Monday, September 25, 2017

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IAEA honors Pakistani Nobel laureate Abdus Salam

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has honored Pakistani Nobel laureate, Dr Abdus Salam by unveiling a bronze bust at the agency’s headquarters in Vienna. The bust was unveiled on Wednesday by IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano, according to a statement issued by Pakistan’s Foreign Office (FO).

The bust of Dr Salam will be placed at the IAEA HQ alongside those of other notable figures, most of them scientists, who were instrumental in the promotion of nuclear science and technology.
The first Nobel Laureate of Pakistan was an ardent proponent of broadening the base of scientific knowledge in the developing world and an advocate of “Atoms for Peace.”
“Dr Salam’s efforts in making the world aware of the benefits of using nuclear knowledge for peace, health and prosperity have been recognised on numerous occasions. He was also the founder of the International Center for Theoretical Physics (ICTP) in Trieste, Italy,” the FO added.
IAEA’s 61st general conference is currently underway in Vienna.

Pakistan's Prime Minister Abbasi cowardly dodges questions on blasphemy laws at the UNGA

Pakistani Prime Minister Shahid Khakan Abbasi has refused to talk about the country’s blasphemy laws at the United Nations General Assembly. 

He is currently in New York to attend the 72nd session of the United Nations General Assembly and was speaking at a session organised by U.S. think tank Council on Foreign Relations (CFR). 

Kenneth Roth, Director of the Human Rights Watch, raised the question whether he as a Prime Minister would speak out against the blasphemy laws, while NY Times correspondent David Sanger urged him to speak out on the issue as he is in a position of both great political and moral leadership. 

But in his response, Mr Abbasi stated that the laws of the country are clear and refused to talk about them further by referring to the Pakistan’s Parliament as a body responsible to amend the laws. 

He also said that his role as a Prime Minister as being part of the Government is evolved around responsibility to stop misuse of the blasphemy laws.

His statement in which he dissociated himself from any responsibilities to call for amendment of the draconian blasphemy laws was commented on social media as cowardice. 

Nasir Saeed Director, CLAAS-UK has said that years of not addressing the issue of the blasphemy law has meant it has become a sensitive issue and even the prime minister of Pakistan is scared of making any comments. 

He said: “Mr Abbasi’s role as Prime Minister is to provide political and moral leadership to the Parliament and therefore, we condemn the statement in which he refuses to urge the Parliament to take necessary actions for these laws to be repealed or at least substantially amended. 

“Importantly, his statement he says that his primary role as Prime Minister is to ensure that the laws are not abused or misused, but unfortunately these laws are being regularly exploited and many innocent people have been persecuted and prosecuted as a consequence.”

In recent years the misuse of the blasphemy law has increased. There are a number of occurrences in which the blasphemy laws have been used or cited by local authorities, and the police have made it clear that the law is being used as a tool for revenge, intimidation over petty disputes, or to settle personal grudges.

It is now considered an easy, quick and inexpensive way to settle personal scores and punish opponents, something which has been admitted by many religious scholars and political leadership.

There is a long list, but a very recent example of the exploitation of the blasphemy law is that Nadeem James has been sentenced to death after he was accused of sending a Muslim friend a blasphemous Whatsapp message, while he denies sending any such messages. Mishaal Khan’s killing is another bad example, while Asia Bibi is about to complete her 3000th day in prison and there is still no sign of her case being heard. 

Mr Saeed continued: “The blasphemy laws are not being in compliance with international human rights standards is not the only concern. Their exploitation that leads to further violations of international human rights law is a further burden but the government of Pakistan has failed to address the issues and I fear that such an important matter is not on their agenda, despite it being a matter of life and death.”

There are reports about a large number of blasphemy cases being based on false accusations and the absence of investigation and prosecutions. The Supreme Court of Pakistan in a judgement in 2015 said that it is an unfortunate fact which cannot be disputed that in many cases registered in respect of the offence of blasphemy, false allegations are levelled for extraneous purposes and in the absence of adequate safeguards against exploitation of such laws by motivated persons those falsely accused of the commission of that offence suffer beyond proportion or repair.

We urge Mr Abbasi to put this matter on his government’s agenda, bring this issue to parliament, have a debate and then amend it accordingly to stop its ongoing misuse.

Rohingya in Pakistan living in 'abysmal' conditions - killed in Myanmar - Tortured in Pakistan

Pakistan's government and Islamic groups criticize Myanmar for its "persecution" of the Rohingya Muslims in Rakhine. But how is Pakistan treating its own Rohingyas that have been living in the country for decades?

"I am a Rohingya, but a Pakistani Rohingya. I speak Bengali and that is why most people call us Bengali in our area. They don't accept us as Pakistanis," Mufiz Ur Rehman, a Rohingya based in Karachi's Arakan Abad area, told DW.
Arakan Abad is named after Myanmar's Arakan state, also known as Rakhine. This state in Myanmar's west is currently witnessing a Rohingya exodus following clashes between militants and the Southeast Asian country's security forces. Over 400,000 Rohingyas have fled to neighboring Bangladeshfollowing the start of the latest conflict on August 25, when around 100 armed Muslim insurgents attacked security guards in the border region with Bangladesh.
The Rohingya are an ethnic minority in Myanmar, which originates from the Indian sub- continent. For several centuries they have lived predominantly in Rakhine. They are predominately Muslim. The Rohingya are not officially recognized by the government as citizens and for decades Myanmar's Buddhist majority has been accused of subjecting them to discrimination and violence.
Viewed by the United Nations and the United States as one of the world's most persecuted minorities, thousands of Rohingya from Myanmar and Bangladesh flee their countries every year in a desperate attempt to reach the mainly Muslim-majority countries, Malaysia and Indonesia.
Pakistan, which is home to anywhere between 40,000 and 250,000 Rohingyas, lodged an official protest with Myanmar's government over its treatment of the ethnic minority. But the Rohingyas living in Pakistan find it hypocritical as they say they face discrimination in the Muslim-majority country and are forced to live in poor conditions.
Infografik Rohingya Bevölkerung ENG
Nasir Ahmed told DW about the poor living standards in the Arakan Abad slum. "We are living in a slum. The living conditions are abysmal here." 
The area lacks basic facilities. There are no hospitals in Arakan Abad. The Rohingya people live in dilapidated houses, with families crammed in small rooms. Mufiz Ur Rehman lives with 20 other Rohingya in a tiny apartment.
There are around 100,000 Rohingyas in Arakan Abad, according to Nur Hussain Arkani, president of the Burmese Muslim Welfare Organization. Most of them are fishermen, whereas some work in the garment factories.
"I have never been to Myanmar," said Rehman. "I just know that my father migrated from Myanmar to Pakistan. But I have seen what is happening in Myanmar on TV. It is heart wrenching to see that our people are being persecuted in Myanmar and no one is helping them."
The 75-year-old Rahmat Ali, who came to Pakistan from Myanmar in the early 1970s, said the current Rakhine crisis is worse than ever.
Pakistan Rohingyas in Karachi (DW/S. Meer Baloch/Z. Musyani)
'I have not been accepted as a Pakistani," Rahmat Ali, a fisherman by profession, told DW.
"Myanmar has not changed its attitude towards Rohingya. The torture and genocide are continuing, but this time around it is much worse," Ali told DW.
Ali said it is hard to make a living in Pakistan. "I lived in Rakhine, escaped genocide there and made my way to Pakistan in the early 1970s through Bangladesh, which was then East Pakistan. One of my daughters, Zohra Khatoon, still lives in Dhaka, Bangladesh," Ali said.
"I have been living in Pakistan for more than four decades but I have not been accepted as a Pakistani. For Pakistanis, we are Bengalis and refugees," Ali added.
No proof of citizenship
Rohingya living in Karachi's Arakan Abad area also told DW they could not apply for government jobs in Pakistan.
"We don't possess the country's National Identity Card, hence we are ineligible for government jobs," a Pakistani Rohingya told DW.
Many Rohingya and Bengalis, however, have obtained illegal identification documents in Pakistan.
The Rohingya also face social discrimination in the South Asian country.
"There should be no place for Rohingya in Pakistan. They are Indian agents. They should leave the country. The authorities' crackdown on them is justified. They are not Pakistanis," a rickshaw driver told DW.
Abul Hussain, who came to Pakistan from Rakhine in 1968, is still living as a refugee in Karachi.
"We are harassed by police because we don't have identification documents. Many Rohingya fishermen from Pakistan, who are caught by the Indian coastguard, can't prove they are Pakistanis because they don't possess Pakistan's citizenship. We are the ultimate stateless people," Hussain told DW.
"We are being killed in Myanmar. We are being tortured in Pakistan," Hussain said.

Meet Pakistan’s Modern Middle Class

Pakistan is often seen as a country with a small Birkin-bag-sporting elite, a poverty-ridden mass and little in between. The reality is that Pakistan does have a large urban population, which identifies itself as middle class. Being middle class is a status closely associated with a progressive modernity — in Pakistan, in India — that individuals and successive governments alike yearn for.
In undivided, colonial India, the term “middle class” was associated with Indian officials, bureaucrats, doctors, lawyers and teachers who were linked to the colonial state. But while they displayed the values and ambitions of the modernizing English middle class — mediating between the rulers and the ruled — many of them came from aristocratic and landed backgrounds.
After the formation of Pakistan in 1947, the families employed in the colonial government were at the forefront of the national project of modernization, along with emerging groups such as urban professionals from India and educated families from smaller towns in Punjab. They are known as the “old middle class” in contemporary Pakistan. Their children don’t work for the state but tend to be employed at midlevel and top positions in the more lucrative private sector.
In Lahore, Pakistan’s second-largest city, old middle-class families distance themselves from the upwardly mobile through their genealogical ties to prestigious families, local notables and their display of affinity for the “lost” culture of the 1950s and 1960s. They share photos and stories of Ava Gardner staying at Faletti’s Hotel during the filming of “Bhowani Junction” and Dizzy Gillespie playing saxophone with a snake charmer — evidence of a period when Pakistan enjoyed a more favorable global reputation.
The old middle class sees Pakistan as being on the path toward modernity before the Islamization agenda of Gen. Zia-ul-Haq (1978-88) brought upheaval. Their nostalgia influences foreign commentators, who tend to showcase events, such as literary festivals, that glorify the earlier progressive history of the country. Implicit in these portrayals is a vilification of the upwardly mobile groups whose more visible religiosity is viewed as the legacy of General Zia. It is these groups that constitute the new urban middle class that has emerged since the 1980s. In Lahore, many of them are second-generation migrants from small towns and rural areas in Punjab.
Products of the state education system of the 1980s — a time when General Zia gave religious clergy free rein and curbed political parties — most members of the new middle class are familiar with the discourses of Islamic groups. While many are sympathetic to Islamist parties’ call for social justice, and some have had affiliations with such groups, few are lasting members. Support for an Islamist party is often issue-based and transient, and in most cases, does not translate into votes.
The new middle class has a strong sense that the solution to Pakistan’s problems lies in becoming better Muslims and instilling Islamic values. But it is also conspicuous for its members’ considerable investment in the latest mobile phones and consumer electronics, along with frequent trips to Western-style shopping malls, megastores and markets in Lahore. Careful attention is paid to rearing children: using branded diapers instead of local nappies, buying clothes from well-known Pakistani labels and feeding them Western-style snacks, such as chicken nuggets and instant noodles.
Yet twinned with the desire for consumption is anxiety about such exhibition and how to sustain it. Most homes possess microwaves and mixer-grinders, but their owners use them sparingly and store them in their original packaging. They buy sofas to match what they see in soap operas and advertisements, but protect them with plain sheets that are removed only on special occasions.
Families on the poorer end of the new middle class visit malls and shopping spaces for recreational experiences. They rarely make purchases from such places and prefer to look for the same or similar goods in cheaper bazaars and wholesale markets. Their ability to find more economical deals becomes a way to distinguish themselves from the presumed decadent and self-indulgent upper classes.
Members of the new middle class covet government employment, which still remains a mark of status, but such work does not provide sufficient income to sustain their idealized level of middle-class consumption. Many in this group augment their state income through investment in real estate.
Many families in new middle-class circles have acquired their current status through money made by a relative in a semiskilled job in the Gulf countries or North America. The most significant waves of semiskilled labor migration from Pakistan over the past half-century have been for industrial work in Britain in the 1960s, construction labor in Saudi Arabia and the Gulf in the 1970s and 1980s and, since the 1980s, taxi driving, construction and restaurant employment in the United States. Pakistan received $20 billion in remittances in 2016, according to the World Bank.
The visible religiosity of the new middle class is often identified as the Wahhabi Islam of Saudi Arabia. However, it is not Wahhabi Islam but the globalized Islam practiced by Muslims in the West that better explains contemporary religious trends. Made familiar with Muslim practices abroad through relatives living abroad and returning migrants, many members of the new middle class have started incorporating them in their own lives.
For instance, Quran schools and religious study circles, where the Quran is studied with translation and interpretation, were introduced in Lahore in the early 2000s by returnees from the United States. Similarly, many women have replaced dupattas and chadors — the traditional ways of showing modesty in public — with head scarves and cloaks similar to those worn by relatives in the West, Saudi Arabia or the Gulf.
It is not so much the desire to be closer to the heartland of Islam that prompts these changes, but the desire to display a modern Muslim identity, a shift commensurate with their economic progress.
Denied the status of modernity in the local class hierarchy, these groups look for it through a familiarity with a global Muslim community. Just as the old middle class gains its modern status through a narrative that is used to explain Pakistan to the outside world, so the new middle class attempts to use its own connections to the West to assert its modernity.

‘Honor’ Killings Continue in Pakistan Despite New Law

By Saroop Ijaz

Stiffer Punishments Don’t Appear to be Deterring Crimes.

On September 20, a man in Peshawar killed his two daughters because he thought they had boyfriends, and felt “ashamed” – the latest in a series of recent horrific acts of violence perpetrated in the name of “honor.”
In a patriarchal culture like Pakistan’s, where domestic violence is rampant, it is not unusual for men to murder female relatives to punish behavior they deem unacceptable. In most reported cases, the harshest punishments on grounds of “honor” come from male-dominated jirgas, tribal and village councils.
There are no credible official figures on “honor” killings because they often go unreported or are passed off as suicide or natural deaths by family members. But as an indication, in the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province 94 women have been murdered by close family members in 2017.
In August, Bahkt Jan,15, and Ghani Rehman, 17, were killed with electric shocks by family members on the order of a tribal council in Karachi which ruled that the young couple decision to elope violated “honor.” Also in August, a man in Lahore decapitated his wife for refusing to quit her job as a factory worker. In June, a tribal council in Khyber agency ordered the “honor” killing of Naghma, a 13-year-old girl who was accused of “running away” with men. She was subsequently rescued by security forces and released into the custody of relatives, who murdered her.
In October 2016, following public protests after Qandeel Baloch, a Pakistani model, was killed by her brother, and an Academy Award-winning documentary, parliament passed an anti-honor killing law. The new law included harsher punishments and partially closed a loophole allowing legal heirs to pardon perpetrators who are usually also a relative.
The recent spate in “honor” killings demonstrates that harsher punishments do not automatically translate into justice for women. The authorities should ensure that police impartially investigate “honor” killings without bowing to political or other pressure from religious and local leaders, including jirgas. The government should also ensure women and girls have access to safe emergency shelter and other services, especially protection, when they report risks from their family.
The government should issue clear guidance in consultation with women’s rights groups, on safety assessments the police should conduct before releasing girls into the custody of their relatives. The Pakistani government should act quickly and decisively to ensure that no interpretation of religious or cultural norms prevails over basic rights.

IS Flag Appears Briefly on Billboard Near Pakistan’s Capital

Police in Pakistan removed an Islamic State flag displayed near the country's capital.
“The Caliphate is coming,” read an inserted slogan on the flag, which was put up over a billboard Sunday on a major expressway in Islamabad.
Pakistan Interior Ministry authorities told VOA a committee has been formed to investigate the incident, denying reports IS may have established a foothold in the country.
“The group does not have an organized presence, resources or structure to be able operate in the area,” Talal Choudhry, State Minister for Interior Affairs told VOA’s Urdu Service.
Pakistani authorities acknowledged at least one IS flag was displayed on a billboard, but some sources told VOA other IS flags were found in other parts of the capital city.

While militant groups have previously targeted Islamabad, the city is regarded as one of the safest places in the country. Under a “Safe City Project” that aims at making the capital crime-free, more than 1,900 surveillance cameras (CCTV) have been installed across the city.

The IS terror group has taken roots in the mountain regions of Afghanistan and Pakistan since early 2015. It brands itself as the Islamic State of Khorasan (IS-K), a title that distinguishes the militant group in the region from its main branch in Iraq and Syria.
Reports of IS making inroads
The IS threat in Pakistan follows recent media reports and activities by local IS affiliates in various regions that indicate the group has been making inroads in the country.
Pakistani counter-terror authorities in April arrested a female university student who was allegedly planning to target Christian gatherings on Easter eve in Lahore, the capital of Punjab province, on IS behalf.
In May, five suspected IS militants who had plans to carry out terror attacks were arrested from the southern port city of Karachi. Last year, Karachi police authorities discovered a network of women raising funds for IS.
In northwestern Peshawar, capital of the restive Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, two alleged IS leaders were killed by security forces in June.
The director general of Pakistan's Intelligence Bureau, Aftab Sultan, last year warned lawmakers that IS was an emerging problem in the country and hundreds of fighters linked to local banned religious groups had left for Syria to join IS ranks there.
According to Sultan, local sectarian militant organization such as the banned Lashkar-e-Jhangvi and Sipah-e-Sahaba, which are blamed for deadly attacks against the country’s minority Shi’ite Muslims, “have a soft corner for Daesh,” the Arabic term for IS.
In addition to IS’s local affiliates and sympathizers, Pakistani fighters may return home from the battlegrounds of Iraq and Syria and cause instability in the country, analysts warn.

Pakistan, Russia Begin 'Friendship 2017' Joint Anti-terror Drill

Pakistani and Russian military commandos have launched joint counterterrorism drills in the mountains and forests of Russia's North Caucasus republic of Karachaevo-Cherkessia.
The two-week-long exercise dubbed as "Friendship 2017" involves more than 200 mostly special forces from both countries who will conduct joint "hostage rescue" and "cordon-and-search" operations, according to the Pakistani military.
"The joint exercise will enhance and further strengthen military ties between the countries and share Pakistan army's experience in war against terrorism," it added.
Meanwhile, a nearly three-week-long joint air force exercises China is hosting with Pakistan are due to conclude this week. A spokesman for the Chinese air force described them as "routine" exercises.
FILE - Chinese and Pakistani troops take part in a joint war exercie in Jhelum, Pakistan, Nov. 24, 2011.
FILE - Chinese and Pakistani troops take part in a joint war exercie in Jhelum, Pakistan, Nov. 24, 2011.
Pakistan's deepening political, economic and defense ties with traditional ally China and its emerging new alliance with Russia come amid Islamabad's increasingly uneasy and strained relations with the United States.
The tensions stem from persistent U.S. allegations that Pakistan is not doing enough to prevent terrorist groups on its soil from undertaking deadly attacks against American troops in Afghanistan or from undermining peace-building efforts in the war-ravaged country.
Bilateral ties have plunged to new lows following U.S. President Donald Trump's policy speech last month that accused Islamabad of not ending terrorist safe havens on its soil. U.S. officials have also threatened, among other punitive measures, to degrade Pakistan's status of a major non-NATO ally.
Islamabad promptly rejected the charges, saying no sanctuaries exist on Pakistani soil because of sustained security operations. It asserted Washington was "scapegoating" Pakistan because of its own "failures" in ending the Afghan war.
Pakistan hosted the inaugural round of the counterterrorism drills with Russia late last year, their first-ever joint military exercise.
The drills stem from a defense cooperation agreement the two countries signed in 2014, lifting a long-running Russian embargo on arms sales to Pakistan.
The deal paved the way for the sale of Mi-35 combat helicopters to Islamabad, despite objections by India, Moscow's longtime ally and Pakistan's archenemy.
The October 4 conclusion of the drills is expected to coincide with an official visit to Russia by Pakistan army chief, General Qamar Javed Bajwa.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Nafees Zakaria said the visit is a regular high-level exchange between the two sides that "has set the stage for translating political goodwill into a substantial partnership, in particular, in the field of defense."

Pakistan - Drama being played in the country to destabilize Parliament, says Khursheed Shah

Opposition Leader Khursheed Shah said on Monday that Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) disgraced itself by approaching the leadership of Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan (MQM-P) to challenge his position in the National Assembly.
Speaking at a press conference, he said it would be a good development if there is anyone better than him to take the post of opposition leader.
Responding to a question, he said that PTI should first apologise to the MQM-P’s leadership for the accusations they have been leveling against it in the past.
“PTI should apologise for hurting the sentiments of the people of Karachi,” he said. “One thing is certain that one among them was right about the other.”
The Pakistan Peoples Party’s leader said that the National Accountability Bureau chairman is appointed after mutual consent between the government and opposition, and in case if both the parties reach to fail any consensus, the matter would be referred to a 12-member committee.
Shah said that a drama is being played right now in the country to destabilise Parliament.
He added that his party will continue to play its positive role for strengthening democracy in the country, and will not be involved in any drama.