Showing posts with label islamabad. Show all posts
Showing posts with label islamabad. Show all posts

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Pakistan blocks Twitter over contentious tweets

pakistan blocks twitter
 Pakistan blocks Twitter

ISLAMABAD (AP) -- Pakistan blocked the social networking website Twitter for several hours because it refused to remove tweets considered offensive to Islam, said one of the country's top telecommunications officials.

The tweets were promoting a competition on Facebook to post images of Islam's Prophet Muhammad, said Mohammad Yaseen, chairman of the Pakistan Telecommunication's Authority. Many Muslims regard depictions of the prophet, even favorable ones, as blasphemous.

The government restored access to Twitter before midnight Sunday, about eight hours after it initially blocked access, possibly because of public criticism it received for its censorship.

Twitter spokesman Gabriel Stricker said the company had not taken down any tweets or made any other changes before Pakistan stopped blocking the site.

Yaseen said Sunday afternoon that Pakistan's Ministry of Information Technology had ordered the telecommunications authority to block Twitter because the company refused to remove the offending tweets.

The ministry informed Yaseen to restore access to Twitter Sunday evening, but he did not know what led to the decision.

Yaseen said Facebook had agreed to address Pakistan's concern about the competition.

Facebook confirmed in a written statement that it blocked access to the content in Pakistan. The site noted that it occasionally restricts content when it is illegal or offensive out of respect for local laws and culture.

A top court in Pakistan ordered a ban on Facebook in 2010 amid anger over a similar competition. The ban was lifted about two weeks later, after Facebook blocked the particular page in Pakistan. The Pakistani government said at the time that it would continue to monitor other major websites for anti-Islamic links and content.

Even when Twitter was blocked Sunday, many people based in Pakistan continued to use the website by employing programs that disguise the user's location. There was widespread criticism of the government's action by those on Twitter, who tend to be more liberal than average Pakistanis.

"Another cheap moral stunt by Pakistan," tweeted liberal Pakistani columnist Nadeem Paracha.

The 2010 Facebook controversy sparked many in Pakistan's liberal elite to question why Pakistanis could not be entrusted to decide for themselves whether or not to look at a website. Some observers noted that Pakistan had gone further than several other Muslim countries by banning Facebook, and said it showed the rise of conservative Islam in the country.

There were a handful of protests against Facebook back in 2010, often organized by student members of radical Islamic groups. Some of the protesters carried signs advocating holy war against the website for allowing the competition page to be posted in the first place.

News by AP

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Thursday, March 29, 2012

Prominent Pakistani acid victim commits suicide

Prominent Pakistani acid victim commits suicide
People carry the body of a Pakistani acid attack victim Fakhra Younnus
ISLAMABAD (AP) — Pakistani acid attack victim Fakhra Younus had endured more than three dozen surgeries over more than a decade to repair her severely damaged face and body when she finally decided life was no longer worth living.

The 33-year-old former dancing girl — who was allegedly attacked by her then-husband, an ex-lawmaker and son of a political powerhouse — jumped from the sixth floor of a building in Rome, where she had been living and receiving treatment.

Her March 17 suicide and the return of her body to Pakistan on Sunday reignited furor over the case, which received significant international attention at the time of the attack. Her death came less than a month after a Pakistani filmmaker won the country's first Oscar for a documentary about acid attack victims.

Younus' story highlights the horrible mistreatment many women face in Pakistan's conservative, male-dominated culture and is a reminder that the country's rich and powerful often appear to operate with impunity. Younus' ex-husband, Bilal Khar, was eventually acquitted, but many believe he used his connections to escape the law's grip — a common occurrence in Pakistan.

More than 8,500 acid attacks, forced marriages and other forms of violence against women were reported in Pakistan in 2011, according to The Aurat Foundation, a women's rights organization. Because the group relied mostly on media reports, the figure is likely an undercount.

"The saddest part is that she realized that the system in Pakistan was never going to provide her with relief or remedy," Nayyar Shabana Kiyani, an activist at The Aurat Foundation, said of Younus. "She was totally disappointed that there was no justice available to her."

Younus was a teenage dancing girl working in the red light district of the southern city of Karachi when she met her future husband, the son of Ghulam Mustafa Khar, a former governor of Pakistan's largest province, Punjab. The unusual pairing was the younger Khar's third marriage. He was in his mid-30s at the time.

The couple was married for three years, but Younus eventually left him because he allegedly physically and verbally abused her. She claimed that he came to her mother's house while she was sleeping in May 2000 and poured acid all over her in the presence of her 5-year-old son from a different man.

Tehmina Durrani, Ghulam Mustafa Khar's ex-wife and his son's stepmother, became an advocate for Younus after the attack, drawing international attention to the case. She said that Younus' injuries were the worst she had ever seen on an acid attack victim.

"So many times we thought she would die in the night because her nose was melted and she couldn't breathe," said Durrani, who wrote a book about her own allegedly abusive relationship with the elder Khar. "We used to put a straw in the little bit of her mouth that was left because the rest was all melted together."

She said Younus, whose life had always been hard, became a liability to her family, for whom she was once a source of income.

Pakistani acid attack victim Fakhra Younnus
Fakhra Younnus before (L) and after (R)

"Her life was a parched stretch of hard rock on which nothing bloomed," Durrani wrote in a column in The News after Younus' suicide.

Younus' ex-husband grew up in starkly different circumstances, amid the wealth and power of the country's feudal elite, and counts Pakistani Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar as a cousin.

Bilal Khar once again denied carrying out the acid attack in a TV interview following her suicide, suggesting a different man with the same name committed the crime. He claimed Younus killed herself because she didn't have enough money, not because of her horrific injuries, and criticized the media for hounding him about the issue.

"You people should be a little considerate," said Khar. "I have three daughters and when they go to school people tease them."

In February, Younus said in one of her last interviews that powerful Pakistanis brutally treat ordinary citizens and "don't know how painful they make others' lives."

"I want such people to be treated in the same way" as they treat people whose lives they ruin, she told Geo TV over the telephone from Rome.

Younus was energized when the Pakistani government enacted a new set of laws last year that explicitly criminalized acid attacks and mandated that convicted attackers would serve a minimum sentence of 14 years, said Durrani. She hoped to return someday to get justice once her health stabilized.

"She said, 'When I come back, I will reopen the case, and I'll fight myself,' and she was a fighter," Durrani said.

Durrani had to battle with both Younus' ex-husband and the government to send her to Italy, where the Italian government paid for her treatment and provided her money to live on and send her child to school. Pakistani officials argued that sending Younus to Italy would give the country a bad name, Durrani said.

Younus was happy when Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy won an Oscar for her documentary about acid attack victims in February, but was worried about being forgotten since she wasn't profiled in the film, said Durrani.

Durrani said Younus' case should be a reminder that the Pakistani government needs to do much more to prevent acid attacks and other forms of violence against women, and also help the victims.

"I think this whole country should be extremely embarrassed that a foreign country took responsibility for a Pakistani citizen for 13 years because we could give her nothing, not justice, not security," said Durrani.

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Sunday, November 27, 2011

Pakistan: NATO Helicopter Attack, 24 Troops Reportedly Dead


ISLAMABAD (AP) - Pakistan blocked vital supply routes for U.S.-led troops in Afghanistan on Saturday after coalition helicopters and fighter jets allegedly killed 24 Pakistani troops at two posts along a mountainous frontier that serves as a safe haven for militants.

The incident was a major blow to American efforts to rebuild an already tattered alliance vital to winding down the 10-year-old Afghan war. Islamabad called the carnage in one of its tribal areas a "grave infringement" of the country's sovereignty and warned it could affect future cooperation with Washington, which is seeking Pakistan's help in bringing Afghan insurgents to the negotiating table.

A NATO spokesman said it was likely that coalition airstrikes caused Pakistani casualties, but an investigation was being conducted to determine the details. If confirmed, it would be the deadliest friendly fire incident by NATO against Pakistani troops since the Afghan war began a decade ago.

A prolonged closure of Pakistan's two Afghan border crossings to NATO supplies could cause serious problems for the coalition. The U.S., which is the largest member of the NATO force in Afghanistan, ships more than 30 percent of its non-lethal supplies through Pakistan. The coalition has alternative routes through Central Asia into northern Afghanistan, but they are costlier and less efficient.

Pakistan temporarily closed one of its Afghan crossings to NATO supplies last year after U.S. helicopters accidentally killed two Pakistani soldiers. Suspected militants took advantage of the impasse to launch attacks against stranded or rerouted trucks carrying NATO supplies. The government reopened the border after about 10 days when the U.S. apologized. NATO said at the time the relatively short closure did not significantly affect its ability to keep its troops supplied.

But the reported casualties are much greater this time, and the relationship between Pakistan and the U.S. has severely deteriorated over the last year, especially following the covert American raid that killed Osama bin Laden in a Pakistani garrison town in May. Islamabad was outraged it wasn't told about the operation beforehand.

The Pakistani army said Saturday that NATO helicopters and fighter jets carried out an "unprovoked" attack on two of its border posts in the Mohmand tribal area before dawn, killing 24 soldiers and wounding 13 others. The troops responded in self-defense "with all available weapons," an army statement said.

Pakistan army chief Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani condemned the attack, calling it a "blatant and unacceptable act," according to the statement.

A spokesman for NATO forces, Brig. Gen. Carsten Jacobson, said Afghan and coalition troops were operating in the border area of eastern Afghanistan when "a tactical situation" prompted them to call in close air support. It is "highly likely" that the airstrikes caused Pakistani casualties, he told BBC television.

"My most sincere and personal heartfelt condolences go out to the families and loved ones of any members of Pakistan security forces who may have been killed or injured," said Gen. John Allen, the top overall commander of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan, in a statement.

The border issue is a major source of tension between Islamabad and Washington, which is committed to withdrawing its combat troops from Afghanistan by the end of 2014.

Much of the violence in Afghanistan is carried out by insurgents who are based just across the border in Pakistan. Coalition forces are not allowed to cross the frontier to attack the militants. However, the militants sometimes fire artillery and rockets across the line, reportedly from locations close to Pakistani army posts.

American officials have repeatedly accused Pakistani forces of supporting - or turning a blind eye - to militants using its territory for cross-border attacks. But militants based in Afghanistan have also been attacking Pakistan recently, prompting complaints from Islamabad.

The two posts that were attacked Saturday were located about 1,000 feet apart on a mountain top and were set up recently to stop Pakistani Taliban militants holed up in Afghanistan from crossing the border and staging attacks, said local government and security officials.

There was no militant activity in the area when the alleged NATO attack occurred, local officials said. Some of the soldiers were standing guard, while others were asleep, they said, speaking on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to the media.

Pakistan army spokesman Maj. Gen. Athar Abbas said map references of all of the force's border posts have been given to NATO several times.

Pakistani Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani summoned U.S. Ambassador Cameron Munter to protest the alleged NATO strike, according to a Foreign Ministry statement. It said the attack was a "grave infringement of Pakistan's sovereignty" and could have serious repercussions on Pakistan's cooperation with NATO.

Munter said in a statement that he regretted any Pakistani deaths and promised to work closely with Islamabad to investigate the incident.

Pakistan moved quickly to close both its Afghan border crossings to NATO supplies, a reminder of the leverage the country has.

A Pakistani customs official told The Associated Press that he received verbal orders Saturday to stop all NATO supplies from crossing the border through Torkham in either direction. The operator of a terminal at the border where NATO trucks park before they cross confirmed the closure. They spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the matter.

Saeed Ahmad, a spokesman for security forces at the other crossing in Chaman in southwest Pakistan, said that his crossing was also blocked following orders "from higher-ups."

The U.S., Pakistan, and Afghan militaries have long wrestled with the technical difficulties of patrolling a border that in many places is disputed or poorly marked. Saturday's incident took place a day after a meeting between NATO's Gen. Allen and Pakistan army chief Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani in Islamabad to discuss border operations.

The meeting tackled "coordination, communication and procedures ... aimed at enhancing border control on both sides," according to a statement from the Pakistani side.

The U.S. helicopter attack that killed two Pakistani soldiers on Sept. 30 of last year took place south of Mohmand in the Kurram tribal area. A joint U.S.-Pakistan investigation found that Pakistani soldiers fired at the two U.S. helicopters prior to the attack, a move the investigation team said was likely meant to notify the aircraft of their presence after they passed into Pakistani airspace several times.

A U.S. airstrike in June 2008 reportedly killed 11 Pakistani paramilitary troops during a clash between militants and coalition forces in the tribal region.

News by AOL