Tuesday, December 31, 2019

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Nashenas _ Za Kho Sharabi yom. زخوشرابی.یم.شیخه

Pashto Music - Sardar Ali Takkar - Saqi Charta Kasa Nema Sharab, Poet Ajmal Khattak

#happynewyear2020 #2020NewYear #Welcome2020 #PPP - Dilan Teer Bijan

#Pakistan - #PPP; From Bhutto to Bilawal Bhutto

Khalid Mahmood Rasool

The journey of democracy in Pakistan has never been smooth. Turmoil and tremors have been the hallmark of Pakistani politics causing ripples of uncertainty, fear of political extinction and a continued fight for an uninterrupted democratic process. Few political parties could hold substantial ground to stay relevant in all seasons of politics like Peoples Party of Pakistan (PPP) which proved probably the most resilient one in the country’s political arena. As PPP is undergoing a transition to pass the reigns of its leadership to 3rd generation while struggling to redefine its relevance to national politics, the country’s own power dynamics are passing through a paradigm shift as well.
It was December 27th in the year 2007 that Benazir Bhutto fell victim to the brutal terror attack at Liaqat Bagh, Rawalpindi. After eight years in exile, raising three children in hard and harsh exiled life and fighting for her political comeback, Benazir Bhutto finally managed to return to Pakistan to lead her party in the forthcoming election. Her charisma rekindled her party’s hopes to turn the tides with a more matured and energetic persona of iconic Benazir Bhutto. But, sadly nature had different plans for her.
The ghost of Liaqat Bagh struck again; she fell to the same fate as of Liaqat Ali Khan. Benazir Bhutto met with the same fate; lost her life but the mystery of her assassination still shrouds till to date. With the demise of Benazir Bhutto ended the exclusive bloodline legacy of Bhutto family. Pakistan People’s Party was up for a new transition; a paradigm shift occurred in leadership and its outfit.
Zulifqar Ali Bhutto has left behind a legacy that has inspired his followers until today. He happened to be one of the most brilliant politicians of our time. He was equally most admired by many and most contentious for the rest of the people. His legacy of raising the common man issues as main political agenda; Roti, Kapra Aur Makan connected with millions of peasants and laborers who were hardly heard in electoral politics. Despite being one of the most divisive politicians and his tragic departure from the scene through judicial but contentious verdict, his pro-poor legacy has survived.
Benazir Bhutto emerged as political successor of her father. Repressive regime of Zia and all out efforts to marginalize the party had a severe toll on party’s ranks and cadres. She along with Nusrat Bhutto, her mother, withstood those harsh days. She picked up the piece of the party on her return to the country in 1986. She managed two stints as prime Minister but had all along to fight with so many abrasive and restraining forces leading to her dismissal twice. Her leadership style aside, the public goods delivery of her both tenures were marred by allegations of financial mismanagement and corruption. But all said done, she stood out as an outstanding successor of her father and had many admirers around the world for being first woman Prime Minister in Muslim world, well-educated and enlightened leader in a male dominated society and polity.
After her assassination, her children adopted the family name as Zardari Bhutto; announced by Asif Ali Zardari soon after the taking the reins of the party. The last and complete tenure of PPP in power is fresh in most the memories. The tenure was tainted by poor governance and allegations of corruption to that extent that party succumbed to losses in all provinces except in Sindh.
PPP is now in ruling Sindh uninterrupted since over 12 years. Still its politics draws more strength from its martyrs and less from its governance. Lately, removal of hundreds of thousands of recipients from Benazir Income Support fund for illegally extracting the benefits speaks volumes about a style of politics which largely is based on cronyism and buying loyalties at cost state coffers. Fake accounts saga has also exposed the web of cronies and plundering public sources.
Bilawal Bhutto Zardari in now the new face the party; addressing a death anniversary rally at the same place where her mother lost her life twelve years ago. Since then, the world has changed a lot in Pakistan and around the world too . Political dynasties in South Asia have been fighting hard to reclaim lost glories of the past but many have ended in the wilderness of obscurity. Bilawal Bhutto Zardari is at a historic juncture of family dynasty; which way he wants to move on would define his place in country’s politics. He would follow the tradition of clinging to sympathies attached with martyrs or carve out world of his own capable to deliver in a complex and changed world; the time would decide.

Bilawal wants 'farcical' NAB abolished as govt defends newly passed ordinance

Pakistan Peoples Party Chairperson Bilawal Bhutto Zardari on Sunday said that the recent promulgation of the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) Ordinance, 2019 was a tacit admission by the government that the corruption watchdog "is a farce" and should be "abolished".
Bilawal, in a tweet today, claimed that the ordinance was “proof that it agrees with President Zardari” that “NAB and the economy cannot run together”.

“Instead of clearly biased efforts, the government should work with opposition,” said the PPP chairperson, advising the government to do its "job and legislate".
The federal cabinet on Friday gave its approval to the NAB Ordinance, 2019, which was also approved by President Arif Alvi on the same day.
Under the ordinance, NAB will no longer be allowed to take action against government employees.
The proposed ordinance also states that the property of government employees cannot be frozen without a court order. Furthermore, if the accountability watchdog cannot complete an investigation against a suspect within three months, the accused will be entitled to bail.
In addition, NAB will now only be able to pursue corruption cases of Rs500 million and more.
Moreover, according to the new ordinance, NAB's jurisdiction over matters relating to tax, stock exchange, and IPOs has been curtailed. 
The Federal Bureau of Investigation, Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan and building control authorities will be the sole authorities tasked to act on all such matters.

Pakistan just sentenced a Fulbright scholar to death on a fabricated blasphemy charge

By Eugene Chudnovsky

On Dec. 21, a Pakistani court sentenced the 33-year-old writer Junaid Hafeez to death on a fabricated charge of insulting the Holy Prophet. Earlier this year, Vice President Mike Pence, speaking at the Annual Ministerial to Advance Religious Freedom in Washington, denounced the prosecution of Hafeez on unsubstantiated blasphemy charges.
This case is a grave threat to academic freedom — Hafeez is a scholar with a long record of academic accomplishment.
In 2009, Hafeez was awarded a Fulbright scholarship to study literature and theater in the United States, where he obtained a master’s degree. He returned to Bahauddin Zakariya University in Pakistan as a lecturer in 2011. Apart from teaching, he worked on English translations of Urdu documents, directed and acted in a few plays, and even appeared on television.
By 2013, Hafeez’s talents made him a leading contender for a permanent faculty position advertised by the English department. This was when his troubles started. His hiring was strongly opposed by an Islamist group that accused him of expressing liberal views on social media. The group initially sought to sabotage his candidacy in favor of Islamist candidates. When this failed, they accused Hafeez of blasphemy.
Such accusations, frequently used to settle disputes in Pakistan, have dire consequences.
Before 1980, blasphemy was punished by fines or, in extreme cases, by a few years in jail. Articles of the penal code that punish blasphemy by death were introduced between 1980 and 1986 by the Islamist ruler of Pakistan, General Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq. They were praised by religious fanatics who often kill people accused of blasphemy inside prisons, on the way to trials, or even after acquittal.
In March 2013, Hafeez was arrested for supposedly violating a section of the Pakistan Penal Code criminalizing derogatory remarks about the Holy Prophet. His first lawyer abandoned him after receiving death threats. For a few months, nobody dared to take the case until Rashid Rehman, a lawyer with the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, agreed to defend Hafeez.
At the hearing held in April 2014, the prosecutor threatened Hafeez’s lawyer in front of the presiding judge. Rehman was told that he might not be around to participate in the next hearing. One month later, he was assassinated in his office by two armed men who were never found. Meanwhile, Hafeez was attacked by other prisoners and placed in solitary confinement, where he spent five and a half years before trial.
The loss of the second lawyer delayed the court proceedings. The case was transferred from one judge to another. Eight judges total were involved.
Additionally, the blasphemy charges against Hafeez led to his family being ostracized. His father lost his business, and the never-ending imprisonment of his eldest son took a hard toll on him. In 2017, he suffered a heart attack. After years in solitary confinement, Hafeez’s health deteriorated too.
Human rights organizations throughout the world demanded Hafeez’s release. After the news broke that the trial was near, hope grew that Hafeez would be acquitted. The brutality of the sentence delivered to a young Pakistani writer by the court in Multan came as a grim surprise to almost everybody.
Government lawyer Airaz Ali called it a “victory of truthfulness and righteousness.” Even more shocking was the jubilant reaction to the court’s decision by members of the government's prosecution team, who chanted “Allahu akbar” and distributed sweets to celebrate the sentence.
This is the same Pakistani government responsible for roughly 150 nuclear warheads. Their lack of respect for free speech poses a grave threat not just to dissidents in their country but to global peace and human rights.

Monday, December 30, 2019

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A Case of Fragile Egos: the PIC violence and Pakistani mentality

Raja Muhammad Ali
A friend of mine used to say "In Pakistan the phrase 'do you know who I am?' should be read as 'do you know who I think I am?'"
Falsehood has crept so deeply into our society that we can't even stop lying to ourselves. The lie of who we think we are gets so distorted with time that even we lose track of who we actually are.
The false persona that we create about ourselves is necessary in a society where one constantly has to oversell one's self to stay relevant. A society which focuses on optics more than substance; a society in which appearing a certain way is more important than being that way. But all these fake facades leave our egos extremely vulnerable. The persona that we create needs to be kept in extensive care -- even a slight whiff of truth can be fatal for who we think we are, and we don't want to know that we are not what we think we are.
I see that all around me irrespective of profession, age, colour, gender and background. The fierce protection of our alter-egos. I see it on roads when our alter-ego of Micheal Schumacher refuses to accept that someone can overtake us. I see it in offices when perfectly nice people conspire against their colleagues to somehow protect their own alter ego of 'best worker'. I see it in colleges when an argument turns into a physical altercation because the alter-ego of Aristotle couldn't tolerate being outwitted. I can see it in the broken arms of underage domestic help, who inadvertently made the alter-ego of Raja Inder question the validity of their arrogance.
But what happened yesterday at the Punjab Institute of Cardiology should be a wake up call for all of us. We all saw the overwhelming power of the death of the collective alter-ego of lawyers. Don't get me wrong. Some of the best people I know are lawyers, some of my best friends are lawyers. I am talking about the fake persona that the black coat has come to represent now. The persona which forces a perfectly nice person to not wear a seat belt and refuse to accept a challan because of who he is made to think he is once he is in that black coat. The alter-ego of Goliath, which couldn't sustain a slight from the video of an unknown young doctor addressing his colleagues. Defending the fake persona became so important that the human inside forgot that it was human to begin with. The black coat successfully killed the last strain of humanity in those donning it, to attack and fiercely protect the alter ego. We didn't comprehend the full horrors of collective fragile egos being challenged when they burned Joseph Colony, maybe because it was away from cameras, or maybe because the victims were not worthy of our empathy. But this time we felt the pain differently. This death of ego resulted in a blazing asteroid that hit too close to home.
Sadly, even this debacle couldn't change our mentality of "us and them". We still think we can get away by blaming a profession, by discussing the symptoms and ignoring the real issue, and accepting that we are all a hostage to the alternate reality we have created on the shifting sands of lies.
It's high time that as a society we start looking inward and break free of the toxic effects of striving to appear pious rather than being pious.
Let's all take a lesson from this and never forget who we really are, not let our alter-egos command us. For when it's challenged, the lies won't defend it, and it will require the sacrifice of our humanity to protect itself. We are the first victim, so let's be kind to ourselves and let's be honest. Stop judging someone who sins differently, stop forcing people to adopt fake personas to be invited to dinner. Stop telling yourself and others around you that they have to be a fake persona to be even accepted by the society. Stop being the log from the phrase: "log kia kahen gai?"
Let's build up our egos on solid foundations, on our traits -- not on the traits we think we have because we are made to believe we need to have them to be "accepted". Trust me when the foundation of your ego is strong, it won't need such inhumane acts to protect itself. The ego will be protected by the virtue of truth, not by the virtue of violence. Being rejected by a girl won't shatter our alter-ego of Sharukh Khan and turn us into acid-throwing lunatics to teach a lesson. Being fired from a job won't send us into the depths of depression and anxiety. Being slighted by an act of road rage won't turn us into street fighters. Let's build our egos and truth and let's release ourselves from the prison of fake personas we all live in as a society.
So next time you find yourself asking "do you know who I think I am?" Stop and check whether you are being a victim of your own alter-ego. Let's all start trying to escape this trap of thinking as we step into a new decade.

In Pakistan, polio makes a comeback amid vaccine boycotts


Political transition and mass misinformation campaigns have contributed to growing polio rates.
Ali Zai, Pakistan - Clad in a colourful floral shalwar kameez, her head draped in a brown shawl against the winter chill, Kainat Mohmand goes door to door to make sure no child in this northern Pakistani village is left behind.
"If we are nice and well-mannered, then the people are convinced and they accept us," says the 19-year-old polio vaccinator in the village of Ali Zai, about 10km south of Peshawar, the capital of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province.
"But this area is very dangerous," she adds, quickly.
In April, that danger crystallised. After a false rumour spread during a polio vaccination campaign that the drops were making children sick, hundreds of parents rushed their children to hospital, while thousands across the province refused to take part in the campaign at all.
In Ali Zai, dozens formed an angry mob that attacked a local government hospital, tearing down walls and, later, burning it to the ground. The violence led to the vaccination campaign being suspended across the province, an epicentre of polio infection in Pakistan.
The incident here was illustrative of Pakistan's struggle to contain the spread of polio in 2019, with cases rising to a five-year high amid suspicions of the vaccine and, officials say, a new trend: that of parents deprioritising polio vaccination due to the myriad other dangers to their lives that are of more immediate concern.
Political transition
Since 1988, worldwide cases of poliomyelitis have dropped by 99 percent, from more than 350,000 to just 33 cases in 2018, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). The near-eradication of the disease has been the result of a sustained campaign of oral and injected vaccines targeting children under five, who are at risk of contracting the debilitating, highly infectious disease that can lead to paralysis and death.
Today, polio remains endemic in just three countries: Pakistan, Afghanistan and Nigeria (which has not reported a case in three years). This year, however, has seen the disease bounce back, with at least 125 cases reported, according to the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI). The vast majority - 111 cases - have been reported from Pakistan, mostly in its northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, according to government data.
So what has gone wrong for Pakistan's polio programme, which brought cases down from 306 in 2014 to just 12 last year?
Rana Muhammad Safdar, the coordinator of the country's National Emergency Operations Centre on polio eradication, says the main obstacle was a complete breakdown in national coordination after a general election in mid-2018 that saw a new government, led by the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf's (PTI) Imran Khan, brought into power for the first time.
"[Last year] was a year of political transition in Pakistan, and the way that political transition happens here, we have three governments in a short span of time: the outgoing, the interim and the incoming," he said. "Whenever a government comes, they conduct transfers on a large scale […] These people, they kept on changing like anything."
For a programme that relies on more than 265,000 polio vaccinators going door to door to reach more than 35 million children, guarded by a further 100,000 security personnel, that kind of widescale bureaucratic change across almost every district in the country can be fatal.
"That affected the dynamics of our teams and the kind of oversight which was there, that dipped," said Safdar.
Mass misinformation campaigns
Further, as the number of cases began to rise, opposition political parties began to use the polio infections as a political issue to criticise the government, he says. The resulting political pressure pushed vaccinators to skew their results.
"When there is unnecessary pressure on them, and they feel that these are the kinds of results that [authorities] want to see, then they start providing those kinds of results, instead of focusing on real vaccinations," he said.
Hamid Jafari, the director of the WHO's polio eradication programme in the eastern Mediterranean region, agrees that there were technical shortcomings in the programme's ability to reach every child.
"The programme had under-estimated the number of children [that] missed vaccination repeatedly in core polio infected areas," he explained. "At its core, polio eradication is straightforward. If you vaccinate enough children in a given area, poliovirus has nowhere to hide and dies out. When not all children are reached poliovirus continues to find susceptible children."Also, mass misinformation campaigns were launched regarding the use of the vaccine, urging parents to refuse to give the drops to their children for fear of health concerns."They would take anti-vaxxer videos from Europe, then dub them in Urdu, professionally, and then they'd be promoted [online]," said Safdar. "And they would be timed so that they would circulate about a week before our immunisation campaigns."This year, Pakistan has successfully had at least 174 pieces of content promoting misinformation removed by websites including Facebook, YouTube and Twitter, the government says.
A bargaining chip
There has, however, been a new trend emerging among all of this: that of communities linking their use of the polio vaccine to other basic demands from the state, leveraging the international community's focus on eradication of the disease to achieve local governance outcomes. (Last year, international donors spent more than $800m on global polio eradication efforts, according to GPEI.)
"They see the importance [that the government] attaches to the polio vaccines, that is why they are making counter demands," said one polio programme official, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorised to speak to the media. "They know that if they do not accept the polio drops, there will be pressure on government officials, and if the pressure comes then they will have to provide those other services."
"People say that you are providing us [polio vaccine] services, fine, but we also need these services along with them. Electricity, water and natural gas, jobs."
This year has seen numerous boycotts, with thousands of families in the Kurram, Orakzai, Bannu, North Waziristan and Peshawar districts refusing to give their children polio drops unless their local needs are met.
Protest organisers told Al Jazeera that while they had no doubt the polio vaccines were necessary for their children, they were using the polio campaign as a bargaining chip to address longstanding grievances. "[We boycotted] because there was a lot of focus from the government on polio," said Khalil Wazir, a protest organiser in North Waziristan district. His village refused to give their children polio drops for eight months until their demands - for government compensation owed to them to rebuild their homes - were met. Wazir's village of hundreds of residents had been flattened during the Pakistani military's operation to retake North Waziristan from the Pakistani Taliban in 2014. For the last two years, residents had been living in tents out in the open, he said. Within weeks of the boycott, government officials who Wazir had been unsuccessfully lobbying for years agreed to fulfil their obligations, he said.
"One day a woman died in our village from cold. Another was killed by a mad dog bite. Another died from a snake bite. We felt that our children were dying of heat, cold and other things, it was not polio," he said.
In Ali Zai, that sentiment echoes in the words of Mazhar Khan, a 32-year-old religious school administrator who had refused to give his three children the drops due to concerns about health implications.
"We see all these diseases, diabetes, blood pressure, jaundice," he said, sitting with a team of polio vaccinators on a rope-bed in the winter sun. "These are the diseases we see most often here. As far as polio is concerned, I don't think there would have been a single case of polio in our whole neighbourhood. But to treat it, police are being brought here [to force us to take the drops]."
"These questions regarding the polio vaccine are coming about because we have bigger problems than polio in our society, why is the government not solving those?"
It is a tricky problem to resolve, government officials admit.
"We work with the parents … we tell them that we understand that their requests are genuine, but if you go towards a boycott because of this, then you are depriving your children further," said Safdar, the polio programme chief.
Attacks on vaccinators
The polio programme in Pakistan has long been the subject of misinformation and rumours, with many linking it to an unspecified "Western" conspiracy to sterilise or otherwise harm Muslims. Many cite the US Central Intelligence Agency's (CIA) use of a fake vaccination campaign through a Pakistani doctor, Shakil Afridi, to verify the identity of Osama bin Laden before the raid to kill him in 2011 as proof of these theories.
The conspiracy theories do not just result in increased refusals, they also come at a far greater cost. Since 2012, at least 98 people have been killed in attacks on Pakistan's polio vaccination campaigns, according to an Al Jazeera tally.
The latest attack took place on December 18, with two policemen killed while on their way to join a vaccination team in the northern district of Lower Dir.
Out in the streets of Ali Zai, Kainat Mohmand is still trying to convince parents who had earlier refused the vaccine for their children to change their minds. There are no policemen here, despite the attacks in April. "Usually, they look at us with suspicion," she says. "They ask me to clarify things for them, about the vaccine. Many of them get convinced, then."
She smiles, broadly, and adds: "We try to make the impossible, possible."


Pakistan: Government Unable To Prevent Forced Marriages, Conversions Of Minority Women – Analysis

By Sanchita Bhattacharya
A 22-member parliamentary committee on forced conversions was formed by Pakistan Senate and National Assembly on November 21, 2019, to work on legislation to prevent forced conversions and protect rights of minorities in Pakistan.
In recent years, Pakistan has become infamous for enforced disappearances and abductions of people belonging to different ethnicities, sects and gender. The abduction of mostly minor girls belonging to sections of the religious minority has added a completely new dimension to Pakistan’s fractured social structure. 
Forced conversions take place when some sort of violence, physical, emotional and/or psychological, is used to guarantee a religious conversion. Thus, victims of forced conversions are usually abducted and submitted to intimidation or threats and coerced to select between bearing the abuse or converting. Violence is commonly directed not only at the victims, but also used or threatened on their close relations. 
Recent incidents of abduction, followed by forced conversation and marriage include: 14-year old Christian girl, Huma Younus from Karachi was kidnapped, forcibly converted and married to a Muslim man on October 10, 2019. A 19-year-old Sikh girl, who went missing for days, was forcibly converted to Islam and made to marry a Muslim man in Nankana Sahib near Lahore. Also in August, a Hindu girl was abducted and forced to marry a Muslim man in Pakistan’s Sindh Province. She was forcibly converted to Islam after being abducted by a classmate, Babar Aman, along with Mirza Dilawar Baig, a member of Pakistan’s ruling Tehreek-e-Insaf. In March, two minor Hindu sisters Reena and Raveena from near the town of Daharki in Sindh were kidnapped and forced to convert to Islam before being married to Muslim men. 
Pakistan has recently witnessed a large number of cases of abductions and forced conversions and subsequent marriages of girls from minority communities. Finding reliable data on this issue is difficult. However, according to a US-based Sindhi Foundation, over 1000 young Sindhi Hindu girls between the ages of 12 and 28 have been abducted, forcibly married and converted to Islam. A 2015 report by the South Asia Partnership-Pakistan in collaboration with Aurat Foundation found that that at least 1,000 girls are forcibly converted to Islam in Pakistan every year. The report said the conversions take place in the Thar region, particularly in the districts of Tharparkar, Umerkot, Ghotki, Sanghar, Jacobabad and Mirpur Khas. The report also mentioned the nexus of wealthy landlords, extremist religious organisations, weak local courts and an indifferent administration as working together in this forced arrangement. 
This issue affects women differently from men. Women are victims of forced conversion and subsequent forced marriage. It is not only related to democratic rights, but it is also related to discrimination based on class and gender. Pakistan’s prevalent feudal and patriarchal society makes women  more susceptible to forced conversion. They are poorer, considered subordinate to men and, in many cases, their identification documents are not prepared. Birth registration of girls are disproportionately lower to those of boys. Likewise, there is considerable disparity with the Identity Registration of girls and boys. Girls are perhaps not considered important enough or an employable member of a household. Therefore, there is no need to get their identification documents. 
Acts of forced conversion mostly have institutional support and legitimacy. If the women report any form of coercion to state authorities, their reports are disregarded. It is either the landlord, feudal system, religious seminary or shrine, working in tandem with the local administration and police, which hastens the process of abduction, forced conversion and marriage. They are shielded by the government, which is scared of upsetting them in the tense, often unstable environment of Pakistani politics, in which an attack on a religious figure is seen as an attack on Islam and liable to draw out extremists. 
“This appears to be a systematic, organized trend and it needs to be seen in the broader context of the coercion of vulnerable girls and young women from communities that are already marginalized by their faith, class and socio-economic status,” said Mehdi Hasan, Chairperson of Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP). He further stated, “The ugly reality of forced conversions is that they are not seen as a crime, much less as a problem that should concern ‘mainstream’ (Muslim) Pakistan.” 
On November 16, 2019, Asad Iqbal Butt, HRCP’s Vice-Chairperson for Sindh chapter, said a very sophisticated and organised campaign by religious leaders was behind forced conversions of Hindu girls. He said, “These spiritual leaders’ devotees first earn the trust of Hindu girls, and then motivate them to change their religion in some cases,” adding, “in other instances, the devotees kidnap the girls with the support of their pirs. Since the converted girls are not allowed to meet their families, we do not know what becomes of them.” 
In July, 2019, the Sindh Assembly unanimously passed a resolution demanding that the practice of forced conversions and abductions of Hindu girls must stop and action be taken against those involved in such activities. The resolution was adopted months after the HRCP, in its annual report, raised concern about incidents of forced conversions and marriages of Hindu and Christian girls, saying around 1,000 such cases were reported in the southern Sindh province alone in 2018.
According to the Centre for Social Justice, at least 159 cases were reported between 2013 and 2019. Some 16 girls and young women have gone before the Sindh High Court asking for support against their forced marriages. There are no concrete numbers for the rest of the country, which is around 96.28 percent Muslim, according to the official Pakistan Bureau of Statistics. 
Earlier, in 2016, Sindh Assembly unanimously passed a bill against forced religious conversions: The Criminal Law (Protection of Minorities) Act. The bill, however, was returned two months later by Sindh’s then Governor, Saeed-uz-Zaman Siddiqui, without being ratified, due to pressure from influential conservative and extremist Muslim groups. 
Earlier, the Hindu community in Pakistan carried out massive demonstrations calling for strict action to be taken against those responsible for forced conversions, while reminding Prime Minister Imran Khan of his promises to the country’s minorities. Last year, during his election campaign, Khan had said his party’s agenda was to uplift the various religious groups across Pakistan and said they would take effective measures to prevent forced marriages of Hindu girls. 
However, religious clerics claim that hardly any case of forced religious conversion occurs in Pakistan. Religious minorities in Pakistan are facing problems because of the power and influence of religion on the government and country. Unfortunately, in religious matters, the attitude of all Pakistani governments has been apologetic, causing distress to citizens from minority communities and marginal sections. 

Removal of 800,000 people from BISP grave cruelty, says Bilawal at Liaquat Bagh rally

Pakistan People's Party (PPP) Chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari on Friday lashed out at the government for removing more than 800,000 beneficiaries from the Benazir Income Support Programme (BISP), terming the move a grave cruelty on part of the government.
Speaking at a public gathering held to observe former prime minister Benazir Bhutto's death anniversary at Liaquat Bagh — the venue of her assassination — in Rawalpindi, Bilawal said the country was in danger and it was the duty of his party "to complete the mission of Benazir Bhutto".
"Benazir was a chain that united the federation of Pakistan, but this was not acceptable to her enemies," he added.
"Look at the state of this democracy. The parliament is locked, media is not free, there are attacks on the 18th amendment, the judiciary is not free," lamented the PPP chairman. "Terrorists may have been defeated but extremism is present all over the country," he added.
Recounting the struggles of his mother, Bilawal said, "Every street of Rawalpindi, all its walls and buildings and its land bear witness to what happened to Benazir".
"You people are witnesses to the atrocities faced by Bhutto. You are witnesses to how people's rule was ended. You are witnesses to the atrocities faced by jiyalas (party workers)".
Bilawal said Benazir continued the struggle of her father, confronted two dictators, faced 'selected' politicians and extremists but despite all that she "provided rights to women, freed the media and prisoners and also got missile technology for the country".
The PPP chairman said his mother had come back to Pakistan to establish awaami raj (people's rule) in the country once again but on "December 27th she addressed her last political gathering at this very ground".
"From one family, the father, two sons and then the daughter was also martyred."
Bilawal vowed to restore people's rule in the country once again. "Rawalpindi, bear witness for I will restore the power of the public, give rights to the youth and proper compensation to farmers for their efforts."
"I will continue the struggle of [Zulfikar] Bhutto and complete the mission of Benazir."
Before Bilawal came to address the crowd, PPP co-chairman and former president, Asif Ali Zardari, also addressed the gathering via a video message that was broadcast on a giant screen at the venue.
Speaking from a hospital bed, Zardari criticised the government for leading the country into its current political and economic situation. He said the present ruling regime "has nothing to do with the problems being faced by the country's poor".
He expressed hope that PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto will be able to solve these problems very soon and "will lead the nation".
Earlier, PPP leaders Raza Rabbani, Qaim Ali Shah, Murad Ali Shah, Aitzaz Ahsan, Qamar Zaman Kaira, Yousuf Raza Gilani, and Raja Pervaiz Ashraf addressed the rally.
Ahead of today's event, the venue and roads leading to Liaquat Bagh were decorated with PPP flags and pictures of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, Benazir and Bilawal.
More than 50,000 seats were arranged at the venue.

Court allows rally at Liaquat Bagh

The Rawalpindi bench of the Lahore High Court on Thursday directed the district administration to provide all facilities and security for the event. Additionally, PPP has also made its own security arrangements.
Additionally, the court directed the district administration and police to provide Bilawal with adequate security upon his arrival in the city.
PPP had announced the rally at Liaquat Bagh. However, the district administration refused to give the party permission, citing security threats to Bilawal.
PPP city president Babar Sultan Jadoon immediately filed a petition in the LHC through his legal team challenging the decision of the district government. Yesterday, the LHC granted the party permission to hold the public meeting.
Senior party leader Sherry Rehman visited the site and inspected the arrangements ahead of today's event.
"After 12 years, the PPP is holding a public meeting and it is an attempt to dispel the perception that the party would not be able to arrange a jalsa in Rawalpindi," she said.
"It will be a sad moment for Bilawal Bhutto to visit the site where his mother was assassinated. It will also be difficult for all jialays (diehard party workers) to gather at the site and recall the tragic day."