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Pakistan News Hunt Update

Since Monday of last week, we've been hosting a Pakistan News Hunt with the Huffington Post's Eyes & Ears team of citizen journalists. Over a hundred HuffPost members have joined forces with our community to find good journalism on Pakistan, and together we've reviewed 138 stories so far, from reports on the recent violence in Gojra to the plight of refugees from the Swat region and Pakistan's evolving relations with Afghanistan, India and the U.S. Check our first week's results for this News Hunt, as well as our partner Matt Palevsky's excellent blog post on HuffPost

Here's an update on our progress so far. We will post our final News Hunt results next Wednesday, August 12th. This means you have until Sunday to join our Pakistan News Hunt. Do it today!

Pakistan News Update

Last week was tumultuous for Pakistan on several fronts. As hundreds of thousands of displaced Pakistanis made a cautious return home from refugee camps to the devastated Swat Valley, religious violence rocked the city of Gojra, where Muslim mobs killed eight Christians and burned some 100 homes. And in Islamabad, Pakistan's Supreme Court declared the former President Pervez Musharraf's 2007 imposition of emergency rule illegal, turning down requests to try him for treason.

Despite these developments, coverage of Pakistan held a relatively low profile in U.S. and international news media. Major U.S. and U.K. newspapers provided our top rated coverage from outside Pakistan, but an array stories from Pakistani English-language papers and independent blogs gave us important details and perspectives not available elsewhere.

Violence in Gojra

The weekend's outburst of anti-Christian violence in Gojra brought many observers to attention. Hundreds of Muslims, driven by rumors that a Qur'an had been desacrated, attacked the city's Christian minorities in what the New York Times reported (NT reviews) was an eight-hour rampage:

"The blistered black walls of the Hameed family’s bedroom tell of an unspeakable crime. Seven family members died here on Saturday, six of them burned to death by a mob that had broken into their house and shot the grandfather dead, just because they were Christian ...

"The attack in this shabby town in central Pakistan — the culmination of several days of rioting over a claim that a Koran had been defiled — shows how precarious life is for the tiny Christian minority in Pakistan."

The Christian Science Monitor reported (NT reviews) the Gojra killings marked the third attack on Pakistani Christians in the past month, and warned that some might invoke Pakistan's blasphemy laws to rationalize the violence.

"Like other minorities, they often fall victim to Pakistan's blasphemy laws, which decree that anyone insulting the Quran or Prophet Mohammad is subject to life imprisonment or death, though the latter has never been invoked. Critics charge that the blasphemy laws are often abused to settle petty rivalries against minorities."

Dawn covered (NT reviews) Pakistani Christians' three-day of mourning of the attacks, and condemned (NT reviews) the violence on its blog. Dawn blogger Nadeem F. Paracha criticized the local government for doing "absolutely nothing" protect Christians:

"Sounding apologetic, the Punjab government retaliated by blaming the attacks on sectarian organizations, which, might very well be the case ... but the more important question is, even if the instigators of the violence were clerics and sectarian organisations and their band of thugs, how would one explain the participation of the common Muslims of Gojra in the attack who were neither paid thugs nor members of the accused sectarian organisation?"

In one of our highest rated stories, The Daily Times (Pakistan) also used its editorial page to call attention (NT reviews) to local authorities' failure, saying it fit a "pattern of violence" against Christians in the region:

"Smaller incidents of persecution of the Christians have never stopped, but Gojra tells us that holocausts can repeat themselves as civic virtue declines in Pakistan under the influence of extremism ...

"These are signals of doom. And the crime is being committed by the non-state actors that were once considered “assets” of the military-state. Their dominance in Punjab is well established and their control over local population to the detriment of local administration is also well known. The laws mean nothing under these circumstances."

Supreme Court Ruling

Lawyers shout slogans against Pervez Musharraf outside the Karachi Bar Association on July 31, 2009, after the Pakistan Supreme Court ruled the former president trampled the constitution when he imposed emergency rule two years ago and all actions taken by him then were illegal. Lawyers and politicians welcomed Friday's judgment, delivered by a panel of 14 judges, as a landmark ruling that would deter future power grabs by Pakistani generals. Credit: Reuters/DaylifeA long-awaited and substantial development in Pakistan's political sphere came late last week, when the Supreme Court ruled former president Pervez Musharraf's emergency powers decree in 2007 was unconstitutional, but declined to open a treason trial against him. Dawn ran (NT reviews) a well-received report on the story, and a blogger at Five Rupees weighed in (NT reviews) on the court's decision:

"the judiciary (and by that I mean [Chief Justice Iftikhar] Chaudhary) thinks Musharraf is irrelevant now that he is no longer in power. Therefore it makes little sense to waste time, energy, and political capital, and risk considerable political turmoil, for someone who doesn't matter anymore ...

"Chaudhary (like Musharraf) is a patriot, and might have reasoned that there is enough political turmoil in the country as it stands. He might also have been politely told by stakeholders as varied as Kayani and Gillani that this might not be an especially bright idea."

In a related story, the Washington Post ran a highly rated op-ed on how Pakistani leaders have manipulated (NT reviews) pro-democracy forces in the country for political gain.

For a full listing of our top rated stories since the News Hunt started, click here.

Join the News Hunt

Our Pakistan News Hunt with Huffington Post continues through Sunday, August 8th. We hope you'll join the hunt before it ends and start reviewing reports on Pakistan from around the world.

We'd also like to welcome our new co-host for this Pakistan News Hunt, Emma Asomba, who joined us from Huffington Post last week, and will help us lead this community effort for the rest of the week -- keep an eye out for his insightful reviews on our Pakistan page. See you there!


-- Derek Hawkins, with Fabrice Florin, Kaizar Campwala and Joey Baker



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