Sunday, November 25, 2012

Plagiarism is alive and well and living in Pakistan

The excerpt below is from an article 'written' by Mrs. Salma Zuberi. It has, in fact, been copied from a statement that I wrote on behalf of the Asian Human Rights Commission which was uploaded by the AHRC on the 23rd November.

Mrs. Zuberi did not even bother to alter the text in any way to show that it was her own work.

Tsk Tsk!

in Pakistan people live in terror not knowing whether they will survive to see another day
Karāchi : Pakistan | Nov 23, 2012 at 5:46 AM PST
BY Mrs Salma Zuberi
Daily life in Pakistan is today marred by terrorist attacks that range from bombings to shootings and execution-style killings. All these are taking place in an environment where the law enforcement agencies are helpless to intervene. Little in the way of investigation takes place and even when the identities of the perpetrators are known no arrests are made.

While the majority of the terrorists are members of Talibani and its various groups the others are from ethnic, nationalist and Islamic organisations. They make up the same numbers as those of the Taliban and as a result of this the most common smell on the streets of Pakistan is that of gunpowder and cordite. The sounds of gunshots, automatic fire and explosions are interspersed with the cries and shouts of the people and heart rending screams of the surviving family members. It is not overly dramatic to say that few people know whether they or their loved ones will see the dawn of another day. Parents keep the image of their school-going children in their minds while in their hands they hold their mobile phones, constantly fearing the call that will bring them bad news. No one who has to leave their homes for work or family business knows whether he or she will be the victim of a stray bullet or a suicide bomber.

The Original Statement from the Asian Human Rights Commission

PAKISTAN: The people live in terror not knowing whether they will survive to see another day
November 23, 2012
Daily life in Pakistan is today marred by terrorist attacks that range from bombings to shootings and execution-style killings. All these are taking place in an environment where the law enforcement agencies are helpless to intervene. Little in the way of investigation takes place and even when the identities of the perpetrators are known no arrests are made.

While the majority of the terrorists are members of Talibani and its various groups the others are from ethnic, nationalist and Islamic organisations. They make up the same numbers as those of the Taliban and as a result of this the most common smell on the streets of Pakistan is that of gunpowder and cordite. The sounds of gunshots, automatic fire and explosions are interspersed with the cries and shouts of the people and heart rending screams of the surviving family members. It is not overly dramatic to say that few people know whether they or their loved ones will see the dawn of another day. Parents keep the image of their school-going children in their minds while in their hands they hold their mobile phones, constantly fearing the call that will bring them bad news. No one who has to leave their homes for work or family business knows whether he or she will be the victim of a stray bullet or a suicide bomber.

The most productive industry in the country is the manufacturing of the explosives used by the suicide bombers and this industry is financed by donations from vested interests abroad, sections of the military and high ranking officials of the government. Apart from the physical bombs themselves the suicide bombers are being 'manufactured' at a similar rate. This is thanks to the religious extremists that spread their messages of hate from the very mosques that are supposed to be spreading the own type of religious peace.

Perhaps another reason for the abundance of suicide bombers is the amount of compensation paid to their surviving families. This is the one of the very reasons for the growth of this 'industry of death'. The amount of compensation is enough to provide for a family for the remainder of their lives.

What space remains is filled by the ethnic and nationalist groups where the reason for the violence they perpetrate is not based on religious extremism but that of their own agenda; whether it is for a 'homeland' or sovereignty and self-rule.

The death of innocent citizens is the result of the actions of all these groups, regardless of the ideals they are fighting for.

The Asian Human Rights Commission has written extensively on the government of Pakistan's policy of appeasement towards the armed forces of the country and the religious extremists. Now to those policies we can add a third: the policy of appeasement towards the Taliban.

Pakistan has released a group of nine Talibani from prison in the hope that they will assist in peace negotiations. This was done after one of their own senior intelligence officers said that he was skeptical the released Taliban prisoners will be effective in peace negotiations due to generational conflicts. The same officer went on to say that more such releases are likely. Many of the freed prisoners were ranking member of the Taliban. "I doubt very much that the current Afghan Taliban will listen to these has-beens."

So what has been accomplished by this release? News of a string of bombings in the country would indicate that no progress has been made whatsoever.

The Pakistani Taliban has claimed responsibility for a series of bombings throughout the country that has left dozens dead. Particularly, targeted were Shiite Muslims that had gathered for a revered religious mourning period. It is reported that over 30 people have died and many have been injured in the bombings that took place on Wednesday, November 21.

The deadliest attack took place in Rawalpindi where a suicide bomber joined a Shiite procession. The resulting blast killed 23 people and wounded 35. In another attack, also on the Shiite community in Karachi, two people were killed in a double-bombing. Bombings also took place in Shangla and Quetta.

Moving outside of the country, the Pakistani Taliban have threatened India following the execution by hanging of the Mumbai attacker, Mohammed Ajmal Kasab, the sole survivor of the team that carried out the 2008 terrorist attacks that killed more than 160 people.

For the government of President Asif Ali Zardari to turn a blind eye to the activities of the Taliban in its own country is one thing but to allow them to attack another nation while giving them safe haven is something else. India would have every right to take action against these terrorists even if it meant denying the sovereignty of a neighbouring nation. American drone attacks might soon become the very least of Pakistan's problems.

The responsibility for allowing the Taliban to exist on Pakistani soil is the non-transferable responsibility of the government of Pakistan.

The question that urgently needs to be raised is as to why the government of Pakistan is not doing anything to stop this violence. The police and other law enforcement agencies hold investigations into the acts of violence but no positive results are ever forthcoming. As mentioned above even when the perpetrators are positively identified they are either given impunity by high ranking officials or judicial officers who do not want to get involved in anything connected to terrorists or are left to roam free by officials that secretly believe in their cause.

In Pakistan the meaning of the word 'justice' translates as "How do we save our own skin. How do we pretend to do our jobs without appearing to be humble servants of the terrorists and extremists?" This is borne out by the fact that thousands of terrorists have been arrested but few of them spend more than a few days in custody as they are either released or bailed out, never to be seen again. The death sentence is handed down to criminals for heinous crimes and there are 8,000 people on death row, but significantly not one of them is a Talibani. The standard excuse by the courts is that the prosecution has not made its case. Alternatively, in cases where the government has a vested interest evidence is even collected from newspaper reports. Where then, is the rule of law?

The Asian Human Rights Commission urges the government of Pakistan to be more realistic and take the lead in curbing the menace of terrorism. If it cannot rely on the police, other law enforcement agencies and the military, all of which have sworn to protect the country, then it must look for other avenues. To start with it must look within. It must make firm decisions in parliament to rein in the military, reinforce the law enforcement agencies so that they are no longer lapdogs of the armed forces and protect the judiciary so that they are able to make orders that will not result in the judges either being killed or forced to leave the country.
Document Type :Statement
Document ID :AHRC-STM-241-2012
Countries : Pakistan
Issues : Administration of justice, Extrajudicial killings, Freedom of religion, Minorities, Right to life, Rule of law

Thursday, November 22, 2012

November 22, 2012

An Article from the Asian Human Rights Commission

PAKISTAN: Is Dr. Abdus Salam - a Nobel Laureate or persona non grata?

Baseer Naweed & Stewart Sloan
"The Holy Quran enjoins us to reflect on the verities of Allah's created laws of nature; however, that our generation has been privileged to glimpse a part of His design is a bounty and a grace for which I render thanks with a humble heart." Mohammad Abdus Salam

The issue of Ahmadi's in Pakistan appears to be more important than honouring the life of the country's only Nobel Laureate.

Dr. Abdus Salam passed away on November 21, 1996 in England at the age of 70. He was the country's only Nobel Laureate and won the prize in 1979 for his work in theoretical physics and for his discovery of the 'God' particle. Dr. Salam was the first Pakistani and the first and only Muslim to receive a Nobel Prize in Physics. He contributed heavily to the rise of Pakistan to the physics community of the world.

Sadly, instead of honouring a son of the country the government is ignoring the call for tributes to appease the religious extremists because Dr. Salam was an Ahmadi.

It was during Zia-ul-Haq's oppressive rule when Ahmadis were banned from calling themselves Muslim and building their mosques in the Islamic Republic. Their places of worship were shut down or desecrated by hard-line Islamist with the support of the state.

In the town of Alloway, Scotland, the cottage where the famed poet, Robbie Burns lived has been preserved for future generations. It is now a museum honouring the life and times of the 'Bard'. Sadly no such honour has been paid to the house where Dr. Salam resided. Instead of being preserved as a mark of honour it has been allowed to fall into disrepair and the local residents hang their washing from its crumbling walls; a deliberate snub to show that Ahmadis, scientists and Nobel Laureates have no place in Pakistan's history and culture.

Likewise, his headstone was vandalized. It originally read: The first Muslim Nobel Laureate Dr. Abdus Salam. After the vandals were finished it now reads only: Dr. Abdus Salam. The pity of this is that the government shows no reaction whatsoever to the actions of the extremists to belittle his work. There has been no investigation into the vandalism and to be honest, none is expected. This speaks to the apathy of civil society and the institutes of higher learning in that no one has taken notice of this. Does this mean that the country looks upon Dr. Salam as an award winning scientist or as an Ahmadi? Should they not, in fact, be looking upon him as a great man of science who worked for the betterment of his society?

It is a shameful situation in that Pakistan has shown no willingness to respect the scientific achievements of one of its own citizens. Indeed, Dr. Salam's community has contributed more to the creation of Pakistan than any other religious sect or group. The only heroes of the country are the soldiers that are supposed to be guardians of its sovereignty, the Jihadist that operate with the full knowledge of the government to protect the 'purity' of Islam, there is no time for the scientists who work to enlighten society and who wish to run the country on scientific knowledge. They are treated as nothing and when their usefulness is over they are thrown on the rubbish tip.

It is the history of Pakistan that those who have usurped the rights of the people and killed thousands eventually surrender before their enemies. These are the people who are treated as 'heroes'. There is no room for academics in this category. Academics are only seen in the form of their religious and sectarian affiliations.

Despite Dr. Salam's prestigious career and service to his country the government shows no sense of gratitude. In a career spanning 45 years he worked tirelessly to promote training and research into physics. He worked as one of the science advisors to the government from 1960 to 1974 and played a major role in Pakistan's science infrastructure. It would of course, be possible to list all of Dr. Salam's accomplishments but that would just add weight to the argument that the government of Pakistan has turned its back on a man that dedicated his life to the betterment of his country; a country that disowned him because of his faith. In 1974 Dr. Salam, dejected, left Pakistan after the parliament passed a bill declaring the Ahmadiyya sect as non-Islamic.

In her speech to the United Nations at the Periodic Universal Review, the Foreign Minister, Ms Hina Rabbani Khar, talked in flowing terms of the progress Pakistan has made in the past four years in furthering human rights in the country. However, her speech was significant not for what she said but for what she did not; areas which she conspicuously avoided. One of those areas was the harassment and abuse meted out to the Ahmadi community. It is bad enough when the harassment is meted out to the living, but how sad is it when even the dead and buried are abused.

Though Dr. Salam has been treated as persona non grata there would have been hope for Pakistan's civil society in the person of Malala Yousufzai, the young girl of only 15 who stood up the religious extremists and fought for her right, and the rights of other girls of the country to an education. She is the example that Pakistan's civil society should be following. Malala herself has now joined with Dr. Salam in the group of persons that are 'persona non grata'. She is said to be pro-American and some state organisations have also joined in the chorus of hatred towards her. A Muslim group in the United Kingdom, where Malala is undergoing treatment for the gunshot injuries she sustained during the assassination attempt on her life, also declared her eligible for assassination. The group has been angered by her public comments in support of the occupying US forces in the region and her mocking of the hijab and jihad. The group plans to announce the fatwa on November 30 at a mosque which was previously raided by British forces due to its religious extremism.

It is yet to be seen if the UK government will take further action on this mosque and the group which is based in the country. This raises the question as to how long the British government is going to remain silent on the matter.

With regard to the silence of the Pakistan government in the matter of Dr. Salam it is the organs of the state that are allowing this to happen. If the government would cease its policy of appeasement towards the religious extremists and the armed forces there would be more respect shown by all to the true heroes of the country. These heroes are not the Jihadists and hate mongers, they are the people who have worked and continue to work for the betterment of the people and humanity in general.

If the government is not prepared to hold up Dr. Mohammad Abdus Salam as a national asset it is better that they declare him 'persona non grata' so that once and for all he can be deleted from the history books.

*The authors may be contacted at: and

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

A Statement by the Asian Human Rights Commission written and prepared by Stewart Sloan and Danilo Reyes the Desk Officer for the Philippines.

PHILIPPINES: The government must take full responsibility for the safety and wellbeing of Temogen 'Cocoy' Tulawie

In September 2012 the Supreme Court of the Philippines approved the transfer of the trial of Temogen 'Cocoy' Tulawie for murder charges from Davao City to Manila City; and at the time of writing he is now awaiting trial in Manila.

Prior to this, in June 2011 the Supreme Court also granted the petition of the Cocoy's lawyers to transfer the trial from Regional Trial Court of Sulu to that of Davao City. The reason behind the petition was the very real threat to his life by agents acting on behalf of the governor of Sulu, Sakur Tan.

Temogen 'Cocoy' Tulawie was arrested on January 13, 2012 in Davao City in connection with a bombing and charged with multiple frustrated murder and multiple attempted murder. He was forced to confess under torture and despite four sworn and notarized statements confirming his alibi the process of his trial has continued.

Cocoy's counsel applied for a Writ of Amparo which was granted. A Writ of Amparo is applied for when there is serious concern for the safety of the person named therein. In our our appeal: AHRC-UAU-031-2012, we stated:

"The threat on Tulawie’s life is very real. Previously, the Court of Appeals itself granted his petition for a Writ of Amparo, an order which provided judicial protection before his arrest in January 2012. Thus, their new order completely disregards the earlier one; firstly, the grounds on which it agreed to have his case transferred from Jolo, Sulu to Davao City; secondly, the decision reached in his petition for the Writ of Amparo proving the risk on his life."

In September 2012, the Supreme Court of the Philippines issued another order, this time granting the petition of the complainant, Governor Tan, to transfer the trial of the case from Davao to Manila. This order, however, is in principle contradictory to the earlier order of the SC granting Cocoy's petition transferring the trial from Sulu to Davao City due to security concerns.

By their acceptance of the application for the Writ of Amparo the Supreme Court has quite obviously accepted that there is a very real threat to Cocoy's life. The threat on Cocoy's life once transferred to Manila cannot be taken lightly. It is believed that Abu Sayyaf suspects incarcerated in the same facility with Cocoy will carry out the instructions of Tan. The question must then be asked as to why they have granted this transfer which was done at the request of the counsel for Governor Sakur Tan.

It is disappointing that despite the gravity of the threat to Cocoy, neither the court nor the prison officials had taken full responsibility for the safety and well being of 'Cocoy' Tulawie.

The Asian Human Rights Commission appeals to President Aquino to ensure protection for Cocoy. This can be done by giving orders to the Department of Justice (DoJ), which has oversight jurisdiction and control of prisons, for them to ensure that Cocoy's security and safety is adequately ensured. Should Cocoy be murdered, the court will have not only denied his personal right to defend himself, but also to give justice for those who were wounded in the bomb attack. The AHRC is confident that once Cocoy is afforded with due process and fair trial, the proceedings would prove his innocence from the fabricated charges. However, if the threat of assassination is allowed to proceed then Cocoy's guilt or innocence will be a moot point and the government and Supreme Court will have to live with their decisions and lack of action in saving an innocent life.

For further reading please see: PHILIPPINES: Trial of falsely charged Sulu activist now in Manila

# # #

About AHRC: The Asian Human Rights Commission is a regional non-governmental organisation that monitors human rights in Asia, documents violations and advocates for justice and institutional reform to ensure the protection and promotion of these rights. The Hong Kong-based group was founded in 1984.

Friday, November 16, 2012

An Article from the Asian Human Rights Commission

PAKISTAN: Why did the Foreign Minister shy away from the issue of Balochistan in her address to the United Nations?

Stewart Sloan

In her presentation to the United Nations Human Rights Council at the Universal Periodic Review the Foreign Minister, Ms. Hina Rabbani Khar painted a rosy picture of the progress that Pakistan has made over the past four years. However, it was what Ms. Hina Rabbani Khar did not talk about that raised the ire of her audience at that function and around the world. Amongst the items that she failed to mention was the situation in Balochistan.

Balochistan is the largest of the four provinces of Pakistan with a total area almost one half of the entire country. Conversely in terms of population it has the lowest number of people, just fewer than eight million. The province is bordered by Afghanistan to the north and north-west, Iran to the south-west, the Arabian Sea to the south, Punjab and Sindh to the east, and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Federally Administered Tribal Areas to the north-east. The capital city, which is the largest in the province, is Quetta

In 1947 the ruler of Balochistan agreed to join Pakistan on the condition that the defence, currency, foreign office and finance would be controlled by the federal government but that the province would remain otherwise autonomous. However, after death of Muhammad Ali Jinnah Balochistan, along with other princely states was merged into Pakistan. Since then a small group of Baloch nationalists have been in conflict with the Federal Government which has led to an endless series of enforced disappearances and extrajudicial killings; the vast majority of which the government of Pakistan has turned a blind eye to.

Balochistan is rich in natural resources including gold and copper, a fact that the government of Pakistan, and the military, has been quick to take advantage of.

The Frontier Corps (FC), one of the paramilitary forces of Pakistan is based in Peshawar, North West Frontier Province and Quetta, Balochistan and is responsible for protecting the western border regions. Responsible to both the Ministry of States and Frontier Regions and to Army Headquarters the FC comprises of fourteen units based in the North-West Frontier and sixteen units based in Balochistan. It is believed that the FC is allegedly responsible for the vast majority of enforced disappearances and extrajudicial killings that take place in Balochistan. It is also an established fact that they have torture cells in all the major towns and cities. This is borne out by a large number of reports and appeals issued by human rights bodies.

Most of the killings carried out by the FC occur after the enforced disappearances of students, activists and others. The victims are taken in broad daylight from public places in full view of passers-by, often the abductors are accompanied by police officials. When the family members attempt to file First Information Reports at the police stations the officers refuse to record them due to the involvement of the FC. The victim's families are then forced to go to the courts who then order the army to respond to the charges. However, showing their complete contempt for the civilian establishment the army never complies. What happens next though is that once they know that the courts and the public are fully aware that the disappeared person is in their custody they get rid of the evidence by extrajudicially killing the victim and dumping his body on the road side. The number of such killings is estimated to be in the region of 400 for this year alone. However, nationalist groups claim that up to 8,000 persons have been disappeared. There are also reliable reports that 141 children and 315 women who have gone missing are being held or used as labourers in military camps.

Just one example of the enforced disappearances is the case of Mr. Fareed Ahmed Baloch, the son of Haleem Ahmed Balcoh. Fareed Baloch, a final year student of the Balochistan Engineering and Technology University, was abducted from outside the check post of Frontier Corps (FC) at Sariab road, Quetta, capital of the province, on February 9 after 6 pm when he was travelling with his cousin in a three wheeler. He was stopped at the check point by the FC persons along with some persons who were in plain clothes and taken away in a jeep with no registration number. His cousin, Mr. Changez Gichki, tried to intervene and was severely beaten and his cell phone was also snatched along with his wallet. Fareed Baloch was the president of Baloch Students Organisation (BSO-Azad) of district Khuzdar, Balochistan. Since then his abduction by the FC his whereabouts are unknown.

Sadly, as mentioned above it is increasingly difficult to lodge an FIR with the police because they know full well who is behind the abduction. To make matter worse the families of the victims get little relief from the courts. For example, on April 13, 2011 the three member bench of the Supreme Court of Pakistan under the supervision of Justice Javaid Iqbal heard cases of missing persons. Family members of victims whose loved ones were allegedly abducted by state agencies came before the court and provided the details of their cases. The simple fact is that the officers of the FC do not bother to attend court because they have no fear of judicial action being taken against them.

The relatives of the disappeared persons pointed out to the court that they were tired of testifying before judicial bodies as no apparent results had been seen. They also announced that they would not record their statements in future and that, to their knowledge, others would do the same as it was becoming increasingly evident that the judicial bodies set up to investigate enforced disappearances were simply 'going through the motions'.

The enforced disappearances and extrajudicial killings are the responsibility of the government of President Asif Ali Zardari. As head of the state and chief executive there can be no one else to take responsibility for what goes on in his country. Calls for the government to bring the military to heel go unheeded and unless and until the government takes a firm stand these atrocities will continue. President Zardari's policy of appeasement towards the military will not save him if the armed forces decide that his usefulness has come to an end. Pakistan has suffered most of the 62 years of its existence under military dictatorships. Unless the government wants to find itself unemployed it must clamp down on abuses by the military in general and the Frontier Corps in particular. Only then will the human rights abuses, enforced disappearances and extrajudicial killings in Balochistan and other provinces of the country come to an end.

Ms. Hina Rabbani Khar should understand that not mentioning a problem does not mean that the problem does not exist.

Stewart Sloan may be contacted at

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Typhoons, Ironing Boards and Sailboats.
Stewart Sloan

(This article was published in the Sunday Examiner June 9th issue)

In August of 2012 Typhoon Kai Tak missed Hong Kong by a safe margin but still managed to cause a scare. It was a strong storm and at one point it was heading straight towards us. Visions of a day off leapt into, not only my head, but I am sure many others as well. It was not to be and this is probably just as well because even though it passed 200 km south of us the intensity of its winds were felt in all parts of the SAR.

I was anxious, as I am at the onset of any typhoon and it was while I was on my home on the bus that I wondered about this anxiety that borders on panic.

I have lived in Hong Kong all my life and during my childhood typhoons were much more frequent. No doubt changing weather patterns have something to do with this but it wasn't uncommon to have four or five typhoons a year, all of which hit.

My father drummed into us the need for safety. At the first sign of typhoon he would come home and to the dismay of my mother, place masking tape on all the windows. In fact, we never had a broken window and whether this was due to my father's actions or luck I don't know but several of our neighbours suffered the windows being blown in. The result could be quite devastating; glass all over the floor, rain water being driven in by the wind and the resultant damage was something experienced by many. But not us!

Another danger came from the squatter huts that were spread out over the hills in those days. Public housing was still in its infancy and the government was working as fast as they could to get the squatter villages emptied and the people into proper accommodation. The danger came from the makeshift materials that had been used for these shacks; corrugated iron and old timber that had been scavenged from building sites. When these shacks came apart the corrugated iron became flying guillotines and more than a few injuries were caused to people who were struck by them. Sadly, before public housing took root it was not uncommon for the death toll after a bad typhoon to reach into the hundreds.

In my school days we lived in Pokfulam and the Star Ferry was still a well-used means of crossing the harbour. Indeed, the Cross Harbour Tunnel didn't open until 1972. My father would drive me down to the Star Ferry and I would cross the harbour to go to school. I recall on one occasion there was a typhoon warning up but it was not high enough to close the schools and businesses. We were driving through the side streets of Western District and the traffic was beginning to back up, even at that early hour. Suddenly an ironing board that had fallen off someone's balcony or roof landed on the road in front of our car missing up by only a few feet. Then, as we watched in shock a gust of wind picked it up and in an upright position it slammed into the car. Fortunately it didn't hit the wind screen but there was a resounding thump and another gust of wind hefted it over the roof and it disappeared from sight.

There have been some very amusing typhoons. In 1972 when I was stationed at the now defunct Tsing Yi Power Station where the rule was that if you were at home when Number 3 went up you stayed there, and it you were at work, unfortunately, you stayed there as well. Today, Tsing Yi is a transport hub; in 1972 the only way to reach the power station was by water taxi, or Walla Wallas, as we used to call them. This particular typhoon, regrettably I don't recall the name, actually did a figure of eight in the South China Sea and the Number 3 signal stayed up for 3 days. The reason I was so happy was because I was at home when it went up.

In the mid eighties, what was then still the Royal Hong Kong Observatory got into trouble when it put the signal up too soon. Offices and industry closed down only to find out that the typhoon was a fizzle. The Labour Department estimated that millions of dollars had been lost in revenue. What no one thought to point out was that nobody was injured in the rush to get home because everyone had plenty of time. Now we seem to have the opposite situation. As soon as the typhoon reaches a safe distance from the SAR the Observatory lowers the signal totally ignorant of the rain bands that cause as much havoc as the typhoon itself for hours or even days after the beast has gone away.

I have never been in real danger from a typhoon and therefore don't understand the anxiety that I feel whenever one is reported. There was one occasion in 1976 when I was spending a long weekend on a friend's 43 foot sailboat. I was new to sailing but the skipper was ex-Royal Navy and the other two members of the crew were experienced, having sailed Hong Kong waters for several years. One night we were moored off Cheung Chau and sitting in the cockpit at dusk having enjoyed a curry dinner when one of the crew pointed up at the clouds way above us. They were stringy and scattered and this, the fellow told us, was an indication of strong winds in the region. What he didn't say was that there was probably a typhoon in the region. The skipper didn't show any concern, nor did the others so I didn't think anymore about it. But I remember thinking at the time that we hadn't listened to a weather report since setting sail two days ago.

The following morning was quite different. The weather was obviously bad; no rain but strong winds reaching Force 8 or 9. The sea was high and white. Now we turned on the radio and discovered that the Number 8 signal had been hoisted (shut down everything and get to safety NOW!). We set the storm jib and rolled the main down to its minimum (this yacht still had roller reefing, a thing that only older sailors will recall and most current sailors will have never experienced) and set sail for Aberdeen Typhoon Anchorage. It was an exhilarating journey and I was too awestruck by the elements to be afraid. All too soon it was over and we were safely moored in Aberdeen. But I have never forgotten the indifference of the skipper and crew, all of which had far more experience than I at the first sign of potentially bad weather, and who, quite frankly, should have known better. At the first sign of the scattered clouds we should have checked the weather station and it we had we would have found out that Number 3 had been hoisted and that the typhoon was on its way towards us.

So I don't mess around in typhoons. With the first sign that one is in the area I check the Hong Kong Observatory. If there is the slightest indication that the thing is going to come close I pack up and go home whether the closing down signal has gone up or not. Where typhoons are concerned I will always follow my father's advice. Better to be safe than sorry.

November 15, 2012

An Article from the Asian Human Rights Commission

This article was also published by the Interfaith Cooperation Forum Newsletter and may be found at:

PAKISTAN: Violence against the Ahmadi community, a religious minority continues unabated

Stewart Sloan
(This is Part II of a series of articles on the problems of religious minorities in Pakistan)

With its reelection to the Human Rights Council Pakistan must now show the world that it is serious about fulfilling its international obligations. One area that needs urgent attention is the violence committed against religious minorities, in particular the harassment and violence perpetrated against the Ahmadis, which often happens with the cooperation of the police.

On October 19 Mr. Saad Farooq was returning home after attending congregational prayers with his family. Farooq, an Ahmadi, was riding his motorcycle while his family travelled in a car. Unknown men, also on a motorcycle approached him from behind and shot him in the head. Farooq died on the spot. The assailants then turned their attention to the car in which Farooq's father, brother, father-in-law and others were seated and opened fire. Three of them were injured and taken to a hospital.

Mr. Saad Farooq was an active member of the Karachi Ahmadi community. Recently married he leaves behind a grieving widow. He was 26 years-of-age.

A few weeks earlier on October 4, Khawaja Zahur Ahmad (64), was shot dead near his home in Satellite Town. The bullet struck him below the right ear. Friends and neighbours rushed him to the hospital but he died en route. A few months prior to Ahmad's assassination religious extremists had gathered outside his home shouting slogans. Ahmad was a peaceful and respectable citizen and had no dispute with anyone. He was killed only for his faith.

Mr. Riaz Ahmad Basra was shot dead in Ghatialian, District Sialkot on October 18. Raja Abdul Hamid Khan and Mr. Bashir Ahmad were killed in Baldia Town four days later, on October 23 and the list goes on and on and on. These were targeted killings of Ahmadis.

On August 20 in Ghatialian, the police registered a case against four Ahmadis after they received the complaint of a mulla, Qari Afzal. The reason behind the complaint was that they had hurt his feelings and intimidated him. Those named in the case were Mr. Naeem Ahmad, Mr. Gulfam Naeem, Mr. Ahsan Ramzan and Mr. Shahid Abdullah. Interestingly, three of the accused were not even present at the time of the alleged incident which would appear to indicate that it was a fabricated charge. At the initial hearing temporary bail was obtained for them. However, on October 15, the Additional Session Judge of Pasroor changed the applied penal code in the case with PPC 298-C, an anti-Ahmadiyya clause, and rejected the temporary bail. The police arrested all the accused and sent them to jail until a new bail application was moved in the Magistrate's Court which was granted on October 23. The accused still face trial.

Anti Ahmadiyya activities are nothing new but incidents have risen steeply in District Hafizabad with the desecration of an Ahmadiyya graveyard by the police. This was done on the instructions of a group of mullas. The police officials urged the Ahmadis to commit the desecration themselves and when they refused a group of men went to the cemetery and erased Islamic inscriptions from the gravestones.

The problems for the Ahmadis started with the amendment to the Constitution in 1973 during the reign of Zulfika Ali Bhutto which declared them as 'non-Muslim'. However, it was during the regime of General Zia Ul Haq that they were truly disenfranchised. Ahmadis were denied the right to declare themselves as Muslim. They were not allowed to build mosques similar to those of the Muslims. They could not write or inscribe Quranic verses on their walls of their mosques. And as mentioned earlier, even inscribing Quranic verses on their gravestones left them open to attack by religious zealots.

Sadly the sectarian prejudice against Ahmadis even extends to their right to education; another area in which the government has failed miserably to live up to its responsibilities.

Ms Afshan Malik was a student in the Government Degree College for Women, Gulshane Ravi, Lahore. Ms. Malik participated in the Natiya (poems in the honour of the Holy Prophet PBUH) competition in the Punjab Youth Festival. The Chief Minister of the Punjab, who was present at the event liked her recital so much that he asked to recite another Naat while the results was being compiled. She did so and was loudly applauded by the audience. She was awarded the first prize and a trophy.

After a few days her rivals came to that the two Naats she recited were written by the Ahmadi elders and started to harass her in the college. They tried even get a police case registered against her and when the situation became serious she had to discontinue her studies. Later, for their safety the entire family had to shift their residence.

Once again the question begs to be asked: where is the religious freedom that Ms. Hina Rabbani Khar spoke of in her address to the United Nations at the Universal Periodic Review? Now that Pakistan has been reelected to the Human Rights Council this must be the time for the government of President Asif Ali Zardari to live up, not only to the pledges it made to the UN four years ago but more importantly, to the wording in the country's Constitution which guarantees freedom of religion for all.

*Stewart Sloan may be contacted at and welcomes feedback and suggestions for future articles on the religious minorities of Pakistan.

An Article from the Asian Human Rights Commission

PAKISTAN: Despite being reelected to the Human Rights Council religious minorities continue to suffer abuse and harassment

Stewart Sloan
Pakistan was reelected to the UN Human Rights Council with a thumping majority vote. It was one of the highest votes received by any country and it somehow managed to do this with a human rights record that shows little compliance with the pledges made in 2008.

The ongoing excuse for the continuation of human rights abuses and non-compliance with the international obligations is the fight against terrorism, defence of sovereignty and national interests. However, despite this claim there seems to be little progress in the fight against terrorism and this may be witnessed by the almost daily attacks by religious extremists and Talibani elements from both within and without the country's borders.

The rhetoric from the country's leaders speaks of their fight against terrorism and their commitment to ensuring freedom of religion and equality for all. However, while they are happy to spout these in international forums their actions behind closed doors do not bear this out. It is not possible that the voting countries are unaware of this and it casts doubts on the sincerity of the country's that voted for Pakistan's reelection. Could it be that they are happier with the devil they know and are afraid of what might happen if they have no control whatsoever over that devil's actions.

Pakistan will undoubtedly be proud of the number of votes it received but will this lead to the false idea that the country must be doing something right and therefore may continue to ignore their international obligations. Reelection should be a reward for doing something right. Perhaps now might be the time for the country to prove that it is worthy of this reward by complying with its obligations. Now might be the time for the international community to ask for a definitive answer as to when Pakistan is going to abolish the blasphemy laws, introduce legislation to make torture a crime and ensure that the military is placed firmly under the Constitution in order the stop the enforced disappearances and extrajudicial killings that inevitably follow.

It was just a few short weeks ago when Hina Rabbani Khar, the Foreign Minister and head of the Pakistan delegation stood before the UN at the Universal Periodic Review and assured her audience that freedom of belief and religion was practiced in Pakistan. She obviously does not read the newspapers. Perhaps such a thing is below her and she waits for one of her aides to inform her of what is going on in the real world. Perhaps her aides do not consider the harassment and physical attacks on members of the Hindu minority to be a matter worthy of their or her attention. Whatever the case, harassment and attacks on the Hindu minority are a very real occurrence and one that the government of Pakistan is turning a blind eye to in their ongoing policy of appeasement of the religious extremists.

In one of the most recent incidents on November 8, a group of Islamic extremists arrived at a Hindu temple on the outskirts of one of the country's largest cities, Karachi, shouting, "Kill the Hindus, kill the children of the Hindus." The group, which was armed with pistols, destroyed the temple fittings and ripped off the golden bangles worn by the women. The men and women were beaten indiscriminately and the attackers were so sure of their impunity from any action from the authorities they did not even bother to conceal their identities or cover their faces.

This was not an isolated case; indeed, it was the second time this particular temple has been attacked, and there have been many such incidents reported. Even Muslims who speak out in public in defence and support of Hindus leave themselves open to attack.

Marvi Sirmed is an outspoken defender of democracy and human rights. She has particularly spoken out on the rights of minorities such as the Hindus, Christians and Shias. Marvi had been receiving threats from rightwing and extremist groups for several months now and for her own security has had to change her place of residence.

On November 3, unidentified gunmen opened fire on the car in which Marvi Sirmed was traveling but fortunately she and her driver escaped unharmed. The attack took place in the Pakistani capital, Islamabad. The police announced that they have started an investigation into the attack but, perhaps not surprisingly, no results have been forthcoming.

More recently Marvi Sirmed was instrumental in the recent campaign to free Rimsha Masih, a Christian girl who was wrongly accused of blasphemy after a Muslim cleric planted evidence against her.

Another area of concern which involves members of the Hindu and Christian minorities is that of forced marriage and conversion. Typically a Hindu girl goes missing and when she next contacts her family they find that she has been married to a Muslim boy. There have been numerous court hearings in several cases to determine whether the conversion was voluntary and in each case students from nearby madrassas attend court to intimidate the judges by chanting demands that the conversion be confirmed. An NGO worker said that in the 100 cases that he had personally worked on only one girl had been safely returned to her family. The government's policy of appeasement also finds its way into the courts.

There is now a mass exodus of Hindus from Pakistan which is noted but ignored by the government who is doing nothing to provide them with the protection guaranteed by the Constitution. It is generally believed that the impetus for this exodus was the case of the forced conversion and marriage of a Hindu girl, Rinkle Kumari. Even a Sou Moto action by the Supreme Court of Pakistan yielded no favourable results and the girl herself, perhaps realising the helplessness of her situation, opted to remain with her Muslim 'husband'. Rinkle's relatives allege that she was forced to decide in favor of her husband and her uncle said that the Hindu community had submitted to the kidnapping for ransom practices against them; however, kidnappings of girls followed by forced conversions so alarmed the community that their fear increases with every passing day.

At the time of the creation of the country the Hindu community had the choice of remaining with Pakistan or immigrating to India. They chose to remain loyal to a country whose government is now turning a blind eye to the harassment and abuse perpetrated by the religious extremists who are allowed to spread their messages of hatred with impunity.

The glowing image that the Foreign Minister, Hina Rabbani Khar, painted of Pakistan blatantly ignored the harassment and abuse of Hindus, Christians, Shias and the Ahmadiya community. She ignored the several attacks on members of the Shia community in which buses were stopped by people in military uniform, the Shias identified, lined up on the side of the road and shot, execution style. Likewise, she made no mention of the assassinations of members of the Ahmadiya community who are persecuted and harassed. Interestingly, on the very day that the Foreign Minister was giving her speech to the UN the Ahmadiya community was forbidden to hold their Eid celebrations and was prevented from holding prayer meetings like the other Muslims. One can only laugh at the Foreign Minister when she claims that religions minorities enjoy complete freedom. She was fully aware when she gave her speech that the Ahmadiya community is disenfranchised and forbidden to vote in the general elections so that they can have a voice in parliament.

So much for freedom of religion!

Pakistan must show the world that it is worthy of being a member of the Human Rights Council. Now is the time for the country to abolish the blasphemy laws, introduce legislation to make torture a crime and ensure that the military is placed firmly under the Constitution in order the stop the enforced disappearances and extrajudicial killings that inevitably follow.

*Stewart Sloan may be contacted at: