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UN protection sought for Jaranwala victims



UNITED NATIONS: Hundreds of Pakistani Christians protested outside the UN headquarters on Thursday evening, urging the world body to take decisive action to protect Christians from mob attacks.

Although it was a working day, about 1,000 Chris­tians came from across the US east coast to “show how the mob attacks in Jaranwala have hurt every Christian,” said James Cyprian, one of the organisers of the rally.

The park outside the UN headquarters, which is reserved for protests and rallies, was filled to capacity while some protesters were also marching on adjacent streets and roads.

Usually, such protests do not get more than 100 to 200 people on a weekday.

In a resolution shared with UN officials, the protesters urged the world body to persuade Pakistan to make laws to end future attacks on minorities.

The resolution dem­a­n­d­ed legislation to stop the misuse of blasphemy laws, and to end the practice of using blasphemy allegations for personal interests. It also urged the United Nations to play its role in guaranteeing religious freedom and to stop forced conversions.

Christian leaders, who organised Wednesday’s rally, traveled to Washing­ton on Friday to share their demands with Pakis­tan’s US envoy, Amba­ssador Masood Khan.

Earlier, Pakistani Christian leaders told the protest rally how an unsubstantiated allegation of blasphemy against two local youths was used as an excuse to burn down churches and ransack homes in Jaranwala.

“Even crosses and holy books were not spared,” said Aron Bashir, a Republican leader of Pakistani origin from Pennsylvania.

“We feel insecure in our own homeland,” said Ziba Gill, another Pakistani Christian activist. “We are now seeking protection from the United Nations.”

The speakers also pointed out how Assistant Commissioner of Jaran­wala Shaukat Masih was transferred the same day to appease the culprits.

Pastors from different churches in New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and other states addressed the rally as well and offered special prayers for the victims.

Leaders of other communities also addressed the rally and expressed concern over a gradual increase in attacks on minorities’ places of worship in Pakistan, including churches and temples.

They said that extrajudicial actions, fuelled by allegations of blasphemy, have generated concerns about minorities’ rights to life, liberty, security, and religious freedom enshri­ned in the Consti­tution of Pakistan.

“Such attacks instill terror and fear among the minority communities, further undermining their sense of security and religious harmony,” said the resolution shared with the UN officials.

The protesters demanded that an FIR should be registered immediately against those who instigated the mob attacks and an impartial task force or joint investigation team should probe the incident.

They should also examine the role of law enforcement agencies and their failure to intervene proactively, they added.

The protesters urged authorities to take immediate action against all miscreants, including any government officials and/or law enforcement officers found complicit.

The protesters also demanded a thorough investigation into the involvement of local clerics in inciting mob violence, with appropriate legal action taken against any cleric found guilty.

They urged the Punjab government to compensate those whose properties were vandalised and stolen or burnt and renovate the damaged churches and properties.

Published in Dawn, August 26th, 2023


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Pakistanis among 40 nations facing backlash for reporting rights abuses



ISLAMABAD: Pakistan is among the 40 countries across the world where over 220 individuals and 25 organisations faced threats and retaliation from the state and non-state actors for cooperating with the United Nations on human rights, reveals a new report of the UN Secretary-General.

The report titled, ‘Cooperation with the United Nations, its representatives and mechanisms in the field of human rights’ covering the period from May 1, 2022 to April 30, 2023, was recently presented at the Human Rights Council (HRC) session in Geneva. The session will continue till Oct 6.

The report says human rights defenders and other civil society activists are increasingly under surveillance and continued to face legal proceedings, travel bans and threats and they are given prison sentences for cooperating with UN’s human mechanisms.

The UN secretary-general said that the organisation has a collective responsibility to prevent and address intimidation and reprisals, guided by the principle of “do no harm” and a victim- and survivor-oriented approach.

Civil society activists face legal proceedings, jail sentence, travel bans and threats for cooperating with UN’s rights mechanism, says report

“Considerable progress has been made in shedding light on and addressing the issue, including through initiatives on civic space under ‘Call to Action for Human Rights’, the UN chief said.

“The UN is committed to strengthening its efforts to prevent reprisals, including through clear zero-tolerance messages and by awareness-raising among staff, member states and civil society interlocutors. We will further strengthen our response to reprisal cases and ensure appropriate systems are in place to identify, document and report on incidents, including those in the annual reports. We will reinforce the dissemination of information on what reprisals are and how to report incidents, in particular for UN bodies where reprisals are repeatedly reported,” he added.

“A global context of shrinking civic space is making it increasingly difficult to properly document, report and respond to cases of reprisals, which means that the number is likely much higher,” said Ilze Brands Kehris, Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights, in her presentation to the HRC on Thursday.

“Despite ongoing efforts, regrettably, the number of reported acts of intimidation and reprisal by state and non-state actors remains high and their severity is very concerning,” she said.

“The global trends documented this year are also similar to those identified in previous reports, but with new emerging tendencies,” the UN official said.

Among the growing trends noted in the report is the increase in the number of people either choosing not to cooperate with the UN due to concerns for their safety, or only doing so if their identities remain anonymous.

Victims and witnesses in two-thirds of the countries listed in the report requested anonymous reporting of reprisals, compared with one-third in the last year’s report.

Most of the people who reported facing reprisals for their cooperation with the Security Council and its peace operations, as well as with the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues did so on the condition of anonymity.

Algeria, Afghanistan, Andorra, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Belarus, Burundi, Cameroon, China, Colombia, Cuba, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Djibouti, Egypt, France, Guatemala, India, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Israel, Saudi Arabia, Libya, Maldives, Mali, Mexico, Myanmar, Nicaragua, the Philippines, Qatar, the Russian Federation, South Sudan, United Republic of Tanzania, United Arab Emirates, Uzbekistan, Vietnam, Venezuela (Bolivarian Republic of), Yemen, and the State of Palestine are also on the list alongside Pakistan.

Published in Dawn, October 2nd, 2023


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Trump business empire under threat as New York fraud trial opens



Former US president Donald Trump will appear in a New York court on Monday as a civil fraud trial against him and two of his sons kicks off, with the case threatening the Republican’s business empire as he campaigns to retake the White House.

In Monday’s case, Judge Arthur Engoron has already ruled that Trump and his sons Eric and Don Jr committed fraud by inflating the value of the real estate and financial assets of the Trump Organization for years.

New York Attorney General Letitia James is now seeking $250 million in penalties and the removal of Trump and his sons from management of the family empire.

Trump said late Sunday he planned to be present for the start of the trial on Monday morning.

“I’m going to Court tomorrow morning to fight for my name and reputation,” the 77-year-old wrote on his Truth Social platform. “This whole case is a sham!!!”

In addition to this civil case, Trump also faces several major criminal proceedings in the months ahead.

He is scheduled to appear before a federal judge in Washington on March 4 on charges of trying to overthrow the results of the 2020 presidential election won by Joe Biden.

Trump will then be back in New York state court, this time on criminal hush money charges, and later in a Florida federal court, where he is accused of mishandling classified documents after leaving office.

Finally, he will also have to answer to state charges in Georgia, where prosecutors say Trump illegally tried to get the southern state’s 2020 election results changed in his favor.

In the New York civil case, Engoron ruled that Trump, his two eldest sons, and other Trump Organisation executives lied to tax collectors, lenders, and insurers for years in a scheme that exaggerated the value of their properties by $812 million to $2.2 billion between 2014 and 2021.


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At least 38 injured in police station fire in Egypt’s Ismailia



A huge fire broke out at a police headquarters in the Egyptian city of Ismailia on Monday, injuring at least 38 people, according to local media.

No fatalities were immediately reported but the building is staffed by soldiers at all hours and hospitals were placed on alert.

Footage on local media showed smoke rising from the entirely blackened multi-storey building.

The cause of the blaze, which broke out at the headquarters of the Ismailia Security Directorate before dawn, is not yet known.

Of 26 wounded who were transferred to a local hospital, 24 had suffered from “asphyxiation” and two from burns, local media reported citing the health ministry.

Twelve more were treated at the scene.

The health ministry deployed 50 ambulances to the scene, which were joined by military emergency services including two planes, according to state media.

Deadly fires are a common hazard in Egypt, where fire codes are rarely enforced and emergency services are often slow to arrive.

In August 2022, a fire caused by a short circuit killed 41 worshippers in a Cairo church, prompting calls to improve the country’s infrastructure and the response time of the fire brigade.

In March 2021, at least 20 people died in a fire at a textile factory in the capital, while in 2020, two hospital fires killed 14 people.


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