Thursday, 27 February 2014

Love bird seeking sanctuary in US

Federal Minority Minister Shahbaz Bhatti was gunned down on March 02, 2011 by the extremist group in Islamabad. His followers planned to celebrate his death anniversary on Sunday, March 02 and his love bird (Salma Peter John) shattered her silence and shared a video link showing her unannounced relation with late Shahbaz Bhatti. She said, “Cammy was me and I was Cammy” (Cammy was Shahbaz Bhatti’s nickname). She claimed that she lived with him for fifteen years and so they had happy life but couldn’t manage to marry with Shahbaz Bhatti.
Salma worked as personal assistance – PA to Shahbaz Bhatti when he was Federal Minister for Minority Affairs. And that is what other knows about it……. Close circle of minority minister was very well aware of his activities and thus other knew it as well, but didn’t disclose. On February 15, one of my articles was printed and my family friend wrote me that article was great but I failed to mention Bhatti’s former “PA” fled to Philadelphia and still living off another man supposedly active as leader for Pakistani Christian cause. She mentioned that the big issue is why Christians should trust or respect these who not only deserted their own, but never lived truly Christian life?
The real issue is shame and scam these two brought on Pakistani Christians – but why no one wants to talk on that? If marriage is Biblical standard and even more so strong tradition of Pakistan, how could these “high profile” not be held to the standards? If a man loves and respects you he marries you – otherwise you are just being used. If the Bhatti family would not recognized her as even his partner in politics, much less romance, but want nothing to do with her, why should anyone else give her time of day? And really when all is looked at what did S Bhatti do to improve lives of Pakistani Christians?
From what I hear everyone knew she was S Bhatti’s mistress, kept by him and that’s how she lived there. She is now shifted to US but get no dollars from government until asylum case approved so she gets car for work permit. So how else is she living if not with and off someone else’s support or living on savings from her time shacking up with Shahbaz Bhatti. 

Thursday, 20 February 2014

Bad to worse to very much Worse

Targeting religious minorities in Pakistan will remain a sore spot in the Asia. Pakistan, 96 percent Muslim is one of the most hostile nations for religious minorities. All religious minorities in Pakistan, not just Christians face discriminatory laws, forced conversions, and bombs and shootings aimed at minority-sect Muslims, such as Shiites, Hindus and Ahmadis. Pakistan was among the top five overall for restrictions on religion, singling out its anti-blasphemy laws as a prime example, says Pew Research Center. The report found that violations reached unprecedented levels because of growing incidents of sectarian violence against religious minorities including Shiites. The government also failed to protect Christians, Ahmadis and Hindus, it said. Pakistani courts frequently use blasphemy laws to give death or lifetime-jail sentences to minorities accused of insulting Islam. The government continues to engage in and tolerate systematic, ongoing and egregious violations of freedom of religion or belief.
In the country it is typical to kidnap Christian girls to forceconversion to Islam then forcibly force to girl to marry Muslim. And the courts protect it as well. On the other hand if a Muslim girl willingly and voluntarily decides to marry a Christian man in many cases it is illegal and in all cases Islamic rabble rousing will most likely occur to reclaim the Muslim girl to her family. I published a report about a Christian boy, who took a bold step to cross-faith marriage a dangerous ambition in Faisalabad. But Muslims leadership warned the local Christian to produce the couple otherwise they will set ablaze their houses.
It is common practice that minority’s girls are abducted and forcefully married to Muslims. But now things have gone from bad to worse to very much worse. Though constitution guarantees freedom of religion in papers but there are reports of force conversions to Islam, kidnappings of non-Muslims, job discrimination, persecution at job places, blasphemy arrests and razing of minority houses and worship places remain commonplace.
In the recent, reportedly, the married couple was recovered and religious leaders of the area forced Christians elder that if both (boy with girl) remain and practice Islam, they will spare them. Otherwise, ready to face hardships; so the boy forcibly converted to Islam. Apparently the girl was willingly agreed to live Christian boy in a peaceful manner while the hard-line jihadists in Pakistan have threatened the couple with death if he lives with the girl or even leave her. This is worse situation in the country that not only girls are forcibly converted to Islam but now boys need to convert and practice Islam. The major example of this case is Pakistani cricketer Yousaf Yohana, who turned to Mohammad Yousaf and practicing Islam.
Religious minorities; especially Christians are often stuck on the lower rung of the economy, often working as servants, sweepers and day laborers. So they normally don’t want to go into the courts due to the lack of resources and protection. In spite of this bleak outlook, minority leaders are not speaking internationally in the media but the human rights organizations. The world is turning to interfaith harmony for more tolerant Pakistan, they argue, would translate into another goal for many. 

Monday, 17 February 2014

A Boy in a Rickshaw

The formation of Pakistan (as religious extremist think) and the search for an Islamic identity are inextricably linked of the wider issues of global politics and rise of Islamic fundamentalism has been a side- effect, and religious intolerance places the minorities of the country in a shaky position.

On February 11, young Christian Asim Saleem 22, (rickshaw driver) went to see his girl friend, Sunair 20 of a Muslim background. He intended to marry her but his parents kept thwarting him and demanded that he should avoid her. The couple decided to take the bold step of cross-faith marriage a dangerous ambition in Pakistan, and got married that same day in the local court. Asim didn’t involve his parents while marrying the girl. So the couple eloped and travelled away from their families. On the very same day, religious leaders informed of the marriage by Sunair’s family went to the Christian community where Saleem lived and demanded recovery of the Muslim girl. Saleem and other community members were unaware of the elopement and marriage and requested some time to investigate, but they couldn’t find them during the given time period. Muslims under the leadership of Qari Sohail returned and warned the local people that if they could not produce the couple; Muslim mob would return and sat ablaze their houses. They warned the residents that people would be executed in retribution.

A few terrified Christians found courage to inform the police about this critical situation and rest fled to escape to the nearby place to save their life and their loved ones. Police became alert and ready to suppress any violence. On Friday, 14 February, after Jumma prayer, a large mob travelled to the Christian enclave intending to vandalize Nazarat Colony. However local police surrounded the Christian houses of Nazarat Colony. Christian inhabitants of the said colony were already fled the homes for safety as soon as a precaution against further attempts.

In a bizarre twist of events, the police have filed a case against Asim Saleem, first investigation report – FIR 114/14 under section of abduction and enforced matrimony, PP 265-B. A further allegation has been made against him for theft of Rs. 54000/- and gold of 5 grams. However these allegations are reportedly false. The police also arrested two Christian men, Bashir Masih 45 and Shaukat Masih 35 who are the cousins and the father of the accused. Both were allegedly tortured and forced to make a confession admitting to be involved in taking hostage the Muslim girl. Father of the accused died of a heart attack whilst in custody. The investigation officer – IO, Mohd Shabbir stated that the police kept these two for their own good and well being. He advised that all action taken was for the safety of Christian community; for they have to show them that the administration has kept those to convince the extremists. Later they were released, with sore bodied.

Christians and Hindu girls are abducted, forcefully converted to Islam and married to influential Muslims, but police do not file any case against Muslims even the court do not support in this matter. But if Muslim girl marries a Christian boy willingly, extremists arrive to vandalize the Christian communities. Isn’t inhuman?

Friday, 14 February 2014

Looking for Role “Model”

If you ever get a chance to spend a night in a common Christian family living in slum areas. And if you can picture the issues they face in their daily life. And the most important; is to remember the sufferings, if you ever get a chance to become in power at any level. I am particularly talking about Pakistani Christians leadership. Many of the Christian political leaders originated from common background, but it is practically observed that once they got some power in our hands. We simply forget the real cause and track is change.  
Former Federal Minister for minority affairs, Shahbaz Bhatti, founder of the All Pakistan Minorities Alliances – APMA started working for the noble cause; and reportedly work for vested interest. Later he was killed in Islamabad in March, 2011; he was receiving threats to his life for his defense of speaking out against the blasphemy law. The killers were arrested and released due to lack of the evidences and interest of the supplicant. Later in September 2013, two suspected terrorists were arrested; Adil was picked up after a car full of explosives was found at his house. And later Hammad Adil and Umer Abdullah were charged with the murder of Bhatti. The trail is underway at the Anti Terrorism court in Adayala Jail, Rawalpindi. On January 22, the two eye witnesses were produced in court during the hearing. They saw the two accused, one whom was driving the car that day and the other man who was throwing pamphlets on the road after Bhatti was shot. The court was adjourned till February 06, 2014. Rana Abdul Hamid, the attorney spoke me that he will be back in Islamabad on February 06 for the hearing of Shahbaz Bhatti case, but on the said date, he didn’t appear before the court and the court was adjourned to meet again on 22nd February, 2014.
Later Paul Bhatti reportedly was threatened; Dr. Paul Bhatti told BosNewslife he had been in Italy while receiving a threatening letter from groups linked to the 2011 assassination of his younger brother, and follow Christian, Shahbaz Bhatti, who was minorities minister at the time.
Dr. Paul pledged to leave Italy and return to Pakistan despite receiving death threats from Islamic militants. He is trained surgeon, and runs his business there. He can afford to live there as his another brother lives in Canada. My question is; what about others who used their association with Shahbaz Bhatti as opportunity to get out of Pakistan? Many of the Pakistani leaders run off to other countries like Europe, USA and Canada. Why no one speaking about the rights of poor segment of the society. The fact is; the poorest have no such option.
Many of them are sitting in other countries and seeking asylum. No one ask them about their performance while they were in power. I don’t blame but Bhatti’s “performance” reportedly has a question mark? How many educational/technical institutions were set up during the mean time? What solid steps were taken to empower the youth or for their economical growth? How many students were sponsored for higher studies? Even the current sitting minister doesn’t have any plan to support the talented one of this era. He is only the “Yes Man” to his bosses. Why these Christian leaders forget their origination?  Its alarming situation all around and they should present the real picture to the West while representing government.
The Pakistani Taliban has announced an armed struggle against an indigenous tribe and Ismaili Muslims. They warn the Kalash, who are thought to number only 3500, to convert to Islam or face death. The spokesman said, “By the grace of Allah, an increasing number of people from Kalash Tribe are embracing Islam and we want to make it clear to the Kalash tribe that they will be eliminated along with their protectors, the western agents if they don’t embrace Islam” 
Unfortunately the constitution theoretically protects freedom of speech, and the media is seen as having taken great strides in recent years. But certain subjects, particularly criticism concerning the all-powerful army and spy agencies, remain taboo. There is an urgent need for greater equality and social justice and for peace. In reference to the ongoing persecution and discrimination suffered by Christians and other religious minorities in Pakistan, notably Ahmadiyyas and Shiite Muslims.

And none the less, the time is gone, lets pray for those who do leave at least support them to uplift the poor, since they can easily set up new, ongoing rich lives in the west.

Sunday, 9 February 2014

Unhinged Society

The straightforward fact is, when I am writing these lines; I find no hope provision of justice and protection to marginalized portion of the society. I am representative of the most vulnerable community of the country, largely dealt under Islamic militancy. Until 2006, rape in Pakistan was a crime that was largely dealt with under Islamic law. Women had to produce four male witnesses to the crime. The failure to do so could mean being charged with adultery. On the other hand, anyone can be charged with blasphemy and be immediately detained without safeguards or the opportunity for bail. Under this law, the only evidence needed is one “reliable” man’s word. Ill-treatment and torture of the accused in the custody are common practice. Judicial proceedings can take years, resulting in innocent victims languishing in jails with pending trails or appeal. Judges become biased and legal representative and care takers are threatened. Political leaders, police and officials in the judicial system often collude in the victimization of the poorest in society.
Because the blasphemy law is open to abuse it has become a powerful tool to ignite religious extremism, encourage hostility towards minority groups and give Islamic zealots opportunities to take the law in their hands. During the last few years many Christians have been falsely accused of blasphemy under this law – often mischievously by people with selfish motives and the number is rising. Pakistan’s tough blasphemy laws have attracted criticism from rights groups, who say they are frequently abused to settle personal scores.   
According to a study by USAID, Pakistani courts roots in the British colonial system means that across much of the country they are viewed with considerable suspicion, and that skepticism has fueled doubts about their legitimacy. Questions about legitimacy are compounded by the low level of efficiency, the prevalence of delays, the inferior quality of legal training, corruption, and perception that the court system is a tool for the delay of justice, manipulated by rich and/or powerful interests in the society.
In the same situation; proceedings of the current blasphemy cases are interrupted. Attorney and caretakers are being threatened; pamphlets are dropped in their offices warning them to disassociate themselves from blasphemy cases dealings. Christians face number of problems because of other laws concerning marriage, divorce, guardianship and inheritance. In cases of abduction of Christian women, the Muslim man can declare that his abducted wife has converted to Islam. Thus marriage, solemnized under the family laws of non-Muslims, can be dissolved with immediate effect.

In this situation; what we need to do, either to sit and wait for anyone to intrude or take some sold steps, to hold their horses. If Pakistan wishes to overcome its security issues, it must reject militancy in its entirety, even so called freedom fighters. We have exhausted all options of talks; a military option seems like the only step to curb elements that destabilize the country. In long term, the government needs to support efforts to promote interfaith harmony and generate dialogue that can find a middle ground on ideological divisions. The future of vulnerable minorities looks bleak in a country that is religiously sensitive and combustible to variance in ideologies. The state has failed to perform its primary duty of protecting its citizens. Meanwhile, the minorities remain in fear and fight for survival. 

Judge ordered to demolish slum settlements.

Life is so precious, and everyone in the world would love to live safe and sound life but the people living suburb in Islamabad (slum areas) are forced to live this kind of life there. I feel pity to think of the circumstances they are living in, how ignorant they are of the harsh realities of life, and the struggling future they have to face, may be they would not ever get the chance to see the bright colors of life. I had been visiting the slum areas since 2009, I used to imagine about slums and people living there, all I can say, it’s pathetic life they will with. It is really eye opening to actually see how people live over there. Houses are made of mud and some with bricks and cement, unpaved streets and the living conditions are outrageous, which differentiate it from the normal living places. People inhale the toxic gases from the nearby ganda naala (seasonal drainage) and God knows how they tolerate its foul smell.

Most of the inhabitants are Christians, migrated from different parts of the country and have been settled here in search of jobs and for better future for three decades. These people don’t take care of their health and hygiene. No organization work for the children like sponsoring a child’s education and nutrition expenses. On Friday, a local court ordered the Capital Development Authority – CDA official to remove all illegal “katchi Abbadi”. Justice Shaukat Aziz Siddique of the Islamabad High Court – IHC directed the CDA to clear all settlements from the capital within a month. There are ten colonies (slum settlements) in different sectors of the capital, like Tent colony, 66 quarters, 48 quarters, katchiabadi G-8/1, 100 quarters, France colony, Essa Nagri, Dhuke Najju, Haq bhahu, and Muslim colony. The CDA official estimated that there would be around 5000 families in and around these slums. I wonder that if the Capital Development Authority will take action as per the High Court Judge, where these five thousands families will settle. There is a need to promote responsibility and healthy behaviors among the people so as to improve the social and economic status of the people of the community. Instead they are going to demolish and wanted to remove them. Human rights worker, Basharat Khokher met CDA manager, Amir Ahmed Ali and requested him to take care of the necessary measures for the displaced families. If it happens, UNHCR should come in front and should manage the IDPs      

Wednesday, 5 February 2014

Religious Bigotry

Because of my internet problem, I couldn’t release however this matter forced me personally to do this. We are building not so much a multi racial society or a multi cultural society, we are building separate societies which really don’t have much to do with other. Equipped with just enough religion to hate those with another faith but not enough to love there coreligionists – Pakistanis have mostly turned their backs on religious atrocities. Religion is not to be, and was never, forced upon an individual against their own will.  Unfortunately Pakistan is facing terrorism and some Islamic fundamentalists want to impose their rigid rituals and rights and Pakistani government is in the state of confusion weather to face them or to face terrorism. In this turmoil, government is again wasting time to negotiate with them, knowingly that this process will bring no solid result.
Taliban peacekeeping troops and government of Pakistan negotiators are meeting to devise a strategy for formally kick-starting a much-awaited dialogue process. The Taliban had nominated five prominent figures – Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf - PTI Chairman Imran Khan, Jamiat Ullma-e-Islam- JUI-S chief Maulana Sami ul Haq, Jamaat-e-Islamai JI leader Prof. Mohammad Ibrahim, JUI-F politician Mufti Kifayat ullah and Lal Masjid prayer leader Maulana Abdul Aziz to act as intermediaries between them and the government’s negotiating team. But JUI and PTI – the two avid supporters of peace talks wished the proposed dialogue luck and excused themselves from the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan’s intermediary committee. And now Taliban will be nominate Insar Abbasi and Oriay Maqbool Jan in the squad.
Fawad Chaudhry, one of the PPP political leaders has demanded that people nominated by Taliban for negotiations should be arrested and investigated for their links with terrorists. I support his stance because once these people are living in the country and if they are representing the militant groups and will negotiate on their behalf it means that they are one of them either in spirit or practical.   
Asian Study Group, in collaboration with Kuch Khass, arranged a multimedia presentation on Religious Tolerance & Islam. They believe that many mistakenly believe that Islam does not tolerate the existence of other religions. Islam recognizes that there are a plurality of religions on this earth, and gives the right to individuals to choose the path which they believe to be true. They gave the examples from the life of their Prophet (PBUH) epitomize the verse of the Quran which promotes religious tolerance and sets the guideline for Muslims’ interaction with people of other faiths.

I am not a religious scholar but I know about my faith and very well aware of it as well. I wanted them to ask, which Sharia you wanted to impose, either the Taliban design or what about the Sharia which is already imposed in the constitution of the Pakistan or both? I feel it is already scripted and its net shell is; both groups will sit and negotiate and design some restrictions to be imposed on margined position in the society like women and religious minorities. It may demand to tighten the rope and neck of the minorities like poised to make death penalty compulsory for blasphemy. Earlier Pakistan faces a looming deadline to either comply with a court ruling to amend the country’s penal code to make the death penalty the only lawful punishment for blasphemy or to appeal the order. It may restrict religious freedom or freedom of expression. It is already practice that religious minorities are not leading healthy life in this arena. I am afraid that Pakistani Christians are already living miserable life and do not have right to be heard and if the government shot the bullet putting on Taliban shoulders, what will be Christian future in the country.