Pakistani Christian Mother Sentenced to Death, Nominated for Prestigious Religious Freedom Prize

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE CHRISTIAN POST)

 

Asia Bibi, Christian Mother Sentenced to Death, Nominated for Prestigious Religious Freedom Prize

(PHOTO: REUTERS)Asia Bibi (R) was sentenced to execution in 2010 after being accused by her former colleagues of blaspheming against the Prophet Mohammad.

Asia Bibi, the Pakistani Christian mother of five who has spent seven years on death row due to blasphemy charges, has been nominated for a prestigious European Union religious freedom prize.

“Her case is a symbol for others hurt in their freedom of expression and especially freedom of religion,” Dutch Europarliamentarian Peter van Dalen of the European Conservatives and Reformists Group’s member faction ChristenUnion-SGP told BosNewsLife on Wednesday.

“It is good that my colleagues in the ECR and I continue to defend the rights of Bibi and many others.”

Bibi is now in the running for the $59,500 award that comes with the Sakharov Prize. The ceremony will be held on Dec. 10 in Strasbourg, France.

The mother’s ongoing legal saga began back in 2009, after Muslim co-workers accused her of blasphemy for praising Jesus Christ and allegedly insulting the Islamic prophet Muhammad.

Bibi denied the charge but was found guilty and sentenced to death in November 2010. Several appeals have since followed and the latest hearing, which Bibi’s attorney attempted to have scheduled for June, was delayed by Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar.

The Christian mother’s plight has drawn international attention and condemnation of Pakistan’s strict blasphemy laws by a variety of persecution watchdog and human rights groups.

Christian lawyer Naeem Shakir pointed out that Islamic hardliners are greatly invested in seeing her denied freedom.

“The plight of Bibi has had a dampening effect on minorities. Their grief cannot be addressed because of religious retrogressive and extremist groups,” Shakir said.

Unless Bibi’s death sentence is overturned, she is set to become the first woman in Pakistan to be executed under the blasphemy laws.

Previous recipients of the Sakharov Prize include Nadia Murad and Lamya Aji Bashar Taha, two young Yazidi women who were kidnapped by Islamic State extremists and forced to live as sex slaves.

Aji Bashar, who won the award alongside Murad in 2016, has spoken about IS’ abuse of children as young as 9 years old, describing them as “monsters.”

“I would really like to explain what happened to me there, not only for myself, but so others, the other women, are not treated like this, so that we Yazidis never have to go through anything like this again,” the Yazidi woman said.

Murad, who has been traveling around the world to raise awareness for the genocide of Yazidis, stated, “I’ve seen thousands of refugees go through the same thing as myself and my family. We are scattered all over the place. I also know that Islamic State is still trying to exterminate us. I think about this and this is what gives me the strength, all the strength, to continue.”

Follow Stoyan Zaimov on Facebook: CPSZaimov

Pakistan has no option but to stop ceasefire violations

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE HINDUSTAN TIMES)

 

Pakistan has no option but to stop ceasefire violations, says Rajnath Singh

Even as frontier villagers continue the bear the brunt of Pakistani ceasefire violations, Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh says Islamabad must eventually stop firing at Indian villages.

INDIA Updated: Sep 12, 2017 00:07 IST

Ravi Krishnan Khajuria
Ravi Krishnan Khajuria
Hindustan Times, Jammu
File photo of Indian soldiers near the Line of Control (LoC) in Nowshera sector in Poonch after a ceasefire violation by Pakistani troops.
File photo of Indian soldiers near the Line of Control (LoC) in Nowshera sector in Poonch after a ceasefire violation by Pakistani troops. (PTI)

Union home Rajnath Singh on Monday warned Islamabad to mend its ways and stop firing at Indian posts and villages along the 744 km long Line of Control and 198- km long International Border in Jammu and Kashmir.

Singh’s warning followed the latest ceasefire violation by the Pakistani army in Shahpur Kerni sector of Poonch district in the morning.

Addressing displaced border villagers at a relief camp in Nowshera town in Rajouri district, Singh said that he had told the BSF DG in 2014 that “we shouldn’t fire first but if they (Pakistani forces) fire even a single bullet then there should be no count of bullets from our side.”

He was accompanied by Union minister Jitendra Singh and Jammu and Kashmir deputy chief minister Nirmal Singh.

“The situation has improved from what it was in 2014 after security forces were authorised to retaliate strongly. It will improve further in the days to come. Pakistan has no option but to stop ceasefire violations today or tomorrow. I assure all of you that situation will improve in the coming days,” he said.

Read more

Singh said he had told the director general of border-guarding force Pakistan Ranger in 2015 that Pakistan was resorting to firing violating certain protocols which should be respected and followed.

“India today is not a weak country anymore. It is a changed country under the leadership of PM Narendra Modi. The world today has started acknowledging India as a force to reckon with. India’s image has changed across the world today,” he asserted.

Nowshera is the place from where the Indian army had launched its surgical strikes on September 29 last year on terror launch pads in Bhimber Gali area across the LoC.

Read more

But since May this year, over 4000 people have been displaced from several villages along the LoC in Nowshera sector following several ceasefire violations by Pakistani forces.

These displaced people have been living in six relief camps. During their interaction with Singh, the migrants demanded that “bunkers” be set up at their homes along the LoC.

“Our first and foremost demand is that the government should set up bunkers in each of the border houses if we have to live again along the LoC. We need bunkers more than food,” Jangarh resident Parshottam Kumar, the president of the Border Migrants Coordination Committee, told Singh.

The home minister heaped praise on the border villagers describing them “strategic assets” of the country.

“Though no amount of money can ever compensate a human life, it was our government that raised the ex-gratia to the next of kin of those who die in Pakistani firing from Rs 1 lakh to Rs 5 lakh. Those with more than 50% disability are also entitled for RS 5 lakh compensation,” he said.

Rajnath Singh said that the country was indebted to the border residents. He said he would ensure that 60% posts were kept reserved for the youth of border areas in recruitment drive for various central police and paramilitary forces.

The home minister began a four-day visit to Jammu and Kashmir on September 9 as part of an exercise to find solutions to the problems that the state faces.

(With PTI inputs)

U.N. Criticizes India Over Journalist Murder And Handling Of Rohingya Refugees

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE HINDUSTAN TIMES)

 

UN rights commissioner criticises India over Gauri Lankesh murder, handling of Rohingya refugees

Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein said rights defenders working for India’s most vulnerable groups were being harassed or denied protection by the state instead of being seen as allies in building a more inclusive society.

INDIA Updated: Sep 12, 2017 00:43 IST

HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Rohingya refugees walk on the shore after crossing the Bangladesh-Myanmar border by boat through the Bay of Bengal in Shah Porir Dwip, Bangladesh.
Rohingya refugees walk on the shore after crossing the Bangladesh-Myanmar border by boat through the Bay of Bengal in Shah Porir Dwip, Bangladesh.(REUTERS)

The UN high commissioner for human rights on Monday criticised India for the rise of religious intolerance and attacks on freedom of expression, including the murder of journalist Gauri Lankesh, as well as its handling of Rohingya refugees.

In unusually frank remarks made while addressing the 36th session of the Human Rights Council in Geneva, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein said rights defenders working for India’s most vulnerable groups were being harassed or denied protection by the state instead of being seen as allies in building a more inclusive society.

Al Hussein also criticised India and Pakistan for not cooperating with his office to assess the human rights situation in Jammu and Kashmir on both sides of the Line of Control (LoC).

There was no official reaction from the Indian government to Al Hussein’s comments.

Al Hussein said he was “dismayed” by the rise of intolerance towards religious and other minorities in India. “The current wave of violent, and often lethal, mob attacks against people under the pretext of protecting the lives of cows is alarming,” he said.

Read more

Referring to attacks on people who speak out for fundamental human rights, he pointed to the murder last week of journalist Gauri Lankesh, who, he said, “tirelessly addressed the corrosive effect of sectarianism and hatred”.

Though Al Hussein said he was “heartened” by protests against Lankesh’s killing and other lynchings, he noted that rights defenders working for the most vulnerable groups, including people threatened with displacement by infrastructure projects such as the Sardar Sarovar Dam, were being subjected to harassment and criminal proceedings, or denied protection. Such groups, he added, should be considered allies in creating a more inclusive society.

Read more

Al Hussein, who described the Myanmar government’s handling of the Rohingya issue as a “textbook example of ethnic cleansing”, specifically targeted minister of state for home affairs Kiren Rijiju for his stance on deporting Rohingya refugees.

“I deplore current measures in India to deport Rohingyas at a time of such violence against them in their country,” he said.

“The minister of state for home affairs has reportedly said that because India is not a signatory to the Refugee Convention the country can dispense with international law on the matter, together with basic human compassion,” he said, noting that 40,000 Rohingyas had settled in India.

On Saturday, India asked Myanmar to handle the situation in Rakhine state with restraint while focussing on the welfare of both civilians and security forces. It also called for violence in the region to be ended expeditiously.

Al Hussein also regretted what he described as the “reluctance” of India and Pakistan to cooperate with his office on “human rights concerns”, including a failure to grant access to Jammu and Kashmir on both sides of the LoC.

He said his office is remotely monitoring the rights situation in Kashmir in order to make the findings public in the near future.

17 Year Old Boy Beaten To Death In His Pakistani Classroom Because He Was A Christian

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE CHRISTIAN POST)

 

A Christian boy, who was doing well in his studies despite being from a poor home, was beaten to death by his Muslim classmates inside his school in Pakistan’s Punjab Province. The victim’s parents say he was targeted for being a Christian soon after he joined the school.”You’re a Christian; don’t dare sit with us if you want to live,” a Muslim student had once told the victim, Sharoon Masih, who was studying at MC Model Boys Government High School in the Vehari area in Punjab, according to the British Pakistani Christian Association, which has reported on the killing.

Masih was beaten up by several students on Aug. 27, his fourth day at the school. He died on the spot, inside the classroom.

The attacking students were shouting insults at him while beating him, but no teacher or school staff came to his rescue.

The Head Teacher has been dismissed, and the prime suspect, a student identified as Muhammad Ahmed Rana, has been arrested.

The victim’s father, Elyab Masih, who works as a laborer in a brick kiln, had saved his hard-earned money for the admission of his son.

The victim’s mother, Riaz Bibi, said her son had been warned by his peers not to mix with Muslims at the school. She said her son was called a “chura,” a derogatory term which refers to the people who belong to the lowest caste, according to the hierarchy in some South Asian societies.

Some even tried to convert the boy to Islam, Bibi said.

“My son was a kind-hearted, hard-working and affable boy,” the mother was quoted as saying. “He has always been loved by teachers and pupils alike and shared great sorrow that he was being targeted by students at his new school because of his faith.

“Sharoon and I cried every night as he described the daily torture he was subjected to. He only shared details about the violence he was facing. He did not want to upset his father because he had such a caring heart for others.

“The evil boys that hated my child are now refusing to reveal who else was involved in his murder. Nevertheless one day God will have His judgement.”

BPCA Chairperson Wilson Chowdhry said Christians are “despised and detested” in Pakistan.

The murder, he said, “serves only to remind us that hatred toward religious minorities is bred into the majority population at a young age, through cultural norms and a biased national curriculum.”

He added, “The government of Pakistan failed to remove offensive texts within their national curriculum despite it having being highlighted by the United States Commission for International Freedom and potentially being a bar to future foreign aid.”

Last month, a 16-year-old Christian boy in Pakistan was arrested for allegedly burning pages of the Quran, which under section 295-B of Pakistan’s penal code, could mean the death penalty.

USCIRF ranked Pakistan among the top five countries with the strictest blashpemy laws in the world in a recent report, and warned that such laws are often used to target religious minorities.

BSF kills 3 Pakistani Rangers in retaliatory fire in Jammu

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE HINDUSTAN TIMES)

 

BSF kills 3 Pakistani Rangers in retaliatory fire in Jammu

The Indian border guards retaliated after the Pakistani forces resorted to unprovoked firing in two separate places along the international border, according to a BSF officer.

INDIA Updated: Aug 27, 2017 00:34 IST

Ravi Krishnan Khajuria
Ravi Krishnan Khajuria
Hindustan Times, Jammu
Three Pakistan Rangers were killed in retaliatory fire by the BSF after the Pakistani forces resorted to unprovoked firing in two separate places along the international border in Jammu.
Three Pakistan Rangers were killed in retaliatory fire by the BSF after the Pakistani forces resorted to unprovoked firing in two separate places along the international border in Jammu. (HT File Photo )

The Border Security Force (BSF) killed at least three Pakistani Rangers in retaliatory firing in two separate places along the Indo-Pakistan international border on Saturday.

BSF Jammu Frontier IG Ram Awtar told Hindustan Times over phone that the BSF eliminated a ranger at an area opposite to Arnia of RS Pura sector in Jammu district, where Pakistani forces opened sniper firing on Friday, injuring constable KK Apparao.

Two Rangers were eliminated opposite Dewra village in Sunderbani in a separate retaliatory fire, the IG added.

The Pakistani Rangers sniped Apparao when he was drinking water in BOP Budhwar in RS Pura of Jammu district, said another BSF officer.

A bullet was lodged above the jawan’s ear. He was operated upon last night and his condition is stated to be stable.

The rangers resumed unprovoked firing on Saturday afternoon firing four 51mm and two 81/82 mm mortars. Two mortars exploded in Dewra village in Sunderbani.

The BSF retaliated, killing two rangers, the officer added.

He said the Pakistani forces also resorted to unprovoked firing in Pargwal area of Jammu region around 2.50pm, prompting the BSF to retaliate.

There is no de-escalation in unprovoked firing from across the border even as the BSF and the Pakistan Rangers had “committed” themselves to maintaining peace at a commandant-level flag meeting in Samba sector on July 17.

Read more

In the flag meeting, the two sides had agreed to re- energise instant communication between field commanders, whenever required, to resolve “petty matters”, a BSF official had said.

“They committed to each other to maintain peace and tranquillity at the international border,” the official had added.

Three days ago, senior army commanders of India and Pakistan also held a flag meeting on the Line of Control (LoC) in Poonch sector in J&K and agreed to institute mechanisms for durable peace and tranquillity on the border.

There has been a sharp increase in ceasefire violations by Pakistan this year.

Pakistani forces since May had stepped up ceasefire violation along the LoC at Pir Panjal range in Rajouri and Poonch districts. Now they have opened another front in Jammu district.

Till August 1, there were 285 ceasefire violations by the Pakistani army while the number was significantly less at 228 for the entire year in 2016, according to an Indian army data

Eleven people, including nine soldiers, were killed and 18 injured in ceasefire violations by Pakistani army in July alone.

There were 83 ceasefire violations, one attack on border action team (BAT) and two infiltration bids from the Pakistani side in June in which four people, including three jawans, were killed and 12 injured.

In May, there were 79 ceasefire violations, according to officials.

Minister of state for home affairs Hansraj Gangaram Ahir visited Chamliyal outpost in Ramgarh area of Samba sector on Thursday to take stock of the prevailing border security scenario.

Indo-Pak commanders meet at LoC; agree to mechanism for durable peace

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE ‘STATE TIMES’ NEWS OF JAMMU/KASHMIR)

 

Indo-Pak commanders meet at LoC; agree to mechanism for durable peace

Army Commanders from India, Pakistan exchanging gifts after the meeting at Chakan-Da-Bagh in Poonch Sector.

State Times News
JAMMU: Senior Army commanders of India and Pakistan on Wednesday held a flag meeting on the Line of Control (LoC) in Jammu and Kashmir against the backdrop of numerous ceasefire violations and agreed to institute mechanisms for durable peace and tranquility on the border.
At the meeting of Battalion Commander-level officers, the Indian side highlighted “abetment and support of the Pakistan Army to cross-border terrorism, sniping actions on the Line of Control and deliberate targeting of civil population during cease fire violations,” a defence ministry spokesman said here.
The two sides agreed to keep the channels of communication open between local commanders at the LoC, he said.
“Indian and Pakistan Army held a Battalion Commander- level flag meeting at Chakan Da Bagh in Poonch Sector at 1100 hours today, in the backdrop of numerous ceasefire violations and casualties to civilian population in the past several months,” the spokesman said
“The meeting lasted for 50 minutes in a cordial atmosphere,” he added. He said that both sides mutually agreed to the importance of exercising restraint on the LoC and keeping the channels of communication open between local commanders.
Both sides also agreed for necessity to institute mechanisms to ensure durable peace and tranquility along the Line of Control, the spokesman added.
Resumption of trade and transit through Chakan-Da-Bagh was also discussed during the flag meeting, he said.
The year 2017 has seen a sharp increase in ceasefire violations by Pakistan.
Till August 1, there were 285 such violations by the Pakistan Army while in 2016, the number was significantly less at 228 for the entire year, according to the Army figures.
Eleven people, including nine soldiers, were killed and 18 injured in ceasefire violations by Pakistan Army in the month of July, the Army data says.
There were 83 ceasefire violations, one BAT (border action team) attack and two infiltration bids from the Pakistani side in June in which 4 people, including three jawans, were killed and 12 injured.
In May, there were 79 ceasefire violations, according to officials.

Trump has no understanding of the South Asian region,’ Imran says

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE PAKISTANI NEWS AGENCY ‘DAWN’)

 

PTI Chairman Imran Khan criticizes Trump's South Asia policy in a press conference.─DawnNews
PTI Chairman Imran Khan criticizes Trump’s South Asia policy in a press conference.─DawnNews

US President Donald Trump has no understanding of the South Asian region, Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) Chairman Imran Khan said on Wednesday as he strongly criticised Washington’s recently-revealed South Asia policy.

A day earlier, Trump had announced his long-awaited South Asia policy, calling for greater troop deployment and Indian involvement in Afghanistan. In his speech, the US president had also lambasted Pakistan for offering safe havens to “agents of chaos”.

Addressing the press on Wednesday, Imran spoke about various elements of Washington’s new policy.

“Grave allegations have been made against Pakistan,” Khan said, referring to accusations made by Trump.

Khan said that the allegations signalled that Trump has “no understanding of the South Asian region or the dynamics of the ‘war on terror'” as he pointed out the sacrifices Pakistan has made in the fight.

The PTI chairman further questioned the role allotted to India in Afghanistan in the policy.

He said that while Pakistan has made sacrifices and fought a war “that is not ours,” India has been asked to become involved even though it does not share a border with Afghanistan.

“Pakistan got involved in the [war] even though not a single Pakistani was involved in 9/11. Al Qaeda was in Afghanistan. It was not necessary for [Pakistan] to get involved in this war [as it was] not at fault,” Khan said.

The PTI chief further questioned why Pakistan was being held responsible for America’s policy failures in Afghanistan.

“Over 150, 000 Nato soldiers were deployed in Afghanistan [by America], billions were spent, thousands of Afghans were killed. The world’s most powerful military machinery could not control [the situation in Afghanistan] and Pakistan is being held responsible for the failures,” Khan said.

He asked what America would accomplish by deploying thousands more troops in Afghanistan when those already stationed there had not been able to win the war.

Khan also referred to Trump’s statement that “billions and billions” of dollars have been spent on Pakistan.

He said that the amount spent by Washington on Pakistan is minuscule in comparison to the losses Pakistan has suffered in the war against terror.

Khan also criticised Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi and the Foreign Office for not putting out a strong statement in response to Trump’s “serious” allegations against the country.

“There has been no statement from the prime minister or the Foreign Office. Instead, China has come to Pakistan’s defense and issued a statement,” Khan said, calling on Abbasi to “send a strong message to the Americans”.

The Foreign Office had, in fact, put out a statement Tuesday night.

Khan also called on Pakistan’s civilian and military leadership to send a unanimous message to Washington that Trump’s statements are “unacceptable”.

The PTI chief further called for the holding of a special parliament session so that a consensus may be developed by the country’s leadership on the matter.

He said that his party has filed an adjournment motion in the National Assembly for this purpose.

Anantnag College Turns into Battle Ground

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE KASHMIR OBSERVER)

 

Anantnag College Turns into Battle Ground

Police Bid to Hoist Tri-Colour Sparks Student Unrest


Anantnag—Agitating students at the Boys Degree College here went on a rampage, setting afire the stage set by police for a sports festival to protest against hoisting of Indian national flag in the college premises.

The inaugural match of T20 cricket tourney, sponsored by the J&K Police,  began in the morning without any hassle, eyewitnesses said.

While the match was in progress some policemen hoisted Indian tricolor on the stage meant for dignitaries. This enraged the students present who resented the move by shouting pro-Azadi slogans. Soon other students joined in and all hell broke loose.

Anantnag Degree College Turns into Battle Ground (Photo Courtesy: Muneeb ul Islam)

Agitating students resorted to heavy stone-pelting forcing cops to take down the tricolor. This did not pacify the protesting students who continuously raised Azadi slogans prompting police to lob tear smoke shells transforming the cricket field into a battle ground .

College sources said that the match was abandoned after the clashes.

As cops left the premises, protesting students set the stage on fire and ransacked the chairs and other items.

Reports said that students also attacked the fire services vehicles with stones. Police again rushed to spot and charged the students with canes.

Videos of the incident, which had students setting hoardings and banners ablaze, went viral on the social media.

Anantnag Degree College Turns into Battle Ground (Photo Courtesy: Muneeb ul Islam)

The institute authorities had reportedly asked the police to refrain from holding the event during college hours because it could lead to a law-and-order problem. “But the police did not pay any heed to our suggestion that the programme be held after 4 pm,” according to a media report.

Reports said that the police later conducted the match in the evening and the first match was played without any disturbance.

The Government Degree College at Anantnag, established in 1950, is affiliated to Kashmir University. As many as 5,000 students are enrolled there.

Be part of Open Journalism

At Kashmir Observer we pride ourselves for being open, honest and unbiased. If you have noticed we haven’t put up a paywall unlike many news organisations, – as we want to keep our journalism open. We believe journalism should be open, fearless and unbiased. Open information helps with informed decisions.

Journalism takes a lot of time, money and hard work to produce, despite all the hardships we still do it, because we believe our perspective matters – because it might well be your perspective, too. Today more people are reading Kashmir Observer than ever, but only a handful are paying and advertising revenues across the media industry is falling fast.

If everyone who reads our reporting, helps to support it, our future would be much more secure and we will be able to keep our and your perspective going. So if we may ask, we ask your help in keeping the Kashmir Observer’s journalism fair and square.

Pakistan Marks 70 Years Of Independence Yet It Is Still A Bastion Of Hate Toward Minorities

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF NPR)

 

As Pakistan Marks 70 Years Of Independence, Its Minorities Struggle For Space

People pose in front of Pakistan Independence Day signs in Lahore. The country, created in 1947 as a homeland for South Asia’s Muslims, celebrated 70 years of independence on Aug. 14.

Diaa Hadid/NPR

The children pile into the stadium in shiny clothes, clutching green-and-white Pakistani flags. Their parents light the area with cell phones to record the event as they scream, chant and cheer, watching soldiers close a gate that separates India from Pakistan.

In the evening ritual at the Wagah-Attari border, near Lahore and Amritsar, soldiers from both countries high-kick, shake their fists, then shake hands – and slam the gate shut.

It is deeply visceral for many Pakistanis: an acknowledgement of their border, of a plucky country they feel they have sacrificed so much to create.

Left: Youths sell paraphernalia in the colors of Pakistan’s flag to celebrate its Independence Day on Aug. 14. Right: An anonymous mask in Pakistan’s national colors of white and green lies on the grass of a park in Lahore.

Diaa Hadid/NPR

Pakistan was imagined more than 70 years ago by a stern, British-educated, whiskey-drinking Shiite lawyer. Muhammad Ali Jinnah hoped for a nation as cosmopolitan as he was. He led the fight to carve the country out of British-ruled India. In a new, independent India, Muslims were fearful that they would be dominated by a Hindu majority.

But in the decades since, the sense of who is a citizen in the Muslim state hasn’t been resolved. The question has come at a high price: Although Pakistan’s constitution specifies the protection of minority rights, “the government limited freedom of religion,” according to the State Department. The country’s tiny minorities of Sikhs, Christians and Hindus are vulnerable to persecution. Certain laws, such as blasphemy laws, are often used to target them.

As a boy in 1947, Muhammad Hanif Qureshi — now 83 and shown here with his great-niece and great-nephew in their home in Lahore — fled Amritsar. The area encompassing Amritsar and Lahore saw some of the worst violence of Partition.

Diaa Hadid/NPR

Within the Muslim community as well, the definition of who exactly is a Muslim has narrowed.

The seeds of Pakistan’s intolerance were sown within the country’s very ideology as a Muslim state, says Taimur Rehman, a political scientist at the Lahore University of Management Sciences.

That intolerance was “inherent in the very way in which Pakistan was created and the very purpose which it was supposed to serve of being a Muslim state,” he says. “By its very definition, it has already singled out a community in opposition to another one,” he says, referring to Muslims and Hindus. “And it’s very easy for that community to be to be narrowed further.”

Over the decades, he argues, the narrowing has been exacerbated by the military, Pakistan’s most powerful institution, which cultivated hard-line Islamists to wage a jihad in the disputed region of Kashmir, among other things.

A member of Pakistan’s tiny Sikh minority stops in Lahore’s Gurudwara or Sikh temple. Sikhs have a centuries-long presence in Lahore, but most fled for India in 1947.

Diaa Hadid/NPR

This has given right-wing religious groups outsize influence. “Despite never having won an election,” Rehman says, “they are nonetheless able to dictate the narrative in the country because of the support that they have from the military establishment.”

Perhaps none have suffered more than members of a small Muslim sect, known as Ahmadis, whose beliefs clash with the dominant Sunni version of Islam. They played a key role in founding Pakistan. They are a community of over-achievers: An Ahmadiphysicist, Abdus Salam, received one of only two Nobel prizes awarded to Pakistanis.

But the state declared Ahmadis as heretics via a constitutional amendment in the 1970s and restricted their rights further in the 1980s. They’re not allowed to call themselves Muslims, and can’t refer to their houses of worship as mosques. Over the years, militants have attacked their mosques and targeted them in killings.

Enlarge this image

A Hindu shrine in Lahore was rebuilt after it was burned down more than a decade ago during a period of communal tensions. Now it’s guarded by two state employees. A handful of worshipers come on Tuesdays.

Diaa Hadid/NPR

In a leafy suburb near Lahore, the Khans live in a two-story home behind a high gate that’s firmly bolted. Mrs. Khan stands on the balcony every morning, waiting for her husband to return from prayers at their local mosque. She’s terrified that somebody will kill him.

“We are frightened,” she says. “For the life.” (Her first name isn’t being published out of concern for the family’s safety.)

Most of her family already fled overseas.

So far, Mrs. Khan insists on staying. She runs a clinic that dispenses free medicine to her poorer neighbors. “If I go, the people will suffer,” she says.

She doesn’t want to “just sit and eat” in exile. “This is not the meaning of life.”

She’s also worried about her nephew. Twice, somebody threw a note into his house warning him to convert to Sunni Islam — or die. He hides out here when he’s afraid.

He repeatedly tried to flee Pakistan – but he says the U.K., Sweden and Canada all rejected applications.

The roots of intolerance run deeper than just how Pakistan defines itself as a Muslim state, says Anam Zakariya, an oral historian in Islamabad.

She traces it back to Pakistan’s birth story – at the time of Partition, in 1947, when millions of Hindus and Sikhs fled to India and Muslims to Pakistan. Mobs raped and butchered each other — around a million people died.

But Zakariya says those events are pushed aside. Pakistan focuses on celebrating its creation – and emphasizes how Muslims were victims.

“Now if it’s your biggest victory to date,” Zakariya says, “you have to make sure that the bloodshed is portrayed to the younger generations as perpetrated by Indians — Hindus and Sikhs.”

Laborers work to prepare the new Pakistan history museum in Lahore’s Greater Iqbal Park. The museum — a project of the provincial government and the private Citizens Archive of Pakistan — will be the first to look at Partition through the stories of those who witnessed it.

Diaa Hadid/NPR

It’s to drive home the point: “And that’s why there was a need to create Pakistan.”

There are challenges emerging to that narrative. In a sprawling park in the heart of noisy, smoggy Lahore, a museum will soon open that will look at Partition through the stories of the people who witnessed it. It’s a collaboration between the Citizens Archive of Pakistan, a nonprofit, and the government of Punjab, Pakistan’s most populous province.

“This is the first place in the entire country where you’ll experience what the refugees in 1947 experienced,” says Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy, an Oscar-winning documentary filmmaker and head of the Citizens Archive.

Being exposed to stories from survivors of Partition will help create a more inclusive Pakistan, she believes, but it’s a race against time – the people who lived through Partition are fading away.

And 70 years on, the very idea of what Pakistan is meant to be – an Islamic state, in opposition to Hindu-dominated India – feels hard to shake.

Aya (right), 19, partially covers her face as she poses alongside her sister Sania, 22, and their mother. They visited a shrine in Lahore with their family patriarch Abdul Aziz, who remembers tending fields alongside Hindus before British-ruled India was partitioned.

Diaa Hadid/NPR

Near the museum construction site, the Abdul Aziz family huddles under a shelter as a sudden summer rain drenches the park. Their patriarch, Yousef, isn’t sure of his age, but says he used to work in fields alongside Hindus – and so he predates Partition. When the Hindus left Pakistan, he said, Muslims became free.

“We are now in a country where we can say, ‘There is no God but God and Muhammed is his messenger,'” he says, reciting the Muslim declaration of faith.

In Pakistan, he says, “There is no idolatry” – a reference to polytheist Hinduism.

His granddaughters Sania, 22, and Aya, 19, nod in agreement. He says he’s proud of Pakistan, which he describes as a “fort of Islam” where it’s safe for his grandchildren to grow up.

Sania says she’s not interested in a museum. She’s already heard her grandfather’s stories of Partition, and she’ll tell them one day to her own children.

Besides, she says, “I know history — the Islamic history of Pakistan.”

Vietnam Urges Stronger Stand Against China At ASEAN Summit in Manila, Philippines

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE PAKISTAN DAILY TIMES)

 

MANILA: Vietnam urged other Southeast Asian nations to take a stronger stand against Chinese expansionism in the South China Sea, as a tense regional security forum began Saturday with North Korea also under fire over its nuclear program.

Ahead of the launch of the annual gathering of foreign ministers from the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), Vietnam made a bold play against China with a raft of suggested changes to a planned joint communique.

It set the stage for what was expected to be a fiery few days of diplomacy in the Philippine capital, with the top diplomats from China, the United States, Russia and North Korea set to join their ASEAN and other Asia-Pacific counterparts for security talks from Sunday.

The meetings will take place as the United Nations Security Council votes this weekend on a US-drafted resolution to toughen sanctions against North Korea to punish the isolated regime for its missile and nuclear tests. The United States said it would also seek to build unified pressure on the North at the Manila event — known as the ASEAN Regional Forum — and Philippine Foreign Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano said Pyongyang would receive a strong message.

But on the South China Sea dispute — one of Asia’s other top powder keg issues — there was far less consensus with Vietnam resisting efforts by the Philippines to placate Beijing, diplomats told AFP.

Vietnam on Friday night sought to insert tough language against China in an ASEAN statement that was scheduled to be released after the Southeast Asian ministers wrapped up their own talks on Saturday.

According to a copy of a draft obtained by AFP, Vietnam lobbied for ASEAN to express serious concern over “construction” in the sea, in reference to China’s ramped up artificial island building in the disputed waters in recent years.

Vietnam also wanted ASEAN to insist in the statement that a planned code of conduct for the sea with China be “legally binding”, which Beijing opposes.

The lobbying occurred when the ASEAN foreign ministers held unscheduled and informal talks late on Friday night.

“The discussions were really hard. Vietnam is on its own to have stronger language on the South China Sea. Cambodia and Philippines are not keen to reflect that,” one diplomat involved in the talks told AFP.

China claims nearly all of the strategically vital sea, including waters approaching the coasts of Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia and Brunei.

China has in recent years expanded its presence in the sea by building the artificial islands, which are capable of holding military bases.

Alongside Vietnam, the Philippines used to be the most vocal critic of Beijing’s expansionism.

But, under President Rodrigo Duterte, the Philippines has sought to downplay the dispute with China in return for billions of dollars in Chinese investments and aid.

China has in recent years also successfully lobbied other ASEAN nations, particularly Cambodia, to support its diplomatic maneuvering in the dispute.

At the ASEAN opening ceremony on Saturday morning, Cayetano confirmed there had been strong debates on Friday.

“You have to excuse my voice as, my colleagues, we kept each other up until almost midnight last night. In the true ASEAN way we were able to passionately argue our national interest,” Cayetano said.

Various diplomats said that Vietnam was likely to lose its battle to insert the strong language against China, with the Philippines as host of the talks wielding greater influence.

ASEAN is set to this weekend endorse a framework for a code of conduct with China, which is meant to pave the way for more concrete action.

 

 

Published in Daily Times, August 6th 2017.

This blog, trouthtroubles.com is owned, written, and operated by oldpoet56. All articles, posts, and materials found here, except for those that I have pressed here from someone else’s blog for the purpose of showing off their work, are under copyright and this website must be credited if my articles are re-blogged, pressed, or shared.

—Thank You, oldpoet56, T.R.S.

Genç Yazarlar Kulübü

Edebiyat burda, kahve tadında.

Jalvis Quotes

Motivational & Inspirational Poems, Literature & Quotes Collection - By Vishal Dutia

LE BLABLA DE L'ESPACE

Bienvenue ! Amitiés,partage,Sujets divers,Bonne humeur, et surtout oubliez pas de mettre le son de votre ordi

Couleurs de vie

Métamorphose de la pensée - Simplicité - Relationnel positif

Sur l'écran noir de mes nuits blanches

Ce blog est souvent ma face sombre

Bancha Kimavaha ( hooksamui)

This WordPress.com site is the bee's knees

GoodVibesNation.

Let's build a Nation of good faith, and overcome evil! The door has been opened! May God Bless You!

Treasuring Bittersweet Lane

Tasting the words of life

%d bloggers like this: