Pakistan: Two blasts in two days NDTV Correspondent Sunday, April 05, 2009, (Islamabad)

6 04 2009

Another day, another blast; this time a suicide bomber attacked a crowded Shia mosque in Chakwal in Pakistan’s Punjab province where a religious congregation was taking place. The damage was significant.

“The suicide bomber was trying to kill someone inside the mosque. Our security guards tried to stop him but the bomb exploded near the gate,” a resident said.

Twenty Shia worshippers were killed in the attack by a teenage suicide bomber.

“There was a lot of commotion. People were confused and there was panic all around,” another resident said.

The blast is the latest in a growing number of terror strikes in Pakistan’s interior and its major cities. On Saturday night, a suicide bomber killed eight people near Islamabad’s posh Jinnah market.

Pakistani Taliban leader Baitullah Mehsud claimed credit for a deadly attack on a police academy in Punjab’s capital Lahore last week that left 12 people dead. He has vowed to carry out more attacks unless the US stopped drone missile strikes against militants near the Afghan border.

The drone attacks have continued, and a Mehsud deputy warned last week that militants would soon strike in Islamabad.

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New Afghan law worries Nato chief

5 04 2009

Women in Afghanistan

The law has been described as “oppressive” for women

Nato’s head says it could be difficult to persuade European countries to contribute more troops to Afghanistan because of controversial new laws.

Jaap de Hoop Scheffer said the planned laws violated human rights and were unjustifiable when Nato troops were dying to protect universal values.

Critics say the law limits the rights of women from the Shia minority and authorises rape within marriage.

Aides to President Karzai insist the law provides more protection for women.

Permission

Nato Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer told the BBC’s Mark Mardell: “We are there to defend universal values and when I see, at the moment, a law threatening to come into effect which fundamentally violates women’s rights and human rights, that worries me.”

Nato chief’s Afghan law fears

He added: “I have a problem to explain and President Karzai knows this, because I discussed it with him. I have a problem to explain to a critical public audience in Europe, be it the UK or elsewhere, why I’m sending the guys to the Hindu Kush.”

France’s Human Rights Minister Rama Yade also expressed her “sharp concern” at the law, saying it “recalls the darkest hours of Afghanistan’s history”.

The UN earlier said it was seriously concerned about the potential impact of the law.

Human rights activists say it reverses many of the freedoms won by Afghan women in the seven years since the Taleban were driven from power.

They say it removes the right of women to refuse their husbands sex, unless they are ill.

Women will also need to get permission from their husbands if they want to leave their homes, unless there is an emergency.

The law covers members of Afghanistan’s Shia minority, who make up 10% of the population.

It was rushed through parliament in February and was backed by influential Shia clerics and Shia political parties.

Defenders of the law say it is an improvement on the customary laws which normally decide family matters.

A separate family law for the Sunni majority is now also being drawn up.

Nato is holding its annual summit in Strasbourg.

President Obama is to present his new Afghan strategy to his allies.

Ahead of the meeting, a number of leading charities warned that an increase in military deployments in Afghanistan could lead to a rise in civilian casualties.

They called on Nato leaders gathering in Strasbourg to do more to protect the population.

Last year more than 2,000 civilians were killed in Afghanistan.

In a report titled Caught in the Conflict, 11 aid groups including Oxfam, ActionAid and Care called on Nato to change the way it operates.

“The troop surge will fail to achieve greater overall security and stability unless the military prioritise the protection of Afghan civilians,” Matt Waldman, head of policy for Oxfam International on Afghanistan, said.





Indian Secularism versus Pakistani Islam

6 03 2009

No love lost: By Vikram Sood

5 Mar 2009, 0000 hrs IST

Source: timesofindia

Over the years Pakistan has come to believe that the world is beholden to it because it exists. This notion of indispensability allows those in power in that country to be wild, delinquent and dangerous.

Like the spoilt brat of a rich and doting parent, Pakistan either becomes petulant when it is not granted what it unjustifiably demands or becomes belligerent when it is granted that wish by its benefactor.

Today, Pakistan has a begging bowl economy; terrorism is its main export. Unending unrest in Balochistan and sectarian violence in Dera Ismail Khan and Dera Ghazi Khan, coupled with a creaking law and order and judicial systems, evoke little confidence in that country.

There are many in India who are ready to give Pakistan another chance forever. They say Pakistanis are like us but the poor souls are stuck with rotten governments and they need our help to get them out of their predicament.

It is incredibly naive of us to build policies for our future and security on fond nostalgia, which is mostly one way. They teach their children mostly how to hate India with warped versions of history, even in their mainstream schools.

It is strange that we still keep telling Pakistanis that we are all alike and have a common culture and so on. The truth is that they do not want to be like us and, quite honestly, we have nothing in common with them. Not anymore.

First of all, our minority population is more Indian than the minorities there are Pakistani. And our majority too is different from the majority across the border. Pakistanis have never understood, therefore never accepted, the concept of accommodating minorities. Not that we do it perfectly but we do a fairly good job.

In Pakistan, you are either a Shia, Bohra or an Ismaili or an Ahmediya. Being a woman, a Baloch, a Pushtun, a Sindhi or a Mohajir or a Hindu hari is a curse.

Only a Sunni Punjabi is a true-blue Pakistani. Arguments with minorities are settled with a bullet. It is difficult for a Pakistani to understand that minorities can also have a say. Our cricket team symbolises our diversity. Pakistan does not have an equivalent of Bollywood and if it did, Hindus would never dominate the industry.

There are other fundamental differences. They deny history and even geography; we seek our roots in our civilisation. Extremists there cry jihad in the name of god.

We have room for all faiths at the Dargah in Ajmer Sharif, in Darbar Sahib (whose foundation stone was laid by Mian Mir) or San Thome. Fewer Pakistanis understand that it is easy or natural for an Indian to listen to Jafar Hussain Badayuni’s rendering of Amir Khusro’s `Bahut kathin hai dagar’ or `Ek pita ekas ke hum baarek’ by Bhai Maninder Singh and Bhai Jitender Singh or `Jai Madhav Madan Murari’ by Jagjit Singh on any morning.

In Pakistan today, we see images of mullahs leading a march to medievalism. In India, we see the young and exuberant marching into the 21st century. We are still behind the rest of the advanced world but are determined to catch up. Across the border, they wallow in a sense of victimhood, and blame everyone else for their plight.

In Pakistan, the extremists believe that Islam and democracy are incompatible. Secularism does not exist in the mullah’s vocabulary, or even in the minds of some self-proclaimed moderates like General Musharraf.

So what do we have in common with Pakistan that we yearn for? The answer is nothing. We are two different countries with two different kinds of people on two different trajectories and we here should be happy with that.

Pakistan will strike deals with al-Qaeda, will encourage Lashkar-e-Taiba to carry out attacks on India and will appease the Taliban. It would seem that they have a death wish. It would be prudent for us to take measures now in case Pakistan’s wish is granted.

The writer is a former secretary, Research and Analysis Wing.





Suicide blast kills 30 at Pakistan Shiite funeral

20 02 2009

Source: AFP
54 minutes ago
PESHAWAR, Pakistan (AFP) — A suicide bomber attacked a funeral procession for an assassinated local Shiite Muslim leader in northwest Pakistan on Friday, killing 30 people and putting furious mobs on the rampage.
The explosion took place near a Shiite mosque in Dera Ismail Khan, a town on the edge of Pakistan’s restive tribal areas with a history of sectarian violence, which has been on the rise in the Sunni-majority country.
“Thirty people have died and 65 are injured,” Saadullah Khan, a police official in the town, told AFP by telephone.
Hospital and police officials earlier put the death toll at 20, with dozens of others wounded. Police said the attack was carried out by a suicide bomber.
Soldiers were ordered to deploy and a curfew enforced after intense volleys of gunfire from panicked mourners at the funeral for the late Sher Zaman degenerated into angry riots.
The attack came two weeks after 35 people died in a suspected suicide bombing against Shiite worshippers in the Punjab town of Dera Ghazi Khan on February 5 in one of the country’s deadliest sectarian attacks.
Around 90 people have been killed in suicide and bomb attacks across Pakistan so far this year and more than 1,600 since government forces besieged militants holed up in a radical mosque in Islamabad in July 2007.
Much of the violence has been concentrated in northwest Pakistan, where the army has been bogged down fighting Taliban hardliners and Al-Qaeda extremists, who fled there after the 2001 US-led invasion of neighbouring Afghanistan.
In Dera Ismail Khan, mobs pumped bullets into the air, pelted stones at cars, ransacked shops, torched buses and set up road blocks with burning tyres in the dusty, low-rise town, residents told AFP by telephone from the town.
“A curfew has been imposed in the city,” district administration chief Syed Mohsin Shah told AFP.
“The military has been called in to support police for restoration of law and order,” he said.
Zaman, the local Shiite activist who was being buried on Friday, was shot dead by unknown gunmen riding on the back of a motorbike in a busy Dera Ismail Khan market on Thursday, a local police official said.
He had been a prominent member of the town’s Shiite community and organised community gatherings, police said.
Previously, an explosion ripped through a Sunni Muslim mosque on February 3, killing one person and wounding 18 others in Dera Ismail KHan.
Shiites account for about 20 percent of Pakistan’s 160-million-strong population.
The fellow Muslims usually coexist peacefully but sectarian violence has killed more than 4,000 people across Pakistan since the late 1980s.