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"Mukhtar Mai revisits ordeal through Thumbprint"



by 23 Jurors

Pakistan (/ˈpækɨstæn/ or /pɑːkiˈstɑːn/; Urdu: پاكستان‎ ALA-LC: Pākistān IPA: [pɑːkɪst̪ɑːn] ( )), officially the Islamic Republic of Pakistan (Urdu: اسلامی جمہوریۂ پاكستان‎ ALA-LC: Islāmī Jumhūriyah-yi Pākistān), is a sovereign country in South Asia. With a population exceeding 180 million people, it is the sixth most populous country and with an area covering 796,095 km2 (307,374 sq mi), it is the 36th largest country in the world in terms of area. Pakistan has a 1,046-kilometre (650 mi) coastline along the Arabian Sea and the Gulf of Oman in the south and is bordered by India to the east, Afghanistan to the west, Iran to the southwest and China in the far northeast. It is separated from Tajikistan by Afghanistan's narrow Wakhan Corridor in the north, and also shares a marine border with Oman.
The territory that now constitutes Pakistan was previously home to several ancient cultures, including the Mehrgarh of the Neolithic and the Bronze Age Indus Valley Civilisation, and was later home to kingdoms ruled by people of different faiths and cultures, including Hindus, Indo-Greeks, Muslims, Turco-Mongols, Afghans and Sikhs. The area has been ruled by numerous empires and dynasties, including the Indian Mauryan Empire, the Persian Achaemenid Empire, Alexander of Macedonia, the Arab Umayyad Caliphate, the Mongol Empire, the Mughal Empire, the Durrani Empire, the Sikh Empire and the British Empire. As a result of the Pakistan Movement led by Muhammad Ali Jinnah and the subcontinent's struggle for independence, Pakistan was created in 1947 as an independent nation for Muslims from the regions in the east and west of Subcontinent where there was a Muslim majority. Initially a dominion, Pakistan adopted a new constitution in 1956, becoming an Islamic republic. A civil war in 1971 resulted in the secession of East Pakistan as the new country of Bangladesh.
Pakistan is a federal parliamentary republic consisting of four provinces and four federal territories. It is an ethnically and linguistically diverse country, with a similar variation in its geography and wildlife. A regional and middle power, Pakistan has the seventh largest standing armed forces in the world and is also a nuclear power as well as a declared nuclear-weapons state, being the only nation in the Muslim world, and the second in South Asia, to have that status. It has a semi-industrialised economy with a well-integrated agriculture sector, its economy is the 26th largest in the world in terms of purchasing power and 45th largest in terms of nominal GDP and is also characterized among the emerging and growth-leading economies of the world.
The post-independence history of Pakistan has been characterised by periods of military rule, political instability and conflicts with neighbouring India. The country continues to face challenging problems, including overpopulation, terrorism, poverty, illiteracy, corruption and it ranks among the countries with the most income equality. It ranked 16th on the 2012 Happy Planet Index. It is a member of the United Nations, the Commonwealth of Nations, the Next Eleven Economies, SAARC, ECO, UfC, D8, Cairns Group, Kyoto Protocol, ICCPR, RCD, UNCHR, Group of Eleven, CPFTA, Group of 24, the G20 developing nations, ECOSOC, founding member of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (now the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation), and CERN.

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img Ahmed Malik posted a review

Fifteen years after her gang rape by a local clan in her village in Pakistan, Mukhtar Mai is reliving her ordeal, but also her courage, through a US opera inspired by her story.

The opera, by composer Kamala Sankaram and librettist Susan Yankowitz, recounts Mai's 2002 rape and her decision to defy her attackers and take them to court.

Mai was raped with the approval of the village council as punishment after her 12-year-old brother was falsely accused of having an illicit relationship with a woman from the dominant clan in the village.

on June 19, 2017

img Jawad Khan posted a review

WhatsApp messenger, the web messaging application, has become a widely used tool for communication owing to its assurance of end-to-end encryption and the option of one-to-one, or group communication. It is popular among journalists and social activists for news updates, and discussions on various issues.

Its popularity can be gauged by its 1.2 billion users across the globe and acquisition by Facebook at a whopping price of 19 billion dollars. The app is often used by traders and businessmen for updates on the prices of commodities and items they deal in.

But exchanges on the app are not restricted to business dealings, and other material, including religious messages, entertainment, pictures and videos are widely distributed through WhatsApp groups. Prakash Narayan, a local trader, and member of the Hindu community, was part of many WhatsApp groups formed by traders in the bazaar of Hub Chowki, a town in district Lasbela, that serves as an entry point to Karachi from Balochistan. On the evening of May 2, 2017, Narayan received an image on WhatsApp, followed by an audio file. The morphed image (as described in the FIR registered against Prakash) shows a venerated holy place with “Allah” written over it, and the superimposed image of a boy standing with his foot on the roof of the structure. In the accompanying audio message, amidst abuses and expletives addressed to the boy, a man appeals to anyone who views the clip, to disseminate it through social networks, so that the boy disrespecting the holy place can be identified and nabbed. He claims he has forwarded the clip to everyone he knows, and says, “Tum sab ko tumhari maa ka wastaa, isey zyada se zyada logon tak pohnchao.”

Prakash gave in to these entreaties, and as a gesture of respect to the religious sentiments of his Muslim friends, forward-ed the appeal to a group named “Only Funny Videos,” which has 58 members, mostly fellow traders. He didn’t realise the sensitivity of the morphed image and had no idea of the danger he was letting himself in for.The image immediately drew adverse reactions from members of the group, who paid no attention to his reasons for sharing the image. They termed it blasphemous, and an insult to their beliefs, that too by a non-Muslim.

On the next day, when Prakash was questioned by traders and shopkeep-ers from the market, he admitted to forwarding the image, and tried to explain the purpose behind the act. But his affirmation was taken as an admission of guilt, and the crowd started beating him. Someone informed the police, who rescued Prakash and took him to the police station. Later, Saleem Shahzad Solangi, a trader, and joint secretary of the Muslim League Youth Wing, accompanied by others, arrived at the police station to lodge a First Information Report (FIR) under Article 295-A and 295-C of the Pakistan Penal Code, accusing Prakash of committing blasphemy. The day after an enraged mob gathered outside the police station intending to lynch Prakash, a member of another WhatsApp group of Hub residents posted the same image and audio. But when confronted by members of the group, he sent out an audio message declaring that he was a devout Muslim and apologised for sharing the image.

He also stated that many of his friends from the Hindu community had received the image and were requested to forward it. He was told that India’s Research & Analysis Wing (RAW) was spreading this content, and had tried to warn his own contacts. In this case, the issue was not leaked out, the content was removed from the group, and members accepted the apology.

Raja Shaukat Ali, a journalist who reports for the Independent News Agency, says the issue of blasphemy has become so contentious that even law enforcement officials now hesitate to go beyond calculated responses. He referred to a meeting with Zia Mandokhel, the District Police Officer (DPO), Lasbela and said, “Mandokhel, along with the Chairman Hub Municipal Corporation, Rajab Ali Rind, Frontier Constabulary (FC) officials, and the SHOs of some police stations, were at the forefront of resisting the mob that gathered outside Hub City Police station. Responding to a question about the veracity of the allegations, he refused to comment, however, saying that the matter was under investigation in court.

Another journalist from the Hub Press Club, who works with a TV channel said, “On the evening of his arrest, when a picture of Prakash sitting in the police van, with the muzzle of an AK-47 rifle pointed towards him was posted in WhatsApp groups, some people responded with curses and demands to hang him publicly. Others started speculating that since he belonged to an-other faith, Prakash would be rescued and taken abroad.”Anger and outrage at Prakash was turned against the entire Hindu community, and some new entrants into the politics of Lasbela – members of a proscribed sectarian organisation – called for a protest, asking members from adjacent towns to join them. Shopkeepers were asked to keep their shops closed.

“A few zealots were followed by the crowd, looking for an opportunity to vandalise and ransack our shops and warehouses,” said a Hindu trader. He recalled the incidents following the demolition of Babri Masjid in December 1992, by the Hindu right wing, when a protest in Hub turned violent and resulted in attacks on the shops of Hindu traders. “They had similar plans on the day they gathered to protest against the alleged blasphemer. But the police and FC had been deployed to protect the shops and residential locality of the Hindu community, where Prakash’s family lives.”

Another trader said, “There were apprehensions that the mobile phone shop owned by Prakash, and the ware-house of food items owned by his family would be attacked and ransacked. The landlord, our Muslim friend, shifted all the valuables from the shops to his home, and didn’t allow anyone to exploit the chaotic situation. Prakash’s family has also shifted from Hub to a safer place.

”When the mob that had gathered outside the district press club moved to the Hub city police station, and started demanding that the alleged blasphemer be handed over to them, the police and FC officials showed the ringleaders an empty lock-up, and said the accused had already been shifted to jail. The zealots in the crowd kept on giving fiery speeches to incite the mob and some people attacked the DPO Lasbela, ADC Javed Mengal and DSP Khoso. A constable was injured when the crowd pelted stones, while a 12-year-old boy, Qudratullah, who was working at a mechanic’s shop was hit by a stray bullet and succumbed to his injuries.The restraint shown by the police and FC brought the situation under control.

The Deputy Commissioner of Lasbela, Mujeebur Rehman Qambarani reached out to religious clerics from the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F), Pakistan Sunni Tehrik (PST), and Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamat (ASWJ) as well. “Mukhi Sham Lal, a Hindu community leader and former provincial minister, who joined the JUI-F last year, approached the party head, Maulana Fazlur Rehman, to use his influence. His contacts with Maulana Ghulam Qadir Bawani, district president JUI-F, and principal Jamia Qasimul Uloom Bhawani, Hub Chowki, and Maulana Shah Muhammad, compelled them to take part in mediation efforts initiated by the district management, along with the district leadership of PST, which paved the way for normalisation of the situation and opening of the bazaar.Owing to the fears and apprehensions of the Hindu community, the DC Lasbela, visited Hindu localities, followed by a visit from deputy commissioner Hashim Ghilzai of the adjacent Kalat district to the Hindu community, assuring them of support and security.

On the surface, an uneasy calm now prevails in the town of Hub. However, the Hindu community living in Hub and other towns of Lasbela, still harbours concerns. A couple of years ago, they were threatened with demands of extortion and kidnapping for ransom by armed militant groups and they fear the accusations of blasphemy could pit religious zealots and proscribed militant outfits against them.

During the last few years, the demography of Hub and adjacent parts of Lasbela has undergone many changes. Internal displacements due to political unrest and natural calamities have brought people from Wadh, Awaran, Panjgur, Turbat, Khuzdar, Gwadar and many other areas to Hub, where they run small businesses and find work in industries. Dominated by Sindhi-speaking Lasis, district Lasbela draws traders and workers from different parts of Sindh. Being an entry route to Karachi, small traders and businessmen from the Pashtun belt of Balochistan also seek opportunities in Hub and their numbers have grown over the years.

The town is at the centre of a thriving informal trade in Iranian oil, cement, and steel bars. The profits from smuggling commodities have flooded the local market with black money, which has found its way into the real estate business. There are mushrooming residential projects on both sides of the RCD Highway, from Hub Chowki Bazaar to Gadani Maur. The influx of black money has contributed to an escalation in the prices of commercial properties in Hub Bazaar, which have increased manifold. There are fears that the desperate efforts from the new entrants to gain control of the markets, agricultural lands and valuable com-mercial properties, could drive them to forge alliances with religious zealots, and this will worsen the situation for the local Hindu community.

Such fears drew members of the Hindu community to join the JUI-F, which remains a significant player in the politics of Balochistan, though in recent months the party has itself come under attack from religious extremists. An attack on JUI-F general secretary and deputy chairman Senate, Abdul Ghafoor Haideri, in Mastung, Balochistan, was claimed by Daesh. On May 21, Vicky Kumar, the son of JUI-F ex-Senator Heman Das, was kidnapped from the family’s rice factory in Dera Murad Jamali, Balochistan. This is another incident adding to the growing sense of insecurity among the Hindu inhabitants of Balochistan, for whom a once-tolerant and inclusive environment is changing for the worse.

on June 19, 2017

img Dan Ficke posted a review

PAKISTAN’S blasphemy laws have been a source of infamy for decades. International human-rights groups regularly document their abusive implementation. Many cases would be comic if they were not so tragic: in 2010 a doctor was arrested for tossing out the business card of a man who shared the name of Islam’s prophet, Muhammad. Nineteen people are currently on death row for blasphemy. Members of Pakistan’s beleaguered Christian minority are used as targets by hate-mongering mullahs and others. Accusers often level false claims of blasphemy to settle land disputes, and other entirely worldly affairs. Police, scared of the mobs that round on alleged blasphemers, rarely resist pressure to lodge charges. Judges in the lower courts are unwilling to throw out even the most nonsensical cases for fear of retribution. Why doesn’t Pakistan make its blasphemy laws less prone to abuse? 

In their original, colonial-era form, the laws were relatively sensible. The British rulers of undivided India wanted to stop religious offence giving rise to rioting between Hindus and Muslims. But after Pakistan became an independent country in 1947 the laws were hardened and became focused on protecting Islam. In 1986, during the military rule of an Islamist general-turned-president, Muhammad Zia ul Haq, it became a capital offence for anyone to insult Muhammad the Prophet. Religious hardliners now regard these man-made laws as being almost as sacred as the Koran itself. In 2011 a liberal-minded governor of Punjab province, Salmaan Taseer, was shot dead by his bodyguard simply for daring to criticise what he called a “black law”. Later that year Shahbaz Bhatti, a government minister and critic of the laws, was also killed.

on June 18, 2017

img Yuri Michael posted a review

Most of the murders get bail, 'blasphemers' go to jail :/'

on June 14, 2017

img Simi Rehman posted a review

Pakistan’s treatment of its minorities is unenviable to say the least. It is ironic that a country created to protect the Muslim minority of undivided India has turned into a dangerous place for religious minorities. The issue is no longer about the status of non-Muslims in an Islamic Republic. Since the 1970s, our gradual drift towards a religious state has rendered the Shia and Ahmadis insecure. In the early 1980s, rabid, violent anti-Shia groups emerged which have been operating in the country with impunity. Their strength and powerful patrons within the establishment historically have been mightier than the writ of the civilian law enforcement apparatus.

It is only in recent years that the military has realised the pitfalls of allowing such groups to exist and proliferate. The crackdown on Lashkar e Jhangvi (LeJ) in the Punjab is part of the strategy. But the LeJ factions have re-emerged as facilitators of Islamic State or Daesh and have rebranded themselves as LeJ Aalami. It would require a comprehensive shift in our security policy to tackle the overgrown spectre of sectarian militancy. However, with Pakistan’s policy choices in the Middle East and readiness to act as a Saudi satellite one wonders how the state will repair a badly bruised body politic.

Our Interior Minister, a few months ago, stated that banned sectarian outfits should not be equated with terrorist groups. If one were to apply this logic, the sectarian attacks like the one on Hazaras in Quetta cannot be cited as ‘terrorism’? 
Last Sunday when the country was busy following the cricket match between Pakistan and India, the persecuted Hazara-Shia community of Quetta was attacked once again. Three people including a policeman died in a premeditated targeted killing. The Hazara-Shia community has been under attack for years now. Their markets, recreation places have been brutally attacked in the past.

Howsoever the mainstream media — especially the television channels — may want to report on such incidents, the Hazaras are not killed for their ethnicity but for their Shia faith. Despite numerous operations against the LeJ, their field presence has not disappeared. Let it be clear that groups like LeJ, aside from their myriad objectives, have been vowing to purify Pakistan of Shias. This is what makes them a part of the larger Wahabi-Salafi inspired groups such as Al Qaeda, Taliban and now the Daesh or Islamic State.

While the history of Pakistan military’s alliances since the Zia regime are well known, the political parties in the Punjab have been wavering. In part, out of the fear and perhaps more for pragmatic (and in some cases electoral) reasons, they continue to mollycoddle groups with a public agenda to kill other Pakistanis.

For instance our Interior Minister, a few months ago, stated that banned sectarian outfits should not be equated with terrorist groups. If one were to apply this logic, the sectarian attacks like the one on Hazaras in Quetta cannot be cited as ‘terrorism’?

While the Sharif brothers flaunted and owned up to the Punjab operations against LeJ in the past few years, their government does not speak with one voice. Such obfuscation makes the government approach ambiguous and thereby an opportunity for their opponents to term them as soft on sectarian violence. And if one adds up their loyalty to the Saudi Kingdom, this argument bears even more weight.

Yet the security policy is not entirely under the control of the elected government. The sectarian militias are part of the security calculus in Balochistan where the military has been fighting the Baloch insurgents. The external assistance to the separatists notwithstanding, the paradigm to pitch Sunni (violent) extremism as an antidote to an ethno-nationalist sentiment is dangerous. And it seems that all the lessons of past decades are lost to those who craft such policies. Were the LeJ and Pakistani Taliban combine not responsible for numerous attacks on military and intelligence personnel? Sadly, the forums — national security council and parliament’s dormant committees — where such strategies need to be debated have done little in this direction.

LeJ’s former leadership may have been eliminated but the splinter groups continue to operate. Killing them is not a solution. The security apparatus and federal government, if some clarity is achieved, need to monitor the LeJ fragments, in particular their funding sources and recruitment drives in Balochistan and elsewhere. It is not too difficult to choke their foreign and domestic financing with the assistance of financial institutions. The security establishment needs to recognise that LeJ is a violent sectarian organisation, targeting a particular group of Pakistanis thereby making it detrimental to Pakistan’s stability and social harmony.

*Tailpiece: Friend and colleague, Rana Tanveer faces death threats issued by bigots who resent his honest reporting on the plight of Ahmadis and other minority groups in Pakistan. Punjab Police knows about it but little was done at the time of writing these lines. Will the Chief Minister Punjab take a few minutes out of his infrastructure obsession and do something to protect a brave journalist?

on June 14, 2017

img Jawad Khan posted a review

Irfan Masih was clearing a blocked sewer in Pakistan's Sindh Province when he was overcome by toxic fumes. The 30-year-old, who is Christian, died in hospital. His family say that doctors initially refused to treat him and allege he is a victim of growing discrimination from the Muslim majority. The BBC's Riaz Sohail in Umarkot and M Ilyas Khan in Islamabad report.

When Irfan Masih was sent with two colleagues to clear a sewer that had been blocked for four months on Chhor road in Umarkot town, he could not have foreseen that his life was about to end.

His cousin Pervez, a sanitary worker like Irfan, said he was heading to work on 1 June when he heard about the incident.

"I rushed straight to the spot where some people were gathered. They had already pulled out Shaukat Masih, who was unconscious. I helped bring out Yaqoob and Irfan."

Shaukat Masih had been sent down to rescue the two. Irfan was deepest down the sewer well.

"Irfan was breathing, sometimes choking a bit. I lifted him on my shoulder and started running towards the hospital when an auto rickshaw pulled over to help me carry him.

on June 13, 2017

img John Adams posted a review

An Anti-Terrorism Court (ATC) on Saturday sentenced a man to death for sharing blasphemous content about Islam on social media, a government prosecutor said.

ATC Judge Shabir Ahmed announced the sentence for the 30-year-old accused in Bahawalpur, according to Shafiq Qureshi.

The Counter Terrorism Department (CTD) had arrested the accused, who belongs to the Shia community, last year in Bahawalpur.

The accused, who hails from Okara, had allegedly posted derogatory content about prominent Sunni religious figures and the Holy Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) and his wives on Facebook.

A case was registered against him on behalf of the State at CTD Multan police station under Section 295-C (use of derogatory remarks, etc., in respect of the Holy Prophet) and Sections 9 and 11w of the Anti-Terrorism Act (which deal with whipping up sectarian hatred) .

The sentence is the harshest among cyber-crime related sentences handed down so far in the country. Pakistan has never executed anyone convicted of blasphemy.

Blasphemy has been a contentious issue in the country where people have been murdered over allegations of sacrilege. Earlier this year, a mob in Abdul Wali Khan University Mardan beat up a student, Mashal Khan, to death after accusing him of blasphemy over social media.

The incident caused an outrage across the country, with calls for the blasphemy law to be amended. The investigation into Mashal's murder was concluded after a joint investigation team probing the case cleared him of all blasphemy charges.

Pakistan is cracking down against blasphemy related crimes on social media with the Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar threatening to block all social media websites with 'blasphemous content' earlier this year.

on June 11, 2017

img John Adams posted a review

 Pakistani journalist known for reporting on Pakistan’s minorities was run over by a car on Friday. The incident comes just days after Police refused to investigate death threats against him.

39-year-old Rana Tanveer who works for the Pakistan-based Express Tribune was run over by a speeding car on Friday afternoon as he was coming back from the Punjab Union of Journalists’ meeting. He was taken to hospital with a suspected leg fracture where he is currently awaiting surgery.

on June 11, 2017

img Frank Zetta posted a review

For a Pakistani Christian like Shameela Masih, divorcing her abusive husband meant two choices — both nearly as bad as staying in the marriage.

“I have to prove adultery allegations against him,” said Masih, a 34-year-old mother of two. “The other option I have is to convert to Islam.”

Masih recently filed for divorce from a husband she said “frequently beats me up” and a mother-in-law who she said burned her leg with coal.

on June 9, 2017
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Mukhtar Mai revisits ordeal through Thumbprint
Book rating: 17.1 out of 100 with 23 ratings