Saturday, January 31, 2009

Nine suspected terrorists remanded in police custody

ATC extends remand of alleged blasphemer for three days

By Imran Asghar

RAWALPINDI: The Anti Terrorism Court (ATC) No II on Friday sent nine suspected terrorists on a 14-day judicial remand to Adiala Jail for identification parade and directed the police to present them before the court on February 12.

Saddar Barroni Police brought nine terror suspects identified as Muhammad Ilyas alias Qari of Tala Kang, Muhammad Rizwan alias Shamsul Haq of Karachi, Dr Abdul Razaq of Lahore, Faisal Ahmed Khan of Bakhar, Zeshan Jaleel alias Adnan of Karachi, Muhammad Sarfaraz alias Muhammad Khan of Karachi, Muhammad Naeem Shakir alias Zubair of Sheikupura, Muhammad Nadeem alias Ayubi of Rawalpindi and Usama Bin Waheed alias Hadyyatullah of Purana Bakhar, in armored personnel carrier to the district courts.

The elite force personnel, anti-terrorists force and police were guarding the courtroom and reporters were not allowed to cover the court proceedings.

Saddar Barroni Police Station House Officer (SHO) Raja Musaddaq informed the court that suspects were arrested on January 29 and they had revealed their alleged involvement in various terrorist attacks. He sought a 14-day judicial remand of the suspects for their identification parade at Adiala Jail.

Upon this, the court granted their judicial remand and directed the police to present the suspects before it on February 12. The police have claimed that the terror suspects had revealed their alleged involvement in five different high profile terrorism cases including suicide bomb attack near NLC building in the jurisdiction of RA Bazaar Police Station, which occurred on February 4, 2008 in which the bus of Medical Core was targeted.

The police said that suspects also revealed their involvement in another suicide bomb attack in which Lt. General Mushtaq Baig was targeted, which occurred in the jurisdiction of the same police station on February 25 last year.

The police also claimed that suspects were also involved in bomb blasts at police party in Melody Market Islamabad, bomb blast at Denmark Embassy and the bomb attack of Italian Restaurant and that they were also allegedly planning to carry out attacks on the ceremony of March 23, 2009.

The police recovered 100 kilogrammes of explosive material, 50 detonators, 20 kilogrammes ball bearings, five packs of TCS, four hand grenades, eight pistols and 45 rounds, four sacks of potassium, two bags of caustic soda, 25 electric wires, four motorcycles, a car and other explosive material from their custody.

Meanwhile, the same court further extended a three-day physical remand of an alleged blasphemer and directed RA Bazaar Police to present him before the court on February 2.

The police arrested an alleged blasphemer Hector Haleem, the son of Yaqoob Masseh, on the complaint of Tahir Iqbal, who stated that an unidentified man sent him a blasphemous text message on his mobile phone.

With the help of mobile phone number, the police traced the suspected sender. A case was filed against him under section 295C of the Pakistan Penal Code. The accused was produced before the court after three-day physical remand expired and the police sought extension in his remand to further question him.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Sherry Rehman denies statement imputed to Zardari by media

ISLAMABAD: Federal Information Minister Sherry Rehman has denied that President Asif Ali Zardari made any threatening comments regarding the upcoming lawyers’ long march in February while speaking to the press at the Parliament building in Islamabad Tuesday.

Earlier today, several newspapers published a story which attributed a statement threatening the lawyers’ movement to President Asif Ali Zardari. The statement was allegedly made during a PPP parliamentary party meeting on Monday.

English-language daily The News carried a headline stating ‘I will deal with lawyers: Zardari’ while affiliated news channel Geo quoted the president as saying: ‘You will see how I deal with the lawyers.’

Monday, January 26, 2009

Pakistan cinema owners anxious about India spat

KARACHI (AFP) — Pakistani teenager Mohammed Salim joins the crowd waiting at one of Karachi's cinemas to see the blockbuster Indian thriller "Ghajini" -- Bollywood's biggest grossing movie ever.

The action movie starring Indian actor Aamir Khan and based on the Hollywood film "Memento" spins a complex tale of a man with amnesia who tattoos himself and takes Polaroid pictures to remember people and places.

"I loved this movie, not just because it was made in India but because we don't produce such quality stuff here," Salim said afterwards.

Just a year ago, the screening would not have been possible, as Pakistan had barred films from its rival neighbour for more than 40 years.

Lifting the ban helped revive Pakistan's suffering cinemas, luring film buffs away from televisions in their living rooms and into the movie houses.

But cinema operators now fear that the spike in cross-border tensions in the wake of the Mumbai attacks could doom their businesses, especially after Indian Home Minister P. Chidambaram suggested business links could be suspended.

"The entire industry is looking at fresh tensions between India and Pakistan with great worry. We are certainly anxious to see how the situation develops," said Nadeem Mandviwala of Pakistan's association of film exhibitors.

"We want a set policy from the government so that we can keep our businesses running smoothly," he said. "Indian movies have got people back into Pakistani cinemas and have played a great role in saving cine culture in the country."

Bollywood stars are wildly popular in Pakistan, where people watched their films on pirated videos and DVDs for decades until the ban was lifted. The country's press is filled with gossip about Indian film stars.

Director Hasan Zaidi, who organises the annual international film festival in Karachi, says Pakistani films might suffer in the short run from the Indian competition but will eventually benefit thanks to renewed public interest.

"The Indian movies certainly affect ours now but that phase will soon end, and then it will bring better prospects for us with money, skills and technology which we would use to make our films stronger," Zaidi said.

Jehanzeb Baig, a cinema operator in the eastern city of Lahore, agrees.

"Indian movies will not obliterate the Pakistani film industry. They will encourage the production of good quality movies here," Baig said.

Zaidi said he thought the stiff competition from Bollywood would eventually force authorities to change censorship policy, allowing the production of domestic films with sensitive themes.

Pakistan currently does not have a culture minister, as the post was left vacant following a rift last year in the former governing coalition.

A ministry official who asked not to be named due to the sensitivity of the subject matter told AFP that the government had no plans to reinstate the ban on Indian films in response to the ongoing row with New Delhi over Mumbai.

"Pakistan wants stability in the region and banning Indian films could enhance mistrust -- that is something that our leaders do not want to do at present," he said.

Umer Sharif, a Pakistani comedian who is also well known in India, says culture should remain separate from political concerns.

"Cultural exchanges boost love and frustrate hate in hearts and they should not succumb to politics. India should also realise that Pakistan is sincere about wanting to maintain peace in the region," he told AFP.

Mandviwala, who said dozens of new theatres could be built in coming years given the current upswing in the movie business, echoed Sharif's thoughts.

"Cinema is larger than life. Very few people love America, but the whole nation loves Hollywood films. Likewise, all Pakistanis like Indian movies so the matter should be decided based on what society wants," he said.

Abdul Ghafoor, who has worked for Karachi's oldest cinema Nishat for about 40 of his 65 years, says he hopes India and Pakistan will maintain the status quo, for the sake of happy moviegoers.

"It is heartening to see people are again entering the theatres along with their families. It is something which I even could not visualise in my dreams. Even women and children are coming to the cinema," Ghafoor said.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Figure It Out: Reporting on Trafficking in Women

This article Figure It Out: Reporting On Trafficking In Women written Laxmi Murthy and Rajashri Dasgupta was first published by Infochange News & Features ( and is reproduced here.

Media coverage of trafficking of women and children, migration and sex work is confused and inaccurate. Media wrongly uses the terms ‘sex work’ and ‘trafficking’ synonymously, perpetuating stereotypes and stigmatisation and contributing to the violation of women’s right to free movement and livelihood options, say these authors
If media reports were to be believed, there would be no young girls left in Nepal. Oft-quoted figures such as 5,000-7,000 Nepali girls being trafficked across the border to India every year and 150,000-200,000 Nepali women and girls being trapped in brothels in various Indian cities, were first disseminated in 1986 and have remained unaltered over the next two decades. The report that first quoted these statistics was written by Dr I S Gilada of the Indian Health Association, Mumbai, and presented in a workshop in 1986. Subsequently, a version of this report was published as an article in the Times of India on January 2, 1989. The source of this figure remains a mystery to date. Unfortunately, such a lack of clarity is more the norm than the exception when it comes to reporting on trafficking in women and girls.
Not surprisingly, figures about the same phenomenon differ vastly. For example, the news report ‘Majority of girls trafficked are minors’, Indian Express, Guwahati, March 9, 2007 cites the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) as estimating that 150,000 people are trafficked within South Asia. The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) estimates that between 600,000-800,000 people are trafficked across borders. The news report quotes estimates by the same organisations, that between 5,000-10,000 Nepali women are trafficked every year to India for purposes of 'commercial sexual exploitation', with an estimated 40,000-200,000 women and girls from Nepal working in brothels in various cities across India.
However, another report, from a different news agency, IANS, that appeared in The Tribune on October 24, 2007, quoted the UNODC chief Gary Lewis as saying that 5,000-15,000 women and children are trafficked to India from Nepal. Where does the truth lie? Or do 5,000 women this way or that not matter at all?

People on the move
Today, more than ever before in history, people are moving across the world in search of better opportunities of life and livelihood. Made easier by faster and cheaper means of transport and communication, migration for employment and its linkages with development as a phenomenon occurs in most societies the world over.
As global capital moves, so must global labour. In South Asia, the movement of persons is usually from the poorer regions, rural areas and less developed regions and countries, to the more developed, in search of greater employment opportunity. With growing urbanisation, availability of services as well as the opportunity to earn cash income, rural migrants are drawn into the big towns and metros. Many argue that people move from labour surplus-low wage areas to labour shortage-high wage areas. In some cases, it is also due to political instability and religious persecution.
In 2005, the five major South Asia labour-sending countries (India, Nepal, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Pakistan) sent over 1.5 million migrant workers abroad legally. India sent 549,000 migrants; Bangladesh 253,000; Nepal 184,000. The number of migrants deployed rose in each country by 2007; for instance, according to Migration News 2008, the number of Indians deployed was 800,000, the number of Bangladeshis 833,000.
Remittance by migrant workers is said to be a major pillar that supports the economies of some countries. In 2007, the five major South Asia labour-sending countries received $40 billion in remittances, led by $27 billion in India, $6.4 billion in Bangladesh and $1.6 billion in Nepal. Most South Asians earn about $200 to $400 a month in the Gulf oil-exporting States.
Globalisation and the phenomenal economic growth in some parts of India have resulted in complex patterns of migration across borders in the region. According to a 2006 report of the International Labour Organisation, women are increasingly migrating and now account for half the international migrants. With the right safeguards in place that protect women without infringing on freedom of movement, migration can be profitable and strengthening, and women should not be discouraged from exercising this right. However, domestic laws, as well as regional laws and policies in South Asia, have not kept pace with these population movements. Security concerns, as well as political upheavals and internal conflict in most of the countries in the region, have also prevented the development of a comprehensive migration policy.

Grey areas
The lack of easy avenues to migrate has resulted in a plethora of illegal activities and organised crime in the business of getting people/labour across borders. Trafficking for the purpose of debt bondage, child labour, organ trade, begging, sex work and mail-order brides are only some of the more glaring manifestations. Smuggling of persons across the border, through dangerous means, albeit with their consent, is another outcome of the lack of safe migration opportunities. Further problems arise because of the common perception that all movements of women (especially across borders) are forced, and mainly for the purpose of prostitution. This also leads to the conflation of ‘prostitution/sex work’ with ‘trafficking’, with these terms wrongly being used synonymously.
Stigmatisation and the perpetuation of stereotypes by the media add to the violation of human rights of each of these categories of persons: migrant workers, trafficked workers and smuggled workers. Within these categories, women are more vulnerable; gender discrimination and violence makes women soft targets of trafficking, while traffickers thrive on vulnerabilities. However, due to these vulnerabilities and risks, all women who migrate are lumped (in popular perception, the media, laws and policies) with children in need of protection. Such a protectionist approach often ends up violating women’s right to free movement, to livelihood options, and choosing a country of residence.
Globally, anti-trafficking initiatives have stemmed from a crime-control perspective, rather than a human-rights perspective. Thus, the focus tends to be on stamping out a vice through stringent laws and effective enforcement, in order to rid a society of a social evil. Such an approach dwells little on the lived realities of women, their complex situation, and their human rights which might get violated in the process of vice control. The media has tended to mirror and reinforce this view, rather than focus on safe migration for individuals and their families.
Media coverage on issues of trafficking of women and children, migration and sex work over the years has been far from ideal. In the first place, issues of migration and trafficking do not receive adequate coverage in mainstream media. For example, a study by the Office of the National Rapporteur on Trafficking in Women and Children, ONRT-NHRC Nepal (2007), found that there were only 184 news/views in nine leading dailies, both English and Nepali, over a period of one year (2006). Besides the scanty coverage, the quality of coverage is also a major concern. Moreover, misinformation, alongside commonly held myths, overridden by the prevailing morality, contributes to media coverage of these issues being shoddy and lacking in a factual base. Further, when journalists are unable to recognise and keep aside their own prejudices and biases, they are unable to tell it like it is.
An analysis of clips of selected English, Hindi, Nepali and Bengali newspapers and electronic media clips over the period 2007-08, reveals certain common threads, despite the differences in language, region, and specificity of issues. A significant finding of the media analysis was that reporters have a confused understanding of the terms trafficking, migration, sex work, child abuse, child labour and exploitation. Often, one is mistaken for the other, and at others, the official or police version – also guilty of wrong definitions – is quoted without analysis or critique. The attempt to sensationalise the issue and draw more attention is also perhaps one contributory factor to ‘spicy’ but confused headlines and reports.

Facts, lies and statistics
One of the pre-requisites for dealing with a problem is the availability of accurate data from reliable sources. However, media coverage on trafficking of women and children clearly reveals scanty and unverified data; different newspapers quoting the same source but different data and very little original investigation.
For example, a report in The Deccan Chronicle (India), January 23, 2007 by a staff correspondent, ‘UN Official: 20,000 girls are trafficked in India’, quotes the UN official, Gary Lewis, as saying that at least 20,000 girls are being trafficked in India, and that 90% of them do not cross national borders.
Interestingly, another UN official, P M Nair, is quoted as saying that 45% of the girls in brothels across the country are from Andhra Pradesh, but the source of Nair’s figure is not mentioned. This figure differs vastly from the report in The Statesman one year later that claims that 93% of girls in brothels are from West Bengal.
Besides falling in the usual stereotype of equating trafficking with prostitution, a report in The Statesman, Kolkata, January 2, 2008 by Rajib Chatterjee, ‘State (West Bengal) tops woman trafficking list’, quotes the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB), and goes on to say that 93% girls sold for prostitution in brothels in India in 2006 were from West Bengal. While the total number is not mentioned, it is stated that 114 out of a total of 123 cases of “selling girls for prostitution” reported from various police stations in the country, were from West Bengal. Interestingly, the NCRB figures were disputed by the inspector-general of police. No NGOs or affected people were quoted in the story.
The news report states that there was a 146% rise in the number of girls being sold to brothels in 2006 (from 19 in 2004 to 50 in 2005). Yet, the reporter does not analyse this sudden spike, nor wonder whether it was a rise in incidence, or could be because of better reporting due to the setting up of the Anti-Human Trafficking Cell in the CID (year of setting up not stated). Further, by mentioning ‘girls’ it is not clear if the reporter actually means minors, or whether ‘girls’ also includes adult women. Such ambiguity does not enable accurate assessment of the problem.
To quote another example, the Indian Express, Guwahati, of March 9, 2007, in an article by Samudra Gupta Kashyap (‘Majority of girls trafficked are minors’) quotes Rajib Haldar, executive director of New Delhi-based Prayas Institute of Juvenile Justice saying that 20,000 young women were being trafficked across the country at any given time. The report does not make clear what time period he is referring to. According to Haldar, an alarming 2.3 million individuals, mostly women, had been trafficked in India in the past 10 years. He goes on to dispute the NCRB figures that say 25 cases were reported form Assam. He claims the figures for the rest of the Northeast (nil cases), cannot be believed. The news report however offers no explanations of these statistics.
Discrepancy in agency reports is particularly significant because the same report is picked up by publications across India. Similarly, a Press Trust of India (PTI) report that appeared in The Sentinel, Guwahati, on October 15, 2007 quotes Malini Bhattacharya, member of the National Commission for Women, India, calling human trafficking a “kind of international terrorism”. Yet, the same news item says that it is estimated that 90% of India’s sex trafficking is internal. Trafficking from neighbouring countries accounts for only 10% of the coerced migration into India, with approximately 2.17% from Bangladesh and 2.6% from Nepal. These figures (the source of which is not revealed) debunk the popular impression that the majority of trafficked women in India are from outside the country.
‘International trafficking’ undoubtedly makes for a more juicy story. A report in the New Delhi edition of Dainik Bhaskar (Hindi) of August 31, 2007, ‘Ladkiyon ki taskari par police ko notice’ (Notice to police on trafficking of girls), is an agency report about the trafficking of girls from Delhi to the Gulf, via Ajmer. The entire report is based on the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) notice to the police forces of Delhi and Ajmer, in response to a news item about such trafficking. The story is however unsubstantiated by any figures, broadly saying that “many girls” are trafficked in such a manner.
Another item with the sensational headline ‘Ladkiyon ko bheja ja raha hai Bangladesh’ (Girls are being sent to Bangladesh) in Dainik Hindustan (Hindi), New Delhi, September 26, 2007, is about one case of kidnapping, which, on very scanty evidence, is being called trafficking. The news report is based on a high court case filed by the missing woman’s parents against her husband, who in turn accused his wife’s parents of “selling” her to relatives in Bangladesh. The report does little to inform the reader about trafficking.
According to an article published on July 3, 2008 in Nepal, a weekly magazine published out of Kathmandu, each day 600 young Nepalis leave the country to work. “The government has given 774 manpower agencies permission to send those people abroad. The 2007-08 statistics show that there were 263,033 young people emigrating to find jobs”. Simple arithmetic shows, however, that the average daily departure would be 720 persons, not 600.
A report in Qaumi Patrika (Hindi), New Delhi, January 16, 2007, quotes NGO sources as saying there are 1 crore women and children trafficked, and the revenue generated is 100,000 crore. This agency report goes on to quote the figure of 10 lakh dollars as the revenue generated from trade in children and women in Delhi alone. Apparently, there are 100,000 sex workers in Mumbai alone, of whom half are Nepali. It says according to the Centre for Development and Population Activities, about 200 girls and women join sex work on a daily basis.
As is evident from the sample of data quoted in the reports above, accurate, reliable data is scare. Data is cited without quoting the source, and even when sources are quoted the data varies and is contradictory. What is of more concern is that inaccurate data is regularly recycled in the media.
Very little data is available on the actual implementation of the law, and convictions arising out of anti-trafficking laws. A rare report is that on dated November 2, 2007 (‘5,000 sex workers in Valley: A study’). According to this report, “About 7% out of the total of 2,210 prisoners are serving jail terms in the Kathmandu valley in cases related to human trafficking. Most of the imprisoned male traffickers are from Sindhupalchok, Nuwakot, Dhading and Makawanpur districts.” However, no source for this data is quoted.

Recycling unverified data
The analysis of newspaper clippings and electronic clips revealed that data tends to make the rounds of media outlets. Even if the data is not attributed to any reliable source, it is quoted repeatedly, thus almost assuming the status of ‘fact’. Following is one such example:
The Dainik Bhaskar (Hindi), New Delhi, of January 14, 2007, in a report titled ‘Deh vyapar ka karobar ek lakh karod ka’ (Flesh trade to the tune of one lakh crore) contains some interesting facts and figures:

1. After drugs and arms trafficking, trafficking in children and women is the next biggest moneyspinner in the world.
2. These women and children are used in the sex trade, and the business amounts to 10 billion dollars annually.
3. India shares 1/4th of this booty.
4. In India, 1 crore women are trafficked, and 1 lakh crore rupees change hands.
5. In Mumbai the women involved in sex trade goes up to 1 lakh.
6. In India, there are 500,000 women from Nepal and Bangladesh.
7. Every year, around 10,000 women from Nepal and 7,000 women from Bangladesh are trafficked to India on the promise of employment and better marriage prospects.
8. Most of these are below 16 years of age.
9. The girls from Nepal are sold for Rs 2000-60,000.
10. According to Centre for Development and Population Activities, every day, 200 women are added to the sex trade in India.

A point to note is that the source for the data for points 1 through 9 is attributed to “various human rights agencies and NGOs” without naming them.
Significantly, these statistics were quoted in two news reports on major TV channels in India: The report ‘Tackling Trafficking’, aired on NDTV 24x7 on December 4, 2007, while reporting the newly launched Ujjwala scheme, quotes the Dainik Bhaskar data, but no primary source. Similarly, a report on Doordarshan on the same day (December 4, 2007) on the Ujjwala scheme, also quotes the same Dainik Bhaskar figures. Journalists must be alert to the process of recycling data without checking original sources, especially when the data thus quoted is contradictory.

Getting off the beaten track
The majority of the reports analysed can be called hand-out journalism – either from official sources, press releases, or NGO publicity materials. There is almost no attempt to follow up stories, track the issue, dig out primary sources, or do investigative research. Rarely did any of the stories explore new angles, or break new ground in exposing the roots of the problem, leave aside suggesting innovative solutions to the problem of trafficking in women and girls. A few articles did attempt to highlight little-known facts, such as the extremely low conviction rate for the crime of human trafficking (‘5,000 sex workers in Valley: A study’), the lack of training for police (Sreyashi Dastidar's ‘Never too young to be sold’ in The Telegraph, Kolkata, October 15, 2007). But these continue to be rare, illustrating the need for more analytical and investigative reporting of these issues.
This critique of coverage in print, online and electronic media must be read in the context of the crucial role played by the media. The media can provide information and awareness about safe migration; investigate and expose violations of human rights of women and children who are trafficked; build public opinion by providing the context of the real experiences of women; influence and impact public policy on migration and trafficking by highlighting all sides of the issue, and as significant, the media can also provide a platform for healthy debate and airing divergent views. However, if the media takes it upon itself to play either moral guardian or police mouthpiece, little is possible in terms of generating an informed debate.

Pakistan most violent nation: PIPS Report

Senseless violence consumes at least one life every hour in Pakistan. This has been revealed in the annual report of the 'Pakistan Institute for Peace Studies' (PIPS).

PIPS report said 7,997 people were killed and 9,670 injured in 2,148 incidents of violence in Pakistan during 2008. The incidents include terrorist attacks, clashes between security forces and militants, military operations, political violence, inter-tribe sectarian clashes and border clashes.

In a sensational disclosure PIPS report said there were on average six terrorist attacks a day. "A comparison of the security situation in 2008 with 2005 indicates a 746% increase in terrorist attacks." "Terrorist groups affiliated with Al Qaeda and Taliban are using sophisticated techniques employed by insurgents in Iraq," it said. "Such a progression could be traced in three major terrorist attacks in Pakistan in 2008" - the attack on the Danish embassy and the Marriott Hotel in Islamabad and the FIA headquarters in Lahore

The Daily Times in an exclusive report said highest number of terrorist attacks was reported from NWFP (1,009), followed by Balochistan (682) and the Tribal Areas (385). The report said 35 attacks took place in Punjab, 25 in Sindh, seven in Islamabad, four in Azad Kashmir and one in the Northern Areas.

More than 3,182 people were killed and 2,267 injured in operational attacks, 655 killed and 557 injured in clashes between security forces and militants, 162 killed and 419 injured in political violence, 1,336 killed and 1,662 injured in inter-tribe sectarian clashes, and 395 killed and 207 injured in border clashes.

More than 95 clashes between security forces and militants, 88 incidents of political violence, 191 incidents of inter-tribe sectarian clashes and 55 incidents of border clashes took place during the last year.

At least 2,267 people were killed and 4,558 injured in at least 2,148 terrorists attacks reported in 2008. Some 967 people were killed and 2,108 others injured in 63 suicide attacks in the country during the last year.

The NWFP faced 32 suicide attacks in which 389 people were killed and 688 injured, Punjab was second with 10 suicide attacks that claimed more than 201 lives and injured 508. Sixteen suicide attacks were reported in FATA due to which 263 people died and 497 were injured.

More than 112 people were killed and 321 injured in four suicide attacks in Islamabad while one suicide attack was reported in Balochistan in which two people were killed and 22 others injured. The report said 381 rocket attacks, 46 incidents of beheading, 112 remote controlled bomb attacks, 110 landmine explosions, 451 incidents of shooting and 373 blasts by improvised explosives were recorded during 2008.

As many as 4,113 suspected terrorists including 30 from Al Qaeda, 3,759 affiliated with Taliban and other such groups, and 354 Baloch insurgents were arrested during the year. According to the PIPS report, at least 907 people were killed and 1,543 injured in 675 incidents of violence during 2006, and 3,448 people were killed and 5,353 injured in 1,535 incidents during 2007.

Friday, January 23, 2009

ISI chief briefs PM on security

ISLAMABAD: Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) Chief Lt. Gen. Ahmed Shuja Pasha Friday called on Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani at the Prime Minister House to discuss the security situation of the country.

The ISI chief discussed the operation in Northern Areas and FATA with the Prime Minister. He also briefed Prime Minister Gilani about progress in Mumbai attacks probe.

Dr Khan network’ suspect tipped off CIA: Swiss TV

GENEVA: A Swiss man suspected of being involved in the world’s biggest nuclear smuggling ring claims he supplied the CIA with information that led to the breakup of the black market nuclear network allegedly led by Pakistani scientist Abdul Qadeer Khan.
In a documentary airing on Thursday on Swiss TV station SF1, Urs Tinner says he tipped off US intelligence about a delivery of centrifuge parts meant for Libya’s nuclear weapons programme.
The shipment was seized at the Italian port of Taranto in 2003, forcing Libya to admit and eventually renounce its efforts to acquire nuclear weapons.
The 43-year-old Tinner is suspected, along with his brother Marco and father Friedrich, of supplying Dr Khan’s clandestine network with technical know-how and equipment that was used to make gas centrifuges.
Dr Khan, the creator of Pakistan’s atomic bomb, has been accused of selling the centrifuges for secret nuclear weapons programmes in Libya and Iran before his network was disrupted in 2003.
Tinner was freed by Swiss authorities last month after almost five years in investigative detention and he has yet to be charged.
A CIA spokesman, George Little, refused to discuss the Tinner case. The agency has said in the past that 'the disruption of the A.Q. Khan network was a genuine intelligence success, one in which the CIA played a key role.'
In the Swiss documentary, Tinner also claims he sabotaged equipment destined for uranium enrichment facilities so it would malfunction on first use. He does not say which country the sabotaged parts were destined for.
Former Swiss justice minister Christoph Blocher told the SF documentary that he travelled to Washington in 2007 — three years after Urs Tinner’s arrest — to discuss the case with then US attorney-general Alberto Gonzales.
Blocher says he refused a US request to hand over thousands of files of evidence in the case, but the Swiss cabinet later decided to shred the files after it learned they contained information that could endanger national security, including nuclear warhead designs.
MPs’ panel unhappy
On Thursday, a parliamentary panel criticised the government for destroying the files, saying there was no immediate danger to Switzerland’s internal or external security.
The Swiss government also refused to let federal prosecutors investigate whether the Tinners had engaged in espionage for a foreign state, a punishable offence.
Urs Tinner is waiting to see whether prosecutors will file charges against him for breaking Swiss laws on the export of sensitive material — a crime that carries a penalty of up to 10 years imprisonment.
The federal criminal court in Bellinzona on Thursday ordered
Marco Tinner be released on a bail of $87,000, rejecting an appeal by prosecutors to keep him in prison pending a possible trial.
Swiss weekly NZZ am Sonntag reported last month that prosecutors objected to Marco Tinner’s release because of concerns he might still possess sensitive information on the construction of nuclear bombs.
Jeanette Balmer, a spokeswoman for the federal prosecutor’s office in Bern, refused to comment on the newspaper report.
The International Atomic Energy Agency has said its investigation into the Khan network showed that some members possessed highly sensitive information. The information was in electronic form, making it easy to disseminate, and the agency was concerned that some of the documents may still be out in circulation.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

The Power of the Pulpit - The Saudi-isation of Pakistan

By Mohammed Hanif

Maulvi Karim, who taught me to read the Quran and led prayers in our village mosque for 40 years, was one of the most powerless men in our community. The only power he assumed for himself was that of postman. The postman would deliver the mail to him and then he would walk from house to house distributing it. He would, of course, have to read the letters for a lot of families who couldn’t read.

He was also a dog lover.

I joined him a number of times as he played with his little Russian poodle outside his house, then walked to the mosque, did his ablutions and led the prayers. After prayers he would hang out at the door of the mosque exchanging gossip with regulars. There would be people loitering outside the mosque when he went in. They would still be around as he finished the prayers and came out. It never occurred to him to ask these people to join him. It never occurred to the people who hung outside the mosque to feel embarrassed about not joining the prayers. They all lived on the same streets, not always in harmony, but religion in any of its forms was not something they discussed on the street. What was there to discuss? Wasn’t faith a strictly private business? Something that happened between a man and his god and not something that had to be discussed in your living room.

A minority went regularly to the mosques, another minority opened a bottle of something in the evening, but most people had secular pastimes like watching soap operas on TV and placing small bets on cricket matches.

He may sound like a character from the early 20th century but Maulvi Karim died only about a decade ago, and till his last days he had not given up his routine. In the social hierarchy he was somewhere between the barber and the cobbler. His basic functions were limited to being present at births, death and weddings. If he had been alive today and watched an episode of Alim Online, I wonder what he would have made of it. I wonder if he would have felt envious of all the celebrity maulanas who have become a staple of satellite television programming. Not only do they crop up on every discussion on every topic on earth but now they have their own TV channels as well, where they can preach 24/7, interrupted only by adverts for other mullahs.

The mosque imam, who served an essential social function, has given way to another kind of mullah: the power mullah, who drives in a four-wheeler flanked by armed guards; the entertainer mullah, who hogs the airwaves; and the entrepreneur mullah, who builds networks of mosques and madrassas and spends his summer touring Europe. And then there is the much maligned mullah with his dreams of an eternal war and world domination.

Since “mullah,” when pronounced in a certain way, can be read as a derogatory term, and since we don’t want to offend them (because we all know that they do get very easily offended) we should call them evangelists or preachers.

Mullahs, maulvis, imamas, or ulema-i-karam as many of them prefer to call themselves, have never had the kind of influence or social standing that they enjoy now. A large part of Pakistan is enthralled by this new generation of evangelists. They are there on prime time TV, they thunder on FM radios between adverts for Pepsi and hair removing cream. In the past few years, they have established fancy websites with embedded videos; mobile phone companies offer their sermons for download right to your telephone. They come suited, they come dressed like characters out of the Thousand and One Nights, they are men and they are women. Some of them even dress like bankers and talk like property agents offering bargain deals in heaven.

I grew up during the time of General Zia, the first evangelist to occupy the presidency in Pakistan. But even he had the good sense to keep the beards away from prime time television. But the ruthless media barons of today have no such qualms. They have turned religion into a major money-spinner. Pakistan’s economy remains in its endless downwards spiral, but it certainly seems there is a lot of money still to be made in televised preaching.

They have also tailored their message to the aspiring middle classes. Recently on his show on Haq TV, Tahirul Qadri (and he has gone from being a maulana to Allama to Sheikh-ul-Islam) thundered that religion doesn’t stop us from adopting new fashions. You can change your furniture every few years, there is nothing wrong with getting the new car models, but it should all be done in good taste. The man could had have given his lecture on Fashion TV. “But you shall never question the basic tenets of religion,” he went on. The implication was clear: you shall never question what he has to say. The message is even clearer: make money, spend it and it’ll all turn out to be okay if you keep tuning in to my programme.

And the message is being taken seriously by the upper classes of Pakistan. I walked into a new super store in Karachi’s Clifton area and was pleasantly surprised to see what looked like a books section. It was a books section indeed, but it was called “Islamic Books Section” and all the books in it were about Islam.

I went to a Nike store, and it was no different from any Nike store in any part of the world: over-priced, shiny sneakers and branded football shirts. But in the background instead of the loud gym music, the hallmark of such stores, speakers played recitation from the Quran.

The multinational companies, sensing the mood of the people, have also joined the bandwagon. Mobile phone companies offer calls to prayers for ring tones, and Quranic recitations and religious sermons as free downloads. During the month of Ramadan a number of international banks were gifting their preferred clients fancy boxes containing rosaries, dates and miniature Qurans.

It’s the perfect marriage between God and greed.

Traditionally, what a preacher needed was a pulpit. For the pulpit he needed a mosque, and to get to a mosque he needed to do a long apprenticeship in which he had to prove his worth to the community before he could be allowed to sit at that pulpit. With the arrival of satellite TV channels, evangelists provide the most cost-effective programming and, as a result, have found a pulpit in every living room.

Even the Sindhi and Seraiki language channels, which were known for their liberal political approach and sufi messages, have found their own evangelists to fill the slots.

And their influence has changed our social landscape beyond recognition. Twelve years ago, an old friend from school tried to recruit me into a militant anti-Shia organisation. After dropping out from high school, Zulfikar Ahmad had started a motorcycle garage and joined one of the sectarian organisations that were flourishing in the area. We had a heated discussion over his politics, and I reminded him of a number of common friends who were Shias and were as good or bad Muslims as any of our other classmates. Visibly unconvinced, Zulfikar gave up on me and wished me luck in my godless life.

Zulfikar’s attempt at converting me was one of the many signs of religious intolerance creeping into our lives. Taliban-ruled neighbouring Afghanistan and many middle class Pakistanis, while enjoying the relative freedoms of a fledgling democracy, hankered for a more puritanical, Taliban-style government. But these zealots, despite their high profile, remained marginal to society as religion was a personal affair, not something you discussed in your drawing room.

As I moved back to Pakistan a few months ago, I was overwhelmed by the all pervasive religious symbols in public spaces and theocratic debates raging in the independent media as well as in the drawing rooms of friends and relatives. The graffiti on the walls of Karachi, blood-curdling calls for jihad, adverts for luxury Umrahs are omnipresent. And for those who can’t afford to go all the way to Mecca, neighbourhood mosques offer regular lectures and special prayers sessions.

I spent the Eid holidays in my village in Punjab and attended prayers at the mosque, which Maulvi Karim used to run. My village folk are very wary of radical mullahs and have appointed an imam who is Maulvi Karim’s son and has spent most of his youth in Birmingham. His sermon was probably the most progressive I have ever heard. He advised his male congregation to share household work with their women. He gave examples from Prophet Mohammed’s life and said that he used to clean his own room even when he had more than one wife. “You must attend to your stock yourself. It doesn’t matter if you have servants, feed your buffaloes,” he said. I looked around in amusement, trying to imagine these men, steeped in centuries of male chauvinistic tradition, going home to do their dishes.

What puzzled me in the end was that his prayer included get-well-soon wishes for Baitullah Mehsud, who according to local TV channels, was ill. I couldn’t reconcile the imam’s message for equality of the sexes and his good will for Mehsud, whose crusade against women is as well known as his anti-American jihad.

For answers I turned to my old friend Zulfikar. He still sports a long, flowing beard but his conversation is peppered with Punjabi expletives which I found quite refreshing amidst the wall-to-wall piety in my hometown. “I have left all that jihad-against-Shias business behind,” he told me. “I have college-going daughters now. Bringing up children in these times is a full-time jihad.”

He told me that he was worried about the others. “I look as if I am a Taliban supporter but I am not. But these clean-shaven people you see here,” he pointed to some clients and workers at his garage, “inside they are all Taliban.” He explained that with Pakistan coming under repeated US attacks even people who have voted for moderate political parties are looking towards the Taliban for deliverance.

In Karachi, there are frequent warnings that the Taliban are headed this way. There are posters warning us about Talibanisation. Altaf Hussain thunders about them at every single opportunity. But nobody seems to warn us about the preachers who are already here: the ones wagging their fingers on TV always tend to precede the ones waving their guns, smashing those TVs and bombing poor barbers.

Preaching is also turning out to be an equal opportunity business. Driving my son to his new school one day, I listened to a woman talking with a posh Urdu accent on a local FM radio. With a generous smattering of English, she was trying to persuade her listeners to dress properly. “When you prepare for a party, how much do you fuss over a dress? You select a piece, then you find something matching, then you have second thoughts. All because you want to look your best at the party. You want to flatter your host. And do you prepare like this when you know that one day very soon you are going to go to the ultimate party, where your host will be Allah?”

The speech, we were told, was brought to us by al-Huda Trust, which is located in the upscale Defence Housing Authority and has its own website.

Later, I ran into a relative, a mother of two who was wearing jeans and a shirt, and who asked our opinion about her new hairdo. She was fasting, I was not. She quoted me some rules for fasting: situations in which one is allowed not to fast, along with some more injunctions for lapsed ones like myself. When are you going to start wearing the hijab? I asked her jokingly.

Probably never, she said. “The Book tells us only to wear something loose, not to draw attention, not to wear anything tight. There are so many rapes, abductions. We must not provoke.”

“How do you know all this religious stuff?” I asked her.

“I have read it in books,” she said nonchalantly, as if it was the most normal thing for a liberated working mother to pore over religious texts to decide the length of the hem of her skirt or the size of her blouse.

“Where does it say?” I challenged her. “In the Quran. I have read it myself.” She started another mini-lecture, which ended with these words: “The point is that Allah doesn’t want a woman to draw attention to her bosom.”

Listening to these preachers, people in Pakistan today seem to believe that God is some kind of lecherous old man who sits there worrying about the size of a woman’s blouse while American drones bomb the hell out of the Pashtuns in the North. You can blame the Pashtuns for many things, but no true Pashtun has ever been accused of wearing tight dresses.

Pakistan’s president, Asif Zardari, stumbling from one crisis to another, has been accused of many things, but nobody has ever accused him of having a political philosophy. He was asked about this a while ago in an interview, and he parroted some clich├ęs about Sindhi Sufi poetry and world peace. “I am a great admirer of Sindhi Sufi poetry,” but I doubt Zardari would get very far reciting it to one of the thousands of evangelists unleashed on this hapless nation. Because if Zardari has read Sindhi Sufi poetry – or, for that matter, Punjabi, or Pushto Sufi poetry – he would know that it is full of more warnings about mullahs than all the CIA’s country reports lined end-to-end. Sometimes I am also puzzled at my own reactions to these preachers: why do these overt symbols of religion bother me when I myself grew up in a family where prayers, Quran, and rosaries were a part of our everyday life. One reason could be that the kind of religion I grew up with was never associated with suicide bombings and philosophies of world domination. Religion was something you practiced on your own, between meals and going to school. It didn’t involve blowing up schools, which seems to be the favourite pastime of Islamist militants in today’s Pakistan and something that our televangelists never talk about. Maybe people are just buying into the symbolism as a way of expressing their defiance towards the Pakistan government’s policies that many of them see as a mere extension of the US. Maybe, like many other expats, I just hanker for those good old days when saints and sinners, believers and sceptics and preachers and their bored victims could live side by side without killing each other. (Newsline)

Three Young men arrested for cyber crime

KARACHI: The Cyber Crime Unit (CCU) of the Crime Investigation Department has arrested three young men for stealing pay orders through a courier service. Noman Azeem, Muhammad Amir Qayyum and Salaam Adil Sheikh were caught red handed by CCU after investigation revealed that the men were involved in swindling. CCU Chief DSP Usman Asghar Qureshi said that the three men made away with almost Rs 7 million before they were caught.
Qureshi said that the management of a private bank registered an FIR No 26/09 and requested for a thorough investigation. The DSP said that Azeem, working at a courier service, would steal the bank-stamped envelopes from the outgoing mail and with his accomplices, Qayyum and Sheikh, who work as finance consultants, had been committing the crimes for the past six months. Qureshi said that pay orders worth Rs 6.7 million were recovered from the culprits while revealing that Azeem was previously arrested by the local police and has a criminal record. The three men have been given into police remand for five days by the city court judicial magistrate. “We are investigating the case and are now checking for the involvement of other suspects. During the initial investigation, they have given us a lot of information. We are trying to locate all accomplices involved in this racket,” Qureshi added.

Drug mafia opens for business in SITE under police supervision

By By M. Zeeshan Azmat


A committee comprising different political activists as well as representatives of prominent families and communities has urged the police hierarchy and other law enforcement agencies to take strict and immediate action against the drug mafia involved in selling illegal drugs in different localities of Sindh Industrial Trading Estate (SITE), particularly in Bawany Chawli, Union Council 5 for past many years.

According to a report prepared by the committee, there are over 50 places in UC-5 alone where drug peddlers have been operating their business without any fear. Hashish is the top selling item in the locality, while Heroin is second most traded narcotics so far. Some drug dealers also carried weapons to dominate residents of the area, it further said. Now, these drug traders are also moving into other parts of SITE Town, sources said.

The report has been given to the Home department, police headquarter, and area police stations but officials have not taken any action, The News has learnt.

This situation has gone from bad to worse since the past two years; meanwhile, people have witnessed regular incidents of street crime. Approximately 20 per cent of the population of the UC is addicted to drugs, while the police does not interfere in the matter because of political pressures, the sources said.

Medina Masjid, Muhalla Hyder Chali, Sarafa Bazaar near Shahi Masjid, Shahi Muhalla, Haqani Masjid and Muhalla, Rababni Masjid Muhalla, Mecca Masjid, Sher Bahadur Dera, Jalali Masjid and Pahari Muhalla, Bagh Malik and Rabbani Muhalla are some of the most active spots of drug peddling, The News has learnt.

Local activists from Awami National Party, Jamat-e-Islami, Jamat-e-Ullemae Islam, Muttahida Quami Movement, Pakistan People’s Party and Pukhtukhua Milli Awami Party, were part of a 25-people based committee. Meanwhile, all Nazims and Naib Nazims of SITE Town, other representatives of town administration, SHO’s of three police stations of town have been nominated as members of the committee.

The report, which was based on committee’s investigations that lasted for two months, revealed that the drug racket also enjoyed the support of police personnel from the town’s jurisdiction. According to the report, different levels of groups involved in the sale of drugs give the money extracted from extortion to the local police, and payments are made according to the category of their business.

Almost a month ago, one of the main drug dealers of the town, Wahab, was arrested along with five other traders but later, he was released in lieu of Rs0.25 million without an FIR being lodged. Like, Wahab, Juma Khan and his brother are other leading drug dealers. They operate in the graveyard located in between Pathan and Frontier Colony.

The report also indicates that drug operators use intra-city buses to smuggle contraband into the city. Afterwards, local public transport (comprising coaches) is used to distribute the drugs to other areas.

In some cases, entire families are involved in the sale of narcotics in local markets, the report stated. On the other hand, the residents of UC5 told The News that role of the local police is dubious and few, if not all, of the law enforcers support the drug mafia. Some retired and suspended policemen are also involved in drug trading and few on service policemen are also participating in it, they alleged.

“It has been noticed that whenever a person goes to the police to lodge complaints or FIRs against drug sale in his or her area, the police never respond properly,” area people claimed. “Furthermore, complainants receive severe threats from drug dealers within hours of their visit to police station,” they said.

Former, TPO Javed Riaz Akbar and who was followed by, Sohail Zafar Chatha, had taken serious actions against the sale of narcotics in the area, but, once they were transferred one after other from the town, the situation became favourable for these dealers. Nowadays, DIG West, Abdul Majeed Dasti has taken some measures but his efforts are going in vain due to connivance of local police with drug dealers.

Provincial Minister for Excise and Taxtation Department, Mukesh Kumar Chawala, was contacted to comment on the matter, but he was not available to speak to The News.
(The News Report)

INDIA/PAKISTAN: Civil Society Mounts Peace Offensive

By Rita Manchanda

NEW DELHI, Jan 20 (IPS) - A visit to India by a delegation of civil society activists from Pakistan as part of a ‘peace offensive’ is expected to help keep the two South Asian neighbours from going to war over the Nov. 26-29 terror attacks on Mumbai city.

The Jan. 21-23 high profile ‘track two’ visit hopes to woo Indian political leaders, reason with hawkish security experts and appeal for cross border solidarity and, at a people-to-people level, make the point that both countries are common victims of terrorism.

Although the delegation is led by Pakistan’s best known human rights activists, Asma Jehangir and I. A. Rehman, and bolstered by politicians from Pakistan’s main political parties and leading journalists, the impact they are likely to make is still uncertain.

So far, except for India’s Left parties, no Indian political party has made any commitment to meet the delegation. "We’re still trying," said one of the Indian hosts Shabnam Hashmi of Act Now for Harmony and Democracy.

However, Ravi Hemadri of the Pakistan India Peoples Forum for Peace and Democracy (PIPFPD) was more candid, "Given that India’s Republic Day, Jan. 26, is just days away, and with the jingoistic rhetoric already being ratcheted up, it’s doubtful if politicians would risk being seen as soft."

This is especially so against the backdrop of ‘megaphone diplomacy’ via the media with Indian army chief Gen. Deepak Kapoor telling journalists that ‘’all options are open".

Similarly India's home minister P. Chidamabaram hinted to the ‘The Times’ of London about the possibility of curtailing trade and people-to-people contacts. "Why should we entertain Pakistani business people? Why should we entertain tourists in India? Why should our tourists go there?"

An opinion poll conducted by ‘The Indian Express’ newspaper recorded 92 percent of respondents saying ‘Yes’ on "Should road, rail links with Pakistan be snapped if no action taken...?" "This call for suspending links will hurt thousands of ordinary people for whom peace has meant the ability to cross the border," said Syeda Hamid, speaking in her personal capacity and as founder of the Women’s Initiative for Peace.

"The Parthasarthys, the Maroof Razas [top security experts frequently seen on TV], who do they speak for? Not for the ordinary people. It is the peace groups who speak for the ordinary people, not the hawks on TV. It is civil society that reflects the voices of the millions on both sides who stand to suffer,'' Hamid said.

Such sentiments motivated leading social activist Swami Agnivesh to launch the "Joint Signature Campaign by Citizens of India Pakistan Against Terrorism, War Posturing and to Promote Cooperation and Peace", and travel to Amritsar to join a public rally for peace mobilised by groups that will, on India’s Independence Day stake a candlelight vigil on the Indo-Pakistan border.

"Civil society has to respond to terrorism. It cannot leave everything to the state whose instruments are the army, intelligence and diplomacy. For 10 years peace groups have worked to create an atmosphere for both governments to commit that peace is ‘irreversible’. That’s why even after Mumbai, there’s been no war," he said.

Were tall claims being made about the peace lobby? "Ask the 51 Pakistani citizens jailed in Jodhpur, Rajasthan for visa tampering? They would still have been locked up had the PIPFPD not taken up their cause. Despite the war jingoism, in December they were freed and returned home," Hemadri said.

The peace lobby which seemed to have withdrawn into a defensive silence after the Mumbai attacks has now found a confident voice. Most were "fearful to speak up, to examine, lest they be seen to be excusing the Mumbai attacks,’’ said Nitya Ramakrishnan, a civil liberties lawyer.

A joint resolution by 30 civil society groups has appealed for ‘Sanity in Our Neighbourhood,’ asserting that they "will not to be consumed by fear, terror and war. That is the agenda of the terrorists".

There are signs that the peace initiatives are gaining momentum. On Jan. 11, at New Delhi’s first public meeting on ‘War, Democratic Rights and Peace Processes’ there was backing from peace and democratic rights groups, feminists, labour and teachers’ organisations.

Tweaking the Indian media’s force multiplier phrase of "enough is enough" as a goad to military action, Pamela Philippose, a well-known columnist, said: "Our way is to say ‘enough is enough’ to war mongering".

Tarun Tejpal, editor of the ‘Tehelka’ newspaper, emphasised "the need to look at the root causes of the making of a terrorist, the grievances that motivate people to these heinous terrorist acts’’.

The visit of the high profile Pakistan delegation may catch media attention, but can it shift the hawkish public sentiment? Even the scheduled public meeting will be less than public. Security concerns have entailed an "invitees only" entry, as vigilante groups propagating hate politics have stepped up their activities.

On Jan.14, Pakistani TV comedian Shakil Siddiqui was thrown out of a studio in Mumbai by a sons-of-the-soil group, the Maharastra Nav Nirman Sena. Earlier, the same group motivated the Mumbai police to pressure the Oxford Bookstore to take Pakistani books off its shelves, "lest they be targeted".

The peace lobby, however, is determined to keep up the pressure. Shabnam Hashmi said: ‘’We can’t allow ourselves to be dispirited by mainstream media’s jingoism. Let us not trivialise the grave threat that the people of both India and Pakistan face by reducing it to cross border talking heads of TV trading blame charges."

They see as a triumph the fact that the Lahore-based Ajoka Theatre troupe was able to come to India and perform its 'Hotel Mohenjodaro' to a packed audience at the 11th Bharat Rangmahotsav Theatre Festival in the national capital on Sunday.

Amal Allana, chair of the festival’s host, the National School of Drama, dismissed reports that the Pakistani troupe was denied visas. ‘’'Everything went according to schedule and their visas arrived on time.’’

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Aishwarya Rai in the ‘Top 50 Most Desirable Woman in the World’ list

New Delhi: Her acting skills might have been a topic of much debate but when it comes to her beautiful frame and drop dead gorgeous looks Aishwarya Rai leaves many behind. The actress who has time and again bagged praises from the who’s who of the entertainment industry has now left some of the most striking Hollywood babes behind in terms of looks.

The Bachchan bahu, has once again made her family proud, as she has made it to the ‘Top 50 Most Desirable Woman in the World’ list. A annual survey by a leading men’s portal poll asked it’s readers to select their ideal mate based on ‘intelligence, charisma and ambition’ and Aishwarya Rai had many vouching for her.

Scoring over uber hot supermodel Karolina Kurkova and bootylicious singer Beyonce, Aishwarya Rai bagged the 48th position in the survey. Topped by Eva Mendez, the poll had top-notch names like Angelina Jolie, Rihanna and Gisele Bundchen fighting for the top position.

The top 50 are:

1 Eva Mendes
2 Megan Fox
3 Marisa Miller
4 Keeley Hazell
5 Anne Hathaway
6 Alessandra Ambrosio
7 Scarlett Johansson
8 Rihanna
9 Kristen Bell
10 Kate Beckinsale
11 Heidi Klum
12 Emmanuelle Chriqui
13 Halle Berry
14 Brooke Burke
15 Jessica Alba
16 Jessica Biel
17 Selita Ebanks
18 Monica Bellucci
19 Adriana Lima
20 Cheryl Cole
21 Doutzen Kroes
22 Evangeline Lilly
23 Lucy Pinder
24 Bianca Beauchamp
25 Penelope Cruz
26 Charlize Theron
27 Mila Kunis
28 Gisele Bundchen
29 Keira Knightley
30 Olga Kurylenko
31 Isla Fisher
32 Misa Campo
33 Denise Milani
34 Bar Refaeli
35 Christina Aguilera
36 Summer Glau
37 Layla Kayleigh
38 Katy Perry
39 Stacy Keibler
40 Odette Yustman
41 Hayden Panettiere
42 Angelina Jolie
43 Zoe Saldana
44 Sara Varone
45 Eva Longoria
46 Miranda Kerr
47 Carrie Underwood
48 Aishwarya Rai
49 Karolina Kurkova
50 Beyonce

194 Girls Raped in Karachi Last Year 2008

Karachi being the biggest city of Pakistan also desere to be the city of opportunities. It was Karachi who was commercialized far before any other city of Pakistan. This all comes with its special geographical location.

But this all not makes a this free from the odd ends, although obcure to many eyes but yet they should be recognized by every citizen of this mega city. One of such thing is the problems. Karachi is no longer a safe city. Safety is what Karachi lack the most. This is where we find many roots of nationwide crimes.

Such a crime is associate with the diginity of girls. Rape. Every girl is afraid of this word, and its spreading and strengthening its roots day by day not only in Karachi as well in many cities of the country.

Last year whole nation mourned over many things, but the lives of these 194 girls are no more to be categorized as life. These girls not only were raped but they lost their meaning of living. Out of 194 girls 146 ones commited suicide.

Many NGO’s are working against the sourced behing the women crimes one of such is Aurat Foundation working effectively for their cause. This NGO presented the whole report to the media about the crimes to be highlighted by the media and then some work can be expected from the Government.

According to Dawn:

Over 1,885 incidents of violence against women — in which more than 480 women had been killed — were reported in the province during 2008, says a report.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

124 arrested in Pakistan as part of Mumbai attacks probe

More than 100 people have been arrested in Pakistan as part of a crackdown on groups accused of having connections to last year's attacks in Mumbai, a Pakistani official said Thursday.

Most of those arrested are alleged members of Lashkar-e-Taiba, the militant organization suspected of being behind the deadly attacks.

"We have arrested a total 124 mid-level and top leaders," Interior Ministry chief Rehman Malik said during a press conference on Thursday, according to a Reuters report.

Pakistani authorities also closed several suspected militant training camps run by Lashkar-e-Taiba as part of the crackdown, which began in December after the United Nations Security Council declared that Jamaat-ud-Dawa, a Pakistani charity, was acting as a front for the banned militant group.

Authorities also took steps against 20 offices, 87 schools, two libraries, seven religious schools and a handful of other organizations and websites linked to the charity.

It was not immediately clear how many people remained in custody Thursday, as Malik suggested many may now just be under surveillance.

Among those in detention or under house arrest are Hafiz Mohammed Saeed, the head of the charity, who helped establish the militant group, and Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi and Zarrar Shah, two men India alleges planned the Mumbai attacks.

Intelligence officials, cited in Indian media, have said Shah is Lashkar's communications chief and created a system that allowed the group's leaders to stay in touch with the gunmen during the siege on India's financial capital last November, which killed 171 people, including two Canadians.

U.S. officials have said Lakhvi has also directed Lashkar-e-Taiba operations in Chechnya, Bosnia and Southeast Asia, where he allegedly trained members to carry out suicide bombings.

Saeed has denied his organization was involved in terrorist activity and decried the accusation as an attack on religious groups.

More evidence needed for prosecution

While Pakistan has received some information from India, authorities will need to obtain more evidence if Pakistan hopes to prosecute any of those arrested, Malik said.

Investigators in Pakistan will "have to inquire into this information to try to transform it to evidence, evidence which can stand the test of any court in the world and of course our own court of law," Malik said.

He did not provide details, and avoided a question as to whether the Pakistani government was admitting the attack was staged by militants from its own country.

"We have to prove to the world that India and Pakistan stand together against terrorists because they are the common enemies," Malik said.

The Mumbai attacks have increased tensions between the two nuclear rivals, as India has demanded that Pakistan take action against the militants.

Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh earlier this month said evidence suggested the attack must have had the support of some official agencies in Pakistan.

India has called on Pakistan to hand over any suspects to New Delhi, but the country has said it will try any people involved in the attacks in its own courts.

Malik also appeared to rule out the possibility of extradition on Thursday, saying Pakistani laws allowed for the prosecution of citizens who committed crimes elsewhere. (CBC News)

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Terror is our enemy, not India: ISI chief

THE ISI chief, Lt-Gen Ahmad Shuja Pasha, was willing to travel to New Delhi after Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani accepted a request by his Indian counterpart following the attacks in Mumbai on Nov 26, the general himself told the Der Spiegel in an interview carried by the German magazine in its latest issue.

But the general, without revealing the reasons for not doing so, remarked: “Many people here are simply not ready.”

The head of the Inter-Services Intelligence brushed aside talk of a war between Pakistan and India. “There will not be a war,” he said confidently. “We are distancing ourselves from conflict with India, both now and in general.”

He said Pakistan had braced itself for a “military reaction” after the Mumbai tragedy. “At first we thought there would be a military reaction. The Indians, after the attacks, were deeply offended and furious, but they are also clever,” Lt-Gen Pasha said.

The general, in an attempt to allay misgivings in the West about Pakistan, emphasised: “We may be crazy in Pakistan, but not completely out of our minds. We know full well that terror is our enemy, not India.”

Gen Pasha told the magazine many questions were swirling in his mind about the Mumbai aftermath. So far, he said, the Indians had failed to prove that Pakistani groups sponsored by the ISI were behind the attacks.

“They have given us nothing, no numbers, no connections, no names. This is regrettable.” According to the interviewer, the ISI chief switched back and forth between English and his “surprisingly accent-free German”.

He lived in Germany for a few years in the 1980s, taking part in officer training programmes.

In reply to a question about the longevity of the present government, Lt-Gen Pasha said the transition to civilian rule must succeed.

“It is completely clear to the army chief and me that this government must succeed. Otherwise we will have a lot of problems in this country,” he said in a solemn tone.

“The result would be problems in the West and the East, political destabilisation and trouble with America,” he warned. “Anyone who does not support this democratic government today simply does not understand the current situation.”

And then, giving an innocuous yet significant information, he adds: “I report regularly to the president and take orders from him.”

Gen Pasha told the magazine he wanted to re-establish the ISI’s credibility.

The interviewer was keen to know how much control does Gen Pasha have over the organisation.

The ISI head replied in a firm tone: “Many may think in a different direction, and everyone is allowed to think differently, but no one can dare disobey a command or even do something that was not ordered.”

Lt-Gen Pasha rubbished conjectures about a meeting Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, the army chief, had with US military officials on board the aircraft carrier, USS Abraham Lincoln, in August. The ISI chief had accompanied the COAS to the meeting. The western media were rife with speculations that the two sides had reached a tacit understanding that Pakistan would allow the US military to carry out drone attacks in the tribal area.

The general denied that this was the case. “We never discussed that, nor did we agree to it,” he explained, shaking his head. “But to be honest, what can we do against the drone attacks? Should we fight the Americans or attack an Afghan post because that’s where the drones are coming from? Can we win this? Does it benefit Pakistan?”

Gen Pasha also explained to the magazine why he was unwilling to crack down on the Taliban leadership. “Shouldn’t they be allowed to think and say what they please? They believe that jihad is their obligation.

“Isn’t that freedom of opinion?” he asked in a rhetorical tone.

He defended Pakistan’s cooperation with the West in the “war on terror”, asserting that “by working together, everyone will be able to defeat terror”. “But it will not”, he hastened to add, happen punctually and according to plan, as is customary in Germany.”

Depressed Pakistani severs head with electric saw

DUBAI: A Pakistani businessman, depressed by the impact of the economic crisis, killed himself with an electric saw by almost severing his head at his Sharjah home, Al-Ittihad newspaper said on Friday.

The unnamed man, aged 60, was the boss of several construction firms affected by the international economic credit crunch, AFP reported.

His body was found in a pool of blood on Wednesday, with the electric saw still running, the newspaper said, quoting police in Sharjah, one of the seven emirates making up the United Arab Emirates.

His wife told police that her husband had complained recently about the difficulties he faced because of lack of finance needed for company projects and to honour promises to his clients.

Friday, January 9, 2009

40 killed as fire engulfs slum area in Karachi

KARACHI: At least forty people including many minor children and women were burnt to death as blazes completely engulfed many shelties in North Karachi sector five, Chiipa sources said.

12 fire tenders reached on the scene and started taming the fire meanwhile, many other people were seriously burnt who were shifted to hospital, sources added.

No cause of fire eruption, in huts made of sticks, could be reported. Several people remained caught in the fire for long time.

Eidhi sources added that over two dozens completely burnt dead bodies including 15 children and women, were shifted to different hospitals. Emergency was declared in Abbasi Shaheed hospital, hospital sources informed Geo News.

Geo T.V correspondent Faheem Siddiqui reported, “The deadly blazes overwhelmed around 15 to 20 cabins and huts and completely burnt them down, as people were fast asleep therefore, they could not get themselves rescued after inferno outbreak.”

Faheem added that the shelties were in the slum kind of area and were covered from three sides while the only way out, entrance and exit of the place, caught fire that made it hard for the unfortunates to flee from the fire scene.

He also feared that as many as three-dozen people must have been burnt in the lethal inferno in slum.

Rescue 1122 workers, on the directives of Syed Mustafa Kamal, city nazim, also reached on the spot and partook in rescue efforts together with fire fighters, local people, town authorities, Chiipa and Edhi workers.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

SNF leader Mumtaz Bhutto put under house arrest

Sindh National Front (SNF) leader Sardar Mumtaz Bhutto has been put under house arrest in Larkana on Saturday for allegedly ordering his workers to attack on the office of a Sindhi newspaper.

According to reports, the workers of SNF had attacked the office of a local daily and a case was registered against Mumtaz Bhutto in this connection. He will be shifted to Karachi later in the evening where he will be interrogated.

Friday, January 2, 2009

9 Muslims removed from US flight

WASHINGTON: Nine Muslims, including three children, were ordered off a domestic US flight after two other passengers heard them making what they thought were suspicious remarks about security, media said Friday.

The group, eight of whom are US citizens, was in Washington Thursday afternoon on an AirTran flight bound for Orlando, Florida where they were to attend a religious retreat, and were eventually cleared for travel by the FBI, according to a U.S. daily.

The airline and FBI characterized the incident as a misunderstanding, but AirTran reportedly refused to rebook the passengers, who paid for seats on another carrier.

Kashif Irfan, 34, said his younger brother Atif and his brother's wife "were remarking about safety" when they were overheard.

"My brother and his wife were discussing some aspect of airport security," he told the Post. "The only thing my brother said was, 'Wow, the jets are right next to my window."

Irfan, who was also traveling with his wife, a sister-in-law, a friend and Irfan's three sons ages seven, four, and two, said action was taken against his party because of the way they looked.

All were traditionally Muslim in appearance, with the men sporting beards and the women in headscarves.

An airline spokesman, Tad Hutcheson, defended AirTran's handling of the situation. "At the end of the day, people got on and made comments they shouldn't have made on the airplane," he was quoted as saying.

"Other people heard them, misconstrued them. It just so happened these people were of Muslim faith and appearance," Hutcheson added. "It escalated, it got out of hand and everyone took precautions."

The pilot postponed the flight, and federal officials ordered all 104 passengers off the plane to re-screen them and their luggage before allowing the flight to go to Orlando, two hours late and without the nine passengers.

Ellen Howe, a spokeswoman for the Transportation Security Administration, said the pilot acted appropriately.

"It was an ordeal," said Abdur Razack Aziz, one of the detained. "Nothing came out of it. It was paranoid people. It was very sad."

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Bangkok : 59 New Year Revelers Killed, 212 Injured

Bangkok, 01 January, ( Fire at an Ekkamai pub kills at least 59 and injures 212 in New Year countdown disaster.

Fire broke out at popular Santika Pub located in Ekkamai Soi 9 (Sukhumvit 63) Wednesday night, killing people celebrating the New Year countdown.

The fire raged through the popular Santika Club in the opening minutes of Thursday as partygoers were celebrating New Year.

Witnesses said that several hundred revelers were packed into the club premises, located at Ekamai Soi 9, a popular nightlife zone, when the fire broke out after midnight, shortly after the clubbers joined the countdown for the New Year.

Police said victims died from burns, smoke inhalation and injuries during the stampede to escape the club, which reportedly had only one entrance for the public.

Video reports of the disaster broadcast on Bangkok television stations showed the fire raging throughout the building even as rescue workers were trying to halt the blaze. Fire and rescue workers pulled victims from the club even while the blaze continued.

Bodies of the unfortunate revelers seeing in the New Year who died in the fire were shrouded in white sheets, the growing number of corpses collected on the street near the scene of the tragedy.

Bangkok's Deputy Police Commissioner-General Pol Lt-Gen Jongrak Juthanon said many of those killed and injured were foreigners. He said they were tourists from Nepal, Austria and Japan.

However, there were about 30 bodies that were "very difficult to idenfity". All bodies were initially sent to the Chulalongkorn Hospital but forensic officials were overwhelmed with the task and help was being sought from the Police Hospital.

TV Channel 7 reported that at least 59 people were killed and more than 200 injured.

TV footages showed the entire three-storey structure, which covered hundreds of squaremetres, on fire. Tearful revellers were being comforted by friends.

Over two hundred persons were injured, with some 212 persons being sent by ambulance and rescue vehicles to various hospitals in the area, most suffering burns and smoke inhalation.

Foreign residents and international tourists were reportedly among the victims.

By daybreak on New Year's Day, the fire was completely extinguished and police were investigating the cause of the fire. Some observers said the fire was set off by fireworks used as special effects during the stage performance of the countdown, while others that it was an electrical fault.

Thailand's prime minister visited the scene of a tragic New Year's Eve party where 59 persons died and several hundred were injured.

Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva thanked the police, fire and rescue workers responding to the disaster and asked the police to quickly identity the victims and determine the cause of the blaze, which apparently began when fireworks used to highlight the countdown set off combustibles in the popular hi-so club.

- Asian Tribune -