Thursday, February 14, 2013
The unique sound of the bagpipe is being produced in Pakistan and being sold in Scotland, China, Australia and other countries.
http://www.egyptindependent.comThirty-eight political groups have called for a mass demonstration against President Mohamed Morsy in front of his new offices in Qubba Palace on Friday. Participating groups include the Alliance of Revolutionary Forces, the Free Front for Peaceful Change, the Dostour Party, the Second Egyptian Revolution of Anger Movement, the Maspero Youth Union and the Revolutionary Youth Union. In a statement issued on Thursday, the movements said four marches would head to the Qubba Palace, where Morsy has been working to avoid unrest in front of the Ettehadiya Presidential Palace. The marches would start from Sheikh Keshk Mosque in the Hada’eq al-Qubba district, Nour Mosque in Abbasseya, Al-Matarawy Mosque in Matareyya and Al-Alf Maskan Square in Gesr al-Suez. The statement said the mass protest, called “Checkmate,” is a response to Morsy’s failure to react to weeks of continuous protests across the country, in which hundreds were killed, injured, detained, beaten and tortured. Morsy relied on the brutality of the security forces to suppress the people’s angers instead of responding to their demands, the statement claimed. Revolutionary Youth Union spokesperson Tamer al-Qady said the protest would follow Morsy to his new location, but that the demonstrations would be peaceful. Karim al-Saqqa, youth secretary of the National Salvation Front, said the front is not taking part in the demonstration. He said the NSF would take part in other actions instead, such as spreading awareness in underserved areas about the problems with the Brotherhood government. Jama’a al-Islamiya is organizing a counter mass demonstration of Islamist forces on Friday in front of Cairo University to renounce violence. At least 58 have been killed across the nation since violent clashes between security forces and protesters broke out during demonstrations marking the anniversary of the 25 January revolution.
Bahrainis have held protests in 50 spots across the Persian Gulf sheikhdom to show their anger with the killing by security forces of a teenage boy. Hussein al-Jaziri, 16, was shot dead in Thursday clashes with the Manama regime forces during a demonstration in the Daih village near the capital Manama to mark the second anniversary of the uprising against the Al Khalifa. Bahrain’s opposition groups called for nationwide protest rallies and strikes on Thursday and Friday to mark the anniversary of the popular uprising. Shops had closed across Bahrain since Wednesday, ahead of the uprising anniversary demonstrations. On Thursday, Amnesty International called for the release of more than two dozens of Bahraini human rights activists held in jails across Bahrain. “It's time that people detained simply for exercising their right to freedom of expression be released and for the harassment of other activists to desist,” Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, Amnesty’s Middle East and North Africa program deputy director, was quoted as saying. Many rights activists in Bahrain are serving time, some even life terms, for expressing their anti-government views on social media or in street protests. Bahrainis have been staging demonstrations since mid-February 2011, demanding political reform and a constitutional monarchy, a demand that later changed to an outright call for the ouster of the ruling Al Khalifa family following its crackdown on popular protests. Bahrainis say they will continue holding demonstrations until their demands for the establishment of a democratically-elected government and an end to rights violations are met.
All over the world, women are demonstrating against domestic violence this Valentine's Day.
Associated PressPoliticians called for peace talks with the Pakistani Taliban on Thursday, as the group killed 18 people in a pair of bombings in the country's northwest on a police post and a vehicle carrying anti-Taliban militiamen. The call for peace negotiations followed a meeting by many of the country's main political parties in the capital, Islamabad, to discuss the issue. Momentum for peace talks has grown in recent weeks as both the Taliban and the government have said they are interested. "We agreed that bringing peace through talks should be the first priority," Asfandyar Wali Khan, head of the Awami National Party, said at a press conference after the meeting. The ANP, which is the strongest party in the northwest and has been repeatedly attacked by the Taliban, has taken the lead in calling for talks with the group. The party convened Thursday's meeting, which was also attended by the ruling Pakistan People's Party and the main opposition Pakistan Muslim League-N. There are many skeptics who doubt the militants truly want peace and point to past agreements with the Taliban that fell apart. Those deals have been criticized for allowing the militants to regroup and rebuild their strength to resume fighting the government and foreign troops in neighboring Afghanistan. Others say there is no alternative to negotiations since numerous military operations targeting the Taliban's sanctuaries in the northwest have failed to break the group's back. But it is uncertain how much common ground the two sides would find if they met face-to-face. The Taliban have demanded that Pakistan sever ties with the United States and impose Islamic law in the country. Neither the country's elected leaders nor the military have shown any inclination to agree to those demands. The police post targeted was located in Hangu district in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province. A suicide car bomber detonated his explosives next to the post, killing 11 policemen and wounding 23 others, said police spokesman Fazal Naeem. The post was manned by both normal and paramilitary police, he added. Earlier in the day, a roadside bomb hit a vehicle carrying members of an anti-Taliban militia in Stanzai village in the Orakzai tribal region, killing seven militiamen, said Naeem. Nine members of the militia were wounded. The militiamen were on their way to a meeting to discuss strategy against the Pakistani Taliban at the time of the attack, said Naeem. Also Thursday, five suicide bombers attacked a police station in the city of Bannu, wounding one police officer, said the city's police chief, Nisar Tanoli. Three of the bombers detonated their explosives vests, while the police shot dead the other two, he said. Pakistani Taliban spokesman Ahsanullah Ahsan claimed responsibility for the three attacks. He said the one in Bannu was carried out in retaliation for the killings of eight militants whose bullet-riddled bodies were found abandoned in the neighboring North Waziristan tribal area.
http://timesofindia.indiatimes.comIn a fresh ceasefire violation, Pakistani troops fired at Indian posts along the line of control (LoC) in Poonch sector of Jammu and Kashmir late on Thursday, but there was no casualty on the Indian side. Pakistani troopers resorted to small and medium weapon firing in Balnoi forward area along the LoC at 8.05pm, PRO defence SN Acharya said. Indian troops guarding the borderline retaliated resulting in exchange of fire which continued till 10.50pm, he said. There was no loss of life on the Indian side in the Pakistani firing, the defence PRO said. Meanwhile, Pakistan military sources in Islamabad alleged Indian troops had resorted to "unprovoked firing" in the Tatta Pani-Handrot sector of the LoC, which had witnessed a string of clashes that triggered tension between the two neighbours last month. They alleged that there was "unprovoked firing" by Indian forces in the Tatta Pani-Handrot sector of the LoC on Thursday evening. They said there was no report of casualty and the firing was "still in progress" without specifying the time. A string of clashes along the 742-km LoC last month marked the worst violations of ceasefire that was put in place by India and Pakistan in late 2003. Two Indian soldiers were killed including Lance Naik Hemraj who was beheaded by Pakistani troopers in the Poonch sector. India had strongly protested to Pakistan about the killing of the two jawans. The clashes had sparked a war of words before the Directors General of Military Operations of the two sides agreed on steps to de-escalate the situation.
http://www.usatoday.comRomance is not dead in Pakistan, but it's under attack. Conservatives in Pakistan tacked up posters urging people to boycott Valentine's Day on Thursday, saying it's a western-inspired event that's spreading vulgarity in their country. Romantics fought back with an arsenal of flowers, pink teddy bears and heart-shaped balloons. "Here in this part of Pakistan we are faced with bomb blasts, and we don't have much opportunity to enjoy and celebrate so to me it is one of those few occasions to celebrate," said Taimur Hassan, a 29-year-old man working in the northwestern city of Peshawar. He was out buying a gift for his girlfriend, and looking for something different than a stuffed bear he got her last year. That's exactly the type of behavior many of Pakistan's conservatives are worried about. For them, Valentine's Day is nothing but an occasion to encourage illicit relations between the country's young — unmarried — males and females. It's a sign that Western culture and values are eating away the fabric of Pakistan's traditional, Islamic society. Valentine's Day, they say, is not a Pakistani holiday and not part of the culture here. In the southern city of Karachi, billboards implored people to "Say no to Valentine's Day." The "no" was encapsulated in a black heart, and the sign said the holiday reflects insensitivity and ignorance of Islam. Tanzeem-e-Islami, the organization that put up the billboards, called on the interior ministry to suspend cell phone service on the holiday that celebrates love. Group spokesman Muhammad Samee said many young people use mobile phones to send Valentine's Day greetings and suspending the service for the day would save people from "moral terrorism." Attitudes toward Valentine's Day, named after a Christian saint said to have been martyred by the Romans in the 3rd Century, vary across the Arab world, with some devout Muslims opposing the holiday as a Western celebration of romantic love that corrupts Muslim youth. Hafiz Hussain Ahmed, a hardline Pakistani cleric, warned that young people who celebrate Valentine's Day will be celebrating children's births in November. "In Islam, there is a concept of respecting and loving mother, sister, wife and daughter for 365 days a year," said Ahmed, who thinks the holiday breeds vulgarity across the country. Fearing a backlash against the holiday, Pakistani officials charged with monitoring and censoring television content issued a letter on Wednesday asking TV stations to be respectful when airing programs on Valentine's Day. The letter, issued by the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority, noted that large segments of society do not think the holiday is in line with Pakistani culture and religion. However, the instructions were rescinded following a hue and cry on social media and pressure from TV channels, according to an official with the regulatory authority. The official spoke anonymously because he was not authorized to speak to the media. In Pakistan, social media like Twitter and Facebook have increasingly become a way for the country's small, liberal, secular segment of society to voice their opinions. By midday Thursday, Valentine's Day was one of the most popular themes on Twitter. Despite the earlier regulatory warning, TV channels didn't seem to be shying away from Valentine's Day programming. Many featured video of people shopping for presents like heart-shaped balloons and interviews with helmeted motorcycle riders driving off with bouquets of flowers. Mazhar Abbas, director of current affairs at Express News, said the station hadn't received any complaints on its programming. While Valentine's Day is widely celebrated in some Muslim countries like the United Arab Emirates, in other areas it's been met with opposition: —In Indonesia, the world's most populous Muslim country, government officials and clerics in Jakarta called for young people to skip Valentine's Day, saying it was an excuse for couples to have forbidden sex. —In the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip, the government opposes Valentine's Day, but tolerates it. It has not banned people or shops from celebrating the holiday. Some gift shops, toy stores and flower stores were selling special Valentine's Day items, but the celebrations are not widespread, mostly are observed by university students or newlyweds. —Iranian officials in January banned the import of Valentine's Day gifts, but people in the capital, Tehran, were still out purchasing such gifts and making plans for meeting boyfriends or girlfriends for romantic dinners. Despite the opposition in Pakistan, Valentine's Day romanticism — or at least the marketing sentiment — wasn't dampened much in the capital, Islamabad. Peddlers approached cars at stop signs hawking heart-shaped balloons, and the prices at flower stalls nearly doubled. Eid Muhammed, a salesman at a gift shop in Peshawar, said gift card sales had dropped in recent years as people preferred to send text messages to their loved ones instead. But he said more people were buying gifts for their sweethearts. He estimated that about 90 percent of the customers were young people, and most were men. One of the few exceptions was Amina Mahmood, a female college student, who was buying flowers for a special someone she chose not to describe. "Some days are so special that we should not miss them," she said shyly.
All the participating parties of the All Parties Conference (APC) called by Awami national Party (ANP) chief Asfandyar Wali Khan agreed on Thursday to negotiate with those Taliban militants who were ready to accept the law and Constitution of Pakistan, DawnNewsreported. At least 27 of Pakistan’s political parties and lawyer organisation were participating in the conference held in Islamabad. The Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), Pakistan Muslim League – Nawaz, (PML-N), Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM), ANP and the Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam (JUI) were among the parties attending the conference. The Pakistan Tehrik-i-Insaaf (PTI) and Jamaat-i-Islami (JI) were not represented at the conference underway in Islamabad. The deliberations are likely to be dominated by the offer of talks made recently by the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP). Leader of Opposition in National Assembly and senior PML-N lawmaker Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan giving his address said that negotiations should take place with those who accept the Law, Constitution and national writ of Pakistan. ANP chief Asfandyar Wali Khan gave the key-note address and said the objective of the conference was to gather the nation against terrorism on one platform. “The menace of terrorism is not the problem of present government only, rather it will also be a problem for the coming governments,” he observed. The ANP chief further said any decision taken in the meeting would be announced at the conclusion of the conference. The APC would draft recommendations to tackle the problem of terrorism in the country which would be forwarded to the President Asif Ali Zardari and Chief of Army Staff Ashfaq Pervez Kayani. Speaking to Dawn on Wednesday, ANP’s parliamentary leader in the Senate Haji Mohammad Adeel had said the TTP’s talks offer would also be discussed at the meeting. Adeel had stated that the main objective of the conference was to devise a national policy that could bring about peace in the country. The idea of the APC was initiated after the assassination of senior ANP leader and provincial minister Bashir Ahmad Bilour in December 2012, who was killed in a suicide attack claimed by the Pakistani Taliban.
Liberal Pakistanis celebrate Valentine's Day every year despite opposition from religious groups. But some analysts say that Valentine's Day is more about Western consumerism in Pakistan than a day of romance. For religious groups in Pakistan, Valentine's Day is immoral and anti-Islam. These groups consider events such as Valentine's Day and the New Year to be a celebration of Western culture. For them, those who commemorate these events in Pakistan are infidels and should be punished. Public expression of love in Pakistan is considered taboo. Religious groups are even against men and women mingling in public places. However, Pakistan, like many other Muslim countries, has a long tradition of reciting poems about love and love poetry and love poets are celebrated and honored. On February 14 every year, religious groups hold rallies in big Pakistani cities opposing Valentine's Day. Huge banners are put up on main streets condemning the day. Religious clerics in mosques deliver sermons against the "sinful" day. There is an undeclared ban to hold public celebrations on Valentine's Day."Islam prohibits such activities," Abdul Waseem Burney, a religious preacher in Karachi, told DW. "Looking at the way people celebrate Valentine's Day in Pakistan, I feel as if it is part of our culture and our tradition. But it is certainly not our thing." Burney says that the government must implement the ban on Valentine's Day activities, which, in his opinion, is spreading "vulgarity" in the Islamic Republic. It is not only religious clerics, but also many common Pakistanis, who despise Valentine's Day and say that it has no place in a country like Pakistan. Sohaib Ahmed, a young Pakistani in Lahore, told DW that the day was a Western tradition and should not be tolerated. "We see a lot of anti-Islamic activities in Pakistan on this particular day. Pakistanis should not imitate the West, but instead try to promote their own culture and civilization." Sohaib said that the affluent classes of Pakistan used an event like Valentine's Day to show off their wealth and to indulge in "immoral activities." He also lamented that Valentine's Day had become more important for some people than the Prophet of Islam's birthday in the Islamic month of Rabbi-ul-Awwal. Defiance Despite widespread opposition to Valentine's Day, every year, youngsters, particularly the liberal youth in Pakistan's big cities, defy the cultural and religious bans and celebrate it with passion. "I think people misunderstand Valentine's Day to be some sort of un-Islamic festival, which it really isn't," A. Jaffery, a student in Karachi, told DW. "Even the smallest expressions of love are shunned because people don't understand them. In the end, it's all perception - and most Pakistanis are too socially conditioned to question themselves or things around them."Filmmaker and social activist Wajahat Malik believes that the religious elements in Pakistan thrive on the anti-West narrative by portraying themselves as the "custodians of culture" in his country. This should be defied, he says. "Normal Pakistanis embrace all kinds of things without any religious guilt or remorse," Malik told DW in an interview from Islamabad. He, however, is of the view that in Pakistan, Valentine's Day and such events are more about the prevalent consumerist culture than the actual celebration of love. Maciek Pollowski, a Polish humanitarian worker in Islamabad, thinks that opposition to Valentine's Day is synonymous with protesting against "Western culture." "I think opposition to Valentine's Day in Pakistan is not much different to what we see in Poland, for example. The day is seen as part of the wholesale import of the commercialized version of the Western European and American culture," Pollowski commented. "It has become a middle class thing in Pakistani society. Nowhere in the world have I seen such devotion to Valentine's Day. India is probably the only place I know that compares to Pakistan in this respect." But Jaffery added that in Pakistan, Valentine's Day carried a symbolic meaning of resistance too. "You see liberal young poets writing love sonnets, painters creating majestic murals on Valentine's Day. Since Pakistan is a country where you'll be probably shot for your 'Westernized' life style, all we can really do is express ourselves symbolically." Celebration Saima, a young girl from Lahore, does not care whether celebrating the day is seen as an act of defiance in Pakistan; she just wants to have fun. "In a life full of problems and misery, Valentine's Day is a breath of fresh air. Expressing your love for someone is not a sin," she told DW. Young Pakistani liberals like Saima believe that Valentine's Day is a perfect occasion to express your love and affection to your parents and siblings as well. They are also of the view that the world has become a global village and that Pakistan should not keep itself isolated. Liberal analysts say that in a country like Pakistan, which is battling religious extremism and which has been plagued by a violent Islamist insurgency, it is a good sign that the desire to celebrate life and love is not gone.
Associated PressDozens of Afghan activists and supporters marked Valentine's Day by marching in Kabul on Thursday to denounce violence against women amid reports that domestic abuse is on the rise. Afghan women have made great strides in education and official circles since the days under Taliban rule, when they had to wear all-encompassing burqas and were not allowed to go to school or leave their homes without a male relative as an escort. But they still face widespread domestic violence, forced marriages and other problems. "Violence against women has to be eliminated or at least reduced in Afghanistan," rights activist Humaira Rasouli said after walking from the landmark Darul Aman Palace just outside Kabul to an area in the city near parliament. "Unfortunately ... the violence against women rate is increasing day to day." Organizers said some 200 people, men and women, participated in the march, which was planned by several Afghan rights groups as part of a global domestic violence awareness campaign called One Billion Rising. Past protests supporting women's rights have been attacked by hecklers and men throwing stones, and riot police with helmets and shields stood guard on Thursday. Underscoring the security concerns, protesters had badges and the public was not invited to join. But the march remained peaceful and many women welcomed the support of men along the way. "It was very successful because usually protests don't get so many people," said Manizha Wafeq, one of the organizers. In August 2009, Afghanistan enacted an Elimination of Violence Against Women law that criminalized child marriage, selling and buying women to settle disputes, assault and other acts of violence against women. But a U.N. report issued late last year found that Afghan women still face frequent abuse despite an increase in the prosecution of abusers. Violence against women also remains largely under-reported because of cultural taboos, social norms and religious beliefs in the conservative Muslim society. Examples cited in the report included a woman strangled by her husband because she gave birth to girls instead of boys and a 15-year-old girl who filed a complaint about repeated beatings by her husband and father-in-law only to be told by prosecutors to withdraw it or risk imprisonment herself. In July, some 50 women and men also took to the streets of Kabul to protest the public killing of an Afghan woman accused of adultery. A video of her gruesome, execution-style killing showed the woman being shot multiple times in Parwan province, north of the Afghan capital, as people stood nearby, smiling and cheering. The Afghanistan Independent Human Rights commission also recorded more than 4,000 cases of violence against women from March 21 to Oct. 21 last year, but most were not reported to police. "Women don't have a bright future and the government isn't doing enough to protect them," said Faryaa Hashimi, a 20-year-old student at the march. "We are calling on the international community and Afghan government to protect the women."