Saturday, 31 May 2014

Civil society supports move for peace between India and Pakistan

Civil society supports move for peace between India and Pakistan

Karachi, May 30, 2014: The Civil society of Pakistan has welcomed the resumption of peace process between Pakistan and India after the visit of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to the Indian Capital to attend the oath-taking ceremony of the newly elected Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi early this week.

Expressing deepest appreciation for the unflinching commitment of Pakistan’s PM to extend a hand of friendship to the regional neighbor, despite resistance by an out-dated school of thought still invested in war and violence, the civil society pledged full support to Mr Sharif to lead the peace process, the joint statement issued by Pakistan Civil Societies Forum, Pakistan Peace Coalition and Pakistan Secular Forum here on Thursday.

“A new hope has emerged after the meeting between the two Prime Ministers on May 27, 2014 and this gesture of goodwill should prevail on permanent basis. We welcome the agreement between the two leaders that shall open doors for foreign secretaries’ level talks for reviewing and carrying forward the bilateral agenda,” the joint statement stated.

Members of the civil society of Pakistan appealed to both Indian and Pakistani leaders to start an uninterrupted and uninterruptable dialogue at all levels to resolve longstanding disputes including Kashmir, Sir Creek, withdrawal of armies from Siachin, and easing the visa conditions. They also urged to prioritise the resolution of the issue of fisherpeople’s arrest every few weeks due to accidental crossing of border.

 “The maritime border between Pakistan and India is a disputed territory devoid of any prominent mark to demarcate the two sides. Accidental crossing of the sea border by the fisherpeople of the two countries is therefore a common occurrence. The fisherpeople are detained for many months, sometimes years, till the authorities decide to release them as a “goodwill gesture”. Same is the case with farmers who accidentally cross borders and are arrested on the charge of spying. Their detention and denial of trial indicates that their arrest is more a political move than anything concerned with following the rule of law. The two states must work towards permanently resolving the issue of fisher people’s arrest so that the community that neither has any political influence nor the financial might to find a way out is provided relief.”

The civil society listed enhanced people-to-people contact, increase in bilateral trade, opening up of new trade routes, mutual understandings over issuance of visas to senior citizens and women and children, and free flow of information as necessary steps to create an environment of stability in bilateral exchange and dialogue. The Indian journalists, whose visas have not been extended by the Pakistani government, should be issued necessary visas without delay so that they can discharge their professional duties. More newspapers, TV channels and news agencies should be allowed to send their reporters and photographers across the border so that the public communication and understanding of each other is improved.
With the heavy mandate enjoyed by both Nawaz Sharif and Narendra Modi in their respective countries, the two leaders have a fresh opportunity to take the peace process forward. “Millions of people in Pakistan and India have been yearning for normalization of relations between the two countries because peace is the most essential prerequisite for the unhindered progress, development and the betterment of the quality of life of the people who live in conditions of abject poverty and misery. The two countries also have a responsibility towards the South Asian region that has been held hostage to India-Pakistan rivalry for far too long. Abandoning a path of confrontation is the only way forward,” the statement concluded.

Released by: 
Shujauddin Qureshi
Co-Manager Programmes (Advocacy and Networking)
Pakistan Institute of Labour Education and Research (PILER)
Gulshan-e-Maymar, Karachi-75340
Ph: +(92-21) 36351145-7
Fax: +(92-21) 36350345
Cell: +(92) 300-3929788

Govt to come up with structured response on Art 370, Ravi Shankar Prasad

Govt to come up with structured response on Art 370, Ravi Shankar Prasad

NEW DELHI: (PTI) The government on Saturday said it will come up with a "structured" response to the issue of Article 370, which gives special status to Jammu and Kashmir, at an appropriate time amid a raging debate on it sparked by Union minister Jitendra Singh's remark. 

"At the appropriate time, the government of India, led by Narendra Modi, will come with a response on the issue of Article 370," law minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said. 

He was responding to questions on the remarks of minister of state in the PMO Jitendra Singh seeking a debate on the future of Article 370. 

Prasad said the decision on giving the post of leader of the opposition in the Lok Sabha will be taken by the Speaker and as a law minister he was not the right person to answer the query. 
"Who will be the Leader of the opposition is the prerogative of the Speaker. The decision of the Speaker is there, the norms are there. The law states what shall be the entitlement of the Leader of the Opposition...this is the call which has to be taken by the Speaker," he told Karan Thapar on Headlines Today. 

Asked on the controversy surrounding the election affidavits of HRD minister Smriti Irani, he said Congress should pick up bigger issues. 

"She has already said that she should be judged by her performance. Her parliamentary skills are better than those with PhDs," he said. 

To a question on amending the TRAI Act through an ordinance to allow Nripendra Misra take up the position of principal secretary to the Prime Minister, Prasad said a "technical glitch" in the law was rectified. 

He also said since appointment of a principal secretary was an emergent situation, the ordinance was promulgated. He said it will be presented as a bill in Parliament. 

Govt to come up with 'structured' response on Art 370: Ravi Shankar Prasad - The Times of India

Safety and security of journalists- a submission to UN Human Rights Council

Safety and security of journalists- a submission to UN Human Rights Council
May 30, 2014
Twenty sixth session, Agenda Item 3, Panel Discussion on the Safety of Journalists
A written submission to the UN Human Rights Council by the Asian Legal Resource Centre
PAKISTAN: The international community must pursue the government of Pakistan to ensure the safety and security of journalists
1. As a member of the United Nations, Pakistan has obligations to ensure the equal enjoyment by all people within its territory of the personal and advocacy rights protected by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). Discharge of these obligations entails the right to Freedom of Expression and safety and security of the journalists, which the Human Rights Committee has determined applies to both criminal and civil proceedings.

2. The environment for working journalists is steadily deteriorating and has reached a point where Pakistan has become one of the most dangerous countries in the world for journalists. Journalists face menacing threats from militant groups including the Taliban and Al-Qaida and from the spy agencies of country's most powerful security establishment, particularly from the Inter Services Intelligence (ISI). Journalists walk a tight rope while performing their professional duties. In an actual sense they live on a daily basis with swords dangling over their heads.

3. The fact that Pakistan is among the most dangerous countries in the world for journalists is borne out by the statistics of a total of 87 deaths since the year 2000. A total of 16 journalists were killed during the year 2011, nine journalists died in 2012 and 13 journalists in 2013 while performing their official duties which ranked Pakistan as the third most dangerous country in the world for journalists. The tribal areas, Khyber Pakhtoon and Balochistan provinces remained the most dangerous areas for journalists from the state intelligence agencies and militant groups.

4. Besides this, more than 100 journalists were injured while performing their duties. The authorities make the tall claim that they are providing treatment for the injured journalists and taking care of the welfare of their family members. However the government and the media houses have failed to provide protection to the working journalists, particularly in the war zone areas. The media houses are equally responsible for not taking steps to provide protection to the journalists rather than taking them for granted. At times it looks as if media houses are happy when a journalist is killed as the names of their organisations are quoted at every level. The owners are more concerned about making profit than providing insurance and health benefits to their staff. They have failed to develop any security plan for the safety of the journalists and the future of their families in the event of threats to their lives.

5. During 2014, a journalist and three staff of a television channel were killed in an ambush. From January 2013 to-date, 17 journalists were killed by state intelligence agencies or militant groups such as the Taliban and sectarian groups. Three journalists including two prominent anchorpersons of two television channels were attacked and injured. One, Mr. Raza Rumi of Express channel, was attacked by Taliban group and other, Hamid Mir, was allegedly attacked by the ISI.

6. The military establishment has decided to close down or suspend the licenses of three channels of GEO, a television outlet with the largest viewership in the country. The suspension came about on the complaint of Ministry of Defence by the Pakistan Electronic Regulatory Authority (PEMRA). The Ministry of Defence complained to PEMRA on behalf of the ISI after the station accused General Zaheerul Islam as a conspirator in the attempted assassination of GEO's anchorperson, Hamid Mir. and his family members.

7. Closure of these channels will result in over 2000 journalists and staff losing their jobs. The actions of the Ministry of Defence effectively serve to punish the staff for working with a media house.

8. In the wake of the journalists' subsequent complaints, the ISI has instigated and organised religious groups, forbidden militant organisations, and some right wing political parties to agitate on the streets on daily basis against the GEO group. This campaign has reached a dangerous point such that journalists from GEO group fear being attacked.

9. Amid the agitation, on April 19 a prominent journalist and anchorperson of GEO TV was critically wounded by six bullets. The assailant remains unknown. He and his family members accused the ISI and its chief general Zaheerul Islam of organizing the attempted killing. TV host Imtiaz Alam has also been receiving threats. A few months ago TV anchor Jasmin Manzoor reportedly cried in front of the Prime Minister and begged for her life.

10. On May 2 GEO News cameraman Asif Kabir was going to the channel's office in Model Town A, Bahawalpur, Punjab, when three motorcyclists wearing helmets stopped him. The three men called him a traitor and an Indian agent and then assaulted him. They injured him badly and attempted to steal his camera. As of writing, no case has been filed by the local police.

11. There are examples of many journalists like Saleem Shahzad, who was disappeared from central Islamabad on May 29, 2011. His body, bearing visible signs of torture, was discovered on May 31. The Supreme Court, at the request of the government, formed a commission of inquiry into the killing. However, the commission's failure to get to the bottom of the Shahzad killing illustrates the ability of the ISI to remain beyond the reach of Pakistan's criminal justice system. The commission's failure to get to the bottom of the Shahzad killing illustrates the ability of the ISI to remain beyond the reach of Pakistan's criminal justice system. The government still has the responsibility to identify those responsible for Shahzad's death and hold them accountable, no matter where the evidence leads.

12. Hyatullah, MusaKhel and many from Balochistan were killed after their disappearance by the powerful intelligence agencies of the army. A prominent journalist, Umer Cheema, was also abducted by the intelligence agency, the ISI, severely tortured and sodomised by army officials. But, as is typical where the military are concerned, no perpetrator has ever been prosecuted nor has any enquiry been concluded.

13. In the murder of Hyatullah Khan, a judicial commission was formed which came out with the opinion that the secret agencies of the military were involved. However, the government has not made the report public and when the widow of Hyatullah Khan began to pursue the case she was also murdered and the ISI was given immunity.

14. Besides the state onslaught against the journalists as the punishment of freedom of expression the journalists are also the target of militants groups in the conflict areas. The journalists reporting on the two conflicts, namely Taliban Militancy and Baloch insurgency, are faced with double jeopardy. There is a common perception in the tribal belt that the military and the militants are on the same page and only innocent people are suffering. It becomes tricky to maintain a balance in reports as it is hard to know exactly who is on whose side.

15. Due to pressures from state intelligence agencies and militant groups, the Federally Administered Tribal Areas, Khyber Pakhtoon and Balochistan remain the most dangerous areas for journalists. In addition to prosecution by the government, journalists are also the target of militant groups in these conflict areas, especially those who report on Taliban Militancy and Baloch insurgency. There is a common perception in the tribal belt that the military and the militants are on the same page and only innocent people are suffering. It becomes tricky to maintain neutrality in reporting as it is hard to know exactly who is on whose side.

16. Journalists working in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas and Khyber Pukhtunkhwa face higher risks. In many cases their families also suffer threats and harassment. Aslam Durrani of Peshawar, Mumtaz Malik of North Wazirstan and Ayub Khattak of Karak were killed in northwestern Pakistan because of their reporting during the year 2013. Others have been kidnapped and assaulted.

17. In Balochistan, insurgents, underground death squads, and sectarian groups like the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi have reportedly threatened journalists. Rights groups have been reporting the deaths of journalists at the hands of intelligence agencies for a significant length of time.

18. Many journalists have left the country because they find no protection from their own organizations and the government. In 2011 four journalists left the country in 2012 eight, in 2013 six and in 2014 three journalists left the country after receiving threats from state agencies and militant groups. These journalists, when they received shelter abroad have been hired by international media houses because of their investigative journalism.

19. Pakistani people often look to the media for help as the judiciary and law enforcement agencies have failed them.

20. Here, the judiciary cannot be expected to provide legal remedies as the courts are beholden to the power of the security establishment and militant organisations. The judiciary itself is directing the police to file cases of blasphemy and treason against the GEO group.

21. Pakistani people often look to the media for help as the judiciary and law enforcement agencies have failed them.

22. Here, the judiciary cannot be expected to provide legal remedies as the courts are beholden to the power of the security establishment and militant organisations. The judiciary itself is directing the police to file cases of blasphemy and treason against the GEO group.

23. Amnesty International said in its statement on April 30 that journalists in Pakistan live under the constant threat of death, harassment and other violence from all sides. These threats come from parties such as the intelligence services, political parties, and armed groups like the Taliban.

24. The ISI, Pakistan's spy agency, has been implicated in numerous abductions, torture and killings of journalists, and yet no serving ISI official has ever been held to account. This effectively allows the organisation to continue to operate beyond the reach of the law. The Reporter Without Borders has termed Pakistan "the world's deadliest country for media personnel".

25. The failure of the criminal justice system allows perpetrators to compromise freedom of speech with impunity. The Pakistani government has instituted judicial commissions of inquiry on two occasions into the killings of journalists, yet these commissions failed to identify the assassins. Murders of journalists have never been prosecuted or brought to book regardless of available evidence and witnesses. Civilian politicians cannot take action as they themselves are in fear of the military. The Taliban and other militant groups are shields for the military establishment and are used to suppress the freedom of expression.
26. In light of the above, the Asian Legal Resource Centre recommends the followings:

a. Pakistan must prioritise the safety and security of journalists. The authorities should categorically prosecute all those who threaten and attack journalists;
b. Pakistan must ensure protection of the journalistic community including their families;
c. Media houses must ensure the well-being and safety of their journalists and provide compensation for family members in case of death;
d. The UN Human Rights Council must pursue the Pakistani government to rein in the military and the intelligence agencies to ensure that they do not carry out extrajudicial killings of journalists;
e. Trade partners of Pakistan must make their relationships conditional on the safety and security of journalists, and;
f. Donor groups and the World Bank must not compromise on the freedom of expression and safety of journalists in Pakistan while providing the grants and the loans that Pakistan needs.

Friday, 30 May 2014

Pakistan ranks third for bomb blasts in the world

Pakistan ranks third for bomb blasts in the world
LONDON- Between 2008 and 2013, Pakistan saw roughly two major bombings per day, each blast wounding or killing an average of at least five people.

The attacks, including the use of Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs), has made Pakistan one of the most dangerous places in the world, according to Iain Overton, policy director of the London-based Action on Armed Violence (AOAV). "One of the major problems is the amount of munitions coming from Afghanistan into Pakistan and the spread of extremist views that causes the use of IEDs as a normalized form of weaponry," Overton said.

Pakistan now has the third highest homemade bomb and suicide blast rate in the world, higher than even neighboring Afghanistan. According to a recently published AOAV report, victims of bombs that detonate in densely populated urban areas are predominantly civilian. Overton says bombs used in Pakistan range from pressure cooker devices to small magnetized explosives that attach to cars, suicide-bomb vests and belts, and vehicle-borne bombs which tend to carry large amounts of explosives.

Some of the devices are constructed using techniques developed by militants in Iraq and Afghanistan. Analysts say the bombs have a devastating effect on the country, not only demoralizing those who begin to doubt government safeguards, but also inflicting heavy psychological and physical costs.
Pakistan ranks third for bomb blasts in the world

Pakistan Army wants to keep Kashmir issue alive, American scholar

Pakistan Army wants to keep Kashmir issue alive, American scholar
PTI May 29, 2014, 03.25PM IST

WASHINGTON: Pakistan's Army does not want the Kashmir issue to be resolved as this would pose a serious challenge to their existence and their dominance in the country's political set up, a noted American scholar has said.

"They (Pakistan Army) are not going to do a settlement on Kashmir. Why would the Army allow a process to go forward that would obviate its own politics? I think that the best that India can hope for is some version of the status quo," said C Christine Fair, author of the 'Fighting to the End: The Pakistan Army's Way of War'.

Myth No 1 about Article 370, It prevents Indians from buying land in Kashmir

Myth No 1 about Article 370, It prevents Indians from buying land in Kashmir
Among the foremost grievances against Article 370 of the Indian Constitution, which grants special autonomous status to Jammu and Kashmir, is the impression that it prevents Indians from buying land in the state. That is not true. While the Article does give the state a "special status", it says nothing about land.

As it turns out, the prohibition against outsiders buying land in Kashmir was introduced by the Dogras who bought the territory from the British in 1846 under the Treaty of Amritsar.

Article 370 was brought into the Constitution after the events of 1947, when a more popular section of the Kashmiri leadership, led by Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah, negotiated Kashmir’s unique relationship with the Indian Union. The "special status" granted to the state through Article 370 allows the state to have its own Constitution.

Since then, the Article has variously been described as a wall, a bridge and a tunnel between India and the state of Jammu and Kashmir. It was debated in the Indian parliament as early as 1963. In the process of convincing the parliament about the technical difficulties involved in abrogating the Article, Nehru set out to dispel the still-prevailing notion that it prevented people from outside the state from buying land in Kashmir.

"That is an old rule coming on, not a new thing, and I think that it is a very good rule which should continue, because Kashmir is such a delectable place that moneyed people will buy up all the land there to the misfortune of the people who live there; that is the real reason and that reason has applied ever since British times and for one hundred years or more,” Nehru said in the Lok Sabha.

What Article 370 effectively means today is that that Indian government is responsible for Jammu and Kashmir's "Defence, Foreign Affairs, Communications and ancillary matters" specified in the instrument of accession that was executed in October 1947 by the territory's princely ruler, Hari Singh. Except with regard to these matters, laws passed by the Indian Parliament don't apply to Jammu and Kashmir. (But since the J&K assembly typically passes the same laws, it is not, in effect, an issue.) As a result, the state's residents live under a separate set of laws, including those related to citizenship, ownership of property and fundamental rights.

It is true that this "special status" of Jammu and Kashmir allows it to retain the Dogra-era law prohibiting outsiders from buying land, and the central government cannot overrule it. But it is  important to note that similar restrictions on buying land apply to many other parts of India. These areas include the states of Himachal Pradesh, Arunachal Pradesh, Andaman & Nicobar Islands and Nagaland.

The other myth perpetrated by people advocating the abrogation of Article 370 is that it discriminates against women. If a woman who is a state subject in Jammu and Kashmir marries a man from outside the state, she can no longer buy land in Jammu and Kashmir. This issue was put to rest by the state’s High Court in a judgment in 2000 which clarified that a woman does not lose her right to own land in Kashmir on marrying outside the state.

Reactions in Kashmir

The state's special status is being debated again by Jitendra Singh, who, soon after becoming a minister in Prime Minister Narendara Modi’s office, said on Tuesday that the process of abrogating Article 370 had begun. Modi had himself hinted that Article 370 would be re-evaluated while he campaigning in Jammu. Singh retracted his statement soon afterwards, but the very mention of "special status" of Kashmir was enough to ruffle political feathers both in Kashmir and across India.

Chief minister Omar Abdullah’s National Conference repeatedly tells the people of Kashmir that it will fight “tooth and nail” against any attempts to abrogate the Article. The People's Democratic Party led by Mehbooba Mufti and her father Mufti Syeed have demanded a significant reversal of the extension of Indian laws to Jammu and Kashmir, notably New Delhi’s power to dismiss an elected state government under special circumstances.

Many Kashmiris remain convinced that abrogating the Article is technically impossible without freeing Kashmir from Indian laws or rule. Among them is Dr Haseeb Drabu, a well-known Kashmiri economist and a PDP aide. “Rana Jitendra Singh! Dare you and your Government to do it!" he wrote. "Neither does Government of India have the Constitutional authority nor does the BJP have the parliamentary mandate to repeal Article 370.”

Abrogating the article requires concurrence from the Constituent Assembly of Jammu and Kashmir. One view expressed in social media debates is that if New Delhi has unilaterally eroded Article 370, it can abrogate it as well, since there was no Constituent Assembly in Kashmir from which to seek concurrence.

The separatists, on the other hand, would love to see the constitutional arrangement be scrapped because Kashmir in their view would then “become a clear Indian military occupation” without a “legal instrument” guiding its relationship with the Indian Union.

In his book Article 370: A Constitutional History of Jammu and Kashmir, the constitutional expert and historian, AG Noorani, has described how the Article has been eroded over the years. Already the extension of several institutions to Jammu and Kashmir – such as the Reserve Bank of India and the Supreme Court – has been completed without regard to Article 370.

New Delhi has historically swung from promising Kashmiris a referendum that allows them to exercise the right to self-determination, to the idea of integrating Kashmir fully into the Indian Union by any means necessary. Today, conditions in the state suggest that any attempt to abrogate Article 370 may actually worsen the conflict in Kashmir and prove counter-productive to any attempt at "full integration".

Parvaiz Bukhari is a journalist in Srinagar.

OPEN LETTER TO THE PRIME MINISTER NAWAZ SHARIF Joint statement of shared concerns about attacks on journalists in Pakistan

Joint statement of shared concerns about attacks on journalists in Pakistan
29 May 2014
Dear Prime Minister
Three years ago today, journalist Saleem Shahzad was abducted a short distance away from his Islamabad home and later found dead, his body bearing marks consistent with torture. We, the representatives of the undersigned group of civil society organisations working in human rights and media, call on you to fulfil your promise to end the impunity enjoyed by individuals and groups who threaten, attack, abduct, torture and kill journalists in Pakistan. In order to address these attacks on journalists, we urge you to follow through on the commitments you made in March, and as a first phase country for the UN Action Plan on the Safety of Journalists and the Issue of Impunity, and to take further concrete steps along the lines set out below.

Based on our collective experiences monitoring human rights globally, Pakistan is one of the most dangerous countries in the world for journalists, judging by the severity and extent of threats and attacks on media professionals due to their reporting. Dozens of journalists have been killed in Pakistan in direct response to their work over the last decade. At least eight journalists have been killed since your government came to power in June 2013.

Journalists and other media workers from across Pakistan face harassment, abduction, torture and attempts on their lives by state intelligence officers, members of political parties and armed groups like the Taliban. Journalists reporting on national security and human rights, and those reporting from the conflict-affected northwest, violence-ravaged Balochistan and the city of Karachi are most at risk as they rarely enjoy protection from the state or support from their employers.

We are deeply concerned at the failure of successive Pakistan governments to carry out prompt, impartial, independent and thorough investigations into abuses against journalists, or to bring those responsible to justice. Attempts on the lives of Hamid Mir and Raza Rumi and the abduction and killing of Saleem Shahzad exemplify the enduring challenge to justice when journalists come under attack: as far as our organisations are aware, no one has been brought to justice for any of these attacks. Only in two cases of journalist killings have the perpetrators ever been convicted in Pakistan.

The failure to bring those responsible for attacks on journalists to justice sends a signal that the media can be silenced through violence and that the perpetrators can literally get away with murder and other abuses. It also has a chilling effect on freedom of expression in Pakistan, with journalists increasingly resorting to self-censorship to avoid the risk of harm.

It is the Pakistan government’s duty under international law to protect the rights to life, liberty and freedom from torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment of all individuals within its territory and under its jurisdiction, including journalists. As a state party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), Pakistan must also ensure the media is free to carry out its critical function of facilitating and promoting freedom of expression, as guaranteed by Article 19 of the ICCPR. Journalists play a vital role in exposing human rights abuse. Ensuring that journalists are able to undertake their work free from harassment and abuse is therefore an essential cornerstone in the protection and promotion of human rights in Pakistan.

We call on your Government to urgently take the following steps, in line with Pakistan’s international legal obligations, so that journalists may carry out their work free from harassment and abuse:

Re-start the criminal investigations into the abduction and killing of Saleem Shahzad, as promised by the current Pakistan government, and ensure that all potential suspects, including members of any military and intelligence authorities, are subjected to a full, independent and impartial investigation.

Ensure prompt, thorough, independent and impartial investigations into human rights abuses against journalists, including abductions, enforced disappearances, torture and other ill-treatment, extrajudicial executions and other unlawful killings.

Ensure that all persons suspected of crimes involving human rights abuses against journalists, regardless of their status, rank or affiliation with state or non-state groups, are brought to justice in fair trials without recourse to the death penalty.

Implement the Prime Minister’s announced plan to establish a public prosecutor at the federal and provincial levels tasked with investigating attacks against journalists, and ensure that it is independent, adequately staffed and resourced, and has authority to investigate the military and intelligence services in addition to civilians. Also implement the Prime Minister’s commitment to expedite the prosecution of the killers of journalists by changing trial venues and expanding witness protection programs.

Ensure, in line with the United Nations Plan of Action on the Safety of Journalists and the Issue of Impunity, that media companies adhere to requirements on due diligence, health and safety, among other standards in national law and policy; and introduce systemic legal and policy reforms where such requirements either do not exist in national law or are inadequate.

We welcome your concern about the situation for journalists in Pakistan and look forward to the Pakistan government taking real steps to improve the working environment for journalists in Pakistan.
Yours faithfully
Amnesty International – Salil Shetty, Secretary General
Article 19 (UK) – Thomas Hughes, Executive Director
Committee to Protect Journalists – Joel Simon, Executive Director
Freedom House - Karin Karlekar, Project Director, Freedom of the Press
Human Rights Watch – Brad Adams, Executive Director, Asia Division
International News Safety Institute – Hannah Storm, Executive Director
Internews ​– Jeanne Bourgault, President
Pakistan Coalition on Media Safety – Owais Aslam Ali, Head of Secretariat
Pen International – Ann Harrison, Programme Director
Reporters Without Borders - Christopher Deloire, Secretary-Generalimage2.png
PAGE \* MERGEFORMAT 2 Index: ASA 33/010/2014

Wednesday, 28 May 2014

Arif Shahid remembered after one year

Arif Shahid remembered after one year:

Friday, 23 May 2014

Pakistan army back in the driving seat, Dr Shabir Choudhry

Pakistan army back in the driving seat
Dr Shabir Choudhry     23 May 2014

It is wrong assumption that Pakistan was created to promote Islam, or it was established for the welfare of the Muslims of the Sub Continent; if anything Muslims of South Asia were divided and they suffered most as a direct result of the division of India on religious lines.

Those who established Pakistan had strategic, political and imperialist aims in the region; and in order to advance their agenda they needed a religious state which could look after the interests of the West and Capitalism. For that purpose they left in charge Brown Sahibs who were trained and educated by the British to carry the burden; and no wonder the British trained army, the British appointed feudal lords and the British trained bureaucracy has always been at the helm of affairs in Pakistan.

This troika always ensured that the interests of the West are appropriately looked after; and that democracy does not get its roots in Pakistan. They also ensured that people are not empowered and they always remain divided on religious, ethnic and linguistic lines and remain subservient. Furthermore they ensured that the ordinary people always remain at subsistence level where they are only worried about their next meal.

This troika also obtained help of judiciary and the religious leaders, and that made it easier for them to advance their agenda. They were in a position to determine what national interest of Pakistan is. Who is a patriotic and who is a traitor. Who is a true Muslim and who has committed blasphemy and who has become a Kaffir? Above all, who can protect the national interest and who is a security risk.

Pakistan army’s record against its enemy - India is abysmal, as they have not won any war, and lost East Pakistan by surrendering more than 90,000 armed personnel in December 1971. Even its record in fighting their ‘own boys’, known as ‘strategic assets’ or Jihadi groups is not impressive either as they have lost very senior army officers and more than 5,000 men in uniform without achieving tangible results.

However, army’s record against civilian governments of Pakistan is brilliant, as they have successfully invaded their capital four times and directly ruled the country for more than three decades. The remaining period in the life of the country men in uniform dictated the terms by either sitting in the back seat, or on the front seat.

Nawaz Sharif came to power third time, hoping to assert the civilian rule as he had the majority in the Parliament and the public support. Also the geo political situation was such that it looked men in Khaki will not dare to challenge the civilian rule. Men in Khaki only allow civilian rule to continue if they do not challenge army’s writ in certain areas of policy. Any civilian ruler in Pakistan who thinks he is the real Chief Executive and acts like one as well is asking for trouble; and Nawaz Sharif has asked for the trouble.

He is trying to assert the civilian rule, which the army cannot tolerate. He is working hard to provide Pakistan economic stability and make peace with the Pakistani Taliban and insurgents of Balochistan. Also he wants to have friendly relations with India and have mutual cooperation in many areas including trade and commerce. He has also abandoned this policy of previous governments to have a strategic depth in Afghanistan, and have a government in Kabul which Pakistan approves or likes.

The army has serious disagreements with some of the above. Although Army Chief’s name is Sharif and he is handpicked by the Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif for this post, but once the wooden stick that symbolise the change of command was passed on to him, he became loyal to his constituency; which means leave sharafat at home, and use the stick to get the desired results for the army.

The army started asserting themselves some months ago; hence we see the turmoil in various walks of life in Pakistan, including in media. A few days ago to show the civilian government their place, the army chief told Nawaz Sharif: "The time for talk is over." What this means is that the army will decide how to deal with the Taliban. They not only launched air strikes, but also started ground operations which will surely result in casualties on both sides.

More than likely the Taliban will spread this ‘war’ to other areas, especially in Punjab and in Karachi, which will surely hurt the government and its attempts to provide political and economic stability. One Cabinet Minister of Nawaz Sharif Government said: "This is the clearest signal yet that the army will dictate its terms now". The government officials now acknowledge that ‘relations between the two branches of power are at their lowest ebb for years’.

Taliban or the Jihadi groups have killed many officers and army men. The army officers were getting impatient with the talks with those who killed many of their friends and colleagues. One army officer said: "We will avenge the blood of every last soldier. Talks or no talks, the army will retaliate".

Despite pressures from the army and religious groups, Nawaz Sharif wanted to go ahead with his plans to strengthen trade and friendly relations with India. However, on advice of some senior people he cancelled it at the last minute. But it does not mean that the tussle is over. Another point over which serious debate is going on is whether Nawaz Sharif should accept invitation by Narendra Modi and attend oath taking ceremony.

Although going is tough and the civilian government is perceived as weaker and vulnerable, but in my opinion, Nawaz Sharif must not give in to these pressure tactics. He is an elected Prime Minister of Pakistan with right to rule; and he should formulate policies and not the army Chief. The role of army is not to run the country. Their role is to defend the borders of the country, which they have failed to do.

Nawaz Sharif must go to New Delhi. It will create conducive environment and provide opportunities to understand the new Prime Minister of India, who is carrying a certain baggage; but who is determined to implement his agenda and take India forward. Refusing to go will send totally wrong message at home and abroad. The International community will think, despite the image of being an extremist, Modi invited Nawaz Sharif, as he wanted to have friendly relations; but it was Nawaz Sharif who showed obduracy because Pakistan did not want friendly relations.

At home and abroad it will be clear that Nawaz Sharif has succumbed, and it will be the other Sharif who would be perceived as a real ruler of Pakistan. If that happens, it will be sad for democracy and fundamental rights in Pakistan. It will endanger economic recovery in Pakistan, and it will jeopardise peace and stability in the region. Furthermore, it will provide very serious threat to future of Pakistan as a nation state.
Writer is a political analyst and author of many books and booklets. Also he is Director Institute of Kashmir Affairs

Thursday, 22 May 2014

Are Jihadi brothers in action again in China?

China Xinjiang blast killed 31 people, 90 injured: Report
BEIJING: Thirty-one people were killed and more than 90 injured in an attack on Thursday on a busy street market in the capital of China's volatile northwestern region of Xinjiang, the local government said, the bloodiest in a series of violent incidents blamed on radical separatist Muslims. 

The Xinjiang regional government said in a statement that the early morning attack in the city of Urumqi was "a serious violent terrorist incident of a particularly vile nature." 

The assailants crashed through metal barriers in a pair of SUVs at 7:50am and plowed through crowds of shoppers while setting off explosives, the statement said. 

The vehicles then crashed head-on and one of them exploded, the official Xinhua News Agency reported. It quoted an eyewitness as saying there were up to a dozen blasts in all. 

It was not immediately clear who was responsible for the attack, but recent violence in the region has been blamed on extremists from Xinjiang's native Turkic Uighur Muslim ethnic group seeking to overthrow Chinese rule in the region. 

The death toll was the highest for a violent incident in Xinjiang since days-long riots in Urumqi in 2009 between Uighurs and China's majority Han left almost 200 people dead. Thursday's attack also was the bloodiest single act of violence in Xinjiang in recent history. "I heard four or five explosions. I was very scared. I saw three or four people lying on the ground," Fang Shaoying, the owner of a small supermarket located near the scene of the attack, told The Associated Press by phone. 

Photos from the scene posted to popular Chinese social media site Weibo showed at least three people lying in a street with a large fire in the distance giving off huge plumes of smoke. Others were sitting in the roadway in shock, with vegetables, boxes and stools strewn around them. Police in helmets and body armor were seen manning road blocks as police cars, ambulances and fire trucks arrived on the scene. 

Urumqi was the scene of a bomb attack at a train station late last month that killed three people, including two attackers, and injured 79. Security in the city has been significantly tightened since that attack, which took place as Chinese President Xi Jinping was visiting the region. In response to Thursday's attack, Xi pledged to "severely punish terrorists and spare no efforts in maintaining stability," Xinhua reported. 

Prior to last month's train station attack, the city had been relatively quiet since the 2009 ethnic riots amid a smothering police presence. 

The station attack and other violence have been blamed on Uighur extremists, but information about events in the area, which is about 2,500 kilometers (1,550 miles) west of Beijing, is tightly controlled. 

Tensions between Chinese and ethnic Uighurs in Xinjiang have been simmering for years, but recent attacks - while still relatively crude - show an audaciousness and deliberateness that wasn't present before. They are also increasingly going after civilians, rather than the police and government targets of past years. 

In an unprecedented incident last year, three Uighurs rammed a vehicle into crowds in a suicide attack near the Forbidden City gate in the heart of Beijing, killing themselves and two tourists. 

And in March, 29 people were slashed and stabbed to death at a train station in the southern city of Yunnan blamed on Uighur extremists bent on waging jihad. 

Uighur activists say the violence is being fueled by restrictive and discriminatory policies and practices directed at Uighurs and a sense that the benefits of economic growth have largely accrued to Chinese migrants while excluding Uighurs. The knowledge that Muslims elsewhere are rising up against their governments also seems to be contributing to the increased militancy. 

Thursday's attack came two days after courts in Xinjiang sentenced 39 people to prison after being convicted of crimes including organizing and leading terrorist groups, inciting ethnic hatred, ethnic discrimination and the illegal manufacturing of guns. 

Among those convicted Tuesday was 25-year-old Maimaitiniyazi Aini, who received five years in prison for inciting ethnic hatred and ethnic discrimination for comments he made in six chat groups involving 1,310 people, the Supreme Court said. 

In another case, a Uighur man was jailed for 15 years after he preached jihad, or holy war, to his son and another young man, according to the court.

Modi’s burdensome hat

Does one envy Narendra Modi’s position as India’s 17th prime minister? Perhaps not, since more than any other premier he has the burden of proof on his shoulders for turning India’s economy around, bringing down the temperature of communal politics in his country, and ensuring that his domestic and foreign policy doesn’t create a fire across the region.
From an economic standpoint, the state of Gujarat is considered as a poster for Modi’s performance. A number of people, including the business community in Pakistan, look atModi as the man who may be able to do economic miracles for the rest of India and even take some hard decisions for improving bilateral trade between the two countries. Considering what many in India say about the need for accountability on how Gujarat was turned around or special concessions given to the corporate sector, it is a tough challenge for the new prime minister to prove his worth. This would include creating a fine balance between the rich and greedy corporate sector and the upcoming middle class to making it work for the millions of have-nots that India has in abundance.

Issues become even more complicated with the need to strike a balance between Hindutva politics and making space for India’s minority groups. Given India’s multi-communal base, no government can afford to light a communal fire. Even if we were to imagine that Narendra Modi was innocent of the 2002 Gujarat carnage, he doesn’t have the natural advantage of a good image that the Congress party had, often unfairly. History haunts both negatively and positively. Although the post-Nehru Congress is responsible for a lot of communal mess, it managed to survive for a long time on its liberal image. The BJP under Modi does not enjoy such a persona. Despite its efforts to bring members of the Muslim elite on board, the bulk of Muslims and other minorities would be wary of a hawkish Hindu support base of the party and what it might mean for the minorities.

I recently had a chance to meet scion of an old Muslim Nawab family studying in an elite British university. With his eyes on the Congress party to provide him political space in future, his main argument was how Indian Muslims had become integrated with the idea of India. My concern was that, in fact, over years the integrated Muslim at the lower end had become less integrated. This Muslim may not want another Pakistan, since the latter does not appear to be in a shape to even protect itself, but is keener to create internal violent patronages to contest the state. I was also reminded of images of Indian Muslim visitors to Pakistan during the 1980s and the 1990s, who were quite comfortable with their image of India, than a number of Muslims that you come across today in India.
What is even sadder and almost at the scale of a tragedy is that this large community and its relations with its own government and state have become much more tightly linked with Delhi’s bilateral relations with Rawalpindi via Islamabad. Even if we argue that India’s Muslims shouldn’t be Pakistan’s concern, there is always the fear of Modi sarkar viewing these Muslims as Islamabad’s agents. The state’s military, intelligence and law-enforcement bureaucracy may also get tempted to point fingers.
Caught in the middle of such politics is an even more tragic character of Pakistan’s Prime Minister, Nawaz Sharif, who has lost the opportunity to develop trade ties with India. He cannot even extend the visa of two Indian journalists, who as per an older unwritten arrangement, could stay and work in Islamabad for almost three years. Some of the GHQ’s journalist friends were quick to equate the non-extension of these visas with India denying visas to some Pakistanis, totally forgetting that this situation is entirely different. These journalists should not have been punished for Islamabad or
Rawalpindi’s inefficiency in not sending Pakistani journalists to Delhi. Closing down these journalist positions in each other’s states will deprive both of understanding and talking to each other’s societies. Iron curtains have never brought peace or stability.
A critical fact worth comprehending is that both India and Pakistan are at a tricky stage of sociopolitical redefinition. While India prepares towards a more singular communal identity, Pakistan has turned into a hybrid-theocracy where various kinds of zealots have begun to define social, political and eventually foreign policy norms. A clash between the two is imminent. There are elements in Pakistan who have little problem turning the state North Korea-like as long as it can successfully challenge Modi’s dream of a new India. The intriguing part of this formula is that even such forces may piggyback on Modi’s image of a right-wing zealot. In case of a limited war or some kind of regional conflict, the responsibility would equally fall on the new Indian prime minister’s shoulders, mainly due to his reputation. Surely, the world will deal with him and even issue him visas, however, the international community may be equally curious to see if he proves them right in their discomfort about him as someone accused of involvement with violence within his own state.
There is a part of the Pakistani state keen to take the region forward and another that does not want to engage at all because its heart and mind tells it not to. This is a Pakistan that reads itself like a forever happening tragedy for which it holds the world outside responsible. This particular set of strategists is already feeling uncomfortable with Abdullah Abdullah in the north and Modi in the east. Some of the state’s precious ‘strategic assets’ have started with their propaganda against both.
Any increase in tension and violence will prove distracting to the new Indian leadership if it does not have its calculations right on how to deal with such an eventuality. Not that the new Indian prime minister would like the advise but he has far less space than his predecessor to prove that he is the right man for the right job.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 22nd, 2014.
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Wednesday, 21 May 2014

Murder in the name of faith

THE fate of 65-year-old Khalil Ahmed was sealed on the day he was accused of blasphemy. It was his death warrant. He was killed while in police detention hours after he was arrested.
A schoolboy, who has not been identified by name, reportedly walked into the police station and shot Ahmed dead in full view of the officers. What motivated the teenager to commit this cold -blooded murder?
Perhaps he was inspired by the glorification of other murders committed for alleged blasphemy. Or perhaps he was incited by some zealot. The young boy had been growing up watching Mumtaz Qadri, the murderer of governor Salmaan Taseer, being garlanded. Qadri also had a mosque outside the capital named after him, and his larger-than-life portraits adorn certain public places. The young killer might have been told that the same glory awaited him.
He is the product of a society that condones vigilantism and exalts murder committed in the name of religion; the guardians of the law are too afraid to act against the ‘holy killers’. It is a country where a judge had to flee abroad after convicting Qadri. No wonder the Islamabad High Court is reluctant to validate the conviction.
It was the second murder involving the blasphemy issue in a span of a few days. The murderers of rights activist Rashid Rehman have not yet been apprehended despite his having named those who threatened him. Even if arrested, they may never be convicted, thus encouraging other potential ‘holy murderers’.
In Ahmed’s case, it was shocking that the murderer could walk into a police station, and not be stopped from killing a detainee. The incident in a central Punjab village not far from Lahore was not a breaking story and was underplayed by most of the print media, maybe because the victim was Ahmadi.
Ahmed along with three others was reportedly arrested on blasphemy charges after an altercation with a local shopkeeper. Being members of a persecuted religious minority makes Ahmadis more vulnerable to concocted charges, which gives bigots a licence to kill. In this environment the young murderer is not an aberration.
All this started when the state took upon itself the responsibility of deciding who is Muslim and who is not and legalising religious persecution. A corollary of this is that individuals too have now taken up the right to give verdicts on the religious beliefs of others. The mullahs have become custodians of the law as the state’s authority is fast eroding.
In fact, the blasphemy law has become a weapon of persecution and even those defending the accused are deemed liable. Some time ago, a blasphemy case was filed against former information minister Sherry Rehman for suggesting some procedural changes in the law in the National Assembly.
A glaring example of the gross misuse of the law was witnessed last week when 68 lawyers were booked on blasphemy charges for chanting slogans against a police officer whose name happened to be Omar. The sword of Damocles hangs over every Pakistani citizen, much more so over religious minorities. It is a death warrant once you are accused of blasphemy.
It is despicable the way the blasphemy law is being used in the ongoing media war between rival channels who have filed cases of blasphemy against each other. There is no dearth of instances where clerics are ‘rented’ to get a fatwa to declare the other channel un-Islamic.
Mullahs are having a field day dominating the television screen. What the TV channels do not realise is that no one will come out unscathed in this dirty war. It is the hard-won media freedom that is now under threat. The fear now is that radical clerics will decide what should appear on TV programmes.
This war of fatwas presents a serious threat to the lives of some TV hosts and employees, forcing them to go into hiding or even to flee the country. This fragmented, dysfunctional state cannot protect the lives of those coming in the crossfire.
The role of some security and intelligence agencies in fuelling the hate campaign for settling scores with critics is despicable. Use of religion for proxy wars by state institutions is an extremely dangerous game giving more space to the extremists.
Resultantly, the radical clerics are once again taking centre stage in the ongoing political circus. One can see them leading pro-military rallies holding larger-than-life portraits of the ISI and army chiefs and spewing their toxic narratives on television screens.
Surely they are trying to seize this opportunity to raise the stakes and sell their services to the highest bidders. The tension between civilians and the military, and their proxy war through the media, has further empowered extremist religious groups and clerics. This situation will breed more violence in society.
This atmosphere not only produces more child suicide bombers but also teenaged killers like the one who shot Khalil Ahmed. Religious extremism and growing intolerance has polarised and fragmented the country making it increasingly difficult to have rational discourse on religion and other important issues.
Worse still is the failure of the state to deal with this highly dangerous situation. What we are witnessing today is the unravelling of the state. The use of religion and extremist mullahs as a proxy in the power game is a destructive trend that is threatening the unity of the country.
The writer is an author and journalist.
Twitter: @hidhussain
Published in Dawn, May 21st, 2014