Sunday, February 23, 2020

Music Video - Wiz Khalifa - Work Hard Play Hard

Video Report - CNN Fareed Zakaria GPS 2/23/20

Video - Bernie Sanders on the experiences that helped shape his political beliefs

Opinion: Bernie Sanders Isn’t the Left’s Trump

And this is no time for ego or self-indulgence.
Look, I know the primaries aren’t over, and it’s still possible that Democratic centrists will get their act together. But Bernie Sanders is now the clear favorite for the Democratic nomination. There are many things to say about that, but the most important is that he is NOT a left-leaning version of Trump. Even if you disagree with his ideas, he’s not a wannabe authoritarian ruler.
America under a Sanders presidency would still be America, both because Sanders is an infinitely better human being than Trump and because the Democratic Party wouldn’t enable abuse of power the way Republicans have.
And if you’re worried about his economic agenda, what’s your concern, exactly? That he’ll raise taxes on the rich part way back to what they were under Dwight Eisenhower? That he’ll run budget deficits? Trump is doing that already — and the economic effects have been positive.
I’m more concerned about (a) the electability of someone who says he’s a socialist even though he isn’t and (b) if he does win, whether he’ll squander political capital on unwinnable fights like abolishing private health insurance. But if he’s the nominee, it’s the job of Dems to make him electable if at all possible.
To be honest, a Sanders administration would probably leave center-left policy wonks like me out in the cold, at least initially. And if a President Sanders or his advisers say things I think are foolish, I won’t pretend otherwise in an attempt to ingratiate myself. (Sorry, I’m still not a convert to Modern Monetary Theory.) But this is no time for self-indulgence and ego trips. Freedom is on the line.

Bernie Sanders absolutely could win it all this November

"Please welcome the 46th President of the United States of America, Bernie Sanders."
You could be hearing those exact words come 2021. Those who say Sanders has no chance of winning are denying the reality of the current state of American politics. That being said, Sanders may not even end up as the Democratic nominee and, to be clear, I'm not writing this in support of his candidacy. Rather, my point is that Sanders could plausibly win both the Democratic nomination and the White House in 2020, especially given the lessons of Donald Trump's unexpected win.
I'm loathed to compare Sanders with Trump in any way given that Trump is a man who traffics in bigotry, racism and continually defends Republican men accused of abusing women, such as former Fox News head Roger Ailes after 25 women accused him of sexual harassment.But the Sanders 2020 campaign, fueled by a populist message, does share some commonality with Trump's improbable 2016 run.First, both Sanders today and Trump during his 2016 campaign drew massive, passionate crowds at their rallies. For example, in August 2015, then-candidate Trump drew 30,000 at a campaign event in Alabama. This was at a time when numerous political experts gave Trump almost no chance of winning. In January 2016, shortly before the New Hampshire primary, Trump attracted approximately 8,000 supporters at his rally near the border of neighboring Massachusetts.Today, Sanders is seeing comparable numbers and energy surrounding his campaign. Last Sunday, Sanders was scheduled to hold a rally at a 5,000-seat venue in Denver, but because of a tsunami of demand, the campaign moved it to a larger venue where he drew more than 11,000. Two weeks ago, the night before the New Hampshire primary, Sanders packed more than 7,500 into an arena, with USA Today noting that this "event easily marked the largest in the Democratic contest in New Hampshire."
A second similarity is that many political pundits warned that if either secured the nomination they would not only lose horribly but drag their respective political parties down with them.
For example, Karl Rove, who served as a top adviser to former President George W. Bush, warned in January 2016 that, "If Mr. Trump is its standard-bearer, the GOP will lose the White House and the Senate, and its majority in the House will fall dramatically." Now-dogged Trump defender and GOP Sen. Lindsey Graham tweeted in May 2016 that "If we nominate Trump, we will get destroyed.......and we will deserve it." In fact, some Democrats were "giddy" at the prospect of running against him, predicting he would get crushed the same way the GOP's very conservative 1964 presidential nominee Barry Goldwater lost to President Lyndon Johnson in that election. In reality, in 2016 with Trump as the nominee, the Republicans held onto control of both the Senate (losing only two seats) and the House. Today, some Democrats are expressing identical concerns: If the very progressive Sanders is the nominee, it will result in Democrats losing more moderate states and could enable the GOP to regain the control of the House it lost in 2018. Some have recently equated Sanders with the very progressive 1972 Democratic nominee George McGovern, who went on to lose horribly to Richard Nixon by 23 percentage points. Republicans are even expressing "glee" that Sanders might be the nominee, believing they can use his "democratic socialism" as a bogeyman to scare voters. First, can Republicans paint Sanders' "democratic socialism" as something to fear? Well, fear is crucial in motivating voters, and GOP politicians are the masters of using it. In recent years, they have warned of threats posed by everything from Muslims to gay marriage and Hispanic immigrants.
It will be up to Sanders and the Democratic Party, if Sanders wins the nomination, to explain that he's not a socialist in the traditional sense. Rather, as he explained in a 2019 speech on the topic, his focus is completing President Franklin D. Roosevelt's "New Deal" by, among other things, ensuring all Americans have health care as a right and helping to close the income equality gap by raising the minimum wage.
But comparisons to McGovern's electoral fate fall flat. In head-to-head matchups in 1972, Nixon never polled less than 53% while McGovern never got over 38% -- trailing Nixon at times by over 30 points. In contrast, last week's Washington Post/ABC poll shows Sanders topping Trump 51% to 45%. Obviously, this poll doesn't mean the election will turn out that way, but it does make it clear Sanders currently attracts more support than McGovern ever did and that Nixon was far more popular in 1972 than Trump is today.
We are only three contests into the Democratic process to pick a nominee, and no one knows for certain who that will be. And regardless of who it is, Trump could still win re-election. But one thing is certain: History does tell us Bernie Sanders has a viable chance of sitting behind the desk in the Oval Office come January 20, 2021.

Music Video - Log Kehte Hain Main Sharabi Hoon Sharabi

Sindhi Song - بینظیر جا لال اللہ بادشاھ کندو

Music Video - #Bilawalbhuttosong2019 - Saat Do Saat Do Bilawal Ka

Video - The Heat: #Afghanistan peace talks

#Documentary - In Search of #India's Soul: From Mughals to #Modi - Episode 1 & 2

Video Report - #Pakistan #Skiing Pakistan girl defies disability with skiing skills


By Chandan Khanna

The Asia Internet Coalition, a grouping of international firms that include Facebook, Google, Twitter and Yahoo, has responded to the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf-led government’s social media rules, saying it belies the “Government of Pakistan’s claims that it is open for business and investment.
In a letter addressed to Prime Minister Imran Khan, AIC Managing Director Jeff Paine shared his organization’s “initial views” on the Citizens Protection Rules (Against Online Harm) that was approved by the federal cabinet last week. “Unless revoked, these rules will severely cripple the growth of Pakistan’s digital economy,” it says, adding that while AIC members recognize Pakistan’s strong potential, the framing of these rules without any consultation from stakeholders “belies the Government of Pakistan’s claims that it is open for business and investment.”
Additionally, the AIC warned, if the rules were not amended or revoked, it “would make it extremely difficult for AIC Members to make their services available to Pakistani users and businesses.” It said that no other country has announced such sweeping rules, which risks turning Pakistan into a “global outlier, needlessly isolating and depriving Pakistani users and businesses from the growth potential of the internet economy.”
According to the AIC, the rules as written are “vague and arbitrary in nature, which is a result of the absence of public consultation.” It notes the rules demand “social media companies deviate from established human rights practices concerning user privacy and freedom of expression.”
Acknowledging that governments around the world are currently striving to figure out how to deal with problematic and illegal content online, the AIC said that it’s members “have been working in consultation with governments on this challenge for years, using both computer science tools and human reviewers to identify and stop a range of online abuse.” It urged the Government of Pakistan to initiate a public consultation process so a new set of rules could be developed after taking all stakeholders’ concerns into consideration.
Referring to the U.K.’s Online Harms White Paper, which has been used by some in Pakistan’s government to defend its rules, the AIC noted that it was released after months of consultations. “The U.K. government released on Feb. 12, 2020 its response to the consultation on the White Paper, which clarified a number of points, starting with an emphasis on the respect of fundamental human rights such as freedom of expression, the importance of transparency, and clarity and certainty for business,” it said, adding that even still the U.K.’s efforts were focused on specific areas of child abuse and hate speech, rather than a very wide interpretation of online harms.
“We also understand that some within the Government of Pakistan have drawn parallels between the Rules and Vietnam’s Law on Cybersecurity,” it says. “It’s important to note, however, that while Vietnam’s Parliament approved the Law on Cybersecurity in June 2018, it has not yet been implemented. What’s more, a broad range of governments, industry and civil society groups have expressed grave concerns with the law and Vietnam’s proposed implementing regulations.”
The AIC letter says that its members are not against regulating social media, but the rules laid down by the PTI government “fail to address crucial issues such as internationally recognized rights to individual expression and privacy.” It also questions the legal backing for these rules. “Neither the Pakistan Telecommunication (Re-Organization) Act, nor the Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act, 2016 (PECA) envision the broad powers granted through these Rules. On the contrary, PECA grants safe harbor protection to intermediaries or social media platforms,” it adds.
The letter concluded by urging the Government of Pakistan to consider the potential consequences of the rules in order to prevent unexpected negative impacts on Pakistan’s economy.

Silence speaking volumes?

By Najam Sethi

Last month, the chairman of the FBR, Shabbar Zaidi, called it a day. Apparently the pressure of having to deliver unrealistic IMF targets agreed by the government laid him low. Yesterday, the Attorney General, Anwar Mansoor Khan, quit. The pressure of having to endorse indefensible government actions alienated the bar and bench, his constituency, and eroded his credibility. The knives are now out for the Finance Minister, Hafeez Sheikh, and the State Bank Governor, Raza Baqir. An ex-Commerce Minister and reputed IMF/World Bank consultant, Dr Zubair Khan, has petitioned the Supreme Court to stop the duo from drowning Pakistan in a sea of debt by their deeply hurtful economic policies at the behest of foreign agencies. The irony is that the IMF team has returned to Washington without sanctioning the next tranche of financial assistance, implying that it isn’t satisfied with the government’s substance and pace of “reform” as agreed.
If economic management is woefully lacking, the state of political mismanagement also shows. The Miltablishment weathercock, Sheikh Rashid, is alarmed by the stunning silence of the opposition parties, in particular the PMLN. He would much rather have a raucous and threatening opposition, he says, so that one can gauge its intentions and react to it than such a studied meekness that smacks of some sort of a dangerous and ominous conspiracy to unseat the government. He has in mind the undignified haste with which the opposition stamped approval of the army chief’s extension in comparison with the bumbling and stumbling manner in which the government approached the subject. The silence of Nawaz Sharif and Maryam Nawaz is particularly out of form, suggesting that some sort of “deal” with the Miltablishment is in the works. Such a deal, he fears, would inevitably be at the cost of his dear prime minister.
If truth be told, it is curious that the courts have suddenly become amenable to the pleas of opposition leaders. Asif Zardari and Faryal Talpur are being looked after in hospital, thank you; Rana Sanaullah, Fawad Hasan Fawad and Miftah Ismail are free; Shahid Khaqan Abbasi and Ahsan Iqbal will probably be bailed out shortly; Nawaz Sharif and Shahbaz Sharif are in London, the former’s conviction in a corruption case is suspended while the latter is on bail. For a government that sustains its anti-corruption agenda on hounding the opposition, this must be worrying. More significantly, a government that never tires of reminding everyone that it is on the same page as the Miltablishment on all issues  – and hence has nothing to fear from it – must wonder whether its “stability” is more illusion than reality. Whether it is the ubiquitous but invisible hand of the Miltablishment or widespread public disgruntlement with the government’s lack of “performance” that is creating sympathy for the opposition and affording it some relief in the courts, one thing is for sure: the government’s economic and political narrative is bankrupt.
Amidst this developing crisis of confidence and runaway suspicions, Maulana Fazal ur Rahman has put the cat amongst the pigeons. He is threatening another long match next month to unseat the government, setting off alarm bells for Sheikh Rashid and Imran Khan. The good Sheikh has warned the Maulana that he will be bunged into prison if he ventures into Islamabad. The beleaguered prime minister wants Article 6 Treason charges to be brought against him for conspiring against the government last month. Pundits will, therefore, be drawing straws to predict what happens next.
The first signal to look out for is the pending case of Maryam Nawaz for permission to leave the country and be with her father during his illness. The judges have kept it pending, week after week. If she is granted permission, two perceptions will be created: something is definitely in the air; and, if the government challenges it in the Supreme Court, the prime minister intends to resist it, albeit unsuccessfully, confirming Sheikh Rashid’s fears.
The second signal will come if the opposition unites under one banner to march on Islamabad and the government pulls out all the stops to halt it in its tracks. With the public in a state of visible outrage at spiraling prices and joblessness and provincial governments tottering under the burden of disaffection amongst the ranks of the police and bureaucracy, Imran Khan will be hard put to block this surge of popular militancy. The Miltablishment is already smarting for spawning the disastrous PTI government. Certainly, it will have to think twice before it commits itself to overtly defending such an unpopular regime.
The final signal will come when the PTI’s “allies” in Punjab and Islamabad start forming forward blocks and jumping ship. Of course, the signals may be mixed and ambiguous. But, come what may, there is only one potential winner or loser in this scenario. That is Shahbaz Sharif. Either his pro-Miltablishment “narrative” will be dead as a dodo and Nawaz Sharif’s will be revived, or he will be bang in the game like never before.

#Pakistan #PPP - Govt will go in six months: Bilawal Bhutto Zardari

Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari has said his party will never come to power through any power-sharing formula, and it would never make any deal with the establishment for the purpose.

“If we came to power, we will review and amend any power-sharing formula with the establishment,” he said while talking to the media at Bilawal House on Saturday.
The PPP leader noted that his party had ensured civilian and parliamentary supremacy through the 18th Constitutional Amendment. He claimed that the incumbent Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) government would be sent packing in six months, as its contract had reached expiry.He said the powerlessness of the incumbent government was visible from the fact that it was a selected government. He said those working on contract had to do precisely what they were told under the contract. He said the foreign powers also use the selected governments for their vested interests, adding that after campaigning for Narendra Modi elections, now a campaign was being run for re-election of US President Donald Trump.He said it was height of hypocrisy that those who had been demanding Pakistan ‘Do more’ were now publishing interviews of Taliban commander Sirajul Haq Haqqani. He said the state institutions never considered masses as important and never acknowledged the power and sovereignty of people.
To a question, Bilawal said before Imran Khan, Mian Nawaz Sharif was also a selected prime minister and Pakistan Muslim League-N (PML-N) had never given due importance to the parliament like Imran Khan.
He said the role of opposition leader was vitally important for functioning of democracy, and expressed his hope that Shahbaz Sharif would return to the country soon.
He said it never mattered that his party members were in minority in the parliament, adding that they were determined to fight like the 300 of the Sparta. He recalled that Benazir Bhutto with only 17 members’ minority had resisted and frustrated Nawaz Sharif’s bid to become Amirul Momineen despite having heavy mandate.
Bilawal Bhutto said leaders of Punjab had fled the country at a time when their people badly needed them. He noted that dog-bite in Sindh makes headlines in the media and discussed in prime time, but such incidents in Punjab’s Lahore and Faisalabad district are not given any importance. He said the HIV spread in Sindh was dangerous but that of Punjab was not.
He said Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah was better than Shahbaz Sharif and the incumbent Punjab chief minister. He challenged that Murad Ali Shah should be compared with the chief ministers of Punjab, Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan. He said price-hike and inflation had not registered any decrease. He said that let the summer come, and there would be no electricity but people would receive heavy bills.
He told a questioner that all crises of Musharraf era including the shortage of wheat, sugar and Lal Masjid had returned to the country under the PTI regime.

Sentenced to death for blasphemy: Surviving Pakistan's death row


The story of a man who spent 19 years awaiting execution reveals the power of a false blasphemy claim to destroy a life.

 After spending almost half of his life on death row, Wajeeh-ul-Hassan had given up hope that he would ever be freed.
Convicted of committing blasphemy and sentenced to death by a court in the eastern Pakistani city of Lahore in 2002 - when he was 25 - he spent almost 19 years in jail in a country where the crime of insulting Islam, its Prophet Muhammad or its holy book, the Quran, has been at the centre of alleged rights abuses for decades.
The crime carries punishments ranging from fines to life imprisonment and, in the case of insulting the Prophet Muhammad, a mandatory death sentence.
But many cases do not even get to court. According to an Al Jazeera tally, at least 75 people have been extra-judicially killed in connection with blasphemy allegations since 1990.
They include people accused of blasphemy, their family members, their lawyers, a judge, as well as a serving federal minister and a provincial governor who supported the right of one of the accused to a fair trial.
From the moment he was accused in 1999, Hassan says he faced beatings, abduction, torture, rape and a forced confession.
In 2018, however, after years of darkness, Hassan finally saw a glimmer of hope.
Aasia Bibi, a Christian woman accused of blasphemy and sentenced to death in what was the most high-profile blasphemy case in the country's history, was acquitted by the Supreme Court in October that year.
Hassan was amazed by the acquittal and wondered: Could that same brave judge save him too?
This is Hassan's story.

Part 1: The accusation

Hassan was born into a working-class family in the small town of Kot Abdul Malik, on the outskirts of Pakistan's second city of Lahore, to parents who struggled to raise him and his nine siblings. The eldest of three sons, he was the first in the family to go to university but was forced to drop out when the private college he was attending became insolvent and shut down.
"My father told me that he could no longer financially support my education," says Hassan.
Still in his teens, he continued to study for his board examinations on his own, teaching himself accountancy, banking and finance so that he could get his intermediate degree and fulfil his dream of becoming a civil servant.
"I won't lie to you, I wanted to become a civil servant because it would allow me to live a good life," he says. "It was not necessarily for the good of the nation, I wanted it to erase my own poverty."
Money had always been tight around the Hassan household. The 10 siblings lived with their parents in a small house, barely managing to make ends meet.
Eventually, his father prevailed upon him to put his studies on hold and get a full-time job. Aged 17, Hassan took a job as an office assistant at Hala Enterprises, a Lahore-based textile company where his father had been working for years.
Hala was owned by Mian Tahir Jehangir, the husband of Asma Jehangir, one of Pakistan's foremost human rights lawyers. An award-winning activist, Jehangir had defended blasphemy convicts and fought cases pro-bono for victims of other rights abuses for years.
Like many family-run businesses in Pakistan, Hala's operations were run out of an office adjacent to the owners' residence, in the Gulberg area of Lahore.
In 1994, the Jehangirs' home-office was attacked in connection with the blasphemy case of Salamat, Manzoor and Rehmat Masih, three Christian men. (Earlier, in April 1994, Manzoor, 38, had been shot dead while exiting court after a hearing in the case.)
"A number of bullets hit the office, lodged in the doors or in the trees," says Hassan, of what he saw when he arrived at work the day after the attack. "I was very afraid."
Hassan stuck it out at Hala, but left the job in 1998 under a cloud of suspicion following a robbery in which thieves stole more than 380,000 rupees (about $8,400) of company funds from his possession as he was returning from the bank.
Desperate for work, Hassan found himself at the door of two brothers - Muhammad Wasim and Muhammad Naveed - upon whose testimony he would end up spending much of the next 20 years in prison.
Wasim and Naveed ran a steel foundry, Crown Steel, on the outskirts of Lahore.
"In the beginning, they didn't say anything. But slowly, they would begin to ask about Asma Jehangir and my own religious views," says Hassan.
Within weeks of starting work at the foundry, the brothers told Hassan they wanted to accuse Jehangir of committing blasphemy so that they could pressure her family in connection with giving up ownership of a valuable piece of commercial property on Lahore's Brandreth Road, where the brothers also rented a shop.
Pakistan Blasphemy - illustration
[Jawahir Al-Naimi/Al Jazeera]
The property was owned by the Ahmadiyya Anjuman Isha’at-e-Islam Lahore, a welfare organisation run by the Ahmadiyya sect of Islam, with whom Asma Jehangir’s father-in-law, Fazl-i-Ahmad, was associated, her family told Al Jazeera.
"There were some people who were forcibly trying to take over the property," said Mian Tahir Jehangir, the owner of Hala Enterprises. He was, however, he said, unaware of the use of any blasphemy cases to pressure his family in this regard.
"When I refused to [implicate the Jehangirs], then they tortured me and they made me write those letters that they used as evidence against me," says Hassan.
The letters were at the centre of Hassan's case. He was accused of writing "blasphemous" letters in which he insulted Islam's Prophet Muhammad and the Islamic faith while claiming to have converted to Christianity under the name of "Murshid Masih".
The letters - not carrying his real name - were then sent to Ismail Qureshi, a prominent lawyer and proponent of the blasphemy laws who had represented the prosecution in the case against Salamat, Manzoor and Rehmat Masih. In 1991, it had been a petition by Qureshi that, along with pressure from the country's far-right religious parties, forced the courts to change the blasphemy laws so that they carried a mandatory death penalty for those convicted of insulting the prophet.
Over the next year, Hassan says, the brothers attempted to use the letters as leverage to get him to testify against Jehangir. They wanted him to say that she had either written them herself or forced him to write them. If he did not, they threatened to tell Qureshi that he, Hassan, was the letter writer, opening him up to prosecution for blasphemy.
Hassan was trapped. When he told his family he had been forced to write the letters, his father cast him out, filing legal papers to declare that he was no longer his son. His mother pleaded his case, he says, but his father felt the risk to the family was too great, and threw him out of the house.
"He was very fearful that the [family] home may be burned to the ground, or that they themselves could be attacked or killed," he says. "I felt helpless, like I was completely alone in the world."
With nowhere else to go, he started living on the premises of the steel foundry, where the two brothers continued to pressure him to implicate Jehangir.
"They fired bullets from a pistol all around my feet," he says, gesturing to the area around his shoes. "They beat me with a glass bottle, the kind that you used to get soft drinks in. They hit my back so hard with a stick that was this thick," he continues, gesturing to indicate something roughly the girth of a baseball bat.
"They would cover my face with a cloth and tie my hands behind me. They would hit my feet [and my head]. My feet and mouth would start bleeding. It was extreme torture.
"They said if you leave this job, or try to tell anyone, we will murder you and your family."

Part 2: The arrest

In March 1999, Ismail Qureshi filed a police report saying he had received "blasphemous" letters from a man named "Murshid Masih", a Muslim convert to Christianity who had abused the prophet and Islamic teachings.
Hassan had not yet been named as the letters' writer, but knew that at any moment the brothers could expose him.
"Twenty-four hours a day, I was in their custody. I had no place to live, no other source of earning, so I could not go to the police against them. They controlled [everything]," he says.
But neither could he accede to their demand that he implicate Jehangir.
"I had one compulsion in all this … my father still worked [for the Jehangirs], and it was my parents' only source of earning, that job with Asma Jehangir. If I gave a statement against her, then maybe I would have gotten rid of these people, but then Madam Asma would have become our enemy."
"The problems that Asma Bibi would have created for us, we would not have been able to handle them, as a family. She was a very powerful woman. She might not have lost anything, but we would have lost everything."
Trapped between two wealthy families, both with the power to control his family's destiny, Hassan continued to work at the foundry for almost three years, until 2001.
It was then that, racked by anxiety and guilt at having penned them at all, even though it was under duress, Hassan decided to turn to religion to repent.
In January, he joined the Tableeghi Jamaat, an Islamic missionary organisation that proselytises around the world, seeking salvation.
"I told [the brothers - Wasim and Naveed] that I am going to join the Tableeghi Jamaat, that I am going to ask for forgiveness from Allah, and that I will not complain against them or do anything against them," he recalls. "That the issue was finished from my side."
He spent four months with the group at its headquarters in Raiwind, just outside Lahore, devoting his time to reading the Quran and other holy texts, praying and performing rituals of repentance.
"I felt like I was a sinner, because I had physically written those letters, so I wanted to repent for it and to ask for forgiveness. I would pray with tears in my eyes during my time there."
Four months later, his stint with the Jamaat completed, he returned to Lahore feeling cleansed. Wasim and Naveed called him to meet them, offering him his old job back.
Hassan says he wanted nothing to do with them, and agreed to meet only to convey that he wanted to put the whole episode behind him.
The brothers, however, had other ideas, he says. He was abducted from the meeting, taken to a second location, held down and beaten for hours. This was the brothers' exit strategy from the whole affair: to pin the letters on him, leaving Jehangir out of it entirely, and to tie a neat bow on the whole episode for the police.
"They made me write yet another account. It was meant to be a confession statement, saying that I had converted to becoming a [member of the Ahmadi sect, considered non-Muslim under Pakistani law], and that I had written those letters myself."
Pakistan Blasphemy - illustration
[Jawahir Al-Naimi/Al Jazeera]
The "confession" - this time signed under his real name and with a copy of his National Identity Card - was sent to Ismail Qureshi, the lawyer.
Hours later, Hassan was handed over to the police at the Allama Iqbal Town police station in central Lahore, with Muhammad Wasim and Muhammad Naveed claiming they had finally captured the man who had been writing the "blasphemous" letters.
Hassan pauses, gesturing to show the length of his forearm. The police, he says, took a leather strap roughly that length and whipped him with it.
"They beat me with that, after tying me upside down. I urinated halfway through it, that's how painful it was."
They also beat him with their fists as they interrogated him, he adds. He protested his innocence, but says that the police were not willing to listen.
"They said whoever hits him once, he will get 10 blessings [from God]."
Hassan recalls how two policemen held him down while two others beat him.
Ghulam Mustafa Chaudhry, the lawyer representing the complainants, denied that Hassan had been beaten by Wasim and Naveed.
“There was a [Ahmadi] lobby behind him, and he wanted to get out of the country,” Chaudhry told Al Jazeera, about why he thought Hassan would have written the letters or implicated himself by sharing his identity documents. “That is why he did this thing.”
In court, too, Hassan says no one was willing to believe the word of a man accused of blasphemy.
"No one believed me," he reflects.
Frightened for his family's safety after he says the complainants had threatened to kill them if he told the truth, Hassan did not testify in his own defence.
"I have even said this in court, to the stenographer, to the judge, I have told them that my family members are in danger, that is why I cannot testify [in my defence]," he explains.
"[The judge] just said he was in more danger than I am."
On July 27, 2002, Wajeeh-ul-Hassan was convicted on the basis of the testimony of Muhammad Wasim and Muhammad Naveed, and a handwriting analysis that showed there was a high likelihood he had written the letters.
He was sentenced to death.

Part 3: The prison

At first, police took Hassan to Lahore's infamous Kot Lakhpat jail. A month earlier, a man accused of blasphemy had been murdered there.
Yousuf Ali, a Sufi Muslim scholar in his 50s, had been convicted and sentenced to death in August 2000 for allegedly claiming to be a prophet. Ali consistently denied the charges, saying he was a follower of Islam and was being framed. In June 2002, he was murdered by fellow inmate Muhammad Tariq, who was on death row for a previous murder, in the belief that killing Ali would guarantee him a place in heaven.
"They kept me in the same cell as where the man who was murdered had been kept," says Hassan, explaining how he feared he would be killed.
Soon, he was moved to another jail in the central Pakistani town of Sahiwal, where he would spend the first six years of his sentence, all in solitary confinement.
"There were no fans in the cells," he says. "The floors were unfinished. The walls were made of unfinished mud. The food was incredibly third-class."
Eventually, the years in solitary began to take a toll on him.
"This is when I started talking to the walls, or to the ceiling, because I was locked up alone."
After five years, he broke down in front of the jail superintendent.
"I started crying in front of him … that please [either] hang me, or end my solitary confinement."
Pakistan Blasphemy - illustration
[Jawahir Al-Naimi/Al Jazeera]
Seeing his desperation, he says the superintendent relaxed some of the restrictions around him, allowing him to spend up to two hours a day with other prisoners. This, however, brought a new kind of danger.
"Two [prisoners] raped me, saying that if I did not fulfil their needs they would kill me," he says. "And nothing would come of it, because killing a person for [blasphemy] is a blessed act. 'We will become [religious warriors, they said]'."
He says he was raped once more, this time by a jail warden.
In Pakistani prisons, those convicted of blasphemy exist at the bottom of the hierarchy, he explains.
"They are hated, not just because of being a prisoner, but because of the religious aspect of why they are imprisoned. So whether it is other prisoners, jail employees, under-trial prisoners, you would only ever be called by a curse," he says.
Blasphemy prisoners, held in high-security cells ostensibly for their own safety from other inmates, can go "a few months" without seeing sunlight, says Hassan.
Hassan spent another nine years at a jail in the town of Sheikhupura, before being moved in 2017 to a high-security prison in Faisalabad, where the majority of inmates were members of armed groups who had been convicted of terrorism charges.
For Hassan, however, everything was about to change.

Part 4: Redemption

Aasia Noreen, better known as Aasia Bibi, was convicted and sentenced to death on November 8, 2010, by a court in the town of Nankana Sahib. Noreen, a Christian, was accused of making blasphemous comments about the Prophet Muhammad while in an argument with two Muslim women over their refusal to drink water from the same vessel as her.
Despite numerous fair trial concerns, Noreen's conviction was upheld by the Lahore High Court in 2014. By then, Punjab Governor Salmaan Taseer and federal minister Shahbaz Bhatti had been murdered for standing up for Noreen's right to a fair trial, both in 2011.
In October 2018, however, Noreen's final appeal was heard at the country's Supreme Court, with judges acquitting her of all charges. In a landmark ruling by Judge Asif Saeed Khosa, the court ruled that prosecution witnesses appeared to have willfully lied to implicate Noreen and that there was no compelling evidence to deem her guilty.
"Blasphemy is a serious offence but the insult of the appellant's religion and religious sensibilities by the complainant party and then mixing truth with falsehood in the name of the Holy Prophet Muhammad (Peace Be Upon Him) was also not short of being blasphemous," reads the verdict.
The verdict - only the second time a blasphemy case has ever reached the Supreme Court in Pakistan's history - gave Hassan hope.
"[Judge Khosa] is a brave man, and I had some hope that he could secure my family," says Hassan. "The first thing I said was that my family members must be given security."
And so, 20 years after he was first accused, Hassan wrote a letter to Khosa, in which he gave, for the first time, full testimony in his own defence, detailing how he had been forced to write the letters, and how fear for his family's safety had kept him silent for so many years.
For a few months, nothing happened and Hassan continued to languish at the Faisalabad jail. And then, on September 26, 2019, his mother came to visit him.
"Ami [mother] said that the Supreme Court had acquitted me," he says. "I felt as if a bomb had exploded above my head. I was struck dumb. I could not speak. For several minutes, I was just staring into empty space."
A new ordeal, however, was about to begin.

Part 5: 'Still guilty'

"[In jail] you have a guarantee of being fed three times a day. You have a secure life in that there are guards who are there to ensure you remain alive […] life in jail is better than life outside," says Hassan on a chilly Islamabad afternoon. "For people accused of blasphemy in Pakistan, there is no guarantee you will be fed or have security or any place to live."
Fearing that he may be recognised and murdered, Hassan covers his face with a surgical mask and wears a woolly hat.
"Even if I have to leave the house for 15 minutes, I wear a mask and cover my head, just like women wear the niqab," he says.
Since his release in October, Hassan has not been able to return home. He met his family only briefly, for a few minutes under cover of night, before leaving again, out of fear that he or they may be attacked.
Today, he lives in a small village in a remote rural area, far from his family.
"You don't even get cellphone signals there. If you have to phone someone, you have to go to the next village over."
He says he cannot find work as he fears this will lead to him being recognised.
"I cannot even feed myself here. I cannot earn, and how long will people keep feeding me? As soon as that money falls short, I will die."
While he was in prison, his longtime fiancee, a cousin, broke off their engagement. No one told Hassan until his release in October. Hassan says he spoke to her on the phone after he was released and she told him: "I cannot give my life for love."
"Life ended at that moment," he says. "You can say that now I just need to fill out my years with time."
The end of his engagement to a woman he says he loved broke Hassan.
"Even after I have won this case and been proven to be innocent by the Supreme Court, I am not innocent. Still, I am guilty. And I don't know what I should do? How can I convince people that I never converted my religion nor intended to? I was trapped, but as a result of that my life has been finished."
Even so, Hassan, who read the Quran and other religious books voraciously while in prison, says if given the opportunity, he would forgive those who accused him.
"I would only say that while I have been destroyed, I have been crushed, everything has been taken from me [but] I will, as a Muslim, follow the teachings of my Prophet Muhammad (Peace Be Upon Him) and … to Ismail Qureshi and all of the witnesses against me … I would say that in the name of God I forgive you."
In Pakistan, Hassan's case is hardly atypical - at the heart of many blasphemy allegations, there is often an unrelated dispute between the two parties. The law has been repeatedly used as a tool to avenge those scores, or as a tactic to pressure those accused into settling existing disputes.
Asked what he would say to those who use the law in this way, to settle disputes or blackmail people, Hassan begins to speak confidently once more about Islam's teachings of forgiveness, but stops himself.
Tears start to well up in his eyes.
"My request of all of my Muslim brothers would be that all of these injustices that I have faced ...," he pauses, as the skin creases around his eyes and he begins to weep. "... For God's sake, forgive them all," he says, through the tears. "For God's sake, forgive this as well."