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Pakistan: Islamists Win Right to Appeal Asia Bibi ‘Blasphemy’ Case – a “death Warrant”.

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Islamists Have Won Right to Appeal Asia Bibi’s Acquittal. 

Asia Bibi’s lawyer leaves Pakistan citing threats to his life

The lawyer who saved Asia Bibi, a Christian woman convicted of blasphemy, from the gallows left the country on Saturday, saying his life was under threat.

Saiful Mulook’s latest victory saw the freeing of Asia Bibi, who spent nearly a decade on death row, after the Supreme Court overturned her sentence on Wednesday.

The decision sparked protests across the country, with major roads blocked in Lahore and Islamabad as religious hardliners called for the death of the judges and those who helped acquit Bibi.

“In the current scenario, it’s not possible for me to live in Pakistan,” the 62-year-old told AFP before boarding a plane to Europe early Saturday morning.

“I need to stay alive as I still have to fight the legal battle for Asia Bibi,” he said.

This is the crucial point:

On Friday night, the Tehreek-e-Labaik Pakistan party (TLP), which has largely led the demonstrations, announced an end to mass protestsafter reaching a deal with the government.

A five-point agreement seen by AFP, signed by both parties, said the government would not object to an appeal of the verdict, filed earlier in the Supreme Court.

CNN have published the details of this capitulation to the racist far-right,

The terms of the TLP agreement, reached Friday night, include a pledge by the government not to oppose an application by movement members to add Bibi to a list preventing her from leaving the country.

Bibi was still in jail Saturday at an undisclosed location in Pakistan, her lawyer, Saiful Malook, told CNN. Earlier in the week, he said she would need to move to a Western country for her own safety. At least two Western countries have offered Bibi asylum after her release, CNN understands.

Pakistan’s government also agreed not to oppose a review petition filed against the Supreme Court’s judgment in Bibi’s case, to release everyone detained in connection with the protests and to take legal action regarding deaths that may have occurred during the protests.”

The Dawn article continues,

When asked about the outcry, Mulook said it was “unfortunate but not unexpected”.

“What’s painful is the response of the government. They cannot even implement an order of the country’s highest court,” he said, adding that “the struggle for justice must continue”.

According to the agreement, which came after a failed first round of talks, legal proceedings will follow to impose a travel ban on Bibi and stop her leaving the country.

“Her life would be more or less the same, either inside a prison or in solitary confinement for security fears” until a decision on the appeal, said Mulook.

The TLP, founded in 2015, blockaded the capital Islamabad for several weeks last year calling for stricter enforcement of Pakistan’s controversial blasphemy laws.

That protest forced the resignation of the federal law minister and paved the way for the group to poll more than 2.23 million votes in the July 25 general election, in what analysts called a “surprisingly” rapid rise.

Asia Bibi: Lawyer flees Pakistan in fear of his life

BBC.

The lawyer representing a Christian woman acquitted of blasphemy after eight years on death row has fled Pakistan in fear for his life.

Saif Mulook told news agency AFP he had to leave so he could continue to represent Asia Bibi, whose conviction was overturned by judges on Wednesday.

Officials have since agreed to bar Ms Bibi from leaving Pakistan in order to end violent protests over the ruling.

Campaigners blasted the deal as akin to signing her “death warrant”.

Asia Bibi was convicted in 2010 of insulting the Prophet Muhammad during a row with neighbours, and many are calling for the reinstatement of the death penalty following her acquittal.

Mr Mulook told the BBC earlier this week she would need to move to a Western country for her own safety. A number of attempts have previously been made on her life.

Several countries have offered her asylum.

Many people on the left have, for many years,  ignored the growth in the Islamist far-right.

Al Jazeera however offers some background on the latest addition to these totalitarian movements which place religion, in the form of a racism against all non-Muslims and hatred against all but their own idea of ‘true’ Muslims,  at the heart of their ideology.

Tehreek-e-Labbaik: New far right campaigns against ‘blasphemy’

Hardline party, which formed last year, rallies support by focusing its political messaging on religious ideology.

The narrow streets of Lahore’s Mazang neighbourhood echo with the sounds of dozens of young men, as someone showers them with rose petals.

They wind their way through this congested, working-class quarter in Pakistan’s second city, some on foot, others mounted on motorcycles.

“Labbaik, labbaik, labbaik ya Rasool Allah!” they chant, raising their arms. “We stand, we stand, we stand with you, O Allah’s prophet!”

Waving brightly coloured green flags, they continue, in tune with an election song: “Hang them, hang them!”.

Meet the Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP), Pakistan’s newest hardline religious party, which calls for blasphemers to be put to death and celebrates those who have murdered the alleged perpetrators.

A year ago, this kind of a political rally, in the heart of the political base of Pakistan’s ruling party, would have been unthinkable.

Formed last year, the TLP has performed credibly in by-elections, first springing to prominence when it challenged the PML-N in this Lahore neighbourhood, securing more than 7,000 votes and finishing third in a poll where its candidate was a virtual unknown.

That vote was for the parliamentary seat vacated by PML-N chief Nawaz Sharif, who was dismissed as prime minister by the Supreme Court over corruption allegations. A final verdict in the corruption cases against him is expected on Friday.

Now, the TLP is set to put up more than 550 candidates for national and provincial assembly seats across the country, and is confident it can mobilise a religiously-motivated vote on the basis of its anti-blasphemy and anti-corruption agenda.

Blasphemy is a central issue for the party, whose leaders follow the Barelvi sect, a South Asian branch of Sunni Islam that places emphasis on the personage of Islam’s Prophet Muhammad.

“When it involves the honour of the Prophet Muhammad, the finality of his prophethood or the dishonouring of his person, then every Muslim will become an extremist,” says Ejaz Ashrafi, a senior TLP leader, in an interview with Al Jazeera.

….

Led by firebrand far-right scholar Khadim Hussain Rizvi, the TLP mobilised thousands to block a major highway into the capital, Islamabad, for three weeks in November over a minor change to an electoral oath that Rizvi claimed amounted to “blasphemy”.

….

“If they give me the atom bomb, I’ll immediately bomb Holland, before they are able to hold any caricature competitions on the prophet,” he told reporters.

What have been the reactions of official British Muslim organisations, many of which have strong ties to Pakistan, to this horrific case?

What about campaigns that have opposed the racism of Tommy Robinson and his supporters?

Have any defended Asia Bibi, a victim of religious racism?

Have they condemned the Islamist far-right in Pakistan?

We are still waiting to hear any statements. 

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Written by Andrew Coates

November 3, 2018 at 1:23 pm

Christian Asia Bibi Death Sentence in Pakistan for ‘Blasphemy’ Overturned; Islamists Protest Against the Verdict.

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A poster bearing an image of Asia Bibi.

The Supreme Court on Wednesday acquitted Asia Bibi, a Christian woman condemned to death on blasphemy charges, after accepting her appeal against her sentence.

A three-judge bench headed by Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Mian Saqib Nisar, Justice Asif Saeed Khosa and Justice Mazhar Alam Khan Miankhel had reserved its ruling on Asia Bibi’s final legal appeal against execution (Asia Bibi v. The State, etc) on October 8.

Follow Dawn.com’s live updates on the protests against the verdict here.

The appeal, accepted by SC in 2015, challenged the Lahore High Court’s October 2014 verdict upholding a trial court’s November 2010 decision sentencing Bibi to death for committing blasphemy in 2009.

“The appeal is allowed. She has been acquitted. The judgement of high court as well as trial court is reversed. Her conviction is set aside,” said Justice Nisar in the ruling.

“Her conviction is set aside and she is to be relieved forthwith if not required in other charges,” he added.

The 56-page detailed judgement has been authored by CJP Nisar, with a separate concurrent opinion note from Justice Khosa.

“Tolerance is the basic principle of Islam,” the top judge read out, noting that the religion condemns injustice and oppression.

“It is a well settled principle of law that one who makes an assertion has to prove it. Thus, the onus rests on the prosecution to prove guilt of the accused beyond reasonable doubt throughout the trial,” noted the top judge in the order. “Presumption of innocence remains throughout the case until such time the prosecution on the evidence satisfies the court beyond reasonable doubt that the accused is guilty of the offence alleged against him.

“[…] The expression ‘proof beyond reasonable doubt’ is of fundamental importance to the criminal justice: it is one of the principles which seeks to ensure that no innocent person is convicted.

“Keeping in mind the evidence produced by the prosecution against the alleged blasphemy committed by the appellant, the prosecution has categorically failed to prove its case beyond reasonable doubt,” concluded the chief justice.

The court also noted that “it is not for the individuals, or a gathering (mob), to decide as to whether any act falling within the purview of Section 295-C has been committed or not, because as stated earlier, it is the mandate of the court to make such decision after conducting a fully qualified trial and on the basis of credible evidence brought before it”.

The CJP ended the judgement with a hadith of the Holy Prophet (Peace Be Upon Him) on the rights of minorities.

Justice Khosa, in his note, said: “Blasphemy is a serious offence but the insult of the appellant’s religion and religious sensibilities by the complainant party and then mixing truth with falsehood in the name of the Holy Prophet Muhammad (Peace Be Upon Him) was also not short of being blasphemous.”

Chaudhry Ghulam Mustafa, a lawyer for one of the plaintiffs, rejected the verdict, saying Bibi had confessed to making derogatory remarks against the prophet to seek pardon.

Bibi’s lawyer Saiful Mulook told AFP: “The verdict has shown that the poor, the minorities and the lowest segments of society can get justice in this country despite its shortcomings. This is the biggest and happiest day of my life.

Bibi appeared to be in state of disbelief after hearing the decision from her lawyer.

“I can’t believe what I am hearing, will I go out now? Will they let me out, really?” Bibi told AFP by phone from prison after the ruling. “I just don’t know what to say, I am very happy, I can’t believe it.”

Bibi’s husband also hailed the verdict. “I am very happy. My children are very happy. We are grateful to God. We are grateful to the judges for giving us justice. We knew that she is innocent,” said Ashiq Masih.

My wife spent so many years in jail and we hope that we will soon be together in a peaceful place,” he added.

Shortly after the ruling, hundreds blocked a key road linking Rawalpindi with Islamabad. People are also gathering for protests in Karachi and Peshawar. Similar rallies are being held elsewhere as police urge demonstrators to disperse peacefully.

Amnesty International’s Deputy South Asia Director Omar Waraich described the SC decision as a “landmark verdict”.

“For the past eight years, Asia Bibi’s life languished in limbo. The message must go out that the blasphemy laws will no longer be used to persecute the country’s most vulnerable minorities.”

The decision to take stringent security measures in the capital was made after a number of meetings held to thrash out a strategy to deal with any unforeseen situation after the verdict.

On Oct 13 this year, the Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan, a religio-political party headed by Khadim Hussain Rizvi, threatened to “paralyse the country within hours if the Supreme Court sets Asia Bibi free”.

Islamabad was put on high alert on Tuesday night. Extra contingents of police and law enforcement agencies have been deployed in the capital.

Paramilitary troops have been deployed in the capital to prevent protesters from reaching the Supreme Court, where security for the judges was beefed up.

About 300 police personnel, along with paramilitary units, are guarding the SC building, adjacent to Parliament House on Constitution Avenue.

Sources in the administration told Dawn that Rangers and Frontier Constabulary had been called as part of measures to step up security in Islamabad. Security of the Judges Enclave and the Diplomatic Enclave has been handed over to Rangers.

The sources said security personnel had been asked to guard the Red Zone as it houses sensitive installations, including the Supreme Court.

According to the sources, when some senior police officers met officials of the apex court, the law enforcers were asked to adopt security measures for the Supreme Court and other key points.

Dawn provides a full account of the background including this:

Case history

The prosecution had claimed that Bibi “admitted” making the blasphemous statements at a “public gathering” on June 19, 2009 “while asking for forgiveness”.

A trial court convicted Bibi for blasphemy in November 2010 and sentenced her to death. The Lahore High Court (LHC) had upheld her conviction and confirmed her death sentence in October 2014.

She had then challenged the LHC verdict in the Supreme Court, which stayed her execution in July 2015 and admitted her appeal for hearing.

The top court had first taken up the appeal in October 2016, but had to adjourn the matter without hearing after one of the judges recused himself from the SC bench. Two years later, the appeal was heard earlier this month and the CJP Nisar-led bench reserved its verdict.

Bibi’s supporters maintain her innocence and insist it was a personal dispute, and the Vatican has called for her release.

In 2011, former Punjab governor Salman Taseer, who spoke out in support of Bibi, was gunned down in broad daylight in Islamabad. His assassin Mumtaz Qadri was executed in 2016 after the court found him guilty of murder.

CNN: Pakistani Christian Asia Bibi has death penalty conviction overturned

Pakistani Christian on death row acquitted. 

Islamabad, Pakistan (CNN)Pakistan’s Supreme Court has acquitted a Christian woman who has been on death row for almost eight years on blasphemy charges.

Asia Bibi, a mother of five from Punjab province, was convicted of blasphemy in 2010 and sentenced to hang after she was accused of defiling the name of the Prophet Muhammed during an argument the year before with Muslim colleagues.

The workers had refused to drink from a bucket of water Asia Bibi had touched because she was not Muslim. At the time, Asia Bibi said the case was a matter of women who didn’t like her “taking revenge.”

She won her appeal against the conviction and subsequent death sentence on Wednesday.

The court quoted Shakespeare’s “King Lear” in its ruling, saying Asia Bibi appeared to have been “more sinned against than sinning.”

“Even if there was some grain of truth in the allegations leveled in this case against the appellant still the glaring contradictions in the evidence of the prosecution highlighted above clearly show that the truth in this case had been mixed with a lot which was untrue,” the ruling said.

David Curry, CEO of Open Doors USA, an organization that lobbies on behalf of Christian minorities, said in a statement that “we are breathing a sigh of relief today.”

“These charges stemmed from her Christian identity as well as false accusations against her,” he said. “We are hopeful that Pakistan will now take additional steps to offer religious freedom and basic human rights throughout the country.”

Islamist movement Tehreek-e Labbaik had previously vowed to take to the streets if Bibi was released, and protests broke out in Islamabad and Lahore soon after the ruling was announced.

Within hours, the protests were large enough that government officials in the cities were urging people to stay inside and avoid adding to the chaos.

The Bigots were out in Force:

Supporters of Tehreek-e-Labaik Pakistan (TLP), a hardline religious political party chant slogans during a protest against the court decision to overturn the conviction of Christian woman Asia Bibi in Lahore on October 31, 2018.

Christians have had to be protected from racist Islamist attacks.

29 minutes ago

Rangers deployed in Lahore’s Youhanabad

Rangers officials have been deployed in the Youhanabad area of Lahore to deter any potential unrest.

Youhanabad is the largest Christian neighbourhood in Pakistan.

16 minutes ago

TLP protesters shut railway lines in Upper Jhelum Canal

The railway line along the three bridges in the Upper Jhelum Canal has been shut completely by TLP protesters.

“The traffic will remain blocked until Asia Bibi is hanged,” the protesters demand.

Written by Andrew Coates

October 31, 2018 at 11:57 am

Pakistan, Government Caves in to Islamist ‘Blasphemy’ Protests.

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Caving in to Faizabad protesters’ demand, Law Minister Zahid Hamid is ready to resign

According to sources, the law minister, who is ready to resign, is concerned about his safety. His ancestral home in Pasrur also came under attack from protesters on Saturday.  He discussed his safety concerns at length with the chief minister in the meeting that lasted about an hour.

Hamid reportedly said he was ready to resign but wanted the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) leadership to play an active role in clearing his name from the controversy.

The minister also released a video message on Youtube to assure the people that he believed in the finality of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH).  He read out the oath from the existing law and said, “I believe in finality of Prophethood. I am not a follower of any claimant of prophethood, nor do I believe that any such claimant of prophethood is a Muslim. Neither do I belong to any Qadiani Group or Lahori group, nor do I call myself as Ahmadi.” He said the Constitution of Pakistan declared Qadianis, Ahmadi Group and Lahori Group as non-Muslims. “I love Hazrat Muhammad (PBUH) from the core of my heart and am a true lover of the last Prophet (PBUH). I and my family are prepared to lay down our lives for the honour and sanctity of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH).”

The message is yet another attempt from Hamid to clear his name from the controversy that may jeopardise not only his political career but also his life. Some reports suggest that two ministers, including Hamid, may tender resignation if the stand-off persists.

This is from the Ahmadis on the threats they face:

Pakistan’s Anti-Ahmadi Laws

30 years ago the Government of Pakistan enacted a series of anti-Ahmadi laws (Ordinance XX) that made it a criminal offence for Ahmadis to call themselves Muslims.

The law states that Ahmadi Muslims cannot:

  • Call themselves Muslims
  • Refer to their faith as Islam
  • Call their place of worship a ‘Mosque’;
  • Make the call for prayers (Adhan)
  • Say the Islamic greeting ‘Assalamo alaikum’ (Peace be on you)
  • Preach or propagate their faith

Any of the above will be punishable by three years imprisonment and a fine.

If the offence is regarded as blasphemy then an Ahmadi could be sentenced to death.

This makes the Ahmadi Muslim community unique in Pakistan as being the only religious community in Pakistan to be targeted by the state simply on grounds of faith.

The Financial Times states,

“The government stands defeated, the protesters have won,” said one senior government official. “Now we must consider the consequences for the future of Pakistan.” The weekend’s events are the latest sign that Pakistan’s powerful army, which has run the country for almost half of its 70 years as an independent state, is once more gaining the upper hand over the civilian government.

They add,

On Sunday, Gen Bajwa met Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, and according to officials, made it clear that the army would not use force to restore order. Instead, Mr Abbasi agreed to concede to one of the protesters’ main demands by removing Zahid Hamid, law minister, as well as withdrawing a two-day ban on Pakistani news channels.

By Monday morning, the leaders of the protest had signed a formal agreement to stand down, in which they particularly thanked Gen Bajwa, “whose special efforts helped to put the agreement together and averted a major disaster for the nation”.  Another signatory is Major General Faiz Hameed, the head of the counter-intelligence division at the Inter Services Intelligence (ISI), further underlining the military’s role in brokering the agreement.

 

More: Pakistan Today,  Tehreek-e-Labaik using Facebook to incite hatred; social media ‘inaccessible’ in Pakistan

Written by Andrew Coates

November 27, 2017 at 1:12 pm

Pakistan: Christian Man Sentenced to Death for Blasphemy.

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Image result for Protests against blasphemy law Pakistan

Demonstration last Year in Pakistan. 

Pakistan Sentences Christian man to death for blasphemy.

Nadeem James was arrested in 2016 after he allegedly sent a poem ridiculing Prophet Mohammad to his friend on WhatsApp.

A Christian man has been sentenced to death on blasphemy charges by a court in eastern Pakistan after a close friend accused him of sharing anti-Islamic material, the defendant’s lawyer said.

Blasphemy is a criminal offence in Muslim-majority Pakistan, and insults against the Prophet Mohammad are punishable by death. Most cases are filed against members of minority communities.

Nadeem James, 35, was arrested in July 2016, accused by a friend of sharing material ridiculing the Prophet Mohammad on the WhatsApp messaging service.

Lawyer Riaz Anjum said his client intended to appeal against the verdict, passed on Thursday by a sessions court in the town of Gujrat.

READ MORE: In Pakistan, a shrine to murder for ‘blasphemy’

There was widespread outrage across Pakistan last April when student Mashal Khan was beaten to death at his university in Mardan following a dormitory debate about religion.

Police arrested more than 20 students and some faculty members in connection with the killing.

Since then, parliament has considered adding safeguards to the blasphemy laws, a groundbreaking move given the emotive nature of the issue.

While not a single convict has ever been executed for blasphemy in Pakistan, there are currently about 40 people are on death row or serving life sentences for the crime, according to the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom.

Right-wing vigilantes and mobs have taken the law into their own hands, killing at least 69 people over alleged blasphemy since 1990, according to an Al Jazeera tally.

In March, Pakistan’s ex-Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif ordered the immediate removal and blocking of all online content deemed to be “blasphemous” to Islam from social media – and for those responsible to be prosecuted.

Background:  Persecution of Christians in Pakistan.

Most recent story, September the 11th.

Christian Member of the National Assembly Khalil George and others paid a call to Sharron Masih’s bereaved family. 17-year-old Christian student was callously lynched by his classmate at Government MC Model High School for Boys in Burewala city of Vehari District. MNA Khalil George offered condolences to the Ilyasab Masih and family ensuring them of an all-out support and assistance.

MNA Khalil George who also holds the position of Parliamentary Secretary for Religious Affairs met with Ilyasab Masih and told him that the perpetrators will be duly punished. On this occasion, parents of Sharoon Masih detailed the incident to Khalil George; expressing grief over the fact that their son lost his life to anti-Christian sentiments of his mates. MNA Khalil George was accompanied by Bishop Abraham Daniel, Major Michael Paul, Elder Dilber, Pastor Peter Imran and Pastor Arthur Daniel.

Parents of Sharoon Masih strongly believe that their son was lynched for drinking water from a glass which was used by all the students. They said that the assaulter did not relent until Sharoon breathed his last. Afterwards, Bishop Abraham Daniel offered prayers for the bereaved family. He prayed for peace and comfort for the friends and family of Sharoon Masih.

Previously, talking to a local media stated: “His teacher, Nazeer Mohal, sent him back home because he was not wearing the proper uniform. His mother told me later that evening that Sharoon had told her that the teacher had hit him in front of the whole class and also called him a Choohra, among other curse words. She said that he was quite upset at being humiliated in front of the whole class on the very first day of school.”

Detailing the excruciatingly agonizing moments he said: “Sharoon went to school wearing his new uniform. Hardly a few hours later, a Muslim neighbor whose son studies in the same school told us that Sharoon had been killed in school.”

“I cannot express the agony I went through when I saw my son’s dead body lying motionlessly on the hospital stretcher, his new blue shirt covered in dirt and blood,” Ilyasab said as he sketched the horrific incident. Sharoon’s family was told by his classmates that Ahmad Raza engaged Sharoon in a brawl; expressing annoyance because Sharoon had drunk water from the glass used by all students,” he told the media.

Written by Andrew Coates

September 16, 2017 at 3:54 pm

Pakistan Asks Facebook to Track Down ‘Blasphemers’.

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Image result for pakistan blasphemy protests

“Enemies of Humanity” Says Pakistan Interior Minister.

Radio Pakistan ‘reports’:

NISAR VOWS TO BLOCK  BLASPHEMOUS CONTENT ON SOCIAL MEDIA

Interior Minister asks Facebook administration to cooperate in removal and blocking of the blasphemous contents.

Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan says those responsible for blasphemy will be dealt with an iron hand.

Talking to media after inaugurating citizen facilitation center in Islamabad on Thursday, he said the culprits of blasphemy are enemies of humanity.He said that we have asked Facebook administration to cooperate in removal and blocking of the blasphemous contents.

 The Interior Minister said that government is making all out efforts to block blasphemous material on social media. He said eleven people who commented on such posts are being interrogated.

He urged all Muslims countries to practice unity against sordid conspiracies against Islam as the matter of blasphemy hurts feelings of all Muslims.

He said the government will take strict action against blasphemous contents and will avail all the possible options.

The Minister said that cooperation from the US Administration is also being sought through US embassy in Pakistan in this regard.

He urged the international community to have immense consultations on the issue of blasphemy as it has become a critical matter for the world.

He said ridiculing a religion in the name of freedom of expression will not be allowed

Al Jazeera reports,

Islamabad, Pakistan – Pakistani authorities have contacted social media website Facebook for help in investigating the posting of “blasphemous content” on the platform by Pakistanis, according to a statement.

Blasphemy is an extremely sensitive issue in Pakistan. Insulting the Prophet Muhammad carries a judicial death sentence and, increasingly commonly, the threat of extrajudicial murder by right-wing vigilantes.

At least 68 people have been killed in connection with blasphemy allegations since 1990, according to a tally maintained by Al Jazeera.

“There have been positive developments in the matter of the Pakistani government’s contact with Facebook’s management regarding the blocking of blasphemous content,” an interior ministry spokesperson said in a statement on Thursday.

Facebook would be sending a representative to visit Pakistan with regard to the matter, the statement said, and the government has appointed an official to liaise directly with the social networking website regarding the censoring of certain content.

In a statement quoted by the AP news agency, Facebook said it viewed government requests with care keeping in mind “the goal of protecting the privacy and rights of our users”.

The move comes after Nawaz Sharif, Pakistan’s prime minister, ordered a ban on all online content deemed to be “blasphemous” on Tuesday.

“Ridiculing a religion in the name of freedom of expression should not be allowed,” Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan, Pakistan’s interior minister, said on Thursday.

11 People under Threat.

Khan is spearheading the government’s efforts to have the material blocked.

Eleven people have been identified as having posted “blasphemous” comments or material on Facebook and will be acted against, the minister said. The identities of the 11 people in question were not immediately clear.

The authorities’ move comes after a senior judge at the Islamabad High Court called upon the government to block all blasphemous content online, “even at the cost of blocking entire social media”.

The petition at the High Court accuses five rights activists who were abducted in early January of running Facebook pages that had posted content deemed to be blasphemous.

No evidence has been shared directly linking the five activists to the Facebook pages in question, but during their three-week disappearance the men were the subject of a vast social media campaign accusing them of blasphemy.

“There is overwhelming evidence that Pakistan’s blasphemy laws violate human rights and encourage people to take the law into their own hands.

Audrey Gaughran, Amnesty International’s Director of Global Issues.”

Amnesty: Pakistan: How the blasphemy laws enable abuse.

Al Jazeera continues,

Pakistan’s telecommunications regulator currently blocks hundreds of websites, including those run by ethnic Baloch dissidents, as well as sites containing pornography or material deemed to be blasphemous.

It is empowered under a 2016 law to block any content “if it considers it necessary in the interest of the glory of Islam or the integrity, security or defence of Pakistan or any part thereof, public order, decency or morality”.

In January 2016, Pakistan ended a three-year ban on video-sharing website YouTube, also over blasphemous content, after the content provider agreed to launch a localised version that would streamline the process for content to be censored for viewers in Pakistan.

Asad Hashim is Al Jazeeras Web Correspondent in Pakistan. He tweets @AsadHashim.

Written by Andrew Coates

March 17, 2017 at 1:51 pm

Pakistan’s Missing Bloggers: Back Pakistani Protests.

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Pakistani rights activists hold images of bloggers who have disappeared, during a protest in Lahore on January 12. Photo: AFP

Pakistani Human Rights Protests for Missing Bloggers.  

The families of five missing Pakistani activists denounced what they called a “malicious” social media campaign accusing the men of blasphemy, a highly charged allegation that can have deadly consequences in Pakistan.

The five men had stood against religious intolerance and at times criticized Pakistan’s military. They all vanished within days of each other earlier this month.

No group has claimed responsibility for their abduction and security agencies have denied involvement.

Meanwhile, the blasphemy accusations against the activists have been multiplying on Facebook and Twitter, triggering a flood of threats.

More here.

Pakistanis active on social media were drawn to a poem written by Haider and published last July in Tanqeed (criticism), an e-zine he co-edits:

Right now the friends of my friends are being ‘disappeared’

Soon it will be my friends’ turn

And then mine …

When I become the file

That my father will bring to court hearings

Or the picture that my son will kiss when asked by a journalist

This sad story has yet to come to a conclusion.

Disappeared: Silencing Pakistan’s activists Al Jazeera.

Rights groups say blasphemy allegations against disappeared activists aim to silent dissent for good.

The issue of enforced disappearances is not new for Pakistan. Rights activists allege that there are thousands of people who have been “disappeared” by the state, with some allegedly killed while in custody. In December, the government’s Commission on Enforced Disappearances reported that the dead bodies of 936 missing persons had been found in Balochistan province alone since 2011.

The government denies any wrongdoing, and, in the case of the five activists currently missing, the interior ministry says it is “making every possible effort for [their] safe recovery”, according to a statement.

Now, however, these activists and citizens, as well as those calling for their release, face an even greater danger: They are being accused of blasphemy – a crime that carries a judicial death sentence and, increasingly commonly, the threat of extrajudicial murder by right-wing vigilantes.

Weaponising blasphemy’

“These [Facebook] pages … are extremely insulting to the Prophet, the Quran, Allah and Islam. They have made a joke out of this,” said Abdullah Cheema, a guest on a popular television news show on January 12. Cheema accused Goraya of running the Facebook pages in question, a charge denied by the activist’s family.

“Speaking in support of such criminals is a crime in itself,” said Cheema, while being encouraged by Orya Maqbool Jan, the show’s host and a well-known newspaper columnist.

“These blasphemers who they have captured, whoever has captured them, may Allah bless those people,” said Khadim Hussain Rizvi, a well-known Muslim leader in a sermon uploaded to YouTube on Jan 13.

“The bloggers’ disappearance is its own issue. They should definitely be produced, but no one should try and hide their crimes, and their crimes are so heinous that no one should … say that they suffered injustice,” said Aamir Liaquat, one of Pakistan’s most well-known talk show hosts on January 16.

Meanwhile, Facebook pages known for posting material in favour of the Pakistani military and intelligence agencies have also taken up the cry.

“The group of atheists committing blasphemy on Facebook … have been defeated,” said a recent post by Pakistan Defence, a pro-military Facebook page that has 7.5 million likes and is run by anonymous administrators.

Insulting Islam’s prophet carries the death sentence in Pakistan, while defiling the Quran carries a life sentence. Blasphemy accusations have often been used to target minorities and to settle personal scores, rights groups say. Currently, there are 40 people on death row or serving life sentences for the crime in Pakistan, according to the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom.

More worryingly, at least 68 people linked to blasphemy accusations have been killed by vigilantes or mobs since 1990, according a tally maintained by Al Jazeera. They have included those accused of blasphemy, their lawyers, their relatives, judges hearing their cases and members of their communities (PDF).

“Anyone even accused of blasphemy practically carries a death sentence even if they are [released],” says Zohra Yusuf, chairperson of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP), expressing her organisation’s “alarm” at the accusations being levelled at both the disappeared and those campaigning for their release.

Gul Bukhari, a Lahore-based rights activist, sees the campaign of accusations as aimed at silencing the campaign for the five men to be recovered.

Human Rights Watch.

The Pakistani government should urgently investigate the apparent abductions of four activists who campaign for human rights and religious freedom, Human Rights Watch said today. The four men, Salman Haider, a well-known poet and academic, and bloggers Waqas Goraya, Aasim Saeed, and Ahmad Raza Naseer, went missing or were taken away from different cities between January 4 and January 7, 2017.

All four men were vocal critics of militant religious groups and Pakistan’s military establishment, and used the internet to disseminate their views. Their near simultaneous disappearance and the government’s shutting down of their websites and blogs raises grave concerns of government involvement. While the Pakistani interior minister, Nisar Ali Khan, directed the police on January 7 to speed up efforts to locate Haider, whom the government says it is not holding, a broader effort is needed to uncover the whereabouts and well-being of all four men.

“The Pakistani government has an immediate obligation to locate the four missing human rights activists and act to ensure their safety,” said Brad Adams, Asia director. “The nature of these apparent abductions puts the Nawaz Sharif government on notice that it can either be part of the solution or it will be held responsible for its role in the problem.”

Written by Andrew Coates

January 26, 2017 at 11:59 am

Honour and Glory to the Memory of Feminist Qandeel Baloch.

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Honour and Glory to the Memory of Qandeel Baloch.

Karachi, Pakistan – Pakistani social media star Qandeel Baloch, who was known for her daring posts, has been killed by her brother.

Al Jazeera. 

Police on Saturday told Al Jazeera that Baloch’s father, Mohammed Azeem, had filed a case against his son Waseem Azeem. The father also testified against another of his sons, who works in the army and reportedly encouraged his sibling to carry out the killing.

Waseem was in the family home in Multan when Baloch, whose real name was Fauzia Azeem, died.

Both sons went missing as news of the killing spread.

But late on Saturday, Waseem was found some 100 kilometres from Multan in Dera Ghazi Khan and arrested. Police presented him with his face covered during a press conference, during which he said he “killed for honour” and had “no regrets”.

Baloch divided opinion in Pakistan, a largely conservative nation, as she appeared on television to speak about female empowerment, often dressed in non-traditional, revealing clothes.

She began her career by auditioning on Pakistan Idol and soon after launched a social media enterprise, posting videos that went viral.

On her final, July 4 post to her Facebook page, which has almost 800,000 fans, she wrote: “I am trying to change the typical orthodox mindset of people who don’t wanna come out of their shells of false beliefs and old practices.”

Her apparent “honour killing” has caused outrage.

‘Honour killings are epidemic’

Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy, who won an Oscar for a film about honour-based violence, told Al Jazeera that such attacks were an “epidemic”.

“I’m very shaken up today. Activists in Pakistan have been screaming hoarse about honour killings; it is an epidemic, it takes place not only in towns, but in major cities as well.

“What are we going to do as a nation?”

Chinoy added that an anti-honour killing bill should be passed.

“It’s upon the lawmakers to punish these people. We need to start making examples of people. It appears it is very easy to kill a woman in this country – and you can walk off scot-free.”

Nabila Ghazzanfar, a Punjab Police spokeswoman, said that the initial post mortem showed that the 26-year-old’s nose and mouth had been pinned shut before she died, blocking off her airways.

More reports.

Pakistani authorities have barred murdered social media sensation Qandeel Baloch’s family from “forgiving” her brother for strangling her under an Islamic law, taking a rare stand against “honour killings”.

Police in Qandeel’s hometown of Multan confirmed that Section 311 of the Pakistan Penal Code had been added to her murder case, barring her family from pardoning the alleged killer under the “Qisas and Diyat” law.

City police chief Azhar Akram said the Islamic law, whereby the family or heirs of the victim can pardon the murderer, could not be applied in Qandeel’s case after police added Section 311, through which the state becomes the plaintiff.

Read: Cleric in selfie with Qandeel Baloch provoked her murder, alleges mother

Qandeel’s brother Muhammad Waseem drugged and strangled her on Friday in a murder that shocked the conservative Muslim nation, where the 26-year-old had titillated and outraged people with her racy social media photos and videos.

Waseem, after being arrested on Monday, said he had no regrets because his sister had dishonoured the family by making a controversial video with Mufti Abdul Qavi.

Read: Qandeel Baloch’s brother ‘proudly’ accepts drugging, killing her, has no regrets

Qandeel’s father would not be able to forgive Waseem and other suspects in his daughter’s murder if he decided to do so at any point, Akram explained. Under Section 311, the discretion of accepting a pardon from the victim’s family is left to the judge handling the case.

Hindustan Times.

What the “honour killing” of celebrity feminist Qandeel Baloch reveals about Pakistani liberals

KUNWAR KHULDUNE SHAHID

The cultural icon, known as “Pakistan’s Kim Kardashian”, was killed by her brother, in a country where more than 1,000 such murders occur per year.

Pakistani social media celebrity Qandeel Baloch was strangled to death by her brother at her residence early Saturday morning, in the most high-profile of the over 1,000 honour killings that take place in the country on average annually.

Qandeel, whose official Facebook page has 783,667 likes, gathered her huge following through her social media posts that had, over the past year or so, evolved from eccentric trolling of Pakistan’s patriarchal tendencies to a powerful feminist rallying cry

Written by Andrew Coates

July 20, 2016 at 12:34 pm