Sunday, July 21, 2019

Giving ‘Jinnah’s #Pakistan’ back to the Religious Minorities

    By Maria Malik

Pakistan has an overwhelmingly Muslim community, which accounts for 95 per cent of its 216 million inhabitants. The Muslim population however belongs to several doctrinal groups. Sunnis are in the majority amongst Muslims, with Shia Muslims and Zikris facing discrimination. In 1974, the National Assembly of Pakistan has declared Ahmadis (also called Qadianis) a non-Muslim minority. There are several Christian denominations, Bahais, Buddhists, Hindus, Jains, Kalasha, Parsis and Sikhs who are identified as non- Muslim Pakistanis. The policy of Islamization in the 1970s and 1980’s, the subsequent rise of Taliban insurgency and the patronage of extremists groups by different political and religious groups in Pakistan have contributed to the intolerance and acts of violence against the religious and sectarian minorities of Pakistan.
The vague terminology of the current legislation has in fact allowed for the misuse of Sections 295-298 PPC, and has resulted in the persecution of minorities and the poor by providing the dishonest complainant with a mechanism for settling personal vendettas through the flawed system of justice. The law that is designed to protect people has actually become a tool for promoting intolerance. Although a majority of those charged under this law are Muslims, yet the law has made the non-Muslims even more vulnerable. In addition to this, the manner in which the religious groups in Pakistan propagate the flawed laws has resulted in vigilantism and mob violence. The state has consistently failed to intervene and protect its people against violence by maliciously motivated elements and the certainty of impunity has encouraged them to commit lawlessness.

Insertion of section 298A into the PPC during the process of Islamization is considered as a threat for the religious and sectarian minorities in Pakistan. Although the Blasphemy Laws apply to all Pakistanis alike, whether Muslims or Non- Muslims, however the religious minorities are more prone when it comes to the ‘misuse’ of this law. According to various national and international human rights organizations article 298B and 298C of PPC, coupled with the Blasphemy laws, has further institutionalized the marginalization of the Ahmedia Community in Pakistan. The abstruse legislation and the lack of procedural safeguards has made these laws open for widespread abuse and have reportedly been used to harass and target religious minorities, as well as to settle personal scores or carry out personal vendettas.
By taking certain measures the misuse of this law can be curtailed to a certain extent. For example, the minorities have very limited representation in the Parliament so there is a dire need to increase the reserved seats for the religious minorities. Moreover, the Parliament must have representation of all the religious minorities including Ahmedis, Christians, Hindus, Sikhs, Parsis etcetera and each shall be allotted seats according to their population ratio. The quota for religious minorities in civil and military services of Pakistan shall be fixed and/or increased. The system of separate electorate should also be re-instated in order to secure fair representation for the minorities.
Insertion of section 298A into the PPC during the process of Islamization is considered as a threat for the religious and sectarian minorities in Pakistan. Although the Blasphemy Laws apply to all Pakistanis alike, whether Muslims or Non- Muslims, however the religious minorities are more prone when it comes to the ‘misuse’ of this law
Secondly, at the social front, the state should take measures to revise the curriculum and to make sure that is free of hate speech and intolerance towards religious minorities and reflects pluralism, and co-existence which is the true spirit of Islam.
Thirdly, the state should take all necessary measures to make sure that it abides by the international treaties that Pakistan has ratified (ICCPR ratified in 2010) and also make serious efforts to implement the fundamental rights in letter and spirit to safeguard the status of minorities.
The composition of our criminal justice system includes Police, Prosecution and Courts among others. A criminal case is first registered as an FIR with the Police; the Prosecution carries out investigation upon it, the Courts then check whether the investigation carried-out was impartial and concerns of both the aggrieved parties are addressed adequately. Legal and executive/administrative lapse happens, usually, at the first two stages i.e. the Investigation of Police and the duty of the Prosecution to determine the impartiality of that investigation. There’s no check whatsoever on either the former or the later which makes it difficult for the Courts to determine whether or not there were some executive shortcomings in the investigation. To improve the system, a judicial officer shall supervise the investigation carried out by police.
Section 298B and 298C of the Pakistan Penal Code shall be amended and made objective in nature along with ensuring an independent and accessible judicial system that can dispense justice timely.
Lastly and most importantly, Parliament of Pakistan must make an amendment to make article 36 ‘Protection of Minorities’ a part of Fundamental Rights. Article 36 is presently part of the ‘Principles of Policy’, which states that the principles under this chapter shall be regarded as being subject to the ‘availability of resources’. The Constitution of Pakistan does not include as to what pertains to the availability of resources and do not provide any kind of timeline as by when these principles will be implemented effectively by the state. So article 36, which is meant to secure the status of religious minorities, is a part of non-operational part of the constitution. In fact it renders all other fundamental rights of the minorities useless by linking the implementation of article 36 with availability of resources. Until and unless the religious minorities are given proper constitutional safeguards, we cannot expect Pakistan to be a pluralist society.

The Barbaric Persecution of Ahmadis in Pakistan

Justice Markandey Katju

 Ahmadiyyas are a tiny peaceful community of about 5 million in Pakistan,( which has a total population of over 200 million ) who have been treated barbarically by religious extremists since long, the way Jews were treated in Nazi Germany.
The whole world celebrated Human Rights Day on 10th December, and on this occasion the Pakistan Minister for human rights, Shireen Mazari, waxed eloquent in a hypocritical statement about how Pakistan is committed to upholding human rights, and she mentioned about how the Pakistan Govt was taking up the issue of human rights violation of Kashmiris and Muslims in Europe in international fora. But her hypocrisy was revealed when not a word did she say about the horrendous genocidal treatment of Ahmadiyyas in Pakistan. Are Ahmadiyyas not human beings ? And if they are, are they not entitled to human rights ?
I myself have repeatedly condemned atrocities on Kashmiris by Indian security forces, as I believe no one should be persecuted, and I have condemned lynching of Muslims in India by cow vigilantes, but what about the atrocities on Ahmadiyyas in Pakistan ?
Ahmadiyyas were declared non Muslims by a Constitutional Amendment in 1974 at the instance of Z.A.Bhutto, who posed as being a great champion of the poor and oppressed, which was just hypocrisy, and the tyrant Gen Zia who issued Ordinance XX in 1984 making it a crime for Ahmadiyyas to ‘pose’ as Muslims or call their place of worship a masjid or call the Ahmadiyyas to prayers by azaan. Ahmadiyyas were forbidden to recite Quranic verses or exchange Islamic greetings publicly or gather on Eid.
Persecution of Ahmadiyyas had started soon after creation of Pakistan. In the 1953 riots hundreds of Ahmadiyyas were massacred, and so also in 1974. But it picked up momentum under Gen Zia’s rule. There have been several massacres of Ahmadiyyas, e.g. in the attack in Lahore on their place of worship in 2010 in which about a hundred were killed. In fact murders of Ahmadiyyas ( often in a ghastly manner e.g. by stoning them to death ) has been an almost annual feature in Pakistan for decades, with the police being bystanders or even collaborators. They have been barbarically treated, their places of worship vandalised and burnt down , their children harassed, their students victimised, and they were humiliated in various ways e.g. by making them state in their passport application that Mirza Ghulam Ahmed, the founder of their sect, was an imposter and they were non Muslims.
And what was their ‘crime’ ? That they do not regard Prophet Muhammad as the last Prophet ( which mainstream Muslims believe ) while still calling themselves Muslims.
I am not going into the question whether Ahmadiyyas regard Prophet Muhammad as the last Prophet or not ( some regard Mirza Ghulam Ahmed as a Mahdi or redeemer, not a Prophet ) but assuming they do not, and assert that Mirza Ghulam Ahmed was indeed another Prophet, are they cutting off anyone’s head, are they chopping off anyone’s limbs ? Everyone should be free to believe what he/she wants. That is what Jinnah, who is regarded as the founder of Pakistan, said in his speech of 11th August 1947.
And why should Ahmadiyyas not have a right to call themselves Muslims or call their place of worship a masjid ? If they do so, are they cutting off anyone’s head, are they chopping off anyone’s limbs ? If other Muslims don’t like Ahmadiyyas they need not associate with them or go to the Ahmadiyyas place of worship, but why should they persecute Ahmadiyyas ? To my mind such persecution is goodagardi and barbarism.
The present Prime Minister of Pakistan Imran Khan, who poses to be liberal and modern, being educated in Oxford, shamelessly hobnobbed with religious bigots like the Tehreeke Labayat during his election campaign to get votes, and spoke against Ahmadiyyas. He gave a PTI ticket to that rascal Amir Liaquat who anchored a TV programme in which venom was spouted against Ahmadiyyas, resulting in killings of many of them. And soon after he was sworn in as Prime Minister an Ahmadiyya place of worship was burnt down. He also forced out of the Pakistan Economic Advisory Council Atif Mian, a world renowned economist of Princeton University only because he was an Ahmadiyya ( an act for which even his ex wife Jemima condemned him ).
Ahmadiyyas have played an outstanding role in Pakistan. The first President of the UN General Assembly, Zafrullah Khan was an Ahmadiyya, and so was Nobel Laureate Dr. Abdus Salam. But Abdus Salam’s grave was desecrated because it had Quranic verses written on it, as were many other graves of Ahmadiyyas.
In my opinion the United Nations must now intervene, as it did in Bosnia, to prevent a forthcoming Holocaust of Ahmadiyyas, as it happened to Jews in Nazi Germany.

Fake polio markers highlight risks to Pakistan vaccination drive

Pakistan’s polio eradication campaign has hit serious problems with an alarming spike in reported cases that have raised doubts over the quality of vaccination reporting and prompted officials to review their approach to stopping the crippling disease.
The country is one of only three in the world where polio is endemic, along with neighboring Afghanistan and Nigeria, but vaccination campaigns have cut the disease sharply, with only a dozen cases last year compared with 306 in 2014 and more than 350,000 in 1988, according to Pakistani health officials.
However, there has been a worrying jump this year, with 41 cases recorded, 33 of them in the northwestern region of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, where many people resent what they see as intrusive and coercive vaccination campaigns often involving repeated rounds of visits, officials say.
Just as alarming for health services, environmental sampling has shown the presence of the virus in areas across the country, a clear sign of gaps in vaccination, which must cover the entire population to be effective.
Hopes that transmission of the disease could be ended this year have been abandoned.
“We need to take the bull by the horns and accept there are problems,” said Babar Atta, Prime Minister Imran Khan’s point person on polio eradication.
As well as the difficulty in reaching very remote areas and keeping track of people moving through big cities like Karachi, there have been problems in collecting reliable data, exacerbated by resistance to efforts to force vaccination.
Efforts to eradicate the disease have for years been undermined by opposition from some Islamists, who say immunization is a foreign plot to sterilize Muslim children or a cover for Western spies.Local officials say parents suspicious of mass immunization campaigns have been getting hold of special markers, used by health workers to put a colored spot on the little fingers of children who have been vaccinated.“They themselves would mark the fingers of their children, in case of an official visit to countercheck the vaccinated children,” one official associated with an international organization told Reuters in the northwestern city of Peshawar.
Officials estimate that so-called fake finger marking, sometimes in collusion with health workers, is hiding the true scale of refusal rates - and thus gaps in vaccination.
In some areas, as many as 8% of families may be refusing or avoiding vaccination, a level which would mean the disease is not eradicated.
A senior official of the Health Department in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa said the exact data had been deliberately hidden by local health authorities nervous of being blamed for failing to ensure full coverage. “And the result of hiding figures had led us to face an epidemic-like situation today,” he said.
Polio, a disease transmitted through sewage which can cause crippling paralysis particularly in young children, is incurable and remains a threat to human health as long as it has not been eradicated. Immunization campaigns have succeeded in most countries and have come close in Pakistan, but persistent problems remain.
International observers have been watching the situation with alarm for some time. In October, the Independent Monitoring Board, which oversees the global polio eradication effort, wrote in its annual report that there was “something seriously wrong with the program in Pakistan”.

#Pakistan - The arrest of Hafiz Saeed - A policy shift?


International pressure or not, the arrest of Hafiz Saeed has come at a time when Imran Khan is visiting the US and the military leadership is holding talks with the US administration.
Once again, Hafiz Saeed, chief of Jamaat-ud-Dawah (JuD), is behind the bars. However, this time he has not been detained as an accused in the Mumbai attacks or jailed under Maintenance of Public Order (MPO) law but as chief of Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), a militant group alleged of cross-border infiltration into the Indian-held Kashmir.
In the FIRs of 23 cases lodged against the key leaders of the JuD, Saeed (mentioned as chief of LeT) and his aides are accused of terror financing and misusing of space donated by locals in different cities to spread terror and collect money used for terrorism purposes. The JuD leaders were booked in these cases in the first week of July under the Anti-Terrorism Act, 1997.
“The Counterterrorism Department (CTD) Punjab has registered 23 cases against the leadership of JuD, LeT, FIF (Falah-e-Insaniat Foundation) for making assets from terrorism financing through various trusts,” a CTD statement reads. “They made these assets from funds of terrorism financing, they held and used these assets to raise more funds for further terrorism financing. Hence, they committed multiple offences of terrorism financing and money laundering under Anti-Terrorism Act 1997. They will be prosecuted in anti-terrorism courts (ATCs) for commission of these offences,” it adds.
The recent action against them is believed to be taken in connection with implementation of the United Nations’ sanctions imposed on these groups and as a follow-up of the decision of the National Security Committee (NSC) in January 2019 to speed up action against banned outfits.
The arrest of Saeed comes at a time when Prime Minister Imran Khan is visiting the US and Pakistan’s military leadership is also holding talks with the US administration. Pakistan has been officially denying the presence of LeT in the country for the past many years.
The timing of the arrest is significant,” says Raza Rumi, political analyst. “Pakistan also faces scrutiny by FATF for alleged financing of terror groups. Many steps have been taken in recent months but this one remains the most important. The identification of Saeed as LeT chief is also meaningful and is a clear acknowledgement of the international view. Pakistan’s gradual return Westwards is noteworthy,” he explains.
The JuD is expected to challenge the cases against its leadership in the court. “We have seen such cases (associating leaders with the LeT and alleging them of terror financing) for the first time. This is quite new and strange for us,” says Ahmad Nadeem Awan, spokesperson of the JuD, adding, “We have moved the court against these cases. In 2009, the Lahore High Court’s full bench cleared Saeed and his aides of these charges after the state failed to produce evidence.”
AK Dogar, the council of Saeed in the Lahore High Court, says that superior courts have admitted that the JuD is not linked to any terrorist group or activity. “These new cases have been filed without any substantive evidence. Facts mentioned in the cases wrongly describe them as members of LeT and level unlawful allegations of terror financing.”
“Pakistan also faces scrutiny by FATF for alleged financing of terror groups. Many steps have been taken in recent months but this one remains the most important. The identification of Saeed as LeT chief is also meaningful and is a clear acknowledgement of the international view. Pakistan’s gradual return Westwards is noteworthy,” Raza Rumi explains.
In Lahore last week, an anti-terrorism court granted pre-arrest bail to Saeed and aides in a case till August 31. While the Lahore High Court issued notice to the CTD to submit a reply as the JuD moved court against these cases, the JuD claims that these cases do not have facts for referring these leaders as members of LeT and financing terror.
Hafiz Saeed founded the JuD in the mid-1980s and allegedly the LeT in early 1990s. Pakistan banned the LeT in 2002. Saeed was listed by the United Nations as an international terrorist in December 2008 for his alleged association with LeT, and al-Qaeda. A relief group, FIF, was founded to promote a soft image of the group by doing extensive relief work across the country. In 2012, the United States also announced a bounty of $10 million on Saeed for his alleged role in the Mumbai attacks.
Pakistan speeded up action against the JuD and its offshoots last year after country’s name was included in the grey list of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) in June 2018. A recent meeting of the FATF decided to keep Pakistan in the grey list until next October. It said if the country does not meet the requirements to curb terror financing its name might be considered for the black list.
In February 2019, Pakistan banned the JuD for the first time. The government also announced taking over assets of these groups and froze their bank accounts. Similar action was taken in February, before the June 2018 meeting of the FATF, when the interior ministry, through a presidential ordinance, announced to take over the JuD and FIF assets — moveable, immoveable and human resource.
Pakistan renewed its efforts during the past few weeks after a preliminary meeting of the FATF discussed placing the country on a watch-list with countries failing to prevent terrorism financing. In May 2019, Pakistan banned 10 offshoots of the JuD.
The July 2019 arrest is not Saeed’s first. He was put under house arrest in 2006 after Indian authorities sought his extradition, alleging him of masterminding Mumbai train bombing that killed 186 in 2006. After three months, the Punjab government released him from house arrest on court order. He was detained again in December 2008 after his alleged involvement in the Mumbai attacks in November 2008. Again, he was set free by the Lahore High Court in 2009 for having no proof against him. He was detained and later house-arrested under the MPO in January 2017 and was released by the court by the end of the year due to ‘lack of evidence’.
Muhammad Amir Rana, security analyst and executive director, Pakistan Institute of Peace Studies (PIPS), says it could be “different this time”, referring to the history of Saeed’s arrests and releases in the past. “The CTD has to prove links of Saeed and his aides with the LeT, which were not proved in the past,” he points out.
“Because Saeed had rebranded himself as the head of a charity network, the prosecution could not present hard evidence against him. He was given relief by the courts. Now the ball is in the court of the government. It must prove that it is serious about prosecuting him,” says Rumi.
“If a weak case is submitted in the court again then the courts could repeat the past verdicts,” adds Rumi, director at the Center for Independent Media, Ithaca College, USA.

Taliban Attack Security Checkpoint and Hospital in Pakistan

 By Salman Masood

At least nine people were killed and at least 30 others wounded on Sunday in Taliban attacks on a security checkpoint and a hospital in northwestern Pakistan, breaking a lull in militant violence in the country, officials said.
A spokesman for the Taliban said the attacks — by gunmen on motorbikes and a suicide bomber — had been carried out to avenge the killing of one of its militants last month in the district of Dera Ismail Khan. A senior police official said the suicide attacker had been female, but the Taliban later released a photograph of a longhaired man whom the group identified as the bomber.
The two-pronged attack on Sunday took place in the same district, Dera Ismail Khan, which is in the province of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa. In the first attack, two police officers at a security checkpoint in the town of Kotla Saidan were shot dead.
The assailants escaped after the shooting, and the security forces cordoned off the area to search for them.
Shortly after the bodies of the two officers were taken to the hospital, an explosion ripped through the emergency and trauma center there, killing four other police officers and three civilians. The suicide bomber detonated about seven kilograms of explosives near an entrance to the hospital, according to a preliminary police investigation.
Salim Riaz Khan, the police chief of Dera Ismail Khan, said that initial inquiries suggested that the suicide attacker had been a woman, but another security official said that the bomber had been a young boy with long hair, a common look for most Taliban militants.
Only a few suicide bombings have been carried out by women in the long history of militant violence in the country.
The blast heavily damaged the entrance of the hospital, and the emergency department shut down afterward. Those injured in the second attack were shifted to a military hospital in the district.
On June 23, counterterrorism police officials killed a militant fighter during a raid at his compound in Dera Ismail Khan. He had been wanted by the police in more than a dozen cases of killings and kidnapping for ransom.
Militant violence has ravaged Pakistan for years, especially in the northwestern regions, where the Taliban have a strong presence, but the attacks have declined in recent years. Sporadic violence still takes place, however.