International Day of Peace 2008 in Sargodha

By Khadijah Shah

SARGODHA, PAKISTAN: International Day of Peace was celebrated today on September 21 around the world. United Religions Initiative (URI) Pakistan showed its crucial presence on this event. On September 20, ROD CC URI organized a function at Christian Primary School, Chak 79NB Sargodha.

From the Rays of Development Organization (ROD CC URI), Chairman Ferhan Mazher, Nadeem Samuel, Imran Mazher, Noman Sharjeel, Adnan Saeed, Adil Naseem and Asher Emmanuel attended the function. The Chief Guest was Rev. Zahid Kamal (PCCC)

The function began by the performance of a class 5 student, Iqra Basharat, who recited some Biblical verses. After that, Sumera Murad of class 5 uttered Naat (song for Hazrat Muhammad PBUH). Asher Emmanuel, the stage secretary, introduced the guests.

Nadeem Samuel (ROD) spoke about URI, its aims, structure, motives and achievements. He said that URI is an International Campaign for creating peace amongst different religions.
“At the dawn of the 21st century, there is a new spirit of peace emerging throughout the world. People of all nationalities, religions and ethnic backgrounds are coming to recognize that we are a part of the family, sharing one precious planet. Whatever are the differences, we can all agree that peace on earth is good for everyone, as well as the highest calling of all our religions”, he said.

Samuel said that URI Pakistan has been a leader in promoting and celebrating the international day of peace as well in conveying URI principles and preambles, affirming that ROD also is a part of this international peace campaign.

Sehrish Khalid of class 4 presented a poem about ‘Peace’. Iqra Basharat, Nomi Lazar, Shiza Komal and Komal Fariad sang a song ‘Naghmay Aman Kay Gaein’ meaning ‘lets sing the songs of peace.’

Ferhan Mazher, Chairman (Rays of Development Organization), told the children about the activities of URI. He said that United Nations started it off desiring to bring harmony in all religions and casts.
“The 2008 IDP offers a particularly strong opportunity for support by people of faith, because September 21, 2008 falls during holy month of Ramzan”, Mazher said.
URI encourages Muslims to organize ‘Peace Aftars’ to break their fast on this evening, and to have the announcement at the Dhohar prayers, he said. URI encourages Christians to organize the IDP in church services and ring church bells at 12 noon, he said.

Shaista Iqbal, Sehrish Khalid, Nisha Saleem, Naila Arif and Waseeqa Yaqoob came to sing the song, ‘Aman Ka Shezada Aya’ meaning ‘The Prince of Peace had arrived’.

Rev. Zahid Kamal thanked URI and all the participants as well as the public. He stated that URI and ROD are doing a wonderful job. He informed the students that differences are to be celebrated and not
hated. Let us celebrate diversity and individuality.

Madam Zareena, the Principal of Christian Primary School, thanked URI and ROD for organizing the program, and said that such programs are very beneficial for the upcoming generations as they provide them with awareness, understanding and alertness.

About 150 students attended the function with teachers Tooba Emmanuel and Fouzia Auston. ROD CC URI brought sweets and candies, which were distributed amongst all the students. The students belonged to different religions; Sunni Muslims, Shia Muslims, Ahmadis and Christians. All the children in the end stood, holding playcards in their hands, on which ‘MAY PEACE PREVAIL ON EARHT’ was written. Then all the community in that school raised slogans:
May peace prevail in Pakista
May peace prevail on Earth

Ferhan Mazher
Rays of Development CC URI
Sargodha, Pakistan.

Seven NOT Five Baloch Women Buried Alive

By Khadijah Shah

ISLAMABAD, PAKISTAN: A Senate Committee hearing on the gruesome details of the live burials of women in Balochistan was notified on Friday that the number of women murdered could be SEVEN not FIVE or THREE as reported earlier.

Awami National Party (ANP) Senator Haji Adeel said that he was convinced that the number of murdered women might be seven not three or five as earlier reported and that a new version of the incident was being used to divert the attention from the burial of five women, who were said to be unmarried. He said, he had no doubt in his mind that a total of seven women might have been killed in the name of honour, and that the graves of five women are missing.

Jamal Laghari said if those girls were declared Kari, then where were those boys or men with whom they were suspected of having illicit relationships. He claimed that a big cover-up was in the making.

Rahim Mandokhel also wondered how could the girls be killed without identifying those with whom they were captured. He said this was a bogus story as Baloch traditions did not protect such killings and no woman can be killed without establishing the identity of the male. But, this is not the case in the killing of these women. He challenged the statement of the IG that a Jirga was held before the killings.

Prof Khursheed Ahmed also agitated over the cover-up being to save powerful people and wondered how many more versions of this story would be given to the parliamentarians.

IG Balochistan Asif Nawaz tried to offer his own defense by saying that he was recently posted to Balochistan and he was working with ill-trained police in the area, where this incident had occurred.

He also claimed that the investigations were still under process and he was giving the information to the authorities, which they were getting from the accused under investigation. Asif Nawaz said now he
had deputed good officers to investigate the case. He denied that there was any pressure on him to let the real culprits off the hook. But he could not reply to the questions that why PPP Minister Sadiq Umrani was so far not questioned although he was the first one to confirm these killings in his area.
The IG claimed that all the people accused of attending the Jirga had gone underground and he was trying to “lure” them.

But the senators refused to accept the IG’s version of the events and expressed their total dissatisfaction over the police investigations.

Policeman Tariq Khosa said unless the state would not become a party to the honour killing and courts would disallow any compromises, women killing in the name of honour would not come to an end. Khosa said he was convinced that at some stage some powerful people had decided to kill those Baloch girls and that was why, now the case was registered under anti terrorism act so as to give maximum punishment to those killers. He assured that no pressure would be entertained. He told the senators that their useful input would now form the basis of future investigations.

Human Rights Activist Samar Minhallah also shared her own findings with the committee in the light of her own investigation. She said Baloch reporters who had actually unearthed this story and had shared
useful information were facing threats to their lives.

Tahira Abdullah also lauded the efforts of the members of the Senate body and endorsed the view of Haji Adeel that the number of women killed might be seven as there seemed to be three separate cases of honour killings, which were now being deliberately mixed to save the real culprits who enjoyed political clout.

Committee Chairman SM Zafar said the committee unanimously condemned the killing of these women. He also gave one month to the IG Balochistan to submit his final report to the committee.

However, the Committee on Human Rights was ignored totally by the PPP government as none of the three important ministers, who are active members of the Senate body, attended the meeting chaired by Senator SM Zafar.

The absence of these three powerful ministers was felt not only because of their current ministerial status but in their capacity as its members, by the jam-packed Committee Room which heard the shocking disclosure that the total number of the women buried alive may be
seven. Those who did not attend the meeting were Farooq Naik, Latif Khosa and Rehman Malik.

The notice of the committee meeting was sent days earlier, so everybody had ample time to ensure his or her presence in the meeting. Several senators also confronted IG Balochistan Asif Nawaz for a
detailed clarification for making a threatening phone call to a correspondent (Rauf Klasra) in a bid to stop him from pursuing the story. They termed it a sort of “shooting the messenger” and wondered how he could expect from journalists to share their sources of information with him.

However, Nawaz clarified that he only meant to get some information from The News correspondent which might have helped the investigations. These senators also appreciated the efforts of The
News correspondent to keep the issue alive.

Meanwhile, suspected involvement of one of the PPP ministers in the Balochistan government in this case is said to have kept the three PPP ministers away from the important proceedings. In the absence of Interior Adviser Rehman Malik, the meeting discussed how the police had badly failed to make any breakthrough in these investigations and now attempts were being made to bury the issue after the arrest of some loyal servants of those powerful men.

The Leader of the House Raza Rabbani, who in the past has played an important role in protecting the rights of women, turned up in the meeting one hour late. He spoke for five minutes to oppose the
role of the Senate Body on Human Rights to discuss the issue when investigations were underway. Astonishingly, Rabbani lost his temper during the meeting when it was pointed out that the PPP minister in Balochistan government might hamper the investigations and warned that the proceedings of the committee should remain unbiased and non-partisan.

Earlier, the enraged committee members were totally dissatisfied with the version of the Balochistan Police and after three-hour-long proceedings, were of the view that a big cover-up was in the making to save some political guns of Balochistan who had actually killed those girls to settle their own political enmities.

After finding that he did not have a valid answer to their questions, IG Balochistan
Asif Nawaz was put on the mat by well-prepared senators who used their own information to reject police findings, and wondered how the police could have failed to apprehend the real culprits who are still at large while some loyal servants of the tribal chiefs were presented as scapegoats.

The meeting was attended by Senators Mushahid Hussain, Dr Mohammad Said, Prof Khursheed Ahmed, Yasmeen Shah, Jamal Laghari, Mohammad Ali Durrani, Haji Mohammad Adeel, Abdur Rahim Mandookhel, Mohammad Talha Mahmood, Anisa Zab Tahirkheli, Maulana Samiul Haq, Haif Rashid, Raza Rabbani, Dr Khalid Ranjha, Abbad Komaili, Sadia Abbasi, and Nasar Khan.

Secretary Interior Kamal Shah and top police cop Tariq Khosa were also present in the meeting. Two human rights activists Tahira Abdullah and Samar Minhallah and this correspondent (Rauf Klasra) were invited to attend the meeting as observers.

The senators were angry over the fact that the Balochistan Police had failed to even register the FIR against the culprits and now they were busy in the cover-up.

Ferhan Mazher
Rays of Development Organization
Sargodha, Pakistan

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Roundtable On Honour Killings Today

By Khadijah Shah

ISLAMABAD: To condemn the inhuman prevalant practices of violence against women, with special focus on the recent case of burying alive of five women in Balochistan in the name of honour, a roundtable is being held at the Council of Islamic Ideology (CII) today (Saturday).

Organized jointly by the National Commission on the Status of Women (NCSW) and the CII, the roundtable meeting will be attended by human rights activists, representatives of civil society and journalists. Minister for Parliamentary Affairs for Balochistan, Robina Irfan will also be in attendance. Other panelists for the roundtable include I.A Rehman, Ansar Abbasi, Naeem Mirza, Tahira Abdullah, Samar Minnallah and Dr Arifa Syeda.

To examine the religious status of such practices, religious scholar Allama Khilji will also speak on the occasion. Chairman CII Dr Khalid Masood is to kick-off the event. Talking to ‘The News’, Gender Expert
at NCSW, Sofia Noreen said that the meeting was aimed at highlighting the typical way of covering up cases of honour killing.

“The meeting will discuss the history and mindset behind such practices and political, social and religious dynamics involved in making such practices acceptable in the tribal system.”

She said that it was important to comprehend the standing of religion on the issues and the mindset that allows such heinous practices in the name of tradition. “Discriminatory customary practices are
protected by a certain mindset and there is a need to point out these elements and raise voice against them,” she said.

Dr Nasir Zaidi of CII said that the idea was to condemn the case like Jafferabad through a joint platform. “Participants of the roundtable would present recommendations on how to put restraint over unjust customary practices and these recommendations would then be presented before the CII central meeting,” he said adding that finally those recommendations would be given to higher authorities. On July 14, five women were brutally tortured and buried alive in Roopashakh, Goth
Qaboola at the border of Naseerabad-Jaffarabad because three of them had the courage to opt for court marriages of their own free will.

Hameeda, Ruqqayya and Raheema are three of the five victims who were killed in the name of honour.

Ferhan Mazher
Rays of Development Organization
Sargodha, Pakistan

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In Balochistan, 57 women and 10 men murdered in the name of ‘honour’

By Khadijah Shah

Balochistan, Pakistan: According to reports of different non-governmental organizations working in Balochistan 57 women and 10 men have been murdered in the name of ‘honour’ in the last 6 months of 2008. The representatives of these organizations said that the frequency of honour crimes is increasing; the government should make sure that the culprits involved in these crimes should be punished according to the law of the country.

Recently the live burial of five women in Nasira-abad became the front page story in national and international media. Regional coordinator of Aurat Foundation (NGO), Alaodin Khilji said the honour killing is increasing. Khiliji said that according to the reports published by Aurat Foundation 57 women and 10 men were killed in the name of honour, during last 6 months. Whereas according to the reports published last year, there were 70 to 80 honour killings in Balochistan. Khilji told that in the brutal and barbaric incident of Nasira-abad five women were tortured and were buried without confirming if they had died or not.

Provincial president of the Aurat Foundation, advocate Zahoor Shahwani told that people proclaim murders caused for other motives as honour killing just to protect the murderers from law. It’s very important to address the education and economic problems of those areas where these incidents occur, Shahwani said.

Ferhan Mazher
Rays of Development Organization
Sargodha, Pakistan

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