South Asian Free Media Association (SAFMA) demand
Lahore, May 28: The government should withdraw the ban on Facebook and several other sites, participants at an open-house discussion organised by the South Asian Free Media Association (SAFMA) demanded on Thursday.
The topic of the discussion was "Condemning Blasphemy and Evaluating Ban on Facebook". Condemning the blasphemous activity on Facebook, renowned writer IA Rehman said hurting people's sentiments once could be considered a mistake, but repeating it becomes a crime. However, he said attacking the people's freedom of expression was counterproductive.
He said a discussion had also started at the UN to create a more tolerant society after the publication of blasphemous caricatures of the holy prophet (PBUH). He also highlighted the increasing intolerance in society and stressed the need to check it.
Blocking information: SAFMA Secretary General Imtiaz Alam said freedom of expression does not mean hurting sentiments of others. He said the West was demonising the Muslims and a violent reaction "further proves their point". "Banning Facebook curbed the freedom of choice of millions of Facebook users across the country… it only shut the flood of information available to so many Internet users," Alam added.
He said the way the Lahore High Court and the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority reacted by imposing a ban on this website and several others warrants critical revaluation. Banning books and websites and burning libraries is neither a positive tradition nor an appropriate response. "The best course would have been to rely on the Muslims' senses and the Pakistanis' freedom of choice and their right to respond to the Internet."
Addressing the occasion, Jameel Umar said the petition filed in the LHC has many technical flaws. He said the blasphemous page on Facebook does not pop up for every user and one has to search for that page to access it. He said nearly 10 million people were suffering due to the blockage of the website.
"The war against conservatism, won by Sir Syed Ahmed Khan, Allama Iqbal and Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah was lost during the Zia regime and the need of the hour is to win this renewed war through tools such as education and media," Umar added. Lawyers, human rights activists, students and people from different media organisations attended the discussion. Daily timesYour Comments
1,200 URLs remain blocked even after YouTube ban lifted
Islamabad: Although the Pakistani authorities restored access to popular video-sharing website YouTube, Facebook and 1,200 web pages remained blocked on Thursday as authorities debate over the issue of blasphemous content over the internet.
A contest organised by a user of the social networking website, Facebook calling on people to draw blasphemous caricatures of the Holy Prophet Mohammed (PBUH) sparked a major blacklash in Pakistan.
The Lahore High Court on ordered a ban on Facebook on May 19 to be implemented by the Pakistan Telecommunications Authority (PTA) till May 31. The PTA also banned YouTube and restricted access to other websites, including Wikipedia.
Google-owners: YouTube, which is Google-owned, said it was working to ensure the service was restored, although Google Chief Executive Eric Schmidt said they suspected that the ban was to suppress political criticism.
Later on Wednesday, the PTA said YouTube – which together with Facebook accounts for up to 25% of Internet traffic in the country – had been opened, but with restricted access.
Objectionable material: "YouTube has been unblocked, but the links to sacrilegious content would remain inaccessible in Pakistan. There are around 1,200 URLs, which have been blocked... However, only links containing objectionable material have been blocked," PTA spokesman Khurram Mehran told AFP.
A spokesman for the Internet Service Providers Association of Pakistan said about 550 pages on YouTube were still blocked.
"The total number of URLs restricted is about 1,200. Out of these, there are about 550 URLs from YouTube only," he said.
The prime minister's Advisor on Information Technology, Sardar Latif Khosa told AFP that the cabinet had agreed in principle to restrict all blasphemous links but would support moves to restore access to Facebook in the court next week.
LHC reconvenes: LHC is scheduled to convene on Monday to hear a petition from Islamic lawyers while the government will present its opinion, Khosa said.
The caricature competition was widely condemned by the entire Pakistani society but the Internet-literate urban elite criticised the blanket ban on websites like Facebook and YouTube.
Interior Minister Rehman Malik said pages containing blasphemous material would remain blocked but that access to Facebook and YouTube would be restored in the coming days.
Facebook expressed disappointment at being blocked and the offending page disappeared from the social networking service on Friday.
Pakistan also briefly banned YouTube in February 2008 in a similar protest against blasphemous cartoons of the Prophet (PBUH). afp
YouTube ban lift gives hope to filmmaker
Islamabad: The decision to lift the ban from the popular video-sharing website, YouTube has given renewed hope to Pakistani filmmaker Faraz Siddiqui. Siddiqui is a finalist in the US State Department's 2010 Democracy Video Challenge'.
Internet users across Pakistan and around the world can now view the finalists' films and vote for the film of their choice through June 15. According to a press release issued by the US embassy, the films, including Siddiqui's submission, 'Democracy is the Message by People', were posted on YouTube.
The 'Democracy Video Challenge', now in its second year, drew nearly 700 entries this year. Contestants from 83 countries created short films on themes based upon the phrase 'Democracy is…', the blank to be filled according to the theme of each contestant. The winning filmmakers are to receive an all-expenses-paid trip to Washington, New York and Hollywood. Siddiqui is the first 'Democracy Video Challenge' finalist from Pakistan.
Rawalpindi: Educated youths have the responsibility to represent Pakistan in today's world, as they are the custodians of the future of this country, said Fatima Jinnah Women University (FJWU) Vice Chancellor (VC) Dr Saeeda Asadullah Khan on Thursday.
She was addressing the 23rd Convocation of Federal Government (FG) Postgraduate College for Women, Kashmir Road, Rawalpindi.
Degrees were awarded to students who passed out in the 2006-2008 session. Spouse of Brig Raheel Ashraf, Federal Government Educational Institutions (FGEI) Cant and Garrison Director, Principal Nasreen Mirza, former Principal Shaista Zaid, faculty members, large numbers of students and parents of passed out students attended the convocation.
The VC said the youths would have to rise above the communal, societal and political differences and co-exist in an ambience of fraternity and national solidarity.
"We are aware of all covert and overt challenges to us and are taking steps to divert and diffuse them. However, I would like to point out that our peaceful and low-key stance needs not be construed as a weakness in our vigilance. We are cognizant of the challenges and more than prepared to meet them," she added.
She appreciated the standard maintained by the college not only in education but also in the co-curricular activities.
Later, the chief guest awarded degrees to the passed out students. Zile Huma, Sadia Safdar, Anam Afzal, Urooj Jamal, Fouzia Parveen and Noureen Akhtar were awarded medals and certificates of merits in different disciples. Daily times
University student assaulted, suspect held
Rawalpindi: A student of the University of Arid Agriculture (UAAR) was kidnapped allegedly by a male fellow who detained her for the whole night and assaulted her, officials said on Thursday.
Police have arrested the suspects and are investigating the case.
The victim, enrolled in a BSc Honours course, left the university on Wednesday afternoon and when she reached a bus stop near her home, she found two boys from her university sitting in a car.
The officials quoted the girl as saying that she was dragged into the vehicle and taken to a house in a village located near the Kallar Syedan town.
She alleged that one of the boys sexually assaulted her through the night and escaped after locking the door from outside.
People of the area called the police when the girl raised hue and cry, but the law enforcers were reluctant to register a case about the crime.
However, the victim was lucky that Regional Police Officer (RPO) Aslam Khan Tareen was on a surprise visit to the Kallar Syedan police station on Thursday afternoon and he noticed her sitting in a side room.
After inquiring about her ordeal, RPO Tareen directed Senior Superintendent of Police (Operations) Ahmed Hassan Chohan to probe the matter and get the case registered without any delay.
Taking notice of the reluctance shown earlier, the Regional Police Officer served show-cause notices on the Kallar Syedan station house officer and four other police officials.
Late in the evening, the Kallar Syedan police confirmed that a case had been registered and the suspect taken into custody. Dawn
National Literary Awards 2008 distributed
Islamabad: Encouraging the national and regional languages, literature and writers all over the country, Pakistan Academy of Letters (PAL) conferred National Literary Awards 2008 on Thursday at National Institute of Science and Technical Education (NISTE) auditorium.
The awards were given to the writers of best books nominated for the year 2008 with a cash prize of Rs 100,000 each.
Minister of State for Education Ghulam Farid Kathia presided over the ceremony. PAL Chairman Fakhar Zaman presented keynote address. NISTE auditorium was packed with writers, poets, intellectuals and linguists from the all over the country. The award winner writers also expressed their views on the occasion.
"In Urdu poetry, Dr Allama Muhammad Iqbal Award was given to Faisal Ajmi for his book "Samandar", in Urdu Prose Baba-i-Urdu Molvi Abdul Haq Award to Dr Mumtaz Ahmed Khan for his book "Urdu Novel Kay Hamageer Sarokar", in Punjabi, Syed Waris Shah Award to Nazir Ahmed Kahut for his book "Wahga", in Sindhi, Shah Abdul Latif Bhittai Award to Murad Ali Mirza for his book "Saami Sijja Warau", in Pashto Khush'hall Khan Kahattak Award to Farooq Sarwar for his book "Sagwan", in Balochi, Mast Tawakli Award to Muneer Ahmed Badeni for his book "Shal-e-Gulain Bazar", in Seraiki, Khwaja Ghulam Farid Award to Qasim Sayyal for his book "Pandh Pandheero Dey", in Brahvi, Taj Muhammad Tajal Award to Maulana Abdul Khaliq Ababaki for his book "Sher Banz", in Hindko, Saeen Ahmed Ali Award to Sultan Sakoon for his book "Dilsothey", in English, Pitras Bukhari Award to Maniza Naqvi for her book "A Matter of Detail" and for best translation work Muhammad Hassan Askari Award to Parto Roheela for his book "Kuliyat-e-Maktoobat-e-Farsi Ghalib."
Kathia said by spreading the message of Sufis and intellectuals the soft image of Pakistan would be highlighted at the international level.
He said government was striving to promote book-reading culture and writers were playing an important role in this regard. "It is the core responsibility of government to give writers their due status who reform the society through their pen," he said. He expressed his confidence in the leadership of Zaman and appreciated PAL's efforts to introduce Pakistani literature in the world.
Kathia said government was taking measure for the welfare of writers and literati and cash prize of Rs 100,000 to each writer on the best book nominated for the year should be doubled. "In this reign of terror, we could only survive through our literature, that could help coping terrorism, spreading the message of love, peace and enlightenment," he maintained.
Zaman said PAL was going to launch Sufi Tabassum Award on the best book of children literature and publish selection of Pakistani literature for children from 1947 to 2010 in all Pakistani languages.
"Soon an International Sufi Council will be established, having headquarters in Pakistan and number of branches around the world. The council would arrange seminars and symposiums in Pakistan and other countries to spread the message of Sufi poets and highlight Pakistan's soft image, the PAL chief said. Daily times
Froebel's School honours little ones with diplomas
Rawalpindi: The preparatory grades of Froebel's School have stepped up to the primary years' section. To celebrate this significant moment in the lives of these juvenile brains, the school arranged an exotic and vibrant ceremony to honour its young ones with diplomas here on Thursday.
The event commenced with recitation from the Holy Qur'aan, followed by national anthem. Soon after this, the graduating class in their stunning outfits marched in the gorgeously decorated hall that synchronised well with the occasion. Each little scholar wore a blue gown complete with the black cap and a broad red sash!
The proud parents were amused by the sight and the auditorium echoed with a huge round of applause. The chief guests were the parents of Anaya Saleh, the girl who won the title of 'Student of the Year.' This award is presented to a student who excels in all multidirectional fields such as academics, athletics and personal character among other factors.
Then, turn-by-turn, each homeroom teacher ascended the stage with her little students and described her year and experience with the preparatory class of 2009-10. Then brief introductions of the students were held, followed by solo and group performed songs and melodies.
The most interesting and captivating feature of the event was the graphical summary of the year. The school had assembled a series of photographs and videos, which analysed the complete year. The pictorial part was concocted with pictures ranging from spring festivals to sport galas and to everyday class routines.
Another appreciative feature of the ceremony was a documentary, which depicted the progress and participation of individual classes. Personal interviews with students were conducted; they shared their thoughts and emotions with the cheering and smiling audience. Some blushed with shyness while others confidently expressed their views.
The chief guests presented each child with a certificates and diploma and individual and group photography followed. The parents were presented with cards and quotes penned by their own children.
A scrumptious tea followed and then the children excitedly went off to their homes with parents. The school congratulated the young ones on completion of three years of early education and wished them all the luck and happiness in their forthcoming academic years and lives. The news