UN man freed by kidnappers

5 04 2009

Karachi News.Net
Saturday 4th April, 2009

An employee of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, the American John Solecki, has been released after being held in northwestern Pakistan.

Mr Solecki was kidnapped two months ago by a previously unknown group called the Baluchistan Liberation United Front.

He and his driver were ambushed after leaving his home in the southern city Quetta on February 2nd.

Gunmen killed his Pakistani driver and held him captive.

On Saturday, he was released by his captors near the city of Quetta.

The Baluchistan Liberation United Front, which had in the past demanded that the government free thousands of prisoners in exchange for Solecki’s release, have said he was let go because of his poor health.





Malaysia: Human rights agenda for new government

5 04 2009

AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL:PUBLIC STATEMENT

Source Amnesty usa

AI Index: ASA 28/002/2009

2 April 2009

As Najib Tun Razak prepares to take over as Prime Minister of Malaysia, Amnesty International said that the new administration faces major human rights challenges that need to be addressed.

The organization is calling on the new Prime Minister to initiate urgent reforms to the justice system in five key areas, as follows.

Arbitrary arrest and detention

The government must reform or repeal laws providing for arbitrary arrest and detention without trial, including the Internal Security Act (ISA).

As part of this reform, the government should release five supporters of the Hindu Rights Action Force (HINDRAF) who have been detained for over a year under the Internal Security Act (ISA) for organizing a demonstration highlighting the marginalization of ethnic Indians.

Freedom of expression

The new government should prioritize the removal of restrictions on freedom of expression affecting bloggers, opposition politicians and human rights activists.

There was a nationwide swoop on bloggers in March when eight bloggers were charged with posting critical comments against the Sultan of Perak. They were charged under the Communication and Media Act and released on bail. The charges against them should be dropped.

The death penalty

The death penalty is imposed for a number of offences in Malaysia. Drug trafficking, murder and unauthorized firearms possession carry a mandatory death sentence. The government does not publish statistics on executions.

A moratorium on the death penalty should be announced, with a view towards abolishing it. The government should also lift the veil of secrecy around the death penalty by publicizing all information about its current application.

Torture, ill-treatment and deaths in police custody

Torture and other ill-treatment at the hands of the police continue to be reported in Malaysia.

The family and lawyers of robbery suspect Kugan Ananthan, 22, who died in police custody that month, saw extensive marks of physical abuse covering his body. The investigations into the death have not progressed since the findings of the second autopsy report were submitted to the Attorney General’s Office. Amnesty calls on the government to initiate an impartial, effective, independent, and prompt investigation into Kugan’s death. Moreover, the government should establish an independent and impartial police oversight body to hear complaints about the police.

Migrant and refugee rights

Migrant workers, refugees and asylum seekers are at risk of deportation after harsh treatment in detention camps. Malaysia does not recognise their rights under international law, and even individuals recognised as refugees by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees are being arrested by untrained volunteers from the Peoples Volunteer Corps (RELA). Amnesty International urges the government to ratify the UN Convention relating to the Status of Refugees, its 1967 Protocol and the 1990 International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families.

END/





No More safe at home for the Pakistani Hindus

22 03 2009

Your temple is a threat to our religion’ March 16, 2009




Image: Jagdish Lal Sharma with his family

‘Our neighbours are behaving differently today’

March 16, 2009


Image: Hardwari Lal with his family

‘I never got wind of what is coming’

March 16, 2009


Image: Avtari Lal Sharma with his family.

‘There has always been shadow of the Taliban’

March 16, 2009



Image: Gulzari Lal Sharma with his family.





Sri Lanka suicide blast kills 14, wounds minister

13 03 2009

Source: AP

COLOMBO, Sri Lanka (AP) – A suicide bomber attacked government ministers leading a procession to mark a Muslim festival in southern Sri Lanka, killing 14 people and severely wounding one of the officials.The government blamed Tamil Tiger separatists for Tuesday’s blast, which wounded 45 other people, saying the rebels had grown desperate in the
face of an army offensive that has driven them close to defeat after more than 25 years of civil war.If the assault was carried out by the Tigers, it shows that the guerrillas can still launch strikes far from their traditional strongholds in the north and east even as they face battlefield defeat.
As the military has pushed the rebels into an ever-shrinking sliver of territory in the north, human rights and aid groups have voiced concern for the fate of the tens of thousands of civilians trapped in the pocket. Heavy artillery attacks Tuesday killed at least 49 ethnic Tamil civilians and wounded hundreds of others, the top government health official in the war zone said.While fighting rages in the north, the suicide attacker struck in the southern town of Akuressa as six ministers led a procession toward a mosque for a ceremony to commemorate the Prophet Muhammad’s birthday.Television footage showed men in white robes and caps slowly parading down the street before the blast sent them running in all directions. Afterward, charred bodies lay scattered among their torn clothes and severed limbs just outside the mosque compound’s gates.?I heard a huge sound, and then I saw people had fallen everywhere.

They were covered with blood and flesh, and the wounded people were screaming,? Ahamed Nafri, 29, said by telephone from the hospital in the nearby town of Matara.Police and bystanders hauled the badly bleeding Minister of Posts and Telecommunications Mahinda Wijesekara into a van. He was later flown to the capital for treatment to a head wound.Dr. Hector Weerasinghe, director of Colombo National Hospital, said the minister underwent three hours of surgery and was still in serious condition late Tuesday.The government said the attack killed 14 people and wounded 45 more.

President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s office said selecting a mosque on an Islamic festival for the attack showed the rebels ?hatred? of Muslims and strengthened the government’s resolve to defeat them.There was no indication Muslims were specifically targeted on Tuesday. However, the Tamil Tigers used violence to drive many Muslims and ethnic Sinhalese, who are mainly Buddhist, from areas dominated by Tamils, who are mostly Hindu.

In one of the bloodiest incidents, suspected rebels attacked a mosque in an eastern town in 1990 with guns, grenades and machetes, killing 140 worshippers.Muslims, many of them descendants of Arab or Indian traders, make up about 7 percent of Sri Lanka’s population. Many speak Tamil but the community has largely stayed out of the war.With most communication to the north severed, rebel spokesmen could not be reached for comment.

The Tamil Tigers have fought since 1983 for an independent state for the Tamil minority, which suffered decades of marginalization at the hands of governments dominated by the Sinhalese majority. More than 70,000 people have been killed.





Taliban terror forces Hindus to flee Pakistan

10 03 2009

Their forefathers made a choice 60 years ago and stayed back in Peshawar despite Partition. And today their unhappy descendants — a group of Hindu families — have been forced to flee by the rising influence of the fundamentalist Taliban.

“I think our forefathers committed a mistake by staying back in Peshawar during Partition and we are now correcting this mistake so that our coming generations will not suffer what we faced in Pakistan,” said Vijay Kumar from Peshawar in Pakistan. Our forefathers had committed a mistake by staying back during Partition. We’re correcting that mistake now. —Vijay Kumar, resident of Peshawar.

Kumar sold off his house and every household item he could, and left for India with his wife and children. They are part of a group of five families — 16 men, 16 women and three children — that reached Amritsar recently. They are seeking Indian citizenship.

The Taliban have won major successes recently and wrested crucial administrative concessions for themselves in the northwest frontier areas of Pakistan such as the Swat Valley. They are now closing in on one of the biggest urban centres in those parts, Peshawar.

Posters carrying the Taliban’s messages and rulings have begun popping up all over, and are specially disconcerting for these Hindu families in villages around Peshawar — directing men not to shave and women not to go to school.

“The Taliban are approaching Peshawar,” said Jagdish Sharma, a hakim (practitioner of local system of medicine) from Peshawar. “We’ve heard stories of molestation and cruelty against women there.”

Sharma sold a family business started by his forefathers and left with his family. “I don’t know what was the situation during Partition, but the present situation is so bad that no one can breathe with freedom. I don’t want to bring up my children in a war-like situation.”

And they are not going back now. Hardwari Lal, resident of Orkzai, about 180 km from Peshawar, said, “I was running a grocery shop which was forcibly taken over by the fundamentalists, who also captured all our property.”

Laxmi Narain simply went out of business because of the restrictions imposed by the Taliban. He ran a cosmetics store and got no customers after a while because women were forced to wear burqas — “demand nose-dived”. He sold his store and left.

But Narain is not bitter about it, only practical. “When law-enforcement agencies are feeling helpless, how can a common man feel secure? We are not blaming the government, but it’s just that terrorists are calling the shots now.”





COMMENT: The Swat deal is wrong —Shaukat Qadir

28 02 2009

Source: Dailytimes

The Swat deal amounts to the opening of a Pandora’s Box: where will it stop? The other chapters of the Taliban are only waiting to ask for their own ‘Islamic’ government. Is this the beginning of the real Talibanisation of the NWFP?

The Taliban in Pakistan are far from a monolithic structure. There is, at best, a loose union with a disputed leadership and undefined hierarchy. However, the undisputed Taliban leader in Swat is Fazlullah. Pakistan has attempted to strike a peace deal with the Swat Taliban, in return for the imposition of sharia — Islamic law — in Swat. The attempt has been heralded by some, viewed sceptically by others, and condemned by a few. Let us attempt to examine what is wrong with this deal.

To begin with, the government’s deal has been brokered with Sufi Muhammed, Fazlullah’s father-in-law, not with Fazlullah who, despite their relationship (or because of it), is not on the best of terms with Sufi. If Fazlullah accepts Sufi’s terms, it might result in Sufi becoming more powerful; else the endeavour could deteriorate to an internecine battle for turfs, doomed to fail from the outset.

If one vectors into this equation that the Taliban are hated by the population for all that they stand for and can rule only by force, it is obvious that the deal can, at best, offer a breather and no more.

The provincial government, having announced that it is prepared to go the extra mile to ensure the success of this deal, has now announced its intention of arming the local population to fight against the Taliban and that ‘arms not being used against the Taliban would be withdrawn’. How that will be discovered or how the arms, once given, will be recovered remains a mystery. The central government is having second thoughts anyway.

However, irrespective of whether it works or not, this deal is a recipe for disaster, unless we are prepared to hand Islam over to the Taliban and allow them to legalise their violation of every law of the land and every tenet of Islam.

The Quran states again and again that Islam is progressive; even Saudi Arabia that had been living with its archaic laws is attempting to change. Pakistan is, on the other hand, prepared to allow itself to be held hostage to these self-styled saviours of Islam.

I have persistently numbered among those who advocate negotiating with terrorists, though from a position of strength, and that the use of force alone is not the answer. I have continued to quote the IRA and Sein Fenn as an example of erstwhile terrorists who are today negotiating the fate of Ireland with the British government.

However, there is a line beyond which it is not possible for any state to cede its authority. While it is possible to negotiate a mutually acceptable form of government that reflects the aspirations of the people, no state should be prepared to accept a state within a state, which is governed by force, irrespective of the wishes of the governed.

One meaning of the word ‘Islam’ is peace; the Quran forbids its followers to kill innocent people or to take their own lives. However, the Taliban preach that to take one’s own life as a suicide bomber is not only the path to heaven for the bomber, but that he/she is also doing a favour to those killed for, unknowingly, they too will have died in the cause of Allah and will thus go to heaven.

Hazrat Bibi Khadija RA asked the Prophet PBUH for his hand in marriage. Islam permits each woman to choose her mate and seek divorce if unhappy, just as to the male. Yet the Taliban find justification for ‘honour killing’; the killing of disobedient female offspring, and women who choose their own mate or seek divorce against their parents’ wishes.

Islam asks its followers to seek knowledge and educate themselves; one of the most famous sayings of the Prophet PBUH is ‘seek knowledge, even if you have to travel to China for it’. Yet the Taliban condemn knowledge as being un-Islamic: they burn girls’ schools, throw acid on the faces of girls who defy them in persisting to seek knowledge, and murder persistent teachers.

Even if schools in Swat resume classes, what will they teach? If they have their own courts, what justice will they offer? Will not the next generation of Swatis be condemned to become Taliban?

They forget history and declare democracy to be un-Islamic. The first Caliph, Hazrat Abu Bakr RA was deemed to have been nominated by the Prophet PBUH, since he was asked by the Prophet PBUH to lead the Friday prayers when He fell ill. Yet, Abu Bakr RA did not assume his office until the Friday congregation following the death of the Prophet PBUH, when he was accepted unopposed and unanimously by the congregation. The same occurred following the death of Hazrat Abu Bakr RA when Hazrat Omer RA became Caliph. Following Hazrat Omer’s death, Hazrat Ali RA decided to contest the nomination of Hazrat Osman RA, but withdrew when he realised that Hazrat Osman RA was likely to win. What else is an election or democracy?

In fact, Islam is the first democracy in which not only was the Caliph appointed in accordance with the wishes of the people, he was accountable to the people during his rule. Numerous instances are recorded in history when common people challenged ruling Caliphs and had to be satisfied.

Finally, the Swat deal amounts to the opening of a Pandora’s Box: where will it stop? The other chapters of the Taliban are only waiting to ask for their own ‘Islamic’ government. Is this the beginning of the real Talibanisation of the NWFP?

If so, does no one realise that if they are permitted to take over a province, they will find time to consolidate and, some day in the not too distant future, threaten Islamabad, something they are incapable of doing, now or ever, unless the state gives them such an opening in Swat.

This article is a modified version of one originally written for the National





86 pc naxal attacks in Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Bihar, Orissa

24 02 2009

Source: PTI

New Delhi : Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Bihar and Orissa together account for about 86 per cent of incidents of naxal violence and casualties, both civilian and security personnel, in the country.

In the 1,591 incidents in the country in 2008, the number being slightly higher than those in the previous year, 231 security personnel and 490 civilians were killed, Home Ministry sources said.

Chhattisgarh accounted for the highest number of 620 incidents, followed by Jharkhand (484), Bihar (164) and Orissa (103), they said.

In Chhattisgarh, 85 security personnel and 157 civilians lost their lives in naxal violence in 2008, while in Jharkhand the corresponding figures were 38 policemen and 169 civilians.

Bihar accounted for the deaths of 21 security men and 52 civilians and for Orissa the respective figures were 73 security personnel and 28 civilians.

In fact, this year’s figures available till first week of this month show that 53 incidents of naxal violence have already taken place in Chhattisgarh, followed by 48 in Jharkhand, 17 in Bihar and 10 in Orissa. Maharashtra has accounted for 15 incidents, including the most daring one in Gadchiroli early this month in which 15 policemen were killed.

Besides the four worst-affected States, naxal violence has been reported from Andhra Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal, the sources said.

The total casualties of security forces in 2008 was 231, which was five less than the toll in 2007. Likewise, 490 civilians were killed in naxal attacks in 2008, compared to 460 the previous year.

While 199 naxalites were killed in police operations last year, the figure for 2007 was 141, they said.

Referring to the spurt in naxal violence in Gadchiroli district, a senior official said that the maoists operating in Chhattisgarh were reported to be moving to new areas.

“CPI (Maoists) cadres move from one state to another. Such movement of Maoist cadres usually takes place in the adjoining areas of the states affected by naxal problem,” the official said.

He said such movements underline the need for joint operations — a suggestion mooted at a recent meeting of Chief Ministers of affected States chaired by Union Home Minister P. Chidambaram.

The naxal Wing in the Home Ministry is monitoring on a regular basis the training being imparted to state police and para-military forces in counter-insurgency and jungle warfare. The Centre has sanctioned 10 Commando Battalions for Resolute Action (CoBRA) as a specialised anti-maoist force.





Jihad TV in Europe:It’s time to shut down Hezbollah and Hamas broadcasts to the Continent.

18 02 2009

Their propaganda notwithstanding, Hamas and, two years ago, Hezbollah suffered devastating military defeats that may diminish their ability to attack Israel with rocket fire. But these Iranian-backed terrorist organizations are deploying another dangerous weapon in their war against Western democracies — terrorist television stations.

[Commentary Europe] AP

Watching terror programs at your home in Duisburg.

Thanks to Arab satellite companies, Hezbollah’s al-Manar and Hamas’s al-Aqsa TV stations can still beam their incitement and hatred into European living rooms, radicalizing Muslim immigrants throughout the Continent.

Al-Manar, however, is not a mere propaganda tool. Founded in 1991 by Hezbollah guerillas, it is an operational weapon in the hands of a deadly terrorist organization. Following a 2006 letter to then-President George W. Bush signed by a majority of the U.S. Senate, including Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, the U.S. Treasury Department designated al-Manar as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist entity. This designation placed, for the first time, a media outlet on the same terrorism list as al Qaeda, Hamas and Hezbollah itself.

The designation highlighted the role of al-Manar as more than just a station with objectionable content. The Hezbollah outlet was actively involved in recruiting and fund raising for Hezbollah, and providing preoperational surveillance for terror attacks. Undersecretary of Treasury Stuart Levey has observed that al-Manar is an “entity maintained by a terrorist group” and is therefore “as culpable as the terrorist group itself.”

Europe has also taken several steps against al-Manar. In 2004, the European Union and the governments of France, Spain and Holland determined that al-Manar violated a European law prohibiting incitement to hatred in broadcasting. This encouraged European satellite providers Eutelsat, Globecast, Hispasat and New Skies Satellite to cease transmission of the station.

Five non-European satellite providers have ended their broadcast of al-Manar, and multinational corporations discontinued about $4 million in annual advertising on the channel after their ad buys on Hezbollah television were exposed. In December 2008, two U.S. residents pleaded guilty in Southern District Court in New York to material support for Hezbollah after they were found to be broadcasting al-Manar and selling satellite equipment.

Yet the Saudi-based, Arab League-owned Arabsat and the Egyptian government-owned Nilesat still allow al-Manar to broadcast incitement and violence to Europe’s Muslim population on their satellites. During the 2006 Danish cartoon controversy, for example, Hezbollah’s Sheikh Nasrallah urged al-Manar’s viewers “to take a decisive stand.” He said that “hundreds of millions of Muslims are ready and willing to sacrifice their lives in order to defend the honor of their Prophet. And you are among them.”

Al-Manar has become alarmingly popular with Europe’s young Arabic-speaking Muslims. On one German television program, young Muslims in Berlin cited al-Manar as a factor influencing their hatred of the U.S. and Jews. In November 2008, Germany banned the terrorist station on the basis that it promoted the use of violence. This ban prohibits al-Manar from doing business in the country, although its hate and incitement are still accessible in Germany via Arabsat and Nilesat.

Hamas, designated by both Europe and the U.S. as a terrorist entity, followed al-Manar and took its own brand of jihad to the airwaves in 2006. Today, Hamas’s al-Aqsa television disseminates its violent message on Arabsat. Eutelsat, France’s leading satellite operator and the world’s third-largest satellite company, also began broadcasting al-Aqsa on its Atlantic Bird 4 and Eurobird 2 satellites, enabling Hamas to incite, recruit and raise funds throughout Europe, the Middle East and North Africa.

Al-Aqsa TV is notorious for its uninterrupted speeches of Hamas leaders calling for suicide bombings, for its youth-oriented music videos that incite viewers to murder, and programs aimed at children which glorify suicide bombers. Faced with world-wide outcry for using Disney-like characters, the show’s producers dropped the Mickey Mouse character — they told kids that Israel had killed the popular rodent — and found bees, bunnies and other animals to tout the virtues of jihad.

Policy makers, law enforcement officials and regulators should be worried about al-Aqsa, but so should every European parent. One haunting music video produced by al-Aqsa shows a mother preparing a bomb in her bedroom. Her young daughter naively asks whether she is bringing her a toy. Mama leaves home and explodes on her suicide mission. Her child says, “Instead of me, you carried bombs in your hand. . . . Only now I know what was more precious than me.” The little girl continues, “My love for Muhammad will not be merely words. I am following mama in her steps.”

Another broadcast shows mothers donning suicide belts and calling on women and girls to blow themselves up. The “martyrs” are assured that the “Zionist Entity” will be destroyed.

Al-Aqsa is an integral part of Hamas’s global strategy of radicalizing Muslims, subverting the peace process, raising funds for future attacks, and disseminating propaganda in the Palestinian territories and beyond. Like al-Manar, it is an operational weapon in the hands of a deadly terrorist organization.

While “free speech” activists decry action against these terrorist media outlets, European officials should recall prior campaigns against enemy media outlets. In 1999, during the Kosovo war, NATO planes bombed the Belgrade-based headquarters of Radio Television of Serbia. While 16 employees were killed, NATO defended the action as a legitimate attack against Serbian broadcasting of Slobodan Milosevic’s violent call to arms against Kosovo’s Muslims.

European states also have prosecuted hate speech as a war crime, first at the Nuremberg trials against Nazi officials after World War II and then at an international court in Tanzania in 2003, when three Rwandan media executives were convicted of running a radio station and publishing a newspaper calling for the systematic extermination of Rwanda’s Tutsis. In supporting the convictions, Reed Brody, legal counsel to Human Rights Watch, said, “If you fan the flames, you’ll have to face the consequences.”

Europe can act against Hamas TV under its own legal authority governing television broadcasting. France should enforce the warning its own audiovisual authority issued on Dec. 2, 2008, warning Eutelsat that al-Aqsa programming violates French communications law. Eutelsat’s recent decision to stop distributing al-Aqsa on only one of its satellites is not sufficient compliance, and Eutelsat should be held accountable for its continued broadcasting of al-Aqsa.

In his inaugural address, President Barack Obama called for “a new way forward” with the Muslim world. But he also called for a strong defense against those who “seek to advance their aims by inducing terror and slaughtering innocents” and addressed leaders “who seek to sow conflict, or blame their society’s ills on the West.” Working with Cairo and Riyadh to cease satellite broadcasts of these Iranian-backed, terrorist-owned media channels is key to addressing the radicalization threat in Europe for the continent’s leaders. But France should first get its own terrorist-media house in order.

Mr. Dubowitz, executive director of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, and Ms. Bonazzi, executive director of the European Foundation for Democracy, are co-directors of the Coalition Against Terrorist Media.





PAKISTAN: Timeline on Swat Valley turbulence

12 02 2009
Source: IRIN


Photo: Kamila Hyat/IRIN
Schoolgirls even in veils are not allowed to continue their education in Swat

LAHORE, 11 February 2009 (IRIN) – Understanding the humanitarian situation in turbulent Swat Valley, some 160km from Islamabad in North West Frontier Province (NWFP), requires some knowledge of the political background to the current tensions and violence.

In 1995 radical clerical leader Sufi Muhammad Khan, leader of Tehrik-e-Nifaz e Shariah-e-Mohammadi (TNSM) in Swat Valley, demanded imposition of Islamic law in the area. Violence followed as the Frontier Constabulary, a paramilitary force, began an operation against Khan. Tourism, a major source of income, was disrupted and 13 militants died in fighting.

After the operation, the NWFP government agreed to enforce Shariah law in Malakand Division (in Swat District). TNSM’s main demand – the replacement of regular courts with Islamic courts – was partially met, but arguments over the peace deal led to sporadic violence.

In 2001 Sufi Muhammad Khan took a force of some 10,000 people from Swat and the tribal areas to fight against US forces invading Afghanistan. Nearly 3,000 were killed, while others were jailed in Afghanistan or sent back to Pakistan, including Sufi Muhammad Khan, who was imprisoned. The TNSM was banned by the government.

In 2002 Sufi Muhammad Khan’s son-in-law, the firebrand cleric Maulana Fazalullah, emerged as a force in Swat and set up his headquarters at Imam Dehri. Linked to the militant Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), he stepped up efforts to impose hardline Islam.

In January 2003 incidents of violence began to increase in Swat. The Afghan writer Fazal Wahab, whose work was viewed as being critical of Osama bin-Laden and the Taliban in Afghanistan, was shot dead in Swat by unidentified assailants.

Between 2004 and 2007 Maulana Fazalullah set up at least 30 illegal FM radio stations to get his message across. Girls’ education and any active role for women in society was opposed. Several schools, music shops and barbers’ businesses were attacked.

2007

July 2007 – Violence in Swat increases after Fazalullah urges his followers to launch ‘jihad’ (holy war) to avenge an operation carried out by the Pakistan military against the Lal Masjid (mosque) in Islamabad, where clerical leaders were accused by the government of harbouring “terrorists”.

4 July 2007 – Four civilians are killed and two police wounded by a roadside bomb. In a separate incident a policemen is killed and four others injured in a rocket attack on a police station in the Matta area of Swat District.

12 July 2007 – A suicide bomber kills three police.

13 July 2007 – President Pervez Musharraf approves a plan to deploy paramilitary forces in Swat to crush growing militancy. Troops are positioned in Swat.

15 July 2007 – At least 13 paramilitary personnel and six civilians, including three children, are killed and more than 50 people injured at Matta in Swat District when two suicide bombers ram two cars packed with explosives into an army convoy.

August 2007 – NGOs and international humanitarian organisations are asked by the administration to leave Swat after threats by militants. Attacks on several girls’ schools are reported.

30 August 2007 – Seven security forces’ personnel are killed as militants attack a checkpoint in Swat. Owners of video centres and barber’s shops receive threatening letters.

21 September 2007 – Maulana Fazalullah urged his supporters to attack government officials after a demand to release three militants held after a hotel bombing incident was rejected by the authorities.

October 2007 – Fazalullah sets up his own Islamic courts.

21 October 2007 – Eighteen soldiers and two civilians die and 35 others, including nine civilians, are injured in a bomb blast aimed at a vehicle carrying paramilitary personnel at Nawan Killi, about 1km from Swat city.

26-29 October 2007 – Fierce clashes erupt between troops and militants in Swat, leaving at least 29 dead. Thirteen security personnel are executed by militants.

1-2 November 2007 – Fighting resumes after a brief ceasefire. 60-70 people die after a clash in Khwazakhela town; 48 troops who surrendered to militants are paraded in public.

3-6 November 2007 – Militants extend their hold over Swat, capturing key towns including Madyan and Kalam.

November 2007 – The Pakistan military intensifies its operation in Swat. Helicopter gunships pound villages. Thousands flee the valley. There are conflicting accounts of casualties, but dozens are feared dead.

28 November – 6 December 2007 – Security forces say militants have been forced out of Swat and many key leaders arrested. Key centres such as Imam Dehri are seized. Hundreds are feared dead in the operation; 500,000 of Swat’s 1.8 million people are reported to have fled.

23 December 2007 – Fourteen die in a suicide attack on a military convoy near Mingora, Swat’s main city. Sporadic violence continues in Swat, including attacks on shops, schools and government buildings.

2008

January 2008 – Low-level violence between troops and militants continues in Swat.

29 February 2008 – Forty killed and more than 75 wounded when a suicide bomber targets the funeral of a police officer in Mingora.

1 March 2008 – Militants behead a 22-year-old man accused of passing on information to the security forces.

April 2008 – NWFP government launches a fresh peace process, setting up a committee to initiate dialogue with different groups of militants. Militant leaders, including Fazalullah, re-enter Swat. Maulana Sufi Muhammad Khan of the banned TNSM is released.

21 May 2008 – Taliban militants operating under Fazalullah in Swat District sign a 16-point peace agreement with the NWFP government and agree to disband their militia; they also denounce suicide attacks and stop attacks on the security forces and government buildings.

June-July 2008 – Attacks on schools and other buildings continue in Swat. Militants say the government refused to keep its part of the peace deal by retaining troops. At least 50 girls’ schools are reported to have been attacked by militants in 2008. Thousands of girls quit school, fearing for their safety.

27-30 July 2008 – Fierce clashes erupt again, after incidents involving the killing of military personnel.

August-December 2008 – The military moves tanks, heavy artillery and helicopters into Swat to combat militants. Hundreds are reported killed in heavy clashes. Reports of atrocities by militants increase – including the killing of women who decline to stop work and public beheadings of those accused of spying. Human rights activists say 60 percent of Swat’s 1.8 million people have fled. Thousands of homes are reported to have been damaged and 150 schools destroyed.

December 2008 – Press reports say the militants control 75 percent of Swat. Fazalullah announces a ban on education for girls.

29 January 2009 – Pakistan’s government announces a new strategy to combat militancy in Swat and pledges to ensure girls resume schooling. Schools for girls remain closed in Swat after the winter break leaving 80,000 girls out of school. Militants are reported to have seized control of almost all of Swat.

31 January 2009 – Fazalullah, leader of the TTP in Swat, says he will relax the ban on education to allow girls to attend school up to grade 5. The ban had been met by a nationwide outcry.

February 2009 – Renewed military offensives are reported against militants as the Pakistan Army pledges to regain control of Swat. Mingora said to be under government control. Fierce fighting continues and more people flee.

(Sources: Dawn, The News, the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan State of Human Rights in Pakistan annual reports, and the South Asian Terrorism Portal, run by the Institute of Conflict Management, New Delhi)

kh/cb





Demanding fairplay is fine, but Azamgarh Muslims need to introspect too

11 02 2009

Source: New age Islam
Muslims from Azamgarh were merely exercising their democratic right to peacefully protest a perceived discrimination and voice their demands for justice and fair treatment.

There is a general feeling in the Muslim community, and not only in Azamgarh, that after every terrorist act the police pick up innocent Muslim youth at random and even if they let them go after interrogation, their lives are already destroyed. They lose their jobs, marriages break down, their Muslim relatives and friends too start avoiding them, not to speak of their Hindu friends or employers. This has already happened to several Muslim youths in different parts of the country.

It is easy to blame the police and the government. Not that they do not deserve that blame sometimes. But while we have to try and keep them on their toes, through peaceful protests, through political mobilisation, and so on, that is not going to solve our problems in the long run. Even the denunciations of terrorism, that some of our ulema are organising in city after city, while useful, are not going to solve our problems. We need to introspect deeply, if there is something that could be wrong with us, with our understanding of our scriptures, and if there is something we can ourselves do to ameliorate our conditions instead of merely hoping and waiting for others to pull our chestnuts out of fire.

Sultan Shahin, editor, New Age Islam
—————————

Demanding fairplay is fine, but Azamgarh Muslims need to introspect too

By Sultan Shahin

Any demand for justice and fairplay in a democratic system of governance is unexceptionable. And to that extent the Muslims of Azamgarh, who descended on Delhi recently to voice their protest at a perceived wrong being done to them or their youth, cannot be faulted. They feel that innocent Muslim youths from Azamgarh are being picked up by the police in various parts of the country for involvement in terrorist acts – a couple of them were even killed in what has become notorious as Batla House encounter.

Muslims from Azamgarh were merely exercising their democratic right to peacefully protest a perceived discrimination and voice their demands for justice and fair treatment.

There is a general feeling in the Muslim community, and not only in Azamgarh, that after every terrorist act the police pick up innocent Muslim youth at random and even if they let them go after interrogation, their lives are already destroyed. They lose their jobs, marriages break down, their Muslim relatives and friends too start avoiding them, not to speak of their Hindu friends or employers. This has already happened to several Muslim youths in different parts of the country.

So one could make the case that Muslims of Azamgarh were merely exercising their democratic right to peacefully protest and voice their apprehensions and demand redressal of perceived wrongs. But every right has a corresponding duty. In case of Indian citizens, it is their duty not to bring our criminal justice system, which by and large functions well enough, into disrepute. Muslims from Azamgarh were demanding judicial enquiry into the September 19 Batla House encounter. Other people, even leaders of the ruling Congress party and its ally Samajwadi Party, not to speak of opposition Communist parties, have done so in the past.

But now the case is in the courts and as of now there is no reason to believe that the court is not performing its task of ferreting out the truth of that encounter. We may not be able to boast of an exemplary judicial system, but our courts have acquitted themselves well, more so in the recent past, and even in cases of Muslims accused of involvement in terrorism.

As far as the complaints against the police go, the police should indeed show the same discretion in picking up Muslim youths as they have shown in arresting Hindus accused of Malegaon blasts; not a single person was arrested there unless the police had genuine reasons for suspicion against them and all those arrested are now being prosecuted. It does show, however, that the police does not pick up only Muslims in terror-related charges. Another thing that has to be kept in mind is that in any terror-related investigation some innocents are bound to suffer; these investigations take place in the backdrop of innocent people having been killed in terrorist attacks and the police working under great media and political pressure to come up with quick results; they can easily make mistakes in such circumstances. Suspecting Muslims is easiest, I suspect, perhaps not so much because the police or the government are discriminatory, but perhaps also because we Muslims have allowed a situation to develop worldwide in which any terrorist event happens and the needle of suspicion automatically points to them.

One of the worries arising out of the episode of the “Ulema Express “ – the name given to the chartered train that brought people from Azamgarh to Delhi – is the clear case of politicking involved. The worries of the Muslim residents of Azamgarh are genuine. Any authentic, well-meaning leadership would have guided them towards deep introspection as to why educated Muslim youth, particularly from Azamgarh, are getting involved into terrorist acts. Instead they are being led into total denial of the very existence of the militant fundamentalism virus imported from Saudi Arabia-Pakistan-Afghanistan region that is gradually infecting Indian Muslim youth too. There is enough evidence to suggest that this is happening, but our leaders, both political and theological, are leading the community into total denial. This does not bode well for the Indian Muslim community. The genuine worries of the Azamgarh Muslims are being channelised into wrong directions.

It would appear that the whole drama was not so much to help Azamgarh Muslims come to terms with the infection spreading rapidly in their area. What do the Muslims of Azamgarh think – one more Maulana winning a parliamentary seat will solve their problem? They must understand that this will only multiply their problems. It is the uneducated Maulanas who call themselves ulema (scholars) who have in the first place created this problem.

A 74-year-old Urdu teacher in a madrasa in Azamgarh, Shams Parvez, was quoted by a reporter as saying that he felt compelled to join the protest journey because he could not bear to see the reports brought out by police about madrasas giving Terror training to students. “Is it wrong for us to teach our children about our religion? How can they say that we impart terror education in our madrasas? As far as education is concerned, our madrasas impart lessons in Urdu, Hindi, science and even English. Why do they want to defame us and stop the education that has finally seen the light of the day in our town?” says Parvez.

Now, Mr. Pervez is right; I know that the madrasas don’t teach terror. But they apparently teach something that helps breed terror eventually, that leads their students and even those non-madrasa students who come under their spell to develop contempt for other religions, for other people; they teach Islam-supremacism. They hep their students develop a very narrow obscuratnist mentality. Is their any reason for Muslims to consider themselves superior to other religious groups? None whatsoever. Muslim community consists of only as many good and bad people as other religious communities. Islam has been as much a failure as other religions in creating better human beings. Some people are good, selfless, honest – everywhere – in every community, caste, country or region. And some are bad, selfish, dishonest again everywhere. The percentage is more or less the same. What ground is there for anyone to think otherwise? Why should any religious community consider itself superior to others? It is this supremacism – I know some Hindus too teach Hindu-supremacism and Christians and Jews teach Christian-supremacism or Jewish-supremacism- that is the culprit. It is this that impairs a person’s ability to integrate well in a multicultural society and leads to hatred and contempt for others. Terror is only one step away from there.

Do you, Mr. Parvez, teach your students that the verses in the Holy Quran that ask Muslims to kill kafirs, and Jews and Christians wherever they find them, are no longer applicable, as they had come in a particular context which has now become obsolete? Do you tell them that not all Quranic verses are of universal significance, that some of them just came to guide the prophet and his followers of the day out of a sticky situation and are no longer relevant? Or do you teach them that all verses in the Holy Quran are a patthar ki lakeer that cannot be obliterated and has to be followed to the letter by Muslims in all times and climes? Do you teach them Ijtihad, Mr. Parvez, asking them to think for themselves to solve the novel problems of the present age and not to always look for answers in the Holy Quran? Being an Urdu teacher, however, it is perhaps not your job too. But did your own teachers tell you this when you were yourself presumably studying in a madrasa, Mr. Parvez?

Mr. Parvez made another significant statement too, as quoted in the press. The report in the Indian Express says: He is also upset that a student in Jyoti Niketan College, who he says is a topper, is allegedly wanted by the police in connection with a terror case. “The principal there is my friend. He told me that the cops were looking for the boy. It is so sad because the boy is brilliant in academics. Do you understand when I tell you how they are targeting educated youth and spoiling their future?” asks Parvez

So t is not just madrasa products, but boys “brilliant in academics” that are being targeted by the police. In any particular case the police can be wrong, even biased and discriminatory. After all, they are only human and prone to err. But what we Muslims need to understand is that the police has a particular reason too to not only go after the madrasa-educated in terrorism-related investigations but also those who are brilliant in academics and have got their education in normal schools. Again there is a world-wide trend of Muslims in university campuses even of the West going radical. I was in the UK, most of the 1980s and I saw day after day how under the influence of Islamic radicalism brilliant students who had a career to look forward to converted to the pernicious religion of Jihadism. What is so surprising if that is happening today in India too?

It is easy to blame the police and the government. Not that they do not deserve that blame sometimes. But while we have to try and keep them on their toes, through peaceful protests, through political mobilisation, and so on, that is not going to solve our problems in the long run. Even the denunciations of terrorism, that some of our ulema are organising in city after city, while useful, are not going to solve our problems. We need to introspect deeply, if there is something that could be wrong with us, with our understanding of our scriptures, and if there is something we can ourselves do to ameliorate our conditions instead of merely hoping and waiting for others to pull our chestnuts out of fire.