Monday, November 12, 2018

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British-Pakistani singer Zayn Malik reveals he's not Muslim anymore

British-Pakistani singer Zayn Malik in an interview with  British Vogue recently revealed that he doesn’t call himself a Muslim anymore. Earlier, the Pillow talk singer’s images with girlfriend Gigi Hadid surfaced as they celebrated Eid together with his family, which his huge fan following took in warm spirits.  
During the interview, the singer when asked about his religious beliefs said,  "To be honest, I've never spoken publicly about what my religious beliefs are. I'm not professed to be a Muslim." 
"Would he call a Muslim now?" the interviewer asked. 
Zayn added: "No, I wouldn't." 

The reaction over Malik’s statements about his religious beliefs are mixed. Some fans are in utter shock and some say that they saw it coming. The shock came because Zayn's father is a Pakistani Muslim and apparently, belongs to a Muslim family.

Revealing details about his relationship with One Direction band-mates, the 25-year-old singer, further said that he hasn’t talked to any of his ex-band members ever since he left. According to him, some ‘Snide things’ were said by his band mates after his leaving. Zayn left the band first in 2015, rest of the members took the interval after one year.
Malik recently released his new single, 'Fingers', and is preparing to announce a release date for his second album – the follow up to 2016's hit record 'Mind of Mine'. 

#Pakistan - When will the govt realize that 'embracing' rioters does not end extremism in the country

 Zarrar Khuhro
DURING the slow-motion surrender of the last two weeks, Human Rights Minister Shireen Mazari hit the mark by tweeting:
“...appeasement historically never works as Chamberlain’s Munich appeasement to­­wards Nazis showed. Appeasement to avoid ‘bloodshed’ in a war-weary Europe led to massive bloodshed & destruction in the form of WWII.”
Neville Chamberlain was the British prime minister at a time when Hitler was rapidly gobbling up territory and had recently annexed Austria. With Hitler eyeing the Sudetenland region of Czecho­slovakia, Chamberlain and others rushed to avoid a war by granting him the Sudetenland in exchange for a pledge to not make more demands. Chamberlain returned home to great acclaim, waving the Munich document and declaring that he had won “peace for our time”. Churchill disagreed, warning that “you had a choice between dishonour and war. You chose dishonour and you shall have war”. A year later, he was proven right.
But while Munich is history, our farce continues with the latest performer being Minister of State for Interior Shehryar Afridi.
We ask simply for the law to be applied to those who held us hostage.
Speaking in the Senate, he justified the release of those arrested during the lockdown by claiming that the Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) had been shown videos of the rioters and had “distanced themselves” fro
m them. Warming to his theme, he then claimed the rioters were workers of the very political parties who were present in the Senate that day.
Proudly declaring that the government had avoided violence, he added, “The government will not use bullets against its own citizens. We will embrace our citizens and hold dialogues with them.” And then, he bizarrely concluded by saying, “The people who challenge the writ of the state and take the law into their own hands will not be given any concessions.”
Now it’s hard to apply logic to such inanity, but let’s try: absolving the TLP of guilt by saying that they had disowned the rioters is a piece of spin that even the TLP wouldn’t have thought of; and accusing opposition party workers of causing the mayhem would simply be a lie.
Not using violence against rioters is laudable, but one wonders if he would feel the same way if his house had been robbed and the police decided not to challenge the dacoits because they are, well, citizens. Or perhaps he would be okay with the loot-laden thieves simply distancing themselves from the crime and being sent on their way with a hug or two, and an offer of dialogue. After all, thieves, rapists and murderers are all citizens. Why should they not merit the same treatment?
Why harp on this, the apologists ask? Did you want a massacre? Another Lal Masjid? Is peace for our time not laudable?
No one is asking for a massacre. We ask simply — as citizens — for the law to be applied to those who held us hostage for days. We ask for the tear gas and water cannons that are otherwise readily used to be used on our behalf to clear the streets that belong to us.
We ask that TLP leaders who have called for the murder of judges and for mutiny in the army to be tried under the readily available laws governing sedition, treason, mutiny and — at the very least — contempt of court. If a vague apology can wipe all that away, then we ask for the same privilege. Instead, we see rioters released and cases withdrawn.All this would be okay if it brought our little Hitlers to heel, but that’s not happening. Instead, they are predictably growing bolder and the latest video in this horror show shows us speakers at a ‘Hang Aasia conference’ calling for a similar fate for the prime minister if he fails to hang Aasia Bibi.
Ah, what a Chur­chillian moment that was when the prime minister gave a speech no one had expected: hopes were raised and political differences faded as we heard a man who would finally stand up to those who had thus far only seen appeasement. Too bad it lasted only eight minutes. Worse yet, ordinary citizens have shown more courage than the state by filing cases against TLP leaders, knowing full well what the consequences could be, even as cases against TLP leaders are withdrawn ‘in the public interest’.
The ‘Brown Shirts’ aren’t backing down, and new recruits are being found daily as evidenced by videos of little children hanging Aasia Bibi in effigy and schoolchildren calling for her death in what seems like an official assembly in the schoolyard. Nothing succeeds like success after all.
Meanwhile, the farce continues. On Iqbal Day, Shehryar Afridi tweeted a couplet of Iqbal regarding fitna and hailed it as a visionary statement against “evil doers” who used religion “to detrack a peaceful society”. If this wasn’t surreal enough coming a day after his Senate speech, it turns out that Iqbal never said anything of the sort. Truly, we live in interesting — and insane — times.

Pakistan – fourth worst country for women

Eraas Haider
As much as we understand the strength of women, we have, yet, not fully ensured their safety and empowerment equally everywhere.
Throughout history, women had it rough. By almost every measure, it was easier to be a man than to be a woman. From being unwanted before birth to getting discarded at birth, rights of women in modern societies have come a long way. With the enlightenment ideas, seeds of change were sown. It would not have been possible without the struggle of hundreds and thousands of courageous women that today they are no more disregarded as they have been for the most part of history. Women, nowadays, are climbing the ladders that were labelled as not their natural domains. They are entering territories that were a no-go for them for a long time. Pay-gaps are bridging, women representation is getting fairer, their voices are getting heard and more and more opportunities are, now, becoming available to them. If anything, it was not an easy ride for them.
It needs no telling in the twenty-first century that by empowering women, societies can achieve long-sought utopias. By giving them, their long-due, say, social and economic prosperity draws nearer. As much as we understand the strength of women, we have, yet, not fully ensured their safety and empowerment equally everywhere. Even today, in many parts of the world, women remain immobile, insecure and disempowered.
Amongst other deliverables, transportation is a key pillar to support women empowerment. It offers them security, mobility, and freedom. With the surge in public transport infrastructure and launch of ridesharing services in Pakistan, mobility has improved manifold. However, there remain serious gaps, especially around women protection.
Women remain deterred from taking public transportation due to safety and social reputation concerns. Walking in unsafe and poorly-lit neighbourhoods, waiting at bus stops and taking transport overcrowded with men puts a number of women off from commuting. Furthermore, there are usually no fixed schedules. This results in longer waiting time at bus stops, hence more susceptible to harassment.
Pakistan is the fourth worst country for women according to the rankings of the Women, Peace and Security Index last year. A study by Center for Economic Research in Pakistan (CERP) reported 70% of the surveyed men (out of 1,000 households across Lahore) discouraged their female family members from using public wagon services. In these wagon services, there is very limited seating capacity exclusive to women. Moreover, when compartments do exist, they are not fully segregated. This results in ungentlemanly staring, uncivil comments and inappropriate touching by fellow men passengers and service staff. Most drivers and conductors, themselves, lack any sort of training in regard to passenger harassment and/or dealing with passenger-to-passenger harassment. Recently, there are a number of women transportation services running in Pakistan, however their services, so far, remain very limited geographically.
Thanks to the courage of today’s women, they have started speaking up for their rights. Be it be the appalling harassment claims under #MeToo movement or incidents of misconduct during commuting, women are voicing out their concerns. In a study by CERP, six out of every ten women reported one or more such, personal, incident while using public transport. In another study, 30% of the surveyed women rated walking in their respective neighbourhoods as “extremely unsafe”.
Ridesharing companies like Uber and Careem have offered a useful alternative to an otherwise overburdened public-transport infrastructure. They are providing job opportunities to thousands of Pakistani drivers – of which approximately 98% are men – catering to the ever-increasing demand for transportation. Due to the male-dominance in ridesharing companies of Pakistan, a number of incidents happened where women’s safety was compromised. But, sadly, no serious actions were taken by the operators.
The question is where do women of our society go to get a safe ridesharing experience? A redefined ride-hailing service from Boston, Safr (Android, iOS), exclusively for women drivers and riders is trying to answer the dilemma. Safr is currently registering drivers to ensure safe transportation and financial security for its users. Let’s see if it succeeds to empower women and improve gender balance in Pakistan!

#Pakistan - OP-ED Civil disobedience

Yasser Latif Hamdani@theRealYLH
The last formal call for civil disobedience was by our current Prime Minister Mr Imran Khan during his first dharna in 2014
The article last week elicited some interesting responses from readers regarding civil disobedience with people citing the examples of Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr as two practitioners of civil disobedience. I do not wish to get into controversy about whether the movements by these two great men were successes or failures and whether in the former’s case, civil disobedience actually remained non-violent or not. The historical record is there, for everyone to access and draw their own conclusions from. My concern is here and now with Pakistan in the 21st century. Therefore the morality of the idea of civil disobedience that I speak about is limited to the Pakistani context alone and that too in 2018, when there is a constitutional government in place. I do not deny that civil disobedience might be an effective weapon against a military dictatorship that has overthrown a civilian government but even there it has to be qualified and firmly channeled around a political motive. Admittedly these conditions do not exist at the moment even if we concede that the July 25 elections were questionable to say the least.
The last formal call for civil disobedience was by our current Prime Minister Mr Imran Khan during his first dharna in` 2014, when expounding on this well worn out device, the PTI chairman asked his followers to stop paying their utility bills against the supposed injustice of the election process. Since then we have seen numerous dharnas, especially by Tehreek-e-Labbaik which took to the streets in 2017 against the Election Act amendments which sought to remove Section 7(B) that would allow all Pakistanis to be registered on the same voting list. Before the said amendments, most Pakistanis ie Hindus, Christians, Sikhs and Muslims were on one list save Ahmadis who were (and still are) on another list. Pakistan being a signatory to ICCPR is bound to undo this unconscionable discrimination against one group of people.
There was nothing about the religious status of this group in the amendments but this was made into an attack on Khatme-Nabuwat by the Tehreek-e-Labbaik. In what was an exercise in crass opportunism, PTI and its leader Imran Khan also joined the circus based on a false premise. The objective, other than bringing the PML-N government down, was to ensure that Ahmadis were effectively disenfranchised because for Ahmadis the idea of being on a supplemental list is not just a denial of their constitutionally promised status as equal citizens but also an attack on their religious freedom for they are to sign a statement saying that they are Non-Muslims; something which they are not ready to do nor are they required to do under the Constitution which only declares them Non-Muslim for the purposes of law and constitution and does not ask them to declare themselves as Non-Muslims as well. Tehreek-e-Labbaik’sprotest campaign along with PTI and other parties ensured that they continued to be kept out of the elections altogether.
298-C of the Pakistan Penal Code 1860 that denies Ahmadis the right to call themselves Muslims, refer to their places of worship as mosques or the right to give Azaan, is not just an unjust law but to any person who has read Article 20 of the Constitution it is also a patently unconstitutional law. The Supreme Court in the Judgment called Zaheeruddin versus State 1993 SCMR 1718 held this law to be constitutional in a two to one ruling, using amongst others a US Supreme Court judgment under First Amendment from 1878 that had upheld a ban on polygamy by Mormons. Strange and ironic that the Supreme Court of Pakistan would use a judgment that by the same token hits the Muslims equally in a case where something as central as religious practice was concerned.
Even with the best of intentions, it is next to impossible to control the mob. This is what makes civil disobedience wholly immoral in priest ridden emotional societies such as Pakistan or India The Supreme Court of Pakistan also reduced the idea of religious practice to one of copyright law in a remarkable feat of mental gymnastics. The Ahmadis while entirely disappointed by this judgment have remained steadfast to the notion of obedience to the law and constitution and have not given Azaan over the last 30 years. This does not mean of course that they agree with the judgment but the fact that they are the most obedient and constitutionally loyal citizens this country has — a fact that is never recognised by an unthinking majority. The Ahmadis did not resort to civil disobedience or non-cooperation because they are loyal to the doctrine that they would not rebel against the state even non-violently. People who think they should have resorted to civil disobedience sadly are totally out of touch with the ground reality of civil disobedience in the subcontinent. Civil disobedience is almost always the weapon, the gun, that the majority uses in South Asia to blackmail the government and to silence minorities. It is always the numbers that ensure success. So to expect Ahmadis or Christians to resort to civil disobedience is akin to expecting them to commit suicide in face of a tyrannical majority that is always ready to resort to violence.
The very idea of showing street power — however non-violent it may be — is to threaten the government. It is not merely a case of “I shall not obey the law and will court arrest” simpliciter. History of civil disobedience in the subcontinent is linked to the idea of hartal or strike. It is linked to the idea of blocking roads and disrupting normal course of life and to bring everything to a standstill. It means stopping children from going to school and indeed resorting to burning buses and cars, even if due care is first taken to unload them of any passengers.
The bad laws that we may see as an excuse for legitimate civil disobedience such as the anti-Ahmadi law were all put in place at some level because of actual civil or uncivil disobedience or threat of such closures. The reason why an innocent woman spent 9 years in prison was because of the mob that is always ready and willing to surround courtrooms and pressurize the judges. Even Gandhi, being committed to non-violence, was forced to call off his civil disobedience campaign because of Chaura Chauri. Every protest march and every mob eventually leads to a Chaura Chauri. When the All India Muslim League, after being wholly committed to constitutional means for 30 years, attempted its own civil disobedience campaign for the first time in 1946, it was quickly chastened by the horrific violence that happened in Calcutta. Even with the best of intentions, it is next to impossible to control the mob. This is what makes civil disobedience wholly immoral in priest ridden emotional societies such as Pakistan or India.
The only way to fight bad laws is through constitutional means. One should challenge the vires of such laws on the touchstone of fundamental rights in a court of law. Furthermore it is important to convince and persuade your fellow citizens that we have to follow the principles laid down by the various international covenants we as a country have signed on to. If all of these fail, there is still no occasion for resorting to civil disobedience. There are numerous international mechanisms by which a nation state can be held accountable under international law. These mechanisms are bound to work in an increasingly global world. Pakistan cannot live in isolation. We have to subsist and exist as part of the world and its established order. The world and its established order are premised on certain universal rights and these have to be guaranteed. This is why Jamal Khashoggi’s murder has put even a state like Saudi Arabia, oil rich and backed by commercial interests, in a corner. Therefore there is absolutely no reason why we should abandon our faith in procedure and constitutional mechanisms and instead resort to breaking of law.

'Your Passport, Please': Celebrated Activist Discovers The Price Of Dissent In Today's Pakistan

Pakistani human rights activist Gulalai Ismail had just landed in Islamabad airport when she was detained by federal agents. After nine hours, authorities released the renowned activist on bail but confiscated her passport to ensure she stayed put.
Authorities placed her on the Exit Control List, barring her from leaving the country, based on allegations that she had participated in "antistate" activities stemming from her participation in a rally in August. She fears being sent to prison on what she and others consider to be trumped-up charges.

The award-winning activist has been a critic of military operations that have killed thousands of people and uprooted millions in the country's northwestern tribal regions over the past decade.

The 33-year-old has denied the allegations, claiming that they are part of an ongoing campaign to stifle dissent in the South Asian country. Dozens of rights defenders and journalists critical of the authorities have been detained, arrested, or have fled the country out of fear for their safety in recent years.

Ismail said the allegations against her are “part of a malicious attempt by state actors to silence human rights defenders.
"I could face prison simply for speaking out about human rights," she told RFE/RL by telephone.

The allegations stem from a speech Ismail gave during a rally organized by the Pashtun Protection Movement (PTM), which has denounced the army's heavy-handed operations in the militancy-hit tribal regions. The group has called for judicial probes into those killed by the military and has campaigned for ending enforced disappearances, extrajudicial executions, and discrimination against the country's Pashtun ethnic minority.

The movement made national headlines when thousands of people from the tribal areas and northwest Pakistan marched to the capital, Islamabad, in February. The rally, ignited by the killing of a young Pashtun shopkeeper in an allegedly staged gunbattle with police in the port city of Karachi, exposed long-held grievances among Pashtuns.
Police in Swabi, a town in the northwestern province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, filed charges against 19 PTM supporters for "unlawful assembly," "punishment for rioting," and "punishment for wrongful restraint." Ismail, a Pashtun, was added to the list of alleged perpetrators the next day, although there were no specific charges filed against her.

Ismail is currently petitioning to have her name removed from the list. The Interior Ministry told the Islamabad High Court, which is hearing Ismail's petition, that she had been put on the ECL on the recommendation of the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), the country’s notorious spy agency.

The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) has said the state has made allegations of antistate activities "an expedient label for human rights defenders, particularly those associated with the PTM."

"The right to peaceful dissent -- especially when this means articulating 'uncomfortable' truths about curtailed rights and freedoms -- should not be branded routinely as 'antistate,'" HRCP said in a statement on October 26. ​

'What War Has Done'

Nine PTM supporters charged over the August rally have been denied bail and are in jail. Since the movement was formed in January, international rights groups say authorities have banned peaceful rallies organized by the PTM and that some of its leading members have been arbitrarily detained and prevented from traveling within the country. Some members have also faced charges for alleged sedition and cybercrimes.

Pakistan's impoverished tribal areas became a front line in the battle against extremist groups after the U.S.-led invasion of Afghanistan in 2001, when the Afghan Taliban and Al-Qaeda took refuge in the region. The region has been the scene of deadly Pakistani army operations, U.S. drone attacks, and militant attacks.
​Pashtuns make up the majority of recruits and members of Pakistani-based militant groups such as the Afghan Taliban, the Haqqani network, and the Pakistani Taliban. But PTM supporters say civilians have borne the brunt of the violence and claim Pashtuns have been the targets of the army and the ISI, two powerful bodies that have an oversize role in the country.

"The protest rallies are usually a place to share stories, to cry, and talk about what war has done to our lives," says Ismail, who has participated in several PTM rallies. "I have met many women whose husbands had gone missing for years. Wives are waiting for their husbands. Their children are waiting for their fathers."

'Shrinking' Space

Ismail says the accusations against her and PTM supporters are part of a wider campaign to stifle free speech in Pakistan, which has been ruled by the army for nearly half of its statehood.

"The space for civic voices is shrinking," says Ismail, who won the Anna Politkovskaya Award in 2017 for campaigning against religious extremism. "A narrative has been built around civil society as antistate, destroying local culture, and promoting Westernization."

The Pakistani media are under unprecedented pressure. Veteran reporters have left the country after being threatened; the country's most popular TV station has been forced off the air; and leading columnists have complained that stories that are critical of the army are being rejected by outlets under pressure from the military. One prominent journalist is facing treason charges for publishing a story that was critical of the military.

"As a human rights defender, I have been attacked, I have been accused of blasphemy, and I have been accused of being engaged in antistate activities," says Ismail, who co-founded the nongovernmental organization Aware Girls in 2002 to build up the leadership capacity of young women as agents of change. "It has been a life-risking job to raise my voice against a system of oppression."

Rabia Mehmood, South Asia researcher at Amnesty International, said Ismail is being targeted "solely for her peaceful human rights work."

"The new government of Prime Minister Imran Khan had said it would protect human rights and engage with members of the PTM to address issues such as enforced disappearances and extrajudicial executions," said Mehmood. "Gulalai Ismail's arrest severely tests those commitments. Instead of trying to silence human rights defenders, the new government must work to create a safe and enabling environment for those who raise their voices for justice."