Monday, April 16, 2018

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#Pakistan - Ghost schools of #Balochistan

Ali Jan Maqsood

AQ Peeri, a high school student in village Hirronk, describes how his teacher T. Ali enters the class with his cell phone in hand. Fifteen minutes later, he sits down and starts a short conversation with one student. His mobile phone rings again and he goes outside to attend it.
He comes back after five minutes and says: “Ady mai deek be mara nelet. Bare yak gappe Kant. Bachaka soor makane, na ke shuma bazzag bay.” Deek is an informal word in Balochi which is used to replace ‘wife’ (My wife doesn’t give me space. Every day she says do this, do that. Boys, I suggest you to never marry in life.) Just as he uttered these words, his cell phone rang again and this time he didn’t come back to class because the bell rang.
Is this what students get up for so early in the morning? Should teachers be discussing this kind of personal stuff with students? Is it the place of a teacher to use such informal language for his own wife? And they wonder why large number of students quit their studies and look for jobs as garage mechanic, drivers.
One of my classmates, Adil Ali, hails from a rural area. He told me about the state of affairs in his village Khairabad. Classes are scheduled without appointment of teachers. Moreover, when students are promoted to grade 9, they still lack understanding of Science and Arts and more so, there is a lack of prior career counselling.
I met Adil for the first time in college when he told me that he wanted to become an engineer but thought that engineering was available in every field of education. By the time he understood the system, it was too late to make the right choice.
Each year in Turbat, more than 2,000 students arrive from the surrounding countryside to continue their studies. We have no colleges or universities in the rural areas. While they come to the city, their concept of educational institutions is that they are similar to what they have seen in the villages. “There is no reason to attend classes. We will bunk and do self-study. Teachers are lazy, they don’t teach well. They only take salaries.”
Sanaullah Samad, one of my closest colleagues in DELTA, an institute of English, is a resident of village Shapuk. He migrated to Turbat city three years ago with a little brother and three sisters. “It has been three and a half years that the teachers of the high school in Shapuk have stopped showing up on time and the students of the village just come and go every day without gaining anything. I have published more than 100 letters in different newspapers in order to highlight the issue to the higher-ups but no action has been taken yet.”
Take the example of Balgatar, a village located between Turbat and Panjgor districts. It doesn’t have electricity. There is one high school where daily classes are held but the students cheat in exams. Mehr Ali, a cousin of mine, is domiciled there. He has passed his Matric exam. During the exams, he was present in Turbat city. In order to confirm whether the cheating claims were true or not, I asked him to which he replied: “There is no checking of fake students. Just go and give the paper anytime you want.” “Don’t you fail?” “Failing in Balochistan? Don’t joke man.”
Kassak village is nearly 30 km away from Turbat. The village has only one high school in name. The school has three teachers with three classes which are broken down. Interviewing a colleague in Kassak, Shakeel Phullan, I came to know that the teachers don’t attend classes on a regular basis and students often spend time playing cricket in school. “The school was donated by a local leader, Zahoor Ahmed Buledai on behalf of the Balochistan government but the authorities are not giving responses to the schools.” Some of the passionate students of Kassak go to Jussak high school which is 15 km away.
Kallag village perhaps tops the list; nearly roughly 90% of its residents are unaware of the benefits of education. Children are married at the age of 12 to 15 and are asked to work in the farms or as labours. One of my friends in Kallag, Hafeezullah, survived by moving to Turbat city for an education. He was forced by his parents to marry at 14 years, but he refused and settled in Turbat where he is a part-time teacher in an English institution. “My parents scolded me and said that they were not going to arrange my wedding at their own cost.”

#Pakistan - Soaring textbook prices forcing families to sacrifice necessities

Riaz Andy

Article 25A of the Constitution of Pakistan states: “The State shall provide free and compulsory education to all children of the age of five to sixteen years in such manner as may be determined by law.”
The reality, however, couldn’t be more different. As textbook prices and other education-related expenses spiral out of control, families struggling to make ends meet are forced to sacrifice other necessities to keep their children in school.
“I toil hard to make education possible for my child. I have to forego food in order to afford the education. I beg [the government], please do something for the high textbook costs. Where will the money come from? What do I do?” pleads a woman in tears.
According to the Pakistan Bureau of Statistics, cost of education in the country soared 18% between March 2017 and March 2018.
“A book that costs Rs 40 is selling for Rs 120, 140 with just the addition of a monogram,” tells a shopkeeper. “Everything is expensive.”
The inflation has not only impacted textbook prices; the prices of stationery and other education-related accessories have also risen. Education is no longer a cause, it has become commercialised like any other industry.
The question remains: can the State ever take on the responsibility for free education? Can the hard-earning parents ever find relief? 

#Pakistan - Former federal Finance Minister with KP political figures joins PPP

Renowned political leaders of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa called on the former President Asif Ali Zardari at Zardari House Islamabad on Monday evening and announced joining Pakistan Peoples Party.
The leaders who joined the Party included former federal Finance Minister Nawabzada Mohsin Ali Khan, president PTI Hayatabad Dr. Ilyas Khattak and nephew of ANP leader Afrasiyab Khattak, Mutiullah Khattak. Former Prime Minister Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani, President PPP KP Humayun Khan, former federal Minister Lal Khan and others were also present on the occasion.
New entrants in the Party said that the PPP leadership always fulfilled the promises they made to the people. President Zardari gave identity to the people of KP. Pakistan Peoples Party is the party of great leaders Shaheed Zulfikar Ali Bhutto and Shaheed Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto. They reposed full confidence on the leadership of Asif Ali Zardari and Bilawal Bhutto Zardari. Former President welcomed the new entrants in the Party.

#Pakistan - Bilawal Bhutto To Address Conventions

Chairman Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), Bilawal Bhutto, will address Women, Labour and People lawyersForum (PLF) conventions in different districts of South Punjab in his next visit.
The decision was made in a meeting of party's wings at People's secretariat under the chairmanship of PPP South Punjab Acting president at Bilawal House here on Monday. It was decided that all wings of the party would play its role for upcoming general elections for campaigning, said a press release issued here.

Video report - Why did Pakistan's Geo TV go dark?

Early last month, Pakistan's Geo TV went black and remains off the air across much of the country and no one in a position of authority is saying why. Government ministers and the broadcasting regulator have denied any involvement.
The cable companies that pulled the plug on Geo are staying silent. As is the Pakistani military, which has butted heads with Geo before and is suspected by numerous political and media observers as having ordered the blackout.
While Geo TV used to follow the government line, it has in the last decade began to grow in another direction, according to observers.
"What we see now is actually Geo trying to not completely follow the state narrative on politics and that is largely considered to be the source of current friction between the channel and the military, according to Ayesha Siddiqa, research associate at SOAS University and author of Military Inc. "Geo was offering a bit of an alternative and even that was not tolerated."
It's a very critical moment in Pakistan's media industry when it has to make choices and stand up for itself. Because if it doesn't stand up, then there will be little difference between Sisi's Egypt and this Pakistan.
Ayesha Siddiqa, research associate, SOAS University and author of Military Inc.
Authorities in various countries tend to grow less tolerant of critical journalism as elections approach - and Pakistan has one coming up later this year.
Among the election-related topics Geo has covered that may have landed it in trouble is the 18th amendment, a constitutional change made in 2010 that forbids the military from getting involved in political areas outside its own remit of defence.
The army chief of staff wants that amendment abolished. Geo has taken a contrary - and, therefore, politically contentious view.
There is also the corruption trial of former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, who was permanently banned from politics by the Supreme Court this past week. His visibility has been much higher on Geo than on other news channels.
"Recently, New York Times wrote an article and they claimed that Geo is supporting Nawaz Sharif, so that's why some powerful people in Pakistan are not happy with the Geo TV," says Hamid Mir, senior anchor at Geo News. "But even if Geo is supporting Nawaz Sharif, it is not a legal excuse to shut down a TV channel."
The Pakistani media's almost complete silence on the side-lining of their journalistic colleagues at Geo tells its own story. One that could, in the not too distant future, come back to haunt them.
"Geo's story has not been reported anywhere except for the social media, and this is extremely unfortunate," explains Asad Baig, executive director at Media Matters for Pakistan. "Naturally, we don't expect any of these rivals to be reporting the shutdown of Geo. Why would they? It's good for their business. It's as plain and simple as that."

ایک پشتون کا جواب شکوہ #PashtunTahaffazMovement

بقلم: عامر سعید
طالبان کا مغربی سرحد سے حملہ کر کے چھ مہینوں میں فاٹا پر قبضہ کرنا ایک مفروضہ ہے۔ یہ لوگ پہلے بھی ادھر تھے اور آج بھی ادھر موجود ہیں جس پر ریاست خاموش ہے۔ جہاں تک جنرل طارق کے آپریشن کی بات ہے تو وہ قوم کو ذرا بتائیں کہ انہوں نے کتنے طالبان کمانڈر مارے ہیں ان آپریشنوں میں؟ نیک محمد، بیت الله محسود، حکیم الله محسود اور ولی الرحمن سمیت تمام طالبان قیادت تو امریکی ڈرون حملوں میں ہلاک ہوئی ہے تو فوج نے کیا کیا ہے وہاں پر؟
‏شکوہ: جنگ پشتون علاقوں میں اس لئے ہورہی ہے کیونکہ پشتون علاقے افغانستان کے بارڈر پر ہیں.
جواب شکوہ: پشتون علاقے آج سے نہیں بلکہ کتنے سالوں سے افغانستان کے بارڈر پر ہیں. اس سے زیادہ سخت حالات پاکستان کے اوپر آئے ہیں، ٦٥ کی جنگ، ٧١ کی جنگ. نہ اس بارڈر سے پاکستان کو کوئی نقصان ہوا ہے اور نہ افغانستان سے ایسے لوگ ان اوقات میں وہاں سے آئے ہیں. ٩/١١ کے بعد جو لوگ یہاں پر آئے تھے، انھیں welcome کس نے کیا تھا؟ کیا ریاست سو رہی تھی اس وقت؟ انھیں روکا کیوں نہیں گیا؟ اس وقت ریاست خاموش تماشائی بنی رہی. وہ آگئے یہاں پر اور جو چاہتے تھے انہوں نے کیا. وہ اس معاشرے میں جب زم ہورہے تھے تو ریاست اس وقت کیا کر رہی تھی؟ ریاست اس وقت ان لوگوں کے ساتھ معاہدے کر رہی تھی. پچھلے ١٥ سالوں میں متعدد معاہدے ہوئے ہیں ان لوگوں کے ساتھ اور تمام معاہدوں میں یہ بات تھی کہ نہ وہ فوج کو کچھ نہیں کہیں گے اور نہ فوج انکو کچھ کہے گی. اس دوران طالبان بھی عام عوام کا قتل عام کر رہے تھے اور فوج بھی آپریشن کے نام پر عوام کا استحصال کر رہی تھی. ١٥ سال کے ان آپریشنوں میں کتنے طالبان یا القاعدہ کمانڈر مارے ہیں فوج نے؟ جتنے بھی مرے ہیں، امریکی ڈرون حملوں میں مرے ہیں. ٩/١١ کے بعد یہ ریاست ان لوگوں کو پشتون علاقوں میں لائی جو انکے دوست تھے اور ریاست کے ناک کے نیچے یہ سب کچھ ہوتا رہا.
‏شکوہ: دہشتگردوں کے خلاف آپریشن کی ریہرسل میں پشتونوں کا حلیہ اسلئے دکھایا جاتا ہے کیونکہ اصل دہشتگردوں کی ویڈیوز میں یہی حلیہ ہوتا ہے۔
جواب شکوہ: داڑھی صرف پشتونوں کی نہیں ہوتی. ہم نے دیکھا کہ یہاں پر عرب، ازبک، تاجک، چیچن اور پنجابی طالبان بھی آئے پھر ان فلموں اور ویڈیوز میں ہم نے کبھی عربی یا پنجابی بولنے والا دہشتگرد کیوں نہیں دیکھا؟ ہمارا اعتراض یہ ہے کہ جب بھی دہشتگرد کا حلیہ دکھایا جاتا ہے وہ پشتون کا حلیہ ہوتا ہے. جب بھی دہشتگرد کی زبان دکھائی جاتی ہے وہ پشتو ہوتی ہے.
‏شکوہ: دہشتگردی کا شکار پشتون زیادہ اسلئے ہیں کیونکہ دہشتگردی کرنے والے پشتون ہیں.
‏جواب شکوہ: پشتون اپنی زمین پر امن چاہتے ہیں اور ساتھ ساتھ پورے خطے میں امن کے خواہشمند ہیں. ہم نے کبھی یہ نہیں کہا کہ پشتونوں کے علاقوں میں دھماکے بند کرکے پنجاب میں دھماکے شروع کردو. پشتون یہ نہیں کہہ رہے کہ پنجاب میں دھماکے کیوں نہیں ہورہے. ہم یہ پوچھ رہے ہیں کہ ہماری سرزمین پر کیوں دھماکے اور دہشتگردی ہورہی ہے. سوال ہمارا یہ ہے کہ جو دہشتگرد بارڈر پار کر کے پشاور تک پہنچ سکتا ہے وہ اسلام آباد اور لاہور بھی پہنچ سکتا ہے لیکن ایسا کونسا Vested Interest ہے کہ دہشتگردی ہماری ہی زمین پر زیادہ ہورہی ہے. اگر یہ بات مان لی جائے کہ طالبان کی اکثریت پشتون ہے اور اسی لئے پشتون علاقوں میں دہشتگردی زیادہ ہے تو سوال یہ ہے کہ عصمت الله معاویہ پنجاب سے اٹھ کر پشتون علاقوں میں کاروائیاں کرنے آتا ہے تو پنجاب میں کیوں نہیں کرتا؟ شاید ریاست نے اسے پنجاب میں وہ ماحول نہیں دیا جو اسی ریاست نے اسے پشتون علاقوں میں دیا ہے جہاں وہ آکر بآسانی اپنی کاروائیاں کرسکتے ہیں.
‏شکوہ: بارودی سرنگیں پاک فوج نے نہیں بلکہ دہشتگردوں نے بچھائی ہیں. صفائی کا عمل جاری ہے اور اس میں زیادہ جانی نقصان فوج کا ہورہا ہے.
‏جواب شکوہ: ہم تو یہ بات ہی نہیں کر رہے کہ کس نے بارودی سرنگیں بچھائی ہیں. فوج نے بچھائی ہیں یا طالبان نے، انہیں صاف کرنا فوج کی ذمہ داری ہے یا پشتون عوام کی؟ جنوبی وزیرستان کا محسود بلٹ ٩ سال IDP رہا. ٩ سال میں انکا علاقہ کلئیر کر کے عوام کو واپس گھروں میں لوٹنے کا اعلان کرنے کے بعد انکے بچے بارودی سرنگوں میں شہید اور معزور ہو تو یہ کس کا قصور ہے؟ جہاں تک جانی نقصان کا تعلق ہے تو صرف پچھلے چھ مہینوں کے دوران ٨٠ کے قریب بچے یا تو جان سے ہاتھ دھو بیٹھے ہیں یا زندگی بھر کے لئے معزور ہوگئے ہیں. اگر صفائی کا عمل جاری تھا تو اتنا زیادہ جانی نقصان کیوں ہورہا ہے؟ بارودی سرنگوں کی صفائی کا عمل اسلام آباد دھرنے کے بعد تیز ہوا ہے ورنہ اس سے پہلے کوئی خاص صفائی کا عمل دکھائی نہیں دے رہا تھا.
شکوہ: پشتون پاکستان کی مغربی سرحد کے محافظ ہیں یہ ایک مفروضہ ہے کیونکہ وہاں سے کبھی کوئی حملہ ہوا ہی نہیں. جب طالبان نے حملہ کیا تو چھ مہینوں میں انہوں نے فاٹا فتح کرلیا جس کے بعد فوج کو آنا پڑا. ٹانک سے تعلق رکھنے والے جنرل طارق نے پہلا آپریشن کیا.
‏جواب شکوہ: مغربی سرحد سے طالبان نے حملہ کیا ہی نہیں. ان لوگوں کو ریاست نے ادھر آرام سے بٹھایا. آج بھی یہ دہشتگرد وانا سمیت پاکستان کے ہر حصے میں کھلے عام پھرتے ہیں اور ریاست نے اپنی آنکھیں بند کی ہوئی ہیں. طالبان کا مغربی سرحد سے حملہ کر کے چھ مہینوں میں فاٹا پر قبضہ کرنا ایک مفروضہ ہے. یہ لوگ پہلے بھی ادھر تھے اور آج بھی ادھر موجود ہیں جس پر ریاست خاموش ہے. جہاں تک جنرل طارق کے آپریشن کی بات ہے تو وہ قوم کو ذرا بتائیں کہ انہوں نے کتنے طالبان کمانڈر مارے ہیں ان آپریشنوں میں؟ نیک محمد، بیت الله محسود، حکیم الله محسود اور ولی الرحمن سمیت تمام طالبان قیادت تو امریکی درون میں ہلاک ہوئی ہے تو فوج نے کیا ہے وہاں پر؟

#PashtunTahafuzMovement - I am Pashteen – Gul Bukhari’s article which wasn’t published in The Nation today

Editor’s note: The following article by Gul Bukhari could not published by The Nation today for discussing Pashtun Tahafuz Movement. However, we at Naya Daur believe that the article does not criticise any state institution but is an attempt to address the misconceptions about PTM and therefore must reach the audience.

General Bajwa’s comments on PTM

It is astonishing that the country’s military leadership has alluded to the Pashtun Tahafuz Movement as ‘engineered’, with foreign connections. On Thursday the army chief said that ‘engineered protests’ will not be allowed to reverse the gains of counter-terrorism operations and cautioned the nation against forgetting sacrifices of the ‘real heros’, regretting that ‘no sooner had peace returned to FATA than a movement was started’. For the second time in a week on Saturday, the army chief again alluded to the movement as a ‘hybrid war’ being waged on Pakistan to internally weaken the country, but also noted that ‘the enemies were failing to divide the country on the basis of ethnicity and other identities.’ Both times he neither named the PTM nor its leaders.

What is PTM actually demanding?

Setting aside the noise and obfuscation surrounding the movement, first one need only look at the demands of the movement, asking for the restoration of the same fundamental rights that most citizens of other provinces enjoy. Manzoor, and the other leaders, ask to produce in courts of law persons made forcibly missing; they ask for a life of dignity – to not be humiliated for hours at military check-posts while commuting; they ask for their area to be cleared of landmines that are still killing and maiming them; they ask not to be collectively punished for crimes by unknown persons; and they ask for the killer of Naqeebullah Mehsood to be brought to justice. To bring to life the nature of their demands, the leaders of the movement are telling stories of human tragedy in every other household of FATA, stories that earlier remained hidden from view because of a lack of access to the media in FATA.

Support from Afghanistan?

How such demands can be engineered by foreign forces is beyond comprehension. Turned on its head, such statements would imply that the enemies of Pakistan want its citizens to have a life of peace and dignity, but the state does not. It makes no sense whatsoever.
Do we Pakistanis not sympathise with and support the Kashmiris in India? Does that make the uprising in Indian held Kashmir engineered by Pakistan? No it does not.
However, if the statement is in reaction to the sympathy the movement has found among Afghan Pashtuns and in others around the world, then the reaction should itself be analysed with common sense. Firstly, the people of FATA have tribes and families living across the Durand Line and would find natural sympathy and empathy by a people who have lived with similar horrors of war for decades. The support and sympathy are natural, not born out of enmity for the Pakistani state. I would urge the establishment to also consider this: do we Pakistanis not sympathise with and support the Kashmiris in India? Does that make the uprising in Indian held Kashmir engineered by Pakistan? No it does not. Do we not lend moral support to the Palestinians, or to the Rohingya in Burma? Are those not natural and human reactions of horror and sympathy? They make not the intefadahs engineered by Pakistan!

We love our country as much as you do

Expressions of support for the PTM have come from across Pakistan. To name but a few, is Imran Khan, a Pashtun, also playing in foreign hands in asking for justice for the people of FATA? Is Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, a Sindhi son of the soil, also an enemy of the sate of Pakistan? Am I, a Punjabi, a part of the ‘hybrid war’ being waged on Pakistan? Or are Babar Sattar and Raza Rumi, also Punjabis, all ‘anti-state’ elements? Are senators Afrasiab Khattak, Syed Ali Raza Abidi, Mushahid Husain Saiyid waging war on the country? No, Sir, we all love our country and our people. We want peace, education, dignity, and security for all our countrymen and women. If wanting this for Pakistanis is treason, then we are traitors.
At one level or another, every ethnicity and most Pakistanis have felt the blow of violation of their fundamental rights.
I would also urge the establishment to consider how members of the Tehreek Labbiak Ya Rasool Allah are ‘our people’ to be engaged with, and at the cost of paralyzing the government of Pakistan, while PTM’s peaceful protestors merely asking for fundamental rights are foreign agents not be allowed to protest?

PTM not dividing but uniting Pakistan

To address the concern that the PTM is dividing the country on ethnic lines, I would assert that to the contrary, the movement is uniting ethnicities because of human empathy which rises above differences of ethnicity, cast or creed. The voices of support belong not just to the Pashtun, but also to the Punjabi, Mohajir, Sindhi and Baloch. Another reason the sympathy and support cuts across ethnicities is that the demand for fundamental rights also resonates with the rest. At one level or another, every ethnicity and most Pakistanis have felt the blow of violation of their fundamental rights.

Dismal state of freedom of speech in the country

Take the right of free speech. Almost everyone who has dissented has seen their right being violated either by being muted, blacked out, by threat or by death. Journalists are beaten and killed in this country for doing their duty, no matter their ethnicity. Take the right to information. As we speak the largest news group is blacked out in most parts of the country, without explanation or cause. Take the right to security. Punjabi bloggers were forcibly disappeared and tortured before being released mysteriously. Take the right to education. Universities are made to cancel events meant for their students to listen, to think and to debate.
Then take it as good news Manzur Pashteen and his movement is uniting the people of Pakistan like never before. And the reasons are both sympathy and empathy.

The criticism on army

If what rankles is slogans of ‘ye jo dehshat gardi hai, iss ke peechay wardi hai’, then what is needed is wisdom and courage to not only understand what is meant by it, but also to acknowledge the people’s anger at the tragedies they have suffered at the hands of state policies. It should not be hard to do so, given that Pakistan army’s own generals, generals Musharraf and Hameed Gul to name two, have stated that the military amassed religious militants in FATA as a tool of foreign policy.
Who does not know this? For decades the people of FATA have paid with their lives for the militants and then the subsequent war imposed on them. People across the rest of Pakistan have also paid with their lives, but not in as great numbers.

Those soldiers were ours too

The ‘real heroes’ are indeed heroes. Not a single man or woman of any ethnicity can forget their sacrifices. We are all deeply grateful to them. But the heroes and victims are not either, or. The fact that our military soldiers and officers lost their lives in fighting the same militants the institution once planted on our soil, does not negate the suffering of the people. Both are true and real, both need to be acknowledged for healing to take place. We weep as much for our fallen soldiers and officers as we do for the civilian casualties of self-harming policies of the state.
In fighting the militancy, human rights abuses were also committed. Those too need to be acknowledged and ceased for healing to take place. The demand for ceasing of those violations is all there is to the PTM, which many of us now see not just as the Pashtun Tahafuz Movement, but as the Pakistan Tahafuz Movement. The state should engage with the movement, instead of accusing it without evidence. By and large, the citizenry is now cynical of such accusations because of the jaded use of such tactics for seventy years.

Pakistan Watchdog Says Country Failing on Human Rights

An independent Pakistani watchdog criticized the country's human rights record over the past year in a new report released Monday, saying the nation has failed to make progress on a myriad of issues, ranging from forced disappearances, to women's rights and protection of religious minorities.
The damning report card issued by the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan says people continue to disappear in Pakistan, sometimes because they criticize the country's powerful military or because they advocate better relations with neighboring India. The controversial blasphemy law continues to be misused, especially against dissidents, with cases in which mere accusations that someone committed blasphemy lead to deadly mob violence, it said.
While deaths directly linked to acts of terrorism declined in 2017, the report says attacks against the country's minorities were on the rise.
The 296-page report was dedicated to one of the commission's founders, Asma Jahangir, whose death in February generated worldwide outpouring of grief and accolades for the 66-year-old activist who was fierce in her commitment to human rights. "We have lost a human rights giant," U.N. Secretary General Antonio Guterres said following Jahangir's death. "She was a tireless advocate for inalienable rights of all people and for equality - whether in her capacity as a Pakistani lawyer in the domestic justice system, as a global civil society activist, or as a Special Rapporteur ... Asma will not be forgotten."
Monday's report also took aim at religious bigotry in Pakistan and the government's refusal to push back against religious zealots, fearing a backlash.
"Freedom of expression and freedom of association is under attack, except for those who carry the religious banner," commission spokesman I.A. Rehman said at the release of the report, which accused Pakistani authorities of ignoring "intolerance and extremism." Religious conservative organizations continue to resist laws aimed at curbing violence against women, laws giving greater rights to women and removing legal restrictions on social exchanges between sexes, which remain segregated in many parts of Pakistani society, it said.
Still, there was legal progress in other areas, it noted, describing as a "landmark development" a new law in the country's largest province, Punjab, which accepts marriage licenses within the Sikh community at the local level, giving the unions protection under the law.
But religious minorities in Pakistan continued to be a target of extremists, it said, citing attacks on Shiites, Christians falsely accuse of blasphemy and also on Ahmedis, a sect reviled by mainstream Muslims as heretics. Ahmedis are not allowed under Pakistan's constitution to call themselves Muslims.
"In a year when freedom of thought, conscience and religion continued to be stifled, incitement to hatred and bigotry increased, and tolerance receded even further," said the report. On Sunday in Quetta, the capital of southwestern Baluchistan province, gunmen attacked Christian worshippers as they left Sunday services, killing two. Five other worshippers were wounded, two seriously.
Last year was a troubling year for activists, journalists and bloggers who challenged Pakistan's military. Several were detained, including five bloggers who subsequently fled the country after their release. From exile, some of them said their captors were agents of Pakistan's intelligence agency, ISI. The agency routinely refuses to comment on accusations it is behind the disappearances. The bloggers were also threatened with charges of blasphemy. In December, Raza Mehmood Khan, an activist who worked with schoolchildren on both sides of the border to foster better relations was picked up by several men believed to be from the ISI after leaving a meeting that criticized religious extremism.
In recent weeks, Pakistan's Geo Television has been forced off the air in much of the country. Many activists have blamed this on the military, which took umbrage when the outlet criticized the country's security institutions.
Last year, a government-mandated commission on enforced disappearances received 868 new cases, more than in two previous years, the report said. The commission located 555 of the disappeared but the remaining 313 are still missing. "Journalists and bloggers continue to sustain threats, attacks and abductions and blasphemy law serves to coerce people into silence," the report said.

Bilawal Bhutto Zardari strongly condemns terrorist attack near Church area in Quetta

Chairman Pakistan Peoples Party Bilawal Bhutto Zardari has strongly condemned terrorist attack near Church area in Quetta in which innocent persons were killed on Sunday.
In a statement, the PPP Chairman said that terrorists unleashed serial attacks on Christian community in Quetta to tarnish the image of the country and its harmonious society and demanded for stern action against terrorists involved in these attacks.
Bilawal Bhutto Zardari expressed sympathy with those who fell victims to the Quetta terrorist attacks and demanded best possible medical treatment to those injured in the attack.