Thursday, December 12, 2013

PAKISTAN: Whereabouts of 9,120 arrestees from Karachi remain unknown

I prepared this Statement on behalf of the Pakistan Desk of the Asian Human Rights Commission. It is high time the government of Pakistan started protecting the people they have sworn to protect.

A Statement by the Asian Human Rights Commission

The suspects are missing after arrest and 150 have been extrajudicially killed during the last three months of the “Karachi operation”

The federal government has started an operation in Karachi, the capital of Sindh, under the title: “Targeted Operation” with the support of the police and Pakistan Rangers. The operation, which commenced on September 5, is supposedly against the increase in targeted killings, extortion, kidnappings and incidents of terrorism including bomb blasts. The Pakistan Rangers has been given powers of arrest and detention of the suspects including permission to shoot on sight. The operation has mainly focused on Lyari, the Baloch dominated area and one ethnic political party.

The photos reveal that the arresting officers wore head masks during their targeted operations. The question which begs to be asked is, if indeed, the operations are perfectly legal why should they be afraid to reveal their identities. Also, the second picture shows the suspects also wearing head masks standing before a cache of weapons supposedly taken at the time of arrest. The photos are reproduced courtesy of News Tribe and the Daily News.

During the last three months of the operation, from September 5 to December 5, according to official report, 10,620 persons were arrested on several charges. However, contrary to this figure, the two jails operating in Karachi claim that only they have received 1,500 suspects. The police and Pakistan Rangers, who at the end of every 30 days issue their report on their successes, have not mentioned the whereabouts of the remaining 9120 suspects. The correct figures about the encounters and extra judicial killings were not available but through reports published in the media more than 150 persons were killed in mysterious encounters after their arrests and torture during the interrogation.

Prime Minister Sharif has taken step of commencing the operation in Karachi after the increase in crime, target killings, extortion, sectarian violence and bomb blasts. Chief Minister, Qaim Ali Shah, was designated the operational commander. Despite the operation there has been no reduction in the crime rate during the last three months. Every day in Karachi an average of ten persons become victims of targeted killing and sectarian violence and the so called 'operation' has not yielded any positive results to halt the crimes.

The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) is very much concerned about the number of missing persons after their arrest by the law enforcement authorities and the extrajudicial killings of 150 persons in encounters. Every day the news is received of the killing of at least one person in custody or in an encounter. In several cases the family members of the arrested erson stated that the victim was arrested from their homes but later it was announced that they were killed in an encounter or died in detention. The authorities have not produced any of these persons before the media for identification.

It is quite clear that the police and Rangers are working with ill-intent as not a single man has been presented in court after arrest during the last three months nor have the family members been told of their whereabouts or have been allowed to meet them.

It is also appalling that despite the large number of missing persons no questions have been raised in parliament.

The relatives are legitimately concerned that the victims would be killed in the illegal detention centers by the torture they are sure to be subjected to or in a fake encounter.

The AHRC terms the ‘targeted operation’ as a gross violation of the constitution and law of the land and believes that its purpose is to make the mockery of the rule of law. If the purpose of the operation was to control the killings and terrorism in Karachi then there would have been a visible reduction in such incidents. However, the law enforcement agencies, including the Rangers and the police are scoring to show their efficiency. There is always a blame game between the police and Rangers for interfering in each other’s affairs and destroying the law and order situation. When the joint operation was started both the law enforcement authorities tried to show their effectiveness by conducting raids at the victim's houses, arresting as many as possible and killing them in so called encounters. In addition to extortion, target killings and sectarian violence the citizens are now facing new kind of state violence in the name of a targeted operation.

It is evident that the operation is being conducted in phases. The first and second parts of the operation have now been completed with the arrest and enforced disappearances of 9,120 persons and the extrajudicial killings of 150 persons. The third phase is likely to be even worse and it is expected that the numbers of disappeared persons, fake encounters and extrajudicial killings will increase. One can expect that many more innocent people will be disappeared.

The dignity and lives of the people means nothing to the government of Pakistan whose only action is a smokescreen to make it look as if they are doing something to fight crime. The people are merely cannon fodder in the name of 'law enforcement'. The authorities have once again proved themselves incapable of maintaining law and order and controlling the terrorism that virtually rules the country.

It is the sole responsibility of the government of Pakistan to either release the arrested persons or reveal their whereabouts. If, indeed, there are viable charges to be laid against them they must be produced in court immediately. It must be asked why the government of a democratic country is arrogantly ignoring the laws of the land and the international norms.

The AHRC urges the government to ensure the recovery of the 9,120 persons who were arrested during the operation, as according to official sources. These people must be immediately brought before a court of law. Furthermore, officers in charge of the Police and Pakistan Rangers must be prosecuted for keeping thousands of arrested persons in illegal custody and extrajudicially killing them in fake encounters.

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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.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

The Sea Gypsies - The Badjao meet Joseph

Dear Friends,

I am happy (and a little proud) to inform you that one of Airyn's poems, 'Badjaos meet Joseph' has been used on the back cover of a book published by the organiser of the Badjao project, Joseph Zanetti Jr. in collaboration with Rochelle Rubio.

FYI (From Wikipedia) The Bajau (/ˈbædʒɔː/, also spelled Badjao, Bajaw, Bajao, Bajo, Badjau, or Badjaw), are a Moro indigenous ethnic group of Maritime Southeast Asia. The Bajau continue to live a seaborne lifestyle, making use of small wooden sailing vessels (such as the perahu and vinta). They are also known as Sama or Samal.

The Bajau are traditionally from the many islands of the Sulu Archipelago in the Philippines, as well as parts of the coastal areas of Mindanao and northern Borneo. In the last fifty years, many of the Filipino Bajau have migrated to neighbouring Malaysia and the northern islands of the Philippines, due to the continuing conflict in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao. Currently, they are the second largest ethnic group in the Malaysian state of Sabah, making up 13.4%[1] of the total population. Groups of Bajau have also migrated to Sulawesi and Kalimantan in Indonesia, although figures of their exact population are unknown.[3]

Bajau have sometimes been referred to as the "Sea Gypsies", although the term has been used to encompass a number of non-related ethnic groups with similar traditional lifestyles, such as the Moken of the Burmese-Thai Mergui Archipelago and the Orang Laut of southeastern Sumatra and the Riau Islands of Indonesia. The modern outward spread of the Bajau from older inhabited areas seems to have been associated with the development of sea trade in sea cucumber (trepang).

Monday, December 2, 2013

The Neglected Genocide

The Neglected Genocide - Human rights abuses against Papuans in the Central Highlands, 1977-1978, co-published by the Asian Human Rights Commission and ICP (Human Rights and Peace for Papua), is a report detailing a series of human rights abuses that took place in the Central Highlands of Papua, during the military operations in 1977-1978. In this publication, the AHRC reports that at least 4,146 Papuans, including children, women, and the elderly were killed. The research found that the methods of killing employed by the Indonesian military at that time included aerial bombings and strafing of villages using America-supplied Bronco OV-10 planes as well as indiscriminate shooting.

Apart from the killings, interviews conducted by the AHRC with the victims also revealed that sexual violence against women; torture and ill-treatment of Papuans by the Indonesian military were common at that time. The military were also reported to have burned the houses and destroyed the crops of the Papuans forcing to leave their homes and go into hiding. Some of the Papuans went to the jungles where access to food, water and protection from diseases was limited. Some others fled to the neighbouring country, Papua New Guinea.

In this report, the AHRC argues that the aforementioned series of atrocities amount to genocide as defined by the Convention for the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in 1948.

I am pleased to have worked with the Indonesia Desk of the AHRC in the editing and preparation of this publication.

PHILIPPINES: Massacre victims' family to mark 4th year anniversary by protest, candle light, Nov. 23

(Four years ago on November 21st a horrendous massacre took place in Maquindanao in the Southern Philippines on the island of Mindanao. The family members of the victims still seek justice with no help or assistance from the government of President Aquino. I was proud to have been asked to assist in the writing of this Press Release by the Philippines Desk of the Asian Human Rights Commission)

November 22, 2013


(Hong Kong, November 23, 2013) Myrna Reblando, widow of journalist Alejandro "Bong" Reblando, one of the journalists killed in Maguindanao massacre, will join the victims' families and lawyers' group as they commemorate the 4th year anniversary of the massacre in General Santos City from Hong Kong.

Speaking to the Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC), Atty. Gilbert Bandiola, a member of the Union of People's Lawyer in Mindanao (UPLM), said the victims' families will hold a protest, forum and light candles at cemetery in General Santos City.

For her part, Myrna said since she could not be physically present with the other families; she will monitor the local activities and will also light candles here in Hong Kong in solidarity with other families.

Bandiola said some of the victims' family had already visited the scene where the massacre took place four years ago on November 21. His former colleagues, Atty. Concepcion Brizuela and Atty. Cynthia Oquendo, human rights lawyers, were among those killed in the massacre. See the list of victims here.

He further said they will also conduct a forum on "Warlordism and Impunity" at the Mindanao State University (MSU)-Gensan campus tomorrow, November 23. The forum will discuss how and why extrajudicial killings and impunity remains pervasive in areas where warlords continue to exist.

Myrna said of these events: "This incident (the Maguindanao massacre) and the families of the victims are part of this tragic history. We need to keep on reminding the people that we are still continuing the fight."

Myrna said she hopes she could also air her sentiments at the forum, notably the difficulties she is facing after leaving from her country due to threats on her life, via long distance communications from Hong Kong.

Earlier, Myrna wrote and read the poems to pay tribute to her husband and all the families of the victims of the massacre.

To read and view her videos, please see:

Maguindanao massacre widow's poem - "You and me against the world"

Maguindanao massacre widow writes a poem to pay tribute to her husband and other victims

Another reason to go vegan

Torture - Asian and Global Perspectives

(I was recently asked to write a review for the latest issue of Torture - Asian and Global Perspectives, a magazine which is jointly published by the Asian Human Rights Commission and DIGNITY).

November 28, 2013

John Stewart Sloan

The latest issue of Torture - Asian and Global Perspectives covers the issue of military torture in the article, Psychodynamic - Military torture in UN peace operations. This article by Claus Kold raises the question of human rights abuses committed by soldiers attached to UN peace keeping operations. In the introduction to the article, Kold comments:

".....soldiers deployed by the UN end up torturing the civil population they are supposed to protect and help. While it may seem somewhat likely that soldiers in war operations end up torturing a much hated enemy, it seems profoundly at odds with the basic values and goals of a UN peace operation. So, why do some soldiers deployed in UN peace operations end up torturing?"

Kold examines the situation at considerable length and, amongst other things, concludes that:

".....human nature and alarmism are still part of military attitudes, even in peace operations. Traditional nationalism, ........ observations can only find few slight changes in military ideology; this probably means that the military identities are still at work in peace operations".

The article 'The right against torture is not justiciable in Asia' by Basil Fernando covers the theme of the contradiction between the international law obligation to ensure justiciability of the right against torture and the impossibility of the realisation of this due to the extreme defectiveness of the legal systems in Asia. The implications of the right for justiciability is analysed and the requirements of justiciability is contextually analysed in terms of specific countries, India, Pakistan, Thailand Nepal, Malaysia, Sri Lanka, the Philippines, Bangladesh, Burma, Cambodia, China, Vietnam and Singapore.

The crucial issue is: who is to investigate torture. There is popular disbelief about the police investigating torture committed by themselves, the same is true about military torture. Therefore, an independent agency which has the capacity to competently conduct criminal investigations is the sine qua non of investigations and justiciability. However, the stake holders resist the creation of such an independent investigating body. The governments bow down to this pressure. The stake holders justify their resistance on the basis that given the primitive nature of the criminal justice systems they operate in they cannot do without torture. If the government really wants to resolve this problem they need to reform and modernise the criminal justice systems where investigations into crime can be conducted without resorting to torture. Thus, the responsibility lies with the governments to ensure such reform. On the other hand the national institutions such as the human rights commissions by their very nature are incapable of conducting criminal investigations competently.

The Practice of Witch Hunting by Anjuman Ara Begum reveals the violence perpetrated against women accused of practicing witchcraft in India. The paper reveals that:

Offences related to witch hunting have been reported from various states like Rajasthan, Gujarat, West Bengal, Bihar, Maharastra, Madhya Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, and Orissa. Media sources have revealed that 2,556 women have been branded as witches and killed in India between 1987 and 20032. In the state of Bihar alone, around 522 cases of witch hunting were registered between 1991 and 2003.

A ‘witch’ or its Assamese vocabulary ‘daini’ in Assam is used to identify a male or female is alleged to have magical powers that it used to bring evil to the community. ‘Witches’ are in most cases women who are alleged to use their evil powers to harm others. In fact, however, many of those accused of witchcraft are simply vulnerable women and children, the elderly or the mentally ill, and are sometime the victims of an accuser’s personal grudge. In many cases they are killed with impunity. Despite several voices against it practice the culture is rampant and is quite common among the communities Rabha, Hajong, Mishing, Bodo, Adivasi etc in the state of Assam. It has been reported that 2,556 women were designated as witches and killed in India between 1987 and 2003.Witch hunting is mostly committed by private individuals or non-state actors and is an abuse of right to life.

The latest issue of ‘TORTURE: Asian and Global Perspectives’, published by the Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) and Danish Institute Again Torture (DIGNITY), is now available online at .


When Freedom Replaced ‘Patriotism’- by Nilantha Ilangamuwa - Page 2

‘I Never Justified Torture’- Col. Lawerence Wilkerson - Page 5

‘Capitalism, The Rule Of Law And Human Dignity’ - James Otteson -Page 10

‘Torture Criminalised, What Next? - Saber Hossain Chowdhury- Page 16

Reform Police To Benefit From Anti Torture Law - By Md. Ashrafuzzaman Page 74

World Poverty - By Michael Freeman - Page 79

Medieval Torture - By James Mcdonald - Page 57

Deteriorated System - Page 84
(Interview With A Human Rights Activist)

The Right Against Torture Is Not Justiciable In Asia - By Basil Fernando- Page 51
Paper: The Practice Of Witch Hunting - By Anjuman Ara Begum –Page Page 39

Arrow On The Doorpost – by Ron Jacob - Page 91
Comment, But No Comments – by Baseer Naweed - Page 94
Germinal – by Tisaranee Gunasekara - Page 98
The Correctionist- by Binoy Lampmark - Page 101

How dare we live? - by Karen Malpede - Page 104
Reflections on “Blue Is the Warmest Color” a film by Adellatif Kechiche

New books
The Nellie Massacre of 1983 – by Makiko Kimura – Page 109
The Slacker Torturer - by Ximena Ortiz – Page 111
The Story Of A Survivor (‘A Victim Of Liberian War’) - by Seidy Swaray - Page 119

ISSN 2304-134X ( PRINT) ISSN 2304 -1358 ( ONLINE)

Monday, November 18, 2013

The Nuns, the Volkswagen and the Vampire

(This is what happens when I get bored in the office)

A old story, slightly amended by Stewart Sloan

It was a dark and stormy night and two nuns were driving down a mountain road in Transylvania in an old, decrepit Volkswagen. The driver was Sr. Agatha, an old Irish battleaxe and her passenger was Sr. Maria Gonzalez Alonso Reyes (who was from Spain). Suddenly, without warning, which is usually what happens when something happens suddenly, a hideous vampire landed on the bonnet of the Volkswagen; its eyes were gleaming red and the moonlight (which no one could see because it was a dark and stormy night) glinted off its fangs!

Sr. Agatha, the old Irish battleaxe stomped on the brakes and 45 minutes later the aged Volkswagen crept to a halt.

By this time the vampire was frozen to the bonnet and icicles dripped from its fangs. The only sign of life (or death, as the case might be) was the now even brighter, hungrier gleam in its eyes. Sr. Maria Gonzalez Alonso Reyes (who was from Spain) grasped her Crucifix and said, "Quickly Sister! Show him your Cross!"

Sr. Agatha, the old Irish battleaxe, wound down the creaking window on her side of the aged Volkswagen, pointed a shaking finger at the hideous apparition and said,

(Wait for it)

"You're a very naughty vampire and I'm very cross with you! Now go away!"

Sunday, November 17, 2013

PAKISTAN: A video exposes the fake encounter in which a student leader was extrajudicially killed

(This is a statement which I prepared for the Asian Human Rights Commission. All extrajudicial killings are bad but this one was particularly brutal. Please follow the link to see the Urgent Appeal - and for the video).

November 18, 2013

A Statement from the Asian Human Rights Commission

PAKISTAN: A video exposes the fake encounter in which a student leader was extrajudicially killed

On August 22 the Asian Human Rights Commission issued an urgent appeal, PAKISTAN: A student leader was extrajudicially killed in a fake encounter conducted the intelligence agencies. We have now come into possession of a video produced by the police which was leaked to the AHRC which attempts to prove that Mr. Afzal Panhwar was killed in a legitimate police encounter. However, if anything, the video proves conclusively that the encounter was in fact, a fake and set up by the police.

A Senior Superintendent of Police (SSP) Mr. Saqib Memon, led the police team from the rear and can be seen clearly in several scenes.

The video of the fake encounter, which may be seen here, is in Urdu and Sindhi but English subtitles start at 1:35 and continue up to the end.

Viewers please note that the video is graphic in detail.

The AHRC mentioned in the aforementioned urgent appeal that Panhwar was arrested and taken to a jungle area at the bank of the River Indus at Kotri, Sindh province. It is shown clearly in the video that his arm was broken severely which poses the question as to how he might have fired upon the officers.

The video was forwarded to the AHRC by some Sindhi speaking police officials who were distressed at the blatant and violent killing of a young Sindhi nationalist who surrendered voluntarily to the police earlier when they raided his house.

Police encounters are a method used by the law enforcement authorities to avoid legal process and embarrassing questions as to how suspects died in their custody.

In the pretext of fighting the war of terror the police and intelligence agencies have adopted a strategy whereby they can arrest and kill innocent and peaceful citizens in fake encounters and get fame, rewards and promotions from the government. This phenomenon is commonly used in Balochistan province where every year around 70 to 80 persons are killed in the custody of the security agencies after their enforced disappearances. The Chief Minister of Punjab province is notorious for using fake encounters. Shahbaz Sharif introduced this method of avoiding unwanted questions in 1997. When coming into power he employs police officers who are experts in arranging such encounters. In 2012 no less than 57 ordinary persons were killed in fake police encounters.

Seeing this innocent young man's face on the video brings home the horror of this senseless crime which is being perpetuated by the law enforcement agencies. Fake encounters are the result of a society that has little or no criminal justice system. They are a tried and true method of getting rid of unwanted personalities with as little fuss and bother as possible. The police merely need to convince the public that an encounter has taken place by revealing a dead body or bodies. As the police are the only living witnesses to the encounter there is no one to testify on behalf of the victim.

The AHRC urges the government of Sindh province to arrest the SSP and the other officers involved in this extrajudicial killing and prosecute them on charges of murder. The Sindh government must send a clear and concise message to the law enforcement agencies that this type of brutality will no longer be tolerated.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

WORLD: The human rights movement strongly recommends Malala Yousafzai for the Nobel Peace Prize

This is a Statement which I helped to prepare for the AHRC. Many other people assisted but it is important, amongst other things, in that it portrays the commitment and dedication of the Pakistan Desk Officer, Baseer Naveed, to ensure international recognition for this brave young lady.

A Statement by the Asian Human Rights Commission

In this age where women and girl children do not receive the protection promised to them by the constitutions of so many countries the challenge for the human rights community in this century is to uplift their rights and lives. The struggle must include equality for women and justice for the violence perpetrated against them.

In her valiant determination for the right to education Malala has become a symbol of this tremendous struggle.

On Friday, October 11, 2013, the Nobel Peace Prize will be awarded to a global champion of peace and human rights. Malala Yousafzai, a 16 year-old-girl from the Swat Valley of Northeast Pakistan, the youngest ever nominee of the prestigious award, is a deserving front runner for the prize for her courage in standing up to the Pakistani Taliban and fighting for her right to be educated.

The committee consisting of notables from all over the world will meet to select the winner of this year's prize. The Asian Human Rights Commission as a regional organisation, on behalf of the human rights movement, strongly recommends Malala as the recipient for the Peace Prize. The human rights movement has not witnessed anyone of the caliber of Gandhi and Mandela since Malala Yousafzai first entered the arena to fight for her right to education. In doing so she stirred water that had remained stagnant for several decades. And the circles generated by the stirring of this stagnant water have engulfed the entire international community. This 16-year-old girl has seized the attention of scholars, academics, Nobel Laureates, journalists, writers, human rights activists and even the people at street level. For the youth of the world, especially those girls who are suppressed by primitive societies and conservative mindsets she has become a symbol and source of inspiration. Malala, at such a young age, must take the credit for having united the people of the world in the recognition of the extreme importance of the right to education as a basic step for human development.

The AHRC respects the other nominees and fully recognises the contributions they have made for world peace. However, the contribution of this young lady deserves particular attention due to the threats she has faced and continues to face. Awarding her this prize would acknowledge the inalienable right to education by girls and women of all ages.

Malala Yousafzai, coming from a country like Pakistan, which is torn by corruption, impunity, terrorism, and militancy, has become a beacon of hope to the millions of young Pakistani girls who want nothing more than to go to school. She began her journey in 2009 after being invited to write for a BBC blog entitled ‘Diary of a Pakistani School Girl’. She described her daily fears of going to school amid threats from the Taliban, generally considered to be most serious terrorists in the world. She and many other young students refused to bow to their demands to quit school and continued to risk their lives to attend classes.

Her life in Pakistan came to an abrupt halt when she was shot in the head on a school bus heading home on October 9, 2012. Her miraculous recovery and continued dedication to her cause have made her a household name. Rather than stopping her, the Taliban attack served only to amplify Malala’s message.

Continuing a campaign for the rights of young women to receive an education after an assassination attempt is laudable, and even more so at Malala’s young age. Malala recently celebrated her 16th birthday with an address to the UN. This month also marks the one year anniversary of her attempted murder. She follows in the steps of other civil leaders before her as she peacefully campaigns despite continued threats. She has been targeted and slandered by members of the Taliban and some sections of the Pakistani media, whom claim she is being used by the West to shame Pakistan.

Education in Pakistan is in dire need of reform, especially in regard to gender equality. The Education for All Global Monitoring Report claims that of the 5.1 million children out of school in Pakistan, about 63% of them are girls. The Education Index ranks Pakistan 113 out of 120 assessed countries. While factors including mismanagement of funds, corruption, and impunity all contribute to these poor figures, much of the education disparity can be accredited to draconian interpretation of Islamic law and the disvaluing of women.

Too often, Pakistani women are pulled out of school at a young age, often to prevent harassment, attend to household chores, or to be married off. Pakistan ranks 133 out of 135 overall in the 2010 World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap report, behind Iran, Saudi Arabia, and Nigeria. Pakistan placed 127 out of 135 in terms of Educational Attainment and dead last in Economic Participation and Opportunity.

The Nobel Peace Prize is unique in that while it recognizes previous accomplishments of the recipient, it indicates an ability to continue to fight for peace. Malala is undoubtedly the most recognized and celebrated of this year’s Nobel contenders. Awarding Malala with the Prize would have ramifications far beyond the West. She is a voice to many young students and women who remain in very precarious places around the world.

In her speech to the UN on her sixteenth birthday, Malala stated that “Education is the only solution.” She claims that problems can be stopped before they start with the education of children. If fathers and mothers were properly educated themselves, they would encourage their children to stay in school because education is a fundamental human right. Malala is peaceful not only in her desire not to shame those who shot her, but in her proactive approach to achieve peace through human development and dialogue.

Miss Yousufzai has been a catalyst and a symbol of inspiration in the struggle for women’s rights in the Muslim community and around the world. She is exemplary of how one small voice can make a difference. To award Malala with the 2013 Nobel Peace Prize would represent a milestone in the fight for women’s equality, bring attention to the severity of the problem in Pakistan, encourage proactive exchange, and give hope to the thousands of young women still living under the thumb of the Taliban and Islamic militancy.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Jews, Gays and Mosque Leaders

The following article was written by my good friend and colleague, Baseer Naveed. It is an interesting expose on his reactions to the attitudes of Muslims in Canada. Baseer very kindly allowed me to work on it with him. JS S.

Baseer Naveed

Sitting with the friends and some Pakistanis in Montreal, Canada, a heated debate started over the Jewish conspiracies against Islam and Pakistan. The Pakistanis were very much interested in talking about politics, particularly in the context of the USA, Afghanistan and the past history of Islamic rulers with some unwritten stories to glorify them as remarkable assets.

The participants, sitting in a chilling temperature in a well furnished drawing room, surrounded by many framed photos of the holy places of Saudi Arabia and calligraphies, were telling me of the conspiracies of the Jews with very loud voices. They were saying that Jews do not want Pakistan to be prosperous as it the only country which was created in the name of Islam. I was putting many questions and at every question their reply was in anger. They were saying that Jews have infiltrated the political party of Prime Minister Nawaz Shareef who does not allow operations against the MQM and, according to them the MQM is run by Jews. Shareef has to increase inflation as Jews want this to happen. Drone attacks on Pakistan occur because Jews are behind them.

After such an enlightening and sometimes angry discourse which revealed so much about the Jewish conspiracies we went for dinner. My friends took me to a burger shop called 'Shwartz' and ordered the smoked beef burger. At the shop the word ‘Kosher’ was displayed and I did not know the meaning of this word. I asked them whether the burger was 'Halal' to which they all replied that it was. I then asked them if the shop belonged to a Muslim and they replied that it did not. However, it was part of a famous chain of Jewish eateries and 'Kosher' means 'Halal'. This was somewhat surprising for me as for the last three hours I had been regaled with stories and theories about the Jewish conspiracies against the Muslims of the world. I was a bit irritated and asked them if this was also not a conspiracy of the Jews to sell Halal food.

My question was met with gales of laughter in the burger shop and one person said to me, "Oh Baseer, do not look for conspiracy in everything--leave this bad habit".

I was of the impression that a sizeable number of Pakistanis have migrated to different parts of Canada and the process is continuing, therefore, I would listen to different views of what the media, political parties and religious parties were forcing on us. However, I found the majority of the Pakistanis more conservative than the Pakistanis living back in the country.

There are three most important concerns for the majority of Pakistanis in Canada and the USA. First is the Jews who get blamed every time something bad happens in Pakistan, the second is the Ahmadis and third is the rights of gays, lesbians and transsexuals.

Mosques have appeared in good numbers which is growing steadily. The fundamentalist Muslim leaders have found a good place to settle and feel right at home. They don't hesitate to provoke Pakistan to contribute for Jihad for the implementation of Shariah in the country. In a wedding ceremony a Pesh Imam (prayer leader of a famous mosque) was invited to conduct the marriage ceremony in accordance with the Islamic way. He finally did so but only after he delivered his long, drawn-out speech (which was not based in Islam) on how a bride has to follow the husband's instructions and the husband has every right in that regard.

The Pesh Imam then went on to say that before marriage if the bride and groom have any type of relationship that was unIslamic (Haram). His clear message was that if they had a love affair prior to marriage it was Haram. A whispered laughter came from the audience as every person present knew of the love affairs between the couple for many years. The Pesh Imam was good friend of the father of te bride.

In another meeting with friends and some Pakistanis at Toronto, the issue of Jihad came up in the discussion. The Jihad discussion went to its basis in the Madressas (Muslim seminaries), their curriculum, the hate messages against opposite sects of Islam, producing suicide attackers and, of course, the sexual abuse of children at the seminaries. Interestingly the people were much more interested in talking about the sexual abuse of budding Muslim fundamentalists or homosexual stories of Muslim/mosque leaders. Some shared their young age experience to which they were eye witness when in the Madressas they saw young poverty ridden students, helpless, in the hands of their teachers…and sometimes without clothes.

Everybody was feeling very excited to exchange such stories and making jokes. Suddenly a pious Muslim said that in his mosque a gay came and he delivered a lecture about Islam and he was not there at that time. Being the member of the management committee of Farooqia Masjid, when he came to know about the incident he became angry and ordered the cleaning of the mosque. A silence fell over our joyful meeting, everybody was feeling guilty that he had done something wrong and was trying to change the topic because the pious man changed the mood.

I broke the silence by asking as to why when the Pesh Imam was present at that moment he did not stop the 'gay'. There was no clear answer except that he did not want to turn the mosque into a battle ground. My other question was very irritating for them about the purity of Pesh Imams as they are educated from Madressas, where, as we had already discussed that homosexuality is common.

Again I was made a target and every one explaining the positions of their own mosques and their Pesh Imams but did not refute my allegation that Pesh Imams were from Madressas. No one was to totally refute how they would have been spared of such acts when they were recruited at a young age. One friend became angry and asked me if I was suggesting that they were offering prayers behind the Gays or that Gays were leading our five times prayers in a day?

I simply replied that my comments were based on the following assumptions. They themselves admitted that there was a great deal of homosexuality in the Madressas and that they had even seen Imams having their way with young boys and men. Therefore, it stood to reason that many of these young men that went on to become Imams themselves were 'tainted' with the same desires of their peers. Given the possibility that some of the Pesh Imams were gay it also stood to reason that we were following them in prayer five times a day. I asked if, indeed this was the case as to whether our prayers were justified.

When I finished speaking one of the participants said to me, "Baseer be remain positive, you always see the dark aspect of the thing".

Very harsh remarks were uttered against me such as infidel, apostate and communist. Some accused me of being a blasphemer and declared me as Wajib Ul Qatal (liable to be murdered) but could not carry out that act as I was in Canada where there is strong rule of law and the state provides protection and security to every citizen.

All in all I thoroughly enjoyed my visit and met many interesting and intelligent people. Sometimes when people leave their homes for a foreign land they quickly give up their cultural heritage and this was not the case with the vast majority of Pakistanis that I met. However, I could not help but feel that their belief that the Jews were behind all the evils of the world was somewhat misplaced. There was also a degree of hypocrisy in their attitude towards gays especially considering the very real possibility that many of their Imams are gay. It was also sad and troubling for me to learn that the mosques were being used, as they are in Pakistan, to raise money for Jihad and I saw that as a betrayal of the country which had given them a home.

Monday, September 23, 2013

The story of a survivor

The story of a survivor tells of the trials and tribulations that the author went through as a refugee in Hong Kong. Today Hazel's attitude towards life and her integrity is evidence of her strength and courage. I was pleased to have assisted the Torture: Asian and Global Perspective magazine in the preparation of this article.

(There are millions of stories of people who have narrowly escaped death and struggled to survive. This is a story about a one such survivor who went through a tremendous struggle in her life due to the social disorder in her country of origin. This is the story of Ms. Hazel Le who came from Vietnam, and who spent years in a refugee camp in Hong Kong during the post-Vietnam war period.)

Hazel Le

After the Vietnam War ended in 1975, many people in our country headed to neighboring countries, like Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia and Hong Kong by boat to seek a stable life and a chance to improve their futures. My mother and I sought refugee status in Hong Kong as we heard that it was usually granted and the applicants were eventually accepted by Western countries.

We have been living in Hong Kong for almost 20 years now and seldom talk about the old days since it was a terrible time which we do not want to recall. In 1990, when I was seven, we took a boat from Vietnam to Hong Kong. We were interned in “closed camps” for almost four years as possibilities for resettlement to third countries dwindled. The word “freedom or die” kept repeatedly going through my mind. During the late 1990s, the Hong Kong government began the Bắt đầu từ nay broadcast radio announcement as an attempt to deter Vietnamese migrants from making their way to Hong Kong. I witness many refugees going on a hunger strike to fight for their freedom. In those four years, we experienced strikes, demonstrations and relocation to different refugee camp sites in Hong Kong. I saw people that were repatriated, some got the permission go to a third country but we were one of the fortunate cases in that we were permitted to settle in Hong Kong.

The time in the refugee camp

The word 'freedom' means a lot to me for without it there is little we can do in our lives. The daily topic of conversation was how to escape by climbing over the tall chain link fence. This was not only because we wanted freedom but also because we wanted to escaped from the life in the camp. The conditions in the refugee camps were terrible. There was theft and fights between the refugees every day. The hygiene conditions were also horrible. If winning the Mark Six (the local government lottery) is the dream of every Hong Konger then gaining freedom in a third country was the dream of every Vietnamese refugee. It was not uncommon for people to commit suicide when they learned that they were to be repatriated. I can understand how they felt because some of them had been in the camp for many years. They had spent their whole life saving to come here to seek a better future only to find that their hopes and dreams had been crushed. The feelings of hopelessness and helplessness were prevalent, especially for the children. The only thing we could do was wait and hope.

Life outside of the camp

When I was a teenager, I seldom told others of my nationality and where I was born because I was ashamed of being Vietnamese. Even today there are lots of negative impressions of Vietnamese; that we committed terrible crimes, wasted the country's resources and simply dumped our burden on society. On several occasions I heard of the reactions that some people faced when they revealed that they were from Vietnam.

However, it is no exaggeration to say that we faced real difficulties over the language barrier and racial discrimination. I was unable to enter a school because I was older than the other students. My life was set back four years during the time I spend in the refugee camp. There was only sorrow, hopelessness, depression and tension during those years.

I began to search for meaning of life and realised that education was the only the way out of the darkness. But that gate remained closed for long period. The situation was grim, I experienced a sense of emptiness and felt as if I had no strength with which to overcome the difficulties life presented. Like many people we had dreams and it was only those dreams that kept us going and prevented us from remembering the pain of our daily lives.

Meanwhile, my mother was unable to find a job because everything here was new to her; we were unable to find a house because people had grave concerns for their personal security and they were scared of Vietnamese. There was no support from the government for people like us. If there was it was well hidden and we had no idea of how to access it. It is truly ironic that for the first two years we have to depend on financial assistance from our family in Vietnam.

There was a time when I wished I could return to my homeland, because at least we would not have to face all these obstacles and the discrimination. My mother is a strong and energetic woman, she insisted that at least we make the effort to live here because deserved the freedom that we had been fighting and waiting for, for so long. So we made every effort to survive in this new environment. Once she able to get a job in a restaurant, she immediately sent me to a private education centre to learn Chinese and English. Meanwhile, we kept relocating very often, because the landlords kept increasing our rent just because we are Vietnamese.

When I wasn't attending lessons most of the time I was stayed at home with the lady landlord who prepared lunch and dinner for me as my mother paid her to take care of me. In my childhood I did not have much in the way of entertainment, what little I did have consisted of the television we had in our room. I loved watching television and that is one reason why I can speak very fluent Cantonese. After striving for two years I was qualified to enter the fourth grade of the local school.

I grew up in Hong Kong and I have ‘established’ my life in this city. I belong to it; it has become a part of me. After being here for decades, I believe I’m a 'Hong Konger' rather than a Vietnamese because really, I know so little about Vietnam. In Hong Kong, we have strived hard to build our home and our future, and the space we set aside for us to find the meaning of life made us realise that we love this city. The anxiety we experienced in the past has evaporated and we now have new hopes and dreams. At the same time these new hopes and dreams make us realise the gratitude we have towards the people and government of Hong Kong.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Torture Continues In Sri Lanka: Terrorist Investigation Division Tortures Two Tamil Brothers

This is an Urgent Appeal I prepared for the Asian Human Rights Commission. It was picked up by the COLOMBO_TELEGRAPH and is reproduced below:

This case is yet another illustration of the exceptional misuse of the powers bestowed on state agencies, particularly the Terrorist Investigation Division.

According to the information that the Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) received Mr. Ganeshan Pushparaj (32) and Ganeshan Govi (30) of Odinton Estate, Lindula, Thalawakalle in Nuwara Eliya District has been detained for more than 4 years and 10 months. Pushparaj and Govi are brothers.


Ganeshan Pushparaj
After leaving school Ganeshan Pushparaj worked at the Odinton estate as a laborer. He married Parimala Devi on 16 November 2003 and lived in the same estate. They have a son, P. Sadushan who is now aged 7.

On 15 October 2008 Pushparaj was taken by officers attached to the Terrorist Investigation Division (TID) of the Kandy Headquarters Police Station. At the time they promised that they would record a statement from his and send him home. When the officers took him he was not given any explanation of why they wanted a statement from him.

However he was detained at the Kandy Police Station until 23 December, 2008 (199 days with detention orders) at the TID branch and later transferred to the Hanguranketha Police Station.

During his detention, he was severely tortured and forced to sign blank papers and documents, pleading guilty to crimes that he had never committed or was involved in. He was finally produced before the Magistrate of Teldeniya, the Magistrate of Panvila and the Magistrate of Matale on fabricated charges following which he was detained at Bogambara Remand Prison. Later Pushparaj learned that the Attorney General has filed another two cases again him. The two case numbers were: HC/83/2013 and HC/25/2013. He remains in remand prison due to the constant delays in the hearing of the cases.

Pushparaj’s brother Ganeshan Govi (30) was also arrested on 22 December 2008 following the arrest of Pushparaj and was detained at Katugastota Police Station. Govi has been continuously detained until now. Later he learned detention order No: EER 41/2011 was issued to detain him by the authorities.


Ganeshan Govi
During his detention, he was severely tortured and, similar to his brother, was forced to sign blank papers and documents, pleading guilty to crimes that he never committed or was involved in. Later he was produced before the Magistrate of Matale and the Magistrate of Kandy also on fabricated charges. Now Govi is also detained at Bogambara Remand Prison. He is not married and worked as an electrician. Their mother R. Marudai is living and working at the estate.

Pushparaj was treated in Kandy Teaching Hospital since he was severely tortured by the police officers attached to the TID. Govi also sustained injuries due to the severe torture he suffered in police custody.

The Attorney General also filed one case against him before the Kandy High Court. But the Judge of the High Court released him from that case. However again he learned that another case has been filed by the TID officers at Matale Magistrate’s Court on the 17 June, 2013 against him. So he is therefore still in remand.

Their mother Murudai says her sons were arrested for no reason and detained with fabricated charges. Pushparaj states that he visited his uncle R. Muttusamy who was living in the Northern Province when he was severely ill from old age in 2008 as a ritual and religious tradition. Pushparaj further states that immediately after their visit their uncle died. Pushparaj and Govi’s mother Murudai states that both her sons were detained because they could not pay the TID officers the bribe they demanded for the release of her sons.

Murudai states that she learned that the Kandy TID officers have taken money from families of detainees who have been detained under the Prevention of Terrorism Act, amounting to sums of up to Rs. 2 million to either release them or frame lighter charges. Pushparaj and Govi appeal for Justice and fair trial.


The Asian Human Rights Commission has reported innumerable cases in which innocent people have been illegally arrested, detained and tortured by state agencies. Torture is illegal under international and local law.

The Asian Human Rights Commission received several hundreds of cases where innocent people have been illegally arrested and detained under the Prevention of Terrorism (Temporary Provisions) Act No. 48 of 1979 (PTA). This act has been used by state authorities to conduct mass arrests and detain people indefinitely without producing them before a court of law. Furthermore, this law allows authorities to prosecute the suspects with voluntarily recorded confessions. As a result of these legal provisions, the AHRC has observed hundreds of cases in which suspects who have severely tortured, are forced to sign blank documents or documents which have not been explained to them for use as confessions in court.

The AHRC has issued several Urgent Appeals in recent years calling for justice for the detainees who were illegally arrested and detained under the PTA. The basic principles of rule of law are not respected within the legal system of Sri Lanka. These draconian laws curtail the civil liberties and fundamental human rights of the people of Sri Lanka.

The State of Sri Lanka sign and ratified the CAT on 3 January 1994. Following state obligations, Sri Lanka adopted Act number 22 of 1994 making torture a crime punishable with a minimum of seven years and not less than ten years in prison, on being proven guilty. The Attorney General of Sri Lanka is supposed to file indictments in the case where credible evidence is found of people being tortured by state officers.

Please write to the Sri Lankan authorities expressing your concern about this case and requesting an immediate investigation into the allegations of illegal arrest, illegal detention, torturing by the police perpetrators, and the prosecution of those proven to be responsible under the criminal law of the country for misusing powers of a state. The victim must be released from the prolonged arbitrary detention immediately. The officers involved must also be subjected to internal investigations for the breach of the department orders as issued by the police department. Further, please also request the NPC and the IGP to have a special investigation into the malpractices of the police officers for abusing the state officers’ powers.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Memory Loss, Balconies and Toilet Doors -- Only In Sri Lanka

Published On:Friday, July 12, 2013 Posted by Sri Lanka Guardian
by Stewart Sloan

(July 12, 2013, Hong Kong, Sri Lanka Guardian) There is one thing you can say about Sri Lanka and that is, just when you think things cannot get any stranger they do! Recent stories in the newspapers would appear to bear this out.

Perhaps not the strangest of news was the recent report from the inquiry into the shooting of Bharatha Lakshman Premachandra, allegedly by Duminda Silva. In giving evidence one of the Police Constables present at the scene of the shooting testified that he had 'heard' that after Duminda shot Premachandra he then shot himself in the head after "brutally assaulting a woman". Talk about a busy schedule, what stamina the man must have! And what on earth was the Magistrate doing by allowing hearsay evidence? Under normal circumstances, in any jurisdiction, hearsay evidence will only be accepted in the case of a dying declaration. Perhaps the fact that the Constable had dared to testify affectively signed his death warrant?

Then of course we have to look at the miraculous recovery of Duminda himself. A few months ago the lawyers representing him at the inquiry reported that several eminent physicians stated that he was grievously ill and partially paralysed. They reported that his brain function was down to 40% and full recovery was not expected. Perhaps this was why President Mahinda Rajapaksa allowed him to re-enter parliament. Apparently the loss of 60% of his brain was not considered a barrier to him fulfilling his functions as a Sri Lankan politician. It might also explain as to why he was seen disco dancing at a local nightclub. Let's face it, at his age what man in his right mind would be seen disco dancing?

Moving on; one of the most recent stories to hit the press was that of the Sri Lankan cricketer, Ramith Rambukwella, trying to open the door of a British Airways airplane in mid-flight in the belief that it was the toilet. Hmmm, I would have thought that the difference was quite obvious but who am I to say. Despite the fact that I get drunk on a regular basis I have never had any trouble distinguishing the toilet door from the front door, but then, I'm Scottish. Several reports hit the press simultaneously: he was drunk, he was not drunk just confused, and saving the best one for last: he was sleepwalking. Ramith Rambukwella is of course the son of the Minister for Mass Media and Information, Keheliya Rambukwella who was himself in the news a few months ago. On a business trip to Australia Daddy managed to drink himself into a stupor and found that he'd locked himself out of his hotel room. He decided to climb over the balcony of the adjoining room to let himself back in. Unfortunately he was in such a state that he fell. Fortunately he was only on the second floor so he survived with only a broken leg. He is currently prosecuting the hotel management for incompetency.

There have been reports that Sri Lanka Cricket is considering an inquiry and action against Ramith for causing embarrassment to the sport and the team but in a country where the President's son was allowed to beat up a rugby referee and get away with it I don't think Ramith has anything to worry about.

So, like father like son. Let's just hope they never travel together, I don't think the airline or hotel industries could handle the shock.

Stewart Sloan is the author of four novels and a collection of anecdotes about the Royal Hong Kong Police Force whom he served as a civilian from 1987 to 1997. He works as an editorial assistant at a regional human rights NGO in Hong Kong.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

PAKISTAN: A poem in solidarity with Kainat Soomro - a victim of frayed justice

One of Airyn's poems was used by the Asian Human Rights Commission in the following statement. The statement may be seen here:

A Statement by the Asian Human Rights Commission

PAKISTAN: A poem in solidarity with Kainat Soomro - a victim of frayed justice

Kainat Soomro was violently gang-raped by four men in the rural village of Dadu in southern Pakistan in 2009 when she was 13 years-of-age. As typically happens in Pakistan, rather than rush to the young girl's defence the village elders decreed that she had brought shame upon the village and ordered her family to kill her. The Asian Human Rights Commission earlier reported on the incident in several interventions. Four years later, and after losing her brother who was assassinated by the perpetrators, Kainat continues to struggle for justice. Please refer to:

PAKISTAN: Judge humiliates teenage rape victim in open court
PAKISTAN: Gender-biased judge should be transferred from rape trials
PAKISTAN: The brother of a rape victim has been found murdered three months after his arrest
PAKISTAN: Complainant of a 14-year-old girl's gang-rape case is murdered in order to force the relatives withdrawing the complaint

In solidarity with the Kainat Soomro and as a tribute to her courage, Airyn Lentija Sloan, a Filipino poet based in Hong Kong has written the following poem in response to an article published recently in This article may be seen here.

Frayed Justice (A poem for Kainat Soomro)

Airyn Lentija Sloan

In this ebbing world
how much courage
you'll need
to survive?

Our question
to the unknown

If by chance
you noticed her glance
will you digest the stress...
the despondency...

upon her cheeks they tarry...

perhaps, dust that filth in your eyes
that you might see
her scalded marrow...
the lasting torment of that instance...

her innocence stripped with mud
an unending asylum
where light is trapped
within tearing seconds...

her lifelong demons
eat her nerves
piece by piece
within that mental arena
without escape

they gang-raped

And after bleeding her wound
she was called
for the world to understand
"Black Virgin"

they labeled

Yes, they pushed her under,
from the delicate mortal
that she is...

for what account...
for what misdeed...

a sister?
a family?
a friend?

a suffering victim
fraying for justice,
praying for inner peace

What life is there to live
for such a shattered soul...

another call out to the unknown.

# # #

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.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Ode to the Lady on the Bus -- Beauty and the Beast......

It is not often I write poetry but I was inspired to write this by a lady I came across on the bus one day. She was looking after a young retarded gentleman and her kindness and compassion was evident by the way she cared for him. This poem was posted in Poets Corner in Facebook and may be found at:

Ode to the Lady on the Bus -- Beauty and the Beast......

He was by no means a beast
Rather a simple young man that needed help.

Her beauty was seen, not in her face or body
But in her treatment of the young man......

The manner in which she assured his safety
Making sure that he was seated properly and his seat belt fastened......

The manner in which she assured that he wasn't disturbing anyone else
Not that he was.

I saw her beauty in the way she looked at him
When she thought no one was looking........

And the look in her face was pure love
Like the look I see in your face when you think I'm not looking.

Monday, March 25, 2013

PAKISTAN: The thirst for honour cannot be quenched unless blood is spilt

(This article was uploaded by the Asian Human Rights Commission)

Stewart Sloan
March 26, 2013

Although there is a law in Pakistan against honour killings known as the 'Criminal Law Amendment Act, 2004' these inhuman acts of revenge against innocent people continue to increase. The fact that the law has been amended to include honour killings shows the very real need for this inclusion, however, amending the law alone is insufficient and until and unless action is taken to enforce this law this abhorrent crime will continue.

Despite the fact that honours killings are forbidden they have continue to happen due to the need to undermine women and discriminate against them. In order to do so men are also frequently targeted as 'examples'. Honour killings have been carried out in many ways, shooting, burying women alive, burning and other brutal methods. However, the use of lapidation or stoning to death, takes barbarism to new depths.

In a recent case a government employee from Mianwali District in Punjab was stoned to death by over 300 men led by tribal elders in Parachinar, the capital of the Kurram. When it was found that he was having an affair with a local girl he was transferred to Azad Kashmir but continued to maintain the affair. He had every intention doing the honourable thing and marrying the girl who agreed to the union. This was nothing less than a love shared between two innocent young people. They had no intention of offending their families and Islam but merely wished to share their love.

As reported, the man, whose identity has not been revealed returned to Parachinar in order to elope with the girl but her family discovered them, beat the man mercilessly and locked him up before handing him over to the elders. He was bound, blindfolded and taken to a public place near a graveyard where he was executed in the most barbaric manner imaginable; he was stoned to death.

His fate was decided upon by a Jirga, an illegal court, who, in fact, found both the man and the girl guilty of offending Islamic teachings and therefore liable to be sentenced to death. The fate of the girl has not been revealed. However, two days later the body of an unidentified young woman was found in a remote area of the mountains. The local authorities and members of the Jirga quickly hushed up the incident. It is believed that the victim was murdered after abduction on the instigation of the tribal elders.

Another case was reported in the Daily Express Tribune regarding a couple, who had married of their own choice, they were murdered by strangulation along with their new born child. A resident of Mandi Bahauddin, Mr. Tassawar Hussain, his wife Sayyeda, and seven-month-old baby girl were found dead and the police revealed that they were killed because Hussain and Sayyeda had married without obtaining the consent of their families. Sayyeda's family had earlier registered a First Information Report (FIR) against Hussain for kidnapping her but the case was dropped when Sayyeda testified that she had married Hussain of her own volition.

In what situation can the death of a 7-month-old infant be justified? If the reason for their murder was the idea that the infant had been born out of wedlock and was therefore illegitimate why then did the perpetrators not heed the fact that they had been married before a civil court? Here again the question arises as to what is the criterion or definition of an illegitimate child when science has developed to the point where couples who cannot give birth by natural means may now do so? Are the results of such medical assistance also to be considered illegitimate? Why are the custodians of the religions silent on this issue? This is the main cause for declaring any child that is not born by natural means as illegitimate. And this is evidenced by the number of children, around 3,000 a year, who are dumped in philanthropist organisations that keep baby cots outside their offices to collect the so-called illegitimate babies. Sadly, this is not always the case as many babies are simply dumped in the garbage.

This practice of dumping babies is not a secret in the country but the custodians of religions do not speak out against it. The philanthropist organisations should be praised, not only for respecting religion but also the right to life of these innocent children which should, in fact, be the basic responsibility of the state.

While there are laws that enforce the right to life it is evident that in the presence of old traditions and customs the right to life is of secondary importance and the non-state actors play a dominant role in determining who should live and who should die. When the society reaches the point where it allows religious and tribal leaders to have the power of life and death the existence of the laws becomes meaningless and human beings are no longer equal. When any person can decide the fate of another it is nothing less than anarchy.

It is the height of barbarism when a mob resorts to stoning a person to death to safeguard old traditions or religious beliefs. That the society of the region could willingly participate in such an act reveals the influence of violence against logic and the basic concept of the right to life. Such violence erodes the rule of law and the teachings of any religion. It has come to the point that the people have turned their backs on the rule of law and the fundamental teachings of their religion. These people have placed themselves on a par with their God or Allah.

It is this same ideal that allows a grandparent to strangle a 7-month-old baby. It is an indication of how the mindset of the people is changing so as to allow them to take the life of their own children to uphold the honour of their family. The thirst to protect the honour of the family has reached such a level that only the taking of blood can quench that desire.

What is the analysis of the society? How would a social scientist define a society that on the one hand is trying to establish Islamic fundamentalism and on the other hand relying on the centuries old customs and traditions of the tribal areas? This is a situation which is not particular to Pakistan but has seeped into many Muslim societies around the world as is evidenced in both the United States of America and Europe.

Is honour more important than the right to life?

Friday, January 18, 2013

The Execution of Rizana Nafeek

The day following the execution by beheading of Rizana Nafeek I sent this message to the Saudi Arabian Consulate General in Hong Kong. Not surprisingly I didn't get a reply.

Attn: Hammad G. M. Al Rowaily, Consul General,

I write to you with a heavy heart, lamenting the barbaric execution of a young women who was a child at the time her alleged offense took place.

Saudi Arabia has ignored international norms and standards regarding the correct treatment of underaged offenders once again in beheading this girl whose only crime was wanting to earn money to support her impoverished family.

One day soon your oil will run out and Saudi Arabia will revert to what it was over a hundred years ago, a country of nomadic barbarians fighting for the scraps off each other's tables. I pray that I will live long enough to see that day. You deserve nothing less.

JS Sloan