Sunday, March 4, 2018

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Video Report - #Christian Persecution in #Pakistan - Christians living in fear in Pakistan | DW News

Christian Persecution in Pakistan - Uproar in Pakistan over 'torture and sexual abuse' of Christian youths

Rights groups have condemned the alleged torture and sexual abuse of two Christian youths by investigating officials. The latest blasphemy controversy highlights the plight and vulnerability of Pakistani Christians.
Pakistani rights activists protest against 'torture' of Patras and Sajid Masih by authorities (picture-alliance/AP Photo/F. Khan)
On Friday, Sajid Masih, a 24-year-old blasphemy suspect, leapt from the fourth floor of the Federal Investigation Agency's (FIA) Punjab headquarters in Lahore and severely injured himself. In a video statement, Sajid alleged that he jumped because the FIA officials tortured him and ordered him to "sexually assault" Patras Masih, his cousin and the main accused in an online blasphemy case.
"They asked me to abuse myself, but I refused to do so. Later, they asked me to sexually assault my cousin, but I remained silent and jumped from the building," he said.
Following Sajid's accusations, FIA Director General Bashir Ahmed Memon ordered an official inquiry.
Patras, 21, who is a resident of Lahore city, was arrested by police last week for allegedly posting a "blasphemous photo" on Facebook on January 16. The arrest was made after hundreds of supporters and activists of the Islamist Tehreek-i-Labaik Ya Rasool Allah (TLYRA) party staged protests against Patras. The TLYRA outfit has gained prominence in Pakistan since their "blasphemy siege" of the capital Islamabad in October last year.
Pervaiz Akhter Naz (DW)
Patras' grandfather: 'This is extreme injustice'
The blasphemy allegations against Patras are being investigated by FIA's cyber crime unit, which had brought in Sajid Maish for interrogations on Friday.
Blasphemy is punishable to death in the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, where around 97 percent of its 180 million inhabitants are Muslim. Rights advocates have long been demanding a reform of the controversial blasphemy laws, which were introduced by the Islamic military dictator General Zia-ul-Haq in the 1980s. Activists say the laws have little to do with blasphemy and are often used to settle petty disputes and personal vendettas.
Living in fear
Many Christian residents of the Shahdara town in Lahore are fleeing the area due to the latest blasphemy controversy. Islamic extremists, and in some cases common Muslims, have set Christians' houses on fire or lynched alleged blasphemers even before the intervention of authorities.
"They [protesters] came with petrol bombs, bricks and sticks and threatened to burn down our houses," Pervaiz Akhter Naz, Patras' maternal grandfather, told DW.
"Mohammad Siddiqui, a Muslim resident of our area, filed a police report accusing Patras and some others of posting blasphemous content on Facebook. As soon as this news became public, hundreds of people gathered outside my daughter's house," Naz said.
Some 1,500 Christian residents have left the area since then, Naz added.
"I am heartbroken for Patras and Sajid. While the former remains in police custody the latter is fighting for his life in hospital. FIA actions forced Sajid to jump from the building. This is extreme injustice," Naz complained.
Persecution of religious minorities
Pakistan's Christians and other religious minorities complain of legal and social discrimination in their country. In the past few years, many Christians and Hindus have been brutally murdered over unproven blasphemy allegations.
One of Pakistan's most high profile blasphemy cases is that of Asia Bibi, a Christian woman who was found guilty of committing blasphemy while working in the fields in 2009 and was sentenced to death. In 2014, her death sentence was upheld by the Lahore High Court. Amnesty International called the verdict a "grave injustice."
In one case, a young Christian girl with Down syndrome was accused in August 2012 of burning pages upon which verses of the Koran were inscribed. Rimsha Masih was taken into police custody and only released months later, when charges were dropped. The case caused an uproar in her home town and beyond and sparked riots and violence against Christians in the region. In 2013, she and her family relocated to Canada.
In 2014, a Christian couple was beaten to death for allegedly desecrating a copy of the Koran. Their bodies were subsequently burned in a brick kiln.
In September last year, a Christian man in Pakistan was sentenced to death for sharing "blasphemous" material on WhatsApp.

#Pakistan - Women In Administration

Pakistan as country needs to adopt policies that encourage women in administrative roles. For many years now, women in Pakistan have been pushing barriers, breaking stereotypes and joining the workforce. This is the result of years of effort by the women of the society who refused to play a passive role in their lives and wanted to be at the forefront as well. However it has been rightly identified by United Nations (UN) that the step forward is to increase the representation and advancement of women in the civil service.
This move must be accepted whole heartedly and worked up diligently because the country needs a good balance of both genders working tirelessly towards progress. The study conducted by United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN Women) shows how socio-economic factors hold back women from becoming a part of the state’s administration . This should serve as the basis of formation of policies that take into account these socio-economic barriers and help women move forward in their career trajectories.
If one out of five women in Pakistan is now a part of the labor force of the country, this means that the involvement of women has increased on every level. If this is the scenario, it means that the administration now needs people with multi-faceted approach, who can not only understand the realities on ground for both genders but are also empowered with decision making authority to be able to make a significant change in the setup and the governance of this country.
Since the Women Development Ministry has been dissolved, which was responsible for discussing means of development for the gender, the parliament now needs to engage in dialogue to address this particular concern or devise a new committee dedicated to the cause of women development. Decisions taken at the top always have a trickle-down effect. Once the office adopts the approach of gender balance, public opinion changes accordingly. The hesitance and the resistance in the public regarding female administrators will automatically change into acceptance. This will push a new generation of women to aim to be in positions of power and be able to devise policies that affect the masses in Pakistan.

#SenateElections2018 - #Pakistan - In historic first, a Thari Hindu woman has been elected to the Senate

In a historic first, Thari Hindu woman Krishna Kumari was elected to the Senate on Saturday.
Kumari, a rights activist belonging to the Kohli community from the remote village of Dhana Gam in Nagarparkar, was selected as a candidate for a Senate seat by the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP).
Kumari was elected to a reserved seat for women from Sindh, along with Quratulain Marri.
"I feel delighted, this was unthinkable for me, to reach the Senate," Kumari told The Associated Press.
"I will continue to work for the rights of the oppressed people, especially for the empowerment of women, their health and education," she said.
Ratna Bhagwandas Chawla from Jacobabad was the first Hindu woman to be elected to the Senate on a PPP ticket in March 2006.
Born on Feb 1, 1979, Kumari (lovingly called Kishoo Bai by her parents) had a tough childhood when she along with her family members and relatives were held for three years as bonded labour in a private jail allegedly owned by the landlord of Kunri of Umerkot district.
They were set free in a police raid on the farmland of their employer. She started her primary education initially from Talhi village of Umerkot district and then the Tando Kolachi area of Mirpurkhas district. Her parents facilitated her and her brother Veerji’s studies and academic activities despite the hard days they had been facing. She attributes her success to her parents, who encouraged her to pursue her education and eventually helped her to earn a university degree. She was married off to Lal Chand, a student of the Sindh Agriculture Unive­rsity, Tandojam, in 1994, when she was 16 and a class IX student. She continued her studies after the marriage to get a postgraduate degree in sociology from the University of Sindh.
She started taking part in social activities in 2005 by organising and participating in different seminars in Tharpa­rkar.
She was selected for the third Mehergarh Human Rights Youth Leadership Training Camp held in 2007 in Islamabad during which she covered an overview of people’s movements in the world, history of social movements in Pakistan and a thorough understanding of the governance system in the country. She also learned strategic planning and tools for bringing social change.
After completing the training, she worked for the Youth Civil Action Progr­amme to identify cases of bonded labour and conducted case studies focusing women under bondage, organised workshops and seminars on bonded labour, sexual harassment at workplace and other human and women’s rights issues and contributed write-ups to various newspapers.
PPP lawmaker from Thar Dr Mahesh Kumar Malani, when contacted by Dawn earlier, was hopeful that Kumari, a Kolhi girl from the family of the valiant freedom fighter Rooplo Kolhi would be elected.
Rooplo Kolhi had waged a war against the invading British colonialist forces when they had attacked Sindh from Nagarparkar side in 1857. Subsequently, he was arrested and hanged by the British on August 22, 1858.
Kumari, who worked the fields alongside her parents as a child, will take the oath of office later this month alongside some of the biggest landowners in the country.

#Pakistan - Democracy under squeeze

By Afrasiab Khattak
The civil military row or to be more precise the wrangling between PML (N) led elected civilian government and the military establishment is quite open and public by now. But the dark prophesies about complete derailing of democracy, postponement of the Senate election and general election haven’t come true so far. In fact polling for the Senate election will be taking place as you will be reading these lines. Preparation for general elections are also in full swing. Even then unlike 2013 general elections, one can’t confidently think or talk about a smooth transition from one elected government to another in 2018. The reason for this uncertainty is the naked political engineering by security establishment through administrative, judicial and political instruments. By now it is an open secret that aggressive political agitation by test tube political outfits for creating conducive conditions for raising of “ umpire’s finger “ wasn’t spontaneous. Several onslaughts on Islamabad by a variety of putschists had the unmistakable signature of expertise accumulated over the years by the permanent state. Even the post Panama JIT-led judicial activism has tended to reveal the long arm of security establishment behind it. The extremely selective nature, weak legal grounds and justice not appearing to be be done in accountability has seriously undermined credibility of the process. Totally different decisions in similar cases have given rise to questions in minds of the people. Unfortunately our higher judiciary has the historical baggage of upholding unconstitutional military coups and taking oath under PCOs of the usurpers. Its failure in prosecuting General Pervez Musharraf for abrogating the Constitution and its recent controversial role in deciding political cases has created the impression of perpetuation of the so called Doctrine of Necessity. It is disappointing for the people of Pakistan who have always struggled for the independence of judiciary and rule of law.
The contradiction between the de facto and de jure has deepened to an extent where serious questions have arisen about the sustainability of the present constitutional order in the country. The almost total marginalisation of civilian government by the security establishment epitomises a grave crises in the state system. By now it should be obvious that room for any powerful civilian chief executive in the system has dramatically shrunk. This is a serious enough crises to create doubts about the effectiveness of even the future elected government. But the irony is that political parties do not seem to be worried about it. Removing the present federal government and Punjab government by hook or by crook appears to be their only focus. The active role of some opposition political parties in the recent parliamentary coup in Balochistan is a case in point. They justify their wrongdoings by referring to the negative role of the current ruling party in the past. So the political feud is being fought out in tribal fashion without any concern about its consequences for the future.
Be that as it may, there are two fundamental issues that require special attention even in the middle of the present crises. First is the question of federation. Pak-Indian sub continent has seen two partitions in comparatively recent past on the question of provincial autonomy. In 1940s the failure of major political players on the quantum of provincial autonomy among other things led to the partition of India and creation of Pakistan in 1947. Similarly the denial of provincial autonomy to the former East Pakistan ( despite having the majority population) created a crises that led to the dismemberment of Pakistan in 1971. The main political leadership learnt their lesson and adopted a federal system for the remaining Pakistan in the 1973 Constitution. But provincial autonomy remains a thorn in the side of anti democratic forces in Pakistan. Every military coup in the past attempted to to roll back the federal structure and turn the country into a unitary state. That’s why it is not surprising to see an insidious campaign against the 18th Constitutional Amendment at a time when democratic system is being ambushed. But as a participant in the debate on federation for the last many decades I want to make it clear that any subversion of 18th Amendment by dubious and unconstitutional means would leave no other option with smaller provinces but to demand parity in the National Assembly for all the federating units. It’s the medicine that was originally invented by Punjabi ruling elites in mid 1950s for countering the population weight of the then East Pakistan ( now Bangladesh). What moral ground the same elite will have if it’s raised by political forces of the smaller provinces in the face of subversion of federalism?
The second question relates to foreign policy and security policy of the country. It is pretty clear that one main bone of contention between the civil and military factions of the state is the issue of control over foreign policy. Nawaz Sharif’s effort for normalising relationship with the neighbours, particularly with India and Afghanistan became a major point of friction with the other side. So far security establishment has prevailed and support for Afghan Taliban and militants active against India is continuing. But this policy has reached a dead end and is dramatically leading to international isolation of the country. The FATF’s decision on February 23 in Paris about putting Pakistan on a grey list from the coming June is the latest indication of the failure of Jihadist foreign policy. More important than the increasing US pressure is the growing symptoms of Chinese fatigue syndrome in protecting Pakistan from adverse action by international community. It’s high time to take bold steps for getting back from the precipice. Going ahead on this dangerous path will be following in the footsteps of Saddam Hussain’s Iraq and Gaddafi’s Libya. It’s urgent and corrective measures on this front can’t wait for complete restoration of democracy.
There is a silver lining in the otherwise bleak situation. In a long time the people of Punjab province ( which is a real bastion of power in present Pakistan) are rallying behind Nawaz Sharif who has boldly challenged the political engineering of the security establishment. Nawaz Sharif will have to build an inclusive and broad democratic campaign by addressing the major socio political issues such as eliminating terrorism, bringing peace to Balochistan, empowering of FATA Pashtuns and people of Gilgit Baltistan apart from restoring sanctity of the vote for putting the country back on track.

Video - Chairman PPP Bilawal Bhutto addressing a Press Conference in Karachi

Bilawal advises Imran to bring forward ideological activists, not affluent

Chairman Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) Bilawal Bhutto on Sunday said Chairman Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Imran Khan should bring forward ideological activists from his party rather than relying on affluent people, ARY News reported.
“I would like to advise Imran Khan to bring forward his party’s ideological workers and avoid fielding ATM (Automated Teller Machine) machines as candidates. Your party activists, who are committed to your party’s ideology, can win election for you,” he said while addressing a press briefing regarding Senate elections in Karachi.

He said if Imran would field only wealthy people in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and assume that they would buy votes for themselves then issues would surface.
Censuring the PTI chief for not balloting in Senate polls, Bilawal said if he himself would not go to ballot then his party workers would not be enthusiastic enough to vote for his party.
He said PTI’s position had grown weaker in Karachi, because Karachiites knew that the PTI government had done no significant development work in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
“Imran and Nawaz have wasted the last five years in battle over throne of Raiwind. On the contrary, only the PPP’s government in Sindh has focused on the public issues in the meanwhile,” he said while counting a number of development works done by the Sindh government.
“Our candidates were the best in the Senate polls. So, Alhamdulillah, we have succeeded due to many factors,” he added.

PPP in contact with opposition for Senate chairmanship, says Bilawal

Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) Chairman Bilawal Bhutto on Sunday said that the party is in contact with other parties and will try to bring a candidate for Senate chairman from the opposition.
Political temperature in the country is on the rise as parties have redoubled their efforts to strategise alliances ahead of elections for the seat of Senate chairperson and deputy chairperson.
The competition between Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) and PPP for the two seats of power will largely depend on independent senators. 
Addressing a news conference here, Bilawal also sked his political opponents to not blame his party for not performing well in Saturday's Senate elections.
“People should not take out their frustration on us… everything is being blamed on us” he said while addressing a news conference here.
The PPP chairman was responding to allegations of horse-trading, or buying votes through money, by Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) and PML-N.
Bilawal also urged Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan (MQM-P) of resolving the issues of infighting by itself and not place the blame on PPP, after over 10 MQM-P MPAs in Sindh vote for PPP in Senate elections.
Taking a jibe at Imran, Bilawal said that the PTI chief should promote ideological candidates and not ATMs.
He said that PPP has various reasons for clinching seats on Senate, terming Imran’s absence from voting process as among the reasons for his party MPAs being disoriented.
Regarding PML-N’s claim that it is the single largest party in Senate, Bilawal said it is unfair for them to say that because all their candidates contested as independent. 
According to unofficial Senate results, PML-N clinched 15 seats and PPP won 12 seats in the polls.

PPP wins Senate election in Sindh

Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) bagged 10 seats from Sindh Assembly. 

Muttahida Quami Movement Pakistan (MQM-P) bagged one seat from Sindh. 

Pakistan Muslim Functional one seat from Sindh. According to the details, PPP candidates form Sindh, Raza Rabani, Mola Bux Chandio, Mustafa Nawaz Khokhar, Syed Muhamad Ali Shah Jamote, Imamudin Shoukeen, Anwar Lal Din were elected from Sindh. Meanwhile, MQM-P candidate Baresteor Farogh Naseem was elected from Sindh. 

Pakistan Muslim League Functiola (PML-F) candidate Syed Muzafar Hussain Shah was elcted from Sindh.

Video Report - Bilawal Bhutto Zardari holds meeting with PPP’s Senators-elect, extends congratulations

Chairman Pakistan Peoples Party Bilawal Bhutto Zardari extended congratulations to the newly-elected Senators from Sindh at meeting held at Bilawal House on Sunday evening.

The meeting was attended by Chief Minister Sindh Murad Ali Shah, Chairman Senate Raza Rabbani, Senators-elect Maula Bux Chandio, Dr Sikandar Mandharo, Mustafa Nawaz Khokhar, Mohammad Ali Shah Jamote, Imamuddin Shauqeen, Rukhsana Zubairi, Kirshin Kolhi. Qurratul Ain Marri and Anwar Lal Dean.

Sindh Ministers Mukesh Kumar Chawla, Imdad Pitafi, Fayyaz Ahmed Butt, MPA Awais Shah and others were also present at the meeting.