Tag Archives: society

The deconstruction of Islamic thought in Pakistan

By S. Iftikhar Murshed

Neither penance nor expiation can cleanse those responsible for the radicalisation of Pakistan. The cancer has spread far and wide across the fabric of the society for which the educated intelligentsia is as much to blame as the semi-literate clerics.

A vivid illustration of this was last week’s imposition of a ban by the Lahore High Court Bar Association on the sale of soft drinks manufactured by Shehzan from the cafeterias of all the subordinate courts because the company is Ahmadi-owned.

Continue reading The deconstruction of Islamic thought in Pakistan

DAWN Editorial – A dangerous mindset

GIVEN the scale of radicalisation across Pakistan, it is clear that methods other than military strategy must be brought into play to quell it. The Pakistan Army set up de-radicalisation centres to provide interventions to those deemed ‘radicals’ – mainly persons detained in conflict zones. But, as editorialised by this newspaper last month, there are a number of points of concern, including the fact that the public has no idea about the details of the programmes. What do they entail, what process is followed or expertise offered – and how are ‘radicals’ delineated from ordinary citizens? For example, has it been conclusively proved that those in de-radicalisation centres were involved in militant or extremist activities? Now, it has come to light that the programmes have not been working. On Thursday, an official of the Pakistan Army’s judge advocate general branch told the Peshawar High Court that despite having been through the de-radicalisation process, several militants from Swat had rejoined militant groups.

Radicalisation is an ideological state of mind, and not something empirical of which a person can reliably be said to have been cleansed. No doubt there are people who were absorbed by militant outfits involuntarily and would welcome rehabilitation. But militancy in Pakistan is linked to a peculiar set of ideologies that have a lasting hold on the minds of its subscribers. For militants who have vowed to fight the very nature of the state and federation, a de-radicalisation programme may be the softer option whilst in detention.

For Pakistan to control radicalisation, it must counter the growing extremism evident in society as a whole. This is emerging as a greater threat to the country than terrorism, as was pointed out at the launch of a related report in Islamabad on Thursday. Extremism cannot be eliminated by the gun; the task requires methods of long-term persuasion and extensive societal change. Concurrently, the state must face up to the fact that it has for decades followed a duplicitous policy towards militancy. Cosmetic measures, such as banning certain outfits but allowing them to operate under other names, were bound to prove insufficient. The ideological underpinnings of militancy in Pakistan, which were endorsed by elements within the state during the ’80s and after, have never been honestly or fully rejected. That mindset has not just become more entrenched, it is fast gaining new subscribers. If Pakistan is to be saved, this mindset must change. That requires formulating a definitive state policy on the factors that pro- vide militancy with its moorings.

Courtesy: DAWN.COM

Civil Society Calls for a Joint Stand Against the Undemocratic Overthrow of the Elected Govt in the Maldives

SINDH – Karachi, Feb 11, 2011: The civil society in Pakistan expressed grave concern over the events in Maldives where an elected government was ousted in a coup following political unrest in the country. The government of the now toppled President Mohamed Nasheed came to power after the 2008 elections ended 30 years of autocratic rule (by Maumoon Abdul Gayoom).

The political turmoil in Maldives and the unlawful overthrow of an elected government in the country remains a matter of grave concern for the South Asian neighbours and the partners of Maldives since the event may have a far ranging impact on the direction and the future of democracy in the region. The coup d’état is a condemnable act and all South Asian states and civil societies must join forces against this undemocratic move by the security forces of Maldives. At least two countries in South Asia – Pakistan and Bangladesh that have faced martial laws and coups in the past know very well how people suffer when democracy is brought down. Not only did the military rule in these two countries compromised political and administrative institutions, it took these countries several decades back in terms of economic and social development.

Continue reading Civil Society Calls for a Joint Stand Against the Undemocratic Overthrow of the Elected Govt in the Maldives

History & Sindh – Black Mirror – By: Dr Mubarak Ali

Past present: Black mirror

History often helps in analysing the present day issues by reflecting on past events. Generally, this approach is adopted in a society where there is dictatorship, censorship and legal restrictions to express discontent in regard to government policies. The method is effective in creating political consciousness by comparing the present with the consequences of bad governance and disillusionment of the past.

After the independence[?] of Pakistan, the army and the bureaucracy emerged as powerful state institutions. In the absence of a constitution, the two institutions were unaccountable to any authority. Bureaucracy followed in the footsteps of the colonial model, treating people with arrogance and contempt. A strong centre allowed it to rule over the provinces unchecked. The provinces, including the former East Pakistan, greatly suffered because of this.

Sindh chose to raise its voice against the oppressive attitude of the bureaucracy and a strong centre. Despite the grand, national narratives which justified the creation of a new country, Sindh responded by presenting its problems and grievances by citing historical suffering of its people.

During the reign of Shahjahan, Yusuf Mirak, a historian, wrote the book Tarikh-i-Mazhar-i-Shahjahani. The idea was to bring to Shahjahan’s notice the corruption and repressive attitude of the Mughal officials in Sindh. As they were far from the centre, their crimes were neither reported to the emperor nor were they held accountable for their misdeeds.

Mirak minutely described their vices and crimes and how the people [Sindhis] were treated inhumanly by them. He hoped that his endeavours might alleviate the suffering of the people when the emperor took action against errant officials. However, Mirak could not present the book to the emperor but his documentation became a part of history.

When the Persian text of the book was published by Sindhi Adabi Board, its introduction was written by Husamuddin Rashdi who pointed out the cruelty, brutality, arrogance and contempt of the Mughal officials for the common man. Accountable to none, they had fearlessly carried on with their misdeeds.

Today, one can find similarities between those Mughal officials and Pakistani [civil & military] bureaucrats of the present day. In the past Sindh endured the repercussions of maladministration and exploitation in pretty much the same way as the common man today suffers in silence. But one can learn from the past and analyse the present to avoid mistakes.

The history of Sindh shows two types of invaders. The first example is of invaders like the Arabs and the Tarkhans who defeated the local rulers, assumed the status of the ruling classes and treated the local population as inferior. The second type was of invaders like Nadir Shah and Ahmad Shah Abdali who returned home after looting and plundering. The rulers of Sindh defended the country but sometimes compromised with the invaders. Those who defended it were vanquished and discredited by history, and their role was not recognised.

G. M. Syed in his tract Sindh jo Surma made attempt to rehabilitate them. According to him, Raja Dahir who defended Sindh against the Arabs was a hero while Muhammad Bin Qasim was an agent of the Umayyad imperialism who attacked Sindh to expand the empire and to exploit Sindh’s resources.

Decades later, in 1947, a large number of immigrants arrived from across the border and settled in Sindh. This was seen by Sindhi nationalists as an attempt to endanger the purity of the Sindhi culture. In 1960, agricultural land was generously allotted to army officers and bureaucrats. Throughout the evolving circumstances in Sindh, the philosophy of Syed’s book is the protection and preservation of the rights of Sindhis with the same spirit with which the heroes of the past sacrificed their lives for the honour of their country [Sindh].

Continue reading History & Sindh – Black Mirror – By: Dr Mubarak Ali

New York Times – Can Egypt Avoid Pakistan’s Fate?

By MICHELE DUNNE and SHUJA NAWAZ

ONE year after the revolution that ousted President Hosni Mubarak, the Egyptian military is closing down civil society organizations and trying to manipulate the constitution-writing process to serve its narrow interests. Meanwhile, in Pakistan, where the military has also held sway for more than half the country’s existence – for much of that time, with America’s blessing – a new civil-military crisis is brewing.

For the United States, the parallels are clear and painful. Egypt and Pakistan are populous Muslim-majority nations in conflict-ridden regions, and both have long been allies and recipients of extensive military and economic aid.

Historically, American aid tapers off in Pakistan whenever civilians come to power. And in Egypt, Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama both resisted pressure from Congress to cut aid to Mr. Mubarak despite his repression of peaceful dissidents.

It is no wonder that both Egyptians and Pakistanis express more anger than appreciation toward the United States. They have seen Washington turn a blind eye to human-rights abuses and antidemocratic practices because of a desire to pursue regional objectives – Israeli security in the case of Egypt, and fighting Al Qaeda in the case of Pakistan.

The question now is whether the United States will, a year after the Egyptian revolution, stand by and allow the Pakistani model of military dominance and a hobbled civilian government to be replicated on the Nile.

Pakistan and Egypt each have powerful intelligence and internal security agencies that have acquired extra-legal powers they will not relinquish easily. Pakistan’s history of fomenting insurgencies in neighboring countries has caused serious problems for the United States. And Egypt’s internal security forces have been accused of involvement in domestic terrorist attacks and sectarian violence. (However, Washington has long seen Egypt’s military as a stabilizing force that keeps the peace with Israel.)

The danger is that in the future, without accountability to elected civilian authorities, the Egyptian military and security services will seek to increase their power by manipulating Islamic extremist organizations in volatile and strategically sensitive areas like the Sinai Peninsula.

Despite the security forces’ constant meddling in politics, Pakistan at least has a Constitution that establishes civilian supremacy over the military. Alarmingly, Egypt’s army is seeking even greater influence than what Pakistan’s top brass now enjoys: an explicit political role, and freedom from civilian oversight enshrined in law.

Continue reading New York Times – Can Egypt Avoid Pakistan’s Fate?

Video in Urdu/ Hindi – Tracing the Roots of Religious Extremism in Pakistan – Dr. Mubarak Ali

Intellectual and historian Dr Mubarak Ali is a prolific and versatile writer who has produced around fifty books on issues ranging from the Age of Reason in Europe to the women’s movement and the history of South Asia.

The objective of this seminar series is to understand the roots and dynamics of religious extremism within the context of Pakistani society, which could be referenced to evolve a strategy for de-radicalization of youth. Scholars will be invited to deliver talks in Urdu (Hindi). The talks will involve a small audience with the key purpose to record and disseminate the lecture widely among the youth.

For further details, visit the related link at IPSS website:
http://peaceandsecularstudies.org/?p=790

Let’s Talk Civil-Military, NOW!

By Marvi Sirmed

Atiqa Odho needs to change her name. Not only her name but also the prefix if she wants to avoid further humiliation that she possibly could not and would not want, just because she is a woman and does not bear the right prefix before her name. Brigadier Zafar Iqbal had both — the right name and the right prefix.

The good brigadier embarked on a PIA flight from Karachi to Lahore on Saturday night, intoxicated with the ‘sherbet’. The captain of the plane handed him over to the Airport Security Force (ASF) after the brigadier publicly harassed one of the female crew members. The ASF, obviously, could not hold him for more than a few minutes when they discovered the full name of the detainee. No wonder the news item merited just a few lines in Sunday newspapers. I am still waiting for the ‘suo motu’ and media-panic that we saw in Atiqa Odho’s case. Pertinent to remind here, Ms Odho was neither drunk nor did she harass anyone on the flight.

This points to two serious maladies of this society: one, a strong gender bias that women of this country have to endure everywhere, including the courts; and two, unjust and unfair partiality that society confers on the military. It is not only about an overly powerful military but also about an extremely weak civil society. It would be naïve to believe that civil society in Pakistan is powerful enough to foil any attempt to usurp power from the civilian entities. This is mainly because the military here never departed from power. Irrespective of who occupied the buildings of the Prime Minister Secretariat and the Presidency, the military always ruled in the country through its incontrovertible influence over political decision-making and social phenomena.

The way things happen in the court, and outside of it, memo scandal is a case in point. In the memo scandal, Husain Haqqani was treated as an accused by the media and society at large because the military thought so. Everything else had to be in sync with what the military wanted or at least, was perceived to be wanting. The same ‘evidence’ (the BBM conversations claimed by Mansoor Ijaz that took place between him and Husain Haqqani) implicated the head of the ISI who was accused in the same BBM conversations to have spoken to the leaders of some Arab states and gotten their consent to sack the present government. But no one from the media, politicians (even the ones who portray themselves as most committed to civilian supremacy) and the judiciary could ever point a finger towards General Pasha, the accused. Husain Haqqani was an easy target because he was not a general. Or even a brigadier.

Later, the chief of army staff and the head of ISI submitted their affidavits in clear departure of the government’s point of view — the same government that both of them are accountable to. The prime minister was openly criticised by everyone for calling this action of the two generals as unconstitutional. So much so that the media wing of the Pakistan Army, the ISPR, attacked the prime minister — their boss — by issuing a strongly worded statement warning the government of grave consequences and serious ramifications. So there were two statements, one by the chief executive of a country castigating his subordinate generals for unconstitutional actions, and the other from the subordinate generals threatening their boss with grave consequences. Guess who had to retract the statement? You got it right, it was the boss. The Islamic Republic is unique in its construction.

What can be more worrying for a people whose representative is humiliated by an agency that should be subordinate to the people. The agency, it is more perturbing, does so with popular consent. The absence of popular outrage amounts to consent if one could decrypt public reactions. We can go on endlessly criticising hungry-for-power generals, selfish politicians, corporate media and an ambitious judiciary, but what remains a fact is Pakistani society’s utter failure — rather refusal — to grow from a Praetorian state to even a half decent egalitarian democracy.

Continue reading Let’s Talk Civil-Military, NOW!

On Bhagat Singh, his vision and Jinnah’s support for his struggle

A few days ago, Irfan Habib, a noted researcher and author of TO MAKE THE DEAF HEAR – Ideology and Programme of Bhagat Singh and His Comradessent his thoughtful piece on the legendary Bhagat Singh.

Incidentally, Bhagat Singh was hanged on Pakistan’s Republic Day – March 23 though nine years prior to that – in Lahore – thereby adding another dimension to the symbolism of March 23 for Pakistanis. Bhagat Singh for his principles, struggle for just causes and valour is a shared hero.

I am quoting some of the passages from Habib’s article below. Citing a Tamil newspaper editorial of 1931, Habib writes:

Continue reading On Bhagat Singh, his vision and Jinnah’s support for his struggle

If profits are high, then the system is working just fine — for the 1%. But for us 99%, the profit lust is itself the heart of the problem

Free-Market Medicine: A Personal Account

by Michael Parenti

When I recently went to Alta Bates hospital for surgery, I discovered that legal procedures take precedence over medical ones. I had to sign intimidating statements about financial counseling, indemnity, patient responsibilities, consent to treatment, use of electronic technologies, and the like. ….

Read more » Common Dreams

Ethnic cleansing of Christians in Pakistan

Christian children have become the victims of recent violence

The shocking protest of a Catholic Member of Parliament in Pakistan: “In Karachi children are being raped and tortured to eliminate the presence of Christians. Dozens of people have been reported as a result of the blasphemy law

By Vatican Insider staff

Rome –

Children raped and tortured, families extorted, abuse and violence taking place at the expense of terrified victims who remain silent: this is the reality of what is happening to the Christian community in some suburban quarters of Karachi, Southern Pakistan’s biggest city and the capital of the Sindh province.

Speaking to Catholic news agency Fides, Michael Shind, a Catholic MP working in Pakistan’s Sindh province, gave a shocking statement condemning the situation for Christians in the Country. Javed, whose statement was also reported by Vatican Radio, warned that for months now, Christians in the areas of EssaNagri, Ayub Goth and Bhittaiabad, have suffered indescribable violence perpetrated by members of political movements, such as the Pashtuns, which are characterised by a strong ethnic and Islamic identity. Christian families are going through living hell but “people are not reporting the abuse for fear of retaliation.”

Just last month, Javed told Fides, “We recorded 15 cases of rape.” In EssaNagri there are real “torture cells” where Christian children are imprisoned and tortured. “Captors ask for ransoms of up to 100.000 rupees and if families cannot pay, the little ones are tortured until they are beyond recognition.” The result of the violence that has been going on over the past six months is that numerous families have decided to leave Karachi. “These acts of violence are aimed at eliminating Christian presence in the area; it constitutes a kind of ethnic cleansing: we are seen as slaves who are unworthy of setting foot on Pakistani soil.”

In another case reported, a so-called “house of tolerance” was opened near a Catholic Church in Ayub Goth where “Christian girls from destitute families are forced into prostitution.” Although the authorities have been made aware of this, they have not taken any action yet. Javed is launching an appeal to ask “for an end to the oppression of our community.”

What is more, the controversial blasphemy law continues to provoke disputes and attract criticism in Pakistan and internationally, while the situation for religious minorities is very serious. They are suffering as a result of the rising extremism of Islamic fundamentalist groups. As reported by Fides, the numbers of people against whom charges have been pressed for allegedly committing blasphemy are shocking. In 2011, the blasphemy law (articles 295b and 295c of the Penal Code) led to at least 161 people being incriminated and 9 killed in extrajudicial executions after they were accused of blasphemy. These accusations “are false in 95% of cases,” says one Muslim lawyer, who wished to remain anonymous for security reasons.

According to a Report by the Asian Human Rights Commission, a human rights watch NGO operative in Asia, “Pakistan failed to guarantee respect for the human rights of its people.” The Commission documented the killings of 18 human rights defenders and 16 journalists in 2011. They had been involved in a process of denouncing evil in society, corruption and Islamic extremism.

Corutesy: Vatican Insider

Pro-democracy protest: Protestors threaten civilian unrest if govt toppled

LAHORE: Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) and the Civil Society Network and Center for Peace protested against the judiciary and army on Thursday, warning the two institutions of civilian unrest if they tried to topple the PPP led coalition government.

Talking to The Express Tribune, Abdullah Malik, advisor to the Punjab governor, said that “The participants sensing the current democratic to be in danger have decided to come out on the roads to show their solidarity with the democracy.”

He added that only people had the right to change the government through their vote in a democracy and not the judge or the generals.

PPP members along with prominent representatives of civil society demonstrated in favour of the current democratic government at the Liberty roundabout.

Participants warned the judiciary and army that if it tried to topple the PPP led coalition government by using the Memogate affair as an excuse, then the civil society will protest on the streets.

Civil Society Network and Center for Peace members, including IA Rehman, Hussain Naqi, Shah Taj Qizilbash, Abdullah Malik along with South Asia Free Media Association’s (SAFMA) Anjum Rashid, Imtiazul Haq, Shoaib Adil and Amina Malik participated in the demonstration.

Other PPP members at the protest included Deputy Parliamentary Leader in the Punjab Assembly, Azma Bukhari and Altaf Qureshi. …

Read more » The Express Tribune

Troublemakers every where!

Hindu group ‘flew Pakistan’s flag to create tension’

LAHORE: Six members of a right-wing Hindu group have reportedly been arrested in India’s southern Karnataka state for raising Pakistan’s national flag on a government building. BBC quotes police as saying that the arrested men belong to the Sri Rama Sena group. The flag was raised in Sindgi, near Bijapur, on January 1, leading to angry protests by Hindu organisations and the stoning of a Muslim prayer hall. Police say Sri Rama Sena was trying to create “communal disharmony” in an area with a sizeable Muslim presence. Sri Rama Sena is a fringe group that claimed responsibility for attacking women outside a pub in the coastal district of Mangalore in 2009, saying that allowing females in pubs was against Indian culture. Inspector General of Police (IGP) Charan Reddy told BBC that the situation in Sindgi was “now peaceful”. “It seems they were out to create communal disharmony,” he said. Hindu organisations had called for strikes in a number of towns around Bijapur to protest against the flag-raising. However, IGP Reddy said police investigations had led them to members of the Sri Rama Sena, a group founded by Pramod Muthalik after it broke away from the Bajrang Dal, an affiliate of the long-standing Hindu nationalist organisation, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS). Muthalik is the leading suspect in the attack on the women in Mangalore. Former chief minister and Janata Dal Secular party leader HD Kumaraswamy said of the flag-raising, “It is such a shame. I blame the RSS and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) for the incident. They want to divide society on religious lines.” daily times monitor

Courtesy: Daily Times

http://dailytimes.com.pk/default.asp?page=201216\story_6-1-2012_pg7_4

Pakistan: bombs, spies and wild parties

By Declan Walsh

Even before you reach Pakistan there’s reason to fret. “Ladies and gentlemen, we will be landing shortly, inshallah,” says the Pakistan International Airlines pilot, 10 minutes outside Islamabad. To the western ear this ancient invocation – literally “God willing” – can be disconcerting: you pray the crew are relying on more than divine providence to set down safety. But these days it’s about right – Pakistan, a country buffeted by mysterious if not entirely holy forces, seems to have surrendered to its fate.

Viewed from the outside, Pakistan looms as the Fukushima of fundamentalism: a volatile, treacherous place filled with frothing Islamists and double-dealing generals, leaking plutonium-grade terrorist trouble. Forget the “world’s most dangerous country” moniker, by now old hat. Look to recent coverage: “Hornet’s Nest” declares this week’s Economist; “The Ally from Hell” proclaims the Atlantic.

Continue reading Pakistan: bombs, spies and wild parties

Dawn: Nadeem F. Paracha on the shadow of 1980s thinking on Pakistan’s military establishment

Thick muck – By Nadeem F. Paracha

The parameters and paranoia of the bygone Cold War just refuses to evaporate from the psyche of Pakistan’s military-establishment. That war might have folded with the folding up of the Soviet Union in 1991, but it seems Pakistan’s military-establishment is still largely stuck (albeit willingly) in the thick muck that this war threw up in this region in the 1980s.

Continue reading Dawn: Nadeem F. Paracha on the shadow of 1980s thinking on Pakistan’s military establishment

Pakistan Defence Pvt Ltd – By Gulmina Bilal Ahmad

The very fact that these banned organisations are still working so openly in our society, without any fear or even a slight concern for the rule of law and state authority, makes evident the will of the authorities to tackle extremism

Generally throughout the entire history of Pakistan, the defence budget has been continuously increasing. Particularly in the last decade the budget allocated to defence expenditures has witnessed enormous growth, from $ 2.5 billion in 1999 to around $ 5 billion in 2011. The reason cited by defence experts is the various external and internal threats, especially evolving after 9/11 and the initiation of the war on terror. The finance for this growing expenditure is supported through the earnings of the citizens of Pakistan. Let me make it clear to everyone that here I am not making a case against the budget allocated to the security of the country, as security is the foremost issue for Pakistan nowadays. My concern is that if the people of Pakistan are contributing for the defence budget and are willing to sacrifice the financial requirements of other sectors for safeguarding the country, then they also have the right to know what policies are being employed by the security apparatus for this purpose.

Pakistan has been outsourcing its defence activities to civilians or non-military groups since the outset. Starting from the war in Kashmir immediately after independence, during the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, the Kashmir movement and finally in the current war on terror where tribal lashkars (militias) are being formed to battle militancy. Numerous platforms have been invented in various eras according to requirements, whether it is the Pak-Afghan Council, Muttahida Jihad Council or the latest talk of the town, the Pakistan Defence Council (PDC). This last mentioned amalgamation of right-wing mainstream political parties and banned militant outfits has received colossal limelight in the aftermath of the NATO attack. The recent rally held in Lahore on December 18 by the PDC was attended by thousands and was under the very symbol synonymous with the sovereignty of the country. The rally was not only attended by mainstream political figures but also the leaders of banned terrorist organisations. Ijazul Haq, Sheikh Rashid Ahmed, General Hamid Gul and Syed Munawar Hasan shared the stage with Hafiz Saeed, head of Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JuD). The reason for the sudden rise of these organisations is very simple. As I mentioned in my previous article, these militant outfits are pouncing on the opportunity to exploit the sentiments of the already enraged citizens for their own vested agenda to regain their foothold. ….

Read more » Daily Times

Memogate: an attempt to thwart democracy, and threatening the representative system is an attack on sovereignty of the people of Pakistan

Civil Society of Pakistan’s stand on So-called Memogate

Civil society terms memogate scandal an attempt to thwart democracy; Says threatening the representative system tantamount to attack on sovereignty of people.

Karachi, Sindh – 17 December 2011: We, the representatives of the Civil Society including non governmental organisations, labour organisations, academia, women’s rights bodies, and media persons express deep concern over the current political situation in the country where a crisis is being manufactured on frivolous grounds, and is being referred as the so-called Memogate. This has the potential of subverting democratically elected Parliament and the Constitution.

It is time all conspirators against democracy and the sovereignty of the people be called to account. Sovereignty belongs to the people who have agreed to exercise it through their representatives in a federal, parliamentary, and a democratic system. Any attempt at arbitrarily altering this arrangement is tantamount to an attack on the sovereignty of the people. Various institutions of the state are supposed to function within their defined constitutional parameters and complement each other but they seem to be working at cross-purposes, to the determent of public interest.

We emphasise that the role of political parties and political leaders is to represent their constituents’ interests and arrive at negotiated agreements to differences in agreed political forums.

The role of state’s security organizations is to serve the people through stipulated constitutional arrangements, under the command of the executive, and not to define what is or is not in the national interest.

The role of the judiciary is to protect the rights of the citizens from arbitrary abuse of executive power, and not to itself become a source of arbitrary executive power.

The role of the mass media is to help citizens hold powerful interests groups within and outside the state to promote their legitimate interests and hold violators of rights accountable, and not to itself act as an unaccountable interest group.

In our opinion, parliament is the appropriate forum to discuss and investigate this issue and come up with findings.

We believe that any attack on the sovereignty of the people will be unjust. It will necessarily lead to conflict and must be resisted.

We appeal to the people of Pakistan to stand united and firm in support of democracy and to resist all attempts aimed at its subversion. The people of Pakistan have made great many sacrifices for the cause of democracy and they should not let any vested interests trample their right to have a democratic and an elected representative system run the country.

Continue reading Memogate: an attempt to thwart democracy, and threatening the representative system is an attack on sovereignty of the people of Pakistan

Dirty talk

By Saroop Ijaz

Excerpt;

…. The terrorists are fanatics who wish to destroy society and life as we have known it. The cliché “one man’s freedom fighter is another man’s terrorist” is overrated and in any event they are nobody’s freedom fighter. If all this sounds as dreary sentimental nonsense and hollow distant bravado to you, remember it is in our self-interest to fight and defeat them. Any capitulation or one-sided peace deal with them is by its nature doomed to fail and once it does, they will come back with a vengeance as they did after Swat. The precedent of negotiating and ceding to the edicts of people threatening to kill is one which is susceptible to permeate and will be applicable to your local gangster before you know it.

Read more » The Express Tribune, December 18th, 2011.

International Sindhi Women Organisation (ISWO)- Endeavour to Empower Sindhi Women

Press Release: London, 14TH Dec 2011 – A first meeting of International Sindhi Women Organisation (ISWO) was organised in London on 11th Dec 2011. ISWO has been recently setup in UK and aiming to be set up in other places such as USA, Canada, Australia and Sindh in forthcoming years. ISWO endeavours to empower Sindhi women around the world through capacity building and leadership. ISWO is committed to promoting Sindhi women’s human, civil and political rights at local, national and international platforms. ISWO is also dedicated to advance Sindhi women’s role in policy and decision making processes in all spheres of society including:

Continue reading International Sindhi Women Organisation (ISWO)- Endeavour to Empower Sindhi Women

What American Think-Tank thinkers think about how Pakistan will evolve in future? Part -1

By Khalid Hashmani

As the bitterness continues to rise in the Pakistan-USA relationship so does the interest of American Think-Tankers in the future of Pakistan. Last Monday (December 5, 2011), the Brookings Institution launched a new book about Pakistan titled “The Future of Pakistan”. In this book, 17 experts from Pakistan, India, Europe, and the USA looked at the various scenarios in the context of how Pakistan is likely to evolve and develop in the near future. A well-known scholar and US Policy Advisor Stephen Cohen headed this project. The launch event consisted of two panels who discussed different aspects of the project and some of the conclusions.

Continue reading What American Think-Tank thinkers think about how Pakistan will evolve in future? Part -1

In Israel, women’s rights come under siege

By Ruth Marcus

Women are forced to board public buses from the back and stay there. Billboards with images of women are defaced. Public streets are cordoned off during religious holidays so that women cannot enter.

Continue reading In Israel, women’s rights come under siege

Countering Extremism in Pakistan

Countering Extremism in Pakistan: Need of Political Approach

By Jamil Junejo

ESCALATING sectarian and religious violence has made a disquieting situation for religious minorities in particular and other vulnerable sections of society in general in the country. In just less than a year, a number of such cases from murders of Punjab Governor Salman Taseer and Federal Minister for Minorities Shahbaz Bhatti and mishandling of a 10-year-old Christian girl for her alleged misspelling of a word, the Sept 19 massacre of 26 Hazara Shia in Mastung to expulsion of Ahmedi students from a university in Punjab and scores of other such incidents have put the social, religious and sectarian harmony at peril.

Continue reading Countering Extremism in Pakistan

The United States of Prisons

21st-Century Slaves: How Corporations Exploit Prison Labor

In the eyes of the corporation, inmate labor is a brilliant strategy in the eternal quest to maximize profit.

By Rania Khalek

There is one group of American workers so disenfranchised that corporations are able to get away with paying them wages that rival those of third-world sweatshops. These laborers have been legally stripped of their political, economic and social rights and ultimately relegated to second-class citizens. They are banned from unionizing, violently silenced from speaking out and forced to work for little to no wages. This marginalization renders them practically invisible, as they are kept hidden from society with no available recourse to improve their circumstances or change their plight.

They are the 2.3 million American prisoners locked behind bars where we cannot see or hear them. And they are modern-day slaves of the 21st century.

Incarceration Nation

It’s no secret that America imprisons more of its citizens than any other nation in history. With just 5 percent of the world’s population, the US currently holds 25 percent of the world’s prisoners. “In 2008, over 2.3 million Americans were in prison or jail, with one of every 48 working-age men behind bars,” according to a study by the Center for Economic and Policy Research(CEPR). That doesn’t include the tens of thousands of detained undocumented immigrants facing deportation, prisoners awaiting sentencing, or juveniles caught up in the school-to-prison pipeline. Perhaps it’s reassuring to some that the US still holds the number one title in at least one arena, but needless to say the hyper-incarceration plaguing America has had a damaging effect on society at large.

The CEPR study observes that US prison rates are not just excessive in comparison to the rest of the world, they are also “substantially higher than our own longstanding history.” The study finds that incarceration rates between 1880 and 1970 ranged from about “100 to 200 prisoners per 100,000 people.” After 1980, the inmate population “began to grow much more rapidly than the overall population and the rate climbed from “about 220 in 1980 to 458 in 1990, 683 in 2000, and 753 in 2008.”

The costs of this incarceration industry are far from evenly distributed, with the impact of excessive incarceration falling predominantly on African-American communities. Although black people make up just 13 percent of the overall population, they account for 40 percent of US prisoners. According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS), black males are incarcerated at a rate “more than 6.5 times that of white males and 2.5 that of Hispanic males and “black females are incarcerated at approximately three times the rate of white females and twice that of Hispanic females.”

Michelle Alexander points out in her book The New Jim Crow that more black men “are in prison or jail, on probation or on parole than were enslaved in 1850.” Higher rates of black drug arrests do not reflect higher rates of black drug offenses. In fact, whites and blacks engage in drug offenses, possession and sales at roughly comparable rates. ….

Read more » AlterNet

Zero Tolerance for Religious Extremism in Sindh – Hundreds March against Murders of Hindus

Hyderabad: Hundreds of protesters marched in Hyderabad city against the murder of three Hindus in Shikarpur on the call of Joint Action Committee for Peace and Justice. The protest march began from the Besant Hall, a 20th century Theosophical Society icon of Sindh under the slogan of “Fill the Besant Hall against Religious Intolerance.”

The marchers that walked on in various roads of the down town for a few hours culminated into congregations in front of Hyderabad Press Club. The prominent of which were Punhal Sariyo (Sindh Harri Porhiyat Council), Zulfiqar Shah (Institute for Social Movements), Rasool Bux Palejo (Awami Tehreek), Amar Sindhu (Women Action Forum), Mustafa Baloch (Strengthening Participatory Organization), Dr. Ashothama (Human Rights Commission of Pakistan), Jabar Bhatti (Indus Institute for Research and Education), Mahesh Kumar (We Journalist, Pakistan), Jaffer Memon (Hyderabad Press Club), Iqbal Mallah, Shehnaz Shidi (South Asia Partnerships Pakistan), Akash Mallah (Jeay Sindh Qaumi Mahaz) Noor Nabi Rahoojo and Vishno Mal(Awami Jamhoori Party), Jan Mohammad Junejo (Sindh Tarraqi Pasand Party), Nawaz Khan Zaunr (Jeay Sindh Mahaz), Seher Rizvi (Sindh United Party), Hafeez Kumbhar, Noor Mohammad Bajeer (Civil Society Support Program), Parveen Magsi (Pakistan Fisherfolk Forum), Kashif Bajeer (SPARC), Taj marri (Awami Party), Zahid Messo (Bhandar Sangat), Ikhtyar Tunio (SDPD Nawabsha), Rahmatullah Truk (VISWA – Matyari), Advocate Sajjad Chandio, Advocate Inderjit Luhano, Abass Khoso (IRADO) and others.

A declaration was read out and was unanimously carried by the participants. The resolution is as under:

Continue reading Zero Tolerance for Religious Extremism in Sindh – Hundreds March against Murders of Hindus

The brutal murder of three Sindhi doctors of the Sindhi-Hindu community is a crime against the very fabric of the Sindhi Society which has been the symbol of religious tolerance in the entire sub-continent.

The World Sindhi Institute (WSI) Condemns the Murder of the members of Sindhi Hindu Community

PRESS RELEASE (November 11, 2011)- Board members of the World Sindhi Institute in a joint statement strongly condemn the brutal murder of the three Sindhi doctors of Sindhi Hindu community in Chak town of Shikarpur, calling it a crime against the very fabric of the Sindhi Society which has been the symbol of religious tolerance in the entire sub-continent.

The members showed their deep concern over the growing intolerance in Pakistan where both legal system and social environment are increasingly becoming hostile to the minorities, leaving them helpless and vulnerable.

Echoing the sentiments of civil society in Pakistan, the WSI demanded a speedy justice to the families of victims and appealed to both federal and provincial government to play their due role in furthering the cause of peace, religious tolerance, and Human Rights in Pakistan. They further demanded the complete abolition of Blasphemy-law, which has become a tool in the hands of those who want to radicalize the society and silence all voices of reason.

WSI appeals to all political parties, representatives of civil society, legal community, networks of journalist, and enlighten individuals in Pakistan to join hands to defeat this fresh wave of violence against minorities and run a sustained campaign for the protection of human rights in Sindh and the rest of Pakistan.

World Sindhi Congress Condemns and Mourns the Brutal Murder of Sindhi Hindu Doctors

London (Press release) – World Sindhi Congress (WSC) alongside the entire Sindhi nation is deeply shocked, saddened and mourns the barbaric and inhuman murder of three young Sindhi Hindu doctors in the town of Chakk, district Shikarpuron 7th November. Dr Ashok, Dr Naresh and Dr Ajeet were gunned down and Dr Satia Paul was critically wounded when people of Bhaya tribe opened fire on them while they were working in their clinic in their native town Chakk.

The initial reports suggest that these doctors along with other Sindhi communities were taking a stand against the harassment and potential abduction and forcible conversion of Sindhi Hindu girls in Chakk. The menace of abduction, rape and forcible conversion of religious minority community girls, particularly from poor Sindhi Hindu communities in Sindh have increased exponentially in last couple of years in the atmosphere of rising religious extremism and intolerance. Scores of such events remain completely unreported because of fear of persecution by the powerful perpetrators and religious zealots. The state apparatus and those responsible for providing the security are widely seen as companion culprits in these crimes.

WSC believes that it is a systematic policy of the establishment since its inception to create an atmosphere of fear, persecution and insecurity to force Sindhi Hindus to migrate. This is in part a strategy to convert Sindhis in minority and to devoid Sindh of professional and middle class in order to suffocate its societal progress. Resulting from the fears and insecurities the Sindhi Hindus have been continuously migrating from their motherland the process has only significantly sped up in recent years.

WSC views this gruesome event as a conspiracy to send a deep and wide-ranging wave of terror among already frightened Sindhi Hindus to migrate. The perpetrators include the shameless sardar of Bhaya tribe, local police, civil administration and agencies. The criminals have attacked the secular fabric of Sindhi society, but they will fail as the entire Sindhi nation mourns the death of these three martyrs. WSC strongly demands that the culprits particularly those behind the atrocities should be brought to justice.

WSC at this saddest moment in their lives, send its heartfelt condolences to the families and friends of those who have been taken away by the evil forces of darkness. We know that nothing can lessen the pain of this loss, but let we reiterate that WSC and the entire Sindhi nation share their pain, sadness and grief, not only them but the entire secular Sindhi nation is grieving.

WSC is in contact with the UN Human Rights Council and other international human rights organisations requesting them to press upon the Pakistani government in order to investigate and stop systematically on going gross violations of human rights of religious minorities.

Brutal Killing of Sindhi Hindu doctors: Press release PMA Sindh

Pakistan Medical Association, (Sindh Chapter)

Press Release (8th Nov 2011) – Pakistan Medical Association, Sindh Chapter , condemns the Murder of Sindhi Doctors, in Shikarpur. The soil has given birth to Great Sindhi Sufi Poets Sami and Shiekh Ayaz. People of all sects and Religions have been living in Sindh peacefully, for Centuries. This Killing is a conspiracy of dividing Sindhis into Sects and Groups, and forcing Sindhi Hindus to leave their Motherland Sindh. The Culprits were so Influential, that some of them were only arrested after the President Asif Ali Zardari’s interference. The Sindhi Hindu doctors should not think that they are left alone. They are supported by People,Intellectuals, writers , journalists, and above all their Sindhi Muslim Brothers and Sisters.

We demand from the Government to give Exemplary Punishment to the Culprits, and Decision to do so should not be affected by any Political pressures . That is the only way Govt can give back the confidence to the minorities,which are the Vital part of our Society .

Dr Samrina Hashmi, President PMA Sindh

MURDERS OF THREE SINDHI HINDU DOCTORS: CRIME AGAINST HUMANITY

By Javed Qazi

Hardly a day of the great murder of the history of Sindh passed by, that 72 years back, Sindhi Sufi mystic singer, Bhaghat Kanwar Ram, was killed near Shikarpur, that we always remember him on his anniversary day, 1st Nov. We have got a blow due to another shock that three Hindu doctors have been killed by the Bhayo Tribe in Shikarpur. Prima Facie it is due to the fact that recently the persons of this tribe had kidnapped a Sindhi Hindu girl and wanted to convert her religion to escape from the crime of kidnapping. The Sindhi Hindu community, who was in majority in the area prior partition of India, is still living by about 50000 houses, in Shikarpur. They couldn’t let this happen and they got the girl back from the Bhayo tribe. In the tribal context it was shameful for Bhayos that the most weak community, forced Bhayos and got the girl back. In a ray of revenge on very Eid day, just to send a loud and clear message to the Sindhi Hindu community, three Hindu doctors in Shikarpur were killed while they were performing their routine professional work in their respective clinics.

This is same Shikarpur where the great leader of Sindh, Shaheed Allah Bux Soomro was murdered on same grounds, almost 68 years back. Shikarpur was Hub of trade and commerce, which even Karl Marx has acknowledged on his notes on India as colony of British Empire. Prior partition it was either Karachi or Shikarpur which had colleges and best education institutions and hospitals that even Hyderabad and Sukkur was far behind it. Shaheed Allah Bakhsh Soomro was the first premier of Sindh, who was against the formation of Pakistan, was from Shikarpur city. This was due to the fact that communal groups of Manzil Masjid Gah were spread. The symbol of religious harmony, Bhaghat Kanwar the great mystic singer was murdered at that time. Allah Bux soomro another symbol of religious harmony and secularism was murdered at that time.

Continue reading MURDERS OF THREE SINDHI HINDU DOCTORS: CRIME AGAINST HUMANITY

China’s ‘Cake Theory’

‘Cake Theory’ Has Chinese Eating Up Political Debate

by Louisa Lim

What goes on inside China’s leadership is usually played out behind the closed oxblood doors of the compound where the top leaders live. This year, though, a political debate has sprung out in the open — and it has leaders and constituents considering how to move forward politically.

This ideological debate comes as China gears up for a once-in-a-decade political transition. The country’s future top leaders seem almost certain, with Xi Jinping in line for president and Li Keqiang on track for premier. Horse-trading is under way for other leadership positions, however, sparking a debate that could define China’s future.

The Chongqing Model: Equal Slices

In recent months, the streets of the city of Chongqing have been ringing with song. These are not spontaneous outbreaks; they’re government-mandated sessions, requiring employees to “sing the red,” patriotic songs praising China.

This is a leftist vision of China’s future, with powerful echoes of its Maoist past.

It’s the brainchild of Bo Xilai, Chongqing’s party secretary and the son of a revolutionary elder, Bo Yibo, one of the “eight immortals” of Communist China. Bo Xilai has taken a three-pronged approach by “smashing the black,” or attacking corruption and organized crime, with what some say is a disregard for the rule of law. His approach also includes putting in place measures to help those left behind by China’s economic boom.

“The government intervenes to correct the shortcomings of the market economy,” says Yang Fan, a conservative-leaning scholar at China University of Political Science and Law and co-author of a book about the Chongqing model.

“There are projects to improve people’s livelihood by letting migrant workers come to the city, by building them cheap rental places and allowing them to sell their land to come to the city,” he says.

This is where it comes to what’s been dubbed “cake theory.” If the cake is China’s economy, the Chongqing model concentrates on dividing the cake more equally.

The Market-Driven Guangdong Model

The competing vision, based in the province of Guangdong, focuses on making the cake bigger first, not dividing it. In economic terms, the Guangdong model is a more market-driven approach, pushing forward development ahead of addressing inequality.

“The Guangdong model aims to solve the concerns of the middle class,” says Qiu Feng, a liberal academic from the Unirule Institute of Economics. “It’s about building society and rule of law. It wants to give the middle class institutionalized channels to take part in the political process. Its basic thought is co-opting the middle class.”

He says the “Happy Guangdong” approach is aimed not at those left behind, but at those who have profited from the economic boom.

Guangdong’s party secretary, Wang Yang, has criticized the Chongqing model, saying people need to study and review Communist Party history, “rather than just singing of its brilliance.” In political terms, he’s throwing down the gauntlet at his rival, Bo Xilai.

Finding A Way Forward

Both these politicians are fighting for a place — and influence — inside the holiest of holies: the Politburo Standing Committee. This comes against a background of criticism of the current leadership from a surprising quarter.

“The bureaucracy is corrupt. Power has been marketized. Governance has been industrialized,” says Zhang Musheng, a consummate insider. “Local governments are becoming riddled with gangsters.”

Zhang’s father was secretary to China’s Premier Zhou Enlai. This makes him what’s known as a “princeling.” He’s attended a number of meetings held by children of former leaders, where criticism of the current leadership has been aired.

Despite their grievances, they came to one conclusion.

“China’s such a complicated society. Right now, it can’t leave the Communist Party. So the Communist Party must reform and improve,” Zhang says. “Although it’s criticized, right now there is no social force which can replace the Communist Party.”

Those are the key questions: how to reform or even if the Communist Party can reach consensus over which model it follows. ….

Read more » NPR