Azaranica is a non-biased news aggregator on Hazaras. The main aim is to promote understanding and respect for cultural identities by highlighting the realities they face on daily basis...Hazaras have been the victim of active persecution and discrimination and one of the reasons among many has been the lack of information, awareness, and disinformation.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Unreported Suicides in Central Afghan Province

Women take poison to escape family troubles or forced marriage

By Jawed Bakhtari

Ghulam Rasul, 71, a short man with stooped shoulders had come to the marketplace in Nili, the main town of Daikundi province in central Afghanistan, to buy sugar, matches and candy. As he sat against the mud wall of a grocery shop under the hot sun, he told an IWPR reporter about three women in his village who had consumed rat poison in the past year. Two survived, and one died.

His village, Khalbarg, is in the Sang-i Takht district 150 kilometres from Nili. It took Ghulam Rasul, an influential figure in his village, about four hours to drive to Nili market in his aging Kamaz vehicle.

Ghulam Rasul said every year, several women in his village of about 500 households try to commit suicide, and often succeed. He said the government is never notified because most of the villagers are illiterate, do not have phones, and their only way of getting to Nili is by donkey or mule, a 24-hour trip.

An investigation report by IWPR suggests that at least 200 women commit suicide annually within the nine districts of Daikundi province. The data gathered by IWPR reporters indicates that the main factors are family violence and forced marriage.

The issue that has not been heavily researched either by the the government or by non-government organisations advocating for women’s rights in Afghanistan.

Ghulam Rasul did not give the name of the woman who died recently, but she was in her mid-twenties and recently married. He said she was the daughter of one Rauf Karbalai, and the wife of a man called Panahi, who had taken a second wife a year previously.

“These two wives were fighting each other every day in the house,” Ghulam Rasul said. “This is why Karbalai’s daughter finally ate rat poison.”

Ghulam Rasul said Panahi had been paying more attention to his second wife, aged 18, and had handed over management of the household money to her. He said he had heard from village women that this became intolerable for the first wife.

One day, a fight erupted between the two wives. According to Ghulam Rasul, “A few hours after the violence, a female neighbour, Zainab, entered the Panahi house to call on Karbalai’s daughter. Panahi’s second wife of Panahi told Zainab that Karbalai’s daughter had gone to her room and had been silent for the last few hours.”

The neighbour knocked on the bedroom door, but got no response. She looked into the room through a window and saw Karbalai’s daughter lying on the floor in an unusual position. Nearby was a glass containing a blackish liquid. Then she saw a white package of rat poison.

“The woman screamed, ‘Karbalai’s daughter has taken rat poison!’” Ghulam Rasul said. “Of course, the neighbouring women gathered, screaming and weeping. Meanwhile, a man from the neighbourhood called out, ‘Go and dig the grave and announce at the mosque that Panahi’s wife has passed away’.”

An IWPR reporter spent four months visiting 30 villages around Nili and interviewing more than 100 residents face-to-face, including at least 40 women.

These are mountainous, traditional villages where neither men nor women talk easily about suicide. Some husbands threatened to kill the IWPR reporter if he used their wives’ names in any news story.

The reporter managed to record interviews with 17 women who had attempted suicide in the past 16 months – using either rat poison or insecticide – but had survived. The reporter also talked to relatives of women who had committed suicide, and took photographs of some of their graves.

IWPR’s investigation suggests that since many people do not believe there is rule of law within Daikundi province, people are tempted to commit suicide instead of seeking justice via the legal system.

The Health and Women’s Affairs Department and the local office of the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission, AIHRC, both say they can count the number of suicide reports they have received on one hand.

The AIHRC’s local officer for advocacy and women’s human rights development, Halima Bashardust, said her office received reports of only four suicide attempts in 2011, in all of which the individuals survived. The four women were upset with their husbands and troubled by family issues, and swallowed rat poison, Bashardust said.

She added that mistreatment following forced marriages was another likely cause of suicide attempts.

Asked why her office did not have more data on the number of females who commit suicide, Bashardust replied that very few women came to her office to file complaints against their husbands. She also admitted that coordination was poor among government agencies in Daikundi.

The IWPR reporter tried four times to contact either the head of the local department for women’s affairs, Khoi Rezai, or her deputy to talk about the issue, but was unsuccessful. A spokesperson for the department, a woman named Hasani, said, “The director is not at her office and we don’t have permission to give interviews.”

Bashardust said the government hospital at Nili was the only credible source for data on suicide attempts. In 2010, the hospital recorded 42 suicides – 25 women and 17 men.

When treating patients, doctors hear from the relatives of victims that many cases of attempted suicide are due to forced marriage, abuse at the hands of husbands, and fighting over household finances, Dr Qasemi, a physician at Nili Hospital, said.

The IWPR reporter spent several weeks walking the corridors of Nili hospital to find patients who had attempted suicide, or relatives.

One morning, he saw a Toyota minibus race to the hospital gate. Two men and three women jumped out of the vehicle carrying a woman wrapped in a blanket and hurried into the hospital.

The reporter tried to follow but could not see what was happening. Thirty minutes later, there were screams from the women inside the hospital, and the reporter realised that the patient had died.

The reporter approached the driver of the minibus, who was cleaning the windshield. “The dead girl was Fatema, an 18 year-old whose parents were living in Iran. She lived with her uncle in the village of Zojok in Shahrestan district,” the driver said.

“As far as I know, the uncle’s wife wanted to engage Fatema to her nephew, but Fatema would not agree to marry the man. Finally, her uncle’s wife made up her mind that Fatema had to be engaged within two days. As a result of that decision, violence erupted between Fatema and her uncle’s wife. In protest, Fatema left home to stay at a neighbour’s house.

“Having stayed the night, in the early morning she quietly took a lot of drugs from her neighbour’s shelf and swallowed them with a few glasses of water. She became unable to speak, and the neighbours took her to hospital.”

Akbar Mujahed, head of the criminal department for the police in Daikundi, said his department had no record of anyone filing a case about a female suicide attempt.

Mujahed did not deny that women attempted suicide, but said most people in Daikundi resolved such matters through community and tribal councils.

When told that Nili Hospital recorded 42 suicides in 2010, Mujahed said: “The police have not received any information in this regard, and this surprises us.”

Haji Daud, 71, is the tribal head of the village of Surma-Sang, near Nili. He usually mediates in disputes among people in the village, with the support of most community members.

The IWPR reporter approached Haji Daud and asked him why people did not believe in the government or the law, and came to him to settle their disputes instead.

In a loud voice, he replied that he was unable to talk to the media. “You broadcast my voice and story on the radio, yet these words that people speak with me are confidential. When people hear me speak in the media, they will never come to me,” he said.

More than a year has passed since the death of Karbala’s daughter. Now Panahi treats his second wife the same as he did with his first, according to neighbours.

Karbala’s daughter is buried on a hill where two winters have all but destroyed the grave. People from the village say none of her relatives has ever come to say prayers for her.

Mohammad Reja is an IWPR-trained reporter in Afghanistan


Afghanistan stands by bidding process for Hajigak mine

KABUL, Afghanistan — Afghanistan's Ministry of Mines on Saturday rejected allegations of problems in the bidding for one of the country's largest mines, calling it "a fair and transparent process."

In a letter to McClatchy, the ministry's director-general for policy and promotion, A. Jalil Jumriany, said that the selection of bids for four blocks of the Hajigak iron ore mine in central Afghanistan was overseen by a team of Afghan government experts, and that a panel of international advisers found that the process was "conducted according to international standards."

However, Jumriany's letter did not challenge the main points in a McClatchy report published Friday, which raised allegations of flaws in the bidding process and that the winning bidders — a state-led Indian consortium and a Canadian firm — hadn't demonstrated that they could meet production targets....Continue Reading....

Allegations surface with 'jewel' Afghan mining deal

Afghanistan's mineral wealth has long been seen as a potential source of income that could sustain the troubled nation after US-led international forces withdraw in 2014. Afghanistan has massive bills to pay — particularly the costs of 300,000 soldiers and police that US-led forces are training — but some US experts believe that the country's mineral sector could generate as much as $1 trillion in revenue. Jon Stephenson and Ali Safi report from Kabul for McClatchy Media.

An Afghan-American company that failed to win a multibillion-dollar contract to develop one of Afghanistan's most lucrative mines alleges that the bidding process was riddled with irregularities and that the winning bidders may not be able to meet production targets.

The claims, which were backed by a former senior Afghan mining official, suggest that a potential key source of revenue for the Afghan government — which will be saddled with massive bills after US forces withdraw from the country — could be in jeopardy....Continue Reading....

Firm alleges problems with major Afghan mining contract

Kabul—An Afghan-American company that failed to win a multibillion-dollar contract to develop one of Afghanistan’s most lucrative mines alleges that the bidding process was riddled with irregularities and that the winning bidders may not be able to meet production targets. The claims, which were backed by a former senior Afghan mining official, suggest that a potential key source of revenue for the Afghan government — which will be saddled with massive bills after U.S. forces withdraw from the country — could be in jeopardy. The Afghan-American firm, Acatco, was one of about two dozen bidders that competed for the right to extract minerals from the Hajigak iron ore mine in Afghanistan’s central Bamiyan province. Industry experts have called Hajigak the jewel of Afghanistan’s mining sector, McClatchy Newspapers reported. Contracts for developing four sections of Hajigak were awarded in November — three to a consortium of Indian firms led by the state-owned Steel Authority of India, or SAIL, and one to Kilo Goldmines, a Canadian firm. But Acatco said that these companies had failed to demonstrate they had the funds to carry out the project. “This is against the spirit and the letter of the tender documents,” Acatco president Nasir Shansab wrote last month to Afghanistan’s minister of mines, Wahidullah Shahrani. He added that “those bids should have been disqualified.” Acatco last week asked Afghanistan’s parliamentary complaints commission to investigate the Hajigak contracts, citing illegality and possible corruption in the bidding process. The commission had summoned Shahrani, but Shahrani was departing on an overseas trip and not appeared at the hearing. A former Afghan deputy minister of mines, Mohammad Akram Ghiasi, who resigned two years ago after accusing Shahrani of illegal and unprofessional conduct, told McClatchy in an interview, “If I was still deputy minister of mines, I would not have declared SAIL and Kilo as the winning bidders.” According to company officials, Acatco, based in Herndon, Va., was the only firm among the six that were short-listed in the bidding that had secured the funding to develop Hajigak. Shansab said the company had $1.2 billion in guaranteed funds. By contrast, he quoted numerous international media reports that said the Indian consortium would struggle to raise money for the project. SteelGuru, an Indian publication, quoted SAIL chairman C.S. Verma in a March 2011 story as saying that because of Afghanistan’s high level of risk, “banks and financial institutions will not take the risk to such an exposure. The consortium will not be in a position to raise money on its own, either.” Shansab also claimed that the royalties his firm had offered the Afghan government — $800 million a year for the first five years of operation, and a total of $20 billion over 20 years — were substantially higher than those offered by the winning firms. An internal Ministry of Mines evaluation of the bids that McClatchy obtained appeared to confirm this. The document shows that Kilo would pay from 3.5 percent to 7.5 percent of the per-ton price of iron, while SAIL would pay 5 percent of the per-ton price of steel and 6 percent of the per-ton price of iron, minus the cost of transportation to customers. Acatco was offering to pay 20 percent of the per-ton price of steel. Shansab also claimed that Acatco was the only bidder with a clear start date for production of steel from the mine, as the tender documents required. SAIL’s production would start in eight to 12 years and Kilo, which planned to produce iron, had made no commitment to produce steel, Shansab said. Acatco said it would have begun steel production by July 2015. Afghanistan’s mineral wealth has long been seen as a potential source of income that could sustain the troubled nation after U.S.-led international forces withdraw in 2014. Afghanistan has massive bills to pay — particularly the costs of 300,000 soldiers and police that U.S.-led forces are training — but some U.S. experts believe that the country’s mineral sector could generate as much as $1 trillion in revenue. The awarding of the contracts to a state-led Indian consortium was widely seen in Kabul as a guarantee that India, the economic power in South Asia, would remain committed to Afghanistan after international forces withdraw. Shansab said he had written three letters to Shahrani, the mines minister, detailing Acatco’s concerns about the Hajigak bidding process but hadn’t received a reply. He also wrote an email Feb. 9 to J. Alexander Thier, a senior official who works on Afghanistan and Pakistan at the U.S. Agency for International Development, saying: “This is also an important example of how the natural resources of the poverty-stricken Afghan people should not be squandered — not just for the sake of the people of Afghanistan but also for U.S. policy in view of post-2014 Afghanistan.” Thier and other U.S. officials in Kabul and Washington didn’t respond to McClatchy’s requests for comment.

A spokesman for Shahrani said the minister was not immediately available for an interview. Ghiasi, the former deputy mines minister, said the contracts had been decided “without any transparency.” “We know that one of the ways to rescue Afghanistan and the Afghan people from poverty is to give mining contracts to foreign companies,” Ghiasi said.

“But it must be based on transparency.”— NNI

Pakistan Observer

Friday, February 17, 2012

The Functional Committee of Senate on Human Rights on Human rights violations in Balochistan

Human rights violations in Balochistan

Senate body seeks to ‘rein in’ spy agencies

* Committee expresses concern over poor Balochistan security

* Suggests government hold talks with ‘angry’ Baloch

By Mohammad Zafar

QUETTA: The Functional Committee of Senate on Human Rights on Wednesday expressed its serious concerns over violation of human rights in Balochistan and suggested laws to curb the powers of intelligence agencies.

The committee also expressed its concern over the recovery of mutilated bodies of missing persons, target killings of labourers, doctors, teachers and increasing incidents of kidnapping for ransom in the province.

The committee, which met under Afrasiab Khattak, said laws should be made to curtail the power and influence of security agencies and bring them under the democratic control of parliament.

Senators Surriya Amiruddin, Farhat Abbas and Hafiz Rasheed also attended the committee’s meeting. Balochistan Home Secretary Naseebullah Bazai gave a briefing to committee members. The committee rejected a report of by the Balochistan Home Department about the law and order situation and human rights violations in the province.

Addressing a news conference, Afrasiab Khattak said the committee had met in Quetta to assess the prevailing security situation in the province. “Human rights condition is deteriorating here, particularly with the recovery of mutilated bodies of political leaders and increasing incidents of kidnappings,” he said.

“This act is giving a message that state and its institutions do not consider them [the victims of target killings] their own people. It is common perception here that that secret agencies are involved in enforced disappearances and dumping the mutilated bodies. If it is true, the government should control its institutions since this act is badly damaging the sovereignty of the country.”

Khattak said some militant groups are also targeting labourers and teachers. “The violence in every shape is wrong and unjustified. Those who are involved in these killings are also not well-wisher of Balochistan,” he said.

Committee members said target killings of people from the Hazara community was not sectarian violence rather an act of terrorism, adding that terrorist groups were behind these killings. The committee also sought a report about the murder of police surgeon Dr Baqar Shah – a key witness of the Kharotabad massacre of foreign nationals.

Khattak said committee would pressurise the provincial government to ensure protection of life and property of minorities because the province is also witnessing a sharp rise in the kidnappings of Hindu people. He said the government could not wash it hands of responsibility by stating that “foreign elements” are involved in disturbing peace in the province.

“They should investigate what kind of circumstances have paved the way for foreign elements. People will look towards foreigners when their rights are trampled down by their own people.”

The committee said that the government should hold negotiations with angry Baloch to address their grievances.

“The government should take all Baloch political parties in confidence for negotiations. If it can hold talks with Taliban, what’s wrong in persuading Baloch brothers?” he questioned.

Daily Times

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Red tape delayed search for missing refugee boat

AN ASYLUM-SEEKER boat that is believed to have sunk, drowning 105 Hazaras on board, was left floundering and ''taking on water'' for almost four hours before Australian authorities activated a rescue mission.

Customs and Border Protection officials admitted in a Senate estimates hearing on Tuesday that red tape was the reason for the delay in relaying the distressed boat's co-ordinates to Australia's sea rescue agency.

The boat carrying men, women and children went missing on October 3, 2009, on its way from Indonesia to Christmas Island, after Australian authorities learnt it was in distress. Those on board have vanished and relatives fear they have all drowned....Continue Reading....

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

SAIL-led group to invest Rs 1,500 cr in first phase of Hajigak exploration

Priyadarshi Siddhanta : New Delhi, Mon Feb 13 2012,

The SAIL-led consortium is planning to invest Rs 1,500 crore on its own in funding the first phase of exploration activities in the Hajigak iron ore mines in Afghanistan. The consortium, Afghan Iron and Steel Company (AFISCO), is likely to commence exploration from July this year.

It had, in last November, bagged the bid for mining three iron ore blocks located in the Bamiyan province, 130 km west of Kabul, which together hold an estimated 1.28 billion tonnes of high grade iron ore reserves. SAIL has 20 per cent stake in AFISCO, while NMDC and RINL each hold a stake of 18 per cent. JSW Steel and JSPL hold 16 per cent each, while JSW Ispat and Monnet Ispat & Energy hold 8 per cent and 4 per cent respectively.

“We have already held several rounds of discussions with the Afghan mines ministry and intend to conclude talks by March. We plan to invest Rs 1,500 crore on our own to begin the initial exploration activities in the first phase by July. We have indicated our need for financial support to the government as it is crucial for the project. But one thing must be clear that if we have to proceed ahead with the proposed steel plant, we will definitely need financial support,” the consortium chief and SAIL Chairman C S Verma told The Indian Express.

In a recent letter Verma has asked the steel ministry to apprise the Prime Minister’s Office of the need for monetary assistance. The syndicate will have to spend nearly Rs 50,000 crore for exploring the mine and developing the evacuation infrastructure. The ministry is understood to have conveyed the consortium’s fiscal constraints to the finance and external affairs ministries, but as of now there is no assurance from any quarters in this connection.

Earlier during the course of a high-level meeting, external affairs ministry officials had indicated that the government can consider dipping into 15 per cent of the Rs 5,850 crore corpus set aside for executing developmental projects in Afghanistan. The consortium’s concerns have compounded as Afghanistan is said to be in the negative list of the multilateral funding agencies. The Centre is also exploring the possibility of extending a credit line for the project, sources said.

Indian Express

Rights activists demand prosecution for Afshar massacre

Civil activists and a number of residents in central Bamiyan province of Afghanistan following a demonstrations urged that the criminals behind the war crime at Afshar in Kabul should face trial.

Dozens of civilians were killed during the Afshar incident when capital Kabul was witnessing growing civil war violence between the Mujahideen groups.

The organizers of the demonstration urged the judiciary institutions and Human Rights Commission to condemn the massacre of Afghan civilians in Afshar.

Dozens of Afghan civilians were killed 19 years ago while the Mujahideen groups were struggling to take control of the Afshar and its neighboring zones.

The exact number of civilians killed in Afshar is not exactly known so far.

The families of the victims organize a memorial ceremony each year to remember their dear ones who were killed during the incident and urge that the criminals should face trial but the Afghan government and judiciary officials have not taken any steps so far.

The demonstrators following a statement said, the people of Bamiyan and civil activists of this province condemn the massacre of Afshar and urge for the trial of those involved behind the deadly incident.

Officials in Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission said Afshar massacre is one of the main instances of human rights violations in Afghanistan and said they have prepared a documentary of the incident and have prepared a report as well.

Wahidullah Arghoon a human rights advocate said, there are figures in the Afghan government who are preventing the broadcast of the report on Afshar massacre, despite the Afghan government and International Community agreed that the human rights commission should prepare documentaries of the past incidents which took place in Afghanistan.

The program was launched under the name of “Transitional Justice” and was completed by Independent Human Rights Commission of Afghanistan.

According to Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission, the documentary work of war crimes which took place during 30 years of civil war in Afghanistan and they have collected various documents in this regard.

However the documentary has not been broadcasted which shows the presence of some influential figures in the Afghan government that prevents the broadcast work.

Khama Press

Expert Working Group releases recommendations for Bamiyan Valley, Afghanistan

Tuesday, February 14, 2012
Expert Working Group meeting held in Tokyo, releases recommendations for Safeguarding World Heritage property of the Bamiyan Valley, Afghanistan

Following their meeting in UNESCO Headquarters in March 2011, a group of Afghan and international experts working on the safeguarding of Bamiyan (Afghanistan), as well as representatives of the Afghan and Japanese governments and UNESCO, have released a list of recommendations for further activities to preserve the Bamiyan site. The 10th Expert Working Group Meeting for the safeguarding of the cultural landscape and archaeological remains of the Bamiyan Valley World Heritage property was successfully held in Tokyo, Japan from 6 to 8 December 2011, in close collaboration with the National Research Institute for Cultural Properties, Tokyo, and the Afghan authorities.

Building on the previous meetings, officials from the Afghan Government, national and international experts formulated a list of recommendations regarding the future activities for the preservation of the Bamiyan site. They addressed various areas, including archaeology, management and cultural master plan, capacity-building as well as the conservation and interpretation of the Buddha niches and fragments.

The Expert Working Group was formed in 2002 to coordinate all cultural projects in the country entrusted to UNESCO by the Afghan government. This latest meeting aimed to clarify a programme of safeguarding to be implemented in the future Japan Funds-in-Trust Bamiyan Phase IV project, 1,5 million US dollars for the period of early 2012 to mid 2014, and to advise UNESCO and the Afghan authorities on issues related to the conservation of the Bamiyan World Heritage property.
The discussion emphasized the central importance of a cultural development approach in Bamiyan that incorporates and demonstrates the contribution of culture to sustainable livelihoods, education and the promotion of peace in Afghanistan. The meeting also served as a vector for the coordination of international efforts and as a discussion concerning a range of issues that included infrastructure and development plans of the Afghan Government for Bamiyan in the short and long term and the broader spectrum of heritage management challenges facing Bamiyan and its population.

The Bamiyan Expert Working Group also recognised that the current initiatives for the conservation and sustainable management of the World Heritage property of Bamiyan are fully in line with the UNDAF (United Nations Assistance Development Framework) and the Afghan National Development Strategy. The participants considered that the conservation of this outstanding heritage site contributes to promoting peace and fostering sustainable development, for the people of Bamiyan in particular, and in Afghanistan as a whole, by demonstrating the possibility of building sustainable communities by fostering cultural diversity and an appropriate use of the natural and cultural environment.


Saturday, February 11, 2012

فعالان مدنی بامیان خواستار محاکمه عاملان کشتار حادثه افشار شدند

فعالان مدنی و شماری از ساکنان ولایت بامیان در مرکز افغانستان در یک راهپیمایی خواستار محاکمه عاملان قتل عام افشار کابل شده اند.

حادثه افشار ۱۹ سال قبل و در زمان جنگهای داخلی میان گروه های مجاهدین در کابل اتفاق افتاد.
برگزارکنندگان این راهپیمایی کشتار در جریان جنگهای گروهی در محله افشار در غرب کابل را "قتل عام" خوانده و از نهادهای عدلی و سازمان های حقوق بشری خواسته اند که آن را به عنوان اقدامی ضد بشری محکوم کنند......Continue Reading.....

Friday, February 10, 2012

Dripping with blood; Too many disagreements in Pakistan are fatal

Nor is secessionism the only cause of violence. Last October a bus outside Quetta was held up by gunmen on motorcycles and 13 of the passengers shot dead. The previous month 26 people had been killed when travelling on a bus to Shia holy sites in Iran. They were ethnic-Hazara Shias, of whom, according to Human Rights Watch, a research and lobby group, over 300 have been killed by Sunni extremist groups since 2008....Continue Reading...

Thursday, February 9, 2012

HRW urges US to pressure Pak govt on Balochistan situation

* Report holds government agencies, like ISI, IB, FC, police responsible for violence in province

By Manzoor Qadir

ISLAMABAD: Human Rights Watch, an NGO keeping a watch on gross human rights violations in Balochistan, has asked the United States to take action against the crimes taking place in the province.

The crimes include extra-judicial killings, torture, illegal detention, disappearances and forced displacement.

In a detailed report complied by HRW Pakistan Director Ali Dayan Hasan, it has been recommended that the US government press Pakistan to take all necessary measures to end the violations and fully investigate and prosecute all those responsible for the crimes.

The report states that many government agencies such as the ISI, IB, Frontier Corps, police and other such groups are responsible for many of the violations and demands the government take action and warn the culpable agencies.

The report further suggests that US should urge the government to suspend police and military assistance and cooperation programmes with the Frontier Corps, police, and Pakistan Army units based in Balochistan until military and civilian authorities fully investigate and take appropriate action against those committing the crimes.

The report wants Pakistan to implement effective mechanisms in place to ensure that no security unit funded or trained by the US is responsible for human rights violations and that adequate vetting and oversight mechanisms are in place to help deter abuses in the future.

The HRW further recommends that the US urge the Pakistan government to investigate alleged human rights abuses committed by the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi and other banned groups and hold those responsible to account, particularly those who have committed serious crimes in Balochistan such as the killings of several Shias.

It also demands that the Pakistan government take urgent measures to protect members of the Shia community and other vulnerable groups in Balochistan and across Pakistan and that the US government should also urge Baloch nationalist groups to cease attacks and threats against all civilians, particularly non-Baloch residents of the province.

Widespread fear of harassment, discrimination and killings has prompted some Shia community members living in Balochistan to consider leaving the country, even by illegal means.

Human rights groups say over 600 Hazaras have been killed since 2000. Media reports speak of dozens recently killed in attacks on the community in Quetta and in other parts of the province.

HRW states that their research indicates that at least 275 Shias have been killed in sectarian attacks in Balochistan alone since 2008.

The group has also urged the government to act against those illegally ferrying people out of the country in exchange for large sums of money.

The report further states that the government should take appropriate disciplinary action against group members who order or participate in attacks on civilians.

The HRW, in the report, discusses the political, economic, geographical and demographical aspects of the province in details. It reveales that the province has historically had a tense relationship with the federal government, due to issues of provincial autonomy, control of mineral resources and exploration, and a strong sense of deprivation and exploitation.

The Human Rights Watch also interviewed teachers, government officials, journalists, non-governmental organisations, and school children, who described attacks on Balochistan’s educational facilities, teaching personnel, and students as part of broader political, religious, and cultural division.

Daily Times

Genocides without a distinct label

Kamila Hyat
Thursday, February 09, 2012

The writer is a freelance columnist and former newspaper editor

When genocides take place in countries, or regions within them, we usually have one group of people murdering another – either as some form of ‘ethnic cleansing’, or on the basis of religious belief. A combination of these factors has of course also taken place, and there is absolutely no evidence at this point that our world is becoming a more civilised place with such events continuing unabated around the world.

In the 1994 Rwandan civil war, as the Hutu and Tootsi tribes clashed, some 800,000 people died; some estimates put the toll higher. The death of over six million European Jews in the purges of World War II remains a reminder of man’s irrationality and brutality. The after-effects of those killings continue in some ways at least to shape the modern world and events within it.

But at least, through the years, these awful massacres have been discussed, debated and condemned at length. Trials have been held and the culprits, in some cases, brought to justice. The same also holds true for other acts of similar mass murders in the world – whether they took place in Uganda, Cambodia or a long time ago in Australia and North America.

In our country we have a situation that might be leading to genocide. The complication is that it does not involve a specific group or community. So many different kinds of murders go on that it is becoming harder and harder to keep track of the question of whom is killing who.

Since the mid 1990s thousands of Shia Muslims have died in targeted killings and bombings of various kinds. The process continues today. As a result, many have already fled the country including some of our top professionals. This attempt to wipe out an entire community on the basis of their specific beliefs has drawn too little official attention or a serious attempt to bring it to an end.

There are of course other kinds of killings on everywhere. The shootings based on ethnicity in Karachi have become a reality which erupts from time to time, leaving the city belching bouts of smoke like an unstable volcano. The threat of violence never lives far away from that city.

The same is becoming truer for Quetta, a city where, for many years, groups of all kinds co-existed with little tension and trouble.

The Hazara community is yet another target of frenzied violence. According to leaders representing the group, whose origins are mysterious but seem to lie in Central Asia, at least 600 people of Hazara have been murdered since 2000. The process appears to be gaining speed and ferocity. Given that the Hazara population of Pakistan is near "600,000" to "700,000" (Corrected) this is a very large death toll.

The danger of acceleration lies ahead, and is tied in to the possibility of a return to power of the Taliban in Afghanistan. The people of Hazara have in the past been a victim of these extremists on both ethnic and sectarian grounds.

While everyone appears to know which groups in our country are responsible for targeting this particular the community, nothing has been done to stop them or to put an end to the victimisation of the Hazaras. Their voice has not been heard; few seem even to have noticed what is happening.

Nor has the other killing of other ethnic and religious minorities in the country, who face persecution and death in different forms, drawn the concern that would have been expected.

In other words we have multiple acts of genocide happening in our country. Our cities have become killing fields where fewer and fewer feel safe. Aside from the traditional kind of genocide involving communities pitched against each other, we also have the mass killing of women with hundreds, perhaps thousands, killed each year as a result of ‘honour’ killings or for other reasons. This too counts as genocide of some kind.

We need to do more to at least lift the lid on the degree of violence which exists in the country. The silence has been too long and too deep. The government has time and time again failed to act and as a result the problem has worsened. Successive regimes have done nothing to end the flow of hatred which has continued to claim more and more lives and branched into many different forms with various groups targeting others.

Even the state has not remained uninvolved. International human rights watchdog bodies have blamed the killing and torture of nationalists in Balochistan on our own agencies. In such a situation it becomes even harder to find justice and discover precisely where the truth lies. To complicate matters nationalists too have even responsible for ethnic murders in their province, going ruthlessly after teachers and others from different provinces – even though they may have lived in Balochistan for generations.

The problem seems to be growing worse and worse. Certainly, no end is in sight. The generation growing up lives with this intolerance in all its different waves. From time to time a huge tidal wave sweeps up and claims scores of lives. At other times, smaller ripples kill in ones or twos.

As this goes on our media, many of our people and commentators who analyse events everywhere remain fixated on political happenings of various kinds. These include the court cases which grow more and more muddled and the murky political scene which lies all around us.

It is true of course that this reality makes it possible for the reign of death to continue with any restrictions. But somehow, we need to find a way to end these killings and to ensure that deliberate acts intended to wipe out certain portions of people from our country are no longer allowed to continue.

This can happen only if stern action is taken against the perpetrators and a climate is created through a variety of different means to build harmony and mutual understanding among the ranks that we seem to have lost over the past few decades.

This has been possible in some countries, it can probably be enforced her as well. We must make it possible in our own without a further loss of time. We have already waited too long, adding to the suffering of so many people everywhere. Our indifference to genocide is unforgivable.



Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Heavy snowfall worsens traffic mess in Kabul

2012-01-25 21:21:04
by Abdul Haleem, Yangtze Yan

KABUL, Jan. 25 (Xinhua) -- The continued snowfall over the past days has worsened the traffic chaos, especially in the Afghan capital of Kabul.

"You can see the long queue of people who have been waiting for one hour for a bus to go home but no bus is available," Mohammad Arif, a Kabul resident, told Xinhua on Tuesday evening, pointing to the flocks of people waiting at a bus stop in downtown Kabul.

Standing and shaking in the freezing weather, the 40-year-old Arif shouted in anger and despair that "no bus is ever coming to take people."

But when a minibus did arrive, Arif still didn't succeed in grabbing a seat in the fight with a group of equally desperate home goers.

Over the past two weeks, the major parts of Afghanistan including the capital city have experienced heavy snowfall. More than 40 people have lost their lives in avalanches and cold spell in the northeastern Badakhshan province, according to officials, while some roads leading to central Daikundi's provincial capital Nili have been blocked due to snow.

"I have been waiting for more than one hour but no bus, taxi or private car is available," said another Kabul resident Haroon, 35.

The temperature had dived to minus 13 degrees centigrade, forcing many drivers to stay at home to avoid accidents on the icy and congested roads.

Normally, few public buses are roaming in Kabul with over 4 million residents. There is no subway in the capital city to transport commuters.

However, some 400,000 vehicles, mostly private cars, are driven on the bumpy roads in Kabul, with a considerable number of private cars working as taxi.

The private car owners prefer to stay at home though they are more needed in heavy snowfall and freezing weather.

"I do not want to make accident and plunge myself into trouble, " Mohammed Sediq, a driver of a private corolla, told Xinhua, adding that driving in slippery streets is risky.

The banned outfit

Rafia Zakaria | Opinion | From the Newspaper

IT has been a decade of bans and lists. As the world of terror revealed itself to be more and more amorphous, nation states have fought back collecting the names, identifying the leaders and eliminating the followers of terror groups.

There are lists of banned organisations in Pakistan and lists of people not permitted in America. Along with lists there are typologies and profiles; the richer the nation, the more detailed the conjured portraits of terror.

In one of the latest episodes revolving around terror and terrorists, Malik Ishaq, leader of the banned Lashkar-i-Jhangvi, was recently released from detention from Kot Lakhpat jail.

A few days later, he attended a rally in Multan organised by the Difa-i-Pakistan Council, seen as a new motley coalition of groups such as the Jamaat-i-Islami, Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamaat (formerly known as Sipah-i-Sahaba), Maulana Samiul Haq’s faction of Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam and others.

Malik Ishaq was not the only freed terrorist present at the rally. Also in attendance was Hafiz Muhammad Saeed, head of the Jamaatud Dawa. Under the new rhetorical flourish of ‘defending Pakistan’ each emerged in public, untouched by previous sins committed under old names.

The massacre of Shia Hazaras in Mastung and the horrific attack on the Sri Lankan cricket team that left this country humiliated all seemed to be forgotten in view of the latest indignities imposed by the United States, the desecration of Muslim corpses by ‘infidel’ soldiers and the absolving magic of a new patriotic name.

The name game — the coining of new names as one agenda for hatred morphs into another — and the painstaking tracing of genealogies of terror by American experts has become such a well-oiled cycle that both ends follow practised sequences enacted with well-rehearsed outrage.

As per this worn script, two days after the rally the US ambassador to Pakistan reportedly warned that aid disbursements to Pakistan would be ceased unless action was taken against the two individuals.

Also as per the stage instructions, Pakistani heads nodded and made responsive motions, yet the curtain fell on January with no conclusions and no catharsis.

Adequate room was left by all involved for sequels that capitalise on the same plotlines with mildly altered angles and slight variations of dialogue. There are many critiques of course: everything written on either side of this issue; the inadequate denunciation and pursuit of terror on one end, the imperialist overreach and illegality of secret wars and surreptitious killings on the other.

Neither is able or willing to see the new pathology spawned by the entrenchment of these roles. Pakistanis and Americans as well as their respective governments are unable to see terror except in the limited shades of this scripted tragedy.

The challenges of labelling terror as endemic and the terrorist as a criminal, his pursuit and apprehension as an act of law enforcement rather than war-mongering at the American end rest on two issues.

First is the fact that the American criminal justice system rests on the precept of innocence until guilt has been established in a court of law and robust scepticism towards pre-emptive punishment even in situations where individuals pose a significant risk of future criminal activity.

Because the core of the ongoing war on terror is largely pre-emptive, there is resistance to the prosecution of alleged terrorists in American criminal courts or as the passage of the National Defence Authorisation Act reveals, the creation of a parallel system that permits acts such as indefinite detention that would otherwise be deemed unconstitutional.

The second factor has been the United States’ long-standing reticence to join the International Criminal Court, established in 2002 through the Rome Statute to prosecute war crimes, genocide and crimes against humanity. The first creates a perception of terror as something finite, existing in particular times and contexts and with a distinct end. The second leaves a vast gap in the transnational legal tools available to prosecute crimes beyond national jurisdictions.

Cumulatively, both leave the issue of terror to foreign policy experts and military strategists, both of whom conceptualise the elimination of terror and the terrorist as a linear task with finite parameters accomplished via bombs and targeted killings.

On the Pakistani end, there is the inability to conceptualise terrorism as a moral issue with dimensions beyond imperialism, nationalism and sovereignty.

As a result, people appear at rallies where known terrorist leaders are present; mobs collect and enact fatwas that punish religious minorities, and any failing to echo the populist rhetoric of denouncing America and railing against the West.

On the basis of this dynamic, the end of the war on terror and the withdrawal of the US and Nato forces is equivocated with the end of terror itself, possibly even the end of all scourges leaving a pristine Pakistan untrammelled by want or famine or disaster.

The beneficiaries of these delusions — American and Pakistani — are Hafiz Saeed and Malik Ishaq, who can discard their banned outfits for new fashions of populism, managing to dupe both those in Pakistan and those in America.

The former invest these chameleons with the bravado of facing down a bossy superpower; the latter believe that the terrorist is a product of ideology, demography, faith and a smattering of other variables.

Neither seems to understand that terror, like crime, is an ugly fact of life, the result of the failure of conscience and a detriment to all human beings. It will never go away, not with the exit of a superpower or the elimination of a terrorist leader.

Its denunciations must rest not on strategic calculations, the disbursement of aid, the passage of shipments, the counting of corpses and ruined lives and destroyed futures, its biggest casualty is our universal loss of faith in the possibility of justice.

The writer is an attorney teaching political philosophy and constitutional law.


Asian Human Rights Commission; PAKISTAN: Brutal sectarian violence against Shias continues unabated

February 8, 2012

It is a recognized fact that a state's police and law enforcement agencies play a critical role as the first line of defense against the threats of terrorism and insurgencies.

Police is often failing to protect the members of religious minorities including Ahmadias, Shias, Christians and Hindus. Militant groups are carrying out suicide bombings and targeted killings across the country. The Taliban and affiliated groups are increasingly targeting civilians and public spaces, including marketplaces, hospitals, and religious processions.

Although Shias are a minority in the country, Pakistan holds the second largest Shia community after Iran in terms of numbers. The total Shia population in Pakistan is approximately 50 million and may be as high as 60 million. Globally, Shia Islam represents 10-20% of the total Muslims population, while the remaining 90% or nine-tenths practice Sunni Islam.

The increase in the number of suicide bombings and militancy has added to the sectarian tension that is played out in Muharram (the month of mourning for the martyrdom of the grandson of the Prophet PBUH) every year. A series of bomb blasts and shootings, mostly targeting Pakistan's minority Shia community in recent years shows that sectarian violence in the country can be every bit as deadly as that instigated by al-Qaeda and the Taliban. Attacks in Karachi, Peshawar, Quetta and the north-west seem to be manifestations of the bitter split between Sunnis and Shias. In most cases, no-one claims responsibility for such attacks.

But Pakistan's fateful involvement in the Afghan-Soviet war of the 1980s, General Zia-ul-Haq's controversial 'Islamisation' policies, and a sense of Shia empowerment in the aftermath of the Islamic Revolution in Iran in 1979 had the combined effect of limiting the freedom of the Shia's to practice their religion and challenging their loyalty to Pakistan.

Among those blamed for the sectarian violence in the country are mainly Sunni militants such as Sipah-e-Sahaba and members of Shia militant groups such as Tehrik-e-Jafria and others. However, predominant Sunni terrorist groups are often blamed for frequent attacks on minority Shiites and their religious gatherings resulting in reprisal attacks by them.

Pakistan's ISI-backed Punjabi judiciary once again demonstrated its institutional hatred of Shia Muslims today by releasing the notorious leader of the Jihadi-sectarian organization Malik Ishaq, the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (also known as the Punjabi Taliban or Sipah-e-Sahaba). Punjabi judges, backed by Punjabi generals, released a Punjabi terrorist to enable further massacres of Shias, Ahmadis, Christians and other targeted communities.

Malik Ishaq was released less than a week after his followers killed at least 20 Shia Muslims in his home town of Rahim Yar Khan. On the last occasion he was released from jail, he killed many Shia Muslims in various parts of the country, and the news items were either ignored or misrepresented in Pakistan's mainstream media. He has now embarked on his next bloody mission.

While right-wing proxies of Pakistan's military establishment are legitimately celebrating Malik Ishaq's release, the ISI's liberal proxies in the English speaking class are busy in blaming the prosecution, ignoring the important links between ISI and LeJ and ISI and the judiciary. For example, Pakistan's English media routinely presents Malik Ishaq as the "Sri Lankan team attack suspect". Therefore, the murder of 70 Shias does not mean much to this class. Reference

Over the past three decades, violence between Sunnis and Shias has ebbed and flowed, but two things are clear. First, despite spawning banned violent sectarian outfits of their own, the Shias have largely been on the receiving end of the violence. In recent years, the violence has spread from southern Punjab and (sporadically) Karachi to Quetta in Balochistan, and the Federally Administered Tribal Areas on Pakistan's troubled border with Afghanistan.

Hundreds of Shias have been murdered by militants in Quetta in the past few months. In the last couple of weeks, Shias have been taken off buses, lined up and shot dead. Quetta, however, is not an exception. Shias are not safe in any major town in Pakistan. Their places of worship, religious processions, and civilian and religious leadership has come under relentless attacks while the State's machinery has either refused or failed to protect Shias and other religious minorities in Pakistan.

The organized systematic genocide of Shiite Muslims in Pakistan has claimed 58 lives and injured 67 during the month of January 2012 in 32 attacks.

Based on January 2012 statistics, the projected number of deaths per year could be somewhere in the vicinity of 500 to 800 Shia Muslims killed per year and the number of those injured could be estimated to be between 700 and 1000.

In terms of the total number of attacks in January 2012, Sindh, Karachi in particular, was most problematic (15 attacks out of total 32), however, in terms of total deaths, Punjab proved to be most deadly province (36 out of 58 deaths).

The list of recent sectarian attacks makes for grim reading:

September 2011: Gunmen open fire on a bus carry pilgrims at Mastung in Balochistan province. At least 26 Shia Muslims are killed

January 2011: At least 10 people killed after twin blasts targeted Shia Muslim processions in Lahore and Karachi.

September 2010:At least 35 Shias were killed and 160 people were injured in a blast during a procession in Lahore.

September 2010: At least 50 people killed in a suicide bombing at a Shia rally in Quetta, south-western Pakistan

July 2010: Sixteen Shias killed in an attack on Shias in north-western tribal areas

February 2010: Two bombs in Karachi kill at least 25 Shias and injured more than 50 people.

December 2009: At least 40 people killed and dozens injured in a suicide bombing on a Shia procession in Karachi

Feb 2009: Bomb attack on a Shia procession in Punjab leaves 35 dead

It is a sad fact that the scores of deaths in the last few months is particularly alarming all over Pakistan. Due to paucity of resources and lack of communication networks there are still incidents of Jihadi sectarian attacks on Shia Muslims which are not recorded. This means that no exact statistics is available about Shia killings in Parachinar and other areas in Federally Administrated Tribal Areas (FATA).

The Punjab government for having a soft spot for terrorist outfits, especially The Jamat- ud- Dawah (JUD) and Lashkar - e- Jhangvi (LEJ). Granted that the Punjab government must be held accountable for allowing these organisations and other extremist groups to hold public rallies full of hate speech all over Punjab.

The Pakistani government claims that it has taken measures to suppress the violence. The Pakistani Interior Chief Rehman Malik said the Shia population was in need of greater protection. Therefore, Islamabad ordered security forces to carry out this task, yet the violence has continued.

Our voices should no longer remain muted. We must convince the Pakistani government and its affiliates that it is crucial to take greater action against the violence perpetrated by these terrorists.

Officials must target the sources and support for the sectarian violence by apprehending known leaders and members of Taliban-associated militant groups across the country. Their influence has reached major cities as well and must be stopped.

Saudi-funded madressas (Islamic schools), which are used to target impressionable children and youth and preach the mentality that Shias are infidels, should be closely regulated and, in some cases, shut down.

Document Type :Article
Document ID :AHRC-ART-008-2012
Countries : Pakistan
Issues : Freedom of religion

Asian Human Rights Commission

Couple die of gas suffocation in Quetta

QUETTA: A couple died of suffocation in Hazara Town area of the provincial capital on Tuesday. According to official sources, a couple identified as Owais Ahmed and his wife Fatima Bibi forgot to switch off their gas heater before going to sleep. Resultantly, gas filled the entire room, causing the couple to fall unconscious. They were shifted the Civil Hospital where they were Their bodies were handed over to their relatives for burial after legal formalities. staff report

به عبارت دیگر: گفتگو با محمد محقق



Asylum seekers could have more legal rights

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

PAKISTAN: Quetta's Hazara community living in fear

Photo: Hazara News Pakistan...Hazaras protest killings in Quetta, Pakistan

QUETTA, 7 February 2012 (IRIN) - Widespread fear of harassment, discrimination and killings has prompted some Hazara community members living in Quetta, the capital of Balochistan Province in southwestern Pakistan, to consider leaving the country, even by illegal means.

“Over 600 Hazaras have been killed since 2000,” Abdul Qayuum Changezi, head of the Hazara Jarga, a group representing Hazaras, told IRIN. Media reports speak of dozens recently killed in attacks on the community in Quetta and in other parts of the province.

The Hazaras constitute a distinct ethnic group, with some accounts tracing their history to central Asia. Almost all belong to the Shia Muslim sect, speak a dialect of Farsi, and are concentrated in central Afghanistan and some parts of Pakistan. There are some 6,000 to 7,000 Hazaras in the country, according to a Hazara chief, Sardar Saadat Ali.

In Quetta, many of them live in Alamdar Road. Close by, Ali Hassan, 55, and his two sons, both in their 20s, were engrossed in a fierce argument in their small house - when IRIN visited - about leaving the country, even if illegally.

According to the two, there is too much discrimination against the Hazaras for them to have a future. “It is simply too dangerous to live here. Besides, Hazaras get no opportunities in education or for jobs, because of the bias that exists,” said Ibrar Ali, 21, the younger of Hassan’s sons.

However, their parents were terrified of allowing them to try and leave, mainly because of an incident in December last year in which at least 55 Hazaras from Quetta were killed when a boat carrying some 90 illegal immigrants to Australia capsized off the coast of Indonesia.

“The boat was overloaded with over 250 people, including children and women,” said Nasir Ali, whose brother was on the ill-fated boat, but survived.


Following the incident, the autonomous Human Rights Commission of Pakistan demanded a government inquiry. In a statement, HRCP chairperson Zohra Yusuf said the fact that “Hazara young men chose to leave Pakistan by taking such grave risks is a measure of the persecution the Hazara community has long faced in Balochistan.”

The statement also urged the government to act against those illegally ferrying people out of the country in exchange for large sums of money, and demanded it “take urgent steps to find a way to put an end to the persecution of the long-suffering Hazara community”.

The New York based monitoring body Human Rights Watch (HRW) has also condemned the sectarian killing of Shia Muslims in Pakistan, and has noted: "Research indicates that at least 275 Shias, mostly of Hazara ethnicity, have been killed in sectarian attacks in the southwestern province of Balochistan alone since 2008." HRW Asia director Brad Adams says a start can be made to ending such killings "by arresting extremist group members responsible for past attacks”.

Anger within the Hazara community runs deep, and has been growing.

“The news of the killings and the desperation of the community is terrible. I weep often when I read of what is happening. I want to return to Quetta, because I love my home town; I want to be close to my parents and live there with my own family. But my fiancé and I ask if it will be sensible to raise our children in a climate of death,” Mina Ali, a medical student from the Hazara community currently based in Karachi, told IRIN.

Her fiancé, also a Hazara, is keen to try and flee the country, whether “legally or illegally”, Mina said.


Statements to the media from top government officials, including the chief minister of Balochistan, have also been perceived as insensitive in their failure to strongly condemn killings that some commentators have described as a “genocide”. Others in Pakistan are demanding that the International Court of Justice look into the matter.

Hazara chief Sardar Saadat Ali, a former provincial minister, told IRIN most Hazaras in the country were based in Quetta but there were “also some in Hyderabad [in Sindh Province] and other Baloch districts”.

Ali, who has lost close relatives including his brother in targeted killings of Hazaras, said: “We can expect nothing from the government; so we act for ourselves. I personally went to Indonesia to bring back the bodies of the young Hazara men who had died in the boat tragedy. They were fleeing because of the security situation and in search of a chance to gain an education.”

Hazaras, he added, were being targeted on “both ethnic and sectarian grounds” by extremist groups - mainly the sectarian Lashkar-e-Jhangvi and Sipah-e-Sahaba, which have origins in the Punjab. He was also concerned about further persecution if the Taliban returned to power in Afghanistan.

“I don’t understand much about politics, but I worry constantly for my grown children, and their children," said Zareen Bibi, 60, a Hazara resident of Quetta. "Too many Hazaras have died, for no reason - and this inhumanity has to end. We all deserve dignity and the right to life."



برفباری بازار ورزش اسکی را در بامیان گرم کرده است

مقامهای محلی در ولایت مرکزی بامیان گفته‌اند که برفباری سنگین در این ولایت باعث گرم شدن بازار ورزش اسکی و هتلداری شده است.

عباس خاوری، مسئول بخش گردشگری در اداره اطلاعات و فرهنگ بامیان به بی بی سی گفته که این ولایت زمستان امسال شاهد حضور شمار زیادی از اسکی بازان داخلی و خارجی بوده است.
بامیان از مناطق کوهستانی و برفگیر مناطق مرکزی افغانستان است و در عین حال به دلیل داشتن محلات تاریخی، برای گردشگران منطقه محبوبی است.....Continue Reading...

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Guide to Afghanistan: The Adventures of a KL-ite (Part 8 of 10)

Pakistan braces itself for 'game changer' elections

As a long stand-off between Pakistan's military, courts and government slowly subsides, election fever has now gripped the country following hints by the government that it will compromise and bring the vote forward from 2013 to this autumn. Writer Ahmed Rashid considers the likely campaign pitches of political parties taking part.

For the past few months the tension between the ruling Pakistan People's Party (PPP) on one side, and the military and the Supreme Court on the other has paralysed the nation's politics, its economy and international relations.

The breakdown of ties between the army and the US has still not been tackled two months after Pakistan cut off relations....Continue Reading...

Indonesia boat capsize: Two months later, only one body brought to Quetta

By Shehzad Baloch

QUETTA: Only one body out of as many as 90 young men, missing after a boat capsize in Indonesia in November, has been brought to Quetta for burial so far.

The body Syed Kefyat Hussain, 20, was buried in a local graveyard on Alamdar Road in the provincial capital. Kefyat, the son of a schoolteacher, had wanted to go to Australia in search of better economic opportunities.

“Seventy to 90 people hailing from Quetta were onboard when the boat, bound for Australia, capsized near Java in Indonesia. But, unfortunately, after waiting for 50 days, we have received only one body,” said Mohammad Zaman, a relative of the deceased.

Most of those missing belong to the persecuted Hazara community of Quetta.

According to Pakistani officials, survivors who claim to be Pakistani nationals do not possess valid travel documents and own Afghan passports. This, they say, is making it difficult to identify the bodies.

Faisal Naeem, assistance director for relief activities at Balochistan’s Provincial Disaster Management Authority, said that most bodies are mutilated beyond recognition. “Hazara community elders have informed us that about 90 people from Quetta are among those missing but only 42 families have approached the cell established to cooperate for bringing back bodies.” Half of the families submitted fake computerised national identity cards and are Afghan nationals thus making it tough for officials to bring back bodies, he said.

He said that it would be incorrect to say that the Balochistan government isn’t cooperating with the Hazara community. “The government is in contact with Pakistan’s ambassador in Indonesia. Also, it was the government that sent a delegation of Hazara elders to Indonesia.”

Express Tribune

Pakistani footballers break into international scene

Agencies May 18, 2011

Both Naveed and Mahmood have signed two-month loan contracts with Saraswoti Youth Club (SYC) of Nepal for the 2011 Nepal Martyr's Memorial A-Division League campaign. -File Photo

ISLAMABAD: Two Pakistani footballers Naveed Akram and Mahmood Ali of Wapda FC have become the first two footballers in over four decades to accept offers to play in foreign football leagues.

Both Naveed and Mahmood have signed two-month loan contracts with Saraswoti Youth Club (SYC) of Nepal for the 2011 Nepal Martyr’s Memorial A-Division League campaign which is already underway.

The loan periods began mid-May and ends in mid-July 2011, which coincides with the final two months of the three month long Nepal A-Division League season, with the top eight teams out of eighteen will then play in the Nepal National League 2011, according to a press release.

Midfield maestro Mahmood Ali from Quetta and dynamic fullback Naveed Akram from Multan have expressed their desire to make all Pakistani football fans proud by giving their best in Nepal.

Naveed said that this is an honour for him and Mahmood to be given the chance to play in a foreign league to really experience international club football.

“It was my dream as a footballer to play outside Pakistan and I am thankful to SYC and the people at both GoalNepal.Com and FootballPakistan.Com (FPDC) for helping both of us to avail this golden opportunity.”

The two Wapda starters have managed to complete all required NOCs (No Objection Certificates) from Wapda Sports Board and the Pakistan Football Federation (PFF), as well as contract signing for registration with All Nepal Football Association (ANFA) and are hopeful to be eligible to make their debut in SYC’s next game against rivals Brigade Boys Club.


Afghan Hazara leader sceptical of Taliban peace

(Reuters) - Scepticism is growing inside Afghanistan's ethnic communities that a peace deal can be struck with the Taliban, under whose rule they were brutalised and persecuted, with many fearing a return to civil war, a prominent Hazara minority leader says.

Mohammad Mohaqiq said he was deeply worried about NATO plans to pull out combat troops by end-2014, and a French government proposal to leave a year earlier, by 2013.

"It is silly to say al Qaeda and Taliban can come together with Afghans, or (with) our allies who have come to this country," Mohaqiq told Reuters late on Sunday in an interview at his heavily-guarded Kabul mansion.... Continue Reading....