Wednesday, January 10, 2018

#Pakistan #journalist narrowly escapes 'abduction' by security forces

Memphis Barker

APakistani journalist who ranks among the foremost critics of the country’s powerful military establishment on Wednesday made a dramatic escape after several armed men attempted to kidnap him on a busy motorway.

Taha Siddiqui, who reports for who reports for France 24 and in 2014 won France’s equivalent of the Pulitzer, the Albert Londres Prix award, told a press conference in Islamabad that he suspected security services of ordering his abduction - an allegation few dare make inside Pakistan.
Wearing a blood-flecked shirt and muddy trousers, Mr Siddiqui said that although he had “no proof” of the involvement of the intelligence agencies, he believed that the incident mirrored others. In recent months, dozens of lesser-known critics of the military have been abducted without trace, with Pakistan's army facing accusations that it is seeking to crush dissent within the civilian government and civil society.
“When they were trying to take me away,” Mr Siddiqui said, “I wanted them to shoot me, because I don’t want to be a missing person. I would rather be shot dead … for people to see what they do.”
At around 8am on Wednesday morning, Mr Siddiqui was travelling to Islamabad airport when a car pulled out in front of his taxi and slammed on the brakes. After a small crash, around “10 or 12” men wearing plain-clothes and carrying AK-47s surrounded his vehicle, he said.
Dragged onto the road, he began to scream for help - only stopping when one of the assailants threatened to shoot him in the leg. Forced back into the taxi, Mr Siddiqui then made a break for it, scrambling across the backseat to an unlocked passenger door, and fleeing into oncoming traffic.
Mr Siddiqui told journalists at the National Press Club that he expects little to result from the police report he subsequently filed. Apparently, he said, the cameras on the crucial part of the motorway were not functioning at the time of the incident, nor the plates of the car correctly registered. When he asked a police official to keep him abreast of developments in the case, “he just laughed".
In May 2017, Mr Siddiqui was summoned by the counter-terrorism wing of the civilian government, and accused of maligning the military. Despite the newly evident risks to his life, Mr Siddiqui said on Wednesday he will not go into hiding. “I am here,” he said, his left eye puffed from a blow. “I am staying put.”
The military have long denied having anything to do with enforced disappearances. Pakistan's interior minister Ahsan Iqbal said he had taken notice of the claims.


At least six people including four personnel of Balochistan Constabulary were martyred and 17 others sustained injuries in a suicide blast that ripped through Quetta’s Zarghoon road here Tuesday evening. The suicide bomber riding on the motorcycle hit the security officials truck parked near GPO Chowk in the vicinity of the Balochistan Assembly.
According to initial investigation, the bomber was heading towards provincial assembly, however, when he failed to find the way due to strict security measures, rammed his bike into the police truck.
Police and rescue sources have confirmed the explosion was a suicide attack. The injured and dead have been shifted to the Civil Hospital Quetta. The injured and dead have been shifted to the Civil Hospital Quetta.
Police and FC personnel have cordoned off the area following the explosion.
Emergency has been declared in the hospitals of Quetta.
Farugh Ateeq, Deputy Commission Quetta said police was the prime target in the blast.
He refused to confirm the death toll and number of injured in the explosion.

Pakistani Politics Risk Aggravating Problems and Heightening Regional Tension

James Dorsey
Self-serving Pakistani politics threaten to aggravate the country’s myriad problems that have strained its relations with the United States and could heighten tension in the restless, key geo-strategic region of Balochistan, a vital node bordering Iran in China’s Belt and Road initiative and the earmarked home for the People’s Republic’s second foreign military base.
Pakistan’s short-sighted political battles are being fought at a time of worsening relations with the United States over alleged Pakistani support of militants and concern that the United States may withdraw from the 2015 international nuclear agreement with Iran. They potentially create a dilemma for China which is heavily invested in Pakistan with its more than $50 billion China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC)
Keen to prevent ousted former Prime Minister Nawal Sharif’s Pakistan Muslim League – PML-N from winning a majority in elections scheduled for July, the Pakistani military, in the latest incident, appears to be backing efforts to force Nawab Sanaullah Zehri, the PML-N Chief Minister of Balochistan, to resign.
The stage to remove Mr. Zehri was set last week when the province’s interior minister, Sarfaraz Bugti, known for his close ties to the armed forces, stepped down after co-sponsoring a motion of no-confidence in the chief minister in the provincial assembly.
The targeting of Mr. Zehri, signalled the closing of the door on already failed efforts to drive a wedge between various nationalist Baloch insurgent groups and weaken Islamic militants that have wreaked havoc in Balochistan with attacks on Chinese, Pakistani military, and Shiite targets.
Closing the door amounted to kicking a dead body. Informal contacts between the Baloch provincial government, the federal government when Mr. Sharif was still in office, and Brahmdagh Bugti, a Baloch nationalist living in exile in Switzerland, who heads the Baloch Republican Party, fizzled out when Mr. Zehri came to office in late 2015. Nonetheless, Mr. Zehri refrained from slamming the door shut.
By the same token, Mr. Bugti’s demand that Pakistan end its military and paramilitary operations against nationalist forces in Balochistan, a resource-rich, population-poor region the size of France that straddles the border with the Iranian province of Sistan and Baluchistan, as a pre-condition for formal talks was likely one reason that the contacts failed.
More militant nationalists refused to endorse Mr. Bugti’s position, but quietly watched whether he would make headway. Even so, there was no guarantee that the militants would have accepted a deal negotiated by Mr, Bugti, whose grandfather, Nawab Bugti, was killed by the military in 2006, a year after he had presented a plan for greater Baloch autonomy that stopped short of demanding independence.
The timing of the effort to topple Mr. Zehri and foreclose renewed contacts with Baloch nationalist factions could not be more sensitive. It comes, against the backdrop of a long history of military support for militant religious groups to counter the nationalists in Balochistan, and at a moment that the armed forces have used militants elsewhere to weaken the PMN-L while at the same time refute US allegations that it backs extremists in Pakistan as well as Afghanistan.
The Trump administration said last week that it was cutting almost all security aid to Pakistan believed to total more than $1 billion until it deals with militant networks operating on its soil. Pakistan, in response and in advance of a visit this month by a United Nations Security Council team to evaluate Pakistani compliance with its resolutions, has sought to crack down on the fundraising and political activities of Hafez Saeed, an internationally designated terrorist accused of having masterminded the 2008 attacks in Mumbai.
The crackdown constitutes a double-edged sword. Pakistan and its military needs to be seen to be acting against internationally designated terrorist groups, yet Mr. Saeed has been treated over the years with kid gloves. His organization was allowed to continue operations under multiple guises and although he was put under house arrest several times, he was not remanded behind bars. It wasn’t clear whether the crackdown by the PMN-L-led federal government of Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi has the backing of the military.
Mr. Saeed has recently attempted to move into mainstream politics with the backing of the military. Military support was “a combination of keeping control over important national matters like security, defense and foreign policy, but also giving these former militant groups that have served the state a route into the mainstream where their energies can be utilized,” a senior military official said. Mr. Saeed, who headed Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), widely viewed as one of South Asia’s most violent groups, was a military proxy in confronting India in Kashmir.
Associates of Mr. Saeed said that their participation in this summer’s election was in part designed to prevent the PMN-L from returning to office. “There is little else more patriotic than ensuring the ouster of the Sharifs. Pakistan needs a government that serves Pakistani, not Indian interests,” said Nadeem Awan, a spokesman for Jamat u-Dawa, widely seen as a LeT front headed by Mr. Saeed.
Former Pakistani strongman General Pervez Musharraf, said last month that he was discussing an alliance with Milli Muslim League (MML), the political party Mr. Saeed is trying to register. Speaking on Pakistani television, Mr. Musharraf pronounced himself “the greatest supporter of LeT.”
The military, also last month, displayed its political influence and inclination by mediating an end to a weeks-long blockade of a main artery leading into Islamabad to protest a perceived softening of the government’s adherence to Islam in a proposed piece of legislation. The resolution was seen as favouring Tehreek Labbaik Pakistan (TPL), the organizer of the protest. TPL is a political front for Tehreek Labbaik Ya Rasool Allah (TLR), which glorifies Mumtaz Qadri, who was executed for killing Punjab governor Salman Taseer because of his opposition to Pakistan’s draconic blasphemy law.
All in all, the Pakistani military appears to be embroiled in battles on multiple fronts in a Herculean effort to satisfy target audiences with contradictory demands. Countering the PML-N by supporting religious forces complicates refuting US allegations of support for militants.
It also risks escalating violence in Balochistan and enhancing opportunity for external players like the United States and Saudi Arabia to use the province as a launching pad for efforts to destabilize Iran should they opt to travel down that road.
President Donald J. Trump has to decide this month whether to certify Iranian compliance with the nuclear agreement and waive US sanctions. A failure to do so could lead to a US withdrawal from the agreement.
China, by the same token, sees Pakistan’s use of proxies against India as useful, yet needs stability in Balochistan to secure its massive investment.
Pakistan could well be the ultimate loser in battles between its various institutions that appear focused more on vested interests than on resolving issues that have long held the country back such as extremism, intolerance, and ensuring fundamental rights. In pursuit of their own interests, neither the United States nor China appear willing to help their Pakistani allies look beyond their narrow and most immediate concerns towards the development of policies that would launch the country on a path of security, stability and economic prosperity.

#Pakistan - #PTI’s romance with extremism

Every now and then, this country’s leadership provides us with reason to conclude that the National Action Plan against terrorism is headed nowhere. This time, it was the Chief Minister of the province that has immensely suffered due to the menace of religious extremism. KP CM Pervez Khattak was in attendance at the latest rally of Difa-e-Pakistan Council — a group that includes among its leadership the who’s who of radical Islamism, some of whom are recognised the world over as terrorists.

Given their weak organisational structures and lack of organic links with the electorate, most mainstream parties have had to frequently woo the religious right-wing for their electoral campaigns. The most recent example of this trend was in Chakwal where religious idiom was frequently deployed by both PML-N and PTI candidates and religious parties were courted for support. However, the stunt pulled by Khattak by participating in the DPC rally stands out as most parties that form the alliance lack electoral standings. Only the Jamaat-e-Islami is represented in the legislature of the province, and its support is concentrated just in Dir. It is a travesty that the ruling party in the province — which has 61 MPAs — feels so vulnerable that it must get its credentials certified from a motley group of extremists whose political ideas and parties have been complicit in pushing this country down the path of terrorist violence and sectarian turmoil. And all the achievements Khattak highlighted during his speech at the rally were really just examples of how the NAP has failed in the last two years.
The next general election is a few months away. This is why the Election Commission needs to step up its efforts to monitor public rallies and speeches for use of religious idiom. To canvass for votes in the name of religion is a violation of the ECP code. And for whatever its worth, the NAP stands opposed to giving public space to terrorism masterminds for spewing hatred. As the constitutional body responsible for general elections, the ECP should ensure that campaigns for the upcoming election are strictly in accordance with its codes, the country’s laws and policy documents such as NAP, which was prepared with bipartisan support.
For its part, the PTI can certainly do better than presenting itself as a marketable option just to the extreme-right segments in the country. We hope that there still is some hope for the party and that some of its leaders will focus on real social and economic issues rather than pander to murderous extremists.

Video Report - #Pakistan - #JusticeForZainab - Justice for #Zainab

#Pakistan - #JusticeForZainab - Will Zainab’s parents get justice?

Over 387 children were sexually assaulted three years ago in Kasur — the same city where 8-year old Zainab has now been raped and murdered.
An Anti-Terrorism Court sentenced two suspects to life imprisonment after they were found guilty, and released four others by giving them benefit of doubt in the country’s largest ever child abuse case.
But the question is whether 8-year old Zainab’s parents could get justice as eight cases of the biggest sexual abuse scandal have been pending adjudication before the Anti-Terrorism Court since then.
In April, 2015, Ganda Singh Wala, a village in suburb of Kasur , emerged as a centre of world’s attention when victim families came out of their homes to record their protest against sexual assault of their children.
The protests continued for days until the local police lodged 25 cases against 15 people with terrorism charges the same year. Police arrested the suspects and produced them before the Anti-Terrorism Court .
Police said over 387 children were sexually abused in the village and their videos were made and sold in different markets, showing them being forced to do sex. Police said the victims had also been exploited and demanded extortion by the suspects.
The Anti-Terrorism Court has so far sentenced two suspects Haseem Amir and Faizan Majeed to life imprisonment and released four others including Attiq-ur-Rehman, Tanzeel-ur-Rehman and Saleem Sherazi. However, eight cases of the same incident are still pending adjudication before the Anti-Terrorism Court .
The court also imposed fine of Rs0.3 million on the convicts for their role in abusing children. Haseem was the member of a prominent family in Kasur and Majeed was his friend.
According to an official with Prosecution department, the majority of the suspects could not be sentenced as many of the victims have turned hostile.
“Victims have turned hostile in many cases and they are not ready to testify against any in the court,” a senior prosecutor says with anonymity. “Case of a woman who was raped was also taken up with all these cases of sodomy and extortion but she herself turned hostile.”
Witnesses are not ready to come and assist the court which is the reason that the cases are still pending, he says.
Another prosecutor who also handled this case shares his experience with anonymity, saying that “the suspects have approached the Supreme Court and now all the cases are sized with the top court which has stayed decisions on the pending cases.” On other side, he says “When a victim himself shows unwillingness to assist the court or to testify then how the case could be concluded and how the criminals could be punished,” the prosecutor questions while elaborating delay behind the pending cases of the biggest child abuse scandal.
He says further: “I played my role in evidence collection and exhibited videos showing children being forced to do sex but there was not witness to take stand,”. He also points out that political interference is also a hurdle in dispensation of justice as many people of the same village did not join the investigation.

2 killed in protests over rape, killing of girl, 8, in Pakistan

Deaths appear to have occurred as protesters descended on a police station.

A mob angered over the recent rape and murder of an eight-year-old girl attacked a police station and a nearby government building in Punjab province of Pakistan on Wednesday, triggering clashes that left at least two people dead and several injured, police said.
The violence erupted in the city of Kasur hours before the funeral of Zainab Ansari, whose case has drawn wide public outrage.
The girl went missing last week while going to a nearby home for Qur'anic studies. Her parents, who were on a pilgrimage in Saudi Arabia at the time, returned on Wednesday, landing at the Islamabad airport.
"We will not bury our daughter until her killers are arrested," said the father, Ameen Ansari, as his wife sobbed.
Zainab's body was found on Tuesday in a garbage bin, senior police officer Imran Nawaz Khan said. Police say she was abducted, raped and murdered.
Officer Maqsood Ahmed said six girls were sexually assaulted in recent months in Kasur and that police were probing whether there was a connection in the cases.
Activists on social media have condemned the government for failing to arrest those involved.
As the attack on the police station and the subsequent clashes unfolded Wednesday, local TV broadcast footage showing police firing in the air and toward the stone-pelting mob, trying to disperse it. In one segment, an officer asks another to hold direct fire, after which the second officer is seen continuing to shoot at the protesters.
Also Wednesday, the Lahore High Court's chief justice ordered a probe into Zainab's killing.
Zulfiqar Hameed, the police chief in Kasur, refused to say whether the two people killed in Wednesday's clashes had died from police gunshots. Provincial Law Minister Rana Sanaullah said the police were trying to contain the violence and find and arrest those involved in the girl's murder.
Kasur shop owners shut their businesses Wednesday to express their anger over Zainab's slaying.
Firebrand cleric Tahir-ul-Qadri who took part in Zainab 's funeral, demanded the local government be replaced, saying it has "no right to remain in power after the killing of Zainab Ansari."
In a speech to thousands of mourners, he blamed the Punjab chief minister, Shahbaz Sharif, for failing to "protect lives and honour of innocent girls" in the province.
Qadri also issued an ultimatum to Sharif and Sanaullah to step down by Jan. 17 to avoid street protests.
Qadri is a staunch political rival of the ruling Pakistan Muslim League party, and he has led violent rallies in the capital, Islamabad, since 2014 after eight of his supporters were killed in anti-government rallies in Lahore, the Punjab provincial capital.

11 cases of child sex abuse reported in Pakistan every day: report

The brutal rape and murder of seven-year-old Zainab in Kasur is not a one-off incident. As many as 11 cases of child sexual abuse are reported from across Pakistan every day, according to data collected by non-governmental organisation Sahil. 
Even in Kasur—which became the centre of a massive child abuse case in 2014 and 2015—the rape and murders of 12 minor girls, all aged between five to eight years, have been reported in the past twelve months.
According to reports in the media, Aimaan Fatima, Fauzia, Noor Fatima, Sana, Asma and Laiba were among minors kidnapped from the suburbs of Kasur in 2017 and whose dead bodies were later recovered from different parts of the city.
According to the latest numbers released by Sahil, an organisation that works on child protection with a special focus on sexual abuse, a total of 1,764 cases of child abuse were reported from across the country in the first six months of 2017 alone. 
In the previous year, the total number of reported child abuse cases stood at a staggering 4,139, bringing the total number of children being abused in Pakistan per day to 11. 
The shocking numbers bring to attention the failure of law enforcement agencies in Pakistan, particularly Punjab, in apprehending these criminals and curbing a plague that seems to have taken hold of our society.
According to data from Sahil, out of the total cases of child abuse from January to June 2017, 62 percent were reported from Punjab. 

Data courtesy Saahil, January 2017 to June 2017.
27 percent of cases reported were from Sindh province, while 76, 58, 42, and nine cases reported from Balochistan, FATA, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, and Azad Jammu and Kashmir respectively. 
The number of cases reported from rural areas amounted to 74 percent, while the number of cases reported from urban areas increased by 10 percent as compared to the comparable period in 2016.
Last year, a 17 percent decrease was reported in child abuse cases as compared to the previous year. From January to June, a total of 1,764 cases of child abuse were reported as compared to the 2,127 cases for the same period in 2016.
Of the total reported cases of sexual abuse in the first six months of 2017, 45 percent of the cases were committed by acquaintances, while another 17 percent of the horrific crimes were carried out by acquaintances and strangers. 
Strangers were found responsible for 15 percent of all cases reported in the first six months of 2017.
Of all cases, 15 percent of the crimes were committed at the victim's own place, while 12 percent were said to have taken place at an acquaintance’s place.
A shocking revelation in the report states that a 100 percent increase in child abuse by landlords was observed in 2017. 

Kasur culprits following a pattern?

Reports in the media suggest that the culprits in Kasur seemingly following a pattern—bodies of all of the deceased minors raped and murdered in the first six month of 2017 were found in under-construction houses. But the law enforcement agencies, it appears, have failed to notice.
The families of seven girls and three boys who became the victims of the murderers in Kasur still await justice, despite assurances from the police after public outcry broke after each incident.
With the memories of the ‘Husain Khanwala’ incident in Kasur—in which hundreds of children were abused, filmed and, later, blackmailed by local gangs some two years ago—still fresh in the minds of the public, prominent activists and members of the civil society have raised their voices on social media and demanded justice for Zainab’s family.

#JusticeForZainab - Malala heartbroken over alleged rape, murder of Zainab in Kasur

Nobel Peace Laureate Malala Yousafzai has condemned cold blooded murder of minor girl Zainab in Kasur, saying she was heartbroken to hear about Zainab.
Malala took to twitter, saying such brutal incidents have to stop. 
Malala using hashtag #JusticeForZainab, 7-year-old child abused and brutally killed in Kasur, Pakistan, Malala demanded of the government and the concerned authorities must take action. 

Protests broke out in Kasur on Wednesday after reports that body of an eight years old minor girl, who went missing last week, has been found dumped in a trash pile.
According to TV channels, forensic examination of the body has confirmed that the girl identified as Zainab was raped before being killed .

#JusticeForZainab - Bilawal Bhutto Zardari terms brutal rape and murder of a 7-year-old girl Zainab in Kasur as shocking and a slap on the face of Sharifdom, demands immediate action against culprits

Chairman Pakistan Peoples Party Bilawal Bhutto Zardari has termed the brutal rape and murder of a 7-year-old girl Zainab in Kasur as shocking and a slap on the face of Sharifdom, which continues to ignore such ghastly incidents.

“Ten incidents of minors’ rape and murders had been reported in Kasur and eleven in Sheikhupura alone last year. It seems some parts of Punjab have been turned into hell for the children, especially the girls but Sharif brothers appear to have abandoned their duty as rulers,” the PPP Chairman said in a statement issued today.

Bilawal Bhutto Zardari said that gory incident of children rapes and murders have shaken the society and any tolerance by Sharif brothers to perpetrators of these crimes won’t be accepted.

PPP Chairman demanded that rapists and killers of every innocent child should be brought to book and none of them should go scot-free.

Bilawal Bhutto reiterated that protection of children was top priority of PPP and crimes against the children would be sternly dealt with.

He expressed sympathies with all those parents who suffered the agonies and assured that PPP stands in solidarity with them. PPP will raise voice against these atrocities on our innocent children at every forum, he added.