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December 19 2013

Bangladesh-Pakistan Relations Sour Over Islamist Leader's War Crimes Execution

Bangladeshi people protest against Pakistani agenda with war crime trial. Protest near Pakistan High Commission in Dhaka. Image by Kazi Sudipto. Copyright Demotix (19/12/2013)

Bangladeshi people protest against Pakistan's condemnation of the execution of Jamaat-e-Islami leader Abdul Quader Mollah near the Pakistan High Commission in Dhaka. Photo by Kazi Sudipto. Copyright Demotix (19/12/2013)

Bangladesh's execution last week of Abdul Quader Mollah, the assistant secretary general of right-wing Islamist party Bangladesh Jamaat-e-Islami, for crimes against humanity committed during its 1971 war for independence from Pakistan has caused a serious rift in the two neighboring countries’ relationship. 

Pakistan's lower house, the National Assembly, adopted a resolution on 16 December 2013 expressing concern over the hanging of Quader Mollah five days earlier, with some members claiming that the real reason behind his execution was his “loyalty to Pakistan”.

A special war crimes tribunal had convicted Quader Mollah earlier this year of 344 counts of murder, rape and torture during Bangladesh's bloody liberation war from Pakistan in 1971 and sentenced him to life in prison, but hundreds of thousands of people converged in a central intersection of capital city Dhaka to demand capital punishment in what became known as the Shahbag protests. The government eventually appealed Quader Mollah's sentence, and he was condemned to death.  

Every political party including the ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), except the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) and the Awami National Party (ANP), present in the house supported the resolution moved by the Jamaat-e-Islami Pakistan.

Pakistan Jamaat-e-Islami has commented that Quader Mollah was hanged because “he was loyal to Pakistan and supported the Pakistan army during the 1971 war”. Interestingly, Quader Mollah claimed during his defense that he did not take part in the killing of at least 381 unarmed people in Dhaka's Mirpur and Keraniganj areas in 1971, but rather he trained to participate in the liberation war and was awaiting his turn in Faridpur to join the battle against Pakistan (he joined Jamaat-e-Islami in 1979). The statement that “he was loyal to Pakistan” seems to contradict his defense.

Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party Chairman Imran Khan also claimed that Quader Molla was innocent and charges against him were “false”.

Bangladesh protested immediately, requesting that Pakistan refrain from such “interference” in its domestic affairs. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs summoned Pakistan High Commissioner Mian Afrasiab Mehdi Hashmi Qureshi on the evening of 17 December to inform him of the government's unhappiness with Pakistan's “completely untrue, biased and absolutely inappropriate” remarks.

The war of words spilled over onto the Internet, where the truth gave way at times to propaganda. After the execution of Qadir Mollah, his alleged last letter circulated on the Pakistani blogosphere and social media. The source of this letter could not be confirmed. The Bangladesh Jamaat-e-Islami website doesn't have any Urdu letter or any content similar to this one available.

Fake letter of Abdul Qadir Mollah

The likely fake last letter of Abdul Qadir Mollah

“The Last Letter of Abdul Qadir”.

I am given new clothes. The water for bathing is in the bucket. The officer on duty orders me to take a bath quickly. Every sepoy peeps in. Some are sad and some are happy. Their continuous movement disturbs my recitation of the Quran. I have Tafheem e Quran of Sayeed Modidi in front of me, here is the translation:

“Don’t be sad, you will overcome them if you are a Momin”

Subhan Allah! There is satisfaction in these words…I have a request to you all that stay firm… I can see this path leads to heaven.

Your Muslim brother

Abdul Qadir Mollah

Jamaat-e-Islami Pakistan organize a protest rally in Islamabad against the hanging of Abdul Quader Mollah Jamaat, leader In Bangladesh. They offered prayers in memory of the executed opposition leader, lambasted at the Bangladeshi Government. Image by Taseen Farooq. Copyright Demotix (13/12/2013)

Jamaat-e-Islami Pakistan organize a protest rally in Islamabad against the hanging of Abdul Quader Mollah Jamaat, leader in Bangladesh. They offered prayers in memory of the executed opposition leader and lambasted the Bangladeshi government. Photo by Taseen Farooq. Copyright Demotix (13/12/2013)

Hundreds of members of Jamaat-e-Islami held protests in Pakistan against the execution in Lahore, the capital Islamabad and Peshawar. Jamaat-e-Islami chief Syed Munawar Hassan said the governments of Pakistan and Bangladesh were under the influence of India. The protesters offered funeral prayers in absentia for Qader Mollah.

Senior journalists in Pakistan also participated in the “Gayabana Namaz e Janaza” (last prayers in absentia) in Islamabad. Twitter account Save Bangladesh tweeted a photo in which Hamid Mir and Mushtaq Minhas, seasoned journalists, appear in the first row:

Hamid Mir blasted the execution:

Online journalist Khalid Khan reported that the hashtag #WeAreQuaderMollah was trending on Pakistan's Twitter on 12 December as users expressed their solidarity with the convicted war criminal:

Several Urdu-language newspapers and right-wing English newspapers also condemned the execution of Quader Mollah.

This fake picture was also circulated by Jamaat-e-Islami Pakistan and Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaaf. One of PTI supporters, Muhammad Ali Lashari, tweeted:

But there were those who offered more measured reactions, such as Faizan Lakhani:

Meanwhile, the banned Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) militant group threatened to attack the Bangladesh embassy in Islamabad.

Bangladeshis were no less vocal in protesting pushback from Pakistan. The country's prime minister strongly condemned Pakistan for its reaction to the execution.  Newspaper articles criticized the Pakistani resolution. Some bloggerscalled for severing diplomatic ties [bn] with Pakistan in protest.

People from all walks of life staged angry protests around the country on the 18 December. The next day, police wielding batons forced back a group of young people on their way to lay siege to the Pakistan High Commission in the capital’s Gulshan area. Six activists were arrested and dozens were injured.

Blogger Dangabaz [bn] analyzed the reason why Pakistan is irked by the execution on Sachalayatan Bangla blogging platform:

ওরা ১৯৭৪ সালের ২৪শে মার্চ (পশ্চিম পাকিস্তানের) সব বাঙ্গালী পরিবার বাংলাদেশে পাঠানোর কাজ সম্পন্ন করে এবং (বিনিময়ে) বাংলাদেশ সরকার ১৯৫ জন পাকিস্তানী যুদ্ধাপরাধীদের বিরুদ্ধে সব অভিযোগ এবং তথ্যপ্রমান ওদের সাথে দিয়ে দেয় যেন পাকিস্তানে এইসব যুদ্ধাপরাধীর বিচার করা সম্ভব হয়। তাদের সঙ্গে বোঝাপড়া হয় এভাবে যে এইসব পাকিস্তানী সৈন্যদের পাকিস্তান নিজে শাস্তি দেবে। [..]

কিন্তু গত ৪২ বছরেও পাকিস্তান তাদের কথা রাখেনি। ওদের কোন বিচারিক প্রক্রিয়া তো দুরে থাক বরং মুক্তি পাওয়া সৈন্যদের সংবর্ধনা দিয়েছে বলেও শোনা গেছে।

They had repatriated all Bengali families residing in West Pakistan to Bangladesh by 24 March 1974, and (in return) the Bangladesh government handed over the 195 war criminal soldiers to Pakistan along with all the charges and evidence for easy trial. The understanding was that Pakistan will take the responsibility of punishing these soldiers. [..]

But Pakistan did not keep its word. They did not face any trial. Rather celebrations were undertaken for their release.

Protesters  has marched towards the Pakistan High Commission in Bangladesh. Image by  Khurshed Alam Rinku. Copyright Demotix (18/12/2013)

Protesters march towards the Pakistan High Commission in Bangladesh. Image by Khurshed Alam Rinku. Copyright Demotix (18/12/2013)

People from both sides further reacted to the execution:

Rezwan contributed to this post.

Pashto Singer Ghazala Javed's Ex-Husband Sentenced to Death for Her Murder

The ex-husband of Pashto singer and anti-Taliban activist Ghazala Javed has been sentenced to death by a court in Pakistan's northwestern Swat district, for murdering the singer and her father in 2012. 

Ghazala Javed (1988-2012). Image courtesy Wikipedia

Ghazala Javed (1988-2012). Image courtesy Wikipedia

During her lifetime, Ghazala Javed bravely defied Taliban pressure to stop singing and spoke up against creeping Talibanization in her hometown Swat. The Taliban were briefly in control of Swat and were cleared from the area after a massive military operation by the Pakistan army in 2009. 

Ghazala's ex-husband Jehangir Khan was awarded a double death sentence along with a Rs 70 million (0.7 million USD) fine. He has announced plans to appeal the decision.

A number of Pakistanis reacted to the court's decision and remembered the enigmatic singer on Twitter.

Following the news of the sentence, SAbaseen expresses relief:

Ghazala was an ethnic-Pashtun and sang in Pakistan's north-western region's language Pashto. One of her fans, a Pashtun Twitter user Schazad Bangash, praised the sentence:

Commenting on the judgement another Pashtun Twitter user Nazrana Yousufzai said:

Expressing his disbelief on the legal and judicial system, Royal Pashtoon responded:

Journalist Javed Aziz Khan posts a portrait of the singer:

Ghazala's Pashto songs were also popular in Afghanistan. Pashto is one of Afghanistan's official languages.  Hyprgee posted a clip from Ghazala's last concert in Kabul:

December 15 2013

Jamaat-e-Islami Pakistan Declares Executed Bangladeshi War Criminal Molla a Martyr

Farhan at informs:

Jamaat Islami Pakistan has declared Bangladeshi Jamaat Islami leader Abdul Qadir Molla a martyr and his execution a judicial murder. Jamaat maintains Molla was punished because of his ‘love for Pakistan’.

Jamaat has also announced on its official Facebook page that Jamaat Islami Pakistan’s top leaders will lead funeral prayers-in-absentia in multiple cities including Lahore, Peshawar, Islamabad and Karachi.

December 11 2013

Visible Discrmination Against Ahmadis in a Shop In Pakistan

Mobile Repairing Shop in Pakistan carrying the hate message. Image courtesy Guppu blog.

Mobile Repairing Shop in Pakistan carrying the hate message. Image courtesy Guppu blog.

Farhan Janjua at Guppu reports a hate speech against Ahmadis. A mobile shop displayed this message “Caution: Qadianis (Ahmadis) are banned from entering.”

The Ahmadi Muslims are religiously persecuted as a consequence of professing their faith.

November 25 2013

A Closer Look at Pakistan's Sectarian Violence

Curfew in Rawalpindi after clashes between Shia and Sunni groups. Image by Muhammad Majid Rashid. Copyright Demotix (16-11-2013)

Curfew in Rawalpindi after clashes between Shia and Sunni groups. Image by Muhammad Majid Rashid. Copyright Demotix (16-11-2013)

Sectarian violence has ravaged Pakistan once again, as clashes between Sunni and Shia groups erupted in the city of Rawalpindi, in northern Pakistan on 15th of November, 2013. As a result, 11 people were killed while several were wounded, the army was called in and a curfew was imposed.

It was the Ashura, – a day of mourning for the Shia Community – when violence erupted in Rawalpindi. The situation turned violent when students from a seminary and members of an Ashura mourning procession clashed with each other. Blogger Sarah Khan wrote about the account of an eye-witness at Let Us Build Pakistan (LUBP):

According to the eye-witness, the mullah of the mosque in his Friday sermon denigerated Imam Hussain and glorified Yazid. [..] Mullah’s inflammatory speech agitated the mourners in procession. [..] The mullah restarted his provocative speech after completing the prayers and repeated what he had been saying earlier Agitated (Shia and Sunni) mourners finding it difficult to bear the (Deobandi) mullah started shaking the grills outside the mosque in protest against the comments In meantime someone from inside mosque 1st hurled a stone at mourners shaking the grills. The stone was followed by firing from mosque rooftop. Firing caused panic and people started running. [sic]

The situation deteriorated when the groups exchanged gunfire, torched shops, damaged markets and buildings and the authorities imposed a curfew and invoked the measure Section 144, which prohibits groups of five or more people from assembling. The curfew was lifted on 18 November, several culprits have been identified and a judicial inquiry into the clashes is underway, but the overall mood in Pakistan is tense.

The aftermath

Just a day after the Rawalpindi unrest, violence broke out between Shia and Sunni groups in the city of Multan city of Punjab province, injuring several people. Similarly, miscreants damaged a mosque and shops in the town of Chishtian after which the army was called in.

Violent clashes in Kohat of North West Pakistan took the lives of three people; officials also imposed a curfew there and called in the army. On 19th of November, a senior official of the University of Gujrat, Syed Shabbir Hussain Shah, was gunned down, and his killing also is being linked to the Rawalpindi unrest.

While all this was happening, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif was on official visits to Sri Lanka and Thailand for which his newly elected government is being criticized. Nawaz Sharif in turn accused social media of playing ‘negative role’ during the clashes.

On 22 November, militant group Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) attacked Shias in Karachi with twin blasts that killed nine people and injured 28 others. TTP claims responsibility for the blasts in an attempt to even the score for the victims of Rawalpindi, and has sworn more attacks.

Journalist, anchor and blogger Mansoor Ali Khan (@MansoorGeoNews) tweeted a picture of his colleague who was killed in Karachi blasts:

Sectarian violence

In Islam, Shias and Sunnis are two main factions. During the month of Muharram, Shia Muslims mourn the martyrdom of the grandson of the Prophet Muhammad, Imam Hussain, his family and followers in the battle of Karbala. The rift between Shias and Sunnis started after the death of the Prophet Muhammad, which initiated a dispute over succession to Muhammad as a caliph. That dispute still persists today, and this is why during Muharram, the main concern of the Pakistan government and the law enforcement agencies is security.

After terrorism, sectarianism is another challenge facing Pakistan, particularly in the recent years. Anti-Shia groups such as Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, Lashkar-e-Taiba/Jamaat-ud-Dawa, Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan and Ahle-Sunnat Wal Jamaat are believed to be behind the killings of Shias, while several groups have links with the Taliban. Jamaat-ud-Dawa has been declared a militant group by the United Nations, while as per the former interior minister of Pakistan, Senator Rehman Malik, Lashkar-e-Jhangvi is believed to be behind 80 percent of terrorist attacks in the country.

After the Rawalpindi violence, TV producer Muhammad Shahbaz Zahid (@shahbazzahid), while criticizing banned outfits, tweeted:

Anti-Shia groups have left Hazara Community in Balochistan , in Southwestern Pakistan, in a helpless situation. They refused to bury their loved ones killed as result of a severe blast in Quetta , the provincial capital of Baluchistan, this January for which Lashkar-e-Jhangvi later claimed responsibility.

Shia Muslims Protest in Quetta. Image by ppiimages. Copyright Demotix (11-01-2013)

Shia Muslims Protest in Quetta. Image by ppiimages. Copyright Demotix (11-01-2013)

Pakistan Students Blog, while writing about the killing of more than 100 Shia Muslims in Quetta in January of this year, complained:

This is not the 1st time when Shia Muslims has been targeted. In 2012 alone, approximately 500 Shia Muslims have been target killed in Pakistan. Since 1963, total number of Shias killed in Pakistan is estimated to be at least 20,000, most of whom have been killed since early 1980s. [all sic]

Whatever happened in Rawalpindi, Karachi or Quetta, and no matter who the culprits behind it are, the government must do its best to safeguard every sect may it be Shias or Sunnis, else the history will repeat itself. As Qurat-ul-Ain Fatima wrote in her blog:

As army roams around the streets of the city trying to “keep peace” , the social Media buffs are making their own statements book justifying this or that picture as the proof of perpetrator to be “Shia” or “Sunni”. The Humanitarian aspect of the tragic event and its long lasting repercussions have almost escaped everyone’s  thought. The trend shows we will forget the incident as soon as the temporary peace is restored. [all sic]

November 23 2013

La « guerre juste » d'Obama avec ses drones

Nouvelle attaque de drone américain, ce jeudi 23 novembre, au nord-ouest du Pakistan, hors des « zones tribales » contiguës à l'Afghanistan où ces frappes sont concentrées d'ordinaire : les tirs de missiles sur un local religieux ont fait cinq à huit victimes, considérées comme des membres présumés du réseau Hakkani, lié aux talibans. Et cela au moment où le gouvernement pakistanais — tout comme son homologue afghan — multiplie les signes d'ouverture à l'égard des fractions les plus modérées de la mouvance (...) - Défense en ligne / États-Unis, Pakistan, Armée, Armement, Droit international, Technologie

November 22 2013

VIDEO: Fighting Pakistan's YouTube Ban, One Hug at a Time


Screen-shot of the video

Screenshot of Pakistan For All's video “If you want me back, hug me” protesting Pakistan's YouTube ban.

YouTube has been banned in Pakistan for more than a year, but the love for the video-sharing site in the country has not died. Many Pakistanis use proxy or VPN services to use it.

Speaking up for YouTube is organization Pakistan For All (PFA), a collective of concerned citizens outraged by the persecution of minorities in Pakistan. They are resolved to stand in the way of those that seek to oppress others.

Recently, PFA released a clip on video-sharing site Vimeo to protest the ban. In the video, a YouTube mascot moves through the southern port city of Karachi with a placard, “If you want me back, hug me”.

Global Voices recently talked with Ziad Zafar, a journalist, documentary filmmaker and one of the founding members of PFA.

Global Voices (GV): What was the motivation behind making this video?

Ziad Zafar (ZZ): The motivation was easy. Like all Pakistanis, we are deeply frustrated at being cut off from the world in this manner. YouTube is not only about funny cat videos and fail blogs, (though, God how we miss them!) it is truly a window onto the world and pivotal to how a new generation communicates with itself globally. YouTube allows Pakistanis to participate in a burgeoning global knowledge-economy, where access to information is truly democratic.

Ziad Zafar of Pakistan For All

Ziad Zafar of Pakistan For All

This is crucial for a country like Pakistan where education is dispensed unevenly and which has one of the largest youth populations in the world. It is criminal for the government to deprive its citizens of such an important resource.

The video is part of a campaign called #KholoBC which is run by Pakistan For All, of which I am a member. We are opposed to all forms of state censorship and content regulation on the Internet. We want to make Pakistanis aware that there is a concerted and insidious effort underway to undermine our online freedoms using the smokescreen of national security and religion.

A lack of organised resistance against state censorship has visibly emboldened the administration to clamp down further on online freedoms.

Sabeen Mahmud (co-founder of PFA) and Ziad Zafar

Co-founder of PFA Sabeen Mahmud (left) and Ziad Zafar

In March 2012, the Pakistani government took the decision to purchase and install a nationwide content-filtering service which would operate on similar lines to China's Golden Shield or “Great Firewall” This Filtering Tool has been purchased from a Canadian company called ‘Netsweeper‘ and installation of this system has been completed in recent weeks. We believe this is a very ominous development for the future of online freedoms in Pakistan and that citizens should be aware of this.

Hugs for YouTube! #KholoBC from Ziad Zafar on Vimeo.

GV: It is a very interesting anti-censorship campaign. Where did the idea come from?

ZZ: One of the primary reasons we wanted to do this was, that we wanted to alert people's attention to the fact that the YouTube ban does not arise out of public or moral pressure. While the initial pretext may have been blasphemous content, the administration views YouTube and other social media instruments as subversive tools, and so are keen to go on suppressing them. From the Arab spring to Occupy Wall street, YouTube and other forms of social media have been central to a new wave of social movements that have swept the globe in recent years. The mindset in the bureaucratic-administration in Pakistan is cognisant of this, and so there is no real appetite to re-open the video sharing website.

#KholoBC is a Pakistan for All campaign opposed to all forms of state censorship and content regulation on the Internet.

#KholoBC is a Pakistan for All campaign opposed to all forms of state censorship and content regulation on the Internet.

It is important to note that other than initial global protests following the release of the film ‘Innocence of Muslims’ there has been virtually no public pressure brought on the government from political or religious circles to uphold the ban. Most Pakistanis want YouTube back . It is revealing to look at the index of most visited websites in Pakistan, the top 3 are proxy websites! This means that the majority of people logging on to the net are trying to bypass government controls.

GV: Are you planning to take your YouTube mascot to other cities?

ZZ: We have several other ideas in the pipeline for the #KholoBC campaign, and yes, Youtube will be making a return appearance at some point.

GV: what is the reaction in Pakistan?

ZZ: To be honest, we were a bit apprehensive at the beginning, fearing an adverse reaction from some religious nut, but the response was overwhelmingly favourable. It was such relief to be able to see ordinary citizens express themselves openly despite a creeping mood of fear and censorship that is taking grip in Pakistan. While there maybe antipathy towards YouTube from some religious sections, the vast majority of Pakistanis understand that YouTube is not synonymous with blasphemous content.

GV: Please describe how this citizens’ initiative Pakistan For All works.

ZZ: Pakistan for All is a broad based alliance of citizen and community groups fighting for progressive and working class issues. We believe strongly in direct-action and feel that in order to achieve any measure of success we have to galvanise ordinary citizens to fight for themselves and each other. We are encouraging people to get involved, to get political and be part of the pushback.

Human chain in Karachi in solidarity with the minorities in Pakistan.

Human chain in Karachi in solidarity with the minorities of Pakistan.

GV: How many citizens are involved with you in your activities?

ZZ: We are a voluntary organisation supported by ordinary citizens. Dozens of people have been involved in our efforts so far, and we are steadily developing a large nationwide network.

GV: Earlier, Pakistan For All held a human chain campaign in Karachi, Lahore and Islamabad? What was that experience like?

ZZ: Our group asked Pakistani Muslims to come forward and offer themselves as human shields to protect Christians during mass in the aftermath of the Peshawar church bombing that killed 85 people. Hundreds of ordinary citizens responded to our call and formed the shield in three cities. Since then we have had countless messages of support and solidarity by citizens expressing a desire to be a part of our efforts and the group is growing everyday.

November 21 2013

Pakistan's IMF Bailout Brings Painful Rise in Inflation

Protest in Hyderabad, Pakistan against IMF and World bank for price hikes in petroleum and the electricity tariff in the country. Photo by Muhammad Yameen Qureshi, Copyright Demotix (6/10/2013)

Protest in Hyderabad, Pakistan, against IMF and World bank for price hikes in petroleum and the electricity tariff in the country. Photo by Muhammad Yameen Qureshi, Copyright Demotix (6/10/2013)

In Pakistan, a nation already beleaguered by poverty, power cuts and security issues, inflation is on the rise, thanks to austerity measures implemented by the government to satisfy the stringent conditions attached to a bailout worth 6.6 billion US dollars from the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

The IMF approved the three-year loan package to stabilize Pakistan's economy as part of its Extended Fund Facility financial assistance program in September 2013. In return, it required that the Pakistani government impose strict austerity measures such as implementing budget cuts, slashing subsidies, increasing tax revenue, privatizing state enterprises that operate at a loss, and reforming the energy sector with price hikes. 

The government has slashed subsidies by 35 percent in an effort to comply, thereby increasing inflation and sending prices soaring in local markets.

Pakistan, like much of the developed world has been on a steady diet of IMF loans since the 80s. Some of the current loans are to repay old loans  - “circular debt”. The current Pakistani government was also desperate for this bailout package in order ‘to avert an imminent foreign reserve crisis'.

Though Pakistan's Federal Minister for Finance and Revenue Ishaq Dar pointed out that his government, the five-month-old Pakistan Muslim League-(Nawaz) had “inherited a battered economy” and that ending subsidies was essential for the nation's self-reliance, inflation hit 9.1 percent in October 2013, the sharpest increase of last 16 months.

Graph depicting year-on-year (YOY) increase in inflation, measured by Consumer Price Index. Source: Pakistan Bureau of Statistics, Islamabad

Graph depicting year-on-year (YOY) increase in inflation, as measured by Consumer Price Index (CPI). Source: Pakistan Bureau of Statistics, Islamabad.

Food prices as well as prices of other basic necessities have skyrocketed. Because people's incomes are not increasing at the same rate as inflation, this has meant a stressful situation for many, especially those who survive on daily wages. According to an article in IRIN Asia, inflation in Pakistan has had a severe impact on food security in the country.

As reported by The Express Tribune, prices of perishable food items rose 18.6 percent, while the clothing and footwear group increased 14.6 percent. Against the backdrop of the government cutting down on subsidies and raising the power tariff, all of this has put intense financial pressure on the ordinary citizens of Pakistan.

Dissent has grown over the measures put in place to satisfy the IMF's terms. Digital content creator Rabab Khan commented on Google+:

Loans from international donors like IMF and World Bank, while intended to assist in implementing policies for inclusive growth, do not achieve their purpose due to their tendency to bring more inflation, economic instability, and unemployment to the country.

From their official Twitter account, opposition party Pakistan Tehreek-e Insaf tweeted a message from its chairman, former cricketer Imran Khan:

Journalist Osama Bin Javaid (@osamabinjavaid) reported:

Banker Sayem (@SayemZA) pointed to a graph showing how the Sensitive Price Indicator (SPI) has been moving up since the finance minister made his budget speech in June 2013:

Usama Usmani, an accounting student from Karachi, lamented:

For the middle and the lower middle class, the government's measures to generate revenue and its inability to control steeply escalating prices are proving to be back-breaking. In addition to the rise in prices, the government has been strictly imposing a ‘cash tax‘ on holdings in cash due to the high inflationary pressures, as the value of the Pakistani rupee has decreased dramatically.

The US dollar has reached an exorbitant high against the Pakistani rupee, fetching 108.27 rupees for one dollar, thus making  imports and loan repayment expensive. The IMF has accepted that with the decline in Pakistani rupee and the elimination of subsidies on electricity, inflation will increase. Moreover the crisis will worsen in the absence of economic development and employment opportunities.

To curb the insurmountable levels of inflation and to keep the struggling economy on track, on November 13, 2013, the State Bank of Pakistan raised its benchmark interest rate to 10 percent from 9.5 percent, hoping to ease price pressures and support the currency.

Only time will tell if the inflation will be stemmed, bringing much needed relief to the masses in Pakistan.

November 16 2013

Tendulkar's Retirement: ‘Cricket Will Never Be the Same’

In some ways my feelings towards Tendulkar were ambivalent and they oscillated between love and dislike, depending whether he was playing against Pakistan or not! Whereas the feeling has oscillated, my respect and admiration for Tendulkar both as a great cricketer and a human have always remained constant. [...]

Today as he walked after being dismissed, and the entire stadium rose to its feet, I felt teary eyed. I grew up watching him, loathing him, admiring him and respecting him. Cricket will never be the same again and in some ways perhaps even life will never be the same again. Sachin after all is much more than a cricketer.

Raza Habib Raja at the Pak Tea House pays tribute to the ace Indian cricketer Sachin Tendulkar on the eve of the latter's retirement from the game.

November 15 2013

VIDEO: Tear-jerking Google ‘Reunion’ Ad Warms Hearts Across India and Pakistan

A series of short ads by Google India showing how their search engine can facilitate the bridging of hearts and help re-connect people separated by distance and man-made barriers has gone viral across India and Pakistan.

Released on 13 November, 2013, the Google Search: Reunion ad from Google India, is seen to be emotional and engaging. There is a playlist of five ads in this series, including ‘Fennel’, ‘Cricket’, ‘Anarkali’, and ‘Sugar-free’, but the most widely circulated one is ‘Reunion', which has already garnered over 1,523,788 views.

The three-and-a-half-minute ‘Reunion’ ad is about friendship, fond childhood memories, separation and reconnecting to a tender past. In the ad, available on YouTube with English sub-titles, an Indian Punjabi is shown telling his granddaughter Suman about his fond childhood memories in Lahore, Pakistan. He mentions his childhood friend Yousuf and the sweet shop his friend's father owned in old Lahore, and how he and his friend were separated by the partition of 1947. Suman then searches on Google the whereabouts of her grandfather's childhood friend and contacts him. Finally, the two friends re-unite.

The Reunion ad touches upon the sensitive issue of partition and how it separated friends and families. In 1947, prior to their departure from India, the British rulers partitioned India into the Dominion of Pakistan (later Islamic Republic of Pakistan and People's Republic of Bangladesh) and the Union of India (later Republic of India), primarily along religious lines, to stem the growing tensions between the Hindu and Muslim communities. The partition however, left both the nations devastated. People were forced to migrate across borders in massive numbers and rioting and acts of violence left deep scars on people's psyche. Till date, the wounds left by partition have not healed and the relationship between the two countries is often strained, marred by wars, border disputes, military stand-offs and a continuing conflict over Kashmir.  The partition tore apart friends and families, many of whom have not been able to find each other and/or reconnect. Though the two countries have made attempts to improve their relationship, even today the relationship is fragile and it is very difficult for Indian and Pakistani nationals to travel across the border due to stringent visa procedures.

Given this backdrop, it is interesting to see how the ads touched an emotional chord, with bloggers across the two countries reacting positively to the heartwarming ads.

Beena Sarwar, a journalist, blogger, human rights activist and lead campaigner for Aman ki Aasha, a campaign for peace between India and Pakistan, tied the ad into the ‘Milne Do’ campaign against visa restrictions between India and Pakistan:

If it doesn’t move you, you’ve got a heart of stone. And if oh, it was that easy. For Pakistanis and Indians to get visas to visit each other’s country is just short of impossible… If the Reunion ad moved you, go to the Milne Do (Let people meet) petition link and sign (and share) the campaign against India Pakistan visa restrictions. Every voice counts.

Blogger Mehreen Kasana wrote on her blog:

Many families in Pakistan don’t have family in India including mine, but at the same time there are many who have loved ones across the border. This is probably the most beautiful video I’ve seen on the subject…Got a little teary, not gonna lie.

Umar Alam from Pakistan, commented on the YouTube video of the ad:

Such an Awesome effort by Google. Love and respect from Pakistan

There are interesting tweets from both India and Pakistan discussing how the ad had an impact on viewers, leaving them touched and emotional.

Pakistani author and publisher, Musharraf A. Faroqi tweeted:

Anthony Permal, known as Tony Khan among twiterrati in Pakistan, tweeted:

Blogger Muna Khan tweeted about how the ad made her father nostalgic and eager to connect with his old friends:

Journalist and photographer Sukanto Mukherjee (@Humerus) from Kolkata, India linked to the actual sweet shop featured in the ad:

Indian journalist, Tripti Lahiri tweeted:

Twilightfairy (@twilightfairy), a professional photographer based in India, commented:

Roopa Gulati (@roopagulati), chef-blogger from India agreed. According to her:

Some people were more critical of the ad. For example, Shivani Mohan, a corporate communication professional from India, tweeted:

Some netizens also pointed out that the idea and storyline for the Google ad was “stolen” or “completely inspired” from a Pakistani short film called “RESPECT”, a short film about friendship and the power of communication in the context of Pakistan and India produced by Pak Sar Zameen Productions in August 2012.

Taha Kirmani (@TahaKirmani1), who directed the film, responded:

Here is the YouTube video of the aforementioned short film, which shows a young man using technology to reconnect his grandfather with his childhood friend, separated by the Partition of 1947:

Thumbnail image: Screenshot taken from the YouTube video, Google Search:Reunion

November 13 2013

Infographic: Pakistan's Failing Education System

Sixty-nine percent of women and 50 percent of men in Pakistan cannot read or write according to Alif Ailaan (A for announcement), an alliance for education reform leading a communication campaign in the country.

Only 67 percent of Pakistani girls and 81 per cent of boys go to primary school, according to the United Nations. At secondary level, Pakistan's enrollment rate drops to 38 percent for boys – and  29 per cent for girls.

The education campaigners in Pakistan believe, Taliban and militancy is not the only reason behind the lack of good public education system in the country. They believe that Pakistan needs to spend more on education and declare an education emergency.

In the country's  2013-2014 budget, Pakistan set aside 54 percent  for defense and repaying loans Education only got 2 percent.

Pakistan ED2-full

This infographic was originally prepared and published by Al Jazeera and has been repurposed for posting on Facebook by Ilm Ideas.

This infographic was originally prepared and published by Al Jazeera and has been repurposed for posting on Facebook by Ilm Ideas.

Peace Unlikely as Pakistan's New Taliban Chief Swears Revenge

The Pakistani government has shelved planned peace talks with the Pakistani Taliban, following the election of a new Taliban chief. Mullah Fazlullah has shunned the negotiation table and sworn to avenge the death of his predecessor Hakimullah Mehsud, who was killed in a US drone strike earlier this month. 

Following Mehsud's death, the Pakistan Taliban also known as the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), a loose coalition of militant factions primarily operating along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border region, named Fazlullah, the man behind the attack on education activist Malala Yousufzai, as their new chief.

Mullah Fazlullah is believed to have been chosen because he has never been in favour of peace talks. Last month in a video, Fazlullah claimed responsibility for assassinating a high-ranking military officer and vowed to attack the most powerful man in Pakistan, the army chief. CNN's Pakistan correspondent Saima Mohsin tweets:

Who is Fazlullah?

This is the first time that the Pakistani Taliban have chosen a leader who does not come from the country's volatile tribal belt that borders Afghanistan. Fazlullah rose to prominence in 2007 through fiery illegal radio broadcasts in Pakistan's Swat valley, where we spoke against the Pakistani state, female education, and demanded the imposition of a harsh version of Islam, which earned him the nickname “Mullah Radio.” He is believed to be hiding in neighbouring Afghanistan. 

Soon his militant group started blowing up schools, forcing men to grow beards and preventing women from going to markets. After a failed peace deal with Fazlullah's father-in-law, the Pakistani military pushed his militant group out of Swat by 2009.
Writer, public policy analyst and anchor Raza Rumi (@Razarumi) sarcastically tweets:

Recalling the state of education during the times of Mullah Fazlullah in Swat, writer and columnist Bina Shah (@BinaShah) tweets:

Political Push for Peace Talks

In September, the All Parties Conference (APC), a coalition of political parties in Pakistan, unanimously agreed to try “peace talks” with the Taliban. APC believes peace talks will give respite from Taliban violence unleashed in Pakistani cities through sporadic attacks.

Mehsud was killed a day before the scheduled talks were to begin. Pakistani cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan, whose party governs the northwestern Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Province recently said, “the American lobby in Pakistan doesn’t want peace on this soil,” at a press conference.

Like Imran Khan, most key political parties and the Pakistani government said the US drone strike “sabotaged” proposed peace talks with the Taliban. Fazlullah’s new position presents potential trouble for Imran Khan, because Swat which was once Fazlullah's stronghold, is a district in Imran's Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Province. 

The New York Times Pakistan Bureau Chief Declan Walsh (@declanwalsh) raises the seriousness of the situation:

Activities of Jammat Ul Dawa hold a protest against the Drone attacks in Pakistan and killing of innocent peoples by the drone attacks. They also burned the US flags during the protest out side the Hyderabad press club. Image by janali laghari. Copyright Demotix (8/11/2013)

Jammat Ul Dawa hold a protest against the killing of innocent people in drone strikes in Pakistan, outside the Hyderabad press club. Image by Janali Laghari. Copyright Demotix (8/11/2013)

Former ambassador to the US and Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) politician Sherry Rehman (@sherryrehman), asked whether all the talk about peace talks was just a game of badminton:

History of Failed Peace Talks

The past record of peace deals with Taliban is not good. Peace pacts signed in Shakai (March 2004), Sararogha (February 2005), Miramshah (September 2006), Khyber (September 2008) and Swat (April and May 2008) were all broken. Except for two, most of these peace pacts were directly negotiated by the army. And with Fazlullah's aggressive threats against the Pakistan army, it seems unlikely that they will come close to the negotiating table.

“It takes two hands to clap,” an opposition politician not in favour of peace talks explained in a Pakistani news report, “there is talk of ‘dialogue, dialogue’ from this side and ‘refusal, refusal’ from there [the Taliban].”

Lawyer and columnist Babar Sattar, who is opposed to peace talks writes in Pakistani daily Dawn:

By appointing Fazlullah as its new head, the TTP has tried to slap out of confusion those of us [Pakistanis] who believe that terrorism is simply a tribal response to drones and will wither away once strikes end and the US withdraws its troops from Afghanistan.

November 12 2013

#GVMeetup Karachi: Finding Family in an Unexpected Place

GV Pakistan author Sana Saleem and Awab Alvi with GV Urdu editor Faisal Kapadia with some participants  Photo from #GVMeetup in Karachi, November 1, 2013 album on the Bolo Bhi Facebook page

Ismail Vohra (standing in white traditional shalwar kameez at the left) with Global Voices Pakistan team members Sana Saleem, Awab Alvi and Faisal Kapadia and other participants. Photo from #GVMeetup album on the Bolo Bhi Facebook page. November 1, 2013.

The next 6 weeks we are organizing six global in-person ‘meetups’ led and facilitated by Global Voices members, who live and know their local communities. This is a testimonial written by Ismail Vohra who attended the first official meet-up in Karachi, Pakistan.

It was a typical sunny Friday in Karachi. I was invited to a Global Voices meet-up, and I expected it to be another typical boring presentation, the kind that most organisations do. 

I signed up for the meetup because my friends did. I thought, “this would be a great opportunity to see them after school!”

Following standard Pakistani time, I reached the venue half an hour late. To my surprise, the meetup had already begun. I quietly entered the room, while a TED talk was being played on a big screen. A guy named ‘Ethan’ was talking about some weird English term that I can't remember, but I do remember that he was talking about how we can use the Internet to bridge the world.

As you might know, TED talks are pretty interesting, and so was this one. Starting a presentation with such a inspirational video rather than a PowerPoint not only inspired me with Ethan's ideas but also got me excited about what the Global Voices people would do next. After the video ended, one of the presenters asked if someone from the audience could explain to those who joined late (I was one of those late comers) what happened in the first half an hour.

Global Voices Urdu Editor Faisal Kapadia getting ready for the meet-up. Photo of the #GVMeetup in Karachi on November 1, 2013 from the Bolo Bhi Facebook page

Global Voices Urdu Editor Faisal Kapadia getting ready for the meet-up. Photo from Bolo Bhi Facebook page.

An audience member gave a nice summary about the use of the Internet for activism. Then came the part that impressed me the most. A presenter asked, “Did you know that there was a 700 kilometer march yesterday, for the missing people in Balochistan [province]?” I thought, “Dude! Woah. Why didn't I read that on the BBC's website or see it on [Pakistan's leading channel] Geo News?”

He continued: “And that's what Global Voices is all about. We try to raise the voices that are not covered in mainstream media.”

And I could only agree. I'm sure you all are wondering what was so special about this meetup? I have no idea. All I know is I've never felt so loved and special at such a meetup before. I felt I was a part of this family. I felt like I was solely created for them. They were so humble, polite and sweet. I don't know if the presenters ate a lot of sugar or marshmallows that day. But whatever it was, there was affection and warmth in the air. People with such humble behaviour convinced me, in fact, made me come to the realisation that I wanted to be a part of this global family immediately.

Young students watching a presentation during the meet up.

Young students watching a presentation during the meet up. Photo from the Bolo Bhi Facebook page.

Global Voices may raise hidden voices from all across the globe, but it is a voice within itself. A family you can trust. It taught me that you don't have to be hyper or loud to win an audience, instead create love and affection that people can feel and understand. It opened me up to the desire for a better world. It encouraged me to work for the love of this nation and to give back.

Well, sometimes one cannot really explain the feelings in words. I'm not here to promote Global Voices, but yes, it was something that inspired me greatly and am looking for the day when they'll be successful in their mission and I'll proudly say I am so glad to have been a part of their very first “official” meetup.

17-year-old Ismail Vohra often turns to the web in search of neutral narratives. He is actively involved in community service in Karachi, where he is completeing his O levels at City School, PAF branch, where he is headboy. He is an avid reader of Urdu poetry and an active Urdu debater. Ismail was a Kerry-Lugar 2012-2013 exchange student in the US. Follow him on Twitter @ismail_vohra

A big thank you to the rights and policy organisation Bolo Bhi for providing a venue for the event, and GV Urdu editor Faisal Kapadia and GV Pakistan author Sana Saleem, for organising the meet-up, along with Eddie Avila and the Rising Voices team. Our next meet-up is in Cairo on November 16. 

Pakistani Newspaper Dawn's Taliban-Sized Typo is Shared Widely

Dawn, a leading newspaper in Pakistan made a glaring error on the front page of its print edition by confusing the banned militant outfit Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) with cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan's popular party Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI).

The newspaper of repute called Taliban chief Hakeemullah Mehsud, who was recently killed in a US drone strike, a “ruthless PTI leader,” instead of a “ruthless TTP leader” in an article titled “Hassan asked to tender apology”. 

Snapshots of the front page acronym mix-up were widely shared on Facebook and Twitter with social media users questioning whether the typo was a genuine mistake or a Freudian slip? Yasser Hashmi (@YasserHashmi), an assistant professor at LUMS, a top university in Pakistan, tweeted:

Broadcast journalist Arshad Sharif (@arsched) grabbed an image of the front page and tweeted:

Photograph of front page article by author Annie Zaman.

Close-up of the mixup highlighted by @FaizanLakhani

PTI leader Imran Khan is a strong opponent of US drone strikes which has earned him the label Taliban Khan from his critics. Following Hakeemullah's killing, Khan condemned the drone attack saying it sabotaged government-planned peace talks with the TTP.

Dawn promptly issued a correction and apology in an online version of the article, but not before PTI supporters on Pakistan's social media questioned whether there was something sinister behind the typo.

PTI's chief spokesperson Shireen Mazari (@ShireenMazari1) tweeted:

Abbas Nasir (@abbasnasir59), a prominent journalist and former editor of Dawn responded:

PTI's social media wing head and Global Voices author Awab Alvi (@DrAwab) asked for a public apology by Dawn:

Adil Ansari(@AnsariAdil), PTI's Twitter head added:

PTI is popular with young urban Pakistanis and the party has created a strong and loyal following on social media. Pakistani Twitter users critical of Imran Khan and his party often accuse PTI supporters of relentlessly trolling them. Omar Quraishi (@omar_quraishi), opinion editor of the Express Tribune said:

Some leading journalists empathized with the staff at Dawn for the error that was later mentioned at the National Assembly by PTI's leader Imran Khan.

Jahanzaib Haque (@jhaque_), the web editor of Express Tribune tweeted:

His colleague, Gibran Pashiman (@gibranp), a 2013 Reuters fellow adds:

Abid Hussayn (@abidhussayn) of Herald, Dawn's monthly magazine, hopes that no one is sacked but appreciates the slip:

Some political activists on Twitter enjoyed the error like Assad Zulfiqar (@pseudorebel) of Pakistan Peoples Party, who complimented the article's author:

Adnan Rasool (@adnanrasool), a political science student based in Atlanta, USA tweeted:

The PPP chairperson Bilawal Bhutto Zardari (@BBhuttoZardari), who has been very active on Twitter with witty comments, since his party joined opposition ranks after May's election, sent a tweet to one of Dawn's editors:

The Dawn article with the Taliban-sized typo was about the head of Pakistan's leading Islamist party Jamat-e-Islami Munawar Hassan asserting on a popular TV news channel that deceased Taliban chief Hakimullah should be considered a shaheed or Islamic “martyr,” with a secure place in heaven, for dying at the hands of America.

Since Pakistani soldiers, thousands of whom have died at the hands of the Taliban, are considered shaheed, Hassan's comment caught the ire of many including the country's most powerful institution, the army. The article contained an official comment from the Pakistan army asking the Islamist party leader for an unconditional apology to the country and the families of martyred servicemen who've been fighting  the Taliban and Al-Qaeda network since 2004.

The Islamist party, which has traditionally been a strong ally of the Pakistan army, has distanced itself from Hassan's statement saying their chief was airing his personal opinion on live TV.

November 09 2013

Turk-Arab Youth Congress: Middle East Needs Greater Regional Cooperation

Participants at the annual Turk-Arab Youth Congress (TAYC) in Istanbul, Turkey at the end of October called for a future in which Turks and Arabs work together at all levels for a better future of the region. 

The Congress emphasized the need for Turks and Arabs to recognize their common heritage as well as conform to their own standards instead of those set by the West. 

Since 2012, the Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality Youth Assembly (IMMYA), a platform for Turkish youth, has held the Turk-Arab Youth Congress (TAYC). The congress is a platform in which Arab and Turkish youth and intellectuals can meet, talk about ideas and bring about a new vision for the region's future. The sessions and workshops are intended to create a comprehensive understanding for the participants and policy makers about the ground issues and challenges that region faces in order to explore new ideas and approaches for the present and future.

Logo of Turk Arab Youth CongressThe theme for this year's TAYC in Istanbul, Turkey, was “justice”, and the topics covered included: creating regional and global civil aid networks, and rethinking regional and global economic institutions. Young people belonging to 24 different Arab countries took part in the congress this year and zealously asked questions about their future, especially against the backdrop of uprisings and political unrest in the Middle East. The three-day (October 25, 2013 to October 27, 2013) program consisted of workshops, sessions and NGO presentations. 

The description of the Facebook page of Turk Arab Youth Congress stated the following goals:

1.To draw a vision for the future of the New Arabic World.
2.To create the platform for the youth to meet with the Arab & the Turkish intellectuals
3.To share and to document the “Street Experience” of the demonstrations from the people of revolution

Image courtesy Gulay Kaplan. From Turk-Arab Youth Congress Facebook Page.

Image courtesy Gulay Kaplan. From Turk-Arab Youth Congress Facebook Page.

On the first day, notable intellectuals and advisors to some political parties in Turkey delivered opening speeches. Panel discussion were conducted to explain the current scenario of the region and future implications.

The Twitter account (@Turk_Arab) of the Turk Arab Youth Congress (TAYC) shared a steady stream of opinions and statements from the speakers. Some noteworthy ones are:

Miss Summeyye Erdogan, Advisor to the Chairman of AK party, told young people to remain united despite the divides between them:

The Director and Coordinator of TAYC 2013, Oguzhan Mailmail (@oguzhan Mailmail) welcomed the participants on the first day and explained the goals of the congress to them.

Dr. Kerem Kinik (@drkerem), President of Doctors Worldwide, gave a presentation on “togetherness” and suggested that young people share their pain and suffering and speak out against oppression:

@Turk_Arab @GenclikMeclisi said #R4BIA @r4biaplatform

Turk Arab Youth Congress (@Turk_Arab) tweeted:

Omar Salha (@o_salha), founder of Ramadan Tent and a doctoral fellow working on global diplomacy, conducted sessions on the intervention of international organizations in local conflicts and politics. He considered the interaction with the participants an insightful one:

Izzy (@islam_altayeb), a Middle East analyst, tweeted:

The “Economic and Financial Commission” was moderated by Muzammil Thakur (@M_A_Thakur), an advocate for the cause of Indian occupied Kashmir:

The economic and financial committee at the workshop

Merve Serire (@karakurukiz), who studied economics at Kadir Has University, Istanbul, Turkey, moderated the social, humanitarian and cultural commission:

The cultural and humanitarian and social committee at the workshop

As an example of the impact of the platform, Dorra Amara (@DorraAmara) from Tunisia and Merve Serire (@karakurukiz) from Turkey became close at the Congress. Amara tweeted this picture:

At the end of all the sessions and workshops, the participants were asked to devise solutions for the Syrian refugee problem. Representative from each workshop shared information with all the participants in an evaluation conducted on the evening of October 26 and October 27, 2013:

@Turk_Arab Assessment of second day sessions at Youth Congress. #tayc2013 #TAYC2013

A short video clip, highlighting the overview of the congress can also be viewed through the following link:

It is evident that events of such nature are giving the Muslim youth a chance to channel their energies in the correct direction. They are discussing their future as they alone can better understand the dynamics of their respective countries. Apart from political harmony and unity, people across the borders can interact with each other. This is significant for Arab region that is going through disharmony and uncertainty.

Thumbnail image by author. Translations by Amira Al Hussaini & Baran Mavzer.

November 04 2013

Rester en vie à Karachi

Si, depuis cinq ans, le Pakistan n'a connu aucune secousse politique ni coup d'Etat, la campagne pour les élections législatives du 11 mai prochain se déroule dans un climat de grande tension. A Karachi, les assassinats font désormais partie du quotidien. / Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Pakistan, (...) / Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Criminalité, Économie, Élections, Immigrés, Islam, Minorité nationale, Pauvreté, Religion, Terrorisme, Ville, Violence, Fondamentalisme - 2013/04

November 02 2013

Pakistani Taliban Leader's Death by Drone Triggers Relief, Anger and Fear

Hakimullah Mehsud, the chief of the Pakistani Taliban has been killed in a US drone strike in North Waziristan, according to Pakistani intelligence officials and militant commanders in the Federally Administered Tribal Area (FATA). Mehsud's driver and bodyguard were also reportedly killed in this strike.

The killing comes a day before the Pakistani government was sending a team to hold peace talks with Mehsud's Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and just a week after Pakistan's Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif met with US President Barack Obama at the White House and expressed his strenuous opposition to drone strikes. 

Naz Bloch, spokesperson of Imran Khan's Pakistan Tehkrik-i-Insaf or PTI, a political party that has been pushing for peace talks with the Taliban and campaigning against US drone strikes tweets Imran Khan's response to the news:

PTI's chief Imran Khan later demanded the government to immediately block Nato supplies going through the country to Afghanistan. PTI is the ruling party in Pakistan's Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, which shares borders with the tribal areas and has been the most brutally affected by Taliban violence in Pakistan.

Zahid Hussain, a Pakistani journalist and author of The Scorpion's Tail: the relentless rise of Islamic militants in Pakistan was surprised to see Imran Khan's reaction:

He adds:

Blogger and PTI's social media head Dr. Awab Alvi tweets:

Supporters of Jamat-ud-Dawa chant slogans during a protest demonstration against the U.S. drone attacks outside the Hyderabad Press Club. Hyderabad, Pakistan. Image by Rajput Yasir. Copyright Demotix (1/11/2013)

Supporters of Jamat-ud-Dawa chant slogans during a protest demonstration against the U.S. drone attacks outside the Hyderabad Press Club. Hyderabad, Pakistan. Image by Rajput Yasir. Copyright Demotix (1/11/2013)

Zarlasht Faisal, (@ZarlashtFaisal) , a fashion designer and a PTI supporter, questions the future of the war.

Usama Khilji, a Pakistani activist fears a backlash by Taliban:

Beena Sarwar, a blogger and human rights activist questions the role of TTP.

Renowned Pakistani lawyer and judicial activist Athar Minallah reacts:

Omar Quraishi, an op-ed editor of the English daily, the Express Tribune believes drones are not a hindrance to peace talks.

Patron-in-Chief of Pakistan People's Party or PPP, Bilawal Bhutto Zardari tweets:

There are some funny tweets and jokes in Urdu being circulated on Twitter about Hakimullah Mehsud's killing:

Had Hakilmullah Mehsud escaped wearing a Burqa, he would not be playing ludo [Pakistani bord game] with Hoors [virgins]. Aunty Aziz Lal Masjid wali

Hakimullah with Hoors in heaven

Hakimullah with Hoors in heaven

condolence étiquettes

condolence étiquettes

Obituary and condolence etiquette: This is a request to those coming for condolence,  the wives of Hakimullah Mehsud – Madam Imrana Khanum and Munawar Begum – are in Iddah [mourning in solitude]. That is why, condolences will be received by his other women, Eliya and Ansaran from Murree [city]. Because these two were not his wives, they were just his sleeping partners.

November 01 2013

Proposed Law in Pakistan Would Pave Way for Human Rights Violations

Human rights activists are blasting a new bill in Pakistan backed by the president and prime minister that would deem suspected terrorists to be an enemies of the state, allowing law enforcement officials to perform searches without a warrant and strip anyone arrested of the right to bail. 

Hundreds of cities and towns throughout Pakistan, especially in the Sindh region, where a separatist movement fights for the region's independence, have erupted in protest against the bill.

On October 20, 2013 Pakistan President Mamnoon Hussain approved the Pakistan Protection Ordinance, as the bill is called, following advice from the Prime Minister Nazaz Sharif. It will next be forwarded to the parliament for enactment. The bill, which has not been released in full to the public, is said to declare all peace-disrupting elements as enemies of the state, and states that security of life, property and dignified living of Pakistanis should be the prime goal for the state.

Sheeren is a widow woman protesting with her orphan children at the Karachi Press Club against the murder of her husband. The victim's family demanded that police arrest the killers and gives us peace and justice. Image by Ayub Mohammad. Copyright Demotix (29.9.2013)

A widow protesting with her orphan children at the Karachi Press Club against the murder of her husband. The victim's family demanded that police arrest the killers and provides them peace and justice. Image by Ayub Mohammad. Copyright Demotix (29.9.2013)

Earlier this month, the President had promulgated a number of amendments into the Anti-Terrorism Ordinance, which proposed longer detention for suspects and accepted electronic evidences and trials by video links.

Pakistan's widely read English-language newspaper Dawn, quoting official sources, has voiced concerns about its potential human rights violations. Under the Pakistan Protection Ordinance, law enforcement authorities – including police, military and para-military forces, Pakistan rangers, Frontier Corp and Frontier Constabulary – would be able to enter and search any premises without warrant. The arrested suspects would not be entitled to bail. These forces, on suspicion, can confiscate property, arms, and other household goods without permission from any lawful authority. And anyone found guilty of resisting enforcement of law or legal process will spend 10 years behind bars.

Separate police stations would be designated for professional and expeditious investigations of specified crime. The cases would be prosecuted by federal prosecutors – a new force of prosecutors will be created, parallel to the existing prosecution branch. And special jails will be designated to detain hardened criminals. The government has been authorised to create a parallel judiciary through these ordinances. Anti-Terrorist Courts and special prosecutors for terrorist crimes are already in operation. However, through the ‘Pakistan Protection Ordinance', the government will make “special courts and special prosecutors” to protect the country.

The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) has called the bill a “draconian law” that would provide legal cover to disappearances, extrajudicial killings, torture, and unfair trial:

The ordinances are also against the Article 24, which guarantees the rights of property and denies the right of the government to confiscate any lawful property.

Article 10 of the constitution, providing safeguard to arrest and detention states:

  1. No person who is arrested shall be detained in custody without being informed, as soon as may be, of the grounds for such arrest, nor shall he be denied the right to consult and be defended by a legal practitioner of his choice.
  2. Every person who is arrested and detained in custody shall be produced before a magistrate within a period of twenty-four hours of such arrest, excluding the time necessary for the journey from the place of arrest to the court of the nearest magistrate, and no such person shall be detained in:custody beyond the said period without the authority of a magistrate.

In light of this, the government of Pakistan must withdraw the ordinances and bring the bills before the parliament for open debate. The government must respect the process of fair trial and rule of law rather than resorting to making draconian laws which curtail the fundamental and constitutional rights of the people. It must also understand that by making draconian laws terrorism cannot be overcome. Rather it will generate more terrorism in different forms. The ordinances are not lawful.

A lawyer, Saleemullah Khan Advocate, who is also a retired inspector general of the police, has challenged the Protection of Pakistan Ordinance in the Islamabad High Court (IHC), saying some of its sections are against the fundamental rights of the citizens as enshrined in the constitution.

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif of the ruling party wants all political parties to vote in favour of the Pakistan Protection Ordinance 2013 when it is tabled in parliament for approval. The opposition Pakistan Peoples Party has made its intentions clear. Senator Raza Rabbani has said:

PPP would oppose it when the government brought it to parliament in the form of a bill. the ordinance in its present form was unacceptable as it was against people’s fundamental rights.

Sindh and Baloch regions are specially concerned about the bill because there have been significant separatist movements going on in these regions.

Activities of JSQM holds a rally from Qasimabad to Gul Center against the freedom of Sindh. Hyderabad, Pakistan. Image by Janali Laghari. Copyright Demotix (6/7/2013)

Activities of Jeay Sindh Qaumi Mahaz (JSQM) holds a rally from Qasimabad to Gul Center against the freedom of Sindh. Hyderabad, Pakistan. Image by Janali Laghari. Copyright Demotix (6/7/2013)

Nationalist organisation of Sindh Jeay Sindh Muttahida Mahaz (JSMM) shown their grave concern over the new ordinance, calling it a conspiracy to conduct genocide of Sindhi and Baloch people.

On October 29, a large advertisement was published in major Sindhi newspapers, in which JSMM chairman Shafi Burfat said [Sindhi Language]:

Recently, the state introduced the “Pakistan Protection Ordinance”, and the Sindhi nation considers it as death warrant of innocent, suppressed Sindhi and Baloch nations. It’s a plan for the mass genocide of both nations. Through these laws, this state conspires to silence the political say of the national struggles of Sindh and Balochistan. We consider these laws to be a political assault and an encroachment on oppressed Sindhi and Baloch nations. The Sindhi nation and JSMM announce a shutter-down and wheel jam strike (no vehicle will move and no shop will be opened) against these anti-Sindh laws on October 30 across Sindh.

On October 30, Whole Sindh observed general strike on the call of JSMM against the Pakistan Protection Ordinance. The strike paralysed the routine life in many towns of Sindh, with the government and private schools and business activities closed and thin public transport on roads. JSMM officials said that least 102 people associated with the group have been arrested in different towns of Sindh, more than 12 went missing during strike. BBC-Urdu marked [ur] this strike as first political reaction against the bill. More than 140 cities and towns observed strike against new ordinance, local website Indus Tribune reported

Freelance journalist Saba Imtiaz wrote on her blog:

Imagine the scenario: Security officials enter your home, arrest you without a warrant, search your property, keep you in detention, the trial is held in a different place from where you lived and you are considered guilty of waging war until you can prove you are innocent. This may be the worst-case scenario. Or there could be worse. You may never get a chance to prove you are innocent because the security officials may have used force against you already.

On Twitter, Sherry Rehman (@sherryrehman), a former Pakistani ambassador to the United States, said:

Muttahida Qaumi Movement‘s member of the provisional assembly, Heer Soho (@HeerSoho), asked:

JSMM chairman Shafi Burfat (@ShafiBurfat) called this law a sin against Sindhi people:

News anchor, journalist and blogger Shoukat Zardari (@ShoukatZardari) criticized: 

Pakistan Muslim League – Nawaz (PML-N)'s Mian Javed Latif pushed back: 

October 31 2013

Meetup with Global Voices!

gv-logo-below-square-144You may feel as if Global Voices community members are already longtime friends after being a regular reader of their posts and translations highlighting the online conversation in their countries. Perhaps you may also follow them on Twitter or are familiar with their digital projects and activities. Certainly these virtual connections can help make the world feel like a smaller place, but there is still something elemental about offline interactions that can only help strengthen these online bonds.

Throughout the months of November and December, we are organizing six global in-person ‘meetups’ led and facilitated by Global Voices members, who live and know those local communities.

However, these gatherings are much more than networking social events. They are opportunities for knowledge sharing, skills building, and future collaboration among peers who share similar missions.

Perhaps you have an idea for a citizen media outreach project and you want to find potential partners. Or you may want to learn new strategies for digital storytelling for a global audience. You can also learn more about Global Voices’ work and how to become a volunteer. These and much more may be a part of the half-day program.

The six cities for this first round of meet ups are:

Karachi, Pakistan – November 1, 2013
Cairo, Egypt – November 16, 2013
Kampala, Uganda – November 16, 2013
Skopje, Macedonia – November 30, 2013
Porto, Portugal – December 14, 2013
Phonm Penh, Cambodia – To be announced

These meetups are free to attend, but RSVPs are required. With each meetup, we will publish a post, as well as a Facebook Event invite with more details on how to sign up and the proposed agenda. This post will also be updated with these details. Special invitations will also be sent to previous applicants from our Rising Voices microgrant competitions, many of which come from these cities.

We're also launching a hashtag – #GVMeetup to follow along even if you one of these meetups are not scheduled for your city.

These six meetups are part of a pilot project to explore ways that our vast Global Voices community in all corners of the world can help facilitate peer learning and exchange among readers and other individuals and organizations in the field of citizen media. We hope to build upon this experience for more meetups in 2014!

In the meantime, for more information please write to rising [at] globalvoicesonline [dot] org

October 30 2013

A 700-Kilometer March for Missing People in Pakistan's Balochistan

Separatist fighting in Balochistan, the largest and poorest province of Pakistan, has taken a bloody toll in the last nine years, with more than 2,000 civilians killed as well as about 700 security forces and 500 fighters. But more than killings has plagued the people of the province – in that time, thousands of Baloch have disappeared without explanation.

#VBMPLongMarch Screenshot from Video by International Voice for Baloch Missing Persons

#VBMPLongMarch Screenshot from Video by International Voice for Baloch Missing Persons

To protest the abductions, a group of about 20 people, mostly women, embarked on a march of nearly 700 kilometers from Balochistan's capital city Quetta to Sindh's capital Karachi on October 27, 2013. The marchers are part of the organization Voice for Baloch Missing Persons (VBMP), which has maintained a protest camp in Quetta for three and a half years (see GV article) and will move the camp to Karachi at the end of the march.   

The protesters will walk on foot from six in the morning until six at night until reaching their destination. Participants are carrying emotionally charged placards and banners inscribed with slogans, such as “Stop killing Baloch political workers” and “we condemn extra-judicial killings”.

According to the International Voice for Baloch Missing Persons (IVBMP), at least 18,000 Balochs have been abducted between 2001 and 2013, and their whereabouts remain unknown. “Several loved ones of VBMP members along with thousands of other Baloch are currently languishing in torture cells and hundreds have been killed under-custody,” members said during a press conference at the Quetta Press club, where the protest camp is, before the march.

In the same conference, VBMP warned that if anything happened to them on their way to Karachi, they will hold the provincial government responsible.

Relations between the Balach separatist movement and the government are icy. The Chief Minister of the Balochistan government, Dr. Malik Baloch, recently announced that a multi-party conference would be convened to discuss ways and means of bringing an end to prevailing unrest in Balochistan, marked by insurgency and growing sectarian attacks. However, Baloch resistance groups have rejected talks with the government, and deemed it a conspiracy to damage the Baloch struggle.

On social media, activists voiced their support for the march. Sindhi nationalist Organisation Jeay Sindh Muttahida Mahaz (JSMM) wrote:

Users commented under the hashtag #VBMPLongMarch

Journalism student and human rights activist Faiz M Baluch (@FaizMBaluch) tweeted a photo of a marcher:

Ghaffar Baloch (@Alhaan_) asked readers to put themselves in the shoes of the victims’ families: 

Journalist Boriwal Kakar (@BoriwalKakar) spread the news: 

On 30 October, 2013, the fourth day of the march, the protesters reached Manguchar area of Kalat District in Balochistan. Hamdan Baluch (@HamdanBaluch) reported:

Please follow the Facebook page of Bramsh News Media and the #VBMPLongMarch hashtag in Twitter for the latest updates on the march.

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