Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Pakistan moves to disarm

Worried about ongoing targeted killings and growing gun violence, civil society organisations have started a de-weaponisation campaign in Karachi, and the Mutahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) has filed a bill in the National Assembly seeking de-weaponisation across the country.

Last year was one of the most violent in Pakistan's history, with 801 people killed in Karachi alone. That is the most murders since 1995, when 1,742 people were killed, a Citizen Police Liaison Committee (CPLC) report says.

Some 40 people have been killed in targeted killing since January 13, which led to a partial curfew in parts of the city.

The MQM filed a bill in the National Assembly on January 17 seeking de-weaponisation across the country. The proposed law would ban the production, smuggling, import and use of firearms, ammunition and weapons throughout Pakistan, said Dr. Farooq Sattar, a key leader of the MQM.

The party also suggested forming a parliamentary committee to oversee the process, he said. A public outcry for de-weaponisation has been raised with every new wave of violence in Karachi.

“The present waves of anarchy and lawlessness have necessitated a need to launch a comprehensive de-weaponisation campaign to cleanse the city from the menace of illicit weapons,” said Farhat Parveen.“The present waves of anarchy and lawlessness have necessitated a need to launch a comprehensive de-weaponisation campaign to cleanse the city from the menace of illicit weapons,” said Farhat Parveen, head of the National Organisation for Working Communities (NOWC), a Karachi-based rights organisation.

The disarmament drive -- “Campaign for Peace” -- is run by NOWC with the collaboration of Oxfam-Novib Pakistan, Parveen told Central Asia Online last week. Civil society and professional organisations, traders, political parties and peace activists are part of the campaign, she added.

“Even though it is a difficult task, the disarming of the city is the need of the hour and has to be perused from some point,” Parveen said. Some of the victims of the violence were political activists, but most were apolitical daily wage labourers.

Crime statistics on rise in Karachi

From 2006-09, criminals and terrorists committed 6,894 attacks with illicit arms across the country, killing 9,634 people and injuring 18,788 others. Thousands of others were kidnapped for ransom, Sattar, who is also a federal minister, said.

The number of incidents of violence in Pakistan fell 11% from 2009 to 2010, but violence in Karachi rose 288%, according to a report by the Pakistan Institute of Peace Studies (PIPS), an Islamabad-based think tank.

Targeted killings in Karachi killed more people than suicide bombings did nationwide in 2010, media reported. Last year 1,208 people died in 335 suicide bombings, while 1,247 were criminally murdered. About 95% of “hit-and-run shootings” in Karachi were carried out with 9mm and .30 calibre pistols, police sources said, adding that these small arms are readily available on the black market.

Some Karachi residents keep around 50 weapons on a single license, Rehman Malik, Federal Interior Minister, said. He added that the government is devising a strategy to stop such abuses.

Central Asia Online has learned that the Sindh Interior Ministry has forwarded a recommendation to the Chief Minister to increase the penalties for possessing illegal weapons and make the possession of illegal weapons a non-bailable crime.

The government is amending Arms Rules 1924 and Pakistan Arms Ordinance 1965, and suggests that the penalty for keeping illegal weapons be increased to 10 years in prison, a senior Interior Ministry official told Central Asia Online.

Security affects businesses, medical care
The worsening security situation has prompted 150 businessmen and their families to leave the country, said Majyd Aziz, former head of Karachi Chamber of Commerce and Industries (KCCI). Targeted killings affect businesses as commercial areas close because of violence and riots, Aziz, who is also a leader the campaign to disarm Karachi, said.

A number of physicians from Karachi have also left Pakistan because they were victims of violence, said Dr, Samreena Hashami, an officer of the Pakistan Medical Association (PMA).

The continued re-enforcement of the ideas of militarisation in the educational curriculum, and society’s emphasis on militancy were the main reasons behind the weaponisation of society, said Javed Jabbar, a former federal Minister, involved in the campaign.

“We have to focus on traditional and non-traditional education because non-traditional education including media is promoting violence,” Jabbar said. He added that law enforcement needs to be reformed to make it able to effectively de-weaponize society.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

OIC Secretary General inaugurates 600 Housing Unites for Pakistanis affected by the Floods

The Secretary General of the Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC), Professor Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu inaugurated the construction of 100 housing unites in D G Khan Village in the Punjab province being the first phase of a project totaling 600 housing unites funded by the OIC in six provinces in the country. The special ceremony was held on Tuesday 11 January 2011 in the presence of the Prime Minister of Pakistan, H. E. Yousaf Raza Gillani and high-ranking government officials, dignitaries and guests.

The housing unites were sponsored using funds contributed by the staff of the OIC General Secretariat and OIC organs in addition to assistance from Cameroon and Guyana. At the ceremony, Ihsanoglu presented a speech in which he underscored OIC assistance for the people affected by the floods that hit Pakistan last year. At the ceremony, the Secretary General received some of the people benefiting from the housing units to be built by the OIC for the people affected by the floods. This project comes in support of the Secretary General's efforts to rally support from the Muslim Ummah and civil society institutions to assist the people of Pakistan affected by the latest devastating floods.

Worth mentioning that the OIC Secretary General had played a proactive advocacy role in raising the awareness among the OIC Member States about the devastation caused by the unprecedented floods immediately after it occurred. And in response to the Secretary General's call for rendering assistance to Pakistan, the Member States governments and civil societies have in total allocated assistance and pledges to support Pakistan which amounted to 1 billion USD out of which a total of 680 Million US Dollars has been committed. The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has allocated 250 Million USD in addition to shipment of humanitarian assistance to Pakistan immediately after the floods hit the country, and Turkey which has pledged to allocate 200 Million USD and Iran which has pledged to allocate 100 Million USD.

During the event, the Secretary General also honored the renowned Pakistani artist Mr. Abrar Ul Haq by designating him the first OIC Humanitarian Ambassador. This designation comes in recognition of Mr. Abrar's eminence in philanthropic and social work in his country and abroad to support needy people. It will enable him to promote the OIC humanitarian cause in his country and in other OIC Member States.

Earlier in the day, the Secretary General addressed the 14th Session of the General Assembly of the OIC Standing Committee on Scientific and Technological Cooperation (COMSTECH) which will last three days.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Civil society says Taseer’s murder begining of ‘dark age’ in country

Human rights activists and members of civil society strongly condemned the brutal killing of Punjab Governor Salmaan Taseer, terming it silencing of a voice for the weak and the beginning of a dark age in the country.

Renown journalist and human rights activist, Hussain Naqi, told Daily Times that Taseer had become a victim of the politics of extremism started by our establishment with the introduction of controversial laws like the blasphemy law.

He said Taseer had been a voice of tolerance in society and was the only one who took a clear stand against religious extremists by supporting their victims. Naqvi said that Taseer was a brave man, but it was tragic that he took that stand alone, which the government was supposed to take and that situation led to his assassination.

He said that his stand against blasphemy law was vital and he gave a voice to the demands of the civil society, human rights activists and those who were becoming victims of misuse of these laws. Naqvi said the government had played a selfish rule in the matter.

He said that it was also tragic that our judiciary could take note of Taseer’s stand on the Aasia Bibi case but never bothered to take action against people like the cleric of the Mohabbat Khan Mosque, who were issuing death decrees against him while promising prize for his assassins.

He said that media had also played a key role in developing a hate campaign against Taseer, as some media outlets were misusing their capacity to increase the ratings of their channels by inciting hatred and sectarianism in society.

PPP minority wing leader, Napolean Qayyom, told Daily Times that minorities and oppressed communities of Pakistan would never forget the great sacrifice of Taseer, saying he was a lion who had lost his life while protecting the weak.

MPA Pervaiz Rafique said that the non-Muslims of Pakistan would always be indebted to Taseer, who had protected them when there was nobody else to support them.

He said Taseer was not against the blasphemy law but only wanted to stop the misuse of such controversial laws in support of society and minorities. He said that it was also a great favour of Taseer that he founded Daily Times, which became a voice of minorities and promoter of tolerance in society.