Saturday, June 7, 2014
There are few authoritarian regimes that enjoy as much political support from the UK as the one in Bahrain. Bahraini opposition groups are threatening to boycott the upcoming parliamentary elections unless democracy can be guaranteed, but the UK has only increased its public support for the brutal and oppressive dictatorship. The latest research from Human Rights Watch shows that despite the positive assessment from the Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO) there has been little in the way of progress on human rights. This is why the group's Director, David Mepham, concluded that the UK's response has been "both feeble and ineffective." Despite the ongoing crackdown, it was only three months ago that the regime was given a private visit from Prince Charles. The visit, according to Iain Lindsay, the UK ambassador in Bahrain, was to emphasise that the UK-Bahrain relationship is "a warm, close and long-standing one." Similarly, Prince Andrew flew over to Bahrain earlier this year for GREAT British Week, a week-long 'celebration' to mark 200 years of 'friendship and strong bilateral relations' between Great Britain and Bahrain'. The event was like a full state circus and was attended by the Defence Secretary, Philip Hammond MP, and a range of arms companies including Rolls Royce and BAE Systems, which was trying to secure sales of its Eurofighter jet. Almost as soon as the 'celebrations' had finished, the King of Bahrain, bolstered by his international support, increased his powers by introducing a new law that imposes jail sentences of up to seven years and a fine of up to 10,000 dinars (£15,700) on anyone who publicly insults him. This intensification of government repression was met with silence from the UK. The Bahraini regime has rightfully been condemned by Freedom House, Amnesty International and the Economist Democracy Index, which listed it among the 20 most authoritarian governments in the world. Last year Westminster's cross-party Foreign Affairs Committee (FAC) urged the government to list Bahrain as a 'country of concern' in its annual human rights and democracy report. Unfortunately their request has fallen on deaf-ears, with the latest report listing 28 countries and choosing to omit Bahrain. Instead, and against evidence from opposition groups, the report concluded that "the overall trajectory on human rights (in Bahrain) will be positive." The UK government has consistently proven that it's more concerned with securing arms sales and providing political support for the dictatorship than it is with promoting human rights and reform. David Cameron has met with the Bahraini regime a number of times, most recently in 2013 when the King visited him in Downing Street. Following the meeting, Cameron continued to talk-up the possible deal over Eurofighters, but said nothing on human rights. In 2013 alone the UK licensed £18million worth of military equipment to Bahrain. This included licences for machine guns, sniper rifles, weapon sights, ammunition and anti riot shields, all of which can be used for internal repression. What is implicit in the arms sales is a political support for the regime and a message to democracy activists and those fighting repression that their aspirations for human rights and civil liberties are less important than arms trade profits. This point was emphasised by the FAC report into relations with Bahrain and Saudi Arabia, which concluded, "Both the government and the opposition in Bahrain view UK defence sales as a signal of British support for the government." Without justice there can be no peace in Bahrain, and that won't change as long as the UK is happy to promote and provide political cover for an illegitimate government that is inflicting untold misery on its own citizens. Only by ending the political and military support that is strengthening the regime can the UK ensure that it is promoting human rights and acting the best interests of the people of Bahrain.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has ordered the Russian State Border Service to take appropriate steps to tighten control on the Russian-Ukrainian border to curb illegal crossings. ITAR-TASS reports that this information comes from the Russian president’s press-service. Recently, the Russian authorities have registered a growing number of Ukrainian citizens wishing to enter Russian territory. For example, on Friday 6 June, Russian children’s rights ombudsman Pavel Astakhov reported that over 12,000 people had arrived in the Rostov Region from Ukraine. On 5 June, he said that over 8,000 Ukrainian citizens crossed the border on Russia in 24 hours. On 4 June, an emergency rule was introduced in 15 districts of the Rostov Region that borders Ukraine, with the aim of guaranteeing refugee support where there is temporary accommodation for people recently arrive from south-eastern Ukraine. On Saturday, Lugansk resistance fighters claimed they control most of the Russian-Ukrainian border. Head of the self-proclaimed Lugansk People’s Republic (LPR) Valery Bolotov explained to RIA Novosti that border control is needed mostly for letting refugees pass across. He pointed out a large number of refugees, especially from the Donetsk Region. Read more: http://voiceofrussia.com/news/2014_06_07/Putin-orders-Border-Service-to-tighten-Russian-Ukrainian-border-security-rule-out-illegal-crossing-Kremlin-0769/
By David Brooks
Americans don’t have a common ancestry. Therefore, we have to work hard to build national solidarity. We go in for more overt displays of patriotism than in most other countries: politicians wearing flag lapel pins, everybody singing the national anthem before games, saying the Pledge of Allegiance at big meetings, revering sacred creedal statements, like the Gettysburg Address. We need to do this because national solidarity is essential to the health of the country. This feeling of solidarity means that we do pull together and not apart in times of crisis, like after the attacks on 9/11. Despite all our polarization, we do accept the election results, even when the other party wins. People in New York do uncomplainingly send tax dollars to help people in New Mexico. We are able to assimilate waves of immigration. National solidarity is especially important for the national defense. Men and women serve in the armed forces for a variety of reasons, but one of them is the awareness that it is an extraordinary privilege to be an American, that it is a debt that needs to be repaid with service. Soldiers in combat not only protect their buddies, they show amazing devotion to anyone in the uniform, without asking about state or ethnicity. This is the cohesion that makes armies effective. These commitments, so crucial, are based on deep fraternal sentiments that have to be nurtured with action. They are based on the notion that we are members of one national community. We will not abandon each other; we will protect one another; heroic measures will be taken to leave no one behind. Even if it is just a lifeless body that we are retrieving, it is important to repatriate all Americans. The president and vice president, the only government officials elected directly by the entire nation, have a special responsibility to nurture this national solidarity. So, of course, President Obama had to take all measures necessary to secure the release of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl. Of course, he had to do all he could do to not forsake an American citizen. It doesn’t matter if Bergdahl had deserted his post or not. It doesn’t matter if he is a confused young man who said insulting and shameful things about his country and his Army. The debt we owe to fellow Americans is not based on individual merit. It is based on citizenship, and loyalty to the national community we all share. Soldiers don’t risk their lives only for those Americans who deserve it; they do it for the nation as a whole. It is not dispositive either that the deal to release Bergdahl may put others at risk. The five prisoners released from Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, in a swap for Bergdahl seem like terrible men who could do harm. But their release may have been imminent anyway. And the loss of national fraternity that would result if we start abandoning Americans in the field would be a greater and more long lasting harm.
Israel once traded 1,027 Palestinian prisoners to get back one of their own. Another time they traded 1,150 prisoners to get back three of their own. They did it because of a deep awareness that national cohesion is essential to national survival. They did it because Israeli parents share a common emotional bond; the imprisonment of one of their children touches them all. In polarized countries, especially, you have to take care of your own. If you don’t, the corrosive effects will be cumulative.
It doesn’t matter either that the United States government ended up dealing with terrorists. In the first place, the Taliban is not a terrorist organization the way Al Qaeda is. America has always tried to reach a negotiated arrangement with the Taliban, and this agreement may be a piece of that. In the second place, this is the dirty world we live in. Sometimes national leaders are called upon to take the sins of the situation upon themselves for the good of the country, to deal with the hateful and compromise with the loathsome. That’s their form of sacrifice and service. So President Obama made the right call. If he is to be faulted, it would be first for turning the release into an Oprah-esque photo-op, a political stunt filled with inaccurate rhetoric and unworthy grandstanding. It would next be for his administration’s astonishing tone-deafness about how this swap would be received. Most of all, the Obama administration can be faulted for not at least trying to use the language of communal solidarity to explain this decision. Apparently, we have become such a hyperindividualized culture that it is impossible to even develop an extended argument on how individual cases fit into the larger fabric of the common good. Still, the president’s instincts were right. His sense of responsibility for a fellow countryman was correct. It’s not about one person; it’s about the principle of all-for-one-and-one-for-all, which is the basis of citizenship.
Hamid Karzai, president of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan has strongly condemned bomb blast on Dr. Abdullah Abdullah-led ‘amendments and convergence’ electoral team’s vehicles convoy.
A number of public leaders and political parties joined the ranks of those backing presidential candidate Abdullah Abdullah on Friday. The running mate of former presidential candidate and President Hamid Karzai's brother, Qayoum Karzai, was among them.
Flash flooding in the remote northern Afghan province of Baghlan has killed at least 73 people and forced thousands to abandon their homes, police say. The flooding has been deadliest in the Guzargah-e-Nur district of the province 140km (87 miles) north of the provincial capital Puli Khumri. Police say the dead include women and children. About 200 people are missing. Some 2,000 homes have been destroyed and roads washed away in what a local official said was a "huge disaster". Northern Afghanistan has been hit by a series of floods in recent weeks, which have affected tens of thousands of people. Flooding and landslides happen annually during the spring-summer rainy season in the north of the country, where flimsy mud houses offering scant shelter against rising water levels and an volumes of mud. 'Huge disaster' Baghlan provincial police chief Aminullah Amarkhel told the BBC that floods hit four villages in Guzargah-e-Nur, destroying roads and bridges. He said there was not enough dry land for helicopters to land. "Right now, people need drinking water the most [as well as] medicine and food," Gen Amarkhel said. "This is a huge disaster," he said. "Communities have lost everything, land, cattle and livelihoods." The authorities in Guzargah-e-Nur - an especially inaccessible area of Baghlan - have appealed to the central government to provide emergency assistance.
"So far no one has come to help us. People are trying to find their missing family members," Guzargah-e-Nur police chief Fazel Rahman Rahman was quoted by the AP news agency as saying. He said that his officers had been overwhelmed by the scale of the disaster. The defence ministry says that two army helicopters have been deployed to provide assistance - correspondents say the landing difficulties mean it is not clear how they will now be used. The Afghanistan Natural Disaster Management Authority says that it has stockpiles of food and other supplies in Baghlan province, and has begun transporting them to the affected area. Last month flood waters washed away a big section of the main north-south road in the Tashqorghan gorge, effectively cutting off the north of the country. Further north-east in Badakhshan province, hundreds of people were killed in early May by a landslide which engulfed some 300 houses.
Bowe Bergdahl wasn't responsible for sending U.S. troops to Afghanistan in 2001. He didn't send the 2.5 million Americans into harm's way to fight in both wars. It was the American people; represented by two presidents, Congress, and the belief that terrorism was worth fighting two counterinsurgency conflicts, that sent Americans to fight al-Qaeda and the Taliban. Today, Sgt. Bergdahl represents a catharsis for conservatives in that he can be blamed for the deaths of Americans. For a nation looking to circumvent its role in sending its sons and daughters to face roadside bombs and ambushes, the Idaho native is a perfect scapegoat. Through his allegedly ignoble activities, the former POW is now the reason American soldiers are dead. The truth, however, is far more damning. We, the American people, are to blame for sending our soldiers into a killing zone called Afghanistan. Are we guilty of murdering Americans because of this decision? We're as guilty as Sgt. Bergdahl in that his alleged desertion was perhaps a grave lapse of judgment. Our nation's lapse of judgment was the belief that we could bring democracy and a Western value system (that took hundreds of years for us to perfect) into Afghanistan without tremendous sacrifice. When 317 million citizens are protected by about 3 million men and women, it's easy to send another person's child to battle. If Bergdahl is guilty of the death of American soldiers, we're all guilty of ignoring the lessons of Vietnam. Furthermore, our nation and its leaders are guilty of sending men and women to wage asymmetrical and counterinsurgency warfare; lessons we learned from our involvement in Southeast Asia and the Soviet catastrophe in Afghanistan. For people relishing in the fact that Bergdahl possibly deserted and therefore deserves a firing squad, please remember that we sent hundreds of thousands of Americans into a war zone. This war zone, and our enemies, posed a grave danger from the first day American forces landed in Afghanistan. We knew in 2001, long before Bergdhal enlisted, that the Taliban was a dangerous enemy intent on killing and kidnapping Americans. As stated by Stanford University, the Taliban is an organization that has utilized a wide array of deadly tactics aimed at fighting Americans:The Taliban employs suicide bombing, IEDs, gun assaults, grenade attacks, kidnapping and hostage taking to further their ultimate goal of expelling anti-Taliban forces from Afghanistan and establishing a strictly Shariah-governed Afghan state... Using suicide bombings, IED and rocket attacks, as well as raids and shootings, assassinations, sniping, guerrilla warfare and massacres, the Taliban continue to engage their opponents in more asymmetric ways than other militia have traditionally employed.
We sent Americans to battle this type of enemy; an adversary that engages in everything from kidnapping to deadly ambushes. To say that Bergdahl created this life threatening atmosphere is not only ludicrous, but ignores the fact that we knew how ruthless the Taliban was long before 2001. Also, for the "message board commandos" who claim Bergdhal endangered American lives, it's important to remember that Congress sent Americans into Afghanistan to fight the Taliban. The American people sent our soldiers to fight a group that engages in "suicide bombings, IED and rocket attacks, as well as raids and shootings, assassinations, sniping, guerrilla warfare and massacres." If you blame Bergdhal for the death of Americans, then also blame Bush and Obama for ignoring history. While we've been a great deal more successful than the USSR in Afghanistan, our nation sent American soldiers to battle an enemy that defeated our Cold War adversary. Furthermore, Sgt. Bergdahl can't be blamed for the Taliban's ability to ambush our soldiers; this capability was well documented long before 2014. In a 2008 CBS News article entitled Green Berets Recount Deadly Taliban Ambush, even our most elite soldiers have had trouble combating a more powerful than anticipated enemy:At one point, the Taliban even broke through the Green Berets' perimeter, but were pushed back. Maj. Ford called in air support. But the bombs couldn't stop the Taliban - they were everywhere... "The Taliban want to take Afghanistan back. They want to install their government, their system of life," Ford says. "But, bottom line, a force that was defeated in the invasion is no longer defeated," Logan asks.
s one of the Green Berets stated, a terrorist group that was once defeated "is no longer defeated." Whereas we had a quick victory over the Taliban in 2001, the've regrouped and continue to pose a dangerous threat to even our most elite soldiers. Is this Bergdahl's fault? The answer is obvious. As for the future of Afghanistan, Lt. Col. John Paganini says it could take a while. In a 2011 ABC News article, the director of the U.S. Army Counterinsurgency Center stated that victory was not assured:Paganini said changing the minds of Afghans could take generations. "Is victory inevitable?" he asked. "No, because there are so many conditions that are out there. But we are clearly on the path for it. ... It could take generations. It could take, you know, the people of Afghanistan one or two iterations with some semblance of an election and feedback mechanisms that let them see that this is good."
With all the sacrifice that military men and women have made, true success in Afghanistan could take generations and is not assured. So now back to Sgt. Bergdahl, the new target of Fox News and real patriots everywhere. 2,324 American soldiers have died in Operation Enduring Freedom since 2001, including thousands of American wounded. If you blame Bowe Bergdhal (because of desertion, a change in religion, or any other Fox News accusation), then please remember one thing. Our nation sent its soldiers into a dangerous part of the world, knowing full well that Americans would not be coming back home. If you want to blame Bergdahl, please also remember to blame the country that sent its citizens to battle a determined and deadly enemy. This foreign policy decision, something that can't be pinned on the former POW, cost more American lives than anything Bergdahl could have done in Taliban captivity.
When Bakhtawar was two years old, she heard from her parents that a school is being built in her village to educate girls. Since that day she was eager to see the place where girls would go for studies and was waiting to start her education. When she turned four, the school building was completed and she was told by her parents that soon she will be attending classes there. But before she could buy her school uniform and books, her dream was quite literally shattered. The militants hiding in the mountains near her village Masho Khawarr in Shabqadar Tehsil of District Charsadda, attempted to level the school with a high intensity explosion.Social observers believe that the areas where children are deprived of education because of the destruction of schools have started to severely lag behind the rest of the country in terms of education and social progress. “It’s a loss of generations. If a school is closed because a bomb has destroyed it, a full generation will grow up illiterate in that area,” says Sami Zuberi, a senior journalist who has reported on the conflict zones for more than 35 years. “We must address this issue as soon as possible. The schools must work, the children must be educated, come what may,” he said.
Four infants died on Friday at a private hospital in Karachi after oxygen supply to incubators was disrupted following a power failure, police said. The deaths occurred at the privately run Shah National Children Hospital in Korangi. “The children were on incubators and apparently the power failure disrupted their oxygen supply resulting in the deaths of four children,” said senior police officer Nazir Mirbahar. A father of one victim described how he had brought his three-month old daughter to hospital only the night before. “She was actively playing and rejoicing when I brought her to the hospital because she was suffering from light fever,” Aqeel Ahmed said. Angry relatives stormed the hospital, ransacking equipment and blocking roads with burning tyres and boulders. The health department has started an inquiry into the children’s deaths and a report will be submitted to the provincial government within 24 hours. “We cannot say right now how the deaths occurred but we have formed a two-member committee to probe into the matter,” said Dr. Zafar Ejaz, a senior health official. Police said they had detained some of the hospital staff and were tracing the owner of the facility as part of their investigation. “Cases of criminal negligence will be registered against the hospital management, if the parents press charges,” Mirbahar said.
Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, Patron-In-Chief, Pakistan Peoples Party has condemned registration of an FIR against more than 6,000 farmers for holding protest demonstration at Okara bypass in Punjab and demanded immediate withdrawal of cases.
The Saudi funded Pakistan Government on Friday banned the Official Facebook.com/shiitenewstv page of www.shiitenews.org in Pakistan after banning the shiitenews.com official page to deprive the Pakistani nation about the Takfiris and Saudi conspiracies against Islam and Pakistan. The Pakistani Government restricted the users in Pakistan to access the shiitenews.com and facebook.com/shiitenewstv pages within 5 days have exposed the government feared from the access of news. Pakistan Telecommunication Authority has blocked the www.shiitenews.com and now www.facebook.com/shiitenewstv denying access to the visitors of the website on the pretext that content of the website and social media pages were not desired. Now the users in Pakistan can access the new addresses of www.shiitenews.org and www.facebook.com/shiitenews110 as the alternative addressed. A spokesman for the website said that it was a lame excuse because Shia Pakistanis and their news sources are not banned under any law. Shia parties and leaders have condemned the ban. They said that the ruling PMLN and its leaders such Nawaz Sharif and Chaudhry Nisar have already joined hands with the Yazidi takfiri nasbi terrorists of outlawed Sipah-e-Sahaba and Lashkar-e-Jhangvi. Under that alliance, they have struck a new deal with the Taliban terrorists despite the fact that Constitution of Pakistan doesn’t allow any Talban like outfit in Pakistan. They demanded the government not to serve the proxy agenda for Saudi Wahhabi monarchy and their proxies Yazidi nasbi takfiri terrorist outfits based in Pakistan. They demanded withdrawal of the ban on www.shiitenews.com in Pakistan. Its pertaining to mention here that earlier, a week ago, In what appeared to deny freedom of expression to Shia Pakistanis, the biased government of Pakistan has gagged Shia voice by banning www.shiitenews.com that is an effective informative news source of Shia world. Pakistan Telecommunication Authority has blocked the www.shiitenews.com denying access to the visitors of the website on the pretext that content of the website was not desired.
Pakistan is and remains a major shareholder of blasphemy. The country is characterized by a total ban on anything that is possible. How big or small the occasion is, rightly or wrongly, blasphemous content always ranks in my beloved Pakistan. The Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) is offended so a crowd on its feet. Just like that. How to do it? Scoring with insults or hurt and human emotion of anger, sadness, and disappointment prevails in the Islamic Republic of Pakistan: Resulting in a ban!!! This is how we do it! Very sad what’s playing in my beloved Pakistan? Sigh ... Rural protests and demonstrations began against Geo Media Group on laying a Qawwali number. That could be considered "blasphemous content" This happened on 14 May, in the morning entertainment program "Utho Jago Pakistan" (roughly translated Wake Up Pakistan) aired during the GEO TV broadcast. Blasphemy As of February 1, 2014 banning libelous blasphemy is actually from the Criminal Code deleted in the Netherlands. Blasphemy is literally speaking ill of one God or Gods devoted to the business. This may mock a God or Supreme Being or religious traditions, through spoken word, written or other communications. Say something or do what is supposed to be reserved can be regarded as blasphemy. Over the years, Pakistan remains sadly with pain in my heart shareholder of blasphemy. In 1989 the novel came out by Salman Rushdie, The Satanic Verses. During this period fell violent demonstrations several deaths in India, Pakistan and Egypt. The book begins with the explosion of a hijacked plane over southern England. Jibreel Farishta and Saladin Chamcha, two Indian actors, falling from the sky in the English beach. Both survive the fall. Jibril Farisjta then transform the Archangel Jibril (Gabriel), while Saladin Chamcha turns into the devil. It is a novel about the English immigration. Contradictions and east / west, earthy / religious and present / past are woven into the story. The publication of this novel has a lot of dust. The cause was the way in which Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) is put down by Rushdie's book; as a man who succumbs to earthly pleasures. Muslim communities around the world organized protest rallies in which copies of the book were burned, these pictures and images went around the world. I will never forget that I was called forward by the history teacher, Mr. S. in 1989 during the course of history "So Nazima you explain once again to the class why Muslims react so furiously in the world and especially in your homelands India and Pakistan? They do not even read the book and do not know what it says." Little did I know? I was in the summer to Pakistan for the first time in 1988, to meet my father's family in real life in Karachi. I was treated to a lot of unconditional love, warmth and hospitality. I love Pakistan and Urdu. That was my frame of reference then and still now in the year 2014. However, when the consciousness emerged that "being a Muslim with a Pakistani-Indian background" for the first time distinguished me from my classmates. Pakistan March 15, 2012 Charismatic Imran Khan, famous and well-known former cricketer, was the leader of the Pakistan Movement for Justice (Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf) political party. Khan cancels his trip to neighbor country India and also taking part in a conference organized by media group India Today as a protest because Salman Rushdie also had to join this conference in Delhi. Khan said that the author has caused much suffering and immeasurable pain among Muslims. Still regarded by many Muslims The Satanic Verses as blasphemous. The book is still banned in India. A statement by his party PTI, "Khan expressed his regrets to the organizers but stated categorically that he could not imagine why he would participate in a program where Salman Rushdie who caused immense pain to Muslims around the world present" the statement said. Pakistan May 14, 2014 The suggestion is that by playing as background music during the public henna & wedding ceremony of actress Veena Malik and her husband Bashir Assad Khattak a famous wedding Qawwali "Ali ke Saath Hai Zahra Ki Shaadi" about the marriage of the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) daughter Syeda Fatima Zehra (RA) with his cousin Hazrat Ali (RA). The names of Ahl-e-Bait (family of the Prophet Muhammad PBUH) blasphemy has occurred. A viewer is so outraged and file a complaint. The flame of indignation was awakened. There followed more and more. Unimaginable in the Netherlands. Realities in Pakistan. It rainsalmost 64,000 complaints against the media group GEO website at Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority's Viewer Feedback & Complaint. Pemra the government website.http://www.pemra.gov.pk/complaints/ Very special to label this incident as blasphemy. These morning show where wedding ceremonies with renowned and famous couples are common, marriage Qawwalis be rotated, sang and danced, the presenter ask questions too, invited guests also enjoy themselves in the studio and the audience is cozy and cheerful joins, the outrage the time now again very special. Does it have to do with that celebrity Veena Malik who comes home after years in her beloved Pakistan? Many Pakistanis in Pakistan but also Dutch Pakistanis have difficulty with Veena Malik. Two comments on Facebook: "What they represent is definitely not Pakistan, the Pakistani culture and especially Islam. During the qawalli they get compared to the daughter of Prophet Muhammad (SAW). Astakhfirullah, but something really cannot. Certainly not Veena Malik all but Muslim women represented” "For me to marry them 100 times, but this phenomenon is just nonsense. All Shows, Drama, Television ratings, Commercial ... more. While the country is in ruins, people are going to get married on TV who is already married. I will always defend Veena, and will now do so in the context of the threats. But I get annoyed for months this morning shows that small elite pretends like it’s all okay. The point is the commercial aspect. " Throughout Pakistan the general masses are fuelled. Students, lawyers, members of social, religious and political organizations protesting loudly by organizing various demonstrations and take to the streets. Strikes occur. Slogans and placards with the lyrics "BAN GEO TV!" On 19 May I contact the manager of Veena Malik. My condolences and expressed that they are in my thoughts and prayers. That they may Allah protects this madness, Ameen! May 20 I received a message from whatsapp from Veena Malik herself. She thanked me for my compassion. I have to do with her. So happy and excited she was to return to her homeland and my beloved Pakistan. (I had an exclusive interview with her for the Netherlands in 2012; http://religionresearch.org/martijn/2012/02/25/veena-malik-my-pakistan-is-infamous-for-many-reasons-other-than-me/) Pakistan oh Pakistan you have a problem and not Veena Malik, her husband or station Geo TV. Freedom of its individual expression and press freedom including GEO TV should be respected and protected. We in the West attach great importance to. Most blasphemy cases in Pakistan are politically motivated and disruptive to the minorities. Laws of blasphemy in Pakistan have always been abused by clergy. Demonstrable facts, evidence or no evidence, this happens to moderate Muslims, liberals, Christians and Hindus in Pakistan. Even the former governor of Punjab, Salman Taseer was assassinated by his own security guard a few years ago. Christian Aasia Bibi was convicted to death in 2010 was of blasphemy. Bibi came in 2009 in the news after she was put imprisoned for her faith. Some Muslim women refused to take water from her because it was touched by a Christian, and therefore would be unclean. After the quarrel that arose women attacked her, made her face black and wanted to ride her on a donkey through the village, the police arrived and Bibi was taken into custody. Asia Bibi later stated that there had been because the women tried to convert to Islam. Stresses its earlier Remarkably, radical clerics raise issues of blasphemy after fabricating evidence and facts. Example, in the case of the 14-year-old girl Rimsha Masih. Cleric Khalid Jadoon, also complainant fabricated evidence. Simply fabricated facts to engage on blasphemy. Rimsha Such tactics and techniques have always been used to threaten minorities. Rimsha fled to Canada after threats from radicals and clerics. Those accused of blasphemy or acquitted by the court flights from Pakistan or were killed after their release from prison. More Pakistanis whose names are not known or does not get the media suffered such things. Banistan Unfortunately, the biggest TV channel of Pakistan "GEO" prohibited by May 20, 2014. That's a shame! A ban on the book by Malala Yousefzai and now is a ban on GEO. How many bans am I still missing? In 2012, a ban on mobile phones. motorcycles, scarves and jackets, the BBC, Twitter and YouTube. In 2011, a ban on porn websites. In 2010 Facebook was. In the 1990s, it was the Indian television and musicians with long hair. In 1980s Salman Rushdie's "Satanic Verses. "And in the 1970s the drink. All were banned. In Pakistan. Through Pakistan. For decades Pakistan regulates a way to boycotts and bans on technology, information, literature, media and even entire communities. I start to understand the warm and intimate friendship with Turkey and Erdogan even more and more sarcastically. How do you bring to the mind of the Pakistani people and the government that you are not allowed to impose and execute? That's the only thing that is happening now, and solves nothing. You really only can draw one conclusion giving the examples above. That blasphemy laws should be subject to reforms to avoid. Their abuse by opportunists and clergy. The need to reform the blasphemy laws should be explained by attracting religious scholars and the general public. To the people of Pakistan Religion in Pakistan is misused to gain political power. The blasphemy laws are wrong causing many innocent people languishing in the violent and filthy jails of the country. On Twitter, many Pakistanis go loose. With the hashtag # bannendinPakistan come many tweets passing of known activists, journalists and Twitter phenomena. Ploumen wants to trade and investment relations with Pakistan Dutch Minister for Foreign Trade and Development, Lilliane Ploumen, pays visits to Pakistan and Bangladesh from May 23 until May 27 to take measures to improve working conditions in the textile chain. Pressure with her visit to Pakistan, the minister wants to emphasize that not only earn in Bangladesh working in the textile chain attention. In Pakistan, a country that many domestic textile exports to the Netherlands, to which in many cases to be desired. For example there are poor working conditions in the cotton harvest, which is mainly done by women. The minister's dialogue with key figures from the Pakistani textile chain, visit a textile factory, meet with the Ministers of Planning and Trade and participates in a seminar on the status of women in Pakistan. Ploumen wants to expand trade and investment relations with Pakistan while the development is being phased out of the country Love Believe it or not, but like I had a nice and positive piece on Pakistan. How beautiful and green it is, the warmth and hospitality of the simple sweet people I know, the hopes of the young people who live, study, work and live, their inspirations, and especially about my city Karachi. My first rain dance as a 14-year-old on the roof of the house of my grandfather. Sleeping on the roof and watch the stars and the moon. About the female defenders of equal rights. About the most romantic language in the world, Urdu. Over journalist and documentary maker Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy. She won an Oscar Academy Award for her documentary Saving Face in 2012 and in 2010 she won an Emmy Award for her documentary Pakistan: Children of the Taliban. The legendary Sufi singer Abida Parveen that our country is honor with a visit on June 6 at the Holland Festival in Amsterdam About my fine vacations, about thriving fashion industry, about the delicious food and especially, especially about my love for Pakistan. Exactly what singer Marco Borsato song with his daughter Jada Together Forever I've known you as long as you exist I carry you with me no matter where I go I do not know what it would be without you I love you I'm with you you belong to me We stay together forever I'm with you You belong with me We stay together forever I'll never leave you alone You make me happy I'm holding you And leave you free And I trust that you know the way But secretly I always look over your shoulder Yes Pakistan forever in my heart
In Pakistan the troubles of Christians and other religious groups such as Hindus has been recently documented. But in the Muslim-majority country, a minority Islamic group is also facing discrimination says a report by U.N. experts. - See more at: http://www.christiansinpakistan.com/u-n-experts-called-upon-pakistan-to-stop-faith-based-killings/#sthash.FHZlNN2e.dpuf
United Nations experts on freedom of religion, minority issues, and summary executions want Pakistan to take on serious measures to stop faith-based killings. The experts have called upon Pakistan to guarantee the security of the Ahmadiyya Muslim community, whose belief is forbidden in the country. Furthermore, they also required the safety of other minority religious groups such as Christians and Hindus. About 96 percent of Pakistan’s 196 million people are Muslims (90 percent Sunni). The rights experts’ call came after new violent attacks against Ahmadiyya Muslims in Pakistan, in which two members, a 65 years old in police station and a cardiologist, of the community have been killed along with a number of arrests on blasphemy charges. Pakistan has about 3.6 million Christians accounting for about 2 percent of the population, and Christian communities also being targeted, killed and charged under alleged blasphemy cases. These attacks on the Ahmadiyya Muslims are believed to be related to their choice and peaceful practice of religious beliefs. “I am very concerned by the recent surge of violent attacks against Ahmadiyya Muslims by militant extremists. Such violence is fueled by existing blasphemy legislation in Pakistan particularly targeting minorities,” the Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief, Heiner Bielefeldt, said. He added, “I urge Pakistan to guarantee the right to freedom of religion or belief of members of minority religious communities.” Bielefeldt has in other reports spoken out about the rights of Christian and other religious minorities and he talked about blasphemy laws that carry the death sentence are often used by Muslims in communities to settle personal quarrels. According to the U.N report, seven members of the Ahmadiyya Muslim community were reportedly killed in 2013. And two recent killing of Ahmadi men grabbed the attention of U.N experts and hence they called upon Pakistan to ensure security of Muslim minority groups. - See more at: http://www.christiansinpakistan.com/u-n-experts-called-upon-pakistan-to-stop-faith-based-killings/#sthash.FHZlNN2e.dpuf
The Pakistani government’s suspension of Geo TV, the country’s largest private broadcaster, is a politically motivated attack on freedom of expression and the media, said Amnesty International in a statement issued here on Friday. “The suspension of Geo TV is a serious attack on press freedom in Pakistan. It is the latest act in an organized campaign of harassment and intimidation targeting the network on account of its perceived bias against the military,” said Richard Bennett, Amnesty International’s Asia Director. “The Pakistani authorities must immediately reverse this ban. If there are concerns about the content of Geo TV broadcasts, the authorities should address this in line with international human rights standards – not simply move to silence a critical voice.” The governmental body Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) today (Friday ) ruled that the licenses of Geo TV be suspended for 15 days with immediate effect. The ban is due to allegedly blasphemous content broadcast last month by Geo TV - part of the Jang Media Group - and its earlier accusations against a senior military intelligence official. Geo TV has been locked in a stand-off with the Pakistan military, rival media houses and some political parties since one of its journalists, the news anchor Hamid Mir, narrowly escaped an assassination attempt in Karachi on 19 April. The network accused the Pakistani spy agency Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) of being behind the attack, which the ISI has denied. On 20 May some government officials attempted to pull Geo TV off the air over allegedly “anti-state” and “blasphemous” content, apparently under pressure from the military, but within hours the decision was overturned by PEMRA’s executive authorities until today’s order. “The suspension of Geo TV sadly fits an all too familiar pattern in Pakistan. State authorities and other political actors use any means they can to silence critical reporting, from the use of anti-state and anti-religion provisions of the law to physical attacks and violence,” said Richard Bennett. In a report released on 30 April, Amnesty International documented how media workers in Pakistan live under the constant threat of harassment, violence and killings from a range of state and non-state actors. Several Jang Media Group journalists have told Amnesty International that they have received daily threats and harassment by unknown individuals by phone and in person. Many said they dare not enter their offices or identify themselves as belonging to Geo TV or other Jang Media Group outlets for fear of being attacked. “Pakistan’s vibrant media scene deserves better protection, and journalists must be able to carry out their legitimate work without fear or interference,” said Richard Bennett.
Two more polio cases have been reported in Bannu and North Waziristan. According to National Health Centre, 18-month-old Haleema and 22-month-old Madina are the latest case of polio whereas toll of polio affected children has reached 74 in the country. Experts say that polio eradication is impossible in Pakistan without parents’ support. Parents must cooperate with the health workers to make the country polio-free. Last Monday, Pakistan s failure to stem the spread of polio triggered global emergency health measures, with the World Health Organization (WHO) recommending all residents must show proof of vaccination before they can leave the country. The emergency measures were also applied to Syria and Cameroon, which along with Pakistan are seen as posing the greatest risk of exporting the crippling virus and undermining a U.N. plan to eradicate it by 2018. Pakistan is in the spotlight as the only country with endemic polio that saw cases rise last year. Its caseload rose to 93 from 58 in 2012, accounting for more than a fifth of the 417 cases globally in 2013. Polio passes easily from person to person and can spread rapidly among children, especially in the kind of unsanitary conditions endured by displaced people in war-torn regions, refugee camps and areas where health care is limited. The virus invades the nervous system and can cause irreversible paralysis within hours. The WHO has repeatedly warned that as long as any single child remains infected with polio, children everywhere are at risk. There is no cure for the disease but it can be prevented by immunization. The polio vaccine, administered multiple times, can protect a child for life.
The Haqqani Network, the terrorist group that the U.S. command in Afghanistan says is its most formidable enemy — worse than the Taliban or al Qaeda — has operated for a dozen years across the border in Pakistan's North Waziristan tribal area with little to fear other than sporadic drone strikes. Now, even the drone strikes have stopped for the family-run gang that held Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl for five years. In 2011, President Obama authorized a volley of drone hits on Haqqani headquarters in the town of Miranshah. The strikes were supposed to be the beginning of a concerted effort to stop Haqqani terrorists from attacking Americans in Afghanistan, but the campaign was short-lived. "They could not pursue them as military planners had wanted to," said Bill Roggio, managing editor of The Long War Journal, citing too few troops as the reason. Attacks stopped altogether this year as the Obama administration negotiated with the Taliban, a fused ally of the Haqqani group. One analyst said that in addition to trading five senior Taliban leaders to win Sgt. Bergdahl's release Saturday, the U.S. appears to have suspended its drone war in Pakistan and let targets slip away. National security analysts say that neither the U.S. nor Pakistan has launched a comprehensive campaign to take down the group that the U.S. designated a terrorist organization in 2012. It is in and around Miranshah where Jalaluddin Haqqani, a veteran of the U.S.-backed mujahedeen against the Soviets in the 1980s, and his son Sirajuddin control 10,000 fighters, complete with training bases and religious schools for children. From there, they have executed some of the most brutal attacks inside Afghanistan, with a focus on Kabul. Haqqani militants are responsible for improvised explosive device attacks that kill Americans across the border in provinces such as Paktia, where Sgt. Bergdahl walked away from his unit in 2009. Sgt. Bergdahl surely will be asked all he knows about Haqqani when intelligence officers debrief him during the military's reintegration process. Ask national security analysts why the Haqqani Network prospers in war and in illegal contraband, and the answer is always the same: Pakistan's Inter-Service Intelligence agency, which sponsors Haqqani as a proxy against whoever is in power in Afghanistan — be it the Soviets in the 1980s, the Taliban in the 1990s or the NATO-backed democracy in the 2000s. "It's the Pakistani tie. It's because of his ties with Pakistan and their intelligence service," said Larry Johnson, a former CIA and State Department official, explaining why Jalaluddin Haqqani enjoys a safe haven even though Pakistan is supposed to be a U.S. ally. "It's almost like we're putting the gloves on instead of taking the gloves off." Mr. Johnson said he knows of no concerted CIA-military campaign to eliminate the Haqqani organization in Afghanistan and take away the safe haven across the border. "The Haqqanis have been unhindered since really December," he said. "You have to go back and look at the broader negotiations. What the Taliban was demanding and the Haqqanis were demanding was for the U.S. to back off on the drone strikes and step down on the counterinsurgency patrols. And we did all that." The Long War Journal, a research website that collects data on U.S. drone strikes, says none have occurred this year against Haqqani, Taliban or al Qaeda targets in Pakistan. Mr. Roggio said the U.S. could have stepped up its air war beyond individual drone missiles to include high-level bombings and cruise missiles, but there was never the political will to deal with the expected backlash from Pakistan. He said there are various reasons why the U.S. never fully went after Haqqani on the ground. The 2010-11 troop surge included too few soldiers to hunt terrorists consistently in Afghanistan before they got back over the border. "They've been targeted in drone strikes over the years. Top Haqqani Network leaders have been killed in drone strikes," Mr. Roggio said. "But there is just no political will or capacity militarily to finish them off in Afghanistan or Pakistan. You know how controversial the drone strikes are. The U.S. is trying to disengage from Afghanistan now instead of engage." He said the risk of creating American prisoners inside Pakistan also was an issue. The Washington-based Institute for the Study of War described the Haqqani problem this way: "The Haqqani network maintains a safe haven in North Waziristan, Pakistan, across Afghanistan's southeastern border. The Pakistani Army has consistently refused to launch a military operation in North Waziristan despite the presence of al-Qaeda senior leadership. Elements within the Pakistani security establishment continue to view the Haqqani network as a useful ally and proxy force to represent their interests in Afghanistan." One of those "interests" is to have Haqqani attack Indian targets in Afghanistan. India and Pakistan are archrivals. Marine Corps Gen. Joseph Dunford, NATO's top commander in Afghanistan, in March declared Haqqani "the most virulent strain of the insurgency. It's the greatest risk of the force and, frankly, from a high-profile attack perspective, perhaps the greatest risk to the campaign." "So do we have a concerted effort to go after Haqqani? Yes," Gen. Dunford said. "When you look at Haqqani's high-profile attack threat streams, and you look at the consequences of those threat streams against what we're trying to accomplish right now, clearly mitigating the risk of the Haqqani network is one of my priorities as a commander," the general said. "And that's what you've seen over the last few months is really a matter of command emphasis as opposed to something different." Mr. Roggio said U.S. troops are leaving Afghanistan, not taking on additional efforts. "It's really bluster on the part of Dunford," he said. Read more: http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2014/jun/5/haqqani-network-pakistan-terror-group-grows-into-w/#ixzz33wnHsao3 Follow us: @washtimes on Twitter
Four years ago, as I spoke to a Taliban leader about peace negotiations with the Afghan government, the conversation took an unusual turn: the Taliban leader wanted to talk about an American hostage named Bowe Bergdahl. The official, whom I met in Islamabad, Pakistan, was a leader of the Haqqani network, a branch of the Taliban waging a long war to expel Americans from Afghanistan. The group had captured Bergdahl, an American soldier who had disappeared from a base in eastern Afghanistan a year before. The Taliban official told me that Bergdahl had managed to escape briefly from his Taliban captors. At the time, the official said, Bergdahl was being held in Pakistan. He had apparently been unable to find his way back to American-controlled territory. “He didn’t know where he was—he didn’t have a G.P.S.,” the Taliban leader said, referring to the sort of hand-held device that could have helped him find his way. “You Americans are so dependent on technology. He didn’t know how to navigate by the stars, like we can.” The Taliban leader laughed. Bergdahl, he said, was quickly recaptured. It was impossible to verify the Taliban leader’s account, though at the time it didn’t seem implausible. Now that Bergdahl has finally been released—traded for five Taliban leaders held at Guantanamo—our discussion resonates for another reason: what it says about the role of the Pakistani government in the Bergdahl affair. I had gone to Islamabad to investigate a bizarre and disturbing chain of events that had led to the capture, earlier in the year, of Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, the military commander of the Afghan Taliban. When Baradar was caught, by a team of C.I.A. and Pakistani agents, the arrest was hailed as a great moment of American and Pakistani cooperation. But, as with almost everything that involves our Pakistani allies, things were not as they seemed. It turned out that Pakistani agents had maneuvered the C.I.A. into arresting Baradar because he was involved in secret peace talks with the government of Afghanistan, which the Pakistani intelligence service wanted to scuttle. Sure enough, the Americans had taken the bait, and the talks had come to an end. So far, Pakistani officials have been silent about any role they played in either Bergdahl’s captivity or his release. But there are many questions that need to be answered. The Haqqani network, the group that was holding Bergdahl, maintains especially close ties to Pakistan’s Inter-Service Intelligence, or I.S.I. (The Taliban official who told me about Bergdahl was a leader of the Haqqani group.) That a Taliban-aligned guerrilla unit would be so closely tied to the government of our ostensible ally—to which we give more than a billion dollars each year—has long raised troubling questions about American policy in the region. It’s worse than that. It was the Haqqani group that attacked the American Embassy in Kabul in September, 2011, killing five Afghan police officers and eleven civilians. Following that attack, Admiral Mike Mullen, then the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, declared that the Haqqani network acted as “a veritable arm” of the I.S.I. American military commanders often describe the Haqqani network as the most lethal group operating against American soldiers, and it is believed to be behind many suicide attacks inside the capital. The Haqqani group has a complicated history. It’s run as a mafia-like enterprise, with smuggling and protection rackets at its core, with Jalaluddin Haqqani, the grand old man of the network, presiding as its head. Haqqani, who is now close to seventy years old, once had close relations with the United States, and particularly with the C.I.A., during the Afghan war against the Soviet occupation, which took place between 1979 and 1989. (This association has given rise to a thousand conspiracy theories—among them, that the U.S. created the Taliban—but Haqqani and the United States have now been foes for much longer than they were ever friends.) Given the close connections that the I.S.I. maintains with the network, it seems inconceivable that the organization wasn’t well aware of Bergdahl’s condition, status, and whereabouts. Did the I.S.I. try, over the years, to free him? We don’t know. Could Pakistani intelligence officials have done more to help him? Did they do nothing? Likewise, we don’t know. Were they involved, and perhaps even instrumental in, gaining his final release? We don’t know. But, given the amount of American money that flows into Pakistan, we’re entitled to ask. Did fears about Bergdahl’s location complicate the C.I.A.’s drone war in Pakistan? During talks to free Bergdahl, Taliban officials apparently told Qatari officials that drone strikes nearly killed Bergdahl at least three times. Last year, there were twenty-three strikes in Pakistan, according to the New America Foundation. Did Bergdahl’s captivity present dilemmas to American intelligence officials? Given the secrecy still surrounding the C.I.A.’s drone program, we may never know.
The Facebook page of a popular rock band that was banned by the social media website on government’s request is now accessible to internet users in Pakistan. Rock band “Laal” (Red), which was set up by a group of progressive musicians in 2007, said in a post, “We won. Yes it’s true. We were banned. We fought back. And we won. We want to thank all our supporters who supported us on social media and the mainstream media. This was your victory. Today progressives proved their strength through their unity. They forced the authorities to retreat from the ban. This may be a very small victory in relation to all the problems that Pakistan faces today. But a victory nonetheless,” it said in the post on its Facebook page. The band promised to continue working against the ban on other progressive pages that continue to suffer from censorship and struggle for a progressive Pakistan. The group also promised to celebrate the victory. “Lets celebrate Laal’s victory against internet censorship with a revolutionary rock song. On 15th June we will be performing at village in Okara for the Anjuman Muzareen, commemorating the life and struggle of Rashid Rahman who was martyred recently in Multan for standing up for the rule of law and humans rights,” it said. The Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) officials had asked Facebook to censor some accounts which they consider as blasphemous or spreading hatred. Laal’s lead member Taimur Rehman had told the media that they were banned. Activists in Pakistan had criticised the unilateral decision of Facebook and had asked for lifting of the censorship. Pakistan frequently bans social websites. YouTube was banned in 2012 and still remains out of access.
By DECLAN WALSH and SALMAN MASOOD
Facebook said on Friday that it had blocked users in Pakistan from access to the pages of a popular Pakistani rock band and several left-wing political pages, drawing sharp criticism from free-speech activists who accused the American company of caving in to government censors. Members of the band, Laal, whose members have frequently spoken out against the Taliban, confirmed that their Facebook page, which had over 400,000 “likes,” had been blocked. Following an outcry on social media and inquiries by reporters to the Pakistani government and to Facebook, the government reversed itself and Facebook restored access to Laal’s page.
But advocates said late on Friday that at least six other Facebook pages that promoted progressive debate in Pakistan and that had been blocked during the week remained inaccessible.
“Facebook claims to be in favor of free speech, and talks about protecting political expression, but they are not,” said Shahzad Ahmad of the group Bytes for All Pakistan, which campaigns for Internet freedom and has gone to court several times seeking to lift government restrictions in Pakistan."For the sake of their own profits and business, they are caving in to anything the government demands.” A spokeswoman for Facebook in London said the company’s policy was to adhere to local laws, and that it blocked the pages after receiving an official request from the Pakistan Telecommunications Authority, which regulates Internet content in Pakistan. “While we never remove this type of content from the site entirely, like most Internet services, we may restrict people from accessing it in the countries where it is determined to be illegal,” the spokeswoman said, adding that questions about why specific pages were blocked were “best addressed to the authorities who issue these orders.”
The spokeswoman declined to be named, citing company policy.
Facebook was banned entirely in Pakistan for several months in 2010, during a controversy over a page that encouraged people to draw cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad.
The company says it regularly weeds out pages that promote hate or extremism. According to a report published on its website, Facebook restricted access to 162 pieces of content in Pakistan between July and December 2013, and many more in some other countries, including India, where it restricted access to more than 4,700 pages in the same period. But activists said on Friday that the latest blocks in Pakistan affected pages that spoke out against extremism, while several extremist pages in the country were left untouched. “This is ridiculous,” said Taimur Rahman, the lead singer of Laal, speaking before the ban on his group’s page was lifted. “None of our content could be construed as anti-state or anti-religious, in any shape or form.” The Facebook actions come at a time when freedom of speech is under increasing pressure in Pakistan. Extremists have been bringing criminal accusations of blasphemy against journalists, and the army has been cracking down on criticism of itself in the media. The government media regulator suspended broadcasts of the country’s most popular news channel, Geo News, on Friday and fined it $104,000, on accusations that Geo News had defamed the military’s Inter-Services Intelligence spy agency.
Ale Natiq, 31, the administrator of the Urdu-language page Roshni Pakistan, speculated that the military was behind the blocking of the page this week. “We’re not anti-state or anti-religion,” Mr. Natiq said. “But we’ve been very vocal on the Baluchistan issue, which is sensitive to the military, so that might have done it.”Several activists questioned why Facebook had not blocked other Pakistani pages that incite sectarian violence, religious extremism or hatred against minorities. As examples, they pointed to pages administrated by supporters of Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamaat, a notorious sectarian groups that has supported attacks on Shiites; the sectarian militant group Lashkar e Jhangvi;and the Red Mosque, where a violent stand-off between extremists and government forces in 2007 left over 100 people dead, and where a recently opened library is named for Osama bin Laden.
“These pro-Taliban pages are spewing hatred, and we are the people they shut down,” said Mr. Rahman, the singer. “It’s insanity.” Facebook officials say that they resist censorship as much as possible, but their leverage is limited in countries like Pakistan where the government imposes constraints with little public debate.
Geo TV went off air last night, accepting a Pemra directive though disagreeing with it. But it raises serious questions about how laws are framed and implemented. In what form of democracy is the accused sentenced and punished without even being given a chance to present a defence? That is exactly what Pemra has done by suspending Geo News’ licence for 15 days and fining it Rs10 million. While virtually the entire political leadership of the country, from the president and the prime minister to MNAs and others, as well as politicians from across the political spectrum, have spoken against a ban on any channel, just such a ban has been slapped. The ‘crime’ that apparently warrants this kind of punishment is making the military unhappy, although holding the powerful accountable is the primary job of a free media. To call it a 15-day suspension, even though that is excessive in itself, is misleading. Not only Geo News but all its sister channels unconnected with political coverage have been off the air in most of the country for the last 45 days, with cable operators obviously having been pressurised to force illegal orders of unauthorised persons.Pemra on the whole deserves its share of the blame for this blatantly illegal action since some rogue members held illegal meetings and decided to cancel Geo’s licence even though they did not have the authority to do any such thing. The Supreme Court ordered the restoration of Geo but was met only with silence. Should the leadership of Pemra now be charged with contempt of court for disrespecting the judiciary by failing to obey its instructions? The Rs10 million fine – again as excessive as the suspension – is insignificant in comparison to the losses Geo has had to suffer because of the wrath of the military and Pemra’s indulgence of illegal actions. An estimated Rs2 billion has already been lost, money that should be paid to Geo in damages, as a lawsuit filed by the group is now demanding. The 45-day ban, extended by 15 days, will mean Geo remains off air for 60 days. Yes, it has survived before – bouncing back from the 90-day black-out imposed by the Musharraf regime. Yes, a legal notice has been served on the ISI, Pemra and the Ministry of Defence for maligning the channel, accusing it of working on an ‘anti-Pakistan’ agenda and making other allegations. Rs50 billion has been sought in damages. But, in real terms, the knife has already been struck into the body of the country’s most popular channel. It is now being twisted a little more. We have essentially been abandoned, with the government failing to protect media freedoms. Monetary losses threaten jobs and the future of the channel. We see an open attempt to weaken us, drain us of blood and leave us with no means to fight back. Geo’s perspective was not even heard by Pemra. The pressure put on the Jang Group has not just been financial. There has also been literal spilling of blood. Staffers of the group have suffered unprecedented harassment and intimidation with attacks on senior Geo and Jang journalists. Our people have been wounded, deliberately targeted, hunted down like animals, and we do not know what may come next. Arson became a popular way of registering anger with the group. The attacks on our Group’s vehicles across the country also continue. Through it all, at no time did the military call for calm. Instead it has been stoking the flames, using puppets in the media to incite even further violence. The government had been sympathetic through this all only to the extent of saying Geo should not be shut down. Apparently the bare minimum level of support for an independent media – that it shouldn’t be taken off the air – is too much for the government to sustain. Key questions arise. Who is running the affairs of our country? When the government had said no channel should be punished this way, why has so vindictive an action been taken? The encouragement government capitulation will give to the undemocratic forces is unmistakable. We have received threats and ‘suggestions’ that the licence suspension be accepted to avoid hurting democracy. How can an undemocratic measure benefit the democratic rights of people in the country? The damage done to Geo has been immense but far greater will be the damage the country and society might eventually have to face if this persecution remains unchecked.
The Express Tribune
The government conceded that despite its claim that the halt in drone strikes would put an end to terrorism and pave way for smooth negotiations with the Taliban, splinter Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan factions were still carrying out attacks. The upper house of parliament was supposed to begin with a discussion on the recently promulgated budget but legislators pointed out how there was no let-up in the terrorist incidents, particularly referring to how the state had failed in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata) and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (KP). There is resurgence in terrorist attacks even though drone strikes were halted, said the leader of the house, Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz’s Senator Raja Zafarul Haq, who is the prime minister’s representative in the Senate. “It was believed that terrorists attacked because of the drone strikes but there is a possibility that this might not have been true in some cases,” he said. But the TTP is not a monolithic entity, but it comprises 30 to 50 splinter groups who make independent decisions, he explained. “[However,] those who are not willing to talk will be dealt with force.” Zafarul Haq was replying to a point of order by Pakistan Peoples Party Senator Raza Rabbani, who drew the attention of the house towards the attacks on military personnel near Fateh Jang in which two colonels and three civilians were killed. Senator Rabbani said that the main reason why such attacks cannot be foiled is the lack of intelligence sharing. The reasons were that junior officers were appointed in the National Counter Terrorism Authority (Nacta), while the National Crisis Management Cell (NCMC) was not functional. Awami National Party Senator Afrasiab Khattak said that every day several people were killed in Fata but they were not more than a “cold statistic” for the government. Fata seems like it was a place near Somalia or Nigeria, he criticised. “There is no forum to discuss the problems of the area.” Senator Haji Adeel said the militants reign Peshawar city after nightfall and there were no-go areas in the provincial capital. He revealed that the Frontier Constabulary, which is aiding the military in fighting insurgency in the semi-autonomous Frontier Regions (FRs), had only one rifle for twelve men. He asked the federal government to sit with the KP government and discuss how to tackle the precarious situation. Apart from the discussion on terrorist attacks, the annual report from the Council of Common Interests (CCI) for 2012-2013 was presented to the house.
Mr Prime Minister, development is not just launching mega-projects. Development also means expansion of freedoms and enjoyment of fundamental human rights
The national media was already consumed by agency-fuelled warfare when the breaking news of Altaf Hussain’s arrest by Scotland Yard over money laundering charges further shrank any space for other important social issues. While the finance minister Ishaq Dar was upbeat with economic growth and current account figures, a very retrogressive activity was in operation right under the nose of the government. In a swift and clandestine move the operatives of al Qaeda masquerading as officials of the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) banned all social media websites that had been campaigning against extremism and militancy in the country. While we were clamouring for lifting illegal restrictions imposed on a private television channel and condemned attacks on journalists, another draconian move has silenced social media pages belonging to progressive and secular voices. These include ‘Laal’, ‘Roshni’, and many more. Interestingly the websites run by banned outfits still flourish and disseminate hate and militancy under the blissful guardianship of the PTA. Blasphemy has many shades and comes in various varieties. Its essence, however, remains the same. One is not allowed to express one’s opinion, otherwise one can be silenced by the threat or actual use of force and violence. In Pakistan we see four main varieties of blasphemy. First, the most commonly known is religious blasphemy where anyone can be accused of disrespecting a personality who is considered holy under the belief system of Muslims. Second, if family honour, often closely linked with females, is thought to be attacked. Third, if the military establishment feels offended by any statement or accusation. Fourth, if anything unfavourable is said about the political leaders of certain parties, most notably the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) and Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI), though others also exhibit this behaviour to a varying extent. While society in general is accustomed to violence on account of faith and family honour-related forms of blasphemy, in the recent past military and political parties’ related blasphemies have also become very potent. Interestingly, we find an ironic criss-cross relating to the fate of two eminent Pakistanis who once sounded like immortals but are now being tried under the laws of Pakistan and the UK. Musharraf wants to flee from Pakistan while Altaf is desperate to flee to Pakistan. In Pakistan, expressing one’s free opinion on the high treason case against Musharraf is tantamount to blasphemy and consequently journalists accused of blasphemy are being thrashed in broad daylight. The chemical of religious blasphemy was also added with the help of a few managed TV hosts and ever obliging clerics to make the mixture more potent. Altaf unfortunately is in the UK where the police is never deterred by any blackmailing of blasphemy mongers. When the members of parliament of the ruling party in Britain can go to jail over minor irregularities in expenses claims, how can money laundering and tax evasion cases be dropped for a street level nuisance created in a distant land? In all this hullaballoo the news of al Qaeda seizing the PTA has received little coverage in the national mainstream media. According to Taimur Rahman of the music group Laal, when their popular page was banned he approached Facebook (FB) and they replied officially: “We restricted access in Pakistan to a number of pieces of content primarily reported by the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority and the Ministry of Information Technology (IT) under local laws prohibiting blasphemy and criticism of the state.” It therefore transpires that the pages were made inaccessible to internet users after officials in PTA sent a request to FB for shutting down access to these popular anti-extremism pages. The enlightened volunteers who were generating a progressive discourse with the help of write-ups, memes, quotes and images did not feel discouraged and promptly launched new pages to continue their struggle in the battle of ideas in Pakistan. But it is a worrying trend that needs to be condemned and challenged. No official can be given the power to become prosecutor and judge at the same time. Mr Prime Minister, development is not just launching mega-projects. Development also means expansion of freedoms and enjoyment of fundamental human rights. We were expecting that in addition to you improving our neglected physical infrastructure, your government would also give attention to the dilapidated intellectual infrastructure in the country. What use is 3G and 4G mobile technology if PTA officials do not update the software installed in their brains? What constitutes blasphemy is a very subjective issue and even members of the honourable superior judiciary may not agree on one single definition. If left to the discretion of the PTA and IT ministry officials, the writings of Sir Syed Ahmad Khan and Ibne Sina will also be banned on blasphemy charges. Just as you, Mr Prime Minister, restored Sunday as the weekly holiday in your earlier government, we believed that you will undo another cheap popularity seeking decision of the PPP government by lifting the ban on YouTube. Unfortunately, by banning progressive websites your government is weakening those institutions that create an enabling narrative for strengthening democracy in Pakistan. In the long run, you will also be the victim if you do not patronise those that want to create a new Pakistan based on tolerance, social equality and regional peace.