Shahbaz Bhatti Assassination: Family Rivalry as Motive?

August 11, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Zahid Gishkori

Pakistan

The photograph above, taken March 4, 2011, shows Pakistani Christians as they attend a funeral ceremony of slain Pakistani minister for minorities Shahbaz Bhatti in his native village of Khushpur.

ISLAMABAD: 

Family rivalry and not religious victimisation claimed Minorities’ Affairs Minister Shahbaz Bhatti’s life, according to investigators.

In an interesting twist, the daylight murder in the capital has been attributed to a property dispute between relatives. Police investigators have concluded it was not a religiously-motivated murder in their latest report despite the fact that the Punjabi Taliban had claimed responsibility for the assassination.

Justice appears to be a long time coming for the former minister’s family since the murderers have fled the country.

“Shahbaz’s murder is said to be linked to a ‘chronic rivalry’ with relatives who lived in Faisalabad five years ago,” revealed an investigator associated with the Joint Investigation Team (JIT).

New clues have led the Islamabad police to a family, who left the country due to the rivalry with the Bhattis, the JIT stated in its latest report. The family was also residing in Bhatti’s native town Khushpur, which has produced famous priests and nuns, but some family members are now reportedly living in the UAE. Two or three of them have converted to Islam and are living in Malaysia, said a member of the JIT.

The Express Tribune reported on June 29 that Shahbaz’s murder was plotted by al Qaeda-linked militant commander Ilyas Kashmiri. National and international media ran the  story quoting the newspaper. All but two of his brothers moved to Europe in the aftermath of the assassination for security reasons.

The murderers are currently in Dubai or Kuala Lumpur according to an investigator. However, their names have not been identified yet. “We will approach Interpol for their arrest,” he said.

Paul Bhatti, the slain minister’s brother and an adviser to the prime minister, said he has moved his family to Europe. But he did not disclose their exact location due to security concerns. When questioned if his brother’s murder was a case of family rivalry, Paul only said that Interior Minister Rehman Malik had told him he had contacted Interpol to arrest some accused from the UAE.

However, there has been no further progress, he said quoting police officials. “I will request Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani to constitute a judicial commission to investigate my brother’s murder.”

Minister for National Harmony Akram Masih Gill said he would take up the issue with President Zardari and the prime minister on August 11, the day they are to inaugurate Shahbaz Bhatti’s memorial trust. “Paul will also speak to both dignitaries to convey the minorities’ resentment which is increasing with every passing day,” Gill said.

Interpol has not been contacted for assistance because we have no clue about the exact location of the accused, said an interior ministry official familiar with the matter.

“We cannot put our case before Interpol without substantive proof,” he added.

“Firstly, we wanted to close the investigation but then we learnt that there was a chronic ethnic and property dispute between the two families which led to Shahbaz’s murder,” said a police official.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 9th, 2011.

Express Tribune

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Sheikh Tantawi Passes Away

March 11, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

muhammad_sayyed_tantawi1 Egypt’s top cleric dies, aged 81

Egypt’s foremost Muslim cleric, Sheikh Mohammed Sayed Tantawi, has died, aged 81, while on a trip to Saudi Arabia.

Sheikh Tantawi was the Grand Imam of the al-Azhar mosque and head of the al-Azhar University, Sunni Islam’s centre of learning and scholarship.

He died of a heart attack in the Saudi capital Riyadh, where he was attending a prize-giving ceremony.

Sheikh Tantawi had infuriated radical Islamists with his moderate views on women wearing the veil.

His body will be taken to the Saudi city of Medina, the burial place of the Prophet Muhammad, for burial, Egyptian authorities said.

An adviser to the Sheikh told Egyptian television Sheikh Tantawi’s death was a shock, as before leaving for Saudi Arabia he had seemed in “excellent shape and health”.

A member of Sheikh Tantawi’s office, Ashraf Hassan, told news agency Reuters that Mohamed Wasel, Sheikh Tantawi’s deputy, was expected to temporarily take over leading the institution until the Egyptian president appointed a new head for the body.

Sheikh Tantawi was appointed to his position by Egypt’s President Hosni Mubarak in 1996.

But as a government appointee, he was always forced to negotiate a careful path between his religious imperatives and his government position, the BBC’s Christian Fraser in Cairo says.

He was vocal in his opposition to female circumcision, which is common in Egypt, calling it “un-Islamic”.

Last year, Sheikh Tantawi barred female students at the university from wearing the full-face covering niqab veil.

He also caused upset other Muslim scholars by saying that French Muslims should obey any law that France might enact banning the veil.

His views on the veil prompted Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood to accuse him of “harming the interests of Islam”.

He has also condemned suicide attacks, saying extremists had hijacked Islamic principles for their own ends.

“I do not subscribe to the idea of a clash among civilizations. People of different beliefs should co-operate and not get into senseless conflicts and animosity,” he told a conference in the Malaysian capital Kuala Lumpur in 2003.

“Extremism is the enemy of Islam. Whereas, jihad is allowed in Islam to defend one’s land, to help the oppressed. The difference between jihad in Islam and extremism is like the earth and the sky,” Sheikh Tantawi said.    

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Malaysian Polygamy Club Draws Criticism

January 9, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

By Liz Gooch, New York Times

articleLarge
Mohamad Ikram Ashaari and his four wives and children at his home in Kuala Lumpur.      Palani Mohan for International Herald Tributne.

KUALA LUMPUR — Rohaya Mohamad, 44, is an articulate, bespectacled medical doctor who studied at a university in Wales. Juhaidah Yusof, 41, is a shy Islamic studies teacher and mother of eight. Kartini Maarof, 41, is a divorce lawyer and Rubaizah Rejab, a youthful-looking 30-year-old woman, teaches Arabic at a private college.

The lives of these four women are closely entwined — they take care of each others’ children, cook for each other and share a home on weekends.

They also share a husband.

The man at the center of this matrimonial arrangement is Mohamad Ikram Ashaari, the 43-year-old stepson of Hatijah Aam, 54, a Malaysian woman who in August established a club to promote polygamy.

“Men are by nature polygamous,” said Dr. Rohaya, Mr. Ikram’s third wife, flanked by the other three women and Mr. Ikram for an interview on a recent morning. The women were dressed in ankle-length skirts, their hair covered by tudungs, the Malaysian term for headscarf. “We hear of many men having the ‘other woman,’ affairs and prostitution because for men, one woman is not enough. Polygamy is a way to overcome social ills such as this.”

The Ikhwan Polygamy Club is managed by Global Ikhwan, a company whose businesses include bread and noodle factories, a chicken-processing plant, pharmacies, cafes and supermarkets. Mr. Ikram is a director of the company.

While polygamy is legal in predominantly Muslim Malaysia, the club has come under fire from the government and religious leaders, who suspect it may be an attempt to revive Al-Arqam, a defunct Islamic movement headed by Mrs. Hatijah’s husband, Mr. Ashaari Mohamad, who is the founder and owner of Global Ikhwan. Al-Arqam was banned in 1994 for “deviant” religious teachings.

The club denies allegations that it is trying to revive Al-Arqam, and says that the aim of the club is to help single mothers and women past “marrying age” find husbands.

The Ikhwan Polygamy Club says it has 1,000 members across Malaysia, Indonesia, Australia, Singapore, Thailand, the Middle East and Europe. It recently started a branch in Bandung, Indonesia, and plans to open another one in Jakarta. Most of the members are employees of Global Ikwan or former members of Al-Arqam.

Members get together regularly for meetings and relationship counseling, which is given by senior members of the group.

Under Malaysian law, it is legal for Muslim men to marry as many as four wives, although they must obtain permission from an Islamic, or shariah, court to marry more than one. Women’s groups say it has become easier for men to obtain permission to take multiple wives in recent years, a development they say coincides with a rise in Islamic conservatism in Malaysia.

While some states require men to obtain the consent of their existing wives before seeking court permission to marry another wife, Sa’adiah Din, a family lawyer who practices in the shariah courts, said other states no longer required the wives’ consent.

In 2008, 1,791 men applied to the shariah courts, which apply only to the country’s Muslim population, for permission to take another wife, up from 1,694 in 2007. The government could not provide figures on the total number of polygamous marriages, but researchers including Norani Othman, a sociologist at the National University of Malaysia, said the number could be as high as 5 percent of all marriages.
Despite the growing number of polygamous marriages, the club’s effort to promote the practice has put it in the sights of the authorities.

The Department of Islamic Development Malaysia, a government department that is responsible for the promotion and administration of Islam, is investigating the activities of the Ikhwan Polygamy Club and says it believes Mr. Ashaari and his family may be promoting teachings contrary to Islam. A spokeswoman would not provide further details, saying the investigation was continuing.

Al-Arqam had asserted that Mr. Ashaari had the power to forgive the sins of Muslims, an act Muslims believe can be done only by God. Some reports have suggested that the movement had as many as 10,000 members when it was banned.

A leading religious official, Harussani Bin Haji Zakaria, the mufti of Perak State, said followers of Al-Arqam had claimed that Mr. Ashaari had the power to send people to heaven or hell.

Mr. Harussani said he believed the polygamy club could be a front to resurrect Al-Arqam. “I think because they have been banned they want to attract people to come to him again,” he said, referring to Mr. Ashaari.

The club has also been criticized by women’s groups like Sisters in Islam, a nongovernmental organization based in Malaysia.

Ms. Norani, the sociologist, who is the lead researcher in a Sisters in Islam project investigating polygamy, said the practice could be harmful to women and children, particularly those born to first wives.

She and her fellow researchers have interviewed 2,000 men, women and adult children who have experienced polygamous marriage.

Although she stressed that her comments were based on preliminary observations, Ms. Norani said many of the first wives interviewed reported feelings of resentment and depression after their husbands took a second wife, and “a significant number” had considered divorce.

She said she knew some well-educated, financially independent women in Kuala Lumpur, including business executives and lawyers, who had chosen to become second or third wives.

“Usually they marry late, they do a second or third degree, they put off marriage until later and they find it difficult to find an unmarried man,” she said. “One of them said ‘all the good men are either married or gay.”’

With 17 children among them, ages 6 to 21, Mr. Ikram’s four wives all have their own homes near their workplaces, but on weekends they gather at the family’s five-bedroom house on the outskirts of Kuala Lumpur.

Most of the older children are at boarding school or university, but the children of primary-school age stay at the family house, where they are usually cared for by the first wife, Juhaidah, during the week.

Mr. Ikram takes turns spending nights with each of his four wives. “It’s like one, two, three, four,” said Dr. Rohaya, pointing to each of the wives.

The wives usually meet Mr. Ikram at the family house but they say there is no strict arrangement, and Mr. Ikram sometimes comes to their individual homes during the week.

On weekends, at the family house, the women take turns doing the cooking.

“We share clothes,” Dr. Rohaya said. “We’re like sisters, really.”

None of the women grew up in polygamous families, and although they admit to having had some initial reservations, they all said they were happy and would recommend polygamous marriage to their daughters.

Mr. Ikram rejected suggestions from the women’s groups that polygamous marriages may benefit men while causing hardship for women.

“Actually, in a polygamous marriage it’s more of a burden to a man than to a woman because the husband has to face four different women, and that’s not easy,” he said, prompting laughter from his wives.

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“Where’s My Vote?”

June 18, 2009 by · 1 Comment 

By Sumayyah Meehan, MMNS Middle East Correspondent

“The tree of liberty must be watered from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants.”

–Thomas Jefferson

2009-06-15T113648Z_01_BAZ09_RTRMDNP_3_MALAYSIA-IRAN-PROTEST

An Iranian demonstrator shows a placard against Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad during a demonstration outside the United Nations office in Kuala Lumpur June 15, 2009. Malaysian police used teargas to break up a crowd of around 500 Iranians demonstrating outside the United Nations mission against Iran’s contested presidential election, a Reuters photographer said.

REUTERS/Bazuki Muhammad

United by the common rallying cry composed of a mere three words,  “Where’s my vote?”, enraged Iranian protestors hit the streets this past Saturday in a show of defiance against the reelection of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.  They numbered in the millions as they filled the streets to march against perceived election fraud.  The popular candidate, Mir Hossein Mousavi, was seemingly robbed of certain victory as he received overwhelming support during his candidacy.  Over the course of less than a week protestors have clashed with security personnel and pro-Ahmadinejad supporters on a daily basis.  The result has been several horrendous and often vicious encounters that have played out on live TV and social networking sites on the Internet.  Many protestors have been beaten to a bloody pulp and some have lost their lives in this unwinnable battle of hearts and minds. Iranian security forces show no mercy as they beat anyone, including women, with their batons. There have also been several recent reports of protestors being shot at with live ammunition, with at least seven protestors having been shot to death.

One would expect the commander in chief of any nation to calm the storm until cooler heads prevailed. Not Ahmadinejad, who is relentlessly holding on to his stifling reign of dictatorship. Instead of rising above the controversy, he is stirring the pot to keep the tensions at a fever pitch. Perhaps his strategy is to keep his detractors busy so that no one can challenge his win or recount the ballots.  Why else would he clamp down so hard on media reports in Iran? Some journalists have been arrested while others have been forbidden from filming the bloody protests, Iranian reformists have been detained and telecommunications have been blocked.

But somehow, some way, the information keeps flowing.  The battle has moved into cyberspace where it began and has taken on a life of its own to tell the world about the injustice being meted out to an innocent populous. Once again social networking sites like Facebook, YouTube and Twitter have been fundamental in uniting pro-Mousavi Iranians into a central force as well as harnessing global condemnation regarding the brutality in which demonstrators have been dealt with.  Not since President Obama’s candidacy for the White House has there been such a political revolution been played out in cyberspace.  In this case, American-operated websites have been vital in keeping the stream of information running. Twitter cancelled a scheduled site maintenance and rescheduled it to coincide with the Iranian time zone, which came at the request of no other than President Obama. YouTube has also been a willingly ally and has kept video footage of demonstrations up on its website. Normally, YouTube’s policy is to remove violent videos, but plans to leave the Iranian protest videos up for their “documentary” value.

As of press time, it seems that a minuscule wind of hope is beginning to blow into the Iranian capital of Tehran. The Ayatollah Khameni has promised a partial recount of the votes in question under the auspices of representatives of both parties. Meanwhile, the fight goes on in the Iranian streets with both sides refusing to coalesce. Rallies for both sides were held on Tuesday. Touting a ban on public gatherings, opposition leaders have scheduled even more rallies in the coming days.

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Malaysia’s Anwar to Be Prosecuted for Sodomy

August 7, 2008 by · Leave a Comment 

2008-08-06T104220Z_01_BAZ04_RTRMDNP_3_MALAYSIA-ANWAR

Malaysia’s opposition figure Anwar Ibrahim and wife Wan Azizah Wan Ismail pose after a news conference in Petaling Jaya outside Kuala Lumpur August 6, 2008. Anwar is to be charged Thursday and his lawyers said he would be prosecuted under the country’s sodomy laws, potentially derailing his return to parliament.

REUTERS/Stringer

By David Chance and Jalil Hamid

KUALA LUMPUR (Reuters) – Malaysia’s best known opposition politician Anwar Ibrahim is to be charged with sodomy on Thursday, potentially derailing his return to parliament and his plans to push the government out of office.

Anwar, who had hoped to win a parliamentary seat at a by-election on August 26, denies allegations he had sex with a male aide and says they are aimed at derailing his political comeback in which he has promised economic reforms.

Malaysian police said in a statement issued on Wednesday that prosecutors had decided to prosecute Anwar for “carnal intercourse against the order of nature.”

A 23-year-old man has said that Anwar, 60, had sex with him on several occasions, something which is illegal in Malaysia. If found guilty, Anwar could spend up to 20 years in jail, effectively ending his political ambitions.

“I will be charged with sodomy,” Anwar told Reuters.

“This is a lie,” he told a press conference after the summons was issued. “The government’s institutions are being used and clearly the decision was made under the personal directive of the prime minister.”

Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, however, rejected Anwar’s accusations.

“How could I insist that he be charged. If there is no evidence, the police are not stupid to charge. It is up to them to decide,” he told reporters.

News of the court appearance came just an hour after Malaysia’s Election Commission set a date for a by-election in a parliamentary constituency vacated by Anwar’s wife.

Anwar, who was once deputy prime minister, has only been allowed to seek elected office since April after he was barred from parliament in 1999 following convictions for corruption and sodomy.

The latter conviction was overturned, but he served a jail term until 2004 on the corruption charge.

Anwar said that regardless of the prosecution he would stand in the by-election, which would be a step towards leading the opposition coalition in a parliamentary vote in which he is seeking to oust the UMNO-led government by Sept 16.

“Whether I am denied bail or not, the campaign will continue,” Anwar said.

Anwar won the seat, Permatang Pauh seat in the northern state of Penang, in 1995 with a 20,000 majority when he stood as a government candidate.

“At this moment, Anwar has the upper hand in the campaign as everyone expects him to win,” said James Chin, professor of political science at Monash University Malaysia Campus. “But the Barisan (ruling coalition) strategy is to throw as much dirt as possible during the campaign, so that even if he wins, he will win with some tainted allegations.”

In elections in March, the opposition alliance won power in five of Malaysia’s 13 states and deprived the government of its traditional two-thirds majority in parliament, due in part to popular anger over rising prices.

Anwar has said he is sure he can get 30 MPs from the ruling party to support his move to become prime minister in a confidence vote he wants to force next month.

“We believe that a transition of sorts has begun (in Malaysia), but it is unclear how quickly things will change, or even the degree of change that will take place,” said James McCormack of Fitch Ratings in an emailed response to a question.

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