spend more on helping parents get child care, ensure they can take paid time off work and protect those who want or need to work flexible schedules, it would almost certainly tap into this pool of women who have stepped away from work.
Helping them isn’t just something that is nice to do. If women keep getting pushed out, the economy will suffer. In 2012, one analysis found, the economy would have been 11 percent smaller if women’s labor force participation had remained at the levels of the late 1970s. President Trump has said he wants to reach 3 percent G.D.P. growth. He would do well to focus on increasing how many women work. “He could probably get there much faster,” said Dr. Hartmann of the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, “if he tried to do more on equal pay and provided subsidized child care for everyone.”
At his daughter Ivanka’s insistence, he has talked superficially about affordable child care and accessible paid leave, but so far his plans are pretty pathetic. He just took a step backward on closing the wage gap, with Ms. Trump’s blessing, by rescinding a rule requiring businesses to report pay by gender.
This is a man who said in the 1990s — that same decade when working women reached their zenith — that “putting a wife to work is a very dangerous thing.”
He’ll find out how dangerous it is for the economy when the government doesn’t help put all women, married or not, to work.
By Chris McGreal
Young Americans blame capitalism for crises in housing, healthcare and falling wages. Once demonised, the word ‘socialism’ is back as a new political movement takes root.
At 18, Olivia Katbi was answering the phones and emails in a Republican state senator’s office in Ohio. Then the legislator threw his weight behind a particularly contentious anti-abortion law. “I realised that the party I’m working for is evil. After that I identified as a Democrat but I wasn’t really happy with their policies either,” said Katbi, now 25.
Back then, she couldn’t articulate her reservations about President Barack Obama. There were the drone strikes, and the limitations of his healthcare reforms. But mostly it was a frustrating sense he wasn’t serving her interests so much as those of a monied elite. So in the 2012 presidential election, Katbi voted for Jill Stein, the Green party candidate. But that didn’t change the world.
It was only last year, when Bernie Sanders made his run under the banner of democratic socialism, that it all started to fall into place.
“My politics were to the left of the Democratic party but I didn’t realise there was an entire ideology, an entire movement that was there. It had never occurred to me,” said Katbi. “Bernie was my introduction to the concept of democratic socialism. It’s not like I associated it with the cold war. It was a new concept to me completely. That was the case for a lot of millennials, which is why the movement has grown so much.”
Katbi, who works at an organization helping to settle immigrants and refugees in Portland, Oregon, became “socialist curious”. She joined the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA), a rapidly growing big-tent movement that has drawn in former communists and fired up millennials. The DSA is now the largest socialist organization in the US as surging membership, which has quadrupled since the election to around 25,000, has breathed new life into a once dormant group. New branches have sprung up, from Montana to Texas and New York. Earlier this month, hundreds of delegates gathered in Chicago for the only DSA convention in years to attract attention.
Part of its membership veers toward Scandavian-style social democracy of universal healthcare and welfare nets. Others embrace more traditional socialism of large-scale public ownership. But the label has been taken up by other millennials who do not identify with any particular political institution. They come at it through protest movements such as Occupy and Black Lives Matter, fueled by frustration at the Democratic party’s failure to take seriously the deepening disillusionment with capitalism, income inequality and the corporate capture of the US government.
With that has come debate not only about pay, housing and proposals for universal basic income, but a reappraisal of the role of the government in people’s lives in favor of greater state intervention.
According to recent polling, a majority of Americans adults under the age of 30 now reject capitalism, although that does not translate into automatic support for socialism. For Katbi, though, the path is clear. Six months after the election, she is leaving Sanders behind. “I really don’t like saying that Bernie was my gateway to socialism, just because I feel like I’m more left than him now, and I also think there’s a very bizarre cult of personality around Bernie,” she said.
Ask what socialism is, and Katbi looks to the campaign by the Labour party leader, Jeremy Corbyn, in this year’s British election.
“I really liked Labour’s succinct tagline: for the many, not the few. That’s a great summary of what socialism is. It’s democratic control of the society we live in. That includes universal healthcare. Universal education. Public housing. Public control of energy resources. State ownership of banks. That’s what I understand socialism to be when I heard Bernie Sanders introduce it,” she said.
Labour’s manifesto caught the attention of young leftwing activists in the US because, in contrast to Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign platform, it laid out a clear set of ideas they could identify with. Some in the DSA are also finding common cause with Momentum, the leftwing British grassroots organisation formed in 2015 to back Corbyn which in turn has drawn inspiration from Syriza in Greece and Podemos in Spain.
“The people I’m friends with who don’t identify as socialist are definitely supportive of certain socialist policies, like single-payer healthcare,” said Katbi. “Everyone has student loan debt and everyone’s rents are exorbitant and everyone’s paying like $300-a-month premiums for Obamacare. It’s common sense for people my age.”
The alarm created at the prospect of millions of people losing their coverage while millions more see their health insurance premiums surge has pushed the new breed of democratic socialists to embrace universal healthcare as the gateway issue to bring large numbers of Americans, including a lot of Trump voters, around to the idea that government regulation can work for them.
Americans who came of age during the cold war saw socialism being characterized as the close cousin of Soviet communism, and state-run healthcare as a first step to the gulags. There are still those attempting to keep the old scare stories alive. It was the old cold war warriors who helped detoxify socialism for younger Americans when the Tea Party and Fox News painted Obama – a president who recapitalised the banks without saving the homes of families in foreclosure – as a socialist for his relatively modest changes to the healthcare system.
Then came Sanders.
“With the Bernie phenomenon, suddenly you’re able to utter the S-word in public,” said Nick Caleb, 35, a long time leftwing activist who joined the DSA shortly after the election, as membership of its Portland branch surged. Caleb said that even before Sanders ran, the Occupy Wall Street movement had prompted a scrutiny of capitalism. “Occupy Wall Street happened and there was a broader debate about what capitalism was, and we started to highlight the pieces of it that were most awful. So there was an articulation of what capitalism was, and then it meant someone had to define what socialism means, and we sort of left that space open,” he said.
At the heart of the ideas flooding into that space is a debate about the role of the state after decades of conservatives painting government as oppressive and a burden keeping good Americans down.
The campaign over healthcare, the anger sparked by the rapaciousness of big banks bailed out by the taxpayer, and a belief that only the state has the strength to reverse deepening inequality is breathing new life into the old idea that the government is there to control capitalism, rather than capitalism controlling the government.
If that takes hold among a wider group of millennials, it will represent a seismic shift in the way many Americans think about the pre-eminent role of the state and capitalism in their lives.
It would be a fatal mistake not to recognise there's a whole mass of white working-class people who can be won over.
To an older generation of leftwing activists, that sounds a lot like the New Deal – President Franklin Roosevelt’s bold attempt to remake the American economic system and rein in the forces of capitalism in response to the Great Depression of the 1930s. The Works Progress Administration, which provided jobs to millions made unemployed by economic collapse, was at one time the single largest employer in the country. A raft of legislation addressed pay, working conditions and housing. Roosevelt also introduced banking regulation that stayed in place until the 1990s. Roosevelt saw the reforms as laying the foundations for the kind of social democratic society the US helped build in western Europe after the second world war.
“Young people who say that they’re socialists, or look favourably on socialism, they’re thinking about a kind of New Deal government or democracy against markets,” said Frances Fox Piven, coauthor of a widely debated radical plan in the 1960s to alleviate poverty and create a basic income, and more recently the target of a vilification campaign by Fox News.
“What the New Deal represented was government efforts to regulate an unbridled capitalism and to supplement the distribution of income under markets with government programs.”
Piven, a City University of New York professor, sees a shift in thinking among some younger Americans reflecting a time before politicians conflated democracy with the free market and government with private business.
“The New Deal is the clearest and boldest period in the wake of real collapse in capitalist markets. You could just call it economic democracy,” she said. “What they got right was the imperative of regulating the economy. That development was cut short by the second world war and the urgency with which the government turned to big business to cooperate in the war effort and gave a lot of licence to big business. It stopped the New Deal in its tracks.” After that came the red scare, McCarthyism and the rise of global corporations. Still, President Lyndon B Johnson built on the New Deal’s legacy in the 1960s with his “war on poverty” and “great society” programs expanding welfare, greatly reducing the number of people living in poverty, and establishing Medicaid and Medicare – America’s system of public health insurance for the very poor and the elderly.
Then came Reagan revolution and the Democrats’ embrace of neoliberalism.
The New Deal still lingers in the American consciousness. Not so the once bouyant Socialist Party of America, long faded from popular memory. A century ago, socialists were routinely elected to public office in the US and the party’s presidential candidate drew close to a million votes in the 1912 and 1920 elections.
There are few socialists elected to public office in the US today. The most prominent is Kshama Sawant of the Socialist Alternative party, who won a seat on Seattle’s city council in 2013 and drove through an increase in the city’s minimum wage to $15 an hour. She was re-elected two years ago promising a tax on the rich in a state with no income tax. In July, the city council unanimously passed a 2.25% city tax on people earning more than $250,000 a year, although there will be no windfall from the Amazon and Microsoft billionaires who live outside its boundaries.
Sawant has few illusions about why the measure passed. She describes the Democratic party majority on the council as beholden to corporate interests whose hand was forced by the popular mood. Sawant also suspects that other council members are counting on the courts to strike down the new tax. But that the vote happened at all is evidence of the political shift under way. Sawant is a Marxist who wants to see industry taken into public ownership or worker cooperatives. But she recognises that there’s a long way to go before Americans are ready for that. Still, she sees opportunity in what she calls an “amazing change in the consciousness of America”.
“We are in a fundamentally new period. The Occupy movement really took people by surprise. They realized there was something different going on here. The younger generation of America was not going to be another docile generation waiting for their little piece of the American dream, partly because that little piece of the American dream wasn’t going to come to them because of the crisis capitalism is in,” she said.
“I, for one, am elated, actually elated, at the starting point where people are angry at corporate politics, angry at neo-liberalism, angry at austerity. This is a massive cauldron and this is historic.”
One challenge for the new breed of social democrats and socialists is to find the vehicle to electoral success. In the UK, the Labour party is the official opposition, with socialist antecedents Corbyn is attempting to revive. Today’s American socialists are split on whether to revive a New Deal-style Democratic party or forge a new organisation. The DSA has for now decided against becoming a political party.
A recently elected member of Chicago city council, Carlos Ramirez-Rosa, argued that the Democratic party offered a path to single-payer healthcare and $15-an-hour minimum wage because so many people vote for it as a default. But Caleb is sceptical. He thought for a short while that the Democrats might learn the lessons of Sanders’ campaign and Clinton’s defeat to back away from neoliberalism.
“I was somewhat hopeful after the election that the Democrats would get the memo but it’s obvious the party’s not going to change. They’ll make minor concessions but they’re tied to Silicon Valley. They had a chance to make an abrupt change and they haven’t done it,” he said. “They can’t think of anything but a market solution with tax credits and things like that. The Democratic party couldn’t even reconstitute a platform like the New Deal.”
Piven, meanwhile, said the two party system smothered real debate about the issues most people care about. She said protest movements such as Occupy and Black Lives Matter – as well as the Women’s March after Trump’s inauguration and the mass protests over the Muslim ban – forced issues on to the political agenda.
One of the bigger obstacles to broadening support for real socialism in America may not be so much specific policies – although there will be a lot of people doubtful about the DSA’s proposals to abolish police forces and prisons – so much as perceptions of who is now a socialist.
“I want to dispel the reputation of socialism that it’s a bunch of white men talking about theory,” said Katbi. “People are hesitant to join because they’re like, is it a bunch of Bernie bros? The implication is it’s a bunch of white men yelling about Marx. It’s not.” The “brocialist” label has given added impetus to a drive for more diversity. “In DSA we’ve been very intentional about building a movement that is diverse,” said Katbi. “Amplifying the voices of women and people of color and people who have previously been oppressed. Everything we do, we do it with that in mind.” That has created its own tensions amid debate about how much focus should be put on class. “Every day you see debates around what should be emphasized,” said Caleb. “Is it a class discussion? Is it an identity discussion?” Attempts to paint millennials as beholden to identity politics is more than unfair given the Clinton campaign’s assumption that young women like Katbi would automatically vote for a female presidential candidate who claimed she was going to blast through the glass ceiling. Instead, Katbi’s support went to an old white man on the basis of his ideas.
Still, Piven sees lessons in the legacy of the civil rights movement. “There’s a certain amount of discrediting of the identity politics developments that have seemed to dominate the left over the last few decades, but maybe these developments were in a way necessary,” she said. “How could there have been a black civil rights movement without identity politics? Blacks were so disparaged, so dehumanized by American political culture that you had to first have a ‘black is beautiful’ cultural and intellectual and political current. I think the same thing is true of the women’s movement. But if we stay just with identity politics then we can’t grapple with the class forces that are producing the system of stratification and oppression in the United States.”
That means winning over the large numbers of low-income working people who voted for Trump, a task complicated by the sense that the left is dominated by identity politics.
“We won’t be able to build a mass movement for any of the social democratic reforms, let alone for a fundamental shift toward socialism, if we don’t create an opening for those many people who voted for Trump,” said Sawant. “It is extremely important for the left in America to build movements that accomplish a dual task. One is never compromise on the question of oppression – but at the same time reaching the vast majority of working people on a class basis.”
Sawant is not alone in thinking that the entry point is healthcare. She points to packed town hall meetings Sanders has had in West Virginia since the election.
“Who are these people? White people who have been beaten down with entrenched intergenerational poverty and who are desperately looking for a solution. Sanders reached out to them by talking about healthcare, living wages, the need to tax Wall Street and billionaires who have wrought such havoc on their lives. I didn’t see any resistance from those people. I didn’t see anybody saying it was black people or gay people who are responsible for their misery,” she said.
“It would be a fatal mistake not to recognise that there is a whole mass of white working-class people in America who can be won over.”
Katbi recognises that’s a task made even more challenging by Americans’ famed individualism. “There’s a lot of polarisation. I know of people my age who are ardent Trump supporters who are very about individualism, about libertarianism, to an extent. But I think when you really start to think about these things, it’s clear that’s just selfishness and socialism is about the collective good versus hoarding it all for yourself,” she said.
The LEAD got confirmed the killings of three Christians within the month of August 2017. Due to the personal and religious interests, grudges, money matters, or property issues, Islamic state and non-state actors allege Christians those results in confronting massively killing, shamefulness and troubles and threats of victimization by blasphemy laws.
Lahore: A Christian prisoner, Indaryas Ghulam (38 ) a victim of circumstance was sentenced to death by hanging for alleged involvement in the death of two Muslim men who were lynched in the aftermath of the Lahore Twin Church Bomb attack in March 2015. On 13th August, the wife of Indaryas was called by local police and informed that her husband had passed away. When the wife saw his dead body, she was shocked at the number of bruises and cuts on his body - a clear indication of the brutality faced by Indarayas from police and prison staff. Indaryas was also suffering from Tuberculosis a disease he contracted only 3 months prior to his arrest in March 2015, Indarayas was never provided proper health care and carried his poor health with dignity never letting his children know how much pain he was in. To date no reason has been given for his death simply a statement that he died of poor health.
BOREWALA: Sheron Masih, resident of Chak-461/EB, wanted to leave the school during recess for home but his Muslim class fellows Ahmed Raza and other, did not let him go. Then they tortured him severely and kicked and punched Sheron, who collapsed on the school premises and later he was died at the Burewala Tehsil Headquarters Hospital.
It is confirmed that the Police have registered a case against Ahmed and his other accomplices under section 302/34 of the Pakistan Penal Code, the Headmaster expelled from school, while accused escapes. Sheron Masih was pressurized at School by his Muslim class fellows to accept Islam and remained worried on this pressure.
HAFIZABAD: A Christian man namely Sharif Masih, resident of Village Kalianwala of District Hafizabad, on Thursday 31th August, stabbed to death by a Muslim landlord Muhammad Asif after his refusal to work at his fields. The case FIR has been registered against the killer.
LEAD has limited its work only to advocacy as its members are under life threats from Qadri's group and due to the security issues our field work will be passive for a while, because from 4th January 2017, a new wave of threats and harassment has been started against Sardar Mushtaq Gill, HRD Lawyer and his family and other members of LEAD, he was threatened to be killed via face-book by one of members of Mumtaz Hussain Qadri supporters namely Ali Khan whose face-book profile shows he is from Karachi (Bachh...beta ab teri bhi bari ane wali hai....... Mumtaz Qadri hai Ek or yahan) and some other including Babar Ali Qadri and Ghulam Murtaza Qadri are making harassed to file false and baseless complaints against us.
Extremist Islamic group Fedane Khatm-e-Nubuwwat, Chunian,Kasur along with others religious extremists groups chanted slogans against the execution of Mumtaz Qadri during a rally in Lahore on January. 25, 2016 and after the hanging of the killer Mumtaz Hussain Qadri,the extremists supporters of Qadri threatened Sardar Mushtaq Gill, human rights defender, during a rally in Bhai Pheru early morning on Monday,29 February ,2016.They also used threatening slogans against Mr. Gill who is also critic of blasphemy laws. Qadri was hailed as hero of Islam by all religious Islamic groups.
Blasphemy is a highly controversial issue in Pakistan, and angry mobs have killed many people accused of insulting Islam in the Muslim-majority country. The law does not define blasphemy but stipulates that the penalty is death.Islamic groups also issued a decree (Alamia) that anyone who support blasphemy accused in any way would be considered blasphemer and be punished in the appeal case of Asia Bibi, death convict. The purpose of this Alamia is to terrify victims of human rights violations and their supporters.
On 12 August 2017, a Christian boy Asif Masih (16 years old) was badly beaten by a mob after being accused of burning pages of the Holy Quran outside a shrine in a village near Wazirabad. When the police took the suspect into custody a crowd of 200 gathered outside the police check post demanding he be handed over to them, after which he was moved to another station.
Asif has been charged under Section 295-B of the Pakistan Penal Code that hands life imprisonment for desecrating the Holy Quran. He will face trial under blasphemy law.
In July, a blasphemy case FIR no.273/17 under section 295-C PPC, has been registered at Police Station Dingha,Gujrat against a Christian sweeper Shahzad Masih on the complaint of a member Tehrik-e-Tahafz Islam Raja Nadeem.
In June, a Christian bicycle mechanic namely Ashfaq Masih, in Lahore was arrested over accusations of blasphemy after he became a part of a quarrel in respect to payment for services with a customer.
By Pervez Hoodbhoy
INDIA and Pakistan have more influential holy men per square mile than anyone has ever counted. Some are just rich, others both powerful and rich. Once upon a time their followers were only the poor, superstitious and illiterate. But after the massive resurgence of religion in both countries this base has expanded to include politicians, film and cricket stars, and college-educated people who speak English and drive posh cars.
It is rare for an Indian holy man to bite the dust but one just did. The self-styled messenger of God, Ram Rahim Singh of Dera Sacha Sauda was convicted of two rapes by an Indian court. He is also accused of 52 other rapes, two murders, and storing 400 pairs of testicles in his refrigerators cut from 400 devotees on the promise of getting them nirvana. An avid Modi supporter, Singh travelled in entourages of 100-plus cars and claims 50-60 million followers. Vote-hungry politicians have touched his feet and done deals. After his conviction his crazed followers rioted, convinced of a conspiracy against their God. So far 38 people have died, hundreds injured, cars and public buildings set on fire.
But although Singh is one of India’s bigger holy men he is still small, dispensable fry. The really powerful ones are those who have learned the value of using religion in national politics. Today India is living out the extremist Hindutva ideology of Gowalkar and Savarkar with a head of government who is unabashedly committed to Hindu supremacy. This holy man’s clear and evident role in the communal riots of Gujarat in 2002 had led to his being banned from entering the US in 2005. However, no Indian court could find any wrongdoing committed by the then chief minister, now prime minister. Religion in politics produces a highly toxic, explosive mix.
Pakistan’s holy men also come in two sorts. The pir resembles the Hindu and Sikh spiritual guru in some respects. He hands out amulets, prescriptions, and blessings — usually for a hefty price — to credulous mureeds (followers). Pirs allegedly have magical healing powers. For example, Benazir Bhutto was a mureed of the prescient Pir Pinjar, a man who claimed to cure terminally ill patients by spraying water on them with a garden hose. Her husband, ex-president Asif Ali Zardari, had a black goat sacrificed daily on the advice of his pir. But educated Muslims increasingly spurn such practices and the pir is losing out.
The second kind of Pakistani holy man — the mullah — has had a very different trajectory. Once a poor and largely harmless cleric, he was the butt of many a joke. Sought only for funerals and Friday prayers, he eked out an existence by teaching the Quran to children. Allama Iqbal heaped scorn upon him: Teri namaz main baqi jalal hai na jamal (The prayers you lead are empty of grace and grandeur), Teri azaan main nahin meri sehr ka payam (Your azan is cold and uninspiring).
But the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979 changed the mullah’s fortunes. Indispensable to the US-Pakistan-Saudi grand jihad alliance, this once pathetic figure could now be seen driven around in a SUV, commanding a militia, or screaming through multiple turbo-charged loudspeakers. Some eventually became successful land-grabbers, wheeler-dealers, and shady entrepreneurs. Few Pakistanis will fail to recognise the identities of Maulana Diesel, Maulana Whiskey, and Mullah Disco.
Serious conflict between mullah and state came after 9/11. Gen Musharraf’s apparent surrender to America enraged the mullah, who resolved to seize control of the Pakistani state. Ensconced in the heart of Pakistan’s capital, armed vigilante groups from Islamabad’s Red Mosque and Jamia Hafsa took over a government building, in January 2007. They kidnapped ordinary citizens and policemen, and repeated the demands of tribal militants fighting the Pakistan Army. From their FM station they broadcast a message: “We have weapons, grenades and we are expert in manufacturing bombs. We are not afraid of death.” Islamabad turned into a war zone and, by the time the insurrection was finally crushed, 150-200 lives had been lost.
Pakistani courts have failed to convict our holy men (as well as women). For example, Maulana Aziz and Umme Hassan (his wife, who headed Jamia Hafsa) were exonerated of any wrongdoing and are today going about their normal business. The court had ruled that possession of heavy weaponry by the accused could not be proven. It dismissed TV footage that showed Aziz’s students with gas masks firing Kalashnikovs. Weapons seized by the army and placed in a police armoury disappeared mysteriously. Although 10 of Pakistan’s crack SSG commandos died in the crackdown, the army — known for quick action in Balochistan — also did not pursue the case.
Why have Indians and Pakistanis become so tolerant — nay, supportive — of holy men, whether of the spiritual or political kind? Why are those who aspire to power so successful in using religion to motivate their electorates? After all, this is the 21st century, not the 12th.
The culprit could be modernity. Technology has created enormous psychological distress by doing away with traditional ways of living and bringing in a new, uncertain and ever-changing world. Older forms of associations such as the extended family and village community, together with their values, are disappearing. Cramped living conditions, pollution, ugliness all around, and job insecurities are a fact of life for most urban dwellers.
There is enormous nostalgia for the time when the world was supposedly perfect. This is why people looking for simple answers to today’s complex questions eagerly buy the wares peddled by holy men. Just as Hindutva encourages Indian Hindus to dream of the ‘authentic’ India, Muslim clerics tell their followers to dream of reclaiming Islam’s ancient glories.
But this is clutching at a straw. It gets far worse when religion is infused into politics. This produces a highly toxic, explosive mix as large masses of people blindly and unquestioningly follow holy men. Instead of dividing people still further, whether inside or outside national boundaries, South Asian states should aspire towards becoming a part of cosmopolitan world society removed from the prejudices of religion, caste and race.
Pakistan People's Party (PPP) Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari has felicitated the faithful throughout the world, particularly those in Pakistan, a blessed and peaceful Eidul Azha. "May the bliss and blessings of Eidul Azha remain with you," the PPP chairman said in a message on the occasion.
"Eidul Azha is a reiteration to uphold the value of sacrifice for the good of all. It is a reaffirmation of unity of action in an imperishable bond of brotherhood. It is an occasion to reach out to the deprived, dispossessed and less fortunate ones among us in a spirit of compassion and solidarity." He added, "At a time when our society is faced with challenges of violent extremism, internal displacements and division we need to draw on our common humanity to build a better world for all."
A Pakistani anti-terrorism court (ATC) announced the verdict in Benazir Bhutto murder case today, acquitting five Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) suspects and announcing 17-year imprisonment for two police officials.
The ATC also declared former military dictator Pervez Musharraf an absconder in the case. The ATC had named Musharraf in the case in February 2011. The judgment came nine years after Bhutto, the two-time Oxford-returned Prime Minister was killed in a gun and suicide attack during election campaign in December 2010.
Bhutto's younger daugther Aseefa tweeted after the verdict, "10 years later and we still await justice. Abettors punished but those truly guilty of my mothers murder roam free." In another tweet, she said "there would be no justice until Pervez Musharraf answers for his crimes".
Saud Aziz, who was police chief of Rawalpindi when Bhutto was assassinated in 2007, and Khurram Shahzad, a former Superintendent of Police (SP) were each awarded 17 years in prison. The two, who were out on bail, have already been arrested, English newspaper Dawn reported.
The two former policemen have each been awarded 10 years in prison and seven years each. They have also been fined Rs500,000 each; in case they do not pay the fine, they will have to spend another six months in jail, said the court. The five TTP suspects - Rafaqat Hussain, Husnain Gul, Sher Zaman, Aitzaz Shah and Abdul Rashid - have beean cleared of all charges in the murder trial. Court has directed authorities to seize Musharraf's properties and issue perpetual arrest warrants for the former dictator.
A joint investigation team implicated Musharraf in the case saying that his government did not provide adequate security to the former Prime Minister despite her repeated requests.
Apart from Musharraf, five other men - Baitullah Mehsud, Ahmad Gul, Iqramullah, Abdullah, and Faizullah - have been declared absconders. The TTP chief Mehsud, who was accused by Musharraf regime of masterminding Bhutto's assassination, died several years ago in a US drone strike in tribal Pakistan.
The special prosecutor in the case Chaudhry Zulfiqar Ahmad was killed by unknown assailants in Islamabad in 2013. Doctors said he had been killed with 10 bullets targeting his chest and shoulder. Saud Aziz and Khurram Shahzad, who had been released on bail in 2011, were accused of negligence in security arrangements which subsequently led to the assassination of the ex-Prime Minister.
Almost 10 years ago, on 27 December 2007, former Pakistan prime minister Benazir Bhutto was assassinated by a 15-year-old suicide bomber as she addressed an election rally in Rawalpindi.
On 31 August, 10 years later, the five accused in the case, all members of the Tehreek-e-Taliban-e-Pakistan (TTP), have been acquitted by an anti-Terrorist court on the grounds that the evidence presented against them was either unsustainable or fake.
The court, however, sentenced two senior police officers - Saud Aziz, the then city police chief of Rawalpindi, and Khurram Shahzad, who was the SP of Rawal Town area where the terrorist attack occurred - to jail. Both have been held guilty of concealing information regarding the expected attack and for criminal negligence for ignoring threats to Benazir Bhutto’s life, for which they have been sentenced to 10 years in prison.
Both have also got been sentenced to another seven years - to be served concurrently - for virtually destroying all the evidence at the crime scene.
The court went a step further and declared General Pervez Musharraf, who was Pakistan’s president in December 2007 after handing over the army chief’s baton to General Ashfaq Kiyani only a month before, a fugitive and charged him with murder in the case.
As he chose to not present himself before the court, Musharraf has been declared a proclaimed offender. The court ordered that his property to be seized and a perpetual arrest warrant to be issued against him.
This is not the first time that a Pakistani court has declared Musharraf as a proclaimed offender. Musharraf faces a number of cases, including for the murder of Baluchi leader Nawab Akbar Bugti, as also for treason for declaring an emergency and suspending the constitution in 2007.
In fact, in a case relating to the arrest of judges in 2007, when the Islamabad High Court ordered his arrest in April 2013 while he was physically present in court, his army guards whisked him away and later he has put under house arrest.
Will this verdict impact the future of the Peoples Party, Musharraf, besides the politics of Pakistan? Does it shed any light on the Pakistan judicial system?
Before seeking an answer, it would do well to take a peep at the circumstances that prevailed around the time of Benazir’s assassination.
From mid-2006, Musharraf and Benazir Bhutto, who was in exile abroad, were in contact regarding the country’s political future. This was despite Musharraf’s strong personal dislike for her.
As Musharraf’s power waned in 2007 starting with the lawyers agitation because of the dismissal of Pakistan’s Chief Justice Iftikar Chaudhari, the US intervened to hasten an understanding between Benazir and him so that the former could return to contest elections and Musharraf become a civilian president.
Musharraf agreed but was unhappy about her return.
During the Benazir murder trial, US journalist and a Benazir confidant Mark Siegal said that he was with her when she received a call from Musharraf in September 2007 when he threatened her with “dire consequences” if she returned to Pakistan.
When she said that he would be responsible for her security, he told her that would depend on their “mutual understanding”. A few weeks later, when she landed in Pakistan, terrorists attacked her procession from the airport. More than 130 persons died, but she escaped. Despite the attack, her security was not effectively enhanced by Musharraf. After the assassination, this naturally fuelled suspicion of the Musharraf’s negligence if not complicity.
In an extraordinary move, the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) government asked the UN to set up a committee to examine the circumstances of the assassination.
It concluded that there were “elements within the establishment” who were her “potential foes” and therefore held that the government was too quick to blame the TTP for the crime. It did not point to any individual or group as sponsors or organisers of the assassination but was scathing in its condemnation at the inadequate security arrangements and at the destruction of evidence of the crime.
Benazir Bhutto's family has criticised the judgment. Bilawal Bhutto tweeted that the release of terrorists is unacceptable and that all abettors should be punished.
Her daughter Aseefa even targeted Musharraf. While the family’s disappointment and the PPP’s anger is justified that none of the conspirators and instigators have paid for their involvement, it is doubtful if the people of provinces other than Sindh will be bothered by this judgement as the PPP’s political fortunes are at a low ebb.
THE END OF A CAREER
Pervez Musharraf is in exile abroad. He shuttles between London and Dubai. He dreams of returning to Pakistan’s political life. That dream will remain just that. The truth is that no one wants him in Pakistan. He has no public following. His real base, the army, is embarrassed by him. He returned to Pakistan in 2013 despite the army’s advice not to do so.
His Napoleonic ambitions to make a comeback soon crumbled. He was left without power or influence. Soon, he was caught in a web of criminal cases and the army had to restrain Nawaz Sharif and discreetly the judiciary from putting him behind bars. It was only three years later that the generals succeeded in convincing him to leave Pakistan and persuaded the courts and Nawaz Sharif to agree to let him do so. That is where he now remains.
The acquittal of the accused also throws a spotlight on the criminal justice administration of Pakistan. During the trial, eight judges were changed. Clearly no judge till the present Ashgar Ali Khan was willing to take it to a conclusion. No wonder in terrorist cases Pakistan has had to go military courts - the Supreme Court itself has approved this system.
It is unlikely that Benazir Bhutto’s assassination will ever get any closure. It will go the way of killing of the country’s first Prime Minister Liaqat Ali Khan in October 1951 on the same grounds where Benazir met her end. The assassin Said Akbar was declared to be from Afghanistan by Pakistan, but the former denied the claim. He had links with the Pakistani police who killed him on the spot. The story behind that assassination was never revealed.
Very few leaders leave behind a legend of enduring potency which becomes a factor in the political life of a country. Benazir Bhutto, charismatic as she may have been, does not fall in that category.