Sunday, September 28, 2014

Hillary Clinton: Grandmother in chief?

China : Govt denounces Hong Kong protests

By Cathy Wong
The central government Sunday condemned the illegal pro-democracy movement Occupy Central for undermining social stability in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (SAR) in response to the surprise launch of the protest that has brought chaos to the city's business district.
"The central government firmly opposes all kinds of illegal behavior in Hong Kong that undermines social order and stability. It is fully confident that the Hong Kong government can handle the situation in accordance with the law and resolutely supports such handling," a spokesperson for the State Council's Hong Kong and Macao Affairs Office said Sunday afternoon.
The central government's liaison office in Hong Kong issued a similar statement Sunday night, slamming the Occupy campaign for blocking traffic and disturbing social order, stressing that the recent reform framework released by the top legislature is not to be challenged.
At a press conference Sunday, Hong Kong Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying also urged the public to engage in rational discussion on political reform, and said the SAR government is resolute in opposing unlawful actions by Occupy Central. "The police shall continue to handle the situation in accordance with the law," he said.
Protesters on Sunday evening spilled out onto some of Hong Kong's busiest streets in the Central and Admiralty districts, paralyzing traffic.
Violent clashes have injured six police officers, according to Hong Kong police.
According to Radio Television Hong Kong, the city's Hospital Authority said as of 9:45 pm Sunday, 26 people had been hospitalized due to the clashes, without identifying them.
Police said they were forced to escalate their action after several warnings and used pepper spray and tear gas to disperse activists intent on forcing their way past police cordons.
Stanley Chan Wing-leung, a Hong Kong-based criminal defense lawyer and former senior inspector of police, believes the police have been restrained in their handling of protesters.
"The police have to prevent further chaos, especially when Monday will be a working day. Hence the situation has left them with no choice but to maintain social order by driving off the protesters," Chan told the Global Times.
Chan believes despite the sudden launch of the protest, the Hong Kong police began preparing for this scenario long ago and have arranged enough manpower to deal with the protests.
The Standing Committee of the National People's Congress (NPC) in August adopted a legal framework for ways to elect Hong Kong's top leader by universal suffrage in 2017.
Some Hong Kong pro-democracy politicians and activists have expressed opposition to the plan for the nomination threshold as they fear it may bar them from running. They threatened to seal off the heart of Hong Kong's financial district as they push their demands for a "genuine" democracy.
The Occupy Central protest was widely expected to begin on Wednesday, the 65th National Day, following a wave of class boycotts organized by university and secondary school students since September 22.
Over 60 people were arrested on Friday night at the student-led rally in support of the class boycotts after hundreds of protesters broke into a restricted area next to the government headquarters.
Riding on the week-long school strikes and protests, Benny Tai Yiu-ting, co-founder of the Occupy Central movement, made an earlier-than-expected announcement at a student-led rally outside the government headquarters in Tamar in the early hours of Sunday morning, kicking off the movement. While some students supported the early launch, others said Occupy Central had hijacked their protest.
"We were summoned by the student leaders but the Occupy Central organizers have hijacked our protest. I think they are just putting on a show," said a student surnamed Lam at the City University of Hong Kong, reported i-Cable TV network.
Another student protester from the Chinese University of Hong Kong surnamed Ho said on the same report that she feared arrest for participating in the Occupy movement which may leave her with a criminal record. Late on Sunday, the Hong Kong Federation of Students called on students to retreat from protests in the heart of the city, reported AFP.
"The early launch was a carefully planned tactic by the Occupy Central organizers. They have manipulated and incited innocent students to break into government headquarters," Stanley Ng Chau-pei, spokesperson of an anti-Occupy Central group, the Alliance for Peace and Democracy, told the Global Times.
Ng said the alliance has recently received complaints from parents that their children have been deceived by the Occupy campaign, which uses their passion and lack of knowledge of the city's political reality.
Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee, a Hong Kong legislator, said extreme measures will produce no positive effect but will only affect the livelihood of Hong Kong society.
"They [the activists] won't be able to change the NPC's decisions by street battles. They must take part in constructive discussions with the government," Ip told the Global Times on Sunday.

Turkey - Beginning of Sharia - Turkey imposes ban on piercings, tattoos in all schools

Turkey’s government has banned all school pupils nationwide from having tattoos or body piercings in a new dress code deemed oppressive and unenforceable, according to the law’s critics.
While tattoos are not widespread among older generations, they have seen a surge in popularity amongst the young and secular sectors of society.
The measure, imposed by the government and published in the Official Gazette on Saturday, also prohibited a number of other things such as dyeing hair, wearing makeup and moustaches and beards for boys, according to local media reports.
Students could be punished through reprimands, suspension or expulsion. If a student fails to get a tattoo removed the punishment is not yet clear.
It shortly follows a previous set of measures which permitted the wearing Muslim headscarves in schools which critics has also denounced as corrosive of Turkey’s secular ideals.
Opponents and critics have said that President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s recent moves constitute steps towards the Islamisation of the country.
Head of the Education Workers Union, Veli Demir said it was unenforceable because tattoos cannot just be taken off like an item of clothing.
“What is going to happen to those (pupils) who already have tattoos? This is not a decision that a reasonable person can take. It is a decision taken without careful thought,” he said as cited by AFP. He said that there will be an appeal to the Council of State over the dress code as it is against the Constitution, the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and decisions of the European Court of Human Rights.
“It is a decision taken by an oppressive mindset. Education is all about contributing to a child's development and protecting them,” he said.
Another education union head however offered some support for the issue, saying that children who already had tattoos would not be subject to the ban.
“There will be a confusion about when the tattoo was done,” he admitted. “I believe that on this issue the school will take the initiative and help the child.”
Erdogan has expressed distaste for tattoos in general, asking a young footballer, Berk Yildiz, in July to remove his and questioning “why do you harm your body?”

US President Barack Obama admits US underestimated the Islamic State

PRESIDENT Barack Obama acknowledged that US intelligence agencies underestimated the threat from Islamic State militants and over-estimated the ability and will of Iraq’s army to fight.
Obama described the US intelligence assessments in response to a question during a CBS 60 Minutes interview. He was asked about how Islamic State fighters had come to control so much territory in Syria and Iraq and whether it was a surprise to him.
The president said that during the Iraq war, US military forces with the help of Iraq’s Sunni tribes were able to quash al-Qaeda fighters, who went “back underground”.
“During the chaos of the Syrian civil war, where essentially you have huge swathes of the country that are completely ungoverned, they were able to reconstitute themselves and take advantage of that chaos,” Obama said, according to an excerpt released before the show aired.
He noted that his director of national intelligence, James Clapper, has acknowledged that the US “underestimated what had been taking place in Syria.” Obama also said it was “absolutely true” that the US over-estimated the ability and will of the Iraqi army. The Obama administration has cited its intelligence weaknesses before.
At an August news conference, Obama said “there is no doubt” that the Islamic State group’s advance “has been more rapid than the intelligence estimates” suggested it would be.
US intelligence agencies, he said, did not have “a full appreciation of the degree to which the Iraqi security forces, when they’re far away from Baghdad, did not have the incentive or the capacity to hold ground against an aggressive adversary.”
At an intelligence conference this month, National Security Agency Director Mike Rogers expressed regret that his agency had not been “a little stronger” in tracking the Islamic State’s shift “from an insurgency to an organisation that was now focused on holding ground, territory, the mechanism of governance.”
Obama called Syria ground zero for jihadis around the world, and said military force was necessary to shrink their capacity, cut off financing and eliminate the flow of foreign fighters.
He had been less adamant about the threat in the past. In an interview published earlier this year by The New Yorker, Obama appeared to minimise the Islamic State group militants by comparing it to a junior varsity basketball team. The White House at the time said he was speaking about a different threat posed by a range of extremists across the world.
Questioning Obama’s strategy to destroy the group, House Speaker John Boehner said the US may have “no choice” but to send in American troops if the mix of US-led air strikes and a ground campaign reliant on Iraqi forces, Kurdish fighters and soon-to-be trained Syrian rebels fails to achieve that goal.
Boehner, in an interview broadcast on Sunday did agree with the White House that Obama had the power to order air strikes in Iraq and Syria, but said he believes Congress should consider a resolution authorising the use of force for this specific mission. Boehner said he would bring lawmakers back to Washington - they are not set to return until after the November 4 election - if Obama were to seek such a resolution.
The White House pushed back against Boehner’s comments on ABC’s “This Week” about the potential need for American ground troops to confront the militants.
Asked whether he would recommend sending in Americans if no one else was able to step up, Boehner said, “We have no choice. These are barbarians. They intend to kill us. And if we don’t destroy them first, we’re going to pay the price.” But Obama’s deputy national security adviser, Tony Blinken, said the country would not see a repeat of the Iraq war. “Hundreds of thousands of Americans on the ground in the Middle East getting bogged down, that’s exactly what al-Qaeda wants,” Blinken said. “That’s not what we’re going to do.”

Video - A New York welcome for Modi in Madison Square Garden

PPP Chairperson Bilawal Bhutto appeals to PPP sympathizers
To those whose heart beats with the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) but feel let down for any reason; first of all, allow me to apologize personally for letting you down. We do not claim to be perfect, we acknowledge mistakes have been made in the past and are committed to reforming and re-earning your trust. In the interim period, if you are considering supporting another political party, please choose wisely. Do not punish Pakistan or its democracy for my shortcomings. Please do not support anti-democratic parties or political parties who appease extremism. Pakistan has enough right wing, dictatorship-loving & TTP-appeasing political parties. If you are frustrated with the party, I would like to suggest more productive ways to do legitimate opposition. The PPP is a democratic party and all internal dissent is welcome. The best way to influence the PPP party policy is to join us, and bring change to both the party and the country from within. If party policy is unacceptable to you, and you are considering joining another party, I would suggest joining pro-democracy and pro-people political parties in Pakistan. The PPP welcomes & encourages other left wing political parties to join the political process. In fact, if any former sympathizers are looking to attend a political event today I would suggest attending the ‪AWP Congress in Islamabad. No one can claim to have once supported Shaheed Zulfikar Ali Bhutto or Shaheed Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto but today support either dictatorship or extremism. I look forward both to earning your trust and proving that the Pakistan People’s Party is the only party that can deliver us a peaceful, prosperous and progressive Pakistan. ‪Jiya Bhutto‬ ‎Pakistan Zindabad‬

Pakistan : Four Muslim Gang Rape 15 Year Old Christian Girl for Video Clips

On September 15, 2014, a fifteen year old Christian girl, Monaza Bibi, was gang raped by four young Muslim turn by turn and they made Mobile video Clip in Deera Sindha Kalan Village of Sialkot.
The Police registered FIR. No.646/14 under sections 476/114 PPC against the two rapists on the complaint of Gang Rape victim's father, named Mubarak Masih. The Police and the some influential local Muslim pressurized the victim family to exempt the other two rapists and did not mention their names in the complaint otherwise ready for dire consequences. The Police completed the Challan speedily and sent the two arrested rapist in judicial lockup so that the police could be successful to save other two rapists.
Advocate Sardar Mushtaq Gill,human rights defender ,who heads LEAD, was informed and being requested by Tariq Seraj (Advocate) from last week to defend the victim family and follow the case for legal assistance and support, but due to shortage of funds Mr. Gill refused to take this case. On September 20 to 25, 2014, Mr. Gill was requested a number of times and yesterday with the financial support of some supporters of LEAD, Mr. Gill headed to meet the victim family along with his team including main legal advisor of LEAD Mr. Aric John (Advocate). Mr. Gill made assured the victim family for legal assistance and possible support for them and prayed for the victim girl and her family.
The father of gang rape victim girl told that they were yet being threatened by the accused family members and they were also being pressurized for compromise with the culprits. Mr. Gill along with his team and the father of victim girl went to the concerned Police Station and met with Investigator Officer and SHO of the Police Station. The father of victim girl got registered a new complaint about the threats and the pressure which is being developed by the rapists' relatives and other influential Local Muslim. The SHO made assured to take immediate legal action against them.
The SHO also made it confirmed that the rapists made some mobile video clip which is the part of evidence and the concerned investigator included Mobile and memory card in the Police Challan for evidence.
"It is our obligation as Christians to help and save the girls who have been gang raped and sexually assaulted," said Mr. Gill. He further added that is is very disturbing for him that the rapists gang raped turn by turn and made video clip. This is really the horrific act of the rapists.
In Pakistan rape is used as an instrument of arbitrary power over Christian girls, who come from poor and marginalized families. It is a form of violence that wants to reiterate the submission to Muslims. The rest of society is not outraged because the victims mostly belong to religious minorities, who are the most vulnerable. It is very sad to share that rarely rapists are punished. Furthermore, rape victims face terrible difficulties; they do not receive adequate medical treatment for sexual assault. A number of girls are traumatized and become depressed and in need of psychological assistance.
LEAD encourages you, and those in your local church, to speak out on behalf of persecuted Pakistani Christians and pray for them, including young girls, who are constantly at risk of being victimized through the injustice and sexual abuse. We at LEAD request to stand with us morally and physically and also pray for the safety of all believers and LEAD team in Pakistan.

Pakistan Is Building Smaller Nukes, But They Just Might Be More Dangerous

Pakistan is likely working to create tactical nuclear weapons, which are smaller warheads built for use on battlefields rather than cities or infrastructure. These weapons are diminutive enough to be launched from warships or submarines, which makes them easier to use on short notice than traditional nuclear weapons.
Developing tactical nuclear weapons calls for miniaturization of current weaponry (the "Davy Crockett," developed by the US in the '50s, was designed to launch from a simple tripod). But as The Washington Post reports, analysts are divided on whether Pakistan will be able to make warheads tiny enough for sea-launching.
There's less uncertainty about the military advantage gained with such weapons. A warhead-toting navy would allow Pakistan to stay nuclear-capable regardless of what happens to its homeland, where its nuclear infrastructure is spread out.
The trade-off there, for both Pakistan and the world, is that nuclear missiles become more likely to fall into rogue hands, whether those of a maverick military commander or extremist groups. At a land-based facility, a hijacker would need "to commandeer two separate facilities, with two separate security procedures and local commanders," Jonah Blank, a political scientist with the RAND Corporation, wrote in an email to Business Insider. "For a sea-based nuclear device, a rogue operator would need only to commandeer one asset: A submarine or surface vessel." Other safeguards exist - US submarines, for instance, require complex codes before permitting a nuclear offensive - but faster access still simplifies one factor in a high-stake equation.
Historically, deterrence and the stability it brings is often the salutary result of rivals with equal nuclear capability. It's also Pakistan's stated goal. Last September a statement from a meeting of the National Command Authority (which directs nuclear policy and development) said Pakistan is developing "a full-spectrum deterrence capability to deter all forms of aggression." The meeting was presided by Pakistani prime minister Nawaz Sharif.
"India has what's called the triad, the ability to launch nuclear weapons form air, land, and now soon by sea. Pakistan is looking for the same," Arif Rafiq, a researcher at the Middle East Institute, told Business Insider. He believes nuclear parity between the countries has achieved deterrence. "Since India and Pakistan tested nuclear weapons in 1998, there has been a greater level of restraint in terms of the behavior of both countries when it comes to war," Rafiq said. "They've advanced their nuclear arsenal but they've also taken significant steps towards normalizing relations."
While nuclear weapons can be beneficial, Rafiq doesn't exactly applaud them: "Having one nuclear warhead is something that's terrible enough for this world," he said.

Militants In Afghanistan, Pakistan Claiming Allegiance To IS

By Charles Recknagel
A mid fears the Islamic State (IS) extremist group could expand to Afghanistan, there are already signs that some militants in the region are eager to claim affiliation with the group.
One sign came this week in a video sent to RFE/RL's Radio Free Afghanistan that shows three purported Afghan militants, their faces covered, sitting beneath the black IS battle flag.
Speaking in the Ghazni dialect of Pashto, the trio's spokesperson claimed to represent a group called the Islamic Organization of Great Afghanistan and stated his readiness to fight for the IS and its "caliph," Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.
The unidentified spokesperson called for all militants in Afghanistan, the Pashtun tribal areas in Pakistan, and in the Baluch areas of Pakistan and Iran to join together under the IS banner.
At times, however, he appeared as much focused on his own nationalistic agenda as the Islamic State's goal of uniting all Muslim lands in a new caliphate. He repeatedly called for attacks on the "Punjabi state" of Pakistan and accused the Afghan Taliban's leaders of working for Islamabad's interests, while praising IS as the only power able to "free" his countrymen.
The video was sent a week after an anonymous caller contacted Radio Free Afghanistan's correspondent in Ghazni Province and claimed to represent the IS militant group in Afghanistan. Although intended to reinforce the caller's claim, the video did not offer any details as to the size or strength of the group behind it.
That makes is impossible to know whether the group in the video has a direct link to the Islamic State's leadership. But its use of IS symbols and the reverence with which the spokesperson refers to the group does offer a measure of how much name recognition IS now has in the region and of its potential for expansion.
'Slightly Outdated Model'
Some intelligence services believe IS is actively seeking new members in Afghanistan.
A Russian diplomat in Afghanistan said this week that some of his sources report that IS has already opened an office, though he did not say where.
"We know that about a hundred [IS] members have penetrated there," Zamir Kabulov, special representative in Afghanistan for Russian President Valdimir Putin, told Interfax on September 23.
"As I understand it, [IS] views the Taliban or even Al-Qaeda as a conservative and slightly outdated model," Kabulov said. "They present themselves as a new ideology, which is more offensive, aggressive, and advanced."
If IS does turn eastward, it will likely come into competition with the Taliban, currently the dominant militant movement in the region. The competition could be both for first-time recruits and for seasoned fighters.
A commander in the Hizb-i-Islami group, which fights alongside the Taliban in Afghanistan, told the BBC last week that he was "sure" his leadership would announce allegiance to IS. It was not clear whether the commander, named Mirwais, was speaking for himself alone or for others.
Reuters reported last week that a splinter group of Pakistan's Taliban insurgents, Jamat-ul Ahrar, also was ready to consider invitations to join IS.
"IS is an Islamic jihadi organization working for the implementation of the Islamic system and creation of the caliphate," Ehsanullah Ehsan, Jamat-ul Ahrar's leader and a prominent Taliban figure, told Reuters on September 7. "We respect them. If they ask us for help, we will look into it and decide."
Refugee Camp Recruitment
Meanwhile, there are signs some groups already are trying to recruit for IS in refugee camps in Pakistan.
A 12-page pamphlet emblazoned with the Islamic State group's black flag and written in both Pashto and Dari was distributed earlier this month in camps near Peshawar, the capital of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Province. The camps house refugees from Afghanistan and from Pakistan's restive tribal regions.
Reuters quotes Sameeulah Hanifi, a prayer leader in Peshawar, as saying the pamphlets were distributed by a little-known local group called Islami Khalifat, an outspoken IS supporter.
By moving into South and Central Asia, IS would be following home the many recruits from the region who currently are fighting with the group in Syria and Iraq.
Iran said recently it had arrested Afghan and Pakistani citizens trying to join IS in Syria and Iraq. The BBC quotes Interior Minister Abdolreza Rahmani as saying on September 8 that the men planned to cross Iran but did not specify their number or where they were arrested.
Similarly, dozens of militants from Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan are reported to have made the journey through Turkey to Syria to join extremist groups battling the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

Pakistani exiles speak out about country's religious extremism

By Susan Mahoney
While much of the world is currently focused on the threat posed by ISIS, a Pakistani couple living in exile in the United States continues to speak out about the heavy cost of Islamic fundamentalism in their homeland.
Husain Haqqani and Farahnaz Ispahani have spent their careers fighting to improve the lives of their fellow Pakistanis. Ms. Ispahani is a journalist and was a member of the Pakistani parliament, while Haqqani, her husband, was Pakistan's ambassador to the U.S. from 2008 to 2011.
They are both passionate advocates of liberal, secular values, democracy and the rule of law – and it has cost them.
Both have received numerous death threats. Ispahani says that when her father was ill and dying, she could not go home because of threats from the Sunni militant group Lashkar-e-Jhangvi.
Haqqani was forced to resign as ambassador in 2011 over allegations that he had sought U.S. help to head off a possible military coup, while Ispahani was stripped of her seat in parliament, ostensibly because she holds dual U.S.-Pakistani citizenship.
They now live in Washington, D.C., where Haqqani is director for South and Central Asia at the Hudson Institute and Ispahani was, up until recently, a public policy scholar at the Wilson Center. A few years ago the couple was included in Foreign Policy magazine's list of "Top 100 Global Thinkers,” for "pushing tough love for their troubled country."
They both say religious violence in Pakistan is on the rise. Suicide bombings, so-called “honour killings” and assassinations of members of the media, the judiciary and politicians accused of blasphemy have become so common as to be almost routine.
“Time is running out,” says Ispahani in an interview with Michael Enright on CBC Radio's The Sunday Edition. “It is escalating to a point where the state can’t stop it if they wanted to.”
‘Every world leader’s worst nightmare’
In addition to being unable to prevent sectarian violence, successive Pakistani governments have failed to provide their citizens with basic necessities. About two-thirds of Pakistan's nearly 200 million people live on less than two dollars a day. And of course, Pakistan has the bomb.
All this makes for a combustible mix. As former CBC foreign correspondent Brian Stewart once put it, “The mere thought of Pakistan boiling over into unpredictable chaos is every world leader’s worst nightmare.” Many commentators regard it as “the most dangerous nation in the world.”
In recent months, Pakistan has been embroiled in a political crisis. Former cricket star Imran Khan and Canadian cleric Tahir ul-Qadri have been leading crowds of protesters through the streets of Islamabad, the capital, demanding the resignation of Pakistan’s current prime minister, Nawaz Sharif.
Although Haqqani and Ispahani are not political allies of Mr. Sharif, they deplore the attempt to topple a democratically elected government.
“They are tapping into the people’s overall unhappiness at the government’s inability to supply basic services," says Ispahani, who has written a forthcoming book about religious violence in Pakistan.
“But it is an orchestrated protest, designed to clip the wings of an elected civilian government. My husband and I come from a different political background to Mr. Sharif, so we don’t have any personal interest in supporting him. But we do support him.”
Ispahani and Haqqani point to Pakistan’s military, with its emphasis on an almost permanent state of war with India, as the cause of many of the country’s problems, including religious extremism.
“The Pakistan military created jihadi groups to fight in India and in Kashmir. But during what I call their 'off-season,' when they’re not fighting elsewhere, these jihadi groups turn their focus back home," says Ispahani. "Some like killing Shias, some like killing Ahmadis, Hindus, Christians, Sikhs. The Pakistani military has created a monster. Because they need them sometimes, they can’t turn them on and off at will.”
‘Baying for blood’
Ispahani also blames "mob rule."
“No one has been put to death for the blasphemy laws by the state. But the number of people who have been targeted, murdered, burnt alive by mobs baying for blood, is huge. That’s why I believe what Mr. Khan and Mr. Qadri are doing is so dangerous. They are conflating Islam and the anger of the youth about corruption and no jobs – and unleashing it.”
The couple agree that the West can have influence in Pakistan, by tying aid and business relationships to human rights.
“The rest of the world should not be doing business with a country where leaders like former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto and countless others have been killed. There has been no human rights qualification. That is what we wish,” says Ispahani.
“The relationship with the west has been one of dependence, deception and defiance," says Haqqani, whose most recent book is called Magnificent Delusions: Pakistan, the United States and an Epic History of Misunderstanding.
"I support engagement and economic assistance for the poor in Pakistan. But most of the aid has gone for primarily military purposes. The international community needs to stop allowing Pakistan’s officials and its government to sell them a bill of goods, and get away with saying aid money is going to help the poor.” “Pakistan is at that last moment where either reform comes, or we go further down the slippery slope," says Haqqani.
“I would love to go back to Pakistan if I didn’t feel physically threatened, I would like to make these arguments to my countrymen at home."

Pakistan: Blasphemy again | The broken justice system

Waqqas Mir
Muhammad Asghar is the latest victim of the Pakistani vigilantism motivated by religion. He was shot by a policeman. Rewind a few days and witness something similar in Karachi: a liberal Islamic scholar shot to death after he had been accused of blasphemy by his colleagues.
You should all turn to the person next to you in the street, in your neighborhood, in your workplaces to thank her that he has not accused you of blasphemy — yet.
Whatever you do in this country, no matter how powerful you may be, there is one basic and cold fact that you cannot escape: all someone needs to do to end your life, as you know it, is to accuse you of blasphemy. From the moment you are accused of this offence, regardless of whether you are actually charged, the clock starts ticking. You live on borrowed time. Each day that you live is because the ‘pure’ ones are feeling magnanimous.
Once a person is accused, he can try anything — it will not work. We can beg the accuser for mercy, plead insanity, plead innocence, and explain the context of what was said or heard. None of that matters. All that matters is this: the allegation is all the proof someone needs to kill you. The state is as helpless as you.
More and more people seem to have decided that courts are a mere nuisance and the only real evidence of love and respect for any religious figure is to take matters of life and death in your own hands — more importantly, the only real evidence of love is to take someone’s life. Then there are those who go a step further and kill themselves too.
Bigotry and violence create their own agency. This results in a situation where the state and its so-called monopoly over violence is not even half the story. Pakistan is a classic case. The debate about the ‘law of blasphemy’ largely misses the point. The role of the state is often similar to yours and mine: we are helpless on-lookers.
Organising seminars or using donor money to talk about the law of blasphemy in a free speech context when it comes to Pakistan is not going to get us anywhere. You don’t have to like this fact. You just have to live with it. It is not only naïve, it is also irresponsible. You cannot expect any politician to even discuss tweaking the law on anything related to religion and stay alive. There is a space that needs to be created first.
The problem is simple: most people are missing the point.
The problem is also not the law on the books. Every state has a legitimate interest in prohibiting or punishing, partially or wholly, categories of speech that it deems undesirable. This includes pornography, defamation, incitement to violence, ‘fighting words’ etc. The problem is the state and mindset of the citizens who think they are bound to ignore the law of the land and take it into their own hands.
Let me explain how.
A broken justice system works both ways here. The accuser feels that the justice system is broken, so the person accused of blasphemy will be able to get away. The accused, on the other hand, feels that the system is hopeless at every level, ranging from investigation to even physical protection of the accused. The state does not know how to prosecute or exonerate someone without endangering lives. The judges hearing these cases begin fearing for their lives if someone is not pronounced guilty. The lawyers representing the accused, if any lawyers come forward that is, live on borrowed time too. But the judicial verdict or outcome is not the one that matters. A result, quite logical if you follow how systems work, is that a new power broker steps in to fill the void left by the state. That power broker is currently the violent mindset — the champions of vigilante violence; something the state is doing nothing to change. And it cannot change it — for it lacks capacity and even the intestinal fortitude.
None of this is meant to absolve those practicing vigilante justice. Those who attack or kill people in the name of avenging blasphemy challenge the authority of the state. They must be dealt with harshly. However, even if you are someone who believes that the law is the problem and you somehow pretend that the law does not exist, no problem will be solved. Vigilante violence will still take place. The state has not even entered the arena where it really matters: conducting a discourse. And it will not do this in my lifetime at least. The reason is that a state will only act against violence that threatens it. Right now the state thinks this violence will not turn towards the state. And even if it does, it can be controlled. “So what? The state could argue. “A few people die each year in vigilante violence because of blasphemy related charges. We try to protect them, we fail. But what do you want us to do? Say or do something which brings out all the hornets?” But the state is wrong. This is Pakistan, a Muslim majority state where religion is your license to do everything, and more importantly, a cover for everything. It gives people the power to slit throats and to pronounce minority sects as those worthy of nothing but death. One day, long after we are gone, historians will analyse how Pakistan shot herself in the foot — and let herself bleed to the brink of death. But that day is not now. In today’s Pakistan, be grateful for the life that you have and do everything you can, in your own little way, to challenge the mindset that threatens each one of us.
In one way, it is only a matter of time so why not do all that we can?

Balochistan: From Pillar to Post

By Hammal Baloch
If one is to commit the blasphemy of dismissing the vacuous references to the ‘Balochistan’s peculiar traditions, every now and then flaunted by the powers that be, it is already one of the worst places on earth for women.
A decade long insurgency and a growing dependency of its women on the male members of their families to negotiate with modernity, coupled with negligible opportunities for participation in public sphere, have come together to exact enormous miseries on women of Balochistan. More so in the rural areas of Baloch inhabited districts of the province, where Pakistan’s military and Baloch separatists have their horns locked for quite some time now.
It is not to deny that spare a few, the majority of ordinary people in the province are forced to lead a life under repression. However, it is the women of Balochistan who have suffered the most. Too many of them have lost sons and husbands to a bloody war that has been underway for the last one decade, grief stricken yet condemned to carry on and fend for themselves and their families.
The missing persons saga continues to contribute to their miseries, as well. For example, in the households where men have gone missing, the women have been forced to take charge. For them the drudgery of routine has coincided with the agony of a missing family member — often the bread winner of the household. Nevertheless, they have shown tremendous resilience, both publicly and privately.
From marching long distances for the recovery of their loved ones to organising protest rallies and sit-in camps; the women seem to be making inroads into the space that has so far been exclusively reserved for men. Obviously, this new trend has more to do with compulsion rather than choice. As a matter of fact, Zar Jan, the wife of Zahid Kurd, has been running from pillar to post for the past two months to learn the fate of her missing husband. While the likes of Farzana Majeed continue to shuttle between courts and press clubs without any respite.
A chain of recent events indicates that the women in Balochistan better brace themselves for even worse. It is unfortunate that it takes as horrifying events as of last month — when unknown men threw acid on the faces of six women shoppers in the bazars of Quetta and Mastung — to remind us of the hardships of women in Balochistan. As a matter of fact, stakes in Balochistan are so high that it looks crass to point out the plight of individuals amid competing grand narratives of national rights and national interest. It is thus high politics that has come to define and dominate the lives of people of Balochistan.
Regardless of the twisted rationale that prompted these horrendous attacks, one is dumbfounded by the callousness meted to the women here on a daily basis. They have to face a retrogressive social order at one level and bear with a state that has chosen to stay stern and stoic to their miseries. Despite claims of the incumbent provincial government that things have improved, there is overwhelming evidence that nothing substantial has changed.
The forced closure of co-ed schools in Makkuran region and the recent attacks on women in the northern parts of Balochistan, appear to be two manifestations of the single grand design to repress its already beleaguered women. The people of Balochistan have seen more than their fair share of brutality — particularly the women, but sadly their woes fail to attract much concern.
Serious violations as the recent acid attacks, at maximum manage to engender dull references to ‘Balochistan’s peculiar traditions’ and fangless condemnations. Ironically, theriwayat mantra is most frequently invoked by the quarters that claim to practice pro-people politics, i.e nationalists. The riwayat-response is not merely superficial, it is problematic for other reasons as well: for one, it portrays an image of people living in Balochistan as trapped in a time warp, unchanging, and following esoteric codes to conduct their lives; as if prior to the attack, everything was nice and good and in accordance with those rules. By extension it means that the normal course of conduct, in this case the treatment of women, is perfectly fine. Furthermore, the riwayat-line effectively discourages rational inquiry into the existing social arrangement. As a result it unwittingly or wittingly upholds the status quo.
Such attacks, more than anything else, should provide us with the opportunity to do some soul searching: as any serious attempt to rectify the situation, would require intellectual conceptions that go beyond traditional and simplistic recourses. And it’s only then that the roots of deep sexism that afflicts Baloch society today can be unearthed. But again, that’s not going to happen when there is a war going on.

Pakistan - Drone strike kills two suspected militants in South Waziristan

The Express Tribune
At least two suspected militants were killed and one injured when drones fired missiles at a compound in Karezai Pal, Wana, South Waziristan Agency on Sunday, Express News reported.
“A US drone fired two missiles at a vehicle and at least two militants were killed and one was wounded,” a senior security official told AFP on condition of anonymity.
“The militants had just parked their vehicle outside the main gate of a compound and had asked for drinking water from inside. Just when they were drinking water standing on the road, drones fired two missiles.”
Their identities were not known but initial information indicated that they were not locals, the official added. A militant source who called AFP from an unknown location also confirmed the missile strike and casualties. This is the second drone strike this month and the first in the South Waziristan Agency this year.
On September 24, at least 10 suspected militants, including foreign fighters, were killed and two injured in a US predator strike in North Waziristan Agency.

Pakistan - Islamic Studies Only Please - ‘objectionable material’

The PTI government in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa has decided to remove ‘objectionable material’ from primary school textbooks to please the Jamaat-i-Islami. While our national curriculum needs heavy revision, JI as the news author is probably not the direction we want to go in. JI has reservations over pictures of minor girls without dupatta, Christmas cakes, an ambulance crosses and other petty things that they would like to micro manage. A primary school child learning the phrase “Good morning” is now offensive to these men, and as a nation we need to decide how much religion we want to institutionalise. If these changes were made for the preservation of the Pakistani culture, one would still understand. But this is imposition of religion, and we already have religious education as a subject, and Urdu and Pakistan Studies are already rife with religious stories and sermons.
The previous ANP government had revised some of the curriculum to remove overtly religious sermonising. They had replaced some Islamic topics and personalities with Ranjit Singh, Raja Dahir and Abdul Ghaffar Khan to acquaint children with local heroes. Also included in the syllabus were lessons on human rights and tolerance, while hate material and harsh sentiments against non-Muslims were removed. Most of JI’s demands have been met and much secular content will be removed. Additionally, there will be the inclusion of Quranic verses in chemistry, physics and biology.
While many want Pakistan to change into a tolerant and progressive country, myopic conservatism has a tight grip on the minds of our children. What should have been objectionable to a political party is how our textbooks target minority faith groups, how the entirety of a woman’s existence is to be a mother and homemaker, how the history of the people of the subcontinent starts with the Arab hero, Muhammad Bin Qasim, how science never even touches on evolution and chapters on reproduction are missing or censored. We have been immature and cowardly about how we have handled the content of our children’s education and we can never progress if they are not taught the basic lessons of tolerance and diversity. While the story of Khan Abdul Ghaffar will be left out of books, little girls will now wear dupattas and hijabs to the satisfaction of bearded men. Kudos to the KP government. Will we hear Imran talk about this kind of education at his Lahore jalsa today? Of course not. This is the only kind of compromising he seems to believe in.

Pakistan: Blast at Hangu IDP camp leaves seven dead

At least seven people died and 11 others were injured in a blast at displaced persons' camp in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa's Tog Sarai area of Hangu.
The injured were immediately taken to District Headquarters Hospital for treatment.
Police sources said Sunday the bomb explosion occurred inside Mohammad Khawaja IDPs camp bazaar where the tribesmen from Orakzai Agency were residing.
Deputy Superintended of Police (DSP) Hangu Falak Nawaz told Dawn that the explosion was caused by a remote controlled improvised explosive device (IED).
The explosive was planted on a motorcycle, District Police Officer (DPO) Anwar Saeed Kundi added.
Security personnel were immediately sent to the site.
Hangu, racked by sectarian violence, had been on the frontline of a seven-year-long Taliban insurgency borders the semi-autonomous Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata).
It also borders the northwestern tribal region of Orakzai, one of Pakistan's seven lawless districts on the Afghan border considered to be the hub of Taliban and Al Qaeda-linked militants.