Last month on the occasion of Independence Day, Dr Auj was awarded Tamgha-e-Imtiaz.
A Pakistani academic known for promoting liberal views on Islam has been shot dead by gunmen – two years after being accused of committing blasphemy in a speech he made in the US.
Dr Muhammad Shakil Auj, Dean of the faculty of Islamic Studies at the University of Karachi, was attacked by two gunmen on a motorbike as he was making his way in his car to a function at the city’s Iranian cultural centre. A junior teaching colleague was also hit and suffered an injury to her arm.
“A bullet pierced through his head, proving fatal,” senior police officer Pir Mohammad Shah told the Associated Press. “We are investigating the killing. It would be premature to state the motive at the moment.”
The 54-year academic was known as someone who had spoken out on many issues in Islam and written several articles. One of the articles had suggested Muslim women should be allowed to marry non-Muslim men. He had also said Muslim women did not need to remove lipstick or make-up before going to prayer.
In 2012, Mr Auj, 54, had complained to police that four colleagues from the university had threatened him and sent him text messages accusing him of blasphemy. They had claimed a speech he had made that year in the US amounted to blasphemy.
One of the academics he complained about had previously held his position within the department. The four men face charges but are currently out on bail, according to reports.
Pakistan’s blasphemy laws, introduced under British rule and then tightened during the years of military dictator Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq, have become increasingly controversial and ever more deadly. Campaigners say that the laws, which carry the death penalty, are routinely used to settle personal scores and grudges that have nothing to do with Islam.
While no-one has ever been executed for blasphemy, many accused have been attacked and killed and lawyers and judges have been threatened. A recent report by a US government advisory panel said there were 14 people on death row in Pakistan and 19 others serving life sentences for insulting Islam.
Among those on death row is a 70-year-old British citizen, Muhammad Asghar, from Edinburgh, who was sentenced in January after being convicted of claiming he was a prophet. His lawyers and family said he has been suffering from mental health issues for several years.
Efforts to reform the laws by Pakistan’s previous government were scrapped in the aftermath of the murder in January 2011 of Salmaan Taseer, the governor of Punjab province, where Multan is located, who had spoken about the misuse of the laws and the need to reform them. A second politician, the then-minorities minister, Shahbaz Bhatti, who also supported reforming the laws, was murdered two months later.
In May this year, the lawyer for another academic who had been accused of blasphemy was shot dead in the city of Multan. Rashid Rehman had agreed to represent Junaid Hafeez, a lecturer at Multan’s Bahauddin Zakariya University, who had been accused of defaming the prophet Mohammed on social media last year.
Reports said the accusations were levelled by hardline university students who had pushed for him to be charged. Mr Rehman took on the case after no other lawyer would represent the lecturer.
In Karachi, students held a demonstration in protest over Thursday morning’s killing of their teacher. They demanded the authorities do more to protect teaching staff. One placard being carried by students, read: “The murder of a teacher is a murder of the whole society.”
Gay Pakistan: Where sex is available and relationships are difficult
By Mobeen Azhar
Pakistan is not the kind of place that most people would associate with gay liberation. But some say the country is a great place to be gay - even describing the port city of Karachi as “a gay man’s paradise”.
Underground parties, group sex at shrines and “marriages of convenience” to members of the opposite sex are just some of the surprises that gay Pakistan has to offer. Under its veneer of strict social conformity, the country is bustling with same-sex activity.
Pakistani society is fiercely patriarchal. Pakistanis are expected to marry a member of the opposite sex, and the vast majority do.
The result is a culture of dishonesty and double lives, says researcher Qasim Iqbal.
"Gay men will make every effort to stop any investment in a same-sex relationship because they know that one day they will have to get married to a woman," he says.
"After getting married they will treat their wives well but they will continue to have sex with other men."
THERE’s no better way to say this so here goes: the terror attacks on Karachi airport were not the handiwork of Indian agents. There is a fever that needs to break if we are facing this menace in earnest, and not just with empty rage.
Who are these terrorists? And what do they want?
As Pakistan has struggled with these questions over the years, and once again plays out the same debates with nauseating monotony, I’m reminded of something I learned when observing the cognitive coping mechanisms that emerge when a bubble develops in the financial markets.
I call it bubble era psychology and it’s something I glimpsed as a television anchor during the stock market bubble of the late Musharraf years — particularly in 2007. Those with any brains knew that a bubble of epic proportions had developed in the stock market at that time, but nobody wanted to say it out loud. Only the dimmest bulbs in the chandelier — and yes, there were plenty of them — actually bought the spin about the sharply rising values being linked in some fantastic way to fundamentals.
Nobody wanted to say what everybody knew because they were having too much fun and were afraid that calling the bubble by its name would somehow jinx it all. So they all lied: to each other, to their clients, and in some cases to themselves about the reality of what was going on.
‘No impact on Pakistan’ everybody would happily declare as the fires of the global financial crisis engulfed one market after another. Money poured into the stock market in quantities never before seen even as every warning sign on the planet was flashing with dire urgency.
The power of denial and wishful thinking is something financial markets are intimately familiar with, since they always underlie the destructive energies of speculative bubbles.
Something similar is happening as I watch my fellow Pakistanis coping with, and trying to make sense of the terrorism that is engulfing our country. First of all, like most retail clients in the financial markets, they don’t have the knowledge required to make sense of the fast-changing circumstances they are caught up in.
Retail clients in financial markets made up their minds based on flimsy advice peddled by TV anchors on business shows, or the salespeople of brokerage houses, and what they hear others around them saying. Most people today are also trying to understand terrorism without any history or context, and certainly without much idea of what all has been done in other countries in their name.
As a business journalist, I used to often get people asking me investment advice in those days, and my answer was always the same: get out of the stock market. But the bubble created illusions of spectacular gains and averting one’s gaze from it was very difficult. The allure of quick riches that it held out was too powerful so of course nobody followed my advice. In the end they all got burned as the market collapsed and withdrawals were frozen.
Something similar is happening to Pakistan today as it is engulfed by terrorism. People lack the knowledge that they need to make sense of the phenomenon — even though there has been a constant roll of journalists calling out the military for pursuing the disastrous policy of cultivating and grooming jihadist militias as tools of statecraft, most people haven’t really been paying attention.
The animal spirits that drive a financial market bubble are perhaps the mirror opposites of those that keep people from seeing the problem of terrorism for what it is. Denial and wishful thinking drive the mind in both cases, but in opposite directions. Once again there is a fevered search for answers. Once again the stakes rise with time. And once again, the solution is in fact simple and straightforward: get out of the game, which in this case would mean the game of nurturing these groups as assets of statecraft.
But unlike the stock market, that kept a lock on one’s gaze with its allure, this proposition repels the gaze because of the discomfort of its implications. After all, it’s never easy to acknowledge that one has done oneself in with one’s own hand.
Many of those who were burned in the stock market bubble, for instance, refused to acknowledge that ultimately the fault as well as the money they lost, was their own. On the day the market crashed, a mob attacked the Karachi Stock Exchange and smashed the windows in blind and impotent rage.
There is a marked similarity in the kinds of coping mechanisms that I’m seeing people develop in response to the complex anxieties of a financial market bubble, and the rising tide of terrorism and militancy that is engulfing our country.
In both cases, denial and wishful thinking have driven sentiment. And where the fevered pursuit of illusory profits only paved the way to ruin in the case of the financial market bubble, the same sentiments in the pursuit of an illusory peace with the militants will pave the way for far larger devastation.
So, my dear Pakistanis, now that we’re facing a threat to our survival far graver than anything the financial markets could throw at us, here’s a little more plain truth: get out of this game of using terror groups as assets.
Stop telling yourself and others around you comfortable little lies. These monsters are of our own creation, a story that has been so amply told by now that it leaves one a little staggered to encounter those who still need to have it explained to them.
Only we hold the key to ridding ourselves of this menace. A few more years of this madness, and there may not be many windows left for the mob to smash when the fever breaks and reality crashes ashore.
The writer is a business journalist based in Karachi.
Suggestions from the police regarding slums have created new headaches instead of solutions for the capital’s civic agency, as some of the suggestions fall beyond established policies.
The Islamabad Police has shared a survey list of katchi abadis located within Islamabad Capital Territory limits with the Capital Development Authority (CDA).
The findings of the survey — compiled after conducting door-to-door verification of inhabitants with the help of the police special branch — say there are at least 24 katchi abadis in urban and rural areas of the city, with 13,521 families consisting of 84,591 individuals are living in them.
Out of these 24 abadis, 21 are located in urban areas, while the other three are in rural Islamabad.
During the last five years, the Islamabad Police traced 674 cases to residents of these areas.
Most of the crimes were related to the sale and purchase of drugs and liquor.
The Police said the nine katchi abadis in the City Zone — mainly consist of the G and F series of sectors and Bari Imam — are notorious as drug dealing hubs.
Meanwhile, the Afghan settlements in the Industrial Zone — mainly the I and H series of sectors — are “hazardous for NESCOM and railway tracks” passing through the area.
The survey further says two katchi abadis in the Rural Zone including Ghorri
in Phase-VI and Dhoke Pathana in Sihala are mostly crime free but pose threats due to frequent VVIPs movement on the Islamabad Expressway. “Due to these two slums any untoward incident can happen,” it apprehends.
However, the Mera Jaffar slum in Saddar Zone — the capital’s largest katchi abadi — is known for more serious crimes and some 256 criminal cases have been registered against its residents during the past five years.
This slum has numerous road links in all directions, and is difficult to cordon off in case of an emergency.
The survey says the occupants of the 24 slums mostly work as laborers, sweepers, CDA sanitary staff, and loaders. A number of beggars also live in the slums.
The police have suggested that the CDA remove some 11 katchi abadis at the earliest, while fencing off the remaining 13.
However, a senior CDA Estate Wing officer said the police suggested fencing off some of the illegal slums, which creates a problem for the CDA.
Out of the 24 slums, the CDA only recognises 10. The civic agency cannot develop illegal slums, it can only remove them, the officer said.
Under the CDA policy on recognised slums, the authority had approved improvement and upgradation of six abadis at their existing site — Shopper Colony in Sector G-7/1, 66 Quarters in Sector G-7/2, 48 Quarters in Sector G-7/3-2, France Colony in Sector F-7/4, 100 Quarters in Sector F-6/2, and Hansa Colony in G-8/1.
The CDA had planned to relocate the residents of the other four slums — Dhoke Najju, Esa Nagri, Haq Bahu and Muslim Colony — to Farash Town.
However, the civic agency has failed to implement both, the relocation plan and the upgradation plan.
Soldier Bazaar No. 1 has all the discontents of a typical Karachi neighbourhood: regular power outages, on and off water cuts, and worse, long traffic jams. But Nargis Rizvi cannot care less.
The housewife is looking for a two-bed apartment in the area – one of the dozens of Shia-majority neighbourhoods in the city. “I’d prefer some peace of mind over other conveniences,” she says. “I want a place where my children can go out to buy household items and return safely.”
An increasing number of Shia families, real estate professionals say, are opting to live in Shia-majority areas in Karachi for the sake of security. “The demand book is full and this is not only for Soldier Bazaar, but for all other Shia-dominated neighbourhoods in the city,” said Maqbool Hussain, who runs an estate agency near Numaish.
Since the recent wave of sectarian killings began in Karachi, an increasing number of Shia families have been moving to areas like Jaffer-e-Tayyar Society in Malir, Old Rizvia in Golimar and Ancholi.
“Call it a silent migration; [but] this has been going on for a few years [now]. It’s a post-Musharraf phenomenon to be precise,” claims Mohammed Shaikh, another real estate agent working in Gulistan-e-Jauhar. He previously operated out of Amroha Society – another Shia-dominated neighbourhood.
Urban planners also agree that the trend is rife. They say, however, it is not only the Shias who are opting to live in their own ‘ghettos,’ but every community in Karachi has carved out its own space over the years owing to discrimination and violence.
“The multiculturalism that once defined Karachi has simply disappeared from the city,” said one of city’s top urban planners, who wished to remain anonymous given the sensitive theme of the story. “I think for the past several years Karachi has been divided into small ghettos, not only on sectarian lines but also ethnic, which are more evident.”
She claims, however, it is only the city’s low-income population that prefers to be cocooned in a small communal ghetto of their own. “The rich can afford to move overnight to a place of their own choice but it is the middle- and lower-income groups who need that comforting sense of security.”
Not a new thing
This is not the first time Karachi has seen an internal migration over sectarian lines.
Back in the early ’80s, when Shia-Sunni clashes surfaced during the reign of General Zia-ul-Haq, the geography of the city first took shape along sectarian lines. Over the years, housing schemes like Jaffer-e-Tayyar Society and Abbas Town in Gulshan-e-Iqbal came into existence.
“Families, if not the whole communities, moved into [these] areas to live where the majority of their community lived,” said Meraj Mohammad Khan, a veteran politician and labour rights activist. “This is very much a human phenomena. When you are shot on the roads for being who you are, you tend to look for areas that are comparatively safer. This is what our Shia brothers are doing today.”
Before Zia’s “dark era”, Khan said, there was hardly any distinction between the Sunnis and Shias in Karachi. “I remember in our student days, when we used to protest with labour unions, the police hounded us and we would hide in each other’s houses, Shia or Sunni. We had bigger issues on our mind and never really thought along such petty lines.”
But past, as they say, is another country. Rizvi, who currently lives in Gulistan-e-Jauhar, recalls a recent incident. A few weeks ago, an estate agent took her husband to see a house near Abid Town in Gulshan-e-Iqbal.
The owner, seeing them, shouted at the agent for bringing in a prospective Shia tenant.
The landlord had already told the estate agent that he won’t give his house to Shias. “My husband was embarrassed, and returned quietly.”
This will be by far the largest nuclear construction project ever in Pakistan. It is not too late to ask a few basic questions so that people, especially those living in Karachi, know what they may be letting themselves in for.
Everyone knows the new reactors are being purchased from China. They will be designed and built by the China National Nuclear Corporation (CNNC).
What people may not know is that the reactors will be based on a design known as the ACP-1000 that is still under development by this Chinese nuclear power company. In effect, Pakistanis are buying reactors for the Karachi site that so far exist only on paper and in computer programmes — there is no operating reactor in China based on this design.
It was reported in April 2013 that the CNNC, the developer of the ACP-1000, had completed a “preliminary safety analysis report”, and was “working on construction design”.
This means so far there is not even a complete design. Since the new Karachi reactors will be the first of a kind, no one knows how safe they will be or how well they will work. The 20 million people of Karachi are being used as subjects in a giant nuclear safety experiment.
The Fukushima nuclear accident has shown that safety systems can fail catastrophically. The accident in 2011 struck Japanese reactors of a well-established design that had been operating for decades. Still, all kinds of things happened that were not expected by the reactor operators or managers or by nuclear safety authorities.
An important lesson of Fukushima is that nuclear establishments underestimate the likelihood and severity of possible accidents. Another important lesson is that these same establishments overestimate their ability to cope with a real nuclear disaster.
At Fukushima, the nuclear authorities failed dismally despite Japan’s legendary organisational capability, technological sophistication and social discipline.
Nearly 200,000 people living close to the Fukushima reactors were evacuated and some may never be allowed to return. Radiation was blown by the wind and contaminated the land to distances of over 30 km.
The US suggested its citizens living in that area of Japan move at least 80km away from the reactor. The government of Japan considered forced evacuation of everyone living within 170km of the reactor site and organising voluntary evacuation for people living as far as 250km from the plant.
Contaminated food and water was found at distances of 250km.
The financial cost of the clean-up so far is estimated to be about $100 billion and could eventually be much higher.
So how big, how dangerous and how costly is the nuclear experiment about to be carried out in Karachi?
An analysis undertaken two years ago, in 2011, by the science magazine Nature and Columbia University in New York showed that the nuclear reactor site in Karachi has more people living within 30km than any other reactor site in the world.
It found that, in 2011, there were eight million Karachi citizens living within this distance of the reactor. All of Karachi falls within 40km of the reactor site.
So far, there have been no public hearings or discussions of the suitability of the site for the new Karachi reactors. There is no report of an Environment Impact Assessment for the proposed new Karachi reactors. Neither the Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission nor the Pakistan Nuclear Regulatory Authority has explained what will happen in case of an accident at the proposed reactor.
A preliminary study by one of the authors found that the plume of radioactive material that could be released from a severe nuclear accident could be blown eastward by the wind over the city, engulfing the most populous areas of Karachi.
There is also no information on the terms for the supply of nuclear fuel, such as how long the very hot, intensely radioactive spent nuclear fuel will stay at the site and how will it be safely stored until it is returned to China, if it is returned at all. The spent fuel stored at Fukushima was damaged in the accident and led to the release of radioactivity.
Finally, there is no information on what emergency plans, including for possible evacuation, have been drawn up as part of preparing for these large new reactors. There is no information whether such plans even exist.
Here is a question for those in charge of Karachi, in charge of Sindh and the federal authorities in Islamabad: how do you propose to evacuate many millions of people from Karachi in case of a severe nuclear accident at the new reactors?
One expects mass panic, with people deciding to save themselves and their families as best as they could, clogging the roads, and delaying the escape of others closer to the reactor. Can any plan work in such an environment?
Finally, there is the cost in terms of money. Reports suggest the two reactors may cost $9-10 billion. They will be paid for by taking loans from China. There is little information on the details of the financing of the reactors, including the final cost of decommissioning and waste disposal.
There is not even a publicly available government study showing that these reactors are the least-cost option for producing the expected amount of electricity.
The issue of cost also must include the consequences of accidents. If there is an accident at the new Karachi reactors due to a problem with the reactor design or the construction, who will pay the vast sums needed to cover the damage and clean-up — Pakistan or China?
The people of Karachi have a right to know the answers to these questions. It is time they started asking.
The writers are physicists with an interest in nuclear issues.
Police said the spate of targeted killings increased late this evening when seven people were shot dead in just an hour. In the latest incident at Nazimabad, unidentified gunmen opened fire on a car killing five people. A senior police official said on condition of anonymity that the killed included two people who had links with militant outfits and used to raise funds for them in the city.
"One of them is Mushtaq Samand who was well known for raising funds for Jihadi outfits and even contested the recent provincial assembly elections as an independent candidate," he said.
Earlier, two foreign students from Morocco studying at a religious seminary were shot dead outside the Makki mosque in the same area as they came out for a stroll while in another targeted killing in North Nazimabad three people were killed in an ambush. “All three belonged to Tableegi Jamaat,” an official said.
The city remained tense with many roads and markets closed after a leading Shia scholar and leader of the Wahidat ul Muslameen, Allama Deedar Ali and his driver were shot dead earlier in the day in Gulshan-e-Jauhar area.
"The killing of Allama Deedar appears to be a sectarian-related one and in retaliation to the target killing of a leading Deobandi Sunni scholar on Monday in the city," SSP Imran Shaukat said. As news of Deedar’s killing spread in the city, violence and firing incidents were reported from many areas with most of the Shia-dominated areas shut down while many other markets and shops also closed down out of fear.
Attacks were also reported from Landhi, Itted town and Korangi where three people were killed. Karachi, Pakistan’s economic hub, has for long been wracked by political, ethnic and sectarian unrest.
KARACHI: The need for a Hindu marriage law is felt the most when young women, such as Meena Janti Lal, are abused and kicked out from their homes by their husbands, ending up with no official documents of their marriages or an option to seek legal dissolution.
“For three months after the wedding, my husband kept me locked up in a room and would hit me often,” said the eight-month-old pregnant woman, as she covers bulging belly with her dupatta. “Now he claims that I am not his wife and he will marry again. What shall I do?”
With tears in her eyes and a worried face, Meena sits at the office of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) where her parents brought her to lodge a complaint against her husband. Meena is one of the thousand of Hindu women, especially among the poor class, whose marriages have not been registered, and they have no right to go for divorce. The Hindu marriage law has been drafted by experts but has yet to be introduced in the Sindh Assembly by lawmakers.
She is unfortunately not the first of such cases to knock the human rights commission’s door. A representative of the HRCP said that they receive such cases at least twice a month where women complain of their husbands mistreating them. “In the lower caste, women are commonly abused and left behind by their husbands. They also do not grant them any maintenance rights. Human rights organisations in the community are weak and they do not check the status of such women or work to help them.”
Meena’s father, a worker at the Burns Hospital, said that his 22-year-old daughter was sexually abused by a neighbour, Akash, who lives in her sister’s neighbourhood in Gizri. This later led to her marriage with Akash, last August, in order to save the family’s pride. “The wedding took place in a small temple with few people but there were neither any signatures taken nor any documents produced,” he said.
The Express Tribune tried contacting Meena’s husband but he refused to talk and kept hanging up. Meanwhile, the police have taken an interest in the case. SHO Ghazala of the Women Police Station in South zone has called both the families to settle the matter.
According to lawyer Rochi Ram, Hindu women are also deprived of their right to seek divorce, maintenance money, as well as, inheritance rights apart from the right to register their marriages.
Hindu parliamentarian Mukesh Kumar Chawla claimed that a committee of lawyers and experts is finalising a draft of the bill and it would be presented within a month in the Sindh Assembly. He said the bill will include clauses for divorce, right to maintenance and other issues faced by Hindu women.
Lawyer Ram, who had taken part in drafting the bill, insisted that they have already prepared the bill and it is the parliamentarians who are delaying its placement before the assembly. Ram also blamed the Sindh government for their apathetic attitude. “The parliamentarians are all about talking and are indifferent towards crucial issues,” he said.
Larkana fares better
The situation in the rural areas is much better than urban centres, pointed out Kalpana Devi who heads the Hindu Panchayat in Larkana. After every wedding that takes place in the district, they issue marriage certificates that are acceptable in court, she said. If women are mistreated, the elders of the community sit together and work to solve the matter. “For us, the main issue lies when someone wants to move abroad and there is lack of documents to certify the marriage,” she admitted.
Taliban in Karachi: the real story
ON the evening of March 13, Director Orangi Pilot Project Perween Rahman was shot and killed by masked men half a kilometre from her office just off Manghopir Road in Karachi. The police were quick to point a finger at the Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP).
In an “encounter” the very next day, they killed Qari Bilal who they claimed was a leader of the TTP and the mastermind behind Ms Rahman’s murder. Many in the development sector, however, believe she was targeted because she had fallen foul of the city’s land mafia because she was placing their activities on record. They may both well be right, even if Qari Bilal was falsely accused by law-enforcement agencies.
The latest players in Karachi’s land grab — for long the domain of those with close links to the major political parties and forces amongst the establishment here — are TTP elements who have been putting down their roots in various parts of the city over the past couple of years.
Large swathes of Pakhtun neighborhoods in districts west and east, as well as pockets in districts Malir, central and south are reported to be under the influence of the TTP. While all 30 or so of its factions have a presence in the city, the most influence is wielded by the Hakimullah Mehsud and Mullah Fazlullah factions.
According to local police and residents of the affected areas, elements belonging to the TTP have entrenched themselves in these areas after having terrorised the local Pakhtun population into submission, and driven out the ANP from most of its traditional strongholds.
In the past few years, after it won two provincial seats in the 2008 elections and acquired real political clout in Karachi, the ANP and MQM frequently clashed in a deadly turf war. Both accused the other of killing its workers. In 2010 and 2011, when the MQM began to allege that the Taliban were acquiring a presence in the city, the ANP accused it of trying to use that claim as a pretext to ethnically cleanse Karachi of Pakhtuns. However, on 13th August 2012, when an attack in Frontier Colony killed local ANP office bearer and former UC nazim, Amir Sardar, and two party workers, the ANP did not accuse the MQM. Since then, numerous ANP offices have been shut down, scores of its workers killed and many driven out of Pakhtun-dominated areas. Qadir Khan, an ANP spokesman who has now joined the MQM, says “no political party or group can stand up to these militants”.
The TTP affirmed its presence in Karachi for the first time when the organization claimed responsibility for an attack on The Business Recorder/Aaj TV offices on 25 June, 2012 as a warning to rest of the media houses in the country.
The military operations in Swat and South Waziristan in 2009 triggered the latest wave of migration of Pakhtuns, compelling tens of thousands of residents to flee the fighting. Embedded within the exodus of these desperate internally displaced people (IDPs) were a number of Taliban fighters. Although the urban jungle that is Karachi had been a refuge for the latter even earlier, the untenable situation in their native areas prompted many of them to adopt a more permanent abode here.