Aapas Ki Baat with Najam Sethi: 2nd March 2011
Death at a Funeral
January 5, 2011 by Sher Ali Khan
Repeated photographs of a killer flashed on to the screen, as another martyr was created in Pakistan. Governor Salmaan Taseer stood right in the middle of the growing divide in Pakistan between decay and modernization.
Over the years, with the deteriorating socio-economic situation and rampant radicalization in the country a complete decay of thought and rationality has taken charge, which is leading the country back into the stone ages. The religious parties, which have been legitimized over the years, are becoming the alternative to the curse word known as democracy.
During the last two months, Taseer had taken a moderated stance asking for the parliament to probe into the blasphemy law, which almost everyone had repeated. The threat that Taseer posed was that he was willing to push the warped societal boundaries, which are based upon moral assumptions that have not been present for centuries.
The cleric has become a defining force in our society and no one is allowed to question credentials or the persons basis for assessment. Coming with the backing of god, their word is fast becoming an unchallengeable aspect in our society. Without an educational base to filter out the extremist ideology and thought there is a growing acceptance to extremism and radical thought.
Generally speaking Salmaan Taseer was one of the last voices to openly condemn terrorists and extremism even calling them “sick and demented” while also challenging their basis of authority. He had so cleverly grown into the role as governor using his technical background to wittingly challenge the politicians lack of activism against terrorists and extremists.
The consequent reaction to the murder of Salmaan Taseer was the gruesome celebration of his death by various reporters and TV anchors. The war had been won for these individuals who warned that his stance was a pro-American one. While playing down the significance of virtues such as hard work and education, these men boasted with pride explaining that his murder contributed to the overall betterment of society.
Looking forward as progressive voices continue to be silenced, one has to question the whole basis of right and wrong. Till this debate is settled the conception of Pakistan will be a mystery and in many ways a farce.
The Author was assigned the Governor beat in Lahore.
My apologies for adding another bad news into existing depressed state of mind, people of this country generally have these days. Floods have just not played with the lives and future of more than 21 million people, but also crippled Pakistan’s economy. On the issue of slow international aid, many analyses have given multiple reasons discussing why and when. But the ground reality suggests that many international humanitarian organizations have sent relief workers to assist Pakistan in this massive exercise of evacuating and rehabilitating people. But what happened recently will take away the blessing of these foreign relief workers soon from Pakistan. Taliban, the true patriots and custodians of Islam, have killed three Christian foreign relief workers in Swat area—those who arrived here to help the needy and helpless. Taliban just did not kill relief workers, in fact, they killed humanity and chances for future help for flood victims. There is no doubt that Taliban, including many banned organizations, have set up their camps to provide aid, but in the hope of winning support from these people for future recruits.
Is this a sympathy they claim to have for flood victims while killing innocent relief workers who came here as Messiah to save lives. Relief workers are beyond nationality, religion and boundary; and they are just life saviors, who put their life at stake for performing their noble duty.
Which religion teaches to take life of those who are destined to give life? Taliban have proved that they do not breathe as humans anymore and live on blood and flesh of other humans. How many times Pakistan has to pay the price for those sins committed by Taliban? This time flood affectees will have to pay the same price who are already struggling with the issues of non-availability of aid, diseases and camps politics.
This incident has sent a negative signal to the world that Pakistan is not secure and safe for relief workers and their protection is not possible. It will pressurize those organizations to decide not to send more people or in worst case scenario, they may call them back to their respective countries.
It is just not Ahmadis, but also Christians who are unable to get into government camps. And accessing to tents, foods, and medicine is next to impossible in some areas because of religious bias. In such times, how is it possible for anyone to identify victims trough their religion or sect? This situation I never imagined and still hard to believe that we do not forget our biases and prejudices even in the midst of death and misery.
Below is the story:
ISLAMABAD, Pakistan, August 27 (CDN) — Authorities on August 25 recovered the bodies of three Christian relief workers who had been kidnapped and killed by members of the Pakistani Taliban in the flood-ravaged country, area officials said.
Swat District Coordination Officer Atif-ur-Rehman told Compass that the Pakistan Army recovered the bodies of the three foreign flood-relief workers at about 7 a.m. on Wednesday. An official at the international humanitarian organization that employed the workers withheld their names and requested that the agency remain unnamed for security reasons. Military sources who withheld news of the deaths from electronic and print media to avoid panicking other relief workers granted permission to Compass to publish it in limited form.
“The foreign aid workers have been working in Mingora and the surrounding areas,” Rehman said. “On Aug. 23 they were returning to their base at around 5:35 p.m. when a group of Taliban attacked their vehicle. They injured around five-six people and kidnapped three foreign humanitarian workers.”
Pakistan has been hit by its worst flooding in decades, with the United Nations now estimating more than 21.8 million people have been affected. Foreign aid workers are involved in relief activities across the country, including Swat district in Khyber-Paktunkhwa Province in northern Pakistan. At least 8 million people require emergency relief, with hundreds of thousands reportedly isolated from aid supplies.
An army Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) source said rangers have been deployed in Swat and other potential target areas to help provide security for relief workers.
“The Taliban had warned about attacks on foreigner aid workers and Christian organizations,” the ISPR source said. “All the international humanitarian organizations have been notified, and their security has also been increased.”
Rehman noted that the Taliban also has been trying to bring relief to flood victims.
“The Taliban are also trying to support the flood victims, and many other banned organizations have set up camps in southern Punjab to support the victims,” he said. “They intend to sympathize with the affected and gain their support.”
The president of advocacy organization Life for All, Rizwan Paul, said the bodies of the three relief workers had been sent to Islamabad under the supervision of the Pakistan Army.
“We strongly condemn the killing of the three humanitarian workers,” Paul said. “These aid workers came to support us, and we are thankful to the humanitarian organizations that came to help us in a time of need.”
Pointing to alleged discrimination against minorities in distribution of humanitarian aid, Paul added that Christians in severely flood-damaged areas in Punjab Province have been neglected. The majority of the effected Christians in Punjab are in Narowal, Shakargarh, Muzzafargarh, Rahim Yar Khan and Layyah, he said.
“The Christians living around Maralla, Narowal, and Shakargarh were shifted to the U.N.- administered camps, but they are facing problems in the camps,” he said. “There are reports that the Christians are not given tents, clean water and food. In most of the camps the Christians have totally been ignored.”
Life for All complained to U.N. agencies and the government of Pakistan regarding the discrimination, but no one has responded yet, he said.
“There have been reports from Muzzaffargarh and Layyah that the Christians are living on the damaged roads in temporary tents, as they were not allowed in the government camps,” he said.
In Sindh Province Thatta has been flooded, and around 300 Christian families who tried to move from there to Punjab were forbidden from doing so, a source said. Meteorologists are predicting more rains in coming days, with the already catastrophic flooding expected to get worse.
Kashif Mazhar, vice president of Life for All, said that in the northern province of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa conditions for Christians are better as there are Christian camps established, and Garrison Church in Risalpur is also providing aid to victims.
“It is discouraging to see that the Christian organizations are wholeheartedly supporting the victims regardless of the religion or race, but in most of the areas the Christians are totally ignored and not even allowed to stay,” Mazhar said.
Foreign targets are rarely attacked directly in Pakistan, despite chronic insecurity in the nuclear-armed state, which is a key ally in the U.S.-led war on Al Qaeda and the Taliban in neighboring Afghanistan. On March 10, however, suspected Islamic militants armed with guns and grenades stormed the offices of a Christian relief and development organization in northwest Pakistan, killing six aid workers and wounding seven others.
The gunmen besieged the offices of international humanitarian organization World Vision near Oghi, in Mansehra district, of the North West Frontier Province. Suicide and bomb attacks across Pakistan have killed more than 3,000 people since 2007. Blame has fallen on Taliban and Al Qaeda-linked militants bitterly opposed to the alliance with the United States.
The U.N. decided last year to relocate a limited number of its international staff from Pakistan because of security concerns. Its World Food Program office in Islamabad was attacked in October last year, with five aid workers killed in a suicide bombing.
Then on Feb. 3, a bomb attack in the NWFP district of Lower Dir killed three U.S. soldiers and five other people at the opening of a school just rebuilt with Western funding after an Islamist attack.
Pakistan is going through a rough patch since deadly terrible floods have hit the country creating the worst “humanitarian crisis. One third of Pakistan’s population has been affected by this horrifying natural calamity which is yet to end. Around 20 million people have seen this phase of their lives ending and the disaster has turned them into helpless refugees. Except the support and aid being generated at home, the crisis needs huge aid packages for rehabilitation of these people from international community. After the United Nations’ appeal for funds, the USA and the Britain respectively have come forward generously so far. But the pledged aid looks so small in the face of destruction. After 2005 earthquake, the floods put the whole nation in a painful and helpless situation where the generous hearts too are hesitant in offering what they could due to suspicions and lack of trust in the government.
Under these circumstances, where 20 million Pakistanis have become affectees, how can anyone think in terms of religious bias and prejudice. The reports exposing that Ahmadis are being isolated and denied aid, food and shelter among relief camps sound so unbelievable. Not in my wildest dreams, I ever thought that religious bias could be strong to this extend where in the midst of death and suffering, Ahmadis are receiving this discriminatory treatment. Families were thrown out of camps on the excuse that other people did not want to live with them at the same place. At some places, aid never reached those areas where Ahmadi families were living. Ahmadis had to spend days and nights on rooftops of their inundated houses or some left to stay with the other members of Ahmadi community. What sort of Muslims and Pakistanis are we; what made us to be proud of ourselves? Is this one of the reasons that even while fighting against the worst disaster, we never forget to express our bias and hatred for those who have different notion of religion. Till how long I will survive with this belief that humanity is the best religion and all biases and prejudices look small in front of it. This attitude of people has added more pain into what we have been suffering in form of floods. Please people we need to be united and it is the right time to rise above these prejudices. We need to have concentrated efforts with positive and constructive minds and big hearts. All the victims are affectees and above all human beings, nothing more than that. The best religion is humanity which is the core of all existing religions and the violation of this core is an insult to all religions and beliefs.
Below is the article:
An article from The Express Tribune forwarded by the Asian Human
PAKISTAN: Ahmedi families are denied shelter in relief camps
The government and local clerics refused to shelter around 500
flood-affected families belonging to the Ahmadiya community in South
Punjab’s relief camps. Not only that, the government also did not
send relief goods to the flood-hit areas belonging to the Ahmadiya
community, The Express Tribune has learnt during a visit to the
devastated Punjab districts of Muzaffargarh, Dera Ghazi Khan and
For its part, the government claims that all relief goods are being
distributed among survivors without discrimination. And that all
survivors have been sheltered in relief camps without distinction. The
flood-devastated families from the Ahmadiya community have strongly
criticised the government’s “discriminatory attitude” even at a time
when the entire country is reeling from the ravages of the worst
flooding in living memory.
Of the 500 Ahmadi families, 350 belong to DG Khan, 60 to Muzaffargarh
and 65 to Rajanpur district. According to Ahmadiya community leaders,
over 2,500 members of their community have been displaced and are now
living with their relatives while some of them have left for Rabwah,
the community’s headquarters.
Aziz Ahmad Khan, a local leader of flood victims from the Ahmadiya
community in DG Khan, told The Express Tribune that all members of his
family have complained of discrimination in DG Khan. He said 200
families from Basti Rindan and Basti Sohrani, 60 from Chah Ismaeel
Wala, three from Rakh Mor Jangi, 18 from Ghazi Ghat and 12 from Jhakar
Imam Shah of Ahmadpur. Khan alleged that 200 families, who have been
displaced from Basti Rindan and Basti Sohrani by flooding, took
shelter in a state-run school at Jhok Utra but within days the local
administration forced them to leave the school. He said the local
administration later told them that people from the surrounding areas
did not want the Ahmadis in the relief camp. And that the
administration could not allow them to stay at the camp as it could
create a law and order situation.
“So we left our cattle and other belongings in the area and took
refuge in the homes of our community members on higher grounds,” he
said, adding that some of them even migrated to Chanabnagar.
Muhammad Iqbal Sohrani, a member of the Ahmadiya community told The
Express Tribune that around 40 Ahmadi families who took shelter in a
state-run school at Jhakar Imam Shah near Sumandri, some 40 kilometres
from DG Khan, have not received any relief either from philanthropists
or from the government. He alleged that relief packages were being
distributed through local lawmakers who have been told by the district
administration that the Ahmadis are not eligible for any support.
Saleem Chandia, another Ahmadiya community member, said that he along
with 40 other community members rented a house but after two days
their landlord was forced by local clerics to evict them. Chandia said
they were offered help by their own community members after wandering
for several days in search of shelter.
Mansoor Ahmad, a resident of Muzaffargarh, told The Express Tribune
that over 800 members of the Ahmadiya community were displaced from
Bait Nasirabad, Masroornagar, Hussainwala and Shahjamal. At least 100
members of the community, from Hussainwala and Masroorabad, were
trapped at Shahjamal. He claimed that they had asked the district
police officer (DPO) and the district coordination officer (DCO) to
provide them a boat or to rescue the trapped people but they did not
Ahmad claimed that the trapped Ahmadis were rescued by their fellows
on a broken boat. He said local clerics have issued an edict that the
Ahmadis should not be provided help.
Naseem Ahmad, from Rajanpur, told The Express Tribune that their 500
community members from the areas of Basti Lashari, Basti Allahdad
Dareeshak and from Basti Azizabad were displaced. Their houses were
washed away and the government and local clerics ignored them. He said
that they were not allowed to stay in state-run schools or in camps,
therefore the majority of them were living on the rooftops of their
“The Ahmadiya community itself rescued trapped people and delivered
relief to them,” community spokesperson Saleem-ul-Din told The
Express Tribune by phone.
He said that the community did not want any relief package from the
government for its members. However, the government should protect the
property and livestock of the Ahmadis.
Hassan Iqbal, Commissioner DG Khan, told The Express Tribune that he
would check the situation. He asked the Ahmadis to directly approach
him if they face discrimination anywhere in the district. However, DCO
Muzaffargarh Farasat Iqbal said that the Ahmadis have not contacted
An article from Epoch Times forwarded by the Asian Human Rights
Article by Nicholas Trainor
Flooding in Pakistan has already created a humanitarian crisis of
extreme proportions, but looming over the region is the threat of an
associated disaster – human trafficking.
As the scale of the crisis worsens with an estimated 15 million
people already affected and two million homes destroyed, the threat of
trafficking is growing.
According to human rights expert, Dr Tahmina Rashid, human
trafficking was already a very real threat before the flooding and
now, as the monsoonal rains threaten further south, more people stand
to be affected by trafficking. She noted Pakistan’s southern
province of Sindh, saying it was particularly bad.
There are predators in this world who can take advantage of these
terrible disasters and the chaos that ensues.
“Sindh is a hub for human trafficking at the best of times,” Dr
Rashid told The Epoch Times, adding, “Anytime there is a natural
disaster and human mobility, it will happen,”
The lack of government infrastructure and resources in Pakistan will
only make it harder for the appropriate government departments to
assure the welfare of the affected population, warns Dr Rashid.
The people at most risk are the women and children of Pakistan who
lack empowerment to make their own decisions, and who are most
susceptible to kidnapping and exploitation, she said.
According to a report by the human rights group End Child
Prostitution Child Pornography and Trafficking of Children for Sexual
Purposes, around 1.2 million children are trafficked worldwide for
sexual exploitation as well as to be used as cheap labour.
“Natural disasters such as earthquakes, flood or famine crises may
disrupt entire families and communities, leaving children without
necessary protection,” says the report.
Isolation plus the slow response from aid agencies and the
government’s admission that it lacks the resources to deal with the
crisis, do not bode well for the immediate future of the displaced
To halt the threat of human trafficking aid agencies such as World
Vision are trying to establish infrastructure, such as “child and
women friendly centres” to allow families to re-establish, and get
over the shock of the disaster.
“There are predators in this world who can take advantage of these
terrible disasters and the chaos that ensues,” said World Vision’s
Connie Lenneberg on ABC Radio. “All agencies will work together to
identify what children are unaccompanied and assure they are looked
after while they are without supervision from their direct family
In the aftermath of past natural disasters, such as the Haitian
earthquake, human trafficking has flourished, despite the best efforts
from aid agencies and governments. According to trafficking experts
such as Dr Rashid, the situation in Pakistan will mirror these past
Abolitionist and human rights expert, Amanda Kloer, believes human
trafficking usually takes place in the months after a natural disaster
has occurred. If this pattern continues the next period of the relief
effort is crucial to stop one disaster producing another.
It is not true if one claims that Pakistan as a country was ever perfect and free of problems. Earthquake in 2005 was an eye opener in terms of natural calamities and our capacity of handling disasters. The unavailability of proper disaster management with no resources allocated for such mishaps in anticipation has exposed how prepared are we to face challenges. But on a positive note, it also confirmed that we, as a nation, still had the germs of unity, brotherhood, and sacrifice. But at the same time, we all were concerned that the help should reach the victims in a transparent way, but later the picture media showed had given room for doubts, suspicions and mistrust among people regarding distribution of aid.
After a recent plane crash, floods hit Pakistan and brought havoc. The unimaginable happened and it left 20 million people helpless and miserable. The plight of those who are stranded and marooned without food, shelter and medicines is a nightmare. This “human crisis” has been declared the worst for Pakistan so far which is beyond the capacity of the government to handle. Global recession has minimised the scope of receiving enough international aid. USA has proved the biggest donor in this crisis and announced aid in different packages. Rest of the world is pledging slowly and hesitantly. But, it is sad to note that except recession the mistrust and previous corruption charges have forced the world giving second thoughts to their aid plans for Pakistan. Same happened at home where people are skeptical about the use of the aid and are not coming forward enthusiastically in comparison with 2005 crisis.
There is no mechanism so far evolved to ensure transparency in such cases and I agree to the point where doubts are stopping people and international community to help generously. But in this disaster where the economy of this country received a blow and the government seems handicapped in many ways when it comes to damage control and rehabilitating affectees, the role of international donor community becomes significant.
Eventually, it is the people who will suffer more. The need is to just focus on what we can offer to the affectees as individuals and a nation and should hope that the government will be able to remove this mistrust. Otherwise, the efforts and aid the victims need and deserve from the international community and Pakistanis will be lost.
Below is a statement by the Asian Human Rights Commission
PAKISTAN: The flooding — Serious efforts are needed by the
authorities to restore the trust of the people and the international
It is reported in the Pakistani media that intentional breaches were
made in the protective embankments at Ghospur and Thorhee bands,
Sukkur district, Sindh province in order to protect the agriculture
lands of President Mr. Asif Ali Zardari Mr. Qaim Ali Shah, the chief
minister of Sindh province, Mr. Khursheed Shah, the federal minister
and other powerful person in the coalition government. The breaches
have affected the urban population of Sukkur district and its
adjoining areas where many places remain submerged.
It is also reported that Mr. Shahbaz Shareef, the chief minister of
Punjab province, and Mr. Nawaz Shareef, the opposition leader, have
made the same arrangements to protect their sugar mills in Jhang
district. The media also reported that in different districts, where
the flood was in full swing, the provincial ministers and land lords
of the Punjab province made breaches in the embankments to save their
This type of news reported in the local and international media are
the main cause of the indifference of the international communities,
as well as Pakistani citizens to pool their funds for the relief of
the affected population. A huge crisis of mistrust has been created
between the people of Pakistan and the authorities. It is also
observed that ministers from the all the provincial governments and
federal governments are visiting the affected areas for photo sessions
to score points against each other’s government.
The first phase of the floods in Pakistan immediately devastated the
lives of at least one third of the population of the country. The full
effects of this devastation are yet to be seen. Still, there is no
correct estimation of the losses that occurred during the first phase
of floods available because of the disruption in communications. There
are also some contradictory statements on the damage caused by the
floods; different ministries claim losses from Rs. 500 to 800 billion.
The slow and lethargic response of the government agencies, including
the armed forces to get the proper provision of relief to the victims
is creating more problems and will continue to do so when the second
phase of the flooding enters Punjab and the Sindh provinces from
The people are still trapped and have been living on the road sides
and railway tracks without any shelter for many days despite the claim
of the federal and provincial governments that relief is being
provided. There are fears of an outbreak of vaccine-preventable
diseases like measles, polio and tetanus, diarrhoea, and Malaria.
The local experts and a UN spokesman said the country has suffered a
loss of about Rs250 billion in the agricultural and livestock sectors
alone and the flood recovery costs may run into billions of dollars.
The Minister for Food and Agriculture, Nazar Mohammad Gondal, said
that it is difficult to give an exact figure, but he agrees that the
loss of agriculture and livestock runs into billions of rupees. Over
100,000 cows, buffaloes, goats, sheep, horses, camels and donkeys have
been lost and 3,000 fish farms and 2,000 poultry farms destroyed
across the country.
The whole agricultural belt that includes Jhang, Bhakkar, Rajanpur,
Rahimyar Khan and Layyah districts in Punjab province has been
inundated. Sindh province has lost standing crops worth Rs95 billion
over 100,000 acres. Cotton and rice are the major crops destroyed by
In Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, over 325,000 acres have been submerged and
crops worth Rs29.6 billion destroyed. Over one million tons of wheat
stock kept in houses had been swept away.
According to dealers, the floods have caused a shortage of food items
and the prices of fruits and vegetables have increased by 25 to 50 per
cent. It is feared that the situation will persist for the whole year
until cultivation resumes in flooded areas.
The United Nations humanitarian operations spokesman Maurizio
Giuliano said: “The devastation to crops is immense. I think it’s
safe to say it will take some billions of dollars to recover. Even
though we don’t have estimates yet, I am referring to livelihood for
agriculture and farming to get back in shape.” Two million people
require shelter after fleeing flood-hit areas. Survivors face grim
conditions in tent cities and disease is flourishing in the unbearable
Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi, after flying over flood-hit
areas with diplomats, said that an estimated 15-20 million people are
believed to have been affected. Appealing for international help, he
said that we immediately need tents for shelter, food for survivors,
water purification plants and medicines for cholera, malaria and other
This is the current situation of losses incurred by the recent first
phase of floods but the second phase is about to come which would be
more devastating as those bridges, dams, roads and embankments along
the rivers were already damaged or have become so dilapidated that
they will need many years to restore.
The various governments at every level should make coordinated
efforts to combat the havoc of the floods and work for the
rehabilitation of the affected masses rather than scoring points
against each other. The governments should also work to restore the
trust of the people to launch a vigorous campaign for donations from
the philanthropists and common persons. The people generally do not
believe the government agencies as being trustworthy, therefore all
political parties and the governments should work jointly for the
For a web page showing pictures of the flooding please click here