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Pakistan: Several killed in suicide attack at religious rally

Islamabad, Pakistan – A suicide bomb attack near a religious rally in the Pakistani city of Quetta has killed at least seven people and wounded 25 others, according to officials. Zia Langove, home minister of the southwestern Balochistan province, said Monday’s explosion took place close to the event organised by Ahle Sunnat Wal Jammat (ASWJ),…

Pakistan: Several killed in suicide attack at religious rally

Islamabad, Pakistan – A suicide bomb attack near a religious rally in the Pakistani city of Quetta has killed at least seven people and wounded 25 others, according to officials.
Zia Langove, home minister of the southwestern Balochistan province, said Monday’s explosion took place close to the event organised by Ahle Sunnat Wal Jammat (ASWJ), a political party allegedly linked with a sectarian armed group.
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“An attacker came on a motorcycle, and he was stopped by police [near the rally],” Langove told Al Jazeera. “Then, there was an explosion.”
No group has so far claimed responsibility.
Quetta police chief Abdul Razzaq Cheema told reporters the attack was being treated as a suicide bombing.
“Instead of stopping, [the attacker] attempted to continue going forward,” he said. “They struggled with him, toppling him and stopping him. As he fell, he detonated himself, which killed two of our men, those who had stopped him … and [others].”

A man wounded in the explosion is taken to hospital in Quetta [Jamal Taraqai/EPA] 

The casualties were taken to Quetta’s main government hospital, about a kilometre (0.6 miles) away from the attack site.
“We have received seven dead bodies,” Waseem Baig, a hospital spokesperson, said, adding that at least eight of the wounded were in serious condition.
Witnesses corroborated the police version of events, saying the explosion appeared to take place at a police barricade near the rally in the centre of Quetta.
“I was near the explosion. When the blast took place, I ran this way and debris hit me on my back,” said a man who was wounded in the attack and declined to be identified.
“I ran away from there and I don’t know what happened after that. A sudden darkness came and I lost consciousness.”
The ASWJ, a far-right Sunni Muslim political party, has long called for Shia Muslims – who make up roughly 20 percent of Pakistan’s population – to be declared “non-Muslim” under Pakistani law.
The party has long been associated with the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ) armed group that targets Shia Muslims across Pakistan, and particularly in Quetta. ASWJ denies the alleged links with LeJ.
Asad Hashim is Al Jazeera’s digital correspondent in Pakistan. He tweets @AsadHashim. Additional reporting by Saadullah Akhtar in Quetta
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‘Tip of the iceberg’: Pakistan highway rape sparks outrage |NationalTribune.com

Karachi, Pakistan – Police in Pakistan have arrested 15 people believed to be linked to the rape of a woman on a major highway, an incident that has attracted national outcry with demands for greater justice for victims of sexual violence. The woman was attacked when her car broke down in the early hours of…

‘Tip of the iceberg’: Pakistan highway rape sparks outrage |NationalTribune.com

Karachi, Pakistan – Police in Pakistan have arrested 15 people believed to be linked to the rape of a woman on a major highway, an incident that has attracted national outcry with demands for greater justice for victims of sexual violence.
The woman was attacked when her car broke down in the early hours of Thursday while she was driving from the city of Lahore, capital of Punjab province, to Gujranwala with her children.
Unidentified assailants attacked her as she stopped her vehicle, smashing her car window before raping her in a nearby field and robbing her of cash and jewellery.
Local media reported that her children were made to watch.
None of the 15 people arrested is believed to be part of the group that attacked her, police told the Associated Press.
On Friday, provincial police said the newly constructed highway did not have any police deployed to protect travellers, and that they would be commencing those duties.

Protesters condemn violence against women and girls during a demonstration in Karachi, Pakistan [Akhtar Soomro/Reuters]

‘Victim blaming’ outrage
Shortly after the incident, Lahore police chief Umar Shaikh became the subject of national outrage when he appeared to blame the victim for the rape, saying the woman should not have been travelling alone at that time.
Shaikh, newly appointed to the post after some political controversy, is facing demands to resign.
“Such statements from people in charge should start with an apology in failing to protect citizens of Pakistan,” Khadija Siddiqui, an activist and lawyer who was stabbed 23 times in an attack in 2016, told Al Jazeera.
“They should apologise that women in this country have to suffer every day,” she said, adding that police officers who dealt with gender-based violence were often “part of the problem”.
“They are complicit. Such people shouldn’t be in these posts in the police sector where we expect them to be protectors of the state.”

Tahira Abdullah, a veteran human rights defender, was also angered by the incident.
“This is just the tip of the iceberg of violent crimes committed against women and girls which never get reported, especially in our rural [areas],” said Abdullah.
However, she said: “It is a positive sign that this particularly heinous, barbaric gang rape and robbery case is receiving a lot of publicity, which just might lead to concrete action.”
Pressing for drastic police reform on gender-based violence cases, Abdullah said there is a need for carefully designed training to inculcate the spirit of community-friendly policing.
“Each province needs a gender crimes unit staffed by specially trained women, along with hotlines, crisis shelters, immediate medico-legal aid, DNA testing, help in registering the case at the nearest police station, and longer-term PTSD trauma counselling and therapy.”
Widespread condemnation 
Prime Minister Imran Khan’s office said the protection of women was a priority for the government, adding that “such brutality and bestiality cannot be allowed in any civilised society. Such incidents are a violation of our social values and a disgrace to society”.
Pakistan’s human rights minister, Shireen Mazari, strongly criticised Shaikh for blaming the victim.

For an officer to effectively blame a woman for being gang raped by saying she should have taken the GT Road or question as to why she went out in the night with her children is unacceptable & have taken up this issue. Nothing can ever rationalise the crime of rape. That’s it.
— Shireen Mazari (@ShireenMazari1) September 10, 2020

According to the Punjab police, there have been at least 2,043 registered cases of rape and 111 cases of gang rape in the province this year.
Harris Khalique, secretary-general of the independent Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP), said violence against women and children has increased over the last few years, during which HRCP has registered an average of 10 cases of gender-based violence a day, including sexual assault and the rape of minors.
“The gravity of the situation of the incident on the highway is the woman begging the police for the case not to be made public,” said Khalique.
“Stigma is attached to it and the victim is blamed.  A woman is raped in front of her children, and the police chief of Lahore has the gall to say why she was driving late at night on her own.
“Legal and policy measures need to be taken. The attitude change in society has to be brought, the increasing misogyny and intolerance of difference of opinion are all linked to each other,” said Khalique.

The horrifying gang rape of a woman in the #motorwayincident is a grim reminder that Pakistan has become an increasingly dangerous place for #women. Not only must the perpetrators be brought to justice, the Motorway police must also be taken to task for failing to respond. 1/2
— Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (@HRCP87) September 10, 2020

SOURCE:
Al Jazeera News

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Pakistan Christian man sentenced to death for ‘blasphemous texts’ |NationalTribune.com

Islamabad, Pakistan – A court in the eastern Pakistani city of Lahore has sentenced a Christian man to death for having committed “blasphemy”, his lawyer says, in the latest case of Pakistan’s strict religious laws being applied against minorities. Asif Pervaiz, 37, has been in custody since 2013 when he was accused of having sent…

Pakistan Christian man sentenced to death for ‘blasphemous texts’ |NationalTribune.com

Islamabad, Pakistan – A court in the eastern Pakistani city of Lahore has sentenced a Christian man to death for having committed “blasphemy”, his lawyer says, in the latest case of Pakistan’s strict religious laws being applied against minorities.
Asif Pervaiz, 37, has been in custody since 2013 when he was accused of having sent “blasphemous” text messages to a former supervisor at work, lawyer Saif-ul-Malook told Al Jazeera.
The court rejected his testimony wherein he denied the charges and sentenced him to death on Tuesday.
“The complainant was a supervisor in a hosiery factory where Asif was working under him,” said Malook.
“He denied the allegations and said that this man was trying to get him to convert to Islam.”
Speaking in his own defence in court earlier in the trial, Pervaiz claimed the supervisor confronted him after he quit work at the factory, and when he refused to convert he was accused of having sent blasphemous text messages to the man.
Blasphemy laws
Muhammad Saeed Khokher, the complainant in the case, denies wanting to convert Parvaiz, according to his lawyer, Ghulam Mustafa Chaudhry.
“He has taken this defence after the fact, because he had no other clear defence,” Chaudhry told Al Jazeera. “That’s why he accused him of trying to convert him.”
Chaudhry said there were other Christian employees at the factory, but none have accused Khokher of proselytising.
Pakistan’s strict blasphemy laws prescribe a mandatory death penalty for the crime of insulting Islam’s Prophet Muhammad, and strict penalties for other infractions such as insulting Islam, the holy Quran or certain holy people.
There are currently at least 80 people in prison in Pakistan for the crime of “blasphemy”, with at least half of them facing life sentences or the death penalty, according to the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF).
Those accused under the laws are mainly Muslim, in a country where 98 percent of the population follows Islam, but the laws disproportionately target members of minorities such as Christians and Hindus.
Aasia Bibi case
In one of the most high-profile blasphemy cases in the country’s history, the Supreme Court ruled in October 2018 that a Christian woman, Aasia Bibi, had been framed in her case and that the laws had inadequate oversight for false accusations.
Those accusations can have deadly consequences. Since 1990, at least 77 people have been killed in connection with blasphemy allegations, according to an Al Jazeera tally.
Those killed have included people accused of blasphemy, their family members, lawyers and judges who have acquitted those accused of the crime. Bibi fled Pakistan in 2019 due to threats against her life.
The latest such murder took place in July when a man accused of blasphemy was shot six times in a courtroom during a hearing in his case.
His murderer was apprehended and was garlanded with roses by far-right supporters during subsequent court appearances.
This month has seen a sharp spike in blasphemy cases being registered in Pakistan, particularly in the most populous province of Punjab. Many of these cases have targeted the country’s sizeable Shia Muslim minority, which forms roughly 15 percent of the population.
Since a series of large-scale sit-in protests on the issue of blasphemy in 2017, political parties have increasingly been including messaging on blasphemy in their platforms.
The Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) political party, formed by firebrand scholar Khadim Hussain Rizvi ahead of the 2018 polls, campaigned on a platform based on defence of the blasphemy laws.
While it won few seats, it garnered the fourth-highest share of the countrywide popular vote by a single party.
Asad Hashim is Al Jazeera’s digital correspondent in Pakistan. He tweets @AsadHashim
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Pakistan army chief to visit Saudi Arabia in quest to smooth ties |NationalTribune.com

Pakistan’s army chief will visit Saudi Arabia this weekend, officials said, seeking to calm diplomatic strains over Kashmir as financial support for Islamabad hangs in the balance. The two countries are traditionally close and Saudi Arabia in 2018 gave Pakistan a $3bn loan and $3.2bn oil credit facility to help its balance of payments crisis.…

Pakistan army chief to visit Saudi Arabia in quest to smooth ties |NationalTribune.com

Pakistan’s army chief will visit Saudi Arabia this weekend, officials said, seeking to calm diplomatic strains over Kashmir as financial support for Islamabad hangs in the balance.
The two countries are traditionally close and Saudi Arabia in 2018 gave Pakistan a $3bn loan and $3.2bn oil credit facility to help its balance of payments crisis.
But Riyadh is irked by criticism from Pakistan that Saudi Arabia has been lukewarm on the Kashmir territorial dispute, two senior military officials told the Reuters news agency, motivating General Qamar Javed Bajwa’s planned fence-building visit on Sunday.
“Yes he is travelling,” Pakistan army spokesman Major General Babar Iftikhar told Reuters, though the official line was that the visit was preplanned and “primarily military affairs oriented”.
India and Pakistan have fought three wars over the divided Himalayan region of Kashmir, which both claim in full.
Pakistan has long pressed the Saudi-led Organization of Islamic Countries (OIC) to convene a high-level meeting to highlight alleged Indian violations in the part it controls.
But the OIC has only held low-level meetings so far.
“If you cannot convene it, then I’ll be compelled to ask Prime Minister Imran Khan to call a meeting of the Islamic countries that are ready to stand with us on the issue of Kashmir and support the oppressed Kashmiris,” Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi told local media last week.
Money at stake
Last year, Islamabad had pulled out of a Muslim nations forum at the last minute on insistence by Riyadh, which saw the gathering as an attempt to challenge its leadership of the OIC.
Qureshi’s remarks have revived Riyadh’s anger, one of the Pakistani military officials and a government adviser said.
Saudia Arabia had already made Pakistan pay back $1bn two weeks ago, forcing it to borrow from another close ally, China, and Riyadh is yet to respond to Pakistan’s request to extend the oil credit facility.
“The first year (of the oil credit facility) completed on 9th July 2020. Our request for an extension in the arrangement is under consideration with the Saudi side,” a Pakistani finance ministry official told Reuters.
Saudi Arabia is also asking for another $1bn back, officials at Pakistan’s finance ministry and one of the military officers said. The Saudi government media office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Pakistanis account for more than a quarter of the 10 million expatriates working in Saudi Arabia.
Pakistani leader Khan is also seeking to mediate between Saudi Arabia and Iran, after attacks on Gulf oil interests that Washington blamed on Tehran, though he said recently that was progressing slowly.
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