Friday, April 10, 2009

Identification documents declared essential to enter capital Islamabad

ISLAMABAD: Islamabad police have arrested 325 suspects in a search operation while the police have instructed the residents and people coming to the federal capital from outside to keep identification documents.The police said security high alert has been issued across the city while suspects are being rounded up.Security surveillance of important personalities and buildings has been increased besides police patrolling.

Extraordinary security was also witnessed in the city during Friday prayers while embassies and some of the private schools remained closed.Police says the terror threat still looms in the city and stringent security measures are being adopted to deal with the situation.

Pakistani Taliban move closer to Islamabad

The Pakistani Taliban is moving closer to Islamabad, the capital, according to news reports. This week the militants advanced to within 60 miles of the capital, sparking concerns that their reach is growing.

A Pakistani Taliban-aligned group came to power in the Swat district of the North West Frontier Province in February, striking a controversial peace deal with Pakistani authorities. The deal allows, among other things, rule by a conservative interpretation of sharia law.

The terms of the sharia deal encompass Swat's neighboring districts, including Buner, which borders Punjab Province. However, the militants' power is more firmly established in Swat than in Buner. Reuters reports that militants arrived in Buner this week:

In a development that will deepen the West's concerns, scores of Taliban have moved into Buner district, 100 km (60 miles) northwest of Islamabad, from the Swat valley....

"About 20 vehicles carrying Taliban entered Buner on Monday and started moving around the bazaar and streets," said senior police officer Israr Bacha.

The locals in Buner district opposed the arrival of the militants, writes the Pakistani newspaper the Daily Times:

The officials told Daily Times that when tribal elders heard that Taliban had entered Buner, a grand jirga was held in the office of the Buner district coordination officer to devise a strategy to tackle the Taliban.

The jirga decided that prompt action must be taken against the Taliban and called on the people of Buner to take up arms to evict them from the district. They gave the Taliban one day deadline to leave the district, warning that the residents would otherwise be compelled to take action against them.

The police and armed civilians took up positions at Bhangra area to stop the Taliban from moving further into the district.

The insurgents refused to leave, so the locals decided to resist. They organized a type of tribal militia known as a lashkar and clashed with the Taliban, reports the Pakistani daily Dawn:

Three police officials, two Lashkar (militia) men and sixteen militants were killed in overnight clash between Taliban and Qaumi Lashkar in Buner district.... Following the battle, the Taliban took possession of the bodies of two Lashkar men and three police constables and even opened fire on Lashkar men when they tried to rescue the bodies early on Tuesday morning.

Dawn later reported that the Taliban intend to stay in the area and ensure that their version of sharia law is implemented.

The insurgents have steadily moved deeper into Pakistan's Punjab district, where Islamabad and some other major cities are located, over the past few months. In February, the Long War Journal, an online outlet that follows insurgencies in Pakistan and elsewhere, reported:

The Pakistani Taliban has expanded its insurgency beyond the Northwest Frontier Province after its forces assaulted a police checkpoint in a district in Punjab province.

Seven policemen were killed in the complex attack on a police checkpoint in the district of Mianwali in Punjab. The attack took place in the early morning when Taliban fighters detonated a bomb outside of what was described as an "an important checkpoint" in the region. The Taliban assault force then opened fire on the policemen, killing all seven manning the outpost.

In early March, militants attacked the Sri Lankan cricket team in the Punjabi city of Lahore, hundreds of miles from the North West Frontier Province. Later in the month they struck a police compound near Lahore, leaving eight dead and more than one hundred wounded. The Christian Science Monitor reported at the time that the militants are growing more sophisticated as they reach into the Pakistani interior, away from the North West Frontier Province and tribal areas:

The two Lahore attacks suggest the police are outgunned and outwitted by an increasingly sophisticated breed of militants. Monday's attack suggests careful planning, down to the blue uniforms and timing during a parade of unarmed trainees.

The cricket attacks caught police flatfooted, despite official promises there would be top-notch security for the game. Instead, nearby police failed to respond in time to prevent the gunmen from casually getting away, though police on the scene did manage to protect the cricketers.

"It's a new generation of terrorists – better equipped with better planning and better coordination," says Pakistani security expert Ayesha Siddiqa. The attack "makes a case for better equipping the police and training them."

The Long War Journal writes that militant influence has spread throughout the country. A map of militant influence on the website shows that all of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas, which borders Afghanistan, and most of the North West Frontier Province, are under "Taliban control."

Girl’s flogging not Islamic

THE horrific sight purportedly of the Taliban’s public flogging of a girl and the sound of her heartrending screams have outraged many Pakistanis who have condemned this act of cruelty in the strongest terms.


It has also been condemned by some religious leaders. There is no question that the sight of the merciless flogging by a man of a powerless girl lying on the ground, being held down by other two men while others watched, evokes feelings that are too deep for tears.

This has been demonstrated by the outpouring of protests in many places in Pakistan. As a theologian who has worked for more than three decades on the rights of women in Islam, I am gravely concerned about the girl who has suffered such dreadful humiliation and pain.

The faceless, nameless and hapless girl seen in the soul-searing video clips must not be regarded simply as a statistic – as one of hundreds of girls and women who are routinely subjected to domestic and societal violence in a country that was created to provide safety and protection to all its citizens. It is a source of satisfaction to know that the Supreme Court of Pakistan has taken suo motu notice of the case, and has asked for the victim to appear in court. By doing this the court has recognised the girl’s fundamental right to be treated as a human being.

It is a moral and legal imperative now that all the particulars of the girl in question be known and scrutinised rigorously. At this time the story is shrouded in mystery. We do not know with certainty as to the offence, alleged or actual, for which the girl was flogged. Different statements have been made in this regard in the media. For instance, it has been insinuated that she had been living and thus having illicit relations with her father-in-law, and that was why she was flogged. I have also heard a rights activist say that she had been flogged because she had refused to marry one of the Taliban, whose proposal had been sent to her family.

Such statements have little logical or legal weight. Living in the same house with one’s father-in-law does not constitute any wrongdoing in terms of Islamic law. Incidentally, it should also be noted that a father-in-law is, in fact, a mehram and not a non-mehram, as clarified by verse 24: 31. Islam has made voluntary consent a precondition for marriage; therefore, non-acceptance of a proposal for any reason whatsoever does not constitute a wrongdoing for which one can be punished.

With regard to the insinuation that the girl had illicit relations with her father-in-law, and was, therefore, guilty of a hadd crime, the question arises: was she proved guilty beyond any doubt according to the conditions specified for an indictment of fornication under the Sharia? If so, where are the four witnesses who are known to be truthful, just, of upright, good moral character and unimpeachable integrity, who saw the commission of the act with their own eyes?

Also, if she was proved guilty in accordance with Islamic law, why was no punishment given to her father-in-law who would also be deemed equally guilty according to the following lines in verse 24:2? ‘As for the adulteress and the adulterer – flog each of them a 100 stripes, and let not compassion with them keep you from (carrying out) this law of God, if you (truly) believe in God and the Last Day; and let a group of believers witness their chastisement.’

Apparently, the girl was flogged 34 times. The hadd punishment for zina is 100 lashes. Why did the 100 lashes get reduced to 34 lashes if the girl was actually found guilty? Under the Sharia, every person is regarded as innocent until proved guilty. Since no evidence has been produced so far – in any court or even in the media – to demonstrate beyond any doubt that the girl who was flogged was guilty of any wrongdoing, she must be deemed innocent, and the cruel punishment meted out to her must be deemed to be totally unjust and in blatant violation of Quranic teachings and Islamic law.

The writer is a scholar of Islam and Iqbal, and teaches at the University of Louisville, US.

British Leader Urges Pakistan to Step Up Anti-Terrorism Effort

British leader Gordon Brown has called on Pakistan to do more to strengthen its counter terrorism efforts in the wake of the arrest of 12 suspects in Britain on Wednesday.Following the police operation that netted a dozen male suspects on Wednesday, Prime Minister Gordon Brown maintains that a "very big terrorist plot" had been thwarted.Those suspects, men ranging from their teens to the early 40s, continue to be questioned.Eleven of the 12 are Pakistani nationals. Most were in the Britain on student visas.Prime Minister Brown is urging Pakistan to do more in the fight against terrorism."Increasingly we have seen terrorist links with Pakistan and Britain. I will be talking to the Pakistan President Mr. Zardari," Brown said. "We want the closest of cooperation between Britain and Pakistan to deal with countering terrorism and I think one of the lessons we are learning from the events of the last few years is that Pakistan has got to do more to root out the terrorist elements in its country as well."But Pakistan's High Commissioner to the U.K. Wajid Shamsul Hasan says his country is already doing enough, it is Britain he says that needs to do more."We are already doing every day we are raiding people. We are arresting people," he said. "We are arresting suspects wherever we find them."Police forensic teams continue to scour 14 locations in northwest England. A number of British newspapers speculate that various Manchester shopping centers and a nightclub may have been targets. But police officials refuse to give out details, saying only that action was taken in the face of a perceived threat.Britain's top counter terrorism chief inadvertently tipped off the media that such a police operation was imminent when his detailed notes were exposed to cameras outside of Ten Downing Street. He resigned the next day.