Khabar12 http://khabar12.news Global News Now Wed, 15 May 2019 11:20:51 +0000 en hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=5.1.1 http://khabar12.news/wp-content/uploads/2017/09/cropped-khabar12-favico-1-32x32.jpg Khabar12 http://khabar12.news 32 32 Asia Bibi’s escape to Canada shines light on Pakistan’s controversial blasphemy laws http://khabar12.news/asia-bibis-escape-to-canada-shines-light-on-pakistans-controversial-blasphemy-laws/ http://khabar12.news/asia-bibis-escape-to-canada-shines-light-on-pakistans-controversial-blasphemy-laws/#respond Tue, 14 May 2019 12:00:28 +0000 http://khabar12.news/?p=9244   Asia Bibi held the unfortunate distinction of being the first Pakistani woman sentenced to death for insulting Islam under that country’s blasphemy laws. She spent eight years on death row before her conviction was overturned by the Supreme Court of Pakistan in October 2018. Last week, as Bibi began to settle into her new […]

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Asia Bibi held the unfortunate distinction of being the first Pakistani woman sentenced to death for insulting Islam under that country’s blasphemy laws.

She spent eight years on death row before her conviction was overturned by the Supreme Court of Pakistan in October 2018.

Last week, as Bibi began to settle into her new life in Canada, after arriving on Wednesday, her lawyer turned his focus to his next court battle against Pakistan’s blasphemy laws.

Speaking from his home in Lahore, Pakistan, Saiful Malook said he knows that even acting as a lawyer for someone accused of blasphemy in Pakistan could be a death sentence for himself.

“When you start this type of case, you better start developing a close relationship to God because you can go to God at any given moment with 100 to 50 bullets,” he said.

A lot of injustice’

Malook’s new case involves a dispute over a text message a man received that allegedly insulted the Prophet Muhammad.

Like Bibi, Malook’s new client, Shagufta Kausar, is Christian. The text allegedly came from a SIM card issued to Kausar. Despite the fact that she doesn’t read or write, Kausar and her husband were sentenced to death for the message in 2014.

A Pakistani supporter of the Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamaat (ASWJ), a hardline religious party, holds an image of Bibi during a protest rally following the Supreme Court's decision to overturn Bibi's conviction for blasphemy, in Islamabad, on Nov. 2, 2018. (Aamir Qureshi/AFP/Getty Images)
A Pakistani supporter of the Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamaat (ASWJ), a hardline religious party, holds an image of Bibi during a protest rally following the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Bibi’s conviction for blasphemy, in Islamabad, on Nov. 2, 2018. (Aamir Qureshi/AFP/Getty Images)

Pakistani human rights lawyer Sarah Suhail says the blasphemy laws are often used against minorities and other vulnerable people to settle scores and disputes in the predominantly Muslim country. According to Amnesty International, between 2011 and 2015, at least 1,200 people were accused of blasphemy in Pakistan.

“The phrasing of the law, and the way in which evidence about it is collected, is really highly questionable and it leads to a lot, a lot of injustice,” Suhail said.

Bibi’s case would appear to be an example of that.

‘Pressure from the religious right’

The confrontation that started the ordeal occurred in 2009, while Bibi was employed as a farm worker.

For some Muslims in Pakistan, drinking or eating from the same dish or cup as a Christian is taboo. During a meal at the farm, Bibi touched the cup that her Muslim co-workers used for water. A heated argument erupted, Malook says, and two of Bibi’s co-workers accused her of insulting the Prophet Muhammad.

She was convicted of blasphemy in 2010 and spent the next eight years on death row.

Ultimately, the case made it to the country’s Supreme Court, which last October overturned Bibi’s conviction, citing inconsistencies in the testimony against her.

Crowds protest the Supreme Court's decision to overturn Bibi's conviction. (Bilawal Arbab/EPA-EFE)
Crowds protest the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Bibi’s conviction. (Bilawal Arbab/EPA-EFE)

Religious extremists shut down parts of Pakistan in protest that day, and threatened to carry out Bibi’s death sentence themselves.

Prime Minister Imran Khan appealed to protesters to respect the rule of law, but he has not addressed calls to actually do away with the blasphemy laws.

“The blasphemy law is definitely a really, really big and important issue that the Pakistani state needs to address,” said Suhail. “But so far, the pressure from the religious right has been so strong that nobody is even willing to touch this law.”

The blasphemy laws started under the British rule of India and Pakistan in 1860. The government said its goal was to prevent religious violence between Hindus and Muslims.

“The language of the law was deliberate and [it outlawed] malicious acts intended to outrage the religious feelings of any class by insulting their religious beliefs,” said Suhail.

Since the 1980s, the blasphemy laws in Pakistan have been revised to make the punishment harsher. The consequences for those who have opposed the laws publicly have also been grave.

“Two very important people were murdered over this … that’s why this case became so important,” Malook said of Bibi’s case.

Peter Bhatti of Brampton, Ont., left, with his brother, Shahbaz, during a visit to Parliament Hill. Shahbaz, who was a Christian federal minister in Pakistan, was killed after speaking out against the country's blasphemy laws. (David Bhatti)
Peter Bhatti of Brampton, Ont., left, with his brother, Shahbaz, during a visit to Parliament Hill. Shahbaz, who was a Christian federal minister in Pakistan, was killed after speaking out against the country’s blasphemy laws. (David Bhatti)

In 2011, Salman Taseer, the governor of the province of Punjab, denounced Bibi’s death sentence. His bodyguard later shot him dead. Just three months later, Shahbaz Bhatti, the only Christian federal minister in Pakistan at the time, was also killed after speaking out against the laws.

“Four people with shotguns came out from their car, and from both sides they start shooting him in the daylight,” recalled his brother, Peter Bhatti, who lives in Brampton, Ont. “Then the word spread that this was the punishment of whoever do the blasphemy against our Prophet, that is the kind of punishment he will get.”

Peter Bhatti had lobbied for Bibi’s release since his brother’s death. He says he breathed a sigh of relief when he learned of Bibi’s arrival in Canada last week.

“We are thankful that at least she is free and my brother’s sacrifice did not go in vain.”

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Pakistan to review its airspace ban for Indian flights on May 15: Civil aviation official http://khabar12.news/pakistan-to-review-its-airspace-ban-for-indian-flights-on-may-15-civil-aviation-official/ http://khabar12.news/pakistan-to-review-its-airspace-ban-for-indian-flights-on-may-15-civil-aviation-official/#respond Tue, 14 May 2019 10:00:05 +0000 http://khabar12.news/?p=9241   Amid ongoing military tensions between New Delhi and Islamabad, Pakistan will reconsider opening its airspace for Indian flights on May 15, a Pakistani civil aviation authority official reportedly said on Sunday. However, a senior minister hinted that the status quo will stay till the Lok Sabha elections are over in India. Pakistan had closed […]

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Amid ongoing military tensions between New Delhi and Islamabad, Pakistan will reconsider opening its airspace for Indian flights on May 15, a Pakistani civil aviation authority official reportedly said on Sunday. However, a senior minister hinted that the status quo will stay till the Lok Sabha elections are over in India.

Pakistan had closed its airspace completely for commercial flights after Indian Air Force (IAF) carried pre-emptive aerial strikes on a terror camp in Pakistan’s Balakot on February 26. However, Pakistan opened its air routes for all flights, barring New Delhi, Bangkok and Kuala Lumpur, on March 27.

“The Pakistani government will decide whether to lift or not its airspace ban for the Indian flights on May 15,” Pakistan’s Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) spokesperson Mujtaba Baig said on Sunday, reported news agency PTI.

The decision on lifting of ban or not on the Pakistani airspace ‘operational and overflying’ for India will be taken at a high level meeting on May 15, he said.

“The decision will be notified any time on May 15,” Baig was quoted as saying.

However, Pakistan’s Science and Technology Minister Fawad Chaudhry does not see opening of its airspace for India till conclusion of elections in India, the agency reported.

“Status quo will remain till the elections are over in India. I don’t see any improvement in relations between Pakistan and India till the elections are over and a new government is installed. The ban on airspace by each other I think will also continue till Indian polls,” Chaudhry said.

Last month, Pakistan partially reopened its airspace enabling west-bound flights from India to make use of its airspace. Airlines such as Air India and Turkish Airlines have reportedly started using it.

As per reports, the closure of Pakistan’s airspace has caused massive losses to airlines as they have to take costly and time-consuming detours which result in higher fuel costs. Air India has suffered losses of around Rs 300 crore in the past two months as its long-haul flights from New Delhi had to be diverted around the Pakistani airspace and, hence took longer to reach destinations in Europe, the Gulf and the US, IANS reported.

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Pakistan PM condemns insurgent attack against luxury hotel http://khabar12.news/pakistan-pm-condemns-insurgent-attack-against-luxury-hotel/ http://khabar12.news/pakistan-pm-condemns-insurgent-attack-against-luxury-hotel/#respond Tue, 14 May 2019 07:00:24 +0000 http://khabar12.news/?p=9235   An insurgent attack at a luxury hotel on Pakistan’s south-west coast has killed a special forces soldier, a hotel security guard and three staff members, the country’s military has said. The statement clarified that three gunmen, not four as initially reported, had been killed during the eight-hour gunfight with security forces on Saturday inside the Pearl […]

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An insurgent attack at a luxury hotel on Pakistan’s south-west coast has killed a special forces soldier, a hotel security guard and three staff members, the country’s military has said.

The statement clarified that three gunmen, not four as initially reported, had been killed during the eight-hour gunfight with security forces on Saturday inside the Pearl Continental hotel in the city of Gwadar.

The military concluded a painstaking operation to clear the hotel and defuse explosive devices left behind by the attackers on Sunday.

The gunmen failed to take any guests hostage, but the hotel workers and guard were killed as the insurgents stormed the building. The military said six people, including two soldiers, were also wounded.

Pakistan’s prime minister, Imran Khan, called the attack an act of terrorism and praised the initial response by security guards and security forces for preventing greater loss of life.

The Baloch Liberation Army, a separatist group, claimed responsibility for the attack, releasing photos of what it said were the gunmen.

The BLA carried out a dozen attacks last year against Chinese-linked projects. In November, the group attacked a Chinese consulate in Karachi, triggering a shootout that led to the deaths of two police officers, two civilians and all three insurgents.

Beijing is financing tens of billions of dollars of projects in Pakistan and is currently helping build a modern port in Gwadar, 373 miles (600km) west of Karachi. The Pearl Continental is located near the port.

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The IMF has agreed to break Pakistan’s fall. Again http://khabar12.news/the-imf-has-agreed-to-break-pakistans-fall-again/ http://khabar12.news/the-imf-has-agreed-to-break-pakistans-fall-again/#respond Tue, 14 May 2019 03:00:00 +0000 http://khabar12.news/?p=9231   FAMILIARITY, THEY say, breeds contempt. Few countries are as familiar with the IMF as Pakistan. The over-indebted country of 200m people has obtained 21 loans from the fund, as many as Argentina. On May 12th this familiarity deepened further. The country’s government, led by Imran Khan, a former cricket star who heads the Pakistan […]

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FAMILIARITY, THEY say, breeds contempt. Few countries are as familiar with the IMF as Pakistan. The over-indebted country of 200m people has obtained 21 loans from the fund, as many as Argentina. On May 12th this familiarity deepened further. The country’s government, led by Imran Khan, a former cricket star who heads the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party, said it had reached a deal with the IMF’s staff to borrow another $6bn over three years. The agreement now awaits formal approval from the fund’s bosses in Washington, and the support of other international lenders, including the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank.

The loan will relieve Pakistan’s dollar shortage but do little to improve the IMF’s standing in the country. In return for its money, the fund expects the government to raise tax revenues and utility prices—and to let the currency fall, if need be. That will help narrow Pakistan’s wide trade and budget deficits. But it will also curb growth and increase inflation in the short term.

The full agreement has not yet been published. But some details have been released and others leaked to the local press. Pakistan must cut its budget deficit (before debt service) to 0.6% of GDP next fiscal year (which starts in July) from the deficit of over 1.7% that the IMF expects for this year. To meet this goal, the government has reportedly promised to remove tax breaks worth about 350bn rupees ($2.5bn or 1% of GDP) next year and to raise the price of gas and electricity. It has pledged to give the central bank, the State Bank of Pakistan, more autonomy in its fight against inflation (which has increased sharply to over 8%). It will also let market forces dictate the rupee’s exchange rate, which has been devalued by over 18% against the dollar in the past year.

To ease the public’s pain, the IMF will allow the government to spend more on welfare schemes, such as a cash-transfer scheme named after Benazir Bhutto, a former prime minister who was assassinated in 2007. But her son, Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, who now leads her party in opposition, seems unimpressed. After the government this month appointed a former IMF official to head the country’s central bank, Mr Bhutto Zardari accused it of surrendering Pakistan’s autonomy. “How can IMF negotiate with IMF?” he asked. A cartoon in the Friday Times, a local news weekly, showed Christine Lagarde, head of the fund, sitting across the negotiating table from herself.

In truth, Mr Khan’s government tried hard—perhaps too hard—to keep its distance from the fund. Instead of agreeing a deal as soon as it came to power in August 2018, it turned for help to friendly powers instead, including Saudi Arabia (which gave $3bn and deferred a similar amount of oil payments), the United Arab Emirates ($3bn) and China, which added another $2.2bn. China is investing heavily in Pakistan’s roads, ports and power plants, building what has been called the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). Some view this lending with suspicion, seeing Pakistan as a victim of China’s “debt-trap diplomacy”.

Such an assessment seems premature. CPEC spending may have contributed to the increase in Pakistan’s imports (the country’s current-account deficit exceeded 6% of GDP in the year to June 2018). But because this outflow of import spending was presumably matched by an inflow of Chinese capital, it cannot have been responsible for the dangerous dwindling of Pakistan’s foreign-currency reserves over the past year.

That was instead the result of Pakistan’s own macroeconomic muddle. The previous government pursued both an over-valued exchange rate, which was too strong for Pakistan’s beleaguered exporters, and imprudent fiscal spending, which was too strong for Pakistan’s feeble revenue-raising powers. The dollars provided by Pakistan’s allies in China and the Gulf have temporarily alleviated this problem of falling reserves. But solving it was always going to require policy reforms, which are difficult for bilateral allies to demand or monitor. Better to leave those tasks to the IMF.

Not that the IMF will find it easy. Pakistan is a regular taker of the fund’s loans but not a diligent follower of its advice. Many of the reforms it has promised in the latest agreement have been pledged repeatedly before, including widening the tax net, rationalising utility prices and respecting the central bank’s autonomy. When push comes to shove, Pakistan’s governments have been reluctant to follow through, afraid of losing the support of powerful, but lightly taxed, domestic constituencies.

For their part, the IMF’s staff have been reluctant to cut Pakistan off, for fear of the upheaval that would ensue. “Governments have tried to ‘game’ the IMF, and achieved partial success each time,” write Ehtisham Ahmad and Azizali Mohammed, two former IMF advisers, in their history of the pair’s relationship. Pakistan’s public might dislike the IMF less, if they knew how frequently their leaders disregard it.

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Pakistan finalises $6bn IMF bailout package http://khabar12.news/pakistan-finalises-6bn-imf-bailout-package/ http://khabar12.news/pakistan-finalises-6bn-imf-bailout-package/#respond Tue, 14 May 2019 01:00:09 +0000 http://khabar12.news/?p=9232   Islamabad, Pakistan – The International Monetary Fund (IMF) and Pakistan have agreed on terms for a $6bn bailout package, to be disbursed over a span of more than three years, bringing an end to months of negotiations with the international lender. The agreement was confirmed by the IMF which added that the funds would be disbursed over 39 months. […]

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Islamabad, Pakistan – The International Monetary Fund (IMF) and Pakistan have agreed on terms for a $6bn bailout package, to be disbursed over a span of more than three years, bringing an end to months of negotiations with the international lender.

The agreement was confirmed by the IMF which added that the funds would be disbursed over 39 months.

“Pakistan is facing a challenging economic environment, with lacklustre growth, elevated inflation, high indebtedness, and a weak external position,” said Ernesto Ramirez Rigo, the head of the IMF’s mission to Pakistan, said in the statement.

“This reflects the legacy of uneven and procyclical economic policies in recent years aiming to boost growth, but at the expense of rising vulnerabilities and lingering structural and institutional weaknesses.”

Abdul Hafeez Shaikh, Prime Minister Imran Khan’s adviser on finance, said on Sunday that “after negotiations over many months, Pakistan and the IMF have reached a staff-level agreement”.

The IMF said the programme of structural reforms will target increasing government revenues and reducing spending, bringing down the primary fiscal deficit – which excludes development spending – to 0.6 percent of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in Pakistan’s upcoming budget.

The overall fiscal deficit currently stands at roughly 1.9 percent of the GDP, according to central bank data.

The programme will include “tax policy revenue mobilisation measures to eliminate exemptions, curtail special treatments, and improve tax administration”.

It will also target Pakistan’s loss-making state-owned enterprises and the country’s energy sector, long plagued by structural issues that have led to a burden of heavy subsidies on the government.

The agreement will now be reviewed by the IMF’s management and board, and approval will be “subject to the timely implementation of prior actions and confirmation of international partners’ financial commitments”, the IMF said.

Shaikh said this agreement would open up at least $2bn in additional financing from the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank.

Struggling economy

Pakistan’s economy has been struggling since last year with spiralling current account and fiscal deficits, and steepening inflation in the last three months.

The large trade deficit has prompted authorities to devalue the Pakistani rupee by as much as 24 percent in the last year.

In March, the country’s central bank revised its GDP growth target down to a sluggish 3.5 percent, from the original target of around six percent.

A tightening of monetary policy, with interest rates raised to 10.75 percent in March, has seen some import substitution and slowing demand, with the trade deficit dropping by 13.1 percent to roughly $26.2bn in the first 10 months of the fiscal year, central bank data shows.

In April, consumer price inflation (CPI) stood at 8.8 percent, up from roughly 3.8 percent at the same time last year, according to the country’s Bureau of Statistics.

Pakistan has availed 12 IMF stabilisation programmes and bailouts since 1988, totalling roughly $18.9bn in funds drawn, according to IMF data.

The country’s last bailout, taken in 2013, was worth roughly $6.6bn, with the programme ending three years ago.

‘Severe contraction’ expected

“There are two legs on which every IMF programme walks: the macroeconomic adjustments of getting the currency and deficits right, and the other is the structural transformation of the economy, which targets state-owned enterprises, improving competitiveness and other steps,” Khurram Husain, business editor at Pakistan’s Dawn newspaper, told Al Jazeera.

“Pakistan has had a good track record of doing rudimentary macroeconomic adjustments, but it never gets quite beyond that.”

Husain said the programme would extract a steep cost in the short term, as reforms were being put in place.

“There will be severe contraction of the economy, plummeting investment and rising inflation [in the short term],” he said. “The programme will increase costs on the common citizenry, and raise the cost of doing business. It will administer costs and pain on both the citizen and investors.”

Stock market analysts said Sunday’s announcement would ease investor concerns by bringing an end to uncertainty around the IMF’s programme.

“The IMF agreement will provide the much-needed confidence to both local and foreign investors in Pakistan as it will remove nine-month uncertainty on IMF funding,” said Muhammad Suhail, CEO of Karachi-based Topline Securities.

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Trump says talks with China will continue as trade war escalates http://khabar12.news/trump-says-talks-with-china-will-continue-as-trade-war-escalates/ http://khabar12.news/trump-says-talks-with-china-will-continue-as-trade-war-escalates/#respond Sun, 12 May 2019 12:00:04 +0000 http://khabar12.news/?p=9223   US President Donald Trump said on Friday trade talks with China would continue even after Washington moved to increase tariffs on Chinese imports, avoiding the worst-case scenario of a complete breakdown in negotiations. Trump’s remarks, which were made in a tweet, followed the end of talks in Washington between US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, US Treasury Secretary Steven […]

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US President Donald Trump said on Friday trade talks with China would continue even after Washington moved to increase tariffs on Chinese imports, avoiding the worst-case scenario of a complete breakdown in negotiations.

Trump’s remarks, which were made in a tweet, followed the end of talks in Washington between US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Chinese Vice Premier Liu He.

“Over the course of the past two days, the United States and China have held candid and constructive conversations on the status of the trade relationship between both countries,” Trump said, praising his relationship with Chinese President Xi Jinping and saying the negotiations would carry on.

“In the meantime, the US has imposed Tariffs on China, which may or may not be removed depending on what happens with respect to future negotiations!” the US president said.

US stock indexes, which opened sharply lower on Friday, reversed course and were in mostly positive territory in late afternoon trading in New York. Yields on US government debt also drifted higher after the end of the talks.

Tariffs

Earlier on Friday, the US increased its tariffs on $200bn in Chinese goods to 25 percent from 10 percent, rattling financial markets already worried the 10-month trade war between the world’s two largest economies could spiral out of control. China is expected to retaliate.

Trump defended the tariff increase earlier on Friday and said he was in “absolutely no rush” to finalise a deal, adding that the US economy would gain more from the levies than any agreement.

Despite Trump’s insistence that China will absorb the cost of the tariffs, US businesses will pay them and likely pass them on to consumers. Consumer spending accounts for more than two-thirds of US economic activity.

It may take three or four months for American shoppers to feel the pinch, but retailers will have little choice but to raise prices to cover the rising cost of imports before too long, economists and industry consultants say.

Trump, who has adopted protectionist policies as part of his “America First” agenda and railed against China for trade practices he labels unfair, has accused Beijing of reneging on commitments it made during months of negotiations.

Following the US tariff increase, China’s Commerce Ministry said it would take countermeasures but did not elaborate.

China responded to Trump’s tariffs last year with levies on a range of goods including soybeans and pork.

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Pakistan: Five dead as Baloch separatist gunmen attack coal mine http://khabar12.news/pakistan-five-dead-as-baloch-separatist-gunmen-attack-coal-mine/ http://khabar12.news/pakistan-five-dead-as-baloch-separatist-gunmen-attack-coal-mine/#respond Sun, 12 May 2019 10:00:59 +0000 http://khabar12.news/?p=9221   Islamabad, Pakistan – At least five people have been killed in a gun and bomb attack on a coal mine in southwestern Pakistan, officials say, the latest in an uptick of violence by ethnic Baloch separatists. Two miners, two security personnel and a driver were among the dead after armed attackers stormed a coal mine on […]

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Islamabad, Pakistan – At least five people have been killed in a gun and bomb attack on a coal mine in southwestern Pakistan, officials say, the latest in an uptick of violence by ethnic Baloch separatists.

Two miners, two security personnel and a driver were among the dead after armed attackers stormed a coal mine on Thursday in Harnai district, about 70km east of the provincial capital of Quetta, deputy commissioner Azeem Dummar said.

“First unidentified armed men opened fire on two labourers working in [the coal mine], killing both on the spot,” Dummar said.

As the security forces responded to the attack, a vehicle belonging to the paramilitary Frontier Corps (FC) that was rushing to the scene was hit by a landmine explosion about a kilometre away from the coal mine, said Dummar. One FC soldier was wounded in the attack, he said.

Hours later, the Baloch Liberation Army (BLA), an armed separatist group based in Balochistan province, claimed responsibility for the attack.

“We want to make it clear to the local spies and death squad groups of Pakistan army that they will not be forgiven for their crimes,” said Jeehand Baloch, a BLA spokesperson, in an emailed statement.

Baloch independence

The BLA and other armed groups have been fighting Pakistani security forces for more than a decade, demanding independence for the ethnic Baloch areas of Balochistanprovince, which they claim has been neglected by the Pakistani state and exploited for its mineral resources.

Balochistan, located in southwestern Pakistan, is the country’s largest but least populated province, with rich deposits of natural gas, coal, metals and minerals.

Rights groups allege that Pakistani security forces have abducted hundreds of pro-freedom Baloch political activists and fighters in their fight to quell the rebellion.

The province is also the site of a major port, which is the culmination of the $60bn China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), a major infrastructure and transportation investment by China in the South Asian nation.

The CPEC trade corridor will terminate at the Gwadar seaport, giving goods from southwestern China access to the Arabian Sea through Pakistan.

“Pakistan army along with several other companies is plundering Baloch national wealth,” said BLA spokesperson Baloch. “Balochistan is a war-torn region and we will not allow any investments until the independence of Balochistan.”

The attack on Thursday was the latest violence targeting security forces this year, as attacks by the BLA and its allies have ramped up.

Last month, Baloch separatist gunmen stopped a bus in southern Balochistan and killed14 passengers.

The Baloch Raaji Aajoi Sangar (BRAS), an alliance of the BLA, Baloch Liberation Front and Baloch Republican Guard, claimed responsibility for that attack.

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Pakistan’s ISI Snoops On Its Own Citizens In Bid To Control Social Media http://khabar12.news/pakistans-isi-snoops-on-its-own-citizens-in-bid-to-control-social-media/ http://khabar12.news/pakistans-isi-snoops-on-its-own-citizens-in-bid-to-control-social-media/#respond Sun, 12 May 2019 03:00:38 +0000 http://khabar12.news/?p=9212   ISLAMABAD:  Pakistan’s government and its spy agency ISI have started snooping on its own people. Threats, arrests, blocked accounts and restricted posts — Big Brother is watching more closely than ever across Pakistan, as authorities accelerate efforts to censor social networks, further reducing an already shrunken space for dissent in Pakistan. In the past […]

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ISLAMABAD: 

Pakistan’s government and its spy agency ISI have started snooping on its own people. Threats, arrests, blocked accounts and restricted posts — Big Brother is watching more closely than ever across Pakistan, as authorities accelerate efforts to censor social networks, further reducing an already shrunken space for dissent in Pakistan.

In the past 18 months, a slew of journalists, activists, and government opponents — both at home and overseas — have faced intimidation or the threat of legal action for their online posts.

Large-scale censorship is already rife among Pakistan’s mainstream media, with the Committee to Protect Journalists noting last year that the military and ISI had “quietly but effectively” imposed strict limits on the scope of general news reporting throughout the country.

Platforms such as Facebook and Twitter were regarded as the last holdouts of dissenting voices, but now that has changed too.

In February, Pakistan’s authorities announced the creation of a new enforcement arm to root out social media users accused of spreading “hate speech and violence” as part of the crackdown.

Hinting at Pak spy agency ISI’s involvement to falsely implicate citizens, Gul Bukhari, a columnist and sometime government critic who was briefly kidnapped by unidentified men last year, said the assault on social media was carefully organised and coordinated.

“It is the last frontier they try to conquer,” Bukhari explained.

– Silence dissent –

Journalist Rizwan-ur-Rehman Razi was among the people targetted. He was arrested in February at home in Lahore for allegedly publishing “defamatory and obnoxious” content against the state.

A few days earlier, he had criticised extra-judicial executions allegedly committed by the security forces, according to a copy of his tweets seen by international news agency AFP.

Released after two nights, he has not tweeted since, and his old posts have been deleted.

The net cast by the crackdown is a wide one, with Shahzad Ahmad, director of the digital security NGO Bytes for All, pointing to the increased harassment of civil rights activists, the political opposition, and bloggers.

According to Annie Zaman, an expert on cyber-censorship in Pakistan, this is made possible by an all-encompassing 2016 law that prohibits online posts that are deemed to compromise state security or offend anything from “the glory of Islam” to non-defined notions of “decency and morality”.

“Because this law is vague, it gave more space to the authorities to censor online,” Zaman said.

Offenders can face up to 14 years in prison.

Pakistan’s military signalled its involvement in the campaign as early as June last year, when spokesman of the ISI, Major General Asif Ghafoor, boasted of the capacity to monitor social media accounts during a televised press conference.

In a clear warning, Ghafoor briefly showed an image of what appeared to be specific Twitter handles and names.

Facebook and Twitter transparency reports show the crackdown was already well underway last year, with a huge spike in requests by the Pakistani government seeking to censor online activity.

Facebook restricted more content in Pakistan than in any other country in the first six months of 2018, according to its transparency figures from that time period, which are the most recently available.

The social media giant said it restricted the availability of 2,203 pieces of content in total — a seven-fold jump from the previous six months.

All but 87 of the items had been reported by the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority “as allegedly violating local laws prohibiting blasphemy, anti-judiciary content, and condemnation of the country’s independence,” it said.

The Pakistan Telecommunications Authority did not respond to requests for comment.

– ‘Overstepping boundaries’ –

Twitter figures for the same time period showed a similar trend, with requests to remove content from 3,004 accounts in Pakistan compared to 674 in the second half of 2017.

A Twitter spokesman said the vast majority of the requests had come from the government, and stressed that the company had acquiesced to none of them.

“The authorities are no longer hiding their agenda (or policy) to silence internet-mediated dissent,” said Rabia Mehmood, a researcher for Amnesty International.

“While the current censorship is exceptionally intense, over the years, one message has been consistent that criticism of policies of the Pakistan military will not be tolerated.”

Even those posting on social media from overseas have found themselves targeted.

Twitter routinely sends out a notice to users notifying them when the company receives complaints that their posts have violated a country’s laws.

News agency AFP has found dozens of users who received such a message warning they had violated Pakistani laws — including 11 who had tweeted from beyond Pakistan’s borders, in countries such as Australia, the US and Canada.

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The requests represent “a government censor overstepping jurisdiction boundaries”, said Jillian York, an expert at the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), an American NGO.

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Gunmen attack hotel in Pakistan’s Gwadar, kill security guard http://khabar12.news/gunmen-attack-hotel-in-pakistans-gwadar-kill-security-guard/ http://khabar12.news/gunmen-attack-hotel-in-pakistans-gwadar-kill-security-guard/#respond Sun, 12 May 2019 01:00:24 +0000 http://khabar12.news/?p=9209   Islamabad, Pakistan – Gunmen have stormed a five-star hotel in Pakistan’s port city of Gwadar, killing at least one person, according to the military. In a statement, Pakistan’s military said three armed men killed a security guard as they attempted to enter the Pearl Continental hotel on Saturday in the southern city. Security forces surrounded the […]

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Islamabad, Pakistan – Gunmen have stormed a five-star hotel in Pakistan’s port city of Gwadar, killing at least one person, according to the military.

In a statement, Pakistan’s military said three armed men killed a security guard as they attempted to enter the Pearl Continental hotel on Saturday in the southern city.

Security forces surrounded the attackers in a staircase leading to the top floor of the building, it said, adding that a security operation to clear the area was ongoing.

There were conflicting reports about additional casualties. Zia Langove, the provincial home minister, said initial reports indicated some people at the hotel had been wounded in firing on the premises.

The military, however, said that all guests at the hotel, which has 114 rooms, were safely evacuated.

The Baloch Liberation Army (BLA), an ethnic Baloch separatist group fighting for independence for Balochistan province, claimed responsibility for the attack saying that four fighters were involved.

Gwadar is the site of a major port built as the culmination of the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), a trade corridor that links southwestern China to the Arabian Sea through Pakistan.

The $60bn CPEC project has seen massive investment in infrastructure across Pakistan, including major roads and the Gwadar port in Balochistan province.

Recent days have seen an uptick in violence in the province, with ethnic Baloch separatist groups ramping up attacks against security forces and civilians.

On Thursday, at least five people were killed when BLA gunmen attacked a coal mine in the Harnai district of Balochistan.

The BLA and other armed groups have been fighting Pakistani security forces for more than a decade, demanding independence for the ethnic Baloch areas of Balochistan province, which they claim has been neglected by the Pakistani state and exploited for its mineral resources.

Balochistan, located in southwestern Pakistan, is the country’s largest but least populated province, with rich deposits of natural gas, coal, metals and minerals.

Rights groups allege that Pakistani security forces have abducted hundreds of pro-freedom Baloch political activists and fighters in their fight to quell the rebellion.

Last month, an alliance of Baloch separatist groups ambushed a passenger bus en route from Gwadar to Karachi, Pakistan’s largest city, killing at least 14 people.

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India and Pakistan Are as Bad as the British http://khabar12.news/india-and-pakistan-are-as-bad-as-the-british/ http://khabar12.news/india-and-pakistan-are-as-bad-as-the-british/#respond Fri, 10 May 2019 03:00:49 +0000 http://khabar12.news/?p=9194   Last month, India and Pakistan marked the centenary of an atrocity in which the British army opened fire on thousands of unarmed civilians in Jallianwala Bagh, a walled public garden in the Sikh holy city of Amritsar. The victims — a mixed crowd of Hindus, Muslims and Sikhs — had gathered to protest against […]

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Last month, India and Pakistan marked the centenary of an atrocity in which the British army opened fire on thousands of unarmed civilians in Jallianwala Bagh, a walled public garden in the Sikh holy city of Amritsar. The victims — a mixed crowd of Hindus, Muslims and Sikhs — had gathered to protest against the Rowlatt Act, a draconian legislation devised by a British judge that allowed British officials to detain Indians without trial and to arbitrarily restrict speech, writing and movement.

The unprovoked killing of hundreds of demonstrators effectively launched the anti-imperialist struggle in British-ruled India, provoking Muhammad Ali Jinnah, father of the Pakistani nation, as well as “Mahatma” Gandhi, father of the Indian nation, into unstinting opposition to the British.

Predictably, the 100th anniversary of the massacre elicited much righteous self-regard among Indian and Pakistani politicians. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi took time off from his hectic election campaign to tweet about the “martyrs” of Amritsar: “Their memory,” he wrote, “inspires us to work even harder to build an India they would be proud of.” Fawad Chaudhry, until recently Pakistan’s information minister, demanded an apology from Britain.

But anti-imperialist posturing cannot disguise the fact that India and Pakistan continue to expand the repertoire of legal repression they inherited from the British.

Quasi-Rowlatt acts are on the law books in both countries. In Pakistan, Cyril Almeida, an editor and columnist at Dawn, one of Pakistan’s most respected English-language dailies, is among several figures accused of treason and barred from leaving the country.

Many journalists in Pakistan were killed or “disappeared” by the country’s security establishment during decades of misrule by military despots and venal civilians. The election of Imran Khan, a former sportsperson, as Pakistan’s prime minister last year was seen by many as inaugurating a “Naya (New) Pakistan.” Instead, Khan has presided over a sweeping crackdown on the media.

His information minister has been busy devising a drastic regime of media regulation in Pakistan. Officials have blocked television networks and the distribution of newspapers, and forced media companies to fire journalists deemed too critical of authorities.

As Almeida, who was recently named the International Press Institute’s 71st World Press Freedom Hero, puts it, “Press freedom in Pakistan is under severe and sustained attack, without precedent during eras of civilian governments and the worst in the country since an oppressive military dictatorship in the 1980s.”

Conditions for journalists are not much better in neighboring India. In the latest global press freedom index compiled by Reporters Without Borders, the world’s largest democracy ranks 140th, just two spots above Pakistan and 32 places below Kuwait.

Newsgatherers and opinion-makers in India risk assassination, arbitrary detention and legal harassment, not to mention vicious and extremely well-organized internet trolls. The journalist Rana Ayyub, recently featured in Time magazine’s global list of 10 threatened journalists, is one of the many female public figures in India hounded by rape threats and fake pornographic videos.

Moreover, the colonial-era sedition law, which was once unleashed on freedom fighters, is used to torment a wide range of figures from the novelist Arundhati Roy to, recently, a former lawmaker who had praised Pakistan in a Facebook post for its tradition of hospitality.

In its election manifesto, India’s opposition Congress Party has promised to repeal the law. This sensible proposal has incited vituperative charges of treason from the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party.

Contrary to what Modi claims, those martyred in Amritsar would not be proud of India today — a country in which even innocent children are detained preventively for prolonged periods, as a United Nations report on the human-rights situation in Kashmir documented last year.

Indeed, the methods India and Pakistan use to govern their border states, from Balochistan in the west to Nagaland in the east, include rape and torture as well as preventive and indefinite detention. They arguably exceed, in their intensity and scope, as well as the culture of impunity they foster, what the martyrs of Jallianwala Bagh were protesting against.

Denouncing the Rowlatt Act in 1919, Jinnah said that “a Government that passes or sanctions such laws in a time of peace forfeits its claim to be called a civilized Government.” By this measure, neither the Indian nor the Pakistani government today can be called civilized.

Deploying British-inspired laws as a blunderbuss, while harnessing Silicon Valley’s innovations to illiberal causes, the ruling classes of India and Pakistan have established what Gandhi explicitly warned his compatriots against: “English rule without the Englishman.”

It is no doubt easy and gratifying to point to the atrocities of Western imperialism. But any principled anti-imperialist and democrat today can only feel anguish and shame over how, a century after the British army gunned down Rowlatt’s critics in Amritsar, his authoritarian mindset still rules South Asia.

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