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President Obama has confirmed the death of the Taliban leader

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May 23, 2016: The ongoing ground preparation for a leadership transition by the insurgent leaders proves the death of Mullah Mansoor in a U.S drone attack. But, this was not officially confirmed or denied by the Afghan Taliban.

In a Pashto-language statement released to pro-Taliban media outlets, a senior member of the group’s so-called Rahbari Shura, or leadership council, has urged Taliban fighters “not to pay attention and desist from drawing conclusions” about the fate of Mansoor in the wake of “self-created” reports.

In the statement, an unnamed council member pointed to what he said were “enormous sacrifices” by the Taliban and added that the movement would not let the enemy divide and weaken the movement.

“The Islamic Emirate [the Taliban] will gain strength from the sacrifices of its leaders. All the members and other leaders in the movement think alike and are capable of leading come what may,” he asserted.

Another Taliban official, quoted in a separate statement, said that the movement would not “weaken and deter” even if news of the death of its leader was accurate. The group, he maintained, did not rely on any one individual and was capable of swiftly filling a leadership vacuum.

He asserted that the death of Mansoor, if true, would only boost the Taliban ranks and create additional security challenges for the United States and the Kabul regime.

Commander of NATO forces in Afghanistan, U.S. General John Nicholson reiterated on Tuesday that Mansoor was blocking peace and reconciliation efforts.  “Two days ago we killed Mullah Mansour because he stood in the way of peace,” the general said while speaking in southern Afghan city of Kandahar bordering Pakistan.

Meanwhile, members of the leadership council of the Taliban have reportedly been meeting at an undisclosed location to elect their new leader and an announcement could be expected within the next couple of days.

But the Taliban has so far avoided publicly commenting on any development related to the fate of Mansoor.

Possible Mansoor successors

His two deputies, Sirajuddin Haqqani and Maulvi Haibatullah as well as Mullah Yaqoob, the elder son of the group’s founder, Mullah Omar, are said to be among the top contenders.

Observers with knowledge of Taliban affairs and even some insurgent sources suggest that Yaqoob, in his late 20s, could be the next Taliban leader.

He is currently commanding military operations in 15 of Afghanistan’s 34 provinces. Some Taliban officials believe Yaqoob’s elevation to the top position could help unify the insurgency and overcome divisions noted since last July when Mansoor took charge after it was confirmed Mullah Omar had been dead for more than two years.

President Barack Obama on Monday confirmed that Mansoor was killed in a drone attack on Saturday.

The Taliban leader was traveling in a vehicle in the southwestern Baluchistan province near the Afghan border when the missiles struck him. His driver, identified as Mohammad Azam, was also killed.

The bodies were transported to Quetta, where relatives were handed Azam’s remains in the presence of media. But it it still unclear what has happened to remains of the other body.

Taliban’s silence

Meanwhile, Taliban spokespeople have continuously been sending statements claiming battlefield successes since the U.S announced the killing of Mansoor on Saturday. But they have not responded to queries about the fate of their top leader.

An insurgent spokesman, Qari Yousaf Ahmadi, assigned to discuss affairs in southern Afghanistan, on Tuesday denied Kabul’s claims that the Taliban’s shadow governor for southern Helmand province and a brother of the group’s late leader, Mullah Omar, were killed in overnight U.S. airstrikes in the area.

Omar’s brother, Mullah Abdul Manan, is also among the Taliban leaders being projected as possible successors for Mansoor.

Afghan commentators and politicians in media interactions have expressed fears the death of Mansoor will lead to more violence and appeared less optimistic about peace talks.

Impact on peace prospects

It put the final nail in attempts to find a political way of out of the Afghan conflict, said Marvin Weinbaum, director of the Center for Pakistan Studies at the Middle East Institute.

“None of the likely claimants to the Taliban’s helm is likely to join a peace process. Mansour’s death may set off a new leadership struggle, but is unlikely to weaken the insurgency in Afghanistan,” says Weinbaum.

Baluchistan borders western and southern Afghan provinces that are traditionally considered Taliban heartlands.

U.S and Afghan officials have long maintained that Taliban’s leadership council, usually referred to as Quetta Shura, has been operating from the Pakistani province.

“The direct order by President Barack Obama that Mansour be killed makes it clear that the Afghan conflict will be settled on the battlefield, not at a conference table,” Weinbaum.

Islamabad acknowledges presence of Taliban leaders on its side of the border, but blames the long porous frontier with Afghanistan.

Mansoor’s Pakistani passport and travel history, though the documents are under a pseudonym Wali Mohammad, suggest he lived and traveled freely and with impunity within Pakistan and was even allowed to travel abroad through the country’s airports to multiple destinations, including repeated trips to Dubai.

Pakistani officials, however, say an investigation is still underway to determine the identity of the second man killed in the US drone attack.

Several suspects have been detained and authorities in Karachi have raided a residential apartment in the name of Wali Mohammad based on the address in the Pakistani passport and national identification card.

 

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In The Name Of The Father: Honour Killing And Blasphemy In South Asia

Is there any lesson for India to learn from the occurrence and fallouts of cases related to Honour Killings and Blasphemy in Pakistan?

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Honor Killing Protest in Pakistan.

By Tania Bhattacharya

Taniya Bhattacharya
Ms. Tania Bhattacharya

There was once a girl from the rural areas of Pakistan, South Asia. At the young age of 16, she was forcibly married off by her parents. Her husband turned out to be an inebriated womanizer. She tried to live with him, producing a son, and tried to put up with his infractions. When it became too much to ignore, she would complain. He then silenced her by using brute force, punches and kicks. Unable to bear the toll her marriage was taking on her mental and physical well-being, she deserted her man and her child, and left the village. Arriving in the metropolis of Lahore, she decided to make it big in the entertainment industry. To her mind, the simplest way to achieve this was to use a pseudonym and social media as the medium of exposure. So she went on the offensive with her frequent uploads which soon went viral; dressing provocatively, gyrating and singing sensuously; recording video messages for Pakistani male celebrities; and even proposing marriage to cricketer turned
politician Imran Khan. People began to notice her. Gradually this woman, once a victim of domestic abuse, evolved into Pakistan’s Kim Kardashian. Employing a ruse as a whistleblower in one instance, she inadvertently exposed a Mufti and created a furore in the wake of the incident. But everyone watching her videos, was not a fan. There was something dark lurking beyond the pale of adulation, that she was finally able to sense and wake up to. Calling an urgent press conference one day, she begged for the media to leave her alone or to provide her with protection. They had had the temerity to fish out her passport details and her birth name and hold it up for the world to see. It was the last time the public saw her speak. Weeks later, on the 15th of July 2016, she was found dead
in the home she had bought for her parents and siblings; strangled to death in her sleep, by her own brother who had grown irate by reading the lecherous comments of her fans and thought that she had brought dishonour to her family.

Only, this is not the script of a film. It is the biography of Pakistani internet celebrity Qandeel Baloch. Now, her life has been immortalized into a television drama named ‘Baaghi’, or ‘Rebel’. Qandeel’s homicidal brother Waseem Azeem, confessed to the crime, saying that his sister’s licentious moves, had brought disrepute to their clan. The shocking incident was condemned by a number of Paki public figures who bear a liberal image among the masses. Two of these were the late human rights activist Ms. Asma Jahangir, and chairperson of the Pakistan Peoples Party, Mr. Bilawal Bhutto Zardari.

Qandeel’s tragedy is not an exception. She joins a long list of victims in Pakistan, who have paid with their lives for either dishonouring filial ties, or for committing Blasphemy, a crime punishable by death. As far as the latter goes, there have been at least two famous cases of women who were accused of blaspheming; Asia Bibi, and more recently, Rimsha Masih.

Asia Bibi, during a private conversation in a fruit orchard, seemingly made certain deprecatory comments about Islam’s Prophet Muhammad. Someone – in all probability one of the women participants in the said conversation – then reported her to the authorities. She was arrested for the alleged crime, that had occurred on the 14th of June 2009. Section 295-C of the Pakistan Penal Code, carries the death penalty for blasphemy. Merely being reported on the flimsiest instance of supposedly speaking ill about Muhammad, can earn someone the noose in that country.

Also Read: Pakistani Christians Not Feeling Safe After The IS Attack

In order to indict her, the prosecution from its end, had brought forth seven witnesses, two of whom were women; Mafia Bibi, and Asma Bibi. The women claimed that after they refused to drink the water Asia had brought for them – on the grounds that she was a Christian – Asia had proceeded to lampoon Islam’s prophet. As the Pakistani media has pointed out, it is not improbable, that Afia and Asma were in a dispute over potable water with the accused, and may have used the opportunity to get rid of her. In the end, following an infirmed defence, Asia Bibi was sentenced to be hanged. The year was 2010.

Rimsha Maasih, another Christian, was accused of Blasphemy at the mere age of 14. Khalid Jadoon, a Muslim cleric, had complained to law enforcement, that Rimsha had burnt pages from the Holy Quran. Rimsha, who suffers from learning disabilities, was framed by Jadoon, but even after the courts had established this, Jadoon was let off the hook, lightly, with all charges against him being dropped. Rimsha fled to Canada with her family in tow, after she was released from gaol. The year was 2012.

Pakistan’s Blasphemy Laws are unforgiving of its minorities, who face arraignment and a death sentence upon being convicted.

Honour Killing is by no means peculiar to Pakistan. It is a pan Afro-Asian epidemic, that affects women and girls who are defenceless. Sometimes, powerless men become victims too, if the perpetrators are wealthy, and connected, as India witnessed in the case of Nitish Katara’s murder. In Jordan, the parliament has long been trying to pass laws to counterbalance its record of the honour killing of girls. In the African continent, the practice is rampant, as it is in India, where caste concerns and family dictates tend to govern the lives of couples who wish to turn their relationships into a lifelong commitment.

Also Read: How Honorable is Honor Killing?

However, even if honour killing is not restricted to Pakistan, Blasphemy is the most pronounced there, out of the entire swathe of the Indian sub-continent, which includes Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Nepal, and Bhutan. For the committing of blasphemy, the necessary requirement is of a religion that has a founding father, whose words are written in stone. Islam is not the only religion with a founding father. So are Judaism and Christianity. However, blaspheming does not appear to scar societies with a majority Christian or Jewish population. The reason is not these religions, but the watering down of their original ethics at the hands of the European Enlightenment and the Renaissance. Islam on the other hand, did not experience any internal change on the scale of the two, and continues to remain unrepentant of its Blasphemy pogroms.

Nor is this to say, that there are no freethinkers within the Paki establishment and larger society who condemn the Blasphemy Law and are highly critical of it. Prominent humanist the late Salman Taseer, who was a long time beau of Indian journalist Tavleen Singh and the father of their son, the author Aatish Taseer, was gunned down outside his home, due to his defence of Asia Bibi, against the court’s verdict. He had been appealing for mercy on Asia’s behalf.

As case after case has revealed, inflicting a prison term or a death sentence on unsuspecting members of Pakistan’s minorities, coupled with instances where the opportunity is used for settling personal scores, have become the hallmark of the implementation of its Blasphemy Law.

Perhaps the most infamous instance of this law being in flagrant violation of basic human rights, is in the case of Mashal Khan. Mashal Khan was a medical student at the Abdul Wali Khan University in Mardan, in the northern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province of Pakistan. He had been a journalist previously and had spend many years working and studying in Russia. Mashal had Leftist leanings, and took great pains to describe himself as a Humanist, above everything else. His twitter and facebook accounts, frequently dropped bombs about how the Pakistani military establishment was responsible for mind control and collateral damage and how its propaganda tactics were causing more harm to its people than good. Mashal has spoken on several occasions, about the persecution of the minorities of his country, with special focus on its Hindus. Time and again, he had advocated that his country’s problems were its own, and that it was a fruitless exercise to pin the blame on
India and its Hindus.

Also Read: Christian Blasphemy Suspect in Pakistan Jumps from Building to Escape Torture

It is not difficult to surmise as to why he was targeted for assassination. On the fateful day of the 13th of April 2017, a large group of students from the Abdul Wali Khan University who were Mashal’s own peers, attacked him furiously inside the campus. He was lynched and shot at, being left mortally wounded. When the ambulance was called, it was already too late. Mashal’s mother later recounted, that when she kissed his hand for the last time before his burial, she found that even the bones of his fingers, were broken.

Just as there are regressive forces within Pakistan that are preventing the nation from thinking along humanist lines by riding on the coattails of its Blasphemy Laws and its ethics over Honour Killing, there is also a handful of right-minded activists, students, and leaders there, who are straining to make themselves heard. One of them had been the late Mashal.

Is there any lesson for India to learn from the occurrence and fallouts of cases related to Honour Killings and Blasphemy in Pakistan?

Let us not emulate. Blasphemy will never be a popular idea among the majority Hindus of this country, since Hinduism does not have a founding father, the religion being a conglomeration of branches of varying lengths and sizes. But freethinkers have faced the heat in recent times in this country. The murder of a Gauri Lankesh, a Narendra Dabholkar, or an M.M. Kalburgi, are proof enough, that sections of Hindus are no longer tolerant of dissent.

This is tragic. Hinduism’s many schools of philosophy, include one that deals exclusively with Atheism. Known as the Charvaka reservoir of critical analysis, this system of beliefs relies entirely on rationalism and empirical evaluation.

One can only hope, that Charvaka’s unhindered existence in the millennia of Hinduism’s history, will
prove a point to Hindus, and prevent them from going Pakistan’s way, in the realm of Blasphemy.

Tania is a freelance writer with a Masters in Defence and Strategic Studies who has a wide range of interests.