We Have Your words – 2

rickshaw-muhammadbootasarwar
سیکولر جمہوریت کا راستہ، پاکستان کے بچاؤ اور تعمیر کا راستہ
Photo from Muhammad Sarwar Boota’s Facebook page

Here are some more of your inspiring reasons for signing the Petition for a Secular Pakistan.

Amna Buttar
MADISON, UNITED STATES
18 days ago
‘Fanaticism and murders in the name of religion must end’

Chandni Vikram
GAYA, INDIA
20 days ago
‘Separate Religion from State. Remove Article 2 of the Constitution of Pakistan. Declare Pakistan to be a Secular Democracy.’

Nawaz Soomro
BURNABY, CANADA
27 days ago
‘History tells us that social progress can only be made when State rises abow the beleif systems. Common good demands state to be blind to individual beleifs. The only way to progress for the Land of Pure is to unsubscribe religious fundamentalists. Love.’

Sajjad Chaudhry
BISHOP’S STORTFORD, UNITED KINGDOM
about 1 month ago
‘Secular Pakistan will prosper.’

Sadia Khawar
LAHORE, PAKISTAN
about 1 month ago
‘I condemn the act of hatred against any sect.’

Zohaib Ansari
MARKHAM, CANADA
about 1 month ago
‘It’s about time’

Imran Mirza
HAMMOND, NY
about 1 month ago
‘I love my country.’

Alexandra Garita
SAN JOSE, COSTA RICA
about 1 month ago
‘El pueblo musulmam y sus niños tienen derechos…a libertad …a la vida y a la NO AGRESION…’

Shahnaz Ahad
KARACHI, PAKISTAN
about 1 month ago
‘i want pakistan should be like this’

Afia Siddiqi
KARACHI, PAKISTAN
about 1 month ago
‘I’m signing because I do not want to be persecuted and killed in the name of Islam.’

Sareer Ara
ISLAMABAD, PAKISTAN
about 1 month ago
‘The corrupt Governments, Political and Religious parties have confused the people about religion and human rights. A distorted version of Islam and democracy is being used for a few people’s vested interests. In order to put a stop to the killing of the innocents in the name of Islam and to stop violations of human rights, we need to redefine our priorities about our lives.’

Mahnaz Rahman
KARACHI, PAKISTAN
about 1 month ago
‘religion is our personal matter’

Khan Yasmin
IRVING, TX
about 1 month ago
‘Enough is enough. Pakistan is going down a rabbit hole because of the jahil mullas and religion..’

Javed Tariq
CALGARY, CANADA
about 1 month ago
‘I believe religion can’t secure international human Rights standards. In Pakistan minorities are very unsafe.’

Jagjit Singh
KARACHI, PAKISTAN
about 1 month ago
‘to save Pakistan, to save the future of our children’

Hilda Saeed
KARACHI, PAKISTAN
about 1 month ago
‘Pakistan’s growing religious extremism and repeated contravention of human rights are beyond ‘bardasht’/are unbearable.’

Sarwat Mangrio
BRIER, WA
about 1 month ago
‘We need to progress as a nation, unless we separate religion from politics, we can never achieve our goals’

Surjeet Kalsey
BURNABY, CANADA
about 1 month ago
‘In the name of Children of Peshawar stop terrorism and killing anywhere in the World..’

Sohail Pirzada
SOUTHLAKE, TX
about 1 month ago
‘That was indeed the ideology on which Pakistan was created’

Mohammad Khalid Siddiqui
AL GUARYAT NORTHERN REGION, SAUDI ARABIA
about 1 month ago
‘Because of Changazians’

Zaheer Siddiqui
KARACHI, PAKISTAN
about 1 month ago
‘Secular Democratic Republic of Pakistan …only and only can survive, Islamic Republic is full of chaos and is withering away in front of our eyes. Pakistan and the people should behave like other 98% of the rest of the world do.’

Lubna Baig
CALGARY, CANADA
about 1 month ago
‘This will bring peace and harmony and end to religious extremism’

Talat Chaudhry
OTTAWA, CANADA
about 1 month ago
‘Need a secular country, only than there will be equality for all.’

Nosheen Syed
KARACHI, SINGAPORE
about 1 month ago
‘Religion has nothing to do with the affairs of the state — it’s between man and God’

Ajmer Rode
BURNABY, CANADA
about 1 month ago
‘It simply would be a wonderful thing to happen on this earth’

Mimi Khan
LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM
about 1 month ago
‘I believe in Secularism and I believe in Pakistan.’

Nazhath Ashraf
OTTAWA, CANADA
about 1 month ago
‘This is key to our survival’

Nadine Zubair
NORWICH, UNITED KINGDOM
about 1 month ago
‘All citizens should be equal when it comes to rights and responsibilities.’

D M
ISLAMABAD, PAKISTAN
about 1 month ago
‘because enough is enough.’

Shaheryar Azhar
KARACHI, PAKISTAN
about 1 month ago
‘Only under secularism is complete freedom of religion ensured and sectarian passions subdued.’

Halima Ahmad
KARACHI, PAKISTAN
about 1 month ago
‘i believe in change for good. I believe we deserve to be free of fear. I believe the world is a place for all.’

Tabish Ali
BIRMINGHAM, UNITED KINGDOM
about 1 month ago
‘The Greatest Prophet of Islam (all Prophets of God /Allah, peace be upon them, were propagating Islam, Islam did not begin in Arabia), established a state with concept of secularism enshrined within it. The Quran states there is no compulsion in religion. Religion is completely personal and private matter between man and Creator. Then by what strange reasoning other than selfish arrogance are we Muslims, being the majority in Pakistan, going against the explicit directives of Quran and Prophet? Islam is not under any threat from others, we are the ones harming its image by our own egotistic selves..’

Huma Naz
LAHORE, PAKISTAN
about 1 month ago
‘Pakistan democracy need this thought spread out. We all should know clearly that state, religion and army all three are different from other.’

Khooban Altaf
RAWALPINDI, PAKISTAN
about 1 month ago
‘Equal rights for everyone and hoping for better future’

Fareeha Khan
WEST PALM BEACH, FL
about 1 month ago
‘I believe religion deprives you of all the happiness in life and that it shouldn’t have to be incorporated in every single thing we do every second of the day!!’

Fariha Alavi
MISSISSAUGA, CANADA
about 1 month ago
‘Pakistan needs to get out of extremism.’

Faiza Javed
KARACHI, PAKISTAN
about 1 month ago
‘thanks for being sensible and rational.’

Xivraiz Ayaz
ISLAMABAD, PAKISTAN
about 1 month ago
‘Pakistan has fallen due to religion. It should be the state where every religion, ethnicity, frame of mind, gender, sexual orientation etc should be welcome and respected.’

Kamil Aziz Khan
KARACHI, PAKISTAN
about 1 month ago
‘Agreed!’

Mohsin Zia
FAISALABAD, PAKISTAN
about 1 month ago
‘i want peace and secure future for my children, religion is my personal mater not of my state’s. I will be answerable for my deeds not my state.’

Saleha Rauf
LAHORE, PAKISTAN
about 1 month ago
‘I want a secular Pakistan!’

Pervez Akhtar
KARACHI, PAKISTAN
about 1 month ago
‘A real democracy in pakistan could be achieved,’

Khurshid Qureshi
COLORADO SPRINGS, CO
about 1 month ago
‘I love Pakistan’

Amber Hussain
LEICESTER, UNITED KINGDOM
about 1 month ago
‘I think Islam is not violent’

Many thanks for your thoughts and words.

Please take a few moments to ask more friends to sign the petition
Secular Pakistan Petition at Change.org

LIKE Facebook Pages
Secular Pakistan
Repeal Pakistan’s Blasphemy Laws

Contact Us
secularpakistan11@gmail.com
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‘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. 

.

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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‘The Clowns of Blasphemy’ by Fauzia Rafique

Dedicated to the unidentified mentally challenged man accused of desecrating the Quran who was taken from Chanighot police station, tortured and burnt alive by a mob of 1500-2000 religious zealots in Bahawalpur, July 3-4, 2012.

A constant clown of blasphemy
hangs over our heads
conducting this one-act
medieval play. Two three scenes
and a thousand different ways
to slaughter
men
and women
for insulting
their projection
of this entity,
the divinity,
whose man-made aura is then used
to assure
the smooth operation
of the nearest multinational
owned by the authors, directors, producers
and actors
of the Clowns of Blasphemy.
—— A one-act play
—— Boasting a blood-letting theme

Prestigious production
casting heathens
and kafirs, women
and witches, bombers
and terrorists
using real ammunition
emotions and blood, real-life deaths
announcements, pronouncements
bullying and threats. Un
-dying applause
from stunned
-into-submission
audiences. Firearms, rockets
rocks and ropes
expert skinning
hanging by the poles
klashnikov submissions
summary executions
burning with relish humans, books
music and songs
to protect the owners, holders, movers
and shakers
of the Clowns of Blasphemy.
—— A one-act play
—— Weaving a violent dream

Interacting with audiences
it fans the hysteria
to feed the hungry
wild fires
of our worldly
ambitions on the self-righteous
path to secure
for our leaders brand
new riches, collateral
damaging milli-
-ons of civi-
-llians
caught in fireworks
crossfires, revenge fires, suicide-fires
friendly-fires. With 560
army bases
on different
foreign lands, enacting
in its glory
the mafioso cultures of
the red-blood-handed
brown, yellow, black,
white investors of the Clowns of Blasphemy
—— A one-act play
—— Donning a fascist regime
Fauzia Rafique
<a href=”mailto:uddari@live.ca”>uddari@live.ca</a>
<a href=”http://gandholi.wordpress.com”>gandholi.wordpress.com</a&gt;
<a href=”http://facebook.com/fauzia.zohra.rafique”>facebook.com/fauzia.zohra.rafique</a&gt;

First published at Uddari Weblog
http://uddari.wordpress.com/2012/07/05/the-clowns-of-blasphemy-by-fauzia-rafique/
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‘PAKISTAN: Barbarity in the name of religion is at its height’ by Baseer Naweed

Pakistan is known in the international community and declared in the country’s Constitution as an Islamic nation where Islam is glorified as the superb religion and its followers are pious Muslims. There is no doubt that Islam teaches tolerance, love, respect for other religions, and that life and death are in the hands of Allah. The killing of any human being is forbidden and in the Quran it is the highest form of sin.

But how Islam is defined in practice is yet a big question in Pakistani society. In the absence of any clear definition about the implementation of Islam a strong perception has been widely spread that it can be implemented only through the violence and exemplary punishment to those who do not properly follow its precepts. Saudi Arabia, being the role model of Shariah and a real Islamic country, demonstrates its commitment every Friday by handing down death sentences that are then carried out by beheading. At the same time thieves have their hands removed.

The Muslim fundamentalists, their militant organisations, the military governments and right wing political parties of Pakistan have been trying to replicate the Islamic model of Saudi Arabia which has generated an atmosphere of intolerance and violence by punishing ordinary people in the name of Islam. The gross misuse of blasphemy laws is one of the reasons society is turning into a killing field. Virtual anarchy rules in the country and total chaos is not far behind.

The absence of the rule of law and a weak criminal justice system allows the increasing religious intolerance where the religious groups, with the help of the mushrooming growth of seminaries (Madressas) and mosques are enforcing their own tailored Islamic laws by killing, attacking, forcibly converting non-Muslims to Islam and implicating any person who stands in their way in blasphemy cases.

The barbaric incidents of the Muslim fundamentalists can be seen in the following cases in which the state remains a silent spectator. The Asian Human Rights Commission has collected cases of killings, sectarian violence, lynching and false implication of blasphemy charges during the eight months of this year. Most of the cases were taken from the Urgent Appeals of the Asian Human Rights Commission and research compilations by Mr. Nafees Mohammad based on news clippings from the Daily Express Tribune, Daily Dawn, Daily Time and Daily TheNews.

On August 27, 2012, three more persons from the Hazara Shia community were shot dead and two were injured. The deceased were identified as Zamin Ali, Mustafa and Muhammad Ali. The injured were Ghulam Raza and Zahir Shah. Police said that a pick-up, which had been on its way to Marriabad from Hazara Town, Quetta, the capital of Balochistan province, came under attack on the Spini Road.

Also during August more than 35 Shiites were killed by assailants in military uniform. During this period around 150 Shiites were killed in different attacks. The attackers claim to be followers of the Wahabi sect, a Saudi Arabian sect, which itself is a minority in Pakistan and number even fewer in comparison to Shia sect.

On August 16, in the early morning, four buses, carrying passengers from Gilgit to Rawalpindi, a city of Punjab, were halted by around 50 men in military uniforms at Babusar Top in Kaghan valley, Mansehra district. All the passengers were asked to alight from the busses and show their national identity cards, after identifying 25 persons as Shia Muslims. Their hands were tied and more than a dozen assailants opened fire at them, killing all 25. After the shooting they marched away in military style shouting Allah ho Akbar.
http://www.humanrights.asia/news/ahrc-news/AHRC-STM-165-2012

The Shias from Hazara tribe of Balochistan were killed in those areas which were under the strict control of the Pakistan army and its unit, the Frontier Corp. the places of killings were barely three to 500 meters from the military check posts.

Further incidents may be seen at:

http://www.humanrights.asia/news/ahrc-news/AHRC-STM-038-2012
http://www.humanrights.asia/news/ahrc-news/AHRC-STM-124-2011
http://www.humanrights.asia/news/ahrc-news/AHRC-STM-136-2012
http://www.humanrights.asia/news/forwarded-news/AHRC-FOL-015-2011
http://www.humanrights.asia/news/forwarded-news/AHRC-FAT-008-2012

August 18, The 11 persons, from the Sunni sect, were killed in sectarian violence occurred in District Central,Karachi  where 10 people lost their lives in overnight killings that took place in a span of two hours, while another man was killed at noon. Police suspect the wave of violence was in retaliation  for attacks on the Shia community. The first attack occurred in Gulberg locality, where motorcyclists fired on Qari Asif and Qari Shakirullah while they were sitting in their office. At around 1:20am, the second target were three friends: Maulana Muhammad Yahya, 32, Faizan Ilyas, 27 and Mujahid Aleem, 26. Twenty minutes later, a similar incident occurred near Masjid-o-Madrassa Quba, just two kilometres from Masjid-o-Madrassa Yasinul Quran. Assailants sprayed people sitting at Café Green with bullets, killing five people and injuring another. One of the men killed, Hafiz Sharjeel Ali, was associated with the Tableeghi Jamaat. Witnesses and acquaintances claimed the five men were targeted because they were Deobandi, a sect from Sunni Muslim. The fourth such incident occurred at a two-kilometre distance from where the funeral prayers for the Gulberg victims were being offered – another Deobandi, Qari Ahsan, 30, was gunned down when he was returning home from Friday prayers.

On August 17, Karachi: A day after a horrific massacre of 19 Shias in Mansehra, a bus carrying young Shia men was targeted by a bomb in Karachi. Two of them were killed and 13 others were injured. The bomb was planted at a footpath near the main gate of Safari Park, close to an electric substation. The bus was carrying activists of the Imamia Student Organisation (ISO) who boarded the bus at Karachi University

On August 16, a minor Christian girl, Miss Ramsha, 11, with Down ‘s syndrome, was arrested on the charges of blasphemy when she burned some copies of newspapers which were collected from the garbage. The Muslim population of the slum area attacked her house and beat her mother and sister and also burned some houses of Christians. The police arrested the mother and her two daughters and immediately sent Ramsha to Adiala prison illegally as according to law minors below the age of 15 years cannot be sent to prison or detained in police lockup. After her arrest police took the custody of her mother and sister and their whereabouts are unknown. Police say that both mother and daughter are in the protective custody because of the apprehension of their killing by the Muslim activists. However, the Christian community suspect that they were handed over the Muslim activists and that their lives may be in serious danger.http://www.humanrights.asia/news/urgent-appeals/AHRC-UAC-146-2012

In August, more than 200 Hindu families migrated to India because of continuous abduction for ransom, forced conversion to Islam after kidnapping, attack on their places of worship and houses, displacement, accusation of blasphemy and general persecution by the Muslim seminaries. Hindus, whose sizeable population live in all the districts of Sindh, have been facing continued incidence of violence compelling them to live under insecurity. The trend has continued for many years now.

On July 4, in Bahawalpur there was a harrowing incident of mob justice, hundreds of people accused a ‘deranged’ man of sacrilege, mercilessly beat him and burnt him alive in southern Punjab. The incident took place in Chanighot area of Bahawalpur. Residents saw a man allegedly throwing pages from the Holy Quran onto the street. Local police took him into custody and put him in the lockup. Soon a frenzied mob gathered outside the Chanighot police station baying for blood. Police couldn’t stand up to the furious and violent crowd who got hold of the alleged blasphemer, described by one police official as deranged, and brutally tortured him. Nine police officers, including SHO Gujjar and DSP were injured while trying – though unsuccessfully – to rescue the man. The mob burnt down several police vehicles, including DSP Mumtaz’s four-wheeler, before getting hold of the man, who has not been identified.

On July 19, Karachi, a devout senior Ahmadiy Muslim, Mr Naeem Ahmad Gondal, was shot in the head by two motorcyclists and died on the spot. He was an elite Ahmadiy Muslim and also holding the high position of Assistant Director in the State Bank of Pakistan. He was an active member of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community and had been the President of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community in Korangi town, Karachi, for the past 11 years. Mr Naeem was the seventh Ahmadiy Muslim killed in Karachi for his faith and belief since the beginning of this year and the world is aware of the hundreds of other Ahmadiy Muslims who have been killed in Pakistan so far just for being Ahmadiy and being devoted to their faith and belief. http://www.humanrights.asia/news/ahrc-news/AHRC-STM-154-2012

On July 1 in Faisalabad mob rule trumped the law when an infuriated crowd severely beat a man accused of blasphemy, within the jurisdiction of the Ghulam Muhammad Abad police station. According to the police, Faryad allegedly committed some blasphemous acts over which the residents of Marzi Pura caught him and severely thrashed and tortured him. After this, the police registered an FIR on the complaint of Abdus Sattar, a resident of Marzipura, and started an investigation.

On July 6, Khanpur a barber was sent to jail after he was arrested on charge of defiling pages of the Holy Quran. Rafiq Ahmed, a resident of Basti Ghazipur, was accused by Abdur Rasheed, the prayer leader of Ayesha Siddiqa Masjid, of using pages of the Holy Quran to clean some mirrors at his shop. Ahmed later said that he was illiterate and had no idea whether the papers he had used had verses of the Holy Quran written on them

On June 28 at least 13 pilgrims were martyred and several others injured in a bomb blast on Zaireen’s bus in Hazar Ganji, Quetta, the capital of Balochistan where the city remains under the tight control of the Frontier Corp (FC), a unit of the Pakistan Army. In the city it is not possible for anyone to move without being body searched by the FC and other law enforcement agencies yet the militants pass freely. The reports say that a police officer was also killed in the attack.

During the month of June alone, 31 Shiites were killed in the Quetta and Mand areas of Balochistan

On June 24 Rekha alias Pubi (14) was working at a factory for the manufacturing of bottles for beverages at Gadap Karachi. She was abducted by gangsters and forcibly converted to Islam. When a police case was filed against the abductors the girl was produced before a Magistrate’s Court by the gangsters to record a statement that she has embraced Islam as her religion. The irony of the judicial process is that the judicial magistrate has accepted her subsequent marriage as legal in spite of the Pakistan law which does not allow the marriage of girls before the age of 16 years.

The irony of the case is that the Chief Justice has with his own technique of law allowed the forced marriage and conversion to Islam as an Islamic victory. The next Friday, after the prayers, chief justice met with Naveed Shah and congratulated him on success on converting a Hindu girl to Islam.

On June 16, a mob attacked a police station in Quetta on Saturday, demanding a man detained for allegedly desecrating the Quran be handed over, leaving at least two children dead and 19 with gunshot wounds. Violence erupted after police arrested a “mentally retarded” man said to have burnt pages of the holy book in Kuchlak, about 16 kilometres (10 miles) north of Quetta, senior administration official Qambar Dashti told AFP. The clash left two children dead and 19 people wounded including eight policemen, he said. “All the wounded people have bullet injuries,” he added. “The man appeared to be mentally retarded, we have taken him into custody and ordered an investigation,” Wajid said, adding that control had been restored.

June 7, Quetta: In the targeted killings two brothers belonging to the Hazara Shia community were gunned down outside the regional passport office near Joint Road. The victims had come to the post office to get their passports made and were attacked outside the main gate of the office.

In May 2012, An 82 year old man, was shot dead by the complainant in Sheikhupura after his release from prison after acquittal by a court on being proved innocent in a blasphemy case. Iqbal Butt was on his way home on a rickshaw when he was shot dead in the city’s Farooqabad locality. Two men, including his accuser Maulvi Waqas and an unidentified accomplice, chased him on a motorcycle and opened fire, resulting in his death. Javed Butt, a stepson of Iqbal Butt, said that Maulvi Waqas accused his father of blasphemy just to settle a score with him after they exchanged harsh words during an argument earlier on.

May 30, Quetta: A Hazara was shot dead, the victim has been identified as Ali Muhammad, and was traveling on his bicycle after having lunch in a restaurant on Joint Road, when unknown armed men opened fire. Later, Lashkar-e-Jhangvi in a phone call to Quetta Press Club claimed responsibility.

On May 06, Quetta: A Hazara Shiite was killed by unknown gunmen Mastung on Sunday,. He was working at his tyre shop in Dasht area of Mastung, when unknown armed men riding on a bike opened fire and killed him at the spot. The victim is identified as Muhammad Ali.

On May 4, Policemen scratched out Quranic verses written on the walls of an Ahmedi place of worship and ordered them to cover up short minarets at the entrance as they made the place look like a mosque. After receiving a complaint about the place of worship in Sultanpura, Kachhupura, a large contingent of Misri Shah police visited it and told the Ahmedis they had a day to make the place look less like a mosque, failing which a case would be registered against them under the ‘Anti-lslamic Activities of Qadiani Group, Lahori Group and Ahmadis (Prohibition and Punishment) Ordinance’ of 1984.

On May 4, clerics in Sultanpura, Lahore, who complained that an Ahmedi place of worship looked too much like a mosque were unsatisfied with changes made to the building’s facade and demanded that the building’s dome be demolished, The Express Tribune has learnt. The administration of Baitul Hamd, the worship place, covered the chhatri (flattened dome) at the entrance by installing a hoarding in front of it on May 4. A day earlier, Misri Shah police had removed some tiles with the Kalma and Quranic verses from the building entrance.

In the month of May a Hindu lawyer, Mr. Mohan Lal Meghwar, son of Karo Mal, resident of village Bhadisindhu, Chachro, district Tharparkar, Sindh province, was released by his abductors after paying millions of rupees. On December 30, 2011 he was abducted again when he was on way to Sindh high court, Hyderabad bench, 56 kilometers away from his residence to attend the court proceedings. http://www.humanrights.asia/news/urgent-appeals/AHRC-UAC-252-2011/

On April 18, the decision in the cases of Ms. Haleema alias Asha Kumari, Ms. Hafza alias Dr. Lata, and Ms. Faryal alias Rinkle Kumari who were forced to convert to Islam after abduction, has proved that that the highest court is a biased Muslim court rather than institution of justice. The judgment concerning this issue has worried the religious minorities who already face an existential threat, demographically but also due to rising religious intolerance in the society.

April 15, Quetta: At least eight members of the Shia Hazara community and a policeman were killed in three attacks . After the attacks and subsequent violence, the administration called out Frontier Corps in the city. The paramilitaries started taking up positions at important places in the evening.
“Seven people were killed in firing on two vehicles on Brewery Road and Subzal Road. Saturday’s killings took the number of Hazara Shias killed in Quetta and its vicinity during the past fortnight to 26.

On April 3, Mr. Abdul Qudoos Ahmad (43), a well respected school teacher, belonging to the Ahmadiyya sect was tortured to death while in police custody in Chenab Nagar (the Ahmadi community refers to it by its old name of Rabwah), Punjab province. He was taken into custody by the police on 10 February 2012 and was kept in a private torture cell of the police until 26 March when his condition deteriorated due to the severe torture he endured. He remained in police custody for 35 days with any charges being laid against him and was not officially arrested. He was forced to confess to the murder of one, Muhammad Yousuf, a stamp-paper seller from the Nusrat Abad area who was murdered a few months earlier. During the illegal detention Mr. Qudoos was deprived from access to any the legal assistance was not provided. http://www.humanrights.asia/news/urgent-appeals/AHRC-UAC-057-2012/

On March 15, the Khushab district police officer has sought assistance from the Muttahida Ulema Board Punjab in a blasphemy case against two Shia clerics. The particulars of the FIR, a compact disc with recordings of allegedly blasphemous lectures by a Shia zakir and the legal opinion of the district public prosecutor have been sent to the board, Ghulam Murtaza, personal staff officer to the DPO, told The Express Tribune. Murtaza said the matter was referred to the board to ensure that the prosecution was in accordance with the law. The DPO’s reader said that in his written opinion the district public prosecutor had supported the insertion of Section 295 C (use of derogatory remarks, etc, in respect of the Holy Prophet) of the Pakistan Penal Code in the FIR registered on March 15 against Gorot resident Shuja Abbas and Multan resident Nasir Multani.

On February 23, Ms. Rinkle Kumari, (17), a Hindu girl living in Mirpur Mathelo; a small city of Sindh province and the daughter of a school teacher, was abducted on the night of 23 February by notorious gangsters of the area with the help of a member of the National Assembly from the ruling party and local Muslim fundamentalist groups. Following her abduction she was forced to embrace Islam. According to the information received, Naveed Shah, a member of a famous criminal group of Hassam Kalwarh, along with more than dozen persons abducted Kumari from her house on 23 February. They kidnapped her at gunpoint and took her to the resident of Mian Abdul Haq, alias Mian Mithhu, the member of the National Assembly from the ruling party, the Pakistan Peoples’ Party. She was then taken to a famous Madressa at Dargah Aalia Qadria Bharchoondi Sharif where she had forced to sign the marriage certificate (Nikkah Nama) and married with Naveed Shah, a street gangster. The Madressa is famous for converting Hindu girls in the province which claims that it has the target to convert 2000 Hindus every year to Islam. http://www.humanrights.asia/news/ahrc-news/AHRC-STM-165-2012

On February 23, in Lahore a mob stormed the school where Saira Khokhar teaches in an attempt to abduct her after she was accused of burning a copy of the Qur’an. Asia News wrote; After Asia Bibi, another Christian woman has been targeted by Muslim fundamentalists because of allegations of blasphemy. Saira Khokhar, who teaches at the City Foundation School in Lahore, is accused of burning a copy of the Qur’an. However, the case is still shrouded in mystery. The school is run by a Christian NGO, City Foundation.

On January 29, a big gathering of more than 5000 persons, mainly from Madressas (Islamic seminaries) was held outside the place where members of Ahmadiyya community have their Mosque and other places like a hospital and library. The place of the protest gathering was not far away from the General Head Quarters of Pakistan and was addressed by none other than the leaders of the banned religious organizations who were declared as terrorist organizations. The leaders from Jamaat-ud-Dawa, Lashkar-e-Taiba and Sipahe Sahaba addressed the rally. The rally was held to protest alleged land ‘encroachment’; the speakers used the occasion to demand that Ahmadis must stop religious activities such as proselytizing and worshipping. Participants carried flags of different religious parties, including some banned ones, and portraits of the self-confessed assassin, Mumtaz Qadri, who killed former Punjab governor Salmaan Taseerhttp://www.humanrights.asia/news/ahrc-news/AHRC-STM-025-2012/

On January 26, five men were arrested for allegedly using offensive language against the companions of the Holy Prophet (PBUH) in Kotri. According to the on-duty officer, the men wrote derogatory remarks on the walls of six bogies of Sukkur Express when it was at Kotri. Abid Hussain, Mohammad Hussain, Tasawar Hussain, Asghar Abbas and Mirza Hussain were brought to Karachi and arrested. According to the police, a score of members of the Ahle Sunnat wal Jamaat gathered at Cantt Station and staged a sit-in.

On January 27, there have been stories aplenty about extremist elements publicly punishing men who groom their facial hair in the far-flung tribal badlands of Pakistan. However, the practice has now been reported a little closer to home: At a school in Peshawar, where the institution’s administration suspended a student for trimming his beard too fine – or, to be more precise, for getting an “English cut”.

On January 7, in a mockery of the Blasphemy Law:  A man wrote that his name was ‘Jew Jurian’ on his national identity card form. The data entry clerk then assumed he was a Jew. Thus for the first time in the history of Computerised National Identity Cards (CNIC), a Pakistani was officially declared a Jew. The problem was that he was a Christian. The bigger problem for Jurian, as he told The Express Tribune, was that he was accused of being a Jew – and subsequently, through the twisted logic of twisted souls, of blasphemy. After thorough investigations, Jurian was released by the police, along with three others, in May 2003. Almost nine years later, he and his family still face death threats.But his two other friends were shot dead by the fundamentalists and he is hiding.

On January 3, the car owned by Mahesh Kumar, the former President of Press Club Hyderabad was attacked by three motor-cyclists while Mahesh was inside the club building. This is second time that Mahesh’s vehicle has been attacked by unknown people. From the pattern of the attacks, it seems this is the second warning issued to the journalist and this time the level of threat is higher than before. Mahesh’ colleagues believe that this might be the last warning for Mahesh Kumar before he will be personally harmed. Eight bullets holes were found at different places on the body of the car. http://www.humanrights.asia/news/forwarded-news/AHRC-FPR-001-2012/

These cases all are well reflected in Pakistani society, particularly after the promulgation of section 295 (B) and 295 (C) of the blasphemy law during the regime of the military dictator, General Zia-ul-Haq in 1980s.

# # #

About AHRC: The Asian Human Rights Commission is a regional non-governmental organisation that monitors human rights in Asia, documents violations and advocates for justice and institutional reform to ensure the protection and promotion of these rights. The Hong Kong-based group was founded in 1984.

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Baseer Naweed
Senior ResearcherSign our Petition: Stop Disappearances in Pakistan
Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC)
baseer.naweed@ahrc.asia
Tel: (852) 2698 6339 Ext 113
Fax: (852) 2698 6367
Mob: (852)6402 5943
Skype: baseer.naweed

An Article from the Asian Human Rights Commission
AHRC-ART-078-2012
August 29, 2012

Support the movement for the Repeal of Pakistan’s Blasphemy Laws.
Facebook Page: http://www.facebook.com/RepealBlasphemyLaws
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Make UN Recognize ‘The International Day Against State Religion’ – Sign This Petition

This petition, asking United Nations to recognize a day in the year as The International Day Against State Religion, will help us around the world to root out religious sentiment, and concepts such as blasphemy, from legal and social systems. It will help us move away from incidents like the sectarian murders of 19 Shia Muslims, and the blasphemy arrest of minor Rimsha Masih.

The initiative has been taken by Ghulam Mustafa Lakho, and we need to take it forward by siging this petition, sharing the links, and inviting our friends and colleagues to do the same.

Sign the Petition

Petition for recognizing “The International Day Against State Religion” by the United Nations in solidarity with victims of the State Religion, namely, non-Muslims and non-believers of Pakistan.

To,
The Secretary-General,
United Nations,
UN Headquarters,
New York.

Please take active, effective and meaningful steps for recognizing “The International Day Against State Religion” by the United Nations in solidarity with victims of the State Religion, namely, non-Muslims and non-believers of Pakistan.

The life of non-Muslims and non-believers of Pakistan is as good as hell thanks to the “State Religion” of Pakistan. Thus, the need of the time is to declare that the “State Religion” is hit by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

The eleven (11) words of Mr. M.A. Jinnah, the Founder of Pakistan, are on the record: religion has nothing to do with the business of the State. Thus, he spoke on August 11, 1947 in his 1st Presidential Address to the Constituent Assembly of Pakistan against the “State Religion”.

None of the members of the Parliament of Pakistan has cared to pay respect to the eleven (11) words of Mr. M.A. Jinnah, the Founder of Pakistan since August 11, 1947. The proof is the “State Religion” in the Constitution of Pakistan.

None of the Parliamentarians of Pakistan is ready and willing to heed the ideas of the Founder of Pakistan on the relation of Religion and State.

Under these facts and circumstances, it may be the humane duty of United Nations to recognize and celebrate the 11th day of August, 1947 as the INTERNATIONAL DAY AGAINST STATE RELIGION in the name of the Universal Human Rights in solidarity with non-Muslims and non-believers of Pakistan.

Let the United Nations come for the help of the victims of the “State Religion” in Pakistan as well as around the globe. And, let the 11th day of August, 1947 be recognized as the INTERNATIONAL DAY AGAINST STATE RELIGION.

Sign the Petion
http://www.change.org/en-IN/petitions/the-secretary-general-united-nations-recognize-the-international-day-against-state-religion-5

Sincerely,
Ghulam Mustafa Lakho
Advocate Supreme Court of Pakistan

Contact Ghulam Mustafa Lakho
Blog: http://saynotothestatereligion.blogspot.ca/
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/gmlakho

Official Facebook Page
http://www.facebook.com/pages/The-International-Day-Against-State-Religion/106460822743085

Also, if you haven’t yet,
Please sign the petition to help release Rimsha Masih
http://www.petitionbuzz.com/petitions/freerimshamasih

A poem for the 19 murdered Shia Muslims, and the arrest of Rimsha Masih
Holier Than Life by Fauzia Rafique

From Uddari Weblog
Make UN Recognize 'The International Day Against State Religion' – Sign This Petition.

Death Sentences to 4 Women 2 Men for singing and dancing

A tribal ‘jirga’ or council in northern Pakistan has condemned four women and two men to death for “staining the honour” of their families by singing and dancing at a wedding, according to a media report today.

The men and women from Hazara division in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province were allegedly caught on videotape singing and dancing at a wedding in violation of the tribal custom of gender segregation, The Express Tribune reported.

The men managed to flee before the jirga could act against them. The jirga has tasked 40 young men to kill the men and women.

“A tribal jirga has declared them Ghul (fornicators). And they might be killed any time,” said Muhammad Afzal, the elder brother of two men condemned to death.

Afzal said the women allegedly sang ‘mahiyas’ or folk songs at the wedding and danced in the presence of ‘na-mehram’ or those who one can marry in Islam.

The wedding took place two months ago in Bando Baidar village. Some guest filmed the women and men singing and dancing with a mobile phone. The amateur video was later sent to the women’s relatives, the report said.

The tribe to which the women belong was angered by the video. It convened a jirga of elders a month ago and they found the women and men guilty of violating tribal and Islamic norms by singing and dancing together.

http://www.indianexpress.com/news/pak-jirga-sentences-6-to-death-for-attending-mixed-gathering/954789/

Update

KOHISTAN: Four women and two boys were sentenced to death by a jirga (assembly) over group dance at a wedding ceremony in Kohistan, SAMAA reported on Monday.

Two boys managed to flee the area.

According to reports, four women and two boys had danced together at a wedding ceremony in Sirtay Village of Kohistan two months ago. On this, villagers held a jirga, which awarded death sentence for all four women and two boys.

All four women, two of them married, had been locked in one room.

According to Hazara Commissioner Khalid Umarzai, eight elders of the villages assured the police that these women would not be harmed.

He said a police team has reached the village to probe the issue.

SAMAA
http://www.samaa.tv/newsdetail.aspx?ID=48223

Status of World’s Women – Report 2011-2012

“Progress of the World’s Women 2011-2012: In Pursuit of Justice”‏ by UN Women.

By Myra Imran

Raising numerous serious questions regarding lacunas in the prevalent justice systems around the world, the UN Women launched its first major report titled ‘Progress of the World’s Women 2011-2012 — In Pursuit of Justice’ in Pakistan on Friday.

Presenting a comparative analysis of global statistics, the first major report following the organisation’s launch in early 2011, mentions that justice remains out of the reach of millions of the world’s women. It says Domestic violence is outlawed in 125 countries of the world but globally, 603 million women live in countries where domestic violence is not considered a crime.

Laws based on custom or religion, which exist alongside state legislation, frequently restrict women’s rights within the family, in marriage, divorce and the right to inherit property. “Much has been achieved in the private and public spheres in the last century. Yet discrimination and gender injustice remain prevalent around the world.”

The report says that 117 countries have equal pay laws yet, in practice, women are still paid up to 30 per cent less than men in some countries and women still do more unpaid domestic and caring work than men in every region of the world.

It points out that globally, 53 per cent of working women — 600 million in total — are in vulnerable jobs, such as self-employment, domestic work or unpaid work for family businesses, which often lack the protection of labour laws.

Highlighting another such dimension, the report says that by 2011, at least 52 countries had made marital rape a criminal offence. And yet, over 2.6 billion women live in countries where it has not been explicitly criminalized.

It mentions that in countries where there have been steep increases in women’s representation in Parliaments, progressive laws on women’s rights have often followed yet there are still less than 30 per cent of women in parliament in the vast majority of countries. It further mentions that donors spend US$4.2 billion annually on aid for justice reform, but only 5 per cent of this spending specifically targets women and girls.

The report also recognises the positive progress made and says that 139 countries and territories now guarantee gender equality in their constitutions but it also shows that too often, women continue to experience injustice, violence and inequality in their home and working lives.

To ensure justice becomes a reality for all women, UN Women calls on governments to repeal laws that discriminate against women, support innovative justice services, put women on the frontline of justice delivery and invest in justice system that can respond to women’s need.

It stresses the need to ensure that legislation protects women from violence and inequality in the home and the workplace and demands innovative justice services such as one-stop shops, legal aid and specialised courts, to ensure women can access the justice to which they are entitled.

The report says that across the board, existing laws are too often inadequately enforced, the report finds. Many women shrink away from reporting crimes due to social stigma and weak justice systems. The costs and practical difficulties of seeking justice can be prohibitive — from travel to a distant court, to paying for expensive legal advice. The result is high drop-out rates in cases where women seek redress, especially on gender-based violence.

The thought provoking and colourful launching of report was attended by a large number of women right activists, representatives of civil society organisations, lawyer’s associations and law enforcing agencies. Speaker National Assembly Dr Fehmida Mirza was the chief guest on the occasion.

Others who spoke at the event included Federal Ombudsperson for Harassment Act Mussarat Hilali, President Lawyers for Human Rights Zia Awan, AIG Islamabad Ehsan Sadiq and Country Director UN Women Alice Shakleford.

The speakers stressed the need for collaborative efforts to create an enabling environment for women in pursuit justice. They pointed out that enough legislation has been formulated in Pakistan for women in past few decades but the real issue is the effective implementation of these laws. They also demanded elimination of discriminatory laws.

Besides formal speeches made by the guests, the event included an interactive session with the stakeholders and poetry recitation by UN Gender Expert Salman Asif who read some of the very fine verses by eminent social worker Bilqees Edhi urging everyone to feel for women in distress and help them.

Another unique feature was the audio of inspiring stories of women survivors played for the guests. These women faced extreme forms of violence against women but were brave enough to fight back and become a role model for others.

Speaker Dr Fehmida Mirza said that no system can claim to be democratic and participatory if it fails to include and address the issues concerning its women. She said that women’s pursuit for justice stretches back beyond recorded time to the myths and legends told by ancient seers in all cultures and civilisations.

“Societies were always hesitant in accepting them on a par with their men. It is high time that we make our society realize that gender roles, inequities and power imbalances are not a ‘natural’ result of biological differences, but determined by the systems and cultures in which we live.”

She highlighted the efforts of Pakistan People’s Part to bring women in the lime light at every level. She said that in the last three years of its 5-year tenure, the women Parliamentarians ran 60 per cent of the business in the National Assembly and the government has passed 77 bills in which more than a dozen relate to women and children.

“Laws hold a critical balance in shaping societies although they alone cannot bring a change in mindsets. No government, no matter how democratic in nature, can bring about a revolution on its own if it is not backed by a strong and committed public opinion,” she opined.

She said that Pakistan will hold the seventh meeting of the Women Speakers of Parliaments around the world in November this year, where the women speakers will focus on making parliaments more gender sensitive. At the Saarc Speakers Conference in Delhi, she has also proposed the creation of a Saarc Parliament which could allow the Parliamentarians of the region to jointly address issues of social injustice, the speeding up of the MDGs and the realization of an equity-based gender-balanced mutually beneficial Saarc community.

Saturday, July 30, 2011
National Commission on the Status of Women-Pakistan
Government of Pakistan
Phone: +92-51-9224875,9209885
comms@ncsw.gov.pk
www.ncsw.gov.pk

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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Repeal the Blasphemy Laws! Candlelight Vigil, Vancouver March 15/11

Protect Human Rights of Minorities in Pakistan!
Repeal the Blasphemy Laws!
Candlelight Vigil to Commemorate the Lives of all Victims of Blasphemy Laws
March 15th, 6pm
Outside the Pakistani Consulate, 510 W. Hastings Street
(corner of W. Hastings and Richards, across from SFU Harbour Centre)

As you may know, Pakistan’s Federal Minister for Minority Affairs Shahbaz Bhatti was recently assassinated for speaking out against the Blasphemy Laws and the resulting ongoing persecution of religious minorities. This was preceded by the assassination of the Governor of Punjab Salman Taseer who had taken up the cause of Aasia Bibi, a poor Christian labourer who is currently imprisoned awaiting death by hanging under the Blasphemy Laws. Countless other Pakistanis continue to be persecuted because of these heinous legal relics of the Zia dictatorship in conjunction with a dangerous and unconscionable appropriation of Islam, deliberately distorted for the sole purpose of political or economic gain.

We believe that it is the Blasphemy Laws themselves and the resulting persecution and violence that are un-Islamic and contrary to both the tenets of Islam and the founding principles of the nation. We stand in solidarity with the struggles taking place in Pakistan to ensure equality for ALL Pakistanis and feel that we must speak out strongly where other voices are being threatened into silence through harassment and direct death calls.

Through this vigil, we want to begin building alliances with sister organizations and supportive individuals for effective lobbying to put pressure on the Government of Pakistan, the Chief of the Army Staff, and the leaders of all political parties to repeal the Blasphemy Laws, and to abolish religious extremism and vigilantism. We believe, the Blasphemy Laws must be repealed in order to protect Muslim and non-Muslim lives, minority rights, freedom of speech and democracy.

Please stand with us. This issue requires your urgent support.

Protect Human Rights of Minorities in Pakistan!
Repeal the Blasphemy Laws!
Candlelight Vigil to Commemorate the Lives of all Victims of Blasphemy Laws
March 15th, 6pm
Outside the Pakistani Consulate, 510 W. Hastings Street
(corner of W. Hastings and Richards, across from SFU Harbour Centre)

Please join us in a candlelight vigil to
– Protest the persecution of all minorities within Pakistan
– Push for the repeal of the blasphemy laws and all laws that discriminate against all minorities
– Honour all lives lost to extremist violence including the recent assassinations of Salman Taseer and Shahbaz Bhatti
– Support the release of Aasia Bibi and all those now being victimized by discriminatory laws

For more info
repealthelaws@gmail.com
Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/event.php?eid=150985018294095

Organized by
Ad Hoc Group For the Repeal of Blasphemy Laws in Pakistan
Vancouver, BC
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ASIA: Unabated violence against women impedes social change

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
AHRC-STM-037-2011
March 8, 2011

A Statement from the Asian Human Rights Commission on the occasion of the International Women’s Day

ASIA: Unabated violence against women impedes social change

For 100 years now, a strong struggle for equal rights between genders has been taking place in the world. International women’s day is the opportunity to celebrate women’s economic, political and social achievements. It is the day to acknowledge the enormous potential of women in service of the prosperity of their communities and the core societal role they have to play for peace and political and economic development in their countries. Having educated and empowered women actively participating in every sphere of the public life of their country has for long been acknowledged as the key to development and prosperity in all the countries of the world. Discrimination against women has been formally recognized as a violation of human dignity and as riding roughshod over the concept that all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and in rights. Nevertheless, in numerous corners of the Asian region, direct and indirect violence and discrimination, under various forms continue to oppress women and prevent them from fully achieving their potential for change. Through 2010 and since the beginning of 2011, the Asian Human Rights Commission has been aware of numerous cases of such oppression. The diversity of Asia clearly illustrates that the formal recognition of equal rights without discrimination based on gender and criminalization of gender-based violence has failed to materialize in practice. Violence against women is sometimes justified through the evocation of tradition and religion and is exploiting the weak rule of law framework of numerous Asian countries to the advantage of the male-dominated society. It is used to control the behaviour of women, prevent them from freely taking part in public debate and continuously undermines the expression of women’s potential for change in Asia.

The Global Gender Gap Index of 2010 offered a clear overview of the disparities which exists in the Asian region with regard to the country level of advancement in terms of equality of rights and opportunities between genders. The Philippines and Sri Lanka rank respectively as 9th and 16th out of 134 countries in terms of gender equality, mostly due to the achievements of those two countries in reducing the gender-gap in education and health while Pakistan ranks the third worst country in the world in terms of gender equality. Thailand ranks 57th globally but ranks among the best countries in terms of maternal health and 36th in terms of economic opportunity for the women, with women representing the majority (51%) of the non-agricultural labour force, a rarity in the Asian context. The gender situation in Bangladesh and Indonesia is less optimistic: ranking respectively as 82th and 87th. The scores of both countries are increased only by the fact that they have women as their head of State, but their scores in terms of economic empowerment, access to education and health are very low. Closing this ranking are India (112th), Nepal (114th) and Pakistan (132th) with extremely important discrepancies between genders in all spheres of life.

In a number of Asian countries patriarchal cultural and religious traditions are invoked to systematically control women’s lives, their free will and even their bodies and hamper the full realization of their potential. In India, discrimination rooted in gender prejudices that foster stereotypical roles for the girl child and women is one of the reasons for the poor state of affairs of women. The concept of purity and submission superimposed upon women by cultural and religious practices, restrict their access to education and limits their freedom to choose the employment of their choice. The continuing practice of demanding and paying dowry, though prohibited by the Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961 limits the parents’ interest to educate a girl child.

Another example is the common practice in some communities in Pakistan that at the time of birth of a girl, she is declared engaged to be married to a boy which will prevent the ‘engaged’ girl from freely choosing her future as her fate is sealed from the day of her birth.

Similarly, honour killings remain a strong issue in South Asia. The women being seen as carrying the honour of the family can be murdered if a family or the community considers that she is following a path different to what was expected of her. The United Nations Population Fund estimates that 5,000 women die each year in honour killings worldwide. However, the actual number is likely to be much higher as the cases largely go unreported.

Another example of religion or tradition being invoked by the community to control the lives of the women was seen in a case reported in August 2010 from Sri Lanka. A husband was forced by community members of the local mosque to sign a document agreeing to the punishment of his 17-year-old wife for having given birth to a child as a result of an extra-marital relationship. The woman, who was sick, was then beaten 100 times with the hard centre stem of a coconut frond.

Similarly, in Bangladesh, the Committee on Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women expressed its concern in February 2011 that “despite the High Court’s decision that the extra-judicial punishments, fatwas, are illegal, there are reports of illegal penalties being enforced through shalish rulings to punish “anti-social and immoral behaviour”. In January 2011, a 14-year-old girl was “lashed to death” following a punishment given by a village court consisting of elders and clerics under the Shari’ah law, after being accused of having an affair with a married man.

In some countries the “traditions” invoked to maintain the women in a state of oppression benefit from the support of the authorities, like in Pakistan, or are even reflected in the legal framework like in Aceh where some of the criminal laws are based on the misinterpretation of the Shari’ah. A 2010 report by Human Rights Watch “Policing morality” on the law related to “seclusion” which makes association with a unmarried member of the opposite sex a criminal offense punishable by caning and a fine and to public dress requirement, two of the five Shari’ah laws in Aceh, revealed that these laws are abusively implemented by the authorities and document cases of aggressive interrogation, including beating of the suspects, forcing the suspects to marry and forcing women and girls to submit to virginity examinations as part of the investigation.

The Jirga courts in Pakistan oppress women’s rights and, though illegal, are tolerated or even supported by the authorities. Jirgas deny the equality between women and men, apply corporal or capital punishments upon women whose behaviour is seen as deviating from traditional standards and lack standards of fair trial. In July 2010, a woman was condemned to stoning to death by a Jirga merely for having been seen as walking alone with a man. In May 2010, a young couple was marked for death by a Jirga that included police officers because the woman had denied a suitor selected by her family in favour of her husband, who came from outside of the tribe. Despite an eventual Sindh High Court ruling in favour of the couple, community members and police continued to persecute the couple and the groom’s family. Legal and social complicity results in near impunity for those who continue to abide by the Jirga rather than law and perpetrates honour killings. The government has not been seen to take any sort of action to pronounce the Jirgas’ ruling as illegal and to dismantle them by taking action against the individuals engaged in running them.

Those cultural and religious representations remain strong obstacles in the way of women who want to take an active part in the future of their communities. Even in countries which are trying to achieve a 33% representation of women in the Parliament, such target remains very hard to reach; Nepal being the only Asian country to have achieved that goal so far. Women seeking emancipation are the target of those who want to maintain the patriarchal order of the society and see female emancipation as a direct threat to their own power and social status.

Acid attacks in Bangladesh and Pakistan against women who dare to say “no” to a marriage or a relationship are a case in point. Threats and harassment against women human rights defenders in Nepal further show the society resistance to those seen as challenging the established social order.

In some countries, women are considered as simple chattel that can be exchanged to maintain the relationship between families; to settle conflicts or a commodity that can, more simply, be sold. In February 2011, the AHRC documented a case of marriage which was opposed by the 70-year-old father of the bride in Pakistan. As “compensation” for the marriage and the loss of his daughter, the father demanded the barter of a girl from the groom’s family.

In South Asia, cases of dowry disputes and dowry deaths also reveal the value placed upon a woman’s life. These are cases where the groom’s family claims that they had not received enough material benefits to accept the woman into the family. Those claims may result in assault, mental and physical harassment of the bride, and ultimately, in her killing.

Further, Asia continues to suffer from a massive phenomenon of trafficking in women. In many cases the authorities cooperate with trafficking rings and brothels were women are kept, effectively imprisoned for sex work. Due to the irregular immigration of trafficked women, the victims often have no legal status in the country where they are trafficked to and risk detention should they try to escape or lodge a complaint with the local authorities. In Thailand, sex workers are particularly at risk of exploitation and stigmatisation with cases of arrest and humiliation commonly reported, while rape cases of women sex workers are not properly dealt with.

All the cases mentioned above clearly show a pattern that, although the attitude of state actors is primordial in dealing with cases of violence against women, the functioning of law enforcement agencies in practice reflects the patriarchal values of the society and further contribute to oppress the women. The systematic failures of the criminal justice systems have been exploited by perpetrators to deny justice and protection to the victims of gender-based violence and to maintain the women in a situation of vulnerability. For instance, in almost all the countries in Asia, authorities at all levels of the judicial system have denied assistance and justice to rape victims and protected the perpetrators, resulting in a de facto “decriminalisation of rape”. Victims of rape and gender-based violence seeking legal redress face harassment, threats from the authorities and community members and often the courage required to confront such obstacles to get justice is only rewarded with impunity for the perpetrators. This starts from the moment the victim makes the complaint of rape. In almost all of Asia there are incidents of police officers refusing to accept the complaint, forcing the victim to negotiate a settlement with the perpetrators or in specific countries even to marry the perpetrators.

Collusion between the perpetrators of rape and police officers is common. Further, the social stigma surrounding rape and women filing cases in the police station and economic dependency of women are the most important of all obstacles hampering the women’s access to redress.

In a case in Nepal last July, the police took the rape victim in custody twice at the demand of the perpetrators which resulted in having all the physical traces of rape disappear. In Sri Lanka, in January 2011, the family of a 23-year-old physically and mentally disabled rape victim was forced by the police to accept monetary compensation from the perpetrator as a settlement for the case. In Pakistan, in December 2010, a woman was raped by a local gangster with the help of two police informers and was forced by the police to withdraw her complaint. In India, women face additional risks at the hands of law enforcement officers than their male counterparts due to the risk of sexual harassment and even custodial rape. In a case reported on 1 February this year, once again from Assam state, the police officers assaulted and sexually abused a woman and her mother when the officers came to their house in search of a male suspect. In this case too, the police have refused to register a case against the accused despite written complaints.

These cases, from different corners of Asia, illustrate that protecting the right of women is intrinsically linked to the state of rule of law in the country, in particular to a sensitisation of the police and to the introduction of accountability within the ranks of law enforcement agencies.

All over Asia, the situation of women belonging to communities which are traditionally marginalized and discriminated against deserves a special mention as those women will be exploited at several levels with even less access to judiciary and state institutions than women belonging to the dominant majority in the country.

In India and Nepal for instance, women belonging to the Dalit or tribal communities are more vulnerable to rape as their lives and dignity are seen as less valuable and they have less access to judicial institutions. Nepal has also recently seen an increase in cases of isolated women, often widows and often from the Dalit community, being trashed, violently beaten, tortured and forced to eat human excreta after being accused of “witchcraft” by villagers. The Women’s Rehabilitation Center (WOREC) has documented 82 such cases within two years. In Pakistan, women from religious minorities are targeted, abducted and forcibly married to convert them to Islam. It is estimated that 20 to 25 Hindu girls are abducted each month and forcibly converted to Islam. In March 2010, the family of a 17-year-old Hindu girl who was kidnapped by three influential Muslim brothers and raped by one of them, was pressured into accepting her wedding to her rapist and her conversion to Islam by a jirga. Judicial and police inaction went as far as arresting the victim’s father under a fake case and intense pressure from ruling party members and local landlords prevented the family from seeking further assistance.

The targeting of women from marginalized castes or classes or religious and ethnic minorities is not an aimless and insignificant act; on the contrary it has calculated implications and impact. Raping or abusing the women aims at not only destroying the victim but also, through her, the community. Rape and violence against women has become an instrument of power in the hands of the dominant majority. The victimization of women from marginalized castes or classes contributes to the maintenance of power and the domination of “upper” classes or castes while the victimization of women from minorities, religious or ethnic, aims at destroying the whole structure of that community, integrating them into the “mainstream” majority through the destruction of their identity. This aspect is particularly evident in the case of Burma, where women from ethnic minorities are the target of systematic, state-induced campaigns of rape and other forms of sexual abuses by soldiers in order to “spread the blood” of the ethnic majority and to humiliate and oppress. “Licence to Rape”, a June 2002 report by the Shan Women’s Action Network documented 173 cases of rape and other forms of sexual violence, with 625 Shan girls and women victimized by Burmese soldiers from 1996 to 2001 and showed that rape was condoned as a weapon of war from the Burmese state in order to subjugate and control ethnic minorities. Documentation by women’s groups shows that such cases of rape; torture and killings of women continue unabated in other areas of ethnic conflict.

More generally speaking, women in areas of conflict suffer from specific abuses and often find themselves deprived of any legal remedy; in the South of Thailand, women are facing unrest and loss but have not been provided any kind of remedies. The Victim Protection Scheme is inappropriately implemented, which deprives the victims seeking justice with any kind of remedy. In Nepal, during the decade-long conflict, the women faced gender-based violence and sexual violence but such victims have remained invisible and absent of the government relief programmes and compensation schemes for conflict victims, a joint report by Advocacy Forum and the International Center for Transitional Justice found.

Gender bias is also visible in larger issues like poverty and malnutrition. For instance, in South Asia and South-East Asia, in both urban and rural poverty, often the direct victim of poverty and malnutrition is the women and/or the girl child. In most cases reported by the AHRC, the pattern shows that it is the mother and the girl child which face the worst brunt of poverty.

Women therefore suffer from multi-layered, multi-facetted discrimination and forms of violence in Asia. The malfunctioning of the rule of law framework is exploited by those who want to prevent women from playing a major role in the public sphere.

Nevertheless, throughout Asia, women continue to gather, organise and defend their rights and the rights of their community. The fight of those thousands of anonymous women not only contributes to the promotion of the “rights of women” but also to the advancement of democracy in their community as a whole.

In countries where reservations were made to ensure the representation of women in elected bodies, especially at the local level, women have been able to make use of such arenas to raise concrete issues of tremendous importance for the community, such as access to water.

In Nepal, women have played a tremendously important role in the popular uprising of 2006 which lead to the end of the conflict and the establishment of democracy in the country. Similarly in India, it is a woman, Ms. Iron Chanu Sharmila of Manipur, who has today become the beacon of hope and peace. Sharmila has undergone a ten-year-long fast in protest against the ongoing violence and impunity in India, committed both by the state and non-state actors. The state attempted to stifle her protest by keeping Sharmila in arbitrary and solitary detention in a hospital room for the past ten years in which she is force fed through a nasal tube. In Burma, it is also the fight of a woman, Aung San Suu Kyi that has become the incarnation of the hopes for peace, human rights and democracy of the people. In Sri Lanka, women activists and lawyers are taking a great role in the fight against torture and support to the victims. In Pakistan, it is a woman parliamentarian who had the courage to deposit a law in the Parliament seeking to amend the Blasphemy law under which religious minorities face persecutions.

On Women International Day, the AHRC calls for comprehensive action, from all forces of the society, to create the conditions for women to fully express their potential for better change.

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About AHRC: The Asian Human Rights Commission is a regional non-governmental organisation that monitors human rights in Asia, documents violations and advocates for justice and institutional reform to ensure the protection and promotion of these rights. The Hong Kong-based group was founded in 1984.

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