Monday, September 10, 2012
YAHOO NEWSFlorida pizza shop owner Scott Van Duzer lifted President Barack Obama a solid foot off the ground in a bear hug during an unscripted stop at his Fort Pierce, Fla., store. Literally.
Let Us Build PakistanSpeaking at a recent television talk show, PTI chief Imran Khan tried to draw parallels between sectarian killings of Shia Muslims in Pakistan and conflicts in Iraq, Bahrain and Syria, saying he was convinced that the sectarianism in these Muslim countries was part of an international conspiracy to pit Sunnis and Shias against each other. However, the PTI chairman did not give any evidence to back up this claim. People of this country have long heard of a ‘foreign hand’ working to destabilise this country by fanning sectarian and ethnic violence but that hand has never been exposed. It is time for us to face the reality and, instead of blaming others for our problems, admit that many of these problems stem from our own flawed policies. Sectarian violence, which in the main involves target killing of Shiites, in Pakistan started much before it erupted in other Muslim countries. The sectarian strife in Iraq started with the downfall of Saddam Hussein and infiltration of al-Qaeda fighters into that country. In Bahrain, the majority Shia population has long been struggling against the Khalifa dynasty, while in Syria numerous opposition groups have revolted against President Bashar al-Assad. With Iran and Saudi Arabia supporting rival sides in the Syrian conflict and al-Qaeda making inroads into Syria, there is now a growing fear of outbreak of an all-out civil war in the country on sectarian lines-as happened in Iraq. But the sectarian violence in Pakistan has a totally different context. In Pakistan, it was the so-called Islamisation drive of military dictator General Zia-ul-Haq that gave birth to sectarianism in the country in the 1980s. Successive governments did not dare to rein in these sectarian militant groups because of their close links with the security establishment, which nurtured these and other jihadi groups to fight in Kashmir and Afghanistan. A tug of war between Saudi Arabia and Iran for expanding their influence in the region also added fuel to the sectarian fire. After joining the war on terror, General Musharraf banned some of these groups but there was never any follow-up action by his government to fully dismantle these groups. Many of these groups resurfaced with new names and continued to fearlessly propagate their agendas. But the dangerous upsurge of sectarian violence in recent months warrants urgent and effective measures before it turns into a full-blown conflict like Iraq and Syria. Till now it has been more of a law and order problem than a sectarian issue since the members of the two Islamic sects largely live in peace with each other. The recent Fair Trial Bill is a good step but instead of dealing with the issue through piecemeal legislation, the government should thoroughly review its anti-terrorism laws and plug in loopholes. Nearly 5,000 people were reportedly killed in over 2,000 sectarian attacks in the country since 1989 but very few perpetrators were given an exemplary punishment to deter others from committing such crimes. Many suspected terrorists and criminals walk away free because of weak prosecution and lack of proper evidence. There are thousands of cases pending in the courts in which witnesses refuse to testify for fear of reprisal from terrorists. Many political parties try to appease radical groups for short-term political gains, particularly during elections. They should commit themselves against forging any alliances or seeking any support from such groups. Sectarianism cannot be brought fully under control unless the security situation in the tribal areas stabilises because some of the major sectarian groups like Lashkar-e-Jhangvi have signed up to al-Qaeda- and Taliban-inspired militancy and shifted their bases to these unruly regions.
The government of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa has completed the working paper on missing persons before arrival of the UN special team to probe the matter. The working paper would be presented to United Nations team , which would investigate the matter of missing persons. The team members would also meet all the four provincial governors and chief ministers. The team would reach Peshawar on 15th September (Saturday)for which provincial government has completed all the arrangements. After their arrival they would attend the briefing of the high officials on the issue of missing persons.
Let Us Build PakistanA sessions court acquitted on Tuesday seven alleged members of the banned Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan in a police encounter case for want of evidence. The seven men — Saeed Anwar alias Moulvi, Hazrat Umar alias Ameer Sahib, Hamid Ali alias Hamesh alias Baatu, Khan Wali, Khan Alam, Saifur Rehman and Karamat Khan — were arrested in November 2010 after a shootout within the remit of the Gulistan-i-Jauhar police station. The accused through their counsel moved acquittal applications in court and Additional District and Sessions Judge (south) Javed Ahmed Keerio, who conducted the trial in the judicial complex (central prison), allowed the pleas after hearing both sides. The court ruled that the prosecution remained unable to place any confidence-inspiring evidence before it against the accused and there was no possibility of conviction in future. At the time of their arrest, the then city police chief, Waseem Ahmed, had claimed that the accused were active members of the banned TTP and planning to target government installations and senior officials in the city. He had alleged that a large cache of explosive materials, suicide jackets and illicit weapons were found in their possession. They were also involved in a botched attack on the Keamari oil terminal and were close aides to the Karachi chief of the TTP, he added. A number of cases were registered against them under Sections 324 (attempted murder) and 353 (criminal force to deter public servant from discharge of his duty) and 34 (common intention) of the Pakistan Penal Code, Section 4/5 of the Explosive Substance Act and 13-D of the Pakistan Arms Ordinance, 1965 at the Gulistan-i-Jauhar police station. However, the accused have already been acquitted in illicit weapons and explosive substance cases for lack of evidence.
http://www.washingtonpost.comPakistani government officials say a car bomb has ripped through a crowded market in a tribal region in the country’s northwest, killing eight people. Sahibzada Anis says the Monday afternoon explosion in the town of Parachinar in the Kurram region also wounded 45.nother government official, Naseer Khan, said all of the dead were Shiite Muslims. The majority of people in Kurram are Shiites. They’re often targeted by Pakistani Taliban or its affiliated Sunni sectarian groups who don’t believe that Shiites are true Muslims.
A UN delegation has arrived in Pakistan on a 10-day mission to investigate cases of “enforced disappearances” plaguing the country at the invitation of the government, a spokeswoman said on Monday. International and Pakistani human rights groups estimate thousands of people have been kidnapped and detained in secret prisons in the past decade, allegedly by security forces. The Supreme Court is already investigating cases of missing people in the southwestern province of Balochistan, where the military has been accused of rights violations in its bid to put down a separatist insurgency. “The United Nations Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances has arrived in Pakistan at the invitation of the government,” UN spokeswoman Ishrat Rizvi told AFP. She said the high-level delegation led by Olivier de Frouville arrived on Sunday and will stay in Pakistan until September 20. “The UN experts will gather information on cases of enforced disappearances,” the UN said in an earlier statement. They will also study the “measures adopted by the state to prevent and eradicate enforced disappearances, including issues related to truth, justice and reparation for the victims of enforced disappearances”. The Supreme Court’s investigation of the missing in Balochistan is the latest effort aimed at bringing the powerful military and intelligence agencies to book over mass arrests of alleged terror suspects, many of whom are never seen again. “The visit of the group will provide an opportunity to highlight the efforts being undertaken by the government to address this important issue and to further improve the relevant procedures”, the Pakistani foreign ministry said in a statement. The mission will meet members of the civil society, media, jurists and officials from the foreign and interior ministries to prepare their report.
PAKISTAN TODAYA group of Pakistani national Hindus 171 has sought asylum in India due to hardships in Pakistan. According to details a batch of 171 Hindus arrived in Jodhpur from Pakistan on Monday. Talking to media persons the leader of group Chetan Ram said that they were facing problems in Pakistan therefore they don't want to go back and Indian government should give them asylum. They have been accommodated temporarily in a temple campus until proper arrangements are made, Indian media reported. President of Seemant Lok Sangthan Singh Sodha, an organisation fighting for the rehabilitation of Hindu migrants said that he has intimated the chief minister about the matter, and expect him to direct the administration to make some arrangements for them. It should be mentioned that Hindus community group left the country in disguise, not disclosing about their departure even to their relatives.
Associated PressU.S. officials handed over formal control of Afghanistan's only large-scale U.S.-run prison to Kabul on Monday, even as disagreements between the two countries over the Taliban and terror suspects held there marred the transfer. The handover ceremony took place at the prison next to a sprawling U.S. airfield in Bagram, just north of Kabul. President Hamid Karzai has hailed the transfer as a victory for Afghan sovereignty. Bagram, also known as the Parwan Detention Facility, has been the focus of controversy in the past but never had the notoriety of the prisons at Guantanamo Bay or Abu Ghraib in Iraq. Earlier this year, the image of the prison was tarnished when hundreds of Qurans and other religious materials were taken from its library and sent to a burn pit at the military base. The event triggered scores of deadly anti-American protests across Afghanistan and led to the deaths of six U.S. soldiers. "We are telling the Afghan president and the Afghan people that today is a proud day," said Afghan army Gen. Ghulam Farouk, who now heads the prison. The U.S. had already given Afghanistan authority over most of the 3,000 detainees held at the prison before March 9, when the countries signed a handover agreement. As some may have been released or others brought in, the prison's current detainee population under U.S. control is not known but is thought to number in the hundreds. The U.S. recently suspended the transfer of new detainees apparently because of disagreements with Kabul, which has questioned the long-term detention of suspects without charge after their capture. The U.S. reportedly fears that Afghan authorities may simply let some detainees go, and appears reluctant to turn over all the suspects it holds. According to Farouk, the United States had transferred 3,082 detainees but was still in the process of transferring another 600 captured after the March agreement. The U.S. will also continue to hold about 50 non-Afghan prisoners that are not covered by the agreement on a small part of the facility that they will still administer. They are thought to include Pakistanis and other foreign nationals either captured in Afghanistan or transferred to Bagram from other wars, such as Iraq. The disagreement is not expected to impact military operations around Afghanistan, but it is an indication of the tense relations between the U.S.-led NATO military coalition and Afghan President Hamid Karzai. It is also unlikely to impact the gradual handover of security responsibilities from NATO to Afghan forces. The United States and its allies are drawing down their military forces in Afghanistan and hope to fully hand over control to the Afghans by the end of 2014, when most foreign troops are to leave the country. Acting Afghan Defense Minister Enayatullah Nazary said after a ceremony that "very few prisoners" remained with the United States military and the rest are under Afghan control. He attributed the delay in handing over the rest to "technical issues." Nazary would not elaborate. ___
Activists seeking to reform Pakistan's stringent blasphemy laws had hoped this case would spur change.Pakistan released from jail a Christian girl accused of burning Muslim religious texts and flew her to an undisclosed location by government helicopter. “Due to the security concerns surrounding her and the family, the girl is being kept in government’s protective custody and there are plans to settle them outside Islamabad,” says Tahir Naveed Chaudhry, one of her lawyers. The courts had approved the girl's bail on Friday at a sum of one million rupees (equivalent to $10,500), on the grounds of her being a minor. The accusations against the girl had also lost strength when it emerged that a local cleric had planted burnt pages of the Quran in the evidence, in order to evict Christians from the locality they were living in. Activists seeking to reform Pakistan's stringent blasphemy laws had hoped this case would spur public debate and government action toward amending the laws. However, that has not happened yet, say activists, and the girl's release may cause the spotlight to fade. “Even though we are happy that the child is now reunited with her parents, I am unhappy about the public face the government put on during the ordeal. The state did not come with any long term resolve to stop the abuse of blasphemy laws, and the debate does not even seem to go in that direction,” says Peter Jacob, head of one of the largest minority rights’ activist groups in Pakistan. Think you know Asia? Take our geography quiz. The blasphemy laws, which date back to the colonial times in South Asia, were carried forward in the constitution by Pakistani authorities after the country's independence in 1947. In the 1980s, draconian amendments to the laws by a military dictator were introduced, to the extent that anyone found guilty of committing blasphemy can be punished for life, and in severe cases, with a death sentence. “The text of the law has problems but even if that is changed, it is the mindset of society that needs to be changed,” says Marvi Sirmed, a social activist, who has been threatened many times over her strong secular views. “Until and unless the state divorces itself from religion, and becomes secular, persecution of minorities will continue to happen,” Ms. Sirmed adds. Religious clerics and a majority of the population in Pakistan still defend the laws, and do not tolerate any talks of reforms. Such support was underscored by the case of Salmaan Taseer, the governor of Pakistan's Punjab province. When Mr. Taseer publicly denounced the laws last year and supported a Christian woman facing a death sentence for blasphemy, he was assassinated in broad daylight by his own police guard, Mumtaz Qadri. Mr. Qadri is on death row now but enjoys popular support in the country and is considered as a hero by many in Pakistan. Although some religious clerics came out in support of the minor girl, asking for the cleric to be punished, there was no talk of changing or repealing the laws by these religious lobbies. “There should be no change in the law because otherwise people will pick up guns and resort to violence themselves. The country can become very insecure,” says Ibtisam Elahi, an Islamic scholar, who is part of a religious alliance that opposes Pakistan’s friendly relations with the United States and India. “All laws are prone to abuse – but that does not mean they should be done away with,” Elahi adds, saying the persecution of the Christian minority in Pakistan does not exist and it is just “western media and NGO propaganda.” PAKISTAN'S CHRISTIAN COMMUNITY Pakistan's roughly 2.7 million Christians make up less than 2 percent of the population. The Christianity community here, both Catholic and Protestant, traces much of its roots back to missionary efforts during British rule of the Indian subcontinent. "In rural Punjab, a substantial proportion of the discrimination against the [Christian] community has been correlated to land grabbing," reads a report from last year by the Jinnah Institute, a Pakistani NGO. "After some of the more serious mob attacks such as Gojra, Christian residents often did not return to their homes. Personal property and land, was in most cases, taken by local Muslim residents." Pakistan has registered nearly 1,000 blasphemy cases since 1986, with 180 of those against Christians and hundreds more against other religious minorities. Mr. Jacob, the minority rights activist, says that the government lost the opportunity once again to engage with elements in Pakistan that are usually unwilling to listen on blasphemy law reform. “This was the time to constitute an inquiry commission, for example, that could have sat down with those who oppose the reforms and use the girl’s case to highlight the rampant abuse of this law but that did not happen,” Jacob says. He also says the way the girl was airlifted from the jail reflects the government’s inability to stop the violence of extremists. “No one wants to talk about the reforms openly. It is just a few people who are asking for it to be repealed. And they are being killed one by one. First it was Salmaan Taseer, then the minorities’ minister - Shahbaz Bhatti. Tomorrow it will be me, and one day there will be no one left to stand up against the abuse,” says Ms. Sirmed.