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Hold Pakistan accountable for violations of religious freedom: US Commission

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Washington: An independent US commission has asked the State Department to designate Pakistan and seven others as “countries of particular concern,” where governments “engage in or tolerate systematic, ongoing, and egregious violations of religious freedom.”

Welcoming the release of State Department’s International Religious Freedom Report, the US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) said the next step is to promptly designate the worst violators as CPCs and to press for much-needed reforms in those countries.

The International Religious Freedom Act of 1998 (IRFA) provides a range of options for such action, from bilateral agreements to sanctions, it said noting the IRF Report is required by IRFA, the same law that established USCIRF.

“The just-released IRF Report leaves no doubt that the egregious nature of the violations in Pakistan warrant a CPC designation,” said USCIRF Chairman Robert P. George.

In July 2014, the State Department designated nine nations as CPCs under IRFA: Burma, China, Eritrea, Iran, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan.

USCIRF’s 2015 annual report, released in April, recommended that these countries be re-designated as CPCs, and also called for eight additional designations: Central African Republic, Egypt, Iraq, Nigeria, Pakistan, Syria, Tajikistan, and Vietnam.

“USCIRF urges the State Department to continue the current nine CPC designations,” said George.

“We also urge the State Department to further expand its CPC list to reflect the severe violations occurring in other countries, such as Pakistan, which USCIRF has called the worst situation in the world for religious freedom for countries not currently designated by the US government as CPCs,” he said.

State Department’s 2014 IRF report said Pakistan “government’s general failure to investigate, arrest, or prosecute those responsible for religious freedom abuses promoted an environment of impunity that fostered intolerance and acts of violence, according to domestic and international human rights organizations.”

“Government policies did not afford equal protection to members of minority religious groups, and due to discriminatory legislation such as blasphemy laws and laws designed to marginalise the Ahmadiyya Muslim community, minorities often were afraid to profess freely their religious beliefs,” it said.

(Arun Kumar, IANS)

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Two ancient Tombs discovered at Luxor, Egypt

Egypt's antiquated history now has two more tombs to boast of

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Two ancient tombs discovered at Luxor, Egypt
Two ancient tombs have been discovered at Luxor, Egypt, Image Source: VOA News

Egypt is extremely popular for its sanctuaries and tombs traversing diverse traditions of antiquated Egyptian history and now the tombs in Luxor adds one more feather to Egypt’s beauty. The popularity of the Egyptian pyramids dates back to the three massive tombs of the Fourth Dynasty. Tombs and pyramids have always appeared fascinating in movies and stories with some intriguing facts and discoveries.

Egypt’s latest discovery to boost tourism, Image Source: VOA News
  • Located on the east bank of the Nile River, Luxor is a city in Southern Egypt. Recently, two small ancient tombs have been discovered in this city dating back to some 3,500 years. Situated on the west bank of the river Nile, the tombs are the freshest disclosure in the city.
  • Since the beginning of 2017, the Antiquities Ministry has made a series of disclosures in a few areas crosswise over Egypt including Luxor city — including the tomb of a regal goldsmith, in a similar territory and having a place with a similar line, whose work was devoted to the old Egyptian God Amun.
  • According to the ministry, one of the tombs has a courtyard lined with mud-brick and stone walls containing a six-meter yard prompting four side chambers. They further said the artefacts found inside were mostly fragments of wooden coffins. The paintings and wall inscriptions further advocate the origin of the tombs to the era between the reigns of King Amenhotep II and King Thutmose IV, the two monarchs of the 18th dynasty.
  • The other tomb consists of five entrances prompting a rectangular corridor containing two burial shafts situated in the southern and northern sides of the tomb.
Archaeologist works on repairing masks discovered in the tombs, Image Source: Quartz

The ministry further stated, among the relics found inside are funerary cones, painted wooden funerary covers, dirt vessels, a gathering of approximately 450 statues and a mummy wrapped in material who was likely the best. A cartouche cut on the roof bears the name of King Thutmose I of the mid-eighteenth line.

Antiques Minister, Khaled al-Anani said, it is truly an exceptional day as the private tombs from the 18th dynasty are quite familiar but this is the first time to enter inside these tombs.

Al-Anani said the revelations are a piece of the service’s endeavours to advance Egypt’s essential tourism industry, somewhat determined by artefacts touring, that was hit hard by fanatic assaults and political turmoil following the 2011 uprising.

Al-Anani then headed to an adjacent site where the renowned Mortuary Temple of Hatshepsut is situated to open out of the blue the sanctuary’s primary asylum known as the “Holy of Holies.”

This news is sure to evoke a range of excitement among people worldwide. It would be right to say that Egypt has excavated two more sites for onlookers to explore and experience!

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Pakistan : Law Minister forced to step down, Is the notorious Islamic nation on way to collapse?

With growing influence of Islamic extremists on one hand and separatist movements on other hand, it is really a tough road ahead for Pakistan. The den of terror is on way to collapse

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Islamic Terrorism
Supporters of the extremist Tehreek-e-Labaik party Pakistan (VOA)

After few weeks of ongoing drama Pakistan government on Monday made a deal with leaders of an extremist Islamist protest movement, agreeing that Pakistan law minister would step down from his position in return for an end to violent protests that had resulted in brutal clashes and immobilised the Pakistani capital since last few weeks. The law minister, Zahid Hamid, whom protesters had accused of blasphemy, resigned as part of negotiations overseen by Pakistan’s military. Law Minister Zahid Hamid had been accused by clerics of committing blasphemy due to a change in the wording of an oath taken by parliamentarians. The extremists, led by Rizvi, believed the change in wording as representing a softening of the state’s position against members of the Ahmadi sect, who are not permitted to identify themselves as Muslims in Pakistan. Like many times in past once again in Pakistan the government surrendered to the extremists. A dozen of people were killed and around 250 people were wounded in clashes between protestors and security forces.

“On the assurance of the Chief of Army Staff, we are calling off the sit-in,” Muslim extremist and protest leader Khadim Hussain Rizvi representing radical “Tehreek-e-Labaik” told a crowd of around 2,500 demonstrators in Islamabad on Monday.

Islamic Extremists
Supporters of the Tehreek-e-Labaik party (VOA)

This is not the first time when Islamic extremists have highjacked the government in Pakistan. Not a single Prime Minister in Pakistan has been allowed to complete his tenure since the country’s inception 70 years ago. The political situation in Pakistan has never been a swift ride ever since 1947, as four times democratic governments were thrown away by military dictators, one prime minister was killed while another one was hanged by judiciary, many were sent home by presidents and two were dismissed by the Supreme Court, the latest been Nawaz Sharif.

The recent developments have again proved that Pakistan’s democratically elected government has no authority, it is the islamic extremists who hold the jar of power dictating government what to do and what not to do. Few days back only, a judicial panel ordered the release of Islamic militant leader Hafiz Saeed who was the mastermind of deadly Mumbai terror attacks in 2008 from house arrest. Hafiz Saeed have a huge following and popularity in Pakistan, and was to take up leadership of a political party which he planned to start. The matter of concern is future of Pakistan with such terrorists penetrating in power corridors.

With growing extremism on one side, separatist movements are also growing in Pakistan. Baloch freedom movement is gaining pace and a large section of Pashtun population are also demanding an independent Pashtunistan. There are several similarities between the Pakistani Army committing hideous crimes in Bangladesh (what was then East Pakistan) and Balochistan & Pashtunistan. Mass killings, the rape of women, laying human habitations to waste, targeted assassinations – Bangladesh saw it all during its Liberation War of 1971. Balochistan and Pashtunistan continues to witness these horrors. Religious minorities are also often targeted including the Shia and Ahmadi muslim population.

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With growing Wahhabism on one hand and separatist movements on another hand its really a tough job for Pakistan’s government to keep the country intact. Pakistan should now understand that there is no good terrorism and bad terrorism. [bctt tweet=”Pakistan should now understand that there is no good terrorism and bad terrorism. The snake you raise in your backyard is more likely to bite you before it bite your neighbour.”] In such grave situations, civil society of Pakistan must ponder over the state of affairs and should reject terrorism against India, only then a progressive Pakistan can exist. A progressive and stable Pakistan is equally important for neighbouring countries.

–  by SHAURYA RITWIK, Shaurya is Sub-Editor at NewsGram and writes on Geo-politcs, Culture, Indology and Business. Twitter Handle – @shauryaritwik

2 responses to “Pakistan : Law Minister forced to step down, Is the notorious Islamic nation on way to collapse?”

  1. Good analysis, Pakistan must look within and stop religious extremists before they take control of whole nation.

  2. That is a very good and deep analysis. Pakistan is imploding from inside, religious extremist groups have the upper hand while ethnic suppression is igniting separatism. Ethnic Pashtun and Baluch nationalism should be empowered to put an end to the terror-producing machinery in Pakistan that means total collapse of Pakistani dysfunctional, apartheid and panjabi fascist failed state.

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Analysts in USA and India Not surprised by Release of Hafiz Saeed by Pakistan

While the news of Saeed’s release has caught worldwide attention, some US experts on South Asian affairs say Pakistan's move was bound to happen - sooner or later.

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Hafiz Saeed has been released from jail by Hafiz Saeed
Hafiz Saeed, head of the Pakistan's Jamaat-ud-Dawa group waves to supporters at a mosque in Lahore, Pakistan, Nov. 24, 2017. VOA

Anti-terrorism analysts in Washington and New Delhi are critical of Pakistan’s decision to release a man accused of masterminding the 2008 Mumbai terror attacks that killed 160, but some say they are not surprised by the move. U.S. officials say Hafiz Saeed is a terrorist.

He was set free by Pakistani authorities after 11 months of house arrest in the eastern city of Lahore on Friday. Earlier last week, a judicial panel of Lahore High Court said there was not enough evidence to continue Saeed’s detention.

Hafiz Saeed in Pakistan
Supporters of Hafiz Saeed, head of Pakistan’s Jamaat-ud-Dawa group, shower his car with rose petals as he leaves a court in Lahore, Pakistan, Nov. 21, 2017. VOA

While the news of Saeed’s release has caught worldwide attention, some experts on South Asian affairs say Pakistan’s move was bound to happen – sooner or later. “I see Saeed’s release as totally unsurprising. This is a story that’s played out multiple times in recent history: He is put under house arrest only to be released,” Michael Kugelman, a Washington-based South Asian analyst associated with the Woodrow Wilson Center told VOA.

“Pakistani legal authorities had said all along that there was not sufficient evidence to keep him detained, so it was just a matter of time before he was released,” Kugelman added.

Hafiz Saeed is the head of Jamaat-ud-Dawa group (JuD) and Falah-e-Insaniat foundation (FIF), both of which have been declared terrorist organizations by the U.S. and the U.N. Security Council. Jamaat-ud-Dawa is widely believed to be the front of Hafiz Saeed’s Lashkar-e-Tayyiba (LeT) which was included into the U.N.’s terrorist groups list in 2005.

US ‘deeply concerned’

U.S. State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert said Saeed should be arrested and charged for his crimes. “The United States is deeply concerned that Lashkar-e-Tayyiba (LeT) leader Hafiz Saeed has been released from the house arrest in Pakistan. LeT is a designated Foreign Terrorist Organization responsible for the death of hundreds of innocent civilians in terrorist attacks, including a number of American citizens,” Nauert said.

Mumbai Terror Attack
FILE – People hold a candlelight vigil for the victims of a terrorist attack, in Mumbai, India, Nov. 29, 2008. The attack took a total of 160 lives. VOA

India, which alleges Saeed was mastermind of Mumbai carnage in 2008, has also reacted strongly to his release. India’s Foreign Ministry spokesman said that a “self-confessed and U.N.-proscribed terrorist was being allowed to walk free and continue with his evil agenda.”

Some political analysts in India also seem to be agitated by Saeed’s release and say it will only further complicate the already strained relations between the two rival nations.

“His release only reinforces the popular belief in India that the Pakistani establishment is either not interested or it’s incapable of putting Saeed on trial in the Mumbai case,” Vinod Sharma, Delhi based political editor of the Hindustan Times told VOA. “In either case it increases the trust deficit between the two countries.”

Insufficient evidence, says Pakistan

Lawmakers in Pakistan dismiss the allegations and maintain India and the U.S. provided insufficient evidence to put Hafiz Saeed behind bars or declare him a terrorist.

“The criticism by the United States is wrong and India’s anger makes no sense as Pakistan is a democratic country where courts are powerful and work with full authority,” Abdul Qayyum, a prominent member of the ruling party PML-N told VOA. “Until and unless there is solid evidence against Hafiz Saeed, how can you arrest or punish him? We have strict rules for terrorists and we do not spare them at any cost,” Qayyum added.

Some experts on South Asian affairs point out that Hafiz Saeed’s release orders came out within days after the U.S. Congress removed a provision from the National Defense Authorization Act 2018 that delinks Lashkar-e-Tayyiba (LeT) from the Haqqani Network to reimburse Pakistan for its cooperation in the war on terror.

Ashley Tellis, a senior fellow with the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in Washington called the amendment an “unfortunate move.” “It will give Pakistan a way to differentiate between good and bad terrorists and they will make less effort to satisfy the United States against the war on terror,” Tellis told VOA.

Aman Azhar of VOA’s Urdu Service contributed to this report.