Thursday, May 10, 2018

@ReleaseAsiaBibi - Free Asia Bibi Campaign Launches International Poster Competition

UK based Free Asia Bibi Campaign has launched an international poster competition to draw the world’s attention toward the plight of Asia Bibi, Pakistani Christian mother of five, who has been on death row in Pakistan since 2010 after having been accused of having committed blasphemy in 2009.
Trouble began for Ms Bibi when she drank water from a glass which was owned by her former Muslim co-farmworkers. Ms Bibi and her women farm colleagues had a verbal altercation which was subsequently given a religious tinge and Ms Bibi was accused of having committed blasphemy.
“Asia Bibi has been languishing in prison for 8 years and 307 days after having been accused of having committed blasphemy. We have launched an international poster competition to draw the world’s attention towards the prolonged incarceration of Asia Bibi”, said Sheraz Khan, Chief executive of Free Asia Bibi Campaign UK.
Ms Bibi’s appeal is currently pending with Supreme Court of Pakistan although Mian Saqib Nisar, the Chief Justice of Pakistan has recently stated that the Supreme Court will soon fix a date for Ms Bibi’s hearing.
Mr Khan stated that the competition invites applications from two categories: people aged 10 until 17 and people aged 18 and above.
“We urge people from around the world to send posters to us. Please express your solidarity with Asia Bibi by making a poster”, said Mr Khan, who has written extensively on Christian persecution and has recently delivered a petition addressed to Prime Minister Theresa May at 10 Downing Street to draw Mrs May’s attention, among other issues, towards the plight of Asia Bibi.
Mr Khan stated that anyone anywhere in the world could send a poster to Free Asia Bibi Campaign UK, adding that posters sent for the competition must have an image or a manually drawn sketch of Asia Bibi.
“The posters must call for the release of Asia Bibi. You could draw or use images highlighting the misuse of Pakistan’s blasphemy laws”, said Mr Khan.
Mr Khan stated that in each of the two categories prizes worth £ 100 (1st) £60 (2nd) and £40 (3rd) would be awarded to the winning contestants. He went on to say that the last date for submitting an entry for the poster competition is the 10th of July, adding that the winners of the contest will be announced on the 31st of July.
Mr Khan stated that the winning posters will be sent alongside a letter written by him to the heads of states of G-20 countries, the UK House of Commons, the House of Lords, the European Parliament and the Secretary General of the United Nations. The letter, he stated, will call for the release of Asia Bibi.
Mr Khan urged churches all over the world to pray for Asia Bibi, and encourage their congregants to participate in the poster competition.
“I would like to reach out to all church leaders, church pastors, Christian brothers and sisters, ministries, Christian and human rights organisations to invite them to participate in the poster competition”
Journalist and human rights activist Mr Khan said that he was profoundly concerned about the misuse of Pakistan’s blasphemy laws.
Pakistan’s blasphemy laws are not only being abused to target Christians and other religious minorities but Pakistani Muslims are also being implicated in false blasphemy cases, he said.
Mr Khan urged the Pakistani authorities to put in place measures aimed at stopping the misuse of the blasphemy laws.
Entire Christian residential settlements, churches and even people have been burned to death on accusations that Christians had committed blasphemy.
In 2013, Joseph colony, a Christian residential area in the Pakistani eastern city of Lahore was set on fire after it was rumoured that Christians had committed blasphemy.
At least 1000 people fled their homes in Shahdrah, a town near Lahore, when a Patras Masih, a young Christian man was accused of having committed blasphemy.
Sajid Masih, Patras Masih’s cousin, was allegedly tortured and forced to sodomise his cousin whilst the two men were being investigated by Pakistan’s Federal Investigation Agency (FIA). Sajid Masih refused the “orders” and instead jumped off the window of the fourth floor of the FIA building in Lahore. Sajid Masih sustained critical injuries and is now receiving medical treatment at an undisclosed hospital in Pakistan.
Mr Khan urged the international community to step up its efforts aimed at getting Ms Bibi released.
“Alongside Ms Bibi all people who are rotting in Pakistani prisons after having been accused of committing blasphemy must be immediately and unconditionally released”, said Mr Khan.
Free Asia Bibi Campaign UK ( launched in December 2017. Entries for the international poster competition should be sent at the following address: International Poster Competition, Capital Office, Kemp House 152-160, City Road, London, EC1V 2NX
Cell: 00447384395635
Twitter: @ReleaseAsiaBibi

Pakistan’s diplomatic limbo in DC

Syed Mohammad Ali
Pakistan and the US have witnessed a tumultuous relationship in the post 9/11 period and there is no sign of this relationship experiencing an upswing any time soon. The US has not only withheld aid but also pushed for placing Pakistan on a global terror financing watch-list, which is to be released in June. The fact that we again do not have a foreign minister, or a full-time ambassador in the US, is certainly not reassuring.
Long gone are the days when Pakistan was still viewed as a longtime strategic partner, which had even played an important role in facilitating US-Chinese rapprochement during the Nixon era. Policy and opinion makers in the US are tired of hearing about how Pakistan helped defeat the Soviets in Afghanistan and how it was abandoned subsequently. These grievances are rebutted by claims of Pakistan’s deflection of US aid during the proxy war in Afghanistan towards countering India.
It is unfortunate that we did not even have a foreign minister till this past August, and the foreign minister we got did little to assuage negative western perceptions of Pakistan. His tit-for-tat reaction to President Trump’s harsh tweet about Pakistan’s ‘deceitfulness’, where he called the US a “friend who always betrays” us, did not win us much sympathy in DC. However, the Supreme Court disqualification of Khawaja Asif has again left the country’s foreign ministry rudderless, and this is how it will probably remain until after the coming general elections.
Pakistan urgently needs not only a capable foreign minister, but also an exceptional ambassador to the US. Our foreign minister and our top diplomat in the US should possess the charisma and insight to go beyond denying charges of duplicity, or trying to rebut them by adopting an increasingly hostile posture.
We need diplomats who can help project a more nuanced and sympathetic understanding of Pakistan’s regional insecurities, rather than merely bemoaning how we have been turned into a scapegoat for the failures of American interventionism. Our ambassador to the US needs to make opinion makers and legislators within the US realize the folly of a myopic Af-Pak approach, as they simultaneously pursue a multifaceted engagement with India to counteract China. In the absence of more creative diplomatic leadership, Pakistan will remain underappreciated and distrusted.
Last summer, an audience at an influential thinktank in Washington, DC literally burst into laughter when our then-newly appointed ambassador to the US, Aizaz Chaudhry, asserted that Pakistan offers no safe sanctuaries to terrorists. This audience was much more sympathetic to the views of the former US ambassador to Afghanistan and the Indian panelists who blamed Pakistan for continuing to use non-state actors in its bid to retain strategic depth.
Pakistan watchers in Washington DC are aware of the growing collaboration between Pakistan and China, and there are varied speculations about what this collaboration will mean for Pakistan, and for broader strategic configurations within the region. However, our closer relationship with China does not mean that we can afford to ignore what the rest of the world thinks of us.
Such haphazard diplomacy will not be able to alter the prevailing negative perceptions concerning Pakistan within Washington DC which, for better or for worse, holds immense sway in how the western world views and deals with us.

Bilawal Bhutto visits late actor Madeeha Gohar's home to pay condolences to her family

Bilawal Bhutto, on Wednesday, visited the residence of Ajoka Theatre founder Madeeha Gohar to personally offer his condolences to the late stage actor’s family. He also said a prayer for the departed soul.
The Pakistan Peoples’ Party (PPP) chairman travelled to her house on Server Road, Lahore, and met with Gohar’s husband, senior playwright Shahid Mehmood Nadeem and her two sons Nirvaan and Saarang. Her brother and his family, along with PPP secretary general Chaudhry Manzoor, Asim Bhatti and others officials, were also present at the meeting.
Bhutto acknowledged the great contributions Gohar made to Pakistan’s performing arts industry and spoke highly of her progressive mindset, perseverance and devotion to spreading peace and prosperity not just in Pakistan but across the world.
He said she was a very courageous lady and a champion for human rights, who not only highlighted socio-political issues through her work but also inspired others to take a stand as well. He went on to add that Gohar introduced Pakistani parallel theatre to the world and gracefully represented the country internationally.
While speaking about arts, Bhutto said that he hoped Ajoka Theatre will carry on the mission Gohar founded it with 34 years ago and continue using theatre as an effective medium for social awareness and enlightenment.
Nadeem added that PPP has always been a proponent of performing arts and given its support to the artistic community. He further stated that Ajoka Theatre has always believed in the supremacy of fundamental rights, the law and democracy and will try its best to honour Gohar’s hard work through thought-provoking plays and motivational stories.

#Pakistan - Imran Khan lacks ability to create new province: Bilawal Bhutto

 PPP chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari warned that PTI was try to use South Punjab province as an election ploy.
“Did Imran Khan keep his previous promises? Did he end terrorism in 90 days? Did he fix the education and health systems in 90 days? Did he eradicate corruption in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa in 90 days?” Bilawal questioned, while addressing a gathering at Layyah on Friday.
“Imran Khan changes his stance according to the place. In Lahore, he talks about the establishment of administrative units and when he meets politicians from South Punjab, he promises to make the new province in  100 days.”
Imran Khan lacks the capacity to create a new province, he said.
“Where were all these people who have joined PTI? For five years, they enjoyed power and never raise the issue in the assembly,” Bilawal said, referring to 20 PML-N’s MNAs and MPAs from South Punjab who joined PTI.
“Do they think people are fools? Do they think that people lack political understanding? They are using this as a ploy to win your votes,” the PPP chief said.
Bilawal said that PPP had laid the foundation for South Punjab province six years ago and at that time the very same people had opposed his party.
“Only PPP has the courage and ability to address major challenges such as change of name of KP and FATA reforms. And if there is any party which can make South Punjab province, it is going to be the PPP.”

Bilawal Bhutto visits Ahsan Iqbal, seeks probe into assassination bid

Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari has called on the government to launch a probe into an assassination attempt on Interior Minister Ahsan Iqbal.
The interior minister was shot and injured in a gun attack during a visit to his constituency in his native Narowal last Sunday.
A 21-year-old man, who identified himself as Abid Hussian, was arrested along with the firearm. The suspect, a member of Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan, confessed to involvement in the shooting in his police statement.
Bilawal visited the interior minister at Lahore's Services Hospital earlier today, where Ahsan Iqbal is recovering from his gunshot wounds.
Speaking to the media outside the hospital, Bilawal condemned the attack and called for a detailed probe into the assassination bid.
"Incidents such as [the attack on Ahsan Iqbal] should not happen. Be it government or opposition, we all need to unite against politics of hate so that we can fight extremism," said Bilawal.
"We have to have zero tolerance for hate politics -- that is the only way we can fight extremism."
He also condemned the release of "terrorists" arrested over their involvement in assassination of former prime minister Benazir Bhutto.
"We submitted a request when the five terrorists were acquitted," Bilawal said. "Even DNA tests carried out at a laboratory abroad proved their involvement in the assassination, despite that bail was granted."
The PPP leader said such a move did not send a positive message across.

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