Blasphemy is an emotive topic in Pakistan, where strong religious sentiments have led in the past to mob violence and worse.
For those accused of blasphemy – which can include anything seen as a deliberate insult to God, Islam or religious leaders – such an offense is literally a life-and-death matter. The relevant section of Pakistan’s penal code recommends either life imprisonment or death for any convicted blasphemer.
The issue has arisen again in Punjab, where a court last week condemned to death a Christian, Nadeem James, based on evidence police gathered from a friend who said James sent him a blasphemous poem via instant-messenger WhatsApp. A prosecutor confirmed the contention by James’s defense lawyer that he never sent any blasphemous material to anyone.
“The accused said … he never sent any blasphemous message through his cellphone,” prosecution lawyer Rana Naveed Anjum told VOA Urdu. “But once something has been alleged against you and there is enough evidence on record corroborating that assertion, then it is hard to deny or overlook such material.”
A fair trial is difficult
A prominent Pakistani human-rights activist, Mehdi Hassan, said the emotive nature of blasphemy makes it difficult to get a fair trial in cases involving religious beliefs.
“In Pakistan, religious might is very influential,” Hassan told VOA, “and that thinking has an impact on police and other departments in such cases.”
Nadeem James’s defense attorney, Anjum Wakeel, has said his client was “framed” by his so-called friend, “who was annoyed by [James’s] affair with a Muslim girl.”
Prosecutor Anjum agreed that James told investigators he had been framed.
Feelings ran high in the case, and the trial was held in secret, in a prison, because James and members of his family had been receiving threats, some of them by local clerics.
‘Blasphemy’ can mask personal disputes
Blasphemy remains one of Pakistan’s most controversial laws. Rights groups say accusations of blasphemy are subject to abuse, and are made to settle personal disputes or vendettas.
Activist Mehdi Hassan said the country’s political parties should play a more active role and press Pakistani society to curb the misuse of these laws.
“To address this problem as a long-term solution, political parties should play a role, because democracy gives a level playing field to everyone,” Hassan told VOA.
Referring to Muhammad Ali Jinnah, the revered founder of modern-day Pakistan, Hassan added: “We have to remember what Mr. Jinnah said, ‘Religious beliefs are the personal matter of an individual.'”
Jinnah was a lawyer and political figure prior to the partition of the Indian subcontinent that broke up the British Raj and created India and Pakistan as separate states in 1947. He served as Pakistan’s first governor-general until his death a year later.
A history of violence
Past blasphemy cases have stirred public anger that spiraled into mob violence and killings.
In April of this year, Mashaal Khan, a journalism student at Abdul Wali Khan University in Mardar, Pakistan, was beaten and shot dead by fellow students angered by accusations that he had posted blasphemous content online. In 2014, an angry mob in Punjab beat a Christian couple to death over blasphemy accusations, and in a high-profile case in 2011, Punjab Governor Salman Taseer was killed by his bodyguard after Taseer proposed reforms for the blasphemy laws.
Despite criticism, Pakistan’s government has been advocating strict enforcement of blasphemy laws. In April the government used newspaper advertising and text messages on mobile phones to warn millions of Pakistanis not to post, share or upload “blasphemous” material online. Anyone encountering such material was asked to report it to the authorities.
According to a recent Human Rights Watch report on Pakistan, ten Muslims and five non-Muslims were arrested in 2016 on blasphemy charges, and at least 19 people convicted of blasphemy were sentenced to death and are being held in prison.
News Courtesy: VOA NEWS
India’s army chief has warned the nation to be prepared for a possible two-front war — with China and Pakistan — at the same time.
General Bipin Rawat warned China would continue its efforts to “nibble away” at India’s territory, as it did during a recent standoff in the Himalayas that ended last week. He said more incidents like the standoff at Doklam plateau in Bhutan could lead to a larger conflict on India’s northern border.
If that were to happen, Rawat warned, it is possible Pakistan would seize the opportunity to strike its arch nemesis from the west.“We have to be prepared for conflict on the northern and western borders,” he said.
“As far as our western adversary is considered,” he said in reference to Pakistan, “we don’t see any scope of reconciliation because their military, the polity, and the people in that nation have been made to believe that India wants to break their country into pieces.”
India and Pakistan have fought three wars since both nations gained independence from Britain 70 years ago. India and China have also fought once since then.
All three nations are nuclear powers, but Rawat said that will not necessarily be a deterrent.
“Nuclear weapons are weapons of deterrence. Yes, they are. But to say that they can deter war or they will not allow nations to go to war, in our context that may also not be true,’’ he said.
Rawat made the comments at a seminar organized by the Center for Land Warfare Studies, a New Delhi-based think tank.
News Courtesy: VOA NEWS
An Indian man on death row in Pakistan after a military court sentenced him on charges of espionage, sabotage and terrorism has appealed to the country’s army chief for clemency.
India had earlier appealed to the International Court of Justice, the highest legal body under the United Nations, in the case of Kulbhushan Sudhir Jadhav. India said Pakistan had sentenced an innocent Indian citizen without granting him diplomatic access, which is in violation of an international treaty.
The court ordered Pakistan last month to delay Jadhav’s execution until the final verdict.
Pakistan says Jadhav confessed to being an Indian spy working to disrupt the development of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, a network of railways and roads that is part of the larger One Belt One Road Initiative launched by China.
In a 10-minute video released by the military, the second of its kind, Jadhav said his activities were designed to support separatist groups in Pakistan’s restive Balochistan province to “raise the level of insurgency.”
A news release by the Pakistan military’s public relations wing said Jadhav had “expressed remorse” over lives lost and damage caused by his actions and asked for mercy on “compassionate grounds.”
According to authorities, Jadhav claimed to have had a hand in sectarian violence, targeting Shi’ite Muslims, that had plagued Pakistan for a while.
Center of conflict
Balochistan has long been the center of a conflict between separatist insurgents and Pakistan’s military. It is also along the route of China’s planned economic corridor, which involves an investment of upward of $50 billion. The success of the project depends upon securing the routes.
Tensions between India and neighboring Pakistan, both nuclear-armed countries, have been high since a heavily armed group attacked an Indian air force base in Pathankot early last year. India blamed Pakistan-based militants for the attack.
The two sides have also been exchanging intermittent fire along the Line of Control, the de facto border in the disputed Kashmir region.
Text Courtesy: VOA NEWS
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A new wave of target killings of journalists and attacking on the media houses have again started. With in the span of 24 hours two media persons were killed by, as usual, “unknown persons”. The score comes to five during the current year. According to Dunya Tv during the last five years 65 journalists were killed in Pakistan and still no precautions were taken to protect the journalists by the government and media houses themselves.
On September 9, two unidentified armed men shot dead senior journalist Aftab Alam on in a drive-by shooting incident in the city’s North Karachi area. According to media reports Alam was shot dead by unidentified assailants outside his house. The senior journalist was critically injured in the attack and was rushed to the Hospital, where he was pronounced dead.
On September 8 in evening another media man, Mr. Arshad Ali Jaffery, of Geo News channel was attacked while he was sitting with his driver in a DSN van. As usual the three unknown attackers came on a motor bike and did indiscriminate firing targeting Jaffery. He received nine bullet shots and driver received two bullets. He died in hospital. The Geo news always remains under attack from political groups and the authorities
It has been two years since the Karachi operation against extortionist and target killers began in Karachi yet so far there has not been any major improvement in the law and order situation in the metropolis of Karachi, the provincial capital of Sindh province, Pakistan. Organized crimes, gang war between militia groups maintained by political parties and target killings have cost the economic hub of the country billions of Dollars.
The recent cases of target killing negate the tall claims of police officers who report that that the trend in target killing has decreased by 70 percents. According to media reports 112 people were killed in the month of August alone. The figure included the attack on political leaders Dilshad Mavia of the Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamaat (ASWJ) and Rasheed Godil a political leader of Muttaida Qaoumi Movement (MQM) and sitting member of the National Assembly. Mavia was shot dead in an act of targeted killing in Orangi Town on 18th August while Mr. Rasheed Godil survived the attempt on his life by target killers.
The case of slain activist Sabeen Mehmood suffered a setback when her driver Ghulam Abbas was shot death by unknown assailants. Abbas was the main witness in the case and had identified the assailants who killed Sabeen. According to police officials investigating the case, strong evidence of banned outfit’s involvement in Sabeen’s murder has been found. The murder brings to light the state’s disinterest in witness protection. The assailants are subsequently acquitted for want of evidence and witness in such cases where the star witness are killed or threatened into silence.
The solution to Karachi’s law and order situation lies not in targeted operation but in political dialogue but on the personal instructions of chief of army staff, General Raheel Sharif, a ruthless operation has been started which is now targeting political workers rather than terrorists. This is the reason the banned militant groups again find liberty to operate freely without any fear. Though the operation may cause a temporary lull in the otherwise volatile city the calm will be short lived. The absence of political co operation and strong local body governance has made Karachi on of the deadliest cities in the world.
Text Courtesy: The Asian Human Rights Commission
Pakistan’s cultural heartland Lahore got a respite from news of bomb attacks and security threats through a colorful three-day literary festival. Voice of America(VOA)’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports on what putting on such an event entails in a dangerous security environment, and why many attendees thought of it as their way to fight back. Video Credit:VOA