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Balochistan Violence: 13-year-old boy dies after Hindu man arrested for ‘Blasphemy’ charges in Pakistan

Blasphemy, which carries the death penalty, is a sensitive issue in Pakistan, with allegations often prompting mob violence

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FILE -(representational image) Pakistani villagers living at the Line of Control between Pakistan-Indian Kashmir, Chakoti, build concrete house in Pakistan, Nov. 21, 2016. VOA

Balochistan, May 4, 2017: A 13-year-old boy died in aerial firing by police on Thursday after an angry mob in Pakistan’s Balochistan demanded they hand over a Hindu man arrested on blasphemy charges.

Prakash Kumar, 35, was arrested from Hub on Wednesday after locals complained he allegedly sent blasphemous content via WhatsApp, police was quoted as saying by local media.

Police said they had lodged a case against the accused while a cellphone, from which the suspect allegedly shared blasphemous content, has been seized. A local court has sent the suspect to jail for further interrogation in the case.

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A mob soon gathered outside the Hub city police station demanding that Kumar be handed over to them so they could “punish” him. When law enforcement refused, the crowd turned violent.

The police managed to disperse the crowd using tear gas shelling and aerial firing, and also took scores of protesters into custody.

According to police, a teenager died in the violence. The boy was a resident of Pathan Colony and became a victim of aerial firing during the clash which took place near Gaddani bus stop in Hub.

Blasphemy, which carries the death penalty, is a sensitive issue in Pakistan, with allegations often prompting mob violence.

Vigilantes have murdered 65 people over blasphemy allegations since 1990, according to research compiled by the Centre for Research and Security Studies think-tank. (IANS)

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Post Anything Against Islam (Blasphemy) and You Will be in trouble in Pakistan

In yet another repressive step, Pakistani government has announced formation of a Regulatory Body to monitor Online Blasphemous Content

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In yet another repressive step, Pakistan government has announced formation of a Regulatory Body to monitor Online Blasphemous Content
Pakistani students of Islamic seminaries chant slogans during a rally in support of blasphemy laws, in Islamabad, Pakistan, March 8, 2017. Hundreds of students rallied in the Pakistani capital, urging the government to remove blasphemous content from social media and take stern action against those who posted blasphemous content on social media. VOA

Pakistan’s government has formed a regulatory body to monitor and block blasphemous content online in an effort to further extend the enforcement of the country’s controversial anti-blasphemy law into cyberspace.

Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA), the government-run communications regulatory agency, has created a 25-member group tasked with cracking down on websites, social media accounts and online pages that they consider offensive to Islam.

“The committee, being constituted by the Ministry of Interior, will include representatives from PTA, the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA), and the ministry,” Ismail Shah, PTA’s chairman, told the standing committee on information technology of Pakistan’s upper house of parliament recently.

FILE - Pakistani journalists protest to condemn an attack on their colleague, Ahmed Noorani, in photo, in Karachi, Pakistan, Oct. 30, 2017.
FILE – Pakistani journalists protest to condemn an attack on their colleague, Ahmed Noorani, in photo, in Karachi, Pakistan, Oct. 30, 2017. VOA

Earlier in May, PTA had sent text messages to millions of cellphone users in the country and warned them not to post or share any blasphemous content online.

Controversial issue

Blasphemy remains a controversial issue in the Muslim-majority country where anyone labeled as “blasphemous” faces dangerous consequences: The law states anyone found guilty of insulting Islam will receive a sentence of life in prison or the death penalty.

As government is committed to scrutinizing online contents, some rights activists charge that monitoring the internet will be a slippery slope.

FILE - Members of a Pakistani civil society demonstrate April 22, 2017, in Karachi, Pakistan, against the killing of Mashal Khan, a student at the Abdul Wali Khan University in the northwestern city of Mardan.
FILE – Members of a Pakistani civil society demonstrate April 22, 2017, in Karachi, Pakistan, against the killing of Mashal Khan, a student at the Abdul Wali Khan University in the northwestern city of Mardan. VOA

“The monitoring of social media for blasphemous content is a dangerous precedent in Pakistan. The law has often been misused in the past and now a crackdown on internet will further complicate the situation,” Zohra Yusuf, a Pakistani human rights activist, told VOA.

Silencing dissent

Critics worry the state is using religion and national security as a pretext to discourage dissent on the internet, where people can express their opinions on topics such as politics, the military, social issues, women’s rights, religious freedom and human rights.

“In any democracy, such controls cannot be termed legal. Selective controls, targeted crackdown and culture of impunity only brings unrest in the society, especially for minorities and marginalized segments of the society,” Shahzad Ahmad, Pakistan director of the digital rights advocacy group Bytes for All, told VOA.

Lawmakers of the ruling Pakistan Muslim League-N (PML-N) party, however, vowing transparency in the enforcement of the law, defends the government’s action and considers it legal.

“PTA follows a process and blocks a blasphemous link after complete scrutiny. Similarly, the regulatory body completely investigates before anyone is apprehended or taken into the court under blasphemy charges,” parliament member Zahra Wadood Fatimi told VOA.

Threat to freedom

Despite assurances from the government, rights activists worry formation of the group could be considered a Trojan horse, which will lead to people losing the relative freedom of expression they enjoy in cyberspace.

“It will be another tool for the state and people to settle down personal scores and vendettas. Do we even remember the secular bloggers abducted earlier this year and returned as ‘blasphemers?’”Zohra Yusuf asked.

In January 2017, five secular social media activists went missing from different cities in Pakistan. The activists reappeared after a few weeks with a label of “bloggers who committed blasphemy,” local media reported.

The bloggers were critical of the country’s powerful military, the existing political system and human rights violations committed by different factions, according to reports, which said the bloggers, fearing for their lives, sought refuge abroad.

Harsh punishment

The state’s punishment is harsh for those found guilty of committing blasphemy. In some cases, when courts have not charged suspects, Pakistanis have taken the matter into their own hands.

A simple accusation that someone has committed blasphemy can lead to threats against the suspect. Other times, it could mean death.

In May, a Hindu man was rescued by police from a mob in Hub, Baluchistan. The man was accused of posting blasphemous content on social media.

In March, Mashaal Khan, 23, a journalism student of Abdul Wali Khan University in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province was beaten to death by fellow students. He had been accused of posting blasphemous content online.

Earlier this year, Islamabad’s High Court issued directives to the Ministry of Interior to take prompt action when it saw content it deemed blasphemous on the internet, even if it meant blocking social media websites in the country.

A few days later, Pakistan’s then-Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif declared online blasphemous content on social media a “nefarious conspiracy.” He directed his government to take strict actions against those involved in such activities. He also ordered officials to discuss the matter with international social media companies.

With the formation of PTA’s regulatory body on monitoring blasphemous contents online, there will likely be more restrictions in cyberspace and more scrutiny of those who talk out against religion online.

Reported by Madeeha Anwar of VOA.

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Afghanistan temporarily blocks Social Media Services Whatsapp and Telegram citing security concerns

The restrictions on social media come as the Taliban intensifies attacks on Afghan security forces, inflicting heavy casualties.

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Whatsapp and Telegram
A WhatsApp logo is seen behind a smartphone, Feb. 20, 2014. Authorities in Afghanistan are temporarily blocking WhatsApp and Telegram social media services in the country. VOA

Islamabad, November 4, 2017 : Authorities in Afghanistan are temporarily blocking WhatsApp and Telegram social media services in the country, citing security concerns, officials confirmed on November 3.

An official at the Afghan Telecommunications Regulatory Authority, ATRA, told VOA the social media tools will be suspended for 20 days. The temporary ban on Whatsapp and Telegram follows a request from state security institutions.

The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said a formal announcement is expected Saturday.

Whatsapp and Telegram
The messaging app Telegram is displayed on a smartphone, July 15, 2017. VOA

ATRA has ordered telecom companies to shut down the services November 1, according to a copy of official instructions appearing in Afghan media.

Social media users have complained of technical problems while using the two services in recent days.

The controversial move has sparked criticism of the Afghan government, and it is being slammed as an illegal act and an attack on freedom of expression.

The outage prompted the telecom regulator to issue a statement Friday, saying the ban is meant to test “a new kind of technology” in the wake of users’ complaints.

It went on to defend the restriction, saying WhatsApp and Telegram are merely voice and messaging services and their temporary suspension does not violate the civil rights of Afghans. The government is committed to freedom of expression, the ministry added.

Afghan journalists and activists on Twitter dismissed the statement.

“This seems to be the beginning of government censorship. If it’s not resisted soon the gov’t will block FB & twitter,” wrote Habib Khan Totakhil on Twitter.

“Gov’t fails to deliver security, now it seeks to hide its incompetence by imposing ban on messaging platforms. Totalitarianism?,” said the Afghan journalist.

“#Censorship is against what freedom we stood for in #Afghanistan post 2001. Gains shouldn’t go to waste,” tweeted activist Nasrat Khalid.

An estimated 6 million people in war-torn Afghanistan can access internet-based services. The growth of media and social media activism have been among the few success stories Afghanistan has seen in the post-Taliban era.

Classifying numbers

The restrictions on social media come as the Taliban intensifies attacks on Afghan security forces, inflicting heavy casualties.

The insurgent group also relies heavily on WhatsApp and Telegram, Twitter and Facebook to publicize its battlefield gains.

The Afghan government has lately barred the United States military from releasing casualty numbers, force strength, operation readiness, attrition figures and performance assessments of the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces.

The U.S. Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction, John Sopko, while briefing members of Congress on Wednesday, severely criticized the classification move. He maintained American taxpayers have a right to know how their money is being spent.

“The Taliban know this [Afghan casualties], they know who was killed. They know all about that. The Afghans know about it, the U.S. military knows about it. The only people who wouldn’t know are the [American] people who are paying for it,” Sopko noted.

The United States has spent nearly $120 billion on reconstruction programs in Afghanistan since 2002. More than 60 percent of the money has been used to build Afghan security forces. (VOA)

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#Whatsappdown : Here is what happened when people took to Twitter to check if Whatsapp is down

Whatsapp, the most popular instant messaging app, is more than a need; it is a necessity. You may miss reading the morning newspaper, but we are sure you can never afford to not check your Whatsapp messages.

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Whatsapp
Were you experiencing troubles with Whatsapp? Fret not, you werent alone. Pixabay

New Delhi, October 3, 2017 : Who doesn’t check their Whatsapp first thing in the morning immediately after waking up?

Whatsapp, the most popular instant messaging app, is more than a need; it is a necessity. You may miss reading the morning newspaper, but we are sure you can never afford to not check your whatsapp messages.

In such a scenario, Whatsapp users around the globe, including India, were faced with horror when they were unable to log into the app on November 3.

Whatsapp users from all around the world complained of connectivity issues as they encountered problems sending or receiving texts and were unable to log into the Facebook-owned Whatsapp.

WhatsApp was previously down for a few hours in May this year too, as users in all parts of the world went into frenzy and panic.

On Friday again, several users took to Twitter to confirm if there really is a problem or they are lone sufferers, and soon began a trend as reactions ranging from pure confusion, to agony to frustration to humor surfaced on the internet. The hashtag #whatsappdown was also trending on the micro-blogging site.

We bring you a glimpse of how the users took to Twitter to vent their frustration,

Seems like everybody was hooked onto Twitter for only one reason. Yes, we were all in this together!

Everyone is checking Twitter to see if whatsapp is down 🤣😅😅#WhatsappDown 👨🏽‍💻 pic.twitter.com/VOmkuEG8Uk

— Smik The Deejay® (@dj_smik) November 3, 2017

Twitter users were quick to explain their frustrating using hilarious GIFS.

We cannot argue how factually sound this user is.

Optimism at its best, we would say!

When it’s back up and you’ve zero notifications #WhatsappDown pic.twitter.com/DYmv1KmsYa

We all know how that feels.

But Whatsapp is back again, and lets all heave a sigh of relief!