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Posts from — March 2017

Strike across Balochistan cities against ‘racial profiling’

by Muhammad Akbar Notezai in Dawn, March 11th, 2017
QUETTA: A strike was observed in the provincial capital on Friday on the call of the Awami National Party (ANP) against the arrest and torture of Pakhtuns in various cities of Punjab and in Karachi.

Shops, markets, shopping plazas and business centres remained closed in main areas of the city. However, on the outskirts of Quetta, business remained as usual.

The local authorities had taken strict security measures and deployed a heavy contingent of police and Frontier Corps to avert any untoward incident during the strike.

Meanwhile, addressing a press conference, ANP’s Balochistan president Muham­mad Asghar Achakzai and deputy opposition leader in the provincial assembly Zamarak Khan Piralizai claimed that a complete strike was observed in Quetta, Pishin, Qila Abdullah, Chaman and Loralai.

They strongly condemned the “racial profiling” of Pakhtuns and their arrest in Punjab.

“There is no doubt that Pakhtuns as a nation have faced much more loss in the country due to terrorism than other communities. Despite this, they are suspected of being invo­lved in terrorist attacks,” said Mr Achakzai, adding that “a case in point was the aftermath of the recent terrorist attacks in Lahore and Sehwan Sharif”. “Due to the closure of the Torkham and Chaman borders, 80 per cent of Pakhtuns’ business was affected,” he regretted and asked why the Wagah border was not closed despite tensions with India.

Mr Achakzai said: “We cannot change our neighbours; we have to live with our neighbours; we should negotiate and resolve our issues with them.”.

Deputy opposition leader Piralizai claimed that 80,000 CNICs of Pakhtuns had been blocked by Nadra and asked the government to release them as soon as possible.

ANP flays crackdown on Pakhtuns in Punjab, Sindh
Report in The Nation,March 11, 2017

QUETTA – Awami National Party (ANP) Balochistan president Asghar Khan Achakzai condemned the crackdown against Pakhtuns in Punjab and Sindh provinces.

He was addressing a press conference at Quetta Press Club on Friday. He said he had never witnessed such tension at Torkham and Chaman crossing points since 1947.

Achakzai lauded all segment of the society for holding successful shutter down strike in Quetta against crackdown on Pakhtuns in Punjab and Sindh.

“The Awami National Party always condemned terrorism and extremism in any form and will continue denouncing it at every platform as we are victim of terrorism,” asserted the party provincial chief.

The wave of terror that trembled Lahore, Sehwan Sharif and other parts of the country in last 15 days was portrayed Pakhtuns as terrorists, which was highly condemnable, Achakzai held.

“We want to know where the hideouts of terrorists are and where their masterminds are,” questioned the ANP Balochistan chief.

He claimed sealing the Torkham and Chaman borders meant nothing but depriving 80 per cent Pakhtuns of trade. More than 80,000 CNICs of Pakhtuns has been blocked in the country and police are harassing them at every check-post, he held.http://nation.com.pk/national/11-Mar-2017/anp-flays-crackdown-on-pakhtuns-in-punjab-sindh

March 11, 2017   No Comments

Haqqania seminary seeks university status:

By Sohail Khattak in The Express Tribune, March 11th, 2017.
PESHAWAR: Authorities in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and the administration of Darul Uloom Haqqania on Friday discussed the possibility of granting university status to the seminary.

Located in Nowshera district, the seminary is currently run by Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam-Sami chief Maulana Samiul Haq.

Sources told The Express Tribune that the issue was discussed by K-P Assembly Speaker Asad Qaiser and Maulana Hamidul Haq — the administrator and son of Maulana Samiul Haq — during a meeting held at the assembly building.

“Both the modalities and programmes of the university will be discussed in the next meetings,” said an official present during the meeting. The speaker has asked the K-P higher education department to be present at the next meeting with all relevant records.

The official said K-P’s Higher Education Minister Mushtaq Ghani and secretary, who were not present during the meeting, have been asked to complete their side of the work before the next meeting.

“The speaker also asked Maulana Hamidul Haq to devise a comprehensive plan,” the official said, adding the K-P government would help the seminary get registered with the Higher Education Commission. “The decisions regarding curriculum, land acquisition and other requirements will be discussed later.”

Hamidul Haq, when contacted, told The Express Tribune that a general discussion was held with the K-P Assembly speaker over the issue.

“We have been planning to upgrade the seminary to the university level like Darul Uloom Karachi but Haqqania will be a private university,” he said. “We visited the speaker to accelerate work on the grant announced by the K-P government for the Haqqania High School,” he said.

Haq added that the government had issued a tender for the construction of the school building that would cost Rs300 million and would be completed in two years.

March 11, 2017   No Comments

Pakistan: The land of bigotry, misogyny and violence with blasphemy allegations as its raison d’etre

by Saima Baig in The Nation blogs,March 10, 2017 at 4:57 pm
The author is a Karachi-based environmental economist, climate change consultant and a freelance writer.
Here is what has happened this week in the land of the pure. A politician (from PTI) punched another one (from PML-N) for calling his leader a traitor. In response, the first politician stood in front of the media and made allegations against his harasser’s sisters. That’s violence and misogyny taken care of, within a space of 24 hours.

Let’s move on to a few days before that. It seems that our judiciary is in need of special hugs because one of its members, a judge in the Islamabad High Court, professed to weeping inconsolably when he reads anything against his religion on social media. He wants the government to ensure that “blasphemers” are put on Pakistan’s pride and joy: the Exit Control List. One wonders why you would want anyone who you think has made fun of your religion to remain in the country. The answer is pretty simple. You don’t want them to leave because you want to punish them. And punish them how? Blasphemers get the death penalty. It’s not that these people just want others to leave their religion alone, they want to ensure that they get killed for criticizing it. After following the due process of the law, of course. As an aside, please note that I always hear the word “blasphemers” in John Cleese’s voice from the movie Life of Brian.

The Honorable Judge has had the support of various factions of the media and other parts of society, who are ever ready to lay down other people’s lives in the name of religion. The issue for them is very clear: no one gets to criticize Islam. That is how things are and should remain. On the other hand, nary a protest is made when Christians are called by derogatory names and Hindus are called “baniyas”, as was done by another politician to criticize his opponent.

Now let’s come to the last two days. Our Interior Minister Chaudhary Nisar has also been triggered. He has professed to being very upset that social media sites like Facebook are not providing him with information regarding some people running a campaign against the Islamabad High Court judiciary. In his campaign to support only those elements that want to suppress others through religion, he has threatened to block social media sites in Pakistan, in an attempt to protect the very sensitive citenzry from reading blasphemous content.

On the other hand, the statement by a blogger that he was kidnapped and tortured by state institutions has had no impact on our esteemed leaders.

These events of the past week or so show that violence, misogyny and bigotry define Pakistan and recourse to blasphemy is the cornerstone of its society.

If you are upset with an opponent, hit him. If you want to flex your muscles against bloggers, kidnap and torture them. When you have nothing in response to your rival, use the time-honoured practice of abusing the women in his family. And always ensure that the blasphemy law is kept as a precious resource, to be used whenever you require.

This is what we have reduced ourselves to: cultishly following leaders without allowing any criticism of them. It is interesting to note that not even the women leaders of PML-N called out their colleague on abusing women for point scoring. Because misogyny is so entrenched in our minds that even women do not think anything is wrong with it.

As for PTI, they also indulged in misogyny, while criticizing it. Their social media teams made allegations of blasphemy and threats against a reporter for recording a video of their esteemed leader.

These are the important aspects that define Pakistan. Our violent, bigoted, misogynistic reactions to even the smallest of infractions.

These are the things that outrage us. Not our low scores in human rights and education. Not the fact that while we wax eloquent about the Islamic golden age, the country is below every other one for any scientific achievements (other than the nuclear bomb and the water kit car of course), but the fact that our messiahs are criticized and our ideologies are not given due deference.

Freedom of speech is an important characteristic of civilized society. Censoring content and threatening people just ensures that the only kind of progress you make is in oppressing people. Using misogyny as a counter argument does not make you macho; it just shows your pathetic mindset. And using religion as a tool of the state has only ever meant clinging to backward notions of morality. Notions, which have never resulted in progress.

The enlightenment ensured that the west moved on from being bogged down by the same issues of violence, misogyny, bigotry and dependence on blasphemy. They were in the same boat till they realized that antediluvian methods of living one’s life did not work anymore. That religion and state needed to be separate. That life, liberty and freedom were important facets of civilized society. We need to do the same. http://nation.com.pk/blogs/10-Mar-2017/pakistan-the-land-of-violence-misogyny-and-bigotry-with-blasphemy-allegations-as-its-raison-d-etre

March 11, 2017   No Comments

Senate slams blasphemous content on social media

By Iftikhar A. Khan in Dawn, March 11th, 2017
ISLAMABAD: The Sen­ate unanimously adopted on Friday a resolution condemning the blasphemous content circulating on social media and seeking exemplary punishment for those behind it.

The resolution asked the government to act under Section 295-C of the Pakistan Penal Code against those uploading the objectionable material on social media. The government was also asked to put in place a regular mechanism to check circulation of such material on social networking sites in the country.

The resolution, moved by Kamil Ali Agha of the Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid, was endorsed by Leader of the House Raja Zafarul Haq and Leader of the Opposition Aitzaz Ahsan.

Pointing out that Pakistan was the only country in the world to have been carved out in the name of Islam, the resolution said the Constitution of the country guaranteed respect for all prophets, all sacred personalities of Islam, the last Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him), his family members as well as his companions.

The house lamented that some perverts were violating the law and committing blasphemy to create chaos in the country. It was stressed that Islam gave the right to freedom of expression but that was not an unbridled right.

Earlier, various senators, while speaking on the issue, called for some restrictions on social media in the country.

While seeking the chair’s permission to move the resolution, Mr Agha regretted that some blasphemous posts had been circulating on social media for some weeks.

The lawmakers said there would be chaos in the country if strict action was not taken against the culprits. It was pointed out that the government had the technology to identify the sources behind the malicious campaign.

Senate Chairman Raza Rabbani surprised the house by revealing that his fake twitter account was still operational and letters written by him to the FIA director general and the PTA chairman did not work. “I was told that only Twitter administration can do it,” he said.

The lawmakers asked the government to follow the UAE model to block the blasphemous content. It was pointed out that intelligence agencies had the capacity to track down the sources. Some senators were of the opinion that while there should be a check on blasphemous material, the sources of knowledge and information should not be blocked. www.dawn.com/news/1319772/senate-slams-blasphemous-content-on-social-media

Protest against blasphemy on social media: report in the News, March 11, 2017

LAHORE: Religious workers and scholars affiliated with various parties took to the streets here after Friday prayers to lodge protest against the continued blasphemy against the Holy Prophet (PBUH) on social media. They gathered in various streets and intersections, raised slogans against the government for not blocking the pages involved in the blasphemy despite the warnings and the rulings of Islamabad High Court judge, Justice Shaukat Aziz Siddiqi.

They raised slogans in favour of Justice Shaukat Azizi Siddiqi for representing the sentiments of the Muslim Ummah. Besides, prayers leaders in the mosques delivered sermons “protection of sanctity of Holy Prophet (PBUH)”, while special meetings were held where resolutions were also passed against blasphemous materials on social media by the enemies of Islam.

Addressing Juma Khutba, Convener Tehreek Hurmat-e-Rasool (PBUH) said social media was being used against Muslims. Scholars and leadership of religious organisations should stress on government to activate PTA to block websites and pages containing blasphemous material.Tanzim-e-Islami ameer Hafiz Akif Saeed said the continued blasphemy should have moved the government and the Supreme Court to take immediate notice of the ugly and highly provocative practice that could have sparked unrest and turmoil across the country.

Hafiz Talha Saeed termed blasphemous content on the social media conspiracy of western countries. He said, “non-Muslims cannot confront Muslims in ideological and military fields and are being defeated despite all sources.” Moulana Abul Hashim Rabbani said religio-political and social organisations of country should arrange valiant strategy on the issue.https://www.thenews.com.pk/print/191640-Protest-against-blasphemy-on-social-media

March 11, 2017   No Comments

Pushing MQM-P towards PSP: by Mazhar Abbas in the News, March 11, 2017

In the post-August 22 scenario when the MQM-Pakistan distanced itself from the MQM-London and MQM founder Altaf Hussain for his anti-Pakistan slogans, it expected a favourable response but was disappointed by both Pindi and Islamabad which still ‘suspect’ it to be a silent supporter of London.

The MQM-P feared that some quarters are trying to push it towards the PSP and using either arm-twisting tactics on their workers to change their loyalties or killing them in extrajudicial encounters. This fear is not different from the one repeatedly expressed by the MQM-London which had already sacked Dr Farooq Sattar, Aamir Khan, Faisal Sabzwari and Khwaja Izharul Hasan.

Now, how far these apprehensions are true and why there are no positive signals from the PML-N government despite certain assurances given by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and Finance Minister Ishaq Dar to MQM-P leader Dr Farooq Sattar, in the last two or three months? Sources said that in the last two months, a meeting between MQM-P leaders and the PM was postponed twice for one reason or the other and despite having good relations with the centre, Dr Farooq Sattar and Co now strongly feels that certain quarters are blocking the federal government. The PM, despite promise, did not announce the Karachi Package, too.

Except using the parliamentary forum, the MQM-P is finding it hard to provide relief to its supporters and has been unable even to save them from possible arrests or harassment. The MQM workers are either moving towards the PSP for relief or leaving the country. The third option for them is to be silent supporters of the MQM-London. Even on the issue of military courts, the MQM stayed back from attending the All Parties Conference called by former president Asif Ali Zardari despite giving assurance to a PPP delegation, in an attempt to please the PM and the PML-N.

According to some reports, the MQM and the PML-N had signed a ‘draft’ last year on the formation of a ‘redresses and grievances committee’ for the Karachi operation, but its announcement was withheld because of alleged opposition by the Rangers. In 2013, Interior Minister Ch Nisar Ali Khan had announced the formation of such a committee, but, at that time, the Sindh government opposed it on the ground that in the presence of the ‘apex committee’ and captain of the operation, i.e. chief minister, there was no need for such a committee.

The PPP changed its stance after the arrest of Dr Asim Husain and some officials allegedly close to Asif Ali Zardari, but, this time, the PML-N backed out. On the contrary, MQM leaders, MPs and workers, particularly those in jail, are allegedly facing pressure from certain quarters to change their political loyalties. They are also being approached by the MQM-London to return to the party fold. The MQM-P fears that certain quarters either want to keep the MQM out of mainstream politics and are backing the Pak Sarzameen Party as an alternative to any form of MQM or are trying to confine it to two to three districts of Karachi.

In the last few weeks, there have been remarkable similarities in their statements over alleged extrajudicial killings, arm-twisting tactics against their workers to change their loyalties and fears that the Urdu-speaking community may be converted into a minority after census. The recent move by the MQM-P for the enforcement of Urdu language in Sindh offices has been seen as an attempt to woo Muhajirs. The PPP, which has a majority in the Sindh Assembly, defeated the MQM motion in this regard.

PPP leaders strongly feel that there is a window of opportunity for them to make inroads in Karachi and Hyderabad through a three-pronged strategy: (1) supporting Rangers and the Karachi operation, particularly against the MQM and outlawed groups, (2) launching a major development scheme and completing it before the year end, and (3) making the Karachi mayor practically powerless through Sindh Local Government Act, 2013. The PPP is also confident that after census and delimitation of constituencies, it could emerge as a major political force in rural as well as urban Sindh.

The MQM-P dilemma is that the PML-N has also emerged as a stakeholder and by appointing Mr Mohammad Zubair as Sindh governor, it wants to use his office to get silent support in the province. Thus the PML-N would not give anything to the MQM-P, including the Karachi package. Instead, it will benefit from federal projects like motorway, new transport means and CPEC.

The MQM-P is not getting a positive response from the PPP, the PML-N and the establishment which is allegedly pushing it to join hands with the Pak Sarzameen Party and leave ‘London and Altaf Hussain’. This emerging scenario has put the MQM-P in a dilemma. It now strongly feels that the space for Muhajir politics is being marginalized. It also blames its previous leadership, i.e. MQM-London for adopting political tactics which ultimately put its common voters into deep confusion.

Within the establishment, the chapter of Altaf Hussain is considered closed. Though there is no judicial order to close down the MQM headquarters, 90, or the Khursheed Memorial Hall or allow the party to use the Jinnah Ground as venue for public meetings, there is an unwritten order which is being implemented like a judicial order. All attempts by the MQM-P to get back these venues have been foiled while for practical purposes, the MQM-London has been banned. The MQM-London can turn out to be a big spoiler as it knows that the establishment would not allow it space in the next elections. This move can either go in favour of the PSP or the PPP if it decided to ask its voters to boycott the elections.

However, the Pak Sarzameen Party, led by two former MQM leaders Mustafa Kamal and Anis Qaimkhani, apprehends that some of the policies adopted by the government and the establishment can give it political advantage. The PSP position on devolution of powers or empowerment of local governments and some of the biased policies of the government may not help the PPP make inroads in urban Sindh. In this power struggle to grab maximum out of this vacuum, the PPP, if it plays its cards well and stays above ethnic biases, can gain and so is the Jamaat-e-Islami and Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf alliance.

This emerging scenario and alleged arm-twisting against both factions of the MQM could unite them on some minimum points. Much now depends on the policy of the establishment as in the past, the political side of Karachi operations often proved counterproductive.https://www.thenews.com.pk/print/191618-Pushing-MQM-P-towards-PSP

March 11, 2017   No Comments

State tortured him ‘for pleasure’, says Pak activist

Report in The Nation, March 10, 2017
London – A liberal Pakistani activist who went missing earlier this year has said a “government institution” with links to the military held him and tortured him. Waqass Goraya, one of five activists who disappeared in early January, told the BBC he was tortured “for pleasure”.

The activists were freed after several weeks – but until now none of them has said who was behind their mistreatment. Pakistan’s army has previously denied any involvement in the case. There were vocal protests seeking their release.

Pakistan is one of the world’s most dangerous countries for reporters and human rights activists, and critics of the powerful military have been detained, beaten or killed.

Waqass Goraya – who now lives in the Netherlands – told the BBC he had been tortured “beyond limits”. He described being punched, slapped and forced into stress positions during the three weeks he was held. He worried he would never be released. “We knew it was over… We will die under torture,” he told BBC.

He also spoke at a side event at the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva about his experiences. Goraya believes he was detained because he ran a satirical Facebook page critical of the influence of the Pakistani military in the country’s political system.

The page has also criticised military policy in Balochistan. Goraya strongly denies breaking any laws. “I hadn’t done anything criminal – otherwise I would’ve been in a court not in illegal detention,” he told BBC.

At a press conference in January, a spokesman for Pakistan’s military said it had had nothing to do with the disappearance of the bloggers. Pakistan’s interior minister had previously said the government did not tolerate “enforced disappearances”.

After Waqass Goraya and the other activists disappeared, a campaign demanding their release sprang up around the hashtag #recoverallactivists. But a counter-campaign both online – and backed by a number of TV anchors – accusing them of blasphemy also began.

Goraya says the allegations of blasphemy are false, and that alleged blasphemous postings have been fabricated. Goraya believes the blasphemy allegations were an attempt “to shut us down – to threaten our families – to build pressure on us”.

Goraya says he believes that by speaking to the UN, he can help build pressure in Pakistan to pass a bill currently before parliament that would force the security services to provide information on a “missing person” in their detention within three days of a request.

He also wants accountability for what happened to him. “The government should investigate it. We have evidence – strong evidence – it will directly lead to the persons responsible.”

Goraya still has nerve damage in his hands and feet, as well as problems with his hearing – but says he is determined to continue activist work. “They are still picking people, more and more people are being harmed – our friends, our colleagues – so how can we stop? Someone has to stand up.”http://nation.com.pk/national/10-Mar-2017/state-tortured-him-for-pleasure-says-activist

After 14 years, 4 death row inmates acquitted
By Hasnaat Malik in The Express Tribune, March 10th, 2017

ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court acquitted on Thursday four death row prisoners, one of whom died while in prison, after 14 years.

The three-judge bench, headed by Justice Dost Muhammad Khan, issued the 10-page detailed judgment in this regard.

Citing a report filed by the prison superintendent of Gujrat district, the court ruled that because one of the appellants, Sajjad, son of Muhammad Inayat, had died in jail, his appeal could no longer be heard.

The apex court’s ruling set aside an impugned judgment issued on June 17, 2010 by a high court, acquitting all “convictions and sentences awarded to other appellants/ accused … Mehdi, son of Inayat, Afzaal Mehdi, son of Mehdi Khan and Masood alias Rana, son of Adalat”.

Detailed reasons would soon follow,” the judgment stated.

In October last year, the apex court had acquitted Mazhar Hussain two years after his death.

The judgment observed that corroboratory evidence should originate from independent sources, besides endorsing the account of the eyewitnesses.

Eyewitnesses, in the absence of extraordinary and exceptional circumstances, cannot corroborate themselves by becoming attesting witness/witnesses to the recovery of crime articles.

“In other words, eyewitnesses cannot corroborate themselves … Corroboratory evidence must come from independent source and shall be supported by independent witnesses other than eyewitnesses, thus, these recoveries are … of no judicial efficacy,” it added.

Muhammad Faazil, who reported the crime at the Sarai Alamgir police station on February 22, 2003 alleged that five assailants – Inayat and his sons Zaraat, Mehdi, and Sajjad, Abdul Salam son of Walayat – had mounted an armed attack on him and his sons. Two of his sons were killed in the attack.

Motive for the crime was shown to be enmity between the two families.

In 2005, a trial court awarded death sentences to Zaraat, Mehdi, Sajjad and Abdul Salam on two counts while other accused were awarded life imprisonment terms.

The Lahore High Court maintained the trial court and dismissed the convicts’ appeals on June 17, 2010. Subsequently, the Supreme Court had granted leave in 2011.

After six years, the apex court took up the case on January 25 this year.

According to the detailed judgment, wherein it is stated that according to the FIR, all the accused encircled the complainant, the witnesses and both the deceased thus, in an apparent attempt to kill all of them.

“The complainant, being the father of the deceased, and the head of the family, was supposed to be the prime target … He vigorously pursued the case … and also deposed against them as an eyewitness. The site plan … showed that he and other (witnesses) were at the mercy of the assailants, but despite being the prime target, no threat was extended to him.

The assailants afforded the complainant with “unbelievable courtesy and mercy”, knowing full well that he and other witnesses would depose against them if they were left unhurt.

“This is an absolutely unbelievable story. Such behavior, on the part of the accused, runs counter to natural human conduct … explained in the provisions of Article 129 of the Qanun-e-Shahadat Order of 1984 … The court is unable to accept such an unbelievable proposition.”

The judgment further stated that if there was any doubt about a witness’ presence at the crime scene “this would be sufficient to discard the (entire) testimony.

After reviewing all evidence, the court stated: “We are of the considered view that the prosecution failed to prove its case against appellants beyond any reasonable doubt, therefore, this appeal (Criminal Appeal No.325/2011) is allowed and while extending benefit of doubt to the appellants, they are acquitted of all charges leveled against them. For reasons given above, Criminal Appeal No324/2011 filed by Mst Rukhsana Begum is dismissed,” the judgment stated.

Although the counsel for the complainant strongly contested the court’s view, he was unable to disprove that some of the acquitted accused had been killed.

March 10, 2017   No Comments

Nisar threatens to block all social media websites with ‘blasphemous content’

Islamabad: Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar on Thursday threatened to block “all social media websites” that host blasphemous content hours after the Islamabad High Court (IHC) ordered the government to open an investigation into online blasphemy.

The issue came to the fore in January, when five activists were reported missing. Four of the missing activists were returned to their families weeks later, but not before they were tarnished by a virulent campaign to paint them as ‘enemies of Islam’.

On Thursday, the IHC ordered the government to open an investigation into online “blasphemy”, threatening to ban social media networks if they failed to censor content deemed insulting to Islam.

“We will go to any extent [including] permanently blocking all such social media websites if they refuse to cooperate,” the minister said in a statement.

No country can allow religious sentiments to be hurt or top state functionaries to be subjected to ridicule under what the minister described as “the pretext of freedom of expression.”

IHC judge Justice Shaukat Aziz Siddiqui asked the government to form an investigative committee to report back next Monday over the issue, saying he could order social media sites to be blocked if offending content remained online.

“The judge ordered the government to make a Joint Investigation Team with Muslim officials only to look into the blasphemy issue,” said advocate Tariq Asad, the petitioner in the case.

Rights groups say the label of ‘blasphemer’ is liberally applied by religious conservatives in order to silence criticism of extremism.

Even unproven allegations can be fatal. At least 65 people, including lawyers, judges and activists, have been murdered by vigilantes over blasphemy allegations since 1990, according to a recent think tank report.

Pakistan previously banned Facebook for hosting blasphemous content for two weeks in 2010, while YouTube was unavailable from 2012 to 2016 over an amateur film about Prophet Muhammad (Peace Be Upon Him) that led to global riots.

But Pakistan later came to agreements with major internet firms to block within the country material that violated its laws, generally once the companies had performed their own cross-checks.

Yasser Latif Hamdani, a lawyer who worked to get YouTube unblocked, said previous web censorship had also originated with court orders and the judge could succeed in implementing a fresh set of bans.https://www.dawn.com/news/1319431/nisar-threatens-to-block-all-social-media-websites-with-blasphemous-content

Social Media Spectacle:edit in The nation,March 10, 2017

The state, in two separate occasions in the past day, has mishandled situations involving social media. Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar has expressed dismay over Facebook not responding to the government’s call to release information about users that posted a picture of Nawaz Sharif with someone who was initially thought to be CJP Saqib Nisar.

While Mr Nisar is right, and the post can be construed as defamation, surely this cannot a priority for the government right now and surely they have gone over the website’s privacy policy?

The government’s pettiness in this matter is such that the US Government and Facebook have both ignored the government’s repeated calls for information.The superior judiciary also seems entirely indifferent to this, which makes one wonder why the government is so insistent on ensuring that those responsible are caught.It has only brought more undue attention to the original post.

Fake news and information on social media is definitely a problem, but maybe a bigger issue is the presence of extremist, sectarian and hate-promoting material available online, which the government is seemingly doing nothing about.The Interior Ministry is just one step behind the Islamabad High Court (IHC); after declaring that blasphemy is the worst form of terrorism, Justice Shaukat Aziz Siddiqui has gone one step further and ordered that all blasphemous pages on social media should be blocked with immediate effect, and the names of their owners should be placed on the Exit Control List (ECL).If this does not happen, Justice Siddiqui has threatened to summon the Prime Minister to explain the government’s potential non-compliance.

The IHC’s orders are being implemented, the Islamabad Police has already registered cases against ‘unidentified persons’ for owning pages such as Bhensa, Mochi and Roshni.The strangest aspect of this entire episode is that a judge of the high court has pronounced individuals guilty, without any investigation, or evidence against them . Placing names on the ECL without proof goes against all acceptable judicial norms.Has the central tenant of the justice system, “innocent until proven guilty” been forgotten?

Once the people responsible behind the pages are placed on the ECL – a list available to the general public, the IHC is essentially marking these individuals for death.Blasphemy is a controversial issue in Pakistan and needs to be resolved via public debate.There also needs to be a realisation that criticising the blasphemy law, is not blasphemy itself, and the Internet is not a forum like a printed newspaper, or a public rally, that people can be rounded up and arrested on it if they offend someone’s feelings.There are some concerns that the handling of the case is centred on personal inclinations entirely, without considering the supremacy of the law.The Supreme Court should take note, before the IHC becomes even more far removed from both reality and the national narrative on terrorism.http://nation.com.pk/editorials/10-Mar-2017/social-media-spectacle

March 10, 2017   No Comments

LeJ leads international terrorist organisations in Pakistan

by Imran Awan in daily times, 10-Mar-17
KARACHI: Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ), a proscribed organization, left with only a 10 percent effective network has become the leader of international terrorist organizations such as ISIS, Al-Qaida and TTP in the country, particularly in the port city of Karachi , the largest city of Sindh, and Quetta, the largest city of Baluchistan, officials involved in anti terrorist operations have revealed.

LeJ’s terror activities after many years of calm had resurfaced in the middle of last year, 2016, which drew attention of intelligence agencies as some of its key members were effectively neutralized.

The Organization is still the prime target of law enforcement agencies LEAs for its close liaison with banned “Jamat-ul-Ahrar”. Most of the organization’s activists have gone underground to escape arrests.

The officials claim that LeJ’s almost 90 percent network has been disabled by eliminating its top leadership.

According to the officials, LeJ ties with ISIS surfaced last year when terrorists attacked the police academy in Quetta in October.

The group is active in Karachi and Quetta with two deferent off-shoot groups namely the Naeem Bukhari Group in Karachi and LeJ Al-Aalmi in Quetta, after the start of operation “Zarb-e-Azb” the leadership and its workers went underground while the members of TTP and Al-Qaida fled to Afghanistan and from there they launched terror attacks inside Pakistan with the help of LeJ due to its extensive penetration.

It is pertinent to mention here that on Monday the Counter Terrorism Department CTD Sindh had busted a sleeper cell of LeJ Naeem Bukhari Group by killing it chief “Dildar Chacha” and arresting four complies. The raiding team had also recovered a huge cache of explosives and rocket launchers.

The leader of the group Naeem Bukhari was arrested by the intelligence agencies in January this year. Bukhari, said to be expert in terror networking, had formed sub groups with difference tasks assigned to them including target killings, bomb making and financial support.http://dailytimes.com.pk/pakistan/10-Mar-17/lej-leads-international-terrorist-organisations-in-pakistan

16 militants surrender in Sukkur

SUKKUR – At least 16 militants including a commander laid down arms and surrendered before the Rangers here on Thursday.

The surrendered militants handed over their huge cache of weapons to Rangers officials. The militants belonged to Sukkur and Kachy area of Larkana while a commander Jilalur Din belonged to Sui area.http://nation.com.pk/national/10-Mar-2017/16-militants-surrender-in-sukkur

Weapons, IEDs seized in Nasirabad

QUETTA: The law enforcement agencies on Thursday carrying out raids in Nasirabad seized arms and explosive material from the terrorists den.
According to sources, the Balochistan Frontier Corps and other security agencies conducted raid in Ghazi Nala area of Nasirabad and seized 150 Kg explosive material and six improvised explosive devices (IEDs) from the hideout of banned outfit.
However, no arrest could be made during the action. Security forces, after taking the arms into custody, launched an investigation into the act.

March 10, 2017   No Comments

How strong is Islamic State in Pakistan?

By Imdad Hussain in The Express Tribune, Mar 10, 2017
The writer is an Islamabad-based journalist specialising in diplomatic and security issues.
Security forces have successfully busted several attempts by Islamic State to establish itself in Punjab and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, but their continued activities in Pakistan show the threat they pose is as real as it gets.

The militant organisation, originally based in the Syria-Iraq region, recently claimed responsibility for the attack on Lal Shahbaz Qalandar’s shrine in Sehwan, which killed over 80 people. Last year, it had taken responsibility for an attack on the police academy in Quetta.

Islamic State was not considered dangerous until it located itself in Nangarhar province of Afghanistan, bordering Pakistan’s tribal areas. It announced its formal establishment in January 2015 and since then has expanded its influence in the war-torn country by launching attacks in Jalalabad and Kabul and by making alliances with the local militants in the country.

Bloodbath at Sehwan shrine

Though the Afghan Taliban oppose Islamic State and have clashed with it several times, breakaway factions like the Mullah Rasool group are on good terms with the organisation. The Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, which is now based in Afghanistan and has ties with Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), has also sworn allegiance to Islamic State.

IS in Pakistan

After establishing itself in the volatile Afghanistan, the banned outfit is believed to have developed ties with militant organisations in Pakistan. The possibility of Islamic State trying to grow its influence in Pakistan was already feared because many of its leaders and members in Afghanistan have strong connections with Pakistan. Its first head in Afghanistan Hafiz Saeed Khan was born in Orakzai Agency and was a TTP commander initially. His maiden twelve-member shura consisted of nine Pakistanis, two Afghans, and one person of unknown origin. Abu Haseeb, who succeeded Khan after he was killed in a drone attack, studied in Pakistani madrassas and has links with Pakistani militants.

Alliance of convenience among terror outfits in Pakistan matter of concern for US: Gen Nicholson

A number of other TTP commanders and militants also joined Islamic State after they escaped military operations in Pakistan. Videos were released in 2014 and 2015 showing several of the TTP former commanders pledging allegiance to Abu Bakr alBaghdadi – the leader of Islamic State. Several members of other militant groups have done so such as Lashkar-e-Jhangvi which reportedly partnered with Islamic State for the attack on Quetta’s police training school last year.

Reports about the arrest of Islamic State members from Lahore, Sialkot and Gujranwala also point at the group’s efforts for establishing itself in the country. A few members were arrested in Peshawar as well, carrying pamphlets inscribed with warnings against polio vaccinations, while earlier, pamphlets were distributed in Kurram Agency with threats of attacks in the area. Pro-Islamic State wall chalking was also reported in different parts of the country including Karachi and Gilgit.

It is believed that Islamic State, with thousands of members in Afghanistan, has a relatively smaller number of followers living in Pakistan, that too in hiding. The group allegedly recruited about 50 young refugees in Pakistan and sent them to Afghanistan for militant training. The news of Bushra Cheema, an educated woman from Lahore who went to Syria along with her four children, also garnered attention two years ago.

Regional context

As a militant organisation with regional ambitions, radical ideology, and large recruitment pool of existing and potential militants, Islamic State poses a threat not only to Pakistan and Afghanistan but to the entire region. Its recent expansion to Afghanistan’s eastern and northern parts rightfully ringed alarm bells to as far as Russia which blames the US for Islamic State’s presence in Afghanistan.

Earlier this year, Islamic State released media content targeting China specifically. The two videos asked Muslims around the world to fight the kafirs of China and to revenge the deaths of Uighur Muslims in Xinjiang.

India is also under its radar with the militant group carrying out supposedly its first attack in the country this week. A low-intensity blast in a train in Madhya Pradesh injured 10 passengers and prompted coordinated police operations which saw the arrest of eight Islamic State members.

Trouble in paradise

Though Pakistan has long been a hotbed of militant activities, concerned authorities believe Islamic State cannot put down roots in the country due to the ongoing operations including recently-launched Radd-ul-Fasad and many intelligence-based raids.

Islamic State members hide among public in K-P

The security efforts, particularly those in the wake of Sehwan blast, are geared towards targeting all terrorists including Islamic State and their facilitators. The counter-terrorism measures also focus on dismantling the nexus between criminals and militants.

Pakistan is further coordinating with Russia, China, Afghanistan and other regional countries to contain terrorism and Islamabad’s participation in a recent Moscow meeting was part of its efforts to tackle the growing threat of Islamic State in the region.

Right strategy

With widespread military efforts against militants across Pakistan, it will be hard for Islamic State to establish itself in Pakistani territory. But its existence in Afghanistan can allow the banned group to continue carrying out cross-border attacks or coordinating with local militants to hit targets in Pakistan.

The situation demands strict border management which, as many analysts maintain, can only be possible if ties between Pakistan and Afghanistan – currently marred by a lack of trust – improve drastically.

A comprehensive response, in addition to security cooperation with Afghanistan and elimination of safe havens, should also include police training and programmes to counter radicalisation.https://tribune.com.pk/story/1350564/strong-islamic-state-pakistan/

March 10, 2017   No Comments

Time to get tough: By Zamir Akram in The Express Tribune, March 10th, 2017.

The writer is a former Ambassador of Pakistan.
Pakistan today is in peril. Over 10 days renewed terrorist attacks across the country have claimed more than 150 lives. Confrontation is escalating with India and Afghanistan, who are promoting terrorism and insurgency in Pakistan while accusing Islamabad of instigating terrorism against them. Their strategic partner, the US, has joined this chorus to cover up for its own failure in Afghanistan and to build up an alliance for containing China with the immediate shared objective to de-rail CPEC. Our forbearance and restraint has only encouraged greater aggression. To defeat these machinations, the time has come for us to get tough — but only through a comprehensive, calculated and calibrated response.

First, we need to put our own house in order. Terrorism in all its forms and manifestations — sectarian, ethnic, criminal — must be eliminated from its roots and branches. The writ of State must be enforced. This will not only require kinetic action but a comprehensive approach to immediately ensure peace and security while over the longer term to eliminate poverty, inequality and injustice. This will be a long haul but we can at least start by fully implementing the National Action Plan to combat terrorism. While dissent is an essential part of democracy, there should at least be consensus on national security. Petty political bickering must end now in the national interest.

Externally, we should be realistic about the nefarious designs of India and Afghanistan. Talk of friendship with India is ridiculous. Indians have never accepted the existence of Pakistan; dismembered our country and seek hegemony over the region. The best we can achieve with India is conflict management — willingness to resolve disputes without compromising our interests. Given its challenges, it is in India’s own interest to resolve differences with Pakistan.

Officially sponsored Indo-Afghan support to terrorism and insurgency in Pakistan through Afghan based TTP-IS cohorts must be reversed by force and aggressive diplomacy. We must exercise the option where required to destroy TTP-IS camps across the border if the Afghans and their American mentors are unwilling or unable to take action while also sealing the border by land mines where necessary. Denial of transit trade and expulsion of illegal Afghans are further options.

We should ask the UN Security Council to take action against Indian and Afghan sponsors of terrorism against Pakistan. We must also confront the Indians themselves with the evidence of their perfidy — which we have so far not done for reasons that are inexplicable. Indian failure to cease and desist should then justify paying them back in the same coin. Given the multiple insurgencies that are raging from Indian Punjab to the northeast, they must realise they are playing with fire.

It is important to draw a distinction between official Indo-Afghan support for TTP-IS terrorists and Pakistan’s engagement with the Taliban, which is not a terrorist group but a political force with which Kabul and Washington themselves want to engage and expect Pakistan to being them to the negotiating table.

In the much touted “Afghan led and Afghan owned peace process”, it is upto the warring Afghan parties to reach accommodation especially since they have failed to find a military solution. Pakistan should not be held responsible for bringing the Taliban on board nor is there any chance of success of any dialogue with the Taliban as long as the US-Afghan military option continues to be used against them. We should no longer expend any more political and diplomatic capital on this thankless and pointless exercise. Let the Afghans stew in their own juice.

The new Trump administration has so far not articulated its South-Asian policy but it appears that the American establishment, especially Pentagon and the CIA, will persist with the untenable pursuit of a military solution and fighting to the last Afghan. They have also so far not recognised that the real threat to US security comes from the IS and its TTP allies rather than the Taliban who also oppose the IS and therefore, are a potential ally. Moreover, Washington does not want Beijing to break out its containment strategy, for which reason it may be covertly if not overtly supporting Indian opposition to CPEC as well as its sponsorship of the TTP-IS nexus that includes terrorists targeting China. The other reason could be to use the TTP as leverage against Pakistan to end its alleged support to the Afghan Taliban. Such an American approach is short-sighted and dangerous.

It is, therefore, time for us to be absolutely candid with Washington. Not only should we be clear that we will not use force against the Taliban as this would be against our interests but insist that the US should enforce its counter-terrorism campaign against the TTP. Failure to do so would prove US complicity with India and raise questions about Pakistan — American counter-terrorism cooperation including use of our transit routes. At the same time, we should try to engage the US in countering the IS-TTP threat from Afghanistan to the entire region, as we are already doing with China and Russia.

We should also engage with Iran and Turkey which are similarly threatened by the IS and have converging interests with China and Russia. In time, the US may come to the same conclusion since Trump has identified the IS as the principal security threat to US interests.

Ultimately, our ability to effectively counter the strategic challenges confronting Pakistan will require maintaining credible Full Spectrum Deterrence. Therefore, we must continue to make all necessary efforts to preserve and enhance our strategic capabilities, irrespective of the pressures that would be exerted against us. https://tribune.com.pk/story/1351124/time-get-tough/

March 10, 2017   No Comments