Saturday, December 22, 2012
ReutersTaking what promised to be a very brief Christmas break from the ongoing struggle to avoid the "fiscal cliff" of tax hikes and spending cuts, President Barack Obama relaxed with his family on Saturday at a beach retreat in Hawaii.
By: Abbas Nasir
http://www.hrw.orgSaudi authorities should immediately drop all charges against the detained editor of a website created to foster debate about religion and religious figures in Saudi Arabia. On December 17, 2012, the Jeddah District Court, which had been hearing the case against the editor, Raif Badawi, referred it to a higher court on a charge of apostasy, which carries the death penalty. The charges against him, based solely to Badawi’s involvement in setting up a website for peaceful discussion about religion and religious figures, violate his right to freedom of expression. “Badawi’s life hangs in the balance because he set up a liberal website that provided a platform for an open and peaceful discussion about religion and religious figures,” said Eric Goldstein, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. “Saudi Arabia needs to stop treating peaceful debate as a capital offense.” A member of Badawi’s family told Human Rights Watch that during the December 17 hearing, Judge Muhammad al-Marsoom prevented Badawi’s lawyer from representing his client in court and demanded that Badawi “repent to God.” The judge informed Badawi that he could face the death penalty if he did not repent and renounce his liberal beliefs, the family member said. Badawi refused, leading Judge al-Marsoom to refer the case to the Public Court of Jeddah, recommending that it try Badawi for apostasy. Prior to the December 17 hearing, Badawi had been charged with “insulting Islam through electronic channels” and “going beyond the realm of obedience,” neither of which carries the death penalty. A different judge, Abdulrahim al-Muhaydeef, presided over five sessions of the trial but was replaced without explanation for the December 17 hearing by Judge al-Marsoom. Saudi law derives from principles of Islamic Shariah, which are not codified and do not follow a system of precedent. As a result, individual judges are free to interpret the Quran and prophetic traditions – the two agreed-upon sources of Shariah – as they see fit. With the exception of a few crimes – including the capital offense of apostasy – judges essentially can interpret offenses to fit facts rather than assessing whether facts fit a clearly defined offense. Saudi judges also frequently convict people who engage in peaceful criticism of religious or political authorities on vague charges, including “going beyond the realm of obedience.” Security forces arrested Badawi, a 30-year-old from the port city of Jeddah, on June 17. Badawi in 2008 was co-founder of the Free Saudi Liberals website, an online platform for debating religious and political matters in Saudi Arabia. On the website, Badawi and others had declared May 7, 2012, a day for Saudi liberals, hoping to garner interest in open discussion about the differences between “popular” and “politicized” religion, Su’ad al-Shammari, secretary general of the website, told Human Rights Watch. Human Rights Watch had previously called for al-Badawi’s release on the grounds that his arrest violated his right to freedom of expression. Based on a royal decree issued by King Abdullah in April 2011, all crimes related to insulting Islam by electronic means fall under the jurisdiction of a judicial council in the Ministry of Information. The council has the authority to refer cases directly to the king, who may “take measures in the public interest,” including referring cases to court. The judicial process against Badawi has not made clear what words or activities provoked his prosecution. However, international human rights law provides broad protection of the right to freedom of expression. It permits restrictions only in narrowly defined circumstances, such as speech that constitutes incitement to imminent violence. International norms provide protection for speech about religion, including speech that some may find departs from commonly held beliefs or insults a religion or religious group. Saudi authorities have harassed Badawi since he founded the website. In March 2008, prosecutors arrested and detained him for questioning but released him a day later. In 2009, the government barred him from foreign travel and froze his business interests, depriving him of a source of income, a family member told Human Rights Watch. His father and a brother have publicly distanced themselves from him and declared him an unbeliever, and members of his wife’s family also filed a suit in a Jeddah court to have him forcibly divorced from his wife as an apostate. His wife and children are living outside of the country. “Instead of protecting their citizens’ right to freedom of expression, the Saudi government has gone all-out against Badawi, to punish him and intimidate others who dare to debate matters of religion,” Goldstein said. “The authorities should drop the charges against him.”
Radio Free Europe/Radio LibertyAfghan President Hamid Karzai says foreign governments are to blame for widespread corruption in Afghanistan and are undermining his efforts to establish the rule of law. In a televised speech on December 22, Karzai said that local graft is negligible compared to the hundreds of millions of dollars paid by foreigners in suspicious deals. "The existence of corruption in Afghanistan is a reality; indeed, it is a bitter reality," Karzai said. "[But] the corruption in our governments' institutes, such as bribery, is a small part of the corruption. The biggest part of the corruption in our country, and that involves hundreds of millions dollars, does not belong to us. A huge part of the corruption is imposed on us in order to weaken our government. We are not to be blamed for that. That is not our fault." Speaking at a Kabul meeting marking the country's anticorruption day, Karzai stressed his government has to reform its administrative system and "pay enough salary" to government employees to fight bribery. "So far, I don't see signs of success in fighting graft or making government reforms," he said. "We are still depending on relations with foreign countries. In order to fight graft, we must reform our administrative system and make sure we pay enough salary to our employees and make sure their future is guaranteed. Then, of course, we can eliminate a big part of existing corruption in our country." Karzai accused foreigners of giving contracts to high-ranking Afghan officials or to their relatives in an effort to gain influence over the government, thereby paving the way for corruption. He said the withdrawal of NATO-led troops from Afghanistan in 2014 would help rid the country of corruption. Karzai that when "foreign forces have left Afghanistan…their contracts, their administration will gradually disappear." NATO has around 100,000 troops in Afghanistan fighting an insurgency by Taliban militants, but they are due to withdraw by the end of 2014. International donors have pledged billions of dollars in aid after NATO combat troops withdraw from Afghanistan but have conditioned payment on corruption being brought under control. Donors have said their efforts to stabilize Afghanistan have been hampered by endemic corruption and that the government has been unwilling to prosecute corruption cases involving political allies. Afghanistan is ranked one of the most corrupt countries in the world by Transparency International's Corruption Perception Index, published earlier this month.
Daily TimesRegarded a symbol of “anti-Taliban resistance”, Senior Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) Minister Bashir Ahmad Bilour succumbed to wounds minutes after a suicide bomber blew himself up leaving nine dead and 18 injured. “We lost a great leader,” said Awami National Party (ANP) President Asfandyar Wali Khan while paying tribute to the late party leader. The Saturday’s assassination of senior KP minister comes a week after an audacious attack on Pakistan Air Force (PAF) base inside Baacha Khan International Airport in Peshawar was foiled. Bashir Bilour was returning from a party meeting in Dhaki Nalbandi area near historical Qissa Khawani bazaar when he was attacked. He was immediately rushed to nearby Lady Reading Hospital from where his body was transported to home an hour later. Lady Reading Hospital Executive Director Dr Arshad Javed said Bashir Ahmad Bilour was brought to hospital “in critical condition” as he suffered chest and stomach injuries from the blast. The ANP leader was immediately operated upon to save his life. However, efforts of a team of doctors proved futile, leaving the country mourn the death of a fierce opponent of the Taliban. Bomb squad experts said the suicide bomber detonated his explosives when the ANP meeting was at its peak. “The suicide bomber walked into the house where the meeting was taking place and detonated his vest,” Shafqat Malik, chief of the bomb disposal squad, said. Zahidullah, 30, a shopkeeper in the area, said he was standing to Bilour’s rear when the bomber struck. “The meeting was about to finish when I heard a noise and soon afterwards I saw a blue flame and then the blast hit,” he told AFP. Peshawar SSP Khalid Hamdani also told reporters that the suicide bomber walked to join the ANP’s elections-related public meeting. Bashir Bilour had survived at least three such attacks in the past. Among the dead were Kabali Police Station SHO Sattar Khan and the late minister’s personal secretary Noor Muhammad. KP Information Minister Mian Iftikhar Hussain brushed aside impressions that Bashir Bilour was not provided enough security. “This is not true. Our security personnel are among the dead,” he told a private TV channel. The Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) claimed responsibility for the attack, justifying the attack in the name of “war” against “secular elements” in the country. The TTP said it had targeted Bilour in revenge for the death of one of their elders. “We claim responsibility for killing Bashir Ahmad Bilour. It is revenge for the martyrdom of our elder Sheikh Naseeb Khan,” TTP spokesman Ehsanullah Ehsan told AFP. Expressed his shock and grief over the killing of Bilour, Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf announced one-day mourning across the country today (Sunday). The national flag would fly at half-mast today, he said. The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government also announced three-day mourning across the province. Bilour’s funeral would be held at 2pm today and he would be buried at Syed Hassan Pirbiri cemetery in Peshawar.
Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf has expressed his shock and grief over the Shahadat of Senior Provincial Minister Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Mr Bashir Ahmad Bilour who lost his life in a terrorist attack in Peshawar on Saturday. Paying rich tributes to the services of Mr Bashir Ahmad Bilour, the Prime Minister said that he was a courageous person and sacrificed his life for his conviction. In a message of condolence to the family of Mr Bashir Ahmad Bilour, the Prime Minister said that "this is not a loss to his family or Khyber Pakhtunkhwa but a national loss". The Prime Minister prayed to Almighty Allah to grant his soul a place in Jannat ul Firdous and give fortitude to his family members to bear this immense loss. Asharaf also announced one-day mourning in the country on the tragic incident which claimed the life of the senior leader of ANP which is one of the allies of the ruling coalition.
The Express TribuneThe death of senior ANP provincial minister Bashir Bilour, along with seven others, in a suicide blast at a party rally in Peshawar underscores yet again just how perilous it is to be a politician in Pakistan. Bilour was a staunchly anti-Taliban figure, one who made it a point to be the first on the scene of an attack. He and his fellow ANP politicians know how hazardous their line of work is and yet they remain the most committed to the fight against the Taliban. It would have been easy for Bilour and his ilk to cower in fear and hide behind hundreds of police escorts. Instead they took the fight to the Taliban and never shied away from their public duties. Bilour has become the latest martyr in our noble quest to defeat the Taliban and he should forever be remembered as a hero who set an example to other less courageous politicians. The ANP as a party has suffered tremendous losses in the war against terror and yet they have realised the follies of appeasement. Provincial information minister Mian Iftikhar was not only targeted by the Taliban but also had to suffer losing his son at the hands of the terrorists. Even pro-appeasement politicians like Maulana Fazlur Rehman, who is a borderline pro-Taliban figure, have figured on militant hit lists. The assassinations of Salmaan Taseer and Shahbaz Bhatti were also inspired by the same murderous mindset. Benazir Bhutto also disregarded the threat to her life and paid the ultimate price for standing up to the militants. Above all, there are the thousands of unnamed civilians who have been killed for no other reason but living in a country where a small minority which claims to speak in the name of religion has shown utter contempt for the tenets of that religion. Despite the murders, both of renowned politicians and the nameless, the military — the only institution capable of defeating the Taliban — has taken a head-in-the-sand approach. They see these thugs as assets to be used to further foreign policy interests in Afghanistan and India. The military’s first priority should be getting rid of this internal threat before it becomes an eternal problem. This means going into North Waziristan and any other safe haven the militants may have. It means securing our cities and protecting our elected representatives. Only then will Bashir Bilour not have died in vain.
Little Marizeh survived a horrific gun attack that killed her father and brother, but thanks to selfless New Yorkers, her face barely carries the scars of that fateful day.
Benazir Bhutto returned to Pakistan only in 2007 after former President Pervez Musharraf issued the controversial National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO) that granted amnesty to politicians and bureaucrats accused of corruption.There was speculation that a grand coalition between the PPP and Nawaz Sharif's Pakistan Muslim League (PML-N) might be formed and that Benazir Bhutto might run for the premiership again although the federal constitution does not allow a third term. However, Bhutto's sudden death changed the whole scenario. There was a wave of sympathy for the PPP which won the election and Benazir Bhutto's widower, Asif Ali Zardari, became president. Rizvi says that her death had two consequences. "The positive impact is that people came to know that extremism was a threat and they should opt for democracy. The negative impact was that her death created a leadership crisis within the party, which isn't over yet." Zardari shares the leadership with his and his late wife's only son, Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari. However, neither of them have been able to build upon Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto's legacy as Benazir was able to. Observers continue to ask today whether Pakistan would be better off today if Benazir had not been assassinated. "She had more foreign policy experience than the present leadership," says Rizvi. "She would have shown effective leadership but other circumstances and players in domestic politics are also very important." "One can only speculate that with Benazir, Pakistani politics would have been a bit different, but not decisively."
The Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) has announced three-day nationwide mourning in honour of Pakistan’s provincial minister Bashir Bilour who killed in a suicide blast in Peshawar earlier in the day. Talking to a local news channel, MQM leader Haider Abbaz Rizvi said his party would continue to fight terrorists and praised Bashir for his courage in the face of terrorism in the country. “Bashir Bilour’s martyrdom is a national loss and my leader Altaf Hussain and all party members stand by the Awami National Party (ANP) over the incident,” he said. Bashir and seven other people were killed when suicide bomber struck when the top provincial leadership of the ANP, who gathered at a meeting in the city of Peshawar, the capital of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province. Police said around 100 people had gathered for the meeting when the suicide bomber blew himself up.
http://www.nydailynews.comA mob in southern Pakistan stormed a police station to seize a mentally unstable Muslim man accused of burning a copy of Islam's holy book, beat him to death, and then set his body afire, police said Saturday. The case is likely to raise further concerns about the country's harsh blasphemy laws, which can result in a death sentence or life in prison to anyone found guilty. Critics say an accusation or investigation alone can lead to deaths, as people take the law into their own hands and kill those accused of violating it. Police stations and even courts have been attacked by mobs. Local police official Bihar-ud-Din said police arrested the man on Friday after being informed by residents that he had burned a Quran inside a mosque where he had been staying for a night. An angry mob of more than 200 people then broke into the police station in the southern town of Dadu and took the accused man, who they say was under questioning. Din said police tried their best to save the man's life but were unable to stop the furious crowd. He said that police had arrested 30 people for suspected involvement in the attack, while the head of the local police station and seven officers had been suspended. Past attempts by governments in predominantly Muslim Pakistan to review these laws have met with violent opposition from hardline Islamist parties.
Senior provincial minister Bashir Ahmed Bilour was among eight people killed Saturday after a Pakistani Taliban bomber blew himself up near a meeting of the Awami National Party in Peshawar, the capital of northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province. Police and hospital officials confirmed that at least eight other people , including a police SHO and Bilour’s personal secretary, were also killed in the blast in the Dhaki Nalbandi area near the busy Qissa Khwani Bazaar. Bilour was critically wounded with injuries to the chest and stomach and was being treated in the operation theatre, a senior hospital official had earlier confirmed before senior minister passed away. According to details, the blast took place when senior leader Bilour and workers of the ANP, which is the largest and the ruling party in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, had congregated for a party meeting. At least 18 people were also wounded in the blast, hospital officials confirmed.
RADIO PAKISTANKhyber Pakhtunkhwa Senior Minister
ANP leader and senrior minister Khyber Pakhtoonkhwa Bashir Ahmad Bilour could not surive the injuries after a suicide bomber blew hiself up in an ANP rally in Peshawar. Seven people were killed Saturday night when a powerful bomb exploded during the public meeting of ANP in Qissa Khwani Bazar.
Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Senior Minister Bashir Bilour is seriously injured in the bomb blast In Peshawar‚ seven people have been martyred and eighteen others injured in a suicide attack in the area of Qissa Khawani Bazaar on Saturday evening. Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Senior Minister Bashir Ahmed Bilour has also been seriously injured. According to reports‚ suicide bomber blew himself up soon after Bashir Ahmed Bilour came out of the house of an ANP leader after attending the party meeting. A doctor at the Lady Reading Hospital said the condition of Bashir Ahmed Bilour is critical and he is being operated upon. Personal Secretary to Bashir Ahmed Bilour and SHO Kabli Police Station Abdul Sattar Khan are among the dead. President Asif Ali Zardari and Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf have strongly condemned Peshawar blast. They expressed sympathies with the bereaved families. The President directed the provincial government to provide best medical assistance to the injured. The Prime Minister said the terrorists would not succeed in their nefarious designs. Interior Minister Rehman Malik while condemning the attack has sought a report from I.G. Police‚ Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
GEO TVKPK's Senior Minister Bashir Ahmed Bilour has been injured in a suicide attack in Peshawar. According to the hospital sources, Bashir Bilour has received injuries to his chest and stomach and is currently in the operation theatre. According to sources, the explosion took place when Bashir Bilour was exiting the residence along with his personal secretary and SHO Kabuli Police Station. His personal secretary as well as SHO Kabuli Police Station, Sattar Khan were killed in the explosion, while several others sustained injuries. The explosion took place at the house of a local ANP leader where a party workers meeting had taken place. The Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan have claimed responsibility for the attack.