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Entries in Islamabad (10)

Sunday
Sep092012

Pakistani Christian Girl Accused of Blasphemy Released on Bail

ABC News(NEW YORK) -- Her nightmare is finally over.

After three weeks behind bars, Rimsha Masih, a mentally challenged Christian girl whose imprisonment drew condemnation from religious rights groups around the world, was released Saturday.

The young girl was whisked away, along with her mother, from an Islamabad jail, a day after a judge granted her bail. She was taken to an armored vehicle, and then transferred to a helicopter, which flew her to an undisclosed location.

The case has sparked a firestorm of controversy. Opponents argue the country's blasphemy laws are used as a weapon to persecute the country's religious minorities. Supporters of the law say it serves to safeguard the sanctity of their religion.

Masih was arrested on Aug. 16 after local Muslims in her neighborhood found her carrying burned pages with Arabic writing in a plastic bag. Though it's unclear whether the pages were of the Quran -- Islam's holy book -- or even where the bag came from, the neighborhood erupted in fury.

Pakistan, like many Muslim countries, considers any desecration of the Quran a criminal offense, punishable by life in prison or death.

The angry mob surrounded her tiny, one-bedroom home in a mixed Muslim-Christian neighborhood on the outskirts of Islamabad, demanding she be arrested. When the mob grew violent, police moved in and placed the girl under arrest. Fearing a backlash, several Christian families in the area fled their homes.

Last week, the case took a bizarre twist when the imam of the local mosque in her neighborhood, Khalid Jadoon, was arrested himself, accused of framing the young girl by planting the evidence in her bag.

Speaking exclusively to ABC News the day before he was arrested, Jadoon insisted the girl is guilty.

"She confessed," he said. "That's why we took her to the police station.

When asked why he, as a religious leader, didn't intervene to calm the raging mob that had surrounded her home, Jadoon was unrepentant.

"Why should I have stopped them?" he said. "It's a matter of my religion. If there's a threat to Islam, if our government doesn't stand up to that person, then the people will. I'll be the first of them."

Now, in a twist of fate, Jadoon is locked up in a Pakistani jail, charged with blasphemy, facing the same uncertain fate as Masih did.

In the girl's neighborhood, most Christian families have returned and are celebrating her release.

"When the case started, we thought all Christians in the entire country would suffer," Yusuf Masih, a Christian villager says. "We're happy about the verdict."

Rimsha's case has drawn an unusual amount of support in the conservative country, including calls from the country's top Muslim clerics that she be released.

Many Muslims in her village hope her release will allow the community to move on.

"The issue became too emotional" said Abdul Khaliq, a Muslim village elder. "Whether we're satisfied or not, this was a decision of a competent authority."

Now that she's been granted bail, Rimsha's lawyers hope the judge will dismiss the charges entirely -- a move that would defuse tensions in one of Pakistan's most volatile cases, one that pits Pakistan's moderates against its extremists.

As for Rimsha herself, the only indication she ever lived in her impoverished neighborhood is the padlock on her family's tiny home.

Neighbors say they don't expect her to return.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Apr262012

US Embassy in Pakistan Issues Security Warning for Americans

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(ISLAMABAD) -- The U.S. Embassy in Islamabad issued a rare warning on Thursday, restricting its employees from going to restaurants and markets in Islamabad for over a week.

The warning is based on security concerns and will be in effect from April 27 to May 5.  Americans in the Pakistani capital are also advised to take similar precautions during that time period.

[ CLICK HERE TO READ THE WARNING ]

The United States already has an ongoing travel warning for the entire country, advising U.S. citizens to avoid all nonessential travel to Pakistan.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Friday
Apr202012

Passenger Plane Crashes on Approach to Islamabad

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(ISLAMABAD) -- A passenger plane carrying 127 people crashed in Rawalpindi, Pakistan on Friday, killing everyone on board and leaving body parts strewn across the village and the plane broken into several pieces, according to witnesses and local reports.

The aircraft, a domestic carrier operated by Bhoja Air, crashed as it approached Pakistan’s capital, Islamabad, from Karachi.

A serious lightning storm was underway Friday following the crash. It was not immediately clear, however, if weather played a direct role in the crash.

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Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Friday
Jul152011

Gen. Petraeus Tries Improving US Relations with Pakistan

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images(ISLAMABAD) -- Before leaving his command of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan, Gen. David Petraeus spent Thursday trying to mend fences with Pakistan.

Petraeus, the newly-confirmed CIA director, met with the Pakistani Army chief, Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, in hopes of smoothing over a very rough patch in relations between Washington and Islamabad that was exacerbated by the U.S. Navy SEALS raid in Pakistan last May that killed al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden.

The Pakistani military and government were not informed about the operation beforehand, which increased already mounting tensions between the two uneasy allies in the battle against Islamic radicals.

A statement issued by the U.S. Embassy in Islamabad said that the meeting, which also included Petraeus' successor in Afghanistan, Lt. Gen. John Allen, covered "various topics of mutual interest and ways to improve regional security."

However, relations aren't expected to be repaired overnight, given that Washington wants to hold back $800 million of the $2 billion in annual assistance it provides to the Pakistani military, while Islamabad is still resistant to U.S. demands that it make a more concerted effort to break the back of Taliban and al Qaeda militancy still active in their country.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Monday
Jun132011

Deadly Explosion Rocks Pakistan's Capital

U.S. Geological Survey(ISLAMABAD) -- A suicide bomber who targeted a private bank in Pakistan's capital city killed at least one person -- a bank security officer -- and injured at least eight others Monday.

The explosion destroyed the bank's glass entrance as well as the ceiling, according to ABC News sources on the ground.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Monday
May092011

Pakistan Might Allow US Access to Osama Bin Laden's Wives

ERIC PIERMONT/AFP/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Pakistani government officials have since told their U.S. counterparts that they soon will get access to bin Laden's three widows, who are in custody in Islamabad, a U.S. official told ABC News Monday evening.

The White House had said earlier that Pakistan declined to provide access to the widows or to the material that Pakistani authorities seized after the raid on bin Laden's hideout. But that didn't mean, officials added, that access would never be granted, saying that they were working on gaining access.

"We're going to have those conversations, and we hope and expect to make progress," White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said today. "We think the relationship's important, the cooperation's important. We've had differences in the past and overcome them, and we think we can overcome them now."

Gaining access to bin Laden's compounds and his wives are among the United States' key demands to Pakistan, and officials say the denial is another disappointment from that nation. Local authorities also have in custody eight of bin Laden's children and five other children, according to a senior Pakistani military official.

Pakistani Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani spoke publicly Monday about the raid for the first time since it took place, rejecting accusations that Pakistani officials aided bin Laden, who had been hiding in Pakistan for several years. He warned the United States not to carry out a similar secret mission again.

"Pakistan reserves the right to retaliate with full force," Gilani said. "No one should underestimate the resolve and capability of our nation and armed forces to defend our sacred homeland."

In another indication of Pakistan's anger with its U.S. ally, Pakistani newspapers published the name of the CIA station chief in the region, usually a closely-guarded secret. The name was misspelled, but was phonetically accurate. It is the second time in recent months the CIA station chief has been unmasked, something that is seen as Pakistani retaliation for its treatment by the Obama administration.

The CIA is currently studying the trove of information seized at bin Laden's compound, which is enough information to fill the library of a small college, officials say. Among the mysteries they are hoping to uncover is what the Pakistani government knew and did not know.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Friday
Mar042011

Funeral, Burial Held for Assassinated Pakistani Minister

Jewel Samad/AFP/ Getty Images(ISLAMABAD, Pakistan)  -- The Pakistani minister for minorities affairs who died because he fought for tolerance will be buried Friday.  And as his coffin is lowered into the ground, Pakistanis wonder if there’s anyone left who will speak for the country’s most oppressed.

"Today is a very sad day," said Pakistan's Prime Minister, Yusuf Raza Gilani, during the funeral for Shahbaz Bhatti, who was assassinated by gunmen in Islamabad Wednesday.  "The founding father of Pakistan had one wish: he taught the people of Pakistan to give the rights and protection to the minorities… People like him are very rare.  All the minorities have lost a great leader."

After the funeral, which was held in Islamabad, Bhatti's body was flown to his hometown, where his family will bury Pakistan’s most senior Christian politician.

As Gilani spoke inside Islamabad's best known church, dozens of Christians wailed and chanted psalms on the road outside, flanked by hundreds of police and Western security officials.  It was the largest security showing for an event in Islamabad in the last year.  Inside, Gilani was joined by the U.S. ambassador and other senior Western diplomats.

Bhatti spoke for Christians -- who make up five percent of Pakistan's largely Muslim population -- and all of Pakistan's minorities.  He was killed because he wanted to change laws and attitudes used to persecute -- and even kill -- members of those minorities.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Mar022011

Pakistani Minister Shot and Killed in Islamabad

Photo Courtesy - Jewel Samad/AFP/ Getty Images(ISLAMABAD, Pakistan) -- The Pakistani minister for minorities affairs was shot and killed by gunmen in Islamabad Wednesday.

According to police, Shahbaz Bhatti was traveling in his car when unknown gunmen shot at his vehicle multiple times from close range.  Bhatti was taken to the hospital in critical condition, where he was later pronounced dead.

No suspects have yet been detained.  Although the motive is not clear, Bhatti, the only Christian minister in Pakistan's court, may have been attacked because he spoke against the country's blasphemy laws, which are often used to persecute religious minorities.

Bhatti's death comes two months after Punjab Gov. Salman Taseer was assassinated, making it the second major attack on moderate Pakistani politicians.  Taseer, like Bhatti, spoke against the blasphemy laws.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Jan262011

Pakistani Army Helps 45 Poor Couples Wed

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(ISLAMABAD, Pakistan) – Thanks to the Pakistani Army, 45 couples were married at a mass wedding in Islamabad despite that fact that their families have no money.

The ceremony, held in the Swat Valley, gave daughters from poor parents an opportunity to get married that they otherwise would not have had due to their family’s financial constraints.

"I have no words to express my joy," Mahboob Ali, one of the 45 bridegrooms, told the Express Tribune. "I was sad because I could not bear the expenses of a wedding ceremony as my financial status is very weak. But then the army selected me on merit and provided this opportunity which has gotten me very excited," Ali said.

The Labaik Foundation, an NGO that assisted in organizing the event, said that the militancy and floods have left many of the region’s poor without a source of income, let alone the finances to marry.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Friday
Nov262010

Suicide Bomber Arrested in Pakistan Ahead of Planned Detonation

Photo Courtesy - ABC News(ISLAMABAD) -- Police in Islamabad arrested a would-be suicide bomber and an accomplice on their way to their target Friday. One of the men was wearing an explosives jacket.

Authorities tell ABC News the likely targets were the parliament building and surrounding government buildings.

The arrest came as the result of a tip provided to police earlier this week about a possible terrorist attack.

Police are said to be in the process of getting more information from the apprehended to make further arrests.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio







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