Wednesday, September 20, 2017
Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari turned 29 today. He is a popular political leader and developing a positive clout on national political horizon.
Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari has appreciated the efforts of the people of Sahiwal for making PPP jalsa a successful and historical one. He in his Twitter message has thanked the people of Sahiwal for such a huge rally. Earlier he in his speech said that his life and death were with people as he belonged to the party of martyrs.
Pakistan Peoples Party Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari said on Wednesday that the general election of 2018 would be his first one and his opponents' last one.
Addressing a large public gathering in Sahiwal, the Bhutto scion said that it was unfortunate how the politics of today was held hostage by the industrial mindset.
"The rulers of today aren't concerned with the problems of the people," he said. "They are more concerned with their business dealings," he added.
Bilawal said that his relationship with Sahiwal was built on culture and tolerance. He said that Benazir Bhutto and Zulfikar Ali Bhutto had fulfilled their promises to the people of Sahiwal during their lifetime.
Bilawal promised participants of the rally that once his party comes into power, it would help form a policy that would be friendly towards the farmers.
"We will also increased the wages of the labourers," he said. "Providing wages is the government's obligation and your right," he added.
Bilawal Bhutto also took shots at PTI chairman Imran Khan when he said that those who were clamouring for fake change were in reality liars.
"I do not believe in the politics of abuse; rather I have faith in clean politics," he said.
Bilawal asked for the support of the labourers and farmers, stating that PPP would go to every cottage in every village.
Blasphemy is a sensitive subject in Pakistan, where strong religious feelings have led in the past to violence.
Blasphemy laws are meant to guard against anything seen as a direct insult to God, Islam or religious leaders. For people accused of violating such laws, the judgment is often a life-or-death matter. Under Pakistan’s legal system, a judge can propose either life in jail or death to anyone found guilty of blasphemy.
The issue is back in the news after a Punjab court last week condemned to death Nadeem James, who is Christian. The police said they had gathered evidence from someone who said James sent him a blasphemous poem through the software program WhatsApp.
A Pakistani government lawyer confirmed a claim by James's defense lawyer that James never sent any blasphemous material to anyone.
"The accused said ... he never sent any blasphemous message through his cellphone," prosecution lawyer Rana Naveed Anjum told VOA. "But once something has been alleged against you, and there is enough evidence on record corroborating that assertion, then it is hard to deny or overlook such material."
A fair trial is difficult
A Pakistani human rights activist, Mehdi Hassan, said it is difficult to get a fair trial in cases involving religious beliefs.
"In Pakistan, religious might is very influential," Hassan told VOA, "and that thinking has an impact on police and other departments in such cases."
Nadeem James's lawyer, Anjum Wakeel, has said the defendant was "framed" by his so-called friend, "who was annoyed by [James's] affair with a Muslim girl."
Prosecutor Anjum agreed that James told investigators he had been set up.
James and members of his family had been receiving threats, some of them from local religious leaders. Because of the sensitive nature of the case, the trial was held in secret, and in a prison.
'Blasphemy' can mask personal disputes
Blasphemy is one of the most divisive laws in Pakistan. Rights groups say accusations of blasphemy are often abused, and used to settle personal disputes.
Activist Mehdi Hassan said the country's political parties should press Pakistanis to end the misuse of these laws.
"To address this problem as a long-term solution, political parties should play a role, because democracy gives a level playing field to everyone," Hassan told VOA.
Hassan remembered Muhammad Ali Jinnah, the well-respected lawyer and political leader who helped create modern-day Pakistan. He said, "We have to remember what Mr. Jinnah said, ‘Religious beliefs are the personal matter of an individual.’”
Jinnah served as Pakistan’s first governor-general after the end of British colonial rule in 1947.
A history of violence
Past blasphemy cases have fueled public anger that resulted in mob violence and killings.
Mashal Khal was a journalism student at Abdul Wali Khan University in Pakistan's Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province. In April of this year, he was beaten and shot dead by other students. They became angry over reports that he had placed blasphemous comments online.
In 2014, an angry mob in Punjab beat a Christian woman and her husband to death over blasphemy accusations. In 2011, Punjab Governor Salman Taseer was killed by his bodyguard after the governor proposed reforms for the blasphemy laws.
Even with criticism, Pakistan's government has been calling for strict enforcement of blasphemy laws. In April, the government used newspaper advertising and textmessages to warn millions of Pakistanis not to post, share or upload "blasphemous" material online. The government also asked anyone finding such material to report it to the police.
The group Human Rights Watch reports that 10 Muslims and five non-Muslims were arrested in Pakistan last year on blasphemy charges. In addition, at least 19 people found guilty of blasphemy were sentenced to death and are being held in prison.
Tuesday, September 19, 2017
PPP Vice President Sherry Rehman on Tuesday said the corruption has become prevalent in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA).
Speaking during a meeting of the Senate's Committee of the Whole, she expressed her disbelief over the misallocation of the PSDP, saying, "The Public Sector Development Programme (PSDP) allocation for FATA was only utilized by 60% according to the minister. This is quite shocking to hear that one of the most underdeveloped areas in Pakistan saw a Rs 40 million lapse."
According to a recent UNDP report, the highest rates of poverty in Pakistan are in the FATA and Balochistan. The report revealed that over 73% of the people in FATA live in multidimensional poverty.
The senator pointed out, "From the report, it seems like the FATA committee did not consult women. Women in FATA are victims of both entrenched social attitudes that restrict their public and political space but have no voice in this reform which will greatly impact their lives. There needs to be a separate consultation with FATA's women to make this meaningful."
During the meeting, it was also disclosed that the political agent still had the power of levying a "cess" or tax.
"This is entirely illegal and unconstitutional and must be stopped forthwith because it only amounts to a plunder of the area. We demand a forensic audit of what the political agent has been doing. This money must be returned to the people of FATA for their development," said the PPP senator.
She added, "Despite the extension of the law to allow the auditor general PR to review the accounts and funds, this is not happening. Corruption is not just rampant, it is endemic and widespread. Cess and rehdari is not supposed to be collected but remains embedded in the culture of constant informal arrangements."
The journalist-turned-politician added, "The plan of extending Islamabad High Court jurisdiction to FATA makes no sense when Peshawar High Court can do the same job. This must change."
In 2009, it was former president Asif Zardari who announced major legal and political reforms in the tribal areas to free the people of FATA from the Frontier Crimes Regulations (FCR) and pave the way for their mainstreaming.
She cautioned against the long period of activation of the reforms, saying, "I am deeply suspicious of "reform" that is phased over such a long period and via elite networks of only tribal notables as well as the governor's office. Islamabad looks all set to retain its stranglehold on these seven areas. Unification with Khyber Pakhtunkhwa is the consensus and the most viable way forward."
"Why should the extension of Pakistan's laws take an additional five years? Who will take responsibility for decisions taken even 2 years from now? Why should there be a CEO who operates through an additional secretary?" questioned the Senator, warning that this will bring FATA back to executive rule via the governor.
The PPP leader also pointed out transparency needs to be added to which law will replace the highly criticised FCR, "Anything that includes jirga in the law is a bad idea as it is vulnerable to misuse. It will institutionalize the bias that has been at play for centuries against many universal and fundamental rights framework," concluded the senator.
While the entire population is contemplating the close contest between Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz (PML-N) and Pakistan Tehreek e Insaaf (PTI) in NA-120 elections; the factor that is going unnoticed is the rise in support of the extremist parties. Two ultra-right religious parties were contesting the elections from the constituency, and if these elections were a litmus test for the coming general elections, than the support these parties garnered is alarming. After PML-N and PTI, the party to get the most number of votes was Tehreek e Labaik Ya Rasool Allah (TLY). The party emerged this year and is headed by an Islamic scholar, Maulvi Khadim Hussain Rizvi. While much is not known about the scholar; the thing that everyone remembers him by is his blatant support for Mumtaz Qadri and his speeches, which are intolerant of dissenting views and full of hatred. TLY managed to get 7,180 votes in the election. These are a significant of votes, which have displaced the position of PPP in the dynamic. This signifies the growing influence of the extremist ideology in the political scene. Although the “religious parties” have never had the majority to form a government, but the vote count signifies a new trend. The party preceding TLY was the Milli Muslim League (MML). It is a renamed faction of Jamaat ud Dawa (JuD); the banned extremist organisation. MML clearly announced their support for Hafiz Saeed, a known terrorist and criticized the government for “illegally” confining him. Despite them claiming no ties with JuD, their comments are fooling no one. The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) did deny recognizing the party and giving permission for contesting the elections, but despite that they did contest and managed to get 5,800 votes. If they have managed to ignore the instructions of the ECP, then it shows how incapable our governmental bodies are. At the same time, it is a failure of the federal government that while state machinery was being used to get more support for the ruling party, all other priorities were sidelined. We have been claiming to fight off the extremist thought from Pakistan and promising the implementation of the National Action Plan (NAP), but proscribed organisations are contesting such crucial elections with relative impunity – and great aplomb too. This highlights the failure of our state to effectively tackle these groups and should worry us all in coming times.
Bilawal Bhutto pays glowing tributes to Mir Murtaza Bhutto Shaheed on his 21st martyrdom anniversary
Chairman Pakistan Peoples Party Bilawal Bhutto Zardari has paid glowing tributes to Mir Murtaza Bhutto Shaheed on his 21st martyrdom anniversary being observed tomorrow.
In his message on the occasion, the PPP Chairman said that Mir Murtaza Bhutto started struggle at young age and went very hard times in exile after the martyrdom of former Prime Minister Shaheed Zulfikar Ali Bhutto.
Bilawal Bhutto Zardari said that Mir Murtaza Bhutto Shaheed was killed under a conspiracy, ‘kill a Bhutto to get a Bhutto”. He said that Mir Murtaza Bhutto Shaheed will be remembered forever by the PPP leadership and workers for his struggle against dictator General Zia.
Monday, September 18, 2017
|CH NISAR SUPPORTS TALIBAN|
According to the former interior minister, the real problem of the country is the outside world’s desire to cast Pakistan as irresponsible and a spoiler of peace in the region rather than the fact that the continued existence of militant groups in the country undermines the peace, security and prosperity of the people here. What is worrisome about Chaudhry Nisar’s assertion is that until less than two months ago, he was leading the interior ministry which has a central role to play in counterterrorism efforts across the country. If Chaudhry Nisar is revealing his ideological preferences, one may well ask if he was the right person to have led the ministry tasked with ensuring law and order in the country. If he is simply trying to settle political scores with the foreign minister, he is doing a disservice to the government and the country by appearing to undermine a vital national security and foreign policy debate.
Indeed, the disaffected politician appears more concerned with staying in the headlines than doing what is right by the country. An earlier assertion that he was aware of a security threat to Pakistan that even Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi does not know about was shocking. Ought the former interior minister not to have shared that information with the prime minister or his successor in the interior ministry? Similarly, there can be legitimate disagreements over the suitability of Khawaja Asif to run the foreign ministry and how to respond to US, Indian or Afghan criticism of this country. Perhaps Chaudhry Nisar’s aim is to deflect attention away from the militancy debate because it will reflect poorly on his record as interior minister. But petty political infighting should not be allowed to undermine debates that are vital to the future peace, security and prosperity of the Pakistani people.
By Quratulain Fatima
Jinnah’s September 11 speech has been quoted time and again to assert state responsibility towards minorities’ protection. Despite this and constitutional protection to minorities, they face many types of persecution. Hindus are estimated to be around 2 percent of the Pakistan’s population. However, it is feared that the Hindu population is dwindling at an alarming rate. According to the Pakistan Hindu Council, religious persecution, especially forced conversions remain the foremost reason for migration of Hindus from Pakistan.
Pakistani Hindus are losing daughters to forced marriages. These forced marriages are hidden behind sham conversions to Islam. Religious institutions are pivotal in promoting this practice and supporting the conversions of minor Hindu girls. Consent remains the foremost requirement for conversion and marriage. However, under the tenets of Islam as well as Pakistan’s law, minors cannot give informed consent and consent under coercion is void. Girls are often minors and legally lack informed consent even if they are coerced through the promise of marriage.
Religious institutions like Bharchundi Sharif and Sarhandi Pir support forced conversions and are known to have support and protection of ruling political parties of Sindh. So much so, Mian Abdul Haq alias Mian Mitha, a former legislator of Pakistan People’s Party was found involved in the case of Rinkle Kumari’s forced conversion and marriage in 2012.
Recently, abduction of a school teacher, Ameeta Kumari in Gambat by an influential feudal made rounds on social media. Also in 2017, 16 years old, Rvaita Meghwar was abducted near Nagar Parkar in southeastern Sindh Province and married off to a Muslim man twice her age. These incidents are preceded by a consistent stream of conversions of lowers caste minor Hindu girls for the past many years. According to the National Commission of Justice and Peace and the Pakistan Hindu Council (PHC) around 1000 Christian and Hindu minority women are converted to Islam and then forcibly married off to their abductors or rapists. This practice is being reported increasingly in the Districts of Tharparkar, Umerkot and Mirpur Khas in Sindh. An accountability mechanism must be established to ensure religious institutions do not become party to forced conversions. Protection should also be provided to the victims, their families, and judges presiding over the cases. Penalties should also be imposed on law enforcement agencies that align with powerful feudal and political interests
Hindus form a major minority in lower Sindh. They have co-existed peacefully with Muslims for centuries. This has changed in the wake of extremism that engulfed Pakistan since the 1980s. Apart from being vulnerable to the Blasphemy law, Hindu communities are becoming highly vulnerable due to abductions of women and their forced conversion to Islam. Since violent extremism particularly strikes the lower classes who aren’t able to defend themselves, the upper-class Hindus are apparently safe from this onslaught.
According to a submission to UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, by the World Sindhi Congress (WSC), Pakistani Hindus face two kinds of forced conversions. One is bonded labour and the other is forced marriage. Both are affecting the lower caste Hindus wherein forced conversions specifically target Hindu girls.
Up till now, the attempts to bar forced conversions through specific laws have fallen flat. The proposed bill against forced conversion was tabled in November 2016 in the Sindh Assembly. The bill recommends a five-year punishment for perpetrators, three years for facilitators of forceful religious conversions, and also makes it a punishable offence to forcibly convert a minor. The bill got stalled due to strong objections by certain religious hardliners and has not been ratified.
However, there is a remedy in other laws. There are laws enacted that protect minors and are invoked in the case of marriages to cover forced conversion. These laws include Section 365-B of the Pakistan Penal Code which delegitimises a marriage under duress or force, the Child Marriage Restraint Act of 1929, 2013 act against child marriage in Sindh, and certain sections of the Pakistan penal code against forced marriage, kidnapping, abducting or force into marriage.
Unfortunately, in the case of forced conversions of lower caste Hindu girls, the feudal and extremist pressures hamper implementation of the laws. Forced conversion cases pertain mostly to lower caste poor Hindu families who mostly do not report and seldom pursue cases. Therefore, the reported number of forced conversions is greater than what it actually is.
There has been intense reporting of forced conversion cases throughout the media in recent times. However, policy processes lack provisions for concrete actions. Most importantly, the government of Pakistan should immediately ratify and implement the Sindh Criminal Law (Protection of Minorities) Act 2016 against forced conversions. An accountability mechanism must be established to ensure religious institutions do not become party to forced conversions. Protection should also be provided to the victims, their families, and judges presiding over the cases. Penalties should also be devised and imposed on law enforcement agencies that align with powerful feudal and political interests.
These arrangements should augment Article 36 — Protection of minorities — of the Constitution of Pakistan. It should weave into the larger framework of minority protection and equal opportunities as an equal citizen of Pakistan.