Archive for December, 2011

Pakistan murder testimony doctor Baqir Shah shot dead

As Reported By The BBC

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A doctor who testified that Pakistani security forces had killed a group of unarmed foreigners has himself been shot dead.

Dr Baqir Shah was gunned down in the city of Quetta.

He had contradicted police reports earlier this year which suggested the five victims had been suicide bombers.

Dr Shah was in his car when gunmen pulled up alongside him and sprayed the vehicle with bullets.

He died soon afterwards in hospital.
It was Dr Shah who, back in May, carried out the autopsies in a controversial case.

Two men and three women of Russian and Tajik origin died at a checkpoint just outside Quetta, in the province of Balochistan.

One of the women had been heavily pregnant, but police insisted they had all been militants and that they had been carrying explosives.

Police said that they died as they detonated a bomb.

They said at the time of the attack they had hand grenades and bombs strapped to their bodies.

The BBC’s Aleem Maqbool in Islamabad says that Dr Shah’s autopsy corroborated what many witnesses said – that they had in fact died after being shot many times at a distance by the security forces. Witnesses also said they had been unarmed.

Hours after he filed his testimony, Dr Shah was dragged out of a restaurant and beaten by a group of unidentified men. He later complained that while he was supposed to receive protection, he never got it.

Imran Khan’s rally defies Pak’s ruling party

As Reported by IBN Live

Pakistan’s former cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan brought at least 100,000 people into the streets of Karachi on Sunday in a massive rally that increases pressure on the civilian government and cements his standing as a political force.

Khan, 59, is riding a wave of dissatisfaction with the government of President Asif Ali Zardari, who co-chairs the ruling Pakistan People’s Party, and is facing challenges from the military, the Supreme Court and political opponents after a year of cascading crises.

Police estimated the rally had been attended by between 100,000 and 150,000 people. Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaaf, or Pakistan Movement for Justice, estimated the crowd at more than 500,000.

Even at the lower estimate, it is among the largest political rallies held in Karachi in recent years.

Khan, in a rousing speech punctuated with patriotic musical refrains, pledged, if elected, to curb Pakistan’s endemic corruption.

“We need a government that changes the system and ends corruption, so we need the PTI to come to power,” Khan told the crowd. “The first thing we need to do is end corruption.”

“I promise we will end big corruption in 90 days,” he added.

Khan’s massive rally comes at a time of crisis in Pakistani politics. Tensions are rising between Pakistan’s civilian leaders and its generals over a memo that accused the Army of plotting a coup after the US raid that killed Osama bin Laden in May.

There are signs that Pakistan’s powerful Army is fed up with Zardari and wants the Supreme Court or early elections to force him from office. The Army chief dismissed any rumours of a coup, however, as “speculation”.

“It’s time for a change and only PTI and Imran Khan can bring about that change,” said Sabina Saifi, 28, a school teacher. She was wearing a PTI cap and had come with her two brothers.

Several recent polls have shown Khan is Pakistan’s most popular politician. He is especially favoured in urban areas.

“He is riding a wave of popular politics right now,” said Mutahir Ahmed, a professor of International Relations at the University of Karachi. “There is a lot of frustration among ordinary people, as well as political workers right now, which he is cashing on.”

On October 30, Khan staged a similar rally in Lahore that observers said pulled between 100,000 and 200,000 people, then one of the largest political rallies ever in Pakistan.

“He has… managed to bring people out on the roads, and this is a big achievement, especially in Karachi, where three months back people were not ready to come out of their houses because of rampant violence and killings,” Ahmed said.

But popularity doesn’t always translate into political power. The majority of Pakistan’s voters are rural, where feudal relationships determine generations of political loyalty.

Khan, for all the enthusiasm shown for him among young people and the urban middle class, has yet to demonstrate the party machinery that the PPP and the Pakistan Muslim League-N faction have had decades to perfect.

In the last 15 years, the PTI has only briefly held one seat in Parliament – Khan’s. Most analysts say Khan could score an upset of 20 to 30 seats in Parliament, but that’s not enough to give him the premiership. It is enough to make him a major political player, however – or even a kingmaker.

“It’s too premature to get into speculation of whether he becomes prime minister or not but the chances of his party getting into Parliament look very good,” said security analyst Imtiaz Gul.

He also has a touchy relationship with the United States, Pakistan’s ally and aid donor.

He says that if elected prime minister, he would end cooperation in the fight against militants based in tribal areas, end the covert campaign of bombings by US drones and refuse all US aid, which totals some $20 billion since 2001.

Relations with the United States have reached a crisis point because of a November 26 cross-border incident in which NATO aircraft killed 24 Pakistani troops. Pakistan has since shut down NATO supply routes into Afghanistan and demanded an apology.

NATO’s full report on the incident, which Pakistan has already rejected based on media leaks, is expected to be released on Monday. It reportedly faults both sides in the incident.

Khan’s anti-American stance is often thought to reflect the views of the security establishment, which includes the powerful Army and its Directorate of Inter-Services Intelligence.

The US ambassador to Pakistan, Cameron Munter, however, said in November that he didn’t see Khan as anti-American.

“Imran Khan is, as far as he tells me, for the same kind of values that we think are important,” Munter said on a popular talk show on November 22. “He says he’s for democracy, he’s for governance that’s clean, he’s for economic growth. We’re all for those things.”

Pakistan Military Denies Conspiracy to Seize Power

By Salman Masood for The New York Times

The military command in Pakistan issued an unusual refutation on Friday of rumors that it was planning to take power, publicizing a pledge by the top general that it is committed to democracy a day after the prime minister warned of conspiracies to subvert the civilian government.

But the pledge, by Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, did little to assuage anxieties about a possible coup in a country with a history of military interventions. The anxieties were reinforced on Thursday by an extraordinary outburst about just such a possibility from the normally soft-spoken prime minister, Yusuf Raza Gilani, who also said the military generals in Pakistan behaved as though they were “a state within a state” and that they should be accountable to Parliament.

“The army will continue to support democratic process in the country,” General Kayani was quoted as saying in a statement issued by the military command. It said General Kayani had made that pledge on Thursday as he visited troops stationed in the northwestern regions of Mohmand and Kurram.

General Kayani “dispelled the speculations of any military takeover and said that these are misleading and are being used as a bogey to divert the focus from the real issues,” according to the statement by the military.

However, General Kayani stressed that “there can be no compromise on national security,” alluding to the differences with the civilian government over investigations into a contentious memo that suggested the civilian government had sought help from the United States in trying to constrain the Pakistani military.

The public back-and-forth came as the Pakistan military’s relations with the United States, already aggravated by the memo issue, have plunged to new lows over a deadly American-led airstrike on the Afghanistan-Pakistan border last month that killed 26 Pakistani soldiers. Pakistan’s military has rejected results of a Pentagon inquiry that said both sides were at fault but that Pakistani forces opened fire first. In a new sign of the Pakistani military’s anger, a senior official said Friday it had canceled a planned visit by the head of the United States Central Command, Gen. James Mattis, to brief his counterparts on the Pentagon inquiry.

The tensions over the memo began after Mansoor Ijaz, an American businessman of Pakistani origin, wrote an op-ed article for The Financial Times in October saying that a Pakistani diplomat had asked him to deliver a memo to Adm. Mike Mullen, who was chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff at the time, after American commandos killed Osama bin Laden in a May raid on a Pakistan safe house. That raid, which deeply embarrassed Pakistan, raised questions about whether Bin Laden, the most-wanted fugitive Al Qaeda plotter of the Sept. 11 attacks, had been protected by elements of Pakistan’s military and intelligence service. Mr. Ijaz described the memo as saying that the civilian government sought help in preventing a possible coup, offering in exchange to dismantle part of the intelligence service.

Since then, the ruling Pakistan Peoples Party and the powerful military have been arguing over the veracity of the memo , which is seen as authentic by the military and as a conspiracy by the civilian government.

Husain Haqqani, the former ambassador to the United States, was forced to resign in November after allegations that he had orchestrated the memo, a charge he denies. Mr. Haqqani returned to the country and is barred from traveling abroad, a step seen as a violation of his fundamental rights, according to his lawyer.

The top generals have urged the country’s Supreme Court to investigate the origins of the memo. Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry said Friday that the court is pursuing those investigations but that it would not validate any army coup.

The statements by both Mr. Gilani and General Kayani signified that deep mistrust and tensions exist between the two sides.

“Things don’t look stable at all,” said Enver Baig, a former senator, who predicted that the “civil-military relations will not settle down peacefully.”

Pakistan Most-Deadly Nation for Journalists

As Reported by The Wall Street Journal

Seven journalists died in Pakistan during the year in direct relation to their work, out of a total of 43 journalist killed worldwide in the year, the report said.

There were no deaths in India, after one killing in 2010. In 2008, four Indian journalists died either while covering the conflict in Kashmir or through target killings due to their investigations of criminal activities.

In combat zones such as Libya, where five journalists died in 2011 — the joint second-highest number with Iraq – the killings tend to be random, with reporters caught in the broader fighting. But Pakistan continues to suffer largely from target killings.

These deaths occur when a reporter has unearthed details about militancy or a business deal and is targeted to stop this information getting out. Five of the seven deaths in Pakistan were targeted killings and all remain unsolved, the CPJ said.

In the past five years, 29 journalists have died carrying out their work in Pakistan. Five journalists died in India during the same period.

The best-known case in Pakistan this year involved Saleem Shahzad, a reporter for Asia Times Online, who died in May after writing a report which alleged al Qaeda had infiltrated Pakistan’s navy.

Human Rights Watch, the New York-based advocacy group, said Mr. Shahzad before his death had complained of receiving threats from Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate military spy agency. ISI officials deny the threats and any involvement in his killing. The case is unsolved.

“Long-term CPJ research shows Pakistan to be among the worst countries in the world in bringing the killers of journalists to justice,” the report said.

Five journalists also died in Iraq from both insurgent attacks and targeted killings, illustrating an entrenched level of violence there as the last U.S. forces pulled out the country at the weekend.

Three journalists died in Mexico, including the first case of a reporter killed for work on social media, the report said. Many of the dead had taken on Mexico’s powerful drug traffickers in their reports.

The Arab Spring revolutions across the Middle East and North Africa led to the first cases of journalist deaths in Syria and Tunisia since the CPJ began recording fatalities in 1992, the report said. The committee independently confirms that journalists died while covering their beats.

America’s Dark Age of Islamophobia

By Tony Norman for Philly.com

Muslims really thought they were doing the world a favor by pulling Europe and its mostly illiterate Christians out of the Dark Ages. But just because they foisted algebra, trigonometry, optics, astronomical charts, the classics, Arabic numerals, advanced surgical techniques, perspective in art, the lute, and artichokes on the world – while the Christian kings of Europe were smothering free inquiry – we’re not about to give them any credit a thousand years later.

Particularly in America, we remain ignorant of Islamic contributions to Western life. We suffer from a profound cultural amnesia when it comes to remembering our millennia-long debt to our Muslim brethren. But as the song goes, what has Averroes done for us lately?

Americans are so used to thinking of Muslims as an exotic “other” that many fail to realize they’re an inextricable part of who we are and have been since the nation’s earliest days. Unfortunately, too many non-Muslims see them as Manchurian candidates crouching in the shadows with explosive vests, waiting for the signal to wage terror on America’s malls. If you ask the average American citizen about Islam’s role as an incubator of Western ideas, expect stares of incomprehension.

If this ignorance were restricted to the margins of society, it wouldn’t be half as embarrassing. But Islamophobia, like its twin brother, anti-Semitism, has a way of injecting itself into the cultural discourse. Contempt for Muslims remains an acceptable prejudice for millions who continue to equate the religion with terrorism.

Recently, TLC began running an innocuous reality show called All-American Muslim. It documents the lives of five Muslim families in a Detroit suburb that boasts the highest concentration of Arabs and Muslims in America. The 99 percent of Americans who don’t share their faith are invited to explore the possibility that these very misunderstood Americans don’t have horns or drink the blood of infant Christians and Jews.

It didn’t take long for a conservative group calling itself the Florida Family Association to complain that the TLC series is “propaganda that riskily [sic] hides the Islamic agenda’s clear and present danger to American liberties and traditional values.”

Of course, there’s nothing on the show to indicate a subversive religious agenda, other than its blatant attempt to portray Muslims as humans.

Lowe’s Home Improvement couldn’t be bothered with such nuances. It pulled its ads from the show and issued the wimpiest justification of corporate cowardice ever: “Individuals and groups have strong political and societal views on this topic, and this program became a lightning rod for many of those views.”

Ted Lieu, a state senator in California, called Lowe’s capitulation to intolerance “un-American” and is considering calling for a boycott of the retailer. Lowe’s isn’t worried about a boycott from America’s Muslims, who number fewer than two million, but a sympathy boycott by fair-minded Americans of all faiths and political persuasions would be a nightmare for the company.

Crawling out of this depressing sequel to the Dark Ages won’t be easy.

Pakistan PM Seeks to Dispel Rumors of Army Rift

By Chris Brummitt for Boston.com

Pakistan’s prime minister dismissed speculation of a rift between the government and the military over a secret memo sent to Washington seeking its help in averting a supposed military coup, saying the country was committed to democracy.

Political tensions have soared in recent days as the Supreme Court begins a hearing into the circumstance surrounding the memo. The absence of President Asif Ali Zardari, recovering from a likely “mini stroke” in his Dubai home with no word on his return, has only added to rumors that the current civilian administration is in possible fatal trouble.

Zardari’s plentiful critics are hoping the scandal will lead to his ouster, and delighted in portraying his trip to Dubai on Dec. 6 as a flight from the fallout from the memo. The president’s aides have denied that, and most independent analysts believe the veteran politician, who has outlasted numerous predictions of his demise since taking office in 2008, will ride it out.

Late Friday, Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani met with army chief Gen. Ashfaq Pervez Kayani to discuss the memo.

Gilani said in a statement he rejected the nation of a “standoff” between the army and the government.

“The government of Pakistan and its institutions remain committed to their constitutional roles and obligations to a democratic and prosperous future for Pakistan,” he said.

Tensions between the army and the government could complicate American attempts to rebuild ties with a country seen by many U.S. officials as key to shepherding peace in Afghanistan. A raid by the U.S.-led coalition in Afghanistan in late November killed 24 Pakistani soldiers, hammering relations already strained by American suspicions that Islamabad is playing both sides in the Afghan war and virulent anti-U.S. sentiments inside Pakistan.

Pakistan has a long history of army coups or behind the scenes meddling by the generals to engineer pliant regimes, often with the support of the judiciary. That has left the country’s 180 million people specially receptive to the idea that the collapse of the government is just around the corner.

SHINE’s Impact on Armadeus Davidson

Volunteers Extraordinaire Todd Shea of SHINE Humanity and Armadeus Davidson of Empact Northwest of WA doing humanitarian work in Pakistan.

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