We Have Your Words

Yes, we have your reasons for signing the Secular Pakistan Petition at Change.org.

The Petition was started as one of the things we needed to do after the so-called blasphemy related burning-alive murders of Shaheed Bibi Shama Masih and Shaheed Shahzad Masih in November, and than the school massacre of 132 children in Peshawar by Taliban in December. And now, the murders in Paris of 12 people (I’m Charlie) for ‘offending’ the same groups of religious fanatics.

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We want to share with our readers some of your words and thoughts because they so very well express our common desire to have a secular society with equal rights for all where extreme religious factions do not find a home.

Here, we begin with 30 comments. The first comment was posted 23 days ago by Nasir Khan from Manchester UK, and you will find it right at the bottom of this post.

Shoaib Mir
LAHORE, PAKISTAN
20 days ago
‘Jinnah, the Founder of Pakistan, said that religion has nothing to do with the affairs of State. Period.’

Saeed Ahmed
LAHORE, PAKISTAN
20 days ago
‘Because i think that the true democracy cannot be achieved without secularism and that means the right to exercise religion must be an act of an individual and the religion must be separated from state….’

Raheel Naseem Naseem
LAHORE, PAKISTAN
21 days ago
‘its the only way to prosper!’

Wasim Ashraf Rasa
HYDERABAD SINDH, PAKISTAN
21 days ago
‘The country cannot walk on the path of glory without separating both religion and state.’

Pilar Roldan
MAIRENA DEL ALJARAFE, SPAIN
21 days ago
‘Religion is not the way to lead a Country’

Qureshi Manzoor
LAHORE, PAKISTAN
21 days ago
‘I agree to it’

Suhas Khale
LONDION, UNITED KINGDOM
21 days ago
‘I think it is the right thing to do’

Muhammad Hashim
QUETTA, PAKISTAN
22 days ago
‘I believe in secular democracy’

Abdul Azeez
KARACHI, PAKISTAN
22 days ago
‘I consider it essential for Pakistan’

Neelam Farid
ISLAMABAD, PAKISTAN
22 days ago
‘i completely agree with this petition’

Rashid Khatri
PHNOM PENH, CAMBODIA
22 days ago
‘Like to see a soceity without hate…!!!’

Asim Shah
LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM
22 days ago
‘This the only way to end religious fanaticism and have a peaceful and prosper Pakistan.’

Maha Khan
AUSTRALIA
22 days ago
‘this needs to be DONE ASAP…’

Annem Chaudhry
AUSTRALIA
22 days ago
‘i believe Pakistan can rise beyond the limits of religion’

Hamid Ali Hussain
FRANFURT, GERMANY
22 days ago
‘The jinnah´s vision was a Secular Democracy…’

Hamid Ali Hussain
FRANFURT, GERMANY
22 days ago
‘State is always a nuetral body with equal rights to every citizen..’

Tyra Moin L
ONGBEACH, UNITED STATES
22 days ago
‘that is my watan we r talking about!!’

Christine Hyatt
SURREY, B.C., CANADA
22 days ago
‘I don’t want children to be murdered’

Nabeela Kiani
LOUISVILLE, KY
22 days ago
‘a must to do’

Kausar Jamal
RAWALPINDI, PAKISTAN
22 days ago
‘It is as important for the future of Pakistan as oxygen for human existence’

Ashiq Jaffri
LAHORE, PAKISTAN
22 days ago
‘I agree with contents of petition’

Sandy London
AUSTRALIA
22 days ago
‘Pakistan’s estimated population is over 188 million, some of that population needs to be recognised as equal citizens, despite not being Muslims. Any time a state attempts to define and impose religious orthodoxy, basic human rights get shredded. Pakistan is generally perceived to be a nation populated with rather a lot of religious lunatics, and I do not mean just your average culturally religious individual, but rather people who embrace the medieval idea that murdering those of a different belief is a really good idea, so much so that they act upon that thought. While it is true that such individuals do indeed reside there

‘in Pakistan, the real truth is that like everywhere else, most Pakistanis are not that fanatical at all. The Pakistani parliament has no business attempting to define who a Muslim is or who is not. Islam is not compatible with secularism and for this very reason Pakistan needs to change. The separation of church and state is a key foundation of any society and constitution. Terrorism in Pakistan has become a major and highly destructive phenomenon in recent years. The Pakistani government seems to have learnt no lessons. An anti-terrorism court in Pakistan has granted bail to Zaki ur Rehman Lakhvi. The court cited the reason that the prosecution has been unable to provide evidence against him. Zaki ur Rehman Lakhvi was responsible for the Mumbai attacks in 2008 which killed 166 people and injured over 600. What a message to the terrorists after the Peshawar massacre of innocent children and teachers. Instead of reigning in these monsters you are setting more of them free. How many more innocent lives need to be lost? For Christ’s sake Pakistan, wake up. The world is watching, the Peshawar massacre has shook the world.’

Salma Minhas
LAHORE, PAKISTAN
22 days ago
‘I am signing it because I think the survival of our country depends on it.’

Chanda Bokhari
LAHORE, PAKISTAN
22 days ago
‘This law has to go’

Inayat Abdali
GILGIT, PAKISTAN
23 days ago
‘i want to see pakistan secular sate.’

Rafiq Durrani
PESHAWAR, PAKISTAN
23 days ago
‘We cannot suffer anymore’

Diep Syeda
LAHORE, PAKISTAN
23 days ago
‘A secular state’

Abid Hussain
FREIBURG, GERMANY
23 days ago
‘Because states don’t have religion. People do.’

Soban Khalid
TORONTO, CANADA
23 days ago
‘Because states don’t have religion. People do.’

Nasir Khan
MANCHESTER, UNITED KINGDOM
23 days ago
‘I care deeply about future of Pakistan and believe that religious fanaticism mixed with politics is root cause of many violent crimes in Pakistan.’

Thank you.

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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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Aafia Siddiqui should be pardoned: Sign the Petition

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
AHRC-STM-199-2010
September 24, 2010

A Statement by the Asian Human Rights Commission

PAKISTAN/USA: Dr. Aafia Siddiqui should be pardoned from her sentence of 86 years

Please sign the online petition urging President Obama to grant amnesty.

Dr. Aafia Siddiqui was arrested in March 2003 by Pakistani intelligence personnel and allegedly handed over to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). Subsequently she was detained in Bagram in Afghanistan, a facility used by the American government to hold persons suspected of being agents of Al Qaida.

Although she has testified in open court about her detention in Bagram it has never been properly explained by the FBI.

There are several discrepancies with the case put forward by the American government. They have never been able to properly explain how a woman, weakened by five years of imprisonment and mistreatment was able to wrestle a weapon away from a fully trained soldier. No Americans were actually injured in the incident but they found it necessary to shot her. This is reminiscent of a police encounter killing which is common in Pakistan and Bangladesh and India.

Dr. Siddique was shot during the incident and was not given the necessary medical treatment for some months.

The case against Dr. Aafia has brought to light the extent of human rights violations carried out by the allied forces in the name of the war on terror.

It is significant that there was no information available on Dr. Siddiqui until the Asian Human Rights Commission issued its first Urgent Appeal on July 24, 2008. (link) It was shortly after the publication of this appeal that the FBI announced that she had been arrested on July 17, 2008. However, as stated above, there have been no explanations as to her whereabouts after she was arrested in March 2003.

Dr. Siddiqui was arrested with her three children, the youngest of which was an infant. The two older children have been found, however, the fate of the third one remains unknown but he is feared to have died. The children were only found after an international protest raised the issue.

Her trial does not appear to have been fair and there were several discrepancies, she was regularly denied contact with members of her family and her lawyers who believe that her mental condition is seriously in doubt. This is no doubt due to her long years of imprisonment, and mistreatment.

In view of the trauma caused to Dr. Siddiqui by her arrest, incarceration at Bagram and the loss of her children, there can be nothing worse for a mother than not knowing the condition and whereabouts of her children, we feel that for whatever crime she is accused of committing, she has suffered enough. The sentence of 86 years is far in excess of any reasonable punishment.

Therefore the Asian Human Rights Commission urges President Obama to grant her amnesty in order that she can received treatment for her mental condition and trauma and live out her remaining years with her two surviving children.

The AHRC also urges President Zadari to use his good offices to encourage his American counterpart to grant Dr. Siddiqui the amnesty she deserves for the very great hardship she has endured.

Sign the online petition urging President Obama to grant amnesty.

About AHRC: The Asian Human Rights Commission is a regional non-governmental organisation monitoring and lobbying human rights issues in Asia. The Hong Kong-based group was founded in 1984.

100 Cities Around the World Against Stoning

The Statement of the protest action of August 28, 2010 by

On August 28, 2010 one hundred cities around the world are rising up to protest the barbaric practice of stoning, as well as to save the life of Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani in Iran. This day will be recorded in the annals of humanity as a manifestation of the protest, during the prior weeks, by millions of people across the globe against stoning as the most heinous form of medieval cruelty. It is a disgrace to humanity that, at the close of the first decade of the twenty-first century, stoning is still practiced in Iran and similar Islam-stricken countries. We, the citizens of 100 cities, hereby unequivocally declare that this blot must be removed from the face of humanity immediately and permanently.

On this day we also protest against the regime of stoning in Iran. This regime has, during the 31 years of its existence, committed genocide, established a system of sexual apartheid in Iran, and made imprisonment, execution, torture, rape of political prisoners, and the rule of pre-medieval Islamic Sharia the law of the land. Such a regime is not the representative of the people of Iran. It is their murderer, and its leaders must be brought to trial before international tribunals for their crimes against humanity.

Further, the international protest of August 28 is yet another manifestation of the solidarity of people around the world with the people of Iran, who have heroically risen up to bring down the regime of stoning, the Islamic code of punishment (Qesaas), Hijab, torture, and execution. We, the citizens of 100 cities worldwide, proudly declare that we consider ourselves the standard bearers of the universal front of humanity against barbarity. We support the struggles of the people of Iran against one of the cruelest regimes in the history of humankind. We, therefore, emphatically declare, on behalf of the world’s civilized humanity, that the path to the liberation of the Iranian people will not pass through threats or military action against, the country, but through the removal of the regime of the Islamic Republic by the power of the struggles of people in Iran and across the world.

The following are our common demands on August 28, 2010 throughout 100 cities of the world:

1- The immediate and unconditional freedom of Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani and all other prisoners in Iran sentenced to be stoned to death.

2- The abolition of stoning in Iran and elsewhere. We demand that the United Nations urgently adopt a specific resolution forbidding stoning as an inhuman punishment all over the world.

3- Not recognizing the Islamic regime of stoning in Iran as the government of that country and, thus, banning it from all international bodies.

4- Bringing to trial the perpetrators of stoning. Stoning is one of the most abominable forms of crime against humanity. Any individual, group, organization or state executing the punishment of stoning must be prosecuted and tried by international tribunals.

We continue our struggles until we have achieved all of these demands. As an immediate, primary step to that end, we demand that Mahmood Ahmadinejad, the president of the regime of stoning, be stopped from entering the General Assembly of the United Nations in September 2010.

Free Sakine, No Stoning, No Execution, No more, Nowhere!
http://www.iransolidarity.org.uk/
http://stopstonningnow.com
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Citizens of the World against Stoning

24 July 2010 – International Sakine Mohammadi Ashtiani Day
In Vancouver @5 Pm
Art Gallery Robson St.
Pls. Join Us!

We, the undersigned, are extremely concerned about the fate of 43 year old Sakine Mohamadi Ashtiani and fear she may be executed in Iran at any time for ‘having an illicit relationship.’

We call on people everywhere to intensify their protests by marking Saturday 24 July as the International Sakine Mohamadi Ashtiani Day. On the Saturday, we ask you to come out on to the streets and in city centres across the globe at 2pm local time bringing photos of Sakine and messages in her defence and against stoning and execution. Other measures that can be taken include highlighting her case wherever possible, signing petitions (http://stopstonningnow.com/), (http://www.avaaz.org/) and (http://freesakineh.org/), joining rallies, and keeping pressure on the Islamic Republic of Iran.

The mother of two has already received 99 lashes and been sentenced to death by stoning. Sajjad, her 22-year-old son, who raised the alarm of her imminent stoning when there was no further legal recourse via an open letter to the people of the world (http://notonemoreexecution.org/) and said ‘there is no justice’ in Iran (www.notonemoreexecution.org/-sajjad) has been summoned to the Ministry of Intelligence for his brave efforts to secure his mother’s freedom (http://notonemoreexecution.org/press-release).

As a result of the public outcry, the embassy of the Islamic Republic of Iran in London has issued a press release stating that the regime did not intend to stone her, that stoning in Iran was rare and that there was no truth to the reports (http://iransolidarity.blogspot.com). Her lawyer, however, has made it clear that ‘Iranian embassies are not a part of the judiciary system, and it is the judiciary which should cancel this sentence’ (http://notonemoreexecution.org/-sakineh4/). Rather than being rare, a new report has found that over 100 known stonings have already taken place and another 25 known cases await death by stoning in Iran (http://countmein-iran.com/Sangsarha). Since the global protests, families of others held in Tabriz prison have come forward with news of 170 people sentenced to death, including children, youth, and 18 men and women for being gay. Two other women also await death by stoning in the same prison including Azar Bagheri who was 15 when she was arrested and 25 year old Maryam Ghorbanzadeh who is currently pregnant (http://notonemoreexecution.org/press-release-no-13/).

On 24 July 2010 at 2pm join us and make the world stand still in its rage against medievalism and barbarity and in its support of humanity. Sakine, her children and the many others awaiting death by stoning and execution deserve nothing less.

Signatories
Mina Ahadi, International Committee Against Stoning and International Committee Against Executions (Germany)
Maryam Namazie, Iran Solidarity, Equal Rights Now – Organisation against Women’s Discrimination in Iran and One Law for All (UK)
Maria Rohaly, Mission Free Iran (USA)
Shahla Abgari, Human Rights Activist (USA)
Nazanin Afshin-Jam, Stop Child Executions (Canada)
Russell Blackford, University of Newcastle (Australia)
Caroline Brancher, Union des Familles Laïques (France)
Helle Merete Brix, Journalist and Writer (Denmark)
Roy Brown, International Humanist and Ethical Union (Switzerland)
Ed Buckner, President, American Atheists (USA)
Peter Calluy, Belgian Humanist Society (Belgium)
Pierre Cassen, Riposte Laïque (France)
Megan Cornish, Seattle Radical Women (USA)
Parvin Darabi, Dr. Homa Darabi Foundation (USA)
Richard Dawkins, Scientist (UK)
Sanal Edamaruku, Rationalist International (India)
Bill Flanagan, Queen’s University (Canada)
Tahir Aslam Gora, Writer and Journalist (Canada)
AC Grayling, Writer and Philosopher (UK)
Laura Guidetti, Marea Association (Italy)
Maria Hagberg, Network against Honour-Related Violence (Sweden)
Johann Hari, Journalist (UK)
Farzana Hassan, Author (Canada)
Tasneem Khalil, Independent World Report (Sweden)
Hope Knutsson, Sidmennt, the Icelandic Ethical Humanist Association (Iceland)
Leo Igwe, Nigerian Humanist Movement (Nigeria)
Sonia Jabbar, Journalist (India)
Trefor Jenkins, University of the Witwatersrand (South Africa)
Ghulam Mustafa Lakho, High Court Advocate (Pakistan)
Monica Lanfranco, Marea Feminist Review (Italy)
Anne-marie Lizin, Belgian Senate Honorary Speaker (Belgium)
Marieme Helie Lucas, Secularism Is A Women’s Issue (France)
Kinga Lohmann, KARAT Coalition (Poland)
Mohamed Mahmoud, Centre for Critical Studies of Religion (UK)
Irshad Manji, European Foundation for Democracy and New York University (USA)
Caspar Melville, Rationalist Association (UK)
Behnaz Parman, Artist (Germany)
Angela Payne, Anti-Injustice Movement (UK)
Clancy Pegg, Bioethics Journal (UK)
Naomi Phillips, British Humanist Association (UK)
David Pollock, European Humanist Federation (UK)
Venita Popovic, Zenicke Sveske Journal (Bosnia and Herzegovina)
Gita Sahgal, Human Rights Campaigner (UK)
Terry Sanderson, National Secular Society (UK)
Nina Sankari, European Feminist Initiative (Poland)
Udo Schuklenk, Queen’s University (Canada)
Aisha Lee Shaheed, Women Living Under Muslim Laws (UK)
Issam Shukri, Defense of Secularism and Civil Rights in Iraq (Canada)
Elizabeth Sidney, Women Worldwide Advancing Freedom and Equality (UK)
Joan Smith, Writer and Activist (UK)
Roy Speckhardt, American Humanist Association (USA)
Annie Sugier, Ligue du Droit International Des Femmes (France)
Richy Thompson, National Federation of Atheist, Humanist and Secular Student Societies (UK)
Christine Tasin, Résistance Républicaine (France)
Peter Tatchell, Human Rights Campaigner UK)
Giti Thadani, Writer and Filmmaker (India)
Shishir Thadani, South Asian Voice (India)
Gianni Verdoliva, Journalist (Italy)

Notes
1. The new and comprehensive list of persons stoned to death or awaiting death by stoning in Iran compiled by Farshad Hosseini of the ICAE is available in Persian: http://countmein-iran.com/Sangsarha. It is being translated into English.

2. See a 17 July article in the Times calling for the eviction of the Islamic Republic of Iran from the UN Commission on the Status of Women: http://iransolidarity.blogspot.com/

3. For more information, please contact:
Mina Ahadi, Germany, ICAE and ICAS Coordinator
minaahadi@aol.com
0049 1775692413
Ahmad Fatemi, ICAE Public Relations
fatemimark@gmail.com
0046 0735203817
Maryam Namazie, UK, Iran Solidarity Spokesperson iransolidaritynow@gmail.com
0044 7719166731

4. To donate to the important work of the International Committee Against Stoning and International Committee Against Executions, please make your cheque payable to ‘Count Me In – Iran’ and send to BM Box 6754, London WC1N 3XX, UK. You can also pay via Paypal (http://countmein-iran.com/donate.html). Please earmark your donation.

5. You can also find the latest news on the following websites:
International Committee Against Executions
http://notonemoreexecution.org/
International Committee Against Stoning
http://stopstonningnow.com/wpress/
Facebook Page of Save Sakine Mohamadi Ashtiani: http://www.facebook.com/

RSVP
Friends of Women In The Middle East (FWME)
http://www.equal-rights-now.com/
Zahra A.

10,000 Ship breaking workers come together at Gaddani!!

Press Release, 5th July, 2010.

In a historic display of strength and unity, 10,000 ship breaking workers came together in Gadani today to protest deplorable working conditions and demand the fulfillment of repeatedly broken promises.

Even before the rally began, the massive congregation faced systematic harassment from the police and Anti Terrorism Task Force, who had arrived four hours in advance of the scheduled protest time of 10:30am. Not only did they attempt to physically force the protesters back to work, but led a baton charge on 150 workers, which resulted in several casualties. After wounding numerous protesters, security forces detained Edhi ambulances for a full 2 hours and prevented paramedics from tending to the injured.

Then in an attempt to intimidate the organizers and disperse the rally, the heavily armed police arrested, without just cause, the General Secretary of the Gadani Ship Breaking Democratic Workers Union (GDSBDWU), Tarhir Yusufzai and threatened to arrest the Deputy General Secretary of the National Trade Union Federation (NTUF), Nasir Mansoor. However, the sheer presence of thousands of workers forced the S.H.O. Amir Abdullah to back down from his confrontational stance and release Tahir Yusufzai.

A convention was held noting the long struggle of the workers. Nasir Manzoor from the NTUF, Tahir Yusufzai from GDSBDWU, Ghulam Mustafa from BNP all spoke at the convention.

The workers then commenced their 8km march along the Gadani shoreline at 10:45am and were joined by over 10,000 workers. Despite the squalid living conditions forced upon the workers for years past, they found joy in solidarity with their fellow workers and were in high spirits throughout the protest.

The ship breaking owners had previously agreed to meet the workers’ demands by 30th June in return for them calling off the strike scheduled from 16th to 30th June. The owners’ refusal to abide by the agreement and their underhand attempts to demoralize the union through physical threats and intimidation has only served to strengthen the resolve of the workers. Taking into account the owners’ lack of good faith and their deceitful efforts to deny basic rights to the workers, it was unanimously decided by all present that an indefinite strike be called from the 5th of July till the following demands were met:

100% increase in wages
Registration with Social Security and Old age Benefits Institutes
Medical Dispensary and Ambulance at each ship breaking yard
Clean drinking water and canteen at each yard
Appointment letter for every worker
End of contract (JAMADARY) system
Workers residential colony
Recognition of representative character of GSBDW Union
Occupational safety measures at work place
End of police harassment against workers

For more information, please call: Nasir Manzoor, Deputy General Secretary National Trade Union Federation at 0300-2449970

Who murdered Benazir Bhutto? by Christina Lamb

From The Sunday Times
May 2, 2010

Benazir Bhutto was brought back to Pakistan from exile as part of an international deal. Then she was killed — and all traces of evidence were immediately swept away. Our award-winning correspondent follows the clues to her killers in London, Karachi and Washington
Across fields of cotton and baked mud in the village of Garhi Khuda Bakhsh in southern Pakistan rises a white marble mausoleum with Mughal-style cones that shimmer in the heat. Inside lie four bodies — a father and his three children — all murdered over a 30-year span. The father was hanged by a military dictator, one son poisoned and one son shot, both by unknown assailants. The daughter was still building the mausoleum when she, too, was assassinated. Her killing was captured on live television, yet who did it — as well as how — remains a mystery.

Benazir Bhutto was Pakistan’s most important political figure, the leading female politician in the Islamic world, an Oxford and Harvard graduate who was the West’s best hope of tackling terrorism. Yet 2½ years on, and despite a $5m United Nations commission of inquiry, her murder remains unresolved.

Almost every Pakistani has a theory about who did it; practically nobody expects to find out. Pakistan’s history is dotted with unexplained political assassinations, but this time there was an unexpected twist. Bhutto’s widowed husband ended up as president, with all the government apparatus at his disposal. One might think that for once there was a good chance of establishing a culprit. Instead he had called in the UN to investigate, claiming “This thing is bigger than us.”

I had my own reasons for wanting answers. I’d known Bibi, as friends called her, since 1987, when her kind wedding invitation to a 21-year-old led to me falling in love with her country and starting a life as a foreign correspondent, covering both her spells as prime minister. I was with her on the truck in Karachi the first time they tried to kill her: two bombs killed 150 people, but she survived.

Ten weeks later, just after 5pm on December 27, 2007, they succeeded. As Bhutto left an election rally in Liaquat Park, Rawalpindi, she stood up through the sunroof of her armoured car to wave. Moments later she was dead, blood gushing from a wound to her temple, as a suicide bomber exploded himself in the crowd.

Bhutto’s action had been foolhardy when she knew there were people out to kill her, and her death sadly unsurprising in a family that has sacrificed everything for politics. What was less explicable was what happened next.

“Everything was manipulated,” says Athar Minallah, a leading lawyer who sits on the board of the Rawalpindi hospital where Bhutto was taken. “The evidence was washed away and no autopsy or investigation allowed. As a lawyer I can’t come to any conclusion, but it’s all too sinister to believe there wasn’t mala fide in this.”

In the 20 years I knew Benazir I had been both captivated by her and infuriated by her, once even deported by her. But I had also personally witnessed the lengths gone to to stop her by what she called “the Establishment” , the old guard of Pakistan’s military and intelligence, which at the time of Bhutto’s death had ruled the country for 32 of its 60 years. Despite being warned off by friends in the Pakistani media, I travelled from London to Dubai, Karachi to Kabul, Waziristan to Washington, asking questions from those involved, many of whom had never spoken out before.
If ever there was a death foretold, this was it. Bhutto’s days were numbered from the time she decided to end eight years in exile in Dubai and return home, following a deal with President Pervez Musharraf backed by the US and Britain. Under the deal, corruption charges against her, her husband and senior members of her Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) would be dropped, enabling them to contest elections. In return they would allow Musharraf to remain president. But neither trusted the other, and the military ruler had sworn he would never allow her back in power.

“We might as well have painted a bull’s-eye target on her head,” admitted a British Foreign Office minister involved in the negotiations.

Her closest friends begged her not to go back. “I said, ‘You’ve been prime minister twice, why do this?’ ” said Peter Galbraith, a former UN envoy to Afghanistan, who had been a friend since 1969, when a primly dressed Bhutto arrived at Harvard aged 16 and went to dinner at his parents’ house.

Mark Siegel, a Democrat strategist who co-wrote her last book, said goodbye to her in the lobby of the Ritz-Carlton in Washington. As he turned back to wave, he recalled the scene in The Graduate of a rain-soaked Anne Bancroft standing bereft after realising that her lover, Dustin Hoffman, is in love with her daughter. “I had this terrible feeling,” he said.
In London before her return, Bhutto told me she knew the risk. “I know there are people who want to kill me and scuttle the restoration of democracy,” she said. “But with my faith in God and the people of Pakistan, I’m sure the party workers will protect me.”

She then flew to Dubai to say goodbye to her daughters, Bakhtawar and Asifa. On October 16, the day before she was due to fly to Pakistan, she was warned by UAE and Saudi intelligence of a plot to kill her. She immediately wrote to Musharraf naming three suspects: Pervez Elahi, then chief minister of Punjab; General Hamid Gul, the retired head of Pakistan’s military intelligence, the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI); and Brigadier Ejaz Shah, the former head of the Intelligence Bureau (IB). But there was no changing her mind. “The time of life is written and the time of death is written,” she insisted.

When the plane landed at Karachi and Bhutto came down the steps, she could not hold back the tears. Huge crowds had lined the streets. Waving from the top of a special bus, she was transformed, her face alive, so different to the Bhutto of the last few years in exile, gorging on ice cream and reading self-help books. I understood then why she had gone back.
But her security people were worried. The jammers promised by the Pakistan government to impede remote-control bombs were not working. Bhutto refused to go behind the special bulletproof screen in her bus that would separate her from her people. Eventually, she went to the armoured compartment on the lower deck to work on her speech. It was nearly midnight and we had been on the bus nine hours when the first blast came, throwing us to the ground. Moments later came a second, much larger, blast. There was silence, then screams, sirens and little pieces fluttering down like black snowflakes: bits of charred skin.

Bhutto had no doubt who was behind it. She emailed Mark Siegel on October 26: “Nothing will God-willing happen. Just wanted u to know if it does I will hold Musharraf responsible.”

She also called Musharraf. “He told her, ‘I warned you not to come back until after the elections,’ and threatened her, ‘I’ll only protect you if you’re nice to me,’ ” said Husain Haqqani, a former Bhutto aide who was living in the US and is now Pakistan’s ambassador in Washington.

Instead of stepping up her security, it was reduced. She was even told not to travel in vehicles with tinted windows, as this was against the law of the local government.

She appealed to the American and British officials who had helped negotiate her return. “I called everyone,” said Haqqani. “I even got the US ambassador in Pakistan, Anne Patterson, to visit her.” It did not go well. “Patterson wasn’t nice to her,” said Bhutto’s cousin and confidant, Tariq Islam. “She harped on, ‘You must not talk against Musharraf.’ The Americans never trusted her. It was a marriage of convenience.”

In November, Bhutto returned to Dubai for a few days. Her daughters believe she knew then she would not see them again. “She kept on telling us life is in God’s hands,” said her youngest, Asifa, interviewed for Bhutto, a film about her mother’s life that opens in June. “It was going to be my 18th birthday in January, and she said she wanted to wish me happy birthday in advance,” said her older daughter, Bakhtawar. “I said, ‘Don’t wish me in advance, wish me then.’ ”
The next morning, after her mother left, she found a be-ribboned box containing a silver jaguar head on a pendant. A note wished her “Happy birthday, all my love, Mummy”.

Back in Pakistan, on December 26, the day before the Rawalpindi rally, she addressed a public meeting in Peshawar and a suspected suicide bomber was caught trying to get in. That night her husband, Asif Ali Zardari, called her, begging her to let him campaign in her place. “I pleaded with her, ‘You stay home and I’ll go do the rallies. You’re the mother.’ But she said, ‘What can I do? I have to go and meet my people.’ ”

In the early hours of December 27, she was visited by General Nadeem Taj, the head of the ISI, the agency that in the past had done all it could to stop her becoming prime minister, from printing propaganda leaflets to creating a new political party. What he told her is unknown. Despite the late night, Bhutto was up early sending emails, including one to Peter Galbraith asking him to contact his friend, the Iraqi president Jalal Talabani, to send some of his jammers.
Back at her Islamabad home for a light lunch, she called her political secretary, Naheed Khan, to sit with her. Naheed had worked for her for 23 years and accompanied her through beatings, tear gas and arrests. Bhutto told her some American politicians would be coming that evening. Convinced that Musharraf was planning to rig the elections, Bhutto had collected information of a secret ISI rigging cell based in a house in Islamabad, which she planned to present to the Republican senator Arlen Specter and the Democrat congressman Patrick Kennedy.

Around 2pm, the two women climbed into her armoured, white Toyota Land Cruiser with an entourage of five men, including Makhdoom Amin Fahim, who had led her party while she was in exile, and Senator Safdar Abbas, Naheed’s husband and also a long-time aide.

As they left manicured Islamabad for the dusty streets of Rawalpindi, passers-by waved at the motorcade. In front was a blue police van and a black Mercedes containing her security chief and other officials. Behind were two pick-up trucks of her bodyguards.

Once they reached Rawalpindi and saw people massing, Bhutto stood up as usual. “ ’Pindi was hard for her,” said Naheed. Her father was killed in ’Pindi jail and she was too much excited. It was a huge gathering, we weren’t expecting, and such a charged crowd.”

As they drove out of the back of the park with dusk falling, the gates were opened. The crowd flooded out and gathered round her chanting “Jiye Bhutto” [long live Bhutto], “wazir-i-azam Benazir” [prime minister Benazir]. She stood up, climbing on the seat so that she could be seen.

Then they heard shooting. “Suddenly I felt some pressure, she had fallen on me,” said Naheed. She sobs as she recalls cradling Bhutto’s bleeding head. “She was completely unconscious, her blood seeping over me. That scene is still going on in front of me two years on,” she said.

All those in the car, and her spokeswoman Sherry Rehman, in the car behind, insist that Bhutto fell first, then a bomb went off. “As soon as she ducked down, after three to four seconds there was a bomb blast,” said Naheed. Safdar checked Bhutto’s pulse. “There was nothing.”

A bodyguard shouted “Move the car!” but the left tyres had burst in the blast. The backup car had mysteriously disappeared, so the bodyguard carried her into Sherry Rehman’s 4×4 and they rushed to Rawalpindi general hospital.
“I thought she was already dead,” said Zahid, the driver, showing the back seat of the Jeep where the bloodstains are still visible. “She was unconscious and bleeding from the left side of her neck and top right of her skull.”

At the hospital, doctors tried to resuscitate her. Sherry Rehman describes the chaos of bloodied, injured and dead victims being brought in and party workers crowding the building. Rehman found Naheed and Makhdoom Fahim in a state of shock. “The hospital wanted us to get the body out,” she said. “The whole place was heaving with people. Makhdoom and I created a diversion by driving out so they could get the body out without supporters realising. It didn’t occur to us to demand the medical report. I was sure she was shot, I heard the shots, then our heads being shoved down in the drill we’d had since Karachi, then the boom of the bomb. We never thought anyone would contradict this.”
In Dubai, Bhutto’s family had been watching on television. “All we knew was something had happened,” said Zardari. “I said, ‘Arrange a plane.’ When I came back into the room, the TV was announcing she was dead.” Bhutto’s body was placed in a makeshift plywood coffin and taken to the nearby military airbase of Chaklala.

Around 1am, the family arrived, and both they and the coffin were flown to Moenjodaro in the southern province of Sindh, to drive through the night to Bhutto’s ancestral home town of Naudero. In keeping with the Muslim tradition, she was buried the next day.

On December 30, just three days after her death, Zardari summoned a meeting of the party’s central executive committee. He asked their son, Bilawal, to read out a handwritten letter from Bhutto to the PPP. It stated: “I would like my husband, Asif Ali Zardari, to lead you in this interim period until you and he decide what is best. I say this because he is a man of courage and honour.”

Zardari told me afterwards he had no idea she had drawn up such a will. “The day her remains came to Naudero, a person came from Dubai and said, ‘I have this document Madam left with me.’ ” He said he did not know the person.
It was dated October 16, two days before Bhutto returned to Pakistan. “That was the day she’d been warned not to go back,” Zardari said, “and she wrote that letter to Musharraf showing apprehensions about certain people.”
In a shrewd move, Zardari named their son, Bilawal, as co-chairman, adding Bhutto to his name to make him Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, and said he would take over the leadership when he was old enough. Bilawal was then only 19, and starting his second term at Christ Church college, Oxford. He freely admitted he was more interested in Facebook and movies than politics.

Still in shock, nobody on the party’s executive questioned the document. Afterwards, Fahim, the party’s former leader, who had expected to take over, told me he was astonished that Bhutto would hand the party over to Zardari. Known in Pakistan as Mr Ten Per Cent, his alleged corruption was thought to be largely responsible for the demise of both Bhutto’s governments.

Torn apart with grief, Naheed was also too stunned to say anything. “She never mentioned it [the will] to me, nor had I seen it,” she told me.

Back in Islamabad, the Musharraf government appeared to be in panic. Within an hour of the attack the scene had been washed down with high-pressure hoses, wiping out almost all the evidence. Saud Aziz, then chief of Rawalpindi police, said he issued these orders after receiving a phone call from a close associate of Musharraf. The interior ministry said they were worried about “vultures picking up body parts”.

This was in stark contrast to what had happened after two assassination attempts on Musharraf in the same city, when the area had been sealed off for weeks.

With the country in chaos, there was an unseemly rush to announce the cause of death and to name an assassin. At 5pm on Friday December 28, less than 24 hours after her death, Brigadier Javed Cheema, the interior ministry spokesman, held a press conference. He said the hospital report showed Bhutto had been killed by striking the lever of the sunroof as she ducked to avoid the bomb. “There was no bullet or metal shrapnel found in the injury,” he said.

He also said intelligence services had intercepted a call from Baitullah Mehsud, head of the Pakistani Taliban, proving he was behind it. A transcript was later made available — though no audio tape — on which the militant leader is self-congratulatory and gives away his location. A week later, journalists including myself were called in to our respective embassies to be told that MI6 and the CIA had authenticated the transcript and were convinced Baitullah had carried out the attack. The former Pakistani cricket captain-turned- politician Imran Khan was incredulous. “The day after the murder they produce a tape of Baitullah saying, ‘I’m sitting here, tomorrow I’ll be having breakfast. Well done, boys.’ Is this a joke? The guy is being hunted down, on the run. Would he be talking like that?”

Baitullah insisted he was not responsible. “I strongly deny it,” he said via his spokesman, Maulvi Omar. “Tribal people have their own customs. We don’t strike women.”

In years of reporting on Al-Qaeda and the Taliban, never once had I known them not take responsibility for something. Moreover, Bhutto had told me that after the Karachi attack Baitullah had sent a message saying: “Identify your enemy. I’m not your foe.”

Meanwhile, footage had emerged in which a clean-shaven man in dark glasses was clearly visible waving a gun and firing three shots. A TV station had filmed bullets lying on the ground. Other footage showed Bhutto’s chief bodyguard, Khalid Shahenshah, gesticulating strangely from the stage as Bhutto left.

Aside from Bhutto, 22 others were killed in the attack. Family members told Pakistani media that some had bullet wounds. But no autopsies were carried out, even though they are required by law.

I started my own investigation in the sprawling port city of Karachi on the basis that whoever had tried to kill her there on October 17 was probably the same person that eventually got her.

That bombing was Pakistan’s most lethal terrorist attack, yet I was shocked to find from the local police chief that there was no investigation under way. It wasn’t even clear whether it was a suicide bomb or a car bomb, though a retired army colonel who lived round the corner sent me photographs of a burnt-out car that had its chassis number scratched off so it could not be identified.

Many of those who died were “Martyrs for Benazir”, young party volunteers who formed a human chain round the bus and prevented the bomb getting nearer. One was 25-year-old Intukhab Alam. I went to see his widowed father, Mahmood Yunis, 70, in Muhammadi Colony, Liaquatabad, one of the poorest parts of Karachi. He cannot believe the government is not investigating Bhutto’s death. “My son was a small person, but she was a great leader,” he said. “No Zardari can take her place.”

Someone else with little time for Zardari is Benazir’s niece Fatima. It was eerie going to see her: she lives in 70 Clifton, the house of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, her grandfather and Benazir’s father. He was the first Bhutto to be murdered, hanged by his former army chief, General Zia, in 1979.

Fatima was just 14 in September 1996 when her father, Murtaza, the elder of Benazir’s two brothers, was gunned down on the street, along with six of his men. The murder scene was also washed clean before investigators could arrive.
Fatima and her stepmother, Ghinwa, Murtaza’s second wife, invited me to stay for lunch. They talked of the rivalry between Zardari and Murtaza, who they told me kept a cartoon of his brother-in-law genuflecting to the Sultan of Oman in the guest toilet. It is clear who his wife and daughter believe responsible for his death. “The orders could have only come from the highest levels,” said Fatima. Her Aunt Benazir was prime minister at the time.

Bhutto’s friends and family say she was devastated by Murtaza’s death. Her cousin Tariq Islam accompanied her to the morgue in Karachi. “We went to the cold room where his blood-soaked body was and she collapsed, put her head between his feet and cried and howled, ‘You’re my baby brother, don’t do this to me.’ ”

Bhutto, who was prime minister at the time, called in a Scotland Yard team to investigate and asked Islam to be the liaison person. “Even though it was her government, they were stymied at every turn,” he said. “They wanted to see the scene, but within hours it had been pressure-washed. They wanted to see the vehicle in which Murtaza’s body was flung and taken to hospital but were told it had been taken to a garage.”

Six weeks after the murder, a coup took place and Benazir was ousted as prime minister. Scotland Yard was sent home.
Zardari was detained for allegedly being involved in the murder, as well as a number of corruption cases. He was released from jail into exile in 2004 by Musharraf and acquitted on the murder charge in 2008 owing to lack of evidence.
Last December, 18 police officers also alleged to have been involved in Murtaza’s murder were all acquitted. Some had been highly promoted. “Shoaib Suddle, the police chief who was there on the night, was made head of the IB,” said Fatima. “Zardari’s defence lawyer in the case is now attorney general.”

Similarly, following Benazir’s death, nobody has lost their job despite clear lapses in security and failures to investigate. Bhutto’s security chief, Rehman Malik, who disappeared with the backup car, is now interior minister and Zardari’s closest adviser. “My enemies are talking nonsense that I ran away,” he said when I asked why he left the spot. “I wasn’t a security officer that I had to be there. I’m not a guard or a gunman.”

Musharraf’s interior secretary, Kamal Shah, is still in his post, though it was his ministry that put out the version of events Bhutto’s friends and family dispute. Saud Aziz, who ordered the roads to be washed, was transferred to Multan, the prime minister’s constituency, but was suspended last week following the UN report.

Then there is the unexplained shooting of Benazir’s bodyguard Khalid Shahenshah, who was also in the car the night of her killing. I tracked down his best friend, Mohammed Yarwar, a former US Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) agent, who met me in a house full of caged snakes on a busy Karachi road. A student activist for the party, Shahenshah ran a grocery store in Connecticut and seems a strange choice as chief bodyguard. “We hung out in New York,” said Yarwar. “He had a connection with Zardari and got to know Benazir because he would drive her when she visited.”

Shahenshah was heading security at Bhutto’s residence in Karachi, Bilawal House, when, on July 22, 2008, Yarwar got a panicked call from one of his guards, who was outside his friend’s house. “He was screaming, ‘There’s firing going on!’ ”
The guard later told him that Shahenshah had arrived home and got out of his car outside the gate. A small car approached with three men inside who began firing. “They shot 62 rounds, of which seven bullets hit Khalid,” said Yarwar. The car was later abandoned. Yarwar denied rumours that it was a gangland killing. “There was no proper investigation,” he said. “People say he might have known something about Benazir’s death. If he did, he never told me: all he ever said was that she was definitely shot. But I don’t like it. I’ve quit the PPP. ”

Fear is tangible when I start asking about Benazir’s death, something the UN commission noted, describing themselves as “mystified by the efforts of certain high-ranking government authorities to obstruct access”.

In Rawalpindi I went first to Liaquat Road, where Benazir was killed. The spot is marked by a garish painting of her on a red background surrounded by what look like pink bathroom tiles. In front lay a dried-up wreath. Behind a few barricades was a cabin where five policemen were sitting around drinking tea under a lightbulb hanging from a wire.
When I started to take photographs they became animated, telling me to go away. They noted down my driver’s numberplate, after which he refused to take me anywhere else.

I hailed another cab to take me to Rawalpindi’s police headquarters and found the charming chief police officer, Rao Iqbal. When I asked what was the usual procedure after a bombing, he said: “Our priority is to get life back to normal and remove all the rubble, but after collecting the evidence, not before.” Why did this not happen after Bhutto’s death? “The orders may have come through the mouth of CPO Saud Aziz, but it was a government agency that ordered the washing, not a policeman,” he replied, adding: “In my view it should not have been washed.”

As a result, they collected only 23 pieces of evidence, in a case where there would normally be thousands. One of the pieces was her car, and that had also been washed of any evidence. The UN commission pulled no punches, stating: “The failure of the police to investigate effectively Ms Bhutto’s assassination was deliberate.”

Police did find the blown-off face of the suicide bomber, who they say was a 15-year-old boy, on a roof. And to my surprise they told me they have five suspects in custody picked up in 2008, and five more they plan to arrest. They believe they were recruited from madrasahs and part of a team sent to target Bhutto in different cities — but they did not seem to be interested in who had sent them.

The lack of evidence has made it very difficult to establish how Bhutto died. Under pressure, Musharraf called in Scotland Yard to investigate her death. They backed his government’s version that Bhutto died after hitting her head, rather than from an assassin’s bullet. Yet every single person in her car insists she fell before the blast.
I went to the hospital hoping to see Professor Mussadiq, who led attempts to resuscitate Bhutto. I was first refused entry, then told he was at the Holy Family hospital. When I got there, they told me he was not at work. Eventually I met one of the other doctors who attended her; he would only speak off the record.

“Our main concern was saving her life, not what caused the injury, because that is done in an autopsy,” he said. “We all thought she had been shot.”

Because she was an emergency patient, the medical team had made no official report, just clinical notes. They were horrified then when the interior-ministry spokesman held the press conference in which he cited their report, attributing the cause of death to hitting the lever of the sunroof.

“They were very perturbed,” said Athar Minallah, the lawyer who sits on the hospital board. “When they couldn’t revive her, they told the police chief three times there needed to be an autopsy. He was constantly on the phone to someone else and refused, even though by law it’s mandatory.”

If how Bhutto died cannot be properly established, it seems unlikely we will ever find out who did it. In August last year, Baitullah Mehsud, the Taliban suspect, was killed by an American drone.

The person fingered by Bhutto, Musharraf, now lives in exile in London, accompanied everywhere by six Scotland Yard officers. Before Christmas I met him at a dinner at the home of a mutual Pakistani friend, where he lounged on the sofa, drinking whisky, smoking a fat cigar and handing out £50 notes to the singers.

When a reporter asked him if he had blood on his hands, he retorted that the question was “below my dignity”, going on to say: “My family is not a family which believes in killing people. For standing up outside the car I think she was to blame — nobody else. Responsibility is hers.”

The UN disagrees. “Ms Bhutto’s assassination could have been prevented if adequate security measures had been taken,” states the report. Describing the government protection as “fatally insufficient” , they point out that there were few police present to guard her, and that those posted on roofs to watch for threats did not even have binoculars.
Ask most Pakistanis who killed Benazir and they ask who benefited. A Google search on Zardari turns up Zardari jokes, Zardari corruption, Zardari assets and Zardari killed Benazir as among the most common searches. Bhutto had told friends that she would not let her husband be involved in politics again. The plan was for him to stay in Dubai. They had lived separate lives for years. He argues this was because in 20 years of marriage, he spent 11 years in jail. But when he was released, instead of Dubai he went to New York, ostensibly for medical treatment.

Her closest friends say the will is in her writing, and they believe she wanted to keep the party in the family, in the South Asian tradition. “She thought it would split into factions otherwise,” said Bashir Riaz, who knew her all her life. But they are at a loss to explain why, when Zardari became Pakistan’s president in September 2008, he did not begin an investigation.

I put this to Zardari when I went to his house in Islamabad. “The stature of Bhutto called for an independent, transparent and above-board investigation so no accusation of bias could be made,” he said. “This is bigger than us.”
He showed me a framed copy of the will. “This was the joker in the pack,” he said. “Whoever killed her wanted a weak PPP minus Benazir. They thought they would get their own choice.”

His interior minister, Malik, claimed the government are now investigating and will soon release their own report. “We are after just one more person, then the circle will be complete,” Malik said.

“I don’t want nine people strung up to avenge her death — it’s the whole system,” said Zardari. “Only when we’re prospering and we’re Singapore will she be avenged.”

Fine words. Last week, Pakistan’s parliament voted to repeal a constitutional amendment used by military dictators to give themselves sweeping powers. But it remains a nation besieged by bombings and power cuts where militant leaders go free, even holding public rallies, and intelligence agencies make people disappear. When a government delegation went to Washington last month it was clear that the army chief, General Ashfaq Kiyani, was the real power. This is the same army whose generals suggested to Zardari last time Bhutto was prime minister that he replace her because they didn’t like saluting to a woman.

From IJAZ SYED
syedi@sbcglobal.net

US frame-up of Aafia Siddiqui

US frame-up of Aafia Siddiqui begins to unravel
Pakistani victim of rendition and torture
By Ali Ismail
1 February 2010

Pakistani neuroscientist Aafia Siddiqui went on trial in a federal courtroom in New York City on January 19, charged with the attempted murder of US personnel in Afghanistan’s Ghazni Province in 2008. The case against Dr. Siddiqui, 37, is rapidly unraveling due to lack of evidence and discordant testimony from witnesses.

It is becoming increasingly evident that the charges amount to a frame-up that has been staged to cover up the fact that Siddiqui, along with her eldest son, had been held without charges in the US military’s notorious Bagram prison in Afghanistan between 2003 and 2008 where they were subjected to torture. Two of Dr. Siddiqui’s younger children are still missing.

According to the account given by US authorities, Aafia Siddiqui was taken into custody by Afghan security services in July of 2008 after they alleged having found a list of US targets for terrorist attacks as well as bomb-making instructions and assorted chemicals.

Despite these claims, Siddiqui is not charged with any terror-related offenses. Instead, she is indicted for allegedly having seized an automatic weapon and fired on her Afghan and American captors when a group of FBI agents and US Army officers arrived to collect her. The most serious charge against her is using a firearm in committing a felony, the gun in question being a US soldier’s rifle.

Siddiqui was shot twice in the stomach and barely survived after medics at Bagram air field had to make an incision from her breastbone to her bellybutton to remove the bullets. It was reported that part of her intestines had to be removed to save her life.

The accusations against Siddiqui strain credulity and have been fervently denied by her relatives, her defense attorneys, and human rights organizations, all of whom claim that she had been held in secret US detention facilities where she was physically and sexually abused ever since she disappeared off the streets of Karachi in the spring of 2003 with her three children, then seven, five, and six months old.

According to the German weekly, Der Spiegel, just a few days before she disappeared, Affia Siddiqui had contacted her former professor, Robert Sekuler, at Brandeis University in search of a job, complaining that there weren’t any job opportunities in Pakistan for a woman of her educational background.

Dr. Siddiqui is a Pakistani national who was educated at Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Brandeis University. In July of 2001, she and her husband at the time were scrutinized by the FBI for their alleged association with Islamic charities. Following the events of September 11, 2001 the couple returned to Pakistan at a time when hundreds of Pakistanis and other Muslims were rounded up for questioning across the US. The family resided in Karachi where Aafia Siddiqui was employed at Aga Khan University.

According to the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, Aafia Siddiqui and her children were kidnapped by Pakistani intelligence agents on their way to the airport in Karachi. Their whereabouts remained unknown until Aafia Siddiqui and her eldest son, Ahmed, were reported detained in Afghanistan in July of 2008, several years after their disappearance. While the Pakistani Interior Ministry had initially confirmed that the abduction had taken place, it later claimed to have been mistaken and stated that Siddiqui was not in Pakistani custody. This about-face was an attempt to conceal the complicity of Pakistani intelligence services in the US government’s rendition of Siddiqui to Afghanistan and her subsequent ordeal.

Aafia Siddiqui’s sister, Dr. Fauzia Siddiqui, had informed the press that she and her mother had journeyed to the US in 2003 to meet with FBI officials, who had claimed that Aafia Siddiqui would soon be released. In Pakistan, Siddiqui’s family was repeatedly harassed and received numerous death threats from sinister forces within the Pakistani ruling elite. The family was ordered not to make any public appeals in support of Aafia and her three children.

Between 2003 and 2008, when Siddiqui’s whereabouts were still unknown, the US claimed that she was working on behalf of Al Qaeda. In May of 2004, she was listed by US officials as one of the seven “most wanted” Al Qaeda fugitives. The US has also spuriously claimed that she is married to Ammar al-Baluchi, who is reported to be the nephew of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the so-called “mastermind” behind the 9/11 attacks. The claim that Siddiqui was married to al-Baluchi was based solely on coerced statements made by Mohammed, who has been repeatedly tortured.

The US military and the FBI have consistently denied that Siddiqui had been in US custody prior to her arrest in 2008. In reality, Aafia Siddiqui spent the years between 2003 and 2008 at the detention facility at Bagram air base, where many referred to her as the “Grey Lady of Bagram.”

Around the same time as her staged arrest, the British journalist, Yvonne Ridley, had been bringing attention to an unknown female detainee in Bagram prison who was known as Prisoner No. 650. In his book, “Enemy Combatant,” Moazzam Begg recalled hearing the woman’s piercing screams as she was being tortured while he was imprisoned in the same facility. According to Ridley, in 2005 male prisoners at the facility were so disturbed by her screams and sobs that they staged a hunger strike that lasted for six days.

When she was arrested in 2008, her then 11 year-old son Ahmed, a US citizen, was by her side. The traumatized boy has since been repatriated to Pakistan, where he is now living with his aunt, Dr. Fawzia Siddiqui. According to his aunt, Pakistani authorities have forbidden Ahmed from speaking to the news media.

Siddiqui’s appearance has changed markedly since 2002, according to her lawyers. She has suffered a broken nose, is deathly pale, and extremely frail, weighing about 100 pounds. When she arrived in the US, she was suffering from acute trauma, according to her lawyers who were outraged that she did not immediately receive the urgent medical attention. Siddiqui had been suffering from agonizing pain from the wounds she had sustained in Afghanistan and was slumped over in her wheelchair when she arrived in court in August of 2008.

Her trial was delayed as her lawyers argued that she was mentally unfit to participate in her own defense. However, prosecutors eventually found mental health experts to allege that she was faking her condition to escape punishment. Judge Richard Berman ruled that she was mentally fit for trial.

The paucity of media attention given to the trial is noteworthy, particularly given that Siddiqui was listed as a top Al Qaeda suspect. The tabloid press in New York City, where the proceedings have received limited attention, press has taken her guilt for granted, cynically dubbing her “Lady Al Qaeda.” The trial is being closely watched in Pakistan, where Siddiqui’s ordeal has outraged many and has sparked protests around the country.

From its beginning, the trial has been marked by questionable irregularities, and the judge has gone out of his way to accommodate the prosecutors. Not a single Pakistani journalist was granted press credentials for the opening statements last Tuesday. Defense attorneys protested the robust security measures put in place during the trial, which obviously reinforces the notion that Siddiqui poses a security threat to the US.

In a clear violation of her rights, Judge Berman has repeatedly thrown Siddiqui out of the courtroom for what he called her “outbursts”. The “outbursts,” were Siddiqui’s anguished claims of innocence and protests that she was tortured.

“Since I’ll never get a chance to speak,” she had told the court. “If you were in a secret prison, or your children were tortured…Give me a little credit, this is not a list of targets of New York. I was never planning to bomb it. You’re lying.”

The trial has also been marked by contradictory testimony from prosecution witnesses, which has undermined the case against Siddiqui.

On the third day of the trial, Assistant US Attorney Jenna Dabbs displayed several photographs of the room where the prosecution claims the shooting occurred. However, Carlo Rosatti, an FBI firearms expert who investigated the case, acknowledged last Friday that he had found “no shell casings, no bullets, no bullet fragments, no evidence the gun [the soldier’s M-4 rifle] was fired.” The only shell casing from the scene was from a 9-milllimeter pistol with which Siddiqui was shot. On the fourth day of the trial, another FBI agent testified that the FBI never found Aafia Siddiqui’s fingerprints on the M-4 rifle.

The warrant officer who shot Siddiqui also took the stand, recounting the version of events laid out by the prosecution. He claimed that on the day he and his colleagues went to collect Siddiqui, she suddenly got a hold of his rifle and aimed it at US personnel, at which point he opened fire with his 9-millimeter pistol.

When Siddiqui yelled out, “I never shot it,” she was tossed out of the courtroom for the remainder of the day.

The unnamed warrant officer, who had hobbled to the stand using a cane, was also permitted to recount how he was wounded in a recent and totally unrelated roadside bombing in Afghanistan, shedding tears as he did so. While having absolutely no relevance to the trial, the soldier’s wounds were invoked as part of a brazen attempt by prosecutors to sway the jury. Judge Berman’s allowing the testimony demonstrates the rigged character of the trial.

Sensing that Siddiqui was indeed emotionally unstable, prosecutors moved to force her to testify in the hopes that she would incriminate herself. Defense attorneys argued that she wasn’t mentally fit to take the stand. Once again, Judge Berman sided with the prosecution.

Berman warned Aafia Siddiqui that she is not permitted to speak about events prior to her arrest in July of 2008. Nevertheless, on Thursday Siddiqui repeatedly told the jury that she was held in secret prisons by US authorities, according to the Associated Press of Pakistan. She told the jury how she was shot just after she peeked through a curtain in search of an escape route. She added that it would be ludicrous to believe that a soldier would leave his gun where an allegedly dangerous suspect could get a hold of it.

“It’s too crazy,” she said. “It’s just ridiculous. I didn’t do that.”

When asked by a US Attorney about the contents of her purse which allegedly contained chemicals, bomb-making instructions, and a list of US targets, Siddiqui said, “I can’t testify to that, the bag was not mine, so I didn’t necessarily go through everything.” Siddiqui’s lawyers have claimed the bag and its contents were planted evidence. Her attorney, Elaine Whitfield Sharp, said back in 2008 that Siddiqui had been carrying what amounted to “conveniently incriminating evidence.”

“Of course they found all this stuff on her. It was planted on her. She is the ultimate victim of the American dark side,” another one of her attorneys had told the Associated Press in 2008.

Siddiqui also told the jury that her children were constantly on her mind and that she was disoriented at the time of her arrest in 2008.

On Friday, the prosecution called Gary Woodworth of Braintree Rifle and Pistol Club in Massachusetts to testify. Woodworth claimed that Siddiqui had taken a 12-hour pistol course at some point in the early 1990s. The Associated Press of Pakistan reported that Woodworth was noticeably distressed when the defense team demanded to know how it was possible for him to recall a specific individual from two decades earlier, when he’d had hundreds of students. Woodworth admitted that he had no records or documentation to back up his assertions, insisting that he was good at remembering faces.

Also on Friday, FBI Special Agent Bruce Kamerman testified that Siddiqui grabbed the assault rifle in a fit of rage. However, he appeared to be flustered when one of Siddiqui’s attorneys produced his hand-written notes in which there was no mention of her grabbing the gun.

In spite of the obviously fabricated character of the prosecution’s case, there is no guarantee of an acquittal.

Even if she is found not guilty, the fate of Aafia’s Siddiqui’s other two children, Mariam and Suleman, remains unknown. Siddiqui recounts that, while she was held in solitary confinement for five years, she was endlessly forced to listen to recordings of her screaming, terrified children. Her baby, Suleman, she said, was taken away from her immediately, never to be seen again. She said her daughter Mariam was occasionally shown to her, but only as an obscure figure behind a sheet of opaque glass.

The horrifying case of Aafia Siddiqui and her three children is but one example of the criminal and inhuman practices of US imperialism and its ally, the Pakistani bourgeoisie. Hundreds if not thousands of Pakistanis have been kidnapped by Pakistani intelligence services and handed over to US personnel to be dispatched to Bagram, Guantanamo and other “black site” torture chambers around the globe. While the Pakistani government now claims to be doing everything in its power to bring Siddiqui back to Pakistan, its supposed efforts are little more than damage control.

www.wsws.org

Information provided by IJAZ SYED

PAKISTAN: Police gang rape a teenage boy in custody and distribute footage on the Internet

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
AHRC-STM-060-2009
March 14, 2009

A Statement by the Asian Human Rights Commission

The law enforcement community in Pakistan has been shamed once more by an incident in which three officers arrested a boy, beat and raped him in custody, and distributed a video of the rape. A year later the boy is still in remand and the policemen have not been charged.

According to the national manager of the Society for the Protection of the Rights of the Child (SPARC), Ms Sadia Baloch, seventeen-year-old Zeeshan Budd was picked up on the evening of January 17, 2008, between his grandmother’s and his parent’s house in the jurisdiction of Shah Lateef Town in Punjab. The boy says he had asked to hitch a ride on a motorbike and had been arrested along with the driver, who was apparently wanted by the police. Police tell a different story: that they responded to a complaint about a stolen bike and mobile phone, and picked up the boy alone.

Ms Baloch says that Zeeshan was not informed of his charges, his family was not told of his arrest that night and he was neither sent to a remand home nor appointed a probation officer, which is required under Pakistan’s Juvenile Justice System Ordinance. Instead he was stripped at the police station, beaten and interrogated, during which the three officers raped him, including Head Constable Arif Sharr and Constable Mohammad Ashraf. Video of the rape was recorded on an officer’s mobile phone. When the police contacted the family the next day, Zeeshan’s grandmother Kulsoom Akhter agreed to pay half the requested bribe — Rs 50,000 — so that he’d be released. However the boy was kept, sent to court and the officers distributed parts of the video of his rape to internet cafes close to the boy’s family’s home.

The officers’ actions are a clear and severe violation of child rights and human rights. They contravene the Constitution of Pakistan, the Juvenile Justice System Ordinance and the UN Conventions of the Rights of the Child, which Pakistan ratified in 1990. (Under the Majority Act 1875, a child is defined as a person under 18 years of age; the voting age is 18 years and the national identity card is also issued at this age.)

Akhter appeared at her grandson’s court case with evidence of his rape, but a medical check up ordered by the judge was delayed for a week by the police, reducing the chance of medical evidence being found. Despite harassment and a smear campaign from police, and despite being ostracised in their community, Zeeshan’s relatives filed petition 601-602 in the Malir Court at the end of 2008, demanding that an FIR be lodged against the officers. In the meantime eight cases of robbery were taken against Zeeshan, still in jail, which his family claims are clumsily fabricated. A judge has ordered an investigation into his abuse, but the FIR report has yet to be signed.

Since its formation, the AHRC has publicised countless violent crimes committed by Pakistan police officers against detainees and there are common threads running through them all: they are usually creatively brutal, the victims young and poor, and the crimes barely covered up; officers appear confident that their actions will not be called into question. This can be seen in the case of a 17-year-old girl last year who was kept offsite by a police station sub-inspector after her arrest and raped repeatedly (AHRC-UAC-164-2008), and in the case of Hazoor Buksh, who had his penis severed by a drunk officer in 2007 (UA-032-2007) before being forced to claim that he did it himself with a broken tea cup in a suicide attempt. Zeeshan’s case is remarkable only for the security clearly felt by police when they publicised the torture themselves on video.

The AHRC insists that an FIR be lodged against Zeeshan’s rapists, and against the officers in the vicinity of the crime who did nothing to stop it. A thorough investigation must be launched. The boy must be released and he and his family offered protection for the duration of the case, and given appropriate rehabilitation and compensation.

But much more must be done. The many rapes, torture and murders that happen in police custody in Pakistan must stop. A scrupulous and unremitting sweep of the policing system is long overdue. Individuals entering into police custody too often emerge brutally scarred — emotionally and physically — and the government must determine how the situation has become so bad, and what can be done to rectify it. Officers themselves must be placed under observation, and those implicated in brutal crimes must be fired, not transferred. A nation-wide clarification of acceptable interrogation methods is necessary, and strict re-training is clearly in order.

Without a legitimate police force — which is often the front line of the legal process — a country is weakened and its citizens made vulnerable. Without law and order, vigilante justice and corruption thrive; Pakistan has a reputation for both. The fact that children can be brutally raped by police on camera and still nothing is done, should be a matter of deep shame.

The authorities need to combat this widely held notion, in and outside the country, that being a policeman in Pakistan simply gives you a greater license to commit crime.

ahrchk.net

About AHRC: The Asian Human Rights Commission is a regional non-governmental organisation monitoring and lobbying human rights issues in Asia. The Hong Kong-based group was founded in 1984.

B.C. journalist reveals details of abduction in hostage video

There were renewed calls Monday for the release of B.C. freelance journalist Khadija Abdul Qahaar, kidnapped in Pakistan three months ago, with Canadian government officials saying they are pursuing all avenues to secure her freedom.

Qahaar, 52, of West Vancouver was abducted in November while filming a documentary on the Taliban in the northwest Bannu district.

A convert to Islam, Qahaar, who changed her name from Beverly Giesbrecht, publishes her own online magazine called Jihad Unspun.

Her kidnappers have reportedly asked for a ransom of $150,000 and the release of Taliban prisoners in Afghanistan in exchange for her return.

The Canadian Association of Journalists issued a press release Monday urging Prime Minister Stephen Harper to “redouble efforts” to free Qahaar and another Canadian journalist kidnapped in Somalia.

Amanda Lindhout of Red Deer. Alta., was abducted in the East African country in August and is still missing.

Foreign Affairs spokeswoman Lisa Monette told CBC News Monday the department is continuing its efforts to secure Qahaar’s release, but she would not provide any further details, citing security concerns.

CBC News has obtained a video of Qahaar in which she is seen pleading for help in getting released.

In the five-minute video, Qahaar says she is cold and afraid.

“I have been in captivity now for almost three months,” she says. “I wake up in the dark, and I go to sleep in the dark. There is nothing for the wood furnace and not enough wood.”

In the video, Qahaar is flanked by what appear to be two Taliban fighters cradling Kalashnokovs. She is sitting outdoors on a folding chair wearing a padded camouflage jacket and a blue headscarf.

Just before she disappeared, Qahaar posted an appeal to Muslims on Jihad Unspun asking them to contribute money so she could finish her documentary. The documentary, she said, was going to counteract what she described as “biased coverage” in the Western media of the war in Afghanistan.

In the video, Qahaar says she had completed taping of the documentary but returned to Pakistan a second time to shoot a feature on an old man she met who had a valuable collection of ancient Islamic coins.

“So, I wanted to help him,” she said in the video. “I made arrangements to come back again for me to take pictures of it and take it to Sotheby’s [auction house] in London.”

On her way to or from the interview with the coin collector, Qahaar’s car was stopped by armed men who abducted her.

“I am not sure exactly [about] my location. I am [in] some place in the Afghan border area. There are air raids … This is a war zone,” she says in the video.

A Pakistani newspaper has reported that Qahaar is being held near Miran Shah, a city in North Waziristan, a mountainous region in Pakistan’s northwest bordering Afghanistan. For the past year, the U.S. has been launching cross-border missile attacks at suspected Taliban and al-Qaeda fighters hiding there.

www.cbc.ca

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