Pakistanis unite to fight extremism
Saturday, 11 October 2008

An anti-terror petition in Pakistan has attracted almost 63m signatures in what is believed to be the biggest such lobby effort anywhere in the world, reports The Guardian..

A third of Pakistanis signed up to denounce acts of terrorism in a campaign titled Yeh Hum Naheen - This is Not Us - over a period of just four weeks. That easily shattered the previous record for the largest petition, the 24 million people who signed the Jubilee 2000 campaign against developing-world debt. Children over the age of 11 were allowed to take part, given the young age at which extremism is taking hold in society.
 
But the militants are not listening. There were two terrorist attacks in Pakistan yesterday, even while parliamentarians were locked in the second day of a confidential briefing on the security situation by the country's spy chief.
 
A suicide bombing at the police headquarters in Islamabad injured up to 10, while 11 were killed in the north-west when a police van carrying prisoners was blown up. Four of the dead were children travelling in a passing bus. Separately, air strikes against militants in the valley of Swat killed 20 extremists.
 
At least 91 terrorist attacks have taken place in Pakistan since July last year, when the country started to descend into a spiral of violence in which more than 1,200 have died.
 
Yeh Hum Naheen, financed by British and Indonesian Muslim businesses, launched last year in Pakistan with a hit song featuring some of the country's biggest stars, including Ali Zafar, who has a fanbase in Britain.
 
"The power to stop all this happening lies with the people," said the founder of the campaign, Waseem Mahmood, a British-Pakistani media consultant. "The government and foreign powers really can't do anything about it. This is about giving people a common platform to fight terrorism."
 
He said that all 62.8 million signatories had to verify their identity and most of the names were collected in face-to-face canvassing, though it was possible to take part by text message and online. Campaigners are verifying the milestone with the Guinness World Records. The cream of Pakistani actors have backed the campaign, as well as the media industry, with free airtime and full-page newspaper advertisements donated in a promotional blitz that kicked off this week.
 
In parliament, the new head of the Inter-Services Intelligence Agency, Lieutenant General Ahmed Shujaa Pasha, displayed gory images of militants slaughtering soldiers and tribal elders.
 
However, Nawaz Sharif's opposition party claimed that issues of policy were not addressed.

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