Pakistan releases 45 Indian fishermen as a goodwill gesture #goodnews


Press Trust of India | Posted on May 25, 2013

Islamabad: Pakistan on Saturday released 45 Indian prisoners as a gesture of goodwill though confusion surrounded the move as Indian authorities in Islamabad were not informed about it.

“We have freed 45 Indian prisoners and they will be repatriated via Wagah tomorrow,” Foreign Secretary Jalil Abbas Jilani told a news briefing at the Foreign Office.

The prisoners, most of them fishermen, were freed from a jail in Karachi and put on a bus to take them to the eastern city of Lahore.

Pakistan releases 45 Indian fishermenThere are currently 482 Indian prisoners in Pakistani jails while 496 Pakistanis are in Indian jails.

However, official sources said Pakistani authorities had not formally informed the Indian High Commission about their release till this afternoon.

The verification of the identity of several of the fishermen had not been completed while others had not completed their jail terms, the sources told PTI. Several formalities have to be completed before the fishermen can be allowed to cross over to India via the Wagah land border crossing tomorrow, the sources said.

Footage on television showed the fishermen coming out of Malir Jail in Karachi and boarding the bus. On May 7, caretaker Prime Minister Mir Hazar Khan Khoso announced that Pakistan would release 51 Indian fishermen who had completed their jail terms.

The figure was subsequently revised to 49 and later, 45 prisoners were freed. India and Pakistan frequently arrest fishermen for illegally crossing the maritime boundary.

There are currently 482 Indian prisoners in Pakistani jails while 496 Pakistanis are in Indian jails. When Khoso announced the release of the Indian fishermen, he expressed the hope that the Indian government would reciprocate by freeing Pakistani prisoners.

The move to release the prisoners came after Indian death row prisoner Sarabjit Singh died in Lahore on May 2 following a brutal assault within Kot Lakhpat Jail.

Following his death, Pakistani prisoner Sanaullah Ranjay was assaulted in a jail in Jammu and died later in a hospital in Chandigarh.

Bomb blasts cast shadow over Pakistan’s milestone election


Reuters | May 11, 2013,

Bomb blasts cast shadow over Pakistan's milestone election
A woman voter holds her ballot paper and stamp while moving to a polling booth inside a polling station in Karachi on May 11, 2013.
ISLAMABAD: A string of militant attacks cast a long shadow over Pakistan‘s general election on Saturday, but millions still turned out to vote in a landmark test of the troubled country’s democracy.

The poll, in which some 86 million people are eligible to vote, will bring the first transition between civilian governments in a country ruled by the military for more than half of its turbulent history.

A bomb attack on the office of the Awami National Party (ANP) in the commercial capital, Karachi, killed 11 people and wounded 35. At least two were wounded in a pair of blasts that followed and media reported gunfire in the city.

An explosion destroyed an ANP office in the northwest. There were no immediate reports of casualties. Television channels also reported an explosion in the city of Peshawar.

Pakistan’s Taliban, who are close to al-Qaida, have killed more than 120 people in election-related violence since April. The group, which is fighting to topple the US-backed government, regards the elections as un-Islamic.

The Taliban have focused their anger on secular-leaning parties like the ruling coalition led by the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) and the ANP. Many candidates, fearful of being assassinated, avoided open campaigning before the election.

The people of Pakistan hope the polls will deliver change and ease frustrations with the Taliban, a frail economy, endemic corruption, chronic power cuts and crumbling infrastructure.

Disenchantment with the two mainstream parties appears to have brought a late surge of support for former cricket star Imran Khan, who could end up holding the balance of power.

Khan, 60, is in hospital after injuring himself in a fall at a party rally, which may also win him sympathy votes.

Results from nearly 70,000 polling stations nationwide are expected to start tricking in from around 10pm (1700 GMT).

“The problems facing the new government will be immense, and this may be the last chance that the country’s existing elites have to solve them,” said Anatol Lieven, a professor at King’s College, London, and author of a book on Pakistan.

“If the lives of ordinary Pakistanis are not significantly improved over the next five years, a return to authoritarian solutions remains a possibility,” Lieven wrote in a column in the Financial Times.

The army stayed out of politics during the five years of the last government, but it still sets the nuclear-armed country’s foreign and security policy and will steer the thorny relationship with Washington as NATO troops withdraw from neighbouring Afghanistan next year.

With no clear-cut winner, weeks of haggling to form a coalition will follow, which would raise the risk that the government is undermined by instability.

That would only make it more difficult to reverse the disgust with politicians felt among the country’s 180 million people and drive through the reforms needed to revive its near-failed economy.

Power cuts can last more than 10 hours a day in some places, crippling key industries like textiles, and a new International Monetary Fund bailout may be needed soon.

The party of former prime minister Nawaz Sharif looks set to win the most seats in the one-day vote. But Khan could deprive Sharif of a majority and dash his hopes for a return to power 14 years after he was ousted in a military coup, jailed and later exiled.

Pakistan’s best-known sportsman, who led a playboy lifestyle in his younger days, Khan is seen by many as a refreshing change from the dynastic politicians who long relied on a patronage system to win votes and are often accused of corruption.

Late surge for Imran Khan

Voters will elect 272 members of the National Assembly and to win a simple majority, a party would have to take 137 seats.

However, the election is complicated by the fact that a further 70 seats, most reserved for women and members of non- Muslim minorities, are allocated to parties on the basis of their performance in the contested constituencies. To have a majority of the total of 342, a party would need 172.

Khan appeals mostly to young, urban voters because of his calls for an end to corruption, a new political landscape and a halt to US drone strikes on Pakistani soil. About one-third of the country’s population is under the age of 30.

Early opinion polls had put the share of votes for Khan’s Tehrik-i-Insaf (PTI) party as low as single figures. However, a survey released on Wednesday showed nearly 25 percent of voters nationally planned to vote for his party, just a whisker behind Sharif’s Pakistan Muslim League (PML-N).

The Herald magazine poll showed Sharif’s party remained the front-runner in Punjab, which, with the largest share of parliamentary seats, usually dictates the outcome of elections.

It also pointed to an upset for the PPP, placing it third. Pakistan’s politics have long been dominated by the PML-N and the PPP, whose most prominent figure is President Asif Ali Zardari, widower of assassinated former premier Benazir Bhutto.

“The PPP didn’t take care of the poor masses and always engages in corrupt practices whenever they come to power,” said Sher Nabi, a banker from Peshawar.

“So we’ve decided to vote for the PTI candidate this time and test Imran Khan to see if he proves as honest as he claims.”

Pakistan, which prides itself on its democratic credentials, ordered the New York Times bureau chief in Islamabad to leave the country on the eve of the polls, the daily said on Friday.

A two-sentence letter was delivered by police officers to the home of the bureau chief, Declan Walsh, it said.

“It is informed that your visa is hereby cancelled in view of your undesirable activities,” the Times quoted the letter as saying, without explaining what was undesirable. “You are therefore advised to leave the country within 72 hours.”

 

 

Joint Statement on Sixth meeting of the India-Pakistan Judicial Committee on Prisoners to Pakistan


 

May 03, 2013

  1. Members of the India-Pakistan Judicial Committee on Prisoners visited Pakistani Jails in Karachi, Rawalpindi and Lahore from April 26-May 1, 2013. The members of the Committee, Justice (Retd.) Mr A.S Gill and Justice (Retd) Mr. M.A Khan from the Indian side and Justice (Retd) Abdul Qadir Chaudhry, Justice (Retd.) Mr. Nasir Aslam Zahid and Justice (Retd.) Mian Muhammad Ajmal from Pakistan side visited the Jails.
  2. A total number of 535 Indian prisoners including 483 fishermen (including 11 juveniles) and 8 civil prisoners, believed to be Indian nationals at District Jail Malir, Karachi, 8 Prisoners, believed to be Indian nationals at Adiyala Jail, Rawalpindi and 36 Prisoners, believed to be Indian nationals at Kot Lakhpat Jail, Lahore were presented before the Committee.
  3. The Committee also visited Jinnah Hospital, Lahore and saw Indian prisoner Sarabjit Singh, who was admitted in the Intensive Care Unit of the Hospital on April 26, 2013 following an assault on him by few other inmates in the prison and is in a state of coma. The Committee interacted with the doctors about the prognosis of the case. The Committee noted the unfortunate incident of violent attacks on two Indian prisoners at Kot Lakhpat Jail, Lahore and recommended that Jail authorities to ensure adequate security for all Indian prisoners to avoid any such incident in the future; and would review the arrangements during its next visit to Kot Lakhpat Jail, Lahore. The Committee also recommended that detailed report of the official inquiry conducted by relevant Pakistani authorities on the assault on Sarabjit Singh on April 26, 2013 be shared with the members of the Committee at the earliest.
  4. The Committee was also informed about escape of one under-trial Indian fisherman from District Jail, Malir, Karachi on February 11, 2013 and detention of the crew of the two Indian wooden vessels along with its cargo, off Pasni, Pakistan on April 18/19 by Pakistan authorities and requested Pakistan side to apprise about these two incidents to Indian side at the earliest.
  5. The Committee noted with satisfaction that as per the Agreement on Consular Access signed on 21st May 2008 between the two countries, the list of prisoners was exchanged on 1st January 2013. The Committee appreciated the release of 684 Indian fishermen and 30 Indian civil prisoners by Pakistani authorities and 96 Pakistani fisherman and 59 Pakistani civil prisoners by Indian authorities since January 2012 till date.
  6. On the conclusion of the visit, the Committee made the following recommendations:

a) The “Consular Access Agreement” of May 2008 signed between two governments be implemented in letter and spirit and consular access must be provided within three months of the arrest and not after completion of the prisoners’ prison term. Complete details of charges on the prisoners and a copy of court’s judgment of the sentence be shared in each case. The prisoners must be repatriated within one month of confirmation of national status and completion of sentences;it was noticed that in District Jail Malir, Karachi, there were 29 Indian prisoners who had completed their sentence more than a month ago; it was recommended that they be released and repatriated before May 17, 2013 and the two Governments should make all efforts that the time schedule is complied with strictly.

b) Consular access must be provided immediately to all those prisoners who have not been given consular access so far and the process of nationality confirmation should start immediately after consular access is provided;it was found that there were 459 fishermen and 10 such civil prisoners in the three jails for whom consular access was not provided. The Committee recommended providing consular access to all such prisoners and fishermen before May 17and the Pakistani side agreed for the same.

c) Consular access be provided to all prisoners/fishermen who are believed to be Indian, in Pakistani jails and vice versa, every year, at least four times, namely in the first week of February, first week of May, first week of August, and first week of November.

d) The Committee noted that several names of prisoners had been dropped from the successive lists of prisoners, believed to be Indian, which were shared by Pakistan side twice every year. It is recommended that Pakistan side provide a formal verification to Indian side and vice versa if any names were left out from the previous list of prisoners, so that each side could follow up on each case and discrepancy in list maintained by each side reduced.

e) A mechanism should be developed for compassionate and humanitarian consideration to be given to women, juvenile, mentally challenged, old aged and all those prisoners suffering from serious illness/permanent physical disability;Indian prisoners (like Pakistani prisoners in Karachi jail) should be allowed to make phone calls to their relatives in India at least once a month. The Indian prisoners appreciated the provision of basic necessities to them by the Prison and further demanded that they should be given some additional facilities. It is recommended that the existing facilities be continued and additional facilities required be provided by the Prison Authorities. Further, High Commission of India is allowed to supplementing any such requests for Indian prisoners.

f) It was also recommended that serious/terminally ill, mentally challenged and deaf and mute prisoners must be kept in appropriate hospitals/special institutions irrespective of confirmation of their national status and offence;it would noticed that 1 prisoner in District Jail, Malir, Karachi, 2 prisoners in Adiyala Jail, Rawalpindi and 20 prisoners in Kot Lakhpat Jail, Lahore were mentally challenged; additionally, copies of the FIR, medical report and photograph at the time of their detention, to be shared with the High Commission of India, so that renewed efforts could be made to confirm their nationality; moreover, effort should also be made to rule out that these prisoners are not Pakistani nationals.

g) While noting that mortal remains of Mr Chambail Singh, Indian prisoner at Kot Lakhpat Jail, was repatriated to India after a lapse of nearly 2 months after his death on January 15, 2013, the copy of the post mortem report has not yet been shared with Indian side. It was recommended that post mortem report of Mr Chambail Singh be shared with the Indian side without any further delay.

h) Prisoners involved in minor offences like violation of Foreigners’ Act, visa violation and inadvertent border crossing deserve compassion from both the sides.

i) The Committee noted that the respective courts must be requested for expeditious trial of all “under trial” prisoners. Respective High Commissions should create a panel of good repute lawyers/firms to pursue the cases of their prisoners in the local courts to locate, identify and defend such prisoners at all stages of their cases, if the prisoner(s) so wishes.

j) The Committee also endorsed the recommendations of the Home/Interior Secretary level talks held on 28-29 March 2011 at New Delhi to task the Pakistani Maritime Security Agency and Coast Guard of India to work on setting up a mechanism for release of inadvertent crossers (fishermen) and their boats, on the same lines as the inadvertent crossers on land; It was recommended that the fishermen should be repatriated by sea lanes along with their boats;a delegation of boat owners could visit Pakistan within the next 3 months to inspect all the Indian fishing boats detained in Pakistan so that decision could be taken regarding their return to India or sale in Pakistan, in consultation with concerned authorities and the same action be taken for return of Pakistani fishing vessels detained in India.

k) It was suggested that, subject to the confirmation of dates by both the sides through diplomatic channels, the next visit of the Committee to Indian jails will be arranged during the second half of September 2013 for at least 7- 9 days to ensure that the Committee is able to see each case in detail.

l) The Committee will review the action taken report on the earlier recommendations when the Committee meets next in India.

Justice (Retd.)Mr A.S Gill                                                             Justice (Retd.) Abdul Qadir Chaudhry
Justice (Retd.) Mr. M.A Khan                                                        Justice (Retd.) Mr. Nasir Aslam Zahid
                                                                           Justice (Retd.) and Mian Muhammad Ajmal

Lahore
April 30, 201

 

Living Through Terror, in Rawalpindi and Boston


April 16, 2013

By HAIDER JAVED WARRAICH, NYT

BOSTON

I WAS in the middle of having Chinese food with my wife and friends yesterday afternoon when we heard the dull and deathly reverb. The water in our plastic cups rippled. We looked at one another, and someone made a joke about that famous scene in “Jurassic Park.” We tried to drown the moment in humor. But then a rush of humanity descended upon us in the Prudential Center on Boylston Street, right across from where the second bomb blast had just occurred, near the marathon’s finish line.

People gushed across the hallway like fish in white water rapids. It was a blur of bright clothes and shiny sneakers, everyone dressed up for Patriot’s Day weekend on what was moments ago a beautiful spring day. Instantly, images of the shootings in Aurora, Colo., Newtown, Conn., and Tucson came to mind. I felt my thoughts reduced to singular flashes. My life, all of it, was the first. My wife, sitting across me, was the second. I yelled out to her to run, and we did, not knowing what had happened, only that it had to be something terrible.

We ran out of the food court and onto the terrace overlooking Boylston Street. We could see people fleeing from the finish line even as, in the distance, other weary marathoners kept running unknowingly toward the devastation. What was left of the food court was a land frozen in an innocent time, forks still stuck in half-eaten pieces of steak, belongings littered unattended. I felt fear beyond words.

This was not my first experience with terror, having grown up in Pakistan. But for some reason, I didn’t think back to those experiences. Looking onto to the smoked, chaotic Boylston Street, I forgot about cowering in my childhood bedroom as bombs and gunfire rained over the army headquarters in Rawalpindi, close to our house. My mind did not go back to when I stood on the roof of my dormitory in Karachi as the streets were overrun with burning buses and angry protesters after the assassination of Benazir Bhutto. None of the unfortunate experiences of growing up in the midst of thousands of victims of terror, personally knowing some of them, helped me in that moment. Nothing made it any easier.

Perhaps, if I had been thinking more clearly and hadn’t had my wife with me, I might have gone down to try to help the wounded. But at that moment all I could think about was getting us out of there. We lost our friends, then found them again. Our cellphones weren’t working. And then, as we worked our way through the dazed throngs in Back Bay, I realized that not only was I a victim of terror, but I was also a potential suspect.

As a 20-something Pakistani male with dark stubble (an ode more to my hectic schedule as a resident in the intensive-care unit than to any aesthetic or ideology), would I not fit the bill? I know I look like Hollywood’s favorite post-cold-war movie villain. I’ve had plenty of experience getting intimately frisked at airports. Was it advisable to go back to pick up my friend’s camera that he had forgotten in his child’s stroller in the mall? I remember feeling grateful that I wasn’t wearing a backpack, which I imagined might look suspicious. My mind wandered to when I would be working in the intensive care unit the next day, possibly taking care of victims of the blast. What would I tell them when they asked where I was from (a question I am often posed)? Wouldn’t it be easier to just tell people I was from India or Bangladesh?

As I walked down Commonwealth Avenue, I started receiving calls from family back home. They informed me about what was unfolding on television screens across the world. I was acutely conscious of what I spoke over the phone, feeling that someone was breathing over my shoulder, listening to every word I said. Careful to avoid Urdu, speaking exclusively in English, I relayed that I was safe, and all that I had seen. I continued to naïvely cling to the hope that it was a gas explosion, a subway accident, anything other than what it increasingly seemed to be: an act of brutality targeted at the highest density of both people and cameras.

The next step was to hope that the perpetrator was not a lunatic who would become the new face of a billion people. Not a murderer who would further fan the flames of Islamophobia. Not an animal who would obstruct the ability of thousands of students to complete their educations in the United States. Not an extremist who would maim and hurt the very people who were still recovering from the pain of Sept. 11. President Obama and Gov. Deval L. Patrick have shown great restraint in their words and have been careful not to accuse an entire people for what one madman may have done. But others might not be so kind.

Haider Javed Warraich is a resident in internal medicine at the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center.

 

PAKISTAN: The International Day for Street Children 12th April


 

April 11, 2013, http://www.humanrights.asia/

Amir Murtaza

The International Day for Street Children is celebrated every year on 12th April. The Street Children Day was launched in 2011 by the Consortium for Street Children (CSC) to create a broader awareness about the issue of street children all around the world. The Consortium for Street Children (CSC) is the leading international network dedicated to realizing the rights of street children worldwide. According to the CSC, “This year we are demanding that the United Nations recognizes the Day, so that street children and their champions have a louder voice.”

The phenomenon of street children have been growing rapidly and at present street children are quite visible in big cities of the developing world, such as Karachi, Mumbai, Manila, Sao Paulo, Mexico City and Durban.

A Research Paper, “The Problem of Street Children: Case Study of Sargodha City” jointly written by Sadia Rafi, Mumtaz Ali & Muhammad Amir Aslam stated that, “Street children are not limited to the developing world. Perhaps every industrialized country has its runaways and orphans. In nineteenth century Europe street children were written about in the famous novels Oliver Twist and Les Miserables (Agnelli, 1986, p 45.). In the mid-1800’s articles appeared in newspapers and about “street Arabs” (Williams, 1993, p. 831). In Nobody’s Child, Christina Noble (1994) describes how her life as a street child in mid-twentieth century Ireland led to her work with street children in Vietnam.” 

Due to their fluid nature, it is hard to quantify the number of street children; however, a number of researches and studies mentioned that around 100-140 million street children are present worldwide. It is important to mention that it is widely recognized that around 25 million children and youth are living on the streets of countries, located in Asia. International, national and local organizations, working on the issue of street children, believe that numbers of street children are increasing very rapidly.

The number of street children has grown in recent decades because of growing urbanization, increasing work opportunities in big cities, widespread recessions, unemployment in rural areas, poverty, conflict, civil unrest, family disintegration, large family size, and natural disasters. Violence against children, mistreatment and neglect are also some of the documented factors compelling the young children to leave their homes and seek shelter in big cities.

Either in Karachi or Mumbai or Mexico City, these children face similar problems. They are living and working in terrible conditions with no protection. Lack of adequate food, shelter and other basic needs are the major problems, they face regularly.

The ratification of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child has bound the state parties to follow the Convention in letter and spirit.

CRC Article 2: 
1. States Parties shall respect and ensure the rights set forth in the present Convention to each child within their jurisdiction without discrimination of any kind, irrespective of the child’s or his or her parent’s or legal guardian’s race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national, ethnic or social origin, property, disability, birth or other status.

2. States Parties shall take all appropriate measures to ensure that the child is protected against all forms of discrimination or punishment on the basis of the status, activities, expressed opinions, or beliefs of the child’s parents, legal guardians, or family members.

CRC Article 3: 

1. In all actions concerning children, whether undertaken by public or private social welfare institutions, courts of law, administrative authorities or legislative bodies, the best interests of the child shall be a primary consideration. 

2. States Parties undertake to ensure the child such protection and care as is necessary for his or her well-being, taking into account the rights and duties of his or her parents, legal guardians, or other individuals legally responsible for him or her, and, to this end, shall take all appropriate legislative and administrative measures.

3. States Parties shall ensure that the institutions, services and facilities responsible for the care or protection of children shall conform with the standards established by competent authorities, particularly in the areas of safety, health, in 

All around the world, street children are subjected to physical, sexual and emotional violence by the criminals, police and even ordinary people. “Violence refers to acts of aggression and abuse, which causes or intends to cause criminal injury to a person. Violence essentially falls into two forms, Random violence, which includes unpremeditated or small-scale violence, and coordinated violence, which includes actions carried out by sanctioned or unsanctioned violent groups as in war and terrorism.”

Mostly street children are the victims of random violence. Basharat is only twelve years old and has been living on the streets for last four years. “I usually get my food from a charity hotel, located in a densely populated locality. Once, while taking extra care of my food I was mistakenly collided with a heavily built young man. The young man severely punished me that even the passer-by and hotel’s staff rescued me from his wrath,”Basharat informed and added that he also lost two teeth during the punishment.

Wajid is now fifteen and at the age of ten he adopted the streets as his new home. “My father was very cruel and without any reason, he shouted and slapped on me. I left the house due to his behaviour; however, I am in regular contact with my mother and elder sister,” Wajid told and added that once he was collecting the trash in a local market and some shopkeepers severely beaten him and handed over to police as they doubted that he had stolen something from their shop. Later, police also punished him though Wajid repeatedly told them that he is not a thief.

National governments, UN agencies, international and national organizations and members of civil society around the world have expressed their concern over the violence against street children. It is widely agreed that these children need care and protection. However, it is highly recommended that community-based alternative care is a good option and institutional care should be used as a last resort.

The Guidelines for the Alternative Care of Children have also reaffirmed the responsibility of the State to ensure the provision of appropriate alternative care for children deprived of parental care. (UN General Assembly, Guidelines for the Alternative Care of Children: resolution adopted by the General Assembly, 24 February 2010, (A/RES/64/142).)

Occasions such as 12th April, the International Day for Street Children gives us an opportunity to review the situation and take more plausible and practical steps to tackle the issues confronted by these children. Like other children, these children too have the right to survival; to develop to the fullest; to protection from harmful influences, abuse and exploitation; and to participate fully in family, cultural and social life. Due to their vulnerability, these children should be introduced to an environment that facilitates and fulfils their basic needs. Allocation of resources is essentially required to encourage and establish efficient childcare alternatives to protect vulnerable street children.

Amir Murtaza is a regular contributor on human rights issue for the AHRC, he can be reached at; amirmurtaza@hotmail.com

Pakistan- Civil society condemns target killing of Parveen Rehman #Vaw


Listen to her interveiw here-
https://soundcloud.com/desmukh/parveen-rehman-interview-2011

 

PRESS RELEASE

calls for urgent action by the state to protect citizens

KARACHI,
March 14, 2013: Leading civil society organizations of Pakistan have expressed
shock and profound grief at the brutal target killing of Director of the Organi
Pilot Project (OPP) Ms. Parveen Rehman by terrorists near her office on
Wednesday evening.

In
a joint statement here on Thursday, the Pakistan Institute of Labour Education
and Research, the South Asia Partnership – Pakistan, Strengthening
Participatory Organisation, Sungi Development Foundation, the Pakistan
Fisherfolk Forum, and Pakistan Peace Coalition, condemned the target killing of
the social activist who dedicated her entire life to the cause of the empowerment
of the marginalized communities in the slum areas of Pakistan, particularly the
Orangi Town which is one of the largest slums of Asia. After the demise of the OPP’s
founder head Dr. Akhtar Hameed Khan in 1999, Ms. Rehman steered the mission of
the organization, expanding one of the worldā€™s largest and pioneer low cost
sanitation and basic services programmes that went on to change the lives of
the downtrodden rural population.

Paying
tribute to Ms. Rehman, the statement observed that she was a relentless social
activist who was highly respected for her innovative work for the slum
communities which went beyond merely facilitating low cost services. She sought
to empower the unattended-by-the state community through education, skills-development
and provision for microfinance facilities. It was this work of hers that was targeted
by the powerful mafias as a threat to their existence. While police have yet to
identify her murderers, her brutal killing in the middle of a crowded road in
Karachi is an indication of the backing of powerful forces behind her murder. It
has been reported in the press that she had been receiving threats from local mafias
for a long time. Her murder is a symbol of stateā€™s failure to protect its citizens.

The
civil society organisations strongly demanded the government to order a
judicial inquiry into the killing of Ms. Rehman to ascertain the killers and
their actual masters. The state must stand up to protect sane voices and
peaceful forces of the country that remain target of the brutality of the
non-state actors and the apathy of the state. Parveen Rehmanā€™s killing is a
serious move to demoralize the forces of peace and development in the country. The
organizations expressed the resolve that they will not bow under pressure, but
the state must take its responsibility to protect its citizens.

The
civil society also expressed solidarity with the OPP team headed by late Parveen
Rehman. They resolved to work together to carry forward her mission to empower
the marginalized stressing that no terrorists and mafias should have the power
to stop peace and development in the society.

Ends

Released by:

Shujauddin Qureshi

Co-Manager Programmes (Advocacy and Networking)

Pakistan Institute of Labour Education and Research (PILER)

Gulshan-e-Maymar, Karachi-75340

Ph: +(92-21) 36351145-7

Fax: +(92-21) 36350345

Cell: +(92)300-3929788

URL: www.piler.org.pk

Shujauddin Qureshi

Co-Manager Programmes (Advocacy and Networking)

Pakistan Institute of Labour Education and Research (PILER)

Gulshan-e-Maymar, Karachi-75340

Ph: +(92-21) 36351145-7

Fax: +(92-21) 36350345

Cell: +(92)300-3929788

URL: www.piler.org.pk

 

Death by a thousand cuts


Farahnaz Ispahani, The Hindu, March 11,2013

 

After each act of violence against religious minorities, the Taliban, Lashkar-e-Jhangvi or Sipah-e-Sahaba proudly own up to it without fear of punishment

The recent mob attack on Christians in Lahore, resulting in the burning down of over one hundred Christian homes while the police stood by, is a reminder of how unsafe Pakistan has become for religious minorities. The attacks on Christians follows a rising tide of attacks on Pakistan’s Shia Muslims, sometimes mischaracterised in the media as the product of sectarian conflict. In reality, these increasingly ferocious attacks reflect the ambitious project of Islamists to purify Pakistan, making it a bastion of a narrow version of Islam Sunni. Pakistan literally translates as “the land of the pure”. But, what started in an imperceptible way as early as the 1940s, picking up momentum in the 1990s, is a drive to transform Pakistan into a land of religious purification.

Muslim groups such as the Shias that account for possibly 20-25% of Pakistan’s Muslim population and Non-Muslim minorities such as Christians, Hindus and Sikhs have been target-killed, forcibly converted, kidnapped and had their religious places bombed and vandalised with alarming regularity. At the time of partition in 1947, Pakistan had a healthy 23% of its population comprise non-Muslim citizens. Today, the proportion of non-Muslims has declined to approximately three per cent. The distinctions among Muslim denominations have also become far more accentuated over the years.
Changing times

Mohammad Ali Jinnah, the founder of Pakistan and his two closest political and personal lieutenants, the Raja of Mahmoodabad and my grandfather Mirza Abol Hassan Ispahani, were all Shia Muslims. All three devoted their political lives and personal finances to the creation of Pakistan. Mr. Jinnah named Sir Zafrulla Khan, member of the embattled Ahmadiyya sect, as Pakistan’s first foreign minister. As originally conceived, Pakistan did not discriminate among various Muslim denominations, and non-Muslim minorities too were assured of equal rights as citizens. But things have changed over the last several decades. Last week, the massacre of the Shia community of Abbas Town in Karachi took place on and around a road named after my Shia grandfather.
Driven out or degraded

Over the years, Pakistan’s constitution has been amended to designate the Ahmadiyya as non-Muslims. A similar drive, influenced by Salafi ideology from Saudi Arabia, has been undertaken by Deobandi groups against the Shias. A terrorist offshoot of the Deobandi movement (‘Takfiris’ — those who declare some Muslims as ‘kafirs’ or unbelievers) has been escalating atrocities against Shias in an effort to drive them out of the country or to force them to accept a lowered status in an Islamised Pakistan. Their targets have included men, women and children.

Pakistan’s Shias belong to different ethnic and linguistic groups and different tribes. They are spread all over the country. The one thing that unifies them in the eyes of their murderers is their religious beliefs. The anti-Shia terrorists roam the land with impunity, appear on primetime talk shows on television and hold political rallies where they declare Shias as unbelievers and Wajib-ul-Qatal (deserving of death). They are very rarely arrested, even after they proudly and publicly announce their deeds — like in the two recent massacres of the Hazara Shias of Quetta. When they are arrested, they have access to mobile phones in prison, receive visitors openly and are often released swiftly on their own recognisance. The few who have been tried have always been acquitted by Pakistan’s judiciary for “lack of evidence”.
State turning a blind eye

What is often painted — deliberately — as a Shia-Sunni conflict is, in fact, quite another creature. The anti-Shia groups are used by Pakistan’s permanent establishment in Afghanistan and other neighbouring countries in pursuit of “strategic depth”. When, inspired by their bigotry, the Jihadis attack Shias within Pakistan, their state sponsors tend to avert their eyes.

A year ago, a bus was stopped on its way to Gilgit-Baltistan. Shias on board were identified by their names and other means, taken off the bus and beheaded and shot dead. Several months later, the same type of massacre was repeated in the same region. The Taliban took credit for both acts of terrorism. Shias in Parachinar and Hangu located in the FATA (Federally Administered Tribal Areas) have been fighting the Taliban unaided for years. And, their dead bodies now number thousands.

The recent extensive reporting of the plight of the Hazara Shias by the media is the result of mass protests held across the country in solidarity with the victims. The targeting of Shia doctors and other professionals in Karachi has also been an attempt to make the middle-class Shia flee abroad to leave only the poor and voiceless of their community behind. After each act of violence the Taliban/Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LEJ) or Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan (SSP) proudly own up the operations.

One example is from a news agency reporting from Qudrat News in Quetta: “Banned religious terrorist organization, Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, has claimed responsibility for the suicide blast on Kirani Road, Hazara Town. The spokesman, Abu Bakr Sidiq, called the news channels on Saturday evening from an identified location and said that the attack was carried out by our colleague, Umar Farooq.”

“In 2013, this was our second suicide attack in the Shia areas. Like this, we have 20 vehicles full of explosives ready for our suicide bombers. Soon as we get the order [from LEJ leader Malik Ishaq], their target will be Alamdar Road, Mehr Abad, and Hazara Town. God Willing, now we will kill Shias in their home.

“We want to tell the Sunnis, for God sake, strap your bodies with bombs and stand up with LEJ in the fight against the Shias… If Sunnis won’t rise up, then they should refrain from having any relation with the Shias because now either we will live in Balochistan or the Shias… We seek help from Allah in this fight and this fight will end as Balochistan becoming the graveyard of the Shias.”

The international community must not ignore the systematic elimination of Pakistan’s Shias, Christians, Hindus and Ahmadis. The United Nations must nominate a Special Rapporteur on the systematic elimination of Pakistan’s minorities. Pakistan’s military-intelligence establishment as well as the federal and provincial governments must be asked to fulfil their responsibilities in protecting the Shias and other Muslim and non-Muslim minorities in Pakistan.

(The author is a former Member of Pakistani Parliament)

Pakistan releases 10 indian prisoners inlcuding 7 Fiishermen #goodnews


Yudhvir Rana, TNN
AMRITSAR: Pakistan government has released 10 Indian prisoners including 7 fishermen from Karachi‘s Landhi jail and from other jails of Punjab on Thursday. The released prisoners would reach Wagah(Pakistan) border on Friday from where they will be handed over to Indian authorities, informed Pakistan’s former federal minister for human rights Ansar Burney on Thursday.

Providing details, vice chairman of the Ansar Burney International Trust, Syed Fahad Burney said that they would receive the Indian prisoners from jail and would take them to Wagah(Pakistan) border in the trusts’ vehicles and handover them to Pakistan Rangers.

Indian fishermen who are being released by Pakistan are Mansingh Bhagwan , Khema , Shivdas, Manno, Bharat Dheeru, Govind Bamaniya and Lala Pansa Pansa Bhika Belu. The trust had taken up the cases of these 7 Indian fishermen with Pakistan government . “Still there are around 100 Indian fisherman are lodged in jails and the trust would also take up their case and appeal for their early release on humanitarian grounds” said Burney.

Burney informed that Ansar Burney International Trust had also planned to initiate a movement for the release of Indian condemned prisoners Sarabjit Singh and Kirpal Singh seeking their release on technical and humanitarian grounds.

The Trust would begin a nation wide movement for the release of Indian prisoners on death row Sarabjit Singh and Kirpal Singh. “Both of them have spend more than two decades in jail waiting to be hanged every day even as living a in the death cell is horrible” he said.

“Their release from Pakistan jail will help to ease tension between two nations and bring trust” he said. He said he had convened a meeting of Trust office bearers and other like minded associations to chalk out their future course of action for the release of Sarabjit and KirpalSingh.

 

#Pakistan-Jinnah wanted ‘Mussalmans’ to enter film industry #Sundayreading


By Tughral Yamin / Photo: Tughral Yamin

Published: January 20, 2013

KARACHI

Where successive Pakistani governments have subjected the country’s once prosperous film industry to official neglect, a recently discovered letter penned by Quaid-i-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah reveals the country’s founder gave seminal importance to the industry.

“I am in receipt of your letter of December 30th 1944, and I wish more Mussalmans would enter into this realm of film industry, and I shall always be glad to do all I can to help it. I have noted that Mr Mahboob is producing a historical picture “Humayun”, and if I have an opportunity of seeing it I might be able to express my opinion about it, but generally I do wish that more Mussalmans would enter this line, as there is plenty of scope for them in the film industry,” reads the Quaid’s letter, dated January 6, 1945.

The type-written letter clearly bears his personal monogram and is neatly signed by his own hand.

The letter was written in response to a letter by Mohammad Masud, then a young political activist, who sought the Quaid’s opinion on the role of Indian Muslims in the sub-continent’s film industry.

Now in his 80s, Masud resides in Karachi with his grandchildren. While he has never been particularly talkative, many an eager ear has been mesmerised by his narration of pre-partition experiences. From his youth to his old age, Masud has also cultivated a penchant for writing letters to the country’s leaders, past and present. The Quaid was among the few who got back to him.

Pakistani film industry today is exemplified by mustachioed men with ‘gandasas’ staring down plus-sized women as they dance.

Cinemas themselves are dominated by Bollywood and Hollywood. The industry has been on the verge of demise ever since the separation of East Pakistan (and with it, its film industry), and the advent of the VCR.

The state, meanwhile, has had bigger concerns, leaving an industry, which once provided much revenue and was a means of promoting a ‘softer image’, in shambles. No government has tried to restore Pakistani cinema to its former glory – the state does not even acknowledge it as an industry. Similarly, little official attention has been given to film education – not a single state-funded film school exists in the country.

Quaid’s letter could not have been uncovered at a more apt time. It shows the level of enthusiasm a person who represented the entire Muslim population of India at the time possessed, even as he replied to someone as inconsequential as a young admirer – that too at a time when the entire region was embroiled in a crisis much graver than cultivating a film industry.

Masud still pens letters to the country’s present day leaders, often reminding them of their duty to the nation. Most never bother to reply. Only Jinnah had the courtesy and the vision to respond to each letter he received. One can only wish we could have another leader like that.

The author is the nephew of Mohammad Masud and a retired brigadier who teaches strategy at the National Defence University, Islamabad

Published in The Express Tribune, January 20th, 2013.

Deadly savings US corporations risk foreign workers’ lives — then evade blame


 

By Priyanka Borpujari

|  GLOBE CORRESPONDENT  JANUARY 02, 2013

A Bangladeshi Army soldier walked through rows of burnt sewing machines after a November factory fire killed 112 workers.

AFP/GETTY IMAGES

A Bangladeshi Army soldier walked through rows of burnt sewing machines after a November factory fire killed 112 workers.

AT 4:45 p.m. on March 25, 2011, hundreds of bells rang across cities and towns in the United States to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Triangle Shirtwaist factory fire. The fire, which killed 146 garment workers — 129 of them women — managed to get the New York State Legislature to create the Factory Investigative Commission, which eventually made way for better labor laws.

It has been a century since that fire that woke up the United States to labor and worker safety reforms. But nothing has changed in another part of the world — where many US companies are currently manufacturing their products. On Nov. 24, 2012, 112 garment workers were killed in a blaze at the Tazreen Fashions factory in Dhaka, Bangladesh. Just two months earlier, on Sept. 5, 25 workers at a fireworks factory in Sivakasi, India, were killed under similar circumstances; a week later, a total of 283 workers died in two separate fires in Pakistan — 258 in a garment factory in Karachi, and 25 in a shoe factory in Lahore. Two years ago, 29 people were killed in a similar fire in Dhaka, Bangladesh, while manufacturing Gap products. In each of the cases, the fires were followed by a blame game over responsibility and liability. Interestingly, only the fire in Bangladesh has made international headlines because the factory was used by one of the suppliers of Walmart.

But will this well-deserved media attention bring about justice for the families of the victims? An incident like this surely does not go down well in the annual report of companies. For the American companies that worked through numerous intermediaries to get their products made cheaply, the immediate response has repeatedly been to disassociate from the incident, and thereby avoid taking any responsibility for any safety lapse or liability. Walmart has said that it has already fired its supplier, Success Apparel, which had outsourced work to a company called Tuba Group, which owns the Tazreen Fashions factory. Success Apparel has said that it did not know its clothes were being made at the Tazreen Fashions factory. In this maze of subcontracting, which is a norm in the race to minimize costs, the lives of the workers are in limbo, with nobody ready to take responsibility for their working conditions.

Only $470 million has been doled out by Union Carbide Corporation as compensation to the victims of the Bhopal gas tragedy, one of the world’s worst industrial disasters. On Dec. 2, 1984, 27 tons of methyl isocyanate leaked into the city of Bhopal in central India, killing 25,000 people to date, with 120,000 still suffering from air and water pollution. Dow Chemical Company, which merged with Union Carbide in 2001, denies any liability for the incident. It continues to evade Indian courts and the demand for compensation. Almost three decade since the accident, Bhopalis await justice. A horrible disaster, a worse injustice thereafter.

Time and again, corporations have tried to save face by sponsoring sporting events and launching humanitarian foundations. Dow Chemical was the worldwide partner for the London Olympics in 2012. But wouldn’t taking up responsibility for accidents and cleaning up the mess be a better and more credible PR exercise to impress their audience?

But that audience surely does not include workers. At a 2011 meeting to find ways to improve safety at Bangladesh garment factories, according to Bloomberg News, Walmart and Gap officials told attendees that they were not willing to participate in paying for the electrical and fire safety of the 4,500 garment factories in the country. This, they said, was financially nonviable. But the Washington-based Worker Rights Consortium has found that such essential safety upgrades would cost just 10 cents per garment. Yet, for Walmart, which has been reported to outsource the making of garments worth more than $1 billion a year in Bangladesh, saving 10 cents per item appears to be more important than the safety of the workers.

Walmart rides high on its popularity in the United States. With economics and numbers fueling a company’s growth, might it be possible for Walmart’s customer base to demand their favorite store act more responsibly, even as they continue to enjoy its competitively low prices? Perhaps it is up to its customers to decide if 10 cents for a garment is more expensive than the safety of the person who makes it under pathetic conditions. A new wave of safety reforms is also needed, along with a corporate social responsibility that goes beyond events sponsorships and colorful brochures with photographs of smiling children.