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Fighting the Great Firewall of Pakistan

How an unlikely free-speech campaign defeated the censors.

It takes a strong stomach and a thick skin to be a female activist fighting online censorship in Pakistan. Sana Saleem has both.

The 24-year-old founder of a Karachi-based free expression group Bolo Bhi has been accused of supporting “blasphemy.” On Twitter, a chilling message made the rounds last month: “this @sanasaleem is a prostitute who feature in porn movies #throwacidonsana.” Her photo was posted in pornography forums.

None of this has fazed Sana, who in conjunction with several other young Pakistani blogger-activists had launched a successful campaign that has shamed the government into halting plans for a national Internet censorship system. A long-time contributor to the international bloggers network Global Voices Online, in March Saleem joined forces with other groups including the Pakistan-based social justice group Bytes For All and other activists like the dentist-blogger Awab Alvi, a.k.a. “Teeth Maestro,” who has been campaigning against censorship since 2006. Their success is a victory for free speech, and not only in Pakistan. It holds lessons for activists around the world who are fighting uphill battles against censorship schemes initiated by governments that claim to be acting in the public interest, and who have support from influential political constituencies. ….

Read more » Foreign Policy (FP)

Ethnic Conflict in Sindh and Time for healing

Time for healing

By: Zubeida Mustafa

AN article, ‘Rapprochement is possible, by Abrar Kazi and Zulfiqar Halepoto of the Sindh Democratic Forum in this space on Aug 21 was an invitation for a rapprochement between the “progressive Urdu-speaking” people and the Sindhis to join hands and make the province an ideal homeland.

The writers deserve kudos and our gratitude for what can be termed their common sense, humanism and courage.

What they say is something that every right-minded person — irrespective of the language he or she speaks — living in Sindh has known for long. The two communities are conscious of the importance of coexistence. Then how has this rift divided the province?

The fact is that politicians, military leaders and feudals who have always had a stake in consolidating their hold on power have played on the sensitivities of the people in the garb of promoting the interest of their communities. Some went to the extent of setting up political parties on ethnic lines and creating a power base not on the basis of political and economic programmes but on the ethnicity of their supporters.

For a population living in destitution, it was easy to succumb to the politics of ethnicity that brought jobs, favours and political influence. It also gave rise to a virulent form of ethnic nationalism that has led to confrontation and alienation. The fact is that the playing field has never been level for all people not just in Sindh but everywhere in Pakistan. People of all ethnicities have lacked equal opportunities at all times. Over the years, a stage came when economic class divisions crept in.

With them came the social divide. It would be wrong to attribute the privileged status of a section of the population in the province to their ethnic affiliations or the language they speak.

The dynamics of power have worked differently. In a society so badly stratified and devoid of democratic structures, the fault line should have been between the haves and the have-nots. Ironically, the intelligentsia became so focused on the ethnic/linguistic background of the governed that it failed to notice that the majority of them lacked control over their own lives and were victims of oppression.

But that is not strange. Pakistan has never been a democracy even though governments — including military dictatorships — have felt constrained to legitimise themselves by demonstrating their following. What better way was there than for them to appeal to the base instincts of people and divide them to strengthen those at the helm?

When the situation became really bad, many people, who had nothing to lose as they already were so downtrodden, found security in numbers by clustering together in their own community. That is what the political leaders wanted and thus a vicious cycle set in.

Mercifully, there are still many people in the province from both communities who see through the strategems of selfish and fascistic leaders who have their own games to play. The members of the SDF who wrote this article are right when they say that “such politics tend to paint all Urdu-speaking people with the same brush although most are progressive and liberal and desire peace and integration”. …

Read more → DAWN.COM

Sindh is a CAUSE not a CARD – New Sindh is emerging led by the people

– Congratulations! to Saaieen Zardari …. he has united virtually whole Sindh, nationalist parties, ANP, PPP dissidents on one platform to observe complete shutter down strike in Sindh against unending black mailing of MQM-A on gunpoint & betrayal of PPP in Sindh. No body should take Sindh for granted!  New Sindh is emerging led by the people.

Salute to the people of Sindh for complete strike on 13th August 2011. The short sighted & self centered PPP leadership, living in the palaces of Islamabad that ruined its won core constituency should learn lesson that Sindh is not political CARD to use for personal interests but a CAUSE. The people of Sindh never let any one to play this card any more against the wishes of the people of Sindh.

Courtesy: → Above text is adopted from different Sindhi Walls of Facebook.

Awami Tehreek President Ayaz Latif Palijo demanded that two more districts should be carved out of Karachi. The city should comprise districts West, East, South, North, Ibrahim Haidery, Lyari and Malir

A new awakening

By: Aziz-ud-Din Ahmad

The notion that the PPP leadership could treat Sindh as its fiefdom has been challenged by the Sindhi people. The more than a week long protests against decisions having a negative impact on Sindh are enough to indicate that PPP can no more take Sindh for granted. Anybody who thinks he alone knows what is in Sindh’s interests is now bound to be challenged in Sindh’s streets by the local population asserting its right to be consulted.

Read more: → Pakistan Today

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Ayaz Latif Palijo (Bolta Pakistan – 8th August 2011)

Courtesy: → Aaj TV News, (Bolta Pakistan with Mushtaq Minhas and Nusrat Javaid – 8th August 2011)

via → Chagatai Khan  → YouTube

Rangers shooting: Lust for blood

by Maheen Usmani

The video of Sarfaraz Shah’s last traumatic moments imploded on to cyber space with some enthusiasm and a profusion of expletives. Messages like “check kar yeh video” (check out this video), “here’s the full video, yaar,”  “sharing the HD version,” “uncut footage” and “exclusive video” pepper the Facebook newsfeed. Bloodied and battered thumbnails accompany the excited posts. Lust for blood, it seems, is not exclusive to criminals.

Slowly, steadily and grimly, Sarfaraz Shah’s life was extinguished on tape. His blood was squeezed out drop by drop, fanning out in a wider and wider crimson circle around his wiry frame, as he lay on the ground beseeching for help:

Haspataal puhancha day yar, mujhay haspataal to puhancha day!’’ (Take me to hospital, my friend, please take me to hospital!)

How ironic that Sarfaraz was begging for help from the same people who had looked him in the eye and shot him at point blank range moments ago. The very same “law enforcers” in the garb of Rangers who have been deputed to safeguard Karachi and it’s besieged people. As Sarfaraz lay face down in a pool of his own blood, the footage showed a few pair of boots ambling past him. …

Read more: The Express Tribune

Siraiki Province: PML-N Falling Into Zardari’s Trap; To Be Limited To Central Punjab

By: Aziz Narejo

In a glaring example of cynical, reactionary and unprincipled politics, Punjab CM Shahbaz Sharif the other day demanded that Sindh be divided and Karachi be made a province. His statement justifiably created furore in Sindh and the parliamentary parties including PPP, MQM and ANP as well as other politicians and activists swiftly condemned the unimaginative and unscrupulous statement by the PML-N leader.

The PML-N government and Punjabi nationalists seem to be under considerable pressure as the demand for a separate Siraiki province is gathering momentum in southern Punjab but this was most crooked and uncalled for response that could ever come from anyone with even the slightest political wisdom. PML-N leader was obviously trying to get back with the PPP. It may be noted that PM Gilani has suggested the creation of a new province in southern Punjab and PPP manifesto committee is deliberating to make it a part of the PPP manifesto for next elections.

No Sindhi would have any objections if Shahbaz Sharif, other PML-N leaders and Punjabis as a whole turn into nationalists but all the Punjabis and others should understand that Sindh and PPP are not ONE and the same. They are two separate entities. PML-N can’t and shouldn’t get back with the PPP by hurting Sindh. It must agree or disagree with the Siraiki people’s demand for a separate province with the force of arguments and not by playing tit for tat, conspiratorial and ugly politics.

PML-N should also realize that with this kind of politics they will be completely routed out from Sindh and their aspirations to become a “national” party or to form next government will die for ever.

Do they understand that this is exactly what PPP co-chairperson Asif Ali Zardari wants the PML-N to do? Are they willingly falling into the trap set by Zardari ..? Do they realize that with this kind of politics, they will forever become a Central Punjab party? Are there any sane elements in PML-N who would rein in Shahbaz Sharif and the likes of him in their party? Guess not. Good luck to them on their journey to doom.

Courtesy: Indus Herald

A Test For Independent Judiciary

Government Judiciary Row-II, Reopening of Bhutto Case, a Test For Independent Judiciary; Presidential Reference May Become a Source of Political Re-alignments

By Aijaz Ahmed

The president’s move to submit a reference for reopening of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto case at Supreme Court under Article 186 of the Constitution of Pakistan has sparked a new debate and certain questions have been raised including a million dollar question that where will Punjab stand? Undoubtedly, the move is a clever one, and will serve the government and the Peoples Party in many ways. One aspect of the reference is seen as an effort to mend fences with the higher judiciary as in the reference, president has shown his full confidence in the Supreme Court. Secondly it will on one hand give the higher court an opportunity to correct a historic mistake and on the other hand it will force the judiciary to admit blunders committed by judiciary itself exposing the nature and extent of injustice even at the highest judicial level. The favorable decision will also help in bringing the pro dictatorship elements in the establishment under scrutiny that have been in connivance with judiciary and civil bureaucracy against democratic leadership.

In case the present judiciary fails to correct a historic injustice to Bhutto family and the PPP, the onus will be shifted to the judiciary and the anti judiciary elements in smaller provinces particularly in Sindh will justify their sentiments, said a PPP insider, adding that: ‘we always remain victim of the establishment-judiciary nexus and this is the time for both to taste some hot waters. If the historic mistake was not corrected now, the reputation of the present independent judiciary will wither away and that will be more dangerous to the already fragile federation’. …

Read more : Indus Herald

Pakistan remains a military-dominated rentier state

Failed state or Weimar Republic?

Pakistan remains a military-dominated rentier state, still committed to American and Gulf Arab alliances

By Omar Ali

A friend recently wrote to me that Pakistan reminded him of the Weimar republic; an anarchic and poorly managed democracy with some real freedoms and an explosion of artistic creativity, but also with a dangerous fascist ideology attracting more and more adherents as people tire of economic hardship and social disorder and yearn for a savior. Others (much more numerous than the single friend who suggested the Weimar comparison) insist that Pakistan is a failed state. So which is it? Is Pakistan the Weimar republic of the day or is it a failed state?

Continue reading Pakistan remains a military-dominated rentier state

Though Pakistani security forces have completely failed to maintain peace within borders they still aspire to serve foreign interests no matter how illegitimate they are!

1,000 Pakistanis recruited for Bahrain forces

By Syed Irfan Raza

ISLAMABAD, March 20: More than 1,000 Pakistanis have been recruited to serve in the Bahrain National Guards, learnt on Sunday.

The recruitment has been made through the military-run Bahria Foundation and Fauji Foundation, which train the selected personnel before sending them to Bahrain.

Sources said that although the recruitment process had started much before the eruption of the current unrest in Bahrain, authorities have been continuing the process. The two organisations have been asked to complete the training process as early as possible. ….

Read more : DAWN

Five generals threw their support behind protesters calling for immediate ouster of Yemeni President, General Saleh pledged his support for protesters and for the first time, his troops stood around the demonstration to protect it.

Senior Yemeni Officers Call for Ouster of President

SANA, Yemen — In a significant erosion of military support for Yemen’s embattled president, Ali Abdullah Saleh, five generals on Monday threw their support behind protesters calling for his immediate ouster as rival soldiers took up positions in different sections of the capital.

The generals were Brig. Gen. Ali Mohsin Saleh, a powerful figure who commands forces in the country’s northwest, three other brigadier generals and a general. The five said they had decided to support the protesters after watching the bloody clashes on Friday.

“I declare on their behalf our peaceful support for the youth revolution and that we are going to fulfill our complete duty in keeping the security and stability in the capital,” General Saleh said in an interview on Al Jazeera on Monday. He said that violence against protesters was “pushing the country to the edge of civil war.”

By Monday afternoon, tanks and soldiers loyal to the president were positioned around the presidential palace, while miles away, those directed by General Saleh pledged their support for protesters and, for the first time, stood around the demonstration to protect it.

Some of the soldiers at the demonstration draped black, white and red ribbons over their chest, the colors of Yemen’s flag. “We are with the people,” said a group of soldiers guarding the main entrance of the protest. …

Read more : Wichaar

President Zardari’s Moves to Take On Opposition, SC: Final Showdown?

Tables are Turned in Islamabad: Shujaat Officially Meets Zardari. Final Showdown Between PPP, SC & PML-N Imminent?

By: Aijaz Ahmed

Excerpt:

Islamabad: It was a day of President Asif Ali Zardari in the Federal Capital of Pakistan today as he threw surprise after a surprise at his opponents, indicating that the PPP has finally decided to play its cards and a final battle between PPP, Supreme Court and PML-N is now imminent. The indication was given by a surprise meeting, which was officially admitted by Aiwan-e-Saddr (presidency) itself between the President and Co-Chairperson PPP Asif Ali Zardari and a delegation of PML (Q) headed by Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain Friday night. …

…. ‘The party is ready to take on the judicial activism, and the political strategy of PML-N’, he said. ‘The meeting of PML (Q) and PPP leadership will open venues for future cooperation and joint political strategy against Mian brothers and the judiciary, he added. …

…. Chess Board is laid, and field is open for all political and allied forces. Every player is playing its moves, but the clever player will win in the end. And who will be the cleverest of all, only time holds the answer, just wait for few weeks.

Read more : Indus Herald

Land Ownership only For Women in Sindh (BBC)

SINDH GOVERNMENT’S GREEN POLICY : MAKING SINDH MORE GREEN AND PROSPEROUS

Here is BBC‘s news story of Ambar shamsi Land for Women in Sindh. Recently She visit Thatta Sajawal meet few land grantee women of Second phase of the Land Distribution regarding Land Grant policy of Sindh government.

Read more : BBC urdu