Sunday, March 31, 2013
Fatima Haji, one of a group of Bahraini doctors who faced five years in jail but was acquitted in June 2012, told RT about the physical and psychological torture she experienced while in police custody. She explained that she was arrested from her own apartment along with 19 other doctors who disappeared from their homes, hospitals and operating theatres. None of them were allowed contact with lawyers or their family during interrogation and they were forced to sign false confessions, blindly without being able to read what they were signing. “These confessions were extracted under severe torture and I mean physical and psychological torture, we’d been denied sleep for days and had been standing for days. We were not given food or fluids and were hardly allowed to go the toilet,” Haji said. She added that they were beaten with wooden sticks and hollow pipes, were electrocuted, sexually harassed and threatened with death and rape in order to get them to sign a confession. The confession they were forced to sign said that they possessed weapons in the hospital where they worked and were trying to overthrow the monarchy.“The current regime has been manipulating the judicial system to use as a political tool,” Jawad Fairooz, former member of Bahraini Parliament has told RT arguing that the medics have been released for political gain, as others, with a similar list of offenses, have been sentenced to lengthy jail terms. At the beginning of her ordeal Fatima did not know what her charges were, but found herself at a military court where they read out charges that had been fabricated against her that she had stolen 100 bags of blood, which she gave to protesters so that they could spill it on themselves, so that it looked as if they had been assaulted by police. She said that it was never formally put to her that all she did was treat protesters, but instead the fact that the medics were just doing their job was turned into political accusations that they were trying to overthrow the government, had stolen blood and drugs from the hospital and were participating in an illegal gathering. The reason behind such detention is that “there is no specific independent judiciary system that you can depend on,” Fairooz added stating that it is not only a human rights issue but more of political crisis in the country.
On March 23, thousands of Syrians carried the coffin of the leading Syrian Sunni scholar Shaykh Mohammad Saeed Ramadan al-Bouti, who had been killed in a terrorist attack in the Mosque Al Iman in Damascus along with his grandson and other 47 people. Gran Mufti Ahmad Badr Addine Hassoun, whose son was also killed by terrorists several months ago, and Syrian Information Minister Omran al-Zoubi also took part in the funeral. The attack was not only an atrocious crime but also a blasphemous act. It took place when Shaykh al-Bouti was giving a religious speech to a group of Islam students, including his grandson. Al-Bouti, 84, was a retired dean and a professor at the College of Islamic Law at Damascus University and a worldwide reputed scholar. Following the deadly incident, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad condemned the act of violence, pledging that the crime would not pass without punishment. “A promise from the Syrian people -- and I am one of them -- that your blood, your grandson and the martyrs of today and all the homeland will not go in vain, because we will stay following your thinking to eliminate their darkness,” he said. Shaykh Al-Bouti was known for his anti-terrorism stances and his criticism of foreign-backed militant groups, whom he described as “mercenaries.” The previous week to his assassination, the late scholar said during his lecture, “We are invaded in every inch of our land, in our bread, in our lives, women, children sanctities and honor. We are today in front of a legitimate duty…which is the need for mobilization to protect the values, the homeland and the holy sites, and there is no difference, in this case, between the army and the rest of this nation,” he stated. One week after Al-Bouti's murder, another Sunni cleric, Shaykh Hassan Saif al-Deen, 80, was brutally beheaded in northern city of Aleppo by foreign-backed militants, who reportedly decapitated him before dragging his lifeless body on the streets. They also planted his head on the minaret of the mosque where he used to preach. Shaykh Saif al Deen also had anti-militant views and spoke out against the ongoing war against the Syrian government. In a Facebook page of militants, he was called “a collaborator of the chique in power in Syria” and threatened, “We will come to you; you will not escape.” Shaykh Hassan Saif al-Deen was in fact the last of a list of murdered religious scholars, which includes Sunni and Shia Muslim clerics as well as Christian priests. All these murders have been carried out by bloodthirsty terrorists, who are described as “democrats” by Western governments and media. The first of these victims was father Basilius Nassar, the priest of the Mar Elias Chapel in the town of Kfar-Baham, near the city of Hama. He was shot on January 25, 2012 by a militiaman sniper in the Citadel area while he was picking a casualty. The second was a Sunni cleric, Shaykh Mohammad Ahmad Aof Sadek, who preached in the mosque Anas Ben Malek in Damascus. He was one of the first scholars who warned against violence in Syria. He also spoke out against the Takfiri groups saying that they had no place among the Muslims. He was shot on February 25, 2012. Third on the list was Shaykh Sayyed Nasser, an Alawite cleric and the imam of the Alawite hawze (religious school) Zaynabiyya in Damascus. He died by a gunshot in the face near the Shrine of Sayeda Zaynab, the granddaughter of the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). The fourth was a Syrian Shiite cleric, Shaykh Abbas Lahham, killed in May outside the mosque of Rouqayya (PBUH) (daughter of Imam Hussein), where he preached. He was followed by Shaykh Abdel-Koddous Jabbarah, another Shiite scholar, the following month. The latter was shot at the market, near the Shrine of Sayyeda Zaynab. In July 2012, at the beginning of the month of Ramadan, it was Shaykh Abdel-Latif Ash-Shami who was shot and killed in an atrocious manner: during the prayers in a mosque full of faithful by a rifle shot in the eye. A month later, the imam of the mosque al-Nawawi in Damascus, Shaykh Hassan Bartaoui, was murdered as well. In October 2012, some people found the mutilated corpse of a priest of the Greek Orthodox Church, father Fadi Hadadat, at Katana, in the province of Damascus. He had been kidnapped by militiamen who demanded in exchange for his release a ransom of 15 million Syrian pounds. Patriarch Abdallah Saleh of Antioch and Orient of the Greek Orthodox Church confirmed that he had been murdered by terrorists. In the last day of 2012, another Sunni Imam, Shaykh Abdullah Saleh, was assassinated in Raqa. In February 2012, Shaykh Abdel-Latif al-Jamili, a cleric of the Achrafiyye Mosque, was killed by shrapnel launched by militiamen in the courtyard of his mosque. In March, it was Sheikh Abed Saab, who led the prayers in the mosque al-Mohammadi, located in the district of Mazze in Damascus, who was killed by an explosive device placed under his car. It is worth pointing out that all these crimes were actually encouraged by some extremist Wahhabi scholars from Saudi Arabia. One of them, Shaykh Abu Basir al-Tartousi, said he did not regret the death of Skahykh al-Bouti. “He was a liar, who all his life supported the rulers,” UmmaNews quoted him as saying. He hypocritically added that he regretted that “other Muslims had been wounded or killed.” The Imam of Masjid from the mosque al-Haram in Mecca, Abdul Rahman al-Sudais, openly celebrated the assassination, “He (al-Bouti) was one of the biggest imams of delusion. He was a Mujahid on Satan's path. And this (the murder of al-Bouti) is a great joy for Muslims,” he wrote on its Facebook site. Reign of terror In reality, all the killed clerics were openly hostile to the rebellion or at least did not support it. Their assassinations were intended to terrorize the Syrian population who refuses to support the armed groups. This point becomes clear when someone reads the statements by the terrorists themselves. Shortly before the attack on the Faculty of Architecture of Damascus University, which killed 15 students, the leader of the Wahhabi group, Liwa al Islam, Haytham Al Maleh, published a statement on his page of Facebook, where he warned that “it is compulsory for the students from the University of Damascus to launch a campaign of civil disobedience. If they do not do so, their University will have the same fate as that of Aleppo.” It should be recalled that in the month of January, 82 students of the University of Aleppo were killed and 160 others were injured by rockets launched by militiamen. Entire religious groups (Christians, Shiites, Alawites) have been declared as “enemies” by Takfiri Wahhabi terrorists in Syria. Some Shiites, for example, have had to flee their homes in order to save their lives. One of them, Jamal, told LA Times that “these people used to be our neighbors. Now they want to kidnap and kill us.” Interfaith tensions, which were unknown before the conflict started, are now increasing in the villages along the border between northeastern Lebanon and Syria. People living in these areas speak of an ethnic cleansing campaign carried out by rebels who are trying to set up a Taliban-style state. Some Shiites, who have family ties to Lebanon, have become fighters in order to defend their villages from the terrorists´ attacks. Shells fired by armed groups often land in some of these villages. Rebels in Syria have also burned and looted the religious sites of minorities, the New York-based Human Rights Watch said in January. HRW revealed that opposition fighters had destroyed a Shiite husseiniya - a religious site devoted to Imam Hussein (PBUH), a great martyr in the Muslim history. A video published online showed rebels hoisting assault rifles in the air and cheering as the site in the village of Zarzour, taken by rebels in December, burned in the background. In the video, one man announces the “destruction of the dens of the Shiites and Rafida,” a derogatory term used against Shiites by Wahhabi fanatics. In the western Latakia province, Human Rights Watch quoted residents as saying that gunmen acting in the name of the opposition had broken into and stolen from Christian churches in two villages; Ghasaniyeh and Jdeideh (in the region of Lattakia). A resident in Jdeideh reported that gunmen had broken into the local church, stolen and fired shots inside. Therefore, a reign of terror has been implemented in all the places that the Syrian and foreign armed groups control in Syria. Due to their incapacity to trigger a popular revolution against the government, these groups have resorted to massacres and murders. This explains why local residents flee their homes when their village or street fall under their control, or increasingly join the National Defense forces fighting the terrorists throughout the country.
The 2,000-year-old Jobar Synagogue in the Syrian capital of Damascus — the country’s holiest Jewish site — was looted and burned to the ground.The Syrian army loyal to President Bashar Assad and rebel forces are blaming each other for the destruction of the historic synagogue, according to reports on Sunday.
The synagogue is said to be built on the site where the prophet Elijah concealed himself from persecution and anointed his successor, Elisha, as a prophet.
(/ɨˈlaɪ.əs/; Greek: Ηλίας, Elías; Latin: Helias; Arabic:إلياس, Ilyās)
Elijah (Hebrew: אֱלִיָּהוּ, Eliyahu, meaning "My God is Yahweh") or Elias (/ɨˈlaɪ.əs/; Greek: Ηλίας, Elías; Latin: Helias; Arabic:إلياس, Ilyās) was a famous prophet and a wonder-worker in the northern kingdom of Israel during the reign of Ahab (9th century BC), according to the Biblical Books of Kings as well as the Qur'an. According to the Books of Kings, Elijah defended the worship of Yahweh over that of the Phoenician god Baal; he raised the dead, brought fire down from the sky, and was taken up in a whirlwind (either accompanied by a chariot and horses of flame or riding in it). In the Book of Malachi, Elijah's return is prophesied "before the coming of the great and terrible day of the Lord," making him a harbinger of the Messiah and the eschaton in various faiths that revere the Hebrew Bible. Derivative references to Elijah appear in the Talmud, Mishnah, the New Testament, the Qur'an, and the Baha'i scripture. In Judaism, Elijah's name is invoked at the weekly Havdalah ritual that marks the end of Shabbat, and Elijah is invoked in other Jewish customs, among them the Passover seder and the Brit milah (ritual circumcision). He appears in numerous stories and references in the Haggadah and rabbinic literature, including the Babylonian Talmud. In Christianity, the New Testament describes how both Jesus and John the Baptist are compared with Elijah, and on some occasions, thought by some to be manifestations of Elijah, and Elijah appears with Moses during the Transfiguration of Jesus. In Islam, the Qur'an describes Elijah as a great and righteous prophet of God, and one who powerfully preached against the worship of Ba'al. Elijah is also a figure in various folkloric traditions. In Macedonia, Serbia, Bulgaria, and Romania, he is known as "Elijah the Thunderer" and in folklore is held responsible for summer storms, hail, rain, thunder, and dew.[not in citation given]
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ElijahThe synagogue served a large Jewish community in the medieval period, but by the mid-1800s only one Jewish family lived in the area. Still, Jews came from across the city to pray there, and there was a tradition of leaving the sick in the building in the belief that Elijah’s spirit might heal them.Only some 20 Jews are believed to live in Syria today, all of them in the capital. In early 2011, Assad announced plans to rebuild about a dozen synagogue across Syria, including in Damascus — a move that was regarded in part as an effort to gain some support from American Jewry. The nearly two-year-old civil war in Syria has caused damage to six World Heritage sites, according to Al Arabiya. UNESCO called for the protection of the country’s cultural heritage sites last March, expressing “grave concern” at the time.
The Sinai Peninsula has become a prison and grave for thousands of African refugees. They are kidnapped, imprisoned and tortured to death even after their families have paid hefty ransoms. But Egypt refuses to act. Five people fled at night under the cover of heavy wind. Gusts were whipping fiercely against the hut they had been chained in. Their guard seemed to be sleeping, and the storm raged so loudly that they were able to use a rock to smash their chains without waking him. One by one, they slithered on their sides through a gap in the wall and out to freedom. "We wanted to either escape or die," says Zeae, a 27-year-old man from Eritrea.The five of them were barefoot and had only a few scraps of clothing on their emaciated bodies, which were covered with burns and scars. "We saw lights in the distance," Zeae says. But two of the men were too weak to walk. They stayed behind, lying there in the desert, because the others were too weak to help them. It was hard enough just dragging their own bodies forward. In the end, two young men and one girl reached the first of the houses they had seen. When a Bedouin opened the door, Zeae says, "I thought it was about to start all over again" -- the beatings, the torture, the rape. The Sinai Peninsula, which connects Egypt and Israel, has become a place of suffering and death for thousands of refugees from sub-Saharan Africa, from Eritrea, Somalia or Sudan. They come in search of a better life in Israel or Europe, but many of them end up kidnapped, imprisoned and tortured. Criminals among the Bedouins living here demand ransom from the victims' families back home. They often torture their prisoners to death. The government in Cairo, meanwhile, seems to ignore these brutal crimes. Trapped in a Lawless Land Since the revolution that upended power structures in Egypt, the northern part of the Sinai Peninsula has slipped further out of the country's political control. It has become a lawless region and a hotbed of criminals and terrorists. Groups of young men armed with AK-47s loiter in the streets. The business of human trafficking is booming, and the murder rate has skyrocketed. "There are no police here," says Sheikh Mohammed, a young, bearded Bedouin leader. Sinai is run by family clans that follow their own rules. Sheikh Mohammed is one of the Bedouins who reject the brutal trade in refugees. Still, he explains, "I can't free them. No one can interfere in another clan's affairs." Doing so could spark a bloody feud between clans. "I can only help the Africans if they escape on their own," he says. The morning after their escape found the three Eritreans sitting in a hut on Sheikh Mohammed's property. The Bedouin whose house they first approached brought them here at around 6 a.m., and they were given jackets and blankets. Glowing coals smolder in a metal drum sunk into the sand, and a pan of rice and chicken sits next to it. But the refugees can't eat much. Their bodies are repeatedly racked by tremors, and they often simply bury their heads between their bony knees and cry. Ransoms without Release "We had barely anything to eat or drink. And we weren't allowed to sleep. If we did, they burned us," explains Mhretab, 27. "They scorched the skin on our arms or backs with burning plastic, or they burned us directly with lighters." He points to a long scar on his neck. "They hung us from our feet and hit us. If we cried, they called our families and we had to beg them over the phone to pay for us." The three Eritreans were held against their will in Sinai for over a year. First, they say, human traffickers imprisoned them for months in an underground room. Then, they were moved to the hut in the desert. "There were 22 of us at first," Zeae says. "Ten of us died in the cellar." They say their families transferred ransoms amounting to about $30,000 (€23,000) per prisoner. But instead of releasing the hostages, the kidnappers passed them on to other human traffickers. "My parents don't have anything else to give," Zeae says. "They sold their land and all their animals. They took up a collection for me at church." In fact, it often happens that entire communities pool their money to pay a refugee's ransom. Horrific Treatment Lemlem, an emaciated 15-year-old girl with bloodshot eyes, sits in a corner wearing the giant sweater she was given when she arrived. Zeae explains that Lemlem was raped repeatedly: "They simply came and took her away, any time, whenever they wanted." Lemlem rarely says a word. The only time she does, it's to ask if the reporter could find her a pair of underwear. The stories of these three refugees are like hundreds of other ones collected by Human Rights Watch. Certain elements come up again and again in the reports -- electric shocks, rape, sleep deprivation and being tortured with burning plastic that is sometimes even inserted in the vagina or anus. Videos taken by a local photographer show refugees with deep flesh wounds crawling with flies and infected, badly swollen limbs. The New York Times estimates that 7,000 refugees have been abused in this way over the last four years, and that 4,000 of them may have died. These figures are drawn from data provided by aid organizations in Israel, Europe and the United States. Locals often find the dead bodies of African refugees who have simply been dumped in the desert or whose limbs can be seen sticking out of the sand. In the darkness between the city of el-Arish and the border town of Rafah lies a low building with no electricity. Only a few candles provide light inside, where the room is lined with carpets. A stocky young man in a light-gray quilted jacket sits in one corner. He introduces himself as Mahmoud. He is a human trafficker. "We keep them here until we have the money from their families," he says. Just three days ago, he says, he released another group of Africans to people smugglers who will take them over the border into Israel. He has been in this business since 2009. But life here, he says, has gotten more difficult. No Escape At mosques in Sinai, respected local figures such as Sheikh Mohammed decry the behavior of traffickers like Mahmoud, denouncing their crimes against the defenseless as un-Islamic. People no longer greet Mahmoud on the street, and he says he fears for his life. "But what else am I supposed to do?" Mahmoud asks. "There are no jobs here, there's no way to make money!" Then he kneels down in a corner to pray. The ransom for a refugee from sub-Saharan Africa can now run as high as $50,000. And, in the last 20 months, an alarming new trend has developed: Many refugees end up in Israel who didn't actually want to go there. Bedouins from the Rashaida tribe kidnap these people in Sudan, sometimes even abducting them from refugee camps, then hand them over to clans in Sinai. Refugees report that this takes place in cooperation with Sudanese border police. "As soon as the ransom for one person is paid, they immediately take their next hostage," says Mohammed Bakr, manager of a local NGO in North Sinai. Bakr says the only solution he can see is to inform people while they're still in their home countries about the dangers of trying to escape through Sinai. Once these refugees are kidnapped in Sinai, they find themselves in a situation that is as hopeless as it is harrowing. Even if they do survive and are eventually released by their captors, they're left to wander in the no man's land near the Israeli border. If they cross the border, they risk being shot. If they make it into Israel, they may be arrested. If the Egyptian police catch them before they cross, they'll be locked up at police stations in Sinai and held in heinous conditions before eventually being deported back to their home countries. Ignoring International Laws The Egyptian government refuses to let the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) visit these prisons. It claims that the people being held in them are economic refugees who have no right to asylum because they are in Sinai illegally. "Egypt is breaking international refugee law," says Mohammed Dairi from the UNHCR's Cairo office. His organization is the body that determines the status of refugees, he says, adding that many of the refugees from Eritrea and Somalia qualify for asylum because they are threatened with persecution and torture in their home countries. In its ignorance over these crimes against sub-Saharan African refugees, Egypt is breaking its own laws, which expressly forbid human trafficking. Smugglers of tomatoes or potatoes are regularly arrested in Egypt, yet not a single human trafficker has been prosecuted. The government in Cairo has generally justified its inaction by citing security concerns. Since August, President Mohammed Morsi's government has been expanding its military presence in Sinai -- but to fight Islamist terrorists rather than free innocent refugees. Egyptian journalist Lina Attalah from the Egypt Independent, an English-language weekly, criticizes her government for its failure to act and its indifferent attitude. "Some tribesmen tell us that security forces are underequipped and can easily be beaten by the military prowess of the traffickers," she wrote in November 2012. "But they also direct us to a more poignant fact speaking to a profound racism: the victims don't matter. They are Africans. They are refugees and migrants." She also points out that there isn't any powerful organization looking out for the refugees' interests. Traffickers Bribe Border Police Mohammed Bakr, from the NGO in North Sinai, likewise has serious doubts about his government's willingness to intervene. "They simply don't want to recognize this problem," he says. Bakr is certain the traffickers bribe border police to let them smuggle refugees into Sinai. He believes the police and military know precisely who the traffickers are and where they hide their prisoners. "But they do nothing about it," he says, "even though that's their job." Still, the flood of refugees entering Sinai has slowed in recent months because of the many new checkpoints that have sprung up as a result of the increased military presence. "Unfortunately, that doesn't solve the problem," says Dairi, from the UNHCR. "The traffickers simply find different routes. We know of refugees who are now being held in Aswan" -- a city in southern Egypt. It's believed there are around 1,000 African refugees currently being held in captivity in Sinai. Zeae, Lemlem and Mhretab managed to escape their torturers, but they are still waiting in Sheikh Mohammed's hut in Sinai, their future uncertain. Their hope is that the sheikh will smuggle them to Cairo and turn them over to an aid organization. "And then I want to go to Europe," Mhretab says. "I want to work very hard and pay my family back all the money."
The National Center for Education Statistics under the US Department of Education found itself in some trouble recently. On March 22, it pulled a quote from former Chinese leader Mao Zedong, which read, "Our attitude toward ourselves should be 'to be insatiable in learning' and toward others 'to be tireless in teaching'." Some US senators demanded that the department explain why they cited the words of a communist. The quote was reportedly replaced by one from Abraham Lincoln. The US, which prides itself in freedom of speech, can't even tolerate a quote from Mao. It shows how narrow-minded the American political system is in the face of the diversity of global culture. It would not be a problem if words from an American president or even Douglas MacArthur, an anti-communist general, were published in Chinese media nowadays. Conversely, when Mao's quote appeared on a US website, it stirred up huge controversy. All countries have their boundaries for freedom of speech. It is the same with the US and we understand that. This incident reminds us how determined the US is to maintain social cohesion in a diverse environment. US elites not only maintain a high alert on fragmented ideas in society, but are also sensitive to maintaining an "American consensus." American media are independent from the government in terms of ownership, but they are not in opposition to the government. The communication between the government and media is quite established, which is something the Chinese public is unfamiliar with. The power of the US makes it able to define "freedom of speech" on a global scale based on its own standards. In other words, the US can set the boundaries for freedom of speech, while other countries will be deemed treacherous if they do the same. We are not defending China's own problems in terms of freedom of speech. China still has a long way to go in promoting a transparent system. Reforms in China's freedom of speech need to be carried out steadily. The US can offer experience for China's reforms, but cannot be a model to be worshipped in all its aspects. As a rising civilized body, China should be able to see the US as an equal. It can follow its achievements, and can also see through its shortcomings. Mao was a pioneer of the new global geopolitics. Americans will acknowledge this man sooner or later when they overcome their narrow-mindedness.
At least 537 people were killed and 1,103 others got injured in 54 bomb blasts including 11 attacks of suicide nature that ripped through different areas of Pakistan during the first quarter of the current year 2013, according to official figures. Terrorist have conducted 11 suicide attacks during the first three months of the current year, one in January, four in February and six in March, that killed 319 people besides injuring 466 others. The Friday's suicide attack at the security forces was the latest one that killed at least 12 people and left 10 others injured in the country's northwestern metropolitan city of Peshawar. According to police officials, the incident took place when a suicide bomber exploded his explosives laden jacket near the convoy of Frontier Constabulary (FC) led by a commander, killing 12 people including two security personnel. During the month of March, totally 27 attacks including six of suicide nature were conducted by the militants at different targets that killed 185 persons besides leaving 404 others wounded. The month of February embraced 11 explosions that killed 153 and injured 319 others while in month of January, 16 blasts took place that caused 199 causalities and left 380 others hurt. During the period, two most horrible attacks occurred in the country's southwestern provincial capital of Quetta that targeted the areas dominated by Hazara community of Shia Muslims that inflicted a huge loss of life and property. The first assault was carried out on Jan. 10 when twin blasts, a suicide attack followed by an dreadful car bomb blast, targeted a snooker club in Quetta, killing at least 106 people, including nine policemen and 20 rescue workers. The second worst incident occurred on Feb. 16 in the same city, when a suicide bomber exploded his water-tanker-bomb carrying some 1,000 kg explosives in a busy vegetable market and killed 89 civilians besides injuring over 170 others. In another terrorist attack on March 2, at least 50 people were killed and 137 others injured when some unknown terrorists conducted a car bomb blast in a residential area in southern port city of Karachi. Pakistan's southwestern city of Quetta was the worst hit area as at least 223 people lost their lives in three major bomb attacks. The attacks on civilians spread panic among masses triggering countrywide protest against the incidents. The terrorists also attacked two different preaching and worshiping centres with remote controlled bomb blasts that killed 38 people who were busy in their religious activities. Official statistics showed that the terrorists carried out 54 bomb attacks at 52 targets, killing 471 civilians as well as 45 personnel from security forces and 21 policemen. Among a total of 1,103 injured, 1001 were civilians followed by members of security forces and police, respectively. Pakistani army's 42 servicemen and 21 policemen lost their lives while three members of Frontier Constabulary were killed in the attacks. The militant groups also used suicide bombers against their rival groups to establish their domination and to capture the areas under the control of their opponents. On March 19, two suicide bombers of 'Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan' targeted a center of Ansar-ul-Islam, a banned militant organization and a rival of Pakistani Taliban, killing 48 people in Bagh area of Tirah Valley in Khyber Agency, Pakistan's northwestern tribal region bordering Afghanistan. Regarding number of explosions in the specific regions, Pakistan's northwestern tribal regions bordering Afghanistan were the worst hit area with 19 bomb attacks, followed by Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Sindh and Balochistan provinces with 18, 10 and seven bomb incidents respectively. The heavily populated eastern province of Punjab, that contains 60 percent of Pakistan's total population, remained unhurt as there was no incident of terrorism occurred during the specific period. Majority of the bomb blasts were exploded with remote controlled devices as 36 explosions targeted civilians, 11 security forces and seven were conducted at police personnel. Most of the attacks, especially the shocking ones, were claimed by the Pakistani Taliban who recently threatened to speed up their attacks at the security personnel and public rallies of the political parties who are preparing for the country's general elections 2013. Pakistani Taliban, in a video message, had threatened to attack rallies of the allied parties of the recently ended coalition government of Pakistan People's Party, threatening masses to keep away from such gatherings.
President Obama and his family attended Easter services at an Episcopal church near the White House where past presidents frequently have worshipped.
THE intelligence and the other law enforcing agencies must be congratulated for arresting several people linked to proscribed extremist groups. It has been a long time since such a large number of suspected militants, including foreigners, were apprehended. Among the 12 alleged arrested militants are a former Jamaat leader and an Afghan war veteran. Not only were they preparing to conduct subversive activities, they, reportedly, were also planning to carry out political assassination, with the purpose of, according to them, establishing Khelaft. If anyone was under a euphoric illusion that with the hanging of some HUJI members in 2006 we have seen the end of religious extremism in Bangladesh these arrests must have come as a rude awakening. We had been constantly harping on the need to keep a constant alert against extremist forces who, we feel, were in a suspended animation waiting for an opportune moment to strike. We are glad that they were trapped before they could strike. There is a clear message for our political leaders in these arrests. The extremists have thrived during periods of political unrest in the country in the past. And they have tried to exploit the present situation too, to attempt a comeback. We would hope that the political leaders would realise that the extremists are no friend of any political party. They have their own agenda, and perhaps use a recognised party to strut themselves up. And while the political parties were busy bickering among themselves, these groups have utilised the time and the political space to reorganise. The situation in the country, unfortunately, is rife for trouble-mongers to exploit the extremist elements to achieve their strategic aim. And while it would require the utmost alertness on the part of our own agencies to counter these elements, the two major parties must realise that the continued political unrest, among other adverse consequences, might render the country a happy hunting ground for religious militants.
Jamaat-Shibir activists in a hit-and-run attack hurled several bombs at police, severing the right wrist of one and severely injuring another when the law enforcers were trying to fend off the attackers in the city. Sub-inspector Mokbul Hossain of Motihar police, who lost his right wrist, in the attack was airlifted to Dhaka at the directive of the prime minister. SI Mokbul was initially rushed to Rajshahi Medical College Hospital (RMCH) and given primary treatment. He was under watch at the Intensive Care Unit of the Combined Military Hospital where he was admitted at 2:30pm. Rajshahi Metropolitan Police (RMP) Commissioner SM Moniruzzaman said five other policemen were injured in the powerful blasts during a clash at Bata intersection in Rajshahi city. Doctors at RMCH said the bomb had gone off in Mokbul’s hand as he tried to defend himself from being hit by it.“His right wrist was severed and three fingers of his left hand were hanging by the skin,” said BK Dam, a senior orthopaedic surgeon at RMCH. Mokbul’s father Havildar Ansar Ali, who also works with Rajshahi police, came to Dhaka with his son on the same chopper. Ansar Ali said his son had joined Motihar police only a month ago. Mohsin Alam, publicity secretary of Shibir’s Rajshahi University unit, alleged the policeman was injured when a sound grenade he was about to throw at Jamaat-Shibir activists exploded in his hand. Alam claimed more than 40 of their men were injured and they received treatment at different private clinics and hospitals.Inspector Alamgir Hossain of Detective Branch however said sound grenades “have ability to burn, not to fracture” and are used to create sounds to drive away mob. The other severely injured law enforcer, constable Rofikul Islam of Riot Control Division, was admitted to RMCH as his left elbow was fractured. Other wounded policemen were given first aid at the same hospital. The clash began around 10:30am when more than 100 Jamaat-Shibir men brought out a brisk procession at Bata intersection demanding an end to war crimes trial and release of their arrested leaders and activists. Sensing the presence of police, the Jamaat-Shibir men from the procession suddenly started hurling bombs at them. During the clash that lasted 10 minutes the activists blasted 15 to 20 bombs, said Ziaur Rahman, officer-in-charge of Boalia police. He added the police fired rubber bullets, teargas shells and exploded sound grenades to disperse the violent procession. The clash spread to Ranibazar as the police chased the Jamaat-Shibir activists. Roadside shops were closed and pedestrians ran for safety as panic gripped the area. Police picked up seven men from the scene, said the OC. Additional police force was deployed at different points in the city as tension mounted following the incident. Inspector General of Police Hassan Mahmood Khandker told The Daily Star they would take appropriate legal actions against the offenders. He said the police had been taking risks in discharging their duties properly in the interest of the people. Referring to yesterday’s incident, the police chief said, “He [the SI] has showed the highest respect to his profession.” Meanwhile, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina said the wounded policeman had been airlifted to Dhaka and admitted to the CMH upon her directive. The premier said this at a meeting of the Awami League Central Working Committee at Gono Bhaban.
President Vladimir Putin described the Soviet Union as a land of opportunity and called for two Soviet relics, mandatory school uniforms and the "Hero of Labor" award, to be dusted off in the name of social justice, during an informal meeting with supporters in Rostov-on-Don on Friday. The Soviet government provided Putin with opportunities — a quality education, a KGB job abroad, and social mobility back home — without which he "wouldn't have had a chance" to rise to his current position, Putin said, adding that the feat would be "fairly difficult" today. "We must again make education a quality means of social mobility for everybody," he told rank-and-file members of the All-Russia People's Front, an umbrella group of organizations that support him, including the ruling United Russia party and thousands of nongovernmental groups. During the meeting, a meandering question-and-answer session, Putin also threw his support behind mandatory school uniforms — abolished in 1992 — which an educator from the Siberian city of Tyumen told him could promote social cohesion and guard children's health. The federal government could require the uniforms and leave the details to the regions, Putin said. At the suggestion of a wizened factory worker, Putin resurrected another Soviet icon, the Hero of Labor award, which was created in 1928, renamed the "Hero of Socialist Labor" in 1938, and discarded along with the Soviet Union in 1991. "I don't only agree with you, I think that your proposal will be carried out by the end of the day today," Putin told the man, causing burly union leader Mikhail Shmakov to wrinkle his face in disbelief before breaking into a restrained smile. Putin has said there's no going back to the Soviet Union, but he has frequently expressed nostalgia for its geopolitical muscle, including when he famously called its collapse "the greatest geopolitical catastrophe" of the 20th century. On Friday, Putin also seemed to echo many Russians' belief that its social safety net and education system were stronger, too, and that the gap between the rich and poor was narrower. He criticized income disparity and called for "reasonable limits" on so-called golden parachutes, occasionally lavish severance payments awarded to top executives. A mining executive's $100 million golden parachute — the largest in Russian history — sparked outrage when it was announced in December, and the practice has been criticized by State Duma deputies and the Prosecutor General's Office. The former executive, Norilsk Nickel's Vladimir Strzhalkovsky, a longtime Putin associate from his KGB years, promised to give 10 percent to the families of fallen security service officers. Putin also listened to complaints about conditions for small businesses, specifically an increase in their obligatory payments to the pension fund. As of this year, individual entrepreneurs have to pay 37,000 rubles ($1,200) per person into the fund, a dramatic increase over previous levels and a move that small business leaders say caused more than 350,000 people to cancel their registration as entrepreneurs. Putin ordered the government to review the situation within two weeks and report their findings back to him. He also tread carefully on the thorny issue of whether Russian schoolchildren should use the same history textbook, saying that there should be a "canonical version of our history" for the sake of national unity, but that teachers should also present their students with various points of view. The atmosphere in the auditorium seemed relaxed, with Putin sitting on level with the audience and occasionally cracking jokes and more than once reminiscing about his time as a young KGB officer. His most provocative barb came in response to a young teacher who said she overheard two pupils on a playground talking about plans to provide false witness against their parents. "Eavesdropping is bad. I learned that during my time in the KGB, and I gave it up," said Putin, who served in the Soviet Union's main security agency from 1975 to 1991. Embarrassing recordings of telephone conversations between Kremlin critics have a way of appearing on the Internet. The light tone almost masked the serious political work taking place. With United Russia beset by scandals and slipping in the polls, rumors have abounded that the All-Russia People's Front will become the premier pro-Putin vehicle, perhaps even a replacement party. The speculation appeared to get a boost when Putin urged members to officially register the hitherto informal group and hold a founding congress on June 11-12, which coincides with the Russia Day holiday. Earlier, the people's front announced that Andrei Bocharyov, a decorated Chechen War veteran and former State Duma deputy, would lead preparations for the founding congress, which has involved the creation of regional organizing committees throughout the country. Bocharyov said the group would make sure that orders issued at Friday's conference were carried out, including by checking with officials, RIA-Novosti reported. In another sign of the group's growing clout, Just Russia leader Sergei Mironov said his party would not exclude working with the people's front on certain issues, according to an online statement published on Thursday. The All-Russia People's Front was founded at Putin's initiative in 2011 and used to elect dozens of non-party, pro-government candidates to the State Duma in December of that year, and secure Putin's landslide election to his third presidential term in March 2012. Even so, 57 percent of Russians have never heard of the organization, and 42 percent dismissed it as an "imitation" of widespread support for Putin, according to March polls by the independent Levada Center.
Al ArabiyaWinners usually take it all, the prize and the fame. But for 31-year-old Iranian singer Ermia Va Majid, it is a rather different climb to victory and fame. Ermia was declared the grand winner of the Iranian version of X-Factor, Googosh Academy, which is being filmed and transmitted to Iranian viewers from London by an exiled TV channel. Taking home a staggering amount of $25,000 during the announcement of winners last Friday, Ermia is now the topic of discussions and forums online – but this is not about money. Iranians are worried about two major things – the voting system that helped the judges decide and Ermia breaking the Shariah law by singing, especially while wearing the hijab headscarf. Iranian conservatives are fuming over the fact that the married winner challenging the Islamic restrictions on married women performing and singing in public. During her final performance, Ermia was shown dressed in a way that covered her whole body – from head to toe – but is still accused for tarnishing Islam’s culture, the Guardian reported. According to the Iranian 1983 Penal law, bad hijabi is punishable by 74 lashes. Punishment was then reduced to either imprisonment or paying a certain amount of fine in 1996. Bad hijabi is defined as “uncovered head, showing make-up, uncovered arms and legs, thin and see-through clothes, tight clothes such as trousers without an overall over them, clothes bearing foreign words, signs or pictures, nail varnish, brightly colored clothing and improper modes of body movement or talking,” added a report from the Daily Mail. There are also speculations about Ermia’s affiliations. The London-based Persian Language Manoto TV channel said on its website that people are wondering if she has ties with the Iranian regime and if the voting system was rigged in favor of her. The channel reported that Emria has always liked singing but never had the courage to showcase her talent. She saw “no contradiction between singing and [the] hijab,” the television reported. Googosh Academy is aired by Manoto TV and is owned by the Marjan TV Corporation, a company established by exiled couple Kayvan and Marjan Abbassi in the UK. In order to stop people from watching the TV show, Iranian authorities tried to jam its signals, pushing other citizens to install illegal satellite dishes to be able to get a glimpse of the Academy that has hooked families all over Iran.
Some of the contraband is spirited across the mountains in Pepsi bottles carried by child smugglers. Yet more is loaded into pick-up trucks or siphoned into barrels and strapped onto mules. So lucrative are the returns that even seasoned opium traffickers are abandoning their traditional cargo to grab a share of Pakistan's closest thing to an oil boom: a roaring trade in illicit Iranian diesel. As Western powers tighten sanctions on Iran, an unexpected set of beneficiaries has emerged in the hard-scrabble Pakistani province of Baluchistan - smugglers lured by surging profits for black market fuel. "Why smuggle opium when you can earn as much money by smuggling diesel? It's much safer," said a former opium trader from the Pakistani town of Mand, a smuggling hub near the Iranian border. "Besides, I'm now called a successful businessman -- not a drug dealer," said the man, who gave his name as Hamid. Diesel smuggling has long been a part of the illicit trade in Baluchistan, where a thriving commerce in goods from guns and narcotics to duty free cigarettes and second hand Toyotas constitutes one the arteries of the globalised criminal economy. But a Reuters inquiry into the fuel trade, based on interviews with participants across the province and a visit to remote parts of the frontier, has revealed that sanctions on Iran has made diesel smuggling extremely remunerative. The findings also raise questions about the possible degree of complicity in fuel smuggling among Pakistani security forces stationed in Baluchistan, a vast province sandwiched between Iran and Afghanistan. Covering almost half of Pakistan's land area but extremely sparsely populated, Baluchistan is home to both insurgents campaigning for an independent Baluch homeland, and drug cartels shipping Afghan opium and heroin to world markets. In Nushki, a small town on one of the roads cutting through Baluchistan's arid moonscape, diesel traders preparing to drive to the Iran border had little to fear from the law. "Bringing in fuel this way is so much cheaper and makes great profits," said one of the transporters, a burly man wearing a gold watch who had the demeanor of a wealthy businessman. "Even though there are security check points at all these border towns inside Pakistan, no one ever stops me. Why wouldn't I do this?" TWICE AS MUCH For years, diesel smuggled from Iran has supplemented the 2.7 million to 3 million tons (20 million to 22 million barrels) of diesel that Pakistan's state oil company buys from the Kuwait Petroleum Corp each year. The illegal trade cooled in late 2010 when Iran cut fuel subsidies, narrowing profit margins for importers. But smugglers have gone into overdrive since late September, when growing pressure from Western sanctions caused the Iranian rial to lose forty per cent of its value against the dollar in a week, making diesel even cheaper for Pakistani buyers. Iran sets its diesel price at 4,500 Iranian rials a liter, (about 15 U.S. cents at the open market rate) - less than the price of mineral water. In Pakistan, a liter of smuggled diesel can sell for 104 rupees a liter ($1.06) -- cheaper than the official price of 112 rupees a liter. In Baluchistan, diesel dealers are making so much cash that some passenger transporters are trading in buses to buy pick-up trucks sturdy enough to make the journey to the frontier across river fords and forbidding escarpments. "I sold my mini-bus to buy a pick-up. It earns me twice as much as the passenger van," said a man called Altaf, who has started ferrying Iranian diesel to the town of Turbat in Baluchistan. At Jogar, a border pass in granite mountains, children trek across the hills bearing Iranian diesel in Pepsi bottles. Some is transported on donkeys. On the Baluchistan coast, smuggling proceeds on an industrial scale as diesel arrives at ports via vessels plying the Gulf of Oman. Like tributaries feeding a river, individual smugglers bring their barrels to depots, where the cargo is aggregated into tanker trucks. There is no way to reliably measure the amount of fuel involved, but traders believe that 100-130 tankers -- each capable of carrying 25,000-40,000 liters -- are filled with illicit Iranian diesel in Baluchistan each day. The tankers then deliver the fuel to markets across Pakistan, or into Afghanistan, whose reliance on Iranian refined products poses a particular dilemma for Washington. In January, the U.S. Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction warned that fuel purchases made for Afghan security forces using U.S. government funds may have included Iranian petroleum products, which would be a violation of Washington's own sanctions on Tehran. Iran's attempts to boost formal energy ties with Pakistan are also a concern for the U.S. government. Washington has voiced opposition to plans to build a pipeline through Baluchistan to tap Iranian natural gas, which Pakistan sees as a possible answer to its chronic electricity shortages. "ARMED HENCHMEN" The ease with which diesel smuggling has blossomed anew underscores the tenuous writ of the authorities in Baluchistan, a region with a long history of independence that has felt marginalized ever since it was merged into Pakistan in 1948. So large are the sums involved that many suspect elements in the paramilitary Frontier Corps, which has primary security responsibility in Baluchistan, and other agencies are involved. "The Frontier Corps, coast guards and police provide the smugglers with protection in return for their share," said a senior government official in Makran, a southern coastal strip in Baluchistan and smuggling hotspot. The Frontier Corps declined comment, but has in the past denied involvement in illegal trade, saying it has repeatedly confronted heavily armed heroin traffickers. Fuel importers and marketers said, however, that Pakistan's over-stretched security forces turn a blind eye. "Vehicles loaded with Iranian diesel and petrol provide us with fuel as a routine matter -- there are no hindrances to its transportation," said Ghulam Ali, who sells the smuggled products openly in Quetta, the main city in Baluchistan. Akbar Baloch, who runs an import and export business from a village near the Iran border, said influential figures on both sides of the frontier were involved. "Their armed henchmen escort the vehicles used for smuggling," he added. Iran's government, already battling Western moves to restrict supplies of gasoline and other refined products, has sought to stem smuggling by introducing a system of smart cards to ration subsidized fuel. In Pakistan, authorities admit they are overwhelmed. Ibrahim Vighio, a senior customs official in Quetta, said the government plans to form a new 1,000-strong anti-smuggling unit. "We have lack of forces, proper weapons and equipment to stop the smuggling," he said.
Russian Defense Ministry officials and NATO representatives will soon discuss the possibility of Russia establishing new bases in Afghanistan for the repairing of military hardware. “We will look into various options of creating repair bases on Afghan territory,” the head of the Defense Ministry’s department of international cooperation, Sergey Koshelev, told the press. He added that the maintenance of weapons and military hardware in Afghanistan remains a top priority, as any instability in the country would affect Russia’s own security, as well as the security of other European nations. Russian NATO envoy Aleksandr Grushko also said that Moscow was not excluding the possibility of broader cooperation with the military bloc. In particular, Russia could offer to enlarge the transport corridor to Afghanistan, so that the country’s own forces could continue to receive supplies from Western allies after coalition troops leave Afghanistan in 2014. The top Russian MP for defense said in press comments that Moscow saw stabilization in Afghanistan as a main priority: “In any case this [Russia-NATO cooperation] is a positive moment. The coalition was breaking there for 13 years. We remember very well the situation our troops found themselves in at the Afghanistan-Tajikistan border. This is why the stabilization in Afghanistan is very important for us,” Sergey Zhigarev told RSN radio. The complete withdrawal of International Security Assistance Force from Afghanistan is scheduled for 2015. Then-US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said in a recent statement that Afghan authorities are already providing security across three-quarters of the country’s territory. Panetta added, however, that the withdrawal of military forces did not mean that the US was leaving Afghanistan completely, and promised aid and training to the country’s government and military forces. Over the past several years, the Pentagon has been buying Russian weapons, including helicopters for Afghan military forces, despite criticism from some US politicians. Russia has also agreed to open a NATO logistics base on its territory to simplify cargo deliveries from Western Europe. Russian officials have repeatedly denied that Moscow is considering resuming its military presence in Afghanistan.
Several hundred people gathered in London's Trafalgar Square on Saturday to protest against the government's welfare cuts and the controversial "bedroom tax". Simultaneous protests were held in towns and cities across the UK ahead of the cuts scheduled to come into force in April. In Glasgow, around 2,500 people, including trade unionists and people from disabled groups, marched from Glasgow Green to George Square in the city centre. The "bedroom tax", which is due to be introduced next month, will entail a cut in housing benefit for claimants whose home has a spare room. Pensioners, who have the highest number of spare rooms, are exempt, but critics say that a spare room is a necessity for many families, particularly those with ill or disabled members. Noreen Aslam, 41, a working mother of four from Manchester was in London with her family. "We heard this was on and wanted to come. I think its a disgrace what they're doing, its the poll tax all over again. Homeless is Manchester used to be just the occassional person you'd see, now its the normality to see people sleeping on the streets. Its all over the place. I think its disgusting." John MacDonald, 66, travelled from Norfolk. "I'd like to know if the second homes we pay for for MPs are all one bedroom. Its a disgrace. This government is dead in the water because we won't forget what they are doing to working class people," he said. Sue Carter, 58, from Waltham Forest agreed: "They have just shut the soup kitchen in Waltham Forest despite having a real problem with homelessness. I'm a working single parent and now I've a tiny boxroom and now I'm faced with the choice between food, heat or paying the 'bedroom tax'. "People have looked after their homes, improved them. Why should they be turfed out? An old widowed lady I know told the council she would be happy to move to a one-bedroom [home], but she would like to still have a little garden for her two dogs. They told her to get rid of her dogs."
http://www.detroitnews.comDespite making enormous strides professionally and financially, almost half of American women fear poverty, even many of those earning six-figure salaries, according to a new survey. Six in 10 women describe themselves as the primary breadwinners in their households, and 54 percent manage the family finances, according to the poll by Allianz Life Insurance Co. of North America. Even so, 49 percent fear becoming a "bag lady" — a homeless woman who carries her meager belongings in a shopping bag. Most surprising, 27 percent of women earning more than $200,000 a year said they fear falling into such destitution. Such concerns were most pronounced among single women (56 percent), divorcees (54 percent) and widows (47 percent). But even 43 percent of married women harbor such fears, according to the study. Allianz polled more than 2,200 women aged 25 to 75 with minimum household income of $30,000 a year. The study points up the conflicting emotions of American women toward money, and the disconnect among some between their generally promising financial reality and their deep-seated financial fears. Fifty-seven percent of poll respondents said they "have more earning power than ever before" and "handle major investment decisions and retirement planning." Yet many also worry that financial achievement alienates men, as well as other women. Forty-two percent said financially independent women intimidate men and run the risk of ending up alone, according to the survey. Almost one-third said those women are hard to relate to and don't have many friends.
The Express TribuneTechnically, the police should be blind adherents to the rule of law, carrying out their duties without regard to outside pressure and prejudice. In reality, they end up reflecting the society from which they emerge. Nearly a week after a local Ahmadi leader was beaten up in Kasur, the police are refusing to arrest, or even register a case, against those responsible. They have even gone a step further and threatened Ahmadis with retaliatory registration of cases against them. This is sadly typical in Pakistan, where defenceless victims are made out to be the true threat and the aggressors are treated with kid gloves. From Shias in Quetta and Gilgit to Christians in Lahore, beleaguered minorities know that they are unlikely to get any respite from the state and its functionaries. Recall how after the May 2010 attacks on two Ahmadi places of worship, which killed nearly 100 people, not a single politician had the courage to show up at their funerals. The police carried out only a perfunctory investigation, quickly blamed the attack on the Taliban and then washed their hands of the matter. The simple truth is that in Pakistan, the life of an Ahmadi simply does not hold the same weight as that of the majority population. This is hatred in its most pure and raw form. The discrimination against Ahmadis does not just exist at the official level. Mobs are frequently riled up to attack Ahmadis, burn down their houses and seize their property. The motivations for this are a mixture of blind rage and more mercenary tendencies. Blasphemy cases against minorities are frequently spurred by a desire to take over a choice piece of land, essentially using religious passions to forward more worldly desires. The police either join in or stay away out of fear. The state does not have the backbone to assert itself against the mob. A stray condemnation or two is the best we can hope for. All the while, minority groups continue trying to get through the day wondering where the next attack will come from.
http://criticalppp.com/archives/255697Anchor: Why did you vehemently oppose the women protection act? Munawar Hasan: Women protection act was not aimed at protecting women instead it is meant to promote vulgarity and obscenity in the society. Anchor: What is the basis of your allegations? Munawar Hasan: On the basis of which we opposed the act. Anchor: The fundamental purpose of the women protection act was (is) to provide women with the right to file cases on the basis of circumstantial and forensic evidence, making convictions of rape easier. Where is the obscenity in that? Munawar Hasan: This bill has been part of law for years, how has that affected the rights of women in Pakistan? What is the one issue that can be pointed out as a success of this law? Anchor: One blaringly obvious problem with the Hudood law was the need to present four witnesses in order to convict a rapist, failure to do so resulted in the arrest of the woman on charges of confession to adultery, that was the main issue. Munawar Hasan: What is the problem in that? Anchor: The problem is this sir, that according to the 2003 national commission status of women report 80 per cent women were forced to languish in jails because of inability to produce witnesses of their rape. Munawar Hasan: The objective of Islam is to discourage such acts, no one can be shameless enough to commit such an act in the presence of four people. Making it impossible to prove such acts, therefore the whole idea is to discourage bringing such acts into public light. Discouraging it to the extent that the act is never quoted. If such a crime occurs and since there are no witnesses than both men and women are suppose to keep it under wraps and not discuss it in public. Anchor: Sir, are you suggesting that a woman should stay silent after she is raped? That she should not report the crime? Munawar Hasan: I am saying she should keep quite if she has no witnesses. If she has witnesses than she should present them. Anchor: What kind of an argument is that? A woman is raped and she has to look for witnesses to prove the crime? Munawar Hasan: Argue with the Quran and not me. Anchor: I am not questioning the Quran, I am questioning your argument. This is unbelievable. Why do extremist (pro-Taliban, pro-Sipah-e-Sahaba) Islamists always make the poorest, most ignorant religious arguments? In the Qur’an, four witnesses are required to prove zina (adultery), not rape. That is a key distinction, and the Qur’an is merciful, in that by requiring 4 witnesses, the standard for proving adultery is set so high as to be impossible. That is as it should be, since the penalty for adultery is so severe (100 lashes – the Qur’an does not prescribe stoning). But adultery is not rape. If you are raped, you did not commit adultery. Adultery is a category of illicit, but mutually consensual, sexual intercourse. Obviously in rape, the sexual intercourse is forced by one party upon the other without their consent – that is the very definition of rape. In fact, centuries of Islamic jurists have established consensus that rape is not a category of adultery, but rather of hirabah (terrorism). Here is an excellent resource from MuslimAccess on rape in Islam by Uzma Mazhar – from which I am copying liberally: During the time of the Prophet (saw) punishment was inflicted on the rapist on the solitary evidence of the woman who was raped by him. Wa’il ibn Hujr reports of an incident when a woman was raped. Later, when some people came by, she identified and accused the man of raping her. They seized him and brought him to Allah’s messenger, who said to the woman, “Go away, for Allâh has forgiven you,” but of the man who had raped her, he said, “Stone him to death.” (Tirmidhi and Abu Dawud) [...] Islamic legal scholars interpret rape as a crime in the category of Hiraba. In ‘Fiqh-us-Sunnah’, hiraba is described as: ‘a single person or group of people causing public disruption, killing, forcibly taking property or money, attacking or raping women (hatk al ‘arad), killing cattle, or disrupting agriculture.’ The famous jurist, Ibn Hazm, had the widest definition of hiraba, defining a hiraba offender as: ‘One who puts people in fear on the road, whether or not with a weapon, at night or day, in urban areas or in open spaces, in the palace of a caliph or a mosque, with or without accomplices, in the desert or in the village, in a large or small city, with one or more people… making people fear that they’ll be killed, or have money taken, or be raped (hatk al ‘arad)… whether the attackers are one or many.” Al-Dasuqi held that if a person forced a woman to have sex, his actions would be deemed as committing hiraba. In addition, the Maliki judge Ibn ‘Arabi, relates a story in which a group was attacked and a woman in their party was raped. Responding to the argument that the crime did not constitute hiraba because no money was taken and no weapons used, Ibn ‘Arabi replied indignantly that “hiraba with the private parts” is much worse than hiraba involving the taking of money, and that anyone would rather be subjected to the latter than the former. The crime of rape is classified not as a subcategory of ‘zina’ (consensual adultery), but rather as a separate crime of violence under hiraba. This classification is logical, as the “taking” is of the victim’s property (the rape victim’s sexual autonomy) by force. In Islam, sexual autonomy and pleasure is a fundamental right for both women and men (Ghazâlî); taking by force someone’s right to control the sexual activity of one’s body is thus a form of hiraba. Rape as hiraba is a violent crime that uses sexual intercourse as a weapon. The focus in a hiraba prosecution is the accused rapist and his intent and physical actions, and not second-guessing the consent of the rape victim. Hiraba does not require four witnesses to prove the offense, circumstantial evidence, medical data and expert testimony form the evidence used to prosecute such crimes. To summarize, rape is hirabah (terrorism), not zina (adultery) – punishment should be meted to the rapist, and the victim of rape should not be punished in any way. A statement of being raped is not a confession to adultery. All of this is not some modern reinterpretation on my part, but a robust, centuries-old consensus of all major schools of jurisprudence in Islam. In the Pakistani context, it was the debate in 2006 that led to the Protection of Women Act later that year, which extremists like Jamaat-i-Islami opposed. Clearly, they haven’t evolved or become any more enlightened in the past five years. This all points to the difficulty of legislating morality – what’s needed is not top-down reform but a sustained campaign for civil rights at the grassroots level to change the public perception. This is how civil rights were won in the United States, by the most downtrodden and persecuted group in American society. I wonder if Pakistani women can do the same. Certainly not overnight, and not with a single law. Source: http://blog.beliefnet.com/cityofbrass/2011/07/jamaat-i-islami-in-pakistan-and-the-rapeadultery-fallacy.html
The Baloch HalSince the killing of Nawab Mohammad Akbar Bugti in a military operation in August 2006, elections in Balochistan have become a yardstick to measure the intensity of Baloch disillusionment with the Pakistani federation. Unlike the rest of Pakistan, elections in Balochistan are not merely about public representation, transparency and the accommodation of underrepresented voices in the so-called mainstream politics. Balochistan, after Bugti’s killing, has become a significantly different place and the dynamics as well as the requirements of the regional politics have remarkably changed. When Baloch separatists call for the boycott of the next elections, it does not in any way translate into resentment to the very idea of democracy and people’s right to vote. What they, as well as this newspaper, oppose is basically based on Balochistan’s unresolved disputes with the federation. Whenever Islamabad oppresses the Baloch people and does not take in consideration their will in making key decisions (such as the recent Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline and the handover of the Gwadar Port to the Chinese), the Balochs believe an election season is the best time to express their ‘democratic right” to cast a ‘vote of no confidence’ in the current Pakistani system. After all, developed democracies in the world, including the United Nations system, provide the people and the member states the right to ‘abstain’ from certain democratic exercises. For the Baloch people, election 2013 is the best time to show their ‘democratic right’ to ‘abstain’ from Pakistani polls. The people of Balochistan are not averse to voting but they are simply not ready to vote at this time. Another election that brings some nationalists and most old faces in power but still does not address fundamental issues relating to Balochistan will be a futile exercise. By participating in the elections, the ‘moderate’ Baloch nationalist leaders will be validating and legitimizing the massacre of Baloch youths during the previous ‘democratic government’. More than 300 missing Baloch people’s dead bodies were recovered during the P.P.P. regime. If that is what democracy provides then Balochistan should truly fear the kind of democracy Islamabad is enthusiastically contemplating to introduce us with. That said, democracy failed, as much as General Musharraf’s junta, to provide justice to Balochistan. They all mistreated the Baloch. Those who say that the boycott of elections by the Baloch nationalists will only increase the number of pro-federation parliamentarians have a solid argument. But participation in the election before punishing those ‘democratic’ leaders who committed human rights abuses in Balochistan, indulged in massive corruption and encouraged foreign countries’ exploitative initiatives will encourage and cement a culture of impunity and unconditional remission. That is precisely what is going to happen on May 11. By deciding to return to Pakistan and participate in the upcoming general elections, the Balochistan National Party chief Sardar Akhtar Mengal and National Party have clearly indicated that they are exhausted and can no longer continue their battle against the federal government. But were they ever in the forefront of the anti-Islamabad struggle? No, they were not. They only pretend to be the actual powers who could bring peace to Balochistan and those Islamabad should patronize and negotiate with. They perhaps now realize that they have done enough blackmailing of the central government and the time has come for them to get back to power. However, nationalist’s surrender does not mean that Islamabad’s behavior toward the Baloch people has also improved at any level or in any form. The two nationalist parties that boycotted the last general elections are more than welcome to contest polls as they are absolutely free to make their own decisions. What we see from their behavior is hasty and poor judgement of the conflict in Balochistan. It is ironic that even Sardar Akhtar Mengal, the B.N.P. president had also voted in support of a Baloch boycott of the elections during the party’s Central Committee Meeting in Karachi last week. He is only proceeding with the polls to respect the majority’s decision in the B.N.P. The problem with the B.N.P., on the other hand, is the penetration of some opportunistic and compromising elements in the party’s key position during the past four years when Sardar Mengal was on self-imposed exile. By opting for elections, the Baloch nationalist parties have significantly disappointed the Baloch masses who have always wished to deal with Islamabad in a dignified and honorable manner. This time, it is a sad case of absolute and unconditional submission to the federation. The B.N.P. can still do some damage control by asking the Election Commission of Pakistan to reschedule the elections in the province. This period should be taken to initiate dialogue with the Supreme Court of Pakistan, the Election Commission of Pakistan and major national political parties, particularly the Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz and the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf to put forward a set of Baloch demands and recommendations. This is a unique opportunity to withdraw the Frontier Corps (F.C.) from parts of Balochistan, dismantle the death squads, recover the missing persons and punish those who have been involved in the killing Baloch youths with the help of Pakistani intelligence agencies. In addition, the Baloch nationalists, particularly the B.N.P., should publicly assert its stance on the Gwadar Port and its handover to the Chinese. Until these Baloch demands are met, elections will only perpetuate a flawed and repressive system that provides no relief to our people.
The Express TribuneMost parents and teachers are reluctant to discuss sensitive issues with children and inform them about the physical and emotional aspects of puberty, pushing them to seek information from unreliable sources, said Lifeline NGO Chief Executive Omar Aftab on Saturday. Quoting findings of a baseline study during a news conference, Aftab said over 100 million of Pakistan’s youth suffer from lack of information. He added no efforts have been made to educate them about their basic rights, exposing them to exploitation. He said the study’s objective was to gauge and assess the level of understanding key stakeholders had about adolescent and youth sexual and reproductive health rights (SRHR). Aftab maintained the study was based on nine districts. Adolescents, parents, teachers, politicians, prominent religious leaders, EDOs, district managers for population welfare departments and NGO representatives were the targets. The organisation also conducted a review of the Learning Needs Assessment of the Life Skill Based Education (LSBE) course. The LSBE course imparts basic knowledge to adolescents to help them cope with physiological, psychological, political and social changes in their lives. Lifeline’s review revealed 83.3% and 74.7% students have reported an increase in knowledge and change in thinking, respectively, due to the course. Teachers and students suggested that instead of teaching the same course to all students between 12 and 17 years, a more step-wise approach should be taken, with the level and extent of information increased as students get older. Lifeline claimed educating teachers was of paramount importance, so that misconceptions regarding reproductive anatomy and physiology are removed. “Our religion does not forbid us from discussing or imparting proper guidance to our children,” said Aftab. He said the problem emitted from centuries old rites and customs. “The issue should not be labelled a socially proscribed topic, and parents – especially in middle and lower middle classes – should discuss these issues with their children.” The most interesting result of the study was that 85.3% girls, 94.6% boys and 99% of all politicians, teachers, journalists and religious leaders endorsed the idea of teaching SRHRs in schools, claimed Aftab Aftab said change will only come about if cultural misconceptions were addressed by proper Islamic principles, which provided guidance on emotional and physiological aspects of puberty, peer pressure, birth spacing, intimacy, relationships and gender-based violence.
The Higher Education Commission (HEC) on Saturday rejected the intermediate certificate of senior PML-N leader Nisar Ali Khan. According to a private TV channel, Manzoor Wattoo’s name was also listed among those whose educational certificates were allegedly bogus and the name of former state minister Ghulam Fareed Kathia also adorned the list. HEC sources said degrees of Samina Khalid Ghurki and Hamid Nasir Chatha were also doubtful. “In addition, former MQM MPA Sardar Ahmed’s degree is also suspicious,” the channel said. Sunday will be the last day for the verification of educational documents.
ON the evening of March 13, Director Orangi Pilot Project Perween Rahman was shot and killed by masked men half a kilometre from her office just off Manghopir Road in Karachi. The police were quick to point a finger at the Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP). In an “encounter” the very next day, they killed Qari Bilal who they claimed was a leader of the TTP and the mastermind behind Ms Rahman’s murder. Many in the development sector, however, believe she was targeted because she had fallen foul of the city’s land mafia because she was placing their activities on record. They may both well be right, even if Qari Bilal was falsely accused by law-enforcement agencies. The latest players in Karachi’s land grab — for long the domain of those with close links to the major political parties and forces amongst the establishment here — are TTP elements who have been putting down their roots in various parts of the city over the past couple of years. Large swathes of Pakhtun neighborhoods in districts west and east, as well as pockets in districts Malir, central and south are reported to be under the influence of the TTP. While all 30 or so of its factions have a presence in the city, the most influence is wielded by the Hakimullah Mehsud and Mullah Fazlullah factions. According to local police and residents of the affected areas, elements belonging to the TTP have entrenched themselves in these areas after having terrorised the local Pakhtun population into submission, and driven out the ANP from most of its traditional strongholds. In the past few years, after it won two provincial seats in the 2008 elections and acquired real political clout in Karachi, the ANP and MQM frequently clashed in a deadly turf war. Both accused the other of killing its workers. In 2010 and 2011, when the MQM began to allege that the Taliban were acquiring a presence in the city, the ANP accused it of trying to use that claim as a pretext to ethnically cleanse Karachi of Pakhtuns. However, on 13th August 2012, when an attack in Frontier Colony killed local ANP office bearer and former UC nazim, Amir Sardar, and two party workers, the ANP did not accuse the MQM. Since then, numerous ANP offices have been shut down, scores of its workers killed and many driven out of Pakhtun-dominated areas. Qadir Khan, an ANP spokesman who has now joined the MQM, says “no political party or group can stand up to these militants”. The TTP affirmed its presence in Karachi for the first time when the organization claimed responsibility for an attack on The Business Recorder/Aaj TV offices on 25 June, 2012 as a warning to rest of the media houses in the country. The military operations in Swat and South Waziristan in 2009 triggered the latest wave of migration of Pakhtuns, compelling tens of thousands of residents to flee the fighting. Embedded within the exodus of these desperate internally displaced people (IDPs) were a number of Taliban fighters. Although the urban jungle that is Karachi had been a refuge for the latter even earlier, the untenable situation in their native areas prompted many of them to adopt a more permanent abode here. The new arrivals, both IDPs and the TTP militants among them, gravitated towards where their compatriots had earlier settled, mostly in katchi abadis. Thus, for example, while natives of Swat moved into places like Pathan Colony in the west and Future Colony in Landhi in the city’s south-east, an influx of Waziris and Mehsuds from Waziristan, adjoining tribal agencies and settled areas moved into Sohrab Goth, parts of Manghopir, areas along the Northern Bypass and RCD Highway. This ultimately determined which TTP faction — usually either Hakimullah Mehsud or Mullah Fazlullah as mentioned before — held sway in that particular area. The new migrants also took shelter in pockets within the heart of the city. According to one of Karachi’s most senior cops, there are more than 7,000 fresh Mehsuds in Sultanabad locality adjacent to the PIDC Bridge. In 2010 and 2011 TTP elements were still gaining a foothold in the city, but last year saw them flexing their muscles to establish control over areas where they had a presence. Let us just take the area on the northern side of Manghopir hills, where Ms Rahman was murdered on her way home. The militants are so well-entrenched here that confronting them is becoming exceedingly difficult even for law-enforcement agencies. The SHO of the Pirabad police station discovered this to his peril one night in the spring of 2012. The official had received information that several militants were attending shab-e-dars inside Masjid-e-Tayyaba on the stretch of Qasba Road that is locally known as Ghausia Road. He arrived with a contingent and arrested the imam, Qari Fazal, and the nine militants who were present. However, while his men swept the building looking for more that may have been in hiding, he realised they were being surrounded by armed men. When the SSP Orangi received his SOS, he headed to his SHO’s support with additional police. Calls to other law enforcement agencies and relevant authorities within police for backup were met with refusal. The outnumbered police officials were roughed up by the militants and finally had to negotiate their release and that of their men, as well as set free the nine heavily armed militants they had apprehended.About 100 metres east from Masjid-e-Tayyaba on this road is a building that houses the TTP office which operates by the name of “Anti Crime Control Committee”. A short distance from this office one comes across Masjid-e-Ibrahim where members of jihadi organisations gather for shab-e-dars every Thursday night. Further down Ghausia road is the dera (compound) of the transporter Haji Rohtas that was attacked with grenades last year, allegedly by the TTP for not paying extortion money in time. Swinging towards Manghopir road one comes upon Masjid-e-Aqsa and another office – euphemistically named Ittehad-e-Qabail (Tribal Alliance) – of the TTP. Less than half a kilometre from here is situated Masjid-e-Safa at Quarry Colony. Further down are Pakhtunabad, Gulzarabad and Sultanabad, which also fall within the TTP stronghold in Manghopir. Late last year, when the government released several Taliban prisoners as a goodwill gesture towards the Karzai government, there were wild celebrations in the part of this area that lies just north of Kati Pahari. These included a procession of vehicles, including four Vigos (double-cabin pickups), packed with young men firing incessantly into the air. According to Akbar Khan, a Pakhtun resident of the area and himself no stranger to celebratory firing, one of the men was standing head first on the bonnet of the lead Vigo, balancing himself on one hand as he triumphantly fired his gun into the air with the other, over and over again. “I have never seen something like this in my life,” he says. “That is how battle-hardened they are.” The social order in these settlements has gradually reshaped itself to allow the TTP to set up courts for residents looking for a quick resolution to their problems in places like Quarry Colony, Gulshan-e-Buner (Landhi) and Sohrab Goth. Here, the qazi presides over a jirga-like setting, to pronounce judgment in the light of a mix of tribal traditions and his understanding of the Shariah. The close links between the TTP, the Afghan Taliban, sectarian and other jihadi organisations in Pakistan’s tribal areas continue outside that theatre of war. Khyber Mohalla, which lies towards the hill slopes east of the afore-mentioned Tayyaba Masjid , is populated mostly by Afghan refugees. Many claim that the area’s Allahu Akbar Masjid and Maulana Zarghai’s adjoining madrassa serve as a rest house for Afghan Taliban visiting the city. According to some local PPP and ANP supporters, the notorious extortionist Bhalo who now operates in tandem with the TTP lives nearby, close to the summit of the Manghopir Hills, competing for influence in the area with a lesser known criminal Kamran aka Kami who us believed to be affiliated with a sectarian group. Further north, members of the Harkat-ul-Mujahideen are reportedly holed up in Sultanabad. They were led by Maulvi Haroon until he was killed last year over a land dispute. Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LJ) and Ahle-Sunnat-Wal-Jamaat (the erstwhile Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan) elements as well as a witch’s brew of “good” and “bad” Pakistani Taliban and their militant cohorts have established a presence in mosques and madrassas dotted all over the city, including Hijrat Colony just off Mai Kolachi, behind Clifton Centre, on Korangi Industrial Area Road, Shah Faisal Colony, Gulistan-e-Johar, Gulshan Iqbal Block-2, Sohrab Goth and Nagan Chowrangi. It is important to desist from facile assumptions that Pakhtuns in the city as a whole are TTP supporters. Although the community shares the TTP’s austere Deobandi beliefs – which may have helped tar them with the same brush – most of the residents have been forced by their tribal linkages to provide space to the militants. More than anything else, the latter have established their writ through the barrel of the gun. Therefore while their number may be extremely small in some areas, these heavily armed militants wield a disproportionate amount of influence here. The few remaining social activists within these communities and some police sources suggest that over 60 IDPs were killed by the militants soon after their arrival in Karachi because they had been on the wrong side of the TTP back home. In this city of about 20 million, the directly affected settlements have an estimated population of around one million. It is difficult to estimate how many militants are among them, but according to local residents, they number mostly in the low double digits and may not exceed a triple digit in any particular area. However, one also cannot say with any certainty how many sympathisers they have within Karachi’s Pakhtun population. What can be stated without any doubt is that the activities of TTP elements have an enormous impact on life for the citizens of Karachi. Criminal undertakings such as bank heists, kidnappings and extortion are their favored means for raising funds for the battle in the tribal areas. The police and other law-enforcement agencies are well aware of their modus operandi, as they are of other jihadi and sectarian organizations, but they have not made substantial headway in countering them. One common reason for their limited success remains that the law enforcers hardly ever agree to timely sharing of information with others in the same trade. There is money to be made in policing the largest metropolis of the country and it suits everyone to keep the fear alive. The information was gathered through interviews with residents of affected areas, law-enforcement officials, members and leaders of political parties and religious organizations- spanning over a period of eight months, as well as from data and maps developed by DawnGIS. Given the subject matter, most of the interviewees spoke only on condition of anonymity.
Given the Karzai government's periodic fits against Pakistan, Kabul has once again accused Islamabad of wrecking the Afghan peace process. It says Pakistan's "complacency" in the Afghan peace process would force it go alone in the Afghan peace process. By him President Karzai might have been terse albeit short in hurling the charge, but not his deputy foreign minister, Jawed Ludin, who is quite elaborate in an interview, and aptly depicts yet another somersault on the part of the Afghan regime. And to underscore its importance the Kabul government also announced that it would not be sending an 11-member military team which was scheduled to arrive at the Quetta Staff College last week. The charge, however, is not entirely unexpected now that President Karzai is looking for scapegoats for his abysmal failure to bring Afghanistan out of its troubles despite having enjoyed decade-long support of the coalition governments. As usual with him it is always the Pakistan government and its intelligence agencies that are there to be tagged the blame. "We here in Kabul in a bit of state of shock ... confronted by the depth of Pakistan's complacency ... We see Pakistan is changing the milepost every time we reached understanding," says Jawed Ludin. His grudge is that Pakistan is trying to sideline President Karzai by, in his words, insisting that the Afghan Taliban should talk to other parties. That's not true and is patently contrary to Pakistan's stated policy of working for any all-Afghan peace process. Had there been Islamabad's Taliban-specific approach it would not have encouraged a heightened role for the Rabbani-led High Peace Council or the release of Afghan prisoners from Pakistani jails. Deputy Foreign Minister Ludin may well be trying to put in place a potent challenge to the Afghan Taliban now that Kabul has taken control of the Bagram prison. And in that direction there is also a clear hint in his interview. The Karzai government, he says, 'would now turn to some of the most senior, hardcore Taliban leaders behind bars in Bagram in its quest for peace'. As far as Afghanistan's policymaking in relation to its overtures towards any player among Taliban is concerned, it does not bother Pakistan the least. Pakistan's sole interest is that as the coalition forces prepare to leave, the expected vacuum of power is filled up by the Afghans and none else. A peaceful Afghanistan is in Pakistan's supreme interest, and in that it is always ready to play its role. That Kabul will not send its military officers on training mission because of a border incident is nothing more than a pretext to muddy the waters. Such border clashes not unusual and should not be exclusively of Afghan interest. Pakistan too continues to be a victim of cross-border violations, particularly by the Kunar-based Swati Taliban who of late seem to be working to disrupt election process in the adjoining areas of Pakistan. In fact what ails the Karzai-headed Kabul regime is not Pakistan's 'complacency' over the slow pace of Afghan reconciliation; it's the concern about its own future, both as contender to power in Kabul and its fear of being alienated by the international community. Thanks to rampant corruption, ethnicity-driven policies and unbridled desire to hold on to power the Karzai regime has forfeited its democratic credentials. No surprise that as poverty and deprivation rule the broad expanse of Afghanistan there are glittering islands of opulence in Kabul, and the residents are no others than members of the ruling elite and its cronies for whom the coalition-funded war has been an unending bonanza. Obviously now that it is losing the trust of its erstwhile benefactors it is left with no other option but to blame others for its failures. And that's clearly reflected from Jawed Ludin's diatribe against Pakistan. Last month President Karzai was blaming the United States. If the Afghan Taliban do not want to sit with Karzai at the negotiating table it is essentially his problem and of his own making.