Pakistan orders arrest of CIA official in drone strike
The Islamabad High Court on June 5 ordered the arrest of former Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) official Jonathan Banks for his involvement in a 2009 drone strike that killed civilians. Kareem Khan, whose brother and son were killed in the drone strike in Waziristan, had petitioned the court to charge Banks with murder. Banks left Pakistan in 2010 after his identity was revealed and is unlikely to return to Pakistan to face charges. Nevertheless, activists such as the Foundation for Fundamental Rights, which represented Khan, welcomed the ruling and expressed hope that it would set a precedent for additional charges against US officials.
UN rights experts warn Pakistan on persecution
Three independent UN human rights experts on June 2 urged Pakistan to adopt urgent legislation to put an end to faith-based killings and protect the country's Ahmadiyya Muslim (BBC profile) community, whose faith is currently outlawed. The call follows a resurgence of violent attacks in Pakistan targeting Ahmadiyya Muslims, which have resulted in the deaths of two members of the community and are believed to be related to the practice of their religious faith. The country has also recently seen many arrests for blasphemy. Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief Heiner Bielefeldt said that the violence was "fueled by existing blasphemy legislation in Pakistan particularly targeting minorities." He went on to urge the country to guarantee the right to freedom of religion or belief for members of minority religious communities. Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions Christof Heyns also spoke, stressing the importance of ensuring accountability to the government's efforts to reduce attacks. Pakistan, according to Heyns, must take urgent and firm steps to bring justice to those guilty of such killings.
Pakistan: air offensive against tribal militants
Pakistan government jet fighters bombed what were said to be militant strongholds in North Waziristan early on May 21, killing at least 60 people—including insurgent commanders, officials said. A further 30 are confirmed injured in what a government spokesman called "precise aerial strikes." The statement said the taregted militants were "involved in recent attacks including a blast at an internally displaced persons (IDP) camp in Peshawar, bomb attacks in Mohmand and Bajaur tribal regions…and attacks on security forces convoys in NWA (North Waziristan). The strikes were carried out in Miranshah, the main town in North Waziristan, and the villages of Mir Ali, Datta Khel and Ghulam Ali. On April 17, the outlawed Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan announced that it would not extend a 40-day-ceasefire, but would keep the dialogue option open provided the government took steps indicating "clear progress" on its two key demands of a demilitarized zone and release of non-combatant prisoners. (Dawn, Pakistan Express-Tribune, May 21
Pakistan: 68 lawyers charged with blasphemy
Police in the Pakistani province of Punjab on May 13 filed charges of blasphemy against 68 lawyers for protesting police actions. Last week several dozen lawyers, mostly from Pakistan's Shi'ite minority, staged a protest against a high-ranking police official for detaining and beating a lawyer following a disagreement. The blasphemy charges underscore more widespread tensions between Sunnis and Shi'ites in Pakistan that have resulted in religious and politically-motivated violence. It is not yet known when the lawyers' case will be tried.
Judge among 11 dead in attack on Pakistan court
A gun and suicide bomb attack March 3 on a court complex in Islamabad, Pakistan, left 11 people dead and 25 injured. Additional Sessions Judge Rafaqat Awan, senior advocate Rao Abdul Rashid, advocate Tanveer Ahmend Shah, and several other members of court staff were among those killed in the first suicide attack in Islamabad since June 2011 and the deadliest since September 2008 when 60 people were killed by a truck bomb at the Marriott Hotel. The incident began around 9:00 AM local time, a time when crowds gather in the area, when gunmen entered the court complex and opened fire before the detonation of two suicide blasts. The attack comes shortly after the Pakistani Taliban (TTP) promised a month-long ceasefire and the government pledged to suspend air strikes against militants. A TTP spokesperson has announced that TTP was not involved. Ahrar-ul-Hind, a small group that told AFP it had no links with TTP has claimed responsibility for the attack, saying that they operate independently from TTP and do not favor the ceasefire or peace talks. A spokesperson for the group stated that their main issue with the talks was the lack of mention of the implementation of Sharia law.
Pakistan: jihadis step up attacks on Sufis
Gunmen attacked a Sufi religious gathering in Pakistan's port city of Karachi Feb. 9, throwing grenades and then opening fire on the worshippers, leaving eight dead and that number again wounded. Followers of Mehrban Jalali Shah Baba, the spiritual leader who runs the gathering place, blamed the attack on the Deobandi militant group Ahl-e-Sunnat-Wal-Jamaat. (AP, ABNA, Feb. 9) On Jan. 21, three bullet-riddled bodies were found near the Sufi shrine of Shah Wilayat Shrine in Karachi. On Jan. 7, six bodies were found at the shrine of Ayub Shah in Karachi's Maymar suburb. In December, five bodies were found at a Sufi shrine on the shores of Kalri Lake in Thatta, just outside Karachi. The shrine was also defaced, and a note left, signed by the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan, warning the public against visiting Sufi sites. (Central Asia Online, Jan. 24; PTI, Jan. 21)
Persian Gulf militarized —by drug war
The past year has seen a spate of dangerous brinkmanship in the Persian Gulf, with Iran and US naval forces along with those of the Gulf's oil-rich Arab mini-states playing chicken over the strategic choke-point of the Strait of Hormuz. But in addition to this show-down over a global oil outlet, the Gulf has seen escalating militarization in the guise of narcotics enforcement. Bahrain's Gulf Daily News on Nov. 26 ran a story boasting of the exploits of a 29-nation Combined Maritime Forces group, based at the petro-kingdom's sprawling US Navy base and commanded by Capt. Robert Slaven of the Royal Australian Navy. While it claims to have "considerably reduced the number of terrorist attacks in the region" over the past decade, it's most concrete gains are hashish and heroin seizures.
Pakistan military produces disappeared prisoners
Pakistan's military partially complied with a Supreme Court ruling on Dec. 7 by producing before the court several prisoners out of the hundreds it has been secretly holding without charges. Human rights lawyers and relatives of the prisoners have fought to obtain information about the detainees, some of whom disappeared from jails while others were directly apprehended by security forces. Most have not appeared in court to be officially charged with a crime, and other prisoners were acquitted in court but seized by the military after their release. The court ruled that the army had to produce the prisoners to establish that they were still alive. Fourteen men in the courtroom had scarves over their faces, but the military would not identify how many of those men were prisoners and how many were relatives or other people who could have identified the prisoners. The identities of the 14 men were not revealed.
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