Thursday, November 6, 2014
Damascus has asked Moscow to accelerate the delivery process of S-300 anti-aircraft missiles, citing concerns over a possible US offensive. Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem made the remarks in an interview with Lebanon's al-Akhbar newspaper which was published on Thursday. Despite the US pledges that the airstrikes against ISIL would not affect the Syrian army, we still feel the need to prepare ourselves in case of being targeted, he added. “We are aware that US President Barack Obama, for internal reasons, wants to avoid war with Syria ... but we do not know how Obama will act, under mounting pressure, which will be more effective if the Republicans manage to win a majority in the US midterm elections,” said the Syrian official prior to Tuesday's polls in the US, which put the Republicans in control of both chambers of Congress. "Therefore, we have to be ready. This is what we have explained frankly to the Russians, and asked them to use this time to provide us with advanced weaponry," Muallem added. This is while Russian President Vladimir Putin without citing any reason announced in September 2013 that the delivery of S-300 missiles to Syria had been suspended. Syria has been grappling with a deadly crisis since March 2011. The violence fuelled by Takfiri groups has so far claimed the lives of nearly 200,000 people, according to reports. Since late September, the US and its allies have been conducting airstrikes against the ISIL inside Syria without any authorization from Damascus or a UN mandate. This is while many of the parties to the so-called anti-ISIL alliance have been among the major supporters of the Takfiri terrorists working to topple the Syrian government since 2011.
The U.S. military takes out terrorist leaders around the world, but it's been unable to cut the head off of the Islamic State.The United States and its coalition partners have conducted close to 800 airstrikes against Islamic State targets in Iraq and Syria, hitting command-and-control facilities, training compounds, armored vehicles, oil refineries, supply trucks, artillery pieces, and bunkers. But there's a notable absence from the target list: the Islamic State's top leaders. Since the Obama administration's bombing campaign began in Iraq on Aug. 8, the United States has not conducted what's called a "decapitation strike," an attack specifically aimed at taking out a member of the Islamic State's senior military commanders. The tactic's absence from the military campaign is particularly glaring because hunting high-value militants has become a cornerstone of the Obama administration's counterterrorism strategy in other parts of the world. In his Sept. 10 speech unveiling his campaign against the Islamic State, President Barack Obama said his plan to fight the militant group, which is also known as ISIL, would be similar to the approach used in Yemen and Somalia, where the United States has taken out "terrorists who threaten us, while supporting partners on the front lines." But according to a U.S. defense official, none of the airstrikes conducted so far have been "intended to cut the head off the snake." A September airstrike in Mosul reportedly took out a top aide to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the Islamic State's leader, but the U.S. military has not confirmed the death of Abu Hajar al-Sufi. Hundreds of Islamic State fighters are believed to have been killed after months of U.S. bombing, but none of the group's other top leaders have reportedly died in an airstrike. Still, while the United States has yet to target the group's leadership, military officials hint that such strikes are coming. "Without talking about potential future operations, we've long said it is important to disrupt ISIL's ability to lead, command, and control its forces and, broadly speaking, I can assure you we will continue to conduct targeted airstrikes in Syria and Iraq against ISIL as necessary," said U.S. Central Command spokesman Maj. Curtis J. Kellogg. The wait is partly due to resources. Going after high-value individuals is time-consuming and labor-intensive, and the demand for surveillance and reconnaissance drones is already high, especially while the United States still has so many troops still stationed in Afghanistan. "As the campaign against ISIL matures, and the U.S. brings in more resources to support the Iraqis, there will be an increased focus on high-value individual targeting," the defense official told FP. But the United States has to find the Islamic State's leaders before it can try to take them out, and this is also going to require more human intelligence from sources on the ground. The need for precise information is particularly vital because many potential militant targets work in or travel through major population centers like the northern Iraqi city of Mosul, which means that an errant strike could cause significant civilian casualties. Thomas Sanderson, a senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said the United States is trying to build the networks of relationships needed to collect human intelligence in Iraq and Syria, but it's difficult work. During the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan over the last decade, U.S. military officers were out in villages, overseeing civil works projects that created goodwill and building rapport with locals, who would then be more willing to share information, he said. But the relationships built in Iraq over the last decade were not maintained when U.S. troops left in 2011. With their departure, U.S. spies largely left the country, too. U.S. special operations forces and other intelligence officials are trying to build these contacts now, but on a much smaller scale and under very different circumstances. In Iraq, the U.S. military can rely somewhat on the intelligence sources of the Iraqi security forces, but in Syria there are even fewer reliable relationships. One exception is in Kobani, the Syrian-Turkish border town where the United States is working with the Syrian Kurdish fighters there to identify Islamic State targets to bomb. "The same thing is needed to hunt down Baghdadi," Sanderson said. "When you kill the leader, it demonstrates that anyone is vulnerable." Since the airstrikes began, the Islamic State has predictably adapted its behavior, hiding fighters among local populations in towns and cities, scaling back its use of electronic communications, and no longer moving in the open in big formations. They have gone to ground inside cities and this makes decapitation strikes very difficult," said David E. Johnson, a military expert at the Rand Corp. "You can't kill them if you can't find them." The Islamic State has both a large area in which to operate and access to cities where its leaders can hide among the population, which further complicates targeting them without killing civilians. But even if the United States had all of the intelligence it needs, there are questions about the wisdom of this approach, said Colin Clarke, who focuses on counterterrorism and irregular warfare at Rand. There is a long-standing debate over whether these kinds of strikes introduce more problems than they solve. For example, they create martyrs who are then used for recruitment purposes. Plus, civilians are often inadvertently killed and this drives up popular support for the targeted group. Israel has assassinated several of Hamas's top commanders over the last decade, often through airstrikes that have sometimes also killed civilians, including children. The strikes have dealt significant blows to the group's leadership, but they have also bolstered public support for Hamas. In addition to legal and moral questions, there is also the strategic problem of killing an established leader and having him be replaced by an unknown quantity. "When you take out a leader, you run the risk of creating your own intelligence blind spot," Clarke said. "It's about the devil you know versus the devil you don't know." Figuring out Baghdadi's role within the organization is likely a big focus of the intelligence hunt right now, Clarke said. Is he the lynchpin of the group? How does the network operate? Who are the real power brokers? "Despite the vast amount of publicity and analysis [the Islamic State] has generated since 2011, verifiable facts concerning its leadership and structure remain few and far between," said a recent report from the Soufan Group, a security and intelligence company. For the moment, Baghdadi holds a position of "unchallenged authority," the report says. "He has not needed to be a visionary or a natural leader, just strong enough to impose his will more effectively than anyone else." His location is unknown, but he is believed to run the Islamic State from its stronghold in Raqqa, Syria, "though spending time also in Mosul," according to the Soufan Group. His first public appearance was in July, when he led a prayer service at Mosul's Great Mosque, an audacious move for himself and the group. His two deputies -- Abu Muslim al-Turkmani and Abu Ali al-Anbari -- were formerly members of the Iraqi Baath party. Turkmani is "reported to have been a senior Special Forces officer and a member of military intelligence," the Soufan Group's report says. The effectiveness of a U.S. strike against Baghdadi would partly depend on how much power he delegates to these deputies and his other commanders. If Baghdadi's successor is clearly delineated, then removing him would have less of an impact. Clarke said the lack of drone strikes against Islamic State leaders is most likely due to a lack of human intelligence and deliberation over what effects such strikes will have. "Both things are confounding the administration right now," Clarke said.
President Obama refused on Wednesday to submit to the Republican narrative that his presidency effectively ended with the midterm elections. He said he will not agree to the repeal of health care reform, as many Republicans demand. He will not sit around doing nothing while they look for the courage to enact immigration reform. He will continue to demand a higher minimum wage and new spending on public works, and expansion of early education programs. “Obviously, Republicans had a good night,” he said, a quiet admission that his party got drubbed, losing control of the Senate, as well as at least 14 House seats. But he said he hopes to meet regularly with Republican leaders and work on areas where there is mutual agreement. The tone of the questions at his post-mortem news conference suggested that that wasn’t enough. There were demands that he take personal responsibility for the Democratic losses, or exhibit public contrition, or describe exactly where he plans to give in to Republican demands. He was right to ignore all of that, and instead he got directly to heart of Tuesday’s message from the public: “What’s most important to the American people right now, the resounding message not just of this election, but basically the last several is: Get stuff done,” he said. “Don’t worry about the next election. Don’t worry about party affiliation. Do worry about our concerns.” Republicans ran on no message except that Mr. Obama was always wrong, and voters on Tuesday said they were angry with the country’s direction and political gridlock, taking their fury out on the president’s party because he is in charge. (As he noted, two-thirds of eligible voters didn’t even show up.) Under those circumstances, Mr. Obama was justified in sticking with what he called “the principles that we’re fighting for,” which got him elected twice: creating job opportunity by expanding the economy, the top issue on the minds of most voters. There is no need to backtrack on goals like a higher minimum wage or expanded health insurance when most voters say they want those things. But Mr. Obama said there were several areas where he thinks agreement could be reached with Republicans, and several of them were the same ones outlined by Senator Mitch McConnell, who will be the new majority leader, in his post-election news conference. One is a trade agreement with Pacific nations, which he said would help open those markets to American goods. (Though it needs to include strong labor and environmental regulations.) Another is corporate tax reform that would eliminate many deductions and breaks, though unfortunately Republicans continue to insist on applying any revenues generated toward reducing corporate tax rates rather than using that revenue on federal projects that would create new jobs.
Mr. Obama also said he would request $6.2 billion to fight the spread of Ebola and would ask Congress to formally authorize the military action against the Islamic State. Mr. McConnell seems open to cooperation on these issues, saying he would work with the White House on trade and corporate taxes and wants to hear its requests on Ebola and the Islamic State.Immigration is a different story. Mr. Obama said that, if Republicans continued to block a reform bill, he would take executive action to improve the immigration system before the end of the year. Mr. McConnell warned that any such action would “poison the well” for legislation. Mr. McConnell also promised continued divisiveness over regulations on business and the energy industry through demands made in spending bills, and he vowed to take action against big pieces of the health care reform law, including the individual mandate. Mr. Obama said he would never agree to end the mandate, which would gut the health law, and there is no reason he should. Voters said they wanted the two parties to stop bickering and work harder, not erase the progress made in the last six years.
Republicans successfully tamed their Tea Party fringe and ran against Obama, but some Democrats are ruing caution, negativity and misjudged campaign themesThe Republican party’s capture of the Senate was down largely to its leadership’s defeat of two enemies who were not even on the midterm ballot: first, an unruly Tea Party wing that threatened to displace more disciplined candidates in primary elections, and; second, the president of the United States, whose growing unpopularity in swing states was exploited with $2bn worth of campaign attacks. Recriminations among Democrats are likely to take longer to unravel. Should Barack Obama have taken more of a lead in defending his record, even if candidates wanted distance from him? Was he wrong to seek credit for improving economic figures when so many Americans are still struggling? Or did negative campaigns and cautious messaging by moderate incumbents turn off the party’s base and keep Democratic voters at home? Among those on the left of the party, the answer is all of the above. “It’s shocking, but only in magnitude,” said one senior union official on Wednesday. “When the economy is bad and one party says the economy is bad (though offers no ideas) while the other party’s leader says the economy is good, it’s kinda clear who will win.” Yet the official Democratic narrative is more likely to be written by members of Hillary Clinton’s camp, who privately agree with many Republicans that Obama’s competency in office is at the core of the problem. Some of the prominent Republicans expected to be potential opponents in any 2016 presidential run are already racing to instead link her to defeated Democrats such as Alison Lundergan Grimes, claiming the heavy defeat of a moderate candidate who had refused to even say whether she voted for Obama was also a “repudiation” of the Clinton wing of the party. “I think, here in Kentucky, I think it was a referendum, not only on the president, but on Hillary Clinton,” Senator Rand Paul told Fox News shortly after the presumptive new Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell, swept to re-election in the state. But Republicans also simply orchestrated more disciplined, effective, campaigns than Democrats did this time around. Criticism is already growing, for example, of Grimes’s decision to run from Obama so hard that she wouldn’t even say whether she had voted for him, and of Senator Mark Udall’s relentless attacks on Republicans in Colorado for being anti-women even as his opponent, like many others who learned the lessons of shrill predecessors, barely mentioned social issues at all. For its part, the White House began carefully shifting the blame as polling showed defeat becoming likely, insisting that campaign decisions such as keeping the president away from battleground states were driven by local candidates rather than Obama himself. “I don’t think it is a controversial notion for the president to adopt a posture whereby candidates whose names are on the ballot are the ones who are driving the strategy for the election,” Obama’s spokesman, Josh Earnest, told reporters on election day. “That is I think a pretty commonsense notion. And failure to do that I think could lead to some rather strange outcomes.” Yet there were signs of late panic nonetheless. A flurry of last-minute campaign stops to support vulnerable state governors were added to the president’s schedule at the end of last week. With just 24 hours to go, an unspecified number of automated, or “robo”, calls with Obama’s voice on them were made to voters and he quietly carried out 14 separate interviews with local radio stations in an effort to boost his party’s disappointing turnout. The bigger question is whether a more full-throated defence of his record earlier on in the campaign could have made more of a difference, especially in close races in which candidates had done most to distance themselves from his flagging approval numbers. Here, the irony is that many of the problems that have dogged Obama most in his second term are on the wane. The Affordable Care Act is finally beginning to bring health insurance to millions of uninsured; improving GDP figures may not be felt universally but will undoubtedly bring some relief to struggling families; and the US Ebola crisis that prompted so much disdain from Republicans in recent days may be past its worst. In one of his last-minute radio interviews, Obama prepared the ground for Tuesday’s defeat by stressing the tricky hand dealt by the Senate map this election cycle, which forced Democrats to defend seats in an unusually large number of red states. But the crushing defeat seen by Democrats in places like Colorado and Iowa that had been carried by the president in 2012, and wins by Republican governors in deep blue states like Maryland and Illinois, rather take the wind out of this argument. Though most second-term presidents – except Bill Clinton who had already lost Congress in his first term – fail to make gains at midterm elections, the overwhelming scale of this defeat, and Obama’s failure to defend his record, may ultimately be added to his list of operational failures.
More than half of people in the UK believe religion does more harm than good, while less than a quarter believe faith is a force for good, a new survey has revealed.And the viewpoint even applies to those with strong faiths – one fifth (20 per cent) of Britons who describe themselves as being “very religious” said religion was harmful to society. The findings from the study for The Huffington Post, which was carried out by Survation, challenge widely held beliefs about religion and its place in modern British society. They show that only eight per cent of Britons describe themselves as very religious, while more than 60 per cent said they are not religious at all. And the majority (55 per cent) believe that being religious does not necessarily make you a better person. One in eight Britons said atheists tend to be more moral, compared to just six per cent who said atheists are less moral. Of the 2,004 people surveyed, 56 per cent described themselves as Christian, 2.5 per cent were Muslim, one per cent were Jewish and the remainder were of another faith or none. Young people are actually more likely to have a positive view of religion. Around 30 per cent of 18-24 year-olds believe religion does more good than harm, compared to just 19 per cent of 55-64 year-olds. Linda Woodhead, professor of the sociology of religion at Lancaster University, told The Huffington Post that the trend pointed to disillusionment with institutional religion in particular. She said: “What we are seeing is not a complete rejection of faith, belief in the divine, or spirituality, though there is some to that, but of institutional religion in the historic forms which are familiar to people.” Andrew Copson, chief executive of the British Humanist Association, said: “This survey just confirms what we know is the common sense of people in Britain today - that whether you are religious or not has very little to do with your morality.”
An October 2014 Pentagon report calls out Pakistan for its use of terrorist proxies in India and Afghanistan.The Pentagon released a report earlier this week that directly condemns Pakistan for its use of terrorist proxies against India. The report, titled “Progress Toward Security and Stability in Afghanistan,” is atypically candid and is intended for consumption by U.S. legislators. While a growing chorus of experts and former officials in the United States has remarked that the U.S.-Pakistan bilateral relationship is sliding into dysfunction and delusion, the U.S. government has generally kept things civil, refraining from overtly condemning Pakistan. U.S. officials, however, have long privately acknowledged Pakistan’s support of anti-India militant groups. Most notably, the United States’ former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Michael Mullen, testified that Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence had links to the Haqqani Network. India, naturally, applauded the release of the report. The Indian Ministry of External Affairs remarked, “If the international community is saying Pakistan is using terrorists as proxies to counter Indian army then its welcoming [sic]. Issue of terrorism should not be segmented.” As one report in The Hindu noted, the release of this report following Narendra Modi’s visit to the United States could signal a coming rapprochement between the United States and India. Historically, Indian officials have remained skeptical of the United States given its long term support — both rhetorically and materially — for Pakistan. By acknowledging Pakistan’s use of terrorist proxies, U.S. officials are saying what Indians have long waited to hear. Amid worsening relations between India and Pakistan in recent weeks, the report will likely reverberate in both India and Pakistan. Earlier this year, in a speech in Kashmir, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi slammed Pakistan for its use of proxies against India. Specifically, Modi said Pakistan “has lost the strength to fight a conventional war, but continues to engage in the proxy war of terrorism.” Given Modi’s comments and this Pentagon report, it appears that both the United States and India are starting to arrive at a common understanding of Pakistan’s use of proxy groups. The report also acknowledges the Pakistan’s role as an inhibitor for stability in Afghanistan — a significant admission ahead of the United States’ military withdrawal from that country at the end of this year. The report praises India’s role in aiding Afghan reconstruction as well. Pakistani officials were unequivocal in their condemnation of the report. The Pakistan Foreign Office released a statement noting that “the Government of Pakistan takes serious exception to comments contained in the U.S. Department of Defense report sent to the Congress under the title ‘Progress Towards Security and Stability in Afghanistan’.” ”While noting Pakistan’s cooperation with the U.S. in areas of mutual interests, the recently-released report also carries unsubstantiated allegations of the existence of terrorist ‘sanctuaries’ or that proxy forces are operating from here against Afghanistan and India,” it added. ”Such allegations are of particular concern at this point when Pakistan government has launched comprehensive operations against militants in North Waziristan. The military operation ‘Zarb-e-Azb’ has been broadly welcomed internationally, including in the U.S.,” the report continued. The entire report is available at the U.S. Department of Defense website. I’ve excerpted some revealing passages here. Afghan- and Indian- focused militants continue to operate from Pakistan territory to the detriment of Afghan and regional stability. Pakistan uses these proxy forces to hedge against the loss of influence in Afghanistan and to counter India’s superior military. These relationships run counter to Pakistan’s public commitment to support Afghan-led reconciliation. Such groups continue to act as the primary irritant in Afghan-Pakistan bilateral relations. The report implies that the timing of a Lashkar-e-Taiba attack on the Indian consulate in Herat was tied to Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s swearing in: In May of this reporting period, the Indian consulate in Herat Province was attacked by a group of four heavily armed militants. The attack came three days prior to the swearing in of the new Indian Prime Minister, Narendra Modi. On the Indian role in Afghanistan: India supports a variety of high-visibility projects and initiatives in Afghanistan. These ventures are focused primarily on major infrastructure projects, including electricity generation and transmission, road construction, and mining. India has shown increased interest in Afghan security assistance, though activities in this area remain limited. India currently offers India-based training to ANSF personnel across a number of specialties, and the Indian government committed to expand this program. India does not provide direct military support or training in Afghanistan. On Pakistan’s role in Afghanistan: However, suspicion has surrounded the relationship between Kabul and Islamabad, inhibiting bilateral cooperation on border security protocols. It is possible that the new Afghan President, Dr. Ghani, will seek to change this dynamic, which Pakistan is likely to welcome. Although stability in Afghanistan is in the interest of Pakistan, Pakistan also seeks sufficient Pashtun representation in the Afghan government to prevent Pashtun discontent along the Afghan-Pakistan border and limit India’s influence. The report might make for a refreshing read coming from U.S. government offices, but don’t expect it to affect policy.
Joint Press conference with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg and Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, 6 November 2014.
http://www.thenewstribe.com/Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Member of National Assembly (MNA) Siraj Muhammad Khan has requested NA Spekaer Ayaz Sadiq to not accept his resignation from post. Khan was elected from NA-6 Noshera seat by PTI’s ticket in general elections 2013. According to reports, he was not presented in front of NA Speaker to confirm his resignation in Parliament House on October 29. PTI leader Arif Alvi says Khan will face the same law as the all party’s workers have faced before.
shiapost.comA takfiri Deobandi-Wahabi radical cleric has lauded and preached about the terrorism during his Friday sermons at a mosque in DHA, Karachi, The Shia Post reports. A takfiri cleric of Mubarak Masjid nearby Country Club Apartments at Seaview, Phase V Extention, DHA, Karachi, also delivers treason and sectarian hatred speech against Shiite Muslims and other minorities, where he raises controversial issues usually in his sermons. According to an eye witness Salahuddin Mirza who performed Friday prayer, on October 17 and 24 informed regarding his sectarian hatred against a minority Muslim sect where takfiri cleric was raising controversial issues which are of least importance in everyday life. “The cleric was was praising Al Qaeda, Taliban and the Islamic State, saying that they deserve to be supported by every possible means,” he noted on Friday prayer October 17. “I do not know how many such imams are spreading communal disharmony in mosques in the city and the province. Something needs to be done in this regard,” he further added. Al-Qaida, Taliban and Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) are the worlds’ top most dangerous terrorist groups, who are killing innocent people across the world. Speaking in praise about the new terrorist group of ISIS in Deobandi mosques during Friday sermons is increasing horror in citizens. They have been carrying out horrific acts of violence, including public decapitations and crucifixions, against Iraqi communities such as Shias, Sunnis, Kurds, and Christians. ISIS has also sold hundreds of captured women as sex-slave in the markets. The ISIL terrorists also control large areas of Syria. The group first sent its militants into Iraq in June, seizing large swathes of land along the border between the two countries. Pakistan is a country where takfiri terrorists groups like Tehreek-e-Taliban, Lashkar-e-Jhagvi, Sipah-e-Sahaba known as Ahl-e-Sunnat Wal Jamaat and others have killed thousands of innocent citizens including armed forces, engineers doctors and so on. According to Pakistan Intelligences’ reports, at least five commanders-terrorists of ISIS have entered in Pakistan with a large quantity of gold (approximately $1 million), from Australia as per directions of Saudi Arabia and Qatar. “More than 370 ISIS operatives are present in the country which the 22 in Karachi”, LeA also added in a report. Baghdad and Damascus have also accused Saudi Arabia and Qatar of openly funding the takfiri terrorist groups are battling in countries.
Both countries say: “These two countries [Saudi Arabia and Qatar] are primarily responsible for the sectarian and terrorist and security crisis of Middle East.”In Pakistan, during Ayub’s days, Friday sermons were first vetted by a government agency before they were delivered. That law must be revived, in order to protect the country. According to an analyst, if Pakistan government fails to take any immediate action against pro-ISIS takfiri terrorists groups, Pakistan will see the horrible situation like Syria and Iraq, and no one could stop the public decapitations and crucifixions.
Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, Chairman Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) has expressed deep grief and shock over the killing of a Christian couple and their unborn child by an enraged mob in what is the latest incident of victimization of minorities and mob violence in the name of religion. Shehzad and Salma, worked at the brick kiln in Kot Radha Kishan some 60 km from Lahore and were first brutally beaten and then thrown into the brick kiln. Reports suggest that the dispute occurred with the owner of the kiln over wages or recovery of loan. However, the imam of the local mosque incited the attack when announcements were made through the mosque loudspeaker alleging desecration of the Holy Quran. Criticising the Punjab government and judiciary for their utter and complete failure to provide protection to minorities against persecution in the name of religion, Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari said “this is not the first incident of this nature where blasphemy has been used as a ploy to justify attacking, lynching and killing of members of minority communities in Pakistan, yet the Punjab government and judiciary remain aloof. If lessons had been learnt from such previous incidents, and adequate action had been taken against the attackers, Shehzad and Salma would have been alive today.” He further said, “I urge the Punjab government to take the strictest possible legal action not only against the murderers but also the imam of the mosque for inciting hatred and violence. An example should be made of the perpetrators and those who aided and abetted them to send out a strong message to all those who exploit religion to mask their heinous crimes.” Chairman Bilawal Bhutto reiterated his unflinching support for the rights and protection of the minority communities of Pakistan and said “the Hindus of Sindh, the Christians of Punjab, the Hazaras of Balochistan and the Sikhs of KPK are all my brothers and sisters and are as much a Pakistani as any one of us. I will always raise my voice for their rights and will not rest till they are treated with equality and justice.”
This time, it is Shama Bibi and Shehzad Masih; a young Christian couple who used to work at a brick kiln, beaten to death and their bodies burnt by an enraged mob over accusations of blasphemy. Rimsha Masih, a Christian minor, was wrongly accused of blasphemy by a local cleric and such was proven in a court of law. The conspiring cleric remains a free man, and Rimsha now resides somewhere in Canada with the rest of her family since her home country can only promise death. In Gojra, Joseph Colony and Shanti Nagar, Christian residents and their homes were set on fire over accusations of blasphemy. The courts cleared all the culprits in those cases –the conveniently enraged mobs, the individuals leading them as well as complicit or negligent police officials. Mob leaders are still available to lead another mob, against another hapless, vulnerable community, on another fine evening of passionate crimes that lead, apparently, to heaven. Police officials have been promoted and are likely to look the other way. Today, in Lahore, Kasur, Faisalabad, Multan and everywhere else in Pakistan, murderers who willingly participated in the lynching and killing of innocents freely wander the streets, as they go on with their routine lives having ended so many. Putting everything aside, the true promise of impunity is at the core of the problem of vigilante justice. They kill. The state, through all its institutions, reassures that they can afford to do so. Emboldened and unafraid, they kill again. The principal accused in the latest case, owner of brick kiln identified so far as Mr Gujjar, who accused the couple of desecrating a copy of the Quran and locked them up in a room instead of handing them over to the Police, still hasn’t been arrested. The clerics, who gathered people by making fiery announcements from their mosques, also remain free. A majority of the mob that killed Shama and Shehzad have not been apprehended. The three-member committee formed by Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif to probe the matter is not expected to yield desired results. The Punjab government has a shameful record of ensuring accountability in such cases. Blasphemy laws or religious fervor cannot be allowed to be used as a defense for extrajudicial killing. Such laws, for as long as they continue to be a blot on the Constitution, should serve to remind everyone just how far we are lagging behind in our social and cultural evolution.
A police officer on Wednesday night murdered a detained man with an axe, later alleging that the man had committed blasphemy. 45-year-old Jhang resident Syed Tufail Haider was arrested a day earlier for wounding two people from a locality in Gujrat. According to police authorities, Tufail came to Madina Syedan in Gujrat three days ago to attend a majlis. During interrogation, Assistant Superintendent (ASI) Faraz Naveed got into a heated argument with Tufail and struck him on the neck with an axe lying in the room, a blow which resulted in immediate death. He later accused Tufail of making derogatory remarks against companions of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), with other police officials saying the arrested man was mentally unsound. Police have arrested ASI Faraz Naveed and taken the axe into custody. The body of the slain man has been sent to a local hospital for a postmortem.
TWO impressions stood out as yet another frenzied mob took the law into its own hands in Kot Radha Kishan, an hour’s drive from Lahore, in Kasur district. The first impression highlights the similarities between this latest incident and previous killings by mobs in the name of religion. The second one relates to the heightened degree of cruelty which characterised the mob’s actions. While there is as yet sketchy information about the incident, it has a chillingly familiar ring to it: an individual (in this case members of the Christian community were involved) is accused of desecrating pages of the Holy Quran; angry Muslims set about punishing those they deem guilty. In the background, as is often the case, lurk details as to how, at the root of the violence, is a money dispute that spiralled out of control, with the minority community becoming an easy target for members of the dominant faith. But what sets this particular instance apart from other occurrences of its kind are the reports about the intensity with which this latest mob-pronounced sentence was executed. Shama and Shahzad fell to their attackers’ frenzy on Tuesday morning, but initially, there was some confusion about exactly how they had been killed. There was word that the couple, expecting their fourth child, had been thrown into a burning brick kiln. An attempt was made to ‘correct’ the version that they had been killed before their bodies were disposed of in the oven. Since then, the incident has been widely taken notice of. The Punjab chief minister has ordered an inquiry, as he does frequently, without offering any guarantees or generating any hope that the guilty will be brought to justice this time round. There have been condemnatory statements issued by various groups and individuals, including the prime minister. Once again the vulnerability of our religious minorities to the law and society is the topic of discussion. The question being asked is: will this be the turning point so desperately required to deter Pakistanis from perpetrating violence on those who are too weak to defend themselves and who scarcely have an opportunity to explain and clarify? The chances of that essential course correction taking place in the wake of the killing of Shama and Shahzad are not very bright — the process is long and gruelling and needs the unqualified resolve of those in government. Over time, the mob has intensified its violence in direct proportion to the government’s laxity and helplessness. What our politicians have failed to do so far is take notice of their own failure to fulfill a responsibility. Instead, what the rulers have done is to instruct the police to investigate a territory which the law enforcers are unequipped to handle and too scared to venture into. What is needed is leadership, not just statements, from the top.
A Christian couple in Pakistan has been killed by a mob of people for allegedly insulting the Koran. The country's liberal sections have condemned the murder and called on the government to protect minorities.On Tuesday, November 5, Shehzad and Shama were beaten to death by a mob in a small town of Kot Radha Kishan in the eastern Punjab province, a political stronghold of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. The angry crowd, which alleged that the Christian couple desecrated a copy of their holy book, the Koran, subsequently burned their bodies in a brick kiln where the young Christian couple worked. "Yesterday [Monday] an incident of desecration of the holy Koran took place in the area and today the mob first beat the couple and later set their bodies on fire at a brick kiln," local police officer Bin Yameen told the media on Tuesday. PM Sharif's younger brother and provincial head Shahbaz Sharif ordered an investigation into the incident. Blasphemy is a sensitive topic in the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, where 97 percent of its 180 million inhabitants are Muslims. Rights activists demand the reforms of the controversial blasphemy laws, which were introduced by the Islamic military dictator General Zia-ul-Haq in the 1980s. Activists say the laws have little to do with blasphemy and are often used to settle petty disputes and personal vendettas. The couple's murder has outraged Pakistani activists and the liberal section. "The investigations will likely prove that the blasphemy allegations against the couple were fake. According to unconfirmed reports, they had a dispute over wages with their Muslim boss at the brick kiln factory. Everything else followed after that," Farooq Sulehria, a London-based Pakistani researcher and activist, told DW. Sulehria added that a majority of Pakistani Muslims had a hypocritical attitude towards the issue of blasphemy: "In Pakistan, the 'faithful' lynch the defenseless. But they also chose to remain silent when not so long ago the copies of the Koran were discovered in the trash in Saudi Arabia. Nobody in Pakistan protested." Majid Nawaz, chairman of the UK-based counter-extremism think tank Quilliam Foundation, too, was quick to condemn the killing. "Pakistan's disgusting blasphemy law must go! Muslim mob burns to death Christian couple accused by rumour of blasphemy," Nawaz tweeted. Blasphemy laws debated The latest blasphemy murder comes at a time when the death sentence of a 49-year-old Christian woman, Asia Bibi, has put the South Asian country's blasphemy laws under increased national and international scrutiny. Bibi has been languishing in prison for more than five years. The mother of five was arrested in June, 2009 after her neighbors complained that she had made derogatory remarks about Islam's prophet. A year later, Bibi was sentenced to death under the Islamic Republic's controversial blasphemy laws despite strong opposition from the national and international human rights groups. The slim hope that the Pakistani judiciary might pardon Bibi and eventually release her was dashed last month when the Lahore High Court (LHC) ruled to uphold her 2010 death sentence. Imran Nafees Siddiqui, an Islamabad-based civil society activist, says that the South Asian country's civil society should keep building pressure on the government and the courts irrespective of the legal outcome. "[The blasphemy law] is a man-made doctrine and not a divine revelation. The rights group should continue to demand Bibi's freedom. The media should also play an active role," Siddiqui told DW. "The public opinion carries a lot of weight and can also influence courts' decisions. We have to create an alternative narrative to defeat the extremist discourse in the country. It is a test case for the rights of minorities in Pakistan," he added. In a DW interview, Dr. Clare Amos, a Program Executive and Coordinator for the Geneva-based World Council of Churches' inter-religious dialogue and cooperation program, says that Bibi's plight should not be ignored, and that Pakistan's blasphemy laws should be amended to make sure that they are not applied in cases of personal disputes. "We would question the very rationale and essence of the blasphemy law in its existing form. We would question how it is worded; we would question whether the death penalty could ever be appropriate; we would state that it is very ambiguous; and we would question the way it is used as a way of solving personal grievances," said Dr. Amos, adding that the Supreme Court judges must throw out Bibi's death sentence. Strong opposition from religious groups But all this condemnation is not sufficient to convince the supporters of the blasphemy law. Fareed Ahmad Pracha, a leader of Pakistan's right-wing political party, the Jamaat-i-Islami, disagrees with the critics of the legislation and says the actual problem is not with the law but with its interpretation. "We just want to say that the law should be enforced properly, there should not be any change made into the blasphemy law. We will not tolerate or accept this. If you make way even for a single change in the law, then there will be a number of changes, whereas there has never been a case where anyone has been punished," he emphasized. There is evidence to support Pracha's claim. Although hundreds have been convicted of blasphemy, nobody in Pakistan has ever been executed for the offense. Most convictions are retracted after the accused makes an appeal. However, angry crowds have killed people accused of desecrating the Koran or Islam. Extremist violence A few months after Bibi's conviction, Salman Taseer, a former governor of the Punjab province, was murdered by his bodyguard, Mumtaz Qadri. Qadri said he had killed Taseer for speaking out against the blasphemy laws and in support of Bibi. In March 2011, Shahbaz Bhatti, Pakistan's former minister for minority affairs, was assassinated by a religious fanatic for the same reason. Farzana Bari, director of Center for Women's Studies at Islamabad's Quaid-i-Azam University, believes discrimination will persist unless there is radical change. "It is high time that the government reform the blasphemy law," she said to DW. "These laws are against the spirit of Islam and are a cause of notoriety for the country." Religious discrimination in Pakistan is not a new occurrence but it has increased considerably in recent years. Pakistan's liberal sections are alarmed by the growing influence of religious extremists in their country. Rights activists complain that the Islamists enjoy state patronage, while on the other hand liberal and progressive voices have to face the wrath of the country's security agencies.
THE brutal murder of a young couple in Pakistan, who were beaten to death for allegedly desecrating the Koran, has increased fears of persecution among the country’s tiny Christian minority.Around 45 people have been arrested in connection with the brutal murder of the Christian couple, who were beaten unconscious then reportedly burnt to death in a brick kiln. The murder occurred in the town of Kot Radha Kishan in the eastern Punjab province where Shehzad Masih and Shama Bibi, who was four months pregnant and a mother of three, were murdered in front of a crowd of 1500. They had earlier been locked in the brick-making factory where they worked to prevent them from fleeing their debts, relatives said. The murders have sparked protests by Christians and outrage among human rights activists who say the country’s harsh blasphemy laws, under which anyone convicted of insulting Islam can be sentenced to death, are often used to settle personal scores and target minorities. Jawad Qamar, a local police official, said events began to unfold more than a week earlier with the death of Shehzad’s father, a local religious healer. “When he died, Shehzad’s wife went to his room and cleaned up the mess. There was a trunk in his room, Shehzad’s wife took the things that could be useful and threw the trash in front of her house,” said Qamar. “The garbage collector collected the trash the next day and told a local cleric that he had collected pages of the Koran thrown in front of Shehzad’s house from the trash.” Malik Abdul Aziz, a cameraman who witnessed the event, said around 1,500 people gathered from nearby villages after being stoked up by local clerics who announced the couple had committed blasphemy over the loudspeakers of their mosques. “They started beating the couple with sticks and bricks chanting slogans of ‘We will lay down our lives for the honour of the prophet’ and then tore off their clothes”. “The couple were screaming, begging for mercy and saying they have not committed any sin. “The mob dragged them for around 20 yards and laid them on top of the brick kiln oven and kept them there till they were burnt,” he added. It has since emerged that the couple owed a large sum of money to the owner of the factory. Iqbal Masih, Shehzad’s older bother, said he and his whole family were bonded workers paying off their debts to the brick kiln owner, a man named Mohammed Yousuf — an illegal practice branded by human rights groups as akin to modern-day slavery. “We take advance money from the owner and work for him, it has been going on for years. On November 3, the owner had called Shehzad and detained him sensing that he might run away to save his life,” he said tearfully. The blasphemy laws were introduced by the Islamist military dictator General Zia-ul-Haq in the 1980s but although hundreds have been convicted of blasphemy, nobody in Pakistan has ever been executed for the offence as most convictions are retracted after the accused makes an appeal. However human rights activists say the laws are increasingly abused to attack Christians who are experiencing widespread persecution in the country where 97 per cent of the population of 180 million are Muslim. In 2013, two suicide bombers blew themselves up in the courtyard of Peshawar’s all Saints Church, killing 82 people and injuring scores of others but it is the blasphemy laws which the country’s Christians have come to fear most. Dozens of people who have been accused of insulting Islam or the prophet Mohammed have been killed by mobs even if the allegations are unproven while others have languished in prison for years. In 2010 Asia Bibi, an impoverished 48-year-old farmer, was sentenced to death after her neighbours accused her of insulting Mohammad. According to Bibi, she was involved in a dispute after women field workers said they would not drink water from the same bowl because she was not a Muslim. She said they attacked her, slapping her and pulling her hair. They allegedly later went to the police and accused her of making derogatory remarks about Islam’s prophet. Bibi’s sentencing triggered an outcry among human rights groups and the international community but her fate has for the most part been forgotten. Those who take part in violence against people accused of blasphemy are rarely if ever prosecuted — a fact not lost upon the relatives of Shehzad Masih and Shama Bibi. “I need justice but I am sure I won’t be able to get it, the clerics are too powerful,” Shehzad’s brother Iqbal said. Tahir Ashrafi, a member of the Council of Islamic Ideology, Pakistan’s top religious body, held police responsible for failing to act to protect the couple before the mob violence occurred. “This case must go to an anti-terrorism court and the culprits must be arrested and punished, including the mullah (who made the blasphemy accusation in mosque) if he’s involved,” he said.