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Pakistan Press (23 Sep 2017 NewAgeIslam.Com)



Asia Bibi and the Sakharov Prize By Kaleem Dean: New Age Islam's Selection, 23 September 2017





New Age Islam Edit Bureau

23 September 2017

Asia Bibi and the Sakharov Prize

By Kaleem Dean

CPEC: Launch Pad for An Alliance Amongst China, Russia And Pakistan

By Beenish Altaf

Disaster in the Making?

By Abbas Nasir

Deradicalising Our Universities

By Pervez Hoodbhoy

Global Wave of Terror

By Mahrukh A Mughal

A Kitchen For The Stateless

By Murtaza Shibli

The Good General’s Latest Outburst

By Miranda Husain

Rakhine Or Another Srebrenica?

By Dr Shaista Tabassum

Compiled By New Age Islam Edit Bureau

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Asia Bibi and the Sakharov Prize

By Kaleem Dean

23-Sep-17

Here in Pakistan, Asia Bibi remains a Christian prisoner of faith. Yet as her seventh year on death row draws to a close - it seems that the outside world has not forgotten about her. For she has been nominated for the prestigious Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought 2017.

The Prize is an initiative of the EU Parliament and is awarded to those individuals or groups battling to defend fundamental human rights. Asia Bibi is in good company. Among this year's nominees are: a Guatemalan human rights campaigner, two members of the Kurdish Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP), a Swedish-Eritrean playwright, journalist and writer and a Burundian human rights activist.

Asia Bibi has suffered long and hard. Her status as a prisoner of faith was taken up by the European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR), a political group that enjoys strong presence within the EU Parliament. And it is this backing that has made her a serious contender for the Sakharov Prize.

Indeed, the ECR's Peter Van Dalen has gone on record as saying that the Asia Bibi case is of symbolic importance for others who have endured simply for expressing freedom of religion. "It is good that my colleagues and I continue to defend the rights of Bibi and many others".

Religious as well as rights groups at home and abroad have exploited Asia Bibi’s case and the narrative surrounding it. This has led to an inevitable backlash from fanatic forces in this country.  All of which has impacted the judicial process 

Each and every day that Asia Bibi spends incarcerated only strengthens her cause for freedom of religious expression. For let it not be forgotten that at the time of her conviction she said this: "Our Christ sacrificed for our sins, our Jesus is alive." Sadly, however, this has opened the way for Christian religious forces as well as human rights groups at home and abroad to exploit Asia Bibi and the narrative surrounding her case. Thus have they seized upon Pakistan's constitutional safeguards that are meant to ensure freedom of speech and freedom to profess, practice and propagate one's religion. This has led to an inevitable backlash from fanatic forces in this country. All of which has yielded an additional impact upon the judicial process itself.

For bluntly put, Pakistan's courts have failed to recognise the severity of Asia Bibi's case. At the heart of which rests not just the plight of a single individual - but that of the entire Christian community. Everyday minority groups in this country face persecution; some of these are registered, an overwhelming number are not. Thus the gentleman from the ECR was right when he said that Asia Bibi's case is of symbolic importance. For it is tragically indicative of the insecurity faced by all minorities when it comes to their fundamental human rights.

Nevertheless, while we appreciate the EU parliament's efforts to the highlight the ordeal faced by Asia Bibi and nominate her for an award - we must not forget that it was before this very assembly that Kamran Michael, a so-called minority representative, thoroughly humiliated Pakistan. For not only did he spectacularly fail to defend the country's fast crumbling human rights record he also saw fit to walk out of the still sitting session of the EU Committee of Human Rights. Resultantly, I, for one, am unsure as to whether we should appreciate the nomination of Asia Bibi or, rather, if we should feel nothing but embarrassment at how the outside world views Pakistan.

If she succeeds in being awarded the Sakharov Prize, which is named after a Soviet scientist, Asia Bibi would receive 50,000 Euros. Yet at stake is more than money, though, of course, she does deserve to be compensated for what she has been through and continues to endure. The nomination itself is recognition of something most of us know: the reality of freedom of religion in Pakistan has no semblance to the country's constitutional provisions. Back in 2016, the Supreme Court could have easily wound up this high-profile case. Instead Justice Iqbal Hameed-ur-Rehman chose to withdraw himself, pleading that he had been part of the bench that had decided the Salman Taseer case and that the two were directly linked. Since then, Asia Bibi has been left languishing in the darkness of uncertainty. And the longer it takes the courts to reach a verdict - the more ground do they concede to those who would misuse Pakistan's blasphemy laws.

The government is burying its head in the sand, all the better to shut out the anguished cries of minority communities, who, too, are part of the citizenry; a citizenry to whom it is directly answerable. Yet the Centre has left them to fend for themselves before a mercurial judicial process. This is not hyperbole. For unlike other criminal cases, blasphemy charges are an instrument of what has become state oppression against minorities. Yet the religious right refuses to have these despotic laws amended. Which tends to suit governments of the day who hide behind the threat of the forces of fanaticism to say to the international community that they can be only pushed so far. Thus minorities become the sacrificial lamb. Time after time. Indeed, nearly eight years on from Asia Bibi, a 17-year-old Christian boy was just butchered to death by Muslim classmates. His 'crime' was to drink water from the same cooler as they.

Criticising the West is all the rage in Pakistan. Yet it only takes one incident such as the death of Ariel Sharon or the unlawful detention of Asia Bibi to shake international governments to the core. Last year I wrote a piece on the Rohingya of Myanmar. Back then, I was pretty much a lone voice. Today, the entire country is up in narrative arms about the ethnic cleansing of that minority group. And it should be so. Every individual on this planet has the right to live according to their religious beliefs. And this includes the minorities of Pakistan. Who want nothing more than to have a stake in this beloved country. The saddest part is that this is easily doable. If only those at the helm had both the courage and the vision to reform the blasphemy laws, revamp the prevailing human rights structure as well as do away with certain constitutional barriers that currently prevent minorities from participating in the life of the nation as free and equal citizens of the state.

Let us hope that Asia Bibi's nomination for the Sakharov Prize is a timely wake-up call.

Source: dailytimes.com.pk/opinion/23-Sep-17/asia-bibi-and-the-sakharov-prize

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CPEC: Launch Pad for an Alliance amongst China, Russia and Pakistan

By Beenish Altaf

23-Sep-17

The addition of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor(CPEC) in the One Belt One Road (OBOR) initiative is a good example of how a leader, in this case Xi Jinping can turn an idea into reality. OBOR and Pakistan's membership of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) also makes the upcoming regional changes relevant to Russia. CPEC isn't just a trade route. It is also about the construction of major projects. The scheme has given impetus to China and Pakistan to cooperate in many fields of infrastructure, energy, agriculture and communication. There are several reports which suggest that the corridor will be host to an oil pipeline that will carry one million barrels of oil to China per day. This will be a welcome change for China, which currently imports about eight million barrels per day. Out of the eight million barrels, six million come in through sea routes.

It is still important to discuss whether CPEC can actually bring some measure of financial stability to Pakistan and how the Chinese will want to be repaid for it if it does. Some argue that the benefits CPEC will bring to China will be so great that the Chinese will happily take a number of financial losses involved in the development of CPEC. However, Pakistan should still be wary as it is unlikely to be able to pay for a number of costly CPEC projects.

Russia has long desired to have access to a warm water port. And it seems Gwadar suits it just fine

It is predicted that the project, which costs over 50 billion dollarswill not only be a game changer for Pakistan but Asia as a whole. There is also apprehension that India would start a military confrontation over CPEC. But that greatly depends on how many countries stand to benefit from CPEC. At the moment, the probability that India would be so reckless is very low.

As far as Russia is concerned, it is important to remember the relationship that country has with India. It has been a key weapon supplier to India for decades. Would it join an alliance with two of India's biggest rivals? There are some indicators that it might actually leave India behind to enter an alliance with China and Pakistan in order to benefit from CPEC. Russian Intelligence Chief Alexander Bogdanov has already made a visit to Gwadar and reportedly, he showed great interest in Russia becoming a part of CPEC. Intelligence officials from both countries have also expressed interest in strengthening defence and military ties. This shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone. After all, Russia has long desired to have access to a warm water port. And it seems Gwadar suits them just fine.

Russia and Pakistan weren't exactly the best of friends during the cold war. But the two nations have made great amends in their bilateral relations in the last two years. Russia is also well aware of Pakistan-India dynamic in the region, and their leadership is quite aware that a closer relationship between Moscow and Islamabad will probably upset India. But it seems like the CPEC offer just might be too tempting for them to refuse.

Russia and Pakistan also share strategic interests in Afghanistan. The so-called Islamic State (IS) in Afghanistan can easily spill over into Chechnya. Russia, like Pakistan is also against the presence of United States forces in Afghanistan. These shared interests give Pakistan the opportunity to strengthen its position by forging an alliance with another nuclear power and to counterbalance India's growing influence in the region, specifically after the Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Agreement (LEMOA) between India and the US, which seems to have made India the US's linchpin in Asia and the Indian Ocean.

Indian access to US weapons and supports for Indian naval operations is an alarming development for Pakistan. This isn't to say Pakistan shouldn't maintain its relations with the US. Pakistan's shift to strengthen its alliances with China and Russia shouldn't come at the cost of Pakistan-US relations. The objective is simply to counterbalance India's hegemony in the region.

Source: dailytimes.com.pk/opinion/23-Sep-17/cpec-launch-pad-for-an-alliance-amongst-china-russia-and-pakistan

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Disaster in the Making?

By Abbas Nasir

September 23, 2017

HOW the visionary leadership of this unfortunate security state experiments with the delicately balanced political system in the country in the quest for positive results can only be seen as an unmitigated disaster.

Over the past three decades alone there are multiple examples of this near-suicidal self-harm because key state institutions seem to have an endless appetite for acquiring and exercising power way beyond that visualised by the Constitution.

Military rulers Zia and Musharraf felt so constrained by constitutional provisions in wielding absolute authority that they introduced changes in what should have been a sacrosanct document to meet their individual needs/whims.

History will also judge the superior judiciary harshly for being complicit in these crimes against the nation as in the blink of an eye most of its members became no more than rubber stamps for the power-hungry despots.

Yes, it has become extremely fashionable to condemn civilian politicians for their real and perceived shortcomings and crimes. I don’t advocate any less opprobrium for their follies and crimes of omission and commission where these are real, corruption included. But to heap blame for all of the country’s woes on their shoulders is a travesty not least because over the past three decades, notwithstanding small periods that may qualify as exceptions to the rule, the politicians have been hamstrung by the overpowering presence of other institutions in critical policy areas.

Apart from engineering via military coups, then judicial intervention, which would have been enough of a cause for concern, there have been other attempts also to ensure what Gen Ziaul Haq famously termed ‘positive results’ in elections.

It has become extremely fashionable to condemn politicians for their real and perceived shortcomings and crimes.

Having analysed the general election results of 1970 and 1977 and the various local bodies elections up to the 1988 election, the electoral engineers decided that to stop the march of their despised PPP (with a consistent share of vote at well below 50 per cent) all that was needed was a platform to bring together all whose fragmented vote meant defeat in the first-past-the-poll system.

The result was the IJI which the then head of ISI, Lt-Gen Hamid Gul, later owned up to having created as he felt a huge win for the Benazir Bhutto-led PPP would rock the boat, given that the army had serious reservations about her. These were his words.

While this alliance did deny the PPP a big win, the party nonetheless emerged as the single largest party in the country and staked a claim to power after the 1988 polls. The few days to the formation of the provincial assembly saw a dirty campaign mostly fanning parochialism which tilted the result at least in Punjab in favour of the IJI.

To this day, the reason(s) for the military’s visceral hatred for the PPP isn’t clear as the party founder Zulfiquar Ali Bhutto strengthened the institution and modernised it to try and make it into a potent fighting force.

He rehabilitated its shattered image post-December 1971 to the extent that what was a demoralised force then, a mere five to six years later, had no issues with staging a coup against the elected government and later hanging the deposed prime minister after a sham trial.

The Zia years saw systematic patronage of two kinds of elements. One, political forces opposed to the PPP, and two, religious leaders with the latter being drawn into an alliance of sorts through not only the so-called Islamisation programme but also to fight the Soviet army in Afghanistan.

It bears no repetition that the success of the so-called Mujahideen in Afghanistan then served as a prototype for similar ‘low-cost, high-yield’ groups elsewhere and was made into a tool of attaining foreign and security policy objectives.

With the changed global environment today when it is getting more and more difficult to use non-state actors as pawns of official policy, there seems to be an equally disastrous desire to ‘mainstream’ such elements in the country’s politics.

This desire may well be prompted by the security establishment’s assessment that it cannot take on these well-trained and armed and, perhaps more significantly, heavily indoctrinated cadres. But who knows, there might be other considerations.

In terms of civil-military relations, the situation may have come full circle from when a Nawaz Sharif-led grouping was introduced to halt the PPP’s march into power. Today, the security establishment seems to harbour similar fears of the Nawaz Sharif-led PML-N.

Hence, a new strategy (or a remarkable coincidence?) that the IJI model is being deconstructed with not just the militant Ahle Hadith and Deobandi groups being mainstreamed as separate political entities but the more militant Barelvi groups being nudged down a similar path too.

Political pundits with far more knowledge of constituency NA-120 have analysed the loss (11 pc) of PML-N’s vote percentage (even though it won the by-election) compared to the last general election. Admittedly, this was in a reduced turnout as is the norm for by-elections.

But to me, the PML-N’s lost percentage equalling the cumulative percentage of the two candidates backed by militant Ahle Hadith and Barelvi parties is significant.

You would be justified in asking what problem I have with the mainstreaming of militant religious groups. Well, none if they agreed to renounce violence, to decommission their weapons and strictly adhere to the electoral code of conduct.

But will they? There is so far no evidence of even one of their members giving up arms. Also the political rhetoric of the militant Barelvis who have raised governor Salman Taseer’s executed murderer to the status of a martyr is alarming to say the least.

If the mainstreaming project was about making democrats of militants it would be a laudable objective but if it means mainstreaming hate, sectarianism and intolerance then Pakistan will certainly be staring at another disaster soon.

Source: dawn.com/news/1359389/disaster-in-the-making

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Deradicalising Our Universities

By Pervez Hoodbhoy

September 23, 2017

LAST week’s exposure of a terrorist hive inside Karachi University (KU) prompted a remediation proposal by the chairman of the Higher Education Commission. His solution: if parents “switch off TV and internet early at night and send children off to bed”, university students could be shunted away from terrorism. (The reference to adult students as bachas [children] is not unusual — university-going adults are generally considered kids incapable of independent thought.)

If flippant, this proposal trivialises terrorism. But if meant seriously, one fears for the future. HEC’s current counterterrorism strategy is to establish a “directorate of students” within universities so that challenges faced by “students and staff would be registered, analysed and resolved”. Extracurricular activities — football and cricket chiefly — will supposedly keep students away from guns and bombs. Should one laugh or cry?

Down the chain of command it’s no better: Karachi University’s vice chancellor denied responsibility even after being presented police evidence that a terrorist network Ansarul Sharia Pakistan (ASP) was operating from KU. The ASP has killed several policemen and a retired army colonel. But the vice chancellor and KU’s faculty say terrorism is the security agencies headache, not theirs.

Security agencies disagree, having encountered well-educated terrorists now for many years. The police chief says the ASP’s head and fellow militants received BSc/MSc degrees from the applied physics department at KU. Others are from various universities in Karachi and Balochistan. The unsuccessful assassination attempt on Sindh Assembly’s leader of the opposition led to one suspected attacker being killed. He held a PhD.

Football and cricket are supposed to keep students away from guns and bombs. Should one laugh or cry?

GHQ is worried — as it should be after losing thousands of soldiers in anti-terrorist operations. So last May ISPR organised a meeting ‘The role of youth in rejecting extremism’. It was addressed by the COAS and DG ISPR. The COAS demanded “cleansing these barbarians from their potholes”. Surprisingly, some well-respected liberal voices were also invited to address the army audience. But disappointingly — judging from contents posted by ISPR — their meandering analyses did not point to anything actionable. The exception came from the single invited student speaker (who I’ll mention later).

Why is terrorism growing by leaps and bounds in Pakistani universities and colleges? Common sense — not rocket science or high erudition — is enough for an answer. What must be done is also pretty clear.

First, dismiss the activist preacher-professor. He wields authority over captive audiences and broadcasts his message inside classes and outside. Students from various universities complain that some begin class with long prayer recitations, turn briefly to whatever technical subject they are paid to teach, and then return to proselytising. Certain radical websites and Facebook pages are suggested as follow-ups.

How rampant is this? There’s abundant anecdotal evidence, present and past, but no real data. I got to know well in the 1980s an activist colleague at Quaid-i-Azam University (I quite liked this Columbia-educated guy!). A staunch Jamaat-i-Islami member, he left for jihad in Afghanistan. Little else was known until one day some newspapers reported his arrest for having facilitated the attack on GHQ in 2009. As with Ehsanullah Ehsan — the man who oversaw the Army Public School massacre — official silence means one cannot say exactly what has happened to these individuals. They may well be thriving.

No less dangerous are certain ‘motivational’ guest speakers. Brought weekly onto campus by jihadist professors colluding with sympathetic university administrators, they stir up students with concocted conspiracy theories and jingoistic hype. Earlier years saw the fanatical Laal Topi Wala who described Hindus as Paleed (unclean), 9/11 as a Jewish conspiracy, and called for eternal war with the West. Presently popular speakers hide their militancy under a fig leaf. University administrators — in cases I am aware of — fiercely resist deradicalisation speakers from visiting their campuses.

Second, the boundary between religious devotion and religious radicalism is blurry and badly needs demarcation. While there is deep reluctance to debate religious issues, ignoring them doesn’t make them vanish. Surely fighting with arguments is better than with guns.

Take the case of Ansar ul Sharia Pakistan. The organisation’s name bespeaks its goal — that to make Pakistan a Sharia state. Although deemed terrorist, ASP shares this objective not just with banned organisations like TTP, Al Qaida, and the militant Islamic State group but also with legal parliamentary parties such as JUI-F and JI. Indeed, a PEW survey showed 86 per cent of young Pakistanis want Sharia. So, on democratic grounds, what precisely did ASP do wrong?

Until such questions are satisfactorily debated, young minds will remain befogged. Universities are precisely where these debates must happen. Confusion can be reduced through properly moderated open discussions. Student unions must be unbanned, albeit conditionally.

Depoliticisation and reduction to helpless apathy — such as Mashal Khan’s lynching being left undiscussed on any campus except at QAU — is not the answer. Consider that KU is pondering whether to demand a police certification from each new student applicant. So imagine that a student is interviewed for his political views. He knows he’ll be in trouble if he says Pakistan should be secular. But after the ASP crackdown he might now be in hotter water if he says he wants Sharia. His safest bet is to claim that he is tabula rasa — a blank slate to be written upon at will. Is such apathy good?

Third, culturally deprived young Pakistanis are desperate for joy and freedom. The lone student invited to the GHQ meeting was brilliant. This Hijab’ed young woman from Islamia College (Peshawar) spoke wistfully of a Peshawar that her generation has never known — one where there were cinemas, sports galas, fun fairs, and declamation contests. Her dad tells her that doctors from Khyber Medical College (both females and males) could once set up a fun fair on campus. Yes, there were music events, theatres, colours, and poetry. Even dancing! Cultural desertification is now so total that no foreign tourist wants to — or dares — visits.

Nature is said to abhor a vacuum. The likes of Taliban, Al Qaeda, and IS through their less violent cousins such as JI and JUI-S are filling the cultural vacuum on campuses. No, Mr HEC Chairman, please wake up! Sleep is not an option. There’s real work to be done.

Source: dawn.com/news/1359388/deradicalising-our-universities

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Global Wave of Terror

By Mahrukh A Mughal

23-Sep-17

AFTER the Barcelona terrorist attack in August 2017 which left 13 people dead, the IS praised the act and in a propaganda video released by the SITE intelligence group, an IS member described the Barcelona perpetrators as “our brothers“ and threatened Spanish Christians to return the country to the “ land of the caliphate.” Coming to the background of war and terrorist in Middle East one must not forget Afghan war where Jihadist were prepared and nourished by the West, then attack on Iraq, Syria and Libya also ignited the wave of terror. Muammar Gaddafi didn’t just ‘fall’, his state was relentlessly bombarded for seven months by international forces until he was dead and his state broken, the fragments handed over to rebel forces on the ground. British politicians (with some honourable exceptions, including Jeremey Corbyn and John McDonnell) voted for the 2011 bombing and enable the triumph of Salafist Jihadism in Libya.

Gaddafi always said the West was supporting Al-Qaeda, and it is hard to believe that they did not know this is what they were doing. The killing of children is always tragic, whether they are in Manchester, Syria or anywhere else. But politicians don’t treat them all equally. While president Trump and Theresa May condemn the cruel murder of “beautiful babies” they are both busy selling billions of pounds worth of weaponry to the government of Saudi Arabia, who use them to bomb thousands of civilians in Yemen, including over 900 children killed. Millions of those who survive are being starved into submission by a Saudi military blockade. The arms sales branch breach British law, which bans sales where “There is a clear risk that the items might be used in the commission of a serious violation of international humanitarians law”-as the repeated Saudi bombing of schools and hospitals clearly is.

Jeremey Corbyn’s attempt to draw a link between Britain’s foreign policy and terror is disingenuous. Over the past few years, though there has been an explosion in the frequency of terrorist attacks against western countries, and in the lethality of these events from a brutal urban- warfare style assault as Paris in November 2015 (130 dead) to the March 2016 bombings at the Brussels airport and the Maalbeek metro station (32 dead), to a cargo truck plowing through crowds celebrating Bastille Day on a promenade in Nice (86 dead), to a truck striking a Christmas market in Berlin (12 dead) and the Ariana Grande concert, the message is that no place-no matter how familiar, beloved, or associated with the young and innocent is truly not safe. The very events that would end up propelling the current spike in terrorist attacks were widely misread about six years ago as the solution to Jihadism.

Peaceful revolutions brushing aside Authoritarian governments and ushering in newly democratic regimes were supposed to show that the violence of Jahadists movement in the Arab world was unnecessary which swept across the Arab world. In his memoir The Great War of Our Time, former CIA deputy director Michael Morell regretfully explained that his agency “thought and told policy makers that this outburst of popular revolt would damage (Al-Qaeda) by undermining the group’s narrative.” In fact, the Arab revolutions and their aftermath provided the Jihadist movement an unparalleled boost. The extraordinarily bloody civil war in Syria and the post-Muammar Gaddafi wreckage left behind in Libya have placed Jihadists on the front lines of some of the world’s major conflicts. IS was able to use social media to popularise its cause- a sickening mirror of the way protesters turned out to oppose Zine El Abidine Ben Ali in Tunisia or Hosni Mubarak in Egypt.

The proxy wars between US & Russia and Iran-Saudi proxies also promoted terrorist groups. West is responsible for terrorism in the Middle East and particularly in Syria. Syria politician Fares Shehabi correctly identified the terrorists as NATO/Al-Qaeda. He is correct. NATO’s Al-Qaeda/ al Nusra front terrorist are responsible. All of the death and destruction in Syria is a direct result of the West’s criminal “regime change” military operation. Part of the West’s criminality involves war propaganda, a very lucrative industry, funded by west, to deceive western, and world citizens. So terrorism which strikes Europe today comes mostly as a result of the West’s policies committed in Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya. There has always been a disconnect in the minds of people in Europe between the wars in Iraq and Syria and terrorists against Europeans.

This is in part because Baghdad and Damascus are exotic and frightening places. But there is a more insidious reason why Europeans do not sufficiently take on board the connection between the wars in the Middle East and the threat to their own security. Now West cannot live with its dual policy if it want to save its civilization, a clear cut policy has to be devised. All counter terrorism measures will fail if the root cause of terrorism is not addressed. It’s a wake-up call to the world community to uproot the causes as well as the main financial and ideological sources of extremism and violence, which are clear to everyone.

Source: pakobserver.net/global-wave-terror/

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A Kitchen for the Stateless

By Murtaza Shibli

September 23, 2017

Sikh volunteers from Khalsa Aid, a UK-based charity, have established emergency kitchens to prepare hot meals for the impoverished and battered Rohingya refugees arriving in Bangladesh. This has been aptly called guru ka Langar, a concept of community kitchen developed by Guru Nanak – the founder of Sikhism – as part of the institutional framework that has since then become the core of the Sikh faith and an inseparable part of Gurudwaras, the Sikh places of worship, around the world.

For several centuries, Gurudwaras have served people of all faiths and persuasions with free meals, Langar, in their premises. This includes breakfast, lunch and dinner and even nightly accommodation for wayfarers.

The Khalsa Aid team is camping at Teknaf, the border town in Bangladesh where refugees are pouring in by the day following a gruelling journey to find safety that is marred by unending deprivation. Initially, they distributed packed food items and water to the refugees. After gaining official permission, they started their hot meals service on Shahpuri Island – one of the main spots in the Bangladeshi territory for the Rohingya refugees to converge after fleeing from their country.

According to Amarpreet Singh, the managing director for Khalsa Aid, India, their initial target is at least 35,000 meals per day. Describing the miserable state of the refugees – mainly the children who hadn’t eaten for days – he told the Indian Express that it was difficult for his team to decide where to start and admitted that the meals they offer won’t be enough to feed everyone. A team from the UN refugee agency that met the fleeing Rohingya in Bangladesh “found people suffering real hardship and some of the most difficult conditions seen in any current refugee situation”.

There are also some Muslim charities, particularly Turkish NGOs, that are doing some wonderful work and hundreds of Bangladeshis are also working in their individual capacities. But Khalsa Aid has stood out for its dedication. Last week, a photograph of one of its volunteers clad in a dark blue turban offering water to a young refugee girl evoked strong hate reactions from the Hindutva extremists, who have been cheerleading the Myanmar Army for their ethnic cleansing.

A self-proclaimed “politically aware Hindu”, with more than 100,000 followers on the Twitter, reacted with a heartless display of hate as she tweeted: “I can see that you are going to [the] Myanmar border to feed [the] Rohingya. Can you also go to Pakistan to save Sikhs [who are] paying jizya?” A Delhi-based lawyer, who also claims to be a public speaker with a large online following, accused Khalsa Aid of being a Khalistani group, conflating them with the pro-freedom Sikh insurgents of the yore. He also tweeted the accusation that they’ve been collecting money for the Rohingya at the Shri Bangla Sahib, a prominent gurdwara in Delhi.

Scores of other Hindu extremists trolled Khalsa Aid’s Twitter account, asking them to send these refugees to Pakistan or even the UK. Others tried to fan the Sikh-Muslim hatred, calling Sikhs naïve and reminding them that “Islam killed their Gurus”. Earlier, Tathagata Roy, the governor of Tripura, a province in northeast India bordering Bangladesh, condoned the genocide. Roy, who was handpicked by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi for the gubernatorial assignment, called the ongoing genocide as a form of justice. He tweeted: “A bit of historic justice. Buddhist retribution for Hindu and Chakma genocide in East Bengal. The wheel grinds slowly but surely. Nice, what?”

Khalsa Aid’s response to these foul and offensive attacks was that of utmost dignity and honour. Through a series of tweets, it highlighted its previous work, reminding the hateful trolls that its volunteers had helped the Hindus during the 2005 earthquake in Gujarat, the 2009 drought in Maharashtra and last year’s floods in Chennai. They also showed their work for the refugees in Syria and the Yazidis who were forced to flee Iraq when Isis targeted them for their faith.

The Sikhs have a glorious tradition of serving people, irrespective of any distinction. They have done this on a daily basis without fail. The Golden Temple, the sanctum sanctorum, offers free meals and accommodation for thousands of people daily. I have myself eaten there on umpteen occasions and marvelled at the dedication of hundreds of Sikh devotees – women and men – who cook and serve in the kitchen.

I have availed the service at various other Gurudwaras around the world – from Europe to Africa – and their spirit to serve humanity remains pristine. Several years back, while driving from Nairobi to the coastal town of Mombasa, the only place that welcomed me with warmth and wonderful food was the Makindu Gurudwara, about 160 kilometres from Nairobi.

In Lahore, Gurudwara Dehra Sahib Sri Guru Arjan Dev in the walled city of Lahore is no different. Sadly, no locals are allowed inside. But I have been fortunate to gain entry a couple of times after I produced my ‘foreign passport’ and spoke in a tone that somewhat resembles a British accent. The warmth of the place continues to fill my heart and taste of the Prasad still lingers in my mouth.

Back home in Bijbehara, my hometown, the Gurudwara Guru Nanak Dev Ji stands tall with its yellow walls and a large flag bearing the Khanda – the symbol of the faith – besides the mighty Chinar trees of the historic Padshahi Bagh. Tara Singh, the Granthi, shows me four large halls to accommodate more than a hundred people. “Anyone can come anytime to eat and stay here,” he says.

As a show of gratitude for his indefatigable spirit of love, I tell him a little secret. About 20 years back, when this Gurudwara was being built, I worked as a volunteer for half a day as a labour with another friend Manzoor. “We wanted to show respect to our friend, Rajpal Singh,” I explain. Tara Singh becomes little emotional and gives me a tight hug. I say goodbye to him with a loud shout: Sat Siri Akal! (True is the name of God).

Source: thenews.com.pk/print/231994-Fifth-column-A-kitchen-for-the-stateless

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The Good General’s Latest Outburst

By Miranda Husain

23-Sep-17

Gen (rtd) Musharraf, it seems, has something in common with a certain American singer who, in her heyday, mused at the futility of a life off-camera. For the former military strongman certainly only appears to recall the truth when recasting himself in the role of talking head.

Yet this time, he really has outdone himself.

Asif Ali Zardari was behind the murders of Benazir Bhutto and her brother Murtaza. Not only that - the former civilian president was working in cahoots with both the late Tehreek-e-Taliban (TTP) chief Baitullah Mehsud and quite possibly former Afghan President Hamid Karzai and his intelligence services. And to think it was poor Karzai that the Americans found delusional.

Thus the plot thickens.

Except that it doesn’t.

For not one iota of evidence does the one-time enemy combatant provide. Admittedly, being the COAS at the time of Benazir’s assassination would likely make him privy to certain classified intelligence. Which, if we are to play along with this latest charade, begs the question: why, then, not come back to face a closed-camera trial and dish the dirt before the Anti-Terrorism Court (ATC)?

If Musharraf had to go down this path in a concerted effort to deflect attention from the murder charges that the courts last month handed down in the Benazir assassination case - it might have been more prudent to have dropped this ‘bombshell’ back then. Instead of the risky gamble he took whereby he reminded Trump - who at the time had likely been busy rolling up his sleeves as he painstakingly penned by his own hand his carefully crafted address to the UN in which he threatened to, like, totally destroy Pyongyang - that Pakistan had sold nuclear secrets to the North Korean Rocket Man. Not to mention two other axis-of-evil alumni, Iran and Libya.

Musharraf would do well to keep one thing in mind. Back in 2007, the year that Benazir returned to the country, a US intelligence report  said for the first time that Al Qaeda was in Pakistan. Which naturally raises questions as to who really was responsible for Benazir’s murder?

Fortunately for this country — it seemed that no one was really listening. The whole world had heard it all before.

This is not to say that the latest Musharraf attempt to secure the limelight might not be borne of a genuine caring and sharing sensibility that comes with doffing the hardman uniform. After all, he will always be a man who cherishes the institution that brought him to power and that kept him there for just under a decade. And he likely thinks that he is helping at a time when Pakistan has arrived at a critical juncture regarding its anti-terror record. Meaning that while PM Abbasi was at the UN asserting that he would never let his country be scapegoated by the usual suspects for the military and political stalemate across the western border in Afghanistan - Musharraf was pushing the point home that he, personally, would fight to the bitter end to ensure that our men in khaki would forever be vindicated. And that he would not allow an Afghan war to be fought on Pakistan soil. Quite possibly someone leaked to him the PM’s speech. After all, he may still have friends in high places even with the odious Blair out of Downing Street.

Yet what this does suggest is this: the game is up. Our media is out of control. It strengthens not the democratic process when a former head of state wanted for murder is allowed to regularly pop up to offer sound bites and more. When, that is, he isn’t hosting his own talk show from abroad. He won’t come back to face the music but PEMRA is happy to let him be white noise. Unless, of course, the media regulator considers gagging him tantamount to tarnishing the Army’s image. And in other words sees him as the latter’s ultimate reformed asset. Whatever the case may be the media is playing a dangerous game. For it is interfering yet again in the tenets of a free and fair trial. Just as it did over the summer when Nawaz Sharif was on trial for corruption.

Yet Musharraf would do well to keep one thing in mind. One of these days, one of his attention-grabbing outbursts might just land Pakistan in hot water. For back in 2007, the year that Benazir returned to the country, the US National Intelligence Estimate report said for the first time that Al Qaeda was in Pakistan - the federal capital, no less - and not just in Afghanistan and Iraq. Which naturally raises uncomfortable questions as to who really was responsible for Benazir’s murder?

Source: dailytimes.com.pk/opinion/23-Sep-17/the-good-generals-latest-outburst

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Rakhine Or Another Srebrenica?

By Dr Shaista Tabassum

September 23, 2017

The world community has finally come into action following the UN Security Council resolution condemning the violence in Myanmar’s Rakhine state. The situation is becoming graver by the day. More than 400,000 Rohingya Muslims have already fled to neighbouring Bangladesh.

This resolution from the most authoritative body of the United Nations was long awaited despite some of the worst reported violence in Myanmar in a decade. The present Security Council resolution is strong since it has covered all pertinent challenges. It has called for a de-escalation of the situation, reestablishment of law and order, protection of civilians and a resolution of the refugee problem. Before the UN reached any consensus, many prominent international non-governmental organisations have been complaining about the blatant violation of fundamental legal rights of the people. These include the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR), the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), and the United Nations Children’s Fund (Unicef), the UN World Food Programme (WFP) and 16 major non-governmental aid organisations, among them Oxfam and Save the Children, have complained that the Myanmar government has restricted access to the conflict areas. No humanitarian assistance could reach the victims of genocide until they crossed the borders into Bangladesh.

This delay in moral and political support has raised many questions. Even though the UN had started to discuss the issue as early as November 2016 and concerns were shown, those attempts were blocked by China and Russia. The international community had not taken serious notice of the issue until this month.

Although violence broke out in northern Rakhine state on 25th August, when militants attacked government forces. In response, security forces supported by the Buddhist militia launched a “clearance operation” that left at least 1,000 people dead and forced more than 300,000 to flee their homes. Several rights groups had earlier said that the Myanmar military’s response was “clearly disproportionate” to insurgent attacks. It was very clear from the beginning that Myanmar’s treatment of its Rohingya minority was aimed at ethnic cleansing of Muslims. Bangladesh’s foreign minister, Mahmood Ali, said unofficial sources put the death toll at about 3,000. More than 310,000 people had fled to Bangladesh by 11th September.

In this context one cannot help but recall the memories of war in Bosnia and the response of the international community which ultimately led to the military operation by Nato. It is a sad story of 1995 when the US and other countries failed to stop the ethnic cleansing, the concentration camps, and the massacre of hundreds of thousands of civilians in Bosnia — the majority of whom were Muslims. Before August 1995 many earlier attempts to get involved in Bosnia were half-hearted in execution and thus ended in failure. The situation became serious in April 1993, when Srebrenica, Zepa and Gorazde in eastern Bosnia were declared three of six UN “safe areas”. The United Nations Protection Force (UNPROFOR) deployed troops and the Bosnian Serb Army (VRS) attacks were temporarily stopped. But the town remained isolated and only a few humanitarian convoys reached it in the following two years. Then in March 1994, the US-brokered agreement ended the Muslim-Croat war and created a Muslim-Croat federation. But the year 1995 proved a decisive year for Bosnia’s future. In March, Bosnian Serb President Radovan Karadzic ordered that Srebrenica and Zepa be entirely cut off and aid convoys be stopped from reaching the towns. After four months on 9th July 1995 Karadzic issued a new order to conquer Srebrenica, a small village near the eastern border with Serbia, swollen with some 60,000 Muslim refugees. Despite the UN flag flying over the enclave, the Bosnian Serb assault in July 1995 met no UN resistance either on the ground or from the air.

Within 10 days, tens of thousands of Muslim refugees streamed into the Muslim-controlled city of Tuzla. Missing from the stream of refugees were more than 8,000 men of all ages, who had been executed in cold blood — mass murder on a scale not witnessed in Europe since the end of World War II. The UN war crimes tribunal in The Hague indicted Karadzic and Mladic for genocide for the siege of Sarajevo. Finally in August, Nato started air strikes against Bosnian Serb troops. The international community could not reach consensus on the deployment of Nato forces, the delay in decision-making proved costly as it allowed the Serbian authorities to carry out the mass killing of Bosnians.

What is happening in Myanmar is alarming. Several aid agencies have already warned of a growing humanitarian crisis in overstretched border camps, where water, food rations and medical supplies are fast running out. Although the UN Security Council has expressed concern but all of its actions are subject to the approval of five permanent members. Any difference on any unimportant issue may linger on the final decision for peacekeeping mission to come in action. The Buddhist establishment is already very conscious of the international pressure gradually developing against the military operation and wants to conclude the genocide as quickly as possible. In case of delays Rakhine state might well become another Srebrenica.

Source: tribune.com.pk/story/1513693/rakhine-another-srebrenica/

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URL: http://www.newageislam.com/pakistan-press/new-age-islam-edit-bureau/asia-bibi-and-the-sakharov-prize-by-kaleem-dean--new-age-islam-s-selection,-23-september-2017/d/112628




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