Random header image... Refresh for more!

Category — HUman Rights/ seminars

Slain youth’s heirs protest against police ‘brutality’

REPORT in the Nation, November 24, 2017
SARGODHA – The infuriated heirs of 28-year-old deceased mechanic, who was allegedly killed due to brutal torture by city police , placed the body on Faisalabad-Sargodha Road and staged a protest against the police on Thursday.
Traffic on both the roadsides remained blocked near at 49 Tail due to the protest . Meanwhile, the Punjab government and IG Punjab Police took note about the incident which occurred in the City Police Station lockup on Wednesday. On the other hand, the police have filed case against three police officials. Protestors chanted slogans against police and demanded arrest of the perpetrators. Earlier, city police denied handing over the dead body to the family. Later, body was given to them after completion of postmortem at DHQ Hospital.
At that occasion, the protestor said that city police just held deceased Haseeb over traffic rule violation and killed him with brutal torture. The police said that accused Haseeb was involved in a theft case and he ended his life by committing suicide. The Factor Areas police have lodged FIR against ASI Ejaz Ahmed and two other cops of PS city on the orders of high ups.http://nation.com.pk/24-Nov-2017/slain-youth-s-heirs-protest-against-police-brutality

November 24, 2017   No Comments

Water to Katas Raj to be restored at all costs: CJ

Report in The News, Nov 24, 2017
ISLAMABAD: Supreme Court Chief Justice Saqib Nisar said on Thursday that water to the Katas Raj temple will be restored even if 10 wells have to be closed.
He lambasted the government for its inability to safeguard one of the Hindu minority’s most revered places of worship, the Katas Raj Temple in Chakwal, where the sacred pond is drying up.
The chief justice of Pakistan described Katas Raj as a national heritage site that must be protected and directed authorities in the Punjab to form a committee to probe the issue.
The Supreme Court was hearing a suo moto case it had taken up on the basis of media reports that the pond atKatas Raj was drying up because the nearby cement factories are drawing large amounts of groundwater through a number of wells.
Almost every home in Katas Waulah and Choa Saidan Shah also draws water through bore wells in the absence of a proper water supply network. The unchecked plantation of eucalyptus saplings in the region has compounded the problem, some reports suggested.
“This temple is not just a place of cultural significance for the Hindu community, but also a part of our national heritage,” Nisar observed. “I want a solution to this problem.” The chief justice ordered authorities to fill the pond within a week. “The pond should be filled in a week even if water has to be carried in water-skins to fill it,” he said.
The Punjab government and a district coordination officer submitted reports on the issue to the court, and the additional advocate general made important disclosures about a cement factory operating in the area, saying its water usage is greater than that of the entire population of Chakwal city.
Attorney General Ashtar Ausaf incurred the ire of the chief justice as he was not present when the court began hearing into the matter. Once Ausaf arrived in the court, CJP Nisar stressed the importance of protecting the rights of the minorities.
Ausaf was directed to form a committee to assess the matter and to assist the panel. The chief justice suggested that a citizen of Chakwal who often raises his voice on the issue should be included in the committee.
“Our goal is to find a solution to the matter of how water can be provided,” Nisar said. “If we need to close down 10 tube wells or halt the water consumption to the factories, we will do it.”
He added it was regrettable that cement factories appeared to have cut away more than half the mountains in the area. The court, he said, is not against setting up of factories “but they should be located in places that do not cause inconvenience to ordinary citizens”. He added: “It is unacceptable to live without access to clean water or air.” The case was later adjourned for a week. https://www.thenews.com.pk/print/248253-water-to-katas-raj-to-be-restored-at-all-costs-cj

November 24, 2017   No Comments

SC wants govt to save Katas Raj temples: by Nasir Iqbal in Dawn, Nov 24, 2017

ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court on Thursday ordered the federal and Punjab governments to form a special committee of experts to saving the fabled prehistoric Hindu temple of Katas Raj, whose pond is fast drying out.

“We live in an Islamic country and it is our duty to protect the rights and holy places of minorities, including those of Hindus,” observed Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar, regretting that one of the holiest Hindu temples was not being looked after properly.

The chief justice was heading a three-judge Supreme Court bench that had taken suo motu notice of media reports that the Katas pond was drying out as nearby cement factories sucked up large quantities of groundwater through a number of drill bores. The bores have severely reduced subsoil water levels and have affected water usage of domestic users as well.

There is no life without the two bounties of Allah Almighty, including clean drinking water and clean air, the chief justice said, observing that the court could go to any extent, including reducing the capacity of certain factories or industrial units.

But we will not tolerate the enrichment of a few at the cost of the sanctity of temples that belong to the minorities, he said.

“We need a solution for the future, therefore I suggest setting up a committee under the court’s supervision, which should suggest remedial measures to mitigate the damage already done to the temple,” the chief justice observed.

The committee would consist of experts from the federal as well as the provincial governments, Evacuee Trust Property Board (ETPB) Chairman Siddiqul Farooq, and local environmentalist Mohammad Safdar Malik.

The latter also handed over certain proposals to the court, highlighting possible remedial measures. Once the committee is formed, the Supreme Court may issue a timeline for the completion of its task.

“This is a job for the legislatures and the executive, but when they do not carry out their responsibilities well, the courts come into play,” the chief justice explained, adding that even though the factories also had a role in the industrial growth of the country, but there should be some sense of proportion.

Such factories or industrial units should be established in places where the lives of ordinary people are not affected and the environmental degradation should be minimal, he warned.

The court also hinted at examining the extent of the pollution, caused by widespread quarrying in the mountains of the Salt Range, which was adversely affecting the health of locals.

The judges maintained that while they were not against development work, quarrying could be done elsewhere in the range, away from settled areas.

The chief justice highlighted the need for a balancing factor and noted that even developed countries had proper corrective measures in place to protect against the ill-effects of environmental degradation.

In its report, the Punjab government conceded that the aquifer feeding the Hindu temple in Katas was under severe stress, which had drastically reduced the water level in its prehistoric pond.

The report claimed the pond was drying out because of the massive water requirements of the nearby cement factories, which were sucking up groundwater through a number of drill bores.

In addition, almost every home in the vicinity is obtaining water from bores, as there is no proper water supply in the areas of Katas, Waulah and Choa Saidan Shah city. The problem has been aggravated by the plantation of water-intensive eucalyptus trees in the region.

Katas Raj is considered the second most sacred shrine of the Hindu religion. Its origin dates back to 600AD, and the temple complex is built around a water pond, which in Hindu mythology was formed by the tears of Shiva, as he wept uncontrollably over the loss of his wife, Sati.

The pond covers an area of two kanals and 15 marlas, with a maximum depth of approximately 20 feet. The pond is a natural spring and like all other springs, sees highs and lows in the water flows linked to seasonal variations. https://www.dawn.com/news/1372550/sc-wants-govt-to-save-katas-raj-temples

November 24, 2017   No Comments

Faizabad sit-in: SC blames government for not taking timely action

report in Express Tribune, ov 232, 2017
News Desk : The Supreme Court on Thursday blamed the government for not taking timely action to avert the Faizabad sit-in.

The Ministry of Defence and Ministry of Interior submitted their reports to the bench during the hearing of the notice taken by the Supreme Court on the Faizabad sit-in.

Reading the reports Justice Mushir Alam asked the Attorney General if he had gone through the reports himself.
“The Punjab government was aware of the entire situation,” Justice Mushir Alam said while reading from the report.

Also part of the bench, Justice Qazi Faez Isa remarked that though there were differences the parties should have approached the courts.

“If something is against the Shariah we have a Shariah Court to resolve the matter,” Justice Isa said adding that this sit-in is setting a bad precedent as anyone can bring the city to a standstill to get their demands across.

“The govt and protesters are missing a key point while negotiating that Islam teaches to remove even a stone from someone’s way,” Justice Isa remarked.

The Supreme Court of Pakistan on Tuesday took notice of the sit-in at Faizabad Interchange that has paralysed twin cities for almost 20 days.

SC had summoned Inspector General Punjab, Inspector General Islamabad and Attorney General of Pakistan.

The protesters have been demanding resignation of Federal Minister for Law Zahid Hamid for allegedly altering the declaration of lawmakers with regard to Finality of the Prophethood – a change which the government called a ‘clerical error’ and has already reversed.https://tribune.com.pk/story/1566101/1-faizabad-sit-sc-blames-government-not-taking-timely-action/

November 23, 2017   No Comments

Madaris must be regulated: edit in Daily Times, Nov 23, 2017

The balance of power in this country has shifted so far in the clerics’ favour that it seems they can get away with anything. A recent investigation by the Associated Press has found that sexual abuse is rampant in seminaries across Pakistan. The investigation — based on police documents, interviews with victims, their families, former and serving ministers, aid groups and state officials — finds that the problem isn’t restricted to a specific area. It is a countrywide phenomenon.According to the investigation, there have been 359 cases of sexual abuse registered against clerics in the past 10 years. However, rights’ activists interviewed for the report term this figure as just the ‘tip of the iceberg’. They say, and rightly so, that the taboo surrounding sexual crimes in Pakistan prevents people from approaching the police with their complaints.There are around 35,000 madaris in Pakistan out of which a large number operate without registration. It is usually the poorest households who send their children to a madrasa because — apart from giving students religious education — it also feeds, clothes and shelters its students.

Those who abuse children can rely on the taboo surrounding sex crimes for protection. If that fails, they may threaten victims’ families. When one particular incident was reported in the media, members of the banned Sipah-e-Sahaba turned up at a courthouse to support a cleric accused of molesting a student. The cleric had already confessed to the police, but refused to do so in court.It is a travesty that instead of being concerned about the gravity of the problem, the authorities are in a state of denial. Religious Affairs Minister Sardar Muhammad Yousaf has dismissed the AP report as a conspiracy against Islam and Pakistan’s madaris.Instead of denying the problem, the minister needs to either prove that the AP report is indeed a conspiracy or take action. Either way, the authorities need to ensure regulation of the madaris. There is no reason why the latter must remain autonomous, unaccountable spaces outside of the state’s purview. The authorities must evolve a code of conduct for the madaris and enforce it to ensure that those abusing children are removed from the seminaries and sent to prison. https://dailytimes.com.pk/145437/madaris-must-regulated/

November 23, 2017   No Comments

Shiv Mandir restored battling affluent Hindus powerless against Auqaf

by Sanjay Mathrani in Daily Times, Nov 23, 2017
The writer hails frorm Hyderabad, Sindh
Hyderabad has kept a separate image through many ways. Whether we talk about the past or the present, it has executed numerous efforts for the preservation of old buildings.

Before partition, the city was home to hundreds of Hindu families known as “Sindhi Hindus.”

The imprints of the Hindu community are still visible in the city’s architecture.

The sacred and religious places of that time built by affluent Hindu residents still exist, though, not in the same form as they once were. These include temples and houses.

According to some people, the Hussainabad Bhutto Park in the market was once green and lush and magnificently breathtaking with waves of the Indus River touching it and breathing life into it. Unfortunately, today it has been reduced to ruins, losing all of its beauty and attraction.

Usually I pass through the narrow streets of the market, particularly from Silawat Para, but when I passed from the same route today my glance accidently stopped at Shiva’s temple, a sight that hit my inner soul. I went ahead through the entrance of the temple and came upon a sacred tree known as “peepal.” Hindus hold this tree sacred.

Some moments later a worshiper of the temple with the name Shewadhari went inside a room in an attempt to praise his master. The sounds he made were very familiar to me as I had heard them a lot of times before; he kept pronouncing “Hari … Hare.”

Once you enter the temple you will notice four little stairs near the main gate with a particular space for shoes on the right side and a water cooler that has been shifted there.

The brightness inside the temple decreased slightly and the chanting smell of agarbati gave way to my sense of direction. The worth of the temple can be measured by its valuable art work and architecture and the people (caretakers) have still coloured its walls with rainbow colors and lovable designs.

Ashok Kumar Meghwar, who has been taking care of the temple for the last 20 years told me, “My grandfather Kirahanchand devoted his whole life till his last breath in such practices and I’m also following in his footsteps,” he said.

I saw a Hanuman statue which according to Ashok might’ve “been brought by some people and we haven’t had the right to refuse any person his faith and belief.”

This particular temple is a Shiv Shanker Mahadev temple. A Shiva ling, along with a sculpture of Shiva’s sacred bull Nandi, made from white marble is present inside and supposedly as old as the temple itself.

The quarter is also filled with lovely paintings of various Gods including Krishana, Durga and Ganesha.

The unexplored history behind the temple as I learnt was that the temple had remained closed for a long period of time after the Partition. Following the incident some communities such as Bhil and Meghwar played an outstanding role in its reopening in the 90s.

A few affluent Hindus made an issue on the temple’s revival saying that such lower classes didn’t have any right to own God by themselves and couldn’t take care of holy places.

According to the other caretaker, the ground room area of the temple was seized by the Auqaf Department of Sindh. On approaching some minority leaders, it came into notice for its sanctity, but up-to this day there hasn’t been any support of these high profile ministers and minority leaders on the matter.

He also said that on every Monday a weekly hymns session is held along with an annual Maha Shivratri festival that is vibrantly celebrated by everyone, however it’s very hard to block the road without having any alternative sources and a Satsang Hall.

It is undoubtedly sad to see such historical heritages in such condition and the Auqaf Department and minority grants not being able to facilitate an effective or proper response.

Shiv Mandir restored battling affluent Hindus powerless against Auqaf

November 23, 2017   No Comments

The flames of bigotry: by Zahid Hussain in Dawn, Nov 22, 2017

The writer is an author and journalist.
IT all started with just few hundred zealots blocking Islamabad’s main highway. Now into its third week and with thousands more joining in, the blockade has virtually brought the administration to its knees. Pampering and pleading have failed to move the defiant clerics; even the court order to end the siege has fallen on deaf ears. The paralysis of the state has given the fanatics a greater sense of empowerment.

What is more troubling is that the flames of bigotry are sweeping across other parts of the country creating a dangerous confluence of religion and politics. The controversy over the missing oath that has apparently been exploited by the newly formed Tehreek Labbaik Ya Rasool Allah (TLY) to whip up religious sentiments has turned into more of a political issue bringing the beleaguered government under severe pressure.

It is the fear of a blowback that seems to have limited the option of using force. The repeated extension of deadlines and seeking the help of religious leaders to end the stand-off demonstrate the helplessness of the administration in a midst of a political crisis. The political fallout of the 2007 Lal Masjid military operation and the 2014 Model Town police action keeps haunting the embattled government.

But giving in to the irrational demands of a political-religious group would further weaken the authority of the government and the state. The administration has failed to learn from the consequences of the policy of appeasement and the delayed action against the Lal Masjid militants. Undoubtedly, there would have been no need for such massive use of force had the then military-led government acted a year earlier when the vigilante squads organised by Lal Masjid clerics went on the rampage. The police could have easily tackled the matter then without much bloodshed.

It may not be appropriate to draw a parallel between the two situations. But it would have certainly been much easier for law-enforcement agencies to remove a few hundred protesters when they started to block the road earlier this month. There was certainly no groundswell of support for the unruly mob; in fact, there has been huge public outrage over the blockade. But that initial dithering on the part of the administration encouraged some other groups to join the siege, making the situation much more volatile.

It was certainly not a spontaneous move when the protesters led by Khadim Hussain Rizvi marched into Islamabad travelling all the way from Lahore. There seems to be a clear plan behind the siege. It is quite intriguing why the Punjab government did not stop the TLY supporters despite the fact that the issue of the missing clause about the finality of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) had already been resolved.

It is quite evident that some senior members of the ruling PML-N also played a role by stoking the controversy because of political expediency. Some of the opposition party leaders have also jumped into the fray for their own vested political interests. Then questions have also been raised about whether the newly formed TLY enjoys tacit support of some intelligence agencies to undercut the PML-N vote bank. All these factors have created a monster and stoked the flames of bigotry that may burn down their own homes.

Notwithstanding the rise of religious extremism in the country, this new phenomenon spearheaded by clerics like Khadim Hussain Rizvi is more dangerous as it evokes wider emotional appeal among the less-educated populace. The filthy language used by these clerics and the open incitement to violence has made the lives of not only members of minority religious communities but also moderate Muslims more vulnerable to mob violence.

In his landmark report on the 1953 Lahore religious riots former chief justice Muhammad Munir wrote: “…[P]rovided you can persuade the masses to believe that something they are asked to do is religiously right or enjoined by religion, you can set them to any course of action, regardless of all considerations of discipline, loyalty, decency, morality or civic sense.”

This applies to present-day Pakistan that has rightly been described as among the most intolerant nations in the world. In this overwhelmingly Muslim-majority country, everyone’s faith is being questioned. The slightest perceived deviation or allegation of blasphemy can cost one his/her life. It reminds one of the Inquisition in mediaeval Europe.

Just listen to the speeches of Rizvi and his fellow clerics being live-streamed on social media to understand the kind of vitriol being spewed in the name of religion. The law of the land is certainly not applied to these merchants of hate who are holding the nation hostage.

It is pathetic that the law minister has to prove his allegiance to faith and beg forgiveness for an oversight for which he was not directly responsible. The demand for his resignation is not just about his person but the sanctity of parliament. Conceding to this demand would further strengthen these extremist forces that consider themselves above the law.

For sure, efforts must be made to bring this blockade to a peaceful end. But the government must not allow any group to challenge the state’s authority. One cannot understand the administration’s dithering despite the order of the Islamabad High Court to clear the siege. The order declared that no group could be allowed to infringe upon the rights of the people or disrupt the administration.

Indeed, it is primarily the responsibility of the government to protect the rights of the people and uphold the rule of law. But the issue of extremism must also be the concern of the state and other stakeholders in the democratic setup. There is a need for a joint effort to deal with this rising menace that threatens the national fabric.

The use of religion as a policy tool by the state and its confluence with politics has divided the nation along sectarian lines and fuelled bigotry. The ongoing siege of the capital presents a serious challenge to not only the government but also the state. https://www.dawn.com/news/1372094/the-flames-of-bigotry

November 22, 2017   No Comments

Islamabad seize: two edits/Nov 22, 2017

The politics of siege: edit in Dawn, Nov 22nd, 2017
THE democratic right to protest has been hijacked and the federal capital and the country’s fourth most populous city, Rawalpindi, have virtually been held hostage. It ought to have been an unacceptable state of affairs. But a misguided protest by far-right religious parties, led by the freshly minted Tehreek Labbaik Ya Rasool Allah, and a mishandled response by the federal government have snowballed into a full-fledged political and law-and-order crisis. Leave aside for a moment the reason for the protest and the demands of the protesters who have made life miserable for hundreds of thousands of commuters between Rawalpindi and Islamabad for over two weeks now. If it were any other group of citizens — nurses, teachers, government employees or farmers — would their protest have been allowed to disrupt the lives of the denizens without any end in sight? Why, then, is this impunity afforded to a gathering that has threatened violence, made extreme demands and undermined the democratic order in the country?

To be sure, the democratic right to protest must be protected against undesirable and illegal encroachment by the state. However, the core of the TLY’s complaint has already been addressed by parliament and demands such as the sacking of federal ministers cannot be countenanced; it would set a terrible precedent and encourage future protests. Just as clearly, the protesters must not be evicted in a violent manner. The clumsiness of the state security apparatus could trigger violence that may spiral out of control. A negotiated settlement, with all institutions of the state firmly lined up to bring a peaceful end to the protest at the earliest, is the only sensible path out of the crisis. The failure to do so until now is a reflection of the lack of coordination and communication among state institutions. A firm, united message from all major institutions has not been in evidence so far.

The problem, however, clearly goes beyond the latest siege of Islamabad. Whether it was the PPP and PML-N’s ‘long march’ politics or the PTI’s several attempts to paralyse life in the capital, the democratic right to protest has morphed into dangerous demonstrations of street power. There is a line between legitimate democratic protests and protests that destabilise democracy or are anti-democratic — and it appears that line has been crossed in Pakistan. Quite how new rules can be negotiated among the political class is unclear, but it is apparent that this new phase of politics of sieges is unsustainable. Making parliament the locus of political activity could be one way of pulling back from the brink. Another possibility is that the mainstream parties determine new rules for protests in Islamabad that allow protesters to make their point without massively disrupting daily life. If the danger of escalation is not addressed, some kind of dreadful violence may materialise sooner than later.https://www.dawn.com/news/1372093/the-politics-of-siege

Beyond the ridiculous : edit in The Express Tribune, Nov 22, 2017.
To say that the virtual lockdown of large parts of Islamabad by a right-wing religious party for a fortnight goes beyond the ridiculous is an understatement. Equally to say that the government and its various agencies have displayed comprehensive incompetence is no understatement either. Multiple deadlines for the resolution of the crisis have come and gone. Consultations are endless and fruitless. Ever-increasing and preposterous demands by those manning the blockade make a negotiated resolution increasingly unlikely. There is more than a chance that those ‘protesting’ are seeking to push the government into a violent confrontation that will then be exploited and held up as an example of just how much the government is a mere tool in Western secular hands.

Meanwhile the life of much of the capital city of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan is throttled; traders are losing money hand over fist, and commuters massively inconvenienced to say nothing of the cost of wear and tear on their sorely pressed private cars. The latest wrinkle is that the Supreme Court has taken suo-motu notice on the basis of Article 15 of the Constitution which allows and protects freedom of movement to the general public. Contempt notices have been issued to a basket of high-ranking officials and the SC has given yet another deadline of 23rd November.

None of this needed to have happened. If the law-enforcement agencies had got a grip from the outset and diverted the ‘protesters’ to the Parade Ground they could have squatted there for as long as they liked with no inconvenience to anybody. The issue which supposedly triggered the protests has long disappeared into the background. It was rectified swiftly once its sensitivity was recognised but the ‘protesters’ are having none of it and want scalps. This needs to end and it needs to end now. There is little choice but to physically remove the people blocking the Faizabad interchange. This is not going to be pretty or neat and there is nobody to blame but an incompetent maladroit government. Allowing them space is an unparalleled ceding of power and a clear indicator of who really is in charge.https://tribune.com.pk/story/1564716/6-beyond-the-ridiculous/

November 22, 2017   No Comments

‘Which Islam allows blockade of roads, use of abusive language?’

By Sohail Khan in The News, Nov 22, 2017
ISLAMABAD: Questioning which Islam allows blockade of roads and use of abusive language, the Supreme Court on Tuesday took notice of the Islamabad sit-in by religious parties that has paralysed the twin cities of Rawalpindi and Islamabad and caused severe hardships to dwellers of the cities for the last 15 days.

A two-member bench of the apex court, headed by Justice Mushir Alam while hearing a separate case, took notice of the fundamental rights being usurped by the clerics the Tehreek-e-Khatm-e-Nabuwwat, Tehreek-e-Labbaik and the Sunni Tehreek in the twin cities.

During the hearing, AOR Rafaqat Hussain Shah sought an adjournment in the case, saying Ibrahim Satti, learned counsel for the petitioner, will not attend the court solely on the ground that he resides in the vicinity where the area was blocked by the protesters.

The court sought the assistance of Deputy Attorney General Sohail Mahmood, who stated that on account of the sit-in, he himself was facing tremendous difficulties while approaching the court and he left his home at 6:30am to reach the court. The court issued notices to secretaries defence, interior, and advocate general, Punjab.

The court in its order directed the attorney to file comments of the Ministry of Defence and interior, intelligence agencies under their respective ministries, including Intelligence Bureau (IB) and Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), and to submit what, if any, measures had been taken to ensure that the constitutional rights of citizens of Pakistan are protected and enforced and in accordance with law. The court further ruled it appears that at the hands of a few miscreants, Islamabad and Rawalpindi are being held hostage whilst the state functionaries appear to be parleying with them rather than clearing the way for the public, who are being denied access to courts, schools, etc.

It has also been reported that access of ambulances and patients to hospitals is impeded. The court noted that the leaders of dharna are also reported to be using abusive language. It said the prevailing It said the prevailing situation demonstrates that the matter is one of public interest and a number of fundamental rights of the citizens enshrined in the Constitution including right to life, freedom of movement, right to education are prima facie being infringed which enables the court to take notice under Article 184(3) of the Constitution. It further said those in dharna or ostensibly advocating a religious cause without recourse to the courts including the Federal Sharait Court and by taking the law into their own hands and by sowing divisions and differences against the clear proscription by Almighty Allah in Surah Ash-Shura (42) Ayat (13), Surah Al-Imran (3) Ayat 103 and 105.

“Prophet Muhammad (Peace Be Upon Him) expanded on the Divine message, warning: ‘Do not engage in disagreement thereby causing discord among your hearts,’” says the order. The court further ruled that when two Muslims were loudly arguing in disagreement about the meaning of the Quranic verse, the Prophet (PBUH) said; “People before you perished only because of their disagreement about the scripture”. In his famous sermon delivered at Mount Arafat, the Prophet (PBUH) said: “Every Muslim is a Muslim brother and that Muslims are brethren.” The Prophet (PBUH) abhorred dissension. Shortly before his death, the Prophet (PBUH) said, “Oh people, the fire has been kindled, and dissension has set in like segments of a dark night,” the court noted and ruled that the question, therefore arises whether those voicing such views in the sit-in are attempting to undermine the glory of Islam (Article 19) and acting contrary to Article 227 of the Constitution.

Earlier, during the hearing, Justice Qazi Faiz Isa questioned as to which Islam allows blockade of roads and causing hardships to the people and further asked which Islam allows using of such abusive language being used in the sit-in. He further questioned as to which Shariah and religion allows blockade of roads and causing hardships to the people. Justice Isa observed that Article 14 of the Constitution ensures free movement of the people, adding that blocking roads and disrupting free movement of dwellers of the twin cities of Rawalpindi and Islamabad is violation of fundamental rights. Meanwhile, the court sought replies form the federal government until tomorrow (Thursday).https://www.thenews.com.pk/print/247123-which-islam-allows-blockade-of-roads-use-of-abusive-language

November 22, 2017   No Comments

Islamic schools in Pakistan plagued by sex abuse of children

By KATHY GANNON, Associated Press, Idaho State Journal, Nov 22, 2017
KEHRORE PAKKA, Pakistan (AP) — Kausar Parveen struggles through tears as she remembers the blood-soaked pants of her 9-year-old son, raped by a religious cleric. Each time she begins to speak, she stops, swallows hard, wipes her tears and begins again.

The boy had studied for a year at a nearby Islamic school in the town of Kehrore Pakka. In the blistering heat of late April, in the grimy two-room Islamic madrassa, he awoke one night to find his teacher lying beside him.

“I didn’t move. I was afraid,” he says.

The cleric lifted the boy’s long tunic-style shirt over his head, and then pulled down his baggy pants.

“I was crying. He was hurting me. He shoved my shirt in my mouth,” the boy says, using his scarf to show how the cleric tried to stifle his cries. He looks over at his mother.

“Did he touch you?'” He nods. “Did he hurt you when he touched you?” ”Yes,” he whispers.

“Did he rape you?” He buries his face in his scarf and nods yes.

Parveen reaches over and grabs her son, pulling him toward her, cradling his head in her lap.

“INFESTED” WITH SEXUAL ABUSE

Sexual abuse is a pervasive and longstanding problem at madrassas in Pakistan, an AP investigation has found, from the sunbaked mud villages deep in its rural areas to the heart of its teeming cities. But in a culture where clerics are powerful and sexual abuse is a taboo subject, it is seldom discussed or even acknowledged in public.

It is even more seldom prosecuted. Police are often paid off not to pursue justice against clerics, victims’ families say. And cases rarely make it past the courts, because Pakistan’s legal system allows the victim’s family to “forgive” the offender and accept what is often referred to as “blood money.”

The AP found hundreds of cases of sexual abuse by clerics reported in the past decade, and officials suspect there are many more within a far-reaching system that teaches at least 2 million children in Pakistan. The investigation was based on police documents and dozens of interviews with victims, relatives, former and current ministers, aid groups and religious officials.

The fear of clerics and the militant religious organizations that sometimes support them came through clearly. One senior official in a ministry tasked with registering these cases says many madrassas are “infested” with sexual abuse. The official asked to remain anonymous for fear of retribution; he has been a target of suicide attacks because of his hard position against militant groups.

He compares the situation to the abuse of children by priests in the Catholic Church.

“There are thousands of incidences of sexual abuse in the madrassas,” he says. “This thing is very common, that this is happening.”

Pakistan’s clerics close ranks when the madrassa system is too closely scrutinized, he says. Among the weapons they use to frighten their critics is a controversial blasphemy law that carries a death penalty in the case of a conviction.

“This is not a small thing here in Pakistan — I am scared of them and what they can do,” the official says. “I am not sure what it will take to expose the extent of it. It’s very dangerous to even try.”

His assessment was echoed by another senior official, a former minister who says sexual abuse in madrassas happens all the time. He also doesn’t want his name used because he too has survived suicide bombings due to his stance on militants.

“That’s a very dangerous topic,” he says.

A tally of cases reported in newspapers over the past 10 years of sexual abuse by maulvis or clerics and other religious officials came to 359. That represents “barely the tip of the iceberg,” says Munizae Bano, executive director of Sahil, the organization that scours the newspapers and works against sexual abuse of minors.

In 2004, a Pakistani official disclosed more than 500 complaints of sexual assaults against young boys in madrassas. He has since refused to talk, and there have been no significant arrests or prosecutions.

Religious Affairs Minister Sardar Muhammad Yousaf dismisses the suggestion that sexual abuse is widespread, saying such talk is an attempt to malign the religion, seminaries and clerics. He says he was not aware of even the cases reported in the newspapers, but that it could occur occasionally ‘because there are criminals everywhere.” Yousaf says the reform and control of madrassas is the job of the interior ministry.

The Interior Ministry, which oversees madrassas, refused repeated written and telephone requests for an interview.

The case of Parveen’s son was one of at least three within a month in the towns of Kehrore Pakka and Rajanpur in Punjab province’s deep south, according to police reports. Another incident involved the drugging and gang rape of a 12-year-old boy asleep on his madrassa rooftop by former students. And the third was of a 10-year-old boy sodomized by the madrassa principal when he brought him his meal. The cleric threatened to kill the boy if he told.

The AP is not naming the children because they are victims of sexual abuse.

The fear of clerics was evident at the courthouse in Kehrore Pakka, where the former teacher of Parveen’s son waited his turn to go before a judge. A half dozen members of the radical Sunni militant organization Sipah-e-Sahabah were there to support the teacher.

They scowled and moved closer when an AP reporter sat next to the teacher, who was shackled to a half dozen other prisoners. The whispers grew louder and more insistent.

“It’s too dangerous here,” said one person, looking over at the militants nearby. “Leave. Leave the courthouse, they can do anything here.”

The teacher had already confessed, according to police, and the police report said he was found with the boy. Yet he swore his innocence in court.

“I am married,” he said. “My wife is pretty, why would I do this to a kid?”

HOW MADRASSAS WORK

There are more than 22,000 registered madrassas or Islamic schools in Pakistan. The students they teach are often among the country’s poorest, who receive food and an education for free.

Many more madrassas — small two- or three-room seminaries in villages throughout Pakistan — are unregistered, opened by a graduate of another madrassa, often without any education other than a proficiency in the Quran. They operate without scrutiny, ignored by the authorities, say residents living nearby. Parveen’s son, for example, went to an unregistered madrassa.

Madrassas are funded by wealthy business people, religious political parties and even donors from other countries, such as Saudi Arabia. The teachings of the madrassas are guided by schools of Islamic thought, such as Shiite and Sunni.

However, unlike the Catholic Church, which has a clear hierarchy topped by the Vatican, there is no central religious authority that governs madrassas. There is also no central body that investigates or responds to allegations in religious schools.

“Basic responsibility, when something happens, is with the head of the madrassa,” says Mufti Mohammed Naeem, the head of the sprawling Jamia Binoria madrassa in the city of Karachi.

There are between 2,000 and 3,000 unregistered madrassas, Naeem says, which makes central oversight even harder. The government has launched a nationwide effort to register madrassas.

The “keepers” of madrassas are also notoriously reluctant to accept government oversight or embrace reforms, according to I.A. Rehman of the independent Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, which makes sexual abuse harder to prevent.

“This is one of those things, you know, which everybody knows is going on and happening, but evidence is very scarce,” he says. He adds that the power of the people who run the madrassas has increased over the years.

As the religious right has grown stronger in Pakistan, clerics who were once dependent on village leaders for handouts, even food, have risen in stature. With this rise, reporting of sexual abuse in madrassas has trickled off, said human rights lawyer Saif-ul Mulk. Mulk has police protection because of death threats from militants outraged by his defense of a Christian woman sentenced to death for insulting Islam.

“Everyone is so afraid of the mullahs today,” he says.

POLICE HELP THE MULLAH

The fear that surrounds sexual abuse by clerics means that justice is rare. The payoff from offending mullahs to police means that they often refuse to even register a case, says Azam Hussain, a union councilor in Kehrore Pakka. And the families involved are often poor and powerless.

“Poor people are afraid, so they don’t say anything,” Hussain says. “Police help the mullah. Police don’t help the poor. … Poor people know this, so they don’t even go to the police.”

This is particularly true in Punjab, Pakistan’s largest province, where more than 60 percent of its 200 million people live. Even Pakistan’s own Punjab provincial anti-corruption department in a 2014 report listed the Punjab police as the province’s most corrupt department. Police say they investigate when a complaint is made, but they have no authority to take a case forward when the family accepts money, which often happens.

The family of a boy who says he was repeatedly assaulted sexually by a cleric in a Punjab madrassa talks about their tussle with police.

The boy isn’t sure of his age. Maybe 10 or 11, he says. His voice is barely a whisper, his head bent low as he talked. He is surrounded by two dozen villagers and relatives, all men, all angry.

He says the cleric threatened him with death if he told anyone.

“I was ashamed and I was scared,” he says. “He told me if I told anyone, my brother, my family, he would kill all my family and he would kill me.”

He says he begged the cleric to leave him alone. Once, the cleric even swore on the Quran that he would stop, but still returned.

In August, when the boy was home, the thought of returning to his madrassa became too much. He pleaded with his older brother not to send him back. But his brother beat him and told him to go back.

The brother, who would only give his first name as Maqsood, looks anguished. “I didn’t know,” he says. Their elderly uncle, who looks near tears, covers his face and tries not to look in the boy’s direction.

The boy says another student at his seminary was assaulted by the same cleric. But police released the cleric after senior Punjab government officials intervened on his behalf, according to Maqsood.

Demonstrations by villagers forced the cleric’s re-arrest. Still, Maqsood says, when he went to the police, his honesty was questioned.

“The maulvi was sitting in the chair like he was the boss, and I was told to stay standing,” he says. “We are being pressured to compromise. … We are poor people.”

Local police deny charges that they favored the cleric or intimidated the family. They say they have consulted a local Islamic scholar about the rape allegations, and that the madrassa has not come to their attention previously for any wrongdoing.

“We need witnesses, evidence,” says Sajjad Mohammed Khan, Vehari’s deputy superintendent of police for organized crime.

The top police officer in the district center of Multan, Deputy Inspector General Police Sultan Azam Temuri, also denies that pressure from clerics or powerful politicians prompts police to go easy in such cases. He says cases are investigated when allegations are made. Temuri says his department is trying to tackle child abuse in general with the introduction of gender and child protection services.

The madrassa where Maqsood’s brother went, with more than 250 students, has a reputation in the neighborhood for abuse. Two women with their heads covered hurry past, stopping briefly to warn a young Pakistani woman, “Don’t bring your children to that madrassa. It is very bad what they do to the children there.”

A sign for the madrassa is emblazoned with the flag of a Taliban-affiliated group. After persistent knocking, a blind maulvi, Mohammed Nadeem, led by a young student, agrees to speak. He denies that any abuse takes place inside the madrassa.

“BLOOD MONEY”

Victims and their families can choose to “forgive” an assailant because Pakistan’s legal system is a mix of British Common Law and Islamic Shariah law.

A similar legal provision was changed last year to prevent forgiveness of “honor” killings, where victims are murdered because they are thought to have brought shame on their families. Honor killings now carry a mandatory sentence of life in prison, but clerics in sexual abuse cases can still be forgiven.

Sahil, the organization that scours newspapers for cases of sexual assault, offers families legal aid to pursue such cases. Last year, Sahil found 56 cases of sexual assault involving religious clerics. None of the families accepted Sahil’s offer of legal assistance.

In cases that are pursued, convictions do occasionally happen.

In south Punjab, a cleric was convicted of sexually assaulting a minor girl in 2016 and sentenced to 12 years in prison and the equivalent of a $1,500 fine. The same cleric had in the past managed to get several families to settle over sexual abuse cases because of his close links to religious extremist groups, said local officials. This time, a local activist group known as Roshan Pakistan, or Bright Pakistan, persuaded the family of the young girl to resist.

Far more often, the family gives in, as in the case of a 9-year-old girl who was raped by the maulvi of the unregistered madrassa she attended, according to a police report.

Her uncle, Mohammed Azam, points across a field to the madrassa, surrounded by a high wall. The girl started working two years ago, at 7, and her only schooling was in the Quran. She spent the rest of the day sitting cross-legged on a mud floor inside a swelteringly hot room sewing the traditional shalwar kameez.

Last July, a cleric “forcibly took her shalwar off and started molesting her,” according to the police report obtained by the AP. She screamed. Two men heard her screams and stormed into the room, and found the cleric attacking her. Seeing them, the cleric fled, and the men took the bleeding girl home, the report said.

“We would hear that these kinds of things happen, children raped in the madrassas, but you never know until it happens to your family,” says Azam, her uncle.

Yet the family settled the case out of court. He refused to say how much money they got, but neighbors say it was around $800.

“The family took money to not speak about it,” says Rana Mohammed Jamal, an elderly neighbor. He says he believes abuses occurred predominantly in the small madrassas that spring up in poor neighborhoods, “where it is just the mullah and no one can say who he is, and he can do anything.”

Parveen, the mother of the 9-year-old boy who says he was raped by his teacher in Kehrore Pakka, vowed that she would never give in to intimidation. But relatives and neighbors say the family was hounded by religious militants to drop the charges and take money.

In the end, the mother “forgave” the cleric and accepted $300, according to police.

The cleric was set free.
https://idahostatejournal.com/blackfoot_journal/islamic-schools-in-pakistan-plagued-by-sex-abuse-of-children/article_b15ea0d7-55c9-5498-b792-b2207b3808c8.html

November 22, 2017   No Comments