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.

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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.