‘Yes, I’m a blasphemer. Get over it.’ by Maikel Nabil Sanad

We support our right to freedom of expression and thought, if it is called ‘blasphemy’, so be it. 

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On October 7, 2012, the office of the Egyptian General Prosecutor decided to start an official investigation accusing me of “blasphemy” — or, as they call it, “insulting Islam.” My crime was expressing my atheist beliefs on my Twitter account. The Egyptian authorities also arrested my friend Alber Saber on similar charges. He remains in jail to this day.

Egypt has signed many international treaties that ensure freedom of expression, but the Egyptian penal code still has approximately 20 laws that make certain opinions a crime.

The specified offenses include criticizing the president, the parliament, the military, or the judiciary. Criticizing a foreign president, such as Mahmoud Ahmadinejad or Bashar Al-Assad, is also a crime, punishable with a three-year term in prison.

When I learned of the charges against me and Saber, I remembered my friend Kareem Amer, a famous Egyptian blogger who was sentenced to four years in prison in 2007 for insulting both Islam and then-President Mubarak. Kareem suffered a great deal in prison. He was tortured several times, and spent a long time in solitary confinement under horrible conditions.

The latest threat of legal action against me has also stirred up memories of my previous imprisonment last year, when I was imprisoned in Egypt for 10 months for the crime of “insulting the institution of the military.” Since then, two corrupt police officers, Sayyed Abdel-Kareem and Mohammed Abdel-Rahman, have declared that they want to file an additional case against me. They’re both accusing me of insulting Islam during my imprisonment in El-Marg Prison. They’ve tried to use this new case as a form of blackmail to keep me from speaking about the torture I faced while I was there. (Their accusation is entirely separate from the case brought against me by the prosecutor, by the way.)

Alber is not the only opinion prisoner in Egypt accused of criticizing Islam. There are at least six Christians (three of them under the age of 18), four atheists, and one Shiite who now face the same charges, and it is no surprise that not one of them is a Sunni Muslim. It’s a new Inquisition happening in Egypt in the twenty-first century while the whole world remains silent.

It started last year when Ayman Youseef Mansour, a 22-year-old Christian blogger, was sentenced on October 22, 2011 to three years in prison because he criticized Islam on his Facebook page. Egyptian courts later refused his appeal, denying him his right to reconsider the severity of the sentence.

Ayman’s case was followed in January 2012 by the case of Gamal Abdou Masoud, 17, a Christian from Asyut in Upper Egypt. Gamal was tagged on Facebook in a picture that criticized Islam. Angry mobs surrounded his house because of this picture, burned his house and the houses of other Christians in the village, and forced his family to leave. The police didn’t arrest anyone from the mobs. Instead, Gamal was sentenced to three years in prison for “insulting Islam.”

Then, in April 2012, another Christian was imprisoned on the same charges. Makarem Diab Said, a teacher (also from Asyut), was sentenced to six years simply for using some aggressive words against Islam when he was quarrelling with one of his colleagues at work.

Last month, on September 12, a court in Sohag sentenced another Christian, Bishoy El-Beheri to six years in prison for criticizing Islam and criticizing President Mohammed Morsi. This case is very similar to Kareem’s. The only difference is that in Kareem’s case he got only one year in jail for criticizing Mubarak, while criticizing the present president leads to three years.

Earlier this month, the Al-Ahram newspaper reported that two Coptic Christian children ,Nabil Nagy Rizk, 10, and Mina Nady Farag, 9, were arrested for insulting Islam because they were caught playing with papers that happened to have some verses of the Quran written on them. The kids were released later, but the case against them hasn’t been dropped yet, meaning that they can be jailed also for three years.

On October 6, a female student, known only by her initials of “B.R.,” went to the police station in Sharkia asking for help, complaining that her mother tried to poison her. But the authorities decided that the student and her boyfriend should be jailed because they are atheists who believe that premarital sex is not a sin.

It is not only atheists and Christians who are being jailed in Egypt for blasphemy. A Shiite man,Mohammed Asfour, was sentenced to three years in prison last July for speaking against the crimes made by followers of Mohammed the prophet of Islam.

Many others are in prison on the same charges and more will surely follow. The General Prosecutor has just sent a case against Google officials to the State Security Investigations department in Egypt, accusing the Internet company of failing to block the movie Innocence of Muslims from its search engine. The prosecutor has also started an investigation against the poetHisham al-Gokh, whom he accused of insulting religion in his poetry.

These activists suffer because Egypt doesn’t have an independent judiciary. Many cases take decades to go before Egyptian courts. But when the issue is political, they can finish the case in a few days, just as they finished my trial 12 days after my arrest in March 2011. They are now doing the same with Alber. Obviously there is a political reason for the Egyptian regime to jail him. They wish to intimidate Christians and other minorities to force them to leave the country. That is why Alber’s trial is being processed so fast in comparison with other cases in Egypt. If there was a proper international response, perhaps they would proceed with more caution. Alber expects to be sentenced to three years’ imprisonment within a short time. Meanwhile, though, there is a campaign supporting his freedom on Facebook and Twitter, which is gaining momentum every day.

The worst part is that this phenomenon of jailing bloggers on charges of “insulting religion” is now becoming widespread in Muslim countries. In Saudi Arabia, young blogger Hamza Kashgari is now in jail on blasphemy charges, and could face the death sentence. In Tunisia, Jabeur Mejri and Ghazi Beji were sentenced on March 28, 2012 to seven and a half years in prison. In Morocco,Mohammed Socrates is spending two years in jail for his atheism, but the authorities in Morocco were smart enough to accuse him of narcotics trafficking, and there is no need to say that he confessed under torture. One might even include Malala Yousafzai, the 14-year-old girl shot by the Pakistani Taliban because of her public calls for secularism and female education.

Religions are just collections of beliefs which can’t be proved. I still can’t imagine that in the twenty-first century there are people going to prison because they don’t believe that someone walked on water, a virgin gave birth to a child, or a man flew to heaven on a donkey. Tolerating this new Inquisition moves our world back to the Middle Ages, and this could have devastating consequences for our lives.

Maikel Nabil Sanad is an Egyptian activist and leader of the “No to Compulsory Military Service” Movement. He became a prisoner of conscience after boycotting military trials in August 2011 and spent 130 days on a hunger strike. He is also a member of the board of Cyberdissidents.org.

http://transitions.foreignpolicy.com/posts/2012/10/19/yes_i_m_a_blasphemer_get_over_it

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‘Libya: The Questions We Should Be Asking’ by Barry Lando

This article provides some context to the violence now erupting against USA in the Muslim world, where the actual film on YouTube is an opportunity for the Extreme Right to drum up mass hysteria.
Though US-NATO alliance must be confronted, it cannot bring much improvement in the lives of people if it is done on the basis of ‘avenging Islam’, that it is now being done.
We cannot support the Extreme Right, neither can we support the aggressive colonization of US-NATO alliance in the region. We must expose both for their profiteering, and their violent and abusive politics.

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September 15, 2012 “Information Clearing House” – – Apart from Mitt Romney’s ridiculous slur against President Obama after the slaying of U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens, Americans should focus on the state of affairs suggested by the following questions: When was the last time a Chinese diplomat was killed or even roughed up by an angry mob? When did you last hear about a Chinese embassy being burned down or pillaged?

From Morocco and Tunisia to Libya, Egypt, Yemen and Iraq, anti-American crowds have taken to the streets. The outpouring of hatred is symptomatic of the fact that across much of North Africa, the Middle East and Central Asia, American policy is in tatters—probably more than ever before. The region is strewn with the wreckage of failed U.S. ambitions and disastrous American plans.

Incredibly, even as the U.S. surveys the shambles that Libya has become, there are still American officials pushing for the United States to intervene in Syria’s bloody civil war. (In fact, for months now, the U.S. and some of its Arab allies have been clandestinely doing just that.) Even the prime minister of Israel, supposedly America’s most valuable ally in the region, makes political points by sticking his finger in President Obama’s eye.

We’ve heard for years that America is obsessed with this part of the world because its trade routes and resources are critical to U.S. interests. That may once have been true, but as things stand now, those trade routes and resources are more crucial to China than to America. China gets a greater percentage of its oil through the vital Strait of Hormuz—which the U.S. spends billions of dollars to patrol—than does the United States.

And although the U.S. has been lavishing hundreds of billions of dollars on military bases, the Chinese have been spending their considerable financial resources across Africa, the Middle East and Central Asia, buying up mineral deposits, land, forests and petroleum, inking construction contracts for huge infrastructure projects as well as opening up vast new markets.

Where are the Chinese troops to protect all this? Where are the sprawling Chinese naval and air bases, their drones, killer teams and special forces? Not needed, thanks. The U.S. is handling security.

This makes for some sad ironies. For instance, the fact that Stevens spent months aiding the Libyan rebels during their uprising against Moammar Gadhafi while China was one of the last major allies to continue supporting the dictator. Yet the Chinese are back in Libya wheeling and dealing for construction contracts and oil.

Meanwhile, next door in Egypt, newly elected President Mohamed Morsi, whose country continues to receive more than $1 billion in aid from the United States, judged he had more to gain by joining in attacks against the U.S. than by cooling popular passions. And where was his first trip abroad after winning election? To China.

Yet China would seem a very appropriate target for Muslim anger. The U.S. may have invaded Muslim countries, but for decades China has been brutally persecuting and repressing millions of its own Muslim minorities, such as the Uighars in northwest China.

But how many furious crowds have taken to the streets in Muslim lands to protest the plight of the Uighars? How many people have even heard of them? How many of the Muslim leaders who are lambasting the United States because of an off-the-wall film that the U.S. government had absolutely nothing to do with have ever uttered a single word of protest against China in public?

That’s not to say the Chinese are beloved in the region. There have been violent, sometimes bloody, protests against their labor and trade practices but nothing that compares in scale and depth to the hatred and suspicion of the United States throughout the region.

The current outcry over a film insulting the Prophet Muhammad is just the tip of an emotional iceberg. Underneath it all are more than half a century of Western and American interventions in the region, as well as the U.S.’ continued support of Israel.

While the U.S. has spent huge sums trying to overthrow regimes, punish perceived enemies, prevent nuclear proliferation (except in Israel) and shape the impacts of the new political dynamics that are roiling the area, the Chinese have had their eyes fixed on one set of objectives only: getting hold of vital natural resources to fuel their ravenous economy and finding new markets for their products and mammoth projects for their construction companies.

Why can’t the U.S. do the same? That’s the kind of basic question Americans should ask in the wake of the killing of a U.S. ambassador, as they go about electing a new president. But don’t count on it.

This article was originally posted at TruthDig

From
Information Clearinghouse
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‘Countering intolerance’ by Shandana Khan Mohmand

From Dawn.com

A FEW years before the Nazi government arrested him in 1937 and sent him to a concentration camp, Martin Niemoller, a German theologian, spoke the powerful words that have come to epitomise the guilt of the bystander who watches in silence as those around suffer.

He lamented how he had not spoken up as they came first for the communists, then the unionists, and then the Jews. Finally when they came for him, “there was no one left to speak out”.

Pakistan has arrived at a point where ‘they’ have come for the Ahmedis, the Christians, the Hindus, and the Shias. It has come to a point where we need to speak out because at some point they will come for even those that are not part of a minority community.

They will come for you either because you are a Barelvi, a Deobandi, a woman, an intellectual, a liberal, the wrong ethnic group, or simply someone who does not agree with the worldview of those who are armed and have no compulsions against killing a fellow human being. But what is the most effective way to speak out? What will make a difference?

The simple answer, of course, is that we need to learn to be more accepting and tolerant of each other. But while noble, this is a generally useless suggestion because there is a large difference between being intolerant and actually pulling people off a bus, identifying them as Shias and then murdering them for that simple fact.

What takes a person from general intolerance towards others to actually killing people for their belief? I do not have an answer to that, but I do know a few things that contribute.

It contributes when murderers like the Taliban are allowed to get away with it. Not bringing perpetrators publicly to justice in courts that speak out clearly in favour of protecting every single citizen — regardless of caste, creed and religion — contributes
to making the next incident possible.

It contributes that in attack after attack, a few of which have been on their own bases, we do not see the police or the army going after the outfits that sponsor these.

It also contributes that in its official documents the state continues to divide us all into religious categories. What, and whose, purpose does this serve?

It contributes when public figures do not speak out loudly and regularly in favour of minorities and against the violent crimes that they suffer.

It contributes that electronic media is not awash with dramas, public service messages and talk shows promoting an understanding of minority cultures and beliefs, the value and beauty of diversity, and the idea that there should be no ‘us’ and ‘them’ within Pakistan.

It certainly contributes that the career of television anchors does not suffer terribly when they publicly convert members of minority communities to Islam on their shows. And despite popular belief, it is not a lack of education that contributes to this, but rather, the content of our educational curricula that appears to be responsible.

I discovered in my research in rural Pakistan that the person in the village with active membership of a sectarian organisation was never the uneducated farm labourer, but rather the schoolteacher.

The only person that I met who told me he had participated in a religious protest was a man with an FA degree who had travelled to Lahore to protest against the Danish cartoons. As we strive to educate more and more of our population without a review of what we are teaching them, where can we expect to head?

So, how do we speak out? Maybe the answer lies in becoming intolerant as well. We need to become vocally intolerant of religious groups that seek to organise people on the basis of differences and preach violence against others.

We need to become intolerant of the army’s strategic games, and of the fact that deals are struck with those that kill openly and thump their chests publicly to take responsibility for it.

We need to be intolerant of political parties that cosy up to the army and tow its line of negotiating with murderers. We should be intolerant of a state that requires us to reveal our religion in official documents.

We need to be intolerant of a system that is seen to go into hyper-drive to weaken an elected government, but that allows known religious fanatics to walk free for lack of strong evidence.

How do you express such intolerance? By getting our politics right. Withdraw support for the judiciary when it lets a terrorist go. Push the political party you support to have a clear stance against those that kill minorities, and do not vote for those that
make excuses for terrorist outfits.

Change the channel when talk show hosts insist that the real problem is another country, politicians or corruption, all the while defending those that kill the name of religion.

Write to channels to demand that there be more programmes on issues that affect minorities. Use social networking sites, newspapers and public protests to reduce divisions within Pakistan. Refuse to identify yourself with a religion or sect when asked to do so.

And on a personal level, stop trying to match your children with a spouse of the same sect, biradari, or class. Embrace diversity and the possibility that that will only make you less insulated and less inbred.

Do this before they come for you.
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The writer is a researcher of political economy.

From
Dawn.com

Pointed to by Hoori Noorani

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‘Were there any great Muslim scientists?’ by Waseem Altaf

As we remain enamored by our past achievements in the sciences, we forget that there is very little ‘original’ we as Muslims can celebrate and be proud of.

It was during the reign of Abbasid caliphs, particularly Mamun-ur-Rashid (around 813 CE) that in his Dar-ul-Hikmah (the house of wisdom) in Baghdad, the Muslim scholars would begin translating the classic Greek works, primarily toeing the Aristotelian tradition. In addition, they were heavily relying on Persian and Indian sources. They also penned huge commentaries on works by Greek philosophers. However, the Muslim translators were small in number and were primarily driven by curiosity. More than ninety nine percent Arabic translations of works of Greek philosophers were done by either Christian or Jewish scholars. It is interesting to note that Islamic astronomy, based on Ptolemy’s system was geocentric. Algebra was originally a Greek discipline and ‘Arabic’ numbers were actually Indian.

Most of these works were available to the West during 12th century when the first renaissance was taking place. Although Western scholars did travel to Spain to study Arabic versions of classical Greek thought, they soon found out that better versions of original texts in Greek were also available in the libraries of the ancient Greek city of Byzantium.

However, it would be unfair not to mention some of those great Muslim scholars, though very few in number, who genuinely contributed in the development of philosophy and science.

Al-Razi (865 – 925 CE) from Persia, the greatest of all Muslim physicians, philosophers and alchemists wrote 184 articles and books, dismissed revelation and considered religion a dangerous thing. Al-Razi was condemned for blasphemy and almost all his books were destroyed later.

Ibn-e-Sina or Avicinna (980-1037CE), another great physician, philosopher and scientist was an Uzbek. Avicenna held philosophy superior to theology. His views were in sharp contrast to central Islamic doctrines and he rejected the resurrection of the dead in flesh and blood. As a consequence of his views, he became main target of Al-Ghazali and was labeled an apostate.

Ibn-e-Rushd (1126-1198 CE) or Averroes from Spain was a philosopher and scientist who expounded the Quran in Aristotelian terms. He was found guilty of heresy, his books burnt, he was interrogated and banished from Lucena.

Al-Bairuni (973-1048 CE), the father of Indology and a versatile genius, was of the strong view that Quran has its own domain and it does not interfere with the realm of science.

Al-Khawarazmi (780-850 CE) was another Persian mathematician, astronomer and geographer. The historian Al-Tabri considered him a Zoroastrian while others thought that he was a Muslim. However nowhere in his works has he acknowledged Islam or linked any of his findings to the holy text.

Omar Kyayyam(1048-1131 CE), one of the greatest mathematicians, astronomers and poets was highly critical of religion, particularly Islam. He severely criticized the idea that every event and phenomena was the result of divine intervention.

Al-Farabi(872-950 CE), another great Muslim philosopher, highly inspired by Aristotle, considered reason superior to revelation and advocated for the relegation of prophecy to philosophy.

Abu Musa Jabir- bin- Hayan or Geber (721-815 CE) was an accomplished Muslim alchemist cum pharmacist. Althouigh he was inclined towards mysticism, he fully acknowledged the role of experimentation in scientific endeavors.

Ibn-ul-haitham or Hazen (965-1040 CE) was an outstanding physicist, mathematician, astronomer and an expert on optics. He was ordered by Fatimid King Al-Hakim to regulate the floods of the Nile, which he knew was not scientifically possible. He feigned madness and was placed under house arrest for the rest of his life.

As we go through the life history of these great men we find that they were influenced by Greek, Babylonian or Indian contributions to philosophy and science, had a critical and reasoning mind and were ‘not good’ Muslims or even atheists. A significant number of them were reluctant to even reveal the status of their beliefs for fear of reprisal from the fanatics. They never ascribed their achievements to Islam or divinity. And they were scholars and scientists because of a critical mind which would think and derive inspiration from observation and not scriptures which set restrictions on free thinking and unhindered pursuit of knowledge.

Hence bringing in Islam to highlight achievements of Muslim scientists is nothing but sheer rhetoric as these men did not derive their achievements out of Islam or flourished due to Islam. And we find that whatever little contribution to science was made can be owed to ‘imperfect Muslims’.

However it was the ‘perfect Muslim’, the Islamist, from the 12th century who was to give the biggest blow to scientific thought in the Muslim world. Imam Ghazali (1058-1111 CE) who still occupies a centre stage among Muslim philosophers openly denounced the laws of nature and scientific reasoning. Ghazali argued that any such laws would put God’s hands in chains. He would assert that a piece of cotton burns when put to fire, not because of physical reasons but because God wants it to burn. Ghazali was also a strong supporter of the Ash’arites; philosophers who would uphold the precedence of divine intervention over physical phenomena and bitterly opposed the Mu’tazillites; the rationalists who were the true upholders of scientific thought.

In other words Ghazali championed the cause of orthodoxy and dogmatism at the cost of rationality and scientific reasoning. Today we find that all four major schools of ‘Sunni’ Islam reject the concept of ‘Ijtehad’ which can loosely be translated as ‘freedom of thought’. Hence there is absolutely no room for any innovation or modification in traditional thought patterns. We also find that as Europe was making use of technology while transforming into a culture of machines, the acceptance of these machines was extremely slow in the Islamic world. One prime example is that of the printing press which reached Muslim lands in 1492; however printing was banned by Islamic authorities because they believed the Koran would be dishonored by appearing out of a machine. As a result, Arabs did not acquire printing press until the 18th century.

It also stands established that science is born out of secularism and democracy and not religious dogmatism. And science only flourished in places where religion had no role to play in matters of state. Hence there is an inverse relationship between religious orthodoxy and progress in science. Rational thought in the Muslim world developed during the reign of liberal Muslim rulers of the Abbasid dynasty who patronized the Mu’tazillites or rational thinkers.

However it was after the religious zealots’ compilation of the ahadis and the rise of scholars like Al-Ghazali that all scientific reasoning came to an end in the 13th century.

As a consequence the Muslims contributed almost nothing to scientific progress and human civilization since the dawn of the 13th century. And while science and technology flourish in the modern world, a vast majority of Muslims, engulfed by obscurantism, still find solace in fantasies of a bygone era——the so called ‘golden age’ of Islam.

Waseem Altaf is a social activist.

From Viewpoint
http://www.viewpointonline.net/were-there-any-great-muslim-scientists.html
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Petition: Freedom of Expression

Reconsider the ban on Salman Rushdie’s ‘The Satanic Verses’

Sign it Here

I just signed the following petition addressed to:

PM, India, Manmohan Singh
Home Minister, India, P Chidambaran

‘We the undersigned support the right of all artists and writers to freedom of expression and we strongly urge the government to reconsider the 23-year-old ban of the Satanic Verses.

‘The Satanic Verses has not incited violence anywhere; others have used the novel’s existence to incite violence to suit their political ends. Within India, in the 23 years since the ban, we have witnessed an erosion of respect for freedom of expression, as artists like MF Husain, Chandramuhun Srimantula, Jatin Das, and Balbir Krishan have been intimidated, and works of writers like Rohinton Mistry and AK Ramanujan have been withdrawn because of threats by groups claiming to be offended.

‘India is one of the very few countries in the world where the ban stands, placing us alongside Egypt, Pakistan, Iran, Malaysia, Liberia and Papua New Guinea, among others. We submit with respect that there is a democratic need to review and re-examine the circumstances that led to the original ban of the Verses in 1988, which have changed greatly over time.’

http://www.change.org/petitions/prime-minister-india-reconsider-the-ban-on-salman-rushdies-the-satanic-verses#

Created by Nilanjana Roy.

Warm Regards,
Fauzia Rafique
uddari@live.ca
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Support Free Internet – Sign This Petition

Stop the Internet Blacklist!

The US Congress is considering a bill ‘Combating Online Infringement and Counterfeits Act’ (COICA) that can seriously injure the freedom of the internet. View it here:
http://www.govtrack.us/congress/bill.xpd?bill=s111-3804

Sign This Petition Protect Our Freedoms

More about it:

‘COICA creates two blacklists of Internet domain names. Courts could add sites to the first list; the Attorney General would have control over the second. Internet service providers and others (everyone from Comcast to PayPal to Google AdSense) would be required to block any domains on the first list. They would also receive immunity (and presumably the good favor of the government) if they block domains on the second list.

‘The lists are for sites “dedicated to infringing activity,” but that’s defined very broadly — any domain name where counterfeit goods or copyrighted material are “central to the activity of the Internet site” could be blocked.

‘One example of what this means in practice: sites like YouTube could be censored in the US. Copyright holders like Viacom often argue copyrighted material is central to the activity of YouTube, but under current US law, YouTube is perfectly legal as long as they take down copyrighted material when they’re informed about it — which is why Viacom lost to YouTube in court.

‘But if COICA passes, Viacom wouldn’t even need to prove YouTube is doing anything illegal to get it shut down — as long as they can persuade the courts that enough other people are using it for copyright infringement, the whole site could be censored.

‘Perhaps even more disturbing: Even if Viacom couldn’t get a court to compel censorship of a YouTube or a similar site, the DOJ could put it on the second blacklist and encourage ISPs to block it even without a court order. (ISPs have ample reason to abide the will of the powerful DOJ, even if the law doesn’t formally require them to do so.)

‘COICA’s passage would be a tremendous blow to free speech on the Internet — and likely a first step towards much broader online censorship. Please help us fight back: The first step is signing our petition. We’ll give you the tools to share it with your friends and call your Senator.’

From David Segal and Aaron Swartz
Read it here

Sign the Petition
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Statement of HRCP Mission to Balochistan

Deeply concerned by the rapidly deteriorating situation in Balochistan, the Human Rights Commission organised a fact-finding mission to the province between 4 & 7 May. The teams visited Khuzdar, Turbat and Quetta, meeting a wide cross-section of people, including government representatives.

At the outset, HRCP would like to express its deep anger and sadness at the killing of two of its activists, Siddique Eido and Naeem Sabir. Siddique Eido went missing in December 2010; his body was recovered from Ormara on 28 April. HRCP had thrice brought the case of his disappearance to the authorities’ attention. Naeem Sabir was shot dead in Khuzdar in March this year.

The key findings of the HRCP mission are:

1. Enforced disappearances continue to be a matter of great concern. The Commission set up to investigate the case of missing persons has been largely ineffective, leading to people’s frustration

2. It has been noted that dead bodies recovered have had signs of extreme torture. 33 bodies have been found in Khuzdar; at a rate of 1 body every 3 days

3. All authority seems to vest with the security forces. The civil administration, elected by the people and meant to represent them, appears to have ceded its powers

4. There is strong evidence of the complicity of security forces in killings which are found to be deliberate. One specific instance: on 1 Dec, 2010, in Kech, the FC started attacking a house at 4 a.m. & continued the attack till 2 p.m the next day, despite the civil administration’s request to the FC Colonel that the family members were willing to get all those present in the house to surrender. They killed 5 members of the family, including a boy. This represents a case of deliberate extra-judicial killings. In some cases, FIRs were registered in Turbat. The FC local commander in Kech agreed to talk only after permission was received from IG FC which was not ultimately received.

5. There was widespread complaint against the attitude of the FC personnel at checkpoints

6. The sectarian attack of 6 May in Quetta is highly condemnable. It happened while the HRCP Mission was present in the city. Six people died and many were injured in spite of the presence of the police nearby and the FC check posts. It is regrettable that findings of inquiry commissions into sectarian killings have not been released. No effort has been made at reconciliation of the communities, either

7. Members of the minority communities narrated the heightened sense of insecurity they are living in. There have been targeted killings, as well as kidnappings for ransom. In some cases, victims were killed in spite of ransom being paid. In some instances, children have been taken out of school.

8. There is migration of some communities, including Hindus, Hazara/Shias, who are being targeted

9. Targeted killings are rampant – these include professionals such as teachers & doctors, as well as traders

While a detailed report will be issued later by HRCP, the following are some main recommendations:

» · The system of enforced disappearances must end; it is a total negation of rule of law that mutilated bodies are found of missing people – instead of their production before courts of law
» · Any operation conducted by law enforcement agencies must be within the framework of rule of law, and under civilian oversight. The provincial government must meet its obligation of ensuring law & order
» · The Frontier Corps should act only in aid of the civilian forces & under civilian control. There should be an immediate end to the complete impunity from the process of law the FC currently enjoys in Balochistan
» · The provincial government, representing all political parties of the province, needs to assert its authority and act in the interest of the people that brought it to power
» · The higher judiciary must instruct the subordinate judiciary to actively pursue cases of human rights violations
» · The police must exercise its responsibility of recording FIRs & actively investigating cases of enforced disappearances, targeted killings and discovery of mutilated bodies, as well as of kidnappings
» · Places of worship of minorities must be protected and freedom of worship be ensured. Members of minority communities should be assured of their safety
» · It should be noted that internal security can never be guaranteed by violation of rights
» · Victims of violence must be compensated immediately
» · The government must ensure protection of all teaching staff and that educational institutions function properly in a peaceful manner, meeting a wide cross-section of people, including government representatives.

At the outset, HRCP would like to express its deep anger and sadness at the killing of two of its activists, Siddique Eido and Naeem Sabir. Siddique Eido went missing in December 2010; his body was recovered from Ormara on 28 April. HRCP had thrice brought the case of his disappearance to the authorities’ attention. Naeem Sabir was shot dead in Khuzdar in March this year.

The key findings of the HRCP mission are:

1. Enforced disappearances continue to be a matter of great concern. The Commission set up to investigate the case of missing persons has been largely ineffective, leading to people’s frustration

2. It has been noted that dead bodies recovered have had signs of extreme torture. 33 bodies have been found in Khuzdar; at a rate of 1 body every 3 days

3. All authority seems to vest with the security forces. The civil administration, elected by the people and meant to represent them, appears to have ceded its powers

4. There is strong evidence of the complicity of security forces in killings which are found to be deliberate. One specific instance: on 1 Dec, 2010, in Kech, the FC started attacking a house at 4 a.m. & continued the attack till 2 p.m the next day, despite the civil administration’s request to the FC Colonel that the family members were willing to get all those present in the house to surrender. They killed 5 members of the family, including a boy. This represents a case of deliberate extra-judicial killings. In some cases, FIRs were registered in Turbat. The FC local commander in Kech agreed to talk only after permission was received from IG FC which was not ultimately received.

5. There was widespread complaint against the attitude of the FC personnel at checkpoints

6. The sectarian attack of 6 May in Quetta is highly condemnable. It happened while the HRCP Mission was present in the city. Six people died and many were injured in spite of the presence of the police nearby and the FC check posts. It is regrettable that findings of inquiry commissions into sectarian killings have not been released. No effort has been made at reconciliation of the communities, either

7. Members of the minority communities narrated the heightened sense of insecurity they are living in. There have been targeted killings, as well as kidnappings for ransom. In some cases, victims were killed in spite of ransom being paid. In some instances, children have been taken out of school.

8. There is migration of some communities, including Hindus, Hazara/Shias, who are being targeted

9. Targeted killings are rampant – these include professionals such as teachers & doctors, as well as traders

While a detailed report will be issued later by HRCP, the following are some main recommendations:

» · The system of enforced disappearances must end; it is a total negation of rule of law that mutilated bodies are found of missing people – instead of their production before courts of law
» · Any operation conducted by law enforcement agencies must be within the framework of rule of law, and under civilian oversight. The provincial government must meet its obligation of ensuring law & order
» · The Frontier Corps should act only in aid of the civilian forces & under civilian control. There should be an immediate end to the complete impunity from the process of law the FC currently enjoys in Balochistan
» · The provincial government, representing all political parties of the province, needs to assert its authority and act in the interest of the people that brought it to power
» · The higher judiciary must instruct the subordinate judiciary to actively pursue cases of human rights violations
» · The police must exercise its responsibility of recording FIRs & actively investigating cases of enforced disappearances, targeted killings and discovery of mutilated bodies, as well as of kidnappings
» · Places of worship of minorities must be protected and freedom of worship be ensured. Members of minority communities should be assured of their safety
» · It should be noted that internal security can never be guaranteed by violation of rights
» · Victims of violence must be compensated immediately
» · The government must ensure protection of all teaching staff and that educational institutions function properly in a peaceful manner

By HRCP, Quetta, 7 May 2011

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Candle Light Vigil: Call for the repeal of Pakistan’s Blasphemy Laws

Tuesday, March 15th
Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada

Approximately 35-40 people gathered this evening in front of the Pakistani Consulate in downtown Vancouver for a silent, candlelight vigil to call for the repeal of the Blasphemy Laws in Pakistan and to demand equality for all minorities. Pakistanis from a variety of backgrounds, including members of the Christian, Ismaili, Ahmedi, Sunni and other communities stood side by side in solidarity along with allies from the Filipino, Iranian, Sri Lankan, Palestinian, Sikh communities as well as others. A number of young Pakistanis were also in attendance. Those in attendance lit candles, wore black arm bands and held a Pakistani flag draped in black to signify that they were in mourning for the lives, rights and freedom lost because of religious intolerance. Many creative signs were held up for passers by to look at, including ones that said “My Islam Does Not Equal Blasphemy Laws”, “Justice for Asia Bibi”, “Say No to Religious Intolerance” and “No Justice from Unjust Laws”. Messages of support also came in from Pakistan and other places from a number of groups and people including a Christian youth group based in Pakistan and members of the local Jewish community as well as interfaith and progressive Muslim groups.

The vigil was organized by a grassroots, Ad Hoc group of progressive Pakistanis who came together specifically as individuals united around the common principle of repealing the Blasphemy Laws in Pakistan. This vigil signifies the start of what is hoped will be a sustained campaign. There are other events being planned.

Any queries can be directed to repealthelaws@gmail.com
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Human Rights Violations against Journalists in Baluchistan

BHRC Condems the Blockade of Daily Tawar’s website

Baloch Human Rights Council (BHRC) Canada condemns the brutal act of Pakistani Security Agencies to silence the voices of freedom of expression by blocking the Web site of a newspaper named Daily Tawar. This is a daily private Urdu News Paper published from the Occupied Balochistan. Daily Tawar is a leading Daily known for its critical coverage of the Military Operation and gross human rights violation committed by Pak Army against the Secular Forces in the occupied Balochistan.

According to the following link the website of Daily Tawar is made inaccessible.
http://www.dailytawar.com/
http://www.google.ca/interstitial?url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.dailytawar.com%2F
Warning – visiting this web site may harm your computer!

BHRC (Canada) believes that the Pakistani Security Agencies are involved in the blocking of the Web site, as the News Paper was on the receiving end of constant threat by the Pakistani security establishments. Previously, The Baloch Hal, a daily on line News Paper from Balochistan was banned in November 2010 right after its first anniversary. In the year 2009, Pakistani Government banned a Baloch newspaper, Daily Asaap, after an assassination attempt on the life of Mr Jan Mohmmaed Dashti the editor in chief of the Daily Asaap, but luckily he survived. In the same year, the Government of Pakistan besieged the offices of Daily Azadi and Balochistan Express.
http://www.onepakistan.com/

According to the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) and the New York Based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), atleast 16 journalist were killed in the Occupied Balochistan in the year 2010-2011. Abdost Rind, a reporter with the Urdu-language paper Daily Eagle, was shot four times by the security agencies as he was returning home from work on 18 February 2011. He died immediately. The Director-General of UNESCO, Irina Bokova, condemned the shooting death of Abdost Rind.
http://www.unesco.org/

Ilyas Nazar and Abdul Hameed Baloch the two very sincere Baloch journalist were abducted and their bullet ridden decomposed bodies were found on an isolated street near Trubat. This brings the total to 4 in the span of three months.

Another prominent journalist Mr Qazi Rehan’s house was raided by the Froeinter Corp (FC) but luckily Mr Rehan managed to escape. Now he is hiding from the Pakistani establishment. BHRC-Canada along with Hong Kong based Asian Human Rights Commission had already issued a plea to save Mr. Qazi Rehan’s endangered life.
http://www.humanrights.asia/

The Pakistani army continues to imperil reporters and restrict their work in the occupied Balochistan by declaring Balochistan a ‘No go area’ for the journalists. These restriction on journalists further block all the news of atrocities committed by Pakistani Army in Balochistan.

As per IFJ’s recent report published on January 5th 2011, 94 journalists and media workers were killed in 2010 in Pakistan. All these deaths and torture of the Journalist has gone uninvestigated and unprosecuted, this further adds to the miserable record of human rights violation in Pakistan and identifies this country as the single most dangerous place in the world for any journalist to perform his/her job freely.

BHRC considers the blocking of Tawar website and the killing of Baloch journalist, a attack on the Baloch liberation movement. BHRC also believes that the blockade of Tawar, the bullet ridden decomposed bodies of the journalists are the result of the critical coverage of Baloch uprising by these Baloch Journalists who are giving their lives every day.

BHRC calls on the UN and the international authorities to act now to ensure that Daily Tawar’s Web site is restored immediately.

BHRC also demands from the United Nation to conduct an independent investigation of the atrocities by Pakistani Establishment on the innocent journalists.

BHRC(CANADA)
BALOCH HUMAN RIGHTS COUNCIL
(A London based human rights organization raising the profile of Texas Sized Balochistan occupied by Pakistan in the year 1948)
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Shahbaz Bhatti murder: Churches announce 3-day mourning

Shahbaz Bhatti murder: NCJP update
March 2, 2011
by Citizens for Democracy

Churches announce three-day mourning: all missionary schools closed. Sunday March 6 to be observed as a day of prayer and fasting.

March 3: demonstration in Faisalabad , 11 am, starting from Catholic Church Railway Road to Press Club.

The Mirror Update (from the National Commission for Justice and Peace)

Assassination of Shahbaz Bhatti (1968-2011), Federal Minister for Minority Affairs

Mr. Shahbaz Bhatti Federal Minister for Minority Affairs was assassinated by unknown assailants on March 2, 2011, near his residence in I/8 Sector, Islamabad. He received 30 bullets fired by two gunmen with automatic rifle(s). He was rushed to a Hospital by his driver, and pronounced dead by the doctors.

While the Taliban claimed the responsibility, the attack was widely condemned at national and international level. President, Prime minister of Pakistan, Chief Minister Punjab, Muthida Qaumi Movement, Minister for Foreign Affairs Germany, Pakistan Muslim League N, Civil Society of Pakistan and Christian leadership has strongly condemned the assassination of Mr. Bhatti. His funeral is expected to take place on March 4, with the burial in Khushpur, his native village near Faisalabad.

The backdrop of the assassination is the need and demand to bring about changes in the blasphemy laws of Pakistan with their known abuse and discrimination.

After the assassination of Governor Salman Taseer who expressed sympathy for Aasia Bibi a Christian convicted under the blasphemy law, this is another attack on the freedom of expression and conscience of the people of Pakistan and sovereignty of the state. The extremist forces want to silent all enlightened and moderate voices. The country has lost a patriot, and a progressive voice.

Public reaction

* Demonstrations were held in Islamabad, Lahore Karachi, Multan, Quetta and other cities of Pakistan condemning the incident.

* The Churches have announced the closure of Christian schools, etc. throughout the country for three days mourning, while the Sunday (6th March, 2011) will be observed as a day of prayer and fasting.

* There will be a demonstration in Faisalabad on 3rd March, 11 am, starting from Catholic Church Railway Road to Press Club.

NCJP Team
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