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Posts from — May 2017

No of smoking girls jumps to 16.3pc in Pak

Report in The Nation, May 31, 2017
FAISALABAD – The number of young female smokers in Pakistan has jumped to 16.3 percent from 6 percent in recent years.

Tobacco is responsible for approx 80,000 deaths annually in Pakistan directly or indirectly. It was major cause of lung cancer and heart diseases globally in addition to many other diseases attributed to smoking.

This was disclosed by Prof Dr Zahid Masood, Head Department of Community Medicine, UMDC in a seminar to mark the “No tobacco day” at The University of Faisalabad.

Dr Zahid Masood said that according to State Bank report Pakistanis spent Rs250 billion on over 64 billion cigarettes in the financial year 2014. The number of young female smokers in Pakistan had jumped to 16.3% from 6% in recent years. According to a study conducted in Pakistan frequency of shisha smoking among students was 19.7%. Smoking Shisha for an hour was equivalent to smoking 100 cigarettes in the same time. In countries like Pakistan a single cigarette pack was cheaper than a loaf of bread. Consequently smoking was getting popular among youth due to its easy availability and affordability, he added.
http://nation.com.pk/national/31-May-2017/number-of-smoking-girls-jumps-to-163pc

May 31, 2017   No Comments

Jirga ‘justice’: Editorial in Dawn, May 31st, 2017

IT is unfortunate that illegal jirgas have usurped judicial functions and deliver edicts based on ignorance and prejudice. The state rarely takes note when these councils of elders pronounce verdicts that are often archaic and misogynistic. However, in an unprecedented development over the weekend, Sardar Taj Mohammad Domki, a landowner from Kandhkot, Sindh, was arrested for convening a jirga that ‘settled’ a rape case. The case involved a 12-year-old girl who was allegedly gang-raped in Karachi. As punishment, the jirga imposed a fine of Rs1.8m on the “real accused”, as Mr Domki stated at a news conference at his residence. Had he not intervened, he declared, the victim would have failed to get justice. In other words, he justified holding an illegal jirga. Arresting Mr Domki has set a long-overdue precedent that flouting the law by holding jirgas will not be tolerated. Despite a 2004 Sindh High Court ban on jirgas, the latter continue to rule on ‘honour’ killing cases, other murders and land disputes — many of the meetings being convened on private premises and at government venues, often with politicians and police as participants. One may argue that this case attracted media interest because it drew Chief Justice Saqib Nisar’s attention, ensuring the police were compelled to act. Even otherwise, the state must clamp down on jirgas, if only to safeguard victims who should be able to approach the state’s justice system for redress.

We know that shifts in traditional thinking are not common in patriarchal communities, and that victims seek jirga arbitration because the state justice system is weak. This is where local media can educate its audience on illegal and flawed jirga justice and the advantages of formal justice. Local Sindhi media is adept at discussing social tensions, for example. Violence makes for everyday content, with stories of couples punished by jirgas regularly published in Sindhi dailies. For the suffering and violence perpetuated through jirga decisions to stop, the rule of law must urgently be applied. https://www.dawn.com/news/1336403/jirga-justice

May 31, 2017   No Comments

Mute indignity: Editorial in The News, May 31, 2017

The ordeal suffered by a deaf and mute woman travelling from Quetta to Lahore after she was raped in the washroom of the Akbar Bugti Express at Samma Satta near Bahawalpur must have been terrifying on its own. But to make matters worse, she was then subjected to three different medical exams by authorities with her brother-in-law, who was travelling with her, complaining police were holding back on investigation. The reason for this police reluctance could well be that the man identified as the rapist by the woman was a sepoy with the Balochistan regiment. The story is typical of the manner in which rape victims are treated in our country. Other women have suffered similar maltreatment and insensitivity at the hands of the police. The fact that the alleged culprit is said to be a member of the security personnel of course adds to the problems since the police are not always willing to step in when it comes to such cases. The rapist could well have attempted to take advantage of the woman’s handicap and perhaps been unaware that she would be able to give details of the incident.

The terrible occurrence simply highlights the need for victims of sexual crime to be treated with far greater respect and dignity. The woman, a mother of three, acted bravely to take up the matter and identify the man sleeping near the washroom as her assailant. Unfortunately, very few victims of rape are willing to step forward in a similar manner. The reason for this lies in the fact that they are so often treated as offenders rather than victims in need of help and support. The Samma Satta police say that the sepoy has been handed over for trial before military courts. It is difficult to know what will happen from this point on given the secrecy of such trials. What we can say is that no woman suffering such a crime on public transport or other place should be forced to endure the treatment meted out to the young victim in this case. What is imperative is that in all matters involving crimes of sex, the victim receive a thoughtful, sensitive approach from investigators – and that includes medical authorities. There would appear to be no conceivable reason for the multiple medical examinations. These simply rub salt into an open wound. We hope that eventually, the victim can attain the justice she deserves and that the rapist is brought to justice.https://www.thenews.com.pk/print/207685-Mute-indignity

May 31, 2017   No Comments

The Real Cyber Threat: edit in The Nation, May 31, 2017

The theory that the government is more keen on curtailing the rights of social media activists that criticise state institutions instead of those spreading hate speech or extremist propaganda online has been all but confirmed by a Dawn report that revealed that at least 41 of the 64 banned outfits in Pakistan have an online presence.
The main medium used is Facebook with most of the content in Urdu or Roman Urdu, but with additional content in the regional languages as well.

What this tells us is that extremist ideology is openly being disseminated on the internet with little government scrutiny. Why the Interior Ministry is so fixated on social media activists that have criticised the government or the army when banned groups are preaching openly is anyone’s guess.And this is exactly why the government receives so much flak from social media activists – it is looking to silence any form of dissent in the country, but fails to counter the very real and dangerous threat coming in from extremism being propagated online.

While some of these pages may not be officially sanctioned by the proscribed groups in question, extremists have a platform they can essentially use for free advertising, and this discussion does not even feature in the many press conferences held on issues of online blasphemy and criticism of state institutions.Does the government’s conscience go to sleep when extremism comes into play?

It is a fact that groups such as the Islamic State use their tech-savy members to recruit and disseminate their ideology online.Members of the youth that feel alienated among society or with their peers are often drawn in towards the extremist ideology with promises of something greater than the individual and by promising benefits in the hereafter.

The government must prioritise what it really wants to achieve with its social media scrutiny policy.So far it is to establish greater control and limit the freedoms of the average person, or someone who does not necessarily agree with the state-sponsored narrative.But these people are harmless, if not helpful in pointing the myriad flaws of both the armed forces and the state.The real problem goes unchecked.Clamping down on all terrorist organisations or individuals that propagate extremist ideology is the only rational reason for blocking access to sites or pages on the Internet, and this is something the government has neglected to do so far.If monitoring social media is something the government is interested in, it best start somewhere it matters.http://nation.com.pk/editorials/31-May-2017/the-real-cyber-threat

May 31, 2017   No Comments

Banned groups on Facebook: Editorial in Dawn, May 31st, 2017

The merchants of hate may in some respects have been muzzled, but they continue to thrive in the echo chamber that is the social media. An in-depth investigation by this paper has uncovered the extent to which banned organisations — including Sunni and Shia sectarian groups, global terrorism outfits operating in Pakistan, as well as Sindhi and Baloch separatists — and their supporters, maintain interconnected and public networks on Facebook.Out of 64 organisations banned by the government, 41 have a presence on the platform, disseminating their ideologies through more than 700 pages and groups, aside from individual user profiles. In terms of size, the Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamaat with 200 pages and groups is by far the largest, and that is not counting the 148 that belong or indicate allegiance to the Sipah-i-Sahaba Pakistan, an earlier iteration of the ASWJ which was banned in 2002.

These findings, particularly when seen in the context of recent developments in Pakistan, are disturbing evidence of the confusion that prevails in the state apparatus about what constitutes the real threat to this country. Given the scale of religious violence that has eviscerated Pakistani society in the past decades, such a lack of clarity is astounding.
Witness how official authorities are hounding individuals for expressing views on social media that are critical of the establishment, and how they have demonised those professing ‘secular’ opinions on such platforms. How many such individuals or progressive civil society groups have stoked hatred against other communities, murdered people on allegations of blasphemy, or pitted Pakistani against Pakistani along the lines of faith?The state’s pursuit of red herrings and its muddled priorities leave it unable to construct a focused and consistent counter narrative that is so desperately needed to consolidate the gains made in kinetic operations. NAP was clear in its objective: there is to be no compromise on religious extremism in all its forms.

Granted, Facebook itself has admitted to the difficulty in removing offensive material from its network, but the government should be more proactive with the company on this score. The fact that the Parliamentary Committee on National Security yesterday asked for a briefing on the activities of banned groups on Facebook inspires hope that this issue may be addressed with the attention it deserves.Aside from implementing the ban in its entirety, the state must ensure that the leaders of these groups are placed under the restrictive Fourth Schedule and their actions closely monitored. Furthermore, the rationale behind banning these 64 organisations should be explained to the people. For instance, some of these groups are not directly involved in violence, but they do advocate the overthrow of the democratic system. The public must be trusted to understand what constitutes extremism and the seemingly innocuous paths that can lead to it. https://www.dawn.com/news/1336405/banned-groups-on-facebook

May 31, 2017   No Comments

Two peace body men killed in Khyber blast

LANDI KOTAL: Two activists of a pro-government peace body were killed and another injured when their vehicle was targeted with a landmine here on Tuesday.

Officials in Landi Kotal said that the incident took place in Nari Baba area of Bazaar Zakhakhel.

They said that three Bazaar Zakhakhel peace committee activists — Mehr Jan, Hazrat Khan and Said Wali — were travelling in a car when the vehicle drove over an explosive device planted on the road.

The blast killed Mehr Jan and Hazrat Khan on the spot, while Said Wali sustained critical injuries. The blast also damaged the car.

Activists of Bazaar Zakhakhel peace committee along with Khasadar and FC men immediately reached the spot and conducted a search operation. No report of any arrests during the search operation could be obtained. Nobody claimed responsibility of the incident.

Three Bazaar Zakhakhel peace committee activists were killed and eight others injured in a nearby Karamna locality on Sunday when rival groups of the same committee clashed with each other.https://www.dawn.com/news/1336519/two-peace-body-men-killed-in-khyber-blast

May 31, 2017   No Comments

Huge quantity of arms recovered from tribal areas: ISPR

Report in The Nation, May 30, 2017, 9:43 pm
Web Desk: Security forces recovered huge quantity of arms and ammunition during intelligence based operations in parts of Waziristan and Swat on Tuesday, Inter-Service Public Relations (ISPR) said in a press release.

The intelligence based operations were carried out as a part the Operation Raddul Fasad, said the ISPR statement.

Security forces recovered huge quantity of arms and ammunition during IBOs in village Punga Kali in South Waziristan Agency and village Idak in North Waziristan Agency, Roringar valley, Matta (Swat) and village Jatgram of Nehag Darra,” the statement added.

The recovered weapons include SMGs, 14.5 anti aircraft gun, 12.7 guns , 303 rifles, 7 mm, 12 bore rifles, pistols , IED along with detonators and ammunition of various calibers of different weapons.http://nation.com.pk/national/30-May-2017/huge-quantity-of-arms-recovered-from-tribal-areas-ispr

May 31, 2017   No Comments

Top 8 banned outfits on FB in Pak:

Report in Dawn, May 30, 2017

1. Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamat (ASWJ)

Formerly known as the SSP, the ASWJ was banned 10 years after its predecessor, on February 15, 2012. They are known to spread anti-Shia sentiment across Pakistan, and often attack minority groups.
Despite the ban, the organisation remains active in spreading hatred and violence. They engage in local politics by holding rallies and gatherings, amassing a following in an attempt to legitimise the group.

2. Jeay Sindh Muttahida Mahaz (JSMM)
Founded in 2000 by Shafi Burfat, the JSMM is a separatist group fighting for the separation of Sindh from Pakistan. Proscribed on March 15, 2013 for alleged ties to Indian intelligence’s Research and Analysis Wing (RAW), the JSMM is thought to have been involved in sabotage through the offshoot militant faction Sindhudesh Liberation Army.
Due to lack of incidents and reported activity after being proscribed, the organisation is believed to have refocused their efforts on recruiting students for protests.

3.Sipah-i-Sahaba Pakistan (SSP)
Founded in September of 1985, SSP is acknowledged as one of the largest and oldest anti-Shia militant factions. They have targeted Shia mosques and leaders in the past. Having changed their name twice after they were banned for terrorist activities in January of 2002, the faction is presently known and operates as ASWJ. Along with ASWJ, SSP has the biggest presence among banned organisation on Facebook.

4. Baloch Student Organization Azad (BSO-A)
Founded by Allah Nazar Baloch in 2002, the organisation is known to indoctrinate the youth of Balochistan in a struggle for an independent Balochistan.
Proscribed on March 15, 2013 on the basis of spreading anti-state sentiment through strikes and processions, they remain active online and in student communities in Balochistan.

5. Sipah-i-Muhammad Pakistan (SMP)
Although reports vary, it is believed that Maulana Mureed Abbas Yazdani founded SMP in 1993. Formed as a Shia outfit to counter the militancy of Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan, their primary objective is to retaliate against aggressions from SSP and LeJ.
Proscribed on August 14, 2001 along with LeJ for suspected involvement in terrorist activities, the SMP is alleged to have carried out attacks against the leadership of banned Sunni extremist factions. Their operations were reported to have seized after a rift amidst the leadership.

6. Jaish-e-Muhammad (JeM)
Masood Azhar formed JeM in 2000 after being released from an Indian prison in return for hostages of an Indian Airline plane. Notorious for attacks in India-held Kashmir (IHK), the militant outfit’s stated objective is to unite IHK with Pakistan. However, it also has close links with LeJ, and its members have carried out attacks against the minority communities.
Breaking into two factions, the militant organisation is still believed to be active in the region, despite being banned on January 14, 2002 for sending non-Kashmiris into IHK causing unrest in Kashmir and hampering diplomacy between Pakistan and India. They are known for an attack on the Indian parliament in 2001, Daniel Pearl’s kidnapping and two assassination attempts on former president of Pakistan, Pervez Musharraf.

7.Tehreek-e-Islami
Following the refusal of Jamaat-e-Islami to shun electoral politics, Naeem Siddiqui founded Tehreek-e-Islami in 1994 with a view to start an armed struggle to turn Pakistan into an Islamic state.
Even though the outfit was banned in January of 2002, along with several other militant organisations for anti-state sentiments, it continues to operate today through its head office in Karachi.

8. Lashkar-e-Tayyiba (LeT)
Since its formation in 1990 by the controversial Hafiz Muhammad Saeed, LeT has been credited with carrying out several attacks on Indian soil. At the time of their conception they aided Afghanistan in their fight against the Soviets.
Infamous for the 26/11 Mumbai attacks, LeT’s interests lie in liberating held Kashmir from India and enforcing strict Salafi and Ahle-Hadith interpretations of Islam across the Indian subcontinent. Despite international attention and having been banned by the Pakistani state on January 14, 2002 for spreading terror locally and internationally, there is evidence that the outfit remains operational. https://www.dawn.com/news/1336223/top-eight-banned-outfits-on-facebook

May 30, 2017   No Comments

Banned outfits in Pak operate openly on FB

Investigative report in Dawn, May 30, 2017
They exist in plain sight, just one search and one click away from any of Pakistan’s 25 million Facebook users.
An investigation carried out by Dawn across the month of April 2017 has revealed that 41 of Pakistan’s 64 banned outfits are present on Facebook in the form of hundreds of pages, groups and individual user profiles.
Their network, both interconnected and public, is a mix of Sunni and Shia sectarian or terror outfits, global terror organisations operating in Pakistan, and separatists in Balochistan and Sindh.
For the purpose of this investigation, the names of all banned outfits – including acronyms and small variations in spelling – were searched on Facebook to find pages, groups, and user profiles that publicly ‘liked’ a banned outfit.

The biggest outfits on the social network, in order of size, are Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamaat (ASWJ) with 200 pages and groups, Jeay Sindh Muttahida Mahaz (JSMM) with 160, Sipah-i-Sahaba (SSP) with 148, Balochistan Students Organisation Azad (BSO-A) with 54 and Sipah-e-Muhammad with 45.
Other banned outfits which exist on Facebook at a smaller scale include Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ), Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), Tehreek-e-Taliban Swat, Tehrik-e-Nifaz-e-Shariat-e-Mohammadi, Jamat-ul-Ahrar, 313 Brigade, multiple Shia outfits and a host of Baloch separatist organisations.

A closer look at activity
An examination of some user profiles linked to these banned outfits indicates open support of sectarian and extremist ideology. A few of these profiles have also publicly ‘liked’ pages and groups related to weapons use and training.
While some of the Facebook pages and groups claim to be ‘official’ representatives of the outfits, others appear to be managed by members and supporters in ideological agreement.

The content shared on their forums is varied. Although there are occasional posts in the form of text or status updates, the more common updates feature photos, videos and memes shared to explain and elaborate on the outfit’s ideology; provide updates on recent or ongoing events and on-ground activity; and encourage private contact and recruitment of motivated Facebook users.
In general, the Facebook updates are in Urdu or Roman Urdu rather than English, suggesting the content is primarily for local consumption. A very small number are in Sindhi or Balochi, also indicating a niche target audience.
Open spread of ideology
Invariably, most of the Facebook pages and groups glorify existing leaders or those killed in the past while some banned outfits also campaign for the release of their activists or leaders.
In their Facebook updates, all banned outfits place blame on the state, or, in the case of outfits focused on Kashmir, on India. In rare cases, pages and groups linked to these banned outfits share graphic content depicting acts of violence — including photos and videos of bodies.
The more organised outfits appear to have ‘official’ media cells sharing press releases and religious sermons or political speeches as both audio and video. Such pages and groups also share links from websites, blogs or Twitter accounts that appear to be run by members of these outfits. The content in general includes anti-state propaganda or hate speech directed at religious minorities and other members of society.
Local footprint
Of the pages, groups and users investigated for the purpose of this story, a majority appeared to be based in larger urban centers such as Karachi, Lahore, Peshawar and Quetta. Those users that had publicly listed the educational institutions they had attended are mostly based in large, government-run universities, particularly in Sindh and Balochistan.
Many banned outfits have pages and groups with their names followed by district names, inviting users to join based on locality e.g. in the case of Baloch separatists, divisions include Gwadar, Kharan, Mastung, Panjgur etc.

Others, such as sectarian outfits, are organised down to localities e.g. North Nazimabad in Karachi, or even by-election constituency e.g. NA-68. Furthermore, others are organised using terms such as ‘student wing’ or ‘youth wing’
.
Tip of the iceberg
At all times, members and supporters of these banned outfits operating on Facebook have the option to shift communication from public to private.
Any user linked to, or interested in a proscribed organisation can befriend and chat with like-minded users, message those operating the pages and groups or click the provided links to websites and blogs. To establish contact off Facebook, all they would need to do is use the publicly listed email addresses or local phone numbers provided by some outfits.
The findings of this investigation are just the tip of the iceberg however, as a far larger number of pages and groups could exist without publicly using the name of the banned organisation in order to operate in secret. Unlike the profiles examined, most Facebook users would also not leave their list of pages and groups public – unless they feel they can use the social network with impunity.

Facebook’s militancy problem
Delete, block or hand over information to authorities — these are Facebook’s primary responses in the event that the social network is used for terror or criminal activity.
Although the company has acknowledged working with Pakistan in multiple cases, due to a lack of real transparency the nature of the cases is unknown, as is the process by which the requests and exchange of information is made. It is entirely possible that these requests are related to politics, blasphemy, sexual harassment etc. rather than on investigating banned outfits.
Details of Pakistan’s requests to Facebook provided in its ‘Government Requests Reports’ from 2013 to 2016 show a sharp upward trend from 2015 onwards, reaching a high of 1,002 requests in July-December, 2016. The percentage to which Facebook complied with the requests to some extent has been between 64% and 68% since 2015.

As stated in its policies, Facebook “may access, preserve and share your information in response to a legal request (like a search warrant, court order or subpoena) if we have a good faith belief that the law requires us to do so.”
It also does not allow any organisations engaged in terrorist activity, or organised criminal activity to have a presence on Facebook.
More controversially, the company also removes user accounts and content “that expresses support for groups that are involved in the violent or criminal behavior mentioned above. Supporting or praising leaders of those same organisations, or condoning their violent activities, is not allowed.”
This specific policy led to many user accounts being blocked or deleted in 2016 for criticising India following the killing of Kashmir’s young ‘freedom fighter’ Burhan Wani and the resulting violent protests and crackdown by India’s security forces.
The Kashmir conflict is just one example of the quagmire Facebook faces as it tries to govern 1.9 billion users. Preventing the social network from being misused by militants and terrorists spread across all the continents, and also distinguishing those outfits from legitimate freedom movements is a task that Facebook CEO and founder Mark Zuckerberg has admitted to being beyond the company’s capacity.
In a note shared on Facebook, Zuckerberg said, “In the last year, the complexity of the issues we’ve seen has outstripped our existing processes for governing the community…We’ve seen this in misclassifying hate speech in political debates in both directions — taking down accounts and content that should be left up and leaving up content that was hateful and should be taken down. Both the number of issues and their cultural importance has increased recently.”

Formerly known as the SSP, the ASWJ was banned 10 years after its predecessor, on February 15, 2012. They are known to spread anti-Shia sentiment across Pakistan, and often attack minority groups.
Despite the ban, the organisation remains active in spreading hatred and violence. They engage in local politics by holding rallies and gatherings, amassing a following in an attempt to legitimise the group.
Founded in 2000 by Shafi Burfat, the JSMM is a separatist group fighting for the liberation of Sindh from Pakistan. Proscribed on March 15, 2013 for alleged ties to Indian intelligence’s Research and Analysis Wing (RAW), the JSMM is thought to have been involved in sabotage through the offshoot militant faction Sindhudesh Liberation Army.
Due to lack of incidents and reported activity after being proscribed, the organisation is believed to have refocused their efforts on recruiting students for protests.
Founded in September of 1985, SSP is acknowledged as one of the largest and oldest anti-Shia militant factions. They have targeted Shia mosques and leaders in the past.
Having changed their name twice after they were banned for terrorist activities in January of 2002, the faction is presently known and operates as Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamaat. https://www.dawn.com/news/print/1335561

May 30, 2017   No Comments

JuD leaders’ detention: Law officer told to submit review board’s verdict

Report in Dawn, May 30th, 2017
LAHORE: The Lahore High Court on Monday directed a federal government’s lawyer to submit decision of a review board regarding detention of Jamatud Dawa (JuD) chief Hafiz Muhammad Saeed and other leaders.

A division bench headed by Justice Abdul Sami Khan issued the direction when the government’s counsel stated that a federal review board had delivered a decision on the extension of the detention of the JuD leaders. However, he said, copy of the decision was yet to be received by the attorney general office. The bench directed the law officer to submit the copy of the board’s decision within two days.

The bench was hearing a petition challenging detention of JuD leaders including Hafiz Saeed, Abdullah Ubaid, Malik Zafar Iqbal, Abdul Rehman Abid and Qazi Kashif Husain.

Earlier, Advocate A.K Dogar representing the petitioners argued that proceedings before the review board were different from the matter before the court. He said the court should decide the matter on merits.

He said the government failed to produce the petitioners before the review board prior to expiry of their detention period. He said extending detention period of the petitioners without mandatory approval of the board was illegal. He asked the court to set aside the detention of the petitioners for being unconstitutional. The bench would resume hearing on June 1. www.dawn.com/news/1336297/jud-leaders-detention-law-officer-told-to-submit-review-boards-verdict

May 30, 2017   No Comments