Subscribe free to our newsletters via your
. Military Space News .

US report warns of crisis for Pakistan minorities
by Staff Writers
Washington (AFP) April 30, 2013

Pakistan polls will strengthen democracy: army chief
Islamabad (AFP) April 30, 2013 - Pakistan's army chief said Tuesday that general elections scheduled for May would be held on time and help cement democracy in a country that has seen military rule for half its history.

The polls are due to mark the first democratic transition of power after a civilian government has served a full, five-year term with the last period of dictatorship ending in 2008.

"Allah willing, general elections would be held in the country on 11th of May. We must not harbour any suspicions or misgivings about it," General Ashfaq Kayani told a military remembrance gathering in the garrison city of Rawalpindi.

"This indeed is a golden opportunity, which can usher in an era of true democratic values in the country," the 61-year-old said.

Pakistan's powerful military is still seen as the driving force behind the nuclear-armed country's national security policy and is viewed with deep suspicion by the civilian political classes.

But Kayani, who took over as army chief from former military ruler Pervez Musharraf, said it was time to move forward.

"In my opinion, it is not merely retribution, but awareness and participation of the masses that can truly end this game of hide and seek between democracy and dictatorship.

"Our salvation resides in transforming the government into a true platform of public representation," he added.

Kayani added the army was doing its part to ensure peaceful elections following a wave of attacks against politicians and election workers that has so far claimed 61 lives since April 11, according to an AFP tally.

"I assure you, that we stand committed to wholeheartedly assist and support in the conduct of free, fair and peaceful elections; to the best of our capabilities and remaining within the confines of the Constitution.

Fears of attack and a direct threat from the Taliban against the three parties in the outgoing government have curtailed public rallies ahead of the polls.

A US government-appointed panel urged Washington Tuesday to step up pressure on Pakistan over religious freedom, warning that risks to its minorities have reached a crisis level.

In an annual report, the US Commission on International Religious Freedom also raised concerns about what it called a worsening situation in China, as well as problems in Egypt, Iran, Myanmar, Saudi Arabia and other nations.

The commission, which advises the government but does not make decisions, called for the United States to designate Pakistan as a "country of particular concern," meaning it could be subject to sanctions if it fails to improve.

Assessing the year through January 31, the commission said religious freedom violations in Pakistan "rose to unprecedented levels due to chronic sectarian violence" that targeted the Shiite Muslim minority.

"The government continues to fail to protect Christians, Ahmadis and Hindus," the report said, charging that blasphemy and other laws "are widely used to violate religious freedoms and foster a climate of impunity."

Sunni Muslim extremists over the past year have killed hundreds of Shiites in Pakistan, especially Hazaras -- a community originally from Afghanistan that is known for its comparatively liberal attitudes.

"Pakistan is in a crisis right now with these particularly severe violations of religious freedom," said Knox Thames, the commission's director of policy and research.

The commission, whose members are appointed by President Barack Obama and Congress, said Pakistan faced the most serious violations of religious freedom among any country not already on the blacklist.

The State Department has not previously issued the designation for Pakistan, with which the United States has had a close but prickly relationship since the September 11, 2001, attacks.

The designated countries of particular concern on religious freedom are China, Eritrea, Iran, Myanmar, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Sudan and Uzbekistan.

Along with Pakistan, the commission urged the State Department to add Egypt, Iraq, Nigeria, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Vietnam to the list.

The report said that religious freedom in China "deteriorated significantly" in the past year, especially for Tibetan Buddhists and Uighur Muslims, but also for followers of unauthorized churches and the banned Falungong movement.

The State Department said separately that two officials, Suzan Johnson Cook and Daniel Baer, raised concerns about religious freedom during a visit to Beijing last week.

The commission voiced concern over Myanmar, also known as Burma, where a recent Human Rights Watch study said at least 211 members of the Rohingya Muslim community were killed in religious violence since June 2012.

The violence comes as Myanmar undertakes democratic reforms and warms relations with the United States. The report urged Washington to maintain the leverage to reimpose sanctions to press Myanmar to address minority issues.

Set up under a 1998 law, the commission recently went through reforms initiated by senior Senator Dick Durbin who had voiced concern over charges of anti-Muslim bias.

The latest report backtracked on the previous year's controversial call to blacklist close US ally Turkey over the Muslim-majority but staunchly secular state's treatment of Christians.

In a first, the report dedicated a chapter to Western Europe in which it raised questions about the ban in secular France and Belgium on Muslim women wearing veils in public.

The report does not cover the United States, where incidents last year included a massacre at a Sikh temple that left six dead.


Related Links
News From Across The Stans

Comment on this article via your Facebook, Yahoo, AOL, Hotmail login.

Share this article via these popular social media networks DiggDigg RedditReddit GoogleGoogle

Memory Foam Mattress Review
Newsletters :: SpaceDaily :: SpaceWar :: TerraDaily :: Energy Daily
XML Feeds :: Space News :: Earth News :: War News :: Solar Energy News

Three British soldiers killed in Afghanistan
Kabul (AFP) May 1, 2013
Three NATO troops killed by a roadside bomb in Afghanistan were British, officials said Wednesday. The three soldiers from the Royal Highland Fusiliers died on Tuesday when their vehicle was hit on a routine patrol in the district of Nahr-e Saraj, part of the southern province Helmand. "Their deaths come as a great loss to all those serving in Task Force Helmand," army spokesman Major Ri ... read more

U.S. seeks $220 million for Israel missile defense

Pentagon requests more funding for Israel's 'Iron Dome'

Lockheed Martin PAC-3 Missile Intercepts and Destroys Tactical Ballistic Missile in New Test

Japan's missile defence plan: some facts

Lockheed Martin's Nemesis Missile Scores 3-For-3 in Flight Tests

Guam heightens alert level after N. Korea threats

US warns N. Korea ahead of expected missile launch

Raytheon demonstrates new Joint Standoff Weapon Extended Range integrated fuel system

Outside View: Drones: Say it with figures

ESA-EDA Flight Demonstration On Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems Insertion Into Civil Airspace

Israel builds up its war robot industry

Israel downs Lebanon drone off northern coast

Astrium's secure milsatcoms now cover the world

Gilat to Equip IDF with SatTrooper-1000 Military Manpack

General Dynamics' WIN-T Increment 2, Soldiers' "On-the-Move" Network, Advances as 10th Mountain Division Trains for Deployment

Lockheed Martin Awarded Contract to Modernize U.S. Joint Theater Air Operations System

Elbit To Supply African Nation With Wise Intelligence Technology System

Few women opt for frontline combat roles in Australia

Raytheon contracted for Miniature Air Launched Decoy and Jammer units

Northrop Grumman launches CUTLASS, Next Generation Unmanned Ground Vehicle

China clamps down on abuses by 'military' drivers

Crisis-hit France to cut armed forces by 10 percent

France picks up 707 million euros for 2.1% stake in EADS

Dutch civil servant jailed for spying for Russia

Philippines accuses China of 'de facto occupation'

China military planes flew close to disputed isles: report

Disputed islands covered by US-Japan accord: Hagel

India PM says border dispute with China can be solved

Nanowires grown on graphene have surprising structure

UNL team's discovery yields supertough, strong nanofibers

Scientists image nanoparticles in action

Scientists see nanoparticles form larger structures in real time

The content herein, unless otherwise known to be public domain, are Copyright 1995-2014 - Space Media Network. AFP, UPI and IANS news wire stories are copyright Agence France-Presse, United Press International and Indo-Asia News Service. ESA Portal Reports are copyright European Space Agency. All NASA sourced material is public domain. Additional copyrights may apply in whole or part to other bona fide parties. Advertising does not imply endorsement,agreement or approval of any opinions, statements or information provided by Space Media Network on any Web page published or hosted by Space Media Network. Privacy Statement