Tuesday, September 24, 2013
Iran's new president, Hassan Rouhani, expressed hope on Tuesday that U.S. President Barack Obama would not be swayed by "warmongering pressure groups" at home in dealing with the Iranian nuclear dispute and called for a consistent voice from Washington on the issue. Speaking to the United Nations General Assembly hours after Obama addressed the annual gathering of world leaders, Rouhani said he was prepared to engage in "time-bound and results-oriented" nuclear talks and did not seek to increase tensions with the United States. "I listened carefully to the statement made by President Obama today at the General Assembly," he said. "Commensurate with the political will of the leadership in the United States and hoping that they will refrain from following the short-sighted interest of warmongering pressure groups, we can arrive at a framework to manage our differences." "To this end, equal footing, mutual respect and the recognized principles of international law should govern the interactions," he said. "Of course, we expect to hear a consistent voice from Washington." A potential encounter at the United Nations between Obama and Rouhani failed to take place on Tuesday as the Iranians indicated it was too complicated, senior Obama administration officials said. U.S. Deputy U.N. Ambassador Rosemary DiCarlo was seated at the U.S. table while Rouhani spoke. Earlier, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif was present for Obama's speech. While his speech lacked the strident anti-Western rhetoric of predecessor Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's U.N. speeches, Rouhani offered no concessions. He repeated Tehran's position that Iran is not interested in atomic weapons. "Nuclear weapon and other weapons of mass destruction have no place in Iran's security and defense doctrine, and contradict our fundamental religious and ethical convictions," he said in his first U.N. speech since taking office in August. While he avoided any suggestion that Israel had no right to exist, he sharply criticized the treatment of the Palestinians - albeit without naming Israel directly. "Palestine is under occupation," he said. "The basic rights of the Palestinians are tragically violated, and they are deprived of the right of return and access to their homes, birthplace and homeland." He also blasted the international sanctions against Tehran over its nuclear program, which Western powers and their allies fear is aimed at developing the capability to produce atomic weapons. "Contrary to the claims of those who pursue and impose them, it is not the states and the political elite that are targeted, but rather, it is the common people who are victimized by these sanctions," Rouhani told the 193-nation assembly. "Let us not forget millions of Iraqis who, as a result of sanctions covered in international legal jargon, suffered and lost their lives, and many more who continue to suffer all through their lives," he said. Iran is under U.S., European Union, U.N. and other sanctions due to its refusal to halt uranium enrichment. Rouhani warned that attempts to force Iran to abandon nuclear technology will fail because of the country's high level of technical know-how and scientific expertise. "Nuclear knowledge in Iran has been domesticated now and the nuclear technology, inclusive of enrichment, has already reached industrial scale," he said. "It is, therefore, an illusion, and extremely unrealistic, to presume that the peaceful nature of the nuclear program of Iran could be ensured through impeding the program via illegitimate pressures."
Patron in Chief of Pakistan People’s Party Bilawal Bhutto Zardari has expressed deep grief and sorrow over the loss of precious human lives and property in earthquake today. Bilawal Bhutto sympathized and expressed heartfelt condolences with the families of those who lost their dear ones in the natural calamity. He demanded of the government and concerned authorities to provide all possible assistance to the quake-affected people and immediately shift the injured to hospitals and provide them best medical treatment.
Abdul Razzaq Baloch worked nights. After dinner, he would start his shift as a proofreader at the Daily Tawar, a newspaper published on a shoe-string from a cramped office in Karachi, Pakistan's commercial capital. At 2 a.m., the 42-year-old would make the short journey home on his new Super Star motorbike. One night in March, Baloch did not return. His phone was switched off and his bike was missing. His family made enquiries with the police, then hospitals, and finally in the lanes of Lyari, the gritty neighborhood where they live. The word on the street was that Baloch had been kidnapped, his relatives said. He had last been seen as he was bundled into a white SUV with a blanket over his head. Speaking to Reuters two months later, Saeeda Sarbazi, Baloch's outspoken sister, was in no doubt as to the identities of the culprits: Pakistan's intelligence services. "This case is like a bombshell - nobody we go to wants to touch it," Sarbazi said at the family home in Lyari, where his wife and four children awaited his return. "People are scared that the agencies will harm them." On August 21, Baloch's body was found dumped amid the brambles overrunning wasteground in Suranji Town, a scrappy neighborhood on Karachi's northwestern fringe. A piece of paper bearing his name had been stuffed into his pocket. His hands were tied; he had been strangled. Pakistan's military, which has repeatedly denied involvement in extra-judicial killings, did not respond to a request for comment on Baloch's death. Baloch's associates believe his disappearance and murder was linked to the Daily Tawar's coverage of a separatist guerrilla campaign in Baluchistan, a huge Pakistani province bordering Afghanistan and Iran, where his family has its roots. The Daily Tawar supports independence for the province, and according to several of his friends, Baloch himself belonged to a pro-independence party. The Baluch rebels, who believe the rest of Pakistan has always treated Baluchistan like a colony, have agitated and fought for their own independent, secular homeland for decades. In response, the security forces have waged a lengthy but little-known counter-insurgency to try to quash them. In the past three years, the bodies of hundreds of members of pro-independence political parties, student groups and even poets have been discovered on desolate verges or patches of scrub. Baluch activists say the bodies are evidence that the military is pursuing a systematic "kill-and-dump" campaign to crush dissent - a charge the army denies. Under growing pressure from Pakistan's increasingly assertive judiciary to explain the disappearances, military officers have speculated that a range of armed groups or criminal gangs active in the province may be to blame. But Baloch's death has hardened a belief among Baluch that the security forces - far from softening their stance - have sharply expanded their crackdown this year in a drive to extinguish the uprising once and for all. In a new trend, the bodies of the disappeared have begun to turn up beyond Baluchistan's borders in Karachi, a city of 18 million people and the motor of Pakistan's economy. The discovery of Baloch's remains, alongside those of another man, brought the total number of bodies of missing Baluch that have been found in the city to 18 since the start of this year, according to the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP). Although Baloch vanished in Karachi, many of the others had been reported missing hundreds of km away in Baluchistan itself. Asked to comment on Baloch's disappearance, a security official said he had no specific knowledge of the case but added that the military would have no reason to detain an obscure proofreader. "Unknown journalist. Unknown newspaper with a very limited or no following at all. Why should we go and pinch him and make him part of the news?" the official said. "It doesn't serve us." Virtually sealed off to foreigners, Baluchistan is potentially one of Pakistan's most prosperous regions, endowed with copper and gold. Iran's government hopes a planned $1.5bn pipeline project will one day snake across its rocky wastes to export natural gas to Pakistan and India to help Tehran circumvent U.S. sanctions. China wants to import oil via Baluchistan's deepwater port of Gwadar. But none of that is likely to happen as long as the unrest in Baluchistan continues. The rebels, as well as the army, stand accused of waging a dirty war. In recent years, the HRCP believes Baluch separatist gunmen have murdered hundreds of civilian "settlers" from Pakistan's eastern Punjab province to try to drive out the community. In turn, Baluch say the Frontier Corps, the main official force in Baluchistan, launches punitive raids to torch homes and round up opponents. Unfolding in closed-off badlands, the conflict is subject to far less international scrutiny than the army's separate battle against the Pakistani Taliban on the frontier with Afghanistan. Nonetheless, repeated reports by human rights groups of abuses in Baluchistan have raised awkward questions over the conduct of Pakistan's military, which has received almost $11 billion from Washington since 2001 to finance its anti-Taliban campaigns, according to data compiled by Alan Kronstadt of the Congressional Research Service. Speaking to Baluch living inside and outside the province over the course of several months, Reuters has been able to gather testimony from witnesses and relatives over what they describe as three apparent cases of "kill-and-dump." Reuters submitted a dossier of testimony related to the disappearance of Abdul Razzaq Baloch, the journalist, and two other alleged "kill-and-dump" cases within Baluchistan to the army on June 10. The military said it had pursued the query but had not yet been able to obtain any information. Reuters also wrote to Pakistan's government seeking permission to visit Baluchistan to meet military officers but received no reply. The Interior Ministry did not offer an explanation, but officials have previously said that journalists travelling to Baluchistan may face risks from armed groups. The lack of access makes collating data on disappearances difficult and there is a risk that some of those reported missing may have gone into hiding. Taking these caveats into account, one online database of abductions run by a group of activists in the United States who track media reports, suggests the pace of disappearances has increased sharply. The group says 247 Baluch were reported abducted in the first six months of this year, compared with 214 in the whole of 2012, and 206 in 2011. "Anyone remotely linked to Baluch (separatist) politics is targeted," said Jeeand Baloch, a leader of Baloch Students Organisation (Azad), a pro-independence group. "If they go into hiding, their families are punished." The allegations come at a sensitive time for Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, whose new government has pledged to rein in abuses as a prelude to seeking negotiations with insurgents to usher the alienated province into the national fold. Whether he can succeed will be an early test of his authority over Pakistan's powerful military, whose commanders exert far greater influence in Baluchistan than the feeble provincial administration. "LINES YOU CAN'T CROSS" Baloch, the missing journalist, lived with his extended family in an apartment in Lyari, a warren in old Karachi where police tread warily and gangsters make the rules. His family and friends described him as a bookish man who socialized little and prided himself on his role as bread-winner. The proofreader was a member of the Baloch National Movement (BNM), a separatist party, according to several people who knew him and party officials. Although it espouses peaceful protest, the BNM's stance marks its members as traitors in the eyes of the security forces, still haunted by the loss of East Pakistan, which broke away to form Bangladesh in 1971. The separatist message was one shared by Baloch's newspaper. Founded a decade ago, The Daily Tawar had a circulation of a few thousand copies within Baluchistan, but its pro-independence stance earned it a loyal online following among the Baluch diaspora in Europe and the Middle East. The paper - whose title means "Call" in Balochi - has regularly reported on allegations of enforced disappearances by the military and its editors have said they received repeated threats. Several of its reporters had been murdered. In early March this year, a little over two weeks before Baloch disappeared, the Daily Tawar reported the discovery of the body of Abdul Rehman Baloch, a senior member of the BNM who had disappeared in Baluchistan in February. His remains were discarded in bushes in the eastern Steel Town area of Karachi in March. Pakistan's military has always denied involvement in disappearances. According to a source in BSO-Azad, the Baluch students' movement, Baloch was among those who went to a hospital to retrieve Abdul Rehman's bullet-ridden body. In an angry editorial published the next day, The Daily Tawar accused security agencies of using Karachi as a dumpsite for bodies in the hope the discoveries would go unremarked because of the city's high murder rate. Two weeks later, on March 24, Baloch left his house just before evening prayers, saying he was going to buy new sandals. He was wearing a cream-colored loose fitting shirt and trousers. His wife cooked fish biryani, his favorite, and waited for his usual call of "I'm home." When the proofreader did not return, his family assumed he had gone straight to work. Later they heard that he had been pushed into the back of one of two white SUVs spotted prowling Lyari after dark. Although Baloch's relatives say they are certain he was picked up by security agencies, they have produced no hard evidence. They said it was impossible for Reuters to meet the people who reported witnessing his abduction since they were too scared to discuss the incident. On April 6, almost two weeks after Baloch vanished, a group of men ransacked the Daily Tawar office in the early hours of the morning and set fire to files, according to the Committee of Pakistan Newspaper Editors. Baloch's family said the intruders took his computer. The Daily Tawar's staff went into hiding. The paper has stopped printing but still posts stories online. "There are lines you can't cross as a journalist in Karachi," said a Baluch reporter. "Maybe he crossed one of those lines." "NO WAY TO PAY" A week after he went missing, Baloch's sister Sarbazi saw her brother's number flash up on her cell phone. A man she did not know demanded 10 million Pakistani rupees ($100,000) for his release. She could hear laughing in the background. Another call followed and the amount dropped to 1 million. Then, nothing. Several Karachi journalists told Reuters they suspected Baloch had been taken by Pakistani intelligence. The police officer in charge of the Baloch case rules out kidnapping for ransom, a common practice in Karachi. "The family has no way to pay," said Senior Superintendent of Police Niaz Ahmed Khosa, one of the city's most respected investigators. He declined to offer an alternative theory. Raja Irshad, a lawyer who has represented the military, said security forces faced a dilemma since the judicial system was too weak to prosecute suspected separatist rebels. "To my mind, these missing persons, they are militants. When they fight with the security forces, they get killed," Irshad said in Islamabad. "Not a single innocent person in Baluchistan has been taken away by the security agencies. No unarmed young man gets killed." News Baloch's body had been found broke on Vsh, a Balochi channel. The family's television was out of order and word only reached them at midday; relatives rushed to the Abbasi Shaheed Hospital to identify his body. At first they insisted there had been a mistake: Baloch's face was so badly bloated it bore scant resemblance to the man they knew. Only the next day did Sarbazi confirm it was him, after a careful examination of the only part of his body that was not badly disfigured - his feet. He was wearing the same cream-colored shirt he had donned on the day he vanished. "TORTURED WITH A DRILL" Baloch's disappearance is not unique. Reuters has gathered testimony from several witnesses and relatives about two other alleged "kill-and-dump" cases in Baluchistan itself, one in April this year and one in May. Haji Mohammad Anwar Baloch, a senior member of the Baluch Republican Party, which also supports Baluch independence, said he fled Pakistan in July 2011, after security forces repeatedly raided his house. He settled in Switzerland; some family members, including his son Zaheer, remained in Baluchistan. Anwar said security forces raided his house in the province's Panjgur District at four a.m. on April 22, and took away 32-year-old Zaheer, who had a masters in biology and worked as a volunteer teacher. Zaheer was also active in his father's party, participating in rallies and strikes. Zaheer's body was found in the Suranji Town area of Karachi in early June, the same district where Baloch's body would be dumped. Zaheer's body was accompanied by a paper bearing his name and the phone number of one of his friends: a common pattern with dumped Baluch bodies. Anwar said relatives had showed him images of the body via Skype. "He was tortured with a drill - an electrical drill to make a hole in the wall," Anwar told Reuters in Geneva, running his finger from the base of his throat down to his stomach to demonstrate the path of the wounds. Police said bodies of Baluch had been routinely dumped in Suranji Town this year; they could not provide details of each case. The military did not respond to a request for comment. "WHERE IS ASIM?" On February 2, a young man named Asim Faqir left the Baluchistan town of Turbat on a packed minibus, with his wife Hanifa Baloch and their infant son. Hanifa said members of the Frontier Corps stopped the bus near a village called Nodez. They asked the driver to identify Faqir, who Hanifa says had no political affiliation. When the driver refused, soldiers beat him. The paramilitaries then demanded other passengers identify Faqir; they also remained silent. The soldiers beat the driver again until he glanced at Faqir, whom they took away, Hanifa said. Pakistan's military, which handles media for the Frontier Corps, did not respond to a request for comment. On May 26, a convoy of Frontier Corps arrived at Faqir's village of Nazarabad, according to his sister and another resident who declined to be named. As the sister, Zareena Baloch, stood watching, the paramilitaries searched their compound. "Where is Asim?" one of the men asked. "You should know. You people abducted him four months back," Zareena replied. The soldiers searched the house of Azim, Asim Faqir's older brother. They emerged carrying framed photos of both men and set the house on fire. As the soldiers left, Zareena heard a burst of gunfire which she took to be celebratory shots. Shortly afterwards, members of a local police force arrived bearing Asim Faqir's body. "I couldn't recognize him at first," Zareena said. "But then I knew it was him. I touched his face." Another resident of Nazarabad corroborated part of Zareena's account, saying residents had emerged from their houses after hearing the shots and found Faqir's body. One bullet had pierced his left eye, Zareena said. Relatives provided what they said was a photo of the body, in a pool of blood, to Reuters. Another relative of Faqir who lives outside Pakistan said: "They (the intelligence services) have long arms. If you talk about freedom, if you talk about anything, they will come and get you." Long ignored in Pakistan, the allegations of abuses in Baluchistan have begun to be heard. Last year, Pakistan's chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry held a series of hearings over the disappearances and subjected the head of the Frontier Corps to a rare public grilling. Sharif's new government has also begun to talk more openly about the accusations of extra-judicial killings in Baluchistan. Abdul Malik, a veteran Baluch politician who was chosen by Sharif to head the provincial administration, has called on the military to end human rights violations as a prelude to talks. "We will all together, me and Nawaz Sharif, tell the security establishment that these things have to end," Malik told Reuters in Islamabad in June. "We have to create an environment in which we are in a position to invite insurgents for negotiations."
The Express TribuneA powerful 7.8-magnitude earthquake hit southwestern Pakistan on Tuesday, the US Geological Survey said, with tremors felt as far away as the Indian capital New Delhi. Ten people are confirmed dead in Awaran, Balochistan as a result of the earthquake, Express News reported.
130 year old historical Pakistan Church in Peshawar, which had been targeted by terrorists, was reopened for worship on Tuesday after repairs and cleaning. On Sunday, twin suicide blasts killed 83 people and injured up to 150 others, while Christians were coming out from the church located at Kohati Gate area of Peshawar. Police arrested 6 suspects involved in Peshawar church attack on Tuesday. At least 67 victims were discharged from the Lady Reading Hospital after their condition was declared stable by doctors. Special Investigation team constituted to probe the incident has revealed that one of the suicide bombers could be a young lady aged between 20-25 years. The attack on All Saints Church in the northwestern city of Peshawar after a service on Sunday is believed to be the deadliest ever to target the country's Christian minority. Christians demonstrated in towns and cities across Pakistan, including Islamabad, Lahore, Karachi and Peshawar, demanding better protection from authorities. - See more at: http://www.pakistantoday.com.pk/2013/09/24/news/national/peshawar-church-reopened-after-deadly-blasts-6-suspects-arrested/#sthash.HH7fKLag.dpuf
Daily TimesThe Supreme Court has been moved for the sacking of Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan. Through a constitutional petition the court was told that the Interior Ministry was collecting particulars in connection with collective release of terrorists and accused persons, and one of former National Assembly member of PML-N had held talks with the 50 prisoners in Adiala jail. The petition further said that Article 45 of the constitution does not empower the president to grant en-masse immunity. The petitioner asked the Supreme Court to issue a stay order against the talks being held in this connection besides inquiring from the Interior Ministry if it has sent any summary to the president for the release of prisoners. Shahid Orakzai has filed the petition under Article 184 (3) of the constitution, making Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan, Javed Paracha, ex-MNA, interior secretary and Punjab home secretary as respondents. The petitioner requested the court to restrain the federal government from engaging in negotiation with any person claiming to be a citizen but defying the constitution. “Instruct Punjab and all other provinces not to identify such prisoners and their location to any officer of the federal government without prior permission of the court,” he pleaded. The applicant questioned whether the federal or provincial government could negotiate with any group of convicts or under-trial prisoners for their release in violation of Article 45. “Will a federal minister facilitating such illegal contacts inside a prison would be working within the law?” he has asked. Orakzai contended that the interior minister was well aware that Javed Paracha had also been identified before the Peshawar High Court as the mastermind behind the jail break in Bannu in April 2012 wherein 384 prisoners escaped. Thereafter, in another attack on Central Jail Dera Ismail Khan 248 prisoners were freed. He stated that ex-MNA Paracha last week reportedly held a political meeting with some 50 prisoners in Rawalpindi’s Adiala Jail who were either convicted or facing trial for terrorist acts. Orakzai questioned how the government facilitated this contact. He said that Paracha had held a meeting in Islamabad with the interior minister and a high-ranking intelligence official. Orakzai said that there is no federal or provincial notification about his appointment to any public office. Only the respondent minister can explain under what authority or law has he been engaged/employed by the federation as a go-between with criminals. He stated that the ex-MNA claims that negotiations between the Interior Ministry and the insurgents have already begun and the prisoners, in Adiala and elsewhere, are being located with due approval of the ministry. Referring to Article 45 which empowers the president to grant pardon, reprieve and respite or remit, suspend or commute any sentence passed by any court, the petitioner said that the court may ask the Interior Ministry if it has moved any summary to the president about any specific prisoner or any group of prisoners in the Adiala Jail. He stated that the court should prevent contacts with the dangerous prisoners and their banned outfits. He also requested the court to instruct Punjab to take disciplinary action against the Adiala Jail superintendent.
A day after the deadly attacks that killed more than 80 people from Pakistan’s Christian community – at a church in Peshawar – the sense of anger rages on. There have been protests in most major cities; Christians were joined by at least some members of the Muslim majority in most places. But it was sad to observe that, on the whole, the turnout of non-Christians was relatively low in many places. Clearly, many of us are still to learn that if we do not act now our country will be destroyed by the hate and fanaticism that have killed thousands of people over the years, most of them Muslims. It is unfortunate that not many in the provincial and federal governments are willing to address the killers by name, speaking only of ‘inhuman elements’ or ‘animals’. It is somewhat hard to understand how they have intended to conduct dialogue with those they themselves say are not human. Condemnations are coming thick and fast with Pope Francis and UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon adding their voices to the worldwide outrage. Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, moved by the voices of protests, has admitted, en route to the UN General Assembly session in New York, that the attacks have made it impossible to go ahead with the talks with the TTP. For now that is the only course he could have taken. Peace talks are a misnomer when one side is so hell bent on violence. Claims of responsibility have, as expected, come in from the TTP – specifically a new group which, its spokesman reportedly said, had been created to combat ‘foreign elements’. The authenticity of these claims is in some doubt. But what is beyond dispute is that the same extremists who had struck before have acted once again. The TTP has reportedly vowed to continue targeting foreigners and non-Muslims as revenge for drone attacks. What do our Christian and other non-Muslim brothers and sisters have to do with the drone attacks? Howsoever brutal and criminal drone attacks are – and they indeed are – the TTP is only using them as an excuse to continue attacks on any group whose faith they don’t accept. It is a testament to the inherent peaceable nature of the Christian community that the protests all over the country were conducted in justifiable anger – but without violence. Church leaders stepped up and asked the community to demonstrate restraint, and admirably so. Anyone who would complain about protesters blocking roads and burning tires should understand just how traumatic the killings have been to a community that has already felt under siege. Understanding and empathy have certainly been lacking in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa provincial government which spent as much time attacking its opponents as it did condemning the attack. The stance taken by PTI chief Imran Khan, whose party rules KP, is mysterious. He has suggested that elements opposed to dialogue had carried out the deadly attack. Various commentators have already asked why hundreds of other attacks have been conducted at times when there were no prospects of negotiations. The JUI-F too has suggested that the attacks were meant to derail peace talks. Do these leaders know something the rest of us do not? They should be able to share it with the families of those whose bodies and bones have littered the streets. Otherwise, they are doing nothing but earning a place in the hall of shame. The Peshawar police have said they will investigate the attack. But bringing the perpetrators to justice will be the tricky part. The federal government has vowed to rebuild the church – a fine gesture but meaningless unless the governments in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and the centre can protect vulnerable groups and refuse to rest until their tormenters have been brought to justice. The country still needs something concrete, a collective effort, to wash this shame off its face.
Jundul Hafsa, a subsidiary of the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan, which has claimed responsibility for the Sept 22 Peshawar Church attack, is led by Commander Asmatullah Muavia, who was the ameer of the Punjabi Taliban before being sacked by the TTP’s central Shura last month for unilaterally welcoming Nawaz Sharif’s offer of peace talks. But the leadership of the Pashtun Taliban led by Hakeemullah Mehsud and the Punjabi Taliban led by Asmatullah Muavia seem to have mended fences since then, as both the groups have already welcomed the government’s quest for peace with Taliban through talks, especially after the holding of the All Parties Conference (APC) in Islamabad. Those investigating twin suicide attacks targeting churchgoers have convincing reasons to believe that they were masterminded by the Jundul Hafsa (the fist or union of the Lal Masjid-run Jamia Hafsa for girls). Hafsa bint Umar (RA) was one of the seven wives of the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). The TTP has claimed responsibility for the Church attack, saying it was carried out by the Jundul Hafsa which was formed recently to kill foreigners to avenge the US drone strikes on Taliban and al-Qaeda operatives in the Pakistani tribal belt. “We carried out the suicide bombings at Peshawar church and will continue to strike foreigners and non-Muslims until the American drone attacks stop,” Ahmadullah Marwat, a spokesman for the group told a foreign news agency by phone. Marwat was quoted as saying: “The Christians are the enemies of Islam and Pakistan. Therefore, we have targeted them and we will continue our attacks on non-Muslims on Pakistani land,” he added. The Jundul Hafsa had earlier claimed responsibility for killing 10 foreign climbers (on June 23, 2013) at a base camp of Nanga Parbat, the second highest mountain in Pakistan after K-2. Ten foreign mountaineers were among 11 persons killed, when terrorists who were wearing uniforms of the Gilgit Baltistan Scouts, attacked the Nanga Parbat base camp in the Bonar area of Diamer District and shot the climbers and a Pakistani guide at point-blank range. The victims included an American national, three Ukrainians, two Slovakians, two Chinese, a Lithuanian and a Nepalese. The attack was claimed by the then TTP spokesman Ehsanullah Ehsan, saying it was carried out by an affiliate of the TTP — Jundul Hafsa — which was a new wing set up by the Taliban “to attack foreigners in revenge for US drone strikes.” Ehsanullah Ehsan, who has already been replaced by Shahidullah Shahid as the TTP spokesman, further said the attack was also meant to avenge the death of their deputy chief Waliur Rehman in a US dronestrike near the Afghan border. “One of our factions, Jundul Hafsa, did it to avenge the killing of Commander Waliur Rehman,” said Ehsan. Waliur Rehman, who had died on May 29, 2013 in a US drone attack on a house in North Waziristan, had a $5 million US bounty on his head for masterminding a deadly suicide bombing on an American base in Khost area of Afghanistan in December 2009 that killed seven CIA agents as well as a TTP-trained suicide bomber, Humam Khalil Abu-Mulal al-Balawi. The main task of the CIA personnel stationed at the base was to provide intelligence supporting drone attacks against targets in Pakistan. The bombing was the most lethal attack against the CIA in 25 years. Appearing in a video along with Balawi on January 9, 2010, TTP chief Hakeemullah Mehsud had stated that the CIA base attack in Khost was meant to avenge the killing of Baitullah Mehsud in a US drone strike in August 2009. Since then, the TTP leadership has become the prime target of US drone attacks along with the fugitive al-Qaeda leaders who have been hiding in the Pakistani tribal areas. The TTP’s responsibility claim was followed by the Jundul Hafsa spokesman Ahmed Marwat’s statement, saying: “We have conducted the attack to bring the world attention towards the US drone attacks. These foreigners are our enemies and we proudly claim responsibility for having killed them. We will continue to carry out such attacks in the future. A few weeks later, on August 6, 2013, the Jundul terrorists killed Diamer District Senior Superintendent of Police (SSP), Muhammad Hilal Khan, and two Army officers, Colonel Ghulam Mustafa and Captain Ashfaq Aziz, in an ambush at Rohni in the Chilas District of Gilgit Baltistan. Both were involved in the investigation of the June 23, 2013, massacre of the foreign climbers at Nanga Parbat and were returning after a meeting in Diamer. Asmatullah Muavia, who was sacked by the central Shura of the TTP in August this year for welcoming Nawaz Sharif’s offer of talks, had in fact launched the Jundul Hafsa after discarding Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ) and before becoming the ameer of the Punjabi Taliban. Muavia had launched Jundul Hafsa to avenge the July 2007 killing of Maulana Abdul Rasheed Ghazi and his followers in the infamous ‘Operation Silence’, carried out by Pakistan Army against the fanatic clerics of the Lal Masjid in the heart of Islamabad. The prime aim of the Jundul was to target the military and the intelligence agencies and their headquarters, foreign dignitaries as well as the Shia community. Aqeel alias Dr Usman, the ring leader of the ten TTP fidayeen attackers who had stormed the GHQ in Rawalpindi in 2009, was a close aide to Asmatullah Muavia whose execution has been postponed recently by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, as demanded by the ameer of the Punjabi Taliban. Besides being the ameer of the Punjabi Taliban, Muavia also serves as one of several al-Qaeda “company” commanders. In fact, Atiyah Abdul Rehman and Abu Yayha Al Libi, two top aides to Osama bin Laden who have since been killed in US drone strikes in Waziristan, had mentioned the existence of these companies in a December 2010 letter addressed to TTP ameer Hakeemullah Mehsud. Muavia had appeared in a propaganda video (released in February 2013) on the Jamia Hafsa Urdu Forum and praised Ajmal Kasab of Lashkar-e-Taiba and Afzal Guru of Lashkar-e-Jhangvi who were hanged for their involvement in the Mumbai terrorist attack and the Indian Parliament building attack. Muavia said their executions would only strengthen the jehadis’ resolve to attack India and liberate Jammu & Kashmir. Muavia also threatened that attacks in India will increase in future as jehadis shift their focus from Afghanistan to India and Kashmir after the United States withdraws from the region. Muavia’s threat of terrorist attacks in India came two months after he had extended in December 2012 a conditional ceasefire offer to the PPP government which envisaged an end to Islamabad’s participation in the Afghan war and the reshaping of the 1973 Constitution and foreign policy according to the Quran and Sunnah. The ceasefire offer was made through a letter endorsed by the TTP spokesman Ehsanullah Ehsan, saying it had the full backing of the TTP leadership. After assuming power, Nawaz Sharif had subsequently extended an olive branch to the Taliban besides holding an APC, which had endorsed his quest for peace through talks.However, following the recent assassination of the General Officer Commanding of Swat by the Pashtun Taliban and the dastardly Peshawar Church bombings by the Punjabi Taliban, Prime Minister Sharif sounds least keen on negotiating a peace deal with the Taliban. A visibly upset Sharif announced in London on Sunday his government could no longer move ahead with the APC-endorsed plan for talks with the Taliban following the twin bombings in a Peshawar church. “We had proposed peace talks with the Taliban in good faith, and with the consent of all political parties... but unfortunately, because of the latest attack, the government is unable to move forward on what it had envisaged, on what it had wished for,” he added.
The ancestors of most Pakistani Christians were oppressed, low-caste Hindus who converted to Christianity in the 1800s when European evangelists spread the Christian gospel on the subcontinent under British colonial rule. In the 21st century, Pakistani Christians face discrimination from the law of the land as well as threats of violence in a country where 97 percent of the population is Muslim.
By DECLAN WALSH With its Muslim-style minarets topped by a large black cross, the All Saints Church in Peshawar has for more than a century offered a daring architectural expression of Muslim-Christian harmony and cohabitation. This is how the Taliban destroyed it: two suicide bombers rushed the church doors as worshipers streamed out on Sunday. One attacker exploded his vest inside, the other just outside. The death toll had risen to 85 by Monday evening, when Christians across the country protested the worst atrocity their community has suffered in Pakistan’s history. Crowds blocked roads, burned tires and waved wooden crosses as they marched in Islamabad, Lahore, Karachi and Peshawar. Many shouted demands for government protection, while voicing skepticism about whether Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s government could stave off attacks. Mission schools announced they would close for three days. For government critics, the atrocity highlighted the continuing failure of the state to protect minorities against hate attacks. Hundreds of Shiites, in particular, have been killed in devastating attacks over the past year. But it also further stirred a debate about a recent political decision to start peace talks with the Pakistani Taliban, billed as an attempt to stem the bloodshed. “Pakistan’s politicians are failing at the most basic of questions — about what kind of Pakistan they want to shape and lead,” said Cyril Almeida, a writer with Dawn newspaper. “Whether out of sympathy, fear or cowardice, no one is willing to stand up to radical Islamists and say: ‘No, enough is enough. We are taking our country back.’ ” Christians in Pakistan already contend with deep-rooted prejudice. Most are poor and traditionally carry out menial work like sweeping street garbage and cleaning sewers. Muslim mobs, enraged by rumors of blasphemy, occasionally rampage through Christian slums, and have burned hundreds of houses. Extremists killed the Christian minorities minister Shahbaz Bhatti in early 2011. Still, Sunday’s attack touched a raw nerve across sectarian lines. Clerical organizations and all major political parties issued statements of condemnation. On Monday, Parliament passed a resolution condemning the bombing as “an attack on Pakistan.” Perhaps the sharpest political fallout has been felt by Imran Khan, the former cricket star who has long urged a truce with the Taliban and whose political party runs Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Province, where the bombing took place. On Sunday, Mr. Khan, who is more used to adulation at his appearances, was jeered by Christians with cries of “shame” and “Imran is a dog” at a Peshawar hospital where victims were being treated. Visibly rattled, Mr. Khan claimed the hostile reception had been whipped up by his political rivals. But he couched his reaction in vague terms, saying he condemned “whoever carried out the bombing.” (Some other Pakistani politicians went further in suggesting that the bombing had not been by the Taliban, but instead had been engineered to sabotage the prospects of talks with the militants.) Mr. Khan also stuck by his longstanding support for peace talks. “There are only two solutions: either fight or have dialogue,” he said. Mr. Khan’s stance has become mainstream, with most major parties supporting negotiations. But that has led to tensions with the military leadership, which has given conflicting signals about its stance. The army chief, Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, supported a recent all-parties conference that authorized Mr. Sharif’s government to initiate talks. But the army is also furious at the killing of a two-star general in a Taliban ambush near the Afghan border a week ago. Recent statements suggest the military high command’s enthusiasm for talks is wavering. While officials are mired in the debate, the Taliban and their allies have kept up their campaign of violence. Over the past year, militants have stepped up attacks against Shiites and other religious sects, continued a drive to close girls’ schools, targeted the military and police, and deeply bloodied liberal political parties before the May elections. Now, the bombing at the church, which is a member of the Church of Pakistan and part of the Anglican Communion, stands as a fresh reminder that the Taliban have been happy to drive deeper wedges into any division Pakistan presents. “This was an attack on everyone who doesn’t subscribe to obscurantist agendas,” read an editorial in The News, a daily newspaper, on Monday. “We have remained silent for far too long, and silence now will have blood on its hands.”
The government should either surrender to terrorists or fight them to the finish; the decision can no longer be delayed. Too many APCs and parliamentary resolutions all couched invariably in appeasing terms, have only emboldened them as their appetite for ever more human blood remains insatiable. When the political leadership across-the-board conceded them, albeit grudgingly, the status of 'stakeholders' in national affairs and invited them to talks, they have obviously taken it as a profound weakness on the part of the government and decided to raise pressure by launching even more barbaric attacks. Having scored a stunning blow to the Pakistan army by murdering an officer of its general staff, they attacked the historic church of Peshawar in Kohati Gate area on Sunday killing over 80 churchgoers and injuring twice that number. And, as if taking human lives is such a gratifying deed they announced their hand in it almost simultaneously. The TTP-affiliated Jundullah has claimed responsibility and promised more such attacks should the CIA-operated drone strikes continue. Obviously, this linkage between the drone strikes and the savagery on the compound of the Peshawar church is bound to complicate Pakistan's stand against the CIA-operated drone attacks at the United Nations. Maybe, in light of this development Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif decides not to take it up in his speech to the General Assembly. But at this moment of grim tragedy one's heart goes out to scores of families who lost their dear-ones and near-ones at the hands of brutes. Of the Christian community living in that old locality of Kohati Gate literally not a single family has been spared; there are families whose three to four members have been killed in the carnage wrecked by two suicide-bombers. Given that there were reports of the impending attack on the church and that appropriate security was not ensured the anger of the bereaved families could not be ruled out. The dilemma is that if the preceding ANP-led provincial government lost at the hustings for its 'failure' to curb terrorism the heavy mandate given to the PTI by the residents of Peshawar too is of absolutely no avail. Only a few weeks ago the Taliban carried out a daring D I Khan jailbreak which was not out of the blue; the PTI government was sounded a timely warning. The attack on the churchgoers in Peshawar is certainly one of the most devastating. But by no means it is very different from many others; in the same city 137 persons, mostly women and children lost their lives in an explosion at Meena Bazar in October 2009 except for the fact that this time around the KP cabinet members and high functionaries were conspicuous by their absence at the scene of the blast after its occurrence. Nor can it be said that war has been declared on the churches in Pakistan - no less devastating attacks have been made on the worship places and shrines of other communities, most frequent target being the Muslims. The terrorists are out to capture power in Pakistan and they would do whatever it takes to win their goal. If terrorists are so much thoughtful about the glory of Islam then they should know that their cowardly attack on the Peshawar churchgoers has done their objective no good; in fact, they have earned alienation and estrangement for the Muslim minorities all over the world. We expect and hope the followers of other faiths will figure out this incident in its realistic setting; it is by no means a 'clash of civilisations'. Equally pressing is the imperative that our leaders reconsider the offer of talks made to the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan and its ilk by the latest APC. Isn't it the TTP, which claimed the responsibility for the attack on Major General Sanaullah Niazi's convoy and the Jundullah that claims its men attacked the Peshawar church, are the 'stakeholders' the government of Pakistan is going to talk to? If these outfits are not the ones that are out to subvert the peace talks then who else is doing it. Imran Khan and some others who say so need to be more specific - for the time to communicate in innuendos has passed. Instead of confused double-speak the leaders must come up with clear, unambiguous assertions and claims, because what the Pakistani people have come face to face is not mere political point-scoring, it is the much-feared existential threat to their national independence. If at all it is accepted that some third party is seeking to spoil the peace talks why then the Taliban own responsibility for deadly attacks. Consider what Dr al-Zawahiri has to say, he says al Qaeda needs Pakistan as a hatchery and a base. Is there then a future for the APC peace initiative?
The Express Tribune
EVEN for a country where tragedy and savagery are now the norm rather than the exception, Sunday’s attack on Peshawar’s All Saints Church was a new low. For years now, citizens and law enforcement personnel have faced a tidal wave of violence and extremism, with no let-up in sight. Yet the helplessness of the citizenry continues to be matched by that of the state, both at the federal and provincial levels. The state has been unable to work out an adequate response mechanism or crisis mitigation measures that could reduce the extent of the suffering. Pakistan has effectively been in a state of war for years now. Unfortunately, in terms of organisation, the country seems to be taking matters as though it were business as usual — at a tremendous cost to the people. If there is any doubt about this assertion, consider the systemic vulnerabilities exposed by the recent bombings in Peshawar. According to statistics, this year alone Peshawar division has seen more than 230 militant attacks. It would have been reasonable to expect that, through the years, the provincial administration would have evolved a set of workable strategies that included beefing up the capacity of government-run healthcare centres to ensure the timely deployment of ambulances as well as increased staff and emergency equipment. This would have been a most basic mitigation measure in an area beset by high levels of violence. Yet this has not proved to be the case. Sunday’s victims were rushed to the Lady Reading Hospital, but there were few doctors and nurses to attend to the crisis, nor was there any level of organisation — even though each time there is an act of terrorism in Peshawar, this is the first hospital to which the victims are rushed. True, this recent atrocity was perpetrated on a weekend when many doctors may have been on leave. But even so, the trajectory of violence demands that the city and its institutions be in a better state of preparedness. It is not just Peshawar, but other cities and towns as well that need to pay more attention to standards of preparedness in case of an emergency situation. Whichever shape a long-term solution to the extremist threat takes, there is little doubt that it will be some time before the present level of violence is brought down. At both the federal and provincial level, the state must improve its response and develop strategies that can save lives, while the citizenry too must be made aware of the dangers.
Sunday, September 22, 2013, will certainly stand in history as one of the blackest days for the Christian community in Pakistan, a day on which a minority we as a nation were sworn to protect, was brutally struck down by the dark cloud of militancy that Pakistan has spawned and cannot get rid of. The All Saints Church in Peshawar was the scene of deadly carnage when two suicide bombers detonated themselves during Sunday mass when the house of worship was host to more than 500 faithful. The attack was nothing short of a massacre and was designed so that a maximum number of fatalities would occur. One suicide bomber blew himself up outside the church after the services were over and people were leaving the premises. The other blew himself up inside the church after just 30 seconds. There were body parts strewn around everywhere and the stench of death held heavy and thick in Peshawar that morning. More than 80 have died and over 100 are injured. The fatalities continue to rise because many of the wounded are in dire condition. A relatively lesser-known faction of the Taliban, the Tehreek-e-Taliban Jundullah (TTPJ), has come forward to claim responsibility for the deadly attack. Our interior minister has gone on record to say that the TTPJ does not operate on Pakistani soil but then how can he explain this exceptionally well planned strike by this group? The TTPJ militants said they carried out this attack because they want to kill the enemies of Islam; one begs to understand how a peaceful Christian minority can possibly be an enemy to Pakistan or to Islam. More than anything, it seems the terrorists are the real enemies here, butchering innocent people in a bloody quest that cannot be understood by anyone. As can be expected, the Christian community is out on the streets, protesting against this mass murder, venting its anger at the state and the government. We are seeing nationwide protests and some of them are becoming violent, with the protesters pelting stones and lashing out at the government. This is a devastating development because it reveals that we are pushing a once peaceful minority into aggressive mode and the taking up of arms. This will come as no surprise really because the state is spineless and has been unable to protect most of its citizens: the Shias have started arming themselves after constant attacks and so have the Sunni Barelvis, who have both formed militias because the state cannot protect them from those who look to slaughter them. It is only a matter of time before the Christian community, the Ahmedi community and the Hindu and Sikh minorities fight back. Is this what we want, to push our own citizens up against a wall so ugly and bloodied that we become a nation at civil war? It is understandable that the security forces are stretched, what with the insurgency in FATA and routine terror attacks all over the country, but we cannot afford to leave our minorities at the mercy of those who bomb churches, mosques, temples, shrines, schools and markets. The lacklustre performance of the intelligence agencies, the police and the security forces has allowed such massacres to happen all too often. Just this year we lost more than 200 Shia Hazaras to this same sectarian menace. Attacks such as this show that the hopes pinned on the peace talks were just too naïve. We are dealing with monsters that know not the meaning of negotiations. How can the government think that by talking to the TTP, which is the umbrella organisation, it can stop attacks by renegade, autonomous factions of the Taliban like the TTPJ? Even the military seems to be distancing itself from the peace talks. Military operations against this multi-headed hydra is the only option, for the militants are now too many and too far down the road of being rogues. All those in the government who think dialogue is the way towards peace and security are fooling themselves. How can they ever look their citizens, particularly their minorities, in the eye again if they do not take a hard stance on these brutes? Bloody Sunday has sealed the deal. Will the government please stop playing the wimp and protect its people and the nation’s flag that runs red?
Abu Ala Maududi and his Jamaat-e-Islami shamelessly participated in the massacre of Bengalis as the Army’s B-Team in 1971 in the name of the same Pakistan that Bengalis had fought to create 25 years earlier.As the nation comes to grip with the horrible massacre of Christians in Peshawar, Haider Maududi on Duniya TV (which shamelessly said “jo kachra saaf kartay thay un ka safaya ho giya) decided to muddy the waters by claiming that this was bound to happen in a country founded in the name of religion. FACT: This fiction that Pakistan was founded in the name of religion is the doing Haider Maududi’s father Maulana Abu Ala Maududi (who had in 1947 opposed the makers of Pakistan.) FACT: Abu Ala Maududi was behind the 1953 riots against Ahmadis and resorted to violence against Ahmadis which that community faces even today. FACT: Abu Ala Maududi and his Jamaat-e-Islami shamelessly participated in the massacre of Bengalis as the Army’s B-Team in 1971 in the name of the same Pakistan that Bengalis had fought to create 25 years earlier. FACT: Abu Ala Maududi’s Jamaat-e-Islami shamelessly supported General Zia’s Coup in 1977 and participated in the 9 star alliance to impose Islamic Law in Pakistan. FACT: Jamaat-e-Islami, Maududi’s creation, continues to support Taliban. Of course this Maududian hypocrisy is a national phenomenon.
Pakistani Christian Diaspora in North America and Europe have announced to rally against killing of Christian worship in Peshawar to lodge protest in cities of New York, Toronto, Philadelphia and London in this week. Pakistan Christian Association in North America PCA, Global Christian Movement GCM, Pakistan Christian Congress PCC USA-Chapter and other Pakistani Christian organization will rally in front of United Nation office in New York on September 27, 2013, when Pakistani Premier Nawaz Sharif will be addressing General Assembly. On September 24, 2013, the Pakistani Christians in city of Philadelphia, PA will gather in local church to offer prayers for the victims’ families of suicide attack on All Saints Church in Peshawar on September 22, 2013. In Canada, Pakistani Christian Diaspora will rally on September 26th, 2013, in front of the Consulate General of Pakistan – Office in Vaughan, ON. On September 24, 2013, Pakistani Christian Diaspora will gather on invitation of BPCA in front of Pakistani High Commission in London to lodge protest.
Dr. Nazir S Bhatti, Chief of Pakistan Christian Congress PCC have demanded registration of FIR on murder charges against Imran Khan, Chairman of Pakistani Tehreek Insaf PTI, Syed Munawar Hassan, Ameer of Jamat Islami Pakistan, Pervez Khattak, Chief Minister of Khyber Pukntunkhawa KPK province, Moulana Siraj Ul Haq, Parliamentary leader of JI in KPK provincial assembly and Medial Superintendent Lady Reading Hospital Peshawar on not providing emergency medical assistance to injured Christians in suicide bombing in All Saints Church in Kohati Gate Peshawar on September 22, 2013. The Central Secretariat of Pakistan Christian Congress PCC issued a press statement of Dr. Nazir S Bhatti, President of Pakistan Christian Congress here today saying that Chief Minister of KPK and Medical Superintendent of Lady Reading Hospital not issued any medical emergency due to which doctors were not present to provide medical assistance to injured Christians nor ambulances were deployed due to which dozens of injured Christian died in hospital. Nazir Bhatti said “PTI Chairman Imran Khan publically announced in gathering in city of Tank during his speech in by-Elections of National Assembly in second week of September that he is a worthy Muslim because he converted 4 Christians to Islam which invited attention of Islamists” “The statement of Imran Khan was not responsible which resulted in suicide attack on Christian worshipers in Peshawar” added PCC Chief Nazir Bhatti said that if former President Pervez Musharraf can be charged in murder cases being crimes committed during his rule why Imran Khan, Pervez Khattak, Moulana Siraj Ul Haq and others cannot be charged under murder of Christians on not providing adequate security to Christians in KPK province which is ruled by them. “If FIR is not registered under murder charges against responsible to not provide medical assistance to Injured Christians of Suicide bomb blast in Lady Reading Hospital then Christians will be forced to accept that their blood have no value in Pakistan” said Nazir Bhatti PCC Chief alleged that KPK CM not issued medical emergency because he denied blood value of Christians. PCC Chief clarified that until enquire is not complete PCC will take “Jandullaha” a faction of Talban which openly accepted responsibility of suicide bombing as killer of Christians in Church but those killed due to medical negligence in Lady Reading Hospital are victims of administration and PTI and PCC will press for charges against them.