Saturday, November 9, 2019

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Bilawal calls upon courts to deliver justice to Benazir

Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari on Wednesday questioned that when would his mother and former prime minister Benazir Bhutto get justice.
Addressing Multan Bar Association here, the PPP chief said he and his family have stood witness to the kind of justice imparted by the judicial system in Pakistan. “Today, we are still talking, thinking and fighting for justice, democracy and human rights,” he said, adding, “You can’t simply separate this struggle from the Bhutto family […] those who performed the legislation were hanged.”
“We respect our honourable judges and lawyers who fought against dictatorship and stood by democracy,” he said, while praising brave judges who, despite oppression, wrote dissenting notes which had put their lives at risk. “Ten years ago, then president Zardari sent a presidential reference to the Supreme Court to review the judicial murder of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, but after 10 years, I went and knocked on the doors of the court and tried to become party in the petition but we are still waiting for justice,” he said.
“In Naya Pakistan, there shouldn’t be any place for political victimisation […] in Naya Pakistan, we are still facing fake cases,” he said, while asking for the release of Zardari in all cases. “Why new laws are made for PPP?” he asked.

Pakistan authorities demolish mosque of Ahmadi Muslims - Op-Ed - What ails Pakistan

Yasser Latif Hamdani
While the powers that be and politicians fight for the control of the state, there are festering wounds in our body politic that remain unaddressed. Real issues are persistently ignored and swept under the carpet with devastating results.On Friday yet another Ahmadi “place of worship” was desecrated by the state in Bahawalpur. Countless individuals remain behind bars on blasphemy charges including the young professor Junaid Hafeez. Countless young women from minority communities will continue to converted forcibly to Islam in Sindh. The Federal Capital will see yet another Dharna where inevitably religion will be misused. Fundamental rights such as freedom of religion and freedom of expression will continue be trampled for political expediency and freedom of press will continue to be denied. Meanwhile the economy continues to nosedive. By February 2020, we may even be on the FATF blacklist. Our brightest minds continue to flee the country. Such is the state of affairs in Pakistan in the closing months of 2019.
The tragedy is that this country has everything that can make it one of the leading economies of the world. It is blessed with geography, climate and a rich cultural heritage that should make it the destination of choice for tourists. It has mega cities like Karachi and Lahore and a capital city that ought to be the envy of the world. The Government tells us that Pakistan has jumped 28 places on the Ease of Doing Business index. Yet the tourists by and large do not want to come to Pakistan and hardly anyone wants to do business with us. This is because of the festering wounds. We have an image problem and all of it is our own doing. The powers that be have always tried to be clever by half and in the process ruined the country. They lost us half the country in 1971 and since then we have slipped deeper into the abyss. We have dug ourselves into a hole we cannot dig out of. It is important to take stock of it.
Consider the so-called religion card. We could learn much from history. When Gandhi invoked Ram Rajya, he did not have Modi in mind. He was warned against it but he did not listen. When the framers of Objectives’ Resolution in Pakistan tried to strike the balance between religion and modern democracy in 1949, they probably could not imagine General Zia ulHaq and his 11 years in power. They too were warned but did not listen. Today the PTI government speaks about Maulana Fazlur Rahman using the religion card but they fail to realize that their own rhetoric has opened the door. What the Prime Minister does not realize is that while he might interpret Riyasat-e-Medina as a progressive and humane democracy, there may be others who might have a very different idea of what that means. Then there is the obvious misuse of religion that PTI engaged in with their unthinking support of TLP in 2017. Who would want to visit such a country or invest in it? No number of Royal Visits will change the perception that the world has.
The only way this country can progress is through an unwavering and uncompromising stand on civilian rule, liberal democracy and a practical separation of religion from state.
So what do we do? The old man had it right when he spoke on 11 August 1947, but it was too fine for philistines. Yet it really is the only panacea for our ills. Hence one harps about it. Nothing less than a faithful implementation will do. That is easier said than done. We have gone too far into the deep end to do it though. Hence we have a decaying and rusting state that creaks more than it works. Instead of concentrating wholly and solely on the well being of the poor in the country and delivering them from illiteracy and poverty, we are more interested in point scoring. Corruption is a symptom of the disease not its cause. Cause is the cynical manner in which the powers that be have run it. Consequently we have not been able to foster a genuine spirit of selflessness and public service. Everyone is in it for themselves.
The ruling party had come on the promise of change but what change do we see in this government. The people who were the aiders and abettors of General Musharraf are in power yet again. While civilian politicians continue to be punished for crimes real and imagined, the military dictator who did much harm not just to the country but to his own institution continues to live a happy life abroad. The last minute de-notification of the prosecution team in the case against him is just another example of his friends taking care of him. Musharraf had spoken a great game on some of these key issues but eventually the unconstitutional and illegal nature of his regime forced him to make compromises that meant that his much-vaunted idea of enlightened moderation turned out to be a farce. When he left power in 2008, he had virtually rolled back all that he had attempted to bring about in the beginning. In the final analysis though he had promised to be Pakistan’s Ataturk, Musharraf was no better than General Zia. This should have been a cautionary tale for those who think anything good can come out of unconstitutional regimes and really the fruits of a poisonous tree can never be wholesome. Yet powers that be went back to the drawing board. Today Pakistan is something less than a hybrid. Since August 2018, Pakistan has ceased to be a democratic state all but in name.
The only way this country can progress is through an unwavering and uncompromising stand on civilian rule, liberal democracy and a practical separation of religion from state. If these three things are achieved, Pakistan will rise and these are sine qua non for its progress. Unless this happens we are bound to go in circles that we have been stuck in ever since independence.

#Pakistan - Nimrita’s Murder

The final post mortem report of Nimrita, a student who was found dead in her hostel in Larkana, suggests that she was sexually assaulted and died due to asphyxiation. The initial speculation made by the police and university administration was that she had committed suicide but no evidence confirmed the idea. Sexual assault and murder are quite prevalent in Pakistan and the murder of Nimrita reaffirms this fact. Nimrita’s brother Dr Vishal, a medical consultant at Dow Medical College in Karachi, had told the media that the marks around her neck suggested that she had not committed suicide. He had further claimed that the marks on her neck looked like those made by cable wires, while the wounds on her arms suggested that someone was holding her down.
Now that the reason for her death has been affirmed, it is imperative that the government takes action. They should question the security provided by the university to the students residing in the hostel. A steady investigation should also be launched to find the culprits behind the act and penalise them in order to set a precedent. It is even more important to safeguard the minorities of this country due to the prevalent bias against them, which undermines their safety.
The judicial inquiry was also made on the request of Nimrita’s brother, whereas, the judge at the Sindh High Court (SHC) was reluctant to initiate the inquiry due to a lack of fulfillment of bureaucratic norms. In cases of assault, the government should urge law enforcement agencies to be more responsive and initiate an investigation as soon as possible. At the same time, the courts should also be vigilant to provide any support they can in order to assist in the matter.

#Pakistan - The army and politics

Perception can sometimes become reality.
Addressing the JUI-F’s Islamabad sit-in, Maulana Fazlur Rehman complained of interference from above in every election in the past, including the one in 2018. He called on the Army to stop this or it would become controversial. Later, PPP chief Bilwal Bhutto-Zardari maintained that the Army’s presence inside and outside polling stations in the 2018 elections had made it controversial which should not have happened. Responding to the criticism, the DG ISPR has claimed that the Army is not interested in politics. “The country’s defence doesn’t allow us to answer such allegations,” he said. “We are busy in defending the country.”
While the DG ISPR’s reply to the Maulana provides some clarification on the matter, a perception has now been formed that the army is heavily involved in politics no matter how far it may be from reality. And recent events have contributed to this. How does one explain the phenomenon of the TLP? How come the party which claimed that it did not believe in the country’s Constitution was allowed to occupy Faizabad, paralysing all traffic between Rawalpindi and Islamabad for about three weeks? Who paid money to its workers for traveling back home? A supreme court judge asked the same questions in his decision on the Faizabad dharna and is currently being tried by SJC- the merits, timing and urgency of the case against him have been questioned by senior members of the legal fraternity.
There was a time when many people in Pakistan believed whatever was said by Army spokesmen. But things have changed after Army dictators ruled the country directly for 30 years and indirectly controlled it for the rest. Pakistan was made to pay a heavy price on account of the acts of commission and omission by military rulers including the separation of East Pakistan under Gen Yahya Khan, the loss of Siachen under Gen Zia ul Haq and a costly military misadventure under Gen Pervez Musharraf.
Currently the media in Pakistan is facing an unprecedented level of censorship and control that no particular institution wants to own up to it making it all the more suspicious. But there is a good idea where instruction, directions and advice originate from. Unfortunately for them the electronic media has demolished all iron curtains with the result that things kept secret in the past can no more be hidden.

Bilawal alleges Zardari not given access to specialist doctors, personal physician

PPP Chairperson Bilawal Bhutto on Tuesday alleged that his father, former president Asif Ali Zardari, has not been given access to specialist doctors and his personal physician.
"Our family is increasingly concerned about his health. If anything happens to our father, this government will be held responsible," he said on Twitter. Zardari was brought to Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences (Pims) from Adiala jail in Rawalpindi on Oct 22 and admitted to the cardiology department’s VIP ward. He underwent a number of tests and was declared to be out of danger.
The former president had complaints of backache, weakness and anxiety.
On Monday, a medical board at Pims attached Zardari to a Holter monitor to check variations in his heartbeat.
“The device has been put on because of the continuous variation in the patient’s heartbeat,” Pims media coordinator Dr Waseem Khawaja told Dawn.
He added that the patient would stay at the hospital until all his tests come back normal.
A Holter monitor is a battery-operated portable device that measures and records the heart’s activity for 24 to 48 hours, or longer, depending on the type of monitoring used.A Cardiac Centre doctor said the device has four or five electrodes that are attached to the chest.
He said patients are put on the device when they complain of dizziness because this can occur due to a low heartbeat. “Zardari is sick, as he is diabetic, has arthritis and has received stents,” he said, adding that he had all these medical issues when he was president as well.
PPP leader Rehman Malik, a day earlier, sought relief for Zardari and his sister Faryal Talpur on the pattern of legal remedy provided to former prime minister Nawaz Sharif and his daughter Maryam.“Asif Ali Zardari and Faryal Talpur are high-profile under-trial political personalities and they must not be treated like convicted prisoners,” he remarked.
Zardari was arrested by the National Accounta­bility Bureau (NAB) on June 10 after cancellation of his pre-arrest bail by the Islamabad High Court in the fake bank accounts case. Prior to his arrest, additional prosecutor general of NAB Jahanzeb Bharwana had told the court that the anti-graft watchdog was investigating billions of rupees transactions through 28 bank accounts for which the investigation team required custody of the accused persons.
Shahbaz 'deeply concerned'
Also on Tuesday, PML-N president Shahbaz Sharif said he was "deeply concerned and extremely alarmed" over Zardari's ailment. "The government must ensure the provision of the former President's legal rights. Adequate medical treatment is Asif Ali Zardari's basic human and legal right!" the former Punjab chief minister tweeted.

Bilawal Bhutto vows to keep fight on for public rights

PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari says he will continue his fight for the people’s rights as the “selected” government has failed to resolve their issues.
He said this at a big rally here on Friday at the same venue where his mother Benazir Bhutto addressed a rally just two days before her assassination in December 2007.

Mr Bhutto-Zardari said he was happy to be in Muzaffargarh because of district’s attachment to his party. In 2008, the PPP won all five NA seats from the district, in 2013 one and in 2018 three seats. He said he visited the district during electioneering and his campaign was disrupted; later, on July 25, the polls were rigged and “selected” government was installed. He said in his first speech on the floor of the house, he asked Prime Minister Imran Khan to meet his promise of jobs and housing. He said accountability was for opposition parties only and his father former president Asif Ali Zardari was in illegal detention.
He said the PPP government in 2008 brave terrorism, recession and calamities but despite all these odds, the government accorded relief to farmers and government officials. The incumbent government, however, devalued currency and increased prices of kitchen items. The charged crowd chanted slogans after him: “Go, selected, go”.
Earlier, former foreign minister Hina Rabbani Khar, MNAs Raza Rabbani Khar, Mehr Irshad Sial and Nawab Iftikhar Ahmed, and former prime minister Yousuf Raza Gilani also spoke.PPP MNAs came to the venue with big processions. The party wanted to have the rally at the Faisal Stadium but the deputy commissioner allowed the event in the college sports ground.

Pakistan Failed to ‘Significantly Limit’ Funding, Recruitment by LeT, JeM on its Soil: US Report

Taking note of Pakistan's efforts in connection to the implementation of conditions laid down by Financial Action Task Force (FATF), the US slammed the country for failing to uniformly implement UN sanctions against outfits like LeT and its affiliates.
Pakistan has failed to “significantly limit” major terror outfits like Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) and Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) from funding, recruiting and training their fighters on its soil and has allowed candidates “overtly” affiliated with their front organisations to contest the general elections in July last year, according to a report released by the US State Department. According to the ‘Country Reports on Terrorism 2018’, Pakistan has failed to restrict the Afghan Taliban and the Haqqani Network from operating in safe havens on its soil, despite Islamabad’s open support for a political reconciliation between the Afghan Taliban and Afghan government. While the report noted Pakistan’s efforts in connection to the implementation of conditions laid down by Financial Action Task Force (FATF), it slammed the country for failing to uniformly implement UN sanctions against outfits like LeT and its affiliates.
“Although the Pakistani government voiced support for political reconciliation between the Afghan government and the Afghan Taliban, it did not restrict the Afghan Taliban and the Haqqani Network (HQN) from operating in Pakistan-based safe havens and threatening the US and Afghan forces in Afghanistan,” it said.“The government failed to significantly limit Lashkar e- Tayyiba (LeT) and Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) from raising money, recruiting, and training in Pakistan – and allowed candidates overtly affiliated with LeT front organisations to contest the July general elections,” the report said, referring to the Milli Muslim League (MML) founded by global terrorist Hafiz Saeed, which fielded candidates in the 2018 polls.The document highlighted significant terror attacks in Pakistan in 2018, which was conducted by several outfits like Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), Jamaat-ul-Ahrar (JuA), Islamic State’s Khorasan Province (ISIS-K), and the sectarian group Lashkar-e- Jhangvi al-Alami (LJA).
“Pakistan experienced significant terrorist threats in 2018, although the number of attacks and casualties has continued to decrease from previous years. The major terrorist groups that focused on conducting attacks in Pakistan included Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), Jamaat-ul- Ahrar (JuA), Islamic State’s Khorasan Province (ISIS-K), and the sectarian group Lashkar-e- Jhangvi al-Alami (LJA). ISIS-K claimed several major attacks against Pakistani targets, some of which may have been conducted in collaboration with other terrorist groups,” the report said.
Terror groups conducted attacks against governmental, non-governmental, and diplomatic targets in Balochistan and Sindh provinces, it continued. “Groups located in Pakistan, but focused on conducting attacks outside the country, included the Afghan Taliban, HQN, LeT and its affiliated front organisations, and JeM. Terrorists used a range of tactics to attack individuals, schools, markets, government institutions, and places of worship, including IEDs, VBIEDs, suicide bombings, targeted assassinations, and rocket-propelled grenades,” the report underlined.
The terror outfits targetted civilians, journalists, community leaders, security forces, law enforcement agents, and schools killing and injuring hundreds in 2018, the report noted adding, that religious minorities faced significant threats from the terror groups. The report said that Pakistan, being a member of the Asia/Pacific Group on Money Laundering (APG), a FATF-style regional body, agreed to implement international standards to combat money laundering, terrorism finance, and proliferation finance. While the country “criminalises terrorist financing through the Antiterrorism Act, the implementation remains uneven”. “In June 2018, the FATF placed Pakistan on its ‘grey list’ for deficiencies across its AML/CFT regimes, specifically citing concerns over Pakistan’s failure to fully implement the UN Security Council ISIL (Daesh) and al-Qaeda sanctions regime. FATF noted that UN-listed entities, including LeT and its affiliates, were not effectively prohibited from raising funds in Pakistan, or being denied financial services,” it said.
“Although Pakistan’s laws technically comply with international AML/CFT standards, authorities failed to uniformly implement UN sanctions related to designated entities and individuals such as LeT and its affiliates, which continued to make use of economic resources and raise funds,” the report noted.

Pakistan among worst countries for internet freedom: report

The report also found election manipulation in Pakistan through informational tactics through hyper-partisan commentators, bots, or news sites to disseminate false or misleading content.
Pakistan is among the worst 10 countries in the world for internet and digital media freedom, according to a report by an internet watchdog.The Freedom House, an international internet rights group, on Tuesday released its ‘Freedom on the Net’ (FoTN) report for the year 2019, titled ‘The Crisis of Social Media’, recording an overall decline in global internet freedom between June 2018 and May 2019. The watchdog in its report placed Pakistan at 26, out of 100 (100 being the worst) — one place down from last year’s ranking, Dawn News quoted the report as saying.
The country scored 5 out of 25 for obstacles to access, 14 out of 35 for limits on content, and 7 out of 40 for violation of user rights index. Globally, Pakistan is among the worst 10 countries in terms of internet and digital media freedom. In terms of regional ranking, Pakistan emerged as the third worst country after Vietnam and China, the report said. Besides decline in internet freedom, the report found election manipulation in Pakistan through informational tactics such as the coordinated use of hyper-partisan commentators, bots, or news sites to disseminate false or misleading content as well as technical tactics, including intentional restrictions on connectivity and blocking of websites, it said. Regressive policies
The report for Pakistan was authored by the Digital Rights Foundation. DRF Executive Director Nighat Dad said: “The score this year is the culmination of short-term and regressive policies by successive governments. Years worth of draconian legislation and investment in structures that stymie freedom of expression has led to an environment where the internet in Pakistan is more unsafe and less inclusive.” Internet penetration registered only marginal increases during the reporting period. There are 67 million broadband connections in Pakistan, an increase of 10m since the last report. However, it added that government initiatives to provide access to remote areas had progressed in recent years.
The report observed that authorities frequently disrupt telecommunication services during protests, elections, and religious and national holidays, often citing security concerns. During the 2018 general elections, mobile internet services were notably suspended in parts of Balochistan, and in all of former Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata) during both the election period and in the lead-up, the report saids.
The report noted that authorities had upped their efforts to silence critical journalists and activists using a range of techniques. Users were sentenced to death on charges of posting blasphemous content online, although their convictions were under appeal. Over 800,000 websites hosting political, religious and social content remain blocked while the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority continued to restrict content in a nontransparent and arbitrary fashion, the report said. It added that state and other actors were known to exert extralegal pressure on publishers and content producers to remove content, and these instances frequently went unreported.
It observed that most online commentators exercised a degree of self-censorship when writing on topics such as religion, blasphemy, civil-military relations, separatist movements, and women’s and other minority communities’ rights.
Increasingly, the report found, coordinated and inauthentic accounts were manipulating online content and spreading disinformation. Online journalists and activists, especially those scrutinising the military or intelligence agencies, had testified to the existence of state-sponsored troll armies being employed to silence dissent.
The report that governments around the world were increasingly using social media to manipulate elections and monitor their citizens, tilting the technology toward digital authoritarianism.

I am targeted for being a defender of religious minorities, alleges Pak Christian activist

A Pakistani Christian human rights defender has accused the country's government and security agencies of targetting him and his colleagues for helping the victims of religious violence.
Naveed Walter, who recently migrated to the United States, and runs an NGO called Human Rights Focus Pakistan (HRFP) in Faisalabad, said, "I am targetted for being a defender of religious minorities and religious liberties, particularly for assisting minorities through legal proceedings for their protection and bringing culprits to justice."

The HRFP has been defending human rights since 1994. The NGO runs a 24-hour telephone line (0800-09494) and supports religious minorities in legal proceedings, as well as provides all possible assistance to victims of religious violence.

The reason for the crackdown against the NGO is a recent speech that Naveed gave at the United Nations Security Council (UNSC), in which he denounced the violence perpetrated in the name of religion in Pakistan.

The government claims that Naveed did not mention the Kashmir issue in his address and presented a negative image of the country at the international level, both in the address and the side meetings.Naveed told ANI, "Different government departments have pressurised me during international advocacy efforts, whenever I have addressed international forums. They even visited HRFP's office, and pressurised my colleague, followed me and tried to scare my family at home and field."

"They created problems in the renewal of the organisation's registration, blocked HRFP's bank account and when they couldn't stop me from doing my work by any of these hurdles, they threatened severely. We immediately relocated to the United States to be safe," Naveed said.

He further said that human rights defenders in Pakistan are being targeted when they raise their voices internationally.

"The authorities in Pakistan blame human rights defenders for damaging the country's image, just as how they blamed me, but they don't make the situation better and safer for minorities," he said.

"The HRFP staff is not afraid and will continue to work for the marginalised minorities and to protect the minority girls who are being abducted, forcefully converted and married off," he added.

He said that his organisation will continue to assist the families and victims of blasphemy by way of releasing them from prisons and raising the issues of discriminatory practices against the minorities.

The advocacy and awareness activities will also continue on local, national and international levels, Naveed said.

Religious minorities in Pakistan, be it Christians, Hindus or Sikhs, are being persecuted by state and non-state actors.

An estimated 1,000 women and girls from religious minorities are abducted, forcibly converted to Islam and then married off to their abductors every year.