BBC News – Pakistan blasphemy case: Asia Bibi freed from jail

Multan – Panjab – Pakistan, 08 November 2018. Asia Bibi, a Pakistani Christian woman acquitted of blasphemy after spending eight years on death row, has been freed from prison.

Last week’s Supreme Court ruling sparked violent protests from Islamists and the government agreed to their demand to stop her leaving Pakistan.

News of her release led to some confusion, with reports she had been taken to another country.

But the foreign office later said she was still in Pakistan.

The case is highly sensitive and Information Minister Fawad Hussein said journalists had been “extremely irresponsible” in reporting she had left the country without official confirmation.

Those reports were based on comments from her lawyer, Saiful Malook, who has been granted temporary asylum in the Netherlands after facing death threats.

Asia Bibi’s husband had said they were in danger and pleaded for asylum. A number of Western countries are understood to have held discussions with Asia Bibi’s family about granting them asylum.

The mother-of-five was released from prison in the city of Multan on Wednesday and the foreign office says she is in “a safe place in Pakistan”.

Also known as Asia Noreen, she was convicted in 2010 of insulting the Prophet Muhammad during a row with neighbours.

The Pakistani government has said it will start legal proceedings to prevent her going abroad after agreeing the measure to end the violent protests.

Many of the protesters were hardliners who support strong blasphemy laws and called for Asia Bibi to be hanged.

One Islamist leader said all three Supreme Court judges also “deserved to be killed”.

A spokesman for the hardline Tehreek-e-Labaik (TLP) party, which blocked roads in major cities for several days, said Asia Bibi’s release was in breach of their deal with the government.

“The rulers have showed their dishonesty,” TLP spokesman Ejaz Ashrafi told Reuters.

The deal also saw officials agree not to block a petition for the Supreme Court to evaluate Asia Bibi’s acquittal in the light of Islamic Sharia law.

What was Asia Bibi accused of?

The trial stems from an argument Asia Bibi had with a group of women in June 2009.

They were harvesting fruit when a row broke out about a bucket of water. The women said that because she had used a cup, they could no longer touch it, as her faith had made it unclean.

Prosecutors alleged that in the row which followed, the women said Asia Bibi should convert to Islam and that she made offensive comments about the Prophet Muhammad in response.

She was later beaten up at her home, during which her accusers say she confessed to blasphemy. She was arrested after a police investigation.

Acquitting her, the Supreme Court said that the case was based on unreliable evidence and her confession was delivered in front of a crowd “threatening to kill her”.

The Tribune – Panel okays inter-faith institute in Guru’s name

Tribune News Service

New Delhi – India, 08 November 2018. The National Implementation Committee with regard to the commemoration of the 550th birth anniversary of Guru Nanak met on Thursday and decided to create an inter-faith institute in the name of the first Sikh Guru.

The meeting was presided over by Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh. It was attended by Union Culture Minister Mahesh Sharma, Punjab Governor V P Singh Badnore and Punjab Culture Minister Navjot Singh Sidhu.

Punjab BJP president and MP Shwait Malik, former MP and Chairman of National Commission for Minorities Tarlochan Singh, both newly appointed members of Jallianwala Bagh National Memorial Trust, and SGPC president Gobind Singh Longowal also attended the meeting.

Tarlochan Singh said: “Besides an inter-faith institute, it has been decided to develop Sultanpur Lodhi in Kapurthala and Bein river.”

Tarlochan Singh said it had also been decided to approach the UNESCO for publication of Guru Granth Sahib in all foreign languages recognised by the UNO. Besides, the state governments would be asked to publish the holy book in Indian languages.

The SGPC president said the Centre should take requisite steps to facilitate religious visits of the Sikhs from India to Nankana Sahib and Kartarpur Sahib. Both shrines are located in Pakistan.

Why do we allow BJP leaders on a commission that organises the celebration of Guru’s  birth anniversary ?
Man in Blue

Gent: Tolpoort / Neuseplein

Tolpoort / Neuseplein
Temporary terminus for the UZ – Tolpoort section of Tram 4
22 October 2018

Tram 4 getting on the right track to go back to UZ

Next tram arrives at Tolpoort

Next tram to UZ returns from Neuseplein

UZ and Muide tram at Tolpoort

The bus I was waiting for

Tram to UZ ready for departure

To see all my pictures:

More Belgian pictures to be published
Harjinder Singh
Man in Blue

Tolo News – Afghan Hindus, Sikhs are not celebrating Diwali this year

Members of Hindu and Sikh community in Afghanistan said threats against them have increased and that they are worried about their safety.

Nabila Ashrafi

Kabul – Kabul Province – Afghanistan, 09 November 2018. The Afghan Hindus and Sikhs say they will not celebrate this year’s Diwali festival due to deadly incidents took place in the country recent months.

The festival was not held last year either due to a deadly incident in Kabul.

Hindus and Sikhs living in Kabul said that the death of 14 Hindus and Sikhs in Nangarhar bombing July, assassination of former Kandahar police chief General Abdul Raziq and Helmand parliamentary elections candidate Abdul Jabar Qahraman are some of the violent incidents that have left them with no option rather than canceling the celebration of the festival.

Diwali is a Hindu festival with lights, held in the period October to November.

“How can we celebrate our happiness while everyday soldiers, ordinary people and elders are killed?” asked Narinder Singh Khalsa, Hindus and Sikhs representative.

The Hindus and Sikhs said their safety has been fragile in the recent years as according to them many Afghan Hindus and Sikhs have left the country over the past years.

“We don’t want to hold Diwali festival this year due to Jalalabad incident and the loss of important figures such as General Raziq and Jabar Qahraman,” said Sorpal Singh Khalsa, deputy head of a committee of Hindus and Sikhs.

Diwali is one of the most valued festivals for Hindus and Sikhs in the world and they celebrate it by music, fireworks and lighting candles.

“In previous years, we were doing fireworks and based on the principles of the festival, our sisters were coming and we were giving them their expenses as gift and we were very happy,” said Kartar Singh, a resident of Kabul, who explained their excitement in Diwali celebrations of previous years.

“This festival was celebrated widely in Afghanistan in previous years, but now our population has decreased here. In the past, we were 120,000 families in Afghanistan,”said Ragbir Singh, member of Hindus and Sikhs committee of Dharamsala in Kabul.

Hindus and Sikhs have lived in Afghanistan for generations; however, various conflicts have forced many of them to leave the country and settle elsewhere.

The Hindu – Sirisena dissolves Sri Lanka Parliament, polls on January 5

Move comes hours after UPFA-led front admitted to being short of majority

Meera Srinivasan

Colombo – Sri Lanka, 09 November 2018. Evading a resolution to Sri Lanka’s political crisis through Parliament, President Maithripala Sirisena late on Friday dissolved the House.

The move came just hours after his political front admitted to lacking the majority needed for its controversially installed Prime Minister to be declared legitimate.

Mr. Sirisena signed an official notification dismissing the 225-member House with effect from midnight, clearing the way for a snap election nearly two years ahead of schedule.

According to the gazette notice, the election will be held on January 5, the new Parliament would be convened on January 17 and nominations to contest the polls would be taken between November 19 and 26, AFP has reported.

Political crisis

The development comes a fortnight after the country plunged into a political crisis that many hoped would be addressed through a floor test in Parliament. However, days before Parliament, earlier suspended, was scheduled to reconvene, Mr. Sirisena announced its dissolution.

Since October 26, Sri Lanka has been facing an unprecedented power struggle with two rival Prime Ministers claiming legitimacy.

Embroiled in a conflict with his Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, with whom he joined hands to form the government in 2015, Mr. Sirisena sacked him abruptly and instead appointed former President Mahinda Rajapaksa.

Trust vote sought

The move drew considerable domestic and international criticism for its apparent defiance of the Constitution. Mr. Wickremesinghe refused to accept the decision and sought a vote in the House to test the competing claims to majority.

Shortly after, Mr. Sirisena prorogued Parliament for about a fortnight, possibly to muster strength, but as of Friday, the Sirisena-Rajapaksa group had 104 MPs, nine short of the 113-mark required to prove majority. in the 225-member House.

Depending on defectors

Addressing a press conference earlier in the day at the Prime Minister’s office, which Mr. Rajapaksa took over after he was controversially appointed, spokesman for the Sirisena-Rajapaksa front Keheliya Rambukwella said, “We have about 105 now.” eight lawmakers short of the 113-mark needed to prove majority.

Mr. Rambukwella’s remark, the first public admission by the “new government” of lacking majority, came days after Mr. Sirisena told a party rally “we have the majority.”

Asked how they hoped to command confidence, when all the members currently in their United People’s Freedom Alliance-led front had already been counted, Mr. Rambukwella said they were “relying on cross-overs,” which were “very common.”

Meanwhile, apart from local resistance to the changes widely termed “unconstitutional,” most international actors, including India, are yet to officially acknowledge the “new government.”

When President Sirisena prorogued Parliament until November 16, his critics said it was possibly to buy time for mustering strength in the House.

A few lawmakers from the Wickremesinghe-led United National Party (UNP) and one from the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) have already pledged support to Mr. Rajapaksa and taken up ministerial positions in his new administration. One member from Mr. Sirisena’s camp has in turn joined the UNP. A few MPs crossed over to the rival camp and returned to theirs, defecting twice within days.