Saturday, January 21, 2017

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#womensmarch - Miley Cyrus - We Can't Stop

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Billy Joel - We Didn't Start the Fire

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#WomensMarch - Alicia Keys: We will not be stepped on

#WomensMarch - Madonna to march critics: F**k you

Music Video - Glorya - Habibi

Turkish Music Video - Demet Akalın - Türkan(

What is Turkey’s problem with Darwin?





Mustafa Akyol 



Turkey’s National Education Ministry announced a new curriculum for secondary schools on Jan. 16. A draft of the curriculum will be discussed for a month, the ministry said, and criticisms will be taken into account before the final version is approved. Some aspects of the new curriculum, such as decreasing the amount of homework and allowing more time for play and socializing, seem like good ideas, but as usual, what made the headlines were the changes related to the culture war between Turkey's religious conservatives and secularists. Commentators from the latter camp focused primarily on the life and times of Ataturk, Turkey’s secularist founder, being given less attention. Any secularist with a broad outlook should, however, be concerned about something else: the elimination of the theory of evolution from biology textbooks.

This change appears to be a “reform” based on advice given by Egitim Bir-Sen, a conservative, pro-government education union, to the ministry. Thus, “The Beginning of Life and Evolution,” the only chapter on evolution in the pre-college curriculum, will be excised from high school textbooks. The replacement chapter will be titled “Living Beings and the Environment,” and all references to Darwinian or “neo-Darwinian” theory will be removed. In other words, a Turkish high school graduate will learn nothing about one of the most important scientific theories, the one explaining the diversity of life on Earth as the product of common descent through gradual change and natural selection.
Why is Turkey’s National Education Ministry taking such a dramatic step? The answer is obvious to anyone familiar with Turkey’s culture war: Since the early 2000s, religious conservatives have had the upper hand in Turkey, and their distaste for the theory of evolution is well established. Many of them see the theory as corrosive to religious faith and want to “protect” young generations from such “harmful” ideas.
Wrestling over the theory of evolution in Turkey goes back to the late Ottoman Empire, which saw a period of relative freedom of thought. Self-declared “materialist” Ottoman thinkers, among them Abdullah Cevdet and Suphi Ethem, translated the works of evolutionary scientists, including the German biologist Ernst Haeckel. In turn, some Islamist Ottoman thinkers, like Ismail Fenni Ertugrul and Filibeli Ahmed Hilmi, wrote refutations of the “school of materialism,” raising arguments that also challenged the theory of evolution. In other words, they wrote dissenting opinions instead of calling on the government to silence opposing viewpoints.
In the more secular Republican era, the theory of evolution entered school textbooks and popular culture. It was often used in making ideological claims, going beyond a mere scientific theory. In the 1970s, the Marxist left adopted Darwinism as a cornerstone of its dialectical materialist philosophy. The right, perhaps understandably, began to see Darwinism and atheism as almost synonymous concepts. From the 1980s onward, translations of books by the “new atheists,” such as Richard Dawkins, added fuel to the fire. In response, Islamic creationism exploded in Turkey, often using arguments borrowed from Christian creationists in the United States.
Under the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), the issue has repeatedly surfaced. In 2009, the Scientific and Technological Research Council of Turkey (TUBITAK) suspended the editor of its monthly magazine over a cover featuring Darwin. In 2013, TUBITAK stopped publishing books about evolution.
The elimination of the theory of evolution from high school textbooks seems to be the latest round in Turkey's century-old culture war. The religious conservatives behind the move probably believe that since they run the education system, they can purge it. There are, however, two important facts they seem to have overlooked.
First, the theory of evolution and atheistic interpretations of it are two different things (as is the case with many other scientific theories, including the Big Bang). There are scientists and thinkers in the West who view evolution as compatible with their belief in a creator. Moreover, Islamic civilization has its own tradition of evolution, with various medieval Muslim scholars having written about the common origin of the species centuries before Darwin. That is why John William Draper, a Darwin contemporary, referred to Darwin’s views as the “Mohammadan theory of evolution.”
Second, Muslim belief in evolution is not unheard of in modern-day Turkey. Such modernist theologians as Mehmet Bayraktar, Caner Taslaman and the late Suleyman Ates have popularized the idea. In “The Creative Evolution Theory in Islam” (2001), Bayraktar explains that for Muslims, evolution can be viewed as a process preordained by God to create species through natural means, just like God “creates” rain through natural means that are detectable by meteorology.
Regardless, even if one has a philosophical problem with the theory of evolution and views “special creation” as the explanation of life’s origins, what is the benefit of keeping students ignorant about the discussion? Even if Turkish students never hear about evolution in school, they will certainly come across it in popular culture. Therefore, from a conservative religious point of view, wouldn't it be wiser to teach students about a confusing theory along with explanations to make it less mysterious?
The advice to the National Education Ministry here would be as follows: Never take the theory of evolution out of the scientific curriculum. To the contrary, teach students the basics of the theory (and don’t naively assume that the word “theory” means “just an unimportant idea,” because it is an idea that any educated person should know). Also teach students that there are scientific criticisms challenging the theory and that the theory’s philosophical implications have been interpreted quite differently by various people, ranging from militant atheists to pious Catholics and Muslims.
Such a curriculum on evolution would not even go against the current government’s vow to raise “pious generations.” It would just make pious students informed students as well, and it is better to be pious and informed than pious and uninformed.


Read more: http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2017/01/turkey-what-is-turks-problem-with-darwin.html#ixzz4WRfArvvw

Saudi strikes kill four Yemenis in two days

Indiscriminate Saudi airstrikes have killed four Yemeni civilians in western Yemen over two days.
On Saturday, Saudi aircraft struck residential buildings in the port of Mokha in the southwestern Yemeni province of Ta’izz, killing a woman and wounding some others, Yemen’s al-Masirah television network reported.
A day earlier, Saudi forces had dropped cluster bombs on the Zabou’ah Village in the Nihm District of the Sana’a Province, located in the west-central part of the war-torn country. The attack killed three civilians and injured eight others. Children were both among those killed and injured, according to Yemen’s Saba Net news website.
Also on Saturday, Saudi fighter planes hit the al-Salif District in the western coastal al-Hudaydah Province.
At least 11,400 people have been killed in Yemen since March 2015, when Saudi Arabia started the war on its impoverished southern neighbor. The war was launched in an unsuccessful attempt to restore power to a former, Saudi-allied government.
Rights groups have described the United States and the United Kingdom as complicit in the bloodletting given their provision of deadly weapons to the Saudi regime during the bombardment campaign.
Yemeni forces have been fighting the Saudi invaders, sometimes launching retaliatory strikes on Saudi soil. Inside Yemen, the forces also face militiamen loyal to the former government and to Saudi Arabia.

http://www.presstv.com/Detail/2017/01/21/507121/Saudi-Arabia-Yemen

Video - Ex Saudi muslim warns Canadians about Islam

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Video - China urges Japan to be cautious about Taiwan issue

China - Little for US to gain from a trade war








By Ed Zhang 


Will there be a trade war between the world's two largest trading powers? Anxiety is spreading among business people around the world as the Trump administration takes office in the United States, with many saying a showdown with China is unavoidable and imminent.
In his inauguration speech on Friday, Donald Trump signaled no retreat from his populist agenda on trade, immigration, and on scaling back commitments overseas.
"Every decision on trade, on taxes, on immigration, on foreign affairs will be made to benefit American workers and American families. We must protect our borders from the ravages of other countries making our products, stealing our companies, and destroying our jobs," he said.
If he means what he says, then how many regular business ties will be affected? No one can tell. However, Chinese businesspeople can use this moment to reflect on what they have to lose and gain from a trade war, if one does materialize.
First, what they will lose? If there is a hike in tariffs across the board, then Chinese companies will lose a lot of orders for the same goods they have been shipping to the US market for the last decade.
What will they gain? Some of these goods are made from imported materials, like iron ore, and actually don't sell for much of a profit. And environmentally, they may even produce a negative value. Officials with China's National Development and Reform Commission may thank the Trump administration if it can help China offload obsolete, unsustainable industrial capacity quicker.
Chinese business executives, at the same time, may use the opportunity to apply for more tax breaks and preferential policies and turn to producing more competitive products. With the right policy incentives, China's ample savings can be used for a new round of industrial investment.
Now is a good time for China to upgrade its industry – with some 7 million college graduates (more than half of its total new labor) joining its labor market each year.
The rise in labor costs, at the same time, no longer permits the kind of production widespread in China in a decade ago.
Second, what will be the reaction? No war can be one-sided. The Chinese government will adopt counter-measures, and local companies will find more import substitution opportunities in the selected industries.
And if a real war is waged alongside a trade war, that will only create more defense orders for local companies.
Third, what cost will the war-maker will bear? Every war comes with a cost. And trade wars backfire easily, especially for a more advanced economy. If heavy protection is required for US manufacturers to make the same goods as can be made equally well in China or in Mexico, then it will hurt, rather than benefit, the competitiveness of the US economy.
A temporary protection may be needed, admittedly, for workers to swop jobs and companies to turn out new products. But long term, it is a dose of poison for entrepreneurship.
In the future world market, US companies cannot compete by making the things that can be made in many developing countries. Even Chinese companies can't afford to think that way, now that its wages are above some other Asian countries.
In what areas the US economy will enjoy future competitiveness is for US leaders to point out.
Fourth, the war-maker will inevitable make a loss: A trade war will also backfire because it will turn away potential customers in a country with a population of 1.3 billion. Many international brands have benefited from their sales to China. It would be foolish to deny US brands the opportunity to do the same.
Last, what is the purpose of a trade war anyway? If it is for China to buy more Made-in-the-US products, then why must anyone, especially anyone calling himself a businessperson, engage in a trade war? What real businesspeople should do is negotiate to strike the best deal they can.
Indeed, since Trump was quoted as having said everything is negotiable, what's the point of a trade war?

Astana Talks: What Common Interests Do Assad, Syrian Armed Opposition Have?



Opposition field commanders will take part in the Syrian peace talks in Astana; the conference is due to begin on January 23. According to Russian academic Sergei Demidenko, the fight against Daesh could unite the Syrian government and the armed opposition.

Although the upcoming Syria peace talks in Kazakhstan's capital Astana will be no walk in the part, this conference is a step in the right direction in many respects, experts say.
"Meeting in Astana is quite an important stage of the process of settling the Syrian crisis," Boris Dolgov, a Senior Research Fellow at the Institute for Eastern Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences, told RIA Novosti.
The expert pointed out that the Astana talks are due to bring together the Syrian government and the opposition, which is represented by armed groups with influence on the ground.
He remarked that the Geneva format has engaged the Syrian political opposition, which does not have any serious support on the ground. Furthermore, this political opposition consists of at least four different groups backed by different foreign actors, the expert underscored.
In this respect, Dolgov echoes Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov's remarks, which he delivered at a Moscow press conference on January 17.
"I believe that one obstacle to the talks was the fact that the UN only sent invitations to members of the political opposition, the overwhelming majority of whom were emigrants living in Europe, the Middle East or other countries but not in Syria, and to some opposition members in Syria… These talks were not attended by those who really determine the situation on the ground, that is, armed groups or armed opposition," Lavrov emphasized.
He specified that the goals of the Astana meeting include "the consolidation of the ceasefire regime" and the engagement of the armed opposition in the Syrian political process.
"This process was launched by the UN in Geneva but has lost momentum. There are plans to re-launch it. We believe that field commanders must participate in this process as full members," he noted.
Nevertheless, the Russian Foreign Minister has repeatedly referred to the fact that the Astana format is not aimed at replacing the Geneva negotiations. 
Speaking at the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) summit Friday, Lavrov stressed that Monday's intra-Syrian talks in Astana are "an important contribution to… a comprehensive political settlement in Syria which will continue in wider activities in Geneva in early February."
A member of Turkish-backed Free Syrian Army (FSA) patrols in the border town of Jarablus, Syria
© REUTERS/ UMIT BEKTAS
A member of Turkish-backed Free Syrian Army (FSA) patrols in the border town of Jarablus, Syria
For his part, Sergei Demidenko, lecturer at the Institute of Social Sciences of the Russian Presidential Academy of National Economy and Public Administration (RANERA), assumed that it would be hard for the Assad government and the armed groups to find common ground during the upcoming January talks.
However, according to the expert, the necessity to eradicate the threat posed by Daesh (ISIS/ISIL) could apparently unite the Syrian government and the militants.
"I think that it is unlikely that they [the Syrian government and the opposition] will negotiate dividing Syria into spheres of influence; I believe that the only issue they could hypothetically reach a compromise on is a joint operation against Daesh… This is [their] only point of convergence," Demidenko suggested in an interview with RIA Novosti.
The expert has drawn attention to the fact that many armed groups still do not accept that President Bashar al-Assad has held onto power in Syria; for his part, following a series of military successes the Syrian government is unlikely to make any substantial concessions to militants, Demidenko assumed.
On the other hand, it also deserves attention that the Assad government has to hold talks with a vast number of opposition organizations including the Free Syrian Army (FSA) and the National Coalition for Syrian Revolution and Opposition Forces.
"There are a vast number of these organizations," Demidenko stressed, "some are more 'moderate,' the others are less 'moderate,' and each [of the organizations] has its own demands; some say 'we will build an Islamic state,' some pledge to establish democracy, and some have yet to formulate their agenda. Therefore, I do not see any opportunity [for them] to reach common ground except for their possible joint fight against Daesh."
Likewise it is still hard to predict whether the Geneva talks will bring any tangible results, Demidenko underscored.
He believes that the Geneva meeting on Syria should be preceded by a series of summits in the Astana format.
"I believe that more meetings [in the Astana format] need to be held with the involvement of international mediators," he stressed.
The Syrian government and opposition groups are due to meet in Astana on January 23 for negotiations brokered by Russia, Turkey and Iran. The talks are aimed at establishing a platform for further peace negotiations. The Astana meeting comes on the heels of the Syrian nation-wide ceasefire endorsed by the UN Security Council on December 31, 2016.

Video - Russian long-range bombers target ISIS positions in Deir ez-Zor Governorate, Syria



 destroys part of Roman theater in  – Syrian state TV https://on.rt.com/80tn 
Russia deployed six long-range supersonic Tupolev Tu-22M3 bombers from Russian territory to strike Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) targets in the Syrian governorate of Deir ez-Zor, the Russian Defense Ministry reported on Saturday. The bombers hit militant base camps, weapon stockpiles, and armored vehicles, the report said.
The report comes amid intensive fighting in Deir ez-Zor between government forces and IS, which apparently seeks to capture the provincial capital.

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Afghanistan's Militias: The Enemy Within?

Pakistan - Minority rights: Another Hindu temple demolished





By M Sadaqat
The prime minister may have said that minorities enjoy equal status and rights in Pakistan, but it would seem somebody in Haripur did not get the memo.
Another Hindu temple in the region has fallen victim to the apathy of baboos who are supposed to protect and preserve worship places of minorities.
Given recent history, however, it is likely that the temple will be replaced by a commercial building at some point in the near future.
The Soha temple used to be a corner stone of the Mohalla Soha – a suburb of Haripur. Before being torn down, it once stood in an open plot – now marked as construction site of a commercial structure.
The issue was even brought to the attention of the Evacuee Trust Property Board (ETPB) and the local police, since a worship place cannot be demolished or sold under the law, but it seemed to have not made any difference.
The Haripur police launched an inquiry after receiving a letter on December 14, 2016, from the Evacuee Trust Property Board (ETPB) assistant administrator in Hasanabdal who sought an inquiry and an FIR against all people involved in the demolition of the temple.
Katas Raj Temples: last vestige of Hindu era
The inquiry found that the ETPB had ‘sold’ the temple to Muhammad Nawaz Khan, a resident of Mohallah Motiyan, through a registration deed during an open auction in September 2003. Nawaz, who had been occupying the temple since 1972 as a tenant, paid for the entire structure and later sold the dilapidated building to Nisar Begum, a resident of the same locality.
Nisar, who also bought the building on a registration deed properly registered with the revenue department in Haripur, sold it to Saeed Akhtar, a trader from Haripur.
Locals said that demolition work on the temple was split between the ownership periods of Nisar and Akhtar.
Later, when ETPB and revenue department officials visited the site, they backed off from their previous stance to lodge an FIR against Akhtar and Nisar.
“It (complaint) was made…merely [based] on a local newspaper report to maintain law and order in the area and to avoid any untoward situation,” read a letter written by ETPB Assistant Administrator Muhammad Abdullah on December 23, 2016.
In the same letter, Abdullah claimed that he had visited the temple site with other officials of ETPB and found that there was nothing but an open plot registered with ETPB which had been sold to Muhammad Nawaz Khan on September 17, 2003 for Rs347,742 – including the cost of the superstructure.
The temple “was non-functional and in dilapidated condition and was included in the sold out area by the competent authority and the department has no concern about it,” the letter adds.
The letter further says that since the purchaser had paid its sale price, he had sole ownership over the property, complete with the right to demolish any existing structure or build new ones according to needs.
Akhtar, the current owner of the plot, confirmed to The Express Tribune that a religious building used to exist on the plot. However, he contended the fact that the building was a temple, claiming instead that the building was a dharamshala (religious guest house), and that by the time he bought it there was only an open plot with walls on three sides. He also shared the transfer documents which carried the name of Nawaz Khan, wherein the ETPB denied that the sold out property was either part of appurtenance to shrine, a religious place or a building of historical or architectural importance.
On the demolition of the temple, Saeed said it was already in dilapidated condition for several years and was demolished by Nisar after she got a warning notice from the tehsil planning officer of the Haripur Tehsil Municipal Administration on March 4, 2009, to raze the building within 15 days.
Asked about his plans for the property, he said he wanted to build a two-storey commercial building on the site, but the Tehsil Municipal Administration was using delaying tactics as he was not ready to grease their palms. Saeed said that if the temple was non-salable property, the ETPB officials were responsible, not him or the previous two owners.
Disappearing temples
Founded by Sikh Governor Hari Singh Nalva in 1822, Haripur once had around 12 to 15 Hindu temples and three gurdawaras. However, today only four or five temples remain, along with a gurdawara located in the main Haripur bazaar and now hosts a primary school. The temples that still stand are occupied by shopkeepers, who rented the premises from ETPB.
Tanveer Iqbal Gilani claimed that his grandfather – local saint Chan Pir Shah – had been gifted land of the Jai Krishna Temple on GT Road by a Hindu priest and the owner of the Siri Krishan Sankat when he left Pakistan at the time of Partition. He said that the temple had been demolished around two decades ago and had been replaced by a commercial plaza.
Gilani accused officials of ETPB and influential locals of illegally occupying the Hindu worship places.
Several complaints regarding the illegal transfer of temple land and occupation by different government departments in Havelian, Abbottabad and Mansehra are pending before the Peshawar High Court’s Abbottabad bench.
“Worship places cannot be occupied or sold under the law as constitutional clauses 20 and 36 clearly protect the rights of the minorities,” said Advocate Zafar Iqbal, the counsel for Sham Lal, a Hindu priest from Abbottabad who had requested the court to grant him possession of the Hindu temples in Havelian and two temples in Abbottabad which are currently under the possession of different government departments.
Temple run
Speaking to The Express Tribune, retired educationist Muhammad Qasim said that the Haripur property was indeed a Hindu temple which he first saw in 1944 when his father moved their family to Haripur city.
Qasim said that although he had forgotten the temple’s exact name, he remembered that it was informally referred to as the Soha Temple and that it had been built by the Mehta Himraj when he founded Soha Mohalla during the early 1940s.
According to the octogenarian Qasim, Hindu caretakers of the temple were popular social workers who served with the Haripur Municipal Administration till Partition. Qasim condemned the demolition of the temple, adding that it would set a bad precedent in both, Pakistan and India.
“If India starts demolishing mosques, what would our reaction be?” he asked.

Disappeared: Silencing Pakistan's activists














By Asad Hashim






Rights groups say blasphemy allegations against disappeared activists aim to silent dissent for good.
On the afternoon of January 7, Ahmed Raza Naseer was sitting with his brother at their shop in a small village just outside the central Pakistani town of Nankana Sahib, when a nondescript man holding a mobile phone to his ear walked in.
He spent some time looking at their wares - mobile phones, mostly - before asking the brothers their names. After they answered, he asked which of them used a particular mobile phone number.
When Ahmed replied that he did, he was told to stand up. The 27-year-old struggled to his feet - he has been afflicted with polio in his right leg since he was a boy.
"The man tells him to take his phone and come and sit in the car outside, where a sahab [important man] is sitting who wants to ask you some questions," his younger brother Tahir, who was ordered to stay inside, told Al Jazeera.
That was the last time his family saw Ahmed.
Naseer was the fourth person to disappear within a matter of days across Pakistan's Punjab province. On January 4, Waqas Goraya, a Netherlands-based student, and Asim Saeed, a Singapore-based IT manager, were abducted in the eastern city of Lahore. On January 6, Salman Haider, a poet, activist and lecturer was abducted near his home in the capital, Islamabad. On January 7, activist Samar Abbas went missing while on a visit to the capital, too, bringing the total to five.
Abbas and Haider were known for their activism, espousing progressive and leftist positions in critiquing the Pakistani state and its powerful military, which has ruled Pakistan for more than half of its 69-year history and continues to dominate governance.
Haider, in particular, was known for his activism for "missing persons", the moniker given to victims of a campaign of enforced disappearances often used by Pakistan's intelligence agencies in its war against ethnic Baloch nationalists and others, including the Pakistani Taliban . The issue of enforced disappearances is not new for Pakistan. Rights activists allege that there are thousands of people who have been "disappeared" by the state, with some allegedly killed while in custody. In December, the government's Commission on Enforced Disappearances reported that the dead bodies of 936 missing persons had been found in Balochistan province alone since 2011.
The government denies any wrongdoing, and, in the case of the five activists currently missing, the interior ministry says it is "making every possible effort for [their] safe recovery", according to a statement.
Now, however, these activists and citizens, as well as those calling for their release, face an even greater danger: They are being accused of blasphemy - a crime that carries a judicial death sentence and, increasingly commonly, the threat of extrajudicial murder by right-wing vigilantes.
'Weaponising blasphemy'
"These [Facebook] pages … are extremely insulting to the Prophet, the Quran, Allah and Islam. They have made a joke out of this," said Abdullah Cheema, a guest on a popular television news show on January 12. Cheema accused Goraya of running the Facebook pages in question, a charge denied by the activist's family. "Speaking in support of such criminals is a crime in itself," said Cheema, while being encouraged by Orya Maqbool Jan, the show's host and a well-known newspaper columnist.
"These blasphemers who they have captured, whoever has captured them, may Allah bless those people," said Khadim Hussain Rizvi, a well-known Muslim leader in a sermon uploaded to YouTube on Jan 13.
"The bloggers' disappearance is its own issue. They should definitely be produced, but no one should try and hide their crimes, and their crimes are so heinous that no one should … say that they suffered injustice," said Aamir Liaquat, one of Pakistan's most well-known talk show hosts on January 16.
Meanwhile, Facebook pages known for posting material in favour of the Pakistani military and intelligence agencies have also taken up the cry.
"The group of atheists committing blasphemy on Facebook ... have been defeated," said a recent post by Pakistan Defence, a pro-military Facebook page that has 7.5 million likes and is run by anonymous administrators.
Insulting Islam's prophet carries the death sentence in Pakistan, while defiling the Quran carries a life sentence. Blasphemy accusations have often been used to target minorities and to settle personal scores, rights groups say. Currently, there are 40 people on death row or serving life sentences for the crime in Pakistan, according to the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom.
More worryingly, at least 68 people linked to blasphemy accusations have been killed by vigilantes or mobs since 1990, according a tally maintained by Al Jazeera. They have included those accused of blasphemy, their lawyers, their relatives, judges hearing their cases and members of their communities (PDF).
"Anyone even accused of blasphemy practically carries a death sentence even if they are [released]," says Zohra Yusuf, chairperson of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP), expressing her organisation's "alarm" at the accusations being levelled at both the disappeared and those campaigning for their release.
Gul Bukhari, a Lahore-based rights activist, sees the campaign of accusations as aimed at silencing the campaign for the five men to be recovered.
"People are beginning to see a pattern. That when you can't bring formal charges and you disappear people, and when there is outcry over this, they attempt to silence that by activating the blasphemy brigade," she told Al Jazeera.
"[It is] dangerous because it appears that the state has weaponised blasphemy [allegations]. It appears that the state is using this to silence dissent."
Shahzad Ahmed, whose internet rights group Bytes for All works on censorship and freedom of expression in Pakistan and has examined such campaigns before, characterises the current slew of online blasphemy allegations as both "coordinated" and "structured".
"There are some [Facebook] pages who are spearheading it, creating memes, sharing photos, and those are then spread. And some make their way to mainstream media. So this is very coordinated, or you can say that it is structured." For the families of those disappeared, all of whom categorically deny the allegations, the message is clear.
"This is being done to dissuade people from supporting him and to agitate people against him," says Talat Saeed, the wife of Asim Saeed, one of those abducted from Lahore.
"Such elements are trying to paint our missing family members as anti-state and anti-religion and inciting people to commit violence against them and our families," reads a statement from the relatives of Goraya and Haider, issued on Wednesday.
And the attacks have already begun. At a rally in the southern city of Karachi on Thursday, right-wing religious leaders hurled rocks at a peaceful protest calling for the release of the activists.
"I swear to Allah, as long as there is a Sunni Muslim who holds Mumtaz Qadri's ideology in Pakistan, we will not let those who disrespect the Prophet live!" yelled one religious leader at that rally, referring to a man venerated by many for killing Pakistani politician Salman Taseer in 2011 over blasphemy allegations.
Government inaction
The implications at play - of both the disappearances and the subsequent campaign to accuse them of blasphemy - are chilling, say Pakistani activists.
"This is extremely disturbing because they have now entered the digital world, and obviously social media, in particular, has more open space for people to express themselves," says Yusuf of HRCP.
"The message is being sent that any criticism of either the military or those linked with the military will not be tolerated."
With the stakes so high, few activists will dare stick their necks out, out of fear for their lives, says Mahvish Ahmad, a journalist and founder of the magazine Tanqeed.
"Disappearances of people mean the disappearance of voices - and of an alternate, dissenting political dream for what Pakistan can be. They only have to pick up a handful of people, as they've done now, to scare and silence us all."
For others, the government inaction on locating the disappeared has given those responsible the ability to act with impunity.
"The government appears either unable or unwilling to find them, and its gross incompetence is likely to result in a chilling effect on the freedom to express dissenting views in Pakistan. That space was never very large; it is now definitely endangered," says Madiha Tahir, a New York-based academic and journalist.
For the families of the disappeared, meanwhile, questions of shrinking space in the public sphere are academic. The ordeal of simply not knowing where their relatives are, what condition they are in, or indeed whether they are still alive, is all that matters.
"I have many questions right now, and no answers," says Tahir Naseer. "I hope that [my brother] is returned soon, so that I can ask him myself. So that I can at least know what the whole issue here was."

Pakistan - 22 killed, dozens wounded in a bomb explosion in Kurram Agency's Parachinar city.





A bomb blast ripped through a vegetable market in Pakistan's northwestern region in a predominantly Shia area, killing at least 22 people and wounding about 90 others.
The explosion occurred Saturday morning at the Eidgah Market in Parachinar city, the capital of Kurram Agency, where a large number of people had gathered to buy fresh produce.
Ashiq Hussain, who was lightly wounded, was being treated in Parachinar hospital. He said he was among the people purchasing fruit and vegetables loaded on a van when the explosion took place.
"There was a big bang and I saw a dark cloud of smoke and dust before passing out," he said.
Hussain said he saw bleeding bodies and severed limbs and heard cries when he came back to his senses. "I was just bleeding from my leg," he said. "Thank God I am alive."
Local official Kurram Ikramullah told Al Jazeera as many as 87 people had been wounded, some in critical condition.
"The bomb seems to have been planted in vegetable crate," Ikramullah said. "There is a high possibility that the vegetables were brought from outside the agency."
Lashker-e-Jhangvi, a banned armed group that has attacked minority Shia Muslims in the past, claimed responsibility for the attack.
"That was our combined work with Shahryar group of Mahsud Taliban," Ali Sufyan, a spokesman for the group, wrote in a text message to an Associated Press news agency reporter.
Al Jazeera's Kamal Hyder, reporting from Islamabad, said Parachinar has witnessed tension between Sunni and Shia Muslims, who make up roughly 20 percent of Pakistan's population of 200 million.
"It must be remembered that Parachinar has been over the past few years the scene of heavy sectarian violence between Shia and Sunni Muslim," he said. "The explosion has caused heavy civilian casualties and the death toll is expected to rise."
The Pakistani military media wing, Inter-Services Public Relations ( ISPR), said in a statement some of the wounded would be airlifted to hospitals in Peshawar, capital of northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province.

Pakistan - DAESH-ALLIED DEOBANDI TALIBAN CLAIMS RESPONSIBILITY FOR PARACHINAR BOMBING

The outlawed Deobandi terrorist outfit Tehreek-e-Taliban has claimed responsibility for the bomb blast in Parachinar.
Saifullah warned that his group will continue attacking Shiites if they back Assad and it is also interesting to note that his Taliban group had massacred innocent children students of Army Public School who were Sunni Muslims. They have killed thousands of Sunni officials of security forces as well.

“Saifullah alias Bilal carried out the attack in Parachinar on Saturday,” TTP spokesperson Muhammad Khorasani said.
He further said the blast was in retaliation for killing Lashkar-e-Jhangvi chief Asif Chotu, along with three others in an encounter. It is also relevant to add here that no Shia killed LeJ terrorists but the Sunni officials of counterterrorism department of police had executed the notorious Deobandi terrorists.

He also claimed the Parachinar explosion was to avenge the killing of their associates by security forces. “It was to teach a lesson to Shiites for their support for Bashar al-Assad," said the group's spokesman Qari Saifullah, referring to the Syrian president that is also against the fact because Sunni Muslim Arabs and particularly Palestinians and a vast majority of the world Muslims have no problem with the legitimate and elected ruler of Syria where Sunni Muslims are in majority in the Parliament and in the government including Prime Minister, more than 20 ministers and speaker. Sunni Grand Mufti also supports Bashar al Assad and he too condemn those terrorists calling them takfiris. 

Saifullah warned that his group will continue attacking Shiites if they back Assad and it is also interesting to note that his Taliban group had massacred innocent children students of Army Public School who were Sunni Muslims. They have killed thousands of Sunni officials of security forces as well.

http://www.shiitenews.org/index.php/pakistan/item/26766-daesh-allied-deobandi-taliban-claims-responsibility-for-parachinar-bombing

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Pakistan - Bacha Khan’s legacy (Abdul Ghaffar Khan)



BY AFRASIAB KHATTAK


A few days ago Pope Francis in his Christmas message, mentioned three icons of peace and non-violence from the 20th century; Mahatma Gandhi, Nelson Mandela and Abdul Ghaffar Khan (popularly known as Bacha Khan).
One would have expected it to be an important news item worth reporting by the Pakistani media.
A towering political figure, social reformer and freedom fighter from Pakistan, a country that has been frequently mentioned by international media as source of terrorism, was being recognised as champion of peace and non-violence by the leader of Christian world. Yet, the news item barely found mention in the mainstream Pakistani media.
It was only on social media that the followers of Bacha Khan celebrated his recognition by Pope Francis.
For those who know the deep biases of Punjabi dominated Pakistani ruling elites it was hardly surprising.
Bacha Khan, founder of Khudai Khidmatgars (Servants of God), the vanguard of Pashtun national liberation movement in early 20th century, finds no mention in official history books in Pakistan for three reasons.
One, although Bacha Khan and his followers were committed freedom fighters and rendered valiant sacrifices for this cause, but they were opposed to partition of India.
And they were not alone in it.
Other prominent Muslim leaders of the Indian sub-continent like Abdul Kalam Azad, Shiekh Abdullah and Zakir Hussain, among others, were also opposed to partition as they regarded it to be more a partition of Muslims of South Asia than a partition of India. All these leaders were practicing Muslims but they were secular in their political approach and opposed communal politics. But at the same time it is also a matter of record that when Pakistan came into being Bacha Khan took oath of allegiance to the new state as a member of its first Constituent Assembly and worked for its progress.
Two, Bacha Khan was opposed to all kinds of dictatorships including martial laws and struggled for a federal democratic system. That’s why he spent longer periods of time in Pakistani prisons as a political prisoner than the time he had to spend in prisons under the British Raj during the freedom struggle.
Three, Bacha Khan advocated an independent foreign policy for Pakistan and championed good relations with all neighbouring countries. He categorically opposed perpetual animosity with India and hegemonic policy towards Afghanistan. These views obviously annoyed those who wanted to turn the country into a security state, busy in unending wars.
Be that as it may, Bacha Khan was too big a stalwart of peace, non-violence and freedom movements to remain obscure forever. Although he had never personally held the reigns of power, but when he died on January 20, 1988 national flags in three countries, Afghanistan, Pakistan and India were brought to half mast to mourn his death, their mutual differences not withstanding. Heads of all the three countries were present at different stages of his funeral. Even the Pakistani state, after deliberately ignoring him for a long time, has slowly tended to recognise him. Peshawar international airport has been named after him.
Newly built educational institutions carry his name.
This was something that was already being done in both India and Afghanistan out of deep respect to him.
For younger generations of Pashtuns, his socio-political legacy is not only relevant but also very important. This is because Pashtuns on both sides of the Durand Line have borne the brunt of almost four decades of war imposed on Afghanistan. Bacha Khan and his Khudai Khidmatgars was the only political movement among South Asian Muslims who refused to recognise war in Afghanistan in the 1980s as “Jihad”.
For Bacha Khan it was a big power tussle at the peak of the Cold War that was spilling Pashtun/Afghan blood and destroying their country. Recent developments have fully vindicated the position taken by Bacha Khan. Russia that was the main target of the “Afghan Jihad” has in the recent times started flirting with the same “Jihadist “ elements.
It is in this this context that Bacha Khan’s legacy of peace, non-violence and his movement for Pashtun Renaissance has strong attraction for the Pashtun youth.
After all, the credit for modernising Pashtunwali, the Pashtun tribal way of life, belongs to him. He started a large-scale campaign for educating Pashtuns in the early 1920s, and for this purpose established hundreds of schools. He specifically emphasised female education and set an example by providing education to his only daughter. He rallied the weaker social sections of society and introduced social reforms aimed at establishing a more egalitarian society. He vigorously campaigned for putting an end to tribal and personal blood feuds. He emphasised the value of forgiveness over traditional revenge.
The aforementioned features of his movement explain his deep-rooted support among Pashtuns every where in the world, despite prolonged campaigns of demonisation and negative propaganda launched against him by the elements with vested interests.
Bacha Khan’s legacy has also vital relevance for interfaith harmony and peace in today’s world. “The present day world can only survive the mass production of nuclear weapons through non-violence,” he said in 1983. Proposing a way out for the 21st century he said in an interview in 1985, just three years before his death, “Today’s world is going in some strange direction.
You see that the world is going towards destruction and violence. And the specialty of violence is to create hatred among people and to create fear. I am a believer in non-violence and I say that no peace or tranquility will descend upon the people of the world until non-violence is practiced because non-violence is love and it stirs courage in people. ”
Bacha Khan message has particular relevance in South Asia where he is recognised and respected as a consistent practitioner of non-violence, peaceful coexistence and interfaith harmony.
His legacy can be a bridge for friendship among the countries of the region.