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pakistan

Pakistan begins first census in 19 years amid massive military security

Pakistan has begun its first national census in 19 years amid tight security from around 200,000 military personnel. A 70-day data gathering operation, starting in 63 districts and protected by police and soldiers, is being carried out by 118,000 officials. The previous census was completed in 1998 and the long delay in updating it is down to a lack of funds, political disputes and insufficient troops to keep everybody involved safe. But in December the chief justice of Pakistan’s supreme court set a deadline of March or April, saying a census was essential to democracy. Seats in Pakistan’s parliament are allocated according to population density and without a census the number of seats cannot be decided. Rural populations in the world’s sixth-largest country frequently change as people try to escape poverty and ethnic or sectarian violence by moving to towns and cities. The security staff will protect census teams and ensure households can enter data without being intimidated by powerful feudal landlords and political families who fear losing influence.

“We made all the arrangements for a smooth, safe and transparent process of population census,” said census official Javed Iqbal in Peshawar, capital of the volatile Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province.

For the first time, transgender Pakistanis will be counted – although forms had already been printed when the decision was made. “We have been anxiously waiting for the process to begin but it hurt us as there is no separate column in the form,” said Farzana Riaz, president of Trans Action. Afghan refugees will also be included, despite opposition from the southwest province of Baluchistan on the border with Iran, where ethnic Baluchs fear becoming a minority. Other communities have criticised the decision to include only nine of the estimated 70 languages used in Pakistan. Households will also be asked how many toilets they have, as the United Nations estimates up to 40% of Pakistanis defecate in the open air with dramatic health consequences, especially for children.

In a sign of how much has changed since the previous census, Karachi’s population was put at 9.2 million in 1998, but current estimates now vary between 18 and 23 million, according to the National Database and Registration Authority.

Evidence shows Palestinian security forces violently suppressed peaceful protest in Ramallah

Photographic evidence and witness testimony gathered by Amnesty International at the scene suggest that Palestinian security forces used excessive force to violently suppress a peaceful protest outside of the Ramallah District Court in the West Bank on 12 March 2017. Ten minutes after the protest against the prosecution of six Palestinian men, including slain activist Basil al-Araj, began outside the courthouse in al-Bireh area, Amnesty International researchers witnessed heavily armed security forces arriving, carrying batons and shields . They immediately began to charge towards the protesters, violently striking them with the wooden batons, using pepper spray and firing tear gas into the crowd . At least 21 people (13 men and eight women) were injured, including four journalists covering the event . Seventeen were hospitalized.

There can be no justification for violently storming a peaceful protest . Video evidence obtained by Amnesty International shows Palestinian security forces resorting to brutal and alarming means to crush the protest in flagrant violation of their obligations to uphold and protect the rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly, said Magdalena Mughrabi, Deputy Regional Director for the Middle East and North Africa.

There can be no justification for violently storming a peaceful protest

Magdalena Mughrabi, Deputy Regional Director for the Middle East and North Africa at Amnesty International Evidence Shows Palestinian Security Forces Violently Suppressed Peaceful Protest In Ramallah Evidence Shows Palestinian Security Forces Violently Suppressed Peaceful Protest In Ramallah Evidence Shows Palestinian Security Forces Violently Suppressed Peaceful Protest In RamallahPalestinian security forces firing tear gas into the crowd to disperse the protesters outside courthouse in Ramallah Amnesty International

Following a public outcry, Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah today announced the formation of a committee to investigate the actions of the police at the courthouse.

The Palestinian authorities must ensure that the investigation announced into this incident is independent, impartial and thorough and that all those found to be responsible are held accountable for their actions, said Magdalena Mughrabi. International human rights standards require that police and security forces avoid using force to disperse a peaceful assembly. Amnesty International staff present at the scene observed no violence from protesters prior to police attacking them with batons, tear gas and pepper spray . Those injured suffered bruises from heavy beatings with wooden batons or after being struck by tear gas canisters .

Four journalists from Wattan TV, Roya TV1, and Palestine Today were also beaten in what appeared to be a deliberate attempt to prevent them from covering the protest . No injuries were reported among members of the security forces. Khader Adnan, a protester who was hospitalized for his injuries, told Amnesty International: I was standing peacefully when tens of baton-wielding soldiers attacked me and beat me to the ground . Once I fell down one of them stepped on my head while others continued to beat me, ripping my clothes . I have injuries on my back, my shoulders, and my leg.

I was standing peacefully when tens of baton-wielding soldiers attacked me and beat me to the ground

Khader Adnan, Palestinian protester

He was taken to the Criminal Investigations Department with six others where he says he was verbally abused before five of them were released . The other two remained in detention. Farid al-Atrash, a lawyer, human rights defender and the head of the Bethlehem office of the Palestinian Independent Commission for Human Rights, who was present at the protest said he was beaten to the ground with wooden batons . He told Amnesty International he also witnessed police officers beating the father of Basil Al Araj, a Palestinian man who was killed by Israeli soldiers last week . I tried to protect him when I was attacked by the officers; they hit me to the ground and beat me on my legs, he said.

Evidence Shows Palestinian Security Forces Violently Suppressed Peaceful Protest In Ramallah Evidence Shows Palestinian Security Forces Violently Suppressed Peaceful Protest In Ramallah Evidence Shows Palestinian Security Forces Violently Suppressed Peaceful Protest In RamallahFather of Basil Al Araj, a Palestinian man who was killed by Israeli soldiers last week, was among those beaten by Palestinian security forces during the protest Amnesty International

Bassem Tamimi, a well-known Palestinian activist from Nabi Saleh and former prisoner of conscience was also injured in the demonstration . I can t believe they did this to us . I was speaking to the head of the police unit there telling him we will disperse in 15 minutes . We were almost done when I saw a large crowd of police begin to swarm us and attack in a vicious manner . They used wooden clubs and started to hit people left and right, I walked back when they shot a tear-gas canister directly into my lower back, hitting my tailbone . I didn t expect them to behave like this. Bassem Tamimi s wife, Nariman, also an activist from Nabi Saleh, was beaten after she intervened to tell security forces to stop beating and dragging a young man .

What did we do ? We did nothing wrong ! My shoulder and arm are now injured . I didn t believe they would do something like this, she said. One eyewitness, Hafez Omar, said the protesters were standing peacefully when the police told them to leave the area . When they refused, the police started pushing them and beating them with batons . He witnessed two other men being beaten before the police dragged him and beat him with batons on his arms, back and legs.

Evidence Shows Palestinian Security Forces Violently Suppressed Peaceful Protest In Ramallah Evidence Shows Palestinian Security Forces Violently Suppressed Peaceful Protest In Ramallah Evidence Shows Palestinian Security Forces Violently Suppressed Peaceful Protest In RamallahOne of the protesters who was beaten with a baton on his shoulder and back waits at Ramallah public hospital for treatment Amnesty International

Between 100 and 150 people had gathered outside the courthouse in al-Bireh to protest against the prosecution of six Palestinian men accused of possessing firearms . Four of the men Haitham Siyaj, Muhammad Harb, Muhammad al-Salameen and Saif Idrisi are currently held without charge or trial in administrative detention by Israeli authorities . The fifth man, Basil al-Araj, was killed by the Israeli military last week . The sixth man, Ali Dar al-Shaikh was not arrested by Israel and was present at the court yesterday. In a media interview on Monday, a spokesperson for the Palestinian authorities security forces, Adnan al-Dmeir, accused the protesters of being mercenaries and foreign agents who he said were seeking to spread chaos .

In the rare cases where Palestinian authorities have taken steps to ensure accountability in the past, they have resorted to disciplinary measures2 rather than criminal prosecutions to hold police or security forces to account even in cases where the use of force was abusive or arbitrary.

The Palestinian authorities must ensure that the security forces use of force is not excessive, abusive, arbitrary or otherwise unlawful . Anyone suspected of responsibility for arbitrary or abusive use of force must be prosecuted in a fair trial, said Magdalena Mughrabi. Anyone suspected of responsibility for arbitrary or abusive use of force must be prosecuted in a fair trial

Magdalena Mughrabi, Deputy Regional Director for the Middle East and North Africa at Amnesty International

Given the Palestinian authorities poor record of bringing security forces to justice after violent crackdowns on protests, it is even more crucial for the authorities to send a clear message that use of excessive force will not be tolerated and that violations will not go unpunished.

Background

Palestinian security forces police have used unnecessary or excessive force against peaceful demonstrators, including men and women, repeatedly in recent years. In a recent incident documented by Amnesty International, human rights lawyer, Mohannad Karajah, described how 10 members of the Palestinian security forces in plainclothes punched and kicked him and beat him all over his body with sticks at a demonstration on 4 October 2016 . At least five others were also assaulted .

No one has been prosecuted over the incident. In February 2016, mass strikes and protests over low wages for teachers were met with a heavy-handed response from Palestinian security forces who arrested 22 teachers and set up roadblocks around Ramallah to prevent teachers joining demonstrations. Palestinian security forces also used excessive force to disperse protests in previous years3.

References

  1. ^ Roya TV (www.youtube.com)
  2. ^ disciplinary measures (www.amnesty.org)
  3. ^ previous years (www.amnesty.org)

After bombs, Pakistan tightens security for rare major cricket match

By Mubasher Bukhari1 | LAHORE, Pakistan

LAHORE, Pakistan Pakistan tightened security in the city of Lahore ahead of a hugely anticipated final of its domestic cricket league on Sunday, pushing ahead with a rare high-profile match despite a recent spike in Islamist violence.

The government had wavered momentarily on whether to host the Pakistan Super League (PSL) final after a series of militant attacks killed more than 130 people last month, including a suicide bombing in Lahore in which at least 13 people died.

Pakistan has only hosted one international series since militants attacked a bus carrying the Sri Lankan cricket team in Lahore in 2009 . Six players were hurt while two civilians and six security officials were killed in that attack.

A tour by Zimbabwe’s cricket team in 2015 was almost disrupted when a suicide bomber killed two security officials near a stadium.

While the Pakistan Super League is in its second year and boasts a television viewership in excess of 50 million people, all matches have been played in the United Arab Emirates.

Rana Sanaullah, law minister for Punjab province, of which Lahore is capital, told Reuters the government had “prepared a fool-proof security plan” for the night-time game, expected to finish after midnight (1900 GMT).

Sanaullah said nearly 4,000 police and paramilitary Rangers would be patrolling the area and fans would have to pass five security layers before reaching the 25,000-capacity stadium where the Peshawar Zalmi will be playing Quetta Gladiators.

But not everyone has been convinced.

Citing security fears, some high-profile foreign players such as former England captain Kevin Pietersen, who plays for the Quetta team, decided to skip the final.

West Indian World Cup winner Darren Sammy, who plays for Peshawar, will be on the field.

On the morning of the match, cricket-obsessed Pakistanis were brushing off security worries and relishing the chance to once again savour big-game cricket on home soil.

“For the last several weeks, we were not going to restaurants because of threats of terrorism . But celebration of the PSL final has brought us out,” said school teacher Maleeha Rizvi, 48, dining with her family near the stadium.

“I guess this event has defeated terrorism,” she added.

Pakistan has been desperate for international cricket events to return but some media commentators have accused officials of risking lives by staging an event during a period of heightened security threats.

Officials, however, say security in Pakistan has greatly improved over the past few years and the recent bout of violence was a temporary blip.

(Writing by Saad Sayeed; Editing by Drazen Jorgic, Robert Birsel)


References

  1. ^ Mubasher Bukhari (uk.reuters.com)