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Posts from — January 2017

DU prof emeritus decries ‘govt conspiracy to consolidate power using textbook reform’ By Shadma Malik in Dhaka Tribune,January 13, 2017

Professor Emeritus Serajul Islam Chowdhury claimed that the mistakes in the 2017 textbooks were intentionally placed by the government to consolidate its power.
Prof Serajul alleged that the textbook mistakes were not irresponsible acts to be blamed on individuals, rather a sinister tactic employed by the government.
“Of the three branches of our education stystem, the mainstream (Bangla) is highly mistreated by the ruling party where the remaining (Madrasa, English Medium) are handled gingerly.”
A discussion titled “Scandal in textbooks and the future of Bangladesh” was organised by Bangladesh Chhatra Federation at the Munir Chowdhury auditorium in Dhaka University on Thursday.
The professor emeritus condemned the government, saying it had assented to the religious pressure group Hefazat-e-Islam’s demands. Prof Serajul claimed Hefazat’s recommendations regarding the textbook curriculum had been implemented by the government.
At the discussion, Prof Serajul compared the textbook saga with former British and Pakistani regimes’ attempts at consolidating their power with so-called “education reforms.”
“Where they failed, the ruling government succeeded,” Prof Serajul stated.
Prof Serajul’s allegations were well-received by the discussion group. The speakers vowed to set up an education movement against the government.
They said the education movement would be similar to ones against the Pakistani government before 1971.
Mohammad Tanzimuddin Khan, associate professor of International Relations at DU, echoed Prof Serajul’s remarks.
He said: “There are no substantial achievements by the government. That is why spread such flowery remarks about the prime minister on the back pages of textbooks.”
“The NCTB curriculum has destroyed the creative thinking capacity of our youth,” Prof Tanzimuddin added.
The discussion was attended by Bangladesh Chhatra Front, Chhatra Union and Chhatra Maitri along with the Bangladesh Chhatra Federation.http://www.dhakatribune.com/bangladesh/education/2017/01/12/govt-power-textbook-mistakes/

January 13, 2017   No Comments

Nasirnagar attacks: Amnesty calls for Rasraj’s release Report on Dhaka Tribune, Jan 13, 207

Human rights group Amnesty International has called for immediate and unconditional release Rasraj Das, arrested over last year’s attack on Hindus in Brahmanbaria’s Nasirnagar.
The 25-year-old fisherman was arrested on October 30 and charged with “hurting religious sentiment.”
A Brahmanbaria court rejected Rasraj’s bail application on January 3. The next hearing is scheduled for January 16.
In a statement on Thursday, the London-based rights body urged the Bangladesh government to “promptly investigate the attacks on the Hindu community.”
It also asked to “bring those suspected of responsibility to account in fair trials and without recourse to the death penalty.”
Also Read- Chairman Ankhi confesses paying for vandals’ truck
A mob attacked Hindu-dominated localities in Nasirnagar on October 30, injuring more than 100 people and damaging at least 17 temples and over 50 houses over a post shared on Facebook from Rasraj’s profile.
In a report, police concluded that the illiterate fisherman had not uploaded the image.
The owner of a cyber cafe was arrested for his alleged role in uploading the controversial morphed photo. So far, 106 people have been arrested.
http://www.dhakatribune.com/bangladesh/2017/01/13/nasirnagar-attack-hindus-amnesty-calls-rasrajs-release/

January 13, 2017   No Comments

No infiltration into Xinjiang: Pakistan; by SHAFQAT ALI in The Nation,12-Jan-2017

ISLAMABAD –  Pakistan has once again assured China that its soil can never be used against the time-tested friend, foreign ministry officials said on Wednesday.

Senior officials at the ministry told The Nation that Islamabad had contacted Beijing to reiterate its commitment to friendship with China and peace in the friendly neighbour.

The development came after China’s official media quoted the head of the Xinjiang government as saying that the security along the China-Pakistan border would be tightened to prevent movement of the terrorists.

Xinjiang chairman Shohrat Zakir spoke at the regional People’s Congress unveiling the plans to stop “illegal movement” along the border.

Indian media unleashed a propaganda after Zakir’s statement claiming it was a signal that China was displeased with Pakistan for not containing terrorists who allegedly crossed into the troubled province.

Xinjiang province has been facing a separatist conflict. The Uyghur separatists claim their area have been occupied by China since 1949. They argue that the Second East Turkestan Republic was illegally brought under Chinese rule and hence deserved liberation.

A senior official at the foreign ministry said that China was contacted yesterday to assure them of Pakistan’s commitment towards peace in China and its solidarity.

“We have told them, as we have always done, that we will never allow anyone to cross into China for terrorism. We are not allowing our soil to be misused even against rival countries such as India, how can we do this to our best friend [China],” he said. The official said that since India was bent upon linking Pakistan to terrorism, “their [Indian] media is trying to highlight Shohrat Zakir’s statement as anti-Pakistan. We see nothing in it. They [China] have the right to secure their border.”

Recently, Chinese ambassador to Pakistan Sun Weidong had appreciated Pakistan’s efforts to defeat terrorism. He had also asked the world to acknowledge Pakistan’s sacrifices in the war against terrorism and assured China’s complete support.

China is investing close to $57 billion under the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) project, which speaks volume about the two nations’ friendship.

Pakistan had also handed over control of Gwadar Port to China’s state-owned China Overseas Ports Holding in February 2013.

Gwadar Port – built by Chinese workers and opened in 2007 – is undergoing a major expansion since.

Another foreign ministry official said that Pakistan had clarified to China that infiltration was taking place from “our side.”

“We have proper security to check illegal movement. We do not allow anyone to cross the lines,” he said citing contacts with the Chinese diplomats.

International Affairs expert Huma Baqai said that India would not succeed in creating misunderstandings between Pakistan and China.

“Our friendship is too strong to fall to media reports from India. The two countries remain in contact on a regular basis so there can never be a misunderstanding,” she said.

Baqai said that Pakistan and China needed each other, which further strengthened their relations. “China has always helped us when needed at all forums including the United Nations,” she added.

Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz leader Senator Abdul Qayyum said that Indian media did not let any chance slip, to target Pakistan.

“There was nothing in that statement from Shohrat Zakir which challenged our ties with China. They [China] take their internal decisions and are free to do as a sovereign country. Our friendship means, we respect their decisions,” he said.

Qayyum, a former Lt Gen, said that Pakistan would never betray Beijing as “China is our all-weather friend.”

“India can do whatever it can but our friendship is above their [India’s] conspiracies,” he added.http://nation.com.pk/newspaper-picks/12-Jan-2017/no-infiltration-into-xinjiang-pakistan

January 12, 2017   No Comments

Inside the Rakhine State insurgency Adil Sakhawat in Dhaka Tribune, Jan 12, 2017

Dhaka Tribune’s Adil Sakhawat spoke to some top members of Harakah al-Yaqin (HaY), an insurgent group in Myanmar’s Rakhine state. The guerrilla/militant organisation is responsible for a series of attacks on Myanmar border posts on the first week of October, which led to hardcore retaliation from the Myanmar security forces on the Rohingya people. This is the second part of the exclusive interview, which took place in a clandestine manner
Harakah al-Yaqin (HaY) was formed to revolt against the Myanmar government and establish the rights of Rohingyas as citizens of the country, claimed a top leader of the insurgent group.
And, according to his claim, they had full support of the locals of northern Rakhine, home to Rohingya Muslims.
HaY’s name popped up shortly after a series of attacks on several outposts of Myanmar Border Guard Police near Bangladesh border on October 9, 2016, in which nine policemen were killed.
The leader, who claims to be the second-in-command of self-proclaimed HaY chief Ata Ullah, claimed that this premeditated attack was aimed at acquiring arms and ammunition for the members who had been trained in guerrilla war tactics.
“The senior leaders, including Ata Ullah, started speaking with villagers [in Rohingya-dominated areas] in Rakhine four months before the attack and received astonishing response,” he told the Dhaka Tribune.
“We had the support of all – from school-going children to the elderly,” he claimed.
A number of the members are the frustrated students of madrasas and employees of mosques which were shut down by the Myanmar government following the 2012 riot. They were never reopened.
The second-in-command said: “We attacked Dumci police station around midnight; it was the most successful attack of the night.”
In their second attempt, they attacked Hawar Bill police outpost around 2am.
The third one was around 4am on Naffura police outpost. “That one was the least successful.”
The second-in-command claimed that they had managed to rob more than 90 firearms that night.
With the newly “acquired” weapons, HaY found themselves on a stronger ground to face the Myanmar authorities.
But what they had not considered was the possibility of an aerial attack.
“They [Myanmar Army] brought helicopters to shoot at us,” said the second-in-command. “They knew they would not be able to overcome us on the ground.”
Unable to defend themselves, the insurgents retreated.
By then the army had also launched its raid in the Rohingya villages that led to mass murders and gang rapes of the Rohingyas, as told by those who fled to Bangladesh.
“People saw the army killing their family members right in front of them. They saw their loved ones being raped by the army. Their will to fight crumbled and they fled Arakan [Rakhine].”
The fighters witnessed as many as 250 Rohingya houses being burnt to the ground, he claimed.
The army attack turned local Rohingyas against HaY, whom they started to blame for the crackdown.
In the meantime, fighters of the group scattered around to hide, waiting for instructions from the high command.
But the instructions never came.
Many HaY members lost their faith in the group’s goal to establish their rights.
Rohingya community also started despising the insurgents.
“The army attack cost us the support of Rohingyas,” said the second-in-command.
Having lost followers, territory and ammunition, the HaY leaders have yet to decide on the next course of action.
“We do not have any plans yet to further our movement. The situation in Rakhine is too risky for us, and some of our fighters were injured during the crackdown,” said the second-in-command.
Their leader, Ata Ullah, is currently hiding to escape military prosecution. When this correspondent asked to meet him, the second-in-command rejected the request instantaneously.
“It is absolutely impossible. Three of our members were recently abducted. Since then, Ata Ullah has gone deep in hiding.”
When asked where they were keeping their firearms, he said most of them were buried underground.
The leaders have no idea how to proceed with their movement, but they are still determined to finish what they started.
“We will fight until the end. This is a revolution against the oppression of Rohingyas by the Myanmar government,” said the second-in-command.
http://www.dhakatribune.com/bangladesh/2017/01/12/inside-rakhine-state-insurgency/

January 12, 2017   No Comments

Stranded Pakistanis demand relocation: by SM Najmus Sakib in Dhaka Tribune, Jan 12, 2017

Urdu-speaking people of Bangladesh yesterday submitted a memorandum to Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and the speaker of parliament, demanding relocation of the community’s people before the start of any eviction drive.

As part of their “Walk towards National Parliament” programme, the Urdu Speaking Youth Rehabilitation Movement (USYRM) yesterday brought out a procession towards the Jatiya Sangsad around noon from the Geneva Camp, popularly known as Bihari Camp, at Mirpur 11 in Dhaka.

However, they were barred by police at the Mirpur 10 intersection where they held a short rally. From there, a five-member delegation of the stranded Pakistanis escorted by police went to the parliament and submitted the memorandum to representatives of the PM and the speaker.

At the rally, Sadakat Khan Fakka, president of USYRM, said: “In 2014, the prime minister assured us of relocation before launching any eviction at our camp.

“But the Ministry of Disaster Management and Relief, and the Ministry of Housing and Public Works have started plot distribution ignoring our plea. The Housing Ministry started plot distribution hiding camp location, luring expatriate Bangladeshis to take our shelter away driving out our people.”

Elaborating the sufferings of the community, Sadakat said: “Even local politicians often kill camp residents. They torch our houses locking them from outside, burn us to death. There is no accountability for killing a Bihari as the torching alive of 13 Biharis in Mirpur two years back proves.”

He said more than 100,000 people are currently residing at the Mirpur Geneva Camp where the ministries are distributing plots. “If we are evicted without being rehabilitated, these people will face untold sufferings.”

He said: “In 1972, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman allocated the area at Mirpur (sections 10,11,12) under Pallabi thana and elsewhere in the capital, under the initiative of Red Crescent Society, for setting up Geneva Camp for the Biharis who were being persecuted at the time since the end of Liberation War. And since then we have been living there.

“We will launch a tough movement if our demand is not met.”

Supporting the demand of Urdu-speaking people, Khalequzzaman, secretary of Bangladesh Socialist Party, urged the government to pay heed to the stranded Pakistanis’ sufferings, and to take measures to relocate them at any possible area in Dhaka.

Among others, leftist leader Saiful Haque, Shahidulla Kaisar, central committee member of Nagorik Oikya, Fahim Hossain Raju, president of Urdu-speaking Student Movement, addressed the rally.http://www.dhakatribune.com/bangladesh/2017/01/12/stranded-pakistanis-demand-relocation/

January 12, 2017   No Comments

Who allowed Raheel to head military alliance, Rabbani asks govt By Mumtaz Alvi in The News, Jan 10, 2017

ISLAMABAD: Chairman Senate Mian Raza Rabbani on Monday directed the government to brief the House on reports about former chief of the army staff (COAS) General (retd) Raheel Sharif’s appointment as the chief of the 39-nation Muslim military coalition and who had allowed this development to take place.

Rabbani asked Defence Minister Khawaja Asif as to who had confirmed Raheel’s appointment as the chief of the military coalition and to explain as to what were the rules for a retired military officer for taking up employment. The first sitting of the 258th session was a private members’ day, as it fell on Monday.

“You defence minister have also half-heartedly confirmed that the former army chief has been appointed as the chief of 39-nation military coalition, for which I am asking some questions which you’ve to answer on Wednesday,” he added.

Rabbani also sought a clarification from the Defence Ministry as to “whether any no objection certificate (NoC) was ever issued to Gen Raheel before he embarked upon a journey for a job in Saudi Arabia and if issued, who did so. And was the government taken into confidence in this context?”

The Senate chairman wanted the ministry to clarify if the former army chief seek any permission from the government or if he took the federal government into confidence before accepting the offer from the Saudi government.

He also directed the government to clarify what would be the repercussions if the former army chief was appointed as the chief of the military alliance, which had earlier been discussed in parliament.

Minister for Defence Khawaja Asif said that the Senate chairman had interpreted his statement as he was not sure about the new job of the former army chief, adding all the details would be provided to the House.

Gen Raheel’s decision to accept the offer from Saudi Arabia has drawn mixed reaction from different quarters of the society soon after his retirement, as Pakistan had earlier refused to become a part of the coalition of the Islamic countries. https://www.thenews.com.pk/print/178083-Who-allowed-Raheel-to-head-military-alliance-Rabbani-asks-govt

January 11, 2017   No Comments

Cases of violence against women increase By Ansar Abbasi in The News, January 06, 2017

ISLAMABAD: The cases of violence against women (VAW) are on the rise as an official report reveals that there have been 53,364 such reported cases in Pakistan from 2011 to 2015, showing 34% increase during this period. Police sources said that the report shows that only the crime of “honour” killings showed a decrease of 24.3 % during these years i.e. 2011-2015.

Punjab, followed by Sindh, KP, AJK, Balochistan, ICT, Gilgit Baltistan, has the highest percentage of the registered cases of the VAW in the year 2015. The Punjab reported the highest number of “honor” crimes in comparison to the other regions, including Sindh, which is generally perceived to have the greatest number of greatest number of pockets of “honor” killings.

KPK reported the highest number of cases of harassment at workplace in 2015. Sexual violence that includes rape showed an increase in registered cases in Punjab, Sindh, KPK, AJK and ICT.

Domestic violence kept on rising in all the four provinces during the years under study. Burning was also on rise in Punjab, Sindh, KPK, Balochistan and ICT. Vani, one of several harmful cultural practices, is not reported from any part of the country except Punjab and KPK. In Punjab three cases were reported in 2015, six cases in 2014, three cases in 2013, four cases in 2012 and two cases in 2011. In KPK, five cases were reported in 2015, four in 2014, one in 2013 and two each in 2012 and 2011.

Details show that the total number of reported cases of VAW in Pakistan from 2011 to 2015 are 9395, 9999, 9185, 11557 and 13228 respectively. The trend shows a gradual increase in reported VAW crime from 2011 to 2015 except in the year 2013. Overall, a 34.2% increase can be observed in 2015 as compared to 2011.

In Punjab, the number of registered cases between 2011 and 2015 stood at 6859, 7542, 6755, 7211 and 7267 respectively with an increase of 5.8 % in 2015 in comparison to 2011. If the statistics from all the other areas under consideration are combined, the result will yield a smaller number of VAW crimes as compared to the single province of Punjab. However, the increased reporting of VAW in Punjab could be attributed to the improved accessibility to media and law enforcement agencies.

In Sindh, the report said, the number of registered cases for the years 2011 to 2015 were 1272, 1204, 1023, 3159 and 4630 respectively with an increase of 129% in 2015 as compared to 2011.

In KPK, 541, 530, 644, 546 and 617 cases were registered for the years 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014 and 2015 respectively showing an increase of 13% in 2015 when compared to 2011.

In Balochistan, the number of VAW cases remained 220, 251, 277, 247 and 279 for the years 2011 to 2015 respectively with an increase of 23.7% in 2015 as compared to 2011.

In ICT, 82, 85, 77, 29 and 85 cases were registered in 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014 and 2015 respectively with an increase of 3.6% in 2015 as compared to 2011.

In AJK, for the years from 2011 to 2015, total 379, 349, 360, 311 and 335 cases were registered with a decrease of 12% in 2015 as compared to 2011.

In total, 53364 cases of VAW were reported from seven regions under study for the period from 2011 to 2015. There was a 34% increase in the reported cases of VAW. Only crimes of “honor” killing showed a decrease of -24.3 in the previous five years.

Police sources while quoting the report said that during the year 2011, nearly 73% cases were reported from Punjab. Sindh had the second highest instance of reported VAW cases with a total 1272 cases which form 14% of the total reported cases. From KPK, total 541 cases were reported. In AJK, 379 cases were registered while 220 cases were registered in Balochistan. ICT had a total of 82 reported cases. GB ended up with 38 registered cases while Railways had only 04 cases.

During the year 2012, 7542 cases were reported in Punjab. Sindh had the second highest percentage of reported VAW cases, i.e. 12%. In KPK, 5.35% cases were reported. AJK registered 349 cases of VAW, and Balochistan 251. ICT had a total of 85 reported cases. In GB 51 cases were registered during the year while Railways police registered 05 cases.

In 2013, a total of 9185 cases were reported across the country of which 73.5% were from Punjab, 11% from Sindh, and 7% cases from KPK. AJK reported 360 cases of VAW, and Balochistan 277. ICT had 77 reported cases. In GB 46 cases were registered during the year, while Railways police registered 03 cases.

Data from 2014 shows that 62% cases were registered in Punjab, 27% in Sindh, 5% in KPK with decrease of 2 %. AJK reported 311 cases of VAW, and Balochistan 247. ICT had 29 reported cases. In GB 49 cases were registered during the year, while Railways police registered 05 cases.

Data from 2015 shows that 54% of VAW cases were registered in Punjab, 35% in Sindh, 5% in KPK. AJK reported 335 cases of VAW, and Balochistan 279. ICT had 85 reported cases. In GB 10 cases were registered during the year, while Railways police registered 05 cases.

The report said that according to an estimate, approximately 70% to 90% of Pakistani women are subjected to domestic violence. Various forms of domestic violence in the country include physical, mental and emotional abuse. Some common types include honor killing, spousal abuse, including marital rape, acid attacks and being burned by family members.

In Punjab, 6859, 7542, 6755, 7211 and 7267 cases were registered for the years from 2011 to 2015 respectively with an increase of 5.8 % in 2015 when compared to 2011. Statistics show that crime increased in the year 2012 and dropped in 2013; however, in 2105 it again increased as compared to 2014.

In Sindh, 1272, 1204, 1023, 3159 and 4630 cases were registered from 2011 to 2015 respectively with an increase of 129% in 2015 as compared to 2011 which is quite high. Statistics show that the crime against women remained almost static in 2011 and 2012 while it decreased a little during the year 2013. However, a sharp increase during the year 2014 and 2015 can be seen.

If percentage of increase and decrease in VAW cases between the year 2011 and 2015 is taken into consideration, it reveals that in Sindh there is a striking decrease in cases of honor killing i.e. 68%. Similarly, harassment in the workplace has also decreased by 63.7%. However, this is important to note that total crime has increased to 129% due to the great increase in miscellaneous crime category i.e. 235%.

In KPK, 541, 530, 644, 546 and 617 cases were registered from 2011 to 2015 respectively with an increase of 13% in 2015 as compared to 2011. Statistics show that VAW remained almost static in 2011 and 2012 while it increased by 17% during the year 2013. However, there was again a decrease of 0.9% during the year 2014 and again 13% increase in 2015 when compared to 2011.

If percentage of increase and decrease in VAW cases between the year 2011 and 2015 is taken into consideration, it reveals that in KPK there is a 20% increase in honor killings. An increase of 20% in sexual violence and 32% in harassment at the work place were noted. However, there was a 13% increase in total reported crime as compared to 2011.

In Balochistan, 220, 251, 277, 247 and 279 cases were registered in 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014 and 2015 with an increase of 23.7% in 2015 as compared to 2011. Statistics show that VAW increased in 2012 and 2013 while it got decreased in 2014. However, this again rose to 23.7% in 2015. All percentages are compared to that in 2011 as base year. The trend shows slight fluctuations in these cases. If percentage of increase and decrease in VAW cases between the year 2011 and 2015 is taken into consideration, it reveals that there is a 20% increase in domestic violence while honor killing decreased by 30.5%. In 2015, six cases of burning have been registered against two cases in 2011. However, there are no cases registered under vani and harassment at workplace during these years.

In Islamabad Capital Territory 82, 85, 77, 29 and 85 cases were registered in total during 2011 to 2015 respectively with an increase of 3.6% in 2015 as compared to 2011. Statistics show that VAW increased from 2011 to 2015 except in 2014. The trend shows the constant fluctuations in cases of VAW. If percentage of increase and decrease in VAW cases between the year 2011 and 2015 is taken into consideration, it reveals that domestic violence decreased by 72.5% in 2015 as compared to 2011. While there are no cases registered during these years under honor killing, vani and harassment at workplace. In 2015, 31 cases of sexual violence have been registered against 10 cases in 2011. However, there is a decrease in miscellaneous cases by 13%.

In AJK 379, 349, 360, 311 and 335 cases were registered during the years 2011 to 2015 respectively with a decrease of 12% in 2015 as compared to 2011. Statistics show that 17 cases of domestic violence were registered in 2015 as compared to only one case in 2011. It can be seen that domestic violence increased during these five years; whereas, no cases were registered under vani and harassment at workplace. However, two cases of burning during the year 2012 and one case of honor killing during the year 2014 were registered. Sexual violence increased to 63% in 2015 against that in 2011. However, there is a decrease in miscellaneous cases by 23%. https://www.thenews.com.pk/print/177182-Cases-of-violence-against-women-increase

January 7, 2017   No Comments

The counter-wave: by ASHA’AR REHMAN in Dawn, January 6th, 2017

The writer is Dawn’s resident editor in Lahore.
WEDNESDAY, Jan 4 in Lahore marked a new phase in the life of a particular religious group said to be an offshoot of the majority Sunni mainstream. The day could also define the Punjab government’s response to dealing with a particular brand of action with deep religious hues.

It is a date when a small group of people based in Lahore have been coming out to remember Salmaan Taseer, the slain provincial governor killed by his guard on Jan 4, 2011. By and large left alone to defend themselves on the street against the right-wing elements, the group was attacked a couple of anniversaries back. What was different was that the state showed the spine to arrest the attackers and, surprisingly, to try them.

This must have been a sign of alarm for those who were angered by the sight of a handful of people — less — holding a vigil for an official who, in their opinion, deserved to be murdered. The group is, in a derogatory manner, called the mombatti wallahs or those who light candles at vigils.

Police in Lahore must have followed a series of recent pointers to see what was possibly coming. They must have sensed that these mombatti wallahs, ‘men’ and ‘aunties’ as some of them are called in a further sullying of their image, were in danger of another, bigger swoop by those who were appalled by their annual street rituals.

The result was a locking up of the city on Jan 4, something rare. The security cordon thrown around was unprecedented for the area, Gulberg and its surroundings, where the small anniversary vigil had originally been planned.

At the outset, even as the organisers long insisted on holding their demonstration at the Liberty roundabout, the police ordered them to take their small show to a more obscure part of the city. The police also refused formal permission to the religious group Labbaik Ya Rasool Allah (PBUH) to hold a rally at the spot where the anniversary vigil was originally supposed to take place.

The scene was quite unusual for the Gulberg main boulevard and the areas around it. The boulevard has had its share of demonstrations. The Liberty roundabout itself has been the venue for many peace and political meetings including the more robust ones organised by the PTI.

Slogans inspired by faith have been raised loud and clear on the boulevard before. Not least representatives of the times were the chants heard when the traders of the famous Hafeez Centre shopping plaza came out to protest the arrest of some of their colleagues. These colleagues had been held for displaying at their shops messages which forbid entertaining Ahmadis.

Jan 4, 2017, appeared different from all previous incidents relating to public demonstrations. For one, the scale on which the police launched its preventive operation was huge. It signified the size of the challenge the police were dealing with. The force must have been working on some intelligence given the scale of its preparations to deal with ‘any eventuality’.

It may be that the police have finally recognised the merits of a policy that urges them to be prepared for the worst or risk being sorry at the end of it. In any case, here the force seemed to have been fearing an onslaught of some kind by the religious group which was — deliberately? — lacking in any kind of visible organisational structure made up of office bearers.

The infamous containers were out in large numbers, and since they do not discriminate between the protesters and others they were a cause of much inconvenience to people in general. Life was paralysed in this part of the city, which, despite having played host to protesters occasionally, believes that dealing with unruly mobs and angry demonstrators was a job exclusively reserved for the areas around the Punjab Assembly on The Mall.

Actually it was the Punjab Assembly that the men of the religious group eventually set off for. However, they had already made their objectives abundantly clear by spreading their display to large areas of Lahore shaking them from their acquired apathy and bringing them face to face with realities they might have been a little too shy to confront.

There was inevitably talk of how life for the PML-N had also undergone a change. Gone are the days when it was deemed possible for the Shahbaz Sharif government to talk to an angry group to shelve or delay plans of holding a rally. There are definite pointers of how things have changed and how drastically.

For one, the trial of those who attacked a Salmaan Taseer rally must have been proof to everyone of the changing times and attitudes. Additionally, it came at a time when the civilian-military leadership has been vowing to clamp down on extremism. This must have given particular types of religious elements all the more reason to confront those who did not agree with them, including the state and the occasional Liberty vigil holders.

There have been a series of instances in recent days, all related to Punjab which indicates that tension between certain religious groups and the Punjab government may have reached critical levels.

The urge to add greater vigour to their campaign is manifest in successive incidents where well-known politicians and other prominent figures have been implicated in possible blasphemy cases in the province. On the other hand, the Punjab government is thought to have toughened its stance on the subject.

The pressure on the government is set to increase. It will be at its most intense as the general election scheduled for the next year draws closer. There will be concessions made but these have to be ensured by a resort to street power. The arrest of a couple of hundred religious group activists who tried to force their way to holding their Islam Bachao rally on Wednesday is not an insignificant occurrence at all.

The clerics can sense an opening before the polls. The fringe fears losing whatever protection it has belatedly been provided. The Shahbaz Sharif government is on trial. http://www.dawn.com/news/1306665/the-counter-wave

January 7, 2017   No Comments

Returning Ahmadi villagers face social boycott By Rana Tanveer in The Express Tribune, January 6th, 2017

LAHORE: Members of the Ahmadiyya community who fled their village in the wake of the storming of their worship place and a subsequent clash on Dec 12 have started trickling back to their homes in Chakwal’s Dulmail area. Upon their return, the Ahmadi villagers are facing a social boycott imposed by the locals.

Most of the shops in Dulmail are not willing to entertain Ahmadi customers. “The locals are not even ready to talk to us,” one Ahmadi villager said.

The authorities imposed a curfew and mounted a crackdown after the Dec 12 attack during which one Ahmadi worshipper died of cardiac arrest, one protester was killed and another five were injured. The authorities later asked people to return to their homes and assured them that those without a link to the incident or the clash would not be arrested.

Soldiers left the village after spending 10 days in the locality. About 100 policemen were currently deployed in the area to ensure no damage was done to the minority group. The group’s around 600 members form a tiny part of the total population of 11,624.

Jamaat Ahmadiyya’s Chakwal district chief Malik Zahid Hameed told The Express Tribune that so far 128 Ahmadis, including women, children and old men had come back. “However, there is no young man among these people out of fears of a clash with the locals,” he said. Hameed said the villagers had avoided having any relations with the minority group in the past. “But, now they are trying to make our lives harder,” he said. “No shopkeeper is giving us grocery items and even milkmen are not giving milk to Ahmadis. They have to purchase daily commodities from Chakwal city,” he said, adding that even schoolchildren from Ahmadi families are complaining of being avoided by their class fellows.

Another Ahmadi resident, who requested not to be named, said many Ahmadis and non-Ahmadis were relatives and had been living peacefully. “This event, however, has made us feel like we are not human beings,” he said. He said even their non-Ahmadi relatives were not ready to talk to them. He said it is not possible for them to leave this village, where their ancestral lands and houses are located. “Even if all Ahmadis offered to sell their houses, no one would be ready to give them a proper price,” he added.

He said there are more than 10 mosques for Muslims but only one place of worship for Ahmadis, which the locals were hell-bent to take control over. “Even though, according to the revenue record, some mosques are on lands owned by Ahmadis,” he added.

Chakwal’s Deputy Commissioner Javed Bhatti said the government could not do anything to stop this social boycott. “However, no one will be allowed to take the law into his hands,” he said.

Talking to The Express Tribune, Habibur Rehman – brother of Naeem Shafiq who died in the firing on Dec 12 – said police and all other law enforcing agencies were protecting Ahmadis.

He said it was correct that locals were angry with Ahmadis for killing his brother but no announcement was made in the village to boycott the minority group. “They can go to shops of Muslims and can buy goods,” he said.

SHO Malik Muhammad Nawaz told The Express Tribune that 100 policemen were performing their duties round the clock. “We are trying to create a peaceful atmosphere in the village so that everyone regardless of his religion can live his life peacefully,” he said.http://tribune.com.pk/story/1285830/returning-ahmadi-villagers-face-social-boycott/

January 7, 2017   No Comments

Nasirnagar Mayhem:’Organiser’ UP chairman held report in the daily star, Jan 6,2017

Brahmanbaria:  Dewan Atiqur Rahman Ankhi, allegedly an organiser of the October 30 hate attack on Hindus in Nasirnagar, was arrested in the capital’s Bhatara yesterday.

A patrol team from Bhatara Police Station in the early hours detained Ankhi, chairman of Haripur Union Parishad in Brahmanbaria and also a local ruling Awami League leader.

Officials then contacted the detectives from Brahmanbaria who were already in Dhaka to detain him, said Mafidul Islam, officer-in-charge (DB) of the district police.

Iqbal Hossain, additional superintendent of police in Brahmanbaria, told this newspaper that the arrest of Ankhi is a big success as they believe the motive, masterminds and main instigators would be found through interrogating him.

According to the ASP, Ankhi is “one of the key instigators and organisers” of the attack that left more than a hundred Hindu houses and some 17 temples vandalised and looted in Nasirnagar upazila of Brahmanbaria over an anti-Islam post.

A team led by OC Mafidul took Ankhi to Brahmanbaria later in the day.

On November 29, police arrested Jahangir Alam, owner of Al-Amin Cyber Point and Studio at Horinber Bazar in Haripur, who allegedly played an active role in inciting locals against Hindus after the post appeared on the Facebook wall of Hindu fisherman Rasraj Das.

Police say someone else uploaded it using the account of Rasraj as part of a conspiracy.

In his confessional statement at the Senior Judicial Magistrate’s Court in Brahmanbaria on December 8, Jahangir said Ankhi ordered him to gather people and hire trucks for the attack.

On October 29, four to five trucks were hired, and people gathered through an announcement over a loudspeaker were taken from Haripur union to Nasirnagar upazila headquarters around noon.

Reaching the upazila headquarters, they burnt tyres to draw attention of people, distributed copies of the Facebook post and gave instigating speeches against the Hindu youth and his community, said local sources.

The following day, men of Ankhi and Jahangir came from Haripur on trucks and pickups and joined a rally at Ashutosh Pilot High School ground in the upazila.

A section of participants of the rally took part in the mayhem, witnesses and victims said.

In his statement, Jahangir also said Ankhi gave him Tk 10,000 for truck rents. He himself and four of his friends contributed Tk 11,000.

Police have so far arrested 109 people in the eight cases filed for the attack and six including Jahangir has so far given confessional statements in court. http://www.thedailystar.net/frontpage/brahmanbaria-mayhem-organiser-chairman-held-1341055

January 7, 2017   No Comments