Sunday, October 22, 2017

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Pakistan's Shia Genocide - WHERE SHOULD HAZARAS GO?

By Mohammed Hanif

2012 was a bad year for the Hazara community in southern Pakistan. The community had been devastated by a series of targeted killings and suicide attacks. Even their future protectors weren’t safe. Police cadets belonging to the Hazara community had been targeted and killed, mid-ranking police officers belonging to the community had been assassinated.
That year I interviewed a leader of the Hazara Shia community in Quetta about the future prospects for the Hazaras. Abdul Qayyam Changezi was weary of attending funerals of his loved ones. It’s a small community concentrated in parts of Quetta. So chances were that, whenever someone got killed, he either knew them or their family. Changezi had a desperate solution to save his people.
“It’s quite obvious that the government and security agencies are either not interested in protecting us, or are unable to do so,” he spoke in measured sentences without anger, as if trying to argue his way out of a mass murder. “The government should sell everything we own. Our houses, our businesses, the furniture in our houses, our pots and pans, every single thing. With that money they should buy a large ship and put all of us on that ship and push us out into the open sea. Surely there is one country somewhere out there in the world that will take us.”
The ship of Changezi’s imagination already existed and was plying its human cargo in the rough seawaters between Indonesia and Australia.
Since 2008, when the attacks against the Hazara community increased, Hazaras had been selling off their houses and businesses in search of that mythical ship. Many ended up in Malaysia and Indonesia from where they could pay four to six thousand US dollars to get on a boat that would take them to places such as Australia and New Zealand. The journey could last 50 to 60 hours and, in the words of one Hazara who attempted the journey more than six times, you either reached the promised land or became fish fodder.
The Hazaras continue to be under relentless assault in Pakistan but face desperation and danger even after fleeing as refugees. Mohammed Hanif looks at the choices the community faces

If Hazaras thought they were having trouble coping with an atrocious year in 2012, the following year turned out to be the stuff of nightmares. Hazaras were being target-killed, their places of worship had become death traps, their community elders had been systematically eliminated.
The year 2013 became the year of mass murder. In the first two months of the year two huge blasts killed more than 200 people and injured thousands. The brutality of the mass murders was only matched by the cruel half-hearted response of the Pakistani state.

In February 2013, Hazaras refused to bury hundreds of their dead. In the bitter cold nights of winter, they sat on the streets with the coffins of their family members and friends, demanding justice, demanding protection. There were protests across the country and roads were blocked in major cities. The Pakistani government made vague promises of providing protection and managed to convince the community to hold funerals and bury their dead.

But during these protests one thing became clear: Hazaras stood alone. The only people who turned up at the protests in solidarity were the other non-Hazara members of the Shia community. Some politicians and civil society activists did show up but the level of apathy was as brutal as the bloodbath itself.

For most Pakistanis in big cities where the protests took place, Hazaras were being nothing more than a nuisance and disrupting traffic and causing delays in their daily commute. It was the same logic that their killers used to target them. It seemed that the whole country was a silent spectator, if not a cheerleader to this ongoing atrocity.
When it became clear that Hazara killings will not end in Pakistan any time soon, when it became obvious that the very people tasked with protecting citizens were facilitating their killers, the exodus began. Some Hazaras moved to other parts of the country. But the Hazara’s cursed fate is in their face. Descendents of Central Asian immigrants, they are immediately recognisable in any part of the Pakistan.

There are debates amongst human rights activists over whether Hazara genocide is ethnic or sectarian. Senior police officials often claim that Hazaras are targeted routinely because they look different. Most Hazaras have Central Asian features and they have been historically targeted in Afghanistan and Pakistan because of their ethnicity.
If you were a Hazara in Pakistan, you were a marked person. If death didn’t catch you in a bomb blast, it would come in the shape of a bullet in the back of your head.
According to some historians, in the 19th century almost half the population of Hazaras in Afghanistan was massacred. Law enforcers seem to suggest that, somehow if Hazaras didn’t look different, maybe, they will be spared. But that is not strictly true. There are many Hazaras from mixed marriages who don’t look any different, and they are still targeted. Their killers tracked them down in Karachi and killed them.

Hazaras outside the Australian embassy in Jakarta wait overnight for the offices to open the next morning | Jonathan Vit/IRIN

If you were a Hazara in Pakistan, you were a marked person. If death didn’t catch you in a bomb blast, it would come in the shape of a bullet in the back of your head. It didn’t matter if you worked for the police or any security agencies, it didn’t matter if you were an Olympian boxer or a famous TV actor or a much loved school teacher; all were on an arbitrary death row.
Hazara businessmen closed their shops and stayed home. Hazara government employees were told not to turn up for work and reassured that they would keep getting their salaries. Hazara university-going students abandoned their education and loitered around their neighbourhood streets. The lucky ones sold their houses and businesses and ended up in Malaysia and Indonesia, hoping to make it to Australia.
I met Haji Shabbir on the outskirts of Bogor, Indonesia, the hub of Hazara refugees from Pakistan. Thousands of Hazara refugees have been living and waiting here for three to four years, hoping to get asylum in a Western country. Haji Shabbir was one of those people who almost got lucky.
“We got on the boat and it travelled for about 40 hours and then the engine developed a problem,” says Shabbir. “The boat owners had given us a satellite phone so we called for a rescue and they brought us back to Jakarta and detained us in a hotel.”

A young Hazara woman in Jakarta does household chores for the family | Jessica Sallabank/IRIN
A young Hazara woman in Jakarta does household chores for the family | Jessica Sallabank/IRIN

At night they all escaped. Either Indonesian police had no interest in keeping them or some bribe exchanged hands. Another attempt in a boat was aborted after about 16 hours. “Once I had to take this boat and I got stuck in the traffic and the boat left without me,” adds Shabbir. “In total I made six attempts and four years later, I am still here.”
While Hazaras were flocking from Pakistan to take the boat that promised to take them to safety, the Australian government changed its policy and announced that it would not accept any refugees arriving through boat. Their cases were now to be processed off-shore.
The Australian government also published advertisements in Pakistani newspapers and on internet portals, in half a dozen languages, warning refugees not to attempt the boat journey. In order to prove that they were serious about this new policy, they deported vulnerable individuals and minors who had boarded the boat and reached Australian shores.
The town of Bogor outside Jakarta and its surrounding areas have become a purgatory of sorts for Hazara refugees. All they can talk about is the status of their asylum case, even though there is little to talk about as most of them have no clue at what stage their case is. They can seek a counseling appointment with one of the UN officials where they are always told the same thing: “We are waiting, you should also wait.”
This waiting game can tire some people out. After spending three-and-a-half years in Bogor, Haji Shabbir decided that he had waited enough. “If I have to die I might as well go back to Quetta and confront my fate,” he says. He contacted the UN representatives and told them that he was withdrawing his asylum application. “If you choose to go back, the UN pays for your return ticket. I told my family and they said ‘Muharram is coming and people are trying to run away from Quetta, what kind of unlucky man are you that you are returning to Quetta!’” Haji Shabbir stuck to his decision. Then, in the middle of Moharram, when the security in Quetta is as tight as it can get, four Hazara women were shot dead while travelling in a bus. Shabbir cancelled his ticket and decided to stay put as a refugee.
What do Pakistan’s security agencies do when Hazaras are targeted? In Bogor I met Mama, a refugee who has been waiting for his fate to be decided for the past three-and-a-half years. He is a former security official from Quetta who insists on remaining anonymous and says that he should be referred to as Mama. He saw the unfolding of carnage after carnage from inside and felt utterly helpless. Mama joined the Frontier Constabulary (FC) as a computer operator and served for four years. Later, his duties included managing the media for the paramilitary force that, along with the police and army, is tasked with maintaining law and order in Quetta city as well as the entire province of Balochistan. “FC probably has had as many people killed as Hazaras,” says Mama. “We were totally helpless. Every time Hazaras got killed, FC went after Baloch insurgents rather than targeting the actual culprits.” He was part of many meetings and raids that took place after every major incident against the Hazaras. “In these meetings it was often said that Hazaras are rioting again rather than discussing how to protect them. After every major incident, we raided villages and rounded up dozens of Baloch youth who clearly had no hand in these attacks.
It became a vicious cycle.
First, Hazaras would be targeted and then Baloch communities would be raided. Even when they managed to arrest the actual suspects, they were handed over to the Anti Terrorist Force, they were held in lock-ups inside the military cantonment and they managed to escape these lock ups.” Like Mama, many Hazara refugees and independent journalists believe there’s a nexus between Pakistan’s powerful intelligence agencies and the sectarian militias that have been accused of Hazara killings. A sub-inspector in the civilian intelligence agency Special Branch, who left his job to seek asylum after his police officer cousins were shot dead, claims he saw this complicity first-hand. “We chased two terrorists after a targeted attack in Quetta,” he told me. “They were on a motorbike, they drove up to the cantonment gate and disappeared. We told the military guys that two terrorists have just entered your area and we are chasing them. We were asked for our identity cards and then told in stern terms to turn back and never mention the incident to anyone.” I had heard such stories second-hand before, it was the first time someone had claimed directly to have been himself involved in such an experience. FC veteran Mama believes that ordinary soldiers have nothing to do with the sectarian attacks. “A law-enforcement agency cannot afford to have a religion. Ordinary soldiers have no clue what’s going on around them. It’s a section of intelligence agencies who patronise these sectarian groups. They are out of control. We have no idea where they take their orders from. It was obvious they [the sectarian groups] were taking money from Gulf [groups] who want to target Shias.”
When Maliha Ali left Pakistan, she was preparing for her ‘O’-Level exams. For the past three-and-a-half years, she has been living in Cisarua, outside Bogor, with her family and has no way of continuing with her examinations. Her father, Liaquat Ali Changezi, a former TV actor and documentary producer, decided to leave Quetta along with his family when many of his close colleagues were killed.
“There came a time when the school administration told me not to send my kids to school because they were putting the entire school at risk,” says Changezi. He was also asked by the Quetta TV manager not to show up at the office because it put his other colleagues at risk.
Having spent more than three-and-a-half years in Bogor waiting for his asylum application to be processed, Changezi feels these are years that have been taken out of his life. His daughter Maliha feels the same.
“These were the most important years of my life, I should be studying, preparing for the future, but we are sitting here waiting for some country to take us in so that we can start a new life,” says Maliha.
The biggest challenge that Hazara refugees face in Indonesia is that they are not allowed to work and, even worse, they are not allowed to attend schools. A whole generation of Hazara children is at the risk of remaining illiterate. With the help of other refugees, Changezi has set up a centre where young children can be given elementary education by Hazara volunteers.
There are a couple of other such centres which have become community hubs where people can bring their families and seek counseling.
Maliha is a volunteer teacher at one such centre. “Sometimes I think it’s ironic that I am at an age where I should be attending a school myself but instead I have become a teacher.” Then she becomes wistful about her time in Quetta and tries to console herself. “At least we can play football here. We couldn’t play in Quetta.”


Another Shia Muslim was picked up illegally from outside his house in he garrison city Rawalpindi and shifted to an unknown place.

Khwaja Mohammad Ali is believed to have been subjected to the enforced disappearance. His family and supporters of Majlis-e-Wahdat-e-Muslimeen staged a demonstration in front of Civil Line Police Station in Rawalpindi to protest against his undeclared arrest and illegal custody.
On their complaint, police registered a case of his missing since Police didn’t know his whereabouts.

Pakistan - How the Muslim World Lost the Freedom to Choose

A brave new book describes how Pakistan unraveled — and provides a blueprint for understanding declining pluralism across the Middle East.
When national security advisor H.R. McMaster wanted to convince U.S. President Donald Trump that Afghanistan was not hopeless, he whipped out a 1972 black-and-white picture of women in miniskirts on the streets of Kabul.
The point of this exercise was presumably to show that the country once embraced Western ideals and could do so again with America’s assistance. McMaster’s trick worked: Trump ultimately reversed his earlier skepticism about the war effort and decided to raise troop levels. But it also showed the continued limits of America’s understanding of the countries it has sought to remake in its image. The snapshot depicts Kabul’s urban elite — an elite that was unrepresentative, even back then, of the wider Afghan population. Not everyone was walking around in a skirt before the Taliban imposed the burqa.
The photograph, however, does capture something that has been lost not just in Afghanistan since the rise of the Taliban, but also across much of the Muslim world in recent decades: the freedom to choose.
Not every Afghan woman wore a miniskirt in the 1970s, but they could do so without fear of an acid attack or a flogging. Other pictures from that era depict the educational and professional opportunities available to Afghan women. But it’s always the clothes that get the most attention. Pictures of Saudi Arabia from the 1960s and 1970s are also making the rounds these days in the Middle East, showing men and women in bathing suits by the pool and on the jetty of a famous beach resort. Most of those in the pictures look like foreigners — some are airline staff on a break in Jeddah. But Saudis also patronized these beaches, and even if some shook their head with disapproval, the option to go to the beach without fear of violence was there.
Beyond skirts and beaches, the 1960s and 1970s were also a time of vigorous intellectual debate about the role of religion in society. Debates between leftists, secularists, capitalists, Marxists, and Islamists raged across the region, from Egypt to Pakistan. Militant Islamists will dismiss those decades of more progressive, diverse thought and culture as decadent Western imports — the lingering after-effects of colonial influence. But if some of it was certainly emulation, much of it was also indigenous. One of the Arab world’s most famous feminists of the early 20th century was Nazira Zain al-Dine, from Lebanon, who had no connection to the Western feminist movement of the time.
Yet over the course of the last few decades, the space for debate and freedom of choice has become increasingly narrow. Pakistan provides a stark and cautionary tale for other countries about how intolerance gets legitimized. It’s not only when a group like the Taliban seizes power violently that a country loses its more diverse, vibrant past. A slow erosion of progressive norms, a slow shift in beliefs can be just as devastating.

In Pakistan from 1927 to 1985, only 10 blasphemy cases were reportedly heard in court. Between 1985 and 2011, more than 4,000 cases were handled. Even worse, blasphemy, real or alleged, can get you killed in today’s Pakistan.
Even worse, blasphemy, real or alleged, can get you killed in today’s Pakistan.
 In January 2011, Punjab governor Salman Taseer was killed by his bodyguard for coming to the aide of a young Christian woman who had been charged with blasphemy. Taseer’s killer was sentenced to death, but he was celebrated as a hero by tens of thousands who attended his funeral, and a mosque was built in his name in Islamabad.

The assassination of Taseer — as well as that of Pakistan’s first Christian federal minister, Shahbaz Bhatti, just two months later — shocked Farahnaz Ispahani, a friend of both men. Ispahani, a former journalist, was at the time a member of Pakistan’s parliament serving on the Human Rights Committee. Together, the small group had repeatedly tried to raise the issue of minority rights. In parliament, Ispahani had access to more information than the general public and was shocked about the extent of daily violence against minorities — and that none of her colleagues were willing to discuss the issue.

The assassination of her two friends prompted Ispahani to write “Purifying the Land of the Pure.” The book, published last year, charts the slow death of minority rights and pluralism in Pakistan, and what it means for the future of democracy. The result is a sweeping but concise chronicle of how things unraveled. A minority herself, as a Shiite, Ispahani was careful to avoid polemic and opinion by delivering a thorough, methodically researched work. She and her husband, former Pakistani Ambassador to the United States Husain Haqqani, have both faced death threats for their work and live in self-imposed exile in Washington.

In her book, Ispahani tracks the unraveling to within a few years of the independence of Pakistan. The country’s founder, Muhammad Ali Jinnah — a secular Shiite — envisioned a country where “you are free, you are free to go to your temples, you are free to go to your mosques or to any other place of worship.” But Ispahani writes that “his hopeful declaration of religious pluralism” remains unfulfilled.
The trend toward making Islam a central tenet of life in Pakistan started soon after independence in 1947, a result of Muslim feelings of being victimized by both Hindus and British colonialism in India. By 1973, Islam was declared as the state religion of Pakistan. In 1974, under the ostensibly progressive Prime Minister Zulfiqar Bhutto, parliament declared Ahmadis as non-Muslims. A Muslim movement that started in the late 19th century, Ahmadis follow the teachings of the Quran and consider their founder to be a prophet, upsetting orthodox Muslims who believe Muhammad is the final prophet.

Bhutto found it hard to redefine Pakistani nationalism away from Islamic ideology. He was, Ispahani writes, unable to manage the “delicate balancing act of implementing liberal ideas and appeasing Islamist sentiments.”
By the mid-1980s, hate literature targeting Shiites was proliferating. It fanned the narrative that they were not Muslims, a dangerous charge in a Sunni-majority nation where Shiites made up around 15 percent of the population. Military dictator Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq acquiesced to Sunni militant attacks on Shiites, paving the way for a systematic campaign to eliminate Shiite doctors, engineers, and teachers in Karachi and elsewhere. Today, Shiites and their mosques are still regular targets of deadly attacks: Since 2003, an estimated 2,558 Shiites have been killed in sectarian violence.
Ispahani identifies four stages in Pakistan’s loss of minority rights and growing intolerance. The first stage was the “Muslimization” of society, with transfer of non-Muslim populations out of Pakistan around the time of independence, followed by the rise of an Islamic identity with the loss of East Pakistan. Then came the Islamization of laws under Zia-ul-Haq in the 1980s, and finally the rise of militant, organized violence.
While there was no sudden, overnight transformation, Ispahani nevertheless identifies Zia’s rule as the point of no return. The military ruler Islamized the laws of the country, introducing sharia courts and new Islamic laws known as hudood ordinances, which apply strict Sharia punishments for specific offenses. It was during his time that the blasphemy laws were strengthened, adding life sentences and the death penalty as punishment.

No aspect of culture was spared from the Islamization drive
No aspect of culture was spared from the Islamization drive
, as movie theaters were shut from Karachi to Peshawar, artists were driven underground and school curricula redesigned to create a “monolithic image of Pakistan as an Islamic state and taught students to view only Muslims as Pakistani citizens.”

Zia’s legacy remains, entrenched in the system and people’s daily lives. Pakistanis under the age of 40 have never experienced any other lifestyle, while the older generations reminisce about a more diverse past — even as they also gloss over some of that past’s shortcomings. But however it came about, Pakistan’s growing intolerance has taken its toll on diversity: Between 1947 and today, minorities went from 25 percent of the population to 3 percent.

“Its about pluralism, that can only happen when there is room for many kinds of people,” Ispahani said. “You cannot have a pluralistic, democratic state when you believe in the purity of your religion.”
The picture that McMaster showed Trump is a good reminder of what once was, but it does not provide a strategy to restore the pluralism that was once an accepted part of life in Pakistan or other countries like Afghanistan, Iraq, or Egypt. Ispahani’s book serves as a reminder that something far more profound than miniskirts has been lost in these countries. Washington’s counterterrorism policies, which help curb groups like the Taliban, are a good start, but they often fail to go any further toward restoring basic norms like respect for diversity. That will ultimately depend on the efforts of the local population themselves.

Those efforts may be able to draw on the power of nostalgia. When people in Pakistan, Egypt, or Afghanistan rifle through the photo albums of their parents and grandparents and wonder what happened to their country, they see skirts or cleavage — but they desire diversity and freedom of choice.

Pakistan’s Deportation of Turkish Family Shows Many at Risk

Saroop Ijaz

The Pakistani government deported a Turkish educator and his family living in Pakistan back to Turkey, despite their being registered as asylum seekers by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), according to media reports. Mesut Kacmaz, his wife and two daughters were picked up from their Lahore home on September 27, allegedly by law enforcement officers. Kacmaz, a well-known educator, was the former vice president of the PakTurk International Schools and Colleges in Pakistan. The family’s UNHCR asylum seeker certificate was valid until November 24, 2017.

Since November 2016, following a failed coup attempt in Turkey in July 2016, the Pakistani government has put pressure on Turkish nationals living in Pakistan to leave. Pakistani authorities ordered the staff of the PakTurk International Schools and Colleges out of the country, implying staff had links to the Turkish cleric Fethullah Gulen. Some Pakistani media reported that the schools are linked to Gulen. The Turkish government holds what it refers to as the Fethullahist Terrorist Organization (FETÖ) responsible for the attempted coup. Thirty families associated with the schools departed, while Kacmaz’s family stayed on.
After the Kacmaz family was detained, friends petitioned the Lahore High Court to order the government to provide information regarding the family’s whereabouts. On October 6, the government’s lawyer said he was unaware of their location but assured the court that the family would not be deported as they were registered with UNHCR.
The government’s deportation of the asylum seekers not only appears to violate the high court’s order, but would violate Pakistan’s obligations under international law. While Pakistan is not a party to the United Nations refugee convention, customary international law prohibits governments from returning people to places where they risk being persecuted, tortured, or exposed to inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.
The Pakistani government has not provided any reasons for the Kacmaz family’s deportation. In keeping with its recent election to the UN Human Rights Council, the government should transparently investigate the detention and deportation of the Kacmaz family, take appropriate disciplinary or legal action against any officials responsible for violating their rights, and adopt and publicize measures to ensure that the rights of other asylum seekers and refugees in the country are fully protected.

Pakistan: Election to UN Rights Body Spotlights Failings

Leading Rights Groups Call for Action to Match Human Rights Role to Reality Show More Services.
The International Commission of Jurists, Amnesty International, and Human Rights Watch are urging Pakistan to take immediate steps towards meeting “the highest standards in the promotion and protection of human rights,” following the country’s election to the Human Rights Council on Monday.
On October 16, the UN General Assembly selected 15 states to serve as members of the UN Human Rights Council from January 2018 to December 2020. From the Asia-Pacific region, Nepal, Qatar, Afghanistan, and Pakistan were selected out of five candidates.
To secure the UN Human Rights Council membership, Pakistan pledged its commitment to the promotion and protection of human rights. However, the pledge failed to address directly many of the most serious human rights issues facing Pakistan, including enforced disappearances, the use of the death penalty, blasphemy laws, the country’s use of military courts, women’s rights including the right to education, and threats to the work of human rights defenders, lawyers, and journalists.
According to UN General Assembly Resolution 60/251, “members elected to the Council shall uphold the highest standards in the promotion and protection of human rights.” The Resolution also provides that, “when electing members of the Council, Member States shall take into account the contribution of candidates to the promotion and protection of human rights and their voluntary pledges and commitments made thereto.”
Pakistan’s abuses have been highlighted by various national and international human rights organizations, UN treaty-monitoring bodies, and special procedures of the UN Human Rights Council.
Pakistan has affirmed in its election pledge that it is “firmly resolved to uphold, promote and safeguard universal human rights and fundamental freedoms for all.”
Given the pressing human rights issues in the country, the International Commission of Jurists, Amnesty International, and Human Rights Watch urge Pakistan to take the necessary action to fulfill these responsibilities.
Background on human rights areas of concern:
The International Commission of Jurists, Amnesty International, and Human Rights Watch urge Pakistani authorities to act promptly to address the following human rights concerns:
Enforced disappearances
Despite hundreds, if not thousands, of cases of enforced disappearance reported from across Pakistan, not a single perpetrator of the crime has been brought to justice. The UN Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances has noted there is “a climate of impunity in Pakistan with regard to enforced disappearances, and the authorities are not sufficiently dedicated to investigate cases of enforced disappearance and hold the perpetrators accountable.”
Pakistan authorities should publicly condemn and call for an end to the practice of enforced disappearances; ratify the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance; recognize enforced disappearance as a distinct, autonomous offence; recognize the competence of the UN Committee on Enforced Disappearances to receive and consider communications from on behalf of victims or other state parties; and hold perpetrators of enforced disappearance, including military and intelligence personnel, to account, through fair trials before civilian courts.
Death Penalty
Pakistan has executed at least 471 people since it lifted an informal moratorium on executions in December 2014. In many cases, there are serious concerns that people executed were denied the right to a fair trial. Courts have also imposed the death penalty, in violation of international law, on people with mental disabilities, individuals who were below 18 years of age when the crime was committed, and those whose convictions were based on “confessions” extracted through torture or other ill-treatment.
Pakistan should restore the moratorium on executions with a view to abolishing the death penalty, in line with repeated UN General Assembly resolutions, and pending the moratorium, ensure the death penalty is not applied in violation of international law. Blasphemy laws
Pakistan’s blasphemy laws are incompatible with the rights to freedom of expression, freedom of religion or belief, and equal treatment before the law. These laws have been disproportionately applied against religious minorities, they are frequently misused, and people accused of blasphemy offences are often denied the guarantees of equality before the law, the presumption of innocence, the right to legal counsel and the right to a fair trial.
Pakistan should repeal or significantly amend its blasphemy laws, in particular sections 295-A, 295-B, 295-C, 298-A, 295-B, and 298-C of the Pakistan Penal Code, to bring them in line with international law, including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
Military Courts
Since January 2015, Pakistan’s military courts have convicted at least 305 people, out of which 169 have been sentenced to death. Proceedings before Pakistani military courts fall short of national and international standards on fair trial. Judges are part of the executive branch of the State and continue to be subjected to military command; the right to appeal to civilian courts is not available; the right to a public hearing is not guaranteed; the right to a duly reasoned, written judgment – including the essential findings, evidence, and legal reasoning – is denied; the procedures of military courts, the selection of cases to be referred to them, the location and timing of trial, and details about the alleged offences are kept secret; the right to counsel of choice is denied; and a very high number of convictions are based on “confessions” without adequate safeguards against torture and other ill treatment.
Pakistan should repeal or amend relevant laws in order to ensure that only civilian courts may try civilians, including for terrorism-related offences, and to ensure that military courts only have jurisdiction over military personnel for military offences.
National Human Rights Institution
Pakistan has committed to provide the National Commission of Human Rights (NCHR) adequate human and financial resources. However, the NCHR does not have the required independence to fulfill its mandate effectively and impartially. We also note that the NCHR has a limited mandate to investigate human rights violations allegedly committed by military forces, and it does not have jurisdiction over intelligence agencies.
Pakistan should extend the jurisdiction of the NCHR to cover military and intelligence agencies and ensure its autonomy and independence in accordance with the Paris Principles on national human rights institutions.
Human Rights Defenders
Authorities in Pakistan have increased restrictions on human rights defenders and attempted to stop the operation of certain nongovernmental organizations for reasons such as “presenting a very bleak picture of human rights” to the UN. In some cases, state agents have perpetrated human rights violations against human rights defenders: activists exercising their right to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly have been subjected to unjustified or excessive force by the police and even prosecuted under Pakistan’s anti-terrorism laws; and many have been attacked, killed, or forcibly disappeared. The onerous and opaque procedures of the international nongovernmental organizations (INGO) policy, coupled with the vague, arbitrary, and at times unlawful reasons for refusing or canceling INGO registrations, have also resulted in severe restrictions on the rights to freedom of association for people working for INGOs.
In accordance with international standards including the ICCPR and the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, Pakistan should guarantee, and ensure that human rights defenders are able in practice to exercise, the rights of freedom of peaceful assembly and of association; the right to express opinion – whether critical or not – of the state, its agencies and other matters of public interest; and the right to unhindered access to other human rights organisations and institutions – domestic, regional or global. Cooperation with Special Procedures
Since 2012, Pakistan has accepted country visit requests by the UN Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers and the UN Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances. Requests for visits from a number of other special procedures, however, remain pending, including: the Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial executions (pending since 2000); the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders (pending since 2003); the Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights while countering terrorism (pending since 2006); the Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief (pending since 2006); and the Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment (pending since 2010); among others.
Pakistan should extend a standing invitation to UN Special Procedures, should respond favorably to all outstanding requests, and should facilitate the visits in an expeditious manner. Refugees
In 2016, more than 380,000 registered Afghan refugees were returned to Afghanistan with the assistance of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). Exit interviews conducted by UNHCR give rise to concern that these returns were not voluntary and therefore were contrary to the principle of non-refoulement, in what amounts to one of the largest unlawful mass forced return of refugees in recent times. Of those repatriated, 24 percent said they feared arrest and/or deportation and had therefore decided to leave. Those left behind face an uncertain future, including because of the heightened risk of harassment and intimidation by the Pakistani authorities.
These returns have taken place at a time when Afghanistan has been enduring the highest recorded levels of civilian casualties. According to the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), 11,418 people were either killed or injured last year. In the first six months of 2017, according to UNAMA, there have been 5,243 civilian casualties. No part of Afghanistan can be considered safe, putting returnees at a real risk of serious human rights abuses.
Pakistani authorities should immediately halt all returns to Afghanistan and ensure that Afghan refugees can continue to seek and enjoy protection in Pakistan. Pakistani law enforcement agencies should end their campaign of harassment and intimidation of all registered and non-registered Afghan refugees. Pakistan should also ratify the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees and its 1967 Optional Protocol while abandoning policies that deny refugees protection in line with international standards.

Hate speech in Pakistan’s Parliament

Mubashir Zaidi
Politicians attacking Pakistan’s minority Ahmadi community is not a new thing. But a parliamentarian calling them “a threat to Pakistan” on the floors of the National Assembly is unusual. Still the speech by Captain Muhammad Safdar, son-in-law of former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, in which he said “Ahmadis should not be allowed in the military or other key institutions”, drew applause from his party members.
“These people are a threat to this country and its ideology and Constitution. Due to them, we have lost wars,” he said. When an MP from the Opposition tried to stop him, the captain yelled at him and called him “ill-fated”. Capt. Safdar also blamed a couple of Ahmadi Generals for the 1971 War defeat to India. But the Generals he named never fought the war. They were revered as heroes of the 1965 war. Military spokesman Major General Asif Ghafoor quickly snubbed the rant and said Pakistani forces do not discriminate on the basis of religion.
Capt. Safdar even criticised Mr. Sharif’s decision earlier this year to name Quaid-i-Azam University’s Physics department after Dr. Abdus Salam, an Ahmadi, who was awarded Nobel Prize in Physics in 1979. He is revered as the founder of Pakistan’s space programme.
After the speech, Capt. Safdar left the building chanting slogans in favour of Mumtaz Qadri, a guard who killed former Punjab Governor Salman Taseer. Taseer was killed in 2011 after he raised voice for a Christian worker in Punjab, who was booked for blasphemy. Capt. Safdar’s speech came hours after he was arrested by the National Accountability Bureau and presented before the Accountability Court for failing to declare his assets. Mr. Sharif’s family is facing investigation over corruption charges.
Opposition Pakistan Peoples Party chairman Bilawal Bhutto took to the Twitter to react. “The bigotry, hatred & extremism on display in the National Assembly goes to show Nawaz league has been mainstreaming terror...” Human rights activist Asma Jahangir said Capt. Safdar had tried to incite hatred. “Nawaz Sharif should take note of his hate speech. This is totally unacceptable.”
In defensive mode
The reaction put the ruling Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz) in a defensive mode. As media started to question the party about the motive, leaders distanced themselves from Capt. Safdar’s “personal views”. Mr. Sharif’s daughter Maryam Nawaz, who is married to Capt. Safdar, later tweeted her father’s views. The former Prime Minister said Pakistan’s Constitution and religion guarantee all rights to minorities and anyone who’s saying the contrary has no association with the policy and ideology of the party.
Interior Minister Ahsan Iqbal also expressed anger over the comments, but refused to say if any action would be taken against Capt. Safdar. Saleemuddin, the spokesman of Jamaat-i-Ahmadiya, an organisation of the Ahmadis, remained a worried man. “Ahmadis across Pakistan felt threatened by the statement of Capt. Safdar. This has been happening to us continuously.”
Dawn newspaper wrote a scathing editorial against Capt. Safdar. “Until all Pakistani citizens are deemed equal before the law, until patriotism or the right to security of life and property is not contingent upon faith, aspirations for a more peaceful polity will remain a pipe dream,” Dawn stated. But will these critical voices help address the problem? Asked if the Ahmadi community will file a complaint against Capt. Safdar, Mr. Saleemuddin was blunt: “Our past efforts yielded no results so there is no use of filing any complaint.”

Video - #PeshawarBhuttoKa - Bilawal Bhutto Zardari speech at PPP Peshawar Jalsa

Asif Ali Zardari - Nawaz Sharif and his brother tried to assassinate me twice

Pakistan's former President has claimed that ousted prime minister and his brother twice planned to assassinate him.

Zardari, 62, said that Nawaz and Shahbaz plotted his murder when he was serving his eight-year-long sentence in corruption cases. He said the Sharif brothers planned to kill him when he was going to a court to attend his hearing.

"The Sharif brothers - former prime minister and his younger brother Punjab Chief Minister - twice planned my murder in captivity in the 1990s," Zardari said while speaking to party workers at Bilawal House, Lahore, on Saturday.

Zardari further said Nawaz has been trying to make contact with him to seek his support. "I have refused," he added. 

"I have not yet forgotten what they (Sharifs) have done to Benazir Bhutto (his wife) and me. We forgave them and signed Charter of Democracy, but still Mian sahib (Nawaz) betrayed me and went to court in in order to label me a traitor," he said.

The controversy revolved around a memorandum seeking the help of the Obama administration in the wake of the Osama bin Laden raid to avert a military takeover of the civilian government in Pakistan.

The memo is alleged to have been drafted by Pakistan's then ambassador to the US Husain Haqqani at the behest of Zardari. Sharif demanded an enquiry into the matter and also threatened to resign from the National Assembly if the Zardari government did not satisfactorily probe the matter.

"The Sharif brothers cannot be trusted this time around and I will not shake hands with them," he added.

"They change colour so quickly. When they are in trouble they are ready to cooperate with you... when in absolute power they hit you smartly," Zardari said.

Zardari made it clear to party leaders to forget an alliance with the PML-N after the 2018 election.

"We will be on a strong footing after next year's poll," he added.

Zardari has been hitting out at the Sharifs since the disqualification of in the on July 28 by a Supreme Court Bench.

Imran Khan can go to any extent to become PM: Bilawal

Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf Chairperson Imran Khan is ready to do anything that would take him to the Prime Minister House from his residence in Banigala, Pakistan Peoples Party Chairperson Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari said on Sunday.
While addressing a rally in Zangli area of Peshawar, Bilawal also criticised former prime minister Nawaz Sharif, saying he "has stuck to his seat" despite being ousted.
"The inept federal government has not done anything but deceive the public," he said. "No section of the country is pleased with the government's policies."
Bilawal added the economic situation of the country would improve when there are employment opportunities for the people. "There would be no progress if people, including farmers and pensioners, are in crisis."
However, Bilawal said, October 26 is the day when public will get to decide for themselves.
"We will be contesting elections against two parties that are in government," he said. "You have to decide who served and gave you an identity."  

All eyes on NA-4

The by-election, due on October 26, is being seen as a litmus test for the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf's (PTI) popularity in the province, especially with regards to the general elections next year. 
The seat had fallen vacant when the incumbent lawmaker, PTI's Gulzar Khan, passed away on August 28 this year. Khan had become estranged with the party leadership over differences on several issues but was still a PTI member.
The constituency consists of suburban areas of Peshawar, including Badabher, Chamkani, Matni, Adezai, Ahmadkhel, Bazidkhel and Koh Damaan.
In the 2013 polls, the PTI candidate had secured 55,134 votes while Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz's (PML-N) Nasir Musazi had obtained 20,412 votes. Moreover, Jamaat-e-Islami's (JI) Sabir Awan had garnered 16,493 votes while Awami National Party’s (ANP) candidate Arbab Ayub Jan had received 15,795 votes. After them, the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-F (JUI-F) candidate, Arbab Kamal, had secured 12,519 votes followed by the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) candidate, Misbahud­din, who got over 12,000 votes.
At present, the PML-N has again given the ticket to last time's runner-up, Musazai, who is being supported by the JUI-F and the Qaumi Watan Party.
Meanwhile, the PTI is fielding Arbab Amir Ayub; the PPP Asad Gulzar, late incumbent Gulzar Khan’s son; the ANP Khushdil Khan, former deputy speaker of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Assembly and the JI, Wisal Farooq. 
Moreover, the newly formed but unregistered religious-political party, Milli Muslim League (MML), is supporting independent candidate Haji Liaquat Ali Khan in the race. 
The MML's candidate in the NA-120 by-election in Lahore last month, who contested elections as an independent since the ECP does not recognise the party on the directions of the Interior Ministry, had gained over 5,800 votes, surpassing the PPP and JI candidates. 
The MML, an offshoot of the Hafiz Saeed-led Jamaatud Dawa,  is yet to be recognised by the ECP on the directions of the Interior Ministry, which states that the intelligence agencies and Foreign Ministry have advised agianst the move. 

Electronic voting machines 

The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP), for the first time in the country, will be using electronic voting machines (EVMs) during the by-election.
As many as 269 polling stations would be established for the by-poll. Of them, the EVMs would be used in over 100 polling booths of 35 polling stations in both urban and rural areas of the constituency.
Around 47,255 voters are expected to cast their votes through the EVMs along with the manual voting process.

#PeshawarBhuttoKa - PTI, PML-N have spoiled politics, acted in self-interest: Bilawal

Pakistan Peoples Party  chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari on Sunday lashed at his political opponents the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) and Pakistan Muslim League (PML-N) have spoiled politics due to their self-interests. 
The PPP chairman was addressing a political gathering in the PTI stronghold of Peshawar n connection with the NA-4 by-election. They party has held public gathering in Mansehra, Kaghan and Chitral.
Bilawal called on the people to decide who safeguards their rights, as the PPP changed the name of Khyber Pakhthunkhwa, and previously the National Finance Commission (NFC) was being held  distributed on basis of population, while now even nationalist politics are doing the politics of the federation. “On Oct 26, you have to defeat the deceiving, inept politicians,” he said.
He said the governments of PTI and PML-N has spoiled politics, as both have indulged in the politics of personal interests.
“On one side is Nawaz Sharif who cling to his chair until he was disqualified by the court,” he said. “On the other side is Imran Khan who is doing politics simply to gain power.”
“Imran Khan wants to do something which takes him directly from Bani Gala to the Prime Minister’s House,” he said adding that no single segment of society is satisfied with them.
He said the workers, farmers are worried as their businesses are being affected, educated youth are not receiving jobs, and poverty has been rising gradually, while still propaganda is being done in such circumstances.
“Development did not take place in the nation, but rather in the assets on Nawaz Sharif,” he said. “Nawaz’s development and Imran’s change both are lies and deceit.”
He said that Imran Khan has no vision, but is instead spreading incitement. He asked if he has the capability to be the leader of the nation, corruption was widespread in KP, while Imran Khan was portraying himself as an angel.
“The government of ousted Nawaz Sharif has only deceived the people,” he said adding that privatising hospitals has brought further misery. “If health and education is privatised then where will the people go,” he said.
He said that no hospital was built in KP since last four years but instead accusation were made against the Sindh government where has built hospitals and trauma centers.
“Imran Khan used the resources of KP for politics in Punjab,” he stated questioning why mega-corruption cases in KP was not being investigated and those accused of corruption are siding with them.
He said the PTI while raising the slogan of change has completely transformed itself. He said that if Imran had formed the federal government in 2013, then its fate would be the same as KP government.
Bilawal went to say that the PPP was an ideological party with a vision and programme, and has spoken about the rights of marginalised segments of society including workers, farmers, merchants and youth.
He said the PPP has raised its voice against terrorists, while Imran Khan was calling to negotiate with them while the country was burning with terrorism.
“When the nation was burning with terrorism, Imran Khan want to negotiate with them,” he said adding that armed forces and police were being martyred in the fight against terrorism.
He said that federal and provincial government has neglected the NA-4 constituency which suffering immensely from terrorim. “The federal and KP governments were nurtured in the laps of dictators,” he said.
He vowed that PPP will win the upcoming elections as it awarded its ticket to an educated youth Asad Gulzar Khan, who he said joined the PPP after seeing the real face of PTI.
He said that Asad Gulzar is his nominee who understand the problems of the constituency, and hoped that people will vote for him. “Defeat is the destiny of PTI, while victory is the fate of PPP.”

#PeshawarBhuttoKa - خان صاحب کی تبدیلی صرف جھوٹ ہے، بلاول بھٹو زرداری

چیئرمین پاکستان پیپلز پارٹی بلاول بھٹو زرداری نے کہا ہے کہ خان صاحب کی تبدیلی جھوٹ اور صرف جھوٹ ہے، ان سے بڑا جھوٹا اور مکار شخص کبھی نہیں دیکھا، وہ ملک میں انتشار پھیلانا چاہتے ہیں، دوسروں کو گالی دیکر خوش ہوتے ہیں، عمران خان کو قربانیاں اور جدوجہد کرنے والے سینئر سیاستدانوں پر تنقید کر کے خوشی ملتی ہے، جسے اپنی زبان پر قابو نہیں کیا وہ قوم کی رہنمائی کرسکتا ہے؟
پشاور کے علاقہ زنگلی میں پاکستان پیپلز پارٹی کے جلسہ سے خطاب کرتے ہوئے چیئرمین بلاول بھٹو زرداری نے کہا کہ این اے4 میں پیپلزپارٹی کا مقابلہ تین جماعتوں سے ہے، مسلم لیگ(ن)، تحریک انصاف اور اے این پی سے پیپلز پارٹی کا مقابلہ ہے، فیصلہ عوام کو کرنا ہے کہ کس پارٹی نے پختونوں کو شناخت دی۔
انہوں نے کہا کہ پیپلز پارٹی کی وجہ سے قوم پرست جماعتیں وفاق کی سیاست کر رہی ہیں، جھوٹ، فریب، نااہل سیاستدانوں کو شکست دینی ہے، 4سال میں ن لیگ اور تحریک انصاف کی حکومت صوبے اور ملک کو کس نہج پر لے آئے، مسلم لیگ(ن) اور تحریک انصاف نے سیاست کو گندا کردیا، اخلاقیات کاجنازہ نکال دیا۔
ان کا کہنا تھا کہ خان صاحب ہر قیمت پر اقتدارحاصل کرنا چاہتے ہیں، خان صاحب ہر وہ کام کرنے کے لیے تیار ہیں جس سے وہ بنی گالہ سے وزیر اعظم ہاؤس پہنچ سکیں، وہ انتظار میں ہیں کہ کب انگلی اٹھے اور وہ ناچنا شروع کردیں۔
بلاول بھٹو زرداری کا کہنا تھا کہ نااہل میاں صاحب کی نااہل وفاقی حکومت نے عوام کو دھوکا دیا ہے، پاکستان کاکوئی ایک طبقہ بتائیں جومیاں صاحب کی پالیسی سے خوش ہو، دکاندار سے لیکر تاجر، مزدور سے لیکر فیکٹری مالک، ملازمین سے لیکر  پنشنرز تک سب پریشان ہیں، ترقی، خوشحالی، میاں صاحب کے اثاثوں میں آئی ہے۔
انہوں نے کہا کہ عمران خان پوری دنیا میں تبدیلی کا ڈھول پیٹ رہا ہے،عمران خان نوے دن میں کرپشن ختم کرنے والا تھا؟ کون سی تبدیلی آئی؟ وہ ڈھٹائی سے دوسروں پر کرپشن کے الزامات لگا کر خود کو فرشتہ ثابت کرناچاہتاہے، تعلیم اور صحت سےمتعلق نیا جھوٹ بولا جا رہا ہے، خیبر پختونخوا میں ایک پوزیشن بھی سرکاری اسکول کے بچے کو نہیں ملی۔
ان کا کہنا تھا کہ اسپتالوں کوبھی نجی شعبےمیں دیکر عوام کوعذاب میں ڈالاجارہا ہے، نرسز، اساتذہ احتجاج کررہے ہیں، ورکرز ویلفیئر بورڈ کو تنخواہ نہیں دی جارہی، خیبر پختونخوا میں ایک بھی نیا اسپتال نہیں بنا،سندھ میں بڑے بڑے اسپتال بن رہے ہیں اور فری علاج ہوتا ہے، عمران خان خیبر پختونخوا کے عوام کے وسائل پنجاب کی سیاست کے لئے استعمال کررہاہے۔
بلاول بھٹو زرداری کا کہنا تھا کہ خیبر پختونخوا کے میگا کرپشن کے اسکینڈلز کی تحقیقات کیوں نہیں کرائی جارہیں؟ خیبر پختو نخوا کے ٹھیکوں سے عمران خان کا کچن اور ترین کا جہاز چلتا ہے، کبھی بھی عمران خان پر الزام نہیں لگایا، یہ الزامات عمران خان کے ایم این اے اور ایم پی ایز لگاتے ہیں، فارن فنڈنگ کیس عمران خان کے ساتھی نے ثبوت کے ساتھ دائر کیا۔
انہوں نے کہا کہ عمران خان کےساتھ سفرشروع کرنے والے کہہ رہے ہیں کہ تبدیلی کی بات کر کرکے خود تبدیل ہوگئے، عمران خان سے کسی اچھائی کی امید نہیں رکھی جائے، ان کے پاس نہ کوئی پروگرام ہے اور نہ نظریہ، عمران خان نے دہشت گردوں کو پشاور میں دفتر کھولنے کی پیش کش کی، دونوں نام نہاد بڑی پارٹیاں آمروں کی گود میں پلی بڑھی ہیں، دہشت گردی سے جو نقصان ہوا اس کی کوئی تلافی نہیں کی گئی، ہم اقتدار میں آکر بے نظیر انکم سپورٹ پروگرام کو مزید بڑھائیں گے۔