Bring Asia Bibi to America: Clifford D. May, Washington Times, Nov. 13, 2018— Eight years ago this month, Asia Bibi, a Pakistani Christian, was prosecuted, convicted and sentenced to be hanged on the charge of blasphemy.
Desperate Pakistani Christians Languish in Thailand: Doug Bandow, National Review, Oct. 29, 2018— Thailand’s capital of Bangkok is a large, bustling, chaotic metropolis.
Taliban Slaughter Elite Afghan Troops, and a ‘Safe’ District Is Falling: Rod Nordland, New York Times, Nov. 12, 2018— One pickup truck after another arrived at the government compound in a district capital in Afghanistan on Sunday, pulling around to the back of the governor’s office to unload the dead, out of sight of panicked residents.
The Islamic State’s Future in Afghanistan: Daud Khattak, BESA, Oct. 1, 2018— The Islamic State (ISIS) temporarily managed to win over disgruntled elements among the Afghan and Pakistani Taliban alongside youth from the remote districts…
On Topic Links
The West Must Offer Immediate Asylum to Asia Bibi: Giulio Meotti, Gatestone Institute, Nov. 14, 2018
Violence Continues as Pakistani Islamists Protest Christian Woman’s “Blasphemy” Acquittal: IPT News, Nov 2, 2018
The Talib Across the Table: Editorial, Weekly Standard, Nov. 12, 2018
Freeland Orders Internal Review of Afghan Aid: Globe & Mail, Nov. 8, 2018
BRING ASIA BIBI TO AMERICA
Clifford D. May
Washington Times, Nov. 13, 2018
Eight years ago this month, Asia Bibi, a Pakistani Christian, was prosecuted, convicted and sentenced to be hanged on the charge of blasphemy. She has spent the years since on death row. Now, Pakistan’s Supreme Court has overturned her conviction on grounds of insufficient evidence. So this sad story turns out to have a happy ending, right? C’mon, you knew it wasn’t going to be that simple.
Let’s begin in 1947, before Ms. Bibi, now 53 years old, was even born. British India was partitioned into two independent nation-states, one with a Hindu majority, one with a Muslim majority. Muhammad Ali Jinnah, Pakistan’s founder, intended for his country’s minorities — Hindus, Sikhs, Parsis, Ahmadis and Christians among them — to enjoy full citizenship, with human and civil rights guaranteed. His vision was not realized. Less than a decade later, Pakistan became an Islamic Republic, one that has become increasingly intolerant. In 1986, President Zia ul-Haq made blasphemy a capital offense.
Year after year, Pakistan’s minorities, subject to increasing discrimination and persecution, have been emigrating. Asia Bibi, her husband and their five children are among those who have remained. On a hot June day in 2009, while working on a farm near Lahore in the Punjab Province, she was asked to fetch water for a group of Muslim women. One of the women refused to drink from the cup she brought them, saying that because it had been touched by a non-Muslim, it was unclean. Ms. Bibi is alleged to have told the Muslim women that Jesus “died on the cross for the sins of mankind,” and then asked: “What did your Prophet Muhammad ever do to save mankind?”
The Muslim women complained to the authorities who promptly arrested her for insulting Islam. Punjab’s governor, Salmaan Taseer, a vocal opponent of blasphemy laws, visited her in prison, and argued that it would be a gross injustice to execute her. On Jan. 4, 2011, Mr. Taseer was shot multiple times at close range as he was getting into his car following lunch. His assassin, Malik Mumtaz Hussain Qadrihe, was a member of the elite police unit assigned to protect him. The killer explained to a television crew that arrived on the scene: “I am a slave of the Prophet, and the punishment for one who commits blasphemy is death.” Hundreds of clerics expressed support for him and called for a boycott of Mr. Taseer’s funeral.
Following Ms. Bibi’s acquittal last week, violent protests erupted around the country. Pakistan’s new prime minister, Imran Khan, a former cricket star, warned demonstrators not to “test the patience of the state.” It is by no means certain, however, that Mr. Khan will stand up to the Islamic supremacists. His government has not yet agreed to allow Ms. Bibi to leave Pakistan, obvious though it is that for her to stay would be perilous. She is now reportedly under protective custody at an undisclosed location. According to the Huffington Post, her “appeal to Britain for asylum has been denied because her arrival in the country may stir civil unrest.” If true, that represents a British surrender to jihadists — not least, the thousands who now hold U.K. citizenship.
A modest proposal: President Trump should invite Ms. Bibi to come to America and request asylum. To do so would be just, moral and wise. Just and moral because her life is in peril based on the fact that she is a Christian living in one of the many unfree Muslim-majority countries from which Christians are, in this century, being “cleansed.” Wise because Mr. Trump is being reviled — unjustifiably, in my opinion — for refusing to open America’s doors to “caravans,” facilitated by a group called Peoples Without Borders, heading north from Central America. The president believes that the United States cannot integrate the tens of millions of people who — understandably, in my opinion — want to leave countries ruled by despots and/or incompetents, and enjoy the liberties and opportunities that America provides.
I don’t see how it is either wrong or heartless to insist that the United States have laws concerning immigration, and that those laws be enforced. Surely, American citizens have both a right and a responsibility to decide how many immigrants — “migrants” is an intentionally misleading term — we take in, and who should be at the front of the long line. The American welfare state is not so strong that its back can’t be broken. What happens then?
Some European countries are reportedly considering offering asylum to Ms. Bibi and her family. But just last month, the European Court of Human Rights affirmed the conviction of an Austrian woman for “disparagement of religious precepts,” a sophisticated way of saying she had insulted Muhammad (by critically discussing his marriage to Aisha, who was 6 years old when wed). The court called that defamation, adding that it “goes beyond the permissible limits of an objective debate,” and “could stir up prejudice and put at risk religious peace.” The Austrian woman was given a choice between paying a 480 euro fine and spending 60 days in jail. She was not sentenced to be hanged, as would be the case in Pakistan. I find that less than entirely reassuring.
DESPERATE PAKISTANI CHRISTIANS LANGUISH IN THAILAND
National Review, Oct. 29, 2018
Thailand’s capital of Bangkok is a large, bustling, chaotic metropolis. The friendly, informal nation of Thailand draws visitors from around the world. Filling some backstreet neighborhoods are impoverished Pakistani Christians, stranded in the Thai capital while hoping to gain religious asylum elsewhere…
The problem reflects domestic failures in Pakistan, especially social and legal discrimination and persecution, often violent, against religious minorities. Islamabad is formally an American ally but in practice has constantly challenged U.S. interests. The domestic political system is unstable, corrupt, and dominated by the military. Religious minorities suffer: not just Christians, but Ahmadis, Hindus, and others as well. Pervasive persecution has driven Pakistanis abroad in search of asylum. Noted the Global Minorities Alliance: “An increase of attacks against minorities in Pakistan . . . has led to Christians heavy-heartedly fleeing their country,” many to Thailand.
There’s not much the U.S. government can do to ease Christians’ plight in Pakistan, other than press Islamabad to protect the lives, dignity, and liberties of all their peoples. But Washington could accept the few thousand Pakistanis stuck in Bangkok, essentially people without a country, unable to go either forward or backward. Even the Trump administration should welcome religious minorities fleeing Islamist oppression.
Pakistan long has been inhospitable to anyone other than Sunni Muslims. General-turned-president Muhammad al-Zia-ul-Haq ruled from 1978 to 1988; he consolidated power by playing to radical Islamist sentiments, shifting the nation away from the original secular vision of founder Muhammad Ali Jinnah. The latter promised: “Minorities, to whoever community they may belong, will be safeguarded. Their religion, faith, or belief will be secure.” Alas, that sentiment died years ago, and the furies Zia loosed now are ravaging the country. Christian-persecution watchdog group Open Doors ranked Pakistan as the world’s number-five persecutor on its World Watch List. Islamabad lags behind only North Korea, Afghanistan, Somalia, and Sudan.
The British All-Party Parliamentary Group for International Freedom of Religion or Belief recently detailed the awful state of religious liberty in Pakistan. The MPs’ report noted: “Pakistan presents a particularly bleak environment for individuals wishing to manifest their right to freedom of religion or belief.” Important issues, the group pointed out, include lack of political representation, blasphemy laws, inadequate protection of religious minorities and their defenders, and brutal threats against women, adults, and children.
The problem is twofold: There is both state and private persecution. The APPG warned that the result is “a dangerous environment for any adherent of a religious belief not deemed ‘orthodox’ by those around them to practice their right to manifest their beliefs.” Of course, not everyone suffers equally. The report noted “the likelihood of persecution depends on factors such as their encounters with and actions amongst people of other/different faiths or beliefs,” as well as other issues. One action that makes anyone vulnerable is conversion: “If a Muslim makes a decision to become a Christian — becoming an apostate and, in turn, blaspheming against the Prophet — and their conversion becomes public knowledge, their life will be at risk.”
Last year the Global Minorities Alliance produced a report entitled “Are Christians in Pakistan Persecuted?” The answer was an obvious yes. Pakistan has the world’s second-largest Muslim population, trailing only Indonesia. More than 96 percent of Pakistan’s population is Muslim; just 1.5 percent are Christians, who nevertheless constitute the largest minority group. The GMA found that they, along with other religious minorities, “are routinely marginalized and are often condemned to a life of poverty, disadvantage and the fear of persecution.”
Jinnah’s inclusive vision “was never fulfilled,” concluded GMA. Even under Zia the situation deteriorated, after the introduction of blasphemy laws in the 1980s. The situation worsened again under President Pervez Musharraf, after he backed the Bush administration’s “war on terror.” The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom rated Pakistan a “country of particular concern,” and the State Department put Pakistan on its “Special Watch List.” State’s annual religious-liberty report repeats the sad saga of pervasive discrimination, brutality, and persecution. False blasphemy charges often led to mob violence, the “basic rights” of Ahmadis were denied, and the “authorities often failed to intervene in instances of societal violence against religious minorities.”
Such general descriptions do not give a true sense of the ubiquitous and oppressive nature of religious persecution in Pakistan. Umair Javed, a columnist for the Pakistani newspaper Dawn, writes that “violence against minority groups is deeply embedded within political and social processes in Pakistan.” These reports identify several instances of attacks on Christians. Christian women are subjected to forced marriages and conversions. Asia Bibi, an illiterate field worker and mother of five, has been imprisoned since 2009 on charges widely believed to false, made by co-workers angry that she shared their cup when drinking water…
[To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link: Ed]
TALIBAN SLAUGHTER ELITE AFGHAN TROOPS,
AND A ‘SAFE’ DISTRICT IS FALLING
New York Times, Nov. 12, 2018
One pickup truck after another arrived at the government compound in a district capital in Afghanistan on Sunday, pulling around to the back of the governor’s office to unload the dead, out of sight of panicked residents. Soldiers and police officers, many in tears, heaved bodies of their comrades from the trucks and laid them on sheets on the ground, side by side on their backs, until there were 20 of them.
The dead all wore the desert-brown boots of Afghanistan’s finest troops, the Special Forces commandos trained by the United States. Four days earlier, the soldiers had been airlifted in to rescue what is widely considered Afghanistan’s safest rural district, Jaghori, from a determined assault by Taliban insurgents. Early on Sunday, their company of 50 soldiers was almost entirely destroyed on the front line. And suddenly, Jaghori — a haven for an ethnic Hazara Shiite minority that has been persecuted by extremists — appeared at risk of being completely overrun by the Taliban…
A small team of journalists …went into Jaghori’s capital, Sang-e-Masha, on Sunday morning to report on the symbolic importance of what everyone expected to be a fierce stand against the insurgents. Instead, we found bandaged commandos wandering the streets in apparent despair, and officials discussing how they could flee an area almost entirely surrounded by the Taliban. By the end of the day, we were on the run, too.
Officials told us that more than 30 of the commandos had been killed, and we could see, on the streets and in the hospitals, 10 other wounded commandos. An additional 50 police officers and militiamen were also killed in the previous 24 hours, according to the militia’s commander, Nazer Hussein, who arrived from the front line with his wounded to plead for reinforcements. “This is genocide,” Commander Hussein said. “If they don’t do something soon, the whole district will be in the Taliban’s hands.”
The disaster prompted a protest by Hazaras in Kabul, who railed against what they said was government inaction, but even that took a deadly turn. The demonstration had just ended on Monday when a suicide bomber struck, killing three women and three men, one of them a police officer, according to a spokesman for the Interior Ministry.
Jaghori’s 600,000 people are poor and live in an isolated part of the central highlands, an area that has no paved roads or electric lines, with terraced wheat fields and abundant orchards of almond and apple trees. But the district is famous for how peaceful it had been. Most people say they cannot remember the last time there was a murder or serious robbery. And the district’s education record is aspirational for the rest of the country: Schooling is nearly universal among girls, and much higher than the Afghan average for boys. (Nationally, less than a fourth of Afghan girls complete high school.)
Many of Afghanistan’s most prominent women are from Jaghori, where the sight of girls riding bicycles and even driving vehicles — virtually unknown in major Afghan cities — is common. In recent years, though, Jaghori District has largely been cut off from the rest of the country, since it is in Ghazni Province, much of which is controlled by the Taliban, and the main roads leading to the district have been blocked by the insurgents. Three years ago, a small airstrip was put in, but scheduled air service has yet to begin. People who have managed to get out of Jaghori are usually smuggled by drivers along remote tracks. That trip used to cost about $50 a person. In the past week, it has increased to $350.
A week ago, the Taliban broke a longstanding truce and attacked Jaghori from three directions in what appears to be a determined effort to take the district, as the insurgents have done elsewhere with increasing frequency, inflicting steadily rising death tolls on government forces. Nazer Hussein, a militia commander, arrived to plead for reinforcements. “If they don’t do something soon, the whole district will be in the Taliban’s hands,” he said. “The Taliban attacked us because this is where all the schools are, and because here there are even more girls in school than boys,” said Mubarez Nabizada, who works for the charity Shuhada, which runs orphanages and a hospital…
[To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link: Ed]
THE ISLAMIC STATE’S FUTURE IN AFGHANISTAN
BESA, Oct. 1, 2018
The Islamic State (ISIS) temporarily managed to win over disgruntled elements among the Afghan and Pakistani Taliban alongside youth from the remote districts in Afghanistan’s east soon after restructuring and renaming itself Islamic State in Khorasan (IS-K) in 2014. IS-K’s initial victories against the Taliban and the Afghan government on both the battle and propaganda fronts rang alarm bells in world capitals, particularly among the weaker neighboring Central Asian states.
The group’s emergence and battlefield successes also panicked the Afghan Taliban, the insurgent group monopolizing violence in Afghanistan. For a while, their status as the sole non-state actor to take on the Afghan government and the international community in that country was challenged. However, over the passage of months, IS-K’s propaganda lost its appeal among common Afghans and Pakistanis as the group mostly reversed its battlefield gains in eastern Afghanistan. One of the prime reasons for these reversals is the group’s incompatibility with the region.
The majority of IS-K’s senior leadership was removed from the scene within months of the groups’ emergence in eastern Afghanistan in the second half of 2014. Hafiz Saeed Khan, Rauf Khadim, and Shahidullah Shahid, the founding members, were killed in drone strikes and special forces operations within a year of its announcement. The latest blow was the elimination of top commander Abu Saeed Orakzai, aka Saad Arhabi, who was killed in a joint operation by Afghan and coalition forces in eastern Afghanistan in late August. Arhabi was the fourth IS-K chief killed since the group’s establishment.
Apart from the eastern Nangahar province, Jawzjan in Afghanistan’s north was reckoned as the other stronghold of the Syria-based group. However, droves of IS-K fighters and commanders, both local and foreign, surrendered to the Afghan government in early August after a year-long siege by the Taliban. The surrender came less than a month after the killing of IS-K’s top leader, Taliban renegade Qari Hekmat, in a US airstrike in the same area. The rapid successive losses of senior commanders have kept IS-K from developing into a well-coordinated group like the Afghan Taliban despite its fighting skills and extreme brutality.
Apart from the Afghan government and the coalition troops, the IS-K’s biggest challenge on Afghan turf is the Taliban, the group that has monopolized violence since its ouster from power in late 2001. The Afghan Taliban draw their inspiration from the life and struggle of Mullah Muhammad Omar, the self-proclaimed Amir al-Mu’minin (Leader of the Faithful), who led the Taliban movement in the mid-1990s and seized Kabul from the warlords to establish a hardline regime in the country.
IS-K, on the other hand, shows allegiance to Abu Bakar Baghdadi, the leader of its ISIS parent organization, with little regard for the Taliban’s spiritual chief. Religious differences apart, the two groups are the antithesis of one other politically as well. An IS-K victory is reckoned as a loss for the Taliban, who would never allow an “alien” group to set up shop in an area they have retained and kept under their exclusive influence for the past 17 years. More than the Afghan government or the coalition forces, it is the Afghan Taliban who are resisting the IS-K presence in both the eastern and northern parts of Afghanistan.
Apart from intra-group grievances over the distribution of authority and other petty disputes, many commanders and fighters from the Afghan and Pakistani Taliban joined IS-K in the hope of gaining access to the huge financial support they believed (or were made to believe) was coming from ISIS. Even local thugs and criminals joined the group in some remote towns and villages to gain power and get access to the cash. At the very beginning, unemployed youth who joined the group were offered better monthly payments than Afghan policemen or soldiers, with the promise of still more in the days ahead.
However, hopes began to fade with the defeat of ISIS in Syria and Iraq. IS-K would have continued to flourish, at least in areas where the group had established a foothold in the early stages, had they received sufficient sums from their Middle East-based patrons to support their jihadist activities in the Afghanistan-Pakistan region. But that channel dried up very early on…
[To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link: Ed]
On Topic Links
The West Must Offer Immediate Asylum to Asia Bibi: Giulio Meotti, Gatestone Institute, Nov. 14, 2018—Asia Bibi’s case looks as if it is coming from “another, medieval world.”
Violence Continues as Pakistani Islamists Protest Christian Woman’s “Blasphemy” Acquittal: IPT News, Nov 2, 2018—Thousands of Islamist demonstrators in Pakistan continue to violently protest the acquittal of Asia Bibi…
The Talib Across the Table: Editorial, Weekly Standard, Nov. 12, 2018—The Obama Administration’s decision in 2014 to trade five imprisoned Taliban fighters for Bowe Bergdahl…
Freeland Orders Internal Review of Afghan Aid: Globe & Mail, Nov. 8, 2018— Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland is ordering an internal review of Canadian aid to Afghanistan to determine whether taxpayer money has been wasted on questionable projects and to ensure more oversight.