Senators raise questions over Gen Rizwan Akhtar’s premature retirement

(THIS ARTICLE IS FROM THE ‘DAWN’ NEWS PAPER IN KARACHI PAKISTAN)

 

The premature retirement of former Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) chief Lt Gen Rizwan Akhtar echoed in the Senate on Tuesday as Senators raised question over the causes behind the sudden move.

Rizwan Akhtar on Saturday requested for early retirement from Pakistan Army citing “pressing personal commitments”.

He, in a letter, asked for “premature release” starting Oct 9, 2017, after nearly 35 years of active commissioned service in the armed forces.

Akhtar, who was replaced by Lt Gen Naveed Mukhtar as director general (DG) ISI, was posted as president of the National Defence University two weeks after Chief of Army Staff Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa took oath last year.

JUI-F’sSenator Hafiz Hamdullah said was there any political party which could ask why a seasoned senior general opted for early retirement and what were the reasons behind this move.

Without naming Rizwan Akhtar, he raised the question that why a senior general who had served on a crucial post in Karachi resigned from his post.

He went on to say that no one will ask a question in this regard because all know that it might make “them” angry, putting their political career in jeopardy.

PPP’s Senator Saleem Zia said that people would be camping outside the residence of a minister had he or she resigned, but no one will ask a question if an army officer resigns.

No one will even dare to pass by the residence of that officer.

LoC: Line Of Control, Really? Then Us It! Kashmir-Jammu

My Philosophy On This Issue

This commentary is admittedly by a person who has never stepped foot in the region. My opinions formed are from thousands of miles away, formed by TV News slots and articles I have read. I look for only one thing, and that is peace. I look for the day that no one will ever need to defend themselves, because it is the day there is no such thing as an aggressor. I am realistic to the lack of love between segments of Pakistan and India. There has been bitter issues throughout the region for centuries, there is little love loss between many of the people who favor Islam and those who favor Hindu or even the Buddhist  Seventy years ago when India and Pakistan were formed it was a bitter and bloody divide.

 

As you probably know, most of the people on the Pakistan side of the LoC are people who believe in Islam. Also, almost all of the people on the India side of the LoC are Hindu. If the LoC has any real meaning, if it has been good enough for a temporary fix, cement the foundation in concrete and use it now, mark it with a forever marker. Here in the U.S. this would not be Constitutional but maybe there? Can the two governments work out a deal where all Hindu people in Pakistan are given free, peaceful, safe passage out of Pakistan to India on the India side of the LoC. India should do exactly the same thing, all of the people who are believers in Islam and would prefer to be citizens of Pakistan should go and do so. My suggestion for the leaders of Pakistan and of India, make the LoC, the final border between the two Countries. This is a harsh thing that I suggest I guess you call this segregation but in some cases of physical hatred, safety of all must come first. Learn to grow, to become peaceful neighbors and trading partners. Or, you can just go on as is, hating and killing, you, your wife, your kids. I pray that we can all find peace, before and after we die.

 

 

13 killed as wagon collides with bus in Balochistan’s Mastung

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

 

The wreckage of the vehicle following the accident.— DawnNews
The wreckage of the vehicle following the accident.— DawnNews

At least 13 people were killed and several others injured when a passenger wagon collided with a bus in Balochistan’s Mastung district on Saturday.

Levies officials said the driver of the van lost control due to over-speeding and collided with a bus coming from the opposite side.

The injured were rushed to Civil Hospital Quetta for treatment. The condition of seven injured is to be critical and doctors fear an increase in the number of dead.

In Pakistan, around 9,000 road accidents are reported to the police every year since 2011, killing more than 4,500 people on average, according to figures from the Pakistan Bureau of Statistics (PBS).

3 Men Charged in Foiled ISIS Terror Plot on New York City

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF TIME.COM)

 

3 Men Charged in Foiled ISIS Terror Plot on New York City

6:26 PM ET

Three men face charges of terrorism in an alleged plot to attack New York City during the summer of 2016, the acting Manhattan U.S. Attorney announced Friday.

Abdulrahaman El Bahnasawy, 19, Talha Haroon, 19, and Russell Salic, 37, are accused of plotting bombings and shootings in parts of New York City during the Islamic holy month of Ramadan last year, according to a release from the Department of Justice. The men allegedly plotted the attacks in the name of ISIS. They planned to bomb Times Square and the subway system, and to shoot civilians at specific concert venues.

According to the DOJ, law enforcement thwarted the plot when an undercover FBI agent acted as an ISIS supporter and communicated with the men with an intent to help them carry out the attacks. Through the undercover agent, authorities determined that the men intended to carry out terror attacks in the style of the attacks in Paris and Brussels.

El Bahnasawy, who was arrested in May 2016, has pled guilty to terrorism offenses. Haroon was arrested in Pakistan last September and Salic was arrested in the Philippines. Authorities said they hope the two men will be extradited the U.S.

Death toll from Jhal Magsi blast climbs to 21

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

 

The death toll from Thursday’s deadly suicide bombing in Jhal Magsi rose to 21 after another victim succumbed to his injuries at Larkana Hospital on Friday, DawnNews reported.

Several people, including a police constable, had died on Thursday in the attack, which occurred at the entrance of the Dargah Pir Rakhel Shah in Fatehpur, a small town in the Jhal Magsi district of Balochistan.

A First Information Report was lodged against unidentified persons by Station House Officer at the Gandawah police station, an officer who wished to remain anonymous told Dawn on Friday. Security agencies and police are investigating the incident.

Deputy Commissioner Jhal Magsi Asadullah Kakar said on Friday that the victims of the blast, including the police constable, had been buried in different parts of the district amid tight security.

Currently, nine people are under treatment in the Larkana Hospital while 14 are admitted at Gandawah District Headquarters Hospital. A dozen patients, who had received minor injuries, were discharged from Gandawah Hospital after receiving treatment. One injured woman had been shifted to the Aga Khan Hospital in Karachi.

The deputy commissioner assured that the hospitals are taking “good care” of the injured.

The bombing was the second deadly attack on a shrine in Pakistan in 2017. In February this year, another suicide bomber had killed more than 80 people and injured more than 250 in an attack targeting the busy Lal Shahbaz Qalandar shrine in Sehwan, Sindh.

This was also the second attack on the Pir Rakhel Shah shrine. On March 19, 2005, at least 35 people were killed and many injured when a suicide bomber exploded himself at the shrine. The dead had included devotees from different sects who frequented the shrine seeking spiritual relief.

Hate And Fear For Villagers Living Near The ‘Line Of Control” (LOC)

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE HINDUSTAN TIMES)

 

An unending ordeal for Kashmiri villagers on ‘live’ Indo-Pak border

Villagers barely two to three kilometers away from the zero line and in the direct line of fire have witnessed maximum number of skirmishes and casualties.

INDIA Updated: Oct 05, 2017 08:10 IST

Ravi Krishnan Khajuria
Ravi Krishnan Khajuria
Hindustan Times, Allah/Arnia
Villagers say the tender minds of children, getting exposed to bloodshed and deaths at a young age, are left with a permanent scar.
Villagers say the tender minds of children, getting exposed to bloodshed and deaths at a young age, are left with a permanent scar.(Nitin Kanotra/HT File Photo)

More than 45,000 people across 42 villages and the most-populated border town of Arnia on Indo-Pak border in Jammu and Kashmir see themselves as sitting ducks for Pakistani artillery.

Some of the villages in Arnia sub-sector of Jammu district that witnessed skirmishes from September 13 to September 23 are barely two to three kilometres away from the zero line and are in the line of direct fire.

Guns on either side of 198-km long Indo-Pak international border fall silent intermittently, but villagers are sceptical of the fragile peace and live in a constant fear.

The two nuclear neighbours had agreed to a ceasefire in November 2003 but that now lies in tatters, as different parts of the line of control and the International Border whistle to the sound of mortar shelling. The arc has widened but Arnia remains in the constant gaze of Pakistan.

Artillery horror

Chuni Lal, 63, a marginal farmer in Allah village, who lost his wife Ratno Devi, 50, on the intervening night of September 16 and 17 to a Pakistani mortar, recounts the spine-chilling horror.

“Pakistan was raining mortars that night. All of us… my wife, two married sons, their wives and my six grand-children had huddled inside a room. Electricity had snapped after a mortar hit transmission lines. Around 2 am I shifted to an adjoining lobby as it was hot and sultry inside the room. Around 2.30 am my wife and daughter-in-law (Rajni Devi) came to lobby and had just opened the door when a mortar exploded with a deafening sound in our verandah. My wife’s left ankle was blown away and she suffered serious injuries in her abdomen too. Rajni was also bleeding profusely.”

Read more

Lal sought a neighbour’s help, who drove his car for nearly two hours to shift Lal, Ratno Devi and Rajni Devi to a hospital in Jammu city where Ratno died.

Besides Ratno Devi, a BSF jawan Brijendra Bahadur was killed and over a dozen villagers were injured in Arnia in Pakistani firing that began on September 13.

Lal’s two sons Om Prakash, 46, and Subhash Chander, 40, work as labourers and do petty jobs to support the family.

Traumatised children

Subhash’s wife Rajni Devi, who had suffered serious injuries, along with her two daughters Mamta, 15, Janvi, 13, and son Nitish, 9, have been living in a relative’s house in a safe village, away from Pakistan’s firing range and away from their school as well.

Pakistan had rained 82 mm and 120 mm mortars — battalion level low trajectory weapons — on hapless villagers.

“The children are traumatised from what they saw that night. They don’t want to return home and we also are apprehensive of this fragile peace. Death stalks us all the time but we don’t have any option” says Subhash.

Grim future

Forget children’s education, the people in the border belt of Arnia are deprived of a normal life, says Subhash.

In Arnia sub-sector, the state government has shut 33 government schools with a total enrolment of around 1500 students within five km radius of the border.

Read more

Fifty-year-old Gopal Dass, a small farmer in Allah village says, “Education is important, rather indispensable in present times but how could our children pursue it in such a hostile and uncertain atmosphere?”

Dass divulges another aspect of the shelling. “At very young age these children get exposed to loud explosions, bloodshed and deaths. It leaves a permanent scar on their tender minds but then who cares for the children of a lesser God?”

HT came across a group of small children aged between 5 to 12 years at Pindi Charakan village.

When asked why they weren’t in their schools, six-year-old Tannu replied, “Pakistan bomb chalata hai na. School band hain. Humko chupna padta hai. (“Pakistan bombs us. Schools are closed. We have to go into hiding during shelling).”

Farming hit hard

Another farmer Rattan Lal, 63, says, “While a family (of Chuni Lal) has been ruined, unexploded shells are still lying in the agricultural fields. The farmers are still not going to their fields because you never know when Pakistan starts firing at us. They cannot be trusted. Initially, heavy shelling destroyed our paddy crop, especially in the fields beyond barbed fence (towards Pakistani territory), and now out of fear, we are not able to irrigate whatever is left.”

Lal, like several other villagers, feels that they are caught in a Catch-22 situation. Farming, by and large, is the major source of livelihood in the border areas.

Thoru Ram, 56, informs that though there has been no firing since September 23, the BSF as a precautionary measure, was not allowing farmers to go to their fields beyond the barbed fence.

“Farmers on other side (in Pakistan) are also not coming to their fields,” he says.

7,000 people, one bunker

Allah village with a population of 7,000 has only one bunker where an optimum of 30 people can take refuge during shelling.

The villagers dubbed it a cruel joke as water seeps in and fills almost half the bunker during monsoons. “It turns into a pool of water and is of no use. The government has spent Rs 5 lakh on it but it would have been far better and practical had the government constructed individual bunkers in the houses of the villagers,” says Thoru Ram, 56.

“When mortars are being rained, how could one think of reaching one corner of the village to get into the bunker? I think government of the day should apply some mind,” he mocks.

In Rajouri district, hundred bunkers are being constructed while the state government has submitted a proposal to the Centre for constructing 621 community bunkers at a cost of Rs 6 lakh each and 8,197 individual bunkers at a cost of Rs 2.40 lakh each.

Pakistan’s arc of fire

Since May 1, when Pakistani Border Action Teams killed and beheaded two Indian soldiers — JCO Paramjit Singh and BSF head constable Prem Sagar — in Krishna Ghati (KG) sector of Poonch district, there has been no let up in Pakistani firing and shelling in Rajouri and Poonch border districts.

In Nowshera sector of Rajouri, incessant Pakistani shelling triggered migration of over 4,000 villagers to six relief camps in Nowshera town in May.

Pakistan also opened other fronts along the international border in Jammu, Samba and Kathua districts from August onwards.

“It has been a pattern of the enemy (Pakistan). During summers when there is no snow on the mountains and passes, Pakistan tries to push terrorists via LoC in Poonch and Rajouri districts and in winters their focus shifts to international border in Jammu region, usually Hiranagar, RS Pura, Arnia and Ramgarh. In the process they adopt all ploys of opening unprovoked fire on our posts and then flaring up the situation by targeting villages,” says a senior Army officer.

A police officer said that Arnia, the largest border town of the state just three km from the border is a soft target for Pakistan. The town has a population of nearly 20,000.

“They (Pakistan Rangers) are known for targeting hapless villagers and they know it is thickly populated,” the officer adds.

However, defence officials say there are other reasons, which can’t be shared in public domain.

Pakistan: Should ‘Urdu’ Be The National Language?

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

 

Those who consider introducing Urdu as an official language as a matter of unifying our national identity are mistaken. —Illustration by Khuda Bux Abro/Dawn
Those who consider introducing Urdu as an official language as a matter of unifying our national identity are mistaken. —Illustration by Khuda Bux Abro/Dawn

“I know there is strength in the differences between us. I know there is comfort, where we overlap.” —Ani DiFranco

Through a happy chance last year, I got to be part of a training program in which I was able to spend a few weeks in the company of people from all over Pakistan.

Many of us there were speaking in our mother tongues that others could not understand, but Urdu served as a common denominator. It was fun picking up words of other languages from each other and also learning about the culture and traditions from other parts of the country.

Apart from the things that made us different, there was a lot that connected us as well.

We, the Millenial generation have grown up with the internet. Many of our pop culture references are the same. Our universities follow similar teaching and grading patterns and we have faced similar problems of reconciling our externally influenced values with traditional ones.

Altogether, it was a valuable experience living in what was essentially a microcosm of our society and overall, things went along swimmingly.

As it turns out, we don’t all need to be exactly alike to get along. It’s important to remember this while talking about Pakistani languages, official, national, regional and the effects they have on our individual and common identities.

A decision by the Supreme Court directing the Federal and Provincial governments to adopt Urdu as the official language has once again sparked the debate on which is the most commonly used language in Pakistan and whether it makes sense to declare Urdu as the official language or not?

It does, when you consider the rationale behind it.

Urdu is indeed understood all over the country even though it may not be the language most Pakistanis learn first.

There isn’t anything wrong with trying to simplify our official correspondences and public notices by having them in Urdu. Neither is it a mistake to have our leaders give their speeches abroad in Urdu, plenty of others do.

The concern that English will somehow get supplanted is naïve on the part of those who don’t understand that people are eager to learn English not because they want to understand the Prime Minister’s speeches to the UN but because English is what connects us to international pop culture, news and entertainment. Without English, we are cut off from vast swaths of knowledge unavailable in our own languages so there is no chance of it being replaced anytime soon.

However, those who consider introducing Urdu as an official language as a matter of unifying our national identity are mistaken.

Also read: Language change

Pakistanis are a diverse bunch and the differences in dialect, dress, food and traditions that pop up every few hundred miles are there to be appreciated not suppressed. If the introduction of Urdu as a common medium of communication somehow hinders the presence and growth of regional languages then that is not a desirable outcome.

Pakistan already has enough problems accepting differences. We are not very good at providing equal rights and representation to women and to religious and ethnic minorities. Let’s not add forced cultural and lingual homogeneity to the list of social injustices being inflicted by one part of the population on the other.

If anything, these differences need to be spoken about more often and more positively to teach us all to live with the diversity that surrounds us.

Read on: National language

In ways both large and small, many of us have become adept at looking the other way when confronted with whatever is dissimilar to us.

Things like not responding when a non-Muslim says Salam, choosing only to wed people within our own caste, having stereotypical jokes about the intelligence level of one ethnicity or the other, ignoring news from parts of the country where no one we know lives.

All these things point to a deeper problem that we refuse to acknowledge.

We keep boxing ourselves into smaller and smaller groups and excluding everyone who doesn’t fit in. It’s natural for humans to seek the comfort of the familiar and to fear what is different. But we shouldn’t let these instincts get so out of hand that someone’s religious beliefs drive us to murderous rage or their way of speaking makes us question their intelligence.

Similarity and homogeneity do not necessarily mean superiority.

Once we rise over these baser instincts and decide to explore all that people with their peculiarities have to offer, that is when we discover that beneath the surface we are all not so different after all.

Skin colour, accents, beliefs and languages form parts of our identity but they are not the whole. And if we, Pakistanis, wish to move forward in the world, all together and proud of our national identity then we need to accept its uniqueness and its multiple histories.

One hopes that the acceptance of lingual diversity will be the first step.

Altaf Hussain Is A Traitor And Hhould Be Hanged, Says Sindh Home Minister

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE PAKISTAN NEWSPAPER ‘DAWN’)

 

Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) founder Altaf Hussain is a traitor like arrested Indian spy Kulbhushan Jadhav and should be handed a death sentence as well, Sindh Home Minister Sohail Anwar Sial said while addressing a ceremony in Karachi on Tuesday.

Sial said the Sindh government has already written to the federal government asking it to issue red warrants for Hussain. “It is now the responsibility of the federal government to issue the red warrants,” he said.

Sial also took on the former president Pervez Musharraf and former home minister Zulfikar Mirza for accusing PPP Co-Chairman Asif Ali Zardari of involvement in Benazir Bhutto’s murder.

“Why did Pervez Musharraf do nothing against Asif Zardari when he was the president?” Sial asked. “Zulfiqar Mirza was the Sindh home minister [at the time]. Why did he not speak then?”

The PPP leader said the provincial government has requested the federal government to suspend cellphone services on the 9th and 10th of Muharram.

The Sindh home minister also credited the Pakistan Army, Sindh government and Rangers for bringing peace to the province.

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)